Sunday, March 29, 2009

Posts to come this week, this season

Just a note re upcoming posts and posts for the upcoming season.

I will post a long "Spring Training Week in Review" piece on Sunday that covers the last 2-weeks. I will probably post another "STWR" covering the end of next week in addition to a preview of the Rangers and the AL West on 4/5.

I also hope to do individual previews of all the full-season minor league clubs before they open their seasons on 4/9. I will eventually preview the 2 short season clubs given how stocked they are even before the draft in addition to the DSL 1 club. The rookie level clubs open the season sometime between 6/22-6/28 while the DSL clubs will open their seasons sometime between 5/31-6/6.

Once the minor league season begins, I am thinking of doing a longer weekly piece - as opposed to one that merely summarizes daily box scores - that looks at trends in the system with an eye towards midseason promotions and 2010. For those of you who enjoy the Minor League System Rosters and Prospects Rankings/Profiles that I have pinned to the site's sidebar, I will be updating those weekly, when necessary, throughout the season. I will update the rankings entirely after the draft, during the Minor League and DSL all-star breaks, and at mid-season for the short-season clubs.

As for the Boys and the Mavs, I will still make the desultory post here and there, with a focus on respective drafts, free agency, trades, playoffs, etc... For now, this blog remains a baseball creature.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Minor League Moves

Per Wilson of the FWST:
the Rangers released seven minor-leaguers: infielder Kyle Higgins; outfielders James McGraw and Truan Mehl; and right-handed pitchers Chris Dennis, J.B. Diaz, Juan Peralta and Julio Santana.

So that makes me about close to 100% in terms of predicting those minor leaguers most likely to be released since Dec 15. It is a useless skill, to say the least, and a sure indicator that I am a hopeless minor league junkie (err, geek).

By my count, there are about 15-20 players who might still be released, not including those who I have tabbed for extended due to full rosters. I'm not sure how large of a contingent the team likes to keep in EXT to start the season but I can put a # on it when the full season clubs set their rosters. In addition you could also see around 10 (more or less) players released between the DSL 1 and 2 teams.

Just a note on Metcalf. He has as many spring at-bats as most of the starters in the lineup, which is puzzling to say the least. Young's on-and-off injuries notwithstanding, privileging metcalf over Duran or Davis or Vizquel doesn't really make much sense unless the Rangers are trying to showcase him. I think he gets traded by 4/5 for a very low level prospect or is outrighted off the 40 and designated for assignment whereby another team will claim him. Either way, say good bye to T-met.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Moscoso Redux

Just because..

Here are a few quotes I dug up speaking to Moscoso's future as a starter; I'll be interested to see how this plays out. He could end up at either AA or AAA in either capacity. You'll notice here, as in other profiles, no one really seems to know much about his secondary stuff. Basically, I think the reports of him having a below average breaking ball are not accurate; it is ave with the potential to be above average. Second, the DMN report that his has an above-average change is just wrong (as is the claim that he touches 95); that is the below average pitch with average potential. And of course, we now know that his is wielding a split, which we know nothing about yet...

According to a Tigers official, Moscoso throws in the low to mid 90s with a good changeup. Dave Dombroski said he thought Moscoso was a long shot to make their bullpen, but the Rangers want to see if Moscoso can start. He has started before, so that's not a stretch (and he wants to start, according to Daniels).

http://rangersblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2008/12/daniels-on-the-laird-trade.html


Aside from Rick Porcello and Casey Crosby, the lesser-known Moscoso may have the highest ceiling of any starter in the system...Some club officials say Moscoso resembles former Tigers prospect Jair Jurrjens, a flattering comparison. If he can stay healthy and develop his secondary pitches, Moscoso could be a No. 3 or 4 starter in the majors.

http://www.baseballamerica.com/online/prospects/rankings/organization-top-10-prospects/2009/267222.html


Can you describe the two pitchers that you gave up, please?
DAVID DOMBROWSKI: Well, Moscoso, he's the more developed of the two. He pitched for the Astros, and he's pitching in Venezuela right now. He's got to be protected this year for the first time. He's been in our system for an extended period, somebody that we signed. Has an above-average arm, solid breaking pitch.
We were looking at his potential of competing when he came to camp for us. Would be a long shot to be in the bullpen this year. He has started more so, and we looked at him as a starter in the past. But our biggest need would have been in the bullpen. But he's a solid prospect.
Melo is a quality arm, a young guy that our people in the Dominican like a great deal. He's not a guy that we really wanted to trade by any means. He has a plus arm and fastball, and he's a quality player. Would have pitched for us somewhere in the States, but I'm not sure where that would have been.

http://asapsports.mobi/interview/53516.html

EDIT 3/29: I forgot to mention that Moscoso pitched more than 100 innings this season (108 more or less) than any previously if you include his 18 or so innings in the VZ league. His stats don't look all that impressive, but he was used in a bullpen role during most of his stay there, a role he doesn't care for (for now). However, if you dig a little deeper you'll see that he was unsocred upon in each of his outing of at least 3 innings. Food for thought.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bullpen Briefs...

(actually published on 3/24 BTW)

Couple of items.

Evan Grant confirmed that Rupe has no remaining options. So any idle roster speculation that depended on Lucas' option breakdown chart was, well, idle. His spot on the 2009 roster was essentially guaranteed after the end of last season. In addition, we learned a couple of weeks ago that Eyre does indeed have options, which increases the likelihood that he will begin the season in AAA. He needs innings after his injury, but has been pitching well enough to earn a roster spot if it came to that.

The FWST reported that Moscoso would likely be groomed for a relief role after he was reassigned to Frisco in the first cuts of Rangers' camp. If true - and I am not convinced that we won't see him begin the season in the AA rotation - I fail to see how this move would maximize his benefit to the Rangers long-term rotation needs.

I have to think that such a decision, if true, has to be based on factors external to Moscoso's projection as a starter. It may very well be based on the performance of the bullpen during spring training, especially some of the vets that were brought in. Donnelly, Guardado, and Turnbow have not been very impressive, with the former two dealing with injuries, and Turnbow still showing control problems, though, admittedly, he didn't seem to come to camp at 100%. Also, a couple of longshots proved noncompetitive for bullpen roles, namely, Diamond, Torres and Bannister. All three exhibited severe command issues and will start the season in the minors and none of the three have pitched above AA.

