I missed much of the World Baseball Classic while on vacation, but
I’ve enjoyed catching up since my return. Nice breakout performances by
Curacao’s Shairon Martis (Giants) and Canada’s Adam Stern (Red Sox),
even if their teams didn’t advance to the second round. Kudos to Korea,
which surprisingly asserted itself as the best Asian team in the WBC,
and to Cuba, which got through clubs laden with big leaguers to reach
the final round. Japan only added to its reputation for underachieving
on the biggest international stages.
One thing they need to fix for next time is these goofy
tiebreakers. Using runs allowed per nine innings is silly–it should be
run differential per nine. But as it is, the only way Mexico advances
is if it beats the United States tonight 3-0 or 4-0 in 13 or 14
innings. Why should Mexico even try to score in regulation? If Mexico
takes the tiebreaking formula seriously, it could make a real travesty
of the game.
- Can you think of an organization in recent history (or
ever) with a collection of talented offensive prospects comparable to
the ones the Diamondbacks currently possess?
When we unveiled our latest Top 100 Prospects list, Arizona had an astounding six players (all hitters) in the first 32
slots: shortstops Justin Upton (No. 2) and Stephen Drew (No. 5), first
baseman Conor Jackson (No. 17) and outfielders Carlos Quentin (No. 20),
Chris Young (No. 23) and Carlos Gonzales (No. 32).
That’s unprecedented since we began doing overall Top 100 lists
in 1990. Only one other team had five position players in the Top 50.
The 1993 Braves had Chipper Jones (No. 1), Javy Lopez (No. 20), Ryan
Klesko (No. 26), Mike Kelly (No. 34) and Melvin Nieves (No. 39).
We’ve been doing organization Top 10 lists since 1983, so I
scanned them from 1983-89. I couldn’t find a group of hitters that
would have been as highly regarded as the Diamondbacks are now. The
deepest crop belonged to the 1986 Reds, whose Top 10 included Kurt
Stillwell (No. 1), Kal Daniels (No. 2), Joe Oliver (No. 3), Paul
O’Neill (No. 4), Tracy Jones (No. 7), Barry Larkin (No. 8) and Lenny
Harris (No. 10), all of whom had significant careers.
I went back and looked at some teams that I remembered having a
lot of good young hitters when I first started following baseball. I
came up with four clubs that had several future big league hitters in
their system at one point, but I don’t think any of them would have
placed six guys in the top 32. The closest would have been the 1967
Kansas City Athletics. Reggie Jackson and Rick Monday would have ranked
that high, as would have Dave Duncan, coming off a 46-homer season in
high Class A. The A’s also had Joe Rudi (who might have been in the
middle of a Top 100), Sal Bando (who might have been toward the end)
and Gene Tenace (who wouldn’t have been close to the list).
The next-closest would have been the 1971 Dodgers, whose system
was highlighted by Bobby Valentine and Steve Garvey. Tom Paciorek, Bill
Buckner and Ron Cey all would have made the Top 100 but probably not
the upper third, while Joe Ferguson was a borderline Top 100 candidate.
Two other teams jumped out in terms of future big league
regulars, but they all weren’t hyped at the time. The 1969 Pirates had
Al Oliver and Manny Sanguillen, who likely would have made the Top 100,
and Dave Cash, Richie Hebner, Al Oliver and Bob Robertson, who likely
would have missed. Likewise, the 1972 Red Sox had three possible Top
100 guys in Cecil Cooper, Carlton Fisk and Jim Rice, as well as Rick
Burleson, Dwight Evans, Rick Miller and Ben Oglivie.
That’s a long way of saying that I can’t come up with a farm
system that had as many highly regarded position players as Arizona has
right now. If the Diamondbacks can come up with some pitching, they
should be battling the Dodgers for National League West supremacy for
years to come.
- With what seemed to be an inevitable move for the Dodgers,
do you think Joel Guzman's shift to left field will speed his climb to
the major leagues? Los Angeles has much less depth and talent in the
outfield than in the infield.
Undoubtedly. Scouts already had doubts about Guzman’s ability to
stick at shortstop, and then the Dodgers closed off that position by
signing Rafael Furcal for three years and $39 million. The next most
obvious position to move Guzman to might have been third base, but Los
Angeles gave Bill Mueller a two-year, $9.5 million deal and also have
prospects Andy LaRoche and Blake DeWitt at the hot corner.
Scouts have been comparing Guzman to Juan Gonzalez for the last
two years, and the move to the outfield makes a lot of sense. Guzman
would probably fit best in right field, currently occupied by J.D.
Drew, but the left-field competition is wide open, with Jose Cruz the
frontrunner and Jason Repko, Ricky Ledee and injured Jayson Werth also
in the mix.
Guzman is hitting .313/.353/.563 in 32 spring at-bats while
Cruz and Ledee have been off at the World Baseball Classic. He
certainly has the most upside of that group, and even if he starts the
year at Triple-A Las Vegas, I suspect we’ll see him in the Dodgers
lineup before the all-star break.
- If Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler wins the American
League rookie of the year award, would he be the first recipient of
that award who didn't appear in BA's Top 100 Prospects list that year?
There have been 32 league rookie of the year awards handed out since
we unveiled our first Top 100 in 1990. Ten of those have gone to
players who didn’t make our Top 100, though Japanese veterans Hideo
Nomo (1995, Dodgers) and Kazuhiro Sasaki (2000, Mariners) weren’t
eligible for the list based on our criteria at the time.
The others: David Justice (1990, Braves), Eric Karros (1992,
Dodgers), Pat Listach (1992, Brewers), Bob Hamelin (1994, Royals),
Marty Cordova (1995, Twins), Eric Hinske (2002, Blue Jays), Jason
Jennings (2002, Rockies) and Angel Berroa (2003, Royals). All of those
players did make our organization Top 10s before their standout rookie
seasons, with Jennings and Karros ranking the lowest at No. 7.