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Time Has Come For the Royals to Trade Soria

Tuesday November 15, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  With the free agency season in full swing, some teams may not be happy with the sticker prices on available players.  Especially when it comes to pitching, including closers.  Jonathan Papelbon recently grabbed $50 million from the Phillies and reports have Ryan Madson looking at a deal in the $40 million range.  These figures make existing closers signed to reasonable deals an attractive trade commodity, despite the amount of available relief pitchers on the market.  There may be a quantity of closers, but certainly not quality.  Outside of Mariano Rivera and Papelbon, there are few sure-fire closers currently in baseball.  Enter Joakim Soria of the Kansas City Royals.

A 2-time All-Star, Soria has put up some impressive numbers in his 5 seasons in Kansas City.  Two seasons of 40+ saves, Soria has a career 2.40 ERA and 1.043 WHIP.  Soria will only be 28 next year and could theoretically be a building block for the next few seasons in Kansas City.  However, closers are generally considered to be foundational players.  Soria is no exception.  2011 was his most difficult seasons in the majors, as he did save 28 games but put up a 4.03 ERA and 1.276 WHIP (all career worsts).  Soria is signed for $6 million this coming season and has 2 more team options at roughly $8 million per season.  The Royals are faced with a decision: hold onto their star closer, or cash in while his market is at its peak.

The Royals are on the way up.  No doubt about it.  Mike Moustakas, Erik Hosmer, Wil Myers, John Lamb and company are expected to come together at the same time to make the Royals the next powerhouse squad.  By my estimation, they should be World Series contenders by 2015.  But with a couple of more seasons of growing pains ahead, can they afford the luxury of Soria?  My argument is no.  Soria’s salary in 2012 is still considered a “deal”, but from 2013 go-forward at $8 million, the Royals would be wise to spend their salary dollars in other areas.  There are still holes to fill on the squad, including 1-2 more bats and starting pitching.  The team will also need to lock up some of its young star players early to avoid unaffordable contract demands down the road.  Joakim Soria can bring back a nice haul to fill needs and stock the team for a future championship.  The team needs to be realistic of where it is today, where it is going in the future and the players it needs to get there.

The Royals also have options to replace Soria.  Aaron Crow (if he is not moved into the rotation) and Tim Collins could all get a shot.  Luke Hochevar, who has been hot/cold during his career in the rotation may eventually settle into the bullpen.  Options are there.  Heck, the Royals plunked Soria from the Rule-5 draft and transformed him from a Padres outcast into a star closer.  With the risk of injury and ineffectiveness always hanging over closers, the Royals may be gambling if they hang onto Soria much longer.  Another season like 2011 could severely damage his trade value, while he could bring in a nice crop of 2-3 prospects if traded this offseason.  The Royals need to do some soul-searching and realize that Soria is worth more in a trade than on their roster.

Teams will surely line-up if Joakim Soria is made available.  The Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Angels, Tigers, Rangers, Nationals and Cardinals would all surely inquire as to his availability.   From all reports, the Yankees and Blue Jays are the strongest contenders to land the Royals closer.  Don’t get me wrong- I am a Joakim Soria fan.  I believe the kid is immensely talented and has the talent and determination to remain a top MLB closer for another decade (health permitting).  But on a losing ballclub that is rebuilding, Joakim Soria is a luxury that the Royals simply cannot afford.  If the team has to trade a Moustakas or Hosmer given their budget but retain Soria, that would be a big mistake in my estimation.  The team needs to build for 2015- not 2012.  This offseason represents a golden opportunity for the Royals to continue to replenish its roster and fill more holes.  The Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez was that type of step in the right direction.  If Melky was a Prince, it is time for the Royals to flip their King for a pair of Wild Cards.  It could prove to be their ultimate winning hand.

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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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Phillies Sign Papelbon Over Madson: The Stare Arrives in Philadelphia

Saturday November 12, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  The Philadelphia Phillies seemingly fooled everyone this week.  Earlier in the week, reports indicated that the team had locked up its incumbent closer, Ryan Madson for a 4-year, $44 million contract which could climb all the way up to a $57 million deal with an additional option year.  Reactions were for the most part negative, as the baseball world could not believe that the team would pay (overpay) for a reliever coming off his first season as a full-time closer by handing out one of the largest contracts ever to a non-starting pitcher.  At that money, people began to wonder why the Phillies did not seek out the best closer on the market and one of the best overall in the game, Jonathan Papelbon.  The Red Sox closer, after endless 1-year pacts with Boston was in his first free agency period in 2011.  But then something interesting happened.  The Madson deal, which required the approval of the team’s higher brass all of a sudden was delayed and then fell apart.  A couple of days later, Papelbon became a Philly!  At 4-years and $50 million, Jonathan Papelbon finally received the long-term deal he has craved all of these years and Philadelphia signed a lock-down closer.  But what happened?  How did the Phillies switch to Papelbon mid-stream after coming so far along in negotiations with Madson?

The marketing term for what the Phillies did is called a “bait and switch”, meant when a retailer will advertise a discounted product and will then offer you a higher priced replacement when you arrive at the location to find that the advertised good has mysteriously sold out.  Often, that discounted good was never actually available, but was a merely a ploy to get the consumer to first get to the store and secondly, buy a more expensive product.  In the case of the Philadelphia Phillies, I do not believe that the team ever planned on signing Ryan Madson to the reported high-end contract.  While being groomed to be a future for many seasons, the team was never completely sold on his true sustainability at the position.  While Madson received the occasional closing opportunities in his 8-year career leading up to 2011, he actually converted only 20 saves going into this season.  But something funny happened this season.  Madson became solid.  So solid, that he saved 32 games with a 2.37 ERA and 1.154 WHIP.  With Scott Boras as his agent, the Phillies knew that Madson would not come cheap.  But the Phillies faithful for the most part loved Madson and would mourn his departure.  The Phillies needed to secure themselves at the closer position while softening the blow of not signing Ryan Madson.  The team’s actions this week were a stroke of genius and the team played its cards perfectly.

The plan for 2011 was to have Brad Lidge close for 1 more season, with Ryan Madson as the set-up man and fill-in closer.  In the offseason, the Phillies were going to target Jonathan Papelbon and sign him to a  large pact.  But Lidge was injured and ineffective in 2011, forcing the Phillies to use Madson as their primary closer for most of the season.  The reliever that they were hoping to sign for a reasonable 3-years, $21-$24 million deals was about to cost them almost double to retain.  But how could the team sign another reliever and let their incumbent closer go?  Simple.  Propose a deal with Ryan Madson and float the scenario out to the public to record and evaluate the reaction of the public.  The possibility existed that the fans, writers and analysts would applaud the deal, in which case the Phillies could consider actually proceeding with it.  But in all likelihood, the team knew that the outcry would be against the deal.  By then pulling the Madson deal and reaching out to sign Papelbon, the approval rating would be through the roof.  It is almost the same as proposing a 20% tax hike and then only increasing taxes by 5%.  Throw out a worst-case scenario and set expectations low- then substitute a better plan and watch people jumping for joy.

The Phillies in my estimation used Ryan Madson as a pawn.  While Scott Boras has been the master for years at playing teams against one another to benefit the pocketbook of his clients, the Phillies in this case used Boras and Madson to get what they wanted.  If the Phillies had gone out right away at the start of free agency to sign Jonathan Papelbon, fans and critics would have blasted the team for overpaying and proposing that the team should have kept Ryan Madson at a hometown discount.  The Phillies were able to eliminate such sentiments by showing that Madson would have cost them top dollar to stay put.  At an additional $1.5 million per season for the same 4-year contract, the Phillies replaced a closer with 1 full year of closing experience with a closer (Papelbon) who is the same age (31), has 6 full years of full-time closing experience in one of baseball’s biggest and highest pressure markets (Boston) of 30+ saves per season, to go along with an almost perfect postseason resume.  The Phillies traded in a solid Buick for a Mercedes, with still plenty of mileage to be driven.

For those of you that may doubt the “conspiracy theory”, just take a close look at the Phillies rotation.  Since Spring Training, I have been calling for the Phillies to sign Papelbon.  The team has shown to seek out the best pitchers on the market and bring them on board.  Roy Halladay.  Cliff Lee.  Now Jonathan Papelbon.  When the Phillies go shopping for pitching, they do not shop in the bargain bin.  Aside from obtaining Mariano Rivera, the team signed the best available closer for their staff.  So while Ryan Madson would have been a nice luxury to keep on the staff for insurance and to set-up, the team knew it would be seeking Jonathan Papelbon all the way.  The plan would have worked to have both Papelbon and Madson on the team, had Madson not closed out so many games this past season.  As a middle reliever setting-up, his contract would have been affordable.  But an outstanding closing record in 2011 along with Scott Boras as his agent, meant that Madson was priced out of the Phillies budget.  With Papelbon set to come on board, there would be no room for Madson.

The Phillies faithful have to be pleased today.  While they will miss Ryan Madson, most will know that there was no guarantees he could duplicate his numbers over the life of a 4-5 year contract.  At the numbers that were tabled for him to stay in Philadelphia, the team by all accounts did the right thing to sign the superior Papelbon.  While he will cost the team its 2012 first-round pick, a pick should be recovered, along with a supplemental pick, when Madson is signed by another team.  The cost/benefit of this move was essentially a no-brainer.  The Phillies went with more of a sure-thing by signing Papelbon.  While there are no guarantees in baseball, especially with pitchers (arm problems) and especially closers (who can lose their jobs at a moment’s notice), Jonathan Papelbon is as money in the bank as they come.

A couple of last points that helped trigger the change of closers.  By continually signing 1-year deals in Boston, many expected Papelbon to bolt once he was eligible for free agency.  The team could not lock the player down to a long-term deal and with the max-exodus of players during this past offseason, it seemed that Papelbon was another candidate to seek a change of scenery.  But some people may not remember that not too long ago that Ryan Madson’s wife, Sarah, making negative comments on Phillies fans.  At the time, it seemed like a ticket out-of-town for Madson, but his success this season seemingly made the comments disappear.  Except that the Phillies brass did not forget and the publicity that surrounded the event at the time was one that likely set a chain reaction for the plan for Madson to leave at the end of the season.  Baseball is a game of short-term memories, but not for all.

When I floated the idea of a Jonathan Papelbon signing all season long, Phillies fans did not have one positive comment back to me.  Their fans, as well as most in baseball, had very negative things to say about Papelbon.  Outside of Boston it seems, many were unable to or refused to recognize his talent.  But while Papelbon was beloved in Boston until now, those sentiments will transfer over to Philadelphia by next season.  The stare, as it is known, will become one of the most famed times in Philadelphia Phillies history as the team and its fans get revved up watching Jonathan Papelbon close out games for the next 4-seasons.  There is a changing of the guard in Philadelphia.  The Phillies have Halladay, Lee and Hamels to start things off and now can rely on Papelbon to close them out.  The stare now makes its residence in the city of brotherly love.  Another World Series may not be far behind.

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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.

MLB Free Agent Closer Carousel

Friday November 11, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports):  Every one of the MLB’s franchises will be looking for bullpen help, and most will be looking to add a major contributor to the back-end.  The closer position is one that is seen as the most underrated as well as the most overrated job in all of baseball.  On one hand, some people may over-value a closer’s “makeup” and poise, where others say “it’s the same as pitching at any point in the game.”  While I like to sit somewhere between these two concepts, most fans like knowing that their team employs a “proven veteran closer.”  All you have to do is look at the St. Louis Cardinals of 2011 to notice that is not necessarily the case.  Their closer was Jason Motte, although Tony La Russa refused to officially anoint him so.  Motte had 12 career saves going into the postseason, 9 of which were in 2011.  However, the fireballer was dominant in the postseason, and helped to bring in another World Series title to St. Louis.

In 2007, the Boston Red Sox employed a closer by the name of Jonathan Papelbon, a 2nd year closer, and they went on to win the World Series.  There are several other times where a homegrown closer has led his team to a championship, Brian Wilson of the 2010 San Francisco Giants being another recent one.

There are many closers without a set home for 2012, with Papelbon headlining that list.  It has been said that Papelbon is looking for a 4 year contract, and could even get a 5th guaranteed year on the open market.  Much of the early talk about closers this off-season has surrounded Ryan  Madson, formerly of the Philadelphia Phillies.  It was rumored that he had agreed with the Phillies to a 4 year, $44M contract with a 5th year as a vesting option.  It was said that the Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. was awaiting approval from team president David Montgomery.   It has recently come to light that Amaro Jr. has vehemently denied these rumors.

Frank Francisco, Francisco Rodriguez, Heath Bell, Jonathan Broxton, Joe Nathan and Francisco Cordero are all closers who may be looking for new homes in 2012.  Also available are Matt Capps, Jon Rauch, David Aardsma, and Takashi Saito.

The Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres, LA Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, Toronto Blue Jays, Minnesota Twins, Florida Marlins and Houston Astros are some of the teams who figure to be in the market for a closer, if not to upgrade.

Because of the Madson fiasco that has been taking place, I doubt he re-signs with the Phillies.  The Phillies seem to have moved on to their next target, Papelbon.   All Papelbon has done in his 6+ seasons with the Red Sox is accumulate 219 saves with a 4.43 K/BB ratio.  His career ERA sits at 2.33 while his FIP isn’t far off at 2.60, showing just how good he actually is.  I think a 4 year deal worth $51M and a vesting option of $15M would likely get the job done.

Madson’s early “almost signing” may have set the bar for Papelbon, and Madson will be looking for something in the same range. He may have to settle for a bit less as the Phillies look to get the signing done quickly.  Madson took over for Brad Lidge, who battled injuries in 2011 as the Phillies closer.  A 3.88 K/BB ratio and a ground ball rate close to 50% ensured a very successful season where his FIP was 2.25.  4 years and $40M should get it done, and I see him going to the LA Dodgers.

Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod) was traded at the deadline from the Mets to the Milwaukee Brewers, but didn’t get an opportunity to close out games.  His displeasure with the situation was coming out, even though incumbent closer John Axford was performing extremely well, and the club was on its way to a playoff berth.  The Miami Marlins (still doesn’t feel right to say) are looking to be huge spenders this off-season, and I see no difference with K-Rod.  Rodriguez  has 291 saves in his career, including a single season record 62 in 2008 with the LA Angels of Anaheim.  I see the 30-year-old signing a 3 year deal worth $30M to usurp the incumbent Marlins closer, Juan Oviedo (previously known as Leo Nunez).

Heath Bell is a closer who has had tremendous numbers over the last three seasons, albeit in ultra spacious Petco Park as his home field.  His K rate dipped this year, and may have been a bit lucky with a .261 BABIP.  San Diego Padres GM Josh Byrnes has already said he would likely offer arbitration to Bell, a Type A free agent.  Bell has also said in the past that he would accept arbitration, as he likes San Diego.  This presents a slight problem for the cash-strapped Padres, who prefer to keep their payroll lower.  Bell will be due a raise from the $7.5M he made in 2011, so a $9-10M 1 year deal will likely be in place here with the Padres.

Joe Nathan is a special case, because he had an option of $12.5M declined by the Minnesota Twins, who would still like to bring him back.  Nathan did not pitch in 2010 after undergoing Tommy John Surgery, and threw 44 2/3 mediocre innings in 2011.  However, over his last 27 innings, he gave up only 20 hits, 5 walks and 10 runs, really finishing strong and proving he is healthy again.  The downfall is that by spring training, he will be 38 years old and clearly looking at the end of his career.  The Toronto Blue Jays are looking for a closer to anchor a bullpen that will see a lot of turnover, and Nathan could be had for $4M and a club option for 2013.

