Q: Ralph Wiggum from Springfield asks:There was some discussion of the King Felix nickname in one of the diaries at John Sickels' blog, and the real origins of the nickname (which I didn't know either) can be found there. |
Jim, Shin-Soo Choo occasionally struggled in his first Triple-A season but finished strongly and continued to demonstrate patience and speed to complement his outstanding defensive abilities. Why did he not received more support from PCL managers and coaches?
A: Jim Callis: Choo had 37 extra-base hits in a full-season in the PCL. The Mariners have projected him to develop power, but it just hasn't come yet. Not making the Top 20 in a 16-team league doesn't mean Choo isn't a prospect. But he's going to have to start driving more balls to play regularly in the majors as a right fielder.
Q: Mike Marinaro from Tampa, FL asks:
Jim: In all your time spent studying minor leaguers, have you ever seen anybody as equipped and refined as Felix Hernandez at his age? What do you expect out of him next year?
A: Jim Callis: Among pitchers, no, can't even think of anyone else who was close. I think King Felix will be one of the top 10 starters in the American League next year at age 20.
Q: Jerry from Mexico asks:
Jim, Love your coverage of the M's system. You guys do great work. I have a question about my favorite M's prospect: Chris Snelling. He absolutely destroyed PCL pitching this year, and was doing well in his brief callup before injuring his knee again. Was he close to the top-20? Was the injury the only reason he was left off? And do you think that has any chance to be a quality ML player?
A: Jim Callis: Jerry, Snelling is one of my favorite Mariners prospects too. I've been calling him the Australian Pete Reiser for years, and unfortunately, while he has kept hitting he also has kept getting hurt. The injuries are the main reason he missed. Doing a Top 20 in a 16-team league, it's hard to put guys on there if they don't project as big league regulars. And multiple scouts told me while they like Snelling's bat, it's impossible at this point to think he'll stay healthy enough to play every day.
Q: David Testa from L.A.,CA asks:
Jim love you on BA and ESPN, tell me Jim what are the major differences betweek PCL and International league, why is it that PLC has much better hitters?
A: Jim Callis: For the most part, it's the parks. A lot of the West Coast parks in the PCL really favor hitters.
Q: from asks:
Jim i have a hypothetical question, if a player is a #2 on the pitching staff in AAA, and if he stays healthy is it reasonable to expect him to be a #2 type of guy in majors, in few years can we expect similar numbers in the majors as he had in AAA? Thanks
A: Jim Callis: I don't think that's reasonable. There's a significant difference between Triple-A and the majors, so a guy won't just eventually assume his same role and performance in the big leagues.
Q: Al from Boston asks:
General prospect question: I've heard about several prospects who don't have "the same stuff" as they did in college. What are the explanations for this? How does a prospect lose stuff, other than through injury.
A: Jim Callis: Jay from Madison also just asked a similar question. I think one of the big reasons is that as amateurs, starting pitchers usually work once a weak. As pros, they go every fifth day, and some guys just don't adapt as well. In Brownlie's case, he had biceps tendinitis as a Rutgers junior, so that could have contributed as well. And I think it's also the general nature of pitching--it's hard to predict and this just happens sometimes.
Q: King Rich Harden from Vancouver, BC asks:
Hey Jim, is it just me or is "King Felix" the lamest nickname ever? I mean, how many famous kings named "Felix" have you ever read about in history class?? Last I checked, "Felix" was a name you give to a cat, not a king.
A: Jim Callis: Hey, I didn't make it up. But I like it.
Q: Jay from Madison asks:
Who would you rather have for next year. Felix or Prior. Who do you think will have the better career?
A: Jim Callis: Oh man . . . give me Prior for 2006 but give me King Felix for his career. But like any big league club, I'd be happy with either one of them. Thanks for all the great questions. Chris Kline will be here tomorrow with our final Top 20 chat -- on the International League.
G: One of the worst performances first. The 19 year old from Taiwan didn’t have a great showing in the Arizona League, but he was one of the first locks for this list.Miguel Marquez – 10/28/87, 6’3”, 180 lbs RHP
If you want to see why he’s on this list, please visit this link:
When you convert those numbers to MPH, it’s 9 innings with him still hitting 92-93 at the end, topping out around 95 – at 18. He’s built like a horse, if a horse is being given horse growth hormone. He has good control for a teenager, great late movement on the breaker, and good movement on the FB - which moves a bit like Nomo’s, with that sharp extra bite after it leaves his hand.
Huang has some tics in his delivery and some bad habits, but if they’re polishing those out of him that alone could account for his bad summer.
He’s one to watch no matter what this set of numbers says, so he’s on this list.
J: I’ll freely admit that I’m a sucker for three major types of pitchers: left-handers who will throw every pitch in the book, knucklers, and guys with extreme ground ball ratios. Back when he was still in the division, I hated knowing that Tim Hudson was coming up the next time we faced Oakland, but I could rarely tear myself away from the screen.
Huang comes in the last category, but he had some trouble this year as far as keeping the ball down, possibly because they were working out mechanical issues. There were a few more fly balls than usual, but if he can improve on that part of his game, he’s going to be pretty hard to face off against.
In addition to the late-breaking slider and darting fastball, I’ve heard he has a an extremely hard sinker, referred to only as “The Shooter”, that comes in looking about the same velocity as a normal four-seemer, but takes a nasty dive at the end and can sometimes leave an unsuspecting batter holding nothing more than a knob.
My main worry with him isn’t related to anything physical. The kid’s built for endurance, as G said, and the issues with his delivery can be corrected, but the Mariners have had some high-potential players who’ve ended up with some issues making the adjustment to year-round baseball an the American way of life, namely, Chao Wang.
G: Who has a worse line than Huang on this list? Miguel Marquez. Not only did opposing batters hit .327 off of him, but with 13 unearned runs, his R/9 was actually 9.72. Gah.Marwin Vega – 10/27/86, 6’0”, 175 lbs, RHP
But he’s still not voting age, according to JFrom he’s got an absolute cannon as a teenager, and he learned as the season went along and got better. Progress + prowess = prospect, especially in a baby like Marquez. As far as I know we pulled him straight into the minor league system without a run through either of the foreign leagues first, so the M’s also think very highly of him.
J: Sick of seeing a young guy who I knew nothing about listed on the Peoria roster, I did some digging around for info on Marquez for a while, diving through the old Venezuelan newspaper online archives. Eventually I hit paydirt with an article that announced his signing last year.
So what do we know about him? Well, it says that he was averaging 94 mph on his fastball around the time we signed him, there was a big bidding war for his services, and one of the M’s top scouts in Venezuela, Emilio Carrasquel, said that Marquez was the best 16-year-old pitcher in the country.
And that’s about the extent of it. In terms of secondary pitches, delivery, approach, I got nothin’. Marquez was 17 for the whole season and won’t turn 18 until the end of October, so he’s got time on his side, for one thing. For another, he struck out sixteen in his last two starts, pitching ten innings total in that span. The M’s couldn’t have expected too much out of him, given that it was his first season and he probably belonged in the VSL, but I’m liking the flashes of brilliance.
G: Another baby, this one not turning 19 for another month. Marwin has good stuff but got a bit rattled early in the season at Everett, leading to his demotion to the AZL. He found his focus by the end of the season, though, and still has plenty of shine on his prospect-hood.Harold Williams – 9/23/84, 6’3”, 180 lbs, LHP
A concern about Vega may be his height – I get nervous when guys clock in at exactly six feet, because there’s this myth in MLB that pitchers shorter than 6 feet cannot succeed, so a lot of shorter players make sure they get the six foot listing. And while 6 feet is not some magical success barrier, hard throwers who are short and slender are usually not long for this league. Seeing a picture of Marwin might help alleviate my concerns, so maybe JFrom can hook me up there.
J: I saw Vega from the press box, and while it wasn’t close enough to tell for certain, I’d say he’s closer to six feet than Casey Craig is. Decent build for a pitcher too, not too wiry, and seems like he should have the endurance to stick. He also posted three groundouts for each flyout, which is just insane.
He has the same issues you’ll see from a lot of younger pitchers. He’s more comfortable pitching outside than in, and his breaking ball has yet to define itself as either a distinct curveball or slider, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary. I did come away impressed by his change-up, which clocked as low as the mid-60s on the Everett radar gun.
Overall, I had a couple of questions when the M’s made the decision to promote Vega over some of the other VSL guys with some prettier stats, and he did have his share of bad outings, but the potential is there. If he can add some velocity to his fastball, watch out.
