Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Fielder's Choice (Part I)

Just when I think I’ve seen it all in my 31 years of baseball, something like today happens. After I arrived at the field in Lake Brantley, I made my way over to the head coach for Wekiva Community College who was standing along the third base line. We had a good relationship, at least in my mind. Last year I recommended several players from the Longwood area to go play for him. Both players weren’t quite ready to play pro ball, but I knew they would make an immediate impact for Wekiva. And they did.

One of those players, Diego Gutierrez, improved his play so much at third base that we took him in the 34th round of June’s draft. We all knew that when we drafted him that he wouldn’t forego his sophomore year which is why he is dubbed a "draft and follow" prospect. We basically own the right to negotiate and sign him up to a week before next year’s draft. Of course, if he does really well in his sophomore season, he might be projected as a 10th rounder in the upcoming draft. I would then make him an offer comparable to a 10th round pick hoping that he would accept in lieu of re-entering the draft. If on the other hand he bombs his sophomore season, we would pass on giving him an offer and let him re-enter draft for anyone’s choosing. But that would not be a good thing for me. My job is to know that this guy won’t bomb.

And after looking at Gutierrez during infield practice, I could see that his arm strength had indeed improved over the summer. Not only did his ball seem to carry through first base on a line, but his feet were quicker and his hands were softer. Prior to summer, his throw to first had a bit of an arc from the normal third base position. His arm was average to below average which meant that at best he could throw out only average to below average runners. Although I've compared his power hitting mechanics to that of Hank Blalock or David Wright, his fielding tool has always been suspect. But not anymore.

As I started to speculate where the much improved Gutierrez would fit into next year’s draft, I was distracted by the deafening pop of a catcher’s mitt coming from a makeshift bullpen further down third base line. What did we have here? Hadn’t I seen all their pitchers? None of their freshmen pitchers had been drafted. How pleasantly odd.

I stood in disbelief as I watched this hulk of a right-hander throw one heater after another. Every third pitch he mixed in something that looked like a nasty forkball.

“Who’s he?” I asked the Wekiva coach, pointing to the pen.

“Oh, him? I was wondering when you were going to notice. His name is Dallas Parker. A walk-on freshman,” the coach replied with a wink.


Post a Comment

<< Home