The Greatness That Was Gehrig

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Last Wednesday marked what would have been Lou Gehrig’s 110th birthday. Although it has been 74 years since the Iron Horse last took the field in a major league game, there is no question that Gehrig is still regarded as the best first basemen to have ever played the game. That statement itself isn’t completely shocking, but it is rather surprising, especially seeing how many talented first basemen have come since. Names like Foxx, McCovey, Killebrew, and even Eddie Murray get tossed around, but none come close to eclipsing Lou. Fans today will make the case for Albert Pujols, and maybe… MAYBE… when all is said and done in Fat Albert’s career that could be… but not just yet.

Today, when you talk about the legacy of Gehrig, it usually comes down to one of two points: The Streak or the Illness. It’s hard to avoid talking about either one of those points when one is discussing Lou. It’s kind of like discussing Barry Bonds and not mentioning his surly demeanor or the PED’s, or not mentioning gluttony and excess when talking about Babe Ruth. The streak is regarded as one of the most hallowed records and achievements in all of baseball history; right up there with Ted Williams hitting .406 and DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak. The streak was an accomplishment that would last the better part of 50+ years. The illness, well what can you say about the illness that not only ended both his career and his life, but also took the name of it’s most famous victim. ALS: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis aka Lou Gehrig’s disease.

What sometimes gets overshadowed by both the streak and the illness, is just how good of a baseball player Lou actually was. You have to remember that Gehrig was use to being overshadowed, as he spent the better part of a decade batting cleanup behind the Babe.

But just how good was Lou Gehrig?

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His career numbers look like this:

.340 Batting Average – tied for 16th on the all-time list.

2,721 Hits – 59th on the all-time hit list.

493 Home Runs – tied for 26th on the all-time list.

1,992 RBI – 5th on the all-time list.

Now that we have taken a quick glimpse at how Lou’s career stats match up against some of the other greats on the all-time list(s), lets take a look at a few other remarkable moments and highlights from the career of the legendary Lou Gehrig.

• At the age of 17, Gehrig hit a grand slam completely out of Wrigley Field. A rare enough achievement for a professional ball player, let alone a 17 year old high school student.

• On the same day that Yankee Stadium opened and Babe Ruth hit the first home run in it’s history, Gehrig struck out 17 batters as a pitcher in a game at Colombia University. Gehrig was attending Columbia University on a football scholarship. The Yankees would sign him after the 1923 season.

• Gehrig’s breakout season came as a 23 year old in 1926 when he batted .313 with 47 doubles, AL leading 20 triples, 16 Home Runs and 112 RBI.

• The 1927 Yankees are regarded as being one of the best teams of all time, as well as having one of the best lineups of all time; the legendary Murderer’s Row. Gehrig not only batted cleanup for Murderer’s Row, he also ended up winning the 1927 AL MVP thanks to a .373 average • 218 hits • 52 doubles • 18 triples • 47 Home Runs • 175 RBI (record at the time). Despite a season like that, Gehrig could still not escape from the Babe’s shadow; 1927 would be the year that Ruth hit 60 Home Runs.

• Gehrig was one of the best run producers in the history of the game. Lou played in 14 seasons, and he hit the 100 RBI plateau in 13 of them; including seven seasons with 150 RBI or more. He also drove in 509 RBI’s in a three year span from 1930-32 which lead the Majors during that span; Ruth had 498 in the same span. Lou did also hold the MLB record for most RBI in a season (184) until 1931 when Hack Wilson drove in 191.

• His ability to drive in runs stemmed from his power and plate discipline when facing opposing pitchers. Lou had six seasons when he posted a batting average of .350 or higher, including a .379 in 1930; he also had one season where he hit .349. Although Ruth may get more recognition in the power department, it should be noted that Lou was hardly a slouch. Gehrig had five seasons where he hit 40 or more home runs, and eight seasons where he amassed 200 or more hits. His high batting averages can be attributed to his keen batting eye and ability to work the count. In 11 of his 14 seasons, Lou managed to draw 100+ walks.

• Gehrig became the first player in the 20th century to hit 4 home runs in one major league game. He narrowly missed out on hitting a 5th, but center fielder Al Simmons made a highlight reel leaping catch.

Shenanigans with the Babe

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In 1927, Ruth and Gehrig teamed up for a “barnstorming” tour across California. The concept was that Gehrig and Ruth would both be player-coaches for their respectful teams during the tour and would travel to multiple towns around Sacramento and the Bay Area. The idea behind it was to bring “big name” baseball players to areas of the country that didn’t necessarily have major or minor league baseball near them. The other purpose behind it was to put a little more cash in the pocket of the Babe; upwards of $25,000. Despite the fun and laughs, both Ruth and Gehrig had a competitive nature toward each other during the regular season. Ruth would win most of the head to head battles, and would definitely be the more famous of the two throughout their playing careers and on, but Lou did get the best of him every now and then. Gehrig would only out slug the Babe once when it came to home runs in a season. That was the 1934 campaign that saw Gehrig hit 49 to Ruth’s 22; it should be noted that the Babe was far from “the Babe” anymore though. During their Yankee career Ruth out slugged Gehrig to the tune of 424 to 347. Lou did out produce him in RBI during that time (1,436 – 1,316), as well as having the higher batting average; .343 to .338.

The Streak

2,130 games. That’s how many consecutive games Lou Gehrig played. The story goes that Gehrig replaced everyday first basemen Wally Pipp in the starting lineup because Pipp was suffering from a headache. This is a story that Pipp has confirmed. It could also be said that the reason Gehrig got the start was because both Pipp and the Yankees were mired in a long slump, and perhaps a day off and some “fresh blood” would be what the Yanks needed. The streak started on June 2nd, 1925. There some in the baseball world have pointed out that the “iron man” streaks and consecutive games played streaks are detrimental to their actual teams because it forces the manager to play that player despite what that player might be contributing or producing at that time. Although Gehrig had few slumps during his streak, he did have some close calls that came to ending it.

