Saturday, January 18, 2014

Kentuckians In The 2013 MLB Draft

A look at the 2013 seasons of Kentuckians, with thoughts on the upcoming year

JAN 18th, 2014-The Commonwealth of Kentucky has become a greater presence in the MLB Draft, in recent years, and it seems that there will be more and more Kentuckians in the pro ranks as the years go by.

While Kentucky has traditionally been more closely-aligned with high school and college basketball, the game of baseball is making its own case for respectability. More and more facilities are devoting time to teaching the game, leagues are springing up where none had been before, and established leagues are growing at a slow but steady rate.

Is it possible that, years from now, Kentucky may be known and respected for its baseball talent as much as it is revered among basketball fans?

Maybe that's a reach, I know. But at the rate that we're producing talent on the diamonds, I wouldn't completely rule it out.

Today I take a look at Kentuckians who were drafted in 2013, with thoughts going into the 2014 season:

Bats: R Throws: R
Ht: 6'5” Wt: 260
Born: October 7th, 1991 in Gilbertsville, KY
School: Western KY University (Bowling Green, KY)
Drafted: Kansas City Royals in the 19th round, 2013 MLB Draft

2013 Season (Burlington Royals, Rookie Class, Appalachian League; Wilmington Blue Rocks, High-A, Carolina League):
2-1, 1.16 ERA, 18 games, 16 GF, 9 SV, 23 1/3 IP, 13 HA, 3 ER, 13 BB, 17 K

Edwards is an especially interesting player, to me. Drafted by the Royals out of WKU, Edwards is a massively-built righty who had no problems whatsoever adjusting to pro ball. He signed initially with Rend Lake Community College in Ina, Illinois, where he was All-Conference in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference (69 1/3 IP, 4-5, 1.95 ERA career at RLCC), then transferred to WKU as a junior. While only getting in 23 1/3 innings of time on the bump as a closer, he appears to be ready for a full year in the Carolina League in 2014. He'll be 22 until October, so if he has to step back to the Sally it won't cost him much in the way of development time. If he does, we'll get to watch him bear down on unfortunate SAL batters for at least part of the season.

Bats: R Throws: R
Ht: 6'1” Wt: 195
Born: December 24th, 1994 in Lexington, KY
School: Woodford County HS (Versailles, KY)
Drafted: Toronto Blue Jays in the 2nd round, 2013 MLB Draft

2013 Season (GCL Blue Jays, Gulf Coast League; Bluefield Blue Jays, Rookie Class, Appalachian League):
6 games, 1-1, 3.12 ERA, 17 1/3 IP, 8 HA, 6 ER, 6 BB, 15 K

Oh, this kid. There was a lot of chatter about Hollon as the Draft rolled around, with talk that he might go in the 1st round. As it turns out, the pundits weren't too far off. Hollon ended up with the Jays as the 47th overall pick. This is a pick that could go very well for Toronto, or very poorly. With a fastball consistently in the 91-94 range, peeking as high as 97 at the Perfect Game Pitcher/Catcher Showcase, and an effective mid-80's cutter/change, Hollon has already shown some serious natural ability. His curve lacks consistency, which is a common issue for young pitchers, but it will come around. One thing which concerns me is his size, along with the fact that he seems to be a 'max-effort'-type of pitcher. Hollon spins off the mound a great deal with his delivery, and seems at times to be over-exerting himself in an attempt to impress the radar gunners. He does have a natural feel for the game that is not so common for pitchers his age, and he stepped into limited action at the rookie level in pro ball with little difficulty. At 6'1” and 195, he may be at the peak of his development, size-wise, which could hinder him as he climbs the ladder. He is definitely on my 'Ones To Watch' list.

