Thursday, June 05, 2008

Scouting for the Twins

Today is Major League Baseball’s draft, unfortunately the most unheralded of all the professional drafts. There are numerous reasons why this is the case, such as:

-Due to the lack of televised games, college and high school baseball players are far less familiar to the sporting public than players eligible to be drafted in the NBA and the NFL.

-Although the same is true of all drafts, all too often a player who goes in the first-round of the MLB draft is never seen or heard from again.

-Due to the minor league system in baseball, draftees almost never have any sort of immediate impact, thus limiting the number of Rays fans running out to by Tim Beckham jerseys today.

Despite those glaring facts and the fact that the media seems to have no real interest in the draft, I certainly do and I know many other baseball fans do as well. As such, I’ve been scouting the crop of talent available in this year’s draft a lot in recent weeks and I’ve gone through and made a list of the top three players I’m hoping my boys--the Minnesota Twins--can snag with their first pick in the draft (number 14).

-- My Top 3 --

(1) Jemile Weeks, 2B, University of Miami

As we've seen in recent years the younger brothers of former first-rounders (Justin Upton and Stephen Drew) have done pretty good for themselves at the professional level. As such, I'd like to see the Twins take a stab at Rickie Weeks' younger brother Jemile.

Even though he plays the same position as his older brother, Jemile is not the same kind of player. The younger Weeks is a switch-hitter who doesn't have, and likely will never have, the kind of power Rickie does. Weeks is a line-drive, slashing type of hitter who squares the ball up well and can really get things going with leadoff-type skills. He runs extremely well and could steal a ton of bases in the pros. His defense is somewhat in question, but could definitely be improved by coaching at a higher level.

(2) Brett Lawrie, C/3B, Brookswood SS, Langley, B.C.

Lawrie brings two very important things to the table for the Twins. First he has the ability to play third-base, obviously the biggest hole in the Twins lineup since Corey Koskie departed via free-agency. He also has the ability to contribute behind the dish, a move that would allow the Twins to rest Joe Mauer's knees more often and/or eventually move him to a different position.

Due to the fact that scouting Canadian players can sometimes be difficult because of the lack of opportunity to see them the information on Lawrie is a little limited, but scouts know all about Lawrie and his plus power potential. At present he's mostly a pull hitter without a true position, though he's shown the tools -- raw though they may be -- to handle being a catcher and playing the hot corner. It may take a while, but putting that bat behind the plate could one day make him a premium player.

(3) Brett Wallace, 1B/3B, Arizona State

Wallace, from all reports I've read, is one of the best hitters in college and perhaps in the entire Draft class. He possesses unbelievable plate discipline and has the ability to hit .300 with 25+ homers in the majors on a yearly basis.

What limits Wallace--and is driving him down on many people's draft projections--is his body. At 6'1" 245lbs he is a pretty big boy. Odds are this will limit his ability to play 3B at the Major League level and will be relegated to first base detail, which makes Justin Morneau an immediate roadblock. The Twins could groom Wallace as a 1B/DH, but would be more inclined to draft him and put him on a training regimen that would allow him to play third base in the pros, thus immediately increasing his value.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Dealing with Papi's Big Injury

David Ortiz hit the DL this week with a tear in the sheath that surrounds the tendon in his left wrist and although Big Papi thinks he can be back in a month, many think that the injury won’t heal in that time and may require season-ending surgery. If that is in fact the case, I can't help but think that the Red Sox will be looking to their crimson brothers-in-arms, the Cincinnati Reds for an offensive boost.

Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. both figure to be available and both could help the Sox in multiple ways.

Griffey and Dunn are both left-handed hitters who could provide solid numbers in the three-hole for the Red Sox. Both have significant power. Both have the ability to play the corners at Fenway and/or DH-alternatively with Manny Ramirez.

But most importantly...Cincy is most-likely looking to move both of them in order to save some serious cash and gain more prospects for the team’s on-going youth movement.

Let’s take a look at the Sox options:

Ken Griffey Jr.

In Griffey, the Sox would essential acquire a rent-a-player for the season, but if they are successful, perhaps Griffey would want to stay longer and make another championship run...something he isn't likely to do if he returns to Seattle as most people are predicting he will. They would also acquire one of the best players of this era--albeit on the downside of his career--and someone who would seemingly fit in very well with the Boston clubhouse.

Adam Dunn

In Dunn, the Sox would receive a powerful 28-year-old who appears to just be entering his prime and has raked to the tune of 40 homers (or better) for each of the last four years and is on pace to do it again in 2008. Dunn would be a wise signing if the Sox decided not to exercise Manny's option after 2008, as he could play the small left field at Fenway just as admirably as Manny and put up similar offensive numbers. However, with the uncertainty surrounding Big Papi's injury and his history of wrist-injuries, perhaps it'd be in the Sox best interest to sign Dunn and Ramirez and "worst-case scenario", David Ortiz comes back healthy and mashing and the Sox find that they have an overload of offensive talent. What a sad situation that would be for Sox, huh?!

What would it take to land Griffey or Dunn?

To get Griffey it would probably cost the Sox at least one solid pitching prospect (not named Masterson) most-likely Charlie Zink or Craig Hansen. The Reds would probably also want to land an outfielder in the deal such as Jeff Bailey or Chris Carter.

It may cost the Sox a little more to land Dunn, due to his age and current value to the Reds line-up, it might take Justin Masterson and some combination of Jed Lowrie, Brandon Moss, Zink, Bailey or Carter. Although given the proven skills of both Masterson and Lowrie the Sox may be able to get away with one of those two and a lower level prospect.

Final Analysis

Either way the trade makes sense for both sides. Ortiz's injury is a serious one and even if he is able to come back this season, there is a good chance he will be hampered by the injury all year, and it figures to sap his power and thus damages his on-base abilities as pitchers would be less-inclined to pitch around him. This gives the Sox a definite back-up plan and an option in the corners to help spell Manny and keep him from having another of his yearly late season "injuries."

It benefits the Reds because, even with the youth-movement in full swing, they don't appear set to contend in 2008. If the team doesn't choose to sign Dunn long-term (which would be a mistake) then he and Griffey both should be moved before walking away and leaving the team with nothing to show for it. The Reds can gain some high-ceiling prospects from the Red Sox and continue to keep their farm system stocked and keep the infusion of young talent coming, that way the team isn't forced to rely on the likes of Corey Patterson beyond the 2008 season.

Thoughts? Opinions? Blatant insults regarding my horrible use of ellipses? Etc…

...I'd love to hear 'em?!