Friday, June 03, 2005

Jose Bautista Report

Jose Bautista, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates
Drafted 599th Overall (20th Rd), 2000 Draft, Chipola (FL) Junior College
Bats R/Throws R
24 YO, 6'0", 195 lbs

Picture for a moment that it is December of 2003. You are Jose Bautista. You just finished up the year in the HiA Carolina League. You missed most of the season with a broken hand. When you did play, your batting average was way below your career norms. Admittedly you only had approximately 650 career at bats before that season, but they came in at just below .300. You've demonstrated good walk rates and gap power to go with a good glove and some athleticism. You just turned 23 a couple months ago and the organization has told you that they like you a lot. They don't have any other serious third base prospects ahead of you. And they have some pretty fungible players on the 40 man roster. As a result, you aren't thinking about the Rule 5 draft coming up. They'll surely add you to the 40 man roster and keep you around. Right?

Wrong. The Pirates left him off the 40 man roster and Baltimore snatched him up, starting him on a bizarre journey that took most of 2004 to sort itself out. He played for 4 Major League teams, none of them particularly good. He didn't play well as he was clearly in over his head. He was put on waivers, claimed, sold, and then traded for Justin Huber, a much better prospect.

MLB Career (2004): .205/.263/.239, 3 2B, 0 HR, 7 BB, 40 K, 88 AB
pre-2005 mL Career: .287/.385/.452, 51 2B, 24 HR, 119 BB, 200 K, 846 AB

This season, he's in AA, where he should have spent last year in the first place. He's playing reasonably well given that he's missed the better part of 2 seasons. He's back to walking, though not at the rate that he showed in the lower minors. His isolated slugging is also down.

Bautista has some talent. He demonstrated some skills early in his career. And the scouts still like him. He lost a lot of development time though and is now at the point on the age curve where he needs to start moving through the high minors. His ceiling probably looks something like Mike Lowell, though I wouldn't bet the house on that. The chances are better that he becomes an ordinary AAA guy.

ETA: Late 2006
2 1/2 Stars

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Jason Botts Report

Jason Botts, OF/1B, Texas Rangers
Drafted 1375th Overall (46th Rd), 1999 Draft, Glendale (CA) Junior College
Bats B/Throws R
24 YO, 6'6", 250 lbs

If you were making an All Big Guy prospect team, Botts would almost certainly be the left fielder. That would make an interesting prospect team. Put Brad Eldred at 1B and Walter Young at DH. You can get Mike Morse to play SS. You could pretty easily load up a pitching staff with skyscrapers. Anyways, Botts is a massive guy. He's more athletic than you'd expect a 250 pound man to be, but it still only gets him up to a point where he isn't going embarrass himself in the field. He's probably better suited defensively to be a first baseman, but the Rangers have a ton of guys who are qualified to fill that role, not that they don't have a crowd on the outfield corners and DH spot. His range is limited in left. His arm is decent, but not notable. He also has decent hands and instincts.

2004 Frisco: .293/.399/.507, 25 2B, 24 HR, 77 BB, 126 K, 481 AB
pre-2005 mL Career: .290/.399/.455, 109 2B, 61 HR, 301 BB, 450 K, 1926 AB
2005 Oklahoma: .302/.396/.557, 15 2B, 10 HR, 26 BB, 60 K, 192 AB

He's seen a pretty big jump in his strikeout rate, up into Pat Burrell territory. I'm not usually one to hold that against a guy though, and it certainly doesn't seem to be hurting Burrell these days. It might hold down his average in the long term though. However, he has a long track record of showing good plate discipline and acceptable batting average. And he started making souvenirs of fastballs last year and hasn't slowed down with his promotion this season. He can clearly hit a little bit. And he will always be a credible threat to hit 3 run home runs whether he's in the PCL or with a Major League team. I don't see stardom, and I wouldn't really recommend him for your fantasy team, but if I'm a GM, I'd rather give him some at bats than Raul Mondesi's withered husk or Randy Winn.

ETA: Late 2005
3 1/2 Stars

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

In Lieu of Prospect Reports

I'm back from vacation and it was great. I wish I could do it more often. It was refreshing and needed. The grind of everyday life wears a person down. I hope to bug you guys about my travels in this space. There's a lot to talk about.

Unfortunately, being away from any sort of computer for a week put me severely behind the news curve, and being somebody who spends an alarming amount of time reading blogs and internet columns, and flipping through dozens of box scores and stat sheets, catching up is a huge job. I should have a prospect report completed late this afternoon or at worst, tomorrow morning.

