M's Minor League Review: The Final Countdown
... you know, forget that (synth dies down). You guys have put up with a lot waiting for the last one and I just can't do that to you. Besides, I was listening mostly to a combination of Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, and Morphine while I hammered out the last of it over the past two days anyway. As such, I can only hope that it makes sense.
Here we are, the grand finale. A post doing the crosslinking to every part will go online soon after this one, while the "official" discussion thread is over at SportSpot
... but hey, we still beat the first ST game!
This Tacoma list is a mess. If you have a lot of turnover or callups the AAA system is usually the one that takes the brunt of it, but the Ms raided this team to death in 04, raided it again in 05, and a lot of minor league filler has moved on as well, leaving this Tacoma list a wee bit barren. We’re trying not to put guys who have graduated to the bigs on these lists, which means no Felix, no YuBet, no Lopez. We’re also not putting on acquisitions like Carvajal, because he didn’t pitch for us last year.
Some of the Best of the Rest isn’t great, but it’s what we had. Enjoy it. There’s still some gold among the dross.Top Five Pitchers:
Clint Nageotte: 10/25/80, 6’3”, 225 lbs, RHP
2-1, 2.65 ERA in 34 IP, 21 hits (2 HR), 16 runs (10 ER), 35K/22BB
It seems lately I’ve been doing an awful lot of jumping up and down and tooting of Clint’s horn, so to speak. A guy gets one injury and he drops from “future studmuffin” to “last week’s garbage.”
Nageotte had back issues last year. He’s had back issues his whole career, but last year they were worse. And that, in turn, made him more of an arm thrower and messed up his arm. He spent much of this year rehabbing those issues and then was dropped into the bullpen in Tacoma to get some work. He turned in a 5.5 hits, 6 walks and 9+ Ks per 9 effort in an unfamiliar role. You can’t be much more unhittable than that (.176). The swings guys were taking on his pitches were laughable – when he could keep them near the zone.
But I still think he should be a starter, with his mid 90’s velocity almost all the way back on his FB, a still-devastating slider, and a cutter and sinker that he’s working into the mix instead of the ever-talked-about cambrio. It gives him more time to work the rust off his control, as well.
The Ms still seem willing to give it a shot, and sent him to the desert to get in some winter work. Against some of the best prospects in the game, he posted this line in 6 starts:
2.33 ERA in 27 IP, 21 hits (2 HR), 7 runs (all earned), 24K/4BB. The control was back and more as a starter in that brief time. This is a guy with a career 7.9 hits, 3.7 walks and 10.2 Ks per 9 line, remember?
If the Ms let him start in Tacoma – and he can stay healthy this time – they could have a monster ready to pitch for them by the time one of their big-league arms bombs out in the middle of the year. I was hoping for an earlier start in the bigs for him, but unless something unforeseen happens with Meche it’s not to be.
That’s okay. A little patience never hurt anyone…much.J:
Clint’s been posting minor league lines that are pretty strong throughout his minor league career, but he never really got much attention for it, even when he led the minors in strikeouts with 214 back in his 2002 tour of the Cal League.
People were concerned that he was a two-pitch pitcher, and that’s a fair assessment, for a while, it was more like one-and-a-half. There are pitchers out there who survived on two pitches, but Clint’s fastball hasn’t quite been in that tier as far as location goes, and the slider makes for significant worries about his elbow. He does so love to throw it.
To reduce the stress on his arm, they were trying to get him to add a change-up, as did the now missing-in-action Rett Johnson. They even had Blackley try to show him a grip or two. Let’s face it, the M’s love the change-up, and they think it’ll turn throwers of the baser metals into pure pitching gold, but this is the problem with the blanket coaching approach the M’s have taken in recent history; the change-up is mostly a “feel” pitch, and Clint couldn’t quite get it. To be honest, I can’t say I think it would’ve been the best choice for him anyway. He’s not a “pull the string”, “swing three times before the ball gets there” prototype deception pitcher, he’s there to dominate the hitters and be done with it.
