Results tagged ‘ MLB ’
As the second half of the season begins, teams begin assessing their 2012 seasons with an eye on the future. Some teams go all in, picking up top players by dealing top prospects, some teams add bit parts to supplement their rosters, some teams stand pat, and other teams become sellers, giving up on their present for a shot at the future.
Some of these trades work immediately (such as the Cardinals/Blue Jays Colby Rasmus trade last year), while others backfire immensely (such as the Red Sox’s acquisition of Larry Andersen at the expense of Jeff Bagwell), and others seem to have no appreciable benefit (such as the Diamondbacks’ trade for Adam Dunn). Additionally, not all of these happen at the end of July, big trades often happen any time from May through August. Below is a selection of players involved in at least two mid-season trades – some as prospects, some as high-priced veterans, and some as both – that help underscore the possibilities and the risks involved.
Traded Player 1: David Cone
Backdrop: The 1992 Mets were the worst team money could buy (or so we’re told by Bob Klapisch), the 1992 Blue Jays were looking for another top of the rotation pitcher, and David Cone was about to become a free agent for the first time.
Trade: Mets traded David Cone for a PTBNL (Ryan Thompson) and Jeff Kent (more on him later).
Result: Blue Jays rode Cone’s 2.55 ERA across 53 innings, followed by four decent starts in the playoffs to their first World Series win.
Aftermath: Mets had Kent as their 2B (sometimes 3B) of the future, Ryan Thompson played baseball professionally (that’s all I’m giving him because I remember wondering why the Mets didn’t have anyone better), and Cone signed with the big money Royals in the off-season. With the picks, the Blue Jays drafted Matt Farner (never made it past A ball) and Tony Medrano (1,449 games in the minors but never made the majors).
Winner: Blue Jays because flags fly forever.
Backdrop: The 1995 Blue Jays acquired Cone from the Royals in April for David Sinnes, Chris Stynes, and Tony Medrano (a player the Blue Jays drafted with a pick they received when the Royals signed Cone). The Blue Jays were struggling and the Yankees’ renewal was in full swing, needing one more, preferably veteran, pitcher to take the reins.
Trade: Blue Jays traded Cone for Jason Jarvis (never made it out of AA), Mike Gordon (never made it out of AA), and Marty Janzen (27 career games in the majors).
Result: Yankees lost in five games to a Mariners team led by Randy Johnson (more on him later) and Ken Griffey, Jr. The Blue Jays have not made the playoffs since 1993.
Aftermath: Cone stuck around in the Bronx, pitching there through 2000, picking up four World Series Rings and throwing a perfect game in 1999.
Winner: The Yankees, as the players they gave up did not amount to anything and Cone was very productive in his time there.
Moral of the story: Acquire David Cone.
Traded Player 2: Jeff Kent
Backdrop: The 1992 Mets were looking to pick up some young talent and the Blue Jays wanted another top of the rotation starter.
Trade: Blue Jays traded Kent and a PTBNL (Ryan Thompson) for David Cone.
Result: The Blue Jays won the World Series. Kent hit 239/289/407 (“good” for a 97 OPS+) and Ryan Thompson hit roughly as well.
Aftermath: Kent hit 21 home runs in 1993, 14 in 1993, and 20 in 1995, but never really put it all together. After turning a corner in 1996 (hitting 290/331/436 in 89 games), Kent was dealt to the Indians (more on that later). Thompson was never much more than a 4th outfielder with some power, as he struck out a lot (347 in 1385 career PA).
Winner: the Blue Jays, especially because of what the Mets did next.
Backdrop: The 1996 Mets had Edgardo Alfonzo coming up to play third base and wanted to get an upgrade from Jose Vizcaino at second base (but apparently had no issue with Butch Huskey playing first base…), while the Indians viewed Vizcaino as a serviceable second baseman.
Trade: Kent was dealt by the Mets to the Indians with Jose Vizcaino for Carlos Baerga and Alvaro Espinoza.
Result: The Indians remained very good for the next few years while the Mets were killed by Baerga’s lack of production. Vizcaino and Espinoza were minor parts to the deal.
Aftermath: Baerga never hit and Kent was traded after the season to the Giants for Matt Williams.
Winner: The Mets lost but the Indians did not really win. Perhaps if the Indians won a World Series and either Vizcaino or Kent were a part of it…
Moral of the story: Don’t acquire Jeff Kent (well, yet).
Traded Player 3: Carlos Beltran
Backdrop: In 2004, the Royals were on their way to another 100-loss season, the Astros were a CF away from being a truly elite team, and Carlos Beltran was months away from attaining free agent riches.
Trade: In a three-team trade, the Royals sent Beltran to the Astros, the A’s sent Mark Teahen and Mike Wood to the Royals, the Astros sent Octavio Dotel to the A’s, and the Astros sent John Buck to the Royals. In short, the Royals traded Beltran and got back Mark Teahen, Mike Wood, and John Buck.
