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Eastern League All-Star Game

On a whim — spontaneity is my middle name, after all — I decided to snag a couple tickets to tonight’s Eastern League All-Star Game (AA) in beautiful downtown Trenton, New Jersey. At least a few of our readers out there aren’t just Google-driven searches stopping by trying to hunt down the latest draft signing updates or gratuitous pictures of pretty girls; we’ve got some hardcore prospect followers who actually keep up with players once they turn pro. I do try my best at staying up with all levels of baseball’s prospectdom, honest, but sometimes trying to track all these players and all these teams and all these levels of competition leaves me disoriented and completely overwhelmed, lost in a sea of seemingly never-ending prospects. Chuck me a life preserver of knowledge and let me know if I’ve overlooked any big names to watch heading into tonight’s game; I’ll be forever grateful. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Northern Division —> Zach McAllister, Anthony Slama, Junichi Tazawa (not playing), Madison Bumgarner (not playing), Brian Jeroloman, Jesus Montero, Josh Thole (not playing), Lars Anderson, Whit Robbins

Southern Division —> Daniel Moskos, Joe Savery, Vance Worley, Hector Rondon (not playing), Alex Avila, Carlos Santana, Brian Friday, Beau Mills, Quintin Berry, Mike Taylor, Nick Weglarz

My attempt to tie this back into the overarching theme of the website — that would be the draft, if the name of the site wasn’t enough of a giveaway — centers on a couple of the college guys I remember well from my days working on the periphery of the baseball industry before I started up the site. Ah yes, those were the days. I remember seeing Jeroloman, Robbins, and Moskos play live and in color on more than a few occasions back in their carefree college years. Come to think of it, those were my carefree college years as well – no student loan payments, no rent checks, no 403(b)’s, no heightened expectations to straighten up and fly right. Those really were the days. Anyway, I’m pretty sure I wrote some nasty things about Jeroloman (couldn’t hit), some glowing things about Robbins (as pretty an amateur lefty stroke as I had seen in person, damn near almost brought a tear to my eye), and some largely apathetic things about Moskos (mechanical issues, little projection left in his arm, inconsistent stuff…but still a varied enough repertoire that I thought he could be a back of the rotation big league starting pitcher with time). It’ll be cool to see how my opinion has changed of each young fella, not to mention the fun it’ll be to check out some of the really big boppers (Montero, Anderson, Santana, Mills, Taylor, and Weglarz) scheduled to appear in the game.

So, who am I missing? Or, who on the list is someone I should pay extra special attention to? Or, should I just skip the game entirely and see what other fun, legal or otherwise, I can conjure up in Trenton on a Wednesday night?

Alternate Reality Mock Draft – The Revenge of the 06’s

We’re promoting a new feature straight from AA to the big leagues today because, well, it’s Friday and that seems like as good a day as any to trot out something totally random and nonsensical. Alternate Reality Drafts – the name evokes a certain feeling that I can’t quite put my finger on, but I like. Something about alternate realities and parallel universes really get the blood flowing. Our question today is a relatively simple one. What if…all of the top high school talent from the 2006 Draft decided to spurn the big leagues and head off to college for three years instead? Let’s find out, shall we? Alternate Reality here we come…

1.1 Washington – RHSP Stephen Strasburg (San Diego State) – Strasburg would still be the man at number one, but there would be a ton of consideration for the next player on the list…

1.2 Seattle – LHSP Clayton Kershaw (Texas A&M) – The Aggies rotation could go five deep with Kershaw joining Raley, Wilson, Loux, and Hales in a rotation that would rival the best in all of minor league baseball. Fans in Seattle wouldn’t be nearly as upset as they are now about losing out on the top spot with a consolation prize like Kershaw.

1.3 San Diego – OF Travis Snider (Arizona State) – Imagine Wallace/Snider/Davis as the heart of the Sun Devils order in 2008. The Padres give consideration to many of the high profile arms in this spot, but eventually decide that a premium hitter ready to step in right away and mash at Petco is more valuable than any particular pitcher on the board.

