Mariner Minors
Saturday, November 26, 2005
  Notes on the Dominican...

While searching around for news articles, I came across this piece in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch concerning the state of the Dominican Summer League and how the academies are run. The details mostly relate to how the Cardinals are running their facility (having just moved back in), but it's a good piece of writing and gives some perspective on how things are down there.
|'s M's Organizational Review

It's taken me a few days to get around to this one, mostly because I don't think there's a lot to it, but there's an organization review for the M's up at

Like the other material there, it relies a bit on name recognition, and is best if you're new to this sort of thing. They list Asdrubal Cabrera as the "Cinderella Story", when you've been hearing about him here and elsewhere since last season. They have Wlad as one of the five breakout players while I felt the peripherals made this one of his worst seasons.

But they do recap their list from last year, and the past two drafts, so in terms of covering the bases, it's not bad, I just find the information to be a little shallow.

  Transaction Update (11/26/05):

It's early and I'm awake. Why? Don't know, just go with it.

Baseball America's latest update doesn't have much in the way of Mariners moves, just the releases of C Luis Soto, LHP Adam Brandt, and IF Brandon Green, but they did have something interesting for the Padres in that they signed RHP Jorge Campillo, as Sam noted in the comments.

To reiterate what I said there, while this is somewhat disappointing (I guess he refused an outright?), it's not terrible. Part of the thrill of Campillo was that he was, in theory, a part that could be plugged into the rotation right now, and would be around his athletic peak at the same time. He wasn't the piece that put it all together, but he was something that would've helped us along the way in the short term. Having him out for a year+ brings us back to where we were before he signed, with some not-so-exciting pitchers in the back end (for the time being) and a few kids knocking on the door wanting to come in. Campillo would've allowed us to be patient with the development of some of those guys, but by the time he's ready to pitch again, some of those arms (who figure better into the long-term plans) may have already established themselves and he'll be one year older with a few more question marks, and he'll still be getting guys out with major league quality junk.

As for the minor leaguers, well, here you have cases of potential flashed and burned out. Woe to those who take all they can from short-season stats (myself included). Soto was the last major product from our DSL department back when it was still terrible, and while I had high hopes for him after he put up two consecutive .800+ OPS in the AZL, they never really had a position for him nailed down and he missed a good chunk of time this season with one injury or another. Mild disappointment, but I'll say they knew something that I didn't. Brandt put up some decent ratios for the desert as well, but he, too, missed much of the season and what he showed in Wisconsin was less than inspiring. Injury, or the usual "something we don't know". Green was decent enough in Everett last season, but that was when the 1B position seemed thinner and Hubbard and Lahair showed off their stuff this year. In the end, I don't think he would've cut it as a 1B anyway, and while they tried to move him around, the level of offense he provides isn't worth it at the positions he can play.

So, overall, some potential lost, but all of these guys lost a lot of their luster in full-season ball this year.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005
  M's Minor League Review, pt. 2b

Four weeks. We've been working. You've been bored and without reading material. But, last night, I decided to hammer out the rest of it and take it home. As usual, the discussion thread is back over here, but let's get right to it starting with G's write-up... (and if you can't find our fifth batter at MiLB, try IMDB)

Before the season started, J and I had this conversation about Inland Empire:
G: IE in California is probably the weakest team on paper. Wlad and Jones are gonna have to carry most of the offense (c'mon LaHair, we need a decent 1B prospect to step up), and the starting pitching is gonna have to carry the day. They're old enough to do it (cept Feierabend, who I'm just hoping is more ready than I thought). I'm interested to see what talent rises outta here. Juan Gone has the nice batting average, LaHair should do well...could be fun.

J: I have to agree with you... Inland Empire is looking horribly weak right now, and it's probably not going to get much better unless we see some midseason promotions from Wisconsin, which is entirely likely, I think there were a few guys in Peoria and Everett who probably deserved Wisconsin but didn't fit [because there were too many guys on the current Wisconsin roster that should be at Inland].
Not far off. When Kevin Olore was the Opening Day starter, we were pretty sure they were gonna be in for a rough ride. J’s Note: Not that Olore lasted long. Wlad faltered, Jones was so good he made the San An list instead, and Cabrera took full advantage of his promotion from Wisconsin. And the pitching...well, here's the hole in our pitching depth, right here.