• He was knocked unconscious on two separate occasions in 1933 and 1934. In 1933 he would remain down on the ground for a short period of time, but would remain in the game. During the 1934 incident, he was forced to leave the game with assistance from his teammates, but had batted in his previous appearance, which allowed the streak to remain intact.

• Manager Joe McCarthy would pencil Gehrig in as the starting SS when Lou was under the weather. This was done so Gehrig could bat in the lead off position; he would promptly get replaced by a pinch runner if he got on base.

• The General Manager of the Yankees at the time, Ed Barrow, once postponed a game as a rain out when Gehrig was sick with the flu. Amazingly this was allowed despite the fact that it was not raining.

• Gehrig had X-Rays taken later in his life when he was receiving treatment for his illness. These X-Rays would reveal over 17 fractures in his hands that had healed themselves. A true testament to why he earned the moniker the “Iron Horse.”

Battling an Unknown Assailant

During the 1938 season, something didn’t seem quite right with Gehrig. He was still producing like a future hall of famer should, but his numbers had taken a significant drop compared to his 1937 season.

1937: 569 AB • .351 AVG • 37 HR • 159 RBI • 127 BB • 49 K • .473 OBP

1938: 576 AB • .295 AVG • 29 HR • 114 RBI • 107 BB • 75 K • .410 OBP

I know, still amazing numbers by today standards, but you have to remember that a .295 season from Gehrig was a bit alarming. Lou was getting older (35) but still appeared to have a few good years left. That would all end the following season. During spring training in 1939 it was obvious that there was something physically wrong with Gehrig. His power had been tapped and his base running and fielding was suffering from a lack of coordination, and a loss of speed. By the end of April 1939, Lou Gehrig was hitting .143 with 1 RBI.

Despite his lack of offensive production and continuing pressure from the Yankees front office, manager Joe McCarthy left Gehrig in the everyday starting lineup. In late April, on a routine play, Gehrig had a play occur that changed his career forever.

“Late in the game, I scooped up an ordinary ground ball and threw it over to the pitcher, covering first base. It was the same kind of play I had made several hundred times in my big league career, just a routine play. But Bill Dickey, Joe Gordon, and the pitcher all got around me, slapped me on the back, and said, “Great Going, Lou” “Nice Stop Big Boy.” They meant it to be kind, but it hurt worst than any balling out I ever received in baseball. They were saying “Great Stop” because I had fielded a grounder. I decided then and there, I would ask McCarthy to take me out of the lineup.”

On May 2nd, 1939, Gehrig informed manager Joe McCarthy that he was benching himself for the “good of the team.” Gehrig was replaced by Ellsworth “Babe” Dahlgren at first base. Out of respect for the great Yankee first basemen, the Tigers PA announcer at Briggs Stadium told the crowd, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is the first time Lou Gehrig’s name will not appear on the Yankee lineup in 2,130 consecutive games.” The Tigers’ fans gave Gehrig a standing ovation while he sat on the bench with tears forming in his eyes. Lou would remain as the Captain of the Yankees for the rest of the season, but he never played in another Major League game.

Now we all know how it goes from there. Gehrig retires in June of ’39 and the Yankees have Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day at Yankee Stadium on July 4th, 1939. Yankee greats from past and present, as well as dignitaries and politicians came to wish Lou all the best in his fight against an unknown enemy. They presented him with awards and plaques, poor Lou was so weak from the disease that he couldn’t even hold them. After all the fanfare and well wishes were delivered, Gehrig stepped up to the microphone and delivered one of the most memorable and moving speeches to date. The highlight of it being:

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

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Following the speech, Gehrig was embraced in a bear hug from his old teammate Babe Ruth, a man who was not far from answering his own roll call in the sky.

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Lou Gehrig died less than two years after making that speech at Yankee Stadium from complications stemming from ALS. He died on June 2nd, 1941; sixteen years to the date that he took Wally Pipp’s position in the lineup.

The picture at the start of this post was snapped the day he took himself out of the starting lineup for the first time since 1925. It was a move that ended his consecutive games played streak at 2130, a record that would stand until 1995 when it was broken by Cal Ripken Jr. The picture shows Gehrig gazing out at the field from the steps of the dugout, probably contemplating what his next move was going to be.

– $

Line-Up For Yesterday

G is for Gehrig,
The Pride of the Stadium;
His Record Pure Gold,
His Courage, Pure Radium.

– Ogden Nash (1949)

Plethora of Prospects

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This Tuesday (June 18th) will mark the debut(s) of two of Major league Baseball’s top 100 prospects: Wil Myers (#4) of the Tampa Bay Rays, and Zack Wheeler (#7) of the New York Mets. Both prospects were drafted in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft; Wheeler 9th overall to the Giants, and Myers to the Royals in the 3rd round. Both players were obtained from the teams they were drafted by in exchange for big name players going the other way. Wheeler was traded by the Giants at the 2011 Trade Deadline to the Mets in exchange for Carlos Beltran. Wil Myers was dealt this past offseason in a blockbuster trade between the Royals and the Rays that saw the Royals receive James Shields and Wade Davis; the Rays also received Jake Odorizzi, and Mike Montgomery.

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Trading prospects for immediate help is nothing new; it’s usually what playoff bound teams do in order to ensure the potential of a lengthy playoff run. On the flip side, some teams will mortgage the farm just in an attempt to even make it to the Playoffs. Wheeler for instance was traded at the deadline for a player (Beltran) that the Giants believed would help them immediately in their quest to win the AL West, and get back to the World Series. The Giants anemic offense needed a big push, especially after the loss of Buster Posey, and the Giants believed that Beltran would be that push. To his credit Beltran performed admirably in San Fran hitting .323/7/18 in 44 games for the Giants. Unfortunately for the Giants, they would never be able to overcome the immense lead the Diamondbacks had built atop the AL West; finishing 8 games back of the Division, and 2 back of the Cardinals for the Wild Card.

