Saturday, February 26, 2011

Camp Notes

Jeff Wilson has the Cactus League rotos:

C.J. Wilson-Dave Bush, Colby Lewis-Michael Kirkman, Matt Harrison-open, Tommy Hunter-Alexi Ogando, Derek Holland-Neftali Feliz, Eric Hurley-Tanner Scheppers

Ignore all of the "Webb says he feels great" and "Webb says that long toss has changed my life" until after he pitches in game action for about 4 weeks. Maddux did go some way in answering the "why does it make sense to take Webb off the mound?" Well, he wasn't taken off the mound to build arm strength it seems, as he has been building arm strength for the last 12 months. Instead, it seems it was a matter of the arm slot, which, along with the "mental" side of things, was the principle issue that thwarted his comeback last year (discomfort, lack of velo, lack of command, movement). Maddux had this to say after watching him throw long toss for a week: "We did what we wanted to do," Maddux said. "We got an idea of his arm slot and his work zone. He is now where he needs to be to maximize his throwing program."

According to TRS, both Hurley and MDLS have been cleared to throw. Web could pitch off the mound again as soon as Sunday or Monday (but not to hitters yet, I gather). Beltre is out 10-14 days.

As I mentioned in a previous post with respect to Feliz, it is often the case that most of the important decisions about roster composition and roles have already been made by the time ST begins. So we learn today that the lineup order has been set (Kinsler and andrus, 1-2; Beltre, Cruz, Young, Moe, 4-7), Blanco is the 25th man and that they are determined to let Feliz win a roto spot (over Ogando). In the arena of "known knowns", we already knew or suspected most of this, including the continued and puzzling reluctance of Warsh to let Cruz bat cleanup. I like having Kinsler at the top and Andrus at the second spot. I hope Andrus can loosen up a little in that spot and we see a little more aggressiveness from him. Thad Bosley might be just the guy to help him with that.

TR Sullivan continues his Scheppers pessimism, has dropped his Ogando optimism, and continues to think Kirkman is ahead of Holland.

Strop confesses to what those who watched him in AAA already knew: his struggles in his brief Texas debut had to do with a lack of confidence. So, I guess we'll have to wait and see how he does over the course of the spring. If Feliz makes the roto, I think Strop is a lock for the pen, especially if Texas still has confidence that Scheppers will emerge as a legit option as a starter by the trade deadline.

Jason Parks and Jason Cole arrive at camp on Sunday to begin their month-long coverage.


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Friday, February 25, 2011

Camp Note(s)

Napoli had this comment about Feliz'e breaking ball in today's intrasquad game, to continue a theme about Feliz's tendency to telegraph his secondary pitches:

Napoli remembers seeing some of Feliz's breaking stuff last year, but added that the pitcher has better arm action now. Napoli said that Feliz doesn't slow his arm up, something he did some in 2010 that would give away that a breaking ball or off-speed pitch was coming.


Grant chimes in with a comment from Kevin Cash:
Added Cash: "Yeah, he looked pretty sloppy, didn't he? You won't see too many breaking balls better than the one he threw [Napoli]. It started out at about his butt cheek and ended up down and away. And it was just effortless."

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Camp Notes

* Some progress on the injury front per Andro:
Hurley should throw a bullpen this weekend; Castillo is already throwing from flat ground after ditching his walking boot a few days ago; Miggie DLS should throw off the mound as soon as Friday after being shelved for that last 5 weeks. UPDATE per Durrett: RHP Fabio Castillo (broken bone in left foot) will continue to throw off flat ground, but is still wearing the boot at times during the day.

* Evan Grant still thinks he's on to something about Feliz: throwing a fastball too much is not good for a starter; he can't throw his changeup for strikes, therefore, if he misses low, that would be good; as opposed to not having good secs, now it is a matter of having confidence to throw them. That last bit is a big change for Grant, now at least admitting that he has secs, and can occasionally throw them for strikes (or at least, throw them low...?) so he's making progress. It should also suggest to him, among other things that a season is not a ceiling or a measure of talent but a snapshot of what kind of season it was. The snap shot of 2009 was a little different. At least he's letting go of this image apparently seared in his mind that "Feliz seemed to have a shitty spring training in 2010 when being stretched out so therefore he is probably not a starter."

The thing Grant seems to miss (other than small things like the performance metrics and scouting information for him from the previous 2 years) when eyeballing Feliz's season are the things that matter most as a starter: the importance of pitch efficiency, pitch sequencing, changing speeds, and moving the ball around the zone, and not throwing as hard. Those are the things he has to master in order to start. The other issue is, of course, just how much Feliz can prove any of that during spring trainging. Spring training is not really an audition for most players. The staff already knows what they are capable of and what they need to work on so the drama of spring is really a (beat writer) melodrama as the race to win a spot on any 25 man roster is usually already a fait accompli. That is to say, most roster spots and roles are not won in spring training at all. If Texas needs another month to determine whether or not Feliz can start, then it is already much too late.