Result: The Astros were 38-34 prior to the trade and 52-36 after, falling to the Cardinals in a tight seven game series. Beltran hit 258/368/559 in the regular season, 455/500/1.091 in the NLDS, and 417/563/958 in the NLCS, mashing eight home runs.
Aftermath: Beltran went on to free agent riches in Queens, Dotel got hurt the following season, Teahen had a nice 2006 but never really never figured it out, Mike Wood peaked as a swingman, and John Buck has turned into a low-average/high-power catcher for the Marlins. The Astros drafted Eli Iorg and Tommy Manzella with the picks they received as compensation for Beltran.
Winner: The Astros, who used Beltran for his peak value: a hired gun.
Backdrop: In 2011, the Mets were a team beginning a rebuilding process and the Giants were looking to make a late charge by acquiring a slugging outfielder in an attempt to win the World Series for a second consecutive year.
Trade: The Mets sent Beltran to the Giants for Zack Wheeler.
Result: The Giants missed the playoffs, though Beltran put up a robust 323/369/551 line in 44 games.
Aftermath: Wheeler’s stock has spiked, with Baseball America naming him the #10 overall and #6 pitching prospect in baseball. The Giants were not able to offer Beltran arbitration due to a contractual stipulation (the curse of Minaya), so were unable to offset his loss with draft picks.
Winner: So far, the Mets. However, if Wheeler gets hurt, the Giants may be the winner due to extra ticket sales caused by the acquisition.
Moral of the story: Beltran can hit, but cannot carry an offense. Trade for him but only if you don’t expect him to carry your team.
Traded Player 4: Cliff Lee
Backdrop: In 2002, the Expos were owned by Major League Baseball and thought they were in the hunt for a playoff spot. The Indians were having a bad year and looking to jettison some veterans in order to get some additional young talent.
Trade: Expos dealt Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew (brother of Stephen and JD) for Lee, Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore, and Lee Stevens.
Result: The Expos missed the playoffs and began a slow slide into mediocrity that they have only recently been able to reverse.
Aftermath: The Expos dealt Colon to the White Sox in the off-season; the Indians got a lot of value out of Sizemore and Lee, and dealt Phillips to the Reds in 2006 in a pretty terrible trade.
Winner: The Indians and it’s not even close. Flags fly forever, but this accelerated the Expos demise.
Backdrop: The Indians were having a bad year and looking to jettison some veterans in order to get some additional young talent (yes, I copied that from the previous trade). The Phillies were looking to add one more pitcher to get over the top and win a second consecutive World Series.
Trade: The Indians dealt Lee and Ben Francisco to the Phillies for Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, and Lou Marson.
Result: The Phillies repeated as NL Champions lost to the Yankees in the World Series.
Aftermath: None of the prospects sent to Cleveland have amounted to much and Cliff Lee dominated for the Phillies. The Phillies dealt Lee to the Mariners in the off-season to the Mariners for J.C. Ramirez, Phillippe Aumont, and Tyson Gillies – none of which have done much of anything.
Winner: The Phillies because of 2009, but it may have made more sense to keep him for 2010.
Backdrop: The Mariners 2010 season fell apart, with Erik Bedard being injured and their offense being nonexistent. The Rangers needed another pitcher for the stretch run and wanted a playoff-tested veteran.
Trade: Mariners dealt Mark Lowe (and cash) to the Rangers for Matthew Lawson, Blake Beavan, Justin Smoak, and Josh Lueke, who is a horrible person (see here, here, and here).
Result: The Rangers were AL Champions, but lost to the Giants in the World Series.
Aftermath: The Rangers lost Lee in free agency, while the Mariners turned Leuke into John Jaso. Justin Smoak, the main prospect acquired, has struggled mightily in the majors after drawing Mark Teixeira (more on him, soon) comparisons.
Winner: The Rangers, as flags, even league championship flags, fly forever.
Moral of the story: Acquire Cliff Lee.
Traded Player 5: Mark Teixeira
Backdrop: The 2007 Rangers were struggling and looking to maximize the value of their best player, Mark Teixeira. The Braves had just missed the playoffs for the first time since the George H.W. Bush administration (1990) and sorely needed an upgrade from Scott Thorman at first base.
Trade: The Rangers dealt Teixeira and lefty-specialist Ron Mahay for Jarrod Saltalamacchia (more on him later), Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, and Matt Harrison.
Result: The Braves did not really improve much with Teixeira (56-51 before, 28-27 after), as their winning percentage decreased.
Aftermath: The Braves missed the playoffs and Andrus, Feliz, and All-Star Harrison are key parts to the Rangers recent success.
Winner: The Rangers, not even close.
Backdrop: The Braves, fearing they would lose Teixeira in the off season, wanted to make a deal. The Angels needed a 1B who could hit, sick of Casey Kotchman’s poor-hitting ways.
Trade: The Braves dealt Teixeira to the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim for Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek.
Result: The Angels won the AL West, but lost to the Red Sox in the ALDS 3-1. Casey Kotchman put up a 237/331/316 line in 2008 and a 282/354/409 in 2009 for the Braves before being shipped up to Boston.
