June 2013

Tomorrow’s Just A Day Away

By Matt Appel

Looking for a gift for Dad on this Father’s Day? Well, in addition to that lovely tie or brand new razor, you can remind him that the ValleyCats’ 2013 season begins tomorrow. That should do the trick.

In just a little over 24 hours from now, the reigning Stedler Division Champions will kick off their 2013 campaign at Joseph L. Bruno stadium against the Vermont Lake Monsters. The players have been working out, hitting, throwing, and getting to know each other since they started arriving in Troy on Thursday. While only two players are returning from last year’s franchise-best 51 win team (3B Ryan Dineen and OF Dan Gulbransen), there is plenty of reason to believe that the talent on this year’s squad will be plentiful.

Offensively, it appears that speed will be the name of the game for the ‘Cats in 2013. Much like last year’s team that led the New York-Penn League in stolen bases, many members of the projected lineup for Tri-City have excellent speed tools. No one better fits this description than 2B Tony Kemp. The 2013 SEC Player of the Year, Kemp was taken as the 5th round selection of Houston in this year’s MLB Draft. In addition to hitting .391 (!!!) this past year for Vanderbilt, the 5’6″ Kemp stole 34 bases. While not a home run threat, Kemp has gap power that should play well here at The Joe.

In what is one of the bigger story lines for this team early on, and will probably remain that way for the entire season, Kemp will be joined in Tri-City by his right-side-of-the-infield counterpart, Vandy 1B Conrad Gregor. The 4th round pick of the Astros this year, Gregor is no slouch in the speed department himself. Gregor swiped 21 bags this past year for the 51-9 Commodores, and in terms of getting on-base, there were few better players in the nation. The Carmel, IN native finished the year with a .440 OBP, and nearly walked twice as often as he struck out (54:29). It will be interesting to see if Kemp and Gregor can replicate the college-teammate success started last year by Brady Rodgers and Andrew Aplin, who played together at ASU.

The team takes a knee on the infield to listen to instructions from manager Ed Romero

The team takes a knee on the infield to listen to instructions from manager Ed Romero

The outfielders on this ValleyCat team, at least from what we have seen in batting practice, could be major parts of the hitting attack. James Ramsay (7th round, USF), Jon Kemmer (21st round, Brewton Parker College), and Ronnie Mitchell (38th round, Dallas Baptist) will all be making their professional debuts here in Tri-City. Ramsay, a CF at USF where he attended college, hit .337 with an OPS of .858 this past season and was named to the All-Big East team. Ramsay’s speed was apparent both at the plate, with 12 SB, and in the field, where he was one of the best defensive outfielders in all of Division-1 according to advanced fielding statistics. A 1-2 combination of Kemp and Ramsay at the top of the ValleyCat lineup could work out rather handsomely for new manager Ed Romero and his hitting coach, Russ Steinhorn. Kemmer played at NAIA Brewton Parker College, and by watching his batting practice so far, he can hit ‘em as far as anyone. A line drive hitter with a ton of raw power, Kemmer slugged at a .717 mark (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) for the Barons, mashing 12 HR, 13 2B, and even legging out a triple, all in only 45 games. Kemmer also drew more free passes than punchouts, but might have to close up his stance to avoid more K’s at this level. As for Mitchell, his power has also been on fully display so far in the few sessions of BP I’ve watched live. An exaggerated leg kick is a key component to Mitchell’s swing, and even though he only hit 4 HR in 60 games this year for Dallas Baptist, he might find his longball stroke here for the ‘Cats. Mitchell was teammates at Dallas Baptist with 2012 ValleyCat Catfish Elkins.

Much of the success of last year’s team was due to great pitching, and it is yet to be seen if this team can replicate that staff’s performance, but there are certainly many hurlers on the ’13 ‘Cats roster capable of dominating hitters at this level. The headliners on this staff are Kevin Comer and Adrian Houser, a 1st rounder and 2nd rounder, respectively. Comer was taken in the 1st round in 2011 by the Blue Jays, and was dealt to the Astros as a player to be named later in the J.A. Happ trade in 2012. Comer has a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a power curve. Houser was the 2nd round pick of the Astros in the 2011 draft, and projects to have a plus fastball and plus curveball as he matures. Both should have no problem getting hitters out this summer.

