Friday, July 31, 2009

Trade Deadline Wrap-up: Martinez is the Biggest Name to Change Addresses

Victor Martinez makes Boston the favorites for the AL pennant

In the end, Roy Halladay is still a Blue Jay. The Mariners didn’t become sellers and move King Felix. And apparently the Padres weren’t wowed enough to deal Adrian Gonzalez. No, in the end, while the White Sox may have pulled off the day's biggest surprise, it was Boston who made the headlines, coming away with the biggest prize, in a deal that made perfect sense. Here is our take on the final deadline deals.

Boston acquires: Victor Martinez
Cleveland acquires: Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price

I doubt that there has been a deal this year that makes more sense for a team than this does for Boston. With Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek and David Ortiz all in the twilight of their career, the 30yo Martinez provides all-star insurance at all three positions (as Youkilis can slide over to 3B). The only losers in this deal appear to be, Casey Kotchman (who comes to Boston in a deal for Adam LaRoche), who seems relegated to occasional pinch hitter, and Lowell who is likely to see his playing time cut in half. Perhaps more importantly, the Red Sox didn’t have to give up Buchholz, Bard, Bowden, Anderson or Kelly—all of whom I like better to get the deal. In Masterson and Hagadaone, they did relinquish significant players, but it didn’t cost them nearly as much as it could have or perhaps should have.

As I mentioned a yesterday, Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez were on their way out of Cleveland. And the thing Cleveland needed most was young arms. I would have liked this deal better for the Tribe if it had included Buchholz instead of Masterson or Hagadone, my assumption is that they would have too and couldn’t pull it off. The centerpiece to the deal for Cleveland is 24yo, right-hander, Justin Masterson, who immediately becomes the Tribes’ best starter. In two seasons with Boston, in a mixed role, Masterson has posted a 3.77 ERA with a 1.28 WHIP. While Masterson is the centerpiece to the deal, it will be the 23yo left-hander, Nick Hagadone, who will decide Cleveland’s fate in this deal. Hagadone was Boston’s top pick in 2007, but had Tommy John surgery which had limited him to 34 innings entering the season. When healthy, and he still is recovering, he has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and plus pitches in both his slider and change. If I were the Tribe, I might have asked Boston for someone a little further away, say Stolmy Pimental, but they ended up getting 22yo, right-hander, Bryan Price. While Price does have three usable pitches, including a low-90s fastball, he is a ‘fringy’ prospect at best.

Chicago acquires: John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny
Pittsburgh acquires: Jose Ascanio, Kevin Hart and Josh Harrison

With Sean Marshall the only lefty in the Cubs’ pen, they picked up a left-handed reliever…sort of. Grabow actually is harder on right-handed hitters than he is on left-handed ones. In fact, he is only marginal, at best, against lefties. He has a tendency to walk too many batters, and other than throwing with the ‘south’ paw, I am not sure he will provide the Cubs any more than they had in Ascaino or Hart. Where the Cubs did seem to make out, is in bringing left-handed starter Tommy Gorzelanny back home to Chicago. After impressive 2006 and 2007 seasons in the Majors, the 26yo Gorzelanny fell apart last season and found himself in AAA this year, where he has posted some impressive numbers (certainly good enough to have been in the Pirates rotation), a 2.48 ERA, a 1.184 WHIP, with a 85:30 K:BB ratio. With both Ted Lily and Ryan Dempster ailing, the Cubs should be able to slip him into the rotation for a while, and then may want to consider using him as a lefty out of the pen. While it is certainly no guarantee, if Gorzelanny returns to form, he is by far the best player in the deal.

In return, the Pirates get more spare parts. The best of the lot appears to be 24yo, RHP, Jose Ascanio. Ascanio has posted solid numbers in the Pacific Coast (PCL) this year and seems to have enough ‘stuff’ to be a solid Major League middle reliever. In 26yo Kevin Hart, the Pirates are getting a right-hander that the Cubs never seemed to find the right slot for. To me, Hart is a two–pitch pitcher—a mid-90s fastball, and a dazzling cut fastball, that should be exclusively used as a 7th/8th inning guy. If the Pirates use him in that role, he could have a productive Big League career. 22yo Harrison is a ‘fringy’ prospect, at best. He destroyed Midwest (MWL) League pitchers earlier this year, but at 22yo that is the expectation. A move to the Florida State (FSL) League hasn’t been quite as attention getting, but the numbers have been solid. With the Cubs he has been playing both 3B and 2B, but long-term he doesn’t appear to have the arm for 3B. He is still somewhat behind on the developmental curve, so there is little to get excited about.

Detroit acquires: Jarrod Washburn
Seattle acquires: Luke French and Mauricio Robles

The Tigers essentially trade French out of the rotation and replace him with Washburn. While Washburn has had a relatively marginal professional career, this season has seen him experience somewhat of a revival, and he certainly is an upgrade over French, and likely makes Armando Gallarraga the 5th starter. This is a significant move, as it looks to be plenty to hold the Twins and White Sox off in the A.L. Central. Anytime you can make a move like that it is a ‘win’.

The Mariners actually did alright in this as well. Washburn was probably out of Seattle after the season, and all that they were likely to receive was a supplemental round pick as compensation. Luke French, is likely just as valuable. While French’s ‘stuff’ is never going to blow anyone away, the 23yo lefty has pitched well enough this season to make one believe he can be a serviceable back-of-the rotation starter, or, at worst case, a middle reliever. While relatively little known entering this season, the 20yo lefty, Robles, has turned heads this year by fanning 111 in 91 innings between the MWL and FSL. His fastball can sit in the mid-90s, and his secondary offerings are ‘improving’. The downside is that at a slight, 5’10”, there are concerns as to whether his frame will allow much projection. Consider him a high risk/reward type prospect.

Chicago White Sox acquire: Jake Peavy
San Diego Padres acquire: Aaron Poreda, Dexter Carter, Adam Russell and Clayton Richard

When one thinks about the names that were being thrown around for Peavy in May, this looks like a steal. You have to assume that the White Sox intend to keep Peavy longer term if they are going to part with Poreda, because Peavy is likely to only be back for 5 or 6 starts this season. Even when he returns, there is no guarantee at what level he will return after missing nearly 3 months. While I don’t see this as a significant deal for 2009, adding Peavy to the rotation will be significant in 2010.

The 22yo, LHP, Poreda is clearly the center piece in this deal. However, we feel that Poreda is essentially a two-pitch pitcher that is best suited for a bullpen role. Our guess is that Poreda will be given a shot in the miserable Padre rotation, but it isn’t likely to be his final destination. Our guess is also that the Padres felt they were getting something of value in the 25yo, LHP, Clayton Richard. We will beg to differ on that as we don’t see much upside projection left in a guy who has posted a 5.15 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP over parts of two Major League seasons. Our perspective is that the 22yo RHP, Dexter Carter, is the only other player in the deal with any value. After making Carter their 13th round pick in 2008, he led the Pioneer (PIO) League in ERA in his debut and has a 3.13 ERA, with 143 Ks in 118 innings in the SAL this year. Carter has a low-90s fastball with late movement and a knee-buckling curve, that has eaten up SAL hitters this season. At 22yo, we would like to see him challenged more by the Padres to truly get a read on his upside. The 26yo Russell is little more than a warm-body.

Minnesota acquires: Orlando Cabrera
Oakland acquires: Tyler Ladendorf
Picking up the 34yo Cabrera has to be considered an upgrade to the SS position for the Twins. Cabrera got off to a slow start this year, but has hit .373/.397/.500 in July. While the move helps their chances, they are really only competing against the Tigers, as the wildcard is out of reach, and the Tigers seemed to have helped themselves more today with the Washburn acquisition. The good news is that it didn’t cost them much.

In Ladendorf, the Athletics are getting a 21yo SS, whom the Twins drafted in the 2nd round last year, and still only has 60 ABs in full-season ball. We felt the Twins reached in selecting him when they did, and aren’t significantly more impressed with him now. One has to feel that the A’s could have gotten more.

Florida acquires: Nick Johnson
Washington acquires: Aaron Thompson
This is a pretty good deal for the Marlins, as they get an everyday 1Bmen with a plus .800 OPS and get to sit Bonafacio. As an offensive upgrade, it is likely 2-3 games in the win column.

In Thompson, the Nationals are getting a 22yo, former first round, left-hander, who hasn’t really lived up to expectations. At this point, you have to consider the Thompson, who lacks any true out pitch, a marginal prospect. This obviously was nothing more than a salary dump by a team that isn’t likely to be competitive for at least a couple of years.

Around the Bases – July 31, 2009

If the Rangers want Roy Halladay, they likely will have to part with Derek Holland

Even a blind squirrel finds an occasional nut…
Pirate 2B, Shelby Ford, entered yesterday’s contest with a .179/.215/.263 line on the year. He then proceeded to go 5 for 5 with a home run. It isn’t likely to stop his career from ‘coding’, but it did raise his OPS .052 points.

Different Level …Same Result…
White Sox 22yo, left-hander, Daniel Hudson, has pitched at three different levels this season, posting a 1.23 ERA, with a 12 Ks per 9IP ratio in the South Atlantic (SAL) League and a 3.40 ERA and 10 Ks per 9IP ratio in the Carolina (CAR) League. Yesterday’s 6-scorelss inning outing, where he allowed 2 walks and 2 hits, while fanning 10, gives him a 1.79 ERA with a 10 Ks per 9IP ratio, in 8 Southern (SOL) League starts.

Don’t write him off just yet…
Since the Pirate’s Neil Walker, a former first round pick, left catching for a less demanding position, his career has been moving in the wrong direction, posting a .694 OPS last year and a .704 so far this season. But at 23yo, and playing in AAA, there is still a bit of prospect potential left in him. He showed some of that yesterday, going 3 for 5, with 2 home runs.

Prospect Performance of the Day…
18yo Braves’ right-hander, Julio Teheran, is reminding everyone why he received the highest bonus given to a Latin American pitcher in 2007. Last night’s 8 inning, 1 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 11K performance, leaves him with a 2.68 ERA on the year.

