I sat down on Thursday afternoon on a very hot and humid day to turn my attention to Nick Frasso the newest addition to the Great Lakes Loons pitching staff. Frasso had been acquired in a trade with the Blue Jays that sent Mitch White to Toronto. Life and baseball is full of curves and along the way today I am tossing a curve at Jeff.
I am not sure how I got sidetracked but I did and I must admit with a tear of gratitude in my eye.
First, I again watched some tributes to Vin Scully. Vin was calling the game way back in 1952 on April 19 when I first made radio contact with Dodger baseball. The Dodgers beat the Giants 11-6 and Duke Snider hit the first home run I ever heard called on radio.
Vin’s voice captivated me and although I soon learned I could get Giant, Yankee, Red Sox and Phillies games on radio, I simply could not listen to those broadcasts. Vin would not let me.
Over the years, I cherished the moments with Vin Scully. It was not just his voice but how he called the games. He was a Dodger through and through but he came across as impartial as he could possibly be. He spoke kindly of players on other teams and told their anecdotes as well as those of the Dodger players.
I believe the biggest impact he had on me was that baseball is a game, perhaps the most difficult of all team sports to play , but nevertheless a game. Beyond that, he dwelled on the human side of the game. That is, the trials and successes of these young men and more specifically their human side. There is little doubt in my mind that Vin Scully helped foster my fondness for minor league baseball and my interest in the personal lives of these young men. I naturally am interested in statistics but my interest in those stats is secondary to the personal stories each one of these MiLB players have.
Vin never put himself above the game, the players and especially the fans.
Thank you Vin for the life lessons you have taught me.
“I’ve always tried to make the players human beings – individuals – rather than wind-up dolls down on the field running around. So I’ve always searched for the human side of the game if I can possibly find it. That’s the character that I try to paint, the character that the man represents himself. I think that helps, especially when a team is struggling and you have something interesting to say about someone. I think on the other end, a listener might enjoy it.” – Vin Scully
Secondly, I thought about one of those young men that I have followed for six years first encountering him in 2016 when the Loons were on their championship run. I first wrote about him on January 14, 2017.
It is no secret that I have been/am a Zach McKinstry fan from the get-go. Zach is one of those youngsters who most likely would not be expected to be playing at the MLB level. He was a 33rd round selection in the 2016 First-Year Player Draft.
I will continue to follow Zach McKinstry but would be kidding myself if I suggested it would be the same as it was while Zach was in Dodger Blue. So as part of the curve today I will check in on Zach one more time. I will miss him in Dodger Blue but am delighted he now has a chance to establish himself as a valued utility player.
McKinstry is more than pleased to have another kick at the can in Chicago. He is three hours away from his hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana which is an added bonus.
Who knew that he was a pizza connoisseur and has a love for Chicago deep-dish pizza, specifically Lou Malnati’s? Word has it that he even received a direct message from Lou Malnati’s on Instagram.
More that closeness to home or to his choice of pizza, McKinstry sees his trade to the Cubs as an opportunity to reboot his career after his reduced playing time with the Dodgers.
“Playing every day is my goal. That’s why we’re here,” said McKinstry.
“I’m gonna go hard, play to the best of my ability, give it 100 percent on every play,” said McKinstry, acquired from the Dodgers this weekend, after joining the Cubs on Sunday.
“I felt almost like a caged animal there (in Los Angeles), just hanging out on the bench — getting to see what they’re doing, though, learning from some of the best in the game. Excited to use it now.”
So what do the Cubs and manager David Ross see as McKinstry’s role?
They like his versatility, his baseball acumen and his left-handed bat. It seems he will get ample opportunity to ply his trade all over the diamond. He might not be Ben Zobrist but he doesn’t have to be to get his at bats.
“It’s another flexible piece,” Ross said. “One thing that stands out immediately about McKinstry is his versatility. He can play left and right field, second and third base, and shortstop.”