Anyways, by the end of the spring, Grant will probably admit that Feliz has a nice future on the mound as a starter. He should also take note that Trip Somer's pitch f/x can aggregate pitch type info by date range to save him some time over at Brooks. Just as an aside, remember his man-love for Ogando, now dissipated it seems? Grant seemed to think Ogando was a better starter prospect because he threw his breaking ball more. Fangraphs wieghted runs above average for his slider was .4 to Feliz's 4.1 for his slurve. Throwing it more, doesn't make it better. The figure for each one's changeup was about 0, though I argue that Feliz's change does flash plus and is his second best pitch when on. Prior to mid-season 2009 in the minors, the slurve was his second best pitch. He will continue to throw his slurve more than the change and it might end up being his second best offering in the long-term, we'll have to see. The point is that both pitches flash plus and he can command them, with the changeup being pretty effective at getting groundballs in 2010, as it should be (unless it is your wipeout pitch).

Another issue that Grant overlooks, is that some of Feliz' struggles last year, particularly in the playoffs, had to do with losing command of his fastball in the zone at times, which he doesn't mention at all. Like Feliz, Ogando also threw his split-change less than 5% of the time, which is less than 1 changeup per outing, so it still isn't clear to me why Grant believe's Ogando is a better candidate to start (for that reason, among many others).

I'm not sure that now is the right time for Feliz to move to the rotation, but I'm pretty convinced that he can do it eventually. What kind of top roto arm can he become this year, in the long term - an Ace, #1, 1_2, 2, 2_3 - I'm not sure. Even for top roto-caliber arms, their first year isn't their best, and they rarely pitch like they will in year 2 and beyond. So, it may be that Feliz disappoints in his first year as a starter, should that come to pass. As a precaution, I'd prefer to trade for a mid-roto arm to stabilize the rotation if he were in it so that the team can have patience with him if he struggles. The team tried to do that in the off-season but came up empty. So if your not sure what the right time is, or if the script that you want is not likely to be the script that you get, the time is now I guess.

* A couple of articles today on Thad Bosely. He's kind of unknown, being out of a coaching gig for 7 years. It is clear to me that there was a sea-change from Jaramillo to Hurdle in the culture of hitting on the team. For the most part, it worked, whatever working solution that the staff and the players ended up with. They seem to have bought into "it". However, unlike Hurdle, who at least had job continuity and an extensive pedigree to have faith in, the only thing we really know about Bosely is that Washington and the front office love the guy (he was runners up to Hurdle last year). While it is easy to overstate the influence of any one coach - it is the culture of the club that seems to matter most - there were a couple of interesting quotes from him today that seem a little incongruous with the the new culture of hitting in Arlington:

I'm not a believer in working a pitcher to take a walk," Bosley said. "I believe you've got to know the pitcher, and get a pitch you can drive. If you get an 0-0 pitch you can drive, you've got to jump on it."

"There were times when he (Hamilton) was just pushing the ball to left field, when he could have been driving it out of the park.


Now while, this might be true of Elvis Andrus, though, his power outage was mainly due to the changes in his approach that he felt he needed to make as a leadoff hitter (hopefully he becomes a little more balanced now that he knows that role, that spot, and himself a even better), I'm not sure it is characteristic of guys like Cruz, Young, or Hamilton. Maybe Kinsler falls into that category but then I would rather have the 2010 Kinsler (healthy) than the 2009 Kinsler (hacking). Whatever the case, I hope the value of working a walk doesn't change, nor the emphasis on making the pitcher throw more pitches when he is not on to elevate his pitch count, an element of previous teams that was completely absent and maddeningly frustrating (save 2008 when Bradley was here, and seemed to rub off on some people).

Wilson leads off his article with an inadvertantly funny Rick James moment: "I'm Thad Bosley (bitch)." And while the campy little meme that he hopes to implant in each hitter's head when at the plate seems a little much - "I am a line drive hitter", I did like one quote which offers up a little clarification of what TR Sullivan's piece was getting at:

At the major-league level, pitchers make mistakes in the strike zone," said Bosley, who spent the final two years of his 14-year career with the Rangers. "When they make that mistake, that's when you've got to be able to put that ball in play. We want to be a little more efficient in the strike zone."
The tenor of both articles seems to be pretty much the same and mirrors the same things that Hurdle said when he came to town: he's not interested in implementing a system rather he's only interested in getting the best out of each player's swing. The proof is in the puddin' as they say. While this approach might help a few players and others, not at all, I'd expect more of the same in 2011 which is not really a surprise, but good to hear.

* I really liked this bullpen when Francisco was still here and Feliz seemed unlikey to shift to the roto. I really liked this bullpen when Francisco was still here and when it seemed that Feliz might actually make the shift to the roto. Now that Francisco is gone and Feliz is closer to jumping to the roto, this bullpen is a little unsettling. It was a brilliant move to include Lowe in the the Lee deal as it offered the team a great deal more flexibility. However Lowe has only had one good year and has much to prove. I did not see the "closer" in Ogando last year. He had trouble with people on base and he could be a little tentative at times, so much so that Texas avoided using him in high-leverage situations late in the year. He has something to prove as well. Rhodes is not a guy who should pitch every other day though he can still close a game if he needs too, but you'd like to see him mostly in a setup role. Ideally he (and Oliver and O'Day for that matter) should end up with right around 50-55 innings to maintain his effectiveness. Oliver and O'Day don't have closer stuff. So, the bullpen is definitely a bit of a "known unknown" but there is no denying that Ogando has a great fastball and the Lowe has good stuff too with a little more high leverage experience. I like the idea of having Strop around with his potentially elite stuff, and Tanner Scheppers, should the bullpen have a crisis before July. So, right now, the big stories of camp are: Feliz, Ogando, and Lowe. I guess the next most compelling story would be: Holland. The Webb story might be interesting or surprising for some (after all he is completely "healthy" right?) but not something that is really unexpected.



