Saturday, November 23, 2013

Tempting Targets: Rangers Rule-5 Players

There is still time to add a couple of players to the Texas 40-man roster, which now stands at 38.   I would think that Chris McGuinness might be outrighted off the 40 and Brett Nicholas added.  Nicholas might have a future as a platoon bat off the bench - .900 OPS RHP- (the same ceiling that some thought McGuinness might have had but who is clearly an 4A guy after an unimpressive 2013) but the contact issues that he demonstrated in AA and in the AFL suggest that he is a 4A stud and nothing more.

I was surprised that Randy Henry was not protected and may therefore be injured. His ceiling is MR, high groundball rate on his moving FB, low strikeout rate.   Chad Bell was the last surprising omission from the 40-man who I speculated was injured and it turned out that he had off-season TJ surgery last spring.  This time around Bell is unprotected again as he is still rehabbing so is unlikely to be protected or selected but will likely make his way back to the AAA rotation by mid-season unless his arm is slated to be protected in the pen all year.  His is a fringy #5 ceiling, middle reliever/loogie, whose #s took a hit when he jumped to AAA in 2012.

There are a few players - only 2 really-  that teams might take a flyer on as 25th men:

Ryan Rodebaugh- had a terrific AA stint in 2012 whose walk rate doubled in 2013 at the same level
Jimmy Reyes- not impressive vs RHH but effective enough vs LHH that someone might take a flyer on him as a loogie.

UPDATE: Actually, as 11/21 was the deadline to set 40-man rosters it is too late to protect anyone.  I guess it speaks volumes that Texas chose to keep McGuinness on the 40 while leaving Nicholas unprotected.

UPDATE II:  Looking at the depth chart, and thinking about what kind of players Texas might be looking for in the minor league phase of the Rule-5 draft in mid-December, they could be in the market for a 1b, LF & UIF at the AA-A+ levels, while they will be looking for infielders at the AAA level, though they will likely sign veterans  with ML experience in Jan/Feb for 2 of the three vacant spots - 2b, 3b, SS - as possible 25th-26th man candidates as injury-call ups.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Eddy Morrobel

BA has some interesting notes on the Rangers' newest converted infielder piitching prospect, Eddy Morrobel:

Texas Rangers
Signed: 
RHP Eddy Morrobel (released by Rockies, March 21, 2012)
Northeast area scout Takeshi Sakurayama discovered 20-year-old righty Eddy Morrobel after watching him throw bullpens with head coach Scott Dulin at Fisher College in Boston. Born in the U.S., Morrobel moved to the Dominican Republic as a youth and originally signed as an international free agent with the Rockies in 2010, spending two years as an infielder in the Dominican Summer League. He moved back to the Northeast to live with his cousin after being released in March 2012, and he first began pitching in the wood-bat Yawkey League that summer while taking classes at Bunker Hill (Mass.) CC. The Rangers sent Morrobel to instructional league in the D.R. to continue learning to pitch.




Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Projected Rosters are Up!


I've taken a preliminary stab at projecting the rosters for the Texas system in 2014.  Link in the side bar. Enjoy!

UPDATE:  Link fixed so no google sign-in required.


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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Enough Depth for an Impact Bat?


I feel like posting something today, and I don't feel like editing whatever I blurt out so....

While Texas has had some luck finding impact bats to fill in lineup holes - Napoli - and had the prescience to nab an underrated mid-order bat via FA - Beltre - they don't seem to have game-planned the 2013 and 2014 rosters very well.  Hamilton and Naps were replaced by Berkman and Pierzynski (with TX refusing to overpay in trade or $$ other players during the offseason), while a Moreland bounce back was predicted and a resurgent David Murphy was presumed.  For 2014, both Cruz and Murphy are FA and there are ZERO middle-order prospects on the horizon now that  Olt has been traded.  

Given that the only high level assets are in LowA (all hitters and no high ceiling starters to speak off outside of Jackson) , and that there aren't any impact FA bats available during the off-season, it looks like it might have been worthwhile to overpay on a couple of big bats (in FA $$ or prospects) this year in anticipation of the dearth of free agents in 2013 as well as the the lack of high minors bats ready to play or trade.   Texas will be in a bind next year, having to find 4 starters (RF, LF, C, DH) and a 4th OF from a restricted pool of compelling FA  while their trade prospects will be limited by a lack of diversity in their prospects (all hitters from Low A).  Texas will likely have to plug in league average/fringe average vets on 1 year deals once again, and it will have to further denude its minor league system of its only assets (hitters).  They might even be tempted to sign some bad deals but they might choose to settle on a stop-gap approach similar to 2013 and continue to rely on improving their pitching staff as much as possible and upgrade (and overpay in prospects) at the deadline (again -though the depth will be even thinner in 2014).

So, by way of that digression, what kind of prospects does Texas have in order to acquire one or more bats for their playoff run?  Do they have enough to acquire a high impact bat or will they have to settle for a couple of 34yo platoon types who won't be around next year but whose loss will continue to be felt during the following offseason/ trade deadline due to the thinned out prospect pool averrable for trade.  It would seem that one good bet would be to acquire someone with another year on their contract to fill a roster spot next year and reduce the need to overpay in  FA or trade.  Unless you want to give up Sardinas or Odor or Jackson (further limited by another NeRa DL stay, likely eliminating him from any deal) you'll likely only be able to acquire an older veteran for what you are willing to pay:  your #5 starters on the HighA roster (Eickhoff, Asher, Martinez); your high-leverage relievers  Font, Miller, Lindblom(?), Bonilla(?), Henry(?), Payano(?); possibly some Low A kids like Sadzeck,  LeClerc, Kela); your plus-D reserves (Beltre, Garcia, Gentry(?)).  That is all you got, right?  Not really enough for a young impact bat to be sure.   

Clearly you want to avoid throwing in any of  Sardinas, Odor or Jackson to preserve your flexibility to trade for a young impact bat during the off-season; those three guys might be your best bet to headline a deal given that they will be the only prospects in the upper minors worth acquiring.  Including a high ceiling bat with that group (say Gallo, Williams, Brinson or Alfaro) and maybe an arm from the ML roster, and you might have yourself a new middle-order bat.  But I digress, yet again.  

So, keeping in mind the players you need to keep for some off-season trade flourishes, coupled with NeRa removing himself form the prospect pool due to another DL stay (and chronic shoulder problems), which further delimits Texas' available prospect pool by TWO (reserving 2 more prospects to complete the terms of the Garza trade with the Cubs), Texas has limited resources that will likely bring limited returns.  So I think the most likely scenario for this season, is that Texas will acquire a starting caliber, 30-something RH bat (RF/LF/DH/1B) with a year on his contract along with a reserve RH bat for the limited ceiling prospects articulated above, while saving their high-ceiling players to use for trades this off-season to fill a couple more holes in the lineup.  At that time, the high-ceiling Hickory bats will have had a full year in the minors, giving scouts a good look at them, with most of them ready for HighA, while the Odor-Sardinas-Jackson triumvirate will have graduated to AA, providing clubs some near-ready ML talent to choose from.

That would be the analysis through rose-colored glasses; I just borrowed them from Mark Cuban.  

Wait.  The real (off-season) wild card here is probably Andrus and Kinsler.  The best way to trade for an impact bat would be to trade one of these guys and plug Profar into whatever role remains.  So, yeah, I take all that back about 2014 and prospects and stuff;  one of these guys is gone.   There are just two many holes to fill on the club to not take advantage of their value.

And one more thing.  It might be reassuring to list the injured players who will be coming back next year as well, infusing the system with a couple more high-ceiling prospects, though, many with injuries, if not also warts of some other kind:  Matt West (TJ; setup; PEDS), Roman Mendez (elbow fracture, again; setup); Zach Cone (achilles {heel; hitting}; possible 4th OF); Kevin Matthews (shoulder impingement; terrible command); David Perez (TJ; terrible pre-injury; makeup); Chad Bell (TJ; 5th starter?); Cody Buckel (Yips; #4?); Jeily Arias (DSL; injured?/500K; with team?).


UPDATE
Or they could do nothing and hope to acquire players after the trade deadline.  Welp.




