In the first game in which both teams used a position player to pitch in 87 years, the Orioles beat the Red Sox 9-6 in 17 innings yesterday. While both Chris Davis and Darnell McDonald are clearly hitters these days, both showed enticing talent on the mound back in high school. Both were University of Texas recruits as well, though neither made it to Austin.
Davis, who earned the victory with two scoreless innings, was a legitimate two-way prospect at Longview (Texas) High in 2004. His lefthanded power was (and still is) his calling card, though scouts also noted a fastball that reached 93 mph. Davis was drafted three times before signing with the Rangers as a fifth-rounder out of Navarro (Texas) JC in 2006, when he still showed a 90-92 mph fastball and a decent breaking ball.
Though McDonald hit 95 mph with his fastball at Greenwood Village's Cherry Creek High, his pitching skills ranked behind his prowess as a running back and an outfielder. He set the Colorado high school career rushing record, earning a football scholarship from the Longhorns, and scouts regarded him as the top prep position player in the 1997 draft. Perhaps the best athlete in Colorado high school history, McDonald lasted until the 26th overall pick because of signability concerns. He gave up the gridiron when the Orioles paid him a $1.9 million bonus.
The last time two clubs used hitters on the mound came in the nightcap of an Oct. 4, 1925 doubleheader between the Browns and the Tigers. Hall of Famers Ty Cobb and George Sisler pitched against each other, with Cobb recording a save by working a perfect inning.
Before the new CBA, MLB recommended bonuses for each individual pick in the first five rounds and a threshold for subsequent choices. The commissioner's office determined those guidelines unilaterally, without any input from the MLB Players Association or any acknowledgment of the realities of the draft market.
The slots for the first 31 picks averaged $1,722,903 last year, while the top 31 bonuses averaged $3,050,871, a difference of 77 percent. This year's comparable pick values, which are used to determine the signing bonus pools for each club in the first 10 rounds, average a more realistic $2,586,290.
The bonus totals in the chart below represent the 31 highest bonuses, not the bonuses for each of the first 31 selections. They also don't include any additional money guaranteed to players as part of major league contracts, which no longer can be given to draftees under the new CBA.
|Pick||2012 Team||2012 Value||2011 Slot||2011 Bonus|
Brown made a steady climb up Baseball America's annual Top 100 Prospects list, ranking 48th entering the 2009 season, 15th at the start of 2010 and fourth (behind Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Jesus Montero) going into 2011.
I haven't given up on Brown. He never started more than three big league games in a row in 2010 and started 10 straight just once in 2011. He fractured his hamate bone during spring training last year, knocking him out for a month of the regular season and affecting his performance the rest of the way.
We need to see what Brown can do when he's healthy and gets regular playing time in Philadelphia. He still has the tools to hit for a high average with 20 or so homers annually, along with the plus speed to steal a few bases and the arm strength to be a solid defender in right field.
If he still qualified, I would have ranked Brown as the game's third-best outfield prospect behind Harper and Trout this year. I'd have put him at No. 19, between Twins third baseman Miguel Sano and Royals outfielder Bubba Starling on my personal Top 50 list in the 2012 Prospect Handbook.
Taveras is athletic but doesn't quite profile as a center fielder. The 6-foot-2, 180-pounder has average but not plus speed and his routes on flyballs leave something to be desired. Last year at low Class A Quad Cities, he also garnered a reputation for focusing on his hitting more than on the other aspects of his game.
Add in his solid arm, and Taveras fits best in right field. He has more than enough bat to profile as a starter there. He won the Midwest League batting title with a .386 average in 2011, the circuit's highest average in 55 years. This season, Taveras has skipped a level to Double-A at age 20 and continue to rake, batting .325/.374/.658 at Springfield.