Gammons Notes: New generation of young shortstops, Dodgers, Pirates and more

corey seager

“A few years ago,” says one scouting director, “we were wondering if we’d ever see young shortstops coming to the major leagues from this country. Now we look around and see the game loaded with potential impact star shortstops. And look at the draft. There might be six college shortstops taken in the first 50 picks.”

Indeed, one of the storylines of spring training has been this generation of multi-dimensional young shortstops. Anyone and everyone who passes by the Dodgers is drawn to 20-year-old Corey Seager, 6-4, 220, with the John Olerud swing, great hands and exchange and big arm on defense and what players, coaches and the manager describe as “a unique internal clock.”

And with Jimmy Rollins clearly the heartbeat of this renovated Dodger team, Seager is going to triple-A for a year. “There’s no doubt in my mind he can stay at short,” says Don Mattingly.

The minor leagues will also be the immediate destination of 21-year-old Addison Russell of the Cubs, although that could be a half-season thing. The Cubs got Russell last season from Oakland in the Jeff Samardzija deal, and this spring he has been eye-opening. “His junior year in high school he was being compared to Juan Uribe because of his body,” says one scout. “We came back for his senior year and the comps suddenly were to Barry Larkin.” And still are. “I asked his mother what he did,” says a scouting director. “She replied, ‘cut out McDonald’s.”

Houston’s 20-year-old Carlos Correa will be back this season, as well. One pro scouting director calls Correa “A Rod with authenticity,” perhaps an unfair shot at Rodriguez, but at 6-4, 210, one gets the image.

The Royals have a young team and a loaded system, but they watch 19-year-old Raul Mondesi this spring, call him the best they have, and could start him in double-A. The 6-1, 165 pounder needs to grow. He needs to learn the strike zone. “But one can tell being around him that he grew up in a major league clubhouse with his dad,” says Dayton Moore.

And Xander Bogaerts is 22 and making advanced progress both defensively and offensively.

That group does not yet include Oakland’s Marcus Semien, who also came in the Samardzija deal and has looked really good this spring. And Trea Turner, who will be handed over from the Padres to Nationals. Willy Adames with Tampa. Franklin Barreto with Oakland. J.P. Crawford with Philadelphia. Deven Marrero with Boston.

Then turn to the draft. Vanderbilt’s Dansby Swanson is almost certainly a top ten pick, although Houston likely would move him back to second. LSU’s Alex Bregman will be in the first half of the first round, and Florida’s Richie Martin and Arizona’s Kevin Newman among the half-dozen college shortstops in the first 50 picks.

Hanley Ramirez’s outfield workout last summer

Mattingly says he worked Hanley Ramirez out in the outfield last summer and “he really looked good. He could go get the ball in center, he was very good in left. I wanted him to think about moving off shortstop to the outfield, but at the time he didn’t want to do it. I think he just wasn’t ready to give up short. But now that he is ready, I think he’ll be a very good outfielder. And he can really hit. No question about that. Not making the quick, short moves at shortstop will help him stay healthy.”

Kapler’s organic initiative with Dodgers

The dining facility in the Dodger complex is fascinating. It is created and overseen by farm director Gabe Kapler. All organic. Lots of quinoas and kale and fruit and vegetables, even “bulletproof coffee,” which is organic coffee with a teaspoon of coconut oil and butter mixed in a blender to reduce acidity and some extra jolt.

Kapler refers to the development system he and Nick Francona oversee as “human development.”

This is a long way from the old visiting clubhouse at Tiger Stadium, where the postgame spread every day consisted of pizza and potato chips.

Pirates’ new-found major league depth

By now, the Pittsburgh organization is one of the most respected in the game. But their willingness to overturn boulders to find major league depth is remarkable.

Korean shortstop Jung-ho Kang has looked like a legitimate power addition, for any way Clint Hurdle chooses to employ him. Then there’s righthanded pitcher Radhames Liz. He will be 32 in June. He had a 7.50 ERA in parts of three seasons with the Orioles, pitched three full years in Korea—where he was 25-38—and came back to make 12 starts in Buffalo last season.

Liz went to the Dominican, where he pitched for Pirates triple-A manager Dave Treanor, who recommended him to Neal Huntington. The Bucs sent several evaluators to watch him, signed him, and one club executive says, “he looks like someone who can make a major contribution. The Pirates did great work.”

Chin-hui Tsao returns with the Dodgers

Speaking of mysterious returns, there is Chin-hui Tsao with the Dodgers. There was a time more than a decade ago when he was one of Baseball America’s best prospects with Colorado. In 2003, he earned a recall by the Rockies after going 11-4, 2.46 with 125 strikeouts in 113 1/3 innings in double-A, but had arm problems, returned home to Taiwan, got involved in some gambling scandal and stopped pitching. And now he’s back in Glendale, Arizona, throwing in the 90’s. “He’s very interesting,” says one Dodger official.

Cubs’ young pieces

Add Jorge Soler to the official roster of Cuban beasts. The late Jim Fregosi scouted Soler for the Braves and called him “one of the best hitters I’ve seen in the last 25 years.” Theo Epstein says, “his hit tool is underrated.” In one game this week, he took a touch pitch down and away into right for a base hit, then got his hands in and drove a bomb to left on an inside fastball.

Now there’s an increasing feeling that last year’s number one pick, Kyle Schwarber, can stay behind the plate and catch. Speaking of beasts who can mash.

Obviously the Kris Bryant “controversy” is hyperbole. If the Cubs take this talent to build a team that sustains success, having Kris Bryant for seven years, not six, is an issue that the Cubs would be insane—which they are not—to insure rather than bow to silly tantrums. Scott Boras has a job. He wants Bryant on the market after six years at the age of 28, for Bryant and the fees. The Cubs aren’t going to trade the smiley faces of his being in the opening day lineup and two weeks of this season for a full season at his prime age of 29.

That’s just the way it is. Ask the Marlins. Jose Fernandez was put on the opening day roster in 2013 because it seemed like a great thing for fans. For one start—which is what he made in the time he could have been in the minors—he will be a free agent after six years, not seven, in his prime.

Boras has a job, and with Bryant and Fernandez, part of that job is not to do long-term deals before hitting the market. Marcell Ozuna is a Boras client, so he’s not doing a Christian Yelich deal.

Comments

  1. Kelley Toben says:

    Hello Peter. I have been reading some old Q & A’s from 2001. Do you still believe range factor can be disregarded? Andrelton Simmons shows unbelievable range which clearly saves runs. I view him as being a much better defensive shortstop than Jeter was in his prime mainly because of the range differential. What is your stance on this topic 14 years later?

  2. Ketel Marte?

  3. Alan Bard says:

    Your old comrade Dan “Shank”Shauhgnessy has gone record as saying he wont vote for Curt Schilling for the HOF because he voted for Trump. What does this have to do with baseball. I think his voting (for the HOF) should be suspended. What is your take on this?