Friday, May 13, 2011

5 up and 5 down in the MLB draft

Today’s entry takes a look at the MLB draft, which is just a few weeks away. The detailed players below are all considered potential 1st round picks, but some have more issues than others. The following 5 that are up are players that I think will eventually be at least solid, everyday MLB players. The 5 down will struggle to make the big leagues or won’t live up to their draft hype.


Jed Bradley – The Georgia Tech left-hander has been spectacular this season and has incredible stuff. He has had a great season as a starter for the Jackets, posting a 2.63 ERA and 83 K’s in just 77 innings. Should be in a big-league rotation by 2014.

Mikey Mahtook – I am really high on Mahtook and think he is worthy of a top-5 pick. Most mock drafts have him going in the mid-to-late 1st round, but I am not sure what the hesitation is on him. He is a 5 tool outfielder that can hit for power and really run. His is a big league everyday player in 2013.

Bubba Starling – Bubba is a 6’5 freak-athlete that will use his football scholarship to Nebraska as leverage for a huge signing bonus. He is a center fielder with a 95 MPH arm that has great raw power and a polished swing. Once he focuses on baseball full-time, he will become a mega-prospect. Estimated MLB arrival for Bubba is 2015.

Taylor Jungmann – Taylor has been just about un-hittable this year for the Longhorns. In his 12 starts, he has 11 wins, no losses, and 3 shutouts. He has only allowed 73 base runners in 95+ innings while recording 90 strikeouts. A 6’6 lanky right-hander, Jungmann has the build and arm to be a #1-#2 MLB starting pitcher with an ETA of 2014.

Andrew Susac – Another player I really like, Susac could be a big league catcher with few offensive skills than he currently possesses. Susac is excellent behind the plate and also leads OSU with a .359 average and a .487 OBP.


Gerritt Cole – A likely #1-#2 pick, I am very leery of Cole in this draft. The UCLA right-hander has unreal stuff, it just hasn’t produced unreal results. Cole is 5-5 for the Bruins and has had some impressive outings. But at the same time, he has had some shaky outings and has given up 6 HR’s and as many base runners as innings pitched this season. Could be a big-leaguer but not only do I not think he is a top 15 prospect, I don’t think he is the best pitching prospect on his team (Trevor Bauer).

Anthony Rendon – Rendon, another likely #1-#2 pick, is also not worthy of that high of a selection. Rendon is certainly a good prospect and has hit .327-4-29 with most teams pitching around him (66 walks in 49 games), but I want an Evan Longoria type third-basemen with a top 1-2 pick. Rendon looks like a potential future big-leaguer, but not one worthy of a 8 million + signing bonus and the top pick.

Jackie Bradley, Jr – Bradley is an interesting prospect because his stock was so high last season when USC won the national title. He was an integral part of that team and has all 5 tools. The knock on Jackie, though, is that he does not have an elite tool. Not a future MLB player in my opinion, but has enough skills to be worth a pick at some point.

Matt Purke – The tale of Purke’s draft hold-out from 2 years ago was chronicled in this blog entry. The decision to turn down 3+ million from the Rangers as the 14th pick was questioned then, and even more so now. A consensus top 3 pick after last season, when he was dominant in leading TCU to the CWS, Purke has struggled with injuries, command, and velocity all season. After going 16-0 with 142 K’s as a freshman, Purke has just 8 starts in 2011 and now has a sore shoulder. As a draft-eligible sophomore, Purke has dropped from a top 3 pick to a late-1st rounder, and I don’t think his risk is even worth a pick until after the 1st round.

Anthony Meo – Meo currently sports a 2.41 ERA in 12 starts for Coastal Carolina, but his velocity has been a question mark all season. At one point considered an elite prospect as a mind-90’s starter, Meo has been 89-91 at times this year and not quite as dominant like a 1st round college pitcher should be. He has shown flashes of brilliance, but the lack of consistent command has me questioning his future as a MLB player.

The numbers don’t lie…

Now that the Hawks-Bulls series went down just like it was predicted here, let’s take a look at exactly what went wrong for Atlanta after heading to Game 5 tied 2-2. The issues that have been brought up on TV, radio, blogs, etc usually involved Josh Smith’s shot selection, Al Horford’s poor shooting, failure to rebound, and poor perimeter defense.

