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Insider

Bailey injury puts two-way players under scrutiny

5/2/2009

Troup (Ga.) High School catcher Luke Bailey, who will undergo Tommy John surgery next week, has revealed to our Jason Churchill that his elbow injury did indeed occur while he was pitching. Jason asked Bailey whether it happened on a breaking ball, to which Bailey responded, "I did throw a couple of curveballs, but I think it happened on a fastball, and I threw six more pitches after it happened."

Bailey isn't the only catcher who also takes the hill in this draft, nor is he the only one to do so in recent drafts. North Carolina prep star Wil Myers has toed the rubber a few times this year in addition to playing some infield. Both Buster Posey and Matt Wieters pitched in relief for their college teams; Posey threw 8 2/3 innings over two years, while Wieters had a more significant role and threw over 50 innings for Georgia Tech. Brooks Raley, Blake Smith, Mychal Givens and Jeff Inman are all two-way players in this draft who project well as one type of player or the other, but not both. Bailey's injury raises a serious question for two-way guys: Why? Was the risk of having Posey blow out his arm worth the eight innings he threw for Florida State?

This isn't a question of finding someone to blame for Bailey's injury. For one thing, he just as easily could have injured his elbow during his regular catching responsibilities, firing off a snap throw behind a runner at first. For another, the responsibility of managing a player's development at the amateur level is spread out over many people, from the player to his parents to his coaches to (where applicable) his advisers, with no single person holding all the keys to the kid's future. What all of those parties around every two-way player in this draft must consider now, in light of Bailey's injury, is whether the secondary role is worth the risk. Bailey's adventure on the mound probably cost him several hundred thousand dollars in a signing bonus, as he'll probably fall out of the first round and could end up a summer follow, where he's drafted by a team that monitors his recovery between the draft and the Aug. 15 signing deadline.

Is it worth the risk for other two-way players who have significant pro futures at only one position? Should Robert Stock, who has emerged as a relief prospect, still be catching and running the risk of being clobbered in a collision at the plate? Perhaps Bailey's ill fortune will change the way two-way players who project as stars on one side of the ball are handled, preventing more costly injuries down the road.