Michael Lorenzen

2013 MLB Draft: Notes from Round A and Round 2

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– The Royals kicked off the first of the two “Competitive Balance” rounds with Indiana State left-hander Sean Manaea, suggesting that they did have a plan in place when they shocked everyone by reaching for shortstop Hunter Dozier with the eighth pick. Still, it all makes one wonder why they didn’t just take Manaea first; anyone could have grabbed Manaea and Dozier most likely would have been their at No. 34. Plus, that way, if they didn’t get Manaea signed, they would have been compensated with the ninth overall pick next year.

Manaea was viewed as a likely top-five overall pick before going down at the end of college season with a sore shoulder and a hip injury, which is reported to be a torn labrum. He’s thrown in the mid-90s and shown a plus slider. If Manaea feels good about his arm, his best bet might be to go back to school and work his way back to being a top-five pick next year. If, on the other hand, he feels he has reason to worry, the smart move would be to take the Royals’ offer, which figures to be well above slot using the extra cash they have left over from Dozier’s slot.

Of course, both of those scenarios should scare the Royals a bit. And it’s not as though they have the best track record when it comes to developing young arms.

– The Reds pulled off a surprise drafting 38th. That’s right around where Cal State Fullerton product Michael Lorenzen was expected to go, but while the assumption was that he’d be drafted as an outfielder, the Reds called his name as a pitcher. Lorenzen served as Fullerton’s closer and has a great fastball, but he’ll be a project on the mound. Interestingly, the Reds still plan to let him hit while developing him as a pitcher, so he  will have something to fall back on.

– Unless you want to count Lorenzen, University of Texas closer Corey Knebel was the first pure reliever off the board, going 39th to the Tigers. He makes plenty of sense for a contender with bullpen trouble; if the Tigers can get him signed quickly, it’s possible he’ll see time in the majors down the stretch. He doesn’t possess quite the same stuff as their other top relief prospect, Bruce Rondon, but he does have better control. For the long haul, the Tigers would probably prefer to see Rondon emerge as the closer and Knebel as the eighth-inning guy.

– The Red Sox made junior college co right-hander Teddy Stankiewicz the 45th overall selection a year after the Mets drafted him 75th overall out of high school and failed to sign him. It was higher than he was expected to go, as some question whether he has the offspeed pitches to make it as a starter. His future might be brighter in relief.

– Stanford outfielder Austin Wilson slipped to the Mariners at No. 49, which is a good 15 or 20 spots lower  than anticipated. After a solid sophomore year in which he hit .285/.389/.493, he missed time the start of this year with an elbow injury and didn’t show a lot of progress at the plate after returning, batting .288/.387/.475. On the plus side, he did cut back on the strikeouts somewhat. He’s a second potential big bat for the Mariners after they drafted New Mexico’s D.J. Peterson in round one.

– Speaking of D.J. Peterson, his little brother, Dustin, went 50th overall to the Padres. He’s committed to Arizona State, but he is believed to be signable.

– That both Tommy Joseph and Sebastian Valle are in the midst of such disappointing seasons may have played a role in the Phillies’ decision to draft Andrew Knapp 53rd overall. He was the first college catcher off the board.

– Pitchers with arm action like Tyler Danish’s aren’t typically second-round picks, but Danish, an 18-year-old committed to Florida, was grabbed by the White Sox at No. 55. The fact that he’s consistently in the low-90s with his fastball was enough to overcome his unconventionality. Check out the video:

– Left-hander Dillon Overton, drafted 63rd by the A’s, followed No. 3 overall pick Jonathan Gray in the Oklahoma rotation this year, giving Sooners opponents quite the different look. While Gray overpowered with his heater, Overton is more of a finesse guy with a curve and a change. He’s probably going to be a bottom-of-the-rotation guy.

– Another rarity: high school second basemen as early draft picks. The Yankees took one named Gosuke Katoh with the 66th pick. Katoh, who spent parts of his childhood in Japan and in the U.S., is a left-handed hitter with a line drive swing and very good speed.

– Besides the Royals’ pick of Dozier, the fact that Jon Denney is still unselected after 73 picks might be the biggest surprise of day one of the draft. Denney, a high school catcher, was rated by MLB.com as the draft’s No. 20 prospect.

