<
>
Insider

A tall prospect with a small name

3/14/2011

Most fans of baseball history are aware of the story of Eddie Gaedel, the only little person to appear in a major league game. At 3-foot-7, Gaedel was the subject of a publicity stunt by baseball's master of publicity stunts, Bill Veeck, who was then the owner of the sad-sack St. Louis Browns. Gaedel pinch-hit in the first inning of the back end of a doubleheader, drew a walk on four pitches -- the pitcher, Bob Cain, apparently laughing too hard to throw a strike -- and was removed for a pinch-runner. The next day, American League president Will Harridge voided Gaedel's contract, although by that point Veeck had already achieved his objective.

The story may have another chapter, however. Gaedel's great-nephew, Kyle Gaedele, is a 6-foot-4 outfielder for Valparaiso and was drafted late in 2008 by the Tampa Bay Rays. He's draft-eligible again this year and is interesting but unpolished, a top 200 talent but probably not a top 100 talent, or roughly a fourth- to sixth-rounder.

Gaedele stands out physically with a wiry-strong body, and he has raw power that did show up on Saturday with what I was told was a roughly 450-foot home run. But Gaedele's swing needs an overhaul, starting with the ultra-wide stance he and nearly all of his Valpo teammates employ, one that makes it hard to get any momentum going forward toward the ball and also makes it hard to get out of the way of a pitch that's about to hit you. (And there were a lot of hit batters just in Sunday's game.)

When Gaedele does start his swing, his back side goes soft very quickly, but he doesn't get out over his front side, so he's often swinging uphill. The combined result robs him of some of that raw power while making it harder for him to adjust to offspeed stuff -- he was fooled more than once by changing speeds in the game I saw at UNLV. Gaedele is an average runner with an above-average arm, and should stay in right field. The bigger question is whether he can get his bat to a point where it profiles there; he's physical enough that he's worth a flier to see if you can rework his swing, although it's a high-risk, moderate-reward endeavor.