Saturday, April 02, 2005

No Posting this Weekend

Sorry. No prospect reports or analysis. I have a fantasy draft in the Louisville area tomorrow and due to a very budy week at work, I don't have the typical backlog of prospect reports ready to post through the weekend.

I'll be back on monday with prospects and more.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Calvin Pickering /Ken Harvey Postmortem

As a Royals fan, and as a long time Calvin Pickering advocate, I was overjoyed to hear that he was given a spot on the Royals opening day roster. It's been well covered by friend of TYBITF Kevin Agee, but given my own history with the issue, I feel like I need to give it my own spin. So without further ado, here's a report. I know I'm traveling pretty far afield with the concept of a prospect report since neither player meets the true definition of the term prospect. But as with John Buck, Alexis Rios, and Tim Redding, bear with me.

Calvin Pickering, 1B/DH, Kansas City Royals
Drafted 976th Overall (35th Rd), 1995 Draft, HS, Tampa, FL
Bats L/Throws L
28 YO, 6'5", 295 lbs

Big Cal is huge, lefty slugger who reached the majors with a cup of coffee days before his 23rd birthday. Even while they were promoting him, the O's had serious concerns about his weight and defense, which prompted them to send him back to Rochester in 1999 and in 2000 before eventually getting frustrated with him and placing him on waivers and sending him to Cincinnati. He had injury problems in 2001 and 2002 before emerging in the Mexican League, where as usual he crushed fastballs and hanging curves. This caught the attention of Allard Baird, who signed him up to be Omaha's first baseman in 2004.

2004 Omaha: .314/.451/.712, 12 2B, 35 HR, 70 BB, 85 K, 299 AB
2004 Kansas City: .246/.338/.500, 8 2B, 7 HR, 18 BB, 42 K, 122 AB
mL Career: .303/.407/.558, 128 2B, 138 HR, 367 BB, 617 K, 2162 AB

All hail the master of the three true outcomes! In that Omaha sample, he has 190 HR+BB+K, almost 65% of his at bats. In KC, that figure went down to a mere 55%. He really only does 3 things, walk, strikeout, and hit home runs. Anything else is for those little guys. A lot of people have a big problem with this kind of player because of the strikeouts. I think that's pretty shortsighted. You don't want to try a hit and run with him at the plate, but why would you want to use smallball techniques with a power hitter anyways? If there's anybody who can drive a runner in from third, wouldn't it be this guy?

His defense is about what you'd expect from a guy with a long injury history and an extreme lack of speed. With the glove, his upside is Frank Thomas. On offense, you always hear things like "Poor man's David Ortiz" or the obligatory Ken Phelps reference. All of these have some merit. BP's PECOTA forecasts a flattering .272/.400/.543. The Royals would be overjoyed with that result, as would I.

4 Stars

Ken Harvey, 1B, Kansas City Royals
Drafted 151st Overall (5th Rd), 1999 Draft, Nebraska
Bats R/Throws R
27 YO, 6'2", 240 lbs

Harvey started hitting as soon as he signed his first pro contract and was in Kansas City 2 years after he was selected in the 1999 draft. He lit up the Arizona Fall League and forced his way into the 1B/DH picture alongside Mike Sweeney.

The problem is that for a guy this big, he doesn't hit for much power. He also doesn't draw as many walks as somebody like me is likely to demand. Lastly, he has a history of struggling against right handed pitching.

2004 Kansas City: .287/.338/.421, 20 2B, 13 HR, 28 BB, 89 K, 456 AB
mL Career: .328/.384/.510, 86 2B, 47 HR, 110 BB, 227 K, 1307 AB
ML Career: .276/.324/.413, 51 2B, 26 HR, 57 BB, 187 K, 953 AB

You can see the problem pretty easily. Much of his value is tied up in batting average. When that drops down a bit, he becomes a poor asset as a first baseman.

Harvey definitely has his uses. He's good defensively at first base. And he kills left handed pitching. Seems like a Harvey/Pickering platoon would be an almost ideal solution. However, if only given 1 roster spot, the Royals made the right choice.

3 Stars

So here's where we stand. Harvey is with Omaha while Pickering is penciled in as the Royals DH. Should Harvey paste PCL pitching while Pickering slumps, they may switch places. If Pickering hits the ground running, you may not hear much of Harvey from here on out.

Ramon Nivar Report

Ramon Nivar, 2B/OF, Baltimore Orioles
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 1998, Dominican Republic
Bats R/Throws R
25 YO, 5'10", 170 lbs

The Orioles traded away Jerry Hairston in the Sammy Sosa deal, but they may have found a player who can play the same kind of role when they acquired Nivar from the Rangers for Matt Riley, who they had finally had enough of.