This year, we saw him move on to a couple of two-seamers, the cutter and sinker that G spoke of, and I think that’s the better route for him. The strength of his slider is in its break and its movement, so throwing in a few other pitches that have both those effects, plus a greater ability to induce groundballs. Hitters will now have to go up there wondering if they’re going to see the ball start darting around on the x-plane, the y-plane, or both at the same time, and that’s just as strong as having them out in front. It certainly seems to be a better complement for Clint than a straight offspeed pitch, which could be launched into the bleachers as soon as the hitter knew it was coming. Besides, ideally, the only thing separating pitches like the change and the two-seam is grip, NOT the force of the arm.
There were some struggles with his control in Tacoma this year, as evident in the 5.86 walks per nine, a higher number than even his hits per nine, but during the AFL season, it appeared that he was able to cut those back while maintaining the lower hit rate. Rumors have been going around that he was throwing the two-seams a good 80% of the time, and if he wasn’t fully accustomed to them, that would account for a lot of his hits and misses on the edge of the strikezone. Unlike his experiences with the change-up, he still seems to be comfortable throwing the two-seam and hasn’t been clearly discouraged by it.
I think that Clint’s primed for a rebound, and the back problems, which inadvertently led him to rest his arm for a while, may have been the best thing for him. The issue now is keeping his weight under control and really honing those two-seem fastballs. Once the weight is off, the back problems should go away and the velocity will return, and then we may be treated to another member of our starting rotation who throws mostly worm killers. Good thing we have YuBet around, right?Jesse Foppert: 7/10/80, 6’6”, 220 lbs, RHP
0-1, 2.57 ERA in 14 IP, 10 hits, 4 runs (4 ER), 13K/8BB
Jesse was a monster prospect, a guy with hits of 6.5, walks of 3.4 and Ks over 11 per 9. He rocketed up the minor league ladder to splash in the bigs. He was the top rated prospect in the Giants organization and one of the top arms in baseball.
Was. Then he blew his arm out in ’03, and things haven’t been the same since.
His velocity has been low 90s (or lower) instead of mid-90s on the fastball. The fact that it hasn’t come back yet doesn’t mean it won’t, but it is starting to get to the cause-for-concern point. If it doesn’t come back this year then either he’s still injured or it probably never will. And if it doesn’t come back, he’s gonna have to change how he pitches, moving away from power pitching and more toward deception.
His numbers from his whole year in the minors (while still being bothered by a neck issue): 4-2, 3.78 ERA in 66.2 IP, 7.83 H, 5.54 BB, 8.51 K. More than 1 hit, 2 walks and almost 3 Ks difference from his former stat line; there’s obviously still work to do to get back near where he was.
Still, his arsenal of mid-90s FB, slider, split and developing change would be an awful lot of fun to see if his velocity does make it back after his first offseason of rest in a couple of years. He’s very much like Rafael Soriano – a converted position player (Foppert didn’t pitch til his final year of college) who got injured while he was still peaking, so he’s still a work-in-progress with loads of promise, even after his TJ surgery.
If Jesse winds up regaining his form, Bavasi’s gonna have committed highway robbery on the Giants. My fingers are crossed.J:
So basically, we get a guy who was formerly one of the top prospects in all of baseball and a back-up catcher, who we spin off for another high-velocity future rotation candidate, in exchange for Winn, who we didn’t have as strong a need for anyway? Yeah, that would be robbery, and if Bavasi’s method is now turning towards trading parts we don’t need for ones that we do, more power to him.
But this is about Foppert, and a little enigma we should call The Case of the Missing Velocity. G’s right in that we’re approaching that make-or-break time where either they’re getting the velocity back or they never will. Though TJ surgery mostly results in success stories, those few that don’t get the velocity back often find that they can’t really live without it *coughBaekcough*.
