Comparing and contrasting Joe Mauer and Bryce Harper

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Bryce Harper2.jpgI’ve been critical of Bryce Harper skipping two years of high school in order to become draft eligible this year. I’ve done so as a father who has been kind of freaking the hell out recently over just how fast his kids seem to be growing up and as a man who wonders from time to time what happened to his youth.  It’s subjective, I know. I don’t know the first thing about Bryce Harper the young man and even less about his parents. He may wind up being the most well-adjusted guy on the block.  I have no idea, really. When I write about Harper’s life choices I’m fretting, and I admit that.

FOX’s Jon Paul Morosi frets too, for many of the same reasons, and channels his fretting into a compare-and-contrast between Harper and Joe Mauer, concluding that, all things being equal, Harper shouldn’t have left school early:

Harper is probably a nice kid. I don’t know. I’ve never met him. But I
am certain of this: Right now, he is one terrible role model. And that
has nothing to do with the fact that he was recently ejected from a game
for taunting.

In baseball, “staying in school” used to refer
to college juniors who elected not to sign and instead returned for
their senior years. But here comes Harper, bolting from high school
before he could park with the upperclassmen.

It’s not right.
But it’s legal under the current basic agreement. If baseball isn’t
careful, Harper might inspire a legion of followers — and few, if any,
will possess the same ability. That is bad for the game and worse for
the kids. They will be like the teenagers who skipped college to chase
their hoop dreams … only to wind up with the Fargo-Moorhead Beez.

I worry less about the copycat thing than Morosi does, simply because it’s probably a lot harder for a GED-taking high school kid to latch on to a college program than it is for a high school basketball player to simply declare for the draft, so to the extent this is about example-setting I think Morosi is overstating the concern.

Beyond that, I’m not overly-impressed with the Mauer comparison.  I’m sure Mauer is a great guy and everything, but as I read through Morosi’s take on it, I couldn’t help but think that everyone’s situation is different and we’d probably be better off not judging the decisions parents and their children make. At least the not obviously-ridiculous ones. $25,000 sweet sixteen parties are unadulterated evil, but I knew a couple of people who went into engineering school at age 16 and they turned out OK (I’m sure they would have remained virgins at 30 even if they had played out the full high school string). A baseball player who is clearly ready for the next step should be allowed to do it too.

So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m officially flip-flopping on the whole “let’s beat up Bryce Harper and his folks over putting him into the draft early” thing.  It’s inconsistent I know, but as I tell my children, I always reserve the right to change my mind.

Gerrit Cole set to begin throwing program

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 24:  Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates sits in the dugout in the second inning during the game against the Houston Astros at PNC Park on August 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.

The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.

The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

The White Sox wanted Astros’ top prospects for Jose Quintana

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 27:  Jose Quintana #62 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field on August 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.

It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:

We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.

While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.

Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.