"Pitching has got to be the foundation in the organization. Everybody wants a good pitcher. The more pitchers we have, the stronger our organization will be."
- Dayton Moore, Kansas City Royals General Manager

Sunday, June 8, 2008

more ozzie praise

ozzie's quickly becoming my second favorite manager (next to only charlie manuel, for whom i've grown a significant admiration over the last 4 years. say what you will about his drawl, he's a great hitting instructor, and he's turned into a hell of an in game decision maker).

gavin floyd was cruising along into the 7th inning. 4 hits, 8 strikeouts, 1 walk, 73 pitches.

the first batter of the inning was jason kubel, floyd gets ahead 1-2. he buries a curveball that is fouled off. he buries another. it's taken for a ball. 2-2. floyd goes to his fastball, and the ball is taken out of the park.

okay, floyd's got a 10 run cushion, so it's no biggie.

next batter, delmon young. floyd, again, buried him 1-2, and again, tried to finish him off with a pair of curveballs. the first one was fouled off, but the second one was ripped to LF for a double off the wall.

HR, followed by 2B. in the 7th inning. with a pitcher on the mound who is known by an entire city as being mentally weak.

but ozzie stuck with him. it took floyd just 6 pitches to get the next 3 outs, leaving his pitch count at 90, 3 starts after throwing a 115 pitch complete game, 3 hitter.

again, though, just like that night, ozzie did something that i have great respect for: he pulled floyd.

he didn't need to as floyd surely could have gone another inning, or maybe even finished the game, but with an 10 run lead, ozzie opted to save his pitcher's arm, and let him leave the game with that last inning fresh on his mind. he may have been up 10 runs, but the 2006 version of gavin floyd might have lost confidence in his fastball and lost touch with the strike zone, but this floyd got out of the jam in 6 pitches.

i might be wrong, and this might be more a function of jerry rothschild, but for now, i'm satisfied giving the credit, and the praise to ozzie guillen.

Monday, May 26, 2008

LOOK OUT FOR: Eulogio de la Cruz

i have a huge hardon for this pitcher, and he's been a favorite of mine for about a year and a half, ever since i noticed his scouting report in baseball america's 2007 prospect handbook (where de la Cruz was ranked 6th in the tigers organization). that report said that de la Cruz featured a heavy mid 90s FB that compared favorably to that of zumaya's and verlander's, while also featuring a knee bending curve. what i came to learn, though was that also featured a GB inducing changeup that is quite effective against LHBs.

the numbers backed that up, as de la Cruz had a GO:AO ratio > 2.5 (average is 1.2) in the florida state league in 2006, and it has settled in around 2.25 in the year+ since.

de la cruz got the second callup of his career this past sunday to pitch the back end of a day night doubleheader, and he pitched about as well as could be expected of a pitcher making his first career start in the majors on just 3 days rest. 3 IP, 2 ER, 1 K, 4 BB, 1 2B.

going forward, this one start should emphasize the importance for de la Cruz to get his fastball under control to the point where he can count on it in a 1-1, or a 2-0 count. that's about the only thing he can take out of this game, because putting him in a position to make that start on 3 days rest was really limited the chance of de la Cruz getting anything approaching a quality start on his record.

i blinked, by the way. i missed that he was called up, and didn't realize he'd made a start until he was sent down today.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

thoughts on drew naylor

this past wednesday, i made the trip to lakewood with the express purpose of watching drew naylor pitch. i was not disappointed. while his fastball only sat in the mid 80s touching 91, his curve was tremendous, and was well worth the trip. he showed the ability to both spot it for a strike, and bury it in the dirt. it is already a major league quality pitch.

naylor's changeup was mostly a show me pitch, but it did show the potential to be a quality major league offering. naylor was able to use it to record the most favorable outcome, as well as to generate missed swings. he was not yet able to consistently locate it in the strike zone, but that's a pretty minor quibble for a low A pitcher.

i could scan and post my charts, but i don't think i want to do that, so i'll just throw out the same information i gave for masterson last august:

total (65/95) 30 batters faced
pitch strikes total percentage
fastball 43 63 68
changeup 12 16 75
curve 10 16 63

vs. LHB (22/33) 10 batters faced
pitch strikes total percentage
fastball 13 22 59
changeup 5 6 83
curve 4 5 80

vs. RHB (43/62) 20 batters faced
pitch strikes total percentage
fastball 30 41 73
changeup 7 10 70
curve 6 11 55

i managed to get some video during the game, but it's not of very high quality, just good enough to make out some basic mechanics, but not good enough to view the track of the ball in flight.

lasting impressions were that if he gains 2 or 3 miles per hour on his fastball in the next few years, and sits easily at 88-92, touching 94, instead of 85-88, touching 91, he'll be a great pitcher. that's not an easy proposition, but give him 2 years to grow, fill out, and stay healthy, pitching in the minors, and it's not that far fetched an expectation.

Friday, May 23, 2008

gavin floyd redux

so i was sitting by the TV, watching the phils-astros game and tracking my fantasy team's performance, when i clicked on the boxscore of the angels-whitesox game in the third inning.

the score was 0-0. gavin floyd was pitching. he had yet to allow a hit. this shouldn't really be a cause for excitement, but i was indeed excited. i was excited because twice this year he has taken no hitters into the 8th and 9th innings, and i maybe jumped a little in my excitement. i went to my local phillies message board, clicked onto the brag/bitch about your fantasy roster thread, and posted my thoughts. "Shhhh. gavin floyd through 3." i soon followed this up, "4. 52 pitches."

the very next inning, he blew up. he allowed a one out homerun, followed that up with a pair of walks seperated by a single, which loaded the bases. how did he respond to this? he beaned the next two batters, forcing in a pair of runs.

but that's not where the story ends. he went on. as i started this post, he had just gotten through the 7th inning, and that would have been enough. 7 IP, 2 H (1 HR), 3 K, 4 BB, 2 HBP, 3 ER. by definition, a quality start.