He gets better in warmer weather…
19yo White Sox 3B prospect, Dayan Viciedo, has had somewhat of an inauspicious debut season, as his month-by-month OPS numbers have been: April - .543; May - .711; June - .724. After last night’s 3 for 5 with a double and a home run, his OPS for the month of July is now .806 and 1.054 since the 16th. As one of the Southern League’s youngest players, he is showing why the White Sox gave him a $4 million bonus this past winter.

May be the only remaining reason that Roy Halladay is still a Blue Jay tomorrow…
With the Phillies having acquired Cliff Lee, the Red Sox apparently moving Clay Buchholz in a deal for Victor Martinez and the Dodgers uninterested in dealing Clayton Kershaw, it seems as if the Texas Rangers appear to be the remaining viable partner for a Roy Halladay deal. The reason that it hasn’t happened yet appears to be the Jays’ insistence on 22yo left-hander, Derek Holland, being part of the deal. Yesterday’s 8 2/3 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 1BB, 10K performance isn’t likely to make the Rangers anymore interested in moving him. Holland may have only a 5.56 ERA on the season, but those that have seen him pitch this year understand that he is rapidly becoming one of the best young pitchers in the game.

All that he needed was a change of scenery…
The White Sox may be rethinking the Tony Pena trade, as Pena has posted an 8.10 ERA since joining Chicago. The Diamondbacks are probably fairly pleased though, as 23yo, Brandon Allen, had a .786 OPS with the White Sox. After yesterday’s 4 for 4, with a double, Allen has a 1.271 OPS, as a member of the Arizona organization.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Trades, Trades, Everywhere: Finding the Winners and Losers in Deadline Deals

Cliff Lee is the biggest name to change uniforms thus far

Getting into the final hours of the trade deadline the action is happening at a relatively furious pace. Here’s our look at a few of the more significant recent deals.

Phillies acquire: Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco
Indians acquire: Carlos Carrasco, Jason Knapp, Jason Donald and Lou Marson

With declining attendance numbers and an ever increasing gap between themselves and the top teams in the AL Central, the Indians faced the possibility of losing both Lee and Victor Martinez after the 2010 season. It seems unlikely they will be able to afford to resign them, so dealing them both seems to be a logical path. Their minor league system has some solid bats, but the Tribe desperately needs arms, at both the Major and Minor League levels. Carrasco is the center piece of this deal, as we had him rated #53 in our mid season Top 100. He is a 22yo that has put up reasonable numbers in the International (INT) League. He projects to be a solid mid-rotation starter that should join the Indians rotation sometime later this year. Jason Knapp is the next most interesting part of the deal. An 18yo, hard throwing, righty, Knapp has fanned 111 in 85 South Atlantic (SAL) League innings this season, but has thrown less than 1 inning since the 6th of July because of ‘arm fatigue’. There is significant projection in Knapp, but it comes at considerable risk. Jason Donald is a solid 24yo SS prospect with a questionable bat…the type of player that has defensive utility specialist written all over him. We have never been tremendously high on him. Likewise Lou Marson. A 23yo Catcher putting up decent numbers in the INT, Marson has the upside of a League Average backstop. We’d expect him to end up as Carlos Santana’s caddy once Victor Martinez is dealt. All told it was a reasonable hall for Lee, but we would have tried to hold out for more quality than the quantity.

The Phillies on the other hand were able to acquire a front of the rotation starter in Lee, and a solid 4th OF in Francisco…and they did it without touching any of their top 3 prospects. They not only become a solid favorite to win the National League pennant, but they keep their minor league strength. In fact, they still have all of the pieces that the Blue Jays coveted for Roy Halladay. Don’t expect that deal to take place now, but I think it is a significant point of reference as to how good of a deal this was for the Phillies. Expect Lee’s peripherals to suffer a little in Philadelphia, but also expect significant improvement to his 7-9 record.

Seattle Acquires: Ian Snell and Jack Wilson
Pittsburgh Acquires: Jeff Clement, Ronny Cedeno, Nathan Adcock, Brett Lorin and Aaron Pribanic

The first thing that comes to mind on this deal is…Why? To some extent it makes sense for the Pirates. Neil Huntington has been trying to get out from the Ian Snell mistake he made last year and gets to offload that contract. And losing Jack Wilson’s $7.5 million contract can only be seen as a positive. The problem with this deal for the Pirates is that they didn’t really get anything of value in return. Jeff Clement is the ‘prize’, but his career has been on a downward spiral pretty much ever since the Mariners selected him third overall in the 2005 draft. He has a bat that is playable in the Majors, but everyone involved hopefully understands that he isn’t an everyday Major League backstop. His most likely destination is first base, but if Pedro Alvarez ends up shifting over there, don’t expect Clement to see much playing time. Clement appears unlikely to ever see Major League average performance levels. In Ronny Cedeno the Pirates are getting a poor man’s Jack Wilson—and that’s not saying a lot. While Cedeno likely moves into an everyday SS role with the Pirates, he likely becomes the worst starting SS in the Majors. In Adcock, Lorin and Pribanic, the Pirates are getting little more than warm bodies. Lorin has the most upside, but as a 22yo, RHP, with solid numbers in the Midwest (MWL) League, he can be described as a ‘fringy’ prospect at best. He has the raw stuff to be successful, but until he has some success at higher levels, we aren’t excited. Losing Snell’s and Wilson’s contracts makes this a win for the Pirates, regardless of what they got in return.

The really questionable side of this deal, however, is the Mariner’s side. In case they haven’t realized it yet, they won’t be catching either the Rangers or the Angels this year, as both of those teams should have better second halves than first. They should be sellers—not buyers. While Snell may add depth to their rotation, Jack Wilson isn’t as good a SS as Yuniesky Betancourt, who they couldn’t wait to get rid of. It just isn’t a deal that seems to have any logic for the Mariners.

San Francisco acquires: Freddy Sanchez
Pittsburgh acquires: Tim Alderson

The acquisition of Sanchez certainly solidifies the Giants lineup, as Sanchez should slide into the 2B position—forcing Uribe to a more suitable reserve role. But…short of another Giant deal before the deadline, this appears to be a deal that will only have marginal impact on their offense. The Giants aren’t going to catch the Dodgers, so this is a deal to keep them ahead of the Rockies, Cubs, Cardinals, Marlins and Braves for the wildcard spot. And in giving up Alderson, the Giants have now dealt two of their three best Minor League pitchers (Scott Barnes) over the last week. Personally, it is hard to believe this deal was a significant enough near-term improvement to make it worth parting with Alderson.

The Pirates appear to be the clear winners here, as Alderson is a large, projectable, right-hander, who would now seem poised to become a mainstay of the Pirate rotation sometime early next year. Alderson has tremendous command of a four-pitch repertoire, of which a tremendous breaking curve ball is his best pitch. His velocity has been down slightly this year, perhaps prompting the Giants willingness to deal him, but he is one of the best pitching prospects in baseball and should turn into a solid #2/#3 Big League starter for years to come. Something that you won’t hear me say very often—this looks to be an excellent move by the Pirates.

Los Angeles Dodgers acquire: George Sherrill
Baltimore acquires: Josh Bell and Steve Johnson

This is one of those rare deals that looks good for both sides. The Dodgers acquire a solid left-handed arm for their bullpen. Sherrill should become Broxton’s main set-up guy and make the Dodgers an overwhelming favorite in the NL West and a significant contender for the National League pennant.

The Orioles are clearly in a rebuilding mode, and in Bell and Johnson that get solid prospect additions. Bell is in the midst of having a breakout season, posting an .883 OPS in the Southern (SOL) League—as a 22yo. Bell is athletically gifted, plays solid enough defense for 3B, and has a major league capable bat. Steve Johnson is a 21yo, right-hander, who is having a fantastic season, posting a 3.61 ERA and fanning 117 in 107 innings between stops in the California (CAL) League and SOL. Johnson may eventually end up in a Major League bullpen, but he has the upside of a back of the rotation starter.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hots and Nots – July 29, 2009

Heyward is putting up numbers that the SOL hasn't seen in over a decade

When Matt Wieters and David Price were called up within a week of each other, at the end of May, the question became ‘who is now the best prospect in the Minor Leagues?’ Regular readers will recall that I listed 10 players who were in contention for that title, stating that it was a real toss-up among the ten. In a coin flip, I gave the edge to Jarrod Parker over Jason Heyward and Madison Bumgarner. Two months later, a clear #1 has emerged from the group, as Jason Heyward is putting up nearly unimaginable numbers in the Southern (SOL) League. Through his first 20 SOL games, Heyward has posted a 1.295 OPS—as a 19yo. Over the last 20 years, only 17 players have had 100 or more ABs in the SOL as a 19yo or younger. Only three of those have posted an OPS higher than .900…only 4 have even posted an .800 OPS. In fact, no 19yo or 20yo has hit .900 since 19yo Delmon Young hit .968 in 2005. One has to go all the way back to 1996, when another 19yo, Braves OF prospect, Andruw Jones, put together a 1.107 OPS, to even come close to the start Heyward is putting together for the Mississippi Braves. For that, Jason Heyward tops this week’s Hot List.

Hot Hitters –

1) Jason Heyward, OF, ATL – Heyward has clearly established himself as the Minor League’s best prospect with his 1.295 OPS through his first 20 SOL games. Over the last two weeks, he is .500/.577/.864 and looking like a future superstar. Heyward should see regular playing time in Atlanta by early 2010.

2) Carlos Santana, C, CLE – Victor Martinez is a top 5 catcher in the Major Leagues, but the Indians think enough of Santana to be actively shopping Martinez. Santana’s defense has made huge strides this season. His plate discipline is among the best in the Minors. And he is slugging .536 in the Eastern (ESL) League. Santana homered in four straight games this past week and posting a .343/.410/.857 over the last two weeks leaves him with a .935 OPS on the year.

3) Josh Bell, 3B, LAD – The 22yo Bell has cut his strike out rate nearly in half this season and is putting together a breakout season in the SOL. Credit an improved attitude and approach to the game for the changes that may finally allow him to tap into all of that potential. A .452/.540/.810 over the last two weeks gives him a .893 OPS for the season.