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Monday, July 22, 2013

Matt Garza for Kids


So Texas acquired Matt Garza today for a pretty steep package:  Mike Olt, Justin Grimm, CJ Edwards, and PTBNL.  The relative pain of the package depends entirely on the last item.  Could it be a high ceiling, high risk flyer (Alfaro)?  Or and injured player contingent upon health at end of year (maybe they take Brigham back?)? Odor?  Sardinas?

Basically, there is a lot of risk with Olt as he has had a terrible year (.193 vs RHP) and has some seemingly unresolved vision/mental issues.  But, as he is blocked in Texas for the next few years, unless you wanted to see him at 1B or LF, then getting a mid-roto starter for him is exactly how you'd expect his value to be cashed in.  As for Grimm, he had lots of buzz from some about being a solid #3 type starter, while many, including myself, thought he seemed more like a #4 (given his terrible struggles in AAA in '12, changeup, flat FB) and he has pitched like a # 4 this year, err, badly, this year, but I can see why people might still think of him as a # 3 with 2 plus pitches and nice command.

I've heard folks like the two Jasons (Parks and Cole)  pin a likely #4 ceiling on Edwards though I'm not exactly clear why.  Maybe his secs (stuff/feel) don't profile as plus offerings or it is his complete lack of physical projection, or difficulty maintaining velo after the 5th inning, I don't know. But if he is 3 years away as a #4, I can live with that, although his loss hurts given the complete preponderance of #5/LR profiles throughout the system due to poor drafting (thus far), and previous trades, etc.

So yeah, the PTBNL will make or break this deal for me.  The loss of any of the three could make you wince in retrospect a few years down the line, possible as soon as next year with Grimm/Olt, especially considering that those two might have been used to trade for a COF next year given that we will need two.

The biggest question about Texas' current quandaries at the deadline, is that 2 of the 3 gambles that Texas took in April have failed (Pen, Roto, Lineup), necessitating a big package (still one to come for a hitter?) to close the holes.  Texas gambled that they had the rotation depth necessary to avoid signing a mid-rotation arm during FA, or perhaps traded for one with the SAME prospect package (for 33 starts), while also gambling on their lineup by assuming that they could get by with Murphy (and Moreland) as starters and that Berkman would be healthy.  Moreland was fine pre-injury, while Murphy and Berkman have been busts.  Those are the kind of gambles that cost you all of your upper tier prospects and we're just waiting for the other shoe to drop when a hitter is acquired (kiss Sardinas or Odor + goodbye?).

It is all good and fine that Texas pinned its hopes on internal development (Perez, Grimm, Tepesch, Scheppers, Martin, Ortiz, Moreland, Ross) and hole-plugging (Pryz, Berkman) while hoping for bounce-back years from vets (and we got those from Kinz, Cruz) but an argument could be made that the price for filling the current holes on the roster will strip a good chunk of the upper level talent in the system when it could have been avoided during the off-season/Spring.

UPDATE:
Couple of twitter updates from, well, twitter:

#Texas didn't include Odor after some concerns arose from TX re Garcia's elbow.  So they got Grimm instead.  Is Odor more highly rated than Grimm?  Had Grimm been that bad?  Who know....twitter gossip.
#As for the PTBNL, it could be NeRa, but if it isn't the Cubs can select two other prospects.  WOW!  If true, man, this could be a 5 prospect deal.  Rich.
#and now twitterverse tells us that Olt's concussion issues and Garcia's elbow cancelled out or something...
#The twitter-reported refusal to inlcude Jackson in any deal suggests that Texas scouts think that Jackson is a likely mid-rotation starter, which runs counter to some prospect writers pegging him as a likely pen arm.  But then Don Welke probably still loves Jordan Akins so who's to say....

I will say that I say the NeRa-like pen profile for Jackson is because, like NeRa,  he has been a 5ip/100pitch guy, inefficient enough with the approach and the mechanics and the command to firmly move the dial in the scouts imagination firmly towards the pen and away from the roto. However, after skipping 3 starts over late may to late June (not due to injury to my knowlege), Jackson might have been tweaked a bit to improve his efficiency and command, pitching into the 6th inning in 5 straight starts.  Food for thought.  If you think he is a # 3 then he is the only #3 currently in full-season ball in the Texas system (think about that for a second...WOW!) so he might very well be worth holding onto for that reason alone.

UPDATE:
So until the Player(s) TBNL are, well, named later, the upper levels of the Texas system have only three starting-caliber prospects:  Odor, Sardinas, and Jackson (with some still suggesting they see him as a late-innings guy).  NeRa is almost universally regarded as a pen arm (and an interesting one to be sure, a possible closer?).

SAD FACE.

UPDATE:
Maintaining a good reputation with your trading partner is important.  Remember when Jake Brigham landed on the DL last season shortly after being traded to the Cubs for Soto?  Well, the Cubs might have been none to happy as they preferred Loux and got an injured Brigham in his stead.  At the end of the year, Texas rectified that situation and returned Brigham in exchange for Loux and a PTBNL.  Now Texas was either overcompensating the Cubs, essentially admitting that Brigham's issue might have been more serious (or something), or they already knew that Brigham had some red flags from last year and had already made this arrangement with the Cubs in case Brigham faltered.  What makes me think Texas was admitting some fault and desired to make amends to keep from injuring their rep on the trade market, rather than simple consummating a variation of the trade already agreed upon, is that there was complete radio silence about he matter from both the Cubs, the Rangers, and the beat writers about the issue. Texas seems to have simply said, sorry, let's work this out so that there are not aggrieved parties or unintended consequences, like, say, having the Cubs boycott TX from future prospect-laden deals.  That whole thing was handled strangely, quietly, but amicably in the end.

UPDATE:
The deal likely just got worse with NeRa going on the DL today with a biceps injury per Scott Lucas. So this now becomes a 5 for 1 deal; cross your fingers that no high-ceiling position players aren't thrown into the deal.



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JUNIOR is OUT!!!!!!!


Donnie Junior has relinquished his role as GM for the Mavs!   This is the best summer ever for Mavs fans.  After the the dissolution of their 2-year post-championship rebuild/demolition, 1st round embarrassment in the 2012 playoffs followed by missing them altogether in 2013, there is light at the end of the tunnel.  We will have to weather his parting salvo of questionable contracts/players, and the pain of underselling Dirk during 2 of his few remaining prime years,  but at least the team now has assets to deal - RIP plan powder!

After foreswearing the Mavs around 2008 due to Junior's questionable moves/talent evaluation/vision, I hereby lift my blogging ban on my beloved Mavs.

The only issue is that Cuban says that Junior is still in charge of talent evaluation!...wait what?!

UPDATE:
Some strangely worded press releases coming out from the MBT including all of those breathless items in Junior's press release touting a new (high tech, new fangly, never seen before) Mavs future and some such. Sounds like a lot of rebranding going on, rebranding failure as boundless opportunity for a moribund franchise.  Yeah, alright, just give me better amateur/pro talent evaluation and acquisition and keep all of the shiny new things wherever they were hidden from view in their previous occultation.  This is really Cubes admitting things went off the rails without saying as much as, well, this is rebranding qua apology as only Cubes can do it:  "Things will be betta... you see, bigger, bolder, shinier...did i say bolder...and...Newer, did i say newer...yeah, ya see...YOU'LL see."  We'll see.

To wit, Cuban fired the strength coach, and issued a similarly zany PR talking about all of the PTS (performance technology sciences) that had been lacking all up in here.  OK.

Also, as Junior's last hurrah, they traded Nick Calathes, who, many think, is a better player than Gal Mekel, but who apparently did not meet Carlisle's muster (or something). A Calathes breakout, coupled with repeated vines of Mekel's 3-point shot will be Junior's last hoorah (or how about a Larkin vs Schroeder highlight reel where Schroeder looks really really good, and Junior, once the king of international b-ball FA, shows just how out of step he's become, muttering something to himself about P&R efficiencies, when Rondo redux materializes).