Nivar is similar in that he's a second baseman who was thrown into the outfield. He's different because he's actually seen as a future utility player right away whereas Hairston was seen as a potential starter and only started playing the outfield when Brian Roberts outplayed him and took the job.

2004 Oklahoma: .264/.290/.374, 21 2B, 10 HR, 14 BB, 43 K, 15 SB, 14 CS, 462 AB
2004 Texas: .222/.211/.222, 0 2B, 0 HR, 0 BB, 7 K, 1 SB, 1 CS, 18 AB
mL Career: .293/.332/.397, 129 2B, 18 3B, 33 HR, 123 BB, 260 K, 120 SB, 2545 AB

His plate discipline is erratic at best, cratering in 2004. He has a little pop, but not nearly enough to counteract the way that his walk rate would cause him to be an absolute anchor tied to the team's OBP. He's a burner, but he gets caught stealing almost as often as he is successful. And while he's good defensively, he's neither the flycatcher in center that you'd expect him to be, or the rangy second baseman that you'd imagine. To put it generally, he's a talented athlete who still has a lot to learn about playing baseball. He's Alex Sanchez with the ability to play second base. If he can catch on just a little bit with the plate discipline and get better reads on the pitcher when he's on the basepaths, he can be a useful utility player. If he doesn't develop those skills, he'll remain a career minor leaguer who gets an occasional callup when things get desperate.

ETA: Late 2005
2 Stars

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Gabe Gross Report

Gabe Gross, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
Drafted 15th Overall, 2001 Draft, Auburn
Bats L/Throws R
25 YO, 6'3", 210 lbs

Gross is thumping Grapefruit League pitching and forcing his way past Frank Catalanatto and Reed Johnson in the quest to be the Jays starting left fielder. It's a nice development. I don't believe the power spike is anything more than a sample size fluke, but at this point he doesn't have anything left to prove in the Syracuse. He also has more of a future than Cat or Johnson, so it would be wise of them to give Gross 500 at bats at the expense of the veterans.

2004 Syracuse: .294/.381/.454, 29 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 53 BB, 81 K, 377 AB
2004 Toronto: .209/.311/.310, 4 2B, 3 HR, 19 BB, 31 K, 129 AB
mL Career: .279/.381/.444, 95 2B, 14 3B, 38 HR, 221 BB, 302 K, 1439 AB

He's 25, he has over 1400 minor league at bats under his belt. He has some on base skills. He isn't going to hit a ton of home runs, but he's at least a league average left fielder on a team that has used a platoon at the position for the last couple years. He's already better than both of these guys, and he's only going to improve over the next few years.

He's limited on the basepaths and in the field. He's no threat to steal bases, as he has below average speed and unipressive instincts when it comes to chosing his opportunities. In his minor league career, he's taken only 20 bases by theft, and he's been caught 13 times, meaning he probably shouldn't even try unless the catcher has two broken arms and is under the influence of several halucinogenic drugs. In the field, he won't embarrass himself or his team, but his range is limited and his arm is average at best. These two weaknesses are mitigated by the Jays themselves. he won't be expected to steal bases since the Jays play pretty close to the vest in the running game. He also looks to be sharing the outfield with the rangy pair of Vernon Wells and Alexis Rios.

Gross is a good example of what a friend of mine used to call the Sid Bream test. He used to say that if Sid Bream is your 4th outfielder, you're probably looking at a pretty damned good team. However, if Sid Bream is your best outfielder, you're in deep shit. In reality, most teams will just sit him in left for 150 games a year and toss him in at the 6 or 7 spot in the lineup.

ETA: Early 2005
3 1/2 Stars

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Redding/Quintero Trade Analysis and Player Reports

This is a nice little low risk, moderate reward kind of deal. The Astros are really thin at catcher after trading John Buck to the Royals in the Beltran deal. They're still shackling themselves to Brad Ausmus, much to the relief of their division rivals. Meanwhile, the Padres have the very serviceable Ramon Hernandez.

Quintero is more prospecty of the two, so we'll tackle him first.

Humberto Quintero, C, Houston Astros
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 1997, Venezuela
Bats R/Throws R
25 YO, 5'10", 200 lbs

Quintero is a backup catcher straight out of central casting. He's outstanding defensively with great footwork, outstanding hands, good technique, and a howitzer for an arm. He's also a below average bat with the ability to put the ball in play, but rarely hit it with any authority.

2004 Portland: .317/.348/.471, 25 2B, 5 HR, 8 BB, 18 K, 259 AB
2004 San Diego: .250/.295/.375, 3 2B, 2 HR, 5 BB, 16 K, 72 AB
mL Career: .268/.314/.342, 96 2B, 8 3B, 10 HR, 88 BB, 218 K, 1927 AB

He's hit pretty well in the PCL the last couple years, but he still demonstrated very little power and absolutely no ability to draw a walk. At the plate, the vast majority of his value is in batting average, so if he doesn't hit .280, he's a crippling liability to the lineup. Still, the Astros are used to carrying around an offensive millstone at catcher, so they're not likely to really know what they're missing.

