Top 100 Baseball Blog

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Baseball Notes for March 31, 2013

Major League Baseball’s 2013 Opening Day is finally here! With another season comes the return of Baseball Notes. Without a single regular season game having yet been played, there is already plenty to talk about.

***One of the worst-kept secrets in baseball has been revealed to the public. Boston Red Sox rookie outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. was added to the team’s 25-man roster to start the season. The initial test for the 22-year-old left-handed hitter will come in his very first game, which will be against C.C. Sabathia and the New York Yankees in the Bronx.

There was quite a bit of hand-wringing before the decision to add Bradley to the roster, because of him having only 138 minor league games of experience.  But, he was a three-year starter at the University of South Carolina, which is one of the best college baseball programs in the country, and hit over .400 this spring while playing sparkling defense.

There is also concern that the team will lose a full year of player control if he doesn’t spend at least 20 consecutive days in the minors this year. He is a Scott Boras client, but it’s not like the Red Sox are the Tampa Bay Rays. Boston has some of the deepest pockets in baseball and has the luxury of not having to agonize over service time issues like a lot of other teams.

Needless to say, Boras is confident that no matter what happens, Bradley will get paid.

***A transaction that won’t garner nearly the same amount of attention as Bradley, but is in a similar vein, is the Miami Marlins’ decision to add 20-year-old Jose Fernandez, their top pitching prospect, to their Opening Day roster.

Fernandez’s promotion is a lot more suspect than Bradley’s. The right-hander was 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA in 25 starts last year, but has never pitched above advanced Single-A (only 11 games) or thrown more than 134 innings in a season. Despite his obvious talent, his lack of college experience or playing in the upper levels of the minors will make this season a huge leap for the right-hander. The Marlins will struggle to avoid losing 100 games as a team in 2013, let alone contend, so the decision to potentially rush their 2011 first-round draft choice is a head scratcher.

***New York Mets’ left-handed pitcher Johan Santana will miss the entire 2013 season and possibly be at the end of his career because of impending surgery to repair a tear in his throwing shoulder; the second procedure of that type he has had in less than three years.

Once widely considered the best starting pitcher in baseball, Santana has won just 46 games since joining the Mets with a $137.5 million contract prior to the 2008 season.

Barring an utter surprise, the 34-year-old has pitched his final game for the Mets. He is owed $25.5 million this season and the team must pay him either $25 million to play next year or a $5.5 million buyout. The surgery and the diminished returns thus far on the deal make it a near certainty that he will be gone. The major question for him moving forward is whether he will be able to pitch again one day for another team.

***There was a run of players getting big extensions this past week.

The San Francisco Giants gave catcher Buster Posey a nine-year, $167 million deal, with a club option for 2022 that could bring the total amount up to $186 million. He will almost certainly not be a full-time catcher by the end of the contract, but his athleticism should allow him to play first or third when the time comes.

The Detroit Tigers gave ace Justin Verlander a record-setting seven-year, $180 million extension. There is a team option for an eighth year that could push the final total of the deal to $202 million. Having won a total of 78 games, a Cy Young and an MVP over the past four seasons, the monster deal hardly came as a surprise for the 30-year-old right-hander.

A more modest deal was the five-year, $32 million extension that third-year player Paul Goldschmidt received from the Arizona Diamondbacks. The first baseman was a pleasant surprise last year, his first as a major league starter. He appeared in 145 games and hit .286 with 20 home runs, 82 RBI and 18 stolen bases. The deal includes a $14 million team option for 2018, which would be the 25 year-old’s first year of being eligible for free agency.

***The hands of time have frozen, at least temporarily, for Kansas City Royals’ infielder Miguel Tejada, who made their Opening Day roster out of spring training as a utility man. The soon-to-be 39-year-old veteran of 15 major league seasons was a somewhat surprising addition after missing all of the 2012 season.

