Saturday, April 23, 2005

Sean Burnett Report

Sean Burnett, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Drafted 19th Overall, 2000 Draft, HS, Wellington, FL
Bats L/Throws L
22 YO, 6'1", 170 lbs

Burnett's a command lefty who lost his command and then joined the Tommy John club late in the year. He never has had a blazing fastball or a flashy strikeout rate, but his high 80's fastball has some sink to it, and in the past it has ventured up into the low 90's. He also has a great changeup and a good slider when he's healthy. However, he's out for at least most of the year after his elbow surgery.

2004 Nashville: 5.36 ERA, 25 K, 17 BB, 58 H, 5 HR, 47 IP
2004 Pittsburgh: 5.02 ERA, 30 K, 28 BB, 86 H, 9 HR, 71 IP
mL Career: 2.87 ERA, 365 K, 115 BB, 529 H, 11 HR, 554 IP

I'm really not sure of what to make of him at this point. It was tough to nail down exactly how his game would transfer to the majors BEFORE 2004. His walk rate doubled and his ERA ballooned accordingly. Was that all because of the injury, or was there some real regression when faced with better hitters? There's some circumstantial evidence indicating that elbow problems can degrade command and control. But is that what happened here? Is there something else to it? Will he ever recover that command? Even if he does, will he ever get enough strikeouts and groundouts to be effective in the show? Because of all these questions, Burnett probably has about as wide a range of possible outcomes as any player you'll ever run across. He could turn into a late blooming Mark Buehrle clone or he could be out of baseball by 30. He could be Doug Davis, or a situational lefty, or a AAAA tweener.

ETA: 2006
3 Stars

Chris Shelton Report

Chris Shelton, 1B/C, Detroit Tigers
Drafted 984th Overall (33rd Rd), 2001 Draft, University of Utah
Bats R/Throws R
24 YO, 6'0", 220 lbs

Shelton joins the pantheon of good bat/bad glove catchers. These guys should form a club. You have alumni like Craig Wilson, Matt LeCroy, Mike Sweeney, and Carlos Delgado. You have current guys like Ryan Garko, Justin Huber, Josh Willingham, and Daric Barton. Maybe I can coin a new acronym for them. GBBGC's doesn't have that ring to it that you get with TINSTAAPP or LOOGY.

Anyway, like most of these guys, Shelton has done nothing but hit since being drafted. As a catcher, he's pretty marginal defender, and probably won't stick there.

2004 Detroit: .196/.321/.283, 1 2B, 1 HR, 9 BB, 14 K, 46 AB
2004 Toledo: .339/.425/.371, 2 2B, 0 HR, 10 BB, 13 K, 62 AB
pre-2005 mL Career: .332/.430/.533, 74 2B, 40 HR, 166 BB, 208 K, 1005 AB

He was a bit older than his competition in 2002 and 2003, so that career line is a little inflated, but not alarmingly so. As a first baseman, he's average or a touch above offensively. I don't see him as a big star in the making. Think Kevin Millar here. He's not great defensively at first either, so maybe Paul Konerko shows up on the radar, though I wouldn't bet on any 40 home run seasons like Konerko put up in 2004.

With Brandon Inge and Shelton, the Tigers COULD arrange their roster in a way that excludes a full time backup catcher. This is an idea that probably won't fly with Detroit management since they really are starting to move him permanently away from the tools of ignorance, AND it would require stocking the bench with a good utility infielder. I like the idea of freeing up a spot on your roster for something more useful than the Henry Blancos of the world. Fantasy owners would love it since they would get catcher eligibility from players who aren't full time catchers.

Shelton is next in line should the Tiggers finally get fed up with Carlos Pena's erratic play once and for all, or should they temporarily move Dmitri Young back to left field because of injuries in the outfield. I have nothing to back it up, but even though I think he's ready for the big leagues, he might need a few months to get his legs underneath him once he does win a job. Nonetheless, if you're looking for a fantasy sleeper, here ya go.

ETA: Midseason
3 1/2 Stars

Friday, April 22, 2005

Tagg Bozied Report

Tagg Bozied, 1B, San Diego Padres
Drafted 90th Overall (3rd Rd), 2001 Draft, University of San Francisco
Bats R/Throws R
25 YO, 6'3", 210 lbs

Bozied joined the Martin Gramatica Hall of Fame when he tore his patelar tendon celebrating a game winning grand slam for Portland, bringing about 2 tragedies, the first was that it happened in the first place, the second is the fact that I don't have video to link.

Bozied is a big, slow, lefty slugger with marginal plate discipline, but a good bat nonetheless. He's not a good defensive first baseman. He's not particularly good on the basepaths. He's just another bat. He has yet to make his 2005 season debut, and there's still no reported timetable on his return.

2004 Portland: .315/.374/.629, 17 2B, 16 HR, 18 BB, 29 K, 213 AB
pre-2005 mL Career: .275/.338/.486, 29 2B, 54 HR, 107 BB, 212 K, 1179 AB

It's too bad he got hurt when he did since he was on a roll when he went down. He has some platoon issues, so he may end up being a designated righty-masher. I'd like to see him draw more walks, but he's no hacker, so if he keeps producing, I can't complain too loudly.

