Saturday, October 02, 2004

Daily Prospect Report 10/2

Richie Robnett, OF, Oakland A's
Drafted 26th Overall, 2004 Draft, Fresno State
Bats L/Throws L
21 YO, 5'10", 190 lbs

I mentioned him in my review of Danny Putnam. He's another short college outfielder, who drew walks, hit a bunch, and generally looks like a pretty good example of why teams like Oakland really like college outfielders. Baseball America had a writeup on him in their Northwest League Top Prospects List, where he was rated as the #7 prospect in that league. I'm having a hard time coming to grips with the review that praised his athleticism, but asked for an improvement in his plate discipline. The stats don't bear this out. He hit a respectable .299/.395/.470 with 28 BB's and 43 K's in 164 AB. The strikeout rate is a little higher than one would like to see, but the walk rate mutes that a bit. I guess such a review is enough to temper my enthusiasm a bit, and make me anxious to see what happens next season when he surely will start in Lo-A, where pitchers will be a little better.

ETA: Late 2006
3 Stars

Friday, October 01, 2004

Daily Prospect Report 10/1

Daric Barton, C, St Louis Cardinals
Drafted 28th Overall, 2003 Draft, HS, Huntington Beach, CA
Bats L/Throws R
19 YO, 6'0", 205 lbs

At some point he's going to become a first baseman. Whether he goes there at age 21 or at age 30 is the big question. Cardinal supporters shouldn't lose too much sleep over the question, because he hits enough that he'd be one of the 2 or 3 best 1B prospects in baseball if he happened to make the switch tomorrow. That isn't to say that it doesn't matter which position he plays, because it matters a lot. A catcher with his bat is worth a lot of wins, and the longer you can justify him staying behind the plate, they better off you are because he brings much more value to your team.

But let's stop covering ground that was more elegantly covered by Bill James 20 years ago and get to the specifics of this particular player. Barton is a very nice prospect. He'll hit, and hit well. He put up a .313/.445/.511 line in 313 at bats for Peoria. He posted a 78/44 BB/K ratio, which is something that teenagers don't usually do in full season ball. The .198 isolated slugging percentage is pretty nice from a 19 year old as well. He's good. And no, I'm not related.

ETA: 2007
4 1/2 Stars

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Bonus Prospect Report

Ian Snell, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Drafted 26th Round, 2000 Draft, HS, Camden, DE
Bats R/Throws R
22 YO, 5'11", 170 lbs

He got a callup when the rosters expanded and is currently getting his head handed to him by major leaguers. He's a short pitcher, and some people like to think of short right hamders as relievers only, but I don't see why. He has a good fastball and a pretty nice curve. He's consistantly made professional hitters look bad ever since signing. He came into the season with a career ERA of 2.48 and almost a K per inning. That didn't change as he posted a 3.16 ERA with 142 K's and 42 walks in 151 innings.

Pitching prospects come from all kinds of places. Some of them are well known from the very start, and are drafted high in the first round. Some are virtually unknown and drafted as a late round flier, like Snell. The Pirates got lucky and found a good one. The Padres found Jake Peavy as a 15th rounder in 1999.

ETA Early 2005
3 1/2 Stars

Daily Prospect Report 9/30

Paul Maholm, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Drafted 8th Overall, 2003 Draft, Mississippi State
Bats L/Throws L
22 YO, 6'2", 215 lbs

He isn't a flame thrower, but he gets guys out like the stereotypical lefty. He has a good changeup and curve, and he mixes his speeds and locations very well for a young pitcher. He's what we Royal fans hope Matt Campbell grows up to be next season. He's done nothing but get hitters out since being drafted. He saw action at different minor league levels this season. He put up a 1.84 ERA with 20 K's and 12 BB's in 44 IP in the Carolina League.

He missed a lot of time this season after being hit by a line drive in the face, breaking bones above his right eye. There should be no long term effects.

He's a polished pitcher who stands a pretty good chance of being a productive major league starter. He's unlikely to develop into a stud, but he'll be alright.