Jonathan Broxton is another closer looking to establish his value.  The hulking 6’4” 300 lb closer had a disappoint 2011 season, and just had surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow in September.  His K rate has steadily declined from the career high of 13.50/9 IP in 2009.  His ground ball rate, BB/9, ERA and FIP have all suffered at the same time.  Broxton will likely get a one year, incentive-laden deal to prove he is healthy.  He will likely have to settle for a setup man role, and I think he could work with the Mets in spacious Citi Field.

Francisco Cordero has had a 13 year career that started in Detroit, then took him to Texas, Milwaukee then finally Cincinnati.  The Reds recently declined his $12M option, but GM Walt Jocketty has said he hopes to bring the closer back.  However, I don’t see him donning the Reds jersey any longer, as the soon to be 37-year-old will look to move on and close out his career.  While his fastball still averages 93 mph, it is 3 mph slower than Cordero’s prime.  Because of this, his K rate has dipped to 5.43/9IP from 12.22/9IP in 2007.  While his stats have declined, he has averaged 39 saves the last 5 seasons.  He will probably settle for a one year deal worth $6M, where the Minnesota Twins will sign him.

It’s a carousel in the closing world, as more teams are beginning to put less stock in having an established closer at the back of a bullpen.  Homegrown closers are becoming a more popular choice, but some teams look for that slight edge, and if it means overpaying for a pitcher who will throw roughly 5% of the team’s innings, they will do so. 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, 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.

Bob Kendrick Interview: President Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

Tuesday September 13, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  We are proud today to feature on MLB reports:  the President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Bob Kendrick.  It was an honor and privilege to get to know one of the finest and most important executives in the world of baseball.  The Negro Leagues represents a key time period in baseball history.  The NLBM is essentially the Cooperstown of the Negro Leagues, in Kansas City.  Mr. Kendrick is responsible for overseeing the entire NLBM and has one of the most demanding and rewarding jobs that we have ever seen.  His story is a fascinating one and we were glad to have Mr. Kendrick with us today to share it.  For all fans of baseball and American history, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is a vital institution to visit.  We present today our interview with the President of the NLBM, Mr. Bob Kendrick: 

 

MLB reports:  Hello Mr. Kendrick.  It is a pleasure to have you on the Reports.  Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to speaking with us.
 
You are President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.  Please give our readers an idea as to what your job entails and the responsibilities of the President of such a fine baseball institute.

Bob Kendrick:  My primary responsibilities are to provide effective leadership, management and operations of the Negro Baseball Leagues Museum and the development of the future John “Buck” O’Neil Education and Research Center. This includes managing a staff of seven; planning strategies to advance the mission and financial stability of the organization and develop and communicate goals and planning strategies with a local board and a national governing board for implementation. In addition, I’m also responsible for developing and managing community and corporate partnerships, programs, marketing, special events along with media, public and community relations.

 
MLB reports:  What is the significance of having the museum in Kansas City?  Was there ever a thought to build it beside Cooperstown?
 
Bob Kendrick:  Kansas City is the birthplace of the Negro Leagues and thus the rightful home of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM). In 1920, Andrew “Rube” Foster established the Negro National League in a meeting that took place in at the Paseo YMCA in Kansas City. Today, the NLBM operates two blocks from the historic Paseo YMCA and has designated the building as the future home of the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center. There were never any intentions to build or move the NLBM to Cooperstown.

 
MLB reports:  What does Buck O’Neil mean to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum?  How did the museum fare when he was alive and what has been the state of the museum since his passing?
 
Bob Kendrick:  Buck, along with the late Horace Peterson, were the co-founders of the NLBM in 1990. He served as the museum’s chairman for 16 years until his death in 2006 at age 94. Buck was the face of the NLBM and the museum’s inspirational leader and the person that is single-most responsible for its rise to prominence.
 
Buck’s death coupled with a down economy have definitely had an impact on the growth of the NLBM. To use a bad baseball analogy, Buck was our power hitter. When you take your power hitter out of the lineup you can’t expect that your offense is going to be as potent as it was with him in the lineup. The NLBM, like a lot of museums and particularly cultural institutions, have had its challenges but I feel strongly that we are poised to carry out Buck’s dream to sustain and grow this great institution.

 
MLB reports:  Do you feel that there is pressure in your role to meet the expectations set by Buck O’Neil? 
 
Bob Kendrick:  No. There will never be another Buck O’Neil! What I’ve tried to do is embrace Buck’s legacy and use it as additional motivation to see that his museum continues to be successful. If there is any pressure, it comes from the understanding that you are responsible for an institution that we want to see stand the test of time. Ultimately, no one will have greater expectations of me than I have of myself.

 
MLB reports:  What are your favorite exhibits at the museum? 
 
Bob Kendrick:  The Field of Legends is an amazing and awe-inspiring display. It is the centerpiece of the NLBM and features 10 life-size bronze statues of Negro League greats cast in position as if they were playing a game. The players were chosen because they represent 10 of the first group of Negro Leaguers to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
 
A 1952 photo of a young Hank Aaron standing at the train station in mobile getting ready to leave to join the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues is one of my favorites. I believe that photo is the validating point in the exhibit that visitors start to grasp how special the Negro Leagues were and the incredible level of talent the leagues featured. All of sudden, the stories that we’ve shared about the exploits of Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Satchel Paige, and the other legends become more real because Hank is a name that everyone knows and understands how impactful his career was.

 
MLB reports:  Are there new exhibits this year that are in place? 
 
Bob Kendrick:  We’re developing a new exhibit on the life and times of Buck O’Neil in recognition of his 100th birthday (Nov. 13). The exhibit, entitled “Right on Time” is adapted from Buck’s critically acclaimed biography “I Was Right On Time,” and will be a chronology of his life featuring rare family and baseball photos, videos and works of art from a team of professional artists that interpret the meaning and impact of Buck’s illustrious life. The exhibit is scheduled to open at the NLBM on Oct. 6 which would mark the fifth anniversary of Buck’s death. It will be on display until January 2012. The NLBM is developing plans for a national tour of the exhibit.

 
MLB reports:  Why should a baseball fan take the trip to visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum? 
 
Bob Kendrick:  I often said that there is no greater example of “love of the game” than there is when you bear witness to what the courageous athletes of the Negro Leagues endured to play baseball in America. Love of the game is something that every fan shares.
 
In some respect, as baseball fans, we’ve all been cheated by not having an opportunity to learn about America’s unsung baseball heroes prior to the rise of the NLBM. When you visit you going to meet some of the greatest baseball players to ever play the game. But more importantly, you are going to gain a perspective on how their determination, courage, passion and perseverance not only changed the game but America too.

 
MLB reports:  You have rejoined the museum after a leave of absence.  How did you find out you were offered the position of President and what was your decision-making process in deciding to accept the role?
 
Bob Kendrick:  I left the NLBM in February of 2010 to accept the post as Executive Director of the KC office of the National Sports Center for the Disabled after being a part of the NLBM team for 12 years departing as VP of Marketing. I began having serious discussions with the museum’s board in March of this year. Betty Brown, chair of the museum’s board of directors, called on behalf of the board to offer me the job. On April 11, 2011 I began my tenure as President of the NLBM.
 
Like any major life-changing decision, I did a lot of soul-searching and had many discussions with my wife, Vanessa, and other members of my family. This was with the realization that sometimes the most difficult thing you can do is go back home. The NLBM had been home for me for 12 wonderful years and I was tremendously proud of what we had accomplished, but I honestly thought that chapter of my life was over. When this opportunity came about I didn’t want to make a decision with my heart and not my head, but I’d be lying if I said that my heart didn’t lead me back to the NLBM. It’s a tremendous honor to work with a great team and serve as leader of what I believe is one of the most important cultural institutions in the world.

 
MLB reports:  It has been less than a year at the helm of the museum.  What changes have you instituted since taking over?  
 
Bob Kendrick:  My familiarity with the organization, staff and board has made for a pretty smooth transition. The staff, especially, have been great. For all of us, working at the NLBM is a labor of love and I’ve got a great team that has allowed me to move rather seamlessly into this new role.
 
My first few months on the job hasn’t been as much about implementing change as it has been about assessing all aspects of museum operations and the development of a tactical strategy to energize and generate operating revenue. We have a goal of balancing the budget by the end of this fiscal year which ends June 30 of 2012. I have every belief that we’ll be successful in attaining that goal.
 
Any initial change has come from a programmatic standpoint. In June, we brought back our popular Legends Luncheon series. In October, we will introduce the Rube Foster luncheon and will honor former Kansas City Chiefs football great Deron Cherry for his career and leadership on-and-off the field. The Legacy Awards will return on January 14, 2012. The event honors the best Major League Baseball players, managers and executives with awards named for Negro League legends.
 
 
MLB reports:  I read that C.C. Sabathia recently visited the museum.  Who are some other current and former players that have visited the museum?  Any stories?
 
Bob Kendrick:  CC has been a friend of the museum going back to his days with the Cleveland Indians. He always makes a point to visit when the Yankees are in town to play the Royals. While a member of the Indians, CC brought Cliff Lee to the museum. List of current current players includes: Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter, Justin Upton, Howie Kendrick, Chone Figgins, Derrek Lee, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, Jimmy Rollins, Juan Pierre and Jerry Hairston to name a few. Former Major Leaguers include: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Monte Irvin, Joe Morgan, Dave Winfield, Lou Brock, Ernie Banks, Ozzie Smith, Fergie Jenkins, Minnie Minoso, Jim “Mudcat” Grant, Ken Griffey, Sr., Jerry Manuel, Willie Randolph, John Smoltz, Buck Showalter, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Bob Watson, Dusty Baker, Ozzie Guillen, Don Newcombe, Robin Roberts, Brooks Robinson, Maury Wills, Cecil Fielder, Rick Sutcliffe, Harold Reynolds, Frank White, John Mayberry, George Brett, Willie Wilson, Bo Jackson, Amos Otis and others.
 
Ryan Howard started visiting the NLBM before we knew who he was. At that time, Ryan was still in the Phillies’ minor league system. He’s never stopped visiting. He’s often said that he would visit as part of his ritual to prepare for Spring Training. He said he drew inspiration from their strength and dedication to the game that helped him deal with the difficulties he would encounter in the game.

 
MLB reports:  What role do current and former players play in building and maintaining the museum?  I personally think that current African-American players need to play a big part in attracting attention to the museum and inviting fans to learn and respect the past of the negro leagues.  How has the process been to get players involved?
 
Bob Kendrick:  We’ve made great strides in cultivating relationships with both current and former Major Leaguers. This takes on an even greater level of importance for the NLBM since the passing of Buck O’Neil. We’d like all baseball players to take more ownership in the NLBM and help us preserve this once forgotten chapter of baseball and American history. It obviously takes on an even great magnitude when we talk about the African-American and Hispanic baseball player. This is their story. Simply put, they would not have the opportunity to play the game they love had it not been for the sacrifice of those who played in the Negro Leagues.

 
MLB reports:  Major League Baseball has teams play games yearly in Negro Leagues jerseys, which is a great way for fans to learn about the Negro Leagues.  What other initiatives has MLB taken to assist in the education of the Negro Leagues?  Does MLB and/or Cooperstown support the museum?  If Major League Baseball sat down with you and asked what they could do to assist the museum, what would your answer be?
 
Bob Kendrick:  Major League Baseball and its teams have played an important role in the success of the NLBM and helping educate fans about the history of the Negro Leagues. From the in-stadium salutes held by a number of teams, to celebrating Jackie Robinson, it’s all part of baseball’s embracing of the heritage of the game.
 
The museum has had (and continues to have) a meaningful and valued relationship with the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
 
In addition to funding, I asked MLB to create a national day of recognition for the Negro Leagues; partner with the NLBM on a national promotional campaign and provide leadership to serve on the museum’s board.

 
MLB reports:  I have read many articles discussing the lack of interest in African-American boys in playing baseball, particular in inner-cities.  With the lack of fields and the attraction of other sports, including football and baseball, it seems that baseball is having a hard time attracting African-American youth to the game.  MLB is trying to encourage more participation through its programs.  Is enough being done to get African-American children to play baseball?
 
Bob Kendrick:  We want kids of all colors to play and enjoy the great game of baseball. The NLBM believes it has a social responsibility to make sure urban kids have the opportunity to play baseball.We want to use the history of the Negro Leagues as a tool to inspire kids to play. Progress is being made, but it is going to take a long and sustain collective effort. Major League Baseball has done a wonderful job, through its creation and support of initiatives like RBI and the various Urban Youth Baseball Academies, of creating opportunities for African-American kids to play the sport. But this is not Major League Baseball’s responsibility solely. If we are to reverse the trend, then baseball has to become important again to the African-American community.

 

MLB reports:  Do you think that there is a correlation between the interest of today’s African-American youth in baseball and the interest in learning about the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum?  I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject.
 
Bob Kendrick:  We certainly believe the NLBM can serve not only as a resource to educate young people about the history of this country, but also inspire them by introducing them to men and women who overcame tremendous social adversity to play the game they loved. Urban kids who experience the NLBM can see people who looked just like them who were extremely successful playing, managing and owning baseball teams. The messages that stem from this powerful story transcends time, age, gender and race. Essentially, what the Negro Leagues teaches us is if you believe in yourself and you dare to dream then you can achieve anything you set your heart and mind to. That’s a universal message.

 

MLB reports:  With the All-Star game coming to Kansas City, what events does the museum have planned as part of the festivities?
 
Bob Kendrick:  First, I can tell you that no one is more excited about the All-Star game coming to Kansas City! There’s no doubt that the Kansas City Royals our great city will host one of the most memorable All-Star games ever. I’m confident that the NLBM will play a great role in helping make the event special.
 
We’ve already had great conversations with Major League Baseball and their event planning team about partnership opportunities for the 2012 All-Star game. Look for activities ranging from parties to player appearances to take place at the NLBM. Also, expect to see a new exhibition that will open in June of 2012 that will celebrate the players from the Negro Leagues who became Major League All-Stars. A planning committee is being developed to make sure we maximize the opportunities associated with the 2012 All-Star Game.

 
MLB reports:  In five to ten years from now, what will be the future of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum?  What is your vision?
 
Bob Kendrick:  Collectively, we are working to ensure the long-term sustainability of the NLBM. As we begin the next two decades of operation, we are dedicated to building a thriving, vibrant, cutting-edge institution that will not only celebrate and educate the public to the rich history of the Negro Leagues, but will continually challenge itself to make history relevant to an ever-changing society. Much of this will be solidified by the completion of the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center which will provide an international headquarters for Negro Leagues history and social commentary on issues relative to race and sports.

 
MLB reports:  If people would like to learn more about the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and to visit, how do they go about getting more information?  Also how can fans contact you with questions and comments?

Bob Kendrick:  You can get more information about the museum at http://nlbm.com. Or, call the museum at (816) 221-1920. I can be contacted at bkendrick@nlbm.com or please follow me on Twitter @nlbmprez.