The ‘Cats have a number of pitchers on this roster that will be throwing in their first professional games this season. Pat Christensen (27th round, La Salle), Randall Fant (29th round, Arkansas), Albert Minnis (18th round, Wichita State), Zach Morton (32nd round, Northwestern) and Kyle Westwood (13th round, University of North Florida) were all drafted less than two weeks ago, and find themselves in the middle of what promises to be a very competitive pitching staff, under the guidance of new pitching coach Doug White.

The player who has received the most media attention so far is RHP Christian Garcia, who in from the Capital District. A 2009 graduate of Saratoga Central Catholic High School, Garcia was drafted by the Astros in the 29th round of the 2012 draft, and spent last year in Greeneville. Garcia, from Gansevoort, NY, is expected to come out of the bullpen for the ValleyCats.

One player flying under the radar to keep an eye on is IF Chan Moon, born and raised in Seoul, South Korea. Moon signed as an international free agent with Houston in 2009, and has made his living as a slick-fielding infielder who plays primarily at short, but might get looks at third and even first for Tri-City. Moon, who is a lanky 6’0″, 160, has shown good line-drive capabilities in BP, and could very valuable as a utility guy on this team.

Tomorrow’s starter for Ed Romero will be 4th year-pitcher Evan Grills, a lefthander from Whitby, Ontario. We will give you a full scouting report of Grills in tomorrow’s 2013 inaugural “Pregame Meal.” A very happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, and with ValleyCat baseball officially back tomorrow, how can it not be?

New ‘Cats in town, busy weekend at “The Joe” before Opening Night!

Opening Night is under 48 hours away, and this past week has been a whirlwind for the ‘Cats front office, as well as the 2013 ValleyCats.

The pieces of the ‘Cats roster are starting to come together, and the 23 who are in Troy were all together for the first time on Friday, getting acquainted with each other, the local media and their new home ballpark during Media Day.

One player on the ‘Cats roster who won’t have as hard a time getting acquainted, is former Saratoga Spa Catholic pitcher Christian Garcia. Garcia is a member of the ‘Cats this season after spending 2012 with Rookie League Greeneville.

The team was able to hold their first practice on Friday afternoon, and then attended our annual season ticker holder picnic Friday night where new manager Ed Romero introduced himself, the coaching staff and players.

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The season ticket holders then had the opportunity to eat dinner and mingle with the players and coaching staff.

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Ed Romero

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Infielder Chan Moon signs an autograph for a young fan.

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Catcher Luis Alvarez signs a ball.

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Pitching coach Doug White looks on as a young fan gets a signed mini-bat.

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On Saturday morning, the ValleyCats hosted the Father’s Day Home Run 5k at “The Joe.” It was another record turn-out, including members of the ValleyCats front office:

Team Photo

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On Saturday evening, the team held another practice, the second to last one before the home opener on Monday Night. Below, skipper Ed Romero speaks with the position players.

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The below picture was taken at the perfect time, as the ball makes its way to pitcher Kevin Comer.

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As the ‘Cats 2013 roster takes shape, click here for the story on the current ‘Cats in town.

Tomorrow, the team will practice one more time at 2pm before they open the 2013 season at “The Joe” on Monday night at 7pm against the Vermont Lake Monsters.

‘Cats broadcaster Matt Appel will have more on the team in his pre, “Pregame Meal” tomorrow on ‘Cats Corner.

Capital Region Series

At long last, the 2013 season is almost upon us! The ValleyCats team will take the field in less than one week, and all of the front office and intern staff here at “The Joe” is hard at work getting ready. Right before the 2013 ‘Cats hit the field, seven businesses & a ValleyCats Media team are participating in the Annual Capital Region Series at “The Joe.”

The Capital Region Series is a fundraising baseball tournament for the New York-Penn League Charitable Foundation, raising money to help the ‘Cats renovate local youth baseball fields.

The seven businesses include Trustco Bank, First Niagara, Key Bank, CAP COM Federal Credit Union, SEFCU, DeCrescente and Saratoga Eagle.

On Wednesday night, the ValleyCats media team (consisting of staffers from YNN, WNYT, Clear Channel Radio & Albany Broadcasting), was eliminated by SEFCU, and Key Bank lost to CAP COM, putting them into the loser bracket.

Due to rain, Thursday’s Capital Region Series action has been postponed until June 20.

Below are the team photos and some shots of the action:

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ValleyCats Media team

Key Bank team photo

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Saratoga Eagle

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First Niagra team photo

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Some action shots from the media squad:

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Brian Cody from Fly92, manning shortstop.

