Prospect Previews: Pop Culture Fusion

In Keeping Secrets of Prospect World: 3

If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m highly influenced by pop culture and what’s happening around me. And it always has a tendency of filtering into my writing. Whether that be a certain type of music or a particular band I’ve been listening to (I wrote about Rush and prospects here), a certain type of childhood toy/cartoon that I was having fond memories of (Ninja Turtles and prospects), or even a movie that I’m fond of just so happened to be on the night I was writing (Tombstone and Fantasy Football). It never fails, I write in the moment. I really don’t know any other way. I’m actually surprised I haven’t tried to write a piece comparing prospects to “FIFA 13”, given how much that game has consumed my life recently.

Well, this week was no different.

This past Monday night, Coheed and Cambria appeared as the musical guest on “Conan”. Now I’m no Conan fan, but I am a HUGE fan of Coheed and Cambria. So, I set my handy dandy DVR to record the show so as I could skip through the 55 minutes of nonsense, to get to the 5 minutes of musical bliss that would take place at the end of the show. The band performed a song from their forthcoming album: “The Afterman: Descension (which was sublime), and as I was watching them, I was immediately flooded with the emotions that I felt back when I first discovered them in 2009.

Heeding (haha, pun intended) the advice from a close friend, I wandered into a local Best Buy in search of an album from this band that I “just had to hear”. Not knowing anything about them, I found their tiny little row amongst the thousands of other CD’s that the store had to offer, and simply just grabbed the first one in front of me. “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3” was the album’s title, and I later came to find that it was actually the second album in the band’s catalog, but that didn’t concern me at the time. I was mesmerized. Mind = blown. Where had this been all my life?

From the driving Metal riffs and the soaring vocals that introduce just the right amount of Pop, to the ingenious blend of a hardcore/punk attitude mixed with a certain level of “Proggy-ness”. And all of that underscoring their tremendous musicianship. Needless to say, they had me from the moment the second song rang out of my stereo.

And while the entire album is a masterpiece and has become one of my benchmark album’s in which all other albums must stand against, it was indeed that second song–which just so happens to share a title with the album–that changed my life that one fateful summer.

You see, that song became my “summer song”, my go-to song, my anthem. That song was played before every softball game that summer. Up to and including the championship game where my team completed a perfect season; 13-0, and winner of the “YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region Summer Softball League”. Sure it was just a measly ol’ summer church league, but we were the champs! And that song was my driving force.

And still to this day, not a single “workout” playlist or “Turkey Bowl” playlist is made that does not include that song. I still get chills when I hear it…

“Man your own jackhammer

Man your battle stations

We’ll have you dead pretty soon

Sincerely written from my brother’s Blood Machine

Man your battle stations

We’ll have you home pretty soon”

Now if you know anything about Coheed, you know that all of their albums are concept albums based on a science fiction storyline called “The Amory Wars”, written by lead singer, Claudio Sanchez. This song, and in particular this chorus, speak to a battle that is raging between Inferno (Jesse Kilgannon), his IRO-bots and the dreaded General Mayo and his Red Army. The “jackhammer” that the song refers to is not, in a sense, a jack hammer like we normally think of, but rather a laser cannon-like weapon that is used in battle.

Now that you’re a little up to speed…

When that chorus rings out in the deep, something happens inside me. I come alive. I man my jackhammer. I man my battle station. You guys know what I’m talking about. We all have “that one song” that gets us amped. That lights us up. That makes us feel like we can do anything.

Even…get us ready for fantasy baseball season.

Ok, maybe you don’t need to get pumped up for a fantasy draft the way you would when you’re hitting the weights or softball diamond, but you see where I’m going with this. Pitchers and catchers report in 20 days people! This is prime fantasy baseball time, especially for us dynasty leaguers. So I intend to do what I try to do every week, and that’s to get YOU ready for your upcoming dynasty drafts by filling you in on some prospects that could very well be future stars of your team.

We start with one of the most coveted arms in all of baseball…

Zack Wheeler-New York Mets

File Photo: Mike Janes/Four Seam Images/AP Images

File Photo: Mike Janes/Four Seam Images/AP Images

Age: 22

Height/Weight: 6’4″/185

Position: RHP

MLB ETA: Mid 2013

How many times have we heard people in real–and fake– baseball say “sometimes you just gotta go for it”? ***(I’m coming back to this later)*** That’s what the Giants did in 2011 when they thought they had a stranglehold on the NL West when they shipped top prospect, Zack Wheeler, to the Mets in exchange for 3 months of Carlos Beltran. We all know how it turned out; the Diamondbacks went on a run, the Giants faltered, and then subsequently lost the division. Now, they have since gone on to win their 2nd World Series title in 3 years so I think they’re fine with the bed they’ve made, but they may always look back at that trade with Mets and wish they could take that one back. For Wheeler profiles as a front end of the rotation starter that could find himself among the top of the young pitchers in baseball in a very short amount of time.

At 6’4″ and 185 lbs., his tall, lanky frame combined with a loose and easy delivery, allow his mid to upper 90’s fastball to really bore downhill on batters, thus causing them to take awkward swings. This works especially well to righties as they slugged a measly .271 against him last year. His main secondary offering is a plus curveball that drops off the table and will no doubt miss bats at the highest level. He has begun to mix in a slider and change up as well, that both flash average to plus potential. All of those combined should always give him great strikeout numbers. Another plus to his game, is his ability to keep the ball in the park. Last year, he allowed only 4 HR’s in 25 starts combined between the AA and AAA levels.

