Wednesday, February 21, 2007

NL East Season 1 Draft Report

NEW YORK GOTHAMITES (College 7/High School 8)

Top Picks

Rnd 3, #110

DARIO KIM (18, RP) – Kim possesses an ML quality fastball and is an outstanding fielder, but that alone isn’t enough to compensate for control deficiencies and the lack of a major league skill set.

Rnd 4, #142

DARIN PERRY (18, SP) – If Perry works hard and squeezes every last drop out of his talent, he’ll be a steady back-of-the-rotation presence for the AA club.

Rnd 5, #174

CODY MILLIARD (18, SS) – an all-or-nothing slugger with mediocre intangibles and some serious holes in his bat, Milliard will nonetheless put up some solid minor league numbers. He projects as a borderline ML RF or 3B.

Notable: 6th round SS Armando Rodriguez will eventually be a defensive stalwart for the AAA club… The players selected were, on the whole, a durable and healthy bunch of subpar athletes.

Best Player: Milliard

Biggest Reach: Perry

Best Bargain: Milliard

Overall: With free agency snatching up their first two picks and an extremely thrifty scouting budget, the Gothamites’ S1 draft doesn’t look to have produced an ML player.

PITTSBURGH POMERANIANS (College 14/High School 14)

Top Picks

Rnd 1, #16 (unsigned)

A.J. HILL (22, SP) – one of the oldest available first-round graded arms, Hill has yet to commit to being a Pomeranian.

Rnd 1, #40

JOAQUIN DURAN (22, C) – another 22-year old, Duran – a catcher destined for a career as a DH – slipped past a number of AL clubs, inexplicably landing in Pittsburgh’s lap at #40. A solid middle-of-the-order masher with a superb batting eye, Duran’s pure hitting prowess puts him in the class with earlier picks like Steenstra, Trunk and Romero.

Rnd 2, #64

MATTY CUMMINGS (19, SS) – A strong defensive presence who may project to third in the majors, Cummings will make limited impact with his bat but can draw walks and hurt you on the basepaths. He will be a decidedly unsexy but steady day-in-day-out presence.

Rnd 2, #76

CLINTON GREY (21, SP) – A surprising pick in the second stanza, Grey will probably never advance beyond AA ball. An inning-eater with solid control and a good changeup, Grey’s stuff just doesn’t translate well. Case in point: His fastball has been nicknamed “the slug” by opposing batters.

Notable: 3rd round SP Ramon Ueno and 4th rounder Alex Clark look to be career minor leaguers, as well… 5th round RF Rusty Stoops signed for a pricey $3.6 million, but may spend his career as a AAA masher… The Pomeranians took some gambles in the later rounds, but ended up wholly unimpressed with the results: they have yet to sign a single player taken after the 5th round.

Best Player: Duran

Biggest Reach: Grey

Best Bargain: Duran

Overall: Pittsburgh started out like gangbusters, snatching up Duran and Cummings after they tumbled. The following three pitchers have to be considered disappointments, though, especially considering the resources put into Pittsburgh’s scouting. If Hill signs, the draft will have produced the kind of talent you should see with two 1s and twos 2s. If not, then the failure to secure any useful players in the last twenty rounds of the draft will sting all the more.

ST LOUIS SAINT IFFS (College 6/High School 6)

Top Picks

Rnd 1, #9

JAMES WHITEHILL (18, 2B) – Whitehill has to represent one of the great blunders of the post-ranking draft process. A hotheaded Napoleon type, Whitehill has a keen batting eye and good-to-great speed, but his biceps look like Marvin Trunk’s wrists and his throwing ability is so poor he is projected as a 1B. Whitehill will eventually make the bigs (at $3.25 million, he better), but will probably never be more than a pinch-running utility player.

Rnd 4, #121

EDGAR CHAVEZ (18, 2B) – A poor man’s James Whitehill, if you can believe it. Another burner, with solid range but poor glove work and throwing accuracy, Chavez has a bit more pop than Whitehill but is lost against right-handed pitching.

Rnd 5, #153

BRIAN BONG (20, SP) – No matter where he pitches, this Bong will get hit a lot.

Notable: 6th round SP Monte Flair has the look of an overachiever that could sneak onto an ML roster, though probably not St Louis’ stacked pitching staff… 11th round Danny Helton has already been released.

Best Player: Whitehill

Biggest Reach: Whitehill

Best Bargain: Flair

Overall: For the moment, St Louis is the class of Cooperstown, but the club GM had a real chance to silence critics who claim the outlandish contracts and pathetic scouting were mortgaging the franchise’s future. The 9th pick could have been an exceptional player. Instead, it is James Whitehill.

