Unfiltered MLB Anaysis. Mon, 26 Jun 2017 13:42:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Video: Peter on the career and legacy of David Ortiz Fri, 23 Jun 2017 23:41:10 +0000 Peter joins Jon Paul Morosi at Fenway Park to discuss David Ortiz’s special career with the Red Sox ahead of his number retirement…

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Video: Peter on struggling Tigers, D-Backs’ success, bullpen curiosity, and more Wed, 21 Jun 2017 15:13:35 +0000 Peter joins Christopher Russo on MLB Network’s High Heat to touch on some hot topics from around the Majors, starting with the Tigers’ poor performance this season…

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Peter Gammons: State of the MLB at the Summer Solstice Wed, 21 Jun 2017 14:26:45 +0000

The Summer Solstice arrived and the sun rose on Buzzard’s Bay on three remarkable facts:

–Two rookies named Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger led their leagues in home runs, 46 between them, and Bellinger didn’t make it to Los Angeles until April 25;

–The three best records and widest run differentials in the National League were the Rockies, Dodgers and Diamondbacks. Oh yes, and Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Bellinger are already being aligned for top 5 MVP notices;

–The Boston Red Sox are in first place, which on June 21 is like being one place in line ahead at a Starbucks.

The fact that Coors Field could turn into a summer opening pennant race game drawing 35,016 on a Monday night was remarkable, remarkable because the two great players, Arenado and Goldschmidt, took turns with game-changing hits, the Rockies’ revamped bullpen with Adam Ottavino and Greg Holland closed it and catcher Tony Wolters threw out the potential tying run at second base made the night—Joe West’s 5000th game—one of those times fans of the Diamondbacks and Rockies could sit back and think this could be 2007 all over again.

I’m not worried about the Dodgers making the playoffs because of their depth—is Chris Taylor Andrew Friedman’s best trade since Ben Zobrist?—their bullpen and the expectancy that Rich Hill and Julio Urias will be straightened out by September.

But these are four things I love about the Rockies and Diamondbacks making it to October:

–Bud Black and Torey Lovullo have impacted their teams more than any new managers in the game. Hey, these two teams’ position lineups are very good, in the Diamondbacks’ case exceptionally versatile. Black has exorcised the curse of Coors Field, Lovullo of the negativity that has seemingly followed the ‘Backs like a dust storm.

–They are second and third in the National League in runs. The Diamondbacks have a 3.66 earned run average in a home park some find more trying than Coors. They are second in the league in road ERA at 3.19, the Rockies third in road ERA at 3.39. They’re pitching.

–Black and his coaches Foster and Darren Holmes have taken their young, power staff and defied the traditional thought that curveballs and other breaking balls don’t work in the mile high air. As Baseball Prospectus’ Travis Sawchik wrote, the staff has been encouraged to use curveballs with 2 and 4 seam fastballs; all of their starters are throwing from 10 to 23 percent of the time, which in turns means they don’t have to pitch differently at home and on the road.

–The Diamondbacks, in the words of several opposing managers and coaches, have become “one of the most aggressive baserunning teams in the game,” adding hat the decline in base stealing in this home run era has tended to pitchers becoming more lax holding runners.

Analytics show that the ‘Backs are one of three top teams in Baserunning Runs in the majors. Goldschmidt, for instance, already has 21 steals, and as a team they are third in the league in steals, third in runs, 6th in OPS.

Baserunning coach Dave McKay began spring training with detailed emphasis on leads, turning bases with their right foot, direct line…and during the season not only does McKay meet with baserunners with the ideas from scouting and video, but goes from player to player with his iPad in the clubhouse to emphasize what they may be able to do. They prepare for baserunning the way teams traditionally prepare pitchers and hitters, and it’s working.

Which is why Wolters’ throw was so important last night.

If the National League West has supplanted the American League East as the game’s strongest division, the A.L. East has regained some of its swag with the fact that the Red Sox and Yankees have pulled up to the stoplight right next to one another. What is surprising is that while New Englanders moan at the DL time of Carson Smith and Tyler Thornburg (no one was more chagrined at the exile of Travis Shaw than this head, but it’s done and left a serious void in the Boston infield), what got the Red Sox into the passing lane the last month was the bullpen, as well as the fact that Chris Sale has so impacted an out-of-tune rotation that Boston is first in the American League in quality starts.

Simply put, the Red Sox have the best closer in the league, Craig Kimbrel, and John Farrell has done a remarkable job sometimes using him in 8th innings, as well as getting to him with Joe Kelly, with his 1.20 earned run average, and Matt Barnes, who has blossomed with three pitches and 11 strikeouts per 9 innings.

Kimbrel is ridiculously good. He has struck out 53.2% of the batters he’s faced. Consider this: in the previous decade, 2007-16, only one reliever struck out more than half the batters he faced—Kimbrel, 50.2%, in 2012. Can that continue? Can Brandon Workman (who recently was up to 96 MPH) or Jalen Beeks (with his newfound cutter) or Ben Taylor come up and help? If Gerrit Cole isn’t on the market, the starters’ trade deadline market may be vastly overrated, and the reliever mart may be like Ocean State Lot.

