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Rays vs. Red Sox: Score, Grades and Analysis for ALDS Game 2

The Boston Red Sox posted two runs against lefty David Price in the first inning on Saturday and never looked back, going on to a 7-4 victory at Fenway Park in Game 2 of the ALDS.

Jacoby Ellsbury singled to lead off the bottom of the first. He then proceeded to steal second base but was able to advance all the way to third on Rays catcher Jose Molina’s throwing error. After a Shane Victorino groundout, Dustin Pedroia drove in Ellsbury on a sacrifice fly to center. David Ortiz came up next and launched a solo shot to right to give the Red Sox an early 2-0 lead. tweeted out video of Ortiz’s blast:

Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeted this about the 37-year-old slugger:

In the top of the second inning, the Rays responded. After Ben Zobrist walked and Desmond Jennings singled him to third, the second baseman was able to score on a Delmon Young sacrifice fly.

Things began to unravel for Price and the Rays in the third inning, though. David Ross doubled to lead off the inning, then Ellsbury added a double of his own to bring him home. Victorino singled Ellsbury to third before Pedroia’s groundout scored the speedy center fielder.

Igor Derysh of XN Sports tweeted:

It was more of the same in the fourth inning. With Jonny Gomes standing on second base following a throwing error by Ben Zobrist, Stephen Drew tripled Gomes home.

Price came into the game with a 2.48 ERA against the Red Sox in 2013. That included allowing just three runs in 22.1 innings at Fenway Park. But the Red Sox got to the lefty early on Saturday, proving that their offense can only be kept under wraps for so long.

In the top of the fifth inning, the Rays showed some life. After Yunel Escobar doubled and David DeJesus was hit by a pitch, James Loney doubled both of them home. At that point, the Rays were only trailing 5-3.

Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal tweeted:

But Boston’s high-octane offense naturally responded in the bottom of the frame, as Pedroia doubled home Ellsbury. It marked the third straight inning the Red Sox had scored on Price, but Rays manager Joe Maddon seemed determined to keep the lefty in the game.

Of course, the Rays weren’t going to go down without a fight. They scratched across another run in the sixth inning after Escobar singled home Jennings. It signaled the end of Boston starter John Lackey’s night.

Adam Gold of ESPN’s The Fan tweeted:

But the Red Sox coasted from there, as Ortiz added insult to injury with another bomb against Price in the eighth inning, at which point Maddon finally gave Price the hook..

Price ended up allowing seven earned runs in seven innings, allowing nine hits and two walks in the process. It was a miserable night for the 2012 AL Cy Young winner.

The Red Sox showed on Saturday why they were the top offense in the American League during the regular season. They Rays will need to figure out how to slow them down if they have any chance of extending the series beyond Game 3, which is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 7 at 6:07 p.m. ET.


Player Grades 

Tampa Bay Rays
Hitters Grade
David DeJesus LF C
Wil Myers RF F
James Loney 1B A
Evan Longoria 3B C+
Ben Zobrist 2B D-
Desmond Jennings CF B+
Delmon Young DH C+
Yunel Escobar SS A
Jose Molina C D-
Sean Rodriguez PH C-
Jose Lobaton C-
Matt Joyce  D+
Pitchers Grade
David Price SP F
Jake McGee B-


Boston Red Sox
Hitters Grade
Jacoby Ellsbury CF A
Shane Victorino RF C
Dustin Pedroia 2B A
David Ortiz DH A
Mike Napoli 1B C
Jonny Gomes LF C+
Will Middlebrooks 3B C
Stephen Drew SS C+
David Ross C C+
Pitchers Grade
John Lackey SP C-
Craig Breslow A
Junichi Tazawa B+
Koji Uehara A


Player of the Game: Jacoby Ellsbury, CF, Boston Red Sox

Jacoby Ellsbury was a spark plug on Saturday.

The 30-year-old outfielder went 3-for-4 with one RBI, three runs and one stolen base. He set the tone from the start, singling to open the bottom of the first inning and getting Price into the stretch right away.

Ellsbury is now 5-for-9 with two RBI, four runs and two stolen bases in two postseason games this year. If he continues on this pace, it’s going to be difficult for anyone to slow down Boston’s offense, especially given the talent backing Ellsbury up.


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ALDS Schedule 2013: Predicting Saturday’s American League Showdowns

The Boston Red Sox rolled over the Tampa Bay Rays to kick off the American League divisional round with a bang on Friday.

