May 2012

The Curious Case of Lucas Giolito

by: Evan Valenti (@EvanValenti on Twitter)

If you just look at scouting reports, there are not too many players that jump off the page like Lucas Giolito (RHP, Harvard-Westlake HS, CA). One of the top arms in this year’s draft, Giolito is a 6-foot 6-inch, 230-pound beast (a big-league frame), and has two plus-pitches (fastball, which has already touched triple digits, and curveball) with room for a third (change-up). Last year, as a junior in high school, he went 9-1 with a 1.00 ERA, had three shutouts, and a 78:26 K:BB ratio.

Drooling yet?

Oh yeah, did I mention he won’t turn 18 until July?

How about now?

Just hearing that, Giolito sounds like a sure-fire number-one overall pick (which would make him the first high school RHP ever selected at the number one spot). But there are some serious injury concerns about him revolving around a sprained UCL (Ulnar Collateral Ligament) he suffered in March. He started his rehabilitation recently and is working on getting back to his top form, but elbow injuries at a young age are red flags for any GM looking for an ace-type pitcher in the first round.

Giolito struggles to control his big arm (26 walks and 15 wild pitches in 70.1 innings), as most fire-balling high school pitchers do, but he can throw any pitch in any count for strikes. He does have issues commanding both sides of the plate, but again at that age most pitchers do. But you draft high school players on potential. Obviously he could learn how to control his arm and make a huge impact on the league.

Teams will be wary of drafting the Californian. He is committed to UCLA in the fall, but a first-round signing bonus could keep him from there (Astros recommended signing bonus for the number-one pick is $7.2 million). Giolito could be a dynamic pitcher and will be compared to two guys drafted just two years ago: the dominant prospect, Jameson Taillon (3-4 3.29 ERA in High-A), and the wild flamethrower, Stetson Allie (0-1 54.00 ERA). However, if he is healthy, he is worthy of the number-one overall pick.

Make sure you follow the ValleyCats team the days of the draft for more in-depth coverage. The 2012 MLB First-Year Players Draft starts June 4.

Number One?

by: Gabe Cassillo

Next Monday, June 4th, Major League Baseball will hold its annual First Year Player Draft.  The Astros hold the first overall pick warranted by their 56-106 record in 2011, and are currently weighing all their options.  While there is no “Bryce Harper” or “Stephen Strasburg” transcendent talent this year, there are a handful of quality options worthy of the top selection.  Let’s take a quick look at 5 of the possibilities for the Astros.

Mark Appel (RHP Stanford)

The player most linked to the Astros at number one overall is Stanford pitcher, Mark Appel.  At 6’ 5’’, 190 lbs. the long right hander features a strong fastball in the 92-95 mph range with good movement, and a plus slider.  While he is working on developing a changeup as well, Appel hasn’t dominated as much as his stuff indicates.  Even though he already anchors a steady Stanford pitching staff, scouts feel his best is yet to come, projecting him as a pitcher with Justin Verlander-type potential.  Appel is the most refined pitcher in the draft and probably the closest to the majors.  His ceiling is high, and it’s very, very likely the Houston native is the selection here for the Astros.

Byron Buxton (OF Appling County HS, Ga.)

Perhaps the best overall talent in this year’s draft, Byron Buxton of Baxley, Georgia is less likely than Appel at number one, but still has a legitimate shot to sneak in as the top pick.  At 6’ 2’’ and 170 lbs. Buxton flashes great natural ability and legitimate five-tool talent.  His speed, potential power, and strong arm project him as a player ranging anywhere from Matt Kemp to the B.J. and/or Justin Upton brothers.  Although still raw, Buxton has a simple swing with quick bat speed that scouts feel will give him the skills to hit not only for average, but for serious power.  As the top High School position player in the draft, Buxton will not slip too far if he does not go number one to the Astros.  Most likely, he will be off the board in the top 3 selections.

Kyle Zimmer (RHP San Francisco)

Zimmer has been a big surprise among scouts this year, truly coming on the radar following a strong showing in last year’s NCAA regionals and the famed Cape Cod League.  At 6-foot-4, 220 lbs. Zimmer projects as a workhorse starter who can be a strong number 1 or 2 starter for Major League clubs for years to come.  His fastball is at 94-96 consistently and has occasionally touched 99.  His 12-6 curve is also a plus offering.  Accompanying those two pitches is an average changeup with the potential to be a plus pitch in the future, and a little used slider that could become average down the road.  Zimmer is extremely athletic and has a serious demeanor when on the mound.  He fields his position well and is mechanically sound in his delivery.  The margin between Zimmer and Appel is very slim, and should he not go to the Astros, he most certainly will not slip out of the top 5.

Kevin Gausman (RHP LSU)

Less likely as the top selection yet just as talented is yet another strong right hander, Kevin Gausman.  In 2010, he was drafted by the Dodgers in the sixth round, but decided to pitch at LSU, and has since greatly improved his draft outlook.  With a solid 94-96 mph for his fastball, and a 85-86 mph changeup as a second plus pitch, Gausman has strong potential.  The jury is still out on his breaking pitches, however, including an upper-70s curve and an inconsistent slider.  As just a sophomore, Gausman projects to have a lot of room for growth, and he has potential as a number one or number two starter in the not too distant future.  Most likely he will be a top 5 pick.

