Results tagged ‘ Dodgers ’

Non-Hype Prospect – Johan Santana – @johansantana

As I walked back to my apartment from dinner Friday night, I noticed that I had a lot of text messages – a rarity as I do not text much – and I realized that Johan Santana had thrown the first no-hitter in the history of the New York Mets.

Though many people know Santana’s exploits in the major leagues – the Cy Young awards, the sub-1 WHIPs – Santana’s path was anything but ordinary.  In 1995, the Houston Astros signed Santana out of Venezuela as a center fielder.  Due to his arm strength, left-handedness, and perceived inability to become a major league hitter, Santana was soon converted to a pitcher.  After finally being granted a visa, Santana was assigned to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Astros, where he put up a 7.93 ERA across nine games (five starts) and 36.1 innings.  Promoted to the Short Season A Auburn Doubledays of the New York Penn League, Santana made one four-inning start to end the season, allowing just one run and one hit, walking six and striking out five.

To start the 1998 season, Santana was held back in extended spring training, and was sent back to Auburn in June, striking out 88 while walking 21 in 86.1 innings over 15 starts, putting up a 4.36 ERA.  At the end of the season, Santana made two appearances for the full season A Quad Cities River Bandits of the Midwest League.  Santana struggled in his two appearances, putting up a 9.45 ERA over 6.2 innings.

In 1999, Santana had his best season pitching for the Michigan Battle Cats of the Midwest League, putting up a 4.66 ERA in 27 games (26 starts) over 160.1 innings, striking out 150 and walking 55 in his age-20 season.

After the season, the Astros left Santana unprotected in the Rule V draft, and, just two years after losing Bobby Abreu in the 1997 Expansion Draft, the Florida Marlins selected Santana with the second pick of the 1999 Rule V draft.  The Marlins then dealt Santana to the Minnesota Twins for Jared Camp, the first pick of the 1999 Rule V draft.

The Rule V draft is fascinating, as to be eligible for the Rule V draft, a player:

  • Is not included on the 40-man roster of the organization holding his contract; and
  • Either:
    • Has been in the minors and/or majors for at least four years, if he was signed after his 19th birthday; or
    • Has been in the minors and/or majors for at least five years, if he was signed before his 19th birthday.

In short, to hold onto Santana, all the Astros had to do was put him on the 40-man roster.  However, to hold onto Santana, the Twins were required to keep Santana on their major league roster for the 2000 entire season, something that is difficult to do when a young player has not played at a level even close to the majors.  The Twins, sensing the talent in Santana, kept him on the roster as the entire season as the long man and a spot starter, appearing in 30 games, pitching 86 innings with a 6.49 ERA.  In 2001, Santana served in a similar role, pitching 43.2 innings with a much-improved 4.74 ERA before straining his left elbow flexor and missing two months.

In 2002, Santana was to be turned back into a starter and opened the season in the minor leagues for the first time in two years, putting up a 3.14 ERA across 48.2 innings for the AAA Edmonton Trappers of the Pacific Coast League before being brought back to Minnesota.  Santana started to show his talent, putting up a 2.99 ERA in 27 games (14 start) for the Twins, striking out 137 and walking 49.

In 2003, Santana opened the season as a middle reliever for the Twins, putting up a 1.59 ERA in his first 11 appearances.  Santana made a spot start, going five innings against the high-powered offense of the Boston Red Sox, allowing no runs in five innings.  After seven more relief appearances with a 6.52 ERA, Santana became a starter for the duration of the season, putting up a sparkling 3.22 ERA across 92.1 innings, putting up an 8-2 record.  During the 2003 season, Santana put up a 3.07 ERA across 45 games (18 starts) while striking out 169 batters and walking 47 batters.  Despite the seemingly pedestrian statistics (though the 3.07 ERA was good for a 148 ERA+), Santana picked up one fifth-place Cy Young vote.

In 2004, Santana dominated, putting up a 2.61 ERA across 228 innings, striking out 265 with a 20-6 record.  Even more amazing was the second half of Santana’s season.  After putting up a 3.78 ERA in 19 starts across 123.2 innings, Santana overwhelmed opponents with a 1.21 ERA across 15 starts over 104.1 innings while averaging 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.  Even more amazing was Santana’s final six starts of the season, all in September.  Across 40 innings, Santana allowed only two runs (both earned), while striking out 52.  After the season, Santana was awarded the American League Cy Young award.

Over the next three years, Santana established himself as one of the most reliable and dominating pitchers in the major leagues, winning another Cy Young, coming in third place and fifth place one time each.  From 2004 through 2007, Santana put up a 70-32 record, striking out 983 while walking 198 and allowing 705 hits.  In 2005, Santana went 16-7 with a 2.87 ERA.  In 2006, Santana went 19-6 with a 2.77 ERA, striking out 245 to lead the league in strikeouts for the third consecutive season.  Additionally, Santana won the pitching triple crown, leading the American league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts.  In 2007, Santana seemed to take a step backwards, put up a 3.33 ERA across 219 innings and had his first WHIP higher than 1.000 since 2003.

After the season, the Twins, fearing Santana would leave as a free agent after his contract expired after 2008, looked for a team willing to give up multiple top prospects.   Rumors swirled around multiple large-market franchises, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, and New York Yankees.  The Yankees were rumored to be offering a number of packages involving different prospects, including Melky Cabrera, Phil Hughes, Jeffrey Marquez, Ian Kennedy, and Jhonny Nunez.  The Red Sox were dangling a number of packages as well, including packages that included a combination of Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester,  Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, and veteran Coco Crisp.  The Dodgers were dangling packages involving prospects Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, who was viewed as the best pitching prospect at the time.

While the Mets were rumored to be involved, they refused to part with top prospect Fernando Martinez, thereby significantly decreasing the possibility they would acquire the ace.  In the end, the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers were unable to acquire Santana and it was the dark-horse Mets who acquired Santana for Deolis Guerra, Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber, and Kevin Mulvey.

The Mets, fresh off one of the largest collapses in baseball history (at that point, possibly only eclipsed by the 2004 Yankees in the ALCS and the 1964 Phillies), needed to acquire another arm and make a splash.  Without giving up their top prospect, Fernando Martinez (#20 in Baseball America), the Mets were able to acquire one of the best pitchers in the game.  In the deal, the Mets paid a high price, as Deolis Guerra (#35 in Baseball America) was fresh off a season in High A St. Lucie as an 18-year old, an age most people are finishing up High School, Carlos Gomez (#52 in Baseball America, after being #60 in the previous year) showed significant upside in his brief trial with the Mets, Humber struggled in AAA after being the #3 overall pick in 2004, and Mulvey showed a lot of promise in AA after being a second round pick in 2006.  In short, while the Mets did not give up their top prospect, they gave up a lot of talent to acquire Santana.

In 2008, Santana did not disappoint.  Leading the National League with 34 starts, 234.1 innings, and 964 batters faced, Santana put up a 2.53 ERA and capped the season with one of his best starts of the season in the 161st game of the season, a sparkling 117-pitch complete game shutout, allowing three hits and walking three more, striking out nine against the Florida Marlins.  Unfortunately, the Mets struggled to complete the season yet again, missing out on the playoffs in the final day.  After the season, Santana had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee.

In 2009, Santana pitched well, putting up a 3.13 ERA across 25 starts before being shut down in late August due to bone chips in his throwing shoulder after the Mets fell out of contention.  Santana would return in 2010, putting up a 2.98 ERA in 29 starts across 199 innings before being shut down in September due to an Anterior Capsule Tear.  A capsule is a soft tissue envelope that helps to attach to the scapula, humerus, and the head of the bicep.  Due to this injury, Santana missed nearly the entire 2011 season, only making two appearances at High A St. Lucie.

In 2012, Santana returned with a vengeance, striking out 68 in 68 innings, and leading the National League with 11 starts and two complete game shutouts, including the no hitter on June 1, the first in Mets history – 8,020 games.

After the game, Santana addressed the Mets, saying, “[t]onight we all made history, that’s all that matters.  I give it to you guys, because you guys made it happen.”  Santana’s game was amazing for a number of reasons, it was the first time he had fewer than three hits in a complete game and the most pitches he ever threw in one game, with his 134 pitches amounting to nine more than he had ever thrown in a professional baseball game.

By sheer coincidence (or was it?), the next day I attended a Baseball Prospectus event at CitiField where I, along with a number of other baseball fans, had the opportunity to hear a number of baseball writers including Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks and Ben Lindbergh; BP and’s Jay Jaffe; and’s Corey Schwartz.  Additionally, there was a 30-minute question and answer session with Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson.  Alderson opened by discussing Santana’s outing, discussing Manager Terry Collins’ decision to allow Santana to throw 134 pitches despite only recently coming back from shoulder surgery.  Alderson, while showing a clear preference for not allowing Santana to throw 134 pitches, commented that “probabilities, mathematics take a back seat to emotion,” showing his support for Collins’ decision.

