Saturday, March 12, 2005

Kameron Loe Report

Kameron Loe, RHP, Texas Rangers
Drafted 592nd Overall (20th Rd), 2002 Draft, Cal State Northridge
Bats R/Throws R
23 YO, 6'8", 220 lbs

You don't see too many 6'8" finesse pitchers, but Loe is one of them. His fastball only gets into the upper 80's. He compliments his "fastball" with a changeup and a curve.

2004 Frisco: 3.27 ERA, 91 K, 27 BB, 117 H, 5 HR, 104 IP
2004 Oklahoma: 3.27 ERA, 42 K, 13 BB, 52 H, 6 HR, 52 IP
2004 Texas: 5.40 ERA, 3 K, 6 BB, 6 H, 0 HR, 6 IP
mL Career: 2.85 ERA, 313 K, 82 BB, 337 H, 18 HR, 350 IP

Despite what Adam Morris reports as an inability to pick an arm slot and go with it (he has used 3/4 and overhand interchangably), he's maintained good control, never giving up too many free passes. We've seen a few pitchers who have frequently changed arm angles to throw hitters off. Orlando Hernandez comes to mind. I don't recommend the technique though. Keeping consistant mechanics is hard enough as it is.

With his control, deception, and his above average off-speed offerings, he could have a big breakthrough if he could manage to milk a few more MPH out of the heater, making it a real "out" pitch. For now, he looks like a future swing starter or 4th/5th starter.

ETA: Mid/Late 2005
3 1/2 Stars

Eric Crozier Report

Eric Crozier, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays
Drafted 1234th Overall (41st Rd), 2000 Draft, Norfolk State U.
Bats L/Throws L
26 YO, 6'4", 200 lbs

Crozier is what the Jays got from the Indians for crushing disappointment Josh Phelps last season. He's now in the mix for at bats at first base and designated hitter in 2005. I wouldn't be surprised if he out-hits both Shae Hillenbrand and Eric Hinske this season and steals a job.

2004 Buffalo: .297/.375/.571, 21 2B, 20 HR, 36 BB, 67 K, 296 AB
2004 Syracuse: .277/.393/.394, 8 2B, 1 HR, 16 BB, 27 K, 94 AB
2004 Toronto: .150/.282/.394, 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 BB, 19 K, 38 AB
mL Career: .286/.381/.484, 63 2B, 6 3B, 50 HR, 166 BB, 293 K, 1137 AB

An easy way to define Crozier would be big, late-blooming power hitter. He's old for a prospect, but anybody who can put up a AAA line like that stands a pretty good chance of being at least league average as a major leaguer. Don't expect any all star appearances, but he might get a couple years where he provides 300 at bats of decent production for the major league minimum. I wouldn't have him on your fantasy baseball draft lists, but at least store the name in the back of your head for future reference.

ETA: 2005
3 Stars

Friday, March 11, 2005

Wil Ledezma Report

Wil Ledezma, LHP, Detroit Tigers
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, Venezuela
Bats L/Throws L
24 YO, 6'4", 210 lbs

His stint on the legendary 2003 Tigers as a Rule 5 pick stashes in the back of the bullpen exhausted his prospect status, but he's still an interesting young player looking to break into the big leagues. Hey, it's my blog, I can bend the rules when I feel like it.

2004 Erie: 2.42 ERA, 98 K, 24 BB, 95 H, 8 HR, 111 IP
2004 Detroit: 4.39 ERA, 29 K, 18 BB, 55 H, 3 HR, 53 IP
mL Career: 3.37 ERA, 251 K, 88 BB, 224 H, 13 HR, 249 IP
MLB Career: 5.24 ERA, 78 K, 53 BB, 154 H, 15 HR, 137 IP

He generated a lot of buzz while he was making the Eastern League his own private playground. He's reportedly added a pretty effective changeup to his arsenal, which already had an above average, low 90's fastball and a decent slider. Obviously his command is a hell of a lot better than it was in 2003, when he was routinely hammered by Major League hitters.

His name is being floated around as a sleeper candidate. I think he might need a consolidation year before he really breaks out. Also, the Johan Santana is very overstated. For now, I'd be happy seeing him become a decent 4th starter this season and a #2/3 after that. He's slotted in as the Tigers 5th starter. They'd do well to use him in the pen on weeks where they only need 4 starters. Giving him regular work whether it is in the rotation or out of the pen should be a high priority, as well as keeping his pitch count down in those appearances. I like him a lot, but there's a lot of hyperbole and hype surrounding his development.