TRENTON THUNDER (College 14/High School 14)

Top Picks

Rnd 1, #6

CHARLES ROMERO (18, 1B) – a 6-5, 200 pound terror with a fiery temper and an explosive bat, Romero is about as close to a sure thing as you can ask for. Romero mashes lefties and righties evenly, is terrifying enough to draw solid walk totals, and projects to be an absolutely devastating cleanup hitter.

Rnd 2, #54

BRADEN BENARD (18, SS) – Trenton took a gamble when they selected Benard – it was well-reported he was going to fulfill his mother’s desire to see him go to college. The price it would take to break his mother’s heart: $8 million. Trenton hasn’t bitten, despite outrageous Intl prices and Benard’s solid all-around play. An exceptionally patient batter with enough speed and power to make his presence felt in the 6th or 7th slot, Benard would probably have to switch positions in the pros.

Rnd 3, #86

FOOTSIE MACDOUGAL (19, 2B) – Another slap-hitting burner, MacDougal isn’t going to turn any heads with his defense or bat, but he lays a mean bunt, has enough speed to preoccupy a pitcher and hasn’t missed a game in his ballplaying career.

Rnd 4, #118

DAVEY WILFREDO (19, SP) – Wilfredo could be a good AAA pitcher or an average spot starter for an ML club. He induces groundballs by the bushel with a plus sinker and solid slider, but his control is suspect and his track record spotty.

Notable: 5th round SP Al Hayes may not make an ML impression, but is a solid minor league arm… 6th round SS Pat Maurer is another solid all-around borderline ML type.

Best Player: Romero

Biggest Reach: MacDougal

Best Bargain: Wilfredo

Overall: Romero alone makes any draft class worthy, but Trenton managed to secure some solid talent in the later rounds and, if nothing else, amplified their minor league talent level. If they find the $$ for Benard and pry him away from a higher education, then they have to be happy with the hitters they procured.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

NL North Season 1 Draft Report

AUGUSTA BLUE LOBSTERS (College 11/High School 11)

Top Picks

Rnd 2, #77

PETE SABATHIA (19, 2B) – a serviceable middle infielder with a keen batting eye and an iron constitution. His bat isn’t good enough to make up for his subpar defensive play, relegating him to a career on the razor’s edge between AAA starter and ML benchwarmer.

Rnd 3, #109

LARIEL SOTO (18, SP) – will probably peak in AAA. Not a terribly deficient pitcher, just not good enough in any particular way to warrant a spot on an ML club (particularly Augusta, which is stocked with talent). Already sustained an elbow injury in Rookie League play.

Rnd 4, #141

BILLY STEVENS (21, RP) – projects to be a solid Setup B option, or perhaps LH specialist. Nothing spectacular, but boasts a solid fastball-curve combo and keeps the ball on the ground. Every team needs a couple of these arms.

Rnd 5, #173

CARLTON COOK (18, RF) – won’t make it past AA ball, unless the club is looking for a pinch-runner on the bench. Doesn’t even have the defensive makeup to make that decision any easier.

Notable: Took a couple of 3B sluggers in the 6th and 7th rounds - Tom Schilling and Cameron Payton. Neither can hit righties, but one of the two might make it to the bigs as a LH-hitting utility bat… 8th rounder Billy Loiselle chose to go to college…

Best Player: Stevens

Biggest Reach: Soto

Best Bargain: Stevens

Overall: The Lobsters came away with a bullpen arm and maybe a bat for the bench. Considering the depth of the draft, they probably could have done better than this, but with their first pick at #77, the ceiling was limited.

COLUMBUS CONSPIRACY (College 10/High School 10)

Top Picks

Rnd 1, #17

LONNY PETRICK (21, SP) – a 6-8 knuckleballer, Petrick projects to be an inning-eating workhorse in the middle of a ML rotation. Equally tough against righties and lefties, Petrick brings three ML-quality pitches to the mound and has the kind of temperament clubs look for in clubhouse leaders.

Rnd 1, #29

BRIAN PEREZ (20, SP) – a risky pick with tons of upside. Though fully capable of being a reliable six-inning starter, Perez has the intangibles and “stuff” to make the transition to a back-end reliever role. A classic fastball-curve-change pitcher, Perez is injury-prone, has average-at-best control, little velocity, and is prone to the gopher ball, but his plus curve and formidable makeup suggest a strong ML contributor and a steal late in the 1st round.

Rnd 1, #31

TYLER HAWKINS (18, SP) – Hawkins has solid “stuff”, including the best curveball in the draft class and ML-quality fastball and slider, but hasn’t been able to harness them with consistency. His control may never be better than subpar, and his delivery will always make him susceptible to RH sluggers. The curve alone may be good enough to earn him a spot-start role on an ML club, but he’ll probably peak as a AAA all-star.