 

BUCK O’NEIL CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION: As part of our revenue generation plan, we’ve just launched a national individual fundraising campaign in remembrance of Buck O’Neil’s 100th birthday through the introduction of the BUCK O’NEIL ALL-CENTURY TEAM campaign. The effort is asking fans and friends to donate at least $100 in memory of Buck and in support of his museum. Every person who makes the $100 gift (or more) between now and Nov. 13, will have their name, family name or person they designate permanently recognized at the NLBM as part of a new display created to mark Buck’s milestone anniversary.
 
To sign-up for the BUCK O’NEIL ALL-CENTURY TEAM, visit http://nlbm.com or call the NLBM at (816) 221-1920.

 
 

 

Thank you again to Bob Kendrick for taking the time out of his very busy schedule to joining 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 have on the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.  As well, please feel free to contact Mr. Kendrick directly by e-mail or Twitter.  He is very active on social media and welcomes your feedback! 

**The photographs in today’s feature were provided by our guest, Bob Kendrick**

 

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.

Top 10 Closers: MLB Saves Leaders

Thursday August 25, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB reports):  Closers are a topic a lot of people ask about, but I never really got around to writing about.  Mainly because, in my opinion, it is a position that is completely overrated.  While it certainly helps to have a guy that can go in and slam the door and collect saves for over a decade a la Mariano Rivera, it isn’t necessary to have a “closer” to be a contending team.  One need only to look at the top 20 leaders in saves in baseball to notice that the Texas Rangers’ closer Neftali Feliz sits 19th with 25 saves, and Philadelphia Phillies’ Ryan Madson is 20th with 23 saves.  It also doesn’t guarantee success, as Heath Bell, Drew Storen, Leo Nunez, Joel Hanrahan are all in the top 10 in saves, while their teams are not in playoff contention.

 

Top 10 Saves Leaders in MLB as of today:

Pitcher Team Saves K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP WAR
Craig Kimbrel Atlanta Braves 40 14.56 3.53 1.70 1.20 3.1
John Axford Milwaukee Brewers 37 10.86 3.32 2.26 2.36 1.7
Jose Valverde Detroit Tigers 37 8.31 4.79 2.72 4.08 0.2
Brian Wilson San Francisco Giants 35 8.72 5.20 3.19 3.40 0.7
Heath Bell San Diego Padres 35 6.79 3.23 2.55 3.07 0.7
Drew Storen Washington Nationals 34 8.03 2.19 2.77 3.48 0.6
Mariano Rivera New York Yankees 33 8.45 0.92 2.20 2.23 1.8
Leo Nunez Florida Marlins 33 8.31 2.88 4.63 4.02 0.1
Joel Hanrahan Pittsburgh Pirates 32 7.85 2.04 1.73 2.17 1.8
JJ Putz Arizona Diamondbacks 32 8.28 2.17 2.76 3.10 1.0

I look at this list and a few things come to mind:

1)      Craig Kimbrel is absolutely filthy.

2)      Mariano Rivera is still one of the very best.

3)      Closers are more overrated than I originally expected.

4)      A lot of saves does not equal success.

5)      Craig Kimbrel.  Wow.

Craig Kimbrel is having the best year ever for a rookie closer.  It isn’t even September and he has 40 saves.  Not only that, but he is striking out more than 14 batters per 9 innings.  His FIP is a ridiculous 1.20, and his WAR is at 3.1, which is 1.3 higher than any other closer in the Major Leagues.  His ground ball rate is 43.7% and has only given up 1 home run in 63 2/3 innings.  If the Braves end up winning the Wild Card and have a lead late in games, the shutdown duo of Johnny Venters and Kimbrel should be able to save the game for the Braves in most instances.

John Axford has had a strange way to becoming one of the premier closers in all of baseball.  It took him many years to get there, but under the tutelage of Trevor Hoffman, the career saves leader, whom Axford took his job from, he has flourished.  In 2010, Axford had 24 saves after taking over for Hoffman mid-season, and this year’s 37 so far are tied for 2nd in the big leagues.  Axford gets over 50% ground balls, and keeps the ball in the yard, two main factors for his success.

Jose Valverde is one of the closers whom I find to be overrated.  Part of his success can be attributed to a lucky .250 BABIP.   He also walks close to 5 batters per 9 innings, which is extremely high, especially when he does not strike out a very high number of batters.  Valverde may appear to be very good with 37 saves, but his 0.2 WAR suggests that he is basically a replacement level pitcher.  Surely he is not worth the $7M he is being paid.

Brian Wilson is loved by many in the game.  He is funny, has a strange personality, (which seems to be perfectly suited for the bullpen) and he has an outrageous beard.  Since 2008, he has accumulated 162 saves, so he is very valuable at the back-end of the Giants’ bullpen.  He keeps the ball on the ground, with a career 50% ground ball rate, but he walks a ton of batters (5.20/9IP).  He gets a lot of save opportunities because the starting rotation is very good, and his team doesn’t score many runs, so there are a lot of close games. 

Heath Bell has put up some ridiculous numbers over the last few years, but these numbers come with half of his games played in the cavernous PETCO Park.  While his last two seasons had his K rate over 10, he sits at 6.79 for this season.  His ground ball rate is also down 5% to 43.  Although his ERA is a good 2.55, his xFIP is 3.89, and like Wilson, gets saves because of an anaemic offense that results in his team often being in close games.

Drew Storen is another of the Washington Nationals’ young phenoms.  He moved up the ranks, throwing only 53 2/3 innings in the minor leagues before making his debut in 2010.  He has been a tad lucky as his BABIP is .241, but he gets a lot of ground balls, so the hits will even out.  He also gives up a higher than average home run per fly ball rate at 11.1%.  Storen doesn’t walk many, and as he matures, should probably strike out a higher number.  When Washington starts winning more games, he will have even more opportunities for saves.

Mariano Rivera is up to his usual tricks. Even at 41 years old, he is carving up hitters with his signature cut fastball.  Rivera has a ridiculous 9:1 K:BB ratio, as well as getting ground balls 47% of the time.  His WAR sits at 1.8, tied for second best for closers.  The only question is when will this guy ever slow down?

Leo Nunez of the Florida Marlins may be the most overrated closer in baseball.  Nunez doesn’t get a lot of ground balls, nor does he strike out a ton, as he gives up a ton of fly balls (49%) and home runs (8 in 56 IP).  Nunez’s ERA of 4.63 actually looks worse than his 4.02 FIP, so he has been a little unlucky, but still not very good.

Joel Hanrahan has found a home at the back-end up the Pirates’ bullpen, and is thriving there.  While his K rate has dropped to 7.85/9 IP from almost 13 last year, he has walked less batters.  Hanrahan has been able to induce ground balls on over half of his plate appearances, and only given up 1 home run in 57 1/3 innings.  His stellar numbers have allowed him to tie Rivera for 2nd in closer’s WAR this year.

JJ Putz’s resurgence as a closer this year comes as no surprise to many.  Last year as a setup man for Bobby Jenks with the Chicago White Sox, Putz’s K rate was just below 11/9IP, while he walked only 2.5 per 9 innings.  He hasn’t put up the same strikeout numbers this year, but he is walking less batters.  Putz’s WAR of 1.0 puts him towards the top of the list of closers.

 

Out of the top 30 relievers in WAR, only 9 are full-time closers.  Francisco Rodriguez is among those pitchers, but since he does not close games since traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, he was not counted.  Although this doesn’t mean that just ANYONE can close games and earn saves, it does show that many pitchers who have not been given the opportunity probably could get the job done.  

 

 

***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.

2011 MLB Draft: Recap and Draftees who Didn’t Sign

Tuesday August 16, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports):  Amongst all the madness that was the Draft Signing Deadline, I first have to say congratulations to Jim Thome for hitting the 599th and 600th home runs of his illustrious career.  He is only the eighth player in MLB history to reach that mark.

There were many signings that went down to the wire last night, and most players in the early rounds signed.  There were five Major League deals signed from this draft.  The Washington Nationals gave pitcher Matt Purke a 4-year, $4.4M deal out of the third round.  Second overall pick Danny Hultzen, the left-handed pitcher from Virginia University selected by the Seattle Mariners was given 5 years and a guarantee of $8.5M.  It was previously reported that the Arizona Diamondbacks gave RHP and third overall pick Trevor Bauer a 4 year, $7M deal.  High school pitcher Dylan Bundy was given five years and $6.225M from the Baltimore Orioles and Rice University’s Anthony Rendon was given four years and $7.2M as the most polished bat in the draft by the Washington Nationals.  Top pick Gerrit Cole was given an $8M bonus by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

However, there were three players in the first two rounds who did not sign, which will result in the teams who selected them receiving a compensation pick in next year’s draft.  First of those was RHP Tyler Beede.   Known to be extremely tough to sign, the Toronto Blue Jays selected him 21st overall.  Beede’s talent alone could have taken him into the top 10 picks, but his lofty demands as well as his desire to play for Vanderbilt University dropped him down to the Blue Jays.  It was reported that the final offer The Blue Jays offered was in the $2.3M range, but Beede did not budge from his demands.  In a tweet from his Twitter handle @TylerBeede, he said “g-d has plans for me and that is college first.”  Beede will look to follow in the footsteps of recent first round pitchers from Vanderbilt; David Price and Jeremy Sowers.   Beede was one of my picks that would come down to the wire, and I said that it would take close to $3M to sign him.  The Blue Jays will now pick 22nd in the 2012 draft.

North Carolina State University will get their coveted catching signee, as the San Diego Padres were unable to sign switch hitter Brett Austin.  The first supplemental round pick, 54th overall, has plus speed for a catcher, being clocked at less than 6.9 seconds in a 60-yard dash.  He has a quick release and routinely has a pop time (throwing the ball home to second as if a runner were stealing) under 2 seconds.  He has quick feet and a quick bat, although he has more bat speed from the right side of the plate.  With the Padres already locking up catcher Austin Hedges for $3M, they felt as though Austin was expendable, and did not offer a contract near his demands.  The Padres will choose 55th in the 2012 draft.

When the New York Yankees selected college junior Sam Stafford in the second round, 88th overall, it was widely believed that the University of Texas Longhorns had lost their top two pitchers.  Taylor Jungmann was selected 12th overall and signed with the Milwaukee Brewers for $2.525M.  However, talks with the Yankees hit a snag over parts of his physical, and Stafford was never offered a contract around the slot value.  Stafford was 6-2 with a 1.77 ERA in 81 1/3 innings this past season at UT.  The left-handed pitcher has had consistency issues with fastball command, but pitches in the 90-93 mph range.  His curveball and change-up are both works in progress and he shows flashes of plus potential in both.  The Yankees will select 89th in the 2012 draft.

The biggest surprise to me was that the Pittsburgh Pirates were able to sign Josh Bell.  It did not take a Major League contract, and only $5M to pull him away from the University of Texas.  This was much less than originally predicted, and his huge demands seem to have just been posturing.  The Pirates signed both of their top picks for a total of $13M, which in itself would have been the most money spent by one team in draft history.

Other notable signings were second round pick LHP Daniel Norris of the Toronto Blue Jays at $2.5M, 14th round pitcher Dillon Maples of the Chicago Cubs at $2.5M, and 6th round catcher Nicky Delmonico of the Baltimore Orioles at $1.525M.

 

 

***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 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.

MLB Draft Signing Deadline: Who Will Sign By August 15th

Friday August 12, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports):   With the August 15 deadline for all 2011 MLB draftees to sign, players and teams are getting down to the wire with negotiations.  Only two of the top ten picks have been signed, right-handed pitcher Trevor Bauer, and second baseman Cory Spangenberg by the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres, respectively.  Of the 33 first round picks, 9 have signed, as well as 14 of the 27 picks in the supplemental first round.  It is expected that most of the picks from the first round will go down to the last hour, if not minute.  However, there is a lot of speculation about who will not sign, and the fans of each team are hoping and praying their team will get their guy.  Some players come into the draft with lofty expectations and high estimates of signing bonus money.  As a result, many of the lower budget franchises stay away from these players, and draft “safe” players, who will sign for a more reasonable price.

The Oakland Athletics’ GM Billy Beane was made famous through the book “Moneyball”, which portrayed the club as a bottom feeder organization financially.  They had to pick lesser talents in order to sign all their draft picks.  They shied away from the big “sexy” names on draft boards and targeted players with specific skill sets.  Other teams who have done this in the past to varying degrees of success are the Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals.  In the last couple of years, these organizations have turned their philosophies around, drafting tough to sign players with higher ceilings, and ending up signing most of them.  Today will highlight a few of the players drafted who will be tougher than others to sign.

From this year’s draft, one of the players who was known to be extremely difficult to sign was Josh Bell.  On talent alone, he was rated as an early first round pick, yet dropped to the second round to the Pittsburgh Pirates.  He had sent a letter to Major League Baseball advising teams not to draft him on account that he wanted to attend the University of Texas.  Some have said this was just a bargaining tool to simply add more leverage to his situation, while others think he will not sign under any circumstances.  It has been predicted that it will take a minimum of $10M and a Major League contract in order to sign him.  I feel that the Pirates are an extreme long shot to sign Bell, and he will attend U of T and be a Longhorn for the next three years.

High school right-handed pitcher Tyler Beede could have been a top 10 pick, with his 95 mph fastball and devastating change-up.  Beede was widely known to be seeking a bonus upwards of $3-4M.  The Toronto Blue Jays and their new management have made it a point to take the best player available when they it is their turn to select a player in the draft.  So, when it came to their turn as the 21st selection, the Jays did not hesitate to choose Beede, who has said it will come down to money in the long run.  I believe the Jays will sign him in the final minutes for close to $3M.

With the 5th overall pick, the Kansas City Royals had a tough decision to make.  Outfielder Bubba Starling, a hometown kid from Kansas, was widely considered the top prep offensive talent in the draft was still on the board.  Starling has a scholarship to the University of Nebraska to play both football and baseball.  It is very likely that a bonus upwards of $8M will be what it takes for Starling to sign with KC on August 15.  Expect this deal to get done.

Gerrit Cole, the flame throwing right-handed pitcher from UCLA was taken by the Pirates first overall in the draft.  Cole has reached 102 mph on radar guns and routinely hits triple digits.  Cole has yet to sign, but is widely expected to join the Pirates.  A Major League deal for 4 years and $8M or so is likely.

Rice University has been known to producing top talent, as witnessed by having eight first round picks in the last 11 years, most notably when Phil Humber and Jeff Niemann went 3rd and 4th overall in the 2004 draft.  Another first rounder from Rice was Lance Berkman in 1997.  So when one of the top three candidates for the first overall pick came down to an infielder from Rice, who just happened to win the Dick Howser Trophy, (essentially the Heisman Award for college baseball players), nobody was surprised.  Anthony Rendon may not have above average speed or the best glove, but he has an above average arm and was considered by most to be the best hitter in the country.  Rendon dropped to #6 to the Washington Nationals due to signability concerns but should sign for $4M plus.

Shortstops with ultra talent often get huge signing bonuses and Cleveland Indians’ first pick (8th overall), Francisco Lindor will be no exception.  Lindor has the talent to warrant a $3M bonus, but should hold out for more.  The Indians tend to shy away from this kind of pick, but the talent speaks for itself and I believe the Indians will go as high as $3.5M to sign the talented shortstop.

