Results tagged ‘ Kevin Goldstein ’
Arizona Diamondbacks lefthander Tyler Skaggs began his Major League career about as well as he could have hoped – 6.2 innings, two runs, three hits, five walks, and four strikeouts – and a win for his team. Despite having his Major League debut shortly after his 21st birthday, Skaggs was not always looked upon as a top prospect – more of a good prospect with a lot of upside. The amazing thing about Skaggs is that he is the rare projectable prospect who experiences the uptick in velocity, improved command and control, and pitch quality that allows him to jump up the prospect rankings.
Just before his 18th birthday, Skaggs was drafted out of Santa Monica, California by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim with the 40th pick of the 2009 draft, the Angels’ third pick in the first round. The first pick was Randal Grichuk (#24), followed by Mike Trout (#25). After Skaggs, the Angels picked Garrett Richards (#42) and Tyler Kehrer (#48) in the supplemental first round. Skaggs signed for $1 million and was assigned to the Orem Owlz (yes, Owlz) of the Rookie-level Pioneer League, where Skaggs appeared in two games allowing four runs (two earned) across four innings, striking out six. Skaggs was then assigned to the AZL Angels (not Angelz), where he appeared in three more games, starting two, allowing no runs across six innings and striking out seven.
Viewed as a lefty with a low-90s fastball with a projectable frame, prospect prognosticators were cautiously optimistic about Skaggs’ future. Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein ranked Skaggs the #9 prospect in the Angels’ system, stating that “Skaggs oozes projection,” noting his fastball “should gain a few ticks” and that Skaggs’ “command and control” were above average for a teenager. Baseball America ranked Skaggs the #8 prospect in the Angels’ organization, noting his potential to move up significantly.
In 2010, the Angels assigned the 18-year old Skaggs to the Cedar Rapids Kernals of the full-season A Midwest League, where Skaggs began showing his potential. Skaggs began the season pitching very well, and his prospect status began to climb. After his start on May 24, Skaggs’ season line sat at a 2.37 ERA with 41 strikeouts and nine walks across 38 innings. Skaggs had a respectable 3.61 ERA across 82.1 innings with 82 innings when it was announced he had been traded. Skaggs was the Player to be Named Later in the August 10 trade between the Angels and Diamondbacks, where the Angels acquired Dan Haren for Patrick Corbin, Rafael Rodriguez, Joe Saunders, and a PTBNL (Skaggs).
Skaggs was assigned to the South Bend Silver Hawks of the Midwest league and dominated for the rest of the season, allowing only three runs in his final 16 innings, striking out 20. Skaggs cumulative line and great outings at the end of the season bumped up his prospect status. Baseball America ranked Skaggs the #82 prospect (between Matt Dominguez and Chris Dwyer) in baseball, along with the #10 prospect in the Midwest League, the #2 prospect in the Diamondbacks’ system, and as having the Best Curveball in the Diamondbacks’ system. BP’s Kevin Goldstein ranked Skaggs the #83 prospect in baseball, between Delino DeShields and Dee Gordon. Goldstein lauded Skaggs’ “slow, classic 12-6 [curveball] with heavy drop that generates plenty of bad swings,” and ability to throw both his fastball and curveball for strikes.
For 2011, Skaggs was assigned to the high-A Visalia Rawhide of the hitter-friendly California League, where he continued his quality pitching, putting up a 3.22 ERA and striking out 125 (11.2k/9) in 100.2 innings before being promoted to the AA Mobile Bay Bears of the AA Southern League. In AA, Skaggs pitched even better, putting up a 2.50 ERA across 57.2 innings, striking out 73 (11.4k/9). After the season, the accolades came in, as Baseball America ranked Skaggs the #13 prospect in baseball, the #1 prospect in the California League, and the #2 prospect in the Southern League, while noting that Skaggs had the “Best Breaking Pitch” and was the “Best Pitching Prospect” in the California League. BP was just as complimentary, ranking Skaggs #21 overall, between Nolan Arenado and Billy Hamilton, noting that while his fastball used to sit in the average range (89-91), it now “sits in the 91-94mph range with a bit of natural sinking action.” Kevin Goldstein continued, stating that Skaggs can drop his “plus-plus overhand curveball … into the zone for strikes or bury it as a chase pitch.” In ranking Goldstein called Skaggs a potential “star-level starting pitcher.”
For 2012, Skaggs was sent back to the AA Mobile Bay Bears, where he dominated, putting up a 2.84 ERA across 69 innings, striking out 71 (9.2k/9) before being promoted to the AAA Reno Aces of the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. In Reno, Skaggs continued to pitch well, putting up a 2.91 ERA across 52.2 innings while striking out 45 before being promoted to Arizona.
In Skaggs’ first start, ESPN’s Keith Law noted Skaggs’ success:
Skaggs looked very sharp in the first- 91-93 and commanding the curveball—
(@keithlaw) August 22, 2012
Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein noted how much he liked Skaggs’ curveball, stating:
Baseball America’s Jim Callis lauded Skaggs’ command and control, stating that Skaggs “has better control and command than Bauer, so Skaggs might be better equipped to make a smoother transition to the big leagues” than Bauer.
So what should we expect from Skaggs for the future? Skaggs should fit in nicely in the Diamondbacks top-flight rotation of the future with Trevor Bauer, Archie Bradley, Ian Kennedy, and Trevor Cahill. Will he become a #1 pitcher? Probably not, but early returns and projections suggest he could become a solid #2, the guy you would love to give the ball to for Game 2 of a postseason series.
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
The moment it happens, you realize your team isn’t going to make that final push to the playoffs and it’s time to look forward to 2013 (and beyond) in an attempt to keep your team competitive for years to come. It happened to me in the winter between the 2010 and 2011 seasons, and since then I have dealt Yovani Gallardo, Joey Votto, David Wright, Carlos Beltran (acquired in the Gallardo deal), and Matt Cain to acquire Brett Lawrie, Matt Moore, Manny Banuelos (who was dealt to get Michael Choice), Jean Segura, Gary Sanchez, Eric Hosmer, Shelby Miller, and Francisco Lindor (amongst others).
Below is a brief list of players you may want to consider who should be up in the next two seasons that could make a big impact on your team, and another list for players who are much, much further away.
2013/2014 Call Ups
Tyler Skaggs (ARI – LHP) – Initially drafted by the Angels in the supplemental first round of the 2009 draft (the Mike Trout draft) and dealt to the Diamondbacks in the Dan Haren trade, Skaggs has dominated at every level. While Trevor Bauer has received all of the headlines, Skaggs has quietly dominated in his 52.2 innings, striking out 45, walking 16, and putting up a 2.91 ERA in the offense-friendly environment of the Pacific Coast League. Skaggs may not open the year with the Diamondbacks, but, barring injury, he won’t be in the minor leagues for long.
Zack Wheeler (NYM – RHP) – The Mets got Wheeler in the Carlos Beltran deal last July and he has not disappointed (unless you’re a Giants fan). In 116 innings for AA Binghamton, Wheeler put up a 3.26 ERA while striking out 117 across 116 innings. Since his promotion to AAA, Wheeler has had two starts. He allowed 2 runs in 4.2 innings in his first start, and then allowed one run over six innings in his second start. Wheeler may open the year in Queens, especially given the Mets’ dedication to youth.
Shelby Miller (STL – RHP) – The 19th overall pick in the 2009 draft, Miller has been moving up prospect rankings every year. After an amazing 2011 – a combined 170 strikeouts while dominating High A and AA across 139.2 innings, Miller has looked merely human lately, putting up a 5.23 ERA across 112 innings. But that does not tell the whole story, as he has been much better as of late, causing rumors of a September call-up. I think Keith Law’s tweets will help elucidate:
Sorry, grammar fail here – I heard that tonight, but Miller was 94-97 on *Saturday* night—
(@keithlaw) August 14, 2012
Casey Kelly (SDP – RHP) – If you think Miller’s year has been up and down, the ultra athletic Kelly’s season has been even more up and down. After dominating in spring training, Kelly hurt his elbow after two great AAA outings. After three tune-up outings in Rookie ball, Kelly threw five innings in AA on August 10, striking out four and facing only 16 batters. Kelly looks like a good bet to start the 2013 in San Diego, and will benefit from playing in one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the league.
Jurickson Profar (TEX – SS) – On most teams, Profar would be getting called up now, if not a guaranteed call up in September, but the Rangers have Elvis Andrus, who is also quite good. As far as shortstops go, Profar is the total package: smooth defense, good speed, average to plus power, and a great hit tool. His ceiling is that of a perennial All-Star. When does he come up? That all depends…
Billy Hamilton (CIN – SS) – The fastest player in organized baseball presents a fascinating conundrum for the Reds’ front office. They can bring him up for the September stretch run and use him as an extra infielder and pinch runner extraordinaire, or keep Hamilton in the minor leagues until next season. Of course, Hamilton is more than just pure speed, after hitting 323/413/439 in the hyper-inflated offensive environment of the California League, Hamilton has hit 289/410/412 in AA. With 139 stolen bases, Hamilton is just six behind what is believed to be the minor league record of 145, set by Vince Coleman in 1983. When will Hamilton come up? My guess is mid-2013, but having a pinch runner like Hamilton would cause absolute chaos in October.
Hak-Ju Lee (TBR – SS) – The main talent acquired in the Matt Garza trade, Lee shot up the prospect rankings due to his smooth defense and hitting in 2011, putting up a 318/389/443 like in the pitching-friendly High A Florida State League. Despite a 261/336/360 line in 2012 while in AA, Lee hit better as the year wore on, putting up a 330/387/450 line in June and a 292/391/434 line in July. Lee is also blocked by former #1 pick Tim Beckham, who is the shortstop in AAA, but Beckham is hitting 255/332/332 and was suspended for marijuana use. While Lee is widely considered to be an above average defensive shortstop, Beckham is viewed as more of a utility infielder, significantly decreasing the chance that Lee will need to get past Beckham.
Wil Myers (KCR – OF) – After an injury limited Myers to a 254/353/393 line in 2011, Myers returned to AA to start 2012 and put up a 343/414/731 line across 35 games before being promoted to AAA, where he continued to hit, putting up a 300/377/572 line in 80 games. While only Jeff Francoeur stands in his way, the Royals seem unwilling to bring up Myers and start his march toward arbitration during a losing season. Expect Myers to be promoted in September, though his role may be undetermined as the season draws to a close.
