Stray Thoughts

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Stray Thoughts

I noticed that the Rangers stole nine bases in the first five innings of today’s game against the Red Sox, all while Tim Wakefield was on the hill.  It was a perfect storm: Tim Wakefield with his low-speed-erratic-moving knuckleball is probably the worst pitcher in the AL at holding runners, having finished 5th, 2nd, 1st, 2nd and 10th in stolen bases allowed in the Junior Circuit the last five seasons; and Red Sox catchers had only thrown out one of the previous 22 base-stealers entering tonight’s game.

Even Vladimir Guerrero, who’s an old 35 this year and hasn’t been much a base-stealer since 2006, got into the act with a couple of stolen bases.  Once Wakefield came out of the game after six innings, however, the Rangers stopped running, and the Red Sox eventually won the game 7-6, wasting another good start from Colby Lewis, the prodigal son returned to Texas (Lewis is originally from Bakersfield, but was drafted by the Rangers in the late first round of the 1999 Draft) after two outstanding seasons in the Japanese leagues.

One has to think that the whole league is going to try to run wild against the Red Sox when Wakefield is pitching from here on out.

I noticed that Jim Callis of the Baseball America expects that Bryce Harper will get a signing bonus/initial contract in the $10 to 12 million range, which would set a record for position players, but is significantly less than the $15.1 million Stephen Strasburg received last August.

If the Nationals draft Harper with the first pick of the 2010 Draft, as is now widely predicted, I don’t see how they will be able to pay him less than what Strasburg got out of them last year.  Because of his age (17), he isn’t likely to get the kind of major league deal that Strasburg got, but at four years younger with at least two or three more opportunities to be drafted by age 21, he’s got a lot more leverage than Strasburg had.

When you look at the money some of these young Cuban players have received recently, leverage is everything.  I can see the Nationals successfully holding the line at what Strasburg received last year, but I just can’t see them convincing Harper to swallow much less if he and Scott Boras are set on getting what Strasburg got.

To me, I can’t see any logical reason why a position player shouldn’t be worth as much as a pitcher as a top draft pick.  Position players are a lot less likely to get hurt between when they are drafted and when they reach the majors and are a lot more likely to stay healthy once they get there.

I will grant that it must be easier to project a major league arm (amateur players generally already have it at the moment they’re drafted), than it is to project a future major league hitter.  However, when you factor in the greater frequency of arm problems to any other major baseball injury, it’s hard to think that pitchers come out ahead.

Meanwhile, Harper has done nothing to make you think that a major league organization would not pay out the money to get him signed and into one of their uniforms right away.  Harper was by far the best hitter on a junior college team (the College of Southern Nevada) that has gone 34-6 with six games remaining in their regular season.  He’s already essentially two years ahead of any of the high school graduates likely to be chosen in the first round of the 2010 Draft.

It’s probably not too soon (and a lot of people have done it already) to say that the “Jay Hey Kid” is the real thing.  After a slow start, Heyward is now hitting .298 with a 1.028 OPS.  He had another big hit in Atlanta’s come from behind win over the league-champion Phillies, his fourth HR of the season in the ninth inning tonight.

Mark my words, Jason Heyward is still going to have a big slump or two either this year or next as part of his maturation process.  However, he looks well enough established now that with the exception of rehab stints following as yet unknown future injuries at some unknown point down the road, it looks fairly certain his minor league days are over for good.

The Twins beat the Indians today 5-1 behind a great start from Kevin Slowey who went eight innings and struck out nine without allowing a walk.

Slowey is my favorite of the Twins’ many young starters.  Wrist surgery to remove a bone fragment cut short his 2009 season, but he now appears to be back on track.

The thing I like about Slowey is that he has consistently maintained a roughly 5-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks rate in each of his first three major league seasons.  It’s hard to find fault in that, although I suspect, based on his hits allowed totals, that he still needs to learn when to be effectively wild.

For what it’s worth, Slowey went to college on an academic scholarship, not a baseball scholarship, after scoring 1420 on the SAT as a high school senior.  It’s probably better to be a smart pitcher than a dumb one, but there’s a saying in baseball “Don’t think: you’re hurting the team.”  This means don’t overthink the game, because an awful lot of it is just trusting your instincts and playing ball in a natural, effortless way.

Oh, and the Astros finally got off the scheid and won their first home game tonight after an 0-6 start, on the day Lance Berkman finally returned to the line-up.  Definitely, a good night for Astros’ fans.


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