Saturday, May 14, 2005

Franklin Gutierrez Report

Franklin Gutierrez, OF, Cleveland Indians
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 2000, Venezuela
Bats R/Throws R
22 YO, 6'2", 175 lbs

I'm not sure what I'm supposed to make of Gutierrez's first 100 at bats of 2005. The toolsy kid has always been plagued by bad plate discipline, but he's had power and the ability to hit for average. So this year he starts the year drawing walks, but the power and average have been pretty sketchy. I know the Indians have been working on his selectivity and pitch recognition skills. I wonder if this is a kind of adjustment he's going through on the way to being a more complete player. On the other hand, this might be a symptom that he's come unglued and is taking too many strikes. Or this could be the sample size demons screwing with us again.

2004 Akron: .302/.372/.466, 24 2B, 5 HR, 23 BB, 77 K, 262 AB
pre-2005 mL Career: .283/.346/.468, 92 2B, 46 HR, 118 BB, 350 K, 1386 AB

He's the kind of natural athlete who usually either turns into a star or a crushing disappointment. He's a great defensive outfielder with speed, range, and a good arm. He can run the bases. And he smacked 72 extra base hits as a 20 year old between the Florida State and Southern Leagues.

If the improvement in his plate discipline is for real, and he gets back to hitting for power and average, he's one of the best prospects in the Indians organization. If his walk rate is a sample size fluke or if he doesn't get back the juice of previous seasons, then he's not. One thing that could worry people is the strikeout rate. His 2004 K rate was pretty high, and 2005 isn't much better.

If you're looking for comps, then look at Magglio Ordonez as a best case and Alex Escobar would be a worst case. Usually I give a middle ground with these comps, but I'm drawing a bit of a blank.

ETA: Mid/Late 2006
3 1/2 Stars

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Dan Johnson Report

Dan Johnson, 1B, Oakland Athletics
Drafted 221st Overall (7th Rd), 2001 Draft, University of Nebraska
Bats L/Throws R
25 YO, 6'2", 220 lbs

I'm a little stunned that I've been reviewing prospects here for 8 months now and I'm just now getting around to talking about Johnson. He's the epitome of the kind of prospect I like to talk about. He's a freaking hitter. He hits for power, average, draws walks. What the hell else is there that you want your first baseman to do? Oh, alright. Yeah, it would be nice if had Scott Hatteberg's glove. And adding another lefty bat to Oakland's lineup would seem to be the picture of redundancy. And he doesn't have quite the offensive ceiling that you see with Prince Fielder or Daric Barton, but he's still clearly a Major League hitter right now. And it would be nice if he had the ability to run the basepaths like Derrek Lee or Jeff Bagwell in his prime, but not every car is a convertible with a V8. There's nothing wrong with having a couple with a sunroof and V6, especially with gas prices the way they are today.

2004 Sacramento: .299/.403/.534, 29 2B, 5 3B, 29 HR, 89 BB, 93 K, 536 AB
pre-2005 mL Career: .292/.377/.511, 94 2B, 12 3B, 88 HR, 241 BB, 325 K, 1751 AB

Thus far the reigning PCL MVP is picking up right where he left off, posting a .313/.407/.539 line in his first 128 at bats. He has more walks than strikeouts. And the Rivercats have won 5 in a row. Meanwhile, the A's offense has absolutely cratered. Hatteberg and Durazo are hitting like third string catchers. You see where I'm going with this, right? It's only a matter of time before Johnson becomes a fixture in Billy Beane's lineup. When he gets there, don't expect 45 home runs a season, but 25-35 per year with a decent average, and enough walks to make a good on base percentage. Among BP's list of most comparables are Mo Vaughn and David Ortiz, who probably count as his upside, Pete LaCock, who has a funny name and constitutes a worst case, and Paul Sorrento, who looks like good middle ground to me.

ETA: Past Due
4 Stars

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Mark Woodyard Report

Mark Woodyard, RHP, Detroit Tigers
Drafted 108th Overall (4th Rd), 2000 Draft, Bethune-Cookman
Bats R/Throws R
26 YO, 6'2", 195 lbs

I like the description of Woodyard better than the reality. He's a durable reliever who's a good athlete. He has velocity with a low 90's fastball. He also has a splitter and slider to go with it. He has reasonable control and he hasn't been prone to the homer.

