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Golden Sombrero: Alex Gordon (again)

Top 1: Alex Gordon stuck out swinging against Brandon Morrow

Top 2: Gordon struck out swinging against Morrow

Top 4: Gordon struck out swinging against Morrow

Top 6: Gordon singled to left against Will Ledezma

Top 8: Gordon called out on strikes against Joel Carreno

Final Line: 1-for-5, 4 K

Notes: Gordon’s golden sombrero on Tuesday night was his second of the season, both of which have featured a hit in addition the to four punchouts.  He accounted for three of Morrow’s five strikeouts in the game.  If not for the single in the sixth inning, Gordon would have contended for this year’s first platinum sombrero.

Total 2011 Sombreros: 95

Minor League Links: Bauer, Odorizzi, Viciedo and Nimmo

Currently ripping through Minor League hitters, Trevor Bauer is on the fast track to the Show.  The best pitcher in college baseball in 2011, Bauer features three plus pitches (fastball, curve and changeup) and possesses the ability to work deep into games.  The third-overall selection by the Arizona Diamondbacks, Bauer fanned 17 hitters and allowed just seven hits over nine innings at High-A Visalia before he was promoted to Double-A Mobile.  There it has been more of the same: two starts, eight hits and 17 strikeouts in 10 innings.  With the mechanics, repertoire and competitiveness that draw comparisons to Tim Lincecum, Kevin Goldstein wonders if Bauer is “The Next Freak?” (*Baseball Prospectus subscription required)

Considering that Bauer was considering the most Big-League-ready pitcher in this year’s draft, and given his rapid ascent through the Minors, many baseball writers and scouts believe that the right-hander is poised for a September call-up.  Over at Fangraphs, Jack Moore argues that Bauer can make an immediate impact and that the Diamondbacks should call him up.

In a recent installment of “9 Innings,” Greg Schaum of Pine Tar Press sat down with Royals’ pitching prospect Jake Odorizzi to pick his brain.  Odorizzi discusses the adjustments he’s had to make between levels, emotions associated with being traded, and his workout routine in the off-season and between starts.

My favorite MiLB writer, John Sickels, continued to review his pre-season Top 20 organizational prospects by reflecting on the White Sox farm system.  Suffice it to say, my favorite team’s system is depleted and pretty unimpressive.

Speaking of the White Sox, with Carlos Quentin’s shoulder injury—not to mention his inability to play with even the slightest amount of pain—Larry from South Side Sox writes that “It’s Still Time for Viciedo,” who, in my opinion, should have been recalled well over a month ago.

One of the most intriguing prospects in this year’s MLB Draft is Brandon Nimmo, who was selected by the Mets in the 13th-round to become the first-ever first-round selection out of Wyoming.  Coming from a high school that lacked a baseball team, Nimmo established himself as a top-prospect thanks to a remarkable season for his American Legion team.  With a projectable frame and great, raw athleticism, Mets 360 wonders if Nimmo is the next Josh Hamilton.

*Golden Sombrero update: On Monday night, Nimmo fanned in all four at-bats and is now 3-for-15 (all singles) in his budding, professional career.

Where Are They Now: The Last 11 CMWS MVP’s

The Connie Mack World Series features star-studded amateur lineups annually, but after some reflection and some searching around old programs and online, a look at the last 11 MVP’s of the Series perhaps does the event justice.  Remember that these were just the players who had the best week while they were here and were not necessarily the top prospect or even the best player on any team.  For instance, in 2003 Danny Payne won the Series MVP award as a member of an East Cobb Yankee team that also included Chris Nelson and Dexter Fowler of the Colorado Rockies.  Without further ado, here are the last 11 CMWS MVP’s beginning with 2010’s MVP, Dillon Howard of the Midland Redskins.

2010: Dillon Howard – Midland Redskins

Howard has been mentioned in pre-draft analysis here at the Sombrero before, but after his selection in the second round by Cleveland and his commitment to Arkansas in the fall, he surely lived up to the hype after his MVP performance at the 2010 CMWS.  Look for Howard to either sign for close to $2 million  (over $1 million above slot value for his spot in the draft) in the next week or so, or attend Arkansas and entrench himself in the Razorbacks’ rotation for the next three years.  He’s a stud and is rostered for the 2011 Series, so he likely has the ball in the opening round against Danville in what could prove to be his last amateur start.  Cleveland will surely have a team of guys here monitoring that start.

