Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Foreign Affairs

As you all undoubtedly know, Miguel Sano signed with the Twins for 3.15million, while, Mateo had his contract of 3.1 million voided (subject to legal dispute) due to inferior vision, and Vinicio had his contract of 2m voided by boston due to shoulder issues (CORRECTION: S/B LHP Payano who had his contract voided).

In other news that I had covered before, NPBT now has a source that suggests Rafael DePaula might be headed to Japan, whereas before, NPBT had not really considered it feasible previously. In that piece, I had noted an anonymous source that said Japan was Depaula's likely destination. So NPBT now confirms what we already know.

Here's a brief note on the kid:
DePaula, who has presented himself as being born April 1, 1992, has seen his fastball go from the mid- to high-80s last July to the low-90s and touching 94-95 mph this year, making him one of the most coveted players available since the end of last year's signing period.


But, hold on. This same dominican-based source suggested way back in May/June that TX was interested in Depaula. Post-July2 this source also noted that TX officials had been in contact with the family expressing an interest in signing him despite his suspension. In fact there still was a lot of interest in the flamethrower from many clubs - particularly NYY - despite his suspension and the risk of being unable to secure a visa from the consulate after signing (the bonus would be contingent on the visa however so the risk is mitigated). This same source also noted that there was lots of scuttlebutt about Depaula receiving a shortened suspension or a waiver or some sort due to some unknown mitigating factors. To date there has been no new scuttlebutt to this effect however there was movement on another front that might be relevant to his case.


Eliado Moronta's suspension was lifted this week with no accompanying explanation of why and how this could be done given that, to my knowledge, it sets a precedent. His age has now been established as 20 (21, 12/16/09) and he was caught lying and was supposed to be suspended for one year. He was all set to sign with Boston for about 2 million as a 5-tool outfielder until he got busted. The kid is a plus plus athlete but can't really be regarded as much of a prospect, making his baseball debut at the age of 21. TX was reported to have been really interested in this kid as well. And now, I hear tell that TX is a likely destination for Moronta though you would have to imagine it would be in the 300k range:

Moronta, who is 6-foot-1, 183 pounds, is 20 years old and turns 21 on December 16. He is an athletic righthanded hitter with plus-plus speed, flashing a good arm and raw power potential.


So how are the two suspensions related? Back at the time of the suspensions of both Moronta and Depaula - both announced on may 11 2009 - each was said to have mitigating circumstances that might result in a mitigated suspension. We have now seen that play out with Moronta and it would not be much of a leap to expect the same for Depaula before Xmas. In fact, once source claims Depaula's passport is legit and that the Dominincan Cedula office attested to its veracity to MLB. If that is the case, and he proves to be in the 20-22 range, while still throwing 93-95, expect TX to pursue him as a reliever for a reduced bonus.




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Notes

TRS reports that Matt Harrison will pitch for the AFL club with the aim of getting 40 innings. Not sure if they have been granted an injury exception for him or if someone else is being dropped from the 7-man contingent:

Matt Harrison, who had shoulder surgery this summer, is planning to pitch in the Arizona Fall League for the Surprise Rafters. The goal is for him to pitch as a starter and get him up to 40 innings. ...


TRS also reported that Borbon will play in one of the winter ball leagues while Teagarden will almost assuredly do so, but the league is TBD.



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Monday, September 28, 2009

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Will JD make Warsh

start Borbon in CF next year? It would have to be a real player development joke if Warsh refuses to consider Borbon the heir apparent in center, sticking him left and at DH as a part-time player. However, that is exactly what he plans to do next year according TR Sullivan's latest post. Warsh prefers Byrd and will start Hamilton in CF next year if Byrd does not resign. Hopefully, someone will put their foot down and tell him who to play; it should be Borbon without question. What the team needs is more productive bats at other positions. So trading off Teagarden, or Salty, or Davis, or Cruz in a package to improve at catcher, DH, 1B, and/or RF/LF and penciling in Smoak at first is a better way to go. Sticking your top prospects on the bench, in a platoon or leaving them in AAA and overpaying for a mid-30s CF with a degenerative knee condition is just asinine.

I remember last year there was a big stink created when Warsh stated his #1 wish at last years trading deadlin was a "traditional" CF in lieu of batting Kinsler leadoff. Ain't it funny that he did indeed get that wish one year later only to refuse to play the kid a single game in CF. I'm thinking that Warsh's player wish lists are regarding as merely one voice in the team's long-term plans, and that he will _always_ without exception insist on acquiring and/or playing veterans. Call it job security. Hopefully, JD has a well worn tin ear to this kind of thinking from the skipper...



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Saturday, September 26, 2009

I missed this

but TX has recalled a few more players (around the 14th) after their AAA/AA season's ended:

Texas Rangers
Recalled: RHP Luis Mendoza, RHP Omar Poveda, C Max Ramirez, SS Joaquin Arias, OF Greg Golson



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Draft of Bottom 40

As a side note, my top ~80 consist of all the players in the org that I think can become average major league starting pitchers, closers/setup relievers, and position players at minimum. All players that don't seem to project as such have been moved over to the positional breakdowns sections of the rankings worksheet in the sidebar. There I have further breakdowns by reliever type, reserve player, etc.

