Saturday, May 07, 2005

Mike Jones Report

Mike Jones, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
Drafted 12th Overall, 2001 Draft, HS, Phoenix, AZ
Bats R/Throws R
22 YO, 6'4", 200 lbs

Jones is out for 2005 with labrum surgery, but even before that I was never a big fan. I just never saw the hype. When he's healthy, he sports a low 90's fastball and a curve, but he's always walked far too many hitters for my tastes.

2004 Huntsville: 4.18 ERA, 16 K, 13 BB, 22 H, 24 IP
mL Career: 3.03 ERA, 243 K, 132 BB, 273 H, 294 IP

So that's your big story. He has good strikeout and hit rates, but you just can't be a successful major league starter when you walk 4 men every 9 innings. It just doesn't work that way unless you strike out enough guys to never give up a hit. I don't care if he did put up really good ERA's in 2002 and 2003.

The control problems and injury combine to put his prospect credentials on the rocks. He has a lot of work to do even if he comes back at full strength.

ETA: ??
2 Stars

Friday, May 06, 2005

Eddy Martinez-Esteve

Eddy Martinez-Esteve, OF, San Francisco Giants
Drafted 70th Overall (2nd Rd), 2004 Draft, Florida State
Bats R/Throws R
21 YO, 6'2", 215 lbs

Martinez-Esteve, or EME for short, was one of my favorite prospects going into the draft. Judged on talent alone, he should have been drafted in the middle of the first round. However, slipped in the draft due to some concerns about signability and his indifferent defense. Because of his hitting and his defense, he's drawn natural comparisons to Manny Ramirez. I'm surprised we don't see that as a comp more often. Different types of pitchers are commonly compared to Clemens, Maddux, Glavine, and Randy Johnson depending on what they look like and how they go about getting hitters out. You read a lot of references to Jeter, Beltran, ARod, and even the odd invocation of Eric Chavez any time you have a lefty third baseman with some power and a nice swing. There are plenty of outfielder who can hit for power and average, but aren't particularly good with the glove, even on an outfield corner, but you never hear Manny's name being mentioned. That strikes me as a bit odd.

As you have gathered, EME is a good hitter. He sported a 1.164 OPS as a junior at FSU and kept on hitting as a pro. He isn't a very good fielder, having below average range, a below average arm, mediocre hands, and no pronounced desire to improve his defense to a point where he's an asset in the field. He also has some injuries in college, as he underwent shoulder surgery and also pulling a hamstring. He's a born DH if there ever was one. In the NL, the Giants would probably want to hide him in left. In fact he's being billed as the eventual successor to Barry Bonds out there.

2004 mL Season: .329/.399/.470, 14 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 18 BB, 26 K, 164 AB

I lumped all of his 2004 minor league stops into one line because he played in 4 different leagues, ranging from the Arizona Rookie League to the California League. He's off to a fast start in 2005 back where he ended 2004. He's hitting for power and average and drawing walks like they're going out of style. He should get the call to Jacksonville soon if he keeps this up, which I have no reason to doubt he can do. He's a hitter in a hitter's league. For fantasy owners in keeper leagues with minor league reserve rosters, he's a solid guy to either go out and get now, or watch closely, depending on the depth of your league and your roster.

ETA: Late 2006/Early 2007
4 Stars

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Sean Henn Report

Sean Henn, LHP, New York Yankees
Drafted 788th Overall (26th Rd), 2000 Draft, McLennan (TX) JC
Bats R/Throws L
24 YO, 6'5", 215 lbs

The Yankees are a mess right now. Their rotation is aging and afflicted with injuries and ineffectiveness. Their lineup is underperforming despite a massive monetary investment. And their defense is on record as the worst in baseball. A good measure of how far they gave a spot start to Henn where he got pounded. A month ago, most in the mainstream media would have thought it impossible for the Yankees to be desperate enough to hand the ball to a prospect as anonymous as Henn. They were talking about how invisible the 200 million dollar roster was. I know that it's common courtesy of the media to gladhand whenever possible, but the sheer lack of critical thought was appalling in my opinion. I really heard someone on Baseball Tonight say that this was possibly the best rotation ever.

Henn is a reasonable prospect who was pushed into a difficult situation. He gets into the mid 90's with his fastball, though the velocity has waxed and waned over the course of his career. He also has a slider that show promise, but is still be all means a work in progress. He's better suited for the bullpen at this point, but the Yankees need a starter, so he'll continue to be pressed into service in the rotation until they find another pitcher to shoehorn in there or until they get the Big Unit back from the disabled list. In the interim, he'll continue to plod along as best he can. The Yankees defense won't be particularly helpful in his cause. He'd be better served finding a place in the Columbus rotation or in the Bronx bullpen.

2004 Trenton: 4.41 ERA, 118 K, 63 BB, 173 H, 11 HR, 136 IP
mL Career: 3.94 ERA, 229 K, 118 BB, 273 H, 18 HR, 286 IP

His command is shaky and he was very hitable last season. His strikeout totals are acceptable, but not commendable. All in all, he's a very mediocre prospect as a starter. Move him to the bullpen, and I have a feeling his weaknesses could be sufficiently covered up to be at least a passable reliever. Fantasy owners should stay far away for now, and until he either enters the chase to be somebody's closer or figures out how to command his pitches better and avoid bats.