In a way, Quintero is to Ausmus as Yadier Molina is to Mike Matheney. Quintero has the same strengths and weaknesses as his veteran counterpart. He's likely to have a similar career, being a baserunner's worst nightmare while posing little threat to opposing pitchers.

ETA: Early 2005
2 1/2 Stars

Tim Redding, RHP, San Diego Padres
Drafted 610th Overall (20th Rd), 1997, Monroe Community College
Bats R/Throws R
27 YO, 6'0", 200 lbs

For analysis purposes, we'll treat Redding like a prospect and do a full report. It's been a long, long time since Redding broke out in 2000.

2004 New Orleans: 6.04 ERA, 26 K, 12 BB, 30 H, 2 HR, 28 IP
2004 Houston: 5.72 ERA, 56 K, 43 BB, 125 H, 15 HR, 100 IP
mL Career: 3.79 ERA, 665 K, 274 BB, 420 H, 8 HR, 554 IP
MLB Career: 4.75 ERA, 290 K, 167 BB, 444 H, 52 HR, 405 IP

He still throws a low 90's fastball with a couple of breaking pitches, and can be very effective when he's on. However, he hasn't been on his game very often of late and he needed a change of scenery in the worst way. His command is completely shot. He isn't missing bats like he once did. And when batters get a hold of one, it goes over the fence pretty regularly.

One thing I don't tend to have the advantage of is conclusive sample sizes. That certainly isn't the case here, with almost 1000 professional innings. Some of those numbers stand out. In particular, there's the difference in home run rates between the minors and with Houston. That's misleading though since Redding has spent an inordinate amount of time in New Orleans, as well as the Florida State League while his time in the big leagues has been exclusively with Houston, who everybody knows plays in a park with cozy dimensions.

Everything about Redding's numbers has shown a steep decline. The last good year he had was his 2003 campaign in Houston, where he posted a strong ERA, but pedestrian peripherals. His walk rate was better than in any other, but his strikeout rate was an anemic 5.93 per 9 innings.

For now, I'm going to come to the conclusion that Redding is a live arm and little else. I don't know if the problems he's experienced are a result of an injury or a mechanical flaw. I also don't know if the Padres will be able to figure it out. If they do, they could end up with a nice pitcher. It's worth a shot when all you're giving up is an all-leather, no-lumber catcher.

2 Stars

Matt Diaz Report

Matt Diaz, OF, Kansas City Royals
Drafted 505th Overall (17th Rd), 1999 Draft, Florida State
Bats R/Throws R
27 YO, 6'1", 206 lbs

Diaz is a hitter, plain and simple. He's not young, and he's not going to be a star, but he's another example of the Royals taking free talent where they can find it, just like with Cal Pickering and Jamie Cerda.

2004 Durham: .332/.377/.571, 47 2B, 5 3B, 21 HR, 26 BB, 96 K, 13 HBP, 15 SB, 4 CS, 503 AB
2004 Tampa: .190/.292/.476, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 1 BB, 6 K, 2 HBP, 21 AB
mL Career: .309/.357/.475, 190 2B, 16 3B, 68 HR, 136 BB, 407 K, 80 SB, 30 CS, 2556 AB

So let's recount what he can do. He can make contact, drive the ball for extra bases, he leans in and takes one for the team more than most, and he even has some speed to his game, though a dozen or two stolen bases really aren't going to make much of a difference to a team's won/loss record. What it seems like he can't do is post an acceptable walk rate.

As a Royals fan, he really reminds me of Mark Quinn in his style and abilities (and limitations). Baseball Prospectus projects a .281/.331/.458 line through their PECOTA projection system, which sounds pretty reasonable. It also isn't too far off Quinn's .294/.342/.484 line in 2000, which earned him a second place in the AL Rookie of the Year race. It would also be a huge upgrade from what the Royals got out of RF last season. As long as he doesn't have the self-destructive habits of the Mighty Quinn, Diaz should stick around longer as well.

Oh yeah, Diaz is also a decent right fielder. He's nothing special out there, but's no butcher.

All in all Diaz is decent player who, like some of the other late bloomers we've reviewed, will be a competent everyday player or a good bench bat. Because he's breaking in late, he's unlikely to have a long career. But he cost the Royals nothing to acquire, and he's not holding back any elite prospects. Standard operating procedure is to pick them up, give them a chance, hope that they make something of themselves, and flip them for something you need before they get expensive. It's a plan that worked great for the Mariners with Ken Phelps. Even if they fail miserably, you didn't spend millions of dollars on them, and SOMEBODY has to play in Omaha.