Oscar Taveras (STL – OF) – After a 386/444/584 showing in A during 2011, Taveras has destroyed AA as a 20 year old in 2012, putting up a 321/382/574 line while primarily playing center field. Though viewed as someone who will eventually need to move to right field, Taveras is widely viewed as one of the best pure hitters (if not the best pure hitter) in the minor leagues with an upside that is that of a perennial MVP candidate. To quote Jason Parks, “His swing is going to bother scouts up the chain, and he’s also going to hit all the way up the chain. It’s not always pretty, and he swings the bat like he’s trying to kill someone breaking into his home, but it works.”
Dylan Bundy (BAL – RHP) – While Orioles fans are advocating for Dylan Bundy to be called up to help out in the bullpen in September, Bundy’s future lies as a Cy Young candidate-caliber pitcher for the next decade, becoming the next face of the Baltimore Orioles. Of course, that is if Dan Duquette allows Bundy to use his best pitch.
Miguel Sano (MIN – 3B) – Who is leading the Midwest League in home runs, RBI, and extra base hits (ok, he’s tied)? Miguel Sano. Who is leading the Midwest League in walks and second in strikeouts? Miguel Sano He turned 19 in May, he will probably end up as a right fielder, and he has 80 power (just ask Kevin Goldstein). His power, and the Twins’ lack of talent will get him to the majors by the end of 2014, and he’ll be there to stay.
Austin Hedges (SDP – C) – I know what you’re thinking, how can a guy hitting 253/313/426 in A ball be in the major leagues in two years? Simple – he’s the best defensive catcher current in the minors (well, of potential prospects, 35 year old veterans need not apply). With San Diego’s pitching prospects, it may make sense to push Hedges quickly and start building trust to help San Diego compete in the future.
Anthony Rendon (WAS – 3B) – Possibly the only player who can stake a claim to the best pure hitter in the minors other than Taveras, Rendon has battled injuries since his time in college. Recently promoted to AA, Rendon appears to be the last piece of the puzzle in Washington. While he has exclusively played third base while in the minors (and DH’d, but that doesn’t really count), his defensive home is not assured. Despite Rendon’s defensive acumen, Washington has gold glover Ryan Zimmerman locking down the position for nearly the next decade, so either Rendon will be shifted to first base or second base, or Zimmerman will move over to first base. Either way, Rendon is not long for the minor leagues and figures to hit wherever his defensive home may be (and we all hope second or third, for fantasy purposes).
Project 2015, and beyond – Here is a brief list of players who won’t be up for at least two years, but, if they make the major leagues, figure to make an absolutely huge impact.
Archie Bradley (ARI – RHP) – While Skaggs and Bauer are viewed as more sure things, Bradley has the potential of being a true ace, the perpetual top of the rotation starter that opening day for a decade and, if everything goes right, starts Game 1 of the World Series. Of course, Bradley’s potential is shown as he is second in strikeouts (the leader is 23, Bradley is 19) and his problems are shown as he leads the league in walks with 72, at 5/7 per nine innings. But Bradley turned 20 just last week, underscoring how much time has to work on his command and unleash his fastball/curveball combination on major league hitters.
Gary Sanchez (NYY – C) – Gary Sanchez is probably the heir to the Jesus Montero crown in more ways than one – questions about his defensive future behind the plate, but a great hitting catcher whose bat will play at any position. Of course, playing for the Yankees only serves to increase the comparisons, but Sanchez is his own player. After being suspended by the Yankees in 2011 for poor attitude, he came back with a vengeance in 2012, hitting 297/353/517 in full season A, followed by 288/354/441 after his promotion to the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. Sanchez’s ultimate value is related to his ability to stay behind the plate (at least enough to qualify as a catcher), but his bat should play even if he ends up as a first baseman.
Aaron Sanchez (TOR – RHP) – Part of the vaunted “Lansing Three” with Noah Syndergaard and Justin Nicolino, Sanchez has a great fastball to go with his developing curveball and changeup. After somewhat struggling in 2011 (5.31 combined ERA in rookie and Low A ball), Sanchez has broken out in 2012, putting up a 2.36 ERA with 84 strikeouts across 76.1 innings. While his command still needs work (5.2 walks per nine), he could be the next ace to ply his trade on the other side of the border.
Luis Heredia (PIT – RHP) – Signed out of Mexico has a 15 year old; Heredia has dominated the college-heavy New York-Penn League despite not turning 18 until August 10. Despite not striking out that many batters (only 27 in 48.1 innings), Heredia has shown great command (2.6 walks per nine) while pitching with limited innings. Next season should be Heredia’s first season in full-season ball, and in a season with #1 Gerrit Cole and #2 Jameson Taillon, Heredia may have the highest ceiling of them all.
Tyler Austin (NYY – OF) – in 2011, Austin began putting it together, hitting 390/438/622 in 20 games for the GCL Yankees then 323/402/542 for the Staten Island Yankees. In 2012, Austin took the next step, hitting 320/405/598 in 70 games in full season A before being promoted to High A, where he has continued to hit, despite the pitching-friendly environment, putting up a 299/372/429 line while primarily playing right field. Austin may become the next great slugging outfielder for the Yankees, though comparing anyone to Ruth, Dimaggio, Mantle, or Jackson is cruel, at best. How good could Austin be? The sky is the limit.
Francisco Lindor (CLE – SS) – Like Profar? Then you should like Lindor too. A switch hitter with great bat speed who is as close to a lock to stay as a shortstop as anyone else, Lindor projects to hit for a good average while hitting 15 home runs per season. He lacks Profar’s MVP-level upside, but a shortstop who goes to the All-Star game every season is pretty valuable.
Adonys Cardona (TOR – RHP) – While his numbers have underwhelmed (4.55 ERA in 2011 and 6.32 ERA in 2012), the 6’1″ 170 pounder has the upside of a future ace and the pedigree associated with the player who received the largest bonus out of any prospects ever signed out of Venezuela, a list that includes Felix Hernandez, Johan Santana, Bobby Abreu, Carlos Gonzalez, and Jesus Montero.
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
P.S. Sorry about the complete lack of posts lately, work has been incredibly busy, but I should be able to return to my normal 1-2 per week schedule for the rest of the season!
Last week I wrote about a number of big prospects who struggled early in their careers but went on to be successful, from Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt to Matt Wieters. But a prospect struggling might be a cause for alarm, as history is also littered with top prospects that got to the major leagues and failed miserably.
1. Brandon Wood. It seems that Brandon Wood fooled everyone. A top pick when drafted (#23) by the Angels, Wood impressed from the beginning, hitting 278/348/475 for the Provo Angels and 308/349/462 for the AZL Angels, both part of different Rookie Leagues. The following season, Wood hit 251/322/404 for the Angels’ A-level affiliate in Cedar Rapids, garnering Baseball America’s #83 prospect ranking. The following season, Wood absolutely destroyed the ball in High A Rancho Cucamonga, putting up a 321/383/672 line with 43 home runs and 51 doubles. Wood’s stock skyrocketed, especially after his (Warning: SSS) 19 plate appearance trial in AAA, putting up a 316/316/526 line. Wood was ranked #3 by Baseball America. After a 276/355/552 line in AA Arkansas in 2006, Wood was ranked the #8 prospect by Baseball America; then #16 after a 272/338/497 line in AAA. Wood’s struggles in the major leagues have been well documented. After hitting 200/224/327 with 43 strikeouts in 157 PA while playing both shortstop and third base in 2008, Wood was sent back down to AAA. Wood’s trials in the major leagues never seemed to get any better, including an amazingly bad 146/174/208 line in 2010 in 226 plate appearances that included 71 strikeouts with just six walks. Wood fooled everyone, including Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein:
Me on Brandon Wood in 2005: “He’s still going to get better,” San Jose manager Lenn Sakata said. “He looks like the next Cal Ripken to me.”—
Kevin Goldstein (@Kevin_Goldstein) March 12, 2012
2. Paul Wilson. Wilson had it all: A dominating career at Florida State, a lightning fastball, a dominating slider, and a 6’5″ 235 lb frame. Wilson was the #1 pick in the 1994 Rule IV draft and was immediately ranked the #16 prospect in baseball by Baseball America. After struggling in his brief audition in 1994, Wilson dominated in his first full season of professional ball, putting up a 2.17 ERA for AA Binghamton in 120.1 innings followed by a 2.85 ERA for AAA Norfolk over 66.1 innings. After the season, Wilson was ranked the #2 prospect in by Baseball America (behind Andruw Jones). Wilson spent most of 1996 with the Mets, putting up a 5.38 ERA (75 ERA+) across 149 innings. Wilson missed time while being on the DL with “tendinitis” in his shoulder, then came back to pitch the rest of the season before being diagnosed with a torn labrum and needing shoulder surgery. Wilson made a few appearances at the end of 1997 in the low levels of the minor leagues before struggling in 1998 in the upper levels. In the spring of 1999, Wilson had his elbow rebuilt and looked pretty good for the Mets’ AAA affiliate in 2000 before being dealt with Jason Tyner to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for Bubba Trammell and Rick White. Wilson looked great as the swingman for the Devil Rays, putting up a 3.35 ERA (148 ERA+) for the Rays. Over the next four seasons, Wilson put up a combined 4.67 ERA (92 ERA+) across 124 games (111 starts) for the Devil Rays and the Cincinnati Reds before struggling further in 2005 (7.77 ERA in 9 starts) and having surgery on his labrum and rotator cuff. Wilson retired early in 2006 after struggling in the minor leagues.
3. Joel Guzman. Joel Guzman serves as the ultimate cautionary tale whenever any team drafts or signs a big shortstop. For every Alex Rodriguez, Cal Ripken, and Alfonso Soriano (laugh all you want, he was really good from 2002-2008), there are another 50 Joel Guzmans. Signed by the Dodgers out of the Dominican Republic in 2001 for a then-record $2.25 million, Guzman played rookie ball at age 17 (hitting 245/329/370) and in A and High A at age 18 (hitting 241/271/387). Guzman’s breakout came in 2004, when he hit 307/349/550 for the High A Vero Beach Dodgers in 357 plate appearances, before putting up a 280/325/522 line for the Jacksonville Suns of the AA Southern League. Guzman’s prospect status jumped after 2004, Guzman’s age-19 season, being ranked #5 by Baseball America. In 2005, Guzman (then 20) put up a solid 287/351/475 line, again in AA. In 2005 Guzman, never a particularly good defensive player, made 25 errors in 99 games at shortstop and another four in 21 games at second base. Guzman was also getting absolutely huge, growing to 6’7″ and being (kindly) listed at 225 lbs, with his reported weight much higher. Despite his size, Guzman was still ranked the #26 prospect by Baseball America, which clearly still believed strongly in his bat. In 2006, Guzman was hitting 297/353/464 for the AA Las Vegas 51s before being dealt to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays with Sergio Pedroza for Julio Lugo. Guzman was assigned to AAA Durham, where he struggled, hitting 193/228/386. After that, Guzman never really put it all together, appearing in 24 games in the major leagues and putting up a 232/306/321 line while primarily playing third base. Guzman, plying in AA for the Baltimore Orioles, hit 279/344/519 in his age 25 season, but he will never amount to more than a very large cautionary tale, as is discussed in this article on TrueBlueLA.
