Saturday, April 16, 2005

Val Majewski Report

Val Majewski, OF, Baltimore Orioles
Drafted 76th Overall (3rd Rd), 2002 Draft, Rutgers
Bats R/Throws R
21 YO, 6'1", 180 lbs

Majewski is a promising prospect who is out for most or all of 2005 after shoulder surgery. Doctors fixed both his rotator cuff and his labrum. When he's healthy, he's a multi-talented offensive performer and a steady glove in right field, or in other words, the player the Orioles thought Keith Reed would be.

2004 Bowie: .307/.359/.490, 24 2B, 5 3B, 15 HR, 33 BB, 68 K, 14 SB, 4 CS, 433 AB
mL Career: .300/.358/.504, 66 2B, 20 3B, 29 HR, 84 BB, 128 K, 33 SB, 9 CS, 946 AB

The walk rate could use some work, but I'm not pessimistic about it because by all reports, he's reasonably selective at the plate, and just particularly good at making contact. His strikeout rate speaks to that. He has a touch of speed and some developing power.

The shoulder problems are something to be worried about. His biggest strength on defense was his strong arm. I also worry about whether his swing will be affected. If he comes back and shows that he wasn't permanently affected, then I'd definitely be optimistic about his chances. His ceiling looks a lot like Magglio Ordonez. That's a really sunny projection though.

ETA: Late 2006
3 1/2 Stars

Aaron Heilman Report

Aaron Heilman, RHP, New York Mets
Drafted 18th Overall, 2001 Draft, Notre Dame
Bats R/Throws R
26 YO, 6'5", 220 lbs

Heilman's one hit shutout of the Marlins last night will no doubt catch the eye of casual fans and roto owners alike as he had been all but forgotten since he burst onto the scene as a promising young prospect, making it up to AAA Norfolk in his first full pro season. He looked great last night, striking out 7 in the effort.

He generally works with a low 90's sinker and a nice splitter. When he's at his best, he's producing a ton of ground balls. He needs to watch his command though because if he gets the ball up or starts walking batters, he can get hammered. He also has a changeup that he's been working on for a couple of years, but I'm not sure that's a consistent go-to pitch. When I think of this kind of pitcher, for some reason, I usually go to Charles Nagy, who works pretty well for a Heilman comp.

2004 Norfolk: 4.33 ERA, 123 K, 66 BB, 156 H, 15 HR, 151 IP
2004 New York: 5.46 ERA, 22 K, 13 BB, 27 H, 4 HR, 28 IP
mL Career: 3.68 ERA, 365 K, 155 BB, 408 H, 30 HR, 430 IP
MLB Career: 6.36 ERA, 73 K, 54 BB, 106 H, 17 HR, 93 IP

Last night's performance was obviously above his normal range of ability, but given a good infield defense, he could be an above average innings eater for some team. If this opens the door for him to get a full time rotation spot, he'll probably generate an ERA in the mid to high 4's. He's not a star in the making, but he could be an inning sponge who is really dependent on the defense behind him and his ability to get hitters to beat the ball into the ground time and time again. The upside is something on the order of a poor man's Derek Lowe. Nagy's a more likely outcome.

ETA: Now
3 Stars

Friday, April 15, 2005

Freddy Sanchez Report

Freddy Sanchez, IF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Drafted 332nd Overall (11th Rd), 2000 Draft, Oklahoma City University
Bats R/Throws R
27 YO, 5'11", 185 lbs

Sanchez was seen as a hot property a couple years ago, driven by flashy batting averages, and especially the .341/.430/.493 performance in 2003 at Pawtucket. 2004 put that to rest.

2004 Nashville: .264/.326/.360, 7 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 11 BB, 17 K, 4 SB, 125 AB
mL Career: .318/.380/.439, 117 2B, 9 3B, 17 HR, 142 BB, 206 K, 1534 AB

Sanchez is currently spending his time sharing utility infielder duties for the Pirates with Bobby Hill. Barring a surprise spike in his walk rate, he should carry on in that role for a half decade or so, doing a reasonable job. He's a better defensive second baseman than shortstop, but if needed, he could do the job.

