Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cuban BoSox

An overview of some recent Cuban signings by the BoSox. Last Cuban signing by TX? Reinier Bermudez. I can only hope that the Rangers were very interested in some of the most recent Cuban defectors - the largest influx of Cuban players in more than a decade - but were Hicks-crippled.

UPDATE:

Speaking of Cubans, Jose Julio Ruiz (26, 4/1) signed a minor league deal with ST invite. Texas was reportedly interested in him last year (search this site for "Ruiz"). He was thought to have a higher ceiling than Leslie Anderson but the reverse has proven to be true so far. Ruiz was released by the Rays during the off-season. A big LH power hitter in Cuba at 1B, he only hit 4 HR over 87 games between 4 leagues (DSL, AA, AFL, PWL). He also played some LF but given his size you'd think that 1b is his likely spot.

There were some questions about his work ethic, about being out of shape during his try outs, etc, so we'll see have to see how he looks in camp. Cuban defectors often have to sit out of baseball action for a year waiting for their paperwork to be approved (for residency, for entry and for applying to become a ML free agent) so that could have affected his play. It is a low-risk signing with some reward. Even with the power outage, maybe he turns out to be a utility type player at 1b/COF/DH who is a nice contact hitter?

UPDATE:
Thad Levine had this to say:
"We did a lot of work on him last year," Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine said. "We were probably runners-up when he signed. He's a guy who will probably start at Double-A or Triple-A, so we can get around him and see what he can do. That's not necessarily based on ability, but just getting regular at-bats."



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Friday, January 28, 2011

FIP

Don't miss the Luck Dragon in BWoodrum's Sesame Street-esque video about FIP at dRaysBay.com.



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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

BA Player Rankings

not that I care all too much about it anymore I guess. BA has TX farm system ranked 15th while Keith Law pegs them at 12. I think a 12-15 ranking is about right given the complete lack of upper level depth. However, we could see a rapid progression of higher ceiling kids to the AA and high A level by the end of July, giving the sytem a much different flavor by then. The rotation depth from HighA to the AZL is phenomenal, though you can't really assume more than back roto ceilings (for now) on the kids likely to start there in 2011. The position player depth from LowA to the AZL is very good though there may not be many players with more than an average ML ceiling. There will also be a couple of nice players in the DSL for 2011. For now, the DSL pitching depth is NIL unless there are some signings we don't know about. There will surely be a few more breakout players this year unlike last year and a few more who we already respect who will make some rapid progress through the system. Check out my projected minor league rosters for 2011 to get a handle on the that lower level depth. Anyways, here are the BA player rankings:

1. M. Perez
2. Profar
3. Scheppers
4. Erlin
5. E. Beltre
6. Kirkman
7. Olt
8. Sardinas
9. Skole
10. MDLS
11. D. Perez
12. Villanueva
13. R. Mendez
14. Font
15. L. Garcia
16. K. Deglan
17. J. Alfaro
18. J. Grimm
19. Ross
20. Velazquez
21. Jackson
22. Wieland
23. F. Castillo
24. Loux
25. Hoying
26. Felix
27. NeRa
28. Buckel
29. Richmond
30. Brigham
31. Melo

A few comments: Per my usual gripes, Leury Garcia is an org guy, and not a top 30 prospect; R. Mendez is an exciting, inconsistent, injury prone player, so probably a back 20 kid, who might pan out as anything from a #2 to a #4 to a closer, setup arm or flame out; I've had Melo as a top 30 prospect since his acquisition- and exciting kid; Loux is a top 15 kind a guy, a solid #3 ceiling; NeRa is confounding and exciting, and probably right about where he should be given his lack of history in the upper minors; I still love Jake Brigham though he is likely a setup arm, with a shot at a 3_4 kind of starter (his changeup, and Breaking ball command are the mounts he has to climb); I think Richmond is a potential breakout candidate, if healthy, and if some predraft reports are on the mark (3rd-rd talent); I think Buckel and Jackson are top 15 guys, if you rank prospects by ceiling alone, better than Kirkman, MDLS, Erlin etc; Alfaro is a big risk as a ceiling only kid who has yet to make his US debut; David Perez, not so much - a very exciting, projectable arm, who TX signed for a bargain price as he velo was down post j2 (we'll see how his secs are come ST); if you're going to rank Alfaro as a top 15 type then you should also rank Jordan Akins (5-tool player, best athlete in incredible Georgia class) in the same area code - be consistent at least; Justin Grimm is a very exciting arm, whose ceiling is pretty variable depending on what TX has to do with his mechanics to make him more consistent. Leonel "Macumba" de los Santos (LDLS) turned out to be very overrated and perhaps the biggest crash and burn prospect of 2010 (though his suspect hit tool was there for all to see via his peripherals).

I'm up and down on Felix. Through the hard work of himself and the staff, he made remarkable improvement in his catchability during the offseason between 2009 and 2010. I listened to more than a few games while he was in Bakersfield in which the Felix and Sarmiento platoon was arguable the worst in that league, constantly belittled by opposing pxp guys. However, his accuracy and pop times (with only a solid average arm per Jason Cole) improved dramatically in 2010, allowing him to completely shut down the running game while his catchability behind the plate also showed impressive improvement. As I've written before, one has to evaluate the overall defensive presence of a catching prospect in order to get an accurate handle on their ceiling, what I call catchability. Too often, people dream on a catchers arm and ability to control the running game, but unless your speaking about a plus plus tool on the order of Pudge Rody (plus plus arm, pop times, agility, reflexes), catchbility (overall catching skills: game calling, ball blocking, baseball IQ, running game, WP/PB allowed, working with pitchers) is the most important indicator about a catcher's ceiling.

A prime example of "arm hype" was Manny Pina. In the low minors, there was no surcease in praise about the kids arm. However, his catchability was very underdeveloped by every other measure and his English was horrible to boot (making it tough to communicate with pitchers and coaches). I thought he was much better in HighA than he really was in that regard because people seemed to confuse his "defense" (read, arm) with his catchability (which was not great). However between his High A and AA season (working nonstop with Scott Service on his entire skill set if I remember correctly per multiple sources) he improved to an incredible degree on the other elements of his catchability, and put himself on the map as a legit #2 catcher (mediated only by his limited hit tool). Sounds just like Felix in fact. And along with Pina, Felix's hit tool is the thing that likely makes him a fringy #2 catcher or a 4A kid. I guess the ideal would be a Matt Treanor kind of guy, but who should be able to control the running game. I think his hit tool is pretty bad, so he is more likely to end up a #3 catcher than keep a steady job, but you would think that he will play in the bigs at least for a little bit, shuttling between ML and AAA at the very least.

Kellin Deglan seems to be ranked too high who seems more of a longer-term project than expected based on his draft reports. Skole, Olt and Villanueva might also be ranked too high whether you go by ceiling or likely result (finge-average to average). If Skole sticks in CF then his value is much greater; if he is a LF as I suspect then I don't like him as much. Olt might turn out to be a low average kinda guy with some contact issues if he pans out but the AL league average OPS at 3B is not all that great. Villanueva is that kid you love to root for though if he had not been injured in 2009, I bet his 2010 would've have been no surprise. He could be a different kind of 3b, a kid who hits for a higher average and less power (with nice D) but the ML profile for 3B are highly variable and a kid like him could find a spot if he puts it all together. Miguel Velazquez should not be considered a prospect anymore, and, if the club were less tolerant about players of his ilk (I feel the same about DGut, Danny Gutierrez, and possibly Mason Tobin), someone who should not be brought back in 2011 due to his crippling makeup issues - he ended the season suspended, banished to PR. I love Robbie Ross, who is still underrated, and still breaking bats. I don't think an injured player like Font should be ranked until they show they are healthy.

I think Wieland is a back roto arm (#4 ceiling) no matter where you rank him and though he has been overrated ever since Nolan Ryan touted him as the next power arm in the system (none of those off-season adjustments stuck by the way). Matt Thompson has been and is overrated, though he does not appear on this list. Goldstein and others once thought of him as being a sleeper, and possible #2 ceiling, who has always seemed like a back roto guy to me (now a #5). BA threw out the same kind of hype for Fredo Boscan a few years back, nowhere to be seen on the list these days. However, I still like Boscan and Pimentel as back roto arms, #5 types, and if you rank prospects on likely outcomes (now in the upper minors), rather than on unrealistic dreaminess, those 2 should have a place in a top 30.

