Written by Jay Yencich | 19 October 2011

After a certain point, it doesn't quite make sense to do a stats wrap, for lack of time on my part. Do I go through with it and set myself up for more limited analysis next time around, or take the side articles accumulated over this stretch, allow them to be their own thing, and then push the analysis a little harder on Sunday? I have opted for the latter.

I should probably start out with a few things that I should probably touch on that slipped my mind last week. One is that we have some transactions to speak of, which in this case involves the re-signing of Brent Johnson, Alex Periard, and Alfredo Venegas. Periard should be the only name not immediately familiar to people because he's sort of new and sort of not new. He's a former Milwaukee farmhand from the days of Jack heading up their draft and he's the second Quebecois we have had in system in recent memory. He spent part of this past year rehabbing with us, but like the other two, didn't play, and seems to have had injuries sapping his innings for the two years prior. I don't have especially high expectations for him because he hasn't done much since being drafted as one of the better Canadian prospects of 2004. As depth, he's somewhat interesting. The other two fellows we know better, Johnson being a super utility guy (or all OF, corner IF at least) who hasn't played since 2009 and Venegas being an Ecuadorian right-hander who I believe had elbow surgery a couple of years back. I had thought that Johnson had done what Dorman had done and transitioned into coaching, but this coupled with his listing as a pitcher makes me less certain. Venegas remained depth before and will likely resume that course next season. I could see him in the Mavericks' bullpen to start the season and then maybe get moved up from there.

One other thing, which we may as well call a trend, is that Danny Hultzen has been a popular guy so far, getting a Baseball America feature and an interview through MLB.com. None of what you'll find there is a revelation, but it's an opportunity to hear him talk about himself in his own terms and that accounts for something.

Sticking with the AFL for a moment, there was a solid article in the Seattle Times yesterday featuring Nick Franklin. It opens with some slightly more detailed re-hashing of Franklin's injury list over the past season, but after that, we see more of Franklin the individual, who seems level-headed about the whole matter, choosing to focus primarily on what's in front of him and the opportunity he has in Arizona this fall rather than dwelling on the lost time. Nor is he overly concerned about those who might be his rivals for the shortstop position. It's not a comparison that's easy to make as the two bring different things to the table, but Franklin is showing a mindset, at least in his words, that reminds me a lot of Ackley as he was coming up. I think that bodes well for us.

A few general points came up in the Mariners mailbag on the official site. One is that the question came up of who in the minor leagues could make the roster next year, the question sort of implying someone that we haven't seen yet, and Paxton, Ramirez, and Hultzen came up. I'm a believer in all three to varying degrees, though I'd put a hold on Ramirez a bit, because I'm not entirely certain if he needs to be added yet (I think it's next season) and because he's been rushed to such a degree that I don't want his skills getting out of whack. Another question that came up regarded Matt Mangini, who was released earlier in the year. Johns indicates that it's uncertain if Mangini wants to continue on with baseball at the moment, which explains his release a bit. What is typical in the minor leagues is that we'll see attrition for lack of skill more than lack of will, as plenty of players end up washing out and are given few if any opportunities to re-establish themselves (this being different from the old visa issue, which was more complicated obviously). Others fall out of the game because of an inability to keep the body going at a level that would allow them to play the game, those being the Chris Snelling types. I don't know Mangini's rationale is, but I'm suspecting that after all the issues he's had over the past couple of years, it could be the latter. Of course, it's not so simple as that, and there's the additional calculus of openings on the depth chart, standard of living, and supporting a family in some cases. It's rough going and we shouldn't act as though it's anything less, even as some are inclined to marvel at the fact that some out there would get large signing bonuses to play a game, to be entertainers. It's the same as anything else though, and the gap between the major league earners and the minor league earners is sharp indeed.