With his defense, his platoon splits, his power ceiling, and the likelihood that he'll be making his ML debut in his mid to late 20's, Erubiel Durazo is the comp that immediately comes to mind. That's probably a good idea of what his upside would be like. His downside would be a hobbled DH bouncing from AAA city to AAA city with a yearly NRI.

ETA: 2005?
3 Stars

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Robinson Cano Report

Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 2001, Dominican Republic
Bats L/Throws R
22 YO, 6'0", 175 lbs

As if there needed to be more, Cano is another reason why the Yankees throwing a 2 year contract at Tony Womack was short-sighted, reactionary, and suffering from faulty logic. At his best, Womack is only adequate as a middle infielder. That contract is going to look ridiculous come the end of 2005.

Cano is a fairly promising young second baseman, with some flashes of power, and pretty good defense. He's just starting to learn how to control the strike zone and he has been reported as a strict platoon hitter.

2004 Trenton: .301/.356/.497, 20 2B, 8 3B, 7 HR, 24 BB, 40 K, 292 AB
2004 Columbus: .259/.316/.403, 9 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 18 BB, 27 K, 216 AB
pre-2005 mL Career: .273/.327/.415, 93 2B, 26 3B, 37 HR, 129 BB, 247 K, 1807 AB

Like I said, he has some hints of power to come and improving walk rates. If this continues, he might find himself starting in the major leagues. Whether he starts for the Yankees is up for debate. As they've completely gone to the mercenary approach where they view their farm system as a source of tradeable assets instead of a way to bolster their roster while controlling costs. They don't trust young players, and aren't interested in giving their own prospects a chance to win a job. It's one of the reasons why their payroll outstrips the amount of talent they have on hand. Cano isn't a great player in the waiting, but he looks like he could be a competent major leaguer sometime soon and I'll be shocked if they even notice. The upside is something on the order of Todd Walker, if he doesn't continue to develop, he's Marco Scutaro without the defensive versatility.

ETA: Late 2005/Early 2006
3 Stars

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Bobby Jenks Report

Bobby Jenks, RHP, Chicago White Sox
Drafted 140th Overall (5th Rd), 2000 Draft, HS, Kenmore, WA
Bats R/Throws R
24 YO, 6'3", 270 lbs

Jenks is the classic Nuke LaLoosh/wild thing kid. He has serious heat and movement on his mid 90's to high 90's fastball and a hard curve that could grow into another solid out pitch. However, he has the classic problems that come with the skill set, injuries and control. He has been plagued with "stress reactions" in his pitching elbow, and he had surgery last year.

2004 Salt Lake City: 8.03 ERA, 13 K, 6 BB, 19 H, 1 HR, 12 IP
2004 Rancho Cucamonga: 19.64 ERA, 3 K, 7 BB, 5 H, 0 HR, 4 IP
pre-2005 mL Career: 4.92 ERA, 396 K, 267 BB, 340 H, 21 HR, 388 IP

Since claiming him off waivers, the White Sox have given in to inevitability and shifted him to the pen. Is it going to make a difference? Nobody knows. He probably needs some mechanical work, but with his classic power reliever arsenal, he has a very high ceiling if it works out. I wouldn't have taken the gamble and tied up a 40 man roster spot, but I'm not in charge of the White Sox, Kenny Williams is. Jenks gets a low grade based on his numbers and injury history, but he has more upside than just about anybody you'll find with his grade.

ETA: ???
1 1/2 Stars

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Kelly Johnson Report

Kelly Johnson, OF, Atlanta Braves
Drafted 38th Overall, 2000 Draft, HS, Austin, TX
Bats L/Throws R
23 YO, 6'1", 205 lbs

It really feels like Kelly Johnson has been a prospect for 10 years now. He was drafted as a shortstop and caught everybody's eye when he smashed 23 home runs, drew 71 walks, and stole 25 bases as a 19 year old in Sally League all the way back in 2001. It had statheads and scouts alike expecting a quick, orderly ascent through the minors and a glorious Major League career. It didn't quite happen that way. From there on, he was good, not great. He was competent, not spectacular. He was also moved from short to third and then to the outfield. Well, he's made it up to Richmond, and he's had a pretty nice couple of weeks in his first exposure to AAA pitching, hitting .381/.480/.690 with 8 extra-base hits and 8 walks to only 3 strikeouts in 42 at bats.

2004 Greenville: .282/.350/.468, 35 2B, 16 HR, 49 BB, 102 K, 9 SB, 9 CS, 479 AB
pre-2005 mL Career: .276/.356/.449, 113 2B, 62 HR, 233 BB, 448 K, 63 SB, 1929 AB

Everything looks like what we expect from a a steady player rising through the minors rung by rung. Good power, but nothing eye-catching. Good plate discipline, but he's no OBP machine. Decent average, but no threat for a batting title. He also has a good left fielder's glove with range and a good arm, but he's not a real candidate to move to center. Barring a weird power spike or him being taken over by the aliens who possessed Carlos Guillen last year, he looks like a Paul O'Neil clone for the next generation. That won't blow you away, but it's a hell of a lot better than paying Raul Mondesi and Brian Jordan 7 figure salaries to be replacement level corner outfielders. For fantasy owners, he looks like Mark Kotsay, a guy who you pick up every year in the late rounds when you use your early picks to load up on pitchers and middle infielders. I wouldn't be surprised to see him up late this season when the inevitable injuries befall Jordan and Mondesi.

