Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Around the Bases - June 30, 2009

Kent Matthes is already making a push for full-season ball

I just returned from a mini-vacation and we will resume our daily Around the Bases feature on Thursday morning. In the meantime, keep an eye out for our breakdown of the International signing period later tonight, and our weekly Hots and Nots column on Wednesday.

As to Mr. Matthes, as the regular readers of this space are aware, we kind of stuck are neck out there a few weeks ago, when prior to the draft we told everyone that Matthes was a better talent than the traditional 'experts' were giving credit. In fact, while we listed Matthes as a Top 50 talent available for the draft, we know of no other source that had him better than the upper 60's, with many not even considering him a Top 100 talent.

The Rockies tabbed Matthes with the 121st overall pick, and assigned him to the Northwest (NWL) League, where, through 9 games, he has posted a .459/.523/.622 line, and he looks to be positioned for a promotion to Asheville before too much longer. As a relative unkown in this industry, we have to 'call our shots' a little more frequently in order to draw the attention to our unique approach to Minor League talent evaluation. Matthes is just the first of many that we find before the rest.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hot and Not - June 24, 2009

Norris continues to bide his time, beating up PCL hitters in the process

As the Minor League season hits the half-way point, we have lots of player movement—both upward and downward. One name that is still waiting to move though, is 24yo, Astros’ right-hander, Bud Norris; who continues to mow down Pacific Coast League (PCL) hitters. Norris has a 20-inning scoreless streak that has him sitting atop this week’s list.

Hot Pitchers –

1) Bud Norris, RHP, HOU – I had to verify the Astros rotation before writing this. Nope, there was no Koufax/Drysdale/Sutton. .. No McNally/Cuellar/Dobson/Palmer…I didn’t find Maddux/Glavine/Millwodd/Smoltz either. What I did find was a rotation that after Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez consisted of Hampton (4.70 ERA), Moehler (6.43), Ortiz/Backe (5.19), and Paulino (6.18). Yet, Bud Norris and his 2.11 ERA and 20-scoreless innings streak in the PCL can’t get a shot. Norris has a 0.688 WHIP and a 16:6 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks.

2) Manuel Banuelos, LHP, NYY – The Yankees signed Banuelos out of Mexico as a 17yo in 2008. They sent him to the GCL where opposing hitters managed to hit all of .208 off him. This is an unbelievably polished 18yo, that already possesses plus pitches with his fastball and curve. The Yankees thought enough of him to start him in full-season ball this year with Charleston in the South Atlantic (SAL) League. Hitters there are only batting .207 off him. A solid change is all that currently stands between Banuelos and elite-prospect status, with plenty of time ahead of him to work on it. A 1.38 ERA, 0.615 WHIP with an 8:0 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks.

3) Jose Ortegano, LHP, ATL – Although still not able to shake the ‘soft-tosser’ label, the 21yo continues to dominate Carolina (CAR) League hitters. Ortegano has posted a 0.59 ERA, a 0.522 WHIP and a 14:2 K:BB ratio over his last three outings, leaving him with a 3.66 ERA on the year.

4) Trevor Bell, RHP, LAA – People forget that Bell was a first round pick by the Angels in 2005. After four solid, but unspectacular, seasons, he had somewhat disappeared from the radar screen. Still just 22yo, Bell put on a show in 11 Texas (TXL) League starts that earned him a promotion to the PCL, where he has been even better. In two PCL starts, he has 16 scoreless innings, a 0.375 WHIP, and an 8:1 K:BB ratio.

5) Jon Niese, LHP, NYM – Niese struggled badly after returning to Buffalo from a brief stint with the parent club, but seems to have regrouped now. Niese is working on an 18 inning scoreless streak where he has posted a 0.837 WHIP and a 15:4 K:BB ratio.

6) Homer Bailey, RHP, CIN – Bailey has repeatedly teased us with spectacular Minor League showings, only to fall flat when given the opportunity with the Big League club. With Micah Owings struggling, there would seem to be an opportunity once again in the Reds’ rotation. Watching him over the last few weeks, leads me to believe that this time will be different. Bailey has a 0.76 ERA, a 1.014 WHIP, and a 24:5 K:BB ratio over his last three starts.

7) Mike Montgomery, LHP, KCR – The Royals have a solid group of A-ball pitchers (Duffy, Melville, Montgomery, etc), and for our money, the 19yo Montgomery is the best of the bunch. While he still has some work to do on his control, a 0.84 ERA, 0.656 WHIP and a 10:3 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks leaves him with a 1.99 ERA on the season.

8) Zach Phillips, LHP, TEX – Repeating the California (CAL) League, this 2004 draft-and-follow seems to be having better luck this time around. Phillips has allowed only a single earned run over his last 23 innings and has been scored upon only twice in his last 11 outings. Opposing hitters are batting .123 against him on the year.

9) Alexander Perez, RHP,CLE – This is the third straight week on this list for Perez, who was given strong consideration in our recent Top 100 Prospect list. The 19yo Perez has posted a 2.50 ERA, a 0.667 WHIP and a 20:3 K:BB ratio over his last 3 starts and has now allowed more than 2 runs in only 1 of his 13 starts on the year.

10) Brian Matusz, LHP, BAL – Matusz really started to put things together in early May and closed his Carolina (CAR) League stint with a 1.32 ERA over his last six starts. Making his Eastern (ESL) League debut, last Wednesday night, Matusz put together his best outing of his brief professional career, going 6 scoreless innings, allowing three hits and walk, while fanning 10. Currently Matusz is working on a 27 inning scoreless streak.

Hot Hitters –

1) Anthony Rizzo, 1B, BOS – Rizzo was off to an excellent start in the SAL last season, prior to being diagnosed with Hodgkins’ lymphoma. Returning to the SAL, as a 19yo, this season, Rizzo has been even better. A .442/.478/.767 over the last two weeks, gives him an .859 OPS on the year.

2) Ike Davis, 1B, NYM – A repeater from last week, Davis is quickly putting the horrors that were his 2008 season behind him. Davis earned a promotion to the ESL this week, after closing out his CAR stint with an .863 OPS. Over the last two weeks, Davis has posted a .375/.487/.688.

3) Cameron Maybin, OF, FLA – After starting the year in the Marlins’ lineup, Maybin hit .202 through 26 games and was promptly demoted. He has handled the demotion without incident and has PCL OPS up to .878 after going .459/.545/.649 over the last two weeks.

4) Justin Maxwell, OF, WSN – Maxwell is one of those guys we call a ‘4’. He is either going to end up as a 4th OF type or a 4A player. At 25yo, we should be getting our answer soon, but Maxwell is demonstrating that he is better than a AAA player. A .357/.460/.786 over the last two weeks, leaves his International (INT) League OPS at .810 on the season.

5) Angel Salome, C, MIL – With the Brewers in the thick of things in the NL Central, they can be forgiven for not wanting to take too many chances, like going with a rookie catcher. Now I could completely understand that logic if it weren’t for the fact that they are starting .222 hitting, can’t throw anyone out, Jeff Kendall! Salome is the Brewers’ catcher of the future, and for my money the future should be now. Salome has posted a .395/.422/.674 over the last two weeks.

6) Lance Zawadzki, SS, SDP – I have been closely following Zawadzki for nearly two months now and I have been surprisingly impressed. He was a 4th round pick out of NAIA Lee University in Tennessee in 2007 and has put up respectable numbers in two previous seasons. At 24yo, he will have to perform at AA for the rest of the year to truly be considered a prospect, but a .429/.492/.625 over the last two weeks, leaves him with a .957 start.

7) Caleb Gindl, OF, MIL – Repeating from last week, Gindl continues to defy those who have difficulty with his size, but this is a ‘character’ guy through and through. A .278/.381/.611 over the last two weeks leaves him with a .823 OPS in Hi-A as a 20yo.

8) Kyler Burke, OF, CHN – Because he has posted three disappointing seasons, heading into this year, we tend to forget that Burke was a first round pick by the Padres in 2006. Just barely 21yo, Burke has found some comfort in a return trip to the Midwest (MWL) League, posting a .340/.456/.553. Never posting a SLG higher than .446 at any previous stop in his career, Burke has hovered near .500 all season. At 6’3, 205, there is more untapped power potential still to come.

9) Nick Weglarz, OF, CLE – A 3rd round pick out of Canada in 2005, Weglarz has always been an advanced hitter for his age. Now just 21yo, Weglarz is having his way with ESL pitchers. Weglarz shows excellent control of the strike zone, an indicator that his offensive skills should transfer to the next level. .310/.396/.643 over the last two weeks.

10) Alex Liddi, 3B, SEA – The beat goes on with Liddi, who has likely posted the most eye-opening offensive season of any player in the Minor Leagues. He is a 20yo, playing in Hi-A, with excellent projectable size. Over the last two weeks, he has hit .364/.447/.545, and his OPS stands at 1.009 on the year.

The Nots –

1) Chad Huffman, OF, SDP – The former second round pick’s career has relatively been in neutral since the first half of 2007. A jump up to AAA this season has resulted in .757 OPS, but over the last two weeks things have gotten miserable. Over his last 45 PAs, his line reads .053/.143/.132.

2) Greg Halman, OF, SEA – This is getting to be a broken record with Halman. Things have gotten so bad that the Mariners have sent him to their Arizona Rookie affiliate to try to get them straightened out, but he has fanned in 6 of 7 ABs since being there. A .091/.167/.091 with 12Ks in his last 25 PAs, leaves him with a .640 OPS on the year.

3) James Houser, LHP, TBR – Coming off of a monster 2008 season, Houser can’t seem to find the plate this year. A 12.41 ERA, 2.676 WHIP and a 4:13 K:BB ratio over his last three starts, puts his season ERA at 5.79

4) Tony Delmonico, 2B/C, LAD - Delmonico carried a .982 OPS into May, but it has been downhill ever since. His .160/.222/.160 over the last two weeks has his OPS sitting at .782 on the year.

5) Jack McGeary, LHP, WSN – McGeary fell to the 6th round in the 2007 draft due to his strong commitment to Stanford. $1.8 million later, the Nationals felt they got an additional first rounder. He has posted less than first round numbers over the last two years, but that is somewhat because he has started the season three months later than everyone else. Now playing full season ball for the first time, SAL hitters have not been very kind. A 11.37 ERA, 2.842 WHIP, with a 4:10 K:BB ratio, over the last two weeks, has left McGeary’s ERA at 6.79.

