Prospect Previews: Week Three
Today, Monday, February 18, 2013 is a day many people do not have to work. It is the birthday of George Washington, our first president. It is also a holiday that celebrates many of our presidents. I have taken deliberate measures to avoid the use of an apostrophe in these first few sentences, and even in naming the holiday at all. For this, I turn to Wikipedia:
“Because Presidents Day is not the official name of the federal holiday, there is variation in how it is rendered. Both Presidents Day and Presidents’ Day are common today, and both are considered correct by dictionaries and usage manuals. Presidents’ Day was once the predominant style, and it is still favored by the majority of significant authorities—notably, The Chicago Manual of Style (followed by most book publishers and some magazines), The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Webster’s Third International Dictionary, and Garner’s Modern American Usage. In recent years, as the use of attributive nouns (nouns acting as modifiers) has become more widespread, the popularity of “Presidents Day” has increased. This style is favored by the Associated Press Stylebook (followed by most newspapers and some magazines) and the Writer’s Digest Grammar Desk Reference (ISBN 978-1582973357).
President’s Day is a misspelling when used with the intention of celebrating more than one individual (see also apostrophe); however, as an alternate rendering of “Washington’s Birthday,” or as denominating the commemoration of the presidency as a singular institution, it is a proper spelling of a possessive. Indeed, this spelling was considered for use as the official federal designation by Robert McClory, a congressman from Illinois who was tasked with getting the 1968 federal holiday reorganization bill through the House Judiciary Committee. Nonetheless, while Washington’s Birthday was originally established to honor George Washington, the term Presidents Day was informally coined in a deliberate attempt to use the holiday to honor multiple presidents, and is virtually always used that way today. Though President’s Day is sometimes seen in print — even sometimes on government Web sites, this style is not endorsed by any major dictionary or usage authority.” (Emphasis added by It’s All Relative)
The official name of the holiday which some of us celebrate today is Washington’s Birthday. For all that I was told in college about not using Wikipedia as a source, I’m perfectly comfortable with citing these two above paragraphs to make a point about grammar. Many people will see today as an occasion to get laundry or errands done, but why not throw in a little learning, too? Thank you, Washington and Wikipedia.
Back to sports…
Before we get to week three of our Prospect Previews, a quick recap of a trip I took these past few days with the IPFW men’s basketball team. I was filling in for my friend (and TinCaps broadcast partner) Kent Hormann, playing the role of broadcaster for the Mastodons’ games against the Kangaroos of the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Coyotes (pronounced KYE-oats) of the University of South Dakota.
First was our stop in Kansas City, a nice place and also the home to the world’s oldest waterbed store. No, seriously:
These are the types of things you’ll find on a quest for a Radio Shack. Lesson: Never forget AA batteries.
Here’s where the Mastodons (head coach Tony Jasick is in the black shirt) practiced and played against UMKC. IPFW won, 65-60. It’s a small facility, but it gets the job done.
After this game, it was off to Vermillion, South Dakota, about a five-hour bus ride from Kansas City. I hadn’t been on a bus ride that long since the end of baseball season, so it was a nice way to get myself used to being on a bus again before we start the 2013 TinCaps campaign. We stopped to eat in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and let me tell you that Sam’s Italian Villa is the hidden gem of Council Bluffs. The chicken parm sandwich is a delicacy. Next time you’re there, tell them I sent you.
Odd travel note: For the entirety of the 2012 baseball season, I sat on the right side of the team bus. Bus seating is a bit like seating in a college classroom; once you pick your seat, that’s what your stuck with, for better or worse, for the entire year. I always slept with my bus pillow on my right side and that was comfortable. On this trip from Kansas City to Vermillion I sat on the left and it was something else. I just couldn’t get used to it. Back to the right side for the baseball season. It might seem like a little detail, but with the amount of sleep that takes place on the bus, it’s a huge detail.