In the meantime, I'll bleat on about something that confounds me, the A's season. Admittedly when I predicted them to win the A.L. West, it was a bold, probably foolish prediction based upon principles such as an MVP candidacy for Eric Chavez, continued emergence of Bobby Crosby, Juan Cruz, Kiko Calero, and Rich Harden, rebound seasons from Barry Zito and Octavio Dotel, and strong seasons from Joe Blanton, Dan Haren, and Huston Street. Obviously, most of that hasn't worked out. But the extent to which it hasn't worked out is the shocker. If you would have told me that age would catch up to Jason Kendall, I wouldn't have called you crazy. If you would have told me that Mark Kotsay and Scott Hatteberg would regress, I wouldn't have called you crazy. If you would have told me that Keith Ginter and Mark Ellis would become a huge liability, I wouldn't have called you crazy. If you would have told me that Dan Haren and Barry Zito would only achieve mediocrity, I wouldn't have called you crazy. I wouldn't have even called you crazy if you would have told me that Octavio Dotel would continue to be a bit flaky and then go down with an elbow problem. But I would have called you crazy if you would have told me that all of this would happen simultaneously while also witnessing a complete collapse from Chavez and Durazo, injuries to Harden, Crosby, and Calero, and a general malaise which has caused the team to plummet to the absolute bottom of the pack in runs scored, and nearly every other offensive metric. It's like a perfect storm of suckitude and it is really unnerving to anybody who isn't a fan of the Rangers or Angels.

Let's break it down by category.

Things that have gone right: Not much. Justin Duchscherer, Street, and Keiichi Yabu have filled in admirably in the bullpen. Harden was great before he got hurt. And part of Dotel's apparent flakiness was due to the fact that his failures were largely in one run situations without the two and three run leads that most closers get to pad their stats with. His ERA and K rate doesn;t look that bad, though admittedly he's given up far too many free passes. On offense, the best you can say is that Marco Scutaro has been better than expected and Bobby Kielty has been a good source of OBP in part-time duty.

Things that have gone about as you might have expected: Barry Zito and Dan Haren have ERA's in the 4's while posting good strikeout rates. Both have shown some signs that they might be able to lower that if they give up walks a little more carefully. They can obviously miss bats, but they just need to place their pitches in the zone more often. Kirk Saarloos has a similar ERA, but it is sure to balloon as his K rate is awful. Kotsay and Hatteberg have regressed, but both have always been pretty ordinary with the bat through most of their careers. For the most part, the team's defense hasn't been terrible, though it isn't what I expected, and the loss of Crosby for most of the season has hurt.

Things that have crashed and burned: Eric Chavez and Erubiel Durazo have gone completely into the crapper. Jason Kendall turned into a truly punchless afterthought. Eric Byrnes has also stunk it up. Ginter and Ellis have turned into AAAA fodder, and now Ginter is Sacramento's problem. Adam Melhuse has proven to be of no threat to Kendall or Durazo. Nick Swisher took the concept of rookie adjustment period to heart before also going down with an injury. Charles Thomas has showed that 2004's semi-relevance was a fluke. When it comes to the pitching staff, Juan Cruz was an unmitigated disaster. Joe Blanton has more walks than strikeouts.

The injuries have really been a body blow that this team couldn't withstand. This is an organization that hasn't had to deal with many big injuries for a half decade now. This year has been riddled with major injuries.

The time to throw in the towel is now. Beane's brought up Dan Johnson since Durazo mercifully went on the DL. They're grooming Street to take over as the team's main option in late inning, high leverage situations. And if they can find a taker for any of their veterans, they'll undoubtedly go for it. Unfortunately, they're unlikely to find any takers for Dotel's creeky arm or Kendall's faceplant or Durazo or Hatteberg's albatross. The only thing they can really do is use the rest of the season to evaluate whether or not Blanton will pull up on the stick before he becomes a smoldering heap surrounded by NTSB investigators. They need to see if Zito's newfound slider will interest somebody who needs another starter, whether or not Johnson is the future at 1B. They also need to figure out what's wrong with Chavez, whether they should cut bait on Ginter, Ellis, Kendall. It wouldn't hurt to drag in Jack Cust to see if he can approximate Durazo's upside. They need to take long hard looks at Brant Colamarino, Andre Ethier, and Dallas Braden. They also need to cross their fingers for Dan Meyer's health.

All in all, some of this is Bibby Beane's fault for relying on unreliable commodities. Some of it is just bad luck. Some of it is the success cycle. You can't fault him too much for trading Mulder and Hudson and hoping that Chavez and Harden could carry them to relevance this season while waiting for the cavalry to come. He couldn't keep either one of them at the prices they'd bring in arbitration, and really couldn't afford to let them leave via free agency. It was time to turn the page and try to use those assets to shorten the rebuilding process. But that doesn't make this season's A's any easier to watch.

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