Inland Empire:

Top 5 Pitchers:

Brandon Moorhead - 1/23/1980, 6’2”, 210 lbs, RHP
6-9, 4.75 ERA in 142 IP, 163 hits (13 HR), 91 runs (75 ER), 120 K/36BB
G: Moorhead's a bit of an issue with me. He threw 94 in college but had a ton of injuries, including back issues, a UCL strain and shoulder surgery. He did well as a closer in Everett and fine in Wisconsin - after a slow start - but he was years older than most of the players in the league so that was to be expected. This year, he had some good starts, but was mostly "okay," getting lit up on a semi-regular basis as well.

I don't know that his current stuff (87-91 mph FB/change/12-6 curve/weak slider) is gonna hold up in the rotation, so a move to the pen might bolster his projected impact for me. His change is probably his best pitch (he's an Ms prospect, how could it not be?) but adding a few MPH to his fastball via only throwing for an inning or two might help a lot. A great bullpenner or a back-of-the-rotation starter: which one do you want?

He'll be 26 in January, so he needs to get a move-on, or at least start dominating hitters instead of just decently beating them. When he hits AA he's not gonna be able to live off that change anymore, and we'll see if he can adjust. If not, I'd expect him to lose a starting slot and try to convert to at least middle relief (he closed at Everett before starting at Wisconsin and IE). Still, his stuff will probably hold up from the pen or maybe the rotation better than Mackintosh's (even though Mack is a lefty and Brandon's a righty), so Brandon makes the list.

J: The comp I’ve always turned to with Moorhead is that he’s basically Ryan Franklin with slightly better stuff, if Franklin were capable of inducing groundballs. The main difference between their minor league lines, to this point, is that Franklin was slightly better at keeping the hits down and Brandon’s been getting in about two and a half more K’s per nine.

Granted, you have park factors, quality of competition, and all kinds of strange things skewing the lines in one direction or another, but it’s not a bad place for him to be. The strikeouts, even if they are coming on his change (which is usually a warning sign for right-handers), will help stabilize his performance a bit from year to year and keep him from merely mixing his pitches up. The groundballs have helped keep him away from the longball, and with guys like Brandon Wood prowling around California stadiums this year, that’s definitely a good thing.

But based on pure “excitement”, I don’t think Moorhead’s going to show up on a lot of prospectors’ radar screens. And that’s partially because he is quite a bit older than his competition, and partially because his command of the other pitches is less than stellar, as evidenced by the wild pitches he continues to rack up. If he gets that straightened out, he could turn into a nice piece to fit in somewhere, but he’s still a bit behind in his development and with the age he’s at, he has to prove something soon.
Ryan Feierabend – 8/22/1985, 6’3”, 200 lbs, LHP
8-7, 3.88 ERA in 150.2 IP, 186 hits (16 HR), 80 runs (65 ER), 122K/51BB
G: Yes, he's another left-handed changeup artist. No, he doesn't have a powerful fastball to dominate hitters. But as a 19 year old in a hitters league, Ryan once again more than held his own. I don't like the hits, but Feier HATES walking people. Once he figures out how to put the ball over the play on a 3-ball count without grooving it (those hit totals are currently mighty ugly) he's gonna be something special.

Other than the change, Feier also throws a running FB in the high 80s-low 90s range, a slider and an increasingly-good curve. That's a nice set of pitches, all being ML quality, and as he starts getting consistent with his strikes, he's gonna soar. He was walking a bunch of guys earlier in the season (walked 3 or more guys 9 times in his first 15 starts) but got that under control at the end which caused his ERA to drop nicely. Ever since high school, scouts have been impressed with his delivery and the smoothness of his arm action.

I really hate to make Gil Meche comparisons (Since Meche never became the Gil Meche most expected), but turn teenage Gil's 94 MPH heater into a 90 MPH one (and make him LH) and you've got a good impression of the teenage Feierabend's skillset. He has a LOT of potential that's still untapped - especially if he can tack a few MPH on to his FB as he ages. He already busts bats with that thing. Maturity, both in attitude and in skillset could bring him along nicely.

J: A lot of the guys in this year’s crop seem to have trouble with the hits, and that’s what happens when a slightly weak pitching group faces off against quality hitters in an unfriendly league. Feier got out of it though, even though there were times where it seemed like he was really in over his head, in terms of the competition and how he dealt with it.

I wasn’t initially that impressed with his performance this season, or rather, I had set myself up thinking that because his Wisconsin campaign wasn’t as good as it could’ve been (considering he has a good rep for a southpaw, as G said), he’d struggle this year. True, the hits did go up for him by about two and a half per nine, as did the walks (ever so slightly), but he maintained the same home run rate and earned-run average, despite switching to a hitter’s league. That leaves us with two considerations: either his Wisconsin performance looked worse than it was, or his Cal League performance looked better.

