FanPost

Bill Madden makes me mad; tells me I could hit 4th for Blue Jays.

Best athletes ditching baseball for other sports, making so-so MLB pitchers look good

Let's be real, the Calvinball scholarships are usually too good to refuse.

Calvinball_medium

 

In truth, the answer is far more obvious, though baseball probably doesn't want to admit: There simply aren't a lot of bona fide 30-plus homer, 100-plus RBI middle-of-the-order power hitters anymore, and a lot of the ones that were, the Twins' Justin Morneau, the Tigers' Magglio Ordonez, the Astros' Carlos Lee, the Orioles' Derrek Lee et al, are off to woeful starts.

There were 44 players who hit at least 25 home runs in 2010. Their defensive positions break down as such (at least 1/2 of their games at a certain position):

14 OF (3 centerfielders)
13 1B
6 3B
5 2B
5 DH
1 SS

Now, to go onto the players who he names:

Derrek Lee: Has hit more than 30 home runs 4 times in his career, and has had more than 100 RBIs twice. As a matter of fact, Baseball-Reference has his 162-game average as .261/.366/.494, 27 HR, 89 RBI (still very good, just pointing out how absurd the arbitrary 30 HR-100 RBI gimmick really is). Also (this will make sense later on), a former basketball star who was actually slated to attend UNC until the Padres drafted him in the first round in 1993. Can really pick it at first base too, so his value is boosted.

Justin Morneau: Former WHL third goalie for the Portland Winterhawks (trust me, it makes sense later). Yes, he does average 30/100, but he, like Lee, can also play a solid first base so his overall value on the field.

Magglio Ordonez: Great hitter. 40.6 WAR for his career. Shitty fielder. -32.2 total zone/UZR for his career. Hasn't hit more than 30 home runs since 2002. .310/.370/.507, 26 HR, 110 RBI for his 162-game averages. 

Carlos Lee: Pretty good hitter. Pretty awful fielder. Has a career OBP of .338, and the lowest OPS of any of these 4 players. 

Also, everyone outside of Morneau is pretty fucking old.

With the Yankees (Mark Teixeira-Alex Rodriguez), Brewers (Ryan Braun-Prince Fielder), Cardinals (Albert Pujols-Matt Holliday) and maybe the White Sox if and when Adam Dunn gets going behind Paul Konerko, the notable exceptions, it's hard to find a team with a pair of 3-4 hitters capable of going 30/100-plus on a consistent basis

For what it's worth, the Yankees actually have 4 guys who can do either 30 or 100 (Cano, Swisher, A-Rod, Teixiera), Rickie Weeks is starting to find his stroke with the Brewers, and Carlos Quentin is still on the White Sox.

Also, I'll name some more teams that have at least a pair of hitters that can do 30 and/or 100 (using the term "capable"):

Mets (Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Ike Davis)

Blue Jays (Adam Lind, Jose Bautista, JP Arencibia)

Rockies (Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitski)

Braves (Dan Uggla, Jason Heyward, Brian McCann)

Rangers (Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli)

Red Sox (Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz)

Nationals (Adam Laroche, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth)

Really, outside of the Mariners, I'm having trouble finding at least two for most teams.

A cursory look at the box scores, in which such less-than-imposing hitters as Miguel Olivo, Adam LaRoche, Matt Diaz, Mike Fontenot, Corey Patterson among others have frequented the 3-4 production spots in their respective teams' lineups, is further proof of how the heavy hitters' talent pool has become diluted. And this is not just a temporary phase but, rather, according to scouts and GMs, a growing trend.

Well, Miguel Olivo is on the Mariners who currently have a team batting split of .228/.302/.326. That lineup is fucking horrid however way you want to slice it. 

Adam Laroche isn't a shitty baseball player, although he currently looks like one. His 162-game averages include 26 HR and 92 RBI to go with a 114 OPS+. It's not that much of a shock to me. You're also aware that really awesome Ryan Zimmerman is currently on the shelf, right? That explains a lot.

Matt Diaz shouldn't be batting 3rd or 4th in any order, let alone the Pirates. That has more to do with a manager than the alleged lack of offensive talent. I'd rather bat Pedro Alvarez 3rd or 4th with mangled hands and him swinging a yellow wiffleball bat than have Matt Diaz.

Mike Fontenot actually bats 3rd or 4th? Yet again, that has more to do with Bruce Bochy than the Giants personnel. If I had control of that lineup, he probably bats 6th at best.

Corey Patterson? Yet again, that's John Farrell's discretion, not a lack of hitting talent.

"The problem," said one veteran scout who has spent more than 20 years in the amateur ranks, "is that the best athletes are not going into baseball. For the longest time, it was said the black athletes were all going into football and basketball but, in fact, it's the white athletes as well. Every year, there's fewer and fewer bona fide high-average, power-hitting position players out there. You just don't see them anymore."

Now, I'm going to throw on my scouting and my sociological hats. Baseball is talking about instituting mandatory hard-slot signing bonuses for the draft. If this flies, the already shriveling number of black baseball players will become even less. You want to know why? Most of them are multi-sport stars, and full baseball scholarships are unheard of since they have the same amount to dole out (11.5 per team) as basketball teams do. Not to mention football scholarships are easier to obtain if you're an high-school elite player.  

