Saturday, September 18, 2004

Daily Prospect Report 9/18

Ryan Garko, C/1B/DH, Cleveland Indians
Drafted 78th Overall, 2003 Draft, Stanford
Bats R/Throws R
23 YO, 6'2", 225 lbs

The Indians have another catcher who can hit. Garko isn't polished behind the plate, but he's more competent with the glove than Craig Wilson, Eric Munson, Justin Huber, and Matt LeCroy. He'll never be a good defensive catcher. But when a guy has a bat like the one that Garko has swung this season, he's an asset wherever he's playing. He wasn't ranked in the top 200 prospects for the 2003 draft by Baseball America, but he was a middle of the order beast for Stanford. He was a first team All American. The Indians believed and drafted him in the third round. He's rewarded them by making it to the International League in his first full season.

He started the year in Kingston of the Carolina League, where he demolished pitchers to the tune of .328/.425/.609 with 34 extra base hits in 238 at bats. Next came Akron, where he hit .331/.397/.523 in 172 at bats. He only made it up to AAA Buffalo for the last 5 games of the regular season, but he still hit .350/.391/.400, and made the playoff roster.

The Indians have a decision to make with Garko. He won't push Victor Martinez aside at catcher. But he'll likely be much more than a backup catcher of the Greg Zaun variety. But they also have Travis Hafner, who has put up huge numbers this year at first base. And Ben Broussard has been no slouch either. Plus they have leftymashing Josh Phelps around to platoon with lefties Hafner and Broussard. They could trade Garko, leveraging a leaguewide need for catchers who can hit, or they can turn him into a 1B/DH and leverage a good season by one of their existing players at the low end of the defensive spectrum, or they could get creative, and use Garko as an everyday player in a rotation of giving Martinez days off at catcher, and spend the rest of his time spelling Hafner and Broussard, with Broussard playing some (bad) outfield. There's a whole class of players like Garko and Huber, who while not being their teams best option as a catcher, is still capable of playing there for small amounts of time without being a liability. I think a creative manager could use these guys to more of an advantage than they currently do. To their credit, when the Twins lost Joe Mauer early in the season, they turned to LeCroy as their starting catcher until he himself took a trip to the DL. I think you could easily give you regular catcher a day or two off per week by giving a player like Wilson or Garko a spot start. Lineup flexibility is always a good thing. It helps deal with the adversities of a season.

Garko is clearly a good prospect, one which will likely spend most of his career as a DH and 1B. His ETA is sometime next season. He gets a solid 4 stars.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Daily Prospect Report 9/17

Scott Baker, RHP, Minnesota Twins
Drafted 58th overall, 2003 Draft, Oklahoma State
Bats R/Throws R
6'4", 215 lbs

It's a pretty good sign when a player makes it to AAA approximately a year after signing their first professional contract. Baker is no exception. In 2003, he posted a 2.49 ERA and almost a strikeout per inning while walking 1.4 batters per 9 IP in the Midwest League. This year he blew through short stints in the Florida State League and Eastern League before landing in Rochester of the International League. He slowed down significantly once he got to AAA, seeing a drop in his strikeout rate, a jump in his walk rate, and his ERA rose to 4.97. However, that was his first ERA over 3 as a professional, so there should be no panic. It looks like he'll need a year to adjust, but he's a very nice pitching prospect. This is what you hope for when you draft a college pitcher. His composite numbers on the year still look very good, 26 games started, 169.2 IP (6.5IP/GS), 37 BB (1.97/9IP), 145 K (7.7/IP), 3.24 ERA.

ETA should be sometime late next season, or early in 2006. 4 stars

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Daily Prospect Report

I'm going to try to do this just about every day. I can't make any promises. But I'll try my best.

Danny Putnam, OF, Oakland A's
Drafted 36th overall, 2004 Draft, Stanford U.
Bats L/Throws L
21 YO, 5'10, 200 lbs

Scouts compare him to Brian Giles because of his short, stocky build and his patient, polished approach at the plate. An Oakland prospect with a "polished" approach at the plate? You're kidding me!