Part of it might be that his pickoff move was the league’s nastiest by a considerable margin. I can’t remember looking at a box score and not seeing him pick off at least one guy straying off first in a game. It’s not something that he should be counting on to get him out of a jam, I’d really prefer that he gets his command down first to keep down those hits and walks, but there’s little to complain about eliminating one base runner per start without even having to put the ball in play.

It’s hard to deny that he is improving in certain areas, but he’s still lagging behind in a few others and for that reason I’d consider leaving him in Inland, at least for the first month or so, to see if he can lower the hit totals a bit. As I said before, the hitters in the Cal League were pretty talented this past season, but it doesn’t hurt to give him a rolling start. It’s always a pretty big leap to double-A for those finesse lefties.
Aaron Trolia - 5/10/81, 6’2”, 210 lbs, RHP
3-7, 4.82 ERA in 104.2 IP, 118 hits (6 HR), 71 runs (56 ER), 77K/49BB
G: Right after he was drafted in 2004, BA rated Aaron's slider the best of the Ms draft that year. That might not mean much since we draft more for height and changeups than for hard, nasty sliders, but it's still something - especially since he was a 27th rounder. He also throws a decent change and an average 87-90 mph FB, but there's potential there - and I'm curious what he'll do with his semi-sidearm action.

With a G/F ratio of 1.94 this year, Aaron definitely showed he could induce the groundball, but with over 4 BB/9 and only a 1.57:1 K:BB ratio he's still got some work to do. He also hit 13 batters; obviously that control is not yet where you'd want it (though he only had 1 WP, so maybe he just likes to hit people).

This was also his first year in a full-season league, and Aaron handled it well, all things considered. He appeared in 40 games but only started 10. Once we give him a defined role, I'd expect him to settle in. The bullpen is probably in his future as he progresses, but you never know.

J: I was as shocked as anyone to find Trolia in California instead of Wisconsin. His initial run as the fifth man in the rotation was also nice to see, but with that sidearm thing he does, middle to short relief might be the best place for him, if only to keep his arm healthy. That’s the other issue: he hasn’t struggled too much against left-handed batters, as far as I know, but it could happen at the higher levels, and that could limit his usefulness a bit.

The hit batters and the excessive walks, from his arm angle, seems to suggest that he makes his money by hitting the edges of the zone as much as he can. That may also be where some of the Ks are coming from, but the hits are still a bit of a mystery to me, unless you want to chalk that up to the control as well and just say that he couldn’t get the lateral motion he needed and ended up hanging a few of ‘em.

I’d normally be a little more suspect of a guy with this kind of skillset, but he made it through after a tough jump over Wisconsin, and that speaks well to his abilities to adapt.
Chad Fillinger – 10/26/82, 6’4”, 210 lbs, RHP
2-5, 5.96 ERA in 71 IP, 48 runs (47 ER), 90 hits (16 HR), 61K/18BB
G: Fillinger is a FB/Slider/Change pitcher with good stuff. The heat is low 90s, the slider has good's a decent package. He added a sinker this year because according to him "he needed something with some movement" and that - along with adjusting to starting in Inland Empire after having been a reliever in Wisconsin - seems to have helped him down the stretch of the season. After putting up an initial .69 G/F ratio for the T-Ratts, that sinker seems to have allowed him to keep the non-HR balls on the ground (1.31 G/F at IE). Fillinger's ERA is ugly, but most of that is from his first two starts at high-A.

At Wisconsin as a reliever, he put up 53Ks against 13BB in 43.1 IP, and just 37 hits. His first two starts at IE combined for this line: 6.2 IP, 18 hits, 13 ER, 5K/3BB. Take that out of his IE line and some of those numbers get more reasonable. Now all he needs to do is learn to keep the ball in the park and he could have some serious potential. The hits don't look good, but the 3:1 K:BB ratio and 9Ks per 9 for the year hold my interest. As his first half-season in our system as a starter, it was a promising debut.

J: As G pointed out, take out those first two starts for Fillinger and you’ll see his ERA drop down to 4.76 and his hits per nine drop to about ten per. It’s not too terribly exciting, but given a change in both leagues and roles, it is somewhat reasonable. As I’ve indicated before, I’m not averse to getting in a guy’s corner if he proves himself capable of adapting after a rough stretch.

