Recently, a question was posed to me from a reader based off an article posted at San Shin
regarding Blue Jays OF Alexis Rios
and the possibility of trading for him. Here's my take on it...
tore up the Double-A Eastern League last season, earning BA's honors as top Jays prospect
and 6th overall in their top 100 rankings. He then proceeded to dominate winter ball in Puerto Rico where he hit more home runs in 39 games than he did all of the regular season. Winter ball stats don't usually mean all that much, but this seemed to clinch his status as a top prospect.
In the interest of giving some context to the numbers he put up for the New Haven Ravens, he had 102.27 runs created over the course of the season and 7.63 per 27 outs. By comparison, league average was 4.80 runs created per 27 outs.
Rios would currently project as being a right fielder, partially due to the presence of Vernon Wells at the major league level (who is the superior fielder overall) and partially due to the fact that scouts don't think he's completely filled out yet and he might lose some mobility as he does so.
Part of the reason why the Jays would seem to be willing to trade him is his similarity to Wells in his batting approach; he makes consistent contact, so he doesn't walk a lot. Making a solid statistical comparison from Wells
would be a difficult task because Wells was fast-tracked and played nearly half of all of his minor league games in the Triple-A International League, which Rios hasn't even seen yet. To this point, I would say the Rios has worse plate discipline, but he could have better power potential with a higher batting average and a comparable ability for stealing bases in the end, if last season was a legitimate breakout.
How would Rios fit into the greater scheme for the M's, should they trade for him?
*Currently, the M's are lacking so far as right-handed power goes, and Rios would fill that gap rather nicely.
*In the long run, it would be more to the M's benefit if Rios was capable of handling center field, seeing as how there seem to be a solid number of RF prospects in the system, not to mention Ichiro. Overall, not many of the centerfielders within the system project as true CF currently, which could be a problem in the long-run. Rios would be the top position player in the system regardless, and easily the top OF seeing as how Snelling is frequently hurt, Choo hasn't seen Double-A yet, and most of the others are too inexperienced to be certain.
*Batting-wise, Rios might end up being a little too similar to prospect Jose Lopez, who is also more prone to contact than waiting for a walk. Again, patience can be taught to a certain degree, but it may be of some concern seeing as how there aren't a lot of players who are excellent at getting on base within the system, save for maybe Justin Leone. Not a major concern, but something to think about when other highly-rated prospects (Choo, Snelling, Castro, etc) are going to take similar approaches. It's in keeping with the M's current offensive philosophy, which can be either good or bad depending on how you look at it.
Overall, I think he'd be a bit of a risk. Again, breakout seasons are great, but you like to see repeated performances, and his ascension to top prospect status came in part due to his performance in winter ball, where former Mariners prospect 3B Luis Figueroa hit .422 and had an OPS of 1.099. Who? Exactly. He's still more of a sure thing than a lot of guys would be, though, particularly within our own system.
But is it feasible? Would the Jays go for it and if so what would we have to offer them?
When BA was making their top 10 for the Jays, half of the prospects were pitchers (specifically, all of them were RHP), which is slightly above average. A couple of them reached Double-A to end the season, so a trade would likely include a slightly more advanced pitcher. I'm opposed to anything sending out Nageotte or Blackley, but Johnson could theoretically work, provided they aren't scared off by how he missed the early part of spring training. They could probably use some sort of left-hander as well... I'd suggest Madritsch, but he may not be long for rotation duties... I'd suggest Craig Anderson, but as a soft-tosser he doesn't make much of a blip on the radar. Beyond that, there aren't many lefties in our system that are that close to the majors, unless you wanted to send off Thornton. I don't know enough about the Jays system and their needs to be able to come up with a clear list of what they might ask for that we could provide. Even without Rios, their outfield could manage with Gross eventually taking over in right and someone at the major league level moving to left (or Ford-Griffin there, provided he can handle it), and they seem to have some decent middle infielders. We couldn't provide them with a corner infielder, though they don't seem to have that need anyway. They still might ask for an OF, in which case they might have to give up Choo, but again, if guys who make contact as opposed to walk are that big of a concern for them, they may not want him.
I try not to come up with trade scenarios very often, and with good reason, as most are ridiculously lopsided. I'm not one to claim I know the minor leagues universally and could tell you where the strengths are with each organization either. From what I've read, I would say that major league ready pitching would work and being left-handed would come as a bonus, but the M's (and myself) aren't going to entertain many ideas that involve Blackley or Nageotte leaving. In that case, you'd have to give up a certain quantity, which would likely involve Johnson, possibly one of the Tacoma lefties I mentioned before (or possibly Cate), and some additional filler. I don't know if they would ask for Baek, but if they did, I think I would be able to accept it.