For the Royals, trading Wil Myers was less about a playoff push, as it was about returning to playoff relevancy. The Royals were perennial contenders from 1976-1985, a run that would see them lose three straight ALCS titles to the Yankees (1976-78). In 1980, they would make it all the way to the World Series, before losing to the Phillies in 6 games. 1985 would be the Royals year. They came back from a 3-1 deficit in the ALCS against the Blue Jays, setting up an all Missouri World Series against the Cardinals. The Royals would go down 3 games to 1 before storming back to win the Series in 7 games; Umpire John Denkinger may have lent a helping hand too. 1985 was the BEST year in Royals franchise history, and it was also the last time that those sexy Powder Blue jerseys made it to post season baseball. The current version of the Royals knew that their rosters weakness was their pitching rotation. Most of their young arms were either injured, or underperforming, and the pitchers they did have in the starting rotation were substitute teachers at best.

Some critics may point out that the Royals offense and lineup could have benefitted from Myers bat in it over veteran Jeff Francoeur. Others pointed out that the Royals could have gone the free agent route in their pitcher shopping, or traded for another arm or two; like they had done in acquiring Ervin Santana from the Angels. Either way, GM Dayton Moore knew what his team needed, he knew what resources his team had, and he made the deal hoping that Big Game James is the missing piece in helping return the Royals to their former glory. The Rays welcomed Myers with open arms as they were looking for someone to potentially replace BJ Upton on the depth chart.

The arrival of Wheeler and Myers is just the latest arrival of young, exciting players who are helping MLB enter a new “youth movement.”
In the past two seasons, baseball fans have had the absolute joy of watching some of the best young players in the game move up and begin their professional careers with their big league clubs. In 2010, we saw the arrivals of power pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Craig Kimbrel, as well as Miami mash artist (Mike) Giancarlo Stanton. In 2011, Mike Trout and Matt Moore would make their professional debuts, with Moore shining in a Game One ALDS showing against the Texas Rangers. Trout on the other hand would wait until 2012 to turn the baseball world upside down, with his AL Rookie of the Year, and near AL MVP performance. Trout would also share the 2012 spotlight with much heralded prospect Bryce Harper, as well as the Orioles Manny Machado, and the Most Interesting Man in the Baseball World; Yoenis Cespedes.

We are not even half way through the 2013 season and already we have seen an absolutely absurd amount of top prospects make their MLB debut. Along with these prospects, three players from the 2012 MLB Amateur draft have already made their debuts, and more are expected as teams begin to take aim at post season play. All the players listed below have appeared on MLB.com’s top 100 Prospect List, or are regarded as a top 5 prospect for their respected team. Apologies to the Sean Nolin’s and Robbie Erin’s of the prospect world.

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Kevin Gausman • RHP • Baltimore Orioles: The 4th overall pick in the 2012 MLB draft became the first player from that draft to make their professional debut. Gausman benefitted from a college career and an injury to top prospect Dylan Bundy in order to make the jump to the big leagues. He made his debut against the Blue Jays, and impressed through 6 innings of work. He is currently still up with the O’s despite logging an 0-3 record to go along with a 7.66 ERA.

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Allen Webster • RHP • Boston Red Sox: The power sinker pitcher was acquired by the Boston Red Sox along with Rubby De la Rosa, Jerry Sands, and James Loney from the Dodgers in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto. Webster was called up to make his debut on April 21st in the second game of a double header; he was optioned back to the minors after the game. Webster is currently in AAA with Pawtucket, but he should be back up to help solidify the Boston bullpen in no time.

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Jackie Bradley Jr. • OF • Boston Red Sox: JBJ was drafted with the 40th overall pick in 2011 after an outstanding collegiate career for the Gamecocks; he won the 2010 College World Series Most Outstanding Player. JBJ tore up the minors hitting .315 with 67 RBI’s in 128 games and was named Boston’s Defensive Minor League Player of the Year. JBJ had such an impressive showing at spring training that Manager John Farrell named him the starting LF for Opening Day 2013. Although he did struggle in his first big league experience (3 for 31) before being optioned to AAA, do not expect that to be a deterrent for JBJ. This kid has the stuff to be a stud for the Red Sox.

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Jake Odorizzi • RHP • Tampa Bay Rays: Odorizzi is a player who was traded twice for two different ace pitchers before he got to make his MLB debut. He was drafted 31st overall in 2008 by the Milwaukee Brewers, and was first traded to the Kansas City Royals in the package that landed the Zack Grienke for the Brewers. Almost two years to the date after his first trade, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays as a package in return for James Shields. Now Odorizzi did make two spot starts for the Royals at the end of the 2012 season, but he projects as a potential top end of the rotation pitcher. He is just the latest of high impact arms to join the Rays minor league systems along with Chris Archer, Taylor Guerreri, and Mike Montgomery.

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Aaron Hicks • OF • Minnesota Twins: Twins fans have waited nearly 5 years for the speedy Hicks to grace CF at Target Field. Hicks was drafted in the 1st round back in 2008 out of high school, and was essentially road blocked by Denard Span and Ben Revere. Following the departures of both Span and Revere in the 2012 offseason, allowed for Hicks to become the prime candidate as the everyday CF for the Twins. Hicks was named the starter for the 2013 season following an above average spring training. Although Hicks has had his struggles adapting to the Major League game so far (.165/6/18) he does offer as a speedy, defensive OF for a number of years in the Twin Cities.

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Mike Zunino • C • Seattle Mariners: You can’t fault Mariners fans for being more than a little weary when their team drafted Zunino, a catcher out of Florida, with the 3rd overall pick in 2012. Flash back seven years earlier (2005) where the Mariners opted to draft a “can’t miss” catching prospect named Jeff Clement with the 3rd overall pick. Like Zunino, Clement had been a stud catcher in college, and also like Zunino, he had also won the Johnny Bench award as best Collegiate Catcher in the country. Unfortunately for both Clement and Mariners fans, Clement would turn out to be a spectacular BUST, and as of writing this; is toiling in the minors with the Twins organization. Mike Zunino is already doing his best to make the Mariners forget about Clement. He became the 3rd member of the 2012 MLB Draft to make their debut. In his first game he would achieve his first MLB hit, as well as his first MLB home run.

