Results tagged ‘ Post Hype Prospect ’

Will the #Royals Trade Wil Myers?

Yesterday, @ProductiveOuts posed the following question:

Which got me thinking, why would a team trade their best prospect when they have a team that won’t be near its peak for 2-3 more years?  @ProductiveOuts (I’m not sure if it was Ian or Riley, so I will act as if the are one entity) and Craig Goldstein gave a number of responses which were all plausible, but which one is correct?  Note: It was pretty apparent that none of us like the idea of dealing Wil Myers, something Craig noted here.

(1)  @HypeProspect – They know something we don’t.

This is the Occam’s Razor answer, assuming that the Royals know something about Myers that other teams don’t know and want to use it in their favor.
Why is it makes sense: Because we really don’t know what teams know and teams absolutely know things we don’t.
Why it doesn’t make sense: It has become increasingly difficult to totally hide a prospect’s misdoings (think Matt Bush), his performance was so strong and his future is so bright that Baseball America named him their 2012 Minor League Player of the Year.

(2)  @ProductiveOuts – Conflicting priorities and pressures that are leading to a terrible decision.

This answer is much more nuanced than the first possibility, but still relies upon Occam’s Razor.  The Royals were surprise team in 2011 and their fans became increasingly excited about the next few years.  The 2012 Royals struggled despite getting full seasons out of many of their young players, such as Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar, and significant contributions from many young players, such as Salvador Perez and Lorenzo Cain.
Why it makes sense: You may notice that there were no pitching prospects listed, as their prospects have not been able to add value at the Major League level.  John Lamb (torn UCL – Tommy John surgery in 2011), Mike Montgomery (general ineffectiveness in the high minors), Chris Dwyer (general ineffectiveness in the high minors), Danny Duffy (torn UCL – Tommy John surgery in 2012), and Noel Arguelles (general ineffectiveness in the high minors) have combined for 133 innings across 26 starts at the major league level, all of which have come from Duffy.  There sits Dayton Moore, watching an offense that is ready for prime time (and has reinforcements on the way in the form of Bubba Starling and Jorge Bonifacio) and only sees three pitching prospects left in the minors that look like they may pan out, 2012 #1 pick Kyle Zimmer, Yordano Ventura (whose short-for-baseball stature and lithe frame make him look like a reliever), and Jake Odorizzi.  Moore realizes that to compete, he needs more quality starters and has a glut of outfielders, which means he should trade the one that can bring the largest haul: Wil Myers.

Why it doesn’t make sense:  Why would anyone trade Wil Myers for James Shields or Jon Lester?  As Keith Law said yesterday in his chat:

The Red Sox should take [the Myers for Lester] offer and run. Same for the Rays with Shields.

(3)  @cdgoldstein – Their window is shorter than you think, and they may have brought up their core too soon.

This one builds on the previous option, as the Royals’ surprise contention in 2011 made it seem like a good idea to bring up Hosmer and Moustakas earlier than a point that would have allowed the Royals to squeeze out an additional year of team control.

Why it makes sense: It rests on facts and getting a pitcher for the next few years would vault the Royals to the top of the AL Central to battle with the Tigers (who are aging rapidly).  The addition of Odorizzi (who looks ready for the majors on opening day) and Zimmer (shortly thereafter) would mean the Royals suddenly have the makings of a solid rotation to go with their offense.

Why it doesn’t make sense: The Royals window is basically 2014-2016, and it may make sense to let Myers play a season to see what happens.  This seems like a panic move made by a fantasy baseball owner.

(4)  @ProductiveOuts – Dayton Moore does not know how to build a major league team, but he knows he can build using the minors.

Moore was a scout who worked his way up to the Director of Personnel Management then Assistant General Manager with the Braves.  This is his first time as a GM.

Why it makes sense: Moore has done an absolutely amazing job drafting (even if it helps that he has consistently had top picks) and has made some questionable moves at the major league level, including Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez, extending Jeremy Guthrie, and trading for Ervin Santana.

Why it doesn’t make sense: Moore has clearly realized the Royals need pitching to compete and has traded to get it.  He dealt what he viewed as an extra part that wouldn’t be around in a few years in Cabrera to get Sanchez, then dealt the struggling Sanchez to get Guthrie.  Guthrie’s contract isn’t much more than the Dodgers gave Brandon League and the Reds gave Jonathan Broxton.  Moore also gave up little to get Santana.

So where does that leave us?  Sure, Moore would be crazy to deal Myers, but flags fly forever and even “can’t miss” prospects often miss.

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.