But I suppose the depressing existential matters can be pushed aside for a moment. If you want something more positive, you can check out another MLB.com article which combines perspectives on Taijuan Walker with our first Top Ten of the offseason. Walker talks about his change-up and learning how to be a pitcher over a thrower, which are certainly the right things to be talking about. The list impresses me much less, running Walker, Paxton, Franklin, Francisco Martinez, Pimentel, Ruffin, Chavez, Cortes, Liddi, and Robles. I've said some nice things about Mayo's coverage at MiLB.com over the years, but this just strikes me as lazy, and not just for the omission of Hultzen for who knows what reason. Chavez struck out in nearly a quarter of his plate appearances in double-A this year and slugged .360. Cortes pitched just under fifty innings and in that limited span had more walks and more strikeouts than he usually does, which doesn't exactly allude to progress for me. Pimentel remains interesting, though raw, and while I applaud him for walking ten more times this season than in last season, it took fourteen more games to do it and the strikeouts per plate appearance only improved a little. Robles, as we all know was injured much of the season and had awful command when he came back. Other lists will emerge later that will make a lot more sense than this one.

I can envision a few 2011 draftees as candidates for such lists, and with that in mind, subscribers can check out the Seattle Mariners 2011 Draft Report Card at Baseball America. Being a paywall piece, there's only so much I can reveal in good conscience, but the most interesting note for me was their praise of Marlette's power. The chat, which didn't require a subscription, got into one of the Hultzen vs. Walker debates, with the moderator giving an edge to Hultzen, while cautioning that mechanical tweaks may keep him from breaking camp with the M's.

That's it for the time being, but I should have a stats blob up on Sunday. no comments

Written by Jay Yencich | 10 October 2011

Almost. Brett Lawrie is in front of Ackley at #1, and Mike Moustakas is behind him. Remember all the debates about which one of Lawrie and Ackley was going to be the better second baseman? Well, Ackley is still there and wins by default. Similarly, Alex Liddi checks in at #19 on the list, which is good, except that Liddi was 22 for most of the season, and the guy behind him, Collin Cowgill, is 25, and you have to go to #14 to get a player that's younger than Liddi. Weird. That's how the final affiliated BA rankings came in.

Talking about prospects at this level gets a little less interesting for me personally. It's not as though each player is locked into a state where they are what they are (Mike Carp has been at least three things in the past three years), but it feels like when we get to this point, it's not a matter of learning new things about players as tweaking what we've heard for ages. Ackley has some of column A and some of column B there. The plate discipline and such, we've all known for some time, and now we can finally add to that some kind of concession that he's a second baseman now. Great news for all of us because I was getting tired of the whole ruckus about it. Playing second base is similar in some ways to what Ackley had done before (shortstop in high school, first base in college), but expecting him to be perfect at it right away was silly, and then projecting based off of those early stages was worse than that. I don't know what else to add beyond that other than "I know we can't possibly expect you to save us all on your own, but please, save us."

For Liddi, the story is more uniform. We know about the dingers. We saw a few of the dingers. But the approach right now has had some people say Mark Reynolds, the BA folks included. To throw out some kind of comparison, Liddi stuck out in 26.7% of his plate appearances in Tacoma this year, and Reynolds, in his final full season in the minors, struck out 24.3% of the time between advanced-A and double-A. And that's just the thing: while Reynolds had Liddi beat at the time in walks, he was twenty-two at those levels where Liddi was twenty-two and in triple-A. It's weird to claim that Liddi was rushed seeing as how he repeated a year in the Midwest League, but yeah, he was kind of rushed. The rest gets into the same discussions of defense that we've always heard, to the extent that I feel like they're talking points now. Plus arm, minus range, some inconsistencies. It's not ideal, but you're not always going to get ideal and I'm still in the camp that think that more reps will cure the inconsistencies. We'll see.

