Archives for: June 2009
Matt Cain > Sidney Ponson
Again more on Matt Hobgood, I’m seeing glowing reviews on the kid. From AOL’s Fan House, who had a roundtable discussion on the draft with editors from the likes of Baseball America and such:
Klima said the Orioles might take some heat for picking Southern California prep righty Matt Hobgood at No. 5, but he liked the selection. He’s compared him to Matt Cain.
Wow, that’s a comparison I like, much better than the Sidney Ponson ones. Now was this really a “surprise” pick, or did the Orioles know what they were doing:
“I think they saw a right handed staff anchor, which is why they went for him,” Klima said. “I know they were on him pretty good all year. It wasn’t a fly-by-night sign-ability pick. They did like him. I’m sure they are thinking they have Brian Matusz (the No. 4 pick from last year) left and Hobgood from the right. Baltimore fans are surprised he went that high, but most people didn’t think he’d get out of the first 10.”
Just because Hobgood didn’t land in the first round of many “expert” mock drafts (sans Jim Callis) doesn’t mean that he was a sign-ability pressure pick (see Pittsburgh and Sanchez.) Hobgood has excellent peripherals, and if he gets a change up in his repitoire, he could be tough. As I said yesterday, hopefully he won’t wait until the eleventh hour to sign, and he can get into the Orioles’ system as soon as possible.
As it turns out, other teams wanted Hobgood too, since he would have easily been a Top 10 draft pick. I’m just surprised that he flew under the radar like he did. I guess Joe Jordan and his scouting staff know more about talent evaluation than the casual fan does. Now if Hobgood can be just as good as Cain, I’ll tip my glass to their front office.
The Hobgood, The Bad...
When I get a topic, I usually cover it ad nauseum. In that case, I wanted to delve more into the Matt Hobgood drafting by the Orioles. Was it a signability issue? I’m not sure. We’ll never know.
I was reading Keith Law’s piece today, and he was criticizing the Pirates for taking Tony Sanchez at #4. The Pirates had their pick of high school arms to go after, like Jacob Turner, Zack Wheeler and Tyler Matzek. They instead chose a catcher with little upside. I saw somewhere that if he hits .250 with 12 homers they’ll be happy (honestly that’s not bad production in my book.)
Last year the Pirates broke the bank and took Pedro Alvarez. The main similarity between this year is that both players were advanced college players, with Alvarez from Vanderbilt and Sanchez from Boston College. The same thing applies to Brian Matusz, whom the Orioles paid out 3.4MM to after drafting him fourth last year. The main difference between Matusz and the three aforementioned high school arms is that Matusz was highly advanced, coming from the University of San Diego (not to be confused with San Diego State where Mr. Strasburg came from.) He’s currently ready to be moved to Double-A Bowie.
Most of the top picks from last years draft were from college, with exception to Tim Beckham and Eric Hosmer. This year it seemed it was high school heavy talent.
I’m not Joe Jordan, but I can understand why he took Hobgood. High school arms can go many ways. Granted Rick Porcello is an interesting (and successful) case, but the franchise has been burned before by taking high school arms (e.g. Adam Loewen.) Hobgood has a plus fastball and a plus slider, but he needs to develop a breaking pitch. The Orioles don’t need him immediately, but he might be an interesting option four years from now.
I said it before and I’ll say it again. The Porcello contract set a bad precedent, and now the flood gates have opened with more and more high school arms who can dial into the high 90s seeking big money. The slot recommendation doesn’t matter, and even with it being dropped 10% due to the economy, Scott Boras will hold out until his clients get the top dollar possible.
Drafts on Tap
I haven’t written here in a while. It’s a long story, no doubt. However I wanted to discuss one of my most favorite topics, the MLB Amateur Draft. I know to some people like Keith Law and John Sickels, today is a national holiday for them (actually it’s more of a weekend, given the three days of the draft.) For me, it’s another day of drinking, though not as excessive as Flag Day.
Anyone with their right mind knew that the Nationals were going to take Stephen Strasburg, it’s a given. And we are all ready to watch the contract negotiations unfold with Scott Boras in the picture. My popcorn is ready. The Mariners took UNC 1B/CF Dustin Ackley with the obvious #2 pick. Honestly I would have liked to see him fall down to the #5 spot (which the Orioles had), but he was clearly the best hitter in the draft. And with Scott Boras as his “advisor", like Strasburg he could easily command 10MM in guaranteed money. I saw Ackley play this weekend Sunday against South Carolina, and liked what I saw. Great batting eye, great defense (especially when he moves back to CF after the injury heals), however it might take some time for his power to develop.
The first four picks of the draft were rightly predicted, however the Orioles surprised me by taking Matt Hobgood. From what people are writing, he’s a big kid who’s projected to be a power pitcher in the late innings. The Orioles could have taken Zack Wheeler (as I expected), but I think signability played a role here. Baltimore’s system is loaded with young pitching, but Wheeler would have fit nicely (in the big leagues by 2012.) San Fransisco immediately took him with the next pick (and he looks nice with Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson in the system as well.)
If Baltimore hadn’t taken Wheeler, I thought about (UNC SS) Grant Green as a possibility, but then he didn’t fit the mold as a typical defensive shortstop that Andy MacPhail wants. I really would have liked them to get Wheeler, and I’m curious to know the motivations why he wasn’t picked. From what Rich Lederer wrote in today’s live blog:
Hopgood was named the 2009 Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year yesterday. He is a big bodied pitcher who can also hit. Baltimore clearly liked him better than any other team. He is committed to Cal State Fullerton but is likely to be a fairly easy sign at this spot.
Still him and Marc Hulet were just as surprised as I was. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t question Joe Jordan, whose done an excellent job as the scouting director for the Orioles in the past four years, but this move has me scratching my head.
Then again the economy clearly played a role here. I’ve never before seen so many high school arms seeking Rick Porcello money (a bad precedent the minute it was set by Detroit.) But then again that didn’t stop many teams today, especially Detroit (again), who took Justin Turner at the #9 spot (and he could command 7MM by the August 17th deadline.)
Now back to the main story, the Nats took Strasburg. What would it take to sign him? I’d offer him 15MM right off the bat and leave the offer on the table. That’s what everyone is expecting, and I feel that it is clearly fair. He won’t get 50MM (sorry Jon, Boras Corporation contractor), not in this economy. There have been stories galore leading up to today which shown the #1 pitching picks from years back… the best of the bunch was Andy Benes, a mediocre Padres pitcher who compiled a .500 winning percentage in his career. His brother Alan also pitched in the National League, and like his brother was a .500 pitcher (29-28 over eight seasons.)
Outside of Strasburg, we might see Ackley get 10MM, and I think that’s a strong possibility. Still, in looking at this draft, it was clearly top heavy. Last year’s draft showcased more pure hitters, while this one showcased tons of high school arms. Still I expect most of these players to wait until the last minute to sign, like last season. Granted some first round picks from last year signed quickly, like Buster Posey (Giants), Tim Beckham (Rays) and Kyle Skipworth (Marlins.) This year might be different. I expect the Pirates to sign Tony Sanchez quickly, and the same thing goes with the Orioles and Hobgood. Maybe that’s a good thing, since Brian Matusz and Matt Wieters waited until the 11th hour to sign in years past. Hopefully he’ll sign quickly and will be playing ball in the rookie leagues by Summer’s end.