Congratulations to former EBS and Saddleback College player, Jordan Scheftz on being selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 28th round.
EBS Information for 2019
The 12th Annual Elite Baseball Series dates have been announced for 2019. The 2019 EBS will feature five sessions over the three day event.
UCLA's Jackie Robinson Stadium will host sessions 1&2 on Sunday 8/4
UC Irvine's Anteater Ballpark will host sessions 3&4 on Sunday 8/11 and the final session on Wednesday 8/14
The EBS will showcase an invite only group of the top Uncommitted 2020, 2021 & 2022 graduates. A detailed roster & itinerary will be released prior to the EBS.
Please RSVP via email or text Joe DeMarco 949.230.4903 if you know that you will be attending any of the EBS events.
2019 dates and times are as follows:
8/4 UCLA Session 1
BP Start Time 11:05AM
Game Start Time 12:35PM
8/4 UCLA Session 2
BP Start Time 3:35PM
Game Start Time 5:05PM
8/11 UCI Session 3
BP Start Time 11:05AM
Game Start Time 12:35PM
8/11 UCI Session 4
BP Start Time 3:35PM
Game Start Time 5:05PM
8/14 UCI Session 5
BP Start Time 3:35PM
Game Start Time 6:05PM
EBS Participants from 2008 to 2019 (Through June 2019)
1040 Elite Baseball Series alumni
22 players selected in 2019 MLB Draft
27 players selected in 2018 MLB Draft
29 players selected in 2017 MLB Draft
255 total players selected in the MLB Draft overall 2010-19
25% of EBS Alumni have been drafted
889 players committed to Division I, Division II, Division III, NAIA and JC
86% of EBS Alumni Play in College
Matt Chapman’s rise to stardom has been built on a two-step plan
By Eno Sarris Jun 11, 2019 13
Matt Chapman wasn’t supposed to be this good. He was supposed to be a great glove with a good enough bat. Even after he started turning raw power into game power in the minor leagues with a new swing he’d developed, there was always the question about his ability to make contact. He made the big leagues and showed that power and defense, and struck out nearly 30 percent of the time.
That was fine, and it was good, but it took two additional tweaks to push him from flawed but useful into perennial All-Star status. Both steps were designed to help him make powerful contact more frequently.
“Plus arm, plus power, plus makeup, plus defense — you knew you were getting a solid player,” Kansas City Royals scouting director Lonnie Goldberg told Ken Rosenthal last year about Chapman. “The only negative we had was the swing-and-miss. That was the knock, the hickey he had.”
For Chapman, his first step away from that profile and towards today’s star version — the version that pairs above-average contact with great power — came from former teammate Jed Lowrie, who always preached controlling the zone.
“The more of the plate you can cover, the more confident you can be at the plate, you’re not going to get beat on any particular zone, and you don’t have to sit on any particular zone,” Lowrie said of his approach, which pairs aggression in the zone with a reach rate that is decidedly better than average.
“When I was having the most success last season, towards the middle of the year, I was amongst the top in swinging at balls in the strike zone,” Chapman told me in 2018. “I put two and two together, after picking Jed’s brain, and talking to our older hitters — controlling the strike zone is half the battle. You can put all the right swings on it, but if it’s not the right pitch. Hit the right pitch, it’ll take care of itself. You’re not supposed to hit a home run on that pitch at the knees.”
Swing more at strikes, swing less at balls. Simple enough, but Chapman has taken that advice to heart and improved in both directions over the course of his career. Take a look at his reach rate (O-Swing%) and zone swing rate (Z-Swing%) over time and you see how he’s worked at it, and put more distance between the two lines over time.
Two thoughts might come to mind when you see this chart. One is that improvement is steady and almost requires steps backward to continue. So, yeah, recently, he’s been reaching more than he’d like.
“I know I really cut down on the strikeouts at the beginning of this year, and then I kinda went through a little burst,” Chapman told me last week. “Those things come in waves, but I’ve been better about knowing myself and being able to make the those tiny adjustments to stay consistent.”
Another thing that stands out, though, is that Chapman has just taken another step forward in terms of contact and strikeout rate, and he’s done so without as large a step forward in these facets of his discipline. In other words, his reach and zone swing rates this season are largely similar to where they were in 2018, and yet he’s improved his strikeout rate again and joined a short list of the best two-year improvements in strikeout rate since 2000.
As you can see from the list, reaching less is a decent way to improve your strikeout rate, but it’s not the only way. And so Chapman took a long look at his setup and what he could do to be both short and strong.
“I had to find a comfortable spot for my hands that’s consistent, and that way my path to the baseball is consistent,” Chapman said of the next big adjustment that has helped him make more powerful contact. “Sometimes my hands get a little close to my head or far back, so I wanted to have a good spot off my shoulder where I feel strong and powerful, but still short to the ball. I tap and get a feel for where it is.
“I stay right there in the middle of feeling short and also feeling strong. When I feel strong, I trust my swing, and when I feel short, I feel confident I can get to it, and I don’t have to rush to go get stuff.”
This was his more chaotic setup in early 2018.
It led to a homer, so it wasn’t all bad.
But now Chapman walks to the plate with a simpler plan for setting up.
Same result that day.
But the point is the new setup allows for more consistency.
“The mechanical adjustments I made last year really paid off in the second half, I really cut my strikeouts and became more productive and consistent,” Chapman said, “and continuing to do that while understanding the strike zone better and better and seeing more pitchers.”
Some of the growth is natural, since players swing less often as they age, but most of it is due to the player’s hard work and two key adjustments. While the scout that drafted him agreed that the profile had some holes, he couldn’t help but also point out the main reason Chapman could escape the early flaws.
“I loved him,” said Eric Martins, the A’s current Triple-A hitting coach who was Chapman’s signing scout in 2014, told Rosenthal. “I loved the makeup. I loved his intangibles. I loved his defense. There were some things we needed to work with as far as his swing.”
A strong arm and great defense got Matt Chapman in the door. The work ethic helped him take two huge steps towards the well-rounded star he is today.