That brings up another issue with the Mavs talent evaluation team since Carlisle came on board. It seems that Carlisle might have a bit too much influence in the Mavs draft room these days as the org settles on systems guys and niche pieces that please him (and likely the MBT overall) over highest ceiling.  BIG MISTAKE and one that seems to have been overlooked as it does stem in part from Junior's draft philosophy:  he only cared about guys who could hit the corner three, eschewing raw players or big but short rebounders who couldn't shoot; he was looking for fitment over talent.  Shame. I think this philosophy lives in in Carlisle, and who's effect might still be seen from Junior's higher perch.  so we'll have to see just how much the new GM and his scouting staff can countermand the impetus of this internal club culture (system vs talent; pieces vs players; roles vs upside)  that they will likely encounter when laying the  groundwork to stop the forward motion of the Junior/Cube rebuild, what with all of the new (and questionable) signings that the aborted non-rebuild generated, and push it back on track towards...well...towards something else.

UPDATE:
Per Zach Lowe, Roland Beech has returned to the FO from the bench:

UPDATE:
Maybe Keith Grant has been here too long too...he's a talent evaluator, draft-nik too right?  and he's been here since the 1980s!

UPDATE:
More Cubes rebranding:  It isn't us, it's YOU!

"If there's one missing piece between what everyone is saying and what we're doing, everybody, I think, has dismissed Dirk -- like Dirk is done and he's on the downside and he can't play anymore and he's not the type of contributor that he was," Cuban said during an appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's Galloway and Company.

UPDATE:
The transcript from the Cubes/Galloway interview via TTMG.

UPDATE:
Cube's response:  State of the Mavs July 2010 - July 2013.


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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Trade Deadline: Prospect Hierarchy


So the trade deadline is coming up but word has it that the Cubs want to deal Garza before his next scheduled start to maintain/increase his value.  Given the rumored interest from TX I thought I would throw out the names of their most desirable prospects for Garza or other veteran players.

While Texas might consider moving some starting position players on their 25, they are more likely to keep roster in tact by delving into their minor league system.  The only issue with that is that Texas hardly has any talent in the upper minors, so Texas would likely have to include an extra prospect if we are dealing with A-ball kids (and no major leaguers).  They could look into trading Moreland (who we really have no replacement for, giving Berkman's swoon/injuries and Olt's terrible year) or Kinsler/Andrus, but both of those guys would bring back more in an off-season trade, though Profar would be there as a replacement.  You could also look at dealing from your bullpen, say Scheppers  (given that Feliz will be coming back in 2014) or Ross (as some might still view him as having a SP's ceiling) but we really don't have anyone to replace them that is proven.  Unproven but talent arms could fill in, say Grimm and Tepesch, but neither have pitched out of the pen this year so that would be a risk.

So given that they are likely to maintain their 25, what prospects with _ starter ceilings _ does Texas have to offer.  Unless a team is willing to take a chance on Texas' low-A high-ceiling players, the pool is shallow, and even shallower still given that many of them are dealing with assorted injuries:

ML/AAA
Justin Grimm SP (recent forearm tightness, out since 7/12)
Nick Tepesch SP (elbow soreness, DL'd since 7/6)

AAA
Mike Olt, 3B (vision/hitting issues)

AA
Neil Ramirez, SP/Setup (skipped recent start due to _most recent_ shoulder soreness, which crops up one or more times a year for him)

A+
Luis Sardinas SS (healthy shoulders for the last 1 1/2 years)
Rougned Odor 2b
Luke Jackson SP/Setup (might have been promoted in another system)

LowA
CJ Edwards SP (would've been promoted to HighA in another system)
Jorge Alfaro C/RF (repeating LowA so longer full-season track record)


That is about it for the high ceiling guys outside of LowA (or on the verge of a HighA promotion).
The other well-known hitters - and say someone like high risk/high ceiling wildcard like Yohander Mendez in SS Spokane - come with a high degree of risk that would only be offset with a package of 1-2 players who are (near) major league ready (however a club sees it).  Texas might also have to compensate for the added injury risks that some of these currently injured players bring with them, maybe throwing in a lower ceiling arm or utility player of some sort (Beltre, L. Garcia, Chirinos, Teo, Odubel, Alberto).

Now a club like Houston might be quite content to settle on one or more of Texas' high risk/high ceiling hitters (Gallo, Williams, Brinson  and call it a day as it fits their development arc but normally a club is trading for low risk talent at the trade deadline so taking a shot at a player with the very raw skill set of someone like Jorge Alfaro, who is just as likely to stick in RF as he is at C, won't likely make sense for most clubs as a headliner.  One also has to wonder how Texas feels about giving up on players they have invested in so heavily, from 3-5 million dollars.  Those might not be players you want to dump for low value; you want to hold onto them until their value increases in proportion to the investment (as much as possible for a prospect).  So Texas might just suggest that they are not available (Mazara, Beras, Guzman).

Texas doesn't really have any high ceiling pitching depth in the system outside of the players mentioned, but there are some fringy #5/pen types that could be used as filler (Asher, Martinez, Eickhoff, Payano, Sadzeck) most of whom are likely pen arms, with a couple who might have the stuff for a setup role down the line.

A couple of bullpen arms who might be included in the back end of any deal could be Wilmer Font and Justin Miller.  Both pitchers have plus plus fastballs with Font not really having anything else and Miller coming back from TJ (Font had it in 2010).  Given that they will still have West, Mendez, Bonilla, and Henry in the system next year, those are pieces that can be replaced.

However it shakes out, it will be interesting to see what Texas has to give up to get a couple of pieces at the deadline.


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Friday, July 5, 2013

Texas goes all in on j2


Texas has reportedly gone way over  their 1,943,700M cap to sign three 7-figure j2-eligible prospects:  Dominican RHP Marcos Diplan, 1.3M$ ;  Venezuelan SS Yeyson Yrizarri, 1.35M$; and Dominican OF Jose Almonte, 1.8M$.  They have also reportedly signed Dominican SS Michael de Leon, 550K$ and three Mexican prospects:   RHP Edgar Arredondo, LHP Samuel Zazueta, and RHP Daniel Duarte.  Only 25% of the bonuses for Mexican players count against their bonus pool.

They might not be done given the severe penalties that apply to teams going more than 15% or their bonus pool allotment:  100% tax on coverage and prohibition on signing talent over 250K$.   So now that they are over that 15% threshold might as well get 2 years worth of players, right?   There are only a few players that remain that Texas might entertain paying DOUBLE for but Eloy Jimenez (Cubs 2.8m) might have been the only one worth angling for.  Some other possible 7-figure kids are:  DR CF Leonardo Molina (dob 8/1 - NYY, 1.4M), DR 3B (1B) Rafael Devers (Bos, 1.5m), DR 3B (1B) Luis Encarnacion (dob 8/9 - PHI, 1M), DR 3B Anderson Franco (8/15-NATS, 900K) TAI RHP Jen-He Tseng (Cubs, 1.625m), and maybe a sleeper like VZ SS (2B/CF) Luis Carpio (dob 7/11,  NYM - 300K) - though likely not for 7-figures.

As an alternative to these pricey options  (as each sign is now double the actual bonus),  I could also see Texas limiting itself to 250k and under kids, which would certainly make more economic sense than paying a really raw or defensively limited player 2 million if you thought they were a risky sign at 1 million.  Guess we'll see.

As it stands, Texas will pay a tax of 100% on anything over their pool of 1.94M (or 2.876M if you believe the rumors that they have acquired slots from FL - denied by JD) so the cost of their 5 million dollar bounty so far will be at least 8.05 million but only about 7.1 million if they actually did buy out Florida's last 3 slots (932.1K) . Got that?

Kiley McDaniel has an updated list of the players that have signed around the league.

UPDATE
Here is a scouting blurb on Arredondo from Ben Badler:

MLB gave Mexican League teams a pretty sweet deal when it determined that Mexican players signed through the Mexican League will only have the portion of the bonus that goes to the player—25 percent—count against a team’s bonus pool. That should help inflate the price of Mexican righthander Edgar Arredondo, whose rights are owned by Quintana Roo of the Mexican League. Arredondo is 6-foot-3, 190 pounds with solid mechanics for his age and an 87-91 mph fastball. He throws a solid changeup that flashes average and is ahead of his below-average curveball. Some scouts like his feel for pitching, although he’s not as advanced as Julio Urias was last year when the Dodgers signed him from the Mexico City Red Devils.

