A conversation about MLB, on the field, off the field.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

From the basement April 24 07

Baseball, baseball, baseball and more goddamn baseball. I'm watching a lot of freakin baseball. I resolved yesterday to stop trying to watch evening West Coast games until the last out. ( It was easy not to watch last nite, we had no electricity ) I always fall asleep before the finish. I intentionally don't lay down because if I do I know I'll fall asleep instantly. Instead I fall asleep sitting up, wake up at 2, fall over, back to sleep, wake up again at 5 and go to bed. And the boxscores....oy the boxscores, always with the boxscores. I have to read them all, literally, and in the proper chronology at that. The digital boxscores are the best. With a few double clicks you can access all the geek minutiae that you want. If you have to know who Chase Wright, Jamie Vermilyea & Zach McClellan are and where Wes Obermueller pitched last year, you are a geek.

I'm glad I didn't subscribe to the MLB / EI out of market package ( I had considered it ), I can't watch all the baseball I get as it is. Who are the subscribers to this package? If you believe all the chatter on the web about this ( and there was an overabundance this winter / spring because of the DirecTV deal ) the subscribers are hardcore fans of " out of market " teams, i.e. New Englanders who moved to other parts of the US but remain part of "The Nation." My theory is that a lot of these subscribers are Fantasy / Roto geeks. The Fantasy guys don't follow a "team" per se, they follow "their" team(s) ( lots of these guys play in multiple leagues ). These guys don't want to wait for the boxscores ( and in this era of the web, they are available pretty damn quick ), they want to see their players AB's / starts / relief appearances as they happen. How else do you explain the presence of these packages where you can view multiple games simultaneously? ( MLBTV has the same product ) You cannot watch 6 baseball games simultaneously but you can cherry pick the parts of those 6 games you want to see, i.e. when "your" players are hittin or throwin or stealin. When marketers talk about "avidity" levels I think this is the sort of behavior they're referencing.

TRIPLE A IS BACK

I'm very happy that our Triple A team has completed their first homestand of the season. My baseball viewing isn't limited to TV anymore. So nice to watch the game live. I notice so much more when I'm there, positioning, baserunning, pitch sequences. I also pay closer attention to the count and the situation, watching on TV can make you lazy. It's just plain nice to be outside, it's a long winter here in Canada's capital.

I saw most of 3 different games of the Lynx 6 game homestand and they appear as advertised. The pitching looks deep ( they had to release veteran Justin Miller because they had too many arms ) and they will play outstanding defense. The outfield defense in particular is a pleasure to watch, in 2 of the 3 games I saw they started 3 outfielders (Rushford, Roberson & Calloway) who can all play CF. The defence up the middle is exceptional as well with Sandoval at SS & Thurston at 2B. Thurston is probably the Lynx best everyday player, an IL All Star last season, he made at least a handful of outstanding plays in the games I saw. Jason Jaramillo looks very athletic behind the plate. The Lynx currently lack a HR hitter and as evidenced in the games I've seen there will be a lot of " little ball " played by the home side. As I've said before the most important factor in winning at Triple A is the health of the parent team. At this juncture the Phillies are healthy, a handful of injuries though and the roster gets thin in a hurry here.

I'm curious to see what the Phillies plans are for J.D. Durbin, starter or reliever? I suspect he'll pitch in relief, at least initially to get "stretched out", as he hasn't been pitching while waiting to clear waivers, everywhere it seems, since being "designated" by the Twins. The Phillies made a dramatic and unexpected move recently when they put Myers in the pen to set up Gordon. I think Durbin's power arm, like Myers', is what they need in middle relief, particularly in their bandbox ballpark.

I enjoy the IL as much to see the visiting teams as the home team. Charlotte and Scranton were in town this homestand.