There you have it, my overall take on the idea. I don't think that the Jays are as compatible trading partners as another team might be. For the record, I'll say it's possible, but it doesn't seem as likely as some other scenarios might be. I don't see the Jays taking our pitching scraps for a guy presently thought to be one of the top prospects in all of baseball.
Following up on an earlier mention of OF Eddy Martinez-Esteve, there's a story floating around the net about fellow draft choice 1B John Mayberry Jr.,
who also did not sign. He seems to be happy he isn't in pro baseball yet and is currently studying political science.
I've also hooked up a google search within this blog at the bottom of the page. I just used it to make sure I didn't post the same prospect ranking twice, so check it out
The M's have made four roster moves
, optioning OF Jamal Strong and SS/2B Luis Ugueto to Triple-A Tacoma and reassigning 1B Bucky Jacobsen and C Luis Oliveros to the minor league camp. This leaves the M's with 36 players in camp, though two of them, RHP Aaron Taylor and OF Chris Snelling, have not yet played.
Strong made no less of an impression this cactus league season, save for the fact that he didn't steal any bases. The trade for McCracken made it more difficult for Strong to make the roster, so this move shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Strong ends spring training hitting (and slugging) .444.
Ugueto didn't have a bad cactus league run either, but it's hard to argue with the performance of Ramon Santiago. Ugueto hit/slugged .333/.476, but Santiago hit .429/.629. The presence of Santiago brings Ugueto's future with the club into question; don't be surprise if this is the last time we see him in the M's camp.
Jacobsen, a frequent fan favorite, didn't have much chance to make the club with 1B and DH already set, not to mention a few bench players that could handle either position. Jacobsen displayed more raw power than anyone else in camp, slugging .600 compared to having an average of .267. He should be fun to watch down in Tacoma.
Oliveros had no chance to make the club to begin with, but the fact that he (technically) remained with the club for such a long time would seem to speak highly of defense and ability to call a game. Over the course of the season, his bat shouldn't be too bad either, as he'll hit around or a little under .300 with 15+ doubles, barring injury. He'll be handling the staff down in Double-A San Antonio this year. He should figure into the future for Seattle at this point.
Also, I'm surprised as hell that Mickey Lopez is still in camp, considering he hasn't done anything yet. I mean that, .000 average in ten at-bats.
BA put up a minor league notebook
today that elaborates a little on the M's great depth of starting pitching in the minors...
Mariners Arms Go Deep
As a recent Ask BA detailed, the Mariners have excellent depth at the top of their farm system in terms of starting pitching. But the Mariners are developing excellent depth at their lower levels as well. And it starts, of course, with 17-year-old righthander Felix Hernandez, the organization's No. 1 prospect.
Sometimes, the best judges of talent are other players. "(Players) don't have an agenda," one scouting director says. "They don't go into a game with their mind made up. They just know who the players are. They aren't interested in tools; they're interested in who can play."
And according to players in Arizona minor league, Hernandez is the most impressive player they have seen. He's sporting more than his listed 170 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame and was the talk of Mariners' minor league camp.
"His fastball is filthy, his slider is dirty and his changeup is disgusting," one Padres player said. "You said he's just 17? That's unreal."
Hernandez is listed on the Mariners' high Class A Inland Empire roster.
Another player impressing in Peoria was lefthander Ryan Feierabend, a 6-foot-3, 190-pounder who like Hernandez is on the young side. Just 18, Feierabend is on the Class A Wisconsin roster and has shown stuff similar to that of Australian lefty Travis Blackley, the organization's No. 3 prospect.
However, Feierabend throws harder than Blackley, sitting in the 87-90 range during a Friday intersquad game, with excellent boring action. Feierabend broke two bats among the first five players he faced while also throwing a solid changeup. His slider and curveball need refinement.
But with their pitching depth, the Mariners have time to be patient.
I hadn't realized that Feierabend had been moved up to Wisconsin, but the transaction news has been a bit sparse as of late (BA hasn't listed anything since March 1st, at MLB.com you have to go all the way back to February 17th).
Feierabend was the first (3rd round) of three high school LHP drafted in the early rounds of the 2003 Draft. In six appearances he pitched 20.2 innings, striking out twelve, walking six, and allowing twenty-three hits. Five of his appearances were starts in which he had a 2-3 record; in his sole relief appearance her recorded a save. He was statistically outshined by 6th round pick LHP Eric O'Flaherty, who was used as both a starter and a reliever. Both should figure into the starting rotation for Wisconsin.