It does not include DSL players until they make their stateside debuts. I make exceptions for those Intl. FA who sign for first or second round money as those are elite players who should make their rookie debuts stateside anyways - so think of them as I would a top draft choice. There are two this year: shortops, Jurickson Profar and Luis Sardinas.


41 Leury Garcia Short
42 Leonel de los Santos Catcher
43 Ruben Sierra Center
44 Neil Ramirez bp2
45 Tm Murphy bp3
46 Mike Bianucci Right
47 Juan Grullon 5
48 Zike Rijo 5
49 Richard Alvarez 5
50 Matt Thompson 4
51 Nick McBride 3_5
52 Paul Strong 3_5
53 Shawn Blackwell 3_5
54 Vincent DiFazio Catcher
55 Alex Gonzalez Second
56 Fabio Castillo bp2/3
57 Corey Young bp2/3
58 Beau Jones bp2/3
59 Joseph Ortiz bp2/3
60 Jose Monegro bp2/3
61 Adalberto Flores bp2/3
62 Justin Miller bp2/3
63 Kyle Ocampo bp2/3
64 Miguel de los Santos bp2/3
65 Justin Jamison 3_5
66 Keith Campbell 3_5
67 Johnny Gunter 3_5
68 Riley Cooper Right
69 Clark Murphy First
70 Johnny Whittleman Third
71 Guillermo Pimentel Left
72 Braxton Lane Center
73 Tae Ahn Kyung 3_5
HM Eric Hurley 3_5 (injured)




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Aroldis Chapman


granted free agency. He will still have to have his age and identity verified by the US consulate once he signs but most think that is a foregone conclusion despite a couple of different age discrepancies that have been reported. TX will probably be in the mix as long as the money sits around 8million per for 5 years, as long as TX views him as a starter long-term and as long as he agrees to go to the minors for as long as he needs to. His pitchability, his secondary stuff, and his command of all of his pitches needs work (though I'm not sure he has a changeup). If NY or Boston wants him, they will probably get him, and overpay for him, so if TX misses out because of money, then no big loss IMHO.

Here are some entries with links to other articles that I posted about Chapman in July:




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Draft of DSL Top 20



1 Randol Rojas SP (DSL co-pitcher of the year)
2 Denny Peralta SP (instructs invite)
3 David Perez SP (instructs invite)
4 Leonel Gil SP
5 Jose Mavare SP
6 Teo "TMart" Martinez CF (instructs)
7 Oduber "David" Herrera (DH) 2B (instructs)
8 Santiago Chirino Hill 2B (instructs)
9 Alfredo Chalas INF
10 Carlos Ramirez SP
11 Luis Mendez SS
12 Luis Cedeno Reyes C
13 Francisco Mendoza RP (instructs)
14 Hector "HMart" Martinez RF
15 Yefrey Castillo (C,Inf,LF) (instructs)
16 Carlos Oropesa C
17 Robert Morillo 3B
18 Chris Garcia CF (instructs)
19 Francisco Lugo OF
20 Esdras Abreu LF
21 Luis Parra SP
22 Jose Mateo OF/1B
HM Ayenil Mendoza SP
HM Kelvin de Leon RP
(both HM missed yr due to to VISA or Injury; Mendoza is a top 5 talent)

I've revised my view of the impressive nature of the position player crop here. Basically, once I dug into the #s a little bit more, what I find are a lot of guys who have either prominent weaknesses to go along with at least one impressive skill or seasons mediated by sample size limitations, meaning that both categories of player can only be regarded as sleepers. Those players include: Castillo(slight decline in peripherals yr2, position), Oropesa (SSS, luck, position), Morillo (one great month, position), Mateo(LHP), Chalas (position), Lugo(weak contact, rhp, 1 good month), HMart (lhp, SSS-missed 1/2 yr), Reyes(SSS, weak contact).

Just a word about instructs. You have to be pleased that Dominicans Peralta, Perez, TMart, and Frankie Mendoza have secured Visas given the stricker climate in the consulate. One has to be a little worried about those who were not invited who could have been based on their performance in 2009. Randol Rojas, who was the DSL co-pitcher of the year, was not invited. I'm not too worried about the Venezuelans who were left off the roster, like Rojas, Mavare, Mendez, Reyes, and Oropesa. Unlike the Venezuelan kids, the Domincans could see their families during the season. I imagine that some of them have elected to stay home rather than spend another 6 weeks abroad. There could also be a cap on the # of invites either by the team or the consulate, though I think that was lifted a few years ago. Visa issues are less of a problem for Venezuelans but it has happened before. Reyes and Oropesa just might be too young and inexperienced with too many holes in their game to merit an invite while Mendez is an 09 sign so it may or may not have been important that he be there. Let's not forget that the DSL instructs happens in October so I bet most of the DSL squad will be there possibly even including those who attended the US (save maybe the VZ and Chris Garcia). Also, one source says that TX staff will be there as well, who I presume to be JD, Warsh, maybe some other coaches and the us/intl scouting cadre. I think Warsh was there last year as well.

Having said that, I am worried about a few of the Dominicans that weren't invited. Ayenil Mendoza and Kelvin de Leon (both 08 instructs invites) were not invited, missing the year due to injury or to Visa issues. If either were injured then we can expect to see them in short-season ball next year. If it is a visa issue, they could be released or stuck in the Dominican as an org guy for the rest of their careers. Mendoza ranked as one of the top pitching prospects in 08 and I expected him (and de Leon, as a reliever) to debut in the AZL this year.

Other pitchers excluded were Leonel Gil, Jose Mavare, and Carlos Ramirez. For position players, Chalas, Morillo, and HMart were excluded. So how should we read these omissions? Visa or injury issues seem the most likely culprit but being raw with lots of holes/weaknesses in ones game could also have been the deciding factor. Morillo had batted .185 in his first 23 games, then .400+ in his final 25, then missed the last 3 weeks to injury. So he could be hurt or just too raw to merit an invite. HMart has some promise but also some substantial weaknesses so maybe he is too raw as well. Chalas seemed to have merited an invite based on his performance though his position is still in question as a former MIF moved become 1b/3b with below average power. Gil, Mavare and Ramirez all merited invites based on the years that they had. Gil and Mavare seem capable of a jump to spokane in 2010 based on their dominating years and impressive peripherals. Ramirez should merit an invite to AZL. I would be worried the most about these last three having visa issues. Having said that, they each will be able to participate in DSL instructs so maybe the US invite is more symbolic than effective, and I guess I would lean in this direction for now.

The surprise invites would have to be Francisco Mendoza, Chris Garcia, and Yefrey Castillo. Frankie Mendoza will be 22.3yo a/o 4/1 next year so he clearly profiles as a reliever who must have a very good fastball to still be regarded as a prospect at his age and he did have a good year this year to be sure. He appears to have made his pitching debut at the age of 20 in 2008 and only pitched a partial season, whether due to being signed late or injury, we don't know. Chris Garcia was said to be a fringe prospect according to some scouting scuttlebutt, with the assertion being that he was a track guy with little baseball experience. His invite might indicate that TX views him more highly or that, in fact, the scouts were correct, as they need to teach him baseball fundamentals in preparation for next year. Castillo has been moved around a lot this season after have been a catcher for most of last year. He has played 2b (10), DH (12) and OF(2) in addition to catcher 32g). This left me with the impression that he was moved off of the position as he didn't play it much in the second half but TX has him listed as a catcher on the instructs roster; they may have just been trying to get him to play everyday while allowing pt for the other younger catchers. His biggest issue is that while his gap power increased quite a bit from 2008 his peripherals declined generally across the board. That isn't usually a good sign for a DSL kid.

As an aside, I have little confidence that Esdras Abreu (see profile) or Luis Parra will develop into legit prospects. Parra seems to have no clue on the mound while Abreu seems to have little clue at the plate. It is telling that neither received an invite to instructs but not a death knell given their age but their deficits are great when compared to Telis or Garcia or Escobar or Alvarez.




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Friday, September 25, 2009

Top 40 draft

as a work in progress though I don't really care about an "overall" system rankings. Comparing apples to oranges really has little utility so when "ranking" players you should rank pitchers to pitchers and hitters to hitters, and each of those grouped by role. What does it really mean to say that Feliz is #1 and Smoak is #2 compared to one another? Nothing if you ask me, how could it? Wouldn't it make more sense to rank players in terms of how they project to measure up as a major leaguer at their position? So say, all-star, above-average, average, replacement, utility? What interests me are individual valuations that take into account not only ceiling but the likelihood that it can be realized by heavily weighing injuries, weaknesses, talent/skills, and character in addition to performance trends. I've started this process by breaking down the rankings by roles in my worksheets. I'll update them again sometime after instructs/AFL.

1 Neftali Feliz 1
2 Justin Smoak First
3 Martin Perez 1_2
4 Julio Borbon Center
5 Tanner Scheppers 2_3
6 Omar Poveda 3
7 Guillermo Moscoso 3
8 Pedro Strop bp1
9 Wilmer Font 2_3
10 Robbie Ross 2_3
11 Kennil Gomez 3
12 Michael Kirkman 3
13 Blake Beavan 3
14 Michael Main 2_3
15 Tony Mendonca Third
16 Luis Sardinas Short
17 Jurickson Profar Short
18 Tony Doyle 3
19 Richard Bleier 3
20 Tim Moreland DH/1B
21 Max Ramirez DH/Catcher
22 Miguel Velazquez Right
23 Jacob Brigham 3
24 Greg Golson Center
25 Wilfredo Boscan 3
26 Joe Wieland 3
27 Edwin Garcia Short
28 Tomas Telis Catcher
29 Carlos Melo 2_3 (or closer)
30 Robbie Erlin 3
31 Kasey Kiker bp2
32 Chad Tracy First
33 D-Gut (Gutierrez) 3
34 Trevor Hurley 3_5
35 Carlos Pimentel 3_5
36 Braden Tullis 3_5
37 Chadwick Bell 3_5
38 Engel Beltre Center
39 E. Escobar 5
40 Marcus Lemon Second

Key: Starters (1-5); Closer, Setup (1,2)
Notes: Main - Moves into top 10 after he remains healthy and pitches well for a full season or at least 100ip.
D-Gut- Moves into 15-20 range after a full season without being arrested/suspended.
Velazquez- moves into top 15 if he stays out of trouble for a full year and moves as quickly as he should.
Kiker - profiles as a lefty setup guy not a starter. With his wicked changeup, he could succeed in that role, particularly if he adds a bit of velo coming out of the pen.



Friday, September 18, 2009

Minor Moves


Signed: Tanner Scheppers (1.25m)
Released:
LHP Chris Cooper
Reinstated from DL: RHP Omar Poveda
Not sure why he was on the DL with only 2-3 days left in the season after his last start.



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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Just subscribed to Espn Insider

and came across a couple of Intl. FA items from La Esquina.

1. This snippet on Profar suggests that TX way overbid on Profar as there was only one other team in contention for him:

PROFAR PROBLEMS The Rangers' signing of SS Jurickson Profar may turn out to be the biggest risk of all the July 2 signings. Profar had already threatened to quit baseball if teams did not sign him as a shortstop. Profar is considered by most scouts to be a much better pitcher, but Profar hates to pitch because he says it causes too much pain in his arm, according to sources close to the situation. Profar also comes from a very poor family whose fortunes will surely change after receiving a reported $1.55 million bonus. Several scouts wonder whether Profar's motivation will dwindle after receiving such a large deal. Most scouts believed Profar would get a bonus of around $750,000. Instead, the Rangers more than doubled the amount despite the fact that the Orioles were the only other team seriously interested in Profar as a shortstop.


2. This snippet on the signing of CF Andres Fria for 75k (a fairly large bonus), the son of Adolfo Fria, the agent for Guillermo Pimentel. He seems to have missed most of June as he probably didnt sign until the day after the draft and played in only 30g and showed zero power. In his first 13 games he hit .295, in his last 17 he hit .138 and then missed the last 2 1/2 weeks. He doesn't seem like much of a prospect, as he played at age 19 for the DSL1 club:

Several months ago, Fria confirmed that the Rangers signed his 18-year-old son Andres, an undrafted centerfielder who attended high school in New Jersey, for a generous $75,000 bonus. That type of bonus is typically given to a player drafted in Rounds 8-10 of the amateur draft.


3. A couple of VZ FA who remain unsigned who worked out for TX before July2:

•Two Venezuelan prospects to keep an eye on are SS Gioskar Amaya and catcherErnesto Leon, who is a switch hitter. Amaya is considered a projectable hitter with good hands. Both worked out this week for the Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies,Detroit Tigers and the New York Mets. They are scheduled to work out next week for the Yankees, Cubs, Blue Jays, Cardinals and Royals.


4. Another Profar piece from May 29:

The Jurickson Profar Saga

Friday, May 29, 2009 | Print Entry

Posted by Jorge Arangure Jr.

Prized Curaçaoan prospect Jurickson Profar is turning his courtship into quite an adventure. Though most teams see him as a pitching prospect, Profar is insisting he wants to sign as a shortstop, which has complicated the bidding process.

"He would rather not play than have to pitch," said one source close to the situation.

The source said Profar dislikes pitching so much because it puts too much stress on his arm.

So far, only the Texas Rangers and the Baltimore Orioles have shown interest in Profar, who starred in the 2004 Little League World Series as a shortstop. Profar has been closely linked to the Rangers, since they have shown the most interest in him at shortstop. It was only recently that the Orioles have also relented to allowing Profar to begin his career in the infield.

Profar has become so disenchanted with the process, according to a source, that he has stopped working out altogether. Most teams haven't seen him work out as a pitcher in several months. At that time, the 5-foot-10 Profar threw in the 90-92 mph range. Such an attitude has severely lessened his value.

What has also driven many teams away is that Profar is asking for a seven-figure bonus, though he is considered just an average shortstop. Texas is believed to have offered Profar an $850,000 bonus.

Of course a team could sign Profar as a shortstop and then convince him to pitch. One scout speculated that is exactly what any team who is willing to sign him as a shortstop will try to do.




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Friday, September 11, 2009

Blaze to stay in Bakersfield for 2010

Too bad. I guess it is always possible that TX switches their affiliation to another team similar to the Clinton to Hickory move.



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Thursday, September 10, 2009

EasyEddie

My man Edwin "Easy Eddie" Garcia has just been named Defender of the Month for August by the Rangers. If there was any doubt that he didn't have shortstop chops (due to the fact that he gets zero press and he plays in AZ) that should ease your mind. EasyEddie, the best shortstop prospect currently playing in the capacious TX system.




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Ben Badler on Kiker

He mentioned that Kiker's velo during his 3 inning WBC debut was not good:
First 2 innings 87-89+90; third inning, 85-88. Pretty much what he has been throwing up there all season for those paying attention - fringe average fastball folks (except for the first 3 weeks of the season when he sat90-93). Badler also mentioned that his curveball was 'meh'. If you've been keeping up on my Kiker-Kritiques, all this will come as no surprise.

Omar Poveda's complete game shutout (0ER) to keep Frisco's playoff hopes alive offers up a nice contrast and (not-so) subtly suggests who had the better year in their AA developmental stage. I'll go one step further. Poveda will be a viable candidate for a rotation spot next year out of spring training. However, given the amount of nice candidates with ML experience he doesn't really stand a chance of beating the other 3-4 guys out of the final spot. If this was 2006 or 2007, different story. However, he could see action next year in case of a rash of injuries as he will be ready before Kirkman and Kiker, who, as i've said before, should end up in the TX pen (possibly as soon as next year). It is more likely that he ends up as trade bait in a deadline or winter deal.




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DGut update

Some quick notes from his debut based on the play by play:

1. The only velo reading was 89. Considering that he wasn't missing a lot of bats throughout his outing, I have to conclude that his velo was nowhere near what he topped out at at the end of 2008 (particularly during the playoffs), 93-96. Batters were fouling off lots of balls so the hitters were not being kept off-balance by his FB or Change.
2. He spotted his changeup well for strikes but it was not a swing and miss pitch. At this point you would have to be encouraged about it as a fringe-average pitch, but he is probably throwing it too hard to effectively keep hitters guessing.
3. His Curveball is a true 12-6 pitch that he throws for strikes and out of the zone for swings and misses, burying it in the dirt when way ahead. Scott Garner couldnt stop buzzing about it. It is also possible that he was changing speeds on the pitch, throwing one a little harder than the sharp breaker that is his staple, as Garner mentioned a couple of sliders but he doesn't throw one based on all of the reports that I came across.

So, in this start, it appears that DGut threw up some average velo #s if the guns were accurate and that he still has a lot of work to do on his changeup as it is not a great change of pace pitch at the moment. He had trouble missing bats in this outing, getting lots of foul balls and having some trouble putting hitters away. He didn't walk anyone so he appeared to be commanding all of his pitches well but might have been throwing too many "quality" strikes - not effectively moving the ball in the zone - given the contact that they were making. In fact Garner did mention that his FB command was only average. Garner really only made one comment about that late run and sink that had been reported on his fastball in the scouting reports; it didnt seem too lively in this outing.

So based on this outing, and this outing alone, looks like a mid-rotation starter and we have a lot of those in the system. We'll have to wait and see how he does in instructs/AFL or even next year in spring training or full season ball to see if he can repeat his plus average velo of 94 from the end of 2008. So if that happens, and he improves his changeup and he stays out of jail, he could be have a #2 ceiling. Right now: mid-rotation guy, ave to above average fastball 88-92 (possbily played up by some sink/run and command), plus CB and fringe-average changeup, all with AA command. Right now, Omar Poveda is the better pitcher (AA 4-seam FB, AA CB, plus change, ave Sinker, AA command) but DGut has the higher ceiling if everything plays out (and it never does, especially when you are on probation and on trial).




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Pacific Rim updates

Add another name to the mix: Wei-Yin Chen.

A 24yo RH Tawainese pitcher who signed on to an NPB club on what appears to be a one-year deal. AA to plus FB an slider...

Also, an update on Kikuchi that indicates he might visit the states in October - he must delare his draft eligibility by 10/15 - and gives his chances of opting for MLB at 50/50.



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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Gutierrez it is

As I speculated yesterday, Hyatt's move to HighA was indeed a prelude to adding Gutierrez to the Frisco roster; he is starting tonight. I'll offer up an analysis a bit later...

For those who missed it, Omar Poveda pitched a complete game last night in a must win game giving up zero earned runs. Who would you have rather seen in that game, Poveda or Kiker, especially knowing that a key to any win is avoiding the Frisco bullpen at all costs...



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Friday, September 4, 2009

Kiker pictured

in this WBC exhibition summary

Gave up 3 runs on 3 hits in 3 innings....

You can find USA box scores here


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Roster Moves

ML
Willie Eyre promoted from AAA.

AA
Jared Hyatt sent to HighA, a prelude to a Gutierrez start? His next start would have occurred on Thursday if not for the trade...

AFL
Gutierrez added to the squad. With Diamond being claimed, that leaves one spot for a player in AA to AAA.



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DGut smoking gun

Here is a summary of the arrest record for our shiny new prospect and choirboy Danny "you talkin' to me?" Gutierrez. Still believe in the "high ceiling" endgame? -

Team violations (unspecified) -
May 2007 - Suspended for year along with three others (appeared in 8 games). One of the guys suspended, Jason Taylor, received a 50game supension in 2008 for violation of performance enhancing substances. The team suspension was rumored to be related to minor pot possession but I could find no evidence to prove the claim.

Criminal violations (all in AZ)-
March 21, 2008 - invalid license, and speeding 20mph or more over 45.
May 7, 2008- Fighting, pleaded guilty and paid fine, 12/08/08. (apparently community service according to one report)
Note that he missed all of may and part of June due to what has been variously termed a strained elbow to a fracture of the tip of his elbow. Seems like this injury may not have been baseball related after all.
June 22, 2009 - Assault/touched to injure. Trial date 9/23/09.


So while many happy prospecters cheer the acquisition of such a trouble magnet, remember that he will be reporting to the AFL not only because he needs the innings and has two really good pitches, but because his is on probation, must complete his community service requirement, and has a court date to attend. So, I wonder what happens if he loses his trial on the assault charges? And of course, in the "cryptic team-related offenses" category of personal problems for the kid, we are not even bringing up his dispute with the team this spring or his reported injury that has caused him to miss yet another year. Isn't enough to just call it all pretty suspect based on what we already know about him?




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Danny Gutierrez flotsam

UPDATE: I've seen summaries of his stuff from BP that assert that he was pitching 92-95 in the second half of last year; that his CB was ranked best in the KC system by BA, and that he has good sink and possible some late life on his fb that he works down in the zone and late break on his CB. He was especially good late in the season and dominant in his lone playoff start. I'll be interested to see if he was pitching 92-95 upon his return this year. It isn't out of the question to see him make a start in HighA to end the year...


UPDATE2: BA Profile, 2008 end of year prospect rankings by league: #18 Prospect Midwest league
Gutierrez missed seven weeks early in the season after he came down with elbow tightness, but came back strong and was at his best in the playoffs. He struck out 11 over six scoreless innings in the opening game of the finals against Dayton. Gutierrez' fastball sat at 88-92 mph in April and 90-95 toward the end of the season, and his heater also features good life. He also has a legitimate 12-to-6 curveball and some feel for a changeup. He throws strikes but sometimes elevates his pitches and gets hit. "There are days when he goes out and looks like he can mow down the world," Burlington manager Brian Rupp said.


UPDATE3: 2009 BA preseason profile, #7 in KC system (ranked 11th overall)
BEST CURVEBALL/BEST CONTROL
Background: Gutierrez has made great strides since signing as a draft-and-follow in 2006. His velocity jumped during instructional league in 2007 and he sustained the increase in 2008 which made him a different pitcher. He missed all of May with a hairline fracture in his pitching elbow, but he pitched well afterward. In the first game of the Midwest League finals, he outdueled South Bend ace Jarrod Parker with 11 strikeouts over six scoreless innings.
Strengths: Gutierrez pounds the lower part of the strike zone with his fastball, generating plenty of grounders. He pitched at 88-92 mph early in the season but was working at 90-95 with good life at the end of the year. He has power and 12-to-6 break on a curveball that buries itself just as it reaches the plate. He also shows some feel for a changeup. He can locate his pitches to all four quadrants of the strike zone. He limits the running game by varying his timing to the plate and his pickoff move.
Weaknesses: After the elbow scare, Gutierrez needs to show he can stay healthy and sustain his improved velocity over a full season. When he operates in the low 90s, his other pitches play up. If he can improve his changeup, the sky is the limit.
The Future: There's some talk that Gutierrez could handle a jump to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, though the Royals usually aren't that aggressive. He'll probably open 2009 in high Class A Wilmington.


UPDATE4: selections from BP profile and and Interview
From BP -
"He...showcased outstanding command of both a mid-90s heater and a plus curve in the Midwest League playoffs, when he allowed just two runs in 12 innings with 17 strikeouts and just two walks in helping the Bees sweep to the championship. By the end of the year, the Royals felt he was by far the best pitcher they had at any minor league level."

We already know about that very-fast fastball and plus curve, but Gutierrez seems eager to show off another piece of the arsenal this season - his changeup. He used it a little bit last season, but not a whole lot. "I have a really good feel for it now so this season should be fuuuun," he said.



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Diamond to Cubs per MLBTR

"The Cubs acquired righty Thomas Diamond from the Rangers, MLBTR has learned. Diamond, the 10th overall pick in the 2004 draft, was designated for assignment Tuesday by Texas. He had Tommy John surgery in '07, and has struggled with his control since. Diamond has worked as a reliever most of this year. Cubs assistant GM Randy Bush coached Diamond at the University of New Orleans, by the way."

No word on the return, likely an low-A type prospect (think Hamburger)...

UPDATE:
TX get's nothing in the deal as Diamond was simply claimed off of waivers and awarded to the cubs. Not a lot of value there it would appear.



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TRS on Maddux

TRS scripts a very nice article on Maddux. One minor qualm- he asserts (awkwardly it seems) that the cutter is a new pitch for Millwood but I think he has had it for some time (Padilla did too) preceding Madd's arrival.




