News Around the Minors (1/27/04)
Still not much interesting news going around, but the number of articles being written about the upcoming season is ever increasing.
The Everett Herald has another story on potential centerfielder Jeremy Reed
. Overall, Reed doesn't think he'll just be handed the job, so he intends to work hard to prove he deserves it in ST. This is very in keeping with his personality and the way he plays the game, and all I can say about that is that there should be more like him. It wouldn't surprise me if he put forth similar effort in every ST, regardless of whether or not he has a set job. A good read, I must say, the writing in the Herald and the Tacoma News Tribune is severely underrated.
Baseball America has added their own take on the Betancourt signing
. One of the most interesting notes from this article is that Betancourt was batting leadoff for Cuba in the 2000 World Junior championships. Does that tournament sound familiar to anyone else? It was the same place where the Mariners signed Shin-soo Choo and Travis Blackley. Betancourt is expected to start in San Antonio, where he'll play shortstop most of the time, though there have been suggestions that he could play the outfield or second as well.
Brian at Caffinated Confines has a prospect piece up on Wladimir Balentien
, which has some interesting notes on the power hitters of the pre-steroid era, and how they were considerbaly lighter than contemporary sluggers. Where the comparison comes in is Wlad's listing of 6'2 160 lbs according to SportsNetwork (no rant necessary on that). I'm not too sure about that because at InsideThePark we have him listed as 210 lbs, but the article makes some cool points all the same.
As for the goings-on in Australia, Tim Auty is hitting .250/.294/.312 with New South Wales, which is just barely among the top four teams. Former Mariner Ryan Rowland-Smith hasn't allowed a run in 6.2 innings and has struck out nine compared to one walk. RRS has given up six hits in the same span, which is kind of surprising considering the strikeout numbers, but look at what Craig Anderson is doing... 5.2 IP, 2 hits, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts. Will he be picked up by another team soon? Could he be making a comeback?
FoxSports 61-70 Prospects
Resuming course around here, we turn back to the various prospect rankings coming out. Dayne Perry at FoxSports.com has released his 61-70 prospects
. Coming in at 65 is Mariners OF Shin-soo Choo...
Another product of the Mariners' tremendous scouting efforts in the Pacific Rim, Choo has genuine leadoff skills and a smooth line-drive stroke. This past season, Choo hit .315 AVG/.382 OBP/.462 SLG despite playing in one of the toughest hitting environments in all of Double-A. He has a tremendous throwing arm and excellent defensive skills at the corners. He doesn't profile as much of a power hitter, so he'll need to get on base at a strong clip if he's to remain valuable. Choo's walk rates have declined notably since he was in the Midwest League, so that's a trend to keep an eye on.
Perry brings up a pretty valid point concerning Choo's walk rates. The difference betwee his OBP and his AVG in 2002 was .115, whereas in 2003 it was 79 and just 67 last year. His average has been consistently around .300, however, and I don't have any lingering questions about his ability to make contact. For the most part, he was a fairly inexperienced offensive palyer when we picked him up and though the walk rates right now are unimpressive, he could rebound after a couple of years in the bigs. As for the leadoff skills suggestion, I don't know if I necessarily agree, particularly considering the leadoff man we currently have. Choo might be a pretty decent number two hitter, but if he develops more power you might be able to slide him down to six or so in the order and maintain a pretty solid level of production.
Transaction Update (1/26/05):
The Seattle Mariners have signed Cuban shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt to a major league contract
. To make room for Betancourt, they have designated right-handed pitcher Aaron Looper for assignment.
Betancourt, 22, was blacklisted by Cuban baseball under suspicion of trying to leave the country not long before he escaped on a raft in July of 2003. He established residency in Mexico shortly thereafter, which is why he was considered a free agent and not a draft eligible prospect. From the information I've found on the press release and from other internet sources, I can tell you these things about him...
* He bats right-handed.
* He is thought to be a plus defensively, though he had been playing second base as short was given to Eduardo Paret, who has been with the team since 1995.