ETA 2006
3 Stars

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Daily Prospect Report 9/29

Lastings Milledge, CF, NY Mets
Drafted 12th Overall, 2003 Draft, HS, Palmetto, FL
Bats R/Throws R
19 YO, 6'1", 185 lbs

He was supposed to be drafted in the top 5 of the 2003 draft, but he fell due to signability and attitude questions. He's a classic tools hound, with speed, an aesthetically pleasing swing, and a strong arm.

He lived up the hype for the most part this season, hitting .337/.399/.579 in the Sally League. He only drew 18 walks in his 261 AB, but he supplemented the OBP by drawing 12 free passes by getting plunked. He demonstrated impressive power for a 19 year old center fielder, with 13 HR's. He briefly went to the Hi-A Florida State League, but when he hit .235/.319/.432, they sent him back to Capital City.

As with most young players, he needs to demonstrate better control of the strike zone. He basically needs to keep making progress. He's not as raw as I expected, but he's still a couple years away at best, which is alright because the Mets have the underappreciated Mike Cameron in center.

ETA: 2007
3 1/2 Stars

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

So it's Washington

It's about freaking time. The last few seasons have been an absolute disgrace. You can't have a team playing as a ward of the state, unless you're the Atlantic League. For Major League Baseball to leave the Expos twisting in the wind like this for this length of time is unacceptable. This is the end of a long, stomach-churning ordeal.

John Brattain has a nice piece on the back history of this cluster.

Daily Prospect Report 9/28

Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Cincinnati Reds
Drafted 274th Overall (9th Round), 2000 Draft, HS, Caguas, P.R.
Bats R/Throws R
21 YO, 6'1", 195 lbs

He wasn't quite as good as I expected him to be this season. But there's a lot of good things going on with Encarnacion. He had very nice numbers as a 21 year old in AA. .281/.352/.443 is a pretty decent line. It bears mentioning that much of his isolated slugging percentage came from his 35 doubles. More power may be coming. He already has a pretty good handle on the plate discipline thing. 56 walks in 469 at bats isn't bad. He even had a pretty good SB% (17 SB/3 CS).

He'll probably start next season in Louisville, but Brandon Larson has done little more than get injured in the last 12 months, and Ryan Freel is a super-utility guy. If Encarnacion plays well, and the Reds aren't winning a lot of games, he could find his way into the majors earlier than you would expect. He isn't likely to be blocked the way Mike Restovich has been.

ETA: Early 2006
4 1/2 Stars

Monday, September 27, 2004

Cleveland Rocks

Last week, I was on vacation, and I spent a few days in Cleveland. Nice town. Unfortunately, I didn't get to watch an Indians game, unless you count 2 innings I watched on TV tuesday night. The timing was wrong to catch a game at the Jake, which is something I really wanted to do.

At any rate, I was pleasantly surprised. Cleveland isn't a premier vacation destination, but we had a great time there. We stayed at a bed and breakfast that was just across the street from Lake Erie, and Edgewater State Park. We walked along the beach and it was great. The beach (and park) was clean, there were a lot of boats out on the lake, and the sun was setting. Postcard moment.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was well worth the afternoon. Just the fact that they had most of Les Paul's experiments was cool enough in itself. The amount of cool stuff they have is staggering.

Also, we had a lot of nice, decadent meals. They have what they call the Warehouse district, which has all kinds of restaurants, notably, the Cleveland Chop House, which was probably the best meal I've had in 3 or 4 years. Grilled portobello mushrooms, a tin of old-style cornbread, and a new york strip done exactly how I like 'em. Outstanding.

I'm not a big traveler, but I have some preferences in my 2 or 3 day getaways, which are almost necessary stress relief. I like bed and breakfasts. I've had better experiences with them than with chain hotels. Their price is usually comparable. The service is far superior. Our innkeeper gave us hints and advice that you'd be unlikely to ever get from a 22 year old bored front desk worker at a Holiday Inn Express. The room is usually nicer as well.

