Sunday Notes: Chris Mears Liked Matt Manning in the 2016 Draft

Five of the first 12 picks in the 2016 draft were high school pitchers. In order, those selections were: Ian Anderson to the Braves (third overall), Riley Pint to the Rockies (fourth), Braxton Garrett to the Marlins (seventh), Matt Manning to the Tigers (ninth), and Jay Groome to the Red Sox (12th). Not surprisingly, their respective development paths have varied, injuries hindering the progress of fully half.

Chris Mears — at the time a pitching crosschecker for the Red Sox — was especially enamored with Manning.

“I liked his athleticism, his looseness, his fastball quality,” said Mears, who is now one of Boston’s two pitching coordinators, along with Shawn Haviland. “I thought he would be a longer-term development type guy — the Tigers have done a really good job; he’s made adjustments faster than I would have anticipated — but I remember him being a guy I really wanted.”

Asked why he’d viewed him as a longer-term project, Mears cited Manning’s basketball background, and “less pitching experience than many high-school draftees have at that point in their careers.” Moreover, Manning is 6’ 6” and “usually those long-lever guys take a little bit longer to get the feel of repeating their delivery.” Mears also saw a breaking ball that while having good shape and spin, wasn’t always consistent.

Which doesn’t mean he wasn’t enthralled with his potential. Mears first saw Manning at the Arizona Fall Classic, and based on that look he and Josh Labandeira, Boston’s Northern California area scout, went to see him early the following spring.

“He was a guy we ended up scouting pretty heavily,” recalled Mears. “We like to identify early, get looks middle, and then continue to to monitor progress over the course of the spring. I can’t remember where he sat on our board at the end of the day, but I do recall the process on him being pretty thorough.”

Mears only saw Groome, whom the Red Sox ultimately took three picks after the Tigers tabbed Manning, just one time. That was a matter of circumstance more than anything. Mears estimated that he wrote up 120-130 pitchers each spring during his time as a crosschecker, and while more looks would have been ideal, “it didn’t always work out that way.” Which isn’t to say that Boston didn’t scout the southpaw heavily.

“With a guy like Groome, who was already super-high-profile, we probably had seven or eight different looks, from different scouts,” related Mears. “We had a lot of looks early, including from our scouting director and our assistant GM — Amiel [Sawdaye], when he was with us, would have seen him.”

Mears also saw Anderson, Pint, and Garrett — this despite the likelihood that none of them would fall to the Red Sox at No. 12 — and unpredictability was a big reason.

“You need to be careful about assuming someone is going to go too high for you, especially with high-school pitching,” explained Mears. “That’s the demographic that typically slides in the draft, because of the inherent risk. I think we knew by the end of the spring that those guys weren’t getting to us, but we didn’t want to rule them out too early.”

Mears didn’t see much of Anderson, who played his prep baseball in northern New York state. Inclement weather didn’t help. Mears recalls sitting in a hotel room for four or five days, waiting for an opportunity to finally see the righty pitch. He did have a lot of history with Pint. The hard-throwing Kansas native — “Riley would touch 100 for you” — had been in Mears’ territory prior to his transitioning from area scout to crosschecker.

Garrett also got a lot of looks.

“He was another talented arm that year,” said Mears. “Garrett had a really strong spring and really improved his stock in the draft. We scouted him heavily. He was definitely in the conversation.”

How would the former big-leaguer (Mears pitched for the Tigers in 2003) rank the five 2016 high-schoolers? He wouldn’t go there, but Manning was the first guy Mears mentioned when I asked who most stands out from his crosschecking days. Based on where the 22-year-old right-hander is today — Manning is No. 12 on our 2020 Top Prospects list — that’s perfectly understandable.

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San Diego’s Kirby Yates had a rare pitching line earlier this month:

0 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K

How that happened is pretty simple: Yates logged a strikeout, only to have the batter (Arizona’s Daulton Varsho) reach on a K/wild pitch. Yates was then replaced on the mound, and Varsho proceeded to score.

This had only happened once before. On September 2, 2006, Philadelphia’s Scott Mathieson had a 0-0-1-1-0-1 line against the Braves.

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Scott Servais went 2 for 6 against Scott Service.

Joe Torre went 2 for 7 against Sterling Slaughter.

Bobby Cox went 10 for 15 against Gary Peters.

Whitey Herzog went 10 for 24 against Early Wynn.

Ozzie Guillen went 15 for 33 against Tom Gordon.

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Jim Deshaies wasn’t exactly embraced by the Houston media when he became an Astro in September 1985. Twenty-four years old with all of seven big-league innings under his belt when he was acquired from the New York Yankees, Deshaies was… well, let’s hear the story straight from the horse’s mouth.