Aftermath: The Angels ended up picking Mike Trout and Tyler Skaggs with the picks they received as compensation for Teixeira signing with the Yankees.
Winner: Neither team won immediately, but it appears the Angels won in the long run as Skaggs was used to acquire Dan Haren and Mike Trout is quite awesome.
Moral of the story: Mark Teixeira is really good, but not as a hired gun. Or, perhaps, maybe Mark Teixeira needs to play in one of the five largest markets in the United States.
Traded Player 6: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Backdrop: The 2007 Rangers were struggling and looking to maximize the value of their best player, Mark Teixeira. The Braves had just missed the playoffs for the first time since the George H.W. Bush administration (1990) and sorely needed an upgrade from Scott Thorman at first base.
Trade: The Rangers dealt Teixeira and lefty-specialist Ron Mahay for Jarrod Saltalamacchia (more on him later), Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, and Matt Harrison.
Result: The Braves missed the playoffs and the Rangers went 28-28 for the rest of the season.
Aftermath: To fully understand this trade, you must understand what the Braves dealt. Prior to 2007, Andrus was the #65 prospect according to Baseball America, but would jump to #19 after 2007, Feliz was unranked, but would be #93 after the season, followed by #10 then #9, Matt Harrison was the #90 prospect, and Saltalamacchia was the #36 after being #18 the season before.
Winner: If the trade was only for Saltalamacchia, the Braves won. Include anything else and the Rangers smoked them. This trade may have ended up worse than the Indians/Expos trade involving Cliff Lee.
Backdrop: The 2010 Red Sox needed a replacement for Jason Varitek and were willing to give up a few prospects in exchange.
Trade: The Rangers dealt Saltalamacchia to Boston for Chris McGuiness, Roman Mendez, and a PTBNL (Michael Thomas).
Result: The Red Sox missed the playoffs, as did the Rangers.
Aftermath: Salty has turned into one of the top hitting catchers in baseball and none of the prospects are doing much of anything.
Winner: It appears the Red Sox.
Moral of the story: Trade for Jarrod Saltalamacchia – it works 60% of the time, every time.
Traded Player 7: Randy Johnson
Backdrop: The 1989 Expos felt they were one pitcher away from making a run (they were only three games back at the time) and thought Johnson would never put it all together. The Mariners decided to jettison some salary and take a flier on a pitcher with a huge amount of risk and reward.
Trade: The Mariners dealt Mark Langston to the Expos for Gene Harris, Brian Holman, Randy Johnson, and a PTBNL (Mike Campbell).
Result: Les Expos finished 81-81, missing the playoffs. Johnson walked 70 and struck out 104 in 131 innings for the Mariners.
Aftermath: Randy Johnson was awesome. Absolutely awesome. I once saw him go 2/4 with a RBI while striking out 10 over eight innings (though the Mets beat them in the NLDS). Langston pitched very well for the Expos (2.39 ERA over 24 starts), but went to the Angels in the off season. The Expos picked Rondell White and Gabe White (no relation, it appears) with compensation picks.
Winner: Rondell White had a nice career, Gabe White was better than I thought, and Langston pitched well, but the Expos dealt an all-time legend for four months of 148 ERA+ and a few picks, and then missed the playoffs. The Mariners won and it’s not even close.
Backdrop: The 1998 Mariners were not spending money to keep their veterans and were looking to maximize their return in exchange for Johnson, by then one of the top pitchers in the game, with a Cy Young Award (also second place twice and third place once) to go with his no-hitter. The Astros were in “win now” mode, and needed an ace to anchor their rotation.
Trade: The Mariners dealt Johnson to the Astros for Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen, and a PTBNL (John Halama).
Result: The Astros, led by Johnson’s silly 10-1, 1.28 ERA across 11 starts in which he averaged nearly eight innings per start, went 37-16 for the final two months of the season, taking the NL Central crown before losing to the eventual NL Champion San Diego Padres in four games. The Mariners finished under .500 for the first time since 1994 and would finish under .500 in 1999 as well.
Aftermath: The Mariners used Garcia and a Halama as key parts in their 116-win season in 2001, but neither team made it to the World Series. Johnson signed with the Diamondbacks in the off-season, netting the Astros Mike Rosamond and Jay Perez, or, as they’re more commonly known, “who?”
Winner: The Astros won in the short term while the Mariners won a few years later. In total, I’d say the Astros came out ahead.
Moral of the story: Acquiring Hall of Fame pitchers in their prime is a good idea.
Traded 8: Curt Schilling
Backdrop: The 1988 Red Sox needed another starting pitcher and the Baltimore Orioles wanted to pick up some young talent.
Trade: The Red Sox dealt Schilling and Brady Anderson for Mike Boddiker.
Result: The Red Sox won the AL East but then were swept by the Oakland A’s in the ALCS, who then lost 4-1 to the LA Dodgers in the World Series. The Orioles, after firing Cal Ripken (Sr.) after a 0-6 start, hired Frank Robinson on their way to a 54-107 finish.