ETA: Ready or not, he's here...for now
2 1/2 Stars

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Gavin Floyd Report

Gavin Floyd, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
Drafted 4th Overall, 2001 Draft, HS, Baltimore, MD
Bats R/Throws R
22 YO, 6'5", 210 lbs

Floyd has been a big name prospect ever since being drafted. He was the classic coveted high school pitching prospect. He threw hard, had a breaking ball already, was tall and thin, allowing scouts to dream about how much velocity he would add when he grew bigger and stronger, and he dominated high school hitters. He's never really disappointed, putting up good strikeout totals and ERA's, and he still has the respect of scouts and prospect fans alike. But he's never had those numbers that Jeff Francis put up last season, or that Josh Beckett put up in 2001. You know these kinds of numbers, the ones that have ridiculous sub-2 ERA's with well over a strikeout per 9 and hardly any walks. These numbers leap off the page (or computer screen) at you and tell you pretty clearly that this guy has no business being at this level since he makes everybody else look like second rate high schoolers.

He also hasn't packed on that velocity that the Phillies expected. They thought he'd end up in the mid 90's, but he's still at the point where he usually sits at 90-92 with occasional spikes landing at 94. His curve is impressive, but he also doesn't throw it consistently for strikes. He has improved his changeup a lot, but it isn't a true out pitch. He needs to tighten his command on all three pitches.

2004 Reading: 2.57 ERA, 94 K, 46 BB, 93 H, 5 HR, 119 IP
2004 Scranton: 4.99 ERA, 18 K, 9 BB, 39 H, 4 HR, 30 IP
2004 Philadelphia: 3.49 ERA, 24 K, 16 BB, 25 H, 1 HR, 28 IP
Pre-2005 mL Career; 2.94 ERA, 367 K, 164 BB, 379 H, 31 HR, 453 IP

I thought Baseball Prospectus hit the nail on the head this offseason.

While Floyd is plenty young and will have the opportunity to improve the finer points of his pitching-his curve might induce more strikeouts, for example, if he learns how to set it up better-there's also the chance that he winds up like Jon Garland, a merely competent pitcher who is perennially on the verge of a breakout that never comes.

Now we may actually be witnessing the Jon Garland breakout, 3 or 4 years after we first expected it to happen. His 2005 success certainly would color how we view the comparison.

I have mixed feelings about Floyd. He looks to me at this point to be a mid-rotation guy, but there's that hint that if he improves his command a bit, he can ride into stardom. My recommendation is that owners in one year leagues and shallow keeper leagues keep an eye on him, but don't bite unless he strings together a few good starts. In deep keeper leagues, he's worth a flier and a spot on the bench. If you're looking for a potential stud in the Phillies farm system, Cole Hamels is still your guy. Floyd is a much safer bet to be a solid major leaguer, but if he stays healthy and avoids outright stupidity from here on out, Hamels has a chance to be much better. That's a heck of a qualifier though.

ETA: Currently on the Philly/Scranton-Wilkes Barre Shuttle Service
4 Stars

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Brian Bannister Report

Brian Bannister, RHP, New York Mets
Drafted 199th Overall (7th Rd), 2003 Draft, USC
Bats R/Throws R
23 YO, 6'1", 205 lbs

Bannister is another guy without great stuff, but who uses control, changing speeds, and an assortment of breaking stuff to keep hitters off balance. He's off to a blistering start with Binghamton, posting an ERA of 0.33 with more than a strikeout per inning over his first 27 frames.

2004 St Lucie: 4.32 ERA, 106 K, 27 BB, 111 H, 6 HR, 110 IP
2004 Binghamton: 4.06 ERA, 28 K, 17 BB, 45 H, 2 HR, 44 IP
pre-2005 mL Career: 3.77 ERA, 176 K, 62 BB, 183 H, 8 HR, 201 IP

He's climbed the ladder pretty quickly coming out of college, but this kind of pitcher sometimes takes a while to catch up to advanced hitters. Some of them just aren't effective. Without reading too much into a small sample, I have to say that if he keeps on dominating the Eastern League, then his 2004 stint in Binghamton may have been a simple adjustment period.

Bannister throws his fastball at about 90 MPH, has recently added a "cut" version to add movement, also has a slider, curve, and a change. The curve carries the most promise of being a feature attraction, but at this point, it's his most unreliable offering. If he can throw it for strikes, then his chances of being a quality major leaguer improves a lot. Even if it does become an out pitch, sometimes guys like this work out, sometimes they don't. The ceiling is pretty low as he'd be at best an innings sponge.

ETA: Early/Mid 2006
3 1/2 Stars

Monday, May 02, 2005

Dallas Braden Report

Dallas Braden, LHP, Oakland Athletics
Drafted 727th Overall (24th Rd), 2004 Draft, Texas Tech
Bats L/Throws L
21 YO, 6'1", 180 lbs

Huston Street isn't the only A's pitcher drafted in 2004 who is advancing quickly. Braden has emerged from the obscurity of the 24th round to now down California League hitters left and right. To do this, he uses a fastball the ranges in the high 80's, a pretty good change, and a lethal screwball.

