THE CRANE POOL FORUM thecranepool.net (.com)


Forum Home

Master Index of Archived Threads


Baseball - The Next Generation

metirish
Aug 17 2005 11:21 PM

Good article from Tom Verducci in this weeks SI, I won't post the link because I think the article is for SI subscribers only,check out what they say about David Wright.

SI's All - 25 and Under Team

]The Next Generation
As brute sluggers fade away, a crop of talented young players, led by the already proficient Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols, promises an age of superior all-around skill

By Tom Verducci

At the 1999 all-star game in Boston, homage was paid to a frail Ted Williams by a generation of power hitters, who otherwise were rendering archaic the elite hitting standards that had been defined by the Splendid Splinter and other Hall of Famers. Among those who crowded around Williams, seated in a golf cart on the infield grass at Fenway Park, were Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa -- all of whom have since pushed Williams and his 521 homers further down the alltime list.

But in the plate tectonics of baseball, even as those sluggers surrounded an icon, the summer of '99 marked the beginning of a shift in the game that wouldn't fully register until the last few seasons.

Eleven days before that All-Star Game, on July 2, the Florida Marlins, then the worst team in baseball, gave a $1.8 million signing bonus to a powerful 16-year-old infielder from Maracay, Venezuela, who was being likened to a young Alex Rodriguez. At the time it was the most money ever paid to sign a ballplayer from that country. His name was Miguel Cabrera.

One month later the St. Louis Cardinals signed their 13th-round selection in the draft that June, a stalky, less-heralded 19-year-old Dominican infielder at Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City, Mo., for $60,000. That represented a significant raise from the club's initial offer of $10,000. His name was Albert Pujols.

Cabrera and Pujols reported to Florida that summer to play in the same instructional league and struck up a friendship built largely on their ability to hit a baseball. Six years later they not only hit like nobody else of their generation but are also friendlier than ever. "We talk a lot," Cabrera says, "and people always ask me what we talk about. Hitting. That's the only thing we talk about. Hitting, hitting, hitting and hitting."

The seismic shift is obvious now as baseball moves into a new era and distances itself, however awkwardly, from a period that literally defies belief. The next time McGwire, Palmeiro and Sosa assembled would be on March 17, 2005, in Room 2154 of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C., to answer questions from Congress about steroids.

That hearing, combined with season-ending injuries this season to Bonds, Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas, Jim Thome and possibly Juan Gonzalez, signaled the end of the sluggers' hegemony. The game belongs to a new generation. Above all, it belongs to Cabrera and Pujols, two righthanded batters who hit for power and high average. They are the most dominant among SI's picks for the best 25-and-under player at each position, the players who will define the new era.

By performing at an elite level under a drug policy that mandates multiple random tests and suspension upon a first offense, these players could restore credibility where suspicion has raged for more than a decade. "I wish I could hit 70 home runs," says Pujols, who had a career-high 46 last year and 33 at week's end. "I just thank the Lord I don't need [steroids]. I'm a young star in this game. It will be interesting to see where I end up in 10, 15 years -- as long as God lets me play."

At 22 Cabrera already has a portfolio of major league superlatives: youngest player to hit a walk-off homer in his first game; one of only eight players to have 30 homers, 100 RBIs and 100 runs in a season before his 22nd birthday (his buddy Pujols is another); the only player to hit home runs off Mark Prior, Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens in the 2003 postseason (the last a World Series opposite-field dinger that came one pitch after Clemens had sailed a fastball past Cabrera's nearly hairless chin); and, with a .341 average through Sunday, a shot at becoming the National League's youngest batting champion since Hank Aaron, in 1956.

"Cabrera is like Vlad Guerrero," says San Diego Padres general manager Kevin Towers, invoking the free-swinging rightfielder of the Los Angeles Angels and last year's American League MVP. "When he's hot, forget it. You're just not going to get him out. He hits the ball so hard so often, and it doesn't matter what you throw him."

Says Marlins senior vice president Fred Ferreira, "There's a very small group of guys who you can tell are hitting by the sound of the ball hitting the bat. Vlad is one. Miguel is another. There could be 10 guys hitting in a cage, and if I turn my back to the cage I can tell by the sound when Cabrera is hitting. It's that loud. He's the kind of hitter who could hit 50 home runs and win a batting title."