Game 1 was a nightmare for the Rays, as they were battered, 12-2, behind 14 hits by the Red Sox and sloppy defensive play. They posted a grand total of four hits against Jon Lester and Co. while allowing seven different Red Sox players to register at least one RBI.

But the Red Sox aren’t out of the woods yet. They still have to beat the Rays two more times before advancing to the next round of the playoffs.

The Rays and Red Sox will battle it out to start Friday’s action. The Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics will follow.

Here’s the broadcast information, complete with my predictions. 

*Watch postseason baseball live on or your mobile device.


Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox

Where: Fenway Park, Boston, Mass.

When: Saturday, Oct. 5 at 5:37 p.m. ET

Watch: TBS

The Boston Red Sox rolled over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday to take a 1-0 series lead.

But Saturday is a new day.

I expected the Red Sox to defeat the Rays on Friday. Sure, it wasn’t to the extent I imagined, but given the presence of Jon Lester and the inexperience of Matt Moore, it also wasn’t a great surprise that Boston racked up run after run.

But on Saturday, the Rays start some dude named David Price. This is the same David Price who has posted a 2.48 ERA against the Red Sox this season. That includes allowing just two runs in 16.1 innings to the Red Sox at Fenway Park (both wins).

Now, consider that the Red Sox are starting John Lackey on Saturday. Lackey has allowed nine runs in two starts against the Rays this season. He lasted all of 10 innings in those starts.

Lackey also posted an ERA of 4.98 in September. In his last start against the Colorado Rockies on Sept. 24, he allowed four runs in six innings as the Red Sox were defeated, 8-3.

The Rays aren’t the kind of team to simply lie down. They beat the Texas Rangers in a one-game tiebreaker to advance to the playoffs, then beat the Cleveland Indians in the wild-card game. I think they will bounce back in Boston on Saturday.

Prediction: Rays 5, Red Sox 4


Detroit Tigers at Oakland Athletics

Where: Coliseum, Oakland, Calif.

When: Saturday, Oct. 5 at 9:07 p.m. ET

Watch: TBS

The Athletics have given baseball yet another reason to praise Billy Beane this season, finishing with 96 wins in the regular season.

I also like what manager Bob Melvin did, starting rookie Sonny Gray over clear No. 2 starter Jarrod Parker.

It all adds up to a win over the one and only Justin Verlander on Saturday in Oakland.

The easy thing to say when assessing this matchup is, “Justin Verlander is great and he’s a six-time All-Star and he won the 2011 AL Cy Young and he posted a 2.22 ERA in the playoffs last year.”

Well, that is all correct, but I can’t ignore a few things.

One, the Athletics posted the second-best home record in the AL during the regular season (52-29). 

Two, they swept the Tigers at Comerica Park in August.

Three, one of those games they won in August was against Verlander, who surrendered five runs (three earned) in five innings on Aug. 27.

Four, Verlander was great in the playoffs last year, but he holds a career postseason ERA of 4.22. He wasn’t that great in 2006 or 2011.

Five, Gray was the better Game 2 choice for Oakland because a) the Tigers have never faced him and b) he holds a 1.99 ERA in six home starts this season.

Watching a player on film only does so much for you. You have to face him to truly get a feel for him. Gray obviously has the kind of stuff to be a difficult pitcher to face at first. It’s one of the reasons why he has 67 strikeouts in 64 innings this year, while registering a 1.11 WHIP. The A’s didn’t draft him at No. 18 overall in 2011 for nothing.

The Athletics will bounce back in Oakland on Saturday.

Prediction: Athletics 4, Tigers 3


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September Call-Ups 2013: Billy Hamilton and Prospects Who Deserve Promotions

Cincinnati Reds prospect Billy Hamilton headlines the list of youngsters most likely to be called up in September by MLB teams.

Hamilton, known for his blazing speed, has generated a lot of buzz heading into September as the Reds sit 3.5 games back in the NL Central while currently holding the second wild-card spot in the National League.

But Hamilton isn’t the only prospect who has generated hyperboles and superlatives throughout baseball.

Here’s a breakdown of the players deserving of promotions who can help out teams this season as they look ahead to the playoffs.


Billy Hamilton, OF, Louisville Bats (Cincinnati Reds)

In a press release on Friday, the Reds included outfielder Billy Hamilton on a list of call-ups they “expect” to make, per Matt Snyder of

Hamilton isn’t exactly known for his bat (see what I did there?)—hitting .256 with a .308 on-base percentage this year for Triple-A Louisville—but his speed is simply out of this world.

