Wpial Impact

Two local players drafted early.

By Steve Samek

The Wpial had a fantastic first day. Within the top two rounds too big-name players were off the board.

The highlight came in number four overall pick of the Tampa Bay Rays Brandan McKay out of the University of Louisville. While McKay was drafted as a first baseman he also has skills on the mound. His abilities playing two ways have won him three John Olerud two-way player of the year awards amongst his many awards. http://www.gocards.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=6788&path=baseball.

In Fact, McKay may be starting a revolution of two way players to come. http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/19579082/louisville-brendan-mckay-aims-blaze-trail-draft-major-leagues-two-way-player. While players often switch positions after falling at one, few if any play two way.  Sure, you have the occasional pitcher that can hit a little bit, but that isn’t him fielding a position. Japan does have Shohei Otani a pitcher/hitter that is going to draw attention when he hits free agency next winter. Though it would be fair to say that the last player to hit and pitch at a high caliber in the American Major Leagues was Babe Ruth. http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/19579082/louisville-brendan-mckay-aims-blaze-trail-draft-major-leagues-two-way-player.

Sure, some two-way college players have had success playing one position in the majors. Dave Winfield hit 465 home runs and had over 3,100 hits playing for San Diego as a fielder. John Olerud and Toad Helton made a combined seven Major League all-star teams and won batting titles.

While others have failed to impress. John Van Benschoten pitched for Kent State and won an NCAA home run title. A first-round pick in the 2001 draft for the Pittsburgh Pirates, he didn’t last long after going 2-13 with a 9.20 era in 26 MLB appreances. Becoming one of the biggest busts in Pirates history. http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/19579082/louisville-brendan-mckay-aims-blaze-trail-draft-major-leagues-two-way-player.

Tampa Bay plans to let him continue to play both positions, giving them a value pick in his versatility. http://www.baseballamerica.com/draft/rays-go-bogo-brendan-mckay/#5P9KJ5JH5z3U15HI.97.

Though local fans remember him as a dominant pitcher for the Blackhawk Cougars. McKay threw 72.1 consecutive innings scoreless, between his junior and senior seasons. He earned the ranking of 10th best player in the state and won two Gatorade PA state player of the year awards. Three seasons at Blackhawk he had a sub 1.00 era while hitting at least .400.  Can’t wait to watch and root for the local kid. http://www.gocards.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=6788&path=baseball

 

J.J Matijevic is another local star I’d love to see succeed. Matijevic is a Norwin High school product. He won numerous awards during his time with the Knights including a Baseball American All-American. http://www.arizonawildcats.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=5709

 

Matijevic is an infielder for the Arizona Wildcats. Famously known for his dominating play during last year’s College World Series. Matijevic had at least a hit in 11 of Arizona’s 15 postseason games. His biggest one was an rbi double that played the game’s only run in a super reginal win over Mississippi State. He then moved his talents to the Cape Cod league. The dominance continued with Matijevic collecting 11 doubles, five homers,25 rbi, while scoring 19 runs and taking 15 walks. http://www.arizonawildcats.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=5709.

His strong performance earned him the 75th pick in this year’s draft by the Houston Astros. http://www.baseballamerica.com/draftdb/index.php Matijevic was the top hitter in the Pac-12 this season and on the all-Pac-12 team. http://www.arizonawildcats.com/news/2017/6/13/baseball-matijevic-selected-in-2nd-round-by-astros.aspx

 

Making this a much higher selection than in 2014, when Matijevic went in the 22nd round to the Boston Red Sox. http://www.arizonawildcats.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=5709.

My feeling is this is a guy that can get on base and get things started. Though if given the opportunity he can drive in numerous runs. He could rise fast, but bummer he’s blocked at second by Jose Altuve. Good pick though for an rising Houston team.

 

 

 

2017 MLB Draft round 1

By Steve Samek

2017 MLB draft day one is in the books. The Pittsburgh Pirates had four selections from the initial 72. Starting with pick number 12. With the selection, the Pirates took right handed pitcher Shane Baz.

