Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Minor Moves and Notes

AAA
Tommy Hunter assigned to OKC to continue his rehab per Andro.

AA
Ogando being officially moved from the rotation to the pen while Roark moves into the rotation per the pxp guys.

Adalberto Flores had a nice debut for Frisco striking out 4 straight during his 2 innings. He sat 91 and appeared to change speeds on his slider (unless he also throws a curve) with the slow one coming in at 79.

Evan Reed sat 94 touching 95 in relief of Flores with 3 SO over 2.


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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lots of roster moves

ML
Teagarden and Salty optioned to AAA.
Cruz placed on DL due to hamstring.


AAA
Max Ramirez and Craig Gentry called up to bigs.

HighA
Jason Cole reports: Jose Felix to inactive list; Chris Gradoville up from extended; Erik Morrison to DL with hammy; Daniel Lima up from extended.



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Monday, April 26, 2010

Minor Notes

Scheppers continues to dominate getting 5SO in his 2 innings.
Matt Thompson had a fine 6 inning appearance (6/6/1/1/7). ScoutingtheSal had his fb sitting 89 in the first, flashing 91, with a curveball at 73-77.
Mendonca had 2 errors and has 7 on the young season.
Leury Garcia added 1 more, making 4 in the last 2 games and about 10 on the season.
Moscoso settled down after throwing 53 pitches in the first 3 innings and 31 over the next three and getting the quality start.
Bleier got walloped failing to make it out of the second.
Boscan went 6 nice innings but failed to get an out in the seventh with an assist from poor infield defense.
Michael Oritz went 4-5 breaking out of his season long slump but committed his 5th error at 1B.


&&&&&&

International News

Very nice summary article at MLBTR with eng/spn links describing the continuing conflict between MLB and Dominican baseball professionals regarding a future intl. draft. It has gone so far as to effect games and workout sessions with Dominican repts barring MLB scouts from workouts, and MLB effectively canceling a DPL game by barring use of MLB-owned facilites. For those keeping track, the Dominican Prospect League extended its season past March due to the success of the incipient development league.

Also per MLBTR, D'Backs void the 190k contract of 2009 j2 OF sign Socrates Brito due to his recent PED suspension. Boston signs 22yo Cuban catcher Adalberto Ibarra to a 3mill 5 year deal with an additional 1.3 million in incentives.



=================

Minor Moves

Adalberto Flores promoted to AA, Ryan Falcon released.
Chris Gradoville is in extended.
Vinny DiFazigod has been activated from the DL, Zaneski to extended.
Mark Hamburger activated for the Blaze per Cole.

UPDATE: Brandon McCarthy to the OKC DL with a stress reaction in his shoulder.


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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Draft talk

For any of you thinking ahead to the draft in June (and I don't start thinking about it until BA releases their top 200 at the end of May), BA just updated its top 50. Looks like TX should get a HS/CLG position player with the first pick and a college pitcher with the second pick if their valuation proves close. Here are their 11-25 players encompassing both TX draft picks:

11. Chris Sale, lhp, Florida Gulf Coast
12. Christian Colon, ss, Cal State Fullerton
13. Zack Cox, 3b, Arkansas
14. Nick Castellanos, 3b, Archbishop McCarthy HS, SW Ranches, Fla.
15. Michael Choice, of, Texas-Arlington
16. Austin Wilson, of, Harvard-Westlake HS, Los Angeles
17. Kaleb Cowart, 3b/rhp, Cook HS, Adel, Ga.
18. Kevin Gausman, rhp, Grandview HS, Aurora, Colo.
19. Gary Brown, of, Cal State Fullerton
20. Jesse Hahn, rhp, Virginia Tech
21. Matt Harvey, rhp, North Carolina
22. Alex Wimmers, rhp, Ohio State
23. Asher Wojciechowski, rhp, The Citadel
24. Bryce Brentz, of, Middle Tennessee State
25. Brandon Workman, rhp, Texas


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Minor Notes

Slightly OT: I really like the depth on the OKC club. Almost every pitcher or hitter getting prominent PT on the club could fill in for at least a short time (if not longer) for anyone on the ML club set down by a chronic or major injury. For a club that views itself in the hunt this is critical. It gives them an actual replacement in case of injury but also the depth that high level prospects provide should a trade be necessary.

Speaking of depth some injured players will move back into the system over the next
month or so.Tommy Hunter should begin rehab assignment in AAA in the next 1-2 weeks or so, once he gets stretched out, replacing Ballard in the rotation. Ballard likely replaces Geary in the pen who will probably be released. Both Endy Chavez and Toby Hall will likely be assigned to AAA or AA for their rehab assignments over the next 2-3 weeks as well. Hall is a career .235/.625ops hitter but that is better than Teagarden so far. How shocking would it be to have a catcher platoon of Hall and Treanor for the rest of the season with Salty (AAA) and Tea (AA) sent to the minors until the trade deadline to work out their issues. I wonder if Max could figure into the mix in the end despite his subpar catchability. To be honest, I don't know where he figures in if at all. Chavez could replace DMurph on the roster if he is still struggling through the end of May. He is only a .270/.680ops 4th OF type but that is better than what DMurph is throwing up there now coupled with his Plus defense at all three spots.

Daniel "meathead" Gutierrez will be eligible to return from his suspension on 6/10 with Eric Hurely also set to return about that time. They both could platoon with one another in AA as they will probably want to restrict Hurley's innings while DGut will need to be stretched out. They would replace the Ogando/Roark platoon with Ogando likely being promoted to AAA taken the spot of either Ramirez or Peguero. Roark would likely take Falcon's spot in the pen forcing him to the curb or extended. Warner Madrigal should be eligible to come off the 60 as well around the first week of June. They will try to outright him off the 40 and send him to AAA if he clears.

Kinsler begins continues his rehab assignment at AA on Monday and could be ready to be activated by Friday. Hopefully the club trys to outright Arias off the roster in a move to keep Blanco. I'm ready for Arias to be gone.

On the promotion tip, Scheppers might get promoted to AA in the next month as well along with Ogando likely taking Peguero's spot. Andrew Laughter and Beau Jones will also be looking for AA roster spots when they come of the injured list.


