Results tagged ‘ Jonathan Mayo ’

Pre-Hype Prospect – Archie Bradley

The 2011 Major League Baseball Rule IV Draft was widely considered to be one of the best drafts in recent memory, if not all time.  Although there was no consensus “generational” talent that would go #1, such as 2009’s #1 Stephen Strasburg or 2010’s #1 Bryce Harper, the depth of top-flight talent would be the calling card of the 2011 draft.

There were five elite pitching prospects that went in the first seven picks; college pitchers Gerrit Cole (#1, Pirates), Danny Hultzen (#2, Mariners), and long-tossing Trevor Bauer (#3, Diamondbacks); and Oklahoma High School pitchers Dylan Bundy (#4, Orioles) and Archie Bradley (#7, Diamondbacks).   Each of the first four picks have generated significant buzz: Cole for his blazing fastball and ace projection in High A; Hultzen for his absolute dominance of college hitters while at Virginia and continued dominance in AA; Bauer for his routine of 500-foot long-tossing, throwing his first warm-up pitch off the backstop, dominance at UCLA, and continued dominance in AA; and Bundy for his 100-mph fastball and ace projection, coupled with his near perfect dominance of Low A hitters thus far (64 batters faced over 20 innings, allowing only two hits and two walks, while striking out 33.

Perhaps the best one of them all, and the one generating the least buzz, has been the #7 pick: former Broken Arrow Tiger Archie Bradley.  Bradley’s tale started long before he was drafted.  After to transferring to Broken Arrow High School before his junior year, Bradley quickly became a multi-sport star as the starting quarterback for the football team and the ace pitcher for the baseball team.  After Bradley’s junior season, he was named to the 2010 Aflac All-American Baseball Classic as a pitcher for the West team.

Prior to the 2011 baseball season, there was considerable buzz surrounding Bundy and Bradley.  As often happens with elite athletes who play in the same area, Bundy and Bradley becoming friends when they were roommates for the Dallas Baseball Academy of Texas (D-Bat) Mustangs, an amateur team that played in the DFW Metro Scout League and in the Connie Mack World Series, the premier tournament for high school-age baseball players.

During Bradley’s senior season, he led his team to a 36-1 record and the Oklahoma 6A State Championship, Broken Arrow’s first since 1991.  Bradley pounded the strike zone with his mid-to-upper 90s fastball and power curveball, striking out 14 and only allowing two hits.  Three of Bradley’s strikeouts were by Owasso’s star pitcher Dylan Bundy, who was playing third base (he pitched the previous day).  Bradley finished the season with a 12-1 record, allowing only three earned runs across 71.1 innings, while striking out 133 (16.8 K/9).

In February, Bradley committed to play both football and baseball at the University of Oklahoma.  Bradley, a big Sooner fan, was going to redshirt his freshman year in order to acclimate to college.  Bradley, when asked about his choice to go to Oklahoma or play professional baseball, said:

It’s going to come down to what I really feel is best for me. I’ve used this analogy a bunch: Andrew Luck staying at Stanford proved that money isn’t everything. I have to make a decision that I can be happy with. I’ll weigh it out, whether it’s OU or pro ball is right for my future. It’s gonna be a big decision.

On June 6, the Arizona Diamondbacks selected Bradley with the #7 overall pick of the draft.  Bradley had a choice: go to Oklahoma to learn, play football and baseball, and hope to improve his draft stock in three years; or sign for guaranteed millions with the Diamondbacks.  Before the draft, Bradley and fellow Oklahoman Bundy had made waves with their pre-draft comments about expected signing bonuses, as reported by Baseball America’s Jim Callis:

Callis later said that:

Neither Bundy nor Bradley will top Strasburg’s [$15.1 million] contract. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if Bundy equaled or surpassed Beckett and Porcello [both $7 million], or if Bradley topped the $5.25 million two-sport deal that quarterback/right hander Zach Lee got from the Dodgers in 2010.

Just minutes before the deadline, Bradley signed a contract worth $5 million, spread out over five years due to his two-sport abilities (players who could play multiple sports in college are eligible to have their signing bonuses spread out over a number of years, while one-sport athletes must get theirs all at once).