He is a career .285 hitter with 304 home runs and 1,282 RBI but hasn’t been a regular player since 2010. His job in Kansas City will be providing veteran leadership and hopefully a little pop off the bench.

***In honor of Opening Day, here is my favorite scene from the legendary movie Field of Dreams. Any baseball fan who doesn’t have to clear their throat a few times or brush that pesky mosquito out of their eyes when watching it might want to rush to the nearest hospital for a quick check of their vital signs


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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Kevin Pillar: How the Toronto Blue Jays' Prospect is Raking His Way Through the Minor Leagues

The Toronto Blue Jays traded a significant amount of their minor league talent to the Miami Marlins this past offseason in a huge trade that netted Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson among others. Despite the deal, their cupboard is far from bare. Outfielder Kevin Pillar is one of the organization’s best young players and may also be the most underrated hitting prospect in all of baseball.

Pillar, a 24-year-old right-handed hitter, doesn’t get a lot of attention but all he does is hit and get closer to being major league-ready.

He grew up in California and enjoyed an outstanding high school career, culminating in a .463 batting average as a senior.

He went on to play for Cal State-Dominguez Hills, becoming one of the best players in team history. In 2010, he set a Division-II record by hitting safely in 54 consecutive games, besting the previous record of 49 games set by Southern’s Nick Diyorio.

The Blue Jays made Pillar their 32nd-round draft choice in 2011. He may have gone earlier, but playing for a smaller school prevented him from receiving the same level of attention afforded to other prospects.

Pillar came out swinging to start his professional career and hasn’t stopped since.

He hit .347 in 60 games in the Rookie League in 2011.

Last season, he split his time between Single-A and high Single-A, and was an offensive juggernaut. He combined to hit .323 with six home runs, 91 RBI and 51 stolen bases in 128 games.

In addition to his impressive offense, he’s also an excellent fielder, able to play all three outfield positions, though he is best in one of the corner spots.

Pillar is scheduled to open the 2013 season with Double-A New Hampshire. If he continues hitting at a torrid pace, he shouldn’t be far away from the majors.

I had the chance to catch up with the Toronto prospect over the winter. Check out what he had to say about baseball and his career, and make sure to follow him as he starts his third season as a professional player.

Kevin Pillar Interview:

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: Growing up my favorite player was Cal Ripken, Jr. I loved the way he was such an iron man and was mentally able to get himself on the field every day despite aches, pains and sometimes injuries. I pride myself on being able to do that. There are many days throughout a long season in which you are not going to feel your best or have areas that don’t feel so well, but I consider myself extremely mentally tough and push myself to get on the field every single day.
What do you consider to be the best aspect of your game?: The best aspect of my game is my mental toughness. It is something that I have learned over time and something that my parents taught me at a young age. Being mentally strong will counter playing against more talented players. On the field my biggest strength is the ability to hit pitches in the zone, as well as balls out of the zone. I pride myself on being a contact hitter that can use all areas of the field, and want to be the toughest out for a pitcher every single at-bat I take.
What were your expectations going into the 2011 MLB Draft?: Going into the 2011 draft I felt like all the work I had put in at Dominguez Hills and all the work I put in playing summer ball and working out would pay off. I did not know where I was going to go in the draft and obviously had higher hopes than going in the 32nd round, but I knew that where I was selected was out of my control, and what I could control is what I could do once I was given an opportunity to put a uniform on.
Can you talk about how the Blue Jays came to draft you?: I had been in contact with a couple Blue Jays scouts throughout my senor season but nothing that indicated that I would be selected by them. I also went to a local pre-draft workout for Toronto and ran my fastest 60-time of any other pre-draft workouts I went to. I was pretty confident with what I did at the workout but still did not guarantee that I would be selected by them come June. I watched all three days of the draft, and just waited with anticipation. I would be lying if I didn’t say that there were times that I got frustrated and nervous that my childhood dream would not come true. Finally in the 32nd round, three days later, I heard my name called by them and could not be any happier. 
What was your transition from metal to wood bats like?: I had used wood bats in summer ball and I liked to hit batting practice with wood bats in college, but never against the competition that I faced in professional baseball. It is definitely an adjustment, especially when I played four years of college with metal bats. Luckily I was able to make that transition sooner than later and was able to have a pretty good first season of professional baseball.
How surprised are you that you have hit .331 in your first two seasons?: I am extremely confident in myself and extremely driven. I cannot say I am surprised, but definitely happy with how my first two seasons have gone. I have put a lot of work into being able to hit .331 over my first two years and am still not satisfied. I know where I can make improvements and am going to work extremely hard in the offseason to improve on the first two years.
How difficult is it to try and stand out in the minors as a low round draft pick?: Once you put a uniform on all that stuff goes out the window. Yes, it is a little bit more difficult as a low-round draft pick to get opportunities, but you will get your opportunity and it’s that much more important to make them count. I know that it’s a stigma that will follow me the rest of my career, and yes it maybe a little bit more difficult to stand out, but I am only worried about the things that I can control and my effort on and off the field.
What kind of knowledge and connection do you have with baseball history?: I love baseball and the history of the game. I grew up in the Los Angeles area and am a huge Dodgers fan and have a lot of knowledge about them and the history of the game. I love reading about players in the past and events that took place. I love watching stuff on MLB Network and have much respect for players and people involved in the game and have they have made it American’s pastime.