G: The man who earned a late-season promotion out of the desert to Everett due to his tremendous year.Tyrone Lamont – 4/3/85, 6’4”, 210 lbs, RHP
He’s a JuCo kid, IIRC, but since he just turned 21 I don’t hold that against him. He should have been the best of the group and he was, so why make that an issue?
Anybody who can throw almost 50 innings and keep hitters under 9 H/9 in the hitter’s wet dream that is the Arizona League is doing a great job – and Harold kept his opposing batters near 7, with good control. Keep an eye on him – he may be at Wisconsin to start next season, and that’s a league much more conducive to good pitchers having great success.
Could be fun.
J: These JuCo guys can be a pain to dig for info on most of the time, and all I can get from Williams’ time at Cerritos College was that he was a standout for the track team, making his mark in relays and the javelin toss.
Javelin, baseball, eh, I’m just glad he’s on our side, and the M’s probably are too, considering they drafted him twice, once in the 43rd round of 2003 and most recently in the 38th round of ’04.
A lot of left-handers with college experience and a change-up can tear an inexperienced league apart right away, but Williams was younger than most of those types that we’ve seen before. I’d credit a lot of his success in the unfavorable climate to getting guys to be the ball into the ground. He had forty-nine groundouts to thirty-eight fly outs, and while that’s not too impressive, the whole thing is skewed by a game where he had two ground balls to ten fly outs, and ended up taking the loss.
G: Tyrone’s a big kid from South Africa. We signed his coach to scout Africa – specifically South Africa’s 70,000+ players – for us, and signed Lamont to throw some innings. He was a pretty strong hitter too, but we liked his power arm a whole lot. I’m not really sure what kept him in the desert for the second year in a row, because last year he put up this line:Out in the cold:
1-1, 3.31 ERA in 32.2 IP, 25 hits (2 HR), 19 runs (12 ER), 27K/13BB
Still, he did sharpen up his control, add a K and a half per 9, and otherwise show off. Hopefully he’ll get some full-season work next year, but I’ll take what I can get.
J: With the lower levels, we prospect watchers don’t have a lot to go on aside from the numbers. After he had a 2:1 K/BB last year and an extremely low opposing batting average last year, I was calling for Laz’s promotion to Wisconsin.
Well, here we are, a year later, and he’s still beating up on inferior hitters, though his ERA got heavily skewed due to some awful bullpen work behind him. And I STILL don’t know what he throws. But we might be able to infer that, because he had some power as a position player, that his fastball might have some heat to it.
South Africa might end up as one of the next big places that the M’s look for talent, though they’re behind the Brewers and the Royals in their scouting there, if you can believe that. Lamont is definitely a fine first signing.
G: Another 19-year-old wunderkind from Down Under. We can only hope that he's got Snelling's skills without his injury risk, but Auty was my pick of the next Aussie class to succeed, and he got off on the right foot State-side.Ronald Garth: 11/05/84, 5'11", 165 lbs, RH 2B
Good strikezone judgement, great ability to put the ball in play, and he was a doubles machine. I'd have liked to see some hop the fence, but at his age I can live with the spate of doubles. He can also handle CF, so let’s see where that leads. I'm hoping they jump him right up to Wisconsin to start next season, but that may just be because I want to hear about him in April instead of waiting for short-season ball to start.
J: As far as skills go, Auty seems to have a lot going in his favor. He’s said to have above-average speed, though he only had one stolen base in two attempts this year, and his arm, another big asset for him, would allow for an easy transition to right, if he can’t stick in center.
He probably could’ve held his own up in Everett this season, but instead he hit .400 for much of the Arizona League season, and the peripherals are too good to say it was all luck.
I also think he’s earned himself a promotion to Wisconsin, but there are a lot of deserving candidates and most of them are outfielders. I won’t like it if he’s on the outside looking in, but it’s really going to be a tough call.
G: With a name like that, Garth can only be from...Nicaragua? Huh. Garth did manage to prove it doesn't matter where you're from, just where you're going - and how fast. Those are some nice stats, no matter that the OBP was significantly increased due to his EIGHT HBPs. What, does he straddle the plate and swing like he's playing croquet? Ronald's gonna have to be good to make an impact in a system with potential phenoms strewn all over the infield, but with such a promising debut, he should get a good long look. Having 18 of your 40 hits be XBHs can do that sometimes…Greg Halman: 8/26/87, 6'4", 192 lbs, RH OF/1B?
