All posts by Kazuto Yamazaki

Grew up in Tokyo, Kaz fell in love with the 2004 Rangers that featured Hank Blalock and Mark Teixeira, and has been a fan since then. Other than doing baseball-related activity, which consumes most of his time, he enjoys singing and playing the guitar. He also writes for The Dynasty Guru and High Heat Stats. You can follow Kaz on Twitter @Kazuto_Yamazaki and reach him via email kazuto.yamazaki@shutdowninning.com.

Tales of Unsigned First Round HS Pitchers, Part 1

UTSanDiego.com
UTSanDiego.com

When the Astros and Brady Aiken, their first overall pick in the 2014 draft, failed to reach agreement at the signing deadline, the entire baseball world was utterly flabbergasted. A couple days after the draft, the 6’4”, 210 lbs, southpaw reportedly accepted the Astros‘  original signing bonus offer which came out at $6.5 million.

However, an MRI discovered something physically unusual in Aiken‘s pitching arm – an abnormally undersized UCL. Concerning about the potential risk of Tommy John surgery, the Astros reduced their offer to $3.16 million. Aiken and Casey Close, his adviser, didn’t like the move, and the sides moved apart. The Astros increased their offer to $5 million at the very end, but Aiken never took it.

As a result, Aiken joined the club of “unsigned overall 1st picks in the history of the baseball draft” as the 3rd member, which consists Danny Goodwin from June 1973 and Tim Belcher from January 1983.

Now we know how it turned out. Aiken joined IMG Academy‘s post-graduate program to reboot his stock for the upcoming 2015 draft. Unfortunately, in his first outing with the squad, he exited the game after just 12 pitches due to an elbow injury that eventually required him to undergo Tommy John surgery – just like the Astros foresaw.

Even though he’s unable to throw for another few months, Aiken is seen as a first round pick in the 2015 draft, although it’s hard to see someone offering him $5 million again. So, in hindsight, Aiken should have taken the Astros‘ final offer, even if it was an insult to him.

This led me to wonder how these stories ended up in previous cases. Using Baseball America‘s Draft Database, there have been 12 pitchers, other than Aiken, who went unsigned when they were drafted out of high school since 1987 when they ditched the January draft.

In this 2-part series, I inspected how life treated each case. Some gained benefit from the decision, while some others went on to disastrous careers.


Alex Fernandez, 24th overall, 1988 

Spokeo
Spokeo

Fernandez forewent the Brewers‘ $110,000 signing bonus offer to attend a Miami area JuCo. After transferring to University of Miami after his Freshmen year and spending a spectacular campaign as a Hurricane, he went as the 4th overall pick in the 1990 draft and signed a $350,000 bonus with the White Sox. He spent 10 years in the big leagues before shoulder injury cut his career short at the age of 30.  The Cuban descendant put up a career 115 ERA+, and struck out 1252 while walking 552, in 1760.1 innings.


Scott Burrell, 26th overall, 1989

Burrell, a 6’5″ right-hander out of Hamden High School in Connecticut, was also known as a basketball star. He turned down the Mariners‘ offer, which was reportedly more than $110,000, to play basketball at University of Connecticut.  After being selected in the 5th round in the next year’s draft by the Blue Jays, and signed for “first round money,” Burrell played briefly in their farm system over the parts of two following seasons.

Inside Hoops
Inside Hoops

His professional baseball career wasn’t as successful as his basketball one, which lasted more than seven years in the NBA.

 


Chad Hutchinson: 26th overall , 1995

Much like Burrell, the San Diego native stood at 6’5″ and was known as a two-sport athlete in high school, though he was a baseball-football guy.  He was selected 26th overall in the 1995 draft by the Braves, who offered a $1.5 million signing bonus.  Rather than playing in the minor leagues for the next few years, Hutchinson accepted a two-sport scholarship from Stanford University, where he pitched for the baseball team in the spring, and played quarterback for football team in the fall over the next 3 years.  With

AP Photo
AP Photo

an MVP award in the Sun Bowl and a trip to the College World Series under his belt, Hutchinson re-entered the draft in 1998. He went with the 48th overall pick this time, and signed a $3.4 million major league contract with the Cardinals. He could have gone higher than that, in fact, there were buzzes from some evaluators that considered him as the best pitching prospect in the class, but many teams thought it would be tough to sign a deal with him; hence, he slipped this low.  Despite breaking camp with the Cardinals in 2001, he got sent back to triple-A after an obscene 24.75 ERA and 17.05 FIP in 4.0 innings, and he never made another

AP Photo
AP Photo

appearance as a big league pitcher. After his baseball career came to an end after the 2001 season, Hutchinson went on to play QB for the Cowboys and the Bears, but his career in NFL lasted no longer than 3 years.