2004 Vancouver: 2.76 ERA, 26 K, 3 BB, 15 H, 1 HR, 16 IP
2004 Kane County: 4.70 ERA, 33 K, 6 BB, 22 H, 2 HR, 23 IP
2004 Total: 3.89 ERA, 59 K, 9 BB, 37 H, 3 HR, 39 IP

He's currently sporting a 3.14 ERA with 42 K's, 7 walks, and 24 hits allowed in 28 innings for Stockton, which looks pretty consistent with his 2004 numbers. If you were curious, he put up a mediocre ERA at Texas Tech, but with good ratios.

At this point, he's just a set of data points, and there isn't a whole lot of data to go on. I haven't seen his delivery or his approach. There also aren't many scouting reports out there to go on. I can't give a strong buy recommendation yet. He has promise, but a wait and see approach may be more appropriate. If he keeps up this pace, he should get a trial in AA later this season. Towards the end of 2005, we'll have a much better idea of whether he can keep this up.

Some people worry about the screwball and injury risks. I'm not sure if any one pitch in particular is more likely to injure a pitcher who throws it. The slider gets this reputation too. It's something worth keeping an eye on, but I'm not going to dock somebody's grade because of it.

ETA: 2007
3 Stars

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Mitch Maier Report

It ended up that it wasn't only internet problems that shelved me this weekend. I also developed a monster head cold that still has me feeling horrible. I'm not sure why I decided to go work this morning, but I'm starting to regret the decision.

Mitch Maier, 3B/OF, Kansas City Royals
Drafted 30th Overall, 2003 Draft, Toledo
Bats L/Throws R
22 YO, 6'2", 200 lbs

I liked Maier a lot going into the 2003 draft. I liked the idea that my favorite team would draft a catcher with a good lefty bat. When they announced that they were preemptively moving him to third base, I criticized the decision. They did it because Maier's defense was questioned by scouts and he had a lot more athleticism than anybody expects from a catcher. They were pegging him as a bit of a Jason Werth comp. My philosophy would have probably been to play him there until he proves he can't do it.

Well, after the move to third, his defense stunk. He never could get the footwork down and he committed tons of errors and didn't demonstrate much range. This season, they're using him in right field.

2004 Wilmington: .264/.326/.391, 9 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 15 BB, 29 K, 9 SB, 2 CS, 170 AB
2004 Burlington: .300/.354/.432, 24 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 27 BB, 51 K, 34 SB, 10 CS, 317 AB
pre-2005 mL Career: .305/.361/.444, 47 2B, 11 3B, 9 HR, 60 BB, 105 K, 51 SB, 15 CS, 690 AB

He's in the California League, where he started off sizzling hot. He's cooled down a bit, to the point where his .318/.375/.506 line looks like a natural progression from his line with Burlington. He went from one of the worst places in the US to hit a baseball to one of the best.

You don't usually think of a former catcher being a base stealing threat, but Maier clearly has some wheels. I'm not 100% sure where he goes from here. He has some skills and some talent. He also has a nice track record in college. He could blow up and become the future right fielder for the Royals or he could continue to be a middle of the road bat with some speed, naturally ending up as a 4th outfielder in the bigs. It just depends on how well he adjusts.

ETA: early/mid 2007
3 stars

Gustavo Chacin Report

Gustavo Chacin, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 1998, Venezuela
Bats L/Throws L
24 YO, 5'11", 195 lbs

You probably know the story already. If you don't, here you go. It is the kind of thing that keeps hope in the hearts of struggling players everywhere. Chacin fell way off the map as a prospect after initially showing some promise early in his career. He had put up some good numbers in the low minors, but never dominated. He put up ERA's in the 4's with average ratios in the Florida State League, Southern League, and Eastern League, and spent the better part of 4 seasons in AA before somebody taught him how to throw a "cut" fastball. At that point, it just clicked.

2004 New Hampshire: 2.92 ERA, 109 K, 49 BB, 113 H, 15 HR, 142 IP
2004 Syracuse: 2.31 ERA, 14 K, 3 BB, 16 H, 0 HR, 12 IP
2004 Toronto: 2.57 ERA, 6 K, 3 BB, 8 H, 0 HR, 14 IP

His ratios aren't overwhelming, but they're still pretty good. He isn't walking too many batters and he certainly isn't allowing many hits. He's off to a great start for 2005, with an ERA in the mid 2's. That kind of success just isn't sustainable for long, and he's bound to have some regression. I don't expect him to finish the year with an ERA under 3.75. He just isn't striking out quite enough major leaguers to stay in the elite range. In his favor though, is the fact that he is inducing a lot of ground ball outs and his walk rate is pretty low. Still, I think he might be a property that you can sell high.

Chacin's arsenal consists of his newfound cut fastball, with which he can control the speed and break, a 2 seam fastball which gets into the low 90's, and a decent changeup. The Jays may have found a nice number 3 starter for the next decade.

ETA: He's already a serious ROY candidate
4 Stars

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