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Nick Franklin • SS • Seattle Mariners: One of the only bright spots about being an annual cellar dweller is the ability to draft and stockpile young, exciting talent in the minors. Most teams hope that a handful of their draft picks will be able to make an impact on their big league roster. The Mariners have more than a handful of those types of players and their graduation from the minors to the majors is already in full swing. Franklin made his MLB debut two weeks before the Mariners promoted Mike Zunino. Franklin looked to be on the fast track to the majors following being drafted in the 1st round in 2009; he put up a 20/20 season in his first year in the minors. Unfortunately he would struggle through injuries for the better part of a season, before regaining form in 2012. With the Mariners struggling offensively in 2013 they made the decision to promote Franklin, and haven’t been disappointed. In 19 games so far he is hitting .302/2/4.

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Jurickson Profar • SS • Texas Rangers: The old saying “the rich get richer” never held more truth than it does in the case of the Texas Rangers. Having already been blessed with a lineup of all-stars and franchise players, the Rangers also have the luxury of having the #1 prospect in baseball in their minors. While most teams would already have Profar slotted as their everyday SS and leadoff hitter, the Rangers instead have him toiling in the minors; road blocked by Elvis Andrus, and Ian Kinsler. With Kinsler hitting the DL in early May, allowed for an opening for Profar on the MLB roster, and he did not disappoint. Profar has played 22 games for the Rangers at 2B/SS adding .277/2/7 to the Rangers scorecard. Ebven with Kinsler coming off of the DL, the Rangers have decided to keep him up with the big league club. Their current plan is to use him as a super utility infielder, and may even start shagging flyballs in the outfield. Another tantalizing rumour was the potential of a Profar for Oscar Taveras trade, a trade that would benefit both the Rangers and the Cardinals; as of now, it’s still just a rumour. Whether it’s in Arlington or another ball park, Profar is going to be an absolute stud player for years to come.

MLB: Spring Training-Miami Marlins at St. Louis Cardinals

Jose Fernandez • RHP • Miami Marlins: It’s been nothing but dark days for Marlins fans since the last time their franchise made the playoffs in 2003. The Marlins franchise has only made it to the playoffs twice (1997, 2003) but both times they were successful in winning the World Series. In recent times the Marlins organization has been more known for their cost saving measures (fire sales) and alienating of both their players, and fan base alike. Jose Fernandez is hoping to curb that culture of losing and despair in South Beach. The Marlins shocked the baseball world when they announced that the 20 year old Fernandez would be the 5th man in their rotation. No one knew exactly what to expect from Fernandez. He has the makeup and tools to be an ace, but the Marlins are SO BAD that scouts/critics were concerned that his development may be hindered by being lit up in the Majors. Fernandez has quickly quieted all his critics. Armed with an upper 90’s fastball and a put away breaking ball known as “the defector,” Fernandez has been VERY impressive so far. Through 13 starts, Fernandez is 4-3 with a 3.11 ERA, and 77 strikeouts; including a career high 10 K’s against the Cardinals on June 14th.

http://wapc.mlb.com/play/?content_id=26856945&c_id=mlb&topic_id=vtp_must_c – Fernandez’s Defector –

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Anthony Rendon • 3B • Washington Nationals: The Nationals have one of the best good/bad positions to be in. Their everyday 3B is Ryan Zimmerman, who happens to be one of, if not the best, third basemen in the game today. In the minors they have Anthony Rendon, who may be one of, if not the best, third base prospects currently in the game. Rendon was drafted 6th overall in 2011, and very well could have been a top 3 pick if not for injuries he suffered in his senior year at Rice. The Nationals drafted Rendon knowing that he would be road blocked by Zimmerman. However he was the best player available, and they knew that Zimmerman has some injury history of his own; they also thought they may be able to move him to 2B. Danny Espinosa’s 2012 campaign quickly put the 2B thoughts on the back burner, but Rendon still took his reps at 2B and bided his time. The plan worked, as Espinosa hit the DL within the first month, and Rendon being the one called up to take his spot. Rendon served admirably in place of Espinosa, but was optioned to the minors following his return. With Zimmerman hitting the DL this past week, Rendon once again has another shot to impress, and he is not looking back. In 17 games this year at 2B and 3B, Rendon is hitting .361/1/6; he hit his first career HR over the weekend. Rendon could force the Nats hand to keep him up especially with the lack of production from Espinosa, and Zimmerman saddled with injury, and fighting Steve Blass disease.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Miami Marlins

Tony Cingrani • RHP • Cincinnati Reds: Many baseball minds figured that the first impact prospect that the Reds called up in 2013 would be stolen base king Billy Hamilton. However, it would be a flame throwing LHP who would be the first Reds prospect to make an impact. When Johnny Cueto hit the DL in mid April, the Reds decided to call up Cingrani to fill in for Cueto. Cingrani had made his debut as a reliever in September 2012, but it would be is performance as a starter that would make people take notice. Cingrani was a 3rd round selection in 2011, and the Reds hoped that he would make an immediate impact as he was used mainly as a reliever at Rice due to poor mechanics. Well judging by his 2013 performance, I’d say that his mechanics have vastly improved. Cingrani has made 7 starts for the Reds this year and is 3-0 with a 3.15 ERA and 46 K’s so far. He is currently pitching out of the bullpen in Cincinnati as a reliever, but he will be back in the starting rotation as soon as a spot opens up.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates-Pitchers and Catcher Workout

