Minoring in Twitter: Players mostly indifferent about current events

CDx5f2IWoAApCMjBy Danny Wild / MiLB.com

It’s been my observation here that Minor Leaguers don’t react/comment on/seem to care about most of the larger news stories that make headlines today. Paris terror attacks? Nothing. ISIS threats? Not much. Bruce Jenner’s announcement? #StanleyCup playoffs? Rioting in Baltimore, which also impacted the Orioles? Very little response.

I realize they’re focused on baseball, as they should be, but maybe there’s a trend? On the other hand, perhaps these players are hesitant to inject their opinions into the hot-button issues of the day, aware of the sensitivities and smartly steering clear of any potential controversy.

Either way, here are the only tweets I could find from Minor Leaguers who weighed in on the week-long situation in Baltimore:

That’s pretty much it. How about the Nepal earthquake that killed 6,100 and counting? Two thoughtful tweets:

Oh, I know what will stoke their Twitter flames — independent Vermont senator Bernie Sanders announced he’s running for president, providing a more progressive option to Hillary for Democratic voters! Minor Leaguers jumped on it:

results

Oh. Nothing. OK, so what were players tweeting about? Well, to be fair, there was one tweet about Bruce Jenner:

This week in bus drama

We were discussing in the office this week the less glamorous realities of Minor League life — mostly the postgame meals and bus travel. Would a large investment from Major League teams in higher quality food and better travel options be money well spent? Would it make it more desirable for a player to sign with that organization? Would players perform better with better nutrition and sleep? Or do fast food, cold cut platters and unreliable buses incentivize a guy to play harder, train more seriously and push his way up to the Majors?

J.P. Arencibia is someone good to ask — the Rays’ catcher has spent most of his time since 2011 in the Majors with Toronto and Texas. Now he’s back in Triple-A and simply says, “play better”: (more…)

Notable Quotables: Glasnow’s grounders, Pawtucket’s lineup

Tyler Glasnow

Top Pirates prospect Tyler Glasnow owns a 1.08 ERA for Altoona. (Mark Olson/MiLB.com)

While it may be early in the season, there are still plenty of quotes offering insight into players and their mindsets that just don’t find their way into a story.

Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Altoona: To the surprise of no one, Tyler Glasnow is off to a terrific start with Double-A Altoona, sporting a 1.08 ERA through three starts. What is a nice change is that his groundball to flyball ratio has leveled off, currently at 1.00 for the year. Last year, his ratio for Class A Advanced Bradenton was 0.67, a fact his pitching coach Justin Meccage, is aware of.

“I had him all last year, a lot of fly balls just because of the fastball velocity and pitching up in the zone at times. A lot of his misses were down,  in the past, a lot of times, they were up. We’re always trying to throw the ball down in the zone, just in general. I think that’s something he’s been wanting to get better at it, and it has gotten progressively better over the course of the last year.”

Mark Appel, RHP, Corpus Christi: In a complete turnaround from last season, Appel this year has pitched like the player selected first overall in the 2013 Draft, limiting Texas League hitters to a .196 batting average in three starts. It hasn’t gone unnoticed by his teammates, Telvin Nash in particular.

“He’s been lights out. Staying with not doing too much. With this lineup, every good reason for him to pound the zone. Just working off his fastball, getting soft contact, which is a plus for him.”

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Tyler Duffey, Twins SP: After making 18 starts in the Eastern League last year, Duffey is taking on the Southern League to open 2015. Last year’s experience with more advanced hitters has prepared him for what to expect on the mound.

“I think I just know now, after spending the majority of last year in Double-A, hitters are going to hit your mistakes. It’s whether you make those mistakes or not that determines whether you’re going to have a good outing or not. If you leave stuff over the plate they’re going to get hit hard but if you can get them to hit pitches they shouldn’t be hitting you’re going to do well.”