J: I’ve watched Garth bounce around the summer leagues for a while now, spending two years in Venezuela and last season in the Dominican, though he might’ve played here had it not been for the visa snafu (between putting him or Valbuena in Everett, I think the M’s made the right choice). He’s shown signs of being a capable hitter all along, but this is really the first time he’s stood up and said “I’m better than these chumps”, so my enthusiasm is tempered ever so slightly.
Even if the numbers do take a step back, he’s not solely a second baseman, and can play other positions if need be, with the exception of center, short, and catcher. That may help him bypass that middle infield glut, if he has to.
G: One of the babies of the system, Greg was 17 for much of the year. Which makes his budding power numbers and plate patience that much more impressive. 1K every 4 ABs isn't that good, but as he IS very young, I can wait for that to improve. We're just short on power hitters, either at 1B or in the OF, so every power prospect that comes through I want to cling to with both hands, and hug, and squeeze, and stroke his pretty feathers...Oz Graterol: 8/27/84, 6'1", 175 lbs, RH OF
Ahem. Greg has power. He's not lost at the plate. So we'll see how he does against better competition where the ball doesn't carry as much, but his 89 ABs - small a sample size as they are - are good enough for me right now. Last I heard, the Ms might let him play some winter ball to get a better idea of what he’s capable of before they place him for next season.
J: Like a number of the new international players, there are some questions as to what the M’s have in Halman. Duck, or bunny rabbit? Slugging outfielder, or one of their first serious first base prospects in a long time?
Whatever his position, the hitting prowess he showed in his peripherals is legitimate. When he was sixteen, he tore apart the Dutch professional baseball league, taking home MVP honors and nearly walking away with the Triple Crown. Not that the Netherlands is at the height of competition, but they did place fourth in the recent world cup and are about as good as you can get on the European continent.
Taking his age into consideration, the M’s have some time to decide what to do with him, so he may not leapfrog any of the leagues just yet. But please, find a way to get him more at-bats.
G: When Oswaldo finally earned his promotion from the Venezuelan League (where he’s been with us since at least ’02) to a stateside one, he took full advantage. His percentage of whiffs is borderline, his walk numbers are very good, last I heard he does hit to all fields and per JFrom’s assessment also uses his arm as a weapon from the outfield.Eddy Hernandez: 8/04/84, 6'3", 170 lbs, LH OF
Yeah, he can make my list, even if 7/12 was all he could pull off in steals. He too may be playing winter ball to further impress the brass and try to escape short-season for the joys of Springtime in Wisconsin. When he sees the freezing rain, he may reconsider.
J: At the very least, Graterol should get some time in the minor leagues of the Venezuelan Winter League in the coming months, and while info on that is quite limited, I’ll take what I can get. It certainly can’t hurt his development.
He has a lot more power than he showed this year, which is surprising, considering how hitter-friendly the Arizona League can be, but it could be the same sample-size mess the rest of the Peoria M’s got caught in. He hit seven longballs in the VSL last year, which is no small feat, considering Wlad Balentien had ten in his final season there.
G: Eddy's the oldest guy on this list (at a whopping 21 years and almost 2 months) and is part of the Ms new desire to select a bunch of guys named Hernandez to put around Felix to make him feel at home. Luckily, Eddy's also pretty talented.
I’m interested to see if he will fill out a bit more and keep his power potential at higher levels. Since left-handed power is the desired approach for the Safe, I’d like to start growing some in the farm-system rather than relying on other teams to let us have theirs.
J: Another pain as far as roster management went, Eddy ended up with the least at-bats of any of the “regulars” on the Peoria roster. The read on him leaving the DSL last year wasn’t great either, as his numbers were mostly average, but I give the M’s the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their promotions from the summer leagues and Eddy didn’t disappoint. All the guys ranked ahead of him in the home run race had 10-110 more at-bats, and his eye at the plate seems good enough.
While Auty certainly deserves to make the jump, the M’s might give stronger consideration to putting Hernandez and/or Graterol in Wisconsin simply because of the age and experience differences.