Aftermath: Schilling did not do much for the Orioles until he was used as a reliever in 1990, but was dealt to the Astros before the 1991 season, then to the Phillies before the 1992 season. Anderson had a few good seasons and then an amazing steroid-fueled season. Boddiker pitched a few more solid seasons for the Red Sox before pitching in Kansas City and Milwaukee.
Winner: The Orioles, as Anderson was a solid center fielder for about a decade, but they basically gave away Schilling (with Pete Harnisch and Steve Finley) for Glenn Davis to the Astros, who then gave him to the Phillies for Jason Grimsley. Yes, Curt Schilling was really once traded STRAIGHT UP for Jason Grimsley.
Backdrop: The 2000 Phillies wouldn’t spend money on players (just ask Scott Rolen) and the Diamondbacks needed one more top-flight pitcher to make them serious contenders.
Trade: The Phillies dealt Schilling to the Diamondbacks for Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa, Travis Lee, and Vicente Padilla.
Result: The Phillies lost 93 games, but the Diamondbacks went 28-32, missing the playoffs despite putting up a 3.69 ERA (130 ERA+) in 13 starts.
Aftermath: The Diamondbacks won the World Series, largely due to Schilling and Randy Johnson in 2001, while none of the pitchers amounted to much of anything (unless you were a part of Padilla Flotilla).
Winner: The Diamondbacks, though it took a year to play out.
Moral of the story: Curt Schilling was a great pitcher, but he was traded five times! He was traded by the Red Sox to the Orioles to the Astros to the Phillies to the Diamondbacks to the Red Sox.
Either way, give it a few years and you’ll see who the winner of a trade was – unless one of the teams wins the World Series, then it was probably worth it all.
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
In advance of next Monday’s draft, which will once again be televised live on MLBNetwork (6pm EST), one should remember some of the changes initiated during the negotiations for the new Collective Bargaining Agreement take place starting this year.
It’s going to be interesting to see how teams adjust to the new rules, especially with some more restrictive penalties coming in 2013. It’s almost like this year is a dress rehearsal for the big show coming later on. Among the changes on tap for 2013 and beyond is a reduced number of compensation picks for free agents and a “competitive-balance” lottery which provides additional choices for disadvantaged teams, which, for the first time, can be traded.
Some of the changes which start this year are the banning of major league contracts to draftees, the adding of compensation picks from one round to three for the failure to sign a pick, and a mandatory forty percent offer to a player who fails a physical. Additionally the draft length will be reduced from fifty rounds to forty and a further shortening of the post-draft signing period, from August 15th to six weeks after the draft, which this year is July 13th.
In an attempt to control bonuses, teams are assigned “bonus pools”, which is based loosely on the sum of values of each team’s picks in the first ten rounds, which are assigned jointly by MLB and the MLBPA. With a more punitive luxury tax and the possibility of losing picks in upcoming drafts, even the big-money teams are expected to hold firm to their pool allotment.
Obviously, this system favors the teams picking at the top of the draft, the first pick of the round (Houston) is valued at $5.625 million more than Boston’s thirty-first and final pick of the first round. As it stands now, the cumulative dollar value on a per pick basis is roughly $27 million less this year than last.
The Twins have the largest bonus pool at just over twelve and a quarter million, covering thirteen picks, the Angels have the smallest, with just over one and a half million to spread amongst eight picks.
Teams have the flexibility to spend their pool in any way they choose, as long as they remain under their pool budget. If a team signs a player for less than the slot amount, they in turn could use that money on another pick, however, if they fail to sign a pick, the dollar value is subtracted from their total. Additionally, while the budget amount doesn’t cover rounds eleven through forty, penalties will still be assessed if the player signs for an amount $100,000 or more over the assigned slot amount.
Under the old CBA, the only enforceable penalty would be a fine for not having a player’s contract offer approved by MLB prior to the signing deadline. Now, the penalties begin at one dollar over each team’s respective bonus total and escalates for each additional five percent up to fifteen.
Exceeding the bonus pool by up to 5 percent results in a 75 percent penalty tax on the overage, from 5 to 10 percent results in the same 75 percent penalty and the loss of a first round pick, from 10 to 15 percent the penalty is 100% of the overage and the loss of a first and second rounder, and after 15 percent it’s a 100 percent penalty and the loss of two first rounders.
The best part of the penalties, IMO, is the fact the money isn’t paid directly to MLB, it’s disbursed (along with the forfeited picks) to those teams which didn’t exceed their budget. So, in effect, the Yankees could essentially pay for Tampa to sign additional picks and give another team and extra selection in an upcoming draft.
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.
When the Angels placed Bobby Abreu on waivers on April 27, I wondered if this would be the end of the line for one the most successful players in baseball history. Fortunately, or unfortunately if you watched Abreu leave three runners on base in two at bats on May 4, the Dodgers picked him up and immediately placed him on their major league roster.
