Saturday, February 12, 2005

Jeff Mathis Report

Jeff Mathis, C, Anaheim Angels
Drafted 33rd Overall, 2001 Draft, HS, Marianna, FL
Bats R/Throws R
21 YO, 6'2", 180 lbs

Mathis went into the season as the second best catching prospect in baseball, only trailing everybody's All-American, Joe Mauer. He didn't do anything to tarnish that in the first half of 2004. However, he slumped all through the second half of the season.

2004 Arkansas (TL): .223/.308/.392, 24 2B, 14 HR, 49 BB, 100 K, 426 AB
Career: .279/.348/.444, 111 2B, 12 3B, 37 HR, 149 BB, 282 K, 1490 AB

Just as we shouldn't overreact to a poor prospect turning in a great season, we shouldn't overreact when a premium prospect lays an egg. He needs to regroup and come back swinging in 2005. I like his chances of doing so. He's still the catcher of the future for Anaheim.

His defense is average. His bat will carry his career, but he's not a liability.

ETA: 2006
3 1/2 Stars

James Houser Report

James Houser, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Drafted 38th Overall (2nd Rd), 2003 Draft, HS, Sarasota, FL
Bats L/Throws L
20 YO, 6'5", 185 lbs

Houser is the classic projection pick. He's a skinny kid, who already has a mid 90's fastball, a 12-6 curve and a changeup, all of which are out pitches. He has above average command, especially considering his youth. What he doesn't have is health. He was preemptively shut down by the Rays brass after experiencing elbow pain. He had a heart murmur in high school.

2004 Charleston (Sally): 2.20 ERA, 27 K, 13 BB, 27 H, 1 HR, 33 IP
Career: 3.73 era, 71 K, 26 BB, 70 H, 2 HR, 74 IP

His stuff and his stats are great. I don't see any real warning signs in his line. There's not a lot of certainty at this point in his career, especially with his health question marks. However, he's a long way away from the show, and we have a lot of time to keep him on the wait and see list. If I were the Rays, I'd feel pretty good about getting him in the second round last year.

ETA: 2007
2 1/2 Stars

Friday, February 11, 2005

Jake Gautreau Report

Jake Gautreau, 2B/3B, Cleveland Indians
drafted 14th Overall, 2001 Draft, Tulane
Bats L/Throws R
25 YO, 6'0", 185 lbs

As was reported by the Compendium, Gautreau was acquired by the Indians for fellow failed first round pick, Corey Smith. The trade is pretty simple. Both had grown stale, and had lost favor in their organization. They both needed to move on.

Gautreau was drafted as a third baseman with hopes of becoming a second baseman in the Jeff Kent mold. Things haven't worked out that way. He's had a lot of health problems, all non-baseball related. He looks to finally be getting his hitting stroke back in order.

2004, Mobile (SL): .259/.351/.462, 13 2B, 10 HR, 31 BB, 52 K, 212 AB
2004, Portland (PCL): .274/.333/.500, 9 2B, 9 HR, 14 BB, 37 K, 168 AB
Career: .269/.346/.442, 85 2B, 49 HR, 159 BB, 353 K, 1367 AB

He started his pro career as a second baseman, but was always struggling defensively. He was a college third baseman, and played there exclusively in 2004. He still isn't particularly gifted defensively, and will likely struggle with the glove no matter where he lands. The best role for him may end up being a utility infielder/pinch hitter. He'll serve as insurance for Aaron Boone and Ron Belliard in 2005. It may be worth his while to pick up an outfielder's glove and add some versatility. I'm a firm believer in the value of a super-utility player who can spend time at a number of positions and allows the manager to give time off to a variety of players, liberally pinch hit exploiting late inning matchups, and basically fill in wherever it is necessary. Gautreau has the kind of bat that would excel in such a role.

ETA: Mid-2005
2 1/2 Stars

Prince Fielder Report

Prince Fielder, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers
Drafted 7th Overall, 2002 Draft, HS, Melbourne, FL
Bats L/Throws R
20 YO, 6'0", 240 lbs

You know all of those scouts who ooh and aah over bloodlines and family histories? This is what they're looking for. Fielder is the spitting image of his father. He's a big, stocky power hitter who can smash a ball so far that no corner of the parking is safe from a broken windshield. But of course if you're interested enough in prospects that you're reading this blog, you certainly know all of this already.

