Prospecting: Nick Delmonico

Is this really the best picture I could find?
Ryan Braun got suspended, and you can read about that here and here, especially if you enjoy some rumors and wild speculation.  Not so wild, but they are definitely a different approach.  That being said, I'm not here to talk about Ryan Braun.  I'm here to talk about a surprisingly good trade that Doug Melvin and company pulled off for a reliever that nobody wanted to sign in the offseason.

The trade that was made? Closer Francisco Rodriguez for Nick Delmonico, a third baseman in the Baltimore Orioles system.  So a player that most of major league baseball had no interest in, who had to start his year in the minor leagues, netted Milwaukee the Orioles No. 5 overall prospect (or No. 4 depending on which list you read).  Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me, so let's find out about the new guy.

Who is Nick Delmonico?

I guess for starters, he's not really a third baseman.  Well he is, but he isn't.  Delmonico has seen time at first, second and third but as far as the Milwaukee Brewers are concerned - he's a third baseman.  Delmonico was drafted in the 6th round of the 2011 draft.  He's 6'2" with a left-handed bat and a right-handed throw.  The 21-year-old spent last season in A-ball and spent the first half of this season with the Orioles High-A affiliate.  Early reports are he's headed to Brevard County, Milwaukee's High-A squad.

In 2012 - his first professional season - Delmonico hit .249 with a .351 OBP and 11 home runs in 95 games.  He also drove in 54 runs and was 8-for-9 in stolen base attempts.  Solid numbers as a 20-year-old in your first run as a professional ballplayer.

Delmonico followed that up with an improved sophomore season, he already has 13 home runs in 61 games this year.  The average and on-base numbers are about the same, .243 and .350, but the potential is certainly there.

The Good

First - power from the left side.  With 24 homers and 34 doubles in 156 professional games Delmonico has the chance to be a legitimate contributor to a big league line-up.  He's also a third base prospect, something Milwaukee has been lacking in their farm system since trading away Brett Lawrie.  At the big league level, the Brewers have been hard pressed to find a left-handed complement to their right side heavy lineup.

Delmonico has good plate presence to go with the aforementioned power, which his .350 on-base percentage demonstrates.  So far, he's played 156 professional games - call it a full season- and he has 24 homers, 84 RBIs and a .351 OBP.  If your third baseman does that on a year-to-year basis you would not be complaining.

The Bad

That batting average isn't a very pretty number.  Delmonico is a .246 hitter in his pro career, not exactly all-star material.  He is young enough that you can hope for improvement but that would be the biggest hole in his offensive game.  His strikeouts are a bit high (59 in 61 games in 2013) but it's not something I would be overly concerned with - yet.

The defensive game has some shortcomings as well.  In 2012, when he saw time at first and second, Delmonico committed 22 errors,  This year, mostly at third, he's committed 14.  Hopefully he can settle down when he is playing consistently at the same position.  I mean, if Rickie Weeks can become an above average (albeit very slightly above average) then anyone can, right?

The Outlook

Regardless of whether or not Delmonico pans out as a major leaguer this was a good trade.  K-Rod was not in the plans for the organization's future and they signed him off the scrap heap.  To turn him around for a player who is a top five prospect in your farm system before even playing a game is a definite win.

As for the player's outlook, there is a lot of promise here.  Left-handed power bats are hard to come by and that's what Delmonico has the potential to be.  Are there holes in his game? Definitely.  He's also only played a season and a half of professional baseball.  If he continues to develop he could have a very bright future for the Milwaukee Brewers franchise.

Expect to see Delmonico in Double-A Huntsville next season, at his current rate of development we could see him make his major league debut sometime in 2015.


A More Plausible Ryan Braun Scenario

I wrote my conspiracy theory yesterday, and like I said, it wasn't actually what I personally believed. I figure he's guilty, but there was still more information I needed to really decide how I felt about it all. The "what" and the "when".  Today, ESPN's T.J.Quinn may have answered that riddle.

If these tweets are correct, and Braun didn't have a relationship with Bosch until the summer of 2011, then he clearly didn't need to take any PED's to be a superstar, he was already at that level. This can be further backed up by Braun being stringently tested for 5 years prior, all clean (unless testing process changed).  Why then, would one of the game's brightest stars, turn to cheating? The answer, if you look back, is perhaps the "Andy Pettite excuse". In mid-2011, Ryan Braun was suffering from a lingering calf strain. The Brewers were in the hunt and Braun likely felt pressure to get on the field and perform like a healthy Ryan Braun can. He couldn't get on the field, he couldn't perform to his own standards, and he likely was frustrated. In creeps the dark side, and a desperate decision, PED's.  Braun is able to get back on the field, help the Brewers win their first NL Central Crown. All is well, until it turns out he failed a drug test.

Likely, Braun's team of lawyers found a very big loophole in the testing process, and the decision was made to fight. We know this part of the story. He wins arbitration. However, the story was leaked, and Braun's name had been sullied. Damage control needs to be done.

It's very possible, Ryan Braun, knowing he had dodged a bullet, vowed to never again cheat the game. He knew it was wrong, he knew he was lucky, but it was behind him (so he thought), and he could go on an all out offensive to help regain some of his image, which had been tarnished. He could lie, lie, lie....as only himself and Tony Bosch likely knew the whole truth, and he probably trusted Tony more than he should have. Ryan went on the attack, ignorantly thinking that since the issue was now behind him, and that he'll never again take a PED, that it will never come back to haunt him. We humans are a silly creature.