At 25, Pujols is even more accomplished than Cabrera and is on a career track that no one else has traveled. The five-year veteran is well on his way to a fifth straight season with at least a .300 average, 30 homers, 100 runs and 100 RBIs. No other player has ever started his career with even two such seasons. Pujols is a virtual lock to finish no worse than fourth in the NL MVP voting for the fifth time -- and he's a front-runner to win his first award. With his huge, strong hands, he has uncommon power to the opposite field and rarely strikes out (45 times in 441 at bats this season).

As exceptional as Cabrera and Pujols are, however, their generation figures to produce more pitching stars than hitting stars. "It's a down time for position players," says Cleveland Indians general manager Mark Shapiro, who has revitalized his franchise with a youth movement. "At the trading deadline it seemed everybody was looking for a hitter, and there was a reason they couldn't find one: They're not there. It's a cyclical thing -- and now it's a down cycle for position players."

The pool of talented young arms is so deep that 25-year-old Cleveland lefthander C.C. Sabathia, the youngest active pitcher to reach 50 wins, didn't make the SI team. Florida righty Josh Beckett, a World Series MVP at 23? Missed the cut. Chicago White Sox righthander Jon Garland, 25, whose 16 wins this year lead all 25-and-under pitchers and are second most among all hurlers? Not good enough. Righties Brett Myers, 25, of the Philadelphia Phillies; Jeremy Bonderman, 22, of the Detroit Tigers; Gustavo Chacin, 24, of the Toronto Blue Jays; and Danny Haren, 24, of the Oakland A's, who were a combined 44-28 this year? Sorry, no room.

Perhaps 19-year-old whiz kid righthander Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners (0.69 ERA after his first two major league starts); rookie lefthander Zach Duke, 22, of the Pittsburgh Pirates (5-0, 2.13 ERA); or even heralded Minnesota Twins lefty prospect Francisco Liriano, 21, will wind up dominating the next 10 seasons more than those who did make this team. But there is a saying among scouts: You're a prospect until you've done it in the big leagues -- twice. The following selections for the 25-and-under team were based more on what we know about them as big league players than on potential.

CATCHER: Joe Mauer, 22, Twins (2005 statistics through Sunday: .294 batting average, 14 home runs, 45 RBIs) Born the day after Cabrera, Mauer has the smooth swing to join the elite hitters, though he has yet to show big-time power. "I try not to [project] any big numbers for him," says Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire. "Let him be, and he'll be just fine. That's too good of a swing to start messing with it."

FIRST BASE: Pujols (.336, 33, 93) The Texas Rangers' 25-year-old Mark Teixeira (.277, 31, 94), who has 95 homers and 290 RBIs in fewer than three full seasons, deserves honorable mention. As his hitting coach, Rudy Jaramillo, says, "Tex is going to be, pretty much, a consistent 35-to-40-home-run guy with 100 RBIs. He's already proven that at this young age."

SECOND BASE: Rickie Weeks, 22, Milwaukee Brewers (.265, 9, 26) With no young star established at the position, Weeks and his potent bat (he has put up his numbers in only 219 at-bats since being called up from the minors on June 11) rate the edge over Jorge Cantu, 23, of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Robinson Cano, 22, of the New York Yankees.

SHORTSTOP: Bobby Crosby, 25, A's (.284, 5, 29) The position is loaded with growth stocks. Jose Reyes, 22, of the New York Mets is a dynamic offensive player because of his speed. Cleveland's quiet Jhonny Peralta, 23, had the highest on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) -- .890 -- among shortstops this side of the Baltimore Orioles' Miguel Tejada. Russ Adams, 24, of Toronto; Khalil Greene, 25, of San Diego; and Felipe Lopez, 25, of the Cincinnati Reds may have locks on their jobs for years to come. But none of them possess the complete package that the 6'3", 195-pound Crosby does: size, athleticism, middle-of-the-order power (22 homers as the AL Rookie of the Year in 2004), often-spectacular defense and leadership skills. To wit: Oakland is 48-18 when Crosby -- who missed the first two months of the season with a stress fracture to his upper rib cage -- is in the lineup.