* 2002 Statline: .288 average, 43 runs, 4 HR, 45 RBI
* 2003 Statline: .317, 64 runs, 7 HR, 52 RBI
* Played SS for the 17-18-year-old Cuban National team in 2000. Hit .523 during the tournament.
* Considered by Bavasi as the equivalent of a first or second-round talent (think of him as being drafted out of college).
* Will be playing with the Culiacan Tomateros while he awaits the arrival of his visa.
* Was pursued by the Mariners, the Dodgers, the Mets, the Braves, the Rangers and the Red Sox.
* Contract believed to have a worth in the millions.
Update: The AP Wire now has the following information on Betancourt's contract...
Cuban infielder Yuniesky Betancourt agreed Wednesday to a four-year contract with the Seattle Mariners worth $2,826,000... Seattle is giving him a $1.31 million signing bonus and salaries of $316,000 this year, $350,000 in 2006, $400,000 in 2007 and $450,000 in 2008. In addition, his 2008 salary could rise by as much as an additional $700,000 if he has 1,000 plate appearances in the previous three years... If Betancourt accumulates enough service time by the end of the 2007 season to become eligible for salary arbitration, 2008 would be voided.
I like this signing on the whole. When you look at the shortstops we have in our system, the only ones that look like they might stick at the position longterm are Asdrubal Cabrera and Adam Jones, and even that isn't a sure thing. Some think that Cabrera might get a little thick in the lower body for the position (though his other capabilities would compensate decently enough), and others think Jones may end up in centerfield down the line, though no one is suggesting a move at the moment. This gives us one more candidate to throw into the fray, and though I haven't seen him play or talked to anyone who has, it would seem that at 22 he would be easier to project as staying at short (or not) than Jones or Cabrera are at the moment.
, 28, bounced back and forth between the M's and the Dodgers in a couple of trades last season and managed to get 12.2 innings in Tacoma before requiring Tommy John surgery on his elbow. At best, he might be throwing at the end of spring training, but probably would not be ready on a competitive level until around mid-season. For that reason, I don't think it's too likely that he'll be picked up by anyone, though if he was, I wouldn't really consider it a loss. I stand to gain more sleep than I'll lose in this transaction.
One Year Anniversary Post
Well, here we are. A year ago today I started this endeavor. I don't remember what exactly started this all. I seem to remember post by someone on USSM suggesting a need for a minor league blog, to which I thought, "Hey, I could do that." Little did I know at the time that I would be getting myself into somewhere around 700-750 game recaps before the season was over. Or that Joe would be asking me to write for InsideThePark a few days later. Or that sometime mid-February, Jason and I would be talking prospects on MSN until five in the morning, by which time we were digging through VSL roster trying to figure out who would make an impact.
Suffice to say it's been a bit of an adventure and I've learned a lot. I've learned the tools of the trade when it comes to gathering information (read as: Google), I've figured out how to conduct decent interviews (provided the subject can speak English), and I can now HTML my way out of a dry paper bag about as well as I can a wet one. The knuckleball, I'm still trying to figure out.
I've also had any number of people help out along the way either with inside info, getting the writing and format in order hereabouts, or just bouncing ideas back and forth. Like any list, there are bound to be some accidental omissions, but it's worth trying anyway, these people helped make it possible. Thanks to...