In addition, if you look at the minor leaguers who might be called up, say, by midseason, to help the bullpen in case of injuries, there are still more questions. Garr, Laughter, and Strop have yet to pitch in AAA and Strop might begin the first month of the season in extended building up arm strength after his summer elbow surgery. Laughter is my "kometani" candidate for 2009 (along with Lueke) to flame out, having one of the worst 2nd halves of any Rangers' pitcher in 2008. Garr was slowed by shoulder issues but had a dominating final month and has appeared in a cactus league game so s/b 100% to start the season but you never know.

If you look at the bullpen on these three levels -struggling vets, near-ready prospects, and mid-season callups - Strop and Moscoso emerge as the only candidates who have the capacity to impact the bullpen with the dominant, swing-and-miss stuff of future set-up men or closers (in Strop's case). So if you look at it on a more general level in terms of mid-season bullpen needs, this move makes sense. Most of the prospects to fulfill future roles in the bullpen, say in 2010, will not have even pitched above AA to begin the season: Diamond, Strop, Moscoso, Bannister, Torres, Laughter, Garr. All of them have the talent to progress quickly, but all have some issues that they must overcome to make it to the Majors by season's end, much less at mid-season when the Rangers will likely have spots to fill. Strop and Moscoso are not only the most likely to help the soonest but the most likely to excel as elite bullpen arms among this group.

OK, so, this makes sense in general as a justification to convert Moscoso to a bullpen role now. However, the injury calculus could also have been the primary reason for the decision (if true). I tend to discount this as I don't believe TX would have traded laird for a AA reliever and DSL starter. I think their scouts believed that Moscoso could, should and would be considered a starting pitching prospect first and foremost; Moscoso was the centerpiece of the trade, Moscoso the starting pitcher. I have to think that TX scouts believed he could be a starter, but it is always possible that they changed their assessment of him after seeing him pitch over the last month. I doubt it but it is possible.

During camp, it was revealed that Moscoso was reintegrating his split finger into his repertoire. Before his sugery (he has a slight undersurface tear in his rotator cuff) towards the end of his 2005 season in short season ball, he used this pitch but stopped using it when he came back at the end of the 2006 season. The split might make him a better candidate for the bullpen, I don't know. All the speculation aside, I think he should be given every chance to prove he cannot be a starter. When and if that time comes, well, move him to the pen and promote him to AAA. If this kid has the stuff to become a better starting prospect than Diamond, Mendoza, Gabbard, Hunter and Feldman then this is just a no-brainer.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dallas Cowboys: Off-season/Draft Overview

(actually published on 3/24 BTW)

Ok so I haven't blogged much if at all about the Cowboys after their disastrous 08, but then I started the blog after they imploded so it is time to catch up a bit. I just wanted to do a recap of the off-season and go over some roster and pre-draft things.

Releasing Owens.
While I tired of Owens' mouth and media omnipresence like everyone, he still had dozens of advocates among his teammates and would have been a valuable contributor this year as last. I don't think the Cowboys are better talent-wise with this move but they are better scheme-wise. His release was an indication that Garrett is taking control of the offense and intent on more effectively diversifying the attack. Williams will be the focal point of the wide-outs with Austin becoming the speed threat but who will have limited touches, say 25. Losing owens will allow Garrett to more effectively and creatively use Barber, Choice, Jones, Witten, Bennett and the wideouts as well. It might also indicate a move toward a more run-heavy attack or at least a more even run/pass split. Expect Jones and Bennett to be big contributors this year with both emerging as candidates to become deep threats split wide in some sets. So overall, I like this move, and I do buy Jones' explanation that Owens was not released because he was a dick. It is all about the scheme and the emergence of Garrett which just might have the Cowboys actually realizing their super bowl aspirations in 09, err, at least on offense.

Losses/Gains of Note.
Losses: Canty, Burnett, Henry, Williams, TO, Tank, Pacman
Will not resign: Johnson, Thomas
2nd-rd tenders: Austin, Proctor
UFA who might be resigned: Davis, Bollinger, Curtis, Polk
Gains: Kitna, Brooking, Olshansky, Sensabough
Phillips washed-up retreads: Stewart, Siavii, Anderson, Hawkins, Carter

I had a spirited debate over at "blogging the boys" that Canty was worth resigning and that the Cowboys D simply couldn't win with Spears being their second-best lineman. No one agreed, somehow forgetting that Spears was a lighting-rod for Parcells' criticism who asserted he was fat, lazy and lacked commitment to improving himself as a player. Me and Parcel behind the red line, boy-bloggers on the other. As it turns out, Canty was worth 7 million and was worth it as there was only one other 3-4 DE on the market who could adequately replace him: Olshanksy. Lucky for the Boys, the cowboys were able to sign him for about 4mill per. If they had not managed to sign him, the Cowboys line would've been in real trouble next year as Spears is a league average player and Hatcher and Bowen are rotation players but not starters. With no first round pick, they would've had to luck into a 3-4 DE late in the second or trade for one, likely an older overpaid vet who would be a placeholder and below average starter. In that scenario, Canty would've have been worth _exactly_ what NYG paid for him.

So now the DL will be ok if slightly worse than last year IMO. Canty still has the talent to be a better pash rusher than Olshansky while Olshansky is what he is, a run-stuffer. The best way to improve the line, following the NYG, is to add quality veteran rotation depth. The most notable vet still available is Vonnie Holliday and is worth a sign to put pressure on all our young lineman for playing time and provide leadership. I'm not as familiar with some of the 4-3 DL in the 30+ age set still on the market though one recent sign would have been worth adding: Marques Douglas. A couple of other guys on the market, Taylor and Berry, are DE/Rush LB types who could contribute in a rotation role and in certain sets and I wouldn't be opposed to adding them to back up Ware at the very least. It doesn't look like they are interested in going this route however - things have been quiet of late and these guys are still on the market - which leads me to believe that they have confidence in Hatcher and Bowen to fill the 4th/5th spots in the DL rotation.

Now, I don't really get the faith placed in these two, if accurate, as Hatcher is an underachiever on par with Spears and Bowen should be competing for the 6th spot in any DL rotation (he is, himself, an UDFA). Getting a nice draft pick to fill the #4 spot in the rotation, that is to say, a starting caliber DL in case of injury, is really important IMO. If JJ is smart he'll ink a vet for cheap so he is not tempted to over-reach in the draft to fill a position of need.