There’s more than enough to like about a healthy Foppert. Who doesn’t like mid-90s heat, tough splitters and hard sliders? Hitters, don’t answer that… But if he doesn’t get it back, he’s facing an uphill battle because the pitches he has beyond that aren’t that impressive. The control is there, usually, but the command of each pitch isn’t always, and he was running some high pitch counts even when he was throwing mid-to-upper 90s. Throwing with slightly better than average velocity instead isn’t going to help things, and again, when converted position players start getting high pitch counts early on, you start worrying about starting durability and the like.
The M’s were toying around with the idea of sending Foppert to the winter leagues this offseason, but eventually opted to just have him rest and, as much as I’d like to see him get more practice, that was probably the right decision.
I have to give him an incomplete grade for now, in the hopes that he’ll have things together by spring training. Since he’s still young as a pitcher, he might not be so dead-set in his abilities, and he may be able to adjust for the loss of velocity, but it would be a lot nicer if we could just skip over that whole process.Sean Green: 4/20/79, 6’6”, 230 lbs, RHP
4-2, 3.65 ERA in 49.1 IP, 43 hits (1 HR), 23 runs (20 ER), 44K/29BB.
Sean’s still a bit of an enigma to me. He posted his highest K rate of his career (by far) this season, held opposing batters to a .221 BAA in Tacoma and generally acquitted himself well. If you look at his stats before this season he falls somewhere between “useless” and “mascot-on-the-mound level joke.” When we traded for him I didn’t think anything of it, but we may have gotten value after all.
He got promoted from San An earlier in the year and his 24.1 innings there were similarly good – 6.3 hits, 3 walks, 6.7 Ks per nine. He was a high 80s pitcher with a jerky motion and blah stuff when I saw him pitch in July but it wasn’t one of his better days. When on, he throws a good sinker – not Rett Johnson good, but good – and is still improving his slider. Getting a decent groundballer (and Sean was an extreme groundballer of the first order this year) for trading my nemesis Aaron Taylor to Colorado would be a good thing.
He has several things to work on yet in the minors: keeping his mechanics the same from appearance to appearance, smoothing out some of the rough patches in his motion to get repeatable results, and being trusted with tight-game situations in AAA. But even though I expect him to spend all of ’06 in Tacoma, I’m glad we have a pitcher worth spending some time refining.J:
It seems strange to think back a few years, when I was first starting this minor league gig, to the 2002 Missions squad, with Aaron Taylor, Allan Simpson, and Aaron Looper all touted as the next generation of the then-dominant Seattle bullpen. All these pitchers ended up having some kind of arm issues, falling apart, or proving that they were never all that special to begin with, and so after Simpson was spun off to the Rockies for Chris Buglovsky, we picked up Green in exchange for the proud owner of one of the straightest fastballs in the system, who proceeded to spend the whole season on the DL. Looper… eh, well, he’s still around here somewhere.
Green is another one of the mystery men we’ve dug up from elsewhere. Just “some guy” who we made a few tweaks on and turned into something rather useful. In this case, “useful” entailed putting together some of the best groundball ratios of anyone in the system and severing as at least a passable closer for parts of the season.
Every year, there is “some guy” in the minors who comes out of nowhere to do something like this, and most of them head right on back to nowhere. Green may be different, because when you glance over his minor league year-to-year stats, you do notice that he’s been on a trend of allowing fewer hits and walks per nine innings. The strikeout rate is a bit more variable, but it also seems to be trending upward on the whole.
Green is the guy drafted in the mid-rounds who is picking it up as he goes along. He isn’t really running into any walls and it’s hard to deny that he’s been a better pitcher AFTER reaching double-A than he was before it, which is kind of out of the ordinary. I wouldn’t have been opposed to handing him a NRI and seeing how he stacked up against the other guys in the mix, but I can also understand the reservations about him. Maybe he’ll get a look later in the season instead, provided he keeps it up.George Sherrill: 4/19/77, 6'0", 225 lbs, LHP
1-3, 2.28 ERA in 23.2 IP, 19 hits (no HR), 7 runs (6 ER), 38K/6BB
Why is Sherrill on this list? Because I have no idea if Hargrove is gonna demote him again in Spring Training because he just doesn't like the way he looks on the mound. George has had to fight for respect everywhere he's been, and while he probably has it now it's not a sure thing.