Boston’s bullpen earned run average is 2.84. Cleveland has the best, 2.56, the Dodgers are third at 3.04, the Yankees next at 3.20. The Indians and Red Sox are 1-2 in save percentage at 85.0 and 84.0.

Remember this: Kimbrel has been healthy all season. . Kimbrel has been there all season. The Yankees lost six straight—in which they were outscored by 8 runs—and Aroldis Chapman was disabled for most of them. The Yankees have blown 12 of 27 save opportunities, but once Chapman and Dellin Betances are lined up at the end, Adam Warren, Tyler Clippard and Chasen Shreve look a whole lot better getting to them.  

The Orioles have been without Zach Britton since April, but their starters have been dreadful. This is about lack of drafting and developing. They have one consistent starter in Dylan Bundy, who was drafted by Joe Jordan before he left to join the Phillies. All the starters not drafted by Jordan have a combined earned run average of 6.23. The Blue Jays have used 14 relievers and blown 11 save opportunities. Tampa Bay has blown 13.

As the Red Sox prepare to retire David Ortiz’s number this weekend, which should end the return speculation (hey, with what the man went through physically, he could be completely ready by Labor Day, so let’s enjoy the desert of a gourmet career), what their scouting and development did in bringing Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Andrew Benintendi to the big leagues should be re-celebrated. Managers watch Betts’ hit, defend, run the bases with uncanny instincts and insist that next to Mike Trout, he is the best all-around player in the league.

But Bogaerts’ hitting has gone vastly underrated. I’ve asked a number of retired and exceptional pitchers what it means to them that over the last three years Bogaerts has, by far, the most two strike hits in baseball. “It tells me this is that rare player who hits your best put-away pitch,” said Al Leiter.

Going into Tueaday’s game (6/20), these are the major league leaders for the 2015-17 seasons in two strike hits;

Bogaerts, BOS             217

Goldschmidt, ARZ     189

Betts, BOS                   183

Blackmon, COL          175

J.Abreu, CHX             174

The Red Sox have to figure out third base. The most logical is Jed Lowrie, $6.5M this year, $6M option, kills lefthanded pitching (.302/.377/.522/.899 this season vs, LHPs) and if Dustin Pedroia gets hurt, he can play second and fill at short. For further flexibility and because Christian Vazquez is clearly the 100-game-a-year defensive catcher for the foreseeable future, why not start allowing Blake Swihart to get out from behind the plate and use his remarkable athleticism play at first, third, and in the outfield; he could be a very useful player in the second half of the season when he’s over the bumps and bruises he’s played through behind the plate.

They have to get the expected from David Price and Rick Porcello, which is likely. They need to know what they can get from Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez, Brian Johnson, Brandon Workman, maybe Jalen Beeks.

And they need Pedroia playing. On Ortiz Week, it is meet and right to recall a story Jason Varitek told at a Hot Stove/Foundation to be Named Later luncheon in April:

“In 2007, early in the season, David hit a fly ball for an out and didn’t make it all the way down the line to first base,” said Varitek. “Now, remember, Pedey (Pedroia) was a rookie the year before. And as David came back to the dugout, Pedey got in his face and shouted ‘is it so tough to run down the line to first base?’

“A bunch of us were like, ‘uh oh.’

“David stopped, looked at him, then put his hand on Pedey’s shoulder and said, ‘you’re right.’ I think a bunch of us thought at that moment we were going to win it all.”

And they did, against the Colorado Rockies, who beat the Arizona Diamondbacks in the playoffs to get there, which no one on the Summer Solstice, 2007 imagined possible.

So as I look out at Buzzard’s Bay, all we really know on this day’s sunrise is that beginning Thursday the sun starts setting earlier and the voyage to October has meaningfully begun.

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Peter Gammons: Agents, scouts, prospects, changing trends, and the MLB Draft Fri, 16 Jun 2017 13:38:33 +0000

The Baseball Draft was changed in 2012 because the Commissioner’s Office felt that teams like the Red Sox could use their development revenues to sign players like Anthony Rizzo in later rounds for high round contracts. The idea was to restrict signing pools based on the previous year’s standings and allow losing teams better access to the best players, so, for instance, the 2007 Padres could have drafted Justin Verlander or Jered Weaver with the first pick instead of being saddled with Matt Bush.

After four years, in which teams were accused of tanking to get higher picks and, more important, higher allowed pools, the pools for the teams drafting highest were reduced. And the evolution will likely continue next year, when there will be punishments in place to teams whose general managers make promises to players for big money if they and their agents will tell teams they will only sign for what they can get from the promising teams. Or clubs that convince agents to hold out their players so other teams can’t see them.

