Thursday, May 24, 2012

The NL East - An Interview

Welcome baseball fans to “This Week in The MLB!” 

Tonight is a special night, as we’re joined by the Bench Coaches of no less than three ballclubs: Luke Gray of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Pedro Gandarillas of the New York Mets and Danny Ojeda of the Washington Nationals. Together they’ve lead their teams to identical 33-50 records this season, and yet all three teams sit just a few games back from the lead for the division title! They’ve agreed to share a little National League East wisdom with us on how to do so. 
Announcer: Gentlemen, thank you for joining our broadcast team here tonight.
Danny: Certainly. But we can’t join you. We’re already signed for the season. Nyuk. Nyuk. Nyuk.

Pedro, Luke and Danny - NL East bench coaches.
Announcer: That’s, uh, that’s great. Our first question for you all – what’s the single most important advice you give your players before they come to bat?

Pedro: That’s easy. I tell them to keep an eye on the ball.

Danny (picks up a baseball and holds it an inch in front of his right eye): Ooh! Like this?
Luke: No, stupid. Like this. (Slaps the ball into Danny’s eye.)
Danny: Eehm! (Drops the ball, squinting and wipes his face three times with his hand.)
Pedro (watching from behind Luke): Hey! How come you didn’t let him keep his eye on the ball!
Luke (turning to Pedro and pulling his moppy hair up): Oh, I didn’t, did I? Keep your eyes on this. (Luke pokes his two fingers into Pedro’s eyes.)
(Scuffle breaks out among the three bench coaches. Luke pulls Pedro’s tie, Danny knocks Luke over the head with his fist.)
Announcer: Gentlemen, please! Please! Settle down! Sit back down. Thank you. How about we just proceed with the next question. In the course of ballgame, when do you call for time?
The bench coaches formative years.
Danny: It’s 10:30.
Luke: What are you? A wise guy? (Smacks Danny in the back of head. Danny frowns, like his feelings are hurt. Luke turns to Pedro.) It’s your turn to answer the question.
Pedro: (Looking serious, raises his finger skyward, to demonstrate a point, and then): When I’ve forgotten my glasses.
Luke: (Looking angry.) Hey! What’s the big idea?!
Pedro: (Throwing his hands up.) If I don’t have my glasses, then I can’t see the clock on the scoreboard!
Luke: You can see this, though, right? (Holds up fist, then kicks Pedro in the shins. Spins around to Danny with two fingers ready. Danny puts a hand vertically up in front of his nose, protecting his eyes. The melee continues until…)
Announcer: Gentlemen! Gentlemen! Please! Please calm down. I suppose we should just skip ahead to my last question.
Danny: Certainly. I love skipping! (Makes an angelic face.) Nyuk. Nyuk. Nyuk.
Luke: (Glaring menacingly at Danny, who suddenly scrambles to recompose himself).
Pedro: Fire away!
Announcer: When do you choose to pinch hit?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Season 1 Draft - A Look Back

With the Season 6 draft now concluded, I thought it would be fun to look back on the draft from Season 1 instead.
Well, even the youngest of draft selections have matured through five years of development and should have blossomed to their potential by now, so we are now able to evaluate the inaugural draft with the benefit of hindsight.
The Season One draft was also the opportunity for owners of these clunky, randomly-filled teams to proactively choose and develop “their” players to become the future faces of their franchises. With scouting maxed out at 14 for all clubs, talent was sure to slip to lower echelons and the owner’s scouting eye was tested. Those who could separate wheat from the chaff are breaking the bread of their selections now.
First, a quick summary of the 32 first-round selections:
·         31 of them are currently in the Majors. One has played in the Majors but was recently demoted to AAA.
·         11 pitchers, 5 shortstops and 5 left fielders were the most commonly selected positions.
·         The draft appeared to be distributed with enough talent for all clubs to take advantage of it.
The selections:
1.      Phil Lowery – SP – San Diego (4th ML season, 1 Time All Star, 1 Gold Glove, 43W 25L in 107G, 2.67 ERA): He’s been everything the Padres hoped for. Last season, he went 16-7 while working 240 innings and posting a 1.04 WHIP, earning his first All-Star berth.

2.      Benj Fox – SS – Oakland (3rd ML season, .280 AVG, .491 SLG, 55 HR in 1088 AB): Posted a line of .289/.366/.486, smacking 23 home runs while driving in and scoring more than 80 runs in his first full season in the Majors while holding down the hot corner. His durability has limited his playtime, somewhat limiting his impact.

3.      Neftali Barrios – LF – Cleveland (5th ML season, 2 Time All Star, 1 Gold Glove, .281 AVG, .503 SLG, 97 HR in 1980 AB): A two-time All-Star with a respectable bat, Barrios has stroked 119 doubles. He also does his work in the field, with 31 career positive plays and just two negative ones, earning him a Gold Glove.

4.      Raymond Small – SP – Washington (2nd ML season, 16W 13L in 42G, 3.30 ERA): Getting the call up in season five, posted a respectable WHIP and 2.94 ERA while going 12-8 in 29 starts.