Padres on Hedges: 'He's second to none'
By AJ Cassavell @AJCassavell
NEW YORK -- If you watch the Padres regularly, you’ve seen some version of this before: In the first inning of Tuesday night's 5-4 win, Eric Lauer spotted his curveball two inches off the outside corner. Ever so gently, the catcher’s mitt drifted toward the plate. Yankees slugger Gary Sanchez stood confounded as he was rung up. The culprit was already halfway to the visiting dugout.
Nobody does it better. Nobody steals strikes quite like Austin Hedges.
Though Hedges is off to a slow start offensively this season, defensively, he's been arguably one of the most valuable players in baseball. He is up to 12 defensive runs saved, easily the best mark for catchers, and third among all defenders.
His framing numbers are off the charts. Per Baseball Prospectus, his 9.7 framing runs above average are tops in the Majors. Per Statcast, his seven runs saved by extra strikes are also first. He is changing the game with every pitch.
"The sexy ones are the called strike threes," Hedges said. "But it's more about switching counts. It's that 0-0 pitch or that 1-1 pitch. ... The more often we can flip a count to 0-1 or 1-2, it directly results in outs."
Hedges' presentation has been so flawless, he's fooling his own pitchers.
"He makes it look so good to me that I'll get upset on the mound, or I'll say something because I think it was a strike," said starter Matt Strahm. "Then he'll come in the dugout, and he'll be like, 'Strahmy, that was [outside].' And I think, 'Damn, bro, you made that look really good.'"
Hedges' defensive repertoire is hardly limited to his framing abilities. His arm qualifies as elite, and his 1.93 average pop time is third in the Majors. He's brilliant on pitches in the dirt, and to a man, the Padres' pitching staff raves about his game-calling and preparation.
"You know he's working for you back there," Lauer said. "You see him back there working his [butt] off, making sure you get every strike possible."
"He's second to none, what he can do behind the plate," said closer Kirby Yates. "Calling the game, blocking balls, throwing, he's elite at everything he does."
Tuesday's game was a clinic in Hedges' unseen value. He nicked strikes left and right, frustrating Yankees hitters all night. He also served as something of a security blanket for pitchers who needed to make difficult high-leverage pitches.
In the seventh inning, Craig Stammen bounced an 0-1 slider to Sanchez with the potential tying run on third base. Stammen didn't even think about the risk involved until he watched it on video later that night.
"That pitch was not close," Stammen said. "He blocks it like it was nothing. You don't think about not throwing it. If you have a catcher that's not as great as he is, you've got to think twice about those pitches."
Hedges has always been excellent defensively, but this year he's better than ever. By defensive runs saved, he's already put together the eighth-best season for a catcher in the last five years.
It's not even June.
Hedges, as he generally does, deflects the credit. In his eyes, he's not "stealing strikes." His pitchers are merely hitting their spots, and he’s doing his best to make sure the umps notice the quality of the pitches.
"If it's a blatant ball, I can't do anything with it,” Hedges said. “But when our pitchers are throwing a pitch that's on the corner to just off the corner -- when you've thrown pitches that are on the corner all night, I can make that pitch that's just off look like a strike."
Hedges is hitting only .202 with a .272 on-base percentage, but there's a reason he's in the lineup nearly every night, even as Francisco Mejia approaches a return from his knee ailment. If Hedges' offense continues to trend slightly upward, he'll almost certainly continue to get the bulk of the reps.
And yet, Hedges has yet to win a Gold Glove Award. Somehow, he's never even been a finalist.
So what would it take to put him on the map?
"If we win," Yates said. "If you look up two months from now and we're still in it, people are going to notice. He's a huge reason we're winning games."
Indeed, the Padres have trotted out the youngest rotation in baseball -- one loaded with question marks before the season -- and they sit seventh in the Majors with a 3.82 starters ERA.
The constant is Hedges, even if sometimes his value isn't so easy to spot.
Pirates slugger Josh Bell's offseason workouts paying immediate dividends
Bob Nightengale, USA TODAYPublished 8:23 a.m. ET May 20, 2019 | Updated 9:48 a.m. ET May 21, 2019
It’s like vacationing in Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower, traveling to San Francisco without seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, or traveling to the Grand Canyon, without, well, looking into the canyon.
Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Josh Bell, a Texas native, spent his entire past winter in Newport Beach, California ... and never went to the beach.
Snubbed the nightclubs.
Skipped the fine dining.
Oh, but he can tell you all about the batting cages, workout facilities, practice fields and health-food spots in Southern California.
“I didn’t go there on vacation,’’ Bell told USA TODAY Sports. “I went there for work.’’
And he returned to the Pirates from his four-month Southern California excursion as a completely changed player.
Josh Bell has slugged 14 homers with 44 RBI this season. (Photo: Joe Camporeale, USA TODAY Sports)
A year ago, he was labeled as a one-year wonder, changing his batting stance more often than his socks. He set a National League rookie record for a switch hitter with 26 homers in 2017, only to see his power-game vanish last year – his homers plummeted to 12 while his RBI totals dropped from 90 to 62. He was treated as if he lip-synched his rookie year with an anonymous scout in Sports Illustrated calling him a virtual fraud. He was also informed by the Pirates that unless he showed dramatic improvement, he could be spending the season as a platoon player.
Today, Bell is one of the most feared hitters in the game and a legitimate MVP contender. He enters the Pirates’ homestand Tuesday hitting .333 with 14 home runs and tied for the major-league lead with 44 RBI and league-leading 30 extra-base hits. It’s the most homers by a Pirates’ player in the first 44 games since Willie Stargell in 1973, the most extra-base hits since Paul Waner in 1932, and tied for the third-most RBI in franchise history.
Bell, who hit .442 with five homers on the Pirates’ grueling 11-game trip without an off-day, has three multi-homer games in the last two weeks alone. His 1.101 OPS ranks behind only Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers.