4. Hensley “Bam-Bam” Meulens. Meulens had it all: size (6’4″, 200 lbs), power, and a truly amazing nickname. Unfortunately he also swung at everything and often missed, which, coupled with a complete inability to consistently field a baseball, doomed him. Muelens burst onto the prospect scene by hitting 285/376/510 at AAA Columbus, then being ranked the #30 prospect by Baseball America. Muelens got a long look at the major league level in 1991, putting up a 222/276/319 line with 97 strikeouts in plate appearances, primarily playing left field. For his major league career, Muelens hit 220/288/353 with 165 strikeouts in 549 plate appearances. Of course, Muelens is now the hitting coach for the San Francisco Giants, which may explain why the Giants are, as a team, hitting 260/320/380 as a team, good for the 12th highest OPS in the NL.
5. Dallas McPherson. Drafted in the second round out of the Citadel in 2001, McPherson was supposed to be a slugging third baseman, and exploded onto the scene in his second full season with a 308/404/606 line with 18 home runs in 77 games for Ranch Cucamonga and a 314/426/569 line with 5 home runs in 28 games for AA Arkansas in 2003. After the season Baseball America ranked McPherson the #33 prospect in baseball. McPherson began the season back in AA Arkansas, where he hit 321/404/660 in 68 games before being moved up to AA Salt lake, where he put up a 313/370/680 line in 67 games. Brought up for a cup of tea in September, McPherson hit 225/279/475. After the season, McPherson was rated the #12 prospect by Baseball America. In 2005, McPherson opened the season as the Angels’ starting 3B, putting up a weak 244/295/449 line (OPS+ of 96) and has bounced between the minor leagues and the major league ever since. A typical AAAA slugger, McPherson hit 42 home runs for AAA Albuquerque in 2008, but has only appeared in 62 games in the major leagues since the end of 2005.
6. Todd Van Poppel. Todd Van Poppel was the best prospect in the 1990 draft; Chipper Jones was the first overall pick in the 1990 draft (and the player in the 1990 draft who had the best career). With a fluid motion, a dynamite fastball, and an ideal 6’5″, 210 lb frame, Van Poppel widely viewed as the best pitching prospect in nearly a decade. Van Poppel dropped as far as he did in the draft because he committed to the University of Texas and used it as leverage to scare other teams off with record-setting bonus demands. After telling the Atlanta Braves not to draft him (they took Jones), the Oakland A’s drafted him and gave him a then-record $1.2 million major league contract. After being assigned to low A Southern Oregon, Van Poppel looked the part of the future ace, putting up a 1.12 ERA in five starts across 24 innings, striking out 32. Upon his promotion to full season A for three more starts, Van Poppel put up a 3.95 ERA across 13.2 innings while striking out 17. Van Poppel also walked ten batters, a fact that was largely ignored due to his strikeout numbers and projections. After being named the #1 prospect by Baseball America, Van Poppel was assigned to AA Huntsville, where he pitched generally well, putting up a 3.47 ERA in 24 starts across 132.1 innings while striking out 115 and walking 90. Van Poppel made one start for the A’s, pitching 4.2 innings, allowing seven hits, walking two, and striking out six, while allowing five runs. After the season, Van Poppel was ranked the #2 prospect in baseball (behind 1991 #1 pick, Brien Taylor). Sent to AAA for 1992, Van Poppel put up a 3.97 ERA in nine starts across 45.1 innings while striking out 29 and walking 35 for AAA Tacoma. 1992 was a lost year for Van Poppel, as he spent the bulk of the year on the DL. Despite the plunging strikeout to walk ratio, Baseball America ranked Van Poppel the #7 prospect in baseball, behind Chipper Jones, Taylor, Cliff Floyd, Carlos Delgado (then a catcher), Tim Salmon, and Wil Cordero. Splitting time in 1993 between AAA Tacoma and Oakland, Van Poppel put up a 5.83 ERA in AAA and a 5.04 ERA in the major leagues. From that point on, Van Popple struggled, putting up a career 5.58 ERA in the major leagues across 359 games with only 98 starts.
So, in short, your top prospect may never ever become what you had hoped so you should trade him for Adam Dunn. Right now.
Until next time, @HypeProspect.
The fastest player in the California League, if not all of professional baseball, is Cincinnati Reds shortstop Billy Hamilton.
Hamilton’s speed has long been viewed as both his calling card and his biggest assets. While attending Taylorsville High School in Taylorsville, Mississippi (also the hometown of Chicago Bears’ quarterback Jason Campbell), Hamilton signed a letter of intent to play baseball and football (as a wide receiver) at Mississippi State University Bulldogs. While at Taylorsville High School, Hamilton also starred on the basketball team, averaging 35 points per game. While his hitting approach was considered raw, Hamilton’s elite speed, bat speed, and athleticism earned considerable praise. Watch Hamilton hit and throw here:
After taking Arizona State right-handed pitcher Mike Leake with their first round pick (#8), the Reds took Southern California right-hander Brad Boxberger in the supplemental first round (#43), the Reds took Hamilton with the 57th overall pick. Shortly after the draft, Hamilton was asked if he was planning to attend MSU or sign with the Reds, and he replied: “I think I’m going [with] baseball. I really don’t know yet, but I’m pretty sure I am, though. I’d rather start my whole career off now rather than later.” Hamilton continued, saying that baseball was his first love and he was anxious to grab hold of the opportunity to play professional baseball.
Hamilton signed and was assigned to the Rookie Level GCL Reds of the Gulf Coast League and immediately struggled in his first experience in professional baseball, hitting a putrid 205/235/277, striking out 47 times in 43 games. One area where Hamilton had success was in stealing 14 bases despite only getting on base 45 times, showcasing his world-class speed. After the season, Hamilton was viewed as little more than a speedster with impressible tools and tremendous upside who was far from actualization. Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein ranked Hamilton the #10 prospect in the Reds’ system, commenting that Hamilton is “far more of an athlete than a baseball player at this point” and Hamilton had “little feel for the strike zone,” as was evidenced by his high strike out total. Baseball America ranked Hamilton the #11 prospect, echoing many similar comments to Goldstein’s.
In 2010, Hamilton was held back in extended spring training for extra instruction before being assigned to the Rookie Level Billings Mustangs of the Pioneer League, where the improvement was stark. In 69 games, Hamilton put up a 318/383/456 line with 13 doubles, 10 triples, and two home runs. More amazingly, Hamilton stole 48 bases in 57 attempts and struck out 56 times, or approximately three every five games. While in Billings, Hamilton played 13 games at shortstop and 55 games at second base, fueling speculation that the Reds did not view Hamilton as a shortstop in the long-term. After the season, the accolades began rolling in. Baseball America ranked Hamilton the #2 prospect in the Reds’ system, behind only Cuban fireballer Aroldis Champman, along with naming Hamilton the “Fastest Baserunner” and “Best Athlete,” and projecting him as the starting second baseman for the 2014 Reds. BP’s Kevin Goldstein ranked Hamilton the #3 prospect in the Reds’ system, behind Chapman and Devin Mesoraco, stating that “[i]f one could give a grade higher than 80 for speed, Hamilton would certainly earn it. He is arguably the fastest prospect in the game, with the kind of blinding speed that turns any ground ball to the left side into an adventure. He’s already a potent basestealer who swiped 48 bags in just 69 games and was safe on 29 of his last 30 attempts.” Goldstein questioned Hamilton’s ability to stay at shortstop, but commented that his value as a second baseman who bats leadoff was incredible. Goldstein ranked Hamilton the #46 prospect in all of baseball, comparable to Baseball America, who ranked Hamilton #50.
Around now is when I became aware of Billy Hamilton, from episode 19 of Up and In: The Baseball Prospectus Podcast, where Goldstein and Jason Parks each picked three prospects that they felt would have breakout seasons in 2011. While there were other players picked that were more universally renowned (Goldstein would later pick Bryce Harper) and Parks joked (maybe not as much of a joke) that he “wanted to pick all Royals.” After Parks picked Yankees’ catcher Gary Sanchez, Goldstein picked Hamilton as his “speed guy,” though Parks did not select that way. Goldstein stated that the issues with Hamilton were that he was from a small town in Mississippi and was very thin and not a classic athletic frame. Calling Hamilton “raw like sushi,” Goldstein discussed Hamilton’s issues in his first season in professional baseball and the work done by the Reds to make Hamilton into a better player, specifically pitch recognition, making contact, and using his speed to get on base. Projecting Hamilton as the type of guy who would hit .300, draw some walks, hit tons of triples, and steal 60 bases, Goldstein extolled his virtues while cautioning that Hamilton may never develop enough strength to become a good enough hitter to use his speed.
Assigned to the Full Season A Dayton Dragons of the Midwest League for 2011, Hamilton caused a buzz, hitting 278/340/360 with a mind-boggling 103 steals in 123 attempts. Hamilton’s season is more amazing when broken down by month or by half.
By Half (approximate – April through June and July through September):
The differences are stark: Hamilton hit 228/284/315 in the first half and 333/396/410 in the second half. While his isolated power was never impressive (and many of his doubles and triples were a direct product of his crazy speed), Hamilton’s batting average spiked in the second half as he showed improved plate discipline and improved contact rates. This can be shown by his improvement in SO/PA rate by month and half:
Hamilton’s strike out rate was higher for the first three months of the season than for any of the final three months, which coincided with his increased batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and nearly any other simple metric used to measure performance. Amazingly, Hamilton’s rates in July and September were lower than his overall rate, and his August rate was only slightly above his season average, truly splitting Hamilton’s seasons into two separate halves.