I don't believe in ranking low-ceiling relievers in principle, only closer/setup types, and even then not in the top 15, as all starters (position/pitchers) have a great deal more value if you hit on them. So I think that a guy like Fabio Castillo is probably about right, the 20's, as his ceiling is as a setup arm, due to his command issues, makeup, and mechanical inconsistencies. Pedro Strop should be ahead of Castillo in the 16-25 range given his ceiling and proximity though his makeup is now a concern. Hoying is a wildcard. You can rank him or not. He likely will not _earn_ a ranking until he carries over his success and unorthodox hit tool (and staff-implemented adjustments) into the upper minors. Though unranked, I think Victor Payano might be overrated. I think Richard Alvarez has always been overrated (though currently unranked). I never bought into the Tullis hype; high ground ball rates in short-season ball are always misleading, and Tullis' ceiling is completely dependent on the quality of his sinker (which no one really knew anything about until after this year - it isn't good enough to be anything more than a back roto arm, likely a #5).

A lot of low-level kids not on the list, particularly the MIF prospects, though there is only so much room. The MIF depth from LowA to DSL is impressive. I look forward to reading the ST reports about them from Jason Cole and Jason Parks as all these kids compete against each other, giving us a glimpse of their talent levels, and future positions: Profar (missed ST 2010), Sardinas, Hill, Herrera, Odor, Alberto, Triunfel, Marte, Urbanus, Mendez, The Garcia Brothers (even Roof). The most underrated player in the system might be Chad Bell, who is a top 15 player in my opinion, with a solid #3 ceiling. Players that I really like, all of whom merit consideration on any top 30 whatever the ranking methodology: Randol Rojas, Nick McBride, Chris Hanna. I like Santiago Chirino Hill and Drew Robinson (in LF). I like Justin Miller. Anyone who mentions Zach Phillips before they mention Pedro Strop, doesn't know prospects. I still like Andrew Doyle and Trevor Hurley as starters. As I stated during pre-seaon 2010, Tommy Mendonca will have a break out year in 2011. I still dream on Ruben Sierra Jr. Each of Scheppers, Kirkman, OBeltre and Hurley have a lot to prove this year. I think Omar Beltre (unranked) will win the last bullpen spot.

Adios mi amigo Guillermo Moscoso.

UPDATE:
To belabor a theme: Engel Beltre is overrated:
KLAW had this to say in today's chat:

Brady (Texas): I was surprised to not see Engal Beltre in the top 100. I've heard some great things about him of late. Any thoughts?
Klaw: Call me when he takes a walk.




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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Notes

Nelson Cruz:

On why he isn't playing winter ball this year:

"It wasn't my decision. It was the Rangers' decision. I always like to play and that's what I do. I play baseball. It doesn't seem like a long time for most of my teammates, but for me it's been a long time because I was playing winter ball. It was kind of boring being at home and not doing anything, just practicing and running. I think the rest I am getting is going to pay off in the end. ... But I have one goal. And that's try to be healthy."

On where he learned his batting stance:

"That was in '07 when I got sent down. The hitting coach and the minor league instructor taught me to hit like that. At first it was kind of uncomfortable. They told me to be kind of like Carlos Lee and Derek Lee. They gave me some video tapes and tried to show me a couple of batting stances. And I got it from there."



Chad Tracy:
Chad Tracy received a ST invite. People may have forgotten about him. People may have already discounted him as a viable prospect. Not me. He missed almost half of the season and the AFL/winter ball due to a ribcage/oblique injury. Tracy is a cerebral hitter, constantly tinkering with his swing, often to a fault, in addition to being the streakiest hitter in the system. He has plus power when he makes contact. He is a dead fastball hitter and his ceiling is a platoon bat. Just the kind of bat that TX is looking to add right now (DH, 1B, COF). He is fringe average to below average at either position but won't hurt you that much if he is only playing 60games. He's slow in the outfield and his glove at 1b isnt' all that great (though he needs more experience at both spots). The big question with Tracy is: 1. can he hit ML quality offspeed stuff and 2. can he settle on a more basic approach (and everything that this entails) to keep him out of profound slumps and/or allow him to work out of them more quickly.

Anyways, Tracy is the kind of guy you should root for and I hope he does well in camp, and parlays that into a long career as a powerful platoon bat vs LHP.


Darren O'Day
Settles for a 1.251m salary for 2011. I predicted around 1.2m. He has been about as valuable as a MR can be over the last 2 years (2.2WAR, 1.3/.9) so that amount is well deserved.




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Friday, January 21, 2011

BA Notes

Seattle just reduced Peguero's bonus from 2.9 to 1.1m and reworked his signing date. No word on why other than speculation that he has some type of injury. If he tested positive for PEDS after his signed he would be suspended by the league so it probably isnt' that.

The Cubs actually consider MaxRam as a viable b/u catcher to my surprise:
The Cubs claimed catcher Max Ramirez on waivers from the Red Sox, who had previously claimed him from the Rangers. He'll go to camp and compete alongside veteran Koyie Hill and 23-year-old Welington Castillo for the backup catcher spot. Castillo did not help his case by hitting .193 in 27 games for Licey this winter in the Dominican Republic.



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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Miggie Injury?

Anecdotal evidence that MDLS suffered some sort of injury after putting in some nice outings down Dominican way (from Scott Lucas:

Miguel de los Santos might be done. Last pitched on 13th, not among 4 announced starters for Dom. League finals which started Wed.


I'll see if I can root out any more info in the LA press as soon as I have some time....



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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

J2 SUMMARY

So Texas has spent about 1.5 million on 7 j2 signs that are worthy of a press release (any player signing for more than 50k by that measure). Or, about the same amount as a Profar or Sardinas signing bonus. Curse you Tom Hicks. Also, note that there was only one notable signing from Venezuela, which has been the strength of the last 3-4 j2 classes:

Rougned Odor, MIF, 425k, VZ
Alberto Triunfel, MIF, 300k, DR
Fernando Vivilli, C, 300K, (DR?)
Luis Marte, MIF(3b?), 215k, DR
Joe LeClair, RHP, 90K, (DR?)
Nick Urbanus, 2b, est 100k, NL
Nirotoshi, Onaka, CF, est 70k, JP



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Arb Figures

Per various sources:

Hambone wants 12m; TX offering 8.7m
(I predicted 6.5m, doubling his 3.25m salary, so I'll bump that to 10m)

Francisco wants 4.875m; TX offers 3.5m
(I predicted 4.2m)

O'Day wants 1.4; TX offers 1.05m
( I had 1.5m so I'll predict 1.2m)

DMurph agreed to a 2.4m deal
(I had 1.2m)

No word on figures for Cruz or Wilson, who I had at 3.5m and 4.5m respectively. I am going to stick with Cruz's # at 3.5m but raise Wilson's to 6.2.


With those adjusted arb figures, that bumps my payroll estimate from 90.59 to 95.79. I would say you can bump that up around 800k-1m, penciling in the acquisition of a RH hitter sometime before opening day. So I predict the TX payroll will be about 96.5-97m by opening day. Bump it up a bit more if they acquire a mid-roto arm, say 6-8m, by opening day or during July and that could bump this year's payroll to 100m. I would imagine they might do some cost-cutting (somehow) if they are in that area code by opening day.


UPDATE:
Texas has agreed to figures with Wilson and Cruz for 7 and 3.65m. So that bumps my estimated 2011 payroll to 95m, which likely gets bumped to 96 with the addition of a bat.

UPDATE:
A link to my payroll worksheet is up in the side bar now.

UPDATE:
So in talking over the payroll worksheet with some LSB folks, some prefer to focuse solely on the payroll for the active roster while I included the major league splits for everyone on the 40-man roster. The minor league splits can range from 35-65k, with some six year free agents making over 100k. So my 95m figure is modeled on the Cots worksheet which also budgets all major league contracts.




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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Notes

Miggie Injury? Ming over at the Newberg MiL forum has a link up noting that Miggie de los Santos did not return for the 4th inning due to some kind of injury. No further notes though so hopefully it is minor.

Enrique Rojas is reporting that Manny Ramirez has signed a 1/4m deal with the Angels.

Juaquin Arias injured his "right arm" for Escogido. The shoulder injury (among other things) that derailed his career was originally sustained playing CF in the Dominican.

No confirmation on whether Texas was in on Jeff Francis but it appears unlikely that they would have successfully woo'd him as he felt KC was a good fit for him - must have been a PT issue, a guaranteed spot or something to rebuild his value?

Nick Cafardo says that TX might have some minor interest in Bonderman. I doubt he would accept an NRI on a split contract but that is all that I would offer. At some point, you just have to go with your younger back roto prospects, as they will all likely have an FIP in the 4.8-5.0 range, with the younger guys capable of outperforming that.