6) Michael Almanzar, 3B, BOS – The highest priced Latin American signing of 2007, has been significantly overmatched in his brief career. At 18yo, it’s still difficult to get a read on him due to the fact that he has been so much younger than his competition. After going .125/.125/.167 over the last two weeks in the SAL, Almanzar now finds himself back in the New York-Penn (NYP) League.

7) Tyler Chatwood, RHP, LAA – The Angels’ second round pick in 2008 got out of the gates fast this year, giving up 7 ERs in his first 6 starts. He has allowed twice that many in his last three. Over the last two weeks Chatwood has posted a 10.57 ERA, 2.348 WHIP with a 6:7 K:BB ratio.

8) Delta Cleary, OF, COL – Have I mentioned that I am not a fan of speedy, ‘toolsy’, prospects that are more potential than production? Cleary has gone .182/.182/.273 over the last two weeks and now has a .695 OPS on the year.

9) Sean West, LHP, FLA – The Marlins have tried just about everything this season to find a 5th starter. It came to reaching down to their AA Jacksonville affiliate and choosing between West, Bret Sinkbeil and Aaron Thompson. Thompson was the choice and pitched decent in his first four starts. The last two haven’t been so kind, as West has posted a 8.38 ERA, 2.069 WHIP with a 7:6 K:BB ratio.

10) Brad Emaus, 2B, TOR – Emaus got off to a solid start, and through May had an .820 OPS. June hasn’t been so kind, as Emaus has hit .120/.185/1.87 since the beginning of the month. Nothing here that will improve his ‘fringy’ prospect status.

Around the Bases - June 24, 2009

Matthes was the 2009 Division I Home Run champ

This isn’t so bad afterall…
Indians’ left-hander, David Huff, entered last night’s game with a 7.09 ERA, in his first 7 Big League starts, and in serious jeopardy of a return trip to the Minors. He then proceeded to shutout the Pirates for 8 innings while allowing 4 hits and 2 walks.

Speaking of turnarounds…
The Diamondbacks assignment of 18yo Supplemental 1st round pick, Matt Davidson, to the Northwest League (NWL) would be considered by many to be peculiarly aggressive. After starting the year 0 for 8 with 4 strikeouts, Davidson is now 4 for 7 in the last two games, including last night’s 2 for 2, with a walk and a homerun.

It ain’t pretty but…
22yo Braves’ right hander Tommy Hanson, will be a good one, but part of the problems with young Major League pitchers is their inconsistency. After last night’s 5 1/3 scoreless innings of 4 hit ball, Hanson now has a very respectable 3.13 ERA through 4 starts and has a string of 13 2/3 scoreless innings…Of course he has a 6:9 K:BB ratio during that stretch.

Speaking of ain’t pretty…
David Price
tossed 4 1/3 innings yesterday, allowing 5 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks.

This, however, was breathtaking…
25yo Giants’ right-hander, Tim Lincecum, continued his dominance over Major League hitters with a complete game, 1 run, 7-hitter (striking out 12). Since May 21st, Lincecum has a 1.47 ERA and a 58:12 K:BB ratio and is, in this writer’s opinion, the best pitcher in the game today.

He's just warming up…
Orioles uber-rookie, Matt Wieters, went 2 for 4, with a homerun last night and is now .351/.385/.595 over his last 10 games.

Ugly line of the night…
Belongs to 19yo Rangers’ firstbasemen, Clark Murphy, who went 0 for 5, with 4 strikeouts. Murphy was overmatched in the SAL this year and so this line came against Everett in the NWL.

If only he were in a different system…
It’s tough being a Rockies pitching prospect, but we would be hearing a lot more about 23yo right-hander, Esmil Rogers, if he were with someone else. Yesterday’s 8 inning effort, where he allowed 1 run on 8 hits, while fanning 7; gives Rogers a 2.78 ERA on the season and also marks the 9th time in his last 10 starts where he has yielded 2 or fewer runs.

Minor League hitting performance of the day…
Goes to 25yo Rays’ firstbasemen, Rhyne Hughes, for his 3 for 6 2 homerun performance.

Because he illustrates the differences of what we do…
We will provide more coverage of the exploits of Rockies’ 4th rounder, Kent Matthes, who we rated as the 50th best player available in this year’s draft. Matthes went 2 for 3 with 2 doubles in last night’s game, and is off to a .412/.450/.580 start to his professional career.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mid-Season Top 100 Prospects

Matt Wieters heads the list...at least until he uses up his eligibilty in a couple of weeks

We just completed our mid-season Performance Evaluations for each of the full-season leagues and with most of the full-season leagues in the midst of their All-Star breaks, it seems like a good time to update our Top 100 prospect list. This list is our list of who we feel, and that the numbers support, has the best combination of the two “C’s”—‘ceiling’ and ‘certainty’. No young player in baseball represents that more than the Orioles Matt Wieters, and he heads our list. Keep in mind that we considered only players that have not exceeded their ‘rookie eligibility’ (130 MLB ABs or 60 IP), and we did consider any of the 2009 draft picks that have already signed.

The list has some changes from our pre-season list, though many of the changes were due to players no longer being eligible. Five players fell from the Top 20 (Moustakas, Freeman, Hosmer, Bowden and Morrison) and they were replaced by Gordon Beckham, Carlos Santana, Desmond Jennings, Jesus Montero and Neftali Feliz. As to which teams fare the best, the Rangers still have the deepest system in baseball, placing 9 players on the list. They are followed by the Orioles, Indians and Athletics which each placed seven players. On the negative side, the Tigers, Cubs, Astros and Diamondbacks have only one player each.

We haven’t provided any write-ups, as we will do with the 2010 Pre-Season list, but we will be happy to answer any questions or address any comments over the next couple of weeks. Just post your question as a comment to this article, or feel free to email us at baseballnumbers@ix.netcom.com.

2009 Mid-Season Top 100 Prospects

1 ) Wieters, Matt C BAL ETA: 2009
2 ) Parker, Jarrod RHP ARZ ETA: 2010
3 ) Heyward, Jason OF ATL ETA: 2010
4 ) Alderson, Tim RHP SFG ETA: 2010
5 ) Bumgarner, Madison LHP SFG ETA: 2010
6 ) Price, David LHP TBR ETA: 2009
7 ) Posey, Buster C SFG ETA: 2010
8 ) Hanson, Tommy RHP ATL ETA: 2009
9 ) Smoak, Justin 1B TEX ETA: 2010
10 ) McCutchen, Andrew CF PIT ETA: 2009
11 ) Beckham, Gordon SS CHA ETA: 2009
12 ) Santana, Carlos C CLE ETA: 2009
13 ) Stanton, Mike OF FLA ETA: 2011
14 ) Tillman, Chris RHP BAL ETA: 2009
15 ) Martinez, Fernando OF NYM ETA: 2009
16 ) Jennings, Desmond OF TBR ETA: 2010
17 ) Alvarez, Pedro 3B PIT ETA: 2010
18 ) Montero, Jesus C NYY ETA: 2011
19 ) Vitters, Josh 3B CHN ETA: 2011
20 ) Feliz, Neftali RHP TEX ETA: 2009
21 ) Wallace, Brett 3B STL ETA: 2010
22 ) Chacin, Jhoulys RHP COL ETA: 2010
23 ) Holland, Derek LHP TEX ETA: 2009
24 ) Anderson, Lars 1B BOS ETA: 2010
25 ) Gamel, Mat 3B MIL ETA: 2009
26 ) Brown, Dominic OF PHI ETA: 2011
27 ) Matusz, Brian LHP BAL ETA: 2010
28 ) LaPorta, Matt 1B/LF CLE ETA: 2009
29 ) Beckham, Tim SS TBR ETA: 2011
30 ) Jackson, Austin OF NYY ETA: 2009
31 ) Latos, Mat RHP SDP ETA: 2010
32 ) Rondon, Hector RHP CLE ETA: 2010
33 ) Reimold, Nolan OF BAL ETA: 2009
34 ) Norris, Derek C WSN ETA: 2012
35 ) Freeman, Freddie 1B ATL ETA: 2011
36 ) Kelly, Casey RHP BOS ETA: 2012
37 ) Medlen, Kris RHP ATL ETA: 2009
38 ) Taylor, Michael OF PHI ETA: 2010
39 ) Hicks, Aaron CF MIN ETA: 2011
40 ) Villalona, Angel 1B SFG ETA: 2011
41 ) Hosmer, Eric 1B KCR ETA: 2011
42 ) Alonso, Yonder 1B CIN ETA: 2010
43 ) Moustakas, Mike 3B? KCR ETA: 2011
44 ) Hellickson, Jeremy RHP TBR ETA: 2009
45 ) Flores, Wilmer SS NYM ETA: 2011
46 ) Lawrie, Brett 2B? MIL ETA: 2011
47 ) Revere, Ben OF MIN ETA: 2011
48 ) Bowden, Michael RHP BOS ETA: 2009
49 ) Cardenas, Adrian 2B OAK ETA: 2010
50 ) Mejia, Jenry RHP NYM ETA: 2011
51 ) Chisenhall, Lonnie 3B/2B CLE ETA: 2011
52 ) Decker, Jaff OF SDP ETA: 2011
53 ) Carrasco, Carlos RHP PHI ETA: 2009
54 ) Escobar, Alcides SS MIL ETA: 2009
55 ) Reckling, Trevor LHP LAA ETA: 2010
56 ) Mazzaro, Vin RHP OAK ETA: 2009
57 ) Walden, Jordan RHP LAA ETA: 2010
58 ) Morrison, Logan 1B FLA ETA: 2010
59 ) Perez, Martin LHP TEX ETA: 2011
60 ) Tabata, Jose OF PIT ETA: 2010
61 ) Coghlan, Chris 2B FLA ETA: 2009
62 ) Viciedo, Dayan 3B/1B CHA ETA: 2010
63 ) Wheeler, Tim OF COL ETA: 2011
64 ) Liddi, Alex 3B SEA ETA: 2011
65 ) Carp, Mike 1B SEA ETA: 2009
66 ) Snyder, Brandon 1B BAL ETA: 2010
67 ) Arrieta, Jake RHP BAL ETA: 2010
68 ) Drabek, Kyle RHP PHI ETA: 2011
69 ) Gonzalez, Gio LHP OAK ETA: 2009
70 ) Danks, Jordan OF CHA ETA: 2010
71 ) Dominguez, Matt 3B FLA ETA: 2011
72 ) Teagarden, Taylor C TEX ETA: 2009
73 ) Triunfel, Carlos SS SEA ETA: 2011
74 ) Poreda, Aaron LHP CHA ETA: 2009
75 ) Friedrich, Christian LHP COL ETA: 2011
76 ) McDonald, James RHP LAD ETA: 2009
77 ) Bard, Daniel RHP BOS ETA: 2009
78 ) Weeks, Jemile 2B OAK ETA: 2010
79 ) Hernandez, David RHP BAL ETA: 2009
80 ) Cunningham, Aaron OF OAK ETA: 2009
81 ) Ynoa, Michael RHP OAK ETA: 2012
82 ) Burgess, Michael OF WSN ETA: 2011
83 ) Cecil, Brett LHP TOR ETA: 2009
84 ) Hernandez, Gorkys CF PIT ETA: 2010
85 ) Davis, Wade RHP TBR ETA: 2009
86 ) Jones, Darryl OF STL ETA: 2010
87 ) Marrero, Chris 1B WSN ETA: 2011
88 ) Lyles, Jordan RHP HOU ETA: 2011
89 ) Martin, Ethan RHP LAD ETA: 2012
90 ) Francisco, Juan 3B CIN ETA: 2010
91 ) Crosby, Casey LHP DET ETA: 2012
92 ) Salome, Angel C MIL ETA: 2009
93 ) Frazier, Todd OF CIN ETA: 2010
94 ) Tazawa, Junichi RHP BOS ETA: 2010
95 ) Withrow, Chris RHP LAD ETA: 2010
96 ) Aumont, Phillippe RHP SEA ETA: 2011
97 ) Brackman, Andrew RHP NYY ETA: 2011
98 ) Banuelos, Manuel LHP NYY ETA: 2012
99 ) Inman, Will RHP SDP ETA: 2010
100 ) Holt, Brad RHP NYM ETA: 2010