One thing that I'll add to this whole thing is that I noticed today that Kyle Seager was left off both the Southern League and PCL rankings and never came up in the chat, which is a little curious to me. It's possible that playing time didn't allow him to qualify, seeing as how he got sixty-six games in Jackson and fewer in Tacoma, but you'd still think that someone would mention him. Maybe that's something that comes up in the discussion of the Mariners Top 10 in the offseason, though Seager would not qualify by the usual standards. no comments

Written by Jay Yencich | 09 October 2011

Arizona Fall League:
RF Chih-Hsien Chiang: 3 G, 10 AB, 2 R, 2 H, 2B, 2/3 K/BB, .200/.385/.300
RHP Steven Hensley: 0-0, G, 67.50 ERA in 0.2 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 1/1 K/BB
LHP Danny Hultzen: 0-0, GS, 4.50 ERA in 2.0 IP, 3 H, R, 2/1 K/BB
SS Nick Franklin: 3 G, 8 AB, 2 R, SB, 3/4 K/BB, .000/.333/.000
C Adam Moore: 2 G, 7 AB, R, H, RBI, 4/2 K/BB, .143/.333/.143
LHP Brian Moran: 0-0, 2 G, 9.00 ERA in 2.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 3/2 K/BB
RHP Forrest Snow: 1-0, GS, 0.00 ERA in 3.0 IP, 3/0 K/BB

It's that time of year again. The time in which we look at numbers with limited context and try to make sense of them. The first league opening, as ever, is the Arizona Fall League and let me be the first to say, their new site is just awful. Sure, it has a colour scheme, and I suppose that's novel. We all had our laughs with that when we first started piecing together things in html. But you know what it doesn't have? Team stats pages. You want to find anything? Simply navigate through the leaderboards for pitching and hitting and then sort by team and hope that you find what you're looking for soon. Oh wait. You can't do that with the hitters. Because the columns only appear to be capable of sorting. Ctrl + F it is. Arrrrrrrrggggggggg. Honestly, you're probably better off just going to the roster page and clicking through to each individual player page. You'd think that they'd have basic functionality down by the start of the season, but no. Now that I've complained about it, they'll probably fix it promptly and people were wonder what I was on about.

Since I'm coming at it a few days late, my attentions having been otherwise engaged with grad school, I don't have much to say about Hultzen's debut aside from to point everyone to Jeff's post and marc's post, which really tears the heck out of the numbers. In brief, he was 92 on average with the heater and touched around 94 while throwing the change-up more often than the breaking pitch. Surely, that means something. What that is, I suppose we'll have to get to later. What I found interesting in the whole affair is that to open the second inning, he gave up a double… on a pop-up to Franklin (did everyone just fall down or something or was the runner that fast?)… and then said runner scored on two wild pitches. That's the kind of game log info that you look at and think, "really?", but debuts aren't much to take data from. People only remember the really good ones and the really awful ones and it isn't especially predictive of future success. Greg Dobbs is the only Mariner to have ever hit a home run in his first major league at-bat. Let's be realistic here.

To talk about some other stuff, Snow seems to be in the rotation at the moment, which wasn't something I was really expecting with him switching to relief late in the year. I'm not saying Snow is a reliever of course, but you know, innings and all. Even so, you're probably going to see something like thirty innings from him at most and probably something more like twenty and change. One thing that amuses me about the line is that Snow pitched three innings in the start and was still awarded the win. The official scorer doesn't seem to care either. Hensley and Moran were both bad this week, but two relief outings aren't really indicative of anything just yet.

That means we're now looking at less than or equal to ten at-bats worth of data on each of our hitters. And you may be looking at that and saying to yourself, "wow, four walks for Franklin and three for Chiang, with two for Moore in just two games? Everything is amazing!" And you know what? In the short-term, I can allow that. Franklin is tied for the league lead there, along with one other dude who played in a fourth game. There are twelve guys tied with Chiang for three walks, but five of them have had four games to work with (three did it in two). I'm sure that the divides will widen over the course of the season, but at the outset it seems as though there is a kind of mandate emphasizing patience, possibly pushed down by Alonzo Powell at hitting coach. It would be totally awesome if it came accompanied by demonstrable hitting prowess, but we'll take what we can get for the moment.

