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Mastersball Top 10 Prospects for 2014 PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 09 December 2013 00:00

It is indeed that time of year, when the holidays are here, and that means it is again time to announce this year's Top 250 Prospect List.

Actually, the tradition is that I publish the Top 10 right here (you can get the entire Top 250 as part of our Platinum Package), and while a lot of the names you expect to see on such a list are commensurate with the likes of Baseball America and MLB.com, my list always shines the light on a few players off the radar of most of the rest of the world.

Players are rated on power, strikeouts/innings pitched for pitchers, extra-base hits/hits for batters and strike zone control judgement for both as well. Then the age and relative level of play are also taken into consideration, with credit being granted for the highest levels at the youngest age.

So, without further ado, here are this year's Top 10 Mastersball Prospects for 2014 (note that age is as of Opening Day next year):

bogaerts

  1. Xander Bogaerts (21, SS, Red Sox): The only question right now is whether Bogaerts is the Opening Day third sacker, or shortstop at Fenway. He clearly caught our collective eye during the Series, and hit .284-9-32 at Pawtuckett as a 20-year-old with a pretty good 28 walks to 44 strikeouts. As a minor leaguer, 36% of his hits went for extra bases.
  2. Eduardo Rodriguez (20, P, Orioles): Rodriguez went 10-7, 3.41 with 125 whiffs over 145 innings with a a 1.224 WHIP split between Class-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie in 2013. Rodriguez whiffed 310 while walking 125 over 366.3 innings as a minor leaguer, and did well at Double-A as a 20-year-old.
  3. Matt Wisler (21, P, Padres): Wisler went 10-6, 2.78 split between Lake Elsinore and San Antonio. 136 innings with 131 strikeouts, 107 hits, 33 walks and a 1.029 WHIP. Wisler whiffed 244 minor league hitters over 250 innings, with just 63 walks.
  4. Taijuan Walker (21, P, Mariners): Went 9-10, 2.93 with 160 strikeouts over 141.3 innings with a 1.196 WHIP prior to joining the Mariners rotation in 2013. He is likely in the rotation to stay in 2014.
  5. Addison Russell (20, SS, Athletics): 885 OPS in California League at age 19. Power, speed and range. Depending upon the Athletics season, and Russell's, he could grab the shortstop gig as early as 2014, moving Jed Lowrie to second, though 2015 is a more likely ETA for Russell to own the full-time gig.
  6. Noah Syndergaard (21, P, Mets): 9-4, 3.06 over 117.6 innings, with 113 strikeouts and 28 walks (1.147 WHIP) split between St. Lucie and Binghamton. 329 minor league strikeouts over 293.6 innings.
  7. Jameson Taillon (22, P, Pirates): Pitched even better with promotion to Triple-A. Ran a mark of 5-10, 3.73 over 147.1 innings with 143 whiffs in 2013. Has 356 strikeouts over 382 innings as a minor leaguer.
  8. Carlos Martinez (22, P, Cardinals): 2-1, 5.08 over 28.3 with 24 strikeouts at new Busch after promotion to Majors. Was 6-3, 2.49 at Double-A and Triple-A prior to call-up with 72 strikeouts.
  9. Edwin Escobar (21, P, Giants): 8-8, 2.96 over 128.6 innings split between San Jose and Richmond last year with 146 strikeouts and a 1.104 WHIP.
  10. Adalberto Mejia (20, P, Giants): 89 punchouts over 87 innings as a 19-year-old at High-A. Made brief appearance at Triple-A Fresno (five innings 0-0, 3.60). Logged 241 minor league strikeouts over 274.6 innings.

Hopefully, your curiosity is whet. Again, you can get the full list, with my sleeper picks noted and a brief comment for each player, as part of our Platinum Package.

 

 

Last Updated on Monday, 09 December 2013 10:01
 
AFL Review PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 11 November 2013 00:00

Back I am from the Arizona Fall League, and that means a quick report on the players who caught my eye.

Of course my observations will include the players I think you would all like to know about, but, also the guys who looked like they had Major League stuff in my view.

Note that some of the players below made last year's Mastersball Top 250, which will be revealed with the December edition of the Hotpage. So, stay tuned, and please have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving holiday!

Addison Russell (SS, Athletics): I was anxious to see the 2012 #1 pick of Oakland, and believe me, he did not disappoint. Russell lined four hits over the couple of games I saw, and also got on once via an error. He only struck out once, swiped a base and showed excellent range and instincts at shortstop. I would guess a late ETA would be towards the end of the 2014 season, but strong play could find Russell at short with Jed Lowrie moving to second during the coming season, depending upon the path of the Athletics.

Alen Hanson (SS, Pirates): Probably the NL counterpart to Russell, the now 21-year-old Hanson broke out with a big season (.309-16-62) at West Virginia last year, and kept it coming with solid stats at Bradenton and then Altoona this year. Hanson displayed a quick bat (1-for-3 with a steal) at the AFL, as well as good range in the field and a strong arm. He is a skinny guy (just 152 pounds) yet 37% of his minor league hits have gone for extra bases. Hanson has a pretty clear path to the shortstop gig at PNC. Give him a year, and he is there.

Brett Nicholas (1B, Rangers): The Rangers' sixth round selection in 2010 had a nice year at Frisco (.289-21-91) last year, and I saw him for a total of four AFL at-bats: he banged a single and a pair of homers with a very quick bat. Nicholas is 25, meaning he is older than most of his AFL counterparts, but he can hit. The question is can he do it at the Major League level, and at his age, time is getting short.

Byron Buxton (OF, Twins): A first round pick in 2012 by the Twins, who turned in .334-12-77 season in 2013 combined between Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers. I saw four at-bats at the AFL All Star Game (Buxton got one hit) but my mates said he did launch a couple of bombs that they witnessed during our stay. Buxton does not turn 20 until next month, and looks to provide some offensive help to the Twins, who are good at promoting their prospects, as soon as next year.

bryant_kris

Kris Bryant  (3B, Cubs): Chicago to the North's first round selection this year out of the University of San Diego, Bryant hit .336-9-32 over 146 in-season at-bats, banging a 1.076 OPS. He is big (6'5", 215 pounds) and has a big swing to go along. Bryant got a couple of hits and a walk that I saw, and made a good play and throw at third, but also was caught on a short hop making a little league play that got through him and should have been an error. Hence, his ultimate home may not be the hot corner at the Major League level. But, he can hit, and has a presence for sure.

