Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wednesday Quick Hitters

 

Time to clean out the old Inbox and give you some news and notes around Auburn baseball.

Trent Mummey- Mummey officially signed with the Orioles and was assigned to short season Aberdeen Ironbirds. Mummey went 2 for 4 in his debut and is batting leadoff. The Orioles seem very pleased with Mummey as a prospect:

"He can run. He's a guy that can bat toward the top of the lineup, one or two hole. He's a high on base guy. He has some power and I'm just looking forward to watching him play.

"I think he will be an offensive guy. He can run and play center, he can do multiple things. A guy that can not only collect his hits, but he can drive the ball, not a slap-type guy. He's got some impact to his swing and he has a chance to be a good hitter and a factor on the bases."

While Mummey put up impressive power numbers at Auburn, some project his power to be average at higher levels.

"He has some home run power, but for me, I'm not one to forecast what he will be three or four years from now. He'll learn to hit for some power, but he needs to be a doubles and triples hit collector type guy for him to be the player we need him to be."

Jordan likes Mummey's makeup and competitive nature.

"We really tried to target some guys that had this type of makeup and approach to how they play. I like the personality that he will bring."

Trent received a slot bonus of $252,000. So far this year he’s batting .375 and is mostly a singles machine but off to a good start.

 

Ty Kelly- Probably one of the biggest surprises on the draft season was Ty Kelley who the Angels signed as an undrafted free agent. Kelley is a guy who never really saw the field a lot at Auburn but still managed to turn the heads of scouts:

Ty Kelley started his week in a wooden bat collegiate league in Amsterdam, N.Y., hoping to stretch his arm after a season of relative inactivity at Auburn.

He will finish it in Tempe, Ariz., after signing with the Anaheim Angels and being assigned to their rookie league affiliate in the Arizona Summer League.

"It's been really overwhelming," said Kelley, a former Columbus High standout. "It just kind of hit me yesterday when I was in the locker room and putting on the Angels jersey.

Auburn fans might not be too familiar with Kelley's name. After making 11 appearances and starting three non-conference games in 2009, the 6-foot-4, right-hander pitched only four times last season, posting a 9.64 ERA in 4 2-3 innings.

He would have been a fifth-year senior next season but opted instead to go pro.

"This year, it was real tough, especially as much success as our team had," Kelley said. "It was awesome. When you're winning, you're happy. But it was tough just not being able to throw as much as I'd like to and not getting as many opportunities as I wanted. But I guess you can't really complain about that."

I’d check out the Andy Bitter blog post above. A solid read on how a guy, who as stated earlier, wasn’t on many Auburn radars but remained on scouts radars his whole career.

Austin Hubbard- Hubs is doing VERY well for the short season Hudson Valley Renegades. 2 appearances/ and 2.2 IP and only 1 hit. He’s already got a save and win as well. However, it’s not all gravy in Hudson Valley:

The Renegades led 3-2 in the top of the ninth with a runner on third and Staten Island cleanup hitter Kyle Roller at bat on Monday night. The likely move, probably the smart move, was to pitch around Roller with first base empty.

Problem was, Roller was the "K-Man," one of the oldest and most popular Renegades promotions. If a designated visiting player strikes out three times, fans receive a sponsor perk, in this case free miniature golf at Fun Central on Route 9. And Roller already had struck out twice.

Alas, Hudson Valley right-handed reliever Austin Hubbard walked Roller on four pitches as boos rang out from the sold-out crowd of 4,785. They were soon cheering as Hubbard struck out the next batter, Carlos Urena, to end the game.

Pawlowski gets Connections Aplenty- A couple of Random Notes here. First I knew about the Auburn baseball team shaving their heads a while ago as a show of support for Joseph Sanders Mom. However, I forgot about this part:

On Feb. 1, the day Barbara Sanders received her first cocktail of potent drugs to fight the disease, she arrived at Plainsman Park and was presented with a large, framed photograph of the clean-shaven Tigers.

"It was just something to let her know that there were some guys behind her," Slater said. "Having been through the experience of it, you just want to do anything you can to show your support."

What began as a gesture of support for Sanders' mother has grown. Slater sent the photograph to College of Charleston baseball coach John Pawlowski, whose 13-year-old daughter, Mary Louise, is fighting cancer. Auburn is also selling the photograph on its athletic department Web site to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

Also, Clemson fans have officially lost their marbles. Less than 24 Hours after their hated rival wins the College World Series, at least one blogger is saying it’s time for a change:

Its time for Jack to leave.

The head coach is responsible for everything in the program. He is ultimately responsible for recruiting talent, gauging his team's psyche in clutch situations, the on-field performance (hitting, pitching, defense), hiring assistants, and the in-game decisions.

The question is, are you a person who is satisfied with 40-win seasons and a CWS appearance every 2-3 years, or are you someone who wants Clemson to be the best?

If you're the former, you were probably also happy with 8 wins a year and a bowl game, and that Bowden was "a good christian man" and graduated his players.

I'm not one of those people. While I don't expect Clemson football to be in contention for a national title every year, I do expect 10 wins a year to be achievable at the onset of every season (barring a early NFL draft loss or critical injury of course). I don't put up with just being in the NCAA basketball tournament either. I want to win A game when we get there.

Why does this matter to Auburn fans? Well, Pawlowski is closely tied with the Clemson program:

Our program is on the way down. We are not at the level we were in the 90s and early 2000s. The talent on campus is not what it was. Jack's very best seasons after taking over from Wilhelm were with his recruits, and the momentum from that carryover, and he brought in a very good staff of John Pawlowski (now at Auburn) and Tim Corbin (now at Vandy) during the 90s who could help coach players up and teach them how to pitch. We won 50 games in each of his first 3 years on the job, and only 3 times since. His staff has been a source of fortune and stress since he's been here.

Pawlowski is a Clemson grad and CU and Arizona State remain the only two jobs I could see Pawlowski leaving Auburn to take.

DAN GAMACHE- Great little read on Dan Gamache and his Summer Baseball Team:

Dan Gamache has worn a Newport Gulls uniform before.
Now he actually gets to swing the bats.
Gamache, a Bishop Hendricken grad who had a breakout sophomore season at Auburn University, is back in Rhode Island this summer, playing for the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Gulls. It’s a dream come true for Gamache, who was a bat boy for the Gulls when he was 10. His family also hosted Gulls players, and he always hoped he’d get a chance to be one of them.
“I pretty much grew up here,” Gamache said on Friday. He was standing on the grass at Cardines Field after a 5-3 win over Lowell. He hasn’t hit his stride yet this summer – he’s hitting .147 and went 0-for-2 on Friday despite crushing two balls – but there’s nowhere else he’d rather be.

Gamache hopes to use his summer in Newport as a springboard to even bigger things. He’s playing third base for the defending NECBL champion Gulls. He’s played in 11 games and is still looking to catch fire.
“I’m just trying to improve on some stuff – fielding and my approach at the plate,” Gamache said. “I’m hoping to get noticed, too. People are always watching.”
Regardless of stats, when Gamache dons the Gulls uniform, it’s a reminder of how far he’s come.
“I always looked up to the guys that stayed with us,” Gamache said. “It really made me want to work hard and get to where I am now.”
You can bet Gamache will keep working.
“I can’t wait to get back to Auburn and do it up bigger,” he said.

Read more: Warwick Beacon - Home Again Gamache spending summer with Gulls

I don’t know if this is common knowledge, but Gamache has never had a scholarship at Auburn. It’s time for that to change.