Just missed: Carter, Chris 1B OAK; Brantley, Michael LF CLE; McAllister, Zach RHP NYY; Gilles, Tyson OF SEA; Knapp, Jason RHP PHI; Duffy, Dan LHP KCR; Arencibia, J.P. C TOR; Ramirez, Max C/1B TEX; Montgomery, Mike LHP KCR; Borbon, Julio CF, TEX; Kiker, Kasey LHP TEX; Main, Michael RHP TEX; Gomez, Jenmar RHP CLE; Lambo, Andrew LF LAD; Huff, David LHP CLE.

Around the Bases - June 23, 2009

Castro's 'hard-nosed' play has him rapidly rising up the prospect charts

I’m beginning to sound like a broken record but…
I can’t figure out what more the Reds need to see from 23yo right-hander, Homer Bailey. Last night Bailey tossed 7 innings of 6-hit, 1-run, ball and fanned 8, leaving his ERA at 0.47 in June, and 2.71 on the year. The Reds are realistically in contention in the NL Central, and he is certainly a better option than Micah Owings.

Helium alert…
Cubs’ 19yo prospect, Starlin Castro, followed up his 4 for 4, Florida State League All-Star MVP performance with a 3 for 5, with a triple, outing in the first game after the break. Castro is quickly closing in on Top 100 consideration.

Yes, he still qualifies as a prospect…
With 54 MLB innings under his belt, 26yo Nationals’ right-hander, Garret Mock, has been a borderline prospect for a few years now. Yesterday, Mock was anything but borderline, throwing a complete game, 3-hit, shut out, where he fanned 10 in the process.

Hello, I am…
23yo White Sox 1Bmen, Brandon Allen introduced himself to International League pitchers in a big way, going 8 for 17 in his debut series, including yesterday’s 3 for 5 with a home run.

Looking like a solid #2…
I am still not convinced that Athletics’ 21yo right-hander, Trevor Cahill, has the stuff to front a rotation, but he is certainly looking like a solid Big League #2. Last night’s 7 inning, 1 run, 4 hit, 1 walk, 4 strikeout, performance gives Cahill a 2.44 ERA over his last 7 starts.

Maybe he can hit a little too…
‘Fringy’ 22yo Tigers’ prospect, Audy Ciriaco, has always been known as a good glove, weak bat, SS. In yesterday’s double header, Ciriaco went 5 for 6 with a double and now has a .400/.417/.571 line over his last ten games.

Somebody missed this one…
The Cubs’ 21yo right-hander, Jay Jackson, lasted until the end of the 9th round in last June’s draft. 280 players were selected before him. After fanning 72 batters in 50 innings in his debut last summer, the Cubs figured they might have something more than a 9th round pick in Jackson. Last night, Jackson tossed 5 shutout innings of 1 hit ball—fanning five. In 8 starts since April 29th, Jackson has a 1.13 ERA—in AA.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Around the Bases - Weekend Recap

The Phillies' Kyle Drabek has recovered from Tommy John surgery and is making up for lost time

22yo Rangers’ left-hander, Derek Holland, has had his struggles at times this season, but Saturday night wasn't one of them, as he went 7 innings, allowing 1 run on hits and a walk, while fanning 5.

Sometimes it is hard to remember that Dodgers’ lefty, Clayton Kershaw, is still a mere 21yo. Kershaw still struggles with control from time to time, like the third inning in last night’s game, but he worked out of it and pitched 7 shutout innings, allowing 4 hits and 4 walks while striking out 5. Kershaw now has a string of nearly 13 scoreless innings.

Justin Smoak made his injury return last night in the opener of the Arizona League and pronounced himself healthy with a 3 AB, 2 Homeruns and a walk, performance.

I am sure Michael Bowden of the Red Sox is frustrated with being blocked right now, but Friday night’s 1 inning, 5 hit, 3 walk, 6 ER performance means that since May 23rd, he has a 7.40 ERA and a 1.808 WHIP.

24yo Padres Infield prospect, Lance Zawdzki, isn’t exactly a high-upside guy, but he is doing all that he can to grab people’s attention. Zawdzki reached base 11 times this weekend, in 15 ABs and now has a .927 OPS on the season.

19yo Dodger right-hander, Ethan Martin, has nearly limitless upside, but things aren’t going well for him at the moment. Martin allowed 7 of the 11 batters he faced Friday night to reach base—3 hits and 4 walks, and now has a 7.92 ERA, 2.120 WHIP and a 22:23 K:BB ratio since May 18th.

24yo Padres’ 2B prospect, Matt Antonelli, has had an up and down career since being a first round pick in 2006, and this season has been far more down than up, but on Sunday night Antonelli made 5 trips to the plate and had a single, a double, a triple and a walk to show for it.

If you have been paying attention at all, then this comes as no shocker…Phillies’ right-hander Kyle Drabek has completely recovered from his 2007 Tommy John surgery. Friday’s 8 inning shutout performance, allowing just 4 hits while fanning 5, leaves him with a 2.36 ERA for the year.

Lost in the depth that is the Rangers system, 21yo Marcus Lemon is trying to regain some traction as a legitimate prospect this year. Helped by a 9 for 14 performance over the weekend, Lemon has is Texas League OPS up to .743 on the season.

Bud Norris continues to make this writer ask why he isn’t pitching in the Astros rotation? After Saturday’s 8 inning shutout performance in which he allowed 3 hits and walked 4 while fanning 10, Norris’ ERA sits at 2.11 on the season--in the PCL.

23yo, Luis Valbuena, a player who has always been more interesting to the statheads than the scouts, continues to show that someone needs to give him a chance at a full-time Major league gig. A 3 home run, 6 for 14, weekend leaves the diminutive Valbuena with a .748 OPS in a little more than 100 ABs.

Making his Southern League debut Saturday, his third level of the season, 22yo Dan Hudson, of the White Sox, continued to make believers. Hudson went 7 scoreless frames, allowing 2 hits and a walk.

We are still not convinced that 25yo Justin Maxwell will ever be more than a 4A type of prospect, but his 5 for 10 weekend, which included a double, a triple and a home run, did bump his OPS above .800 on the season.

We, at Diamond Futures, continue to be impressed with 19yo Alexander Perez, of the Indians, and look at him as one of the pitching prospects with the most helium so far this season. On Saturday, Perez tossed 6 innings, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits, while fanning 9, and now has a 2.89 ERA on the year.

22yo Dodger’s prospect, Kyle Russell, remains one of the most difficult prospects to get a handle on this year. A 5 for 11 weekend in which all 5 hits went for extra bases (4 doubles and a home run), puts Russell’s OPS at .945 for the year…But…he is old for his competition and he has now fanned 90 times in 260 At Bats.

Despite lacking good raw ‘stuff’ and a true out pitch, 23yo Tiger’s left-hander, Luke French, looks like he is going to have a big league career. French tossed 8 innings of 1-run ball on Sunday, allowing 4 hits while walking 10, and now has a 3.01 ERA. French’s season rated as the 7th best in the International League, in our just completed mid-year performance evaluations.

Negative offense performances of the weekend: Diamondback’s newly signed Matt Davidson made his debut with an 0 for 8, 4 K, performance; J.P. Arencibia continues his all or nothing ways, going 1 for 12 with 6 Ks; and we remain less enthusiastic about Drew Stubbs than others, after his 0 for 13 with 4 Ks weekend.

However, we do remain relatively high on 20yo, Rays’ right-hander, Nick Barnese, who threw 7 scoreless innings of 1-hit ball yesterday, while fanning 6; and 18yo Astros’ right-hander Jordan Lyles who fanned 11 in 6 scoreless innings of 2-hit ball. Through 4 starts, Barnese has a 1.59 ERA and Lyles has now fanned 98 in 78 IP.

23yo Reds’ prospect, Brandon Waring, continued to try to improve his ‘fringy’ prospect status with a 7 for 15 weekend performance that included a double, a walk, and 2 home runs.