THIRD BASE: David Wright, 22, Mets (.305, 17, 73) "You'd probably say Hank Blalock is the better player right now," says one American League scout of the Rangers' 24-year-old third baseman, "but ask most people which one they would take, and they'd take Wright. This may be the best Blalock gets to be, which is very good. But Wright looks like something special." Wright has power to all fields, a discerning batting eye, a fierce work ethic and the kind of athleticism that will turn him into a Gold Glove winner. "It's like having a shortstop play third base," Towers says. "He made a play against us, a bare-handed grab, that may have been the greatest play I've ever seen." The Padres' G.M. was referring to a Brian Giles blooper to leftfield at Petco Park on Aug. 9, on which Wright, in full sprint, made a diving, over-the-shoulder catch.

UTILITY INFIELDER: Reyes (.274, 72 runs, 41 stolen bases) An adept second baseman who hit .255 last season, he boasts one of the game's strongest arms and has excelled since returning to his natural position of shortstop.

OUTFIELD: Cabrera (.341, 26, 83) Signed as a shortstop, promoted to the bigs as a third baseman, switched between rightfield and leftfield, he has never looked out of place.

Grady Sizemore, 23, Indians (.291, 14, 62) One AL scout likens him to "Jim Edmonds, once he adds the power." Three years ago the Indians heisted the energetic, five-tool Sizemore from the Montreal Expos in exchange for righthander Bartolo Colon. Says Shapiro, "He only knows one speed -- all-out, from the first pitch to the last out. He sets the tone for our team in every facet: defensively, on the bases [15 steals at week's end] and at the plate."

Carl Crawford, 24, Devil Rays (.289, 12, 64) One of the fastest players in baseball, he swiped 59 bases last year, legged out 19 triples and scored 104 runs. (He had 34, 12 and 72, respectively, this year.) With those numbers, no wonder Tampa Bay wisely bought out his three remaining arbitration years with a four-year, $15.25 million contract in April.

STARTING PITCHERS: Rich Harden, 23, A's (9-5, 2.78 ERA) The righthander has been known to throw his fastball 99 mph -- in the late innings of games; last season he was clocked higher than 96 mph more often than any pitcher in the majors. This season he has held the opposition to one hit twice, to two hits twice and without an earned run five times.

Jake Peavy, 24, Padres (10-5, 3.14) The 2004 major league ERA leader (2.27) is a rare young power pitcher with mound intellect. Says Towers of his All-Star righthander, "His intelligence, makeup and confidence are off the charts. Even at 19, topping out at 90 [mph] in the minors, he was a pitcher, not just a thrower. Now he has extra velocity, and he'll get it up there at 94."

Mark Prior, 24, Cubs (8-4, 3.70) An archetypal ace, the 6'5", 230-pound righty throws hard and has a wicked breaking ball and exceptional command. His 38-20 career record would be better if not for an assortment of injuries that have sent him to the disabled list five times in three seasons.

Dontrelle Willis, 23, Marlins (15-8, 2.79) The southpaw's corkscrew, slingshot delivery makes him a nightmare for hitters and a joy for fans. Among 25-and-under pitchers, only he and Sabathia have been named to two All-Star teams. "When he's on and gets in a groove with his arm slot, he's as unhittable as it gets," one AL scout says.

Carlos Zambrano, 24, Cubs (9-5, 3.17) To less fanfare, Zambrano, a 6'5", 255-pound workhorse, has won more games (43 to 38) and pitched more innings (695 to 566) than teammate Prior while being just as tough to hit (opponents' career average against Zambrano and Prior: .231 and .230, respectively).

CLOSER: Francisco Rodriguez, 23, Angels (2-2, 2.41, 27 saves in 31 chances) Groomed as closers since college, righthanders Chad Cordero, 23, of the Washington Nationals and Huston Street, 22, of Oakland have put up impressive numbers, but K-Rod, who was mostly a setup man prior to this year, is responsible for some of the most uncomfortable at bats in baseball. Opponents have hit .169 against the righty in his four-year career. His long-term durability, however, could be jeopardized by the violent arm action of his forceful, across-the-body delivery.

This next generation of stars has already asserted itself. Of the top 50 ERA qualifiers at week's end, the 25-and-under set outnumbered the 35-and-over crowd 11-4. Among the top 50 OPS marks, the young hitters edged the veterans 7-5. While no player beyond his 35th birthday ranked among the top 16 in OPS, Pujols and Cabrera placed second and fourth, respectively.

Pujols and Cabrera are almost certain to be linked by friendship and talent for years to come. "What impresses me most is the way he works," Cabrera says of Pujols, "the seriousness with which he takes batting practice and his presence at home plate. He has a confidence not all hitters have."

Says Pujols of Cabrera, "He's a guy who's going to put up big numbers. Hopefully, he can stay healthy. He plays the game the right way. He loves this game, and I just told him I hope we could play on the same team one day. I hope he could be a Cardinal."

That won't happen soon. Pujols has a seven-year, $100 million contract that will keep him in St. Louis through 2010. Cabrera, whose contract was renewed at $370,000 this year, will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2009 season. Still, the notion of the duo on the same team is scary. "Those two in the same lineup?" Prior says. "That's not something I want to see."

When asked about the prospect of facing Pujols and Cabrera year after year as they help carry the game forward, Prior says, "You measure yourself as a pitcher against guys like them. I look at Greg Maddux, who's faced Barry Bonds something like a hundred times over his career, and I think what it might be like facing Pujols and Cabrera that many times. It's cool to think about all those battles and how you did against guys who might be in the Hall of Fame some day."

Issue date: August 22, 2005

Johnny Dickshot
Aug 17 2005 11:26 PM

The mag includes a nice Walter Iooss Jr. portrait of Wright & Reyes.

Edgy DC
Aug 17 2005 11:43 PM

I'm wondering about how the Yankees made their best move of the last ten years, letting John Wetteland walk after an excellent year and graduating their setup man into the closer's role. The Angels did the same thing with Percival and Rodriguez, and a still small voice tells me that maybe the Mets are starting to see Heilman as a future closer.

metirish
Aug 17 2005 11:51 PM

I can see it,his change-up off the fastball is electric and just a great pitch to see, a lot of swings and misses.

Johnny Dickshot
Aug 17 2005 11:59 PM

I promise you I thought the very same thing tonight. Of course, 2 whiffs with 2nd & 3rd, 0 out can do that to you.

Nymr83
Aug 18 2005 05:38 AM

lets see if we still feel that way about Heilman after a few bad outings. it's easy to be high on a guy when he's pitching well. i'll admit i was down on him after last year, i was never down on Seo and i really hope he's the 5th starter next year.

edit- I'm Roberto Petagine! can i stay on him till i reach Olerud?

Edgy DC
Aug 18 2005 07:53 AM

I don't really feel any way about him. I'm just speculating that the Mets may be looking at him that way.

I think he's doing great. Everything is moving nicely for him. But (1) he often falls behind trying to be too fine, and (2) for someone who uses his change a lot, it's often up.

Crazy that his resurgence is being partly credited to Al Jackson, of all people.

soupcan
Aug 18 2005 08:54 AM

Johnny Dickshot wrote:
The mag includes a nice Walter Iooss Jr. portrait of Wright & Reyes.


You really think so?

I thought it was the worst picture of all that accompanied the article. Wright looks like he has hat head.

I think the Dontrell Willis pic is the best one.

MFS62
Aug 18 2005 09:24 AM

Heard on ESPN radio this morning that Bondermann has the second most victories of all active major league pitchers under the age of 23.
Anyone know who's first? (They didn't say)

I think he's going to be something special, and wonder why the author didn't make him one of his top 5 starting pitchers.

Later

TheOldMole
Aug 18 2005 09:31 AM

Good article, good view of the future.

Johnny Dickshot
Aug 18 2005 01:46 PM

Bonus Kwiz: 1994 was the last time SI ran an all-under 25 team. Without looking it up, name that team:
C
1B
2B
SS
3B
OF (3)
LHP
RHP
Closer

seawolf17
Aug 18 2005 01:54 PM

C Charles Johnson
1B Carlos Delgado (or Jeff Bagwell?)
2B Jeff Kent
SS Alex Rodriguez
3B Scott Rolen
OF Ken Griffey Jr
OF Manny Ramirez
OF Tim Salmon
LHP Steve Avery (or Tom Glavine?)
RHP John Smoltz
Closer Trevor Hoffman

Elster88
Aug 18 2005 01:59 PM

1B Jim Thome?