Chris Bootcheck- Sweet Mercy. Chris Bootcheck is STILL pitching. Now he’s managed to turn a relief role in Japanese baseball into a fulltime starting gig:

Chris Bootcheck might have turned his first start in Japan into a fulltime job.
The right-hander went 6.1 innings, holding the mighty Yomiuri Giants to two runs in his first start in at least four years.
The seven singles he scattered were harmless. The one double he surrendered cost him two runs, but three relievers and a two-inning save from closer Shun Yamaguchi preserved the victory.
Seiichi Uchikawa had three hits, including his fourth homer, and Kazuya Fujita drove in two runs with a clutch single in a three-run third to back Bootcheck.
The 31-year-old first-year import had a 6.00 ERA in 11 outings out of the bullpen, but he tossed six shutout innings against the Giants, fanning the Central League’s hottest hitter, Shinnosuke Abe, twice.

Speaking of Chris, here’s some Youtube of him at work:

As a Side note, I LOVE Japanese baseball, if only for the crazyness of the fans. Just like this:

 

I WANT THIS!

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Reevaluating Auburn in the MLB draft

 

Earlier this month I tried to give my best guess about what Auburn players could return after being drafted. I’ll admit some were close and some were way off. Here’s a quick refresher:

Player PPLPRP* Status New PPLPRP*
Stephen Kohlscheen 30% Unsigned 60%
Justin Fradejas 60% Unsigned 70%
Bradley Hendrix 55% Unsigned 50%
Kevin Patterson 70% Unsigned 20%
Brian Fletcher 25% Unsigned 30%
Grant Dayton 80% Signed 0%
Cole Nelson 10% Signed 0%

 

So, from my original list all but Dayton and Nelson are left unsigned. But will it say that way? No. Kevin Patterson is all but gone. Originally, I thought the fact that playing in the Cape Cod League was a tip of his hand that KP was coming back. Turns out I was way off:

PATTERSON HAS PLANS: Auburn first baseman Kevin Patterson is one of those Cape League rarities – a third-year player. But it doesn't sound like he'll be spending a third full season with Cotuit. Tampa Bay drafted him in the 23rd round.

“We're just waiting to see,” he said of his status. “I talked to Tampa just before coming up, and they said they would watch me play some this summer, and probably by July we'd start talking. I'll probably sign sometime in July.

“I'm having fun up here again, but I'm ready to get that process over with and get started at the next level.”

Patterson, a 6-4, 230-pound slugging first baseman, had 16 homers at Auburn in just 124 at-bats this spring. Through eight games at Cotuit, he had fanned 10 times in 26 at-bats, but had a .387 OBP as he readjusted to wooden bats.

“I had a good year at school, but just didn't get to play enough,” he said. “I'm up here to get wood back in my hands and keep working at it.”

Patterson was a 24th-round pick of the White Sox out of high school.

You don’t really have to read to far between the lines there. Technically, KP is still unsigned. However, he was recently released from his Cape Cod team (Cotuit) which means one of two things: either he’s close to signing (highly likely) or close to returning (highly unlikely).

 

Grant Dayton is another guy I thought could come back. Again, that was a shot in the dark from me. I would think with his major that he’d at least want to finish his senior year. Commenter “hub” made a good point that Dayton could have already graduated. That is still a distinct possibility and I think we will know for sure when the Summer Graduation hits. For now though, Dayton has already gone from his original assignment with the Rookie League Gulf Coast Marlins to the Short Season Jamestown Jammers.

Brian Fletcher, I still have as leaving. However, the longer it drags out the more the window for him returning gets bigger. I still don’t think it’s a realistic possibility. The last I heard with Fletch is that it’s just money as the sticking point now. Specifically what his bonus should be.

So who IS coming back. Well, I still have no clue about Brad Hendrix. To be completely honest, I forgot he got drafted until I reviewed my previous post. So I’ll still leave him as a coin flip. That would leave Stephen Kohlscheen and Justin Fradejas, the last two guys drafted, as the two guys with the highest chances of returning. Both are playing in the Valley Baseball League this summer. Fradejas for the Luray Wranglers where he is hitting a nice .350 and Kohlscheen is pitching for the Harrisonburg Turks where he picked up a win in a start last night after pitching 6 strong innings and giving up only 5 hits and 0 er. He’s only been with the team for a week and already have two wins:

HARRISONBURG - Stephen Kohlscheen has been a Harrisonburg resident for just a week, and already he's recorded two wins for the Turks. A rising senior at Auburn who has been drafted by major league baseball teams three times - including once this month in the 45th round by the Seattle Mariners - Kohlscheen threw six innings of shutout ball Tuesday to help the Turks beat Luray 3-2 at Eagle Field. The shaggy-haired 6-foot-6 hurler said he does not know yet if he ...

And yes, that’s where the article ends. I don’t feel like paying 2 dollars and subscribing to the Harrisonburg, Virginia paper for a month.

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S-E-C! S-E-C? SMH*

 

 

College baseball season officially ended last night. Congrats to South Carolina for becoming only the third SEC to ever win the CWS (surprising I know). They join Georgia and LSU as the only SEC teams to win it all in Omaha.

I have no ill will towards Carolina. I’ll say congrats once again of course. However, one thing I would like to touch on (lots of posts today by the way, this won’t be the only thing you can read at PPL this Wednesday), is this bizarre notion and the chest beating “S-E-C” chants by fans of the other SEC schools. I could never and have never wrapped my head around this notion. I’ve had it explained to me numerous times by numerous people and their slant logic stands as this: If the SEC wins then Auburn wins.

That makes no sense to me. How does this work? I’ve even been with friends who cheered for LSU when the played (and won) a BCS championship. I just don’t get it.

I’ll only touch on this briefly just to commit my thoughts to blog, but I will never cheer for another SEC school. I can never bring myself to do it. I won’t openly cheer against them either. Call it more of glorified apathy. This notion that when the SEC wins that Auburn wins is preposterous. South Carolina won the College World Series. Good for them. Does it make the Auburn baseball season any more or less special? No. It has no bearing.

You know what’s best for Auburn? Auburn winning. That’s what is best for Auburn. Not South Carolina winning the CWS. Not LSU winning a BCS title. Nothing. The Best thing for Auburn is for Auburn to win. Plain and simple.

Honestly, I could care less about the SEC. To me, the SEC only exists for Auburn to guarantee opponents and keep travel costs down while keeping the level of competition up. The Southeastern Conference is a business. It’s main goal is to make money and NOT to protect its members. It’s not a union. Yes, It protects select members at select times for PR purposes. Where was the SEC in 2004 when Auburn was pushed out the BCS title game? No where that I could see.

This crazy jingoist pride Auburn fans can get and the ridiculous S-E-C chant that rains down during bowl games makes my head hurt. If you feel that way that’s fine. I just can’t see it. I never have. I doubt I ever will.

*SMH stands for “Shaking My Head”. I normally like to refrain from “txt-talk” but I thought it fit here.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thursday Quick Hitters


THE WILD CARD FOLDS- So, yeah, remember the other day when I mentioned the Garrett Bush might be a wildcard in the pitching rotation? Scratch that. Thanks to an anonymous tip on that post, nobody refuting that statement, and a good number of folks confirming it unofficially; I feel safe in saying that Garrett Bush, Ryan Welke, Jordan Neese, and Phillip Rossi are no longer members of the team. Chalk it up to scholarship limits or whatever, but I wouldn't expect to see them in an Auburn uniform again. Bush is the only odd one out of the group because for a guy with his tools (and even being asked to play for the Cape Cod League this summer) to not be asked back tells me there was something else going on. Whether its attitude, not fitting into the "system" or whatever.