In the interest of full disclosure, Bobby Abreu has always fascinated me. He never really looked like a great athlete (though he clearly is in great shape), he never looked like he was trying, and he never put up monster numbers, but at the end of nearly every season for 13 years he ended up with at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. He drove in at least 100 eight times, scored 100 another eight, and went 30/30 twice. He was a great right fielder, but was notoriously allergic to walls, and stole bases whenever the pitcher was not paying enough attention. In the end, Bobby Abreu was a truly singular baseball player whose talents were never fully appreciated – unless you were playing fantasy baseball.
Bob Kelly Abreu was signed by the Houston Astros as an international free agent out of Venezuela in August 1990, just months after his 16th birthday. Assigned to the GCL Astros of the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League, Abreu put up an amazing 301/358/372 line. While that line may not look amazing at first blush, had Abreu been born in the U.S., Puerto Rico, or Canada, Abreu would be about to start his senior year of High School, not playing professional baseball. In 1992, Abreu was assigned to the Astros’ full season A Level Southern Atlantic League affiliate, the Asheville Tourists. Abreu more than held his own, putting up a 292/375/402 line as the third youngest player in the Southern Atlantic League. Tough Abreu only hit eight home runs in 549 plate appearances, he displayed a mature approach by walking 63 times and hit 21 doubles. Baseball America took notice after the season, ranking Abreu the #95 prospect in all of baseball despite being 18 and having just completed his first full season of professional baseball.
In 1993, Abreu was sent to the High A Osceola Astros of the Florida State League where he put up a 283/352/430 line across 530 plate appearances. Abreu’s line for 1993 is, to say the least, fascinating. He hit 21 doubles, 17 triples (which lead the FSL, but the home park may have been a factor, as Abreu was one of six Oscola Astros who had at least six triples), and five home runs (down from eight in 1992). Abreu stole 10 bases, but was thrown out 14 times. Abreu walked 51 times (17th in the FSL out of 100 players with at least 149 PA), but struck out 90 times (tied for 9th most). Abreu was still viewed as a top prospect, but was not ranked by Baseball America in their top 100.
In 1994, Abreu broke out – putting up a great 303/368/530 line across 451 plate appearances for the Jackson Generals of the AA Texas League. Though his walks further decreased to 42, Abreu hit 25 doubles, 9 triples, and 16 home runs – finally appearing to realize his power potential. Abreu’s stock as a prospect was spiking, as Baseball America rated him the #52 prospect in baseball.
In 1995, Abreu spent the entire year playing for the Tucson Toros of the AAA Pacific Coast League, putting up a solid, if not spectacular, 304/395/516 line while hitting 24 doubles, 17 triples, and 10 home runs. He still got caught stealing too much (14 in 30 attempts), but there was significant offensive growth and actualization. Baseball America rated Abreu the #29 prospect in all of baseball (and immediately ahead of Jermaine Dye) with many prospect prognosticators praising his plate approach and defense, along with his power potential.
Despite the Astros’ mediocre outfield in 1996 (Brian Hunter, Derek Bell, and James Mouton had the most plate appearances, with significant playing time from Derrick May and John Cangelosi), Abreu returned to Tucson for another season in AAA. Abreu put up a 283/389/459 line, showing improved plate discipline (83 walks in 573 plate appearances) and a better approach to base running (24 stolen bases in 42 attempts), with 14 doubles, 16 triples, and 13 home runs. Abreu was called up to the Astros in September, putting up a 227/292/273 line across 24 PA. While the overall line does not look good, it is important to note that, at 22 years old, Abreu was one of the youngest players in the major leagues and, more importantly, 24 PA is such a tiny sample size that it is statistically insignificant. Unconcerned with the poor big league showing, Baseball America rated Abreu the #38 prospect in all of baseball after 1996, behind Eli Marrero.
In 1997, Abreu began the season with the Astros, appearing in 20 out of the Astros’ first 26 games, putting up a 271/386/457 line while primarily playing right field. Abreu struggled in May, and went on the disabled list on May 25 with a fractured right hand. Abreu was on the disabled list until July 3, when he returned to the Astros for almost two weeks, putting just seven plate appearances across five games. Abreu was sent down to the minors, where he put up a combined 262/329/379 in AA and AAA (the AA portion appears to be part of his rehab, but I cannot find game logs to confirm this). Abreu returned to the Astros on September 1, putting up a 294/333/471 line over 14 games to close out the season to finish with a 250/329/372 line at the major league level. All told, 1997 was not a successful year for Abreu. Despite spending most of the 1997 season with the Astros, he had not performed particularly well and missed significant time with an injury.
On November 18, 1997, Major League Baseball held an expansion draft in order to put major league players on the rosters of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Each team was allowed to protect a number of players, and the Astros decided to protect Richard Hidalgo instead of Abreu. With the 6th overall pick, the Devil Rays selected Abreu and, immediately after the draft, traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies for Kevin Stocker. The Devil Rays GM, Chuck LaMar, wanted Stocker, who was known for his strong defense and complete lack of offensive ability, and was willing to give up the soon-to-be 24 year old Abreu for the soon-to-be 28 year old Stocker. The Phillies’ GM, Ed Wade, should be commended for this move. Though the 1998 Phillies would have to use Desi Relaford as their shortstop, Abreu would hit from day one (literally, he went 2/6 on Opening Day against the Mets) for the Phillies.
