A.J. Reed

2014 MLB Draft: Round 2 wrap – Blue Jays, Brewers take aim at falling stars

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There weren’t any huge stunners left on the board after the first round of Thursday night’s draft, though Baseball America’s 19th, 20th and 21st ranked players remained up for grabs, largely because of bonus demands. Those three players ended up going 49th, 50th and 41st, respectively.

The latter two there actually went to the same team, the Milwaukee Brewers, who also went with a high-risk, high-reward guy in round one: Hawaiian high school left-hander Kodi Medeiros. With their competitive balance pick after round one, the 41st overall selection, they grabbed high school shortstop Jacob Gatewood,  a 6’5″ shortstop with terrific power potential. His size suggests a move to third may eventually be necessary, especially if he fills out and becomes the 30-homer guy scouts are projecting.

Gatewood was the No. 21 player on the BA board. No. 20 was center fielder Monte Harrison, who was taken by the Brewers 50th overall. Considered one of the very best athletes in the draft, he has the option of going to Nebraska to play wide receiver. It’d seem to be an even more likely route now that he slipped in the draft. However, if the Brewers can land both he and Gatewood, they’ll look like the big winners of day one here. Even if they sign just one of the two, they will still have done pretty well for themselves.

No. 19 on Baseball America’s list was right-hander Sean Reid-Foley, and the Blue Jays made him the 49th overall pick. He’ll be a tough sign, but the Blue Jays are in position to accommodate him since they should be able to land ninth overall pick Jeff Hoffman for a reduced bonus after he underwent Tommy John surgery. They also might be able to skim a little bit off 11th overall pick Max Pentecost’s bonus. If it works out, they’ll have come away with three of draft’s top 25 talents.

– The Astros opened Round 2 by taking the University of Kentucky’s A.J. Reed, who hit .336/.476/.735 with 23 homers and 73 RBI as a first baseman this year and went 12-2 with a 2.09 ERA as the team’s ace starter. Unfortunately, while no one thinks he projects as a star as a hitter or a pitcher, he’s also too talented to go the Brooks Kieschnick route and try to make the majors as both. The Astros will groom him as a first baseman.

– The Twins and Yankees took the draft’s first pure relievers, with the Twins grabbing Louisville’s Nick Burdi at No. 46 and the Yankees going with Mississippi State left-hander Jacob Lindgren at No. 55, their first pick of the draft. First-round pick Nick Howard of the Reds (No. 19 overall) was also a closer this year, but he figures to be given an opportunity to start. Perhaps Lindgren will, too, but he’s also a candidate to be the first 2014 pick to reach the majors if the Yankees keep him in the pen. Burdi is a flamethrowing closer-type.

– The Dodgers took Alex Verdugo as an outfielder with the 62nd overall pick, even though most viewed him as a pitcher. He probably would have gone higher, except he much prefers hitting. Dodgers assistant GM Logan White already made it clear that while Verdugo will be used as an outfielder initially, a move to the mound will come if he doesn’t hit.

 

Wade Davis? Greg Holland? Who needs ’em?

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 21: Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The story of the two-time defending AL champion and current defending World Series champ Kansas City Royals cannot be told without talking at length about their bullpen.

In 2014, Wade Davis, Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera formed a shutdown brigade that not only made it next to impossible for the opposition to mount late rallies, but managed something which seemed utterly impossible before 2014: they turned Ned Yost into a tactical genius. Indeed, the only time Yost got criticism at all that fall was when he messed with the autopilot formula that had that three-headed monster handling the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

Much the same happened in 2015, of course, despite Holland’s sharp decline and eventual injury. Davis and Herrera continued their dominance. They were joined by Ryan Madson and a cast of other effective relievers who, along with timely hitting, great defense and good health, helped propel the Royals to the title.

This year had not been quite the same story. Holland has been out all year and Davis, while effective when he’s pitched, has missed time due to injury. As has longtime contributor and presumptive next-man-up Luke Hochevar. Herrera is basically still Herrera, but Ned Yost has been presented with a decidedly different set of choices. Lots of choices and Ned Yost don’t always go together well, but lately that hasn’t mattered.

Last night the Royals’ bullpen came in to a close game and tossed three scoreless innings. That set a franchise record with 32 straight scoreless frames, besting the previous record set back in the club’s inaugural season in 1969. The streak is a huge part of why the Royals have won nine games in a row.

Unlike the success of 2014-15, the streak is not a three-man show. As Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star notes, eight different relievers have appeared for Kansas City during the streak, with Joakim Soria and Matt Strahm leading the crew with five and a third innings pitched. Herrera has tossed five scoreless. Otherwise it’s been a group effort with even Peter Moylan offering a couple of scoreless frames. And here you thought Moylan was, I dunno, gearing up for the upcoming Brisbane Bandits season. Nope.

The Royals are still not, in my view anyway, a lock to make the postseason. It’s a a crowded field right now. They’re seven and a half back in the AL Central and four back in the Wild Card with a bunch of teams in front of them. But they’re certainly playing themselves back into the conversation. They’re interesting. And they’re doing it in much the same way they’ve done it the past two years. Only with different dudes doing the do.

Video: Mookie Betts made a ridiculous throw last night

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Mookie Betts was an infielder once upon a time and the knock on him both then and since his move to the outfield was that maybe his arm was not fantastic. As an infielder there was talk that he was better suited to the right side than the left. As an outfielder people were saying that, with work, his arm could be average and/or serviceable. Not bad, of course, but not anything to write home about.

Maybe we need to reassess that, because last night he uncorked one from right field that would make Dwight Evans says “dang, man.”

 

And the throw mattered, as Kiermaier represented the tying run in a game that, at the time, the Sox were leading 2-1.

Betts is a dangerous middle-of-the-order bat at age 23. And now he shows that he’ll nail a fast runner with a frozen rope if he has to. The guy is going to win an MVP award some day. And maybe not just one.