J: This year’s token dominating college southpaw on the staff, Rohrbaugh is following in the tradition of Troy Cate and Thom Oldham started in previous years. While he wasn’t as dominant as either of them, he was a big part of the T-Rats run during the Midwest League playoffs, going 14.2 innings total and giving up just a pair of runs on ten hits and three walks, while he struck out twelve.Stephen Kahn: 12/14/83, 6’3”, 215 lbs, RHP
Stop me if you’ve heard this scouting report before, but he has a mid-to-high 80s fastball, a late breaking curve, and a change-up, which could be his best pitch. G seems to think that there might be more there, but I’ll let him speak on that matter.
The M’s needed to restock pitching badly in this draft, and if the Inland staff needs another shot in the arm next season, Rohrbaugh might be their guy.
G: If I had to pick one guy in the low minors who could IMMEDIATELY add 4-5 MPH to his fastball just by fixing mechanical flaws, it’d be Rohrbaugh. He’s a talented kid who’s hungry for the strikezone, but he should throw harder than 87. This isn’t like Livingston, who CAN throw 90 but prefers the movement he gets at 86, this is a guy who’s being held back by the way he pitches.
I’ve said it before, but I’m gonna keep repeating it until some pitching coach fixes it: his plant foot is inconsistent, so he makes up for it by torquing his arm to compensate. Not only is that bad for his arm, but it kills the forward momentum of the movement. He’s stepping right and throwing left at times, and if he could get that fixed, he should be in the 90-92 range. I like his moxie, but his current game isn’t gonna hold at higher levels. He either needs to refine that breaker more or fix his mechanics so he can throw harder.
Still, I like Rohrbaugh, and AA is a ways away yet. He should keep killin’ em right through Inland. It’s the jump after that for which he needs to be better prepared…
J: One of the nice steals the M’s pulled off in this draft, Kahn probably should’ve been picked even higher than the fifth round, but he decided he’d rather get going against pro competition rather than wait for his stock to improve.Edgar Guaramato: 08/05/84, 6’1”, 170 lbs, RHP
While he had a tremendous sophomore year, this year, his fastball dropped a MPH or two and he wasn’t throwing it with the same command as he had previously. That might throw off the warning signals for some, but the drop-off wasn’t that significant, just enough to raise eyebrows.
He was a starter in college, but this year he was the Aquasox closer down the stretch. If they do go with him as a power reliever, then he could be the first pick from this draft class to make it to the majors.
G: I agree with J: He could be the first guy to make it to the majors if they bullpen him. Therefore, I’m hoping he’s not the first guy. I don’t like turning the Nageottes and Kahns of the system into relievers, but if you’re gonna do it, do it AFTER a guy proves he can’t start.
He throws hard, heavy stuff, and I appreciate that in my pitchers, whatever their role is. He’s got to refine his command of it, but I’m not sure how much of that is due to his sudden move to the pen after a full college season. He also needs to get away from his fastball a bit; it’s his comfort pitch and there were games he didn’t break out the breaker at all.
He won’t have the “AA hitters crush the changeup” problem that Rohrbaugh could run into, so his advancement should be pretty level – assuming that command comes back. If he’s gonna be given a chance to start, it’ll probably be at Wisconsin, but he could drop into Inland Empire as a reliever if the Ms want to push him. April’s a long time to wait to find out.
J: Yeah, he had his share of meltdowns early on in the season, some of them particularly toxic, but for a guy who’s been pitching for all of two years (he was an infielder before) and had to face off against college-level hitters, I’d say he did all right.Paul Fagan: 04/13/85, 6’5”, 195 lbs, LHP
Fans of Rafael Soriano will dig him right away, though his fastball isn’t quite as hot and his slider is quite a bit better. If he polishes up his command, hitters won’t stand much of a chance against him. He continually gets them to beat the ball into the ground (2.74 G/F ratio, .079 ISO SLG against), and it’s hard to go wrong doing that.
My big question is whether they’ll turn him loose in the rotation, or keep him locked up in the ‘pen, but either way he’s a really interesting arm.
G: Another power arm in the pen. I don’t care at Everett, but you can’t lock all these guys in there system-wide. Soriano crushed the minor leagues with one and a half pitches, and ‘Gar has that now. What’s the holdup?
The guy is a brutal relief pitcher, and I looove the G/F, but I’d like to see him stretch it out as a starter. It’s hard to tell with bullpenners whether they can actually throw low-90s with some mid 90s spikes for a whole game, or just an inning, and I’d like to know. Still, FB/slider pitchers tend to be the ones whose arms come off sometime during a game and have to be put back together by all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, so maybe the pen is safer for now.
As J said, he’s still learning the craft. All it takes is one “Eureka” moment to turn him from a live arm into a dominating pitcher, so Guaramato is definitely on the short list of guys to watch next year.
J: The M’s went after lefties in the 2003 draft like it was going out of style, picking up four highly regarded high school southpaws out of the class. Fagan was the token sinker/slider specialist, but while the others have all moved on to full-season ball, he was left behind in short-season for a third year.David Asher: 02/18/83, 6’1”, 195 lbs, LHP
Consistency has been the main reason why the others have moved on ahead of him. Much of the time, he appears to be an above-average starter for the league, but it seems like there’s a stretch of time each season where he gets his head handed to him.
But the good news is that he didn’t really run into that this season, and appeared to avoid trouble most of the time. The K/BB is still a little concerning, but I’ve been on the watch for him to have a breakout season for a few years now, and it looks like he’s getting closer.
G: The sinker can be a touch pitch, like a forkball. You overthrow it and it buries itself a foot in front of the plate. You underthrow it and it doesn’t sink, turning into a helpless meatball pitch waiting to be crushed by opposing hitters.
When it’s working, it’s a thing of beauty, so it’s worth investing the time to see if a pitcher can get the good nasty kind, the heavy ball that can’t be made to clear the infield.
I’d like to see more swings and misses from a guy who throws some swing-n-miss pitches, but Fagan still looks to me like a work in progress: trouble with the zones (walks + 11 WP) but a good G/F ratio of 1.91. He’s still just 20, though, so he’s not behind in his development.
I want to see him in 150 innings, and after finally proving he can escape short-season without setting the bullpen on fire behind him, we should get that chance. If you want a comparison, think Derek Lowe: decently talented guy who took a little while to figure out his stuff. He got crushed his first (and second) trip above short-season, but once he figured out the sinker/slider/curve thing he came around.
J: Another sinkerball lefty? How’d we get so lucky? It’s true, G and I have developed a bit of a bias that works in Asher’s favor (mine is more evident, I share a birthday with him), which mostly revolves around an interesting story as to why he didn’t get drafted as a junior, but I’ll leave that part to G, as he’s the one that found it initially.
One of the first picks to sign with the M’s, he was slotted to bullpen work and ended up getting tagged with five losses, most of them revolving around a late-season fade when he started giving up hits in the bunches. Can’t really pin it on the guys relieving him either, as few of his inherited runners scored. But I’d say he’s a pretty safe bet to improve significantly in 2006.
G: Asher was tremendous until he hit the wall. Most college guys do; starters get to work their way past it and pitch out the other side while relievers just get tagged with crappy numbers for their trouble.
Some of his numbers are still tremendous. Walks were good, Ks were outstanding, he kept the ball in the park…and I have to say, I love his determination.
A couple of years ago he got run over by his own car in a parking lot and dragged around for several minutes. He had 60+ stitches, a broken hip, broken pelvis, third-degree pavement burns over much of his body…and had to relearn how to pitch with his new, jacked-up frame.
Dude just transferred colleges and figured it all out – again. I like several parts of his game, but I love his attitude. Fighters get the benefit of the doubt from me, so Asher’s mah boy.
J: Don't go nuts over those home run numbers. Please. It's true he led the league in the category, but Everett Memorial is a high school stadium when the Aquasox aren't using it and the dimensions are more than cozy. There's almost no precedent for these kinds of numbers in his VSL seasons either.Jeff Flaig: 3/03/85, 6'2". 185 lbs, RH 1B/OF
But I can tell you this much: everything I saw him get wood on was hit with authority, and there's no reason why he shouldn't settle in the high teens for a full-season home run total. Factor in his good eye at the plate and the number of doubles he'll be getting, and that's a pretty good offensive output, for a second baseman.
But that's just the thing, if he moves off to third or left field, that production isn't quite so exciting. He's good there right now (though Everett fans have been spoiled in recent years on middle infield defense), but if he gets any bigger, he may become a liability.
G: 5'10, 160 huh? Maybe the 5'10" part. Still, I like his game - even if he might not exactly be a 40 HR guy in the making.