Probably going to be a slow few weeks until ST gears up unless there is a major trade brewing for a starter or something. I think TX will trade for a flexible RHH to come off the bench, when that happens is anyone's guess but I'm sure they have already identified guys that they like. Might see an announcement of a j2 sign or find out about an unannounced one once ST opens. With the failure, to acquire/sign either an elite or mid-roto arm, the Rangers off-season remains incomplete, though they arguably go into ST with a stronger club than they had in 2010. Beltre, Torrealba, and Rhodes all make the club stronger. Moving Young to 1b/DH improves the club in a number of areas. Starting the season with Moreland is an upgrade. Starting the season with Treanor is at least a necessary lateral move given the complete lack of ML ready catchers in the system. Andres Blanco opens with the club. Mark Lowe opens with the club. Francisco offers nice flexibility to the pen in a different role. The AAA club has been bolstered with a lot of guys with ML experience at each position, to provide some bodies in case of short-term injuries, while the CF spot has 2 guys in Gentry and Chavez who can fill in for Borbon in case he goes down (should they not wish to move Hambone to CF at all). Any other tweaks can be made during the first month or two, same as last year.

The biggest weakness for the club is obviously the lack of starters with a long record of success. I think Colby Lewis is the best pitcher on the club and not likely to regress much in 2011. Wilson is much more likely to regress given his terrible walk rate versus RHH especially if his hit and hr rate tic up. Feldman likely won't contribute to the rotation until mid-May or June as he is likely to be DL'd and stretched out in AAA and even then he is a complete wildcard and only a back roto arm. Furthermore, there is no room for him in the bullpen as presently configured. I predict that Webb will not break with the club. I think he will likely have continued problems with his arm slot and mental hangups so that we might not see him until mid-May. Holland is a wildcard but likely a back roto arm. Hunter is a #5 but has the capacity to pitch 200 innings but his FIP will likely be in the 4.8-4.9 range. Kirkman needs to work on his command vs RHH and his changeup. Without improvement in those 2 areas, he will likely work out of the pen in 2011. Omar Beltre is a safe bet to be a DL baby for 2011, so it would be safer to move him to the pen. Scheppers is a wildcard and you would think that he would only contribute as a starter no sooner than July as he needs innings. Hurley will be on an innings limit for 2011 as he has been out for 2 years so he would only be likely to contribute out of the pen in the second half and needs innings in the first half to work the rust off. And don't forger about his terrible flyball and HR rates. Given that there is no room in the bullpen for any of these guys they all might be more likely to start some games for TX in 2011 than relieve, which is a little unnerving given the issues that each one brings to the table.

For a contending club, this starting rotation has too much variability built into probable outcomes for my taste. I would much rather pay money for a couple of mid-roto vets, move Feliz to the #5 spot (or Holland or Hunter) and move all of the rest of these other back roto prospects to the bullpen. So having older guys like Oliver and Rhoads and Francisco in the pen blocks any opportunities for young AAA starters with a good 2-pitch mix who can contribute right away and work their way into the rotation down the line.



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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Notes

Texas was interested enough in Thome to offer him 4m according to one report but he preferred to return to MN and be close to his family in Chicago.

Came across a nice article over at MiLB about the career of Jayson Werth, with a focus on his minor league days, and political infighting over his ceiling between his coaches and the O's front office.

I have zero interest in Marcus Thames as he has underperformed vs LHP that last 2 years (.800 OPS) and really can't play any position (only 11g 1b last 3 years, shouldn't be in OF). Troy Glaus is done. He had 2 good months and a bag of injured suck the rest of the year. Texas can likely trade for a better RHH role player during ST. As for Manny Ramirez, I'm just not keen on his ego (or contract demands, or PT demands) on this club despite the fact that he might have a fine year as a DH. But a trade for a quality mid-roto arm is really the #1 priority, but then, they know that already.



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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Peguero, Archer

Jim Callis has some notes up on the Rays-Cubs trade as well as their handbook profile on Peguero. He thinks Peguero ends up at 2b while I've heard others say that he will end up at 3b.

Top 3 systems: Royals, Rays, Braves
with Rays bumping Braves to #3 post-trade



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Winter Ball TV

Harry Pavlidis has a couple of updates to his winter ball TV guide.



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Brad Nelson signs

eddymk Matt Eddy
#Rangers sign Dominican League HR champ, Brad Nelson, while #Mariners ink Venezuelan version, Luis Jimenez. Both massive LH-hitting 1Bs.


With MaxRam gone, and Davis likely playing 1b, and Barden likely playing 3b, you would think that Brad Neslon will be penciled in as the DH.



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New Grant Meme?

Evan Grant thinks that Mitch Moreland is the guy who scuttled the Rays deal. Do you think this is based on reliable team sources or just Grant getting all TR Sullivan?
Without mentioning the inclusion of Chris Archer in the deal (or any discussion of the ray's prospects or and definitive statement about what TX did offer), you would think that this is base speculation. Who knows?

Where the Rangers even in serious talks about trading for Garza?

The Rangers were serious about wanting Garza, but without being willing to include Mitch Moreland in the deal, they weren't as serious about actually making the deal. The Rays wanted Moreland. The Rangers value him as their long-term first baseman. They ultimately chose not to deal Moreland, which allowed the Cubs to become much more serious players in the deal.




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Monday, January 10, 2011

TRS mailbox

had this tidbit:

"They have been active in Latin America with several unannounced notable signings..."


Hmmm...



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Garza redux and the futility of trade mongering

So, there seem to be a lot of people who seem to think that TB was asking too much for Garza, a solid mid-roto starter likely to give you 200 innings and an FIP in the 4.15-4.20 range for the next 3 years plus picks or who could be extended. It is likely the case that they demanded too much from the NYY but were willing to take less from suitors outside of their division. Now while it is perfectly reasonable to think that Garza is overrated by some as he is not a top roto arm, he profiles right at the back end of mid-rotation starters (30gs, FIB 3.8-4.2), while being much better than that at times (with a flyball rate that might not play great in some parks), and that has solid value, about 3 wins if you believe his struggles this year are not a trend. You can also argue that the Cubs overpaid for him, given that they gave up two elite prospects including a starter with top-roto potential who could make his appearance in their rotation in the second half.

However the claims that Texas was offering too much seem to be exaggerated if not unfounded altogether. If you believe the rumors that Texas' best offer was Holland, Beltre, (some other player) and Francisco, that is not overpaying at all. Holland has not come close to establishing himself as the top rotation arm many thought he could become, so much so, that he looks more like a #4 starter these days (if not a bullpen arm). He also missed 2 months with a rotator cuff strain (and a month with a knee injury) that might have given any team pause, though he did finish the season strong out of the bullpen. Engel Beltre is the most overrated prospect in the system in my opinion. He does not project to hit for power anymore after the Texas staff changed his swing and demanded a change in his approach that has turned him into a singles hitter with gap power. Given his atrocious walk rate (even worse in winter ball, with a BIP-driven average mainly from his first couple of weeks there), plate discipline, bunting and pitch recognition skills, he's likely a #9 hitter with an an average driven OBP in the .300 range. There is not much reason to dream on this kid unless your dream is Julio Borbon (with less SB prowess at present) with a much stronger arm, better contact ability (though with poorer pitch recognition, and poor bunting skills at present) and slightly more grace in the outfield. The only reason to believe that Beltre will put up an OPS better than Borbon's 650 last year is the hope that he can hit lefties better than Borbon's .600 OPS, and stay in the lineup all year long. So is Beltre's ceiling then a fringy CF (on the right eam) with plus D sporting an OPS from both sides in the 660-680 range? Why yes it is. That is no future all star, elite player, or even an average major league CF (.740 OPS). There are lots of ML centerfielders around that play plus D in CF (including Borbon) and those types always have some value but some of those hardly make you breathless at the plate, or have 10-year careers as starters. So if his ceiling is Borbon why all the hype?

I will say this about Holland, and I've written this before. He needs to rely more on his changeup which is an above-average pitch, at least it was in 2009. The staff might bear some blame about this (in addition to being rushed, only making 4 starts in AA before his promotion to the bigs) in addition to allowing him to start throwing a curveball -convincing himself for some reason that it takes 4 pitches to be an effective starter - given that his slider was the pitch he needed to concentrate on improving. Given that Holland was sidelined with a knee injury for a month, missing all of spring training, and then was sidelined for another 2 months due to shoulder issues, there is no reason to believe that he can't eventually become some kind of #3 starter. However, we have seen some problems with his FB command -throwing too many strikes, not working the fastball in and around the zone effectively enough - and maybe also his makeup (as a starter). I think we have seen enough to know that he won't become a top roto arm but one can still imagine him as a #3 at best and a #4 at worst.


