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Tyler Beede Chooses Vanderbilt over the Blue Jays

Saturday August 20, 2011

Before the 2011 MLB Draft, Auburn, Massachusetts native Tyler Beede signed a National Letter of Intent to attend Vanderbilt University.  In the months leading up to the draft, Beede made it known to MLB scouts and cross-checkers that he was going to attend Vanderbilt.  He felt as though the college experience and the education he would receive would be the best thing for him.

Vanderbilt is also a member institution of the Southeastern Conference (SEC).  The SEC is arguably the best conference in the NCAA for baseball as well as other sports.  There has been a long line of first round draft choices that have been Commodores.  In the last seven years, Vanderbilt has had 48 players drafted, while 6 of those have been in the first round.  Jeremy Sowers (6th in 2004), David Price (1st in 2007), Casey Weathers (9th in 2007), and Mike Minor (7th in 2009) are the pitchers taken in the first rounds of their drafts for the Commodores.  Vanderbilt also took part in their first NCAA College World Series in 2011, and hope to build upon that success.  Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin has said that Beede has been in Vanderbilt baseball camps since his freshman year of high school, so it is safe to say that Tyler is extremely comfortable with the staff and surroundings.

When a player with as much talent as Beede chooses a successful program, it is often to create leverage in negotiating with a drafting team.  There have been many players who sign with schools such as University of Texas, Louisiana State University, or University of California simply to earn a larger signing bonus in professional baseball.  The stronger the player’s commitment to school, the more leverage he has to get the MLB team to offer top dollars.  Since MLB teams generally don’t like to “waste” their pick and not sign a guy, they will often have to break the bank to make him sign on the dotted line.

When a player tells a scout that he wants X amount of dollars, it often scares teams away from that player, dropping him to later rounds, or out of the draft altogether.  Tyler was drafted in the 1st  round (21st overall) of the 2011 MLB Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays, although he could have gone sooner if not for his demands.  The Blue Jays and GM Alex Anthopoulos were known to be planning an aggressive approach to this year’s draft, and even though Beede stated he wanted the big bucks, the Jays were confident that they could sign him.  So confident that many people in baseball were calling for investigations that the Blue Jays had worked out a pre-draft deal with Beede for around $2M.

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For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Rob Bland, and like Beede, was a tall right-handed pitcher in high school.  I may not have thrown as hard as Beede but I routinely flashed 89-91 mph on scouts’ radar guns.  Scouts were behind the backstop for each one of my games from my junior year in high school on.  I played for a prestigious program in Team Ontario and graduated to the Canadian Junior National Team and had a ton of great exposure.  Before the 2002 MLB draft, I had signed with the University of Kentucky, also in the SEC, and told scouts I was going to school unless a lot of money was put in front of me.  I was ranked in Baseball America’s top 150 draft prospects list, and I was told by some teams I could go as high as the 7th to 10th rounds.  I went back and forth between school and professional baseball, but I felt I wasn’t ready to be a pro.  My parents, like Beede’s, thought that I was mature enough to make this life-altering decision on my own. Education has always been very important to my family, and ultimately I decided that unless I was blown away by an offer, I would go to school.  The fact that Beede has been on record of saying that he would have signed for $3.5M leads me to believe that he felt the same way.  He had a number in mind, and unless it was reached, he would be perfectly content in attending college.  I ended up requesting 3rd round money as a leverage tool (around $250,000 at the time).  I figured that I would improve so much over the next three years that I would easily be a 3rd round selection at worst in 2005.  Teams considered me “unsignable” and I was not selected at all.  I went to the University of Kentucky where I struggled with adjusting to college life and could not stay healthy, spending most of my time in the trainer’s room, until finally requiring Tommy John surgery.

I could look back and say I should not have declared lofty demands and just taken what could have been given to me, but the reality is that I genuinely wanted to go to college.  Beede has also been adamant that he wants to enjoy the college experience and step into a role where he can make a big difference.  I also thought at the time that when I worked hard, I could improve and be drafted higher in the future.  At the time I thought it was the right choice, but now I look back and wonder how I could have done in professional baseball.