Notable amongst the Charlotte squad: RH Charlie Haeger ( who I saw in Game 2 of the homestand ), a knuckleballer who had a great 06 with Charlotte, 3.07 ERA in 170 IP, pitched 18 innings with the parent White Sox. The first 3 players on the Baseball America / White Sox Top 10 prospects list are in Charlotte. In descending order, OF Ryan Sweeney, 3B Josh Fields & RH Lance Broadway. See more on Sweeney & Fields below. Broadway is a starter who probably profiles as a middle reliever in the bigs. I sat near the radar guns during his start and as BA notes his fastball is average, it was high 80's during the start I saw. I think velocity matters, particulary at the big league level. Is RH Gavin Floyd still a prospect? Floyd is with Charlotte at present, he was acquired from the Phillies along with LH John Danks in the Freddy Garcia deal. I didn't see Floyd's start here but I did see him pitch last year with Scranton and he does have a power arm. I say he remains a prospect, power arms are the most valuable commodity in baseball, Floyd has one and at 24 he is too young to give up on. OF Luis Terrero is in Charlotte. Terrero was my favorite Lynx last year, he is an exceptional outfielder, good baserunner and pounded IL pitching last season posting a .927 OPS. Terrero has had chances in the bigs, 434 AB's, but didn't hit. He'll be 27 in May, too old to be a prospect but still has a legitimate shot at being a 4th outfielder in the bigs. Amongst the notable veterans that played were C Wiki Gonzalez, who started Game 3, Gonzalez has played parts of the last 7 seasons in the bigs primarlily with the Padres as a backup C. 37 year old Ernie Young also played, he is listed as an OF but certainly will see the bulk of his playing time at the DH position. Young has played parts of 8 seasons in the bigs amassing 796 AB's and hitting 27 HR. His best season was in 96 with the A's when he hit 19 HR in 462 AB. Young has played everywhere, including Japan.

The most notable player on the Scranton team is elite RH pitching prospect Philip Hughes, see more below. The Scranton staff also includes a few decent prospects. RH Tyler Clippard struck out 175 in 166 IP in Double A last season, he is in Triple A at the age of 22. Clippard is ranked #7 on the BA list of Yankees Top 10 prospects. RH Russ Ohlendorf was acquired from the D Backs in the offseason as part of the Randy Johnson deal. Ohlendorf put up decent numbers in Double A last year albeit as a 24 year old. As for position players, OF Bronson Sardinha got the attention of the chattering classes this spring and 3B Eric Duncan is starting the year in Triple A. Duncan was considered an elite power hitting 3B prospect as recently as a few years ago but has floundered. Still, Duncan won't be 23 until December and power often develops late. As for the vets, LH Ron Villone pitched in relief Sunday. Villone is 37 and has racked up 1027 IP in the bigs over the last 12 seasons. I remember seeing him pitch here years ago with Louisville. I'll be surprised if Villone isn't in the bigs at some point this year for the 13th consecutive season. Former Lynx C Raul Chavez, great arm when he caught here, is in Scranton. Chavez was signed by the Astros 17 years ago and has bounced around pro ball since, totalling 405 big league AB's over parts of 9 seasons.

LISTS

Baseball geeks like lists, Baseball America produces endless amounts of lists. So a first for this blog, some lists.

Top 10 prospects currently on IL rosters

1. Homer Bailey - Louisville. RH starter.

Elite prospect, power pitcher. He will turn 21 in May. Dominant at High A and AA last season. If you believe the hype he won't be in the IL for long, although he didn't get the raves this spring that he did last season.

2. Philip Hughes - Scranton. RH starter.

Pretty much a carbon copy of the above except he won't be 21 until June. Like Bailey he didn't impress this spring like he was expected to. Still the Yankees have sky high hopes for this kid. Very early #'s, 17 K / 4 BB / 16 IP. Just found out, Hughes will make his big league debut Thursday vs. the Jays, we'll see how long he stays in the Bronx once the Yankees rotation gets healthier. ( Will American Idle Carl Pavano ever be healthy? )

3. Adam Miller - Buffalo. RH starter.

Probably a notch below Bailey and Hughes but still is a front of the rotation prospect. A year older than Bailey and Hughes, 05 was somewhat of a wasted season due to arm trouble. Rebounded big in 06 putting up big numbers at AA. Since compiling this list sometime during the winter Miller's status has elevated. He was more impressive this spring than either of the 2 starters on this list above.