Johnny Dickshot
Aug 18 2005 02:01 PM

Batting .181 to start us off, not good

C Charles Johnson -- WRONG!!!
1B Carlos Delgado (or Jeff Bagwell?) WRONG!
2B Jeff Kent WRONG!
SS Alex Rodriguez WRONG!
3B Scott Rolen WRONG!
OF Ken Griffey Jr RIGHT!
OF Manny Ramirez WRONG!
OF Tim Salmon WRONG!
LHP Steve Avery (or Tom Glavine?) I'll give ya ... Avery
RHP John Smoltz WRONG!

Also, you forgot to name a closer, also wrong.

Johnny Dickshot
Aug 18 2005 02:02 PM

Thome -- INCORRECTAMUNDO!!

MFS62
Aug 18 2005 02:08 PM

Here are my guesses:

C Piazza
1B Olerud
2B ?
SS A-Rod
3B Chipper
OF (3) Griffey, Jr. Bernie williams, ?
LHP Mike Hampton
RHP Kevin Brown
Closer Rod Beck

Later

seawolf17
Aug 18 2005 02:13 PM

You missed Hoffman at the bottom of my post, but I think he's too old anyway.

C Piazza
1B JT Snow
2B Durham
3B Nevin
SS Nomar? (I refuse to think it's Jeter)
OF Edmonds
OF Larry Walker
RHP Pedro Martinez
CL Wetteland

Lundy
Aug 18 2005 02:16 PM

Curt Schilling for RHP?

Johnny Dickshot
Aug 18 2005 02:22 PM

MFS62:

C Piazza -- CORRECT
1B Olerud -- YES SIR
2B ( ) -- NUH-UH
SS Arod -- NOPE
OF: Williams -- NO Griffey -- YES< BUT GUESSED ALREADY
LHP: Hampton -- NO, WE ALREADY HAVE A WINNER (AVERY)
RHP: Brown -- WRONG
CLOSER: Beck -- CORRECT! THAT WAS THE TUFFIE IMO

C-Wolf -- Wrong on every guess but Piazza
Lundy -- Schilling is not correct.

Johnny Dickshot
Aug 18 2005 02:24 PM

Updated, with winners

C Piazza (MFS62)
1B Olerud (MFS62)
2B:
SS:
3B:
OF: Griffey (Seawolf)
OF:
OF:
RHP:
LHP: Avery (Seawolf)
Closer: Beck (MFS62)

Johnny Dickshot
Aug 18 2005 02:24 PM

Updated, with winners

C Piazza (MFS62)
1B Olerud (MFS62)
2B:
SS:
3B:
OF: Griffey (Seawolf)
OF:
OF:
RHP:
LHP: Avery (Seawolf)
Closer: Beck (MFS62)

Edgy DC
Aug 18 2005 02:33 PM

2B: Brett Boone

RHP:Jason Bere

SS: Wil Cordero

Johnny Dickshot
Aug 18 2005 02:35 PM

All 3 wrong.

Lundy
Aug 18 2005 02:35 PM

The guy they traded Pedro for, Delino DeShields, at 2B?

Alex Fernandez for RHP?

ScarletKnight41
Aug 18 2005 02:39 PM

Just as a side note, HERE is the next generation of baseball -


MFS62
Aug 18 2005 02:41 PM

Some other guesses:
2b Knobloch or Baerga
3B Dean Palmer or Jim Thome
OF Tim Salmon

Later

Johnny Dickshot
Aug 18 2005 02:42 PM

DeSheilds, Fernandez, Salmon -- wrong.

Double-guesses are illegal.

MFS62
Aug 18 2005 02:47 PM

OK, 2B Baerga
3b Palmer

(Probably should have guessed the other two, eh?)

Later

seawolf17
Aug 18 2005 02:47 PM

Third time's the charm...

