Tools Vs. Performance – MWF, 8:00
It’s not often you find a good tools-versus-performance debate among the fraternity paddle crowd (i.e., college draftees)–usually this forms the parameters of the prep-collegiate arguments that have become old hat by now–but there’s one to be found this year in Seth Smith against Dustin Pedroia. Smith, an outfielder for Ole Miss, went at number 50 to the Rockies, while Pedroia, Arizona State’s starting shortstop, was the Red Sox’s first pick at number 65.
Derek Jeter seems to draw more emotional responses than anyone, whether through discussions of his defense or his place in the Pantheon. His recent struggles with his injured groin have taxed my inbox, but the injury is not worth the pixels; it’s as simple as they come, a straightforward strain. Sure the injury is painful, and he’ll miss a bit of time, but it’s also predictable, treatable and healing. People seem to forget that even when they’re emotional about a player, the rules of medicine still apply. Your captain will return, likely on Wednesday.
The Cubs-Cards series is one of those great happenings, but without Sammy Sosa and Albert Pujols, fans aren’t getting exactly what they expected. Both players will miss this series, but both are making progress. Pujols is seeing a reduction in the swelling of his hamstring, enough so that Tony La Russa had him available as a pinch-hitter, but only in an emergency. (Is a 17-inning game an emergency? I’ve never seen a game go this late into the UTK process as the Angels-Brewers epic.) Sosa was able to take batting practice, but remains a week away from returning to the lineup. His back is still tender, but there’s been great improvement.
Homo sapiens emerged from Neanderthal man about 38,000 BCE. It took another 31,500 years or so for the Sumerians to invent the wheel. There were 315 centuries of watching stones rolling downhill, fallen trees being pushed aside, dates falling off the table, before experience and observation could be transformed into principles (Hey! Round stuff rolls! Round stuff that rolls might be useful to have!) and those principles then put into practice (We should try to make round stuff that rolls!). Of course, as with all good ideas, some people never bought in. The Western Hemisphere did without the wheel until the Europeans showed up. Either the locals were too busy eating the corn to roll the cobs or they just didn’t think much of wheels.
As with the wheel, so too with the amateur draft, which kicked off in 1965 as a way to finally bring down those annoyingly persistent Yankees. Many of the lessons that have been taken away the draft–high school pitchers are riskier bets as college pitchers, don’t draft high school catchers, etc.–were there to be found after the first few drafts, but it took several more years before experience hardened into a set of principles.
In Baseball Prospectus 2004, our authors ranked Devil Rays farmhand B.J. Upton as the No. 8 prospect in the game, while Baseball America on pegged him at No. 2 on their preseason list. Since then Upton’s done nothing to make those rankings look foolish, and at the tender age of 19, has already found himself playing shortstop every day at Triple-A Durham, where he’s currently hitting .315/.422/.565. Since being taken second overall in the 2002 amateur draft, Upton has been covered by John Sickels at ESPN.com and by David Cameron here at BP.
Baseball Prospectus caught up with Upton before a recent home game against the Syracuse Skychiefs, where we discussed tough pitchers, being a role model, and what it takes to improve defensive performance.