Besides, better to write about Sherrill - who AFAIK still has his rookie eligibility - than to include Baek, or Buglovsky, or Lorraine, or any of the other mid-level guys in Tacoma. Between the offseason losses and the in-season injuries there's not a lot left to add, so George makes the cut; maybe he'll help us finish on a high note.
What do you need to know about George Sherrill? He has short arms and is a wide-load guy, which means he hides the ball behind his bulk for much of his pitching motion before it suddenly appears 5 feet in front of the mound hurtling toward the plate - at a robust 89 mph. Because it takes so long to pick up, however, it appears to be much faster due to the lessened reaction time. And so the lefty runs obscene K numbers (nearly 12 per 9 in the minors) with great walk totals (2.4 per 9, almost a 5:1 K:BB) and keeps his hits near Soriano-levels despite 6-8 mph less on the heater.
So what do the Ms do? They try to change his pitching motion because it "looks weird." Hopefully his 19 IP in the bigs have convinced them he can actually succeed there pitching the way he does.
A couple of words of advice for Grover, though:
First, George can pitch to more than one batter a game. He is DEATH to lefties, but does reasonably well against righties too (.250 BAA) - he's a set-up man or a closer, not a LOOGY (Lefty One-Out GuY). Get a competent 2nd lefty in the pen and maybe you won't need George to pitch 1/3 of an inning in 153 games.
Second, if Casey Kotchman is playing for the Angels this year, DO NOT let George pitch to him. Much like Garrett Anderson to Jamie Moyer or Palmeiro to our whole staff, Kotchman is Sherrill's Kryptonite - he flat owns the lefty.
Just something to keep in mind. Good luck, George, and may you never have to darken the Rainiers door again.J:
I’m having déjà vu of the worst kind right now because it seems like I’ve written this argument before… oh wait, that’s right, I’ve been campaigning for George to get a spot in the opening day bullpen since ’04.
Silly me. Surely there was a reason we were sending this guy back down year after year, so that he could make opposing hitters feel like Mario Mendoza, post a career minor league walks and hits to inning pitched ratio of 1.00, and generally wipe them off the map on assorted forms of pitch deception and a tactical strike of sliders. Maybe we were engaging in some sort of covert ops against PCL hitters, psychological warfare and the like, trying to destroy other team’s top prospects by having some guy who doesn’t fit the traditional pitcher mold tear the ground out from under them on the cusp of their big league promotion… shame it didn’t work on Kotchman though…
Aw hell, who am I kidding? I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out a reason for this and I’m just not coming up with anything. The M’s just don’t seem to get him, and that unconventional will get the job done rather nicely in this case. They said he had to learn other pitches, and he tried that, and kept a few of them. They said he needed to change his mechanics, and after some hiccups, he did so and things turned out fine without forcing the issue. So, here we are again, with a question mark as to whether our staff’s best lefty reliever will even make the team.