Case in point: Hamilton has successfully stolen 75 bases in 90 tries this season with Louisville. That is after he stole 155 bases between High-A and Double-A last season. Last season in a game against Jacksonville, he reportedly ran the bases during an inside-the-park home run in 13.8 seconds, via John Otano of

Of course, you don’t have to have those stats in front of you to know Hamilton has elite speed if you simply watch him run the bases once. He is a dynamic threat on the basepaths and will benefit the Reds this season even if he’s only used as a pinch runner.


Nick Castellanos, OF, Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit Tigers)

Nick Castellanos was likely to be called up by the Tigers before Miguel Cabrera’s injury (via Jon Morosi of on Friday.

Now it’s almost a sure thing.

The promising outfielder—ranked as the No. 21 overall prospect by Baseball America after the 2012 season—is batting .273 with 16 home runs, 72 RBI and 79 runs for Triple-A Toledo this season (524 at-bats, 132 games).

Tigers left fielders have collectively hit .258 this season. Even if Cabrera bounces back from his injury, Castellanos is likely to see playing time in Detroit, especially with the Tigers currently 7.5 games ahead in the AL Central.


Michael Choice, OF, Sacramento River Cats (Oakland Athletics)

Michael Choice—ranked as the Athletics’ No. 2 prospect by Baseball America after the 2012 season—is hitting .298 with a .387 on-base percentage and 14 home runs, 89 RBI and 90 runs for Triple-A Sacramento this season. He ranks second in the Pacific Coast League in RBI, fourth in runs and 10th in on-base percentage.

The 23-year-old out of Texas has simply been raking.

Something tells me A’s general manager Billy Beane would like a guy who gets on base a lot as the Athletics find themselves currently in control of a wild-card spot, 2.5 games behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West.


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Chicago Cubs Trade Rumors: Breaking Down Buzz Surrounding NL Central Club

Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline is at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, and the Chicago Cubs have been mighty busy.

The Cubs find themselves once again on the bottom of the pile this season, holding a 48-57 record and sitting 15 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL Central lead.

Naturally, with Chicago well out of the playoff race, the Cubs are looking to deal more proven players for young prospects to build around.

Here’s the latest buzz circulating around Wrigley Field as the trade deadline approaches.


Nate Schierholtz on the Move?

Outfielder Nate Schierholtz is having a career year in his first season with the Cubs, hitting .274 with 14 home runs, 43 RBI and 40 runs while batting .286 with runners in scoring position.

Buster Olney of ESPN reported on Tuesday:

On Monday, Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago reported that Schierholtz was “most likely” the next Cub to be moved before Wednesday’s deadline. The Texas Rangers, as well as “two or three other teams,” are reportedly interested in the 29-year-old lefty. 

Schierholtz is 11-for-36 (.306) in his last 11 games. He also is known as a good fielder, ranked eighth in fielding percentage among all eligible right fielders, per


Cubs in the Market for Right-hander Ian Kennedy?

Just because the Cubs are bottom-feeders this season doesn’t mean they aren’t looking to acquire some veteran pieces.

According to Buster Olney of ESPN, the Cubs could be in the market for Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Ian Kennedy.

Olney tweeted on Tuesday:

To say Kennedy has struggled this season would be an understatement. His ERA of 5.28 ranks fourth-worst among all eligible pitchers in baseball. Only 13 eligible pitchers have posted a worse WHIP than the 28-year-old. He’s also 3-7 on the season.

Then again, Kennedy is relatively cheap ($4.3 million salary this season), and he’s not due to become a free agent until after the 2015 season. 

Also, Kennedy does have a history of success in the majors, going 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 198 strikeouts in 222 innings pitched (33 starts) in 2011.


Will Cubs Deal Right-hander Jeff Samardzija?

According to Jon Heyman of, the Cubs are dangling right-hander Jeff Samardzija in front of teams, but it’s likely going to take a lot to nab the 28-year-old from northern Indiana.

The Cubs are reportedly telling interested parties that if they want Samardzija, then the Cubs get to “take whatever they want,” per Heyman.

Samardzija has posted a 3.75 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 146 strikeouts in 144 innings pitched (22 starts) this season.

The sixth-year veteran reportedly has yet to show much interest in signing a long-term deal with the Cubs as he looks ahead to free agency after the 2016 season. But it will still probably take quite the bundle to wrestle him away from Chicago.

Jayson Stark of noted on Tuesday that Schierholtz is one of the most likely Cubs to get dealt, while there is “just about zero chance” that Samardzija is sent packing.