In 1998, Abreu put up an impressive 312/409/497 line (with 14 intentional walks), beginning his long and successful career. Abreu has put up an OPS+ of at least 104 in every season from 1998 through 2011, but has struggled so far in 2012. Playing without a position for the Angels, Abreu put up a 208/259/333 line in eight games before being released. The Dodgers picked up Abreu, with formerly-mustachioed Manager Don Mattingly stating that Abreu “gives [the Dodgers] a chance to be a little bit better.”
In the end, Bobby Abreu pretty much turned out to be the player he was projected to become, with a career 293/396/480 slash line (129 OPS+), with 284 home runs, 393 stolen bases, 2390 hits, 1414 runs, and 1330 RBI. Abreu’s ability to hit line drives and patience at the plate have been his calling card, racking up 558 doubles in his career, good for 25th all time and 2nd amongst active players (only 3 behind Todd Helton).
So is this the end for Abreu? At this point, Abreu has become a “lefty bat off the bench” who can occasionally play the outfield. While he has put up great career numbers, he lacks the “wow” factor that voters often require when voting someone into the Hall of Fame, and he was only elected to two All Star Games, awarded one Silver Slugger, and awarded one Gold Glove. This lack of awards, despite winning the 2005 Home Run Derby, will doom Abreu to being part of the Hall of Very Good – which is quite an accomplishment. Abreu is currently 98th with 9,703 career plate appearances – a place surrounded by Hall of Famers and legends, such as Ted Simmons (100), Willie McCovey (99), Julio Franco (97), and Richie Ashburn (96).
How will Abreu be remembered? As a very good player who put together a long, successful career in baseball and the fact that he has made in excess of $115 million in his career while flying under the radar.
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
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.
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
This afternoon, news came out that Michael Pineda was diagnosed with an anterior labral tear and will miss the entire season surgery on Tuesday, May 1 at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. Pineda, who turned 23 in January, has come a long way since signing with the Seattle Mariners out of the Dominican Republic back in 2005.
Signed on December 12, 2005 for a paltry $35,000, Pineda made his professional debut in 2006 in the Dominican Summer League with the DSL Mariners, putting up a 0.44 ERA over eight games (three starts), striking out 14 batters in 20.1 innings. In 2007, Pineda was still unable to get a visa, and again pitched for the DSL Mariners, putting up a 2.29 ERA across 59 inings with 48 strike outs. Finally able to pitch in the U.S. in 2008, Pineda dominated in for the A level Wisconsin Timber Rattlers of the Midwest Leaue, putting up a 1.95 ERA across 138.1 innings with 128 strike outs. Pineda started 21 games and relieved in five games in an attempt to decrease his workload, finishing the season with a dominating performance against the Quad Cities River Bandits, the St. Louis Cardinals Midwest League affiliate, with 14 strike outs, no walks, and only one hit in a complete game shutout.
Moved up to the High A California League High Desert Mavericks to start 2009, Pineda pitched well to start the season, but quickly encountered arm trouble. After going 5, 6.1, 7, and 7.1 innings to start the season, Pineda was placed on the Minor League Disabled List for 15 days due to elbow soreness. Activated on May 12, Pineda’s innings were limited, going 2 and 3 innings in his next two appearances before re-aggravating the injury and going on the Minor League Disabled List for approximately three months, only returning to the Rookie Level AZL Mariners for a 1 and 2 inning appearance in early August. After being cleared, Pineda was returned to High Desert, where he pitched 13.2 innings over four starts, allowing four runs (three earned), while striking out 22.
In 2010, Pineda was assigned to the AA West Tenn Diamond Jaxx of the Southern League, where he absolutely dominated opponents. Across 77 innings over 13 starts, Pineda struck out 78 and allowed only 67 hits. The Mariners took notice and promoted him to the AAA Tacoma Rainiers of the Pacific Coast Leauge, where Pineda kept doing well. Pineda struck out 76 in 62.1 innings with a 4.76 ERA. Pineda, pitching a career high 139.1 innings, clearly tired. In his last two starts, Pineda went 4.1 and 3.2 innings, allowing four and six runs (all earned), with eight hits in both. Pineda’s numbers should also be adjusted to consider that he was in the hitter-friendly environment of the PCL.
After 2010, prospect prognosticators took notice and rated Pineda accordingly. Baseball America ranked Pineda #16 overall (between Matt Moore and Freddie Freeman), Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein ranked Pineda #24 (between Jacob Turner and Dustin Ackley), and MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo ranked Pineda #13 (between Kyle Drabek and Mike Montgomery).
Pineda opened the 2011 season as the #5 starter for the Seattle Mariners, immediately showing why he was considered a top prospect. After a six-inning effort on July 4, Pineda had a 2.58 ERA over 108 innings across 1 starts with 106 strike outs and a sparkling .564 OPS-against. Pineda struggled in his next six starts, putting up a 7.64 ERA over 33 innings until mid-August. From August 21 through the rest of the season, Pineda seemed to pitch well, with a 3.60 ERA over five starts across 30 innings. Overall, Pineda pitched very well, putting up a 3.74 ERA (103 ERA+) across 171 innings in his age-22 season, coming in fifth in the Rookie of the Year vote in a very stacked year.
