Max Pentecost

2014 MLB Draft: Picks 11-20 – Jays add catcher with second first-round pick

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No. 11 pick: Blue Jays select Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost
This was a compensation pick for not signing Phil Bickford after drafting him 10th overall last year. Pentecost is a true catcher, but also a fine athlete with good speed. The questions about his bat kept him out of the top 10 tonight, but he could be a solid regular two or three years down the line. He did hit .423/.483/.631 this season, but that was against lesser competition in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

No. 12 pick: Brewers select high school LHP Kodi Medeiros
He’s the first Hawaiian high schooler to go in the first round since 2001. The Brewers have whiffed on a bunch of first-round picks the last five years — no one they’ve picked in the first or supplemental round since 2009 has reached the majors — and here’s another high-risk selection for them. Medeiros has a great arm, with a moving low-90s fastball and a big-breaking slider, but with an odd delivery and mediocre command, he’s a long shot to reach his ceiling.

No. 13 pick: Padres select NC State shortstop Trea Turner
Turner is a speedster with the ability to last at shortstop, but he’s likely to be more of a No. 7 or 8 hitter than someone who will be an asset at the top of the lienup. At least he should work out better than the last two middle infielders the Padres drafted in the top 20: Matt Antonelli in 2006 and Cory Spangerberg in 2010. He should move quickly through the farm system.

No. 14 pick: Giants select Vanderbilt left-hander Tyler Beede
Beede was the 21st overall pick by the Blue Jays in 2011, but he opted to head to Vandy rather than sign. He goes 13th overall despite having the weakest numbers of the Commodores’ primary starters this season, finishing 8-7 with a 3.20 ERA and a 106/43 K/BB in 98 1/3 innings. Still, there’s more upside here than one might expect with a college pitcher.

No. 15 pick: Angels select Hartford left-hander Sean Newcomb
Newcomb is a big lefty with a 91-95 mph fastball, and he went 8-2 with a 1.25 ERA and a 106/38 K/BB ratio in 93 1/3 innings for Hartford this year. Considering that he had little trouble overpowering rather weak college competition, the fact that he walked so many batters is rather discouraging. The talent is there for him to turn into something special, but he’s less polished than the college pitchers taken ahead of him.

No. 16 pick: Diamondbacks select high school right-hander Touki Toussaint
If Toussaint were a little bigger, he probably would have been right there with Brady Aiken and Tyler Kolek at the very top of the draft. As it was, his slight build probably worked against him, with teams wondering how he’ll hold up. He has an electric arm; he throws in the 90-95 mph range with the possibility of more velocity as he fills out and his curveball is outstanding.

No. 17 pick: Royals select TCU left-hander Brandon Finnegan
Finnegan isn’t big at 5’11” and 185 pounds, but he can throw in the mid-90s and has a quality changeup. Because of his size and some past shoulder troubles, some think he’ll wind up in the pen, and if the Royals want, they could get him to the majors in short order as a reliever. They’ll almost certainly groom him as a starter, though.

No. 18 pick: Nationals select UNLV right-hander Erick Fedde
Fedde gets taken two days after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The Nationals, though, have never been afraid of taking risks, and Fedde was a possible top-five guy before getting hurt. He throws in the low-90s with good command, and both his slider and changeup project as major league pitches. The Nats thought that was worth having stashed away, even if Fedde doesn’t pitch in a minor league game until 2016.

No. 19 pick: Reds select Virginia right-hander Nick Howard
Howard was the Cavaliers’ closer this season, saving 19 games with a 2.15 ERA and a 50/12 K/BB ratio in 29 1/3 innings. He throws 94-98 mph as a closer, but he is a former starter and the Reds will almost certainly take a look at him back in the rotation. What will be interesting to see is whether they try him as a reliever this year first. If so, he could be a factor in the majors in the second half of the season.

No. 20 pick: Rays select Wichita State first baseman Casey Gillaspie
Gillaspie, younger brother of White Sox third baseman Conor, hit .389/.520/.682 with 15 homers in 211 at-bats for the Shockers this season. He’s a switch-hitter with the swing to hit for both average and power. He’s not going to play anywhere other than first base, but the Rays obviously believe he has the bat to carry the position. They could certainly use a hit here after missing on so many first-rounders of late.