I am not trying to compare myself with Beede, as he is obviously a much bigger talent, but there are some parallels.  If he gets injured, or if he struggles and cannot figure college hitters and metal bats out, he could be losing out on a lot of money and a career in professional baseball.

I have no doubt that Beede’s talent will shine in the SEC, and he will again be drafted in 2014.  However, I seriously doubt it will be as high of a selection, or that he will be offered the same $2.5M that the Blue Jays offered this year.  With the next Collective Bargaining Agreement sure to stop the huge spending on the draft, players will not have the same bargaining power.

I have heard many Toronto Blue Jays fans saying that Beede was foolish for turning down the money, or that they hope that he does not succeed and regrets his decision.  Some have said that he is immature, or that he doesn’t deserve to play professional baseball.  “Tyler Beede is greedy” and “Beede is a jerk” has been posted on Twitter .  All of these comments are completely unfair because he is an 18-year-old kid and decisions like these are not easy to make.  In my opinion, he made a very mature decision that 99.9% of us find easy to scoff at.  Who can turn down $2.5M to do something they love to do?  What people don’t realize is that he has a huge love for Vanderbilt and their program.  He feels more COMFORTABLE at Vandy than he does in the Toronto Blue Jays organization right now.  For a ballplayer, comfort breeds confidence, and Beede I am sure is brimming with confidence right now.

Is this a decision that Beede may regret in 10 years?  Maybe.  Is he dumb?  Absolutely not.  Beede will look to become the second Vanderbilt Commodore to be selected first overall in a future MLB Draft.   If that becomes the case, Beede will make a lot more money at that time than he was offered by the Blue Jays in 2011 and have a solid university education behind him.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Rob Bland.  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 Rob on Twitter.***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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On the Verge: Brett Lawrie Call Up by Jays is Imminent

Thursday August 4, 2011

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports):  The Brett Lawrie rollercoaster started December 6th, 2010.  Lawrie was sent to Toronto in exchange for Toronto’s incumbent ace, Shaun Marcum.  Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos immediately said that Lawrie would be working out at third base, switching from second base.  This would be Lawrie’s third major position change in 3 years.  He was drafted out of Langley, BC by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1st round (16th overall) of the 2008 MLB draft.  That year, Toronto held the 17th pick, and it was said that they coveted him greatly.  They instead had to settle for college first baseman and current AAA prospect, David Cooper.

Lawrie hit .293 in spring training this year, while playing decent enough third base to warrant a discussion of keeping him on the roster.  However, Anthopoulos deemed he was not ready to play in the Major Leagues, and the fans in Toronto grumbled as the Blue Jays consistently put Edwin Encarnacion at third base to start the year.  Lawrie started off hot in AAA Las Vegas, and played good defense.  This still wasn’t enough, as the Jays asked him to be more patient and change his approach.  Lawrie did just that, and by May 31st, was hitting over .350 with power and walking more often than he had in the past.  When the Jays were on the brink of calling him up (see our Report from June 2nd), Lawrie was hit by an errant pitch on the back of his left hand.  Blue Jays fans collectively held their breath, and Lawrie declared it was a bruise.  Two days later when swelling subsided, it was found out that Lawrie had a non-displaced fracture.

When he finally returned to Las Vegas in the middle of July, Lawrie came right back to where he left off.  He is now hitting .352 with 18 home runs and 61 RBI.  More importantly, he has 26 walks and is playing much improved defense.  Now, the Jays’ faithful are continuing to call for him.  Anthopoulos and manager John Farrell have repeatedly said “he’s close” and that they want to get him everyday at bats before rosters expand in September.