as i'm finishing this post up, he's in the 9th inning, still only allowing those 3 runs, finishing up the game for himself. he's now through 9 innings: 3 H (1 HR), 3 K, 4 BB, 2 HBP, 3 ER. 115 pitches.

all i can think of right now is thank you, ozzie guillen. i would have been satisfied with that line at 7 innings. i would have been satisfied with that line after 8 innings and 102 pitches. but guillen wasn't. this is the third time that he's pushed floyd way past the point where conventional wisdom would say he's done.

but guillen wasn't satisfied. and now, i'm thanking him for that.

but please, give him a few starts to cool off before extending him like this again.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

quick check in

this interview with josh outman made my eyes twinkle. i love the intelligence that outman shows in it, and i hope that someday soon he is able to revert to his old style of mechanics, but i think that for that to happen, he'll need to lose a year or two to major arm injury.

or maybe he can just introduce himself to scott mathieson.


as for this blog, there should be some new content in the coming days. profiles of adam wainwright, matt belisle, and jair jurrjens should be first on the chopping block.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

2008 Los Angeles Dodgers Organizational Depth Report

1. clayton kershaw, LHSP - april 2008
2. jonathan broxton, RHRP
3. chad billingsley, RHP
4. scott elbert, LHSP - may 2009
5. john meloan, RHRP
6. james mcdonald, RHSP - august 2008
7. avery morris, RHSP - august 2010
8. ramon troncoso, RHRP - july 2008 *SLEEPER*
9. josh wall, RHSP - september 2010
10.justin orenduff, RHSP - 2010

i've got ramon troncoso pegged as a sleeper because of the tremendous depth on his fastball, which leads to the most favorable outcome. his situation seems very similar to another pitcher i've profiled in these pieces, in luis pena. i don't think troncoso's fastball can be dialed up to 99, like luis pena's, but it is still quite effective as it is thrown on a downward plane from his 6'7" frame.

the big question for this organization seems to be whether or not clayton kershaw should start the year in the rotation for joe torre. as i've stated previously, my philosophy aims to get the most production possible out of young pitchers during their age 22-26 seasons. i believe that the way to do this is to strictly limit the stress put on arms in their age 18-22 seasons. clayton kershaw is only 20, so it should follow that i would think he'd be better off by spending a few more months in the minors.

but that's not the case. i strongly believe in giving pitchers the opportunity to learn from opposing major league batters, and i strongly believe that they should get the opportunity at a time when they are not being relied upon as a stopper. that would be the case for kershaw if he entered april as the dodgers fifth starter.

from my viewpoint, the worst thing that could happen to kershaw in the major leagues is he gets hit around, then sent down to AA where he would then know exactly what he would need to work on. the other worst thing that could happen is he has success, and ends up pitching 215 innings for colletti, torre, and bowa. were i a dodger fan, that might actually be a pretty big concern considering the apparent disinterest from all of the above in actually learning about ways to limit the risk of pitching injuries via pitch counts, and inning caps. we'll see how this turns out.

Spotlight: Chad Billingsley

Billinglsey has 2 plus pitches, in his 92-95 MPH fastball and his 78 MPH curve, while his slider ranks as just slightly above average. his changeup is a largely unrefined, and it's used twice as much against LHBs than RHBs.

billingsley is a small step below being a dominant power pitcher. all of his peripheral rates are excellent, and though his BB rate is much higher than optimal, the percentage of strikes to balls is well within the range at which he can be successful. on average, LHBs made more and better contact against billingsley, though RHBs slugged the majority of homeruns.

the difference between billingsley's performance as a starter versus as a reliever is mildly concerning going into 2008. as a reliever, billingsley was studly. his K rate was well above average (10.29 per 9 IP), his BB rate was well in check (2.57 per 9 IP), he allowed just 1 HR in 35 innings (.26 per 9 IP, and well fewer than a hit per IP (7.46 per 9 IP), which all combined to give him a 3.09 ERA through his last relief appearance on june 16. moved into a starting role at that time, all of these rates declined, as should be expected, but some were more concerning than others.

as a starter, billingsley's K rate fell to 8.12, while his BB rate jumped to 4.10, his HR rate jumped to 1.13, and his H rate, though still well above average, jumped to 8.19. with all of this regression in his peripherals, the most surprising number for billingsley as a starter is his ERA, which was 3.38.

going forward into 2008, there are a few things that i expect from billingsley, assuming he lands a spot in the dodgers rotation out of spring training:

1) he will improve his HR rate into the .6 to .9 per 9 IP range
2) his K rate will jump back to the 8.5 to 9.5 per 9 IP range
3) his BB rate will remain in the 3.5-4.5 range
4) he will land on the DL twice with minor, nagging injuries.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

2008 San Diego Padres Organizational Depth Report

1. matt latos, RHSP - august 2009
2. clay meredith, RHRP
3. wade leblanc, LHSP - september 2008
4. justin germano, RHSP
5. cory luebke, LHSP - august 2008
6. matthew buschman, RHSP - june 2009
7. will inman, RHSP - september 2008
8. cesar carillo, RHSP - august 2009
9. stephen faris, RHSP - september 2010
10.matt bush, RHRP - 2010

this organization is highly disappointing. i have a lot of respect for all that sandy alderson has done in this game, however, i cannot support their decision to buy into bud selig's bill of goods with regards to the amateur draft. i understand his loyalty to bud, and i respect it, however, it is absolutely clear that there is no choice when it comes to deciding between towing the line by sticking to slot bonuses, and busting slot by going after the best available player.

what is best for the league, and what is simplest for the league would be to allow teams to trade their draft picks, which would mean that teams like colorado and pittsburgh could receive extra assets for selecting a lower tier player in the top half of the first round. i can't imagine that jayson heyward or rick porcello would have stayed on the board as long as they had if a team like the yankees was able to trade into the top 10 to get porcello ahead of the red sox or tigers, or if the phillies were able to trade up from 19 to get ahead of the reds and take devin mesoraco, or ahead of the braves to get jason heyward. draft day would be much more interesting if this relatively small change were made to the process.

as it is, san diego appears to have taken the easy way out, with regards to drafting pitchers. they have taken the low ceiling, low bonus route to building depth through their organization, which is understandable considering the ease with which league average pitchers can dominate in their home park, but weak in that they will never win in the playoffs because of it. i like matt latos, but there is noone in this organization that is a good bet to be more than just adequate.