UPDATE
Jason Parks on Diplan:

RHP Marcos Diplan (Rangers)
Despite a market reputation as a baseball factory, the Dominican Republic doesn’t produce a lot of quality major-league starters, a reality with numerous explanations [possible explanations]. A lack of pitchability is often seen as the biggest villain. Diplan stands out for his impressive raw stuff and his advanced pitchability for his age, attributes that help offset his diminutive size and the reputation of the region for producing more relief arms than impact starters. When I saw Diplan back in January, the right-hander pounded the zone with a low-90s fastball (touched 93) delivered from a lower slot. He showed feel for both a fading 80 mph changeup and a low-70s curveball, brought into game action with the swagger of a much more physically imposing arm. He was the best arm I saw at the Dominican Showcase, and it wasn’t even close



UPDATE

DPL j2 reel of their signing class



UPDATE
The total price tag of Texas' (5) announced signings comes to $5.350.000, with an overage of 3.406.300 against their 1.943.700 slot.    Once the 100% penalty on the overage is factored in, the minimum price tag for Texas' J2 spree comes to $8.756.300:  1.943.700  + 2(3.406.300).


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Friday, June 28, 2013

Rangers sign RHP Luke Lanphere

The Rangers signed their 21st round pick RH HS pitcher Luke Lanphere to a 400k deal per Jim Callis. So Texas dipped in to its 328K taxable overage to cover this.  They have about 130K left if they haven't already used it on someone.

BA ranked him in the top 500 at 491:

Lanphere generated top-10-rounds buzz down the stretch this spring, but most scouts think that's too rich. He tickles 91 mph now and then early in games but pitches in the 80s, and his breaking ball and changeup are well below-average. His best asset is the projection remaining in his 6-foot-4, 175-pound frame, and he could boost his stock significantly if his velocity jumps and his secondary stuff improves at UC Riverside.

UPDATE
Texas also signed undrafted FA catcher Brett Teschner (6.3/235, 8/23/91)  and assigned him to the AZL.  He played at Division 1 Lipscomb in 2009-2010 (part-time? - 24g) but might have been out of baseball since then.  Check that.  Looks like he was injured in 2011 (12g) and then transferred to Division 2 Columbus State for JR/SR campaign, where he played in 50+ games each year (h/t Ming).  Probably looking at a 1b/DH type.



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j2 Links


Baseball America's Ben Badler posted his top 30 preview of those international prospects newly eligible to sign on July 2nd.  His list is free while the reports are subscriber only.  Currently he has Texas linked to:  RHP Marcos Diplan (6), INF Yeyson Yrizarri (7), and INF Michael de Leon (26).  Kiley McDaniel is back covering the j2 terrain, now at Scout.com (Scouting Baseball).  He has a free top 30 list up as well, but like BA, his reports are subscriber only.  Previously, ESPN Deportes' Dionisio Soldevila had Texas linked to:  José Almonte, Rafael DeversYeizon Irrizary.

Texas has a paltry 1,942,700 compared to the 2.9m they had in 2012, however, pool money can be traded this year, to the tune of 50% of your total pool.  Let the fireworks begin!

Here are a few j2 links:

MLB.COM.s top 30 international free agents 
Dionisio Soldevila's Top 10 (May, Spanish)
Kiley Mcdaniel , Scouting Baseball Page (Scout$)
Ben Badler, BA International Affairs Page (Mostly $, Some Free)
Kiley McDaniel's j2 Top 10 (Free)
Badler's j2 Top 10 (May)
Jesse Sanchez's latest j2 musings.

UPDATE:
Badler links to an El Nacional article linking Texas to SS Gleyber Torres while noting that the Cubs are regarded as the front-runner.


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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Latinofiles


Texas signed 2 Dominican pitchers before the 2 week j2 moratorium, Omarlin Lopez (825K) and LH Francis Cespedes (750K).   They came late to the game but are using up their 2012 j2 bonus pool with no time to spare.  Here is what Badler had to say about both:


A lanky 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, Omarlin Lopez has good arm speed on a low-90s fastball that has touched 95 mph. He also show feel to spin a hard 78-81 mph curveball that some scouts have called a slider but has sharp downer bite when he throws it right. He also has flashed a changeup for a third pitch, although some scouts have expressed concern about his durability due to his thin build.

Francis Cespedes, an 18-year-old from Santo Domingo, has a lanky, long-armed frame at around 6-foot-4, 195 pounds with the physical projection to easily add at least 25 pounds and build on his low-90s fastball, with a curveball and a changeup rounding out his arenal. Compared to Jacob Constante, a 19-year-old Dominican lefthander who signed with the Reds for $730,000 in January, Cespedes has a tick less power on his fastball but is more athletic and some scouts think he has a better chance to remain a starting pitcher, although he will have to improve his control.


Texas also signed a pitcher and 2 position players:  Jose Suarez (~20, RHP), Porfirio Martinez (~17, LH, 3B), and Rubell Castro (~17, COF).


DSL promotions to the AZL:
Ricardo Rodriguez, Kevin Sosa, Jose Cardona Gonzales, Diego Cedeno, Oliver  Caraballo


UPDATE:
Intriguing Cuban 26yo RHP Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez was declared a free agent on Saturday; Texas has (7 figure) eyes on you kid!

UPDATE:
Knobler on the growing M.A.G. intrigue.



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BA Profile Sherman Lacrus


(27) Sherman Lacrus, 5.11/180, RH, CF (C), BA rank # 328

Western Oklahoma State has an extensive recruiting pipeline in the Caribbean, with its two best prospects this spring hailing from Curacao (Lacrus) and Aruba (catcher/infielder Sicnarf Loopstok). The Pioneers' most famous product is another Curacaoan, Andrelton Simmons, who has worked with Lacrus. Lacrus came to the United States at age 17 and redshirted when Western Oklahoma State won the Division II Junior College World Series in 2011. He turned down the Yankees as a 40th-round pick last year. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder offers a solid combination of righthanded power and speed. He also shows ability to recognize pitches, good reads and jumps in center field and plus arm strength. Lacrus has displayed intriguing potential in limited looks behind the plate but doesn't have much interest in catching.

UPDATE:
Lacrus was just assigned to the DSL club, playing RF in his first 2 games.  We'll have to see if he spends any time at catcher...


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Saturday, June 15, 2013

BA Profile, Cole Wiper

Here is BA's 2011 profile for Cole Wiper (Tor, 14th rd), ranked #439 nationally:

At 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, Wiper is a quality athlete who also played high school basketball. His best attribute as a pitcher is his secondary stuff. He flashes an above-average curveball with tight rotation and added a slider this year, which also showed hard, sharp break. His changeup has nice drop, almost like a splitter, and has improved throughout the season. His fastball sits in the 88-90 mph range, and he'll have games where he's 90-93. While Wiper has a feel for spin, his fastball is pretty straight right now. Because of his good secondary stuff, he sometimes uses it too much and will have to pitch off of his fastball more at the next level, whether that's in the pros or at Oregon. Wiper is a good student and is mature for a high schooler, and some scouts regard him as the best high school prospect in the Northwest.


Here is BA's 2013 profile (TX, 10th rd), unranked by BA:

Wiper was a premium prospect out of high school, but the Blue Jays couldn’t sign him away from Oregon as a 14th-round pick in 2011. He missed the 2012 season after needing Tommy John surgery and was ineffective this year for the Ducks, only earning George Horton’s trust for 13 innings of work. At his best, his fastball is in the 90-93 mph range and he shows flashes of a sharp curveball and slider, though they are inconsistent and his command hasn’t yet returned. Even after a disappointing season, Wiper is expected to be a difficult sign.



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BA's Marcus Greene profile

Here is BA's 2012 profile for catcher Marcus Greene (FLA, 39th rd):

Green's best asset is his athleticism, but like most of Southern California's prep catchers, he has a long way to go to develop his game. He doesn't block or receive well, though he has the natural agility to improve. Coming off a shoulder injury, Green's throwing was up and down this spring, sometimes flashing plus but usually rating as below-average. His bat is an even bigger question mark. He is a slightly above-average runner. Durability is also a concern with the 5-foot-11, 186-pounder, but his athleticism and signability could get him drafted in the top 15 rounds.

Here is their 2013 profile for comparison (TX, 16th rd):

Greene was a 39th-round pick last year by the Marlins out of a New Mexico high school, but he headed to New Mexico JC and had a productive season, batting .384/.463/.727 with 10 home runs and 16 stolen bases. He has a muscular build at 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, and thanks to his athleticism and above-average speed he plays center field when he's not catching. He moves well behind the plate, and his above-average arm strength is his best tool. He needs to improve his receiving and blocking, but that shouldn't be a problem because Greene is a hard worker with solid makeup. His swing could use some work. He has raw power potential, but has trouble staying back and rolls balls over. He recognizes breaking balls, but sometimes tries to cheat on fastballs and gets caught out front. Greene is considered signable.



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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Draft Signings/Bonuses


The BA database for draft signings and bonuses is accessible in skeletal form to nonsubscribers so that the signing status, bonus slot, and signing amount can be viewed.  Check it out.

Here is BA's summary of the assigned value of every pick in the top 10 rounds.

The Rangers' bonus slots are as follows.  For any picks after the 10th, any overage over 100K counts against the team pool, which for Texas is $6.553.800.

1.    1.920.600 (2.215M)
1.    1.731.200 (1.9M)
2.    899.4 (520.6M)
3.    520.6  (350K)
4.    385.9 (202K)
5.    289  (175K)
6.    216.4 (65K)
7.    162.3 (162.3)
8.    151.6 (151.6)
9.    141.5 (10K)
10.  135.3 (700K)
21.  100k (400K)

(277,300K remaining; 327.7k more as taxable overage; est up to 428k available if Jackson signs for ~177.3K))

UPDATE:  Per BA Joe Jackson signed for 175k which leaves 102.3K left in their pool.  They also signed 30th round HS lefthander Joe Palumbo so it wouldn't surprise me if he got exactly 202.3K.

UPDATE:  21st round HS RHP Luke Lanphere signed for 400K.  So Texas dipped in to its 328K taxable overage to cover this.   They have exactly 130K left if they haven't already used it on someone.



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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Draft: Day One

1 (#23).  ALEX GONZALEZ, RHP, ORAL ROBERTS, 6.3/200, JR, Area Scout: Jay Eddings PICK VALUE: $1,920,600 (Source BA)
PICK ANALYSIS: This is great value for the Rangers. Gonzalez, who goes by Chi Chi, ranked as the No. 19 prospect on the BA 500.
SCOUTING REPORT: The best Oral Roberts pitching prospect since No. 1 overall pick Mike Moore in 1981, Gonzalez steadily has improved since the Orioles made him an 11th-round pick out of a Florida high school three years ago. He doesn’t garner a lot of national attention pitching for the Golden Eagles, but he could sneak into the first round and has a realistic ceiling of a No. 3 starter in the big leagues. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder usually deals at 90-94 mph with his fastball, and batters can’t square it up because he throws it with natural cut and sink to both sides of the plate. His true slider, which runs as hot as 87 mph, is one of the best in the draft and gives him a second swing-and-miss offering. He’s making progress with a changeup, and he can mix in an occasional curveball as a show-me pitch. Gonzalez pounds the strike zone, has a sound delivery and exhibits good mound presence.
WHERE HE FITS: Gonzalez will fit into the middle to back of the Rangers’ top 10.


1 (#30). Travis Demeritte, HS, present SS, projected 3B, 6.1/185
 Travis Demeritte / 3B/RHP | Winder Barrow HS (Winder, GA)
6-foot-1/185 pounds | right/right profile | draft day age 18y 8mo | Univ. of South Carolina commit
(Source BP) Wow player; very high baseball IQ; very easy to see on-the-field leadership skills and work ethic; plays the game with purpose and passion; athletic, with fluid movements; played a very good third base; clean actions; good reactions and feel; covered a lot of ground; arm is a 7; makes every play he can get to; remarkable field awareness; if he played shortstop I’d call him a no doubt first round talent; bat flashed some potential; bat speed was present; likes to pull the ball; shows power potential; love the hands; love the approach; doesn’t get cheated; speed is only average, with home-to-first times in the 4.3 range; good second-gear and base running ability; total gamer; bat is probably only average, but has legit pop, good defensive profile at 3B, and well above-average feel for the game; he’s a likely candidate to over-perform projection; future major leaguer; will be around game forever.–Jason Parks

(Source BA)  PICK VALUE: $1,731,200   Area Scout: Derrick Tucker
PICK ANALYSIS: The Rangers have gone to the Georgia well early and often. They love athletes and Demeritte gives them a profile third baseman with a quick bat. While he ranked No. 56 on the BA 500, this isn’t an overdraft.
SCOUTING REPORT: Scouts voted Demeritte a preseason first-team All-American at third base, a position he played last year for East Cobb as it won the World Wood Bat Championship in Jupiter, Fla. Demeritte struggled throughout that event until going 3-for-3 with a double in the championship game. While he’s a shortstop, pitcher and leadoff hitter in high school, scouts see Demeritte as a profile third baseman. He hit 19 home runs in his first two seasons and committed to South Carolina last summer, so scouts were a bit put off by Demeritte’s slow start to the season. He’d heated up as the season progressed as his natural athleticism came into play. He has whip in his bat and some quick-twitch in his 6-foot-1, 195-pound frame. He generates excellent bat speed and has a chance to hit for above-average power if he better develops his approach and feel for hitting. He’s quick enough for shortstop now but fits better defensively at third base, and some scouts think he could handle second. His overall speed is just average, and scouts consider his arm above-average. He’s his team’s No. 1 starter and has posted gaudy numbers this spring, but teams that like Demeritte are buying an infielder with offensive upside.
WHERE HE FITS: Demeritte likely won’t crack the Rangers’ top 10, but that is because their system is loaded with high-upside talent.


2(62).  Akeem Bostick, 6.5/185, RHP, HS.
(Source BA:  #147 - 5th rd!) Bostick is raw, but scouts can dream on his 6-foot-5, 185-pound frame and believe he has the athleticism to put it all together. His cousin Brandon is a tight end for the Green Bay Packers, and Akeem is a three-sport athlete himself. His fastball sits at 90-92 mph and has been up to 94 this spring. His secondary stuff needs work, but he has shown improved ability to spin a breaking ball. He has projection and there is room to add strength, but he has a thin frame so it may be limited. Bostick is committed to Georgia Southern but is considered signable and could get popped around the fifth round.


UPDATE:
Comments from Fagg/Preller.   Note that Bostick still can't spin a breaking ball.  Normally this would be a red flag but I guess Texas scouts are guided by different scouting maxims (see Jose Valdespina):

"He's a 6-foot-6 kid, right-handed pitcher with a very loose arm and very good downhill plane," Fagg said. "He has the makings of a breaking ball. It's a little inconsistent, but he has a chance of having a secondary pitch that could be a weapon."

UPDATE:
As usual, Ming over at the Newberg minor league forum has some nice background info on most of the picks, a lot of it sourced locally, from hometown papers and whatnot, so check it out. 



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Sunday, May 12, 2013

j2 Scuttlebutt


ESPN's Dionisio Soldevila suggests that Texas is interested in 3 top Dominicans who are j2 eligible this year.  Check out his top 10 list of names to watch:

2) José Almonte: Es un jardinero versátil, con capacidad de batear y bueno en la defensa. Se habla de que Texas, los Medias Blancas y los Yankees de Nueva York han peleado por sus servicios. Se cree que conseguiría por encima de US$1.5 millones.
3) Rafael Devers: El antesalista de la International Prospect League, con 5'11" de estatura y 180 libras es uno de los peloteros que más ha sido perseguido desde que se hizo elegible para el 2 de julio. Al menos cinco equipos están verdaderamente en sus servicios y tienen el dinero disponible para firmarlo. Se habla de que Boston, Oakland, los Yankees y Texas pelearán por adquirirlo a un precio que superaría el US$1.25 millón de bonifación.
4) Yeizon Irrizary: Es torpedero, por lo que juega en una de las posiciones más importantes y exigentes del negocio. Tiene manos ágiles y un bate de respeto. Los Rangers de Texas, Reales de Kansas City, Medias Rojas de Boston y Padres de San Diego han estado de cerca del muchacho de 16 años. Se cree que conseguirá más de US$1.2 millones por firmar.