“We’re short left-handers, especially off the bench,” Ross said. “There’s some matchups where we haven’t been able to maximize the splits of the opposing pitcher.
“Looking at his numbers and how he’s been used in the past,” Ross said, “[he has a] high baseball IQ from everything I’ve heard, versatile.
Something else that gives McKinstry a bit of a leg up is that he isn’t arbitration eligible until 2025 and is under club control through 2027. As the Cubs look to build their next contending team, he has an opportunity to carve out a consistent role as a versatile depth option.
One assessment is that most of McKinstry’s impact will come from his defensive versatility. He’s quite good at second base and in the outfield corners, but he can also play a serviceable third base and even shortstop in a pinch. A lefty-hitting Swiss Army knife like McKinstry fits beautifully with the spirited, righty-hitting Christopher Morel, as those two will enable the Cubs to play seamless in-game matchups all over the diamond.
McKinstry was not surprised that he might be traded. He had been optioned to Oklahoma City five times during the current season and said he was in communication with manager Dave Roberts.
The news of his trade was met with mixed emotions. He was pleased for a new opportunity to play more regularly but he also found it difficult to leave teammates and friends.
“A few tears were shed,” McKinstry said. “I was sad to leave. I’ve been there my whole career. But I’m excited for the new opportunity. Had a meeting with Dave Roberts and he wished me good luck.”
He thanked the Dodgers on Instagram.
‘I’d like to thank Andrew Friedman, Brandon Gomes, Dave Roberts and the entire Los Angeles Dodgers organization for giving me the opportunity to grow over the past 6 years! The city of Los Angeles will always hold a special place in my heart. Thank you all for taking a chance on this 33rd round draft pick with big dreams. Shoutout to all the guys in that clubhouse, you welcomed me with open arms from day one and for that I’m forever grateful!”
Zach McKinstry does have some fond Dodger moments, perhaps none better than the grand slam he hit on June 27, 2021. Ironically that grand slam came against the Cubs.
Nice article Harold! There so many young men like Zack that are fun to root for. I felt that way about Kyle Garlick when he was with the Dodgers. They have a great back story and you can’t help but admire their perseverance and dedication. You hate to see them traded and hope they have a nice career with their new team. Then along comes another great individual with an equally great back story and a very likable personality and we move on rooting for him.
I always thought that Zack did not get enough of a chance in LA. He looked good last year until he went down with one of those weird injuries. He never really got another chance to establish himself after that. Personally thought he could out-perform Rios, Thompson, and any other minor league OFs the Dodgers brought up. I will be watching what he does with Cubs and rooting for him to play well.
We await news on Kershaw. I’m sure he is seeing Watkins early. I expect an IL stint to be announced soon.
In reading around a little bit this morning, those who have been professing incredible starting pitching depth all year are having no problem announcing they are fine with Pepiot, Stone, May, and Buehler. 7 man starting rotation. Ok. I’m looking forward to how that may play out. Im thinking if we keep scoring 7+ we should be alright.
I have had a lot of favorites over the years. It is easy to follow the Corey Seager’s (as I did from the moment he was drafted). It is another to follow the likes of Zach McKinstry or Stevie Berman. Most of the players I latched on to never made it very far, most notably…Mitch Hansen, Morgan Cooper, Melvin Jimenez. Some made it to MLB but fizzled…Trevor Oaks and Jose De Leon. Some were traded…Mitch White, Alex De Jesus, Zach Pop, Dillon Paulson.
My only favorite from draft to LAD and staying there is Caleb Ferguson.
My current pre 2021 favorites from draft or International Free Agent – Ryan Pepiot, Jacob Amaya, Hunter Feduccia, Gavin Stone, Brandon Lewis, Joel Ibarra, Yeiner Fernandez, Carlos Duran, Heisell Baro.
2021 and 2022 are huge high risk high reward draft development prospects. I found myself gravitating to 4 in 2021 and 2022.