Fillinger’s command of his three primary pitches is solid enough to keep him in the rotation for the time being, and polishing up that sinker might keep him there for a while longer. He’d be more of a back end guy than anything else, but the strikeouts, if he can keep them up, would make him pretty appealing nonetheless. If that doesn’t work out for him, he’s already shown he can throw down with the best of ‘em as a reliever.
Craig James - 3/10/83, 6’1, 175 lbs, RHP
0-2, 2.42 ERA in 26 IP, 25 hits (3 HR), 8 runs (7 ER), 24K/8BB
G: The Giants loss may wind up being our gain. Out of HS, James was drafted by San Fran but had his contract nullified because he needed elbow surgery. We signed him and put him in the desert for a couple of years as part of his rehab, then turned him loose on full-season ball this year.

He absolutely destroyed Wisconsin (30.2 IP, 18 H, 3 R, 31K/5BB) with his 90’s FB/Power Curve/thrice-a-week changeup combination, and got promoted to Inland Empire for his trouble. He wasn’t quite THAT dominant there, but he did plenty to make this list.

He was definitely a flyball pitcher though, with his .75 G/F ratio for the year, and extreme flyballers can get a little scary especially as relievers in close games. If he can keep a higher percentage of balls on the ground – and therefore in the park – he could definitely go places.

J: True, James didn’t pull off that combined sub-1.00 ERA that I had hoped for, but seriously, who’s going to complain about 1.59 from a reliever, even if he is a flyball guy?

He has the stuff and command to go on, as G has already mentioned, so I’ll avoid hammering that point into the ground. The other big thing that I see as working in his favor is his aggressive, don’t give in approach on the mound and his competitive nature. That’s a huge plus in his column. He’s not afraid to step up into a leadership position if the need arises either, so he might be the one of the guys lighting the fires and pulling everyone back into the game if things start falling apart.

Overall, it’s another smart post-TJ investment the M’s have made. They’re a bit ahead of the curve in that area. In a couple of years, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see this one paying off, provided he can keep healthy, of course.
Extra extras:

Shawn Nottingham – 1/22/85, 6’0”, 180 lbs, LHP
4-3. 3.86 ERA in 37.1 IP, 48 hits (2 HR), 19 Runs (16 ER), 28K/10BB

No, he didn’t get a chance to throw much this year. Yes, he was injured for much of it and not necessarily that impressive when he did come back. But he started off the year well, has a great changeup and an 88-91 MPH FB – which looks like he may pick up a few mph before he hits the bigs – and a lot of potential for a 20 year old kid.

He did go down with “pain in his elbow” during the season though, so hold your breath.

J: Ah yes, another guy who got flexor bundled.

Fastball, change, curve, young, possible maturity issues, etc etc. He wasn’t supposed to start out in Inland, but after Olore’s start (singular), they needed another guy and he got the call. He pitched as well as anyone the Sixers tried to throw out there, while giving up an unusual amount of hits, of course. He got shelled in the Midwest League once he did get back in action (9.53 ERA in 11.1 IP, 12 ER on 15 hits and 3 BB, 7 Ks), but that wasn’t enough to account for anything but rust, and he did come back and get them a win in the playoffs. But including the playoffs, he barely got 50 innings in this year.

He’s either a nice candidate for a rebound, or an injury waiting to happen.

Top 5 Hitters:

Asdrubal Cabrera - 11/13/85, 6'0", 180 lbs, SH SS
.284/.325/.418 in 225 ABs, 15 2B, 6 3B, 1 HR, 47K/15BB
G: Someday the Ms are gonna have a crop of corner OFers worth salivating over. Until that day comes, I’ll settle for middle infielders. Lopez, YuBet, and Asdrubal; doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but they are a potential bumper crop of talent.

There's only one guy I've seen recently with a better glove at SS than Asdrubal - and unfortunately for Drubie he's playing short for the Ms right now. If I hadn't seen YuBet play I'd think there was NO way that Cabrera ever gets moved off a position he's likely to win several gold gloves at. Now, I think Cabrera's gonna have to be superlative with his bat as well to make the Ms squad, because he's gonna have to knock Lopez, YuBet or Beltre out of their roster slots.

Luckily for all of us, he could really do it. Drubie's IE numbers are not exactly mind-blowing, but his time in Wisconsin makes up for it in the whole-season picture. He hit .318/.407/.474 with 19 of his 61 hits going for extra bases and a near even 32K/30BB mark. On the whole, for a kid who was just 19 for the entire season, he's done very well for himself. As a switch-hitter he seems a bit less developed from the left side, but his glove will ensure he gets all the time he needs to work on his bat.