There has arguably not been a better high school pitcher in the last decade than flame throwing Dylan Bundy.  The right-hander has reached 100 mph and has 2 plus secondary pitches.  His high school pitching numbers are straight out of a video game.  71 innings, 2 earned runs. TWO!  He also had 158 strikeouts to 5 walks. FIVE WALKS!  Good for a 31.6:1 K:BB ratio.  Oh, and the fact that he can also hit, as evidenced by his 11 home runs and 54 RBI in only 105 at-bats doesn’t hurt.  The University of Texas commit could command a Major League contract and $6-8M.  He should sign; my guess is $6.5M.

 

Here is the breakdown of the entire 2011 first round of picks, with players in bold having already signed:

1 Gerrit Cole RHP Pittsburgh Pirates
2 Danny Hultzen LHP Seattle Mariners
3 Trevor Bauer RHP Arizona Diamondbacks – ML deal 4/$7M
4 Dylan Bundy RHP Baltimore Orioles
5 Bubba Starling OF Kansas City Royals
6 Anthony Rendon 3B Washington Nationals
7 Archie Bradley RHP Arizona Diamondbacks
8 Francisco Lindor SS Cleveland Indians
9 Javier Baez SS Chicago Cubs
10 Cory Spangenberg 2B San Diego Padres – $1.86M
11 George Springer OF Houston Astros
12 Taylor Jungmann RHP Milwaukee Brewers
13 Brandon Nimmo OF New York Mets
14 Jose Fernandez RHP Florida Marlins
15 Jed Bradley LHP Milwaukee Brewers
16 Chris Reed LHP LA Dodgers
17 C.J. Cron Jr. 1B LA Angels – $1.467M
18 Sonny Gray RHP Oakland Athletics – $1.54M
19 Matt Barnes RHP Boston Red Sox
20 Tyler Anderson LHP Colorado Rockies
21 Tyler Beede RHP Toronto Blue Jays
22 Kolten Wong 2B St. Louis Cardinals – $1.3M
23 Alex Meyer RHP Washington Nationals
24 Taylor Guerrieri RHP Tampa Bay Rays
25 Joe Ross RHP San Diego Padres
26 Blake Swihart C Boston Red Sox
27 Robert Stephenson RHP Cincinnati Reds
28 Sean Gilmartin LHP Atlanta Braves – $1.13M
29 Joe Panik SS San Francisco Giants – $1.116M
30 Levi Michael SS Minnesota Twins
31 Mikie Mahtook OF Tampa Bay Rays
32 Jake Hager SS Tampa Bay Rays – $963K
33 Kevin Matthews LHP Texas Rangers – $936K

 

I think that although you can’t be sure about these kinds of things, my gut feeling is that every first rounder this year will actually sign by August 15th.  I also predict that at least one signing will come minutes after the deadline, probably a Scott Boras client, and the league will allow the deal to pass.

 

 

 

***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 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.

James Shields to the Reds for Alonso and Grandal: July 31st MLB Trade Deadline Rumor

Saturday July 23, 2011

MLB reports:   We are now only eight days away from the MLB non-waiver trade deadline and the rumors continue to fly fast and furious.  Along with the Carlos Beltran and Heath Bell sweepstakes, the names Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Willingham, Brandon League, Hunter Pence and Hiroki Kuroda have been tossed around as possible candidates to be moved next week.  Another big time name has recently been thrown into the mix that we will be looking at today.  James Shields, “big game James”, one of the top starting pitchers on the Tampa Bay Rays may very well be playing for a new team very soon.  The Cincinnati Reds are apparently calling and with big prospect bats sitting on the farm, the Reds may very well have the necessary bait to haul in one of the biggest fishes on the trade market.

The 29-year old James Shields was drafted by the Rays in the 16th round of the 2000 MLB draft.  Shields made his major league debut in 2006.  Here is a quick rundown of his lifetime statistics:

Year W L ERA IP H BB SO WHIP
2006 6 8 4.84 124.2 141 38 104 1.436
2007 12 8 3.85 215.0 202 36 184 1.107
2008 14 8 3.56 215.0 208 40 160 1.153
2009 11 12 4.14 219.2 239 52 167 1.325
2010 13 15 5.18 203.1 246 51 187 1.461
2011 9 8 2.53 156.1 118 40 151 1.011
6 Seasons 65 59 4.02 1134.0 1154 257 953 1.244
162 Game Avg. 13 12 4.02 224 227 51 188 1.244

 

A definite innings-eater, James pitched almost 1000 innings over his first five seasons, making him one of the most consistent and reliable pitchers in the game.  A lack of run support has definitely hurt Shields over the years, as he had the numbers to obtain more wins had the Rays offense been able to support him better.  I have watched too many instances of Shields pitching complete or near complete game losses, despite only giving up 2-3 runs per game.  2009 and 2010 were not kind to James in some ways, as some analysts viewed Shields as having hit his peak and starting to decline.  Going into 2011, nobody knew what James Shields the Rays would be getting.  The steady ace that the team enjoyed for the majority of his career or the 2010 inconsistent version.  Looking at Shields at the halfway mark of the season, he is enjoying by far his greatest season in the majors.  A sparkling 2.53 ERA and 1.011 WHIP, Shields has been everything that the Rays could have expected more.  But with success comes many questions, with the most pertinent being what the Rays should do with James.

The whispers and talk has been growing by the day that the Rays may be looking to move Shields by July 31st.  The Reds have been the team most linked to the Rays, given their desire to bolster their rotation and the deep farm of prospects they can offer the Rays.  The Reds are sitting on some of the top prospects in the game that are currently blocked at the major league level.  Yonder Alonso, 1B/OF is considered one of the best hitters not at the major league level.  Alonso would represent the centerpiece of a potential Shields deal.  Born in Cuba and having attended the University of Miami, Alonso is often compared to his friend Alex Rodriguez, based on his combination of power and patience at the plate.  Not bad company at all.  The 24-year old Alonso was drafted 7th overall in the 2008 draft by the Reds and has quickly advanced in their system.   Currently in AAA, Alonso sits at a .297 AVG, .871 OPS, with 12 home runs and 46/59 BB/K.  The Rays, desperately in need of bats, currently have Casey Kotchman manning first.  Alonso would be a perfect fit in taking over the first base job for the next decade.  He is a special hitter that does not come along very often.  While a pitcher of Shields stature is not easy to replace, the Rays would be filling a huge void in their lineup by adding Alonso.  Dealing from strength to fill a need is smart baseball management and the reason why we are discussing the trade of Shields today.

In addition to acquiring Yonder Alonso, the Rays would be adding a number one catcher to their system in either Yasmani Grandal or Devin Mesoraco.  I have seen both names thrown around, but my gut is that the Rays will end up receiving Grandal.  Mesoraco was featured by us back in June.  The likely Reds catcher of the future, Mesoraco is expected to get the call either this year or next at the latest to replace incumbent Ramon Hernandez.  With a solid backup in Ryan Hanigan, the Reds have an abundance of catchers, a strength considering that few major league teams have potential superstar backstops playing in their lower levels.  The 22-year old Grandal was born in Cuba and played in Miami, similar to Alonso.  Drafted 12th overall in the 2010 MLB draft, Grandal recently got the call to AA.  Mesoraco on the other hand, is 23-years of age and was drafted 15th overall by the Reds in the 2007 MLB draft.  Mesoraco is back for his second tour of duty in AAA, hitting a solid .309 and .895 OPS, with 10 home runs and 54 RBIs.  After battling injuries in his career, Mesoraco hit a combined 26 home runs over 3 levels last season and has not slowed down since.  The Rays would be thrilled to receive Mesoraco in a Shields trade, but Grandal is considered by many to actually be the more talented backstop.  A win-win either way for Tampa Bay.

But why trade Shields and especially, why now?  Many Rays fans are asking themselves those questions right now.  On the surface, Shields and the Rays look like a perfect fit.  He is young and still in the prime of his career.  Shields has proven to be healthy and durable since joining the Rays.  He is signed through this year, with team friendly options through 2014 at $7, $9 and $12 million per year respectively from 2012-14.  In baseball they say you can never have too much pitching.  If that is the case, then some feel the Rays should consider stockpiling their pitchers and building their team from strength.  But that is a narrow view of major league teams and how they operate.  Let’s take a look at our five top reasons for the Rays to trade James Shields right now:

1)  Sell at the Peak

You never know what the future will bring, so sometimes it is important to live in the moment.  Shields, while a steady and consistent pitcher, is currently pitching at the highest level of his career.  The Rays will need to determine if he has truly broken out or merely playing above his head.  The value for Shields may never get higher than it is today.  As well, teams contending for the playoffs may be willing to pay more at the deadline than the offseason for Shields.  The Rays, if feeling especially lucky, could request the addition of either Mike Leake or Travis Wood to the trade mix from the Reds.

2)  Numbers Game:  Rotation Log Jam

The Rays have been known for acquiring, developing and stockpiling pitchers in their system.  This past offseason was no different, as the Rays traded away top starter Matt Garza to the Cubs for a package of prospects, including Christopher Archer and Sam Fuld.  With Jeremy Hellickson ready, willing and able to join the big club, the Rays needed to clear room for their next future star pitcher.  Hellickson, combined with David Price, Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann form a formidable one through four punch in the rotation.  Based on their age and salaries, none of these starters will likely be going anywhere soon.  While Alex Cobb has been brought in for temporary measure to the majors, Matt Moore just got the call to join AAA Durham in anticipation of joining the Rays rotation soon.  Moore, one of the top-five pitching prospects in baseball, will not likely be kept on the farm too long given his dominance over minor league hitters to-date.  That is how the baseball system works.  Prospects are developed and either traded for veterans or take over for departed veterans from major league teams.  As the Rays have no intention of trading Moore, a spot will have to open up for him.  Unfortunately for James Shields, he is the veteran most likely to go.  From there, it will only be a matter of time before Archer is ready to join the big club and the cycle will continue.

3)  Dollars and Cents

It is no secret that the Rays are on a very tight budget.  Low attendance figures, despite continued recent major league success including a World Series appearance in 2008, has meant that the Rays cannot afford to hang onto high priced veterans.  Shown the door in recent years were Carlos Pena, Matt Garza and Rafael Soriano, among others for financial considerations.  While James may have what is considered a team friendly contract, paying him close to $10 million or so per year for each of the next three seasons does not work for the Rays budget.  Moore, combined with Alonso and Grandal, would fill three positions for the Rays at a combined salary that will be a fraction of what Shields makes.  In other words, Shields is a luxury that the Rays cannot afford and can fill quite adequately within at a cheaper cost.  While we do not like to think about the economics of the game, it can drive roster decisions on the same level as talent and ability.

4)  Innings- Wear and Tear

James Shields is starting to enter a zone that many MLB teams dread.  The 200-innings per season for over five seasons club.  While an informal group, there has been much talk in baseball circles that most pitchers after their first 1000 innings pitched have a high risk of injuries and decline.  Pitchers like Brandon Webb and to a lesser extent Ben Sheets, are shown as examples of modern pitchers that have arm/shoulder problems after pitching many major league innings over a span of 5+ years.  While Shields has not shown any risks yet of developing injuries, his numbers going into this season were of concern for the Rays.  So while Shields is having a Cy Young caliber season, the Rays may be fearful that he will be susceptible to injuries or declining performance very soon.

5)  Pitchers Need Run Support

In the same way a fast car needs a powerful engine and reliable tires, a major league team needs both offense and strong pitching.  The current build of the Rays is starting to mirror the San Francisco Giants.  Great young pitching but not enough hitting.  The Rays can stockpile as much pitching as they like, but if they cannot score runs they will have a difficult time making the playoffs, let alone win a World Series title.  Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal are two superstar bats in the making that the Rays desperately need and do not have in their own system.  The expression goes that teams “develop pitching and buy bats.”  In this case, the Rays will be taking to buying the bats that they themselves cannot produce.  With a starting lineup of nine hitters, that Rays will be instantly filling over 20% of their lineup by way of this trade.  The hit the rotation by losing Shields would be absorbed by the addition of Matt Moore to the major league club.  But the boost to the team’s offense as a result of the addition of Alonso and Grandal is invaluable.

Verdict:  The bottom line is that the Tampa Bay Rays are in a quandary.  James Shields is the heart and soul of their pitching staff, the go-to guy who has earned his nickname of “big game.”  But as the most expensive starter on the staff, with the team’s top prospect almost ready to receive the call to the show and the team desperately needing good young hitting, the Rays have no choice but to consider moving Shields at the trade deadline.  As the team is still in contention, management will have to be careful of not sending a message that they are throwing in the towel on the season.  But to get the biggest reward, the team will have to pay a big price.  It will be difficult in the short-term to accept the trade of James Shields from Tampa Bay.  But considering the hitting that the Reds would be sending to the Rays, this is a deal that the Rays cannot afford to miss out on.  Keep an eye on Tampa Bay as the team will continue to improve, get younger at a competitive payroll come deadline day and still remain in contention.  If this is truly James Shield’s last week in a Rays uniform, please be sure to catch his last start live or on television from Oakland this coming Wednesday July 27th.  With Desmond Jennings and Dane De La Rosa just recalled by the Rays from AAA, the cycle of player and prospect replenishment has already begun again in Tampa Bay.

 

 

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Top 5 Closers Available at July 31 MLB Trade Deadline

Friday July 22, 2011

 

MLB reports:   The MLB Non-Waiver Trade Deadline is rapidly approaching.  With only nine days to go, MLB teams need to decide if they are buyers or sellers.  Right up until July 31st deadline, the baseball world will be buzzing on potential deals.  While transactions can occur after July 31st, the respective players will need to first pass through waivers, which makes trades more difficult to happen.  Especially in the category of closers, who are sought after by almost every team.  Whether to obtain a 9th inning stopper or upgrade their middle relief, the majority of MLB teams are currently on the prowl.

There are some contending teams would love to add a closer, including the Rangers and Cardinals.  The host of other teams battling for a playoff spot are ready to take a current closer to pitch the 7th or 8th inning.  To win today in baseball, you usually need 2-3 closer-type pitchers in your pen.  The Brewers recently added Francisco Rodriguez to compliment John Axford.  The New York Yankees signed Rafael Soriano to pitch in front of Mariano Rivera, although David Robertson has since grabbed the role.  True closers will always be in demand and teams with playoff aspirations will always find room for these guys on their rosters.

As the line between buyers and sellers becomes less blurry, we take a look today at the top five closer candidates to be traded by the July 31st MLB Trade Deadline:

 

1)  Heath Bell:  San Diego Padres

The Rolls Royce of available closers, the Padres are talking to teams on a daily, if not hourly basis on the availability of Heath Bell.  Nearly every team has been linked to Bell in the past few days, from the Rangers, Cardinals, Phillies, Red Sox, Jays and Tigers.  The prize of the closing market, expect the Padres to demand a king’s ransom for his services.  At least two top prospects, with one being major league ready should get this deal done.  With 28 saves and a 2.45 ERA, the 33-year old Bell is having another fantastic campaign before his impending free agency.  The Rangers and Cardinals are most in need of a closer, with the Rangers the most likely destination based on availability of prospects.  The Rangers have the superior farm system and could match up best with the Padres.  The Phillies and Jays are the dark horses according to reports and need to decide if they are willing to pay the price.