In the end, Santana’s no hitter, the first in Mets’ history, was something that he will remember for years and so will a great a number of Mets, former teammates, and sports fans.  But the best comment is from Johan Santana himself:

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.


Post Hype Prospect – Angel Guzman

Angel Guzman, a minor leaguer in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball today for 50 games for a second violation of the minor league drug prevention and treatment program for a drug of abuse, as was announced by the commissioner’s office.  Guzman made 88 appearances, 14 starts, with the Chicago Cubs from 2006-2009 with a 3-10 record and a 4.82 ERA.  While this may seem like another player trying to get back to the show, but this was nowhere near the case.  Guzman was once considered a top prospect with a significant chance to become something special.

In March of 1999, Guzman was signed out of Venezuela by the Kansas City Royals, but his signing was voided due to concerns over the health of Guzman’s arm.  Sensing an opportunity, the Chicago Cubs signed Guzman in November.  While working on a visa in 2000, Guzman pitched in the Venezuelan Summer League for La Pradera (which means the prairie, for those of you who don’t habla espanol), and put up a solid 1.93 ERA across 32.2 IP.  In 2000, the Cubs assigned Guzman to their Short Season A affiliate in the Northwest League, the Boise Hawks, where Guzman immediately showed promise, putting up a 2.23 ERA cross 76.2 innings.  While he only had 63 strikeouts (7.4k/9), he also displayed good control, only walking 2.2 per nine innings.   In 2002, Guzman started the season with the Daytona Cubs, the Cubs’ Low A affiliate in the Midwest League and found immediate success, putting up a silly 1.89 ERA over 62 innings, and was promoted to the Daytona Cubs, the Cubs’ High A affiliate in the Florida State League.  Guzman kept dominating in Daytona, putting up a 2.39 ERA across 94 innings.  After the 2002 season, Guzman was ranked the Cubs’ #2 prospect by Baseball America (Mark Prior was the top Cubs prospect, ranked #2 overall) and the #47 prospect in all of baseball.

In 2003, the Cubs kept pushing Guzman, assigning him to the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx of the AA Southern League.  Guzman responded by dominating, putting up a 2.81 ERA over 89.2 innings while striking out 87 batters.  Guzman was selected to appear in the All Star Futures Game in U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.  Unfortunately, Guzman hurt his labrum (a piece of cartilage that surrounds the joint between the humerus and the shoulder blade) and had surgery in mid-July for the injury.  The injury would slow Guzman, but it was believed that he would bounce back from the surgery.  After the 2003 season, Baseball America ranked Guzman the #1 prospect in the Cubs’ system and the #26 prospect in all of baseball.  Guzman was even ranked the #9 prospect in the Southern League by Baseball America, despite only playing of the half season (which is not uncommon, as rankings are often done based upon performance while in the league and many players do not spend full seasons on one minor league team).

In 2004, Guzman was kept back in extended spring training until May, when he was assigned to the Daytona Cubs of the Florida State League.  Making his first appearance on May 13, Guzman looked good, even if his ERA was not spectacular.  Guzman struck out 40 over 30 innings (12K/9) despite his 4.20 ERA.  The Cubs saw enough, promoting him back to the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx of the Southern League.  Guzman did not do as well for the Diamond Jaxx, putting up a 5.60 ERA across 17.2 innings, striking out 13.  While Guzman’s prospect status was beginning to fade, it was still burning quite strong.  Baseball America ranked Guzman the #4 prospect in the Cubs’ farm system and the #88 prospect in all of baseball, and given the “Best Fastball in the Cubs System” superlative.

