2013 MLB Draft: Round 4-5 notes – Astros try another tiny second baseman

8 Comments

– Now the Astros are showing some sabermetric roots, going with Vanderbilt teammates in the fourth and fifth rounds. First baseman Conrad Gregor hit .314/.443/.418 with 53 walks in 220 at-bats this year, while second baseman Tony Kemp came in at .398/.480/.496 with 35 walks in 256 at-bats. The two had three homers between them, all Gregor’s. Kemp stands just 5-foot-7, though he’s still a giant next to Jose Altuve.

One wonders if the Astros might draft another Vandy product later on; outfielder Mike Yastrzemski, Carl’s grandson, is another player on the team with modest tools and subpar power but a nice track record nonetheless.

– Virginia closer Kyle Crockett seemed like great value for the Indians in round four. He’s no future major league closer, but he could be a setup man or at least a lefty specialist in short order.

– Second baseman L.J. Mazzilli went back into the draft after going to the Twins in the ninth round last year and moved up to the fourth round with the Mets this time around. That’s the team his father, Lee, was most identified with during his 14 years in the majors.

– Cody Bellinger, son of Clay, went to the Dodgers at pick No. 124. The former Little League World Series participant gets rave reviews for his defense at first base, and while his bat is in question, he has plenty of time to develop; he won’t even turn 18 until next month. The Dodgers also drafted right-hander J.D. Underwood, son of Tom, in the fifth round. His father, Tom, lasted 11 years as a journeyman left-hander.

– Rice University aces tend to go on to be first-round draft picks (and then often major league busts). However, the school’s top starter this year, Austin Kubitza, lasted until No. 126, when he landed with the Tigers. A sinker-slider guy, he may not miss enough bats to make it as a starter in the pros.

– Kean Wong, little brother of Cardinals prospect and former first-round pick Kolten Wong, was taken by the Rays at No. 128. Like his brother, he’s a second baseman. However, some suspect he’ll need to move to third, and he may lack the power for the position.

– Right-hander Dylan Covey, a first-round pick of the Brewers in 2010, was grabbed by the A’s late in round four. He was expected to sign out of high school, but after he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, he decided on school instead. His stock slipped this year while he was posting a 5.05 ERA and walking 43 in 76 2/3 innings for the University of San Diego.

– The Marlins took Chad Wallach, son of Tim, in round five. A catcher out of Cal State Fullerton, he projects as a major league backup if all goes right.

– Milwaukee seems to be targeting relievers as a draft strategy; third-rounder Barrett Astin, fourth-rounder Taylor Williams and fifth-rounder Joshua Uhen all project as bullpen guys. Astin, who split time between the rotation and the closer’s role at Arkansas, is the closest of the group to being ready to help.

– Rangers fifth-rounder Joe Jackson, out of The Citadel, is the great grandson of Shoeless Joe Jackson. A catcher, he hit .386/.495/.658 with 13 homers and 67 RBI in 60 games against largely modest competition this year.

MLB’s juiced baseball is juicing Triple-A home run totals too

Getty Images
8 Comments

There has been considerable evidence amassed over the past year or two that the baseball used by Major League Baseball has a lower aerodynamic profile, leading to less drag, which leads directly to more home runs. If you doubted that at all, get a load of what is happening in Triple-A right now.

The minors have always had different balls than the majors. The MLB ball is made in Costa Rica at a Rawlings facility. The minor league balls are made in China. They use slightly different materials and, by all accounts, the minor league balls do not have the same sort of action and do not travel as far as the big league balls. Before the season, as Baseball America reported, Major League Baseball requested that Triple-A baseball switch to using MLB balls. The reason: uniformity and, one presumes, more accurate analysis of performance at the top level of the minor leagues.

The result, as Baseball America reports today, is a massive uptick in homers in the early going to the Triple-A season:

Last April, Triple-A hitters homered once every 47 plate appearances. As the weather warmed up, so did the home run rate. Over the course of the entire 2018 season, Triple-A hitters homered every 43 plate appearances. So far this year, they are homering every 32 plate appearances. Triple-A hitters are hitting home runs at a rate of 135 percent of last year’s rate.

Again, that’s in the coldest, least-homer friendly month of the season. It’s gonna just get worse. Or better, I guess, if you’re all about the long ball.

Which you had better be, because if they did something to deaden the balls and reduce homers, we’d have the same historically-high strikeout and walk rates but with no homers to provide offense to compensate. At least unless or until hitters changed their approach to become slap hitters or something, but that could take a good while. And may still not be effective given the advances in defense since the last time slap hitting was an important part of the game.

In the meantime, enjoy the dingers, Triple-A fans.