Monday, June 4, 2012

baseball postmortem

So it's the offseason.  Not just the football offseason or the basketball offseason but the offseason.  It began last night when, twice, the UVA nine failed to capitalize on late-inning opportunities to score at least a game-tying run, and lost by one.  In both games, the overarching story was an early-game inning of doom, followed by long stretches of shutout pitching while the bats tried to claw back in, one run at a time.

I mean, you can probably guess what I'm gonna say about this really.  If you think it includes "rebuilding year," "hosted a regional anyway," and "helluva job just getting to this point anyway considering the absolute decimation of last year's team" then you're very astute.  I mean, some teams in rebuilding years don't even make the tournament (coughTexascough) and most settle for a regional 2 or 3 seed.  I'd've liked to see, say, Keith Werman's career end with another trip to Omaha, but given the obvious flaws in this team, that might fall under the realm of "getting greedy."

With the MLB draft ongoing, we'll shortly learn what the odds are of keeping certain key players.  Of course the seniors are gone, and there are only three, but they all played huge roles: Keith Werman, Shane Halley, and Justin Thompson.  That's the second baseman, closer, and probably the most dependable middle reliever, at least for a good long midseason stretch.  Plus it's my policy to assume all the three-plus-year players (juniors, redshirt juniors, and redshirt sophomores) are gone too, but that's not really the case.  I think what we need is a quick look at who's eligible to leave via the draft:

-- Definitely staying:**

INF Rob Amaro (rSo.)
C Chace Mitchell (Jr.)
RHP Joel Effertz (Jr.)
LHP Aaron Stull (Jr.)

Of course, the reason they're not getting drafted is because scouts never got to see them.  The most likely to make an impact next year is probably one of the pitchers, especially if they can carve a niche as a bullpen arm.  Effertz failed to win a starting job, either on the weekends or weekdays, but should have at least an outside chance to try again.  Mitchell lost the catching competition to Nate Irving, who's not giving it up.

-- Could stay:

OF Colin Harrington (rSo.)
UT Reed Gragnani (Jr.)
RHP Whit Mayberry (Jr.)
1B Jared King (rJr.)
RHP Scott Silverstein (rJr.)

Let's not act surprised if anyone from this list signs with an MLB team.  But let's also not act surprised if some of them go totally undrafted.  Mayberry especially - teams aren't real likely to just jump on a guy fresh off Tommy John surgery.  Silverstein is not especially draftable; his ERA ballooned to 4.48 and worse, he walked too many hitters.  King had a hot start, hitting in the very high .300s after the first few weeks, but his batting average flopped to .263 by season's end.  He struck out far too often, although he also drew just a bazillion walks.  (51, to be exact.)

Of this list, King is the most likely to be drafted and leave.  He could raise his stock precipitously next year if he hits like we know he can, but he's also got the leverage this year.  Mayberry is the most likely to stay, his money-making year having been totally derailed by arm trouble.  Gragnani, too, dealt with scout-scaring injuries.  Harrington is the wild card.  He's a top fielder who could play either corner outfield position in the pros, or even be tried at perhaps second or third base, and he's a very good contact hitter.  An MLB team will probably find those skills useful.  But he's also in the enviable spot of having another leverage year next year if he passes on this one, meaning he can hold out for the perfect deal.

-- Probably gone:

3B Stephen Bruno (rSo.)
RHP Branden Kline (Jr.)
SS Chris Taylor (Jr.)

The only thing working against Bruno is his size.  He stands only 5'9", and that's keeping in mind that every height listed on official rosters is a lie fudged.  He absolutely lit it up at the plate, especially in the second half of the year, and finished with a .370 batting average, 23 doubles, 6 homers, and a .983 OPS.

Taylor also has the necessary pro tools and had a good enough year to be highly draftable.  Kline was maddeningly inconsistent sometimes, but scouts will love his competitiveness and his stuff, and if they can harness both and put a little healthy weight on him, they'll find a #3 starter in the bigs.  I'm not counting on any of these guys coming back.