Friday dinner took place at Little Italy’s in Vermillion:
If you and a friend can eat that entire pizza in an hour, not only is the $40 meal free, but you also get $50. I snapped this photo as we were leaving, and it didn’t look like these guys were going to make it.
Saturday was game day, which meant a trip to the DakotaDome:
Vermillion’s 10,000 seat sporting venue is home to the Coyotes, not only for basketball, but for football, too. This is what the football turf looks like right now:
And here’s a shot of the roof:
Unlike the roof of the Carrier Dome at my alma mater, Syracuse University, the roof of the DakotaDome is not entirely supported by air pressure. It was built in 1979, but the roof collapsed twice within the first three years. The structure is now entirely supported by metal, meaning there are no worries about all of the air escaping from the building.
Here was my broadcast position for the game:
If you replace the hand-written chart with a filled-out scorebook, you’ve got pretty much the same setup for baseball, too.
All in all, it was a fun trip because the Mastodons went 2-0 and I got to check South Dakota off my list of states visited. I’ll be calling more basketball on a return trip to Iowa this coming Saturday the 23rd for ESPN’s BracketBusters, as Denver takes on Northern Iowa. You can catch the game on WatchESPN.com Saturday night.
We are into week three of our prospect previews series, and this week we’ll look at Rodney Daal, Jose Dore, Zach Eflin, Max Fried, and Jalen Goree. If you’ve missed either of the first two weeks here’s week one and week two.
2012 was the year of the catcher as far as prospects went for the TinCaps, with the much-heralded Austin Hedges playing 96 of a possible 140 games behind the plate. Much of the buzz about Hedges revolved around his defensive prowess and later, his hitting talent. Observers also were impressed that Hedges was only 19 for a majority of the season. If Rodney Daal is to play with the TinCaps in 2013, the team will have yet another young backstop.
Daal, a native of Amsterdam (the Netherlands, not New York or Missouri), is 18 years old as of this writing and will turn 19 on March 23rd. In two years in the Padres system, he’s still only seem limited action, playing in 25 games in 2011 and 42 games in 2012. He hit .243 with the Arizona League Padres in 2011, also playing in one game with Triple-A Tucson, and then last year split his season between the AZL Padres and the Eugene Emeralds. Daal, in the 2013 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, is listed fourth on the minor league depth chart behind Hedges, Jason Hagerty and Dane Philips. By all indications, Daal is still young, raw and getting acclimated to the professional game in the United States.
Here’s what Eugene Emeralds broadcaster Matt Dompe had to say of Daal after last season:
“Daal was a good catch and release defensive catcher but did have trouble blocking balls in the dirt. He has plans to work this winter with Yankees catcher Russell Martin so it will be very interesting to see how he progresses into next year.”
No word on whether Daal did work out with Martin, but he would certainly be a good pro to learn from. The Padres had Daal as a member of their instructional league corps following last season, too. With the AZL Padres last year Daal hit .306 in 21 games and .288 in 21 games with Eugene.
When the first batch of 25 players arrived in Fort Wayne to begin last season, it took me a few days to be able to match names to faces and to discern personalities. With Jose Dore, however, that process was a little bit easier than with most. After the team had dinner with their host families at the field that first night in town, I needed a few volunteers to help film a video and Dore was one of the first to volunteer. As we shot the video, which took a few hours, he kept everyone loose with a good attitude and good humor (sadly, no Choco Tacos). Unfortunately for Dore, he only played in three games with the TinCaps during 2012 because of a dislocated left shoulder he suffered on April 7th against Lake County.
With the TinCaps trailing, 9-1, in the bottom of the ninth inning, Dore singled to lead off the inning and then tried to steal second, but was thrown out. I remember being down in the dugout, waiting to do a postgame interview at the time, and watching Dore walk to the locker room with trainer Isak Yoon. Dore was hunched at the waist, grimacing in pain, and holding his left elbow, but really supporting his shoulder. We did not see him again at Parkview Field in 2012. He played in four more games with the Arizona League Padres and two with the Eugene Emeralds, and only had 33 at-bats for the season.