5.      Humberto Posada – LF – Cincinnati (2nd ML season, ROY, 1 Time Silver Slugger, .305 AVG, .574 SLG, 52 HR in 706 AB): Traded to L.A. in a blockbuster deal, Posada was allowed to marinate in the farm system until his season five call-up. Earned Rookie-of-the-Year honors and his first of what could be many Silver Sluggers, smashing 36 home runs and posting an OPS of 1.024. Likely the best player chosen in the draft and a beast for time to come.

6.      Rich Coco – RF – New Orleans (3rd ML season, .256 AVG, .442 SLG, 45 HR in 1139 AB): Now entering his third season with Seattle, Coco scored more than 100 runs in his first full season, stole 23 bags in 27 attempts and hit 24 home runs.

7.      Mac Kirkland – LRP – Chicago W.S. (3rd ML season, 11W 11L in 151G, 4.07 ERA): Logged 100+ innings in his first full season in the Majors while limiting opponents to a .227 AVG and striking out 158.

8.      Calvin Colangelo – IF/COF – Philadelphia (5th ML season, 1 Time All Star, 1 Gold Glove, .261 AVG, .461 SLG. in 1929 AB): The versatile utility player boasts 54 career positive plays and 2 negative plays while holding down the fort at second and third base.

9.      Ignacio Polanco – SP – Houston (4th ML season, 37W 27L in 106G, 3.80 ERA): Workhorse has logged more than 200+ IP last two seasons while going 14-8 and 13-7, respectively.

10.   Jim Schafer – LF – Arizona (4th ML season, 2 Time All Star, 2 Time Silver Slugger, .303 AVG, .518 SLG, 83 HR in 1770 AB): Schafer recorded a breakout season last year, hitting 33 HR, scoring 104 times and knocking in 131 while hitting .301 to net his second consecutive Silver Slugger.

11.  Carl Marte – SS – Florida (2nd ML season, .222 AVG, .322 SLG, 11 HR in 790 AB): Blessed with excellent range and a gun for an arm, the Marlins were content to let Marte’s marginal glove continue to develop at the ML level. Recorded 18 positive plays. Appeared in all 162 games his rookie season.

12.  Vladimir Cubillan – 1B – Minnesota (2nd ML season, .283 AVG, .438 SLG, 25 HR in 882 AB): While not the blessed with overwhelming power, the durable first baseman has made the most of his opportunities, driving in 100+ runs in his rookie campaign. Defensively stout, with 14 career positive plays and only a single negative one.

13.  Pat Palmer – SP – Detroit (2nd ML season, 9W 10L in 31G, 4.56 ERA): In the middle of his first full season, Palmer is off to a better start and is holding opponents to a .231 AVG while posting a 1.29 WHIP.

14.  Mark Prince – RP – St. Louis (1st ML season, 5W 3L in 43G, 3.02 ERA): Prince took his time to reach the majors, so the jury is still out on how the extremely durable pitcher will pan out. He’s off to a nice start, fanning 56 batters in 56.2 IP and holding opponents to a .264 OBP in long relief and set-up roles.

15.  Donnie McInerney – C – Los Angeles D (1st ML season, .309 AVG, .529 SLG, 15 HR in 278 AB): Another player left to mature in the minors, McInerney is performing extremely well in his rookie campaign. His 86 hits and 25 BB have propelled him to a .368 OBP.

16.  Rey Sowders – C – Los Angeles A (4th ML season, .239 AVG, .320 SLG, 13 HR in 706 AB): Despite playing four seasons in the Majors, Sowders is already on his third team. Blessed with the durability to be an everyday catcher, Sowders has been a reserve player every season of his career except one.

17.  Allen Withers – LF – New York Y (2nd ML season, .253 AVG, .474 SLG, 51 HR in 921 AB): Withers hit 32 doubles and 38 home runs in his rookie campaign, posting a .494 SLG. His OBP is a surprisingly pedestrian .321 due to his struggles to make consistent contact.

18.  Kordell Stanley – COF – Colorado (1st ML season, .314 AVG, .585 SLG, 10 HR in 159 AB): Stanley has all the physical gifts to be an impact player but his lack of durability will limit his production immensely. In his current rookie campaign, 22 of his 50 hits have gone for extra bases.

19.  Bret Roosevelt – CF – Montreal (3rd ML season, .243 AVG, .527 SLG, 46 HR in 575 AB): Roosevelt spent his first two seasons as a part-time defensive replacement. His all-or-nothing approach in the plate has served him well, as he has 46 career home runs and just 22 doubles, while striking out 155 times.  

20.  Vin Cueto – RP – Baltimore (3rd ML season, 6W 8L in 140G, 2.44 ERA): Several teams mistakenly passed over Cueto  and publicly regretted it, and he’s making them pay. The pitcher is limited opponents to a .204 AVG while converting 52 of 59 Save Opportunities.