Spotlight: Justin Germano

germano features a mid 80s sinker that can be thrown as hard as 91, though it's more effective when in the 84-88 range. his changeup plays well off of his sinker, and comes in at around 76-79 MPH. i actually really like germano's curveball. it's a really slow, big breaking barry zito like curveball that plays extremely well off of his sinker/changeup. his curve is his primary secondary pitch, and germano is not at all afraid to throw it in tight counts.

germano's splits are surprising to say the least. though he pitches half his games in a yellowstone sized park, his road ERA was half a point lower than his home ERA. it's hard to say what fueled this difference, as his HR rate was almost twice as high on the road (.70 vs. 1.12 per 9 IP), his K rate was higher at home (6.33 vs. 4.29 [per 9 IP), though so was his BB rate (3.09 vs. 2.34 per 9 IP). his H rate was about the same (9.14 vs. 8.86 per 9 IP). altogether, there is no discernible reason why his home ERA was any higher, let alone half a run higher, than his road ERA.

check that. on the road, germano induced 12 GB double plays. at home he induced only 5. on the road, germano allowed only 1.24 baserunners per IP. at home, that number was 1.36.

going into 2008, what can german do better? well, he's not going to throw the ball by many hitters, with his below average fastball. and although his curve is very good, he;s not going to fool many hitters when they don;t have to worry about guessing wrong on his below average fastball. that's enough of what he won't do. what he can do is limit contact against him by continuing to throw his curve in all counts and his sinker down in the zone. what he can do is be conscious of the baserunners against him, and try to help his catcher out by throwing over to first base, after all, they are still piss poor defensive catchers out in san diego. the equation was set in the previous paragraph,

low BB rate + high GB% = success

learn it, live it, love it

Thursday, January 31, 2008

2008 Colorado Rockies Organizational Depth Report

1. franklin morales, LHSP
2. ubaldo jimenez, RHSP
3. mannuel corpas, RHRP
4. brandon hynick, RHSP - september 2009
5. greg reynolds, RHP - august 2009
6. alan johnson, RHSP - august 2010 *SLEEPER*
7. josh sullivan, RHSP - september 2010
8. juan morillo, RHRP - may 2008
9. chaz roe, RHP - june 2010
10.aneury rodriguez, RHP - 2010

as much as i'd like to call the cupboards bare, this system has a lot of talent, and it has a lot skill. reyhnolds, johnson, and sullivan are GB machines, morillo, roe, jimenez, and morales all possess rocket arms. manny corpas has both. this system is in excellent shape.

Spotlight: Ubaldo Jimenez

jimenez has a tremendous fastball, which peaks in the high 90s. the velocity comes easy to him, although he does have an ugly hitch in his motion, as he brings the ball back, behind his ass until his elbow is locked at 180 degrees. from that point, jimenez restarts his windup, and it seems to me that this is a mechanical flaw which could lead to bigger problems down the line than just loss of control. jimenez has excellent arm action on his changeup, and he gets good drop on his curveball, though neither pitch is much better than solid.

jimenez's splits validate much of his scouting report. he has trouble getting out of the blocks in the first inning (.897 OPS in 1st), he wears down by about the 100th pitch (6 PA past 100 pitches, 3 H, 2B, HR, 3 BB, 1.000 OBP, 2.333 SLG), batters adjust to facing him by their third PA (.838 OPS in 3rd PA, and beyond). the good thing is that none of this is uncommon for a 23 year old pitcher. as he gets older, and fills out more, jimenez's stamina will likely increase, as will his effectiveness against familiar opponents. outside the battery, jimenez has another advantage: he is an excellent fielder. this isn't a kingmaker, so much as it is a cherry on top of a very solid package.

i say this without meaning it to sound as a prediction of attrition or a statement of fact, but a trip to the DL or an option to AAA should be expected in the season following one in which a rookie pitches 180 innings plus the postseason, as jimenez did in 2007. i get the feeling that jimenez will both struggle, and miss some time on the DL, but in my mind, that is to be expected in this situation, and it is not so much an indictment of his ability to be a dominating starter, or of his potential to be such as soon as this year, but rather it is just a statement of doctrine backed up by a gut feeling.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

2008 Arizona Diamondbacks Organizational Depth Report

1. jared parker, RHSP - june 2010
2. micah owings, RHSP/PH/DH
3. juan gutierrez, RHSP
*. dana eveland, LHSP *TRADED TO OAK*
4. brooks brown, RHSP - september 2008
*. brett anderson, LHSP - june 2009 *TRADED TO OAK*
5. max scherzer, RHP - june 2008
6. emiliano fruto, RHRP
7. yusmeiro petit, RHSP
*. greg smith, LHSP - september 2008 *TRADED TO OAK*
8. esmerling vasquez, RHSP - mid 2009
9. wes roemer, RHSP september 2010
10.barry enright, RHSP - september 2010

of the 2006 draftees, i prefer brown to anderson because of brown's ability to get the most favorable outcome. anderson's immaculate record combined with his FB tendencies scare me off a little bit. of the 2007 draftees, i'm obviously very high on parker. i think he has stud potential, with a good likelihood of reaching it. other than him, there is wes roemer and barry enright. i am not high on either pitcher, as i think both are a little too glossy to have a real shot at being an impact player.

inside the battery, i consider owings to be only 5th on this list, but his value at the plate gives him a very big advantage over brown, gutierrez, and eveland.

Spotlight: Micah Owings

for all intents and purposes, owings throws 1 pitch. he throws a 90 MPH version of a fastball that tends to dive in towards a RHB. he throws a 84 MPH version that tends to dive in towards a RHB. owings also throws a 77 MPH version that tends to dive in towards a RHB.

looking at owings' splits, he gets abused by LHBs to the tune of a .497 slugging%, also allowing to them 15 of his 20 homeruns. his changeup was routinely ineffective, but the more prominent reason for his gopherballitis is likely a combination of his tendency to throw his fastball high in the zone, as well as his home ballpark which inflates LH HR rates by about 10% according to this article on hardballtimes.com.

what can owings do better in '08? i'd start with him tightening up his slider. generally, he throws it low, and he does get a lot of swinging strikes on it, but it doesn't look all that impressive, and i get the feeling that he struggles with consistency in throwing it. i'd also prefer for owings to refine his changeup to the point that he actually has confidence in throwing it. this is a less important point than his need to tighten up his slider but owings needs to improve at least one of his secondary pitches going into 2008, or he'll be due for a major regression.

i'm not very high on owings going into 2008. his fastball is average, his slider lacks depth, and he doesn't appear to have confidence in his changeup. as a fourth or fifth starter, he could be a solid contributor, but i expect a significant regression for 2008, and i would not feel comfortable being any team that relies on owings to be a horse for them down the stretch.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

2008 Baltimore Orioles Organizational Depth Report

1. radhames liz, RHSP
2. chris ray, RHRP
3. jim hoey, RHRP
4. adam loewen, LHSP
5. pedro beato, RHP - august 2009
6. chorye spoone, RHSP - september 2008
7. randor bierd, RHRP - april 2008
8. garrett olson, LHSP
9. matt albers, RHSP
10.david hernandez, RHRP - august 2009

i had hayden penn pegged for a breakout in 2007, but it seems as though every major pitching prospect in the orioles system going into 2007 took a huge step back going into 2008. i still like what penn does on the mound, but i have no confidence in him for 2008. penn would rank number 11 in this system. erbe would rank 12. this is currently a very deep system with plenty of everything.

i think david hernandez is going to end up in the bullpen. he has good stuff, but it's not quite good enough for him to sustain success at higher levels. i don't think the move will be necessary for a few years, though, so he has plenty of time to improve his stock.

chris ray would still rank number 2 even if he projected to be ready for opening day 2008. i am very high on raddy liz, and i think he's going to be an electric starter for BAL.

more info on randor bierd can be found here.

more info on matt albers can be found here.

Spotlight: Radhames Liz

liz features a tremendous fastball that averages 96, along with an 86 MPH changeup that was rated by BA as the best in the orioles system. in 2007, liz also threw a slurvy breaking ball that came in around 82. in the 2007 BA prospect handbook, he was said to throw a plus curveball that he was still refining. during his run with the orioles late that year, he either didn't have enough confidence to throw the pitch, or had previously scrapped it altogether.

i bring this up because refining his secondary pitches is the single most important thing liz has to do in 2008. make no mistake, liz can be a successful pitcher without them, but the difference between liz being a successful pitcher (jaret wright), a dominating starter (bartolo colon), or a prospective flame out (edwin jackson; i say flameout, but in reality i just mean to say a player whose entire value is based on the speed and depth of his fastball) rests on his willingness to throw his secondary pitches, and the rate at which they develop.

while the first thing to take out of this writeup would be that liz needs to stay focused on refining his secondary pitches, the second thing should be that even if he doesn't, he has a future in MLB. as a starter, liz thows in the mid 90s, and he maintains that velocity into the late innings. if he were put into a position where he would, maybe, only have to throw 1 inning at a time, i would have two feelings run through my head; the first being that it would be a waste for him to lose the advantage of hitting 96 in the 1st inning, the 4th inning, the 8th inning.

the second feeling? look out below. as a reliever, liz would have papelbon upside, with the two sharing very similar scouting reports, a mid 90s FB as a starter, ability to maintain velocity throughout a start, plus changeup, plus curve. statistically, the H, K, and HR rates all line up fairly well, as does their ages while advancing through the minors. the BB rate is a major difference, though, and it could be said that the ~2 BB/9IP difference is more important than i believe, so i'll leave with this: what does jose valverde have that radhames liz doesn't?

i'm very high on raddy liz.

2008 Tampa Bay Rays Organizational Depth Report

1. matt garza, RHSP
2. scott kazmir, LHSP
3. david price, LHSP - august 2008
4. jake mcgee, LHSP - mid 2008
5. wade davis, RHSP - mid 2009
6. eduardo morlan, RHRP - august 2008
7. jeff niemann, RHSP - april 2008
8. edwin jackson, RHSP
9. andrew sonnanstine, RHSP
10.josh butler, RHSP - mid 2010

i think that edwin jackson, chris mason, and andrew sonnanstine are going to get eaten up by the numbers game in tampa. i like all 3 as pitchers, but it seems as though neither mason nor sonnanstine will get another shot at the rotation unless they pitch their way in this spring training. with kazmir, shields, and garza cemented in the top 3 slots, the other 2 would seem to be reserved for the likes of jeff niemann, wade davis, david price, and jake mcgee. it looks to me as if the best that mason, sonnanstine, or jackson could hope for is a 5 start trial going into may of this season. after that point, there will be nothing holding back the top tier prospects from claiming their spot in tampa's rotation. (and by top tier, i meant the top tier in all of baseball, not just in tampa's system. they are loaded.)

to expand on my edwin jackson thoughts, i love his arm, and i think he should have been moved to the bullpen earlier in his career. the hardest jump to make in baseball is from AAA to the majors, and jackson made that jump successfully as a 19 year old. since then, though he's had far less success, though he was close to serviceable in 2006 when he was primarily a reliever. with his arm, though, serviceable is not good enough. jackson features a tremendous fastball, and he once had a plus slider and a plus changeup. both secondary pitches have since regressed, and jackson is now at his best when he throws his fastball 70-80% of the time. i believe that it is easier for a pitcher to learn how to get major league batters out as a reliever. i also believe that if i don't have the confidence that you can consistently do that, you should not start. hopefully tampa will take some of this into account when deciding what role jackson will play with them in 2008.

i've talked previously about garza here. i am a huge believer in him.