Today is the anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s Iron Man streak ending

ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, MARCH 31 AND THEREAFTER - FILE - In this Oct. 5, 1938 file photo, New York Yankees' Lou Gehrig scores the first run of the 1938 World Series against the Chicago Cubs as he crosses home plate in the second inning of Game 1 at Wrigley Field in Chicago. A dozen years before Babe Ruth’s famed ‘Called Shot,’ teammate Lou Gehrig hit an equally dramatic homer. Gehrig was 17 when his high school team traveled to Chicago to take on a Chicago team. In the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and his team down 8-6, Gehrig hit a ball over wall and onto Sheffield Avenue to win the game. The historic ballpark will celebrate it's 100th anniversary on April 23, 2014. (AP Photo/File)
Associated Press
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Today is a significant baseball anniversary. On this day in 1939 Lou Gehrig asked out of the lineup as the Yankees played the Tigers in Detroit. It both ended his Iron Man Streak at 2,130, but also marked the beginning of Gehrig’s very public acknowledgement of ALS, the disease which would come to bear his name. Gehrig would never play again.

While it was clear that Gehrig’s body was betraying him and his baseball skills were abandoning him in the first few games of the 1939 season, some say the ultimate impetus for Gehrig asking out of the lineup happened earlier that day. The story goes that Gehrig collapsed on the grand staircase of the Book-Cadillac hotel where the Yankees were staying and that later, as he sat in the hotel bar, he told manager Joe McCarthy that he couldn’t play anymore.

The Book-Cadillac is still there. It deteriorated over the years and then was renovated. It’s a Westin now — the Westin Book-Cadillac. It’s a wonderful hotel and the bar area still has much of its old charm, but the grand staircase is gone, replaced with a couple of escalators. I stay there whenever I’m in Detroit. I’m friends with one of the Book-Cadillac’s bartenders and I try to see him whenever I’m there. When I sit in that bar I often wonder if Gehrig sat near where I was, telling McCarthy that he just couldn’t do it anymore. There are a lot of ghosts in Detroit. Gehrig’s is mostly in New York, but there’s a little bit of him in Detroit too.

Cal Ripken would later break Gehrig’s record. I doubt anyone breaks Cal’s. But in some cases the record holders are less interesting than those who were surpassed.

More talk of a juiced ball

VIERA, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Washington Nationals practice balls  during spring training workouts on February 18, 2014 in Viera, Fl.  (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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At the end of March we linked a story from Rob Arthur and Ben Lindbergh at FiveThirtyEight which sought to figure out why home run rates have spiked. Their theory was that it was either randomness or a juiced ball. They tested baseballs and found no evidence of a different ball, so that seems to have ended that.

Except it didn’t end it because, as so often is the case in the early part of a season, we are seeing some statistical, well, let’s just call it “interestingness” and people don’t like to let such interestingness go. To that end Yahoo’s Jeff Passan — acknowledging the Lindbergh/Arthur study — asks once again if the balls are funky.

It’s all based on exit velocity of baseballs, which Passan notes has spiked. He doesn’t come to any conclusions — just not enough data — but the very act of asking the question in a column and Passan’s acknowledgment that he sounds like a conspiracy theorist tell you that that’s his hunch. And it could be the case. I still think the ball got juiced in 1987 and again, on a more permanent basis, in 1993, but there’s no evidence to really support that. Just one of those “can’t think of anything better” sort of situations.

For now, though, it’s May 2. And I suspect that for as long as there have been May 2nds in a baseball season, people have looked at the stats and suspected something weird was afoot. Maybe something weird is afoot. We just can’t really know.

A-Rod knows how to keep his bat dry

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez watches his RBI single during the first inning of a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday, April 19, 2016, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
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Alex Rodriguez had a big night in a losing effort last night. He homered and drove in four. In the past week or so he’s raised his average over 50 points and may be finally shaking off the offseason rust. When you’re over 40 it takes you longer to do everything.

But even if it takes his reflexes some time to get up to speed, you can never take away the knowledge and experience of a savvy veteran with a high baseball I.Q. For example, whether he’s hitting or not, the man knows that it’s important to keep your bat dry on a rainy night:

Sean Burnett opts out of his Dodgers deal, to sign with the Braves

Washington Nationals relief pitcher Sean Burnett walks off the mound after being pulled during the eighth inning in Game 2 of baseball's National League division series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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In early April the Dodgers agreed to a minor league contract with pitcher Sean Burnett after he didn’t make the Washington Nationals’ roster out of spring training. He was assigned to Triple-A Oklahoma City. As is usually the case, veterans like him have an opt-out if they don’t make the big club after a certain amount of time, and Burnett has opt-ed out, realizing that he’s likely not in the Dodgers’ plans.

But he could be in the Braves’ plans. They stink on ice. Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that he’s signing with them and will report to Triple-A Gwinnett tomorrow.

Burnett, 33, hasn’t appeared in the majors since he pitched three games for the Angels in 2014 and hasn’t pitched regularly in the bigs since 2012. Tommy John surgery will do that to a guy. He did toss eight and two-thirds scoreless innings for the Nationals during spring training and has allowed only two earned runs in seven and two-thirds innings of relief work for Oklahoma City. There may still be something there. Innings will need to be eaten in Atlanta this year. Burnett may be able to eat them.