Murray Monday | Sandlot Dreams: An MLB Draft story
We’re right in the thick of the regular season, and there are plenty of things that jumped out, both from a playing and draft standpoint, plus me owning up to a bad prediction. Here’s what I’m thinking and hearing:
Sandlot Dreams: An MLB Draft Story
One of the most popular baseball movies of all time, the Sandlot, features memorable moments, such as the vomit scene on the Ferris Wheel, outrunning ‘The Beast,’ or the story of brotherhood, which resonates with many on various levels. Moreover, it’s the two ideals that dreams do come true and that friendships can last a lifetime that makes it so popular even to this day.
What if that story were to come true? What if ‘Squints’ Palledorous had gotten bigger? What if Ham had made homerun-shot-calling an artform? What if you had two Bennys and a taller, better version than the pitcher all on the same Sandlot team?
Almost a decade ago, you would find three families traveling from town to town in Arizona to watch three young stars: a left-handed pitcher, a hard hitting third baseman and a quick shortstop. Meet Matthew Liberatore, Nolan Gorman and Jonathan Ornelas.
Since the age of 10, the three have been friends, just like the kids in the Sandlot. Each weekend, the three would pitch and lead their team in hitting. And, to this day, all three have continued to chase their childhood dreams together and are all on the verge of being selected high in the 2018 draft.
Scouting reports on all three:
- Matthew Liberatore: 6-foot-5 left-handed pitcher with all the tools. Featuring a fastball that peaks at 98 mph this year, he also has the ability to locate his 12-6 curveball. He’s one of the most polished high school left-handed pitchers in the draft, if not the best. Add in his athleticism, room for added strength and an easy delivery, Liberatore has everything needed to be successful in the big leagues.
- Scouts say: “His fastball and curve are so dominant he rarely needs a third pitch. Should his changeup develop, you could be looking at a Cole Hamels – Clayton Kershaw depending on how the feel for the curve develops.”
- Draft Prediction: Top 10 overall.
- Nolan Gorman: Gorman is a 6-foot-1, 210-pound left-handed hitting third baseman. He’s known mostly for his bat and is considered the best high school power hitters in this draft. He entered the year as perhaps one of the best hitters in the class, high school or otherwise, and he didn’t do anything to lessen that evaluation. He’s shown an advanced approach at the plate and he has the skills that play on both sides of the ball.
- Scouts say: “Gorman has an above-average arm from third base. There are some questions about whether he can stick at third base, but regardless the bat plays. He’s certainly no Chipper Jones, but he could have more power than the Hall of Famer did from the left side.”
- Draft Prediction: Top 20 overall.
- Jonathan Ornelas: Ornelas has really impressed with the bat and glove all year long. He entered last summer as one of the more unknown prospects in this year’s draft. After winning a state championship last year, he has consistently closed ground on the competition and is now a consensus top-5 shortstop in this years class.
- Scouts say: “He’s shown he can definitely stay at shortstop, and has an advanced approach at the plate. Plus his baseball IQ might be the best in the country. I personally have seen him at other games where he is just watching. I think many teams are hoping he slides, but the secret seems to be out.”
- Draft Prediction: Top 30 – 50 overall.
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More on the Draft:
In years past, word would begin to leak out days before the draft about teams having pre-draft deals with prospects. This year, not so much, and it seems to be a result of no one knowing what’s going to happen.
“We have four guys in play,” one baseball executive texted. “No clue how this plays out. Will be a last second thing.”
“Gonna be interesting,” another scout texted. “Detroit dictates everything that happens.”
There’s even mystery as to who goes at the top of the draft. As of Monday morning, two scouts opined that catcher Joey Bart would be the No. 1 overall pick. But in reality, no one really knows – maybe not even the Detroit Tigers at this point.
Philadelphia Phillies coming down to Earth:
They are 3-7 in their last 10 games and were swept by the Giants in San Francisco, only scoring one run in the three-game series. Things aren’t exactly sunny in Philadelphia (if I didn’t make this reference, someone else would have).
Players were critical and not afraid to speak out after the fact, especially prized free agent starting pitcher Jake Arrieta. From Matt Gelb of The Athletic:
“Well, we’ve had bad defensive shifts. We had a check swing. Kingery should have gone to second on that play. Then they got three hits in a row. … Overall it was just a really horseshit series. Really bad. Really bad.”
Yet, at the same time, players are also optimistic they’ll be able to turn it around. And with the division very much in reach – three games behind the Atlanta Braves – and with almost two-thirds of the season left, they have plenty of time to do so.
To do so, they’ll need some of their key players, Scott Kingery and Carlos Santana, to step up. Both are hitting in the low .200s. Granted, Kingery is still adjusting to MLB pitching, as well as a new position, so patience will be needed. Santana has been better of late, slashing .281/.373/.594 in May with seven home runs, 22 RBIs and a .966 OPS. But with Rhys Hoskins on the disabled list, even more will be asked of the man who signed a three-year, $60 million deal in Philadelphia this past offseason.
So, I may have been wrong:
Shocking, I know.
After Robinson Cano was suspended 80 games, I went on record and said that the Seattle Mariners, at 24-17, were toast. So, about that.
Right now, the Mariners sit at 37-22, meaning they’re 13-5 since Cano’s suspension. It’s Seattle’s first time leading the division after May since August 24, 2003, according to Greg Johns of MLB.com.
I’m still not convinced Seattle’s run is going to last – I believe the Astros eventually take back grasp of the division again. One reason: Their run differential (+122) is 105 runs better than the Mariners (+17).
But for the time being, my prediction on the Mariners after Cano’s suspension was dead wrong. Being a journalist means holding yourself accountable. Not every prediction can be a home run. This one just turned out to be a popup behind the catcher.
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