Spotlight: Andrew Sonnanstine

sonnanstine is a typical finesse righty, featuring a full complement of pitches, and a full complement of variations of each pitch. his fastball sits 86-89 MPH, but he also throws a cut fastball which sits around 84, as well as a sinker which sits around 87. he has a changeup which sits around 81 with late bite that makes it effective. sonnanstine also throws a slider, at around 76 and a curve around 72. neither pitch is better than average.

sonnanstine's lack of great velocity isn't really a career threatening issue, as he does have a very effective changeup, and there are plenty of pitchers that have gone a long way with less. the fact that he's going to be 25 in 2008 isn't a big issue, as age for this type of pitcher, a finesse righty, isn't a huge limiting factor.

splitting the data, 10 of sonnanstine's 22 starts came against division rivals BAL, BOS, and TOR. in those games, sonnanstine threw 54.2 innings, and allowed 72 hits, 14 walks, 6 homeruns, and 48 earned runs. there is no excuse for this type of production against lineups that are as bad as toronto or baltimore. the distribution of these 14 starts shows no pattern, as sonnanstine allowed more than 5 earned runs in each of his 1st, 3rd, 8th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 15th, 19th, and 21st starts.

sonnanstine blew threw the minor leagues without much resistance. in 495 minor league innings, sonny had a 2.58 ERA, and 6 Ks for every BB. i have always been weary of these types, as i feel that struggling at the minor league level is a necessary learning experience for young pitchers. for me to have confidence in a young starter, i like to see a pitcher that has made adjustments to a level that was clearly ahead of his own. 2008 will be a tough task for sonnanstine, as not only will he have to do this, but he will also have to learn how to consistently get out the best hitters in the world his most positive assets being only control and a changeup. i think it's an uphill battle, and i don't see him having enough success in 2008 to stay in the rotation beyond. he will likely end up trade fodder or a throwin to upgrade TB's bullpen.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

2008 Cleveland Indians Organizational Depth Report

1. fausto carmona, RHSP
2. aaron laffey, LHSP
3. jensen lewis, RHRP
4. adam miller, RHSP
5. jeremy sowers, LHSP
6. edward mujica, RHRP
7. chuck lofgren, LHSP
8. david huff, LHSP - september 2008
9. scott lewis, LHSP - may 2009
10.paolo espino, RHP - september 2010

where once, adam miller was the gem of the organization, fausto carmona now has that distinction. There is a lot of fringe-average left handed pitching in the organization, and with aaron laffey and CC sabathia already in their rotation, cleveland might be better off trading the bulk of their depth to help augment their aging lineup.

jeremy sowers was effective in 2006 with a GB% in the 50-54 range. in 2007, he was around 45. i think this is a huge difference, and after looking at zach duke, i think a lefty's value is not just related to his velocity or his breaking ball, but i feel that a whole lot of value can be derived from limiting BBs, SBs, and getting a lot of groundballs with a runner at 1B. that is what drives my very high opinion of aaron laffey, whose GB% sits in the 60-65 range, and who.

i'm not a huge fan of david huff, but i'm starting to warm up. i'd like to see him pitch in live action before moving him up too far on this list, as i'm unimpressed by his draft video on MLB.com.

i like mujica a lot more than his ERA indicates i should, but i doubt i'm the only one who is more impressed by his peripherals, than scared off by his ERA.

jensen lewis' FB sits in the low 90s, his changeup hits 80 MPH with late fade away from LHB. He does not have a true out pitch, but should be able to fill a middle relief role in a good bullpen.

Spotlight: Aaron Laffey

laffey is a big favorite of mine, but it appears as though the secret is out. well, partially at least, as my opinion of laffey seems to be much more bullish than that of kevin goldstein, BA, or john sickels. in my opinion, and on those scales, laffey is a 4 star, B+ prospect that would be number 1 in the system on all three scales.

i've already opined on some vagaries in the paragraph starting with jeremy sowers, but to reiterate, i think laffey does everything he can possibly do outside of the battery to help his cause. but since this piece is usually focused on what goes on inside the battery, let's take a gander at aaron laffey, on the mound.

laffey's sinker comes in around 86-89 MPH, and he can get up to about 91, when he forgets who he is. his slider is more of a changeup than an outpitch, and it comes in around 78 MPH. his 81 MPH changeup is used exclusively against RHB, and it does a good job of keeping them off balance.

his MLB splits show a negative effect as he was better against RHB than LHB, and this was not a one time phenomenon, as he had excellent splits versus RHB at both AAA and AA in 2007, plus in AA in 2006, and low A in 2005.

assuming that laffey can take another step forward in 2008, which i actually think could just mean that he pitches 200 innings, i see laffey as a HUGE breakout candidate, and i see him providing a big boost to cleveland's rotation behind C.C. sabathia and fausto carmona.

