Peter Gammons: Midway check-in from Miami to Cambridge, Columbia SC, and the Cape

The season reaches its midway point this weekend, with the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Brewers and Nationals in line for the National League playoff positions, the Red Sox, Indians, Astros, Yankees and Twins out front, the Rays and Angels a game back of the wild card.

With the All Star Game on the immediate horizon, this is a time when people begin using their telescopes to see where they may be in the last two months, with attention on juiced baseballs, Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger, Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel diverted.

We look for the immediate results of the draft, hence the oy of seeing that M.I.T. third baseman—the seventh round pick of the Cubs—got his first professional hit in the Arizona Summer League Thursday night. Filiere not only had ridiculous numbers for a Division III program that had more players drafted last month than Arizona State, but hit more career homers at Hamilton High School in Chandler, Arizona than his teammate Bellinger. Because he took six courses each semester, he will graduate this December with a degree in Business Analytics and head off to a life in baseball.

Ah, the life of a temporary player for Harwich on the Cape who ended up leading the league in home runs. “He has big righthanded power, good hands a strong arm, he’s a legitimate prospect who may surprise a lot of people,” one scout said Thursday.

The fun of what some of us do isn’t taunting John Farrell about a baserunning story in Barstool Sports (next week’s talk radio expert will come from a shopping insert from Whole Foods).

With all due respect to Logan Warmoth, Brendan McKay, Pavin Smith, Adam Haseley, Brendon Little, Brian Miller and the other Cape Leaguers taken in the first round last month, Filiere was last summer’s most fascinating player in the league.

Fast-forward to Yarmouth-Dennis this summer, and Carlos Cortes. Ask scouts and coaches, and they start talking about Carlos Cortes, who will be a draft-eligible sophomore at South Carolina with an eye towards the first round in the June draft. They love his swing. “He can be a premium major league hitter, even if he’s five-foot-eight,” says one scout.

What makes Cortes most interesting is that he’s ambidextrous. Thursday he worked out at second base righthanded, in left field lefthanded. He DH’d one game, played left the second. And, oh, by the way, one professional scout who lives near his Oviedo, Fla. home saw him pitch, lefthanded. “He was pretty good,” says the scout. “He didn’t throw that hard—85, 86—but he was good.”

“When I was a kid my father insisted I learn to throw with both hands,” says Cortes. “He was a great influence on me, and while I didn’t really like it at first, I got it. Maybe I wouldn’t be big enough to be a first baseman, or left fielder. So I kept working on it. “

Cortes grew up to play at Lake Howard H.S. outside of Orlando. He played in the summers with the Orlando Scorpions, one of the top travel programs in the nation. One of his best friends, and double play partner, was Brendan Rodgers, who was the third pick in the 2015 pick by the Rockies and has shot through that system all the way to double-A Hartford this season. Foster Griffin, a lefthanded pitcher and a 2014 first round pick of the Royals, played with him on the Scorpians.

So did Adam Haseley, the eighth pick in last month’s draft. And Warmouth, the 22nd pick, by the Blue Jays.

“One thing that helped me continue to learn was the fact that I’ve always had confidence in myself,” says Cortes. “I don’t think I am cocky, but I believe in myself. I love playing in the toughest of situations. I’m simply comfortable in my own skin. So whether I’m playing second or third base righthanded or the outfield lefthanded, I’m confident that I can perform. I just love playing baseball.”

After Don Mattingly signed with the Yankees in 1979 and played in Oeonta in the New York-Penn League, there were some in the organization that were concerned about his power. They knew Mattingly was ambidextrous; when he was in high school in Evansville, Ind., when he played quarterback and rolled out to the left, he passed with his left hand, when he rolled to the right, he threw righthanded.

So Mattingly worked out righthanded at second base in the Instructional League, taking ground balls and practicing turning double plays, but never actually played second in a game. Greg Harris pitched with each hand. Pat Venditte, Greg Harris, Tony Mullane (in 1882) and Jackie Price all pitched with both hands

But some day we might see a 15 inning game in which Cortes plays seven innings lefthanded in left field, gets moved to second base, then comes in to pitch lefthanded in the 14th inning.

Off to a .327/.397/.469 start in the Yarmouth-Dennis season, Cortes has become one of the Cape League’s most interesting players of the summer. That’s what makes the game so great. On any day Cody Bellinger’s high school teammate, the only one who went to M.I.T., can get his first professional hit, and I can meet and watch someone do something no one’s ever done in the major leagues, where Carlos Cortes will be in a just a few years.

Comments

  1. Rick Malwitz says:

    Actually Mattingly did play second base, when Billy Martin placed him there in the final inning of the Pine Tar Game, when there were more reporters in the press box than in the stands.

  2. Carlos Cortes is the real deal…Remember that name

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