The big trade of the 2012 off season occurred on January 23 when the Mariners dealt Pineda with prospect Jose Campos to the Yankees for ultra-prospect Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi.
But there was also this: scouts behind home plate had Pineda’s velocity at mostly 90-92.
When Pineda dominated in the first half of last year, he threw his fastball in the mid-90s. Last spring, at this time, Pineda was throwing 95-98 and his changeup was at 88.
In his next start, Pineda silenced critics and hit 94 on the radar gun, as the Yankees’ General Manager, Brian Cashman, said that Pineda is 20 pounds overweight. After the game, Pineda told Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News: “I know I can throw harder, but it’s getting better. My arm feels good.” On the eve of the season, Pineda is put on the 15-day Disabled List with shoulder inflammation and tendinitis, which is never a good omen. Then, just today, the bombshell hit: Pineda will undergo surgery next Tuesday to repair an anterior labral tear, which will keep him out for the entire 2012 season, and possibly part of 2013.
What will happen to Pineda from here? Surgery then rehabilitation is for sure, how well his “stuff” comes back is another story altogether. While many pitchers have come back from elbow surgery (such as ulnar collateral ligament surgery, more commonly known as Tommy John surgery) with flying colors, such as Stephen Strasburg and, well, Tommy John, shoulder surgeries, especially ones on the labrum, have a less successful track record. As State’s Will Carroll wrote:
Leading baseball surgeon Dr. James Andrews estimates that 85 percent of pitchers make a full recovery after an ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, aka the once risky Tommy John surgery. (USA Today has even called the surgery the “pitcher’s best friend.”) But if pitchers with torn labrums were horses, they’d be destroyed. Of the 36 major-league hurlers diagnosed with labrum tears in the last five years, only midlevel reliever Rocky Biddle has returned to his previous level. Think about that when your favorite pitcher comes down with labrum trouble: He has a 3 percent chance of becoming Rocky Biddle. More likely, he’ll turn into Mike Harkey, Robert Person, or Jim Parque, pitchers who lost stamina and velocity—and a major-league career—when their labrums began to fray.
So what can we expect? It’s entirely possible that this may be the end of the career of Michael Pineda, which would be unfortunate for every baseball fan, as Pineda’s talent is worth the price of admission. But Pineda may return, and he may return to form, but only time will tell.
So does this mean that the Mariners won the trade? It probably does. While the Yankees may end up striking gold with Jose Campos, Jesus Montero was a lot to give up for a 19-year old pitcher in A-ball. In the end, we will need five years to evaluate the trade, but early returns give the Mariners a big advantage. And remember, TNSTAAPP.
Update: Curt Schilling has said that he thinks Pineda “can be back better than he has ever been in 10 months. Maybe less, because he is younger. It is going to be 100 percent on him.” Mark Mulder, who had a labral tear and a rotator cuff injury never felt the same after coming back from surgery.
On the other hand, five pitchers (Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Al Leiter, Chris Carpenter, and Gil Meche) threw more than 1,000 innings following the surgery, and another six (Scott Elarton, Jason Isringhausen, Ted Lilly, Jon Rauch, Anibal Sanchez, and Jose Valverde) have topped 400 innings.
So it appears that there is significant precedent for a successful return for Pineda – but not one without risk.
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
Colby Rasmus has been as controversial player as there is in the major leagues over the past few years (without committing a crime). An ultra-talented center fielder with plus power, great range, and a canon throwing arm, Rasmus has the potential to be the next great player. After a great 2010, Rasmus seemingly took a few steps back in his development, followed by a trade from St. Louis to Toronto.
Born in Columbus, Georgia, Rasmus moved to Phenix City, Alabama when he was young. In Phenix City, Rasmus was a star pitcher and first baseman in Little League, leading his Phenix City Little League team to the finals of the 1999 Little League World Series, losing to Hirakata (Japan) Little League in the finals.
After a great career at Russell County High School in Seale, Alabama, Rasmus was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round of the 2005 MLB draft, #28 overall. A number of very good players were selected prior to Rasmus, including Justin Upton (Arizona, 1st round/1st pick), Ryan Zimmerman (Washington, 1/4), Ryan Braun (Milwaukee, 1/5), Ricky Romero (Toronto, 1/6), Troy Tulowitzki (Colorado, 1/7), Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh, 1/11), Jacoby Ellsbury (1/23), and Matt Garza (Minnesota, 1/25). Rasmus signed for $1 million and was assigned to the Johnson City Cardinals, the Cardinals Rookie Level affiliate in the Appalachian League. Rasmus put up an impressive 296/362/514 line in 62 games in Johnson City.