4) Brandon Allen, 1B, ARZ – Allen seems extremely comfortable in his Reno surroundings, following his trade for RP, Tony Pena. The struggles of May and June appear to be behind him as he has posted a .319/.407/.809 over the last two weeks and a 1.252 since being dealt to the Diamondbacks.

5) Ike Davis, 1B, NYM – Davis’ 2009 season is a great illustration as to why one shouldn’t put too much stock in a player’s post-draft debut, as Davis posted a .652 in his 2008 New York-Penn (NYP) debut and didn’t hit a single home run in 215 ABs. After going .388/.444/.714 over his last 55 PA’s, Davis now has a .929 OPS, with 7 home runs in 127 Eastern (ESL) League ABs.

6) Gabriel Noriega, SS, SEA – Signed to one of the highest bonuses ($800,000) given to a player from Venezuela in 2007, Noriega is the best defensive SS in the Mariner’s system, and one of the better defensive shortstops in the minor leagues. His ceiling is limited only by his ability to hit. In a return trip to the Appalachian (APY) League that hasn’t seemed to be much of a problem. A .513/.558/.846 over the last two weeks gives him a .950 OPS for the year.

7) Jon Gaston, OF, HOU – When a player is as hot as Gaston has been for the last month, it is difficult to continue the mantra that he really isn’t a Major League prospect. Nonetheless, that is exactly where we find ourselves in describing Gaston. He has severe defensive limitations, has huge contact problems (26% strikeout rate), is a bit old for a prospect in the California (CAL) League, and has an OPS that is .270 points lower away from Lancaster. Yet, over the last two weeks, Gaston has posted a .277/424/.872 with 7HRs, including back-to-back 2 HR games, and certainly deserves a place on this list. While we don’t expect his ‘other-wordly’ numbers to continue once he leaves the CAL, the Jethawk fans are certainly enjoying them.

8) Allen Craig, 1B, STL – A former third basemen, the Cardinals thought enough of Craig’s defense that, despite being without Troy Glaus all season, they have left Craig and his 17 home runs in Memphis all year. I guess you could say that a prospect that is defensively limited to 1B in the Cardinal system is effectively ‘blocked’. At 25yo, Craig’s opportunities are fading, so he hopes someone has noticed his .453/.500/1.038, with 9 HRs, over his last 60 PA’s.

9) Tyson Gillies, CF, SEA – Gillies is on a list with Derek Norris and teammate Alex Liddi, of position players that have put themselves on the radar screen with huge 2009 seasons. He has all of the prototypical tools that one looks for in a top of the order CF. The last two weeks have seen Gillies post a 448/.492/.569, giving him a .922 OPS for the year, and giving the Mariners a good idea of who is there future CF.

10) Dayan Viciedo, 3B, CHA – Watching Cuban players adjust to American baseball over the last few years has caused me to believe in two important tenants: 1) They tend to be notoriously slow starters—especially until the weather warms and 2) They require one-half to one-full season to get acclimated. Viciedo’s OPS has gone from .518 in April, to .711 in May, to .724 in June, and .769 in July, with a .381/.395/.571 over the last two weeks. What’s more is that his defense at 3B has been surprisingly adequate. Maybe even more impressive is that his strikeout rate was over 22% for the first two months of the season and just a bit over 11% for the last two. Remember he is still just 19yo and is playing in AA. A strong finish to the season could lead to Gordon Beckham sliding over to 2B, making room for Viciedo at 3B to begin 2010.

Hot Pitchers –

1) Dan Hudson, RHP, CHA – When the White Sox’s 5th round pick from the 2008 draft fanned 90 Pioneer (PIO) League batters in 70 IP in his debut, we took notice, but chalked it up to a 21yo being in a Rookie League. When Hudson opened up the South Atlantic (SAL) League this year with a 1.23 ERA we were intrigued. After opposing hitters batted .195 against him in 8 Carolina (CAR) League starts, we felt he had potential, but after the 22yo has posted a 2.03 ERA in 7 SOL starts…we believe. Hudson has a low-90s fastball, with late movement, that befuddles left-handed hitters. His secondary offerings are improving, and he has a frame that should allow him to be a mid-rotation innings eater. Hudson is working on a 16-inning scoreless streak, in which he has posted a 0.571 WHIP and a 13:1 K:BB ratio, and now has a 2.43 ERA on the season.

2) Christian Friedrich, LHP – We felt Friedrich was the second best college pitcher available in the 2008 draft, but attending Eastern Kentucky kept him a bit under the radar screen entering the season. Friedrich dominated SAL hitters, fanning 66 in 45 IP. Going to the CAL, we thought he would face a stiffer challenge. So far, not so much. Friedrich is working on an 11 inning scoreless streak where he has posted a 0.750 WHIP and a 17:4 K:BB ratio. CAL hitters are batting only .177 against him and he now has a 1.98 ERA on the season.

3) Simon Castro, RHP, SDP – Castro is a huge 20yo, that is rapidly becoming one of the Midwest (MWL) League’s most intimidating pitchers. Working predominantly off of a mid-90s fastball, Castro is overpowering MWL hitters. Over the last two weeks, he has posted a 1.80 ERA, a 0.467 WHIP and a 24:2 K:BB ratio. It remains to be seen whether his secondary offerings will improve enough to make him a long-term rotation presence, but there is certainly Major League potential here.

4) Drew Storen, RHP, WSN – After a standout career at Stanford, Storen entered June’s draft as the consensus top closer available. It was expected that he would go somewhere in the late first round/supplemental, but the Nationals caught a lot of people by surprise when they used their compensatory pick, for their failure to sign Aaron Crowe the year before, to select the 21yo right-hander. Storen has not been scored upon in 8 straight appearances. During that stretch he has retired 34 of 35 batters he has faced—23 by strike out.

5) Casey Crosby, LHP, DET – Casey was named MWL pitcher of the week last week, and has clearly established himself as the Tigers top prospect. Over his last three starts, Crosby has posted a 2.08 ERA, a 0.692 WHIP, with a 17:4 K:BB ratio. The 21yo has now fanned 101 MWL batters in 86 innings. Opposing hitters are batting .203 against him, and he quite possibly may be the best pitching prospect in the league.

6) Aneury Rodriguez, RHP, TBR - Following his move to the Rays in the Jason Hammel deal, Rodriguez struggled mightily. At the end of June, Rodriguez’s ERA stood at 6.27. Working on a 13-inning scoreless streak, where he has posted a 0.474 WHIP and a 12:4 K:BB ratio, Rodriguez has lowered his season ERA to 5.23.

7) Craig Kimbrel, RHP, ATL – Quick…who has the best strikeout rate in the Minor Leagues? That’s right, it’s the Braves’ Kimbrel at 15.7 strikeouts per 9 IP. Kimbrel struggled a bit after his promotion to Myrtle Beach, but he seems to have gotten things figured out, as he has allowed only 1 run on two hits over his last nine outings. Over the last two weeks, he has a 1.29 ERA, a 0.857 WHIP and a 16:2 K:BB ratio.

8) Tyler Clippard, RHP, WSN – The 24yo Clippard may be one of the game’s least appreciated pitchers. Coming into the year, in six minor league seasons, predominantly as a starter, Clippard had a 3.73 ERA, with more strikeouts than IP, while generally being young for his level of competition at each stop. Yet, because he lacks a dominating fastball, he has never really been given a Big League shot. The Nationals have moved him to the bullpen this year where he has been absolutely lights out. A 0.92 ERA in 39 Minor League IP and a 1.93 ERA in 19 Major League IP. Over the last two weeks, Clippard has posted a 0.77 ERA, a 0.771 WHIP, with a 17:5 K:BB ratio.

9) Jose Ortegano, LHP, ATL – Speaking of pitchers that get no respect, in 5 Minor League seasons, Ortegano has posted a 2.91 ERA…despite being young for his level of competition at each stop. Yet, because he too lacks a dominating fastball, you will have to search hard to find Ortegano on any prospect list. After posting a 3.49 ERA as a 21yo in the CAR, the Braves have moved him to the SOL where he tossed 7 innings of 1-run ball in his debut on Tuesday night. Opposing hitters are batting .219 against him on the year and once he continues to shut down AA hitters, the ‘experts’ will have to take notice.

10) Junichi Tazawa, RHP, BOS - Perhaps the most significant International signing of 2008, Tazawa has been everything that the Red Sox had hoped for when they gave him a $1.8 million bonus. After posting a 1.06 ERA, a 0.706 WHIP with a 12:1 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks, Tazawa has a 2.51 ERA on the year. The 23yo should figure prominently into Boston’s plans in 2010.

The Nots –
1) Andrew Brackman, RHP, NYY – Easily one of the most disappointing stories of 2009, Brackman has a 1-11 record with a 6.72 ERA—as a 23yo in the SAL. Those are ‘on your way out baseball’ numbers, not numbers befitting a former first round draft pick, who was at one time considered the second best arm available in the 2007 draft. Over the last two weeks, Brackman has posted a 14.73 ERA, a 2.727 WHIP, with a 3:8 K:BB ratio.

2) Kevin Mulvey, RHP, MIN – That Johan Santana trade keeps looking worse and worse for the Twins. Guerra hasn’t been anything close to what the Twins believed they were getting. At 26yo, Phil Humber looks like a 4A player, and Mulvey looks like a back of the rotation guy at best. Over the last two weeks, Mulvey has posted a 16.20 ERA, a 2.550 WHIP, with a 7:3 K:BB ratio…leaving his ERA at 4.40 on the season.

3) Carmen Angelini, SS, NYY – Signed for a record $1 million bonus, as a 10th round pick, in 2007. It seemed like a strange move, given they were signing a player with a questionable bat, whose best tool was his grit. Angelini hasn’t changed any opinions in two years. A .048/.091/.048 over his last two weeks leaves him with a .470 OPS on the year.

4) Colby Rasmus, OF, STL - Though technically not a prospect, Rasmus is demonstrating that it isn’t just talented young pitchers that experience their ups and downs as they get acclimated to the Major Leagues. Over the last two weeks, Rasmus has gone .067/.125/.067 and now has gone 52 ABs since hitting an extra base hit. With Holliday on board, if Ankiel gets hot Rasmus could find himself back in Memphis.