Kevin Boles, Pawtucket manager: Boles has the fortune of managing a team with players like Rusney Castillo, Blake Swihart, Bryce Brentz, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Sean Coyle sprinkled throughout his lineup. That type of lineup presents many opportunities for Boles to try different things.

“It’s exciting. Whoever we put out there , we believe in all of our hitters.  The versatility, the different things we can do with this lineup. Left and right, we’ve got a couple of switch-hitters. There’s a lot of versatility. There’s a lot of different things these guys can do, frequency of contact, play the short game, impact the baseball, it’s got a little bit of everything.”

Boles on Brentz, who has compiled an .884 OPS through 15 games this year:

“He’s always been a threat in the middle of the lineup. He’s always gonna stand out, he’s gonna impact the ball to all fields. He has a knack for collecting RBIs. He’s just showing some patience, working counts and earning himself hitter’s counts.”

Joe Ross, RHP, Harrisburg: Coming over from a warm-weather team, Ross has quickly adjusted to cold and how best to pitch in it.

“I was expecting it to be a lot colder starting out. I’ve heard snow and snowouts and stuff like that. With cold weather, you can really focus on working on your fastball and especially fastballs inside. It hasn’t been too bad but I’ve been on the same gameplan of fastballs inside. It’s good to pitch inside to begin with but when it’s 30, 40 degrees out the last thing a batter wants is to get jammed and break a bat.”

Minoring in Twitter: The perfect MiLB peanut butter & jelly sandwich

By Danny Wild / MiLB.com

Pirates No. 2 prospect Jameson Taillon has learned many things during his Tommy John rehab (snorkeling in a hotel pool comes to mind), and his skills have expanded to the kitchen. Chef Taillon bragged this week of his perfected peanut butter and jelly recipe:

Jameson Taillon PBJ

Look at that clean line of peanut butter! Mets prospect Chasen Bradford chimed in that he goes with honey rather than jelly, because apparently jelly … not sweet enough:

Reese McGuire, also a Pirates prospect, prefers steak to PB&J:

You may best know Taillon from the time he spared a bug on his windshield earlier this month.

taillon driving

Moving on, Pirates prospect Jerrick Suiter isn’t your typical rich pro athlete — he claimed this week he couldn’t afford dinner with teammates:

Instead, he went for all-you-can-eat General Tso’s chicken:

Biloxi needs some help when it comes to photography:

Less to carry into the hotel, right?

Red Sox shortstop Mauricio Dubon snapped this selfie as the Greenville team bus burned:

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Minoring in Twitter: #MiLBproblems, burning buses, tornados

By Danny Wild / MiLB.com

Playing professional baseball may seem like fun and games (technically, I guess, it’s exactly that), but there’s also more to the story. What happens behind the scenes? Where do the players go when the ballpark goes quiet and the lights go out? How do they get to stadiums when, for example, their team bus almost explodes and they, our beloved baseball heroes, are forced to grab their travel pillows and backpacks and walk the streets:

Yes, Benjamin Moore, Red Sox catching prospect and heir to the iconic paint empire (not really on the latter, but let’s pretend) was, along with his Greenville Drive teammates, forced to abandon his burning coach bus and trudge through the streets of Asheville, North Carolina, on Thursday. The Drive could not drive.

A burning bus isn’t scary enough for you? Sign me up, you say — I’ll deal with sub-par travel conditions for a chance to play ball! To that, we defer to A’s reliever Corey Miller of the Class A Beloit Snappers, who, on Opening Day no less, dodged a gigantic tornado with his teammates when they found themselves in Clinton, Iowa:

“Tornado right outside the locker room,” is the exact quote from teammate Brett Graves:

But hey, relax — they survived. No prospects burned up, no one was swept away. Every Minor Leaguer returned to their lavish homes, furnished with the finest luxuries:

You know, Derek Jeter had a personal chef when he played ball. Doesn’t everyone?