Despite, his original desires, don’t expect Casey Kelly to switch over to SS when the Carolina League season resumes later this week. After a 6 scoreless inning, 1-hit, performance, in which he allowed 3 runners and fanned 5, Kelly has a 1.64 ERA through 77 innings, and is clearly a better pitching prospect than SS.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Coming Attractions

In addition to our typical weekly features and the daily 'Around the Bases' column, we have two special features to keep an eye out for Next Week:
  • The Diamond Futures Mid-Season Top 100 Prospect List

  • The Top 20 Latin American Prospects Available in the July Signing Period

Around the Bases - June 19, 2009

Grossman has a prototypical lead-off hitter skill set...but those misses are still a concern

Keeping your focus while playing for the Nats is hard…
24yo Ryan Zimmerman has been in one of those periods since May 26th. Entering last night’s game he had posted a .191/.313/.265 over his last 18 games. Judging by last night, he seems to be shaking it off after a 3 for 5 , 2 doubles, outing.

The Forgotten One…
At the beginning of the season, the A’s had 3 young pitchers vying for 2 rotation spots. While Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson joined the Big League club, 22yo Vin Mazzarro was sent down to AAA. As we approach the halfway point of the season Cahill and Anderson are battling through 3.89 and 5.77 ERAs. After last night’s 6 inning, 2 earned run, 5 hit, 1 BB, 5K performance, Mazzarro has opened up his Major League career with 4 straight quality starts and sports a 1.37 ERA.

Getting the hang of things…
21yo Braves’ right-hander, Tommy Hanson was greeted rather rudely in his Major League debut on June 7th. His next time out, he was one out shy of a quality start. Last night’s 6 scoreless innings, allowing 3 hits and 4 walks, indicates he may be starting to figure this out.

Has he finally figured it out…
With Anderson, Cahill and Mazzarro already in the rotation and Dana Eveland sporting a 5-0 record in AAA, the A’s seemed to be loaded with young pitching talent. In 2 previous stints with the Big League club, 23yo Gio Gonzalez has been knocked around with a plus 7.00 ERA. But after last night’s 5 1/3 inning, 4 hit, 1 BB, 10 K performance Gonzalez has a 2.51 ERA with Sacramento and appears to be ready for a bigger challenge.

I really want to like him, but…
19yo Pirate OF prospect, Robbie Grossman, went 5 for 6 with a double and a triple yesterday, giving him a .783 OPS on the year. He’s athletic and he has 21 SBs on the year—the prototypical leadoff hitter. While there is a lot to like about Grossman, I have a hard time getting past those 82 strikeouts in 228 ABs.

He was drafted where…
You typically don’t find Major League pitching prospects in the 27th round, yet that’s where the Marlins found 22yo Elih Villanueva in last June’s draft. With last night’s 7 1/3 inning, 2 hit, 1BB, 4K, 1 run performance he now has a 2.76 ERA through his first 110 professional innings.

Guess he can hit after all…
The Reds took 23yo Zack Cozart in the second round of the 2007 draft as an excellent defensive SS with a poor bat. After yesterday’s 4 for 8 performance with 2 HRs and a walk, Cozart has an .832 OPS in the Southern League and he looks to be the organization’s best hope at SS.

Not so fast on that anointment…
With the season he has been having, the ‘experts’ have roundly proclaimed Dan Duffy as the Royal’s best pitching prospect, but 19yo, 2008 1st round pick, Mike Montgomery, isn’t yielding that distinction quite yet. Yesterday’s 6 inning, 1 run, 2 hit, 7 K performance gives Montgomery a 1.31 ERA over his last 4 starts.

He’d get more press if his name was easier to spell…
23yo Jays’ prospect Marc Rzepczynski tossed 7 innings last night, allowing 1 run, 5 hits and 1 walk while fanning 8. Over his last three starts, he has thrown 20 innings and allowed 1 run.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

From the Bleachers: Should He Stay or Should He Go?

Harper's skills are the story...not his decision

This is the inaugural ‘From the Bleachers’ column where we will provide a weekly editorial look at a relevant topic affecting the Baseball World. Today’s column focuses on the controversy surrounding last weekend’s announcement that 16yo Bryce Harper is leaving high school and enrolling in the College of Southern Nevada in order to make himself available for the 2010 draft.

Major League Baseball allows a player to be eligible for the draft in any of the following manners:

  • High school players are eligible once they have completed high school and have not attended a college.
  • Players at 4-year colleges are eligible after they have completed their Junior year or have reached their 21st birthday.
  • Players attending a community college or junior college are eligible at any time.

The plan for Harper is to have him complete his GED this summer, attend community college for one year, and then be eligible for the June 2010 draft at age 17. A number of people have expressed dismay that a 16yo, especially one carrying a 3.5 GPA, would forgo his Senior year of high school to play professional baseball. They have used words like impatient, immature, foolish, wrongheaded, and impetuous to describe Harper’s decision. They talk about the social issues that will be created by a 17yo playing in a league where the average age is over 20yo and most of the players will be between 18yo - 23yo. And they castigate MLB, Scott Boras and the Harper family for ‘letting this happen.’

As a father of three children that are each the youngest in their respective grades, with one of them nearly 18 months younger than many of the students, I don’t want to brush aside what I feel to be some well-founded and well-meant, even if idealistic, concerns, but I would like to take the emotion out of the argument and look at this from a realistic point of view.

First and foremost, this is a Harper family decision. They have complied with the rules that are in place—not circumvented them, and regardless of what they decide in the end, all of the concerns that have been expressed can be either alleviated or, to some degree, mitigated by careful, proactive management. Second, one needs to truly answer the question of why one attends college, or finishes high school for that matter, in the first place. While secondary and tertiary types of learning takes place in these environs, ultimately we go to school to provide us with the basic skills required to earn a living and/or manage our lives. As the first pick in the 2010 draft, with all the hype surrounding him, he is likely in a position to receive a deal that will be similar to the deal that Stephen Strasburg ends up with this year. In earlier articles, I have pointed out that Strasburg is almost certainly to get a deal that is bigger than Mark Prior’s and Prior’s deal, adjusted for baseball bonus inflation, would be in the neighborhood of $14 million today. I think we can safely assume that the starting point will be in the $15 - $20 million range, and could likely be much higher. This is generational wealth we are talking about and clearly would signify the achievement of the primary goal of school .

Those that follow amateur baseball are familiar with Robert Stock. Stock was named, by Baseball America, Youth Player of the Year, as a 15yo, in 2005. He also scored a 1410 on his SAT, and bypassed his senior year in high school to enter USC early. Had he entered the draft following his senior year, he would have almost certainly been a top 10 pick—likely higher. Instead he had a very undistinguished career at USC and was fortunate to have been selected by the Cardinals in the second round last week. Nonetheless, in strict monetary terms, waiting to enter the draft likely cost Stock $2 - $3 million. A similar situation for Harper could mean $15 million or more.

The third thing that needs to be highlighted is that sports from tennis to women’s gymnastics to figure skating to junior hockey and to even baseball itself—for international players, routinely take kids at even younger ages and put them into the exact type of situation that Harper will find himself in. While it may not be ideal, it certainly can be managed.

Bryce Harper is a kid of exceptional talent. It is undoubtedly a unique situation and one doesn’t call for any rewriting of rules or setting of standards. But most importantly, it is a situation that needs to be worked out between the player and his family—not by the ‘do-gooders’ of society, that no matter how well intentioned, would be better served focusing their efforts on things with much more global impact.

Your comments are always welcome.

Around the Bases - June 18, 2009

Brian Matusz has now reeled off 26 straight scoreless innings

It’s about time…
After breaking out with an .838 OPS in the Pioneer League last summer, it looked like we would see big things from 20yo Twins’ prospect Angel Castillo, but the jump to full season ball has been difficult, as Castillo has posted an .583 OPS in 225 Midwest League At Bats. Last night his bat came alive as he had a double, a walk and a home run in four trips to the plate.

Looking more and more like a 4A player…
25yo Steven Pearce went 3 for 3 with a home run last night, raising his OPS to .832 on the year. Unfortunately for Pearce, between his defensive limitations, his age, and his inability to translate Minor League success, it looks like we are finding his ceiling.

Just keeps mowing them down…
In case you’re not familiar with the Rays’ Matt Moore, between his velocity and movement he has some of the Minor’s best pure ‘stuff’. Barely a 20yo…Happy Birthday Matt…he still has bouts of control issues, but SAL hitters can’t touch him (batting average against is .171 on the year). 6 2/3 innings last night, allowing 1 run, 1 hit and 2 BB, while fanning 10; leaves him 86 K’s in 58 IP on the season.

Apparently it’s all downhill after 18…
At least if you are Delois Guerra. The centerpiece in the bounty for Johan Santana, Guerra was frightful in the FSL last season, and a repeat trip this year isn’t turning out much better. Yesterday’s 4 inning, 8 ER, 10 Hit, 2BB outing was easily the night’s worst.

Ugly Performance of the day…
23yo Rangers’ prospect Greg Golson went 0 for 6 with 3 strikeouts.

Waiting for the phone to ring…
After a couple of failed attempts at the Major Leagues, 23yo Reds’ right-hander, Homer Bailey, honestly appears to be ready for the show. Yesterday’s 8 inning, 7 hit, 1 walk shutout, with 7 Ks, gives Bailey 31 innings now with only 1 run allowed and a 30:5 K:BB ratio over that time.

Apparently worth the money…
The Indians gave 16th round pick T.J. House $750,000 to keep him from attending college last summer. The 19yo tossed a 7 inning shutout, allowing 2 hits and 2 walks while fanning 6 yesterday, lowering his ERA to 2.74 on the year.

Minor League hitter of the day…
The A’s 23yo, Aaron Cunningham, went 3 for 5, with 2 home runs.

Next stop Baltimore…
It has taken a little longer than he had hoped, but Orioles, 22yo left-hander, Brian Matusz has the express train rolling. After 20 straight scoreless innings in the Carolina League, Matusz made his Eastern League debut with 6 more shutout innings. He allowed a mere 3 hits and 1 walk, while fanning 10. Expect him to be in Baltimore before the year is out.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hots and Nots - June 17, 2009

Posey is making the California League look easy these days

This week’s list has repeaters at the top of both our ‘Pitcher’ and Not’ lists and a ‘Hitter’ list that is dominated by Hi-A players, but the name at the top was the 5th overall pick last June, who isn’t finding California League (CAL) pitching to be much of a challenge.