That practice runs contrary to the spirit of the draft, and, as several general managers point out, this practice at its basest is restricted to two National League teams. Last season, the agent for New Jersey High School lefthanded pitcher Jason Groome had a deal for $6M if he could talk Groome down to the 24th pick. Boston took him at 12 despite threats from the agent, who told some members of the media he wouldn’t sign with the Red Sox. Of course, when the Yankees went to the Groome house for their predraft interview, one Yankee official said, “everything was Red Sox. They were his team.” Red Sox scout Ray Fagnant, who knew Groome well, caught all his bullpens coaching him on the East Coast Showcase and Area Code teams, and, that team that didn’t cater to the agent got the player.

The Commissioner has taken away players signed internationally when teams were judged to have acted illegally. The same may happen in the draft, more evolution.

What is interesting in a season in which we may be headed towards record run and home run numbers and there are only 13 starting pitchers with earned run averages under 3.00, only one college starter (Vanderbilt’s Kyle Wright) was taken in the first 14 selections. Multi-skilled high school kids like Royce Lewis, taken at the top by the Twins, pure college hitters like Brendan McKay and Virginia’s Pavin Smith, went in the first seven. But several general managers noted that the rarest commodity coming out of college is righthanded power.

Hence University of California Riverside DH Keston Hiura, considered the best bat in the country, went ninth to Milwaukee in the National League despite not playing an inning in the field and widely believed headed to Tommy John Surgery, Missouri State third baseman Jake Burger, the other righthanded power bat, went 11th to the White Sox. “Hiura never would have lasted past 15 despite the fact he had a 30 arm at the Perfect Game Showcase as a high school senior,” says one scouting director. “He almost went in the top five. Burger went right where we All thought, and there is a wide range of opinions about where he’ll play.”

We get it. We read the Tommy John Surgery transactions. We see the number of pitchers on the Disabled List.

Some of us saw Mark Prior pitch for Team USA in 2000, and I remember a scout saying to me, “remember this when he gets inducted in Cooperstown.” The next spring, the Twins had the first pick, and weeks before the draft Terry Ryan admitted he was probably going to get local icon Joe Mauer “because he’s that good.” It was written that it was about money, but Ryan privately said, “it’s not about the money, it’s not about Mark Prior, it’s about Joe Mauer.” Terry Ryan never lied.

And Prior lasted five major league seasons and won 44 games. He kept trying to come back because he loved the game, earning the highest of praise from Red Sox Gulf Coast League manager George Lombard, but it never came back and Prior now works with the Padres, distinguished, intelligent and without bitterness.

A decade ago, David Price was the first pick in the country out of Vanderbilt. A year later he helped beat the Red Sox and get the Rays to the World Series. He now has 122 major league victories, and someday he likely will have won more games than any pitcher taken first in the nation. The current record holder? Mike Moore, 161-177. Second? Floyd Bannister, 134 wins.

The Red Sox, who this season have four starts and two wins from pitchers they drafted and signed, are prime examples. If Hiura had dropped to their 24th pick, he’d be in the Boston organization. The same holds for Burger. But when each was gone, scouting director Mike Rikard adjusted and went back to the board they’d worked so diligently to prioritize, as they had in 2015 when, with the seventh pick, they had Andrew Benintendi (like the Cubs and Royals) number one on their board, as they had in 2016 when Groome was their top player in the entire draft.

They need pitching, and they know it. They had to spend $213M for a Cy Young Award winner in David Price. They spent $80M for another Cy Young Award winner in Rick Porcello. They traded four kids, including two of the top prospects on the Baseball America list for Chris Sale. None of those moves could be second-guessed; they hadn’t developed an all-star pitcher since Clay Buchholz. They also traded a highly-rated prospect pitcher in Anderson Espinoza to get Drew Pomeranz.

Yet they, like so many other teams, believe the position players are better gambles. Take the Astros—they took Mark Appel and Brady Aiken in consecutive years with the first pick in the country. They see what the Cubs did—using their picks at the top of drafts on positional players (Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber) and looked for pitching in later rounds, trades, or the free agent market and minor league deals (Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta). Corey Kluber was a minor league deal. So was Robby Ray.

OK, it’s easy to point out that Goldschmidt was an eighth round pick and that he’s one of the true superstars in the game. “I don’t think Goldschmidt would last to the eighth round today,” says Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen.

What’s different about Boston’s current approach to pitchers is that they look for stuff, performance and hitability rather than classic deliveries. “I think we tried to find perfect deliveries too long,” says Rikard. “Maybe they were easy to pick up. Maybe they were too true. It’s something we discussed for a long time prior to the last couple of years.”

Indeed, Max Scherzer was traded because Arizona feared he’d blow out with a delivery that was, at the least, something in-between unorthodox and a toboggan run. In 2014, he actually manipulated my arm to recreate his delivery to prove he didn’t have strain. He does have Washington media folks discussing his Hall of Fame credentials.

