Daily Archives: November 6, 2011
Sunday November 6, 2011
Jonathan Hacohen: We are proud to welcome to MLB reports: Shawon Dunston Jr., outfield prospect for the Chicago Cubs. Shawon was an 11th round pick for the Cubs this past year. While he was expected to go as high as the 1st round, signability issues centering on his commitment to Vanderbilt allowed him to drop to Chicago. The Cubs were able to get Dunston Jr. to sign on the dotted line before the signing deadline and just like that, Shawon Dunston Jr. was a Chicago Cub. Expected to be the team’s center fielder of the future, Chicago is happy to have yet another Dunston in its system. While Dunston Sr. played shortstop for 18 seasons, Dunston Jr. is starting his own career and legacy in professional baseball. A player with strong tools and reputation in the game, we look forward to watching Shawon Dunston Jr. patrolling the outfield of Wrigley Field in the near future.
Featured on MLB reports, I proudly present my interview with Cubs prospect and 2nd generation Major League Baseball player, Shawon Dunston Jr.:
MLB reports: Who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?
MLB reports: Which current MLB star do you most admire and why?
MLB reports: Reflecting on your career to-date, what are your proudest accomplishments on the baseball field?
Dunston Jr.: Playing in the Aflac All-American Baseball Classic during the summer of my junior year.
MLB reports: Did you fully expect from the start of the draft to sign with the Cubs? When was the final decision made in the process to sign with Chicago? Any disappointment with being drafted in the 11th round or did have to do more with your signability status than anything else?
Dunston Jr.: I was actually surprised they chose me. I thought three teams were going to get me earlier; I talked to the Cubs’ area guys, but didn’t think they were going to choose me. I was going to Vanderbilt right up until the last day of the deadline. It was a tough decision, but my decision came down to the Cubs getting close to my (final dollar) number, getting into the system early and developing now (by playing everyday). On draft day I was mad and no, I don’t think that I am an 11th round type player. My bonus I got says it all (got back-end, 1st round money). My signablity hurt me and also being very committed to Vandy, where I intended to attend. But that is the past and I am ready to get going.
MLB reports: When you first found out you were drafted, what were your reactions? Did those reactions change over time?
Dunston Jr.: It was more of a relief, like: “Finally- I got drafted!” I was still upset though that I did not go higher. Over time my reactions did not change, as looking back I still expected that I should have been drafted higher. But I use my feelings as a motivator go-forward.
MLB reports: What do you consider your greatest baseball skill(s)?
Dunston Jr.: My athleticism. I am very athletic.
MLB reports: What facets of your game do you most wish to improve upon?
Dunston Jr.: All part of my game can be improved. I am just trying to be a better player overall.
MLB reports: How do strikeouts and walks figure into your game? Do you see any of these items changing over time and to what degree?
Dunston Jr.: Yes, I am going to need to take a better approach at the plate. I am confident that will happen. I am young and have time to develop.
MLB reports: Long term what position do you see yourself playing? How do you see defense as part of your overall game?
MLB reports: If you had to look into a crystal ball, when do you see your expected time of arrival in the big leagues and what do you think you need to do most to get there?
Dunston Jr.: I just need to work hard. Through development and time, I will get there soon. I just need some time.
MLB reports: What are your offseason plans? Have the Cubs indicated to you at what level you will likely start 2012 and at which position?
Dunston Jr.: I plan to get bigger, stronger and faster. I am excited to be getting ready for spring training and my first professional season!
MLB reports: What do you do for fun when you are not playing baseball?
Dunston Jr.: I enjoy hanging out with friends and family.
MLB reports: Have you visited Chicago often in your life? Any impressions?
Dunston Jr.: I don’t really remember much from it when my dad played there. The last time I was there was in the 2003 playoffs at the NLDS with my dad.
MLB reports: If you could send out a message to the Cubs fans, what would it be?
Dunston Jr.: I am glad to be a part of this great organization and cannot wait to be playing in Wrigley Field soon!
Thank you again to Shawon Dunston Jr. for taking the time to join us today on MLB reports. We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you may have for Shawon. As well, please follow Shawon on Twitter (@SDUNSTONJR)
Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports: You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)
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Sunday November 6, 2011
Sam Evans: The last two years have been like a roller coaster for the Texas Rangers and their fans. The Rangers have been extremely successful, winning two straight American League championships. But both years they have fallen short in the world series. 2012 is sure to be a critical season for the Rangers organization.
Rotation: I think that C.J. Wilson is making it pretty obvious that he wants to return to the Rangers next year. If we assume that he does, then he will be the Rangers #1 starter. Barring a trade or a signing, Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, and Alexi Ogando will follow him. An interesting decision that Rangers have to make is whether they move Neftali Feliz to the rotation. Feliz is a very intriguing pitcher, who in my opinion, at least deserves one spring training to show what he can do as a starter.