Gerrit Cole • RHP • Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates made Gerrit Cole and his 100 mph fastball the 1st overall pick in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft. For a pitching starved team like the Pirates, Cole’s arrival could not come soon enough. But patience is a virtue, and the Pirates were in NO rush to bring Cole up. Even with the Pirates over achieving, and contending for the NL Central in 2012, the Pirates decided that Cole would be better off dominating batters in the minors, then trying to overmatch hitters in the MLB; especially in the midst of a playoff race. So the Pirates decided to trade for an arm (Wandy Rodriguez) than rush Cole, or Jamieson Taillon. Needless to say the Pirates went another year without post season play, and another year with a losing season. Fast forward to 2013, with the Pirates 13 games above .500 and 3 games back of the division lead, they made the decision to promote Cole when Wandy Rodriguez went down on the DL, and boy has he not disappointed. Gerrit made his MLB debut on June 11th against Tim Lincecum and the Giants. Cole would pitch 5+ innings and add an RBI hit in picking up his first MLB win. He is currently 2-0 with a 3.75 ERA and 3 K’s in two starts. He should be a fixture in the Bucs rotation for the near future.

MLB: Spring Training-Minnesota Twins at St. Louis Cardinals

Michael Wacha • RHP • St. Louis Cardinals: Wacha was the 2nd player of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft to make their professional debut in 2013. He is just another young, power arm that the Cardinals organization has at their disposal. Wacha made his debut on May 31st, and was perfect through 5+ innings, eventually pitching 7 in a winning effort. Wacha was forced up to the majors because of injuries to Jamie Garcia and Jake Westbrook. He was the second Cardinals rookie starter to make a lasting impression this season; right behind Shelby Miller. Although he only made 3 starts for the Cards before being demoted, he did pitch very well finishing with a 1-0 record to go along with a 4.58 ERA and 14 K’s. He should be the first arm called up if another St. Louis starter goes on the DL.

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Carlos Martinez • RHP • St. Louis Cardinals: First Shelby Miller, then Michael Wacha, and now Carlos Martinez. Martinez is the youngest of the trio at only 20 years old, and like the other two, his upside is tremendous. After going 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA in two minor league levels, the Cards promoted Martinez on May 3rd. Unlike Wacha and Miller, Martinez was used strictly out of the bullpen, and even then he has been used sparingly. He has easy upper 90’s heat to go along with a plus 12-6 curveball; his off-speed stuff is not far behind. Martinez has only pitched in 7 games, going 8 innings, and is 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA. In addition to Miller, Wacha, and Martinez, the Cardinals have an embarrassment of young power arms in their system like Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly, so they are not rushing to throw Martinez out there every other day.

Tyler Skaggs

Tyler Skaggs • LHP • Arizona Diamondbacks: Skaggs came to the Diamondbacks along with Joe Saunders, and Patrick Corbin in 2010 via a trade with the Angels in exchange for Dan Haren. Skaggs made his debut for the D-Backs in August of 2012, but those were starts for a team that was headed for the cellar of the NL West. In 6 starts, Skaggs went 1-3 with a 5.83 ERA in 29 innings. Skaggs has made 3 starts for the Diamondbacks in 2013, but has been mainly yo-yo’ed between Arizona and Reno of AAA. In those 3 starts, Skaggs has gone 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA. Although he hasn’t blown anyone away with his performances this season, Skaggs is one of the best LHP prospects in all of baseball, and should factor into the Diamondbacks plans as they push for the NL West division title.

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Yasiel Puig • OF • Los Angeles Dodgers: Some prospects impress the big league ball club and the baseball world with a small sample of what they can do. Prospects like Yasiel Puig kick the door down in order to show off what they can do. Puig was signed by the Dodgers to a 7 year/$42 million deal in June of 2012. Puig was a Cuban defector and was available to the highest bidder, the Dodgers immediately placed him on the 40 man roster and sent him to the Arizona Rookie team; he would hit .400/4/11 in 9 games. In spring training this year, Puig tore the cover off the ball to the tune of .526; many speculated that he would start the year with the Dodgers. Puig would end up starting the season in AA Chattanooga where he hit.313/8/37 in 40 games. With Matt Kemp hitting the DL, Puig was the obvious choice to replace him. Yasiel may have had the BEST first four games to a start career in history. In Game 1, he went 2 for 4 and helped end the game with a strong throw that completed a double play. His second game saw him hit the first two home runs of his career and add 5 RBI’s. Game 3 saw him hit a grand slam… no big deal, and in game four, he added another home run. I can’t even begin to stress how absolutely ridiculous all this is. The only problem the Dodgers have now is what to do with him once Kemp returns. Seeing as they have Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier in the corner outfields for the next 4+ years, it’s hard to see what they will do to keep Puig’s bat in the lineup. Puig is currently hitting .479/4/10 in 13 games.

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Jedd Gyorko • 3B/2B • San Diego Padres: For the past decade, the Padres have been the poster child for “How Not to Draft.” The Padres seem to have had more players not pan out, or be straight up busts than any other MLB team. One of the VERY few bright spots from their past draft classes has been the West Virgina alum Gyorko. The Padres drafted Gyorko in the 2nd round in 2010 as a 2B out of WVU. Gyorko would play both 2B and 3B for the Padres in the minors, but played predominantly 2B so he could get to the Majors quicker. Gyorko earned a ticket to San Diego to start the 2013 season partially due to Chase Headley and Logan Forsythe starting on the DL. Upon Headley’s return from the DL, Gyorko shifted back to the 2B position so he could stay in the lineup every day. Gyorko would finish May with 6 home runs in the month, which tied Evan Gattis for the most hit in the NL in May. Gyorko is currently on the DL with a groin strain, but he is hitting .284/8/25 on the season.