Clayton Kershaw is unorthodox,” says Rikard. Indeed, and Kershaw and Rich Hill did an MLB Network interview this spring where they discussed how deliveries can be an extra pitch, and how deception is vital.

“Kluber has some parts of his delivery that scared people,” and he’s great,” says Rikard. “Madison Bumgarner was supposed to be too far across his body. There are a lot of examples.”

There were no questions in Boston’s minds on Groome, his delivery, his athleticism. This week, they took Missouri’s Tanner Houck in the first round. His delivery is across his body, but is, as Rikard values, “very good athleticism, he is in the high 90’s, and we think he is going to be a starter because he has the making of a good curveball and change. What’s also important is that he’s been one of the very best pitchers for three years in the best conference in the country. That stands for something. He’s strong, he’s got power stuff. And if he does end up a reliever, we all see the game has changed.”

Indeed, power pitchers who can go 2-3-4 innings two or three times a week are far more valued than they were 30 years ago. Two of the most interesting first round pitching picks—North Carolina’s J.B. Buskauskus (with a Chris Archer slider) was taken by the Astros at 15, and at 29 the Cubs took lefthander Brendon Little from Manitee Junior College with the hope that the changeup his college coach Don Robinson has taught him will develop to go with his fastball (98 MPH on the Cape) and what one scouting director calls “the best curveball in the draft.”

As the Red Sox bullpen has developed (one run in more than 25 innings recently) with Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly continuing their transition from starting with 96-102 MPH stuff and they work to develop relievers like Ben Taylor and Jamie Callahan, they hope their recent drafts are beginning to edge potential starters towards the major leagues, with Groome and Houck lining up for Lowell (where Groome starts Monday). Lefthander Jalen Beeks, 23, is now in Pawtucket. Travis Lakins, 22, was a sophomore-eligible draft in 2015 from Ohio State who has ridden a 98 mile per hour fastball and breaking ball to Portland. Both Shaun Anderson, a University of Florida closer transitioning to starting, and Mike Shawaryn, out of the University of Maryland, has become an arm to watch. Nick Duran, off injuries, is a big arm in Lowell.

And after taking Oregon State starter Jake Thompson, second in the Pac 12 in ERA, they took a kid out of Texas one scouting director calls “a monster”—Alex Scheff. He was supposedly headed to Texas A&M, wants to get started in pro ball, throws in the mid-90’s with a developed changeup and Rikard sees his velocity “and pitchability having great potential. He was a very big draft and sign for us.”

Gone are names like Kopech and Espinoza and Logan Allen, and now the road to finally finding starting pitchers who don’t cost hundreds of millions or their best prospects has begun with Groome and Houck, Lakins and Shawaryn and Bryan Mata and Scherff.

There are still changes that have to be made to the draft, and another list of names will be revealed when the July 2 International signings are announced. But anyone who loves baseball loves the draft, like the farmer who loves what he does, from the roots to the blossoms.

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Videos: Peter Gammons and all things MLB Draft Tue, 13 Jun 2017 14:26:58 +0000 Peter on the Chicago Cubs selecting Brendon Little with the 27th overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft]]> Peter Gammons joins MLB Central on MLB Network to discuss some of the top names in the draft…

Peter discusses the high upside for shortstop Logan Warmoth, comparing him to J.J. Hardy of the Baltimore Orioles

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Newberg: The curious case of Heterochromia Iridum V. Bibens-Dirkx. Mon, 12 Jun 2017 16:49:43 +0000

They were both chosen out of college in the 2006 draft, and that’s basically where the parallels end, unless you note the fact that each has pitched in the independent leagues and one has as many last names as the other has eye colors.

Only Max Scherzer went 11th overall in that draft, and Austin Bibens-Dirkx went 471st.

And Scherzer pitched briefly for the Fort Worth Cats while Scott Boras was trying to (and succeeding in) landing him a bigger signing bonus from the Diamondbacks, while Bibens-Dirkx landed with the indie Victoria Seals of the Golden Baseball League in 2009, just trying to get back into Class A ball, and with the indie Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League in 2016, just trying at age 31 to stave off the end of his minor league career.

And as for surnames and iris inequality, well, yeah.

Stack up every starting pitcher in the big leagues.  Every single one of them, from those who’ve started over 500 games (Bartolo Colon) to those who debuted this weekend (Sean Newcomb).  Make a list.  Ignore salary, and start with the most valuable and dependable, and end with the least.  Order them from those whose stock is highest to those who hardly have stock.

Is Austin Bibens-Dirkx (two big league starts) as close the bottom of that list as Max Scherzer (two thousand five big league strikeouts) is to the top?

Twenty-four hours ago, that is.

Scherzer was really good Sunday afternoon, pitching into the eighth as his Nationals tried to avoid getting swept at home by the underachieving Rangers, limiting Texas to three hits and a walk while getting 10 of his 22 outs on strikes.

