A Quick Word on Three College Catchers

Josh Phegley doesn’t deserve all the fun, does he? Time to give a little bit of love to the three left behinds in yesterday’s second to last (thankfully) top college catching prospect tournament or whatever the heck I’ve been calling it. Anyway, the losers yesterday were Tommy Medica, Justin Dalles, and Travis Tartamella. In no particular order, here are three college catching prospects that I think will be among the first ten or so best in the 2009 Rule 4 Draft…

Photo Source: Ben's
Photo Source: Ben's

Continue reading

2009 Draft-Eligible Top College Catcher Tournament (Part III)

It’s been a while since we started this thing up, so take a minute to check out a link or two to see what the heck we’re doing here – Part I and Part II. Who is the best draft-eligible college catcher in all the land? We’re going to find out tournament-style! Next up, the four participants facing off in our very special Joe Mauer Regional…

Joe Mauer Regional

1. Josh Phegley
4. Travis Tartamella

2. Tommy Medica
3. Justin Dalles

Two great American past times...

No suspense here, I’m sorry to report. After upsets in the first two regionals (Stock and Fleury), Josh Phegley blows away all comers here in the Joe Mauer Regional. It’s no surprise, really, as many publications have Phegley safely ensconced as one of the top two college catchers in all the land and a great bet to be off the board by the end of round two. We’ll talk about the other three names at a later date (I like Dalles over Medica, injury or not, by the way), but for now we’ll shine the prospect spotlight on the champ.

I’m excited for June 9 for all sorts of reasons. There are plenty of draft storylines that deserve more press coverage than they’ll inevitably get, but I hope the eventual destination of Josh Phegley gets a little bit of love come draft day. By the numbers, Phegley is truly a standout amongst a group of less than stellar college bats. There is no denying this man’s college production. So where will he land and when? Teams that place a greater importance on statistical performance will be hard pressed to find a better college prospect than Indiana’s star backstop. His numbers both in and out of context are staggering —> .438/.507/.746 with a 34/22 walk to strikeout ratio his sophomore year and .383/.485/.688 with 29 walks to 23 strikeouts so far this year, all while playing home games in a neutral park in the chilly north. To find fault in Phegley’s collegiate numbers is to complain about a stray splatter on a Jackson Pollock.

Phegley’s production has been top notch, but what about his projection? This is where things get more complicated. There are doubts surrounding his defense, his pro power potential, and his bat speed. To be fair, no college hitting prospect this side of Rich Poythress (though even he gets dinged for being limited to first defensively) comes without warts, but the fact that Phegley’s detractors knock his bat so severely is telling. My quick and dirty notes from watching his swing over a few games earlier this season:

  • Pronounced crouch (a little like Aaron Rowand’s), good leverage and balance
  • Circles bat pre-swing as timing mechanism; keeping hands high is key – when they drop, so does his power
  • Uneven feet with his back leg staggered back in box, impressive in the way his lower half moves in sync with the rest of his body during setup and follow through
  • Lets ball get unusually deep, but his wrists (more strong than quick) help his plate coverage – Phegley can afford to wait and wait and wait because, at worst, he has a knack for fouling balls off until he gets one he can drive
  • Swing gets knocked for being long, but I saw it level and surprisingly compact and efficient; the helicopter finish may slow down the swing enough to give certain teams pause

I’d agree with a scout that questions Phegley’s future power potential as his swing is closer to that of a player with consistent line drive, gap power. I’m not sure I’d worry as much about a slow bat, but I do think some tweaks (namely toning down the finish a smidge) could help him shave some time off his swing and perhaps unleash a little bit of the power he loses with his level, one-plane swing.

Phegley’s defense is a topic that has generated plenty of discussion in scouting circles because, well, scouts love talking about an otherwise solid player’s glaring deficiency. Phegley’s defensive tools are solid as he possesses an average to above-average throwing arm with a quick release, but his shoddy footwork and consistent struggles blocking balls in the dirt keep his present defensive grade below-average.

Despite the fact that many of the specific concerns about his defense are valid, he’ll stick behind the plate as a professional. The aforementioned tools are there for Phegley to be an average defensive player and with a bat like his that should be enough. Picture an offense-first, slightly below-average to barely average defender behind the dish. A peak that looks a little something like Michael Barrett’s (2004-2006) with much better plate discipline (one of Phegley’s biggest and most unique strengths) sounds like a reasonable enough upside for Phegley going forward. For those looking for a decent prospect comp, I’ve got two names to consider –  Phillies catcher Lou Marson (with a little more juice in his bat, but less glove) and Rangers catcher Max Ramirez (with less power, but better defense).

