Wednesday, March 30, 2011

2011 Top 167 Prospect List

This is based on my previous look at prospects here. These rankings do not reflect any of my personal knowledge or thoughts about the players, as I have none. They are simply a cumulative ranking based on the 9 lists I looked at. Those 9 lists are AOL, Baseball America, Bullpen Banter, Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, Keith Law, MLB, Prospect Junkies and Project Prospect. There may be a few oddballs, as some of the lists had different criteria. For example, Jenrry Mejia was included on a majority of the lists, but was excluded on the Keith Law and Fangraphs lists because he does not qualify as an MLB rookie. Without further adieu...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Taking a(nother) Look at Prospect Rankings

Well, this is it. I did a preliminary look at prospect lists here. This time, I am including the Bullpen Banter and Fangraphs rankings. I have also changed my methodology a bit.

Likes: The list places a prospect at least two standard deviations below the average ranking. A prospect must be on at least 5 lists to qualify.

Dislikes: The list places a prospect at least two standard deviations above the average ranking. A prospect must be on at least 5 lists to qualify.

Surprising Inclusion:  The list includes a prospect ranked better than 80 which is only included on at most 3 lists.

Surprising Exclusion: The list does not include a prospect that is ranked anywhere on at least 6 other lists.

I also changed how the overall rank was calculated. Instead of taking an average rank, I gave each player a certain total depending where he was ranked on each list. a #1 ranking equals 100 points and a 100 ranking equals 1 point. These are all added together and the prospect with the highest total is ranked 1st, etc. Mike Trout ranked 1st with a total of 896 out of a possible 900 points. Bryce Harper was 2nd with a total of 888 points.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Looking Up to Michael Schlact

I recently finished reading "Ball Four" by Jim Bouton (I know, I'm 40 years late) and I remember a passage from it that basically read like this: If baseball fans knew what players were really like, they wouldn't deify them as much. And that, in general, may be true. Fans of any sport are in awe of the physical abilities of the athletes they watch. Throwing a baseball in excess of 90 mph is just a dream for most people. Hitting that fastball is an even greater impossibility. So fans see these men and women do incredible feats with ease and tend to project other features onto them. Professional athletes are held to a higher standard. In one sense, this may be necessary as they - like it or not - are viewed as role models. They can have quite an effect on the lives of those around them simply by their stature as an athlete. But sometimes, fans tend to forget that the players are still people, just like everyone else.

When "Ball Four" was written in 1969, the access to players' personal lives was extremely limited. Even the reporters who followed the team were shut out, as players were told to rarely speak to them. As I read the book, I was amazed that the outcry was so large. There didn't seem to be anything shocking to me in it. Baseball players chase girls and drink alcohol? No way! It shows how much has changed in the privacy of professional athletes' lives. Of course, the best view that the fans now get into a player's personal life is Twitter. Twitter is awesome. I've smacktalked with Derek Holland on how the Anaheim Ducks are better than the Phoenix Coyotes. I've personally asked J.P. Arencibia and Manny Machado how to pronounce their names. I've asked Heath Bell why he has the number 21 ("That's the number they gave me. I like it."). I've won a personalized signed baseball from Will Rhymes. I've shared my anchovy-eating story with Thomas Neal. And I've shared Bible verses with LaTroy Hawkins.

Which brings me to Michael Schlact. Michael Schlact is a 6'8 right-handed pitcher who spent the last 6 years in the Texas Rangers organization. He was drafted in the 3rd round in 2004 and has bounced around the minors, reaching as high as AA Frisco. In 2009, he had shoulder surgery and missed time in 2009 and 2010. His contract with the Rangers ended after 6 years and they declined to re-sign him. Just recently, he signed with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in the Atlantic League, an independent baseball league, not affiliated with Major League Baseball. Schlact is also a blogger. His blog is here. And he tweets. A lot. As of this moment, he has 14,381 tweets.

But none of that is seemingly worthy of a dedicated post, is it? A pitcher gets drafted, tries to make it to the major leagues, gets injured and tries to prove that he's healthy. He blogs about his life and tweets. A lot. Besides the fact that without Twitter, I would have never even heard of Michael Schlact, none of this is ground-breaking stuff.

So this is where the story begins to differentiate itself, Schlact's Twitter bio: "Professional baseball player. Husband. Glorifying God while chasing my dream. Follow me on my journey..." Innocent enough. The only reason I followed him in the first place was that first sentence, "Professional baseball player." I follow over 500 people on Twitter and a majority of them are either baseball players or baseball writers. So, I figured, "this guy's a baseball player, I'll follow him." I read "Husband" and probably thought nothing. Or at least, "Well, good for him." Then I read "Glorifying God while chasing my dream" and I thought, "Well, I'm a Christian and this guy is at least Christian enough to put God in his Twitter bio. That's nice." Finally, I read "Follow me on my journey..." and figured, "Well, okay!"

The part I really want to focus on is stuck right in the middle there: "Glorifying God while chasing my dream." Athletes, singers and actors talk about God sometimes, mostly when winning awards or giving interviews. They thank God for the talent He has given them, which I appreciate. But in their normal day-to-day activities, they completely forget about Him. But Michael Schlact is not like that. He has Phillipians 4:13 on his glove. (I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.) He has basically been without a job from last October until this March. That's 5 months without knowing where he would end up and what he would be doing this baseball season. But instead of lashing out and being publicly depressed (I can't speak as to how he was in private), he tweets things like this: "Never think that God’s delays are God’s denials. Hold on; hold fast; hold out. Patience is genius."(George-Louis Leclerc de Buffon) And this: "Trust God with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5)

I greatly appreciate the fact that he references God and trusts in Him, but I'm sure that there are some out there who are turned off by it. I appreciate the courage and the boldness that it takes to be so open about his faith, but I believe that the overall lesson is not just that he has faith. It's that he is able to put it in action and that he is able to keep a positive attitude throughout a difficult time. This is an area in which anyone can grow, regardless of religious or non-religious preference.