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D-Scott from KISS 102.3, on the mound!

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Tred from 99.5 The River looks on in right field as YNN’s Solomon Syed goes back on a fly ball.

No time for ‘Cat naps!

The ValleyCats “Street Team” was in midseason mode this past week and weekend, attending many events around the community. First was the Paws in the Park event on the Siena College campus.  While the Street Team was busy passing out Bark In The Park flyers, Pappy was mingling with some four-legged friends of another kind. The Street Team is sure we’ll be seeing many of the same faces, snouts, and tails in our stadium on July 8th as we did at Paws in the Park.

(Paula Walker, timesunion.com)

(Paula Walker, timesunion.com)

Next up was the YMCA Block Party in Lansingburgh. The high-energy group at this event could not get enough of our inflatable baseball game. Every person that took one of our Drug Free Capital District Quizzes received a free Tri-City ValleyCats hat and magnet. Pappy also entertained the kids who showed up to the Block Party.

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Pappy with Troy Mayor Lou Rosamilia

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On Saturday, SouthPaw stopped by Keeler Motor Car Co.’s Annual Block Party, and he had one heck of a time! It was the grand opening of Keeler’s brand new MINI showroom, which is where SouthPaw spent most of his time with his friends from PYX 106 and KISS 102-3!

Mini Showroom Keeler

SouthPaw eventually found his way to the Audiostars who were playing classic rock hits! They even dedicated a song to him by playing “Stray Cat Strut!”

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Following Keeler, SouthPaw made his way to the city of Cohoes for the dedication of a plaque honoring George Stacey Davis, a native of the city who was enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1998.

George Stacey Davis Plaque Ceremony

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For more information on George Stacey Davis, click here>>

On Saturday night, with help from Hannaford Supermarkets, we brought our “Show On The Road” to the East Greenbush-Castleton Youth Baseball League!

This incredible event featured pregame entertainment, live team introductions, a live performance of the national anthem, and in-game promotions including fan favorites such as the Mayors’ Race, T-Shirt Tosses, Pony Hops and more.

There was also a Home Run Derby that came before the 7pm game. In case you missed it, here are some images from this jam-packed night of fun, as the ‘Cats took their “Show On The Road!”

View from the "press box" during the pregame home run derby!

View from the “press box” during the pregame home run derby!

Ceremonial team introductions!

Ceremonial team introductions!

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The ceremonial first pitch was thrown by Josh Bissaillon, accompanied by Hannaford representative Molly Tarleton.
Josh was recognized for an outstanding display of sportsmanship he demonstrated in one game this season. With Josh on the mound, knowing that the batter in the box had not played baseball before, and was nervous to step to the plate because three pitches had hit him in his first four games, he threw easy pitches, making sure not to come anywhere near the boy or throw as hard as he could.
This showed his understanding of the situation and willingness to sacrifice his own performance in order to ensure another young man’s enjoyment of the game, which exemplifies the meaning of Little League Baseball.

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Molly Tarleton from Hannaford, with Josh and his father

The game then got underway, and in between each half inning, the ‘Cats broke out the promotions that had been put away all winter long!

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Pony Hops

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T-Shirt Toss

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Hannaford Supermarket Sweep Relay Race

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Tri-City Mayors breaking it down after their race.

For more photos from the night, click here to view our entire album on Facebook.

We’ll cap off this pretty long blog post with photos from the Troy Flag Day Parade. It’s the biggest in the country, and the weather couldn’t have been any nicer!

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2013 MLB Draft Recap: Houston Astros

By Matt Appel

For the second consecutive year, the Astros owned the first overall pick in the MLB Draft. It was unclear, even on draft day, what direction Houston would go in with that selection. Ultimately, the Astros opted to take Stanford RHP Mark Appel first overall. Appel, who went 8th overall to the Pirates in the 2012 draft but went back to Stanford for his senior year, dominated this past season. The righty went 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA in addition to 4 complete games and 2 shutouts. Appel is expected to progress through the Astros system quickly, and the Houston native should make his MLB debut at some point in 2014.