I actually roomed with two baseball players at Seton Hall last year and I flippantly said, "Well, at least you get to go here for free" during a conversation. In addition to looking at me like I was fucking crazy, they gave me the whole shtick about how rare full rides are, let alone half-scholarships.

Institute a hard-slot, and watch the multi-sport athletes disappear even more, if they even are disappearing. Joe Mauer was Gatorade player of the year in two sports and baseball wooed him away from a football scholarship at Florida State, Bubba Starling will probably be wooed from a Nebraska football scholarship this year if the money's right.


This year's draft also so happens to have a dearth of pitching talent. Matt Garrioch has 12 pitchers (13 if Bubba Starling doesn't hit or play football) among his top 20 prospects. And you know what, George Springer sure as hell seems like someone who can mash, since 11 home runs with these new composite bats is nothing to shit on.

Added another scout: "What I'm seeing is the best athletes now are the pitchers, and in the case of the two-way players, the drafting clubs want them to concentrate on pitching so they can more quickly get back their investment."

Most teams don't do that for the sake of investment. They do it after meticulous scouting and projection of tools. Trevor Hoffman was a shortstop once upon a time, Kenley Jansen of the Dodgers was a catcher, Alexi Ogando of the Rangers was an outfielder once upon a time; it's simply easier to convert hitters into pitchers than vice-versa. 

Out of the three most recent drafts, all of which were pitcher-heavy, scouts are in agreement on just 6-8 first round picks - in particular Justin Smoak (No. 11 overall in '08), Eric Hosmer (3 overall in '08), Ike Davis (18th overall in '08) Buster Posey (5 overall in '08) Pedro Alvarez (2 overall in '08), Mike Trout (25th overall in '09), Manny Machado (3 overall in '10) and Bryce Harper (1 overall in '10) - as hitters with 30-HR/100-RBI superstar potential.

Kevin Goldstein said of the 2010 draft: "It's not a great class at all, definitely below average." Keith Law called it "the worst crop of draftable talent since I got into the business full-time in 2002."

If that's the case, so be it. Like you said, they were pitcher-heavy drafts. Honestly, here are more guys I have heard can do 30/100 (operative word being can):

Michael Choice (#11 in '10)
Josh Sale (#17 in '10)
Justin O'Conner (#31 in '10)
Donavan Tate (#3 in '10)
Matt Davidson (#35 in '09)
Brett Lawrie (#16 in '08)
Jaff Decker (#42 in '08)

I can also name you some international signings that I think can do this, but I think I made my point.

Not every good major league player has to hit 30 and 100, for God's sake. Jose Iglesias in the Red Sox system is a guaranteed plus-plus fielder and any offense you get from him is gravy, but he'll be one hell of a player and help keep those pitching totals looking good with stellar defense.

"There's no question we've got a real problem finding these kinds of players in the draft now," said ex-Mets GM Omar Minaya.

It's also harder to do when your team never goes overslot, Omar

"The reason so many of the best athletes are going to other sports, football, basketball, even lacrosse and soccer, is because there are very few baseball scholarships in college and the ones there are, in most cases, are limited."

This is the smartest thing Omar has ever said (outside of the lacrosse and soccer part since lacrosse takes place during the exact same time as baseball season in high school).

"Davis was at Arizona State - a school with a great baseball tradition - and he was only on partial scholarship."

Yup, that's basically everybody in college baseball, even Dustin Ackley.

"This is why you're seeing clubs paying a premium for position players who can hit with power, both in the draft and in the international area," Minaya continued. 

Clubs pay a premium in the draft for really good pitchers too. Shit, if you can project an 18 year old as a future 30 home-run hitter by virtue of his tools, you probably want to try and sign him most of the time regardless of signing bonus.

"It's the same thing in free agency - look at the contract Carl Crawford got, and he's not even your prototypical middle-of-the-order hitter."

You know why the Red Sox shelled out a ton of money for Carl Crawford? Here's a list of players who played LF for Boston last year:

Daniel Nava
Jeremy Hermida
Darnell McDonald
Ryan Kalish
Eric Patterson
Jonathan Van Emery
Bill Hall

Do I think they overpaid for Crawford? Somewhat. Do I blame them though? Not at all.

Minaya went on to say that only a few years ago, teams' draft boards were heavily weighted with position players. Now, he said, there are half as many position players and nearly twice as many pitchers on most teams' draft boards.

So be it. Pitchers are more athletic and throw harder than ever before.

Another GM, who asked for anonymity said this: "It's getting and harder to find good hitters, especially ones that come fast. That's why I'm sure there's going to be more and more emphasis on the Cubans who defect. There's a lot of talent there and it's close to major-league ready."

Thank God he asked for anonymity because not drafting toolsy but raw 18 year-old hitters because they're not coming fast enough is an odd philosophy. It takes adjustments since most of these kids have never failed before, and some of them think .290/.380/.490 at single-A is a bad year. Most Cubans are major-league ready because most of them are all older than 18 or 20, but have lower ceilings than draftees. 

Of course there is one other solution to baseball's talent shortage: Contraction. Put simply, there is not enough quality talent to go around in baseball and what you have are five-six pretty good teams and 20-25 multi-flawed, mediocre ones.

Good to see we are ending on an absurd note. Either hit 30/100 or Bill Madden thinks you're horseshit and your team needs to die a slow death.

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any vetting or approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions, reasoning skills, or attention to grammar and usage rules held by the editors of this site.

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