Wanna work as a baseball broadcaster for free?

Two drake Mallard ducks fly over Lake Erie near the Cleveland shoreline, Tuesday, April 1, 2014, in Cleveland. Warming temperatures have brought a variety of waterfowl to the area as they stage for the northern migration. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
AP Photo/Mark Duncan
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(Hat tip to @ItsTonyNow on Twitter for pointing this story out.)

The Madison Mallards are a collegiate summer baseball team in Wisconsin. College players join the league to have an opportunity to showcase their talents for scouts. Though they’re not exactly the New York Yankees, the Mallards do relatively well for themselves. In 2013, they had the highest average attendance among amateur teams, per The Capital Times.

That makes one of their latest job postings seem rather curious. The Mallards are looking for someone to handle both play-by-play broadcasting duties as well as media relations, as seen in this post. Only one problem: the position is unpaid. Here’s the full description (emphasis mine):

The Madison Mallards are looking for an enthusiastic and ambitious individual to join the front office as the Radio Broadcaster.

This position will manage all day-to-day media relations duties and act as the traveling secretary on all road trips. This is a seasonal position, beginning in May 2016 and ending in mid-August. This position is unpaid. The candidate will serve as the full-time radio broadcaster, traveling with the team during the season.

Duties and responsibilities include but are not limited to:
* Write press releases promoting team initiatives including post-game recaps for the team website.
* Coordinate all aspects of team travel including notifying restaurants, hotels, and other teams, getting team orders, room assignments, etc.
* Broadcast all 72 Northwoods League games on 1670 The Zone including pre- and post-game shows, during the regular season (and playoffs if necessary).
* Ability to work long hours, including weekends, as business indicates.
* Strong written and verbal communication skills
* Produce radio commercials for the Mallards and business partners
* Work closely with GM and Corporate Service team to include all sponsor and promotional live reads each gameUpdate the Mallards website daily
* Other duties as assigned by GM

The habit of baseball teams looking for free labor isn’t exactly new. The U.S. Department of Labor investigated the Giants and Marlins in 2013 for possible wage law violations. That included the Giants being investigated for “possible improper use of unpaid interns.” The Giants ended up paying $544,715 in back wages. In a memo that year issued by Rob Manfred, he cited the Department of Labor believing that MLB’s habit of taking advantage of unpaid interns was “endemic to our industry.”

According to U.S. law, a for-profit company can hire an unpaid intern by meeting each of six criteria, according to FindLaw:

  • The internship is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment
  • The experience is for the benefit of the intern
  • The intern does not displace regular employees but works under close supervision of existing staff
  • The employer providing the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded
  • There is no guarantee of a job at the conclusion of the internship
  • Both parties understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the internship

It would seem that the third and fourth criteria wouldn’t be met.

The Mallards are almost certainly looking for a college student — not a well-credentialed media veteran — looking to add to his or her resume. They are also very clearly looking to take advantage of that student given the plethora of job responsibilities with no pay. Current college students are part of the millennial generation which has increasingly been taken advantage of through unpaid internships. Steven Greenhouse wrote for the New York Times in 2012:

No one keeps statistics on the number of college graduates taking unpaid internships, but there is widespread agreement that the number has significantly increased, not least because the jobless rate for college graduates age 24 and under has risen to 9.4 percent, the highest level since the government began keeping records in 1985. (Employment experts estimate that undergraduates work in more than one million internships a year, with Intern Bridge, a research firm, finding almost half unpaid.)

In a capitalist society, businesses are always going to search for the cheapest source of labor. Considering how bad the economy is and has been for millennials, they’ve had a pretty good time finding it. It’s hard to fault college students jumping at the opportunity to work in an industry they like in the hopes of one day landing a dream job. But as much as those businesses might loathe admitting it, that labor is worth something whether it’s for an amateur baseball team or a major league team.

Joey Votto: “I’d rather quit and leave all the money on the table than play at a poor level.”

Cincinnati Reds' Joey Votto reacts after a swinging strike against Chicago Cubs starting pitcher John Lackey in the fourth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, April 23, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
AP Photo/John Minchillo
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Reds first baseman Joey Votto went 1-for-4 with a walk and an RBI single in Sunday’s 11-inning victory over the Pirates, but his overall stats remain dour. The 2010 NL MVP is batting a meager .230/.330/.310 with a pair of home runs and 12 RBI.

