Thursday, August 18, 2005

Indianapolis vs Durham Game Report

I went to a day game between the Indy Indians and the Durham Bulls. I was hoping to watch BJ Upton and Delmon Young. 1 out of 2 ain't bad. Unfortunately Upton spent most of the afternoon as Durham's first base coach. He was on deck as a pinch hitter when Mark Corey got Jeff Deardorf to end the game on a groundout.

Young did play and he looked like everything he was supposed to be. It is obvious why scouts have been falling all over themselves in praising him. He's tall with a muscular, athletic build like you see in Vlad Guerrero and Jermaine Dye. He looks like if he wasn't a baseball player he could be a wide receiver or a small forward. His swing looks good too, though not picturesque in a Griffey circa 1998 kind of way. He had little or no problem handling Chris Enochs, who was having his best game of the year. He went 3 for 4, smashing two doubles down the left field line and poking a solid single into center. He also scored Durham's only run on an Earl Snyder double down the line. The kid can run and he can hit. He needs to draw more walks to be an MVP candidate, but even if he doesn't he has the talent to be a solid starting right fielder.

In the field, I didn't get much of a look at Young. He only fielded a couple of balls and didn't make any serious throws. The scouting reports give him good marks and given his athleticism and reports of classic right field arm strength, the Dye comparison crops up again. He has the talent to be a top notch player. He just needs to make some adjustments.

The Bulls also featured Eric Munson, Josh Phelps, and Fernando Cortez. Former Major Leaguers Munson and Phelps are looking more and more like AAAA guys, though some of the better ones you'll see.

Munson has that take and rake approach down to a science. He's also capable of launching majestic blasts. But his swing is a little long and looping. I saw him a couple years ago with Toledo and he looks a little more polished, but he still has the same strengths and weaknesses. At this point I think what you see is what you get.

I saw Phelps a couple years ago too when he was with Syracuse. He's more of a mystery. A couple years ago he looked like the best player on the field because he WAS the best player on the field by a good margin. He looked like he was going to walk into the Skydome and take the Major Leagues by the scruff of the neck and show it who was boss. Yesterday he looked like just another guy. He's lost out there. His plate discipline has eroded and he looks like he's just guessing. He's putting up pretty decent numbers, but it's obvious why he wasn't making the grade in Tampa.

Cortez is a second base prospect that I haven't talked about yet. I should do that soon. I like him but he's not a sure thing. He's struggling with his batting average and his walk rate. He looks good at the plate though and he didn't swing at bad pitches and he got good wood on everything he swung at. He's good defensively and he's a good baserunner as his 23 for 27 success rate in stealing bases can attest. He might stall in AAA or he might go on to become a solid player in bigs. It's too early to tell, though he has some work to do. If he makes it, think of him as Robinson Cano with speed.

The Bulls had Kevin Cash on the bench, which is a shame. I've always liked him as a kind of poor man's Jason LaRue. With a day game following a night game, his absence was not unexpected.

The two prospects on the Indians roster were Ronny Paulino and Ray Sadler. I like what I see in Paulino. The kid can play. Like Cash, he was resting following a night game where he caught. He did play though, as the DH. The Pirates like his defense though, so I wasn't going to gripe about the missed opportunity. At the plate, he looks more muscular than most catchers, especially with the batting stance he uses. He has a wide stance and he holds his bat straight up and down and farther forward than most hitters you see.

Sadler played left and was the leadoff hitter. He's played some center and might end up as a 4th outfielder, a role he'd be pretty good at. He's ill equipped as a leadoff hitter since he doesn't draw walks and he doesn't hit for the kind of average required to make up for such a weakness. He has speed, but he's been caught stealing more times than he's been successful this year. This day though he took a misplaced fastball and smacked it hard over the 418 foot sign in left center. It was announced as traveling 430 feet. I don't expect this kind of power from him. Also of note, his arm looked weak, Johnny Damon or Bernie Williams in his death throws weak. He four-hopped a throw from the left field corner to second base.

The two starters were Enochs and Chris Seddon, who is a fringe prospect. Enochs had a great game, using his fastball/slider combination to keep hitters off balance. He's had issues with walks this season, but his command yesterday was impeccable. 8 1/3 scoreless innings dropped his ERA by half a run. His fastball ranged from 86 to 90, settling in most of the time at 87/88. He's a minor league FA guy having a good day. Don't expect him on a ML roster near you.

Seddon didn't have a good day. His command was awful and he got beat up by an Indians lineup that was missing Graham Koonse and has seen the defections of Ryan Doumit, Brad Eldred, and Nate McLouth. His fastball was in the high 80's as well, working at 87-89 MPH. He flashed a painful 62 MPH changeup that made Yurendell DeCaster look like an elephant had just walked on the field. He only threw a handful of them the whole game though. And one of them bounced about feet in front of the plate. I wasn't impressed. Bad control, mediocre stuff. If has a couple more days like this one, his ERA will get into Boeing territory.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Gabriel Martinez Report

Gabby Martinez, 1B, Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Drafted 799th Overall (27th Rd), 2001 Draft, HS, Sabana Grande, P.R.
Bats L/Throws R
22 YO, 6'2", 180 lbs

Martinez entered 2005 as Baseball America's 19th ranked prospect in the Rays organization, but he hasn't adapted to AA very well. His bat hasn't translated well at all and he's put up numbers that would be unacceptable for a middle infield prospect, let alone a first baseman. If this continues, he isn't going to even make it to the International League, let alone The Show.

