Kyle Wren, Brandon Hohl

2013 MLB Draft: Round 6-10 notes – Braves GM picks his son

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– One big thing to remember here: the new draft rules that kicked in last year really sucked the air out of these rounds. Instead of going for upside guys, a lot of teams are drafting college seniors in rounds 5-10 and then trying to sign them well under slot, freeing up money for more talented players. So, the better prospects that slipped through the third and fourth rounds aren’t being taken here. Instead, teams will begin taking them in round 11 on Saturday, since there is more financial flexibility with picks made then.

– Dom Nunez made the switch to catcher in high school this year and was expected to be drafted there, but the Rockies called his name in the sixth round as a third baseman. The 18-year-old was previously a shortstop when he played for Team USA in 2011 and ’12. The Rockies’ first position player taken was also a third baseman, Ryan McMahon. Obviously, they’re targeting best player available, rather than trying to fill needs, but it’s still interesting to see them looking at third basemen when they have Nolan Arenado as an emerging regular and cornerstone Troy Tulowitzki potentially needing to move off shortstop three or four years from now.

– The Royals’ sixth rounder was RHP Luke Farrell, son of Red Sox manager John Farrell. The senior right-hander had a 2.13 ERA in 84 1/3 innings for Northwestern this year and tied for the Big 10 lead with 80 strikeouts.

– Right-hander Steve Janas, the Braves’ sixth-round pick, was back pitching in games for Kennesaw State this spring just 10 months after Tommy John surgery, and he ended up with a 1.14 ERA in 78 2/3 innings against a soft schedule. That his fastball only occasionally touches 90 mph held him back here.

– It probably didn’t help first baseman Jake Bauers’ stock much that his MLB.com scouting report compares him to Daric Barton. Still, he’s got it pretty good right now. He can either join San Diego Padres farm system after being drafted 208th overall or he can head to the University of Hawaii for school.

– The Tigers finally drafted their first position player in the seventh round, 216th overall. That was Connor Harrell, Vanderbilt’s center fielder the last four years. Despite waiting so long, the Tigers still beat the Angels and Blue Jays to the punch. The Angels’ first position player came at No. 277 (Florida State catcher Stephen McGee) and the Blue Jays waited until No. 295 (Air Force catcher Garrett Custons).

– Georgia Tech outfielder Kyle Wren was previously drafted by the Reds and Tigers, but he declined to sign. Now, he got picked by his father, Braves GM Frank Wren, in the eighth round today. We’ll go out on a limb and say that he’s ready to sign this time. Wren hit .360/.423/.467 with 28 steals for the Ramblin Wreck this year.

Wren’s younger brother, Jordan, is also eligible for the draft this year coming out of high school. However, he’s yet to be picked.

– Patrick Valaika, brother of Marlins infielder Chris and former minor leaguer Matt, was the Rockies’ ninth-round pick. He’s UCLA’s shortstop, but he probably won’t remain at the position as a pro.

– The Twins drafted their third catcher of the day in the ninth round, picking New Mexico’s Mitchell Garver. They also grabbed catchers in the third (Old Miss’s Stuart Turner) and sixth (high schooler Brian Navareto) rounds. Which is all kind of interesting, given that they do have some guy named Joe Mauer. The only other position player they took among their 10 picks was Indiana third baseman Dustin DeMuth in the eighth round.

– Third baseman Dylan Manwaring was selected by the Braves in the ninth round. He’s the son of Kirt Manwaring, who caught for 13 seasons in the majors before calling it a career in 1999.

– At 24, left-hander Chad Jones was one of the oldest players in the draft, and the Reds took a chance on him in the ninth round. In 2010, he was a third-round pick of the Giants. The New York Giants. Soon afterwards, he suffered a severe leg injury in a car accident, essentially ending his career as a cornerback. However, his leg is sound enough now to allow him to pitch, and he’s back throwing in the high-80s four years after he last pitched for LSU.

Chipper Jones says the Mets are his pick to “go all the way”

Braves Spring baseball
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Chipper Jones may believe some weird things but he’s pretty savvy and clear-eyed when it comes to analyzing baseball.

Remember back in 2013 how he picked the Dodgers to beat the Braves in the NLDS? And how, because of his perceived “disloyalty,” Braves players had an immature little temper tantrum and refused to catch his ceremonial first pitch? Yeah, that was a great look. If I was more inclined to the hokey and irrational, I’d say that created “The Curse of Chipper” and that it condemned the Braves to two straight years of sucking. Hey, people have built careers on curses sillier than that.

Anyway, kudos to Chipper for apparently not giving a crap about that sort of thing and, instead, saying what he thinks about baseball. Stuff like how he thinks the Mets are going to win it all, saying “They’re really setting the bar and they’re my early-season pick to probably go all the way.”

Keeping in mind that anything can happen in baseball, it’s as good a pick as any other I reckon. Even if it means he has to say that the team who was his greatest rival during his playing career — and whom he thoroughly owned during that time — is better than the one that pays his salary now. Or any other one.

Did Tony La Russa screw Jim Edmonds’ Hall of Fame candidacy?

2011 World Series Game 4 -Texas Rangers v St Louis Cardinals
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Yes, that’s a somewhat provocative question. But it’s still an interesting question, the relevancy of and merits of which we’ll get to in a second. I pose it mostly so I can tell you about some neat research a friend of mine is doing and which should make Hall of Fame discussions and the general discussion of baseball history a lot of fun in the coming years. Bear with me for a moment.

