Michael Sam is a relatively noteworthy college football draft prospect, having excelled as a defensive end at Missouri. He is also gay, and he announced as much yesterday. Being that he will soon be the first openly gay player, actively participating in one of the major American sports, this is a pretty big deal. It’s also a pretty complex issue, with the draft looming. Will some teams pass on Sam out of sheer prejudice? Probably not. Will some pass on him for fear of the locker room impact? Maybe. (Though Sam’s team at Missouri knew he was gay all year, and (surprise) it apparently had zero impact.) Will some pass on him because they don’t want the inevitable media distraction? Maybe. Is that wrong? Maybe. Would another team bump him up the draft board because they want to make a statement? Maybe. Is that wrong? Maybe. Like I said: complex issue. If the Cubs were considering drafting an openly gay player at the top of the draft board, would you have a strong opinion in either direction? For me, I’d be a lot more focused on whether I thought he could be an impact talent (preferably soon).
(I recognize the potential for ugly comments on this topic, but it’s an extremely important news event in the sports world. Try to keep the comments constructive and hate-less. If you can’t, just focus on the Bullets.)
- Baseball Prospectus with a fascinating “we knew them when” piece on NL Central prospects, and how they were perceived before they were drafted. Each of Javier Baez, Albert Almora, C.J. Edwards, and Dan Vogelbach get a look. Among the interesting things: some scouts completely wrote off Dan Vogelbach because of his size, while others thought he was the best high school hitter in the country that year. Javier Baez was something of a late-riser, really only blasting onto the top tier amateur scene in the year before the 2011 draft, in which some teams viewed him as one of the elite talents, and others viewed the positional questions and swing-and-miss potential as knocking him down to late first round territory. The Cubs, it would seem, may have thought they got a steal at number 9, even though some viewed it as a reach at the time. Score one for the Tim Wilken-led Cubs era.
- If you knew there was a center field prospect – who could stick in CF in the big leagues – who put up some of the best overall numbers for any minor leaguer last year, while playing at an age appropriate for AA and AAA, wouldn’t you assume he was a top five prospect in baseball? A future superstar lock? How could a guy like that not be viewed so highly? Well, that’s the unique case of George Springer, an Astros prospect who is considered a top prospect in baseball, but below the elite tier. Why? Despite the power and walks and defense, his contact ability is almost unbelievably poor (his contact rate is consistently among the bottom players in his league). Apparently, he has a great idea of the strike zone, and doesn’t go out of the zone too much – he just whiffs a whole lot in the zone. Sound familiar? It sounds to me a lot like Brett Jackson, who did everything well (and was a center fielder to boot), but the inability to make consistent contact in the zone derailed him at the higher levels of the minors and in the bigs. Given that Springer is so good in every other way, he’s another test case for the question of whether a guy with serious, serious contact issues in the upper minors can still have success in the big leagues.
- Want to try your hand at finding hitting stat correlations? THT has that tool for you. There’s also a metric ton of fascinating information in the piece. How about this: pop-up percentage in Year One is slightly more predictive of BABIP in Year Two than BABIP in Year One is predictive of BABIP in Year Two. Mind = blown.
- A local piece on Ryan Sweeney and his preparation for his second season with the Cubs. With a brand new baby in January, Sweeney mentions that he’s not getting a whole lot of sleep these days. Maybe that means he’ll be particularly ready for the constant time-shifting a Cubs player’s body clock must do.