“I was traded for Joe Niekro,” explained Deshaies, who now waxes eloquent as a TV analyst for the Chicago Cubs. “The Yankees were in a pennant race and the Astros were kind of retooling, so it was me and a couple of minor leaguers [Neder Horta and Dody Rather] who never made it the big leagues. And Joe was beloved in Houston. He had a great career.

“It’s never easy the first time you get traded,” continued Deshaies. “I wanted to make it with the Yankees — they were the team that drafted me — but I also saw that there was going to be an opportunity in Houston that I probably wouldn’t have had in New York. As a result, I was all geeked up about it.

“I flew to Houston, then jumped into a cab to go join the team. There was a copy of the Houston Post on the seat. I pulled out the sports page and saw that there was a column on the trade. The lede was something along the lines of ‘The Astros have traded their heart and soul, and in return have gotten a couple of chest hairs and a fingernail.’ I was like, ‘Oh, oh. This isn’t good.’”

Deshaies got the last laugh. Over the next four seasons, the lefty logged a 3.36 ERA while going 49-35 in 116 starts. All told, he hurled 1,102 innings in his seven years as an Astro. Not bad for a couple of chest hairs. Or a fingernail.

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A quiz:

Being the all-time hits leader, Pete Rose obviously has the most hits by a switch-hitter. Next on the switcher-hitter hits list are Hall of Famers Eddie Murray and Frankie Frisch. Who ranks fourth?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS ITEMS

Major League Baseball has promoted Tony Reagins to Chief Baseball Development Officer. Per an MLB press release, Reagins has led the proliferation of diversity-focused programs geared toward the development and advancement of baseball and softball student-athletes. Reagins was the general manager of the Los Angeles Angels from 2007-2011.

Howie Judson, who pitched for the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds from 1948-1954, died earlier this week at age 94. Per his SABR bio, Judson had compromised vision, having been hit in the left eye by a wire staple, shot from a slingshot, while in high school. He went 1-14 with a woeful White Sox side in 1949.

SABR’s Board of Directors has approved a new initiative called ‘The Baseball Reminiscence Chartered Community.’ The goal is to share baseball memories with those dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia, chronic medical issues, and those who are socially isolated and lonely. Information can be found here.

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Th answer to the quiz is Omar Vizquel, with 2,877 career hits.

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I ran four Twitter polls this past week, and while none of them received enough votes to present as a meaningful sample size, the results are worth sharing:

I asked if Red Sox-Yankees is an appealing Sunday Night Baseball matchup. Only 20.2% voted yes.

With regional broadcasts in mind, I asked whether 6:30 pm or 7:30 pm is the preferable start time (this is a no-fans-at-the-ballpark season). A full 89% voted for the earlier option.

Who has been the better hitter over the course of his career, Miguel Cabrera or Albert Pujols? The latter captured 61.2% the vote. (Pujols has a clear edge in home runs, and a slight edge in SLG; Cabrera has the edge in BA, OBP, wOBA, and wRC+.

The last of my polls required a crystal ball: Who will have the better career from this point forward, Bryce Harper or Mike Trout? Baseball’s best player won in resounding fashion, garnering all but 3% of the vote.

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2020 STAT NOTABLES

Bryce Harper is slashing .343/.478/.714, with seven home runs. Harper leads all qualified batters in OBP in OPS.

Charlie Blackmon is 22 for 36 against left-handed pitchers. His slash line against same-sided hurlers is .611/.641/.778.

Gregory Polanco and Justin Upton went into last night a combined 10 for 111 with 50 strikeouts.

Tim Anderson is 14 for 27 with five home runs and a 1.737 OPS versus the Tigers.

The San Diego Padres have 10 sacrifices, the most in the majors. Nine teams have no sacrifices, while 24 have two or fewer. Austin Hedges leads all players, with five sacrifices.

Stretching back to last season, Lance Lynn has thrown at least 100 pitches in each of his last 30 starts.

Robbie Ross has thrown five scoreless innings with the Constellation League’s Sugar Land Lightning Sloths. The 31-year-old former Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox southpaw has seven strikeouts and has yet to allow a hit or a walk.

Masataka Yoshida has an NPB-best .373 batting average. The 27-year-old Orix Buffaloes outfielder has a .477 OBP.

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Not new news, but it’s nonetheless worth noting that Gil Kim has been in the Blue Jays dugout this summer. Toronto’s director of player development is doing double duty, not only running the farm, but also serving as a member of the big-league coaching staff. The dual role wasn’t COVID-influenced. Kim’s new duties preceded the pandemic and the subsequent shelving of the 2020 minor-league season.