Other than the question of the limited ceilings that both Holland and Beltre seem to offer, there are a couple of other reasons to think that Gammond's take on Texas' top offer is incomplete. For one, the inclusion of the overpaid and injury-prone Francisco hardly seems to make sense for them (who would also be a risky arb offer to get the picks, as TX saw this year). Francisco makes a lot of sense for Texas as a back-up closer and dominant set-up man or 7th inning arm, as he gives TX injury protection and roster flexibility but he wouldn't be nearly as valuable for the cost-cutting Rays. The other questionable take is the inclusion of Robinson Chirinos. It is highly doubtful that Chirinos was ever part of a deal as long as Texas' main competition was the Cubs. This just makes zero sense if the Cubs knew that TB liked the kid and Texas knew that they were competing with prospect packages against them. I mean, how does this make any sense? In all likelihood, Texas was likely offering another player.

As with all trade rumors, the speculation about any complex back-and-forth negotiation is assuredly reductive. These rumors well never get right the whole array of prospects that were on the table, the prospects that a team likes or wants, the packages that were discussed or refused, or the "final offer". Gammons' report seems to have similar shortcomings and his final offer hardly seems to make sense for TB and certainly does not even come close to what TB got from the cubs. If Gammons' final offer was correct, the Texas underbid by a long shot. Here is why:

Chris Archer is seen by BA to have a top rotation ceiling (a closer at worst), was the Cubbies' #1 prospect. He could make the team out of spring training as a bullpen arm but most likely starts in the AAA rotation. Holland also spent most of last year in AAA if you'll remember, and is 2 years older and had 9 fewer starts in AA at the same age. Archer had command issues in AA (entirely vs LHH though, so his changeup and FB command vs them still need work - he dominated RHH) but already has something that Holland has never had: 2 plus pitches. So when people speculated that Holland could be a top roto arm, one has to wonder how he could accomplish that with only one plus pitch. In the end, the key to this trade seems to be Archer, and how likely it is that he becomes, say, a #2 arm. I think it is clear that Tampa thinks it is a safe bet meaning that TX would have had to include an arm with the same ceiling. If the rumor is correct, they did not believe that was Derek Holland, which is not unreasonable. However if Texas didn't project Archer as a reasonable bet to reach his #2 ceiling, then they likely would not have included that type of player.

I should also add that Archer seemed to make a lot of progress in 2010, and his overall command improved in HighA, while regressing vs LHH after his promotion to AA. People should keep in mind that minor league #s aren't projectable like ML #s are given that each season is essentially a crucible for improving particular weaknesses, even to the detriment of ones' objective #s. Given the reports about his improvement in all areas in 2010, It seems likely that he was working on his command issues vs LHH, his changeup, and his pitch sequencing during his AA stint.

According to BA, Hak-Ju Lee, the Cubs #4 prospect, is an argument in favor of becoming players in the Korean market (725k, 2008). He could be a plus defender at SS, with plus plus speed, an excellent approach, with gap power and the potential to develop into a leadoff hitter. He'll start in HighA.

Even Bradon Guyer, in the back end of the deal, seems like a nice player. If he doesn't make the team out of spring training, he'll start the year in AAA at age 25. He seems to profile as a solid 4th OF type in the mold of David Murphy, but is capable of playing in CF for extended periods though probably shouldn't start there. It isn't clear if he profiles as a starting COF, but he could be, and his defense is said to be ML ready right now so it is not out of the realm of possiblity. He put in a dominant year in AA at age 24, finishing with an OPS of ~1.0.

Robinson Chirinos seems to be liked by many but I'm not sure why, having spent most of the last 4 years bouncing between HighA and AA, and having played on 15 games in AAA going into his age 27 year. He seems to profile as a backup catcher, with a great arm, though I can't imagine that his skills in that spot are that well developed as he has only been catching full time for 2 years and only has 170 games at that spot since appearing in games there in 2008 (20g). Some people have said that he can play shortstop or 2b but that seems idiotic as he hasn't seen significant time there in 3-4 years, but he could be a backup corner infielder at 1b/3b it would seem. He would be a nice player to have on any roster if he could be an effective second catcher and a decent backup 3b/1b but he hardly appears worthy of prospect palpitations.

The Cubs and Rays also exchanged fifth OF types capable of playing CF, while the Rays also threw in a LHP who seems to project as a 5th starter type in 2-3 years. A pitchability kid.

So in the end I think Gammon's take is incomplete at best. I think that it is likely that Scheppers and Perez' names were bandied around during the negotiations, and if TX refused to entertain a package that included one of them, perhaps also demanding a another player in return, then you'd have to think that the inclusion of Archer meant that Texas could not match. Why would TB dream on a package that didn't include a starting prospect with a top roto ceiling? They wouldn't. With the prospect to-and-fro assuredly much more complicated than a Gammons' tweet, you could put together all kinds of what ifs that are just as feasible. For example, maybe Texas was unwilling to include Perez, thinking him more valuable than Archer, while TB viewed Perez as having an equal ceiling with slightly more risk. Maybe TX even projected Archer as a reliever. What if Texas offered Scheppers, still dreaming of him as a starter, while TB thought of him as a reliever. What if Holland actually has more value in the eyes of the Texas staff than he does on the market, so, fronting a offer with Holland, might still indicate that TX still dreams of Holland as a #2 starter (eventually), while TB does not see him as having anything more than a #4 ceiling.

Whatever the case, If you believe in Archer as a starter, then Texas' rumored offer doesn't even make me blink, but it is likely that TX had a better offer on the table to be in the hunt, as they appeared to be, for so long. Having said all of that, if you don't believe in Garza as a 3 WAR pitcher who will put up 200innings with a 4.20 FIP over the next three years and become a Type A free agent (with the opportunity to extend him before that), then you'll be happy that Texas didn't acquire him, even if we'll never really know what TX was willing to offer, and you'll think that the Cubs overpaid. Keep the Cubbies' offer in mind though if TX is forced to overpay for a rent-a-starter at the trade deadline, and one or more of Holland/Hunter/Feliz underwhelm, for a package equal to or better than what the Cub's gave up for a full 3 years of Garza. In addition, one possible benefit of acquiring a #3 by the start of spring training, allows TX to throw the dice on putting Feliz in the roto.

In the end, maybe Texas has more faith in both Holland and Hunter than we know. It seems a big risk to take for a contending team, though, to enter the season without someone to anchor the rotation given the lack of experienced starters TX will trot out their for 2011, not to mention the impending loss of CJ to FA at the end of the season. There is still some time for Texas to find a deal it likes but (at least) three years of Garza for minor leaguers seems like pretty good value, particularly for their 2-3 year window of contention (as presently configured).


UPDATE
BA had some quotes from Archer about his dominant start in for the US in the Pan American games, which lends credence to his improvement over 2010 as well as his projectability as a top roto arm:

In the team's ninth and final victory, Team USA beat Cuba 4-1, getting a Sheets-like performance from Cubs righthander Chris Archer. While Young is quick to point out that Sheets went the distance, Archer was just as dominant, striking out 10 and walking none while pitching six scoreless, two-hit innings. And even Young admits the current Cuban lineup is deep in talent, perhaps even more offensive than the 2000 club.

"He pounded the strike zone, then he put hitters away with sliders and some changeups," Young said of Archer. "That was the key; once he was ahead, he put their hitters away."

Archer did that much of the regular season, going 15-3, 2.34 between two levels, ranking second in the minors in victories and seventh in ERA. Still, he called his performance against Cuba "saving the best for last."

"Command-wise, I don't know how hard I was throwing my fastball, but I was nicking it, and I had the fastball, slider and change all working," he said. "Early counts, I was throwing my slider for strikes, and when I got ahead, I was burying it, and because they had to respect the fastball, I got them to chase."






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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Moscoso Traded

He and MaxRam were two players who I thought might be traded in the off season. MaxRam didn't draw enough interest but was claimed on waivers while Guillermo Moscoso was traded to Oakland on Saturday for RH reliever Ryan Kelly. I still really like Moscoso and he had a great 2009 campaign but followed that up with a stinker in 2010, losing his plus fastball command and unable to command his curveball. I attributed that to being overused in 2009, pitching a career high in innings while only having a couple of months off after pitching winter ball in 2008-2009, minor league ball in 2009, and winter ball in 2009-2010. Who knows. He is now having a fine season in the LVBP. At his best, his CB is above average, and his FB sits 92-94 with plus deception, while his changeup is fringe-average. I charted his start on 6/27 here. He had some of the most impressive starts of anyone in the system in the 2009 season.

Ryan Kelly (23.4 a/o 4/1) was a 26th round D&F for the Pirates in 2006. He signed on May 31, 2007 for 100k after 1 year at Walters State CC (6-1/4.71/57ip/55so). He has had an injury-plagued career by some accounts, though I can't seem to find enough info to properly summarize his injury history. A couple of sources say he missed some time due to a fractured ankle in 2010. He is reported to have a fastball that can sit 92-96 with plus command, a an ave-AA slider, and a a fringy changeup. He dominated out of the pen in the second half. His injury history, and dominant fastball could mean that he could quickly make it to AA next year. Texas followed him for the 2006 draft and alos got to see him for the last 2 years in the SAL so I would bet they like him due to his progress in 2010, including a tic up in his fastball, which was average as a starter.

