It's been repeated ad nauseam, but my god, what an embarrassment of riches baseball has in rookies this year. We've already got Mike Trout and Bryce Harper making their breakout and debut, respectively. We've got Yu Darvish and Yoenis Cespedes taking almost comically different routes from foreign to American baseball (the "almost" coming because of the sad yet ever-present Cuban player's dilemma of wanting to play in the U.S. while having to leave his family behind). We've got basically the entire Oakland pitching staff, each guy having taken a different path to success (Jarrod Parker, Travis Blackley (still a rookie!), Tom Milone, Sean Doolittle (the converted first baseman!), A.J. Griffin, Ryan Cook, Jordan Norberto, Jim Miller (also still a rookie!), Evan Scribner—I'm serious, every single one of these guys is, as far as I can tell, a rookie). We've got Lance Lynn's incredibly successful re-conversion from relief. We've got undercover Japanese rookie Norichika Aoki. We've got Todd Frazier finally getting a clean shot. We've got massive late starts from Chris Carter and Anthony Rizzo. And geez, how about Mike Fiers?
So yeah, the last thing we need is more rookie action, right? So wrong. So so wrong. Here to show you how wrong you are are Mike Olt, the highly touted third baseman for the Rangers, and Dan Straily, this year's absurd pop-up guy, a starting pitcher for (wait for it) the A's (see?). Olt wasn't drafted as high as guys who hit like he immediately did are supposed to be drafted. He's a cold weather kid (born in New Haven) who went to a cold weather school (UConn), but he crushed Low-A (.293/.390/.464), crushed High-A (.267/.387/.504), and ultra-crushed Double-A (.288/.398/.579). There's some whiff in his game, but are you looking at those ISOs? And the implied walk rates? Olt was Baseball America's #43 prospect but Jason Parks put him in his top-ten of guys still in the minors just a few days ago. My advice: don't be so overwhelmed by prospect madness that you miss out on this guy, who could be playing a key (if part-time) role for a team deep in October. Bone up on the dude if you want to impress your casual playoffs-watching friends.
Less likely to be playing on Halloween, but just as exciting in some ways is Straily. He's the opposite of Olt: He was a 24th-round pick who, despite very good strikeout rates and good walk rates, managed to just post ERAs in the high-threes and low-fours in three A-ball leagues. He was pitching better than you think a 24th-round pick should pitch, but he still wasn't on anyone's radar, mainly because his stuff, particularly his fastball, is rather underwhelming. And then came 2012. His K/9 at AA: 11.4. His K/9 at AAA: 11.4. Walk rate at each level: 2.4 and 2.4. He had a 1.36 ERA in eight starts in the PCL. The PCL! So he's coming to Oakland, and he's starting tonight against the Blue Jays. It's great to see the Trouts and Olts (picked late in the first round or even in the supplemental part, then exceed expectations, but they're still first-round picks) succeed. It's great to see the Harpers and Strasburgs (#1 overall, generational talents) succeed. Busts don't make anyone happy. (Least of all Logan Morrison. /rimshot) Baseball is more fun when young players we've been counting on to carry the game into the next decade live up to the hype. But baseball is most fun when someone comes from absolutely nowhere and becomes the talk of the town. Sometimes it's a flash in the pan (Kevin Maas) and sometimes everyone just missed something (Mike Piazza). Either way, it's one of the things I love most about baseball, and I'd like to think that I would be rooting hard for Straily whether he was on the A's or not.
With that, last night's recap is after the jump.
Pitcher of the Night: Nobody really had a "whoa" night, so it's Bartolo Colon's eight innings with no runs allowed that takes the night. He gave up seven hits and one walk while only striking out three, which is why there's no "!" attached, but, as has so often been the case with Colon this year (3.6 ERA), he busted the strike zone and did plenty to win.
Hitter of the Night: When your team scores fifteen runs, the entire lineup has obviously contributed prodigious feats of hitting. Ian Kinsler, the John Paul Stevens of baseball, takes the crown, though, with three hits in five trips, including a double and a homer, a walk, and four runs scored. Between the hitting and the defense at second, AL West crown be damned, he's one of my favorite players in baseball.
Defenseman of the Night: I'd love to help you with this, but my computer isn't fast enough to play video on MLB.com, so I can't peruse all that nonsense to find you a good one. I'm sure someone made a good play at some point, though. I'll take nominations in the comments and pick a winner if y'all participate.
Debut of the Night: See the Padres note below for a real, cool debut, but if you like actual top-notch prospects coming up, how about Mike "Steve" Olt ripping a hard line-drive single to left in his first big-league trip to the plate and then coming around to score? It's not as sexy as other debuts might be, but he's an exciting prospect, and someone who should give Angels and A's fans hoping against hope that their teams can catch Texas pause. Michael Young has an OBP below .300. His playing time does not figure to be treated kindly by the arrival of Olt, and Olt's OBP does not figure to be below .300.
Injuries of note: Seth Smith strained his hamstring. (Some of you might be calling for a ruling on the definition of "of note.")
A's: Swang-a-langin' Yoenis Cespedes walked three times. This is the first and last time that he and Todd Helton (see below) will have the same box score line on the same day.
Angels: Eight runs against Ryan Dempster? Sorry, not enough. But the box score is a feast for fantasy owners: Mike Trout's 32nd and 33rd steals, Mark Trumbo's 28th homer, three singles for Torii Hunter. (Haha, see what I did there? Nobody owns Torii Hunter in fantasy.)