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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Camp Notes: Depth guys

There are a few pitchers to keep an eye on in camp who might be able to offer critical depth beyond the starters that we already know about: Kirkman, Scheppers, Harrison, Bush, Feldman (mid-season). There were some really good reports about Brett Tomko when he moved into Oakland's roto at the end of 2009, and his velo was still sitting low 90s at age 36, but he spent 2010 rehabbing and didn't make it out of AAA. He's a guy who might surprise some people but at 38, I'd rather take a look-see at our younger arms even if it isn't pretty.

For the most part that means bullpen depth, and most of the starter depth can also fulfill bullpen roles. Guys who already have 2 decent pitches and command can contribute in those roles right away: Hurley, Kirkman, Scehppers, Harrison. As for the rest, well your really only talking about Pedro Strop. If Feliz makes the roto, then Strop should be the guy making the squad while the starting depth, well, starts (in AAA).

I think that outside of Strop and the starters, the pen depth in AAA is not all that impressive. Eppley is a bit of an unknown and right now profiles as a rightie specialist until develops an more effective offering vs LHB. I've never been a big Zach Phillips fan but if he puts it all together he can be fringy middle reliever. There is no more reason to be excited about him than say, Doug Mathis. I think he is working on another pitch to throw vs LHB as well. Beau Jones, well, when you catch him on a good day, he looks pretty good but he has some makeup issues along the line of what ails Matt Harrison. So, he's a bit of a long shot. It's probably unlikely that any of the AA arms would make the jump to the bigs before September, but Fabio Castillo would be the guy likely to break through. Hamburger really made strides last year and a guy like Miggie de los Santos or Jake Brigham could be fast-tracked to AAA as relievers. Aaron Fitt says that Texas will challenge Brigham with an assignment to AA (which i think is unlikely but that is what he said). There are other breakout types, but who are unlikely to break into bigs next year.

There are no stars there really, but Strop and Scheppers could look really nice in that pen while Kirkman might take a step forward and become a mid-roto caliber starter. If Hurley makes a contribution to Texas as a starter it will likely be next year when he is completely stretched out and prepared for 30 starts. Harrison's stuff can be great but his pitchability and makeup are suspect, and he's injury prone; this has to be the year for him. I won't easily give up on a lefty who touches 98 but I will if he doesn't finally put it together this year.

Y. Tateyama is really a bit of an unknown and at 35 is probably not much more than a specialist of some sort, providing nothing more than injury depth at best. Other than that, Zach Jackson, Seth McClung and Y. Brazoban all bring ML experience but not much upside. Jackson was terrible in 2010 in the minors and also bad in winter ball. Brazoban's ML experience was in 2004-2005 and he pitched in the Mexican league in 2010, so... Seth McClung is not a starter contrary to some reports, as the last time he manned that role full time was in the minors during 2002, and has not even been a spot starter since 2008. Yeah, he's a middle reliever type now who might get a spot start or two but who will likely have his innings limited in that role, having not pitched in a year, so, it doesn't seem the role would be a good fit for him. Ty Taubenheim is a 4A starter on the squad to eat up innings when needed.

So who are a few of the position player prospects who might end up making important contributions in 2011. Well, Chris Davis, Chad Tracy and Jose Ruiz might get an opportunity to get some at bats. In the OF, Endy Chavez and Craig Gentry will likely get some time as 5th outfielders when needed. Outside of those guys, the only other guys likely to help the club are Taylor Teagarden and mabye Robinzon Diaz, as injury replacements. Not too much to see here in terms of upside. No Justin Smoak or anything but I like this group of position players as they all seem to have one clear area of strength that they can offer in limited roles should they succeed. Chavez, Gentry, Teagarden offer up defensive attributes. Diaz is a guy with zero patience, but makes a little contact and has a strong arm, but whose catchability is suspect - a nice 4th catcher if you need one. Davis is likely only a platoon bat as is Chad Tracy, should his other hit tools be good enough. Jose Ruiz is a bit of an unknown who disappointed last year. Right now he seems to profile a guy who can make contact but that is all we can say really. I like Endy Chavez as the guy who makes the biggest contribution here as he has had even splits for his career except for the 15 months before his injury. So if he can hit lefties better, and is healthy, I like him over Gentry but both are nice as 5th OF and Gentry is 6 years younger and has that canon arm we all like, but he ain't gonna hit.

Again no stars here, but depth guys who could play important roles throughout the year, and guys who you like to root for to boot.



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ST Notes

* Injury updates per TRS:

Hurley has a mild strain of his right hamstring and is being limited to long-toss at the point. Tobin, the Rule 5 Draft pick who had Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery in 2009, has some general fatigue in his arm unrelated to previous injuries and is being temporarily held back. Fabio Castillo (stress fracture left foot) is throwing on flat ground and Miguel De Los Santos (biceps tendinitis) is beginning a long-toss program.