1.4 Pittsburgh – RHSP Kyle Drabek (Texas? Rice? A&M?) – I just spent twenty minutes I shouldn’t have trying to find Drabek’s college commitment, if he ever even had one at all. If anybody knows it, please let me know. Anyway, wow – we’ve got our first real shocker of the draft. The Pirates never fail to do something out of the ordinary on draft day, so why not add a little nepotism to the usual mix of overdrafting questionable arms and being scared off by high bonus demands that rarely ever actually come into play anyway? The pick will surely be questioned, what with a slew of ridiculously talented pitchers with cleaner health records and more consistent track records of success, but Drabek’s upside is undeniable. The pundits are ready to pan the Pirates for another blown pick, but I applaud them for taking a chance on a truly talented player like Drabek. Would I myself have passed on, say, the player who later went to the Giants in this draft instead of him? Doubtful.(See how I didn’t ruin the surprise there – clever, right?) Though I may not have taken Drabek quite so high, it’s certainly a defensible pick – this isn’t a Moskos over Wieters situation, you know? Incidentally, good for young Kyle for being picked so high – all of the off the field concerns surrounding him coming out of high school are but a distant memory after three years of working hard during his offseasons, rehabbing from injuries diligently, and generally being a good all around teammate.

1.5 Baltimore – SS Adrian Cardenas (Florida) – As tempting as it was to give them Billy Rowell, power hitting shortstop (yeah, right…) from Alabama, I decided that the good fans of Baltimore deserved better. Instead, Baltimore goes with the second surprise pick in a row by taking the Gators star shortstop with pick number five. There are many scouts and talent evaluators that question Cardenas long-term future at short (myself among them), but the O’s will give Cardenas every chance in the world to hold on to the spot. The thought of putting the nearly ML-ready bat in a lineup with Roberts, Markakis, Wieters, and Jones is something special. In a world where batting average is still incredibly overrated by the casual observer, it almost pains me to admit that I think there is still an undeniable cool factor in envisioning  a core group of six youngish (Roberts) to very young (pretty much everybody else) veterans all capable of hitting .300 or above.

1.6 San Francisco – LHSP Brett Anderson (Oklahoma State) – Anderson, Oliver, Lyons…if you’ve got a team loaded up with lefties in your lineup, there’s really no point in showing up at the ballpark for a weekend series against the Cowboys. The Giants may want to grab a hitter like Dustin Ackley, Grant Green, or Lars Anderson here, but eventually decide that Anderson’s mix of polish and projection is too much to pass up. Lincecum, Cain, Anderson, Bumgarner, Alderson…the mind reels at the possibilities.

1.7 Atlanta – RHSP Jordan Walden (Texas) – The Braves stick with what they know best at the seventh spot, going with the big Texan with number one starter upside. Walden’s gigantic junior season with the Longhorns propelled him past a strong group of college righties and there was buzz the Padres considered popping him with the third overall pick. Baseball fans won’t soon forget his Friday night duel against Missouri ace Kyle Gibson that helped determine the Big XII regular season conference champ.

1.8 Cincinnati –  RHSP Trevor Cahill (Dartmouth) – Dartmouth’s (yes, Dartmouth’s) most accomplished pitcher since Mike Remlinger is a perfect stylistic fit for the Reds. Cahill’s groundball tendencies and strikeout stuff should play perfectly in Cincinnati. There is some concern about Cahill’s level of competition, but a closer look reveals a pitcher capable of shutting down any team that takes the field against him. The manner in which he has risen to the occasion time and time again, most notably in his nearly perfect early season starts against Duke, San Jose State, and Santa Clara, as well as a late season mid-week beatdown of Boston College (after the Big Green locked up their spot in the Ivy championship series, of course), show that he is a big game pitcher who is both willing and able to take the ball in important spots.

1.9 Detroit – SS Grant Green (Southern Cal) – In a decision too close to call, the Tigers eventually opt for the college position player over the prep arm (Tyler Matzek). The system is in such sore need of an infusion of talent in any way, shape, or form that it is more than likely that whomever is selected with this pick will be the number one player in the system by the end of the year.

1.10 Washington – 1B Lars Anderson (Cal) – Anderson occupies Rich Poythress’s usual spot as the slugging college first baseman who also happens to be relatively safe to sign with Washington’s second top ten selection. Anderson’s power potential gives him the slight edge over Carolina’s Dustin Ackley. You’d better believe that Washington would be thrilled to land such a potent 1-2 punch of pitching and offense with their top two picks.