Matt Ramsey (P, Rays): I don't remember seeing that many pitchers at the Fall League over the past few years who caught my attention. That is largely a function of usually just seeing a guy pitch for an inning or so, but Ramsey whiffed all three hitters he faced during the one inning I saw. He threw hard, and his 67 strikeouts over 64.3 minor league innings bear this out. He has given up the same number of hits as innings as a pro, so that tells me he is relying too much on his fastball, and that suggests he needs another pitch, or is a closer in waiting. Based upon the six conversions he culled last year, that latter scenario seems the path. 

Lee Stoppelman (P, Cardinals): The Cardinals clearly know how to draft pitchers these days, and my mate Brian Walton brought Stoppelman to my attention. He whiffed a couple of the batters he faced that I saw with an interesting threee-quarters motion. Selected in the 24th round of the 2012 draft, Stoppelman climbed three levels this year, going 6-3, 1.50, with 78 strikeouts over 66 innings, with 40 hits and 26 walks (1.00 WHIP) to go along with six saves. 

Last Updated on Monday, 11 November 2013 09:40
 
Hotpage Week 26 (September 25, 2013) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 23 September 2013 00:00

Last week, I listed players I would probably shy away from, were draft day coming in the Majors.

So, to finish the 2013 series of the Hotpage, I will discuss 13 players I like going into 2014 and why.

As with last week, often the criteria that makes players attractive is relative to the style and size of the league. And, sometimes, the value is simply nabbing someone for the reserve list in any kind of format.

Again like last week, I will start the festivities here at our Mastersball home, and conclude Tuesday with our partners and mates, KFFL.

Sonny Gray (P, Athletics): OK, so this list might prove to be a little Oakland heavy, but that is the team I see the most, and as I have regularly noted, they are vastly underrated. In that scheme, Gray is the latest in a terrific line of pitching acquisitions Oakland has made over the last few years. Be by trade (Jarrod Parker, Brett Anderson), free agent signing (Bartolo Colon), or the draft (A.J. Griffin, Dan Straily), Gray, who was a #1 pick out of Vanderbilt in 2011, might prove to be the best of them all (don’t forget the arms, a la Dan Haren and Gio Gonzalez they have dealt away as well).

With a mid-90’s fastball, and offspeed stuff with some filthy movement, Gray is one of those guys that throw deceptively hard, and can be equally efficient. He is also a quick worker, and able to keep the ball down, both solid traits for a pitcher (and Gray is just 23).

As a minor leaguer, he was 17-17, 3.66 over five starts and 292.2 innings, with 237 strikeouts to 103 walks and 294 hits.

But in Oakland, with a strong defense and cavernous park, he is now 4-3, 2.90 after pitching as the A’s clinched the AL West title Sunday. He now has 59 punchouts to 17 walks, with 48 hits allowed over 59 innings (1.101 WHIP). I do not think you will be sorry getting him for a modest price now.

Jedd Gyorko (2B, Padres): The 24-year-old second San Diego selection in 2010, Gyorko came up as a third sacker, but moved to second this year at Petco in deference to the presence of Chase Headley.

Gyorko only managed 117 games during his rookie campaign due to injuries, but his .248-20-53 line was a triumph. First, the 20 big flies is pretty good for a rookie, especially when your home games are in Petco Park, which is as spacious as Oakland. Second, though he only walked 30 times, Gyorko whiffed 118, not so bad for a first-timer with pop, especially up the middle. And, well, if you want to extrapolate that he would have struck out 170 times over a full season, similarly Gyroko would have hit 30 homers using the same factoring.

Either way, I would expect him to get better every year for a few.

Josh Donaldson (3B, Oakland): Ok, I think one of Oakland’s real hidden weapons is their third sacker; a player who was a catcher going into the spring of 2012.

But, injuries at third changed Donaldson’s life it seems, for though he could not really cut it at first, Donaldson went to Sacramento last July and returned to hit .344-4-14 in August to help propel Oakland to their division title last year.

This year, he has become their best hitter, with a .306-24-91 line, including 54 multi-hit games.

Donaldson is probably a keeper in most of your freeze leagues, simply because he is probably cheap as a sleeper this year. Fair enough, but if he is not, he should still be modestly priced next year compared to Evan Longoria and Adrian Beltre (and maybe even Brett Lawrie) and if so, you would be well served to grab him.

By the way, if you play in a Scoresheet or Strat-O-Matic format, where defense counts, Donaldson has become a very good patroller of the hot corner.

Zack Wheeler (P, Mets): It is too bad that Matt Harvey will likely not be himself until mid-2015, because it will be big fun to watch the tandem of Wheeler and Harvey come of age.

Obtained by New York in exchange for the short-tenured Carlos Beltran, from San Francisco, Wheeler was the Giants' #1 selection in 2009.

Wheeler was 28-20, 3.56 in the Minors, with 420 strikeouts over 391.1 innings (176 hits, 323 hits, 1.275 WHIP).

At Citi this year, he’s been 7-5, 3.42 over 100 innings, with 84 strikeouts to 42 walks and 90 hits (1.360 WHIP).

At 23, he will get better. Much better.

Jonathan Villar (SS, Astros): I saw the 22-year-old Villar, a Venezuelan native, over a couple of games in Oakland in early September and he was one of those guys that did everything well. Nothing eye-dropping, but he played his position well, got his bat on the ball, moved runners along, and showed very good speed.

Over what amounts to the final third of this year, Villar has hit a respectable .267-1-8, with eight doubles, a couple of triples, and 17 swipes over 180 at-bats. He has 22 walks to 60 strikeouts, good for a .347 OBP and along with Jose Altuve, will constitute one of the best and productive sets of middle infielders in the Majors over the next few seasons.

