EBS player and Lone Pine's Ryan Cappello commits to Nevada.
Hedges to honor Joe DeMarco at Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards
By AJ Cassavell @AJCassavell
April 16, 2019
SAN DIEGO -- As a freshman in high school, Austin Hedges endured one of the roughest baseball years of his life, scuffling at the plate and struggling to adapt to a higher level of play. A year later, he was MVP of his league and on course for a long pro career.
The Padres catcher credits former coach Joe DeMarco with his turnaround. On Wednesday, Hedges gets the chance to repay DeMarco as part of the Game Changer Awards in San Diego.
The Padres have an off-day Wednesday, meaning Hedges will be on hand to present DeMarco with his award, as part of a ceremony in Del Mar. The event is put on by Coaching Corps, an organization that provides youth from low-income communities with access to caring and well-trained coaches.
"It'll be exciting for me," Hedges said of presenting DeMarco with the award. "He's been there with me from the get-go."
DeMarco insists Hedges was always destined for big league success. He merely hoped to guide him toward it.
"He was always a very driven kid who was very serious about being great," DeMarco said. "Even though he was skilled and a pretty good player, he never thought he had it all figured out, and he asks all the right questions."
Hedges and DeMarco work together during the offseason, typically three or four times per week. DeMarco, who is president and COO of Elite Baseball, also serves as a hitting instructor for A's star third baseman Matt Chapman, who grew up with Hedges.
Years later, DeMarco and Hedges are close friends, more than just teacher and pupil. But Hedges is still learning from DeMarco, and he's eager to reward him for his impact on Wednesday night.
‘We’re going to make these guys feel welcome’: Padres veterans embrace a wave of youth
By Dennis Lin Apr 10, 2019 8
SAN FRANCISCO — Andy Green arrived at the highest level of baseball as a 26-year-old utility player and a former 24th-round draft pick. The year was 2004 and the Arizona Diamondbacks, along with virtually every other team, harbored a certain attitude toward newcomers: Those with limited service time required constant reminders of their standing.
“I was treated well. There was a number of guys I was grateful for,” Green said. “But at the same time, there were definitely those rookie moments that were different than they are now.”
One in particular comes rushing back. The recollection conjures an era when inexperienced players had to adjust to both elite competition and regular hazing.
“There would be Gatorade containers in the middle of the dugout and guys would bend over to get a drink,” Green said, “and somebody would be spitting tobacco juice right in the seat of their pants in the middle of a baseball game, to just embarrass them when they would run out on the field.
“I never got a drink of water for fear of that.”
On Monday at Oracle Park, a small moment with the Padres encapsulated how the climate has shifted. During a pitching change in the top of the seventh inning, Fernando Tatis Jr., a 20-year-old shortstop playing in his 11th career game, retreated from first base to the visiting dugout. Waiting for him near the railing was a third baseman with 937 games on his résumé and $300 million on his contract.
Manny Machado handed Tatis a paper cup. The rookie gratefully quenched his thirst.
Much has changed since Green debuted in what was then known as Toronto’s SkyDome. The Padres, the team Green now manages, offer a relevant example.
No roster in the majors skews younger. Already this season, San Diego has witnessed the introductions of prospects Tatis, Chris Paddack and Nick Margevicius. More loom on the horizon. The most senior position players — Machado, first baseman Eric Hosmer and second baseman Ian Kinsler — joined the team via free agency, bringing lessons gained during their own ascents throughout the league.
“You want guys who enjoy coming in here every day,” said Hosmer, who surfaced with the Kansas City Royals in 2011. “You don’t want guys to say, ‘Man, I’m going to the big leagues to sit and look at my locker for three hours until the game and not speak to anybody.’ I think that’s the difference. We expect these guys to help us out on the field, and when we’re on the field we’re just like anybody else. We’re a team. There’s no rookie, there’s no veteran out there. When you’re out on the field you’re competing, and that’s it.”
Hosmer broke into the majors alongside fellow top prospects Mike Moustakas and Salvador Pérez. Together, they formed the core of a previously woeful Royals franchise that went to consecutive World Series in 2014 and 2015. First, however, they entered a clubhouse that did not unanimously embrace their arrival.
“That’s kind of how it was back then,” said Hosmer, who recalled less-than-friendly treatment from some of the team’s veterans. “Especially in the Royals situation, a lot of these guys knew they weren’t going to be there the next year, they knew we were coming to kind of take over, and they didn’t really take that too well.
“I think that’s something we all learned as a younger club, to not be like that and to make sure when we’re those guys, we’re going to make these guys feel welcome. We feel that’s going to bring the best out of them on the field.”
Across the game, veteran-rookie interactions have evolved into a more congenial dynamic. Some of this has been facilitated through legislation. Major League Baseball’s current labor agreement includes an anti-hazing and anti-bullying policy. Rookie dress-up days remain in practice, but veterans are prohibited from compelling or encouraging younger players to squeeze into potentially offensive outfits.
Gone are the days of Padres newcomers being ordered to imitate Hooters servers before a late-2008 road trip. Or Machado braving public scrutiny as a ballet tutu-wearing rookie on the 2012 Baltimore Orioles. Other, more innocent traditions have persisted.
“Obviously, there’s always the rookie hazing,” Machado said. “It’s a little different now. … The game’s changed.”
Machado and another Padres veteran, setup man Craig Stammen, recall their first-year experiences fondly. Stammen came up with the Washington Nationals in 2009. Then a starting pitcher, he found willing mentors on the staff, including Liván Hernández and Jason Marquis. They supplied useful lessons and nicknames deemed unsuitable for public consumption.
“I knew it wasn’t coming from a place of malice,” Stammen said. “And I made sure I did everything I could possibly do to be in their good graces, as far as working hard, doing things the right way, showing up on time. Which are easy things to do. And when I did that I found I had faith with those guys, and I remember them telling me, ‘If you do everything right, there’s no way we can get on you.’”
Machado credits such players as J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis for easing his transition to major-league life.
“They let me play baseball, they let me do my thing,” Machado said. “As long as you get here early, do your work, be prepared for the game — if you did that, if I did things the right way, they were just kind of like, ‘All right, he’s prepared.’
“At the end of the day, I was grateful for the situation I was in. It was a lot of young veteran guys, so it was kind of like our situation now.”
Machado is only 26, a key variable in the Padres’ decision to commit to a 10-year union. Hosmer is 29 and a ninth-year big-leaguer. Kinsler, 36, is the oldest member of the roster. On Opening Day, the Padres fielded baseball’s youngest club in terms of average age. For some industry observers, Tatis and Paddack, 23, were surprise inclusions.
Chris Paddack is a member of the youngest roster in the majors. (Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports)
Kinsler debuted with the Texas Rangers 13 years ago, when both of those prospects were in grade school. Established players during that period were less forthcoming with their knowledge. Kinsler remembers spending the majority of his time in the clubhouse confined to the space around his locker. His chair rarely faced the center of the room.
“There wasn’t as much development going on in the major leagues,” Kinsler said. “You were expected to be developed and ready to play at a high level. I think now, younger players are allowed time to develop at the major-league level. So, I think that changes everything, you know? It changes a lot, the way you treat those guys and the way that you help them and try to guide them.”
Yet, as recently as four years ago, that was not the mindset in San Diego. In a few fell swoops, the Padres acquired Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, James Shields and Derek Norris. The expectation was immediate success. The clubhouse, at times, gave off a prickly disposition, especially as the 2015 season devolved into a collective failure.
The organization subsequently pivoted to targeting upside and youth. Today, Myers is the lone remnant from that offseason spree.
“It’s obviously a lot different when you get a group of older guys here,” the outfielder said. “But now it’s very up-and-coming. We’ve got a lot of young guys, a lot of young guys still on the way, so it’s definitely different in the sense that it’s more fun, more relaxed.”
Certain rites of passage remain. Players short on tenure are expected to report to the ballpark ahead of veterans, who are granted prime-time slots on training tables and inside batting cages. There are obligatory coffee runs and impromptu speeches on team buses. En route to the bullpen before games, junior Padres relievers tote hot-pink backpacks filled with in-game nourishment.
But such traditions rarely trigger public grousing. In general, the benefits of the major-league experience far outweigh the cost of paying one’s dues.
“It’s not bad at all,” said reliever Trey Wingenter, who made the jump from Triple A last summer. “If you’re respectful, keep your head down and you’re looking to learn, it’s a smooth transition in here, especially with this group of guys.”
“It’s everybody’s lifelong dream to get here,” said catcher Austin Hedges, an underutilized rookie in 2015. “Once you get here, when the lights come on it can kind of be an overwhelming environment, and I think it’s up to the veteran guys who have been here to kind of shorten that process of just getting comfortable.”
“If I’m burying a guy and he feels terrible, his confidence is really low and he takes it out to the field, it’s not helping us win games,” Stammen said. “That defeats the purpose of somebody trying to earn their stripes.”
The 2018 Padres, of course, failed to win many games. Their ineptitude was magnified amid 96 losses, the franchise’s most in a decade. While the farm system received widespread acclaim, the big-league club’s performance raised doubts about the entire rebuild.
Throughout the year, Hosmer represented both a question mark and, by all accounts, a steadying presence. The first baseman, who signed an eight-year, $144 million deal during spring training, put together the most disappointing season of his career. He also proved universally popular inside the clubhouse, doling out advice and, on occasion, protection.
After one particularly impressive game by a young player, the concept of some lighthearted hazing was raised. Hosmer, according to witnesses, quickly squashed the idea.
“You want these guys to feel like they’re part of this team,” Hosmer said.
The first baseman noted the parallels between the Royals system he was nurtured in and the Padres’ crop of minor-leaguers. He also pointed out what he believes to be the difference.
“It definitely compares, but I just think it blows the talent we had in Kansas City out of the water,” Hosmer said. “The team in 2009, I was in Low A and that group kind of stuck together up until Triple A. After that group, there wasn’t much. There was a Wil Myers, Salvador Pérez, but other than that, there wasn’t a lot. I think this group … it’s definitely ahead in the process talent-wise. Now it’s kind of our job to bring out that talent and make these guys winning players.”
Eric Hosmer has helped establish the more welcoming environment of the Padres. (D. Ross Cameron / USA TODAY Sports)
There have been signs early this season. The Padres, the greenest group in the league, are 7-5. Among the newcomers, Tatis and Paddack, especially, have flashed star potential. They have roamed freely throughout the clubhouse, unafraid to engage teammates in conversation.
“It’s been great,” said Tatis, whose locker at Petco Park borders Machado’s. “They’ve treated me very well, and every single guy takes care of me.”
Last Thursday in St. Louis, the Padres partook in a team dinner. At the end, a single bill arrived. Machado handed over his credit card, paying for a couple dozen other athletes with sizable appetites.
“It’s a team-bonding thing,” Machado said. “I think we’re in this for the long haul and we have a really great group here that really cares and we want to get somewhere. By going out there and doing things like that, I think it brings us all together as a group.”
“I think it’s something that teams don’t do enough,” Hosmer said. “Obviously, a lot of guys have a lot going on, families are in town or whatever, but I think it’s something that we’re trying to make a point to do a little more.”
Even a few years ago, such functions were rare. They also go only so far toward the win-loss column.
With a week left in spring training, three Padres veterans approached general manager A.J. Preller at the organization’s complex in Peoria, Ariz. Hosmer, Machado and Kinsler laid out their case: They had seen more than enough from Tatis, Paddack, infielder Luis Urías and catcher Francisco Mejía. They hoped to see four of the organization’s best prospects on the Opening Day roster.
On March 28, three of them stood on the Petco Park field as the national anthem played. Urías joined the Padres in San Francisco on Sunday night. He started at second base, Kinsler’s typical assignment, on Monday.
“The guys who came up through the system, we want those guys to have pride in coming up through the system,” Hosmer said. “They’re the ones who turn this organization around. It’s not Manny, it’s not myself, it’s not Kinz, coming in through free agency. Those guys have been in this process a lot longer than we all have, so we want them to have pride in that.”
Dodgers discover that hitting less is more in opening-series onslaught
By Pedro Moura Mar 31, 2019 10
LOS ANGELES — The 2019 Dodgers have a new hitting coach in Robert Van Scoyoc. They have a new plan to beat defensive shifts with an increased focus on bunting. They have a new regular in their lineup in A.J. Pollock. And they have a new organizational plan guiding their offensive outbreak to start the season.
The team is limiting players’ access to Dodger Stadium’s batting cages. Over the first series against Arizona, the cages were not staffed until five hours before first pitch, or later in the case of day games. The idea is that it is still plenty of time to prepare. The goal is to limit the workload that will accumulate between now and the end of October, when the Dodgers plan to still be playing.
“You gotta put some boundaries around some of these guys,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Because they want to work hard, which is a great thing. But to what end? For some of these guys, there’s anxiety involved. And, as coaches, we understand that we’re expecting to play baseball for seven months.”
Early returns were wonderful. In four games, three of them victories, the Dodgers scored 42 runs, a Los Angeles-era record for the franchise in a series of that length. They launched home run after home run and walked nearly as often as they struck out. Of course, attributing one torrid weekend against an unremarkable pitching staff to one subtle switch would be unrealistic.
But it probably can’t hurt. Cody Bellinger, who hit more homers this March than he did last March and April, noticed the change early over the weekend. He walked into the cage and saw neither Van Scoyoc nor hitting strategist Brant Brown inside. Awareness spread across the team by Sunday.
“Part of the reason why a lot of us are very good is because we like to get in there and work,” Max Muncy said. “But we’re human and the coaches are human, so sometimes you have to put restraints on people to make sure everyone realizes we all need breaks here and there — coaching staff included.”
Roberts framed it as potentially harmful to do more work than necessary.
“To be in the cage and then circle back to the cage three different times, that’s anxiety,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is get away from that. When you feel good, you feel good. You don’t need to keep hitting.”
In years past, some Dodgers would arrive at the stadium in the noon hour and flock to the cages to take their first full-throttle swings by 1 p.m.
“And then they’re in there again at like 3 o’clock,” Roberts said. “It’s just too much.”
Cody Bellinger hit four home runs in the four-game series against Arizona. (Kelvin Kuo / USA TODAY Sports)
Others’ workloads were more manageable. Bellinger, for example, said he rarely hits before 2 p.m. on a typical game day anyway and often won’t hit until after 3 p.m. Alex Verdugo typically takes 40 swings before night games, less if a few of them feel particularly good. Players typically return to the cage in the hour before first pitch.
The average arrival time at the ballpark has slowly crept up over the decades. Even during Roberts’ time playing in the big leagues, from 1999 to 2008, major leaguers showed up noticeably later than they do now.
“In general, guys these days, they’re not afraid to put in hours and hours of work,” Roberts said. “It’s a good thing, but you gotta still manage it.”
In 2016 and 2017, the Dodgers debated with young star shortstop Corey Seager about his tendency to hit and hit and hit. Many in the organization felt he was setting a pace for himself he could not possibly repeat. He felt like that pace made him who he was.
“He worked a lot, did a lot of extra things,” strength and conditioning coach Brandon McDaniel said. “You start to think, ‘Wow, is Corey gonna need all these reps?'”
After Seager missed most of last season because of elbow and hip surgeries, the team worked with him to redesign his workout regimen. When he was healed, Seager said he realized he did not necessarily have to do all that he once did.
Seager sat Sunday, as part of the team’s plan to slowly amp up his schedule. So did Justin Turner. In their place, Bellinger and Pollock carried the offense.
“Our hitters are friggin’ locked in right now,” Verdugo said. “Everyone’s going crazy.”
The Dodgers scrapped two days of on-field batting practice during the opening series. A six-hour game on Friday night played a role, as did their desire to foster a sustainable pace.
“We can’t take 500 swings every single day,” Muncy said. “Our bodies will break down. We wouldn’t be able to last until October, and that’s the goal here.”
Verdugo, the team’s youngest hitter, has not exhibited a tendency to overwork, but he understands the pressure many of his teammates place on themselves.
“Just tone it down a little bit,” he said. “Running a marathon, you’re not gonna sprint as fast as you can for one mile and then die the last five. You’re gonna get into a nice steady jog and make it all right.”
This season, the only voice Josh Bell wants to hear in his head is his own
By: Rob Biertempfel
CINCINNATI — Josh Bell went to California last winter to find himself. He needed to clarify what kind of hitter he is — A slugger? A high on-base percentage guy? Something in between? — and figure out how to reach his potential.
More to the point, Bell went to California to listen to himself.
The first five months of last season were the lowest point of Bell’s professional career. He didn’t hit for power and was jettisoned from the clean-up hitter role. His overall value as a batter was more than cut in half to just 0.8 WAR.
Early in September, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle took the unusual step of pulling Bell aside for a private talk. Hurdle spoke bluntly: Bell needed to trust himself, come up with his own plan at the plate and stick with it. If he didn’t, it would be a while before Bell played again.
Being benched for two games helped Bell clear his mind, and he was terrific down the stretch.
On Thursday, when the Pirates open the 2019 season against the Cincinnati Reds, Bell will be back in the clean-up spot. He knows his performance this summer is pivotal to the team’s success.
Bell believes the hitter he was last September — a thumper who also hits for average and patiently draws walks — is his true identity. How can he be that guy from start to finish this season?
The answer was found in a kernel of advice Bell got during his heart-to-heart chat with Hurdle. Bell then picked up his phone and called his agent, Scott Boras, who suggested he should hop a flight to the West Coast.
Bell spent several sweat-stained weeks with physical trainers and yoga instructors at the Boras Sports Training Institute in Aliso Viejo, Calif. He worked with a private hitting coach at UC Irvine. He drove up the coast from Boras’ HQ to Long Beach to try something new called functional range conditioning. He unwound by star-gazing in the VIP room at the Staples Center and watching LeBron James hoop it up with the Lakers.
The satisfaction Bell derived from charting his own course for a change was immense.
“I went out to California to further the idea that my voice is the most important thing,” Bell said. “I took control of my work out there. I did the things that I thought I needed to do. It was nice to know I was going to go to hit in the cages or on the field, get video and have feedback that I was focusing on, rather than, ‘We need you to do this or that this year in order for the team to have success.’ I had control. I had my own little safe place to dive into my swing. I laid that foundation.”
In his first at-bat in the majors on July 8, 2016, Bell came off the bench to face Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta and lashed a single. The next day, Bell smacked a pinch-hit grand slam. In 2017, Bell hit 26 home runs, the most ever by a National League rookie switch-hitter.
It all validated Bell’s track record over five seasons in the minors, where he slashed .303/.373/.454 with 44 homers.
Last season was different.
In early June, after he batted .236 with four homers in 63 games, Bell was dropped from fourth to sixth in the order. At times, he looked lost at the plate. In a game Sept. 3 against the Cincinnati Reds, Bell went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts, which lowered his batting average to .255.
“It ate at me,” Bell acknowledged. “I got away from what got me to the big leagues, which was driving the ball really hard to left-center.”
A one-on-one talk with manager Clint Hurdle last September seemed to get first baseman Josh Bell back on track at the plate. (Patrick Gorski / USA Today)
A former hitting coach, Hurdle is a mostly hands-off manager who doesn’t mind delegating authority. When a player is scuffling, Hurdle usually will pass one of his lieutenants notes with ideas that can be brought up in conversation: “Hey, Clint and I were talking and here’s one of the thoughts he had about you …”
Sometimes, though, there comes a point when Hurdle has to eliminate the middle man.
Hitting coach Jeff Branson’s tutelage, which included some covert messages from Hurdle, did not yield positive results. After Bell’s wipeout Sept. 3, Hurdle knew it was time for him to step in.
Before the 1978 season, Hurdle, a former first-round draft pick, graced the cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline, “THIS YEAR’S PHENOM.” The magazine proved to be not very prescient. Hurdle hit .264/.348/.398 that year and developed into no more than a bit player.
A second-rounder in 2011, Bell also arrived in the majors amid heavy fanfare and high expectations. After this season, Bell will be eligible for salary arbitration for the first time, a pivotal point in his career. Phenom … or flop?
Hurdle smiled wryly when he was asked if he sees a little bit of himself in Bell.
“He’s a better hitter,” Hurdle said. “There was a time when I thought I was a pretty good hitter. But I look at him …”
“It’s a waste of our time having that comparison right now. It’s a good question; I just don’t want to go there,” Hurdle said. “I can sometimes see the look (in Bell’s eyes), and I know he’s in a good place. Other times I see the look and I know I once had that look, so we need to have a conversation.”
With the clubhouse hubbub muffled by a closed door, Hurdle tempered his normally booming voice and asked Bell what was going on. Bell said he was having trouble pulling the ball because his swing path was too long. Pitchers were banging him hard inside, and he couldn’t turn on those pitches the way he did in the minors.
Bell’s approach at the plate — the advice from Branson, the things Bell was tweaking on his own and the ideas put in his head over the years by coaches in youth leagues, high school and pro ball — was confused and conflicted. He’d change his mindset based on that day’s pitcher, becoming a different batter against hard throwers than against junkballers.
His swing was constantly in flux because he wouldn’t commit to any particular direction.
“I was trying to do things that I was not certain I could do,” Bell said.
That began to change after Bell’s sit-down with Hurdle. In his first at-bat in his game back after being benched, Bell smacked a two-run homer to center field. Over his final 21 games of the season, Bell batted .301 (22 for 73). He had nine extra-base hits (including four home runs), collected 16 walks and posted a .961 OPS.
“I think it was my best month in pro ball,” Bell said.
“Josh committed to a couple of core principals at the plate and stayed steadfast with them,” Hurdle said. “I told him if he committed to them, he’d stay in the lineup. He got it and stayed with it. We’ll see where it goes. It was a solid month, a starting point and an understanding. He knows the importance of him driving the baseball in our lineup, being a middle-of-the-order bat, and I think he’s embraced that, too.”
One day after the 2018 season ended, the Pirates fired Branson and assistant hitting coach Jeff Livesey. Both coaches had been with the club since 2014.
The Pirates have precious little power in their lineup, so Bell’s regression — his total of 12 home runs was the lowest among NL first basemen with at least 325 plate appearances — was especially damning for Branson.
“I think that had something to do with it because obviously Bell didn’t do the same thing he did (in 2017),” Branson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We couldn’t get him there. And when one of your young guys that the team is counting on struggles in that category as far as driving balls and, going into the season, that’s one thing that we need to rely on, it’s understandable.”
Although Pirates first baseman Josh Bell’s walk rate (13.2 percent) and strikeout rate (17.9 percent) were better last year than in 2017, his home run total was down significantly. (Benny Sieu / USA Today)
As the front office began its search for new hitting coaches, Bell decided to take Boras up on his offer to train at one of the agency’s complexes, which are set up in Miami and Los Angeles. “I figured I might as well get out while I’m young and check out California,” Bell said.