OH WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN- Lost in all the celebration this season was a remembrance of how Auburn actually started their fall from competitiveness. Thankfully, Joe Medley of the Anniston Star Reminds us:

The fall of 2003 saw then-Auburn president William Walker lead a four-man contingent on the “Jetgate” mission. Media discovered the clandestine meeting with then-Louisville football coach Bobby Petrino, and what many saw as a move to fire Tommy Tuberville was discovered before it could succeed.
Then came the spring of 2004 and the firing of men’s basketball coach Cliff Ellis — with NCAA sanctions pending.
Long-time women’s basketball coach Joe Ciampi retired.
Ed Richardson had taken over as interim president and was purging people.
Baird was leading searches after athletics director David Housel — among those ensnared in the Jetgate uproar — announced in March that he would retire, effective the following January.
Oh, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools was threatening to pull Auburn’s accreditation due to what it saw as too much trustee interference in athletics. Auburn was on SACS probation at the time.
Amid so much turmoil, Auburn wasn’t looking like the best place to coach.
Still, Richardson fired Renfroe after the 2004 season and sent Baird searching. Richardson made the move despite Baird’s advice to give it another year.
Predictably, Auburn struggled to make a hire. Proven coaches such as Vanderbilt’s Tim Corbin and Virginia’s Brian O’Connor either turned down the job or declined to interview.
After firing a Baird assistant, Auburn settled for another in Tommy Slater.

Read more: Anniston Star - Auburn baseball could have made it sooner

I'll go on record as saying I never understood the Renfroe firing. I tried to support the Slater hiring. Yes, he could recruit (that was evident with that talent we had this year) but that couldn't make up for the other shortcomings of the staff. It's always good to remember how we got to the "dark ages" as we enter a pretty exciting time with Pawlowski.




STILL WAITING: Not a lot of movement in the "will-they-stay-or-will-they-go-pro" Department. Except for a few notes:

  • Hunter Morris signed his contract and is on his way to Appleton, Wisconsin to start his Pro Career with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (and their nightmare fuel mascot above), a Low A affiliate of the Brewers.
  • Cole Nelson still hasn't officially signed, but one blog has Cole listed on the roster for the Connecticut Tigers (Rookie A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers). Well, he had him on there and now he has him crossed out.
  • No word on Brian Fletcher, but he and Morris were both named 2nd and 1st Team All Americans respectively.



OTHER MINOR LEAGUE NOTES:

  • MIke Bianucci is still in the Rangers System, playing for SIngle A Bakersfield. He's improving so far this season:
    • LF Mike Bianucci went 0-2 but walked twice and didn’t K. Bianucci is striking out once every 4.19 at bats with Bakersfield this year, a significant improvement over his 2.87 mark with Bakersfield last year.
  • Two Former Tigers made the SIngle A All Star teams. Pitcher Brian Woodall will play in the Carolina-California Game:
    • Pitcher Brian Woodall will represent the Visalia Rawhide (Diamond Backs Affiliate) out of the bullpen. In 21 relief appearances this year, Woodall has posted a microscopic 0.33 ERA while going 3-2 with five saves in six chances. His 13.17 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio is the highest in the California League.
  • And Joe Sanders will represent the Asheville Tourists and play in the South Atlantic League All Star Game:
    • The night belonged to Joe Sanders. Sanders justified his All-Star selection in a big way, blasting two monstrous home runs, and leading the Tourists to an 8-3 victory Monday night. Asheville was perfect in all phases of the game and put together one of their finest all-around performances of the season.
  • Also mowegl from the Inside the Auburn Tigers Message Board, posted a nice rundown of Auburn Tigers in the Minors and Majors. It's a fantastic list.


FINALLY, VUVUZELA!

If you followed the World Cup at all, you know about the Vuvuzela. The plastic horns which make a stadium sound like a hornets nest. Which got me thinking, now that the SEC has given Mississippi State a green light for the cowbells. I think Auburn should bust out the Vuvuzelas on defense. Just as long as they play this on the Jumbotron beforehand as a signal to start blowing:

Followed by this harmonious sound:

Don't think it would work? Try it out for yourself here and hopefully here.

Oh, and Couldn't leave without giving you the best of the Wicker Man:

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Octopus: The Oddity of 2011 Auburn Pitching

It's a headscratcher really. This year Auburn was a piecemeal pitching rotation with some guys coming on strong late, some completely disappearing, and some who you would have to hold your breath and not know what to expect when they toed the rubber. Now it will become a strength. Yet, Projecting the 2011 Rotation is a complete crapshoot. Why? Well first let's go (just like last time) with 3 more assumptions:

  1. COLE NELSON IS GONE- 10th Round Money. A big improvement on his draft stock. I'm not really seeing any other reason while Cole might stay.
  2. GRANT DAYTON IS BACK- Again, this comes back to my original theory of Grant and his degree. Pro scouts only now started salivating over Grant. One more year and he has a huge fallback plan with his Industrial Systems Engineering degree.
  3. ANDREW MORRIS ENROLLS AT AUBURN- Outside of Zach Alvord, Morris is the biggest prize Auburn could get out of this past years recruiting class.

So why is it a crapshoot? Because going into the 2011 Season, Auburn will have 8 guys who can/could/or have started a baseball game for Auburn. Slade Smith, Jon Luke Jacobs, Corey Luckie, Dexter Price, Grant Dayton, Andrew Morris, Garrett Bush, and Bradley Hendrix. I'll go ahead and knock Hendrix off that list because his role will be out of the bullpen and barring a catastrophe will not have to start a game. Still, I went ahead and listed him because he can eat innings in long relief and has started for Auburn before. But even if you knock off Hendrix, you still have Ty Kelley who can do just as well.


So Auburn is looking at 8 guys with the potential to start. It's a front heavy rotation that won't shake out until the start of the season. At least Auburn fans can take comfort in the fact that if a starter fails, we have more than enough arms to compensate. Our pitching depth will be tremendous in 2011. How effective they are will remain to be seen.


SO WHO GOES ON THE WEEKEND? This is completely speculative at this point and really hinges on the hope that Andrew Morris enrolls. His first two years at Gulf Coast Community college were completely unreal:

YEAR W L IP K BB ERA G
Fresh 10 2
107
2.78
Soph 12 0 96.2 128 50 3.45 17

He's a dominator plain and simple and he's a guy who could come in an immediately start on Friday Nights. That's where I'm going to slot him.

What about Saturday? Call me crazy, but I want to see Slade Smith start on the weekends. He proved time and time again that he has both the mental make up and physical tools to excel.

And for Sunday? Why mess with a good thing? Grant Dayton excelled on Sunday in the "Championship Sunday" role. Keep him there.



SO WHAT ABOUT THE REST? Again, completely spitballing here but I say more Luckie and Jacobs to the bullpen as the first arms out in long relief. Then push Price and Bush as your midweek guys and groom them for post season play. Just going by my gut in all of this.




READING THE TEA LEAVES. Honestly, we won't know anything until the fall. However we can get a good idea of how these guys might do in the 2011 Season by paying attention to their work over the summer. Garrett Bush is playing for the Bourne Braves (Cape Cod); Dexter Price pitches for the Newport Gulls (New England) and Ty Kelley and Jon Luke Jacobs pitch for the Amsterdam Mohawks (New York League). I think Slade Smith is somewhere this summer but I can't find him yet. Good showings in the Summer normally translate to good showing in the Spring. I'll keep a close eye on their progress.