21.  Kenny Kulik – RP – Chicago C (AAA, spent part of two seasons in the ML, 6W 9L in 68G, 3.93 ERA): Having spent part of two seasons in the Majors, Kulik has played some versatile roles so far by working long relief and starting a couple games a season. His excellent control (42 career BB) is compromised by his inability to stop surrendering hits (179 H in 174 IP).

22.  Danny Lee – CF – Seattle (2nd ML season, .289 AVG, .417 SLG, 20 HR in 802 AB): Lee’s contact, speed and batting eye has allowed him to get on base at a .352 clip. Once there, he often ends up stealing another, as he has 63 SB in 83 attempts.

23.  Brad Hinchliffe – SS – Anaheim (1st ML season, .208 AVG, .458 SLG, 2 HR in 24 AB): Left unprotected, Anaheim lost Hinchliffe to Cincinnati in the Rule V draft, where he was plugged him into their lineup as a defensive replacement. In 52 games, Hinchliffe has batted just 24 times.

24.  Sam Presley – 1B – Chicago C (3rd ML season, .260 AVG, .485 SLG, 78 HR in 1302 AB): In his rookie season, Presley smashed 40 HR and 28 doubles on his way to a .528 SLG, but his second-season trip to the 15-day DL cooled his production somewhat.

25.  Glenn Lowry – RP – Pittsburgh (2nd ML season, 4W 13L in 80G, 5.65 ERA): Lowry is another player to find himself on his third ballclub already, but he gets his chance at The Show in San Francisco. His lack of a set-up pitch and a mediocre “out” pitch does not help him overcome his lack of effectiveness against right-handed hitting. Opponents are batting .300 against him.

26.  Nipsey Baez – SS – Kansas City (1st ML season, .238 AVG, .397 SLG, 6 HR in 126 AB):  Despite two short trips to the DL in the minors, Baez developed to his shortstop potential and got his chance to play in the Majors when he was traded to Montreal this season.

27.  Howard Coghlan – RF – Montreal (2nd ML season, .268 AVG, .467 SLG, 18 HR in 418 AB):  Coghlan was traded twice, finding a home with Toronto in the Bigs. After posting a .907 OPS in his rookie season, he’s battling through a sophomore slump at this time.

28.  Donzell Root – LF – New York M (2nd ML season, .279 AVG, .528 SLG, 37 HR in 587 AB): Root tore his hamstring twice in the minors, one of the incidents landing him on the 60-day DL. Despite that, he’s still a relatively quick player and has stolen 21 bases in 27 attempts.

29.  Akinori Zhang – SP – Atlanta (5th ML season, 24W 24L in 96G, 4.23 ERA): Rushed through the Braves minor league system, Zhang jumped to the majors at the age of 20 with a promising career as a starter in front of him. The stress of a Major League schedule was too much for his body to bear however, and he was sidelined with elbow surgery and placed on the 60-day DL in his rookie season. He suffered two aneurysms in his shoulder subsequent seasons, one also sidelining him on the 60-day DL. All these injuries stunted the development of his effectiveness and control. The Braves have since used him in spot starts and long relief out of the bullpen.

30.  Buddy Borders – SP – Chicago W (2nd ML season, 0W 0L in 7G, 3.18 ERA): Despite being in his second season, Borders surprisingly has not seen much work as a long reliever yet. He has the promising make-up of a talented pitcher.

31.  Lawrence Walker – 3B – Florida (1st ML season, .250 AVG, .500 SLG, 0 HR in 20 AB): Walker has played a total of 8 innings in 5 games as a defensive replacement. His defensive development never panned out to third base, and he finds himself holding down the fort late in games in right field.

32.  George Wright – SS – Toronto (3rd ML season, .263 AVG, .466 SLG, 50 HR in 1129 AB): Wright’s promise to play the middle infield only recent came about, as Toronto is using him at second base this season. He has spent most of his time patrolling right field due to an underwhelming glove. Wright’s makeup profiles to a utility player, and he has surprising speed as well, stealing 59 bags in 77 attempts.

Next, let's divide the draft by quarters and pick some winners, for fun:

Best pick with selections 1 through 8: Posada, LF (5th overall) – Cincinnati
It’s hard to say that anyone missed anything here. This group contains three All Stars and a Rookie-of-the-Year. Six of the eight have three or more seasons of experience. I’m going to give a slight nod to Posada, if only for the fact he slipped past some scouts and fell to the fifth overall.

Best pick with selections 9 thru 16: Schafer, LF (10th overall) – Arizona
Hard to argue with a guy who has won two Silver Sluggers, although McInerney and Polanco will enter the argument should he slip.
Best pick with selections 17 thru 24: Cueto, RP (20th overall) – Baltimore
Owners made hay with late first round selections, as a lot of talent was available. The nod goes to Cueto and that 1.04 career WHIP. Withers, Stanley, Roosevelt and Presley were also among the fine pick-ups here.
Best pick with selections 25 thru 32: Zhang, SP (29th overall) – Atlanta
Zhang was among the best of the latter round selections, and it’s a shame a couple strokes of misfortune stole his promise.