Saturday, December 04, 2004

Michael Johnson Report

Michael Johnson, 1B, San Diego Padres
Drafted 54th Overall (2nd Rd), 2002 Draft, Clemson
Bats L/Throws R
24 YO, 6'3", 215 lbs

His pro career has been pretty anticlimactic when compared to his stellar college years, where he beat the hell out of pitchers far and wide and was a teammate of current Padre shortstop, Khalil Greene. He signed as a rare 5th year senior draft and follow, which explains how this was only his second season as a pro and first full season.

He hit .254/.353/.471 with 23 doubles, 15 home runs, 52 walks, and 106 K's in 331 California League at bats. That was enough for his prospect status to maintain a pulse, but he needs to pick up the pace if he's likely to ever be a regular on the major league level.

ETA: Late 2006
2 Stars

Scott Olsen Report

Scott Olsen, LHP, Florida Marlins
Drafted 173rd Overall (6th Rd), 2002 Draft, HS, Crystal Lake, IL
Bats L/Throws L
20 YO, 6'4", 170 lbs

Here's more proof that you don't need to hand out 7 figure bonuses to get a good pitching prospect. Like a lot of pitching prospects, Olsen's bread and butter is his fastball, which gets up into the mid-90's. He recorded a 2.97 ERA with 158 K's and 53 BB in 136 1/3 innings for Jupiter. The Fish are taking the right approach with him, slowly promoting him up the chain. He's preventing runs and striking a lot of batters out, but he needs polish. He needs to iron out his delivery to tighten that control. This is all pretty standard for 20 year old pitchers though. Anytime a kid strikes out more than a batter per inning in HiA ball before he's legally able to buy a drink for his teammates, it is pretty impressive. If he keeps striking hitters out at this pace, and doesn't see a spike in his home runs allowed while cutting his walk rate in half, he'll be a top 10 prospect on the fast track to the majors. Here's to hoping that he stays out of Dr. James Andrews' operating room.

ETA: 2007
4 Stars

Friday, December 03, 2004

Merkin Valdez Report

Merkin Valdez, RHP, San Francisco Giants
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 1999, Dominican Republic
Bats R/Throws R
23 YO, 6'5", 208 lbs

Valdez has a really nice fastball and he knows how to use it, but he needs some time to catch up to the level he's pitching at. The Giants started him in the California League, and promoted him three times during the season, including a callup to Pac Bell Park. Here are the numbers that he put up during the season.

San Jose, Cal League, HiA- 2.52 ERA, 44 K, 5 BB, 35.2 IP
Norwich, Eastern League, AA- 4.32 ERA, 31 K, 15 BB, 41.2 IP
Fresno, PCL, AAA- 7.20 ERA, 5K, 4 BB, 5 IP
San Francisco, NL- 27.00 ERA, 2 K, 3 BB, 1.2 IP

He needs some time to consolidate his gains. He needs a half season in the Eastern League or the PCL to catch his breath. It makes it very hard to evaluate a player when he's bouncing around so much. He has a solid track record and two great pitches (he has a very nice slider as well). As long as he's healthy, he's brilliant prospect.

One last note about Valdez. He's one of the players that gets hurt by how I report ages. The ages I post for players are the ages as of the day I post the article. Some publications will report age as how old the player is on opening day of the current season. Since this is a year-round feature, I figured that reporting age as of the day of posting would be the most appropriate policy. However, for players like Valdez, it distorts their records a bit. Valdez was born in November of 1981. He was 22 years old when he put up all the stats above. That year makes a lot of difference when talking about prospects.

ETA: Late 2005
4 1/2 Stars

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Matt Peterson Report

Matt Peterson, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Drafted 65th Overall (2nd Rd), 2000 Draft, HS, Alexandria, LA
Bats R/Throws R
22 YO, 6'5", 210 lbs

I'm going to have fun watching the Indianapolis Indians pitching staff next season. It is almost certain that they'll have 2 or 3 really interesting prospects in the rotation at all times. Peterson will probably among that group. He was acquired in the Kris Benson deal, so sadly he's probably going to be left out of any extracurricular activities with Anna Benson, but don't weep for Matt. He's still a pretty decent prospect, and a tall, handsome 22 year old baseball player. He's probably not hurting for attention from the ladies.

Swerving back the topic on hand (in this case, let's NOT steer into the skid,) Peterson has some things going for him. He has a nice curveball and a low 90's fastball, resulting in quite a few strikeouts. He posted a healthy 3.27 ERA with 90 K's in 104 2/3 innings pitched for Binghampton. After the trade, he struggled, putting up a 6.25 ERA with 29 K's in 36 innings, but also giving up 22 walks for Altoona. He allowed a combined 67 walks in 140 2/3 innings, which is a lot higher than you'd like to see. I think the combined numbers are more indicative of his skill level than the small sample from Altoona. If he doesn't clean up the control, he'll be a poor man's Matt Clement. If he does clean it up, then he's a possible frontline starter who would be a great compliment to Oliver Perez in the Pirate rotation.