The Boras Sports Training Institute is on the campus of Soka University, about 50 miles south of Los Angeles. As a free perk of being a Boras client, Bell had access to trainers and psychologists along with a pool, track, weight room and yoga studio.
As a hitter and a fielder, Bell is right-side dominant. To increase his mobility and dexterity, particularly on his left side, Bell was introduced to functional range conditioning. “It’s essentially taking your joint capacity to the end range and then trying to train at that range,” Bell said. “At first, you’re like, ‘Oh, crap. I can’t go any further. This hurts.’ And then as your body relaxes, you can go further.”
That sounds really painful. Bell laughed and shook his head.
“It’s not really painful,” he said. “It’s more like cramping.”
One of the attorneys who work for Boras suggested Bell get in touch with Joe DeMarco, a former coach at UC Irvine who now runs the Elite Baseball training center. They met up on a Sunday afternoon, watched some football and talked hitting.
“He texted me the next day and said, ‘How’s Wednesday?’ ” DeMarco said. “It was Oct. 10. He’d barely had a week off from the season. I was like, ‘This guy is not messing around. He wants to go.’ ”
Bell wound up training with DeMarco for 10 to 12 hours a week, spread out over three or four sessions, from October until the first week of February.
“It was an overhaul,” DeMarco said. “Sometimes, simpler is good. He needed to get on line and get on time. Timing is so essential. For the movement he makes to set up left-handed, he needs to start really early and make sure he gets grounded, then maintain that body position we’re looking for to allow that big, strong, gifted body to work.”
In early November, the Pirates hired Rick Eckstein, a hitting guru who’s worked for the Washington Nationals, St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Angels. Almost immediately, Eckstein and Bell began texting back and forth. Bell sent along some video, and Eckstein wrote back with his analysis.
“It was great feedback, but I still had control, which was nice,” Bell said.
In December, Eckstein went to California and spent two hours in the cage with Bell and DeMarco. After the workout, Bell and Eckstein went out for tacos.
“We hung out for a couple of hours, shooting the breeze, talking baseball stories, watching videos of (Bryce) Harper and (Barry) Bonds, reminiscing on the past,” Bell said. “It was pretty cool to dive into his mind a little bit.”
With a background in biomechanics and strength and conditioning, Eckstein considers more than just the swing when breaking down a hitter. The first thing he addressed with Bell was his body position in the box — not only how it affects his swing, but also how it helps him recognize pitches.
“I see tremendous upside with Josh,” Eckstein said. “I see a guy who is trying to find out who he’s capable of being. If you watch the way he’s gone about his career so far, he’s searched for positioning in the box, he’s searched for how to be productive. … He has tremendous talent. The big question is, how do we get there?”
Working separately, DeMarco and Eckstein each noticed that Bell’s stance in Triple A was slightly taller and he was grounded sooner than he was last season. Bell needed to fire more toward the ball, not drifting forward as he picks up the pitch, and be more direct with his hands.
“My swing path is everything,” Bell said. “That’s what I’m able to control. Working with Rick, I was able to find this stable position for me to hold and repeat.”
“I think this year is going to be pretty fun.”
In 17 Grapefruit League games this month, Bell batted just .200 (10 for 50) with two homers and a .591 OPS. However, spring training numbers often are deceptive. In the final game in Florida, Bell ripped a full-count fastball from Andrew Cashner that one-hopped the wall in left-center field. In his next at-bat, Bell mashed a flyout that center fielder Joey Rickard caught on the warning track.
When the Pirates broke camp, Bell felt confident.
“Last year I didn’t have a lane that I trusted. This year, wholeheartedly, I know which lane I’m going to fall into,” Bell said. “I’m going to be the guy who works every day to maintain my body position and to keep my hands inside the ball to be able to drive a fastball middle into center field, long and hard on a line. If I continue to do these things I’ve been doing, I might go 0 for 5 in a game — but it’s going to be a damn good 0 for 5.”
Stable positioning. More direct path to the ball. Ropes to left-center field. It all goes back to the meeting in Hurdle’s office last September.
“That’s what Clint basically wanted out of me,” Bell said. “He told me, ‘Just do what you have to do to perform because we know you have it in you.’ I understand that my voice is the most important voice because it’s just me versus the pitcher out there, not me with somebody else out there. You’ve got to do what you know is best instead of trying to do what you don’t believe in.”
(Top photo: Justin Berl / Getty Images)
Rob Biertempfel is the Pirates senior writer for The Athletic Pittsburgh and a correspondent for MLB Network. Before joining The Athletic, Rob covered Major League Baseball (and college football, the NFL, the NHL and a million other things) during a 24-year career at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Follow Rob on Twitter @RobBiertempfel.
These are baseball's top 10 lineups
By Anthony Castrovince @castrovince
March 26, 2019
Oh man, some of you are going to absolutely hate this list. Just know that from the start. I feel genuinely good about the first four spots, and then it quickly devolves into all sorts of ifs, ands and buts. There are a bundle of teams who could take a lot of different offensive directions this season. So it is with baseball. So it is with lists.
Here's mine (and as usual, we grade NL teams on a curve with the lack of a DH):
1. Red Sox
The 2018 Red Sox compelled the question: Which guy with north of 80 extra-base hits and one of the top three OPS and weighted runs created marks in MLB (Mookie Bettsor J.D. Martinez) was your favorite?
When you’ve got that, you’ve got something good. But of course, it doesn’t end there for the Sox. They have one of the most productive shortstops in the game in Xander Bogaerts, they have a 24-year-old Andrew Benintendi coming off an offensive breakout, they have a 22-year-old Rafael Devers possibly on the verge of a breakout, they have Jackie Bradley Jr. coming off a scorching second half after some swing adjustments, they have all the primary pieces of a lineup that generated one of the highest contact rates in the game (79.3 percent), they have bench depth and versatility.
You know, I’m starting to think they just might be good again.
Speaking of high-contact, the Astros were just ahead of the Sox last year (79.9 percent). Recognizing the need for balance, they went out and acquired a pull-no-punches, free-swinging thumper with ...
Ah, just kidding. They added Michael Brantley, owner of the highest individual contact rate (90.9) in the game last year.
So the strong got stronger. All the more so if they get full seasons out of Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and George Springer after last year’s injury issues. Even if Alex Bregman doesn’t repeat his dynamic 31-homer, 51-double output of ’18, the Astros are loaded with potential American League MVP Award candidates. And right now there’s no room at the inn for outfielder Kyle Tucker, rated as the No. 8 prospect in the game per MLB Pipeline. If you want to rank them ahead of the Red Sox, I won’t fight you.
Remember when Giancarlo Stanton said he felt bad for the baseballs? It didn’t turn out quite the way the Yankees expected, with Stanton suffering a statistical regression in his first year in pinstripes and Aaron Judge getting hurt.
But I, for one, still feel bad for the baseballs. Both of those dudes are projected by Steamer to finish in the top 16 in MLB in weighted runs created plus – the catch-all offensive stat that adjusts for the league and ballpark context -- and that projection could be selling them short. The Yanks are, in my mind, a tick below the level of the Astros and Red Sox because of the uncertainty over what, exactly, Gary Sanchez’s “norm” will be and because there’s no telling if Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar will repeat their dramatic rookie years, if Aaron Hicks’ back issue will linger, if Luke Voit will turn into a pumpkin, if Troy Tulowitzki will turn back the clock, etc.
But there’s no shame in third place here.
“Stupid” money can lead to stupid run production. The Phillies project to have it with Bryce Harper (145 projected wRC+, per Steamer, or 45 percent better than league average), Andrew McCutchen (129), J.T. Realmuto (110) and Jean Segura (101) newly in the fold. Harper actually took the Phillies' offer because of the way Citizens Bank Park, one of the top home run parks for left-handed hitters, plays into his swing.
Nah, I’m just kidding again. He took the offer because it was $330 million. But the ballpark factor is cool, too. Given the added presence of Harper to the middle of the order, would it surprise anybody if Rhys Hoskins elevates his overall production this year -- especially on the heels of a 20-homer second half? And Maikel Franco could still turn his raw power into something interesting if he can get the ball off the ground more consistently.
By wRC+, the Dodgers and the Yankees were the two most productive offenses in MLB last year. The Dodgers have taken on a different outfield identity this year after the trade sending Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to the Dodgers and signing A.J. Pollock, who can be a truly dynamic offensive contributor in spurts, but who has played just 237 games over the previous three years with basically league average offensive contributions overall. The Dodgers will continue their mix-and-match mastery in multiple spots in the lineup, though it will be interesting to see if Cody Bellinger can play himself out of a platoon identity. And of course, a big key for the lineup is the return of Corey Seager, who is projected by Steamer to post production similar to that of Francisco Lindor (129 wRC+).
It’s putting an awful lot on the young Juan Soto to repeat his historic 19-year-old season and on the young Victor Robles to make everybody forget about Bryce Harper. But those are two uber-talented players in a league that keeps getting younger, so don’t put it past the Nats to not take a dramatic step back offensively in the first year of the post-Bryce era. Adam Eaton and Trea Turner should generate traffic atop the order, and Anthony Rendon has logged an OPS over .900 each of the last two seasons. To all that, the Nats added the power of Brian Dozier and catcher Yan Gomes on the heels of a productive offensive season (.266/.313/.449) at a time when catchers, at large, aren’t producing much.
Now that Christian Yelich has decided to be a modern-day Barry Bonds (well, in the second half of 2018, at the very least), a Brewers lineup that was already alluring has added depth and dimension. Yelich had 25 homers in the second half alone, to go with 10 steals. He’s a regression candidate, but he’s also a superstar.
Retaining Mike Moustakas (to play second base) sure is interesting from a defensive perspective, but we know what it should give the Brew Crew offensively -- a bunch of dingers, to go with the ones already provided by Jesus Aguilar, Travis Shaw and Ryan Braun. The Brewers added another key upgrade with the opportunistic one-year acquisition of Yasmani Grandal, who, postseason passed balls aside, was the second-most productive catcher in baseball last season, behind Realmuto. With good traffic coming from Lorenzo Cain in the leadoff spot, the Brewers will once again be in good position to again finish in the top 10 in team OPS.
The Nos. 2-4 spots will be Josh Donaldson (who, remember, had his bat speed and body back in those final 16 games with the Indians in 2018 and turned in a .920 OPS in that small sample), Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna Jr. That’s good enough to get you on this list.
There are questions about the way Ozzie Albies tailed off in the second half last year, about deviating from the “Acuna as leadoff man” move that worked so well in ’18, about Nick Markakis’ ability to repeat the first All-Star campaign of his career. Very real and very reasonable questions. But I love the offensive nucleus here.
I speculatively put the A’s 10th on this list a year ago, and they were the rare team to actually prove me right about something (thank you, A’s!). They had the same team-wide wRC+ mark as the Astros and Red Sox, which is pretty impressive. Of course, Jed Lowrie’s fantastic age-34 contributions (.267/.353/.448 slash) was a part of that, but Jurickson Profar finally began to deliver in Texas last year (.254/.335/.458) and he could be an impactful trade pickup in his age-26 season. If Matt Chapman, who is so good defensively, can extrapolate something like his second half (.309/.371/.591) over a full season, he’s an AL MVP Award candidate, and the A’s have additional power in perennial .247-average/40-homer guy Khris Davis and in Stephen Piscotty. Oakland already suffered an early blow with the loss of Matt Olson to a hand fracture, so that could dent their production in the first couple months of the season
They had three legitimate All-Star infielders in 2018 in Joey Votto (131 wRC+), Eugenio Suarez (135) and Scooter Gennett (125). Even when Votto is “bad” (his phrasing, not mine), he’s pretty darned good, but don’t put it past him to have a season more closely resembling his elite 2017 than his merely great 2018.
The big mystery is what the Reds will get out of a financially motivated Yasiel Puig in a new setting that appears a perfect pair with his power. And whether converted center fielder Nick Senzel, whenever he arrives, comes as advertised at the plate.
Alas, Gennett is out eight to 12 weeks with a groin strain, which will be an early test of the Reds’ depth -- and of this ambitious ranking.
Honestly, you could almost make another Top 10 out of teams with reasonable arguments to be in the Top 10. In no particular order …
Mike Trout gives them a high floor, as always, and Shohei Ohtani as a full-time DH (for this year, anyway) gives them high intrigue. PECOTA projects them to post the third-highest run total in the AL, for what it’s worth.
As tends to be the case, they’re fascinating, having accurately bet on Tommy Pham’s hard-hit rate leading to better luck after a rough start in St. Louis last year and having placed a similar bet on the big-biceped-but-groundball-prone Yandy Diaz this year.
Their offense “broke” last year, as president of baseball operations Theo Epstein put it, so they got demoted off this list. But it could very easily repair itself this year, especially with a healthy Kris Bryant.
Bryant's RBI double00:25Mar. 9th, 2019
Now with 100 percent more Paul Goldschmidt. That should work.
Now with 100 percent more Manny Machado. But it’s all about how the kids come into focus around him.
They restructured their lineup but maintain two of the most dynamic players in the sport in Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez and profile to generate a good amount of traffic on the bases.
I’d be as excited about Pete Alonso as Robinson Cano, though I ultimately just don’t think they are a Top 10 offense.
They should have a ton of power. But so much still hinges on Byron Buxton and/or Miguel Sano turning potential into reality.
As usual, they’ll finish in the top 10 in runs. But when adjusted for park factors, their offense was actually in the bottom-third of MLB last year.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.
MLB Top 100 Right Now
By David Adler
March 12, 2019
The 2019 MLB season so close now. Spring Training has begun. Players are taking the field. So it's time to rank the best of the best.
MLB Network recently concluded its annual countdown of the Top 100 players in MLB. How is the list compiled? MLB Network's research team, in conjunction with the show's producers, use statistical analysis to rank the Top 100 players in MLB for the 2019 season. (It's different from the Shredder, which is used to determine the network's annual ranking lists for the Top 10 players at each position.)
Here's the full list -- MLB Network's Top 100 players in MLB for the 2019 season. And it starts with ...
1. Mike Trout, OF, Angels (2018 rank: 1)
Trout's marching along the path to Cooperstown ... and, somehow, he looks like he might be getting better. He's now either been the American League Most Valuable Player or runner-up in six of his seven full seasons -- winning the award twice and finishing second four times.
Top 100 Right Now: Trout - 102:37Feb. 14th, 2019
2. Mookie Betts, OF, Red Sox (2018 rank: 19)
The reigning AL MVP and MLB batting champion -- who outdid even Trout with a superhuman 2018 season -- vaults up to the No. 2 spot. In his four full seasons, Betts is a three-time All-Star, three-time AL Gold Glove Award winner, two-time Silver Slugger Award winner and now a World Series champion.
Top 100 Right Now: Betts - 201:22Feb. 14th, 2019
3. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies (2018 rank: 7)
Arenado is a superstar offensively and defensively at third base. He's become a perennial National League MVP candidate with three straight top-five finishes, and he's also on a run of four straight All-Star nods, four straight Silver Sluggers and six straight NL Gold Gloves.
4. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians (2018 rank: 17)
One of the game's brightest young stars, Lindor has finished in the top 10 of AL MVP voting in all three of his full seasons. He's made three straight All-Star teams, won back-to-back Silver Sluggers and is an AL Gold Glove-caliber shortstop, too. And the fun he has playing the game is contagious.
Top 100 Right Now: Lindor - 402:33Feb. 14th, 2019
5. Max Scherzer, SP, Nationals (2018 rank: 11)
Mad Max is in the NL Cy Young Award conversation every year -- and he's one of just 10 pitchers in Major League history to win the award three times. Scherzer's runner-up finish in the NL in 2018 extended his run of top-five finishes to six straight seasons, and he's also been an All-Star all six of those years, plus a top-10 NL MVP finisher in the last three.
6. José Altuve, 2B, Astros (2018 rank: 2)
The 2017 AL MVP (and World Series champion) has won three batting titles, and he's led the league in hits four times and stolen bases twice. Altuve's also a six-time All-Star, five-time Silver Slugger and an AL Gold Glove Award winner. His four straight 200-hit seasons from 2014-17 made him the first player since Ichiro to accomplish that feat.
Top 100 Right Now: Altuve - 601:46Feb. 14th, 2019
7. Alex Bregman, 3B, Astros (2018 rank: 57)
Bregman, Altuve's teammate in Houston, made the leap to AL MVP Award candidate himself in 2018. His breakout year -- 31 homers, 103 RBIs, 105 runs scored and a Major League-leading 51 doubles -- earned him a fifth-place AL MVP Award finish and his first career All-Star nod.
8. Christian Yelich, OF, Brewers (2018 rank: 46)
Yelich put it all together in a sensational first year in Milwaukee, winning the NL MVP Award and batting title, leading the Brewers to the NL Championship Series and nearly winning a Triple Crown. Yelich was a first-time All-Star and second-time Silver Slugger, and he's won an NL Gold Glove Award once before.
Top 100 Right Now: Yelich - 801:45Feb. 14th, 2019
9. Jose Ramirez, 3B, Indians (2018 rank: 22)
J-Ram forms a dynamic duo with Lindor in the Cleveland infield. Ramirez was an AL MVP Award finalist for a second straight year in 2018 after crushing a career-high 39 homers, and he's a back-to-back All-Star and Silver Slugger, too.
10. Jacob deGrom, SP, Mets (2018 rank: 52)
deGrom had an all-time-great pitching season in 2018 -- an MLB-best 1.70 ERA, plus 269 strikeouts -- rivaling Dwight Gooden's iconic 1985 season for the best in Mets history. The New York ace added an NL Cy Young Award to the NL Rookie of the Year Award already in his trophy case, and he finished in the top five of NL MVP voting and earned his second All-Star nod.
Top 100 Right Now: deGrom - 1002:24Feb. 14th, 2019
In the next tier of players come the megastars who signed record-setting free-agent contracts during Spring Training: Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. There's also Betts' partner in crime in the Red Sox's lineup, J.D. Martinez, and the biggest bats from the rival Bronx Bombers, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. A pair of dominant AL aces in Chris Sale and Justin Verlander, and a deep crop of NL first basemen in Goldschmidt, Freeman and Votto round out the MLB Network Top 20. This group includes four former MVP Award winners: Stanton (2017 NL), Harper (2015 NL), Votto (2010 NL) and Verlander (2011 AL).
Top 100 Right Now: Martinez - 1101:47Feb. 14th, 2019
11) J.D. Martinez, DH/OF, Red Sox (2018 rank: 25)
12) Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees (2018 rank: 15)
13) Chris Sale, SP, Red Sox (2018 rank: 21)
14) Manny Machado, SS/3B, Padres (2018 rank: 20)
15) Bryce Harper, OF, Phillies (2018 rank: 3)
16) Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Cardinals (2018 rank: 13)
17) Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves (2018 rank: 14)
18) Joey Votto, 1B, Reds (2018 rank: 4)
19) Giancarlo Stanton, OF/DH, Yankees (2018 rank: 5)
20) Justin Verlander, SP, Astros (2018 rank: 29)
Just outside the Top 20 is the underappreciated Anthony Rendon, who's become one of the more valuable players in baseball for the Nationals but doesn't yet have the accolades to show for it. Joining him in the 20-30 range are the next group of aces -- including reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell, two-time winner Corey Kluber and three-time NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw. There's also a trio of rising star infielders -- A's all-world third baseman Matt Chapman, Cubs electric second baseman Javier Báez and Rockies slugging shortstop Trevor Story. Many of the players in this group are newcomers to the Top 100 for 2019.
Top 100 Right Now: Snell - 2601:18Feb. 14th, 2019
21) Anthony Rendon, 3B, Nationals (2018 rank: 35)
22) Justin Turner, 3B, Dodgers (2018 rank: 31)
23) Corey Kluber, SP, Indians (2018 rank: 12)
24) Aaron Nola, SP, Phillies (2018 rank: Not ranked)
25) Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers (2018 rank: 6)
26) Blake Snell, SP, Rays (2018 rank: NR)
27) Matt Chapman, 3B, A's (2018 rank: NR)
28) Lorenzo Cain, OF, Brewers (2018 rank: 61)
29) Javier Baez, 2B/SS, Cubs (2018 rank: NR)
30) Trevor Story, SS, Rockies (2018 rank: NR)
Here come the rookie stars. NL Rookie of the Year Award winner Ronald Acuña Jr. and runner-up Juan Soto -- who became sensations in 2018 at age 20 and 19, respectively -- have already broken into the top half of the Top 100 entering their sophomore seasons. Among others, they're joined in this tier by 2016 NL MVP Award winner Kris Bryant, 2017 World Series MVP Award winner George Springer and the Phillies' prized new catcher J.T. Realmuto, the top-rated player at his position.
Top 100 Right Now: Acuna - 3503:08Feb. 13th, 2019
31) Carlos Correa, SS, Astros (2018 rank: 10)
32) Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs (2018 rank: 8)
33) Matt Carpenter, 3B, Cardinals (2018 rank: 62)
34) Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs (2018 rank: 23)
35) Ronald Acuna Jr., OF, Braves (2018 rank: NR)
36) Juan Soto, OF, Nationals (2018 rank: NR)
37) George Springer, OF, Astros (2018 rank: 24)
38) Charlie Blackmon, OF, Rockies (2018 rank: 16)
39) Mitch Haniger, OF, Mariners (2018 rank: NR)
40) J.T. Realmuto, C, Phillies (2018 rank: 82)
The top of the next group brings a pair of old college teammates and rivals in Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole, who rose into the upper echelon of AL pitchers with stellar 2018 seasons. Another electric arm comes right after them: flamethrowing Yankee Luis Severino, who is set to start Opening Day. Also helping to round out the Top 50: the 2018 MLB hits and stolen-base leader Whit Merrifield, 2017 NL Rookie of the Year Award winner Cody Bellinger and another pair of star shortstops in Xander Bogaertsand Andrelton Simmons.
Top 100 Right Now: Bauer - 4101:26Feb. 13th, 2019
41) Trevor Bauer, SP, Indians (2018 rank: NR)
42) Gerrit Cole, SP, Astros (2018 rank: NR)
43) Luis Severino, SP, Yankees (2018 rank: 43)
44) Cody Bellinger, OF/1B, Dodgers (2018 rank: 30)
45) Tommy Pham, OF, Rays (2018 rank: 59)
46) Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox (2018 rank: NR)
47) Andrelton Simmons, SS, Angels (2018 rank: 56)
48) Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers (2018 rank: 18)
49) Whit Merrifield, 2B, Royals (2018 rank: NR)
50) Eugenio Suárez, 3B, Reds (2018 rank: NR)
The second half of the Top 100 kicks off with a trio of elite relievers: Brewers breakout relief ace Josh Hader, Mets marquee trade acquisition Edwin Díaz and one of the last big-name unsigned free agents, Craig Kimbrel. There's also a lot of blue, orange, green and yellow in this group -- the Mets have four players (Diaz and his fellow trade addition Robinson Canó, plus up-and-coming outfielders Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto), and the A's have a pair of sluggers in reigning MLB home run king Khris Davis and first baseman Matt Olson.