(Yes, I know Torii Hunter is hitting .293/.352/.448. Shut up.)
Blue Jays: By the end of the game, the A's had four guys in a row in their lineup with at least a .500 slugging percentage (when was the last time that was true? Never?), but that's not really an excuse for the Jays to have issued eight walks in the game.
Braves: Jason Heyward's hits were all singles, but he got three of them, so nobody's complaining. He's up to .350/.482 on the year and trails only Chipper Jones in True Average. (Jones has 150 fewer PAs on the season because of injury/Chipperness.) He doesn't have the ridiculous walk-rate of his freshman year, but the sophomore slump is well behind him, his power is up, his base-stealing is better, and he's still a good defender. He's a legit four-to-five-win player (by the Baseball Prospectus version of WAR(P), which, IIRC, might have a higher replacement-level than other metrics and thus be stingier with the WAR(P)). He's a star. He turns 23 next week.
Cardinals: The bullpen allowed six runs and recorded six outs. The lowest OBP in the Cardinals' top-six in the batting order is .358, but the team got on base just seven times. A letdown all around, really.
Giants: Brandon Belt and Melky Cabrera both hit triples, their fourth and ninth of the year respectively. Fourth! Ninth! I know San Francisco has some weird angles and stuff, but that's absurd. I guess Melky really is in better shape than he used to be.
Indians: The top four hitters in the lineup had two hits apiece. The Indians lost to the Royals.
Marlins: Nate Eovaldi, recently acquired from the Dodgers for Hanley Ramirez, appears to have contracted Hanley on the flight across the country: he pitched two innings as last night's starter and allowed eight hits and six runs.
Mets: Ronny Cedeno managed five "RBI" despite batting behind David or Donnie or Daniel Murphy (one of the D. Murphys, whichever one plays first for the Mets) and Jason Bay. This is what happens when Barry Zito and Shane Loux toe the rubber for the opposing squad.
Nationals: Adam LaRoche popped his 20th homer of the season and is slugging over .500. The Nationals' pitching gets a lot of love and Bryce Harper generated plenty of heat, but LaRoche has quietly been the team's best position player, anchoring a lineup that's more "no sinkholes" than "here be mashers."
Padres: This is cute: Eddy Rodriguez homered in his first big-league at-bat. He's a catcher who until last night was playing in the California League. That's the one near me with the young kids most of whom you'll never ever hear about. It's High-A ball. So dude came straight up from there, from a town called Lake Elsinore, a town that as I recall from research done after I visited a few years ago has a bit of a meth problem. (I should be fair: almost literally every Cal League town has a meth problem.) And he whomped a donger. That's pretty cool.
Phillies: I legitimately feel bad for Phillies fans. A post-teardown team is just depressing. Kevin Frandsen, Ty Wigginton, Michael Martinez in the lineup? You can try to get excited about Domonic Brown maybe finally getting something of a shot, but there's not really any getting around Kevin Frandsen batting second. They got three hits against Ross Detwiler and lost, by the way. I'm not making fun. I really am sorry.
Rangers: Multiply what I said above about the Angels' box score by 1 2/3. Literally. They scored 15 runs to Anaheim's nine. Three hits for Ian Kinsler, including his 30th double; four "RBI" on a single and a double by Josh Hamilton; two hits in two trips for Mitch Moreland, who didn't enter until the seventh inning; ditto for Donnie or David or Daniel Murphy, whichever one plays for Texas; two hits for Geo Soto in his Ranger debut. Fun, right?
Reds: Johnny Cueto has 14 "wins" on this season and is in his second straight season with an ERA that begins "2.3". He's got a solid strikeout rate, keeps the ball down, and doesn't hand out many free passes. He's a good pitcher. All of which leads to this: I'm a pretty bad person because the main thing I remember about Johnny Cueto is that he ninja-kicked somebody a few years ago. Sorry Johnny :(
Red Sox: They were held to two hits by Sam Deduno, Chris Fien (I don't think his real first name is Chris, but I know it starts with a C and I don't want to click the link to find out for sure), and Gary Perkins (see Fien), both by Adrian Gonzalez. At least the high-priced first baseman has his average over .300 now?
Rockies: The only out Jordan Pacheco made was productive (sacrifice fly) and Todd Helton, batting behind him, walked three times in four trips. That's neat.
Royals: Eric Hosmer is batting seventh now, behind even Brayan Pena, but he did hit his tenth homer of the year last night. Is there any team that doesn't have a disappointing 1B/DH prospect these days?
Twins: Brian Dozier saw seven pitches in four trips to the plate. He got a single, double, and homer. The homer, by the way, was kind of funny even though I didn't see it. I was on Skype with Matt Kory from Over the Monster and Baseball Prospectus, preparing to record a podcast. He was complaining about the Twins beating up on the Red Sox and then entered total anguish when Dozier hit his homer off Alfy Aceves. "It wasn't even Josh Willingham, god, why does this happen." I don't actually delight in Matt's pain because I like the guy, and I'm not a Red Sox hater. But with the way the team I root for (the A's) have been playing lately, especially on the pitching side, it's hard not to feel a little surge, a little tickle of amusement at the pitching misfortunes of other (contending) teams.