Unlike his father, Fielder is a well rounded hitter. He can take the ball the other way. He draws plenty of walks. He makes good contact. He has no real glaring weaknesses that pitchers can exploit. He spent all year in Huntsville and posted the following line:

2004: .272/.366/.473, 29 2B, 23 HR, 65 BB, 93 K, 497 AB
Career: .299/.401/.510, 70 2B, 63 HR, 183 BB, 227 K, 1257 AB

He was playing well ahead of his age group, so I'm not worried about the slight dip in his numbers. He more than held his own in the high minors at a very young age, and for that he remains one of the top prospects in all of baseball.

His lone weakness is more of a potential weakness than a current weakness. He HAS to manage his weight carefully, maintaining a strict fitness regimen of diet and exercise. If he doesn't maintain his weight, he could easily become a severe defensive liability at first base. He really doesn't have the option of moving to an outfield corner because of his girth. He's alright at first base right now, but he's not going to win any awards.

One thing that you probably didn't notice was that Fielder attempted 18 steals this season. Why? I have no idea. I'd prefer to see him not attempt any basepath antics from here on out. Very few things are more embarrassing than watching a player who looks like an offensive lineman lumber into a waiting defender, ball in glove. Stick to what you do well, and in Fielder's case, that's hitting the snot out of the ball.

ETA: Late 2005
4 1/2 Stars

Scott Moore Report

Scott Moore, 3B, Chicago Cubs
Drafted 8th Overall, 2002 Draft, HS, Cypress, CA
Bats L/Throws R
21 YO, 6'2", 180 lbs

Moore was one of three players the Cubs acquired from the Tigers for Kyle Farnsworth this week. He was seen as a premium hitter coming out of high school, but he's been a massive, 2.3 million dollar disaster.

2004 Lakeland (FSL): .223/.322/.384, 13 2B, 4 3B, 14 HR, 49 BB, 125 K, 391 AB
Career: .240/.327/.386, 35 2B, 12 3B, 24 HR, 100 BB, 266 K, 896 AB

The numbers speak for themselves. He doesn't make good contact. He doesn't drive the ball. He just isn't a good professional hitter. The only area where he shows some encouraging signs is in his walk rate, where was above average this season. He's also playing in a pretty advanced league for his age (he turned 21 in November), and the FSL, Midwest, and Gulf Coast leagues are all hard on hitters. Still, he has to improve dramatically in order to have any hopes of making it into the Major Leagues.

Defensively, Moore has made some progress. His transition from high school shortstop to minor league third baseman has been rough. He's only now getting the errors under control. He might still have to move to an outfield corner, where his bat would be even more exposed, but for now his throwing and reactions have improved to the point where team officials and scouts aren't ready to throw in that towel.

ETA: 2007? 2008? Depends on whether he makes progress or not.
1 1/2 Stars

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Yeah!

What Adam said...

I'm happy to have friends who say what I'm thinking more eloquently than what I'm capable of.

Elsewhere, Jeff Sullivan wraps up his analysis of the free agent market.

Mark Teahen Report

Mark Teahen, 3B, Kansas City Royals
Drafted 39th Overall, 2002 Draft, St. Mary's College
Bats L/Throws R
23 YO, 6'3", 210 lbs

Teahen is the chosen one at third base for the Royals. He's also been a controversial prospect ever since being one of Oakland's 7 infamous first round picks in the 2002 "Moneyball" draft class. Right now, you can classify them this way. Joe Blanton and Nick Swisher look like solid Major League regulars. Jeremy Brown looks like a future backup catcher. Steve Obenchain is a low ceiling swing starter in the making. Ben Fritz and John McCurdy are busts. And the jury is still out on Teahen.

Teahen made 3 stops on the season, and put up the following lines.

Midland (AA): .335/.419/.543, 15 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR, 29 BB, 44 K, 197 AB
Sacramento (AAA): .275/.383/.391, 8 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 11 BB, 22 K, 69 AB
Omaha (AAA): .280/.344/.447, 15 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 21 BB, 69 K, 246 AB
Career: .287/.368/.411, 79 2B, 11 3B, 18 HR, 153 BB, 310 K, 1256 AB

He looks to me to be a young version of the guy he's replacing. Aaron Boone is another comparable player, though Boone never had the kind of plate discipline that Teahen has shown thus far. For Teahen, the biggest place where he can improve is in the power department. He smacks line drives all over the place, but he doesn't get a lot of loft from his swing.

