Well, good morning, all.
First things first; has everyone been enjoying the WBC? I've pretty much fallen in love with the thing at this point; between the upsets we've seen this time around and the chance to see a bunch of Asian players I otherwise wouldn't have, this whole World Baseball thing is turning out to be much, much better than I ever would have guessed.
And of all the things I've seen in the WBC so far, I have to say that Yu Darvish has been the single most impressive. He made a start against China and just overpowered them with pretty much his fastball alone, then came back and threw an inning of relief against Korea and made hitters look fairly helpless with one of the nastiest sliders I can recall witnessing.
I'm not sure how long it's going to be before this kid gets posted, but I'm absolutely certain that when he does, he'll break Matsuzaka's record, and pretty handily at that. Personally, I think I would be willing to offer up to 60 billion double dollars for a talent like that.*
Anyhow, on to the real business of the day. I wanted to take a look today at some more potential draft picks from the '09 class, and-
What? What was that?
Oh, I think you know what it was. Do the words "scoreless inning" mean anything to you?
I'm not sure what you, I mean, wait, what? Who the hell are you?
Don't tell me you've forgotten me already, Dan. I told you before that I would be with you forever, and I meant it. You'll never escape from me...
What? Dan? Wait, you're Chris Lambert's ghost, aren't you?
Oho, so now you remember, eh? Of course it's me, Dan. Who else would you expect, the Spanish Inquisition?
Oh, this is awkward. Um, well, see, Mr. Lambert, um, ghost, sir, see, I'm not actually Dan.
Do what now?
Yeah, see, I'm not Dan. My name's Aaron, actually, and while I am often haunted by the draft pick that the Cards used on you, I don't really think all that much about you as a player. So...
Well, son of a bitch! What the hell, man? Where's Dan at?!
I, uh, I mean, I don't really know; he's usually around here like three days a week. I think he'll be here tomorrow. You could always try back early next week, too. I know Mondays are one of his days to be on here.
Are you kidding me?! You mean to tell me that I projected myself all the way up here with what feels like about 200 lbs. of chains and this creepy paper comb soundmaker things for nothing? Do you have any idea how taxing astral projection is?
Wow. Well, no, I really had never thought about it before. I guess I always just assumed it was something you spirits could do pretty easily.
Oh, yeah? "Just something we can do", huh? Well, guess what, shit for brains, it isn't! It's hard as hell, and I'm exhausted now. You know what? Screw it. I'm out of here.
Dude, I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to piss you off, man. It just never really occured to me that-
Yeah, I got it. You just figured it was easy. You know, you people are all the same. Everyone's always soooo worried about the people being haunted, but what about us, huh? You ever stop to think about the amount of effort that goes into a proper haunting? It's not all fun and games, you know. This is hard work, damn it!
Um, well, I, I don't really know what else to say. Like I said, I think Dan's here tomorrow, and he'll definitely be back early next week, so-
Oh, he will, will he? Well, it may come as a shock to you, but I've got my own stuff going on, too. There's no way I'm dragging all of this shit back up here tomorrow, just to find out you don't know what the hell you're talking about, and next week I'm scheduled to appear in a tortilla in Mexico.
Oh. Well, hey, that's pretty cool, right? I mean, everybody loves tortillas. So-
Don't patronize me. I'm done. You see Dan, you tell him that if he ever gets a second or two in his busy schedule for an old friend that, oh, by the way, just helped to get him where he's at now, give me a call. But I'm out. Oh, and your writing sucks, dude. Pretentious much?
Hey! Dude, come on! I'm doing the best I can here. I mean, I know sometimes I get a little carried away listening to myself talk, but I think for the most part that- wait, hello? Mr. Lambert? Chris?
Son of a bitch just walked out on me.
*To go along with this: when the Cardinals do pony up the dough for Darvish and he begins just destroying the league, I propose that we immediately nickname him- wait for it- 'Vish the Stampede.**
**If you have no idea what I'm talking about here, don't worry; it just means you're much, much less of a geek than I am. Mazel tov. However, I assure you that a very specific type of person would have found that hilarious.
Anyway, now that all that ugliness is out of the way, I wanted to take a quick look at another group of three players who might very well factor in to the Cardinals' decision come draft day this June.
One demographic that really jumps out at you this year as you look at the potential draftees in the first round is one that the Cardinals could certainly use: the collegiate shortstop. In the last couple of years, the Cards have finally started to add some real talent in the middle infield, taking Pete Kozma in the first round in '07 and NIko Vasquez in the 4th round in '08. Even with those two players, as well as some of the other, less-heralded talent floating around, the Cards' system is still noticeably thin in the middle infield. If ever there was a draft you might be able to take immediate steps to remedy that, it's probably this one.
Grant Green, SS- University of Southern California
6'3", 180 lbs.
So, what's so great about this guy?