Top 100 Right Now: Conforto - 6001:51Feb. 13th, 2019
51) Josh Hader, RP, Brewers (2018 rank: NR)
52) Edwin Diaz, RP, Mets (2018 rank: NR)
53) Craig Kimbrel, RP, free agent (2018 rank: 44)
54) Robinson Cano, 2B, Mets (2018 rank: 37)
55) Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets (2018 rank: NR)
56) Andrew Benintendi, OF, Red Sox (2018 rank: 78)
57) Khris Davis, DH, A's (2018 rank: 69)
58) Matt Olson, 1B, A's (2018 rank: NR)
59) Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Phillies (2018 rank: NR)
60) Michael Conforto, OF, Mets (2018 rank: 79)
Nos. 60-70 start off with a former AL MVP Award winner in Josh Donaldson, who won the award in 2015 with the Blue Jays. The Braves are counting on him to help them defend their NL East title in his first season in Atlanta. He's followed by a pair of out-of-nowhere sluggers in Jesús Aguilar and Max Muncy, who crushed 35 homers apiece in '18. Two more hotshot rookies enter the Top 100 in this group, Dodgers fireballer Walker Buehler and Baby Bomber Gleyber Torres.
Top 100: Gleyber Torres02:02Feb. 11th, 2019
61) Josh Donaldson, 3B, Braves (2018 rank: 9)
62) Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Brewers (2018 rank: NR)
63) Max Muncy, 1B, Dodgers (2018 rank: NR)
64) Kyle Freeland, SP, Rockies (2018 rank: NR)
65) Walker Buehler, SP, Dodgers (2018 rank: NR)
66) Carlos Carrasco, SP, Indians (2018 rank: 50)
67) Justin Upton, OF, Angels (2018 rank: 33)
68) Aaron Hicks, OF, Yankees (2018 rank: NR)
69) Gleyber Torres, 2B/SS, Yankees (2018 rank: NR)
70) Scooter Gennett, 2B, Reds (2018 rank: NR)
The next group starts with veteran D-backs ace Zack Greinke, a four-time All-Star and two-time top-five NL Cy Young Award finisher in the last five seasons. Then come another pair of lights-out closers in Blake Treinen, whose 0.78 ERA was the best among relievers in 2018, and triple-digit heat-throwing Aroldis Chapman. Several more of the NL East's dominant starting pitchers appear here -- the Nationals' big-ticket free-agent signing Patrick Corbin and three-time All-Star Stephen Strasburg, and Thor himself, the Mets' overpowering Noah Syndergaard.
Top 100: Patrick Corbin01:05Feb. 11th, 2019
71) Zack Greinke, SP, D-backs (2018 rank: 51)
72) Blake Treinen, RP, A's (2018 rank: NR)
73) Aroldis Chapman, RP, Yankees (2018 rank: 65)
74) Nelson Cruz, DH, Twins (2018 rank: 48)
75) Michael Brantley, OF, Astros (2018 rank: NR)
76) Marcell Ozuna, OF, Cardinals (2018 rank: 32)
77) José Abreu, 1B, White Sox (2018 rank: 38)
78) Patrick Corbin, SP, Nationals (2018 rank: NR)
79) Noah Syndergaard, SP, Mets (2018 rank: 49)
80) Stephen Strasburg, SP, Nationals (2018 rank: 28)
Shohei Ohtani lived up to all the hype as a two-way star in his MLB debut season. Even though Tommy John surgery forced him off the mound until 2020, his slugging for the Halos keeps the reigning AL Rookie of the Year Award winner firmly in the Top 100 at the top of this next group. Bookending the tier is the mercurial, exciting Yasiel Puig, who brings his talents to Cincinnati this season.
Ohtani wins AL ROY00:57Nov. 12th, 2018
81) Shohei Ohtani, DH/SP, Angels (2018 rank: 100)
82) Mike Clevinger, SP, Indians (2018 rank: NR)
83) Jean Segura, SS, Phillies (2018 rank: 88)
84) Trea Turner, SS, Nationals (2018 rank: 47)
85) Ozzie Albies, 2B, Braves (2018 rank: NR)
86) David Peralta, OF, D-backs (2018 rank: NR)
87) Nicholas Castellanos, OF, Tigers (2018 rank: NR)
88) Kenley Jansen, RP, Dodgers (2018 rank: 39)
89) Sean Doolittle, RP, Nationals (2018 rank: NR)
90) Yasiel Puig, OF, Reds (2018 rank: 94)
Time to finish up the Top 100. It's a catcher-heavy final group, with six-time All-Star and 2012 NL MVP Award winner Buster Posey, Baby Bomber Gary Sánchez and new Brewers backstop Yasmani Grandal all making the list. Rounding out the rankings are a trio of veteran World Series champion southpaws: Jon Lester at No. 98, Madison Bumgarner at No. 99 and finally, at No. 100, Price, who exorcised his longtime postseason demons with the Red Sox last October.
Price's 7-plus innings in win01:07Oct. 28th, 2018
91) Miguel Andújar, 3B, Yankees (2018 rank: NR)
92) Buster Posey, C, Giants (2018 rank: 27)
93) Gary Sanchez, C, Yankees (2018 rank: 26)
94) Travis Shaw, 3B, Brewers (2018 rank: NR)
95) Andrew McCutchen, OF, Phillies (2018 rank: 63)
96) Yasmani Grandal, C, Brewers (2018 rank: NR)
97) Stephen Piscotty, OF, A's (2018 rank: NR)
98) Jon Lester, SP, Cubs (2018 rank: NR)
99) Madison Bumgarner, SP, Giants (2018 rank: 40)
100) David Price, SP, Red Sox (2018 rank: NR)
College Top 25
Texas' Mason Hibbeler (Photo by John Williamson)
Vanderbilt remains No. 1 in the Baseball America Top 25 after a 4-1 week. The Commodores split their midweek games before sweeping Dayton to improve to 9-2.
Vanderbilt began the year ranked No. 1 in the Preseason Top 25 for the second time in program history and have remained atop the rankings through the first three weeks of the season.
Behind the Commodores, the Top 25 got a shakeup after an eventful weekend around the country. UCLA and North Carolina both moved up one spot to Nos. 2 and 3, while Stanford jumped into the top five for the first time this season. No. 4. Florida again rounds out the top five.
The biggest mover in the rankings was Texas, which climbed from No. 19 to No. 9 after sweeping Louisiana State. The Tigers fell from No. 2 to No. 10 as a result.
Two new teams join the Top 25. South Carolina enters the rankings at No. 20 after winning a series against in-state rival Clemson. North Carolina State joins the Top 25 at No. 23 after sweeping Minnesota. Both teams are ranked for the first time this season.
Dropping out of the Top 25 are Southern Mississippi (23) and Texas Christian (24). Both teams had losing weekends.
The staff of Baseball America determines the Top 25 rankings. Records indicated are through March 3.
This week's coverage:
Updated on: 3/4/2019
Last week: 4-1
Overall: 9-2, 0-0 in SEC (0-0 vs. Top 25)
Weekend Series: 2-0
Feb. 26: Southeast Missouri State: W 11-3
Feb. 27: Austin Peay: L 7-6
Mar. 1-3: Dayton: W 11-3, W 5-1, W 2-0
Mar. 5: Davidson
Mar. 6: East Tennessee State
Mar. 8-10: Illinois State
Top-ranked Vanderbilt made relatively routine work of a sweep of Dayton. Shortstop Ethan Paul continued his hot-hitting ways with a 5-for-10 weekend at the plate, pushing his average to .422 on the season. He’s also taken to the shortstop position nicely after sliding over from second base, as he has yet to make his first error there. Preseason All-American outfielder JJ Bleday added home runs in each of the first two games of the series, giving him a team-leading four on the year.
Last week: 3-1
Overall: 9-2, 0-0 in Pac-12 (0-0 vs. Top 25)
Weekend Series: 3-0
Feb. 26: @ Cal State Northridge: W 4-3
Mar. 1-3: Sacramento State: W 2-1, W 6-0, L 2-1
Mar. 5: Pepperdine
Dodger Stadium Classic in Los Angeles, Calif.
Mar. 8: (18) Michigan
Mar. 9: Oklahoma State
Mar. 10: vs. Southern California
A moment of appreciation for UCLA reliever Kyle Mora, who has been virtually unhittable this season. He threw two scoreless innings in each of the first two games of the series against Sacramento State. In 13 innings across eight appearances, he has a 0.69 ERA, a 21-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and an .098 opponent batting average. The starting rotation has continued to carry more than its own weight, as the righthanded trio of Zach Pettway (7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 9 K), Jack Ralston (7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K), and Jesse Bergin (6 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 9 K) were excellent once again.
Last week: 4-1
Overall: 11-1, 0-0 in ACC (0-0 vs. Top 25)
Weekend Series: 3-0
Feb. 26: UNC Wilmington: W 4-3
Feb. 27: Virginia Commonwealth: L 11-8
Mar. 1-3: Massachusetts-Lowell: W 5-0, W 14-7, W 14-2
Mar. 5: Charleston Southern
Mar. 8-10: @ (21) Clemson
Righthander Gianluca Dalatri is doing all he can to make sure last season’s injury-plagued season is but a distant memory. In Game 1 against Massachusetts-Lowell, he threw 7.1 shutout innings, allowing two hits and no walks with five strikeouts. On the season, he’s now sporting a 1.06 ERA, a 17-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and a .167 opponent batting average in 17 innings of work. The Tar Heels are still waiting on a few guys to get going for an offense that is hitting .263 as a team, but shortstop Ike Freeman has been locked in, hitting .410/.510/.692 with three homers, which already ties his career in home runs, set last season. UNC has a huge series coming up this weekend, as they open up ACC play against a Clemson team looking to bounce back from a series loss to rival South Carolina.
Last week: 3-1
Overall: 9-2, 0-0 in Pac-12 (0-0 vs. Top 25)
Weekend Series: 2-0
Feb. 26: San Francisco: W 8-3
Mar. 1-3: @ Cal State Fullerton: W 4-3, W 8-1, L 6-5
Mar. 7-10: (9) Texas
In a quality series that went a bit under the radar due to the presence of so many other marquee series and tournaments across the country, Stanford took two of three on the road from Cal State Fullerton. The Cardinal offense still isn’t quite clicking as a whole, but catcher Maverick Handley continues to be a bright spot. He was 3-for-4 with a double and a triple in game 1, 2-for-4 with three RBI in the second game, and while he was just 1-for-5 in the finale, his one hit was an RBI double that scored Stanford’s first run of the game. A four-game home series with Texas this weekend promises to be a barnburner.
Last week: 4-1
Overall: 9-4, 0-0 in SEC (0-0 vs. Top 25)
Weekend Series: 3-0
Feb. 26: @ Jacksonville: W 5-4
Feb. 27: Central Florida: L 12-9
Mar. 1-3: Winthrop: W 16-4, W 28-5, W 5-3
Mar. 5-6: Florida Gulf Coast
Mar. 8-10: Yale
There has been concern at various points over what could be expected from Florida’s offense, but they looked quite good in scoring 49 runs in their sweep of a Winthrop team that boasts some talented arms. The Gators’ Game 2 effort, when they plated 28 runs on 23 hits, was particularly impressive. It’s not just those gaudy totals. It’s also that they hit not one, not two, but three grand slams over the course of game, one each from Kendrick Calilao, Jacob Young and Santino Miozzi. Though they are still waiting on some key offensive pieces to come around, the offensive outburst against Winthrop raised the team average to .287 on the season.
Last week: 3-0
Overall: 10-0, 0-0 in ACC (0-0 vs. Top 25)
Weekend Series: 3-0
Mar. 1-3: Mercer: W 9-5, W 12-1, W 5-1
Mar. 6: North Florida
Mar. 8-10: Virginia Tech
Florida State just continues to roll on in nonconference play. They got their stiffest test of the season from a Mercer program that is annually a contender in the Southern Conference, but the Seminoles handled the Bears with little incident. Few hitters have been as hot as FSU outfielder Robby Martin in the early going. With a 6-for-11 weekend against Mercer with a pair of doubles, he’s now hitting .538 with seven doubles on the season. Third baseman Drew Mendoza is off to a great start in his own right. He homered twice in the series finale, giving him a team-best five.
Last week: 2-1
Overall: 10-1, 0-0 in Pac-12 (0-0 vs. Top 25)
Weekend series: 2-0
Mar. 1-3: West Virginia: W 9-2, W 4-2, L 2-0
Safeco Baseball Showcase in Seattle
Mar. 8: vs. Minnesota
Mar. 9: vs. Indiana
Mar.10: vs. (19) Coastal Carolina
A much-anticipated pitching matchup between West Virginia’s Alek Manoah and Oregon State’s Kevin Abel ended up not living up to expectations in Game 1 of last weekend’s series, but that’s only because OSU took the suspense out of the game so quickly. They plated seven runs (four earned) off of Manoah in the second inning and never looked back. Meanwhile, Abel threw six innings of one-hit, one-run baseball with three walks and 11 strikeouts. The series finale might have been a 2-0 defeat, but the continuing dominance of lefthanded reliever Brandon Eisert is notable. He tossed two scoreless innings in Sunday’s game, which now gives him 11 scoreless innings on the season with 13 strikeouts and just one walk.
Last week: 4-1
Overall: 10-1, 0-0 in SEC (3-1 vs. Top 25)
Weekend series: 2-0
Feb. 26: Jackson State: W 17-4
Feb. 27: Southeastern Louisiana: W 12-0
Frisco College Baseball Classic
Mar. 1: vs. Sam Houston State: W 5-4
Mar. 2: vs. (8) Texas Tech: W 4-2
Mar. 5: (14) East Carolina
Mar. 6: Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Mar. 8-10: Maine
The Friday-Saturday rotation combination of lefthander Ethan Small and righthander JT Ginn showed, once again, that they might be the best such combo in the Southeastern Conference, if not the entire country. Against Sam Houston State, Small threw six innings, giving up seven hits and two runs with no walks and six strikeouts. The lack of walks in his start is no fluke, as the redshirt junior has yet to walk a single batter in his 18 innings this season. Ginn silenced the powerful Texas Tech offense over seven innings, allowing just three hits and two runs with one walk and eight strikeouts.
Last week: 4-1
Overall: 10-3, 0-0 in Big 12 (3-0 vs. Top 25)
Weekend series: 3-0
Feb. 26: Sam Houston State: W 10-3
Feb. 27: Texas-San Antonio: L 10-7
Mar. 1-3: (2) Louisiana State: W 8-1, W 8-4, W 7-6
Mar. 5: Texas-Rio Grande Valley
Mar. 7-10: @ (4) Stanford
Texas made by far the loudest statement of the weekend by sweeping LSU. In each of the first two games, they wasted no time in getting to the Tigers’ starting pitchers. On Friday, it scored three runs with the help of six hits and four walks in four innings against righthander Zack Hess. On Saturday, LSU freshman righthander Landon Marceaux was done after 1.1 innings, having given up six earned runs. In the finale, it took coming back from a 6-4 deficit in the bottom of the ninth, but Texas pulled it off, with the winning run coming home on an Austin Todd RBI single. On the mound, Bryce Elder was outstanding again, throwing 6.2 innings, allowing just four hits and one unearned run. The tough tests don’t end here for Texas, as it hits the road this weekend for four games at Stanford.
Last week: 1-3
Overall: 8-3, 0-0 in SEC (0-3 vs. Top 25)
Weekend Series: 1-1
Feb. 27: Southern: W 17-4
Mar. 1-3: @ (19) Texas: L 8-1, L 8-4, L 7-6
Mar. 6: Holy Cross
Mar. 8-10: California
There’s no other way to describe it. LSU simply took it on the chin this past weekend on the road at Texas. The Longhorns blitzed the Tigers’ starting pitchers in each of the first two games of the series on the way to victory, but the loss in the finale was in more heartbreaking fashion, as the Tigers held a 6-4 lead going into the bottom of the ninth, only to have Texas storm back for three runs for the walk-off win. Their opportunity for a bounce back comes this weekend when Andrew Vaughn and California pay a visit to Alex Box Stadium.
Last week: 1-2
Overall: 6-3, 0-0 in Big 12 (0-1 vs. Top 25)
Weekend Series: 2-0
Feb. 26: New Mexico State: W 7-0
Frisco College Baseball Classic
Mar. 1: vs. Nebraska: L 2-1
Mar. 2: vs. (9) Mississippi State: L 4-2
Mar. 5-6: @ San Diego State
Mar. 8-10: Wichita State
It was a tough weekend for Texas Tech in cold, rainy Frisco, as the Red Raiders dropped a pair of close games to Nebraska and Mississippi State. After pitching had been more of a concern earlier in the season, it was the Tech offense that scuffled this time around. In 18 innings of play, they were held to just three runs on seven hits. On the mound, lefthander Erikson Lanning was a steadying force on Friday once again, throwing five shutout innings against the Cornhuskers, giving up two hits and one walk with seven strikeouts.
Last week: 4-0
Overall: 8-2, 0-0 in SEC (0-0 vs. Top 25)
Weekend series: 2-0-1
Feb. 26: Tennessee-Martin: W 12-6
Mar. 1-3: Long Beach State: W 7-2, W 7-6, W 5-3
Mar. 5: Little Rock
Mar. 6: (14) East Carolina
Mar. 8-10: Alabama-Birmingham
Senior outfielder Ryan Olenek, a classic college baseball grinder type, is off to an outstanding start to the season. In three games against Long Beach State, he went 6-for-13 with a pair of doubles, helping bring his slash line to .475/.542/.650 on the year. The effort of freshman righthander Gunnar Hoglund was a bright spot in Game 3, as he turned in the best start of his young career. He tossed five innings, giving up six hits and one run with no walks and three strikeouts. Connor Green continued his run as the Rebels’ most effective reliever, tossing two perfect innings in the Game 2 victory, running his scoreless innings total to 7.2 on the season.
Last week: 3-1
Overall 8-3, 0-0 in ACC (0-0 vs. Top 25)
Weekend series: 2-1
Feb. 26: Xavier: L 5-4
Mar. 1-3: James Madison: W 5-0, W 11-1, W 1-0
Mar. 5: Morehead State
Mar. 8-10: Boston College
Louisville starting pitchers allowed just one run on nine hits over the course of the entire weekend in a sweep of James Madison. Lefthander Reid Detmers allowing just one hit and one walk with 14 strikeouts in eight shutout innings in Game 1 was just par for the course with how well he’s pitched so far this season. In 20 innings, he has an 0.45 ERA, 28 strikeouts, five walks and an .078 opponent batting average. Logan Wyatt walked six times in the three games against the Dukes, bringing his season walk total to an absurd 19, which means he’s only made one more out this season (20) than he has walks.
Last week: 3-2
Overall: 8-4, 0-0 in AAC (0-0 vs. Top 25)
Weekend series: 2-0
Feb. 25: Air Force: L 3-2
Feb. 27: Elon: W 5-3
LeClair Classic in Greenville, N.C.
Mar. 1: Utah: W 7-6 (10)
Mar. 2: Wright State: L 12-4
Mar. 3: Western Carolina: W 12-6
Mar. 5: @ (8) Mississippi State
Mar. 6: @ (12) Mississippi
Mar. 8-10: Marist
East Carolina got pushed in their home tournament, the LeClair Classic. It took extra innings for the Pirates to dispatch Utah in the opener, and they were downed by Wright State before securing a winning weekend with the win over Western Carolina. The walk-off win against Utah came courtesy of an RBI single from center fielder Dusty Baker, who entered as a defensive replacement a few innings prior. Two-way player Alec Burleson continues to rake, going 6-for-14 in the tournament, although that actually served to lower his average to .542. ECU has a couple of interesting midweek games on deck, as they will complete the Magnolia State double-dip with games against both Mississippi State and Mississippi.
Last week: 3-2
Overall: 9-2, 0-0 in SEC (0-0 vs. Top 25)
Weekend series: 3-0
Feb. 26: Long Island-Brooklyn: L 1-0
Feb. 27: Kennesaw State: W 11-1
Mar. 1-3: @ Georgia Southern: W 3-1, W 4-2, L 10-7
Mar. 5: Alabama State
Mar. 6: Jacksonville State
Mar. 8-10: Presbyterian
For the third weekend in a row, Georgia Southern pushed a major conference foe. This time around, it was Georgia, which won two tight games to start the weekend before dropping the finale. Third baseman L.J. Talley has helped carry the Georgia offense in the early going. He had five hits over the weekend, including three in the Game 2 win, and is now hitting .447/.532/.763 with a team-leading three home run. Righthander Emerson Hancock did give up his first run of the season in the series opener, but he limited the Eagles to just one run in his five innings of work, giving him a nifty 0.50 ERA to this point.
Last week: 4-0
Overall: 9-1, 0-0 in SEC (0-0 vs. Top 25)
Weekend series: 3-0
Feb. 27: Memphis: W 10-3
Mar. 1-3: Stony Brook: W 3-1, W 4-3, W 15-7
Mar. 5-6: Charlotte
Mar. 8-10: Louisiana Tech
Dave Van Horn and his staff have to be elated with what they got from starting pitcher Isaiah Campbell in the series-opening win. The righthander, who is prone to bouts of inconsistency, threw seven shutout innings, giving up three hits and one walk with 13 strikeouts. First baseman Trevor Ezell, a graduate transfer from Southeast Missouri State, has been a real shot in the arm for the Razorbacks’ offense. After a five-hit weekend that featured a triple in the opener and a home run in the finale, he’s hitting .432/.511/.703 and he’s a perfect six-for-six in stolen bases for good measure. Arkansas welcomes a veteran Louisiana Tech team for three games this weekend in what could be a competitive series.
Last week: 3-0
Overall: 9-2, 0-0 in SEC (0-0 vs. Top 25)
Weekend series: 3-0
Mar. 1-3: Cincinnati: W 5-0, W 5-0, W 9-5
Mar. 5-6: Tennessee-Martin
Mar. 8-10: Texas-San Antonio
Auburn swept Cincinnati with little incident, including back-to-back shutouts to begin the series. Righthander Tanner Burns shined in the first of those two, throwing a two-hit shutout with 15 strikeouts. It was sophomore lefthander Jack Owen, in his first start of the season, who did the heavy lifting in the second of those team shutouts, throwing seven scoreless innings with only three hits allowed to go along with ten strikeouts. In 16 innings this season, he’s yet to allow an earned run and he has a 22-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio on top of it.