AAA
Michael Kirkman had an outstanding start tonight giving up a single over 8 innings on 99 pitches. I think this is the first 8 inning start in the TX system this year. He continued a trend in his last start giving up a few too many walks, 5 over 5 last time, with 4 in this outing but otherwise he was simply outstanding. He sat 92-93 all the way into the 7th inning even touching 96. Kirkman has struggled with his command mainly against right-handed hitters, which seems to indicate that his changeup is not quite up to speed yet this season. In his post-game interview, he said that he commanded his stuff down in the zone really well and worked inside a lot.

Chad Tracy continues to mash. He hit his 6th homer tonight, which gives him 12xbh and 18rbi in 17 games with about a 1.1 ops. His walk rate has improved a tad at this early phase while his SO rate has declined a little bit more compared to last season. From what I can gather, Tracy is a dead fastball and pull hitter who has traditionally struggled vs LHH but this year his splits are even and he has shown nice patience at the plate, only swinging at his pitches, and, up to this point, hitting them with authority. We'll see how the pitchers adjust to him over the season as you would expect them to give him a steady offering of off-speed pitches. If he can make the adjustment - continuing to work the count, swinging at his pitched in the zone - this bodes well for him as a platoon type hitter in the bigs.

The AAA coach had this to say about Tracy:
"Hitting-wise, he's major league," RedHawks manager Bobby Jones said. "Defensively, he's got a lot of work to do. "He's got a bad arm (in lf). But he worked hard over the winter to get his arm better. He's got some work to do, but he's definitely got a chance. He can definitely swing the bat."

In fact, Tracy failed to dig out a low throw from the SS in the game, giving the SS an error on a play that was makeable.

Craig Gentry has proven so far that his refined and more patient approach at the plate last year was no fluke. He currently has a very nice bb/so ratio though he is struggling vs LHP. Clay Rapada continues to excel as both a loogy and a late inning arm for OKC. He has earned the right to be the first loogy called up to the TX pen should the need arise unless Holland is called up to be a late inning bullpen lefty. I would leave both Harrison, Holland, and Kirkman in their respective rotations for the foreseeable future as they are much more valuable as starters than low-leverage relievers in the MLB pen.

The clamor for Phillips or Snyder to be called up ahead of Rapada - with his good spring, his good early performance and his ML exper. - is just so much noise and reminds me of the wish to call up AJ Murray last year even though he was not good with his new sidearm delivery (and was released in the end). Both Phillips and Snyder absolutely bombed in ST (vs JIC hitters) and proved that they weren't ready. Snyder even cleared waivers so no other club though much about him either. In addition - a valuable point not mentioned by anyone it seems - both pitchers are repeating AA so they should be doing well. Let's see how they do in AAA before proclaiming them the next loogy messiah's (can there be such a thing for such a minimal role?). You either go Rapada as a loogy or go with Holland as a late-inning lefty (and definitely not a loogy). Kirkman needs to stay in the AAA rotation for the year as he needs innings to improve his command and his changeup. His time will be in 2011.

Max Ramirez is hitting better than last year but has not yet shown the power stroke or rbi production that he showed in the Venezuelan winter league, especially the last 2 weeks of that season when his bb/so ratio and power production improved dramatically. He has only 2xbh and 4 rbi so far while his bb/so ratio in the coming weeks might be the key measure of his prospect status over the course of the year. He is still catching too, which helps increase his trade value should he still have any. Mitch Moreland has been struggling and apparently missed some games so far handling personal/family issues. He is still sub .200 with a poor bb/so ration to date. I'm not sure of he has been dealing with any sort of minor injury but that has not been indicated to date.


AA
For Frisco, Alexi Ogando had a dominant 4-inning outing with 8 strikeouts and a single hit. Brett Perryman over at LSB reported (from the TV feed I guess) that he was getting lots of SM with his off-speed stuff (slider, split), which is a great sign. Lucas reports that he got a couple of SO on his splitter. He could help the big club if necessary by the all-star break but you would think that they want him to experience top level competition for a bit longer and continue to refine his secondary offerings for a bit longer. It wouldn't surprise me if he was promoted to AAA in the coming weeks to try his hand with some hitters with major league experience and top prospects in the wings. The kid just needs to throw more innings and get better and doesn't need to be rushed. He did well in both spring training and the more advanced VZ winter league so he should have a long future with the club.

Scott Lucas solves the Marcus Lemon mystery. He strained an oblique the first week of the season and has missed some games and sucked in the ones that he did appear in while struggling with the injury. Coming into tonight's game he was batting about .150 with about 12 strikeouts in as many games. He was a double away from a cycle tonight but he may continue to battle the injury for a few more weeks. In his absence both Osuna and Lawson have thrived. Lawson has been .300+ all season at 2b and lf with an improved bb/so ratio of late while Osuna has heated up after the first week and has been on an XB tear of late. Remember that in '08 Osuna hit about 40 doubles between hickory and Bak but saw his xbh totals plummet in 09. He had perhaps the best off-season of any Ranger playing SS in the VZ winter league so he might have found his stroke. Roark had a nice 4-inning outing as well giving up only 2 hits, which makes this the second nice long-relief outing in a row for him. I wonder if TX thinks that he might be able to be a #5 starter as he pitched very well as a swing guy last year and will pitch in that role this year too it appears.


HighA
For Bakersfield, Jacobo Brigham pitched an effective 6.1 innings but gave up a lot of extra-base hits so he may have struggled with his command in the zone while managing to get out of jams. Paisano continues to roll batting .370 and will likely see a promotion to AA before 6/1. Very exciting to continue to parlay his nice experience in the VZ winter league into the 2010 season.

LowA
Font struggled going on 3 innings while Lueke gave up his first run on a blown save. Font touched 96 in this outing per one report, which is not unexpected. That same report (scouting the sally) mentioned that he did not pitch inside enough in this outing. Tony Doyle and Trevor Hurley dominated over the remaining 5 innings with Doyle's sinker and Hurley's slider working their magic. Staff favorite Jared Prince has yet to show the terrific plate discipline that he exhibited in 2009, but has done better over the last 10g. He is the kind of hitter capable of a 1:1 bb/so ration, at least in A ball and currently is batting .300. Velazquez also showed nice patience at the plate last year (excluding his first week in Spokane, after which he made the necessary adjustments) while maintaining his aggressiveness but has only exhibited it in the last 10 days or so. He is batting .290 with 11xbh hits in his first 17 games. I expect him to be promoted by mid-season.

