July 15, 2024

2024 MLB Draft’s most interesting potential No. 1 pick, plus Yamine Lamal’s ‘perfect’ goal

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Good morning! I think we accidentally fell into a theme week here.

Hi, My Name Is: The great Australian hope?

For many, being possibly the best prospect in your country’s history would place a tremendous weight. How does one handle the pressures of being the face of a sport for a nation of more than 25 million?

From here, it seems like 22-year-old Australian baseball star Travis Bazzana relishes it. His rise, chronicled today by Brian Hamilton in a wonderful story, makes him the most interesting prospect in this weekend’s MLB Draft:

  • To be clear, there’s not exactly a deep history between Australia and baseball. A whopping 38 Australians have played in MLB. It’s thoroughly a cricket country (more on that in a second), so when Bazzana fell in love with baseball at 7 years old, he simply became the town’s baseball kid. And he was obsessed.
  • By nature, Bazzana is an analytical guy. As a teenager, he would get in cuts at a batting cage nearby and then go home and study pro swings on the MLB’s website. Throughout his youth career, he played against older players, including a stint at 15 years old in Australia’s top professional league. Incredibly, he hit a respectable .257 then — all while playing cricket too.
  • He moved to the United States to play second base at Oregon State, where he blossomed into a bona fide star. He hit .407 this year with 28 homers and a 1.479 OPS. He is maniacal about improving his swing, already melding advanced analytics into his approach at the plate. The running gag was that if you were Bazzana’s roommate, your average would go up by .200. He also cooked steaks and fish for everyone? Sign him up.

Bazzana is No. 2 on Keith Law’s final top-100 prospect list ahead of Sunday’s first round. He could very well be the No. 1 pick by Cleveland.

I urge you to read the full story this morning, which includes plenty more details than we could fit above, including his ultimate goal: making Australia into an international baseball powerhouse.

News to Know

World No. 1 bounced from Wimbledon
Jannik Sinner is done at Wimbledon after an arduous five-set loss to No. 5 seed Daniil Medvedev, marking another top name gone in a tournament full of upsets. If you watched this match, the result is unsurprising. Sinner looked winded for much of the middle sets, and he confirmed afterward he “was not feeling great” throughout. Medvedev advances to face Carlos Alcaraz, while American Taylor Fritz plays Italian Lorenzo Musetti this morning to advance to the semis. Live blog here.

Pistons’ Cunningham gets max deal
I am just numb to NBA salary figures at this point. The Pistons and Cade Cunningham agreed to a five-year, $224 million max extension yesterday, a well-deserved reward for Cunningham, who has been a star for one of the worst teams in the NBA. The deal makes him the highest-paid player in franchise history. Cunningham’s deal is the 11th contract this offseason totaling more than $150 million and the seventh over $200 million.

$2M worth of cards stolen
Over the weekend, thieves left the Dallas Card Show with a collection of rare baseball cards worth more than $2 million, according to a dealer in Dallas. The stolen briefcase contained approximately 170 cards, according to dealer Ashish Jain, including what he called some of the most valuable cards on the market, such as a Mickey Mantle rookie with a solid quality grade. The video evidence in our story is wild.

More news

Oh Look, Another Superteen: A 16-year-old becomes an international superstar

There are levels to the Young Superstar Index. Maybe you are Cooper Flagg, the 17-year-old who opened eyes this week at Team USA’s training camp. Or maybe you’re Lily Yohannes, who scored for the USWNT in her international debut at 16.

Those two are firmly in the “up next” camp, though. For Lamine Yamal — also just 16 — there is no curiosity about what spot he’s inheriting. He’s already here, scoring deep into a giant tourney.

Just look at what he uncorked yesterday in Spain’s Euros semifinal win over France:

Absurd. The confidence to pull that off, with your team down one, on the biggest stage outside of the World Cup is just breathtaking. Spain won 2-1, making this goal critical. Maybe he’s too young to realize the magnitude, but I doubt that. This undeniable talent is why we highlighted him in our Radar scouting guide ahead of the Euros. Dermot Corrigan’s preview rings very true today:

“He has become one of his team’s most dangerous attackers for club and country. He generally picks up a position high and wide on the right wing, where he can receive the ball with the rival defense stretched. From there, he immediately looks to cut inside and take on his marker — such as the driving run that won a penalty for Spain against Brazil.

Which is exactly what happened yesterday. It was perfect, as James Horncastle wrote beautifully. Yamal is now the youngest player to ever: 

Not a bad year. Spain faces the winner of today’s match between England and the Netherlands on Sunday, where we should not be surprised if Yamal adds to the unfathomable start to his soccer career. 

Watch This Game

Euros: Netherlands vs. England
3 p.m. ET on FOX
England is here, but I don’t know how. They’ve been a frustrating lot to watch this tourney. The Dutch, meanwhile, have been super impressive. As noted, a trip to the Euros final is on the line. The pressure felt across the English fan base could power lights for weeks.

Copa America: Uruguay vs. Colombia
8 p.m. ET on FS1
Across the Atlantic, these two might be the most fun outfits in Copa America. Uruguay is coming off a shootout win over Brazil, while the Colombians thrashed Panama in the quarters. Uruguay is a slight favorite.

Get tickets to games like these here.

Pulse Picks

What’s next for the NBA’s suddenly barren-ish transaction landscape? Though the initial flurry is done, John Hollinger tells us the big-name trades still lurking out there this offseason. Up first: Utah’s Lauri Markkanen.

Elly De La Cruz isn’t the only youthful excitement in Cincinnati. Rookie Rece Hinds enjoyed a massive debut Monday, smashing a 449-foot home run and a double. Cincy has so many good young players.

Gabby Herzig has the definitive story on Keegan Bradley’s shocking hire as U.S. Ryder Cup team captain, which, as Brody Miller adds, implies a major shift in program philosophy.

Most-clicked in the newsletter yesterday: Our story about Cooper Flagg’s stunning performance at Team USA training camp.

Most-read on the website yesterdayThe latest MLB Power Rankings. Sorry to the Mariners.

Yesterday’s top The Athletic podcast: The Athletic Women’s Basketball show wondered who the WNBA Rookie of the Year is, and how Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese will play together in the All-Star Game. Good listen.

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(Photo: Kevin Neri / Statesman Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK)