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Tyler Kolek Rumors
The game of baseball is struggling to maintain youth participation, writes Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal, who says that the trend poses real concerns for an otherwise thriving sport. Newly-minted commissioner Rob Manfred has honed in on the issue since taking office, saying that “the biggest predictor of fan avidity as an adult is whether you played the game.” It’s a fascinating read that’s well worth your time.
Let’s check in on some amateur notes from around the game:
- ESPN.com’s Keith Law (Insider link) posts his first mock draft as June 8th draws near. While acknowledging that it is still early, Law predicts that the Diamondbacks will take Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson with the first overall pick while the Astros will add LSU shortstop Alex Bregman and high school outfielder Kyle Tucker with the second and fifth picks. Law adds that he does not expect Vandy righty Carson Fulmer to make it past the White Sox with the eighth pick.
- Speaking of Fulmer, Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs suggests that he represents a relatively rare “Black Swan” option in this year’s draft. You’ll need to read the piece to understand the concept, but McDaniel uses that classification for a subset of players that have been somewhat underappreciated by traditional player assessment tools: “small, right-handed, major-college starting pitchers with little to no injury history and a good performance record.”
- The antithesis of the Black Swan pitcher, perhaps, is the high school power arm, and the Marlins took an enticing one last year in Tyler Kolek. Josh Norris of Baseball America checks in on the 2014 second overall selection, who the club chose over Carlos Rodon. Now featuring an increasingly promising curve, the 19-year-old is said to be showing signs of developing into the top-of-the-rotation starter that Miami dreamed of when it chose him. Of course, his stat line has yet to reflect that promise, and he has a long way to go.
- The White Sox join a growing list of clubs with “serious interest” in Cuban outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweets. The 20-year-old is free to sign at any time, though it’s possible he could wait until the next July 2 period kicks off this summer.
- Agent Joshua Kusnick discussed the draft from an advisor’s perspective in a podcast with Ryan Sullivan (draft talk begins around the 24:00 mark), sharing his thoughts on the slotting system and the possibility of a worldwide draft, among other issues.
After the Reds’ agreement with Alex Blandino yesterday, 25 of this year’s 34 first-round picks have signed or at least agreed to terms on their signing bonus. Here are some of the latest draft-related (non-signing) news items from around the league…
- As noted by Baseball America earlier this week, the White Sox have $6.58MM that they can spend on top pick Carlos Rodon without losing future draft picks (Twitter link). Chicago’s situation with Rodon is somewhat similar to the one the Mariners faced with Alex Jackson, with whom they agreed to terms earlier this week. Both Rodon and Jackson are advised by Scott Boras, and both teams signed picks 2-10 prior to dealing with their first-rounder. Because picks beyond the 10th round don’t count against a team’s bonus pool (unless a team gives a bonus of more than $100K in rounds 11-40), that basically places a firm limit on what type of bonus they can offer. If anything, Jackson may have had more leverage as a high school player. MLB.com’s Jim Callis recently noted that he fully expects Chicago to sign Rodon, though he added that the Sox haven’t inked a notable Boras draftee since Alex Fernandez back in 1990 (Twitter links).
- MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes that the Marlins considered Tyler Kolek the top player in this year’s draft, even over No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken. Had Miami selected first overall, they’d still have taken Kolek, Frisaro reports. Had Houston taken Kolek, however, Aiken was No. 2 on their board.
- While the Mets and top pick Michael Conforto are in agreement on a signing bonus in the range of $2.987MM, as reported earlier in the week, there does appear to be a bit of work left to do before the deal becomes official, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. It isn’t clear exactly what the holdup is at this time, he adds, stating that it could be an issue of language within the contract. Whatever the issue, his signing bonus doesn’t appear to be a factor anymore.
- Cardinals third-rounder Trevor Megill has decided to return to college for his senior season rather than sign with St. Louis, reports Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish. Megill’s draft stock plummeted after he required Tommy John prior to his junior season at Loyola Marymount. MLB.com’s Jen Langosch noted recently that Megill would likely require an over-slot bonus or would return for his senior year.
The Marlins have signed Tyler Kolek, the second overall pick of the 2014 draft, and will officially introduce their newest prospect later today. Kolek will sign for a $6MM bonus, MLB.com’s Jim Callis reported over the weekend, which is the third-highest bonus ever given to a high school pitcher taken in the draft.
It is still, however, significantly below the approximate $6.822MM slot price for the No. 2 overall selection. Miami has already freed some savings by locking up Blake Anderson to a bonus of about $400K less than his slot value, so the Marlins have quite a bit of extra money available in its draft pool to reach agreement with several of its purportedly hard-to-sign, later-round picks.