Non-Hype Prospect – Ben Zobrist @thezobrists

Tampa Bay Rays second baseman/right fielder/shortstop Ben Zobrist has been one of the most productive, versatile, and underrated players in baseball over the past five seasons.  It is amazing to see how the man called Zorilla went from a non-prospect to compiling nearly 26 WAR over the past four seasons.

Zobrist grew up in Eureka, Illinois and attended Olivet Nazarene University in Kankakee, Illinois for three years where he pitched, and played shortstop and second base.  In the summer after his Junior season, Zobrist played outfield for the Wisconsin Woodchucks of the Northwoods League, where he was voted team MVP as he led his team to the Northwoods League Championship.   At the end of the season, Zobrist was named a Small College All-American at second base.  For his senior year, Zobrist attended Dallas Baptist University in Dallas, Texas, which has produced a number of baseball players, including Lew Ford and Freddy Sanchez, where he played shortstop.

Zobrist was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 6th round, 184th overall, of the 2004 draft, immediately in front of Cla Meredith.  Zobrist signed quickly, as is common with college seniors who were not drafted in the first few rounds, and was assigned to the Tri-City Valley Cats of the short-season A New York-Penn League.  Zobrist displayed a keen batting eye, solid contact rate, and enough range to stay at shortstop en route to a 339/438/463 season where he walked 43 times and struck out only 31 across 310 games.  After the season, Zobrist was named to the short season A All-Star team, as Baseball America ranked Zobrist the #5 prospect in the New York-Penn League and the #16 prospect in the Astros organization.

For 2005, Zobrist opened the season with the Lexington Legends of the full season A South Atlantic League, where he continued to put up solid numbers, hitting 304/415/413 across 310 plate appearances before being promoted to the Salem Avalanche of the high A Carolina League, where he continued his torrid hitting, putting up a 333/475/496 line with 37 walks and 17 strikeouts.  After the season, Baseball America ranked Zobrist as the #16 prospect in the Astros system and said that he has the “Best Strike Zone Discipline” in the Astros’ system.

For 2006, Zobrist was assigned to the AA Corpus Christi Hooks of the AA Texas League, where he continued to hit, putting up a 327/434/473 line before being dealt to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays with Mitch Talbot in exchange for Aubrey Huff and cash.  As a show of respect for the prospect status of Zobrist and Talbot, ESPN referred to the Devil Rays’ newest acquisitions as “two minor league prospects” and did not refer to them by name until the fifth(!) paragraph.  Zobrist played for the Durham Bulls of the AAA International League for the next two weeks, when he was called up by the Devil Rays to play shortstop.  Zobrist appeared in 52 games, putting up a 224/260/311 line for the remainder of the season.  After the season, Baseball America ranked Zobrist as having the “Best Strike Zone Discipline” in the Texas League, but did not rank him otherwise as he had exhausted his prospect eligibility when he lost his rookie status.  Despite only playing 83 games for Corpus Christi, Zobrist was named to the Texas League All-Star team as its Utility player (the All Star at shortstop was Brandon Wood).

In 2007, Zobrist opened the season as the starting shortstop for the Devil Rays but struggled early, and was sent down to AAA Durham Bulls when he had a 159/156/222 line after the game on May 10.  While in AAA, Zobrist hit 279/403/455 before being promoted to start the July 30 game against the Toronto Blue Jays.  Zobrist played in most of the games until August 18, when he strained his right oblique, ending his season.  Zobrist’s final line for the 2007 season while playing for the Devil Rays was a disaster, as his 155/184/206 line created an OPS+ of 4, one of the worst in the major leagues for all non-pitchers.

In 2008, Zobrist was slated to become the “super utility man” for the newly minted Tampa Bay Rays when he fractured the top of his left thumb, forcing him to miss the first month of the season.  After a four-game rehab assignment for the Vero Beach Devil Rays, Zobrist returned to the Rays, playing inconsistently but hitting well enough to put up a 267/353/400 line through May 28.  Zobrist was sent down to AAA Durham and promoted reliever Grant Balfour.  Zobrist was only in the minor leagues for about a month, as he started the June 25 game against the Florida Marlins, going 2/6 with a home run.  For the rest of the season, Zobrist hit 251/338/514 with 12 home runs, the most he hit on any level to that point (in fact, Zobrist’s previous high was eight total in 2007).  Zobrist’s final line for 2008 was 253/339/505, good for an OPS+ of 120.  By this point, many viewed Zobrist’s defense at shortstop as sub-par  and his “super utility” role took hold, as Zobrist appeared in 35 games at shortstop, 14 in left field, eight at second base, five in center field, two in right field, one at third base, and two at DH.