2008 Detroit Tigers Organizational Depth Report

1. justin verlander, RHSP
2. jeremy bonderman, RHSP
*. andrew miller, LHSP *TRADED TO FLA*
*. eulogio de la cruz, RHSP *TRADED TO FLA*
*. jair jurrjens, RHSP *TRADED TO ATL*
3. rick porcello, RHSP - mid 2009
*. randor bierd, RHRP - april 2008 *RULE 5 DRAFTEE BY BAL*
4. joel zumaya, RHRP
*. dallas trahern, RHSP *TRADED TO FLA
5. macay mcbride, LHRP
6. brett jensen, RHRP - 2010
7. yorman bazardo, RHSP
8. jeff gerbe, RHRP - september 2008
9. duane below, LHSP - mid 2010
10.brendan wise, RHRP - september 2009

with all of the movement in this system, i wanted to make sure to include not only 10 players currently in detroit's farm system, but also where the departed would have ranked in comparison.

the toughest part of ranking this system was putting jurrjens behind eulogio de la cruz. i am a huge fan of eulogio de, and i think he has a big future ahead of him, but while i project him as a starter, it doesn't look like he's going to get a true opportunity to fight for that role. i see eulogio and randor bierd as very similar players, with both having plus velocity on their fastballs, both having occasional struggles with walks, and both having strong GB tendencies. the difference between bierd and eulogio de is minimal, with my ranking of eulogio being more bias than projection or intuition.

i think brett jensen is an arm to watch because of his huge frame and his deceptive fastball. i don't think duane below's K rate will hold up at higher levels, but if he can learn a little bit about how to create an advantage as a lefthander by holding baserunners he will have a chance to stick. jeff gerbe is a big arm that induces a lot of GBs. his K rate is going to hold him back, but everything else is a nice package.

i have a hard time looking at rick porcello, and projecting him forward because he has yet to debut in professional baseball, and i always have a hard time projecting high school pitchers because of the relative uncertainty with regards to competitive levels in high school, mechanical and conditioning issues, and any other number of unforeseen issues that 18 year olds inevitably find themselves in. the mid 2009 projection for porcello's ETA is based on his being healthy and his being as good as his draft reports claims. i have significant doubt about both.

Spotlight: Jeremy Bonderman

i've always been a fan of bonderman, and the progression that he's made since first debuting in the majors as a 20 year old has been a textbook case of a young pitcher coming of age over time. coming into 2007, his HR rate had improved in each season, as had his K/BB ratio, and his ERA. his WHIP had fluctuated with little respect to any trend, but in 2006, he had a career best 1.299.

as for 2007, bonderman started out with a bang, once again building on his previous year's improvements. in the first half of 07, bonderman had a 98/24/106 K/BB/IP rate with a 3.48 ERA over that span. interestingly enough, over his career, bonderman's ERA is a full run lower in the first half than it is in the second (this trend is especially pronounced in the last three years).

overall in 2007, bonderman's fastball sat in the 92-94 range, hitting 96 at times. his slider has always been his bread and butter, generating plenty of swinging strikes and limiting contact from opposing batters. in 2007 he threw his slider more than any other american league pitcher by a wide margin, according to baseball info solutions (35% to 23% from 2nd ranked teammate nate robertson). bonderman is not without company in that area, though, as both john smoltz and ian snell were in that range as national league starters.

looking forward to 2008, alarm bells are ringing. firstly, i don't believe bonderman's postseason starts in 2006 had a major effect on him in 2007, nor do i believe that his 2nd half struggles over the course of his career are a conditioning issue. but that being said, i think it's clear that he cannot continue to throw the volume of sliders that he has thrown in the last 3 years. i don't mind a pitcher throwing a slider, as i feel that it is a tremendously effective pitch, but i also think it has a strong negative effect on the health of any arm that throws it, and seeing as how bonderman throws it more than any other american league pitcher, i cannot see him being a good bet for 2008. that's not to say that i think he won't be effective, as i see his production curve as continuing to improve in 2008 if healthy, but i think there is significant risk in betting on him to be healthy.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

2008 Pittsburgh Pirates Organizational Depth Report

1. tom gorzelanny, LHSP
2. matt capps, RHRP
3. brad lincoln, RHSP - may 2009
4. zach duke, LHSP
5. jared hughes, RHRP - august 2009
6. daniel moskos, LHSP - september 2010
7. michael crotta, RHRP - september 2009
8. brian rogers, RHRP
9. olivo astacio, RHRP - july 2009
10.todd redmond, RHRP - september 2008

i like both crotta and hughes, as they are big bodies with strong GB tendencies, but i'm not ready to throw my weight behind either. hughes gets the nod over crotta, as he's been on my radar for a longer time, but both are remarkably similar. another wide load on the pirates depth chart is olivo astacio, but he gets downgraded due to his FB tendencies.

i don't much like what i've seen of moskos. mechanically, he has a short stride, and he stops short on his follow through. looking back at the baseballthinkfactory archives, it appears as though chadbradfordwannabe agrees with me, and one ups me with the statement "The problem is that his lower body action and slowish momentum (tempo) don't really help him to throw hard, so he's more of an "arm-thrower." Couple that with an abrupt-ish finish and it makes me question how long he'll last."

brad lincoln is yet another big body with strong GB tendencies. looking at his 2006 draft video, he was very aggressive with his lower body, and had good arm action, though his follow through stops kind of abruptly, which could become an issue, as he's already had major arm surgery, which caused him to miss all of 2007.

Spotlight: Zach Duke

his fastball is mediocre, his changeup is OK, his curve is a typical koufax derived lazy breaking ball. his K rate has nosedived since his ML debut, going from good (6.2 per 9IP in 2005) to acceptable (4.9 per 9IP in 2006) to look out below (3.4 per 9IP in 2007). as if that's not bad enough, he missed a significant portion of 2007 with elbow soreness.

so how do you look at this if you're neil huntington? well, the first thing would be to go back to 2005 and 2006 to see what duke did right.

there's something called secondary average which is used to evaluate everything a position player does after a single. this is not usually a statistic used for evaluating pitchers, but in duke's case, it is especially important to understanding how he was successful. duke survived in the major leagues by limiting walks, limiting HRs, inducing GB double plays, and really focusing on preventing stolen bases.

in 2007, though, he limited walks, he induced GB double plays, he allowed only 5 SBs, and was actually responsible for as many CS. but, he allowed a shitload of singles, a shitload of doubles, and a shitload of homeruns. the things he did well, didn't matter, because who needs a walk when duke is averaging 1 and a half hits allowed per inning. and what do you need to steal bases for when an average right handed hitter against zach duke is OPSing .953.

the way duke pitches, he is on the razor's edge, walking a fine line between spreading out hits while stranding baserunners, such as 2005, versus a plain old saturation bombing, such as 2007. last year, duke got cut. it's likely that his elbow injury played into that, sapping his fastball of velocity and movement, but if he can't regain the repertoire he had in 2006, he's going to have to focus doubly on keeping the ball down in the zone, and limiting the chances hitters have to drive his pitches, likely meaning that he would have to be more judicious with his walks, sacrificing allowing more baserunners for giving up fewer extra base hits.