Unlike many young players appearing in their first grueling full season of professional baseball, Hamilton did not decrease his stolen base rate (0.75 SB/game in the first half and 0.77 SB/game in the second half) as the season wore on, even spiking in rate in September as he went all out in an attempt to steal 100 bases, stealing eight in his final four games.
After the season, the prospect prognosticators took note, as Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus ranked Hamilton the #22 prospect in baseball and the #1 prospect in the Reds organization, saying that Hamilton “has been known to go from first to third on singles to left field, has scored from second on sacrifice flies, and is a threat to steal both second and third whenever he reaches base.” Baseball America agreed, ranking Hamilton the #48 prospect in baseball and #2 prospect in the Reds organization (behind Devin Mesoraco). Baseball America further named Hamilton the “Fastest Baserunner” in the Cincinnati Reds’ system and the Midwest League, along with the “Best Athlete” in the Reds’ system, and the “Best Baserunner” in the Midwest League, all in 2011.
Entering 2012, there was a lot of focus as to how well Hamilton would be in the High A California League. While the California League is one of the most hitter-friendly leagues, if not the most hitter-friendly league, many hitters often abandon their approach in search of the long ball, causing many hitters to increase power numbers while increasing strikeout totals. Hamilton started the year by blasting a home run in his second plate appearance for the Bakersfield Blaze in the season opener. Through his first two months of the season, Hamilton put up a robust 319/395/448 line with an astonishing 57 stolen bases in 69 attempts. Despite only the single home run hit in the first game, Hamilton’s slugging percentage has been fueled by ten doubles and seven triples. Flying around the bases, Hamilton has been lighting up the California League while decreasing his strikeout rate (.8 per game for the season, down from 1 per game in 2011) while increasing his walk rate (.5 per game, up from .39 per game).
In responding to a question about Hamilton turning into Joey Gathright (basically an athlete with great speed who never put it all together despite being able to jump over a car), Goldstein responded, “He’s way better than Gathright, and faster. Almost zero chance to stay at SS, and I think they should move him to CF today.” Moving Hamilton to centerfield has been a common refrain, with Ben Badler of Baseball America stating “I think the Reds will try to keep him [at shortstop], but when you have the fastest player in all of baseball, I’d just put him in center field and let his speed take over.” Matthew Eddy of Baseball America echoed similar sentiments but for a slightly different reason, stating that Hamilton is “facing a likely shift to center field if he plays his way off shortstop.”
But how fast is Billy Hamilton?
From Baseball America’s Jim Callis:
From the ever-entertaining duo at Productive Outs:
From Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein:
Of course, if you don’t believe them, check out a few amazing facts unearthed by Baseball Prospectus’ Sam Miller:
- Pitchers have committed three balks while Billy Hamilton was on base.
- Billy Hamilton has scored from third when the catcher threw to first to complete another batter’s strikeout.
- And Billy Hamilton scored the walk-off run on April 20 on a sacrifice fly. To the second baseman.
Of course, what’s most amazing is that it appears that Billy Hamilton has no nickname. I have seen a few referring to him as “Sliding Billy” in reference to Hall of Famer Billy Hamilton, but he played more than 100 years ago (though he was also a great base stealer – stealing 100 four times and 914, good for third all time, for his career) in an entirely different era. Hamilton needs his own nickname and I think this is as good as a situation as any to come up with one.
I’m going to propose a few, please feel free to vote for one or tweet at me and I will add your suggestion to the list.
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
Every once in a while an athlete so talented comes out of high school who has the natural ability to play two premium positions. Often, those athletes are stars in multiple sports, whose natural talents and flashes of brilliance mask a lack of feel for playing baseball, with those athletes later failing to succeed at any level due to an ability to turn those physical tools into baseball playing ability. Out of Sarasota High School in Sarasota, Florida, one of those athletes was the 2008 first round pick (#30 overall) of the Boston Red Sox, Casey Kelly. Kelly was viewed as a top prospect both as a shortstop and a pitcher, along with being a good enough quarterback to get a scholarship offer from the University of Tennessee. Video of Kelly’s reaction to being drafted:
Kelly, who was named Mr. Baseball Florida for 2008, quickly signed with the Red Sox, agreeing to a $3 million signing bonus, the seventh largest in the 2008 draft class, behind only Buster Posey (#5/Giants), Tim Beckham (#1/Rays), Pedro Alvarez (#2/Pirates), Eric Hosmer (#3/Royals), Justin Smoak (#11/Rangers), and Brian Matusz (#4/Orioles). Kelly was sent to the Rookie Level GCL Red Sox, where he played shortstop and hit poorly, putting up a 215/255/331 line in 36 games before being promoted to the Short Season A Lowell Spinners of the New York Penn League, where he played shortstop and hit well, putting up a 344/344/563 line. Despite the poor showing, Kelly was still viewed as an elite prospect, with Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus calling Kelly “the most talented two-way player available in the draft,” while raving about Kelly’s power potential, good defensive range and instincts, and plus-plus (70 on the 20-80 scale) arm. Goldstein dinged Kelly for his tendency to chase pitches and generally unrefined game. Goldstein ranked Kelly #6 in the Red Sox system. Baseball America generally agreed, expressing similar concerns and ranked Kelly the #6 prospect in the Red Sox system, naming Kelly as the pitcher with the “Best Curveball” in the Red Sox’s organization.
For 2009, the Red Sox struck a deal with Kelly. The Red Sox wanted Kelly to solely focus on being a pitcher while Kelly preferred to play every day and remain a shortstop. Kelly would be a pitcher for approximately half of the season and then play shortstop for the duration of the season. After the season, there would be a discussion between the Red Sox and Kelly regarding Kelly’s future based upon potential and results. Kelly was assigned to the Greenville Drive of the A Level South Atlantic League, where he absolutely dominated, putting up a 1.12 ERA over 9 starts and 48.1 innings, striking out 39 batters while slowing 32 hits and walking only nine batters. After being named to the South Atlantic League All-Star Team, Kelly was promoted to the High A Salem Red Sox of the Carolina League, Kelly continued to excel, putting up a 3.09 ERA over 8 starts and 46.2 innings, striking out 35 while allowing 33 hits and only seven walks. At this point, Kelly became a shortstop, putting up a 214/290/464 line while back in the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League and a putrid 224/305/313 line while playing for the Greenville Drive of the South Atlantic League. During the 2009 season, Kelly also appeared in the Futures Game for the United States team, pitching one inning and allowing no base runners on nine pitches, six of them strikes.
After the 2009 season, Kelly drew rave reviews for his pitching and was named the Boston Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Baseball America ranked Kelly the #2 prospect in the Red Sox’s system (behind Ryan Westmoreland) and the #24 prospect in all of Baseball. Baseball America named Kelly the pitcher in the Red Sox’s organization with the “Best Fastball,” “Best Curveball,” “Best Changeup,” and “Best Control;” also naming Kelly the #6 prospect in the Carolina League and the #2 prospect in the South Atlantic League. Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein generally agreed with Baseball America, ranking Kelly the #2 prospect in the Red Sox’s system (behind Westmoreland) and the #30 prospect in all of Baseball. Goldstein commented how advanced Kelly was as a pitcher, with “excellent sink and run” on an 89-93 mile per hour fastball, an already “plus” curveball, and a developing changeup that looked like it would become a plus offering. Additionally, Goldstein noted Kelly’s athleticism and his “smooth, repeatable, and effortless” delivery. After the season, it was agreed that Kelly would no longer play shortstop and would focus his energy on becoming a pitcher full-time.
Kelly pitching in the Futures Game:
In 2010, Kelly appeared in two spring training games for the Red Sox, putting up a 3.60 ERA across five innings in his first appearance against big league hitters. Below is video of Kelly pitching against Northeastern University:
For the 2010 season, Kelly was aggressively assigned to the Portland Sea Dogs of the AA Eastern League, where Kelly struggled significantly, putting up a 5.31 ERA across 95 innings in 21 starts, averaging under 4.2 innings per start. Kelly allowed 118 hits (11.2/9) and walked 35 batters (3.3/9) for a 1.611 WHIP while striking out 81 batters (7.7/9). While Kelly struggled, he showed flashes of his enormous potential and had a few good outings, including a three-start run from July 11 through July 21, where he totaled 15 strikeouts in 17.2 innings, allowing 19 hits and only walking four batters while putting up a 2.55 ERA. Kelly was shut down for the month of August after straining the Latissimus Dorsi in his back.
After the season, Kelly went to the Arizona Fall League to pick up some extra starts. Kelly pitched 16 innings across four starts in the extremely hitter-friendly AFL, putting up a 6.75 ERA that was heavily colored by one particularly bad start on October 25. Kelly put up a 2.57 ERA in his other three starts, showcasing his talent against much older competition. After the season, Kelly was the key piece to Boston’s acquisition of slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, going to San Diego along with Anthony Rizzo, Reymond Fuentes, and Eric Patterson.
After the trade, Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein ranked Kelly the #1 prospect in the San Diego Padres’ organization and #48 in all of baseball, stating that Kelly “shows the potential for three average to plus pitches to go with plus command and control,” but that Kelly was “in over his head at Double-A” in 2010 and needs to be more aggressive with his pitching. Baseball America Ranked Kelly the #1 prospect in the Padres’ organization and #31 prospect in baseball, naming Kelly the pitcher in the Padres’ organization with the “Best Curveball.” Due to the timing of the trade, Kelly was also rated to have the “Best Curveball” in the Red Sox organization, as the Red Sox’s ranking came out prior to the trade, but the Padres’ ranking came out after the trade.
In 2011, Kelly was invited to the Padres’ spring training as a non-roster invitee with the expectation that he would open the season in the minor leagues after a view into the life of a Major Leaguer and a full welcoming to the San Diego Padres’ organization. While in the Padres camp Kelly put up a respectable 3.00 ERA in 9 innings and 4 appearances, with one start.
Kelly was assigned to the San Antonio Missions for the 2011 season, back in AA but now in the Texas League. Kelly’s results improved considerably, putting up a 3.98 ERA across 27 starts over 142.2 innings, striking out 105 (6.6/9) while allowing 153 hits (9.7/9) and 46 walks (2.9/9) for a 1.398 WHIP. After the season, Baseball America ranked Kelly the #3 prospect in the Padres’ organization (behind Anthony Rizzo and Rymer Liriano) and the #76 prospect in baseball. Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein echoed BA’s drop, ranking Kelly the #7 prospect in the Padres’ organization and the #78 prospect in baseball. Goldstein expressed concern regarding Kelly’s lack of development and downgrading Kelly’s potential from a #2 or #3 to a #3 or a #4 in a rotation.