“We’ve never seen him like this,’’ Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “Really, we haven’t seen anybody like this in a Pittsburgh uniform in quite awhile.’’
No one, not Barry Bonds, Roberto Clemente or Stargell has ever had a start like this in Pittsburgh. He may still be 6-foot-4, and 240 pounds of muscle, but looking deep inside his soul, he’s a changed man.
“I saw him in Newport Beach in the off-season,’’ Pirates starter Joe Musgrove said, “and you could just see the look in his eyes, that demeanor. He wasn’t going out partying or doing any of that kind of stuff in the offseason.
‘We talked about it, and he knew there were a lot of expectations and a lot of pressure for him to come out and have a big year, and he embraced it. He said, 'I know what’s expected of me. I had a monster year my rookie year, and I don’t want last year’s season to define me as a person and who I am as a player.'
“To see what he’s done, pretty impressive man.’’
The simple narrative would be that Bell wanted to stick it to that anonymous scout, who belittled him in the Sports Illustrated season preview.
It would seem to be the natural driving force for Bell’s phenomenal start, but there’s one little problem.
He never read the article.
Sure, he heard about it later from friends and family, but it actually never bothered him, and certainly never motivated him.
“I feel like everybody is entitled to their opinions,’’ Bell flatly said. “Last year was pretty bad. So, whoever he is, he had a right to say what he said. I’m sure my family was more ticked than I was.
“I’m pretty even-keeled when it comes to stuff like that. I’m just happy to be proving him and others wrong.’’
There was no smirk. No hint of a smile. No sneer. Nothing.
Then again, if you know Bell, it comes as no surprise, with a DNA that has made him perhaps the most popular player among his teammates, who have never seen him distraught, or even rattled.
“He is just so focused on the present,’’ Pirates starter Chris Archer said, “nothing bothers him. I remember the first time we met was at the All-Star game in Cincinnati in 2015. I made the All-Star team and he was in Class A playing in the Futures Game. I go up to him one night and say, 'Hey, nice to meet you dude. When are you going to get to The Show?’
“He says,'I don’t know. I’m just trying to be in the moment. How about you? When are you going to The Show?’
“He had no idea who I was, or that I was an All-Star. He thought I played for the World Team. I think he thought I was Latin or something.
“But that’s him. He’s still the same way. Nothing has changed. He’s always looking for ways to improve, and not focused on other people’s opinions or outside influences.’’
The problem a year ago was that Bell perhaps was looking for too many ways to improve. He couldn’t even keep up with his own batting stances and different approaches. One day he was trying to be a power-hitter. The next, a contact hitter. He wanted to drive the ball some weeks, and simply get on base other days.
“I needed to have a moment with him last year,’’ Hurdle said. “He was changing, but not committing to anything. It wasn’t like he was chasing a hit, but in essence, it was chasing stances to find a hit or power.
I told him, ‘You need to give me two core convictions that you believe in that are going to make you a successful hitter. I’m going to give you some time to think about it.'’’
Bell spent four days soul searching, talking to coaches, teammates, friends and family. He sat down with David Freese, the Pirates’ veteran clubhouse leader before being traded to the Dodgers. Freese suggested getting away, starting over, and having a complete make-over in almost complete privacy.
“He wanted me to listen to my own voice, and start growing,’’ Bell said. “I was in a place where I wasn’t having success on a nightly basis, and he said, 'Hey man, if you want to change some things up, go out to Southern California. You’re going to work your tail off, you’re going to eat clean, and you’re pretty going to grow the way you want.'’’
Said Freese: “Everybody was telling him what he should do, but he had to identify what was best for him. He had to be himself and do what he thought was right. He had so much talent, but he had a bullseye on his back. Those first few years are trying years, some guys make it. A lot don’t.’’
Bell contacted his agent, Scott Boras, told him he was coming to work out at his facility for the winter, and sought recommendations for a personal hitting instructor. He was introduced over the telephone to Joe DeMarco, a former Big 12 batting champion, minor-league player and coach at Kansas and the University of California Irvine. They talked for the first time on Oct. 9. They began working together Oct. 10. And, except for a 10-day stretch during the Christmas holidays, never stopped.
“If you could spend every day with this man,’’ DeMarco said, “you’d see why he’s doing what he’s doing. His work ethic was unreal. He has insane mindset and preparation. He’s such a good athlete, but he was in Defcon 4, just fighting himself instead of letting his body get in better position.
“It was like having a Harley, but he was on a kickstand. We had to let this Harley run.’’
The two broke down old video, going back to even his Class AAA days when he was the Pirates’ minor-league player of the year. They adjusted his stance, standing taller in the box instead of being so spread out at the plate, giving his bat path more freedom and space, enabling him to dictate the rhythm and pace of his at-bats. Slowly, Bell started to believe in the adjustment himself, and new Pirates hitting coach Rick Eckstein came to see the new approach, while assistant hitting coach Jacob Cruz voiced his approval.
Now, two months into the season, Bell can hardly believe the results himself. He’s on pace to hit 52 homers and drive in 162 runs, with five of his homers this season traveling at least 450 feet.
“It feels like I’m living a dream,’’ Bell said. “It’s awesome.’’
Oh, and that anonymous talent-evaluator who ridiculed Bell, believing he would never get better?
Nothing but silence.
“I’m excited to show that whoever that guy is,’’ Bell said, “and most important, my friends, my family and my pops who watch every game, that my hard work is paying off.’’
And everyone in baseball, from the beer vendors at Busch Stadium to Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo to the cooks at the Petco Park taco stands, all took notice on Bell’s glorious road trip.
“He’s turning into a superstar in this league,’’ Lovullo said, “right before our eyes.’’
The Pirates, who have gone 45 years without having a player hit 40 homers in a season, finally have that star slugger again,
“Good for him,’’ Freese said. “Good for the city. Good for the organization. Good for all of Pittsburgh. They need a guy like him.’’
The Pirates have gone 27 years without winning a division title and 40 years without a World Series, and if anything is ever going to change, they’ll need Bell in the middle of the renaissance.
