April 17, 2015

Link-O-Rama

"Gleeman and The Geek" is officially back on the radio, starting our fourth season on KFAN this Sunday at 4:00 pm. As always you can listen live on 100.3-FM and KFAN.com streaming audio or you can continue to listen to the show as a podcast via however you've been doing that already. We broadcast an hour live on the radio and then record another hour afterward in a side studio without any commercials, gluing the two pieces together for the final podcast product.

Rob Neyer of FOXSports.com wrote about my NBCSports.com blog-mate Craig Calcaterra and the criticism that comes with criticizing other writers.

• A national security expert wrote in the Washington Post that MLB forcing fans at every ballpark to go through metal detectors is "pure security theater" and "laughable."

Dana Wessel told the cute story of how he unexpectedly met his idol.

• I need two new owners my "Hardball Dynasty" league on WhatIfSports. Click here for details.

• You can't wear a spiked leather wristband and not expect people to mock it. Well, you can. But then it'll be even funnier.

• There's a vacant lot next to Calhoun Square and this summer Prime Time Wrestling "is planning five free outdoor shows" where "attendees just need to bring their own lawn chairs."

• I put together a guide to where the Twins' top 40 prospects are playing in the minors.

• If you like Boston Terriers, junk food, or dating you'll love this as much as I did:

The lesson to be learned is that meatballs are great.

• On a related note: This is a perfect representation of what life is like with a cat.

• Coincidentally the Cubs called up No. 1 prospect Kris Bryant on the same day his service time had been delayed long enough to push back his eventual free agency by an extra year.

Bryce Harper is still the youngest player in the National League.

• Grantland's oral history of the Orland Magic's non-dynasty was really good and included this what-if scenario from Shaquille O'Neal's agent about the Wolves winning the 1992 lottery:

Shaq was never adamant about going to L.A. or any big market. He went to LSU, so it wasn't like he was saying, "I need to go to some big market." Our strategy wasn't to force anybody to go anywhere. Maybe if he was picked by Minnesota he might have said, "I don’t want to go there."

Instead the Wolves picked third, missing out on both O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning.

Flip Saunders will surely disagree, but three-point shooting and playoff teams go hand in hand.

• It was another awful Wolves season, but television analyst Jim Petersen provided an ideal mix of passion, opinion, criticism, knowledge, and analytics. He's proof stats on TV can work.

• In the rare instances when the Twins talk publicly about their use of "statistical analysis" it comes across as rudimentary.

• Twins president Dave St. Peter took some shots at me during a Q&A session at the Minneapolis Star Tribune's new building and in doing so coined the phrase "Gleeman disciple."

• Seinfeld plus Limp Bizkit amused me way more than it should have:

The internet is an amazing place.

• As a Food Network viewer and Deadspin reader Drew Magary's appearance on "Chopped" was magical from start to finish.

• The photos from my podcast co-host John Bonnes' trip to Las Vegas are fascinating and scary.

• Congrats to Stu Neuman, Jon Marthaler, Brandon Broxey, and Clarence Swamptown on "The Sportive" winning the City Pages award for "2015 Best Sports Podcast."

• Restaurant recommendation: The Strip Club is a cozy gem in St. Paul. Tim Niver and Christy Niver treated us like family, every dish was fantastic, and I'm still thinking about the pork belly.

• Netflix recommendation: "Bloodline" is a slow burn, but Kyle Chandler, Linda Cardellini, and Ben Mendelsohn are all great and I enjoyed the 13-episode first season.

Jason Isbell has a new album coming out in July. His last album was amazing, as were the two lives shows in Minnesota that I went to.

• Some of this week's weird and random search engine queries that brought people here:

- "How did Aaron Gleeman die?"
- "Kid trips over man"
- "Spoon and Stable what to order"
- "How hard did Bert Blyleven throw?"
- "Heaviest center fielders"
- "Paul Molitor shirtless"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "See You Again" by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth:


This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

June 7, 2013

Twins draft Texas high school pitcher Kohl Stewart with No. 4 pick

Kohl Stewart

In a draft with three consensus top talents in Mark Appel, Jonathan Gray, and Kris Bryant the Twins picked fourth and you'd have been hard-pressed to find a mock draft that didn't have them taking Texas high school right-hander Kohl Stewart. There was some speculation this week that the Twins would pick Stewart even if one of the top three guys fell to them, but it ended up being a moot point. Appel, Bryant, and Gray went 1-2-3 and the Twins snagged Stewart at No. 4.

