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'The Sandlot' scouting report

In the first edition of "From The Rooftop," we investigate the Major League potential of the kids from "The Sandlot."

"The Sandlot," Twentieth Century Fox

Welcome to "From The Rooftop." Every Wednesday, we will be the prototypical Party Deck Rockies fans. Sometimes we will talk seriously about the Rockies. Sometimes we will enjoy the sunshine and barely pay attention to the game being played. Depends on the day. The point is, I’m all about the baseball fan experience in its entirety.

★ ★ ★

Purple Row prides itself on prospect coverage. Some of us focus on guys in the minor leagues. Some of us are looking at the upcoming MLB Draft, but I want to look even further back. I’m talking middle schoolers.

Around this time every year, I have a tradition to watch The Sandlot. It gets me excited for summer and for baseball season. The kids in the movie are All-Stars in their neighborhood, but how would they project as big league prospects? I analyzed the tape, busted out the radar gun, and got down to business. I didn't get enough of a look at everyone, but there are certainly a few prospects in the mix that I want to shed some light on:

Benny has once-in-a-generation potential. This is the kind of guy that makes or breaks a scout’s career.  Despite the fact that he gets about 70% of the total ABs in the whole movie, he only gets retired twice.  And the first out was on purpose.  Rodriguez sniped Smalls’ glove from 250 feet away.  I haven’t seen bat control like that since, well, ever.  The other out was an F7 that, had he not hit the ball so hard that it ripped into pieces, would probably still be in orbit today.  I only count it as an F7 because Smalls caught the inner core of the ball, which is how I can only assume this would be counted.  I would like to see him hit against tougher competition than DeNunez and his own soft toss, but you can't knock it too much. I’ve said enough.  No holes to be found in this kid’s swing.

He seems to be more flawed on the basepaths than you'd expect from someone named "The Jet."  He was overly aggressive and trapped himself into two rundowns.  His legendary speed got him out of trouble in both instances. But you can’t always expect that to happen, especially in higher levels when other players can also afford fresh pairs of PF Flyers. Perhaps the presence of a real third base coach could iron this out.  Defensively, I can only assume he is a shortstop based on the positions of the other kids, but I can't really say considering he never leaves the batter's box.

He is far from a guarantee, but that bat will play anywhere. If I am a GM, I draft the kid, put him in the lineup, and ask questions later. Sold.

Squints has the raw ability to be an asset to any team. At the plate, he showed power you wouldn’t expect out of a kid his size. He called his shot on a homer, and he hits a ground ball so hard that it rolls past the center fielder to the fence. Defensively, he is certainly the anchor of the outfield. Tommy and Smalls have limited range on either side, so he has to cover more than his share of the outfield dirt. He also shows flashes of Willie Mays with his basket catch ability.

The only thing holding Squints back from stardom could be his mental makeup. His attitude is a double-edged sword The scouts in, "Moneyball" point out that a prerequisite for a batting title is an attractive girlfriend. It shows self-confidence. Squints, however, toes the line on arrogance. His antics at the pool raise a huge red flag. If you recall, pool parties don’t sit so well in the big leagues. He’s got the tools to be an all-star someday, as long as he stays out of his own way.

Of everyone in the Sandlot gang, DeNunez seems to have the most holes. He's only shown throwing 18 pitches the entire movie. He gets 2 Ks against the little league kids, but spends a majority of his time getting shelled by his own teammates. The only other out he records was the aforementioned ball that Benny disintegrated. I can only assume it would be scored as an F7 since Smalls caught the core of it, but I can't say for sure. Any pitcher who has that happen should take advice from Marvin in "Angels in the Outfield," and run straight home, never to be seen again.

Which leads me to my next point. Maybe DeNunez would be a good change-of-scenery candidate. When he ends up pitching to a playground legend 60% of the time, you can’t expect much success from the kid. The front office of the DeNunez household has held its cards close, but maybe his dad could look for a new job, and Kenny can follow Ellswinger to Arizona.

A change to a different team could possibly even save his career. As the only pitcher on the squad, DeNunez must have more mileage on his arm than any 12 year old I’ve seen. Throwing for 8 hours a day all summer makes his elbow a ticking time bomb.  We see what happens in the playoffs when guys get in the 250 inning range. Try throwing 400-500 innings per summer, and see if you have any success.

Smalls is best served as a DH moving forward. Obviously, he’s the feel-good story and he’s the mysterious dark-horse prospect, but I am not sold on him defensively. He has made great strides, particularly with his arm, but it is still sub-par. I’ve also never seen him make a catch. Well really, he’s made two catches: one with his face and one with his eyes closed. Do those even count?

Smalls has shown a little bit more promise at the plate, ripping a line drive down the right field line against the Tigers, and hitting the infamous Babe Ruth-autographed donger off DeNunez. However, he doesn’t have a baseball mind and he would certainly be nothing more than a liability on the basepaths, as he seemingly doesn’t  understand how circling the bases works.  Keep away from this guy, unless you’re desperate for bodies to plug into the lineup.

I'm not even sure Tommy is a baseball player. He does nothing on the diamond in the movie. Not even one play.  The only time you see him is when he is running around in the background while Bertram turns two. Hell, he doesn't have an original line during the movie. This leads me to one of two theories:

  1. Tommy was brought in around circumstances similar to Smalls. They simply needed to fill the hole in right field and Timmy's little brother was always tagging along anyway, so he was a logical fit. That being said, he can't play a lick, so they stick him in right field, don't let him bat, and hope the ball doesn't get hit to him while Squints covers much of his territory.
  2. Tommy is an alter-ego of Timmy, who kinda-sorta exists and follows the team everywhere they go.  We as the narrator can see him and his brother separately and the team acknowledges the presence of Timmy's split personality. This would also explain why Benny instructs Smalls to play left-center even though Smalls seems to be the third outfielder, and why Benny never gives Tommy any reps. Clearly, the Timmons brothers are always together and repeating each other because they are the same person

The gang has a lot of development that needs to be done, but they are definitely some guys to keep an eye on down the road. I could watch, "Sandlot 2" to see if it answers any of my questions, but I prefer to think that a poorly-rated sequel that went straight to TV never existed.