 

2)  Brandon League:  Seattle Mariners

A first time All-Star in 2011, Brandon League has raised his stock this year and given the Mariners an interesting trade chip to work with at the deadline.  League has chipped in 23 saves already this year, with a 3.35 ERA and 1.088 WHIP.  With a team friendly contract and under team control for another season, League should draw much interest on the market.  St. Louis seems like a logical choice, as the Cardinals will be looking for a long-term solution to their closing woes.  I cannot see the Mariners dealing in their division and having to face League next year with the Rangers.  A top prospect or two middle prospects should make this one happen.  With the Mariners far out of contention and in complete rebuild mode, a top closer seems like a luxury that the Mariners cannot afford at the moment.  The Mariners need offensive help and need it quickly, with League being one of many candidates likely to leave Seattle by July 31st to replenish the farm system.

 

3)  Frank Francisco, Jon RauchOctavio Dotel, Jason Frasor:  Toronto Blue Jays

If Heath Bells is a Rolls Royce, the Blue Jays are running a used Ford dealership in their bullpen.  Frank Francisco is like a used mustang with transmission problems, while Jon Rauch is a pickup truck without the V8 engine.  The Jays have assembled a collection of the middle-of-the-road closers and setup men this year in their bullpen.  Francisco will likely draw the most attention, despite his mostly awful numbers this year.  At 31-years of age and throwing big time heat, Francisco still has potential.  Rauch has served as the Jays closer for much of the year and could be in demand as well.  Octavio Dotel, the eldest member of the pack, has bounced around during his major league career and could be a useful trade deadline pickup.  The most effective reliever though for the Jays has been Jason Frasor and a smart team should consider him.  While the Jays are unlikely to offer any true closers to contending teams, there are middle relief candidates to be had.  Expect the Phillies to come calling and pickup one of the above.

 

4)  Kevin Gregg:  Baltimore Orioles

For those teams that like to play with fire, closers don’t get more dangerous than Kevin Gregg.  A 4.00 ERA and unsightly 1.583 WHIP are not numbers that scream out lock-down closer.  Gregg has shown though the ability to get hot at times during his career and will be considered by many teams over the next week.  Signed through next year, the Orioles will look mainly for salary relief in shedding Gregg’s contract.  Personally, I wouldn’t consider Gregg if I was running a team.  But somehow he will likely move by July 31st.

 

5)  Leo Nunez:  Florida Marlins

Another up-and-down closer in the Gregg mold, Leo Nunez is quietly having a very solid season for the Florida Marlins.  Up to 27 saves, with a 3.22 ERA and 1.187 WHIP, Nunez might actually be the best affordable option on the closers market.  The Rangers and Cardinals will sniffing around here, as will the Red Sox, Indians and Tigers.  As the Marlins and Tigers have matched up well before in trades, I can see this swap happening.  The Tigers have the ability to surrender a decent pitching prospect and can use Nunez down the stretch as Valverde insurance.  With the Tigers in contention and the majority of their bullpen being fairly unstable for most of the year, Nunez might be a late inning option that the the Tigers can ill-afford to miss out on.

 

Send us your comments and opinions on available closers for the trade deadline.  Other names thrown around have been Joakim Soria, Matt Capps, Joe Nathan, Andrew Bailey and Brian Fuentes.  The trading of players, especially closers, is especially reliant on the competitiveness and status of a team in the standings.  With so many teams still in their respective races, there are not as many top bullpen arms available at this point in the season.  But come August, as more teams continue to drop out, expect to see even more trade activity.  Exciting times, as the MLB pennant races continue to heat up, and baseball trade talk is on everyone’s lips.

 

 

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The 2011 MLB Draft: Recap of the Results, 1st Round Picks and Future Stars

Monday June 6, 2011

MLB reports:  After months of speculation, the 2011 MLB Draft arrived.  One of the most debated drafts in years, many of the players were known but where they would be drafted remained a mystery right up until today.  After Washington drafted Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper the last two years with the top overall pick, who would go #1 this year was shrouded in secrecy.  Rumors had the Pirates grabbing Gerrit Cole going #1 by most outlets.  However, Rendon, Hultzen and even Bundy were getting a great deal of hype.

We have prepared below a list of the First Round picks in the 2011 MLB Draft.  We have listed the players by position, school, draft position and team.  We have also provided our analysis and opinions.  Time will tell which players end up justifying their draft positions.  Some players got drafted according to talent skills.  Others according to team needs and even signability played a large part for many.  This was definitely one of the most exciting drafts that I have ever covered.  The amount of talent available played a huge part as did the buzz generated before the draft due to the explosion of the internet and social media.  Compared to the pre-draft predictions and mock drafts, the final results ended up surprising and shocking many.  We definitely look forward to revisiting this draft list over the next few years and analyze which picks worked out and the ones that bombed.  Half of the fun is predicting the draft and the rest is second guessing it.

The Results of the First Round of the 2011 MLB Draft are as follows:

1.  Pittsburgh Pirates:  Gerrit Cole, RHP, UCLA

The consensus top choice of the draft ended up going in the top spot.  The top arm of the draft, teams love drafting big power arms.  With Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh will have a scary 1-2 punch and will have their future all-star catcher Tony Sanchez to handle the staff.  The Yankees loss in 2008 is the Pirates gain.  Cole can hit 102 mph on the radar gun.  It will be interesting to see who will end up being the better starter between Cole, Hultzen and Bundy.  Cole has battled some command issues this season but the ceiling is very high on this future star.  A solid pick overall.  I would have gone with Rendon but this was a pick that the Pirates almost had to make.

2.  Seattle Mariners:  Danny Hultzen, LHP, Virginia

Widely expected Anthony Rendon starts his drop.  After not going #1, many expected the Mariners to take Rendon.  Hultzen goes up all the way to #2 as the Mariners continue to stock up on pitching.  Hultzen has three strong pitches and had a huge season for Virginia this year.  The kid will look for big bucks and the Mariners will open up their wallet.  The surprises have already begun to start the draft and shows that mock drafts can simply be thrown out the window once the real show begins.  If the goal of teams is to build strong rotations a la the Giants and Rays, then the Mariners are well on their way to building a contender.  King Felix, Prince Pineda and Hultzen should give the Mariners one of the top rotations in the AL West, if not all of baseball one day.  The irony is that the Diamondbacks were picking next and had taken Hultzen out of high school in 2008.  Arizona lost out on him again.

3.  Arizona Diamondbacks:  Trevor Bauer, RHP, UCLA

Many mock drafts got this one correctly.  Only 6’0″, Bauer is drawing Lincecum comparisons.  He may be one of the quicker climbs to the majors and was part of the reason why he was drafted.  Diamondbacks also wanted him and didn’t think he would last until the 7th pick.  So far in the year of the pitcher, all top 3 picks are starters.  As the Rendon drop continues, I see him going no later than #6 to Washington who would love to add another strong bat.

4.  Baltimore Orioles:  Dylan Bundy, RHP, Owasso (Okla.) HS

Four picks.  Four starting pitchers.  Orioles love their young pitchers and Bundy will be a big addition.  Bundy was expected to possibly go as high as #2 and some had him pegged at #1.  He throws 100+ mph and is looking for a big contract.  Joe Bundy, the brother of Dylan is also an Oriole and we may see the brothers on the field together one day.  Known to have a great work ethic and should be a great addition for the Orioles.  Some reports had the Royals hoping that Bundy would fall next to #5 but his potential was too much for the Orioles to pass up on.

5.  Kansas City Royals:  Bubba Starling, OF, Gardner Edgerton (Kan.) HS

This is the case of the local boy who made good.  Starling is considered one of the best athletes in the draft and will excel in his hometown for years to come.  What a scary offense he will form with Myers, Moustakas and Hosmer.  Another multi-sport star, Starling will have to choose between football and baseball.  The hometown advantage should win out and we will see Starling patrolling the Royals outfield one day soon.  A solid pick and even better for the Nationals, who grab the former lock #1 pick going into the season, Anthony Rendon at #6.

6.  Washington Nationals:  Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice

My pick to go first overall, Rendon falls all the way to #6.  Not that the Nationals will complain.  With injury concerns including shoulder, Rendon was seen by many as the top bat of the draft.  I cannot believe that 5 other teams could pass him up and Washington fans should be dancing in the streets.  Washington in 3-4 years will be a huge powerhouse team with the Royals.  Perhaps a World Series matchup one day?

7.  Arizona Diamondbacks (for unsigned 2010 first rounder Barret Loux):  Archie Bradley, RHP, Broken Arrow (Okla.) HS

The year of the pitcher continues.  Another two-sport player, Bradley will also have to pick baseball over football.  A huge price tag and expected to fall into the teens, the Diamondbacks targeted their player and grabbed him.  On a rebuilding team, a solid pick with a high ceiling.

8.  Cleveland Indians:  Francisco Lindor, SS, Montverde (Fla.) Academy

A shortstop with pop, the Indians found the future replacement for Asdrubal Cabrera.  A safe pick, many expected the Indians to go with a starting pitcher here.

9.  Chicago Cubs:  Javier Baez, SS, Jacksonville (Fla.) Arlington Country Day School

Another hugely talented player out of Florida.  A-Rod comparisons anyone?  Baez is seen to have a strong bat.  He may not stay at shortstop but Baez should be a solid bat for a team in dire need of offense.  With Castro entrenched at short, it will be interesting to see where Baez plays on the diamond.

10.  San Diego Padres (for unsigned 2010 first rounder Karsten Whitson):  Cory Spangenberg, 2B, Indian River (Fla.) JC

A versatile player, Spagenberg also plays shortstop and outfield.  The next Chone Figgins or Ben Zobrist?  One of the top athletes of the draft, signability issues had led to experts pegging him as a late first rounder.  Despite failing to sign last year’s pick, the Padres were not afraid to go with another high-risk, high-reward player.  This may be the future center fielder of the Padres, with great defense and plus speed to go along with a solid bat.

11.  Houston Astros:  George Springer, OF, UConn

Great bat speed and huge upside.  There are doubts if the kid will be a superstar but the Astros like him and grabbed him early.  Not sure how well his bat will translate to the majors but has drawn Grady Sizemore comparisons.  A great outfielder who will likely stay in center field, the upside was too high for the Astros to pass up on him.  He will be compared to fellow draftee Bubba Starling and who will become the better player.  I can’t say that I am particularly happy with this selection as Taylor Jungmann should have gone to Houston at this slot.

12.  Milwaukee Brewers:  Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Texas

Jungmann is a 6’6″ pitcher and considered a very advanced pitcher.  I thought he might go in the top-5 and would not fall past Houston.  But the Brewers got lucky and grabbed one of the best pitchers still available at #12.  As a local product, Jungmann was a great fit for Houston.  But as a team that needs to restock its prospects cupboard, the Brewers got one of the “can’t miss” kids.  We may be looking at the future Brewers ace.

13.  New York Mets:  Brandon Nimmo, OF Cheyenne East (Wyo.) HS

The Mets…the Mets….what are they thinking?  He did not play high school ball and was projected by some as a 2nd rounder.  Lots of talents, but the comparisons to Rocco Baldelli do not get me very excited.  High reward and high risk player.  If he does project into a future Andy Van Slyke, the Mets will be pleased.  But for a team in dire need of talent in its system, I would have gone with more certainty.  Playing its home game in a pitcher’s park, I expected a pitcher here.  But as this draft is showing us, you never know what will happen.  Mets fans tomorrow morning will probably be angry in what is shaping as the roughest season in team history.

14.  Florida Marlins:  Jose Fernandez, RHP, Tampa Alonso (Fla.) HS

A local product, Fernandez is 6’4″ and 220 pounds.  The Marlins love their upside pitchers and Fernandez has one of the best arms in the draft.  Concerns over legal issues may have led him to fall and some expected him to go later in the 1st round.  But the Marlins took the best available arm and with the need to sell seats in their new ballpark, Fernandez could not be passed up.  Questions on maturity also dog him and we may be seeing another Matt Garza scenario.  But if Fernandez comes close to matching Garza’s numbers in the majors, the Marlins will be pleased.  A good pick that makes sense.

15.  Milwaukee Brewers (for unsigned 2010 first rounder Dylan Covey):  Jed Bradley, LHP, Georgia Tech

Combined with Jungmann, the Brewers are the big winners thus far.  A very advanced pitcher, Bradley was a top-10 pick for me going into the draft.  The Brewers always have strong scouting and it doesn’t surprise me that they did not pass up on this kid.  Congrats to Milwaukee, well done.

16.  Los Angeles Dodgers:  Chris Reed, LHP, Stanford

A closer at Stanford, Reed is a big boy at 6’4″, 195 lbs.  Reports indicate that he may move to the rotation, although at this point I see him staying in the pen.  A nice pick, I had him going in the 2nd round and not drafted early by the Dodgers.  I suspect signability had a lot to do with this one as the Dodgers do not likely have the money available to go with a high-profile prospect.  I have never approved a selection based on money considerations and thus would label this one as likely a failure in the making.

17.  Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:  C.J. Cron, 1B, Utah

The Angels were smart with this pick, as they need bats in the system and Cron had one of the biggest bats in the country.  Cron was projected to be a late first-rounder but the Angels did not let him slip.  Cron comes from a baseball family, as his father is a manager at AA and his brother will likely be drafted this year as well.  For a team that usually goes with pitching, I’m impressed that Anaheim broke away from its mold and went with a college bat.  Kudos to the Angels on their choice.

18.  Oakland Athletics:  Sonny Gray, RHP, Vanderbilt

Projected by some as a top-10 selection, the A’s got Gray with the 18th pick.  Great stuff and despite standing at only 5’11”, the Athletics could not pass on his potential.  I think that Gray will end up in the bullpen and Oakland likely sees him as a future closer.  The A’s do not do many things traditionally and they obviously saw enough in Gray to take him in the 1st round.  I am sitting on the fence with this pick but my guts says a strong starter would have better served the team long-term.

19.  Boston Red Sox (from Tigers for Type-A Victor Martinez):  Matt Barnes, RHP, UConn

Another projected top-10 pick, the Red Sox nab Barnes at #19.  At 6’4″ 205 lbs, the Red Sox get themselves a great arm.  Lively stuff with a smooth delivery, Red Sox nation has to be pleased with this choice.  This teams knows how to draft, plain and simple.  Some mock drafts had Barnes as high as #5.  Somehow the Red Sox always seem to walk away with winners from the draft, despite drafting late.  Strong scouting and deep pockets always help.

20.  Colorado Rockies:  Tyler, Anderson, LHP, Oregon

The greatest pitcher in Oregon history, Anderson is seen very close to the majors.  An advanced pitcher that should do really well in Colorado.  After growing up in Vegas, Anderson will be ready for the weather conditions of Colorado.   A relatively safe pick, Anderson went a little higher than I expected.  But with Cron and Barnes off the board, the Rockies went with their next highest rated player.

21.  Toronto Blue Jays:  Tyler Beede, RHP, Groton (Mass.) Lawrence Academy

The Red Sox were hoping to land this kid at #26 but the Jays nabbed the Mass. product early.  I would have gone with Bell or Purke with this pick, but the Jays clearly saw a lot in this kid to make this surprise pick.  Beede is planning to go to Vanderbilt but with a strong offer, he will likely sign.  Theo Epstein is likely not happy after losing out on him, but the Jays should be pleased with their choice.  If they are able to sign him.  With a debate on signability, the Jays went high-risk and high-reward with this pick.