This week, we honor our fine Minor Leaguers and the #MiLBproblems hashtag on Twitter, which helps us chronicle the bizarre troubles facing players today. Just imagine yourself on a team bus late one night when the driver turns around and yells…
https://twitter.com/bmill3022/status/588175149440094208 (more…)

Top 10 Kris Bryant Minor League home runs

By Sam Dykstra/MiLB.com

Merry Kris Bryant Day to you and yours, especially those of you on the North Side of Chicago and others who carry a piece of Wrigleyville in their hearts.

As you surely already know, MLB.com’s No. 2 overall prospect has been promoted to the Cubs and will make his Major League debut at Wrigley Field on Friday, playing third base and batting cleanup against the Padres. By keeping him down at Triple-A Iowa, where he hit .321 with three homers and a 1.042 OPS in seven games, the Cubs delayed Bryant’s service time clock enough that he’ll be under team control through the 2021 season.

Yadda yadda yadda.

You’ve probably heard all this before ad nauseam. It’s been the story of Spring Training and the first week of the Minor Leagues. (We even made a page dedicated solely to Bryant’s short time in the Minors.)

So to paraphrase Mark McGwire in The Simpsons, do you want to hear about all that or do you wanna see Bryant sock a few dingers? You want the dingers. That’s why you’re here.

Upon hearing about Bryant’s promotion, we went through the MiLB.TV highlight archives and watched each of his Minor League homers for which we have video. Without further ado, here are the 10 best:

BONUS: Bryant hits first professional home run

We start at the beginning. That’s how these things usually go, and we’re giving an extra spot on the countdown to make this so. The Cubs took Bryant with the second overall pick in the 2013 Draft in June after he went deep 31 times as a junior at the University of San Diego and just over a month later, he connected on this shot to center field in his sixth game with Class A Short Season Boise. As far as Bryant homers go, this is fairly average. But firsts are special, and this deserves to be here.

10. Bryant launches two-run shot to left

Mystery can sometimes add to the “Wow” factor of a home run, and that’s what we have here. Bryant gets ahead of this pitch and crushes it to left in Oklahoma City. Unfortunately, we don’t see where the ball lands. It’s certainly not in the stands out there. Here we must let our imaginations run free. Let’s say it kept rolling out of the ballpark into a truck that was headed from Oklahoma City to Dallas or something. Something like the legend about Ted Williams hitting a ball onto a train that was going from San Diego to Los Angeles. That’s fun.

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How top-100 prospects performed in level, organizational debuts

By Sam Dykstra/MiLB.com

Opening Day is a time for beginnings everywhere, and Thursday night’s slate was perhaps the most memorable Minor League Opening Day in memory with Minor Leaguers notching a no-hitter, a cycle and a triple play. But beyond the memorable performances, there were debuts — both with new organizations and at new levels — for some of MLB.com’s top 100 prospects. Here’s a quick breakdown for those who fit that category, with videos included:

Carlos Correa, SS, Double-A Corpus Christi: 1-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI, R, BB, K

Addison Russell, SS, Triple-A Iowa: 2-for-4, RBI, R

Russell only played 63 games between Double-A Tennessee and Midland last summer, but everything we know about the 21-year-old shortstop pointed to the fact he was ready for the Triple-A level, especially with the bat. A 2-for-4 showing tells us we weren’t wrong.  (more…)

Minoring in Twitter: Opening Day arrives, and Taillon spares a bug

By Danny Wild / MiLB.com

The Minor League season began with — and this is real — Rex Ryan throwing the very first pitch of the season. Buffalo hosted Rochester in the season’s first game, and the former Jets and current Bills coach was there to take the mound:

Looks… icy?

Ryan Verdugo is done with baseball season:

What the heck is Byron Buxton wearing?

