Baby Pictures (Part 2)

Would somebody kindly do something?

Anyone?

(sigh)

Post World Series, pre-hot stove league, and I’m bored, uninspired (yeah yeah, so what else is new?) and worst of all: I didn’t procrastinate and I’ve still got bupkis.

Heck, even David Samson hasn’t provided me any new material.

Oh well. Back to baby pictures. I thought I’d do a bit of a twist. We’ve all heard about the next big thing. The “can’t miss” who invariably did (Jeffrey Hammonds anyone?). Although today’s quartet made the major leagues, they fell just a weeeee bit short of projections—although in the case of the last guy on the list, it was injury that short circuited “what could’ve been.” When healthy, he has had some terrific years (four seasons over 130 OPS+ in at least 400 PA).

So, for the second time in as many weeks; without further ado, our flab four: James Baldwin, Roger Cedeno, Danny Clyburn and Cliff Floyd.

James Baldwin

Position: Pitcher
Team: Chicago White Sox
Born: July 15, 1971 Southern Pines, NC Height: 6’3″ Weight: 210 lbs.
Bats: right Throws: right
Acquired: Fourth-round pick in 6/90 free-agent draft

Will: overmatch hitters
Can’t: backslide on control
Expect: low-hit games
Don’t Expect: return to Class-A ball

Baldwin finally found the secret to throwing strikes in 1992, and it helped him restart his career after two undistinguished seasons in the lower minors. His ability to throw strikes carried over to the start of 1993. Pitching at Birmingham of the Double-A Southern League, Baldwin raced out to a 5-1 start with 21 walks in his first 66 innings. He was named the loop’s No.3 prospect by Baseball America. After 17 starts he was promoted to Triple-A Nashville, and he didn’t miss a beat. In 1992, he walked just 52 batters in 175 innings while pitching Class-A ball in the Midwest and Florida State Leagues. His 176 strikeouts tied him for sixth among minor leaguers. He earned a Mid­west League Player of the Week Award, was named to the loop’s postseason All-­Star team, and was tabbed among the circuit’s top 10 prospects by Baseball America. Baldwin’s stuff shouldn’t be much of a question, as he had struck out 289 batters in 284 innings over his pro career.

Um, wow. Where to start? In fairness, Baldwin has had some flashes of brilliance (the early part of 2000 which led to an All-Star selection) but they’ve been just that—flashes. He enjoyed pretty good control over his career: 3.3 BB/9 IP—despite leading the AL in wild pitches in 1997—but never developed into an overpowering pitcher (major league career K/9 of 5.74) despite averaging a whiff per inning at the time the above was written. Expect low hit games? He averaged over a hit an inning in over 1300 IP. On the bright side, he pitched pretty well in his only postseason start (6 IP/1 ER) against the Mariners in the 2000 ALDS but didn’t get a decision. Baldwin finished his career with an ERA over five (5.01; 91 ERA+).

ROGER CEDENO

Position: Outfield
Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Born: Aug. 16, 1974 Valencia Edo. Carabobo Venezuela
Height: 6’1″ Weight: 165 lbs.
Bats: both Throws: right
Acquired: Signed as a free agent. 3/91

Will: cover ground
Can’t: hit homers yet
Expect: good on-base percentage
Don’t Expect: a bust

The Dodgers appear to have a massive talent on their hands in Cedeno, who more than held his own at the Double-A level despite his young age. Cedeno showed he could be Los Angeles’ next standout leadoff man, following in the swift steps of Brett Butler. A switch-hitter who plays centerfield, Cedeno is a speedster who can not only hit for average but draw a walk as well. Playing at San Antonio of the Double-A Texas League, he collected five consecutive multi hit games from June 18 to June 22. He hit .398 in June, best in the league, and was riding a 14-game hit­ting streak as the month ended. He was named the No.6 prospect in the league by Baseball America. Signed by Camilo Pascual, Cedeno spent the 1992 season with Great Falls, leading the Pioneer League with 40 stolen bases while getting caught nine times. He ranked in the top 10 in on-base percentage, stolen bases, and batting average for switch-hitters among all short-season players. He has not shown much power yet, but that could come.

Over my years surfing various baseball message boards I’ve probably seen his name punctuated by more expletives than any other player (other honorees: Timo Perez, Neifi Perez, the New York Mets from 1992-98). Such is the life of whom much was expected and little delivered. “Can’t: hit homers yet”? Well after hitting 40 over 11 seasons I think the waiting is over. “Expect: good on-base percentage”? His .340 was over the league average over the same span (.337)—that was a textbook ‘damning with faint praise’. “Don’t Expect: a bust”? Over 3000 AB and an OPS+ of 88? That’s a bust of Dolly Parton proportions. For what it’s worth, Cedeno is 11 for 31 in the postseason.