J: I’m not too fond of lumping players into categories arbitrarily, but Drubie’s batting style is pretty much in line with a lot of the other Latin American middle infielders we’ve had running through the system. He focuses on putting the ball in play, doesn’t strike out too often, and his BB/K tends to float right around a half.

Compared to the other guys we’ve seen, his power comes up second to Jose Lopez, his defense is second to YuBet, and his on-base ability might be the best of any of them. Weight those as you will, add them up, and the sum is, well, one solid prospect, which is why you’ll probably be hearing more of a buzz about him in the coming years.

His value on the field revolves around his proficiency at what he does. In terms of instincts, getting jumps on groundballs, playing tricky hops, transferring from the glove, and pure arm accuracy, you’d be hard pressed to find may guys who are better. He’s refined enough to be able to handle any of the infield positions, and did as much in Wisconsin this season.

So it’s not really a concern as to whether he’ll be able to hold up defensively, because he’s already a highlight reel in the making. The question is whether or not he ever hits enough to supplant anyone else in a fairly solid Mariners infield. Either he makes one of those guys an interesting trade piece, or he becomes one himself. Sadly, we can’t keep all these players.
Wladimir Balentien - 7/2/84, 6'2", 200 lbs, RH OF
.291/.338/.553 in 492 ABs, 38 2B, 8 3B, 25 HR, 160K/33BB
G: Last year, I said Wlad just needed more ABs to refine his approach. He was raw, with a ton of power potential but a strikeout problem. Not uncommon for a pistachio-green kid to have that issue, though, so I was more than willing to keep him at the head of his class, so to speak, and await a full year this season. I figured he and Jones would jockey for the best player on IE title, and that the winner would go on to San An early. I didn't figure on Jones completely outclassing Wlad and leaving him in the dust almost from the start of the year.

Wlad seemed to make very little progress as the year unfolded, and is pretty much where he was last year: raw tools, low skill level, needs work.

A 5:1 K:BB ratio is fairly disastrous. A regression from about 3.5 ABs/K to 3.07 is similarly horrific. 4.0 ABs/K is about the worst you can get away with, and since the majors are harder you'd like your minor-league prospects to be better than that, so they have some breathing room between themselves and that barrier. Hammer's power potential is undeniable - half his hits were extra-base ones - but so are his issues. If he can tame his bad habits and learn to see pitches, maybe he can take advantage of his long arms and good batspeed. Being as young as he is, he certainly has time to get his approach together, but he's definitely moved from potential power OFer to project with a ways to go, in my mind.

J: It’s been getting harder and harder to be in Wlad’s camp lately.

The first three years I watched his lines from Aguirre on up to Wisconsin, he seemed to have a fairly established pattern. He would get a horrible start out of the gates, but as time went on, he’d adjust, re-learn how to take a walk, cut down on the Ks, and by the end of the season he would have developed so much momentum that he was almost unstoppable.

I had him pegged as a guy who maybe needed some time to heat up, and would probably benefit from some winter ball action before he came to ST, but this year trended completely differently. His first month was solid, then he cooled off into the All-Star break, caught fire with two months to go (competition with Lahair), and was downright horrible the last few weeks of the season.

There are two main flaws with his approach, as I see it. One, he doesn’t wait for “his pitch”. He swings early, gets himself into a hole, and while he does get more defensive with two strikes on him, pitchers will throw him breaking balls for a cheap laugh and a quick out. Whether this is because he has difficulty recognizing pitches or because he really wants to swing at it anyway, I don’t know, but if it’s the former, he’s in for some serious trouble. Second, he doesn’t seem to realize how much power he has. An odd statement to be making about a guy who has been put on the depth charts for his tape measure home runs, but he would probably be a better overall hitter if he were capable of punishing pitchers by going to the opposite field, where he wouldn’t suffer too much power loss anyway.

Other aspects of his game aren’t that inspiring. This is a guy whose hero is Manny Ramirez, and while he’s probably a better fielder, if he gets the idea that he can cruise because of his power, well, he’s going to have some harsh reality to deal with next year at the earliest. G already pointed out the AB/K, but I’d like to also point out his PA/K, which dropped from a 3.8 PA/K coming into this year to about 3.35 for this season. He needs a lot of work and the right instruction if we’re counting on him to turn into something useful. If his ability to hit for power is mutually exclusive to him taking walks, well, two outcome hitters aren’t exactly a hot commodity, now are they?
Sebastien Boucher - 10/19/81, 6'1", 190 lbs
.352/.453/.474 in 213 ABs, 14 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 49K/36BB
G: Boucher's got a problem: He's too good for the leagues he was in this year, but may not be good enough to get out of the higher leagues and into the pros - at least for the M’s. Still, that's an issue I'm willing to see through to completion.

