Could the Cardinals' quest to re-win the Central disappear with a single sproing?
"Sproing" is the sound an elbow makes when it goes from a ready state to something that helps pay off an orthopedic surgeon's student loans, and the terror of Cardinals camp is that its echo may bring everything in this year's bid to re-win the NL Central to a dead stop. The diagnosis of a potentially devastating injury hangs over the Cardinals' hopes for 2011, and no, we're not talking Nick Punto's sports hernia. Adam Wainwright has flown back to St. Louis to see if the pain in his elbow is bad news or the worst news, and more than his two-year, $21 million nested options for 2012-13 hang in the balance.
There's no way to minimize the implication. PECOTA projected Wainwright to be the seventh-best pitcher in the league via WARP, and at this time of year nobody close to that is available or about to be made available via trade. The Cardinals may look to deal, but that's because the best internal options are far from sure things. The Cards were already in a situation where they already have Kyle Lohse to regret. Jake Westbrook was supposed to fix this problem, converting Lohse into baseball's most expensive fifth starter.
The Rays' swag in June picks could be a player-development bonanza.
With the MLB draft order nearly finalized (Felipe Lopez has a shot at messing things up a bit), much of the talk before the 2010 prospects actually start playing is the flurry of picks acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays. Thanks to free-agent compensation, the Rays currently have 12 selections between No. 24 and No. 89 overall in June's draft. That is a nice bounty in what has the potential to be one of the deeper drafts in recent memory, but to be fair cost has to be taken into account. Based on 2010 bonus recommendations for each draft slot made by MLB, those picks have a "value" of just over $9 million.
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"Stars and scrubs" left the Cards on the outside looking in, so how about one more star?
So here we are in Mound City, home of the team that featured three of the 10 most-valuable players in the major leagues last season, and wound up with nothing but October golf dates to show for it. It would be easy, on a visceral level, to overreact and decide that the stars-and-scrubs formula hasn't worked, and start shopping one of the stars, but one of the advantages of this strategy for roster assembly is that you can easily replace the scrubs, and if you're worrying about expense, you know where to avoid it while making sure to spend top dollar on the capital items. It's the eight-figure mistakes with the likes of Kyle Lohse that are the ones to avoid.
Progress in the pro game doesn't mean there isn't work to be done in the amateur ranks, plus hurts and healing around MLB.
Time flies, but sometimes the story remains the same. Four years ago, I wrote an article that detailed an exceptionally high pitch count game by an Indianapolis-area high school pitcher named Lance Lynn. Lynn came out of that game with a sore arm, missed some time, but went on to help his team win the state title and then went on to college. Nowadays, Lynn is expected to go in the first or sandwich round of next week's draft. Lynn is still racking up some high pitch counts at Ole Miss, but nothing like he did in high school. Boyd Nation, who watches pitch counts in college baseball as one of his many admirable areas of interest, has Lynn's single-game high this season at 121. Lynn is a couple of years older, hasn't had arm problems, and has seemingly earned that high slot. If I'm a scouting director watching him, I'd have to wonder a bit about the past usage (and his falling off to the first base side) before I risk such a high pick on him, but he's hardly alone, just an example. As you can see on Nation's list, starts with pitch counts in the 140s happen regularly in college baseball, and can go as high as the 170s. Not a week goes by that I don't get sent an article about some high school pitcher throwing over 150 pitches, and too often I get a note from a parent telling me about kids-12 or 13 years old-throwing insane workloads, such as both sides of a double-header. (Little League pitch counts haven't helped, you ask? Sure they have, but they've also driven many to the more cavalier travel teams.) Some make it through, like Lynn, and some don't, like another Indy-area pitcher, Garrett Berger. I wish Lance Lynn all the luck in the world as he finishes his college career and starts his professional one. I just hope I don't have to write this kind of article in another four years.
Is there such thing as a Florida bias? Today features news and notes on both Florida and Florida State.
A lot stands out about the Ole Miss Rebels. Lance Lynn, all 260 pounds of him, stands out with a 4-0 record and 3 earned runs allowed in 22 innings. Scott Bittle stands out as one of the nation's best relievers. The arms of Cody Satterwhite, and Drew Pomeranz, and Nathan Baker stand out as perhaps the most top-heavy pitching staff in the nation. The Rebels 191 team strikeouts in 171.2 innings also stand out because of their abundance.