Matt Harrington, 7th overall, 2000

If William Shakespeare wrote a story about baseball,  it would be about Matt Harrington. This is arguably the saddest and most tragic story in baseball draft history.

Entering the 2000 draft out of Palmdale HS near Los Angeles, the right-hander attracted scouts everywhere from the States with his 98 MPH fastball. Baseball America, Gatorade, and USA Today named him the best high school player in the nation that year. Due to signability concern, he slipped to the Rockies’ pick, 7th overall. Their $2.2 million initial offer was far apart from Harrington’s asking price, $4.95 million. Negotiations after negotiations, the Rockies finally offered that $4.9 million, but it was as a salary over 8 years, and forced him to give up 3 arbitration years. Tony Tanzer, Harrington’s adviser, insisted that he reject the offer. And the sides never came close thereafter.

ESPN OTL
ESPN OTL

After a brief 19-inning stint with the St. Paul Saints,  one of the most well-known independent league clubs, Harrington re-entered the draft in 2001. Losing the fastball velocity he once possessed, as well as his stock as a player, he slipped to the 58th overall pick with the Padres. Their offer was somewhere around $1.2 million. Scott Boras, who had taken over the role as Harrington‘s  new adviser, told him not to take it.  Once again, he did not sign.

His fall from grace continued.

Harrington spent another year in independent ball, splitting time between the Long Beach Breakers and the Fort Worth Cats.  The Rays took him in the 13th round of the 2002 draft, but he didn’t take the offer.

5 more seasons in independent ball, 2 more draft selections and rejections, and one not-so-impressive spring training with the Cubs later, Harrington found himself working at Costco as a tire-repairer, for 11 and a half bucks an hour.

This is an extreme case of a player falling off a cliff after turning down big money. You can read more about the sad saga of Matt Harrington in this ESPN story,  written by Amy K. Nelson back in 2009.

This is part 1 of 2-piece series. Part 2 will be out later date.


Kazuto Yamazaki is a Contributor at The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @Kazuto_Yamazaki.

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25 Most Important People in Baseball History

My friend Graham Womack hosted an interesting crowd-sourced project at his fabulous blog Baseball: Past and Present.  To participate this project, each voter picked 25 people whom they believe to be the most important in the history of baseball.

I, of course, cast a ballot, though it was a tough quest. I considered an unfathomable number of people who contributed something significant to baseball. There’s no clear measurement like, say, WAR, to judge how great they are. It’s completely based on my opinion. It took me more than 5 hours, but I was finally able to fill out my ballot. If you ask tomorrow, I’d probably choose a different 25. But for today, here are my picks, sorted by an alphabetical order.


Hank Aaron CardHank Aaron

Great baseball player, even greater person. 755 home runs, 3771 hits, 2297 RBI, 142.6 bWAR, 21 all-star selections. Also, he’s said to be one of the classiest guys in the sport.

Barry Bonds CardBarry Bonds

The best player the game ever had not named Babe Ruth. In the light of his great talent and the darkness of all the steroid crap, he represents how baseball looked like in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Alexander Cartwright CardAlexander Cartwright

He didn’t create the game from the scratch. But he and his New York volunteer firemen colleagues were an unignorable part in forming the rules of the game, and played the first recorded baseball game in history.

Chadwick's American Baseball ManualHenry Chadwick

All he created was RBI, pitcher W-L, and many of the stats classified as “useless” by stat heads these days. But Chadwick invented the box score itself. It’s even possible that advanced stats wouldn’t have existed without his invention of a way to record the game in the books.

Curt Flood CardCurt Flood

After becoming a regular in 1958, his age 20 season, Flood had accumulated 42.2 bWAR before he turned 32. But he sacrificed his borderline Hall of Fame career in the fight to get players the right known today as free agency.  In fact, he got only 40 more plate appearances afterwards. Without his effort,  there wouldn’t be 9-figure contracts today.

sabr.org
sabr.org

Sean Forman

For us baseball nerds, Baseball Reference is a part of life. Eat, sleep, brush teeth, browse through various B-Ref player pages. Forman changed the way we watch the game by creating the encyclopediac baseball database.


Rube Foster CardRube Foster

Pioneer of African American baseball when they weren’t allowed to be in the big leagues.  The Texas native played a huge part in establishment and improvement of the Negro League.

Melissa Lacey/Journal-World Photo
Melissa Lacey/Journal-World Photo

Bill James

Without this man, advanced baseball analysis wouldn’t look as it does today. Bill James is to sabermetrics as Jimmy Page is to rock n’ roll, or Galileo Galilei is to astronomy.

Ban Johnson CardBan Johnson

Johnson is known as the founder and the first president of the American League. While a few other leagues,  like the Federal League, lasted for only a couple of years or so, the Senior Circuit has been there for more than a century.