Last year was supposed to be a transition year for the native Floridian who signed out of high school in 2010, and was attempting to become a first baseman after having played the outfield for the first two years of his career. A return to Fort Wayne to begin the season wouldn’t be out of the question, at least to start the year, for Dore.
The most consistent buzz from around the Padres system that I keep hearing about the 2013 TinCaps is about the pitching rotation. There’s a strong possibility, sources tell TinCaps.com’s Mike Couzens, that the pitching staff could include names like Walker Weickel, Max Fried, Joe Ross and Zach Eflin. All were taken in either the first round (Ross ’11, Fried ’12) or supplemental first round (Weickel ’12, Eflin ’12). The 19-year-0ld Eflin (he’ll turn 20 on April 8th) was taken with the 33rd overall pick, given to San Diego as compensation for when Heath Bell signed with the Miami Marlins. (Bell has since been traded to Arizona, meaning he’ll face his former team much more often this season.)
Eflin is listed at 6″4″, 200 pounds and in his senior season at Hagerty High School in Ovideo, Florida, he went 7-0 with a 0.51 ERA. He didn’t pitch last April due to triceps tendinitis, and Baseball America says, “if not for the injury he might have been a first-round pick.” That said, going 33rd overall and signing for $1.2 million isn’t bad, either. His post-draft action was understandably limited, as he worked just seven innings over four Arizona League appearances. He struck out four, walked three and allowed six earned runs.
Baseball America calls his changeup “above average” and says he consistently throws strikes in the low 90’s. Consistency is one of the biggest keys to success in the Midwest League, especially when it comes to attacking the strike zone.
“My family means the world to me,” said Eflin, who signed with UCF. “I wouldn’t be on this Earth without every single one of them.”
Eflin was barely more than a year old when two tragedies struck his family.
Zach’s grandfather, William Adams, died in October 1995. Two weeks later, his 7-year-old sister, Ashley, died of complications relating to leukemia.
“The one thing I can take out of it is that the worst thing that could have happened to my life has already happened,” said Larry Eflin, Zach’s father.
Those hardships led Cathy, Zach’s mother, to start drinking, and she battled alcohol addiction for several years.
“It was a tough situation to live through, and I wasn’t as strong as I would have wanted to be,” Cathy said.
Cathy and Larry are divorced, and Zach said he has a “very weak” relationship with his mother, talking to her once every couple of weeks.
Tell me if this sounds familiar–a first-round pick of the Padres, committed to UCLA, from California tall, lanky pitcher…well, if you follow the TinCaps, you’ll bring to mind Joe Ross, who started with Fort Wayne in 2012. That description also fits another pitcher who might find himself in a TinCaps uniform in 2013, and his name is Max Fried.
Ross’ last start in a Fort Wayne uniform was May 4th (sore shoulder), so if Fried opens the year here we’ll hope to see him injury-free, and potentially anchoring a very young, very talented staff. Here’s the book on Fried:
Baseball America: “A quality fastball, operating in the low 90’s and peaking at 96…(His) downer curveball is a plus-plus pitch at its best.”
“Exceptionally gifted for a high school lefthander and could speed through the minors in the same fashion as Cole Hamels and Clayton Kershaw.”
Now let’s just see how quickly both Hamels and Kershaw went through the minor leagues. Hamels was drafted 17th overall in 2002 by the Phillies and made his MLB debut on May 12, 2006. He pitched just 201 innings in the minors before making the big leagues, and appeared in just 13 games at the Low-A level with Lakewood of the South Atlantic League. Kershaw was drafted 7th overall in 2006 and made his MLB debut on May 25th, 2008. He had almost a full year in the Midwest League, going 7-5 with a 2.77 ERA with the Loons in 2007. Overall, Kershaw had 220 1/3 innings in the minors.