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MLB Trade Rumors: Sifting Through Latest Buzz in Baseball

Major League Baseball’s trade deadline is just a day away, as numerous top names continue to float around on the market.

Whether it be a veteran right-hander or an outfielder who has been selected as an All-Star twice, there is still some notable talent lingering around the diamond.

So, as contenders look to contend and pretenders unload solid players for young prospects, here’s a look at the latest rumors in baseball, complete with analysis.


Jake Peavy Headed to the Diamondbacks?

As teams go after four-time All-Star and 2007 Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy this summer, the Arizona Diamondbacks have reportedly emerged as the front-runner for the 32-year-old’s services, according to Gordon Edes of

Edes tweeted on Tuesday:

Peter Gammons tweeted on Monday:

Peavy has gone 8-4 with a 4.28 ERA and 1.14 WHIP, while notching 76 strikeouts in 80 innings pitched this season (13 starts). On the other hand, he missed time this season with a left rib fracture, and he’s allowed four earned runs or more in three of his past four starts dating back to May 30 against the Chicago Cubs.

The veteran right-hander posted a 3.37 ERA with a 1.10 WHIP and 194 strikeouts in 219 innings (32 starts) last season. He pitched four complete games, including one shutout.

The Diamondbacks rank 16th in baseball in starters’ ERA this season (3.97). They are 54-51, 2.5 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL West lead. They are 4-6 since the All-Star break.


Astros Placing Heavy Price Tag on Bud Norris?

According to one scout, the Houston Astros “want a package that begins with a top prospect” for 28-year-old right-hander Bud Norris, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

Norris has posted a 3.93 ERA, 1.41 WHIP and 90 strikeouts in 126 innings (21 starts) this season. For his career, he’s registered a 4.33 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP.

On the other hand, Norris is due only $3 million this season and he doesn’t become a free agent until after the 2015 campaign.

Several teams have been linked to Norris, including the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates


Will Giants Trade Hunter Pence?

The New York Yankees, Cincinnati Reds, Texas Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates are interested in San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence, according to Jon Heyman of

The Giants reportedly want to re-sign Pence—who becomes a free agent after the season—but they may be convinced to deal him for the right return, according to Ken Rosenthal of

Rosenthal tweeted on Saturday:

The two-time All-Star is batting .277 with 14 home runs, 51 RBI, 55 runs and 14 stolen bases in 2013. He’s making $13.8 million this season.



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Nick Delmonico to Brewers: What You Need to Know About Milwaukee’s New Prospect

The Milwaukee Brewers completed a deal that sent reliever Francisco Rodriguez to the Baltimore Orioles for prospect Nick Delmonico on Tuesday, according to Dayn Perry of

Delmonico is a 21-year-old infielder from Tennessee who was drafted in the sixth round of the 2011 MLB draft by the Orioles. He was tabbed as the No. 4 prospect in the Orioles’ organization by Baseball America after the 2012 campaign.

Delmonico was drafted straight out of Farragut High School in Knoxville. Since then, he has played Low-A ball and High-A ball for the Orioles.

In 2012 with Low-A Delmarva, Delmonico batted .249 with 11 home runs, 54 RBI, 49 runs and eight stolen bases in 95 games (338 at-bats). In 2013 with High-A Frederick, Delmonico has batted .244 with 13 home runs, 30 RBI, 33 runs and five stolen bases in 60 games (225 at-bats). 

While Delmonico’s average isn’t much to write home about, his OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of .822 would rank eighth in the Carolina League this season if he had enough at-bats to qualify. He ranks 19th in the league with 36 walks and fifth with 13 bombs.

On the major league level, Delmonico posted one hit in five plate appearances in spring training for the Orioles in 2012. He’s notched defensive innings at first base, second base and third base as a pro.

There is still a lot of room for Delmonico to grow. As a high schooler with Farragut, he led the Admirals to four consecutive championships, finishing his career with a .450 batting average and 45 home runs, and setting school records in single-season RBI and walks, and career walks.

There are some durability issues surrounding Delmonico, however. He’s battled numerous injuries dating back to high school, from his wrist to his back to his knee. He also sustained a concussion in April.

The lowdown on the young infielder is that he has pop at the plate, and his ability to draw walks makes him more valuable than his low batting average would indicate.


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MLB All Star Lineups: Who Has the Best Offense This Year?

The National League seeks its fourth straight victory over the American League at the 2013 All-Star Game on Tuesday at Citi Field.