Back in the Padres’ spring training camp for 2012, Kelly looked like a new pitcher, putting up a 1.74 ERA across 20.2 innings while striking out 18 and only walking two, while drawing rave reviews On March 14, Kelly threw three shutout innings against the Cincinnati Reds, giving up five hits and striking out four without walking a single batter. In his first two starts, Kelly threw five shutout innings without giving up a walk, fanning six. Kelly’s performance continued when he was assigned to the Tuscon Padres, the Padres’ AAA affiliate in the Pacific Coast League. In his first two starts, Kelly went six innings in both games. In the first game, Kelly allowed seven hits and three runs, striking out five. In his second start, Kelly allowed five hits and zero runs, striking out nine while hitting one batter. Prior to his third start Kelly experienced soreness in his right elbow and traveled to San Diego to have Padres’ team doctors perform an examination and get an MRI. Padres’ manager Bud Black said that there was no structural damage and Kelly merely had inflammation around the elbow. The Padres were going to be cautious and give Kelly a few weeks of rest before starting a throwing program to see how the elbow would respond, before even thinking about returning Kelly to Tuscon. As the North County Times has reported, Kelly, who was shut down with arm problems after two starts at Double-A San Antonio, has resumed throwing.
So what is going to come of Kelly? 2012 had become a “make or break” year for Kelly, as he needed to finally justify his draft status and bonus at a level above A-ball, which he was finally doing before he hurt his elbow. Currently resting his elbow, Kelly should start playing catch soon, but having no news for more than two weeks after being “close” is worrisome. Kelly could be the perfect #2 pitcher to slot behind an ace (or be the ace on most teams), but an injury would set him back significantly, not to even discuss potentially ending his status as an elite prospect and moving him to the “let’s see where he is in two years” group. As it looks, Kelly will be back in AAA shortly, with a possible September call-up in the works. What do we expect? I would say Kelly is a pretty good bet to be a rotation mainstay for a long time, but TINSTAAPP.
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
On Friday morning, word leaked out that Kerry Wood would be announcing his retirement but remain available to pitch for the Chicago Cubs during their weekend series against the Chicago White Sox. This announcement brought about reminiscing about Wood’s career and the Chicago Cubs, and much consternation regarding Dusty Baker.
The career of Kerry Wood began before the Cubs drafted him in 1995, with Wood’s senior season at South Grand Prairie High School in Grand Prairie, Texas. Wood posted a sparkling 14-0 record with a 0.77 ERA and 152 strikeouts in 81.1 innings, routinely packing the stands with scouts and baseball fans. Wood verbally committed to nearby Texas Christian University, ratcheting up the stress of baseball teams, warning that he may go to college instead of entering professional baseball.
Viewed as a top prospect, scouts from many of the top teams watched Wood’s final start before the draft. Wood’s ended up throwing 175 pitches in a doubleheader, putting the professional baseball scouting community in an uproar. Wood, his father Garry, and Coach Mike McGilvray defended the pitch count, pointing out that this was not the first time Wood had thrown this much on a single day. The Chicago Cubs drafted Wood with the 4th pick of the 1995 Rule IV draft behind Darin Erstad (#1/California Angels), Ben Davis (#2/San Diego Padres), and Jose Cruz, Jr. (#3/Seattle Mariners). Despite the concerns over being overworked while in high school, the Cubs gave Wood a $1.2 million signing bonus and assigned Wood to the Rookie Level GCL Cubs in the Gulf Coast League. Wood started one game and pitched three innings, walking one and striking out two, while not allowing a hit. After the game, Wood was sent to the Short Season A Williamsport Cubs of the New York Penn League. In Williamsport, Wood struggled, starting two games and allowing eight runs (five earned) over 4.1 innings, walking five, striking out five, and allowing five hits.
After the season, the accolades rolled in. Baseball America ranked Wood the #16 prospect in all of baseball (between Bartolo Colon and Rey Ordonez) and the third-best prospect from the 1995 draft (Erstad #4, Davis #10, with Cruz #23). In 1996, Wood was assigned to the Daytona Cubs of the High A Florida State League, where he dominated his opponents with a 2.91 ERA across 114.1 innings, striking out 136 and allowing only 72 hits. On the flip side, Wood walked 70 batters, hit 14 more, balked 7 times, and threw 10 wild pitches, displaying wavering command that would often plague him throughout his career. Unconcerned, Baseball America rated Wood the #3 prospect in all of baseball after the 1996 season, behind only Andruw Jones and Vladimir Guerrero, and ahead of Matt White and Travis Lee (as a side note the #100 prospect was Livan Hernandez, who would have the most impact on the 1997 season of all of the prospects). Wood was selected as the Chicago Cubs Minor League Player of the Year.
In 1997, Wood began the season with the AA Orlando Rays, putting up a 4.50 ERA across 19 starts and 94 innings, striking out 106 (10.1/9), but walking 79 (7.6/9) while hitting 10 more batters. Despite the mediocre numbers, Wood’s pure stuff impressed sufficiently to earn him a promotion to the AAA Iowa Cubs of the American Association, where he put up a 4.68 ERA across 10 starts and 57.2 innings, striking out 80 (12.5/9), but walking 52 (8.1/9) while hitting six batters. For the season, Wood put up a 4.57 ERA across 29 starts and 151.2 innings, striking out 186 (11.0/9) while walking 131 (7.8/9), while hitting 16 batters, balking six times, and throwing 18 wild pitches. Despite the scary walk numbers and high ERA, Wood’s season earned rave reviews as he struck out 186 batters despite turning 20 during the season. Baseball America ranked Wood the #4 prospect in baseball, behind Ben Grieve, Paul Konerko, and Adrian Beltre.
In 1998, Wood made one start for the Iowa Cubs (now of the Pacific Coast League, as the old AA folded), striking out 11 in five innings, walking two and allowing one hit and zero runs. On April 12, Wood made his debut for the Chicago Cubs, striking out seven, walking three, allowing four hits and four runs over 4.2 innings while picking up the loss. In his second start, Wood again struck out seven, walked three, and allowed four hits, but did not allow a run over five innings, picking up his first major league win. Wood got shelled in his third start, allowing seven runs in 1.2 innings, but bounced back in his fourth start, striking out nine across seven innings while picking up his second win.
Wood’s fifth major league start has become the thing of legends. On May 6, Wood struck out 20 Houston Astros, a team led by Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, and Moises Alou, while allowing only one hit and hitting one batter (shockingly, it was Craig Biggio). This was only the third time a pitcher had struck out 20 in a single game, after Roger Clemens did it in 1986 and 1996, and the first time a National League pitcher struck out 20, breaking the record of 19 held by Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, and David Cone. Wood threw 84 strikes and 38 balls while dominating the Astros (lost in the story is the complete game loss by Shane Reynolds, who struck out an impressive 10). How dominating was Wood that day?
I will say that Wood's 20 K game is the best stuff I've ever seen any pitcher have in a single game.—
Kevin Goldstein (@Kevin_Goldstein) May 18, 2012
With the sudden attention, Wood pitched well through August. After throwing 133 pitches on August 26 and 116 pitches on August 31, Wood woke up on September 1 with his elbow throbbing. Despite being in the middle of a pennant race, Wood did not pitch again until game 3 of the National League Division Series, going 5 innings and allowing only one run, against the Atlanta Braves.
For the season, Wood put up an impressive 3.40 ERA (129 ERA+) across 26 starts and 166.2 innings, striking out 233 batters. Wood led the Major Leagues by allowing only 6.3 hits per 9 innings pitched and 12.6 strike outs per 9 innings pitched. Wood won the NL Rookie of the Year, beating out Colorado’s Todd Helton 128-119.
During spring training in 1999, Wood was still experiencing a sore elbow and was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament which would require ulnar collateral ligament replacement surgery, more commonly known as Tommy John Surgery. After surgery, Wood missed all of 1999 and came back firing in 2000. After three starts in the minor leagues to start the season, Wood made his return to the Cubs on May 2, allowing only one run over six innings against the Houston Astros. Often pitching on extra rest, Wood struggled, putting up a 4.80 ERA across 137 innings, striking out 132 and walking 92 batters.
Wood increased his workload in 2001, with 174.1 innings across 28 starts, striking out 217 to go with a sparkling a 3.36 ERA and a 124 ERA+. In 2002, Wood was back to a full workload, with 213.2 innings over 33 starts, striking out 217 batters and walking 97, while putting up a 3.66 ERA.
In 2003, Wood, paired with second-year fireballer Mark Prior, and rising star Carlos Zambrano, Wood threw 211 innings across 32 starts, striking out a Major League-leading 266 batters (Prior was second with 245), putting up a 3.20 ERA (136 ERA+) to go with a career high 100 walks and 21 hit batsmen. Wood logged another 17.2 innings in the playoffs over four starts, striking out 31 while walking 14, as the Cubs lost to the eventual World Series Champion Florida Marlins. Wood’s 2003 season, while amazing, was an incredible example of the use, or complete lack of use, of pitch counts. The Cubs new manager, Dusty Baker, had Wood, along with Prior, throw an inordinate number of games with more than 120 pitches, 13, and Wood threw at least 101 pitches 25 times. Wood threw a season-high 141 pitches on May 10 against the St. Louis Cardinals. More amazingly, Wood threw 952 pitches in 8 starts from April 6 through May 15 and 728 pitches in his final six starts of the season. All in all, Wood threw 4,008 pitches in 36 starts (playoffs included) in 2003, an average of 111.3 pitches per start.
In 2004, Wood had a good season (3.72 ERA) but only pitched 140.1 innings across 2 starts, as he was sidelined for nearly two months with a strained triceps. In 2005, Wood missed time with right shoulder bursitis, a joint problem caused by repetitive movement and excessive pressure. Wood missed all of May, made only one start in July, and became a middle reliever for August before being shut down for the season at the end of August. At the end of August, Wood had surgery to reinforce his labrum and debride his rotator cuff and bursa sac in order to remove dead tissue to promote healing. In March 2006, Wood had surgery on the meniscus in his right knee during spring training. After two rehabilitation starts in the minor leagues, Wood made his 2006 Major League debut on May 18 against the Washington Nationals. Wood made four starts, putting up a 4.12 ERA over 19.2 innings before being shut down for the season with a partially torn rotator cuff. After the season, the Cubs decided not to exercise their option on Wood for 2007, choosing instead to pay Wood $1.3 million and make him a free agent.