There really isn’t much to not like about him. He will need to improve his fastball command some before the Mets call him up, but other than that there doesn’t appear to to be too much keeping this kid from stardom.

Wheeler will most likely spend the first few months of next season in AAA to sharpen his skills and improve his fastball command, but his call up should come sometime around mid season. A plan similar to that of teammate Matt Harvey should be expected, which gives him pretty significant fantasy value for the 2nd half of the season. His bat missing ability, combined with the ability to keep the ball in the park, should make him a great play in certain matchups down the stretch. His long term outlook should look something along the lines of a very good #2 starter, with the potential for more if the secondary offerings develop. High strikeout rates, solid ERA’s and WHIP’s should be expected every year. The Mets definitely have the makings of a very powerful front end of their rotation for several years.

Next is someone who I never envisioned writing about because of the team he plays on (they wear the bad color), but he’s simply too talented and has such a bright future not to put in one of my embarrassments of an article…

Xander Bogaerts-Boston Red Sox

File Photo: AP Photo/Ken Babbitt/Four Seam Images

File Photo: AP Photo/Ken Babbitt/Four Seam Images

Age: 20

Height/Weight: 6’3″/175

Position: SS

MLB ETA: Late 2013/Early 2014

I’d say your prospect stock is up when people are calling you the best player in the system since Hanley Ramirez. Such is the case of Xander Bogaerts. With tremendous raw power and bat speed to spare, Boston fans and fantasy owners alike cannot wait to see this young phenom play in front of the Fenway faithful. And if he has his way, that could very well be this next season.

Bogaerts’ calling card is his plus power which is already showing in-game potential. He also has the ability to stay back on pitches and use the entire field, which is something seldom seen in players his age. The team has tried to bring him along slowly, but Bogaerts simply has been to talented for each level thus far. Really the only question..

Where will he ultimately end up playing defensively? Early on, most scouts agreed that at his age and size that there was still room to grow, and that he would eventually have to move off the position. And while that still may be true, many scouts are now saying because of his desire to improve at his craft, that he may actually be able to handle the short stop position longer than expected. A true testament to his #want and work ethic. The good news for fantasy owners is that his power will play anywhere. At maturity, he could be a 30+ HR/year player. Whether he stays at short or not, you’ll take that power.

His main drawback thus far has been his lack of plate discipline. He has a tendency to expand the zone, which gets him into trouble, but his bat speed gives him the ability to make hard contact even with pitches outside of the strike zone, so he’s still not likely to burn you with a ton of strikeouts. Another minor flaw–at least to his fantasy game–is his lack of speed. He’s an average runner at present and will likely lose more speed as the body fills out, so a large number of steals should never really be expected.

The Sox (said with my best Boston accent) simply want Bogaerts to exhibit some more plate discipline. He will return to AA (as a freaking 20 year old…sheesh), where the team really just wants to see him do one thing…walk. The power is there, and the defense appears to be coming along. He just needs to exercise a little more patience. As far as his fantasy outlook for next year goes, I wouldn’t be counting on him too much. A lot depends on how much Jose Iglesias has improved at the plate. If he’s still an empty bat and Bogaerts is crushing AA pitching, then we may see him before the year is out, but it will most likely be 2014 when he makes his debut. The longer he can remain a short stop, the more value he has. Quite simply, he could be one of the most valuable fantasy assets if he stays at the position. But lucky enough for us fake leaguers his power is real and will carry weight wherever he plays. You can always expect good power numbers as well as solid batting averages due to his ability to make hard contact with any pitch.

So are your battle stations manned as we head into 2013? We all want to win every year, but guys like Wheeler and Bogaerts cannot be ignored in your upcoming dynasty drafts. You want to have sustained success, and these guys–along with many others–can help give it to you.

Vital Signs…

***I wanted to give you guys a quick updated on my condition. You know, the prospect hoarding condition that I struggle with? Well, I’m pleased to report that this very week I was able to part with Oscar Taveras, Dylan Bundy, and Shelby Miller in exchange for Evan Longoria and Matt Moore. Yes, it was a pretty prospect penny, but the guys I got in return are already established players and are still young enough that I can not only try and win this year, but for the next several as well. Thanks for all the kind words and get well cards. With a little #want and the support of readers like you, I know I can beat this!!!!

Also, please feel free to drop me a line…about anything. Prospects, music, movies. Whatever. It would be awesome to hear about some of your “anthems”. What song gets you pumped up? Hit me up on the Twitter machine or leave some feedback at the bottom of this page.

Luke Taylor
Dynasty Sports Empire

About This Empire Soldier: Lawrence Marino, President and Founder of Dynasty Sports Empire LLC, Dynasty Sports Empire Podcast Netowrk and a host of other fantasy related ventures is a New Jersey native with ties to just about everything in and around Boston sports. A die hard Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics fan, Lawrence has learned what it’s like to live through the toughest of sports times. He loves to spend time with his wife and family, father of 2 beautiful girls and spends most of his summer on the beach in Belmar, NJ.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • FantasyNomad January 29, 2013, 10:59 am

    Again a very interesting article, but that song blows. Hope you you feeling better it appears you were ill? (This song is making me ill, does it ever end)? How did your guest spot on Outside Pitch go? You got the link?

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