Texas appears willing to settle for bullpen arms with a plus fastball with some issues (age, injury) rather than getting nothing (or settling for a position player or SP with a low ceiling and higher risk level) which seems a good strategy as those types of arms can progress quickly if all things come together. Mark Hamburger has proven to be a nice find for the club after his slider made nice progress in 2010 and ended the year in AA. I would expect that Kelly's fastball is rather straight given his hits/9 rate at the lower levels despite his velo. But, like I said, he appeared to take a step forward in the second half, so maybe something clicked while the Rangers were watching.

Josh Boyd had this to say about him:
"We have a lot of history with this kid going back to junior college," said Josh Boyd, the Rangers' director of pro scouting. "We like his arm. He touches 95, 96 in relief and shows flashes of a power breaking ball. We like the strikes and feel there is some upside there."

PS
Texas seemed to give up on Moscoso after his first bad year, ever. That's tougher both the club and player when you are on the back 40 and 26. However I still think he is a big league pitcher, and happy to see him hook on with another club who he might actually get a chance to pitch for and burn his former team from the back of the rotation or at least as a middle/long reliever. He should come back with a new pitch from his nice LVBP season and I'm interested to see how he does in ST (and how Oakland handles him).


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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Per Grant

the vesting option on Beltre's 6th year will be pretty hard to reach:

Evan_P_Grant Evan Grant
mportant stuff from Beltre press conference: 1) Michael Young will work out at 1B during spring training as well as other infield spots.

More important stuff from Beltre presser: 2) Ron Washington intends to hit Beltre 4th; 3) Rangers informed Vlad they won't bring him back.

More important Beltre stuff: 4) Rangers will not trade Young; 5) Beltre 6th year valid if he has 600 PAs in 2015 or 1,200 in ’14-15.



Presser quotes from Durrett and a follow up.



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Minor Moves per BA

Texas Rangers
Signed: RHP Seth McClung, C Elio Sarmiento (re-signed), 3B Brian Barden, OF Endy Chavez (re-signed)
Released: RHP Sam Brown, 2B Vicente Cafaro, 2B Daniel Lima, OF Joe Bonadonna

Cafaro was a player-coach for Hickory last year and might have been signed for that purpose in 2009. Jason Cole had this to say:

Cafaro, a former infielder, served as a player-coach at Single-A Hickory in 2010. The Creighton product and Venezuela native was valuable due to his ability to speak both English and Spanish, allowing him to communicate with the younger Latin players. He will not return for the 2011 season.

UPDATE:
BoSox have claimed MaxRam.


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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Two more j2 signs

Per DPL (h/t JL):

The Texas Rangers have agreed to terms with two more DPL players, RHP Jose Leclair (Toros) for $95,000 and C Fernando Vivili for $300,000. Leclair shows arm strength and no fear on the mound, he's had some control issues at times but there is certainly value for the Rangers to add his projectable body and arm to their system. Vivili is a big boy with bat speed, raw power, arm strength and a feel behind the plate.


Got to love those DPL capsules; it's the written form of Jamie Newberg's prospect dreamscape. Vivili actually signed on December 7th, and is the product of the same academy as Hanser Alberto (LGS). Vivili (already 6.2/200, with plus raw power and a plus arm it seems) apparently impressed Scott Service et al during a tryout displaying some nice power potential. The DPL claims him as one of their own but I couldn't find him on a roster anywhere.

Jose LeClair <12.19.93> was listed on the DPL Toros' roster, but I can't seem to find this year's stats on the site. The first half of the DPL season runs from November thru March (and then March through June) so clubs have been able to take a look at both 2010 and 2011 eligibles for the last 2 months. I link his stats as soon as I come across them.

Update:
Vivili played for the Caballeros de Santiago.

UPDATE:
Came across a short entry on Hanser Alberto. And this mention of his signing. And this note about him prior to a TV interview chaperoned by his well-known SFM sportswriter dad, Tony Alberto. Separate interviewers both mention him as a very humble soft-spoken kid.

UPDATE:
In reading over some spanish-language sources, some of the delay for signing kids out of the DR this year lies squarely in the lap of MLB. The more rigorous drug testing and DOB/identity verification process has not only delayed the process practically (approving contracts - very few by the end of October, at least 13 positive drug tests of the "official 40")but also freighted it with a charged political message ("we control the money", as well as, "we'll have you arrested"). Or as Victor Baez said (currently in jail for forging documents, subsequent to the PED-related suspensions of 4 of his top prospects): "we're in debt."


UPDATE
Here are some 2011 j2 names to keep an eye out for who currently playing in the 2010-2011 DPL season.

UPDATE
The DPL has expanded from 4 teams last year to 6 teams this year.

UPDATE
Some time ago Melissa Segura spoke of a new league opening up in the DR, something along the lines of the DPL, with the exact same calendar year (Nov-June). She hasn't spoke of it since, that I can determine. I did come across this article about it but haven't come across anything else.

UPDATE
More Vivili:
Vivili LGS video(volume alert)
My first thoughts: quick release, can't block balls, thick trunk, first baseman - 2010's Jacobo Beltre?
Training at LGS 5/10 (and his 109yo grandpa!)






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Adrian Beltre actually signs with Texas!

Numerous reports suggest that he is flying into DFW tonight for a physical tomorrow, when the deal will likely be announced. The initial rumor proved to be true, 6/96, with the 6th year a vesting option. His presence will give Texas one of the best defensive infields (and clubs overall) in the majors.

Based on some rough calculations, including guesstimated post-arb salaries*, the payroll will come in around 90.59m. It wouldn't surprise me if they added a mid-roto type arm via trade before opening day in addition to a RH bat of the bench to add to that total, so a 100 million dollar payroll is not out of the question. Their starting payroll for 2012 could easily be 115m, if you figure in the acquisition of a couple of solid starters in the 8-10 million range while figuring in post-arb raises. WOW! Here's hoping that Rhode's salary comes a few games shy of vesting for 4.1m and that there are a few pre-arb bullpen arms that emerge in 2011 to help save some cash.

*my guestimates would be as follows, and not based on any particular logic, other than eybeballing some of the arb results over the last few years (Biz Baseball has them), save doubling Hambone's figure:

Hamilton, 3.25 to 6.5m
Wilson, 3.1 to 4.5m
Cruz, 440k to 3.5m
O'Day, 427k to 1.5m
Francisco, 3.63 to 4.2m
Murphy, 428k to 1.2m (just agreed to 2.4m deal)

I repeat myself over and over again about this, but for a club that says it doesn't want to pay money for bullpen arms, they will have almost 12m tied up in the collection of Fx2, Oliver and Rhodes!


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Monday, January 3, 2011

Boras not guilty

but only according to frontier rules.



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Vids

I came across an old scouting video from 2004 for Derek Holland, and one for Braxton Lane from 2009. I think they are both from UA showcases. Holland is sitting 83.



#######

To all the Young Haters

Per Evan Grant:

# Michael Young: "I want to do what I need to do stay with this team. I'm proud to be part of this team and I want to be here." less than 10 seconds ago via web

# Michael Young: "I'm willing to move to DH" for Adrian Beltre. 1 minute ago via web


Morons. (JD takes TRS to task for his previous report about Young here.)


TRS has the story here. Grant has the story here, though he's still peddling his "super-utility player" meme (as is Durrett). There are not enough at bats for this. This is stupid. And Blanco is a better defender at 3 positions. Young is a FT player at 1b or DH. I think Moreland is the guy in play here not Young, unless you think that Moreland is an elite 1b (he is not) and will put up 2.4-3 WAR next year. He will not.


UPDATE:
In unrelated news, Morosi suggests that TX are "no longer players" for Pavano, and that's fine. But you have to think that Texas would be eager to acquire a mid-roto starter before the season starts, especially given the uncertainty about Webb, which they acknowledged in today's presser. However, Daniels claims they are happy with what the have. FO doublespeak you would hope.



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Brandon Webb's shoulder

I started this article on the day Webb signed (made official today), but it was such a labyrinthine tale of shoulder intrigue, that I left it in draft form until sprucing it up today. What follows is a maddening account of the last 2 years of Webb's shoulder problems.