At the plate, Sanchez will put up decent batting averages, but they'll be hollow due to his mediocre walk rate and anemic power. He's not slow on the basepaths, but he's also not a basestealer, so roto league owners should look elsewhere.

When the competition is Hill, Rob Mackowiak, and Jose Castillo, a hot month could win Sanchez at least a temporary pass as the starting second baseman. I don't recommend it, but it is possible. He's better suited to be a bench player.

2 Stars

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Angel Molina Report

Angel Molina, OF, Florida Marlins
Drafted 823rd Overall (27th Rd), 1999 Draft, HS, Ponce, P.R.
Bats R/Throws R
23 YO, 6'2", 226 lbs

No relation to the catching Molina brothers, this Molina is a hitter without a real defensive position. He's a big, slow, converted catcher and his best role would probably be DH. On the plus side, he's starting to hit for some power and his walk rate is improving.

2004 Greensboro: .284/.330/.465, 27 2B, 18 HR, 55 BB, 110 K, 10 HBP, 469 AB
mL Career: .264/.344/.434, 55 2B, 34 HR, 107 BB, 265 K, 995 AB

He's turning into a real hitter, but some caveats are in order. He's been playing a year behind his age group. He also has the positional thing going against him. As an outfielder, he's not likely to ever be a good outfielder. Finally, while his offensive numbers are getting into the range where he can be considered a decent prospect, as a corner outfielder or first baseman, he still has a ways to go before he becomes a really good one. He's starting the year in Jupiter, which keeps him behind his age group. He's off to a slow start, drawing walks, but doing little else. However, that doesn't really matter. I won't start listing this season's offensive numbers until the sample size rises above 100 at bats. Molina's probably going to wash into the high minors and stick around there for a good 5-10 years. One in every 10 players like this breaks throuh and becomes Josh Willingham or Craig Wilson. The other 9 become the guys you've never heard of when you go to a AAA game.

ETA: 2007?
2 stars

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Billy Traber Report

Billy Traber, LHP, Cleveland Indians
Drafted 16th Overall, 2000 Draft, Loyola Marymount
Bats L/Throws L
25 YO, 6'5", 205 lbs

Traber is still out after having Tommy John surgery in September of 2003. His long recovery is troubling. When he's healthy, he has a fastball that only reaches the upper 80's, but is deceptive. He also throws a split finger fastball and a nice curve. When he comes back, it will be as a middle reliever.

2003 Cleveland: 5.24 ERA, 88 K, 40 BB, 132 H, 15 HR, 112 IP
mL Career: 3.01 ERA, 239 K, 68 BB, 297 H, 11 HR, 315 IP

The performance record indicates a reasonably talented pitcher. Because of his stuff, he won't ever be a big star, but he could return to become a decent left reliever, transcending the standard LOOGY career death trap. The upside here is Mike Remlinger.

ETA: ??
2 Stars

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Game Notes, April 12, Indy vs Ottawa

The second game of this series was a cold, quick pitchers duel between top Pirates prospect Zach Duke and former big leaguer James Baldwin.

Baldwin was the star of the game, shutting the Indians out for 7 innings, and only allowing 3 hits. He's still a bit on the soft side physically, and yes, he still wears his hat down over his eyes. He's lost some velocity from his White Sox days, working mainly in the mid 80's with his fastball. He had good command tonight and always looked like he was in charge. The only Indians hitter who looked really good tonight was Graham Koonce, who hit a screaming line drive right at Keith Reed in his first at bat and went on to hit a a nice double down the right field line in the 5th. Also of note, Baldwin worked really fast. It was a cold night, but he looked like he had a date. The catcher threw the ball back to him, gave him the signs, and it was back in his glove. I appreciated it.

I mentioned Koonce. I don't remember him drawing any walks, which is a mild surprise since he's been an absolute walk machine the last couple years. He did control the strike zone though, and Baldwin gave him some stuff to hit tonight. He was up for it. He didn't look as good last night. I also got to see his defense at first, which was better than I had expected, though nothing that's going to garner him any shiny hardware. I wish the Pirates would bring up Brad Eldred to slot in behind Koonce. That would make for a more interesting and intimidating lineup. Eldred is off to a smoking hot start so I may get my wish by midseason.