THE WILDCARD- One guy who can shake everything up is going to be Garrett Bush. You didn't hear much from him this past year (4ip/2er/6k/2bb) but he's talented. Talented enough to get drafted by the Orioles in the 15th Round out of high school. Talented enough to be invited to the Cape Cod League (despite on pitching 4 innings). You can see video here and here. I recommend checking them out.

So there you go. My early pick for the weekend is Morris/Smith/Dayton. Let's see if I'm right come spring.

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A (Way Too Early) Look at the 2011 Auburn Baseball Team

As soon as the 2010 Season ended thoughts immediately turned to next year. What would the team look like? Was it a one and done deal? How big did the draft affect Auburn. Honestly, not that much. I'm going to operate under 3 basic assumptions in determining the 2011 Field:

  1. BRIAN FLETCHER IS GONE- Not too completely out of the realm. Fletch's draft stock was high. He seems ready and now would probably be the best time for him to go.
  2. KEVIN PATTERSON IS BACK- I know I initially listed him as a 70% chance to return. I'm ready to upgrade that to 90%. Why? Cape Cod Baseball. The premier summer league for college players. KP played in it last year and surprisingly returns this year. If KP was going pro, why would he be wasting his time playing for the Cotuit Keetlers? He wouldn't. By playing in the Cape, I think he's tipping his hand and showing Auburn fans that he's returning.
  3. ZACH ALVORD LIVES UP TO THE HYPE- Again, not completely out of the realm of possibility. Alvord was good enough to be drafted by the Braves in the 18th round and should be good enough to start Day 1 for Auburn.

WHAT WE KNOW:

The two easiest areas to project are going to be OF and C. Those are no-brainers. With Fletch and Mummey leaving it frees up two spots in the OF. Two spots that are easily filled. Personally, I'd like to see Justin Fradejas in CF just based on his speed, but I think Creede Simpson will get the nod there because of his athleticism. That returns Fradejas to RF and the only spot left to fill is LF to replace Fletch. Justin Bryant has played there and has the tools to be very productive in that position.

Catcher is another no brainer. Tony Caldwell should get the nod there (especially after his productive Sophomore Campaign) with Caleb Bowen handling the backup duties.



CONTAINING THE KRACKEN: The rest of the infield is where the speculation comes into play. Of course, all of these decisions will ultimately rest with Coach John Pawlowski, but here's is my best guess/best wish for the 2011 Tigers.

I honestly think Kevin Patterson should not DH. At least not full time. It limited his at bats, it made him easily predictable, and it never gave him time to work on his shortcomings. The early part of the season is where you can give KP a chance at First Base. 1B is where he projects in the pros, it's where his limited range will do the least damage and it would put him in the lineup everyday.

So what happens to DH. To me, this has to go to Dan Gamache. Despite his problems in the field, DG is a quality hitter. He's patient, he can hit to all fields, and he has surprising power. DH doesn't have to be a David Ortiz monster, it needs to be a consistent and timely hitter. Dan fits all those roles. It moves his glove (which some could consider a liability) off the field and keeps his bat (which is his best attribute) consistently in the lineup.


THE ALVORD EQUATION: Now comes the fun part, or the maddening part. If Alvord comes to Auburn (which seems very likely at this point). He has the tools to play Day 1. The question becomes where do you play him? Currently, he's built for a SS role. That's where his range is best used and where he is most comfortable. As he grows and bulks up (which he's expected to do) then he becomes more of a 2B fit (where he's projected to play in the pros). Well there's one problem with that. Auburn already has a 2B (Justin Hargett) and a SS (Casey McElroy). Yes, both of these guys had their defensive woes but both at 2 year starters (going into 3 year starters) at those positions. Hargett was plagued all season by his shoulder injury and was never 100%. So who loses out?

Alright so here's where we play musical chairs with the infield, with that open chair being 3B. All 3 guys (Alvord, Hargett, and McElroy) should see the field and one of them will be playing 3B. A position they will be unaccustomed too, but which they could pick up easily. I wouldn't put McElroy at 3B just on his height (he's 5'9). Hargett (5'10) isn't really any better height wise, but his field stance lends itself better at 3B. CMac tends to squat really low when he plays the field.

I think putting Alvord (who's 5'11) at 3B would be a waste just because of Alvord's range. At SS he can cover the most ground easily and his plus-arm makes him valuable on the right side of the infield.

The arm strength and range are what makes me think McElroy should move to 2B. He can still have range but it reduces the chance of a missthrow to 1B (his biggest problem last year).

That would then move Hargett to 3B. He can still cover ground. He can still be a leader in the infield and his arm isn't a problem. To summarize:

Fradejas RF
Simpson CF
Bryant LF
Hargett 3B
Alvord SS
McElroy 2B
Patterson 1B
Gamache DH
Caldwell C

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Should They Stay or Should They Go?

 

As expected, the MLB Draft came and a number (a record number in fact) of Tiger names were called. Now comes the time that will probably keep Auburn coach John Pawlowski up for a few months. Will the underclassman leave for the bright lights of the show, or stay for at least one final go round. It's also difficult to determine, but here we go. Some capsules with the name, position, draft position, and PPLPRP (Plainsman Parking Lot Percentage Returning Prediction), Note the Higher the % the better chance of returning (just in my opinion). Not included on this list are Ryan Jenkins and Austin Hubbard (who are seniors) and Trent Mummey and Hunter Morris (who are gone, no reason to debate it, and if they return it will be a miracle):

NAME POS DRAFT PPLPRP*
Stephen Kohlscheen RHP Rd 45/SEA 30%

 

Kolhscheen is an odd one to peg. He didn't improve his draft stock at all and was the lowest Tiger drafted this year. Out of high school he was a 43rd Round pick (Marlins), and 30th Rd Pick out of Cowley CC (Phillies) and now, after one season at Auburn, he's dropped 45th Round (Seattle). Personally, I think Kohlscheen is done. I don't see the benefit of him sticking around anymore. If anything it could possibly hurt his draft status. He was underutilized out of the bullpen for Auburn and his tools that make him an MLB commodity (his height and his consistent delivery) will not change if he stays his Senior Year. I think he might just cut his losses at this point and go ahead and start his journey to the bigs. I have him at 30% right now.

NAME POS DRAFT PPLPRP*
Justin Fradejas OF Rd 35/Col 60%

 

What to do with "Freddie". One season (and honestly, just 2/3rds of a season) and he garners the attention of MLB scouts. Enough to have Colorado select him in the 35th Round. He's not tipping his hat if he's returning or not:

“Obviously I’m excited about it,” said Fradejas, an outfielder for the Tigers. “I got the opportunity to be drafted and had a good year at Auburn.”

“Auburn had struggled, and to come here and be a part of a season like this was an unbelievable experience,” Fradejas said.

The 1,070th overall pick, Fradejas will have the option of signing with the Rockies or returning to Auburn for his senior season. On Wednesday, he didn’t have a gut feeling either way.

I’m going to play that by ear,” Fradejas said. “I’m not leaning one way or the other to be completely honest.”

Fradejas does have a tough decision to make. If anything I would say that a final year at Auburn would give him a chance to improve his power. Once he does that, then Fradejas could easily bump up to a mid 20s round selection. Plus, it's just a year. Still, the threat of injury is present and this could be the only shot he may have.

 

NAME POS DRAFT PPLPRP*
Bradley Hendrix RHP Rd 30/CIN 55%

Yet another coin flip guy. Hendrix has stuck with Auburn for 3 years already. Does he stick around for one more and complete his degree and move on, possibly improving his draft stock in the process? This one I don't know. 30th Round isn't a bad selection and Hendrix isn't guaranteed to improve if he stays. However, if Hendrix stays, I think he is the first choice to replace Austin Hubbard as closer.