Hot Hitters –

1) Buster Posey, C, SFG – Memo to Brian Sabean: While we accept that Catchers require more Minor League seasoning than any other position, and we are in no hurry to see Buster Posey rushed, the time has undoubtedly arrived for a promotion to Connecticut. Posey has nothing left to prove in San Jose and, worse yet, he is being completely pitched around in the current lineup. Through May, Posey was walking once every 11 ABs. As CAL pitchers have determined that they can’t get him out, that number has moved to once every 4 ABs for the month of June. Over the last two weeks Posey has destroyed CAL pitching to the tune of .424/.558/.758, and now has a .970 OPS on the year.

2) Jemile Weeks, 2B, OAK – Weeks missed the first month of the season with some nagging injuries, but has quickly made up for lost time. Over his last 55 PAs, Weeks has posted a .444/.537/.711 and has a 1.134 OPS on the year.

3) Tyson Gilles, OF, SEA – Gilles has been on the Mariner radar for a couple of seasons, after being signed as a draft and follow in 2006. The breakout season that the Mariners have been waiting for, appears to have arrived, as the 20yo Gilles has hit .488/.523/.732 over the last two weeks and has upped his OPS to .934 on the year. Not likely to maintain the range to man CF in the Majors, Gilles will have to continue to show power if he is to become more than a 4th OF type.

4) Ike Davis, 1B, NYM – After going homerless in 215 New York-Penn (NYP) League ABs in his 2008 debut, and getting off to a slow start this year, Mets’ fans were beginning to wonder what happened to that power hitting first basemen they had drafted last June. Have no fear, as Davis is beginning to show that stroke he used with such success at Arizona State. .324/.410/.765 over the last two weeks, Davis now has belted five home runs in his last 13 games.

5) Wilson Ramos, C, MIN – Ramos got off to his traditional slow start, batting .257/.284/.329 in April. As the weather has warmed, so has Ramos’ bat. A .400/.417/.714 over the last two weeks, leaves his OPS at .770 for the year.

6) Moises Sierra, OF, TOR – Signed as a 17yo out of the Dominican Republic in 2005, Sierra, along with Joehrmyn Chavez, Gustavo Pierre and Balbino Fuyenmayor, makes up the center piece of the Jays burgeoning efforts in Latin America. Entering the year, with three seasons behind him, he hasn’t posted the type of numbers the Jays had hoped for, but 2009 is beginning to look like a breakout season. Sierra has posted a .383/.473/.596 over the last two weeks and now sports an .835 OPS in the Florida State (FSL) League.

7) Caleb Gindl, OF, MIL – It’s tough to get excited about a 5’9” Corner Outfielder, but after leading the Pioneer (PIO) League with a .372 average in 2007, Gindl posted impressive offensive numbers in the SAL last season—as a 19yo. After a .306/.404/.633 performance in his last 60 PAs, Gindl now has an .842 OPS in the FSL. This is a ‘character’ guy that will have to prove himself at each step, but he is certainly one to keep an eye on.

8) Thomas Neal, OF, SFG – Coming back from 2007 reconstructive shoulder surgery, the Giants kept Neal under wraps last season, having him spend most of the year as Villalona’s caddy in Augusta. Seemingly completely healed, Neal has been turned loose this year and the CAL pitchers are paying the price. A .455/.500/.939 over the last two weeks, gives Neal a 1.055 OPS on the year. Neal is not athletic and will be limited to LF or 1B as he moves up. He will have to continue to rake in order to have a shot at the Major League level.

9) Willie Cabrera, OF, ATL – Cabrera was a 2005 Draft and Follow by the Braves, who has struggled to put up the kind of numbers that the Braves would have hoped for. Now a 22yo in his 4th season, Cabrera is trying to turn things around. A .400/.471/.622 over his last 45 ABs.

10) Dustin Ackley, CF, SEA – The Mariners’ 1st round choice (#2 overall) last week, Ackley was the most polished hitter in college this past season. Big players play big in big games, and Ackley is no exception. In 10 post season games this year, Ackley has put a .511/.569/.911 with 5 home runs.

Hot Pitchers –

1) Travis Wood, RHP, CIN – Rarely do we see a player top the ‘Hot’ list for two weeks in a row, but after last week’s list came out, Wood threw a 7 inning shutout where he allowed but two baserunners and fanned nine, and therefore finds himself atop the list again. Wood has now tossed 25 straight scoreless innings and has only allowed 2 runs in his last 36. During that time he has a 34:4 K:BB ratio.

2) James McDonald, RHP, LAD – McDonald started the season in the Dodger rotation, but struggled in 4 big league starts. He was sent down in mid-May and didn’t find things much better in Albuquerque, as he had a 5.51 ERA through his first four starts there. He has seemingly turned things around though, posting a 1.89 ERA, 0.789 WHIP and a 28:6 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks. The Dodgers are still in need of a fifth starter, so don’t be surprised to see him recalled shortly.

3) Jose Ortegano, LHP, ATL – Signed by the Braves as a 16yo in 2003, Ortegano has spent five seasons with the organization, with little fanfare—despite having a career ERA under 3.00. The biggest knock on Ortegano is that he is somewhat of a ‘soft tosser’ with limited upside. Nonetheless, he continues to post solid numbers. A 21yo in the Carolina (CAR) League, Ortegano has posted a 1.15 ERA, a 0.638 WHIP and a 12:3 K:BB ratio over his last three starts, leaving him with a 3.81 ERA on the year.

4) Alex Torres, LHP, LAA – One of the best lefties in the Angels Organization, Torres had a breakout 2008, when he held his own in 10 CAL starts—as a 20yo. A Return to Rancho Cucamonga this year, has produced more of the same. Torres has posted a 0.42 ERA, a 0.750 WHIP, with a 18:5 K:BB ratio over his last three starts and now sports a 3.03 ERA on the season. Torres, still lacks a true third pitch at this point, and will be destined for the bullpen if he can’t find one.

5) Joe Paterson, LHP, SFG – Selected in the 10th round in the 2007 draft, Paterson has pretty much been lights out in two-plus professional seasons. It’s difficult for relievers to make this list, but Paterson has not allowed an earned run in 13 innings, nor has he allowed an earned run in 23 of his 24 appearances on the season. Over the last two weeks, the 23yo, has a 0.652 WHIP and a 10:3 K:BB ratio.

6) Chris Withrow, RHP, LAD – The 20yo Withrow was the 20th overall selection in the 2007 draft. The Dodgers loved his athleticism and a mid-90s fastball. Unfortunately, nagging arm injuries have caused him to miss all but 13 innings since being drafted. Seemingly healthy, the Dodgers have challenged Withrow with a CAL assignment. Withrow has responded, posting a 1.64 ERA and a .909 WHIP over the last two weeks, giving him 63 Ks in 52 IPs on the season. Due to Withrow’s ‘rust’ from not pitching much the last two seasons, he is still struggling with control—allowing nearly 5 BB per 9IP. If he gets the control problems ironed out, look for Withrow to take off.

7) Trey Haley, RHP, CLE – Haley was given first round money by the Indians, despite being a second round pick in the 2008 draft. Signing late, Haley threw only 2 innings last year. The Indians like his low- to mid-90s fastball and his very projectable 6’3” frame. Still just 18yo, the Indians kept him in extended Spring training before moving him to Lake County in mid-May. Over his last three starts, Haley has posted a 2.51 ERA, and a 0.907 WHIP. Haley has struggled with his command for most of the season, though does have his velocity up, consistently in the mid-90s. His arm is lively, but he still needs to learn to become a ‘pitcher’.

8) Nick Schmidt, LHP, SDP – Schmidt is a holdover from last week’s list and, at the moment, the 23yo is overpowering Midwest (MWL) League hitters. He needs to move up to find a more age appropriate challenge, but for now is humming along. A 0.53 ERA, a 0.765 WHIP , with a 19:5 K:BB ratio over his last three starts.

9) Zach Phillips, LHP, TEX – A draft and follow from the 2004 draft, the 22yo Phillips is in his second season with Bakersfield, after spending three seasons in Clinton. After a rough trip the first time, Phillips seems to have things figured out this time around. A 0.90 ERA and a 0.400 WHIP with a 11:2 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks, leaves Phillips with a 1.43 ERA on the year. Opposing hitters are batting .128 against him on the year.

10) Alexander Perez, RHP,CLE – Another holdover from last week’s list, the 19yo Perez has been one of the season’s biggest prospect movers. A 2.25 ERA, 0.750 WHIP with a 11:3 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks, has Perez sporting a 2.88 ERA on the year.

The Nots –

1) Greg Halman, OF, SEA – One of the most disappointing seasons by any player continues. Halman entered the year as the Mariners’ top prospect. He now has only 1 XB hit over his last 63 ABs and is striking out in 44% of his PAs. Over the last two weeks, Halman has posted a .097/.125/.129 and his OPS is now down to .648 on the year.

2) Zach Putnam, RHP, CLE – The Indians made Putnam their 5th round selection in last June’s draft. With a mere 33 innings of professional experience under his belt, the Tribe decided his future lie as a reliever and promoted the 21yo to AA. Perhaps they are going to rethink the plan. In 11 relief appearances, Putnam has a 5.79 ERA and a 1.554 WHIP.

3) Brad Emaus, 2B, TOR – Emaus has been a fringy prospect since the Jays made him their 11th round pick in 2007. He got off to a solid start, and through May had an .820 OPS. June hasn’t been so kind, as Emaus has a .118/.151/.196 since the 1st of June.

4) Emmanuel Burris, SS, SFG – Burris technically used up his ‘prospect’ designation early last season, but we are including him here because he has never stopped playing like a Minor Leaguer. There is not a worse offensive player in the Major Leagues today, and I can’t figure out why the Giants continue to waste ABs on this guy. Burris has posted a .069/.100/.103 over the last two weeks, which has dropped his OPS to .559 on the season. This guy doesn’t belong in baseball—yet alone the Majors.

5) Jason Berken, RHP, BAL – Berken is a curious case, as 5 solid AAA starts earned him a promotion to the Majors and his first two big league starts left him with a 2.25 ERA. The wheels have fallen off since then. Berken has a 15.26 ERA and a 2.478 WHIP over the last two weeks. In three previous Minor League seasons Berken has posted solid, but not spectacular, numbers and has typically been a bit older than we would like to see for his level of competition. The Orioles have Troy Patton, David Hernandez, Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz in the minors—all better prospects than Berken. I can’t help but feel his Major League days are drawing to a close.