The last few years, there's been a trend of college shortstops coming out of Southern California (the region, not the school), and making an immediate mark on the game. Bobby Crosby, Troy Tulowitzki, and Evan Longoria all were drafted early in the first round of their respective drafts, played very briefly in the minors, then went on to immediately become impact players in the major leagues. Of course, things haven't gone so well since for Crosby, but it's easy to forget that as recently as two years ago, he was seen as a perennial all-star just waiting to happen.
If you're looking for a player to potentially follow in the footsteps of those Long Beach State graduates, you don't have to look very far. Grant Green is very much in the mold of those players, a big, rangy shortstop with the sort of physical tools that make scouts blush and fan themselves, all the while claiming a case of the vapors.
To begin with, Green has a swing that boast excellent power potential, due to him getting great extension with his arms. His swing has been criticised occasionally as a little long, but it hasn't hurt him much to this point, including a ridiculous stint in the Cape Cod League in '08. (.348/.451/.547) He has good speed (though he isn't a burner), solid hands, and an excellent throwing arm, allowing him to make plays both routine and spectacular at short.
Green is pretty much everything the Cardinals like in a high draft pick: plays a premium position, has a great track record of success, and has proven to be able to hit with wood bats. The only problem is that Green isn't going to be there at 19 unless something unforeseen happens. He is a Boras advisee, so there's that, but that won't be enough to send him very far down the draft boards. Shame, too, because this kid looks to be something special.
Ryan Jackson, SS- University of Miami (Florida)
6'3", 185 lbs.
So, what's so great about this guy?
Put simply, Ryan Jackson is a defensive wonder. Scouts love his hands, his arm, and his footwork, and he turns hits into outs at a remarkable clip. What Jackson doesn't have is much in the way of raw running speed, which has caused some to question whether he fits long-term at shortstop or would be better off moved to third base. (Astute draftniks may recall that Niko Vasquez had similar concerns attached to him; one of the main reasons he fell to where he did, in fact.)
Jackson's bat is good, though certainly not up to the level of his glovework. He does have some power potential, as evidenced by solid doubles totals, and the thought is that some of those doubles will go over the fence as he fills in his frame. The problem with Jackson is that his swing, while powerful, has some real holes in it, which may very well keep him from ever hitting for a high average. At the high end, there have been projections of him hitting .275 with 20+ homers at the ML level, but most people think those numbers are probably a bit too rosy. Jackson did make significant strides with his hitting while at the U, so it certainly isn't out of the question that he could continue to improve, but it's also by no means a sure thing.
Where Jackson goes in the draft will likely hinge on what position teams see him playing in the big leagues. If they like his feet well enough to see him as a future shortstop, he'll likely be a top ten sort of pick. If they see his lack of speed as an indication that he simply won't have the range down the line and will need to move to the hot corner, his stock will certainly take a hit, and he could end up in the lower third of the first round. Either way, Jackson is still a polished college athlete who should move quickly through the minors on his way to his ultimate destination, whatever postition that may be.
Robbie Shields, SS- Florida Southern College
6'1", 195 lbs.
So, what's so great about this guy?
Robbie Shields is getting a fair amount of ink around the college baseball world as this year's Gordon Beckham. Beckham, you'll recall, was the Florida State shortstop last year who shot up draft boards with a monster junior season. Many of the same indications that pointed toward Beckham coming into his own are present with Shields as well, beginning with a huge performance in the Cape Cod League last summer. (Shields did, however, have to leave early; he injured his wrist sliding into a base. Stop sliding headfirst, all of you!)
If Ryan Jackson is the glove guy with enough projection in his bat to make him intriguing, then Shields is probably just the opposite. Shields has a smooth, quick batting stroke from the right side that sends line drives shooting all over whatever park he's playing in. He projects to hit for a high average, controls the strike zone well, and has enough loft in his swing that most believe he'll have 15+ homer season pretty consistently as a pro. He runs well, enough so that a few hyperventilating types have blue-skyed him as a possible 20/20 man. In short, Shields has all the tools to be an impact hitter in the major leagues.
The questions about Shields really begin when you look at the other side of the ball. It isn't so much that he's a bad fielder, it's just that he likely lacks the tools to stay at shortstop. His footwork is lacking, costing him in the throwing department, though he has plenty of raw arm strength. His hands are fairly good, but again, probably play best somewhere other than short.
Personally, I'm a big, big fan of Shields. I see him moving over to second base as a pro and moving rapidly up the ladder. His bat will likely carry him, but his glove isn't going to be a real hindrance, I don't believe. He'll always be an offensive-minded player, but that's certainly not any sort of problem, at least not to me. There's a good chance that he may be sitting there when the Cardinals go on the clock, and if he is, they could do a whole lot worse than to add a guy who might just fill in that hole we've had at second base since, well, it seems like ever.
That's it, another draft preview in the bag. Just for reference, here are the first two installments:
The Cardinals are playing today, though there's no radio broadcast, so I'm sure we'll all be staring at our computer screens most of the afternoon. Take care, and enjoy the game, everyone.