Jim Tracy's Colorado Rockies road show just keeps rolling. Trailing by two runs to the Milwaukee Brewers, the Rockies rallied to take the lead with three runs in the seventh inning and continue their recent road resurgence with a 3-2 victory Tuesday night. The Rockies now have won six straight on the road under Tracy, [...]
Major League Baseball's draft is a crapshoot, no doubt about it. Unlike the NFL draft where any top draft pick is expected to step in and be a contributor (if not immediately then within a few years), in baseball an organization is fairly lucky if any of the kids they select in the first few rounds end up being an impact player at the major-league level. As for players taken beyond the first round... well that's even more rare.
Looking at the Twins' current roster, we see lots of guys taken with high draft picks contributing. Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, Delmon Young, Glen Perkins, Kevin Slowey, Anthony Swarzak, Jesse Crain, R.A. Dickey and Scott Baker were all selected in the first three rounds of the draft. Sure, a team will occasionally get lucky and find an eventual big-league contributor a few rounds after the top three (Joe Crede was a fifth-rounder and Joe Nathan a sixth-rounder), and in rare instances a team will find a gem even beyond that (Jason Kubel in the 12th round, Nick Blackburn in the 29th), but for the most part we find the future major-leaguers among those first three rounds. Those are the ones I'll focus on in today's analysis. They took place yesterday, and the Twins had four picks. Here's who they took:
Round 1 (Pick No. 22) Kyle Gibson - RHP, University of Missouri
Yesterday I predicted that Tanner Scheppers would slide to the Twins due to signability concerns and, in an uncharacteristic move, the Twins would snatch him up. Well, Scheppers did fall to the 22nd pick (in fact, he dropped all the way to 44), but the Twins instead went another -- almost equally uncharacteristic -- route, signing college right-hander Gibson. Like Scheppers, Gibson was considered a Top 10 type talent, but his stock fell for mostly different reasons. Gibson's mid-90s velocity dropped into the 80s late this season, and it was recently revealed that this was due to an arm injury. That's the bad news. The good news is that the injury was to his forearm, not his elbow or shoulder, and the damage was a bone fracture rather than anything involving a muscle or tendon. This breeds optimism that Gibson should be able to recover well from the injury.
And if he can make a full recovery, the Twins have gotten themselves a player. Gibson is a tall and lanky guy at 6'6", 210 lbs, and he brings decent velocity that the Twins' system is currently lacking to some degree. Ranked as the fourth-best draft prospect by Baseball America, Gibson brings a fastball, a hard slider and a developing changeup. There have been indications that the Twins were high on Gibson and I considered predicting him as their first-round target, but truthfully I didn't expect him to fall this far. He has the potential to be similar to Matt Garza in his ability to command two/three strong pitches and move fast through the system. His injury carries some concern, but I trust that the Twins have done their homework. I like this pick a lot. Here's the MLB.com scouting report summary on Gibson:
Gibson certainly looked the part of a top college starter in the early part of the season. He has three pitches he can throw for strikes in any count and he shows a lot of poise and a competitive streak on the mound. Scouts love his size at 6-foot-6, though some might worry he's a little too thin. Most look at his combination of stuff, command and mound presence and see a sure-fire first-round pick.
Round 1 Supplemental (Pick No. 46) Matt Bashore - LHP, Indiana University
The Twins tabbed another college pitcher with the compensation pick they received from Dennys Reyes' departure as a free agent. At 6'3" and 200 lbs, Bashore is a sizable left-handed hurler who reportedly dialed his fastball up to 95 mph during this past season. He was a top college prospect entering this year but lowered his stock a bit by going just 7-5 with a 4.08 ERA for the Hoosiers, although he did come close to setting a school record by notching 108 strikeouts.
While he's shown an ability to hit the mid-90s with his fastball, he'll likely sit in the low 90s on a consistent basis, and his success will likely depend on how he develops his secondary stuff. Not a bad pick, but nothing worth getting too excited about.
Round 2 (Pick No. 70) Billy Bullock - RHP, University of Florida
The Twins used one of their top picks last year to select a college closer from the state of Florida: University of Miami's Carlos Gutierrez. In that instance, the Twins were clear from the start that their plan was to convert Gutierrez to a starter; they've followed through on that by having him open the season in the Ft. Myers rotation, and he pitched so well that he was recently moved up to Class-AA New Britain.
In spite of their success with this route, the Twins will likely keep Bullock in a relief role. Like Gibson, Bullock stands at 6 feet 6 inches, but he's got a bigger frame at 225 lbs. He really came into his own as closer for the Gators this year and is reportedly capable of hitting 96 mph with his fastball. Bullock has advanced stuff and could be on the fast track, particularly considering the unstable state of the Twins' bullpen.
Round 3 (Pick No. 101) Ben Tootle - RHP, Jacksonville State University
A fireballer with an upper-90s fastball and a hard slider, Tootle seems like a prime candidate to end up in the bullpen as a late-innings reliever, although the Twins might try him as a starter first. Tootle is in the same camp as Gibson in that his value likely slipped a bit due to an injury; a bad stomach virus held him out of action for a month this year and deflated his overall numbers. Like Gibson's injury, though, Tootle's ailment doesn't seem like a long-term concern and if he can get back to full strength, he has a great arm with impressive potential.
The Twins have always liked to go after college pitchers with their early draft picks, and that was definitely true this year as they brought in collegiate arms with each of their first four picks. Tough to argue with any of those four picks. Gibson is a good low-risk/high-reward guy, Bashore is a hard-throwing lefty with decent upside, Bullock is a hard-throwing righty reliever who could potentially help the big-league club as soon as 2010, and Tootle is a fireballing righty with the ability to dominate. You'd be hard-pressed to argue that the Twins reached on any of their four picks today (in fact, both Gibson and Bullock were generally expected to go higher) and yet all four players should be signable. It was a good first day of the draft that can potentially add some exciting players to the Twins' farm system; today I suspect we'll see them use the middle rounds to bring in some position players.