7.75 ABs/K is flat-out excellent, and practically a 1:1 K/BB is similarly a good sign. It's not like this is a fluky-good year for Luis either: his last year in the VSL was flat-out outstanding. He hit .365/.446/.559 in 222 at-bats there at 19 and won himself a league MVP. His on-base skills seem very good for a Latin-style hitter and he's a pretty fearless guy. He'll need to work on his D around the bag at second, but there are few players like an Asdrubal Cabrera, so good with a bat and a glove at such a young age. Valbuena's about where he should be.
There ain't nuthin' wrong with being a stocky 2B with bat skills; that's what we want out of Lopez, right? I agree that Valbuena will have to try to stay at 2B, but if he can, he should progress rapidly through the system.
J: Flaig was touted as being comparable to Troy Glaus coming out of high school, but he messed up his right shoulder severely and required rotator cuff and labrum surgery shortly after being drafted. That's put him on the right corner of the infield indefinitely (or the left side of the outfield, though I'm not quite as fond of that idea), but with his power seeming to come back this year, it seems as if he's recovering nicely.Reed Eastley: 7/24/83, 6'2", 210 lbs, LH IF
Scouts seemed to think that he was trying to pull the ball too much, and I guess that's understandable if he was trying to prove himself without being at full strength, but it seems to have made for some ugly Ks. Pitchers also seemed to figure him out as the season wore on, despite his excellent start.
He should be playing a full-season next year, and I'd like to see him work on walking a bit more.
G: Shoulder rehabs are tough. Ask Sexson. But Jeff busted his hump and put some strength back in his arm, and came out swinging in the Northwest league, putting up some terrific numbers through the first half of the season.
As of July 20th, Flaig had a .333 AVG, .422 OBP, with 12 strikeouts and 11 walks. And then he never saw another inside pitch AGAIN - or at least it felt that way. It seemed he was having trouble reaching the outside corner, maybe because he didn't want to extend his arms like that because of a fear about the shoulder. Another offseason should get more strength and confidence back in that shoulder, and knowing what he has to work on should help him refine his game at the plate next year.
He may be 20, but view this as his first year out of HS. His improvement next year should be a joy to watch. Now if we can only keep him at 1B...
J: College-drafted players are expected to perform well in the Northwest League, but Eastley went above and beyond the call of duty, which was especially cool considering a broken arm kept him as Niagara's DH for most of the year. Instead of doing the same with the Sox, he played all around the infield, though he was put at the corners much of the time.Mike Saunders: 11/19/86, 6'4", 205 lbs, LH OF
Since he's older and posted the best all-around numbers of anyone in the lineup, I'd say he ends up in with the Sixers next season, probably at third base.
G: IIRC, Eastley played in the same league as Sabatella, another draftpick at Everett who was drafted ahead of Reed. He must have impressed our scout in that region - and I'm glad he did. Sabatella hasn't done much, but Eastley has definitely shined. He was a walk machine and is big enough to add power during his trip up the minor league ladder. Since this was his first year off of aluminum bats, I don't consider it that telling for his power numbers (even though they were decent).
He was a good hitter in college, but as J says that broken arm slowed him down. He also played in a smaller conference, and talented guys in those conferences can be passed over because their numbers are against "lesser competition." I agree he'll probably skip Wisconsin next year. He was drafted as a 3B, but has proven this year that he can play anywhere. He loves to play baseball, and the more guys I see who don't, the more I'm happy to support those who play for the Love.
J: Like Valbuena and Flaig before him, Saunders was another guy who seemed like he was hitting them hard every time he came up, and he was in the gaps more often than he was pulling (though he's capable of putting a solid charge in the ball). That makes the excessive Ks a little curious, but I hear he had a tendency to get a little long in the swing at times.Casey Craig: 1/12/85, 6', 185 lbs, LH LF
Saunders is the complete package. The toolsy type that the M's have liked going after in the past, but he also gets results, which has been more of a rarity. He seemed to get better as the season went on as well.
G: 2.65. That's Saunders' AB/K ratio - and that's reeeeeally bad. But for a kid who still hasn't turned 19, there are worse things than being a six-foot-four lumberjack chopping away at the plate. I like practically everything else about his still-blossoming game - not the 2-for-9 in steals, but who's sending a huge kid like that for steals anyway?