2004 Erie: 3.52 ERA, 55 K, 37 BB, 102 H, 102 IP
pre-2005 mL Career: 4.76 ERA, 289 K, 235 BB, 525 H, 491 IP

The problem is that he doesn't miss enough bats. I just can't buy that he'll be a quality major league reliever when he doesn't strike out 5 batters per 9 innings. The only kind of pitcher that I would make an exception for would be a knuckleballer or some kind of extreme groundball machine with a 93 MPH sinker.

Thus far in 2005, his chickens have come home to roost. Woodyard is getting hammered in Toledo, with a 7.07 ERA and 19 hits allowed in 14 innings. The sample size is tiny, but this isn't a big surprise. International League hitters are very good, and if you can't use your stuff to keep them from putting the ball in play, they'll kill you.

Woodyard is on the 40 man roster, and if the Tigers lose many relievers, you could see Woodyard in Comerica, where things could get really ugly. On the other hand, with his long history of mediocre ratios, the Tigers could very well outright him and not worry about losing him. His ceiling is your average middle reliever.

ETA: Late this year
1 1/2 Stars

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Jack Cust Report

Jack Cust, OF, Oakland Athletics
Drafted 30th Overall, 1997 Draft, HR, Flemington, NJ
Bats L/Throws R
26 YO, 6'1", 230 lbs

There are certain things that just feel inevitable. Billy Beane acquiring Cust is one of those things. You just knew that sooner or later this guy would end up in the A's organization. He's not on the major league roster though. At this point, it looks like his detractors were right. His swing was too long and he has a lot of problems with breaking balls. He's also still an awful outfielder. We know what to expect from him at this point. He'll strike out a lot, he'll draw a ton of walks, and he'll hit some bombs.

2004 Ottawa: .235/.358/.433, 15 2B, 17 HR, 65 BB, 127 K, 344 AB
pre-2005 mL Career: .289/.429/.522, 189 2B, 142 HR, 665 BB, 927 K, 2786 AB
MLB Career: .220/.331/.390, 9 2B, 5 HR, 23 BB, 58 K, 141 AB

It's not hopeless. Rob Stratton retooled his swing and his approach last season and ended up having a huge breakthrough with Louisville. If Cust can pull off something similar, he might finally start to live up to the lofty expectations us statheads set him up with back in 2000-2002. It isn't strong evidence, but thus far he's showing some signs of life in 2005. He's hitting .313/.407/583 with Sacramento. If he does manage to maintain those numbers, he could be a pretty good bat to have in a left field or DH platoon. You could easily compare him to a kind of Matt Stairs for the next half decade, only with a little bit more extreme skill set on offense.

ETA: N/A
2 1/2 Stars

Jeremy West Report

Jeremy West, 1B, Boston Red Sox
Drafted 204th Overall (7th Rd), 2003 Draft, Arizona State
Bats R/Throws R
23 YO, 6'0", 200 lbs

West is a stereotypical mid-round college draft pick. He can hit, but he looks more like a guy whose ceiling is decent everyday player, not star. He played more catcher than anything else in college, and he's not an asset at first base and doesn't have the speed to play an outfield corner. His only real skill is that he can hit for power, average, and draw enough walks to keep from being an OBP liability. One thing we know for sure is that he can hit minor league pitchers, because he's done nothing but hit since he was drafted and he isn't stopping yet, as he currently has a .324/.393/.476 line at Portland.

2004 Sarasota: .293/.347/.488, 28 2B, 18 HR, 37 BB, 83 K, 461 AB
pre-2005 mL Career: .288/.355/.455, 45 2B, 22 HR, 68 BB, 135 K, 725 AB

At the very least he looks like a future AAA all star. If he gets a chance in the show, he'll probably be something like Josh Phelps without the oversized expectations. If he were 2 years younger, I'd be a lot more excited.

On a side note, this Portland team looks pretty good. In the pitching staff, they have Jon Papelbon, Manny Delcarmen, and David Pauley. On the field, they have West, Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, David Murphy, and Brandon Moss. That's a lot of prospects. If you happen to be in Maine...

ETA: Late 2006
3 Stars

Monday, May 09, 2005

Ubaldo Jimenez Report

Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, Colorado Rockies
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 2001, Dominican Republic
Bats R/Throws R
21 YO, 6'4", 200 lbs

Jimenez was in the middle of a breakout season when the Rockies shelved him last year with a stress fracture in his shoulder blade. No, I'm not sure how a pitcher can do that either. He's a power pitcher, pumping mid 90's gas with a quality curve and a good change. The biggest improvement in 2004 was his control. His walk rate improved dramatically from 2003.