If the Rangers decide not to bring back Wilson, there are not many other top of the rotation starters. Jon Daniels has scouted Yu Darvish, so the Rangers might be in the mix to sign Darvish. However, the Rangers payroll including arbitration player and existing contracts is expected to be over 100M. The consensus opinion is that Darvish will cost over 100M. I’d be surprised if the Rangers could afford a contract like that and if they would prefer Darvish over Wilson at similar money. Other options in free agency include Mark Buehrle and Erik Bedard.
The rotation is going to be immensely important for the Rangers in 2012. You could make the argument that with Cliff Lee, the Rangers would have won the World Series last year. If the Rangers could move Feliz and keep Wilson, they would have one of the stronger rotations in the American League.
Catcher, Third Base, Shortstop, and Second Base: These four positions are written in stone for the Rangers. Adrian Beltre might be the best third basemen in baseball and he is signed through 2015. Mike Napoli had a breakout year last year, and despite playing in only 113 games, Napoli was the Rangers most valuable offensive weapon. 2012 is Napoli’s contract year, so if everything goes wrong for the Rangers, Napoli might be traded for prospects.
As for shortstop, Elvis Andrus has improved ever since he first got to Texas. I think that in 2012, Andrus has the chance to take a big step forward. If he could steal 40 bases (just three more than he did in 2011), and hit over .300, he would become one of the best shortstops in the American League. At second base, the Rangers have Ian Kinsler who is their best player. If he continues at his current pace, he is a dark horse MVP candidate. In 2011, he posted a wRC+ of 128, he played defense better than any other second basemen in baseball, and he hit 30 homers and stole 30 bases. One of the reasons why I don’t think that the Rangers should make a big splash in free agency is that they already have Mike Napoli, Ian Kinsler, Colby Lewis, and Josh Hamilton. Kinsler has a $10M option, which I’d be surprised if the Rangers didn’t accept. No matter what happens, it is sure to be an expensive offseason.
First Base, Designated Hitter, and Outfield: The Rangers first base situation is a much bigger deal than most people think. Mitch Moreland is far from a sure thing, and with reports now emerging that he battled wrist soreness in the second half of the season, more uncertainty arises from the situation. Moreland batted .241 in the second half of 2011, with a OBP of .300, and only five home runs. That’s simply not good enough for an American League team. Do you think the Rangers are glad they didn’t trade Michael Young? Young hit .338 in 2011 with 213 hits. Young did have a BABIP of .368, so he is probably due for some regression in 2012.
The Rangers have the best duo of corner outfielders in baseball. Josh Hamilton can be penciled in for 2012 as the Rangers cleanup hitter. Nelson Cruz is another middle of the order bat who is an amazing talent. Both of these hitters are capable of hitting .300 with thirty home runs a piece. The biggest question for these guys is whether they can stay healthy. Both have had serious injury concerns throughout their career, but if they could both stay healthy they could help propel the Rangers toward another 2012 AL West championship. As for center field, the Rangers can either test their luck with Julio Borbon, Craig Gentry, and Leonys Martin, or they could turn to free agency. If they were to shop for a center fielder, I think that the underrated Coco Crisp might be a good fit. With the strength of their lineup, center field is really not the biggest of the Rangers worries.
Prospects: Thanks to one of the most extensive scouting departments in Major League Baseball, the Rangers have a very strong minor league collection of prospects. 16-year-old international signings Nomar Mazara and Ronald Guzman are very intriguing prospect, but both are at the least four years away from making a MLB impact. Jurickson Profar is the best shortstop prospect in all of baseball, and a top-5 prospect overall. Profar isn’t quite ready for the Majors, but if he continues to rake in the minors, he could be a September call up. Martin Perez is the Rangers top pitching prospect but he struggled in AAA last year. In the long-term, if just some of these prospects develop, then the Rangers will continue to have a really good baseball team for years to come. Unfortunately, this system is what scouts call, “bottom heavy”, meaning that most of the highly touted prospects are in the lower ranks of the minors.
Bullpen: The status of the Rangers bullpen all depends on what the Rangers decide to do with Feliz. Texas has Mike Adams, Koji Uehara, and Yoshinori Tateyama all returning for 2012. Darren Oliver is a type A free agent, but at 41 years of age, I expect him to return to Texas. Bullpens are the easiest position to assemble in baseball, so don’t expect the Rangers to have much trouble finding the right pieces to fill out their ‘pen.
In 2012, the Rangers have a chance to be a very special team. If they are not currently the best team in baseball, they are definitely in the top five. It’s highly improbable these days that a team reaches the World Series three times in a row. But I think that the Rangers have a legitimate chance in 2012. The Rangers just need the right mix of players to get over the hump and win the big one. Otherwise, another World Series loss could turn them into the modern day Atlanta Braves (minus the championship).
***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Sam on Twitter.***
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