After signing, Bradley was sent to the Missoula Osprey, the Diamondbacks’ Rookie Level affiliate in the Pioneer League.  Bradley appeared in two games for one-inning each, allowing one hit, zero walks, and zero runs, while striking out four.  In 15 innings with the Diamondbacks during instructional league play, Bradley gave up four runs, walking four, giving up just five hits, and striking out 22.

After the season, the prospect prognosticators repeatedly stated how much they liked Bradley’s potential, with Baseball America ranking Bradley #2 in the Diamondbacks’ organization and #25 overall, Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein ranking Bradley #3 in the Diamondbacks’ organization and #37 overall, and Jonathan Mayo at rated Bradley #18.  John Sickels stated that it is “[h]ard to say that a guy picked #7 overall is a “steal,” but he may very well be.

The glowing reports came in during Spring Training, with the buzz focusing on Bradley’s velocity and power curveball.  One of the people commenting was Diamondbacks starting catcher, Miguel Montero:

I wanted to see what he had.  I don’t believe what people say, so I wanted to see it. I saw the real deal right there. The ball was coming out of his hand like he was throwing 200 mph, an explosion. Those kids had no chance. Then I’m like, ‘He’s got just a fastball,’ and then he threw a hammer [curveball]. I was like, ‘Wow.’ He’s only 19, but if he stays healthy the way he is, he’s going to be here probably sometime next year. I guarantee that.

Montero continued, discussing Bradley on a personal level:

He’s a good kid. He has a great personality; I like it. Seems like a great teammate. He’s dedicated, he wants to get better and he wants to play in the big leagues soon.

Bradley’s pure stuff has been the focus of the attention with his blazing fastball, as was stated by Diamondbacks’ minor league pitching coordinator Mel Stottlemyer, Jr.:

You know how some hitters, there’s a different sound off the bat?  It’s a different look on how that ball comes out of his hand.  We’ve got some other good arms out there; take nothing away from them.  But this is different.  We stay out of his way.

Bradley’s curveball has also gathered attention, as it was called a “knockout curveball” by Jim Shonerd at Baseball America and a “power curve” that is an above average pitch by Jonathan Mayo of  The most hyperbolic was Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus, stating that Bradley’s “power curve is an executioner pitch, thrown with impressive velocity and achieving a very late and heavy break. Scouts have not been shy about throwing a future 7 on the offering, saying it could miss bats at any level of professional baseball right now.”

After spring training, Bradley was assigned to the South Bend Silver Hawks of the A Level Midwest League.  Bradley, the third youngest pitcher (only Raul Alcantara and John Barbato are younger) and 11th youngest player in the league, immediately began dominating the league.  In Bradley’s first six starts, Bradley has gone at least five innings and allowed no more than two runs.  Even after a poor seventh start (4 innings and 5 runs – 3 earned – against the Great Lakes Loons while giving up his first home run), Bradley’s statistics are imposing: 4-1 record and a 2.57 ERA with 38 strikeouts and only 13 hits over 35 innings.  While Bradley has walked 21 batters, his 0.971 WHIP shows just how dominating he has been in his brief time in professional baseball.

So what should we expect from Bradley?  Unless you are a fan of the Diamondbacks or in an exceptionally deep keeper league, Bradley probably will not be of relevance until late 2014, if not 2015.  Bradley’s ability, coupled with his size (6’4″ and 225 pounds) and simple, easy delivery make him a top prospect based upon current ability, and he has the potential to become even better.  In order to become the top of the rotation starter the Diamondbacks envisioned when they drafted him, Bradley will have to improve his command, sharpen his power curveball, and turn his average-at-best curveball into a solid third pitch.

Of course, so much could go wrong, as Dan Strittmatter of AZ SnakePit put it in his Diamondbacks’ top 30 prospect write-up:

[T]here’s still so much that could go wrong with Bradley’s development. … Lower-level arms are tantalizing to dream on, but the odds of them panning out as planned are disturbingly small, which is something to remember before declaring Bradley as a sure-fire bet to anchor the D-backs rotation in 2014.

But don’t sell Bradley short just because he was the 5th pitcher taken in the 2011 draft – he may have the most potential.