Rnd 1, #41

YORRICK DARR (19, CF) – Darr will be a solid but unspectacular ML center fielder; one of those players who is constantly thrown in to even out trades. If he earns an ML starting job – which is possible, considering his blend of speed, patience and glovework, as well as his switch-hitting ability – he will always be a guy looking over his shoulder as the team attempts to “upgrade.”

Notable: 2nd rounder Terry Brantley doesn’t the have moxie to advance beyond the AA rotation… 3rd round pick Dick Helton (18, LF) has the potential to play in the bigs, but is notoriously impatient and a hideous defender… Columbus has signed two of their last 16 draft picks

Best Player: Petrick

Biggest Reach: Brantley

Best Bargain: Perez

Overall: The Conspiracy started strong, with two solid arms and a third with potential in the first stanza (this is saying something, considering the pitching-thin S1 crop), but beyond the first round, the club’s draft picks simply lacked any ML potential. Plenty of teams were picking gems out in the 3rd, 5th and even 7th rounds, but the Conspiracy seemed to close up shop after their first few selections.

DETROIT PINK SLIPPED (College 10/High School 10)

Top Picks

Rnd 3, #111 (unsigned)

HARRY GIBSON (22, 2B) – a solid glove and subpar hitter, Gibson probably will be carrying his own luggage for the entirety of his ballplaying career.

Rnd 4, #143

RICHARD EDMONDS (22, SP) – Edmonds will someday devour innings for the AA club.

Rnd 5, #175

ED WALSH (20, SS) – A defensive guru with unparalleled range and just enough speed on offense to warrant a spot on an ML bench. The kind of player teams hope to uncover late in the draft.

Notable: Free agency gutted Detroit’s chances of acquiring any serious ML talent, but they nonetheless have to be disappointed with their first pick… The selection of Walsh in the fifth was a coup… 11th round C Brian Jackson may have just enough defense and pitch-calling acumen to warrant a 25th man role on an ML club.

Best Player: Walsh

Biggest Reach: Gibson

Best Bargain: Walsh

Overall: Hopefully the free agent acquisitions are paying off, because the draft paid little dividends.

Milwaukee Microbrewers (College 11/High School 11)

Top Picks

Rnd 1, #22

HECTOR TORCATO (22, SP) – a solid pitcher with pinpoint control and four passable pitches, Torcato will be a middle-of-the-rotation starter in a year or two. If anything diminishes Torcato’s luster, it is the more promising players selected directly after him in Round 1 (particularly Jorel Orie and Paul Grace).

Rnd 2, #69 (unsigned)

J.J. CURTIS (18, 1B) – This youngster has yet to sign with the club. Reports on his ability, a little-scouted slugger from War, WV, are rare and varied.

Rnd 3, #101

VICTOR VEGA (18, SP) – In possession of a rubber arm and a nasty sinker, Vega’s cringingly-bad control will relegate him to a minor league career and occasionally-astonishing boxscores.

Rnd 4, #133

MAX HAYES (19, 2B) – A solid defensive player and calm as a hindu cow, Hayes will make the majors if he can find a way to play beyond his God-given talent (God was not overly generous, particularly against lefties).

Notable: 6th round RP TJ Norton could make the club as a LH specialist… The Microbrewers were wildly aggressive in their pursuit of control pitchers, particularly in the first ten rounds… 12th rounder Davey Pineda is on drugs.

Best Player: Torcato

Biggest Reach: Vega

Best Bargain: Norton

Overall: If Curtis signs and pans out, this could be considered a solid draft. If not, it won’t.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Cooperstown Power Rankings Week 2

A tumultuous week of tests, hockey games and drinking have led to a day late power rankings, but the important thing is I finally found the free time to concentrate on HBD! There was quite a shakeup this week, although that’s to be expected in the early weeks. All the talk of the AL dominance, and the NL simply runs away with the top spot (not to mention the entire top 3)…ENJOY!~Greg

1. St. Louis Saint Iffs (40-16) LW 3

Jay Chapman seems a little lost in St. Louis, “I really don’t fit in here, and if something doesn’t change, it looks like I may be on my way out…” Not that Chapman is horrible by any means, but a 5.29 ERA on the Iffs staff sticks out like a sore thumb. The next lowest? 4.20 and 4.17. Then comes the big drop, as EVERYONE else on the St. Louis staff has an ERA of 3.00 or under. With a team ERA of 2.78, no one in the league wants to go up against the Iffs, especially when facing the top of the rotation, as Fred Scmidt (10-2 1.57 ERA) and Patrick Patterson (8-4 2.33 ERA) are near un-hittable.

