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


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.

MLB games were six minutes shorter this year

Pitch Clock
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According to STATS, INC., the average game in 2015 was 2 hours, 56 minutes. That’s six minutes faster than games in 2014.

The gains came in the first half, when games averaged 2:53. Second half games averaged three hours even. One can probably thank the expanded rosters in September for that, as games then see many more pitching changes. Of course, it’s likely that second half games were faster in 2015 than 2014 as well given the rules changes.

Those changes: agreement to enforce the rule requiring a hitter to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box and the installation of clocks timing pitching changes and between-inning breaks in ever ballpark.

It remains to be seen if MLB stays satisfied with that modest improvement or if chooses to go the way Triple-A and Double-A leagues did. They installed 20-second pitch clocks and started penalizing violators with balls and strikes. Triple-A’s two leagues, the International and Pacific Leagues, saw game-time decreases by 13 and 16 minutes, respectively.

Billy Beane promoted to VP, David Forst named A’s general manager

billy beane getty

I’m so old I remember when general managers used to run baseball operations departments. Now they’re basically assistants.

The latest example: the Oakland Athletics have promoted Billy Beane to vice president of baseball operations and have named David Forst general manager. Forst has been with the A’s for 16 years and has been Beane’s assistant for 12 years, so it’s not exactly a situation in which Forst will be making the final calls. The official move came today, though the move has been in the works for some time, it seems.

Someone with a lot of good front office access is going to write a good story this winter about the title inflation going on in Major League Baseball over the past year. And it’s gonna be great when one of his or her sources breaks the pattern of saying “well, baseball transactions are so much more complex these days . . . ” and admits “hey, if Theo gets a fancy title and La Russa gets a fancy title I WANT A FANCY TITLE TOO.”

Not that it’s much of a secret as it is.