Nathan Eovaldi (P, Marlins): Acquired as part of the Hanley Ramirez deal with L.A. last season, Eovaldi struck out 298 over 364 innings, allowing 338 hits—just 11 homers though—and 146 walks (1.330 WHIP).

The 23-year-old, picked in the 11th round of the 2008 draft, does have those fits of wildness, but he also throws a fastball close to 100 MPH, and when he is on can be dominant.

Miami has some interesting young players, and Eovaldi, along with Jacob Turner and Jose Fernandez, could be a deadly troika anchoring a pretty good team in a couple of years. But, I like him having a full 2014, and he will likely be on the cheaper side.

Last Updated on Monday, 23 September 2013 07:03
 
Hotpage Week 25 (September 16, 2013) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 16 September 2013 00:00

In picking players who make me nervous going into 2014, it is hard to not notice the Mets, who in the coming season will likely remind us of the Astros in 2013 (minus Jose Altuve), and perhaps the 2012 Royals, teams where position player wise, it is difficult to justify taking anyone.

But, in identifying the players noted below, in general by listing the athletes I mean it more as a guideline to not spend too much, or draft too early. Or, as logic would dictate, let your opponents take the risk.

And, to add to the fun, this time I will start the festivities here at Mastersball, with my 15 guys who make me nervous for 2014, but to find the rest, look to our sister site KFFL on Tuesday to complete the list.

Patrick Corbin (P, Diamondbacks): Corbin had a great season, no question, but I cannot help but see him and his 14-6, 2.92 2013, and think Ian Kennedy in 2011, when he went 21-4, 2.88 over 222 innings, and returned to go 15-12, 4.02 in 2012. Maybe the deal is it is simply hard to string two really great years together, or maybe the league’s book on a pitcher increases with said efficiency. Either way, I still would not trust Corbin beyond being a third starter, whatever price that may dictate.

C.C. Sabathia (P, Yankees): The rumors that Sabathia had had it this year were clearly premature, as C.C. has cleared 200 innings for the seventh straight year. However, his earned runs allowed lead the league, as do his batters faced total, while his WHIP of 1.368 is the highest of his career (.15 over his mean) while the strikeouts per nine are down by over one. I still like C.C. as a horse, but no more as the fastest or strongest pulling the wagon.

R.A. Dickey (P, Toronto): Putting Dickey here is tough simply because he throws a knuckler, and as we know from Tim Wakefield and Charlie Hough, a strong season can rise out of the ashes of a bad one. Not to mention that Dickey is such a fun character and story, but 1.4 homers per nine is a big jump, while 6.9 whiffs per nine is a big drop over his last three seasons. True, at 38 a knuckleballer is not necessarily finished, but one dominant season out of 11 is not a thick reed to spend an ace slot on. Who knows, maybe a trade to Phoenix (for Corbin) would help his chances at a resurrection?

Gordon Beckham (2B, White Sox): I have a feeling Beckham made this list last year. And, perhaps the year before? Either way, for a first round pick to now be in his fourth full season of play as a starter, yet unable to crack a .700 OPS, maybe it is time for Beckham to seek a utility role, rather than that of a starter? On just about any team but the White Sox, this would probably be the case.

Adam Dunn/Paul Konerko/Jeff Keppinger (1B/DH, White Sox): Ok, while we are picking on the Pale Hose, it is amazing that among this troika they hit 46 homers and drove in 170 runs, over 215 games, while the Sox could only manage 58 wins. All this cost the team was a collective $32 million for 2013, and though Konerko’s contract is up, Dunn, who has hinted at retirement, has a season to go, and Keppinger has two on his respective deal. Truly, you want power at first and DH, and while those these three guys might be supplying it, the results are apparently never at the right time.

Remember, click to KFFL on Tuesday for the rest of the list. Note I will finish the year next week by doing the same thing with 15 players I like for 2014.

Last Updated on Monday, 16 September 2013 06:51
 
Hotpage Week 24 (September 9, 2013) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 09 September 2013 00:00

Probably the most exciting transaction of the week had to involve the Reds promotion of the speedy Billy Hamilton. There has been no question about Hamilton’s speed game: he swiped 155 bags last season alone and has 395 over his 502 game career.

But, Hamilton’s on-base abilities came into question this year at Triple-A Louisville, where he walked 38 times while striking out on 102 occasions, in contrast with 2012, where at Double-A Pensacola he walked 36 times to 43 whiffs over 50 games. Hamilton’s OBP dropped almost 100 points, from .406 in the Southern League to .308 at the International League.

Hamilton has pinch-run for the Reds four times, stealing successfully each time, and scoring three runs, and at this time of year he is a pretty good gamble when those categories are bunched. Just recognize there could be little other production, and gaining points in one area, and in the process losing points in another, does not really solve much.

As for Hamilton’s future, he is clearly overmatched by higher level pitching at this point, and he is just 22. But, the bottom line is whether he can learn to command the strike zone, and become a good hitter. Which is totally possible (think of Omar Vizquel and Ozzie Smith early in their careers), though it might take a few years.

I was across the bay, in Oakland working the Athletics/Astros game Friday, when Yusmeiro Petit almost bagged a perfect game at ATT. Petit is one of those enigmas: a guy who has the Minors mastered to the tune of a 58-46, 3.68 record, with 972 strikeouts over 967.1 innings, with a terrific 1.132 WHIP. In fact, Petit scored in the top 10 of my Top 100 (before it became the Top 250) with his 12-6, 2.20 mark at three levels as a 19-year-old.

As a Major Leaguer, however, a 5.19 ERA and 1.387 WHIP are the results over 260.1 innings. Petit, now 28, does seem to have learned (as ideally Hamilton can), as his numbers with the Giants this year are a stellar 3-0, 2.05 over three starts and 26.1 innings. That is a pretty limited sample, but I would not be surprised if the Giants leave Petit in the rotation to close out 2013, and if he continues to pitch effectively, he makes for an interesting below-the-radar consideration for next season.