One final thing to add is that I threw together a winter league preview at USSM because it had been some weeks since I had last posted there. This update might be a lot bigger next week, but it might also be late because I'm flying to New York for a wedding next weekend and then returning from that (the wedding is on Sunday, not Saturday, for some reason) to go directly to a class on Monday. no comments

Written by Jay Yencich | 05 October 2011

For the past couple of years, Vinnie Catricala has hit well in whichever league he's ended up in, but when the time came to make the lists following the season, the BA people have left him out and any questions about him were answered with a prolonged "ehhhhhhh."  Tenth-round picks aren't expected to do too much, perhaps be above-average organization players, and that Catricala was a college pick and has been a little old for the level for some time.  I suppose that it took a combined 1.021 OPS over two levels, and being better in double-A than advanced-A, for them to concede that he's indeed a decent looking prospect and put him at #15 on their Southern League Top 20.

This has spurred one of the first real discussions of Catricala's tools that I've seen, which I think is probably worth touching on.  The hitting is fine, from the tools to the approach, no one is worried about the hitting, but the defense is where people start having trouble with him.  We've been able to infer some of this from his shuffling between third, first, and left field.  In my experience, people weren't ever talking much about his defense before this, which is usually a bad sign as you want someone who can visibly pick it at third.  Here, we have some confirmation and not of the good kind, which is that Catricala's speed and range are below-average, his arm is just hitting the mark, and there are some consistency issues.  This is quite different from say, a Nate Tenbrink, who has tools to spare but can't put it together with consistency.  That kind of player, the ability is there and you're waiting for something to click.  With Catricala, you don't have quite the same level of erratic performance, but the tools suggest that the high-end expectation would be sufficiency.  

That's not great news.  It also puts us back asking ourselves the same basic questions.  I don't want to overvalue defense here, but the home park we have already does some of that for us, so do we see Catricala out there in left (after Carp, why not?), or do we see him cycling through corner positions as an "everyday" player without a great spot.  OR, do we just put him at DH and hope that 40+ doubles, 20+ HRs, and 50+ BBs about covers it?  That's not quite Edgar territory on the walks, though it's pretty good, but even so, where would Carp end up?  We're working towards a point in which prospects are trying to establish themselves in lineup spots.  Catricala's position, so to speak, may end up being one that's determined by whoever doesn't ultimately get the job done.  Of course, even that is somewhat of an ideal scenario, predicated around multiple prospects becoming lineup fixtures.  I want to be hopeful wit hthe depth we have now, but I've been burnt before.

As an aside, Catricala was a 50th round pick out of high school by the Indians.  This doesn't go a tremendous distance towards atoning for the Choo/Cabrera debacles or 1995, but nevertheless, screw Cleveland.

Another bit which I slipped up on because honestly I have trouble keeping track of new trade acquisitions, but 3B Francisco Martinez (#16) and OF Chih-Hsien Chiang (#18) both made the Eastern League list and I should probably make some comments about them as well.

I was one of probably a dozen people wildly throwing around Carlos Triunfel comparisons around the time of the trade for Martinez, and since part of his SR says "impressive all-around tools but lacks polish because he has been rushed" helps to confirm that.  It's pretty much the same thing of him having good power and a not so awesome approach, at least where the bat is concerned.  The other side to it is that the defense, while toolsy as all get out, also falls short where consistency is concerned.  I just made the Tenbrink reference and I don't feel like making it again, but I believe that Martinez will be given every opportunity to stick at third.  Possibly in a return trip to double-A, depending on how things shake out.  One of the general scout quotes that came up talked about him treading water in spite of not really being a sure-thing double-A player at this point, and I'd say that's about accurate.