Last week: 2-1
Overall: 8-1, 0-0 in Big Ten (0-0 vs. Top 25)
Weekend series 3-0
Mar. 1-3: @ Cal State Northridge: W 2-1, W 4-2, L 5-2
Mar. 5: @ Long Beach State
Mar. 6: @ (24) UC Irvine
Dodger Stadium Classic in Los Angeles
Mar. 8: @ (2) UCLA
Mar. 9: @ Southern California
Mar. 10: vs. Oklahoma State
Lefthander Tommy Henry simply continues to dominate. His latest masterpiece was eight shutout innings against Cal State Northridge in the first game of the series, giving up three hits and one walk with 12 strikeouts. Prepare yourself for some truly mind-blowing stats through Henry’s first three starts. He’s now thrown 23 innings without allowing so much as a single run. He’s fanned 34, walked just two and allowed a microscopic .132 batting average against him. The Wolverines’ offense has just two players hitting better than .250 at this juncture, but with Henry and the rest of the staff combining for a 1.58 team ERA, they’ve had more than enough offense to get the job done.
Last week: 3-1
Overall: 10-2, 0-0 in Sun Belt (0-0 vs. Top 25)
Weekend series 0-0
Feb. 27: @ College of Charleston: L 8-5
CCU Baseball Tournament in Conway, S.C.
Mar. 1: Illinois: W 11-3
Mar. 2: Connecticut: W 10-7
Mar. 3: Indiana: W 6-5
Mar. 5-6: Wake Forest
Safeco Baseball Showcase in Seattle
Mar. 8: vs. San Diego
Mar. 9: vs. Washington
Mar. 10: vs. (7) Oregon State
Of Coastal Carolina’s three consecutive home tournaments to begin the season, last weekend’s, with games against Illinois, Connecticut and Indiana, promised to be the toughest, but the Chanticleers passed that test with flying colors. The Coastal offense was humming along all weekend, as they collected at least ten hits in each of the three games. The standout on that side of the ball last weekend was shortstop and nine-hole hitter Scott McKeon, who went 6-for-9 with three walks, driving his batting average up to a team-leading .417, and giving him, somewhat strangely, his first three walks of the season. Coastal is piecing things together a little bit on the mound, but it’s working for them thanks in large part to a deep bullpen, led by righthander Alaska Abney (0.00 in 10 IP), lefthander Trevor Damron (0.00 in 7 IP) and righthander Matt Eardensohn (2.19 ERA in 12.1 IP).
Last week: 3-1
Overall: 9-2, 0-0 in SEC (2-1 vs. Top 25)
Weekend Series: 3-0
Feb. 26: Appalachian State: W 3-1
Mar. 1-3: @/vs. (14) Clemson: W 5-4, L 11-5, W 14-3
Mar. 5: Citadel
Mar. 6: Gardner-Webb
Mar. 8-10: Valparaiso
South Carolina endured a series with rival Clemson that featured wild swings of emotion, with each team securing a blowout win in addition to the Gamecocks’ nail-biting victory on Friday. Reid Morgan turned in a solid start in the series-clinching win on Sunday. The righthander threw 6.2 innings, giving up eight hits and three runs (two earned) with no walks and five strikeouts. Bullpen work has been a strength for the Gamecocks thus far and that continued in the Game 1 victory as the trio of Wesley Sweatt, Cam Tringali, and Brett Kerry combined to throw 6.2 innings with six hits and one run allowed. It’s mostly good news with this series win for South Carolina, but there was a bit of bad news with the announcement that Carmen Mlodzinki, a key piece of the starting rotation, will miss some time with a fractured foot. That will make the efforts of the South Carolina bullpen and young lefty starting pitcher Dylan Harley even more important.
Previous ranking: 2-2
Overall: 8-3, 0-0 in ACC (0-0 vs. Top 25)
Weekend series 2-1
Feb. 26: East Tennessee State: W 14-3
Mar. 1-3: vs./@: South Carolina: L 5-4, W 11-5, L 14-3
Mar. 5: @ Furman
Mar. 8-10: (3) North Carolina
Starting pitching faltered in Clemson’s series loss to rival South Carolina. In the opener, Brooks Crawford lasted just two innings, having given up five runs on home runs by South Carolina’s Andrew Eyster and T.J. Hopkins. In the finale, Justin Wrobleski was hung with five earned runs in just one-third of an inning. In the Game 2 victory, Davis Sharpe struggled for the first time this season to the tune of seven hits and four runs in 3.2 innings, but four innings of shutout relief from Holt Jones allowed the Tigers’ offense to pick the team up. Things don’t get much easier for Clemson this coming weekend, as they’ll welcome in a red-hot North Carolina club for the start of ACC play.
Last week: 3-1
Overall: 9-2, 0-0 in ACC (0-0 vs. Top 25)
Weekend series: 3-0
Feb. 26: Richmond: W 8-2
Mar. 1-3: @ Penn State in Bradenton, Fla.: W 14-0, L 8-7, W 9-2
Mar. 5-6: Pennsylvania
Mar. 8-10: @ Virginia
Duke began the weekend by getting a combined no-hitter from Graeme Stinson, Matt Dockman and Jack Carey in a blowout win over Penn State. After that point, things got a bit stickier, as a three-homer game from PSU left fielder Kris Kremer helped push the Nittany Lions to a Game 2 win, and as late as the seventh inning in Game 3, the Blue Devils trailed 2-0. It was in that seventh inning, however, that the dam broke and Duke poured it on in a 9-2 win to capture the series. Center fielder Kennie Taylor had his own offensive outburst in the Sunday win, as he clubbed two homers and drove in six runs.
North Carolina State
Last week: 4-0
Overall 11-0, 0-0 in ACC (1-0 vs. Top 25)
Weekend series: 2-
Feb. 27: @ Campbell: W 10-1
Mar. 1-3: Minnesota: W 3-2, W 8-4, W 5-4
Mar. 6: @ North Carolina Central
Mar. 8-10: Pittsburgh
North Carolina State has done nothing but impress so far in 2019 with their series sweep of a solid Minnesota club just the latest example. A pitching staff with a team ERA of 2.36 on the season came through again. In Game 1, it was righthander Jason Parker who led the way with 5.1 innings in his start, giving up four hits and one run. The second game featured a solid start from lefthander Canaan Silver, who threw six innings, giving up three hits and two runs. The bullpen stepped up in the series finale, with the quartet of Evan Justice, Nolan Clenney, NIck Swiney and MIchael Bienlien combining to throw five innings with only three hits and one run allowed.
Last week: 2-1
Overall: 7-3, 0-0 in Big West (0-0 vs. Top 25)
Weekend series: 3-0
Feb. 26: @ Loyola Marymount: L 7-3
Mar. 1: @ Missouri State: W 3-2, W 4-1 (11)
Mar. 6: (18) Michigan
Mar. 8-10: St. John’s
What was supposed to be UC Irvine’s three-game series on the road at Missouri State turned into a Friday doubleheader between the two teams, as they worked to get in as much baseball as they could before inclement weather rolled into Springfield, Mo. The Anteaters made the most of the double dip, taking home wins in both halves. Ace Andre Pallante looked more like his old self in Game 1, throwing 5.2 innings, giving up two hits and two runs with one walk and six strikeouts. In the second game, the righthanded trio of Tanner Brubaker, Trenton Denholm and Jordan Bocko held the Bears largely at bay for the first ten innings, allowing third baseman Brandon Lewis to connect for a go-ahead three-run homer in the top of the eleventh.
Last week: 2-2
Overall: 9-2, 0-0 in Big 12 (0-0 vs. Top 25)
Weekend series: 2-0
Feb. 26: Dallas Baptist: W 10-4
Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic in Houston
Mar. 1: vs. Texas A&M: L 5-2
Mar. 2: vs. Rice: L 6-3
Mar. 3: vs. Texas State: W 5-4
Mar. 5: Texas-Arlington
Mar. 8-10: Nebraska
Baylor was dangerously close to going home winless in the Shriners Classic in Houston. After losses to Texas A&M and Rice in the first two games of the weekend, the Bears trailed Texas State 4-3 heading into the ninth inning of their third game. But instead of pulling the ripcord and packing up mentally, they did what veteran teams do and fought back. Just one strike away from being the final out of the game, Baylor center fielder Richard Cunningham dumped a double just inside the left field line on the ninth pitch of the at-bat to get a rally going. One batter later, he scored on a Nick Loftin single to right, and one batter after that, the Bears took the lead on a Davis Wendzel double off the wall in left. Baylor was scheduled to hit the road this coming weekend for a tough series at Nebraska, but due to lingering winter weather across the Midwest, that series is now a home series at Baylor Ballpark.
By Chris Haft @sfgiantsbeat
February 27, 2019
MESA, Ariz. -- A vital element in the A's offense fell into place Wednesday as manager Bob Melvin announced his intent to place Matt Chapman second in the batting order.
"The two spot's the new three," Melvin said somewhat jokingly. But he wasn't kidding about his plans for Chapman, who made his first Cactus League appearance in Oakland's 5-3 setback administered by the Dodgers.
Chapman's assignment to the No. 2 position wasn't overly surprising. The third baseman batted second in 51 of Oakland's final 52 games last season as he compiled a .278/.356/.508 slash line to complement his 24 home runs, 68 RBIs and team-high 100 runs scored.
"You're seeing a lot of guys, the premier guys on other teams, hit 'two' more nowadays," said Melvin. A partial list includes Milwaukee's Christian Yelich, Colorado's Charlie Blackmon and St. Louis' Paul Goldschmidt.
Stephen Piscotty is a leading candidate to inherit the batting order's third position from Jed Lowrie, who signed a two-year, $20 million deal with the Mets. Khris Davis, who's still nursing an injured left calf, remains a fixture in the cleanup role.
Melvin allowed himself some flexibility, which is a wise move for a manager before March. He indicated that he might tweak the batting order if the A's were to face a particularly challenging right- or left-hander.
"Chappy will probably end up in the two spot, even though he's in the three spot today," Melvin said. "It's going to be a little bit of a work in progress. ... At this point, I don't have anybody that I'm penning into the number three spot, like we had in the past with Jed and K.D. three-four. You look up and down our lineup. It's still going to be a very productive lineup throughout."
Chapman, who has recovered on schedule following left shoulder surgery which he underwent last December, filled the designated hitter role and went 0-for-2 with a walk against the Dodgers. This, he said, helped him "get my timing back a little bit. I'm piecing it together on the fly."
Chapman worked the count to 3-2 before striking out in the first inning and walking in the third. He popped up in his final plate appearance to end the fifth inning. "I feel like I took competitive at-bats, especially my first two," he said.
Chapman's return to third base appears imminent.
"By this weekend, I'll be playing third base," Chapman said.
Said Melvin, "He's right on the timetable that we thought, maybe even a day or two ahead."
Chris Haft has covered the Major Leagues since 1991 and has worked for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat.
Bucs challenge Bell to get back to basics in '19
Switch-hitter finished 2018 well
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Josh Bell stepped to the plate on Field 1 at Pirate City late Tuesday morning and assumed his left-handed stance. Bench coach Tom Prince delivered pitch after pitch, and Bell swatted each one through the gap all the way to the fence in left-center field.
It was a good day of work for Bell, exactly the kind of hard contact he's looking for this spring. After an up-and-down 2018, the 26-year-old first baseman is carrying the approach that worked so well for him last September into this year. The Pirates are counting on getting more power from within this season, and there is no more likely power source in their lineup than Bell.
"He has a chance to be the best of both worlds," Pirates hitting coach Rick Eckstein said. "A really good eye at the plate, a really good hitter when the ball's in the hitting area. Then within that same umbrella, the ball jumps off his bat. He hits the ball really hard, and at times it goes really far. Just blending that package and not really trying to formulate anything other than how important timing is with him, getting into a good solid position and repeating it."
After slugging .466 and going deep 26 times as a rookie, he slashed .261/.357/.411 with 12 homers in 148 games last season. Bell spent much of last season searching for answers and finding inconsistent results. The switch-hitter's drive to improve has often led him to tweak his stance and approach, a tendency that once earned him the nickname "Tinker Bell."
Early last year, Bell said, he tried to pull the ball during part of his pregame routine. It's key that Bell be able to launch pitches over the right-field wall when he bats left-handed, especially given the dimensions at PNC Park. But pitchers are aware of those dimensions, too. They worked outside against Bell, and when he tried to pull those pitches, he wound up hitting grounders rather than ripping line drives to the opposite field like he'd done in the past.
In early September, Bell was benched for three games so he could work away from the spotlight. Pittsburgh challenged him to stop tinkering.
"Josh got to the point where he committed to a couple core principles at the plate, stayed steadfast with them," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Basically, I told him if he committed to them, he'll stay in the lineup. If he didn't commit to them, he's coming out of the lineup."
Bell stayed in the lineup. He hit .301 with a .961 OPS, four homers and more walks (16) than strikeouts (15) in his final 21 games of the season. It was Bell at his best -- the contact and patience he displayed as a top prospect along with the power he showed as a rookie. He stuck with that approach throughout the offseason, when he worked with hitting consultant Joe DeMarco in Southern California.
"For the most part, it's what I was doing in the Minor Leagues," Bell said. "Focus on driving the ball the other way, then with offspeed pitches, my barrel would automatically sync up to them."
He rediscovered that approach in September, and improved results came along with it.
"If I can get back to where I was in the last month of the season and continue to solidify my right-handed swing as well, I'm in a good place," Bell said.
Bell has already hit it off with Eckstein and assistant hitting coach Jacob Cruz this spring. He said he's "all in" on the technology they've introduced, and they've encouraged him to hit the ball hard where it's pitched rather than trying to alter his swing and force something.
"Where the ball ends up, that's where it's going to end up," Bell said. "If I put my 'A' swing on it and stay inside it, I should be able to drive the ball to all fields.
"That's going to be my mentality from Game 1 on. I'm excited to see how it plays out."
2019 Top 100 Prospects
Ranking the Top 100 MLB prospects entering 2019, starting with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the consensus No. 1 overall prospect
ETA: 2019 (But not Opening Day)
Hit: 80: | Power: 70 | Speed: 40 | Defense: 40 | Arm: 60
You were expecting someone else? Guerrero Jr. is a potential superstar, and a hitter with the upside to win a batting title or lead the league in home runs.
Hit: 55: | Power: 60 | Speed: 60 | Defense: 60 | Arm: 70
Fast, powerful and electrifying, Tatis is the focal point of the Padres' rebuild.
ETA: 2019 (But not Opening Day)
Hit: 60: | Power: 70 | Speed: 40 | Defense: 45 | Arm: 40
Jimenez is capable of putting up .300 averages and 30 or more home runs annually, but might have to move from left field in a few years.
Hit: 70: | Power: 70 | Speed: 50 | Defense: 55 | Arm: 55
He's yet to play in full season ball, but few minor league hitters can match Franco's sweet swing from both sides of the plate.
Fastball: 70 | Curveball: 60 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 70 | Cutter: 60 | Control: 55
It's hard to find pitchers to compare Whitley with since he has an unheard-of five potential plus pitches.
Hit: 55: | Power: 70 | Speed: 60 | Defense: 55 | Arm: 60
With light-tower power, jaw-dropping athleticism and a record of rapid adjustments, Adell is the next Angels homegrown all-star outfielder
Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 70 | Control: 65
Scouts drool over the poised lefthander with three plus or better pitches, plus control and a No. 2 starter ceiling.
Hit: 70: | Power: 55 | Speed: 50 | Defense: 50 | Arm: 55
One of the top hitters in the minors, Bichette's defensive improvements make him Toronto's shortstop of the future
Hit: 60: | Power: 55 | Speed: 60 | Defense: 60 | Arm: 55
The No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft has a bucket of plus tools to rely on.
Hit: 60: | Power: 60 | Speed: 55 | Defense: 60 | Arm: 60
Injuries slowed Senzel's ascent, but there's little standing in the way of him making an impact in Cincinnati in 2019.
Hit: 60: | Power: 55 | Speed: 70 | Defense: 70 | Arm: 60
Robles has blazing speed, excellent defense and a knack for getting on-base, just don't expect a lot of power.
Hit: 60: | Power: 60 | Speed: 40 | Defense: 50 | Arm: 50
"Ted" struggled in his first big league stint, but dominated the Pacific Coast League last season.
Fastball: 70 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 60 | Control: 70
Injuries cut Sixto's 2018 season short, so while durability is a risk, the upside is a No. 1 starter.
Hit: 60: | Power: 55 | Speed: 50 | Defense: 55 | Arm: 60
A smooth stroke and highlight-reel defense have Rodgers primed to break into the Rockies infield very, very soon.
Hit: 70: | Power: 55 | Speed: 50 | Defense: 50 | Arm: 45
Few hitters have a done a better job of making up for a lost season than Kirilloff, who blitzed two levels in his return from Tommy John surgery.
Fastball: 70 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 70 | Splitter: 55 | Control: 60
The top pick in the 2018 draft will get a much heavier workload this season and should move quickly thanks to his fastball/splitter combination.
Hit: 60: | Power: 55 | Speed: 50 | Defense: 50 | Arm: 45
The Brewers appear to be clearing the decks for a quick arrival for their best pure hitting prospect in years.
Fastball: 70 | Slider: 70 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 50
If his elite fastball and slider return to pre-Tommy John surgery standards, he has front-of-the-rotation potential.
Fastball: 80 | Curveball: 70 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 60 | Control: 50
Reyes' arensel is that of a true ace, but his ability to remain healthy remains a huge question mark.
Hit: 60: | Power: 45 | Speed: 40 | Defense: 55 | Arm: 55
Catchers are supposed to move slowly, but Ruiz toppled Double-A as a teenager and draws rave reviews for his bat
Fastball: 80 | Curveball: 60 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50
The flamethrower will miss 2019 after having Tommy John surgery, but showed huge strides with his control before he went down
Hit: 50: | Power: 70 | Speed: 40 | Defense: 60 | Arm: 70
Riley's arm, power and defense makes him a premium third base prospect, even if Josh Donaldson's arrival in Atlanta may delay his timetable.
Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 60 | Screwball: 70 | Control: 55
After having Tommy John surgery last year, Honeywell and his famous screwball should climb into Tampa's rotation this season
Fastball: 70 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 50
Many organizations have flailed for years trying to draft and develop high school pitchers, but the Braves keep graduating prep arms.
Fastball: 60 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 60
A shoulder injury kept Soroka from graduating last year, but he's back on the mound and competing for a spot in Atlanta's rotation.
Fastball: 70 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 60
Keller's easy upper-90s fastball and big curveball alone have evaluators confident he'll be a No. 3 starter at worst.
Fastball: 60 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 50
The centerpiece of the James Paxton trade brings big velocity from the left side and is ready for the big leagues
Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 60 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 60 | Control: 60
Four pitches and plus athleticism give Gore a high ceiling, but he has to show he's past his blister issues
Hit: 50: | Power: 60 | Speed: 40 | Defense: 60 | Arm: 60
An excellent defensive catcher with big power, Bart is the heir apparent to Buster Posey in San Francisco
Hit: 55: | Power: 50 | Speed: 50 | Defense: 60 | Arm: 60
The speedy, slick-fielding shortstop took a step forward offensively in the Florida State League; look for him to take another one in 2019.
Hit: 70: | Power: 40 | Speed: 45 | Defense: 55 | Arm: 55
After making his MLB debut last year, the sweet-swinging Urias is ready to take over as the Padres everyday second baseman.
Hit: 60: | Power: 45 | Speed: 40 | Defense: 50 | Arm: 80
Mejia has all the tools to be both a great hitter and catcher, and now just has to make the adjustments to get there.
Hit: 60: | Power: 55 | Speed: 60 | Defense: 55 | Arm: 45
The Futures Game MVP can do a little bit of everything, with a diverse skillset that can win games at the plate or in the field.
Hit: 55: | Power: 60 | Speed: 50 | Defense: 40 | Arm: 45
Alvarez doesn't have a lot of defensive value at either first base or in the outfield, but he can hit for average and power.
Hit: 60: | Power: 50 | Speed: 50 | Defense: 50 | Arm: 60
After waiting his turn, the offensively-gifted Verdugo has a chance to win the Dodgers starting right field job.
Hit: 45: | Power: 70 | Speed: 60 | Defense: 60 | Arm: 55
O'Neill's power is jaw-dropping, and his impressive speed and defense have been better than expected.
Hit: 55: | Power: 55 | Speed: 55 | Defense: 55 | Arm: 60
The cornerstone of the Manny Machado trade has the all-around tools to be a central part of the Orioles future.
Fastball: 80 | Curveball: 60 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50
Michael Kopech's Tommy John surgery slows the White Sox's rebuild, but Cease is nearly ready to give the club another hard-throwing starter.
Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 60 | Slider: 55 | Control: 55
Wright blitzed through the minors last year to become the first 2017 draftee to make it to the major leagues.
Hit: 55: | Power: 50 | Speed: 55 | Defense: 55 | Arm: 55
After taking a leap last season, Lux has the hitting ability, defensive chops and instincts to play in the middle of the diamond for a long time.
Hit: 55: | Power: 60 | Speed: 50 | Defense: 50 | Arm: 55
There are questions about whether Kieboom can stay at shortstop, but he'll hit no matter where he plays in the field.
Hit: 60: | Power: 40 | Speed: 30 | Defense: 45 | Arm: 45
More Steady Eddie than flashy, Jansen is a potential high on-base percentage catcher who should help in Toronto soon.
Hit: 60: | Power: 40 | Speed: 60 | Defense: 60 | Arm: 50
Madrigal has a very lengthy track record of hitting for average and a smooth glove at second base, but he is working to add power.
Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 60
The string-bean skinny righthander keeps proving he can hold his stuff, quieting durability concerns every level he climbs
Fastball: 55 | Curveball: 50 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 40 | Control: 55
The latest Japanese import has a swing-and-miss slider, which should help ease his transition to the U.S.
Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 50 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 60
After a star turn in the bullpen down the stretch last year, Burnes is ready to ascend into Milwaukee's rotation.
Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 50 | Changeup: 50 | Cutter: 60
Hit: 50 | Power: 45 | Speed: 40 | Defense: 45 | Arm: 50
The Rays are committed to seeing if McKay can handle first base and pitching, following in Shohei Ohtani's footsteps.
Hit: 45 | Power: 70 | Speed: 20 | Defense: 40 | Arm: 40
With pronounced strengths (power) and weaknesses (defense), Alonso is a divisive prospect with a wide range of outcomes.
Hit: 55 | Power: 45 | Speed: 55 | Defense: 70 | Arm: 60
Hayes is one of the best defenders in the minors, and he's just starting to tap into his power potential.
Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50
A combination of high-end stuff and athleticism gives Manning a ceiling toward the top of a rotation.
Hit: 55 | Power: 55 | Speed: 50 | Defense: 55 | Arm: 55
After a breakout season for the Florida Gators, India gives the Reds yet another high-performing college bat to depend on.