I did work both the Thursday and Friday Oakland games, so I want to spend the next few paragraphs on some of the young players I saw in action during those contests, starting with Oakland’s Sonny Gray.

Now, I did write a little about Gray a few weeks back, but had not seem him pitch, and I have to say he was very impressive Thursday, and though he allowed three runs (just two earned) over his 8 innings of work, he struck out seven, allowed seven hits and walked just one.

Over the first six innings, there was not a Houston out recorded by an Oakland outfielder, and Gray threw just 95 pitches—67 for strikes—over his evening’s work.

Gray looks really good as a future arm on a team that has been very good at developing young arms.

On the other side, former Athletic Brad Peacock was the hurler opposing Gray, and the young Astro matched up squarely against Gray’s strong performance, tossing seven innings of five hit, two run ball, striking out nine while walking just one. The performance only lowered his ERA to 5.62 (he is 4-5, over 11 starts and 65.1 innings) but Peacock showed very good control over his game and is at least worth tracking (though I suspect he is closer to Dallas Keuchel than Gray in long-term skill).

Jonathan Villar had a solid pair of games, going 3-for-9, while scoring a couple of runs, hitting a double, knocking in one and stealing a base. At present, the shortstop is hitting .276-0-4, over 127 at-bats, with eight doubles, a pair of triples and 13 steals. He is still 22, and might well just help stabilize Houston’s middle infield along with Jose Altuve for the next few years.

Finishing with another Jonathan who is a middle infielder, the Orioles brought Jonathan Schoop up for their stretch push, coming off a .256-9-34 line over 70 games (270 at-bats) at Norfolk. As long as Brian Roberts is healthy, and the Orioles are in it, expect the incumbent to get the bulk of playing time for the balance of the season, but Schoop, at just 21, has a pretty good OPS of .743 as a minor leaguer, and again could be an interesting property in 2014, as Roberts, who has a hard time keeping his body on the field, is not signed for 2014.

Last Updated on Monday, 09 September 2013 07:10
 
Hotpage Week 23 (September 2, 2013) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 02 September 2013 00:00

Such strange transaction times in baseball these days, as we are at the final real milestone--Labor Day--that goes hand in hand with roster expansion. But, a cluster of waiver trades added to this week's roster madness, but, I have to start this holiday version of the Hotpage with a nod to the most delicious player name to make the Show since Stubby Clapp.

That would be Arizona catcher Tuffy Gosewisch, the first Tuffy to hit the Majors since Tuffy Rhodes, a fantasy legend of sorts. Not that Gosewisch (whose formal name is James Benjamin Gosewisch) is any kind of a fantasy pick up, at age 30, with a .239-50-301line over nine minor league seasons. Still, baseball has such a great tradition of goofy nicknames, and this latest iteration of Tuffy certainly deserves a nod and chuckle, if nothing else.

Baltimore acquired Mike Morse from Seattle on the first of the waiver moves we can review this time. Morse, as witnessed by his great 2011 of .303-31-95, is certainly capable of major production, but, the 146 games he played that season dwarfs any other consistent playing time over his career. He did manage solid enough numbers of .291-18-62 last season with the Nationals, albeit over 102 games, and came out of the blocks hot this year after signing with Seatle, hitting .245-8-12 over the first month of the season. 

However, he has gone .228-5-14 over 175 Seattle at-bats since, and just prior to the trade to Baltimore, which should be a bit of a boost to the 31-year old. Morse should both benefit from the new surroundings, in both playing for a contender, and within a somewhat more potent lineup than in Seattle.

Similarly, the Dodgers obtaining another Mike, that being Michael Young, makes for an equally nice interleague move. Los Angeles has survived the season with piece-meal parts at the hot corner, starting with the possiblity that Dee Gordon would step his stick up, and leave Hanley Ramirez to play third. That failed in the spring, so Luis Cruz and Nick Punto filled the gap until Juan Uribe returned to form, and though all three combined for decent production (.235-10-68), Young is a professional hitter who brings .276-8-42 2013 totals to his team. 

At 36, Young is clearly past his very good prime but he makes contact (.336 OBP, and .731 OPS) and like Morse should benefit by being both with a contender, and in a much more potent lineup. Meaning Young is a nice play over the final month of the season.

On the flip, there were two intra-league waiver moves that are probably less promising, starting with Jason Kubel moving to the Indians. The left-handed hitting outfielder/DH made a nice mark in 2009 with his .300-28-103 season, even managing a decent follow-up season of .249-21-92, then succumbing to injury and free agency to Arizona in 2012. 

There the now 31-year old did well enough with .253-30-90 numbers, but this season has been beyond disasterous with .220-5-32 numbers over 241at-bats. Though back in the American League, Kubel's role is not so clearly defined as those of Young and Morse, so even though Kubel goes to a contender, I have less faith he will deliver as in the past.

I feel much the same for Kubel's former Minnesota mate, Justin Morneau, who is now a Pirate. 

Morneau's last sort of full season of 2009 (.274-30-100) was in 2009, like Kubel, and since he has struggled with injuries to be sure, and though the first sacker's 2012 promised some hope (.267-19-77) it mostly revealed that Morneau is now decent, but not much more. His 2013 line is nearly the same at .257-17-74, and though the Pirates have made it through well enough with Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez manning first, Morneau is likely a more formidable option. 

Mostly, the addition gives Clint Hurdle some roster flexibility, but the league switch does put Morneau in the National League for the first time as well, usually a tough transition.

The reality is that it is crunch time, so using your FAAB to grab either Morneau or Kubel is certainly a prudent move, but simply don't expect too much from either.

Seattle jumped the gun of September 1 roster expansion by a day, promoting their first round selection of 2010, Taijuan Walker. Just 21, Walker is a premiere prospect who marched into AA in 2012, whet his feet (7-10, 4.69) and then showed his stuff this year with a 4-7, 2.46 line that prompted a promotion to Tacoma where Walker handled himself well with 5-3, 3.61 totals prior to the call-up.