5) Carlos Gutierrez, RHP, MIN – After breezing through the FSL with a 1.32 ERA and an astonishing 4.48 GO/AO ratio, Gutierrez has found ESL hitters less susceptible to his often ‘fringy’ offerings. Over the last two weeks, Gutierrez has a 12.71 ERA, a 2.471 WHIP and a 4:5 K:BB ratio, leaving his ESL ERA at 7.51 through 14 appearances.

6) Billy Rowell, OF, BAL – It has been all downhill for Rowell since his stellar debut in 2006. The former first round pick has gone 0.074/.107/.111 over the last two weeks and now is sitting at a .632 OPS for the year. He is still only 20yo, so there is still plenty of time to get things back on track, but the Orioles need to return him to Frederick for a repeat performance in 2010.

7) Joshua Fields, RHP, SEA – The unfortunate part of achieving Major League success for a Minor League prospect is that part of success is dependent on opportunity that is sometimes outside of one’s control. For Fields, there is significant near-term opportunity available for him that he just isn’t capitalizing on right now. A 12.60 ERA, 3.000 WHIP, with a 4:5 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks, leaves Fields with a 5.90 ERA on the year.

8) Pete Kozma, SS, STL – The Cardinals 1st round pick in 2007, Kozma has yet to post playable offensive numbers in three professional seasons. A .114/.170/.114 over the last two weeks and 70 ABs without an extra base hit, leaves Kozma with a .640 OPS for 2009.

9) Vance Worley, RHP, PHI – Worley got off to a fast start this season, that left him with a 3.12 ERA at the end of May. Things haven’t gone so well since then. A 19.96 ERA, with a 2.609 WHIP over the last two weeks has his ERA up to 5.38 on the year.

10) Chris Valaika, SS, CIN – There were many that thought that Valaika would end up as the Reds’ everyday SS by the end of this season. Now they are wondering if he has enough tools to be an everyday player in the Big Leagues. A .100/.151/.200 over the last two weeks has dropped the 23yo’s OPS to .559 on the year. He isn’t really a SS at the next level, and there are serious questions as to how much he will hit.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Around the Bases - July 28, 2009

Santana's presence is making Victor Martinez expendable

It’s About Time…

…that 22yo Indian first basemen, Beau Mills, had something to celebrate, as his season has gotten off to a disappointing start. However, yesterday Mills went 3 for 5 with 2 HRs. Mills is still a bit young for his league (ESL), so no one is losing hope quite yet, but his OPS on the year now stands at only .707.

Paying Dividends Already…

One of two players acquired from the Red Sox in last week’s Adam LaRoche deal, 20yo Hunter Strickland made his debut for the West Virginia Power last night, and what a debut it was. The right-hander tossed 6 scoreless, hitless, walkless innings while fanning 5.

If the Cardinals needed a bat…
…they might have considered 24yo firstbasemen, Mark Hamilton, who between stops in the Texas (TXL) League and Pacific (PCL) League has a .971 OPS on the year. Last night he went 4 for 5, while belting 2 home runs.

Keep Your Eye On…
…Diminutive 22yo Mets’ Left-Hander, Jim Fuller. After the Mets drafted him in the 21st round in 2008, who was lights out coming in from the bullpen in the New York (NYP) League. He’s back in Brooklyn this season, only starting this time around. Last night he tossed 8 innings of 1-run, 2-hit, ball, allowing a walk, while fanning 8. On the year he has a 1.64 ERA, with opposing hitters batting only .189 against him. At 5’10”, he appears to be a reliever over the long run, but it will be interesting to see what he does against more advanced competition.

You’ll Know Him Soon…
If you aren’t familiar with Mariners’ 17yo OF, Julio Morban, you will be. We felt that Morban was the best position player signed out of Latin America last summer, and he hasn’t disappointed in his stateside debut. Yesterday Morban went 3 for 5, with 2 home runs, and now has an .864 OPS as one of the youngest players in the Arizona (AZL) League.

Pitching Performance of the Day…
…Belongs to Toronto right-hander, Fabio Castro. The 24yo, can’t seem to get over the hump to stay in the Big Leagues, but that didn’t stop him from tossing 7-scoreless innings, allowing 2 hits and 2 walks, while fanning 10.

And remember they got him for Casey Blake…
When all is said and done, it may go down as one of the Dodgers’ worst trades in team history, as Carlos Santana looks enough to be the real deal that the Indians are shopping all-star catcher, Victor Martinez. After homering for the 4th straight game, going 6 for 12 during that stretch, the 23yo Martinez now has a .272/.396/.534 line for the season. Perhaps more impressive is his 63:57 BB:K ratio that strongly suggests he will be able to carry those kind of numbers with him to the next level. With Wieters already in the Majors, Santana is battling Buster Posey for the title of Minor’s Best Catching Prospect.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mailbag - July 26, 2009

The weekly Mailbag column is your chance to ask your questions about whatever is on your mind, i.e. what we do, how we do it, why we rank a certain player, or whatever. Just attach your questions as a comment to this article or email us at

This week’s question comes from KaneCountyKeith who asks:

After reading your articles for the last couple of months, it is clear that you have somewhat of an ‘anti-tools’ bias. You have repeatedly made negative comments about players like Devaris Gordon and Jeremy Jeffress. Is it my imagination, or are you just another ‘stathead’ crusading against the scouting community?

Well that’s a lot of question there. First a brief comment on the players that you specifically mentioned. I think Dee Gordon has a fairly high-ceiling and I don’t really have anything against him, I just think others have made him out to be more than he really is right now due to his athleticism and ‘famous father’. My points that I have made on him earlier in the season is that he is only 5’11”, is extremely slight in build and is a 21yo that isn’t even putting up a .750 OPS in the Midwest (MWL) League. All the tools in the world won’t make up for the fact that he is a ‘fringy’ prospect at this stage of his career. Jeffress is another story entirely. He has repeatedly been classified as a Top 100 prospect by others, all on the strength of one skill—he can hit a 100mph with his fastball. While you can’t teach a 100mph fastball, pitching is much more than velocity on one pitch and his results just haven’t justified the high rankings. While he is a legitimate prospect, at least in our book, he isn’t an elite prospect…and that was even before his latest suspension.

Which I guess brings me to the next part of what you ask. I guess if we have to choose a camp, we are closer to ‘stathead’, as you call it, than we are to traditional scouting methods. Personally I don’t like to think of myself as either, as prospect evaluation requires both some of the science that is performed in the ‘stathead’ community in combination with some of the art that is performed in traditional scouting methods—it isn’t an either or. But I think it is important to note that what we do at Diamond Futures is less about the individual player than it is about prospect evaluation as a process. What I mean by this is that we gain nothing by identifying an Albert Pujols, a Pablo Sandoval or a Carlos Santana before anyone else (all of which we have done in the past). Nor do we lose anything when we are high on a player like Andy Marte that hasn’t panned out. What we try to do is to look at a player and determine, based on all of the information that we have available to us, what is the probability of levels of future performance for a player with those characteristics. To us they are simply Player X, with a given set of data points (all of which are not necessarily performance-based). And based upon that, we have determined from, historical data, what the odds are for the future success.

I think the problem that many talent evaluators have is the old statistical conundrum of confusing ‘correlation’ with ‘causation’. In other words, they see that most of the truly elite Major League ballplayers have some outstanding tools. From there they immediately jump to the illogical conclusion that outstanding tools create elite Major League ballplayers. This, logically doesn’t follow, and I did a little experiment that I hope demonstrates the point.
I took a look at the current Major League Top 100 pitchers, with at least 8 games started and under 35 years of age (I needed this cutoff, because we have only produced Prospect Rankings since 1998), ranked by Component ERA. I then went back to our Prospect Top 100 lists since 1998, and did the same with Baseball America’s. A brief prefacing, this is not a knock on Baseball America, as I have personally been a subscriber to their print edition for nearly 25 years and think they do a wonderful job. I chose Baseball America, because they tend to be extremely ‘toolsy’ and because they have their Top 100 lists readily available ( I will begin posting our historical lists on this site next week). What I wanted to see was how many of these Top 100 were identified by our approach and how many were identified by a more ‘tools’ focus. I used 100 pitchers for three reasons: 1) It is large enough to get meaningful data; 2) It is real easy to convert into percentages and 3) It represents, approximately, the top half of Major League starting pitchers.

From the Top 100, between our two methods, we identified 73 of them. Now three names on this list that weren’t identified (Mark Buerhle, Johan Santana and Dan Haren) would have been identified, had it not been unique circumstances that had them advance at least three levels in their rookie season. So the first interesting observation, was that roughly a quarter of the best pitchers in baseball never appeared on a Top 100 list. That should give you some idea as to the upper limits of talent evaluation. Baseball America correctly identified 65 of the Top 100. Our lists correctly identified 70 of the pitchers. The three players that Baseball America had, that we didn’t (Nick Blackburn, Josh Johnson and Ricky Romero) all were ranked between 100-150 by us in the same year. Likewise Baseball America had three players identified by us, but just missed their lists: John Lackey was the Angels #3 prospect in 2002, Sean Marshall was the Cubs #6 prospect in 2006 and Aaron Laffey was the Indians #5 prospect in 2008. But I want to focus on the other 5 players that our methods identified but Baseball America wasn’t as high on.
The first player Kyle Lohse. Lohse was rated by Baseball America as the Twins #7 prospect in 2001. They described him as a “right-hander without a blazing fastball” who had a solid slider and change…in other words he lacked a big fastball. The next player is Scott Baker, who made it to #10 on the Twins list in 2005. About Baker they said that he “doesn’t have a true out-pitch” and at 24yo had already “reached his ceiling.” You can read that as his demonstrated performance was because he was a polished pitcher without significant tools. Next up is Joe Saunders, who checked in as high as #9 on the Angels 2006 list. About Saunders, they said he”doesn’t have overpowering stuff”, his best pitch is a “deceptive change”, and he doesn’t possess a “put-away breaking ball”. Once again, he isn’t very ‘toolsy’. That same year, Ricky Nolasco checked in as the Marlins #8 prospect. Although Baseball America described Nolasco as having two above average pitches, his ‘command’ was his strongest ‘tool’. And finally we have Sharon Martis, who’s highest ranking was #18 on the National’s list in 2008. Martis was never a Baseball America favorite, as he has been described as “lacking overpowering stuff” and supposedly had “limited upside”.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t quibble with the descriptions provided by Baseball America. The problem I have is that talent evaluators who focus heavily on the ‘tools’ don’t uncover anyone that those more focused on performance would otherwise miss. It is a rare situation when our datapoints fail to identify a ‘toolsy’ player that succeeds without demonstrating measurable plus performance. But the converse is just not true, there are far more players in the history of baseball that weren’t exceptionally ‘toolsy’ players, but had successful Major League careers. It isn’t because we don’t like players with ‘tools’ and it certainly isn’t because we don’t believe in what traditional scouting methods achieve. It is just because our methods utilize measurable variables that have been validated by the historical results, we just happen to do it better.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Breaking Down the Holliday Deal: Did the Redbirds Pay Too Much?