With their next two picks, Houston went back to the college pitching well. RHP Andrew Thurman (UC-Irvine) was the 2nd round pick, and LHP Kent Emanuel (UNC) went next at pick 74 in the third round. Both of these junior hurlers were Friday night starters for their respective teams. Thurman was rumored to have 1st-round potential, but slipped to the Astros at the start of the second round. Great command of his fastball-change up combination has earned Thurman comparison to current Astros’ minor leaguer Nick Tropeano, a former ValleyCat. Thurman was mentioned as one of the more polished college hurlers in this draft. Emanuel is described as lefty workhorse-type starter, who’s best offering is a mid -90′s fastball that he throws with excellent command. The junior pitched to a 2.70 ERA this past year and allowed only 130 base runners in his 120 innings, a very respectable mark. He was named as this past year’s ACC Pitcher of the Year, and anchored the top-seeded Tar Heels rotation.

In the 4th and 5th rounds, the Astros took the liberty to draft the right side of the Vanderbilt infield. 1B Conrad Gregor (No. 107 overall) and 2B Tony Kemp (No. 137 overall) will join each other as players in the Houston organization, should they sign, after playing three years as teammates with the Commodores. Kemp, who stands at 5’7”, was this year’s SEC Player of the Year. He hit an incredible .391 and added a personal high of 34 stolen bases. A .491 OBP adds to Kemp’s credibility as a professional player. His teammate Gregor doesn’t hit for as much power as the standard first baseman does, which impacted his draft stock reportedly, but his ability to get on base at a high rate still makes him a threat in the lineup. Gregor had a career-best 48 RBI this year for Vanderbilt.

The ‘Stros went to the high school level in the 6th for a player with great upside. C Jacob Nottingham (No. 167 overall) was a two-sport standout at Redlands HS in California, and has the ceiling of an All-Star level catcher in the Majors. James Ramsay, an All-Big East outfielder at USF, went next to Houston at pick 197. Ramsay was one of the best defenders in all of Division-1 this past season, and has solid offensive tools. In the 8th round, the Astros took UNC catcher and Kent Emanuel’s battery mate Brian Holberton. Holberton excels best while at the plate, as opposed to behind it.

In the 35th round, the Astros took a player with a familiar last name. Kacy Clemens was drafted by the team his dad, Roger, once played and now works for with the 1037th overall pick. However, Kacy, a right-handed pitcher with similar mechanics to his father, says he is going to stay true to his commitment to the University of Texas.

Overall, the Astros took 24 pitchers out of their 40picks in the draft, attempting to meet an organizational need for pitching at all levels. Here is the complete list of the players Houston took. Look for some of those 40 players to be here at “The Joe” in 2013.

Astros 1st and 2nd round recap

By Matt Appel

At some point on Thursday, the Houston Astros decided they couldn’t afford to pass on Mark Appel twice.

With the first overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, the Astros took Appel, the Stanford standout, whom they chose not to take with their first selection last year in favor of SS Carlos Correa. After falling to the Pirates at the #8 pick last year, Appel wound up not signing and going back to Palo Alto for his senior season. That calculated risk has now paid off for the Houston native.

This past season, Appel went 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA for the Cardinal. The selection of Appel came as a little bit of a surprise, as the consensus pick for Houston at #1 was Oklahoma righty Jonathan Gray, who wound up going third overall to Colorado. Appel’s scouting report lists both his fastball, which touches 98 MPH at times, and a wipeout slider as plus pitches at the major league level. The Houston native has an extremely athletic frame for a hurler at 6’5″, 215. For Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, the pick of Appel came down to filling needs.

“He just checks all the boxes for us,” Luhnow said. “We see him as a future ace and the type of player we need to be adding to the organization. He makes us better. He makes us significantly better.”

The Astros must now negotiate a contract with Appel and his agent, Scott Boras. That appeared to be a factor working against the righty leading up the draft, but both Luhnow and Boras made statements Thursday night suggesting that getting a contract put together won’t be a problem. Appel projects to rise through the minor leagues rather quickly, and could see the Majors within a year.

With their second round pick, the Astros went with another college right-hander. The team took UC-Irvine starter Andrew Thurman with the 40th overall pick. According to Luhnow, Thurman was the highest rated player on their board at that time (not that you’ll ever hear a GM say otherwise). Thurman comes with 4 solid pitches, a mid-90s fastball being the standout offering. Thurman was one of the the Cape Cod summer league’s best pitchers last year, striking out 49 hitters in just 39 innings. Luhnow added that the Astros pegged Thurman as a first-round talent.

Rounds 3-10 start today at 1 pm. The Astros will start off the day with the 74th overall pick. Tune into tcvalleycats.com for continued coverage of the draft.