But let's focus on the sparkly good news. Did you see that average, and OBP? It wasn't a half-season fluke, either: He put up a .326/.411/.461 line in 178 Wisconsin ABs. He has speed, too (26/30 in steals across Wisconsin and IE) and can play a nifty OF to boot.

His K rate is all right, though a bit high considering his lack of a power swing. And he's not really age-appropriate for the Midwest or Cal leagues, meaning AA should be more of a test for him next year.

I'd like to see him crank up the steals next season if he can and add value over and above straight OBP, but if he can keep walking like he does it may not matter. It doesn't look to me like his stroke will ever add much power, but we have some experience dealing with singles-hitting OFers. Getting to hit against more advanced breaking stuff next year should tell us a lot about whether Sebastien is viable option for the Ms OF in the near future.

J: For a slap hitter, he sure does draw a lot of walks. I guess that’s part of where the occasional Kenny Lofton comparison comes from, but the speed’s definitely a part of it too. He can run around out there and get to things that you might not expect, though his base stealing ability right now is about a third of what it was in college. Swiping 26 bags in one season isn’t bad, a lot of players would take it, but in his junior and senior years at Bethune-Cookman, he had 48 and 35, respectively, and they play about half the games your average full-season minor league affiliate does.

Maybe he adjusts to the competition, and a few more singles become doubles, a few more doubles become triples, but considering the other things his abilities provide, he could be all right as a fourth outfielder and pinch-runner without too much improvement there. I don’t know how his arm strength is, but they did have him playing just about everywhere, and since I didn’t hear any complaints, I don’t expect it to be abysmal. He could end up being for the M’s what Jamal Strong has still been working on for the past few years.
Bryan Lahair – 11/5/82, 6’5”, 225 lbs, LH 1B
.310/.373/.503 in 509 ABs, 28 2B, 2 3B, 22 HR, 125K/51BB
G: It’s been a pleasant change to have a season worth watching from a 1B prospect. Lahair took the promise of his 2004 Wisconsin season, added a bunch of HRs and generally accounted himself well. He’s even left-handed, and a strapping lad to boot. What’s not to like?

Well, the strikeouts for one. Bryan's riding that 4ABs/K line like it's a rodeo bull, which could get very painful, both for him and us. While I don’t have the splits handy, he also apparently – really - struggles against LHP, which is something he’s definitely gonna have to fix on his way up the org ladder if he wants to get a shot.

Still, it’s hard to knock the level of success from a 39th rounder from St. Petersburg College where, unless I’m mistaken, he played the outfield. Letting a JuCo guy turn into one of our best 1B prospects (in an admittedly shallow pool) is not something the Ms are known for, so I’ll just say I’m pleased with his season and his progress thus far and continue to hope for good things for him.

J: Few things were more amusing to me down the stretch than Lahair and Balentien trading places on the system’s home run leaderboard every other game. That’s one of the things I like to see; players challenging each other to be better and inciting a little bit of friendly competition (in fact, I’d consider chalking up a little bit of Balentien’s slowdown at season’s end to Lahair playing in the Baseball World Cup).

He doesn’t have quite the holes in his swing and susceptibility to breaking balls that Wlad does, but he doesn’t have quite as much power either. His ability to take a walk from time to time helps offset that, and since he’s probably athletic enough to handle the corner IF and OF positions at least serviceably (though, by all accounts, he’s a plus 1B), at worst, he might have a future as the southpaw half of a platoon, or the guy you march out against a team stacked with right-handers. If things break right for him and he works hard, he’d be the first solid first baseman the team has developed in quite a while..
Fredrick Sykes - 6'2", 210 lbs, OHB
.277/.345/.430 in 330 ABs, 14 2B, 16 HR, 87K/33BB, 1MFFM
G: They call him the One-Armed Man - a dastardly sort who can swing a deadly pipe, Sykes used to play on the mean streets of Chicago before he became a police officer. After the accident that claimed his left arm he wandered for a while doing odd jobs for some nefarious folks. In an attempt to clean up his life, Sykes re-entered the sport he loved in 2003 and has been on a tear since. As the only hitter in minor-league ball who has a prosthetic limb, Freddy gets an awful lot of power out of his one remaining arm. He has trouble with pitches on the outside part of the plate and probably won't get above AA, but anything in his wheelhouse he flat-out murders.