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Thursday, September 3, 2009

TX trades Smitty, Pena to KC for Daniel Gutierrez

Can't say that I get this move especially because I think Smitty is close to being a big league regular in LF with an AA bat, playing AA defense. And if you think that KC got Smitty when it wanted Moreland, I bet it's quite the opposite. I think Pena's catchability was overrated last year, opinions based primarily on his arm, but, according to the staff, he has made tremendous improvement this year on blocking balls and other catching fundamentals (and, one would hope, game calling, and improved english, which is still n'igh unintelligible). I felt that Smitty could make it to the bigs next year in the second half, most likely post trade deadline, while Pena was at least 1.5 years away due to his bat - he hit ~.2oo this season save for the first 2 weeks - and his relative lack of experiene due to his early-career injuries. So, all in all, Smitty was the key to this trade in my mind while Pena could develop into a backup catcher.

As for Daniel Gutierrez, the organization is taking an inadvisable risk that his makeup issues are an aberration or, as you are sure to hear tomorrow, "he's just a kid who could use a change of scenery." Nonsense. He seems to have pissed away 2 years of his carreer, which is why he is a 22 yo with only one month's worth of work in HighA, a league that he might have to repeat next year at 23. After his awful debut in 2006, you would think that the kid would come out knowing that he had something to prove in his second season. Instead, he was suspended in 2007 for unspecified violations of team rules (with 3 others) for about 4 months of the season - it must have been something pretty serious. As you've all heard he impressed at fall instructs and then had a nice 2008. But then he was arrested for minor assault in the spring that put him both afoul of the law and the team; he pleaded guilty, paid a 500$ fine and must commit to community work int AZ. Meanwhile, he and Boras inc. got in a dispute with team trainers and KC sent him home (to rehab with his agency I guess).

None of this really portrays a good guy, and it seems more likely that his propensity to be an idiot is much more likely to derail his ceiling than Smitty and Pena fail to reach their own. But there is more. The injury issue. Apparently he missed about 7 weeks in 2008 - late april to mid june - with a fracture of the tip of his elbow (like Strop). Then this year, apparently, he has suffered from what has to be regarded as pretty serious shoulder problems as it has forced him to miss 80% of the season - the second time in three years that he has missed nigh 4 months of a 5 month minor league season.

Ok so let's say that you think that Smitty and Pena are just guys, and you think that DGut's problems are just blemishes, all while also holding that his injuries are flukish, and being flukish, there is no better org for him than TX. Ok so then let's look at his talent. Here is my take: previously ave fb (90) that flashed above average now sits above average (92) and flashes plus (94,95) with plus command vs RHH/average command vs LHH with an above average to plus curveball that he commands well too.

So what about his changeup? Well, this is where that "ceiling" argument fails, given all the preconditions that I just posited. If you buy Baseball America's profile of the kid, they say only that "he has a feel" for it (so it would seem sensible to hold that his BAA vs LHH is low due to his nice FB command and good BB rather than due to a changeup up that, according to one report, he never really threw much). After 4 years in the organization, he only has a "feel" for a changeup. It seems to me that if the kid was committed to working on the pitch - the only thing that separates him from stardom and a loading dock - it would already be an average pitch right now. But given the loss of 2 years in his development due to character issues, it has not, and serves as a perfect example of why it is not likely to develop; he doesnt' have what it takes to be a professional ball player it seems. He likely ends up as a bullpen arm as his changeup wilts on the vine. Isn't it more likely that he is Juaquin Arias or Neil Ramirez rather than Tommy Hunter?

Finally, I don't think this can be regarded as a rule5 roster maneuever,as there is room for Pena this fall, and Smith is not eligible, so why did TX make this move? It seems obvious that JD chose ceiling over character and for a team that just jettisoned Padzilla to the curb because he was an asshole, it hardly seems justifiable. So I oppose the deal based on the asshole principle alone but you too can oppose it if you buy the "ceiling" argument based on the unlikelihood that he ever reaches it because, and well, this is where i beat you, beacause he's an asshole. I'll take the hard-working, character guys like Smitty and Pena every time.


Here is a nice little profile that I found over at royaltower:

I think it is safe to say that Daniel Gutierrez has had one of the more obscure paths on his way toward the top of prospect lists. He started as a late round pick in 2005, as there was nearly 1,000 players taken before him that year. Signed the next May as a draft-and-follow, Gutierrez debuted as a pro at Idaho Falls and had an absolutely miserable go of it. Things didn't get much better in 2007 either, when news came down that he and three others were suspended for a violation of team rules. However, later in 2007, news started filtering in about how well Gutierrez looked in the instructional league, and he slowly started to make his way up prospect lists. He showed the buzz was for real in 2008 with a stellar season in Burlington, and now his name gets mixed in with the other top pitching prospects in the organization.

The Scouting Report

What makes Gutierrez very intriguing is his fantastic fastball/curveball mix. While he doesn't have the best fastball in terms of pure velocity within the organization, he might have the best combination of velocity and command of the pitch. It's the curveball though that really makes Gutierrez stand out -- it's a legitimate plus pitch already with a chance to be even better. Those two pitches alone should allow him to be a reliever in the future even without too much improvement.