NAME POS DRAFT PPLPRP*
Kevin Patterson DH/1B Rd 23/TAMPA 70%

This is completely a gut call here. KP did improve his draft stock from when he came to Auburn (24th Rd/White Sox/out of High School). Yet, he still has a ways to improve. Look, I'm going to be blunt here. Patterson staying 1 extra year could be the difference in almost 10 rounds in the 2011 Draft. An extra year at Auburn and KP can permanently slot at 1B (where he projects in the pros) and get a full year of experience there. KP was expected to go in the 7th-10th Round but dropped a bit. Probably because he didn't play the field at all this year (at least not that I can remember off the top of my head). KP has to improve 2 things: His fielding and his batting against LHP. Both are things he can accomplish with just 1 more year at Auburn. That 70% is a high number, but it's more of a hope for KP than anything else. Another reason KP should come back? He projects as a 1B and the Rays selected 1B with both their 11th and 12th round picks. There's a chance he could easily get lost in the shuffle.

NAME POS DRAFT PPLPRP*
Brian Fletcher OF 18th/Royals 25%

If Fletcher comes back then it will be the biggest coup for Pawlowski and crew. By coming to Auburn, Fletch improved his draft stock by 21 rounds (up from 39th Round/Astros in 2007) and honestly, the 18th round was kind of low for him:

The Royals got the son of Scott Fletcher, Auburn outfielder Brian Fletcher, in the 18th round. Fletcher has swing-and-miss issues but also hit 20 homers for Auburn this season and has true plus power, along with decent athletic ability. It's something of a surprise that he fell that far.

The reason Fletch fell so far isn't something that can be changed at Auburn. It's his swing. Fletch has this high uppercut swing that results in a lot of power, but also has a major hole towards the bottom. Auburn fans saw it all year with Fletch when it was feast of famine. It was like he was hitting knuckleballs all season. Anything high, he let fly. Anything low, he should have let go:

Still. the 18th Round is nothing to sneeze at. This is completely up to Brian. If he comes back he comes back to set records at Auburn. If he leaves, he starts his pro career. He's got good council either way. I'm pegging him at 25% right now.

NAME POS DRAFT PPLPRP*
Grant Dayton LHP 11th/Marlins 80%

Originally, I was going to put Dayton at 15%. I thought for sure he would go. He wasn't drafted out of High School and after a phenomenal Junior campaign at Auburn, he hears his name called in the 11th Round. Then I looked at his major: Industrial Systems Engineering. I'm thinking Grant might want to stick around one more season and wrap up that pretty sweet degree.

NAME POS DRAFT PPLPRP*
Cole Nelson LHP 10th/Detroit 10%

 

I have to believe that Cole Nelson is gone. His draft stock managed to sky rocket even after, well, I'll let Andrew Gribble sum it up better than I could:

Cole Nelson’s up-and-down season has certainly ended on the up and up.

Nelson, after laboring through starts in the SEC Tournament and NCAA Regional, was selected in the 10th round, 313th overall by the Detroit Tigers. A junior-college transfer from Edina, Minn., Nelson passed on signing a Major League contract when he was selected in the 45th round last year.

It will be shocking if he does the same this time.

Nelson showed flashes of brilliance, but was wildly inconsistent in his one season with the Tigers. He finished with a 6-3 record and a 5.64 earned run average, but was a liability at times when his stuff simply wasn’t there. One week after a complete game shutout against Tennessee, Nelson lasted just 3 1/3 innings against Ole Miss and didn’t throw much more in a start against the Rebels at the SEC Tournament and another clunker Sunday against Southern Miss.

Nelson is tall and left-handed, two things Major League scouts absolutely love. Perhaps with a new set of coaches, Nelson will be able to figure a way to stay consistent.

Honestly, he's got to go. 10th Round Money won't be anything to sneeze at. Plus, with the rotation the Tigers have lined up, he won't have a ton of competition for his future role in long relief.

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Some Quick Final Thoughts on the Auburn Baseball Season

As I write this, it's midnight in my hotel room in Mobile. Unfortunately, I missed the final game of the Auburn baseball season. I had been to every home game I could this year, and the games I couldn't attend, I listened intently on the radio. Why am I writing this blog? At this hour? Honestly, because even after my friend Jager and Budweiser, this still feels like the ultimate catharsis. To sit here, and type out, on this small Acer Netbook, which was not designed for my massive bear paws that I call hands, my thoughts on the conclusion of the Auburn baseball season. Still, of course, as I'm writing this, all that follows below is sic'd. It's just stream of consciousness ramblings at this point. I'd love to hear your comments and thoughts below.

First of all, a thank you is in order. Thank you to all the readers of this blog, and all the followers on twitter. Thank you to Coach John Pawlowski and his staff and the job they did this year. Was this season a success? Hell yes it was. Let me remind you that this was a team that was picked to finished next to last in the SEC west that rebounded and actually WON the west. First, this season was a success when we clinched a spot in the SEC Tournament. That was goal one going into the year. Everything else was just icing on the cake. To move on, and host a regional? Incredible. To lose in the final game? Yes, that sucks. However, honestly, Auburn was on borrowed time. Yes, this was a magical team, but the holes we have in the pitching rotation were never going to make up for the offense (the record setting offense) that we managed this season. So, where do I start on this season?

Well, I'll start with the fans. I had the priviliege to attend the Sunday Night Game and oh buddy was it magical. Magical in every regard. That game showed something to me. This is where Auburn needs to be baseball wise. There is absolutely no reason that Auburn shouldn't have attendance like the regionals on every home game. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever. Look, I'm going to break it down to you, and I'm going to be blunt here: Plainsman Park has to chance, the opportunity, no, the destiny to be one of the greatest venues in all of college baseball. We have an incredible park, and we have incredible fans. Put them together and you have a winning combination. This is your role next year, as Auburn fans. Go to the games. If you don't have tickets? Then fill up the parking deck. Show Auburn that you support the team. I cannont tell you how dishertining it was to watch a Saturday day game that was sparsely attended. Here you have these kids, these players, these students, the majority of whom are playing this game for the final times in their lives, and the majority of whom are playing as walk ons or partial scholarshps, giving their all, sweating their asses off, and making your school and my school proud. The least you can do is plunk down $5 for a ticket and watch them. Scream for them, cheer for them, root for them. Mississippi State has the left field lounge. I want Auburn to have "The Upper Deck". Get loud. Get into the games. However, that starts with one thing. Attendance. GO TO THE GAMES. If you live within an hour of Plainsman Park, try to make it to at least one game. You owe it to the players. The atmosphere on Sunday night was amazing. It was hair raising. It was blood curdling. Plainsman Park can be an intimidating venue, but it starts with one thing: You, the fan.

So what to say about the Auburn baseball season? Well, it was a good run. Hell, it was a great run, a fantastic run. Screw it. It was a magical run. However, it was just the start. Like I said earlier, just making the SEC Tournament was the goal this year. Everything else was just icing. And oh, what delicious icing it was. From Creede Simpson's earth shattering blast to Kevin Patterson's game winner against Ole Miss. This, was a season for the ages. You witnessed one of the best hitting teams in America play for your school. For your team. Auburn has MLB quality hitters up and down the lineup.

Before someone says, "Oh they were Slater's players". Bump that noise. If they were Slater's players then why did we NEVER reach the SEC tournament under his helm. Maybe that's the difference between Pawlowski and Slater. Those tools, those elements, those intangibles that make a team great.

