Thursday, May 31, 2012

MLB Draft Monday

I know most people don't follow the MLB Draft too much, being that there are so many collegiate and high school players in the player pool and they are not the easiest to see actually play, but it is always an intriguing event, more so now that each team has a dollar limit to spend.

The consensus #1 pick is GA's own Bryan Buxton out of Appling County High School.  He is viewed as the essential MLB draft guy - tall, cannon for an arm, hits for power/average, runs like the wind.  He is being drafted as an outfielder, with lots of comparisons to the Upton brothers. 

There is a big difference in some franchises philosophies, with some preferring collegiate players over high school "projects," but in my opinion, you need to draft more on results than projections, for example Tim Beckham over Buster Posey.

Buxton may be the next Justin Upton, but how accurate have the scouts been on the past few HS outfielders taken at the top of the draft?

2011 - #5 Bubba Starling (too early to tell, hasn't appeared in Minor League game)
2010 - #15 Jake Skole - .253/14/100 in 800 career AB's, just got to Advanced A Ball
2009 - #3 Donovan Tate - .248/48 RBI/33 SB in 98 career games, all in low A Ball
2008 - #14 Aaron Hicks - .263/27/170 in 400 career games, in AA
2007 - #14 Jason Heyward - Runner up ROY, every day RF for Braves
2006 - #14 Travis Snider - 28 career HR's for Blue Jays, viewed still as good prospect
2005 - #1 Justin Upton - Exactly what scouts see in Buxton, elite level major leaguer
2004 - #21 Greg Golson - In AAA, career .260 minor league hitter
2003 - #1 Delmon Young - Career .286 hitter with 74 HR's in big leagues
2002 - #2 BJ Upton - Everyday CF on top-tier team

Certainly some really good players here, but also some guys that haven't panned out.   Lots of scouts really like Buxton, I see him more of a Dexter Fowler than Justin Upton.

If I am picking #1, these are the guys I would consider...

Mark Appel RHP Stanford - 6'5 starting pitcher that throws 96-98 with good mechanics.  He isn't quite as big a prospect as Justin Verlander, but has the size, stuff, and make-up to warrant the #1 pick. Would also be quite a story for the Cardinal to have Andrew Luck, Appel, and Nnemkadi Ogwumike all go #1 in 3 different drafts.

Mike Zunino C Florida - Power hitting catcher that is an above average receiver/thrower and captain of #1 team in Division 1.  Projects as a 5-6 hitter and run producer that is certainly All-Star calibur.

Michael Wacha - RHP Texas A&M - Future front-line starter that pounds the strike zone with 3 really good pitches, the best of which is his change-up.  Can run the fastball up to 96 when needed, and spots his pitches really well.

As for last years draft, several names have gotten off to pretty good starts in 2012, most notably RHP Dylan Bundy, who since your last update here has been promoted to Advanced A, which may produce less X-Box like results for Dylan.  He finally gave up a run in 1st start, but still holds a 0.51 ERA in 10 professional starts.

The 3 collegiate pitchers taken ahead of Bundy, Danny Hultzen/Gerrit Cole/Trevor Bauer all have gotten off to fast starts, with Hultzen (1.59 ERA in 10 starts) and Bauer (1.74 ERA in 9 starts) putting up the best numbers.

Lots of HS players are still in extended spring training, but some of you may remember CF Jackie Bradley, Jr from USC, who dropped to pick #40 after an injury-filled 2011 in Columbia.  Well, Jackie is leading the Carolina league in hitting at .358 and is showing why he was a projected top 10 pick before his injuries pushed him down draft boards.

Braves 1st rounder Sean Gilmartin has been very steady at Mississippi (AA), putting up several quality starts.  Utah 1B CJ Cron has also been hot, hitting .286/7/38 in advanced A, giving him career minor league totals already through 86 games of .295/20/79.

Some local names to look for in Round 1 Monday after Buxton include Georgia Southern teammates Victor Roache and Chris Beck, Brookwood HS RHP Lucas Sims, UGA LHP Alex Wood, and possibly Parkview 1B Matt Olsen...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wednesday Musings...

A few observations/stats/musings as we pass the mid-point of May...

It's ridiculous that Derek Lowe leads the AL in wins and ERA after this much of the season...He has gone 6 innings or more and given up less than 3 runs in 6 of his 8 starts, something he couldn't do in any of his September starts last year for the Braves, who finished 1 game out of the post-season.  He also is coming off his 4th career shutout, after not even throwing a single complete game in 101 starts as a Brave.

Michael Bourn is getting a lot of national press for his hot start, and the fact that he is a free agent seems to come up each time.  He doesn't rely solely on his speed, but that is a big part of his game.   The being said, he is on the wrong side of 30 and will lose a bit of that weapon as his next contract ends.  With so many bad contracts in baseball right now, I don't think anyone will thrown 6/100+ at him like he and his agent think, but if I am the Braves, he is certainly worth a 5/75 deal - a deal the team can afford with likely contracts coming off their payroll in Jones, Hudson, and Jurrjens.