, Corey the Optimist
, Paul Covert, James Crockett
, Michael at Diamond Futures
, Brad Dowdy
, Brian Durack
, the front offices of the various M's affiliates, g-moneyball
, Grand Salami
, the guys at InsideThePark
(Churchill, Clark, Kaiser, Tac... I mean, Levin), JC, Bobby Lamont, Jeff and Trent at Leone for Third
, Rick Michels
, Steve Nelson
, the players who put up with me, Larry Robinson, Mike Saeger
, Sid Sherrill, Dave Sund
, Jim Thomsen, Mike Thompson
, USS Mariner
(all of the guys at one point or another), Peter White
, and all those who bothered to read and e-mail
What's next for this site? I have no idea. The game itself has been around for well over one hundred years and yet we're still finding new things about it. My part of things is just to cover what's happening on the farm and on the international front. This season it looks like I'll be handling transactions for ITP in some capacity, but I'm always looking for ways to improve the content around here. I may even add some off-topic music posts just for kicks, though my top albums of 2004 are still a work in progress (right now The Secret Machines, Franz Ferdinand, and The French Kicks hold the top three spots). I may even switch the layout around as I've been suggesting I ought to do for some time now. Finally, among my most lofty goals, I realize that I spent about four hours on the various messenger services during the season last year. In 2005, I hope to double that.
Thanks again to everyone for nearly 100,000 page hits this past year. Just 21 days 'til pitchers and catchers report.
News Around the Minors (1/25/05)
As most of you have undoubtedly already found, the Seattle PI has an article on how various M's fared in the winter leagues
. Most of the major points on this one have already been hit on, but as I said in the USSM thread, notice how Hickey says Thornton pitched in 10 games instead of 11.2 innings. That would be why I've been a bit more subdued on his performance.
Also in the PI, Jim Moore does a piece on outfield prospect Jeremy Reed
. Given Moore's earlier success with Cirillo, I'm a little leery of his pieces, but it does give some decent insight into Reed and what some others within the organization think of him.
One of the college sports sites is doing a piece on former USF players
, including Dustin Delucchi, though they spell his name incorrectly. Delucchi was looking to be an interesting indie league pickup in 2003, but this past season wasn't quite as impressive. Also in the article, mention of Tagg Bozied, who goes down in Rainiers lore for beating them on a walk-off grand slam, then jumping on home plate so hard he busted his leg for the rest of the season.
The Wisconsin Post-Crescent really loves their Timber Rattlers, because they're already talking about what next year's team might look like
. Note that last season's 57-82 record was the second worst in T-Rats history, right ahead of 2002's 53-86 team. In the 2002 team's defense, they did have Shin-soo Choo, Ryan Ketchner, Ryan Rowland-Smith, and they all should have regular roles in the majors. Some of the other guys on the team weren't so bad either. Perhaps the same will happen for 2004's T-Rats.
I also have a new piece up on InsideThePark concerning those who missed the top 50 cut
. This one was co-written with Ian Levin, but the Carlos Arroyo through Mike Wilson section was my doing. Free content, not brilliant, but free.
The Miami Herald has more on the situation of baseball in Venezuela
, which amounts to more robberies and kidnappings. The Seattle Mariners training facility was even attacked by an armed gang, which goes to show why there were only nine teams operating there last season. How long MLB teams will be willing to invest in such a risky endeavor is uncertain, but the players remain loyal to their respective teams in the country's winter leagues, in spite of the danger.
As a final note, Japanese third baseman Norihiro Nakamura is set to be posted shortly
. Nakamura is a solid defensively, but his bat has lagged in recent years. Whereas in previous years he might slug .600, the last two seasons he's been around .470. The Dodgers are rumored to be looking at him at the moment.
Wait 'Til Next Year's Top 5 Prospects
The wait is finally over and, unsurprisingly, Felix has come in the top five
, at number two, though not without some reservations...
In twenty years, when I look back on this list, I see myself thinking only two things about my selection of Felix as second overall. Furious for not choosing him first, or nodding that while TINSTAPP is extreme, it has a good point. This is to say that the only thing holding back Hernandez from greatness is a right arm that will throw about 400 professional innings before turning 20.
There’s nothing to dislike about Hernandez stuff-wise. From watching him in the Futures Game, I can tell you that he throws a fastball as well as anyone in the minors, and his curve would already be one of the 15 or so best in the Major Leagues. Furthermore, Jim Callis of Baseball America (no link, sorry) reported that Felix has a slider that has yet to be debuted. With that, Felix could take off even more, reaching unprecedented levels if his arm doesn’t fall off.