Kolek was a consensus top-three talent heading into the draft. The 6’5, 250lb Texas high school righty has been said to have perhaps the most powerful prep fastball ever, regularly hitting and even surpassing the 100mph plateau. ESPN.com’s Keith Law notes that he will need to develop a third offering to complement his heater and slider, but obviously his upside is tantalizing.
Joe Frisaro of MLB.com first reported that Kolek and the Marlins were “in advanced negotiations,” while Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reported that the two sides had reached an agreement pending a physical.
MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth and Mark Polishuk contributed to this post.
Brady Aiken and Carlos Rodon have been mentioned the most frequently as potential options for the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, but CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman expands on a rumor that has been picking up steam that could have the Astros cutting a deal with high school shortstop Nick Gordon (brother of Dee Gordon and son of Tom Gordon) in order to spend more heavily elsewhere. Heyman notes that it could very well be just a rumor, but it’s “stirring intrigue in baseball circles.” It wouldn’t be the first time that Houston cut a deal at 1-1, as just two years ago they elected to select Carlos Correa in order to later sign Lance McCullers Jr. and Rio Ruiz to over-slot deals. One agent tells Heyman that he thinks Houston will look to cut a deal, with a second agent telling him the Astros are “all about the deal” and rival executives expressing that they simply can’t even guess what the Astros and GM Jeff Luhnow will do.
Here are several more draft-related links with the draft less than one week away…
- ESPN’s Keith Law tweets that he didn’t buy the Gordon/Astros rumor when he first heard it, and he’s still not a believer.
- Scout.com’s Kiley McDaniel tweets that the Gordon rumor is still alive and adds another to the mix, noting that the Blue Jays could reach and select Virginia righty Nick Howard as high as No. 11, while several other teams in the teens are kicking the tires on Howard. That would be quite the reach in comparison to the rankings of Howard by MLB.com (No. 75) and Law (No. 59). Baseball America is more bullish on Howard, ranking him 25th among draft prospects.
- Law appeared with ESPN’s Buster Olney on today’s Baseball Tonight Podcast to discuss a host of draft-related topics (Law appears from the 23:00 mark to the 45:00 mark). Law began by sharing a great deal from his experience with the Blue Jays’ front office, including the inner workings of a draft room, the unheralded successes of some area scouts and the change in decision-making processes as the draft progresses into the later rounds.
- Law also broke down the top of his most recent mock draft. In discussing the No. 5 pick (he has Gordon going to the Twins), he notes that Minnesota seems to be down to Gordon or LSU right-hander Aaron Nola. Law adds that he was on-hand for Nola’s most recent SEC start and saw executives from teams “from No. 2 on down,” including Marlins GM Dan Jennings, White Sox VP Kenny Williams and Cubs GM Jed Hoyer. Law says the Twins have been targeting Gordon “all spring.”
- Law feels that if Aiken, Rodon and Kolek are all off the board, the Cubs will cut a deal at No. 4 and turn around to “crush pitching” with their next several picks. He currently has them selecting Oregon State outfielder Michael Conforto, who brings an element of plate discipline that their current top prospects lack. He adds that he could also see them cutting a deal with Nola, though he sees Nola as more of a mid-rotation starter (that could be in the bigs in a year’s time) than an ace.
- The White Sox selection of Kolek is “the lock” of the top five picks, says Law. He also adds that Marlins ownership has pushed strongly for Rodon due to his proximity to the Majors and marketability as a Cuban-American left-hander. Law calls his slider the best overall pitch in the draft. (Note that these bullets are a very brief summary, and those with heavy interest in the MLB draft will consider the Olney/Law segment time well spent upon listening to it in its entirety.)
Pitching injuries are the big topic around the league, so let’s catch up on some of the latest commentary. Writing for GammonsDaily.com, Neil Weinberg offers a hypothesis (which, as he notes, may not really be testable) on the seeming Tommy John epidemic: what if the reason that more high-end professional pitchers are experiencing UCL tears is simply because better management at younger ages has actually prevented them from blowing their arms out at an earlier age? Meanwhile, pointing to the contractual effects of the injury bug, a GM tells Peter Gammons (Twitter link) that, “with all these injuries, I think pitchers will be reluctant to turn down extensions.” At Fangraphs, Wendy Thurm explores the costs to pitchers who lose time to TJ recovery, providing a bevy of salary information on past and current pitchers who have experienced the career-saving procedure.