2013 MLB Draft Live Chat

Happy Draft Day ‘Cats Fans! Below is the link to our official live chat which begins at 630, exactly a half hour until the Astros go on the clock with the first overall pick. Hope to see you in the chat!

Click Here

Astros MLB Draft Preview

By Matt Appel

For the second year in a row, the Astros are #1….but not exactly in the way they’d like to be. After picking first overall in the 2012 MLB Draft, Houston once again owns the top pick in 2013, joining the Rays in 2007-2008 and the Nationals in 2009-2010 as the only teams ever to have back-t0-back #1 overall selections. Those teams are both now annual playoff contenders, so there is certainly reason to believe that the Astros’ future will be significantly brighter than its immediate past.

While the consensus on this year’s pool of draftees is that it’s lacking in a true generational player and overall not as deep as in the past few years, there is still a slew of very talented players the Astros are considering with their first round selection. Specifically, there are reportedly four players Houston is strongly considering taking Thursday night. After taking 17-year old SS Carlos Correa first overall last year, it appears the ‘Stros are looking at more polished, collegiate players in 2013. Below are the suspected candidates for the #1 pick and their scouting reports.

(Shameless plug alert: We will be hosting a live draft chat for the first and second rounds of the draft starting at 6:30 Thursday night. Look for the link later tonight or Thursday morning on where to go to join in on the conversation and follow the draft as it happens)

Jonathan Gray-RHP, Oklahoma Gray, by most accounts, is the #1 prospect in this year’s draft pool. The right-hander has a very powerful 6’4″, 239 frame, which contributes strongly to his often over-powering fastball. Gray typically works between 94-97 MPH, but can hit 100 effortlessly. His slider has also developed into a “plus pitch” according to scouts, meaning that it is a go-to out pitch. His change-up is also a pitch that he can get a lot of swings and misses with, which gives Gray three pitches that he feels confident throwing with 2 strikes. Here is a highlight video of Gray’s complete game shutout of Northwestern back in March. Out of any pitcher in this draft class, Gray has the most upside and greatest potential to be a true ace in the Majors. According to Baseball America, Gray’s stuff is similar to Gerrit Cole, the 2010 first overall selection of the Pirates and a likely top of the line starter once he reaches the majors. Baseball America likens Gray’s ability to get stronger as a game progresses to Justin Verlander, and any time you get compared to Justin Verlander, you’re doing something right.

On Monday, it was reported that Gray had tested positive for Adderall, a banned simulant unless taken with a prescription, in pre-draft testing. This positive test will not result in any sort of suspension for Gray, but it will subject him to additional testing once he begins his pro career, according to the report. It isn’t clear whether or not this hurts Gray’s chances of being picked first by Houston, but some insiders, including ESPN’s Keith Law, who broke the story, do not believe it hurts his draft stock. If I were Houston GM Jeff Luhnow, Gray’s positive test wouldn’t diminish my opinion of him. It has been suggested that Gray’s positive test could be spun as a negotiating ploy by the Astros, should they take him, to lower his signing price so that more money could be spent on player in the later rounds. He is nowhere near as close to a sure thing to be picked first as he was a few days ago, but it would still be a mild surprise if Gray still did not go to Houston.

Mark Appel-RHP, Stanford You might recall Appel as being a top prospect in last year’s draft as he went 7th overall to Pittsburgh. In fact, it was speculated for months leading up to the draft that Houston might take Appel with last year’s #1 selection. Appel, a Scott Boras client, didn’t wind up signing with the Pirates and returned to Stanford for his senior year. That calculated risk has appeared to pay off, as the righty is bound to go higher than 7th this time around. The most major-league ready pitcher available, Appel fine-tuned his pitches this season, leading the Cardinal pitching staff with arguably his best overall college campaign. He went 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA, and a career-high K/9 rate. He also held batters to a career-best .230 batting average. Appel’s fastball reaches 98 MPH at times, and combined with a sweeping slider that generates a lot of misses, creates a dangerous 1-2 punch. Here’s some footage from an Appel start versus USC during the regular season. Appel clocks in at an athletic 6’5″, 215 frame. He was a basketball standout in high school as well.

There have been some questions about the difficulty of negotiating with Appel because of Boras, but considering he is out of options and has to sign or sit out a year of professional baseball, the process shouldn’t anywhere near as frustrating as it was with Pittsburgh last year. However, his monetary demands will probably still be very high. Appel is as close to a sure thing as there is in this draft, with his ceiling being a very high #2 starter. If the Astros choose to pass on Gray for whatever reason, Appel would be a very nice consolation prize. He projects to move through the Minors rather quickly, and could see the Majors by late 2014-early 2015.