As for the LB core, the departure of Thomas and addition of Brooking is being touted as an improvement but I don't anticipate that being the case. Both are mid 30's players, who are fundamentally sound former pro-bowlers, and will make 90 tackles by the end of the year; this is a lateral move that won't result in much improvement in the end but had to be made as Thomas wanted back into a 4-3 scheme. In addition, JJ is touting Brooking as a 3-down LB, apparently asserting, that the loss of Burnett is inconsequential because Brooking can fill the role. My only word to that is: nonsense. It also indicates a palpable lack of faith in the only nickle LB candidate still on the team: Bobby Carpenter. It was revealed in the last few days that the boys were trying to trade him for a bag of bones even _before_ Burnett signed.

What does this mean? Well the cowboys have ZERO depth at the I/O LB spots and need at least one starting caliber player in the draft or via trade to backup one or both spots. If they don't believe Carpenter can fill Burnett's role last year on passing downs, then they might need two quality linebackers to accomplish this. The ideal scenario would be to get a badass OLB in the second round who can: be the nickle LB, backup both Brookings and James, _and_ be good enough to replace Brookings in 2010. If the cowboys don't manage to do this with one or two high quality players, then they are an injury away from defensive disarray on par with the offensive disarray that we saw when Johnson tried to fill-in for Romo. The best route might be to trade for a vet as a precaution but this can be done after the draft as well if need be.

Speaking of the QB position, the cowboys went out and traded Henry for Kitna. Kitna is a very capable backup so JJ has learned his lesson (or learned not to listen to the coaches and their perceived QB wisdom)from the debacle that was Johnson '08. However the need to trade a starting CB for a backup 30ish QB is highly suspect. Kitna was about to be cut and the liklihood that they would have to pay 3million for a backup seems out of the question. Not even being able to get a 5th round pick or something or a backup linebacker or _anything_ out of the deal just seems idiotic. While Henry was declining he wasn't bad enough to give away and the risk of losing Kitna was not very likely if ne ended up on the FA market. In addition, the move saved very little in cap room. All in all a puzzling move that filled a big need in the end.

Trading Henry did speak to the confidence that the coaches had in Jenkins and Scandrick. As it turns out, ditching Henry was part of a larger plan to overhaul the secondary, and, with this in mind, getting rid of him makes more sense. The more in-depth revelations about these changes came from the radio jockeys at DC.com and the Boy Bloggers site. What we learned was that team was going to make Jenkins the starter opposite Newman and move scandrick to be a kind of nickel CB/FS. Clearly this move seemed incredibly hair-brained as Scandrick is about 5-10 189, small for a CB much less a safety. In this scheme, I guess Hamlin, a very poor prototypical SS, was to move to SS with Scandrick as the FS on passing downs. Luckly the Boys game to their senses, and signed FS Sensabough, a very nice player, who will be the coverage SS that will complete the transformation of the secondary in a pretty dramatic way IMO. Think of Sensabough as a combo safety better than Hamlin vs the run but still able to cover backs and TE out of the backfield much better than Keith Davis or Roy Williams (or watkins).

So the secondary should be much improved next season and it certainly inspires confidence that Phillips and Campo decided to go with more of a hybrid secondary with a lot of speed and coverage skills. That Campo was also Roy Williams coach during his heyday at SS, also goes a long way to suggest that the team is not wedded to salary or player prestige when assessing the fundamental needs of this team. Finally, there is some scuttlebutt to suggest that the Corey Brown experiment at FS is over. The team loved him when he was drafted - blazing fast, converting from CB - but hated him last year when he played poorly after both Williams and Watkins went down. And watkins, well, they just don't like him anymore at all. A bit of a nitwit. I think you will see a combo safety drafted before the 5th round to be the backup to both Hamlin and Sensabough. In addition, I think you will see brown moved to the nickel to compete with Ball for playing time, who they seem to be enamored with, at least as a 4th CB.

Their has been a lot of hand-wringing of at Blogging the Boys about the lack of depth in the OL. I disagree with the relative urgency of the matter. So, the argument goes a bit like this: Proctor and Holland suck; Free and McQuistan suck. Sophisticated stuff I know but hear me out. Holland is the only guy on the line who has starting experience and was traded to the boys for cheap last season because he was out of shape and no longer fit the scheme. Despite his experience, the boy-bloggers say he sucked when he had to fill in during the season and should not be considered a starting-caliber player. I'm going to disagree though I can't say I really payed too much attention to see if he was staying in his lane or whatever. He fits this scheme and he is a capable backup. Proctor was said to suck so much, that he detracted from the performance of the entire OL as they were all looking out of the corners of their eyes to see if he needed help or was blowing an assignment. All I can say on the matter is this: the boys put a second round tender on him to ensure that he would be back in 09 and he plays both C and G giving the team flexibility. Obviously JJ agrees with me on both counts.

I do agree that Free and McQuistan suck so we do not have a starting-caliber LT in the wings. However, we don't need one. Hear me out. The line has inherent flexibility if you take a look at the backgrounds of all of the starting OL save for Adams. Adams is a LT and can play no other position. Gurode was a G converted to C. Kosier has played all three positions on the line, having played tackle when he signed with us. Colombo has played both tackle positions and Leonard Davis played LT before he signed with Dallas. So, what am I saying? All of the jeremiads about the lack of depth in the line are mainly a bunch roster geeks he don't get the fact that the starters themsleves will be shuffled first in order to meet a need occasioned by catastrophic injury, especially at LT. Davis, Colombo and Kosier would be your LT before a draft pick taken at the end of round 2 or 3. Holland remains a starting caliber backup, and, at least in the eyes of the coaches, Proctor remains a viable backup (not startin calber mind you) at 2 positions. So the best strategy would be to take the best player in the draft and if there isn't one worth taking on the first day of the draft, sign a vet after it. Simple stuff no?