That being said, one thing needs to made perfectly clear. The 2010 Auburn Baseball team and the 2011 Baseball team are going to be world's apart. It will be a rebuilt lineup from top to bottom. Creede Simpson, Dan Gamache, (hopefully) Justin Fradejas. These guys will go down in Auburn lore. How? Well, it starts with the lessons learned this year. The experience that was gained. This year proved and showed one thing. Auburn baseball is back. Whether it is here to stay will all determine on the 2011 campaign. You want a reason for Pawlowski to be at Auburn for a long time? The 2011 Season is his toughest task yet. I will write it down here. I will set it in stone. If John Pawlowski returns Auburn to the SEC Tournament next year, then we need to lock him up for good. Why? Because if he puts together a team capable to compete and win next year, after losing so many players to MLB draft? Then it's just a matter of time before Pawlowski gets us to Omaha. I believe in his system and you should too.

Of course, I'll have more on the forecast for next year during the summer. For now, the focus is one the MLB draft and how it could affect the 2011 team. In a perfect world, all these guys. All these juniors; would stay one more year. If they did? Wow. Then Auburn WILL go to Omaha. If they don't then honestly, it's not the end of the world. This team is going to morph and change over the summer. This team is going to become Pawlowski's team. His Players. His System. His Way. Personally, I wouldn't want it any other way.

This season showed one single defining thing: Auburrn baseball isn't just a fill in sport between football. Auburn baseball can be a dominant program. However, it takes you, the fan, to believe and support this team. Next year could be lean. Next year could be rough. However, with 5,000 strong supporting the Tigers every night in Plainsman Park? Anything and everything is possible.

AUPPL will shut down for a bit while I finish this conference. However, it's been a fun and amazing run. I've seen huge highs and some low lows. I wouldn't change them for the world. Yes, the season ended on a sour note. However, they can't take away that magical Sunday night, when Creede Simpson showed the world that this was just the start for Auburn baseball. War Eagle.

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Regional Storyline #3: Student Meets Teacher



He wasn't John Pawlowski's coach at Clemson, but his impact is felt in almost everything he does:

“Coach Leggett gave me my first opportunity to coach in college baseball and I certainly can’t say enough about that.”



and if Auburn and Clemson meet in the NCAA Regional this weekend it won't be the first time they've squared off. Still, Clemson coach Jack Leggett was already thinking about Pawlowski and Auburn after the Regional Selection Show:

While Leggett talked with reporters, his cell phone buzzed. It was a text from Pawlowski, reading, “Congratulations, and see you soon.” The two talk regularly, and will do so this week, too, Leggett said.

“I’m excited about seeing him, first of all,” Leggett said. “Checking in on him, seeing how he’s doing, how his daughter (Mary-Louise, who is battling cancer) is doing. He’s done a great job with the program.

It's one thing to surround yourself with good people, but quite another to surround yourself with talent like Leggett has done. Talent that has produced some of the Nations best coaches:

Few training grounds have been as productive at creating successful college baseball coaches as the Leggett school of baseball management.

In the SEC alone, Leggett disciples comprise 33 percent of the conference's head coaches.

In addition to Pawlowski, Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan has guided Florida to a No. 1 seed, and Tim Corbin has led Vanderbilt to a No. 2 seed. Todd Raleigh is in his third year at Tennessee.

The Leggett tree has produced 31 assistant and head coaches at the college and pro levels.

"I'm very proud of it," Leggett said. "They've been around this program a long time, every one of them, and hopefully they've drawn something from it."

So what did Pawlowski learn from from Jack Leggett ?

"He's a football coach in a baseball uniform," said Pawlowski of Leggett, a former football player at Maine. "When you work for coach Leggett he's going to push you. He's going to test you. He is a person you respect, and the track record speaks for itself."

But Pawlowski Learned a thing or two about revealing too much, as evidenced by the Monday text message:

Leggett described it as a generic message, but it was yet another lesson learned from Leggett: keep your cards close.

Pawlowski vs. Leggett will be one of the most interesting matchups to watch. The two seem to have a great relationship that goes back to the Pawlowski's days at Clemson:

To measure the limits of the grizzled Leggett's toughness, Auburn coach John Pawlowski and his then fellow Clemson assistants created their own clandestine challenge.

Their testing ground was Leggett's pre-game ritual. Designed to energize his players, Leggett would slide into his awaiting team gathered near the first-base line, sparking an on-field mosh pit.

Jack Leggett’s coaching tree has produced 31 assistant and head coaches — including Auburn and former College of Charleston coach John Pawlowski — at the college and pro levels.

"As the season progressed we egged on the kids to hit him a little harder," Pawlowski said. "We'd tell the kids to give him a couple rib shots. He came back (complaining) and we'd say, 'Gee, Jack, we don't know why?' "

Student meets teacher. Should be some fun baseball. It's also worth nothing that Leggett was and still is very active in the Mary Louise Pawlowski foundation and helped contribute to some of the fundraising while Pawlowski was at the College of Charleston:



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5P Primer: Clemson



An old coach used to always hammer the 5 "Ps": Prior planning prevents poor performance. Not just a fancy slogan that gets a High School football coach/Driver's Ed instructor through the day; it's also a good way to know what to expect from upcoming Auburn opponents. Here's your 5 "Ps" for Auburn's next possible opponent: The Clemson Tigers



PRESENTING: The Clemson Tigers. Not just "Auburn with a Lake", Clemson is a powerhouse in college baseball. It's a program that has had success since the early days of their first NCAA Regional Appearance in 1947 where they were knocked out a Yale Squad led by future president George H. W. Bush. Clemson is an historically dominant team with 35 NCAA Tournament Appearances (6th all time), 11 College World Series Trips (11th all time) and had a streak from 1987-2007, a 20 year span, where they made 21 consecutive trips to the postseason. This year will mark the 46th consecutive winning season for Clemson Every year the Tigers have one goal and they wear it on the back of their caps: OMAHA.





CU is also a major producer of MLB talent with guys like Kris Benson, Khalil Greene and a guy Auburn fans might know pretty well, John Pawlowski:





PREVIOUSLY: Clemson and Auburn are no strangers on the diamonds. Auburn holds a 47-40-3 mark against CU and that includes series wins in 2003, 2004, and 2005 Clemson and Auburn are no strangers to meeting in the postseason, either. AU and CU have met 9 times in the NCAA Tournament. Clemson own a 5-4 edge in those games but Auburn has won the last 2 (1994 AU 11 CU 5; 2003 AU 15 CU 0). This season Clemson has been up and down and is a hard team to figure out. They did take a series from South Carolina and swept Florida State in their final ACC series, but they've also dropped head-scratchers to Wake Forest, Duke, and North Carolina, 3 Teams that field to make the ACC Tournament. Still they come in with a 38-21 Record and are ranked as high as #16. There has never been a Clemson team that is a pushover and though their record might not reflect it, Clemson has the offense to compete with anyone.





PLAYMAKERS: Pick your poison really. Clemson has 3 players in double digit Home Runs: Kyle Parker (19), Jeff Schaus (15) and John Hinson (12) and some +.400 OBP guys. Kyle Parker will probably be the player most people will take notice of. He came in at #76 in The College Baseball Blog's Top 100:

Parker made an immediate impact on the Clemson baseball team in the spring of 2008 as he played in 57 games making 55 starts. He finished the season with a .303 average, 14 homers, and 50 RBI. He also had a slugging percentage of .559. He picked up several awards for his stellar play including First-team freshman All-American by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball. He was one of only two freshmen on that was named first team All-ACC in 2008.

Kyle had a minor sophomore slump in 2009 as he appeared in 63 games (60 starts) while missing a three game set against Boston College for a spring football game. He finished the season with a .255 batting average with 12 homers and 52 RBI. He finished the season with a .442 slugging percentage while striking out 52 times and getting 29 walks.