None of which means that Stewart is necessarily a consolation prize. His raw talent and long-term upside have frequently been compared favorably to Appel and Gray, but the inherent risk involved in giving millions of dollars to an 18-year-old pitcher dropped him below the pair of proven college aces and the NCAA's premier slugger on just about every public draft board. Stewart has immense potential, but high school arms take a long time to develop and flame out at an incredible rate.

That risk is a big reason why Stewart is just the fourth high school pitcher to be a top-five pick since 2005 and the 13th high high school pitcher to go in the top five during the last 20 years. And the previous 12 include a lot more misses than hits: Kerry Wood, John Patterson, Josh Beckett, Mike Stodolka, Gavin Floyd, Clint Everts, Adam Loewen, Chris Gruler, Mark Rogers, Matt Hobgood, Jameson Taillon, Dylan Bundy.

It's too early to pass judgment on Hobgood (fifth in 2009), Taillon (second in 2010), and Bundy (fourth in 2011), each of whom are still in the minors, but it's certainly worth noting that Bundy and Taillon are currently considered elite prospects. As for the other guys ... it ain't pretty. Gruler, Everts, and Stodolka never even reached the majors, Loewen and Patterson won fewer than 20 career games, and Rogers will struggle to avoid the same fate.

Wood, Beckett, and Floyd are the only real success stories, but Wood finished with 86 wins after injuries derailed a potential Hall of Fame career and Floyd has never developed into more than a mid-rotation starter with just 70 wins at age 30. Beckett developed exactly as hoped and emerged as an elite pitcher, although with his career winding down at age 33 he may not reach 150 wins. Obviously wins aren't a great way to evaluate pitchers, but you get the general idea.

All of which is the bad news. The good news is that Stewart's future isn't dependent on the past and if he does pan out the Twins may have an ace. Not only did Stewart have video game-like numbers as a senior with a 0.18 ERA in eight starts, he's a two-sport star and ESPN ranks him as the sixth-best prep quarterback in the country. He committed to play football at Texas A&M, but Stewart is expected to sign instead of waiting behind Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.

Baseball America rates Stewart as the draft's fifth-best prospect and quotes one scouting director as saying that "his pure stuff is as good as" Appel and Gray, touting his mid-90s fastball and "a power mid-80s slider" that's considered his best pitch. According to BA his changeup and curveball give Stewart the potential for four above-average pitches and at 6-foot-3 he has "a clean delivery and should get even better once he concentrates solely on baseball."

ESPN rates Stewart as the draft's fourth-best prospect, praising a mid-90s fastball "with good downhill plane" and a slider that "is his best pitch." Within the ESPN scouting report there are questions about Stewart's mechanics and command, but that tends to be the case with teenage pitchers and "even with those issues he's by far the best prep arm in the class." MLB.com rates Stewart as the draft's seventh-best prospect, behind only Appel and Gray among pitchers.

Here's what Twins scouting director Deron Johnson told reporters after making the pick:

He was the best prospect on the board left for us. It just so happened to be a high school right-hander. I think his ceiling is unlimited. I think he has the makeup and attributes to be a front-end starter. I'm not going to sit here and say he's going to be a No. 1, but he has the ability and athleticism to be as good as the guys taken ahead of him.

"It just so happened to be a high school right-hander" is interesting because the Twins have long favored college pitchers and high school hitters in the draft. In fact, from 2005-2012 they used a top-50 pick on seven college pitchers compared to just one high school pitcher, J.O. Berrios at No. 32 last year. For an organization that has shied so heavily away from high school arms to use the fourth overall pick on Stewart suggests they feel he's truly special.


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May 30, 2013

Getting to know the Twins’ draft options with the No. 4 overall pick

2013 draft appel gray bryant

Next week the Twins will add the No. 4 pick to their stacked farm system, making a top-10 pick in back-to-back drafts for the first time since taking Adam Johnson second in 2000 and Joe Mauer first in 2001. Johnson was a bust and Mauer is on a Hall of Fame path, which is the draft in a nutshell even when picking so high. Their other top-10 picks since 1990 are B.J. Garbe, Ryan Mills, Michael Cuddyer, Travis Lee, Todd Walker, and David McCarty. You get the idea.