Neeeeexxxxxxtttttt.....! Ok, so to get back to the offensive side of the ball, teh best news of the off-season is that, Garrett is taking control of the scheme. I am very excited to see Williams, Jones, Bennett, Witten on the field at the same time. If the simplicity of the scheme was a criticism launched by opposing players and bloggers alike, then this scheme will be hard to decode. The biggest percieved weakness is in the depth of the receiver core. Essentially this team is counting on Miles to be a speed option and will likely get no more than 25 catches or so. As he won't be a focal point of the offense, I think he has shown that he can do it. However, he can't stay healthy and neither can his backup, Stanback. While crayton is a capable possession receiver, he should not be relied upon to stretch the field obviously. I would say that this is a pretty strong position of need on the team because once you lose a legitimate deep threat - even though he may only get 25 balls and even though Jones might be able to pick up the slack in some different sets - it makes the offense a little more predictable, which is what Garrett is trying to avoid in the first place. So draft'em if hes' there, sign a vet if he is not.

In summary, the Cowboys have done well thus far in the off-season, ditching malcontents - Tank, Pacman, To - and making fundamental changes in scheme and staff that needed to be made. The 2 most notable changes were in the schemes for the offense and secondary. the offense should be less predictable and more diverse and teh seondary should be faster and less vulnerable to TE/RB running wild on the safeties. Undergirding these scheme shifts are changes in staff roles. Garrett is taking charge of the entire offense and Phillips is taking charge of the whole defense. Stewart was fired, the ST coach was fired, TO and williams were released.

I see all of these changes a recognition of some fundamental failures by coaches and management alike and you have to be pretty positive about the teams outlook for next season. I am at least.

Ok, before signing off from Cowboylandia I should mention that the cowboys were just awarded compensation picks in the 5th and 6th rounds for Jacques Reeves and Julious Jones. This really sucks as it will be hard for the team to fulfill all of its needs without that extra 4th they were expecting.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Spring Training Update, 3/14

The most impressive hitters to date have been Justin Smoak, Greg Golson, Salty and Boggs. Golson's spring almost assures him a spot in AAA playing one of the corners with Borbon in center. Placing him in AA would have allowed him to stay in center and to prove his relatively improved plate discipline last yr in Philly's AA affiliate was no fluke. Smoak is a sure bet to be the Ranger's starting 1b in 2010 based on his performance thus far. In fact the buzz is that he could play this year if the Ranger's had a need. Fortunately they do not. Salty has been very impressive at the plate showing the power he was reputed to have a couple of years ago when he was tabbed the Braves #1 prospect. In addition, the scuttlebutt suggests that his defensive fundamentals have improved as well. As for Boggs, well he is scorching the ball. With Golson, Borbon and an improved Boggs in AAA this year, the possibility of trading Byrd for a decent return is more and more likely as opening day approaches.

Catt and Cruz just returned from the WBC while the Rangers remain miffed that Ramirez continues to sit on the Venezuelan bench. Apparently, VZ assured TX that Max would start but instead he has barely got into any game at all. It is safe to say that TX to VZ WBC spicket has run dry.

The pitching mantra in camp this year, as in previous years, is the importance of being economical, throwing first pitch strikes, and aggressively pitching to contact. What was apparently on lip service in the past, is becoming more and more the habitus of the players and coaches. This appears to be born out in the performances to date, but if you happen to take a gander over at Oakland's ST stats, you just can't help but wonder why they do it so much better over in the Bay area.

Speaking of Oakland, the renowned MAC - their version of the DVD trio, Mazzaro-Anderson-Cahill - has been very impressive. In fact, once might argue that Mazzaro and Cahill have been more impressive than any of the starting pitching candidates on the entire Ranger's staff. At present, those two seem to be ready right now, and appear to be quite a bit further along than Holland and Feliz. One has to wonder if the historical failure of the Rangers org to develop pitchers with effective secondary arsenals can also be seen in the differences between these most advanced prospects in each system. It may be too early to make that claim but previous history seems to be on my side, though I hope it is no longer the case.

Speaking of Oakland again, they managed to sign Andy Sisco, a guy who I had hoped the Rangers were angling for. No word on whether TX offered him a contract. In addition, Oak is reportedly one of the teams competing for Beimel, who should make his decision within days. I thought they had 2 decent lefty's in the pen but Blevin's poor spring may have peaked their interest in another vet. Oakland's willingness to compete for the division this year more aggressively than the Rangers is a tad worrisome. Another guy that I had hoped the Rangers could snag was Chad Cordero, who just signed with Seattle. The Rangers apparently outbid them but he went to the team that essentially has no closer. The only other guy on the market right now of some appeal to the Rangers might be Mark Mulder who could be ready to pitch by midseason. He may be holding an audition in the next week or two and reports are postive about his progress thus far.

Returning to Rangers pitching, both Feldman and McCarthy had superior outings in the last few days. Both pitchers are working on adding sliders as their primary breaking pitches this season and appear to be making solid progress. McCarthy's velo reportedly sat around 92 which means that he has regained the velo from his ChiSox days. No word on how well Harrison's cutter is progressing. Madrigal reportedly lost 12 pounds in the off-season. During his last outing he sat at around 93, and, to be honest, I'm not sure his fastball has ever touched the 96-97 that he was rumored to touch when the ranger's stole him from the Angels. In addition, he has a forkball that folks tend to pound into the ground rather than swing and miss at, so I will be really curious to see if he develops an out pitch this year. Last year, his SO rate declined precipitously upon his promotion to the club. Having said all of that, the buzz is that he is having one of the best springs among all the relievers.

Among those having control issues this spring are Diamond, Torres, Mathis and Bannister. Among them, Torres and Bannister have been slowed by injuries, Mathis is coming off of surgery and Diamond is as well and has 50ip that last 2 years. So, in a word, all of them will be AAA bound to start the season, and that is not a bad thing at all. Any one or all of them could be effective contributors to the Rangers by mid-season as relievers, though I would like to see Diamond start until the trade deadline at least in order to prove that he can or cannot regain his status as a legit starting prospect, before he is converted to a bullpen role. Nippert has thrown well in limited outings and has shown much-improved control, something that I did not really anticipate from him but then it is only ST right?