In last season’s Top 50 countdown that I did, we had Parker as the 32nd best player in the country. We dropped him lower this season due to the fact that Kyle has been the starting quarterback for the Clemson football team this season. He is currently listed as playing baseball in the upcoming spring and should be drafted pretty high in the 2010 MLB Draft but will his football responsibilities start to affect his play on the baseball field. It affected him during the 2009 season, so we expect that his commitments on the football field will continue to affect him mentally and physically.

Just how good is Parker? Good enough that he could pass up a career as Clemson's starting QB for MLB money and the consensus is that Parker is good enough to be a 1st Round pick. Honestly, that won't matter in this Regional. Still, with a .364 avg, .709 Slugging %, .496 OBP, and 57 RBI, Parker is a stud and a dangerous weapon every time he gets to the plate.





PREVIEW: You want a team that is Auburn's Doppelganger? You found it in Clemson. They have absolute mashers up and down the lineup. They are Junior heavy (7 of their 9 normal starters are 3 year guys, with 5 Jrs/1 Sr/and 1 RS Soph). It can be a scary offense when it clicks. The only edge is pitching. I haven't really seen a pitcher on the Clemson staff who I think could shut down Auburn. They don't have a stud arm like Southern Miss and Copeland. What they do have are solid arms and enough options to play matchups throughout the tournament. Junior LHP Casey Harman is their most consistent guy and somewhat of their defacto Ace with a 6-2 Recoerd and 4.14 ERA. The Pitching staff is strikeout heavy (a 2:1 K:BB ratio). For Auburn, the key will be limiting the firepower of Clemson while keeping their own bats hot.





PREDICTION: Hard to pick this one because you never know what Clemson team will show up. Will it be the Tiger team that swept Florida State? or the Tiger team that somehow lost to Wake Forest and Duke? When they click, they can beat anyone. When they struggle, they struggle mightily. Still, I won't pick against Auburn in the Regional.


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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Good News from 1,762 Miles Away

 

It was kind of a blip. Not many Auburn might have noticed, but a move made by Arizona State today could have a good ramifications for the Tigers. Tempe to Auburn is 1,762 miles according to google maps, but after the Sun Devils announcement the two towns are now worlds apart:

Tim Esmay will continue as Arizona State's baseball coach beyond this season.

Lisa Love, ASU Vice President for Athletics, announced Tuesday night at a team banquet saluting the No. 1 Sun Devils that Esmay no longer is an interim coach. A formal announcement is planned for today.

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/sports/asu/articles/2010/06/01/20100601arizona-state-baseball-tim-esmay.html#ixzz0pieZXX1q

 

Arizona State now has a permanent head coach, replacing the outted Pat Murphy:

Last June, Tim Esmay was fired from the ASU Baseball coaching staff.  A year later, after leading the Sun Devils to a 46-8 record and the #1 National seed, as well as their 4th straight Pac-10 Championship, Tim Esmay is now officially leading the Sun Devils as the Head Coach.  He was named the Interim Head Coach back in December after Pat Murphy was abruptly fired after 15 seasons, and didn’t picked up right where Murph left off. There were many doubters coming into this season, and they were silenced by a 24-0 start.  ”I am extremely honored to lead this program and carry on the storied tradition,” Esmay said. “To be able to be the head coach at my alma mater is a dream come true!”

 

So how does this affect Auburn? Well we can knock off one of the best suitors for John Pawlowski off the list. Paws has ties to ASU and has spoken about how much he loves the program. With this hiring, that’s one less school that can legitimately come courting for Pawlowski.

I’ll go on the record and say there are two schools I could legitimately see Pawlowski leaving Auburn for: Arizona State and Clemson. Arizona State now has their head man and Clemson is in the post season again.

Still, be warned Auburn fans, Pawlowski is going to be a hot commodity in the offseason and will have a meeting with Jay Jacobs coming up this month to discuss a contract extension.

Currently he’s under a 5 Year deal and if Pawlowski does leave he would owe the school his base salary ($180,000) multiplied by the number of years left on his contract (4) for a grand total of $720,000. A pretty big chunk of change.

As for the other Auburn coaches? Link Jarrett’s name is going to start popping up soon as a potential head coach at some schools. However, I’d hope the powers that be know how big a commodity the hitting coach has been to Auburn.

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Regional Storyline #2: The Best Player You’ve Never Heard Of

That would be Todd Cunningham, OF for Jacksonville State. The Gamecocks are no strangers to producing Major League level talent. I mean, it was just a few years ago that Ben Tootle was wowing scouts with his blazing fast ball. However, Cunningham is different. He’s special (not that Tootle wasn’t/isn’t). So where do you start with the Hometown hero from Jacksonville, Alabama. Probably with his accomplishments:

2010 Baseball America Preseason All-American (First Team)
2010 Ping! Baseball Preseason All-American
2009 Cape Cod League Thurmon Munson Batting Champion
2009 Cape Cod League Top Prospect
2009 OVC All-Tournament
2009 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District
2009 OVC Commissioner’s Honor Roll
2008 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American
2008 Ping Baseball All-Ping! Freshman Team
2008 OVC Freshman of the Year
2008 OVC All-Conference Second Team
2008 OVC All-Freshman Team
2008 OVC Commissioner’s Honor Roll



Personally, the one that stands out to me is being named 2009 Cape Cod League Top Prospect. The Cape is stacked with MLB talent year in and year out and for Cunningham to stand out, even on a team with Hunter Morris and Brian Fletcher is just scratching the surface on his talent.

Has been a tremendous player during his first two years…a very steady player that has been asset to the program...he is a guy that wants to be the very best at whatever he does and works that way on a daily basis, and it pays off…an outstanding defensive player, accurate throwing arm and a switch hitter…can steal bases and plays hard everyday…gets a good jump on the ball and is a very accurate thrower…had an outstanding summer playing in the Cape Cod League last year.

It’s really that time at the Cape that solidified Cunningham's status. It was a fabulous summer where he was named Player of the Month, an All Star, and flirted with history at the Cape when he came close to hitting .400 against some of the toughest competition in the nation:

On a night when it seemed to be raining hardware in Falmouth, Todd Cunningham (Jacksonville State) was also distinguished as the Pro-Prospect of the Year. The scouts, using the simple criteria of who will make the biggest major league impact in their career, vote on the Robert A. McNeece Pro Prospect of the Year Award.

Cunningham joins a group of recognizable names from Cape League History and Major League Baseball. Matt Wieters (Georgia Tech) won the award with Orleans back in 2006 and is now in the discussion for American League Rookie of the Year with the Baltimore Orioles. Mark Teixeira(Georgia Tech) of Orleans and Billy Wagner (Ferrum) of Brewster are both former winners of this prestigious award.

The young man they call “Cape Todd” got this award because he receives at least a four rating in four of the five categories in a scout’s book. (Scouts tend to rate the ‘five tools’ which are running, fielding, throwing, hitting and power hitting on a scale from one to five. This means that an excellent player in each area is a ‘five-tool player’ or a ’55.’) Cunningham’s power ability is a point of concern for some scouts, but others feel he may acquire the ability to hit for power. Either way, his other four tools are all in the plus column.