Rule 5 pick Mason Tobin has little chance to make the team. He is a DL baby, has missed the last 2 years, has accumulated less than 100 innings in 4 years (all in the first 2) and has some character issues, ending the season on the suspended list (his second suspension, both for conflicts with the coaching staff of some sort). If he pitches poorly in camp or hardly pitches, Texas might be able to retain his rights via a trade and designate him as he'll likely clear waivers. Last year, Texas made an ill-advised trade to keep Ben Snyder (nothing but a loogy) that cost them Edwin Escobar, a back roto prospect who pitched in the LVBP last year as a teen. If Tobin pitches well, the Angels just might keep him if they have a 40 spot to offer.

* Jason Churchill is working on the back half of his top 30 list (subscriber) for the Mariners and Blake Beavan checks in at 22 as a back roto arm.



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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Parksie's new site

The inimitable Jason Parks( BP, BBTIA) has launched his new prospect site, the farmer's almanac-sounding Texas Farm Review, which focuses on the Texas system. For a bargain-basement rate of only 19.95/yr, you too can converse with The Professor, so check it out. Both he and Jason Cole (Lonestardugout.com, 70/yr- also a great bargain for the content) will be covering prospects in ST again this year, so there will once again be some great info out there on the Texas system.


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ST Notes

* Durrett scripts a piece about Borbon's improved defense, but only spends time talking about his throwing mechanics, which is still pretty interesting. though I've always wondered why the team didn't correct the issue while he was in the minors:

Borbon arrived at spring training in 2010 needing to get used to the mechanics of throwing the ball correctly and learning how to get proper backspin on it. He worked with Pettis and had several throwing sessions with David Murphy. He continued that work into the season. "The way that he takes the ball out of his glove and the way he can get the arm action going is like a true outfielder," Pettis said. "He can get on top of the baseall now. He can throw with four seams, like you tell a pitcher to do. His accuracy has improved. It’s all confidence. "When you’re not confident about doing something, you really don’t want to do it unless you have to. Now he wants to throw. There was time he’d back off because he knew he had a problem. Now he’s confident."

* I love Pedro Strop's stuff and people have completely overlooked him as a bullpen arm for 2011 based on his SSS struggles when called up last year (after dominating in AAA). I got a chance to watch quite a few of his outings on MiLBTV, and during one dominating stretch he was not scored upon for about a month. He has a swing-and-miss repertoire and touches 98. Yorvit also loves him some Strop:

Rangers catcher Yorvit Torrealba continues to learn the tendencies of his pitching staff and work with guys on a daily basis. He said the two pitchers that stuck out to him on Monday were Tommy Hunter and Pedro Strop. He liked Strop's command and felt like he has the stuff to be very good.


* More injury updates per Durrett:
Castillo walking around without a boot; Gentry swinging the fungo today; Hurley with a hamstring strain (ugh); and this gem from Webb after throwing a consecutive day of long toss, this time for 17 minutes: "That's crazy for me."

*Kudos to Evan Grant for hitting on a a nice theme in his spring training coverage that caters to his strength (reportage) and not to his weakness (talent eval) : Getting hitters to answer questions about pitchers. Though most people who closely follow the Texas system already know quite a bit about their prospects, this tact is sure to yield some interesting nuggets (and it's a common sense approach really - not sure why the beat writers haven't done more of this): He talks to Gentry and Blanco about Scheppers (though there were some who had already implied that he was a mechanical mess, but, as we all know, while ST in-game evaluation is not indicative of much, ST evaluation of non-game action matters even less):

Scheppers' fastball rode in hard on the left-handed hitters. His sharp slider left Blanco breathless.

"He made me look ridiculous," Blanco said. "I looked so bad. I was looking for a fastball and the breaking pitch comes out of his hand looking just like a fastball. He's got a good motion and good action."
Said Gentry: "He was just effortlessly throwing and it's like 93-94. When he gets that arm in shape, it's going to be scary."




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Monday, February 21, 2011

ST Notes

* TRS has this note about Jose Julio Ruiz's contract situation:

The Rangers have to decide at the end of the season if they will exercise a three-year option on him.


* In what might be the most useful article Evan Grant has ever scripted about that most difficult and fleeting concepts (for him), "Neftali Feliz, the starting pitcher", he quotes players commenting on a cession of live BP:

David Murphy: "I think he still has some work to do on the changeup with his arm action. It was still slowing down a little. The slider wasn't the greatest slider I've ever seen, but it definitely had good movement and I didn't pick it up out of his hand."
Julio Borbon: "First, the fastball was, well, everybody knows how good it is, so I don't need to say anything there. He didn't throw me sliders, only changeups. They definitely had good downward bite. It's the kind of pitch that if you swing at, the best you are going to do is hit a chopper or roll over the ball for a ground ball out."
Mitch Moreland: "The changeup looked good. It had good action and he was on top of it to command it well."


