Two Cal Bears got drafted: Andrew Knapp in the 2nd round to the Phillies where he has already signed. Knapp was clearly the best hitter on the team last year, how do you see his game translating in the pros? Playing behind guys like Chadd Krist, Knapp doesn't have that much catching experience in college. Do you think he will stick as a catcher?
I was surprised when Philadelphia took Knapp as a catcher. His defense has always been the weakest part of his game, and while it has certainly improved, he still didn't catch with the kind of energy that myself and scouts would like to see. At first, I thought that I was just looking through the eyes of a former catcher, but I heard that same criticism from scouts. But, Cal has a history of churning out hitters who may not necessarily have a defined position (National League All-Star Allen Craig being the most prominent), and it appears that Knapp may be the latest in that line. What Knapp does have going for him is that he was raised by a catcher in his father and former Bear Mike Knapp, so he knows the position.
He has a fine arm, and is a very quiet receiver, but I saw too many passed balls and balls in the dirt that were not blocked last season. When you have a young staff as Cal did, you've got to be able to limit those, which is what Krist did so well. Pitchers have to have confidence that they can bury a slider or spike a curve, without it trickling away to the backstop or allowing a runner to advance.
What Knapp has going for him is, obviously, his bat, and the fact that he's a pretty fine athlete. He played in the outfield and at first base during his first two seasons, and as a former high school safety, he can move well enough to man left field. I honestly don't know where he'll wind up on the diamond, and given his work ethic and bloodlines, he may prove me wrong and stick behind the dish, but the aforementioned Craig and the New York Mets' Josh Satin have found big league homes while still not really having a solid position (Satin may see time at third to give David Wright some rest, could also see time in left field and he'll alternate with Ike Davis at first). I'll be anxious to see where he ends up, but I can tell you one thing: He's going to hit, no matter where he hangs his glove.
Derek Campbell was also picked late by the Cubs after an injury-shortened season. Do you know if he will definitely return? Is SS or CF (or another position) the home for him? Any updates on his injury and recovery?
I talked with Esquer in mid-July, and asked him that very question. He said that Campbell is "for sure" coming back. Where he returns is more open-ended.
Campbell was starting baseball activities in the last month of the season, and now he's out playing in the summer wood-bat leagues, so his leg is good to go.
With the infield logjam last year, Campbell moved to center field and was playing quite well before going down, but it's a foregone conclusion that Devin Pearson has that spot locked down for the next few seasons. He's a five-tool player who, I think, will wind up being a faster Marcus Semien-type player. That means Campbell will have to move back to the infield.
I'm skipping ahead a bit here in your question order, but with the signing of San Jose (Calif.) Willow Glen catcher John Riley by the San Francisco Giants, sophomore Mitchell Kranson looks to be the man behind the plate. That takes Kranson out of the mix at third, which eases things up around the diamond. With Kranson catching, Chris Paul, Max Dutto or Campbell could take the hot corner, while Paul, Campbell and Mike Reuvekamp are in the running at short. Whoever doesn't slot in at either of those will play second, with true freshman Robbie Tenerowicz (drafted in the 39th round, 1,186th overall by the Washington Nationals) definitely in the mix at either second or short. Tenerowicz has a big bat, and he's a slick fielder, so he can really fit in anywhere on the infield.
What Campbell provides is a veteran presence and a solid bat, along with a lot of athleticism. He has a plus arm, but the glove still needs work, especially if he's to slot in at short or third. I don't see him as an option at second, though. That would be a waste of his range.
Now, you'll notice that I didn't mention Brenden Farney, who played a very smooth second base for the Bears last year. Farney - at 5-foot-9, 201 pounds - is going to start taking reps at catcher, given the new realities there with the Riley signing. If Farney is going to make it at the next level, the staff thinks that it'll be behind the plate.
Mike Reuvekamp -- who ended last season on a white-hot streak before going down with a broken finger -- came to Cal as a catcher, and after playing the infield the last two years, he'll see a lot of reps behind the dish in the fall, and is playing catcher in the Northwoods League. That provides another way to get his bat in the lineup, while also getting better defense (and more solid bats) in the middle infield in Tenerowicz, Campbell, Paul (hitting over .300 in the Northwoods), Dutto and possibly Farney.
Of the incoming Cal Bears drafted (John Riley, Alex Schick, anyone else), do we have to worry about any of them turning pro?
Riley is gone (which irked roommate-to-be Tenerowicz to no end), which hurts, but it's not a deathblow. If anything, it helped the infield situation, and it makes Cal all the more appealing to 2014 catcher commit Brett Cumberland, a top-100 player nationally. Cumberland will inherit much the same situation Riley would have - he'll have an inside track to start (possibly moving Kranson to third) and if not, he'll be able to work in and learn for a year before becoming the outright starter. He'll be the top catcher at Cal for two or three years, raise his stock and then could get drafted very, very high and make himself a good chunk of change.
As for the others drafted, they're all coming, according to the staff. Tenerowicz told me "you'll be seeing a lot of me for the next few years," and he is absolutely gung-ho about getting to Omaha. Great attitude, fantastic clubhouse guy and a very mature plate approach, to go along with a hard-hitting bat. He went so low because it was pretty common knowledge that he was going to come to Cal.
Schick was a surprise going in the 17th round by the Houston Astros - the first of any of the Cal signees to go - and that's because he has a very projectable build at 6-foot-6 and really throws downhill with a lot of giddy-up on his fastball.
I would have thought that either Trevin Haseltine (undrafted, also because it was well known he was going to go to Cal unless someone blew his socks off) or Daulton Jefferies (39th round, 1,162 overall) would go ahead of him, but of course, neither did.
Jefferies - a former Stanford commit -- may be the sleeper in this class, though it's not like he's lightly regarded. Haseltine has the more college-ready body and that's why he'd garnered the lion's share of the coverage, but behind closed doors, the staff believes that Jefferies may wind up as a big contributor as soon as 2014.