But his record fell to 7-4, and Bibens-Dirkx’s improved to 2-0.

A veteran of one (4.2-inning) big league start, plus 140 others in the minor leagues, and 63 others in Venezuela and the Dominican, and 18 others in independent ball, Bibens-Dirkx saw his second pitch of Sunday’s game deposited in the seats by Brian Goodwin and his third pitch singled to right by Bryce Harper.

In the seventh inning, before Matt Wieters rolled out to first, Anthony Rendon singled off Bibens-Dirkx, and Adam Lind walked.

In between those two pairs of back-to-back baserunners, Bibens-Dirkx got everyone else out.


Nineteen in a row, to be exact, a Rangers rookie record.

Yu Darvish was once a Rangers rookie.

The Rangers had hoped to make Scherzer a Ranger in 2006, when he was chosen by Arizona with the pick immediately before theirs (which they used on Kasey Kiker).  There’s no documented evidence that Bibens-Dirkx, taken by the Mariners in Round 16, was anywhere on Texas’s radar.

But Rangers Assistant GM Josh Boyd was the Padres’ area scout for the Pacific Northwest that year, when Bibens-Dirkx pitched for the University of Portland, and Boyd had a book on him.

Longtime scout Phil Geisler, a University of Portland product himself, signed Bibens-Dirkx for the Mariners in 2006, and would later scout for four years with the Rangers.

Rangers Pro Scouting Assistant Mike Parnell pinpointed Bibens-Dirkx as a potential target when he was making 2016 starts for the Barnstormers.

When a need by attrition arose halfway into the AAA Round Rock season last year, Rangers Assistant GM Mike Daly and Assistant Director of Player Development Paul Kruger, having investigated the makeup, targeted and signed Bibens-Dirkx.

Special Assistant to the GM Scot Engler and Minor League Pitching Coordinator Danny Clark believed Bibens-Dirkx, whose name I’m typing in each of these sentences to build some muscle memory on the spelling, offered more than your standard-issue organizational soldier and pushed to bring him back in 2017.

He beat Max Scherzer on Sunday.

In the big leagues.

To be fair, what he actually did was prevent more of Scherzer’s teammates from scoring than Scherzer (and entrustee relievers Oliver Perez and Blake Treinen) managed to do with Bibens-Dirkx’s teammates, though he did get Scherzer to line out to right and hit a groundout comebacker in a couple faceoffs (and looked at two of Scherzer’s 10 third strikes himself).

But he won, and Scherzer lost.

Scherzer, he of the Scott Boras holdout and the Diamondbacks and the Tigers and the Nationals and about $240 million guaranteed, so far.

Bibens-Dirkx, he of the Short-Season A Everett AquaSox, AAA Tacoma Rainiers, Low A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, High A High Desert Mavericks, a shoulder surgery, High Desert again, Rookie-Level Arizona League Mariners, independent Victoria Seals (in that club’s inaugural season), Low A Peoria Chiefs, AA Tennessee Smokies, AAA Iowa Cubs, Venezuelan Winter League Aguilas del Zulia, Iowa and Tennessee and Zulia again, AAA Syracuse Chiefs, AA Harrisburg Senators, AAA Colorado Springs Sky Sox, Zulia again, AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats, High A Dunedin Blue Jays, Zulia again, New Hampshire again, AAA Buffalo Bisons, Dominican Winter League Toros del Este, Buffalo and New Hampshire again, Venezuelan Winter League Tigres de Aragua, independent Lancaster Barnstormers (a team on which his manager, 64-year-old Butch Hobson, got one at-bat), AAA Round Rock Express, Aragua again, Round Rock again, and, after, 11 years and 31 stops with 20 different clubs in eight different organizations (including two independent league franchises) and baseball in four different countries, and a locker with his name on it, carefully spelled, in a big league ballpark.

Eleven days after his first big league start, in which he took a no-decision against Rays ace Chris Archer over 4.2 innings, which matched in duration a scoreless relief outing he’d posted in Detroit 11 days earlier, Bibens-Dirkx drew Nationals ace Scherzer as his mound opponent, and according to Evan Grant (Dallas Morning News), a conversation he had his with his wife when he learned on Saturday that he’d get the ball on Sunday went something like this:

Austin: “Oh, I have to face Max Scherzer.”

Leah: “No, you get to face Max Scherzer.  And he gets to face you.  You’ve earned the privilege to be a big leaguer.  You don’t have to face anybody.”


The Draft is tonight.

At least the portion that includes the round in which Max Scherzer was chosen, and the round after that.

The Draft continues tomorrow.

The Draft concludes on Wednesday.

Including the round in which Austin Bibens-Dirkx — winning pitcher for the Texas Rangers on Sunday with a repertoire featuring more pitch types than hits allowed, and nearly as many arm slots, but only one ocular pigmentation, helping complete a sweep of the first-place opponent he got to face at 1500 South Capitol Street — was chosen, 460 selections after Scherzer, and eight professional baseball employers and thousand recalibrations of the dream ago, a dream that was punctuated Sunday for a man known perpetually for punctuation of a totally different kind.