“This is a bell that’s going to ring loudly,’’ Boras said, “and it will ring with eloquence.’’
Follow Nightengale on Twitter @BNightengale
Dodgers hitting coach revitalized J.D. Martinez’s swing despite lack of MLB credentials
Boston Red Sox outfielder J.D. Martinez credits new Dodgers hitting coach Robert Van Scoyoc for transforming him into a fearsome slugger. (Carlos Osorio / Associated Press; K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)
Martinez met Van Scoyoc after the 2013 season, as his career approached extinction with the Houston Astros. After toiling with Van Scoyoc and his coaching partner Craig Wallenbrock, Martinez rebuilt his swing, morphed into a fearsome slugger and ignited baseball’s launch-angle revolution. In the intervening years, Van Scoyoc had tip-toed out of the shadows. His work impressed the Dodgers enough to hire him to direct their offensive approach.
“I’m really happy for him,” Martinez said. “Obviously, I’m down about it, because I don’t get to work with him anymore.” He added, “I wasn’t happy about it, at first. But I’m happy for him.”
The hiring of Van Scoyoc raised eyebrows because of his unorthodox background. He didn’t play baseball beyond Cuesta Community College. He has described his career as “very mediocre.” He built his resume out of a warehouse in Santa Clarita, where he and Wallenbrock worked with hitters such as Martinez and Dodgers utility man Chris Taylor.
As the most accomplished pupil of Van Scoyoc and Wallenbrock, Martinez has spent years hearing about their lack of credentials. He scoffed at those objections.
“That’s the most annoying thing to me,” Martinez said. “I’ve had it out with several coaches along the way, and I’ve said it: ‘I learned more from two guys who never played the game than six years in professional baseball.’ After Houston, where I didn’t learn anything. No offense to them. But just because you played the game doesn’t mean you know the game.”
The winter with Van Scoyoc and Wallenbrock converted Martinez from an also-ran into a force, and he maintained close ties with his instructors as his career took off. Since 2014, when the Astros cut him and he signed with the Detroit Tigers, Martinez ranks second among his peers in slugging percentage (.586) and third in on-base plus slugging percentage (.958). He swatted 45 home runs in 2017 with the Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks, then inked a five-year, $110 million contract with the Red Sox last winter.
In his first season in Boston, Martinez galvanized a ferocious lineup and led the American League with 130 RBI and 358 total bases. He made history by becoming the first player to win the Silver Slugger award at two positions, designated hitter and left field. The Red Sox rampaged through a 108-win season and bludgeoned the Dodgers in five games in the World Series. Martinez led his team in postseason RBI.
The influence of Martinez extends beyond his own production. He believes the batting cage should be a scene for collaboration, where hitters trade ideas and offer tips. As a bilingual speaker, Martinez can deliver advice to the entirety of the clubhouse, from 2018 MVP Mookie Betts and outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr., to infielders Rafael Devers and Eduardo Nunez. He offers solutions, not dogma.
“It’s not about launch angle, or load with your hip, or whatever,” manager Alex Cora said. “He recognizes swings. He has a way of communicating what he feels, in a very easy way.” He added, “When he talks to other hitters, he makes it very simple. That’s a gift that he has.”
Before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, Martinez watched Bradley hit at the indoor batting cage of Minute Maid Park. The swings were ineffective, but Martinez preaches the importance of individualized instruction. “If you’re going to the doctor and you’re sick, he’s not just going to give you antibiotics,” Martinez said. “He’s going to find out what you’re sick with. He’s going to diagnose you.”
To Martinez’s eye, Bradley looked erratic and unbalanced. He counseled Bradley to stabilize his back foot and not drift with his lower half. In the eighth inning, Bradley connected with a grand slam that powered the Red Sox to victory and an eventual downing of the defending champion Astros.
The small moment of instruction still resonates after the winter. Bradley spent his offseason working with Wallenbrock, and vouched for the importance of Martinez’s aid to his teammates.
“He’s been through it,” Bradley said. “He’s been through a lot. And he’s had a lot of success over the years. And he’s able to verbalize it the way some might not be able to. Some people can teach things. Some people, they teach people by example. He’s able to do both.”
Martinez keeps his eyes open. An observation in 2013 altered the arc of his career. He had been an ineffective hitter for three years with Houston, so he spent hours studying elite hitters such as Ryan Braun and Miguel Cabrera. One day he noticed that the swing of teammate Jason Castro mirrored the swing of Braun. Castro told Martinez he learned the swing with Wallenbrock.
That winter, Martinez went to Santa Clarita. Wallenbrock, 72, had played college baseball in the 1960s, but dropped out to surf. His assistant Van Scoyoc was around Martinez’s age.
“He learned from me, and I learned from him,” Martinez said. “He taught me the mechanics of everything. I taught him the game plans and the strategy side of it. We both learned from each other. There were times when we got lost, and didn’t know what worked, and I was kind of the test dummy, because I was willing to be, and figure it out.”
In a simplified sense, Martinez was learning how to hit flyballs, rather than line drives. The orthodoxy of hitters conditioned them to swing downward at the baseball. Wallenbrock and Van Scoyoc pointed hitters toward a different approach. The sport soon moved in that direction, with Martinez leading the upward charge.
In those three years with Houston, Martinez had posted a .687 OPS. That number jumped to .912 with Detroit in 2014 and , as Martinez soon assembled a resume as one of the game’s best hitters.
As more hitters learned from Wallenbrock and Van Scoyoc, teams took notice. The Dodgers hired the duo as consultants in 2016, when they reshaped Taylor’s approach. Van Scoyoc spent 2018 as a hitting strategist with the Diamondbacks. The Dodgers brought him back this winter to replace Turner Ward, who left to become the Cincinnati Reds hitting coach.
When he heard the news, Martinez lamented the unavailability of his friend and confidante. But he suspected Van Scoyoc would not struggle to adjust into his new role.
“To me, any hitting coach who teaches one way of hitting is a bad hitting coach,” Martinez said. “That sums it up for me. You have to be able to diagnose your patient.”