Now, when Lawrie gets the inevitable call (my guess being Friday, August 5th, before the beginning of a road series in Baltimore), where will he play?  The Jays have Jose Bautista, one of the top three players in baseball at third base.  Well, the plan that Anthopoulos has set out is that Bautista would shift back to his preferred right field, creating a logjam of young and talented outfielders.  Travis Snider is 23 years old and he will play every day at one of the corner positions.  Colby Rasmus is 24 years old and will be in center for the foreseeable future.  That leaves Eric Thames, also 24, the corner outfielder who came out of seemingly nowhere to win the love and admiration of many fans, on the bench.  You could say that Thames can just DH because he isn’t the best fielder of the bunch (although more than adequate and constantly improving), but where does Edwin Encarnacion play then?  Encarnacion is one of the hottest hitters in all of baseball since the beginning of July.  He has 9 doubles, 4 home runs, and 14 RBI with 12 walks in 25 games over that span.  Thames most likely gets optioned to AAA to get every day at bats until rosters expand in September.  Here is how that lineup stacks up.

Yunel Escobar – SS
Colby Rasmus – CF
Jose Bautista – RF
Adam Lind – 1B
Edwin Encarnacion – DH
Travis Snider – LF
Brett Lawrie – 3B
J.P. Arencibia – C
Aaron Hill –  2B

If one of these players is traded, then there won’t be a problem.  The only other option barring a trade, is something that Anthopoulos has stated adamantly will not happen.  Moving Lawrie to second base and sitting former Silver Slugger Aaron Hill on the bench.  This could possibly be the best option available for both the short-term and long-term.  With Hill underperforming (ranked 20th out of 21 qualified 2nd baseman in WAR), and his $8M option for 2012 likely to be declined, Lawrie could slot into that spot for a very long time.  Anthopoulos has preached having talent and skill “in the middle of the diamond” and second base is a spot that sorely needs some stability after Hill’s last two years.  The only thing that could stop this movement is if Anthopoulos sees Hill, who is a good defender, as a guy who can turn his career back around.  If Hill were placed in the 9 hole, and changed his approach, he could be a very serviceable player there.  One idea that has been bandied around is that the Jays decline the option on Hill, and sign him to a much smaller deal to bring him back as the second baseman.

I honestly believe that Anthopoulos has the wheels turning, and with Encarnacion being so hot, many teams would love to take him on to make a push for the playoffs.  If Encarnacion is not in the picture, there is a spot for Thames as a full-time player.  He and Snider would probably split time between left field and DH, with Bautista in right, and Lawrie at third.

What gets lost in all of this, is that the Opening Day center fielder, might become a 5th outfielder.  Rajai Davis  has 33 stolen bases, and is playing better in a part-time role since Rasmus joined the team.  He will be reserved to being a pinch runner, and possibly a late inning defensive replacement for Thames.

The odd man out for this year seems to be Thames, even though the Blue Jays see him as a valuable asset for the long-term.  Whether that means for him to be on the field, or using him as a trade chip remains to be seen.  Lawrie will likely end up playing third base every day, proving why the Jays gave up Marcum for an unproven “troubled” prospect. 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Rob Bland.  We highly encourge 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 Rob on Twitter.***

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Vernon Wells Trade Discussion: Midseason Winners and Loser

Sunday July 17, 2011

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports):  January 21, 2011 is seen as a bit of a turning point in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays.  General Manager Alex Anthopolous traded away long-time face of the franchise, Vernon Wells.  Wells had been with the Blue Jays since he was drafted in the first round, fifth overall by the Jays in the 1997 amateur draft.  After making his debut in 1999, he played in a Toronto uniform through the 2010 season.  His name is littered across franchise record books, and he was a beloved figure in the clubhouse.  On December 15, 2006, Wells signed a seven-year, $126 million contract extension, which at the time was the 6th largest contract in MLB history.  Over the next few years, Wells’ lack of production and time spent on the disabled list, made his contract “unmoveable”.

That was of course until Alex Anthopolous took the helm as Jays GM, and was able to find a taker for Wells and the four years and $86 million remaining on the contract.  Into the picture came Tony Reagins, GM of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  It has been said that Reagins approached Anthopolous about Wells.  One would think that in order for a deal to work, the Blue Jays would have had to send a large sum of cash to the Angels in order for the deal to go through.