22.  St. Louis Cardinals:  Kolten Wong, 2B, Hawaii

A strong hitter and seen as a good defender, the Cardinals did really well for themselves here.  Kolten Wong was seen as a late first-rounder, with average speed and power.  He will be more of a project, but the Cardinals are seen as getting a kid with good makeup.  It is hard to get many superstars this late, but a good solid second baseman should be seen as a nice selection if he pans out.  Guerrieri, Bell and Swihart are still on the board, as is Purke who would have been higher ceiling picks.  The Cardinals went safe here, but a guaranteed return has value sometimes as well.

23.  Washington Nationals (from White Sox for Type-A Adam Dunn):  Alex Meyer, LHP, Kentucky

Standing 6’9″, the Nationals went for a big time pitcher, literally.  There is a chance that Meyer could be a starter and might be the next Randy Johnson.  Or he could become the next Andrew Brackman or maybe a future closer.  These types of picks are hard to project and Meyer like many tall pitchers will need to find control if he is to succeed in the majors.  Still many good players on the board but after going with the safe Rendon, the Nationals went with the high ceiling project here.  Future hall-of-famer or bust?  We won’t know on Meyer for a few years.

24.  Tampa Bay Rays (from Red Sox for Type-A Carl Crawford):  Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, Columbia (S.C.) Spring Valley HS

This was a top-12 pick on many boards, but maturity issues dogged Guerrieri to drop this low.  One of the best arms in the draft, the Rays have done it again.  On pure talent, Guerrieri can compete with almost any pitcher in the draft.  He has a very strong fastball and pitching in the Rays system, he could develop in a hurry.  Clearly makeup did not scare the team and the Rays made a strong selection.  After losing Carl Crawford, the Rays got back a big piece today for their organization.

25.  San Diego Padres:  Joe Ross, RHP, Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O’Dowd HS

The younger brother of Oakland A’s pitcher Tyson Ross, the Padres get a 6’2″, 180 lbs pitcher.  Ross was expected to perhaps go to the A’s or Giants, but he still stays local and goes to San Diego.  Pitching in San Diego, Ross should do very well in a pitcher’s park.  I have read good reports on the kid and he should be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter.  Nice pick for the Padres.

26.  Boston Red Sox (from Rangers for Type-A Adrian Beltre):  Blake Swihart, C, Rio Rancho (N.M.) Cleveland HS

The Red Sox continue to clean up as they draft the strongest hitting catcher of the draft.  His bat compares to Chase Utley, which is a nice comparison.  The Red Sox were supposed to take Swihart at #19 but were able to nab Barnes and still get their man at #26.  A win-win night for the strong drafting Red Sox.

27.  Cincinnati Reds:  Robert Stephenson, RHP, Martinez CA, Alhambra HS

Stephenson had back-to-back no-hitters in high-school and was seen as going to the Giants possibly at #29.  This kid has huge upside and for a team that drafts exceptionally every year, the Reds have likely found themselves another winner.  Especially if the Giants were looking at him as a possible choice, Stephenson will be a prospect to keep an eye on.

28.  Atlanta Braves:   Sean Gilmartin, LHP, Florida State

The Braves grab a college lefty late in the draft and they have gone with a more ready arm in Gilmartin.  Considered a safe pick, the Braves went with a winner with a good selection of pitches and fluid delivery.  Gilmartin continues the trend of the “pitcher’s draft”.

29.  San Francisco Giants:  Joe Panik, SS, St. John’s

A New York native, Derek Jeter is his favorite player.  Not on many boards, the Giants went a little high on Panik.  Did they “Panik” with this pick?  Yes.  With such deep pitching, the Giants had to get some bats into their system.  A player who is seen as very intense and playing the game the right way, Panik could be a decent bat, strong glove for the Giants.  But since he would have likely been there for them in the 2nd round, I think they reached early.  I would have gone for Bell or Purke and taken my chances with a risky signing with this pick and having a higher ceiling.

30.  Minnesota Twins:  Levi Michael, SS, North Carolina

A switch-hitting shortstop, not a bad pick for the Twins.  Some experts had him in the early 20s, but playing hurt his numbers were average.  Michael plays hard and is seen as a solid defender.  A Twins-type player according to Gammons, we could be looked at the future shortstop of the Twins.  While Michael does not have much power, he should hit for average and should be a good gritty ballplayer.  Personally, I still like the higher upside players but with budgetary concerns, the Twins like safer type picks that are signable.  Michael fits the bill.

31.  Tampa Bay Rays (from Yankeesfor Type-A Rafael Soriano):  Mikie Mahtook, OF, LSU

A top-15 pick who falls to #31, the Rays nab a fairly strong prospect.  A really strong defender, Mahtook will be a great center fielder.  He can hit for average, some power and will steal many bases.  Many experts will be happy with this pick and with a strong scouting staff, the Rays grabbed themselves another good one.  A hard worker with lots of talent, we could see the next Carl Crawford here.  The Brewers, Red Sox, Nationals and Rays are my big winners thus far.

32.  Tampa Bay Rays:  Jake Hager, SS, Sierra Vista HS (NV)

The Rays go with a project here but with 3 picks in the 1st round, they could afford to take an easy sign with tools.  As more of a late 2nd round type selection, this pick was financially driven and not my preference.  With stronger players on the board, I would have liked to see the Rays to go for more of a proven commodity.

33.  Texas Rangers (from Phillies for Type-A Cliff Lee):  Kevin Matthews, LHP, Richmond Hill HS (GA)

The Rangers go with pitching with the last pick of the 1st round.  He is apparently destined to go to Virginia but the Rangers went for the high-risk, high-reward pick.  The Rangers have all of a sudden becoming a breeding ground for pitching and Matthews fits the mold of what Texas looks for in a pitcher.  Signability aside, Matthews is an extremely talented pitcher and will be a huge success if signed by the team.  Otherwise, with the last pick of the first round, the Rangers were not taking a huge chance but tried to score big.

Still sitting on the board at this point were expected first round picks Larry Greene, Daniel Norris, Josh Bell, Matt Purke and Henry Owens.  It goes to show you that no matter how well we try to project these drafts, surprises will always result.  For curiosity, check out our recent articles in the past few days on the draft and see how our inside scouts did.  You might be surprised.  While it takes skill and knowledge to try to predict these drafts, it is far from an exact science.  But when projections do turn into reality, it is always a great feeling. 

Updating the 2011 MLB Draft:  Baseball Prospects and Draft Projections

The 2011 MLB Draft: The Report and Inside Scoops

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Updating the 2011 MLB Draft: Baseball Prospects and Draft Projections

 

Friday June 3, 2011

 

MLB reports:  We are merely 72 hours or so away from one of the biggest baseball events of the year, the 2011 MLB Draft.  As the draft slowly develops into a prime time event, the hype surrounding the draft is increasing year-by-year.  2011 has probably been the most promoted and talked about draft in my recent memory.  With such a large pool of talented players available in the draft, people are started their countdowns to Monday night at 6:00p.m. when the fun begins.

Here at MLB reports, we posted a recent feature on the MLB draft, which you can view by clicking here.  Given that we have received hundreds of e-mails per day requesting additional information, we went back to our insider scouts to get the last final tidbits of information before the draft.  Our readers have been asking which players are rising and falling and where players are expected to land.  For the inside scoops, here is the latest information from our scouts and what they had to say about key prospects and their draft projections.  We have also included below the complete list of the order of selections for the first round of the draft and a top-100 prospects list.

 

 

RISING PROSPECTS

Gerrit Cole, UCLA RHP

“One scout said that Rendon and Starling are the best two players in the draft. However, Cole will hear his name when the Pirates are on the clock, just a hunch.”

Daniel Norris, Science Hill HS, TN LHP

“A once projected top-5 talent, Norris has every tool to be a special pitcher at the big league level.  His commitment to Clemson may come with a price tag, but a LHP with a 92-95mph fastball will be worth every penny.  Norris could go as high as #7 to the Diamondbacks, but I expect him to land somewhere in the top 15 selections.”

Robert Stephenson, Alhambra HS, CA RHP

“One scout told me that he might end up being the 3rd High School RHP off the boards with Bundy, Bradley and Howard ahead of him.  If that’s the case, he may end up sneaking into the late teens. I can see a good fit with Oakland (18th) or Washington (23rd).”

Bubba Starling, Gardner-Edgerton HS, KS OF

“The best player in this draft.  The only question is can the team that drafts him then sign him?  With Scott Boras as his “advisor”, one would believe that this signing would go down to the wire.  If Starling signs, you will be looking at a 5-tool star that an organization can build around.  Another scout told me that there is “no chance” if Bubba is there that the Royals pass on him.  But then again, if Dylan Bundy is available, he could be tempting as well.”

 

 

FALLING STARS

Taylor Guerrieri, Spring Valley HS, SC RHP

“Second week on the list, rumors are swirling about the gifted RHP.  He has top- 10 talent and one team may gamble early (NY Mets).  The newly rumored team to be considering Guerrieri could be the Blue Jays at #21.  His potential is there but many teams are still concerned with the lack of communication from his camp and many of his questionable off-field decisions.  Only reason why he made this list two weeks in a row is because for someone who has frontline starter written all over him, he should be going in the top 5-7 picks.”

Nick Delmonico, Farragut HS, TN C/3B

“I hate saying he will slip because I like everything about him.  A weak catcher draft could have him being selected in the Supplemental 1st round.   More likely thought, Delmonico is to be a 2nd round pick.  He is athletic (can also play SS) and is good size for a High School senior (6’3”).”

Logan Verrett, Baylor RHP

“A projected top-100 talent by Baseball America.  Multiple scouts have said that they wouldn’t expect to hear his name until the 4th or 5th round.  Verrett had a good career at Baylor but is a bit undersized at 6’2” and 185 lbs.  He may put wear and tear on his arm by the time it’s all said and done.”

 

 

What we are hearing:  Players that Teams are Considering

Toronto Blue Jays

Levi Michael, Blake Swihart, Matt Skole, Trevor Gretzky, Nick Tropeano, Chris Marlowe

Minnesota Twins

PrestonTucker, Travis Harrison, Ronnie Richardson

San Diego Padres

Sonny Gray, George Springer, Dillon Maples, John Stilson, Dillion Peters

St. Louis Cardinals

Cory Spangenberg, Daniel Norris

Kansas City Royals

Grayson Geiner, Carlos Rodon

Milwaukee Brewers

Mikie Mahtook, John Stilson

Chicago Cubs

Bubba Starling, Chris Marlowe, Matt Maronde

Cincinnati Reds

Tyler Beede, Andrew Chafin, Zeke Devoss

Seattle Mariners

Anthony Rendon, Tyler Greene, Mason Robbins, Trevor Podratz

 

 

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Here is the Order for the 1st Round of the 2011 MLB Draft:

First Round

    1. Pirates
    2. Mariners
    3. Diamondbacks
    4. Orioles
    5. Royals
    6. Nationals
    7. Diamondbacks (for unsigned 2010 first rounder Barret Loux)
    8. Indians
    9. Cubs
    10. Padres (for unsigned 2010 first rounder Karsten Whitson)
    11. Astros
    12. Brewers
    13. Mets
    14. Marlins
    15. Brewers (for unsigned 2010 first rounder Dylan Covey)
    16. Dodgers
    17. Angels
    18. Athletics
    19. Red Sox (from Tigers for Type-A Victor Martinez)
    20. Rockies
    21. Blue Jays
    22. Cardinals
    23. Nationals (from White Sox for Type-A Adam Dunn)
    24. Rays (from Red Sox for Type-A Carl Crawford)
    25. Padres
    26. Red Sox (from Rangers for Type-A Adrian Beltre)
    27. Reds
    28. Braves
    29. Giants
    30. Twins
    31. Rays (from Yankees for Type-A Rafael Soriano)
    32. Rays
    33. Rangers (from Phillies for Type-A Cliff Lee)

Supplemental First Round

  1. Nationals (for Type-A Adam Dunn)
  2. Blue Jays (for Type-A Scott Downs)
  3. Red Sox (for Type-A Victor Martinez)
  4. Rangers (for Type-A Cliff Lee)
  5. Rays (for Type-A Carl Crawford)
  6. Phillies (for Type-A Jayson Werth)
  7. Red Sox (for Type-A Adrian Beltre)
  8. Rays (for Type-A Grant Balfour)
  9. Rays (for Type-A Rafael Soriano)
  10. Diamondbacks (for Type-B Adam LaRoche)
  11. Mets (for Type-B Pedro Feliciano)
  12. Rockies (for Type-B Octavio Dotel)
  13. Blue Jays (for Type-B John Buck)
  14. White Sox (for Type-B J.J. Putz)
  15. Padres (for Type-B Jon Garland)
  16. Giants (for Type-B Juan Uribe)
  17. Twins (for Type-B Jesse Crain)
  18. Yankees (for Type-B Javy Vazquez)
  19. Rays (for Type-B Joaquin Benoit)
  20. Blue Jays (for Type-B Miguel Olivo)
  21. Padres (for Type-B Yorvit Torrealba)
  22. Twins (for Type-B Orlando Hudson)
  23. Rays (for Type-B Randy Choate)
  24. Blue Jays (for Type-B Kevin Gregg)
  25. Padres (for Type-B Kevin Correia)
  26. Rays (for Type-B Brad Hawpe)
  27. Rays (for Type-B Chad Qualls)

Here is the top 100 Draft Prospects as presented by MLB Draft Guide:

Rank Player Position School
1 Dylan Bundy RHP Owasso HS, OK
2 Anthony Rendon 3B Rice
3 Trevor Bauer RHP UCLA
4 Gerrit Cole RHP UCLA
5 Bubba Starling OF Gardner-Edgerton HS, KS
6 Danny Hultzen LHP Virginia
7 Archie Bradley RHP Broken Arrow HS, OK
8 Matt Barnes RHP UConn
9 Sonny Gray RHP Vanderbilt
10 Taylor Jungmann RHP Texas
11 Francisco Lindor SS Montverde Academy, FL
12 Jed Bradley LHP Georgia Tech
13 Taylor Guerrieri RHP Spring Valley HS, SC
14 Josh Bell OF Dallas-Jesuit HS, TX
15 Matt Purke LHP TCU
16 George Springer OF UConn
17 Jose Fernandez RHP Alonso HS, FL
18 Daniel Norris LHP Science Hill HS, TN
19 Blake Swihart C Cleveland HS, NM
20 Mikie Mahtook OF LSU
21 Javier Baez 3B/SS Arlington Country Day School, FL
22 Alex Meyer RHP Kentucky
23 Tyler Beede RHP Lawrence Academy, MA
24 Austin Hedges C JSerra HS, CA
25 Henry Owens LHP Edison HS, CA
26 C.J. Cron 1B Utah
27 Kolten Wong 2B Hawaii
28 Robert Stephenson RHP Alhambra HS, CA
29 Derek Fisher OF Cedar Crest HS, PA
30 Trevor Story SS Irving HS, TX
31 Dillon Maples RHP Pinecrest HS, NC
32 Jackie Bradley Jr OF South Carolina
33 Daniel Vogelbach 1B Bishop Verot HS, FL
34 Levi Michael SS/2B North Carolina
35 Brian Goodwin OF Miami-Dade JC
36 Dillon Howard RHP Searcy HS, Ark
37 Tyler Anderson LHP Oregon
38 Dante Bichette Jr 3B Orangewood Christian HS, FL
39 John Stilson RHP Texas A&M
40 Joe Ross RHP Bishop O’Dowd HS, CA
41 Sean Gilmartin LHP Florida State
42 Cory Spangenberg 3B Indian River JC
43 Larry Greene OF Berrien County HS, GA
44 Dwight Smith Jr OF McIntosh HS, GA
45 Andrew Susac C Oregon State
46 Brandon Nimmo OF East HS, WY
47 Travis Harrison 3B Tustin HS, CA
48 Josh Osich LHP Oregon State
49 Matt Dean 3B The Colony HS, TX
50 Connor Barron SS Sumrall HS, MS
51 Aaron Westlake 1B Vanderbilt
52 Kyle Winkler RHP TCU
53 Anthony Meo RHP Coastal Carolina
54 Tyler Marlette C Hagerty HS, FL
55 Nicky Delmonico C/3B Farragut HS, TN
56 Andrew Chafin LHP Kent State
57 Tony Zych RHP Louisville
58 Brett Austin C Providence HS, NC
59 Grayson Garvin LHP Vanderbilt
60 Joe Panik SS St John’s
61 Bryan Brickhouse RHP The Woodlands HS, TX
62 hudson Boyd RHP Bishop Verot HS, FL
63 Kevin Cron C/1B Mountain Pointe HS, AZ
64 Chris Reed LHP Stanford
65 Michael Fullmer RHP Deer Creek HS, Ok
66 Alex Dickerson OF Indiana
67 Jason Esposito 3B Vanderbilt
68 Noe Ramirez RHP Cal State Fullerton
69 Brad Miller SS Clemson
70 Charlie Tilson OF New Trier HS, IL
71 Ricky Oropesa 1B USC
72 B.A. Vollmuth 3B/SS Southern Miss
73 Keenyn Walker OF Central Arizona JC
74 Logan Verrett RHP Baylor
75 Ryan Wright 2B Louisville
76 Jake Hager SS Sierra Vista HS, NV
77 Tyler Greene SS West Boca raton HS, FL
78 Kyle Crick RHP Sherman HS, TX
79 Johnny Eierman OF Warsaw HS, MO
80 Andrew Gagnon RHP Long Beach State
81 Tommy LaStella 2B Coastal Carolina
82 Williams Jerez OF Grand Street HS, NY
83 Tyler Gibson OF Stratford Academy, GA
84 Michael Kelly RHP West Boca Raton HS, FL
85 Cameron Gallagher C Manheim Township HS, PA
86 Roman Quinn OF Port St Joe HS, FL
87 Zach Cone OF Georgia
88 Burch Smith RHP Oklahoma
89 Phillip Evans 2B/SS La Costa Canyon HS, CA
90 Mark Pope RHP Georgia Tech
91 Grandon Goetzman OF Palmetto HS, FL
92 Peter O’Brien C Bethune-Cookman
93 Cody Kukuk LHP Free State HS, KS
94 Brandon Loy SS Texas
95 Jace Peterson SS McNeese St
96 Gerrett Buechele 3B Oklahoma
97 Kes Carter OF Western Kentucky
98 Daniel Camarena LHP/OF Cathedral Catholic HS, CA
99 James McCann C Arkansas
100 Cody Asche 3B Nebraska

The 2011 MLB Draft: The Report and Inside Scoops

Saturday May 28, 2011

MLB reports:  For all the baseball fans, observers and analysts, one of the happiest events in the year is almost upon us.  The 2011 Major League Baseball Draft.  All the standout players that we have all been tracking on-line and reading about in publications like Baseball America are about to be drafted by major league teams and hopefully signing their first professional contracts in hopes of one day making the big leagues.  The draft is scheduled to run between June 6th – June 8th and will be broadcast live on mlb.com.

The talk around baseball is that changes could be in store for the MLB draft, as early as the 2012 draft year.  With the expected potential of increased restrictions on entry player salaries, the word is that players will be more likely to sign this year under the current system.  It will be interesting to see what percentage of drafted players sign with their teams and how many decide to re-enter the draft.  With the MLB draft system in transition, the 2011 draft should turn out to be one of the most interesting baseball events in some time.

Once upon a time the MLB draft was conducted secretly over the telephone with little to no media coverage.  But in our golden age of internet and instant media, the draft has become a featured event.  After the Nationals recently drafted Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper in consecutive years, the topic of the top picks in the MLB draft has become a heated debated among baseball observers.  With the high talent level this year, the discussions are raging louder than ever.

Considered to be a very deep draft pool, the 2011 class is heavy with pitching prospects.  Names like Gerrit Cole, Dylan Bundy and Trevor Bauer are on the lips of all baseball analysts.  Although not as strong in the hitting department, the media has worked overtime in profiling the likes of Anthony Rendon and Bubba Starling, among others.  Looking at the early predictions of the “experts”, it appears that the expected draft results are literally all over the map.  With the draft a little over a week away, the anxiety over the results of the draft continues to increase.

With so much talent in the 2011 draft, there appears to be a range of debate as to which team each players will be drafted by and in what draft position.  Thanks to our inside scouts, MLB reports will shed some light for you today as to some of the expected results.  We have compiled our list of rising and falling prospects and which teams have been linked to certain players.  Are you ready for the inside scoops on the 2011 MLB draft?  Let’s jump right into it and see what our scouts had to say about many of the players in the 2011 draft class (noted draft ranking by MLB.com beside each player and position):

RISING PROSPECTS

Dylan Bundy RHP (4) – Owassa HS (Okla.), Senior 

It’s not much of a rise when you are a top 5 pick, but with his strong on-field demeanor and stuff being among the best in the draft, he may end up with the best career of any 2011 draft member.”

Taylor Jungmann RHP (7) – Texas, Junior

“Looking like a great fit for #8 Indians.  Cleveland has shown they have the bats in the system to compete and have stock piled arms lately.  If they think they could compete in the next 3-4 years, then a college arm who could move quickly up their system is exactly what they will be looking for.”

Brandon Nimmo OF (30) – Cheyenne East HS (Wyo.), Sr.

“Big time bat that projects to move quick in nearly any system and the draft.  This kid is loved by the New York Yankees but shouldn’t get past the Toronto Blue Jays or Milwaukee Brewers.”

Joshua Bell OF (23) – Jesuit College Prep (Texas), Senior

“One of the best true bats available.  The Angels have outfielders spread throughout the organization, but the Angels must see a Trout/Bell outfield if he is available at #17.”

FALLING STARS

Taylor Guerrieri RHP (13) – Spring Valley HS (S.C.), Senior

“Multiple legal issues (had to switch high schools) and off-field issues could have Guerrieri slip.  He is one of the top prep arms in the draft so someone will take a flyer high.  If he gets by the #7 pick (Arizona), he could get into the teens.”

Kolten Wong 2B (25) – Hawaii, Junior

“Once a projected top 15 pick, many believe Wong may not go into the 1st round.  The falling is for no-fault of his own.  Texas Rangers, Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals and Tampa Bay Rays amongst most interested.”

Anthony Meo RHP (26) – Coastal Carolina, Junior 

“Threw a no-hitter in Big South opener.  Big time success at college level and should have a nice pro career (think Blake Cooper with more upside) but there are some concerns with his delivery.  Some teams see Meo as a future reliever which could see him slip.  Meo was drafted previously in the 43rd round in 2008 out of High School by the Nationals.”

Jake Eliopoulos LHP (N/A)

“Once taken in the 2nd round by the Blue Jays in 2009 (higher than Jake Marisnick), he decided to turn down the Jays offer of $525,000+ to go to school.  Eliopoulos then attended two schools and was drafted again, this time by the Dodgers.   With an ERA above 10.00 at junior college, he is currently pitching for the Jet Box Baseball Club and went 2 IP with 10 BB and was hitting 85-86 mph as per Bob Elliot (Twitter).  I would expect the Jays or even Seattle to draft him in the late 40’s with little to no signing bonus just because of his past.”

What we are hearing:  Players that Teams are Considering

Oakland Athletics:   Daniel Norris, Alex Meyer, George Springer

New York Mets:  Brandon Nimmo, Matt Barnes, Cory Spangenberg, Jed Bradley

Toronto Blue Jays:  Sean Gilmartin, Josh Bell, Daniel Norris

Kansas City Royals:  Dylan Bundy, Gerrit Cole, Bubba Starling

Where the Players are Likely to Land

Nick Ahmed – SS – University of Connecticut – Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals

Peter O’Brien (40) – C – Bethune-Cookman – Florida Marlins, New York Mets

Aaron Brown – OF – Chatsworth HS – Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres

Michael Reed – OF – Leander HS – Philadelphia Phillies, Houston Astros

Matthew Purke (27) – TCU – Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Dodgers

Andrew Chafin (39) – Kent State – Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves

Tyler Beede (50) – Lawrence Academy HS – Boston Red Sox, Cincinnati Reds

Tom Robson – Lander, BC – Toronto Blue Jays, New York Mets

Kevin Matthews – Richmond Hill HS – Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers

Carter Capps – Mount Olive – Milwaukee Brewers

Mike Wright – East Carolina – Pittsburgh Pirates, Minnesota Twins

Steven Proscia – University of Virginia – Kansas City Royals, Philadelphia Phillies

Andrew Faulkner – South Aiken HS – Atlanta Braves, New York Mets

Carlos Rodon – Holly Springs HS – Kansas City Royals, Washington Nationals

Chuck Ghysels – University of Maryland – Toronto Blue Jays, Atlanta Braves

Justin Atkinson – North Surrey, BC – Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros

Trevor Gretzky (son of Wayne Gretzky) – Oaks Christen HS – Los Angeles Angels

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MLB Closers Report 2011: Who is in, Who is out

MLB reports:  I get several messages a day on the state of the closers in major league baseball.  Questions asking me which players have a closing job, which are about to lose their job and which players are most likely to get save opportunities.  In my fantasy baseball days, I used to call it fishing for closers on the waiver wire:  waiting for a closer to underperform and/or get injured and lose their job and immediately pick up the heir-apparent to the throne.  How are the thirty major league teams doing in the closer department?  Let’s take a closer look at each team and find out:

1)  New York Yankees:  Mariano Rivera

With seven saves in eight opportunities and a 1.93 ERA, Mo is as automatic as they come.  Even at his advanced age, Mariano is a #1 fantasy closer, if not the top closer.  Rafael Soriano is the next in-line, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

2)  Colorado Rockies:  Houston Street

Although health is often a concern with Street, seven saves in seven opportunities with a 2.03 ERA is not.  Street has really come into his own in Colorado and as long as he can stay healthy, he is becoming nearly automatic out on the mound.  Add in fourteen strikeouts and Street is as dangerous as they come.  Lidstrom has been spectacular as well to start the year, but with health and performance issues surrounding him in the past, Lidstrom at best is a filler in case of an injury to Street.  A solid #2, Lidstrom will form a solid 1-2 punch with Street all season long (on the field and likely on the DL at some point).

3)  Atlanta Braves:  Craig Kimbrel

The youngsters debate should be over.  Six saves in seven opportunities and a 0.96 ERA.  2/14 BB/K ratio.  Kimbrel is clearly the man in Atlanta.  While Venters is very talented and the next in line should Kimbrel falter, the rope for Kimbrel grows by the day.  Atlanta appears to have found its closer for the next decade.

4)  Cleveland Indians:  Chris Perez

With the hot start of the Indians, Perez has been enjoying the ride.  Six saves in seven opportunities and a 2.25 ERA.  One area for concern:  four strikeouts in eight innings pitched.  Although Perez is becoming craftier on the mound, low strikeouts for a closer generally leads to disaster.  The Indians have some decent arms in the pen, including Rafael Perez.  But the Perez of choice is Chris.

5)  San Diego Padres:  Heath Bell

The second coming of Trevor Hoffman, Bell is a perfect five for five in save opportunities with a 1.00 ERA.  Having Bell on the Padres is like driving a brand new Mercedes while living in a bachelor apartment on the wrong side of the town.  An unnecessary luxury in many observers’ estimation.  Beware that a hot Bell will have trade rumors surround him all summer long.  The Padres have literally 4-5 closing options in the pen, so this situation is far from settled if Bell is dealt.  I could see Neshek, Qualls, Gregerson and Adams all getting their shot.  For now Bell is a top five closer unless he leaves San Diego.  If I had to watch one reliever it would be Neshek, who has come back from injury and could claim the job in the event he is called upon.

6)  Los Angeles Dodgers:  Jonathan Broxton

Broxton somehow is a perfect five for five in saves but with a 5.19 ERA, the end is likely coming near.  The hope for many baseball analysts, including my own, is that Broxton can turn it around and reclaim his form.  Kuo, once healthy, is the likely pick to take over the role.  My dark horse pick is Mike MacDougal, the veteran who has extensive closing experience.  A 1.13 ERA for MacDougal is outstanding, but his 5/6 BB/K ratio is nothing to write home about.  Guerrier may also get a look, but Kuo is the consensus pick to take over at some point.  I would like to sit here and guarantee that Broxton will recover and return to form, but I can’t promise that.  It could happen, but with each passing rocky outing, even I am starting to have my doubts.  My plan would be to remove Broxton from the role and let him work out in his kinks.  In the interim I would insert MacDougal to steady the ship and then re-insert Broxton in July.  That would be my plan, but not necessarily the same script for the Dodgers.  Keep a look out as this mess is far from settled.

7)  Philadelphia Phillies:  Jose Contreras (Breaking News:  Now Ryan Madson)

Running an eight inning scoreless run, a perfect five for five in saves opportunities with nine strikeouts, Contreras has become the man in Philadelphia.  But running a close second is Ryan Madson, a 1.00 ERA and 2/10 BB/K ratio.  The long-term solution is Madson and any hint of a Contreras downturn will insert Madson in the role.  I expect this to happen any week now and once Madson becomes the closer, he should keep it until Papelbon joins the team next year (yes, it will happen).  Please do not say Brad Lidge though, that story has been written and re-written too many times.  Injuries and production problems is the story of Lidge.  Hopefully the Phillies are smart and do not go down that road again.  The moral of the story:  Contreras today, Madson soon and Papelbon next year.

(P.S. As I am writing this, Contreras has been sent to Philadelphia for an exam and is on the DL.  Ryan Madson is the closer, funny how quickly things can turn)

8)  Kyle Farnsworth:  Tampa Bay Rays

Another closer with a perfect five for five saves record, Farnsworth owns a 1.23 ERA and zero walks allowed on the season.  I am not sure who this person on the mound is and what he has done with the real Kyle Farnsworth, but whoever this imposter is on the mound I would keep him.  All kidding aside, I am a Farnsworth fan and have wished him well for years.  But after watching him implode in nearly every stop on his major league tour, I remain somewhat skeptical.  Jake McGee, my closer pick has started off slow but with improved numbers down the road could grab the job.  Same with Peralta, although walks tends to hurt his value.  The Rays will be riding Farnsworth like a rented mule until he cannot close anymore.

9)  Neftali Feliz:  Texas Rangers

Another five for five in saves opportunities, Feliz with a 1.08 ERA has a stranglehold on the job.  Recently placed on the DL with a sore shoulder, the Rangers will turn to some combination of Darren Oliver and Darren O’Day , perhaps even Rhodes, until Feliz returns.  Don’t sweat this one, Feliz will be back soon and continuing his climb to the top of the ranks of MLB closers in 2011.  Of concern is Feliz’s 5/6 BB/K ratio, which will have to change for Feliz to be ultimately effective as the closer.  Walks tend to do very bad things to closers in the 9th but based on the the talent in his arm, Feliz will be the go-to-guy this year again.