Pirates prospect Jameson Taillon, who knows first hand the challenges and struggles of injuries and setbacks (he was the metaphorical bug to the windshield of Tommy John last year) spared a small, brave insect:

We actually were able to acquire a photo of Jameson’s roadtrip (the bug is too small to see, but wow…) (more…)

50 ’15 predictions for top 50 prospects

Buxton Correa Bryant

By Sam Dykstra/MiLB.com

As the Minor League season kicks off in Buffalo, now’s the perfect time to squeeze in some last-minute predictions for 2015. We like predictions. You like predictions. (Seriously, we have hard data saying you like predictions.) So with a hat tip to Will Leitch and his 125 Major League predictions, here are 50 predictions for the Minor League season — one for each of MLB.com’s top 50 prospects.

  1. Healthy after a season of fluky injuries, Byron Buxton makes his Major League debut in 2015.
  2. Kris Bryant isn’t in Iowa beyond mid-April. Too easy? OK, fine. Bryant hits more than 25 homers in the Majors and takes the NL Rookie of the Year crown.
  3. Carlos Correa hits 20 homers and becomes the Kris Bryant of 2016, when we debate his absence on the Houston Major League roster come Opening Day.
  4. Francisco Lindor is the Indians’ starting shortstop by the All-Star break.
  5. Addison Russell forces the Cubs’ hand and becomes a starting infielder by August.
  6. Lucas Giolito strikes out more than 10 batters per nine innings.
  7. Corey Seager hits above .300 again, albeit not as high as the .349 he hit in 2014, and eclipses 25 homers this time around. The Dodgers are forced to decide whether they want him to replace Jimmy Rollins at short or Juan Uribe at third in 2016. They choose third.
  8. As much as everyone wants to see a teenager in the Majors, Julio Urias doesn’t make the Dodgers roster in 2015.
  9. Yoan Moncada steals 40 bases.
  10. Joey Gallo comes into a starting role in Texas following an Adrian Beltre trade. He strikes out a TON in August and September, but some memorable tape-measure shots and a batting average in the mid-.200s leaves everyone pleased.
  11. An injury opens the door for Noah Syndergaard, and, finally out of Las Vegas, he never relinquishes the role.
  12. Miguel Sano is up with Minnesota by July and hits double-digit homers in the Majors.
  13. Tyler Glasnow struggles with control early in Altoona, but after a correction becomes a contender for the Pirates’ bullpen during the postseason. Think David Price in 2008.
  14. Thanks to the way we evaluate defense, Joc Pederson, who hits more than 20 homers and steals more than 20 bags, rivals Kris Bryant for NL Rookie of the Year discussion.
  15. Carlos Rodon joins the White Sox rotation by June.
  16. Archie Bradley’s Major League numbers are better than his 2014 numbers in the Minors.
  17. Jon Gray doesn’t last long in Albuquerque but is part of a rotation of guys who move between Triple-A and the Majors over the course of the summer.
  18. Daniel Norris strikes out more than 8.5 batters per nine innings and forces his way into AL Rookie of the Year discussion.
  19. Blake Swihart gets an extended look at Triple-A Pawtucket but is the Red Sox’s starting catcher in Game 1 of ALDS.
  20. Henry Owens makes no more than two starts for Boston.
  21. Dylan Bundy reestablishes himself as a top right-handed pitching prospect, and only an innings limit keeps him from helping the O’s chase a playoff spot.
  22. J.P. Crawford’s offensive stats don’t stand out — he doesn’t hit above .275 — but his defense keeps him among the top 50 prospects.
  23. Jorge Soler hits more than 20 homers for the Cubs but misses a decent amount of time as he still can’t shake injury issues.
  24. Luis Severino’s BB/9 rate hovers around 2.0 all season, and on the strength of his control and 70-grade fastball, he becomes a top-15 prospect by season’s end.
  25. Robert Stephenson’s 2014 proves nothing more than a 21-year-old struggling in Double-A. He lasts no longer than two months in Pensacola, and without a strong Reds rotation, he’s a member of the Cincinnati starting staff by August.
  26. After starting the year in Triple-A, Andrew Heaney completes the Angels’ five-man rotation by the end of April and gets every chance to crack it long term, but makes the trip between the Majors and Pacific Coast League at least three times. The 2016 season becomes a make-or-break year for the left-hander.
  27. Jesse Winker ranks in the top five among all Double-A hitters in batting average when he gets moved up to Louisville after the Southern League All-Star break.