Leury Garcia continues to show why many prognosticators have simply been fooled on his ceiling. He is batting .183 over his last 10 while committing 9 errors over 17 games with three of those coming tonight. The scuttlebutt was that his high error totals from last year where correctable throwing errors but having listened to many games in 2009 it is clear that his throwing errors are caused by bad hands, bad transfers, and/or bad decisions more than a mere throw. It is not at all clear to me that his plus arm, range and speed will rise up to overcome his questionable defensive IQ and hands. Whatever the case, anyone who thought of him as a top 30 prospect will prove to be a fool.

Against my better judgement, I put Miguel Ortiz as a "player of note" in my rankings based on Jason Cole's effusive appraisals during instructs and ST. He has a nice story but his prospect status is highly questionable. If a player spends 3 years in short season, he is likely NAP -not a prospect. To date, Ortiz is pulling his best Clark Murphy impression, still batting below .200 on the year with zero power coupled with awful defense at first. It is still early but he simply has to produce or Murphy or Prince will replace him at 1b.

DSL
As soon at Jason Cole can snag a DSL extended roster, I will do a breakdown of the J2 payroll/country of origin for the club as I did last year (a very loose payroll estimation).

The DSL season opens in 5 weeks.



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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bianucci

was activated for the Blaze today while Eric Fry was released to make room for him. He singled in his first game back. Chris Davis hit a decisive three-run homer in his first game for OKC in his only hit. Lil' Lemon and Mo' Moreland are both batting below .200 on the season.

According to one source (scouting the sally), Ross had a very nice changeup (~82-84) tonight (with good downward movement) while Tullis had some filthy breaking stuff. Ross' velo was down 87-91- normally sits 90-94. He was hitting the outside corners in this outing while not pitching inside effectively (which he normally does). Source said he threw a lot of CH and not a lot of Sliders ( a good sign). Tullis' velo seemed to be about the same as last year, 87-91. Beavan got hit hard with Scott Lucas noting that he sat 90-91 (87-92+93 - sat 91-92 and flashed 94 a couple of times in last outing) with his change ~81-83 and his slider very hittable. Had some atypical trouble locating the FB.

Kennil Gomez was strong his first 2 innings throwing first-pitch strikes to most batters while failing to do that over the next 3. He worked out of trouble in all three innings and his curveball was very sharp though his command of it was inconsistent, throwing a couple in the dirt, and not getting on top of another. He fell apart in the sixth - as the coach tried to push him a little to try to get one more inning out of him - pitching to 4 batters before Tim Murphy came in to allow 2 of the 3 inherited runners to score. Tim Murphy and Evan Reed, 3rd round busts.


It's early, but guys who will be the first to be released, demoted, or sent to extended: Ed Koncel, Ryan Falcon, Jared Hyatt (re-signed?), Geoff Geary, Elizardo Ramirez, Mark Hamburger, Cody Podraza (if another cf is found).

Wagner Mateo signs with Arizona for 500k, down from 3million last July as doubt was cast about the health of his eyes. Rafael DePaula is still a FA, though rumored to be headed to Seattle or NYY.



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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Smoak promoted

Justin Smoak has been promoted from OKC tonight and will meet the team in Arlington. Though Davis showed more patience tonight working 3 full counts, it wasn't enough to keep him from being demoted for the second year in a row. No word on the corresponding move to make room for Smoak on the 40 though Poveda will likely be placed on the ML 60-day DL.

Main, Ballard, and Kiker all had nice starts tonight. Main went six while Kiker went 6.2, each throwing about 90 pitches. I just happened to tune into the feed for the Blaze game to catch Mendonca and Beltre making great defensive plays. Mendonca got his body in front of a screamer well enough to knock the ball down and throw out the runner from third trying to score on contact. Beltre made a full out dive for a shallow fly ball to make a great catch.


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News and Notes

For all of you Harrison supporters out there like me, you don't really need this kind of affirmation to keep your faith in the kid so this is for the doubters- Harrison was sick the morning of his start, got treatment, felt better, went out for his start, began feeling ill again sometime in the second, sucked after that, failed to get out of the fifth, and was waylayed by the stomach flu after he was done - this per Nadel.

NeRa imploded tonight, unable to finish the first inning- 4h,3bb. Time to take the same route with him that the team decided to take with Kyle Ocampo last year due to his inconsistent mechanics- move him to the pen and move another young stud into the roto.


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Monday, April 19, 2010

News and Notes

Nice article at MLBTR - with both English and Spanish links - discussing the protest last week in the Dominican vs the creation of an international draft.

The Bakersfield Blaze will be streaming pxp coverage of their weekend games starting this Saturday. Its about damn time.

Salty was officially sent to OKC today to start his ~10day rehab assignment.
Vinny "DiFaziGod" DiFazio was placed on the Hickory 7-day dl.
Zach Zaneski - this year's floating catcher - was assigned to the roster to fill in. Zach's assignments this far: originally slated for EXT but took MAcumba's place on the roster to open the season; Moved to OKC to replace Treanor; sent to Extended; sent back to Hickory. Hey, it's a job!



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Friday, April 16, 2010

The Hechavarria signing

Interesting Blue Jays-centric article from the Toronto Sun on the signing of Adeiny Hechavarria.



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Minor Notes

AAA
Michael Kirkman was ok in his start over 5. Jason Cole was at the game and tweets that he had trouble commanding his secs but that his fastball was 92-94 in the first. Command of secs will be Kirkman's big project for the year as that was his primary area of weakness in Frisco last year. No updates on the progression of his changeup over his first 2 starts; this is probably project #2 for the kid. He also reports that Peguero's slider was very impressive over his 2 innings getting 4 strikeouts (but with 2 walks). Lefty Clay Rapada continues his strong start, getting 2 strikeouts in his shutout inning. OMar Beltre rebounds from his last rough outing with a scoreless inning.

Chad Tracy continues to pound the ball with 2 more extra base hits (8g/.343/3db/1trp/3hr/8rbi) but with 0 walks. His splits are even to start the year. Smoak has been terrific early, showing a nice balance of power and patience that he was unable to lock in last year (8g/.333/2hr/2db/5rbi/.250vslhh/.400vsrhh). He has 9 walks to 3 strikeouts (8bb to 0so vw RHH!). Ramirez has heated up (.333) while Moreland missed his second straight game.

