One of the prospect team's most recent hires examines what he has learned.
A long time ago, my father told me, “Son, be the dumbest guy in the room, maybe you’ll learn something.” That message has always stuck with me, and I try to apply it to baseball as often as possible. Whether I’m sitting next to scouts at a minor-league game, or working with the rest of the prospect team here at Baseball Prospectus, I’m always learning and adapting.
The Situation: On Monday, the Cubs announced they will be calling up IF Javier Baez from Triple-A Iowa, in time to make his debut Tuesday night in Coors Field. Baez will be playing second base, with Arismendy Alcantara shifting to CF. Baez ranked as the no. 1 prospect in the Cubs system in the Baseball Prospectus offseason Cubs Top 10, no. 4 in the offseason Top 101, and no. 5 on the midseason top 50.
The Astros promote a triple-digit arm to throw heat out of the bullpen.
The Situation: In order to manage his innings workload and give him a well earned taste of the majors, the Astros promoted Mike Foltynewicz from Triple-A and will use the flamethrower out of the bullpen.
Background: Foltynewicz was selected 19th overall in the 2010 draft, a horrid first-round class—save for Harper, Machado, Harvey and Sale—that featured far more bust than boom (Colon, Loux, DeShields, McGuire, Skole, Simpson, Josh Sale, Vitek, Wimmers, Deglan). You get the point. The class was bad.
This year's All-American Classic will draw athletes who are as diverse as the country. It might be a precursor to demographic changes in the majors.
When one thinks of the elite African-American baseball players of the past, present and future, you quickly realize that these are many of the great faces of the game no matter their ethnicity. Jackie Robinson, Andrew McCutchen, Dazmon Cameron, Hank Aaron, Jason Heyward and Jahmai Jones are all front of mind when compiling that list. While you might not be aware of Cameron or Jones, chances are that you will be in the next few years. Both are top prospects as we draw closer to the 2015 MLB First-Year Player Draft, both are African-American and both are headliners in the 13th edition of the Perfect Game All-American Classic to be played at Petco Park on Sunday, August 10. The annual contest features a collection of elite players beginning their final year of high school. It will be televised on the MLB Network. Cameron and Jones also share the roster with 12 additional African-American players. That number can do nothing but encourage those that have been discouraged by the decreasing population of African-Americans on Major League Baseball rosters. It’s a stat that caught the suddenly optimistic eye of 04’ PG All-American and current Atlanta outfielder Justin Upton.
“I think it’s awesome,” Upton said Wednesday at Dodger Stadium. “The numbers have been down lately and the Perfect Game All American is a big event. To have African-American players playing at an elite level again is awesome. It’s very good to see.”
Writeups on Cody Ponce, a Cape League surprise who continued to shine in the All-Star game, and other prospects.
This year’s Cape League All Star Game was interesting from both a scouting and talking point perspective. The league and managers did a great job picking the best prospects, which hasn’t always been the case in previous years. The biggest name that scouts were excited to see was Kentucky’s Kyle Cody. Cody has been brilliant for Wareham and seems to be the consensus best arm on the Cape this summer. He showed some overpowering mid-90s heat on Sunday night.
Will the Astros salvage the first-overall pick they did sign?
Take a moment to forget about the Brady Aiken mess and think about last year’s first overall selection. Mark Appel was supposed to be on the fast track. You aren’t supposed to struggle if you’re the first overall selection, and the 6-foot-5 right-handed starter with a prototype body had the look of a player who would move quickly, stopping only briefly in Lancaster and Corpus Christi to humble inferior hitters with his mid-to-upper-90s fastball. If you’ve been paying attention to his season, you know this hasn’t exactly gone as planned.
What has happened
First, appendicitis in January sidelined him for most of the spring. Regardless, the Astros aggressively sent him to Lancaster to begin the season. I was able to catch an early start of his, on April 10th, and was impressed with the raw stuff he brought to the table. Then 22, Appel showed a fastball that touched 98 mph, and paired it with a sharp, bat-missing slider (scouting report). Immediately after this start, on April 14th, Appel’s velocity dipped and only touched 91 mph. As has been well documented, the Astros installed a tandem or “piggyback” pitching rotation, where two “starters” would pitch back to back in the same game. Also, some pitchers would be subjected to only three days of rest, which happened to Appel in these two starts. This obviously took a toll on Appel, and there were rumors of shoulder soreness after the second start. He was sent to extended spring training to get some rest and have proper time to build stamina for the season. After returning, he had the worst start of his season on May 31st, surrendering 10 earned runs in 1 1/3 innings. Five days later, he was diagnosed with tendinitis in his right thumb and scratched from his next start. After getting the standard four days of rest (and sometimes more), he continued to struggle. Recently, the Astros made it public that Appel had a right wrist issue and received a cortisone shot. It’s unclear whether the thumb tendinitis is connected. I took in his start on July 10th with intentions of pin-pointing his problems.