With Wood’s injury history, the best offer was to return to the Cubs in 2007 as a relief pitcher for a 1-year, $1.75 million contract with a significant number of performance bonuses. After missing time in training camp with a triceps strain, and was put on the disabled list at the beginning of the season with right shoulder inflammation. Wood made eight successful rehabilitation appearances in the minor leagues before being activated from the DL and making his debut on August 5, allowing one hit and striking out one in one inning against the New York Mets. Wood pitched well in his relief role, putting up a 3.33 ERA over 24.1 innings across 24 games in August and September.
After the season, Wood filed for free agency and received offers from a number of teams, but remained with the Cubs by signing a one-year, $4.2 million deal. Wood pitched well in 2008, putting up a 3.41 ERA (141 ERA+), while striking out 84 batters in 66.1 innings, making 65 appearances and raking up 34 saves.
In November 2008, the Cubs signed Kevin Gregg to close games, causing Wood to look elsewhere. Wood signed a two-year, $20.5 million contract with the Cleveland Indians, with a $11 million option for 2011 that vested if Wood finished 55 games in 2009 or 2010. In 2009, Wood was, literally, a league average pitcher with a great strikeout rate. Wood had a league-average 4.25 ERA with 63 strike outs in 55 innings (10.3/9) while picking up 20 saves. In 2010, Wood was getting shelled during his time with the Indians, with a 6.30 ERA before he was traded to the New York Yankees for Andrew Shive and Matt Cusick. Wood dominated in his time in the Bronx, putting up a microscopic 0.69 ERA while striking out 31 batters in 26 innings. Wood allowed only 4.8 hits per nine innings pitched, the lowest total of his career.
After 2010, Wood returned to the Cubs with a 1-year $1.5 million contract and pitched well, putting up a solid-if-not-spectacular 3.35 ERA in 51 innings across 55 appearances while pitching in relief. After signing another 1-year contract worth $3 million with the Cubs, Wood struggled in 2012, with an 8.64 ERA in nine appearances.
But today, on May 18, rumors of Wood’s retirement have stoked the fires of past potential. Once nearly universally viewed as the next great power pitcher in the mold of fellow-Texan Nolan Ryan, Wood struggled with arm problems and chronic misuse at the hands of his managers. We should not place all of the blame on them, however, as the job of a Major League manager is to win and their overuse of Wood was due to his ability to maintain velocity late in games. Many often take a pot shop at Dusty Baker, and his amazing overuse absolutely deserves some of the blame, but Jim Riggleman did the same thing in 1998, as Wood had eight outings with at least 120 pitches and 21 outings with at least 100 pitches.
So what do we learn from Kerry Wood? Should pitchers be babied? Was it an issue with his throwing motion? Is there really no such thing as a pitching prospect? I think it is all of them – the human arm was not meant to pitch like Ryan did and managers must be careful, but at the same time pitching is an inherently risky activity. Well built pitchers with seemingly perfect throwing motions break down before they can become stars and undersized pitchers with unorthodox throwing motions can dominate while winning multiple Cy Young Awards and remaining healthy.
In the end, no one knows what to do so maybe it makes sense to do what Riggleman and Baker did – overuse pitchers to try to win a World Series, because flags fly forever.
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/MISC/XOP.htm (Scroll down)
Two days ago, Brett Lawrie was facing Fernando Rodney and had worked the count to 3-1. Rodney threw the fifth pitch of the at bat, which was, according to PitchFX data, was slightly more than one foot outside. Lawrie, assuming the pitch would be correctly called, dropped his bat and began trotting to first base. Buck Martinez, the Blue Jays’ play-by-play announcer stated “ball four.” Alas, home plate umpire Bill Miller had other ideas, calling the pitch a strike. Lawrie returned to the batter’s box with an astonished look on his face. Martinez stated “Wow!” in astonishment after the call.
Rodney fired again, throwing a high change-up which, again, Lawrie took and headed to first base. Again, Miller called the pitch a strike, thereby causing Lawrie to strike out. At that point, Lawrie absolutely lost his mind. Lawrie protested, screaming at Miller and threw his helmet against the ground, ricocheting off the dirt and hitting (it did more than graze) Miller in the leg. The video says it all:
Of course, while his reaction was inexcusable, the last two pitches were not strikes, at least according to MLB’s own PitchFX data.
Lawrie’s reaction was not particularly surprising, as reports of his attitude have been split, with some praising his intensity and desire to succeed while others have questioned his maturity and desire. Of course, it all goes back to the beginning, when Brett Lawrie was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers.
Brett R. Lawrie, a catching prospect out of Langley, British Columbia, was viewed as one of the top prospects in the draft. Lawrie’s exploits were legendary: plus hit tool, plus raw power, plus arm, and plus athleticism. Lawrie was drafted with the 16th pick of the 2008 Major League Baseball Rule IV Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. Prior to the draft, Lawrie was awarded the Top Hitter Award (.469 batting average), Home Runs Award (3), and Most RBI in the Tournament (16), while playing in the 2008 World Junior Baseball Championship in Edmonton, Alberta. Lawrie was named the starting catcher on the tournament All-World team and joined the Canadian National Baseball team to prepare for the Beijing Olympics. Lawrie was not as successful in Beijing, going 0-10 in six games, with two strike outs and two RBI.
Lawrie signed with the Brewers for a $1.6 million signing bonus and the accolades began rolling in. Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein called Lawrie “an excellent natural hitter,” in ranking him the #2 prospect in the Brewers’ system, behind Alcides Escobar, and #57 overall, between Jordan Zimmerman and (fellow Brewer farmhand) Mat Gamel. Baseball America ranked Lawrie The #3 prospect in the Brewers’ system, behind Escobar and Gamel, and the #81 prospect in all of baseball. Baseball America, clearly impressed with his time on the Canadian Junior National team, named Lawrie the “Best Power Hitter” in the Brewers’ system prior to a single professional at bat.
Lawrie was assigned to the Full Season A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, the Brewers’ affiliate in the Midwest League, where he put up a respectable 274/348/454 line in 105 games before being promoted to the Huntsville Stars, the Brewers’ AA affiliate in the Southern League. Lawrie struggled in his 13-game trial at AA, putting up a 269/283/308 line while getting caught stealing twice and striking out 14 times. Despite being drafted as a catcher and the Brewers publicly stating they wanted to keep him behind the plate, Lawrie exclusively played second base in 2009. Despite the on-field success, there were many small clashes behind the scenes as Lawrie felt that the Brewers were trying to reign in his personality.
After the season, the accolades poured in, with Lawrie being named the #2 prospect by Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus (again behind Escobar) and #99 overall. While Goldstein praised Lawrie’s offensive abilities, there was much consternation over Lawrie’s defense at second base. Baseball America was more optimistic, also ranking Lawrie the #2 prospect in the Brewers’ system, but ranking Lawrie the #59 prospect in all of baseball. Baseball America called Lawrie the “Best Hitter for Average” and “Best Power Hitter” in the Brewers’ organization, along with the #4 prospect in the Midwest League for 2009.
In 2010, Lawrie returned to the Hunsville Stars, putting up a 285/346/451 line as the 10th youngest player in the Southern League. After the season, Lawrie felt that he deserved a cup of coffee in the Major Leagues when rosters were expanded in September, but the Brewers asked Lawrie to go to the Arizona Fall League for additional playing time. Lawrie declined. The Brewers tried to encourage Lawrie to go to Arizona, dangling the carrot of an invitation to Spring Training, but Lawrie again demurred.
In December 2010, the Brewers, in full “win now” mode and looking to bolster their starting pitching depth, dealt Lawrie to the Toronto Blue Jays for Shaun Marcum. SBNation’s Brew Crew Ball viewed the trade positively, calling Marcum “easily #2 caliber, if not a borderline #1″, stating that the trade is one that’s “going to work out well for the Crew.” While the writer at Brew Crew Ball, Jordan M, was clearly a fan of Marcum, he underestimated how good Lawrie would become and severly overstating the value of Mat Gamel.
Blue Jays fans were excited at the prospect of rooting for their native-born son as he played in Toronto. About the prospect of being dealt to Toronto (which is actually farther from his B.C. home), Lawrie said:
It was very exciting for me being a Canadian kid. It’s a great feeling to come back to Canada and have the Canadian flag on my chest again. It’s the first time I’ve felt welcome in a long time.
Lawrie also indicated that the Blue Jays did not view him as a second baseman, saying that he’s been working out at third base at the direction of the Blue Jays, with the idea being a move to third base permanently. As occurred twice before, the accolades rolled in with Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus saying Lawrie “has the tools to be a star,” who is “an excellent pure hitter with plenty of strength,” while highlighting Lawrie’s 60 extra base hits, but dinging Lawrie for his defensive woes and refusal to go to the Arizona Fall League while ranking Lawrie the #3 prospect in the Blue Jays’ system (behind Kyle Drabek and J.P. Arencibia) and the #57 prospect in all of baseball (between Braves flamethrowers Craig Kimbrel and Randall Delgado). Baseball America ranked Lawrie the #2 prospect in the Blue Jays organization (behind Drabek) and the #40 prospect in all of baseball.
Lawrie spent spring training with the Blue Jays, putting up a 293/326/488 line and fueling speculation that he would open the season in the Majors. Instead, Lawrie was sent to the Las Vegas 51s, the Blue Jays’ AAA affiliate in the Pacific Coast League. Lawrie opened the season by absolutely smoking the ball, putting up a 361/371/588 line in April and sitting with a 354/388/677 line at the end of the day on May 30. The buzz was building, with Blue Jays’ GM Alex Andropoulos hinting that Lawrie’s call up would be imminent, stating “Yeah, he’s close,” when asked if Lawrie would be up soon. Then, on May 31, Lawrie was hit on the back of his hand with a pitch, causing swelling. X-rays, taken at a local hospital only revealed a bruise, but Lawrie had difficulty gripping a bat and further tests indicated a broken bone in his left hand. Lawrie missed the next six weeks, making his return during a rehabilitation stint with the Dunedin Blue Jays in the High A Florida State League. Lawrie then returned to Las Vegas, where he put up a 348/410/609 line in 17 games before being called up to the Blue Jays.