Based on all the stuff that i read, the news is both good and bad. For one, the expectation for Webb to return by April 2010 (from an early August 2009 surgery) was not realistic. Though the surgery was relatively minor, it was clear that he needed more time, with a mid-season return more likely than not. Though he appeared to have some legitimate physical setbacks, most of his problems from May through August appear to have been both mental and mechanical. So that is the positive news. His arm appears to be healthy (he had a frayed labrum with no tear, and substantive wear). The bad news is that the arm slot problems he had all year could rob him of the effectiveness of his sinker (think Feldman) and continue to plague him in 2011. Furthermore, the "mental" hangups he has developed during his rehab process appear substantial (listen to the interviews with him and his coaches in the links below), problems that are likely to plague him during ST 2011 as well.

If I had to take a guess at what Webb's season looks like for 2011, I would say that he has mental and mechanical (if not also some real soreness) issues throughout ST that will delay his debut until mid-May. His effectiveness over his first 4-6 weeks might not be all that great, which could lead to a recurrence of the mental and mechanical issues he had in 2010. I would think that the best scenario for Webb in 2011 would be for him to pitch well in the second half. Given that he will likely be on an innings limit for 2011, this works out for the best, as it might allow him to pitch in the post-season if he gets on a roll.

For my money, despite the fact that Webb appears healthy enough, his other issues are substantial enough derail him completely, or only allow for him to be productive in the second half. I would still acquire a mid-roto starter if I were Texas as Webb is unlikely to fill that roll in the first half.

Before the analysis, I just remembered this nice article by Crasnick on shoulder surgeries, with a prominent mention of Texas as well as Brandon Webb.

OK so here we go. In 2009, Webb developed shoulder issues during/after his first start and was DL'd with "shoulder bursitis." I'm not certain if he had problems during the offseason or spring training that lead up to that the problem. He tried to rehab the "injury" - I'm not sure they knew exactly what it was prior to his surgery - for 4 months to no avail. Texas' team ortho guy Meister performed a debridement of his shoulder on August 3 2009. Here is a note I found on the nature of the injury:

Now, Webb did not injure his Rotator Cuff, but rather his teres major muscle. This muscle is found in the rear part of the shoulder area, next to where the shoulder blade is located. He only strained his teres major so it did not require major reconstructive surgery. Surgeons had to go in and clean up the area around the muscle to release the tightening sensation he was feeling from the strain. Even though his surgery wasn’t as major as it could have been, it will still require months of physical rehabilitation.

I've seen a couple of reports refer to it as a labrum injury so that doesn't appear to be accurate. His rehab called for him to begin throwing 3-4 months thereafter. During spring training this year however, he developed some soreness in the shoulder and recieved a cortisone shot on April ~2. It didn't appear that Webb would have been ready for the season anyways, likely needing a month-long rehab assignment but the injury/soreness knocked him out another month and He didn't start throwing side cessions again until mid-June (though he seems to have played catch beginning in mid-April). Webb attributed his problems poor mechanics, to an arm slot that had gotten to high (here is a video of Webb's delivery, 4.30 mark) in order to protect himself from re-injury:

Out since last Opening Day with a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery in August, Brandon Webb said yesterday that the past five months of rehab have “been almost wasting my time” because he was “throwing bad.”
Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that Webb met recently with a specialist at the rehab facility connected to Dr. James Andrews’ practice in Alabama and was told his arm slot is too high and needs changing before he can get healthy again. Or as Webb put it: “I have to retain.”
Webb “was hooked up to motion-sensing technology that helped illustrate to him that his arm slot is far too high” and “far higher than how he pitched before surgery.” Webb said he made the change “trying to protect myself going up there, but it’s actually doing the exact opposite.”
The good news is that he’s had no recent setbacks in terms of the actual injury, but Webb won’t be throwing off a mound until he’s fully comfortable with the new, lower arm slot.


However it looks like he might have been shut down again at some point thereafter, and didn't start throwing bullpens until early September, eventually, making a couple of appearances in the AFL (sitting low to mid 80s).

People have a lot of success these days coming back from TJ in as few as 12 months, while labrum and rotator cuff surgeries are more tricky, and depend on the extent of the repair(s) (Eric Hurley had both and wasn't really ready to start throwing 12 months out if I remember correctly). Debridements, "loose joints", "wear and tear", chronic soreness, muscle tears, strained ligaments - it all sounds like a big wild card to me, so the signing shouldn't stop Texas from acquiring/signing another arm that they could hang their hat on for some innings (Pavano, Francis, trade).

Other than the injury itself, the effectiveness of his sinker will ultimately determine his level of success. He throws that pitch 75% if the time, so if he doesn't have it, it could get "Feldman" ugly (or at least 4.8 fip ugly, which wouldn't be a compete waste). If it is true that the main issue that thwarted his return in 2010 was mechanical in nature, then there is really more reason for optimism. The other unknown about him will be the # of innings he will be capable of throwing after two years off (admittedly with a lot of throwing during his rehab). Will Meister set a cap on the # of innings for him or will he be free to pitch as many innings as he can? Will TX skip his starts when they can, and maybe even give him a couple of starts off to allow him to pitch into the post-season? Will they build him up in the minors in April delaying his debut until May?

So here is a down and dirty timeline charting Webb’s injury and rehab history over the last 2 years:

2008
Had some shoulder soreness mid-season 2008 had MRI, results were negative. Pitched through it. Had MRI examined by Andrews during off-season; negative findings.


2009

March
He missed his first turn in ST due to forearm tightness (~3/1/09)

April
Gets blown up in his first start.
Bursitis and fluid buildup, placed on the DL 4/12 (retroactive to 4/7)
MRI results 4/10/09
had mri last summer for shoulder soreness, examined by James Andrews in Dec, normal wear and tear
Webb setback, 4/24/09

June

Brandon's Labrum
(6/27/09)
Webb's June 2009 Setback

July
7/2: Decides not to have surgery.
Note on Webb, 7/6/09: "Brandon Webb also spoke to reporters before the game. He says the doctors compared his MRI to that from last year, and was told, "There was no change in it - and that's encouraging because I won 22 games last year." They told him he has an internal impingement in the shoulder, which he had a year ago in May but pitched through it. He will shut it down - not pick up a baseball - for 4-to-6 weeks during which time he will strengthen the shoulder, and aims to return for at least one September start to prove to himself and the Diamondbacks that he can pitch."

LA Times - Arizona ace has another setback with his ailing right shoulder.
July 31, 2009|Associated Press
Arizona pitcher Brandon Webb has had another setback with his ailing right shoulder, raising the possibility the Diamondbacks' ace may need surgery. Webb missed the team's trip to New York and instead will visit Dr. Keith Meister of the Texas Rangers in Dallas, Diamondbacks General Manager Josh Byrnes said Thursday.Webb has consulted numerous doctors but has been unable to relieve stiffness and soreness in the shoulder. The 2006 NL Cy Young Award winner has not pitched since opening day.Earlier this month, after meeting with team doctors and three other physicians, Webb rejected surgery and opted for a more conservative approach. At the time, he expressed hope that he would pitch again this season.


AZSnakepit dump on his late July setback.
Webb's Barnstorming Specialist Tour (7/30/09)
Webb's barnstorming specialist tour, deux
From (AZSnakepit) the best summary of Webb's 2009 ordeal:

It's not the reporting. It’s Webb himself that is stirring it up. “It was just the little Discomfort. I will skip my next start, and it will all be better!”, “I guess I’m a little more sick than I thought. A 15-day DL stint and some rest should fix it!”, “The shoulder is still a little sore. I just need more time”, “I’m on track to recovery”, “Oops, I felt The Discomfort! Maybe something really IS wrong? I have to see 1,387,549 doctors now, just to be sure!!”, “I don’t need a surgery even though I can’t even pick up a baseball in the next 4 weeks”, “Oh no! I felt The Discomfort after I threw a baseball 10 feet! I must see the doctors again!”HAVE THE SURGERY ALREADY!!! dima1109 on Jul 30, 2009 4:22 PM CDT up reply actions


August

Surgery not Recommended (8/2/09)
8/3: SURGERY
Cleanup Successful (8/3/09)
MLBTR on 2009 rehab prior to surgery (Adams)
Webb had gone through two different periods of rest and strengthening with visions of pitching in September. However, the stiffness in his right shoulder has not improved. The recovery time from the procedure is not yet known.
(Not) Brandon's Labrum (deux)
Meister on Surgery
Having some fraying in the labrum area per D-Backs beat writer

2010
Nov 09-Jan 10:
Rehab going well beginning of November and then again end January
ESPN Profile: Brandon Webb

Feb - March
threw off mound 1st time 2/9, 2/12 (comeback predicted sometime in April)
Manager Hinch, PC Stottlemyre, talk about his spring training, 2/28
Note some talk of getting his arm slot corrected; 42 pitches, no batters, a changeup or two (no breaking balls?)
bullpen, 3/4; 45 pitches, a few batters, a few changeups (no breaking balls?), "can't let it go yet"
Webb update, still not facing hitters 3/8
Webb has setback, d2d ao 3/27

Webb's Spring (3/31/10)
Webb hasn't thrown off a mound since March 4, a day when his velocity looked to be down significantly from its pre-surgery level. He also appeared tentative in his delivery.