Benson continues to impress though he was about 4-6 weeks ahead of everyone in camp due to his strenuous off-season rehab and training regimen. I would like to see how he does in a few starts once the minor leaguers are sent out. To date, his velo is back touching 92 in his last start and his control has been get, as it has througout his career. Jennings' has made progress regaining his arm strength but remains at about 80-85% in his estimation. He should be sent down to frisco for about a month to put everything together before the rangers have to decide what to do with him in early to mid May. His velo was reportedly 87-89 in his next to last start but ranged from 85-87 in his most recent one. I don't really see him displacing Benson as the 6th or 7th starter option unless Benson leaves for another team on his opt-out date of 5/5. Guardado and Donnelly continue to struggle but each has been limited by health issues thus far. I find it hard to imagine that anyone will displace either of the from the 40 when it is all said and done. Ditto for Turnbow at least on the struggling part. He should be sent down to AAA as he needs more time to get some innings and prove that he can regain his FB command. If he is wise he will report rather than to insist on his release. Mendoza has had a good spring. It is after all the "other" year; he has a good sinker "every other" year.

Misc. notes: Moscoso is bringing his splitter out of mothballs after being shelved (for how long?) subsequent to his surgery (not sure when that surgery was exactly, prob. a couple or three years ago). No word on the status of his CB. Padilla throws a cutter- I did not know that.

That's it for now kids. Minor league camp opens in a few days and I am looking forward to hearing what some of the local writers- Lucas, Newberg, eg - have to say about them during their annual surprise sojourns.

And, Finally, because no one really reads this blog:

I am Jason Parks' inside source.

The DR5: Mystery solved (?)

So, news just broke less than a week ago that TX has had five of its Dominican prospects held up pending review of perceived age discrepencies. Per Evan Grant, none of them are any of the DR prospects in BA's top 30 but the Rangers are remaining tight-lipped about the whole thing so it is unclear who the DR5 really are. I am going to hazard a guess and say that no DR prospect who played state-side in 08 are involved, and that no prospects who traveled to fall instructs are involved either, both groups having had to secure passports last year. In addition, only DR prospects who are expected to jump to a state-side club for their debuts should be involved.

So I am going to hazard a guess at who the 5 guys might be: Juan Grullon, Miguel Munoz, Denny Peralta, Ezequiel Rijo, Ariel Ventura, Edwin Garcia

The only real impacts would be Juan Grullon and Edwin Garcia who each dominated in DSL1, and who merit genuine excitement as legit prospects. I have previously speculated that Juan Grullon had visa problems in 2008. He was needlessly held over to repeat DSL 1 after his fine 2007 debut and was not invited to instructs in 2008. Miguel Munoz has been suspended for 50g to begin the 2009 season and an additional supsension for age-related chicanery could finish his career as his is already 20 I blieve (at least). The only other guy, really a nonprospect who could make his AZL debut this year, is reliever F. Mendoza.


It isn't clear how they might be punished, perhaps suspended for a year, or be in immigration purgatory like Ogando and Beltre. Finally, Evan Grant revealed this am that one of the 5 has been cleared to come to the states, with no word on who that might be.

Monday, March 9, 2009

post-game update, 3/9

Millwood got shelled today just in case anyone was having delusions about our "ace". When he has a bad outing, he tends to give up alot of hits and is unable to stop the bleeding like today: 3ip/12h/10er -UGH. I hope he pitches well enough to trade at the deadline, or, just poor enough not to reach 180ip if we don't.

Benson sparkled - can I say that? had a zippy fastball at 92, a tick up from his last appearance of 91, and a sharp slider. I don't know, I think I will take Benson sitting at 90-92 and his secondary stuff over Jenning's 87-89 and his (and his BB rate)- I don't think Jennings will ever see 90 again.

Turnbow had better command today with his fastball at 92, a tick down from his last outing.

Rupe walked the first batter he faced on four straight pitches; CJ pitched the ninth with an uncharacteristically efficient inning.

Golson and Boggs continue to impress, while Jones jacked his first homer of the spring, vs the LAD no less! Tea hit a 3run HR.

For the most part, the biggest differences in baseball culture between the As and the Rangers can be seen on their two respective SBN team/fan sites this spring. The As site is replete with praise of good pitching and defense while the Texas site extols the offensive juggernaut that is our lineup. Unfortunately, I think the tenor of each site should be an accurate projection of the 2009 season for each club, with TX having woeful pitching and a dominant offense and Oakland competing for the division with good D and pitching, as well as better hitting this year.

If true, the best possible outcome would be fore the Rangers to be noncompetitive near the trade deadline so we can unload some vets for nice prospects like the As did last year. The best part about this scenario is that Texas could actually be a better team than Oakland next year, as we get a few more young pitchers some experience and get some major-league ready prospects for some of our vets. So pray we win the division, and if not, pray we are 10 games out by 7/31.

Spring Update, 3/9

Couple of things before I get to a summary of spring training to date.

Both the Duke (oakland) and Santana (Angels) have been shelved so far this spring, both with elbow problems. Both apparently only have some chronic and painful inflamation, according to their MRIs, and each club is being cautious with them. The recent reports have the Duke attempting soft long-toss in about a week and Santana likely on the DL to open the season. Reports out of Oakland today, indicate that Chavez (3b) has been shut down with shoulder pain that cropped up this weekend. Crosby is a candidate for his replacement if Chavez can't remain healthy. For the Angels, GMJ will probably start the season on the DL as he recovers from off-season knee surgery.

Evan Grant confirmed yesterday that Eyre has 2 options remaining, which makes his placement on the 40-man roster in the fall all the more logical.

Yes, that's right, I said Evan Grant, whose recent incarnation finds him at insidecorner.dmagazine.com along with Mike Hindman. Evan is, thankfully, at spring training, hopefully grubbing up all the info that the FWST/DMN have missed thus far.

Hambone continues to implement some changes made to his swing and stance that he began in august/september of last season. The focus is to eliminate some unnecessary movments to streamline both his swing and stance. The changes have allowed him to be even quicker through the strike zone and he hopes that, coupled with the elimination of his toe tap, will allow him to solve mechanical problems more quickly. His stance reportedly has been opened up a bit as well. He hopes to be fully comfortable with all the changes by opening day. There have also been postive reports on his fielding, with improved reads and throws, througout the spring.