2009 – Deven Marrero – Midland Redskins

Marrero is currently in Cape Cod with the Cotuit Kettleers and is regarded almost unanimously as the top position player there.  His career at ASU has been brilliant, and he has the feet, hands, and arm to be an impact SS in the professional ranks.  Marrero hit .471 in 2009’s Series, but was perhaps outshined a bit at his own position by Manny Machado of the Florida Legends who was selected third overall in 2010 and is now the premier SS prospect in the Minors today.  Marrero nevertheless has posted a career line of .349/.390/.515 at ASU and has been the premier defender in the PAC-10 since he arrived on campus in Tempe.

2008: Buck Farmer – East Cobb Yankees

Farmer signed at Georgia Tech out of high school after winning the CMWS MVP as a rising senior and has been terrific with the Yellow Jackets.  In 2011 as a sophomore the righty started 16 games as GTs #2 behind first rounder Jed Bradley.  Farmer posted a 2.91 ERA with 106 K’s opposed to 31 BB’s on his way to an 11-3 mark over 108.1 IP.  He has a tight slider with a lively changeup that both project as at least 50’s, and his fastball works in the low-90’s with good arm-side run.  Farmer has a chance to land inside the first round (probably 25-40) and should not make it to day 2 considering his stuff and history of success in the ACC despite struggling a bit in the cape with Chatham this summer.

2007: Eric Hosmer – Midland Redskins

Eric Hosmer played in the CMWS as a member of the Florida Legends as a sophomore in 2006 and as a Redskin in 2007 and 2008.  His career at American Heritage in Florida was historic as he led them to a state title as a senior while garnering several All-American honors.  He played the 2008 Series after being selected 3rd overall and refusing to sign until Midland’s summer was over.  As a result, the community of Farmington absolutely loves Eric Hosmer and will always support him in his career, which has landed him the starting 1B gig in KC for the foreseeable future.  As a rookie Hosmer has slashed .283/.335/.451 with 10 jacks.  Hosmer is going to be an all-star with a ceiling that probably doesn’t exist and a chance at the HOF.

2006: Jason Jarvis – Arizona Firebirds

Jason Jarvis was electric for the Firebirds in their only championship run to date.  He was among the tournament’s finest at the plate and on the mound, although his career post-HS was spent on the mound.  Jarvis closed for ASU in 2007 with moderate success especially when considering the role that the freshman landed.  However, Jarvis was deemed ineligible at ASU during the 2008 season due to a conflict involving an online art course.  Jarvis was exonerated of all academic dishonesty charges following an appeal, but the university shamefully refused to allow Jarvis back on the team.  Check this link out if you’re even considering attending ASU, and then don’t go. http://prof-fan.blogspot.com/2008/03/asu-baseball-jason-jarvis-declared.html Seriously.  Bud Selig for once made the right call and allowed Jarvis to enter the MLB draft a year early, and he made it as high as AA as a 20-year old starter before converting to the pen and ultimately being released last year.

2005: Gordon Beckham – East Cobb Yankees

In 2005 the city of Farmington was witness to a show to remember at shortstop in the title game between the East Cobb Yankees; Gordon Beckham and Danny Espinosa of the Trombly Braves.  It seemed to the fans in attendance that they were just trading blows at short with exceptional play after exceptional play and big hit after big hit.  Both stars are now in the Bigs after tremendous careers at South Carolina and Long Beach State respectively.  Beckham is having his second consecutive down year slashing .250/.307/.357 for the sub-.500 White Sox while Espinosa is slashing .226/.314/.420 with a shot at 20 bombs.  Regardless of where their careers ultimately lead, for me and for many in attendance on 2005’s title night, there will never be a pair of shortstops that put on a show of the same quality as these two did.

2004: Cameron Maybin – Midland Redskins

Cameron Maybin played CF for Midland in the 2003 and 2004 CMWS and dazzled both years showing obvious athleticism and baseball instincts. He was selected in the first round (10th overall) by the Tigers in 2005 and signed for $2.65 million.  He was the centerpiece of the deal that sent Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers and now is starting in center for the Padres after being traded for Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica.  His slash line of .273/.326/.399 is a little light, but he should steal around 40 bags by the end of 2011 while playing terrific defense (4th best among NL CF’s).  He has a chance to be an all-star at some point in his career and is outstandingly talented with room still to grow considering he’s only 24.

2003: Danny Payne – East Cobb Yankees

Danny Payne was a member of one of the more talented teams East Cobb has assembled with numerous Big Leaguers, high draft picks, and major conference signees, but Payne was the guy to walk away with the MVP hardware in August of 2003.  As a two-way performer for Georgia Tech, Payne garnered All-ACC and All-America honors and was later drafted in the supplemental round by the Padres in the 2007 MLB draft.  Payne is currently a 25-year old in the California League (High A) demonstrating above average on-base skills but little else and is probably in need of a change of scenery as he has been demoted from both AAA and AA this year.