Mike Groll/Associated Press
Mike Groll/Associated Press

Frank Jobe

An uncountable number of pitchers’ career would’ve been cut short had Jobe not invented the way to reconstruct torn UCLs in their elbow. The image we’ve chosen for Dr. Jobe includes his most famous patient, former pitcher Tommy John.

Connie Mack CardConnie Mack

With a 3731-3948 record, Mack is both the winningest and losingest skipper in history, by a thousand light years. In today’s game, no one manages for 50 years, let alone stays with one team for that long.

Willie Mays CardWillie Mays

This  spot could easily be given to Stan Musial, Micky Mantle, or Tris Speaker. But John Fogerty sung about none of them in his universally known classic song. Well, Ty Cobb missed the cut because of his personality. Joltin’ Joe Dimaggio, in my opinion, didn’t have a long enough career. So I’m going with Say Hey Willie.

sabr.org
sabr.org

Voros McCracken

McCracken’s legendary research on pitching and defense is one of the most significant events in the history of sabermetrics and, furthermore, the game itself.  Advanced pitching stats like FIP or BABIP would probably not have been exposed to our eyes had McCracken not done this research.

Associated Press
Associated Press

Marvin Miller

During his tenure as the executive director of the MLBPA, the average annual player salary went up more than 1700%. He also played an important roll in the establishment of free agency, along with Curt Flood. It’s a shame that Miller wasn’t elected into the Hall of Fame before his death (and he still hasn’t been).

Branch Rickey CardBranch Rickey

Player development would’ve been completely different without Rickey. Among Rickey’s many innovations are affiliated farm system and the 20-80 scouting scale. But he did even greater things for the game itself (see below).

Jackie Robinson CardJackie Robinson

Branch Rickey’s best known accomplishment is signing the first African American player in modern baseball history, Jackie Robinson. Imagine if Robinson had failed. We would never have had Aaron, Mays, and Bonds at the top of all-time leaderboards. The role he had was huge, and he surpassed the stratospheric expectation.

Babe Ruth CardBabe Ruth

No one has changed (or ever will) the game in the way this great American did.

 

Vin Scully CardVin Scully

It would be blasphemous to go without mentioning the greatest broadcaster of all-time.

 


Shoriki MatsutaroMatsutaro Shoriki

He probably was an awful person. He even was arrested for supporting  WWII. But he’s the guy behind the founding of NPB. The Japanese Professional Baseball League would have been less than it is now without him. He’s enshrined in the NPB Hall of Fame.

Al Spalding CardAl Spalding 

Not only was he a fine player, Spalding also was a  successful businessman. After his playing career, in which he pitched 2886.1 innings and had a 252-65 record in a span of 7 years in the 1870s, he founded a sports equipment company named after himself. Spalding one of the biggest players in the business today. Moreover, he’s said to be the first known player used a glove.

O'Meara/Associated Press
O’Meara/Associated Press

George Steinbrenner 

The last owner in history who single-handedly controlled his team.  The Boss and his Yankees  were always at the center of baseball journalism, or somewhere around there, during his tenure as an owner.

Bill Veeck CardBill Veeck

He was an even more influencing owner than Steinbrenner. He was a man of many ideas. One of them was using a midget as a pinch hitter.

AP
AP

You may or may not have seen this photograph of a tiny guy squatting at the plate.  He deserves my vote for the Eddie Gaedel at-bat (well, it’s officially a plate appearance), along with many other weird stuff he did.

Ted Williams CardTed Williams

It wouldn’t be a proper list without including the best hitter in the history of game in my 25. Yes, Teddy Ballgame is even a better batsman than The Bambino, in my honest opinion.  I always wonder what his career stats would’ve looked like had he not lost 5 years to serving his country.

Horace WilsonHorace Wilson

Not many baseball fans have heard of Wilson.  He’s said to have brought the game of baseball to Japan in 1871, when he was a teacher at a school currently know as Tokyo University.  To this Japanese author, it’s important enough to put his name here. Wilson was elected to the NPB Hall of Fame in 2003.

Cy Young CardCy Young

It’s called the “Cy Young Award,” not the “Walter Johnson Award,” nor the “Nolan Ryan Award.” Johnson might have been a better pitcher, but for this reason, my 25th pick belongs to Denton True “Cy” Young, both the winningest and losingest pitcher in history.

That’s my Top 25 – who’s on yours? Let me know on Twitter. The overall project results will be posted on BaseballPastAndPresent.com sometime during the week of November 10, 2014, so be sure to have a look and see what the 262 voters came up with.


Kazuto Yamazaki is a Contributor for The Scoop, based in Japan. Follow him on Twitter at @Kazuto_Yamazaki.