6) James Skelton, C, ARZ – Skelton was a Rule 5 pickup from the Tigers system, that the Diamondbacks liked enough to work out a deal to keep him this Spring. It was a curious move to me, as Skelton doesn’t have tremendous defensive skills and doesn’t profile, offensively, as an everyday player at any position. This season in the Southern League has exposed his offensive deficiencies, as a .034/.152/.034 over the last two weeks, leaves him with a .575 OPS on the year. Skelton hasn’t had an XBH since May 25th.

7) Shelby Ford, 2B, PIT – Another repeater from last week, Ford is .139/.205/.139 over his last 40 PAs, with his OPS falling to .434 on the year. The Pirates had planned on Ford being Freddy Sanchez’s replacement as early as next year. It looks like they might want a new plan.

8) Kyle Winters, RHP, FLA – The 22yo Winters was ‘lights out’ in 5 FSL, earning a promotion to the Southern League, where things have been a little more challenging. A 9.00 ERA, 2.375 WHIP and a 4:5 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks, leaves his Southern League ERA at 5.40.

9) Wendell Fairley, OF, SFG – Fairley is a 2008 first round draft pick and is only 21yo. Usually a player with that record is given plenty of chances before being declared a ‘bust’…normally. After posting a .725 OPS in the Arizona League last summer, he has followed that up with a .598 OPS in the SAL this year. A .114/.205/.200 over the last two weeks, just further states the obvious—Fairley will never hit enough to become a successful Major League player.

10) Robert Fish, LHP, LAA – Fish is one of those players that has put up solid numbers in three professional seasons, striking out more than a batter per IP, but doesn’t have sound enough mechanics to believe he will succeed as he moves up the ladder. That lack of success apparently has found him this season in the CAL, as opposing hitters are batting .325 against him. A 8.22 ERA, 2.348 WHIP and a 6:5 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks, boosts his ERA to .659 on the season.

Around the Bases - June 16, 2009

How much longer will it be before this 20yo joins the Giant rotation?

Icing on the cake…
Putting the finishing touches to what has been an outstanding collegiate career, the #2 overall pick in last week’s draft, by the Mariners, Dustin Ackley, went 5 for 6 with a double and a walk in North Carolina’s elimination game win. In the process Ackley set an NCAA record for career College World series (CWS) hits, and raised his CWS average to .576 this year. Perhaps most impressive was the quality of At Bats, as he repeatedly fouled off tough pitches until he got his pitch to hit into holes vacated by frustrated Southern Miss fielders.

Somewhat unexpected…
24yo Rickey Romero added a 7 inning, 3ER, 6 Hit, 2 BB, 9K performance to what is becoming an excellent Major League debut. Romero now has a 3.73 ERA on the year.

The problem with young pitchers…
22yo Chris Volstad put up a phenomenal 2.88 ERA in his debut season in 2008, but young pitchers have their ups and downs. Volstad had three straight quality starts in late May but last night’s 3 2/3 Inning, 8 ER, 9 hit, 2 BB performance was his second straight abysmal outing.

I guess you call this a roll…
24yo Felix Hernandez tossed a complete game, 2 Hit, 4 BB, 6 K, shutout against the Padres to lower his ERA to 2.77 on the year. In his last 4 starts, Hernandez has pitched 29 innings and allowed a total of three earned runs.

Winning for the little guys…
24yo, diminutive, left-handed reliever Danny Herrera tossed 3 scoreless frames, allowing 2 base runners, dropping his ERA on the season to 1.69. In case you haven’t had a chance to see him this season, Herrera stands 5’6” and weighs 165lbs.

Ugly line of the night…
Take your pick between Christian Santana of the Rangers and Brian McFall of the Royals, as they both fanned in all 4 trips to the plate last night.

Starting to heat up…
19yo Braves’ prospect, Freddie Freeman, got off to a somewhat slow start in the Carolina League this year. Freeman now has hit in six straight games and 11 of his last 12, including going 3 for 6 with 2 HRs in last night’s double header.

Mr. All or Nothing…
22yo Pedro Alvarez hasn’t quite gotten off to the professional debut that he had hoped for, but he does lead the Carolina league with 55 RBIs. It’s his contact rate that is currently holding him back as he is batting .233 with 65 strikeouts. Alvarez belted 2 more home runs last night, giving him 14 on the year, but has only 4 hits in his last 20 ABs—all home runs of course.

Minor League hitter of the day…
Goes to the Cubs’ Kyler Burke, as the 21yo went 3 for 3, with a home run and a walk. For the season, Burke has an .835 OPS in the Midwest League.

Where did this come from…
As a supplemental first round pick in 2005, 22yo Angels’ right-hander, Trevor Bell, isn’t exactly a sleeper. But at four levels in his previous experience heading into the season, Bell has never had an ERA lower than 3.50 or an average against less than .261. Last night Bell made his AAA debut, tossing a complete game shutout, allowing only two baserunners. At two levels this season, Bell has a 1.97 ERA and opposing hitters are batting .199 against him.

Seems to have righted the ship…
21yo Rockies’ Right-hander, Julio Chacin, went 7 1/3 innings, allowing 2 runs, 2 hits and a walk while fanning 10. After allowing 7 Earned Runs in his first start of the year, Chacin has a 2.41 ERA and has fanned 55 in 56 innings.

Pitching performance of the day…
We’ll give it to the Phillies’ 23yo Aussie, Drew Naylor, who tossed 7 shutout innings, allowing 4 hits, and fanning 9.

Making it look easy…
With Lincecum and Cain in the rotation, being a Giant pitching fan has to be easy. It may even get a whole lot easier before the season’s end, because 20yo Tim Alderson is destroying Eastern League (ESL) hitters. Alderson tossed 7 shutout innings yesterday, allowing 2 hits and 2 walks, while fanning 5. Through 39 2/3 ESL innings, Alderson has a 1.82 ERA, a 0.958 WHIP and a 34:4 K:BB ratio.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Do-It-Yourself: When Is a Prospect A Prospect?

There are a number of things, in addition to the statistics, that go into the making of a Prospect

Last week we published our Division I Performance Evaluations. At the time, we told you that, while they had a high degree of correlation to future success, they were not Prospect Evaluations. Today I’d like to touch on that topic a little further.

At Diamond Futures, our approach to Prospect Evaluation is a three step approach. Step 1 is our current state assessment, or what we call Performance Evaluations. What we do at this step is we take every player’s data for a particular period of time (usually a full-season), normalize the data for the park, and then calculate a score based on the five variables that we have found to be most significant (see last week’s Do-It-Yourself for more in-depth information): Age, Power, Average, Strike Zone Judgment and Speed for Hitters and Age, Dominance, Control, Stamina and HR rate for Pitchers. Once we plug that into our formulas we come up with a Performance Rating that is then normalized for Level of Play. It is a very straightforward process, completely systemized and all science (statistics actually). We know that from a full-season’s worth of data, that our formulas will yield a correlation coefficient in the high .40’s with future Major league success. We can tell you from that one number, and on just one season’s worth of data, the probability of that player ever achieving Major League success. At Diamond Futures we perform most of this analysis from the previous season in September and October and publish League by League ratings similar to our NCAA Division I ratings.

Step 2 is our comparative data analysis. Here we use the same statistical variables, but we combine the one year’s worth of normalized data with the data from every year of a player’s professional or collegiate career. We then add to that, things like birth month, height and weight data and their progression, handedness, defensive fielding information, country of origin, age at signing, signing bonus/draft position, etc. We take that information and compare it to our 12,000 player historical database and find the most similar players. From this we are able to not only forecast the player’s probability of success, but we can apply finer gradations to the actual level of future success. Again, it is a relatively straight forward process, completely systemized and all science.

Then we get to Step 3. While the first two steps are pure science, Step 3 is where the ‘art’ enters in. With the first two steps we can tell you what the probabilities are that a certain player will achieve success or how many players from a similar group will succeed, it is Step 3 that allows us to hone in on the other factors that we can’t pick up from our statistical analysis. Occasionally, Step 3 allows us to rank someone slightly higher than their numbers would otherwise suggest, but more often than not, we use Step 3 to drop players. Think of Step 3 as the pieces of information that would otherwise have been gleaned from traditional scouting methods. At Diamond Futures, we focus on essentially six areas. These are the areas that, once the ‘numbers’ highlight a player, we feel are the differentiators in “making a prospect a prospect.”

The first area is Age. While we use Age extensively in Steps 1 and 2, we can’t overstate the significance of age vs. the level of competition. 25yo Robinson Chirnos, may be posting a 1.116 OPS in the Florida State League, where the average age is approximately 23.5, but that doesn’t make him a prospect. While I like James Darnell, and do think he is a legitimate prospect, a 22yo with a .985 OPS in the Midwest League, where the average age is a tad over 22, doesn’t get me excited. By the same token, 17yo Jefry Marte, sitting with a .574 OPS in the South Atlantic League, isn’t really a case for concern. We have done some research and have found that over the last fifty years, approximately 70% of players that play in the Major Leagues, make their debut before their 25th birthday. Furthermore, those that debut before 25 have about a 38% chance of putting together 3 seasons or more where their performance is at or above Major League average. For the post-25’s, the odds drop to 8%. When you look at players that amass 5 seasons or more, at or above league average, the contrast is even sharper—29% to 4%. In other words, a player that debuts prior to turning 25 has a 7-8 times greater chance of having Major League success. If you figure that a standard Minor League progression is one level per year, and the goal is to reach the Majors before he turns 25, then we want prospects that are 24 or younger at AAA, 23 or younger at AA, 22 or younger at Hi-A, and 21 or younger in Lo-A. If you are older than those targets you have some ‘make-up’ work to do, and if you are more than a year older than those targets, it doesn’t bode well for your future.