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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Boston Red Sox Pitching Prospect Matt Spalding is Looking to Make His Mark

The more advanced prospects of the Boston Red Sox have received a lot of attention this spring. While it is certainly an impressive group, the team also has a lot of valuable young players in the lower levels of their minor league system. One of those rising players is right-handed pitcher Matt Spalding, who just started his professional career in 2012.

Spalding was a star for St. Xavier High School in Louisville, Kentucky. He went 6-4 with a 1.40 ERA as a senior, prompting the Red Sox to make him their 29th-round selection in the 2011 draft. Although he had a scholarship to attend the University of Louisville, he passed up on that opportunity to start his career.

He features a low-90s fastball and a good curve for a pitcher his age. As he gets older, it’s possible his fastball could play up a little more, making him a candidate to start or relieve.

Spalding made his pro debut in 2012 for Boston’s Gulf Coast League team. He appeared in eight games (four starts) and went 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA. In his 20 innings, he allowed 11 hits and 12 walks, while striking out 15. projects he will start this season with the short-season Lowell Spinners. Just 20, his career could take off quickly once he gets a chance to pitch regularly.

I had a chance to throw some questions at the pitching prospect last year. Check out what he had to say, and make sure to keep track of his season once it is underway.

Matt Spalding Interview:

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: Pedro Martinez. Although I was younger he was someone who I looked up to and admired growing up. I love the way he competed, and I feel he is a good person for me to study today and learn from now. 

Can you describe what your draft day experience was like?: Well, early that day I got some calls during the early rounds. I thought I may go sooner but was just waiting to see what happened. I had practice that evening for my high school team, and we were scrimmaging that day, so I pitched an inning. When I came out my coach had the phone for me; it was my dad and he was the first person to tell me. It was great to be with my teammates when I found out because a few are my best friends and they supported me the whole way. I'm very fortunate to have this opportunity. 

How difficult was the decision to sign with the Red Sox instead of attending Louisville?: I just wanted to make the best decision. Louisville is my hometown and is a great program with great coaches and players. Playing pro baseball has always been my dream, and was what I wanted to do, and felt it was right for me. The real dream is to make it to the MLB. 

You experienced some control issues this past season; what do you think you need to do to correct that?: I started spring training really well; arm was feeling great and was pitching well. During extended spring training I had a little injury and took some time off. Coming back from that was more difficult than what I thought it would be, and I've never taken time off like that before. Just working on consistency and staying confident is the key for me. 

