Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Rundown: Diamond Diaper Dandies

There is a lot of stuff inspiring this edition of The Rundown.

First, pitchers and catchers reported to Florida and Arizona today, marking the start of Spring Training for the 2008 Major League Baseball season.

Secondly, the shenanigans that took place in Congress this afternoon featuring Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee have left such a foul taste in my mouth and cast a shadow on the last, I dunno, at least ten years of baseball that I wanted to think about something good in the game.

Third, my boy Adam Facebook'd me today needing some insight for a Dynasty Baseball Draft he's got coming up and I've had baseball prospects on the brain since I read the message this AM.

And finally, Dick Vitale - Dicky V Baby - made his triumphant return to broadcasting last week and I didn't give him any love. Dude is a legend, whether you like him or not, so today, we're busting out the following...

Top Five Baseball Youngsters to Watch this Season

Now, before launching into the My Five, some ground rules, so I don't get people (Chalk) chirping me about the picks:

  • Anyone who watches baseball knows the names Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, so they're out.
  • I don't pick 30-year-old Japanese "rookies" for this thing either. Fukudome? Fukudo-you!
  • There are some guys I like more long term than these five (Jay Bruce, Travis Snider and a handful of pitchers) but these cats will have an impact this season.
On with the show.

5. Joey Votto - First Base, Cincinnati Reds
Kick it off with a fellow Canuck! "Junior Varsity" should start from Day One this season for the Reds. He won't because new bench boss Dusty Baker has a predilection for playing veterans that don't deserve to play over kids oozing with talent, but I can't control that. He looked real good in his September call-up last season and with a surprising number of quality bats around him, Votto should slip into the seventh spot in the order and get every opportunity to excel.

4. Homer Bailey - Pitcher, Cincinnati Reds
Yes, you're seeing a trend here with Cincinnati Reds. They have some talent coming up through the ranks for the first time in 20 years and Bailey is tops amongst their pitchers. He would rate higher if I wasn't a little scared by his shaky debut last season. That being said, he was 20 years old at time and dominated upon returning to the minors. He should nab 10 wins easy this season and if Cincy surprises (like I think they might) look for a couple extra dubyas.

3. Gio Gonzalez - Pitcher, Oakland A's
The key acquisition in the trade that sent "The Man of 1,000 Handshakes" Nick Swisher to Chicago, Gonzalez has now been dealt three times in three years and it's not because no one wants him. Homeboy is a strikeout machine, leading the minors last season and since Oakland has some holes to fill in the rotation, Gonzalez will get ample opportunity.

2. Evan Longoria - Third Base, Tampa Bay (No Longer Devil) Rays
No I didn't just suggest the Desperate Housewives star as a pick for your fantasy baseball team. And no, they're not brother and sister. I'm not sure if they're related, but it doesn't really matter. Plain and simple, Longoria can hit. Third base is his NQA and he could end up being this season's Ryan Braun. You know, the same Ryan Braun I pegged at the start of last season as a Breakout Star.

1. Justin Upton - Outfield, Arizona Diamondbacks
Let the "Whose the better Upton?" debate begin as younger brother Justin gets ready to take on older brother B.J. for family bragging rights. Big brother will be an All-Star this season (you like that Chalk?) and little bro won't be too far behind. National League Rookie of the Year. You heard it here.

Play Ball!

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