Last year having the No. 2 pick worked out perfectly for the Twins when the Astros passed on the consensus top high school player and the consensus top college player with the No. 1 pick, leading to the Twins choosing Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton over various high-end college arms. They could use a similar break this year because most draft analysts agree on three players standing out above the class, possibly leaving the Twins to choose among the best of the rest.

Let's get to know the players who could potentially be the Twins' choice with the fourth pick ...


Mark Appel, Stanford University right-hander

Last year at this time Mark Appel was widely projected as the No. 1 pick, but when his hometown Astros passed on him in favor of high school shortstop Carlos Correa the Stanford right-hander fell all the way to the Pirates at No. 8. Appel and agent Scott Boras then played hardball with the Pirates, ultimately turning down a $3.8 million offer. He returned to Stanford for his senior season and was fantastic with a 2.12 ERA and 130-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 106 innings.

Appel is once again projected as the potential No. 1 pick, although if Houston passed on him there once it seems likely to happen this year too. That probably won't be enough for Appel to fall to the Twins at No. 4, although with Boras in the mix anything is possible. It's also unclear if the Twins would actually take Appel at No. 4 even if he's there, because just like the Astros they've already passed on him once in favor of Buxton.

Keith Law of ESPN writes that Appel has improved his off-speed pitches, which were often cited as a relative weakness last year, and calls him "clearly the draft's top talent" thanks to "top-of-the-rotation stuff and great command." Baseball America rates him as the draft's No. 2 prospect and calls Appel "everything scouts look for in a frontline pitcher" with a 6-foot-5 frame, mid-90s fastball, and plus slider "that generates swings and misses."


Jonathan Gray, University of Oklahoma right-hander

At the beginning of the season Jonathan Gray wasn't even rated among Baseball America's top 50 draft prospects, but the University of Oklahoma right-hander has vaulted all the way to their top spot by throwing 110 innings with a 1.55 ERA and 127-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio. According to BA he was "a live-armed but chubby high schooler" whose raw stuff now compares to Gerrit Cole, the No. 1 overall pick out of UCLA in 2011.

Law rates Gray second behind Appel, but says he "might have better pure stuff ... touching 100 miles per hour regularly, with a plus slider." Last year Gray was good but not great for Oklahoma and he came into this year as his own team's No. 2 starter, which is why he's generally viewed as less of a sure thing than Appel. However, his odds of actually falling to the Twins at No. 4 seem even lower than Appel's and right now Gray looks like the favorite to go No. 1.


Kris Bryant, University of San Diego third baseman/outfielder

Considered the best college bat in the draft, Kris Bryant is a 6-foot-5 right-handed slugger with huge power and an excellent eye at the plate. He's hit .340/.500/.860 with an NCAA-leading 31 homers and more walks (62) than strikeouts (40) in 58 games for the University of San Diego as a junior. As a sophomore last year Bryant hit .366/.483/.671 with 14 homers and more walks (39) than strikeouts (38) in 57 games.

In addition to topping a 1.000 OPS in each of his three college seasons Bryant was also projected as a potential first-round pick out of high school, so there are no holes to poke in his track record offensively. Defensively is another issue. His arm strength draws positive reviews and it's possible he could stick at third base, but both BA and Law expect him to wind up as a right fielder or first baseman. If he falls would the Twins pass on pitching help for another high-upside bat?


Kohl Stewart, Texas high school right-hander

Considered the top high school pitcher in the draft, Houston right-hander Kohl Stewart is also a star football player signed to play quarterback at Texas A&M. Like most high school aces Stewart throws in the mid-90s, but he's unique in that Law says he "has four legitimate pitches" including a hard slider that's considered his best offering. Even in citing his inconsistent control Law calls Stewart "by far the best prep arm in the class."

Baseball America quotes one MLB scouting director who says Stewart has better raw stuff than Appel or Gray, but also notes that "some clubs could shy away from Stewart because he's a Type 1 diabetic." BA has published two mock drafts and both have the Twins taking Stewart, but it's worth noting that J.O. Berrios last year is the only high school pitcher they've selected in the top 50 picks since 2005. Even more so than the draft in general high school pitching is boom or bust.