Monday, January 14, 2008

2008 Cincinnati Reds Organizational Depth Report

1. homer bailey, RHSP
2. johnny cueto, RHSP - june 2008
3. matt maloney, LHSP - july 2008
4. alexander smit, LHSP - may 2010
5. logan ondrusek, RHSP - july 2009
6. ramon ramirez, RHSP - august 2008
7. bobby livingston, LHSP
8. travis wood, LHSP - september 2010
9. elizardo ramirez, RHSP
10.travis webb, LHSP - september 2010

i'm giving an aggressive ranking to alexander smit, because i think cincinnati is the perfect organization for his development. smit has a live arm, and from what i've seen of the way the reds develop their arms, they'll allow him to pitch to his strengths, while gently guiding him towards improving his control. he's not really a sleeper, but some of the prospect hounds have already started to write him off. i think that could be a big mistake.

travis wood's ETA is pushed back because of apparent shoulder issues.

i really liked elizardo ramirez when he first debuted with the phillies in 2004, and he is still young enough that he could reestablish himself, but i think his best days are behind him. he made his bones in the minors as a control and command type, but both have gone downhill these last couple of years, and even if he regains the BB rate that made him stand out as a 20 year old, i don't know that he still has the arm to be successful at the major league level.

Spotlight: Homer Bailey

it's not a surprise that bailey got smacked around in his major league debut. compared to the scouting reports that preceded him, he must have looked like a AAAAer to the major league hitters he faced. the reports called for him sitting in the mid 90s with his fastball, touching 98, but the bailey that showed up sat 90-93, and couldn't touch 96.

this has been explained away by a groin injury that struck him in his third start, and i'll give him the benefit of the doubt, for now, but there is some data crunching i want to do.

bailey had two horrendous games, @PHI, and vs.STL. he was hit hard, and he gave up too many walks. in the philadelphia game, he got behind two good hitters from the first pitch, and both reached base. bailey then got preoccupied with the baserunners, and lost focus on the batter, which resulted in him getting the richard gere.

looking at it, i find it hard to buy the injury excuse. sure it might have played into his struggles, but after watching him on MLB.TV, it looks like he just had some bad luck, lost focus, and then cowered into his shell. that calls into question more his makeup than his stuff, but even then, it could also be explained away by it being his 4th major league start, and him having never faced basestealers as good as jimmy rollins, michael bourn, and shane victorino.

i think bailey is a solid bet going into 2008 and beyond with potential for greatness if he could reign in his BB rate. even failing that, though, he's going to be good, and i greatly prefer him to his future rotation mate johnny cueto.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

2008 Minnesota Twins Organizational Depth Report

1. matt garza, RHSP *TRADED TO TB*
2. francisco liriano, LHSP
3. oswaldo sosa, RHSP - september 2008
4. kevin slowey, RHSP
5. eduardo morlan, RHRP - april 2008 *TRADED TO TB*
6. zack ward, RHSP - september 2009 *SLEEPER*
7. anthony swarzak, RHSP - september 2008
8. tyler robertson, LHSP - 2010
9. jeff manship, RHSP - mid 2009
10.glen perkins, LHSP

zack ward led the minor leagues in losses in 2007 with 17. that's not something to be especially proud of, but when your GB/FB ratio is twice league average, you're going to take your fair share of lumps in the minors. context is especially important when looking at sinkerballers in the minor leagues. defense and field quality are two variables that are most often against guys like ward when they are coming through the minors. i expect ward to continue taking his lumps at the minor league level, but i also think he's a great bet to become an innings eating starter.

swarzak and robertson have both dominated in their most recent minor league stints, but i'm not ready to proclaim either of them a good bet to be league average in the majors. they very well might turn out better than just league average, and each could find their way onto some publications' top 100 lists, but i have not yet bought in.

i have a weird feeling about jeff manship. he is now 3 years out from TJ surgery, so it's not likely that he has anything more coming in the way of fastball velocity, curveball breakage, or control. midway through the 2007 season, manship was voted to have the best breaking ball, and the best control in the midwest league by a BA survey of the league's managers. the weird feeling i get is that he's already peaked, in terms of stuff and performance. i love his numbers in A ball, and i love that he got recognized by BA for his control and breaking ball, but there's a nagging feeling in the back of my head that his control won't hold up, that his fastball isn't good enough, and that his injuries will recur. if i'm wrong, manship has a ceiling as a innings eating number 3. he gets a lot of groundballs off of his fastball, which when combined with his control and his breaking ball, gives manship a unique and valuable package. i look forward to seeing what he does in AA in 2008.

Spotlight: Matt Garza

yeah, i know he's no longer a twinkie, but i think he's more interesting than slowey, and my data on perkins is incomplete.

garza throws a plus 4 seam fastball that sits 93-96. it is deceptive in it's movement, and generates a lot of swingthroughs because of how quickly it gets on hitters. garza also throws a curve which sits around 76, and a changeup and slider which both sit in the low to mid 80s. all 3 offspeed pitches profile as slightly above average, with garza getting more swinging strikes off his slider, and more called strikes on his curve.

i'm a huge fan of garza's, and i still think he's got top tier potential despite his "struggles" in 2007. looking below the surface, garza was hurt last year by poor defensive support, as his defensive efficiency rating (the rate at which batted balls are turned into outs) was .643 (league average was .687). it might be a bit presumptuous to assume garza's DER will revert to league average, but without the potential for brendan harris and josh wilson to start at shortstop, i think it's a safe bet to make.