 

NPB Report: Best Pitchers in August

It’s September. We’re into the middle of the red-hot MLB playoff race again. We’re also into the middle of the red-hot, or ice-cold (depends on how you describe it), battle for the 1st overall pick in next year’s draft. The same is going on on the other side of the Pacific.

Wikipedia.org
Wikipedia.org

The 9th month is the most exciting month of the year. But before we lose our minds in the chaos and mayhem of the pennant hunt, let’s take a look at times that have flown by already. Here are some of the pitchers who performed exceptionally well in August, including some future and former big leaguers.

Pitchers of the Month

1.  Chihiro Kaneko, RHP, Orix Buffaloes

The Niigata native, often referred to as the best pitcher in NPB, threw 7 innings in all 4 of his August starts, and gave up no more than 2 runs in each outing. In 29 innings in the 8th month of the year, he struck out 31 of 112 batters he faced (27.7 K%) and walked just 4 of them, posting a 1.55 monthly ERA.

2.  Takahiro Norimoto, RHP, Rakuten Golden Eagles

The 23-year-old sophomore right-hander entered August with the worst 5-game stretch in his young career. In 5 starts from July 5th through August 2nd, he gave up 24 runs on 40 hits, including 6 long balls, and walked 11 over 20.1 innings.  After his 5th consecutive disastrous start, Norimoto was demoted to the bullpen and made 2 relief appearances out of it.

Yet, after returning to the rotation on the 15th, it looks like he’s found his old form. In his first start back from the pen, the former Mie-Chukyo University hurler tossed a 1-hit, walk-free shutout, faced just one more than the minimum 27 batters, and fanned 9 of them on 111 pitches. In his next 2 starts, Norimoto went 8-and-3-0-0-4-7-0, 9-8-2-2-11-0, respectively. His final monthly numbers include a 1.95 ERA, which was 2nd best in the Pacific League (trailing only Kaneko), 34 K, 8 walks, 7 runs, 21 hits, and 2 HR in 32.1 IP.

3.  Daisuke Miura, RHP, Yokohama DeNA Baystars

In the 23rd year of his professional career, the 40-year-old veteran is still dealing out there. Miura made it out of the 7th inning in each of his 4 August starts, including an 1-run CG against Yomiuri on the 7th. Overall, he posted a NPB-leading 1.20 ERA, struck out 18, walked 5, gave up 6 runs on 26 hits and 2 homers in August.

4.  Chris Narveson, LHP, Yakult Swallows

Coming back from a stiff neck, the former Brewer enjoyed the best month of his first season in NPB so far. Outside of a 5-run, 4-inning outing against Hiroshima on the 13th, the southpaw tossed at least 7 innings and gave up no more than 4 hits in each of his other 3 starts. In doing so, Narveson put up an outstanding 2.00 ERA, a .202 opposing average, 18 strikeouts, walked 9, and gave up 6 runs on 9 hits (1 HR) in 27 IP.

5. Shohei Otani, RHP, Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters

Otani possesses by far the highest future MLB upside among all NPB players, and one of the best 20-year-old arms in the entire world. So we’ll keep our bright eyes on whatever he does over the course of his career.

After hitting 101 MPH multiple times in his one-inning all-star appearance, the 20-year old hurler was expected to show another step of development. Instead, he hit a little snag in August.  Here are his walk totals in each of his 4 outings in the month: 3, 4, 8 (he threw 149 pitches in this one), 2. That’s 17, which was the 3rd highest mark among Pacific League starters over that span, and equals 85% of the total he had walked in the previous 3 months (May, June, July) combined. Although still recording strikeouts at a relatively high rate (27 of 125 batters, 21.6%), he struggled with location.

The video below contains every single pitch from Otani’s penultimate outing on August 26th, where he walked a couple in early, but came back in form and struck out 9, limiting the Softbank Hawks to just 1 run on 5 hits before exiting after the 7th.

After the game, Otani claimed that he “messed up the mechanics in the all-star outing and had been struggled with location, but refined after the 2nd inning.” Yet he issued a career-high 8 free passes again in his last outing on September 3rd.

It will be interesting to see how Otani can fix the problem in the final month of the season and re-find his pre-AS form.


Kazuto Yamazaki is a Sports Contributor for The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @Kazuto_Yamazaki.

Rougned Odor, Member of the Elite Club

On Sunday, the Rangers’ second baseman went 1-for-4 in team’s 3-1 victory against the Royals, and on Wednesday, he became the youngest player in MLB history to notch a grand slam in a dominant Texas victory over Seattle. The Venezuelan middle infielder has now piled up over 300 plate appearances in his rookie season. A rookie having a 300 PA season itself  doesn’t seem that rare and impressive. In fact, there are 16 rookies, including Odor, with 300 or more PA in 2014 as of this writing. But considering Odor, whom we call “Roogie,” won’t turn 21 until February, what he’s doing this season is quite an accomplishment.