Walker has 400 whiffs over his 371.2 minor league innings, allowing 307 hits to 149 walks (1.227 WHIP) and that means he can indeed be dominant, something Walker did carry onto his first start of five innings with a pair of hits allowed, no earned runs, and a win. If Walker is for some reason available in your league you want him now, but you really want him for the future.

Detroit's Nick Castellanos was also a high school sign from the 2010 draft, in fact he was selected one pick after Walker. Castellanos was a third sacker when signed, but since Detroit is pretty well set at third with that Miguel Cabrera guy, Castellanos is now playing in the outfield. Also 21, he hit well at Toledo this year (.276-18-76) and a solid 54 walks to 100 punchouts (.343 OBP). Like Walker, if available, Castellanos is a player you want to have in your pocket for coming years.

We can finish with one more pick from 2010, the #11 player overall in Oakland's Michael Choice. Choice did opt for college (three years at Texas) instead of signing out of high school, and now 23, has moved up to the point of a strong 2013 of .302-14-89 at Sacramento. Choice also drew a strong 69 walks to 115 strikeouts (.390 OBP) but for the bulk of 2013 will have a tough time cracking the Oakland outfield at least until the point where the team clinches or is out of it. Still, Choice makes an interesting future possibility.

Last Updated on Monday, 02 September 2013 15:10
 
Hotpage Week 22 (August 26, 2013) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 26 August 2013 00:00

With both the Giants and Athletics playing locally over the past cycle, I managed to work three games over that period, so I can talk about three local players, though I did not actually see two of them.

Let's start with the one local guy I know pretty well, and that would be new/old/returning backstop Kurt Suzuki. Pressed back to Oakland largely due to injuries to the season-long platoon pair of John Jaso (concussion) and Derek Norris (fractured toe), "Zook", as he is known in the clubhouse, should be able to fall right into the groove of the team he left a little over a year ago, under essentially the same circumstances; that is, to assist the Nats for a pennant drive.

Since Zook has worked with most of the Oakland pitchers, that is a major advantage for both the Athletics as a team and for Suzuki, who moves back into a familiar role at a familiar location. What the catcher needs to do offensively is try to return to the .276-11-65 totals he averaged over 2008-09.

Irrespective, he will get some playing time at least until Norris is ready. Since Jaso has concussion-related issues, his return is nebulous, and that means Zook will play a nice role. It also allows a chance for Bob Melvin to platoon Norris at DH, taking advantage of his right-handed pop.

By the way, Washington advanced backstop Jhonatan Solano to fill the Zook void. At 28 years of age, with a .247-22-201 minor league line including .214-0-10 this year over 40 games at Syracuse, you probably want to look elsewhere for help behind the dish.

While I was off playing music among the redwoods, out of touch with the real world (it is really fun, let me tell you), I missed the Oakland advance of pitcher Sonny Gray

The Cubs actually drafted Gray out of high school--in the 27th round in 2008--but the righty chose to spend time at Vanderbilt, and thus became Oakland's #1 selection in 2011. After going 6-9, 4.14 over 148 innings at Double-A Midland, Gray spent this year a level up at Triple-A Sacramento in the PCL. There he went 10-7, 3.42 over 118 innings, with 118 strikeouts to 39 walks and 117 hits (only five taters, though), good for a 1.318 WHIP. 

The PCL is indeed a hitter's league, so Gray's numbers translate pretty well, and he brought a 1-1, 1.44 line into Sunday's start against the Orioles. He copped 27 whiffs over 25 innings, allowing just seven walks to 12 hits (0.760 WHIP) and though Baltimore did touch him for five runs yesterday, they were largely the result of dings and bloops. So, I like his prospects pretty well for the rest of the season, pitching against bats that are tiring, and September call-ups, most of whom have not batted against Gray.

I worked the Giants/Red Sox game Tuesday night, where Jake Peavy took on Ryan Vogelsong. It was a wild game, with a four-pitch walk-off walk by Bryan Villareal to Marco Scutaro ending the game on San Francisco's behalf. Well, tucked into the evening's play were three line-drive singles to center field by left fielder Roger Kieschnick

Drafted out of Texas Tech in the third round of 2008, Kieschnick has a decent minor league line of .275-75-298 over 476 games, along with an .816 OPS (.331 OBP). The left-handed hitter--#22 like Will Clark--has a nice swing, though like Nate Schierholtz, he might have trouble getting full-time play in San Francisco. In fact, he might not be better than a #4 platoon flychaser. And, with the possibility of Angel Pagan returning for the end of the season, that too could cut into playing time. Still, the guy has a nice swing, and looks like he can hit, so at least keep that in the back of your head.

That Tuesday game also featured the debut of Boston's shortstop Xander Bogaerts. A native of Aruba, Bogaerts was contracted in 2010. He has an excellent .296-54-236 line over 378 games, of which he played 56 at Double-A Portland (.311-6-35) and 60 at Pawtuckett (.284-9-32) this season. Bogaerts is a fine looking prospect, especially to make the Majors. And, in that first game, his youth was definitely exploited by Vogelsong before a set of platoon replacements put Stephen Drew at short in the seventh. Still, Bogaerts is more than worth tracking and especially stashing on your reserve squad.

Finally, Toronto brought up Domincan outfielder Moises Sierra, who banged out .224-6-15 totals last year over 49 Skydome affairs last year. He was hitting .261-11-51 this year at Triple-A Buffalo, with pretty good pop (.432 SLG) compared to eye (.309 OBP with 16 walks to 116 strikeouts). You probably want to pass on this Sierra.

 

Last Updated on Monday, 26 August 2013 06:58
 
Hotpage Week 21 (August 19, 2013) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 19 August 2013 00:00

A week away from the transactions, and I feel like there is an entire obituary page full of major ones, the latest being the dumping of Manny Ramirez (no surprise), Delmon Young (kind of a surprise) and Mark Reynolds, unceremoniously grabbed by the ever desperate seeming Yankees, and for whom he homered his first game in pinstripes.