  28. Tyler Kolek’s fastball becomes the most-talked-about pitch of the South Atlantic League, but a lack of control in his first full season means we’ll have to wait until 2016 to see the stuff really pop.
  29. In a similar fashion, Alex Jackson’s numbers don’t immediately pop off the page, although that’ll have more to do with playing in the Midwest League. (Ask Clint Frazier.) However, he hits close to .300 with 15-plus homers and handles the full-time move to outfield adequately enough that his stock doesn’t drop a lick.
  30. Alex Meyer’s K/9 breaks into double-digits again, and by early May, Twins’ fans clamor for the big right-hander. Minnesota finally obliges after the Super Two deadline. (Trevor May is still called up before him though.)
  31. Mark Appel’s 2014 numbers in the California League prove to be a mirage, and unlike Correa, the Astros intend to show him off in the Majors after the trade deadline.
  32. I’m going to be honest here. Predicting how a young pitcher will return from Tommy John surgery can be a fool’s errand. Early indications look good for Jameson Taillon to return to form, but for every Giolito, there’s a Kris Medlen or Brandon Beachy. Let’s just see how it goes together.
  33. Jose Berrios puts his money where his mouth is and stars again in a split season between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Rochester. Twins fans will want him up too, but if Meyer couldn’t get a call in 2014, don’t expect one for this 20-going-on-21 hurler either.
  34. Nick Gordon has more stolen bases than extra-base hits.
  35. Josh Bell sets a career high with 16 homers, but questions about his defense keep him from the Majors.
  36. Eddie Butler gets to know the Colorado-Albuquerque shuttle well.
  37. Kohl Stewart, now healthy after a shoulder scare late last season, thrives in the Florida State League and posts an even lower ERA than his 2.59 in 2014.
  38. Aaron Nola becomes the poster boy of the rebuild in Philadelphia, and “Nola Days” become the Philly version of “Harvey Days” by season’s end, especially after Cole Hamels is dealt at the deadline.
  39. Jose Peraza is another Super Two deadline call-up, especially after he hits above .300 and swipes at least 20 bases in the first two months of the season.
  40. After moving up three levels in 2014, Braden Shipley spends most of the season at Double-A Mobile before the D-backs pull a Jake Lamb and kick him up to the Majors after the trade deadline.
  41. Possessing 70-grade speed, Raul Adalberto Mondesi breaks past 30 stolen bases, even playing most of the season as a 19-year-old in Double-A. On the whole, offense remains a slight worry. Defense, however, is not.
  42. Hunter Harvey is already missing time due to a fractured fibula to start the season. For the second straight year, it’s unlikely he hits 100 innings.
  43. As exciting as it was to have him on the Nationals’ Opening Day lineup, Michael Taylor heads back to Triple-A Syracuse once Denard Span returns. With Span becoming a free agent next offseason, Taylor is groomed for the 2016 starting role.
  44. On the strength of his speed and defense, Dalton Pompey’s WAR approaches 2.0 in his rookie season with the Blue Jays.
  45. Aaron Sanchez loses his spot in the rotation due to control issues but thrives once again as a reliever. He becomes the Jays’ closer for 2016.
  46. Jorge Alfaro has a 70-grade arm but hasn’t thrown out more than 32 percent of potential basestealers in any given season dating back to 2010. He eclipses that mark this summer.
  47. Austin Meadows had power issues – a hamstring injury didn’t help – during his first post-Draft season. Everything else will improve, but while playing most of the year in the FSL, Meadows won’t eclipse double-digits in homers. The power will come in time, just not this year on the stat sheet.
  48. C.J. Edwards starts the season as a reliever in Double-A as the Cubs limit his innings, but he’s back to pitching as a starter by May. By his 24th birthday on Sept. 3, Edwards makes his Major League debut … as a reliever.
  49. Hunter Renfroe isn’t long for the Texas League and downright thrives in the hitter-friendly environs of the Pacific Coast League, which he joins in June. El Paso will be especially good for his power, and he’ll lead the PCL in homers following his promotion. An already crowded San Diego outfield keeps him from a 2015 Major League debut though.
  50. Kyle Schwarber takes the mantle from Kris Bryant and leads Cubs Minor Leaguers in homers, topping 30 in the category.

