2011 MLB Draft – picks 26-33: Reds select high school right-hander Robert Stephenson

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Red Sox selected high school catcher Blake Swihart with the 26th overall pick in Monday’s draft.

Swihart has great arm strength, but the Red Sox could quickly decide to move him away from catcher to save his legs. The 19-year-old from New Mexico swings well from both sides of the plate and could develop 20-homer potential. He’s committed to Texas, so the Red Sox will have to lure him away from college life.

Reds selected high school right-hander Robert Stephenson 27th overall.

With most of the high-profile college pitchers already selected, the Reds went with a young right-hander with some serious upside. Best known for throwing back-to-back no-hitters this season, Stephenson sits in the low-to-mid 90s with his heater and throws a promising curveball. Standing at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, there’s still some projection left.

Braves selected FSU left-hander Sean Gilmartin with the 28th pick. 

The Braves don’t go the college route in the first round very often, but they were known to be on the lookout for a left-hander. While Gilmartin doesn’t have the ceiling of current Braves’ left-hander Mike Minor, he is similarly known for his plus-changeup.

Giants picked St. John’s shortstop Joe Panik 29th overall.

It’s bit of a reach, as there were players with higher upside (Michael Levi) left on the board at the time, but the Giants decided to play it safe and draft for slot. Panik, a left-handed hitter, may eventually have to move to second base due to his arm, but could be a No. 2 hitter because of his pitch recognition and contact ability.

Twins selected North Carolina shortstop Michael Levi with the 30th overall pick in the draft.

If Michael was a lock to stay at shortstop, he would have gone in the top 15. Many, though, believe he’s destined to end up at second base. He has a nice all-around bat and pretty good speed. He’s also about as close to the majors as any college position player in the draft.

Rays selected LSU outfielder Mikie Mahtook with the 31st overall pick.

Quite a nice get for the Rays, as Mahtook fell a bit from early projections. The 21-year-old led the Southeastern Conference this season in stolen bases, walks and slugging percentage. The big question is whether he’ll be able to stick in center field. If he does, he has the chance to be a solid regular.

Rays selected high school shortstop Jake Hager with the 32nd overall pick in the draft.

Hager would be a reach under normal circumstances, but the Rays have so many picks that they can afford to gamble on someone who may take a few years to develop. While the 6-foot-1 shortstop has a commitment with Arizona State, it’s very likely he’ll be swayed if he is paid first-round money.

Rangers selected high school left-hander Kevin Matthews with the 33rd pick.

Matthews is a bit undersized at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, yet he still manages to sit in the low-90s with his heater. However, with durability concerns, it’s very likely he ends up in the bullpen in the long-term. The young southpaw is currently committed to the University of Virginia, though the Rangers don’t expect to have trouble signing him.

Clayton Kershaw’s initial prognosis: 4-6 weeks on the disabled list

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Some seriously bad news for the Dodgers: Ken Rosenthal reports that the initial prognosis on Clayton Kershaw is that he will miss 4-6 weeks with his bad back. A final determination will be made after he gets a second medical consultation.

Kershaw exited Sunday’s start against the Braves with back tightness after just two innings of work. He was seen talking with trainers in the dugout after completing the top of the second inning and did not return to the mound for the third. Kershaw has a history of back problems. Last year he missed over two months with a herniated disc in his back.

Assuming the preliminary schedule holds, Kershaw would be on the shelf until late August at the earliest, but more likely early-to-mid September. The Dodgers currently hold a 10.5 game lead in the NL West so they can withstand his absence. But if they have any hopes of advancing in the playoffs, they’ll need a fully armed and operational Clayton Kershaw to do it.

David Price was a complete jackass to Dennis Eckersley

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In late June, Red Sox pitcher David Price confronted Hall of Famer and NESN analyst Dennis Eckersley during a team flight to Toronto. The circumstances of the argument were not clear at the time and at least one report said that it was a “back and forth,” presumably about some critical comments Eckersley made on the air about Price. We learned a few days after that it was less of a “back and forth” than it was Price merely berating Eckersley.

Now, via this story from Dan Shaugnessy of the Boston Globe, we get the true flavor of the exchange. It does not reflect well on Price or his teammates:

On the day of the episode, Price was standing near the middle of the team aircraft, surrounded by fellow players, waiting for Eckersley. When Eckersley approached, on his way to the back of the plane (Sox broadcasters traditionally sit in the rear of the aircraft), a grandstanding Price stood in front of Eckersley and shouted, “Here he is — the greatest pitcher who ever lived! This game is easy for him!’’

When a stunned Eckersley tried to speak, Price shot back with, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’

Many players applauded.

Eckersley made his way to the back of the plane as players in the middle of the plane started their card games. In the middle of the short flight, Eckersley got up and walked toward the front where Sox boss Dave Dombrowski was seated. When Eckersley passed through the card-playing section in the middle, Price went at him again, shouting, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’

Assuming this account is accurate, Price’s behavior was nothing short of disgraceful. Disgraceful in that Price was too much of a coward to take his issues up with Ecklersley one-on-one. Beyond that, it’s classic bully behavior, with Price waiting until he was surrounded by lackeys to hurl insults in a situation where Eckersley had no opportunity to effectively respond.

But it’s mostly just sad. Sad that David Price is so painfully sensitive that he cannot handle criticism from a man who is, without question, one of the best who has ever played the game. One of the few men who has been in his shoes and stood on that same mound and faced the same sorts of challenges Price has attempted to face. And, it should be noted, faced them with more success in his career than Price has so far.

No one likes criticism, but David Price is at a place in his life where he is, inevitably, going to receive it. And unlike virtually every other person who may offer it to him, Dennis Eckersley knows, quite personally, of what he speaks.

Shame on David Price for acting like a child. Shame on his teammates for backing him up. Shame on John Farrell and the rest of the Red Sox organization for not sitting Price down, explaining that he messed up and encouraging him to apologize. And, of course, if he apologizes now, it’s not because he means it. He’s had a month to reflect. It’s simply because his disgraceful behavior is now all over the pages of the Boston Globe.

What a pathetic display.