But, I think there is a stat that most are overlooking…Josh shot 13-29 in Games 5/6, which isn’t terrible. Al did struggle, shooting 8-23 and missing many open looks. The rebounding margin was in the Bulls favor for these 2 games, but only 72-68. D-Rose shot 50% (19-38) and played well, but that was expected.

Atlanta needed to score to beat Chicago, and they failed to do so. Part of it was Josh Smith’s shot selection, part was Horford’s poor shooting, but most of all it was the inability to knock down long-range jumpers. Chicago plays really good defense from 15 feet in, but the Hawks were able to get many good looks from 3 point range. They just couldn’t make any of them…

Here is the 3 point shot breakdown for the series.

Game 1 (ATL win) - 7/13 (53.8%)
Game 2 (ATL loss) – 3/13 (23.1%)
Game 3 (ATL loss) – 1/6 (16.7%)
Game 4 (ATL win) – 4/11 (36.4%)
Game 5 (ATL loss) – 1/12 (8.3%)
Game 6 (ATL loss) – 1/11 (9.1%)

So, for the series, in the 2 Hawks wins they were 11/24 from 3 (45.8%). In the 4 losses, the team shot 6/42 (14.2%).

Although unlikely, just to give some perspective on these numbers, if the Hawks had made the same percentage of 3’s in the 4 losses as they did in their 2 wins, that would equal to 13 more made 3 pointers, or 39 points. They lost Games 5/6 by a combined 32 points…

Monday, May 9, 2011

The state of the Braves...

The Braves are just a series away from being right at the 25% mark of the season, which is just about enough to analyze the team and their chances to win the World Series.

Let's break the team down so far:

Starting Pitching

Clearly the strength of the team, the rotation has been as advertised. Further, young arms Mike Minor and Julio Teheran are about big league ready in AAA, as is veteran Rodrigo Lopez. This depth certainly gives Frank Wren some flexibility in June and July if he chooses to make any upgrades. The numbers through 5/8...

Jurrjens - 4-0 1.50
Hanson - 4-3 2.63
Hudson - 4-2 2.86
Lowe - 3-3 3.32
Beachy - 1-1 2.98

Relief Pitching

Jonny Venters is pretty much un-hittable out of the pen and Craig Kimbrel looks like he will be extremely solid as the closer. The bullpen misses Pete Moylan right now, but Eric O'Flaherty has been lights out. The rest of the pen, veterans Linebrink/Sherrill, and the young arms have been better than expected.


There are too many All-Stars (Prado, Jones, McCann, Heyward, Uggla) in this lineup for the slow start to last too long. The recent wave of offense was inevitable with the Braves bats. Even McLouth got in on the action and Freddie Freeman has looked the part at 1st.

Chipper looks good, McCann/Prado/Heyward will all be fine, and Uggla will end up around .250/260 with his 30+ HR's.


The defense has been extremely solid, with Dan Uggla being better than expected and Alex Gonzalez going bonkers. McLouth has been solid in center and Prado's transition to left has been flawless.

So, what can they do to improve?

Let's speculate for a minute on what the team can do to improve. It looks like the top teams from last year will be in the hunt all season (SF, Col, Philly, Cincy, StL) and Florida has been on a torrid pace since early April. If Frank Wren chooses to upgrade around the trade deadline, where should he look?

1) Bullpen - while the bullpen is above average, you can always use another strong arm to shorten games in September and October. One of the likely available bullpen arms this summer is SD's Heath Bell. One of the top closers in the game, Bell's addition would turn the Braves pen into the games best.

2) Center Field - I know McLouth has been hot lately and is currently in the top 25 in the NL in average and OBP, but I say this is a spot to upgrade as there are options and Nate's stock is finally back up a bit. The name here for the upgrade that I think if Wren chooses to make a move is Hunter Pence. The Astros will be looking to acquire young talent, and Pence is their best trading piece. The Bravos would have the money with Chipper's likely retirement to sign him to an extension and solidify the lineup for many years. A McLouth/Minor package with maybe a lower level prospect or 2 may do the trick.