Which pitches do you throw, and which is your best and which do you believe needs the most work?: Fastball, curveball, changeup. My fastball is definitely my best. My curveball I have really developed well this season and it has worked for me a lot. My changeup is good; I just need to be more consistent with it, which is what I am working on now here at instructional league. 

How does life change for a young adult once they are signed by a famous baseball team like Boston?: It's very humbling and I'm so thankful for this opportunity. You definitely get more attention and everything you do or say is being watched by someone. But I can't describe the feeling of young kids looking up to you, because I was once in their shoes with the same dreams. Enjoying it is the most important thing, and not getting caught up in it or taking anything for granted. 

Can you describe how much support you get from Red Sox staff when it comes to coaching, fitness, nutrition, etc...?: We are lucky to have the staff we do in our organization. We have great resources and people who really want to help make you better in any way. The coaching is awesome. Boston really takes care of us with nutrition and strength programs, and also with educating us. 

What was it like the first time you were at Fenway Park and in the clubhouse?: It was so surreal. A beautiful ballpark and atmosphere, and the city is amazing. Pitching at Fenway was unbelievable and is something I will remember for the rest of my life, and is something I hope to be doing regularly one day. 


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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cole Frenzel: Seeking His Opportunity with the New York Mets

The New York Mets face a bleak situation with their offense as the 2013 season nears. Other than third baseman David Wright and first baseman Ike Davis, they lack any above-average bats, but hope that help may be on the way courtesy of their minor league system. One player who could be in the mix for the New York lineup of the future is first baseman Cole Frenzel.

A native of North Dakota, the 23-year-old Frenzel became a legend as a high school player. A left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower, he helped lead his team to two state titles, and was named an All-State player during his final three seasons. He also holds the state’s high school home run record with 23. He ultimately accepted a scholarship to play for the University of Arizona.

In the summer of 2009, before going off to Arizona, Frenzel had one last display of dominance by hitting .520 with 29 home runs and 104 RBI for his American Legion team.

Frenzel came on as a starter during his freshman season at Arizona, and blossomed as a sophomore in 2011, producing a .346/.460/.465 batting average/OBP/slugging split.

Because he had been drafted in the 48th round in 2009 out of high school (declined to sign) by the Texas Rangers, he was eligible for the draft following his second year at Arizona. The Mets swooped in and snapped him up in the seventh round of the 2011 draft, and he started his pro career shortly thereafter.
Injuries have plagued Frenzel during his first two professional seasons. He has played a combined 109 games, hitting .243 with five home runs and 43 RBI.

He played just 66 games last year, hitting a combined .247 with four home runs and 24 RBI splitting time between short-season Brooklyn and Single-A Savannah.

Despite playing the same position as Davis, Frenzel won’t be prevented from one day joining the Mets if he can get healthy and produce. The team could try him in the outfield, where they have arguably one of the worst units in recent memory.

I had a chance to interview Frenzel just weeks after he was drafted by the Mets and starting his pro career with the Brooklyn Cyclones. Check out what the prospect had to say about his baseball career.

Cole Frenzel Interview:

How did you first become interested in baseball?: I guess I’ve played pretty much my whole life since I was a little kid. My Dad played college ball and so did my brother. It made my sisters and my Mom love baseball, so baseball was always something that we liked to watch and liked to play.

Did you have a player or team when you were growing up?: I liked to watch the Twins because they were always on TV. I lived in North Dakota, so we didn’t have a pro team. I also liked the Red Sox a little bit too.

As for my favorite player, I just liked watching a lot of good hitters. I liked watching David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, Albert Pujols, and those guys… Joe Mauer. So I really don’t have a favorite player; I just liked watching good hitters.

How did you first find out that the Mets were interested in you?: I guess just in college I talked to them a few times. I really wasn’t sure because I had been through the process in high school and wasn’t too caught up in what would happen. I wasn’t too caught up in it or anything. I was still in a college season and had two years left, so I wasn’t too worried.