AA
Richard Coeur de Bleier wielded his dominating sinker with mixed results (5.2/8/6/1/2/2h) getting an amazing 13 groundouts to 1 flyball mixing in 5 singles, a double and 2 solo HR. The jury is still out on this kid: can he develope at least one pitch that misses bats whether his slider, change, or possibly a future cutter (though guys with sliders as their second pitch seem less often to add cutters). Matt Lawson is batting .435. Lemon is still MIA.

HighA
Main had an ok start over 5 innings (5/5/4/2/2). He had fringy FB command after the first inning throwing a lot of balls along with 2wp and 1hbp. His velo continues to be down from 2008 continuing a trend from 09 but ck back at mid-season (he flashed 93 in the first in this outing and may be sitting 89-92ish). Over his first four (per firebats chart at lsb)his CB was not very good in this outing either when he threw them (only ~7: 2cs, 1ss, 3b, 1hbp). He may have thrown a few changeups but the play by play guy failed to note any; he will need a fringe ave changeup by the time he reaches AA. Main was mainly FB in this outing and was less groundball efficient than his first outing (6go/6ao). The Main/Hogan combo also allowed an astonishing 6sb (6-6) in this outing and given Hogans catchability and arm strength, you have to think that Main was the culprit. Definitely a work in progress and anyone who anticipated a quick promotion to AA will have to wait until August it seems.

Fabio Castillo was effective in his 2 innings while Adalberto Flores lost his command in his second inning of work. Mendonca has 3 doubles 0 walks and 8 strikeouts in his first 6 games (.208). I'm one of the only ones that considers Mendonca a future Ave-AA major league regular (low ave, big power/prod, plus defense) but I believe his breakout year will not be until 2011. Patience grasshopper. Paisano is batting .526 with 4 xbh and 3sb in 6 games. As I mentioned in a previous post, Paisano's excellent performance in the advanced Venezuelan winter league could be a harbinger that he has indeed turned the corner. Hopefully he sees AA by mid-season. Beltre is batting .174 with zero walks and 4so in 6 games (.111 vs rhh). Eric Fry made only his second appearance (both at dh). He is likely only holding a spot for Bianucci when he returns from a groin injury.

LowA
Jared Prince continues to heat up with his 5th xbh in 6 games. The Spokane coaches loved this kid last year. As a late draft pick college senior, the club wasn't sure what they had in him initially. He proved to be very coachable, made some adjustments and had a fine year. His ceiling is likely a very productive org guy but the system needs more guys like Prince to put together winning ball clubs at each level. Velazquez continues his hot start notching his 4th and 5th doubles in 7games though he's batting only .176 vs RHH. Leury Garcia is batting .300 to start the season though his primary weapon still seems to be the bunt while his fielding remains inconsistent (2 errors on throws in this game). Garcia also started quickly over the first 3-4 weeks of 2009 but flailed away at a .200 pace the remainder of the year. Shortstop Easy Eddie Garcia is batting .400 while mainly playing 2b (as long as Leury is on the club) continuing to impress with his defense. Of the Hickory Garcias, Easy Eddie is the much better prospect.

Font, Erlin, Tullis and Lueke had nice outings. Font's game was more impressive than his line (4.2/7/3/1/6/1hr). His fastball sat 94 for most of the game, touching 97. His control was fine (he has only 2bb so far) but most of his hits came off his fastball despite the velo as he had some trouble commanding the pitch in the zone. Watch out when he gets angry too: he struck out the side swinging after giving up a leadoff homer in one inning. The announcer said that his curveball looked really good in this outing. IF Font's CB shows good improvement this year (consistency, command) he might end up starting in AA to begin 2011. The pxp guy also said that he believed that Font's changeup also looked to have improved quite a bit. This is a bit surprising given that it was supposed to be pretty good already.

Erlin continued his dominance throwing 2.1 scoreless innings with 6 groundouts and one ball hit out of the infield touching 93. Those groundouts really interest me as a guy with swing and miss stuff who gets lots of groundouts is ideal. A poster over at LSB noted that the pxp guy said the coaches thought that Erlin's debut (2ip/5so) was one of the most dominant they had seen in some time. JAson Cole said that he was 89-92+93 in that outing. Tullis worked a clean inning with 2so while Lueke managed to notch 4so in his inning of work. Lueke is working in LowA this year after missing most of 09 due to his legal issues where he was pitching in HighA after pitching 61 innings their in 2008. Ignore his line until the 25yo gets promoted to AA. Only then can one properly evaluate him. He did have a nice year in 2008 but gives up too many hits, particularly vs RHH.



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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Andrew Doyle

Jason Cole over at Lonestardugout.com has a nice interview up with Andrew Doyle. Smart kid. I have Doyle ranked pretty highly in the system (12) as a very solid mid-roto prospect with 4 average to above average offerings, all with some movement, above-average command and pitchability. His sinker was said to sit 90-91 during his JR year at Oklahoma and he generally sat 90 with it in Spokane and Hickory. Coming out of OK he was said to have 4 solid average offerings but this seems to have been an underestimation of his stuff. His 4s sits 92-95, touching 96 on rare occasion. His slider was better than advertised, missing some bats in 09 and and his changeup was even better and is an above average swing and miss offering. All his pitches play up due to some natural movement, command and pitchability. Very solid prospect who will likely realize his ceiling.



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Game Notes

AAA
Mike Ballard got roughed up while Clay Rapada and Willie Eyre pitched 4.2 scoreless innings in relief, allowing 1 hit and collecting 4 SO. Omar Beltre got roughed up in his second appearance after his dominant debut. Tracy, Smoak, MaxRam and Moreland went 8-18 with 3 doubles and a homer.

Frisco
Martin Perez's 2010 debut: "Dfarth" over at minorleagueball.com posted a nice game summary for Perez. The stadium gun is still out, so he snuck a peak at some scouts guns for a couple of inning to get some velo info. It was generally as we have come to expect for the teen phenom: fb 93-95 (possible 2s at 91); ~83 change; 76-81 CB (changing speeds). Perez had 4bb in 4.2ip but as a # of watchers/listeners noted, the ump's strike zone was erratic, squeezing him on anything low in the zone.

Firebat over at lonestarball.com charted his innings, He threw 71pitches, 45 for strikes (64%) throwing about 75% fastballs, 25% secondary stuff (mostly CB, with about 5-6 changeups). Perez is a strike-throwing machine while also missing bats and getting lots of groundouts (9-1 go/ao): of his estimated 50 fastballs he threw only about 10 balls with (more or less) 13 called strikes, 4 swinging, 7 fouls, 5 groundouts, and a single. His CB was deadly early but he loss command of it a bit in the third.