To Grant's surprise, I guess, that changeup, has been Feliz's second pitch since he debuted with Texas in 2009, only a few months after switching to a split-finger grip at OKC (and broken out to devastating effect in that year's Futures Game). For whatever reason, Grant has been on one of his obsessive quests to prove that Feliz can't be a starter because he doesn't have any secs, or secs that he can command, or a good enough second pitch, or a good enough third pitch, or, well, you get the idea. Grant is always at his worst when trying to evaluate young prospects/players and his rants about Feliz for the last year are a case in point. At least you don't hear him peddling the "Alexi Ogando is more likely to be a starter" meme anymore (though it has been replaced by the "Kirkman is better than Holland" one). Anyways, that's quieted down quite a bit, this iron-clad, front office sourced nugget, hasn't it? Beat writers are often at risk of naively accepting overly positive org. spin on prospects, and players. In a strange twist, the opposite holds in this instance, and the dour assessment seems all Grant.

* Near as I can tell Andres Blanco didn't spend any time catching in the LVBP this off season.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

ST Notes

If my salutary warning some 7 weeks ago about Webb's rehab issues last year weren't enough for you to pencil him onto the DL to begin the season, maybe the latest camp update of his continuing saga will bring you around:

At first, the Rangers' plan was to have him throw off a mound every third day, and Sunday was going to be that day. Maddux doesn't feel Webb has the arm strength to be throwing off a mound right now. Instead, he will be playing catch and throwing long-toss in the outfield. Long toss -- which is playing catch at a distance of 120 feet or more -- is the best way to build up arm strength. "He's not getting on the mound until we do more long toss and build up arm strength," Maddux said. "He needs to strengthen up before he throws downhill."


It turns out that Migge de los Santos (MDLS) did suffer some sort of minor injury that forced him from his last start for the Toros on 1/13 after going 3 innings. The beat writers are reporting that he is still sidelined with biceps tendinitis. He has little room for error given his age and lack of experience in full-season ball, and he might event be pushing into "injury-prone" territory (and maybe to a future bullpen role) if his most recent injury forces him to miss much time.

Durrett had this update on Tateyama:
Tateyama said he's making the transition to the United States just fine. He spent the offseason throwing with a MLB baseball to get used to its size. Tateyama said the Japanese ball is slightly smaller and the seams are thinner and thicker. So it just feels different. The pitcher throws a slider, changeup and cutter and said the slider is his out pitch. "I wanted to pitch in the best league in the world," Tateyama said. Tateyama impressed pitching coach Mike Maddux early in camp with his command and deceptive delivery.

Round Rock. Per Evan Grant, Chris Davis says Texas wants him to mainly work at 3B this spring so Texas might be showcasing his versatility to other clubs. It is actually good news for Jose Julio Lopez as well (and might give a second life to Johnny Whittleman and/or Johnathan Greene as well), as it likely means that Davis starts at 3b for Round Rock with Lopez getting the starting nod at 1b there (as opposed to being stuck in Frisco). This also means that Brian Barden moves off 3b to become the utility infieder (has ML experience the last 2 years, and has played every position but catcher and CF over the last 3 years) and should push Matt Kata off the roster, and maybe even Brad Nelson as well if Texas goes with an 8-man pen.


Don't forget to check out my projected rosters in the sidebar. All transactions are updated daily.



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Friday, February 18, 2011

Spring Training Report

Injury Updates:

Omar Beltre: lost for at least 3 months if not the whole year with a genetic condition that causes narrowing of the spine that requires some sort of surgery (probably to create some space between bone and nerves). I've made note of Beltre's extensive injury history (shoulder, elbow) since the fall of 2008, noting that he was probably a DL baby from here on out (at 30yo) and that a bullpen role was probably best for him in order to keep him healthy. Last year, Beltre was on and off the DL all year, and in and out of the rotation as well after missing all of 2009. He also had a weird winter league pitching schedule this year which started late and ended abruptly, so I suspect that he was dealing with this issue then, if not for the last 2 years in some capacity. Reports note that he dealt with numbness in his extremities last year and it continued into the off-season so the team has probably been evaluating the issue anew since shutting him down in December.

Craig Gentry: the injury prone kid might not be on the mend. His broken wrist still has him in some pain and he will be reevaluated by a specialist. Worst case scenario, Eric Hurley. Gentry and Endy Chavez (seems healthy now after a season in winter ball) were probably going to compete for the 5th OF role whenever that role would be needed. It is likely that Endy Chavez (if healthy) will be the guy now if Gentry's wrist is still a problem, and that is not a bad thing if healthy, as he's a better hitter, with lots of ML experience and a stellar glove man, but old of course.
UPDATE: Gentry gets shot, scans negative.

Brandon Webb: As I wrote some weeks ago - see Brandon Webb's Shoulder - I felt that Webb was unlikely to make his debut in the rotation given the nature of the problems he had last year during his rehab. If the first week of camp is any indication (sometimes it is, sometimes it ain't), Webb is on track to debut on the DL and get some innings in AAA:

Webb Day One:
At one point during the session, Maddux gave Webb an adjustment to try to keep him from "flying open.""Mechanically, he's rusty," Maddux said. "He's inconsistent with his delivery right now and he's got to tighten the ship on that. We went over some things and got a brief look."Webb said he felt good after the session but that he has to fight the tendency for his arm to get ahead of his body. It's something he'll address more on Sunday.