What impressed me most this season was King Felix’s (as coined by U.S.S. Mariner) ability to adjust to a level. In his first nine California League starts, Felix had a 3.59 ERA, 48 hits in 47.2 innings with 53 strikeouts, 14 walks, and five home runs allowed. In his last seven: 1.61 ERA, 37 hits in 50.1 innings, 61 strikeouts, twelve walks and zero homers. This works for the Texas League too, his first four AA starts: 4.79 ERA, 21 hits in 20.2 innings, nineteen strikeouts, nine walks and three home runs. And in his last six, Felix had a 2.45 ERA, allowing just 26 hits in 36.2 innings with thirty-nine strikeouts, twelve walks and zero home runs. That, my friends, is impressive.
Equally impressive is Seattle’s decision to not allow Felix to pitch in the Venezuelan League this winter. They realize the talent they have, and are not going to risk his right arm after numerous problems with that in the organization. The fifth starter spot in Seattle is wide-open, and if Felix doesn’t grab it in Spring Training, he should have it before the All-Star Break. The marketing potential of Ichiro and Felix in the future likely makes that Mariner department tickle, as they should be the top two in that regard in the game soon.
Chalk it up to Bryan to pull up some stats displaying how Felix adjusts to the league. While I was previously in the camp of "maybe he needs more time in San Antonio because his control was a little off", perhaps Tacoma is where he belongs (and what case you could make for San Antonio would be mostly weather related). Though I must add that reports recently have indicated that Felix will NOT make the camp out of spring training barring extreme circumstances. Whether or not this changes before camp draws to a close, this is the line currently being given to the press last I heard.
Notes From the Winter Leagues
Baseball America's latest Prospect Pulse
happens to mention not one, but two Mariners prospects as they glean over the winter leagues in search of news...
Former independent leaguer Rick Guttormson was making a name for himself in Venezuela as the top reliever in the league not nicknamed “El Guapo.” While former Red Sox reliever Rich Garces led the league with 13 saves, Guttormson, 28, posted a 1.15 ERA over 31 innings for Lara to help the Cardinals win their division. Guttormson, who went through indy ball after the Padres released him, saved 25 games at Double-A San Antonio for the Mariners last year. “I’ve worked on throwing my two-seam fastball more, getting depth on my slider and mixing in a changeup,” he said of his Venezuelan stint. “I’ve had most of my success using my fastball down here, pitching up and down, in and out. I even started working on a cutter, but winning is everything down here, so I just had to use my strengths and get the job done.”
Mayaguez infielder Erick Monzon (Mariners) was named the Puerto Rican League’s rookie of the year. The 23-year-old, signed as a nondrafted free agent out of Division II Tampa, wasn’t a complete unknown—the Rangers drafted him in the 29th round out of high school in 1999. However, Monzon wasn’t drafted again and signed with the Mariners in 2004. He hasn’t stopped hitting since, batting .339-7-18 in 115 at-bats with high Class A Inland Empire during the season, then hitting .241-3-8 in 54 at-bats for Mayaguez while slugging .431 and playing second base and shortstop. “He was a very pleasant surprise,” Mayaguez general manager Carlos Pieve said.
Guttormson, oddly enough, was not among those invited to the spring training camp
, nor were Rich Dorman, Brett Evert, Jeff Heaverlo, Cesar Jimenez, and Bobby Livingston, among the pitchers of interest out there. The latter two are understandable considering their relative inexperience (and both will likely make the 40-man next year anyway), but Dorman
is about as interesting as Dan Reichert
anyway, the difference being that Dorman has not yet touched triple-A and was drafted in the 13th round as a catcher instead of the 1st round as a pitcher, as Reichert was. Both present similar problems, hard throwers, but possessing breaking balls that are hard, but occasionally inconsistant, leading to control issues. Don't get me wrong, anything that keeps them from prematurely throwing Nageotte to the bullpen after last year's disappointment works for me, and there are far worse pickups than Reichert (Kida, for example).