However, these moves should not surprise any of us as the trend towards accelerating the path of prospects increases, while the push towards lowering payroll and building around youth continues.

That said, a number of advancements and performances caught my eye as I reviewed the boxes and transactions.

I actually saw Jake Arrieta's second Major League start, against the Giants at ATT, in June of 2010, and he did not impress me that much, and though the right-hander continued in the Orioles' rotation, his 48 walks to 52 strikeouts over 101.1 innings (106 hits) confirmed my suspicions of the then 24-year- old. In fact, Arrieta, who was a fifth-round pick by Baltimore in 2007, managed a 1.472 WHIP over 368 innings with the Orioles, and that was enough for them to swap him to the Cubs this year as part of the Scott Feldman deal.

Although, Arrieta did seriously improve his power numbers last year, as despite his 3-9, 6.20 ERA, he punched out 109 over 114 innings (35 walks and a much improved 1.369 WHIP), something that must have caught Theo Epstein's eye. Arrieta made seven starts for Iowa (2-2, 3.56) whiffing 39 over 30.1 innings, though he again had some trouble with free passes (16 to 32 hits). Still, he's handled the move back to the Majors well so far, going 1-0, 0.69, over a pair of starts and 13.1 innings (nine strikeouts, five walks, four hits).

The Royals drafted southpaw Danny Duffy in 2007 as well, though out of Cabrillo High School, in Lompoc, California, in the third round, and much was anticipated with the prodigy as Kansas City selected Duffy as part of their rebuilding process that is finally coming to fruition. Duffy, who debuted in 2011 at Kauffman, struggled as we would expect a 22-year-old, and by 2012 Duffy found himself needing Tommy John surgery.

However, the lefty has worked his way back, and ideally learned some things with experience--and his arm issues--that indicate Duffy might be a higher profile track than Arrieta. Duffy punched out 79 batters over 64 minor league innings, though seven homers and 29 walks do merit our watching. However, over his two starts in the Majors this year, Duffy is 1-0, 1.86 over 9.2 innings, with 14 strikeouts, and more to the point, he outdueled Justin Verlander last week in what could be a pivotal start in confidence all the way around. 

Anthony Gose is back in the Show after posting .239-3-27 totals at Triple-A Buffalo. Gose, still just 22 years old, has shown terrific defense (67 minor league assists) and speed (250 swipes) over his six minor league seasons. Furthermore, Gose has shown flashes of power (16 homers for Double-A New Hampshire in 2011), but he is a terrible free-swinger with 230 walks to 630 minor league strikeouts, something that must be corrected. 

Still, Houston thought enough of Gose to acquire him along with Jonathan Villar and J.A. Happ for Roy Oswalt, before trading him to Toronto shortly thereafter for Brett Wallace. I have my doubts as to whether Gose will learn the strike zone, but I also think giving him regular time in the Majors is surely the way to find out if he can learn at the highest level.

The thing with all three of these players is that they have been on our radar for a few years now, and probably all held roster or reserve spots for the bulk of us. And, due to injuries and struggles adjusting to the Majors, most owners are probably dismissive of one or all three of them. And, especially as the season nears an end, and we plan for the future, any--especially Duffy in my view--are worth hiding on your reserve list (especially since the Royals are playing yo-yo with Duffy the past few weeks).

St. Louis promoted their 2011 first-round pick, Kolten Wong, who was first drafted by the Twins in 2008 out of Kamehameha High School in Honolulu, but Wong opted for the University of Hawaii instead, and the Cards selected him as early as possible, as soon as eligible. Wong has a fine minor league resume of .301-24-122 over 280 games, with 16 triples, 50 swipes, and an excellent 106 walks to 158 strikeouts (.365 OBP).

Make no mistake, the Cards are very good at drafting players, be they pitchers or hitters, and their current roster more than supports this. Wong is a second sacker, but with Matt Carpenter able to play third, the good but brittle David Freese is very likely on the bubble. Wong was hitting .303-10-45 this year at Memphis before being called up, and I would not be a bit surprised to see him grab the keystone slot and not let go.

I will close this week with a look at Andrew Lambo, another member of the Class of 2007, drafted by the Dodgers in the fourth round out of Newbury Park High, in Southern California. The Dodgers swapped Lambo in 2010 to the Bucs along with James McDonald (for Octavio Dotel, and don't ask me what they were thinking), and the outfielder then wound up being suspended for 50 games in 2010 after testing positive for a "banned substance" (it was listed as drug abuse, whatever that might mean).

Still, Lambo, who was brought up and then sent back down this past week, has a .284-31-97 line split between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis with a .926 OPS. Lambo does have only 240 walks to 571 strikeouts, which is of some concern, but he is still just 24 years of age, and the Pirates have obviously been doing some things very right with trades and prospects the last couple of years. Lambo, as with his mates in today's Hotpage, merit our tracking as the season winds down and we begin thinking about 2014.

Last Updated on Monday, 19 August 2013 06:57
 
Hotpage Week 19 (August 5, 2013) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 05 August 2013 00:00

Seems fitting that as I get ready to go on vacation, the likes of Brandon Inge, Ted Lilly, Dewayne Wise and Boof Bonser were released while Steve Delabar is put on the DL just after striking out the side on nine pitches last Tuesday.

Baseball is such an odd game, with such a fine line between success and failure.

So, with the philosophical aside, let's look at some players who just experienced a change of venue--mostly from the Minors--who could benefit from a change of scene. First on the list is Boston's Rubby De La Rosa, a main cog of the deadline deal last year that sent Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers. Note that De La Rosa was coming off arm surgery, which increases the gamble Boston took when they made the deal, but the right-hander did go 4-5, 3.71 over 60.2 innings in 2011 before the injury as a 22-year-old. This year at Pawtuckett, De La Rosa was 3-3, 4.23 over 76.2 innings, with 74 punchouts. I like De La Rosa on the Boston team, both for the end of this season and for the future.