Nate McLouth batted second for the Indians both nights. I need to do a full report on him since he looks tailor made for a 4th outfielder role. He's a lefty swinging guy with a nice all around game that isn't going to blow you away. He makes contact, draws enough walks, steals some bases, and plays a pretty good outfield. He played left tonight, but he can play some center and has enough arm to pass for a right fielder if needed. With Rich Thompson and Ray Sadler, they should have an outfield with a lot of range this year.

Duke was the guy I really wanted to see tonight and he didn't disappoint. Baldwin may have outshined him, but he still looked good. I like his delivery. It looks pretty effortless, and his control was in order as well. Nether pitcher had a problem throwing strikes. Duke's fastball was consistantly in the 88-90 mph range. He threw the fastball more than half the time, probably closer to 2/3 than half. His curve looked really good, clocking in at 70-73 most of the time. It had a lot of vertical break. He struck Young out in the first with one of these. He got knocked for a lot of singles. He got nickel-and-dimed to death all night. Also of note, his pickoff move was exceptional. He had at least one baserunner kill. He should have had one early in the game, but was robbed by a bad call from the first base ump.

The game ended up a 2-0 road win for Baldwin and the Lynx. They hook up again tomorrow afternoon, but I'll be at work, so that's the last I'll see of these teams for now. I'm still hoping to see a lot more International League action this season. When I do catch a game, I'll talk about it here.

Chris Snelling Report

Chris Snelling, OF, Seattle Mariners
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 1999, Australia
Bats L/Throws L
23 YO, 5'10", 160 lbs

I used to love Snelling. He was an OBP machine with gap power, some speed, and a good left field glove. The injuries have really damaged his career. He's expected to miss the first month of this season with torn cartilage in his left knee. Last year, he missed a lot of time because of a broken hamate bone in his right wrist and cartilage damage in his left wrist. He's also had an ACL surgery, and various other problems. He's absolutely cursed.

2004 Mariners (AZL): .313/.476/.500, 4 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 7 BB, 3 K, 32 AB
mL Career: .320/.398/.488, 80 2B, 23 3B, 33 HR, 139 BB, 178 K, 1343 AB

He could still salvage a career between injuries. He still has a nice line drive bat and he still knows the strikezone. But the only way I can see it happening is as a DH, which would hurt his value. I really want to see him succeed. The odds are against him. A lesser (some would say smarter) man would have retired already, hoping that he could still walk without a limp by age 30. Best of luck to him. I'll keep an eye on Tacoma's box scores in case he re-appears.

ETA: ??
2 1/2 Stars

Game Notes, April 11, Indy vs Ottawa

I went to the monday night game featuring Ottawa and Indianapolis. It was a warm night with some sprinkles here and there, but no rain, which was feared. The crowd was sparce, but no less sparce than you'd expect on a monday night.

There was a light wind blowing in over the RCA Dome and convention center from right field. It knocked down some fly balls, making a pretty pitcher-friendly Victory Field an even friendlier place to be on the little bump in the middle of the infield.

I sat down the first base line, 3 rows up, just past the visitors dugout. It's right next to where the autograph hounds congregate before the game. This is a part of the game that I don't care for. I like autographed stuff as much as the next guy, but for the most part the autograph process itself is like making sausage or legislation. Watching the process ruins the joy of the product. This is a minor league game. I can see waiting and hounding Alex Rodriguez for an autograph, but is the demand for signed Tim Byrdak cards really enough to warrant this kind of trouble? Oh well, these guys are just filling a niche. Like scalpers, they're a part of today's sports landscape, whether it gives me the willies or not. At least these guys are only obnoxious before the game starts. That's better than hecklers, who are usually obnoxious for about 6 or 7 innings depending on their tolerance level and ability to pay for multiple $5 beers.