2002: Randy Akasaka – Long Beach Cardinals

Randy Akasaka still holds the Series bomb record with 6 despite adding two teams to the field in recent years and thusly an extra round to the event.  Akasaka went on to catch at Cal State-Northridge and Cal State-Los Angeles but never was able to catch on professionally.  The Cardinals were the last team from Southern California to win the CMWS, and Akasaka along with teammates Ricky Romero (Toronto’s ace) and Danny Dorn (AAA-Reds) were a big reason why.

2001: Micah Owings – East Cobb Yankees

Micah Owings was a two-way star for the East Cobb Yankees before attending Georgia Tech.  He later transferred to Tulane who he led to the nation’s top ranking and a trip to Omaha.  Owings signed with Arizona following his selection in the 3rd round.  He debuted in the Show as the Diamondbacks 5th starter in 2007 and, after spending around two seasons with the Reds, is back with Arizona and in the rotation.  Perhaps the most notable aspect of Owings’ career is his frequent use as a pinch hitter relative to other MLB pitchers.  He even won the 2007 Silver Slugger.

2000: Paul Oseguera – Encinitas Reds

This is my personal favorite MVP because Paul stayed with my family during the World Series alongside Hank Blalock’s younger brother, Jake.  Paul gave up just a single run in two CG’s as a 16-year old to lead the Reds to the first title of the new millennium.  After pitching for the UCLA Bruins, Paul signed with the Giants following his selection in the 16th round of the 2006 draft.  He battled injuries much of his college and professional careers and was released in July of 2010 after reaching as high as AA with appearances in the A’s and Giants organizations.

This is quite a list to be sure.  Who will be added to it from 2011’s Series?  My early prediction is Florida’s Albert Almora, but that requires the Legends to first win the championship.  Dark horse candidate: Mike Bernal of the Strike Zone Cardinals.

Golden Sombrero: Carl Crawford

Bottom 2: Carl Crawford grounded into force out against Kyle Davies

Bottom 4: Crawford struck out swinging against Davies

Bottom 7: Crawford grounded out to second against Tim Collins

Bottom 9: Crawford struck out swinging against Aaron Crow

Bottom 11: Crawford stuck out swinging against Greg Holland

Bottom 14: Crawford struck out swinging against Joakim Soria

Final Line: 0-for-6, R, SB, 6 LOB

Notes: Like so many others, Crawford’s golden sombrero against the Royals on Monday night was made possible by extra innings. His final two strikeouts were extremely costly, as the one in the 11th inning came with two outs and runners on first and second, and the one if the 14th led off the Red Sox final at-bat.

Total 2011 Sombreros: 75

Where are they now? Vance Wilson

That's me - amazed in the summer of 2006 that I had just netted the autograph of my all-time favorite backup catcher: Vance Wilson.

Backup Catcher Edition

What has Vance Wilson been up to in his post playing days?

Vance Wilson now manages the Kane County Cougars.

Even for baseball fans of the hardest core,  that’s a seldom-asked question. Why would anyone ask about the former Met and Tiger catcher, forever a backup, who never played in more than 96 games in any of his eight years as a player?

But I had to smile today when I discovered that Wilson has stayed in baseball, now as manager of the Kane County Cougars (Low-A, Kansas City Royals).  (Though I was disappointed in myself for failing to realize I was in his midst at a Cougars game in May.) Because for reasons I still don’t completely understand, Wilson was my all-time favorite player.

Maybe it was because he was the true unsung hero on his teams. Not just a under-appreciated catcher, but an unheralded backup catcher. He could come into games late and produce results – a hard-to-do task after a full day sitting on the bench.

Though his sporadic playing time rarely allowed him to get into a rhythm, he had a solid .250 career batting average, and he threw out a whopping 40 percent of would-be base-stealers. That’s awesome.

But even better, the guy I inexplicably called “Vance the Pants,” provided me with one of my all-time favorite baseball memories.

On a sunny summer day before a Tigers-White Sox game in 2006, Wilson was signing autographs down the left field line. I ventured down a few rows at Comerica Park to see if Wilson would sign the Paul Konerko foul ball I had gloved during batting practice.

There wasn’t much of a crowd around Wilson, so the task was easy. I handed him the ball and, emboldened by what seemed like a once in a lifetime chance to chat, said: “Vance, this is going to sound really weird, but you’re my favorite player.”

“Kid, you’ve got problems,” Wilson said, handing me back a newly-inked baseball that had just become a prized possession.