21yo Brett Wallace is the center piece of the deal for the Athletics

The St. Louis Cardinals captured, what well may turn out to be (barring a Roy Halladay deal), the biggest prize in the trade deadline season today when they sent Brett Wallace, Shane Petersen and Clayton Mortensen to the Oakland Athletics for Matt Holliday. Holliday hadn’t lived up to the A’s expectations this season and, with Oakland out of playoff contention and Holliday a potential free agent after this season, the Athletics decided to off-load some of that roughly $5.5 million remaining on this year’s deal. The Cardinals, desperate for offensive help for likely NL MVP, Albert Pujols, are hoping that they have acquired the Holliday of 2007/2008 as opposed to the one the A’s saw for most of the first half of the season and that his acquisition will be enough to hold onto to their current 1 ½ game lead in the NL Central. So let’s take a look at whether Holliday will be the final requisite piece for the Cardinals and at what cost it comes.
From Oakland’s perspective, Holliday was due approximately $5.5 million for the remainder of the season. They were not going to resign him at the end of the season, and in order to get two compensatory picks if he signed somewhere else, they would have to offer him arbitration where he would likely receive a $15 - $16 million award. For the A’s, dealing Holliday is a no-brainer. So what did they get in return? The centerpiece of the deal is Brett Wallace. Wallace is the exact type of high OBP hitter that Billy Beane loves, whose bat, at 22yo, is just about Major League ready. The A’s can insert him in their lineup, as early as September, and likely get .280/.360/.490 numbers out of him for nearly a decade, and he’ll put up those numbers at considerably less cost than Holliday. The only downside to Wallace is that he is not likely to stay at 3B, meaning that you’ll be getting an .850 OPS from likely either 1B or DH, which will put him in the middle third for the position. In other words, they are likely getting a slightly above league average 1B/DH. In Mortensen, the A’s are getting a right-hander, with an upside of a solid end of the rotation innings eater, and one who is nearly Major League ready. The only problem with the Mortensen acquisition that I see, is that the A’s have a very young group of pitchers who are already penciled in for the rotation and Anderson, Cahill, Mazzarro, Braden and Gonzalez all have more talent. But you can never have too many young live arms. Petersen, is the most intriguing player in the deal, as while he is a solid prospect with an upside of an everyday Major League outfielder, he is likely less than 50/50 of ever getting there. Still any way you slice it up, Oakland gets a player with nearly the same offensive potential (in Wallace), at a younger age and a cheaper cost. If they never get anything out of the other two players, this is still a huge win for Oakland.

Now over to the Cardinals. St. Louis has been using a combination of Chris Duncan, Rick Ankiel and Nick Stavinoha to man left field. Duncan has already been dealt to the Red Sox, and with the Holliday acquisition, Ankiel moves into a 4th OF type of role, who will likely see time at all three positions. Holliday likely bats either behind Pujols or Ludwick and there, at least in my opinion is the governor on enthusiasm for this deal, as your three best hitters will all be right-handed, and all be next to each other in the order. I’d like the deal a lot more for the Cardinals, if they had acquired a left-handed hitting bat. Make no mistake, the Cardinals did upgrade their offense with this deal. If you look at three year, park-normalized, numbers, Holliday is likely to post an OPS that is .100 to .140 points higher than the three players that had been playing the position this year. But what does that mean? That means that the Holliday upgrade is likely to translate into 1.0 – 1.5 more wins over the rest of the season,than they would have yesterday. That is great, but does anyone seriously think that the Cubs aren’t going to play 3 games better over the rest of the season than they did in the first half?

By making this deal, the Cardinals have fired the guns. There is no more help coming, no Roy Halladay, no Cliff Lee. And I just have to question if it was enough? St. Louis is a better team than they were yesterday, but they gave up an awful lot to get here, and I just have a feeling they still fall short. What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hots and Nots - July 22, 2009

Storen is the first player from the 2009 Draft to make an impact in the Pros

When the Washington Nationals selected Drew Storen with the 10th overall pick in June’s draft, many saw it as a pick designed to save money for their pursuit of Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals insisted that that wasn’t the case, and instead they saw Storen as the bullpen compliment for their future ace. Fast forward six weeks, and Storen appears to be everything the Nationals hoped for and more. After a Sherman-esque march through the South atlantic (SAL) League, Storen made his Carolina (CAR) League debut last night in spectacular fashion and he heads up this week’s list.

Hot Pitchers –
1) Drew Storen, RHP, WSN – After a standout career at Stanford, Storen entered June’s draft as the consensus top closer available. It was expected that he would go somewhere in the late first round/supplemental, but the Nationals caught a lot of people by surprise when they used their compensatory pick, for their failure to sign Aaron Crowe the year before, to select the 21yo right-hander. Storen pitches off of a low 90’s fastball that he uses to set up a plus power slider. His ‘stuff’ was too much for SAL hitters, which earned him a promotion to Potomac where he fanned three in 2 scoreless innings of work in his debut. Over the last two weeks he has tossed 8 2/3 scoreless innings, retiring 26 of the 27 men he has faced—18 of them on strikeouts. On the year, opposing hitters are batting .190 against him.

2) Clayton Kershaw, LHP, LAD – Occasionally we venture out of the Minor Leagues to highlight a noteworthy performance. This week we have a couple of them, but none perhaps more noteworthy than Kershaw. At 21yo, Kershaw is younger than all but three players on the ‘Hot Pitchers’ list this week. Winning 5 straight and holding a 2.95 ERA on the season is impressive enough, but Kershaw has been scored upon in only two of his last 7 starts and in the Month of July, Kershaw now has a 0.38 ERA, a 0.875 WHIP with 21 Ks in 24 IP. He still needs to work on his control so that his pitch counts allow him to get deeper into games, but the lefty is on the cusp of becoming one of the best pitchers in the Major Leagues.

3) Brett Anderson, LHP, OAK – Only a few weeks older than Kershaw is the A’s lefty, Anderson, whose month of July may be even more impressive. Anderson is working on a 21-inning, 3 start, scoreless streak, that had him take a perfect game into the 7th inning in his last start. Over that period of time, Anderson has a 0.381 WHIP and a 18:3 K:BB ratio, that has allowed him to drop his ERA from 5.74 on June 20th to 4.25 today. Look for Anderson to be the A’s ace, as early as the start of next season.

4) Travis Wood, LHP, CIN – I have written much about Wood’s career resurrecting season and his Minor League’s best starter ERA of 1.29. I have explained how he worked on his mechanics over the winter and added a cut fastball and two-seamer to give him a true 5-pitch repertoire. And I have talked about how all of this has allowed him to take a nearly 5.0 walks per 9 innings down to a 2.8 this season. But what I haven’t spent enough time is discussing his consistent dominance of the Southern (SOL) League. Start with the fact that he has only been scored upon in just over half of his 19 starts. Add to that that he has allowed only 2 HRs on the year and has only allowed more hits than innings pitched twice. Then close it out with the fact that since May 19th, a period of over two months, Wood has a 0.97 ERA, a 0.77 WHIP, and a 68:10 K:BB ratio. Wood is currently in the midst of a 19 scoreless inning streak in which he has a 0.474 WHIP and a 21:1 K:BB ratio. Memo to Walt Jocketty…I think he is ready for a bigger challenge.

5) Craig Kimbrel, RHP, ATL – Quick…who has the best strikeout rate in the Minor Leagues? That’s right, it’s the Braves’ Kimbrel at 15.7 strikeouts per 9 IP. Kimbrel struggled a bit after his promotion to Myrtle Beach, but he seems to have gotten things figured out, as he has allowed only 1 run on two hits over his last seven outings. Over the last two weeks, he has a 1.17 ERA, a 0.783 WHIP and a 17:5 K:BB ratio.

6) Evan Anundsen, RHP, MIL – The Brewers have spent a lot of high draft picks over the last decade on flamethrowers who have done more flaming out than anything else (see Jeremy Jeffress), because they can’t seem to consistently get the ball over the plate. Meet the ‘anti-Jefress’—Evan Anundsen. Over looked by many scouts, because his fringy high-80s fastball and relatively average change/curve, don’t really play well with the ‘tools’ community, the Brewers drafted Anundsen in the 4th round of the 2006 draft. After a solid, yet unspectacular 2008 in the SAL, the Brewers placed Anundsen in the Brevard County rotation this year where he has become the Manatees’ most reliable starter. Anundsen has kept the ball on the ground, and consistently around the plate this season to post a 1.93 ERA through 16 starts. Over the last two weeks he has a 1.20 ERA, a 0.733 WHIP and a 17:3 K:BB ratio.

7) Casey Crosby, LHP, DET – With Rick Porcello in the Majors, Crosby has become the Tigers’ best prospect. Over his last three starts, Crosby has posted a 1.50 ERA, a 0.917 WHIP and a 18:6 K:BB ratio. He now has four scoreless outings in his last six starts and Florida State (FSL) League hitters are batting a mere .205 against him on the year.