We have confirmation from a few sources about Schepper's pitching schedule for the first half of the season: 2 innings every 3rd day. If he did that over 162 games that would give him about 108 innings which is right where the Rangers' developmental staff want him for the year (having only pitched about ~30 game innings last year) in anticipation of a ML promotion and so, pitching through September or longer. You may see him follow that schedule through early July, accumulating about 30 innings when he should switch to an inning or two every other day in anticipation of a call-up to the big club by July's end.

Marcus Lemon opened the season 0-4 with 4 SO and then promptly disappeared. I'm not sure if he is injured or just working on some mechanical issues. The latter wouldnt' be without precedent as it happened in the AFL last year. After Lemon batted about .150 with 12so over his first 6 games, he worked on his mechanics with the coached for 4-5 days before his next appearance, proceeding to crush the ball for the remaining 12 games.


Hickory
Neil Ramirez got roughed up in the 1st-inning of his 2010 debut: double, hr, SOS, walk, SB, CSO, SB, single, single, CSO. But settled down for the second and third, getting pulled with two outs in the 4th. He touched 95 in the first inning. The kid clearly has a problem holding runners and while moving his FB in and out, was consistently missing the outside corner.

Like last year, Braden Tullis showed that his sinker is not only a groundball machine but also misses bats (see a couple of last year's reports). An effective sinker that also misses bats is the best of all possible worlds. I hope to get a better grasp of just how the pitch moves over the course of the season, to see if it will remain a swing and miss pitch in the upper minors. He also likes to work the inside corner with the pitch. The only velo note was one sinker at 90; he generally sat 88-91 last year with the pitch as a starter. While his changeup might be the best in the system according to some reports, he mainly worked on his curveball in this outing. Last year, Tullis showed that he could miss bats with all three of his offerings, with his CB more advanced than advertised but still a work in progress (i believe he changed his grip on the pitch at some point in the season).

My man, the Venezuelan, Easy Eddie Garcia is hitting .417 with 2 doubles over the first week and playing shortstop this game. As in Spokane last year, so it is in Hickory this year: the play by play guy was highly complimentary of Garcia's defensive prowess, also noting that he has some pop in his bat. In 2009, Garcia led Spokane in TB for the first 7 weeks, until overtaken by Telis and Michael Ortiz during a bad end of season slump.

Org reliever Hector Nelo threw hard but was inconsistent in his inning of work, which is his MO: wp, hbp, fb 92-95, with a few changeup (83) and a "big hooking BB" thrown in.



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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Trevor Hurley

Trevor Hurley is making his LowA debut in relief of Matt Thompson as I type this: 3 quick perfect innings, 4 SO. He wields a very heavy sinker or sinking FB, wipeout slider with very sharp late break, and what seems to be a good change. He's one to watch IMHO and a developmental success story for the org as a fringy late draft pick with zero command turned rotation prospect. I'll be very curious to see if TX will move him into the rotation soon. Here is a scouting report on him from last season.

Matt Thompson had an impressive outing as well: 5/7/1er/0/7, 7-0 g/a.

Kyle Ocampo is wielding a wicked wicked slider/slurve in this outing as well. Hitters completely overmatched and can't even make contact with the pitch. Hurley, Ocampo and Thompson with some of the best breaking balls in the system. Ocampo gets out of a bases loaded bottom of the ninth jam with no one out, saved in the end by a great diving catch by Christian "Pudge" Santana in shallow LF to send the game to extra innings. Cool stuff.



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A desultory note on Chad Bell

When word came that Chad Bell had signed for late second round money last year, I was amazed. The predraft reports on him were that he had a fringy high 80s FB, good command and pitchability, and an AA changeup without much mention of a breaking ball. The reports about him while he was pitching for Cotuit in the Cape Cod League seemed to support this depiction: he was sitting 86-88 and mostly throwing FB/Change with few breaking balls even in his no-hit outing in July. Baseball America didn't even have him in their top 20 Cape Cod prospects list (26th). Everything suggested he should honor his commitment to Tennessee and come out again as a JR.

Then wham, $450,000. After he signed, reports from the Rangers suggested he threw 88-92 or 88-91, which I regarded with some suspicion. I had him pegged as a fringy back roto guy, but given what they paid him, I entertained the idea that he threw a little harder than advertised and that the Cap Cod blogs, longstanding though they were, might not be all that reliable. If he did indeed sit 90 as a lefty and wielded a really good change then we just needed a little more info on his breaking pitch. If it was at least average then maybe one could revise his ceiling up from a 4/5 to a 3/4 but probably not a solid #3.

So spring training rolls around and we get a couple of reports from the 2 Jasons (Parks and Cole) that Bell sat 90-92 in at least one appearance but not in all, sitting high 80s in another. His changeup was said to be inconsistent to my surprise while his CB was described by Jason Parks as a plus pitch to my shock. The FB/Change guy had turned into the FB/CB guy. WTF?

One way to understand the conflicting reports is to assume that a more limited amount of draft info was available to the public because he was a JC guy and some of that information was old. Between his Freshman and sophomore year at Wichita ST JC, he grew an inch and put on 25lbs, now 6.3/205. According to an interview he did with Jason Cole, he said that he added the changeup during his freshman year and it immediately became his best pitch. In that same interview, Bell said that he now regarded his change as a plus offering. So it seems clear that he added a bit of velo during his sophomore year as he grew but not enough to make the scouts buzz in addition to turning his changeup from an AA pitch to a plus pitch. It seems that he was a bit under the radar as that kind of stuff from a sophomore is pretty good with some projection left to be sure. Texas scouts must have caught him at a time when his velo was up and snagged him in the 14th rd. The velo reports of him in the Cape could have been accurate for the most part but not indicative. As he was pitching a "second season" on the way to about 111ip, his velo could have been inconsistent depending on the day you caught him due to fatigue. Whatever the case, TX believed that he would have at least an ave FB it seems.

How do we explain then the reports from Jason Parks that Bell's CB is now plus and his Change is now average? I think the report about his changeup is just due to the small sample size and limited innings inherent to minor league camp. The pre-draft scouting reports suggested he had an AA changeup at least and Bell himself holds that to be the case going so far as to call it plus. As for his now plus curveball, a pitch for which we had no pre-draft scuttlebutt at all, I think that must be a pitch that he improved dramatically during the off-season with the help of the coaching staff. Surely, though, he already had a good feel for it, but might not have worked on it much during his 2 years in JC.