Kris Bryant-3B/OF, San Diego Bryant is the most intriguing collegiate position player in this draft, and has one of the highest ceilings. After turning in a historic junior season, in which he hit a staggering 31 home runs in just 62 games, Bryant certainly has the potential to be the first player taken off the board Thursday night. Bryant’s greatest tool is outstanding right handed power, showcased by his ability to hit the ball out to any part of the ballpark. The Las Vegas native managed to out-homer 228 of the 296 Division 1 team. Yes, you read that right. A good, wide approach at the plate and strong swing through the zone leave scouts thinking Bryant will be at least hit for respectable averages (somewhere in the .270-.290 range). His plate discipline is also something scouts gush over, as Bryant led all NCAA hitters in total walks and walks per game this past season. The other parts of Bryant’s game project as at least average, with his defensive range at third being the most questionable. Most scouting reports mention a position change as possible for Bryant. However, a plus arm envokes the comparison of Troy Glaus for some scouts. Check out this link for video of Bryant both in the field and at the plate.

Bryant, more so than almost any other player in this draft, has the ceiling of a multiple All-Stars and league-leading power totals. His solid frame (6’5″, 215) allows him to play a number of positions, so whatever team winds up drafting him won’t have to worry about finding a place for him in a lineup. Bryant will probably be the first position player taken in the draft, whether that is at #1, #2, or #3 overall. Bryant playing 81 games a year in Minute Maid Park might be a very exciting scenario for the Astros, and make Bryant a very realistic choice for the team.

Colin Moran-3B, North Carolina In the past week, there has been a lot of buzz circling Moran as a real option for Houston with their pick. Interestingly enough, it wouldn’t be the first time someone in Moran’s family went first overall. In 1985, Moran’s uncle, B.J. Surhoff, was the Milwaukee Brewers’ choice at #1. Moran has put together a spectacular junior season for the top-seeded Tar Heels, hitting .357 with 13 HR and 84 RBI. However, of the four players still in contention (we think) for the first overall pick, Moran’s tools are the least spectacular. His defense at third is average, his speed is below-average. Despite these shortcomings, Moran, who is 6’3″, 215, projects as a player who will most likely hit for average at the Major League level, with slightly-above left handed average power. This video is a compilation of Moran’s 2013 highlights, as he was named ACC Player of the Year. 

Moran’s ceiling isn’t that high, but almost every scout who has an opinion to offer on Moran says he will be at least a solid regular in the MLB. Some call him “safe” at the first spot, and is essentially a lock to go pretty early in the draft. While maybe not as “sexy” a pick as the other three, Moran seems destined for the majors at some point within the next few years for whatever team selected him.

Prediction: The Astros surprised almost everyone in 2012 when they took Carlos Correa first overall. I don’t see any surprise of that magnitude coming this year. It would make sense that after taking a position player first last year that Houston would be looking for a pitcher this time around. Gray and Appel both offer high-end potential with little minor league conditioning required. If the Astros are drafting for the best player available, Gray seems to be the choice. If the organization makes the pick based on highest upside, Kris Bryant will be gone at #1. Appel, despite his Major League readiness, is probably the third option, mainly due to the price tag that he comes with. Moran, while rumors persist that he might be the Astros’ guy, would be the 4th option for me. Like I said earlier, it would still mildly surprise me if Gray isn’t the first player picked in the draft. From what I’ve read and watched, he seems to be the player most likely in this draft at this point to have the highest degree of successful in the Majors. Ultimately, I think it comes down to Gray and Bryant, with the Astros’ need for a true #1 type hurler being the determining factor.

Off-Season? No Such Thing!

Even though the ValleyCats don’t play their first game for 13 more days, there is certainly no shortage of things going on at “The Joe.” In fact, there was some real, live baseball played on the field last week, as the Section II tournament got underway. On Tuesday, May 28th, Shaker knocked off Guilderland by a score of 7-3, which preceeded a Shenendehowa 10-0 victory over La Salle, wrapping up the Class AA semifinals. The next day, the Class B title game was played between Schalmont and and Johnstown. Thanks to a 10-run first, Schalmont took the championship by a final of 14-3. Two title games were held at “The Joe” on Friday the 31st: the Class AA final between Shen and Shaker, as well as the Class A title game between Queensbury and Scotia. The Class A game was played first, and went to Queensbury by the score of 8-5. In the night game, Shen knocked off Shaker 3-2 to bring home the Class AA championship. Congratulations to all players involved on a great tournament!