2005 Montgomery: .231/.305/.359, 12 2B, 6 HR, 23 BB, 65 K, 251 AB
2004 Bakersfield: .323/.371/.454, 39 2B, 4 HR, 30 BB, 90 K, 436 AB
mL Career: .296/.356/.431, 89 2B, 17 HR, 102 BB, 245 K, 1147 AB

What do we learn from the above numbers. First we learn that if you don't hit the ball over the fence in the Cal League, you aren't likely to pick up the skill in the Southern League. Secondly, we learn that AA is a lot harder than HiA or the New York-Penn and Appy Leagues, where he put up a combined .315/.373/.451 line in 896 AB.

Martinez is heavily reliant on his ability to hit singles and doubles and those were heavily aided last year by the best hitter's league in the minors. It has been hurt this year by arguably the worst hitter's league in the minors. He takes just enough walks to get by, but not enough to make him an OBP machine. He hits some balls into the gaps, but not enough to compensate for his inability to hit it over the fence. At his best he's a poor man's Kotchman/Aubrey/Casey. At his worst he's weak bat at the wrong end of the defensive spectrum. If he can pull out of this funk, he could POSSIBLY become a decent pinch hitter in the majors and a starter in AAA. I'd like to see if he could play the outfield corners and play some third base from time to time. His bat isn't cut out for a living as a first baseman, so any defensive flexibility he could bring to the party would improve his career chances. He's played some third in the past and his athleticism earns high marks for a first baseman, so it isn't out of the question.

ETA: 2007
1 1/2 Stars

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Miscellaneous

How about a notes column? I have several things that may warrant their own posts, but I feel like knocking them out all in one fell swoop.

-The sports world has been abuzz with the Terrell Owens controversy. My interest in the subject is limited. I'm conflicted about it for a couple of reasons. The first is that I really want him to play. I have him on my roster in a fantasy football league. He's a big gamble and my team will likely live or die with whether or not he plays. The other side of it is that I take pleasure in watching the NFL's chickens come home to roost. Say what you will about Scott Boras, but the guy is right. NFL contracts are a joke. A contract's integrity is tied to the ability of both parties to change or get out of the deal. It's incredibly easy for teams to get out the deal and it is commonplace for players to restructure their deals either for more money or to improve the team's salary cap flexibility. The team can drop the player at any point, so any notion of loyalty is implicitly a one way street. There are definite advantages to non-guaranteed contracts, especially for the owners. They get cost certainty in a sport where career-ending injuries are a fact of life. I'm surprised this kind of thing doesn't happen MORE often. Teams cut guys every year and shrug their shoulders passing it off as "just business."

That being said, T.O. is acting like an insufferable prick and deserves every bit of negative press that is coming his way.

-The other big controversy of the last few weeks is the Raffy Palmiero suspension. There's already been reams of articles written about this and I'll try to refrain from repeating anybody else's viewpoint.

Here's my take on this. Raffy is incredibly stupid. He's monumentally stupid. This crap that he was taking has been around since the 60's. If he thought that he could get away with it, he deserves to be banned from the game just on the principle that he's too dumb to deserve money and fame. You're a goddamned millionaire for chrissakes. It's one thing for a 20 year old A-ball flunky living on $1000 a month to use the cheap stuff that shows up on every drug screening known to man. It's another thing entirely for a guy who makes that every day. According to just about every authority known to man, there are at least a dozen BALCO's out there (probably 2 to 3 times that) with a roster of undetectable (and more effective) steroids ready for consumption. All you have to do is pay more money and have some connections. Just go find a track star somewhere. He'll point you in the right direction.

Unbelievable.

-On a happier note, I was right, then I was wrong. This is one of the most amazing things to happen this year. The A's were beyond awful during the first couple months and I thought that even the most optimistic scenario ended with them getting back to .500 in the final month of the season and building towards relevance next year. Instead, they were over .500 within a month and are obviously very relevant this season. Barry Zito and Eric Chavez have straightened themselves out. The bullpen has recovered. The offense is smoking. And Dan Johnson has been great since being called up.

What Billy Beane has done is very rare. He's remade his roster without falling into obscurity. This is something that many teams have failed to do. The only immediate example that comes to mind is John Schuerholtz and the Braves. In basketball, you have Donnie Walsh and the Indiana Pacers. This also means that those who doubt Beane is among the best GM's in the game should probably get out a bib because they'll be eating some crow. This is now undoubtedly Beane's team. There are very few holdovers from before he took over.

-Last on the list of grievances is just a brief mention for Jonny Gomes. He's been a revelation for fantasy teams everywhere. If you wound up with him, you've been the recipient of 15 home runs in 194 at bats, good for a .592 slugging percentage. It's not like this is a surprise. There were a lot of people talking about how this guy could hit. Yet still the Devil Rays decided that it was better to hand over at bats to stiffs. They're still giving at bats to Travis Lee, who hasn't really been even a threat to put up a competent line since the Clinton administration. The idea that he didn't start the season on the Rays active roster borders on criminal negligence.

Now let's see if we can get his former Durham teammate, Matt Diaz into a full time role with the Royals.

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