Webb Day Two:
While most of the Rangers' pitchers are throwing off a mound every two days and throwing some pitches to live hitters, Webb is going to throw off a mound every three days and not pitch to live hitting yet.

I think the uncertainty about Webb made the Dave Bush signing a must and he could prove to be a very valuable signing as a 5th starter should Webb begin the season on the DL. Even if he is not in the roto to begin the season, I think he makes the club as the long man/spot starter in a similarly valuable role.

Fabio Castillo: As I noted before, has a fractured foot. Is currently in a walking boot.

Chad Tracy: Being held out of the OF for now, as he continues to strengthen his shoulder from off-season shoulder surgery.

Scott Feldman: As expected, Feldman seems to be out of the running for a rotation spot until June while he rehabs his knee so he'll be moved to the 60 day DL as soon as 2/26. He likely won't throw off the mound until April and then pitch a month in AAA.


Scatter Shots:

"Tired Meme" alert #1: "Texas has 12 starting pitchers competing for 5 spots. Texas has more depth among starting pitching candidates than in recent memory. "

Let's unpack this: Hurley is not a candidate for the rotation as he will have his innings limited after missing 2 years; Beltre would have been the 13th (Feldman the 14th, and don't forget Seth McClung, who took last year "off"), now shelved, but who I argued should have been moved to the pen to keep his arm/elbow healthy; Scheppers is not a candidate for the rotation as he needs innings as a starter in AAA; it will either be Feliz or Ogando (or neither one) but not both, and I'm not convinced that Ogando has a third pitch to start (among other issues); Webb has missed 2 years and I predict he starts the year getting innings in AAA; Harrison has lost the trust of Texas coaches in whatever role he's in. Kirkman has terrible command vs RHH and a fringy changeup so is most likely to start in the AAA rotation; Holland has regressed since his debut and has a lot to prove; Hunter imploded for a couple of months last year and struggled in the playoffs.

Only seven "candidates" pitched at least 100 innings last year: 2 of those are on the DL and 2 others did it in AAA (Lewis 200+; Wilson 200+; Hunter 155; Holland 134; Feldman (DL)145; Kirkman 150 AAA; Beltre (DL)102 AAA; Bush 174). Not to mention that 2 others haven't pitched in 2 years. So what kind of depth are we talking about? Get real.

"Tired Meme" alert #2:
"The following pitchers looked impressive throwing live BP today" - (rotate 1/2 dozen names each day): Ryan Tucker, Mason Tobin, Y. Tateyama, Zach Jackson, Zach Phillips, Seth McClung.

According to TR Sullivan, Schepper's mechanics were all awry, meriting some extra attention from Maddux, with the assertion that he has a lot of work ahead of him. Hmm. I still stick to my prediction that he will be ready to move into the rotation at mid-season if needed.

Count Maddux as one of the guys in the "Feliz can be a #1" camp:
"What I do like is you have the potential of having a No. 1-type starter," Maddux said. "What I don't like about it: You wouldn't be having your No. 1 closer.
"But at the end of the day, if you are faced with that decision, would you rather have 70 innings out of your No. 1 guy or 200 innings out of your No. 1 guy? It's kind of a no-brainer."


According to Wilson, Texas put Feliz on an "long-toss-intensive throwing program to get him more stretched out than he had been last spring". Not sure what that means really. Does it mean that Texas failed to stretch him out properly last year or is this just misspeak? Whatever the case, I assume that Ogando is on the same program (since early December) as he has only 3 starts in his entire career.

I still refuse to buy into the idea that Ogando is "ahead" of Feliz when it comes to becoming a starter given that Feliz was a starter in the minors and Ogando was not. In addition, I don't buy the idea that Ogando has better secs than Feliz just because Ogando threw his slider more often than Feliz threw his curveball, with both rarely unsheathing a third pitch. Basically what I know about Feliz is that both his changeup and curveball have flashed above-average to plus in the past including last year.

The crux of the issue to me is not "who has the better secs?", though it is not clear to me that Ogando's split change is good enough to be a starter, but, who has the better pitchability. Ogando has never been a starter at anytime during his entire career so he is the one he has to prove he knows how to pitch well enough to start. Feliz already has about 200 innings as a starter so Texas should already know whether he is ready to start or not. Another issue might be whether or not Feliz wants to start, and given his public pronouncements about his love for closing, maybe the outcome is already a fait accompli.

Another critical issue with Ogando is the increased injury risk associated with a huge jump in innings given his unique profile. Though Evan Grant has done his best so far to peddle the "pen to rotation injury risk" meme so far, there has never been any common sense data to support this contention. Neither Feldman, Wilson nor Lewis were really ever injury risks: Feldman lost his stuff last year, not his health; Wilson pitched every other day for the last 4.5 years and started in the minors; Colby Lewis threw 180 innings for 2 consecutive years while pitching once a week in Japan. What the Feldman and Wilson case seem to prove, supporting what seems to be a generally accepted position on the matter, is that pitching 50-70 innings per year while throwing every other day for at least a couple of years seems to condition the arm just fine for pitching 3x as many innings every fifth day as a starter.