Until next time, or to ask a question, follow me at @HypeProspect (or follow Archie Bradley at @ArchieBradley7)


Post Hype Prospect – Bobby Abreu

When the Angels placed Bobby Abreu on waivers on April 27, I wondered if this would be the end of the line for one the most successful players in baseball history.  Fortunately, or unfortunately if you watched Abreu leave three runners on base in two at bats on May 4, the Dodgers picked him up and immediately placed him on their major league roster.
In the interest of full disclosure, Bobby Abreu has always fascinated me.  He never really looked like a great athlete (though he clearly is in great shape), he never looked like he was trying, and he never put up monster numbers, but at the end of nearly every season for 13 years he ended up with at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases.  He drove in at least 100 eight times, scored 100 another eight, and went 30/30 twice. He was a great right fielder, but was notoriously allergic to walls, and stole bases whenever the pitcher was not paying enough attention.  In the end, Bobby Abreu was a truly singular baseball player whose talents were never fully appreciated – unless you were playing fantasy baseball.

Bob Kelly Abreu was signed by the Houston Astros as an international free agent out of Venezuela in August 1990, just months after his 16th birthday.  Assigned to the GCL Astros of the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League, Abreu put up an amazing 301/358/372 line.  While that line may not look amazing at first blush, had Abreu been born in the U.S., Puerto Rico, or Canada, Abreu would be about to start his senior year of High School, not playing professional baseball.  In 1992, Abreu was assigned to the Astros’ full season A Level Southern Atlantic League affiliate, the Asheville Tourists.  Abreu more than held his own, putting up a 292/375/402 line as the third youngest player in the Southern Atlantic League.  Tough Abreu only hit eight home runs in 549 plate appearances, he displayed a mature approach by walking 63 times and hit 21 doubles.  Baseball America took notice after the season, ranking Abreu the #95 prospect in all of baseball despite being 18 and having just completed his first full season of professional baseball.

In 1993, Abreu was sent to the High A Osceola Astros of the Florida State League where he put up a 283/352/430 line across 530 plate appearances.  Abreu’s line for 1993 is, to say the least, fascinating.  He hit 21 doubles, 17 triples (which lead the FSL, but the home park may have been a factor, as Abreu was one of six Oscola Astros who had at least six triples), and five home runs (down from eight in 1992).  Abreu stole 10 bases, but was thrown out 14 times.  Abreu walked 51 times (17th in the FSL out of 100 players with at least 149 PA), but struck out 90 times (tied for 9th most).  Abreu was still viewed as a top prospect, but was not ranked by Baseball America in their top 100.

In 1994, Abreu broke out – putting up a great 303/368/530 line across 451 plate appearances for the Jackson Generals of the AA Texas League.  Though his walks further decreased to 42, Abreu hit 25 doubles, 9 triples, and 16 home runs – finally appearing to realize his power potential.  Abreu’s stock as a prospect was spiking, as Baseball America rated him the #52 prospect in baseball.

In 1995, Abreu spent the entire year playing for the Tucson Toros of the AAA Pacific Coast League, putting up a solid, if not spectacular, 304/395/516 line while hitting 24 doubles, 17 triples, and 10 home runs.  He still got caught stealing too much (14 in 30 attempts), but there was significant offensive growth and actualization.  Baseball America rated Abreu the #29 prospect in all of baseball (and immediately ahead of Jermaine Dye) with many prospect prognosticators praising his plate approach and defense, along with his power potential.

Despite the Astros’ mediocre outfield in 1996 (Brian Hunter, Derek Bell, and James Mouton had the most plate appearances, with significant playing time from Derrick May and John Cangelosi), Abreu returned to Tucson for another season in AAA.  Abreu put up a 283/389/459 line, showing improved plate discipline (83 walks in 573 plate appearances) and a better approach to base running (24 stolen bases in 42 attempts), with 14 doubles, 16 triples, and 13 home runs.  Abreu was called up to the Astros in September, putting up a 227/292/273 line across 24 PA.  While the overall line does not look good, it is important to note that, at 22 years old, Abreu was one of the youngest players in the major leagues and, more importantly, 24 PA is such a tiny sample size that it is statistically insignificant.  Unconcerned with the poor big league showing, Baseball America rated Abreu the #38 prospect in all of baseball after 1996, behind Eli Marrero.