Back in his San Antonio stint, he didn’t even allow an extra-base hit to a left hander, held righties to about .210, and was getting groundballs, strikeouts, and fly outs just about equally. Now, he’s become a more extreme groundball and strikeout pitcher, and has remained just as deadly on both kinds of hitters as he’s ever been. Don’t waste him as a LOOGY, you don’t even have to keep him solely for one-inning stints. Use him whenever you have to and he’ll get the job done, and have the durability to keep doing it. Just trust us on this one.Understudies and Key Grips
Jeff Heaverlo – 6-3, 4.61 ERA in 82 IP, 92 hits (3 HR), 49 runs (42 ER), 71K/44BB
The line looks okay; he’s another groundballer with control issues and inconsistency, and he was better after July. I just have concerns about Jeff that go beyond his performance on the mound. When I saw him, he got 3 pitches up to 91-92, and everything else was 86-89, mostly 88. His breaker was pretty good but his FB was a meatball. It all got better after I saw him, but I’ve heard some things that concern me about his subsequent performance and don’t allow me to put him on this list in good conscience. That said, I’m still pulling for him, and another year like the half-season he had would help convince me.J:
Yogi Berra, in his strange mixture of wisdom and nonsense, insisted that ninety percent of the game was half mental. We’re still trying to figure out what that means, but Jeff seems to have become intimately familiar with the harder points of the mental game. He tore his labrum years ago, and his career dove and spiraled without direction until he got over his fears and grabbed on the controls again last summer and cruised through the rest of the season without losing a decision, posting a much-improved ERA for a good stretch of it. It’s a nice step forward, definitely, and I’ll be rooting for him should he pull together as a right-handed setup or more, but he’s still the underdog at the moment.Rich Dorman – 4-4, 6.28 ERA in 48.2 IP, 33 hits (6 HR), 27 runs (all earned), 22K/26BB
Rich kills me. He’s an unhittable strikeout-curveballer who is just too inconsistent to take the next step. He made it to AAA this year, had a finger injury and looked terrible. He can throw a sometimes-nasty change, a FB about 90, but he lives and dies by that curve. Without it, he gave up 6 dingers in ~50 IP (when in his previous 418 innings he’d given up 14 TOTAL). When he made it back to AA after rehabbing the finger he was absolutely dominant (1 run in 20 IP, 7 hits, 24K/12BB) so I’m putting him on the list and waiting for his mulligan in AAA next year.
I’m telling you, he’s Jeff Nelson waiting to happen – he just needs to figure out how to hit the zone without getting hit out of the zone. I’m waiting for that light to go on, Rich.J:
We like the converted position players as pitchers, but in a lot of cases, you have to treat them as if they’re on a slightly different timetable from the rest of the crowd. You have to look at them as their pitching age rather than their actual age. As such, Dorman’s feel for the curve seems inconsistent and sometimes it bites the dust rather than the strike zone, contributing to all those nasty free passes.
There’s room for improvement, but he did earn himself a camp invite this year. He doesn’t have to cut the walks out entirely, but if he scaled them back while maintaining the low hits, he’d be a pretty interesting bullpen arm.
Top Five Hitters
Chris Snelling: 12/3/81, 5'10", 165 lbs, LH OF.
.370/.452/.553/1.005 in 246 ABs, 17 2B, 2 3B, 8 HR, 36BB/43K
What can I say about Chris Snelling?
- He's the best hitting prospect in our system - still.
- He's got one of the fastest bats I've seen since Sheffield.
- He has inordinate patience at the place and will comfortably watch a ball miss the zone by two inches - or swing at the last possible second to make sure he's got the break of the pitch right.
- With strong wrists he can pull the ball or dish it into the opposite field with equal ease.
- .320, 50 2B/20HR is not beyond him in the next couple of years.
- He's a tremendous, fun-loving clubhouse guy.
- He did not - and seems not to intend to - stay healthy.
Snelling won a batting title while playing on a foot with a stress fracture back in the Cal League, I believe. He broke his wrist diving for a ball, and then had to have surgery on it twice because the Ms messed it up. He blew out his knee rounding third (thanks Dave), tore a meniscus this year, then blew it out again. The man doesn't know the meaning of the word "restraint" though perhaps someone should teach it to him.
Will he be okay?
His wrist is obviously a non-issue. Clubbing the ball for average and good power was a breeze this year. His foot is fine. It's his darn knee that's the problem - and theoretically, for what he does with it, his second ACL surgery should give him the same recovery chance as the first.
Chris is ahead of schedule in his rehab, just turned 24 and has yet to peak as a player. How could he with all the time he's missed? As a LF/DH candidate there are few better we could have...unless his china-doll tendencies step forward once again.
All he needs to be an impact player is time on the field and at the plate. Fingers, toes, knees and elbows are crossed for ya, Christopher.J:
I have a terrible confession to make.
I did not get caught up in Snelling-mania last summer.