The deal that was finally consummated was to send Wells and approximately $5 million to the Angels in exchange for OF Juan Rivera, and C/1B Mike Napoli.  Rivera was seen as a throw-in, as his $4M contract was more than the Angels wanted to pay.  Napoli had fallen out of favour in manager Mike Scioscia’s eyes; despite hitting at least 20 home runs in each of the three previous seasons despite receiving limited playing time.  Toronto then flipped Napoli to the Texas Rangers for standout reliever Frank Francisco.  The Rangers received the powerful, right-handed versatile hitter they coveted, and the Blue Jays thought they received the closer they needed.

It is quite obvious that no matter how any of those players perform, the Blue Jays are the big winner because of the payroll space they have cleared and can use to extend their star players, see Jose Bautista.  However, this deal has not been so cut and dry.  While Napoli has swung the bat with authority, Juan Rivera has been traded to the LA Dodgers, and Francisco has been awful out of the Jays bullpen.

Let’s take a quick look at each player’s production and how their respective teams have fared so far.

 

Mike Napoli

Again performing as a part-time player at three positions, Napoli has been very solid for the Rangers.  He has hit 13 home runs and driven in 34 RBI in only 187 plate appearances.  While his average leaves something to be desired, he makes up for it in his ability to take walks and hit the ball to the gaps.  With his OPS at .906, he has proven that he is a tremendously underrated player.  His WAR through half the season is at 1.7, and he is on pace to break his career high of 2.6.

 

Juan Rivera

Because he was seen as a salary dump for the Angels, the Blue Jays took him on and saw him as the everyday left fielder and DH out of spring training.  He was never able to get it going, and quickly fell out of favour in Toronto.  His OPS sat at .666 when traded, with a limited ability to get on base and very little power.  This on top of the fact that he played atrocious defense led to his -1.2 WAR.  He was traded to the LA Dodgers for a player to be named later or cash considerations on July 12, 2011.

 

Frank Francisco

Seen as a pretty successful power arm for the late innings, Francisco was picked up from the Texas Rangers along with cash.  He continues to strike out a ton of batters, (10.1 K/9), but he is giving up more hits than he has in the past.  However, part of this is due to a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .359.  His xFIP is actually almost two runs lower than his ERA, 3.56 as opposed to 5.40.  I think that Francisco has been unlucky, and when it all evens out, it will show that he is at least a competent late inning reliever.

 

Vernon Wells

Wells was obviously the big fish in this trade.  He has the ability to be an MVP-caliber player (see his 2003 and 2006 seasons).  He has two gold gloves in center field, as well as three All-Star appearances in his career.  He has hit 30 home runs three times and driven in 100 RBI three times.  Wells’ production in 2011 has been nothing short of horrendous.  He has 14 home runs so far, but other than that, hasn’t done anything particularly well.  His OPS is .671 with an OBP of .254.  Wells is striking out in over 20% of his plate appearances, and walking in less than 4%.  Now, you could look at his BABIP (.228) and think he has been unlucky, but it is that low because of his awful 10% line drive rate.  With a flyball rate of 47% and by hitting a ton of infield flies, his BABIP won’t likely rise much.  It is unlikely that Wells will ever return to being the player he once was.

 

VERDICT: 

Taking a look at these stats, we can see that the Rangers were an instant winner.  They gave up an expendable reliever, and gained a valuable bat off the bench.  The Angels are the big losers in the deal, as they owe Wells over $60M over the next 3.5 years.  That kind of production out of a left fielder is unacceptable for a team trying to contend for the playoffs.  Toronto knew that with the trades they made, they would not be as good of a team without Wells.  They are in a rebuilding mode, and the money they save can be used on drafting and developing young talent.  Francisco could be a Type B free agent at the end of the year, so another draft pick could be theirs. 

**The grand winner in this series of moves is the Blue Jays, as with the departure of Wells, they have been able to extend Jose Bautista with a five-year, $65M contract.  They have been aggressive in international signings this month as well, and look to pour more resources into the draft. ***  

 

***Thank you to Rob Bland for preparing today’s article on the Vernon Wells trade.  You can follow Rob on Twitter.***

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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