By The Baseball Beginnings Guy
August 31, 2010
It’s time to open the Baseball Beginnings mailbag again, for a collection of comments, questions and “what the hell were you thinking, John!” letters from our many readers. This time, we talk about the Area Codes, the Cape, the Giants, and many other topics.
Dear BB: I was a little disappointed in the (Area Codes) Yankees roster this year. Cameron Gallagher is a solid prospect, but when I see some of the other players placed on this team, I question the talent pool overall in the Northeast for 2011.
BB: I would agree that the Yankees, as well as all ten Area Code teams, were generally down in talent this year. I can’t prove anything, but these are some ideas why. I agree with many scouts that 2011 is a bad year for offense. The next problem is that the Area Codes don’t represent the best players, period. By looking at the rosters, it’s clear that some favoritism went into this, and the more skeptical fans will suspect bribery. Another problem is that there are too many showcase events. They compete for players and steal players from each other. A final problem is that the showcase era is upon us, and we’re seeing lots of players with limited athleticism, limited skills, limited ceilings and limited potential being promoted as better potential pro prospects than they really are. All of these factors can create rather cloudy scouting moments. If scouts think with mob mentality, it is easier to make a mistake on a lesser player because they are so desperate for a player. Conversely, if you have a group of players with ordinary physical skills, you need to watch for play-ability skills. This is a general complaint I have with younger scouts, who just look for data, and don’t take into consideration why a player made or did not execute.
I think the end result is that the players who are definite prospects stand out more clearly. I also think that it makes it harder for college type players to really stand out.
Dear BB: I don’t get what the problem is with Gary Brown lofting the ball. By doing that, he hit a lot of extra-base hits where he used his speed. His OPS was among the leaders, if not the leader in the Big West, as a result. What am I missing? Is it that you don’t think he will be able to do that in the pros with wood bats? Ted Williams was an advocate of lofting the ball, and I get that philosophy. Another reason I don’t get it is because that is what happened with Andres Torres of the Giants. Speedster, so he was taught to slap at the ball to utilize his speed. He got nowhere, so he went out and basically learned the Ted Williams method of hitting, and now he utilizes his speed in generating a lot of doubles, while still getting a fair share of hits, and he has shown surprising power for such a slight body. His OPS is good for an OF, great for CF really.
BB: I think there is a different between lofting the ball and driving the ball. I never saw Brown as a slap hitter. I came to that conclusion based on watching Brown on the Cape and then several times for Fullerton. He had a tendency to let his swing get long and to try to pull a lot of pitches. He needs to stay short and spray hard. If he’s doing that, I think he’ll hit a lot of doubles. I can’t see him having any better than average ML power. It’s very hard for me to see him having raw power in that ballpark. That said, would you take a leadoff hitter who can steal 30 bases, hit 30 doubles, play Gold Glove defense, and hit you 10, 12 home runs? I think that’s Brown’s ceiling and I think it’s a pretty good player.
Dear BB: Also, you mention that he lost arm strength. How would that happen? Lack of use? Lack of practice? I can not picture how someone could lose arm strength like that in such a relatively short period of time, I’m not that experienced in following prospects, I was hoping you could enlighten.
BB: Thanks for your thoughtful questions. I don’t know what happened to Brown’s arm. A few years ago, as an amateur shortstop, he had a really great arm. When I saw him throw this spring, it was below-average strength with above-average accuracy, if memory serves. An arm is use it or lose it. I would guess that moving him to CF played a role in losing it.
Dear BB: I was wondering what your opinion is about the Cape Cod League. As a Giants fan, I’ve heard a lot about past draft picks (Todd Linden in particular) who did well there, but obviously, that never translated for Todd and really, none of them has panned out. Looking at Gary Brown stats, it shows growth in the Cape Cod League, he wasn’t that good his first year there, but he improved greatly in his second season there. What are your thoughts about the Cape Cod League, and what a player’s results there mean? Thanks.
BB: One reason I don’t put too much stock in offensive stats from summer leagues is that there are a lot of variables that can make stats trick you. Questionable scorekeeping, bad fields, questionable umpiring, composite bats, filler pitching, bad lighting, fatigue, and distractions – these are all things that can make a guy look bad. Sometimes it can be overcome to make an ordinary guy look better. All in all, you have to take all summer wood bat leagues with a huge grain of salt and not worry as much about the results as the development. Some people won’t agree with me on that. I think it’s not the arrow, it’s the Indian, so to speak. I think part of the problem is that the industry determines value off performance more than development, and I think that leads to mistakes.
This reminds me of a story. Josh Paul was MVP of the Cape one year in the 1990s. About 10 years later, I’m leaning on the dugout railing at Angel Stadium one hot afternoon before BP. Paul was a real happy-go-lucky guy, so as he’s digging balls out of the bag, I say to him, ‘Hey, I didn’t know you were Cape MVP one year.’ Without missing a beat, Paul says to me, ‘I peaked at the right time, baby, been workin’ ever since.’ There you go. Paul was a career backup catcher with huge Cape numbers who used it to become a fringe big leaguer. I give the credit, it’s hard to be a fringe big leaguer, much less a standout big leaguer. But it illustrates my point, to beware of performance as an amateur in the uncontrolled environments of the summer leagues, and to scout the player, not the performance.