Now this is where Ogando is a unique case where his injury risk might be elevated by a large increase in innings. He has accumulated only 93 innings from 2006-2009, missing 2008 altogether (that I can tell). His 73 innings this year (plus the playoffs) are the first time in his career that he has gone over 35 innings in a season. So basically the assumption seems to be that Ogando will have no problem pitching the same amount of innings this year as a starter as he has accumulated over the last 5 years _combined_. Given that this year was the first year that he has pitched in a full season league (March thru October), he hasn't even really thrown every other day in his career save for this year. If there were a commonsense case for future injury due to a transition from pen to roto due to the increased innings, Ogando would seem to fit the profile. Texas doesn't seem to be concerned however, though I'm not sure why exactly; his situation is not the same as Wilson or Feldman.




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Thursday, February 17, 2011

J2 Preview

The DPL has the first preview of the 2011 j2 scene up at their site. However, it only includes Dominican players who played in the DPL this season so is not comprehensive. I mentioned Guzman and Hernandez in my earlier post.



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Sunday, February 13, 2011

2011 j2 scene

As I wrote some weeks ago, i expect TX to slightly change its model for pursing j2 players with the change in ownership. With the resources to finally compete like a big market team, I predicted that Texas would finally venture into the rarefied air of the 2-3+ million dollar position prospects. Now while Texas has made an exception to this rule for pitching on occasion (might have gone toward 2m$ for Adys Portillo, and did bid from 5-7m$ for Michael Ynoa, but who I don't think were willing to go 2$m for Guillermo Pimentel to continue the rule), it simply doesn't do this for j2 hitters. Texas has never really been players for the elite hitters in the j2 market, those in the 2 -3.3 million plus range, guys like Sano, Sanchez, and (for some) Mateo to name 3 most recent examples. As a general rule, if you want to sign a j2 power hitter, your looking at starting the bidding at 2.5. Now there are only a few, never more than 3, of those types in the market in any given year, so if you want a young hitter who projects for elite power, then you have to pay. So far, Texas has been unwilling to pony up.

This year, Texas was not really a player for any 7-figure guys due to the convoluted sale process and the team's inopportune turn toward bankruptcy during the meat of the signing timeline (July/August). The front office meme of course was that we lacked interest because it was a "weak market". Right. At Ranger's beat writer Jamey Newberg's latest Ra-Ra, , the first thing that Welke notes (about the 35m minute mark of Ted Price's feed) about this it that it was the bankruptcy that forced Texas out of the market. Hope we can put that to rest now. Thanks for that last parting shot, Tom Hicks. I think they did manage to sign a couple of interesting prospects who signed late in order to salvage the 2010 j2 debacle but there isn't an elite player in the bunch, though Odor is intriguing, and likely debuts stateside if his hitting is as advanced as some say it is, and they only spent on the order of 1 million (announced).

However this year will likely usher in a new approach, with both the draft and j2 stratagems, spending like a big market club on bonus monies. The most interesting thing that Welke had to say, actually, was that Texas is currently hotly pursuing 3 of the elite players from the next j2 class and that he was off on a trip to Miami for work related to that end. So while 2009 saw the unprecedented signing of not only the first 7-figure sign from the j2 market but a total of three, 2011 might usher in the first 3 million dollar sign. If there happens to be two 3 million dollar signs, well, this will certainly cause a fit of apoplectic joy among Texas prospectors. I also think you could see a more opportune club in the draft as well, not skipping elite players due to their bonus demands, and not hesitating to pull the trigger on one or a few kids who falls because of it, whether early or late .

In that Welke interview, I found out that he is the guy (or one of them) that loves Leury Garcia (20minute mark, second video), and likely the guy who has Newberg's ear on the matter(though not apparently the "if he can hit" part), when, really, the kid is an org guy, who'll have trouble hitting his way through the upper minors in addition to clearly having issues with his hands/actions. Welke also noted that Fabio Castillo broke his foot, which might prevent him from getting a long look in spring training.

And as I have said previously, I hope that I have time to write a piece which looks at what I think is a questionable draft strategy by Texas since Jon Daniel's and staff have come on board, which is drafting tools over likely ceiling, or as Don Welke called the deliberate strategy, "whales over minnows". If you just take a cursory look at the history of this approach, there haven't been any whales, and if that approach is now the established scouting culture int he organization, there is unlikely to be much internal criticism of the failures of the approach. If you swing big and miss most of the time, who can be blamed, if you still believe that it just takes one guy? Some aspects of the complete absence of talent in the upper minors right now lies in the failure of this approach to take some college kids who are near locks to be average major league players and quickly progress through the system. Maybe its possible that this strategy works if you can spend a lot more money or maybe Texas developed this kind of strategy because they didn't have a lot of bonus money to spend? What I hope happens for this year's draft is a bit of a shift in strategy in general but alos just in case a bonus cap emerges for 2012 or a an international draft happens in 2012 or 2013, that Texas simply picks the best player available and pays him. If this strategy fails, then I can live with it. But then, the definition of the BPA might be the crux of the issue here, at least when it comes to evaluating the ceiling for high school players.