The Athletics sort of settled their middle infield issues with the acquisition of Alberto Callaspo, who will get a lot of time at second, though he can also play third and short, giving manager Bob Melvin more flexibility covering the infield, allowing Josh Donaldson, Jed Lowrie and Eric Sogard time to have a break down the stretch. Callaspo is also a switch-hitter, with gives Melvin, a great manipulator of player skills, and extra chip to play with. Callaspo has a little pop, and a little speed to boot, and could be a nice contributor for the Athletics down the stretch.

One other Oakland name to track is a pitcher I have long followed--and long been disappointed by--in Fernando Nieve. Oakland grabbed the 31-year-old this past week and plugged him into the spot that was opened with the option of Tommy Milone. Nieve was having a great time at Columbus this year, going 5-3, 1.81 over 44.2 innings (55 strikeouts, 12 walks, 34 hits, and a 1.030 WHIP) and has had major league flashes, like with the Mets in 2009 (3-3, 2.95). On a contending team, in a pitchers park, Nieve could do pretty well under said Manager Melvin, although with Brett Anderson due back shortly, the question becomes which puzzle pieces get shifted where. Still. I have always thought Nieve had it, and now would be a good time to prove it to all of us.

The three-way deal that sent Jake Peavy to Boston brought the Tigers' Avisail Garcia to the White Sox. Chicago already released Wise, as we have noted, and were shopping Alex Rios, whose contract is out in 2015, as the deadline approached. Still, with Adam Dunn probably not a long-term answer (though he too is signed trhough 2015) Garcia, who hit .319 over 23 games for the Tigers last year, and even played pretty reguarly through the postseason, is a name to look at. He hit .241-2-10 this year over 30 Detroit games, but look for some playing time to open as the season winds down, and similarly watch for him to earn a spot with Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo next year, making the White Sox outfield young and interesting.

OK, the Dodgers signed the Beard--that is Brian Wilson--to a deal and already the hard-throwing right-hander had made claims of staking a place in the Dodger legacy. Maybe, but truth is Wilson was not that well thought of in the Giants' clubhouse, and he will have to be awfully good to make a difference in L.A. I would not hold my breath.

However, if you are looking for late season saves, maybe the Mariners' Danny Farquhar, with a couple of conversions this past week, is the guy to choose. Farquhar is definitely a strikeout machine, as his 336 minor league whiffs over 319.2 innings indicates, and he does have 54 punchouts over 37.1 Major League innings, though with 16 walks. Although Farquhar does have a season ERA of 5.25, over the last month he has a couple of saves over 13 innings (five runs, 3.32 ERA) and is actually unscored upon the last two weeks with 16 strikeouts over ten innings. He may have indeed wrestled the closing gig from Tom Wilhelmsen.

That will be it for this week, and note that I will be on vacation through next Monday's Hotpage. 

Last Updated on Monday, 05 August 2013 07:02
 
Hotpage Week 18 (July 29, 2013) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 29 July 2013 00:00

It is hard to say this is a ho-hum trade deadline period, but, compared to last season, when players--especially big names like Adrian Gonzalez--switched teams and leagues, names like Matt Garza and Alfonso Soriano seem like lesser commodities. Which, they may be, but that does not mean neither cannot be of help in your AL-only format (or even Mixed) as we look for pieces to help down the stretch.

Starting with Garza, he is a strikeout pitcher, and that means he can be dominant, and is playing for a team that will certainly be contending down the stretch, and that confluence suggests an arm more than worthy of owning. Garza certainly seems to be over the arm issues that plagued him in 2012, as his 67 strikeouts over 78.1 innings this year (to 20 walks) suggest. In fact, the injury could likely prove to make Garza, still just 29-years old, a better and smarter hurler. Either way, Garza is a strong pickup for your team, even if it means spending your FAAB budget and converting him to something you need, like maybe a hitter.

As for Soriano, the Yankees are closer to their element in trading for him, as at 37, Soriano is another aged fading star who is showing that his dominance is clearly waning. However, that does not mean the team cannot produce some runs, especially if Soriano, who hit 17 homers and knocked in 51 on a team worse than the present Yanks, bats cleanup. Again, the pickings might be thin, but you have to grab the chips you can who could help, while you can.

On the other end of the spectrum, Miami put one good piece of the future on hold with Marcel Ozuna, but brought up another with Christian Yelich. The Marlins' first-round selection in 2010, Yelich stepped up to High-A Jupiter last year, hitting .330-12-48 over 106 games, along with a .922 OPS (.519 SLG, .404 OBP), then moved to Double-A Jacksonville this year and hit .280-7-29 as just a 21-year-old (.883 OPS).

Yelich might endure some struggles in the Majors, certainly, but his minor league .387 OBP (138 walks to 265 whiffs) bodes well, and Miami is making all the “right” rebuilding moves. In fact, in a few years the outfield of Giancarlo Stanton, Ozuna and Yelich will help make the Fish more than respectable. Think of the team as modeling their cross-state rivals and their terrific moves the last few years, with imitation being the sincerest form of flattery.

The Astros are doing their best to follow the same path, as they let go of Ronny Cedeno and handed their shortstop gig to 22-year-old Jonathan Villar. Signed by the Phils in 2008, Villar is a native of the Dominican Republic whom the Phils swapped, along with Anthony Gose and J.A. Happ, to the Astros for Roy Oswalt in 2010. Hitting .277-8-41 this season at Triple-A Oklahoma City, Villar has 31 swipes and eight triples, meaning the shortstop has some speed. Of course, the 206 walks to 583 strikeouts (.333 OBP) is of a little concern, though nothing to push you away from him. That is because Villar will be playing every day, and getting the hang in the Majors, and the name of the game right now is at-bats. Take them where you can.

In Oakland, one prospect—Grant Green—simply showed why the Athletics have taken so long to find some place to put the former top prospect. Green was a first-round pick of the A’s in 2009 (and the Padres in 2006, out of Canyon High School in Southern California), and did hit .329-11-49 at Sacramento this year. He also hit .000-0-1 over 16 Oakland at-bats, meaning something is just missing. Expect Eric Sogard and the newly recalled Adam Rosales to grab the keystone at-bats at O.co, barring any late machinations from Billy Beane.