UPDATE:

Kiley McDaniel has a profile of 3B Rafael Devers over at Scout from his look at the kid in  Dominican and PG showcases.  Sounds like Boston is willing to go 7 figures but his ceiling might not warrant that - now hitter with a fringe-ave/average starter ceiling. 

UPDATE:
BA's Ben Badler has a free post up about 10 top j2 kids.



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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Frisco RoughRiders Preview

This should be quick as the  Frisco club is full of org guys this year.  Furthermore, at least for position players, there won't likely be a lot of mid-season promotions from the HighA side given the uber youth movement that has taken Myrtle Beach by storm coupled with the surprising (to me) promotion of Hanser Alberto, so, yeah, he's already there.  The only guy that looks primed for a promotion is Zach Cone and that is only if he does well enough to merit one, which is no sure thing.  So let's take a look at the position players.

HITTERS
Let's meet the org guys:   Buchholz, Zaneski, Telis, Strausborger, Hoying, Chiang, Guilder, Selen, Nicholas, Marquez Smith (likely on reserve list).  Some might make the argument that Hoying has a chance to be a 5th OF but most people don't seem to like him much in CF and even though he had a nice ST, he's unlikely to be anything more than an org guy.  Strausborger is a terrific defender who has even been tried at 2b to see if he might turn into some sort of 26th man but he can't hit and can't play short so, yeah.  The org, the pitchers and the coaches all love Zaneski as a backstop  by all accounts and all orgs love having decent organizational catchers make it to the upper minors who can both hit and catch, but, well, org guy. 

Telis, well, I thought Telis might be kept in the reserve/DL/extended purgatory in which he is the emergency catcher in the low minors  and short season/extended (of which there are always 3-4 by necessity), what with Deglan, Cantwell, Lyon, DiFazio, Zaneski, Maloney and Alfaro all crowding in around him.  He didn't  have a good year at the plate in HighA and he isn't a good catcher even though he's catchability improved last year.  Well here he is.  He gets pushed forward because there is no longer any room to get pushed backward in a deeply talented low minors system.  Guilder, what can you say about Guilder.  Texas loves this kid and will keep him in the upper minors and keep him in the JIC squad each ST as long as he can walk. He is the model org guy with the etched "model org guy" plaque to prove it. 

Selen is a masher with hands of stone.  I will be really interested to see if he can make consistent contact in AA because every minor league club needs a middle of the order bat that can keep a club competitive.  Those kinds of bats, even if they can't progress past highA or AA, are a necessary part of putting together positive, competitive, winning teams, and clubs are always looking for them.  Brett Nicholas could be another one of those guys.  He got a long look early in ST and as a JIC guy so he either did well or is a hard worker that the club likes. 

Before we move on to the actual prospects versus the org guys, please permit a slight digression to talk about the "process" (or a rhizome from it) by way of Brett Nicholas, a 2010 draftee.  Nicholas was one of the first non-Division I kids who I can recall Texas taking in the top 15 or so rounds.  I guess  this was a Preller-Welke-Fagg move as they are in love with their "process".  It was a strange shift in philosophy but it seems to have the following logic.  Rounds 6-15 are usually limited to finding org guys for depth, HS reaches who will sign for slot, and bullpen arms (outside of guys he fell).  The position players in that range are all decent college players but the seniors lack any projection so you pick up any signable juniors left on your board and then move on to the seniors. 

Texas seems to have reconfigured the landscape just a bit by trying to squeeze any last bit of projection out of it by keeping an eye on colleges outside of Division I sports.  As an organization who believes that is is only the ABSENCE of their own vaunted development process that stands in the way of turning a tool shed with no particular feel for baseball into a ML regular, you can understand why the private religious schools in the backwoods of Appalachia might have had some appeal for them.  Now given that we didn't see many of these types of kids selected in the 2012 draft, one might write the trend off as a passing fancy, written off by the Texas development staff upon review.  But the madness to their method might just have hit on something even if the payoff is only slight, or, at least, slightly different, and only with respect to finding productive run-producing org guys to anchor mid-level teams, or to put it a different way, to anchor winners.  

In 2011, Texas chose a number of these kids:  Maloney, Adams, Rua, Grayson.  None of them are prospects per say but the election by the club to choose these raw players of many seniors and some juniors has paid some dividends for the club.  If Nicholas can hit AA pitching, he might be the kind of run producing bat that full-season clubs love to have.  The same applies to Maloney and Adams and Rua and less so for Grayson, though he brings something different to the table with his atheticism (though he's instincts in the field are poor).  It is probably the case that the new 2012 draft rules put an end to any further mining of this strange little market inefficiency.  I guess we'll know more after the draft and after the season as we check in on our small school sample size.

Now let's meet the players with some projection.  Let's do Hanser last as he is a little bit of a puzzle to me, maybe only to me.  Let's start with two of the most underrated players in the system, David Herrera and Teo Martinez (T-mart).  Both former j2 signs hit for average and a little pop as 20 year olds in HighA but no one seemed to notice.  Both players are above average defenders at up-the-middle positions.  Hererra gets dinged as he flopped at shortstop last year.  That experiment ended at mid-season and likely negatively affected him at the plate but it might serve him well later if he gradually improves enough to be considered a UTINF candidate in a couple of years. 

Maybe he won't improve enough to man that role, and if not, he'll have to hit to be something more than a very good org guy.  Most pundits suggest that Herrera won't hit enough to become a fringe-average second basement, and that would be his ceiling.  I think it is too early to say whether his hit tool is maxed out or not.  I will say that he likely turns into the next Solarte, a 2b/LF type, or stated another way, the 26th man.   

As for T-Mart, he showed surprising pop in HighA for such a small kid and that pop may or may not show up in AA this year or next, assuming he gets stronger.  His ceiling would be a 5th OF on a NL club, another 26th man kind of kid.  So while T-Mart is less intriguing to me that Herrera, he's a kid to keep an eye on. 

The rule of thumb for me when it comes to j2 signs is this:  Any kid you sign for under 200k likely only has a ceiling as a fringe-average starter.  Most will never make it past AA while many more won't make it our of SS ball of event the DSL.  If you have a few kids like T-Mart, Dubel, Selen and T&T who make it to AA and still have some projection left then it was a wildly successful signing.  Scouting a 15yo and moving him through to AA is a mean feat.  After all, look at some of the other j2 kids who just missed this year (Yefrey Castillo, Jhonny Gomez, Santiago Chirino)  and you'll see how hard it is to make it out of HighA and just how good the post-2006 Rangers were at finding these sub-500k gems.   Only later did they become real players for prospect bling, the 7-figure cats.

Ok this is already much too long, but I have Hanser and pitching left to mine, so here goes:   Hanser Alberto.

 When Alberto first came into the system people marveled at his barrel awareness, quick hands and contact ability (.841 OPS, DSL, Instructs and ST wunderkind).  Though he swung at everything, he hit it too, and he was young, so he would learn.  Later, he got fat, and slow, and didn't look like a SS anymore and people, but especially opposing pitchers,  started to see some holes in his hit tool (.629 OPS, A-), as his poor approach, over-aggressiveness and lack of pitch recognition seemed much more vulnerable as the repertoires advanced against him.  More recently (Last year: .849 LowA, 62g), he looked like a shortstop again, though his squatty frame had never been ideal for the position, people believed he could stick there for now, and at the very least be able to lock down a spot as a 25th man some day.  Then he got promoted to HighA (.635 OPS, 66g; 2bb/27so).  He flopped.

 His approach didn't work there and his walk to strikeout ratio, in addition to his counting #s took a huge hit.  So count me as surprised that Hanser got promoted to AA.  Either he was another instructs/ST superstar, which may or may not translate into actual performance vs much better talent, or the club had to move him a long to make room for the high projection kids.  I thought he would stick in HighA for the first few months. 