After being drafted, he went to work in the Northwest League, where he hit .289/.481/.500 in a small (38 AB) sample before moving on to the Midwest League, with Kane County. There he hit .224/.354/.417. The 156 at bat sample is still small, so it really doesn't tell us anything conclusive. What we do know is that he hit in high school, hit at Stanford, hit it wood bat summer leagues. We know he's not what you have in mind when you go out looking for a corner outfielder, but if he can come close to replicating what the toolsier Nick Swisher has done, he's a good prospect.

He's teamed up with fellow college bat Richie Robnett, who could probably be Putnam's stunt double, on both stops in pro ball. If you want a scouting report on Robnett, you can pretty much change the names and the schools, and run the same report. Their profiles are almost identical, and their stats aren't far off either.

Let's give Putnam 3 Stars out of 5, but like Swisher before him, he has the opportunity to move quickly.

Congratulations, you miserable prick

Craig Bueno won the lottery a couple days ago courtesy of Frank Francisco's stupidity. Bueno's wife was hit by the now infamous flying chair.

Wait a second, before I get into this, let's pause for a second and lay out a disclaimer so that there is no misunderstanding. Frank Francisco was an idiot. You don't throw chairs into crowds. You don't go up into a crowd to confront an unruly fan, no matter what they say. He'll be suspended for a long time, as he should be.

But now back to the OTHER jackass in this story. Bueno is more than your standard ballpark asshole who shouts creative taunts at the other team. He's now the official king of ballpark assholes. He actually got the entire Rangers bullpen to come confront him. He should have been kicked out long before the fight happened, but Oakland's security refuses to acknowledge that anything out line was actually said, and that Bueno and his white trash wife did nothing to warrant ejection. The implication is that a bunch of professional baseball players, who have been heckled probably at every road game since they left rookie ball, collectively had a moment of insanity, and spontaneously turned on an innocent fan. These guys have thick skin. "Hey, Broacail! You smell! And your pitching leaves a lot to be desired!" isn't likely to raise an eyebrow.

You know something? I hate hecklers. I really do. They bug me. They bug me a lot. There are very few things that are more annoying at a ballpark than a loud, obnoxious, drunken, vulgar jerk a couple rows away. Sometimes, I secretly wish that a foul ball would clock them on the side of the mellon. A little divine justice, if you wish. I didn't picture that justice coming in the guize of a plastic folding chair. With that in mind, I have no sympathy for Jennifer Bueno. She defends her husband, and it's clear that she participated in the heckling. She got what she deserved. And she'll probably get a six figure check from the Rangers and Francisco. Bully for her. A few hundred thousand dollars will make the pain of a bloody nose well worth it.

What I'd like to see the media and MLB focus on in the aftermath is how to prevent things like this from happening again. The answers are pretty simple, but they have a monetary price. You need more training for ushers. The ushers and security personel should be proactive. If a fan is drunken, obscene, and rowdy, they should be kicked out. If MLB wants a family friendly atmosphere, they should realize that it takes more than a playground behind the right field wall and discount hot dogs and drinks on tuesday nights. You have to have the balls to punt a season ticket holder who is shouting four letter words at the other team. Maybe you even arrest one every so often for public intoxication.

Anyways, congrats to the Bueno family. You're in the hunt for a nice little payday AND you get automatic induction into the Asshole Sports Fan Hall of Fame, which will probably be built somewhere in Philadelphia one of these days. I salute you with one finger, and one finger only. I'll leave it to you to guess which finger that is.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

First Entry

Welcome to 'Till You're Blue in the Face. Those of you who have read my columns over at RoyalMania are familiar with the name, but I plan to do this a bit differently than I did those columns. I plan to do daily commentary on whatever issue is getting under my skin. Most of these will be about baseball, but not all. I hope to have a Prospect-A-Day feature, where I profile a young player each day.

I hope this comes out well. Consider it a work in progress.

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