Tuesday, June 8, 2010

MLB Draft and College Ball

MLB Draft

Today was the first day of the MLB first-year player draft. I watched the first 41 picks on-line, accompanied by the Baseball America draft preview issue. It was quite interesting as teams strayed from the expected order rather early and several top prospects weren't even drafted in the first round. The studio announcers were quite detailed in their analysis, but much of what they said was taken almost verbatim from Baseball America.

Now the fun begins as teams try to sign their selections and assign them to minor league teams. The short season leagues get underway in a couple of weeks and some of today's picks will be sent to those leagues. For those in the Montreal area who were big Delino DeShields fans, his son Delino DeShields Jr. was drafted by Houston 8th overall. If the Astros can sign him, he may eventually wind up in the Tri-City Valley Cats (Troy, NY) in the NY-Penn League. Worth a road trip if he does.

Following up on the game I saw at UCLA in late April, Arizona State's Seth Blair was taken by St. Louis 46th overall. His scouting report is similar to the game I saw: command issues leading to high pitch counts but gets the job done (he threw 113 pitches in 6.2 innings but yielded only one run). I'll see if he signs and where he ends up in the minors.

I mentioned that there were a lot of unexpected early picks; this has to do with signability concerns. Kids coming out of high school can demand huge bonuses and if they don't get what they are looking for, they just head off to college and get drafted a couple of years later. It amazes me that a kid who has just a few hundred high school at bats can demand a multi-million dollar signing bonus. Baseball history is littered with "can't-miss" prospects who missed. It's possible that such a high payout at such a young age affects the motivation of the player, but teams have no choice if they want to be competitive. Last season, MLB clubs spent almost $163 million on signing bonuses, a staggering amount. Remember that's for players that have never seen a major league pitch.

In spite of all this money, I am a big fan of how much baseball information is available now. When I was a kid, we had no idea what was going on behind the scenes in sports, players just magically appeared one season. Now we can follow a player from when he is a high school phenom if not earlier. This certainly makes baseball, particularly the minor leagues, much more interesting and accessible. But with over 1500 players to be drafted, it's impossible to keep track of them all. So I'll follow the Jays first few picks and perhaps Blair and DeShields, just to see what happens over the next few years. I'll keep you posted here, but for those with a deeper interest in the draft, check out the draft page at MLB.com.

College World Series

Many of the players drafted were in action as the regionals of the College World Series were held this past weekend. The NCAA has a great bracket page for those who wish to follow more closely. Both UCLA and Arizona State won their 4-team regionals, so they are just one step away from perhaps meeting again in the CWS in Omaha. In the best-of-3 super-regionals, UCLA will play Cal State Fullerton, who boast Christian Colon (4th overall to Kansas City) as their shortstop. If you are in Los Angeles, try to get to Jackie Robinson Stadium this coming weekend for what should be some exciting super-regional action. Arizona State hosts Arkansas and 3B Zack Cox (26th overall to St. Louis) in Tempe and ESPN2 will be showing the second game of the series live. Wish I could have stayed there an extra couple of weeks though.

For those in northern Florida, going back and forth between Tallahassee and Gainesville would enable you to catch all 4 weekend games in those two super-regionals as the Tallahassee games are afternoon affairs while Gainesville will put on evening encounters. I'm sure a few scouts will be making that roadtrip.

Next Up

It's been a quiet couple of weeks since I got back from the States. Just too much going on in the mornings here, but that should end shortly. In the meantime, there are a few events that merit some attention.

Today was the first day of the Japanese version of the CWS. Known as the All-Japan University Baseball Championship, it's a single-elimination tournament that takes place over 6 days. There are 26 teams entered (one from each university baseball federation in Japan), including Tokyo Big 6 champion Keio. Games are held at the Tokyo Dome and Jingu, and I plan to go see some of them later this week.

I also mentioned the industrial league tournaments being held in the area. I've been following on-line, and right now they are not that interesting. Generally, the early rounds pit semi-pro teams that play for companies such as Honda against amateur club teams, so the games are not competitive. Some of the scores in the Tokyo tournament were 16-0, 15-2, 15-1, and 31-2. That's not a compelling reason to go watch them at this point; I'll wait until late June when the top 8 teams face off closer to my home.

I've also noticed that soccer's J2 League has a game in Komazawa Stadium this coming weekend. I used to play ball hockey next to the stadium, but never had a chance to get inside, so I'll be visiting there on Saturday afternoon. As usual, check back for posts on all these events.



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