Here are more notes from around the game:
- One player coming off of surger (on his shoulder) is righty Cristhian Martinez, who Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com says (Twitter link) is expected to throw for teams by the end of May. The 31-year-old, who was non-tendered by the Braves, was good for a 3.63 ERA in 151 1/3 innings over 2011-12.
- The Dodgers need to make some moves if they want to get back on trajectory, opines Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com. While the team is among the most well-rounded in baseball, that does not mean it is without its faults; one scout tells Castrovince that “the bench is awful, the bullpen is fringy at best, maybe below average, and there’s no situational hitting.” Though Castrovince says that the stats don’t really bear out the latter concern, he says the team should take the much-discussed step of shipping out one of its highly-paid outfielders.
- Trading away players is an expectation for the Cubs, of course, and Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com discusses the team’s most likely pieces (after ace Jeff Samardzija). Though Jason Hammel just suffered his worst start of the year, Rogers says he still looks to be on track to bring back a strong prospect return. Nate Schierholtz and Jose Veras still look like trade chips to Rogers, though both will need to improve rather substantially to maximize their trade value to their current club.
- The latest amateur draft mocks are out, with MLB.com offering a first-round projection and Baseball America putting out its second version. The BA staff now sees a shake-up in the early portion: their board has the Marlins going with catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson at second overall, the Cubs choosing lefty collegiate Kyle Freeland in the fourth slot, and big-armed high schooler Tyler Kolek falling to the Phillies at number seven. Both MLB.com and BA like the Jays to take N.C. State shortstop Trea Turner and prep righty Touki Toussaint. Meanwhile, the Twins have interest in Jackson with their fifth-overall pick — if he lasts that long — tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN, though he notes that there is still no consensus as to whether he can stick behind the dish.
- Turning to the international market, there has of course been much discussion over whether — and, if so, how — a draft might be implemented. Writing for the Hardball Times, Alex Remington argues against a draft. Among his reasons are the concern that less young international players would have a chance to play professionally; various deleterious consequences that could occur in Latin America (without solving the issues that currently persist); and that implementation could pose a “logistical nightmare.”
Here are some stray notes from around the game to finish up the evening:
- 35-year-old former big leaguer Juan Rincon, who has not thrown in the bigs since 2010, is looking to mount a comeback, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Rincon, a righty who owns a 4.03 ERA in 507 MLB innings, has thrown for several clubs already, says Heyman.
- Meanwhile, another veteran — 33-year-old right-hander Todd Coffey — is set to put on a showcase tomorrow, Heyman tweets. Heyman says that the eight-year veteran, whose career ERA stands at 4.10, has amped his fastball up into the 92mph to 94mph range as he looks to return after sitting out all of 2013 recovering from Tommy John surgery.
- Besting both of the aforementioned players in both age and MLB service is Angels outfielder Raul Ibanez, who is now in his 19th big league campaign at age 41. But with a disappointing .139/.248/.267 slash through 117 plate appearances, Ibanez could be in danger of losing his roster spot, writes Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. With rookie C.J. Cron off to an outlandish 1.128 OPS start (albeit in only 29 plate appearances), and having shown the ability to hit righties at the Triple-A level, Ibanez could prove superfluous. On the other hand, manager Mike Scioscia appeared to downplay that possibility. “I don’t know that it’s going to be C.J. versus Raul,” he said. “We’ll find at-bats for guys who are swinging the bat well.”
- While hard-throwing young arms are the story of this year’s amateur draft, none has more power than Texas prep righty Tyler Kolek, writes Baseball America’s John Manuel. The mountainous Kolek has consistently hit triple-digits on the radar gun, leading scouts to tell Manuel that he throws harder than any high school pitcher in the draft era. Of course, that kind of radar reading comes with risks, as all observers of the game are aware. Fellow BA writer J.J. Cooper breaks down the rise of power arms in the high school ranks, discussing the risks — and, of course, the immense upside — that come with top-end speed at a young age.
The Reds‘ quiet offseason included few depth signings, and now that lack of roster depth is being tested given the number of key players currently on the team’s disabled list. Cincinnati GM Walt Jocketty tells Fangraphs’ David Laurila that “there weren’t a lot of moves to make” and warned against too much roster turnover, though finances also played a part in the Reds’ uneventful winter. “It wasn’t just [will we have money later], it was also ‘Do we have enough money now?,’ Jockett said. “We’d have loved to have [Shin-Soo] Choo back, but we couldn’t afford him. And there really wasn’t anything else we felt we could do — that we felt we could financially do. Once your club is set, it’s pretty hard to make changes.”
