Friday, November 26, 2004

Lou Palmisano Report

Lou Palmisano, C, Milwaukee Brewers
Drafted 69th Overall (3rd rd), 2003 Draft, Broward CC, FL
Bats R/Throws R
22 YO, 6'1", 185 lbs

I have a rule about catchers. Only draft them if they can hit. Catchers with questionable bats, like Scott Heard, tend to have very high washout rates in the minors. It sounds like common sense, but teams draft all leather, no lumber backstops from time to time, and sometimes they spend high draft picks on them. Palmisano is a catcher who can hit. In his pro debut, he hit .391/.458/.592 in 174 Pioneer League at bats. You don't need me to tell you that's pretty good. This season he hit .293/.371/.413 in 409 at bats for Beloit of the Midwest League. I'm not sure where the power went, but the plate discipline looks good, and any catcher who puts up that line is pulling his weight. However, that was fairly disappointing for a kid who had an isolated slugging percentage in the .200 range.

He is a capable defensive catcher who shouldn't have to move from behind the plate. He isn't going to run very much, but nobody expects that from a catcher anyways. Also, don't worry too much about the age. He just turned 22 in september.

ETA: 2007
4 Stars

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Felix Hernandez Report

Felix Hernandez, RHP, Seattle Mariners
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 2002, Venezuela
Bats R/Throws R
18 YO, 6'3", 170 lbs

I could try to act coy and pretend like I'm not completely sold on the kid, but you'd see through that pretty quickly. So here it is. This kid is a stud. S-T-U-D, STUD. He's 18 years old and he put up a 3.30 ERA with 58 K's and 21 walks in 57 1/3 innings in AA. That's staggering. That happened AFTER he he posted a 2.73 ERA with 114 K's and 26 walks in 92 innings pitched. With those numbers, he'd be one of the best pitching prospects in baseball if he were 4 years older than he is today. I have more numbers for you. Thus far in two pro seasons, he has a 2.72 ERA in 218 1/3 innings with more than a strikeout per inning and a walk a little more than every third inning.

Hernandez has 3 great pitches, a smoking fastball that is among the best in baseball, a sick curve, and change that has come a long way. There really isn't much more you could ask for. The only real things that keep him from being the best prospect in baseball are the standard TINSTAAPP stuff. He's still an 18 year old pitcher, which means he's a bigger injury rick that the elite hitting prospects of the minors like Dallas McPherson and Ian Stewart. In that respect, he'd be better off if he were a few years older since injury rates drop precipitously in the mid 20's. But he doesn't have any significant injuries in his past. His delivery is reported to be smooth and easy, so he isn't a Craig House kind of apparent injury waiting to happen. He's just a gifted young pitcher. When he gets to Seattle, he's an ERA title waiting to happen with a friendly ballpark and a track record of preventing runs by the bushel.

He should start 2005 in the PCL, but if we've learned anything at this point, it is that he should make swiss cheese of that league and make it to the majors by his 20th birthday.

ETA: Late 2005
5 Stars

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Mike Aviles Report

Mike Aviles, SS, Kansas City Royals
Drafted 192nd Overall (7th Rd), 2003 Draft, Concordia College, NY
Bats R/Throws R
23 YO, 5'11", 195 lbs

I have to give a lot of credit to John Sickels. Back when Aviles was drafted, he nailed this kid as a sleeper. Aviles was the NCAA Division II player of the year at Concordia. He's a middle infielder with gap power and some plate discipline. He hit .300/.352/.443 with 39 walks, 57 K's, 40 doubles, 4 triples, and 6 home runs in 463 at bats for Wilmington. He isn't a killer, but he is a decent prospect, and somebody who could easily make it into the majors as a Mark Ellis level SS/2B. Come to think of it, Ellis is a great comparison to make since the skills are very similar.

Defensively, some have questioned whether he's a true shortstop. I'm not ready to make a judgement on that issue.

ETA: 2006
3 Stars

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Vasili Spanos Report

Vasili Spanos, 3B/1B, Oakland Athletics
Drafted 332nd Overall (11th rd), 2003 Draft, Indiana University
Bats R/Throws R
23 YO, 6'1", 230 lbs

He isn't a premium prospect, but he's interesting. Spanos is an organizational soldier in the making, but it looks like he might end up being more than that. Here's the background. Spanos was a star third baseman in college, a star in the Big Ten. He posted yearly OPS's of 992, 1291, and 1216 with absolutely Bondsian lines. This season, he hit .311/.419/.505 for Kane County in 339 at bats with 54 walks in 331 at bats. Kane County was absolutely loaded with this kind of hitter though, as Luke Appert, Brian Snyder, Nick Rogers, Danny Putnam, Brian Ingram, David Castillo, and Trevor Brown all had exceptional walk rates.

Spanos is a hitter. He's no great shakes with the glove, and he's a bit old for the league he was in, but he's in the one organization that is likely to give him real chances to make the major leagues.