DANNY CLYBURN

Position: Outfield
Team: Pittsburgh Pirates
Born: April 6, 1974 Lancaster, SC Height: 6’3″ Weight: 210 lbs.
Bats: right Throws: right
Acquired: Second-round pick in 6/92 free­ agent draft

Will: crush the ball
Can’t: seem to steal bases
Expect: middle of order
Don’t Expect: defensive awards

Clyburn is an important part of what the Pirates believe was a bountiful harvest in the 1992 draft; they had four picks in the first two rounds. Clyburn, like his fellow draftees, is viewed as a prodigious talent with a very high ceiling. In fact, a franchise that has lost some impact players in the past few years may very well have another one in the person of Clyburn. He was viewed as one of the top high-school athletes in the ’92 draft. He certainly had to make the Bucs smile with his pro debut, driving in 25 runs in just 39 games in the rookie Gulf Coast League in 1992. His power started to show in 1993, when he showed a home run stroke with Augusta of the Class-A South Atlantic League. Clyburn’s gifts begin with excellent size and a muscular build, which he put to use as a linebacker at Lancaster, South Carolina, High. He owns quite a bit of speed, though it hasn’t netted him many stolen bases. He is very speedy, though, for someone who tops 210 pounds. As a fielder, Clyburn is merely adequate, though he has plenty of time to improve.

Lemme guess: Your first thought was—Who? Well, let’s see…

  • “Will: crush the ball”…um—four career HR, career OPS+ of 60.

  • “Can’t: seem to steal bases”…they nailed this one: zero stolen bases.
  • “Expect: middle of order” … I assume they mean he’s somewhere between the Big Mac and deciding whether or not to supersize the fries and drink.
  • “Don’t Expect: defensive awards” … well it is kind of hard to cop Gold Gloves when you play in 41 games over three major league seasons.
  • “Clyburn, like his fellow draftees, is viewed as a prodigious talent with a very high ceiling.” … this sort of explains the Pirates 866-1232 record since this was written, eh? It should be noted that he never reached the Pittsburgh varsity—he was never quite good enough to play for the Bucs.
  • “He owns quite a bit of speed” … of course they didn’t test for that back then.

Of course, Clyburn has nothing to be ashamed of—after all he had a major league career that was 41 games longer than the majority of players who have ever played for pay. He earned enough to start a nice little nest egg, and I’m sure his grandchildren will be very proud of a grandpa that played in the big leagues.

Shoot, I’d buy him a beer if we ever met.

CLIFF FLOYD

Position: First base
Team: Montreal Expos
Born: Dec. 5,1972 Chicago, IL
Height: 6’4″ Weight: 220 lbs.
Bats: left Throws: left
Acquired: First-round pick in 6/91 free-agent draft

Will: dominate
Can’t: miss
Expect: speed and power
Don’t Expect: center field

Floyd has the potential to be one of the top sluggers in the game. The Expos are eagerly awaiting the day when they have his bat in the lineup every day, and he has already been likened to such players as Barry Bonds. Baseball America named Floyd its third-best overall prospect in 1993, and the top prospect out of the Double-A Eastern League. USA TODAY Baseball Weekly tabbed him its minor­league player of the week for July 7-13. The most feared hitter on Montreal’s potent Eastern League team in Harrisburg, Floyd played first base in the Double-A All-Star Game. He offers power to all fields, can hit lefties, and is quick enough to beat out a grounder if the infielder isn’t alert. Floyd was the 14th player taken in the 1991 draft, and went on to tie for second in the Gulf Coast League with six homers. In 1992, he led the Class-A South Atlantic League with 97 RBI and 16 triples. He has played some centerfield and left field, in addition to first base, and the Expos will put him where his bat fits.

Man, what could’ve been:

“Will: dominate”
“Can’t: miss”
“the potential to be one of the top sluggers in the game”
“been likened to such players as Barry Bonds”

When this was written, the Expos were just starting to get very good. He played 100 games on the 1994 Expos—didn’t play particularly well but they really didn’t need him … yet. Then the collision in 1995 with Todd Hundley that broke his wrist gruesomely. Other injuries followed. Since 1995, they have cost him at least 600 games—almost four full major league seasons. When healthy he’s had some terrific seasons; he’s been 20-20 a couple of times, he’s had seasons of at least 40 doubles/20 HR three times and launched 31 dingers in one of them. Despite playing the bulk of his career in poor hitters’ parks (Olympic Stadium, Pro Player Stadium, Shea Stadium), he’s hit 317 doubles and 213 HR. The forecast was on target, the talent was (and is) there. He’s my personal Pete Reiser. I’ll cheer him until he hangs up the spikes. He’ll be 34 soon, and I pray the twilight of his career will be a healthy one.

He could’ve been amazing.

Hopefully by next week something interesting will have happened. C’mon David—tell us why South Florida should give you almost a half billion dollars of free money.

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