2004 Visalia: 2.23 ERA, 61 K, 12 BB, 29 H, 1 HR, 44 IP
pre-2005 mL Career: 3.91 ERA, 271 K, 109 BB, 233 H, 18 HR, 265 IP

He started this season back in the California League with the Rox new affiliate in Modesto. He's doing pretty well, with a 3.42 ERA and well over a strikeout per inning, but his control has slipped a little if his small sample size is to be believed. He's walked 14 batters in 26 innings. If his command returns, he's a premium prospect. If he keeps walking this many men, he's a promising arm with a big flaw.

ETA: Early 2007
3 1/2 Stars

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Ricky Nolasco Report

Ricky Nolasco, RHP, Chicago Cubs
Drafted 108th Overall (4th Rd), 2001 Draft, HS, Rialto, CA
Bats R/Throws R
22 YO, 6'1", 205 lbs

Continuing with the fast start crew, Nolasco is blowing away Southern League batters in his second go-around in the circuit. He did pretty well last year at West Tennessee, so I was a little surprised when I saw he was back in AA. He works mostly with two pitches, a curve and a sinking fastball that operates mostly in the low 90's.

2004 West Tenn: 3.70 ERA, 115 K, 37 BB, 104 H, 13 HR, 107 IP
2004 Iowa: 9.30 ERA, 28 K, 37 BB, 68 H, 7 HR, 40 IP
pre-2005 mL Career: 3.62 ERA, 394 K, 131 BB, 384 H, 28 HR, 405 IP

Nolasco currently has an ERA just over 1 with more than a strikeout per inning and a good walk rate. His BABIP is a lot low than it was last season, so the ERA is a little padded by good luck, but it's still quite obvious that he's overqualified for the level. He should be in the PCL. Given his age, I like his chances for a real career. I'm not entirely sure whether he'll spend most of that career in the middle of somebody's rotation or in the bullpen, but I think he'll be good (eventually) whichever it may be. I think he may take a couple of years of bouncing back and forth between Iowa and Wrigley before he get there to stay, and I don't think he's a star waiting to happen. Nevertheless, he's a good addition to the stable of prospects that the Cubs have. The way they're going through pitchers under Dusty Baker, the Cubs may need him sooner rather than later.

ETA: Early/Mid 2006
3 1/2 Stars

Brandon Wood Report

Brandon Wood, SS, Anaheim Angels
Drafted 23rd Overall, 2003 Draft, HS, Scottsdale, AZ
Bats R/Throws R
20 YO, 6'3", 200 lbs

Brian Roberts isn't the only middle infielder on a power trip. Wood is on an absolute tear in the California League, already posting a new career high in home runs, slugging over .700 for Rancho Cucamonga. While some of this is part effects and sample size, most of it is probably real progress. He came into the season with a good offensive reputation and some numbers to back it up. He has a high power ceiling, a nice swing, and the ability to make a lot of hard contact.

His defense is average. There's speculation that he could be forced to third as he fills out and loses quickness, but at this point, everybody's aware of the value of big bats that can simply do the job at short without embarrassing themselves. The Halos have a number of other good shortstops, with the Aybar/Callaspo duo at Arkansas, Orlando Cabrera and Mazier Izturis, and Sean Rodriguez at Cedar Rapids. At third base, they have Dallas McPherson. At second, they have Howie Kendrick. There's a real traffic jam waiting to happen. How the Angels handle these players will go a long way towards determining how the team's current upswing lasts.

2004 Cedar Rapids: .251/.322/.404, 30 2B, 5 3B, 11 HR, 46 BB, 117 K, 21 SB, 5 CS, 478 AB
pre-2005 mL Career: .263/.331/.426, 51 2B, 9 3B, 16 HR, 66 BB, 180 K, 25 SB, 6 CS, 718 AB

His biggest problem thus far is plate discipline, which is a bit below average. You can get him out on sliders in the dirt or fastballs out of the zone. The new season really hasn't helped this much as his walk and strikeout rates are in line with his career averages. The question becomes how this fast start affects his prospect grade. The sample size is small enough that you can't bump him up to the Joel Guzman class of shortstop prospects, but it's large enough that you can't ignore it completely, especially when it we've been half expecting a breakout like this sometime in the near future.

ETA: 2007
4 Stars

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