4. Matt Garza - Rochester. RH starter.

When I first compiled this list I didn't include Garza because I assumed he would start the year in Minnesota. Well he didn't, instead the Twins are going with veterans Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson in their rotation. The Twins have been questioned over this decision but the longer they can keep Garza in Triple A the longer they delay having to pay him the big bucks. Garza started 06 in High A and finished in the bigs. He dominated at each level except the big leagues but still his season was extremely impressive.


5. Josh Fields - Charlotte - 3rd base.

Nothing left to prove in the IL, he posted an .894 OPB last season as a 23 year old. However with Joe Crede at 3rd in Chicago there is no spot for Fields unless he moves to LF. Reports on Fields play in LF in Winter Ball were not encouraging and he played 3rd during Charlotte's recent 4 game series in Ottawa.

6. Joey Votto - Louisville - 1st base.

The next everyday Canadian player in the big leagues. Votto was MVP in his AA league last season racking up 46 doubles + 22 homers. Votto will play in the IL this season at 23, remember Cdn hitters usually mature late.

7. Jeff Niemann - Durham - RH starter.

First round pick in 04, received a 5 million plus deal, unfortunately he has had injury problems since. Got healthy enough to pitch 77 innings in AA last season and put up good numbers. At 6'9" / 280 lbs you have to think he has a high ceiling.

8. Ryan Sweeney - Charlotte - OF

Sweeney was impressive last season with Charlotte as a 21 yr old with an .802 OPS. He needs to develop power to play everyday in the bigs as a corner outfielder which given his young age could still happen. BA questions if he has the skills to play CF in the bigs.

9. Hayden Penn - Norfolk - RH starter

It's a mystery to me why he is not on the BA list of O's Top 10 prospects, perhaps he isn't eligible. Sure he's been rocked in 2 limited stints with the Orioles, totalling 58 IP, but he's still only 22 and struck out 85 in 87 2/3 IP last season with Ottawa. Young power arms are tough to find, as with a lot of pitchers Penn's biggest battle seems to be staying healthy.

10. Joel Guzman - Durham - OF? 1B? 3B?

Considered one of the best prospects in the game a few years ago, he has disappointed the past few seasons. Tampa Bay acquired him from the Dodgers in a deadline deal for Julio Lugo. He is still only 22, way too early to give up on a power hitter.

The following 3 players were part of my Top 10 IL prospects when I wrote it but they are all starting the season in Double A ( or they were in Double A a handful of days ago ), they should all be in the IL very soon.

1. Evan Longoria - Durham - 3rd base.

Third player taken in the 06 June draft. Played at 3 levels in his first season, finishing in Double A. Expected to be an everyday 3rd baseman in the bigs for many, many years.

2. Jacob Ellsbury - Pawtucket - CF.

The Red Sox drafted him in the 1st round in 05 and he has not disappointed. Played at High A and Double AA last season. The Red Sox hope Ellsbury can replace Johnny Damon both in CF and at the top of the order for years to come.

3. Jarrod Saltalamacchia - Richmond - C. A catcher who can hit. Not the hot prospect he was coming into the 06 season, but finished last season well.

Another 3 players not yet in the IL, but who could well be late in the season.

1. Andrew McCutchen - Indianapolis - CF. Elite prospect

2. Cameron Maybin - Toledo - CF. Ditto McCutchen

3. Andrew Miller - Toledo - LH starter.

Drafted in June, signed in August, pitching in Yankee Stadium same month. Power LH, could be really special.

If you're a Canadian Nationalist, a list of hosers in the IL.

Steve Green - Norfolk - RH reliever.

Has carved out a very fine Triple A career. Was on the mound for the final out when Canada beat the USA in the WBC.

Adam Stern - Norfolk - CF.

Took a step back last year but still a fine Triple A player. Also a hero in the WBC win over the US. Stern was with the O's very briefly this season when Corey Patterson was injured.

George Kottaras - Pawtucket - C.

Acquired from the Padres in a deadline deal for David Wells, played at AA & AAA last season. He will turn 23 in May, he is on the Red Sox 40 man.

John Axford - Scranton - RH.

I had never heard of this guy until a few days ago when Naete Sager brought him to my attention. Check out Naete's profile of John Axford here.

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