8) Andrew Cashner, RHP, CHN – I will admit that when Cashner walked 23 batters in 20 IP in his 2008 debut, I was beginning to feel that the Cubs had added to the first round legacy that yielded such notable selections as Ryan Harvey, Bryan Dopirak and Tyler Colvin. But unlike most teams that saw Cashner as one of the college game’s best closers, the Cubs had another plan. One that included converting Cashner to a 3-pitch starter. He isn’t popping the fastball in the upper 90s as he did before being drafted, but he is sitting in the low- to mid-90s and has found some control because of it, walking less than 3 batters per 9IP this season. Over his last three starts, Cashner has posted a 1.23 ERA and a 0.886 WHIP, leaving him with a 1.46 ERA on the season. Opposing hitters are batting a mere .190 against him.

9) Brad Holt, RHP, NYM – While a 3.88 ERA in 15 starts in his first go round with full–season ball is solid, it doesn’t begin to tell the story of Brad Holt’s season. You see in two starts, Holt has a 31.50 ERA. In the other 13 starts, Holt has a 2.25 ERA, a 0.941 WHIP and a 82:18 K:BB ratio. Over the last two weeks, Holt has posted a 2.41 ERA, a 0.911 WHIP and a 24:4 K:BB ratio. While 2010 is more likely, don’t be surprised if Holt gets a look in New York come September.

10) Ethan Martin, RHP, LAD – His debut season hasn’t quite gone according to plan, as the 20yo right-hander has had somewhat of a mixed bag. While his 88 Ks are impressive, his 1.480 WHIP and 5 walks per 9 IP are less so. Currently in the midst of a 12-inning scoreless streak, Martin has a 2.08 ERA, a 1.154 WHIP and a 20:5 K:BB rato over the last two weeks.

Hot Hitters –

1) Desmond Jennings, OF, TBR – Jennings looks poised to help the Rays to the most athletic outfield in baseball, as the 22yo has put up impressive, .327/.410/.507, numbers in the Southern (SOL) League this season and appears ready for a September jump to the Big Leagues. Over his last 50 PAs, Jennings has been raking to the tune of .382/.553/.794.

2) Chris Marrero, 1B, WSN – After a sensational full-season debut in 2007, the 2006 1st rounder was derailed by a nasty leg injury that cost him a large portion of the 2008 season. With nearly 500 CAR ABs under his belt entering 2009, one would expect Marrero to have success, and success it is, posting a .850 OPS to date. The last two weeks, have been Marrero’s best in nearly two years as he has gone .391/.451/.696. He still will need to show more consistent power with the bat, given his defensive limitations, but it is nice to see him get things back on track.

3) Brandon Allen, 1B, ARZ – It has been a season of ups and downs for Allen. After getting off to a hot start in April (.887 OPS), Allen struggled (.767 OPS) in May and (.715 OPS) June. The he was dealt to the Diamondbacks in the Tony Pena deal. Apparently Allen is finding Reno more to his liking, as over the last two weeks he has gone .364/.475/.879.

4) Thomas Neal, OF/1B, SFG – The 2005 Draft and Follow is making a lot of believers this season after 2007 shoulder surgery and 2008 rehab are now in the past. A .353/.411/.804 over his last 51 ABs, gives Neal a 1.052 OPS on the year. I still have questions about where he will end up defensively, but the 21yos bat looks like it will play anywhere.

5) Hank Conger, C, LAA – The Angels felt that Conger was that rare find of a high school catcher that had high-level offensive skills and enough defense to stay behind the plate, when the made thim their 2006 first round selection. After a sensational 2006 debut, a string of injuries had put his future in doubt when the 2009 season started. Conger, at 21yo, has put up solid Texas (TXL) League numbers going posting a .772 OPS through 81 games. More importantly, after not catching in a professional game for over a year, Conger has been behind the plate in 70 games this season. Over the last two weeks, Conger has stepped up his game, going .386/.481/.596. If he can stay healthy, Conger has all-star potential.

6) Gabriel Noriega, SS, SEA – Signed to one of the highest bonuses ($800,000) given to a player from Venezuela in 2007, Noriega is the best defensive SS in the Mariner’s system, and one of the better defensive shortstops in the minor leagues. So, how far he goes will depend solely on his ability to hit. After posting an .840 OPS in a short stint in the Arizona (AZL) League as a 17yo in 2008, the Mariners…as is their want…rushed him to the Appalachian (APY) League, where he struggled (.557 OPS) as one of the circuits youngest players. A return trip to Pulaski this year has produced much better results. A .423/.464/.769 over the last two weeks, gives him a .957 OPS on the year.

7) Pedro Alvarez, 3B, PIT – Pirate fans are rejoicing “it’s about time”, as Alvarez makes his ‘Hot List’ debut. Well-publicized, protracted, contract issues prevented Alvarez from making his debut in 2008, after the Pirates selected him #2 overall. While his power stroke has been present from the beginning, he hasn’t made the contact that was expected, striking out in 25% of his plate appearances. Don’t get me wrong, the 22yo’s .845 OPS on the year is solid…just hasn’t matched the expectations. Over the last two weeks though, Alvarez has heated up, going .317/.364/.659 against Eastern (ESL) League pitching. There is all-star potential here, but he will only reach it if he can cut down on the whiffs. Today’s trade of Adam LaRoche to the Red Sox, clears 1B, which appears to be his eventual destination, for Alvarez. Expect him to take over that spot at the beginning of the 2010 season.

8) Jon Gaston, OF, HOU – Repeat after me…Jon Gaston is not a real prospect. Now that that is out of the way, let’s enjoy his eye-popping numbers. Over the last two weeks, Gaston has posted a .296/.387/.815 with 7HRs, including back-to-back 2 HR games. This leaves Gaston with a 1.073 OPS on the year and the Minor League Home Run (27) lead. Between his age (22y0), his poor contact rate (100 Ks in 96 games), his Home/Away OPS split (1.223/.919) and defensive limitations (LF/1B), there isn’t a lot of upside here, but you have to be enjoying him if you are a Jethawk fan.

9) Ryan Westmoreland, OF, BOS - In order to persuade him away from a commitment to Vanderbilt, the Red Sox signed Westmoreland to a record 5th round bonus ($2 million) following the 2008 draft. A shoulder injury prevented him from playing in 2008 and he has still yet to play the field this season, but he has the ‘tools’ scouts love. Over the last two weeks, Westmoreland has posted a .234/.345/.735 with 6 HRs, giving him a .883 OPS through 100ABs on the year. He will need to make more contact, but he is giving Red Sox fans something to anticipate once he gets healthy.

10) Derek Norris, C, WSN – The Hot list wouldn’t be complete without an appearance by Norris, who has made the list for the 5th time this year. Over the last two weeks, Norris has posted a .244/.370/.711, giving him a .995 OPS on the year. His solid season has vaulted him to behind only Posey and Santana among backstop prospects.

The Nots –

1) Shooter Hunt, RHP, MIN – Hunt was drafted with questions regarding his control. It only got worse through his first 70 Professional IP. Over the last two weeks, Hunt has posted a 15.00 ERA, a 3.667 WHIP and a 6:8 K:BB ratio. On the season he has allowed 54 walks in 31 2/3 IP and now finds himself toiling in the Gulf Coast (GCL) League. How soon can you declare a first round pick a bust?

2) Jamie Romak, 1B, PIT – This week’s ‘Put a Fork in Him Award’ winner, Romak is having a disastrous 2009. A .103/.103/.103 over the last two weeks, Romak hasn’t had an extrabase hit since July 2nd. On the year, Romak has a .589 OPS and finds himself a 23yo in Hi-A.

3) Tim Murphy, LHP, TEX – Murphy was the Rangers’ 3rd round selection in 2008, out of UCLA. There isn’t a tremendous upside in Murphy and his fringy hi-80s, low-90s fastball doesn’t exactly blow batters away. The result has been a 7.67 ERA for the 22yo in the CAL. Over the last two weeks Murphy has a 18.62 ERA and a 3.103 WHIP and really doesn’t look like a future big leaguer.

4) Carlos Gutierrez, RHP, MIN – After breezing through the FSL with a 1.32 ERA and an astonishing 4.48 GO/AO ratio, Gutierrez has found ESL hitters less susceptible to his often ‘fringy’ offerings. Over the last two weeks, Gutierrez has a 16.20 ERA, a 3.120 WHIP and a 3:4 K:BB ratio, leaving his ESL ERA at 7.93 through 12 appearances.

5) Carlos Peguero, OF, SEA – Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2005, Peguero had posted 4 solid seasons entering 2009. Now a 22yo, Peguero looked like he was ready for a breakout year in the CAL, and has been solid for most of the season, posting a .865 OPS. The last couple of weeks though have been troublesome, as Peguero has gone .100/.163/.100, and now has 42 ABs without an extrabase hit.

6) Cyle Hankerd, OF, ARZ – After a fantastic 2006 debut, it has been progressively downhill for the former 3rd rounder. Last year in the SOL, Hankered struggled to a .624 OPS. Now a 24yo, Henkerd is repeating the circuit with only marginally better results. Over the last two weeks Hankerd is .125/.125/.156.

7) Shairon Martis, RHP, WSN – I’ll preface this by saying that technically Martis is no longer a prospect, and only 22yo he already has 100 innings of Big League experience. It is a short list (approximately 6% of all pitchers) of predominantly successful pitchers with 100 innings at that age. That being said, the wheels have seemingly fallen off for Martis. After starting the season with 5 straight wins, Martis has found himself demoted to AAA and has posted a 7.00 ERA since May 19th. Over the last two weeks Martis has a 15.00 ERA, a 3.333 WHIP and a 3:5 K:BB ratio.
8) Kyle Skipworth, C, FLA – When the Marlins made Skipworth the 6th overall pick in 2008 they thought they were getting an offensive-minded catcher that had enough defense to potentially stick at the position. After a .602 OPS in his 2008 debut, Skipworth has a .561 OPS in the SAL this year. Over the last two weeks, he has a .162/.184/.184 and is posting his lowest OPS month of the season in July. Although only 19yo, if things don’t turn around quickly we will begin to hear the ‘bust’ label whispered.