Fastball: 70 | Curveball: 60 | Slider: 55 | Control: 50
Three premium pitchers are there, but Morejon still has to show he can stay healthy for more than 70 innings.
Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 60 | Control: 45
Toussaint has long flashed potential thanks to his athleticism, fastball and curveball. Now he's started to show signs of putting it all together.
Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 60 | Control: 55
The Orioles haven't had much luck developing talented young starting pitchers, but new GM Mike Elias' task is to get Hall safely to Baltimore.
Fastball: 70 | Curveball: 50 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 40 | Control: 55
The best pitching prospect in a stacked system, Graterol has wipeout stuff but needs to improve his command a touch.
Hit: 45 | Power: 60 | Speed: 30 | Defense: 45 | Arm: 70
Catchers don't usually hit these days, but Hernandez finished second in the Midwest League with 21 home runs.
Fastball: 80 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50
An elbow strain gave Greene and the Reds a scare, but he's back on the mound and should be set to go in 2019.
Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 60 | Control: 55
The precocious lefthander combines stuff and poise, and could prove to be another jewel in a lustrous Rays' system.
Hit : 50 | Power: 60 | Speed: 55 | Defense: 55 | Arm: 55
Flashy and powerful, Chisholm has the tools of an All-Star shortstop if he can improve his plate discipline.
Hit: 55 | Power: 45 | Speed: 70 | Defense: 60 | Arm: 70
The toolsy Cuban outfielder immediately shot to the top of a Marlins system revamped by a series of high-return trades.
Hit: 60 | Power: 55 | Speed: 55 | Defense: 50 | Arm: 55
While Juan Soto was shooting to the major leagues, Garcia was blazing an equally quick trail through the lower levels of the minor leagues.
Hit: 55 | Power: 60 | Speed: 55 | Defense: 50 | Arm: 50
Sanchez has a chance to both hit for average and power as part of a very strong Rays farm system.
Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 60 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 50
With a plus fastball, plus curveball and a competitive streak, Canning should give the Angels a solid starter for years to come.
Hit: 60 | Power: 30 | Speed: 70 | Defense: 55 | Arm: 55
Second base is now a spot often filled by productive hitters with limited athleticism; Brujan is an athletic marvel who can also really hit.
Hit: 60 | Power: 60 | Speed: 40 | Defense: 40 | Arm: 55
Despite a sluggish pro debut, Bohm has an impressive track record of hitting in college with impact power.
Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 40 | Changeup: 70 | Control: 70
With a solid fastball, premium changeup and ridiculously good control, Paddack is nearly big-league ready if he stays healthy.
Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 55
Last year's popup prospect has a elite athleticism and a power arsenal, setting him up for a bright future.
Hit: 60 | Power: 55 | Speed: 50 | Defense: 50 | Arm: 55
One of the purest hitters in the 2018 draft class, Kelenic was the headliner of the Mariners' blockbuster that sent Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano to the Mets.
Fastball: 70 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 50
Santillan slides a little bit under the radar but his stuff and strong frame compares favorably with most top minor league starters.
Fastball: 70 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 45
Pearson threw just 1.2 innings in the regular season, but his 104 mph fastball in the Arizona Fall League showed his stuff is still electric.
Fastball: 60 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 55
Singer carved up competition in the Southeastern Conference and is the latest in a line of high-end pitchers to come out of Florida.
Hit: 45 | Power: 55 | Speed: 30 | Defense: 60 | Arm: 70
Murphy has Gold Glove potential and the power to be an offensive force, though health remains a longstanding concern.
Fastball: 70 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 55
High risk and still far away, Crouse has tantalizing upside as a potential frontend starter with an explosive fastball/slider combination.
Fastball: 60 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 45
Whether in the bullpen or rotation, Hudson's wicked fastball-slider combo consistently shuts opponents down.
Hit: 50 | Power: 70 | Speed: 40 | Defense: 50 | Arm: 55
Gorman has huge power to dream on and is moving fast, although his plate discipline raises some concerns.
Hit: 55 | Power: 60 | Speed: 70 | Defense: 60 | Arm: 55
Injuries waylaid Robert's first full season as a pro, but he showed a tantalizing tool set when he was healthy.
Fastball: 80 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 70 | Control: 45
No one made a further leap to enter the Top 100 than James as a sleep-apnea diagnosis has helped him transform into a top prospect.
Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 50 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 55
After he pitched primarily in relief in college, the Astros moved Martin to the rotation and have seen excellent returns.
Hit: 50 | Power: 60 | Speed: 55 | Defense: 50 | Arm: 60
There's never been a 6-foot-6 major league shortstop, and Cruz likely won't change that, but his speed and arm will fit well at third or in the outfield.
Fastball: 70 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 55
Yet another in the plethora of close-to-the-majors Braves pitchers, Wilson can dominate with his fastball.
Hit: 60 | Power: 55 | Speed: 45 | Defense: 45 | Arm: 60
Montero has all the traits of a top-tier hitter, and now just needs to keep improving his defense.
Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 40 | Cutter: 55 | Control: 60
May has added velocity and is still growing into more, leaving scouts high on his potential upside.
Hit: 55 | Power: 60 | Speed: 60 | Defense: 55 | Arm: 60
Waters combines with Cristian Pache to form a potent one-two punch of talented center fielders in one of baseball's best farm systems.
Fastball: 55 | Curveball: 60 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 60
Pardinho skipped two levels in his pro debut last year but still baffled hitters thanks to his advanced combination of bat-missing stuff and pitchability beyond his years.
Hit: 50 | Power: 40 | Speed: 70 | Defense: 70 | Arm: 70
Pache is one of the best center fielders in baseball (majors or minors) and he's starting to show signs of developing his power.
Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 60
His injury track record is alarming, but Duplantier is nothing short of dominant when he's healthy and on the mound.
Hit: 55 | Power: 40 | Speed: 70 | Defense: 50 | Arm: 50
Lightning quick in the batters box and on the bases, Hampson is a top-of-the-order threat waiting to happen.
Hit: 60 | Power: 40 | Speed: 55 | Defense: 60 | Arm: 60
Garcia was the GCL batting champ last year, but he drew even more raves for his defensive potential.
Hit: 60 | Power: 60 | Speed: 50 | Defense: 50 | Arm: 55
The No. 12 overall pick in the 2018 draft earned rave reviews in his pro debut for his combination of hitting ability and power.
Hit: 55 | Power: 55 | Speed: 50 | Defense: 40 | Arm: 30
Mountcastle has plenty of work left defensively, but as a hitter he is quite advanced.
Hit: 45 | Power: 60 | Speed: 50 | Defense: 50 | Arm: 60
A more efficient swing helped Smith go from a fourth-round pick in 2017 to a Top 100 prospect after his first full season.
Fastball: 50 | Curveball: 50 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 60 | Control: 50
With few rough edges and a mature arsenal and approach, Allen has few detractors and could be in the majors at 21.
Hit: 50: | Power: 55 | Speed: 55 | Defense: 50 | Arm: 45
Lowe came out of college as an accomplished hitter with modest power. Now he's a solid hitter with plus power.
Hit: 60 | Power: 50 | Speed: 40 | Defense: 50 | Arm: 55
There are serious questions about whether Paredes' body will let him stay at shortstop, but he showed plenty of offensive impact at a young age.
Hit: 45 | Power: 55 | Speed: 55 | Defense: 60 | Arm: 55
Smith's growing power pairs nicely with his excellent defense and athleticism, making him a versatile weapon the Dodgers deploy in a variety of ways
Hit: 55 | Power: 60 | Speed: 50 | Defense: 50 | Arm: 60
The Indians have put Jones on a slow-development path, but the advanced hitter sped up his timetable with a midseason promotion in 2018.
Hit: 50 | Power: 60 | Speed: 30 | Defense: 50 | Arm: 40
Lowe rebuilt his swing to excellent results as he now has the power expected of a pure first baseman.
Hit: 60 | Power: 60 | Speed: 40 | Defense: 50 | Arm: 70
One of the standouts from the 2017 international signing class showed impact offensive potential in the Gulf Coast League in his pro debut.
Hit: 55 | Power: 55 | Speed: 45 | Defense: 40 | Arm: 55
Naylor keeps mashing and and getting to his power, although it remains to be seen where he'll play
Hit: 55 | Power: 50 | Speed: 60 | Defense: 70 | Arm: 55
White is a perennial Gold Glove winner at first base waiting to happen, with his growing power and rare athleticism rounding out a strong foundation.
The Importance of the Right Mindset
In one KPB’s first ABCA Twitter Chats, the first question was: “Build your own catcher—what are YOUR most important attributes for the player behind the mask?”
There were many great answers, but we noticed many of the answers referred only to physical skills. When coaches evaluate recruits on the ball field, the easiest skills to grade and project out are physical tools. The hardest skills to evaluate are the intangibles, things you can’t measure with a stopwatch, radar gun or high tech equipment. Ask any college coach and he will tell you that despite the tendency to look at player-tools and physical skills first, the best and most desirable players are the ones with the right mentality. One of the most important attributes for a player at any position is a “growth mindset.” In this article, KPB will explain what we mean by a growth mindset, and why it is the single most important tool a college baseball player ( or recruit) can have.
The term “growth mindset,” was coined by renowned psychologist and Stanford University professor, Dr. Carol Dweck, in her 2006 book, Mindset. As opposed to a fixed mindset, where an individual believes that his qualities, intelligence, skills, etc. are set in stone and can’t be changed, a growth mindset “is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts” (Dweck, 2006). In other words, through deliberate practice, learning from mistakes, and hard work, you can improve your abilities.
You may be still wondering why a growth mindset is so important for college baseball players and high school recruits. A growth mindset is essential for any athlete looking to achieve their maximum potential. If you still don’t believe us, we have 10 reasons to convince you otherwise right here:
Players with a growth mindset are more process oriented. They define success as more than wins and losses. As Dweck explains, success is attributed to doing your best, having a good plan and preparing well (pg. 98). In baseball, you won’t always get a hit, strike a batter out, or win, but if you are well prepared and learn from each experience, the wins will follow. Recruiting is the same. Not every interaction will result in getting recruited, and you may face your fair share of rejection and failure. If you take a growth oriented win or learn mentality to your recruitment, everything you do will help you improve your chances of finding a fit.
Players with a growth mindset are more intrinsically motivated and rely less on things they can’t control for motivation. They find satisfaction and joy in the process of learning and improving, rather than acknowledgement or external rewards. Likewise, a recruit who focuses their efforts on things they can control and enjoy the college search is well on their way to finding a college program.
Players with a growth mindset are never satisfied with success. They understand that there is always room for improvement, success is earned through hard work, and there are always ways to grow, even if you are already the best. This is perhaps the most applicable reason why recruits should work on having a growth mindset. The recruiting process is about growth and development. If you are always getting better and working hard at your craft, you will not only get recruited, but be more prepared for the rigors of college baseball when you get there.
Players with a growth mindset look at failures (bad at bat, bad inning, bad play, bad game, etc.) as learning experiences. In a game of failure, there is always something positive to take away from every experience. Failure serves as a teacher and motivator for training. You can apply this same lesson to recruiting. Don’t shy away from rejection and failure, they are bound to happen. Learn from what doesn’t work to improve your next recruiting opportunity.
Players and recruits with a growth mindset understand that their effort matters and they can have control over outcomes.
Players and recruits with a growth mindset understand the importance of deliberate practice, because everything they do provides feedback they can use to improve.
Players and recruits with a growth mindset have an easier time dealing with and overcoming failure because they know failure is temporary and their talents and skills are not fixed. There is always room to improve and overcome.
Players and recruits with a growth mindset can envision improvement through hard work. They know if they put the work in, the effort will directly influence their performance and ability to get recruited.
Players and recruits with a growth mindset are better equipped to deal with adversity because they know that adversity offers opportunities to overcome challenges and test their abilities.
Players with a growth mindset are better teammates. They have a positive outlook, and understand that teams, like individuals, can learn and improve with experience. They believe that players can come together and find solutions to problems. Recruits who are good teammates will be sought out by college coaches at every program across the country.
If you want to reach your peak as a ball player and get recruited as a high school prospect, start with a growth mindset and watch your skills, work ethic, and preparation take off!
Chapman wins first Gold Glove Award
Athletics' Gold Glove winners Nov. 4th, 2018
By Jane Lee MLB.com @JaneMLB
OAKLAND -- A's corner infielders Matt Chapman and Matt Olson were awarded their first career Rawlings Gold Glove Awards on Sunday evening, marking what will likely be an annual tradition for Oakland's rising stars.
Not since 2012, when Josh Reddick took home the hardware, had an A's player enjoyed baseball's top defensive distinction. Their last infielder to win the award was third baseman Eric Chavez, who earned six straight from 2001-06.
For Chapman and Olson, the recognition comes after just their first full big league seasons.
"I've always been pretty confident in my defensive ability," Olson said, "so I knew I could definitely have the potential to be a Gold Glove first baseman -- not necessarily in my first full year, especially in Oakland, where sometimes we don't get as much coverage as some other places."
The A's, who had two other finalists in second baseman Jed Lowrie and shortstop Marcus Semien, were a collective force on defense, which was perhaps an underrated aspect of their stirring 97-win season.
Chapman led the way at third base, quickly cementing himself as one of the best defenders in the game at any position with a mile-long list of highlight-reel plays. His 29 Defensive Runs Saved were 19 more than any other player, and he led Major League third basemen in Ultimate Zone Rating (10.9), total chances (484) and assists (331).
"It's an honor to win this prestigious award," Chapman said. "We all work to be the best at what we do, and I've been fortunate enough to be able to combine my ability with hard work."
Chapman undoubtedly benefited from Olson, who handled Chapman's throws at first base and habitually saved errors. Olson picked up 14 Defensive Runs Saved, most at first base. He also topped his peers at the position in games (162), total chances (1,494) and putouts (1,403), ranking third with a .995 fielding percentage.
"It's definitely nice, especially because first base doesn't necessarily get the glory that other positions do," Olson said. "That's more than fine, but to be able to go out and have a good year defensively and do what I did, it's nice to get that recognition."
Winners are determined by a combination of votes submitted by Major League managers and coaches and a sabermetric index provided by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).
Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.
EBS Training Specials
Elite Baseball is proud to train players of all ages and wants you to be a part of our culture! Because you participated in this year's #EBS11 we have some special offers for you...
All players are welcome to come try out a hitting and All-In session for FREE!
EBS 2018 Player Offers:
1. Trial Month of Hitting for $99 - Save big (Regular - $195/mo) when you purchase a trial month of hitting after the EBS. Includes 4 hitting sessions at UC Irvine or our Santa Ana facility. Cages resume after summer break on August 22nd.
2. All-In Training: throwing/pitching, bullpens, hitting, catching, live BP, machine BP, warmup and recovery modalities, arm care routines, custom throwing/strength/mobility/sleep/nutrition programs, mental training. Throwing is recorded with Motus sleeves, bullpens are on Rapsodo, Motus, and video. We will have 4D motion analysis with biofeedback from a 6-sensor system for hitting and throwing available starting next week.
1 Day Per Week - $155/month ($195/month Value)
2 Days Per Week - $195/month ($295/month Value)
3 Days Per Week - $295/month ($495/month Value)
5 Days Per Week - $495/month ($695/month Value)
Each day is 2-3 hours long with instructors on the floor to monitor athletes. Your first two weeks will consist of a full movement screening assessment, a throwing on-ramp evaluation, and custom programs for each player to do at our facility and at home. Players will be able to log in to their own online portal via Elite's website to see their data, videos, notes, programs, calendar, and training tips. Our online player management system will be up September 1st.
This offer is for 3 months. After 3 billing cycles the normal rate will be applied for monthly training. There are no trial months for All-In sessions. Memberships are month by month, pause or cancel anytime before debit date.
3. 4D Motion Analysis - Pitching and/or Hitting
Experience your swing and pitches like never before with our biofeedback system. 4DMotion has introduced their sensor system to baseball to record kinematic sequencing, joint stress and angles, shoulder/trunk/hip rotation speeds and force, and more! This is our most exclusive EBS offer at an unbeatable price. You will see exactly what your body is doing with objective data so you know exactly what to improve. Each session is carefully analyzed with the player to provide feedback and instruction to see how players progress. All sessions are 60 minutes.
4DMotion Pitching - $100 for 6 sensor system analysis 20 pitch bullpen ($150 Value)
4DMotion Hitting - $100 for 6 sensor system analysis 30 swing BP ($150 Value)
4DMotion Pitch & Hit - $175 for 6 sensor system analysis of your bullpen and BP. (75 minutes) ($250 Value)
Rapsodo Pitching will be in the bullpen at the 2018 EBS
Our Elite staff will be setup in the UCLA and UCI bullpens with Rapsodo behind the catcher to capture data on each pitcher before entering the game. We will send out a PDF for each pitcher after the event with charts and graphs of velocity, spin, movement, axis, and command. This is a great tool for players to use on and off the field and can be directly sent to coaches and scouts in the PDF format. All of this will be included in the price of the event for the EBS. Show up and compete!
EBS "All Decade" Team 40 Man Roster
Over the 10 year period of hosting the EBS, there has been over 900 participants, 800 college commitments and 233 drafted. Needless to say picking only 40 was a challenging task. Here are a list of the Top 40 players that we have selected that have participated in our Elite Baseball Series over the last 10 years. Some of the selections still train with Joe DeMarco & Elite Baseball during their current college and professional careers.
2017 EBS Commits Part 5 (10 Players)
Congrats to the following players for committing to continue their academic and athletic career at the collegiate level. These players participated in our previous Elite Baseball Series last August at UCLA or UC Irvine. Thank you for choosing Elite to showcase your skills and best of luck at the next level!
Ben Ziv | 2018 | El Toro | Saddleback Cowboys | Chapman
Dwayne Angebrandt | 2018 | Tustin | Socal Birds | CSUN
Jacob Widener | 2019 | San Marcos | BPA | SDSU
Will Laws | 2018 | Los Alimitos | Concordia (CA)
Connor Kokx | 2018 | Aliso Niguel | Quakes Baseball | LBSU
Nikolas Trapani | 2018 | Loyola | San Jose St
Noah Taylor | 2018 | Notre Dame | Cal Poly
Chad Call | 2019 | Mayer Dei | Saddleback Cowboys | CSUN
Payton Walsh | 2018 | Mater Dei | Team California | University of Redlands
Gavin Kennedy | 2019 | Ocean View | OC Premier | CSUF
2017 EBS Commits Part 4 (10 Players)
Congrats to the following players for committing to continue their academic and athletic career at the collegiate level. These players participated in our previous Elite Baseball Series last August at UCLA or UC Irvine. Thank you for choosing Elite to showcase your skills and best of luck at the next level!
2017 EBS Commits Part 3 (10 Players)
Congrats to the following players for committing to continue their academic and athletic career at the collegiate level. These players participated in our previous Elite Baseball Series last August at UCLA or UC Irvine. Thank you for choosing Elite to showcase your skills and best of luck at the next level!
Kevin Sim | 2020 | Torrey Pines | CBA | USD
Charles Acker | 2019 | Maranatha | Monarchs City | USC
Milan Tolentino | 2020 | Santa Margarita | Saddleback Cowboys | UCLA
Anthony Tulimero | 2019 | Vista Murrieta | TB Socal | Kansas
Brett Barrera | 2019 | Los Osos | SGV Huste Elite | Stanford
Brett Garcia | 2018 | Valley Christian | SoCal Birds | UCI
Conrad Villafuerte | 2018 | Fountain Valley | University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
Marcus Johnson | 2018 | Tustin | SoCal Birds, OC Giants | Cal St San Marcos
Leo Mosby | 2020 | Westview | CBA | UCSB
Reece Berger | 2019 | CDM | SoCal Birds | SDST
2017 EBS Commits Part 2 (10 Players)
Congrats to the following players for committing to continue their academic and athletic career at the collegiate level. These players participated in our 2017 Elite Baseball Series last August at UCLA or UC Irvine. Thank you for choosing Elite to showcase your skills and best of luck at the next level!
2017 EBS Commits Part 1 (9 Players)
Congrats to the following players for committing to continue their academic and athletic career at the collegiate level. These players participated in our 2017 Elite Baseball Series last August at UCLA or UC Irvine. Thank you for choosing Elite to showcase your skills and best of luck at the next level!
Kaizen Neurofeedback Training
Elite long time client and instructor Clay Williamson helps players on and off the field. Recently, Clay has gone all in with Kaizen Neurofeedback to help train athletes, businessmen, and others to focus, relax, and reduce a number of anxieties in every day life.
We all have brains, but who takes care of theirs?
Kaizen Neurofeedback is powered by NeurOptimal advanced brain training systems. It is the worlds first and only Dynamical Neurofeedback brain training system. If you have a brain, then brain training is for you! Neurofeedback is used by all walks of life ranging from top athletes and business executives to busy moms and young children with learning disabilities.
NeurOptimal is a safe non-invasive/drug-free approach to help optimize our brains function. Neurofeedback reads and then feeds information to the brain and allows it to re-correct itself in the necessary areas to reach its best potential. Think about a time when you were feeling at your best, and it’s like nothing can stop you... This is an example of when your brain is organized and your central nervous system is flexible and resilient. This flexibility and resilience results in handling situations productively no matter what life throws at you... even a baseball.
Now how do we reach this flexibility and resilience on a daily basis? Train your brain with Neurofeedback just like you’d train your body to stay in physical shape.
A’s third baseman and Elite Baseball client, Matt Chapman had this to say "Thank you for getting my mind right before season. Since I started brain training with Kaizen Neurofeedback, I have noticed shifts in my state of mind. I have been thinking very clear and my focus is at an all time high. Also, I'm dealing with stress better than I have in my entire life!"
Chapman will start at 3rd for the A’s this opening day.
10 Pack: $950 ($50 value savings)
15 Pack: $1,350 ($150 value savings)
20 Pack: $1,700 ($300 value savings)
25 Pack: $2,000 ($500 value savings)
25+ Sessions: $20 off per session
(Elite members and EBS participants only)
$80 ($20 value savings per session)
Check out our Elite Spring Deals!
The season is in full swing and now is a great opportunity to keep up the consistent training and feedback with reps in the cage and on the mound. We offer group and private sessions to give players the best solutions for their training. Check out our popular Single-Payment options, as well as our Monthly Members deals for this spring!
Single Payment Group and Private Options:
Spring Training $595 / player
(Spring: MLK Day - Mother's Day: 16 Hitting or Pitching sessions over the 18 week period $37 per session, 16 weeks starts at purchase or 1st lesson date)
Boys of Summer $295 / player
(Summer: Memorial Day - July 31st: 8 Hitting or Pitching sessions over the 10 week period $37 per session, 8 weeks starts at purchase or 1st lesson date)
Package of 10 Hitting Group Sessions $600
Package of 10 1:1 Pitching Sessions $695
*Seasonal training sessions need to completed during the allotted time frame for each season, they expire at the end of the time frame. The date of purchase begins the clock for the season.