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Bonus Cuts: Kris Bryant and Joey Gallo

Kris Bryant (left) and Joey Gallo at the 2014 Futures Game in Minnesota. (Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins)

Kris Bryant and Joey Gallo at the 2014 Futures Game. (Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins)

By Tyler Maun / MiLB.com

A few weeks ago in Arizona, I got a chance to catch up with top Cubs prospect Kris Bryant and top Rangers prospect Joey Gallo for a story up now on MiLB.com about their childhood days together in Las Vegas. The story’s long and only covers about half of what I wanted to get in. That’s how gracious Kris and Joey and their fathers, Mike and Tony, were with their time. Here are some longer and additional quotes from all four about the subjects in the story and much more.

Joey Gallo

On Kris’ success

It’s really unbelievable. I think back on it, if you told us that when we were little kids, that we’d be where we are today, we wouldn’t believe it. It’s pretty special, especially that we grew up together. I’ve known him my entire life, and now where we are, it’s pretty amazing. I only wish the best for him. He’s a great kid, and we always knew he’d be a really good player. It’s a good thing for him and for both of us.

On playing together as kids

I never actually got to play on his team. He was on my brother’s team because he was two years older, but I was always around them. My dad and his dad were always coaching together, and I’d always go over to their house every Sunday morning, hit in the cage with them. I was a little kid at the time, and they were a little bigger than me and better. I was a little intimidated. I always remember it was about a 45-minute drive to his house every Sunday morning to get a lesson. It was a lot of fun.

On their dads coaching together

For both of our parents, it’s amazing. It’s awesome. It’s a credit to them for raising us the right way and doing the right thing. For me, my dad was always the pitching coach. Both of us didn’t end up pitchers, but we were both pretty good pitchers. His dad was the hitting coach, and so for him, it’s pretty great. I know they did an article on his dad before and how he molded us into the hitters we are today. For that, it’s pretty special for him.

On what has made the Las Vegas baseball community so successful in recent years

I think we just had a really good group at that time, and we knew it because we would go to Texas, and we’d beat those teams. We’d beat the California teams. We’d beat all the Arizona teams, and we were always underrated because we were from Las Vegas and you know, “Who plays baseball in Las Vegas?” We always had a little chip on our shoulder. We were just fortunate enough that we had a few really good players at the time in the same city and playing on the same teams. It was kind of the luck of the draw. The athletics in Las Vegas are getting better every year, so it’s a credit to that too.

On keeping in touch with Kris last season during their home run chase

We didn’t talk too, too much. After the Futures Game, we talked a little bit more. Obviously we both kind of knew what was going on. It didn’t really matter too much. Obviously, either way it went, it was awesome, I was going to be happy. I won it the year before, so I kind of wasn’t really that mad that I didn’t win it. I was kind of like, “Eh, it’s OK.” We didn’t stay in contact too, too much, but we saw each other in the offseason a little bit too. The Futures Game was when we talked the most.