Defensively, he's already really good, a fringe gold glove candidate in fact. He has a good arm, quick feet, steady hands and great reflexes.

My guess is that he starts the season back in Omaha, but the Royals bring him up before the all star break.

ETA: Mid-season
3 1/2 Stars

Tom Oldham Report

Tom Oldham, LHP, Seattle Mariners
Drafted 236th Overall (8th Rd), 2003 Draft, Creighton
Bats L/Throws L
22 YO, 6'2", 208 lbs

According to Jeff Sullivan, Oldham is a finesse lefty speeding headlong into the AA wall. From the looks of it, he may be right on that assessment. He has a high 80's fastball and a curve that's only useful for keeping hitters from sitting on "heater". The average stuff is backed up only by control, and not just any control. This is the kind of control that would be the envy of pushy, demanding, high-maintenance girlfriends the world over. He's walked 59 batters in 222 career minor league innings. Here are his lines.

2004: Wisconsin: 2.93 ERA, 132 K, 30 BB, 108 H, 15 HR, 117 IP
2004: Inland Empire: 3.21 ERA, 56 K, 6 BB, 47 H, 5 HR, 42 IP
Career: 2.96 ERA, 251 K, 59 B, 203 H, 22 HR, 222 IP

One out of every couple hundred of these guys turns into Jamie Moyer, but even then you're talking about a pitcher who toes a very thin line between frustrating hitters with his command, and inducing whiplash in his fielders from all the balls flying very quickly over their heads into the stands. Oldham hasn't even faced advanced hitters and he's already giving up more home runs than you'd like to see. The minute he stops striking batters out at a torrid pace, it will be a bloodbath.

ETA: 2008
2 Stars

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Chris Gruler Report

Chris Gruler, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Drafted 3rd Overall, 2002 Draft, HS, Brentwood, CA
Bats R/Throws R
21 YO, 6'3", 210 lbs

Gruler is still on the way back after shoulder surgery in April of 2003. He was the third pick in the 2002 draft on the strength of a fastball that touched the mid 90's and deadly curveball. He only managed 28 innings this season, most of them in the Gulf Coast League. He still has a long way to go and the odds of re-injury are not encouraging. Shoulder surgeries are bad, bad news. If he can recover fully, he could easily get back onto the prospect charts. Baseball America reported that the Reds liked what they saw from Gruler in instructional league work last fall. We'll have to wait and see if that's just PR smoke or if he's really looking good.

ETA: There's no telling
1 1/2 Stars

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Quan Cosby Report

Quan Cosby, OF, Anaheim Angels
Drafted 179th Overall (6th Rd), 2001 Draft, HS, Mart, TX
Bats B/Throws R
22 YO, 5'10", 180 lbs

Cosby has retired from baseball in order to join Mack Brown and his Longhorns as a wide receiver. He was a star kick returner, quarterback, and defensive back in high school, as well as being a state champion in track. So this isn't the usual report in which we talk about what may or may not happen in the future. This is a kind of obituary to a prospect who never made it. You won't find a star rating or an ETA.

What happened to Cosby? He never really could hit. He never learned how to really be a baseball player. He's a spectacular athlete, but ultimately he was a pretty marginal baseball player. His numbers:

2005: .249/.305/.352, 8 2B, 12 3B, 5 HR, 35 BB, 82 K, 24 SB, 10 CS, 454 AB

Career: .260/.326/.321, 25 2B, 18 3B, 5 HR, 125 BB, 263 K, 71 SB, 30 CS, 1263 AB

He was looking at a third year in the Midwest League. Instead of facing that, Cosby decided to try his hand at the game he's probably best suited for. He joins a list that includes recent washouts Drew Henson, Roscoe Crosby, and Chad Hutchinson. It was probably a good decision.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Sean Smith Report

Sean Smith, RHP, Cleveland Indians
Drafted 487th Overall (16th Rd), 2001 draft, Sacramento CC
Bats R/Throws R
21 YO, 6'4", 180 lbs