2021 – Ronan Kopp, Nick Nastrini, Peter Heubeck, Rayne Doncon
2022 – Logan Wagner, Chris Campos, Chris Newell, Jared Karros.
Then there is the ultimate longshot…5th year senior OF, Chris Alleyne. How can you not pull for him.
Three of my favorites that came to the Dodgers via trade:
Kyle Hurt – He is a Trojan, how can I not.
Kendall Williams – Because Ross Stripling was a favorite
Nick Frasso – Because Mitch White was a favorite
Some of these guys will have MLB careers. The very vast majority will not. But it is still fun for me to follow their careers.
I too tend to follow players who seem to be long shots to make it to MLB. The top prospects are followed by many and get a lot of coverage. I like to cover those who are not in the headlines, such as Jeff Belge.
I think because of my history and perhaps my career in junior high school that I pull for the underdogs.
Zach McKinstry was one I followed as was Victor Gonzalez. There were others usually acquired later in the draft or as undrafted free agents, such as Justin Bruihl.
I have some of the younsters that Jeff has mentioned on my radar. Others from the 2021 draft that I have followed are Ben Harris and Damon Keith as well as Emmett Sheehan and Jordan Leasure.
If I had to pick one from the 2022 draft it would be Payton Martin. I will gravitate towards others as I learn more about their personal stories.
Another on my present watch list is Loons first baseman Imanol Vargas. At 24, age is not on his side but he is a player and a clutch player. He is now batting fourth or fifth for the Loons.He strikes out a lot but also walks a lot producing a high OBP of .436.
.280/.436/.504 – .940 OPS 15 HR 48 RBI.
Just watched Plaschke go off on the Dodgers not getting a starting pitcher at the deadline. “I told them to get a starting pitcher but they didn’t listen to me.” He also said “it’s about October in LA” – yeah Bill, I definitely agree, and this is not a good omen.
I have been steadfast that I believe that the Dodgers have the best organization for 162 game season. I have been writing about it for years. And I agree that it is all about finishing the race and getting the last win of the baseball season.
It is easy to get on the bandbox and condemn the Dodgers for not getting a SP.
Did Plaschke name names? Did he expect the Dodgers to match the deal Seattle did for Castillo? That was never going to happen, nor should it. Seattle is trying to get into the playoffs for the first time since 2001. They had to go all in. I have no idea if AF/BG tried for Montas, but Oakland got 4 top 30 prospects, including 2 top 10 (Waldichuk and Medina).
The Dodgers did not have a Harrison Bader to trade to get Jordan Montgomery. Could the Dodgers have put together a better package for José Quintana? I have no idea why Martín Pérez is still with Texas. No way was LAA going to trade Syndergaard to LAD.
The Dodgers did make an effort to get Pablo López but we will never learn what that cost would have been, but it would have hurt. Lopez is showing some signs of Tony Gonsolin regression after a robust start to the season. Miami has not had a great track record with SP development. Trevor Rogers, Sixto Sanchez, Jesús Luzardo, Elieser Hernández, Max Meyer.
So Bill, what SP that was available, that wouId not have crippled the farm, did the Dodgers pass on? It is easy to get frustrated. I certainly was, but I was more frustrated with what they did vs what they did not do. I cannot get frustrated with what they did not do if I have no idea what offers they made. And finally, while Dodger fans have a tendency to overvalue LAD prospects, that does not mean other organizations feel the same.
Pablo Lopez – I read somewhere (sorry, can’t remember where) that the Marlins insisted on having Lux in the deal and that’s when AF said “no thanks”.
I obviously have no way of knowing, but I am guessing that AF said no to Washington about Lux. They would have been willing to give more prospects. There is no way the Dodgers were going to trade Lux for Lopez.
Kershaw to the IL and CT3 is being activated. Moronta recalled and James Outman optioned to OKC. They will have to replace Kershaw at some point in the rotation.