ETA: Late 2005/Early 2006
4 Stars

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Free Agent Rankings/Jays Buy Skydome

There are 2 things that I want to talk about today. The first is that the Benitez deal is evidently official. And as promised, I've looked up the 2005 draft ramifications from the deal.

Benitez is ranked higher than Vizquel (the highest FA to sign thus far as a matter of fact), which means that the Marlins get the Giants first round pick and the Indians pick slides to the second round.

Here are the draft changes thus far. I'll keep this updated throughout the winter.

First Round: 22nd overall pick goes from SF to Florida for Benitez

Compensatory First Round: 31st overall pick goes to Florida for Benitez
32nd pick goes to Colorado for Vinny Castilla
33rd pick goes to Oakland for Damian Miller
34th pick goes to Cleveland for Omar Vizquel
35th pick goes to Baltimore for Wade Townsend

Second Round: 39th Overall pick goes from Washington to Colorado for Vinny Castilla
40th pick goes from Milwaukee to Oakland for Damian Miller
51st pick goes from San Francisco to Cleveland for Omar Vizquel

Third Round: 69th Overall pick goes from Washington to Minnesota for Christian Guzman

Miller and Castilla are all Type A free agents and would have resulted in first round picks changing hands, but the first 15 picks in the draft are protected, so the team gets a second round pick instead.

Thanks go out to our friends over at the Indians Compendium, who had the foresight to post links to the Elias NL and AL free agent rankings. I'll toss those up the next time I revise my links section.

The other thing that should be discussed is the fact that Blue Jays recently purchased the Skydome from Sportsco International for $25 million dollars, US. This is really interesting because while MLB has spent the last few decades trying to get local municipalities to build taxpayer funded stadiums for teams, owning your own stadium is really a solid business decision since the team has complete control of that revenue stream instead of being beholden to a third party. The Blue Jays had a bad lease that siphoned off revenue from the team. This improves their revenue base, and greatly increases the team's value. Should the current owners sell the team, they should get a lot more than what they would have before the deal.

The reasons why MLB are discouraging teams from paying for their own stadiums is pretty easy to see. Teams like the Astros and Mariners have sweetheart leases, where they hold almost all the cards, control almost all the revenue streams, and pay almost nothing for the use of the stadium. You just can't beat that. The one team that has recently built a stadium of its own, the Giants, do have the advantages of controlling the revenue streams, but also carry around a mortgage where they'll be writing annual 8 figure checks for the next quarter century. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free. It isn't admirable, and I wish the practice would stop because these teams ARE wealthy enough to pay their own way into a stadium. But cities will continue to hand out generous subsidies to these private businesses because that is the cost of having a major pro sports team in your city. I hope beyond hope that owners grow the backbone to put their own fortunes on the line for the greater good, but I'm pretty skeptical that this will ever be the case.

Jason Dubois Report

Jason Dubois, 1B/OF, Chicago Cubs
Drafted 403rd Overall (14th Rd), 2000 Draft, Virginia Commonwealth
Bats R/Throws R
25 YO, 6'5", 225 lbs

As opposed to his teammate in Iowa, Dubois has always done serious damage with his bat, and should be a major league starter next season, probably in the Friendly Confines. In the PCL, he hit .316/.389/.630 with 26 doubles, 31 homers, 41 walks, and 97 K's in 386 at bats. He's a great low cost alternative to Moises Alou and another darkhorse Rookie of the Year candidate.

ETA: Now
3 1/2 Stars

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

General Transaction Thoughts

There have been a number of recent transactions that deserve some attention.

The A's are at the heart of the action. First, the Brewers signed Damian Miller to a 2 year contract at $3.75 million for two years, then a mutual option for 2007 worth either 3.75 or 2.25 depending on whether the Brewers exercise their part of it or not. I'm not sure how wise this is when you're talking about a 35 year old catcher. Miller is underrated offensively and defensively. The guy's a good player, but I just don't like giving out that much cash to a guy with that many miles on his knees. I'd rather see if the Reds are ready to give away Jason LaRue on the cheap, or maybe take a chance on trying to aquire a Kevin Cash and a rule 5 underdog like Corey Myers. It isn't like the Brewers are likely to compete for anything more meaningful than 3rd place in the NL Central while Miller is under contract. If the Brew Crew is ever going to make the playoffs, it will be on the backs of players like Prince Fielder, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, and Ben Hendrickson. Finding a catcher for that group of players rather than the mediocre Geoff Jenkins, Kieth Ginter, Scott Podsednik core would be a worthwhite use of organizational resources. I would have liked to have seen Milwaukee let a notionally competitive team overpay for Miller's services. Of course the other big determinations of how soon the Brewers are relevant again depends on factors like how much of their 2004 performances are retained by Ben Sheets and Lyle Overbay, what they actually DO with Overbay when Fielder makes it to the major leagues, and how Dave Kryznel and JJ Hardy develop.