April

Webb's Cortisone Shot
(4/1/10)
Mental Hurdles (Hinch, 4/1/10)
“There are mental hurdles to clear. I think there are physical hurdles to clear in terms of the workload, and these dead periods show up from time to time in the recovery process. When to push him, when to lay back on him, when to accelerate his deals has been very hot and cold this spring. That’s the frustrating part for everybody involved. It’s been a little on again, off again.”

Webb's Spring, Deux

Webb on 2d on/ 2d off, less than 100 feet, 4/13

June
June 10
Webb update 6/12, throws 30-pitch bullpen off mound with lower arm slot with no issues, fastballs
Webb update 6/16, 75 pitches, better velo, extending better

July
Webb Rehab session, 7/7/10
Webb Rehab session, 7/16/10

Webb Rehab session, 7/21/10
Webb Rehab session, 7/28/10

August
Webb Rehab session, 8/5/10
Webb Session, 8/22/10

Webb Sim Game, 8/28/10


September
Webb Session, 9/8/10
Webb Session, 9/11/10
Instructs on the Horizon, 9/13/10
Webb Session, 9/18/10
Instructs 9/30
Instructs outing 9/29
However, he was not able to get the arm speed he needed, and this summer has been filled with long toss, bullpen sessions and simulated games. (gilbert) 9/28
Scouts comment on 9/29 instructs innning:
A scout in attendance Wednesday said Webb threw his fastball with good sink -- his trademark -- but only 78-82 mph. The scout said Webb's curve was "rolling" and his changeup was "good" but only 70-72 mph. "Scary that that is all he's got after such long rehab," the scout said.
Instructs, 10/8
Webb on 2nd instructs outing



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Melvin likes Betancourt

MLBTR linked to a beat writer Q&A in which Melvin states he is puzzled by the Betancourt hate. I like that deal for KC but Milwaukee despoiled a nice acquisition with the inclusion (demand?) of Betancourt - stating that Betancourt was "key" for him is laughable:

...he's puzzled by the level of concern about Betancourt after getting him from Kansas City in the otherwise-popular Zack Greinke trade. "Getting Betancourt back was key," Melvin said the day Greinke checked in at Miller Park. "I know that stat guys hate the guy. I don't know how they can say he's the worst player in baseball."




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Webb, Rhodes sign

Press Conference at 2:15. As for the 2 correlative moves necessary to put them on the 40? The prime candidates to be DFA'd: Rapada, and MaxRam. Phillips is another. I still like Moscoso, a lot. So he, Teabag, Strop, Davis and Gentry still offer valuable 2011 depth. The team seems intent on giving Tateyama and Tobin a look, though, Tobin is the least interesting of the two and only likely to remain with the team for 2011 via trade.


UPDATE:
MaxRam and Rapada it is.


UPDATE: TRS has some bloggy updates:

Rhodes signs for 3.9 million (that is almost 1 million more than Oliver!) with a 4m 2012 vesting option that locks in at 62 games pitched while ending the season on the active list. The Ranger's talk of not wanting to overpay bullpen arms is just talk, unless they are talking solely about closers. I can only assume that Texas was willing to overpay for him due to the flexibility he offers, allowing Feliz to move to the roto if it goes there.

Since 1997, Rhodes has pitched 62g or more in a single season from 200-2003, and in 2009-2010.

Webb signs for 3m with 5 million in performance incentives, a total of 4m based on innings pitched, and 1million base on days on the active roster.

Also, this note about Webb:

Brandon Webb said he expects to be 100 percent by the beginning of Spring Training and do everything the other pitchers are doing. The Rangers expect him ready by Opening Day but will not push him. They also acknowledge that, after not pitching for two years because of a shoulder injury, it might be that he starts off the season slow and gets stronger as the year goes on.



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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Adrian Beltre signs with Texas, Again?

Today there have been some rather volatile Adrian Beltre to Texas rumors: claims that he has signed, denials, skewering of sources, skewering of terms (6/95). MLBTR has another note up just now in which Enrique Rojas is claiming the talks are legit, and it appears to be a 5yr deal with an option yr.

There is no question about the lovely D that Beltre would bring to 3b, making for an absolutely terrific defensive infield. Some people seem to question his bat (10 and 7 WAR during his contract year, with a steep decline in the subsequent year) a risk that is even more pronounced over a longer deal, though not as much for the first 3 years. The biggest risk is his age, as a five year deal will cover his age 32-36 seasons, age 37 if the option vests. It seems highly problematic to predict what kind of inevitable decline he will have over the last 2 years of the deal. However, given that there really are no more superstar free agents available, and that TX only has a 2-3 yr window to compete for a ring with the current roster, it is probably a risk worth taking. If Beltre is a 1.5 WAR player in his 4th and/or 5th years, his contract won't be as onerous as it could be given that Young will come off the books in those years.

If TX can nab him for the deal that the Angels were reportedly thinking on - 5/70- while tacking on a hard to reach 6th year option, or one with, say, a higher buyout (5m?), then it seems like a reasonable deal. The only caveat will be that the deal might not look so good over the last 2 years (with the hope that the option has a buyout - this seems to be a must to make the deal a good one on the back end). The value of that deal would have to be about 15 WAR over 5years(at 5/70+5m).

The deal would have a number of other important benefits. It would allow you to upgrade 1b by moving Young over or trading him for a starting pitcher (while eating some cash). It would allow you to trade Moreland if you wanted to, or platoon him at DH, and protects you from the risk of having to open the season with him as a FT player to open the season. It gives the lineup another big bat, which is really important given the frequent absence of players due injury (Hambone, Cruz, Kinsler). It would also allow you to stick with a weaker bat in the lineup for the whole season like Borbon, who nevertheless, offers plus defense while keeping Hambone _OUT_ of center field. As for the DH, the extra bat allows you to more effectively rotate players through that spot to help reduce the injury risks for everyone, but particularly the aforementioned three, and you can sign someone like Thome for cheap who is likely to be very productive from one side for at least one more year.

Anyways, if Beltre signs, you could see a number of other moves quickly fall into place. The risk of signing an old player to a deal like this would be mitigated if it allowed TX to improve in so many other areas. As long as those other moves are actualized, it would be a great sign, and give TX the chance to contend for the next 2-3 years at least.


UPDATE: There are some people speculating that Michael Young would be moved to a spot that does not exist - super utility player. This has got to be one of the dumbest things that I have heard during the off season and points to the depth to which some people's disdain for him will go. He will start at 1b or be traded. That speculation - that Young would play all the infield positions some OF and DH - is just stupid and hopefully dies a quick death. Young is valuable as a 2.5-3.5 WAR player with his bat alone not to mention that he could also contribute on the defensive side at 1b unlike at 3b. So, yeah, Ridiculous.


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New Year's rankings

Prospect rankings are out by The Newberg (aka, Noobie, Newbie, Hello Newman) and Jason Cole (paywall). Can't say that I really care about rankings all that much, though Newberg's are the worst by one measure at least (mine), but I'll have some thoughts on them (later) nevertheless. I don't think I will comment on Newman's list this year, per say, except to say that the lack of any kind of credible critical framework in his approach to ranking talent indicates that he just might be a fanboy shill (see, shilling with Newman), while also, undoubtedly, managing to be a resolutely decent human being, to the extent possible as a lawyer. Though we are all mere prospect fanboys in the end, and not scouts, I think we could agree that some of us are more or less irritating than others, or at least, in acknowledging that "he do what he do", there are some folks we prefer not to read. You know who that is for me (though Hindman is a close second, and he has arisen). I hardly think what I wrote last year about the matter will change at all in 2011 (or ever) so no need to rehash it all in a new entry. Suffice it to say, the first time I hear Newman engage in a non-kitschy, rigorously analytic and critical assessment of a prospect or prospecting (either prospective or retrospective), which might even throw in a few statistical measures, MLEs, historical benchmarks, personal failures, I'll eat your boot heel (you, the reader; I will not eat Newman's boot heel, and not just because he wears a bangle loafer).