ETA: Opening Day
4 Stars

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Justin Huber Report

Justin Huber, 1B, Kansas City Royals
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 2000, Australia
Bats R/Throws R
22 YO, 6'2", 190 lbs

I don't know how managed to pull it off, but somehow Allard Baird managed to grab Huber while throwing only third base Rule 5'er Jose Bautista into the Kris Benson deal at the trade deadline last season. In his last game as Mets property, he tore the meniscus in his left knee, which probably puts an end to his career as a catcher. That was coming anyway though. He's a damned good hitter and lousy catcher. That's a path well traveled though, as Mike Sweeney, Eric Munson, Craig Wilson, Ryan Garko, and Matt LeCroy can give us a hint at what kind of company he's in.

2004 Binghamton: .271/.414/.487, 16 2B, 11 HR, 46 BB, 57 K, 12 HBP, 236 AB
2004 Norfolk: .312/.421/.438, 2 2B, 0 HR, 3 BB, 3 K, 16 AB
mL Career: .271/.364/.466, 83 2B, 5 3B, 49 HR, 163 BB, 301 K, 58 HBP, 1280 AB

Huber pretty much doubled his walk rate in 2005, which is a good sign. I expect that we'll see a small power spike in the next couple of seasons. He's a solid hitter whose bat is good enough that it will translate well to either a corner outfield spot or as is expected, to 1B/DH.

Expect Huber to develop into a kind of Mike Sweeney for the next generation of Royal fans, mediocre defense and all. He'll pound a mess of doubles, some home runs, and draw some walks. He'll be a cornerstone of the next good Royals team as long as management doesn't screw it up by sending him to Billy Beane before he becomes arbitration eligible. He'll likely spend the first part of the season learning how to play first base and possibly left field while KC tries to figure out its 1B/DH/LF/RF situation. The correct answer in my opinion probably involves sending Ken Harvey to Baltimore or Queens.

ETA: Mid/Late 2005
4 Stars

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Alejandro Machado Report

Alejandro Machado, IF, Boston Red Sox
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 1998, Venezuela
Bats B/Throws R
22 YO, 6'0", 175 lbs

Machado is a future utility infielder with an interesting skill set. He's a waterbug who has good plate discipline and makes very good contact, but he has no power whatsoever. He's a capable glove at second or short with good instincts, a decent arm, and a lot of speed and quickness.

2004 Brevard County: .355/.424/.446, 10 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 22 BB, 27 K, 11 SB, 6 CS, 186 AB
2004 Harrisburg: .280/.353/.363, 5 2B, 4 3B, 4 HR, 41 BB, 39 K, 19 SB, 9 CS, 346 AB
mL Career: .291/.370/.353, 69 2B, 18 3B, 9 HR, 256 BB, 301 K, 154 SB, 46 CS, 2156 AB

I'll be watching closely to see if he gets the bat knocked out of his hands in the International League this season. Guys with good plate discipline, good contact, but no power sometimes stop hitting when more advanced pitchers just dare them to hit the ball.

Machado's back story is interesting in how busy it's been the last few years. He's been a part of four trades already. After being signed by the Braves, he was part of the Rey Sanchez deadline deal in 2001, sending him to KC. Then he was part of the Wes Obermueler/Curt Leskanic deal that sent him to Milwaukee in 2003. Then last year he was sent to Washington. Then in February, he was acquired by the Red Sox in exchange for cash or a PTBNL. I'm personally surprised that the Expos would throw around middle infield talent that freely, especially when Christian Guzman's health record is so spotty (not to mention his performance record, but let's leave that debate for another time and another place).

ETA: Early 2006
3 1/2 Stars

Luke Scott Report

Luke Scott, OF, Houston Astros
Drafted 277th Overall (9th Rd), 2001 Draft, Oklahoma State
Bats L/Throws R
27 YO, 6'0", 210 lbs

Scott is a late bloomer who will be around in case Jason Lane lays an egg early in the season.

2004 Salem: .278/.376/.469, 20 2B, 8 HR, 41 BB, 58 K, 241 AB
2004 Round Rock: .298/.401/.654, 17 2B, 19 HR, 33 BB, 43 K, 208 AB
mL Career: .273/.358/.510, 84 2B, 62 HR, 149 AB, 305 K, 1207 AB

The future is now for Scott. He's at his peak, and if he can impress the Astros enough to make the team as a bench player, he can easily hit his way into a short, but effective Major League career, even starting for a few years once Biggio and Bagwell decide to call it quits or leave town. He's limited to left field and he doesn't have real star potential, but you could say the same things about Lane.

Scott is what he is. He'll get on base, hit for some power, and play mediocre defense. He won't however carry a team or draw a lot of attention. As fourth outfielders go, I'd rather pay the minimum for his skill set than millions for Juan Encarnacion.

ETA: 2005
3 Stars

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Jason Hirsh Report

Jason Hirsh, RHP, Houston Astros
Drafted 59th Overall (2nd Rd), 2003 Draft, California Lutheran University
Bats R/Throws R
23 YO, 6'8", 250 lbs

Huge kid, raw pitcher. He has a nice mid 90's fastball, but everything else is a work in progress. His secondary stuff still has a long way to go to where it might be described as medium-rare.