Helping to achieve more continuity and communication between the minor leagues and big leagues is Kim’s primary focus, but he’s doing more than that. He’s also helping organize information that Blue Jays coaches are utilizing during games, and on any given day he might be hitting fungoes, assisting with drill work, or performing one of several other duties.

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Reading his autobiography (which I highly recommend), I learned that Felipe Alou was almost hired to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1998. At the helm in Montreal at the time, Alou verbally agreed to make the move and was literally about to put pen to paper when it was suggested that he wait until the formal press conference to do so. Before that could happen, a pair of Expos executives convinced him to stay, the planned departure of owner Claude Brochu — a man Alou had little respect for — playing a key role in his decision.

Things didn’t work out as planned.

“Maybe with a new owner things would change,” Alou recalled in the book. “Little did I know, though, that the next owner would be Jeffrey Loria and that he would be the worst thing to ever happen to baseball in Montreal.”

He is far from alone in having that opinion. Nearly two decades after Alou eschewed the Dodgers’ offer and opted to remain an Expo, Jeff Passan wrote the following for Yahoo! Sports:

Amazingly, one could argue that what Loria did to the Marlins wasn’t nearly as bad as his systematic slaughter of the Montreal Expos… He’ll join Ted Stepien and Donald Sterling and Harold Ballard on worst-owner lists.”

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

At The Seattle Times, Larry Stone wrote about how Dee Gordon and The Players Alliance are working toward equality for Black players in baseball.

The Chicago Sun Times’s Daryl Van Schouwen wrote about how Tim Anderson is strongly suggesting that 2019 was no fluke.

At Beyond The Box Score, Sheryl Ring opined that the time has come for the MLB Network to cut ties with Chris Russo.

John Thorn introduced us to How Baseball Happened at Our Game.

Over at SABR Detroit, Peter Hoyos provided us with reasons why Bill Freehan, Mickey Lolich, and Lou Whitaker all belong in the Hall of Fame.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

This is the 138th season in New York/San Francisco Giants franchise history. Over that time, the Giants have never finished a season with exactly a .500 record. The Philadelphia Phillies have five seasons with the same number of wins and losses, the most of any team.

Brett Butler had 42 bunt hits and a 140 wRC+ in 1992..

Whitey Ford didn’t allow any stolen bases when he went 25-4 in 1961. There were also no stolen bases with the Yankee southpaw on the mound in 1958, 1959, and 1964. All told, Ford allowed 30 thefts in 16 seasons. (Per Bill James.)

Skeeter Scalzi made his MLB debut on June 21, 1939, starting at shortstop for the New York Giants. Inauspiciously, he went hitless in four at bats. Scalzi then had a pair of hits in each of his next three games, going a combined 6 for 11, with three walks thrown in for good measure. The rest of his career? Scalzi got three more big-league at bats.

On today’s date in 1989, Rick Dempsey homered in the 22nd inning to give the Los Angeles Dodgers a 1-0 win over the Montreal Expos. The teams combined to go 0 for 23 with runners in scoring position.

Making his MLB debut on this date in 2001, Jason Jennings went 3 for 5 with a home run, and threw a complete-game shutout, as the Colorado Rockies topped the New York Mets by a score of 10-0.

Herb Score debuted with the Cleveland Indians in April 1955 and went on to be named the AL Rookie of the Year. The previous season, Score had 330 strikeouts, and allowed just 140 hits in 251 innings, for the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians.

Curly Onis finished his brief big-league career, which consisted of two innings in 1935, with a 1.000 batting average. A catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Onis singled in his lone plate appearance.

Rags Faircloth pitched in two games for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1919.

Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. share the same given first name: George.

We hoped you liked reading Sunday Notes: Chris Mears Liked Matt Manning in the 2016 Draft by David Laurila!

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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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dl80
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Member
dl80

Great notes here, as always. Sheryl’s article on Russo is spot on. I would have liked to see a mention of some article talking about Brennaman, also.

tz
Member

After reading about Russo’s idiotic comments about Tatis Jr.’s “lack of decorum” and “enthusiasm”, the very next thing I read was Hoyos’s SABR Detroit article, where George Kell commented on Lou Whitaker not getting the recognition he deserved because he just quietly went about doing his job as a ballplayer.

#DamnedIfYouDoDamnedIfYouDont

bobr
Member
Member
bobr

Thank you Sheryl. Russo is a stain on MLB. His schtick is not funny, and he has nothing interesting to say unless you like yelling for itself. I was appalled when MLB hired him as I had heard him on the radio in NY and knew him for what he was-ignorant, irrational and irritating.

Emielke
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Emielke

Oh great. The cancel police again.

dl80
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Member
dl80

Isn’t that how capitalism is supposed to work?