Archive for the ‘Prospectin’’ Category

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For years, baseball fans believed that on July 22, 1887, 14-year-old Fred Chapman pitched in a Major League game for the Philadelphia Athletics against the Cleveland Blues. The youngest player ever to appear at such a high level threw for five innings, giving up eight hits and four earned runs.

For 21st-Century fans, it was a funny anecdote from a distant past when child labor laws barely existed and Major League Baseball wasn’t earning billions of dollars from television deals. The problem is it’s not remotely true. In reality, a pitcher named Frank Chapman started for the Athletics in that game. He was much older than Fred.

This is the issue with baseball’s sparsely documented history. We’re put into a position in which we’re forced to trust a limited number of sources, or not believe a story at all. It’s a problem that persists in baseball, beyond the worries of the game’s historians.

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MLB: Spring Training-Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays

theScore’s Jonah Birenbaum spent several days following the Toronto Blue Jays during the opening weeks of Spring Training, talking with many of organization’s future stars.

Blue Jays prospect Marcus Stroman, a diminutive right-hander whose stature betrays his immense talents, runs through fielding drills with unmistakable ease on the backfields of Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Always jovial, the energetic hurler completes Spring Training’s more mundane exercises with the overt confidence of a veteran, but his body language is punctuated with the unadulterated enthusiasm of a youngster getting his first taste of big-league camp.

Stroman, who turns 23 in May, has logged a mere 131 innings as a professional, but the Duke alumnus has a reasonable chance of cracking Toronto’s beleaguered rotation this season. Though he’s aware his future is inextricably linked with that of the Blue Jays, Stroman insists his confidence isn’t a consequence of his pedigree. Selected in the first round of the 2012 draft, Stroman sits atop the prospect hierarchy, but his demeanor is simply a function of his upbringing.

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Texas Rangers Adrian  Beltre is congratulated by teammates after hitting a home run against the Los Angeles Angels in their MLB game in Arlington

Prospect season rolls on with another fresh batch of “the thinking man’s buzzfeed” pieces that rank and collate and organize players into nice, discreet tiers.

The lists are fun and also informative. From fantasy owners to hardcore baseball nerds to those who know the tender touch of a spouse or partner, it pays to know about the future of the game. As Will Leitch demonstrated at Sports On Earth yesterday, compiling lists like this is an evolution – recent lists seem much stronger than the older iterations.

To hear the like of Keith Law and some of the Baseball Prospectus guys tell it, these lists are all about approximating future production – which players have the best chance of being the best, or most valuable, pros.

Production is measured in many different ways and created by a wide variety of players. It comes in all shapes and forms, something easy to forget when reading scouting reports and pigeonholing young players.

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Baseball: Arizona Fall League-Fall Stars Game

theScore’s Steph Rogers spent a week covering the AFL, talking with many of baseball’s future stars. Check out her talk with Twins starter Alex Meyer – the biggest piece from the Denard Span trade a huge (literally) part of Minnesota’s future rotation plans. Enjoy!

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MLB: Seattle Mariners at Detroit Tigers

theScore’s Steph Rogers spent a week covering the AFL, talking with many of baseball’s future stars. Check out her talk with Mariners pitcher Brandon Maurer, who raced up Seattle’s depth chart to make 14 starts at the big league level in 2013.

Brandon Maurer is a big presence. At 6-foot-5, he seems far too broad for the small dugout bench at HoHoKam Stadium in Mesa. At 22, Maurer had never pitched an inning beyond Double-A when he won a spot in the Seattle Mariners starting rotation out of spring training. Maybe there’s an advantage to filling big shoes early on.

In Jackson with the Generals, the California-native was on cruise control through 2012. He pitched a career-high 137 2/3 innings, struck out 117 and gave up just four home runs en route to a 9-2 record with a 3.20 ERA.

Prospect watchers would know that James Paxton, and even the younger Taijuan Walker were projected to land in Seattle before Maurer, a 23rd round pick by the Mariners in 2008. Instead, the right-hander boasted an 0.90 ERA through his first 20 innings in the spring with 22 strikeouts, and stood beside Felix Hernandez when the Mariners opened at Safeco Field on April, 8, 2013. He’d earned it.

A day later, Maurer was roughed up against new AL West division rivals, the Houston Astros. He’ll talk about that moment of complete loneliness, captured by the Associated Press in a photo. It’s one of the few professional shots in existence from that outing because it was so short.

By his 23rd birthday on July 3, he was settled into the Pacific Coast League with Triple-A Tacoma. He earned a promotion by the last day of the month, easing back into Seattle’s good graces by coming out of the bullpen.

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Japan's pitcher Tanaka pitches against the Netherlands in the fifth inning at the WBC second round game in Tokyo

With the agreement between Major League Baseball and the Nippon Professional Baseball association finally in place, there is finally a new set of standards in place for passage of top professionals from Japan to the North American game. Rather than a blind bid, the Japanese side sets their “release fee” and any MLB team can meet it. The release fees can reach a maximum of $20 million USD, rather than the escalating blind binds of the previous agreement, resulting in astronomical fees for players like Yu Darvish – for whom Texas bid more than fifty million USD.

Any or all of the 30 MLB teams can the release fee, it is then up to the teams to work out a contract with the player. Only the “winning” team must pay the release fee, provided the player and MLB team are able to agree to terms within 30 days of the posting date. Whew.

No sooner was the ink dry on the fresh agreement before Masahiro Tanaka of the Rakuten Eagles told his team that he’d like to be posted and bring his talents to North America for the 2014 season. No more debate, no more hemming and hawing – Tanaka is coming and the interested teams must prepare their best offer if they hope to land the top Japanese pitcher since Darvish.

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Baseball: Arizona Fall League-Fall Stars Game

Each fall, many of baseball top prospects descend on Arizona for the annual Arizona Fall League. A baseball wonk’s dream, some of the biggest blue chippers in the game compete in an exhibition schedule designed to showcase their talents and get much needed repetitions against top talent.

theScore’s Steph Rogers spent a week covering the AFL, talking with many of baseball’s future stars. Below is her introduction to the AFL experience and an interview with Cubs top pick in the 2013 draft, Kris Bryant. Enjoy!

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