The starting pitching is performing well with Millwood making his second consecutive impressive start; he makes his third start today. Padilla's second start was a marked departure from his first, working quickly and recording a shutout without having a single strikout. Count Maddux among the many pitching coaches who has urged him to work faster but as we know, that will not last to far into the season. Harrison's last 2 starts have been markedly better than his first. He has added a cutter this spring - first reported after his third start (we can only hope Evan Grant can do a better job of rooting up info like this sooner now that he has moved over to D Magazine)- mixing it in for about 8 times or so. This pitch will replace the slider and hopefully allow him to miss a few more more bats this season. Speaking of missing bats, two guys who could really use some help in that dept. are Feldman and Hunter; not sure if adding another pitch would help. McCarthy was stretched out in his B game after missing his A game start due to shoulder soreness that seems to have subsided. Feldman had a much better second outing.

Holland, Feliz and Poveda ccontinue to impress, though Poveda had some command issues while being stretched out in a B game. All are being stretched out and one or all of them could remain with the club when prospects are assigned to minor league camp. Jennings and Benson both look ok for back rotation guys, though Jennings is 2-3 weeks behind Benson. Both will likely end up in the minors to begin the season. Finally, in what could be bad news for Mendoza (and potentially for the Rangers as well), it appears that Mathis is being stretched out to be a starter in AAA. This likely would mean that they intend to move Mendoza to the pen. IMO both should be moved to the pen as neither would merit being a fifth starter on a quality club. Not sure I get what the team sees in mathis as a starter unless it is simply to groom him for a long relief role. Even then, I see Mathis as a middle reliever as he shouldn't go through the order more than once; only his excellent control makes him a legit prospect in this limited role. I'd rather see Gabbard groomed for this role to be honest. Diamond had a disastrous debut, showing little command, while his second appearance in a B game on Sunday he put up a really good line: 4ip/3h/0bb/4so. I say he has zero chance to make the bullpen as he needs innings.

As for the position players, Andruw Jones seemed to come out of his slump with 2-3 games in which he actually made contact for the first time this spring. IF he makes the team he will have to make steady progress in the next 3-4 weeks though he might accept an assigment to AAA if no other team shows interest in him. Hambone is hitting well despite the mechanical tweaks he is making. Chris Davis is in a long slump and is having trouble making contact so there is reason for concern but it is still early. Travis Metcalf has been poor in the field and at the plate making him a likely DFA candidate when the 40 is set. Word also comes down that Blalock could spell Young at third on occasion, which, when coupled with Davis' and Vizquel's ability to fill in there as well (not to mention Duran's), would seem to indicate that Metcalf's time with the club is coming to an end.

Duran has struggled, which is not really troubling, as he needs to spend 3-4 months in AAA to get some steady at-bats. 08 was an unlucky one for him as injuries forced him into a bench role with limited at-bats (he basically jumped from AA) and his own injuries limited his at-bats at AAA. I hope he can recapture the glory of his AA year when he exploded onto the scene. Arias continues to look the part until he throws. There has been some rumblings that Vizquel may not opt to stay with the team as a utility infielder. He has looked good both at the plate and in the field.

Salty is having a great spring, and after a rough start behind the dish, most reports of his catching skills indicate he has improved quite a bit. Thus far, the competition has been all Satly and he should garner the most playing time. Golson has been impressive in limited at-bats. Vallejo looks terribly overmatched. Teagarden had looked good behind the dish though has missed a week due to the flu. Borbon has looked great in the field and overmatched at the plate. Boggs has been impressive thus far while Byrd is struggling. Byrd will probably get off to another of his glacial Aprils,which may be a result of the ginger rehab required by his microfracture surgery. Blalock has hit well and Justin Smoak has been really impressive. Finally, Andrus is managing to hit for average, and, surprisingly, to walk more than he has struck out, in addition to showing great range and more consistency on routine plays.

The relief core has benn beset with minor injuries that have limited appearance for many but most seem healthy now and we will finally get to see all of them pitch a couple of times this week. Local reporters have been giddily relaying glowing reports about Madrigal and Rupe, however, I think the team will be better served with both in the minors, though with the recent revelation that Eyre has options left, the Rangers have a little more flexibility. I would rather see Eyre here, and the other two in AAA - mMadrigal closing and Rupe working on his command/approach. Washington was recently qouted saying that Rupes biggest problems is throwing first pitch strikes and getting his first batters out. This is exactly why i find him so irritating and unreliable and hope he can work on this in AAA.

Donnelly, Turnbow, Guardado, Gabbard, Mathis, Eyre, Nippert, Bannister, Wilson, Murray, Moscoso havent made that many appearances. Turnbow was plagued with command problems in his recent appearance but this isn't unexpected. Not because that has been his problem the last 2 years, but because he has been rehabbing for 6-8 months and this is his first real game action in awhile. His velo was decent as was his BB but he could not command the fastball. I going to guess that Turnbow accepts an assignment to AAA to work on his stuff for 4-8 weeks and then both parties will go from there. Finally, a name to keep an eye on, Pedro Strop. He should appear in an A or B game this week for his first action this spring, after working out/pitching with the minor leaguers thus far. I bet we see him called up before the trade deadline.

injury updates, 3/9

Couple of injury/misc. updates

The most important thing of note is that everyone of consequence seems to be healthy after 3 weeks of ST, knock on wood:

McCarthy: The biggest news of the spring is that he seems ok after missing an A game appearance but pitching the following day in a B game with no reported problems. So there was a premature, but wholly justified, panic. I 'm sure it won't be the last. He should appear in an A game this week.
Jennings: no reported problems after his outingo n Sunday, though his control has not been great. His velo is almost back to normal, sitting at 87-89 apparently. I think his ave velo in 05/06 was about 89.6, so he is a few ticks off - personally, I doubt he can hit 90 anymore.
Torres: has been out quite awhile with a sore back, and pitched BP today so he may be back soon.
Arias: he returns from DR today.
CJ Wilson: cleared to pitch after ball of his hand; finger not fractured merely swollen
Gabbard: should pitch in A game in a few days
Boggs/Byrd: no reported problems with shoulder/knee respectively
Kevin Richardson: out 2 months after knee surgery
Andruw Jones: no apparent problems with his knees
Turnbow: No reported problems with his shoulder but had major ccontrol problems. His BB was good but he couldn't locate his fastball. His velo was good at about 93 though down from his days of 96+
Mathis: no apparent problems with shoulder after 4IP/73pitches in a B game though had control issues
Benson/Donnelly/Guardado: still working through back problems, though Guardado pitched in a B game this w/e. All should appear in A game this week.
Bannister: no reports on him. He hasn't pitched in a week or so which may indicate he is still having forearm problems.
AjMurray: has appeared a couple of times with no reported problems
Eyre: Seems to have had no more problems with sore forearm with a couple of appearances in the last week.
Vizquel: no more reported problems with back
Hambone: no more reported problems with achilles.
Srop: He should make an appearance in A or B game by the end of the week.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

More injury updates

Gabby, Eddy, and Donnelly all through their sim game w/o problems. Gabby and Donnelly will throw on Friday and Eddy on Saturday. Joe Torres is sidelined with back soreness, the ailment for 30yo+ players is going around. Hambone should play on Thursday. Benson has been cleared to pitch. The FWST reports of Eyre's early demise were indeed overstated, as I suggested yesterday, and he pitched today. Jennings may also pitch this weekend. Both Byrd and Boggs have been playing in the field so that's another positive though haven't heard how their particular ailments (knee, shoulder) are faring.