Of course, before the 3-1 victory in 2010, the NL hadn’t won since 1996 (in 2002, we had the dreaded extra-inning game that resulted in a tie).

So, the question is, who will win on Tuesday?

The American League starting lineup has posted a combined WAR of 34.4 this season, via That’s compared to a combined NL WAR of 27.9. The top three AL hitters in terms of WAR have a better WAR than the top NL hitter (David Wright).

Of course, WAR isn’t everything.

Then again, in terms of batting value, the NL also falls short. The AL has posted a combined batting value of 210.5, with Miguel Cabrera leading the group (51.4) and J.J. Hardy registering a negative grade. The NL has posted a combined batting value of 161.1, with Joey Votto leading the group (27.9) and Brandon Phillips notching a negative grade.

In terms of on-base percentage, six AL hitters rank in the top 20 in baseball. Four NL hitters rank in the top 20.

Six AL hitters rank in the top 20 in OPS (on-base + slugging). Five NL hitters rank in the top 20.

But which team collectively hits better with men in scoring position?

Well, the AL starting lineup is hitting a combined .328 with men in scoring position this season. Miguel Cabrera leads the squad, hitting an astounding .443 with 15 home runs in that situation. Hardy is hitting a team-low .239 in that situation.

As for the NL starting lineup, it is hitting a combined .342 with men in scoring position. Carlos Beltran leads the squad with a .431 average in such situations. Carlos Gonzalez and Bryce Harper rank eighth and ninth on the team, respectively, hitting .258 and .256 with runners in scoring position (although, to be fair, Harper has had only 39 at-bats in that situation this year).

So, in essence, if the NL can get men in scoring position against AL starter Max Scherzer from the get-go, the squad has a better chance of out-scoring the AL. Of course, that’s hard to do against the 13-game winner, as batters have hit a combined .206 against him this season. 

All told, the American League appears to have a better offense than the National League. But if the National League can find ways to get on base against the AL pitching, the NL could defeat the AL again.


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Alex Rodriguez Faces Another Hurdle with Potential Suspension for PEDs Looming

Can it get any worse for Alex Rodriguez these days?

He hasn’t played yet this season after hip surgery, Yankees Nation has basically given up on him and, oh yeah, he’s a central figure in a performance-enhancing drug scandal currently being investigated by Major League Baseball, according to T.J. Quinn, Pedro Gomez and Mike Fish of

The trio of ESPN reporters reported on Tuesday:

“Major League Baseball will seek to suspend about 20 players connected to the Miami-area clinic at the heart of an ongoing performance-enhancing drug scandal, including Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, possibly within the next few weeks, ‘Outside the Lines’ has learned. 

“Tony Bosch, founder of the now-shuttered Biogenesis of America, reached an agreement this week to cooperate with MLB‘s investigation, two sources told ‘Outside the Lines,’ giving MLB the ammunition officials believe they need to suspend the players.”

Quinn also added this:

Rodriguez, who has already admitted to taking PEDs from 2001 to 2003 when he was with the Texas Rangers, would be dealt a severe blow if forced to sit out for 100 games at this juncture in his career.

Rodriguez’s play on the field has already started to slow in his late 30s. He hit .272 with 18 home runs and 57 RBI in 2012. That was after hitting .276 with 16 home runs and 62 RBI in 2011. If you believe in WAR (wins above replacement), Rodriguez ranked 15th out of 19 qualifying third baseman last year, via

He’s a shadow of a 14-time All-Star and, newsflash, he’s only going to continue to decline as he ages.


Alex Rodriguez’s WAR, 2008-13 (via

Year WAR
2008 6.5
2009 3.9
2010 3.9
2011 3.7
2012 2.0


Meanwhile, the Yankees are 2.5 games behind the rival Boston Red Sox in the AL East. They rank 11th in the American League in runs scored. The 2009 championship season seems oh so far away.

This has all the makings of a former revered slugger silently fading into obscurity on the baseball diamond. Going out with a bang is out of the question now, unless you count the PED investigation. 

While Rodriguez’s life off the field becomes more complicated, his life on the field becomes more clear. That is, his demise is as much of a sure thing as Father Time.


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Hanley Ramirez Returns to Dodgers for First Time Since Hamstring Injury

Hanley Ramirez will return to the lineup for the Los Angeles Dodgers today after sustaining a hamstring injury in early May, the team announced via Twitter:

In 2012, the three-time All-Star hit .271 with 10 home runs, 44 RBI, 30 runs and seven stolen bases in 64 games after being acquired by the Dodgers before the trade deadline. Los Angeles was hoping he would regain his All-Star form alongside August acquisitions Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, but he’s only played four games so far in 2013.