9) Jeff Marquez, RHP, CHA – After the Nick Swisher trade, Marquez entered the 2009 season as the favorite to nail down the White Sox 5th starter spot. While Swisher is having a resurgent season (.816 OPS) for the Yankees, Marquez has been abysmal (9.85 ERA). Over the last two weeks, Marquez has a 12.00 ERA, a 2.417 WHIP and a 7:5 K:BB ratio.

10) Pete Kozma, SS, STL – The Cardinals 1st round pick in 2007, Kozma has yet to post playable offensive numbers in three professional seasons. A .143/.163/.143 over the last two weeks and 46 ABs without an extra base hit leaves Kozma with a .634 OPS for 2009.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hots and Nots - July 15, 2009

Parker has quietly put together an exceptional first-half

When the Diamondback’s selected Jarrod Parker with the 9th overall pick of the 2007 draft, the book on Parker was that he had projection in his 6’2 frame, generated tremendous power—often pitching in the mid-90’s, for his 175 lbs and had the potential to have 4-plus pitches, but had gotten by in high school with mainly his fastball. Arizona took it slow with him in 2008, limiting him to strict pitch-counts and minimizing his use of his secondary pitches during his first few outings. Still relatively raw, he finished with a 117:33 K:BB ratio in 118 innings. This season, Parker has expanded his repertoire, often hitting the high-90s with his fastball. He tore through the California (CAL) League in his first four starts (posting a 0.95 ERA) before being promoted to the Southern (SOL) League at the end of April. In 13 SOL starts, he has no shutouts, but has only allowed more than 2 ERs in only one start since May 2nd. As a 20yo, he has shown an easy, repeatable delivery; flashes of four potential plus pitches; and a tremendous feel for the game. While others may get more attention, no one has been more solid and for this reason, Parker tops our mid-season list.

A couple of notes about the list. This is a list that examines output, age vs. level of competition, and pre-season expectation in an attempt to determine who has put together the ‘best’ season up to this point. It only considers those players that have not yet used up their ‘rookie’ eligibility. It is not necessarily a reflection of the player’s prospect value, nor is it an all-star list that focuses mainly production. At the end of the year, we produce our list as to the season’s biggest movers, but for now we are using the criteria as defined above.

Hot Pitchers –

1) Jarrod Parker, RHP, ARZ – Coming into the season, Parker ranked behind Bumgarner, Feliz, Matusz and Tillman on most lists. While each of those have put up solid seasons, in our opinion, none have done more to answer outstanding concerns than Parker. He is incredibly precocious, and is likely to get a taste of his first Major League action, before his 21st birthday. He has been the model of consistency, allowing more than 2 ERs only once in his last 12 starts and allowing more hits than IP only twice during that span. Most importantly, he has been watched carefully and has a fundamentally sound, repeatable delivery, that looks to allow him to put up big time innings at the front of the Diamondback’s rotation for many years. Understand, that he is still rather raw, and will need to focus on control of his secondary offerings during the second half. His nearly 4 walks per 9IP remains a concern. But if it all comes together as expected, Parker should open the 2010 season as a key part of the Diamondback rotation.

2) Madison Bumgarner, LHP, SFG – Bumgarner received serious consideration for the top spot, as he also is pitching in AA and is 8 months younger than Parker. However, Bumgarner was generally rated higher than Parker to start the season, was slightly outpitched by Parker when they were both in the CAL and his strikeout rate has tailed off considerably over the last 6 weeks. Nonetheless, Bumgarner has amassed a 1.66 ERA, a 1.033 WHIP and a 68:20 K:BB ratio on the year. Over the remainder of the season, Bumgarner will have to reestablish the dominance he showed in the first two months of the season. With a reasonably young rotation in the Big Leagues, and Tim Alderson more Major League ready, the Giants will be patient with Bumgarner, but expect to see him in San Francisco before this time next year.

3) Brian Matusz, LHP, BAL – Matusz was the first pitcher selected in the 2008 draft, and although he got off to a slow start—with a deadline signing, he has really come on as of late, posting a 1.65 ERA, a 1.011 WHIP, and a 107:27 K:BB ratio through stints in the Carolina (CAR) League and ESL. Over his last 6 starts, he has allowed but 1 ER. The Orioles are going nowhere this year, so there is no impetus to rush him. While he could pitch in the Majors now, a September call-up appears more likely.

4) Mat Latos, RHP, SDP – For stretches of the season, Latos has been the Minor League’s most dominate pitcher. Through stops in the Midwest (MWL) League and the SOL, the 21yo, Matos has compiled a 1.37 ERA, an incredible 0.747 WHIP and a 73:12 K:BB ratio. With his dominant showing, the Padres are seriously considering bringing him to San Diego after the All-Star break. But, from our perspective, Latos comes with a few more questions than the previous names on this list. While no one questions his absolutely ‘filthy’ raw stuff, questions about make-up and maturity have dogged him since before he was drafted. There are questions around his mechanics and somewhat violent delivery. There are questions as to how much his attitude and work ethic will allow him to continue to improve. And perhaps most importantly, there are questions as to whether he has enough off-speed stuff to allow him to fit in a rotation, or is he strictly a reliever at the next level.

5) Hector Rondon, RHP, CLE – In fairness, Rondon has pitched at a level we expected heading into the season, but one which appears to be a surprise to most. Through stays in the ESL and the International (INT) League, Rondon has posted a 2.54 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, and a 81:18 K:BB ratio. More impressively, if one removes his two bullpen appearances in mid-May, Rondon’s numbers, as a starter, are a 2.28 ERA, a 0.920 WHIP and a 79:16 K:BB ratio—as a 21yo. Perhaps Rondon doesn’t receive as much credit, because he doesn’t possess a dominating fastball, but he looks well on his way to becoming a solid Big League mid-rotation starter, and he is likely to see Cleveland before this season is out.

6) Travis Wood, LHP, CIN – Certainly the Minor’s comeback story of the year, Wood currently has the Minor League’s best starter ERA at 1.29. To truly appreciate Wood’s place on this list, one has to understand that, after posting a 7.09 ERA in 17 SOL starts, in 2008, Wood had essentially fallen off the Prospect map. In 2008, he walked nearly 5 batters per 9IP. Through 18 starts this year, that rate is under 3.0. At only 22yo, Wood has clearly reestablished himself as a prospect. He still lacks a dominate fastball, but he has new found control, and is missing a lot of bats, as opposing hitters are batting only .189 against him.

7) Casey Kelly, RHP, BOS – A number of teams questioned the Red Sox signing of Kelly to a $3 million deal last June. Afterall, the consensus was that he was a better pitcher than hitter and Kelly definitely expressed the desire to continue to play SS. An odd compromise was reached that allowed Kelly to play the first-half of the season as a pitcher and the second-half as a SS. As a pitcher, Kelly was lights out. Through 16 appearances in the South Atlantic (SAL) League and the CAR, he posted a 2.12 ERA, a 0.826 WHIP and a 74:16 K:BB ratio. While we would have thought that that performance would have been enough to have everyone lose the SS idea, sure enough, this week Kelly appeared in the GCL playing SS.

8) Kyle Drabek, RHP, PHI – When Drabek was shut down for Tommy John surgery in 2007, many wondered if his career was about to come to an end, before ever really getting started. But in 32 innings in his 2008 return, Drabek looked to be recovered. There are no longer any questions, as Drabek has returned with a bang. Through stints in the Florida State (FSL) League and the ESL, Drabek has posted a 2.58 ERA, a 1.163 WHIP and a 110:36 K:BB ratio and looked to be one of the most impressive pitcher in Sunday night’s Futures game. Drabek has the complete package of ‘stuff’ and ‘make-up’ to be a successful Major League #2. Look for him to join the Phillies rotation in 2010.

9) Jordan Lyles, LHP, HOU – When the Astros took Lyles in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft and signed him to a $930,000 contract, many around baseball felt the Astros were continuing their ways that had plummeted their Minor League system to among the game’s worst. In the end, it appears that it will be the Astros that will get the last laugh, as Lyles has developed into one of the game’s best pitching prospects. Through 17 SAL starts, the 18yo Lyles has posted a 2.92 ERA, a 1.118 WHIP and a 118:21 K:BB ratio. Perhaps even more impressive, over his last 41 IP he has a 58:9 K:BB ratio. He still relies on his mid-90s fastball too much and will have to work on his secondary offerings, but he should have plenty of time to work things out.

10) Jenrry Mejia, RHP, NYM – After posting solid results, as one of the youngest pitchers in the New York-Penn (NYP) League in 2008, Mejia appeared to be poised for a breakout season coming into 2009. The Mets were aggressive with the 19yo, jumping him up to the FSL to begin the year. Considering his age, the results are nothing short of spectacular. Through stints in the FSL and the ESL, Mejia has posted a 2.50 ERA, a 1.375 WHIP and a 68:25 K:BB ratio. Mejia is currently pitching predominantly off of his fastball, and without improvement in his secondary offerings looks destined to end up in a bullpen role. If the Mets can be patient with him, he could be a high-90s fastball, front of the rotation starter.

Hot Hitters –

1) Jesus Montero, C?, NYY – It is sometimes difficult to remember, when looking at Montero’s .330/.386/.542 that he has posted in stints in the FSL and ESL this year, that he is still only 19yo. A .900 OPS as a 19yo in AA is rarified air indeed. Forget about what position he will end up playing, because that bat will play anywhere. After finishing out the season in the ESL, look for the Yankees to give him his first big league look by this time 2010…as a 20yo.

2) Alex Liddi, 3B, SEA – Liddi has unquestionably, been the most consistent offensive performer this season, and we can’t say enough about him. There are those that point to his .349/.395/.632 line and credit the CAL and his home park at High Desert. While we recognize his 1.241/.857 Home/Away OPS Split, we feel the need to point out that he is only 20yo, still relatively raw having grown up in Italy, and does have an .857 OPS without the hitter friendly effects of High Desert. Given that we still see significant upside in his development and a glove that will allow him to stay at 3B, Liddi becomes one of the game’s elite prospects. He will have to continue to cut down on his 22% strike out rate as he moves up the ladder.

3) Jason Heyward, OF, ATL – Heyward started the year as a top 10 prospect, and has done little to show that he doesn’t belong there. As a 19yo in the CAR, and now the SOL, Heyward has posted a .302/.378/.530. Arguably he is the best position prospect in the game today.