In 2009, Zobrist’s “super utility” role continued, though he was primarily a second baseman and a right fielder, with as he appeared in 1,044 of his 1,209.1 innings (86.4%) at one of the two positions.  Zobrist flourished in the rule, putting up a 297/405/543 line with 27 home runs and 17 stolen bases, being elected to his first MLB All-Star Game and placing eighth in the MVP vote, despite having a WAR higher than the winner, Joe Mauer (about 30% of Zobrist’s WAR was attributable to playing second base).  Zobrist was also the Tampa Bay Rays player of the year.

After his breakout season, Zobrist and the Rays began negotiating a new contract.  Though Zobrist was not yet eligible for arbitration, the Rays are well known for signing players to team-friendly extensions that guarantee financial security for players.  In late April, Zobrist and the Rays agreed to a three year extension that left his 2010 salary at $438,100, but increased his salaries to $4.5 million in 2011, $4.5 million for 2012, and $5.5 million for 2013.  The Rays also received a $7 million option for 2014 (with a $2.5 million buyout) and a $7.5 million option for 2015 (with a $500k buyout).  Zobrist struggled out of the gate, putting up a 241/327/356 line in April, then a robust 352/400/514 line in May.  Zobrist’s struggles continued as he put up a 177/294/293 line after the All-Star break en route to a 238/346/353 line for the season, with his batting average and home runs dipping significantly.  Zobrist’s defensive flexibility – he played 371 innings at second base and 749.1 in right field out of his 1294.2 – kept his value high, as his 4.2 WAR was fueled nearly as much by his defense (1.4 dWAR) as his offense (2.5 oWAR).

Zobrist bounced back in 2011, putting up a 369/353/469 line while playing second base in 79% of his 1348 innings (not counting his time at DH) and right field the rest of his time playing.

In 2012, Zobrist has his to a similar line as 2011, putting up a 271/376/466 through September 26 while playing mostly right field (42% of innings).  The interesting thing about Zobrist is that he shortstop for 26% of innings, a position he has not played for any extended period of time since 2008.   Zobrist has been the Rays’ primary shortstop since August 9, during which he has hit exceptionally well, putting up a 311/378/518 line, well above his career 260/254/441 line.

But what should we expect from Zobrist going forward?  Is he the 260/354/441 player his career line suggests?  If he the 300/400/500 perennial All-Star that his recent play suggests?  I think he is neither.  I this he’s closer to the 269/369/457 line that he has put up from 2009-2012.  Sure, Zobrist won’t be a Hall of Famer, but in an era with hyper-specialized bullpens, a player who can hit and play multiple positions that require real defensive ability has a lot of value.  The Rays should be commended for trading for him and, possibly more importantly, being willing to give him time to develop.

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.
Zobrist’s Positions: Ben Zobrist defensive positions (Source:


Post Hype Prospect – @Rangers Adrian Beltre

In many ways Adrian Beltre has had five distinct parts to his career: (1) Signing out of the Dominican Republic and his rapid ascension to the major leagues; (2) Inconsistency with the Dodgers; (3) MVP-caliber 2004 season and his massive contract with the Mariners; (4) Offensive struggles with the Mariners as he became a defensive stalwart; and (5) Signing with the Red Sox and offensive awakenings.

Adrian Beltre was signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Dodgers in 1994 for $23,000 at the age of 15, in direct contravention of MLB rules, which require the signee to be at least 16 at the time of the signing.  As a result, MLB suspended the Dodgers’ scouting operations in the Dominican Republic for a year, though they were allowed to retain Beltre.

Beltre did not make his state-side debut until 1996, when he debuted for the Savannah Sand Gnats of the South Atlantic League.  As the youngest player in the league, Beltre hit 307/406/586 across 68 games, mashing 14 doubles and 16 home runs.  After being promoted to the San Bernardino Stampede of the high A California League, Beltre put up a 261/322/450 line across 63 games despite being the youngest player in the league by nearly two full years (he was 12 days shy of two years younger than Dennys Reyes, the next youngest player).  After the season, prospect rankers raved about his batting eye, power, and defensive potential.  Baseball America ranked him the #30 prospect in baseball, between Dmitri “Da Meat Hook” Young and Mike Cameron and lauding his potential.

In 1997, Beltre spent the season with the high A Vero Beach Dodgers of the offense-suffocating Florida State League, putting up a sparkling 317/407/561 line while hitting 24 doubles and 26 home runs, stealing 25 bases, and walking more times than he struck out (67-66).  After the season, Beltre was on the short list of the top prospects in baseball.  His offensive upside became even more apparent, though his defensive shortcomings became more apparent.  However, many felt that he would become an average defensive third baseman with elite offensive output.  Baseball America ranked Beltre the #3 prospect in baseball, behind only A’s uber-prospect Ben Grieve and Dodgers 1b/3b prospect Paul Konerko, though ahead of Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood and Pirates 3b Aramis Ramirez.

