May 2008

The Rumor Mill

It’s a-rolling hot and heavy these days. Here’s the thing, it’s nearly impossible to tell what’s legitimate and what’s hogwash (always wanted to use that word). Here’s what I’ve heard tossed out there today. Take it or leave it at your own risk. Hopefully, in the coming days I’ll be able to sort some of this out. But here are some tidbits.

  • The Rays have narrowed their choice to either Buster Posey or Pedro Alvarez. Some I spoke to thought it might just be propoganda, so proceed carefully here. The Rays haven’t said anything about cutting names from the original five. If they take Alvarez, the idea would be to move Evan Longoria to second base when the time comes, which could be right around when Mr. Iwamura’s contract runs out.
  • The Orioles top choices remain the top college arm in Brian Matusz and one of the better college bats in Justin Smoak. But there’s some talk of there being a third candidate, a “dark horse” if you will. No idea who that is at this point, but something tells me one of the Beckhams does not count as a dark horse.
  • The Chicago White Sox, while looking hard at some of the corner infield power bats — namely Justin Smoak or Yonder Alonso — are also looking at a power arm. Word has it that GM Kenny Williams is in Stillwater, Oklahoma this weekend for the regional hosted by Oklahoma State. At that regional is Texas Christian University, whose closer is power-armed Andrew Cashner, the fast-rising reliever who’s been hitting the upper 90s as a short man, but has the size and delivery to make many think he can be a frontline starter.

That’s all I got for right now. As I do, remember to take any and all of these items with at least one grain of salt.

Filling in the blanks: Josh Lindblom

This may come as a shock to all of you, but I’m not perfect. There, I said it.
Thumbnail image for pitching.jpg

Over the course of the past several weeks, I’ve managed to write up a grand total of 124 Draft Reports on the 2008 draft class.  I couldn’t, tried  as I did, get to every player I would have liked to write about in detail. With that in mind, over the next several days leading up to the draft, I’m going  to  give at least nutshell “reports” on guys I missed in TDR. Today, I’m starting with Purdue closer Josh Lindblom:

With a fastball that has been clocked up to 97 mph with some sink, Lindblom has the power arsenal you look for in a short reliever. His curve is inconsistent, but his splitter has the chance to be a plus pitch in the future. He’s also got a changeup that can work against left-handed hitters. He’s been up-and-down this season, sometimes being very hittable and sometimes being untouchable. But with his live arm and big-league body and stuff, someone is sure to bite fairly early on.

 

Projection, jection

Hopefully people get my weak Schoolhouse Rock reference with the title…

Just wnted to let people know they should check out my first crack at the top 30 picks in the upcoming draft. The entire first round can be found here. Some interesting movement up and down.

Biggest rise: Andrew Cashner, from 20 to 11. Keep in mind that I only did picks 1-20 last week, so I can’t really pick players I have at 21-30 who didn’t seem to be in the first-round picture not long ago. Cashner, the TCU closer, is in the mix in a bunch of places (see rumor mill below) and is in the Rangers mix for sure.

Biggest slide: Shooter Hunt, from 11 to 20.  He still could go anywhere from 11 down to 20, but some concerns about his command (which invariably lead to questions about if he can start) combined with some less-than-stellar performances lately may contribute to him slipping closer to the bottom part of the first round. It’s really been his last two starts, in which he’s given up eight earned runs in 14 IP (5.14 ERA), allowing nine walks while striking out 14. Unfortunately, last impressions often are the most important come draft time and losing in the conference tournament (6 IP, 5 ER, 5 BB, 9 K) probably hasn’t helped. If he comes out and throws well in his regional start before the draft, that might reverse the slide some.

Rumor mill: Couple of good ones floating around lately. One has Cashner rising up into the top 10… up to No. 6. The feeling had been the Marlins would take HS catcher Kyle Skipworth — and that might still happen — but it’ll be interesting to see if there’s any truth to this rumor about the big-armed TCU closer moving up that high.

The other one is one I mentioned in the projection, and that’s Gerrit Cole going to the Rangers at 11. He’s in the mix, it almost seems certain, but I’m hearing more and more that it’s a distinct possibility. He evideintly was registering regular 99 mph on guns at his last start, even touching triple-digits, with a lot of juice on hand to see it. Cole is a Boras guy, and right now it seems like the Rangers at 11 and the Yankees at 28 are the two places he could go in the first round.

Satterwhite illin’

Turns out that Cody Satterwhite came out of today’s SEC tourney game because he was sick. Needless to say, the Ole Miss coaching staff seemed less than pleased.