In 2006, Rasmus who not ranked in Baseball America’s Top 100, was assigned to the Swing of the Quad Cities, the Cardinals’ A-level Midwest League affiliate, where he excelled. Rasmus was putting up a 310/373/512 line across 78 games for Quad Cities, when he was promoted to the Palm Beach Cardinals, the Cardinals’ High A affiliate in the Florida State League. In the notoriously pitcher-friendly Florida State League, Rasmus displayed power with a mature approach, putting up a 254/351/404 line as second youngest player in the Florida State League.
As a result of his excellent 2006 season, Rasmus’ stock skyrocketed, as Baseball America ranked him the #29 prospect, but Rasmus’ talent had only started to shine through. In 2007, Rasmus spent the year playing for the Springfield Cardinals of the AA Texas League, putting up a 275/381/551 line, showing significant development of his power with 37 doubles, 3 triples, and 29 home runs. Tulsa Drillers’ Manager, Stu Cole waxed poetic in discussing Rasmus’ ability:
“If there was a five-tool player in the league last year, Rasmus was the one. He brought everything to the table. If the ball was in the air, there was a chance you were going to see something exciting.”
In December 2007, the Cardinals dealt incumbent center fielder Jim Edmonds to the San Diego Padres for David Freese, clearing the way for Rasmus. Rasmus was ranked the #5 prospect by Baseball America (behind Jay Bruce, Evan Longoria, Joba Chamberlain, and Clay Buchholz), and prospect prognosticators praised his power, plate discipline, range in centerfield, and cannon throwing arm. Rasmus was invited to spring training and played reasonably well, but was sent to the Pacific Coast League’s Memphis Redbirds, where he immediately went into a deep offensive funk, hitting .186 through his first 172 at bats. Rasmus ended up with a respectable 251/346/396 line in 90 games for the Redbirds, missing time with a knee injury. Presciently, comments attached to his father, Tony, a former minor leaguer in the then-California Angels system, emerged, showing Tony’s disagreement with the actions of the Cardinals. Tony stated that the Cardinals were trying to alter Rasmus’ swing, publicly displaying a rift between the Rasmus family and the Cardinals.
Despite the lackluster season and the injury, Rasmus’ solid showing after the slow start and potential convinced Baseball America to rank him the #3 prospect, behind Matt Wieters and David Price. The Cardinals requested that Rasmus play winter ball to get additional at bats to get ready for the season, but Rasmus declined. Rasmus, apparently having never seen Crash Davis’ conversations with Nuke LaLoosh, reported to spring training asserting that he would go north with the Cardinals and could be the teams center fielder, irking a number of veterans including Rick Ankiel and Chris Duncan.
On Opening Day, Rasmus batted second and played right field (Ankiel was in center) and made a great debut – going 2/4 with a walk in his major league debut in the Cardinals’ 9-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Rasmus put up a solid 251/307/407 line in 2009, starting 104 games in centerfield while only starting 10 in left field and right field. Rasmus placed eighth in the Rookie of the Year Award vote (Chris Coghlan won) and was the inspiration for one of the greatest YouTube videos of all time:
Rasmus came into 2010 hoping to build on 2009 and exceeded expectations, putting up a 276/361/498 (132 OPS+) line. Rasmus began 2011 crushing the ball. After a 3/5 day against the Cubs on May 12, Rasmus goes into a tailspin, putting up a 194/282/377 line across 57 games until his late July trade to the Toronto Blue Jays. In early July, Cardinals’ Manager Tony La Russa said that “[w]hat [Rasmus is] working on is something that he thinks will help him and it comes from someplace else.” That “someplace else” was Rasmus’ father, Tony. While La Russa said that “it’s not unusual” for a player to seek familiar coaching, it was unusual to totally exclude the hitting instruction provided by the team, in this case Hitting Coach Mark McGwire.
The war of word continued between La Russa and Rasmus, culminating in a trade on July 27 with Trevor Miller, Brian Tallet, and P.J. Walters for Octavio Dotel, Edwin Jackson, Corey Patterson, and Marc Rzepczynski. Both sides seemed pleased with the deal, the Blue Jays picked up the ultra-talented Rasmus and the Cardinals picked up two solid bullpen arms, a starter, and a backup outfielder. It was the ultimate “change of scenery” trade.
While there is still a lot of time before we can fully judge the trade, it appears that St. Louis did much better than initially perceived. Rasmus put up a terrible 173/201/316 (37 OPS+) line over the final 35 games in the season, and has a 200/256/343 line (small sample size alert!) through 10 games in 2012. The Cardinals, however, caught fire after the trade, winning the Wild Card on the last day of the season and winning one of the most exciting World Series in recent memory.
How do we evaluate Rasmus? He’s still (somehow) only 25 and loaded with talent. Though reports have indicated decreased range, he still has the tools to be a middle-of-the-order hitter and center fielder. But how did Rasmus get here? Has he failed to actualize his talents? Are his father’s attempts to help hurting him? Is there another factor that is causing problems? No one seems to be quite sure – if anyone knew the problem they would be able to solve the problem. In the end Rasmus may figure it out and reach his potential or he make it onto the long list of ultra-talented players who had initial success in the Major Leagues but were unable to make the necessary adjustments.
Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.