Bats: L Throws: L
Ht: 6'3” Wt: 185
Born: March 21st, 1992 in Louisville, KY
School: Trinity HS (Louisville, KY); University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY)
Drafted: Boston Red Sox in the 5th round, 2013 MLB Draft

2013 Season (Lowell Spinners, Low-A, NY-Penn League):
0-3, 1.74 ERA, 12 games, 10 starts, 31 IP, 28 HA, 6 ER, 10 BB, 30 K

Littrell is a native Kentuckian, went to UK, and was drafted by the Red Sox, so naturally I'm a big fan. He certainly has more to offer, however, than circumstantial details; Littrell acquitted himself very well for the Spinners in 2013, allowing only a .237 BAA for the season. Oddly, lefties hit him rather well in limited AB (.324 vs. LHB in 41 PA), while righties stood little chance (.198 vs. RHB in 90 PA). Littrell already has decent size and a fair amount of projectability, he touches 90 and could end up with an above-average FB (for a lefty). Best of all, he knows how to pitch. That sounds like an odd thing to say, but there are a lot of 'throwers' in the game at all levels. I will be following his career closely.

Bats: L Throws: L
Ht: 6'4” Wt: 175
Born: July 12th, 1995 in Bowling Green, KY
School: Warren East HS (Bowling Green, KY)
Drafted: LA Angels of Anaheim in the 2nd round, 2013 MLB Draft

2013 Season (AZL Angels, Rookie Class, Arizona League):
4.32 ERA, 8 games, 16 2/3 IP, 16 HA, 14 R (8 ER), 16 BB, 11 K

Hunter Green is the prototypical prospect, in all senses of the word: he has tons of physical projectability, lots of raw talent, and youth on his side. At 17 years old he took on the Arizona League for 16 2/3 innings, and while the numbers were as rough as you might expect for a player his age there is plenty to like about his first season in the pros. Green has some definite mechanical issues which should be ironed out, but he sits in the low-90's with his fastball and already has a solid change and an occasionally-plus 12-6 curve. If the Angels take their time with Green, he could end up paying off big-time. He's another 'One To Watch'. Then again, I've always been a fan of these sorts of long-term developmental prospects.

Bats: L Throws: R
Ht: 6'3” Wt: 175
Born: October 12th, 1991 in Frankfort, KY
School: Western Hills HS (Frankfort, KY); University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY)
Drafted: Miami Marlins in the 13th round, 2013 MLB Draft

2013 Season (Batavia Muckdogs, Low-A, NY-Penn League):
59 games, 244 PA, 222 AB, 38 R, 54 H, 10 2B, 2 HR, 18 RBI, 6 SB, 28 SO, .243 BA, .603 OPS

One of my favs in recent years (for reasons which should seem readily apparent), Riddle was a true joy to watch while he manned the keystone for the 'Cats here in Lexington. He was often teamed with SS Matt Reida, and the two of them played the middle of the field together as if they had been doing so for years. As a pitcher with Western Hills HS, Riddle was dealing in the mid to upper-80's as a 16 year-old, but moved to IF with UK. He didn't set the world on fire with the Muckdogs, this year, but he certainly held his own as a 1st-year player. He's not a power-hitter at this point in his career, but his size and frame will allow for a great deal of growth and he could end up as a prototypically-sized third baseman with average power and above-average speed. He has smooth actions in the field and solid arm strength, and shows quick actions and a good transfer on throws. If he doesn't fill out, weight-wise, moving him back to second could be a smarter move for the Marlins. He likely would have a very small learning curve at second, while he'll essentially be learning on the job at the hot corner (where he played in 2013). From my point of view, ideally he adds another 15-20 pounds at most, retains his speed and moves back to 2nd base. He does have the tools to succeed at third, in the event he is there to stay.

Bats: L Throws: R
Ht: 6'0” Wt: 190
Born: July 9th, 1995 in Morning View, KY
School: Bishop Brossart HS (Alexandria, KY)
Drafted: Milwaukee Brewers in the 13th round, 2013 MLB Draft

2013 Season (AZL Brewers, Rookie Class, Arizona League):
30 games, 119 PA, 110 AB, 4 R, 21 H, 2 2B, 13 RBI, .191 BA

Norton already has ideal size for a catcher, at 6' (Perfect Game has him at 6'1”, and Prep Baseball Report has him at 6'2”) and a lean 200 pounds. His pop times are excellent, often below 1.9, and has a good approach at the plate. With time, Norton is likely to become a solid defensive catcher (at least), but is athletic enough to convert to a corner OF spot. Whether he has the bat for the outfield, however, is unclear. Perfect Game did have him ranked as the 8th-best player in KY, so that is something to consider. With players this young, it's often a matter of playing a very long waiting game. For that matter, catchers usually take longer than other players to develop. His arm and athleticism make him an intriguing prospect, so it will be interesting to see what he turns out to be.