Chiang probably slipped down the list not just due to age, but the fact that he did nothing to impress after heading down to Jackson.  There's some talk about the details we all know, diabetes and the like, and that his approach is more about contact than anything else and the pull power comes as an extension of that.  They also point out something that I don't think I had an opportunity to touch on at the time because MiLB.com's split system is bad and Minor League Splits is still gone and it still hurts.  Chiang actually hit left-handers pretty darned well, which bodes well for him because you'd think that with a pull-oriented approach, opposing pitchers would succeed in jamming him more.  It hasn't happened yet, though I guess we'll be on the lookout for it next season.  They seem to think that he has enough of an arm to work in right field and that the range is not so hot, so I'm thinking Raul Ibanez as a comp with maybe fewer walks and lawn darts.
You can check out Chiang's performances in the Arizona Fall League right now.  They're playing.  Franklin and Moore are also playing, and I think Hultzen is starting on Friday.  EXCITING.  no comments

Written by Jay Yencich | 05 October 2011

It takes a real special kind of prospecting nerd to be able to see that an instructional league roster is posted, and then go "SQUEEEEEE" over it.  After all, you'll never see any statistics from it, never hear anything more than maybe passing lipservice to a few of the better prospects, and the results wouldn't even matter that much anyway.  It's essentially bizarro spring training for guys who might benefit from some extra time to get certain skills down.  Nevertheless, I am such a nerd, and I went "SQUEEEEEE" this morning because there was a subscriber list of instructs rosters posted over at BA.

 I don't much see the point of making such a silly thing a subscriber article, but in deference to the hard work they do, I'll comment on it without re-posting in full.  I'll note that the summer leaguers or recent signings that are on the roster (this usually suggests an impending promotion to the states) include RHP Jose Flores, RHP Rigoberto Garcia, LHP Wander Marte, RHP Daniel Mata, LHP Luis Pina, RHP Victor Sanchez, RHP Jose Torres, SS Ketel Marte (but not Noe Berro), IF George Soto, OF Jose Leal, OF Rashynol Michel, and OF Janelfry Zorilla are all on the list.  Players that you probably weren't thinking of immediately because they were injured, like James Davenport (he's back?) and Dwight Britton are also kicking around.  The Mariners have also reported an "advanced league" within the group that seems to be cobbled together from a bunch of guys who have already done some time in full-season ball.  So you'd think at least, but then you've got Baron and Hicks in the normal group and Marder in the advanced, Austin Hudson, one of the more valuable relievers for the Mavericks in the normal group and the two American teens from the Aquasox rotation in the advanced.  Anyway, if you really care, click on over.  It would be weird if you really cared. no comments

Written by Jay Yencich | 30 September 2011

I wasn't really expecting Catricala to show up here, because he's just not the type to make a lot of league lists, but the BA folks did put SS Nick Franklin at #12 on their Top 20 Cal League Prospects list, so it's not as though we went without adequate representation.

There's only so much that I think can be reasonably said about this particular ranking.  It's not necessarily a good ranking, or founded in good reasoning, but to set Franklin a few spots higher would create its own set of issues.  It's not the scouting report that interests me, because it has the same broad strokes we have read in every Franklin scouting report to date: he's aggressive, makes good contact, probably doesn't have as much power as last season would have led people to believe, and is one of a number of middle infield prospects who draws complaints that he's a future second baseman due to lack of arm strength.  Let's not pretend that any of this is new.  

What interests me about the ranking is how little we actually know about Franklin after this season.  In the Cal League, there was a process at times, one that I'd like to pump up as a big important thing when so many prospects that end in in High Desert develop tendencies that will only hurt them down the road.  However, Franklin wasn't all that great even with the process, and in the month or so prior to his promotion, his walk rate and home/road splits had only been getting worse..  We all know what happened from there: he got promoted, ran a .387 wOBA through close to a hundred plate appearances, and then got hit in the head, went down with food poisoning, and contracted mono.  There's even a suggestion in the BA list that Franklin's low power in the league was a symptom of the mono before he was officially diagnosed.  Franklin did pretty darned well in the Southern League, but a lot of prospects have the capacity to do well or quite poorly in brief appearances in a new environment.  It doesn't mean as much as we think it does in most cases.