Onto the game. Neither team is loaded with really remarkable prospects. The Indians have a handful of 2 1/2- 3 1/2 star prospects like Ryan Doumit, who has raised eyebrows with a very quick start. They also have some pitching talent on hand, but Ian Snell, Zach Duke, Bobby Bradley, and Corey Stewart were unavailable. The Indians started Justin Reid, who looks more like a potential long reliever in the big leagues than he does a big starter. It looked like he worked mostly with a high 80's sinking fastball, mixing in a slurvy-looking off-speed pitch that registered about 80 on the gun. He gave up a lot of hits and certainly wasn't overpowering, but most of the damage was done on ground balls that turned into base hits. His command was reasonably good and he didn't walk many hitters, maybe 1 or 2 in the 5 1/3 innings he pitched. I didn't count. He's a standard sinker-slider guy who might get caught up in the AAAA trap.

Doumit is a catcher with some pop. He's had some injury problems in the past. His defense gets passable marks. It was hard to get a read on how well he throws in this game because Ottawa didn't really challenge him very much. He only made one throw, and that was on a steal attempt where the pitcher threw the ball in the dirt. He blocked the ball, but because of the delay, he had to rush the throw and sent it into center field. Brian Reith was throwing the ball in the dirt quite a bit it seemed, and he did reasonably well, only letting one ball get by him all night. Also notable, Doumit runs pretty well for a catcher. He looked like he had average speed, which is something I didn't expect. He didn't do much at the plate, but he didn't look bad. He has a quick bat and he didn't swing at bad pitches. He rapped a single into left field to lead off the Indians 6th inning. It was a rope.

I mentioned Reith. He's a known commodity with a lot of service time built up with the Reds. Something I never noticed with him is a peculiar part of his delivery. His upper body has a pretty normal set of mechanics, but he has a noticable hitch in his lower body. He lands with his front knee slightly bent and straightens it out after he lands to where it is almost stiff. It looks like it would be very hard on that knee. I'm far from an expert on mechanics though.

Rich Thompson has been a hot topic for the Indians as he carries a reputation for excellent defense in center field. He didn't get many chances to show that off tonight. He is a speed demon though. If he can get on base at a decent clip, he can be a real assett as a reserve outfielder in the majors.

One player on the Lynx was 1999 first round pick and former big time prospect Keith Reed. It's easy to see what scouts loved about him. He's a big, strong, athletic kid who looks great in uniform. It's also easy to see how he fell off the prospect wagon. His swing looked good, but he had no real plan at the plate, at times flailing at a breaking ball well out of the zone and then on the very next pitch watching a fastball in the zone go into the glove for a strike.

Side note: One of the revolving ads on the out of town scoreboard was for Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. I was surprised to hear they still made that stuff. The last time I saw a real like can of it would have been in my dad's fridge, probably during the Reagan administration.

The best prospect on the field for the Orioles was Eli Whiteside, who smashed a line drive to the deepest part of the field for a ground rule double. He looked good behind the plate too. He should at least be a decent backup catcher at the next level. If he can keep producing at the plate as well as behind it, he could have a career as a starter.

Walter Young was the big star of the night. And when I say big star, I mean literally as well as figuratively. He's a huge man. He's Calvin Pickering big, though he's built differently. Much of Pick's weight is concentrated in his lower body. He has huge legs and an ample posterior. Young carries much of his weight in his torso, which is beyond thick. Anyways, he went 4 for 4 with a solo home run to the right field power alley, directly into the wind. It was a very tall shot that would have bounced up and hit the scoreboard if it weren't for the wind slowing it down. It's pretty obvious that he's a pull hitter. All 4 hits were to the right side, 3 on ground balls between the second baseman and first baseman, and the one deep shot. In the 10th inning, he was intentionally walked with 2 out and 2 on. Jeff Miller walked the next batter to score the deciding run.

Jacobo Sequea shut down the Indians in the bottom of the 10th to get the save. He was showing the same combination of a low 90's moving fastball and a low 80's slider.

I hope to go to Tuesday's game featuring the same teams, and hopefully one of the Pirates better pitching prospects.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Matt Moses Report

Matt Moses, 3B, Minnesota Twins
Drafted 21st Overall, 2003 Draft, HS, Richmond, VA
Bats L/Throws R
20 YO, 6'1", 210 lbs

Moses was seen as a potential impact bat when the Twins drafted him in the first round 2 years ago. He is off to a fast start this year in the Florida State League, after a lost 2004, where he missed a lot of time because of a back injury and didn't hit at all when he did play.