I met with John Ireland, the scout down there, just to talk about stuff. As the season went on, they told me they were interested.

After you signed with the Mets, did you do anything special for yourself?: I haven’t yet, no. As soon as my college season was over, I went fishing with my Dad, my brother, and my Grandpa up in Canada. A couple of weeks later I ended up signing.

What has the minor league experience been like so far?: It’s been good. Brooklyn is an awesome place. The crowd there is unreal. They are really dedicated fans; they’re true fans. It’s been pretty fun. New York is a lot different for me. I had never been to the big city like that, but I’m starting to adjust to it, and I kind of like it. It’s really cool. It’s always moving, that’s for sure.

What do you think you need to work on most to keep advancing through the minors?: I think you’ve got to work on everything all the time. You come in out of college, and it’s the same game, but you’ve still got to adjust to the wood bats every day, and make adjustments. I’m always picking up new things from coaches and teammates.


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Sunday, March 10, 2013

An Interview with Sports Illustrated's Steve Rushin

Nationally known sportswriters can become voices of generations if they ply their craft with enough skill and passion. Grantland Rice, Red Smith and Bob Ryan represent just a few of the scribes who captivated readers during their careers.  Even though shifting media trends have driven writers to be more versatile and knowledgeable on a variety of topics, their impact on how their readership understands and appreciates sports remains. One of the leading active writers at the forefront of this new world of sports journalism is Sports Illustrated’s Steve Rushin.

Rushin was born and raised in Minnesota to a family with a number of members having played organized and professional sports, including baseball, football and hockey. He grew up rooting for the Twins, and upon becoming a teenage, actually working for the team. Of course, he also loved writing, which led him to his eventual career.

He was hired by S.I. within two weeks of graduating from Marquette University in 1988. Two years later, at the age of 25, he became the youngest senior writer on their staff. He left S.I. in 2007, but returned in 2010 as a contributor.

During his lengthy career with S.I. he has written about a variety of sports, including baseball. He’s known for tackling off-the-cuff topics that often eludes his peers. His carefully thought out articles show a different side of sports that the reader often hasn’t seen, making him one of the more unique writers in sports.

In addition to his columns for S.I. and articles for other publications, Rushin has also authored several books.

He is married to former UConn and WNBA basketball star Rebecca Lobo, who now works as a game announcer for ESPN. The couple has four children together.

I recently had the great pleasure of being able to pose some questions to Rushin, and find out a little more about one of the best working sportswriters in the country. It was a real treat discovering more about his career and love of baseball, as he has influenced fans and writers like myself for more than a generation.

Steve Rushin Interview:

How did you first become interested in writing?: By becoming interested in reading. I suppose if I'd been interested in cars I'd want to know how they were put together. But I was interested in books--my mom was a teacher who shooed me off to our local library--and I eventually became interested in how sentences were put together. From as early as I can remember, I loved to read the side panels of cereal boxes, so my first literary influences were the copywriters at Kellogg's and General Mills. Also, my dad traveled a lot for work in the days before the internet, and he'd bring home three-day-old newspapers from wherever he went and I'd devour those, particularly the columns: Jim Murray in the LA Times, Red Smith in the New York Times, Mike Royko in the Chicago Tribune. I was a strange kid.

How did you come to write for Sports Illustrated?: We had a neighbor in the town I grew up in--Bloomington, Minnesota--who had a basketball half court in his backyard. He was a young junior college basketball coach named Flip Saunders, the same Flip Saunders who went on to coach the Timberwolves, Pistons and Wizards. We staged a 3-on-3 tournament on his hoop that I called the Saunders Hoop Invitational Tournament. You can work out the acronym on your own. I was in high school at the time. Around then, SI ran a long feature on the Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament held in Michigan. I wrote a letter to the magazine about our tournament and by some great stroke of fortune the author of the story, Alex Wolff, wrote me back. We became friends. I'd send him my journalism-class stories when I was in college. SI eventually bought one of them and published it as I was graduating. That got me a three-month internship as a fact-checker, which eventually led to a permanent job as a fact-checker. From there, I worked my way up to writer.