Opening Night preparation for the stadium is currently in its final stages. Our merchandise shop, “Southpaw’s Den” is already in mid-season mode. New to Southpaw’s Den this season are Oyo sports toys, miniature figurines, of numerous MLB players, including former ValleyCats Ben Zobrist, Jose Altuve, and Hunter Pence!

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The outfield wall is now season-ready, with all the signage up and ready to go! Also ready for June 17th’s first pitch are our group areas, including the always-popular Picnic Pavilion!

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Coming up on this Saturday, June 8th, the ValleyCats, in partnership with Hannaford Supermarkets, are doing something never done before in the organization’s history. The ValleyCats mascot’s, PA announcer, and promo team will be heading to the East Greenbush-Castleton Youth Baseball fields to bring the “Show on the Road.”

East Greenbush-Castleton was chosen because of their league’s commitment to providing a positive experience on and off the field for their players. As part of bringing the “Show on the Road”, there will be pregame entertainment, ceremonial team introductions, a live performance of the national anthem, and in-game promotions including fan favorites such as the Mayors’ Race, T-Shirt Tosses, Pony Hops and more. The festivities will take place on at 7pm (once again, this Saturday) at the baseball complex located at 71 Gilligan Road in East Greenbush. Hannaford will be helping out with the concession stands, as well as offering healthy food and snack options.

SHow on the road

As the dawn of the 2013 season is upon us, our seasonal staff was invited to the stadium this past Monday for orientation, serving as a refresher course on being part of the ValleyCats employee team. Part of the orientation includes a classroom presentation by members of our front office, as well as a tour around “The Joe.” All of our season staff, as well as our front office and interns, can’t wait to see the ValleyCat faithful out at the ballpark on the 17th!

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Last, but certainly not least, is the start of the MLB Draft, which kicks off Thursday. The Astros (the MLB parent club of the ValleyCats, if you aren’t aware) have the #1 overall pick for the second consecutive year, and will look to make a big splash with their selection. We will be providing a live draft chat Thursday, so please feel free to join in on the conversation as the Astros pick the players of their, and the ValleyCats, future. Look for a link before the 7pm start on Thursday evening.

Once again, we can not wait to welcome all the ValleyCats fans for season opener in just 13 days. It looks to be another fantastic summer of fun and entertainment here at “The Joe!”

By Matt Appel

Trying to Predict the Unpredictable: The MLB Draft

By Matt Appel

At approximately 7 P.M. on June 6th, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig will put the Houston Astros on the clock with the first overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft. Months, if not years, of scouting have come together at a head, and finally, a player is about to be selected. Even though there are 40 rounds, it is a team’s first round pick that sets the tone for the minor league system for years to come.

One would assume that with so many hours of scouting done on virtually every player, teams would walk away from each year’s draft oozing with confidence in the player they consider the best available at the time they selected. While that is the goal, that is not the way it unfolds a startling amount of the time. Based on even a quick skimming of recent history, it is rather apparent that, in a lot of ways, the MLB Draft is a guessing game.

To examine just how unpredictable the MLB Draft has been, we will look specifically at the time period of 1996-2008. We really can’t go past 2008, as there are many prospects taken after ’08 that are likely to make an impact at, or at the very least, reach, the Majors sooner rather than later, but are still playing in the Minors. Keep in mind that it is extremely hard to determine what a “bust” is for baseball’s annual draft (because as you will see shortly, even making the majors is somewhat of an accomplishment). The average-to-above average baseball fan will recognize most of the names taken in the 1st round of the 13-year span we’re looking at, but it is the names that don’t ring a bell, and how many of them they are, that highlight this Russian Roulette-esque phenomena.

Between 1996 and 2008, there were 386 players taken as first-rounders, not including compensatory picks at the end of the first round. Of those 386, 111 never reached the Major Leagues. That boils down to a percentage of 28.7% of first round selections. So basically, from 1996-2008, teams had roughly a 3/10 shot of never seeing their “best” player in a given draft never do much of anything for them. The peak, or valley I suppose, of this trend came from 1999-2001, when 41/90, or 46%, of first rounders never made it to “The Show.” 1999′s class featured 16 non-Major League players, the most over this time span.