So what does it all mean? Chad Bell is a top 20 (edit: revised from 10 to 20) prospect with 2 excellent secondary offerings and a lefty fastball (with decent movement per Parks) that will probably sit 90 with a touch of projection left there as he gets stronger though he probably doesn't have must more physical projection. Despite the fact that this year would only be his JR year college equivalent he could also move through the system fairly quickly. Kudos to the TX scouts and development staff and to Bell himself, who has seen much of his improvement occur due to his own hard work from summer ball and through spring training.


UPDATE: Jason Cole notes that while Bell sat 86-88 during his Juco yr (65ip) his velo started to tic up during summer ball (46ip) sitting 89-91 and bumping 92 according to scouts he talked to who were covering the league. While Cole notes that he has been sitting more in the 90-93 range this spring, this was during short ST (bullpen-like) outings so I would imagine that he would probably continue to sit 89-91 as a starter. If he should sit low 90s as a lh sp eventually, well, kudos to the TX scouting dept, namely Jeff Wood, who signed the kid per Cole.


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Minor league Notes

In general, it has been a very impressive first 3 games for all of the system's starters. In all 11 of the relevant games, the starters pitched at least 5 effective innings with BMac going 7 and 4 others going 6 (Beavan, Boscan, Main, Holland, with Bleier going 5.2). Roughly half of the staff in those starts had a G/A rate over 3 (with Wieland at 11! and clearing working on a sinker it seems) and the rest "Meh". It appears that many of the pitchers were on about a 70-80 pitch limit which is to be expected though any of the youngsters who need their innings managed this year sat around 50.


AAA
I had forgotten to mention during McCarthy's last start in spring training that he showed more velo in that outing than he had since he fractured his scapula again last season, regularly bumping 90-92 to my surprise. I'm assuming that was his 4-seamer but I'm not sure. Whatever the case BMac had a nice start going 7 innings and if he can find his 4s (or hard sinker?) velo to go along with getting comfortable with his new sinker/cutter combo, he might actually amount to something this year. Whatever happens with him it is always good to have a guy sitting in AAA who has pitched as effectively as he has (when healthy)ready to go if someone goes on the DL.

Smoak and Tracy are dealing, with 2 homers each over the first 3 games and Tracy with 6 rbis. Moreland's been a little slow out of the gate and he does not project to hit many homers anyways at the AAA/ML level but might hit a bunch of doubles by year's end. I'm not sold on him yet as more than a bench bat as yet and don't buy the "Moreland has great bat speed" meme that his been floating around since ST, among other things; never heard that about him in any scouting report that I've read.

Pedro Strop started off his first inning of work this season promptly giving up a single and a 2-r hr en route to a blown save. A collective groan could be heard emanating from the TX prospecting blogosphere, but I am here to tell you there is hope to hang your hat on. Texas coaches have worked all spring to smooth Strop's mechanics and while he did not have a great spring training while trying incorporate the changes I'm betting that his consistency improves a good deal over the coming weeks. To wit, after those 2 hits he has had 5 strikeouts, zero walks, and a single over his next 7 outs. If Strop puts it together, his stuff is absolute murder.

Holland had a terrific outing with a 67% strike rate over 82 pitches/6 innings, zero walks, a solo homer, and 6SO. Kirkman had a rough beginning giving up 3 doubles and a solo HR over his first 7 batters but settled down to get 10 straight outs. During those 3 innings, he threw only 26 pitches. Kirkman will be working on refining the sinker he added last year, the cutter he added this year, working on his FB command and refining his slurvy slider, which is currently his wipeout pitch.

Peguero dealt in his debut 1.1innings of work striking out 3. The 31yo was plucked from the Mexican league for what appeared to be a desperate search for arms in AAA after September promotions. Now I wonder if they got him because he was dealing down south and tx simply liked him. He has some ML experience, an AA FB (92) and a hard slider. Seems to profile a bit like Willie Eyre though Eyre seems to have a better assortment of pitches.


AA
There has been some talk of Marcus Lemon playing center field since he filled in at that position do to injuries during the AFL. I have to say poppeycock to this. Do you think a guy who doesn't have the range to stick at SS has the range to spend even a single game in the bigs at center? I think not. Matt Lawson is trying his luck in left due to some congestion in the MIF spots in Frisco. Now he _does_ have the speed/range to play that spot. I also hope to see him at SS to see if his sterling 2b defense might play there.

I really like Richard Bleier and he did well in his AA debut. Though his stuff is fringy his pitchability and command are plus. It allowed him to dominate the A-Ball circuit in 2009. He was only one of 2-3 other pitchers to pitch at least two complete games in a league in which pitchers with better stuff are pummeled. In addition, his pitch to contact approach and inviting though deceptive sinker allow him to have sky high GO rates and incredibly low pitch counts. Some may look at his SO% and say, MEH!, but, as he pointed out in an interview with Jason Cole, the hitters rarely get deep enough into a count for the opportunity for a strikeout to arise.

I hope to get a better feel for the quality of his secondary offerings this year in AA as Bakersfield had no play by play guy last yr (or this one). Right now I would have to say that his velo is fringy (sitting 87-90) and his slider/change are average, flashing AA. His command and pitchability are plus. At the moment, I am uncertain of the quality of the movement of his sinker though it might be AA but not really break-bat heavy. He's in my top 30 because he is a really good pitcher but his average stuff might not allow him make it in the end. We'll know more later in the year.


HighA
David "the Latin Wind" Paisano hasn't gotten much press this off-season and I think his winter league work in Venezuela deserves a mention. He only batted about .235 as a whole but faced a difficult early role as ph/pr/dr and part-time starter often going days between appearances. By mid-season he was the starting CF and showed an improved bb/so ratio, 9xbh and 7sb in only 73ab, finishing with a .787 ops in a league that was 2 tiers above his experience level (Dominican/Venezuelan winter leagues have traditionally been held to be somewhere between AAA and ML though this might be changing). Anyways, I think DP might have turned a corner and could end up in AA by season's end and acquit himself well.