Votto spoke about his struggles in the first month of the 2016 season and he was quite honest. Via C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer:

“It’s not something I’m OK with. I’d rather quit and leave all the money on the table than play at a poor level,” Votto said before Sunday’s game against the Pirates. “I’m here to play and be part of setting a standard. It’s something I’ve always taken pride in. I love to play at a really high level. So far this year, it’s not been that. I will not be a very satisfied, happy person if I don’t perform at the level that I expect.”

Votto added, “I refuse to accept my peak has [passed], I refuse to accept that my best days are in the past. I’m not there yet. I just don’t see that, I don’t feel that.”

Votto, 32, has eight years and $199 million remaining on the 10-year, $225 million contract extension he signed with the Reds in April 2012.

Bryce Harper struck out four times in a game for the first time in nearly four years

Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper reacts after he struck out during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Thursday, April 28, 2016, in Washington. The Phillies won 3-0.(AP Photo/Nick Wass)
AP Photo/Nick Wass
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Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has not exactly been strikeout-averse over his five-year career, but he has been pretty good about not bunching them up. Entering Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, Harper had struck out three or more times in a game only 21 times in 533 games. He had registered two four-strikeout games, the last of which occurred on August 21, 2012 — his rookie season.

On Sunday, Harper struck out three times against Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez and once against reliever Seung Hwan Oh for the dreaded golden sombrero. The reigning NL MVP has now equaled his walk and strikeout totals at 17 apiece.

Despite the rough afternoon, Harper still owns a lusty .272/.390/.679 triple-slash line with nine home runs and 24 RBI.

Chase Headley doesn’t think Yankee Stadium is as hitter-friendly as advertised

New York Yankees Chase Headley (12) breaks his bat on a ground out to third during the third inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Monday, April 25, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
AP Photo/Brandon Wade
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Yankees third baseman Chase Headley finished April without registering an extra-base hit. Across 71 plate appearances, he registered only nine hits for an uninspiring .150/.268/.150 triple-slash line. Speaking to David Laurilia of FanGraphs, Headley said that Yankee Stadium isn’t as hitter-friendly as many people think it is, and added that the shift has helped to limit his offensive success.

“Everybody talks about how good of a ballpark Yankee Stadium is to hit in, but it’s pretty big with the exception of right field,” said Headley. “The rest of it plays as big, or bigger, than most yards. It’s maybe a better fit for guys who hit the ball high down the line than it for guys who hit the ball like I have for a lot of my career.”

[…]

“Because of the shifting that’s going on now, if you hit the ball on the ground, for the most part you’re out,” Headley told me. “I’m trying to get the ball elevated — I want to hit it hard in the air — and if I never hit another ball on the ground, I’ll be happy.”

According to StatCorner.com, Yankee Stadium is indeed better for left-handed hitters, and particularly so when it comes to extra-base hits. It lists park factors for handedness, setting 100 as average. A higher number means it’s more hitter-friendly. Here are the left-right numbers as of today’s writing:

  • Singles: 101 for left-handed hitters, 102 for right-handed hitters
  • Doubles and triples: 101 LH, 82 RH
  • Home runs: 137 LH, 127 RH

Headley’s hypothesis seems to have some merit. But his claim that shifts have been hurting him doesn’t seem to hold up to the numbers.

babip

Headley’s ground ball BABIP (batting average on balls in play) this season is only .022 behind his career average of .239. As he’s only hit 23 ground balls total this season, the difference between .239 and .217 is less than one hit.

Where Headley’s BABIP is notably lower is line drives. His career average line drive BABIP is .698, but it’s only .333 on nine line drives in 2016. This could be simple bad luck or it could mean Headley is making worse contact. FanGraphs’ batted ball data suggests Headley has been pulling significantly fewer balls (36 percent to his 45 percent career average), and he’s making “hard” contact less often (21 percent versus his 31 percent career average). Overall, there’s been very little change in his ground ball rate versus his fly ball rate.

Headley mentioned to Laurila that if he could, he would try to hit fly balls to the pull side more often. “I’m working on that,” he said.