Can you talk a little bit about your connection to baseball- specifically how/if you were influenced by several relatives who were major league players?: Well, I grew up in Bloomington, where the Twins played at Metropolitan Stadium. My two older brothers worked at the Met, and when I turned 13, I did too. We made the food that the vendors sold in the stands. But we also got to hang around the ballpark, pretend we were big leaguers and occasionally even pull the tarp in a rain delay. For a kid who loved baseball, it was a dream job, a baseball version of Willy Wonka's factory--broken bats, batting-practice baseballs, pallets of hot dogs and Frosty Malts and Grain Belt beer: This was my work environment at 13.

And as you say, my grandfather, a catcher named Jimmy Boyle, played in the big leagues, for John McGraw's Giants in 1926. He was with the team for two months that summer, but only saw one half inning of action, catching the top of the ninth on a Sunday afternoon at the Polo Grounds against the Pirates. His brother--my great uncle, Buzz Boyle--played a couple seasons for the Boston Braves and then three more for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the early 1930s. He was a very good player. And then their two uncles--Jack Boyle and Ed Boyle--played in the big leagues in the 1880s and 1890s. Jack was a catcher for the St. Louis Browns, Phillies and Giants. He was a great player. His brother Ed had a cup of coffee as a catcher with the Pirates.

All of these relatives are on my mother's side. It's less confusing to put it this way: My great grandfather was a firefighter named Jim Boyle: He had two brothers who played in the big leagues and two sons who played in the big leagues. I always found that pretty amazing.

How much of a baseball fan are you now? What is your current involvement with the game?: I'm still a big baseball fan. I'd rather attend a baseball game than any other sport, though I've grown to love European and particularly English Premier League soccer over the years, too. I live in Connecticut, almost equidistant between Boston and New York, and there are few places in the country that maintain this level of passion for baseball, much to the nausea of the rest of America, which gets sick of hearing about the Yankees and Red Sox. I still follow the Twins, too. My dad, who still lives in the Twin Cities, gives me play-by-play over the phone every night in the summer. In baseball, the Twins were my first love (and my first employer) and that never really goes away completely.

With constantly shifting media, particularly to more online venues, where do you see the future of writing heading?
: I have no idea and if I knew I wouldn't tell you. I'd be finding venture capitalists to help build the next media phenomenon. But I have almost no interest in, and even less aptitude for, business of any kind. It's one of the reasons I'm a writer. As I see it, writing is writing, however it's delivered. I used to throw the Minneapolis Tribune onto people's doorsteps. Now I read the paper on my phone. But that has more to do with reading than writing. The writing is the same. I'm not worried that people will suddenly stop reading, or wanting to hear stories or be informed or entertained. The economics of that is another story, and I haven't a clue how that story ends.

What is the one thing you have written that you are most proud of, and why?: I've been ridiculously lucky to cover just about everything, on all seven continents--I was in Antarctica in December for SI--but one story that was personally meaningful is still the 1991 World Series between the Twins and Braves. As a kid, I would write stories on my mom's typewriter, in the basement, while watching games on TV. In October of '91, I was 25, and living in New York but I stayed in the house I grew up in Bloomington when the Series was in Minnesota. So after Jack Morris and the Twins won Game 7 in ten innings late on a Sunday night, I drove my rental car from the Metrodome back to my childhood home and stayed up all night writing the story for SI in the same basement--in front of the same TV--where I used to write stories while watching the Twins as an eighth-grader. It was surreal, how neatly that dream came true.