Guzman complained of forearm stiffness in April of 2005, and did not pitch until August where he made four starts for the Rookie level AZL Cubs, followed by two starts for the Peoria Chiefs of the Midwest League.  Predictably, Guzman dominated the Arizona League for the AZL Cubs, striking out 17 across 12 innings while allowing just three runs (two earned).  In Peoria, Guzman struck out 7 in 6.1 innings while allowing five runs (three earned).  The Cubs were impressed enough to assign Guzman to the Iowa Cubs of the AAA Pacific Coast League to start the 2006 season.  Guzman showed off his impressive stuff, striking out 77 in 75.2 innings across 15 starts while putting up a 4.04 ERA, which is respectable considering the offense-friendly environment of the PCL.  Promoted to the Major Leagues in early August, Guzman struggled, putting up a 7.39 ERA across 15 games (10 starts), while striking out 60.  Guzman’s undoing was his control, as he walked 37 (5.9 BB/9), but allowing 68 hits (10.4/9) did not help.

Guzman began the 2007 season in the Cubs bullpen, but was sent down to Iowa to get more consistent work and be available as a starter should the need arise.  The results in Iowa were disastrous; Guzman allowed 14 runs (all earned) across 10.1 innings, good for a 12.19 ERA.  Despite this, the Cubs called up Guzman in May and used him as a starter for three games; where Guzman pitched well, putting up a 3.52 ERA across 15.1 innings.  After this, Guzman was sent to the bullpen, where he pitched well, with a 4.70 ERA (one bad outing on May 30 made his ERA explode) across 7.2 IP.  In June, Guzman felt pain in his forearm again, and was put onto the DL.  While rehabbing for the AZL Cubs, the pain continued.  Guzman had torn his ulnar collateral ligament and had Tommy John Surgery, not appearing in another game until August 2008, with the Daytona Cubs of the Florida State League.  Guzman appeared in two games for the Daytona Cubs, then one game for the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx, followed by four appearances with the Iowa Cubs.  Appearing in his first Major League game in over a year on September 2, Guzman pitched one scoreless inning, allowing one hit and walking one.  Guzman pitched poorly in 2008, putting up a 5.59 ERA across 9.2 innings, while striking out 10.

Guzman spent most of the 2009 with the Cubs, putting up a spectacular 2.95 ERA across 61 innings over 55 relief appearances, striking out 47 (6.9K/9) to go with a sparkling 1.049 WHIP.  Guzman missed some time in late June and early July due to an upper arm strain, and was shut down in September due to the same issue.

2010 was a terrible year for Guzman.  In January, his brother, Daniel Guzman, a drummer for a rock band back in their native Venezuela was traveling in a Jeep Grand Cherokee in Caracas when three armed men intercepted the SUV in which he was riding and shot him.  Daniel died shortly after sustaining the gunshot wounds, and the motives and identities of the shooters are still unknown.  In February, Guzman had surgery on his meniscus and in March Guzman had surgery on his right (throwing) shoulder.  Guzman missed the entire 2010 season recovering from the surgeries.

After the season, the Cubs removed Guzman from the 40-man roster and signed him to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.  After two starts for the Peoria Chiefs in the Midwest League (his fourth time in the Midwest League) to start the 2011 season, Guzman made 19 appearances (17 starts) for the Daytona Cubs of the Florida State League (also his fourth time in the FSL), putting up a 4.26 ERA while easing back into pitching by only throwing 31.2 innings.

In the off season, Guzman signed a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers with an invitation to spring training.  Despite pitching 5.1 scoreless innings in spring training while giving up only one hit, Guzman was never considered a serious candidate to make the Dodgers and was assigned to the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Dodgers’ AAA affiliate in the PCL, but did not make an appearance.  Today at 3:45pm EDT (not EST, as the press release states), this release was made:

Dodgers Minor League pitcher Guzman suspended

The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced today that Los Angeles Dodgers Minor League pitcher Angel Guzman has received a 50-game suspension after a second violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program for a drug of abuse.

The suspension of Guzman, who is currently on the roster of Triple-A Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League, is effective immediately.

This suspension for a violation, which is not steroids but a “drug of abuse,” will probably end Guzman’s career.  Guzman had been released from the 40-man roster by the Cubs after the 2010 season and the Dodgers were merely using him as an insurance policy, which is never a good sign for a pitcher.

Which begs the question:  What happened to Guzman?  The answer is simple: injuries.  Whenever Guzman seemed to get on a roll, he hurt his arm.  Guzman had Tommy John surgery and shoulder surgery, his arm was not what it once was and his performance bore out the decrease in ability.  In the end, Guzman spent over a decade being paid to play baseball, but, in the end, it’s the “what ifs” that hurt the most.  Guzman could have been an amazing pitcher, and the great “what if” was what could have happened if he had just stayed healthy.

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.


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