Now if only he can lose that Kimble guy. That is some stalker...

J: All right… I know that modern statistical analysis has all but shot down the myth of a “clutch player”, but if the team ever needed a guy to step up and pull off a world-class escape act from a tight situation, I’m going with Sykes. I don’t know how he does it, but it seems like he’s always thinking a step ahead of the game and that seems to be what’s gotten him to this point. A cerebral player, if you will.

But he still has some serious flaws, both in character and his game, and there have been times when he’s gotten himself into a hole by underestimating his opponent. This works on players who are less driven or experienced, but it’s not something that plays well the closer you get to the big leagues. He’s probably a DH, and his time may be running out.
Rebels Without A Clue

G: If I hadn't added the one-armed man, I'd have had to put Rogelstad, Monzon or The Brother Of A Famous Soccer Player’s Husband in there.

When somebody asks you “do you prefer a girlfriend who’s ugly, or stupid, or psychotic?” do you stop to think about it, or do you say “I don’t want a girlfriend after all, thanks anyway.”

I don’t know that I can back any of those guys for the 5th hitter on the 66ers roster, so I think I may just abdicate this one.

J: There’s a special term I use for this kind of proposition, but I’m not allowed to say it in polite company and I’ve already gotten an e-mail or two with regard to my periodic snarkiness.

This is one of the flaws in the Top 5 process. Inevitably, we get stuck with some guys who are good, but just missed it on some levels, and on other levels, we have trouble making the list complete. Here, we nailed four, right away, and the rest was a mess. Do you take Rogie, who’s rather streaky and doesn’t hit for power? Do you take Monzon, who actually hit for power, but not enough to be interesting at third? Do you take He Who Remains Unnamed for finally giving us some return on the investment? Do you take Carlos Arroyo, who could easily give you twice the number of homeruns Charles Gipson would otherwise, but without the grit and position versatility?

I have fun talking up who’s hot and who isn’t during the year because that’s part of the gig, but when it comes down to tallying up the totals, most guys aren’t legitimate prospects, I can’t exactly give a ringing endorsement for any of these guys aside from saying that they’re better baseball players than most of us will ever be.

Thanksgiving is coming up, and me, I'm just thankful this is done. San Antonio is about 12.5% done and getting more attention all the time.

Sunday, November 20, 2005
  Winter Leagues Stats Update (11/20/05)

Hit 200,000 on the counter a few days ago, which means I'm already ahead of last year's pace in "attendance". And not all of those hits are me.

Olympic Qualifying Tournament:
OF Sebastien Boucher: .667/.700/.778 in 6 at-bats, 2B, 5 runs, 5 RBI, 1/2 BB/K
1B Bryan Lahair: .444/.444/.778 in 9 at-bats, HR, 4 runs, 3 RBI, 0/0 BB/K
RHP Jon Lockwood: 1-0, 0.00 in 5.0 IP, 0 hits, 5/1 K/BB
IF Matt Rogelstad: .333/.286/.833 in 6 at-bats, 2B, 3B, RBI, 0/0 BB/K

Take a look at Rogie's line, and think about how often that happens. Anyway, as you can tell, this was a short tournament, with the U.S. (5-0), Canada (3-2), Nicaragua (3-2), and Panama (2-3) advancing to the next round of qualifiers, which will be held in August 2006 in Cuba. Nice to see M's prospects do their part for Canada and the U.S. Also intesting to see former M's 'spect Cesar Quintero turn up with the Panama team.