Double A $155 / month
(32 group pitching sessions, 32 group EAP sessions at $17.50 per & 24 hitting sessions at $31.25 per)
Future Star $155 / month
(36 group hitting sessions per year $50 per session)
We have also been helping our high school and pro pitchers get ready with our Tech Bullpens, which utilize Rapsodo, Motus, and Video to help pitch design, spin axis and movement, record velocity and accuracy, and break down the pitching motion. We have member discounts for bullpens, as well as single, 4-pack, and 8-pack bullpen options. Prices are below:
Member Add-On Bullpen $30
Single Bullpen (Non-Member) $50
Member 4-Pack Bullpens $115
4-Pack Bullpens (Non-Member) $195
8-Pack Bullpens $375
Spring Training Update 2018
Austin Hedges is off to a great start with 4 HR so far. Read how he's becoming a total package for the Padres.
"Padres catcher Austin Hedges talks with Annie about getting past his first full season in the big leagues, what he's working toward this year and how his paddleboard skills are coming along.
Austin Hedges says he’ll be able to visit in the morning.
“I like to finish up by 8 o’clock,” he said.
That might be the funniest thing you hear all spring.
He means after a half-hour on the training table getting a massage or having glass cups attached to his body and suck his skin until it bruises in order to increase blood flow and speed muscle recovery. And after lifting and/or stretching and/or riding the bike. And after hitting in the cage — just some light hitting, maybe off the tee. And after catching — just some light catching drills, maybe some balls in the dirt. And after watching some film of the previous day’s game.
Oh, and after grabbing a bowl full of protein — eggs, spinach, breakfast meat.
Then, provided there isn’t a catchers’ meeting or a reason to meet with a coach or his manager, Hedges will sit down in front of his locker for 45 minutes or so before the team meeting that officially starts another spring training day.
“All these great guys,” Hedges said, “Kobe, Tom Brady, Michael Jordan — you’re always hearing their teammates say they’re not only the best athlete but the hardest worker.”
And there is what Austin Hedges really worked on this offseason.
We’ve heard much about the revamped relaxed swing. We’ve seen the early results in his four home runs in four exhibition games. And being a catcher who doesn’t just catch — even if it is catching as well as anyone catches — is a big part of Hedges’ goal.
But coming out from behind the mask to be just about everything he can be to this team and everyone on it, that is what the goal really is.
This is Hedges’ sixth big-league camp. He’s 25 years old. He just finished his first full season in the major leagues.
He’s been the future for so long.
“Now,” he said, “it’s the now.”"
Matt Chapman breaks down infield play at the hot corner recently on MLB Network. Watch the video below.
Good luck to our MiLB and MLB clients who trained with us this off season!
Elite trained clients make Top 100 HS Prospect list for 2018 Draft
Baseball America's Top 100 High School prospects for the 2018 draft was compiled by Carlos Collazo in consultation with scouts and evaluators from major league clubs. It follows the end of the showcase season as well as the early signing period, as the list reflects the college choices of the players. It's early in the draft process, so this order will change as more information emerges about the players and as the spring season begins.
College baseball's early signing period ended Wednesday, which marks Baseball America's annual early list of Top 100 Prospects. The list is designed to give an early look at the composition of the 2018 class, with the caveat that a lot can change with 199 more days until the actual draft, which starts on June 4, 2018.
Early in the summer, scouts believed that this year's high school class was heavy on pitching, with the southeast region of the country being particularly strong across the board--both on depth and with impact players at the top. If our list at this point is any indication, that remains the case.
Using the last four BA top 100 high school lists as a proxy, let's take a look at how the top 25 of this year's class compares to the previous four years.
The first thing that stands out is righthanded pitching. That is clearly the strength of the 2018 high school class, with 11 righthanders* landing in the top 25--more than any of the previous four years with the closest class being a 2015 group that had 10 righthanded pitchers among the top 25.
When looking at the strength of pitching overall (including lefties and righties), the 2018 class still stands out with 14 pitchers among the top 25. The previous classes are close, and remarkably consistent, with 13 pitchers in the top 25 in each of the last four draft classes going back to 2014.
Another strength of the 2018 class, relative to the previous four classes, is at catcher. There was just one catching prospect on the 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 top 100 lists, compared to three on this year's list with Will Banfield (10), Noah Naylor (22) and Anthony Seigler (23). The catchers on the previous years' lists were Alex Jackson (No. 2, 2014), Chris Betts (No. 7, 2015), Cooper Johnson (No. 22, 2016) and M.J. Melendez (No. 15, 2017). High school catching is historically one of the most risky demographics in the draft, which makes the top catchers in the 2018 class exciting and also difficult to rank as there tends to be less of a consensus on where these players fall than other positions.
Outfield is less represented at the top of the 2018 class, with just three outfielders (No. 5 Jarred Kelenic, No. 19 Joe Gray Jr. and No. 20 Mike Siani) among the top 25, compared to an average of five during the last four years. The 2017 and 2015 lists had six outfielders among the top 25, while the 2016 and 2014 classes both had four apiece.
Geographically, it is a down year for California, which places just two players in the top 25 (No. 2 Brice Turang and No. 17 Cole Winn, who actually moved from Colorado this summer). No other class going back to 2014 had fewer than four players representing the golden state, and last year's 2017 class had almost a third of the list (8) made up of players from California.
That's not to say there are no prospects from California this year. The depth of the state remains solid with 14 players making the top 100. But there's an obvious lack of top-tier California prospects compared to the norm for the state, which stands out even more given the standout 2017 crop.
Georgia has six players on the list, which is more than any of the previous four classes. Florida has six players as well, tying the 2014 class with the most Top 25 sunshine state prospects in the last few years.
*When dealing with players listed at multiple positions, the primary position listed for each player was used to determine demographics. For example, this year Mason Denaburg is listed as a RHP/C. For our purposes here, we are looking at him as if he were solely a RHP, as that is where the industry currently sees him as having a higher ceiling.
1. RHP Ethan Hankins | 6-6 | 215 | (Forsyth Central HS, Cumming, Ga.) | Vanderbilt 📹
2. SS Brice Turang | 6-1 | 165 | (Santiago HS, Corona, Calif.) | LSU 📹
3. 3B Nolan Gorman | 6-1 | 210 | (Sandra Day O’Connor HS, Phoenix) | Arizona 📹
4. LHP Matthew Liberatore | 6-5 | 200 | (Mountain Ridge HS, Riverdale, Ariz.) | Arizona
5. OF Jarred Kelenic | 6-1 | 196 | (Waukesha (Wisc.) West HS) | Louisville 📹
6. SS Nander De Sedas | 6-1 | 190 | (Montverde (Fla.) Academy) | FSU 📹
7. RHP Kumar Rocker | 6-4 | 240 | (North Oconee HS, Bogart, Ga.) | Vanderbilt
8. LHP Ryan Weathers | 6-2 | 210 | (Loretto (Tenn.) HS) | Vanderbilt
9. RHP/C Mason Denaburg | 6-3 | 190 | (Merritt Island (Fla.) HS) | Florida 📹
10. C Will Banfield | 6-0 | 200 | (Brookwood HS, Snellville, Ga.) | Vanderbilt 📹
11. 1B Triston Casas | 6-4 | 238 | (American Heritage School, Plantation, Fla.) | Miami 📹
12. RHP Mike Vasil | 6-4 | 210 | (Boston College HS) | Virginia
13. RHP Carter Stewart | 6-6 | 200 | (Eau Gallie HS, Melbourne, Fla.) | Miss. State 📹
14. RHP Cole Wilcox | 6-5 | 220 | (Heritage HS, Ringgold, Ga.) | Georgia 📹
15. SS Xavier Edwards | 5-10 | 155 | (North Broward Prep, Coconut Creek, Fla.) | Vanderbilt
16. RHP Slade Cecconi | 6-4 | 193 | (Trinity Prep, Winter Park, Fla.) | Miami
17. RHP Cole Winn | 6-2 | 195 | (Orange (Calif.) Lutheran HS) | Miss. State
18. RHP Austin Becker | 6-6 | 185 | (Big Walnut HS, Sunbury, Ohio) | Vanderbilt 📹
19. OF Joe Gray Jr. | 6-3 | 195 | (Hattiesburg (Miss.) HS) | Mississippi 📹
20. OF Mike Siani | 6-0 | 180 | (William Penn Charter, Glenside, Pa.) | Virginia 📹
21. RHP Braxton Ashcraft | 6-5 | 195 | (Robinson (Texas) HS) | Baylor
22. C Noah Naylor | 6-0 | 195 | (St. Joan of Arc Catholic SS, Mississauga, Ont.) | Texas A&M 📹
23. C Anthony Seigler | 5-11 | 200 | (Cartersville (Ga.) HS) | Florida 📹
24. LHP Luke Bartnicki | 6-3 | 210 | (Walton HS, Marietta, Ga.) | Georgia Tech 📹
25. RHP Landon Marceaux | 6-0 | 180 | (Destrehan (La.) HS) | LSU
26. OF Connor Scott | 6-4 | 180 | (Plant HS, Tampa) | Florida 📹
27. RHP Owen White | 6-3 | 175 | (Jesse C. Carson HS, China Grove, N.C.) | South Carolina 📹
28. SS Jeremiah Jackson | 6-0 | 170 | (St. Luke’s Episcopal School, Mobile, Ala.) | Miss. State 📹
29. OF Alek Thomas | 5-11 | 175 | (Mount Carmel HS, Chicago, Ill.) | TCU 📹
30. RHP Jaden Hill | 6-4 | 215 | (Ashdown (Ark.) HS) | LSU
31. RHP JT Ginn | 6-2 | 199 | (Brandon (Miss.) HS) | Miss. State
32. 3B/SS Jordan Groshans | 6-4 | 190 | (Magnolia (Texas) HS) | Kansas 📹
33. RHP Adam Kloffenstein | 6-5 | 220 | (Magnolia (Texas) HS) | TCU
34. OF Elijah Cabell | 6-2 | 190 | (TNXL Academy, Altamonte Springs, Fla.) | LSU 📹
35. 3B/RHP Nick Northcut | 6-0 | 200 | (Mason (Ohio) HS) | Vanderbilt
36. RHP Jack Perkins | 6-2 | 208 | (Kokomo (Ind.) HS) | Louisville
37. OF Nick Decker | 6-0 | 200 | (Seneca HS, Tabernacle, N.J.) | Maryland
38. RHP/3B Simeon Woods-Richardson | 6-4 | 210 | (Kempner HS, Sugar Land, Tex.) | Texas
39. LHP Jonathan Childress | 6-4 | 215 | (Forney (Texas) HS) | Texas A&M
40. RHP Lineras Torres Jr. | 6-2 | 185 | (Beacon School, New York, N.Y.) | St. John’s
41. OF Max Marusak | 6-0 | 175 | (Amarillo (Texas) HS) | Texas Tech 📹
42. OF Ryder Green | 6-2 | 205 | (Knoxville (Tenn.) Christian Academy) | Vanderbilt 📹
43. OF Parker Meadows | 6-4 | 195 | (Grayson (Ga.) HS) | Clemson
44. SS/OF Osiris Johnson | 6-1 | 185 | (Encinal HS, Alameda, Calif.) | Cal State Fullerton 📹
45. LHP/1B J.P. Gates | 6-2 | 190 | (Nature Coast Tech HS, Spring Hill, Fla.) | Miami
46. RHP Carter Raffield | 6-4 | 215 | (Bleckley County HS, Cochran, Ga.) | Clemson
47. OF Korey Holland | 6-0 | 173 | (Langham Creek HS, Houston) | Texas
48. SS/3B Raynel Delgado | 6-2 | 195 | (Calvary Christian Academy, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) | FIU 📹
49. RHP Dominic Pipkin | 6-4 | 170 | (Pinole Valley HS, Pinole, Calif.) | California
50. LHP Mason Ronan | 6-2 | 190 | (Penn Cambria HS, Cresson, Pa.) | Pittsburgh
51. RHP Justin Jarvis | 6-2 | 160 | (Mooresville (N.C.) HS) | UNC Wilmington
52. OF Preston Hartsell | 6-0 | 195 | (Corona Del Mar HS, Newport Beach, Calif.) | USC
53. SS Blaze Alexander | 6-0 | 160 | (IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.) | South Carolina 📹
54. SS Bryce Reagan | 6-2 | 190 | (IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.) | Texas
55. 1B/3B Grant Lavigne | 6-4 | 230 | (Bedford (N.H.) HS) | Wake Forest
56. SS/3B/C Charles Mack | 5-11 | 185 | (Williamsville (N.Y.) East HS) | Clemson
57. SS/RHP Brandon Dieter | 6-0 | 175 | (South Hills HS, West Covina, Calif.) | Stanford 📹
58. OF Nick Schnell | 6-2 | 180 | (Roncalli HS, Indianapolis, Ind.) | Louisville
59. RHP Chandler Champlain | 6-5 | 205 | (Santa Margarita Catholic HS, Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.) | USC
60. LHP Joseph Menefee | 6-1 | 210 | (George Ranch HS, Richmond, Tex.) | Texas A&M
61. OF Vinny Tosti | 6-0 | 190 | (Mater Dei HS, Santa Anna, Calif.) | Oregon
62. OF Brennen Davis | 6-4 | 175 | (Basha HS, Chandler, Ariz.) | Miami
63. SS Jonathan Ornelas | 6-0 | 160 | (Kellis HS, Glendale, Ariz.) | Tennessee
64. C C.J. Willis | 6-4 | 185 | (Ruston (La.) HS) | LSU 📹
65. SS/3B Kendall Logan Simmons | 6-3 | 190 | (Tattnall Square Academy, Macon, Ga.) | Georgia Tech
66. LHP Carter Lohman | 6-2 | 190 | (Hamilton Southeastern HS, Fishers, Ind.) | Louisville
67. LHP Garrett McDaniels | 6-3 | 160 | (Pee Dee Academy, Mullins, S.C.) | Coastal Carolina
68. C Kameron Ojeda | 6-1 | 185 | (St. John Bosco HS, Bellflower, Calif.) | Cal State Fullerton 📹
69. LHP Kaleb Hill | 6-4 | 215 | (Watson Chapel HS, Pine Bluff, Ark.) | Mississippi
70. LHP Mitchell Parker | 6-3 | 195 | (Manzano HS, Albuquerque) | Tennessee
71. SS Kevin Vargas | 6-2 | 173 | (International Baseball Academy, Salinas, P.R.) | FIU 📹
72. 3B/2B/OF Cory Acton | 6-1 | 165 | (American Heritage School, Plantation, Fla.) | Florida
73. C Austin Wells | 6-2 | 195 | (Bishop Gorman HS, Las Vegas, Nev.) | Arizona 📹
74. LHP Brandon Neeck | 6-1 | 185 | (Horace Greeley HS, Chappaqua, N.Y.) | Virginia
75. C Adrian Del Castillo | 6-0 | 195 | (Gulliver Schools, Pinecrest, Fla.) | Miami
76. SS/3B Sean Guilbe | 6-2 | 190 | (Berks Catholic HS, Reading, Pa.) | Tennessee
77. LHP Drew Rom | 6-2 | 177 | (Highlands HS, Fort Thomas, Ken.) | Michigan
78. RHP/OF Tyler Ras | 6-4 | 195 | (Middletown North HS, Middletown, N.J.) | Alabama
79. RHP Ethan Smith | 6-3 | 200 | (Mount Juliet (Tenn.) HS) | Vanderbilt
80. SS/2B Matt McLain | 5-10 | 175 | (Arnold O. Beckman HS, Irvine, Calif.) | UCLA
81. SS Tim Borden | 6-2 | 180 | (Our Lady of Providence HS, Clarksville, Ind.) | Louisville
82. LHP Garrett Wade | 6-2 | 180 | (Hartselle (Ala.) HS) | Auburn
83. LHP Justin Wrobleski | 6-2 | 180 | (Sequoyah HS, Canton, Ga.) | Clemson
84. SS/C Addison Barger | 6-0 | 175 | (King HS, Tampa) | Florida 📹
85. RHP David Luethje | 6-5 | 185 | (Vero Beach (Fla.) HS) | Florida
86. RHP Levi Kelly | 6-4 | 200 | (Bishop Verot HS, Fort Myers, Fla.) | LSU
87. SS Jake Moberg | 6-2 | 184 | (Vista Murrieta (Calif.) HS) | UCLA
88. OF Kendrick Calilao | 6-1 | 195 | (The First Academy, Orlando) | Florida
89. RHP Ty Madden | 6-3 | 180 | (Cypress (Texas) Ranch HS) | Texas
90. SS Emilio Rosas | 6-1 | 175 | (Mater Dei HS, Santa Anna, Calif.) | USC
91. RHP Blake Burzell | 6-6 | 205 | (Laguna Beach (Calif.) HS) | Duke
92. RHP/OF Seth Halvorsen | 6-1 | 195 | (Heritage Christian Academy, Maple Grove, Minn.) | Missouri
93. RHP Chase Costello | 6-4 | 193 | (Pompano Beach (Fla.) HS) | LSU 📹
94. 3B/SS Brandon Howlett | 6-1 | 205 | (George W. Jenkins HS, Lakeland, Fla.) | FSU
95. RHP Cristian Sanchez | 6-3 | 170 | (Centreville (Va.) HS) | Virginia
96. OF Basiel Williams | 6-3 | 180 | (Ponchatoula HS, Tangipahoa Parish, La.) | Miss. State
97. RHP Matt Rudis | 6-3 | 195 | (Madisonville (Texas) HS) | TCU
98. RHP Jayson Schroeder | 6-2 | 205 | (Juanita HS, Kirkland, Wash.) | Washington
99. LHP Erik Tolman | 6-2 | 180 | (El Toro HS, Lake Forest, Calif.) | Cal Poly
100. OF/LHP Brady Allen | 6-1 | 200 | (George W. Jenkins HS, Lakeland, Fla.) | South Carolina
McLain Bros. Ready for Beckman's 2018 Spring Season
Beckman baseball coach Kevin Lavalle better not shout out, “McLain” too often this season. He’ll have too many people looking up and wondering which McLain he’s referring to.
In the starting lineup will be three talented McLain brothers.
There’s Matt, a senior shortstop who Lavalle says is the best player he’s coached. He’s headed to UCLA.
There’s Sean, a junior outfielder who was the second-best hitter on the team last season.
And there’s Nick, a freshman who “might be the best” of the brothers one day, Lavalle said. He can play outfield, first base and is a left-handed pitcher.
Beckman is going to challenge Corona del Mar for supremacy in the Pacific Coast League. Both schools are loaded with top players.
But beware of the McLain brothers. They know how to hit and play baseball at a high level.
Elite Baseball has been approved for Full Compliance with Pitch Smart for the 2018 Season
After applying for a Full Compliance, Elite was notified that we are fully compliant with the MLB/USA Baseball mandated Pitch Smart guidelines to keep coaches, parents, and players informed on youth to adult throwing and pitching protocols. We strive to make sure our coaching and training methods are research driven and recommend following the Pitch Smart guidelines referring to pitch count and throwing habits. Below is some of the Pitch Smart information as well as the link to head over to their website.
You can find the links below for pitching guidelines for each age group:
USA Baseball, ABCA Partner To Help Baseball Coaches Grow
January 08, 2018 By J.J. Cooper
INDIANAPOLIS–As 2018 began, nearly 6,000 baseball coaches from around the country and around the world gathered in Indianapolis to network and learn through the variety of presentations and programs at the American Baseball Coaches Association's annual convention.
But Saturday's meetings began with an announcement that could potentially have long-lasting significant effects for many coaches who will never set foot on the ABCA convention floor.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch lead off the Saturday session talking about his coaching philosophy which centers around a need to continue to learn and grow.
“If you still coach the same way you did five years ago, someone in your league has passed you by,” Hinch told the assembled coaches.
Fittingly, Hinch also talked about USA Baseball and the ABCA’s new partnership to provide additional educational resources for coaches. With this agreement, the two organizations will work together to provide teaching tools to help coaches learn and improve their craft. The two groups will also work to set up community clinics for youth and travel team coaches around the country, which will be taught by local high school or college coaches.
The program hopes to raise the level of education and training for coaches at the grassroot levels of the game. There will be free educational resources aimed at helping everyone from a first-year recreation league coach to coaches who are moving up into coaching the high school or travel ball.
"We want kids to be multi-sport athletes, but the goal is to get players to fall in love with the sport. That's what this is all about," Hinch said.
At its most basic level, the hope is that this program will help grow the game at all levels, as it helps coaches do their jobs better while also helping kids enjoy the game more.
"Volunteer coaches are the backbone of our sport and any youth sport," USA Baseball's Chief Development Officer Rick Riccobono said. "Those volunteers are what makes everything possible."
The hope is that by helping less-experienced coaches learn better techniques on how to work with players and to make the game and practices fun, it will help keep kids playing the game, which grows and builds the sport.
Already, USA Baseball has set up free online courses at usabaseball.education/training aimed at helping coaches at all levels-the classes range from Hinch teaching catching and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts expounding on baserunning to ABCA-member coaches helping explain how to lay out an effective practice plan.
Those classes are already being used by Baseball New Zealand to teach its coaches as well. Other baseball national federations are in talks to use them in the future.
But in the U.S., an even bigger effect may eventually come from the coaching clinics USA Baseball and the ABCA are working on developing. The idea is to have the top coaches in an area, whether they are high school, college or travel ball coaches, devote a few hours of their time to run a free coaching seminar for less-experienced coaches. USA Baseball and the ABCA will provide the materials and follow-up resources to support the coaching clinics.
"We talk about this often in our national offices. Don't ever get confuse impossible with very difficult. This is difficult, but we have so many people on board," ABCA executive director Craig Keilitz said. "I think it will make a significant difference in our game. We will see vast improvements."
"We're asking coaches to give three hours of their time. This isn't about big league ballparks and Southeastern Conference stadiums. It's about 'how can we make high school fields home base for the area's baseball community?' " Riccobono said. "You don't need all those amenities to have a good developmental session."
The new partnership is yet another step in USA Baseball's growing role as the coordinating driver of amateur baseball in the U.S. In recent years, USA Baseball has announced the Pitch Smart program to establish guidelines for youth pitcher workloads. It's also worked with the National High School Federation to get pitch limits adopted virtually nationwide at the high school level. It has developed the Prospect Development Pipeline series to help provide free events where players can be scouted. And it now certifies metal bats as meeting standards it has laid out.
The ABCA is also reaching out more and more to coaches at younger levels with a new full-time youth liaison brought in to help work with those coaching younger kids.