In 1997, Abreu began the season with the Astros, appearing in 20 out of the Astros’ first 26 games, putting up a 271/386/457 line while primarily playing right field.  Abreu struggled in May, and went on the disabled list on May 25 with a fractured right hand.  Abreu was on the disabled list until July 3, when he returned to the Astros for almost two weeks, putting just seven plate appearances across five games.  Abreu was sent down to the minors, where he put up a combined 262/329/379 in AA and AAA (the AA portion appears to be part of his rehab, but I cannot find game logs to confirm this).  Abreu returned to the Astros on September 1, putting up a 294/333/471 line over 14 games to close out the season to finish with a 250/329/372 line at the major league level.  All told, 1997 was not a successful year for Abreu.  Despite spending most of the 1997 season with the Astros, he had not performed particularly well and missed significant time with an injury.

On November 18, 1997, Major League Baseball held an expansion draft in order to put major league players on the rosters of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Each team was allowed to protect a number of players, and the Astros decided to protect Richard Hidalgo instead of Abreu.  With the 6th overall pick, the Devil Rays selected Abreu and, immediately after the draft, traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies for Kevin Stocker.  The Devil Rays GM, Chuck LaMar, wanted Stocker, who was known for his strong defense and complete lack of offensive ability, and was willing to give up the soon-to-be 24 year old Abreu for the soon-to-be 28 year old Stocker.  The Phillies’ GM, Ed Wade, should be commended for this move.  Though the 1998 Phillies would have to use Desi Relaford as their shortstop, Abreu would hit from day one (literally, he went 2/6 on Opening Day against the Mets) for the Phillies.

In 1998, Abreu put up an impressive 312/409/497 line (with 14 intentional walks), beginning his long and successful career.  Abreu has put up an OPS+ of at least 104 in every season from 1998 through 2011, but has struggled so far in 2012.  Playing without a position for the Angels, Abreu put up a 208/259/333 line in eight games before being released.  The Dodgers picked up Abreu, with formerly-mustachioed Manager Don Mattingly stating that Abreu “gives [the Dodgers] a chance to be a little bit better.”

In the end, Bobby Abreu pretty much turned out to be the player he was projected to become, with a career 293/396/480 slash line (129 OPS+), with 284 home runs, 393 stolen bases, 2390 hits, 1414 runs, and 1330 RBI.  Abreu’s ability to hit line drives and patience at the plate have been his calling card, racking up 558 doubles in his career, good for 25th all time and 2nd amongst active players (only 3 behind Todd Helton).

So is this the end for Abreu?  At this point, Abreu has become a “lefty bat off the bench” who can occasionally play the outfield.  While he has put up great career numbers, he lacks the “wow” factor that voters often require when voting someone into the Hall of Fame, and he was only elected to two All Star Games, awarded one Silver Slugger, and awarded one Gold Glove.  This lack of awards, despite winning the 2005 Home Run Derby, will doom Abreu to being part of the Hall of Very Good – which is quite an accomplishment.  Abreu is currently 98th with 9,703 career plate appearances – a place surrounded by Hall of Famers and legends, such as Ted Simmons (100), Willie McCovey (99), Julio Franco (97), and Richie Ashburn (96).

How will Abreu be remembered?  As a very good player who put together a long, successful career in baseball and the fact that he has made in excess of $115 million in his career while flying under the radar.

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.


Non-Hype Prospect – Lucas Duda

Lucas Duda – Where did he come from?

One of the most fascinating things in baseball prospecting, at least for me, isn’t the top prospect who becomes the great player (though that is pretty cool).  For me, one of the most fascinating things is when the non-prospect, the non-top-pick makes a splash in the major leagues.  One of the sudden splashes over the past few years is Mets OF/1B, Lucas Duda.

After attending Arlington High School in Riverside, California, Duda was not selected in the Rule IV draft and went to the University of Southern California, where he, well, played for three years.  The vast majority of people who play professional baseball, even ones who never make the major leagues, dominated in college, putting up numbers more associated with video games than reality.  Duda was not one of them, as he put up a 208/322/299 slash line as a freshman in 2005, a 298/391/398 as a sophomore in 2006, and a 280/378/468 line as a junior in 2007.  While his numbers look good as a sophomore and a junior, the USC Trojans team hit a composite 313/398/423 slash line in 2006 and 286/369/399 in 2007.