I would argue that Franklin is probably going to end up as one of the more contentious prospects in the offseason.  Some are going to look at him and see the middling performance in the Cal League and begin to write him off as a flash in the pan.  Others are going to argue for context and bump up his ranking because his health issues were largely freak incidents and he remains very young for each level he's played at, sort of in the same way that Triunfel still found his way onto a lot of rankings.  I don't know which side I come down on because neither assessment or set of expectations feels right to me at the moment.  I suppose that people would prefer me to make an argument one way or another, but lacking quality information at present, I just don't want to do it.  It's irresponsible.

Southern League rankings are coming next Wednesday, or somewhere in the vicinity of Wednesday.
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Written by Jay Yencich | 27 September 2011

It's difficult for me to pay attention to all the prospects around in the Midwest League because, for one thing, sixteen teams, and for another, the unbalanced schedule means there's an entire division's worth of prospects that I remain mostly unaware of.  So it surprised me this morning to look up Baseball America's Top 20 Midwest League Prospects and find RHP Taijuan Walker in the #1 spot and LHP James Paxton down at #8.  This is a pleasant change from the years in which we had no prospects represented, but Jim Callis, who compiled the list, said a few times that where previous MWL rankings have been headlined by guys like Jay Bruce, Clayton Kershaw, and Mike Trout, this was a weak year where a lot of the top guys ended up in the Sally League instead.  He also added that the separation amongs the top guys was not as big as one might think, which is further support for my "I hate lists" stance.  I'll take his word for it, though I at least recognize most of the names in the top ten.

From the outset, it would probably be a good idea to put Walker in some kind of context of previous Mariners farmhands that have made a run through the Midwest League.  Even though we've switched to Clinton from Wisconsin somewhat recently, the numbers should still be good because the parks played similarly from what I've seen in the factors.  Walker, at nineteen as of mid-August, had 18% of batters record hits off him, 10.2% get walks, and 29.4% strike out.  He also had a 1.54 GO/AO by MiLB.com's metrics, but I'm not especially fond of using that, particularly in a league like the Midwest, so we'll skip on by that.  The last pitching duo for the M's that really got attention in the league was Pineda and Ramirez.  Ramirez was more highly thought of at the time and had a hit % of 21.3, a walk % of 7.2, and a K% of 21.5.  Pineda managed 19.8% hits, 6.4% walks, and 23.2% Ks.  This is one of those situations where I'm learning something from this because, hey, I didn't like Ramirez' walk rate all that much back when he was in the low minors and not only was Walker worse overall, it was his second half that dragged down the numbers more than the first.  This sort of runs contrary to the "his command really improved over the course of his time there", but I suppose command and control are different things.  I still like Walker a lot, but the free passes make me pause every time I look at his line.

Another thing that I merely found intriguing, and probably in a good way, was the report that his fastball runs from 91-98.  What's typical in the top prospect types is that you'll see a separation of about three, maybe four MPH on what is perceived as their average heater and maybe a remark about them touching three MPH faster than that.  With Walker, we're getting a range of eight miles, and from what I can gather that's a realistic range for him.  No touching, that's just what he does.  I do believe I heard that he was throwing with more heat later in the season, which can happen sometimes, but what interests me about it is that when you see a broad range for any pitch, it's usually coming up with the fastball or change-up of soft-tossing left-handers who deliberately take more and more off their pitches because messing with the timing works better for their skillset than trying to blow something by a hitter.  If Walker is trying to do the same with his pitches, considering what he has, that's exciting because it's a more refined approach to pitching.  There's still talk of him needing a better change and maybe a two-seam, but if that broad range alludes to what I think it does, either those won't end up being as big of a priority or they'll be all the more useful when he does finally get them down.