Mike has power, and he doesn't seem to reach back to find it either, despite those strikeout totals. A long swing can be cut down; natural power can still flourish in a shorter swing, and Saunders'll get his chance to prove it.
He's gonna fill out more, folks. Tui hit .248/.338/.386 in his time in Everett, so I'll give Saunders the same chance to mature. With an ability to take a walk already and drive it out of the park before he's matured, he's ahead of the game.
J: Craig, Craig, Craig... what're we gonna do with ya, man? His season numbers last year, which included a .265/.398/.420 line, were more than good enough to warrant promotion to a full-season team, even Inland, if they really wanted to push him, but the prevailing rumor is that he did something that seriously got under the skin of one of the higher-ups and was held back because of it.
He could've done something about it. He could've shown them up a bit by batting over .300 and tearing the league apart, which he was surely capable of doing, but instead, he coasted and turned in a season which, while similar to last year, lacked the startling on-base numbers that put him on the map. Which leaves me wondering whether he's a potential table-setter, or a disappointment in the making.
G: Casey has talent. He also apparently has an attitude. I don't mind either of those things, but dude, don't piss off the brass when you're still in low-A ball. A guy with a lot of promise took a step back instead of a step forward, as JFrom says, so he just eked his way onto this list. If we'd drafted some younger hitters instead of 5000 pitchers he might not have made it at all. His average didn't come around like I expected, his power was decent but will also need improving, and his batting eye regressed.
But just because he had a sophomore slump doesn't mean he's washed up. The kid's 20. He's almost a lock for Wisconsin next year, so he can spend some time in the freezing Spring contemplating his mistakes. Hopefully he learns from them and improves this year. The Midwest is a harder league to put up great numbers in than the Northwest league, so if he wants to impress people and let them know he's not the guy they think he is, he's gonna need to hit the (frozen) ground running.
Even though his season this year concerns me a bit, I still think he can do that.
Q: Shawn from Bellingham WA asks:Pacific Coast League is chatting tomorrow, and the top prospects are up right now. (Matt D sure is getting a lot of questions in) |
I appreciate you taking my question. How close was Yorman Bazardo to making the top 20?
A: Will Lingo: Bazardo is another quality prospect who didn't have enough time in the league to make the list. He made six starts (34 innings) for San Antonio, and certainly would have been on the list if he had pitched enough.
Q: Matt D from Seattle asks:
Yuniesky Betancourt really came out of nowhere this year, progressing rapidly through AA and AAA and landing himself a starting job in the majors. His glove looks fantastic, but will he hit enough to stay in the bigs? He did hit .295 with decent pop in AAA (and .275 in AA), if he can keep that up I think Seattle could have something truly special on their hands.
A: Will Lingo: You are right, which is why he's already in the big leagues. I think if he hits .250, most people think he'll still be valuable enough to start in the big leagues. His defense is that good. And most scouts and managers think he'll hit better than that because he already handles the bat pretty well. The best comparisons I heard were Rey Ordonez and Omar Vizquel.
Q: Vanessa Caster from King County asks:
How close was Bobby Livingston to the top 20? Looks like his numbers were pretty good for a young lefthanded starter in AA (though I heard he only has average stuff).
A: Will Lingo: Not all that close. He put up good numbers, but from what I heard it was purely on pitchability. One team had his velocity in the 82-85 mph range, and none of his other pitches was anything special.
Q: Cris from (providence, RI) asks:
Which AA league is the most talented?
A: Will Lingo: That's an easy one. See Aaron Fitt's Southern League list from yesterday. He talked about being able to do a top 50 with legitimate guys. That's not true of the Texas League this year.
Q: cjb from madison, wi asks:
Thanks for the great chats. I’m hoping you can clear up the M’s infield for me. Why would the M’s be looking to move Jones off SS when his bat has a higher ceiling than Betancourt and he plays a good glove? I would think Jones would be ranked higher than Betancout given his age to league he played in while posting better numbers. What is the reasoning for Betancourt to be ranked higher? What kind of upside does Jones have and what is his ETA to the bigs?
A: Will Lingo: Because Betancourt goes beyond being a good defender. He is a great, once in a decade type defensive player. Managers and scouts ran out of superlatives for him on defense. So if his bat is average, he's a great player. Jones does have more offensive upside, but he's not a sure thing. And if he reaches his potential his bat will play in center field.
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