ETA: 2006
3 Stars

Monday, November 22, 2004

Chin-Hui Tsao Report

Chin-Hui Tsao, RHP, Colorado Rockies
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 1999, Taiwan
Bats R/Throws R
23 YO, 6'2", 180 lbs

After signing out of Taiwan, he burst upon the scene as a prospect in 2000, when he lit up the Sally League with a 2.73 ERA and 187 strikeouts in 145 innings as a teenager. Then he had Tommy John surgery in 2001, and fought his way back, having a very good 2002 campaign for Tulsa of the Texas League. This season, he had problems with his shoulder that limited his innings and has prompted the Rockies to ponder making him their 450th "closer of the future" in their history. He also made stops in 4 cities along the way. In the Sally League, he posted a 1.80 ERA, 14 K's, 1 BB in 10 IP. In the Texas League, he had a 2.77 ERA, 14 K, 2 BB in 13 IP. The PCL, 8.53 ERA, 14 K, 5 BB, 12 2/3 IP. And finally in the Rockies bullpen, he collected a 3.86 ERA, 11 K, 1 BB in 9 1/3 IP.

When he's healthy he has electric stuff. An exploding slider, a mid 90's fastball, good control, and an advanced approach against hitters. There are two things keeping me from giving him my full endorsement, and they should be glaringly obvious at this point. The first is that he's looking to play half his games at the best hitters park in major league history. It's the place that lives in every pitcher's nightmares. The second is his health. He's already had surgery on his elbow, and problems with a hamstring and his pitching shoulder. One hopes that limiting his innings by moving him to the bullpen would protect him from injury, but if the problem is mechanical instead of standard wear and tear, then it just delays the inevitable. I think he'll be a great reliever when he's healthy, but he's a big injury risk.

ETA: Now
4 Stars

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Shane Komine Report

Shane Komine, RHP, Oakland Athletics
Drafted 278th Overall (9th Rd), 2002 Draft, Nebraska
Bats R/Throws R
24 YO, 5'8", 160 lbs

Short pitchers have it rough. Most scouts never even look at a pitcher if they are under 6 feet tall. Komine also has a history of injury problems, punctuated by the Tommy John surgery that he had this summer. Before going under the knife, he had a mediocre season with a 4.77 ERA, 65 strikeouts, and 28 walks in 94 innings for Midland. He posted much better numbers in 2003 with a 1.82 ERA, 50 K's, and 9 walks in 54 1/3 innings in the Midwest League and a 3.75 ERA, 75 K's, and 30 BB's in 103 1/3 innings in the Texas League.

Pending his recovery, it is hard to say how good a prospect he is. He had a great career at Nebraska, and performed very well as a pro up until this season. Being short and having injury issues usually means a trip to the bullpen by the time a pitcher makes the major leagues. The A's like to break with conventional wisdom, but it wouldn't surprise me to see them make Komine into a reliever. We'll see how he does when he makes it back, probably sometime late in 2005.

ETA: Late 2006
2 1/2 Stars

Joel Guzman Report

Joel Guzman, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
Digned as an Undrafted Free Agent, 2001, Dominican Republic
Bats R/Throws R
19 YO, 6'6", 200 lbs

He went from being a decent prospect who hadn't lived up to a big bonus to being one of the top 10 prospects in the game. After splitting the 2003 season between the Sally League and the Florida State League, and not hitting much in either circuit, he destroyed the FSL with a .307/.349/.550 line. He hit 22 doubles, 8 triples, and 14 home runs with 21 walks and 78 strikeouts in 329 at bats for Vero Beach. Late in the season he moved up to Jacksonville, and continued to hit the snot out of the ball in his first exposure to the high minors. His .280/.325/.522 wasn't quite as impressive as his FSL stats, but he did still smack 23 extra base hits (11 doubles, 3 triples, 9 HR) in 182 at bats as a 19 year old.

I want more plate discipline (as is typical of me) as he is still shy of the 1 walk for every 10 at bats threshold, drawing a combined 34 walks in 511 at bats. I don't think he's ready for primetime until he gets that figure improved. He has immense potential in his bat though, and could probably be an above average major leaguer even with his shaky selectivity at the plate.

Defensively, the conventional wisdom is that he will switch to third base soon since he isn't exactly rangy as a shortstop and is very tall for an middle infielder. He has the bat and the arm to make the transition. At third, he would just add to the considerable amount of premium prospects at the hot corner with McPherson, Marte, Stewart, and potentially Edwin Encarnacion.

ETA: Late 2005
5 Stars

Light Posting

All apologies. Updates will probably be light this week as my home computer is infected with all kinds of nasty bugs right now and is ready to be replaced. I also have vacation time over the holiday and will be out of town friday through sunday. I have a stopgap computer that I can hook up, but it is very, very slow and I'm not entirely sure how much I can get done with it as my primary computer. Hopefully I'll be able to get a new machine in the next couple weeks. As far as I'm concerned, the old Windows 98 machine that I've had for 5 or 6 years now is dead.

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