San Francisco Giants v Colorado Rockies

Nolan Arenado • 3B • Colorado Rockies: Regarded as one of the best 3B prospects in the game, Arenado has been an absolute revelation since being called up. Arenado was drafted in the 2nd round in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft and decided to sign rather than fulfill his commitment to Arizona State. Arenado has dominated every level of professional baseball that he has played. In 2011, he led high “A” ball with .298/20/122; in the same year he was named MVP of the Arizona Fall League where he hit .388/6/33. After another dominate season in the minors in 2012 where he hit .285 on the season, he entered 2013 with a ticket to spring training. Despite having an incredible showing in Spring Training the Rockies optioned Arenado to AAA Colorado Springs to start the season. Arenado didn’t mind though, he just continued to rake in the minors hitting .364/3/21 in 18 games. The Rockies quickly DFA’d Chris Nelson and called up Arenado. Although he went 0 for 3 in his debut, in his second game he had 3 hits including his first career homer; his second career HR was a Grand Slam off of David Price. Arenado has played in 46 games for the Rockies since making his debut in April and is currently hitting .268/5/19. Despite only playing in less than 50 games, Arenado has received immense praise for his maturity, high baseball IQ, and great glove at the hot corner.

http://wapc.mlb.com/play/?content_id=28111033&topic_id=11493214 – Arenado Diving Stab –

Even with all these players graduating from the minors to the majors there is still an immense amount of young, impact prospects just waiting for their chance. This week will see Zack Wheeler and Wil Myers make their long anticipated MLB debuts, but they won’t be the last ones to do so. With names like Dylan Bundy, Oscar Taveras, Travis d’Arnaud, and Billy Hamilton still toiling in the minors, it is hard to remember a more exciting time to be a fan of the game.

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How to Avoid Committing a Cardinal Sin on Draft Day

draft 2013

When it comes to drafting players at the annual MLB Amateur Draft, it’s no surprise that some teams are better at drafting than others. For some teams Draft Day can be a HUGE success. The ability to stockpile prospects in the minors in the hopes of contending in the future, or perhaps flip some of that youthful talent for a “missing piece” that may help your team contend today. For others, Draft Day can be just another step in the “right” direction, or if you’re the Padres or Astros, just another Draft Day disappointment.

For annual cellar dwellers like the Padres and Astros, the Draft can be the lone bright spot of an otherwise dismal season. It’s a bad teams chance to stockpile young, upcoming talent in the hopes that they will contribute to your team’s success further on down the road. Unfortunately for fans of these teams, their teams Draft day blunders and busts have set them back years in development and potential contention. The Padres have easily been the poster boys for how NOT to approach a draft. Their track record in the First round since 2000 speaks for itself:

Draft Year • Draft Slot • Player Selected • GP For Padres • Highest Level Played • Where Are They Now? • Player(s) They Missed Out On

2000 • 9th • Mark Phillips • LHP • 0 • High A • Out of Baseball • Chase Utley (15th)

2001 • 14th • Jake Gautreau • 3B • 0 • AAA • Out of Baseball • David Wright (38th)

2002 • 13th • Khalil Greene • SS • 659 • MLB • Out of Baseball • Nick Swisher (16th), Cole Hamels (17th)

2003 • 4th • Tim Stauffer • RHP • 104 • MLB • Injured • Nick Markakis (7th), Aaron Hill (13th)

2004 • 1st • Matt Bush • SS • 0 • AA • Out of Baseball/ Jail • Justin Verlander (2nd) or Jered Weaver (12th)

2005 • 18th • Cesar Carillo • RHP • 3 • MLB • Suspended (PED) • Jacoby Ellsbury (23rd)

2006 • 17th • Matt Antonelli • 3B • 21 • MLB • Minors with Indians • Kyle Drabek (18th)

2007 • 23rd • Nick Schmidt • LHP • 0 • AA • Minors with Rockies • Rick Porcello (27th) or Ben Revere (28th)

2008 • 23rd • Allan Dykstra • 1B • 0 • AA • Minors with Mets • Lance Lynn (39th) or Wade Miley (43rd)

2009 • 3rd • Donovan Tate • OF • 0 • High A • Baseball Sabbatical • Mike Minor (7th), Shelby Miller (19th), or Mike Trout

2010 • 9th • Karsten Whitson • RHP • 0 • Never Signed • College/Injured • Yasmani Grandal (12th) or Chris Sale (13th)

2011 • 10th • Cory Spangenberg • 2B • 0 • High A • Minors • NA

Not pretty at all. Of those twelve names, only four have made it to the Major Leagues with the Padres. Sadder still is the fact that of those four players, only two (Khalil Greene and Tim Stauffer) have made any kind of significant impact on the Padres, and even that is a stretch. Khalil Greene is sadly the best draft pick of the lot. Although Greene only played five full seasons for the Friars, he is still the all-time Padres leader in HR’s as a SS with 84 and was the runner up for Rookie of the Year honours in 2004. Greene was an exciting defensive SS, who was no slouch at the dish. His best season offensive season was in 2007 when he hit .245/27/97. Sadly Greene would suffer from a Social Anxiety Disorder that would ultimately force him to retire from the game.

Tim Stauffer has logged over 450+ innings as a pitcher in the MLB; all with the San Diego Padres. His career record stands at 23-31 with a 3.93 ERA in 104 games. Although he is not a “classic” bust case, his record and performance are hardly what you would expect out of someone drafted 4th overall. Although the only other notable pitchers drafted in 2003 worth mentioning are Paul Maholm (8th) and Chad Billingsley (24th)… so maybe the Stauffer selection isn’t that terrible.

matt-bush The biggest disappointment to date has to be Matt Bush. Bush was infamously drafted 1st overall ahead of Old Dominion RHP Justin Verlander, and is hands down the biggest draft bust in MLB history. Verlander on the other hand is the furthest thing there is from a bust. He won the Rookie of the Year in 2006, as well as the Cy Young an AL MVP in 2011, and is regarded as (ARGUABLY) the best starting pitcher in the game today. Bush was a local kid who played SS for Mission Bay H.S in San Diego; he was also an above average pitcher who could hit the mid 90’s. The Padres drafted him solely because they could afford him. Bush was actually the Padres third choice in the draft behind Stephen Drew and Jered Weaver. However, the Padres did not want to give in to Weaver and Drew’s agent (Scott Boras) contract demand; hence the selection of Bush. Matt Bush would gain more publicity for his off field antics, than he would for his actual play. Before his career even started, he was served a suspension stemming from a bar fight in Arizona.