2004 Salem: 4.01 ERA, 96 K, 57 BB, 128 H, 8 HR, 130 IP

That walk rate is an eyesore. He needs a lot of mechanical work. College pitchers like this are really risky when you take them high in the draft. Even if they start to click after 2 or 3 years of tinkering, you're still left with a pitching prospect entering his mid 20's. I don't like drafting raw players with anything higher than a 5th round pick, whether that player is a high schooler or a college kid. Sure, the upside is tempting when you're looking at a kid who can crank it up to 95 or 96 with very little training. But all too often they turn into Colt Griffin instead of Randy Johnson.

ETA: 2008
2 Stars

Mike Restovich Report

Mike Restovich, OF, Minnesota Twins
Drafted 2nd Rd, 1997 Draft, Rochester, MN
Bats R/Throws R
26 YO, 6'4", 250 lbs

Restovich's prospect status is coming to an end. After years of teasing us with power potential and flashes of three true outcome stardom, he's become a poor man's Joe Borchard and he's probably out of options. He's now old for a prospect and he's spent the last 3 seasons trying to plug the holes in his long swing.

2004 Rochester: .249/.291/.453, 20 2B, 3 3B, 20 HR, 24 BB, 103 K, 422 AB
2004 Minnesota: .255/.364/.447, 3 2B, 2 HR, 4 BB, 10 K, 47 AB
mL Career: .285/.364/.492, 201 2B, 34 3B, 128 HR, 371 BB, 766 K, 71 SB, 20 CS, 3150 AB
MLB Career: .274/.364/.442, 6 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 15 BB, 26 K, 1 SB, 0 CS, 113 AB

Restovich still has the ability to send a hanging curve or a fat fastball into orbit, but his swing is still long and he still strikes out too much to really make him a real asset as a corner outfielder. For some reason in 2004, his walk rate, which was acceptable, completely collapsed, taking him out of the Russ Branyan class of "well, at least he still draws a walk here and there."

The speed that used to be prevalent in his game has disappeared for the most part as well. I could possibly see a future as a platoon leftymasher on somebody's bench, but otherwise, Restovich looks like a buzzkill of a AAA regular. The Twins minor league system has produced a lot of success stories over the last half decade. Restovich is probably the most disheartening failure to date though. He's still a favorite local kid inside of the organization though. And he's back in Fort Myers trying to win a future with his hometown team. With as many good corner outfielders and designated hitters as the Twinkies have, it's going to be an uphill battle. If he does happen to make it as a bench player or as a platoon partner with Jacque Jones (who badly needs a platoon partner,) expect him to give at least a handful of SportsCenter highlights as he takes some lefty junk and breaks a vacant chair high in the Metrodome's upper decks.

ETA: 2005
2 1/2 Stars

Chris Snyder/Koyie Hill Report

Chris Snyder, C, Arizona Diamondbacks
Drafted 68th Overall (2nd Rd), 2002 Draft, Houston
Bats R/Throws R
24 YO, 6'3", 220 lbs

Koyie Hill, C, Arizona Diamondbacks
Drafted 117th Overall (4th Rd), 2000 Draft, Wichita State
Bats B/Throws R
26 YO, 6'0", 190 lbs

I'm reviewing both of the Snakes catcher prospects at once because they really are in a knock-down, drag-out, winner takes all fight for a job.

Snyder
2004 El Paso: .301/.389/.520, 31 2B, 15 HR, 46 BB, 57 K, 346 AB
2004 Arizona: .240/.327/.458, 6 2B, 5 HR, 13 BB, 25 K, 96 AB
mL Career: .276/.327/.448, 77 2B, 2 3B, 30 HR, 125 BB, 183 K, 996 AB

Hill
2004 Las Vegas: .286/.339/.471, 26 2B, 13 HR, 28 BB, 69 K, 350 AB
2004 Arizona: .250/.289/.391, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 BB, 6 K, 36 AB
mL Career: .284/.348/.398, 109 2B, 4 3B, 37 HR, 199 BB, 344 K, 1980 AB

Here's the deal. Snyder is a power hitting, low average, mid-range catcher. There's been a lot of discussion of his defense, but it's really a situation where he's not going to win any awards anytime soon, but he's not going to be a liability.

Hill is a guy who will draw some walks, hit for a decent average (though not anything in the .300+ range) and he's great defensively. However, I don't think he's going to hit for much power.