10)  Brian Fuentes:  Oakland Athletics

Fuentes was signed to be a solid lefty in the pen and fill-in closer for the A’s.  Five for six opportunities, Fuentes has been steady for Oakland but sports a brutal 4.66 ERA.  Just like Jonathan Broxton in LA, Fuentes is likely on borrowed time unless he becomes more automatic on the mound.  Add a 5/7 BB/K ratio and the Andrew Bailey watch will continue in Oakland.  While I see Bailey getting the job in the short-run, Fuentes will find a way to reclaim the job by the summer and possibly to the end of the year.  Don’t look now though but Ziegler has not been scored upon this year and could put up a fight as well.  Keep an eye on this situation as it unfolds.

11)  Joel Hanrahan:  Pittsburgh Pirates

Five for five in saves, 2/8 BB/K ratio and a 2.70 ERA translates to increased job security for Hanrahan.  Much like Heath Bell, as Hanrahan performs well he becomes a luxury on a rebuilding Pirates team in need of prospects.  Essentially keeping the seat warm for 2010 all-star Evan Meek, look for Hanrahan to be dealt sometime in the summer and for Meek to take over the closer’s role in 2011 and for the foreseeable future.

12)  Brandon League:  Seattle Mariners

Yet another closer that is five for five in saves, League is holding down the fort until the return of Dave Aardsma.  The 3.68 ERA is ok, but three strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings is not.  League has shown good control with only one walk, but changes are still likely coming in Seattle.  Expect the Mariners to deal Aardsma and/or League during the summer if Aardsma can return and show health.  Given that Aardsma is no guarantee, there is a good chance that League can keep the role for the majority of the year.  But I would not bet on it given his shaky track record… I actually expect a dark horse to emerge at some point in this race.

13)  Carlos Marmol:  Chicago Cubs

Five for seven in saves, Marmol has the security of a long-term deal and is clearly the closer in Chicago.  His 2.53 ERA is interesting, but more telling is his 7/15 BB/K ratio.  Few closers can touch Marmol’s heat and if he could just lower his walks totals, he would become a top-five closer in baseball.  But the walks will unlikely go away this year and expect some interesting moments with Marmol as he works towards 30+ saves in 2011.  Kerry Wood is the next-in-line in case, think of him as Marmol insurance.  Marshall has been steady as well and the one surprise is Samardzija with a 3.65 ERA, but his 14/14 BB/K ratio shows the heat is there but the control is not.  But the Cubs are Marmol’s team.

14)  Leo Nunez:  Florida Marlins

Totals?  Five for five in saves, which appears to be a standard at this point in the season.  Nunez has a 2.00 ERA and is off to a hot start in Florida.  As the summer months approach, I cannot see Nunez sustaining these numbers and a few bad outings could cost him his job very quickly.  For a strong run, I appear the Marlins making a trade or picking a new horse for the job.  Webb, Dunn and Hensley may all get looks this year, but are unlikely long-term solutions.  Until then, the job is Nunez’s to lose.

15)  Jonathan Papelbon:  Boston Red Sox

For a guy on the heat seat, all Papelbon has done is go five for five in saves, with a 2.16 ERA and a 2/11 BB/K ratio.  Papelbon is as automatic as they come and with his first run into free agency on the horizon, do not expect Papelbon’s role to change in 2011.  Papelbon has an incentive to be a fantasy closing superstar and the Red Sox will happily ride him to first round picks as compensation in the off-season.  While Bard is the heir-apparent with Bobby Jenks always lurking, do not expect this move to happen until 2012, unless injury strikes.  Papelbon will look really good in Philadelphia next year.  Remember you heard it here first.

16)    J.J. Putz:  Arizona Diamondbacks

Putz has been everything that Kirk Gibson could have imagined in Arizona and more.  Five for five in saves (yes, another one), 1.13 ERA and 0/10 BB/K ratio.  Expect Putz to be an all-star this year as he leads a young Diamondbacks team back to respectability.  With no plan b’s on the horizon, Arizona will live by the Putz and die by the Putz.

17)  Joakim Soria:  Kansas City Royals

Ok…ok…ok…. let’s not get too excited people.  Soria’s five saves in six opportunities comes along with a 5.59 ERA and a 5/5 BB/K ratio.  Add ten hits allowed in 10 2/3 innings and you have some pretty ugly numbers for a top-three closer.  With the three-headed monster of Collins, Crow and Jeffress looming, I can foresee some fans starting to call for the head of Soria as the Royals continue to excel.  Don’t see it happening.  I cannot see the Royals continuing their hot start and I cannot foresee anyone unseating the great Soria.  The young Royals pitching squad needs Soria and unless he literally implodes, which I don’t see happening, Soria will be the closer for the next few years.  As the Royals build to be contenders in the next 2-3 years, they will rely on a healthy and productive Soria to carry their bullpen.  Soria is the Royals closer and do not get any other ideas on the subject.

18)  Brian Wilson:  San Francisco Giants

The Giants were the feel good story of 2011 and while the “fear the beard” motto was cute in its time, I think this story is done.  Wilson has to get away from the beard and concentrate on what he does best:  close ball games.  Although five for six in saves this year, Wilson sports a brutal 7.94 ERA a pedestrian 4/6 BB/K ratio.  The World Series champion Giants will give Wilson a lot of rope and I cannot foresee him losing his job.  But with the World Series letdown could come a return to earth for several players, including Wilson.  While he will still get 30+ saves, his numbers are showing that a market correct is in order.  Wilson needs to get re-focused…he is the only game in town as the closer for the Giants.

19)  Brandon Lyon:  Houston Astros

The poster boy for mediocre closers, Lyon remains a frustration year-in and year-out.  Four for six in saves opportunities, with a 4.32 ERA, 13 hits allowed in 8 1/3 inning and a dismal 2/3 BB/K ratio, Lyon is better suited to middle relief than closing.  Lyon is a veteran on a young Astros team and while experience is supposed to help the young pitchers, his stats are hurting the team.  With Melancon and Fulchino pitching so well, a changing of the guard is coming in Houston.  Right now my money is on Melancon becoming the closer by May.

20)  Francisco Rodriguez:  New York Mets

Together with Papelbon, K-Rod had many doubters going into the year.  Legal troubles and a declining team and numbers looked to spell the end for Rodriguez.  His four saves in five opportunities has been great, together with his 2.35 ERA.  His 6/13 BB/K ratio is showing that the arm and heat are back, but so is his wildness.  K-Rod will get 30+ saves in my estimation, but may not so pretty getting there.  Frankie is getting paid the big bucks and will have the job for 2011.

21)  Jose Valverde:  Detroit Tigers

The king of hot starts, Valverde has been four for four in saves on a very inconsistent Detroit Tigers team in 2011.  His 1.04 ERA and 2/9 BB/K ratio have been spectacular.  Valverde will have the job this year as he works towards another free agency run at seasons-end.  Benoit is the closer in waiting and while he will have the job in 2012, will be the filler when called upon.  The Tigers will stick with Valverde, period.

22)  John Axford:  Milwaukee Brewers

Pitching for a contending Brewers team, Axford’s numbers have not cut it this year.  Three for five in saves, 7.36 ERA and a 6/8 BB/K ratio means that Axford is closing on borrowed time.  I still expect Axford to get a little more rope to straighten himself out, but not for much longer.  While Saito was my pick to take over the role at the start of the season, and poor health and inconsistency have plagued him.  Same with LaTroy Hawkins, another failed closer in the Brewers’ pen.  The dark horse for the role is Kameron Loe, the former Rangers starter and Japanese baseball survivor.  Look for Loe, who has been the Brewers best reliever season to get the role any day now and to run with it into the forseeable future.

23)  Drew Storen/ (Sean Burnett):  Washington Nationals

I know your first reaction:  is Sean Burnett not the closer?  A 3.24 ERA, three for four in saves and 0/6 BB/K ratio- is that not closing numbers?  Perhaps, but Burnett is like a mirage in the desert.  You think you are seeing water, but its all an illusion.  Storen with a 0.77 ERA, two for two in saves, six hits allowed in 11 2/3 innings and 4/8 BB/K ratio is the man.  Storen has been groomed for the position is whole life and was drafted as a closer to become the Nationals ninth inning stopper.  Burnett may still get the occasional opportunity but his saves opportunities are coming to an end.  As Storen becomes nearly automatic, the job will be his for the next decade in Washington.

24)  Matt Capps:  Minnesota Twins

The Twins originally said they would bring Joe Nathan along slowly after missing a year due to surgery.  What did they end up doing?  Throwing him straight into the fire and destroying his pitching confidence and stats line.  With a 9.82 ERA and 6/5 BB/K ratio, do not expect Nathan back in the role for a LONG time.  Capps, acquired from Washington for catching prospect Ramos has now taken over the closing duties.  Three for four in save opportunities, 4.09 ERA and a 0/5 BB/K ratio shows that Capps is ready to run with the job.  Minnesota is well-known for steady starting pitching and I look for Capps to finish with a steady amount of saves.  He may not blow hitters away anymore, but with continued control look for Capps to keep the job for most of 2011.

25)  Francisco Cordero:  Cincinnati Reds

For all the doom and gloom coming out of Cinci for Cordero, he has continued to put up great numbers.  Three for three in saves, 2.00 ERA, a stingy five hits in nine innings pitched and 4/7 BB/K ratio.  The changing of the guard is coming though for the Reds as you look at Chapman’s numbers.  Throws 100+ MPH heat, nine scoreless innings, two hits in nine innings with a 7/9 BB/K ratio.  This is another case that unless the incumbent implodes or gets injured, he will retain his role.  The Reds rely on the Veteran Cordero and Dusty Baker is very loyal to his foot soldiers.  Chapman is still showing wildness and the best course is to let him continue to develop as Cordero keeps saving games.  A change is coming in 2012 but until then, Cordero is the Reds closer.  If you like to gamble though, Chapman has a decent shot at the job… he is the heir apparent and the first reliever in line if needed.

26)  Jon Rauch:  Toronto Blue Jays

One of several new additions to the Jays pen, Rauch originally was supposed to keep the role warm for Frank Francisco until he returned from injury.  Rauch on the season has a 2.08 ERA and is three for three in saves opportunities.  While his 4/6 BB/K ratio is pedestrian, Rauch will have the job for the majority of the year in my opinion.  While Francisco has the heat and the strikeout numbers, he has shown to be very inconsistent and erratic in the closers role from his time in Texas.  Francisco will possibly get a shot at the role at some point early on this season, my money is still on Rauch.  With so many closing options in Toronto including Dotel and Frasor, this situation is very difficult to handicap.  At the end of the day, you either believe in Francisco or Rauch as the closer.  My gut is saying Rauch.

27)  Jordan Walden:  Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The next, great Angels closer, Walden has taken to the role and run with it.  Ten scoreless innings, three for three in saves, three hits allowed in 9 1/3 innings and a 5/10 BB/K ratio are all impressive.  Fernando Rodney, the veteran closer will be breathing down his neck the whole season.  If not for his 8/7 BB/K ratio, Rodney has a 2.08 ERA of his own and only blown save on the season.  As with all young pitchers, Walden will run into some trouble along the way.  The question will be how he handles adversity.  This is one team that I have faced several arguments on this season.  I see Rodney taking back his job while Walden continues to be groomed into the next big thing.  For me, experience and knowledge tends to usually win out and Rodney has an advantage in both departments over Walden.  The job is Walden’s today and for quite some time, but 2-3 blown saves in a week can change things in a hurry.  Another situation to keep an eye on.

28)  Mitchell Boggs:  St. Louis Cardinals

Where is Ryan Franklin?  One for five in save opportunities and with a 7.88 ERA.  Complaining about the fans of St. Louis won’t appease Cardinals management either.  The 27-year-old Boggs is the newest closer on the carousel, with two saves in two opportunities, 1.59 ERA and outstanding 3/13 BB/K ratio.  There are many people jumping on the Boggs bandwagon and for good reason.  The kid is apparently coming into his own and has taken the job by the reigns.  As is the case with Walden, we do not have enough of a track record to know the long-term potential of the kid.  Again, 2-3 blown saves in a week can change the situation in a hurry.  I still expect Franklin to straighten himself out and perhaps reclaim the job later in the year.  But based on his solid work to-date, the closer in St. Louis is Boggs and the job is literally his to lose.  Keep one eye open, just in case.

29)  Kevin Gregg:  Baltimore Orioles

Pitching in the Brandon Lyon sea of mediocrity, Gregg has been up-and-down this year for the upstart Orioles.  Two saves in three opportunities, 4.50 ERA, and 4/6 BB/K ratio are nothing to write home about.  Mike Gonzalez with a 10.80 ERA does not appear to be healthy and recovered to be able to compete for the role.  Jeremy Accardo has a 2.08 ERA but an alarming 6/4 BB/K ratio.   Koji Uehara, with a 1.35 ERA and 3/7 BB/K ratio is my pick for the Orioles closing job when Gregg inevitably begins to break down.  The Orioles are lucky to have several options, with Simon originally being my original dark horse until legal troubles slowed down his season.  But based on track history, I really like Uehara’s chances to claim the job by June, if not sooner.

30)  (Jesse Crain):  Chicago White Sox

I certainly saved the worst for last and the White Sox have had their share of bullpen woes in 2011.  With one team on the season, Sale and Thornton have not been the saviors that Sox fans were expecting this year.  With ERAs north of 6.00, neither one is likely to take the role anytime soon.  Ohman and Pena have been fairly weak as well and the last two realistic survivors are Santos and Crain.  Much press has been written on Santos, the converted pitcher who has pitched 9 2/3 scoreless innings with five hits allowed a 5/13 BB/K ratio.  While many experts are already picking Santos, I am looking at the dark horse, Jesse Crain to take the role.  The former Twin had a steady 2010 year and has started this year with a 1.74 ERA and spectacular 2/11 BB/K ratio.  Santos is the darling of Chicago with his flame throwing ways, but the more experienced Crain appears to be just what the doctor ordered in Chicago.  A situation that is far from unsettled, Thornton or Sale could grab a hold of the job at any time with some steady consecutive outings.  But based on current numbers and future outlook, if you want my pick- it will be Crain.  With such a strong offense and steady starting pitching, the Sox cannot afford to lose too many games in the 9th if they hope to take the AL Central.  That is where a veteran as the anchor will prove to be best solution in the bullpen.

The state of closers is always a heated discussion in baseball circles every year.  Probably the most volatile position in baseball, approximately 30% of opening day closers will still have their jobs by years-end.  With injuries and failures, closers can come and go on a weekly basis.  Today’s failed starters can be tomorrow’s superstar closers.  Next week’s stoppers can also be minor league filler by August.  All baseball fans, whether fans of teams or fantasy players, all get driven to the point of insanity because of closers.  For every Mariano Rivera, there will be three Jordan Waldens, five Jonathan Broxtons and seven Brandon Lyons.  I hope that you enjoyed reading the state of the union on MLB closers today.  Although situations may have changed while I wrote this article (see Contreras) and even tomorrow, remember to keep an open mind and focus on where the next closers will be.  The most effective relievers in the bullpen will usually get the first crack- it is the ones that can succeed under pressure that will keep their jobs.

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