 Baz a high school pitcher from Texas. He came into the draft ranked as the fifth best right hander and 11th best overall prospect. http://www.baseballamerica.com/draft/2017-mlb-draft-position-rankings-righthanders/#dHcQ26fiFrvmZ2MG.97. Putting him at about where he was projected to be drafted.

Baz is a pretty hard thrower. His fastball hits 92-96 and has touched 98. Complementing that is a curveball, changeup and cutter. http://m.pirates.mlb.com/news/article/235982456/pirates-draft-prep-pitcher-shane-baz-at-no-12/.

Though it may be difficult to sign Baz and take him from his commitment at TCU. Though should Baz sign it will boost a strong, yet depleting pool of arms at the minor league level. This can help the system with the loss of Glasnow as a prospect, despite his struggles and Jameson Taillon.  Taillon was the last high school pitcher taken by the Pirates in the first round when he went number two overall in 2010.  Though a recent trend isn’t helping the chances to sign Baz. Last year Nick Lodolo picked TCU over the Pirates. Should be an interesting follow to see if Baz will sign. The Slot value for the pick is over four million dollars and would take up a large amount of the Pirates over 10 million in bonus money. http://m.pirates.mlb.com/news/article/235982456/pirates-draft-prep-pitcher-shane-baz-at-no-12/.

Reports are coming in that Baz may officially sign on Thursday. http://www.piratesprospects.com/2017/06/pirates-first-round-pick-shane-baz-reportedly-agrees-to-sign.html.

 

With the 42 pick Steve Jennings, another right hander joins in. Jennings can throw 95 mph heat and was a two-sport athlete.  Though not as hard of a thrower as Baz, with a fastball siting in the 89-92 range. Jennings is a Mississippi commit if he doesn’t sigh. http://m.pirates.mlb.com/news/article/235982994/pirates-take-rhp-steven-jennings-in-mlb-draft/

 

To me this is a nice arm to add to the lineup. The speed can be upped in the minors, or is serviceable as is. A curveball, slider and changeup compliment the fastball. Jennings should be sigh able.  Though he may have been a slight reach of a pick, as he was projected as the 49th best prospect in the draft. http://www.baseballamerica.com/draft-preview/.

Eight picks later and Calvin Mitchell was next to hear his name called by Pittsburgh. Mitchell was prospect number 79 by MLBpipeline.com and 74 by Baseball America. http://www.baseballamerica.com/draft-preview/. Making this selection at number 50 a bit of a reach. The high school outfielder hit .369 with 11 home runs and 34 rbi this season. Mitchell has an offer in place from the University of San Diego. For about a million and a half in bonus money from the slot pool Mitchell can join the Pirates. Potential yes, at this price, no. Though it would add to a system lacking a good, as in top 30 organization true outfield prospect and knock some weaker top 30 guys off the list. http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2017?list=pit

With their final selection of day one, number 72 overall the pick was another high school outfielder. This one in the form of Connor Uselton from Southmoore high school in Oklahoma. Interesting discrepancy in draft positions for this kid. MLBpipeline.com had him ranked 46th, Baseball America had him 89th. http://www.baseballamerica.com/draft-preview/

Though the kid adds another multisport athlete to the Pirates system. Though he is also 19 years old and a bit older than most high school players. A maturity that may help with the day to day grind of the minors and professional life. For just around 800,00 he can be placed in the Pirates system. I like this pick. If he can play like the mid second round projection of MLBpipline.com the Pirates have a steal. Though the upside is there even if it’s closer to the 89th ranked pick, which would come as a small loss. http://m.pirates.mlb.com/news/article/235983718/pirates-take-of-conner-uselton-no-72-in-draft/.

I like the stocking up on younger players. With a strong core in place and many fast-moving prospects in the minors, a lot of draftees don’t have to be MB ready now. Giving the high school player time to develop without the pressure of now or never is a plus. Though I’m still waiting on a stud lefty to complement the big-league rotation. Its’s one of the systems lacking pieces, even with three left handers in the top 20 organization prospects. None of them have the real dominance top of the rotation wow factor. http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2017?list=pit