A poor showing by low-A Everett and the surprise performance of a few rookies down in Peoria will make the Wisconsin team a very different one from what one might expect. The rotation may be stocked with left-handers; O'Flaherty and Feierabend seem to have spots locked up, but they could be joined by the likes of Sam Hays, Thom Oldham, Beau Hintz (though he should figure to start higher than Wisconsin), and Victor Ramirez from last season's Everett team. The one right-hander who seems like he could have a decent shot is Randy Frye who dominated early on in Everett only to falter later on. There shouldn't be many dark horse candidates from Peoria, but RHP Aaron Jensen, who signed too late to pitch last year, could be in the mix as well and will probably skip Peoria entirely to start the season.
Former Dodgers GM Dan Evans was hired by the Mariners
earlier today. This could possibly be a returned favor as Evans employed Bavasi previously. Evans is similar to Pat Gillick in terms of the way he handles things, though he isn't likely to carry as much influence, seeing as how he'll be primarily a scout.
Not necessarily minors news, but Milwaukee may be scouting Kevin Jarvis, according to today's PI Notebook
. It also mentions that Bocachica is going to see some time around the infield to see how he handles it. It's about time, that's all I can say.
More minor league news today... MLB.com has a story on fan favorite 1B Bucky Jacobsen
. Personally, I'm beginning to wonder how much impact the blogosphere had on the attention he's been getting, seeing as how many have been spreading the news of the Bucky Backers, etc. I'm as surprised as anyone that he's still in camp, though I wonder what kind of impact he'll have in Tacoma. Bucky is the most recent manifestation of the scouting department's "Who needs to draft first basemen?" policy, following in the footsteps of Zapp and Barkett before him. Each year the new first baseman in the upper minors gets some press and is hailed as someone who might be able to make an impact, but none of them have yet lived up to hype. Makes me wonder how long we can go like this before we really need the big bat.
Meanwhile, over at ITP, there's a premium article on LHP Craig Anderson
and how he dealt with camp and picked up a thing or two. It's in a similar vein to the Blackley article, so I recommend it.
The AP wire today has sent out a story on Travis Blackley and Clint Nageotte
. Both should figure into the rotation next year, particularly if they spend the majority of the year in Tacoma, continuing their development. Franklin seems like a good candidate to be bumped. Garcia may be gone, Meche's arm may fall off, but Moyer and Pineiro are fairly certain for rotation duties. I'm a little curious as to how Blackley and Moyer would be affected by being in the same rotation.
Earlier in the broadcast today, they were talking about minor league pitchers, and apparently, Greg Hunter was most impressed by Cha Seung Baek. He seems like a pitcher who would be somewhat similar to Pineiro in terms of what he has and how he pitches.
Bocachica just got two RBI, wooo!
Even as more obscure minor leaguers get thrown into the fray during the late innings of games, the number of relevant articles dwindles. Last night, there was nothing at all ("you have reached the end of the internet, grrr, go back!", points to anyone who knows where that's from). Tonight, there have been a few things of interest. At mlb.com, the play of Jose Lopez at third base
. Detractors of Willie Bloomquist should scroll down quickly lest they see content which may make them cry. It seems as if the Lopez at third experiment is going to continue. While Lopez can seem to play third with ease, I still believe he would have more value at either middle infield position where his range is better suited and his bat factors in better. For now at least. (Speaking of which, 3B Jesus Guzman played first for an inning or two yesterday and I expect we'll hear a lot more on him in the coming years)
The Times did a story on Hiram Bocachica
which is worth noting. I'm supporting his campaign for a roster spot despite his major league experiences thus far. Though I'm beginning to wonder how the roster is going to be filled out. Currently, the 40-man roster is completely filled, so even if the M's were to add a Mulholland or a Myers, they'd have to kick someone else off the roster, and even though payroll is only around $76 million, I'm not sure how willing they would be to swallow Jarvis' contract. If they decided to add the other LHP or Bocachica on top of that (assuming they cut Jarvis, which I am not entertaining as a likely possibility), they'd have to expose a prospect to waivers, make a trade, or put a player on the 60-day DL. For the record, prospects added in the offseason have to stay on the roster for one year, so Baek, Nageotte, Leone, and Dobbs are safe; leaving Christianson, Johnson, Heaverlo, Looper, Madritsch, Putz, Snelling, Strong, Taylor, Thornton, and Ugueto as possible (though not all likely) candidates for removal, assuming Santiago plays his way onto the club. Heaverlo and Taylor have had mild injuries, but nothing warranting 60-day; Christianson was injured most of last season, and is otherwise a mystery, so maybe him, or maybe he could slip under waiver wires. On the trade aspect of things, I could deal with one of the RHP going, most likely Putz or Looper, even if we were only getting something like Buglovsky in return. Uggy would be tolerable too. Even though he is our secret weapon, with all the middle IF we have, he gets a little redundant, especially when we have the same basic thing in Santiago, only better and six months younger.