Bats: R Throws: R
Ht: 6' Wt: 190
Born: August 26th, 1992 in Lexington, KY
School: University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY)
Drafted: San Diego Padres in the 6th round, 2013 MLB Draft

2013 Season (Eugene Emeralds, Low-A, Northwest League; Fort Wayne TinCaps, Class A, Midwest League):
2-2, 2.50 ERA, 27 games, 31 2/3 IP, 23 HA, 9 ER, 12 BB, 33 K

Gott jumped into the pro ranks feet-first, and had as strong of a debut as you could possibly expect. Spending a cursory 4 1/3 innings mowing down 8 batters in Eugene, he quickly moved on to the TinCaps in the Midwest League, where he averaged a strikeout per inning. It's not terribly often that a college pitcher can make such an impact on pro scouts exclusively as a closer, but Gott was easily one of the best college closers in the nation in 2013. He left UK holding both the single-season and career marks for saves, and his appearance in the game usually meant 'game over' for opposing hitters. His size and lack of projectability are common knocks on him with the scouts, but Gott was the anchor for a bullpen that made the 'Cats a perfect 40-0 when leading after 7 innings. There's no arguing with results, but the pro ranks are a very different animal. His first year out, however, could be a sign of things to come. Don't forget the name.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

In Other Words: A-Rod and 'The Legacy' - Part One

Rodriguez Takes His Case to the People – Keeps Mum in Hearings

"I know that I am in a position where I have to earn my trust back. And over time, I am confident that, at the end of my career, people will see this for what it is -- a stupid mistake and a lesson learned for a guy with a lot of baseball to play.” - Alex Rodriguez, during 2009 press conference where he admitted to using PEDs from 2001-03.

JAN 14th, 2014-Well, well, well.

Everyone's favorite Yankees third baseman is in the news, again. Shockingly, the current situation does not show him in a good light.

Let's take a look back at 2009, when Rodriguez found himself in a similar situation: A-Rod was dealing with the accusation (which he vehemently denied) that he had used PEDs during the 2001-03 seasons while a Texas Ranger. After a great many assertions from both the accused and the accusers, Rodriguez finally came clean (or, at least, as clean as he could be):

"As I discussed with Peter Gammons, in the years 2001, '02 and '03, I experimented with a banned substance that eventually triggered a positive test.”

As he put it initially in an admission that was rather late in coming, he 'experimented' with a banned substance. He doesn't just come out and say 'yes, I purposely used what I knew to be an illegal, banned substance', nor does he state what the aforementioned substance happened to be. More on that, later.

What he does say, however, is every bit as interesting:

"Going back to 2001, my cousin started telling me about a substance that you could purchased over the counter in the DR [Dominican Republic]. In the streets, it's known as 'boli' or 'bole.' It was his understanding that it would give me a dramatic energy boost and [was] otherwise harmless. My cousin and I, one more ignorant than the other, decided it was a good idea to start taking it. My cousin would administer it to me, but neither of us knew how to use it properly, providing just how ignorant we both were.”

In this part of the statement, it seems pretty obvious that he's trying to paint a picture of two naïve young men who were using a substance they didn't fully understand. I guess it's just hard for me to swallow; if I were a pro athlete making 25 mil a year (or more), I think I'd want to know every detail about every 'substance' that went into my body. But I guess that's just me.

Anyway, it almost seems like Rodriguez wants the public to believe that he might not have known just how serious was the situation in which he put himself. But then comes this gem:

It was pretty evident we didn't know what we were doing.”