Upon his call up, Lawrie became the starting third baseman for the Blue Jays, mashing to a 293/373/953 line with an impressive 151 OPS+ in 43 games, hitting eight doubles, four triples, and nine home runs. Lawrie also showcased his speed and talent on the base paths, stealing seven bases and only getting caught once. Lawrie hit an 11th inning walk-off home run on September 5 against the Red Sox, becoming the first player born in the 1990s to hit a walk off home run. Lawrie’s season was cut short when he broke his finger while taking infield practice prior to a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (which is in California) on September 21.
Lawrie began the 2012 season as the starting third baseman for the Blue Jays and was having a slow start, putting up a 281/325/384 line (92 OPS+) when the incident with Bill Miller occurred. The following day, it was announced that Lawrie would be suspended for four games for his actions.
But what will happen with Lawrie? Outside of the fine and suspension, nothing will happen to Lawrie. There are ample examples of players losingtheir minds while playing baseball, from George Brett
to the oddly-similar Jermaine Dye to the absolutely insane Izzy Alcantara video (I’m calling the video insane, though it appears the same could be said for Alcantara):
The only player who got anything worse than a few days off and it appears that George Brett was not even suspended for his attempt to kill Tim McClelland.
Will this impact Lawrie in the future? I doubt it will have any impact. Lawrie has always been viewed as an intense competitor with an unyielding desire to win at everything and beat everyone who gets in his way. Lawrie is, in short, the type of player who has an unyielding desire to be the best and has the #want to do everything he can do in order to succeed (legally, of course – I wouldn’t go all Pedro Gomez and suggest that he does anything illicit).
Was Lawrie’s reaction reprehensible? Yes; he acted like a petulant child. Does every fan want a player who wants to win that badly – and show that desire? Yes. Does this incident hurt Lawrie’s long term value? Not in the least bit.
Frankly, I think writers should stop being so hard on Lawrie; imagine if your boss made you do something and then told you it was terrible and that you’re being demoted even though you did a great job.
Also, in case you’re wondering, I think the Blue Jays absolutely fleeced the Brewers in the trade, as, while Marcum is a nice #3 pitcher, Lawrie has the talent and desire to become a superstar.
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
One of the most entertaining, irreverent, talented, and controversial (in a good way!) players in major league baseball today is
Florida Miami Marlins left fielder Logan Morrison, or, as he’s known to his twitter followers, LoMo. Morrison was a star baseball player during his time at Northshore High School in Slidell, Louisiana, from which he graduated in 2005, but he did not grow up in Louisiana nor is his tale to the majors a typical one.
Justin Logan Morrison was born in Kansas City, Missouri, though he lived all over the country, moving with his parents due to his father’s employment with the United States Coast Guard. Morrison lived in Kansas City, Missouri and Wilmington, North Carolina, among other places, but his heart was always in KC. When his father, Tom, was transferred to New Orleans when Logan was 16, Tom had to break his promise to Logan that Logan would be able to finish high school in KC. Tom knew that there were more baseball scouts in the south, thereby increasing Logan’s chances of being noticed.
Tom was also a strict disciplinarian who exercised significant control over Logan’s life; from staying at different hotels from the team on baseball trips (to prevent Logan from staying up late due to kids being kids) to having to throw a baseball with his cousin, Tony, 100 times without either dropping a single throw, Tom allowed no excuses and expected the best from Logan. But Tom and Diane (Logan’s mother) spent considerable amounts of time and money to help Logan become a baseball player: from the buckets of baseballs, gloves, and bats; to building a dirt and clay mound in the back yard; to driving Logan to camps and tournaments. While Tom was a strict disciplinarian with high standards, he clearly only wanted what was best for Logan long-term.
After graduating from high school, Morrison was drafted in the 22nd Round of the 2005 Rule IV draft by the Florida Marlins. Morrison did not sign immediately, instead choosing to attend Metropolitan Community College – Maple Woods in Kansas City, Missouri, where he starred on the baseball team, hitting .436 in his lone season. Before the 2006 draft, Morrison signed with the Marlins as a draft-and-follow, a now-defunct rule that allowed clubs to maintain exclusive signing rights to a drafted player until a week before the following draft, provided that the drafted player attends junior college. Morrison signed for $225,000 and was assigned to the GCL Marlins, the Rookie Level affiliate in the Gulf Coast League. Morrison put up a respectable 270/343/348 line in 26 games in the GCL before being promoted to the Jamestown Jammers, the Marlins’ Short Season A affiliate in the New York-Penn League. Morrison was clearly over-matched while in the NYPL, struggling while putting up a 203/295/284 line. Though Morrison’s seasonal line was an unimpressive 239/321/219, he showed good patience at the place and a good glove at first base.
Morrison spent the 2007 season tearing up the A Level South Atlantic League. Playing for the Greensboro Grasshoppers, Morrison put up a 267/343/483 line with 24 home runs and 22 doubles. After the season, Baseball America ranked Morrison the #16 prospect in the Marlins’ organization. In 2008, Morrison broke out, putting up a 332/402/494 line while playing for the Jupiter Hammerheads, the Marlins’ High A affiliate in the Florida State League. While Morrison’s home run total fell from 24 to 13, his walks increased (57 to 65) and strikeouts decreased (96 to 80), while hitting more doubles (22 to 38) in roughly the same number of plate appearances (513 to 555). Baseball America ranked Morrison the #3 prospect in the Marlins system (behind Mike – now Giancarlo – Stanton and Cameron Maybin) and #18 overall (between Lars Anderson and Alcides Escobar). Baseball America also ranked Morrison the “Best Hitter for Average” in the Marlins’ system, and “Best Batting Prospect”, “Best Strike Zone Discipline”, and “Best Defensive 1B” in the Florida State League in 2008. Baseball Prospectus‘ Kevin Goldstein ranked Morrison the #4 prospect in the Marlins’ system (behind Maybin, Stanton, and Matt Domingez) and ranking Morrison #50 overall, stating Morrison was the “best pure hitter in Florida’s system” with an “advanced approach.” Superlatives kept rolling in, as Morrison was named to the 1st Team Minor League All-Star team as its 1B by Baseball America and the Florida State League’s MVP.
After the season, Morrison was assigned to the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League, where he put up a robust 404/449/667 line in 99 plate appearances. While the Arizona Fall League is an environment that is very friendly to offense, it served to confirm Morrison’s vaunted prospect status. While Morrison did not project as a typical slugging first baseman, his high contact rate, advanced approach at the plate, and great play at first base indicated a bright future.
Morrison opened the 2009 season playing for the Jacksonville Suns of the AA Southern League and broke his thumb in the second game of the season (he was 2/6 with 3 walks, a triple, and a home run at the time), missing nearly two months of the season. When Morrison was healthy, he was send back to the High A Jupiter Hammerheads, where he appeared in three games before being sent back to Jacksonville. Morrison ended the season with a solid 277/411/442 line in only 343 plate appearances. The highlight of Morrison’s season was batting .360 with nine runs in seven games as Jacksonville won the Southern League crown. Despite only playing half of a season, Morrison’s prospect status remained steady, being ranked #2 in the Marlins’ system (only behind Stanton and now ahead of Dominguez) and #50 overall by Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus and #2 in the Marlins’ system (again, only behind Stanton) and #20 in all of baseball. While his prospect status did move, there was increased concern about Morrison’s lack of power, with many prognosticators stating that his plate discipline needed to remain great in order to offset the lack of offensive production.
In January 2010, Morrison participated in a chat at BaseballAmerica, interacting with fans and showing off his funny side. Morrison discussed his willingness to play the outfield if he didn’t win the spring training competition with Gaby Sanchez (“I will catch if they want me to.”), when he will make his Major League debut (“That’s a better question for Larry Beinfest, our GM.”), and his advice for people who attend small schools and hope they can still make it big (“If you think you can’t make it big, you never will! You are what you believe, hard work and dedication goes a long way in making up for lack of talent.”)
In 2010, Morrison was invited to the major league spring training with the Marlins and struggled against the better competition (and tiny sample size), putting up a 209/244/326 line in 43 plate appearances. Assigned to the New Orleans Zephyrs, the Marlins’ AAA Level affiliate in the Pacific Coast League, Morrison was hitting 300/450/600 (approximately – I can’t find game logs with SF and SH) when he had a collision with the Round Rock Express’s Matt Kata and injured his shoulder. Morrison was hurt and missed the next month, living with his parents in Slidell while resting and rehabbing. Upon return, Morrison was sent to the Jupiter Hammerheads, where he feasted on High A pitching to a 381/381/667 line across five games and was returned to the Zephyrs. Morrison hit 308/520/465 (yes, his OBP was above his slugging) for the next two months, whereas he was called up by the Marlins.
As Morrison’s baseball career was ascending, his personal life was falling apart. Logan’s father, Tom, a lifelong non-smoker, had been diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic lung cancer in February 2010. Effectively given a death sentence, Tom had only one question: “Will I get to see my son play in the big leagues?” Morrison made his Major League debut on July 27, singling in four at bats against the San Francisco Giants, including going 1-3 against Matt Cain. Morrison was also doing something he had only done 21 times before – playing left field; Morrison played left field twice in 2009 and 19 times in 2010 prior to being called up. With Gaby Sanchez paying first base for the Marlins, Morrison’s athleticism would be used in left field.
Tom Morrison watched every game on television but, more than anything, wanted to see Logan play in the Major Leagues in person. Doctors deemed Tom too sick to fly, as it would expose his immune system, devastated by chemotherapy, to too many potential illnesses. The plan was hatched: Tom would take a 30-hour train ride from New Orleans to New York to see Logan play the New York Mets on August 25, Logan’s 23rd birthday. Batting second (his normal place) and playing left field, Morrison went 3/5 with his first big league triple, while scoring two runs. Tom Morrison passed on December 8 and Logan started LoMo Camp for a Cure shortly thereafter, a camp for kids to receive baseball instruction, a camp shirt, and autographs – a way for kids to have fun, with the proceeds benefitting the American Lung Association.
Despite all of the personal chaos, Morrison had his best season in baseball, hitting 283/390/447 in 62 games at the big league level with 20 doubles, seven triples, and two home runs, walking 41 times and striking out 51 times. Morrison’s exceptional approach at the plate drew rave reviews, though his lack of home run power gave some pause.