Tony Gutierrez/AP
Tony Gutierrez/AP

Let me show you some of Odor’s career stats:

  • AVG/OBP/SLG: .248/.282/.376
  • Home runs: 6
  • BB/K: 11/56
  • Beers purchased legally in the States: 0

Yes, he’s that young. Had he attended a college in the U.S, he would’ve just started his junior year. Remember what you were doing when you were his age? Probably not as impressive as yanking 6 long balls in the big leagues.  Not many other 20-year-olds have done what Odor’s done in 2014.

 

Below is a list of players 20 or younger with at least 300 PA in a season since World War II, sorted by the greatest OPS+:

Rk Player OPS+ ▾ PA Year Age Tm Lg G H 2B 3B HR BB SO HBP SB CS BA OBP SLG
1 Mike Trout 168 639 2012 20 LAA AL 139 182 27 8 30 67 139 6 49 5 .326 .399 .564
2 Al Kaline 162 681 1955 20 DET AL 152 200 24 8 27 82 57 5 6 8 .340 .421 .546
3 Mickey Mantle 162 626 1952 20 NYY AL 142 171 37 7 23 75 111 0 4 1 .311 .394 .530
4 Alex Rodriguez 161 677 1996 20 SEA AL 146 215 54 1 36 59 104 4 15 4 .358 .414 .631
5 Frank Robinson 143 667 1956 20 CIN NL 152 166 27 6 38 64 95 20 8 4 .290 .379 .558
6 Tony Conigliaro 137 444 1964 19 BOS AL 111 117 21 2 24 35 78 5 2 4 .290 .354 .530
7 Ken Griffey 136 666 1990 20 SEA AL 155 179 28 7 22 63 81 2 16 11 .300 .366 .481
8 Tony Conigliaro 133 585 1965 20 BOS AL 138 140 21 5 32 51 116 5 4 2 .269 .338 .512
9 Bryce Harper 133 497 2013 20 WSN NL 118 116 24 3 20 61 94 5 11 4 .274 .368 .486
10 Jason Heyward 131 623 2010 20 ATL NL 142 144 29 5 18 91 128 10 11 6 .277 .393 .456
11 Vada Pinson 129 706 1959 20 CIN NL 154 205 47 9 20 55 98 1 21 6 .316 .371 .509
12 Orlando Cepeda 125 643 1958 20 SFG NL 148 188 38 4 25 29 84 3 15 11 .312 .342 .512
13 Bob Horner 124 359 1978 20 ATL NL 89 86 17 1 23 24 42 2 0 0 .266 .313 .539
14 Willie Mays 120 523 1951 20 NYG NL 121 127 22 5 20 57 60 2 7 4 .274 .356 .472
15 Claudell Washington 119 635 1975 20 OAK AL 148 182 24 7 10 32 80 5 40 15 .308 .345 .424
16 Bryce Harper 118 597 2012 19 WSN NL 139 144 26 9 22 56 120 2 18 6 .270 .340 .477
17 Giancarlo Stanton 118 396 2010 20 FLA NL 100 93 21 1 22 34 123 2 5 2 .259 .326 .507
18 Mickey Mantle 117 386 1951 19 NYY AL 96 91 11 5 13 43 74 0 8 7 .267 .349 .443
19 Johnny Bench 116 607 1968 20 CIN NL 154 155 40 2 15 31 96 2 1 5 .275 .311 .433
20 Cesar Cedeno 114 377 1970 19 HOU NL 90 110 21 4 7 15 57 2 17 4 .310 .340 .451
21 Eddie Mathews 113 593 1952 20 BSN NL 145 128 23 5 25 59 115 1 6 4 .242 .320 .447
22 Butch Wynegar 109 622 1976 20 MIN AL 149 139 21 2 10 79 63 2 0 0 .260 .356 .363
23 Ken Griffey 108 506 1989 19 SEA AL 127 120 23 0 16 44 83 2 16 7 .264 .329 .420
24 Clint Hurdle 108 481 1978 20 KCR AL 133 110 25 5 7 56 84 1 1 3 .264 .348 .398
25 Justin Upton 107 417 2008 20 ARI NL 108 89 19 6 15 54 121 4 1 4 .250 .353 .463
26 Ruben Sierra 107 411 1986 20 TEX AL 113 101 13 10 16 22 65 1 7 8 .264 .302 .476
27 Joe Torre 106 441 1961 20 MLN NL 113 113 21 4 10 28 60 4 3 5 .278 .330 .424
28 Miguel Cabrera 106 346 2003 20 FLA NL 87 84 21 3 12 25 84 2 0 2 .268 .325 .468
29 Roberto Alomar 105 611 1988 20 SDP NL 143 145 24 6 9 47 83 3 24 6 .266 .328 .382
30 Hank Aaron 104 509 1954 20 MLN NL 122 131 27 6 13 28 39 3 2 2 .280 .322 .447
31 Edgar Renteria 103 471 1996 19 FLA NL 106 133 18 3 5 33 68 2 16 2 .309 .358 .399
32 Manny Machado 102 710 2013 20 BAL AL 156 189 51 3 14 29 113 2 6 7 .283 .314 .432
33 Adrian Beltre 102 614 1999 20 LAD NL 152 148 27 5 15 61 105 6 18 7 .275 .352 .428
34 Rick Manning 101 535 1975 20 CLE AL 120 137 16 5 3 44 62 2 19 11 .285 .347 .358