Ahem... InsideThePark put up an interview with Travis Blackley which is top notch
, truly. Travis responds on how he's had to adapt moving up to the minor league ladder and what he's learned working with major league catchers in camp. His sheer ability to adapt would be a major part of my argument if I were to make a case for him becoming an ace starter. This article seems to indicate that he already approaches hitters mentally on a similar level to Moyer, being able to catalogue and repeat what he's done with different batters in different situations. It's a must read.
Baseball America discusses their overall system rankings
, subscribers only. In a nutshell, M's come in 12th (which you could find out without subscribing), and our weak drafts have been offset by signing foreign talent. True that. Meanwhile on BA, they talk about how former Mariners third-round pick Eddy Martinez-Esteve is tearing it apart for LSU. Ouch.
*In their notebook, the Times does a blurb on RHP Felix Hernandez
On the minor-league side of the complex, Felix Hernandez worked two innings of San Bernardino's game against San Diego's Class A team and continued to be impressive.
The right-hander, who turns 18 on April 8, threw consistently at 95-96 mph and showed his usual sharp slider. He gave up two runs in the first inning off a bad-hop single with two outs, an error and a double inside the third-base bag. Then he worked a 1-2-3 second inning.
*In his latest Sporting News column, Ken Rosenthal
has the following comment concerning the M's Minor league pitchers...
The Mariners' Class AAA rotation will be stocked with prospects, and one scout says it might be better than the Rangers' major league starting staff. The scout is not alone in his opinion: A Cactus League manager says Mariners Class AAA RHP Clint Nageotte is more advanced than Rangers RHP Colby Lewis. . . .
Ouch, but it's probably true all the same.
I'm not going to officially add links to it, seeing as how all the papers are reporting it, but Hiram Bocachica is adding to his case for making the team with another home run today. Personally, I'd prefer him over Willie F. Bloomquist (term borrowed from Grand Salami
, though I swear I thought of it before), because in an argument of intangibles versus performance, the latter should win after a certain point. Speaking of which, USS Mariner commented on this matter
not long ago. To add to their comments...
1. They can and will use Willie in center field and shortstop. Why? Because they had him play center field in the winter leagues a number of times. He's a backup center fielder in the sense that he's played in center field, nothing more, and for some reason that experience will justify it to them. Sort of like how we picked up Matt White after he got hammered in Boston because technically, he had major league experience.
2. Last season they kept switching Lopez and Ugueto between shortstop and second base, but eventually they gave up on the idea and let Lopez stay at short. I'd expect a similar thing to happen between Leone and Lopez. Oh, and Leone did play shortstop for the majority of his college playing time, from what I remember. I doubt he'll have the same range for it, but he's still a solid athlete. You could probably play him at any position and he'd be all right... better than Bloomquist too.
*The Winnipeg Sun also does a brief story on former Winnipeg Goldeneyes LHPs Bobby Madritsch and George Sherrill
and how they were sent down. Nothing major, though.
Again, there hasn't been a lot of news overnight. The Tribune has an article on Tacoma manager Dan Rohn
and how he deals with his marriage with all the travel he has to do. The article speculates that he spent around fifty days at home last year. All you aspiring players out there, keep that in mind.
Jim Callis over at BA has begun an article speculating what the playoffs will be like years down the road
. How does this pertain to the M's? He's on the record as saying the Astros will beat us in the World Series next year. However, this piece focuses primarily on 2007, by which time he expects, despite our Big Three (Hernandez, Pineiro, Nageotte) and Oakland's (Hudson, Harden, Blanton), we'll both be out of it due to lack of offense and the Angels will take the west with a combination of their rising prospects (which they do have) and free agent signings (Alfonso Soriano, Vincente Padilla). If Moreno does continue his spending, it wouldn't surprise me if he did get both. It's too hard to tell what our offense would be like that far down the road, but we'd probably have Lopez, Dobbs, Choo, and Rivera as fairly certain additions, with Jones and Balentien close behind, if not there (primarily because both are good candidates for starting in Wisconsin). I think our pitching may be a little better than speculated because I'm on the record for saying Blackley's going to outperform what we thought he would do. Beyond that... speculation at that great a distance is difficult, and I'll leave the rest for time to decide.