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April 10, 2013 5:00 am

Scouting the Draft: The Red-River Rivalry


Jason Cole

Sooners righty Jonathan Gray could rise to the top of teams' draft boards by early June.

The Heavy Follows

Jonathan Gray | RHP | Univ. of Oklahoma
6-foot-4/239 pounds | R/R profile | Draft day age: 21y 7m

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Will Colby Rasmus continue to be dogged by off-field issues?

In two-plus years as the general manager of the Blue Jays, Alex Anthopoulos has shown a penchant for buying low on other teams’ undervalued players. He did it with Yunel Escobar, who delivered a 3.7 WARP season last year. He did it with Brett Lawrie, who emerged as one of baseball’s top prospects, and then batted a remarkable .293/.373/.580 in 171 plate appearances in 2011. Most recently, he did it with Colby Rasmus and Kelly Johnson last summer, though the returns on those two investments are thus far unclear.

Once viewed as a potential star center fielder, the 25-year-old Rasmus has a much greater role to play in the Jays’ future than Johnson. Rasmus was a 2.3 WARP player—mostly thanks to a .276/.361/.498 triple-slash, because his fielding was 18.8 runs below average—in 2010, and he was expected to blossom into one of the National League’s best players. 

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Projecting prospects is a tricky business, so will our prospect guru backtrack on what he has said about players in the past?

Who: Cheslor Cuthbert (Royals)
Background with Player: My own eyes
Documented Observations and Prognostications: I remember the first time I saw Cuthbert: He was standing at the hot corner on a hot afternoon in March 2010, his long, flowing hair intertwined with the shadows on the field, smiling as he used the leather attached to his left hand to fan his greatness toward all eyes cast upon him. Okay, I just made that up. But I did enjoy Cuthbert when I first saw him take grounders, even though his hair wasn’t long and flowing, and I didn’t see any shadows on the field, and I’m not sure Cuthbert was smiling.

Heading into the 2011 season, Cuthbert so impressed me that I took to Baseball Prospectus and professed my love for his present and future.

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Our prospect guru finds himself in a food coma in Mexico, taking in a televised matchup between two AL contenders.

After a few weeks in Mexico, I happen upon my first televised major-league baseball game, a battle between the Texas Rangers and the Boston Red Sox, shown on ESPN. I’m excited for obvious reasons: The baseball void has already nullified a quarter of my general existence, and the Rangers are the team of my youth—I’m always willing to give them my eyes and ears. The game is dubbed in Spanish, which is annoying and rousing at the same time; the former because the speed of said Spanish is at Billy Hamilton level, and my overall comprehension requires the gentle pace of an aging Molina. My head is pounding from exposure to altitude and alcohol, but the medicinal qualities of baseball’s familiar attraction will no doubt minimize my discomfort.

I’ve been living in a foreign country for 15 days, and I’ve been exposed to more luchadores than lanzadores, which presents an interesting reality, although not one that proves to be especially productive for someone who (supposedly) feeds off the bosom of the game. It’s 2 p.m., and the game is set to begin, with Colby Lewis matched up against Texas native John Lackey. Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is packed to capacity. I’m hydrating and reclining in a relaxed state. Oh, baseball.

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While you will burn your neck and suffer heat stroke watching prospects develop in the Arizona League, there is a small oasis of potential stars that makes the pilgrimage worth it.

It’s hard to sell complex league baseball to the masses: The talent is immature, the names are merely names, the jerseys are often vague and free of personal identification, the environment is isolated and empty, and the theater of the event is off-off-off-off Broadway. But I’m going to give it a try.

What will it take to get you to walk away with a piece of Arizona League baseball in your hand? Financing is available for those who qualify, and if you wilt under the weight of my smile, I might be able to throw in a refrigerator magnet, or a flavored lolly for the little ones. Let me know if I can be of any assistance. I think you would look great with some AZL action in your life. It makes you attractive to the sex of your choosing. Don’t be shy. Here at Baseball Prospectus, we offer the best package. Don’t be fooled. You can’t match our guarantees. Look around, and let me know if you have any questions. My door is as open as my saccharine smile. Let’s make a deal.

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You have to mash a ton to break into the first-base ranks, but right now, there's only a mish-mash of prospects.

Not so long ago, the minor leagues were stacked with Michelin star level first basemen, prospects with first-division ceilings and middle-of-the-order offensive prowess. The current crop of talent is more pedestrian, looking more like buffet fare than fine dining, but for several involved, the developmental process could still produce a fantastic dish. That’s four food references in the first paragraph, for those scoring at home.

Similar to the process of projecting relief pitchers, projecting first basemen often has a foundation in deficiency; it’s a position that openly welcomes the athletically inferior. However, to enter the position’s warm embrace, the athletically inferior must qualify for the love by showing the requisite offensive mastery. Let’s face it: If you can’t hit, you won’t be manning first at the highest level.

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One prospect dominates the present and future of lefty pitching, while another southpaw is falling off the wagon.

For this series, I will be shuttling you through the minor leagues to discover the best talents at each position and ranking them in tiers according to skill, current and future ability, and whether the player in question is from Texas. Need to catch up on how I’m doing the rankings and the top right-handed pitchers? Take a look at Part I.


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March 9, 2010 1:46 pm

Team Health Reports: Detroit Tigers


Will Carroll

Plenty of fragile arms present challenges to the medical staff.

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