It looks like for the 2nd time in 5 years, the top pick in the MLB Draft will be a prep player from Georgia.  Bryan Buxton from Appling County has skyrocketed up draft boards since last summer, and looks to be the guy to go #1.  Hopefully, he has more success than 2008 #1 Tim Beckham, who is currently serving a 50 game suspension for drug use.

Someone sent me this story today about Saints fans and their quest to purchase a billboard in downtown Atlanta featuring the words "Who Dat" so Falcon fans will, "feel our presence every single time they approach their ridiculous circus tent of a stadium during the second quarter on Sundays."  I actually hope this happens...the idea that Saint fans are so obsessed with the Falcons that they would take their disposable income in hopes that any Falcon fan will do anything but laugh at it is fantastic.  Sure, we will take your tens-of-thousands of dollars, your city is certainly in great shape and doesn't need any extra dollars for anything.  We are also trying to build a new stadium and every dollar will indeed count.  Thanks guys you and your tainted Super Bowl always come through.

It appears the Orioles found a gem last year in Oklahoma HS pitcher Dylan Bundy.  Bringing him along slowly (he didn't pitch past the 3rd in his 1st 3 starts), Bundy has absolutely dominated Single A lineups.  His stats through 7 starts:

25 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 36 K

Bundy was the Gatorade national HS Player of the year, so he was highly sought after, but that kind of start is a little ridiculous.

Amazing how the SA Spurs still fly under the radar in the's just a shame that they are in a small market so companies like ESPN think that no one cares and would rather hear about Rajon Rondo's haircut than the Spurs current 15 game winning streak.  Their last loss was over a month ago, and they did it again last night by blowing out the Clippers.  The Duncan/Ginobili/Parker threesome is healthy and productive, they are getting great minutes from Danny Green, Gary Neal, and Kawhi Leonard, and Pop is pulling all the right strings again.  How they are not getting more pub as title contenders is mind-boggling...

It appears that the Tebow-to-NY media fest will be just as bad as we all expected.  In just under 2 months since the trade, we have seen the following headlines of stories:

Darrelle Revis raves about Tim Tebow

Tebow is the right play for Jets

Rex Ryan thrilled with QB situation

Tim Tebow adjusting to N.Y. (Includes info on how he changed his dogs name from Bronco to Bronx)

Jets QBs coach praises Tim Tebow

Jets coach Rex Ryan impressed by Tim Tebow


Goodness, and this has been the off-season...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The freakish Josh Hamilton

We have seen quite a start to the baseball season, for the 1st time ever we have had a perfect game and a 4 HR game in the same season.  Oh yea, we also threw in a no-hitter already as well as a Scott Hairston cycle...quite the run of feats.  Not to mention Matt Kemp's torrid start or Carlos Beltran returning from the dead...but it's our 4 HR guy Hamilton that I want to look at more closely as he appears to have a legit shot at a triple crown for several reasons.

1)  Has fast guys that get on base hitting in front of him, Kinsler/Andrus
2)  Has veteran power guys hitting behind him to protect him, Beltre/Cruz/Young
3)  The team protects his health by giving him ample rest (will probably play in 145~ games)
4)   Is a freak

Coming into Sunday, his line for the year was .402/18/41, that is a 30 point lead in AVG, 7 HR lead, and 12 more RBI than another AL player.  Wow.

The run of seasons without a triple crown winner has moved to 45 this year, but the likelihood of us seeing another winner has been increasing.  The 70's saw Rod Carew, Bill Matlock, Pete Rose, and other singles/doubles hitters win batting titles.  Dick Allen made a run in 72 when he won HR and RBI titles but finished 10 points behind Carew for the 3rd leg.  Home Run leaders in the 70's were guys that didn't hit for much average, like Mike Schmidt, Johnny Bench, Jim Rice, and Reggie Jackson.

The 80's were even tougher to make a run at the triple crown as Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn won 9 of the 20 batting titles, with Willie McGee, Carney Lansford, Willie Wilson and other non-power hitters took up the others.  No one made a serious run in the 80's as again sub-.300 hitters like Reggie Jackson, Dale Murphy, Andre Dawson, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, and Tony Armas were the HR champions.

The 90's though, saw a young slugger in 1992 named Gary Sheffield really look like a threat.  Sheffield jumped out to a lead in all 3 categories over the summer of 92, and just couldn't hold on to the HR and RBI leads while finishing .330/33/100.  Fred McGriff's 35 HR's won the title that year and Sheffield finished 9 RBI behind Darren Daulton for the RBI title.

Again in 1997, we saw the thin air in Colorado produce another threat with Larry Walker.  Walker's MVP season produced a league-leading 49 HR's, but his .366 average was .06 behind Tony Gwynn and 130 RBI were 10 behind teammate Andres Galarraga.  Walker did go on to win 3 of the next 4 batting titles, but was no where near the HR crown as these seasons were the Sosa/McGwire HR-fest.