This contribution was provided by Jamey Newberg of The Newberg Report. You can follow Jamey on twitter @NewbergReport

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Peter Gammons: With respect to 1st rounders, winning takes a much wider collective Fri, 09 Jun 2017 17:32:08 +0000

We understand the importance of Monday’s draft. Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant, Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw, Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Aaron Judge, C.C. Sabathia, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Paul Goldschmidt, Max Scherzer, Nolan Arenado, Buster Posey, Andrew McCutchen, Madison Bumgarner  and Corey Seager were draft choices who altered their franchises.

Miguel Sano is changing the Twins, as Miguel Cabrera changed the Marlins and who eventually changed the Tigers. They were classic examples of great International scouting.

Corey Kluber won a Cy Young Award, and was obtained by the Indians as a minor leaguer in a three way deal. Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks were found under minor league rocks. Yu Darvish was signed out of Japan. Felix Hernandez was a teenager signed out of Venezuela.

“Building a championship team is based around scouts and everyone in the organization working together on the draft, on major and minor league professional scouting, in the international world,” says Chris Antonetti, the Indians President who has long been at the center of one of the game’s most successful scouting and development.

Granted, the Indians haven’t won a world championship since 1948, and, granted, their market since the Browns and Cavaliers have moved into the city has been in the bottom five. But they have worked tirelessly, knowing they cannot compete with the high revenue teams for free agents or in the international market, and that while Major League Baseball has tried to level the economic playing field, small markets do not have the access to elite talent the way markets in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Boston or San Francisco do.

Cleveland has drafted well, particularly the last five years. Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis, Bradley Zimmer and Cody Allen were linchpins on a team that was within an out of the World Series title, while having Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield out of the draft enabled them to trade for two years of Andrew Miller when Mike Chernoff and Antonetti decided what Dayton Moore did in Kansas City the previous season—that now has arrived.

They have been limited internationally, although they have signed Danny Salazar and have a potential superstar catcher on the way in Francisco Mejia.

But what Antonetti refers to as “collective effort” has enabled them to find jems like Kluber in other organizations. Carlos Carrasco came in the Cliff Lee trade, Michael Brantley for C.C. Sabathia, both acquisitions were far more significant than a draft choice. They got Mike Clevinger from the Angels for Vinnie Pestano. They got Yan Gomes from Toronto. Carlos Santana for Casey Blake. They got Bryan Shaw with Trevor Bauer in a three-way deal. Zach Mcallister for Austin Kearns.

The Now is here, and they can take the free agent shot at Edwin Encarnacion because of all the work unearthing the Klubers, and never being accused of tanking.

On the other hand, the Astros and Cubs were linked to tanking for two or three years. Now, did it make sense to clear payroll and get draft choices? Of course. It’s true in almost every sport. But the simplistic notion that they were intentionally losing to get higher picks and, under the original system that began in 2012, extra pool cash allotments would not have been enough to make one the reigning world champions and the other the team with the best record in the major leagues.

The Draft is important, especially when a team gets to pick in the top 10. Where major league all star players—in this case those who played in last year’s game in San Diego—come from begins with the first round, the Bryce Harpers and Stephen Strasburgs. To repeat from last week:


To get a feel where All Star Talent comes from, go back to those who played in last July’s game in San Diego, then checked from whence they entered professional baseball.


ROUND 1/SANDWICH                  (19)

ROUND 2                                        (4)

ROUND  3                                       (3)

ROUNDS 4-6                                  (6)

ROUNDS 7-10                                (4)

ROUNDS 11-on                              (4)


One can see the importance of the international signings and understand why Commissioner Rob Manfred wants an international draft for more small and mid-market access to the best talent, as well as a bridle on the corruption that plays so heavily in the international market.

But to credit having the second, fourth and sixth picks in consecutive drafts are not the reason the Cubs won. When they had a two, they got it right with Kris Bryant. When they had number four, they got it right with Kyle Schwarber. With number six, Albert Almora.

Internationally, they got a star in Wilson Contreras, a tool star in Jorge Soler who got them Wade Davis, third baseman Jeimer Candelario—who may be a chip this trading season—and another potential star in outfielder Eloy Jimenez.

Then look at their professional scouting. They got Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, Carl Edwards, Jr. and Pedro Strop whose organizations didn’t see them as major league contributors. They got Hector Rondon in the Rule V draft. They got it right when they were trading for Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell.

And when they got close and decided now was nigh, they went into the free agent market for Jon Lester, John Lackey, Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, Koji Uehara and Dexter Fowler. Lester, Lackey and Zobrist have eight world series rings between them, not to mention the contributions of David Ross, two rings.