The second area we look at to test a ‘prospect’ is Projectability. In 2001, with Kane County being the closest Minor League affiliate to where I live, I got to see 18yo, Miguel Cabrera play more than a dozen times. At 6’2, 185lbs it was difficult to envision the 6’4, 240lb, behemoth that he was later to become. In batting practice, you could watch him put on a tremendous display of both power and quickness with the bat, but that translated into a .268/.328/.382 line for the year…barely above a .700 OPS. But what you could see, was that he was going to get both bigger and stronger as he filled out. By the same token, I have seen Jaff Decker play a couple of times this year. At 19yo, he is 5’10, 190 lbs. While he is a hitting machine, and I believe he certainly has the potential to succeed at the Major League level, he will have to prove himself at every level, because no one believes that he will gain much if any size/strength as he matures. The same thing goes for pitchers. We are far more tolerant of bad numbers from an 18yo, 6’4, 180lb high school senior than we are of a 22yo 6’2, 210lb college junior. They both may throw 92MPH fastballs, but only one of theirs is likely to get any faster. We try to account for this, to some degree, with our height, weight and body mass distribution inputs in Step 2, but this is something that requires a certain amount of ‘artistry’.

The third area is Pitch Repertoire. Young pitchers, especially at the lower levels of the minors and in college and high school, tend to get by on one or two pitches. Rarely do they have to go to a Change-up. They may have more than that that they can throw, but they tend not to need them to get out less experienced hitters. The old baseball adage definitely holds true—a pitcher needs three quality pitches to make it as a big league starter. In this area we are looking for depth of a pitching repertoire, or else we are likely to evaluate the player as a RP only—and we will write more in depth at a later date about the success rate of minor league RPs. The other area that we look for here is velocity. The term ‘crafty lefty’ wasn’t invented out of thin air. There are a number of left-handed pitchers pitching in the Majors today that can spot four pitches, but lack any true ‘stuff’. You’ll notice they don’t say ‘crafty righty’. While right-handed pitchers can succeed at the lower levels of the Minor Leagues without ‘stuff’…there are very, very, few Major League right-handers with a mid 80’s fastball.

The fourth area is Pitch Movement. A major league hitter will have little difficulty in hitting a 100mph fastball if it comes in straight. When we are looking for pitchers that will be successful, we want pitchers that show late ‘life’ or late breaking action on their pitchers. This is one of the more difficult areas to evaluate, because it requires some sort of first hand observation. At Diamond Futures we use our own observation, industry contacts, and research. Despite all of these, we still likely have a good feel on about 10% of the pitchers that we would like.

The fifth area that we look at is Defensive Position. The overwhelming plurality of Major League position players came out of high school as shortstops. High school coaches play their top players at that position. As a player progresses, his position is determined by a heightened elimination process, i.e. positions get eliminated by their defensive capabilities, or lack thereof. Only SS and a Catcher can make the major leagues nearly exclusively on their defensive ability. Therefore, as they move outward, from the middle of the diamond, their offensive requirements become greater. A player that might have had enough of an offensive game to play SS, may lack the requirements to play 2B, 3B or CF. A player that might have had enough offensive game to play 2B, may lack the required power to succeed as a corner OF or a first basemen. So when we try to determine if a ‘prospect is a prospect’ we look at what position they are likely to play at the big league level, and then if their bat will meet the requirements of a typical Major League player at that position.

The final area that we look at, is also the most difficult to gauge—Work Ethic. Remember that Michael Jordan was cut from his high school team as a Sophomore because he wasn’t talented enough. At the highest levels of professional sports, talent isn’t as big a differentiator as is work ethic. While I am not writing off Delmon Young just yet, unless his work ethic changes his, almost limitless, talent will be wasted. When we are assessing this area, we are predominantly looking at how ‘coachable’ a player is, how a player responds when things aren’t going well, and how much of a student of the game the player is. We acquire this information through research, observation and first hand reports.

While Step 3 is more ‘art’ than ‘science’, keep in mind that we use this predominantly to weed players out. So while this isn’t really quantifiable or objective, given the methods available to collect this information, we are only using it to eliminate or downgrade players that the statistical work has already identified. So we aren’t dramatically skewing the statistical analysis with this step—only improving on it.

Around the Bases - June 16, 2009

Kung Fu Panda is rapidly becoming one of our favorite players

News Flash…
In case you’ve missed it…25yo Ryan Braun has become one of the top five hitters in the Major Leagues. Yesterday’s 3 for 5 performance with a triple, a home run, a walk and a SB, leaves Braun at .319/.415/.578 on the season.

Something you probably didn’t know…
While most 22yo prospects are toiling away in AA looking for their Major League shot, only 39 players in the last 20 years have achieved more Major League production than Pablo Sandoval has at his age. Yesterday’s 3 for 5 with 2 HRs, leaves Sandoval with a .337/.367/.519 through 362 Major League ABs.

Have to plug Bradley University when I can…
Brewers, 21yo prospect Dan Brewer put up the offense performance of the day yesterday, going 4 for 4 with 2 doubles and 2 triples.

Remember he is only 20 years old…
Dayan Viciedo
posted a 3 for 4 performance with a double and a home run last night, leaving him with a .317/.364/.520 line over his last ten games—in the Southern League.

Paging Brian Sabean…
Sabean may be the only one left that hasn’t figured out that it is time to move Buster Posey up. California League pitchers are big time pitching around him these days. His 2 for 2 with a double and 2 walks last night means that in the last 8 games he has now been walked nine times. Of course I’d walk him too if he was hitting .478/.625/.826.

The Boy Can Hit…
23yo Mitch Moreland has a .962 OPS between two stops this year, after going 4 for 6 with a home run last night.

This was a bad outing?...
21yo Mat Latos surrendered the most runs he has in any game this season, going 5 1/3 innings, yielding 2 runs and 5 hits while fanning 12.

Makes me go hmmmm…
Am I the only one that believes that Bud Norris would be a better option than Brian Moehler, Russ Ortiz or Felipe Paulino in the Astro rotation? The 21yo Norris now sports a 2.39 ERA in the PCL after yesterdays 8 inning shutout performance where he allowed 2 hits and 2 walks while fanning 6.

Nobody does it better…
Than Tim Corcoran and Tom Kotchman and the Los Angeles Angels when it comes to finding talent in the small school/Juco ranks. 19yo Will Smith is their latest find and he tossed an 8 inning, 1 run, 5 hit, 2 walk, 7 strikeout gem last night.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Look Ahead to the 2010 Draft

Bryce Harper lore is likely to surpass that of Stephen Strasburg

With the 2009 Draft in the books, and the announcement this weekend that Bryce Harper is enrolling at the College of Southern Nevada in order to make himself eligible for the 2010 Draft, it seemed like a good time to get an early peek at some of the players to watch as the next year unfolds. If you are unfamiliar with Bryce Harper, we’ll give you a few of the tidbits here, as the legend that is Bryce Harper is likely to dwarf the legend that is Stephen Strasburg. Harper is a 16yo, high school sophomore, that many Major League scouts feel would have been the second player taken had he been eligible for the 2009 draft. At 6’3”, he currently plays catcher, even though he sports a 96Mph Fastball, and the athleticism to play any position on the field. It is reported that as a freshman, the left-hander hit a homerun during a game that traveled a distance of 570’. In a showcase event in Tampa this past January, he hit a 510’ home run that is the longest ever recorded in Tropicana Field—at any level. His .626 average, to go along with 14 HRs and 33 SBs this season only added to his ‘Sid Finch-like’ lore that has propelled him to the cover of the most recent issue of Sports Illustrated. If Stephen Strasburg is the best college draft prospect of all-time, Bryce Harper is positioned to become the best high school draft prospect of all time. There will be plenty of people, over the next twelve months, willing to add to the, already-enormous, legend; for now we’ll just focus on next June’s draft.

The draft itself is shaping up to be a solid draft overall—similar in overall quality to this past year. Outside of Harper, the strength of this draft, similar to 2009, is in its pitching. At this time, the College pitching is probably not quite as deep or quite as strong as 2009. On the prep side, it is slightly less deep, but the power arms at the top of the draft are comparable to the top of the 2008 draft. At both levels, the draft appears to be short of left-handers. On the hitting side, there is similar talent to 2009 on the prep side—with likely more depth. While the college bats can’t compare to the 2008 draft, they are not only stronger than 2009, but there is talent up the middle—a quality that has been missing the last couple of season. So here is our look at the players to keep an eye on over the coming year.

2010 Draft – Top 30 Players

1) Bryce Harper, C, Las Vegas
2) Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, LSU
3) Bryce Brentz, OF, Middle Tennessee State
4) Yordy Cabrera, SS, Lakeland, FL
5) A.J. Cole, RHP, Winter Springs, FL
6) James Taillon, RHP, Woodlands, TX
7) Kyle Blair, RHP, Univ. of San Diego
8) Trey Griffin, OF, Stockbridge, GA
9) Deck McGwire, RHP, Georgia Tech
10) Blake Forsythe, C, Tennessee
11) Christian Colon, SS, Cal State-Fullerton
12) Alex Wimmers, RHP, Ohio State
13) Chris Hernandez, LHP, Miami
14) Austin Wilson, OF, Los Angeles, CA
15) Daniel Renken, RHP, Cas State-Fullerton
16) Josh Rutledge, SS, Alabama
17) Kris Bryant, SS/3B, Las Vegas, NV
18) Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Mississippi
19) Kaleb Cowart, RHP, Adel, GA
20) Yasmani Grandal, C, Miami
21) Nick Tepesch, RHP, Missouri
22) Nick Castellanos, 3B, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
23) Derek Dietrich, 3B, Georgia Tech
24) Cameron Bedrosian, RHP, Coweta, GA
25) Krey Bratsen, OF, Bryan, TX
26) Matt Harvey, RHP, North Carolina
27) Victor Sanchez, 3B, Univ. of San Diego
28) Brandon Workman, RHP, Texas
29) Marcus Littlewood, SS, St. George, UT
30) Dylan Covey, RHP, Pasadena, CA

Around the Bases - June 15, 2009

It's looking like a breakout season for Mariner prospect Tyson Gillies

Jorge Who?...
Always thought of as a defense-first catching prospect, 23yo Francisco Cervelli is doing an adequate job--offensively, filling in for, and backing up, Jorge Posada. A 3 for 5 yesterday leaves Cervelli with a .298 average on the year.

I certainly didn’t expect this…
Brad Bergesen
has always been a solid second-tier type prospect in my book. Given an opportunity, he could find a spot at the back of someone’s rotation and have a serviceable Major League career had been the thought. But yesterday’s complete game, 5-hitter; where he allowed two Runs, Walked two and fanned three, leaves him with 4-2 record and a 3.79 ERA after 11 starts as a 23yo.