Remember that HighA to AA is the hardest level jump in the minors and his #s suggest he is not ready and furthermore that he probably doesn't have the ceiling to start rather he is likely, like Herrera and Teo, a prospect with a reserve ceiling, but unlike Herrera, he might have the higher likelihood to snag a UTINF role down the line because of his ability to play short - unless he gets fat.  But more interesting to me is this:  Between 'Dubel and 'Berto, which could do you think will have the highest OPS by season's end?  I'm going to go out on a limb and say 'Dubel will do it, despite his SO rate in HighA.  There I said it.  But then, 'Berto is a bit of an enigma for me. 

ROTATION
OK so this will be relatively quick. Cody Buckel,  is the only starter prospect.  That is all. 

Despite the fact that the kid had an abysmal ST and a terrible first start, struggling to throw strikes in every appearance, it is still very uncharacteristic of him.  What is wrong with him?  I'm assuming he is mechanically out of wack and that is all but only time will tell.  This isn't Matt Thompson here, at least, not yet.

The other members of the roto are journeyman Pucetas and Feierabend with Pimentel and NeRa being the bullpen arms soon to be moved to the pen when Jackson and some other candidate get promoted from HighA (or from within).   So let's just group NeRa with the bullpen group and talk about that much more interesting group of kids.

BULLPEN
So basically, this group of kids, is really, 'nowdays, the meat of the Texas pitching depth.  And that is kind of sad right?  I think so, but taking a glass half full approach, they have a lot of hard-throwing arms in the system right now.  Taking the half-empty approach, a lot of these arms are unlikely to become late inning arms - or at least closers - due to their command profiles.  

Command profiles change when moving from a 4 pitch pitcher to a 2 pitch pitcher (for one inning), I know, so you could argue there is still room to be hopeful.  But then, do you have confidence in Tanner Scheppers to become a closer?  I don't.  What about a setup arm?  I don't.  But that is just me and he has already be awarded a co-setup role by default already so you could say that I've already been proven wrong.  But I'll stick to my guns and say that his command profile will be erratic this season and that he is and will be best suite to a 7th inning role with 8th-inning mop-ups when he is "ON".  This is likely the same fate for many of the hard-throwing guys in the system (perhaps every system), but I guess I'll take the plus plus fastball in the 7th than not at all. 

So, my  presumption for NeRa, even before his erratic Spring (preceded by an erratic season, and before that by half of half a season of inefficient over-hyped flashes of brilliance in AAA) was that he would be in the AAA pen. I don't think he would be in the AA roto, if the team had the rotation depth to fill those spots with other pithers.  Basically, NeRa's fate will be the same as Font's and Brigham's.  Brigham has labored as starter and been poked and prodded and revised and recalibrated for a couple of years beyond his shelf value as a starter and NeRa is now at that point.  NeRa's breaking ball has regressed along with his mechanics but his velo is back and his changeup might just still be there.

  Whatever he is, he is a bullpen arm.  What kind of bullpen arm remains to be seen but the club should fast track him into a bullpen role so he can pitch out solely out of the stretch, get comfy with whatever secondary pitch works for him and start blowing heat by bewildered hitters.  Is it really that complicated?  The club's realization about Brigham came slowly and we'll finally get to see if Brigham can throw strikes with 97mph gas or not.  I only ask what took the org brain so long to tell the PROCESS to fuck off?  It didn't take it long to fast-track Roman Mendez, but maybe only chronic injury is enough to to reboot the PROCESS' big brain.  At least it listens on occasion but I'd sure like to have seen Brigham and NeRa trying to close out games the last couple of years rather than hoping the figure it out tin the roto.  But, hey, that's just me.  

Roman Mendez's chronic shoulder issues in both 2010 and 2012 necessitated a mechanical reboot last year after which he pitched out of the pen.  Coupled with his recent elbow fracture in October (similar to Strop I think) the reasons for moving Mendez into the pen full time may have become undeniable and that will prove to be a good thing.  With a plus plus FB out of the pen and a slider that flashes plus, I expect to see Mendez real soon, or at least in AAA, and then again, in September. 

Font is a little different story.  Font's success last year was both real and a bit of a mirage.  Font pitched most of the year as a 1 pitch pitcher.  Normally that would be disadvantageous but when you one pitch clicks in at 99mph, well, there are exceptions.  Font's manly fastball overpowered the kiddos, in this his second go 'round in HighA, so, despite the fact that he had no feel for his secondaries, and didn't throw them, he was promoted, and, yet still, no one could scarcely touch his one-pitch reperoire.  EXCITING.  And unnerving.  Would he get a feel for his secondaries?  Would his changeup reemerge as is second pitch?  Would he have to ditch his CB for a slurvy thingy?  The vedict is still out. 

However, it appears that, whatever the plans might have been for the Org's brain to stick the process and put Font back in the roto for another year or two, his poor spring (if not poor offseason) and his age, likely thwarted any inclination to linger on any FONT AS TORP fantasies and simple hope that he could command his FB and find some semblance of an off-speed pitch.  We are still waiting. Will Font flame out with that MANLY fastball, losing confidence to dominate folks even when he doesn't need to  command it well in he zone to do so as he continues to fail with his secs?  Time will tell but he started the Spring behind the hitters with bicep tendonitis so maybe the manchild will burst onto the scene in a couple of months take AAA by storm and pitch in the show by 8/1.  One can dream, as long as it is not of FONT THE TORP; FONT THE MANCHILD will suffice.

Texas scouts loved Randy Henry when they acquired him from Baltimore for Teagarden, what with his starter's repertoire and pitchability.  They gave him a shot at the roto and while he fared OK he didn't excel with his FB playing down in that role.  He's back in the pen and he should still be a prospect with some upside who has decent velo.  Of the remaining guys, Texas seems to love the submariner Rowen, with Jimmy Reyes likely being an LH org guy (who is, did I mention, LH), while Ryan Rodebaugh might be the man of mystery on the staff.  I expected him to make the AAA staff if not compete for a 7th-inning role on the ML staff after he dominated AA last year but I heard nary a peep about him during the Spring.  Maybe he was injured, was scuffling, or regressed unexpectedly. 


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OK, thankfully, that is is all for AA folks. 

Cheers!


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Round Rock Express Preview


THE ROTO
The Rangers' 5th starter Nick Tepesch opened the season  with 5 shutout innings for the Express on Thursday night, a prelude to his 4/9 ML start and extended audition until Colby Lewis returns (ideally, the end of May).   Tepesch won the 5th starter role after his steady if unspectacular ST performance overtook the motley competition but only after an injury sidelined our favorite prospect headcase Martin Perez, sending obsessive virtual prospectors into a tizzy after he (finally) pounded the strike zone over a mere 3 innings.  With Perez out of the mix, my preference would have been to let Ross continue to get stretched out and pitch for 7 weeks in the rotation and prove to some scouts (and writers) what he himself already believes to be true:  Ross can thrive as a ML starter.  It's funny.  The same kind of eyeballs who seem overly optimistic about the likelihood that a raw LowA starter has a starting future become the pessimists when thinking about that possibility for players such as Ross and Ogando.  Tepesch is likely a #4 with at least 4 average pitches but if his velo spike of last year (90-94) fails to rematerialize this year (he's been 88-92 so far) then he'll be a #5.

We also saw the ST rumblings proven true when Josh Linblom was stretched out over 3 innings in relief of Tepesch:  Linblom to the roto.  He has never started a game as a ML.  He debuted as a starter as a 2nd round pick in 2008 and continued in that role until mid-season 2009 at which time he was moved to the pen.  He was demolished in both roles in AAA during 2010, though he only started 10g.  So the last time he was a full time starter was mid-season 2009 and he was hit hard in that role except for his 2008 debut.  While he does have a 4-pitch repertoire, he doesn't have much of a successful track record as a starter in the minors.  Furthermore, given the lack of experience in the current bullpen, Lindblom's value would still seem to be as a possible setup man, which was the player Texas traded for in the Young trade.  Maybe that is still how Texas views him while taking advantage of the lack of depth in the AAA roto to get him to work on some things that he wouldn't otherwise be able to do as a 1-inning guy.  We'll see.