For the past few seasons, he’s teased us all: he comes back from rehab, he swings well, he catches fire and begins tearing through the league, and then he disappears again, like a will o’ the wisp, and we as M’s fans are trapped in the swamp wondering where our star hitter went and how the heck we’re going to find our way out of this muck.
For my own part, I’ve sat back, smiled, and nodded along, but I haven’t gone so far as to pencil his name into a future lineup.
Not that I haven’t wanted to. Really, if anyone could direct us out of the recent quagmire we’ve gotten ourselves into, it would be Snelling. He has enough skills in hitting for average, getting on base, and smacking doubles off the wall to alleviate a good portion of our present offensive concerns on his own. He could fall out of bed in the middle of the night, be handed a bat and sent off to the field, and still manage to hit a screaming line drive whether the lights in the park were on or off. Still, it seems more likely that he’d manage to hurt himself somehow in the process.
And so, we continue on through the marsh, wondering if we’re finally on our way out or still heading in. Do we have our left fielder of the future, and even then, will we ever get over our need to gasp every time he makes a sudden play? I want to find a way out as much as anyone, besides, my cleats are getting all clogged up.Shin-Soo Choo: 7/30/82, 5’11”, 180 lbs, RH OF
.282/.382/.431/.813 in 429 ABs, 21 2B, 5 3B, 11 HR, 69BB/97K
A couple of years ago Choo was a well-thought-of prospect on the rise – he was ranked as high as #51 on BA’s Top 100 prospects lists as recently as Spring 05. And then this season happened – a season that started off VERY slowly but was trending up at the end, tantalizing with hope for ’06.
If Snelling is The Natural, then Choo is The Perfectionist. Chris could hit .300 blindfolded, while Choo works every day for what he has. Choo has a LOT of talent, but he is not a pure hitter.
He relies on a certain comfort level and when things are not in that comfort level Choo seems to get out-of-sorts. If you want an awkward Ms comparison, think Jeff Cirillo – a .300 hitter and great fielder who got older, fell out of his comfort zone, and crashed hard.
But of course, Choo isn’t exactly older yet. He’s had an OPS of .800+ at every level of the minors and is only 23. He’s still a good prospect, but not a mega-prospect, partly because his power is not improving. He can also be overpowered at the plate.
Still, his power numbers did improve as he regained his comfort zone after a rocky start.
Choo on 6/11: .268/.404/.389/.793 in 157 ABs, 35BB/43K
Choo after 6/11: .290/.369/.456/.825 in 272 ABs, 34BB/54K
His peak seems to be slipping, though, coming down to an Ibanez-level player with a great arm. If that’s what he winds up as, I’ll certainly take it – it’s better than the pessimistic view of a AAAA player.
But I’d really like to see him find that power, use his ability to take a walk and become a quality All-Star level OF. We’ll see; his stock has dropped, but what falls can rise again.J:
Every time G drags out the Cirillo comp, I have to look around to see if we’ve avoided the mob armed with torches and pitchforks.
Both guys are the intense-type who focus incessantly on maintaining their trade, and in that sense, yeah, I do worry that Choo might get into a slump at some point and start grinding himself to the bone in an attempt to pull himself out of it. On the other hand, it’s also possible that once he reaches a (relatively) stable level of competition, he gets in a groove and picks up enough forward momentum to roll over the opposing pitchers, stringing together a number of solid seasons.
With Choo, more than other guys, the proper coaching might also be key to his success. This may sound a little strange, given that he’s close enough to the majors right now, but it seems to be true. Rainiers hitting coach Terry Pollreisz pulled Choo aside and went through a number of things with him right around the time he started tearing it up again. Similarly, Choo had his best season in stolen bases, both in accuracy and the frequency (39-for-48), while he was playing under Dave Brundage in ’04. Last year, he dropped to a less impressive 20-for-30 in attempts, which was just a little better than where he had been before.