35 Starlin Castro 100 506 2010 20 CHC NL 125 139 31 5 3 29 71 6 10 8 .300 .347 .408
36 Ed Kranepool 100 461 1964 19 NYM NL 119 108 19 4 10 32 50 2 0 1 .257 .310 .393
37 Cesar Cedeno 97 649 1971 20 HOU NL 161 161 40 6 10 25 102 3 20 9 .264 .293 .398
38 Buddy Bell 97 505 1972 20 CLE AL 132 119 21 1 9 34 29 3 5 6 .255 .310 .363
39 Ron Santo 97 382 1960 20 CHC NL 95 87 24 2 9 31 44 0 0 3 .251 .311 .409
40 Bill Mazeroski 96 568 1957 20 PIT NL 148 149 27 7 8 27 49 1 3 3 .283 .318 .407
41 Boog Powell 95 441 1962 20 BAL AL 124 97 13 2 15 38 79 2 1 1 .243 .311 .398
42 Ed Kranepool 94 575 1965 20 NYM NL 153 133 24 4 10 39 71 2 1 4 .253 .303 .371
43 Andruw Jones 93 467 1997 20 ATL NL 153 92 18 1 18 56 107 4 20 11 .231 .329 .416
44 Robin Yount 90 607 1975 19 MIL AL 147 149 28 2 8 33 69 1 12 4 .267 .307 .367
45 Alan Trammell 89 504 1978 20 DET AL 139 120 14 6 2 45 56 2 3 1 .268 .335 .339
46 Rickey Henderson 88 398 1979 20 OAK AL 89 96 13 3 1 34 39 2 33 11 .274 .338 .336
47 Ivan Rodriguez 87 454 1992 20 TEX AL 123 109 16 1 8 24 73 1 0 0 .260 .300 .360
48 Rusty Staub 84 585 1963 19 HOU NL 150 115 17 4 6 59 58 5 0 0 .224 .309 .308
49 Oscar Gamble 84 305 1970 20 PHI NL 88 72 12 4 1 27 37 1 5 4 .262 .330 .345
50 Rougned Odor 83 302 2014 20 TEX AL 84 70 9 5 5 11 55 4 2 5 .251 .286 .373
51 Bob Bailey 82 640 1963 20 PIT NL 154 130 15 3 12 58 98 5 10 9 .228 .303 .328
52 Elvis Andrus 82 541 2009 20 TEX AL 145 128 17 8 6 40 77 6 33 6 .267 .329 .373
53 Gary Sheffield 82 405 1989 20 MIL AL 95 91 18 0 5 27 33 4 10 6 .247 .303 .337
54 Curt Flood 81 461 1958 20 STL NL 121 110 17 2 10 31 56 4 2 12 .261 .317 .382
55 Edgar Renteria 80 691 1997 20 FLA NL 154 171 21 3 4 45 108 4 32 15 .277 .327 .340
56 Al Kaline 80 535 1954 19 DET AL 138 139 18 3 4 22 45 0 9 5 .276 .305 .347
57 Cass Michaels 80 330 1946 20 CHW AL 91 75 8 0 1 29 36 4 9 3 .258 .333 .296
58 Robin Yount 79 364 1974 18 MIL AL 107 86 14 5 3 12 46 1 7 7 .250 .276 .346
59 Cass Michaels 78 499 1945 19 CHW AL 129 109 8 5 2 37 28 3 8 7 .245 .307 .299
60 Rusty Staub 78 320 1964 20 HOU NL 89 63 10 2 8 21 31 3 1 1 .216 .272 .346
61 Roberto Clemente 77 501 1955 20 PIT NL 124 121 23 11 5 18 60 2 2 5 .255 .284 .382
62 Robin Yount 76 690 1976 20 MIL AL 161 161 19 3 2 38 69 0 16 11 .252 .292 .301
63 Bob Didier 76 397 1969 20 ATL NL 114 90 16 1 0 34 39 0 1 3 .256 .321 .307
64 Jurickson Profar 76 324 2013 20 TEX AL 85 67 11 0 6 26 63 5 2 4 .234 .308 .336
65 Ted Simmons 74 324 1970 20 STL NL 82 69 8 2 3 37 37 2 2 2 .243 .333 .317
66 Lloyd Moseby 73 430 1980 20 TOR AL 114 89 24 1 9 25 85 4 4 6 .229 .281 .365
67 Eddie Yost 71 485 1947 20 WSH AL 115 102 17 3 0 45 57 2 3 5 .238 .314 .292
68 Ken Hubbs 70 716 1962 20 CHC NL 160 172 24 9 5 35 129 3 3 7 .260 .299 .346
69 Dalton Jones 67 401 1964 20 BOS AL 118 86 16 4 6 22 38 1 6 3 .230 .274 .342
70 Bobby Del Greco 60 385 1952 19 PIT NL 99 74 14 2 1 38 70 3 6 5 .217 .301 .279
71 Putsy Caballero 59 382 1948 20 PHI NL 113 86 12 1 0 24 18 0 7 .245 .293 .285
72 Tim Foli 59 312 1971 20 NYM NL 97 65 12 2 0 18 50 1 5 0 .226 .272 .281
73 Ted Kazanski 52 392 1953 19 PHI NL 95 78 17 5 2 26 53 3 1 1 .217 .275 .308
74 Jack Heidemann 51 495 1970 20 CLE AL 133 94 14 2 6 34 88 2 2 4 .211 .265 .292
75 Danny Ainge 50 331 1979 20 TOR AL 87 73 7 1 2 12 58 2 1 0 .237 .269 .286
76 Tony Bartirome 48 386 1952 20 PIT NL 124 78 10 3 0 26 37 0 3 3 .220 .273 .265
77 Jose Oquendo 42 353 1983 19 NYM NL 120 70 7 0 1 19 60 2 8 9 .213 .260 .244
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/25/2014.