Through six seasons as a hitter, Bush hit for a career .219/3/70. During spring training in 2006 he broke his ankle and missed half a season. In 2007 with his offensive numbers going down the drain, Bush made the decision to convert to a pitcher. His fastball was capable of hitting 98 mph, and he had prior experience as a pitcher. Unfortunately he would blow out his UCL after a promising start in Rookie League; he would miss half of 2007 and all of 2008 rehabbing from Tommy John.

Injuries were not the cause for Bush becoming a bust, the issue was Bush himself. As mentioned above he was suspended before even playing in 2004. He was arrested again in 2009 after assaulting a high school student with a golf club while exclaiming “I’m Matt F****** Bush!!” all of which was caught on videotape. Even after the Padres designated him for assignment in 2009, and he was traded to the Blue Jays for cash considerations; his legal troubles still continued. The Blue Jays had given Bush a “Zero Tolerance” policy stemming from his past legal history. Not even two month later the Jays would release Bush following ANOTHER incident at a party where Bush allegedly threw a ball at a woman’s head, and banged on her car windows, after she had apparently drawn on his face.

Following a 2009 season with no baseball, Bush managed to sign with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010 as a pitcher. Matt would have success in the Tampa organization, even making it to AAA Durham in 2011. He was slated to start 2012 with the Durham Bulls, but instead decided to receive a DUI after running over a 72 year old man during Spring Training. Bush decided that it was best to leave the scene following the accident and ended up at a strip club, which he later was removed from.

Bush was arrested and charged with DUI causing bodily harm, driving with a suspended license, leaving the scene of an accident with an injury, and two counts of leaving the scene of an accident where property was damaged; he’s also a suspect in two other hit and runs. Bush accepted a plea bargain in December 2012, and was sentenced to 51 months in jail. His expected release date is May 25th, 2016.

Now if the Padres are an example of how you shouldn’t draft, than the Cardinals are a prime example on how a team should draft. Of the current 25 players on the Cardinals active roster, 17 of them have been drafted and developed by the Cardinals organization. That list includes:

Player • Position Played • Draft Year • Round Drafted • MLB Debut

Yadier Molina • C • 2000 • 4th (113th overall) • June 3rd, 2004

Jon Jay • OF • 2006 • 2nd (74th overall) • April 26, 2010

Shane Robinson • OF • 2006 • 5th (166th overall) • May 7th, 2009

Allen Craig • SS • 2006 • 8th (256th overall) • April 8th, 2010

Pete Kozma • SS • 2007 • 1st (18th overall) • May 18th, 2011

Daniel Descalso • IF • 2007 • 3rd (112th overall) • Sept. 18th, 2010

Tony Cruz • C • 2007 • 26th (802nd overall) • May 24th, 2011

Lance Lynn • SP • 2008 • 1st (39th overall) • June 2nd, 2011

Shelby Miller • SP • 2009 • 1st (19th overall) • Sept. 5th, 2012

Joe Kelly • SP • 2009 • 3rd (98th overall) • June 10th, 2012

Matt Carpenter • 3B/IF • 2009 • 13th (399th overall) • June 4th, 2011

Trevor Rosenthal • P • 2009 • 21st (639th overall) • July 18th, 2012

Matt Adams • 1B/OF • 2009 • 23rd (699th overall) • May 20th, 2012

Keith Butler • P • 2009 • 24th (729th overall) • June 1st, 2013

Tyler Lyons • P • 2010 • 9th (289th overall) • May 22nd, 2012

Seth Maness • P • 2011 • 11th (350th overall) • May 3rd, 2013

Michael Wacha • SP • 2012 • 1st (19th overall) • May 30th, 2013

Not too shabby at all. The Cardinals have been one of, if not, the best teams as far as how they approach drafting and developing young players. The Cardinals minor league system is one of the best in baseball, as they are constantly producing Major League ready talent on a yearly basis. Cardinals’ fans have no need to worry if a player goes down with an injury, or if and when a potential free agent may fly the coop. The reason for that is their strong minor league system, and player development.

At the start of the 2013 season it was revealed that Chris Carpenter’s career may be over with (another) major shoulder injury. Factor in the free agent loss of Kyle Lohse, and the uncertainty of Jamie Garica’s left arm, and the Cardinals were in tough situation when it came to their starting rotation. The Cardinals weren’t too worried though as they had a collection of high impact arms to choose from. The Cardinals looked at Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal, and Carlos Martinez to help them with the starting pitching load. Of those four, only Miller, Kelly, and Rosenthal had made their major league debuts, but had only pitched in a relief role out of the bullpen. The innings they worked were critical in helping lead the Cardinals back to October baseball. Rosenthal had the best fastball, but Miller and Kelly were the most polished of the three, and therefore had the best chance of winning the 5th rotation spot.

Throughout spring training both Kelly and Miller received multiple starts, with Miller eventually winning the final rotation spot. To say that Miller has done a sufficient job would be an understatement. Going into today he owns a 6-3 record to go along with a 1.82 ERA and 72 K’s in 69 innings pitched. He has been an absolute stud on the mound! His best performance to date came against the Rockies where he threw a one-hit, complete game shutout; fanning 13 batters along the way.

Just because Miller has been lights out as a starter, does not mean that the others have been disappointments. Trevor Rosenthal has been one of the best 8th inning guys in the league this year with 15 holds to date, to go along with 1.86 ERA, and 42 K’s in 29 innings pitched. Joe Kelley made his MLB starters debut on June 5th, 2013 against the Diamondbacks. Kelly pitched well through 5 innings, only giving up an earned run on four hits.