Diaz did not play well in spring training and was sent to Omaha's camp this weekend. Emil Brown seems to have won a job, but his performance history tells us that he probably will not live up to the expectations his smoking hot spring has generated. If Diaz continues to pound AAA pitchers, he could find himself with that chance, even if he didn't win the job in spring training.

ETA: Opening Day
3 Stars

Monday, March 28, 2005

Jae-Kuk Ryu Report

Jae-Kuk Ryu, RHP, Chicago Cubs
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 2001, South Korea
Bats R/Throws R
22 YO, 6'3", 210 lbs

The sworn enemy of ospreys everywhere spent 2004 as a reliever. He still has good stuff. Unfortunately he's picked up some back and elbow problems along the way, and he's still likely a walking, talking example of premise that you don't have to be smart to be a decent baseball player. He primarily works with a low 90's fastball, but he also mixes in some good breaking stuff and a promising changeup.

2004 Boise: 2.57 ERA, 7 K, 5 BB, 7 H, 7 IP
2004 West Tenn: 2.95 ERA, 19 K, 10 BB, 22 H, 18 IP
mL Career: 3.55 ERA, 247 K, 109 BB, 249 H, 9 HR, 263 IP

His elbow problems limited to tendonitis, and there was no reported structural damage or anything that required surgery. It kept him out of action for most of the season, and probably was the root cause of his control issues, which were never a big problem earlier in his career. If he gets healthy and doesn't do anything monumentally stupid (like killing any more protected species), he has a chance to be very good reliever, or possibly return to being a good starting pitcher. He has the arsenal of a mid-rotation starter, or a very polished reliever. However, he has to actually stay healthy and not demonstrate a complete lack of common sense. He'll be back with the Diamond Jaxx to start the season.

ETA: 2007
2 1/2 Stars

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Eude Brito Report

Eude Brito, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 1998, Dominican Republic
Bats L/Throws L
26 YO, 5'11", 160 lbs

I love the name, I love the radar gun readings, I don't love the control. Brito is a lefty with a mid 90's heater and a decent breaking ball.

2004 Reading: 4.42 ERA, 84 K, 41 BB, 95 H, 10 HR, 98 IP
mL Career: 3.78 ERA, 310 K, 143 BB, 345 H, 27 HR, 374 IP

He's on the Phillies 40 man roster, but he'll start the season in Wilkes-Barre, trying to harness his stuff. He could be deadly if he just could improve his control a little bit. When you're a lefty with that much gas, you don't have to be Zach Greinke to be effective, you just have to get it reasonably close.

I'm fairly pessimistic about his chances since he is closing in on his late 20's. It's always a possibility that a pitcher of any age will change a grip on a pitch, learn a new pitch, or make a mechanical tweak that ends up completely changing his career. That likelihood goes progressively down as that pitcher gets older. If Brito doesn't clean up his command, then he has a career as a standard issue AAA reliever ahead of him. If he does clean up the control, he could be a pretty good major leaguer not confined to the drudgery of life as a LOOGY.

ETA: 2006
2 1/2 Stars

Yhency Brazoban Report

Yhency Brazoban, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 1997, Dominican Republic
Bats R/Throws R
24 YO, 6'1", 170 lbs

Brazoban is Jesse Crain with a more interesting backstory. While Crain is a polished college reliever who has followed the exact career path that the Twins laid out for him when he was drafted, Brazoban was signed as an outfielder, moved to the mound after 4 1/2 subpar seasons with the bat, and then exploded on the scene from out of nowhere to become one of the better young relievers in baseball after being included in the Kevin Brown/Jeff Weaver trade as a throw-in.

Like Crain, he has a booming mid 90's fastball and a good slider. Like Crain, he's pegged as the setup man for a lights-out closer in 2004 with designs on replacing him when he gets really expensive. If you're in a league that counts holds as a category, and I'm in one that does, both would be a wise investment in this year's draft.

2004 Jacksonville: 2.65 ERA, 61 K, 22 BB, 38 H, 4 HR, 51 IP
2004 Las Vegas: 2.19 ERA, 17 K, 1 BB, 14 H, 1 HR, 12 IP
2004 Los Angeles: 2.48 ERA, 27 K, 15 BB, 25 H, 2 HR, 33 IP
mL Career: 3.92 ERA, 147 K, 54 BB, 120 H, 10 HR, 129 IP

Where Crain and Brazoban diverge is with control. Brazoban's walk rate is a bit higher than I like, though his strikeout and hit rates make up for it and keep him well within the bounds of what anybody would regard as effective. As with Crain, as long as he stays healthy and nothing weird happens, he should be a name that you hear a lot of in the next 10 years. If the Dodgers ever feel like cutting costs, they could push Gagne out the door and still have a very capable closer. Of course that would force them to look for another 7th/8th inning fireman, but this is why you employ a general manager.

ETA: Opening Day
4 Stars

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