This is quite a long list, but lots of impressive names are on it.  There have been 77 instances by 65 players. Mickey Mantle and Al Kaline – who have their plaques displayed in Cooperstown – had 2 such seasons. Fellow Hall of Famer Robin Yount had 3. Bryce Harper is on his way to a 3rd such campaign in his young career. Rougned Odor is among some of the game’s greatest players, along with his colleagues Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar.

Roogie’s 82 OPS+ to date may not astound you, as it ranks on the top of the bottom third of the list. But, do you see some of the names below him? Two rows below him is his current double-play partner, Andrus. Gary Sheffield is a borderline Hall of Famer. Rusty Staub also had a borderline Hall of Fame career. You may or may not have heard of Robert Clemente. They weren’t what they were in their prime from the beginning.

 

Let’s take a look at another Play Index list. This time, players who played at least 70%  at 2B, with at least 300 PA in age 20 or younger seasons since 1914, sorted by the greatest OPS+:

Rk Player OPS+ PA Year Age Tm Lg G H 2B 3B HR BB SO HBP SB CS BA OBP SLG Pos
1 Roberto Alomar 105 611 1988 20 SDP NL 143 145 24 6 9 47 83 3 24 6 .266 .328 .382 *4/H
2 Bill Mazeroski 96 568 1957 20 PIT NL 148 149 27 7 8 27 49 1 3 3 .283 .318 .407 *4/H
3 Frankie Gustine 94 565 1940 20 PIT NL 133 147 32 7 1 35 39 2 7 .281 .328 .374 *4/H
4 Bobby Doerr 86 589 1938 20 BOS AL 145 147 26 7 5 59 39 0 5 10 .289 .363 .397 *4/H
5 Rougned Odor 83 302 2014 20 TEX AL 84 70 9 5 5 11 55 4 2 5 .251 .286 .373 *4/H
6 Cass Michaels 80 330 1946 20 CHW AL 91 75 8 0 1 29 36 4 9 3 .258 .333 .296 *45/H6
7 Ken Hubbs 70 716 1962 20 CHC NL 160 172 24 9 5 35 129 3 3 7 .260 .299 .346 *4/H
8 Dalton Jones 67 401 1964 20 BOS AL 118 86 16 4 6 22 38 1 6 3 .230 .274 .342 *4H/65
9 Danny Ainge 50 331 1979 20 TOR AL 87 73 7 1 2 12 58 2 1 0 .237 .269 .286 *4/HD
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/26/2014.

Just 9 players in the past century are on this list, with Roogie being ranked in the middle. Alomar, Mazeroski, and Doerr – 3 of 4 players above him – are enshrined.

As you’ve seen in this article, Rougned Odor belongs in the elite club. Despite his -0.3 WAR and minuscule 3.6 BB%,  an area in which he definitely needs improvement, we may be witnessing the dawn of the career by a great second baseman.