The biggest surprise in the rotation this year may be 2012 first round pick Michael Wacha. Wacha was called up to take Jake Westbrooks spot in the rotation while he was on the DL. Wacha became the second player from the 2012 draft to make his debut following Kevin Gausman. In his debut against the Royals, Wacha would be perfect through 5 innings, eventually leaving following the 7th inning; he took a no decision and struck out 7. The Cardinals knew that Wacha was one of the more polished pitchers in the draft, but didn’t believe that he would slip to them in the 19th spot. They couldn’t have been happier when he did. Barring injuries, or Rick Ankielitis, Wacha projects as a front end starter in the major league rotation for a long time to come.

The Cardinals don’t even have to keep the players they draft in order for them to have an impact on the organization. One of the better examples was when they dealt former first round pick Colby Rasmus to the Blue Jays in 2011 for Mark Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel, Edwin Jackson, and Corey Patterson. Although Rasmus was once a highly touted prospect, he had fallen out of favour with the Cards organization and Tony LaRussa, and was made expendable by the immergence of Jon Jay. The Cardinals coveted bullpen and rotation help, and didn’t hesitate in pulling the trigger on a deal that brought them a surplus of arms. The former Blue Jays pitchers would prove to be crucial in helping the Cardinals get back into the post season, and win their first title since 2006.

This was nothing new for the Cardinals though. In 2009, they traded their former 1st round pick in the 2008 Draft, Brett Wallace, to the Oakland A’s in a package that landed them slugger Matt Holiday. Even last season the Cardinals were at it again when they shipped 2010 first round pick Zack Cox to the Marlins in exchange for Edward Mujica. Mujica was brought in for bullpen depth in, but has been an absolute revelation this year for the Cards since taking over the closers role. Mujica was given the opportunity following Jason Motte’s disabled trip with a shoulder injury, and Mitchell Boggs forgetting how to hit the broadside of a barn. Mujica currently has 17 saves for the Cardinals.

One of the best examples of how their farm system has paid off for them is how they went about replacing Albert Pujols. Pujols was drafted by the cards in the 13th round of the 1999 draft, and was the face of their franchise for the better part of a decade, not to mention the fact that he was the best player in baseball during that run. Pujols left the Cards following their 2011 World Series championship and signed a LUCRATIVE contract with the Angels to the tune of 10years/$240 million.You can’t just simply sign someone to fill Albert Pujols boots; it’s impossible.

Instead the Cards re-upped the oft-injured Lance Berkman for another season, and platooned him with Allen Craig, a player whom they had no natural position for. Berkman had performed more than admirably for the Cards in 2011; he would be named an NL All-Star going .301/31/94. However Berkman had played predominantly RF for the Cards and was now expected to shift to 1B to fill the void left by Pujols; Craig would play RF. Berkman would only play in 32 games for the Cardinals in 2012 before going down with an injury. Thankfully the Cardinals had Allen Craig just waiting in the wings and moved him to 1B from RF. In 2012, Allen Craig would play over 90 games at first base for the Cardinals and he would show them what his ultimate value was. Craig would hit .307/22/92 in 119 games for the Cardinals in 2012, and give them another cornerstone player to build around.

The only issue for the Cardinals now is trying to find an everyday spot for up and coming mash artist Matt Adams. Adams plays 1B and Corner OF, but the Cards have Allen Craig, Carlos Beltran, and Matt Holiday entrenched in those positions. Luckily the Cards are geniuses at getting players in the everyday lineup; just ask Matt Carpenter. Carpenter is another one of those super utilitymen that the Cardinals have at their disposal. Carpenter can play any infield positon, as well as both corner outfield positions. Im sure if they could… they would already have him training to catch behind Yadier Molina.

Even with the graduation of top prospects Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal, and Michael Wacha, the Cardinals farm system is FAR from bare. In fact, the Cardinals still have plenty of high end talent still in the minors.

The best one of those prospects still on the farm is Oscar Taveras. Taveras is a 20 year old centerfielder who projects as a five tool player, and is regarded as one of the best prospects in the game today; he sits at #3 on mlb.com Top 100 Prospects of 2013. Taveras would already be up with the Cards if he was not road blocked by Jon Jay, Matt Holiday, and Carlos Beltran. There was speculation at near the start of the season that the Cardinals and Rangers may make a straight up, Jurrickson Profar for Oscar Taveras trade. The Rangers need a CF, and the Cardinals want a franchise SS; especially with the injury to Rafael Furcal and uncertainty of Pete Kozma. Although it was just baseball hearsay, you can’t deny that it would be a rare win/win for both teams involved.

The Cardinals also eagerly await the day that they can unleash Carlos Martinez on the MLB world. Maritinez has been dubbed “Little Pedro” because of his diminutive stature and his upper 90’s fastball, which he accompanies with a plus 12-6 curve, and budding circle change. Martinez is currently in the MLB with the Cardinals in the bullpen and has pitched well in a small sample size. The next positional player to get the call could be 2011 first round pick Kolten Wong. Wong jumped straight to AA after signing with the Cardinals. He is not the most patient hitter, but he doesn’t strikeout a ton either, he has extra base power, and hits the ball hard to all fields. Wong as a very reliable and solid defender at the 2B position, he also has slightly above average speed on the base paths. It’s only a matter of time, or an injury away, until Wong gets the call to Busch Field.

So with the MLB Amateur Player Draft commencing tonight at 6pm Eastern Time, one has to wonder how many of these young players are actually going to make it to the MLB and contribute to the team that drafted them? Just because you are drafting in the top 3 does not guarantee that you are going to walk away with a franchise player. Just because your team calls a player’s name does not mean that they will sign with that team (see. Beede, Tyler or Loux, Barrett). Sometimes taking the “sexy” pick ends up blowing up in your face, and you walk away with a compensation pick in the next year’s draft. With all the advanced scouting, and social media (twitter) it’s a lot easier to avoid potential “head cases” and players with “make up” issues before they get drafted. With that being said, I doubt that there will be any Matt Bush 2.0’s out there… but you never know when you’ll end up drafting a Ricky Romero over a Troy Tulowitzki, or wind up with Jeff Clement 2.0.

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