Then look at the Astros. Granted, the draft has been important, but remember this:George Springer, Jose Altuve and Dallas Keuchel were the previous regime with scouting director Bobby Heck, and in Jeff Luhnow’s first draft, when Mark Appel said he would not sign, Heck did the top, insisted on Carlos Correa, got him at a good price and thus was able to get Lance McCullers.

The next two first picks in the draft didn’t exactly work out. Appel never settled in, and in parts of five seasons, now in the Phillies organization, has a 5.04 career earned run average. They had the first pick for a third straight year in 2014, selected Brady Aiken, and because he needed elbow surgery didn’t sign. Which enabled them to get Alex Bregman in 2015 with the second pick, now an important part of their lineup.

But the Astros have done extraordinarily well in the pro scouting market finding undervalued talent. They got Chris Devenski, one of the most valuable pitchers in the American League, from the White Sox for Brett Myers. They got Will Harris with a waiver claim. They stole Francis Martes and David Paulino as throw-ins from the Marlins and Tigers because a young scout named Alex Jacobs doggedly roamed the back fields during Extended Spring and recommended them before they got to a full season league. They grabbed Marwin Gonzalez from the Red Sox on waivers. They identified Jake Marisnick and Joe Musgrove when they were in the Toronto organization.

And at the end of last season, when they knew their Now had come, Luhnow listened to A.J. Hinch, got Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Josh Reddick for maturity and leadership, and each has been a big part of the ongoing development.

Now, all the talent from the draft and the Extended Spring back fields will enable them to put together a package got a veteran starting pitcher they need in the post-season.

The Cubs, Indians and Astros are testament to the fact that good organizations have to hit in the draft, they have to scour opposing organizations for misplaced or undervalued talent, know for whom to trade and what free agents make the most sense. It takes a Jason McLeod to see Anthony Rizzo at the age of 18, say “he may have the best makeup of anyone I’ve ever signed,” go to San Diego and then Chicago with Jed Hoyer and trade for him twice; yeah, Andrew Cashner lights up radar guns, but Cashner for Rizzo was a franchise-changing trade because McLeod, Hoyer and Theo Epstein understood the makeup element.

To see how every department works, check the 2011-2016 world champion teams, plus the 2016 American League champion:

Pro Scouting /Amateur Scouting/ Int.Scouting 

(with Notable Examples)


2011 St. Louis             14 / 10 /  1

Draft: Molina, Lynn, Pujols, Craig

Trades: Holiday, Frees

Int’l: Salas

Free Agent: Carpenter, Berkman


2012 San Fransisco    16 / 7 / 2

Draft: Posey, Bumgarner, Cain, Lincecum, Crawfiord, Belt.

Trade: Pence

Int’l: Sandoval

Free Agent: Zito, Affeldt


2013 Boston               15 / 8 / 2

Draft: Ellsbury, Pedroia, Lester, Buchholz  

Int’l: Uehara, Tazawa, Bogaerts

Free Agents: Ortiz, Napoli, Lackey, Gomes, Victorino


2014 San Fransisco    14 / 9 / 2

Draft: Posey, Bumgarner, Crawford, Belt, Duffy, Panik

Trade: Pence

Int’l: Sandoval

Free Agent: Affeldt, Hudson


2015 Kansas City         14 / 7 / 4

Draft: Hosmer, Duffy, Moustakas, Gordon

Trades: Cueto, Zobrist, Davis, Cain

Int’l: Perez, Ventura, Herrera

Free Agent: Morales


2016 Chicago              19 / 4 / 2

Draft: Bryant, Baez, Schwarber;

Trade: Arrieta, Hendricks, Chapman, Rizzo, Russell.

In’t: Soler

Free Agents: Lester, Lackey, Heyward, Fowler


2016 Cleveland           15 / 8 / 2

Draft: Lindor, Kipnis

Trade: Kluber

Int’l: Salazar

Brendan McKay will be a Twin or Red or Ray Monday night, and eventually make his team a winner. But it won’t be McKay or Hunter Greene or Austin Beck alone; Mike Trout and Harper are generational players who have yet to experience a World Series.

Winning is about depth of talent, makeup and leadership. How all that gets put together is an exceedingly complex process that may begin with the first round of the draft, but cannot be executed without the eyes and the minds and the vision of those who run the business.

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Video: Peter on Astros pitching, David Price, Marlins, and more Fri, 09 Jun 2017 14:14:14 +0000 Peter joins Christopher Russo on High Heat to discuss the Astros seeking pitching, David Price and the Boston Media, potential Marlins sell off and more…

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Video: Peter joins the Rich Eisen Show Wed, 07 Jun 2017 14:12:45 +0000 Peter Gammons joins the Rich Eisen Show to clear up some Bryce Harper rumors, Cubs Comments, and talk Albert Pujols and Aaron Judge…

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Peter Gammons: The winding the road for a superhuman draft pick Mon, 05 Jun 2017 14:33:53 +0000

In Chicago Saturday, there was a relieved cheer that echoed from Wrigley to The Gold Coast when Kyle Schwarber hit his grand slam to beat the Cardinals. There was the same sense across New England when Andrew Benintendi, who’d broken an 0-for-19 slump Saturday, went yard against Chris Tillman in Baltimore.