2. Detroit Pink Slipped (35-21) LW 2

It’s all in the eyes. Ernest Truman is the first Cooperstown player to experiment with a new kind of contact lenses first used by MLB 2B Brian Roberts. The contacts work as a sun block, which in turn help him see the ball much better than before. I caught up with Truman earlier this week, “I can see the stitches as a 100 mph fastball screams to the plate. How many guys can say that?” Since their approval in the preseason, Truman has flew out the gate, hitting .352 with an astonishing Bonds-like OBP of .480. This writer’s best guess? The common fan may start to notice a few more red eyes in Cooperstown in the coming months.

3. Trenton Thunder (34-22) LW 7

Stuck behind the Iffs in the NL East, many disregard the storm brewing in New Jersey. Closer Theo Woods put it best, “We don’t get ANY respect! But it’s really not a big deal, people will notice when we refuse to simply fade away…” Woods is doing all he can to prove Trenton’s worth, saving 13 of 14 games with an impressive ERA of 1.53. In what is becoming known as the best bullpen in all of Cooperstown, Woods and his crew now have their sights set on the NL East title, which is far from impossible, but should not be considered anything less than a "Stiff" challenge.

4. Louisville Lemurs (34-22) LW 4

The Lemurs and Red Sox look to be battling it out for AL East superiority all season, but for now, the Lemurs have sat atop for two straight weeks, enough for near-certain All-Star Anthony Rehfield to be excited, “I know we’re only a third of the way through the season, but we’re a confident bunch, and we know we have it in us to make a serious run at a title.” With an all-everything star like Rehfield (.341/.593/1.043), these house cat-devouring tree dwellers should be in it for the long haul.

5. San Jose Siliconites (35-21) LW 9

A recent three game winning streak and a solid first third of the season has earned the Siliconites a place in the top half of the rankings, somewhere they could start to settle into. Slugger Johnny Poole continues to simply smash the ball, hitting 16 HR with 65 RBI thus far. But the true gem has been the emergence of rookie staff anchor Vance Brooks (7-2 2.99 ERA). After a couple of rough early-season outings, Brooks has responded to give up only 8 runs in his last 6 starts.

6. Boston Red Sox (33-23) LW 8

Second place isn’t usually the favored standing, but fans in Boston have quite a bit to look forward to, especially in the coming years. Led by stud-rookies Terry Perez and Bubby Cosby, the Sox are amazingly sitting only one game behind Louisville, and are positioning themselves well for the playoff run (even if it may be for the wild card).

7. Durham Delirious Dukes (33-23) LW 6

With the rankings based in Boise, Shigetoshi Aoki is guaranteed to be mentioned, as he just crushed the Bomb Squad in their recent series. Aoki barely missed the “85 Club”, but that’s not to say he’s not some kind of amazing baseball specimen. Leading the Dukes with 17 HR and 54 RBI, Aoki has brought Durham into Cooperstown prominence, and is looking to keep it that way.

8. Little Rock Travelers (33-23) LW 1

A big drop from last week’s #1 ranking, the Travelers are still sitting atop what is coming to be known as “Murderer’s Row” (also commonly referred to as the AL South). Since escaping Boise, Devon Thomson has seemed to complete the Little Rock lineup, providing a little more pop to a potent roster, hitting .301 with 10 HR and 39 RBI in 43 AL games. Combine Thomson with Benjamin Liniak and Rafael Fuentes, and the Travelers are in good position to hold of Charleston’s “Charge” (as it looks to be a constant battle up until game 162).

9. Charleston Charge (33-23) LW NR

Numbers 8 and 9 seem to be interchangeable, and may be all year, as these two bitter rivals look to be locked together in a classic pennant battle. These teams are nearly a mirror image of each other, both posting a team ERA just over 4.00 and hitting the ball with a good consistency. The big surprise in Charleston is journeyman rookie Mark Lee, who toiled eight long years in the minors before being given a chance in the bigs. He has responded quite remarkably, hitting .354 with 21 HR and 56 RBI, and should be a lock for making the AL ROY voting.

10. San Diego Fighting Pandas (31-25) LW 5

These road warriors seem to like it better away from Petco, sleeping in disgusting hotel beds and constantly battling jet lag to a tune of a 15-8 road record. Future “85 Club” member Iago Powell has been simply dynamite, smacking 14 HR and driving in 45, but the pitching staff is where this team really shines. C.J. Heiserman is providing an early rival for Cy Young favorite Fred Scmidt, going 7-2 with a miniscule ERA of 2.01.

Dropped Out: San Antonio Stars (LW 10)