One word to describe A.J. Burnett tonight? Pathetic. He had nothing. In 2.2 innings he allowed five runs (three earned) on five hits, walked five, and struck out one. One of the hits was a homer to the slumping David Ortiz. A 400-plus foot bomb to center. He threw 84 pitches, and only 40 found the strike zone. It was exactly what the Yankees didn't need heading into Fenway after losing the first five games between the two rivals. Oh well, make that six now.
Four of the runs came in the second, Mike Lowell walked, and Ortiz followed his homer to give Boston a 2-0 lead. Then after striking out Jason Varitek and walking Mark Kotsay, Burnett almost got out of it. Nick Green hit a grounder to third, a ball that could have been an inning-ending doubleplay, but Alex Rodriguez couldn't get a grip of the ball and it turned out as an E-5. Two batters later J.D. Drew lined a two-run double off the monster to make it 4-0 Sox. Robinson Cano also failed to make a play he probably shouldn't have made which led to a run. But that's what happens when you put the defense to sleep by throwing 84 pitches in 2.2 innings.
The way Josh Beckett threw the ball tonight that was more than enough run support. He was pretty much unhittable, allowed just a hit and two walks in six innings. He also struck out eight, and 59 of his 93 pitches were strikes. His only blemishes; two walks to Mark Teixeira and a Robinson Cano infield single. Maybe A.J. picked a good time for a terrible game, because I don't think anyone was beating Beckett tonight.
The Yankees couldn't get anything going agianst the Sox pen either. Manny Delcarmen, Ramon Ramirez, and Daniel Bard combined for three scoreless innings.
Brett Tomko relieved Burnett in the third and pitched a solid 2.1 innings. He allowed a run on two hits and two walks. Jose Veras pitched then came on for two innings, and made one mistake, a solo homer off the bat of Nick Green. Even though his line wasn't terrible, the guy once again had no idea where the strike zone was. Of his 29 pitches only 13 were strikes. David Robertson pitched one scoreless inning, allowing one hit and struck out two.
The last time the Red Sox opened a season 6-0 against the Yankees came in 1912, when the Yankees were still the Highlanders. Tomorrow's start for Chien-Ming Wang just got a lot more important. Not only is it important for Wang, who is trying to prove he deserves to stay in the rotation, but for the Yankees as well, who desperately need a win against the Sox. Joe Girardi said prior to tonight's embarrassment that Wang was good for 85-90 pitches tomorrow. Hopefully that gets him into the sixth and then the Yanks can go to a rested Alfredo Aceves or Phil Hughes. I can't say I'm too confident that Wang will pitch a good game, but let's all hope he proves me wrong.
One thing is for sure, the Atlanta Braves and scouting director Roy Clark, have their own agenda when it comes to draft day. They haven't been afraid to take risks on guys like Cody Johnson or Beau Jones, and today was no different. The Braves, with the number-7 overall pick in the first round of the draft, selected a player that most experts didn't list in their top-20 prospects -- Mike Minor, a collegiate left-handed pitcher from Vanderbuilt.
In late May, Baseball America had Minor listed at the 35th-best prospect available in the draft. In mid-May they listed him as the 10th-best left handed pitcher, rating him as a second-round talent. Minor's stock was at it's highest last year after he pitched brilliantly for Team USA, including two victories against Cuba. His numbers suffered last year at Vanderbuilt due to a lack of confidence in throwing to third and fourth-string catchers, as Vandy's catching injuries forced inexperienced backstops into regular duty and limited Minor's off-speed repertoire.
The word you hear repeated most often with Minor is pitchability. He doesn't have typical first-round "stuff." His fastball is around 86-to-91, occaisionally touching 93, but he compliments that with a plus changeup to go along with two other solid pitches, a slider and a curveball. Minor also comes with one of the best pickoff moves of any pitcher in the draft, and controlling the running game is something Atlanta pitching needs to improve upon. His pitchability also extends to his presence on the mound. He's a pitcher who thinks and adjusts on the mound and has the ability to be one pitch ahead of the hitter.
Minor follows in the footsteps of some other high picks from Vanderbuilt, Jeremey Sowers and David Price. Winning the Summer Player of the Year award is something else Minor and Price have in common. Like Price, Minor could move fast through the Braves system. If he signs quickly, and reports are he is very "signable," then he could start the year at either Rome or Myrtle Beach.
Mike Minor is not the "sexy" pick at number-7, and his ceiling seems to be that of a number-2 or number-3 starter. Many fans, including those chatting on this site, were not too impressed with this pick, hoping that the team would instead go with a higher upside talent. But the Braves are one of the best teams at scouting and player development, and rarely do they waste first-round picks on prospects that never pan out. Perhaps there was a bit of hesitance to select a high-risk-high-reward player with this high of a selection, and they instead went with one of the few sure-things in the draft.
I give this pick a grade of B+. That's kind of how you could describe Minor. He's polished, but not flashy.
Click here for an MLB scouting report and some video of Minor.
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The Angels are in the try-anything mode to fix their bullpen, and optioned Jose Arredondo to AAA while calling up Kevin Jepsen to replace him on the 25-man. Jepsen has a 9.00 ERA at Salt Lake. Lordy, maybe one of the pitchers they drafted today can be signed to a major league deal...
It has been 63 days since the Cleveland Indians were anywhere but last in the Central Division. Mark DeRosa's grand slam in the seventh inning changed all of that. DeRosa's slam off reliever Jamey Wright led Cleveland to an 8-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals in a matchup of the two worst teams in [...]
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