Now that I mull it over a little, critical introspection that is, I think that I will put together an entry that looks at my take on some prospects last year that were dead on and some that weren't. Since he doesn't really engage in this sort of thing (Michael Main and Kasey Kiker say "Hello, Newman!"), you can put together your own "Top 25 Newberg Flops" just for kicks (maybe he will do it for you). And then I'll make some predictions. As a prospect fanboy, that's the fun part. I could also do something similar to what I did last year, ranking prospects in tiers, based upon reasoned speculation about their _likely_ ceiling rather than upon ridiculously optimistic projections about their tool kits. Not sure. I just don't have enough play-by-play data to do it with the same confidence. The problem is that I didn't get the chance to listen to or watch a lot of games in 2010 like I did in 2009, and, let's face it, I probably won't catch that many games in one season again, ever. So what I know about established prospects will stand while my opinions on new prospects will have to be rooted in secondary sources. So, TBD I guess.

If I'm still in Austin in April, I will get to catch some AAA games in person though I will probably be working more on video and photography projects than charting pitches.

And just a parting word: Chad Bell is incredibly underrated. Tony Doyle, Chris Hanna, Nick McBride, Andres Perez-Lobo and Carlos Melo are underrated. Tony Doyle's suspension gives me pause. Engel Beltre does not have 5-tool potential. Matt Thompson and Joe Wieland are overrated. Braden Tullis was overrated. Trevor Hurley can start. Leury Garcia is an org guy. Zach Phillips is overrated. My new t-shirt: no middle relievers. Robbie Ross breaks bats (still). Tommy Mendonca will have a breakout year. Josh Richmond will have a breakout year. I like Ruben Sierra Jr. DGut was suspended to begin the season wile Velazquez and Tobin were suspended to end it. Velazquez will not play stateside next year, at least, not for Texas. Makeup matters. Worst 2010 draft pick: Brett Nichols. The TX 2010 draft, Rounds 10-14. Nice. Rounds 6-9. WTF. Barrett Loux is underrated (for some reason). Alex Claudio pitched winter ball at age 18 (though it was the PRWL).



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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Rangers grab another j2 MIF

Rangers signs lefty hitting Venezuelan second baseman Rougned Odor (5.10/155) for 425k. Scouts seem to love his swing. He'll have to hit pretty well to move over to second and given his size that isn't a given. However, Badler's recent post suggests that Odor's speed is fringe plus now so he maybe he can stick at short if his speed translates into ranginess. If that is the case, his arm might limit him to 2b but we'll have to see; there are not enough j2 scouting reports out there this year to triangulate.

Texas has had more success in VZ than in the DR the last 3 years but this is their first signing from there this year. This signing (two second basemen in Triunfel and Odor, and a shortstop in Marte) should finally dispel the "TX is disinterested in the weak j2 market" meme that has been tirelessly repeated by some. (See my j2 preview here and my summary of their 2008 signing class, here and here; for 2009 class, search site for "j2" or "international" or by player name)Texas' "lack of interest" was really a lack of capacity as they had no money during the summer, one last kick in the teeth from the Tom Hicks era. And if you are still doubtful that this was the case, check out the kids that our primary competition within the division have signed this year, Oakland and Seattle. Both teams also have elite scouting departments covering Latin America, and both clubs signed a number of elite players this year.

Anyways, here is a BA's report (paywall) on him:

Odor (pronounced "Oh-Door"), the 16-year-old nephew of Indians high Class A Kinston hitting coach Rouglas Odor, trains with Miguel Nava and has played on Venezuelan youth national teams for years, most recently starring at the World Youth Championship in Taiwan last August. It's hard to find a better pure swing anywhere in Venezuela. It's short, quick and compact. Unlike many Latin American prospects who stand out more in batting practice and showcase environments, Odor separates himself in game situations with his instincts, savvy and approach at the plate. Odor has good plate discipline for his age and shows a willingness to work the count. While Odor's size is a concern for some scouts, others have said he's shown surprising pop for his size and could hit 15-20 home runs per year if he adds strength to his thin frame. Odor doesn't have flashy tools, as he's an average runner with an arm that grades out around average, though it can be wild at times. Odor does have good hands, but many scouts believe he will ultimately end up at second base. Odor might not sign immediately on July 2, but he has drawn strong interest from the Yankees and Blue Jays, while some believe the Reds or the Rangers could also get involved.

Here is a more detailed report on Odor from Badler in early June
(paywall):

Rougned Odor has represented Venezuelan youth national teams for years, including in August when he played in the World Youth Championships in Taiwan. Odor was Venezuela's best player in Taiwan, earning tournament all-star honors after hitting .538/.545/.857, going 15-for-28 with two home runs, a triple, a double, two walks, two strikeouts and five stolen bases in six attempts. Odor, who primarily hit in the three-hole for Venezuela, finished the tournament ranked eighth in OPS and second stolen bases. His four errors split between shortstop and second base were also the third-most in the tournament.

Odor has solid all-around tools, but he stands out more in game situations than in workouts. At around 5-foot-10, Odor doesn't have great size, but his clean lefthanded swing and advanced feel for hitting have earned rave reviews. He has shown the ability to hit good pitching, reportedly performing well against Yankees farmhands in an extended spring training game in early May. He doesn't project as a power hitter, but he has shown surprising pop for his size and the ability to drive the ball, with some scouts saying he could have average power in time. Odor is an average runner who might have to move to second base, but he can handle himself at the position for now with good hands, average range and a solid although sometimes erratic arm. The Yankees appear to have some interest in Odor, while the Phillies and Blue Jays (general manager Alex Anthopoulos has reportedly seen Odor) could also get involved.


Here is Badler summarizing Odor's performance in the annul PG showcase in Jupiter Fl in June. Sardinas and Gary Sanchez were there last year, and only a handful of polished j2 eligible players get invited each year. Glassney and Rode wrote a nice article on the US showcase circuit (featuring some international players, contingents). A j2 player's ability to compete in these elite showcases, can go a long way in getting them an elite bonus, but they have likely already competed on junior national teams for years (like Sardinas and Profar for example) which allow scouts to see them against elite competition and likely secure their invitations to stateside showcases to begin with:

The third player, shortstop Rougned Odor, was in Tampa this weekend at the Perfect Game National Showcase inside the Rays' home stadium. Odor, 16, had a solid showing at the event playing against some of the top 17-year-olds eligible for next year's daft. Odor showed a fundamentally sound swing, a good approach at the plate with the ability to work the count. He played solid defense, though some scouts believe he will end up moving to second base.


UPDATE:
If Odor is as advanced at the plate as some of these profiles indicate, he should make his debut stateside with AZL club. I would think the Triunfel and Marte would start of in the DSL but we'll hear more about them all in spring training if Cole and or Parksie cover minor league camp again this year. Mike Daly confirms that is the plan for the kid (h/t Ming).

UPDATE:
Found this interview with Odor in La Verdad.

UPDATE:
Looks like Texas stole Miguel Nava from the Diamondbacks. He was a Venezuelan scout for them from 2003 to at least 2008. Not sure when he came on board officially, maybe this year? Manny Batista seems to be the senior scout in Venezuela for Texas, since at least 2005. Texas has had a very good presence in Venezuela the last 5 years despite not having an academy there.

Update:
Actually, it looks like Nava went into business for himself this year, as he is actually the agent for Odor. Here are three vids from Nava's feed showing Odor at the PG showcase.

UPDATE:
WOW! Maybe Nava actually got fired:
Nava, who currently works for the Diamondbacks, is also under investigation for alleged bonus skimming. (9/09)

UPDATE:
Here is an article on Nava and his relation with prized prospect Carlos Gonzalez. Like Gonzalez, it looks like Odor spent at least 4 months in Tampa training with Nava. Interesting.

UPDATE:
Here is a Perfect Game (paywall) profile of the kind from the PG showcase; they gave him their highest rating (10) for Division I kids, which is to say, could be a high draft pick (if he was a HS kid, and he was only 16 at the time). His ~6.8 60 times from that showcase have improved by some accounts to ~6.6:

Rougned Odor is a free agent MIF/3B with a 5-10 165 lb. frame from Venezuela. Left handed hitter, straight stance, good balance, busy hands, simple swing approach, good bat speed, smooth extension out front, line drive plane, squares it up well, hard contact, gap power. Smooth and easy infield actions, quick first step, works through the ball well, charges aggressively, good arm strength with carry, footwork still developing. Nice looking young athlete with skills.


This was Luis Sardinas' profile from the same event in 2009, he was rated a 9.5 on their scale. Coincidentally, Sardinas was timed in the ~6.8 range at one point but later was said to be running ~6.6:

Luis Sardinas is a free agent SS with a 6'0', 150 lb. frame from Puerto Ordan, Venezuela who attends Zulai HS. Very lean, loose build. Very easy infield actions, glides effortlessly, very loose sure hands, quick release charging, arm strength presently short. Switch-hitter, busy load, run and slash swing, short to ball, good extension out front, handles the bat head, quick out of box, battled hard vs. Jackson Taillon.




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