In the end, I think a Marson comp (right down to their similar level swings) makes the most sense with a more patient Barrett-like peak well within reason. One of the perks of an established college player with a strong statistical history like Phegley is the near elimination of the total bust factor; it’s hard to see Phegley completely flaming out as a pro, he’s had too much success against high level competition to bet against him at least reaching the bigs as a backup. With a ceiling of Mike Barrett and a floor of Josh Bard (high level backup deemed not quite good enough to catch full-time, but productive when given opportunities). There’s some very real value there, especially considering the typical dearth of catching prospects throughout baseball. It remains to be seen how far down the top prep college catchers will push the college guys on draft day, but Phegley’s statistical profile and good enough tools could get him picked anywhere from late in the first (to a competitive team in need of a quick moving catcher…Tampa? Boston?) to the middle of the third round. I’d take him over any other college catcher, but probably not until midway through the second round.

Stephen Strasburg (Again) and Site Updates (Again)

Another weekend, another dominant Stephen Strasburg performance.

Against a nationally ranked TCU team that we talked about before: 7 IP 4 H 3 ER 1 BB 14 K

His season numbers are silly: 70.1 IP 45 H 13 BB 135 K (7 WP 2 HBP 1 BK)

I’ve run out of things to say about him because, really, the numbers speak for themselves. I really can’t wait for his first start at Nationals Park when all the baseball world’s eyes will rightfully be watching the debut of the most acclaimed amateur baseball prospect ever.

_____

Busy week ahead, so it only makes sense to get some of the bookkeeping out of the way early. A few quick things before we move on to bigger and better…

  • 4 correct picks on the NFL Draft mock from Friday. 4 out of 32. I picked winners at a 12.5% success rate. Boy, is that bad. The worst part is I can’t promise the final MLB mock will be any better. Maybe I’ll dig up the one I did elsewhere last year and see how poorly I did…probably wasn’t much better than 12.5%.
  • What do you think of the new site layout? I had a focus group of one help me pick it out, but I’m curious to hear if the switch is for the better or if more tweaking should be done. Come to think of it, the switch may not be noteworthy enough to comment on…I’m not sure I’d comment on somebody else’s site redesign at this stage in the game (we’re only two and half months in after all) for fear of getting invested in a site only to see it disappear like so many others seem to do. Then again, maybe I’m just weird like that. I probably shouldn’t equate commenting on a redesign with an emotional investment, but that’s exactly what I just did.
  • I’m finally getting around to throwing up some links on the righthand sidebar. If you have a link that you think should be there, let me know. Same thing goes if you have any ideas for useful baseball related sites that I’ve yet to link to, as well as any team specific sites that don’t already have a link. The idea is to get a good, informative team site for all 30 MLB squads, but it’s harder to find good, informative team sites that place an emphasis on prospect development and the draft (Phuture Phillies and Future Redbirds, no relation, are two of the prototypes for this model) than I originally had thought. I started putting up a few already, but decided to wait and see for a little bit in case anybody out there has any insight into what direction I should go with the others.

2009 NFL Draft First Round Mock Draft

Ask anybody who has the distinct pleasure of knowing me personally – my obsession with following the draft doesn’t end with baseball. So it only makes sense that I use this outlet to let some of my NFL Draft thoughts spill out of my brain. After the jump, check out a totally amateur hack job of what Saturday’s first round could maybe, possibly, kind of, sort of look like. The goal this year is to get at least 5 picks right, and, yes, I’m including getting the Stafford to Detroit pick in that five. Before my seemingly random NFL mock, a seemingly random quote about mocks in general. You see, recently I’ve been debating on ramping up the mock draft coverage done on this site – I enjoy doing them, people seem to be interested in them, and they can pack a good bit of information when done right. All of those are good things, but there are still drawbacks to mock drafts that I’ve never been able to quite put my finger on. Mike Tanier of Football Outsiders recently put into words something I’ve felt since starting this site up, but haven’t been able to accurately express…so I’ll steal his rant about the very nature of mock drafts:

This is insane! It’s all just idle speculation. I mean, we all know the top 20 to 30 prospects. Some teams have really obvious needs. But really, aren’t we just shuffling a deck over and over again here? Is there any accountability? Is a mock draft any more interesting or useful than, say, a player profile? Or a study to determine whether 40-times are really valuable for running backs?

Oh wait: Mock Drafts generate eyeballs. Casual fans click the link, read about their favorite team for 30 seconds, then move on. It’s a proven, easy-to-generate commodity in the marketplace. Heck, this isn’t even that much work, even if I am chained to the keyboard and producing them round-the-clock. And in two weeks, it will be over, and I will be writing about actual picks by actual teams that will affect the future of the entire league. Hooray! I have found my motivation.

I’ve gotten big traffic (well, not BIG big…big for me…I mean big is a relative term, right?) the past week and I owe it all to that updated mock draft from last Friday. The WordPress software allows me to see which pages are getting clicked on and, let me tell you, the gap in page views between mocks and non-mocks is laughable. I know page views isn’t a perfect way to evaluate who reads what, but the numbers are startling. For example, my first post, a quick summary of what this site is all about, has been viewed about 40 times; the second post, Mock Draft 1.0, has been viewed almost 4,000 times. Crazy, right?