there are few pitchers i would take over matt garza, and i think he will be a tremendous addition to tampa bay's rotation.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

2008 Houston Astros Organizational Depth Report

1. juan gutierrez, RHSP *TRADED TO AZ*
2. brad james, RHSP - august 2008 *SLEEPER*
3. polin trinidad, LHSP - 2010
4. sam gervacio, RHRP - july 2008
5. bud norris, RHSP september 2009 *SLEEPER*
6. matt albers, RHSP *TRADED TO BAL*
7. felipe paulino, RHSP
8. paul estrada, RHRP - 2008
9. raymar diaz, RHSP - 2009
10.david qualben, LHSP - 2010

i like brad james alot. his control isn't the best, he doesn't K very many batters, and he isn't very young, but he gets a shitload of groundballs, and he prevents solid contact better than any pitcher in the astro system.

gutierrez and paulino combine to provide the kind of high upside arms that are present in any legitimate system. they are a little old, though, and the organization doesn't appear to have any plan for restocking the system with these types of arms once gutierrez and paulino graduate, but these two should start to pay dividends to the astros this season.

bud norris didn't take the workload that a college pitcher usually takes in his first full professional season, which is a plus, from my point of view. he pitched very lightly his first 3 months, but when he hit his stride in july, he was dominating, albeit as a 22 year old in low A. he backed this up with an impressive performance in the hawaii winter league, but again, he wasn't facing the highest level of competition. i see a lot of good markers in his performance though, from his K rate, to the spike in his GB rate in HWL, to the favorable splits versus LHB, which indicates a quality changeup.

Spotlight: Matt Albers

albers throws a hard 2 seam fastball that sits in the low 90s and generates a good percentage of groundballs. albers also throws a curve that sits around 79 MPH, and a changeup that sits in the low 80s. his pitches work well together, and his curveball is especially effective.

i've seen reports that have albers fastball as hitting 97 MPH, but i don't think it needs to hit that high note to be effective, nor do i think he'll be able to fall back on that whenever he gets in trouble. as it was in 2007, his fastball had plenty of movement which generated plenty of swinging strikes, and looks to have the potential to keep albers in the middle of a good rotation for the next 6 years.

when pitching in houston, albers had a 4.35 ERA with a 2:1 K:BB ratio and mediocre HR and H rates. when pitching on the road, albers' ERA ballooned to 7, he had more BBs than Ks, his HR rate jumped to more than twice league average, and he allowed 1.66 baserunners per inning.

having previously looked at the uniqueness of 2 astro starters, i'm close to throwing my hands up in the air and proclaiming that there's just something in the water, but as i'm not there yet, i'll just say that this is one more thing i need to keep my eye on.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

2008 Chicago White Sox Organizational Depth Report

fautino de los santos, RHSP - september 2010
gavin floyd, RHSP
john danks, LHSP
clayton richard, LHSP - may 2009 *SLEEPER*
gio gonzalez, LHSP - april 2009
jack egbert, RHSP - september 2008
aaron poreda, LHSP - september 2009
kyle mcculloch, RHSP - mid 2009
charlie haeger, RHRP
carlos vasquez, LHRP - mid 2008

fautino de los santos looks like the next big pitching prospect. he has a tremendous fastball, which has drawn rave reviews from scouts, while his statistical profile substantiates the scouting reports, and at the same time shows no glaring weaknesses to be watched going forward. fautino has tremendous upside, and he could reach the majors in 2008 if pushed, but personally, i expect at least 1 year of injury/ineffectiveness from any 20 year old pitcher in A ball between his breakout and his debut, and de los santos is no exception. oftentimes, reigning in a young pitcher's innings, and letting him pull back from baseball can provide a tremendously important perspective on life, especially for a foreigner about to make it big. but then again, according to my philosophy, all that matters is winning at the major league level, and since i don't expect anything from 21 year old pitchers, i'm much more willing to slow down his ascension through the minors, in the hopes of keeping him fully healthy for his age 22-26 seasons, which is the butter zone, as far as i'm concerned.

clayton richard, carlos vasquez, and kyle mcculloch are favorites of mine because of their ability to record the most favorable outcome. i don't anticipate any of them becoming the next brandon webb, but i think a jon lieber type ceiling is within reach for the two starters, with a JC romero like ceiling being within reach of vasquez.

i've always liked gavin floyd. his curve still looks awesome, while his fastball is average, but one dimensional. floyd has added a cut fastball, but unless this pitch, or his changeup take a step forward, his ceiling is going to be a 4th starter. he'll continue to give up tons of homeruns, as an effect of both his straight fastball, and his pitching half his games in a bandbox known as new comiskey.

i still don't have a good feel for gio gonzalez. i can't see him as a power pitcher in the rotation, and i think his effectiveness would diminish greatly if his K rate fell to the 6-7 range, which is where i see it at the major league level. i don't want to pigeonhole him as a reliever, but i think if he gets called up in 2008, that's the role he should fill, with a possible rotation spot in 2009 if he is successful. a pitcher that i've looked at already, wandy rodriguez, has the same profile as gonzalez, a plus curve bordering on plus-plus, with a slightly above average fastball, and a workable changeup, coming from a frame under 6'. rodriguez's K rate spiked in 2007 at about 8 per 9 IP, and i see that as being the peak for gonzalez, which is why i have a hard time seeing him as a successful power pitcher.

Spotlight: John Danks

danks' days as a power pitcher are over. his fastball and slurve are both average pitches, coming in at 89-92 and 75-78 respectively, while his inconsistency with both pitches is going to drag down his peripherals. his changeup is a quality pitch that averages around 5-8 MPH less than his fastball, and mimics it's break and drop effectively.

danks has a lot of trouble locating his fastball, and doesn't seem to throw it with any discernible underlying purpose. he throws it all over the strikezone with little regard to placing it high/low/inside/outside.

i don't view danks so much as a pitcher, but more as a guy who makes a living hurling a ball in the general vicinity of an imaginary square 60'6" away from his left arm.