Main threw about 80% fastballs (64% strike rate, sitting 89-91+93 per Jason Parks) over his 80 pitches but didn't miss many bats with them getting only 4 swinging strikes during the day but with lots of foul balls and called strikes. This might be by design as he pitched up in the zone last year and got hammered so this outing might be give us some insight about his 2010 project in HighA: attach hitters down in the zone, pitch to contact, get more groundballs.

The other important project for him to master this year is his changeup, of which he only threw ONE (a swinging stike). The 15 CB he threw were pretty effective getting 3SS, 3CS, 3F, and 3 balls. A good sign, as some have noted that the shape and consistency of the pitch has declined a tic since the end of 2008. So in this outing I venture to guess that Main went out with a program of work and carried it out pretty well over his 6 innings. I should also note that Main will probably be limited to about 115-120ip this year if I had to guess.

Pimentel had a bit of a rough outing but would have gotten out of the first with no runs allowed if not for 2 errors by the MIFs. It appears that he couldn't command his FB but his GO rate and 5 singles seem to indicate that he was trying to keep the ball down and pitch to contact and got a bit unlucky as he is normally leaving pitches up. A better G/A rate is one area that i bet we see him improve upon this year in addition to all the other positive things said about him by the 2 Jason's during ST (tic up in velo, tic more fb movement, more consistent CB); you can bet the HighA staff will emphasize it in that league. I expect him to have a nice year.

Adalberto Flores pitched a perfect inning with 2 strikeouts in his debut. This most unheralded of prospects has a very heavy sinking fastball and an excellent slider along with good command though he gave up too many xbh in 2009. He has pitched well the last 2 years but gets no ink. His AO rate declined dramatically last year leading me to believe that he may have switched to a sinker last year but paradoxically his HR rate jumped. He is repeating highA again but I hope to see him in Frisco by mid-season to see what he is all about.

Fredo Boscan was another young pitcher who threw about 75% fb along with Main and Font. Though he struggled with his FB command in the first, he pounded the zone for the rest of his 6 inning outing. His CB was very effective as well: of his 13CB he got 5SS and 3CS. The improvement in the consistency of his CB is critical for success in the upper minors and it looked better in this outing to continue a trend from ST. very encouraging.

LowA
Still not sure how the the innings, roles or promotion schedules will be managed between the 10 "starters" on this staff but Jason Cole will be interviewing Danny Clark, the minor league pitching coord, in the next week or so to shed some light on the whole situation.

Wilmer Font and Robbie Erlin appear to be one of the paired starting combos with Font dealing mainly FB over 5 innings and finishing with 8SO while Erlin got 5 strikeouts over two effectively wielding all three of his pitches. I'm thinking that Erlin will be pitching 2-3 innings and a few spot starts over the course of the season to limit his innings to about 75 or so. I had Erlin rated very highly since he was drafted he hasn't disappointed this spring, simply dominating in minor league camp, earning a coveted assignment to full season ball. He's the real deal.



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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Minor Moves

Jared Hyatt re-signed and returns to AA while Chris Gradoville is moved off the roster, somewhere, probably temp. inactive status.

UPDATE: Gradoville to AAA, Boggs to DL with shoulder issues per Jason Cole.

UPDATE2: Cole suggests that there is probably a roster "glitch" showing that Hyatt is currently on the AA roster. If they have to go with 4 other relievers during Ogando's "starts" however, it would make sense to have an extra arm until D-Gut and or Hurley are activated.



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Friday, April 9, 2010

Minor League Notes

Overall, all the starters pitched well: Holland, Beavan, Boscan,Wieland


AAA
Matt Treanor gets called up after Salty's latest medical issue. K-Rich might move up from AA but Frostad might be called upon to fill in instead. TX is said to like the idea of K-Rich working with the young AA staff but C-Grade is also well-respected in that role. My gut tells me that they painted the K-Rich to AA move to him as a promotion (as they did publicly) but in reality it was a move to keep Treanor at AAA.

Beltre was impressive in his 2 inning outing, keeping his pitches low in the zone and throwing quality strikes. His Slider was a wipeout pitch in this outing. I like him to make an appearance in the TX bullpen before Scheppers, Ogando, and Strop. Moreland had a tough night, pulling everything with 4 groundouts. He might have the highest GIDP rate in the entire system which suggest a couple of issues to me: bat speed that is a tic slow and a penchant for not getting the barrel on balls despite the fact he hits the ball "hard". Something to watch out for. You heard it here first: Moreland's OPS vs RHP in AA was .829 and I predict that this well go down in AAA.

Tracy, Smoak and Boggs had nice games as well.

Gentry was hit in the head by a pitch but appeared to be ok.


AA
The backup infielders appear to be better defensively than the starters: Osuna and Lawson vs Lemon and Guilder. Why Guilder is starting over Osuna is a mystery as Osuna is still a utility infielder prospect in my book. But then, I'm the only one who seems to like the kid. He had a terrific stint in the VZ winter league which is a tic above AAA in terms of level of difficulty. He should start at SS. Lemon had a rough night, 0-4 with 4 SO.

For those who think Lemon will rake based on his AFL stats, they can only do so by exaggerating the inherent SSS of the league in general and by ignoring the SSS that troubles their confidence: first 6 games there where he batted about .150 with about 12 so including an 0-5/5so day which got him sent to the bench for 5 days to work on his swing (after that he batted about .400 in the next 12 games - which SSS matters most?).

Whittleman has moved to first base which makes sense given how his new bulky profile with further limit his range at 3b. Greene replaced him at third but is not really a prospect there. Snyder and Phillips were very effective in their outings. I'm not a big Phillips guy (or Snyder) as his ceiling is a middle reliever. I don't think he stays on the 40 all season...


HighA
Stoneburner is the starting SS again this year and the pitchers will rue the day - as they did last year - that he is ranging (not too far though) through the middle infield: suspect range and hands. The org seems to have some attachment to Stoneburner that I don't quite get, having kept him in ML camp longer than necessary and getting him more JIC AB than seemed merited. Not a prospect (NAP). Kaase and James aren't great either but they are better and the pitchers in Bakersfield deserve a decent MIF in that hitters paradise.

Mendonca and Bolden raked for Bak both notching 2 doubles. If Bolden can figure out his hitting mechanics enough to address his complete and utter power outage since his debut, he will be (more) interesting to watch as his 1b/of defense is really good... It looks like Tim Murphy has been converted to the bullpen after an ugly, ugly 2009 season in the Bak rotation. Another failed 3rd rounder for TX following right after Evan Reed. There is the outside chance that Main and T-Murphy split start given that Main only pitched 65 innings last year and will probably be limited to about 100-110 innings but this is probably unlikely. Welcome to the pen T-Murph, may you regain your former velo, BB, and command.