Dear BB: Now that Jarrett Parker hit so many homers in the college season, would you take that away from his list of weaknesses, his lack of power? Thanks.
BB: I’d have to see him with wood again to make a call. Wait a minute, here comes another Giants question.
Dear BB: Seth Rosin sounds great the way you describe him! Why do you think he fell to the 4th round then, I don’t recall any rumors of signability, is it because he only has two good pitches and others thus project him more as a reliever, or is there something else?
BB: I loved Rosin the moment I saw him on the Cape. I think he fell to the fourth round simply because this industry drafts for velocity first and pitch-ability second, which is counterintuitive, because in the big leagues, pitch-ability equals perseverance and velocity with no pitching skills usually equals the operating table or inconsistency. When I first saw Seth, he was a big boy who just threw 90-94 gas with plus command, that I at first under appreciated. When I saw him in his last college start, he sold me, because he went into Cal State Fullerton and just dealt. For me, he has above-average fastball velocity, way above-average fastball location, an improving change and slider. For me, he’s a guy who doesn’t get rattled, who is a better athlete than he got credit for, who potentially can become a workhorse major league starter with three pitches and a feel for how to create variations of those three looks. I can build with guys like that.
Dear BB: In looking at your updates it appears that the pitching velocity may be a little down from last year. It appears there are a lot of 85-88 guys this year and only a few in the 91-93 range. It seemed like last year every guy that walked on the mound was over 90 and many in the 93-96 range. Is that an accurate assumption or not?
BB: No, you would be correct. It was a down year for Area Code and Aflac arms.
Dear BB: Has Ricky Oropesa grown an inch or two since his freshman season? He looks taller and leaner in these clips than I recall him looking in the past.
BB: I didn’t take out the tape measure, but I think so, too. I think Ricky is gonna be a guy people either love or hate. There will be people who want the raw left-handed power and people who think he won’t hit. I’m sort of in the middle right now. I believe in the raw power but I want to see better at-bats.
Dear BB: Is it just me, or does Henry Owens remind you of former Halo LHP Chuck Finley?
BB: Well he sure doesn’t remind me of Ken Griffey Jr. I can buy the Chuck Finley comp in terms of body type, personality, and arm action. If I recall, Finley’s put-away weapon was a slider, whereas Henry has a hammer.
BB: What a team they will be as freshmen! Add AJ Vanegas to that.
Dear BB: Mike Olt is a good one. Comes from a good suburban community here in Connecticut and thrived playing ball in a strong American Legion program. I was told when he was in the summer of his sophomore year by a Division II recruiter how much he liked Olt when he was playing second base on the Legion team. In this recruiter’s opinion he should have been at short. The recruiter also knew even then the school had no chance to get him. I don’t know if Olt could have gone to a “better” baseball program than UConn but I can’t help but think a big part of the reason he went to UConn was that his older brother Brad was there playing baseball.
BB: Walt Dropo! He went to UConn because of Walt Dropo! No, I’m just kidding. Local guy, older bro played there, played a huge role in elevating that program’s national status. Olt has a lot to be proud of in his college career, as does the Division II assistant who was smart enough to realize Olt would never get to him and hopefully spent his time working on guys who did get to him. Olt is another great example of what I was discussing in the earlier question – about performance on the Cape. Olt hit, I don’t know, .218 or something on the Cape in 2009. Yet he raked in college and he’s doing just fine in pro ball this summer. Why? Some of those variables we discussed. Olt was bouncing back from an injury that summer. The other thing you have to remember is how hard most kids are on themselves at the Cape. Many of them have never had three or four consecutive bad nights. The Cape is where funks are born. I saw a guy on the Cape this summer that I loved and everyone else hates because he didn’t show well. We’ll see what happens.
Dear BB: I recently read a writer on a baseball site say that Blake Wallace and Mike Moustakas would be limited as power hitters because of their low center of gravity. He went on to say that short batters have a difficult time getting topspin on the balls they hit. I know that guys like Mantle, Mays and Ott were under six feet, so it sounded like baloney to me. But I figured I’d ask someone whose thoughts I trust more. Is this guy correct?
BB: I think it’s not the height, it’s the hands. I have never seen Wallace, but I’ve seen enough Moustakas. Even when I’ve been down on Mike, and it’s usually because I don’t like his body (props to him, he trimmed up last winter, and now at least he’s got the chance to stay at third after I said last Fall I thought he had no chance to stay there). Look, there are some things I’ll never get hung up over. One is that I don’t really care how a guy stands as long as he makes hard contact. I’ll give Harper that. I don’t think he has a hell of a lot of bat control, and he’s got that funky ankle trigger, but he kills fastballs. What he does with real pitching has yet to be seen but I think it’s going to limit his ceiling. Another thing is I don’t get caught up on height. I’ve seen guys with great bodies who are absolute garbage. And I’ve seen fat guys who are garbage. But I’ve also seen fat guys who can rake, little guys who can rake, and thin guys who can rake. This is what I mean when baseball fans or baseball “people” look for reasons to not like a guy rather than like him. There’s a huge, huge danger in trying to make baseball so formulaic that you miss common sense. With a mentality like this, we’d never have a guy like Kirby Puckett today.