On June 27th, an important record was set in Major League Baseball, and yet it wasn’t talked about nearly as much as it should have been. It wasn’t a flashy record and it wasn’t set by an MLB superstar, but that doesn’t take away from its importance.
There is now a new “home run king” in baseball. A record that had stood for more than 50 years was finally broken.
On the night of June 27th, 2010 at an “away” game in Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park with the Toronto Blue Jays in town, Jamie Moyer served up a two-run jack to Vernon Wells, and with that homerun, Moyer became the new “king.” It was the 506th homer served up during a 24-year career of the 47-year old southpaw, breaking the record held by Phillies Hall of Famer Robin Roberts.
The expectations were sky high before the major league debut of Stephen Strasburg, the most highly-touted pitching prospect in recent years. Strasburg saw those high expectations, and he raised them one.
Making his professional debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates in front of a sellout crowd in the nation’s capital, Strasburg lived up to the hype – at least in his first game. Strasburg needed just 94 pitches (65 thrown for strikes) to blow through seven innings while recording an astounding 14 strikeouts.
Strasburg’s first pitch, a fastball obviously inside to Andrew McCutchen, was booed by the crowd as it was called a ball. Of course, the crowd can’t be blamed too much, as many of them had likely never attended a Nationals game before the hype surrounding Strasburg took hold. Strasburg started several hitters 2-0, but didn’t walk a single batter, showing good command.
The MLB Amateur Draft kicked off yesterday, and the number one overall pick came as no surprise. 17-year old phenom Bryce Harper was selected with the first overall pick by the Washington Nationals, as the Nationals decided that Harper’s raw talent outweighed any “character issues” some claimed could be a problem with Harper. In all likelihood, there was never really any doubt in Washington as to who they would select first overall.
The 6 foot 3 inch Harper is widely regarded as the “LeBron James of baseball,” gaining national attention when he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 16. Harper dropped out of high school in 2009 and obtained his GED, making him eligible for this years draft.
Harper enrolled in a community college, the College of Southern Nevada, and batted .442, with a .542 OBP and an absurd .986 slugging percentage. Harper also smashed the school record of homeruns (12) by swatting 31 this past season.
Although Harper is currently a catcher, there is thought of him switching positions. If Harper transitions to a corner outfield position, many believe he could reach the Majors within 3 years. However, Harper will be most valuable to the Nationals as a catcher because of his incredible bat and there is still a possibility that he may remain a catcher because of this reason.
The Pittsburgh Pirates took 6 foot 7 inch right hander Jameson Tallion with the second overall pick. The 18-year old pitcher attended The Woodlands High School in Texas, the same school that produced former Phillies first round pick and current Blue Jays prospect Kyle Drabek. Tallion is raw, but has tremendous upside, with a fastball that tops out at 99 miles per hour and a plus-curveball.
The rest of the first round of the draft looked like this:
This draft has shaped up very nicely for the Cardinals (thanks, Cubs!) and now they get the best pure hitter in the draft at #25. Sign-ability is an issue, as Cox is a sophomore. I don’t think he’ll be able to do better in the stacked 2011 draft, so he’d be wise to sign, and I have to think the Cardinals will do what it takes to get it done. I wonder about his overall power potential, but at #25, this is absolutely tremendous.
The follow is the scouting report from Kieth Law:
Cox is a draft-eligible sophomore and one of the most advanced college bats in this year’s draft. He’s very strong, including strong hands and wrists, and is very short to the ball, hitting line drives to all fields, but with the ability to drive a ball on the inner half.
He was criticized after his freshman year for his strikeout total and cut down his swing to make more contact, with more walks than strikeouts this year. At third base, he has an above-average arm but heavy legs, although he makes up for the latter with good instincts and an aggressive style of play.
The fact that Cox could make such a significant adjustment at the plate in one year is impressive, and we’ve now seen him hit for power and for average and show the ability to get on base; when he puts all of that together in one season, he’ll be an All-Star.
And some additional scouting reports:
Cox is the best pure hitter and top sophomore-eligible player in the draft. He hit just .266 as a freshman on Arkansas’ College World Series team a year ago, but improved as the season went on and adjusted his pull-happy approach when he arrived in the Cape Cod League. He hit .344 with wood bats and ranked as the top position prospect in the summer circuit, setting the stage for a breakout spring in which he was hitting .446/.532/.631 through mid-May. Cox has very good hands, a short, lefty stroke and nice command of the strike zone. He has an uncanny ability to hit the ball with authority to the opposite field. There’s some debate as to how much power he’ll have in the major leagues, but he has the bat speed to do damage once he adds more loft to his swing. He has plenty of strength, as evidenced by a titanic shot he blasted off the top of a 90-foot-tall scoreboard at the 2009 Southeastern Conference tournament. Six feet and 215 pounds, Cox is a decent athlete with fringy speed and range at third base. Not all scouts are sold on his defensive ability. He does have a strong arm—he threw in the low 90s as a reliever a year ago—and will put in the work to improve his reactions at third base. He also has seen time at second base, and one scout said his actions looked better there, but his athleticism is more suited for the hot corner. Cox turned down an $800,000 offer as a Dodgers 20th-round pick out of high school, and he’s in line to make two or three times as much as a top 10 choice this June.
I frequently get harassed at work for being a baseball fan. Most of the insults are thrown by football fans. They love to argue how football is better, and they say things like, “There are too many games in baseball” and, “who cares about a sport where every game doesn’t matter?” I usually reply by giving a couple of “come from behind wins in the 9th” examples and insults to their mothers.