2B Eric Young
SS Derek Jeter (in case my last mention didn't count as an actual guess)
3B Chipper Jones
OF Shawn Green
OF Raul Mondesi
RHP Todd Van Poppel

Johnny Dickshot
Aug 18 2005 03:02 PM

MFS62:
Baerga -- Correct
Palmer -- Wrong (so was Thome... heh-heh)

C-Wolf
All 6 wrong.

Updating:

C Piazza (MFS62)
1B Olerud (MFS62)
2B: Baerga (MFS62)
SS:
3B:
OF: Griffey (Seawolf)
OF:
OF:
RHP:
LHP: Avery (Seawolf)
Closer: Beck (MFS62)

seawolf17
Aug 18 2005 03:06 PM

Okay, I quit. No more guesses from me.

metirish
Aug 18 2005 03:07 PM

SS - Omar Vizquel

edit: that's a dumb guess from me, Vizquel must be close to 40.

MFS62
Aug 18 2005 03:10 PM

3b Travis Fryman

You're not getting rid of me that easily. :)

Later

OlerudOwned
Aug 18 2005 03:11 PM

OF- Juan Gone
OF- Jose Canseco (edit: forget that, he was around longer than i remembered)

metirish
Aug 18 2005 03:14 PM

OK I know the team, had to check my SI though, I would never have guessed the SS.

MFS62
Aug 18 2005 03:16 PM

RHP Mike Mussina?

Later

soupcan
Aug 18 2005 03:17 PM

metirish wrote:
OK I know the team, had to check my SI though, I would never have guessed the SS.



I'm sure MFS will get him....

Johnny Dickshot
Aug 18 2005 03:19 PM

Canseco, Visquel -- WRONG, but more winners

C Piazza (MFS62)
1B Olerud (MFS62)
2B:
SS:
>>>>3B: Fryman (MFS62)
OF: Griffey (Seawolf)
>>>>OF: Juan Gone (OlerudOwned)
OF:
>>>>RHP: Mussina (MFS62)
LHP: Avery (Seawolf)
Closer: Beck (MFS62)

Hints on the missing 3: All are active MLBers today

MFS62
Aug 18 2005 03:22 PM

The shortstop wouldn't have been Andujar Cedeno, would it?

Later

MFS62
Aug 18 2005 03:24 PM

2B Brett Boone?

Later

MFS62
Aug 18 2005 03:24 PM

I'm sending you my therapist's bill.

Later

Edit. I saw your comment about them being active.
SS - Jose Valentin

Later

OlerudOwned
Aug 18 2005 03:27 PM

I'll take a wild hack and put sheffield as SS, i'm almost positive he started his career as a shortstop before the steroids...mositurizers

Elster88
Aug 18 2005 03:28 PM

2B - Baerga?

Edit: Oooooooh, that should do it. Sheffield --- in the OF though. Give credit to OlerudOwned if that one's right.

Johnny Dickshot
Aug 18 2005 03:39 PM

The 2B was Baerga. Between the multiple guesses I overlooked that was already guessed right. So is Sheffiled in the OF.

We're missing the shortstop.

seawolf17
Aug 18 2005 03:43 PM

Alex Gonzalez of the Jays?

MFS62
Aug 18 2005 03:43 PM

Is Royce Clayton still around?

Later

Johnny Dickshot
Aug 18 2005 03:43 PM

Clayton. MFS62 wins!!!!!

MFS62
Aug 18 2005 03:44 PM

Johnny Dickshot wrote:
The 2B was Baerga. Between the multiple guesses I overlooked that was already guessed right. So is Sheffiled in the OF.


Yep, you gave me credit for it far back up the thread, then took it away.

Later

soupcan
Aug 18 2005 03:48 PM

MFS62 wrote:
Is Royce Clayton still around?

Later


Am I psychic or what?

MFS62
Aug 18 2005 03:55 PM

Soupy, thanks for your vote of confidence.
Can I go lie down now?
I'm a wreck from trying to live up to your estimation of my skills.

Then again, at my age, its easier to remember ten year old stuff than what I ate for breakfast. :)

Later

MFS62
Aug 18 2005 04:31 PM

Johnny Dickshot wrote:
Clayton. MFS62 wins!!!!!


Thank yuh!
Thank yuh very much.

Later