I’m going to need to see a driver’s license…
The fact that Johnny Cueto is a good pitcher is hardly news. Yesterday’s 6 shutout inning performance where he allowed 7 Hits and 1 Walk is hardly a surprise. But his domination of the National League (2.17 ERA, 1.07 WHIP) through 13 starts, as 23yo, is shocking.

It was just a matter of time…
Matt Cain
was a Top 3 Pitching Prospect for us heading into both the 2005 and 2006 seasons. He made our Top 50 list and our Top 300 list heading into 2004 and 2003. The point is, we have been expecting great things from him for some time. Yet in three plus Major League seasons, the best he could muster up was a 30-41 record and a 3.85 ERA. Now a 24yo, he finally looks to be putting it all together. Yesterday’s complete game 4-hitter, where he allowed 1 run and struck out 9 without issuing a walk, leaves Cain at 9-1 on the year, with a 2.39 ERA.

Mother told me there’d be days like this…
Red Sox reliever, Dan Bard, has a promising future ahead of him. Yesterday just wasn’t a a part of it. In 2/3 innings yesterday, Bard gave up 4 Runs on 2 Hits and 3 Walks.

There is something more to this story…
I’m waiting for, as the late Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story” on Hector Rondon. Apparently the Indians are keeping him on a strict 60-pitch count limit. Yesterday, after throwing 4 shutout innings where he allowed only a single hit and fanned three, he was pulled after 53 pitches. Hmmm…

Ugly line of the day…
Braves middle infield prospect, Brandon Hicks, continued his miserable season as he fanned in all four At Bats. This leaves Hicks hitting .211/.267/.303 on the year.

Keep your eye on…
Marnier’s OF prospect Tyson Gillies continues what appears to be a breakout season for the 20yo. A 3 for 4 with a double and 2 home runs, puts Gillies at .330/.440/.500 on the year.

Still not sure where he fits, but…
21yo Giants prospect, Thomas Neal, sure can hit. After spending 2008 being held somewhat under wraps, recovering from shoulder surgery, Neal has been let loose this season. With a 3 for 5, double, triple, home run performance on Sunday, Neal has a 1.039 OPS on the year.

And you thought the PCL was a hitter’s league…
24yo Dodger prospect James McDonald shut out Round Rock for 7 innings on Sunday, issuing 2 hits and a walk, while fanning 13. In his last two starts, McDonald has allowed 1 ER and has a 23:3 K:BB ratio.

And the same goes for the California League…
21yo Alexander Torres is on fire. Yesterday’s 8 shutout inning performance, where he yielded 4 hits and a walk, while fanning 8, means that Torres has not allowed more than 1 run in any of his last 5 starts. Over that time he has a 0.66 ERA.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Around the Bases - Weekend Edition

Lincecum's delivery may be awkward, but the results certainly aren't

Here is a round-up of some of the more interesting lines over Friday’ and Saturday’s games:

20yo Rick Porcello not only went 7 Innings, on Friday night, allowing 6 Hits, 1 BB and 1 ER, but he did some damage with his first major league At Bats, going 2 for 3 with 2 RBIs.

23yo Chris Coghlan continues to be the table setter that the Marlins are looking for. He went 5 for 10 with 2 doubles and a stolen base, and has a .362 OBP through 110 ABs.

The Royals’ Billy Butler extended his hit streak to 9 games, going 4 for 9 with a HR.

Is there a better pitcher in baseball than the Giants’ Tim Lincecum? The 24yo Lincecum threw a complete game shutout on Friday night, allowing 7 Hits and 1 Walk while fanning 8.

Homer Bailey looks like he finally may be ready to come up and stay in the Major’s, after going 8 2/3 Innings, allowing 1 ER on 6 Hits and 2 Walks while striking out 8 batters. Since May 18, Bailey has a 1.27 ERA and 30:9 K:BB ratio.

The Giants’ Clayton Tanner had the pitching performance of the nigh on Friday. The 21yo went 6 Innings, allowing 1 Run on 3 Hits and struck out 10. Tanner now has a 2.96 ERA on the year in the hitter-friendly California League.

This week’s Top Hot Prospect, Travis Wood, posted another gem on Friday, going 7 shutout innings, allowing 1 hit and 1 walk, while fanning 9. The 22yo has now allowed 2 ERs in the last 36 innings with a 28:2 K:BB ratio.

Diamondback fans got a scare on Saturday night as uber-prospect Jarrod Parker took a line drive off his pitching hand from the second batter he faced. Parker left the game in obvious pain, but X-rays were negative.

Ugly pitching line of the weekend belonged to the Phillies Antonio Bastardo , who couldn’t retire a batter in the second inning on Saturday. All told, he went 1 inning, allowing 4 ERs, 3 hits and 3 walks.

‘Hot’ Pitching prospect, Esmil Rogers of the Rockies, went 8 shutout innings on Saturady, allowing 5 Hits and fanning 10. In 6 of his 12 starts on the year, he hasn’t allowed a run. In the other 6, he has a 5.55 ERA.

The Twins’ rewarded Anthony Swarzak for his 7 shutout inning performance…with a demotion to AAA.

It looks like the Pirates’ Pedro Alvarez is starting to show why he was regarded as the best hitting prospect in the 2008 draft, going 3 for 9 with a 2B and 2 HRs. Alvarez now leads the Carolina League in RBIs with 49.

Take your pick on the ugly hitting performance: Charles Blackmon, COL – 0 for 7 with 5Ks; Delta Cleary, COL – 0 for 9 with 4 Ks; Greg Halman, SEA – 0 for 7 with 3 Ks. Halman has no gone 10 straight games with at least 1 strikeout, fanning 16 times in 35 Plate Appearances during that stretch.

The Brewers’ Chris Dennis continues his torrid hitting. In 7 weekend Plate appearances, he had 4 Hits and 2 walks including a 2B and a 3B.

Michael Burgess’ bat (Nationals) is finally starting to show some life. In 3 Games, Burgess made 13 trips to the plate, reaching base 8 times, including a double, 2 walks and 2 home runs. The 20yo Burgess has posted a .414/.485/.828 over his last 9 games.

The Mets’ Ike Davis is starting to alleviate concerns over his lack of power. Davis went 3 for 7, with 2 HRs. He now has 5 HRs in his last 10 games.

The Red Sox’s Aaron Bates, in 11 trips to the plate, had 4 walks, 2 singles and 2 HRs.

Questionable decision of the weekend goes to Cal State-Fullerton’s coach Dave Serrano, who decided to start Freshman Noe Ramirez in the College World Series opener against Arkansas. The Freshman, self-admittedly nervous, went 3 2/3 innings, allowing 7 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks—sending the Titans to defeat.

Friday, June 12, 2009

What to Expect in Omaha

Mike Leake may get the attention, but the Sun Devils' fortunes might just rest with Josh Spence

If you’re not a fan of College Baseball, or if you have never really given College Baseball a chance, do yourself a favor and tune in this weekend. I’ll be the first to admit, that with 300 Division I teams, each playing roughly 60+ games, a lot of ‘bad’ baseball get’s played during the college season. If you want to see two teams sending their best out to face the other teams’ best, you’re relegated to making the season one of only Friday Nights. During the course of the regular season, almost 1/3 of the games are started by non-top 3 starters, and quite frankly the college game just isn’t afforded that much pitching depth. But when the College World Series kicks off on Saturday, #4 starters will be a thing of the past. More importantly, this year’s field contains the Top Three teams in the nation as well as six of the Top Eight. My point is that we have some really good teams hooking up in a double elimination format that should showcase the best the game has to offer. When all the dust settles, here’s how we see things falling out.

Bracket #1 –

The Tournament’s #2 seed, Cal State-Fullerton takes on the Arkansas Razorbacks in the opening game and not only is Fullerton the superior offensive club, but this is a pitching match-up that tilts in the Titan’s favor as well. The Titans play a college version of ‘small ball’ that relies on a lot of baserunners, scoring a lot of runs, and solid pitching, combined with excellent defense. There isn’t a single facet that the Razorbacks hold an advantage in.

In the second game, we have one of the best matchups of the weekend when the Anthony Ranaudo led LSU Tigers take on the Tournament’s team with the biggest chip on their shoulder, the Virginia Cavaliers. Ranaudo is one of the best Starters still in the tournmanet, and I’ll go with the Tigers to prevail in a close one.

The elimination game should be another dandy, but I see the Razorbacks pulling off a slight upset there to stay alive.

In the Winner’s bracket, I think the Tiger-Titan matchup will be another dandy. The pitching matchup should be about dead even on talent, but it will be a battle of The Senior Lou Coleman against the Freshman Noe Ramirez. In this kind of environment, I expect that the experience factor swings the advantage to the Tigers.

Fullerton should easily dispatch the Razorbacks again in the rematch, setting up the rematch between the Tigers and the Titans. Look for the Titans experience to prevail in back-to-back games, squeaking this out and moving on to the Championship.

Bracket #2 –

Texas gets what I see as, essentially, a bye in the opener against Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles have made me look stupid all tournament, but their run is seriously over now.

In the second game, we could have a match-up that pits the #8 pick from Tuesday’s draft, Mike Leake, against the #15 pick, Alex White…or will it. Some of us think that the Tar Heels are stronger against righties than they are against left-handers and the smart play by Sun Devil coach Pat Murphy just might be to go with Josh Spence, saving Leake for a second round match-up with Texas. From my perspective, White has been too inconsistent this season to count on against either starter and I expect the Sun Devils to win.

In the elimination game, look for Carolina to walk all over Southern Miss. On the winner’s side, I think whoever the Sun Devils throw, and my guess is it will be Leake, will prevail. Leake has been the closest thing to automatic in College Baseball all season.

In the North Carolina – Texas elimination match, if Augie Garrido has the courage to throw Freshman, Taylor Jungmann, I’ll take the Longhorns. Jungmann has pitched like an Ace this year.

In the Texas-Arizona State finals, I can see the Longhorns possibly getting one game, but don’t see how they will get them both.

Finals –

The Sun Devils have been my favorite to win the whole thing for about six weeks now. I think they have more pitching depth than anyone else in the tournament, to go along with a balanced offense. When it’s all over, expect the Arizona State Sun Devils to be the 2009 College World Series Champs.