Monday, December 27, 2010

Garrett Wittels

Robin Ventura was an outstanding MLB third baseman who had a sensational career at Oklahoma State University. When you talk about collegiate superstars, Ventura is definitely in the discussion. And his 58-game hitting streak in college is the Division I record.

It's a record that is currently being challenged by Florida International's Garrett Wittels, who happens to be Jewish. But Wittels didn't burst onto the scene like Ventura did as a freshman. In fact, I would say Wittels and Ventura are a study in contrasts.

Ventura's line as a freshman was .469/.574/.846 for an OPS of 1.420 in 241 ABs. He hit 21 HRs and 28 doubles. Wittels' line as a freshman was .246/.323/.314 for an OPS of .637 in 118 ABs. He hit 1 HR and 5 doubles.

Flash forward to 2010. Wittels' line as a sophomore was .413/.463/.541 for an OPS of 1.004 in 242 ABs. He hit 2 HRs, 2 triples, and 21 doubles. Not a ton of power, but that's a lot of extra base hits. And his BB/K ratio was 22/19. Ventura had another beastly season as a sophomore, putting up a line of .428/.536/.768 for an OPS of 1.304 in 271 ABs. He hit 21 HRs, 1 triple, and 27 doubles.

Ventura would go on to have a terrific junior season as well. Wittels will enter his junior season with a 56-game hitting streak on the line. That's insane. I don't care what level you're playing at. Getting a hit in 56 consecutive games is unbelievable.

Like Ventura before him, Wittels is a third baseman (and a second baseman). He's also 6-1, the same height as Ventura. That's about as much as they have in common.

Wittels is said to have a good inside-out swing a la Derek Jeter. He's not the type of player who can swing for the fences, but by the looks of his 56-game hitting streak, that hasn't hurt him any. No, he's not much like Robin Ventura, but he is a serious threat to his record.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Time In The Minors: A Review

I recently had the pleasure of watching Time In The Minors. Tony Okun was kind enough to send me a copy of his wonderful documentary. As I mentioned in a previous post, the film chronicles two minor league players and their arduous journey in trying to make it to The Show. And make no mistake about it: it is a journey.

There is also an elusive destination. Tony Schrager and John Drennen see light at the end of the tunnel. Like other minor league players, they are consumed with the desire to reach the seemingly unreachable. Though the odds are stacked against them, they never waver in their quest for baseball immortality.

Schrager and Drennen are endearing figures. They put their heart and soul into their work with one singular goal in mind. They endure the long bus rides, live in sparse hotel rooms, and constantly work on their swing. There are highs and there are lows. As physically demanding as the sport is, mentally it may be even more so.

Drennen was drafted out of high school in the 1st round by the Indians back in 2005. Schrager was drafted out of Stanford in the 6th round by the Cubs in 1998. He retired from professional baseball in 2006.

Schrager paid his dues and worked his way to AAA. His career line was .258/.370/.424 for an OPS of .794. Pretty good numbers for a middle infielder. Had he ever been given a chance, I believe he could have stuck in MLB as a utility player. He had versatility, excellent plate discipline, and a little pop. The only thing missing was an opportunity. Cody Ross, a former teammate, thought he had what it took.

Drennen has worked his way to AA. His last 2 seasons have been solid. I believe he'll be in AAA at some point in 2011. He has also paid his dues. In Time In The Minors, we see his transformation from a fresh-faced kid to a young man. There is a great moment in Okun's film where Drennen takes a notable pitcher deep in a rehab start.

What does the future hold for John Drennen? I don't know. But the dream is alive and well. And isn't that what life is all about?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hot Stove Brings Youk Back To Hot Corner

In anticipation that the Red Sox would not reach an agreement with Adrian Beltre, Kevin Youkilis began preparing himself about a month ago to play third base in 2011. Now that the Sox have acquired Adrian Gonzalez to come play first base, Youk will most assuredly move back to the hot corner.

Known more for his Gold Glove defense on the other side of the diamond, it should be noted that Youk is still a competent third baseman. In fact, the metrics say he has been above average. That should come as no surprise; he was drafted as a third baseman. In MiLB, he played 340 games at third. In the Majors, he has played 575 games at first and 219 games at third.