**Keeping in mind that when I say "staying" it's in reference to draftability only.  There are other reasons someone might leave, obviously, and I don't have that crystal ball handy and never will.

The thing about this year's draft is the new MLB rule that really cracks down on huge signing offers.  Teams have a cap they can spend and if they go too far over that cap, they risk losing first-round draft picks for as many as the next three years.  So you'd better really like someone if you're going to offer over-slot money.  Folks are very curious as to what the effect will be on the college game.  My best guess: More high schoolers will choose college, because teams won't be able to offer so many huge contracts to go marinate in single-A ball for a while.  But more juniors will leave.  Even if picked in like the 40th round.  If the frugality domino-effects that far down the line, college seniors will get offered basically nothing - it's always been a take-it-or-leave-it deal, and now even more so as teams scrimp for money to use elsewhere.  Juniors will want to leave while they still have any negotiating power at all.

Our worst-case scenario for 2013 is replacing the whole infield.  It's likely we'll need at least three.  Best stab at a 2013 lineup:

C - Nate Irving
1B - Jared King
2B - Reed Gragnani
SS - Brandon Cogswell
3B - Nick Howard
LF - Derek Fisher
CF - Brandon Downes
RF - Mike Papi
DH - Kenny Towns

That doesn't account much for incoming freshmen, although there aren't many position players in the class.  It's very pitcher-heavy - George Ragsdale is really the one name to remember who might fill an infield slot.  That could be third base, as Howard's future could easily be on the mound.  (Or second base with Gragnani taking the hot corner.)  Downes usurped Mitchell Shifflett's center field position as time went on in the season; even though Shifflett's hitting wasn't bad, Downes clearly provides the superior bat.

On the mound, only Artie Lewicki will really have a weekend job nailed down.  Mayberry will clearly be in the mix, as long as he's healthy.  A closer will need to be determined, which could well be Kyle Crockett.  Silverstein, if still around, probably will need to re-earn a rotation job, and he'll have tough competition from the freshman class, particularly from Nathan Kirby and Josh Sborz.  Kirby, you'll remember, was a potential top-ten pick (not top ten rounds - top ten overall) and was so adamant on matriculating at UVA that he refused to go through MLB's medical screening process.

Sometime this month, as I usually do, I'll scrape together some mini-profiles of the incoming recruits.  And as usually happens, some of them may not show up, having decided by the August deadline to take the money and go pro.  Hopefully this year it'll go like I said, and our recruiting classes won't be so decimated.

Also, tomorrow we kick off the traditional FOV birthday celebration.  I'm afraid we can't hold a candle to the Queen's diamond jubilee, but this week is this blog's fourth birthday, so we'll party in the usual fashion.  I'll let you be surprised tomorrow if you don't know how this works.


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be surprised to see Bruno back, unless he's drafted pretty high, since he's a redshirt soph, so he could play next year and still have another season for leverage.

Anonymous said...

I really hope that one of the 'likely' three to be drafted sticks around. I would love to see Kline come back and be in the closer role - he has that mentality!

For the FOV birthday celebration, I hope Jeff Allen is coming back for another interview :)!!

Jason said...

Did Whit or Reed redshirt this year?

Also, the MLB deadline is now July 17 rather than August 17, so we'll know in about 6 weeks who's going and who's staying.

Brendan said...

I hope as much as the next guy that the Jeff Allen well hasn't yet dried up, but he's gotta step up and provide the material. Besides, the birthday celebration is a time to honor UVA athletes, so I wouldn't let that guy NEAR it, even in parody.

Re: redshirts - Grags played too many games to get a medical, and I'm not sure what the rules are for pitchers but I would guess Whit's five appearances are too many. I could easily be wrong on that one.

All three - Kline, Taylor, and Bruno - got drafted today. Kline would be crazy not to go, he went in the second round and he's not gonna improve on that. Taylor went 6th round and Bruno went 7th, and they're probably gone too. Bruno has that extra leverage year, but that's a solid draft spot.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Jared King have a senior day? I know he's listed as a R-Junior but why would he be back if they already celebrated him leaving?