Biannucci is on the DL with a groin issue.


LowA
Macumba is on the DL with some minor problem with Zaneski up from extended to take his place. Miguel Velazquez did not start in the opener for some reason. Ed Koncel started in his place. How is he still in the org? No clue. Bonnadonna is listed a 2b but he will actually be a super utility guy, playing 2b, SS and CF. He is blazing fast but can't hit.

In addition to his makeup issues and plate discipline problems, Christian Santana has also eaten himself out of his prospect status. When he signed he was said to be an impressive CF prospect, later converted to catcher and then to LF due to arm problems. Playing LF must be a bit of an adventure for him these days as he has gone from a 5-11 175 CF to a 6-0 225 pudgy LF. Ugly.

Here is my guess for the Hickory split start arrangements given that Matt Thompson followed Wieland after he was done:

Wieland/Thompson
Ross/Hurley
Font/Erlin
Tullis (himself)
NeRa/Bell

I love that staff, love it. Best in A ball for sure. In my revised system rankings, 7 of those guys are in my top 30: Ross (8), Bell(9), Doyle (10), Font (11), Erlin (24), Tullis (28), Wieland (29), Hurley (31), Thompson (36), NeRa (43). WOW!

How Andrew Doyle fits in remains to be seen. My take: retained in Hickory to work on his 4s which flashes plus (+94-96) over against his 2S which is still pretty good, works 89-91 with good movment. After the little project is over, with him being a late inning arm I would guess, he gets stretched out and sent to Bakersfield. If the org converts Doyle to the pen for good, someone should be fired, especially after much inferior pitchers started off in the roto only later to be demoted to the pen when they imploded -see Murphy, Reed. I really like Andrew Doyle: Ave to AA 2S, 4s flashes plus, AA slider plus potential, and a change that seems to be AA. Good command, pitchability, throws strikes, misses bats _and_ keeps the ball on the ground. Should move fast. If they move him to the pen for good, I'll simply have to resign my post.



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Thursday, April 8, 2010

MiL rotations set per Evan Grant:

Triple-A: Oklahoma City
LHP Derek Holland, RHP Brandon McCarthy, LHP Michael Kirkman, RHP Guillermo Moscoso, LHP Michael Ballard.

Double-A: Frisco
RHP Blake Beavan, LHP Richard Bleier; RHP Alexi Ogando; LHP Kasey Kiker; LHP Martin Perez.

Advanced A: Bakersfield
RHP Wilfredo Boscan; RHP Michael Main; RHP Carlos Pimentel; RHP Kennil Gomez; RHP Jacob Brigham.

Class A: Hickory
RHP Joe Wieland; LHP Robbie Ross; RHP Wilmer Font; RHP Matt Thompson; RHP Neil Ramirez.


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Monday, April 5, 2010

Final System Rosters Posted

Final System Rosters Posted- check the roster worksheet pinned to the sidebar to check them out. Nicest surprise? My boy Edwin "Easy Eddie" Garcia has apparently won the starting 2B job at Hickory. A natural SS, he is blocked by Leury Garcia at that spot in Hickory. Hopefully Leury gets quickly promoted to the Blaze (but don't cross your fingers on that one). Easy Eddie is an excellent defender with good power but who has a long swing that might need some changes in the long run. He led the AZL club in total bases(as a shortstop mind you) until overtaken by Telis and Ortiz in late August when he went through quite a slump to end the season.



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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Roster Update

So I've updated the system rosters with what we know along with what we can approximate. The only thing that is really in flux are a few of the backup position spots at each level. The most unpredictable roster element at any level was the Hickory starting rotation. The decision to bring over all of the starting pitchers from spokane, Erlin, and keep Doyle and Bell in low A was the roster bombshell, giving them up to 10 roto guys to platoon. That is just mind blowing. Normally they leave 3-4 of those guys in Extended and bring them up when someone is promoted. Not this year. Should be interesting to watch the coaches both prostrate themsleves before the gods giving thanks to such a talented rotation while also cursing the devil for all the lost sleep due to 5 long months of innings management.


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and now the Blaze staff

Anthony Andro aandro

@goyogringo bakersfield boscan brigham castillo eppley flores gomez hamburger main miller murphy pimental tufts young


No real surprises here. I wonder if Murphy platoons with Main to limit Main's innings (only 62ip o9) or if he takes the Evan Reed route to the pen after his horrible 09.




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Holy platoon arrangement Batman!

check out the Hickory staff:

Anthony Andro aandro

@goyogringo hickory staff bell doyle erlin font hurley lueke nelo ocampo ramirez ross thompson tullis weiland

So there has to be some platoon madness going on there to accommodate all of those starters, maybe even a 6-man roto. So the relievers proper will be Lueke, Nelo, and Ocampo. The back end of a platoon arrangement to manage innings (say 3-4 per start) will probably be Erlin and Ramirez (only 60ip in 09 and 45 in 08. Bell Font and Doyle don't need their innings managed having pithed 100 innings or more last year. Ross Thompson Tullis, Hurley and wieland will be limited from 110-120 innings. Hurley could be moved to the pen but he pitched well as a starter last year so you would think he figures in to the platoon arrangement.

Wow. What an innings management nightmare for the coaches. Good luck with that.

Doyle
Bell
Font
Ramirez- Erlin
Ross - Thompson
Wieland - Tullis

Lueke
Nelo
Ocampo
Hurley(pen?)



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Friday, April 2, 2010

Roster Updates

The full season rosters were released a couple of days ago but we won't see them until they are announced by each affiliate sometime next week. I have updated the 2010 roster worksheet (see transaction section at bottom) in the sidebar to reflect all of the most recent players released by the org this week. I have also taken a stab at reworking the 2010 system rankings to reflect spring training performances as reported by Jason Cole and Jason Parks. It includes all of the DSL kids coming over this year worthy of mention. I'll be tweeking that over the next week or so until the affiliates open their season so consider it a draft. The section you want to take a gander at is the "summary" section in the 2010 rankings/profile workbook, which gives you a snapshot view of the whole system. The more detailed profile sections are not yet up to date.



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