Although neither USA Baseball or the ABCA have announced anything publicly about further steps, the logical progression of these increased education efforts would be to eventually have a certification process, something that amateur baseball in the U.S. lacks. That is notable because certification has become the norm for many other youth sports.
Basketball, soccer, football, gymnastics and swimming all have certification programs for coaches. And once they have completed their education, they are given a certification that stamps them as adequately trained.
That's a potential future step, but for now, the two organizations have announced a significant step towards trying to give coaches easy access to tools to become better coaches.
"I hope this grows into a formal education where you graduate to different levels," Hinch said. "We can get there, but the first thing you have to do is to get coaches embraced in investing in themselves. And it's about giving them a platform to do it."
Get ready for Elite Baseball's 15 Days of December Deals!
Starting December 1st, Elite will advertise a new promotion to save on training and lessons for the holiday season. Every three days we will post a new deal that players can jump on to get the best practice with professional coaches. All of the deals will be updated on our store and are the perfect gift for the ball player in your family!
Check out what deals we will be throwing out this December by looking below:
December 1st - 3rd
Save big when new players purchase a Trial Month Package at $125 and receive a FREE extra week of training!
Bullpen Tech Packages discounted down to $25/bullpen in single, 4-Pack, and 8-pack plans. This is a 1:1 lesson using Motus and Rapsodo technology to measure data to help you on the mound!
For Everyone! New players and current members who upgrade their package or purchase any training package will receive 2 hours of private lessons FREE to use on pitching, hitting, fielding, or catching.
Any purchase or upgrade made will come with a FREE apparel pack (1-3 products dependent on price and size) with gear from brands like Evoshield, Louisville Slugger, Wilson, and Demarini. Offer valid while supplies last.
Double Bundle: 2 Bullpens, 2 Group Hitting Sessions, 2 Group Pitching Sessions, 2 Group Performance Sessions...all for $195! Limit 2 per customer.
Holiday Winter Blast! Follow us on Social Media for the best 1-Day Promo of the Year. Training, apparel, gear - all together for the perfect gift!
Filia hauls in awards, gems in AFL title game
Mariners prospect shows off glove after being recognized for sportsmanship, batting title
By Perry Cohen / MLB.com | November 18th, 2017
It was a busy day for Eric Filia.
Before Filia's Peoria Javelinas defeated the Mesa Solar Sox, 8-2, in the Arizona Fall League championship game on Saturday afternoon, Seattle's No. 24 prospect was recognized for winning the league batting title and received the Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award. Then during the game, the 25-year-old outfielder flashed the leather, making two outstanding defensive plays.
Filia was one of six players (one from each team) to be nominated for the award. Glendale's Danny Mendick (White Sox), Mesa's Kelvin Gutierrez (Nationals), Salt River's Monte Harrison (Brewers), Scottsdale's Tyler Beede (Giants) and Surprise's Nicky Lopez (Royals) were also nominated.
The Stenson Sportsmanship Award was created in 2004 in memory of former AFL player Dernell Stenson, who died the previous year during the Fall League season.
The award is presented annually to the player who best exemplifies Stenson's character on and off the field: unselfishness, hard work and leadership.
"It's a true honor," Filia said. "Any single one of us could've been selected for this award. I'm very humbled and honored that I got this award."
Filia finished the Fall League as the circuit's batting champion with a .408 average, in addition to leading the league in on-base percentage (.483) and hits (31). He also finished second in triples (4) and third in slugging percentage (.605) .
Despite Filia's juggernaut of a season at the dish, it was his defense that stood out in the championship game in front of 3,255 fans.
Filia wins Sportsmanship Award
Mariners prospect Eric Filia discusses being named the 2017 Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award winner
After baseball's No. 2 overall prospect Victor Robles robbed Filia of an extra-base hit in the first inning, the right fielder responded with his own gem. His diving catch stranded two runners, eliminating Mesa's offensive threat in the second.
Filia continued to show off his defense in the top of the seventh when he hit the wall while taking away an extra-base hit from Astros top prospect Kyle Tucker.
The father of 3-month-old twins said sleep doesn't come easy, but it hasn't affected his performance or demeanor.
The former UCLA Bruin said he credits his success this season to his fiancée and all of his teammates.
"She helps me out a lot, especially with the sport," Filia said. "I have my little ones out here and it's tough with the nights I get no sleep; she's helped me a lot with getting rest.
"On the baseball side, I have to give credit to my teammates also; I couldn't have done it without them."
Filia is the first Peoria Javelina player to be named the winner of the Dernell Stenson Award since Russ Mitchell won it in 2009.
Below is the complete list of Stenson award winners:
2017 -- Eric Filia (Mariners), OF, Peoria Javelinas
2016 -- Austin Nola (Marlins), C, Mesa Solar Sox
2015 -- Yadiel Rivera (Brewers), SS, Surprise Saguaros
2014 -- Patrick Kivlehan (Mariners), 3B, Surprise Saguaros
2013 -- Garin Cecchini (Red Sox), 3B, Surprise Saguaros
2012 -- Cole Kimball (Nationals), RHP, Salt River Rafters
2011 -- Kevin Mattison (Marlins), OF, Surprise Saguaros
2010 -- Steve Lombardozzi (Nationals), IF, Scottsdale Scorpions
2009 -- Russ Mitchell (Dodgers), 1B, Peoria Javelinas
2008 -- Jason Donald (Phillies), IF, Mesa Solar Sox
2007 -- Sam Fuld (Cubs), OF, Mesa Solar Sox
2006 -- Kevin Frandsen (Giants), IF, Scottsdale Scorpions
2005 -- Andre Ethier (Athletics), OF, Phoenix Desert Dogs
2004 -- Mark Teahen (Royals), 3B, Phoenix Desert Dogs
Perry Cohen is a journalism student at Arizona State University. This story is part of a partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Elite Baseball visits UCLA
We visited UCLA a few weeks ago to gain valuable insight into how Coach Savage runs his Bruin practice and had the great experience of sitting in on five bullpens with the incoming freshman and sophomore classes. After walking through the pitcher's catch play routine we made our way into the bullpen. Before the bullpen began each pitcher went through a series of throwing drills starting with 45' 100% intent pitches followed by different momentum throws forcing an efficient lower half and quick arm. After bullpens we stood in for baserunning where the team worked going from 1st to 3rd and then went through their defensive pregame routine. A great quote by Savage on pregame, "The first punch you can give a team is how you carry yourself walking off the bus and onto the field. The second punch is how well you execute an efficient and crisp pregame." Strong throws, quick feet, and lots of communication made it look like clockwork as outfielders, infielders, and pitchers took multiple reps. It was a great experience and we appreciate the Bruin's coaching staff being so generous as to welcome us down onto the field and take a peak into their championship culture. Here is a summary of some of the notes that I compiled during catch play and bullpens that omit any "secret sauce" that is confidential to UCLA...and now Elite Pitching sessions.
UCLA Pitching Notes
Rhythm + Tempo + Pace = Timing
Master the mark. Own the distance with consistent quality throws before moving back. Conquer your command before moving in. Breathe in to come set and breathe out to stop the hands in set position. Breathe in on leg kick breathe out on release.
Ball in glove squeezed with thumb and pinky to feel front side. Head and glove are connected.
Quiet head = good placement of pitch
Miss spot - hit a neighboring state
Slow lane changes on a missed spot - not moving over 3 lanes
FB/CH command every day of throwing
10-20 pitch bullpens are known by pitcher, random pens are called by catcher
Coach only says the count, pitcher and catcher work pitch and location from there
Throwing is where you make adjustments, bullpen and game setting = COMPETE
Eyes can fix a lot of mechanical faults, quick arm speed can save them
Good front side = good platform to finish on
Know your strength and command it well
Dry reps before start of pen, eyes open and closed
“Have strength over rubber, momentum down the slope”
We want all pitches to be “Decision Pitches” - hitter or umpire must make a decision
Stay on top of CH - trust the grip, let it finish under glove
Pitchers like doing dry reps and extra J-Band work
MLB SHOULD INVEST IN COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS
2017 By Peter Gammons
BOSTON—Last year, Andrew Benintendi, Alex Bregman and Dansby Swanson all reached the majors in their first full seasons as professionals. The same was true of 2014 draft picks Michael Conforto and Kyle Schwarber, who opposed one another in the 2015 National League Championship Series.
While high school products like Mookie Betts, Manny Machado, Corey Seager and Mike Trout developed into major league superstars, the odds of finding another player like them in the draft are remote. No matter how promising this year's high school class looks—headlined by Hunter Greene, Royce Lewis, Austin Beck and MacKenzie Gore—they won't all turn out to be stars.
Agent Scott Boras has his ideas on the subject of high school players turning pro, and they're ideas scouting directors and Major League Baseball may not like. Boras has long argued that baseball would be better off and economically more efficient if teams would limit the number of high school players they signed. Let all but the elite preps go to college so that they can mature in a disciplined social setting, further their education and play games where winning actually matters, unlike the minors.
A number of organizations work diligently to find ways to create a maturation and development atmosphere for teenagers. But by the time prep players reach the age where they would have three years of college discipline and maturity, many of them have burned those years on 10-hour bus rides, flea-bag hotels, the health hazards of McBurger Kings, groupies and six packs.
Take the case of Swanson. Would he be starting at shortstop for the Braves had he signed as a 38th-round draft pick out of high school rather than going to Vanderbilt? In college he won a national championship with Tyler Beede, Carson Fulmer, Walker Buehler and Ben Bowden, all of whom are prospects who could be reaching the MLB city limits by the end of this season.
Would Benintendi have been better off signing as a 13th-rounder out of high school or getting two years at Arkansas?
Would Trea Turner be a major league star today had he signed out of high school and not attended North Carolina State?
Take North Carolina shortstop Logan Warmoth, a likely first-round pick this June. He could have been drafted and signed out of his Lake Brantley, Fla., high school had he not made it clear that he was going to UNC. As a freshman he batted just .246, but as a sophomore he batted .337 with four homers, then seemingly improved by the week in the Cape Cod League.
Warmoth earned a reputation not only as a hard worker but as a model of reliability. Right now he is considered the top college middle infielder in his draft class. Scouts compare him with J.J. Hardy in terms of his consistency and character.
To understand the decision high school players face, understand that the NCAA couldn't care less about baseball. College teams have 30 players spread over four classes, and because schools are limited to 11.7 scholarships per year, fewer players can afford to pursue college baseball.
College basketball and football provide more opportunity for players from lower-income families. Thus few college baseball teams have minority players.
Urban baseball academies have tried to tie together baseball and academics for high school players. Greene is a product of the Los Angeles MLB Academy. Brewers outfielder Corey Ray, a first-rounder from Louisville last year, is a product of Chicago's Jackie Robinson West Program. Bowden attended Boston's The BASE, which last year had more than 50 graduates playing college ball.
Doesn't it make sense in terms of business efficiency or widening the talent base for MLB to take some of the money allotted high school draftees and help pay for scholarships to lower-middle-class and at-risk high school kids who want to play baseball but cannot afford college? I have heard a number of general managers and international scouting directors say that because of the educational levels in the Dominican Republic—and soon in fractured Venezuela—MLB can broaden its talent base by finding ways to support those nations' educational systems.
What this involves is not simply continually building MLB's profits and franchise values, but investing in the sport, its people, its expansion. The players' union can and should get involved in finding ways to help their future members and attract young people better prepared for the bus rides and the frightening social development faced by Latin American teenagers in the U.S.
The capital is there. The game will be far better if the development ladders are from colleges rather than profit-based showcases.
— For more from Peter Gammons, go to GammonsDaily.com
#Alex Bregman #Andrew Benintendi #Austin Beck #Ben Bowden #Carson Fulmer #Corey Seager #Hunter Greene #Mackenzie Gore #Manny Machado #Mookie Betts #Royce Lewis #Tyler Beede #Walker Buehler
Read more at http://www.baseballamerica.com/majors/mlb-invest-college-scholarships/#z6t2AJ5TTjC6jRF7.99
Elite Bullpen Tech Package
Make the most out of your bullpen training session with our new Elite Bullpen Tech Package!
Purchasing the Bullpen Tech Package gives you the most advanced technology to track pitcher's biomechanics and throwing metrics right at your fingertips. Here's what our bullpens consist of:
Rapsodo Unit that captures velocity, location, horizontal and vertical break, spin rate, spin axis, spin efficiency, and 3-D trajectory. All information is stored and sent via email.
Motus Sleeve that captures valgus arm stress, arm speed, arm slot, external arm rotation, and pitch count. The app also suggest high-effort throw limits for the next week based on prior throwing habits, future game days, and various factors related to the player's body.
High Speed Video captured via the Motus Throwing app that can be viewed frame by frame at 1080 HD at 120fps or 720 HD at 240 fps.
Email with relevant information and suggestions based on the data collected.
All of this data can be overwhelming to consume, so we've made it easy to digest. After your bullpen an email will be sent to you breaking down the information that makes sense and how to improve your training based on the numbers. We will not explore mechanical adjustments unless the player requests feedback during the bullpen.
$30 Single Bullpen Session - Monthly Hitting, Pitching, or Performance member discount
$55 Single Session Bullpen - Open to any player that wants to throw a bullpen that trains with us or elsewhere
$175 4-Pack Bullpen Session - Four bullpens completed within two monthsof purchase date
$355 8-Pack Bullpen Session - Eight bullpens completed within three months of purchase date
Elite Bullpen Tech Package Info:
Purchase a 8-Pack, 4-Pack or Single Session package from the store. For current members choose either option or select Add-On Single Session for a discounted rate. Customers choosing the Add-On option that are not current members will be refunded or can purchase a monthly membership to lock in the discounted bullpen rate.
Go to the "Schedule Now" button on the side of the store page. Click "Elite: Bullpen" and select a time that fits your schedule. The time you schedule is when the bullpen begins, but should not be the same time that you arrive.
***IMPORTANT*** - Bullpen sessions are 20-25 minutes maximum with one of our instructors evaluating and monitoring the technology. The time that is selected on the scheduling software is when your bullpen begins. You are welcome to arrive early to warmup and get loose before your bullpen session starts. We have the latest equipment to help the body and arm get ready to throw and will offer it to any player that wants to get ready.
Players that arrive at their scheduled bullpen time without any throwing warmup will be limited to a 10 pitch bullpen due to our staff wanting to protect our client's arms and follow basic safety measures. No exceptions.
All pitchers are welcome to use our equipment for warmup and recovery during their bullpen sessions and need to stay clear of any lessons taking place within the facility.
Pitchers are welcome to bring in a pitching program and bullpen sequence to follow. If you do not have a bullpen sequence, we offer 10 pitch to 50 pitch bullpen sequences with different pitch options.
If you purchase a, 8-Pack or 4-Pack option you may schedule two sessions back to back for a longer bullpen.
The 8-Pack option must be completed within three months of purchase with the start date beginning on date of purchase. The 4-Pack option must be completed within two months of purchase with the start date beginning on date of purchase.
These days in baseball, every batter is trying to find an angle
With increasingly sophisticated data available, major league hitters are focusing on getting the ball in the air.
June 1, 2017
One day several years ago, as Chase Headley was still trying to establish himself as the San Diego Padres’ everyday third baseman, Padres management passed around a sheet of paper full of facts and figures on how its spacious ballpark, Petco Park, played for hitters. Flyballs were mostly swallowed up in the vast expanses of outfield, while groundballs and line drives played better than in the average stadium. The conclusion, as Headley recalls it, was clear: Padres hitters should keep the ball out of the air.
“I had more loft in my swing when I came up,” Headley said recently, “so I was trying to undo some of that, and I was trying to hit the ball down. It was a conscious thing: They wanted us to hit the ball hard but down.”
A few thousand big league at-bats later, Headley, now 33 and the starting third baseman for the New York Yankees, chuckles at how antiquated that sounds now — as the gospel of flyballs and high launch angles spreads across the game — and can’t help but kick himself for not resisting the Padres’ efforts to turn him into a groundball machine.
“I look back, and I’m like, ‘What was I thinking?’ ” he said. “I’ve had to try to get it back the other way now.”
In that period between the Padres’ hit-it-low memo and the first part of the 2017 season has been a shift in philosophy so dramatic it can safely be called a revolution, with more hitters, armed with better and more extensive data than ever, reaching the conclusion that not only are flyballs, on average, better than grounders but that the latter are to be avoided at all costs.
“No grounders,” Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson, the 2015 American League MVP and one of the movement’s most vocal proponents, said earlier this year. “Groundballs are outs. If you see me hit a groundball, even if it’s a hit, I can tell you: It was an accident.”
How launch angles affect a hit
Hit probabilityMore likely to result in a hit
4080120 mphHit speed-70°-35°0°35°70°LaunchangleFly-ballsGround-balls
More batters are focusing not only on hitting the ball hard, but hitting the ball high into the air. The average launch angle — the angle at which the ball flies after being hit — rose from 10.5 degrees in 2015 to 11.5 degrees in 2016.
Balls hit with a high launch angle are more likely to result in a hit. Hit fast enough and at the right angle, they become home runs, like these 5,527 homers tracked directly by Statcast in 2016.
57 percent of these balls were in the “sweet spot”: hit between 25 and 35 degrees, and leaving the bat at more than 95 miles per hour.
Looking at the angle and speed combinations of 113,680 balls tracked by Statcast that resulted in a hit or an out in the 2016 regular season, the light-colored areas are more likely to result in an out, while balls hit in the darker areas are more likely to wind up a hit.
Many fly just over the heads of the infielders in what’s called a “bloop,” or fly over the fence for a home run. In the middle are flyouts: not fast enough to make it over the fence, typically caught by outfielders for an out.
Batters are adjusting their swings to hit the ball higher. Washington Nationals slugger Daniel Murphy's average launch angle rose from 11.1 degrees in 2015 to 16.6 degrees in 2016.
As a result, his batting average rose from .281in 2015 to .347 in 2016. He also hit eleven more home runs than he did in 2015.
Murphy’s teammate, Anthony Rendon, made a similar change, with an average launch angle that rose from 10.6 degrees in 2015 to 16.8 degrees in 2016, while his slugging percentage — the number of total bases divided by number of at-bats — rose from .363 to .450.
This year, Rendon’s slugging percentage is a career-high .508 as his launch angle has risen to 18.8 degrees. He already has nine home runs and 32 RBI.
This approach has helped batters hit more home runs this year, with 1,886 hit this season, easily passing last year's total of 1,705 at this date. At this rate, batters would set a record for home runs by the end of the season.
Note: Launch angles, hit speed and hit probability are from Statcast from Baseball Savant. The numbers in this graphic reflect only balls directly tracked by Statcast and do not include balls with projected hit speeds or launch angles. Player batting statistics are from baseball-reference.com. Numbers for 2017 are as of May 31.
Another proponent, Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, put it another way: “You can’t slug by hitting balls on the ground. You have to get the ball in the air if you want to slug, and guys who slug stick around, and guys who don’t, don’t.”
There is a simple and airtight logic behind the claim: Slugging, for the most part, happens in the air. In 2016, for example, big league hitters batted .239 with a .258 slugging percentage on groundballs vs. .241 and .715, respectively, on flyballs — with much of the difference, obviously, attributable to home runs: Grounders produced zero, while flyballs produced 5,422.
“If you look at a baseball field and look on the infield, there’s a lot of players there,” Donaldson said, providing an even more elemental logic. “There’s not as much grass. But you look in the outfield, there’s fewer players and more grass. So if you hit it in the air, even if it’s not that hard, you have a chance. There are some outfielders who make it more difficult. But someone who has never seen baseball before would be like, ‘Oh, yeah. You’d probably want to hit it out there.’”
‘A transition lane’
The introduction in 2015 of Statcast — MLB’s camera-based analytics system, which can measure player movements and ball flights in intricate detail — has confirmed and perhaps accelerated the flyball trend in baseball by introducing “launch angle,” a measurement of a ball’s vertical trajectory, into the mainstream. While a launch angle of zero is essentially a line drive at the pitcher’s knees, a negative figure is a grounder and 90 degrees is a popup straight above home plate.
Analysts have been able to pinpoint the range of 25-35 degrees as the sweet spot for home runs, when paired with an exit velocity — a measure of the speed of the ball off the bat — of 95 mph or greater. The exit velocity is crucial: At lower velocities, those flyballs are simply outs.
“People see launch angle and think guys are just trying to hit it higher,” Orioles slugger Mark Trumbo said. “That is a part of it. But you also have to hit it hard.”
And while data is available for just the past three seasons, there is already evidence that players are catching on. In 2015 the average launch angle in MLB was 10.5 degrees, but in 2016 the league-wide average rose to 11.5, an increase of about 10 percent. This year, through May 21, the league average is up to 12.8 degrees, another year-to-year increase of almost 12 percent. Clearly, the notion is gaining traction.
“It’s a transition lane in which the game is going,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said this spring. “You’ve seen some very good hitters have very good success with it. More conversations are being had about it. We’re definitely having conversations.”
The increasing prevalence and success of flyball-focused hitters is a massively important development in the modern game because it can help explain — or at least illuminate — many of the major trends and issues confronting the sport.
●The increase in frequency and efficiency of defensive shifts. According to FanGraphs, teams are shifting at a rate nearly 10 times greater than six years ago (2,974 total at-bats against shifts in 2011 vs. 33,343 in 2016). Many hitters cite this as a primary reason they have chosen to take to the air. “Teams have more information about where to play their infielders,” Headley said. “But the one ball that can’t be caught is the one that lands in the seats.” Some baseball executives say the next logical step to combat the flyball revolution will be occasional four-man outfields.
●The overall increase in home runs. Hitters bashed 5,610 home runs in 2016, an increase of more than 14 percent from the year before and the most since 2000. That year turned out to be during the height of widespread performance-enhancing drug use in baseball. Maybe this new era of home-run hitting can be explained, at least partly, by more hitters simply concentrating on elevating the ball with power.
●Even the issue of pace of game is tied into the flyball revolution. It’s no secret games are longer and more bloated by inaction — one of Commissioner Rob Manfred’s pet causes — in part because hitters swinging for the fences are willing to trade strikeouts for home runs and thus are willing to go deeper into counts. Meanwhile, pitchers are taking longer between pitches, which some in the game attribute to the fact mistake pitches are being turned into home runs at a higher clip than ever.
Home runs on the rise again
The number of home runs in 2016 almost matched the 2000 peak set during
the steroid era. Experts say this is because batters are trying to hit the ball
higher more often
“You can see pitchers taking more time to gather themselves before every pitch,” Nationals catcher Matt Wieters said. “There used to be a couple of hitters in each lineup where you needed to do that. Now it’s everybody.”
It’s not as if anybody has suddenly cracked a secret code about the optimum swing plane. Hall of Famer Ted Williams — in his seminal book, “The Science of Hitting,” published in 1971 when he was managing the Washington Senators — advocated swinging with a slight uppercut, a notion that went against the prevailing wisdom of the day.