Also, I like mid-sized midwestern cities like Cleveland and Indy. They're usually small enough that you can get where you want to go with a minimum of hassle. Everything in Cleveland was easy and quick to get to. Also, the people are friendly and helpful. We asked a woman to take our picture, and not only did she actually help us with that, she also took pictures with her camera and volunteered to email them to us, gave us advice on other sights to see, and generally talked to us for half an hour. That wasn't the only example of that kind of behavior. We struck up conversations almost at will whenever we wanted a nudge in the right direction. You find this is most midwestern cities. Indy, St Louis, Cinci. We're hoping to make it to KC, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Memphis, and Nashville in the near future. Of course next year, we're planning on a Niagara Falls/Cooperston trip. I hope we can pull it off. If we do that, I'll have a very detailed report.

Bonus Prospect Report

C.J. Smith, LF, Baltimore Orioles
Drafted 139th Overall (5th Round), Florida
Bats R/Throws R
22 YO, 6'3", 210 lbs

I liked Smith going into the draft. He was pretty disappointing though, after signing as the Orioles 5th round pick. In college, he consistently hit for a lot of power. With Aberdeen, he struggled to make contact and only hit one bomb. His .229/.300/.340 line was pretty removed from my expectations. He still drew 21 walks in 188 at bats, so there is hope. He needs to really pick up the pace though.

The caveat as always with players who were just a few months ago is that sample size matters. 188 at bats isn't trivial. It is enough to make one worry. But it is far from enough to warrant last rites to a player's prospect status.

ETA 2007/2008
2 Stars

Daily Prospect Report 9/27

Bryan Bullington, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Drafted 1st Overall, 2002 Draft, Ball State
Bats R/Throws R
23 YO, 6'5", 220 lbs

He turns 24 on September 30th. Despite being the #1 pick in 2002, he isn't a star in the making. He was an overdraft, and the Pirates can't even use the signability copout since he signed late, and got a $4,000,000 bonus. The Pirates took a college pitcher for the sake of taking a college pitcher. The consensus best player in the draft, BJ Upton, was demanding a huge payday, and most of the other high profile arms in the draft were high schoolers or canadians, both of whom are risky propositions for the top of the draft. So they played it safe, and got Bullington.

Now to be fair, he isn't a bad prospect. He entered the season with a 2.52 career minor league ERA with 113 K's and 38 BB's in 143 IP. He ended this season with a 4.10 ERA, 100 K's and 48 BB's in 145 IP for AA Altoona. Not exactly what you hope for from a first overall pick when Upton, Zach Greinke, Jeff Francis, Khalil Greene, Russ Adams, Scott Kazmir, and Nick Swisher have major league service time already.

On the positive side, since the Indianapolis Indians have switched affiliations, I will likely be able to watch Bullington next season, and give first hand reports.

ETA: late 2005
2 1/2 stars

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Daily Prospect Report 9/26

Joey Gathright, CF, Tampa Bay Rays
Drafted 949th Overall, 2001 Draft, Bonnabal HS, Metairie, LA
Bats L/Throws R
23 YO, 5'10", 170 lbs

I didn't think he was worthy of the Baseball America top 100 prospects list last season. And I may have been a bit harsh. He did show decent on-base skills, carries a good glove, and is a good base stealer. That's more than I could ever say for Tom Goodwin or most of the other speed burners that have come around in the last 10 years. He still has almost no power. And I'd still like to see his SB% climb a little higher and for him to draw more walks. But he could be useful to the right team.

Gathright hit .326/.384/.373 in 236 AAA at bats this season. This was after he hit .341/.399/.397 in AA. He even managed to get 52 major league at bats thanks to injuries to several Devil Ray starters. There, he hit .250/.316/.250, but you can't really draw any firm conclusions from that sample. Obviously, he's a slap and dash waterbug of a hitter who will never hit for any power at all. The skill set has given careers to guys like Juan Pierre and Doug Glanville, so why wouldn't it do the same for Gathright? I think it will, especially with Ichiromania taking the world by storm. He'll never be a star, but at worst, he could be a very nifty 4th outfielder. At best, he could be about what Pierre or Johnny Damon is right now. The Devil Rays like him a lot, but currently, they have no need for him, as Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, and Jose Cruz Jr did an admirable job in the outfield this season. If they trade Cruz though, that would open up an opportunity for Gathright to become a starter, and this is the kind of scrappy player who seems destined to be a fan favorite.

ETA is early 2005, 2 1/2 stars.

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