Draft blog: Picks 16-50 – Cubs, Yankees pull off surprises

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Cubs selected RHP Hayden Simpson with the 16th pick in the draft.
A big surprise. Simpson, a product of Southern Arkansas, wasn’t viewed as a first-round arm. Most didn’t see him going in the first three rounds. The Cubs must see something special about him, but as far as we know, he’s a low-90s guy with no standout offspeed pitch.
Rays took outfielder Josh Sale with the 17th pick.
Sale offers plenty of power, but it will be up to his new team to turn him into a hitter, as he has a couple of holes in his swing right now. The question on defense is whether he’ll last in right field or if his lack of speed will put him at first base.
The Angels selected 3B/RHP Kaleb Cowart (18th), RHP Cam Bedrosian (29th) and OF Chevy Clarke (30th) with their three first-round picks Monday.
Three Georgia high school products. Cowart was announced as a third baseman, which is what he prefers. Many teams, though, were higher on him as a pitcher. Bedrosian has the big fastball-slider combo to follow in the footsteps of his father Steve, who saved 184 games as a major leaguer. Clarke is a speedy center fielder with some power potential. None of these guys will help the Angels for a few years, but there wasn’t a reach in the bunch.
The Red Sox selected 2B Kolbrin Vitek (20th), OF Bryce Brentz (36th) and RHP Anthony Ranuado (39th) with their three picks Monday.
Vitek, rumored to the Padres at No. 9, has already agreed to terms and is expected to move to third base immediately. The hope is that he’ll stay there, though it’s possible he’ll end up in the outfield. The Ball State product has a polished bat that should allow him to move through the minors quickly. He’s a future 20-homer guy. Brentz was another one of the best hitters in college this year. He has on-base skills to go along with possible 20-homer power, and he should be a pretty good defender in right field. Ranuado, an LSU product, was one of the players the Red Sox were often connected with at No. 20. His stock took a hit due to an elbow injury that took a toll on his velocity this year, but he has a great fastball-curveball combo when he’s on.
Twins took RHP Alex Wimmers with the 21st pick in the draft.
Wimmers to Minnesota was considered the surest thing of the second half of round one. A lack of velocity kept him from going in the top 10, but he has a plus curve and changeup to go along with his 88-92 mph fastball and the command is there for him to move quickly. The Twins aren’t usually aggressive with their prospects, but if they have need of him, Wimmers might be ready to help by mid-2011.
Cardinals selected third baseman Zack Cox with the 25th pick in the MLB draft.
A draft-eligible sophomore, Cox could be a tough sign, since he’d lose little leverage by returning to Arkansas for another year. That he didn’t go in the top 10 as expected would seem to increase the chances that he’ll head back to school. Cox has a promising left-handed bat that should allow him to hit for average and power. However, his defense at third base is rather rough and he might end up in the outfield.
The Yankees took high school shortstop Cito Culver with the final pick in the first round Monday.
The last time the Yankees took a high school shortstop in the first round was 2005, and C.J. Henry proved to be a complete bust. Of course, the one before that worked out better. Culver wasn’t a first-round pick in the eyes of most, but he has the range to stay at shortstop and he’s a switch-hitter. He’ll be quite a project.
The Tigers chose third baseman Nick Castellanos (44th) and RHP Chance Ruffin (48th) with their two supplemental first-round picks Monday.
Detroit lost its first-round pick for signing Jose Valverde, but that didn’t slow the team down. Castellanos may have gone in the top 15 if not for his University of Miami (Fla.) commitment. He could displayed 25- to 30-homer power in time. Ruffin, the son of former major leaguer Burce Ruffin, was viewed as one of the draft’s top relief prospects. His fastball-slider combination could get him to the majors in a hurry.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
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Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.