Nevertheless, Omar Minaya and his staff saw something and drafted Duda with the 29th pick of the 7th round (243rd overall) of the 2007 draft, signed him for $85,000, and assigned him to the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Mets’ short-season A affiliate in the New York Penn League.  Duda put up a tremendous 299/398/462 slash line in 67 games, resulting in Baseball America ranking Duda the #29 prospect in the Mets system.  In 2008, the Mets assigned Duda to the St. Lucie Mets, their affiliate in the High A Florida State League, a league that is traditionally difficult on hitters.  Duda had a solid year in St. Lucie, putting up a 263/358/398 line with 11 home runs.  For context, only three hitters hit more than 15 home runs, Ryan Strieby, Brian Dopirak, and Juan Francisco; Brennan Boesch hit 7 in 461 PA, J.P. Arencibia and Logan Morrison hit 13 each.  After the season Baseball America rated Duda the #20 prospect in their system.

In 2009, Duda was assigned to the Binghamton Mets in the AA Eastern League, where he put up a 281/380/428 line across 110 games.  In mid August, Duda strained his knee, keeping him out for the next two weeks.  Though Duda’s line showed impressive patience, it lacked power, something a slow-footed 1B/OF must show in order to get promoted.  Duda failed to make Baseball America’s list of top 30 Mets prospects and returned to Binghamton to start 2010.  Primarily playing left field with Nick Evans, Josh Satin, and Marshall Hubbard manning the first sack, Duda crushed AA pitching, putting up a 286/411/503 line across 45 games before being promoted to the International League’s Buffalo Bisons, the Mets’ AAA affiliate in mid-June.  Duda hit even more in AAA, putting up a 314/389/610 line in 70 games in Buffalo, while primarily playing left field, with Mike Jacobs and Nick Evans (he was promoted in early July) primarily playing first base.  The Mets brought Duda up when rosters expanded in September, showing patience, power, and a massive hole in his swing while putting up a 202/261/417 line across 29 games, all in left field.  Suddenly, baseball writers took notice, with Baseball America ranking Duda the Mets’ #7 prospect and’s Jonathan Mayo naming Lucas Duda the Organizational Player of the Year for putting up a 304/398/569 line across AA and AAA with 23 homers and 87 RBI.

2011 started with Duda playing for the Mets as Jason Bay missed the first part of the season.  After being sent back to Buffalo on April 10, Duda returned to the Mets for two days in early May, but for the most part remained in Buffalo for two months with Jason Bay in left field and Ike Davis at first base for the Mets.  Duda put up an impressive 302/414/597 line with ten home runs in 38 games while playing 16 games in right field, 18 games in left field, and 8 games at first base.  Called up by the Mets on June 9, Duda proved that he belonged in the big leagues.  Splitting time between first base (43 games, 37 starts) and right field (42 games, 38 starts), with a little bit of left field mixed in (4 games, all starts), Duda put up an impressive 292/370/482 line before being shut down for the season in late September after crashing into a wall.

In 2012, Duda has been the Mets primary right fielder, putting up a 256/337/436 line while playing some of the worst outfield defense in the league with a -7.2 UZR and a -50.4 UZR/150 (according to Fangraphs), which would absolutely destroy Manny Ramirez’s -28.3 UZR/150, which is the worst defender since 2002, as calculated by Fangraphs.  I don’t mean to pick on Duda, but having seen outfields of Endy Chavez, Carlos Beltran, and Cliff Floyd or Shawn Green, or Beltran, Floyd, and Mike Cameron, it is stark how little ground Duda covers and how poor his routes to batted balls often happen to be.   That being said, Duda is being paid large sums of money to hit, and that he has done at a rate higher than the average major leaguer.