Listen, I don’t want to say anything because, frankly, I don’t know how sick the kid is. I’ve had a really bad flu before and could barely get out of bed, let alone try to pitch in some heat down here. But…there are guys who suck it up and play because their team needs them, they like to compete and not let people doswn. This is the SEC tournament, a pretty big stage. Ole Miss is 2-0 and will be 2-1 if they end up losing this game (it’s 7-2 Vandy in the 4th). Winning the tourney would mean an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. They’ll get an at-large bid in all liklihood, but obviously with every win they get here, the better they might do seeding-wise. I think you get the point — this is a pretty big game. And Satterwhite begged out of it.

If this was a one-time thing, I think the reaction would be, “OK, he must really be sick.” But there’s been a pattern with Satterwhite and he doesn’t seem to be the most competitive guy you’ll see. The coaching staff wasn’t upset because he was sick, I’m guessing, but that it was another example of their junior pitcher with a ton of natural talent not stepping up. As one scout I spoke to over the phone about what had happened said, “That sounds about right for him.”

Ole Miss in the house

While some of the top draft talent in the SEC tourney here in Birmingham is gone — Gordon Beckham of Georgia, Justin Smoak and Reese Havens of South Carolina — and Pedro Alvarez is still here of course, Ole Miss has been a nice surprise by going 2-0 and playing Vandy this morning at Regions Park.

Lance Lynn, the Friday starter, kicked things off (as I mentioned earlier) with a terrific start. Today, it’s time for the Codys to try and step up. Cody Satterwhite was once thought to be a first-round possibility based on his raw stuff, but he’s had a rough year and been more hittable than he should. He got the start against Vandy and it didn’t begin well as he gave up a leadoff homer to Drew Macias. It got worse as he just got lifted in the second inning with an injury of some sort, leaving with runners on the corners and one out. I’ll have more on that as I find out what the deal is.

In the meantime, 3B Cody Overbeck gave Ole Miss a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning with a two-run homer, his 15th of the year, over the left-field fence. Overbeck’s one of those college hitters who grows on you when you watch him. He doesn’t have overwhelming tools, other than some pretty good power, particularly to the pull side as he showed here today, but he’s the type who comes up with big hits in big situations. He may not be an every-day 3B as a pro, but think Kevin Millar as the best-case scenario. Homering here certainly doesn’t hurt.

Back soon…

Live from Birmingham…it’s the SEC!!

Greetings from Regions Park in Birmingham, Alabama, site of the SEC baseball tournament. I’m currently sitting and watching Vanderbilt beat South Carolina, though the Gamecocks have made it interesting with a four-run eighth inning.

Before the game, we went over to Ole Miss’ practice to talk to Lance Lynn, who was outstanding here on Wednesday. Great interview, by the way — keep an eye out for his part in a feature on the draftable talent at the SEC tourney (along with Smoak and Alvarez). It’s funny, he’s known more as a “pitchability” guy, something he kind of jokingly bristled at, pointing out that he’s got a pretty good K/9 rate (just over 10, actually) and he was evidently touching 95-96 in his tourney start the other day. He’s a big dude, so maybe there’s more there than people think. Only time will tell.

The afternoon game today, from our standpoint, is Pedro Alvarez vs. Justin Smoak. OK, so that does a disservice to the other draftable prospects here, but you get the point — 2 top 10 picks in the same game doesn’t happen all that often (Georgia’s Gordon Beckham was here, but the Bulldogs dropped two straight and are already gone). It didn’t start out looking like a good day. Alvarez struck out looking with the bases loaded and Smoak didn’t do anything of note.

But in the sixth, Alvarez showed everyone a glimpse of why he’s considered one of the best bats in the draft class, turning on a Will Atwood offering and yanking it out to right field for a three-run homer. At the time, it gave Vandy a 7-1 lead, runs that became important when the Gamecocks scored those four in the eighth. He also struck out three times, one of the only reasons for pause about his overall terrific offensive game.

Smoak had a sac fly in that four-run frame, but that was about it for the switch-hitting  1B. He did hit a line drive that ended up right at the second baseman, who was shifted way over in a Jason Giambi-esque defensive alignment. The real star for South Carolina in the losing effort was Reese Havens (well, senior Phil Disher hit two homers, to be fair). He’s not a top 10 guy, but he is sneaking into first-round conversations and this game certainly didn’t hurt. Havens had three hits and made a couple of fine plays at short, supposedly a position he won’t be able to stay at in the future. He’s got the arm to stick, that’s for sure — maybe a team will let him play his way off the position rather than moving him right away.

That’s all for now… will be back later on this weekend.

Pepperdine update

Hey folks, some quick news to pass on here…

Nice work by Baseball America yesterday filling us in about Brett Hunter’s return from injury (it didn’t go so well) and Eric Thames’s exit. Here’s a little more detailed info:

One scout I spoke to felt Hunter is pitching hurt and looked that way in his start on Tuesday. Things could change, but the plan was to have him start on Sunday against San Diego if Peppderdine won the first game on Friday and the WCC championship went to three games (it’s a best 2-of-3 deal). If the Waves lost on Friday, Hunter was scheduled to be available in relief.