What topic would you like to write about but haven't done so yet?: Well, I've covered most major events but a lot of minor ones too. Weird stuff, like playing ice golf in Greenland, badminton in Indonesia and most recently exploring Antarctica with a swimsuit model. But the beauty of journalism is that every week brings something different and there are still all kinds of new people and places and things to write about. I was in Chicago this past weekend, and as I drove into the city from O'Hare, and passed the Addison exit for Wrigley Field, I thought: I'd love to live long enough to see a World Series there.


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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Kurt Heyer: Seeking to Go from College World Series Champ to the Majors

The St. Louis Cardinals have received recognition in recent seasons because of the excellent pitching prospects that have been winding their way through their minor league system. Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Lance Lynn have all received a lot of attention and varying levels of success and exposure at the major league level. It appears that another young gun was added to their stockpile of arms last year when the team drafted right-hander Kurt Heyer.

Heyer was a star for Edison High School in California, going 11-3 with a 0.84 ERA as a senior. Naturally, he had a number of options following graduation. However, he decided to attend the University of Arizona, which ended up being a great decision.

As a freshman for the Wild Cats, Heyer became the team’s top starter, leading the team with a 3.26 ERA and 109 strikeouts. He followed that up with a 2.41 ERA and 134 punchouts as a sophomore.

Heyer’s junior season proved to be truly special. He went 13-2 with a 2.24 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 153 innings, earning a place on the 2012 watch list for the Golden Spikes Award; annually given to the nation’s best collegiate player. His production was also instrumental in Arizona winning the College World Series and finishing one of the best seasons in school history.

The Cardinals made the accomplished pitcher their sixth-round selection in last year’s draft.

Pitching primarily with a high-80s fastball and a slider, some believe Heyer projects better as a reliever at the next level, according to a Baseball America scouting report:

“Heyer pitches with a fastball in the 86-89 mph range and an average slider. He shows an occasional changeup and curveball, but mostly sticks to his two main pitches and relies on his above-average control and command. Heyer has some funkiness to his delivery, but shows exceptional work ethic, competitiveness and toughness. Heyer has been very successful as a starter at Arizona--he ranked second in the Pac-10 in strikeouts last year and ranks second again this year--but scouts believe his two-pitch repertoire and aggressive demeanor profile better in the bullpen as a pro.”

After signing, Heyer appeared in four games in stops at two levels in the low minors for the Cardinals. He allowed six hits and three runs in six innings, while striking out nine.

He figures to establish himself in the organization with a full season this year. If he pitches the way he did in college, he will soon join the ranks of accomplished St. Louis pitching prospects and be well on his way to the majors.

Kurt Heyer Interview:

If you could sit down and pick the brain of any pitcher, current or former, who would that be and why?: I would love to pick the brain of Roy Halladay because he knows how to locate all his pitches and change speeds. He relies on movement and not on velocity. 

What kind of contact and recruiting were you getting from different teams prior to the 2012 MLB Draft?: I was being contacted by many teams and they stayed in close contact with me. It felt no different than being recruited from colleges when I was in high school.

Can you run through what Draft Day is like?: There was a lot of mixed emotions that day. I was excited but at the same time I had to focus on regionals because that was more important.

What pitches do you throw and which one do you hope to improve the most?: I have a four-pitch mix. Fastball, slider, curveball and a changeup. I really want to focus on my changeup because to be a big league pitcher, you need that to survive.

What was it like winning a college World Series with Arizona?: It was incredible. Just the whole experience was awesome. Now I want to focus and help the Cardinals win the World Series in 2013.

What do you believe sets you apart from other pitching prospects in the St. Louis organization?: I'm a competitor on the mound. You know what you are gonna get with me. I get stronger as the game progresses. I know what it takes to win.

Is there any one thing that you have been asked to work on the most?: Nothing specific. They told me to come to spring training healthy and ready to compete for a spot. 

What are you looking forward to the most for the 2013 season?: I'm just excited about starting my professional career, and I have high expectations my first year. I want to make an immediate impact in the Cardinals organization.


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