Mike Zunino (C Florida)

As a dark horse for the top spot overall, the Astros could go with the best college position player in the draft, Mike Zunino.  The leader of a powerhouse Florida Gators team, Zunino has impressed with his strong bat, power, defense, and leadership intangibles.  Drawing comparisons to a young Jason Varitek, the 6-foot-2, 220 backstop would be more likely to be the first selection if not for the recent pick of Stanford Catcher Jason Castro (10th overall, 2008).  Before starting his professional career, Zunino will attempt to lead the Gators to the National Championship, after losing in the College World Series Final to champion and rival South Carolina in 2011.  He is also a finalist for this year’s Golden Spikes Award, given to the top player in College Baseball.

Who do you think the Astros will pick number one?  Which player will look best in a ValleyCats uniform?  Leave your thoughts below in the comments section!

Community Grounds Crew Continues Great Work

Over the past two weeks, BlueShield of Northeastern New York and the Tri-City ValleyCats continued their work on local youth ball fields throughout the Capital Region.

Field work has been done at fields including  Cohoes Intermediate Baseball, Carman Little League in Schenectady and Westland Hills in Albany. Work included replacing/repairing the mound and home plate areas, cutting out lips along the baselines and other general field maintenance.

Below is a slideshow of pictures from the recent renovations:

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“The Joe” Welcomes the MAAC 2012 Baseball Championship Tournament

This weekend, “The Joe” will be hosting the 2012 MAAC Baseball Championship Tournament. The double-elimination style Tournament will feature the top four teams from the MAAC Confrence’s regular season: Manhattan, Canisius, Fairfield, and Rider. The tournament will begin today, May 24th, with two opening round games. The first begins at 3pm with top-seeded Manhattan taking on the four seed, Rider. Following the first game, the second seed, Canisius will face the three seed, Fairfield at 7pm. Games will continue Friday at 3 and 7pm, with two more games on Saturday as well, (2 and 6pm). Teams will play Sunday afternoon at 1pm, if necessary.

While the tournament is set to get underway this afternoon, “The Joe” has already hosted some great action this week, serving as the venue for the MAAC 2012 Awards Banquet. The final four teams enjoyed dinner on the concourse and also were honored for their achievements. Player of the Year went to Chris Burke of Iona, and Pitcher of the Year was won by Rider starter, Mike Murphy. Also receiving awards were Jon Fitzsimmons and Devon Stewart, both of Canisius, as the Relief Pitcher and Rookie of the Year, respectively. Coach of the year award went to Fairfield manager, Bill Currier.

The action on tap for this weekend at “The Joe” will definitely prove to be exciting. The winner of the MAAC Tournament will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Regionals with an opportunity to move on to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. As is often said, “The Road to Omaha Starts Here!” Be sure to keep up with all the action and get out to “The Joe” for some fun, sunshine, and great baseball action this weekend.

For ticket information, visit maacsports.com, or tcvalleycats.com. To watch all of this weekends’ game action streaming online, go to maac.tv.

Thank you Gene! Welcome Ryun!

Last Friday was the last day for longtime ValleyCats bookkeeper Gene Gleason, who has hung up his calculator after 11 years with the ‘Cats.

This is actually Gene’s second retirement. He worked for D&H Railroad for 35 years before joining the ValleyCats, first as an usher, then becoming the bookkeeper/accountant. We are all going to immensely miss Gene around the office and at the ballpark, and wish him nothing but the best during his official retirement.

We presented Gene with two gifts. A framed photo of “The Joe” with a written message from each member of the front office:

“Gene Gleason, Tri-City ValleyCats, 11 Years of Service”

Gene is a HUGE RPI Hockey fan and goes to almost every game, so we thought it would be fitting to get him a personalized jersey to wear to the games:

Below is a photo of Gene with Media/Production Manager Chris Chenes, who both worked together during the first year of ValleyCats baseball in 2002 as ushers.

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With Gene’s departure, we welcome Ryun Girmindl aboard, full-time. Ryun spent the past two seasons as an intern in our Food & Beverage Department.

Ryun grew up in Niverville, NY and graduated from Ichabod Crane High School in 2008. He then went on to study Business and Information Science at SUNY Albany.

In his free time, Ryun enjoys spending time with family, friends and following his favorite sports teams, the NY Yankees, NY Giants and Chicago Bulls.

‘Cats Care: Community Grounds Crew & More!

Following the ‘4 in 24′ field renovations, the BlueShield of Northeastern New York’s Community Grounds Crew Program has been continuing in full force with the maintenance of Westland Hills in Albany and Carmen Little League in Rotterdam.

Another very important project was the renovation of the Middleburgh Central School’s baseball field. The field was hit hard by Hurricane Irene and needed lots of work. That’s where the BlueShield’s BlueCrew and the ValleyCats stepped in to re-sod the infield and put in a new pitcher’s mound and home plate area.

Here are some photos from Middleburgh:

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The past few weekends have been filled with Little League Opening Days (20 to be exact), and community events that SouthPaw, Pappy SouthPaw, Rowdy and many other ‘Cats mascots participated in. Below are some photos from just a handful of them.

Colonie Little League- WNYT sports anchor Rodger Wyland the Master of Ceremonies

Rowdy & Damien, the UAlbany Great Dane were in attendance!

Cambridge Little League- Ribbing cutting for newly renovated field!

Rensselaer Little League

The Rensselaer High School baseball team in attendance

SouthPaw participating in the pie toss at Rotterdam Softball!

Classie Lassie Softball

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Aside from the Opening Days, one of the events we participated in was  Bowling Against Bullying at Spare Time in Latham. The event was organized by singing sensation and Bethlehem Middle School student Anthony Gargiula. Anthony is a staple here at “The Joe,” singing the National Anthem each season.

All of the money raised will fund bullying education in area schools.

Anthony and SouthPaw!

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