Few men have as long and as diverse a baseball résumé as Mel Didier, whose pro career began as a pitcher in 1948. He became a part-time scout for the Tigers in 1953, and since has worked for the Braves, Expos, Dodgers, Mariners, Indians, Diamondbacks, Orioles and Rangers. Anyone who has spent that long in baseball certainly will have a few tales to tell, and Didier does just that in "Podnuh, Let Me Tell You A Story" (Gulf South Books, $24.99), written with T.R. Sullivan.
Didier is most famous for his scouting report before the 1988 World Series, when he swore that if Dennis Eckersley got a 3-2 count against a lefthanded hitter with the tying or winning run in scoring position, he'd throw a backdoor slider. Eckersley did just that against Kirk Gibson, who blasted the pitch for one of the most famous homers in baseball history and credited Didier for letting him know what was coming.
But that's just one piece of Didier's colorful past. He helped build three expansion teams, he stumbled upon Andre Dawson and stole him in the 11th round out of Florida A&M and he helped turned Gary Carter into a Hall of Fame catcher. All those stories and many more are in "Podnuh," a fun read for anyone who enjoys baseball anecdotes that stretch back to the 1950s.
This is one of my favorite questions as well. From the upper half of the Top 100, I see three players who I think can vault into the top 10-15 prospects in the game this season: Giants first baseman Angel Villalona (No. 33), Red Sox first baseman Lars Anderson (No. 40) and Diamondbacks righthander Jarrod Parker (No. 46).
My leading candidates to make a significant surge from the bottom half of the Top 100 are Athletics righthander Fautino de los Santos (No. 60), Pirates third baseman Neil Walker (No. 61), Marlins righthander Brett Sinkbeil (No. 68), Rangers catcher Taylor Teagarden (No. 80), Angels righthander Jordan Walden (No. 81) and Phillies lefthander Joe Savery (No. 90). And going off the board with prospects who couldn't make the Top 100, I'll take Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra, Cubs righthander Jose Ceda, Pirates righty Brad Lincoln (I picked him last year, right before he needed Tommy John surgery), Orioles third baseman Bill Rowell, Braves lefty Cole Rohrbough, Braves righty Julio Teheran and Red Sox outfielder Josh Reddick.
The Dodgers have graduated Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton, Matt Kemp, James Loney and Russell Martin to the majors over the last three seasons, but their cupboard is far from bare. In our recently updated organization talent rankings, Los Angeles came in at No. 6. Their system isn't as strong as it once was—we rated the Dodgers No. 2 entering the 2004, 2005 and 2006 seasons—but it's still formidable.
Besides Kershaw, the best lefty pitching prospect in baseball, Los Angeles has several prospects who should be able to contribute in the near future. Third baseman Andy LaRoche (once his thumb heals) and shortstop Chin-Lung Hu would start for several teams right now. Righthanders Jon Meloan and outfielder Delwyn Young could play complementary roles for the Dodgers this year.
Los Angeles has some intriguing prospects at the lower levels of their system as well. Last year's draft netted projectable righthander Chris Withrow (first round), polished lefty James Adkins (supplemental first), sweet-swinging outfielder/first baseman Andrew Lambo (fourth) and rapidly improving righty Justin Miller (sixth). Others to watch are third baseman Josh Bell, a switch-hitter with power, and righthander Bryan Morris, a 2006 first-rounder coming back from Tommy John surgery.
While Inge is a useful and versatile player, he's probably not going to bring back much in the way of trade. He's signed for a total of $19.1 million through 2010, and he's coming off a .236/.313/.376 season. The Tigers likely won't get much in return unless they agree to eat a significant portion of his contract.
I asked Jon Paul Morosi, our Tigers correspondent, which teams were showing the most interest in Inge. Jon came up with just two: the Giants, who have a hole at third base, and the Cubs, who would play Inge at a variety of positions. Despite injuries to Andy LaRoche and Nomar Garciaparra, the Dodgers aren't pursuing Inge, preferring a shorter-term solution instead.
San Francisco's only significant catching prospect is defensive-minded Jackson Williams, a supplemental first-round pick in 2007. The Giants do have a number of upper-level relief prospects they could include, such as righties Merkin Valdez and Billy Sadler and lefties Erick Threets and Pat Misch.
Unless Aramis Ramirez' shoulder is more worrisome than the Cubs have let on, I'm not sure why they'd want Inge. Inge has played 20 big league games in center field, which is Chicago's biggest question mark, but he's not an everyday solution at that position.
But if the Cubs do want Inge, they're loaded with catchers who might interest the Tigers. Projected starter Geovany Soto and 2007 supplemental first-round pick Josh Donaldson aren't going anywhere, but that still leaves Welington Castillo, Steve Clevenger and Carlos Perez as possibilities. Likewise, Chicago wouldn't part with Jose Ceda, but they have a number of relief prospects, including Billy Petrick, Alex Maestri and Jose Ascanio.