This is his response to the Ranger organization, who declined to re-sign him after 6 years (a string of tweets): "Rangers fans, as of now, I'm not returning back to the Texas org. I am forever thankful for all the opportunities they gave me.  The Rangers drafted me and gave me lots of opportunities. I am forever grateful for that. I wish them the best of luck in the future. As you've seen, careers come full circle though. (Colby Lewis) So, there are DEFINITELY no hard feelings. Thoroughly enjoyed my time there." He's obviously a classy guy.

But what really drove me to write about him is that I have been where he has been. No, I was never a professional baseball player. The farthest I got was casual softball leagues (let me know if you need the best defensive centerfielder you have ever seen play). But I've been in the place where I had no clue where I was going to end up. I went through my senior year in college with a higher cumulative GPA than Schlact's Rookie ball ERA. I interviewed with company after company, only to get that wonderful e-mail that always begins with "Dear Candidate: While we are impressed with your skills and qualifications, we have chosen another candidate for this position...." And it hurt. And I can't say I handled every missed opportunity with as much class as Schlact did. I was not on Twitter at the time, but if I had been, my feed would be as depressing as a teenage girl whose parents just grounded her before a Justin Bieber concert. I ended up graduating college with a degree in Chemical Engineering...and moving back into my parents' house. Eventually, I was able to get a job and I'm thankful for that opportunity. But I severely dislike the feeling of the unknown. I don't like to be in limbo. And when I am, I freak out. But just by following Michael Schlact on Twitter, I have seen a glimpse into the life of someone who did not let his surroundings define him.

Maybe Jim Bouton was partially right in "Ball Four." Maybe there are some players who are great athletes but not very nice people. Maybe they have extremely skewed views. Maybe they kick puppies. But I refuse to believe that all athletes are this way, and I believe that I have found at least one of the exceptions to the rule in Michael Schlact, the insanely tall former AA pitcher who just really likes to tweet.

I've never met Michael Schlact and I may never meet him in my life. If I'm ever in Waldorf, Maryland and he's still pitching for the Blue Crabs, I'll go to a game. But even though I may never physically be in the same place as Michael Schlact, that won't stop me from looking up to him.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Book Review: The Extra 2% by Jonah Keri

I just finished reading Jonah Keri's first book, The Extra 2% - How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First. As has become vogue for this particular book (seriously, check out, there are close to a million reviews), I have decided to write a little review of my thoughts on the book.

The book details the history of the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays franchise and the copious changes that were made by new ownership to make the Rays a competitive team. I was wary of purchasing the book at first, as I had no real connection with the Rays, but decided to go ahead and buy it anyways since I was able to purchase it on for less than a third of the cost of a tank of gas. Plus, Keri told me on twitter ( that the book would be "similar to how Moneyball was nominally about the A's, but really about a lot more." So I took his word for it. As it turns out, in the time between that conversation and today, I have taken a volunteer position at, a Rays-centric site. By the way, Jonah Keri also wrote the forward for TPR 11 which is coming out very soon.

Enough about that, what were my thoughts on the book? I'm going to start out with the cover. It's a hardcover book with a sleeve that is not at all attached. So in the process of reading the book, the cover slides around, which I found to be slightly annoying. I'm just more of a paperback guy. (If I'm griping about the cover slipping on the book, there must not be much to complain about in the content.)

The foreword of the book was written by Mark Cuban. Yes, that Mark Cuban. This fits perfectly within the book, as Cuban has run the Dallas Mavericks franchise in a very similar way as the Rays' ownership has run their franchise.

The book tends to follow a (mostly) chronological order. It begins in Chapter 1 in 1988 with a vote in the Illinois State Senate and follows the history of the franchise up until 2010, leaving a hint of a Matt Garza trade to the Cubs. (It eventually happened.) Personally, I found the history very interesting, as I was between 2-10 years old when a lot of this was happening. Keri provides ample background and it is quickly apparent the amount of research that went into the book. He clearly explains the politics that went into creating the Rays franchise. He also covers the history of the Vince Naimoli ownership years and the changes that led to a new ownership group. Eventually, he gets into a few of the key moves that the Rays have made over the years to become competitive and many of the struggles that they face to stay competitive in an increasingly unfair situation.

It's a very interesting book, to the say the least. There are a few places where the content drifts into Wall Street-speak (it's in the title, after all), especially when describing the history of Stuart Sternberg. I felt the history was a little too deep here, swerving off into the history of how SLK was purchased by Goldman Sachs, etc. My other major critique of the book is that the author tends to repeat himself, nearly verbatim, in quite a few places. The same information may find its way into multiple chapters. It works well to drive the point home, but seems unnecessary.

Overall, the book is a very good read. There are a few places of humor scattered throughout and a plethora of information that permeates nearly every paragraph. It describes very well the history of how the Rays became what they are today. It also gives great insight into the process that the team takes to pursue competitiveness in the toughest division in baseball. It is definitely a must-read for Rays fans, baseball history fans and overall baseball fans alike. If I were to give it a rating on a scale of Jamie Moyer's fastball to Mariano Rivera's cutter, I would give it a...James Shields changeup. Well above average and something any baseball fan can enjoy.