On what he’d say to himself and Kris as kids now

The biggest piece of advice, especially as a kid, is just to enjoy it. I know it’s cliché, but just to have fun. Obviously growing up, when you start getting that pressure that you’re going to get drafted and colleges, you kind of lose the fun in the game and why you played it in the first place. I’ve gotten it back now and I really enjoy playing it, but in high school, it was tough having scouts at every game. I think that’s one of the main things that I’d even tell young kids that are growing up right now. Just have fun. That’s what it’s meant to be. Enjoy it and never take it for granted. I wish I could go back and play with some of my friends from high school again and play with Bryce Harper on the same team. We never really knew how special it was until it was over, until right now. My advice is just have fun and enjoy it. That’s what it’s meant to be.

On his 2014-15 offseason

The offseason was amazing. I kind of did the same thing I did last time, worked with [Jason] Giambi. Harper was with us this year as well and a little Troy Tulowitzki stuff too. I got a lot of great advice, and I feel great. I feel healthy. I’m in great shape, the best shape of my life, and I’ve got a lot of confidence going out there and facing big league pitching and being able to compete and show them that I can handle Major League pitching or at least the kind I’ve faced so far. It’s been great so far.

On his relationship with his mentor Giambi

I remember taking that picture with him when I was a little kid like it was yesterday. I remember that whole entire day. We were at his cages back in Vegas that he had. I remember just watching him and looking at him like, “Oh my God, that’s Jason Giambi.” He was a huge deal back then, and it was crazy. Now I get to work out with him. I go over to his house and eat lunch with him. I hit in the cages with him. It’s really surreal. It’s crazy because now he’s just one of my really good friends, a mentor for me. Before, it was like I was scared to even say hi to him. It’s pretty special.

Kris Bryant

On Joey’s success

It’s awesome. It’s really cool to see our hard work coming to fruition. He’s doing great, and I follow along with him throughout the season. He’s a great kid. Their family is great. I never really got a chance to play with him, but he was always a kid we had around, playing with the other kids that were watching the game. It was cool finally getting a chance to play against him in high school, and then I played with him in the Futures Game. We have a lot of good memories together.

On playing together in the 2014 Futures Game

That was really cool. I mean we’ve come a long way from the club baseball days and high school days, and it’s definitely really surreal. We can look back on that game and the whole season and just have really good memories. That definitely was a good experience for both of us.

On playing with Bryce Harper as kids in Las Vegas

When I was 13 and 14, I played with Bryce quite a bit. He was on a lot of different teams growing up because he was so good. Everybody wanted him to play for them. I kind of felt bad for him. Everybody wanted him, he couldn’t really choose who to play for. Oh my goodness, you should’ve seen him when he was 12 and 13 and how hard he hit the ball. It wasn’t fun if you were playing the field.

On growing up as a baseball player in Vegas

I think it’s just that we can play every day of the year. When you’re in places like Chicago or back East, you’re outside maybe half of the year because the weather prohibits you from doing that. We played 172 games one year when I was playing with Anthony, [Joey’s] older brother. Getting those reps, getting used to seeing the ball, seeing a lot of curveballs growing up, I think that played a huge part in our success. It doesn’t sound good, but Vegas is a good place to grow up and play baseball. Anywhere on the West Coast is a place you want to be when you’re playing.

Mike Bryant

On Joey and Kris as young players

Joey and Kris were small when they were growing up. They weren’t big kids. Everybody says, “Oh yeah, they’re 6-5 monsters, and they hit home runs.” Let me tell you something: They weren’t 6-5 until they were 16 years old, and they were dropping bombs at 8, 9 and 10, and they were 60 pounds. The reason why is because they hit it hard, they hit it in the air, and they wanted to. They wanted to hit home runs.

On what motivates Joey and Kris today

They really want to be something special in the game, and they’re doing it for the right reasons. You don’t hear out of their mouths, “I’m going to make the Hall of Fame.” You don’t hear that. That’s stupidness to say stuff like that when you’re 20 years old, 21 years old. You’ve got to go out there and prove yourself on a daily basis in this game. You work so hard just to get the chance, and when you keep working hard, the success you have guarantees you more chances.