Andy McCullough is the national baseball writer at the Los Angeles Times. He covered the Dodgers from 2016 to 2018. His work has been honored by the Associated Press Sports Editors for beat writing, explanatory reporting, feature writing and game stories. Prior to joining The Times, he covered baseball at the Kansas City Star and the Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J. A graduate of Syracuse University, he grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia.
Fightin Phils' Williams positioning for success
Luke Williams has developed into a true utilityman for Reading
WRITTEN BY MIKE DRAGO
Luke Williams' locker at FirstEnergy Stadium is filled with leather.
There's the well-worn third baseman's glove he used exclusively his first three years in the Phillies system.
There are two smaller gloves, designed so that he can dig the ball out of the pocket quicker, he uses when he plays second base or shortstop for the Fightin Phils.
There's a larger glove with a deeper pocket for use in the outfield.
And there's a first baseman's mitt, on loan from Reading teammate Henri Lartigue.
One of these days Luke may need to borrow Lartigue's catcher's mitt, as well; unofficially he's the Fightins' emergency catcher.
Williams, a speedy shortstop drafted in the third round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft, didn't think his future in baseball would be as a jack of all trades.
Four years later he has proudly accepted his utility role.
"I don't take (that label) as an insult," said the 22-year-old Californian. "I think it adds more value to the team. It's something that's evolving in this game, where a lot of guys are playing more positions."
Williams played several positions at Dana Hills High School in Laguna Niguel, Calif., including a full season behind the plate.
The Phillies didn't envision him as a utility guy when they drafted him one round after Scott Kingery and paid him a $719,000 bonus; they thought they were getting an athletic third baseman with some power potential.
The bat has been slower to come around than the rest of his game; that's likely why the Phillies started moving him around last season. He mostly played third base at Clearwater, but also saw time at four other positions.
This year he's evolved into a true utility guy for manager Shawn Williams, with seven starts at second base and six apiece at third and short through Reading's first 23 games. He's also played left and right field.
Last week during a double switch he moved from right to shortstop.
"That's pretty cool," the manager said. "You don't see that a whole lot. That's who he is. He's a guy that could play 10 or more games at seven spots (in a season)."
He could end up playing all nine the same night later this season. He and Shawn Williams - who are not related - discussed that possibility late last season at Clearwater. Had Shawn not returned home during the final week of the season for the birth of his child, Luke might've gotten the chance.
Preparing to play so many positions is a challenge. Williams takes grounders before every game, mostly at the position he's starting that day. He also makes sure to shag fly balls each day during batting practice.
The most challenging position at this point, he said, is the one he's most familiar with: shortstop. He grew up playing that spot but didn't see time there his first three years as a pro.
He's had to get reacquainted.
"It's the hardest position in the infield," Luke Williams said. "I'm just trying to get my game clock feeling back."
Moving to third was initially a challenge.
"It's a a reactionary position," he said. "At shortstop you have a lot of time, you try to get around the ball, make a throw. At third, it's like (being) a hockey goalie. It doesn't have to be pretty, you just have to catch the ball and throw it to first. That was a bit of an adjustment."
To take full advantage of his baserunning skills and defensive versatility, Williams' bat has to come around. He's batted a combined .235 with a .307 on-base percentage in his first four seasons.
Last season he got off to a rough start at Clearwater and was batting .118 on May 16.
"The first month-and-a-half was a real struggle for me," he said. "I wasn't playing well at all. (Then) something clicked - something mentally. I was more relaxed, more picky at the plate and I wasn't missing pitches."
He batted .281 over the final 3½ months and started driving the ball. He hit six homers in June and finished with a career-high nine.
"The bat's a big part of the game," Luke Williams said. "That's one thing that I've been busting my butt on, (trying) to put that consistent season out there. That's a big goal of mine this year, and I'm working for it."
Williams has batted .243 through the first month. He leads the team with six stolen bases and is second in runs scored with 13 through his first 21 games.
Shawn Williams said the bat will be the ultimate separator for Luke.
"It's coming along," Shawn Williams said. "Last year it was awesome how far he came back (after the slow start) and had a nice year."
Contact Mike Drago: 610-371-5067 or email@example.com.
Velocity Based Training for Baseball Athletes
Absolute strength is a crucial stage in an athlete’s development; however, the stimulus will need to change as an athlete gets further into their career. Absolute strength is a great tool for young athletes to develop high force production, neuromuscular efficiency, and lean-body-mass gains. Solely focusing on absolute strength is not the best tool for intermediate and elite level athletes, because after a few years these measurable gains will undoubtedly plateau.
Elite athletes have often adapted to the stimulus of absolute strength, and to keep on pushing for greater strength gains takes away from their work capacity.
The weight room supplements the throwing; it should never take away from the throwing.
As we grappled with how to further enhance athlete performance from the weight room to throwing, Kyle Boddy and I came across Dr. Bryan Mann’s book on Velocity Based Training (VBT). We thought this could be a huge enhancement for some of our more advanced athletes and further push their on-field performance.
(This post was written by Jack Scheideman, High Performance Trainer at Driveline Baseball)
Different Speed Training: Which Velocity Do I Need?
Different speeds train different qualities of the athlete, and to train for maximum performance, choose appropriate velocities. The SAID principle states that the body will adapt to the Specific Adaptation of the Imposed Demands. Based off of what velocity you choose, train the quality that is designated with that specific velocity.
For example, training for starting strength has minimal carryover for absolute strength, because you are training the opposite quality. Choosing the correct velocity based off of training age is crucial for an athlete’s success. If you don’t,you will not be training the athlete in an appropriate way for his maximum development.
Let’s break these strengths down.
Absolute strength is defined as moving the heaviest weight that the athlete can move one time, or his 1RM. This speed usually occurs in the .13-.35 m/sec, depending on the athlete’s qualities. Absolute strength is the fundamental quality for all the other strength and speed qualities that follow. Absolute strength needs to be the first quality that a young athlete trains, as it can have huge carryover.