I’m not complaining at all. I love doing mocks because a) they are fun, b) they are good conversation starters (I’ve learned a ton about the Astros since starting this site up), and c) they attract casual viewers who might not normally care about the Rule 4 First-Year Player Draft. I like providing the opportunity for someone out there who might only kind of sort of care about this stuff to suddenly become somebody who actually enjoys following amateur baseball and the baseball draft process. I actually want to start doing weekly updates as we get closer to the draft for those three reasons and I’m excited for the possibilities that some of the upcoming content will hopefully bring forth. Alright, enough of the meta stuff…2009 NFL Draft First Round Mock after the jump…

Continue reading

What A Jackass

I really, really, really hope this doesn’t become a recurring feature here, but I’m just about positive that it will be. It’s time to look back through the archives and have a good laugh at something stupid stuff I’ve said. The only hard part is narrowing down which dumb thing to choose…

This particular rambling thought was from March 1, 2009. It’s not necessarily the dumbest thing ever put in print (notice my wonderful use of qualifiers and hypotheticals), but it’s certainly looks silly in hindsight. Behold my genius after the jump…

Continue reading

2009 MLB Draft – First Round Tiers 2.0

Another week, another crack at separating the first round of the upcoming draft into tiers. Alright, that’s not entirely true — it’s been almost three weeks since we first did this — but calling this a triweekly isn’t nearly as catchy, plus it’s way more confusing. Did you know triweekly can either mean “three times a week” or “every three weeks?” How can a word mean such different things and get away with it? English, what a silly language…

This is a modified, way wimpier version of the tiered breakdown from three weeks ago. I’m sticking to players that are stone cold locks to go in the first round only. I have the utmost confidence that the following players will be first rounders in June.

  • Tier 1 –> 1 player

Strasburg

  • Tier 2 –> 9 players

Dustin Ackley/Kyle Gibson/Aaron Crow/Alex White/Grant Green
Shelby Miller/Tyler Matzek/Matt Purke/Donovan Tate

  • Tier 3 –> 6 players

Mike Leake/Tanner Scheppers/Rich Poythress

Luke Bailey/Zack Wheeler/Tyler Skaggs

That’s my new line of demarcation. 16 players that seem like sure bets to go in this year’s first round. If I wanted to get it up to an even twenty, I’d add the LSU duo (LeMahieu and Mitchell), my new favorite prep position player (yes, I’ve finally come around to Bobby Borchering), and this week’s fastest riser, lefty Rex Brothers of Lipscomb.  I’m hesistant to call any of those players locks at this point, but I reserve the right to be a wimp for now.

Where am I wrong? Which player listed won’t be a first rounder? (Tyler Skaggs?) Are there any names left off the list that will be guaranteed first rounders that I missed? (Max Stassi? Matt Davidson? Andy Oliver? Austin Maddox? Brett Jackson?)

First Five Picks Explained

Nothing else prepared for a Monday morning, so why not a teeny bit of explanation on the first five picks guessed at on the latest top ten mock?

1.1 Nationals/Strasburg

A gimme, right? The seven syllable line about the money (“Twenty mil sounds about right”) is about where I stand as far as where any potential Strasburg/Boras bonus demands will lead. He’ll smash the old draft signing bonus record, sure, but it will far way short of any of the big numbers being floated between now and the draft itself. In other words, twenty mil sounds about right…

1.2 Seattle/Ackley

I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating – something good is brewing in Seattle and it begins with the huge emphasis the new regime has put on stockpiling quality defensive players. To project Ackley to Seattle is to give up the dream that he’ll ever be the centerfielder; having seen him play on multiple occasions, I’m pretty confident in claiming that, at best, he’d be nothing more than a league average defender if forced to play CF. If Seattle loves the bat as much as I do, they’d be wise to call him a LF/1B from the start and just let the man hit.

1.3 San Diego/Crow

No real indication about which way the Padres are leaning, but the front office did publicly comment on the dearth of pitching in the system as recently as a few months ago. I know that’s the not the best reason in the world to have them pass on Grant Green, a player who would fill a gigantic organizational need, but it’s all I’ve got right now. In my head, this pick came down to Crow or Tyler Matzek.

1.4 Pittsburgh/Green

Seriously, Green could be joining fellow up the middle talents like BJ Upton and Matt Wieters if anybody running this club had any common sense. Fans at PNC Park could be getting excited about adding another potential impact bat to a lineup that, in our bizarro world, would soon feature Upton/Wieters/Pedro Alvarez. I had an alternate haiku that managed to feature both Operation Shutdown (which is mentioned in Derek Bell’s wiki page, but really deserves a special entry) and Daniel Moskos, but decided to spare any Pirates fan and left it on the cutting room floor.

1.5 Baltimore/White

Who knows if Baltimore really believes that the best way to beat the big spenders and savvy front offices of the AL East is by getting as much young pitching as possible, but with Green off the board it is hard to see the O’s taking anybody but a pitcher this early. Matzek, Kyle Gibson, and Shelby Miller all make sense, but White’s blend of big game college experience and untapped potential will be enough for them to overlook his sometimes questionable mechanics.