To whom, exactly? Moving on:

"I stopped taking it for several reasons: In 2003, I had a serious neck injury and it scared me half to death. I was scared for my career and truly my career after baseball -- my life out of baseball. Secondly, after our voluntary test, all the players voted for a Major League Drug Policy. At that time it became evident to me how serious this all was (emphasis added) . And I decided to stop then. Since that time, I've been tested regularly. I've taken urine tests consistent with Major League Baseball and blood tests for the World Baseball Classic. Before walking in here today, I took a test as part of my physical, and I will take another blood test next week for the Classic.”

'At that time'”, he is quick to acknowledge, “'it became evident to me how serious this all was.”. So it was only then that you realized just how serious things had become?

He's asking us to believe that he was, essentially, led down this path by an outside influence. The blame lies somewhat more heavily on those who were involved in convincing him to take these substances, right?

And by the way, what was it that he took? Rodriguez says that the street name for the substance is 'boli'. T.J. Quinn of ESPN wrote an analysis of that statement on February 25th, 2009:

'If boli refers to Primobolan (a brand name for methenolone), it can't be purchased over the counter in the Dominican Republic (emphasis added). So how did they get it? The black market?'”

I think the emphasis is, in this particular statement, especially important. It seems to me that critics of PED use seem more often to focus on the potential benefit these drugs offer to the players who use them. The fact that obtaining said drugs without a prescription or by methods which don't involve being under a doctor's care is glossed over in favor of shining the spotlight on stats and records.

A transcript of A-Rods news conference was posted on on Feb 17th, 2009. Rodriguez gives a curious response to one question posed to him by the MLB reporter in which he was asked why he stopped using PEDs (supposedly) when he came to the Yankees in 2004:

'I keep going back to -- I entered the game when I was 18. For a lot of people, if I had a son I would definitely recommend going to college and having an opportunity to grow up. And I didn't. I felt like I said in my statement that after I had my neck injury and after I realized MLB was implementing tests that this was serious business. It was time to grow up. Since, I've realized that I didn't need any of it.'”

Ah, so now we have the reason A-Rod used PEDs: immaturity. In essence, he suggests that entering pro ball as a teenager somehow inhibited his ability to grow into a mature, responsible adult. I don't even know how to respond to that.

He goes on to blame his PED use on being 'young and stupid', which is a point I'm not even going to attempt to refute. He most definitely was, in some ways, young and stupid for being involved with what he himself tells us was something he didn't fully understand. He even says that he didn't KNOW that the substance in question was steroids:

"'I didn't think they were steroids at the time. Again, that's part of being young and stupid. It was over the counter...

OK, that's a lie. If it WAS Primobolan, then it most definitely was not over the counter. But I digress:

' was pretty basic and it was really amateur hour. It was two guys, we couldn't go outside, who couldn't ask anyone, didn't want to ask anyone. We went outside team doctors, team trainers. It was two guys doing a very amateur and immature thing. We probably didn't even take it right. Like I said in my statement, we used to do it about two times a month...'”

To me, this is a veiled attempt at suggesting that he shouldn't be held fully accountable because he was too ignorant to know how to take the drug that (again, I say) he readily admitted to not understanding fully. Moving further on:

'I don't even know if that is proper. So when this gentleman asked me about how it affected us -- I'm not sure we even did it right to affect us in the right way. All these years, I never thought I did anything that was wrong.'”

In other words, he wants us to believe that what he DID take, in the way he took it, wasn't enough to cast doubt upon his statistics. Are we kids, or what?

A-Rod wants us to believe that he was seeing the professional sports world through the eyes of a child; that he, as I said previously:
  1. Didn't know what he was taking
  2. Didn't know it was wrong, and
  3. Didn't even know if he was taking it properly
Does anyone else find this hilarious? I've been told that I have a quirky sense of humor, but I think it's a laugh riot.

I could go on and on with the farcical sideshow that was Alex Rodriguez in 2009, but I don't see the need. I mentioned all of these statements to set the groundwork for analyzing his most recent attempt at defending his naivete.

It gets even more hilarious from here.

(To Be Continued...)