Colin Moran, University of North Carolina third baseman

Colin Moran can't compete with Bryant's raw power, but the University of North Carolina junior is a helluva college hitter and may have better odds of remaining at third base long term. Moran has hit .352 in three college seasons, including .357/.485/.579 with 55 walks versus just 20 strikeouts in 60 games this year. And the left-handed hitter is certainly not without power, smacking 13 homers this season and 25 total homers in 650 college at-bats.

In ranking Moran seventh in the class BA says "he covers the plate, lays off pitcher's pitches, has excellent hand-eye coordination, and drives the ball to all parts of the ballpark." That's evident in his great production and strikeout-to-walk ratios, but Law raises questions about an "unorthodox" and "not pretty" swing, which includes "a long stride forward in the box." And if Moran is forced to move down the defensive spectrum any lack of power development would hurt a lot.


Braden Shipley, University of Nevada right-hander

Assuming that Appel and Gray are both off the board Braden Shipley would be the best available college pitcher and the Twins have targeted a ton of college right-handers in recent years. They've chosen the following college righties within the first 50 picks since 2000: Adam Johnson, Aaron Heilman, Matt Fox, Matt Garza, Shooter Hunt, Carlos Gutierrez, Kyle Gibson, Alex Wimmers, Luke Bard. However, choosing Shipley this year might be a stretch.

He ranks among the top 10 according to BA, ESPN, and MLB.com, but none have Shipley in the top five and everyone seems to agree he's a clear step below Appel and Gray. Shipley starred for a bad Nevada team as a junior, posting a 2.77 ERA and 102/34 K/BB ratio in 107 innings, which is impressive for a guy who moved from shortstop to the mound as a sophomore. Shipley reaches the mid-90s with his fastball and BA praises his changeup as "one of the draft's best."


Austin Meadows, Georgia high school center fielder

Last year the Twins selected Buxton out of a rural Georgia high school and the consensus two best high school position players in this year's class are also Georgia outfielders. Austin Meadows was considered the best of the bunch coming into the season, although his stock has seemingly dipped a bit since then. Meadows is 6-foot-3 and already pretty big at 210 pounds, so sticking in center field long term may be an issue despite good speed and athleticism.

Baseball America praises Meadows' "mature" approach at the plate and calls his left-handed swing "smooth and easy" while questioning how much power he'll develop. Law reports that some scouts are put off by Meadows' lack of energy and notes that his "fringy" arm would likely limit him to left field if he outgrows center field. Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com cites Meadows' "five-tool potential," which is the most common trait attached to high school center fielders.


Clint Frazier, Georgia high school center fielder

Clint Frazier is the other stud high schooler from Georgia and rates slightly higher than Meadows according to both Baseball America and MLB.com. He's much smaller than Meadows and Mayo cites Frazier's "lack of physicality" in wondering how much room he has to develop. He does have plenty of power potential as a right-handed hitter and Law says Frazier "has the best bat speed in this draft ... maybe the best I've seen on an amateur prospect."

He's a center fielder now, but Law is convinced he'll wind up in right field and that puts Frazier's long-term upside in some question. No team drafts more toolsy high school outfielders than the Twins and they've stressed a "best player available" approach of which I'm definitely in favor, but given their outfield-heavy prospect crop it's hard to see Meadows or Frazier being a top target. According to BA scouts don't consider Meadows or Frazier to be on the same level as Buxton.


Reese McGuire, Washington high school catcher

It never would've occurred to me to have a high school catcher in the mix, but Jim Callis reported in the aforementioned mock draft that "rumors persist that Minnesota could cut a deal with Reese McGuire and spend heavily further down in the draft." He'd be an overdraft at No. 4, but perhaps not by a ton. BA, ESPN.com, and MLB.com all have McGuire in their top 20 and all rave about his defense behind the plate. And all question his offensive potential.

The track record of high school catchers drafted in the top 10 isn't encouraging to say the least, although Mauer being one of the biggest success stories probably makes the Twins less wary of that than most teams. McGuire, like Mauer, is a left-handed hitter with a good glove, but unless the Twins have something big up their sleeve with the money they'd save it would seem awfully risky to use a top-five pick on a catcher who may not hit a ton.


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