Schwarber and Benintendi will move on, and up. But they are examples for the best of the college hitters whose names will be read next Monday night in the first round of the MLB draft, as well as the teams that select them, that the jump from college to The Show is more complex than at first it looks, when in those first looks they are getting fastballs and have yet to build a video resume that have been studied and broken down by the scouting preparation process that fans seldom ever get to see.

Louisville first baseman-pitcher Brendan McKay could be picked as a pitcher, he could be picked as a first baseman, but while he’s been comped to John Olerud (who was 15-0 as a pitcher at Washington State and was a premier hitter before suffering an aneurysm then went right to the Toronto in his first pro season), it’s a long way from the ACC to the majors. Virginia first baseman Pavin Smith and outfielder Adam Haseley have extraordinary plate discipline and have had more walks and extra base hits than strikeouts. Keston Hiura of the Cal-Irvine Anteaters may be the best hitter in college baseball despite an elbow issue that has limited him to DH. Kentucky’s Evan White is an athletic first baseman/outfielder with an underrated hit tool. North Carolina shortstop Logan Warmoth and center fielder Brian Miller have major league defensive skills and improved dramatically every season in the ACC and the Cape Cod League, but are not going to be their comps (in their cases, J.J. Hardy and Brett Gardner) at this time next year.

Start with the two best college bats out of the 2014 draft. Schwarber was the fourth pitck. The next summer, in his first full season, he was with the Cubs, hitting 16 homers and putting up an .842 OPS, and after hurting his knee last spring, returned for the post-season, hit .367 and hit five homers. Saturday, before the homer, he was hitting under .170 and talk radio was pleading for an Iowa vacation.

Michael Conforto was the 10th pick in that 2014 draft. Like Schwarber, he was up with the Mets, played in the world series, put up an .841 OPS in that rookie season, then in 2016 went back to the minors with a .220 average and .310 OBP. This weekend, the OPS was 1.024.

“It’s all part of the process,” Joe Maddon said while discussing Schwarber Friday. Which raised the question: could it be that talented young players like Schwarber, Conforto and Benintendi may need the 1000 at-bats while riding the buses that so many needed? “Maybe so,” said Maddon. “There’s a lot to be said by enduring those minor league experiences.”

Joe then recalled a bus trip from Medicine Hat to Boise when they got to the U.S. Border at 3 am, but there was no one to be able at Customs to clear the five Latin players on the bus, so they had to sleep at the customs office until the proper officer got to work. Schwarber, Alex Bregman and Benintendi were too good and had too much big-time college experience to endure that.

A very wise man named Eddie Kasko used to say “unless you’re a superman, if the first time a young player struggles, even if he’s good, if it’s in the major leagues you may lose him for while.” Indeed, Al Kaline was a superman; at 20, he led the American League in hitting. Tony Conigliaro led the league in homers at 20. Carlos Correa, Corey Seager and Francisco Lindor seem superhuman.

But Dansby Swanson, Bregman, Benintendi and Ian Happ were in the top nine picks in 2015. The first three were in the majors in their first full professional seasons, Happ in his second. And they’ve battled the development.

–Swanson hit .302 with an .803 OPS with the Braves when he came up last season. Going into Sunday, he was hitting .194. He’s good. He’s going to be appearing in an All Star Game. He has yet to rediscover what made him so great at Vanderbilt.

–Bregman likely will be a hitting machine. Right now, hitting .254 with a .728 OPS is simply a checkpoint on his trip.

–Benintendi was singled out by the Indians as the most difficult Red Sox hitter to game-plan in the playoffs, got off to a big start in 2017, then had 0-for-26 and 0-for-19 skeins in a drizzle of off-speed pitches. Two home runs at Camden Yards Sunday may have redirected him.

–Happ had two homers and went 4-for-13 in his first three games. He then went 1-for-5 with no homers, and was 4-for-32 when he came up Sunday night. And belted two homers.

Cardinals hitting coaches John Mabry and former batting champion Bill Mueller watched them Friday. “There’s more teaching needed at the major league level than ever before,” said Mueller. “Every day is a teaching experience.”

So when Hiura and White, Smith and Haseley and Warmoth and Miller hear their names picked next Monday, people have to remember how winding the roads have been for Schwarber and Conforto, Benintendi and Bregman and Swanson. Their talent is unquestioned. One opposing coach told me “Haseley has some of the greatest takes I’ve ever seen in college baseball.”

Someday we’ll look back at when we saw .166 flash on the scoreboard next to Schwarber’s name, or when there’s a .194 next to Swanson, and laugh. Hey, Mike Schmidt was an All-American at Ohio University, at the age of 23 batted .196 for the Phillies, and went on to become one of the greatest third baseman that ever lived.

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