The Nationals' treasure trove
June, 7, 2011
By Buster Olney | ESPN Insider
The best way to judge a draft is to look back, rather than forward, because with the benefit of hindsight, we know now that the Joe Mauer was definitely the right choice over Mark Prior, and that Tampa Bay's extraordinary record for drafting and developing would be even more impressive had the Rays chosen Buster Posey over Tim Beckham.
By looking back, we know that the teams that have most closely adhered to the slot recommendations of the commissioner's office in the past -- the Astros, Padres and Mets, for example -- have had some of the worst farm systems. This is why Justin Verlander pitches for the Tigers, rather than in Petco Park.
Getty ImagesRendon's bat is close to ready, where he'll play isn't locked in.
But it's always interesting to wonder, immediately after the picks are made, how drafts will impact the bigger picture in the years ahead. Some thoughts:
1. We don't yet know exactly what Washington's plans for Anthony Rendon are, but right after the Nationals took the guy widely considered to be the best hitter in the draft, there was immediate speculation in rival front offices that he could be shifted to second base. Indeed, some of the other teams that had looked at Rendon viewed him as a second baseman in the future, because of his body type and because of the shoulder issues he's had this spring. There is debate about how much power he'll hit for, and about whether he can stay healthy -- but there is not any question, some executives say, about whether or not he's going to hit at the big league level.
Mike Rizzo says within this Dave Sheinin piece that the Nationals think third base is Rendon's best position "right now."
Which means: Stay tuned.
Rendon and the two other Washington picks on Day 1 were Scott Boras clients. Stephen Strasburg is a Boras client, and so is Bryce Harper, and so is Jayson Werth. So little wonder that there is growing industry speculation that Prince Fielder could be a target of the Nationals in the fall, when he becomes a free agent.
What follows is speculation: Imagine what the 2013 Washington Opening Day lineup could look like, if Rendon is moved to second base, Danny Espinosa is switched to shortstop (a move that some advance scouts believe should happen) and Ian Desmond becomes a Mark DeRosa-like super utility guy:
RF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Prince Fielder
LF Jayson Werth
2B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
SS Danny Espinosa
P Stephen Strasburg
Little wonder that some of the Braves players chatted the other day, as they looked ahead toward the draft, about how Washington is stockpiling an enormous cache of talent and could be a team to be reckoned with very, very soon.
By the way: Harper blew a kiss to a pitcher after hitting a home run, writes Reid Cherner. From the video that's included in this piece, it looks like the pitcher who gave up the home run wasn't thrilled that Harper stood and watched his home run and stared Harper down, and Harper responded.
2. The Diamondbacks had two picks among the first seven and took one guy who could help them this year, Trevor Bauer, and one guy who could help them in years to come, in Archie Bradley. Bauer has had a heavy workload this spring and the Diamondbacks will measure his innings count very carefully for the rest of the calendar year, but Arizona has a chance to win; if Bauer shows he can help at the big league level in a very precise and limited role, they will let him do that.
From Nick Piecoro's story:
"They were saying this is a guy with the body of (Tim) Lincecum, the stuff of (Roy) Oswalt and the mind of (Greg) Maddux," Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall said.
Kevin Towers is making the right moves for the Diamondbacks, writes Scott Bordow.
3. The Seattle Mariners took Danny Hultzen with their No. 2 pick. The Mariners weren't sure, in their internal evaluations, whether Rendon's strengths as a hitter would be mitigated by Safeco Field. On the other hand, they do know that the skills of a pitcher as polished as Hultzen could be enhanced by their home field. The Mariners wanted Hultzen for a long time, writes Jerry Brewer.
4. The Tampa Bay Rays began their Herschel Walker draft and loved their haul, starting with Taylor Guerrieri, as Marc Topkin writes; he throws really, really hard, as Joey Johnston writes.
5. The Brewers are gathering momentum in the NL Central chase, and it's possible that their No. 1 pick, Taylor Jungmann, could help them this year. Milwaukee grabbed a couple of pitchers in the first round, a badly needed injection of talent for their minors. Jungmann could be a bullpen piece in 2011. "It was not part of the discussion while drafting him," Brewers GM Doug Melvin wrote in an email, "but you never know."
6. Some executives think Dylan Bundy is the greatest pure talent in the draft, and now the Orioles can look to a day when their rotation might include Brian Matusz, Zach Britton and Bundy. (By the way: Buck Showalter raised some eyebrows by mentioning Monday that Matusz may never regain his velocity).
7. The Pirates continue to stockpile pitching.
More draft links
• The Jays took some guys who might be tough to sign. It was a wait-and-see approach, writes Richard Griffin.
• Gerrit Cole was the first player taken, as Gary Klein writes.
• The Cardinals' pick is undersized, they acknowledge.
• The Royals took a local kid, after Dylan Bundy was taken one pick before they selected. This could be the start of something big for Starling.
• The Phillies' No. 1 pick recently lost his mother, as John Finger writes.
• The Rockies drafted an Oregon pitcher.
• The Red Sox took a UConn pitcher with their first choice, as Michael Silverman writes.