2004 Quad Cities: .223/.304/.366, 7 2B, 3 HR, 12 BB, 25 K, 112 AB
mL Career: .282/.345/.412, 12 2B, 3 HR, 17 BB, 34 K, 177 AB

I'm willing to buy into the assertion that the main reason he struggled so badly last year was the injury and when healthy, he should beat pitchers into a bloody pulp. On the other hand, the idea of a 20 year old with re-occurring back problems makes me pretty nervous too. I've fallen in love with injury prone prospects before and most of them have broken my heart. For now, I'll keep my enthusiasm in check. He's a very high risk/high reward player. He could grow up to be Eric Chavez, or he could stagnate and fade out of sight.

Defensively, Moses reminds me of Michael Cuddyer, who likewise was drafted as a shortstop and moved to third base, where he struggled with the conversion. The Twins are still saying that he'll just require some time to adjust. Can buy that explanation, but we need to see him carry through with it.

ETA: 2007/2008
3 Stars (a.k.a. default setting until we get better indicators)

Sunday, April 10, 2005

A Waste of At Bats

The Devil Rays are starting Alex Gonzalez at third base. Chew on that fact for a moment. Which Alex Gonzalez? I'm not sure because I really don't make the effort to differentiate between the two anymore. They're both bad shortstops with a little pop, but very little else going for them. It isn't worth the effort to figure out whether the one you're watching is the one who started his career with Toronto or with the Fish. They're also using Nick Green at the hot corner. That's not a whole lot better. Green is an alright guy to have around as a utility infielder, but it's better to have him in AAA.

This is a small example of why the Rays are a bad team and have been a bad team for as long as they've been a team. This is great news for Gonzalez and Green. They get a paycheck and more playing time than they'd get anywhere else in the league, but the Rays stick themselves with the worst arrangement at the position anybody could come up with while not really giving themselves any side benefits. They don't get to test out a new rookie, or even a reclamation project. They're just marking time with bad players.

The saddest part of this whole thing is that Durham has a better third baseman than Tampa. They have a reclamation project who is likely to give better results. That player is Eric Munson. Munson has some issues. His batting average and OBP stunk last year and due to his strikeout rate, it's unlikely that he'll ever be a real force in those areas. He also isn't an aesthetically pleasing third baseman defensively. However, he's shown some growth and wouldn't hurt his team in the role. The upside is that he's a lefty power hitter of the first order. If he can manage a .260 batting average, he very well could put up a .260/.330/.500 season. What's the downside here? With that performance, the Rays could either shop him at the deadline as a nice bat off the bench, or they could sign him to a cheap 2 or 3 year deal as he's very unlikely to get much over a million in arbitration.

The other idea would be to move Aubrey Huff back to third temporarily and use Jonny Gomes in right field. Huff is not a good defensive third baseman, and Gomes has some questions of his own in making contact with the ball, but it's a waste of everybody's time to have him smashing International League baseballs over the fences. You could easily make the case for Matt Diaz or Mike Restovich getting a chance instead of Gomes, but let's take on one bad Chuck LaMar decision at a time.

The heart of this matter is the notion of organizational assets. Playing time is an organizational asset, just like payroll dollars or roster spots or Dr James Andrews or video equipment. It often isn't seen as an asset, but it is. Being such, it should be handed out with goals in mind. The goals for every at bat for the Cardinals or Yankees or Red Sox are pretty clear, maximize on-field performance. They better the player, the more playing time gets thrown in that direction. They have a limited ability to tolerate the growing pains that a rookie or a reclamation project will suffer through. The Rays are obviously not in that category, and even if they were, the performance difference between Gonzalez and one of the other two scenarios I mentioned is marginal at best. The #1 goal for the Devil Rays should be to evaluate talent on hand in preparation for better times ahead. #2 should be to showcase potential trade bait. Both Gomes and Munson meet one or the other of these goals. We know they're going to manhandle minor league pitching. They have thousands of minor league at bats under their belts to prove it. The question is whether they can adjust and excel against major league competition. Nothing is accomplished by putting them in Durham cold storage, just like nothing is accomplished by playing Green and Gonzalez when we all know that they both stink.