Of course, this is where we know what happens again.

Once again, this is all speculation, and maybe I make him look like too good of a person but:

- Braun upset at himself and feeling pressure to perform while injured, took an illegal substance.
- Braun escaped "sentencing" on a technicality.
- Braun, being a very arrogant individual, goes on the offensive thinking the past is behind him.
- The past catches up, he has to continue the lie in order to save face, but it bites him in the ass.

Braun has more apologies to make, and deserves a punishment. He deserves a lot of the ire he has drawn, but I think I'll have a hard time holding a long grudge against him. I don't blame the rest of the fans across the league to hate him, I'd do the same. But, being a Brewer fan, and a long supporter of Braun, I can see the human nature in what he did.  He fucked up; we all have. He escaped punishment from his mistake; we all have. He lied about it to save face; we all have. His lies caught up to him; happened to us all.

Clearly, me lying about my car being dead to escape a parking ticket, is on a scale far less than Braun's. While I like to think I have hoards of fans looking up to me, I don't. So, yes, he needed to have far better judgement than he used, but he's also a lot more arrogant than I am, and likely felt much more invincible. The point is this, if you think you got away with something, you tend to not suddenly fess up for no reason.

So, what now?

In 2014, Braun needs to be humble, he needs to be the clubhouse leader he's never been, and he needs to perform at the same caliber that we expect of Ryan Braun. While Cooperstown is an unlikely stop for him, if he acts correctly, I think he can still be accepted in the Milwaukee community.  He has a lot of work to do though.

(Once again, this is only my opinion)

Update: Let me make it clear. Even in this scenario, what Ryan Braun did was 100% wrong.  I was just trying to guess what his thought process may have been. He should have never gotten so aggressive in his Feb 12 presser, if he knew in fact he was lying. He should have just said "I was found Not Guilty, I applaud the testing system put in place for working, and now I want to focus on baseball....thank you".  I'm suggesting his arrogance, and the pressure he puts on himself to back up said arrogance, caused him to make a very seriously wrong decision, and he himself is to blame.


The Braun Conspiracy

Let me start by saying, that the following conspiracy is nothing that I personally believe. Where there's smoke, there's fire. However, the following isn't exactly the world's biggest stretch of the imagination. Here ends the disclaimer.

What if the whole world wanted you to tell the truth, but the truth isn't exactly what it appears? If you tell the masses what they want to hear, you'd in fact, be lying. If you told the real truth, you'd be deemed a liar, and forever thrown into the role of pariah

Sounds a bit like a movie plot, where the protagonist is dealt with this decision while the antagonist is pulling strings on his puppets. Inside the world in which this movie is set, the villain appears to be the good guy, the hero appears to be the villain. However, as a viewers, you know what is real and what is propaganda. What if you didn't know the truth, what if you weren't privy to the inside information? You'd probably join the masses against the protagonist.

What if, in my example above, Ryan Braun was the good guy in the movie, Bud Selig, the bad? Let me explain:

After Braun beat the suspension for a failed drug test from 2011, MLB has seemingly had a vendetta against him. Throwing a giant hissy fit over the results, firing an independent arbitrator who voted against them, publicly smearing Braun, and likely vowing for revenge. As we know, Braun then, in February of 2012, struck back hard at the process of which he said he was a victim. He laid a convincing argument on why he was innocent, if it was a lie, he deserves an Academy Award. What if, what Braun said, was the truth, and he didn't cheat, he was being unfairly accused of cheating?

In comes Biogenesis. First reports in the Miami Herald, mention A-Rod and others, but no Braun. It comes out later on Yahoo! that Braun was on the list. Miami Herald later says it didn't list him, as the evidence wasn't strong enough.  MLB takes over, does their own investigation, where it's been rumored they paid for people's confessions. Scribbled notes and forced confessions is all we as the public had to go on. Then, wham, Braun accepts a penalty (doesn't confess to PEDs), he appears to have been guilty all along.....the sports world casts him in the pit of evil.

So, here's the thing. Clearly, the MLB is going to get their way. They have the money, the resources, and judging by their ability to fire independent arbitrators, the means to suspend any and all players using whatever evidence they want. This isn't the court of law, it's the Feudal System. There's the King (Selig), the Dukes and Lords (Owners), the knights (players), and the peasants (the fans). The king will get his way, the Lords will agree, and all of the peasants will believe what the all mighty king says. A knight is forever outcast, for making the king look foolish.

Yes, no matter the evidence, Ryan Braun was going to be suspended, and from the rumors, even a possible lifetime ban was in play. The way Braun's contract is shaped, if the suspension goes into next year, he has a lot to lose. Plus he'd be hurting the 2014 Brewers. Something the fans won't enjoy as they already think he's a cheater, for he has been convicted.

So, either fight, probably lose, screw over your finances and your team, or make a bargain which essentially means you're accepting guilt over something you didn't do, but you won't be punished as severely.  Also, upon accepting the punishment, Braun just gave credibility to the entire Biogenesis investigation, and others will soon drop like flies. King Selig looks like a hero.

There's no doubt, MLB had a witch hunt going for Braun. Like @MillerParkNorth tweeted "Witch hunts almost always find a witch.", but like we all know, a lot of innocent "witches" have been burned at the stake.

Was Ryan Braun Bud Selig's great sacrifice, which will ensure Selig honorable praise when he enters Cooperstown, or is the simplest answer (Braun cheated and lied) the most likely?