They’re both humble. They both realize that it’s a kids’ game, and it’s a privilege to play the game. You’re not anointed. You’re not given anything. You have to work for it, and usually when you perform, you’re rewarded.

On how he and Tony Gallo kept things lighthearted as coaches

We kept it fun because we love the game. We didn’t go out there and drill sergeant them to death, pull them off the field if they made an error. I let them know it was OK to fail and OK to learn from your mistakes. They don’t want to fail. They’re not going out there trying to make mistakes, but they’re making them. So how do we get them better? That was the focus. We kept it fun. The kids wanted to be there.

I never pushed Kris. Tony never pushed Joey. We weren’t saying, “You’ve got to play this weekend. We’ve got to get to work. You’ve got to get your 100 cuts in today.” It was more like, “Hey, let me know when you want to hit.” I was always out there doing lessons, and Kris and Nick would be standing in the doorway in the garage, peeking out with their helmets on, waiting for the last lesson to be over.

Tony Gallo

On his reaction to his son’s climb through the Minor Leagues

The first word I have to use is “surreal” because that’s what it feels like to both of us, to Mike and myself. Really exciting. It’s been a really neat trip to watch the boys progress the way they have, and I think what’s really amazing is the similarities in the types of players that they’ve actually become. Both of them are third basemen. Both are big boys — one righty, one lefty — basically the same composite swing which, of course, is because of Mike.

On his pride in the way Joey conducts himself professionally

It makes me feel … honored, I guess could be a good word. Genuinely happy for him. He makes me … I can’t even find words. He’s just such a great kid.

On the stress of Joey’s final high-school seasons with scouts in attendance regularly

That was probably the toughest thing that my wife and I had to go through as far as Joey’s career. Even now, to be honest with you, I’m not as nervous watching him play.

We’ve become fans.

Gallo worked for Jason Giambi when Joey was young, teaching lessons at Giambi’s batting cages in Las Vegas. There, the former American League Most Valuable Player noticed the younger Gallo.

On Joey’s relationship with Giambi

Joey was in there hitting one night, and he said, “Man, that kid has got one hell of a swing.” I’m like, “You’re just saying that because it’s my kid. I know.” He goes, “No, I’m serious. This kid can swing the bat. I’d love to work with him.” Here we are full circle — 11 years later, 12 years later — and here he is being mentored by the guy. The guy absolutely loves him.

The youngest players on Class A rosters

MiLB: AUG 27 Rookie League - GCL Red Sox at GCL OriolesBy Jake Seiner / MiLB.com

There are a lot of ways to analyze baseball prospects. If you’re a Major League team, you have a staff of scouts who scour the country evaluating swings, deliveries, stuff, makeup and more. Teams are also performing statistical analysis, judging players on stats like strikeout rates, BAPIP, isolated power and more complicated, regression-based numbers that help find players who stand out from their peers. It’s a little tougher when you’re on the outside.

You can keep try to keep pace with the stats. Plenty are doing that — Chris Mitchell’s work over at Fangraphs is a fun follow right now — but with player development, numbers will never tell the full story. That’s particularly true in the lower levels of the Minors, where there are too many variables for the numbers to paint a complete picture.

The teams are working with information we don’t have. They know these players, their personalities and their growth better than we ever will — and they have no reason to share that knowledge. But if you look closely, you can infer some things from teams’ decisions. One great way to get a read on what teams think of their players is through player assignments. If a team pushes an 18-year-old to the full-season level, that signals the team thinks the player is advanced for his age, as only a handful of players that young break camp at the Class A level. If you’re looking for a quick and dirty way to pick out sleeper prospects, you could do worse than simply finding the youngest players teams entrust with full-season playing time.

With that in mind, I combed through the Opening Day rosters for all 30 Class A affiliates and picked out the following 18-year-olds who are breaking camp at the full-season level — plus a couple guys who are 19 by just a few days. (more…)

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