So save for Hurley, Benoit and Strop, who should pitch in a week or two, the MASH unit seems to be getting healty. Did I leave anyone out? Oh yeah, McCarthy. McCarthy, McCarthy, McCarthy. Well we won't know anything more until he tries to throw bullpens on Thursday. I say he will be fine (unless it is a _new_ injury..bleh).

One final note out of the Bay Area: The Dukes MRI came back negative, good news for him especially, and for Oakland, bad for the Rangers, though I wish no one to get stricken by injury. However, I wish the injury gods could just spread it around more equitably. Maybe it is just a ten-yr hint from them to get a new owner?

McCarthy Shelved

Someone from the Oakland SB Nation board posted a question about the proposed starting rotation if McCarthy should be shelved. How does this look?
Millwood, Padilla, Harrison, Benson, and Jennings

Ugh, embarrassing.

McCarthy will skip his start on Thursday due to shoulder stiffness after having trouble in a bullpen session yesterday. Could be nothing. The encouraging thing is that it was not his elbow, finger or forearm. The stress fracture in his shoulder blade that shut him down in 07 is not really a soft tissue injury so I have hopes that it is just normal ST soreness.

As I noted yesterday, Donnelly and Gabbard will throw sim games today as will Guardado. All should pitch in a game in the next week.

One encouraging note that I forgot to talk about yesterday, the link for which I can't find now, quoted Wash saying the Poveda had the best bender in camp. Poveda's curveball was below average a/s 06, average in 07, and solid average in 08 according to BA. His #2 pitch is the best change-up in system which flashes plus-plus, and his fastball velo has increased from 89-92+93 to 91-94. He clearly had some projection left and hard work has improved his curve into a potentially above-average pitch. Poveda, who I have always ranked higher than Kiker due to Kiker's small stature and potential bullpen conversion, might make it to AAA by the end of the season and compete for a rotation spot in 2010 if he continues to do well. The only thing he needs to address are his command issues. His progression from A to A+ saw spike in his bb/9 #s that were a bit puzzling for a pitcher heretofore known as someone with above average control.

That's it for today now to gameday radio...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Rangers day-off news; The Duke goes Down

Donnelly, out with back spasms that he said occur each spring, threw BP on Monday with no problems. He will throw a sim game Wed and prob. see game action this w/e.

Gabbard will throw a sim game this w/e and will likely pitch this w/e.

Jennings had no deleterious effects from his Sunday sim game and will likely pitch mid-week.

Tea is healthy and should play on wed.

Wash said there are no plans, at present, to convert him to a starter, despite Rupe's wishes and beyond the ruminations of Ryan to that effect. Thank you.

Durrett at the DMN had a brief interview with Brandon McCarthy asking him about his switch to a slider as his primary breaking ball, addressing many of the concerns expressed by the LSB community (and by his example, explicitly addressing the vacuum of any keen analysis about things that matter about professional baseball in DFW due to the demise of the baseball beat at the DMN).

McCarthy says that the curve is now too inconsistent to rely upon because it is uncomfortable for him to throw. So, this, in very simple form, addresses most of the concerns about it including the fact that it is not a change issuing from the mouths of management. McCarthy seems really nonchalant about the change, expressing confidence in the pitch that he has thrown in a very limited way the last 3 years.

What is still disturbing is that McCarthy came to the Rangers as a highly touted youn pitcher with plus plus control an above average changeup and a plus curve. So, his success with the ChiSox and his minor league rep was established with a curveball. Once he came to Texas and Conner began tinkering with his mechanics, he became chronically injured and as a result, we are now going forward with a different pitcher, who now is a relatively unproven commidity on another front other than his health: he now has to master a new BB in a matter of weeks. He remains a bigger questionmark now than at the end of last season, which is disturbing in as much as we need McCarthy to be our #3 guy for this team to have any chance at the division.

The always overly-hyped praise from batting practices are full of praise for his stuff overall but also his slider. Anyways, we'll see how it goes. An ineffective McCarthy will almost be as devastating for the Rangers as losing Duscherer would be for Oakland. Speaking of Oakland and "The Duke"...

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There was a slight tremor in the Bay Area today. The Duke is getting assessed for elbow soreness and is out for the foreseeable future. This is good news for Rangers and bad news for Duscherer and the As of course. If they lose him, they lose the key veteran in their lineup who can lead them to a division title. Of course, he was destined to regress after his marvelous 1st yr as a starter as his BABIP was an absurdly low .240. And, of course, they were also counting on Gallagher and Gio giving them a season with less than a 5.50era as well as depending on the unlikely repeat of the above average seasons put in by former longmen/spot starters Braden and Eveland, all of which are probably unlikely. However you look at the likelihood that a fully healthy oakland staff repeats and improves upon the seasons that they had last year, both braden and eveland had much better seasons than padilla and Millwood, and that is discouraging to say the least. As it stands, even if the Duke is out for the season, they still have a better rotation than the Rangers. Anyways here is the piece on the Dukes woes:

http://www.ibabuzz.com/chinmusic/ (Contra Costa Times A's blog) says:

"A’s ace Justin Duchscherer will visit a Phoenix-area specialist today, Dr. Doug Freedberg, to have his sore right elbow examined. Bob Geren said he believed Duchscherer also would get an MRI, but didn’t know if that would happen today. The A’s are waiting for the results from Duchscherer’s visit before deciding whether to shut him down for a period. Obviously this development is looking gloomier by the day for the A’s starting rotation, which is already very young and inexperienced even with a healthy Duchscherer."