Not even the #1 overall pick, of which the Astros own for the second consecutive draft, is immune to this problem. Two of the top picks from ’96-’08 have yet to reach the MLB. One is Matt Bush, who went #1 in 2004 to San Diego as a shortstop, and thanks to a 51 month prison sentence for a DUI hit-and-run, it doesn’t seem likely he is to play at the highest level anytime soon. Bush managed to make the Rays’ 40-man roster following the 2011 season as a pitcher, but that appears to be the height of his professional success. The other is Tim Beckham, a 2008 selection of the Rays, who so far, has drastically underachieved. Considered a “can’t-miss” shortstop, Beckham is currently with AAA Durham, and projects more as a utility infielder in the Majors, should he ever make it. Beckham’s professional career included a 50-game ban in 2012 for a second positive drug test.

Those two represent the worst-case scenario for picking at the top spot. However, even if a player who went #1 overall reaches the Majors, there is no guarantee they will perform at the level expected of them. Even though he pitched as recently as 2010, Kris Benson (1996) had an injury-riddled career, and only once had a sub-4 ERA. Matt Anderson (1997) only pitched in parts of 7 seasons and finished with a career ERA of 5.19. Luke Hochevar (2006) was twice drafted before going #1 to Kansas City. Now in his 7th year, Hochevar has career totals of 38-60 with a 5.33 ERA. Bryan Bullington, the Pirates’ nod at #1 in 2002, made only 26 career appearances, the most recent coming in 2010.

All other #1 picks not listed above could be considered at least moderate successes, but most are/were bonafide great picks. Of the remaining group, Pat Burrell and Delmon Young are the most average. Josh Hamilton (1999-yes, you’ve known about Josh Hamilton for that long)-multiple time All-Star, has an MVP, and would have been a Hall of Fame-bound legend if not for his substance abuse issues. Joe Mauer (2001)-one of the greatest hitting catchers ever. Adrian Gonzalez (2000)-top 1B over the past 10 years. David Price (2007)-2012 Cy Young winner. Justin Upton (2006)-one of the game’s elite outfielders and All-Star for year’s to come. Mind you, this group does not even mention Stephen Strasburg (2009) and Bryce Harper (2010), both of whom are already stars in the making. I think the most incredible stat about the history of the #1 pick in the MLB Draft is that none, zero (0), zilch, nada, of the players ever taken with the top pick are currently in the Hall of Fame. Ken Griffey Jr. (1987) will break that trend when he is eligible for induction in a few years, but to think that since 1965 when the draft began, not a single player who was considered the “best” in his class has received baseball’s highest honor is truly remarkable.

A little more statistical analysis shows that if you’re looking for an All-Star in the first round, there’s only a slight advantage in picking a position player. The 1996-2008 1st rounds, through the start of the 2013 season, have produced 56 All-Star players. Of those 56, 29 have been position players, while the other 27 (obviously) are pitchers. That is about as close as it can be without being split evenly. However, teams searching for multiple time All-Stars (as I would imagine most teams would be) should explore position players with their first pick even more. Those 56 All-Stars have accounted for a total of 123 Midsummer Classic appearances. 69 of those come from position players, as opposed to only 54 from hurlers. Both the 2002 and 2007 1st-rounds had 7 All-Stars, the most over this time span. The 1999 draft, ironically the one with the most players that never saw the Majors, has the most All-Star appearances with 16 (Josh Hamilton, Josh Beckett, Barry Zito, Ben Sheets, and Alex Rios make up all those selections). 2013 has seen an emergence of dominant young pitchers, so the discretion between hitters and pitchers should even out within the next few seasons.

Houston’s 2012 top overall choice, SS Carlos Correa, who is not yet 19, is making a steady progression through the minors. By 2016 at the latest, Correa should have made his MLB debut. So for the time being, that appears to be on the “good” side of recent draft history. With the Astros due up for another #1 overall pick in just a matter of days, your guess is just as good as mine as to how bright the future is of whomever they select. Whether it is a pitcher (Oklahoma’s Jonathan Gray, Stanford’s Mark Appel) or a position player (San Diego’s Kris Bryant, UNC’s Colin Moran), that player will receive a big paycheck and even bigger expectations and pressure to succeed. Based on the history of the draft, one could suggest the Astros might as well just flip a coin.

“There are three types of baseball players: Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happens.”-Tommy Lasorda

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