Choo is a fine player and he works hard to keep at his best, but I’ve kind of shied away from him because I see him as being a guy who may need a very specific environment in order to flourish. For that reason, I find it hard to get grasp on what his true ceiling might actually be, and whether he’s a fourth OF as some suggest or quite a bit more. It would be neat if they could actually find a way to tap his power without messing up his swing, but that’s not something I’m banking on at the moment.
It’s just a good thing we didn’t decide to have him be our fifth-day starter as well, like some teams were considering.Greg Dobbs: 7/2/78, 6’1”, 205 lbs, LH 3B
.321/.367/.416/.783 in 190 ABs, 9 2B, 3 HR, 14BB/22K
Greg Dobbs is 27, so theoretically he’s right in his peak performance years. What does that peak look like?
Greg’s career minor-league line is .301/.346/.453/.799 – but that’s a bit misleading. As he goes higher up the food chain his power numbers dwindle away to miniscule amounts.
Isolated power by level (SLG minus BA):
Low A: 0.156
AA (02): 0.177
AA (04): 0.182
AAA (04): 0.145
ML (04): 0.076
AAA (05): 0.095
ML (05): 0.085
Somewhere between AA and AAA Greg forgot any semblance of power. The swing still looks pretty, but for a guy who plays a decent 3B, a pretty inept 1B and is one step above hopeless in LF he’s gonna need that swing to do more than look pretty; he needs the ball to go places when he hits it.
However, due to a knee injury that cost him a season (And gave Leone a brief chance to shine) he actually only has about half as much minor league experience as even the much-younger Choo (1083 ABs vs 1830). Greg’s first year in the minors was at age 24, and he’s been jumped around to quite a few levels in his time. It’s entirely possible that he still has more to learn and growth to achieve.
Unless that growth includes a sudden ability to hit more than long singles, however, it still may not be enough to get him off the bench. We’ll see.J:
While G does have a valid point about Dobbs not having quite as much experience in affiliated ball as Choo did, he was also coming into the whole thing as an undrafted college senior and had some experience under his belt. It’s not the same as playing professionally, but I still have to look at him as a guy who should be either swimming or sinking. Instead, he’s kind of treading water with some trends that aren’t too exciting.
G mentioned the power, but let’s take a look at his isolated on-base percentage by the same measure.
Low A: 0.063
AA (02): 0.060
AA (04): 0.048
AAA (04): 0.015
ML (04): 0.024
AAA (05): 0.048
ML (05): 0.042
So let’s assume for a minute that his isolated on-base percentage ends up somewhere around .045, and for his isolated slugging, we cut him some slack and give him a .100, which would be the average of his triple-A and MLB time. What we have now, is a hitter whose offensive value is largely average-dependant, but doesn’t strike out a great deal.
There are hitters who have managed to get by with this kind of routine, like that famous right fielder, who hits singles so well that it makes his other offensive skills look a little watered down, but it seems that Dobbs is more likely to pan out closer to a former backstop and local fan favorite, except he’ll be playing positions that usually demand a bit of power.
I don’t know, I want to hold out hope that he’d turn into a fairly valuable Dave Hansen type who can play the corners and give you a different side to bat from in the process (though it’s worth noting, Dobbs hit .389 against lefties and .294 against righties last year), but Hansen walked at a much better rate. Dobbs could probably compensate for that by hitting for a more stable average, maybe about .020 points higher in the long run, but he’s still limited by his defensive shortcomings and he should, in theory, be peaking offensively pretty soon.
The M’s are getting to where they might as well play him in the hopes that, as G suggests, he may continue to develop, but I’d rather have Leone around, strikeouts and all.Hunter Brown: 10/24/79, 6’2”, 200 lbs, RH 3B
.291/.366/.448/.814 in 337 ABs, 30 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 33BB/71K
Then there’s Tacoma’s “other” 3B. Hunter’s one of those guys who hasn’t really excelled at any level, but hasn’t shot himself in the foot either while showing good potential. He’s had an OPS of .800+ the last two years and knows how to take a walk (which gives him a leg up on Dobbs in that department).