Too Little Too Late Cuban

I was just about to edit me post from last night skewering the Mavs and Jr. and insert a new paragragh suggesting that we will see how firm an understanding of B-Ball cuban has in the off-season if the mavs miss the playoffs or get ousted in ugly fashion from the 1st round. However, I just came across a post of a cuban rant in the SWST. What has been clear to some for the last few years has apparently only recently come into focus for Cuban. However, Cuban seems content to blast the players when in fact he should be looking at mgmt. Here is his rant:

In an email response to questions submitted by the Star-Telegram Tuesday, Cuban said lambasted the player’s effort and promised that unless the team plays to its level of talent, changes will be made.

“It’s only one game, which I keep reminding myself of today,” Cuban said. “But let’s just say I wasn't happy with our preparation, execution or effort. Not only did it look like we had no idea what we were doing, but we did it without effort. The effort and energy, on both sides of the ball, by each player will decide their future with the Mavericks.

“If each player can't take the personal initiative to make every game important and play like it, I don’t see them being here next season. The ball won’t always bounce the way we want it to, but every player can control their level of effort. If it’s not important enough to them to lay it out every game the rest of the season, they won’t be back. I don’t care what their contract is. I would rather turn over the roster 100 percent than subject fans to another game like last night.

”This team has the talent to win in the playoffs. But that’s only going to happen if all 15 guys know and execute their assignments and play every possession like it’s important.”

Monday, March 2, 2009

Fire Donnie Jr (Jr) Redux

Thabo sefolosha is dominating the mavs as theyare getting drubbed by cellar dwellers OKC. Thabo is a guy that was available from Chicago at the trade deadline and based on his performance tonight, I am not sure why. As we speak, the Mavs are hanging onto the last playoff spot by a thread, as a resurgent Suns (read Shaq) team are closing in. I say again, thank god for spring training, and please fire Jr. now.

Spring Training Update

Injury updates

Benson, Guardado, Donnelly, Vizquel - day to day with back stiffness (Vizquel played today)
Hambone - tight achilles, should play mid-week
Strop - Should pitch in A game in next 2-3 weeks
Jennings - threw 2inning sim game on Sunday and should pitch in A game mid-week
Gabbard - threw batting practice with no residual problems; should pitch sim game this week and appear in A game next week
Boggs- back in the field after about a 10-day throwing program/DH gig
Byrd - cleared to play; played on Sunday with no updates on any residual problems
Teagarden - out with flu
AJ Murray - his 08 rotator cuff strain did not require off-season surgery
Bannister - supposedly out with forearm soreness, pitch on sunday
Eyre - reportedly shut down with forearm soreness unrelated to his 07 TJ surgery

MISC: Arias - back to Domincan for family emergency; Cruz and Catt at WBC

RAMBLINGS
TR Sullivan seems to think that Arias' arm is back to normal despite the fact that his is the only one reporting this. Eyre pitched well in his first appearance, reportedly hitting 93 but has since been scratched. Bannister was briefly sidelined with forearm soreness but came back to pitch an inning on sunday reportedly hitting 95. I get the sense that the Star-Telegram doesn't quite know how to translate injury scuttlebutt from the Rangers' staff into carefully ambiguous reports in print, often overstating things.

There was an AJ Murray sighting as he pitching an inning on Sunday. Murray has been off the radar since his May injury, a strained rotator cuff, that we learn did not require surgery, but did, apparently, require 6-9 months of rehab. He might have a hard time making the AAA roster unless he gets assigned to extended, the unofficial and unregulated MLB waiting room.

Diamond imploded on Monday after failing to get out of his inning. Moscoso had an unimpressive inning over the weekend; he better learn to like relief in spring training. Turnbow turned in a nice inning over the weekend; no word on his velo. Guardado lit up the radars at 84 in his first appearance - keep your fingers crossed that Joe Torres is ready for more than a cup of coffee. Millwood pitched well in his first outing, Padilla did not.

Pedro Strop was said to have been pitching with the minor league players and will likely appear in a spring game before the season starts. Again, more vague Star-Telegram reporting. Previous reports in November had Strop ahead in his rehab of a stress-frature on the tip of his elbow and that he should be able to pitch off the mound sometime between mid-Dec and mid-Jan. The Rangers, however, did not want him to do so until around March 1. So if the ST report is right he has probably been throwing off the mound for the last 10-14days, and should throw batting practice and a sim game in the next 2 weeks. So I say he gets in a spring game around 3/15 if not earlier.

Andruw Jones has looked fine in CF (not sure if he looks as good as 4 years ago) and abhorrent at the plate. TR Sullivan seems keyed in on some sentiment somewhere, if not from the player himself, that OmarV may not be content to stay with the Rangers as a utility player. This is something that I stated when TX was rumored to be interested in him. I say if he has a good spring, and is not starting, he will ask for his release or to be traded.

Finally the most puzzling theme in this puzzling spring of puzzling themes, falling close behind closely guarded health issues that surfaced before the first spring game, is the persecution of the curveball. Both Diamond and McCarthy are reported to have switched to a slider, that elbow-eater of a pitch, in lieu of their AA to plus curveballs. I don't even know what to say about this. This season is critical for both players to reestablish their value as SP after being beset by injuries. The solution, whispered to be at the urging of Maddox, appears to be the use of a pitch with the accursed reputation of being Tommy John's best friend. All this with no fanfare, no follow up reporting, nothing. I guess I will just wait until there is something in the form of an official explanation of the matter, especially a possible switch in pitching emphases by maddux, as nothing I am hearing makes any sense at the moment.


Finally, bad news Oakland way. The As just signed cabrera and are eyeing Nomar and D. Reyes. Apparently, the As are signing all the vets that they can to one year deals in order to snatch the division. Position depth/quality was lacking for that team in 08 but not anymore and their starting pitching is clearly better than the Rangers based on last years performances. This could be the season when the rangers regret not trading for a starter in the off-season. However, their pitching could be so bad this year, though not as bad as last year, that bringing in a single starter probably would not have made much difference. If that is indeed what JD is thinking, then I am on-board, as long as he is juggling many, many balls at the trade deadline (and actually comes through, that is).