For comparison, I randomly selected John Lackey of the Boston Red Sox so that we could observe how long, relatively speaking, it took him to get to the majors. Lackey was a second round pick of the Angels in 1999 and made his MLB debut June 24, 2002, tossing 556 innings in the minors before appearing in his first big league game. Kershaw never pitched at Triple-A, Hamels made three starts for the then Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons (now RailRiders!), while Lackey pitched parts of two seasons a Triple-A. In summary, most guys don’t speed through to MLB in about 200 innings, even if they end up having a sustained career like Lackey.
Back to Fried, who last season went 0-1 with a 3.57 ERA and six walks in 17 2/3 innings during 10 games (nine starts) for the Padres’ rookie team.
Of playing at a new level, Fried told Padres.com: “It’s just a matter of adjusting to the lifestyle of playing professional baseball, every day and the grind.” Towards the end, I really focused on not walking anyone and throwing strikes.”
Fried pitched his senior season at Harvard-Westlake High School in California, where he was a teammate of Lucas Giloito (16th overall pick), who was selected in the draft by the Washington Nationals.
Baseball America says he will “probably” begin the year in Fort Wayne.
If you like speed, chances are you’ll like watching Jalen Goree. All accounts say that he’s a guy who can move on the basepaths and his accolades coming out of Alabama indicate he’s a talent. Goree, a sixth-round pick of the Padres last June, was named the Class-4A Player of the Year for the state of Alabama:
“Goree was picked for the All-State first team as a shortstop.
Goree hit .459 and drove in 36 runs during his senior season and led the Choctaws to the second round of the Class 4A playoffs. He had 10 doubles, two triples and seven home runs and stole 24 bases. Goree drew 39 walks and struck out only seven times in 122 at-bats.
As a pitcher, Goree posted a 5-3 record with a 1.67 ERA. He struck out 58 batters in 541⁄3 innings and threw one shutout.”
Let’s go Choctaws!
Goree is from Brent, Alabama, population 4,024. Fort Wayne (pop. ~250,000) might take some getting used to, but I’m sure he’ll have no trouble adjusting. Last season with the rookie-level Arizona League Padres, he hit .270 with one home run and 13 RBI in 30 games. He then wrapped up his first season as a pro in instructional league in Arizona. The Padres took him as a shortshop, and he could be the 2013 successor to Jace Peterson in the six-hole this season.
Today we’ll get a Padres perspective from Jim Callis of Baseball America. During one of his recent web Q&A sessions, he answered this question about his ranking of the San Diego farm system:
Was there a typing error when you didn't include the Padres in your top 10 farm systems in the last Ask BA? They seem to be loaded good prospects and I would have thought that they at least would crack the top 10 of anyone's list.
I say this a lot, and I’ll repeat it again: Except for the very best and worst farm systems, it’s hard to know exactly where they’ll rank until I sit down and start stacking them all up against each other. In my mind, I thought the Padres had one of the best systems in baseball. But when I started looking at all the systems, San Diego wasn’t as impressive as I thought.
I do think the Padres have one of the deeper systems around, but their Top 10 list pales in comparision to several others. I love the ceiling of 2012 first-rounder Max Fried, the best high school lefthander since Clayton Kershaw, and Austin Hedges is the third-best catching prospect in the game. Jedd Gyorko is one of the better hitters in the minors, though he’s defensively challenged.
But three members of our yet-to-be-released Padres Top 10 are pitchers who had elbow issues in 2012: Robbie Erlin, Casey Kelly and Joe Wieland. Neither Erlin nor Wieland has overpowering stuff to begin with. I don’t want to reveal the whole Top 10, but the back half of it didn’t stand out.
I wound up ranking the Padres 17th on my personal organization rankings. I put that list together before the Blue Jays gave up catcher Travis d’Arnaud and righthander Noah Syndegaard in the R.A. Dickey trade, so I’d move San Diego up a notch now. The three other editors who ranked systems for the 2013 Prospect Handbook put the Padres at 13th, 16th and 19th, so I wasn’t alone in keeping them out of my top 10 systems.
As always, thanks for reading.
I’ll be back next week with the fourth segment of this eight-part series.