So what should we expect from Duda going forward?  I think Duda will be a solid #5 or #6 hitter going forward, but I don’t think he will ever become an elite #3 or #4 hitter, and if a team is forced to rely upon his bat too much, they could be in for a lot of trouble.   As big as Duda is, and as long as his swing appears to be, Duda does not strike out that much, only striking out 57 times in 347 PA in 2011.  Of course, in Duda’s slower start in 2012, he has struck out 21 times in 22 games, meaning that his low strike out rate in 2011 may have been a mirage due to pitchers not being familiar with Duda.

That being said, any contribution from Duda is impressive – he is one of three 7th round picks from the 2007 draft to make the majors, with Orioles outfielder Matt Angle (#219 overall) appearing in 31 games in 2011, and Diamondbacks pick Bryan Augenstein (#223) appearing in 7 games with the Diamondbacks in 2009 and 5 games with the Cardinals in 2011.  It’s also important to note that Duda is one of the two Mets picks in the first 20 rounds (23 overall) of the 2007 draft that made the major leagues.  The other is Mets’ supplemental first round pick (#42 overall) Eddie Kunz, who has, to put it mildly, not pitched up to his draft status.  Of course, before saying that Duda was the best pick in the 2007 draft for the Mets, it’s necessary to note that Duda has produced 0.8 WAR (according to Baseball Reference), but 21st round pick Dillon Gee has produced 2.3 WAR.

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.


Post Hype Prospect – Michael Pineda

This afternoon, news came out that Michael Pineda was diagnosed with an anterior labral tear and will miss the entire season surgery on Tuesday, May 1 at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.  Pineda, who turned 23 in January, has come a long way since signing with the Seattle Mariners out of the Dominican Republic back in 2005.

Signed on December 12, 2005 for a paltry $35,000, Pineda made his professional debut in 2006 in the Dominican Summer League with the DSL Mariners, putting up a 0.44 ERA over eight games (three starts), striking out 14 batters in 20.1 innings.  In 2007, Pineda was still unable to get a visa, and again pitched for the DSL Mariners, putting up a 2.29 ERA across 59 inings with 48 strike outs.  Finally able to pitch in the U.S. in 2008, Pineda dominated in for the A level Wisconsin Timber Rattlers of the Midwest Leaue, putting up a 1.95 ERA across 138.1 innings with 128 strike outs.  Pineda started 21 games and relieved in five games in an attempt to decrease his workload, finishing the season with a dominating performance against the Quad Cities River Bandits, the St. Louis Cardinals Midwest League affiliate, with 14 strike outs, no walks, and only one hit in a complete game shutout.

Moved up to the High A California League High Desert Mavericks to start 2009, Pineda pitched well to start the season, but quickly encountered arm trouble.  After going 5, 6.1, 7, and 7.1 innings to start the season, Pineda was placed on the Minor League Disabled List for 15 days due to elbow soreness.  Activated on May 12, Pineda’s innings were limited, going 2 and 3 innings in his next two appearances before re-aggravating the injury and going on the Minor League Disabled List for approximately three months, only returning to the Rookie Level AZL Mariners for a 1 and 2 inning appearance in early August.  After being cleared, Pineda was returned to High Desert, where he pitched 13.2 innings over four starts, allowing four runs (three earned), while striking out 22.

In 2010, Pineda was assigned to the AA West Tenn Diamond Jaxx of the Southern League, where he absolutely dominated opponents.  Across 77 innings over 13 starts, Pineda struck out 78 and allowed only 67 hits.  The Mariners took notice and promoted him to the AAA Tacoma Rainiers of the Pacific Coast Leauge, where Pineda kept doing well.  Pineda struck out 76 in 62.1 innings with a 4.76 ERA.  Pineda, pitching a career high 139.1 innings, clearly tired.  In his last two starts, Pineda went 4.1 and 3.2 innings, allowing four and six runs (all earned), with eight hits in both.  Pineda’s numbers should also be adjusted to consider that he was in the hitter-friendly environment of the PCL.

After 2010, prospect prognosticators took notice and rated Pineda accordingly.  Baseball America ranked Pineda #16 overall (between Matt Moore and Freddie Freeman), Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein ranked Pineda #24 (between Jacob Turner and Dustin Ackley), and’s Jonathan Mayo ranked Pineda #13 (between Kyle Drabek and Mike Montgomery).

