Saturday, December 03, 2005

Interview with John Wylde of the Wareham Gatemen, Part II

We continue our chat with John Wylde, President and GM of the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod League.

On Shawn Haviland, who had a 7.71 ERA in 2 1/3 innings as a non-roster invitee:

My own personal feeling is that in his freshman fall, Haviland looked great. I’ve never heard Joe [Walsh] as enthusiastic about a young pitcher. Joe thought he might be a team USA guy. For some reason, it looks as if Shawn got concerned about or fell in love with having to throw harder. He succeeded earlier because he disguised his curveball well, had a very smooth delivery on that late-breaking curveball. But once he became obsessed with having to throw harder, the result was he lost his command and didn’t gain any velocity, anyway.

We clocked everybody, and he had the widest disparity on his fastball. Most guys varied about 5 MPH. He varied from 82 to 89. He pitches at maybe 84, 85, 86. If Joe feels like he can relax and just use that great natural motion he has, and Joe now feels he’s done that, he’s gonna be fine. He’s coming back in the same status in the summer. He’s a great kid.
On the freshmen pitchers:
The local boy from Lincoln-Sudbury–-at Scout Day, we were told every fastball was registering 90. He came on a lot late in high school. Joe was moderately interested in him early and became more and more interested, but people had to push him a bit. He had a great summer pitching for his American Legion team.

I think Joe’s been a little more circumspect about Cole after how excited he was about Shawn Haviland a year earlier, but if Joe’s being candid, both he and Ryan Watson are probably weekend starters this year.

Hampton Foushee looked like he might be a pretty decent setup guy, give you a few innings. We went to Yale and Brown to see their guys, and the only guy Stuper and everybody wanted to talk about was Foushee. “How’s Foushee doing?” He's not afraid to go inside on right handed hitters.

Those are three pitchers there that will probably help.
On Matt Rogers, whom Walsh earlier called “maybe the fastest kid I’ve recruited here at Harvard.”
He looks like he will help. My own personal opinion—he may not be not as quick as they anticipated. When I was there, I think Morgan Brown outran him. That’s not a knock on Morgan Brown, but I pictured this guy about five yards ahead of everyone in the 60. He wants to play shortstop, and Joe envisions him in the outfield this year. [I note that Joe had once deemed Matt Vance his shortstop of the future] Matt Vance has put on some weight—positive weight, not negative weight. Joe feels that possibly he’s built himself to the point where you keep him in the outfield.

Wylde also noted that he was most impressed by the infield drills the team did, led by Morgan Brown, adding that he would’ve been proud to see Gateman teams perform that well.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

'Fork in the Road... to Arizona

AP photo. Please don't sue us.As predicted by many in baseball, former Harvard infielder Peter Woodfork '99 was named the Assistant GM of the Diamondbacks. So goes the meteoric rise of Woodfork, with whom I got to chat when he joined the Red Sox. Congratulations! Here are a few clips, conveniently assembled by Paul McNeeley of Friends of Harvard Baseball:

The Boston Globe's Eric Wilbur:
“We’re sorry to see Peter go, but this promotion is an opportunity he has been working for and building toward for several years,” said Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino. “He was a valuable contributor to our operations and administration for the last three years, and we wish him the best in Arizona, except, of course, in interleague play.”

Interview with John Wylde of the Wareham Gatemen, Part I: Lance Salsgiver

In the continued interest of giving you more coverage of Harvard baseball than any entity has ever produced in the offseason, Sons of Bart Brush brings you another installment of our “hot stove” series.

Today, Part I of our chat with John Wylde, President and General Manager of the Cape Cod League’s Wareham Gatemen. A frequent visitor to O’Donnell Field, Wylde watched Lance Salsgiver’s breakout summer in the Cape, Shawn Haviland’s first summer as a member of the Gatemen and also attended the Crimson’s fall scouting festivities. I spoke with John today. Here are some of John’s thoughts on Lance Salsgiver, who made the Gatemen as a “temporary” or non-roster invitee the past two summers. [The Cape League allows its teams to use unsigned players for approximately the first two weeks of the season, due to potential problems created by players whose teams are still in the NCAA tournament or have Team USA or other considerations.] Lance wound up making the All-Star team in this wooden bat league, batting .301 and leading the Gatemen with 43 hits. On Saturday, we’ll have some of John’s thoughts on non-Salsgiver subjects.

It’s a very nice sort of story. Lance made team as unsigned player as a sophomore and made the team, and the same happened his junior season. We generally have a team policy against signing juniors because of the [MLB] draft. You can have a wonderful-looking roster with a lot of juniors, then come June 10th they won’t show up. Obviously, Ivy League players are more likely to show up.

The two summers mirrored each other. Lance started off slowly two years ago. In the last half of the season, Lance hit just over .400 after hitting .150 for the first part. Wound up around .280 or so.

Last year was very similar, with perhaps a less pronounced disparity between each half of the season. Lance started as our fourth outfielder and played himself into the lineup. We play a 44-game season, and by around game 18, you couldn’t believe how hot he was. Every ball he hit was a rope. He just missed a grand slam at Chatham, their left fielder made a circus catch on that ball. Toward the end, he cooled off a bit.

Lance hit over .300, which is a tremendous accomplishment in the Cape, and made the All-Star team. Just missed making the final league all star team, which is tougher to make—for the game, there are two teams of 40 or 42 all stars, but final all star team is 20 players. The coaches had him as their fifth outfielder, and four are selected to the final team.

I think Lance opened a lot of pro eyes. I know professional scouts have liked him since high school. I remember words Joe was getting during his freshman year that he might have been a 5th or 6th round draft choice. Since then, teams have known that they weren’t going to be able to buy him out of his commitment to Harvard. People were kind of waiting for Lance to show them a bit more. At least four teams expressed interest in signing him this summer, with San Diego being the most aggressive. But I think national professional attention will come.

I still think most scouts still feel that his brightest professional prospects as a pitcher.

You’ve seen only limited glimpses of that at Harvard. Maybe he's one of those guys that has to feel 100% on the hill, maybe his arm doesn’t bounce back terribly well. He’s got essentially two pitches, fastball and the curve. The fastball is realistically hovering in the high eighties, but what really distinguishes him is that devastating curveball. If he gets back to pitching regularly, it’s gonna be in the dirt a lot, and he’s going to need a catcher who can block the plate well.

Steffan Wilson [an All-Ivy first team reserve pitcher as a freshman last year as well as a unanimous pick at third base] will play for us next year. But I don’t think I could see him pitching for us as I would see Lance. I think Lance is more effective.

On Saturday, we'll run Wylde's thoughts on Shawn Haviland as well as this year's freshmen.