They're both reasonable choices as a major league catcher. Hill seems like a low risk, low rewards guy who will be a steady veteran for half a decade before going on the Damian Miller/Chad Moehler world tour, bouncing from team to team for the rest of his career. Snyder carries a higher risk since if he doesn't hit for power, he's not going to be of much use. However, he has the higher upside. If he can win himself a job, he might end up being a .265/.335/.465 hitter at catcher, which would be pretty damned valuable. I know that fantasy baseball owners aren't going to like the idea, but a platoon might be the best arrangement. Their skill sets work well together.

Snyder
ETA: Opening Day
3 1/2 Stars

Hill
ETA: Opening Day
3 Stars

Monday, March 07, 2005

Joe Blanton Report

Joe Blanton, RHP, Oakland Athletics
Drafted 24th Overall, 2002 Draft, Kentucky
Bats R/Throws R
24 YO, 6'2", 220 lbs

After slicing and dicing Midwest League and Texas League hitters, I thought his 3 pitch arsenal was a route to stardom. Now I'm not sure. Funny things happen in the development of a pitcher. They're pretty unpredictable. For right now, Blanton looks like a mid-rotation workhorse.

2004 Sacramento: 4.19 ERA, 143 K, 34 BB, 199 H, 13 HR, 176 IP
2004 Oakland: .562 ERA, 6 K, 2 BB, 6 H, 1 HR, 8 IP
mL Career: 3.33 ERA, 338 K, 68 BB, 349 H, 21 HR, 365 IP

Blanton is a virtual lock for the A's rotation with Zito, Harden, Dan Meyer and Dan Haren. That rotation will be better than most mainstream analysts and fans expect. They'll be helped by a good defense and an improving bullpen.

Blanton is one of the A's more impressive player development successes. Zito, Mulder, and Hudson spent a relatively small amount of time in the minor leagues and really only needed some tinkering and some polish. Blanton needed more instruction and more mechanical work. He's the point where his command and his stuff are MUCH better than they were when he was drafted.

Blanton's control is excellent. He isn't going to hurt himself with walks. He needs to miss more bats than he did in 2004 though. He has the stuff to accomplish that goal. With a low to mid 90's fastball with some sink in it, a nice slider, and a curve, his stats should be better than they were last year.

ETA: Opening Day
4 Stars

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Anthony Webster Report

Anthony Webster, OF, Texas Rangers
Drafted 463rd Overall (15th Rd), 2001 Draft, HS, Parsons, TN
Bats L/Throws R
21 YO, 6'0", 190 lbs

Webster is a speed guy who looks like he's slowly figuring it out. He has speed to spare and the scouts seem to think that he can add power in the future and become a 5 tool player.

2004 Stockton: .287/.363/.439, 20 2B, 7 3B, 8 HR, 39 BB, 69 K, 20 SB, 4 CS, 380 AB
mL Career: .302/.367/.406, 61 2B, 18 3B, 12 HR, 117 BB, 206 K, 78 SB, 31 CS, 1286 AB

Even in a down season, you can find progress. He was very effective on the basepaths. His walk rate cleared the break-even 10AB:1BB for the first time since he was a 19 year old in the Appalachian League. The rate stats aren't as good as they seem since he was playing in the California League. Adam Morris thinks that this is his make or break year, where he either becomes a big prospect or becomes organizational depth. That seems reasonable, but I think he may have 1 or 2 more years before that door gets totally closed.

Personally, I don't see a big power spike happening any time soon, but if Webster can work on getting on base and slapping line drives into the outfield, he could become a pretty valuable top of the order hitter. At worst he's a potential 5th outfielder. At best he's a poor man's (really, really poor to be exact) Carlos Beltran. I wish there were 3 just like him because I think there's a 1 in 3 chance that he breaks out and becomes a real challenge to Laynce Nix's job security.

ETA: 2006
3 Stars

Dustin McGowan Report

Dustin McGowan, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Drafted 33rd Overall, 2000 Draft, HS, Ludowici, GA
Bats R/Throws R
22 YO, 6'3", 220 lbs

Between elbow injuries, he has smoking stuff, the likes of which keep hitters up at night. A mid 90's fastball, great curve and slider, and a good change. He can mix those 4 offerings well, and when he's been healthy, he's had good control.

2004 New Hampshire: 4.06 ERA, 29 K, 15 BB, 24 H, 4 HR, 31 IP
Career: 3.82 ERA, 429 K, 192 BB, 390 H, 19 HR, 424 IP

McGowan had Tommy John surgery early in the year after posting these numbers. He had a sore elbow and was obviously struggling with his command. Reports are that he's throwing in Spring Training already and looks pretty good.

With McGowan and Brandon League, the Jays have 2 very high ceiling young pitchers. McGowan's arm problems are an issue. If surgery has cleared those problems up, he might be a good candidate to find himself in the Toronto rotation on opening day next season. The Jays need him in order to fend off the Orioles in the race for third in the east.

ETA: Late 2005/Early 2006
3 Stars (with significant upside)

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