Pineda opened the 2011 season as the #5 starter for the Seattle Mariners, immediately showing why he was considered a top prospect.  After a six-inning effort on July 4, Pineda had a 2.58 ERA over 108 innings across 1 starts with 106 strike outs and a sparkling .564 OPS-against.  Pineda struggled in his next six starts, putting up a 7.64 ERA over 33 innings until mid-August.  From August 21 through the rest of the season, Pineda seemed to pitch well, with a 3.60 ERA over five starts across 30 innings.  Overall, Pineda pitched very well, putting up a 3.74 ERA (103 ERA+) across 171 innings in his age-22 season, coming in fifth in the Rookie of the Year vote in a very stacked year.

The big trade of the 2012 off season occurred on January 23 when the Mariners dealt Pineda with prospect Jose Campos to the Yankees for ultra-prospect Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi.

In spring training, the big story was Pineda’s decreased velocity.  From ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand:

But there was also this: scouts behind home plate had Pineda’s velocity at mostly 90-92.

When Pineda dominated in the first half of last year, he threw his fastball in the mid-90s. Last spring, at this time, Pineda was throwing 95-98 and his changeup was at 88.

In his next start, Pineda silenced critics and hit 94 on the radar gun, as the Yankees’ General Manager, Brian Cashman, said that Pineda is 20 pounds overweight.   After the game, Pineda told Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News: “I know I can throw harder, but it’s getting better. My arm feels good.”  On the eve of the season, Pineda is put on the 15-day Disabled List with shoulder inflammation and tendinitis, which is never a good omen.  Then, just today, the bombshell hit: Pineda will undergo surgery next Tuesday to repair an anterior labral tear, which will keep him out for the entire 2012 season, and possibly part of 2013.

What will happen to Pineda from here?  Surgery then rehabilitation is for sure, how well his “stuff” comes back is another story altogether.  While many pitchers have come back from elbow surgery (such as ulnar collateral ligament surgery, more commonly known as Tommy John surgery) with flying colors, such as Stephen Strasburg and, well, Tommy John, shoulder surgeries, especially ones on the labrum, have a less successful track record.  As State’s Will Carroll wrote:

Leading baseball surgeon Dr. James Andrews estimates that 85 percent of pitchers make a full recovery after an ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, aka the once risky Tommy John surgery. (USA Today has even called the surgery the “pitcher’s best friend.”)  But if pitchers with torn labrums were horses, they’d be destroyed.  Of the 36 major-league hurlers diagnosed with labrum tears in the last five years, only midlevel reliever Rocky Biddle has returned to his previous level. Think about that when your favorite pitcher comes down with labrum trouble: He has a 3 percent chance of becoming Rocky Biddle. More likely, he’ll turn into Mike Harkey, Robert Person, or Jim Parque, pitchers who lost stamina and velocity—and a major-league career—when their labrums began to fray.

So what can we expect?  It’s entirely possible that this may be the end of the career of Michael Pineda, which would be unfortunate for every baseball fan, as Pineda’s talent is worth the price of admission.  But Pineda may return, and he may return to form, but only time will tell.

So does this mean that the Mariners won the trade?  It probably does.  While the Yankees may end up striking gold with Jose Campos, Jesus Montero was a lot to give up for a 19-year old pitcher in A-ball.  In the end, we will need five years to evaluate the trade, but early returns give the Mariners a big advantage.  And remember, TNSTAAPP.

Update: Curt Schilling has said that he thinks Pineda “can be back better than he has ever been in 10 months.  Maybe less, because he is younger. It is going to be 100 percent on him.”  Mark Mulder, who had a labral tear and a rotator cuff injury never felt the same after coming back from surgery.

Update #2: Baseball ProspectusJay Jaffe has written a great article discussing the results of pitchers who have had similar surgeries, and I suggest you read it .  Jaffe notes that:

On the other hand, five pitchers (Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Al Leiter, Chris Carpenter, and Gil Meche) threw more than 1,000 innings following the surgery, and another six (Scott Elarton, Jason Isringhausen, Ted Lilly, Jon Rauch, Anibal Sanchez, and Jose Valverde) have topped 400 innings.

So it appears that there is significant precedent for a successful return for Pineda – but not one without risk.

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.


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