Sunday, April 11, 2010

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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