The athlete, by training absolute strength, is attempting to train to produce more maximal force.
This is crucial since the athlete needs to be able to produce a lot of force to be successful. However, there will be a time in an athlete’s career when absolute strength will not have minimal transfer to his performance.
Transfer of training showing different correlations of exercises to throwing distance.
Based on the table above. an elite-level shot putter could be considered to throw 19+ meters; shot putters also need a much higher level of absolute strength then baseball pitchers. This is because a shot put weighs 16 pounds and moves at a much slower velocity than a baseball. As you can see, a 1rm back squat had very little transfer as the athlete became elite. Once a sufficient level of absolute strength is acquired, the athlete needs to train other aspects of the force-velocity curve.
Submaximal training is when the athlete is near a max of .35-.45 m/sec. These reps are difficult, but the athlete is not in danger of failing a rep. These are usually done in the 2-3 rep range, where the athlete is training to improve his absolute strength. Circa-max phases are crucial to improving the athlete’s absolute strength, as absolute strength work can not be trained very frequently. Going for maximal weights is very taxing on the central nervous system, so the majority of the work is done in the circa-max velocities. This has a carryover to your absolute strength, because they are in similar velocities zones.
Velocities of acceleration strength are in the .5-.75 m/sec, which constitutes a relatively heavy weight that an athlete is still able to accelerate. The weight will be heavy but not too close to absolute strength since the bar will never slow down or stop, as in absolute strength. Bryan Mann gives a great example of a defensive lineman in football. When they accelerate at the snap, they move at 1.5 m/sec as they make contact and dominate the offensive lineman they accelerate through them at 0.6 m/sec. This case only happens if the defensive lineman is able to dominate the offensive lineman; if they don’t dominate them, it turns into an absolute strength quality.
The quality of strength-speed occurs when the bar is moving from .75 to 1 m/sec, and it is classified by strength in the condition of speed. It is moving a moderate load at maximal speeds, in which the bar constantly accelerates through the concentric movement. Because of this, it has a higher rate of force development. This is where most, if not all, dynamic effort days fall into. This is because strength-speed is highly transferable to both producing more force and being able to produce that force faster. It lies in the middle of our force velocity curve, so it is inherently the first speed we select with a new athlete starting a VBT program. Once that athlete has already trained for absolute strength, the methods of circa-max strength and acceleration strength can come into play.
The quality of speed-strength is achieved when the bar velocity is moving between 1-1.3 m/sec, and it is classified by speed in the condition of strength. It uses lighter weights than strength-speed which increases bar velocity. It has the second-highest rate of force development behind starting-strength. Usually to create this speed, you have to use some type of accommodating resistance—either bands, chains or weight releasers. This allows the athlete to have less weight at the bottom in order to accelerate the bar from the start of the concentric movement. As the bar is accelerated, the athlete is able to maintain the velocity as it accelerates through the accommodating resistance.
Starting strength is achieved when the athlete is able to accelerate the implement greater than 1.5 m/sec, which is the ability to overcome inertia from a dead stop. This makes it the highest rate of force development possible. Many elements in athletics require this velocity range when throwing a hammer, baseball, or swinging a bat. It is also one of the hardest elements to train in a weight room: because of the speed required, the weight needs to be extremely light. This speed is mainly neurologically based and usually inappropriate to train in the weight room. Rather, most athletes would benefit from speed-strength or strength-speed since these qualities produce more power. Most athletes will train the quality of starting-strength through their competitive event, either throwing different weighted balls or different weighted bats. We choose not to train it in the weight room because athletes get this work in through sport specific exercises.
What is Velocity Based Training (VBT) & How We Measure It
We are currently measuring speed and power of the lifts with a Tendo Power Analyzer. This gives us average velocity and power, peak power and velocity, and eccentric velocity measurements that we can use to track our athletes. We are able to connect it to your computer with a Bluetooth™ device and track the progression of the athletes as they go through a cycle. There are many other, cheaper velocity-tracking devices such as GymAware, PUSH band, or Beast Sensor, and we are currently testing their validity.
Velocity-based training (VBT) allows athletes to pick weights based off the speed quality that the athlete is attempting to train at—we will go into these qualities later. This system replaces a percentage-based system where the weights are pre-selected.
The athlete warms up with the Tendo unit connected to the bar and picks the weights based off the speed. During the session, if the athlete goes below or above the selected speed, adjustments are made with the weight to make sure we are training the correct velocity quality.
VBT is a constant adjustment based off of how the athlete is performing that day, whereas a percentage-based system can’t make adjustments from objective data.
Where Percentage Based Training Goes Wrong
There are three main areas where using velocity-based training yields better results than percentage-based training.
1. Accuracy: Percentages are inherently based off speed; intensity is directly correlated to the mean concentric speed of the lift. But using VBT allows us to pick more appropriate weights on our dynamic effort days. Now each day an athlete trains using VBT with a Tendo power analyzer, the athlete is training using the section of the force continuum that we have programmed.
2. Daily fluctuations: The reason that percentage-based training is not as accurate is because there are daily fluctuations in an athlete’s one-rep max (1RM). This is because our nervous system has daily fluctuations due to overtraining, nutrition, lifestyle, and a number of other factors. Using VBT allows us to get an idea of how these stressors affect an athlete, because they will show up in their readings. You are not able to lift your max every day. So, if you base your percentages off of one-rep maximum, estimations of that day’s maximum capacity will be less accurate than testing velocity of the barbell and the selected weights for the session.
3: Risk: There are two reasons that percentage-based training can be risky: First, your percentages fluctuate everyday. So if you select 90% of 1RM, and your 1RM that day is actually 95% of your assumed 1RM, you are much more likely to break down in technique and can be easily overtrained.
1RM testing can also be very risky for young athletes who do not have consistent technique on the lift. This can easily lead to injury. So, if you don’t test it, then you can’t choose appropriate weights on dynamic-effort day. Remember the weight-room supplemental training that athletes are already doing on the throwing side.