Venezuelan Winter League:
RHP Nibaldo Acosta: 0-1, 9.82 ERA in 3.2 IP, 4 runs (4 ER), 4 hits, 0/3 K/BB
RHP Yorman Bazardo: 0-0, 2.16 ERA in 16.2 IP, 4 runs (4 ER), 12 hits, 14/9 K/BB
OF T.J. Bohn: .288/.382/.390 in 118 at-bats, 9 2B, HR, 13 runs, 22 RBI, 17/30 BB/K
SS Asdrubal Cabrera: .182/.250/.182 in 11 at-bats, RBI, 1/3 BB/K
RHP Renee Cortez: 0-1, 4.61 ERA in 13.2 IP, 7 runs (7 ER), 12 hits (HR), 10/4 K/BB
RHP Rich Dorman: 2-1, 3.52 ERA in 30.2 IP, 13 runs (12 ER), 35 hits (HR), 43/22 K/BB
LHP Jose Escalona: 0-0, 0.00 ERA in 2.1 IP, 3 hits
RHP Emiliano Fruto: 2-1, 1.88 ERA in 14.1 IP, 7 saves, 4 runs (3 ER), 11 hits (HR), 15/6 K/BB
IF Jesus Guzman: .292/.350/.458 in 72 at-bats, 3 2B, 3 HR, 12 runs, 13 RBI, 6/15 BB/K
RHP Jeff Heaverlo: 0-3, 7.04 ERA in 15.1 IP, 17 runs (12 ER), 20 hits (4 HR), 12/9 K/BB
LHP Cesar Jimenez: 1-1, 2.23 ERA in 32.1 IP, 8 runs (8 ER), 26 hits, 25/12 K/BB
LHP Chris Key: 0-0, 6.48 ERA in 8.1 IP, 7 runs (6 ER), 12 hits (2 HR), 5/3 K/BB
IF Jose Lopez: .269/.372/.313 in 67 at-bats, 3 2B, 5 runs, 5 RBI, 10/9 BB/K
IF Oswaldo Navarro: .310/.310/.448 in 29 at-bats, 4 2B, 7 runs, 1 RBI, 0/3 BB/K
C Luis Oliveros: .000 in 4 at-bats, 0/1 BB/K
LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith: 0-0, 4.05 ERA in 6.2 IP, 3 runs (3 ER), 7 hits, 2/3 K/BB
C Yorvit Torrealba: .273/.385/.273 in 22 at-bats, 2 runs, 3/4 BB/K

A bit more interesting, now that we know that five more of these guys are on the 40-man, isn't it? Cheers to the M's Venezuelan scouting (and the domestic, for Bohn), though certain things about this week were a bit odd. With the pitching, Key and RRS didn't get into a single game, Fruto only pitched an inning (struck out the side, save), Heaverlo got tagged with a bunch of unearned runs (and another homer), and Dorman and Cesar both started giving up a bunch of hits. I'm guessing that some of the players might be headed back for a while, what with Thanksgiving coming up. Bohn's as stable as ever, but Jose Lopez and Jesus Guzman both saw their lines drop by quite a bit. The rest of the batters didn't seem to get into a game.

Dominican Winter League:
RHP Julio Mateo: 0-0, 3.37 ERA in 2.2 IP, 1 save, 1 run (1 ER), 2 hits, 1/0 K/BB
RHP Rafael Soriano: 1-0, 4.91 ERA in 11.0 IP, 10 runs (6 ER), 20 hits, 7/3 K/BB

Ramontiago, as the guys at Lookout Landing have taken to calling him, is gone with his release and removal from the 40-man. He could still be re-signed and given an NRI, but really, I think we've had enough of him for a while, and there's certainly some other scrap out there we could burn an option year on and call up whenever there's an open spot. Some of it might even be useful.

This week is... about the same as last week, concerning the state of PRWL stats. Four sites are online now, two of them aren't updating their stats, and the other two don't have any Mariners prospects. Ah, for the days when did those too...

And to repeat what I already said in the comments below... Inland Empire's recap is about 75% right now and San Antonio's is 10%. I've been busy, to understate things a bit, but this is going to be good stuff and Inland will be up before Thanksgiving. [As an aside, it's kind of strange to be writing the stuff I would've been looking forward to reading this offseason].

  Sportsblurb's Top 10 M's Prospects

While looking at news updates in the early hours, I stumbled on the first prospect list of the season, with Sportsblurb's Top 10 M's just coming online in the past few days. Their take on the system, by the numbers, runs like this...
1. Jeff Clement, C
2. Adam Jones, SS/CF
3. Matt Tuiasosopo, SS
4. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
5. Chris Snelling, OF
6. Clint Nageotte, SP
7. Luis Valbuena, 2B
8. Michael Saunders, OF
9. Shin-Soo Choo, OF
10. Wladimir Balentin, OF
They usually grab a bit of their info from BA (and rely heavily on scout info), but it's an interesting enough list. I've been wondering how they'd deal with the various injuries and graduations the system has seen over the past year.

I may add a little more commentary on the actual list after I digest it a bit. Feel free to discuss it in the comments section, though.

A closer look at the minor league system of the Seattle Mariners baseball club.

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