There are certain reasons for Rays fans to be hopeful for the future. They have two dynamic young players in B.J. Upton and Delmon Young. They also have the rapidly improving Carl Crawford, the reasonably promising Jorge Cantu, and the overrated, but nonetheless above average Rocco Baldelli. At that's not to mention Scott Kazmir and the very relevant Huff, Julio Lugo, Chad Orvella, and Josh Phelps. However, I can't buy into the idea that they are really going anywhere when management continues to squander resources and screw around with bad players in a futile effort to finish in 4th place. There's no coherent plan here and no idea of what a plan should even LOOK like. This aimlessness is the same thing that caused them to squander tens of millions of dollars on the days of Canseco, McGriff, Greg Vaughn, Ice Williams, Roberto Hernandez, and Wilson Alvarez. It is the same reason they screwed around with Robbie Alomar, Alex Sanchez, and Danny Bautista in spring training. There is a reason the Rays stink, and that reason is the management core or Vince Namoli and Chuck LaMar. As long as they're the ones pulling the levers running this machine, success will be an aberration and failure will be the norm.

Rant Over

Chin-Feng Chen Report

Chin-Feng Chen, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 1999, Taiwan
Bats R/Throws R
27 YO, 6'1", 190 lbs

The prospecty sheen is long gone and he's unlikely to ever be a starter in the major leagues. On the other hand, he still has some things going for him. He's still a pretty decent AAA outfielder who wouldn't embarrass himself on a big league bench as a designated lefty masher. On the other hand, his AAA stats are greatly enhanced by Cashman Field and he's not a particularly good fielder.

2004 Las Vegas: .289/.359/.584, 19 2B, 6 3B, 20 HR, 35 BB, 78 K, 308 AB
mL Career: .289/.374/.510, 155 2B, 33 3B, 131 HR, 357 BB, 725 K, 2778 AB

I could see him turning into a poor man's Jose Guillen. So where did he go wrong? He just never advanced. He's the same player he was 3 or 4 years ago. In 2002, he hit .284/.352/.503 in Las Vegas. Stagnation is a curse. Chen never turned into the player we thought he would simply because what we saw at 24 years old, was just about the best he had to offer.

He returns to Vegas for his 4th PCL season. He was outrighted off the 40 man roster and is approaching the point where he can look for greener pastures via minor league free agency.

ETA: ?
2 Stars

Roman Colon Report

Roman Colon, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 1995, Domincan Republic
Bats R/Throws R
25 YO, 6'3", 170 lbs

Colon's strikeout rate went from 4.9 per 9 innings with Greenville to 7.8 per 9 with Richmond when the Braves sent him to the bullpen this year. His ERA, walk rate, and hit rate all remained steady through the conversion. The improved ratios really do help his prognosis.

2004 Richmond: 3.65 ERA, 64 K, 22 BB, 72 H, 4 HR, 74 IP
2004 Atlanta: 3.32 ERA, 15 K, 8 BB, 18 H, 0 HR, 19 IP
mL Career: 3.980 ERA, 509 K, 238 BB, 779 H, 43 HR, 753 IP

A couple of interesting notes. He missed the 2000 season for reasons I don't have at my disposal. Another interesting thing is that he's posted an ERA in the 3's at every stop this century discounting the 3 innings he spent in Greenville this season. Lastly, up until this season, he's never been promoted mid-season and he's never repeated a level. Every individual season has one stat line and they all have different team names. That's trivial, but I've stared at one hell of a lot of minor league careers and that' the first time I've ever seen it in a career with more than 2 or 3 seasons.

As to whether Colon will be a good reliever, he should be alright. He might get some time in as a closer at some point, but he'll need health, good performance, and a chance (also known as luck). He's already firmly entrenched as a major league reliever with the Braves. I'm betting on an ERA in the 3's with good ratios.

ETA: About A Week Ago
3 1/2 Stars

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