Where We Started: Dynamic Effort Days and Westside Barbell
Dynamic effort is defined as moving a sub-maximal load at maximal speed. This is usually paired on a different maximal-effort day where you work above 90% of 1rm or 0.15-.35 m/sec. The Westside program is set up in a lower/upper split, where either the upper or lower body is the focus that day.
For example, Monday: max effort upper; Wednesday: dynamic effort lower; Thursday: dynamic effort upper; Saturday: max effort lower. Popularized by Westside Barbell and Louie Simmons, this style continues to drive maximal strength but also works different qualities of the force-velocity curve to improve rate-of-force development.
We had already been programming based on a Westside template before we got the Tendo Power Analyzer by using velocities to train velocity qualities. Athletes were using a progression of 1RM on dynamic-effort day.
For a back squat, for example, the athletes were doing eight sets of two reps on week: 40% of one rep max; week two: 45% of one rep max; week three: 50% of one rep max; and then a new cycle would begin. On the maximal-effort days, athletes were working to above 90% of 1RM for doubles or triples based off of the cycle.
At the time we were seeing athletes getting much stronger but not necessarily throwing much harder; it wasn’t translating to their performance as we would have liked.
We thought this may have been happening because of two main reasons:
Athletes were spending too much energy in the weight room, which took away from their throwing.
There was too much of a focus on maximal strength and not as much on other qualities, such as working on the force-velocity curve to enhance performance.
While the Westside template has been proven to produce great results in the powerlifting community, it doesn’t necessarily transfer to pitchers who also have an aggressive throwing program or do not currently have reasonable strength levels.
Athletes can become good at many things, but not everything. There needs to be a focus in each cycle: if throwing volume or intensity goes up for an athlete, something needs to be taken out, and this will usually come from the weight room. After analyzing an athlete’s performance, we evolved into using VBT to maximize performance on the field.
How We Use VBT Today
Autoregulation, with VBT, is a way of monitoring athletes’ workloads by monitoring the velocities of their lifts. These velocities should be monitored during workouts, and from workout to workout, to make sure overtraining does not occur.
During workouts, we select a weight based off of the speed for that day—let’s say 0.8-0.9 m/sec, which is considered a strength-speed day based on the chart above. The workout officially starts after the athlete has added enough weight to reach the chosen speed. The athlete does a maximum of 12 sets of 2 reps on the minute, or until he drops below the designated speed—whichever comes first. Once one of those occurs, the athlete’s workout will then be over. This makes sure that the athlete is only working the speed trait that we want (see table above) and that the athlete does not become overtrained. This is a great way to monitor workload especially when participating in a high-intensity throwing program.
Based off of the data that you have been tracking, you are able to monitor athletes from workout to workout. For example, if last week the athlete is moving the bar at .8 m/sec with 225 and this week he is moving 225 at .6 m/sec, you can see the athlete is clearly not recovering and adapting from last week’s work. You can end the workout there because clearly overtraining has occurred, or you can go for a lighter weight at 0.8 m/sec than last week. From there you can look through workout logs and see if he was not ready for VBT or there was too much volume and/or intensity. This can also lead to a great discussion with the athlete about lifestyle choices and how to set up for the best recovery.
If the athlete has two reps, one at .78 and one at .81, then the workout will continue if the target velocity was .8-.9. The athlete needs to have two consecutive reps below 90% of 0.8 for the workout to end. The athlete would then end his workout if there were two reps below 0.72 m/sec. Some reps can just be a bad technically, so we want to see that athlete has two bad technical reps for the workout to end.
External Cue vs External Focus/Competition
External cues for an athlete are powerful tools that can either enhance technique, with proper cueing, or hurt technique. These cues during a lift can be “knees out,” “sit back” on a back squat, or “tuck your elbows” on a bench press. These are important cues for novice athletes who need to learn the proper movement patterns to maximize their lifting progress. Once athletes have been lifting for years, these cues are still important, but to continue to progress in the weight room, other cues can have a greater effect.
An external focus/competition is greater for the intermediate/elite athlete and is where the Tendo Power Analyzer has been great tool for our athletes. By positioning the Tendo screen where the athlete can see the velocity, the athlete gets immediate feedback on whether the rep was successful or not. By doing this, he gets an external-focused cue, and by doing so, he might change his technique or mindset to maximize his performance.
This is very similar to having radar boards all over Driveline: athletes will change their technique based off of the external focus without being force fed external cues. This allows athletes to learn how to move in their best way to maximize their performance.
By having this external focus, the athlete has constant competition with himself and other athletes to move more weight faster. This creates a culture in the weight room where when athletes get to work, they have to push themselves, because the numbers won’t lie. Competition with other athletes is also important. By pairing up athletes with similar strength levels, they can compete with each other in order to maximize their performance.
With these objective measurements with the Tendo, the athlete is able to analyze the workout and decide whether it was successful or not:
Did I move more weight faster then last week?
Did I move more weight at the same speed?
These questions now have objective numbers where the athlete can ask himself these questions and have answer to them. This creates constant progression between the coach and athlete. If they are not progressing, it is the coach’s job to take a step back and first look at the program to see if it is inappropriate. Then the coach can look at the athlete’s lifestyle, etc, and adjust the program based off of the athlete’s specific needs. These objective measurements allow the coach and athlete to constantly analyze performance.
Why It Matters for Baseball
The novice athlete does not need to focus on rate of force development because absolute strength in a novice athlete takes care of this. The novice athlete will not have the strength or technique to move a heavy enough weight at a fast velocity. Think of a young, untrained athlete: when his absolute strength increases and his lean body mass increases, his speed will usually increase.
You are likely to see a novice athlete improve his broad jump, 60 yard dash, throwing velocity, and bat speed through just training absolute strength. However as we have seen with Dr. Bondarchuk’s table (see above), once they become elite, absolute strength will have very little transfer to the athletes. This is where VBT comes into play.