The 29-year-old shortstop, who was last an All-Star with the Miami Marlins in 2010, played in only 92 games in 2011 due to a shoulder injury. This year, he got injured running the bases on May 3.

Last season, the Dodgers went a combined 28-26 in August and September despite the acquisitions of Ramirez, Gonzalez, Crawford and right-hander Josh Beckett.

This season, it’s been even worse. Not only has it been a rocky campaign for summer signing Zack Greinke (4.80 ERA, fractured his collarbone in a brawl with San Diego Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin in April), the Dodgers are bottom-feeders in the National League West. This is despite grandiose expectations in the preseason.

Despite some big names in the lineup, they have been one of the worst offensive teams in baseball this season. Interestingly enough, Gonzalez and Crawford have bounced back, while two-time All-Star Matt Kemp has regressed.

In the midst of an ugly season, Los Angeles would love to see Ramirez rebound, as Gonzalez and Crawford have. This offense needs all the help it can get.


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MLB Draft 2013: Prospects Rising Up Teams’ Boards

As we approach the 2013 MLB draft on Thursday, several prospects, ranging from high school to college, have jumped up teams’ boards.

As always, it’s all about projection in the MLB draft. Through the years, scouts have become better and better about projecting a player’s potential in the pros, even at the high school level. That includes precisely predicting pitchers’ velocity and hitters’ power down the road.

Here’s a look at prospects that have soared up draft boards in recent weeks.


3. Trey Ball, LHP/OF, New Castle High School (Ind.)

At this point, Trey Ball could end up being a top-10 pick. While he is fairly raw as a position player, his potential there and as a pitcher are on similar levels.

As a pitcher, the 6’6″ left-hander brings a fastball that can reach 94 mph and a curveball that could become an above-average offering on the major-league level. As a high school player, he already has a strong feel for his curveball.

As an outfielder, Ball has the physical tools to succeed in the pros, possessing lightning-quick bat speed and raw power that has the ability to surprise, with some work on his bat control and mechanics. He’s also quick for his size and has a top-level arm, especially as a corner outfielder.

If a team isn’t sure whether he’s better-equipped to be a pitcher or a position player, the best course of action would be to start him as a position player. If that doesn’t work out, it’ll be easier to transition to the mound than the other way around.

This past season at New Castle, Ball was named Indiana’s top player. As a pitcher, he registered a 0.76 ERA and 93 strikeouts (14.2 strikeouts per seven innings pitched), via the Indianapolis Star. As a hitter, he entered Monday’s game against Connersville with a .329 average, .504 on-base percentage, nine home runs and 28 RBI before launching a solo home run.


2. Jonathon Crawford, RHP, Florida

Jonathon Crawford is a power arm—that’s the first thing you need to know about the right-hander. He throws in the mid-90s and has been known to hit 97 mph on the gun. He also possesses a slider that is already an above-average offering at the major-league level (with the potential to be a top-level pitch).

The biggest concerns with Crawford are a) his velocity tailed off to start the 2012-13 campaign before rising steadily and b) his command and pitching delivery need work.

That last concern is the biggest issue for some teams. His velocity has risen, so it’s not as much of a concern now, but that delivery can not only hurt his command, but it can hurt his arm in the long run.

Still, there’s a reason he’s risen in recent weeks: his stuff is undeniable. With some coaching, he could end up being a better pitcher than Ball.

Crawford registered a 3.13 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 77.2 innings this season for Florida.


1. Phil Bickford, RHP, Oaks Christian High School (Calif.)

Phil Bickford‘s rise has been astronomical in recent weeks. Racking up 18 strikeouts in one game tends to do that.

Bickford‘s fastball is drawing major attention throughout Major League Baseball. He throws in the early-90s on average, but the arm is certainly there. He’s been known to reach back and hit 96 mph (with life) and he could conceivably hit 100 mph down the road.

He has three other offerings right now—a changeup, slider and curveball—but his changeup is the only pitch that appears serviceable at the major-league level currently. I can’t see his curveball ever being a plus-pitch (more like a try-to-surprise-you out-pitch), but with a good deal of work, his slider could come around.

The bottom line: Bickford is raw, but his arm strength, arm action and command point to him potentially breaking out down the line. His success down the road may ultimately depend on how well he is coached.

Bickford finished his senior campaign at Oaks Christian with a 12-1 record and 146 strikeouts in 84 2/3 innings, per


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