In 2011, Morrison started the year with the Marlins, putting up a 327/424/636 (small sample size) line in the first 15 games of the season before injuring his foot. Morrison strained a muscle in the arch of his left foot missed the next four weeks, before a three-game rehabilitation stint with the Jupiter Hammerheads. Returning to the Marlins, Morrison struggled, hitting 235/308/433 before being sent down to AAA – but the reason was not entirely due to his lack of production. Morrison’s outspoken personality (namely his willingness to talk frankly with reporters and active twitter account) and his skipping of a (technically optional) meet-and-greet session with season ticket holders.
“I’m heartbroken and I’m disappointed. I asked for an explanation and the one I got was I was hitting .240 I don’t know if that makes any sense to me or to you guys but. All I know is I go out and I give everything for this team. I play hurt, I play through injury and this is how you get treated. It doesn’t seem very fair or right to me.’
Of course, it’s possible that his demotion was due to his blasting of teammate Hanley Ramirez’s lack of effort during the 2011 season (whether perceived or actual), sparked by being the last player to arrive at the ballpark on new manager Jack McKeon’s first day. Morrison was hardly the first player to criticize Ramirez’s effort – from a verbal altercation with Dan Uggla to Mr. Marlin, Jeff Conine, saying he would saying that, if were up to him, he would probably trade Ramirez because he doesn’t seem to care enough or respect the game.
But, it seems that it was a combination of his Twitter use (he was warned by team president David Samson in May), general friction with Marlins management, and a lack of elite level productivity. Either way, Morrison hit 167/222/375 during his time in AAA and was called back up in short order. For the rest of the season, Morrison hit 240/339/480, mashing six home runs in 115 plate appearances. Despite the ups and downs, Morrison’s 247/330/468 line was actually pretty good – a 116 OPS+ and 23 home runs (good for second on the Marlins, after Giancarlo – then Mike – Stanton).
In September, Morrison filed a grievance against the Marlins, saying his demotion was not for baseball reasons and he should have received his full Major League salary for the time of his demotion.
After the season, Morrison decided to have a little fun with reporters who fail to properly check stories before going out to the public with them:
Just heard from my boy that Prince to Seattle is a done deal…—
Logan Morrison (@LoMoMarlins) December 22, 2011
Predictably, twitter erupted. Morrison followed up with the following, indicating that his tweet was little more than a ruse:
In order to close out the ruse, Morrison tweeted a third time:
Oh $hit, you guys thought I meant the 1B from Milwaukee. My bad. (I love all of you. Happy Holidays!)—
Logan Morrison (@LoMoMarlins) December 22, 2011
So what do we make out of Logan Morrison? He may never win a batting title or hit 40 home runs, and his use of social media is something that the Marlins will probably never like, but, as the adage goes, there is no such thing as bad publicity. But we should root for players like Morrison – he clearly tries his hardest while doing sticking to baseball’s true intention: entertainment. He interacts with fans on twitter:
Gives (potentially inaccurate) tours of New York City while on a double decker bus:
And goes fishing with Jenn Sterger:
Beyond that, Logan Morrison is a success story. Despite being a 22nd round pick in 2005, Morrison has appeared in excess of 200 major league games and has left field on lock down for the Marlins, with a possibility of moving to first base should Gaby Sanchez keep hitting under .200. Amazingly, Morrison is one of three 22nd round picks from 2005 to make the major leagues – Tommy Hanson (Braves/27th pick, 677 overall) and Jaime Garcia (Cardinals/30th pick/680 overall) – and all have become solid players, if not stars outright.
Above all, check out LoMo Camp for a Cure: LoMo Camp for a Cure
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:
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 MLB.com 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 MLB.com. 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.
[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.
Earlier this week, Tim Beckham, the shortstop prospect for the Tampa Bay Rays was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball. Prior to this, Beckham has had an up-and-down ride that started with being the first overall pick in the 2008 draft.
Viewed as the best athlete with the best all-around set of tools who projected as a shortstop with power and speed, Beckham was taken first overall by the Tampa Bay Rays. Beckham signed for $6.15 million just two weeks after being picked and was assigned to the Princeton Rays, the Rays’ Rookie League affiliate in the Appalachian League. Beckham did not perform particularly well, putting up a 243/297/345 line and committing 13 errors in 171 chances at shortstop. Beckham also appeared in two games for the Hudson Valley Renegades (who play in the awesomely named Wappingers Falls, New York; where I once saw Peter Frampton play).
Nevertheless, prospect prognosticators were bullish on Beckham’s future. Baseball Prospectus‘ Kevin Goldstein ranked him #2 in the Rays system (behind David Price) and #15 overall (behind Giancarlo – then Mike – Stanton), and said that:
Beckham is the total package, and he’s drawn multiple comparisons to former MVP Barry Larkin. He has a good approach, excellent bat speed, projects for at least average power, and has plus speed. He’s a fluid defender with range, soft hands, and a strong arm.
Baseball America agreed, ranking Beckham #2 in the Rays system (again behind Price) and #28 overall (behind Matt LaPorta), and went even further, naming Beckham the “Best Hitter for Average” in the Rays system after the 2008 season.
Beckham was assigned to the A-level Bowling Green Hot Rods for the 2009 season and put up a 275/328/389 line while making 43 (!!!) errors at shortstop. Beckham was dinged accordingly, as Baseball America dropped him to the #6 prospect in the Rays organization and #67 prospect in all of baseball, though they did rate Beckham as having the “Best Infield Arm” in the Rays’ organization. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus dropped Beckham comparably, dropping him to #6 in the Rays system (taking him down from a 5-star to a 4-star prospect), stating that Beckham was “less refined than expected” and “far too aggressive at the plate.” Goldstein ranked Beckham #56 overall (between Dan Hudson and Scott Sizemore) in his Top 101.
In 2010, Beckham failed to impress for a third straight year, putting up a 256/346/359 line while playing for the Charlotte Stone Crabs of the High A Florida State League. While Beckham’s walk rate increased, causing an increase in OBP despite a drop in batting average, he struggled at bat and in the field, making 25 errors while playing shortstop. Though scouts still saw the tools, Beckham was failing to actualize and his prospect status was dropping precipitously. Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein ranked Beckham the #18 prospect in the Rays’ system and took him off the Top 101 entirely. Baseball America responded in a consistent manner, ranking Beckham #15 in the Rays system and not ranking him in their Top 100. Some pundits went even further, with Matthew Pouliot of NBC Sports’ Hardball Talk noting that Beckham has not excelled at any point, and that it is becoming less likely that he will play shortstop in the Major Leagues.
2011 started off poorly for Beckham, as the Rays made a deal with the Cubs in January, sending Matt Garza with Zach Rosscup and Fernando Perez to Chicago for Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld, and Brandon Guyer. Hak-Ju Lee, a Korean-born shortstop noted for his defensive prowess, was viewed as the shortstop of the future in the Rays organization as very little was expected from Beckham. Beckham was assigned to play for the Montgomery Biscuits of the AA Southern League, with Lee playing for the Charlotte Stone Crabs in High A. For the first time, Beckham produced, putting up a 275/339/395 line across 107 games while showing improved defense at shortstop (despite the 20 errors), earning an August promotion to the AAA Durham Bulls of the International League. Beckham showed impressive power and a complete lack of plate discipline while playing for the Bulls, putting up a 255/282/462 line. Tim Beckham as a prospect was back. Beckham was bumped up to the #7 prospect in the Rays’ system by Baseball America and #9 by Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus. Jonathan Mayo of MLB showed faith in Beckham, ranking him the #91 overall prospect, stating that Beckham “[swung] a good bat across two levels,” the “power has started to come,” and he “made very good strides with his defense.”
Lee, however, was more impressive. After being ranked the #92 prospect by Baseball America and #65 overall by Baseball, Lee put up a robust 318/389/44 line over 97 games at Charlotte with scouts raving about his defense. When Beckham was promoted to AAA, Lee was promoted to AA, where he struggled with a 190/272/310 line across the final 24 games of the season. After the season, Lee was ranked the #44 prospect by Baseball America and #65 overall by Baseball Prospectus (additionally, ESPN’s Keith Law rated him #12 and MLB’s Jonathan Mayo rated him #46), putting him solidly on the upper echelon of prospects.
But what would this mean for Tim Beckham’s future? As it turned out, not a whole lot for the beginning of 2012. Beckham was sent back to AAA Durham and Lee was sent to AA Charlotte, with both struggling in the first few weeks, with Beckham putting up a putrid 204/290/278 line and Lee putting up a lackluster 243/306/333 line.
On Tuesday evening, Major League Baseball issued the following press release:
The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced today that Tampa Bay Rays Minor League shortstop Tim Beckham 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 Beckham, who is currently on the roster of the Triple-A Durham Bulls of the International League, will be effective immediately.
What does this mean for Beckham? The most important thing to mention is that this was not steroids or amphetamines, as Beckham was not taking a drug to improve his performance. The second thing to mention is that this is Beckham’s second time testing positive for marijuana (as was specifically identified in the Rays’ Press Release). In the Press Release, Beckham stated:
“I regret that my poor judgment resulted in me letting my teammates and the Tampa Bay Rays organization down. I take full responsibility for my actions and I will use this experience to refocus my commitment to baseball. I recognize that I am blessed to be able to play baseball for a living. I owe it to my teammates, my family, and to myself to respect the game and the responsibilities that go with playing it as a professional. I am sorry.”
Rays Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman said:
“We are very disappointed by Tim’s actions. Tim possesses great potential, and he must rededicate himself in order to become the person and player we know he can be.”
The actions taken by a team in this situation is often directly related to the player’s status and future. The options are:
(1) Nothing. Allow the player to serve the suspension and return to the team.
(2) Immediate release.
(3) Demote or otherwise punish the player.
What will happen to Tim Beckham? This isn’t a situation similar to the Pittsburgh Drug Trials in the 1980′s, and will not have any substantial impact on professional baseball, or any sport whatsoever. Judging from Beckham’s contrite commends and Friedman’s statement, the Rays will do nothing. Beckham will merely serve his suspension and return to his job as the starting shortstop for the Durham Bulls. A knee-jerk release or other punishment could further stunt Beckham’s development, something teams rarely do to players in which they have invested in excess of $6 million.
What will be Beckham’s future? Beckham has all of the tools to be either a shortstop in the Major Leagues, a tiny subset of all players at any level in the minors, and is still only 22 years old. While he may spend time as a shortstop in the Major Leagues, I believe Beckham will never be more than a decent second baseman with a little bit of power and a few stolen bases. His defense will never be much above average and he may only end up as a utility infielder – hardly the goal of a team picking #1 overall.
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