Think about a large semi truck vs. a Ferrari: a semi produces lots of power but does so very slowly; a Ferrari produces less power but is able to apply a high percentage of its force rapidly. Our goal is to help athletes be like a semi in their novice years to become able to produce a lot of force. Then, they transition into becoming like a Ferrari, where we are able to take that large amount of force and train to produce it rapidly. If you train like a Ferrari too early, you still won’t produce a lot of force, so it doesn’t matter how fast you can apply it.
Once an athlete has a good base of absolute strength, it is now time to work on his rate-of-force development. Rate of force development is a measure of explosive strength, or how fast an athlete is able to produce force. These adaptations occur because the athlete improves his stretch-shortening cycle by improving his neural drive, or muscle fiber type, or muscle fiber area. Athletes with higher rate-of-force development have been shown to have more success in athletics because they are able to produce more power. Athletes with more power production are more likely to throw harder or swing a bat faster.
As you can see in the graph above, if you are able to train rate-of-force development the force velocity curve will go up and to the left. This means that the athlete is able to produce more force faster (source).
When an athlete first steps into Driveline, absolute strength will always be the first goal. If they have not already achieved this, then they will transfer into a VBT program to work on rate-of-force development.
The graph above shows that through proper strength and power training, the athlete will improve his force-velocity curve at a greater rate than an athlete just training for speed. By implementing a VBT program, the athlete will continue to improve his absolute strength but also improve his rate-of-force development. This allows the athlete to produce the most power possible.
This is accomplished by working in the correct velocity zones we talked about earlier in order to maximize power production. When athletes first enter our VBT program, they will stay within three velocity ranges: absolute strength, strength-speed, and speed-strength.
Absolute strength is in the program so that we can continue increase their 1RM. This is so that their speed-strength and strength-speed will continue to increase. If an athlete’s 1rm stays the same, he will plateau fairly quickly with speed-strength and strength-speed because the athlete will not be able to move 80% of 1RM in the strength-speed velocity.
We use strength-speed on our major three lifts: Deadlift, Back Squat, and Bench Press. When an athlete first starts, we mainly stay with the strength-speed velocities because they are able to produce more power with these speeds. This is because their speed-strength would be too light of weight on any lift to have high-power production. As we progress we will add in speed-strength to the big three lifts by mainly using accommodating resistance bands/chains. While we have used a trap bar jump for speed-strength when an athlete first jumps in VBT, our main focus is strength-speed.
Sample Programming for VBT in Baseball
Our periodization model for VBT is a progressive overload in which the athlete tries to add weight to the bar between sets or from week to week. This allows for constant increases in power production so we can get the greatest benefit from that day. It is imperative that the weights are picked wisely: They need to be hitting the velocity that you have selected. We also use the autoregulation technique that I discussed earlier.
Here is an example program for someone who is just starting to enter a VBT program. These are just the major lifts; I will not add in the assistance work because this depends on an athlete’s needs.
Monday: Max Effort
Back squat: 65% 5 reps, 75% 5 reps, 85% 5+ reps
Deadlift: 65% 5 reps, 75% 5 reps, 85% 5+ reps
Speed bench press: 8-12 sets of 2 reps. 0.8-0.9 m/sec
Wednesday: Dynamic effort
Speed back squat: 8-12 sets of 2 reps. 0.8-0.9 m/sec
Speed deadlift: 8-12 sets of 2 reps. 0.8-0.9 m/sec
Friday: Speed/max effort
Trap bar jump: 8-12 sets of 2 reps. 1.35-1.5 m/sec
Bench press: 65% 5 reps, 75% 5 reps, 85% 5+ reps
Monday: Max Effort
Back squat: 70% 3 reps, 80% 3 reps, 90% 3+ reps
Deadlift: 70% 3 reps, 80% 3 reps, 90% 3+ reps
Speed bench press: 8-12 sets of 2 reps. 0.8-0.9 m/sec
Wednesday: Dynamic effort
Speed back squat: 8-12 sets of 2 reps. 0.8-0.9 m/sec
Speed deadlift: 8-12 sets of 2 reps. 0.8-0.9 m/sec
Friday: Speed/max effort
Trap bar jump: 8-12 sets of 2 reps. 1.35-1.5 m/sec
Bench press: 70% 3 reps, 80% 3 reps, 90% 3+ reps
Monday: Max Effort
Back squat: 75% 5 reps, 85% 3 reps, 95% 1+ reps
Deadlift: 75% 5 reps, 85% 3 reps, 95% 1+ reps
Speed bench press: 8-12 sets of 2 reps. 0.8-0.9 m/sec
Wednesday: Dynamic effort
Speed back squat: 8-12 sets of 2 reps. 0.8-0.9 m/sec
Speed deadlift: 8-12 sets of 2 reps. 0.8-0.9 m/sec
Friday: Speed/max effort
Trap bar jump: 8-12 sets of 2 reps. 1.35-1.5 m/sec
Bench press: 75% 5 reps, 85% 3 reps, 95% 1+ rep
Monday: Max effort
Back squat: 40% 5 reps, 50% 5 reps, 60% 5 reps
Deadlift: 40% 5 reps, 50% 5 reps, 60% 5 reps
Speed bench press: 4 sets of 2 reps. 1.00 m/sec
Wednesday: Dynamic effort
Speed back squat: 4 sets of 2 reps. 1.00 m/sec
Speed deadlift: 4 sets of 2 reps. 1.00 m/sec
Friday: Speed/max effort
Trap bar jump: 4 sets of 2 reps. 1.35-1.5 m/sec
Bench press: 40% 5 reps, 50% 5 reps, 60% 5 reps
The main goal here is to rest and recover from the last cycle. Ideally this deload will also happen during a throwing deload for proper recovery. Here, you should lower the volume of the speed lift and the intensity on the max effort days.
A fuller discussion and exploration of velocity-based training for baseball athletes could take up tens of thousands of more words based on programming cycles – but hopefully this was a good primer for understanding how we are data-driven in all forms of training at Driveline Baseball, not just on the throwing side!
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