Smith was a coveted draft and follow for the Indians, signed in 2002 to a $1.1 million bonus after he impressed scouts with his JuCo performance. Since then he's risen slowly through the Indians system, ending 2004 in the Carolina League, shut down with a forearm injury. He spent most of the season repeating his 2003 performance in the Sally League, with a 3.39 ERA, 48 strikeouts, 28 walks, and 50 hits in 61 innings. For his career, he stands with a 3.73 ERA, 186 strikeouts, 111 walks, 193 hits, and 22 home runs allowed in 225 innings. He's hard to get good contact on, witnessed by his hits allowed and strikeouts. And his control is improving, though he still has a ways to go.

I'm told by friend who watched him a couple times at Lake County that he worked mostly in the low 90's with a couple of decent secondary pitches. that meshes with what his pre-draft scouting report said, so he hasn't seen a big development curve. He could be in for a nice career if he can throw more strikes, but that's a road where he has plenty of company. As I've mentioned in the Ambriorix Burgos, Dave Aardsma, and Joel Zumaya reports, control problems are among my biggest pet peeves in pitching prospects. Improvement in that area is so unpredictable. Some pitchers, like Randy Johnson, correct a small mechanical flaw, and they become dominant (or at least become Matt Clement). The majority of them barely make a dent in their weaknesses or break down physically before they can make the adjustments. Some just live with spotty control, like Kerry Wood.

ETA: 2008
2 1/2 Stars

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Wilmer Villatoro Report

Wilmer Villatoro, RHP, San Diego Padres
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 2000, El Salvador
Bats R/Throws R
21 YO, 6'0", 150 lbs

If he makes it to the Major Leagues, Villatoro will be the first big league player ever to come from El Salvador. He's a skinny kid with a big fastball, getting his smoke up into the low to mid 90's, and following it up with a pretty nice slider. In 2004, he served as the setup man for Lake Elsinore, where he recorded a 2.83 ERA, 67 K's, 35 walks, 50 hits, and 4 home runs allowed. On his career, he has a 3.91 ERA with 253 K's, 105 walks, and 173 hits in 214 innings.

He's awfully hard to hit, as witnessed by the abnormally low number of hits against him and very high strikeout rate. He could really benefit from a bit of improvement to his control. He walks more batters than I would like. It hasn't tripped him up at all yet, like it has for various other pitchers. We'll see if that holds up in the high minors in 2005.

ETA: Early 2006
3 Stars

Tim Bausher Report

Tim Bausher, RHP, Boston Red Sox
Drafted 819th Overall (27th Rd), 2001 Draft, Kutztown University
Bats R/Throws R
25 YO, 6'4", 203 lbs

Bausher is one of the most meandering prospect stories you'll ever hear. He was drafted out of a small Pennsylvania college by the Mariners. Shortly after beginning his pro career, he injured his shoulder and had surgery. The M's released him, and he missed all of 2002. In 2003, he started the season in the independent Northeast League, where he caught the eyes of the Brewers who signed him to a minor league contract. He pitched well for Beloit and then continued right where he left off in the Arizona Fall League, prompting the Brew Crew to add him to the 40 man roster. Then he started out this season for the Brewers in AA Huntsville, where he posted a 3.67 ERA with 54 strikeouts, 19 walks, 53 hits, and 7 home runs allowed in 49 innings. Then he was outrighted by the Brewers and claimed off waivers by the Rockies, who put him in the rotation of AA Tulsa, where he posted a 4.20 ERA, 84 strikeouts, 21 walks, 84 hits, and 12 home runs allowed in 81 innings. The Rockies outrighted him in December, and the Red Sox claimed him and has since removed him from their 40 man roster and signed him to a minor league contract.

The word on his stuff is that he has a mid 90's fastball that has flirted with the high 90's at times along with a sharp, biting slider. He allows a few more home runs than you'd like as he gave up 19 of them in his 130 innings this season. Otherwise, the statistical indicators look above average, with his K rate staying high, and his walk and hit rate staying low. It looks to me like he'd be a decent reliever. I'm a bit surprised that he's bounced around as much as he has. We'll see if Theo Epstein lets him unpack his bags before sending him off to his next destination.

ETA: late 2005
2 1/2 Stars

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