The part that bothers me a little is the changeup, or lack thereof. It's not that he's not working on the pitch (which young pitcher isn't?), but I've heard it's just not there yet. Gutierrez wasn't even using it in games during times last year, due to the fact it was behind and the fact he didn't really need it. Left-handed batters hit about .30 points higher than right-handed hitters did, which stands out when looking at his splits in 2008.


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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Selections from BA piece on Mendonca


........

Mendonca approached the Rangers player development staff and the Spokane coaching staff about making adjustments to his offensive game, and club officials were impressed by his desire to learn.

"For the first 75-100 at-bats we leave the player alone unless he comes to us for (help)," Rangers farm director Scott Servais said. "Tommy did that. He came to us. About 50 to 60 at-bats in (at Spokane) he said, 'I'm open. What do I need to do to get better?' He bought into our program. Ultimately, they have to want to learn before they key in."

The Rangers started working on Mendonca's swing. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound third baseman's calling card has always been his plus power, but the fundamentals of his swing concerned scouts before the draft.

"He's made good adjustments. He was very open to try new things," Servais said. "We have addressed the swing path issues. We have gotten him to keep the path of his bat to stay in the zone longer . . . It's really started paying off recently."

Mendonca's improvement has been as sudden as his early struggles. His batting average skyrocketed 108 points and he swatted six more home runs, including three in an early-August game at Salem-Keizer.

"I would do a lot of bad things (with my swing) before I made adjustments. I had the concept right but with a bad swing," said Mendonca, who was hitting .304/.351/.528 in 161 at-bats. "If I do it right it works now. I realize right from wrong now. I wasn't afraid to admit that I needed help when I needed it. It's a good thing to use your resources."

............

Mendonca's defense is one aspect of the third baseman's game that the Rangers have been pleased with from the start.

"Playing defense hasn't been that hard of a transition," Mendonca said. "Defense is one of my strong points. Defense comes easy to me. I feel comfortable with my defense. In my mind, defense is still defense."

The Rangers and Mendonca agree that there are still adjustments to be made. Strikeouts are still an area of concern. He has continued to strike out at a healthy clip since his average began to rise and had 60 strikeouts.

"It's definitely something we are going to address," Servais said. "There are definitely more things we want to adjust to help his swing path. We've got to cut down the (strikeout) rate. There's no doubt about that."



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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

McCarthy

Nice start by McCarthy but I have to wonder how successful he is going to be as a RH starter next year with 2 off-speed pitches in the 70's and a fastball that sits 86-88 through 5 and 84-86 in the 6th and 7th. The reemergence of his good changeup is nice news but I have to think you'll see him in the pen next year unless he adds some velo given some more time to work with his new mechanics and improve his arm strength. I'm glad Harrison, Moscoso and Hunter will be in the pipe...



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Roster moves

To see them in their full glory, check out my roster worksheet, I'm too lazy to summarize the all. A few that may or may not have been widely reported: of/1b Jared Bolden (Hickory to AAA); C Zaneski fromAZL to OKC; Hyatt from HighA DL to AA; Easy Eddie from AZL to Spokane; Erik Morrison was placed on the DL sometime in the last 7 days; Andruw Jones rehabbing in AA.

UPDATE:
1. 30y0 OF Kevin Thompson also added to the OKC roster
2. Spokane going to a 6-man rotation to end the season with Wilkins pitching tonight, pushing Ross back one day.

UPDATE:
Jason Cole is reporting that Mike Kirkman is injured (knee I think) and is probably out for the last week; Laughter started in his stead. Wow, Kirkman and Kiker lost in a playoff race, and replaced by a bullpen guy and an 18yo.


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BA on Chad Bell

He only ranked 26th in a weak collection of Cape talent this year. What is encouraging is that, at least in some starts he had an average fastball (90), which was more than I had seen reported, though, to be sure, he did break out his 87mph heater as well. One report that I read said that he threw his changeup too much during the summer but it is nice to hear again that his change flashes plus. So with an arsenal of at fastball that ranges 87-91, a changeup that flashes plus and a reportedly solid average to above average curveball with above average command on all his pitches- sounds like Richard Bleier, or Mike Ballard,or Z. Phillips (as a starter). Not sure that is worth getting too excited about but then Bleier has ended up really impressing me this year when I thought he was destined for a MR/LR role down the line...

26. Chad Bell, lhp, Cotuit (SIGNED: Rangers)


A 14th-round pick out of Walters State (Tenn.) CC, Bell made himself some money with his Cape performance. He threw a no-hitter against Chatham on July 12, limited opponents to a .173 average and commanded multiple pitches as well as anyone in the league. The Rangers signed him at the deadline for $450,000.

Bell relied on his curveball too much at Walters State but used his fastball more with Cotuit, boosting its velocity from 86-88 mph to 89-91. He also had one of the best changeups on the Cape, and his curve is a solid pitch.



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