The other side of this is that the A's again get extra early picks. They get a sandwich pick, and Milwaukee's second rounder (they're 5th in the order, so it is a nice second rounder). So here's the running tally of 2005 draft compensation,. If anybody has an addittion, just let me know through comments.

The Rockies get a pick in the sandwich round and the "Nats" second rounder for Vinny Castilla's ill-advised contract

The Indians get the Giants first rounder (22nd overall) and a sandwich pick for Visquel

The Orioles get a sandwich pick for not signing Wade Townsend

Oakland gets a sandwich pick and the Brewers' second round pick for Damian Miller

The Twins get the Washington's 3rd round pick for Christian Guzman.

In related news, the A's filled their hole at catcher by trading Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes to the Pirates for Jason Kendall and cash. The net savings for the Pirates (and conversely the net committment from the A's) is reported to be 15 million dollars. This is interesting on the part of the A's because it locks up their catcher position for 3 years, and is a very large financial committment for them. Kendall has become a very typical Oakland player late in his career, as his on-base abilities have really blossomed, while his defense has developed as well. For as much press as the A's get for their offensive philosophies, they're building a very competant defensive squad with Mark Kotsay, Nick Swisher/Eric Byrnes (on an outfield corner presumably), Bobby Crosby, Mark Ellis, Kendall, Scott Hatteburg, and gold glove third baseman Eric Chavez forming one of the best defensive teams in baseball.

From teh A's perspective, I like getting Kendall, but I wish it would have cost less money. Still, 15 million over 3 years is 5 million per, which would be a damned fair yearly wage for a good defensive catcher who carries an OBP of almost .400.

For the Pirates, the deal is a no-brainer. They dumped a millstone of a contract for a couple of smaller, more manageable albatrosses. Redman should be shoppable as long as they're willing to eat part of his contract, and Rhodes is a potential asset in the bullpen, though an overpaid and now fragile one. They save money in the deal. They also have the opportunity to do something brave, like see if Craig Wilson can still catch parttime or see if JR House will ever amount to anything.

Lastly, it looks like the Giants may sign Armando Benitez to a three year deal at 7 mil per. That's a really steep price to pay, with another high draft pick coming as compensation from the Giants, and a very high salary for a reliever. I honestly haven't yet looked up which of the two Giant signings are ranked higher, so I don't know whether the Indians would get the Giants first rounder with the Fish getting San Fran's second round pick, or vice versa. I'll research that when/if the signing is made final.

Chris Nelson Report

Chris Nelson, SS, Colorado Rockies
Drafted 9th Overall, 2004 Draft, HS, Decatur, GA
Bats R/Throws R
18 YO, 6'1", 185 lbs

He's a typical tools draft pick with almost universal praise for his defense and athleticism, and the only thing you generally heard about him at the plate was that his swing projected to provide gap power and a good batting average. Well, the good news is that he hit well in the Pioneer League after hitting over .500 as a high school senior. His line for Casper was a healthy .347/.432/.510 in 147 at bats. He also has a head start on most of his age group with 20 walks. Add that to his defense, and you have the makings of a pretty good shortstop.

The bad news is that he's still 5 levels away from the major leagues and it makes it almost impossible to write this profile in stone or give him too many stars. He'll start next season in the Sally League.

ETA: 2007
2 1/2 Stars

Monday, November 29, 2004

Steve Sharpe Report

Steve Sharpe, RHP, Oakland Athletics
Drafted 337th Overall (11th Rd), 2004 Draft, Central Missouri State
Bats R/Throws R
23 YO, 6'1", 205 lbs

This profile is by request and it took some work to get real information on him. Sharpe was a reliever as a freshman for Iowa, and then a starter as a sophomore before he hurt his back and transferred to Central Missouri State. There he had a great 2004 season with a 2.89 ERA, 103 strikeouts, and 32 walks in 96 2/3 innings pitched for the Division II champions. After being drafted, he was sent to Vancouver of the Northwest League, where he posted a 4.60 ERA, 53 K's, and 30 BB's in 72 1/3 innings pitched. Those are pretty unremarkable numbers for a 23 year old in a short season league. The sample size is small though. And I'm liable to cut him some slack since the reports on his stuff are good (hard slider, low 90's fastball) and he is coming from a division 2 school in the midwest. Still, he needs to get moving or he'll be an organizational soldier really soon.

ETA: Too early to tell
1 1/2 Stars

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