2011 MLB Draft – Round 2 wrap: Josh Bell goes to Pirates

2 Comments

The Pirates grabbed the best player available to start round two, taking Texas prep outfielder Josh Bell with the 61st overall selection.  Bell, who would have gone in the middle of round one on talent, told teams not to select him because he was planning on honoring his commitment to the University of Texas.

A switch-hitter, Bell should offer 25-homer power down the line.  He was a center fielder in high school, but he’s expected to move to a corner in the pros.  That would have been the case even if he didn’t go to a team that already had Andrew McCutchen.  He’ll be a very tough sign, but if the Pirates can get both he and No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole under contract, they’ll look like the big winners from this year’s draft.

Some other round two thoughts:

– Daniel Norris, the other big tumbler, went to the Blue Jays at No. 74.  They’ll have to try to buy him out of a Clemson scholarship.  It won’t be an easy assignment, but since they had another second-round selection just four picks later (which they used to grab right-hander Jeremy Gabryszwski), they could afford to gamble.  With his low-90s fastball, curve and changeup, Norris would have gone in the 15-25 range on talent.

– Vanderbilt third baseman Jason Esposito was taken by the Orioles at No. 64 after a somewhat disappointing junior season.  He lacks star potential, but he could be an average regular in time and he’s polished enough to potentially progress to Double-A next year.

– After playing it safe with their two first-round picks, the Brewers grabbed Puerto Rican right-hander Jorge Lopez at No. 70.  He might have a higher ceiling than either Taylor Jungmann or Jed Bradley with his fastball-curve combo.

– Arkansas catcher James McCann was plucked by the Tigers at No. 76.  No relation.

– The Red Sox, who may well have been hoping that either Bell or Norris would fall into their laps, went with NYC high school outfielder Willams Jerez. He has tools aplenty, but there are questions about whether he’s really 19.

– Some suspected the Giants might take a catcher in round one, but they waited and still got Oregon State’s Andrew Susac at pick No. 86.  He’s a better talent than the guy they actually got at No. 29 (shortstop Joe Panik), but as a draft-eligible sophomore, he probably won’t sign for less than first-round money.  He’s a fine defender, so he’ll only need to be so good offensively to make it as a regular.

– After the Red Sox came into their backyard, the Yankees went down to Texas to grab Longhorns lefty Sam Stafford with the 88th pick.  If one trusts Baseball America, he was a second straight big overdraft for the team after Dante Bichette Jr. was picked 51st overall.  Stafford wasn’t in BA’s top 200.

Kirk Gibson home run happened 30 years ago

AP Images
1 Comment

With the Dodgers trying to make it back to the World Series for the second year in a row — and trying to win it for the first time in 30 years — it’s worth looking back at the last time they won it. More specifically, it’s worth looking back at the signature moment from the last time they won it. Which, really, was one of baseball’s all-time signature moments.

Yep, I’m talking about Kirk Gibson’s famous game-winning home run off of Dennis Eckersley of the Oakland Athletics in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, which happened 30 years ago tonight.

All playoff magic for anyone too young to remember Bill Mazeroski’s homer in 1960 is measured against Gibson taking Dennis Eckersley downtown to turn a 4-3 deficit into a 5-4 win. Heck, even if you were around in 1960, it’s far less likely that you saw Mazeroski’s homer than it was for you to have seen Gibson’s. Nationally broadcast in prime time to a nation of millions who had not yet fragmented into viewers of hundreds of obscure cable channels and various forms of streaming entertainments, it was a moment that sent shockwaves through the world of sports.

For my part, I was fifteen years-old, sitting in my living room in Beckley, West Virginia watching it as it happened. Like most of the rest of the country, I was convinced that the Dodgers had no chance to beat the mighty Bash Brothers and the 104-win Oakland A’s. Especially given that the Dodgers’ leader, MVP-to-be Gibson, was hobbled and not starting. Even when he was called on to pinch hit, I had no faith that he’d be able to touch Eckersley, the best relief pitcher on the planet, let alone hit the ball with any kind of authority.

But, as Vin said when he called it, the Dodgers’ year was so improbable that, in hindsight, it made perfect sense for Gibson to have done the impossible: