Saturday, March 19, 2005

George Kottaras Report

George Kottaras, C, San Diego Padres
Drafted 595th Overall (20th Rd), 2002 Draft, Connors State (OK) Junior College
Bats L/Throws R
21 YO, 6'0", 180 lbs

Now this is what a catcher prospect looks like. Kottaras is polished offensively, especially for his age. He has a touch of power and a great approach at the plate. He could improve his defense a touch, but he's not a liability and the Padres like his chances of becoming an above average defender, and there's never been so much as a whisper of him moving to another position...yet.

2004 Ft Wayne: .310/.415/.461, 18 2B, 7 HR, 51 BB, 41 K, 271 AB
mL Career: .292/.393/.466, 26 2B, 14 HR, 70 BB, 77 K, 414 AB

Kottaras is the player Billy Beane wishes Jeremy Brown was, only he's 4 years younger than Brown. He's also one of my favorites, and like Michael Bourn, I'm probably more optimistic than is rationally called for.

It's almost universally a good sign when a player walks more than he strikes out. This is no exception. Any criticism of his performance record thus far is just splitting hairs. Sure, no player who has yet to see HiA is a sure thing, especially when he's a catcher. But I like what I see so far. Projected to the Major Leagues, he'd be one of the 3 or 4 best offensive catchers in the game. Now he just has to avoid injuries and stagnation. As J.R. House has shown us, that's easier said than done.

ETA: 2007/2008
4 Stars

Carlos Ruiz Report

Carlos Ruiz, C, Philadelphia Phillies
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 1998, Panama
Bats R/Throws R
25 YO, 5'10", 185 lbs

A rare Panamanian prospect. Panama is a country into which I'd like to see an enterprizing team(s) invest more time and money. I think they might reap some surprising benefits.

Ruiz is a catcher who suddenly noticed that good things happen when you hit the ball over the fence. They give you more playing time, the fans cheer, and your teammates and coaches like you. Funny how that works...

2004 Reading: .284/.338/.484, 65 2B, 2 3B, 17 HR, 22 BB, 37 K, 8 SB, 4 CS, 349 AB
mL Career: .266/.313/.403, 75 2B, 14 3B, 35 HR, 82 BB, 134 K, 25 SB, 8 CS, 1519 AB

An .822 OPS from a catcher will raise some eyebrows, especially when it comes from a guy who has excellent defensive chops, which Ruiz has. I doubt he puts up those kinds of numbers in the big leagues, and it may have been a career year, but either way, he's put himself on the prospect radar and elevated himself from the ranks of Henry Blanco wannabe's to prospective replacement for Mike Lieberthal, who at 33, is on the tail end of a fine career. A recent comparable player might be Kevin Cash. The upside would be a Jason LaRue-type career.

ETA: Late 2005/Early 2006
2 1/2 Stars

Friday, March 18, 2005

Jeremy Brown Report

Jeremy Brown, C, Oakland Athletics
Drafted 35th Overall, 2002 Draft, Alabama
Bats R/Throws R
25 YO, 5'10", 210 lbs

Possibly the most controversial catcher prospect of the last 10 years for reasons completely beyond his control. The book Moneyball made him infamous as a "fat catcher" who scouts hated and statheads loved. A lot of hyperbole has been thrown his way courtesy of each camp.

2004 Midland: .256/.361/.357, 27 2B, 6 HR, 71 BB, 80 K, 446 AB
mL Career: .273/.391/.404, 52 2B, 21 HR, 166 BB, 172 K, 894 AB

Let's try to be fair and impartial. I tend to lean heavily towards the stats side of the great debate, but I value input from scouting enthusiasts. Both approaches have strengths and weaknesses, just as Brown has strengths and weaknesses.

So where do we stand? Brown can hit for a modest average, play replacement level defense, and draw enough walks to warrant keeping him around. He isn't a future star because he doesn't hit for much power. If he ever finds a power spike, he can probably find himself starting for a season or two with a middle of the pack team looking for some OBP from the bottom of the order. If he doesn't find that power spike (which is the more likely scenario), he'll have a 4 to 8 year run as a decent backup catcher for a major league team. He isn't a wasted pick. He was a compromise for a cash strapped organization. He's flawed, but useful. There are worse things to be. He's also on the A's 40 man roster, which means he could replace Adam Melhuse in 2006 as Jason Kendall's main backup.

ETA: 2006
2 Stars

Yadier Molina Report

Yadier Molina, C, St Louis Cardinals
Drafted 113th Overall (4th Rd), 2000 Draft, HS, Vega Alta, PR
Bats R/Throws R
22 YO, 5'11", 187 lbs

Yet another Molina brother, conforming to the family tradition of carrying a below average bat and a better than average glove.

2004 Memphis: .302/.387/.372, 6 2B, 1 HR, 17 BB, 14 K, 129 AB
2004 St Louis: .267/.329/.356, 6 2B, 2 HR, 13 BB, 20 K, 135 AB
mL Career: .278/.331/.368, 50 2B, 14 HR, 75 BB, 118 K, 1044 AB

Expect more of the same. He probably won't carry that Memphis walk rate or batting average into the Major Leagues, and he's a terrible fantasy property, but if he can duplicate and maybe build just a little bit on that St Louis line in years to come, he'll keep collecting major league paychecks, just like his older brothers. Tony LaRussa and the Cardinals organization, which worshipped Mike Matheney, is sure to love Yadier for what he is, a traditional catcher who bats 8th and plays great defense.

Personally I'm convinced that this kind of player grows on trees, so I'd never sign one to a multi-year contract, and certainly not for anything above a million or two per season.

ETA: Last September
2 1/2 Stars

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Mike Jacobs Report

Mike Jacobs, C, New York Mets
Drafted 1156th Overall (38th Rd), 1999 Draft, Grossmont (CA) Junior College
Bats L/Throws R
24 YO, 6'2", 200 lbs

Another catcher with shoulder problems, Jacobs can hit when he's healthy and while he's nobody's idea of a good defensive catcher, he won't embarrass himself with the glove. He had labrum surgery in 2004, and missed most of the season.

2003 Birmingham: .324/.376/.548, 36 2B, 1 3B, 17 HR, 28 BB, 87 K, 407 AB
2004 Norfolk: .177/.245/.271, 3 2B, 2 HR, 9 BB, 20 K, 96 AB
mL Career: .279/.366/.439, 115 2B, 6 3B, 44 HR, 134 BB, 380 K, 1623 AB

I think he was playing a bit over his head in 2003, when combined with his poor plate discipline, balky shoulder, and mediocre defense before the injury problems brings his grade down quite a bit. Still, he's decent hitter for a catcher, so he could very well have a nice 5 year run as a backup catcher and pinch hitter for somebody. He still has the ability to punish a poorly placed fastball once every couple weeks in backup duty.

ETA: Late 2005/Early 2006
2 Stars

J.R. House Report

Today kicks off catcher weekend here at TYBITF. Today through sunday, I'll be reviewing a number of catcher prospects. Things will return to their normal grab-bag state on monday, with a continuing emphasis on players likely to start the year on a big league roster. When the season starts, I'll focus on a lot of prospects who are out because of injury. That's a pretty large, diverse group so there should be plenty of interesting players to talk about.

J.R. House, C/1B, Free Agent
Drafted 152nd Overall (5th Rd), 1999 Draft, HS, Daytona Beach, FL
Bats R/Throws R
25 YO, 5'10", 200 lbs

House is the most depressing prospect report I've researched since Ryan Anderson. House has fallen a long way from his heights as an elite prospect. Back in 2001, Baseball America ranked him as the 21st best prospect in the sport after he hit .348/.415/.586 in the South Atlantic League at the age of 20. He's had his career ruined by injuries. He's had 2 hernias, Tommy John surgery, and most recently he underwent extensive shoulder surgery where they repaired his labrum, rotator cuff, and shaved down a bone. His career as a catcher is all but over thanks to mediocre defense and these health issues. He's done for 2005. When he returns in 2006, he'll be looking for a new employer as the Pirates released him.

2004 Nashville: .288/.344/.508, 21 2B, 1 3B, 15 HR, 23 BB, 72 K, 309 AB
mL Career: .304/.370/.501, 113 2B, 6 3B, 34 HR, 159 BB, 351 K, 1614 AB

When he does resume his career, it will likely be as a platoon, or backup first baseman who spends plenty of time playing front of crowds in Oklahoma City, Charlotte, New Orleans, Syracuse, Columbus, and Memphis (think Bucky Jacobsen lite). It's one thing when an athlete like Quan Cosby who everybody knows is a risk just doesn't hit. It's another, more disconcerting thing when a player that clearly knows how to play and is very talented, has that talent taken away by health problems.

ETA: 2006?
1 1/2 Stars

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Maicer Izturis Report

Maicer Izturis, IF, Anaheim Angels
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 1998, Venezuela
Bats B/Throws R
24 YO, 5'8", 150 lbs

Izturis part two! Just like the original, only not quite as good with the glove (but still quite good). Both brothers had a breakthrough with the lumber last season and it took me completely by surprise.

2004 Edmonton: .338/.428/.423, 19 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 57 BB, 30 K, 14 SB, 12 CS, 12 GIDP, 376 AB
2004 Montreal: .206/.286/.318, 5 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 10 BB, 20 K, 4 SB, 0 CS, 1 GIDP, 107 AB
mL Career: .298/.374/.394, 46 2B, 11 3B, 6 HR, 105 BB, 81 K, 42 SB, 24 CS, 30 GIDP, 895 AB

He had a massive spike in his walk rate, and if he can maintain it, he's a big assett, and a better player than Christian Guzman, whose aquisition pushed Jim Bowden to give Izturis to the Halos as a throw-in bonus in the offseason Juan Rivera/Jose Guillen trade. At worst, he's better, healthier version of Juan Castro. At best, he's a better version of Ramon Vazquez. And while to some that may be a hair-splitting difference, it is the difference between being a run of the mill utility infieder and being an adequate starting shortstop. For 2005, Izturis gets to be Orlando Cabrera's backup.

ETA: Opening Day
2 1/2 Stars

Boof Bonser Report

Boof Bonser, RHP, Minnesota Twins
Drafted 21st Overall, 2000 Draft, HS, St Petersburg, FL
Bats R/Throws R
23 YO, 6'4", 250 lbs

One of TINSTAAP's latest victims. After he breezed up through the lower minors, Bonser looked like a premium prospect, flashing a mid 90's fastball and a curve that was inconsistant, but promising. He was rated the Giants number 2 prospect in 2002 by Baseball America. That shiny, prospecty glow has worn off though as he's failed to impress in recent years, suffering from poor command, gopheritis, and an expanding waistline.

2004 New Britain: 4.37 ERA, 146 K, 56 BB, 160 H, 22 HR, 154 IP
mL Career: 3.65 ERA, 605 K, 306 BB, 535 H, 59 HR, 639 IP

His velocity has declined to where he works around 90 MPH, which wouldn't hurt him nearly as much if he weren't still a thrower and not a pitcher. He needs to work on his command and his approach.

He did perform much better in the second half, but he needs top coninue that and build on it. If he does, he could be a perfectly acceptable major league starter. If not, he'll be a first round disappointment. A move to the bullpen is still a possibility as one would hope that it would help him reclaim some of his lost velocity.

ETA: 2006
2 1/2 Stars

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Gary Majewski Report

Gary Majewski, RHP, Washington Nationals
Drafted 59th Overall (2nd Rd), 1998 Draft, HS, Houston, TX
Bats R/Throws R
25 YO, 6'2", 200 lbs

Meet a middle reliever for the 2005 Washington Nationals. Majewski moved to the bullpen fulltime in 2002 and he went from a middle of the road starter prospect to a pretty decent bullpen arm. His fastball now touches the mid 90's, though he usually works in the low 90's. And his slider is pretty tough, though I'd like to see it become more consistant.

2004 Edmonton: 4.11 ERA, 17 K, 8 BB, 18 H, 0 HR, 15 IP
2004 Charlotte: 3.19 ERA, 41 K, 16 BB, 30 H, 2 HR, 42 IP
2004 Montreal: 3.86 ERA, 12 K, 5 BB, 28 H, 2 HR, 21 IP
mL Career: 3.89 ERA, 530 K, 259 BB, 509 H, 36 HR, 576 IP

I'd like to see fewer walks, but as a rookie middle reliever, he'll be fairly harmless. He'll probably even help his team. If he catches a break, he might even find himself setting up Chad Cordero. At the risk of repeating myself, collecting pitchers like this is how you build a quality bullpen on the cheap. It's a whole lot cheaper, easier, and less risky than trading for veteran sub-mediocrity like Jason Grimsley or Jose Mesa.

ETA: Opening Day
3 Stars

Monday, March 14, 2005

Joe Mauer Report

Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins
Drafted 1st Overall, 2001 Draft, HS, St Paul, MN
Bats L/Throws R
21 YO, 6'4". 220 lbs

This is the obligatory Joe Mauer column. He's probably the most talked about player in this season's fantasy drafts. The reasons are obvious. He's catcher-eligible (more on that terminology in a minute) and he carries the real potential to drop a .330/.400/.550 season on the league, making him the most valuable player in fantasy baseball. The problem is his knee. An optimist will speculate that it will only EVENTUALLY move him out from behind the plate sometime in the future. The Twins appear to be optimists in this respect. I'm more skeptical. When Will Carroll tells me that they removed his medial meniscus, that makes me think that his career as a catcher is effectively over. You can't catch without your meniscus, and if you try, you'll have a lot of problems, missing a ton of time with soreness, possibly bone spurs.

So where does this leave us? Well, if the Twins insist on staying the course, Mauer seems likely to be overvalued for my taste. He'll miss a couple months at least. If they move him, he might need some time in Rochester to get acclimated depending on exactly where they intend to move him. Obviously, the easiest conversion is first base. But they have Justin Morneau there. At DH, he'd be crowding Lew Ford and Matt LeCroy, both pretty damned good hitters in their own right(s). If they see him as a potential plug at third or second, then that moves Mike Cuddyer one way or the other, but he's unlikely to just hit the ground running at either of those spots. He'd need at least a month or two to learn the basic footwork and fundamentals of the position. An outfielder corner would be a possibility too, but the Twins are already looking at a crowded cast of characters out there.

My advice is that if you're in a one year league, go for the sure thing first. Let somebody else draft the lottery ticket. If you do draft him, make sure you have a competent backup on call in case the kid goes to Rochester or the DL...Ramon Hernandez or John Buck would be good. If you're in a keeper league and he is available, go ahead and draft him. He has the bat to be a top 5 player at just about any position. If/when he misses time, you could stash him on the bench and dream of days to come.

Now let's make this a real prospect review.

2004 Minnesota: .308/.369/.570, 8 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 4 BB, 14 K, 107 AB
mL Career: .332/.407/.426, 62 2B, 5 3B, 9 HR, 132 BB, 107 K, 1055 AB

I think the power spike was real. He has plate discipline, outstanding hand-eye coordination, and a beautiful swing. He's simply a gifted hitter. His swing is crafted for line drives, but he hits them hard enough that a lot of them are going to fly over the fence. Morneau will his for more power, but Mauer will get on base more and be more like your typical #3 lineup anchor. When your worst case scenario is John Olerud, you're doing pretty well. Defensively, the knee injury casts doubt on his ability to stay behind the plate, but he's always been pretty athletic for a catcher, with quick feet, good hands, and a reasonably strong arm. I think third base would be a logical destination.

I like what the Twins are doing. It's hard NOT to like what they're doing. They have 2 easy candidates for stardom in Morneau and Mauer. Jason Kubel will be a big player if he comes back at full strength as well. They have quality draft after quality draft. As long as they keep drafting like they have been, they will continue to win the AL Central arms race. This isn't a story of the Twins beating up on the little sisters in their division. They're legit pennant contenders, and they're only getting better as they replace marginal or average players with stars like Mauer and Morneau. As a Royals fan, I hate to see the Royals division rivals loading up on impact players, but as a small market fan, I love to see a team on a budget putting together a nice run like this.

As always comments are open, and I expect there will be at least a few comments on this subject.

ETA: Last Year
5 Stars

Brian Barden Report

Brian Barden, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks
Drafted 189th Overall (6th Rd), 2002 Draft, Oregon State
Bats R/Throws R
23 YO, 5'11", 195 lbs

He's often cited as a pretty good prospect, but I don't buy it. He's a poor man's Chad Tracy, but is that something that anybody really wants?

2004 El Paso: .303/.335/.462, 10 2B, 6 3B, 3 HR, 10 BB, 48 K, 195 AB
2004 Tucson: .283/.324/.476, 30 2B, 5 3B, 8 HR, 17 BB, 83 K, 332 AB
mL Career: .300/.345/.454, 84 2B, 17 3B, 22 HR, 73 BB, 273 K, 1194 AB

Yes, he's a line drive machine, but his ratios are awful. His isolated slugging percentage isn't impressive, and he's played his entire career in parks that are incredible places to hit a baseball. No thank you. He needs to double his walk rate to even be a competent top of the order hitter. Sure, Tracy's walk rates and ISO were never impressive, but even they were better than what Barden has put up to date. And at this point in Tracy's career, he already had a full season in Tucson where he hit .324/.372/.456. Heck, I'm not even that wild about Tracy. Tracy himself is a below average starter at third or first, or the left handed portion of a platoon at either of those positions. He'd best be implemented as a supersub at 1B, 3B, LF, and RF. Barden is a poor man's right handed version of Tracy. There are worse things to be, but you shouldn't confuse him with a future lineup anchor.

ETA: 2006
2 Stars

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Anthony Gwynn Report

Anthony Gwynn, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Drafted 39th Overall (2nd Rd), 2003 Draft, San Diego State
Bats L/Throws R
22 YO, 6'0", 185 lbs

Gwynn was overdrafted in 2003 based on his .357 batting average as a junior at San Diego State, and of course his bloodlines. He isn't going to turn into his father. He doesn't have the hitting to do so. He is a gifted defensive center fielder and base stealer though, which could be his route to a major league career.

2004 Huntsville: .243/.318/.311, 20 2B, 5 3B, 2 HR, 53 BB, 95 K, 34 SB, 16 CS, 534 AB
mL Career: .255/.333/.316, 28 2B, 5 3B, 3 HR, 85 BB, 126 K, 48 SB, 18 CS, 770 AB

He has little or no power, and while he draws walks, he doesn't make enough good contact to give himself a decent OBP. He looks like a perfect candidate to be a 5th outfielder in the Major Leagues, but unless he has an unexpected breakout season with the bat, his upside looks like Coco Crisp lite.

ETA: 2007
1 1/2 Stars

Stefan Bailie Report

Stefan Bailie, 1B, Boston Red Sox
Drafted 123rd Overall (4th Rd), 2001 Draft, Washington State
Bats R/Throws R
24 YO, 6'0", 215 lbs

Bailie is a mediocre prospect who had a big breakthrough in 2004. Part of that was probably him shaking the injury bug. Part of it was real development.

2004 Sarasota: .306/.383/.568, 23 2B, 11 HR, 20 BB, 40 K, 222 AB
2004 Portland: .309/.364/.590, 15 2B, 8 HR, 10 BB, 34 K, 139 AB
mL Career: .276/.332/.448, 65 2B, 27 HR, 69 BB, 204 K, 906 AB

I don't like that plate discipline much at all, and I'm pretty sure that the Red Sox brass isn't wild about it either. The fact that he was successful when he jumped from HiA to AA is nice, but he was even old for that level at the time, so I'm suspicious of his long term prognosis. The isolates slugging percentage is pretty sweet though, and the Florida State League is still a big drag on hitting statistics. For now, we will wait and see what happens in 2005. Even if he does keep putting up numbers, he still is in a system that isn't likely to give him many chances since the Red Sox are not lacking options on the weak side of the defensive spectrum.

ETA: mid 2006
2 1/2 Stars

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