• The Padres seemingly had a really good day, as Bill Center writes.
• Oakland drafted a Vanderbilt guy, and its full intention is to use Sonny Gray as a starting pitcher, and not a reliever.
• The Giants drafted a shortstop, writes John Shea.
• The Braves drafted a lefty.
• The Astros took an outfielder.
• The Twins took a North Carolina shortstop, writes Phil Miller.
• The Reds took a high school pitcher, writes Jim Fay.
• The White Sox grabbed an outfielder.
• The Indians took an athletic shortstop, writes Terry Pluto.
• The Mets took a high school kid.
• Few teams have declared themselves as sellers, but as Oakland's injuries keep mounting, the Athletics move in that direction; Oakland has dropped seven straight games, and with Brett Anderson going down, Oakland now has lost four starting pitchers in the past three weeks. This could accelerate the possible exodus of parts like Grant Balfour (who might be a perfect fit for Texas) or Josh Willingham (at a time when a lot of clubs are looking to add a bat, like the Phillies or Braves). Kevin Kouzmanoff was sent to Triple-A.
• The Cubs' situation is awful right now, with the losses mounting -- on Monday, they lost their seventh consecutive game -- and manager Mike Quade feeling compelled to meet with Carlos Zambrano. Look, it's not a big deal that Zambrano said the team's play is embarrassing, a general statement of frustration, but the fact that he directly questioned Carlos Marmol's pitch selection is, in itself, embarrassing. Can you imagine how Zambrano would react if his teammates publicly ripped the choices he made in his starts, or his execution? They could maintain a filibuster in Congress, if they chose. But they don't do it because they know it's wrong and counterproductive.
Zambrano doesn't know what the big deal is.
Moves, deals and decisions1. The Rockies ran out a new-look lineup, as Troy Renck writes.
2. Ichiro was used as a designated hitter, again.
3. Chris Narveson will stay in the Milwaukee rotation.
4. The Twins are using Ben Revere in right field, as La Velle Neal writes.
5. The Dodgers called up Dee Gordon, son of Tom Gordon.
Dings and dents1. Brad Lidge had a setback, but Jimmy Rollins seems to be improving.
2. Jason Kendall took batting practice.
3. Dexter Fowler is hurting.
4. Jake Peavy is dealing with a mild groin strain.
5. Matt Harrison is dealing with a kidney stone.
6. Scott Rolen has strep throat.
Monday's games1. The Phillies are hurting, but they hung on to beat the Dodgers, as David Murphy writes.
2. The Giants just keep winning one-run games, and along the way, Tim Lincecum racked up his 1,000th strikeout.
From Elias: Tim Lincecum had five strikeouts Monday to push his career total to 1,000. He became the eighth major league pitcher since 1900 to record 1,000 strikeouts within his first five seasons. That's been done in modern major league history by Grover Cleveland Alexander (1911-15), Tom Seaver (1967-71), Bert Blyleven (1970-74), Mark Langston (1984-88), Dwight Gooden (1984-88), Hideo Nomo (1995-99) and Kerry Wood (1998-2003). Wood missed the entire 1999 season. And of the pitchers who faced the fewest batters en route to 1,000 K's since 1900:
Billy Wagner: 3,022
Octavio Dotel: 3,478
Kerry Wood: 3,609
Tim Lincecum: 3,692
Trevor Hoffman: 3,759
3. David Price was The Man for the Rays, writes Marc Topkin.
4. Brennan Boesch got to some high fastballs from Colby Lewis, as ESPN Stats & Information details: Three of Boesch's hits and both of his home runs came on pitches up in the zone. Entering Monday, Boesch had just one home run on high pitches in his career. Both of his home runs Monday were on Colby Lewis fastballs clocked at 88 mph. His only other home run on a high pitch entering Monday was also on a sub-90 mph fastball. Before Monday, that was 917 pitches seen up, with one homer, and on Monday, he saw seven pitches up and hit two home runs.
5. Zack Greinke shut down the Marlins, and the Brewers just keep on winning on the road, as Tom Haudricourt writes. From ESPN Stats & Info, how Greinke beat the Marlins:
• Marlins hitters were 1-for-14 in at-bats ending with a Greinke off-speed pitch. Greinke kept his off-speed pitches low, with 47 of his 51 (92.2 percent) down in the zone or below it, his highest percentage in a start in the past three seasons. The Marlins struck out four times against a Greinke off-speed pitch and put 10 in play, seven of which they hit on the ground.
• All four of Greinke's off-speed strikeouts were with his slider, and all 25 of the sliders he threw were down in the zone. The Marlins chased 11 of Greinke's sliders out of the zone, the second-highest total against Greinke in the past three seasons. The highest was in Greinke's previous start, when the Reds chased 13 sliders out of the zone.
6. The Marlins got swept.
7. Eric Hosmer got a big hit.
8. The Mariners got shut down.
9. The Twins won again.
10. The Indians lost again.
11. The Padres had their bubble burst.
12. John Danks won for the first time this season, as Mark Gonzales writes.
13. Colby Lewis got pummeled.
14. Jonny Gomes and the Reds had a really good day.