There has long been a war between metrics and narrative. The folks who say that so-and-so was great because of the arc of his story and his career and those who say so-and-so was not so great or whatshisface was way, way better because of the numbers. Those views are often pitted as irreconcilable opposites. But what if they weren’t? What if there was some data which explained why some players become narrative darlings and others don’t? Some explanation for why, say, Jim Rice is in the Hall of Fame while Dwight Evans isn’t despite having better numbers? An explanation, that isn’t about voters being dumb or merely playing favorites all willy-nilly? What if there was some actual quantitative reason why favorites get played in the first place?

That’s the thesis of the work of Brandon Isleib. He has just finished writing a very interesting book. It’s not yet published, but I have had the chance to read it. It sets forth the fascinating proposition that we can quantify narrative. That we can divine actual numerical values which help explain a player’s fame and public profile. Values which aren’t based on some complicated or counterintuitive formula, but which are rooted in the very thing all baseball fans see every day: games. Wins and losses. The daily standings. Values which reveal that, no, Hall of Fame voters who made odd choices in the view of the analytics crowd weren’t necessarily stupid or petty. They were merely reacting to forces and dynamics in the game which pushed them in certain ways and not others.

“But wait!” you interject. “Jim Rice and Dwight Evans played on the same dang team! How does Brandon distinguish that?” I won’t give away all the details of it but it makes sense if you break down how the Red Sox did in certain years and how that corresponded with Rice’s and Evans’ best years. There were competitive narratives in play in 1975, 1978 or 1986 that weren’t in play in 1981 or 1987. From those competitive narratives come player narratives which are pretty understandable. When you weight it all based on how competitive a team was on a day-to-day basis based on how far out of first place they were, etc., a picture starts to come together which explains why “fame” works the way it does.

From this, you start to realize why certain players, no matter how good, never got much Hall of Fame consideration. And why others’ consideration seemed disproportionate compared to their actual performance. All of which, again, is based on numbers, not on the sort of bomb-throwing media criticism in which jerks like me have come to engage.

Like I said, the book won’t be out for a bit — Brandon just finished it — but in the meantime he has a website where he has been and, increasingly will be, talking about his quantification of narrative stuff, writing short articles posing some of the questions his book and his research addresses.

Today’s entry — which is what my headline is based on — isn’t really numbers-based. It’s more talking about the broader phenomenon Brandon’s work gets at in terms of trying to figure out which players are credited for their performance and which are not so credited and why. Specifically, it talks about how Tony La Russa, more than most managers, gets the credit for his success and his players probably get somewhat less than they deserve. In this way La Russa is kind of viewed as a football coach figure and his players are, I dunno, system quarterbacks. It’s something that is unfair, I think, to guys like Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen and will, eventually, likely be unfair to players like Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday.

It’s fascinating stuff which gets to the heart of player reputation and how history comes together. It reminds us that, in the end, the reporters and the analysts who argue about all of these things are secondary players, even if we make the most noise. It’s the figures in the game — the players and the managers — who shape it all. The rest of us are just observers and scribes.

Corey Seager tops Keith Law’s top-100 prospect list

Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager warms up before Game 1 of baseball's National League Division Series against the New York Mets, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
Associated Press
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Yesterday it was the top farm systems, today it’s the top-100 prospects from ESPN’s Keith Law.

As Law notes, there’s a HUGE amount of turnover on the list from last year, given how many top prospects were promoted to the bigs in 2015. Kris Bryant seems like a grizzled old veteran now. Carlos Correa too. Eleven of the top 20 from last year’s list have graduated into the bigs. Are we sure it’s only been a year?

So, obviously, there’s a new number one. It’s Corey Seager, the Dodgers’ infielder. Not that everything has changed. Byron Buxton is still number two. This will obviously be his last year on the list. If you want to see and read about the other 98, go check out Keith’s excellent work.

And yes, like yesterday’s farm system rankings, it’s Insider subscription only. There were comments about how much you all hate that and I am sure there will be many more of them today. I get that. No one likes to pay for content. I was somewhat amused, however, by comments that said things like “hey, maybe if we don’t click it, they’ll have to give it to us for free!” Maybe! Or, more likely, the content simply will cease to exist!

It’s good stuff, folks. There aren’t many paid sites I say that about.

Ozzie Guillen to manage again. In Venezuela

Ozzie Guillen Getty
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With Dusty Baker getting back into action with the Nationals and with there being at least some moderate sense that, maybe, inexperienced dudes might not be the best choice to manage big league clubs, I sorta hoped that someone would give Ozzie Guillen another look. Nah. Not happening.

Not that I’m shocked or anything. I can imagine that, under the best of circumstances, a guy like Guillen is hard to have around. He tends to find controversy pretty easily and, unlike some other old hands, Guillen never claimed to be any kind of master tactician. He famously said that he was bored during games until the sixth or seventh inning when he had to start thinking about pitching changes. Refreshing honesty, yes, but maybe not the sort of dude you bring on to, say, be a bench coach or to mentor your younger coaches or to show your hand-picked manager the ropes. Nope, it seemed like Guillen was destined to stay in broadcasting with ESPN Deportes or someone and that his days in uniform were over.

But they’re not over! Guillen was hired yesterday to manage the La Guaira Sharks of the Venezuelan Winter League next offseason. It’s not the bigs, but it is is first on-field gig since he was canned by the Marlins in 2012.

 

Guillen managed the White Sox from 2004-11 and was voted AL Manager of the Year in 2005, when Chicago won the World Series. He may be a bit of a throwback now, but he knows what he’s doing. While I can’t really say that a major league team would be wise to hire the guy — I get it, I really do — a selfish part of me really wants him back in the bigs. He was fun.