ETA: Mid/Late 2005
3 1/2 Stars

Monday, April 18, 2005

D.J. Houlton Report

D.J. Houlton, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Drafted 326th Overall (11th Rd), 2001 Draft, University of the Pacific
Bats R/Throws R
25 YO, 6'4", 220 lbs

Houlton is a rule 5 pick who has stuck with the Dodgers out of spring training and it looks like he'll be an integral part of a good major league pen, even after Eric Gagne's return pushes somebody back to the minors. He doesn't have the electric stuff you expect to see out of a rule 5 pitcher or an elite reliever. But he does mix in as many as 5 pitches and has a great feel for keeping hitters off balance. His command also makes up for his average stuff. His fastball only gets up to about 90. His curve has some promise. He also has a changeup, splitter, and a slider.

2004 Round Rock: 2.94 ERA, 159 K, 47 BB, 141 H, 14 HR, 159 IP
mL Career: 3.34 ERA, 521 K, 132 BB, 498 H, 56 HR, 546 IP

Nothing there really sticks out as a reason why he shouldn't be capable of succeeding as a long reliever and swing starter in the big leagues. His statistical profile even makes him look like the power pitcher he isn't. He simply looks like a good pitcher. I think it was a mistake for the Astros to leave him unprotected in the rule 5 draft. Bully for him and bully for Paul DePodesta. As if we needed another example pointing out how easy it is to find good relievers who don't carry huge price tags. I don't honestly know whether his long term role is as a reliever or in the back half of the rotation. It usually has as much to do with the other pitchers on the team and the mood of the manager as it does with the pitcher's abilities.

ETA: Now
3 Stars

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Jason Ellison Report

Jason Ellison, CF, San Francisco Giants
Drafted 661st Overall (22nd Rd), 2000 Draft, Lewis and Clark State
Bats R/Throws R
27 YO, 5'10", 180 lbs

You might have caught Ellison's embarrassing blunder in the field that cost the Giants a game against the Giants arch rivals. It's a pretty heart-breaking thing since Ellison is a defensive replacement for good reason. He's a very good defensive outfielder. This isn't a situation like Brant Brown, where a limited defensive player was put in a situation where he was set up to fail.

Ellison is a minor league vet with speed and a contact hitting stroke. He's not a stud. He's not a stiff. He's just a good bench player waiting to happen.

2004 Fresno: .315/.368/.459, 32 2B, 7 3B, 9 HR, 40 BB, 66 K, 27 SB, 12 CS, 505 AB
mL Career: .297/.364/.409, 128 2B, 17 3B, 31 HR, 225 BB, 296 K, 105 SB, 2278 AB

Those raw numbers are filtered through the prism that is Fresno. He's a classic 5th outfielder, able to play all three spots, pinch run for slow players, and pinch hit for catchers and pitchers. He's of little or no value to fantasy league owners. Giants fans are likely the only ones who will notice him after this week for about the next couple years.

ETA: Now
2 Stars

Lance Neikro Report

Lance Neikro, OF/3B, San Francisco Giants
Drafted 61st Overall (2nd Rd), 2000 Draft, Florida Southern
Bats R/Throws R
26 YO, 6'3", 215 lbs

It's federal law that if you're doing a Lance Neikro report, you have to mention that he's Joe's son and Phil's nephew. So with that out of the way, here we go. Neikro is up with the big club, riding the bench for the most part. He had a big breakthrough last year, but I have some doubts.

2004 San Jose: .311/.328/.508, 7 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 2 BB, 5 K, 61 AB
2004 Fresno: .298/.337/.566, 21 2B, 4 3B, 12 HR, 14 BB, 32 K, 242 AB
mL Career: .310/.339/.459, 88 2B, 12 3B, 29 HR, 57 BB, 147 K, 1340 AB

That's a big power spike, but it was also coming from nowhere (he slugged .383 in Fresno in 2003) and it was in 2 leagues that can produce some fluky results. Add to that the fact that his plate discipline still isn't good and you have a situation that requires more evidence before you get a solid buy recommendation. For now, keep an eye out for him. The Giants outfield is old and fragile, as witnessed by Bonds and Alou already being M.I.A. If Michael Tucker or J.T. Snow goes down, Neikro may find his way into the everyday lineup on at least a temporary basis. If that happens, well, he probably won't hit enough to find his way into a regular gig, but ya never know.

Defensively, he's a capable corner outfielder and a merely competent third baseman. As such, his most likely role might be as a pinch hitter who backs up both corner outfielders and corner infielders, platooning with any lefty bats that have bad platoon splits.

ETA: Now
2 Stars

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