The rest of the 2000's saw each category get a sneaky winner, and the trivia fans out there can have some fun with this one...2003 AL batting champ, 2004 AL HR champ, and the 2003 NL RBI champ were all off the radar winners...answers below.

Now for the reasoning on why we are getting closer and closer to seeing another winner.  Take a look at the names of the guys that have won batting titles the last 10 years.


Earlier in the 2000's it looked like guys like Todd Helton and Ichiro may go on runs like Boggs and Gwynn, but it was been big power guys that have taken home batting titles.

Pujols led the league in all 3 categories over the span of 2 seasons, Bonds couldn't rack enough at bats with all his intentional walks to get HR's and RBI in 04, and Cabrera and Ramirez won batting titles when there was a top 20 all-time HR season (A-Rod, Batista).

It would sure be good for the game if Hamilton takes these leads past the All-Star break to give the league a story that can attract some marginal fans.  We aren't going to see another 30 game winner and the .400 hitter hasn't been challenged in 30+ years outside of Gwynn's .394 in the strike year (94) and George Brett in 1980.

The league also has the Josh Hamilton story in their favor too, as Hamilton's road to this point is well documented.  He is probably one of the top 3 most talented players to come through the game since I've been alive.  I like to describe his talent this way...Coming out of HS in North Carolina, he was the top pick in the 1999 draft.  However, that draft featured a guy that almost every other year would have been the top pick...think about it, Josh Beckett was everything a MLB scout wants.  Tall, powerful pitcher, with a 99+ fastball...Tampa didn't even flinch, "We'll, take Hamilton."

On Hamilton's player card, he is currently on pace for a .402/86/195 season.  I don't think we will see anything near that, but I would certainly give him a fighting chance to achieve what we haven't seen since 1967...

Trivia Answers

03 AL Batting title - Bill Mueller
03 NL RBI title - Preston Wilson
04 AL HR title - Adrian Beltre

Friday, May 11, 2012

Another early exit fo the Hawks...

I think this blog has an annual May entry, as the Hawks bowed out early in the NBA Playoffs for the 5th straight year.  For those that don't know, the Hawks history in the playoffs is not impressive to say the least.  This year isn't unlike the others, but before we dive in to what happened and what now, I want to get this out there...not giving excuses, but I am 100% sure that the following things are true:

1)  If Paul Pierce made the same move against Joe Johnson that Joe made against him at the end of Game 6, there would have been a foul called.
2)  If Rondo/Pierce/Garnett/Allen had been fouled the way Al was at the end of Game 6, a flagrant foul would have been called.
3)  If the Celtics had lost Game 6 in Atlanta to lose the series and had a player fouled clearly before an in-bounds pass, we would have had multiple experts telling us the Celtics were screwed and it would have been a topic on PTI, Around the horn, etc, and Bill Simmons would have written a column on how bad the officiating was in the series, specifically Game 6.

But I was a disappointing series loss, but the problem is traced to Game 2 when the Hawks lost at home to a Boston team that was without Allen/Rondo, and had a double-digit 3rd quarter lead.  This team looks outstanding at time, and completely no-shows others.  I want to think that this core can do better, but it just doesn't seem likely.  That being said...

The only thing management can do for the betterment of the franchise is keep this core intact.  Breaking up this team, i.e. trading Josh Smith, will make this team much worse.  Believe me, if I thought the Hawks could get multiple players/picks/etc for Smith, I would be for it, but they simply won't get equal value in a trade.

If ASG and Sund think the team needs to trade Smith to improve the team and appease the fan base, the move would go against everything the front office has said the past few years, which is that this core can advance past Round 2.  If they break up the team, they will likely go the route of the franchise 15 years ago when Pete Babcock caved in and got rid of Mookie/Smith/Deke and others in order to get younger and more athletic (bringing in Isaiah Rider)....

Truthfully, the way to win titles in the NBA is to get an All-Timer (Kobe, LeBron, Dirk, Duncan) and surround him with solid pieces and hope other stars choose to join him.  The easiest way to get one of these guys is to have a Top 5 draft pick, which would likely be coming the Hawks way if they blow up the current core.

The likely scenario:  Management renews Larry Drew for another year or two, Sund keeps some of the veterans, brings in some new veterans, adds a 1st round pick, and ASG sells the city on seeing what this team can do when healthy.

The scary scenario:  Management panics and trades key pieces for less than equal value and this is a 35 win team next year.

My suggestion:  Scenario 1 without renewing Larry Drew.  Lets bring in someone that has won before and would have the players respect.  Flip Saunders was just fired for not being able to win with an awful Wizards roster, but is just a few years removed from 3 straight conference finals series. 

There is a time to blow up a roster, but with the contracts this team has and the current trade market, now is not it for the Hawks.  The Falcons sold me on "Hey, it will be better with the same players if we get better coaches", it's time for the ASG to prepare the same pitch.