 I guess that means it's Paxton time, so to get the %s out of the way, 19.1% hits, 12.8% walks, and an impressive 34% Ks.  The walk rate also dipped to 8.5% once he arrived in Jackson, which is one benefit of using %s over per nines because you'd only get 4.8 vs. 3.0 otherwise.  Paxton's momentum right now is probably the best of any starter in the system, Hultzen aside because he's an unknown at the moment.  Back in the early part of the season when Paxton was tearing up the league, most of the BA folks were hesitant to get on the wagon, citing his age and such, but if he's here now as a sort of "after the fact" ranking, that probably means that they were sufficiently impressed with his double-A work that including him seemed like the right thing to do (where Alfredo Morales fell off the AZL rankings because he couldn't sustain it in the APL).  It makes me hopefuly that we could see him compete for a job at some point next year, though 2013 may be more appropriate.  One item that did come up, which I was not previously aware of, was that Paxton's quickness to the plate was rated poorly, which means that we could see some steals against him in the future.

We'll be visiting the California League on Thursday.  Franklin could work on that list and Catricala could also make an appearance depending on how they feel about him.  I'm not holding my breath for anything else.  no comments

Written by Jay Yencich | 23 September 2011

Baseball America first made me aware of this story, so props to them, and a German press release can be found for those of you who read the language (it's on my "to do" list, I swear).  From this, we can conclude that RHP Daniel Thieben is going to be one of our rare signings out of that country, possibly the first since I've been paying attention or longer.

The BA report on him is basically that of a prep pitcher that would be taken somewhere between the sixth and tenth rounds in a lot of drafts.  He's tall (6'4), projectible (190 lbs), and has some present velocity which could turn into more down the road (high 80s).  What separates him from a lot of other pitchers with similar profiles is that his breaking ball rates quite well and that's not necessarily a common thing among incoming international pitchers.  I can't find any video on him beyond this, which I assume is him on the mound during a tourney and only lasts a pitch.  As a video baseball faux analyst, it's my obligation to point out that the delivery is over the top, but semes a little mechanical at the outset and seems to lose its balance towards the end.  Edit: Actually, since that's a left-hander on the mound, this just seems weird.  I've seen no mention of Thieben being a two-way player but it's possible that he was playing first?  Whether this is just that pitch or a recurrent thing is something that we'll have to determine somehow later, but if someone manages to track down some video feed for the Baseball World Cup, we will be able to see him start and how he fares.  Since his competition is likely to be a lot more advanced than what he's accustomed to, I don't know if I'm eager to look it up.

In the greater scheme of things, this seems to point to a recent trend we've had of signing pitchers, not position players out of Europe.  We've had the Dutchmen of Jeroen de Haas, Scott Ronnenbergh, and now Lars Huijer all debut, but none of them have made that much of an impact as of yet.  In fact, de Haas has been released, along with LHP Brandol Perez (haha last year), IF Yidid Batista, and OF Rigoberto Rangel, and of those four, de Haas has probably been the least surprising of the bunch.  Our track record with signing pitchers from obscure parts of the baseball world is not especially good (Oleg Korneev!  Chao Wang!), though we seem to at least get some value out of even the lesser hitters (Sams, Phillips).  I'm not trying to make any sweeping conclusions from this observation, it was just something that got me thinking. no comments

Written by Jay Yencich | 23 September 2011

Presents! I'm sure there are a few people that are mad about the NYPL being pushed back a couple of days, but nuts to them, it's our time to shine. We got two guys in the Northwest League Top 20, and said dudes are RHP Jose Campos at #3 and RF Jabari Blash at #11. I'm sure some other pitchers may have had some passing consideration like Shipers, Landazuri, and Hobson, but really, it was about these two guys being awesome, and I'm cool with that.