Justin Grimm, who combusted in ST (though less so than Buckel) after being foisted the favorite by many, started on Friday for the Express in respectable fashion.  Grimm has a lot of buzz as a sure-fire mid-roto arm even after fizzling out last year in AAA.  He will turn 26 by season's end so we'll have to see if he can put it all together this year.  His FB  (and mechanics) would seem to be the key to realizing a mid rather than back roto ceiling,  in addition to demonstrating that the average changeup and plus curveball (and streamlined mechanics) that he wielded in AA are the norm.  His zone command of the FB must improve and he must work lower in it or the plus velo of this relatively straight pitch will impress less often than it should in the ML.

Brad Mills, Randy Wells, and Collin Balester fill out the rest of the thin roto in the roles of 4A arm, Recupe project, and Temp starter.  With Chad Bell out with TJ surgery (~4/1) and Perez out with an elbow fracture (~5/1) (and the continued impact of Feliz's absence) and Grimm and Buckel having horrendous Spring trainings, the lack of depth could become a glaring problem should any further injuries hit the ML roto or complication arise in the recoveries of Lewis and Perez.  Kyle McClellan could get stretched out and moved into the roto, but he profiles a bullpen arm in the same way that Lindblom does even while have some starting experience in the ML (17gs in 2011 after moving to the pen in the minors after 2004).  Balester was last a full-time starter in 2008-2009 and has a relatively ugly 22gs in the Majors so he is likely a bullpen only arm who starts only in the minors. 

Furthermore the lack of depth in AA is even more depressing so it is unlikely that anyone will emerge from that group of journeyman in the first half of the season.  Lisalberto Bonilla was rumored to intrigue Texas as a roto arm but after getting an even closer look at his mechanics during ST, I imagine that this idea was quickly abandoned even though this type of profile hasn't dissuaded their development staff from pursuing such quixotic reliever-to-starter quests in the past.  Or keeping those types in the roto for far too long.  Years too long.

One of the mantras that issued forth from the Rangers' front office during the off-season after the failure to re/sign a big bat was the need to compensate by strengthening the bullpen and the rotation.  Neither of those things happened.  Hopefully it won't come back to haunt the club as it relies on its younger players to get them to the trade deadline.   As I type this, Jason Frasor continues show why he is a worse setup option that, gulp, Kirkman or Scheppers.

OUTLOOK
Should Colby Lewis return at the end of May (and is effective during those first few months back), the ML roto looks to be in good shape.  With his return,  the MiL depth improves with Tepesch moving back to the AAA roto while  Perez should be completely stretched out after  his return from injury by mid-May.   If Grimm rounds into shape the first couple of months of the season, that is a pretty good trio, though you could argue that none of those guys look like they have mid-roto ceilings.  An optimist might also look forward to Wells improving upon his ST performance as he gets lots of innings during his return from elbow problems over the last 2 years.  But really, he's a #5 with a fringy fastball that might not play that well in RBIA.  However, if he is 8 or 9 on your depth chart - should everyone get healthy and in a groove - your AAA depth is pretty good.  The wildcard here is Martin Perez.  Will he continue to look like he has during his entire history in the upper minors, hesitant, passive, nibbling around the strike zone, avoiding hits or will he finally pitch as agressively as his stuff warrants?  He could become a # 3 or a maddening #5.  Wildcards that probably won't matter much at all:   McClellan and and Lindblom could surprise, but likely will return to their bullpen origins when they get the call from Arlington.  McClellan's sinker/cutter repertoire is rather pedestrian back roto tool kit while Lindblom might have the stuff but migh not have the command or pitchability.


THE LINEUP
Profar is one of the top prospects in the game and provides Texas with a ML-ready position player should Kinsler or Elvis miss significant time due to injury.  I'm very much ok leaving him in the minors for another year.  How much could he have produced had he debuted on the club this year, say, at 2b?  Let's take a look at a couple of other players for some context.  Kinsler debuted at age 24 and produced 1.9 bWAR (2.2/0.0).  Andrus debuted at age 20 with 3.6 bWAR (2.1/2.3).  Michael Young debuted at 24 and produced 0 bWAR (0/0).  Given that Profar is a solid-average defender and average baserunner and would have been at 2b anyways, how would he have produced?  I would think something on the order of 1.5-2 bWAR.  However, given an additional year to face much more experienced pitching, it would seem reasonable to expect him to produce 3-3.5 bWAR if he debuted in 2014.  Would it have been fun to see if he could have put up a 3WAR debut at 20yo?  Yes, of course, but keeping Kinz at 2B and Profar in the minors is the right move for right now.

Mike Olt is a different story.  So far, he has looked helpless in limited looks  vs ML pitching so there is still a big question mark about his profile going forward. His struggles in ST this year were dismissed because he was pressing.  OK.  If anyone could use an extra year of seasoning it is Olt as more reps versus more experienced pitching can only be a good thing.  There is no doubt about his glove and that he is an above-average athlete for a 3B (which should play ok in a corner spot) but the contact rate is big unknown.  It is likely the case that the bat profiles best at 3B and LF and not so well at RF/1B. However, if a club has a whole at 1B/RF,  Olt is a better stopgap than most orgs have to plug in due to injury or FA.

I've never been much of a Engel Beltre fan after his HighA flop (and LowA hype sans a critical eye) and he is likely a 5th OF on an NL club as the bat will not play.  His plus defensive skill set might get him a starting nod on a rebuilding team or as an injury replacement (vs RH) for a few months and, yes, that has some value.  But as prospects go, a reserve ceiling is eminently fungible.

Chris McGuiness was returned to Texas after he struggled as a Rule-5 draftee in the Indians' camp.  He had a breakout 2012 with a solid AFL showing but didn't hit a lic' this Spring.  People like his glove, his patience and hard contact (in 2012)  but his low contact rate likely makes him a 4A perennial Rule-5 draftee and nothing more.

Once it was clear that Texas was a contending team,  the club has made a concerted and little-noticed effort ( a/o 2011 but maybe 2010 too) to sign an excellent group of young veterans for AAA with some (or quite a bit) of major league experience and a some projection remaining, or at least a projection that would allow them to be capable fill-ins as 25th men.  I think Texas was got sick of trading away all of their low ceiling upper-level minor leaguers for bench help during the 2010 season.  This year was no exception.

Jim Adduci excelled during the Spring and I think that the club wouldn't hesitate to call him up as a reserve OF if needed.  Once the club got a good look at the kid, he was given repsat 1B during ST to increase his value, and I would expect this to continue in AAA.  Aaron Cunningham also had a great spring and has ML experience.  Solarte and Greg Miclat were to excellent finds last year, with Miclat getting injured but stealing 50 bags in 2011 in AA.  There is no doubt the the club views Solarte as a legit bench bat with some position flexibility but not enough to play SS, one of the Springs' strangest experiments. Brandon Allen and Konrad Schmidt both fall into "good sign" category even though they were released.   Eli Whiteside is a legit 3rd catcher while Felix is an organizational favorite behind the dish, while at the same time reminding everyone that trading away Pina (with their eye on Felix) was a bad call specifically and, more generally, that Texas has abjectly failed to effectively evaluate and develop both professional and amateur catchers alike.  Tsk. Tsk.

Bianucci is likely on the reserve list.

BULLPEN
Evan Meek, Jeff Beliveau, Cory Burns, Nate Roberston (and Coty Woods and Randy Wells) can all be marked down in the books as good signings for AAA depth with a decent chance of breaking through with the club.  Again, good scouting, which leads to some off-seasons signings/acquisitions that could meet a clubs needs during the season and forestall picking your upper minors clubs clean in order to trade for these same types at the trade deadline or in August.

The most intriguing arms are really only Bonilla and Justin Miller, who likely won't return from TJ until the end of May.  Bonilla was acquired along with Lindblom as part of the Young trade.  Bonilla's mechanics make him a sure-fire bullpen arm, which is likely why Philly converted him to the pen in 2012 and Texas is keeping him there.  He has a plus FB and CU with a fringe BB and inconsistent command.  He had a good ST so he's an intriguing kid.  Justin Miller is a flamethrower with a plus plus FB who broke out in HighA in 2010 and dominated AA in 2011 after struggling with comand and injuries in 08-09.


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Ok so that  "preview" was late, very long and somewhat pedantic.  I should have started on the low minors.   I hope to write previews for the other clubs so we'll see how that goes...

Cheers!