“The ‘level swing’ has always been advocated,” Williams wrote. “I used to believe it, and I used to say the same thing. But the ideal swing is not level, and it’s not down.” Grounders, Williams acknowledged, put a “greater burden on the fielders.” But he added, “If you get the ball into the air with power, you have the gift to produce the most important hit in baseball — the home run.”
What is most important, Williams concluded, is that you hit consistently with authority. But Williams’s measured theory is a long way from the more radical approach of today, with some hitters swearing off grounders altogether.
Where did the modern gospel of the flyball originate? The Oakland A’s of the early 2010s are credited with identifying and exploiting a market inefficiency of undervalued flyball hitters, hoarding relatively cheap players with extreme flyball rates — such as Jonny Gomes, Josh Reddick and Jed Lowrie — and leading the majors in both 2012 and 2013 in flyball-groundball ratio, while winning the American League West both years.
But in terms of hitters purposely revamping their swings to become extreme flyball hitters, this modern trend is often traced to Marlon Byrd, the outfielder serving a 162-game suspension after a second positive test for performance-enhancing drugs. In 2012, Byrd averaged two grounders for every flyball, a rate that was in line with his career numbers to that point. But in 2013, after working with an obscure, independent swing instructor named Doug Latta who runs a baseball training facility in Chatsworth, Calif., Byrd cut that rate in half and produced the best season of his career.
“Our first session was a tipping point for his career,” Latta said. “Basically, the whole idea of an uppercut was antithetical to what he’d been taught for his first 10 years in the majors. But right away, his first couple of swings, which he took using a little bit different movement, changed him, right there. And he was in. I could see the expression on his face. He told me, ‘Doug, I could never tell another hitting coach or player that I’m trying to hit under the ball.’ ”
But in 2013, while with the New York Mets, Byrd convinced another struggling hitter, teammate Turner, to work with Latta. Before that, Turner was a fringe big leaguer with a lifetime slash line (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) of .260/.323/.361. Since joining the flyball revolution, he has hit .299/.367/.492 and was rewarded this offseason with a four-year, $64 million contract.
“He started drilling it into me,” Turner said of Byrd’s influence. “I started hitting with [Latta] in the [following] offseason, and then I just started running with it. . . . There’s no switch to turn on. There’s no trick. It’s just a lot of hard work, trying to get a better launch angle.”
Daniel Murphy, in his first season with the Nationals last year, hit almost 42 percent of the balls he put in play into the air, up from 36 percent in his final season with the Mets. His home runs shot up from 14 to 25, and his RBI from 56 to 104. (Photos by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)
Secret to success
Look around the majors now, at players who make significant year-over-year leaps in performance, and there is a good chance at least part of the improvement is a result of hitting the ball in the air with more frequency and authority.
In fact, all you have to do is look at the Washington Nationals.
In 2015, Daniel Murphy, in his final season with the Mets, had a groundball rate of 42.8 percent (of balls in play) and a flyball rate of 36.0 percent, and he batted .281/.322/.449 with 14 homers and 56 RBI. The next year, his first in Washington, he essentially flip-flopped his groundball-flyball ratio — to 36.3 and 41.9, respectively — and batted .347/.390/.595 with 25 homers and 104 RBI, while finishing runner-up in MVP voting. The change he made is illuminated by his average launch angle — 11.1 degrees in 2015, 16.6 degrees in 2016.
“It’s cool,” Murphy said this spring, “because with all the data we’ve been given now, [we have] some of the answers to the test.”
Teammate Anthony Rendon had a similar reinvention (from 45.3 percent grounders and 33.3 flyballs in 2015 to 35.7 and 43.8 in 2016) and had a similar boost in production, gaining 91 points of on-base-plus-slugging percentage. Not surprisingly, his launch angle went from 10.6 degrees in 2015 to 16.8 in 2016.
This year, it is Ryan Zimmerman who — at Murphy’s prodding — has converted to the gospel of the flyball, going from an extreme groundball hitter (48.6 percent vs. 34.6 percent flyballs) in 2016, when he suffered through the worst year of his career at the plate, to a balanced 38.1/38.1 in 2017. Perhaps not surprisingly, he is off to a sizzling start, hitting .368 /.409/.709 , with 15 homers in his first 50 games. His launch angle has gone from 7.8 degrees in 2016 to 11.2 this season, through May 25.
At least publicly, though, Zimmerman remains skeptical of advanced analytics such as launch angle, sounding more like Williams than Donaldson.
“For me, if I start to try to control those things, I start trying to do too much and think too much,” Zimmerman said. “It’s always been tough enough to just hit the ball hard. If you can do that, good things happen.”
Zimmerman scoffed at the notion that improvement is as easy as hitting the bottom half of the ball. “Good luck trying to hit the bottom of the ball when everyone’s throwing 95 or 100” mph, he said. “I think it’s more of a mind-set.”
But there is a growing bank of evidence that the approach is catching on and that it works. Eight of the 10 playoff teams in 2016 ranked in the top half of the majors in flyball percentage. The gospel has spread so far, even the Padres have embraced it — though in fairness, they have turned over their front office and moved in the fences at Petco Park since the days of the keep-it-on-ground memo.
“I’m doing a lot to not hit groundballs this year,” Padres first baseman Wil Myers told the San Diego Union-Tribune this spring. “When I [hit] off the tee, I do not hit anything that does not hit the top of the [batting] cage. Stay away from the groundball.”
Even the most ardent flyball evangelists acknowledge the approach has its limitations and caveats. It isn’t for every hitter. There may also be another reaction coming, in the form of hard-throwing sinkerball pitchers, who can better counteract hitters trying to drive the ball in the air. For now, at least, teams are finding it easier to acquire flyball hitters than to convert them during the season; most players only make major swing changes in the offseason.
“It’s difficult to tell a guy to change something based on a launch angle. It’s more about getting them to understand the best swing path for them individually,” Orioles hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh said. “You never want to impose a higher launch angle on someone who’s not a power guy. A smaller guy, a speed guy, someone who’s not a power hitter — you could be asking a guy to be doing something that works against them.”
But it seems likely the gospel of the flyball will continue to grow as more struggling hitters resurrect their careers and more good hitters become great by embracing launch angles.
“It’s a career-changer,” Latta said. “The genie’s out of the bottle. Now, at the big league level, the key will be: ‘Do we really know how to instruct this?’ It’s not going away.”
If Williams was the oracle for older generations of hitters, perhaps Donaldson will be the same for this and future ones — a role he would relish. During an illuminating segment on his swing theory on MLB Network last year, Donaldson stopped at a crucial juncture and looked straight into the camera to address any kids who might have been watching.
“If you’re 10 years old and your coach says to get on top of the ball,” Donaldson said, “tell them no. Because in the big leagues these things that they call groundballs are outs. They don’t pay you for groundballs. They pay you for doubles. They pay you for homers.”
Chelsea Janes contributed to this report.
Hedges evolving as Major League hitter
By AJ Cassavell / MLB.com | @AJCassavell | August 23rd, 2017
ST. LOUIS -- In his first season as a starting catcher, Austin Hedges has thrived defensively. Given his skill set, perhaps that was to be expected.
But it's also his first full season facing Major League pitching. And his results at the plate have been mixed.
"He's an asset to the team right now, almost regardless of what he does in the batter's box," said Padres manager Andy Green. "But you can still expect him to contribute in the batter's box ... and contribute more as the years go by. He's already a very good Major League player that's going to play himself into the upper echelon before all is said and done."
In some respects, Hedges, who turned 25 last week, already is exceeding expectations as a hitter. He's mashed 16 homers and was slugging .419 entering play Wednesday night.
Still, he's batting just .219, while reaching base at a .256 clip. Given his youth and defensive prowess, those numbers are easy to dismiss. But Hedges acknowledges his room for growth.
"It's a grind," Hedges said. "This season has been a good learning experience with me to understand the kind of hitter I am, so I can get some consistency going forward."
As for the power, Hedges adds, "I expect more to come." He never recorded more than 10 home runs in a professional season until last year with Triple-A El Paso. Now he could be poised for back-to-back 20-homer seasons, albeit at different levels.
With his three-run shot in the seventh inning Tuesday, Hedges pulled within six of Mike Piazza for the Padres' single-season home run record by a catcher. Piazza launched 22 in 2006.
"I'd love to keep hitting more," Hedges said. "But really, I'd love to just drive the ball more consistently the rest of the year. If they go out, they go out. But if they turn into some doubles, too, I'm pleased with that."
Hedges believes he's struck a perfect balance between his prep work on both sides of the ball. Upon his arrival to the ballpark, he dives straight into video and gameplanning for the Padres' starter. Once that's settled, he'll take swings in the cage. Then, shortly before gametime, he watches video of the opposing pitcher.
"It's definitely a lot more work [in the Majors]," Hedges said. "But by this point, it's become a comfortable routine for me. I know what I have to do to prepare my pitchers when I come to the field. And then I know what I have to do prepare my body to hit."
Despite the low average, Hedges has posted some impressive splits in high-leverage situations this season (as defined by baseball-reference). That fact hasn't been lost on his skipper.
High leverage: .299/.329/.582
Low/medium leverage: .197/.235/.372
"There's a ton of big hits in his back pocket that he's gotten for this team, time and time and time again," Green said. "For a guy that's struggled at times offensively, you look up, and there he is in the middle of another big rally, getting a big hit.
"Plate discipline is a big challenge for him going forward, seeing sliders, seeing spin, staying in the strike zone. If he takes those strides, he's going to turn himself into one of the elite players in the game. ... He's going to keep getting better, and from a home run perspective, it's easy to see 20 to 25 within that bat."
Elite 'Glue Guys' 101
JUL 19 2017
RETIRED / MLB
In 2008, after we had lost to the Rays in the ALCS, I was in the Red Sox clubhouse cleaning out my locker when Theo Epstein walked in and asked to speak with me. We ducked into Terry Francona’s office, which had already been cleaned out, for what amounted to an exit interview.
It had been a crazy two months for me. I had been released for the first time, by the Reds, and at that point, I thought my career might be over. But then Boston picked me up, and, after a deep playoff run, I was about to be a free agent.
Theo and I sat down, and he shot me straight: The Red Sox weren’t going to re-sign me. He said that he loved having me in Boston and that he’d be in touch, and he thanked me for everything I had done in my short time with the team.
Then, he dropped a bombshell on me.
He wanted me to know that I had a … reputation. I’m trying to remember his exact words, but basically, he said that I was known as a guy who didn’t understand or didn’t want to accept his role — a role that was basically that of a backup or role player.
That I was selfish.
A bad teammate.
That hit me hard because that’s not the kind of player I thought I was or wanted to be. That’s not the kind of player anybody wants to be. That’s the worst kind of player.
Theo reiterated that these weren’t things he had seen in me, only what he’d heard through the grapevine. And knowing that I was about to be a free agent, he wanted me to know. I appreciated his honesty.
“Reputations die hard,” he said.
Honestly, I’ve never been asked to write anything in my life, so this should be interesting. But when The Players’ Tribune asked me to write a little something highlighting the “glue guys” around Major League Baseball, the first thing I wanted to do was make sure you know that the guys I’m going to discuss aren’t the only glue guys around the league. That I’m not this all-knowing, all-powerful expert on the subject. I’m just a guy who — especially toward the end of his career — became one of those guys in the clubhouse. These are just the guys who stand out to me because I’ve either played with them or I’ve watched them from afar, and what they’ve done has resonated with me.
So … what’s a glue guy?
Well, it’s not the David Ross that Theo said he’d heard about back in 2008. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s a guy who’s unselfish and who’s a goodteammate — the kind of guy I like to think I developed into. A guy who communicates well and who’s honest with his teammates and himself. Somebody the other guys can count on to offer advice or encouragement. He keeps everybody loose, but at the same time, focused.
Basically, it’s a guy who — in baseball clubhouses that often have age gaps, varying talent levels and even language barriers — just sort of keeps everything together.
You know, like glue.
I never set out to be a glue guy. But after that conversation with Theo, I wanted to make sure that nobody ever used the terms selfish or bad teammate in the same breath as my name again. So I started taking notice of other guys and how they positively impacted the clubhouse, and I learned a little bit from each of them along the way. These are some of the guys who really stuck out.
Most guys get to the clubhouse around 2 p.m. for a night game. But by that time, Dustin is already there … in full uniform, wearing his spikes, with eye black on, ready for batting practice. He’s been there since 11 a.m. watching film. Maybe by himself, maybe with a couple of other guys, trying to help them out.
His sole focus is winning, and he does everything he can to help his team win.
Here’s a story about Dustin that kinda sums him up: We were playing the Tigers in Boston in 2013. It was the bottom of the sixth and we had just scored five runs to take a 10–4 lead. We were blowing it open.
Then Dustin got called out on a borderline third strike, and he let the umpire have it. He came into the dugout ranting and raving, like, “That wasn’t a strike! They need to stay professional and not let the score dictate!”
I wanted to tell him to calm down, but that’s just who he is. Most guys would have been O.K. with giving an at bat away in that situation — where we pretty much had the game in hand, or at least we were in control.
But not Dustin.
He was so pissed that the umpire took the bat out of his hands.
That stuck with me. Dustin never gives an at bat away. He’s 100% focused on everything he does on the baseball field, regardless of the score or situation. It’s the only way he knows how to play. That’s a winner’s mentality, and seeing that firsthand showed me the focus it takes to win every day. And when you see a guy who plays that hard and cares that much every pitch, every day … that’s a guy you want to take the field with.
Adrian Beltre put me in a headlock once and almost squeezed my neck off.
It was my rookie year with the Dodgers, and I was sitting in a chair in front of my locker. Some of the guys were having a conversation around me, and I chimed in with a comment. I don’t remember what they were talking about or what I said — it was so long ago and I’ve been hit in the head too many times — but I popped off about something, and Belly was like, “Oh yeah, Rossy? You getting a little comfy over there, eh?”
I just kind of laughed, you know? Everybody was joking around, and so was I.
But I was the rookie.
And what I learned right then was … stay in your lane, rookie.
So I’m still laughing, and Belly comes over to me, puts his python of an arm around my neck, lifts me off my chair and gets me in a sleeper hold. I couldn’t move. I was paralyzed. I had nowhere to go. Everybody else was still laughing and joking — including Belly — but I was like, Oh shit … what have I done?
He finally lets me out of the choke hold, and everybody is still laughing … except me, because at this point, I don’t know if I’m allowed.
It wasn’t malicious or anything, and he obviously wasn’t trying to hurt me — though I’m pretty sure he could have if he wanted to. He just wanted to send a message: Don’t mistake kindness for weakness. Like, Hey, I’ll be nice to you. But you’re gonna respect me.
I think Belly is the prime example of that.
I remember in L.A. when he was playing third and Cesar Izturis was at short. When there was a pop-up in the infield, if Izturis settled underneath it, Belly would get right behind him — almost underneath him — joking around like he didn’t trust Izturis to make the play, even though it was a gimme. You see Elvis Andrus do it to him in Texas now, and it’s always funny.
And that’s on the field, during a game, with a live ball in play … and they’re joking around.
But they always take care of their business.
With that sleeper hold, Belly taught me that you can be a good clubhouse guy without letting people walk all over you or disrespect you. You can be a nice guy and have fun, but at the same time, take your craft seriously and compete when it’s time to compete.
It’s a lesson that has always stuck with me.
You have your Dustin Pedroias and your Adrian Beltres … then you have a guy like Dexter Fowler, who just brings a different kind of energy to a clubhouse. He plays hard and prepares well, but with Dexter, it’s really just his presence that lifts a team up. He’s never dragging. And if you’re dragging, he has energy to spare. His smile is infectious, and every day it feels like he’s just happy that he gets to play baseball — and he’s like that for 162 games.
When he was leading off for us in Chicago, he set the tone every day that we were going to play hard and have a good time doing it. He always gave us that spark. Even when he walked into the clubhouse, he’s saying hey to guys, yelling nicknames across the room, saying good morning or good afternoon to everybody he passes. He’s always engaged.
He’s always in on what’s going on with the rest of the guys away from the field, too. That was one of Joe Maddon’s big things: Like, if we’re dressing up, we’re all dressing up. Dexter was always right there. Team dinner? He’s in. And he’s bringing that energy with him. He brings a consistent, positive attitude to everything he does.
It’s easy to forget sometimes that baseball is supposed to be fun and that we’re all fortunate to get to play a game for a living.
It’s hard to forget that when you play every day with a guy like Dexter.
I have to admit … Yadi is my secret catcher crush. He’s the perfect example you want set day in and day out for your team.
First, he’s always looking to help his pitcher — always looking to get an out. Like the pick-off throw behind the runner he used to do. He doesn’t do it as much anymore, but I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen him nail a guy at first who got too big of a lead. He’ll throw to any base, any time, if he thinks he has a shot at stealing an out.
And his work ethic is incredible. I’ve heard stories about him in spring training out there with the minor leaguers at 6 a.m. blocking balls. This is a guy who’s an established All-Star — a Gold Glover — yet he’s up early, right in the mix with the young guys, doing basic drills. Because he wants the young guys to know, Hey, I’m on the same level as you. We’re all trying to get better. That’s why we’re here.
He’s also out there because he just loves the game. I mean, this is a guy who plays every day, even day games, in St. Louis, in the heat of the summer.
A day game after a night game is usually a good opportunity to give a couple of guys a day off, and as a backup in Atlanta, I used to play day games to give Brian McCann a break. So we’re in St. Louis, and I see Yadi is in the lineup. So I walk over to him and say, “Hey man, what are you doing? It’s a day game. You’re supposed to take the day off.”
And he’s like, “Noooo, Papi, I gotta be in here. I love it, I love it, I love it!”
That’s it. He just loves the game. He loves competing. He loves winning.
And he’s always communicating — with his pitcher, with the manager, with the guys out in the field. Everything runs through him.
When it comes to catchers in this game — and I guess glue guys, too — he’s about as good as it gets.
I first noticed Justin a few years ago when he was with the Mets, when he was coming off the bench, pinch hitting, and always having great at bats — tough at bats, too, coming in late to face closers. Those are the toughest. You’re coming off the bench to face a guy who’s fresh and throwing 100 mph in a tight game where your at bat could be the difference between winning and losing. I learned a lot about the kind of player he is by watching those at bats.
I learned about the kind of guy he is when he went to Los Angeles.
He’s another guy who just has that presence — that energy factor. He looks like he’s always having the most fun on the field every time he plays. Plus he’s got that little Cali-style thing going on, with the long hair and beard, like, Hey, I’m here to have a good time. I like his vibe.
Just watch a Dodgers game. Any game. You’ll see him in the dugout and he’s in the middle of everything. He’s taking selfies with Adrian Gonzalez or doing a secret handshake with one of the young guys. He’s talking to everybody down the line, from Dave Roberts to the bat boy. They’re in the middle of a game that everybody takes seriously because … you know, it’s their job … and Justin pops up and starts talking to somebody, and you always see them laugh or smile as he walks away and bounces off to the next group of guys. He has that kind of impact on everybody in the dugout.
I mean, if your teammates step up and call out fans for not voting you into the All-Star game, like Justin’s did this season, you’re probably a glue guy. That right there not only shows me that he takes the game seriously, but it also shows me the kind of respect he commands in the clubhouse, and that his teammates just love him.
He’s the guy that makes the Dodgers’ engine run.
You can’t talk about guys having fun without talking about Hunter Pence, but it’s his focus, work ethic and passion that makes him one of the game’s truly unique guys.
I had some interactions with him in the batter’s box, and he’s not chatty or laid back like you might think. He’s ultra-focused. He’ll look back at me like, “Hey, how you doin’?” And that’s it. He locks in. And he seems to bring that work ethic and intensity to everything he does.
I’ve seen him out on the field before a game doing lunge-squats with 80-pound dumbbells — I’m talking at like four o’clock before a night game. And I’m watching him like, What the heck is this animal doing?
It feels like he’d be the guy that would run a marathon and either leave everybody in the dust, or he’d run until he passed out. He runs hard down the baselines and around the bases. In the outfield, I feel like he’s throwing as hard as he can every time he throws it. He swings for the fences and he never gives away an at bat. It always feels like his internal engine is running higher than anyone else’s on the field. I just love the way he plays the game.
You’ve probably heard stories about his speeches — whether it’s in the locker room before Game 7 of the World Series or in the dugout before a day game in the middle of June. But then when you see his interactions with the fans, like him leading the Yes! chant they do in San Francisco, it’s clear that he’s just one of those guys that everybody seems to rally around. Some guys just have that. You can’t teach it.
I wish I would have had the opportunity to play with Carlos Beltran. I always respected the way he played, and I hated when we were playing against him and he came up to bat in a big situation.
But I’ve also heard stories about him taking the younger guys under his wing — especially the Latino players. I don’t know Beltran personally, but from talking to Brian McCann and others who have played with him, he appears to be just one of the best guys to be around.
You know how sometimes you hear a guy described as a “student of the game?” Well, Beltran is a teacher of the game. He’s a veteran the young guys always know they can approach to talk about hitting — strategy, what a good at bat looks like, finding an edge against an opposing pitcher … anything.
I think he’s the perfect fit for this young, talented Astros team. When you get a winning player with his experience willing to share his time and knowledge with a core of young, talented players, that can only be a positive, and I think it will take the Astros a long way this season. I also think he’ll leave a mark on those young guys that will last long after he’s left the game.
To to be a glue guy, you have to be a good person first. There’s no way around it. And Brian McCann is genuinely one of the best human beings I’ve ever met.
After I left the Red Sox in 2008, I signed with the Braves to back up McCann, and I could see right away how he carried himself and the way he lifted everybody up around him. Whether he was dealing with the pitching staff or talking with me about game-calling, he would always put a positive spin on the conversation when you least expected it.
He could do that because he paid attention.
That’s the biggest key to being unselfish: You have to be aware of what’s happening with everybody around you — how they perform and how to get the most out of them. It seemed like Brian was always there to tell me, “Hey man, great swing,” or, “Bro, you’re one of the best at the exchange. I’ve never seen a guy as quick as you.”
And it always seemed to come right when I needed to hear it most.
It’s kind of a sixth sense, knowing what a guy needs to hear and when, and Brian had it.
When he had the day off and I was catching, he was the first one to high-five me at the top of the steps when I came off the field. Every time. You’d think the guy would take his day off and just hang back. But no … he was there, watching my at bats, noticing when I threw guys out and how I called the game. He was always there to lift me up.
All the guys on this list are the kinds of guys you want and need to have in a clubhouse. But out of everybody I’ve ever seen or played with, I don’t think anybody has ever had as big an impact on the kind of teammate and person I became as Brian McCann.
DAVID ROSS / CONTRIBUTOR