UPDATE

Two of the top hitters in this year's j2 crop are both outfielders: Elier Hernandez and Ronald Guzman (LH, 6.4/170). Guzman won the HR derby at this years DPL all-star game (mid-season) and was also at the Under Armour showcase last August. (per Badler)



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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

International Notes

Dominican Nats. The Post has a feature up on the Nat's Dominican recrudescence with a set of stills as well.

Cuban Ceilings. The Rays released Leslie Anderson today. He raked in AA last year at age 28 but fell off quite a bit once in AAA. The word (when it was postive) last year during his showcases was that his ceiling was that of a 4th OF type. If Texas is lucky, maybe Jose Julio Ruiz (26) turns out to be the better bench bat in the end. Ruiz has a lot to prove in ST however.

I wonder if it is just a coincidence that Texas signed Ruiz the same weekend that Young made his trade request? The in-house candidates (in addition to rotating starters and D-Murph through that spot) to platoon at DH with Napoli (though his splits, year to year, over the last 5 years have been pretty erratic to my surprise) are Chris Davis (25), and Jose Ruiz. Chad Tracy (25.7) would be the only prospect who could compete for a spot as a RH bench bat. Anyways, I like rooting for these kind of guys for reserve roles that might suit them well (though they each have much to prove), but I'd rather have a veteran bat off the bench for a playoff-caliber club.

It seems that Napoli should not play more than 100 games, and should not be overexposed vs RHP, so maybe the ideal for him would be a 60/40 game split (LHP/RHP). However, one has to ask, now that Young appears to be on a rail out of town (and even if he wasn't), will Warsh acknowledge that Napoli is a 100 game bench bat? I say no.



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Thursday, February 3, 2011

JD interview

The DMN transcribed an interview that JD did on 1310. Some nice tidbits on Feliz:

The question is whether he can do that in general and whether he can do that now. If he can I think we have to seriously consider adjusting our plans in the bullpen. Whether that means that myself in the front office and our scouts, we need to go find someone else to help solidify the back end, or whether somebody else internally can do it. If he is not ready to do that, maybe he never is, or maybe it’s a couple years down the road.


I'm usually don't put too much stock in Nolan Ryan's player evaluation skills, but he said in an interview with Evan Grant that he really likes Kirkman as a dark horse candidate and is still the only TX official (and the likely source for Grant's Ogando meme) who publicly proclaims Ogando as a legit starter and more advanced than Feliz. Just to clarify: Ogando never started a game in his entire career, until his 3 starts this year to begin the season (not really as a starter per say as he was only getting stretched out). In addition, he never pitched more than 50 innings in his entire career until last year. Does that sound like a starter to you? No.

Also, Ryan's description of Kirkman sounds like he's talking about a reliever, his likely role in 2011 with the club when not in AAA. Kirkman's changeup was below average in 2010, and his fastball command versus RHH was terrible. Unless Texas made some changes with the kid during his time in the bullpen last year, say, altered his grip on his changeup or tweaked his delivery so that his command vs RHH is much improved, he will start 2011 in the AAA rotation. As it stands, I think Dave Bush makes the team as the long reliever and spot starter (or in the rotation if Webb has the same issues thwarting his comeback as he did last year) and Holland is in the rotation. Holland is too talented to leave him out of the rotation, just too talented, even if he has a poor spring.




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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ben Petralli

I always wondered why Ben Petralli didn't sign. It appears that his contract was voided back when Texas drafted him (again) in 2008.



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Serie del Caribe

The Caribbean Series starts on Wednesday featuring the playoff winners from each of the 4 winter ball leagues: Criollos (PR); Yaquis (MX); Caribes (VZ); Toros (DO). The rosters might be a little variable for various reasons and might not be set until game time, though they are likely to carry a lot of players with team even if they aren't on the active roster. A few present or former Rangers will be (or might be) on the rosters.

The Criollos will have Ivan Rody, Ramon Vazquez, Kiko Calero and Alex Cora. The Yaquis will have Victor Diaz. The Caribes will have Rosman Garcia and Endy Chavez (though another report says he is not on the roster). Chavez had a nice playoff run and will bat leadoff. Don't count him out to beat out Craig Gentry for the 5th OF role on the club next year. His career splits vs LHP are even but they sucked during the last 2 years before his injury. Guillermo Moscoso does not appear with the team though he was in the VZ rotation last year. Oakland might have held him out.

The Toros might have Brandon McCarthy, Doug Mathis, Esteban German, Ruddy Yan, Jumbo Diaz and (per one report, though this would seem suspect) Alexi Ogando. Miguel de los Santos will not be with the club after suffering some sort of injury during his playoff start on 1/13. I have yet to confirm the nature of the injury but suspect that it might be minor and that Texas has sent him home as a precaution. His winter schedule has been very odd leading me to believe that he was removed from the active roster to begin the season to work on some things with the staff after 2 appearances (end Oct) reappearing again in mid-November and stretched out for the rotation. He then either went home on vacation or suffered a minor injury as he didn't make another appearance until the end of December and followed that up with 2 playoff appearances before his injury in his third start.

The series will be hosted in Puerto Rico and broadcast on ESPNDeportes and ESPN3 (archived for up to one week).




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Fitt on Cole and Bauer

I have to agree with Ben Bradley that Aaron Fitt over at BA has scripted a very nice article on UCLA's Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer.




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