 

Kazuto Yamazaki is a Sports Contributor for The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @Kazuto_Yamazaki. Be sure to check out all of our great sports and entertainment content at TheScoopZone.com!

Position Players to Watch for in Summer Koshien 2014

Kazuma Okamoto

 

In my last piece, I took a look at top pitchers in the Summer Koshien. This time, I’ll introduce some of the best position players in the tournament.

Kazuma Okamoto

1B/3B, Chiben Gakuen

6’0/209 lbs Bats: Right/Throws: Right

Okamoto is the best pure power hitter in the 2014 class.  With 73 HR in the books in his high school career coming into the tournament, his raw power can stand out at the NPB level. Not only possessing un-Japanese-like power, he also uses the whole field. Although he’s limited to the corner position due to his poor fielding skills, the arm flashes plus potential, tops out at 90 MPH throwing off the mound.

Yushin Shimizu

C, Kyushu International University HS

6’0/194 lbs, Bats: Right/Throws: Right

He’s a catcher, and he can hit, both for power and average.  He has 35 career home runs at this point. Home-to-second pop time tops out at 1.78.

Naoto Wakimoto

OF, Kendai Takasaki

5’9/176 lbs, Bats: Left/Throws: Right

The outfielder’s got athleticism, all 5 tools in him. He flashes power from the left side, has 57 career long balls, runs 50 meter dash in 6.1 seconds, and possesses a cannon for an arm.

Shotaro Hata

OF, Nishogakusha HS

6’0/209 lbs Bats: Right/Throws: Right

With 56 career home runs, the kid shows power to both pull and opposite side. Needs to learn to adjust to inside pitches. Other tools are mediocre at best.

 

Kazuto Yamazaki is a Sports Contributor at The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @Kazuto_Yamazaki.

Pitchers to Watch for Summer Koshien –

http://www.asahi.com/

The biggest annual sports event in Japan, the Summer Koshien, has kicked off on Monday morning local time. It’s the ultimate goal for every teenage ball player. Kids practice from the dawn to the sunset everyday to get there. It also is  a huge deal for regular people. Even ones who don’t usually watch baseball follow every single pitch during work.

Every year, the tournament features some of the best high school prospects. Yokohama High School went on to the top in 1998 behind Daisuke  Matsuzaka’s heroic performance, including a 17-inning complete game. People remember the 2006 tournament as the summer of Masahiro Tanaka and Yuki Saito.

This year, neither of last year’s sensations Tomohiro Anraku nor Kona Takahashi made it, but there still are plenty of top high school players waiting to show their tools on the national TV. In this post, I’ll focus on some of the best arms in the tournament. You’ll probably hear their names at the big league stadiums someday.

Yuki Matsumoto 

The University of Morioka Affiliated HS

Bats: Left/Throws: Right, 6’0/176 lbs

Matsumoto is arguably the best pitcher in the tournament. He throws a fastball that touches 93 MPH from effortless, three -quarter delivery, mixes a mid-70s slider and a low-60s curve ball,  as well as a change up and a fork, and is capable to consistently attack the zone with all of his offerings.  Some scouts even compare him to Yu Darvish. He also bats the cleanup spot for his team, having 54 long balls in his high school career entering Summer Koshien.

Kodai Sano

Oita HS

Bats: Right/Throws: Right 5’9/154

His small frame doesn’t standout, but the kid throws hard. The fastball can touch 94, though it clocked only upper 80s this past summer. His other offerings are a slider, curve, and a forkball (splitter).

Ryo Yoshida

Tokai University Sagami HS

Bats: Right/Throws: Right 5’9/159 lbs

The right-hander made a sensation in the Kanagawa regional, striking out 39 batters in 17.1 innings, including 20 in 8.2 IP in the final. His  fastball sits in the upper-80s, touches 92. The mid-70s vertical slider is the bat-misser. Although he struggles in the above video, the potential is unlimited. He could enter the 2015 draft as one of the best pitchers in the class.

Oh, his opponent in the first round? The University of Morioka Affiliated HS which features Yuki Matsumoto. This has to be Japanese high school pitching porn.

Yuichi Sato

Tokai University Sagami HS

Bats: Right/Throws: Right 6’2/198 lb

Fastball sits in the upper-80s to low 90s, can touch 92 MPH; mixes a mid-70s slider, and a forkball sits around 80 MPH.  Some teams see him as a first round pick in this fall’s NPB draft, in fact, a major league team has sent an evaluator to his game. Tokai University Sagami HS, featuring Yoshida, Sato, and 2 other top arms, is seen as the favorite in the tournament.

 

Kazuto Yamazaki is a Sports Contributor at The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @kazuto_yamazaki.