It’s that Super Summer that also had Cunningham shooting up some MLB Draft Boards:

Some question the quality of competition he faces at Jacksonville State, but Todd Cunningham showed he can hang with the big boys when he lead the Cape Cod League in hitting by 36 points. Cunningham is a good athlete with plus speed and shows solid range for center field. He should be an average defender despite his lack of ideal arm strength. Cunningham has everything it takes to be a solid big league regular, including a good approach at the plate – he’s walked 15.1% of the time and struck out in 11.3% of his trips to the plate

One site even listed him in the Top 25 of players taken in the draft noting:

Plus runner, fringy arm, extremely well balanced hitter with decent power potential

His scouting report is something solid and something I’m sure every coach would want on their team:

Scouting Report: With a good approach and great balance at the plate, Cunningham stood out early as one of the more advanced college hitters in the Draft class. He should hit for average and with some power down the road. His plus speed will allow him to steal bases and defend well in the outfield. While he'd be OK in center, he could be a plus defender in left, with the only real question being if he'll have enough pop to profile as a corner guy. Even with that one small concern, Cunningham is setting himself up to possibly be one of the earlier college bats taken in June. ~mlb.com

He came in at #44 in The College Baseball Blog’s Top 100:

We continue the list today with number 44 in our countdown with Jacksonville State junior outfielder Todd Cunningham. He is from Jacksonville (AL) High School where he played five years of high school baseball under David Deerman, Michael Graben and Rusty Burroughs. He finished his high school career with a .446 batting average with 216 runs scored and 112 stolen bases for the Golden Eagles. In his senior season, he hit .430 with 66 runs scored and an on-base percentage of .593. He picked up several honors in high school as he was named a three-time first-team All-State selection (2005, 2006, 2007) and named second-team All-State in 2004 by the Alabama Sports Writers Association.

He made an immediate impact on the Jacksonville State lineup as he appeared in 57out of the teams 58 games. He finished the season with a .340, after recording 73 hits, with 16 doubles, three triples, one home runs and 30 RBI. He was named the Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year while being named 2008 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American. He spent the summer of 2008 in the Texas Collegiate League where he played for the Brazos Valley Bombers. He finished the summer with a .310 average with 17 RBI while stealing 13 bases in 15 attempts. He was named to the 2008 All-League team.

Cunningham continued his strong collegiate career during the 2009 season as he hit .339 with 10 homers and 47 RBI as he appeared in all 57 games for the Gamecocks. He also was solid on the base paths as he stole nine bases in eleven attempts. He spent the summer of 2009 in the Cape Cod Baseball League with the Falmouth Commodores. He finished the summer with a .378 batting average and an on-base percentage of .458 which were both the best in the League. He also showed some power by hitting three homers and driving in 22 runs. He continued to be solid on the bases as he stole 11 bases in 14 attempts. He was named to the CCBL All-Star game and was selected for the CCBL All-League team. Baseball America rated him the ninth best player in the League.

The Sporting News had a great profile on Cunningham and his mental approach to the game. He practices hard, plays hard, and the results are paying off. He’s got scouts drooling but he doesn’t even notice:

"If they were there, it's news to me," Cunningham laughed. "The did a good job of hiding, I'll tell you that. But I don't consider myself toolsy at all. I have to work at it. I'm not able to go out there without practicing and just drop bombs, run a 6.2 60 [yard dash] or throw 95 from the outfield. I'm just not good enough to do that. But the ability to put it all together and work through struggles, to put together good at-bats or move runners over, that's my strength."

"Look, I'm not even really thinking about the draft. Considering it career possibility isn't something I planned. It just sort of happened after I had the good showing in the Cape. I owe a lot of my success to other people I've worked with....It's about surrounding yourself with good players and good people."

So there you go. One of the best players in the nation will be in Auburn on Friday. Check him out before he starts turning heads in the Pros.

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5P Primer: Jacksonville State

An old coach used to always hammer the 5 "Ps": Prior planning prevents poor performance. Not just a fancy slogan that gets a High School football coach/Driver's Ed instructor through the day; it's also a good way to know what to expect from upcoming Auburn opponents. Here's your 5 "Ps" for Auburn's next opponent: The Jacksonville State Gamecocks

PRESENTING: The Jacksonville State University Gamecocks. A relative newcomer on the D1 Baseball scene, the Cocks won DIII Titles in 1990 and 1991 and have dominated Ohio Valley Competition. Winning either the Tournament or Regular Season titles in 04, 05, 06, 08, and this year in 2010. This will be Gamecocks third appearance in the NCAA Tournament but are still searching for that elusive first postseason win.

PREVIOUSLY- AU and JSU didn’t play for 16 years until they finally renewed their series a couple of weeks ago. Now the Tigers and Gamecocks will square off again. Auburn leads the all time series 14-12 and won 9-7 in the May 18th matchup. I wouldn’t use that as a barometer for Auburn. Honestly, for the Tigers the focus was elsewhere. It was the final regular season homegame, a midweek game, in between class sessions. Still it was a bit of a wakeup call for Auburn and I’m sure it will be extra motivation for Auburn because it’s already motivation for JSU:

“I’m excited to have a second shot at them,” said second baseman Bert Smith, the other Gamecocks player with NCAA regional experience. “The thing I remember about that game is we didn’t quit.
“We kept fighting and kept fighting. Even though we got beat, it gave us hope we actually could beat someone as good as Auburn.”
Having played so recently will have some advantages for the Gamecocks, JSU coach Jim Case said.
“You probably have a truer vision of what they’re about,” he said. “Auburn wasn’t playing great early, well, they’ve played fantastic late — we’ve seen that — so from that standpoint, that’s true.
“But probably the pitchers we saw may not be the same guys we’ll see, so there is a difference. But it’s the same with us. The guys they will see will be different guys.”

 

PLAYMAKERS- Surprisingly, there are a number of guys to look out for on the JSU roster. Todd Cunningham and Bert Smith are the two offensive sparkplugs that can do the most damage. They aren’t complete power guys (Smith has a total of Zero HRs all year) but they are consistent. Smith has a .371 avg and Cunningham has a .352 avg. Both guys are patient at the plate and have sold speed. Mainly, it’s just their ability to get on base that makes them dangerous. Both were also all OVC Tournament Selections. Smith has a complete checklist of accomplishments:

2009 OVC Preseason All-Conference
2008 Ohio Valley Conference First-Team
2008 OVC All-Tournament
OVC Player of the Week (May 12, 2008)
2007 Ohio Valley Conference First-Team
2007 OVC All-Tournament
2006 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America
2006 Ohio Valley Conference Second-Team
2006 Ohio Valley Conference All-Freshman
2006 OVC All-Tournament

The Senior from Pelham is a blazer on the basepaths, solid defensively, and it’s just his lack of power that prevents him from being a complete 5 Tool player.

Cunningham is probably the best player you’ve never heard of. The Hometown kid has a solid league in the Cape Cod League and was a preseason All-American.

On the hill, it’s really Austin Lucas and that’s it. At least Statwise. Luca is 6-0 on the year with 3 Complete Games and 1 Shutout. Decent on Strikeouts and his 4.97 ERA is deceiving. The Senior from Alabaster is a big game pitcher and just wins. That’s all your can really ask from a starter.

PREVIEW: Again, you can’t take the 9-7 Auburn win as Gospel. Auburn and JaxState are both completely different teams. Even though it’s only been roughly three weeks since they last met. Lucas would be a challenge (if he actually starts) but Auburn will counter with Cory Luckie. Both teams will come in hungry but for Auburn, this first game is getting back on track and washing away the taste of a disappointing SEC Tournament. Luckie will need to limit Cunningham and Smith.

PREDICTION: I can’t pick against Auburn here. I just can’t. Plainsman Park will be sold out and Auburn fans are chomping at the bit to advance. The First step is Jacksonville State. Time to take care of business. I’m going with Auburn.

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