4) Derek Norris, C, WSN – We were, to the best of our knowledge, the only place to list Norris as a Top 100 prospect at the beginning of the season. After the 20yo has posted a .316/.415/.593 in the SAL, we now have lots of company. Norris has significantly improved his throw and catch and game calling skills. His strike zone management skills have always been advanced. And, as demonstrated by his .593 OPS and 21 HRs, his power has taken a big jump up. With Weiters now in the Majors, Norris trails only Posey and Santana among backstop prospects.

5) Gordon Beckham, IF, CHA – He will only qualify for this list for a few more days, but Beckham became the first position player from the 2008 draft to reach the Majors in a somewhat permanent fashion. Through stints in the SOL and INT, Beckham posted a .326/.378/.526. Upon arriving in Chicago he struggled significantly, going 1 for his first 24 ABs. He made some adjustments, shortening his swing and focusing on going the other way and since June 26th, he is .389/.421/.574. Positionwise, Beckham appears likely to stay at 3B or slide across the diamond and play 2B, as Alexi Ramirez appears to be the White Sox long-term SS. He still has a little loop in his swing that will give him troubles from time to time, but if he moves to 2B, he could provide some of the most production from that position in the Majors.

6) Justin Smoak, 1B, TEX – While Beckham may have been the first player from the 2008 draft to reach the Majors, it’s beginning to look like Smoak may be the player with the best bat. Battling nagging injuries for a good portion of the season, Smoak has posted a .307/.433/.486 on the season. With Chris Davis back in AAA, the path for Smoak to take over 1B in Arlington appears to be clear. At 22yo, look for the Rangers to wait until September before calling him up, but he appears to have a Rafael Palmeiro type career within his grasp.

7) Jaff Decker, OF, SDP – Decker takes a lot of knocks for his name and for even more for his less than athletic looking body, but no one is knocking his bat. The 19yo has posted a .277/.442/.489 in the MWL and he possesses some of the Minor’s best strike zone management skills. Decker will continue to have to prove himself at every level, but appears to have a bat that will take him a long way.

8) Buster Posey, C, SFG – Posey entered the season as the ‘surest’ thing from the 2008 draft class, and continues to hold that title. His excellent catch and throw and game calling skills, would likely get him to the minors by themselves, but his bat looks to be first rate for the position. He will start at AAA this week, after posting a .326/.428/.540 through 80 games in the CAL. The Giants are likely to keep him at Fresno for the remainder of the season, but look for Posey to take over the everyday catcher duties in San Francisco by next May.

9) Tyson Gillies, OF, SEA – After single-handedly manufacturing a run in Sunday’s Futures game, Gillies showed the baseball world what the fans at High Desert have been seeing all season. Through 78 games in the CAL, Gilles has posted a .322/.431/.466, demonstrating quintessential leadoff skills. Gillies controls the strike zone, plays solid defense, and makes things happen. Only 20yo, he will have to show he can continue his offensive production outside of the hitter friendly environs of High Desert, but Gillies is rapidly moving up the prospect charts.

10) Chris Heisey, OF, CIN – The 24yo Heisey is one of those players you want to root for. Lacking any significant skills, Heisey is a ‘grinder’ who, prior to this season, was considered to have the upside of a 4th OF type. After stints in the SOL and INT, Heisey has posted a .350/.420/.585 in what has to be one of the most surprising performances of the season. We are still not sold that he much more than a 4th OF type, but he looks like he will get his chance to prove it.

The Nots –

1) Jeremy Jeffress, RHP, MIL – Jeffress now has a 100 game suspension to go along with his 100mph fastball . He was awful in 8 SOL starts, so the Brewers sent him down to the FSL before he was suspended. There is no doubt that Jeffress throws hard, as evidenced by his 70 K’s in 60 IP. But he often times has no idea where it is going (55 BBs). He is one strike away from being out of baseball for good and the grains of sand seem to be slipping out of that hour glass that was his career.

2) Kyle Skipworth, C, FLA – When the Marlins made Skipworth the 6th overall pick in 2008 they thought they were getting an offensive-minded catcher that had enough defense to potentially stick at the position. Keep that in mind as you look at the .203/.259/.328 that he has posted through his first 369 Professional ABs. At 19yo it is too early to label him a bust, but I wouldn’t want to be the one responsible for that $2.3 million bonus.

3) Shooter Hunt, RHP, MIN – Hunt was drafted with questions regarding his control. It only got worse through his first 70 Professional IP. After allowing the 33 walks in his first 17 IP, Hunt was disabled. He has been on a Gulf Coast (GCL) League rehab assignment where he has 13 walks in 14 innings. I suppose that is an improvement. Like Skipworth, this too looks to be a risky $1,080,000 investment.

4) Engle Beltre, OF, TEX – Beltre was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2006 for what at the time, $600,000, was considered big money for a Latin American Signee. His ‘tools’ have created comparisons to players like Andruw Jones, but his production has more often than not resembled Andy Fran. Although still just 19yo, his anemic .219/.274/.304 in the CAL is coming on top of a career .725 OPS entering the season. Just the latest example of a player development process that is broken. With the bonus money that has been paid to International signees over the last three seasons, it isn’t going to take long before Major League clubs begin to reevaluate their International strategy.

5) Kevin Ahrens, 3B, TOR – It is difficult to believe that Ahrens was considered the best prep bat available in the state of Texas in the 2007 draft, as three seasons into his professional career he sits with an OPS around .650. After struggling offensively in the MWL in 2008, it is hard to understand why the Jays felt he was ready for the FSL. Nonetheless, that is where we find him and his .220/.296/.292. Make no mistake, his glove is first rate, but unless something clicks at the plate soon, we are never going to get to see much of it.

6) Kellen Kulbacki, OF, SDP – Kulbacki posted a breakout season in 2008, when he had a 1.017 OPS in the CAL. Figuring that the 23yo was ready for the next step, the Padres sent him to the Texas League to open the year. Unfortunately injuries have derailed the 2009 season and in 38 games with San Antonio he has managed only a .201/.257/.254. There is talent in Kulbacki’s bat, but if he can’t turn around his year in the second half, it will begin to look unlikely that he will ever make an impact at the Major League level.

7) Drew Stubbs, CF, CIN – Regular readers are already familiar with the eternal question I ask rhetorically…”what is the phenomenon that is Drew Stubbs?” I just don’t get it, and frankly I never have since the Reds made him a first round choice in 2006. Stubbs has been old for every level he has played at and still only has a career OPS barely above .750. Yes he can field, and, if you can get him to first base, he can run a little too. But this is a guy that is supposed to profile as a leadoff hitter that strikeout once every 3.5 ABs, with next to no power. 2009 hasn’t been a lot better, as Stubbs has posted a .274/.368/.365 in the INT.

8) Niko Vasquez, SS, STL – The Cardinals felt they got a steal when they tabbed Vasquez in the 3rd round of the 2008 draft. The book on Vasquez was that he hit like a 3Bmen, and played SS like one too. Now midway through his first full season, it likes like the Redbirds were only right about the glove part. After opening the season with a .197/.295/.250 in the MWL, the Cardinals sent Vasquez to the NYP when it opened—with similar results. While, at 20yo, it is too early to write Vasquez off, things are looking anything but promising.

9) Michael Almanzar, 3B, BOS – Maybe when the Cardinals thought that Vasquez hit like a 3Bmen, they had Almanzar in mind. After the Red Sox paid Almanzar the highest bonus ($1.5 million) of the 2007 Latin American 16yo class, they expected big things. His brief stint in the GCL in 2008 seemed to back that up, but it has been all downhill from there. Almanzar opened the season in the SAL, where he posted a .207/.261/.293 and was clearly over matched. When the short season began, he was demoted to the NYP where things have gone even worse. This is an 18yo talent, who is not being developed properly…from here just insert my comments from Engle Beltre above.

10) Lars Anderson, 1B, BOS – Before everyone starts jumping on me, I think Anderson is still one of the Minor’s elite prospects and we ranked him in the Top 25 in our mid-season list. That being said, there were many that predicted that once Wieters and Price moved on to the Majors, it could well be Anderson that assumed the Top spot. Well Wieters and Price are gone, and Anderson is further from the top spot than he was when the season began. When the Red Sox drafted Anderson in 2006, the consensus was that he was the best prep power hitter in that draft. So far in 1230 professional ABs he has collected a total of 37 HRs. In a repeat performance in the ESL this year, he has posted a .272/.366/.413. He is only 21yo and is putting up reasonable numbers in the ESL, so there is no denying his ability to hit, but given that he is relegated to playing 1B, will he hit enough to ever justify the hype?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Around the Bases - July 10, 2009

Eric Young had a game to remember

An abbreviated version this morning, as we are working on some things to potentially make things here even bigger and better…

Prospect hitting performance of the year?…
If you ever wondered how we select players for this list, we have a daily weighted scoring system that identifies the top players each morning from all the previous day’s box scores. Only Justin Smoak’s rehab appearance in the Arizona League on June 21st and Jon Gaston’s May 6th outing have scored better than 24yo Rockies’ secondbaseman, Eric Young’s 4 for 4, with 2 HRs, a 3B, and his 48th SB of the year, yesterday. Young is still merely a ‘fringy’ prospect, but he won’t soon forget this outing.

Desperately in need of a bigger challenge…
Reds 22yo, Travis Wood is absolutely owning Southern (SOL) League hitters. Yesterday’s 7 scoreless inning outing, where he allowed only 3 hits and a walk, while fanning 9, is just the latest example. Since the beginning of June, Wood has a 1.02 ERA, a 0.736 WHIP and a 52:8 K:BB ratio.

Ugly line of the day…
20yo Jays’ OF, Eric Eiland, went 0 for 7 with 4Ks, and is now sporting a .595 OPS through 70 New York-Penn PAs.

Has there been a better pitcher this season?...
The Padres 21yo right-hander, Mat Latos continues to make this look easy. He tossed 5 perfect innings yesterday, with 7 strikeouts, and now has a 1.37 ERA with a 0.747 WHIP on the year.