Michael Cederoth

2014 MLB Draft: Round 3-5 Wrap – Twins get reliever happy

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– After drafting high school shortstop Nick Gordon fifth overall, the Twins went with college relievers with each of their next four picks (perhaps it was good enough that Gordon was the son of a former major league reliever). Second rounder Nick Burdi was arguably the top true reliever in the draft and seemed like a good value at No. 46. Third rounder Michael Cederoth also rates as a nice value pick — Baseball America had the San Diego State product rated 45th overall — but it is an interesting strategy for the team. Of the four pitchers, Cederoth is the best candidate to go back into the rotation, and since he’s been surrounded by so many relievers, it seems likely that he will. The other two picks were Georgia Tech left-hander Sam Clay in the fourth round and Oregon right-hander Jake Reed in the fifth.

– Without a second-round pick as a result of the Curtis Granderson signing, the Mets had to wait 74 picks in between selections. However, they were able to get a second-round talent at No. 84 overall, grabbing high school shortstop Milton Ramos. He’s a pure glove guy with no power to speak of, but he can make contact and run. He’ll give the Mets another interesting shortstop prospect behind 2012 first-rounder Gavin Cecchini and 18-year-old Dominican Amed Rosario. Unfortunately, no one in the group figures to be ready within the next couple of years.

– The track record of pitchers coming out of Rice University is pretty brutal, but the Padres were smart to use a third-round pick on Zech Lemond, a former closer who moved into the rotation during the middle of this season and continued to show very good stuff before going down with a sore elbow. Rice has a history of overworking its hurlers, but Lemond’s workload wasn’t much of an issue before this season. He’d seem to have plenty of potential as a starter with a fastball that reaches 96 mph and a hard curveball, and if he continues to have elbow issues, well, it’s just a third-round pick.

– The Red Sox took Jarred Cosart’s brother Jake with their third-round selection. A former outfielder at Duke, he transferred to a juco and became a pitcher this year. He doesn’t have much idea what he’s doing yet, but with a fastball in the 94-97 mph range and the makings of a quality curveball, he could be an outstanding reliever someday. The Red Sox will probably give him a chance to stick as a starter first.

– University of Arkansas right-hander Chris Oliver looked like a really good value pick for the Phillies in the fourth round, going at No. 112 after Baseball America ranked him at No. 66. Turned out he fell after being arrested Tuesday on DUI charges. Not only is he underage at 20 years old, but he blew a 0.09 according to the police report, putting him above the legal limit even if he had been 21.

– The Orioles took Notre Dame two-sport star Pat Connaughton with the 121st pick. The 6-foot-5 swingman averaged 13.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game for the basketball team last season and went 3-5 with a 3.92 ERA for the baseball team this year. The 36/40 K/BB ratio in 62 innings wouldn’t seem to bode well, but he throws pretty hard and the Orioles must figure that concentrating on baseball could allow him to take a big step forward.

– Two of college baseball’s best infielders went in the fifth round, with Indiana’s Dustin DeMuth going to the Brewers at No. 146 and North Carolina’s Michael Russell getting picked by the Rays at No. 157. Power is the question for both, but DeMuth hit .377/.433/.545 and .374/.449/.531 the last two years, while Russell came in at .339/.424/.496 this season. DeMuth is strictly a third baseman, while Russell has a chance of lasting at short but probably profiles best as a utilityman.

– Shane Zeile, nephew of long-time big leaguer Todd, was drafted 160th by the Tigers. A catcher at UCLA, he hit .324/.401/.421 with two homers in 215 at-bats this season. He has the build to add some power, and he should prove solid enough defensively to perhaps emerge as a major league backup.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.