Here are some more items from around baseball…
- Also from Laurila’s piece, Red Sox closer Koji Uehara wasn’t sure he was ready to pitch in North America when he was first eligible at age 24, though he would’ve liked to have arrived sooner than his age-34 season. The issue for Uehara was that his Japanese club, the Yomiuri Giants, didn’t post their players and instead required them to fulfill the entirety of their contacts.
- Right-hander Tyler Kolek regularly hits the 100-mph plateau and “is the hardest-throwing high schooler of the draft era,” scouts tells Baseball America’s John Manuel. Kolek has been widely predicted to be at least a top-three selection in this year’s amateur draft.
- As pitchers like Kolek are throwing faster and harder at increasingly young ages, evaluating these young arms has become “a convergence of fascination and fear,” for scouts, MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince writes. Teams are as interested in ever with hard-throwers, yet are also concerned with the injury risk attached with regularly throwing at such high velocities.
- Mets fans are losing patience with the team’s rebuilding plan and Sandy Alderson’s front office has seemed either unwilling or unable to spend to make the Amazins more competitive, ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin opines. Even the low-cost moves that were supposed to be Alderson’s forte have backfired, Rubin notes in regards to the club’s struggling bullpen.
- Baseball America’s Ben Badler (BA subscription required) profiles five international prospects who have drawn the attention of the Yankees and Astros in the lead-up to the July 2 deadline. New York has been linked to catcher Miguel Flames, shortstop Diego Castillo and outfielder Jonathan Amundaray, while Houston is interested in outfielder Ronny Rafael and shortstop Miguel Angel Sierra.
- Should the Tigers use Robbie Ray as a much-needed southpaw reliever or send him back to the minors to get regular work as a starter? Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press argues the former point while MLive.com’s Chris Iott argues the latter.
- The revamped draft and free agent rules haven’t helped parity or benefited smaller-market teams, Peter Gammons writes for GammonsDaily.com. Tying the draft directly to the free agent compensation system (in regards to qualifying offers) has created flaws in both areas, Gammons argues, and the real purpose of the new rules was “to lessen the power of agents and limit the money paid to amateur prospects.”
Baseball’s amateur talent season is in full swing, even if it generates less national hype than the football version. (Of course, if you follow the NFL, you’ll want to pay close attention today to MLBTR’s sister site, ProFootballRumors.com, for the latest draft news and rumors.) The Rule 4 amateur draft is set to begin on June 5, with the July 2 international amateur signing period just behind it. Here’s the latest:
- Despite some recent questions, N.C. State lefty Carlos Rodon still lands atop the first mock draft of Baseball America’s John Manuel. While the Astros will surely be tempted by an attractive group of prep arms that includes Tyler Kolek and Brady Aiken, says Manuel, Rodon’s two primary offerings are good enough to make him a big league pen option right now, though obviously he’ll be taken as a starter. Ultimately, his “combination of stuff, physicality and track record” makes Rodon the most likely pick for Houston, in Manuel’s estimation. The first position player off the board in the mock is high school shortstop Nick Gordon, who Manuel has going to the Twins fifth overall.
- Aiken takes top billing in the top 100 draft prospect list produced by ESPN.com’s Keith Law (Insider link), based upon his wide arsenal of offerings and lofty ceiling. One of the largest gaps among the top potential choices (as between Law’s ranking and Manuel’s draft projection) belongs to University of San Francisco outfielder Bradley Zimmer. Law places him at fifth overall, citing his size, athleticism, and projectable power, while Manuel believes he could fall into the second half of the first round.
- It was recently reported that Jeff Hoffman, who had been viewed as a top-five choice, will undergo Tommy John surgery. While that surely bumps him down the board, Law still has Hoffman as the 25th-best player available, while Manuel thinks the Blue Jays will take a chance on his rehab with the second of the team’s two early-round choices (9th and 11th overall).
- In response to reader questions, MLB.com prospect guru Jim Callis joins the consensus holding Rodon, Kolek, and Aiken as the three top players available. While the White Sox may hope to get a college arm, says Callis, Chicago will probably take whoever is left from that trio (even if it is not Rodon) with the third choice in the draft.
- Profiling Louisiana State righty Aaron Nola, Callis says that Reds hurler Mike Leake is a good comp as a command-first, quick-to-the-bigs arm. But Callis opines that Nola has somewhat more upside than Leake, who was the most recent player to jump straight to MLB out of the draft.
- After recently discussing the set of international players expected to be signed to cap-busting bonuses, Ben Badler of Baseball America profiles five other July 2 prospects who are making waves. Leading the pack is Venezuelan outfielder Brayan Hernandez, who Badler says could near the $2MM level in his contract. According to Badler, Hernandez is both well-rounded and projectable, and could be headed to the Mariners.