As a 3B though he has the same sort of problem Greg does: will he have enough power to hit as a corner infielder in the bigs, or is he just a roleplayer? 2 years ago he hit 30+ doubles and 15 HRs and I thought maybe he was getting that power stroke down. Last year his doubles dropped under 20 while his HR power stayed in the teens and I thought he was just putting wood on the ball to increase his BA and the doubles would come back.
This year? Doubles back over 30, HRs cut in half. I know Tacoma isn’t the greatest park to club the ball out of, but neither is The Safe for a right-handed hitter – a promotion won’t help him regain that pop.
So I would assume that rather than letting him rot on the bench the Ms will give him a whole season down in Tacoma to get his swing right. After all, sooner or later somebody needs to give him a starting job so he can start the season swinging the bat in every game, instead of having to win the starting job after 6 weeks of not doing much.
He put in time at first, second and third base last year, and tried his hand at catching a bit as well. He’s doing what he can to increase his value to a club as a bench bat if that corner power never comes around, and his passion is admirable. At 26, though, he’s just running short on time. If he is ever going to make the leap from “minor league backup plan” to “major league addition” he’s got to make some noise this year.J:
Well, one of the “other” 3Bs, but unlike Dobber, it appears that he’s capable of playing serviceably at more than one position.
Hunter has also been on a pretty stable upward trend, posting a better OPS each new season than the last. Okay, adjusting for park and league factors, his .758 OPS in Wisconsin was probably more impressive than the .789 when he was in Inland, but by the same reasoning, the .814 OPS in Tacoma is probably better than the .814 OPS in San An.
His K/BB was a bit worse this season, but if he repeats the PCL this year, I’d expect it to go back to being a bit better than a walk for every two Ks.
If that were the case, then I guess it would be safe to suggest that he might be hitting with more authority. I like home runs from a corner infielder, but really, Hunter’s more of a utility infielder and I can’t complain about him racking up thirty doubles in 337 at-bats. He could provide a good fraction of that on the M’s bench right now, but he wasn’t even given a camp invite this time around. That’s not to say that he might not make it back, he was on the M’s radar screen this past summer as well, but if he can build upon this last season, he could get further consideration. Shame about that whole four-man bench thing…5th Batter:
The Mystery 5th batter is:
YOU! You made it through this whole gobsmackin' everlovin' list, and we appreciate it. We started in the desert in Late Fall and here as Spring Training is upon us we've plowed through every level. It's nice to be done...but it was also just a tremendous amount of fun to do.
And it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun if y'all weren't reading it. Knowing somebody wants to read it is half the reason to write it in the first place. We hope you enjoyed it, and now you can answer obscure questions about Arizona League players and amaze your friends with your semi-useless knowledge of the 2005 Mariners minor leaguers. Hop to it.
As Bartles and Jaymes (well, Bartles) would say: "Thank you for your support."
We'll have to do it again next year.J:
Another fun little bit that came up in the original IM conversations. I wasn’t too sure about it, but as the deadline drew nearer, it became pretty clear that G wasn’t going to give this one up so easily. I don’t think I could’ve come up with a better conclusion if I tried anyway.
This was the first time we attempted to do undertake an endeavor like this, or really co-write anything, so there were bound to be a few mishaps along the way. Sure enough, the quote time rarely ended up in synch with when we actually were able to turn it out, and there were certainly a few instances where the “top five” format led to more quips traded back and forth than solid candidates to round out the list. That’s okay too, unless anyone ever digs those up, in which case I’ll be in quite a bit of trouble.
But on the whole, we’ve had a good run of it, we’ve had fun while turning it out, and we managed to get some decent dialogue going at times. As those were a major part of our goals coming into it, in addition to the hard info, I’d say we’ve accomplished our mission. We’ve learned something, you’ve (hopefully) learned something, and that should compensate for any loss of sanity by either party.
Thanks for being here with us for the whole tour, and here’s to hoping we have even more fun with the ’06 season. Just keep up on your obscure movie and literary references and you’ll be able to fully enjoy it.