The saddest e-mail I’ve ever received regarding Ask BA arrived Tuesday. Paul Colbert wrote us to say that Brian Bluhm, one of the victims of the Virginia Tech tragedy, was a huge baseball fan who loved the Tigers. One of Brian’s questions ran in the June 15, 2005 Ask BA, and Paul thought it would be nice to pay a small tribute by revisiting his question. It runs below.
- As a Tigers fan, I have been waiting for the team to develop some good talent for a long time. Is there reason for hope from new scouting director David Chadd’s first draft for Detroit? I know that first-rounder Cameron Maybin was BA’s No. 3-rated prospect. How good can he become? Was this a good draft class overall? I’m concerned about the college-heavy nature of this draft, since I feel like the Tigers system needs more high-ceiling prospects.
When this question first ran, I wrote that Maybin was a potential steal with the 10th overall pick in the draft, a five-tool outfielder who compared very favorably to No. 1 choice Justin Upton. Maybin has done nothing to make me think otherwise since, and he’s currently the best center-field prospect in the minors. He’s hitting .311 with four homers in 14 games at high Class A Lakeland, and though he only recently turned 20, I suspect we’ll see Maybin in Detroit by the all-star break next year.
Maybin alone is going to make the 2005 draft a great one for the Tigers. They also had some success with later picks. Righthander Kevin Whelan (fourth round) is one of the best sleeper closer prospects in the minors, though he and righty Anthony Claggett (11th round) were used in the Gary Sheffield trade with the Yankees last November. Chris Robinson (third round) is a decent catching prospect who was used in a deal for Neifi Perez last August.
The best of the other draftees whom Detroit has hung onto is first baseman Jeff Larish (fifth round), one of the top power hitters in the system. Others to watch include outfielders Clete Thomas (sixth) and Matt Joyce (12th) and righthanders P.J. Finigan (seventh) and Burke Badenhop (19th).
On message boards across the Internet, Brian was known for his passion for the Tigers and for his articulate thoughts. The Tigers honored the victims before their game Tuesday, mentioning Brian by name, and several members of the Detroit media and Curtis Granderson (his favorite player) have written about him as well. There was much more to Brian than baseball, as the link at the top of this column will attest.
In his e-mail, Paul Colbert wrote: “Sadly, Brian will never see Maybin patrol center field at Comerica.” I didn’t know him, but that thought fills me with sorrow.
Rest in peace, Brian.
- Do you think there’s a good chance Max Scherzer will be signed before he goes back into the draft pool?
I really thought that Scherzer, who went 11th overall in last year’s draft, was going to sign with the Diamondbacks by the beginning of spring training. He entered 2006 as the top righthanded pitching prospect available, but came down with biceps tendinitis and wasn’t as spectacular as he had been as a sophomore with Missouri and Team USA. His biggest backer, Arizona scouting director Mike Rizzo, left during the summer to become an assistant GM with the Nationals, so that didn’t help negotiations.
Scherzer wasn’t going to go any higher than 11th in the 2006 draft, and enough teams had medical concerns about him that he might have slid all the way out of the first round had Arizona not taken him. So from the Diamondbacks’ perspective, I can see where they might deem his market value to be no greater than the slot recommendation for the 11th overall pick, roughly $1.9 million.
On the other side, Scherzer’s agent Scott Boras has touted him as one of the two best pitchers in the entire 2006 draft. (The other pitcher, not surprisingly, was Boras client Luke Hochevar.) That might not have been the consensus, but that’s Boras’ position and also Boras-speak for setting his value at the standard elite-college-pitcher contract, roughly a $3.5 million bonus and $5 million guarantee.
As it turns out, the 2007 draft is playing right into Scherzer’s hands. It’s a bad year for college righthanders, and the best available is North Carolina State’s Andrew Brackman, who happens to be another Boras client and has the two-sport potential to draw a parallel to former Notre Dame wide receiver Jeff Samardzija, who got a $10 million contract from the Cubs in January.
Scherzer is going to follow the same path Hochevar did a year ago, after negotiations broke down with the Dodgers, who made Hochevar a supplemental first-round choice in 2005. Hochevar signed with the independent Fort Worth Cats and pitched so well that the Royals drafted him No. 1 overall last June. Scherzer also has signed with the Cats, and one scouting director told me that if Scherzer shows his sophomore form, he’d become the No. 2 prospect in this draft, behind only Vanderbilt lefthander David Price.
The Diamondbacks have paid dearly for their previous two first-round picks, Stephen Drew (a $5.5 million big league contract with another $2 million in easily reachable incentives) and Justin Upton (a record $6.1 million). They probably figured they wouldn’t have to go that route again with Scherzer. But if they don’t and he pitches well for Fort Worth, he’s going to re-enter the draft and make out very well.
- What can you tell me about Dewon Day and the season he’s having so far for Double-A Birmingham. It’s pretty astounding that he had 16 strikeouts in his first 5 2/3 innings. Is this a fluke or do the White Sox have a legit prospect for their bullpen next year? Is he a power arm that makes him miss all those bats?
A 26-year-old righthander, Day began his college career at Jackson State before transferring to Southern, where he was a teammate of Rickie Weeks. He came down with tightness and a pinched nerve in his arm that spring, working just 17 innings in 2002. The Blue Jays drafted him in the 26th round that June, then signed him right before the 2003 draft as a fifth-year senior after he regained his health and topped out at 95 mph with his fastball.
Day got off to a good start in the lower levels of the Jays system but succumbed to Tommy John surgery in 2004. He worked just 16 innings in 2005, after which the White Sox stole him with the last pick of the Rule 5 draft (Double-A phase). They did so at the behest of scout Jaymie Bane, who originally signed him while with Toronto.
Finally back at full strength in 2006, Day pitched well enough in high Class A and in the Arizona Fall League that he forced the White Sox to protect him on the 40-man roster. He’s no fluke. He’s blowing away hitters with a 90-96 mph fastball and a plus 85-88 mph slider.
I think next year is too conservative. Day is probably ready to make a contribution in Chicago’s bullpen right now.