Mind you, the Athletics are a very good and underrated team and they will continue to play their tough underdog role, successfully, until they win another postseason appearance. Then perhaps they will be taken seriously. In the meantime, in an AL-only format, go with Sogard if you need at-bats.

Twins catcher Chris Herrmann has been working behind the dish with Joe Mauer hurt, and he came out of the block fast this time at Target, going .282-2-9. However, Herrmann is probably a guy you want to pass on. Drafted out of Alvin Community College, in Alvin, Texas, in 2009, the now 25-year-old Herrmann did hit .276-10-61 last year, however that was for Double-A New Britain. Meaning that the backstop should succeed against players often two or three years younger. He was hitting .227-2-22 at Rochester this season with a .297 on-base total, and equally anemic .312 slugging percentage. Hot start, maybe. Cold finish, more likely.

Last Updated on Monday, 29 July 2013 07:13
 
Hotpage Week 17 (July 22, 2013) PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 22 July 2013 00:00

Since it is the All-Star break and last week featured limited play, few call-ups and no trades are worth noting, so I thought I would take a departure this week and look at no-hitters and pitch counts.

After Tim Lincecum's no-no of last Saturday, I wanted to look at something I have really wondered about since Matt Cain's perfect game, and that is the impact of excessive pitch counts on an arm in the near and long term.

Mind you, I am a Timmy fan of the highest order. I scored his first start, and Lincecum, as much as anyone, has been a principal in the emergence of the Giants as a championship team, while helping turn my city by the Bay into a baseball town (not that they don't love their Niners as well!).

Furthermore, I was weaned on baseball in the days of the four-man rotation, meaning guys regularly twirled 230-plus innings a year, not to mention 15-20 complete games being run of the mill. Those times were before we knew about hamate bones and rotator cuffs, and when there were 16 Major League teams, meaning the fight for a job was intense, and guys did not admit to injury unless they really had to.

It also was when relief pitchers were more regarded as mop-up players: this was a time before specialized closers and set-up men. Furthermore, it was a time when most everyday players augmented their baseball salary with off-season gigs like teaching and selling major home appliances at Sears.

Now--and I am not judging one time from another, rather just trying to frame so we can understand simply--players can condition all winter. Players are more muscular, and their skills are more specialized. Players are more athletic, for sure, and those specialized roles now do dictate that a starting pitcher generally goes around 100 pitches.

I do think, as my friend David Feldman recently suggested, pitchers are generally capable of tossing innings like they used to, but, they are not really conditioned to do so these days, hence the concern when a guy goes as long as Lincecum did, irrespective of the reason (both a no-no, and the All Star break to recover).

Still, I went to our good friend, the Baseball Reference, who gave me the last 15 no-hitters neatly compiled. Actually, they give you all of them with game links, but for this exercise I decided to limit the sample to no-hitters since June 26, 2010, when Edwin Jackson pitched his.

Of those 15, eight were deleted from our list as they each involved 115 pitches or less, which is stretching the pitch count as far as seems reasonable for all intents and purposes, and bearing in mind no-hitters are unusual enough to allow a little lattitude to the manager making those decisions. 

They are Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, Ervin Santana, Phillip Humber, both of Homer Bailey's, Felix Hernandez and the Seattle combined no-no on June 8, 2012.

That leaves this illustrious list of pitchers and related marks:

Date

Pitcher

Pitch Count

Errata Career Mark Season after No-No
6/25/2010   Edwin Jackson   149  Erratic at best
 76-81, 4.45  5-7, 4.31, 1.41 WHIP
7/26/2010  Matt Garza 120  Needed surgery eventually   63-62, 3.80  4-6, 3.34, 1.26 WHIP
5/3/2011  Francisco Liriano   123  Needed second surgery   62-58, 4.23  8-5, 4.16, 1.29 WHIP
5/2/2012  Jered Weaver  121  Missed month after no-no  106-57, 3.24  16-5, 3.18, 1.23 WHIP
6/1/2012  Johan Santana  134  End of career  139-78, 3.20  3-7, 8.26, 1.75 WHIP
6/13/2012  Matt Cain  125  Perfect game   91-84, 3.40   8-3, 3.21, 1.16 WHIP
7/13/2013  Tim Lincecum  148  Lots of pitches   84-65, 3.40  TBD

Obviously, there is very little that we can derive from this list and information. And, well, time and deadlines keep me from going too far into the numbers at this juncture.

But, a couple of things are clear.

First, interesting is all the pitchers on this list were between ages 28-30 when they tossed their no-hitters.

Second, at one juncture, most of them needed the DL, and even major surgery.

Third, some of the pitchers were--and still are, or might be--pretty good, and obviously all had flashes of brilliance. But, in the case of Liriano and Garza, their best numbers might lie ahead, while in the case of Jackson, maybe he was never that good to begin with?

As for Cain and Lincecum, the jury might still be out, but Santana, he might not have lasted the season, but 134 pitches did not help, meaning the jury is clearly in.

Way back when--before I was writing about this stuff--Mike Warren, of the Athletics, pitched a no-hitter (9/29/83). I remember going to a pre-season Athletics festival where Warren appeared, but I also wondered how good the right-hander was.

9-13, 5.06 is the answer, over 204.2 innings, with a 1.50 WHIP, meaning not very good.

It also shows that any Major League pitcher, on a good day with good stuff, can weave miracles.

However, if baseball is truly a team sport, where the win matters more than the individual records, I have to wonder about making decisions where pitchers go out of their physical comfort zone as some are allowed chasing that no-hit achievement.

Note, I am not saying it is good or bad to do this, as there are compelling arguments both ways, but I do think that in baseball--where everything is subject to interpretation and judgement--the subject bears more study.

I promise to report back, and as usual, am more than interested in your thoughts.

 

Last Updated on Monday, 22 July 2013 06:52
 
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