The news on Thames isn’t so good. As BA reported, the buzz was that he was likely done for the season, Indeed he is. I’ve learned that he tore his right quad and will be having surgery tomorrow (Friday). He’s expected to be out for at least six weeks, a tough break for a college outfielder who’d been hitting .407 and slugging .769 to move himself into possible sandwich pick territory. How this affects his draft status remains to be seen. A year ago, Cal Poly’s Grant Desme broke his wrist late, but still went in the second round to the A’s. If that’s Thames’ fate, that’s not too bad. Only time will tell…

Conference Tourney Wednesday wrap-up

Just wanted to compile some notes about how some of the bigger draft prospects fared in conference tourney play yesterday:

SEC

Vandy’s Pedro Alvarez went 1-for-4 in a 7-3 win against Florida. Dominic de la Osa went 2-for-4 with a stolen base.

Georgia was upset by Ole Miss, 4-1. Gordon Beckham went 0-for-3 with a walk. Ole Miss ace Lance Lynn certainly didn’t hurt his stock any by going 6 2/3, allowing four hits and one run while striking out 12 against the top-seeded Bulldogs. Ole Miss closer Scott Bittle came on and struck out four over 2 1/3 IP to seal the win.

ACC

2nd-seeded Miami had little trouble with Clemson, winning 8-1. Yonder Alonso went 1-for-3, as did Jemile Weeks. Dennis Raben went 1-for-4.

Florida State beat Wake Forest, 8-3. Possible No. 1 overall pick Buster Posey went yard twice, to give him 19 on the year, and drove in three runs. Wake’s Allan Dykstra homered as well.

Virginia had an exciting 11-inning win over top-seeded North Carolina, 8-7. Greg Miclat went 1-for-5 and stole his 30th base of the year. David Adams went 2-for-6 with an RBI. UNC catcher Tim Federowicz had two hits and 2 RBIs.

Conference USA

Tulane was upset by Marshall, 10-5, and RHP Shooter Hunt did not have his best day. The righty, who I had projected to go No. 11 to the Rangers in my most recent mock draft, gave up six runs (five earned) on six hits and five walks over six innings. He did strike out nine.

Those are the highlights. Back with more later on.

It’s Tourney Time!

Gotta love it, college conference tournaments as far as the eye can see. I’ll try to keep things updated here as much as possible with draft-related performances. Let’s start in the SEC, mostly because I’m going there on Friday and there are several top 10 talents in Birmingham.

Game 1 saw South Carolina blow a four-run lead in the ninth inning and lose to LSU in the 10th. USC SS Reese Havens went 1-for-4 with an RBI. 1B Justin Smoak, a top 10 pick candidate, went 0-for-2 and walked three times. 3B James Darnell went 1-for-4 with a run scored. All in all, nothing that jumps off the page. Game 2 has Vanderbilt and Pedro Alvarez against Florida. He’s 0-for-1 so far. Ole Miss and Georgia (Gordon Beckham) is at 5 p.m.

In the ACC, the first game didn’t have too much draft prospect firepower, though NC State lefty Eric Surkamp did throw well (even though State went on to lose to Georgia Tech, 10-9). Surkamp went six innings and allowed one earned run (two total) on seven hits, two walks and nine strikeouts. More eyes are probably on Miami taking on Clemson now, and Mark Sobolewski has a two-run double in the early going.  I’m sure plenty will be watching FSU vs. Wake Forest as possible No. 1 pick Buster Posey plays at 5 p.m. ET. The day in the ACC finishes with North Carolina taking on Virginia.

The Big 10 tourney will mostly be about seeing Zach Putnam of Michigan pitch. That should happen tomorrow as he continues to come back from an illness that saw him lose nearly 20 pounds.

In the Big 12, Missouri beat Texas, 5-2, to open things up, but it wasn’t Aaron Crow on the mound for Missouri. The Longhorns OF combo of Jordan Danks and Kyle Russell went 1-for-7.

There’s an upset brewing in Conference USA play. Top-seeded Rice is losing to #8 UAB. RHP Matt Langwell started for the Owls and didn’t make it out of the fourth inning. Reliever Bryan Price, who’s been mentioned as a possible first-rounder, gave up three runs, two earned in 1 2/3 IP and UAB has a 7-2 lead… Not sure if Shooter Hunt will be on the hill, but his Tulane club plays in the final game of today against Marshall.

Ill be back with more as time permits…

Shameless self-promotion

A couple of things, draft geeks…

First, my Top 20 is up over on MLB.com. Take a look and share your thoughts…

Second, I’m going to be chatting on the draft momentarily. Come and ask some questions, won’t you?

That’s it. As you were.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.