I have no idea how many look at the MiLB Summaries, but I thought it worthwhile to include a tidbit about the RC game, as it featured 6 of the 2022 draftees in the lineup.
Inland Empire 66ers (LAA) 1 vs RC Quakes 4
This game was impactful because 5 more 2022 draft picks made their RC debut.
Nick Biddison – RF – 0-2
Dalton Rushing – C – 2-3 – including his first HR
Kyle Nevin – 1B – 0-3
Sean McLain – SS – 0-3
Taylor Young 2B – 1-2 – first double
A 6th draftee, Chris Alleyne – OF, played in his 2nd RC game, and he went 1-3.
In Dalton Rushing’s first RC AB, he hit a HR to tie the game at 1.
There was also a record tying run outburst by Tulsa. 23 runs on 21 hits and 7 walks, including 3 doubles, 3 triples, and 5 HRs. Andy Pages was a HR shy of the cycle as he had 4 hits.
I think they might miss the short season rookie level now as drafted players have to to go to the ACL Dodgers or Quakes.
Having five draftees in the lineup was nice to see.
As long as we’re latching on to 2022 draft picks, I’ll throw in a couple I’m watching.
12th round – RHP Jacob Meador
UDFA – Livan Reinoso – this guy is just too good to pass up. He’s a power hitting 3rd baseman and also a relief pitcher. Played at Tenn. Wesleyan this year but has also played the last two years for the Savannah Bananas. So much to like here!
I must admit after following ML baseball for over 60 years trying to figure out prospects is something I’ve never done particularly well. The names being mentioned here mean very little but in reading about I still don’t get. Example: Chris Alleyne out of the University of Maryland. A Golden Spikes semifinalist, Alleyne set a school record by hitting 24 home runs and was named the 2022 Big Ten Player of the Year – is the 575th pick?
Regarding Plaschke. Jeff, Mandichuk and Medina? Never heard of either of them so I looked them up. Meh. AA pitchers 24 and 25 next year and certainly not bad stats, but stats we could have easily matched and not used any of our top prospects. The Marlins asked for Lux. So what? Lopez is good but he isn’t that good. He’s 3.87 career, averages 5.2 per start, is a #2 on a bad club, but on this club is a #5-6. The point was, and is, some us look at our rotation as vulnerable to late season fatigue and just knew in our gut that another starter, or two or three just might be needed to play to November. I still hope I’m wrong regarding that but Gonsolin is about to double his innings pitched with 3 months to go, Anderson is likely to fade like he did last year (.909 OPS in Sept/October) Urias, we all know what happened to him in mid October. Our staff, as it currently exists has no real late season success history.
These guys need and deserve rest in the coming weeks. I hope they can get it but I haven’t seen a plan yet that shows how. They just traded the one #6 the team had to help.
I am not saying that the Dodgers could not use another starter, but don’t dismiss Ken Waldichuk and Luis Medina. Waldichuk is in AAA and they are talking about bringing him up to Oakland in September. Both Waldichuk and Medina have better pitching stats than does Bobby Miller at AA. I am pretty sure that Oakland was going to insist on the team’s #1 pitcher, one other top 10, and 2 other top 30. Would Montas be such a sure thing that he would be worth Bobby Miller, Maddux Bruns, Gavin Stone, and Jake Vogel?
And the Dodgers do not have a Noelvi Marte. And I am not sure they have an Edwin Arroyo. They could have replaced Levi Stoudt, but doubtful on the other two, especially Marte. So I do not know how they get Castillo.
Everyone is familiar with LAD top prospects, but have you ever watched Ken Waldichuk, Luis Medina, or JP Sears pitch?
Maybe Pepiot, but not Miller. Waldichuk was #70 on the Top 100. Miller is considerably higher, Pepiot right after Waldichuk.
We’ll see if Pepiot can now step up go 5 several times before October. Can’t believe going 5 innings sounds like such a big deal, but in this case, it is. It took Gonsolin 98 pitches to go 5 last night. Gulp.