Pence would also give the team another top of the order bat and allow Freddie Gonzalez to move Heyward down in the order as he wanted to do in Spring Training. Pence is currently hitting .297/4/27 and his 27 RBI are 3rd in the NL.

How about this lineup?


Pretty dang good. But, either way, I like this teams chances to get in the playoffs, as well as advance pretty far...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The state of the Hawks...

Since there will be almost zero talk of the Hawks impressive 103-95 win in Game 1 last night amongst the national sports media, lets discuss here what the win means and how it happened.

First, think for a second if the Knicks had the same post-season as the Hawks so far. You wouldn't be able to find a sports channel where an analyst wasn't discussing their NBA title chances.

The Hawks are winning games the way good teams win playoff games: Strong, physical play inside and clutch jump shooting. As long as Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford are knocking down shots, the Hawks have a shot in this series. The issues the team has, such as perimeter defense without Hinrich, poor shot selection, and more miserable performances from Marvin Williams (these 2010 numbers are still par for Marvin), but the way last night unfolded was perfect.

Jeff Teague did what he had to do at point guard, knocking down runners and a jumper or two. Josh Smith is still having trouble with shot selection, and his attacking the basket could be the key to Game 2, as Joe and Jamal will certainly get more attention.

So, how did the team flip the switch like they did after their poor finish? Simple. Since the Hawks get no attention around the country, no one considered that this team on April 2nd was 4 games out of 4th and 5 games up on 6th place in the standings and knew where they stood for the playoffs. Smith, Johnson, and company played minutes in the 20's (when not taking the entire game off) and they played the final 6 games getting themselves in shape for the playoffs.

Remember, this is a veteran team now that has played over 30 playoff games since 2008 together. They know what it takes to win in the playoffs, have experienced the bad losses, and are currently stepping their game up at the right time.

I definitely feel better about the Hawks chances in this series now, but I still think they will struggle in the long run without Hinrich. However, Game 2 is now a pressure-off game for Atlanta, and another shooting performance by Joe/Jamal could put the team in a position to reach a place the franchise has never been, the Eastern Conference Finals...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hawks - Bulls

Ok, here we go with Round 2 again. This makes 3 years in a row and the 15th time since moving to Atlanta that the Hawks have advanced past the 1st round. As most of you know, and if you don't it was detailed here, the franchise is 0-14 in this cursed round. A quick refresher of the years and results since 1971:

2010 – Swept in 4 games by Orlando

2009 – Swept in 4 games by Cleveland

1999 – Swept in 4 games by New York

1997 – Lost in 5 games to Chicago

1996 – Lost in 5 games to Orlando

1994 – Lost in 6 games to Indiana

1988 – Lost in 7 games to Boston

1987 – Lost in 5 games to Detroit

1986 – Lost in 5 games to Boston

1980 – Lost in 5 games to Philadelphia

1979 – Lost in 7 games to Washington

1973 – Lost in 6 games to Boston

1972 – Lost in 6 games to Boston

1971 – Lost in 5 games to New York

The last time the Hawks won a game in the 2nd round was Game 2 in 1997 at Chicago, just a few weeks before my high school graduation (I'm 32). Steve Smith poured in 27, Mookie had 26, and Deke grabbed 15 boards as the Hawks won in Chicago (the only home playoff loss that championship season).

So, the losing streak sits at 15 in Round 2 since that win in Chicago, which is where the team tips off Game 1 tonight. Do they break the streak and compete in the series against the #1 seed with the league MVP (as they did in 97) or will they fold like they did in 99, 09, and 10?

I actually felt pretty good about their chances to complete if Kirk Hinrich was available. He has been a pest for Derrick Rose this year and is another guy that can knock down a jumper, something you need to do against a Tom Thibodeau defense.

Keys to the series...Hopefully, Boozer is banged up enough that he won't be a huge factor and Al Horford dominates as he did in the March 2nd game against Chicago, when he went for 31/16. Joe and Josh need to show up each night and contribute close to their season averages. Finally, Teague will be forced into action, so good decision making and getting the team going in transition will be key.

So, my prediction for this series is the Hawks get the Round 2 cob-webs dusted off and get 2 games, but fall at home in Game 6 as the Bulls win 4 games to 2.

Thoughts on the series?