I think that thing that should probably come up immediately in our discussion of Sr. Campos is that they're still calling him Jose so I guess I'll have to do the same, and the second is that he isn't Felix Hernandez. Campos just finished his third pro season, turned nineteen almost two months ago, got through fourteen starts averaging between five and two-thirds and six inning each time out, and ran rate stats of 7.3 H/9, 1.4 BB/9, and 9.4 K/9. Felix was in his first pro season in Everett at seventeen, got only eleven appearances (seven starts) in and 55.0 innings before being moved to Wisconsin, just so he could hit every stop, and had rate stats of 6.8 H/9, 3.5 BB/9, and 11.9 K/9. Very different in certain respects. Felix, back in his day, had that great curveball and a whole lot of velocity, but the speed aside, his fastball was found wanting in other areas which were exposed in his first few major league seasons. Campos has similar heat and far better command of it, but his secondary offerings aren't doing it just yet and we'll need to see those come along in order for him to project the way we all want him to. I would say that, for this level, he's more similar to Pineda than he is to Felix, with better velocity than Pineda had at the same age. That isn't so bad!

Blash was probably just talented enough to get on here because, as Conor pointed out, he led the league in xbh and slugging. That's pretty awesome for an eighth-round pick. In the subscriber link, there are also some fantastic anecdotes about him destroying both pitches and bats in the same swing. The new bit of data is that he is a little passive at the plate, which might help to explain both the strikeouts and the walks we saw this season. There are flaws in the swing too, which doesn't help the situation, but we've seen certain guys in the past have similar issues from a similar approach. TJ Bohn is always the stupid example that comes to my mind because I was a big TJ Bohn fan, but I think Saunders is one guy that would also fit. If the holes in the swing could be fixed, that might help give him increased confidence to be more aggressive [somewhere, Eric Wedge's ears perk up], but if a lot of prospects fixed their major flaws they'd end up becoming amazing, so let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Midwest League is still Tuesday unless they play musical chairs again. no comments

Written by Jay Yencich | 22 September 2011

What? I was out. So Baseball America got together their second list that we will pay attention to and that had OF Guillermo Pimentel as the 14th best prospect in the Appalachian League amidst a bunch of other Rays prospects from the Pacific Northwest. Le sigh. College players weren't getting much love in this, so that puts Paolini and Austin on the outs, and the international players like Lara, Acevedo, and Nunez were enigmas too much of the time. The international pitchers? Yeah, let's say the same for them. Or age.

So Pimentel slipped quite a ways from his AZL #1 last year, which is something that, I don't know, will surprise someone. For me, it's something that I can see because Pimentel's high status last season was mostly on potential and this year wasn't one where he really built a lot on to his reputation. His xbh rate went down to about a third in the less-friendly Appalachian League, but on the plus side he went from striking out in 30.2% of his plate appearances to 27.4% of his plate appearances and increased his walk rate from 2.6% to 5.6%. Wow! That more than doubled! Anyway, he slipped towards the end of the season and I suppose that would contribute to him and someone like Ambioris Hidalgo not getting recognition for otherwise positive seasons. Like I said, this wasn't exactly a breakout, just another season of some minor improvements and sustaining the status quo elsewhere. He still profiles as a bat-first left fielder, and I suppose one has to hit a bit better for that to work out.

For what it's worth, the chat, hosted by the always entertaining Matt Eddy, had Nunez mentioned as the "most improved player" on the team, which is interesting in that unless you have a couple of data points by which to judge where that puts him, such labels are all but fluff. I said earlier that if I wasn't talking about Jharmidy de Jesus and his deferred potential, I'd probably be talking up Nunez. I'll stick by that. By the way, there was another question in the chat asking why there were so many college guys, and Eddy responded by saying there were only two and asking the other fellow to e-mail his list. Hilarious.

We will next scrutinize the NWL list on Monday followed by the MWL on Tuesday which will probably have Taijuan Walker and not much else because that league has way too many teams. You guys, seriously. no comments