In 1998, Beltre began the year with the AA San Antonio Missions of the Texas League, where the offensive onslaught continued, as Beltre hit 321/411/581 with 21 doubles, 13 home runs, and 20 stolen bases during the first 64 games of the season.  Beltre showed his amazing eye and bat control with 39 walks and 37 strikeouts before being promoted to Los Angeles, where he struggled, hitting 215/278/369 as the youngest player in the Major Leagues by more than one full year (over Aramis Ramirez).  Despite his struggles in the major leagues, his prospect stock did not decrease in the slightest, with many penciling Beltre into the middle of the Dodgers’ order for the next decade.

In 1999, Beltre’s first full season was much more successful than his previous, putting up a respectable 275/352/428 line (OPS+ 102) while hitting 27 doubles and 15 home runs.  In 2000, Beltre had his best year yet, putting up a 290/360/475 line, as if the best was right around the corner.  Unfortunately, Beltre seemingly regressed over the next three seasons, putting up a 265/310/411 line in 2001, a 257/303/426 line in 2002, and a 240/290/424 line in 2003.

In 2004, Beltre had a season that anyone trying to prove that the “contract year phenomenon” is real would love to use as an example.  Beltre set career highs across the board, putting up a 334/388/629 line while hitting 32 doubles and 48 home runs, putting up an OPS+ of 163.  It appeared as if Beltre finally put it all together and he came in second place in the NL MVP vote (to Barry Bonds, who walked 232 times en route to a 362/609/812 line).  After the season, Beltre signed a five year contract with the Seattle Mariners for $64 million that included a $7 million signing bonus.

In Seattle, Beltre’s performance was underwhelming, particularly considering his salary.  In 2005, Beltre hit 255/303/413 while struggling with hamstring issues.  In 2006, Beltre hit 268/328/465, a solid season, but hardly the season the mariners wanted when they agreed to the contract.  Beltre was earning is contract in other ways, as he became known as one of the best defensive third basement in the league.  In 2007, Beltre hit a respectable 276/319/482 with 41 doubles and 26 home runs, while winning his first gold glove.  In 2008, belter hit 266/327/457 while winning his second gold glove.  In 2009, Beltre struggled to stay healthy, missing time due to inflammation and, eventually, surgery on his left shoulder to remove bone spurs, and what can only be termed a “fractured groin.”

In the off season, Beltre signed a one year contract with the Boston Red Sox for $10 million, with a $5 million player option for 2011.  In Boston, everything finally seemed to click for Beltre as he put up a 321/365/553 line with a career high 49 doubles and 28 home runs, the second most of his career.  Finishing ninth in the AL MVP vote, Beltre declined his 2011 option with the Red Sox and became a free agent.

The Texas Rangers signed Beltre, only 31 years old despite being having just completed his 13th season in the major leagues, to a six year contract valued at $96 million.  Since the signing of the contract with the Rangers, Beltre has thrived, putting up a 296/331/561 line in 2011 while winning his third gold glove and silver slugger awards.  So far in 2012, Beltre has continued putting up monster numbers, with a 320/357/561 line with 32 home runs and 30 doubles through 139 games.

So what do we make of Adrian Beltre?  Is he a late bloomer who took nearly a decade to reach his potential?  Did he actually figure it out in 2004, with injuries and pressure conspiring to adversely impact his performance?  More importantly, what can we learn from Adrian Beltre?  Are there other players who would benefit from extra time to figure it out? Was he rushed to the major leagues because the Dodgers were starting Bobby Bonilla at third base at the time?

The short answer is that Beltre was a tremendous talent who forced his way to the major leagues by absolutely destroying the ball, and a combination of injuries and the incredible amount of talent at the major league level made it difficult for Beltre to succeed.

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.


Post Hype Prospect – @RedSox Jarrod Saltalamacchia

When people look back at the trade that brought Mark Teixeira to the Atlanta Braves, people talk about Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, and Matt Harrison; but at the time of the trade the main prospect was Jarrod Saltalamacchia, or as he is often known (probably due to his impressively long and difficult to spell last name), Salty.

Ever since he was drafted out of Royal Palm Beach High School by the Atlanta Braves in 2003, Saltalamacchia has been viewed as a potential middle of the order slugger who may be able to remain a catcher.  Saltalamacchia signed quickly for $950,000 and appeared in 46 games for the Rookie League GCL Braves, putting up a 239/382/396, showcasing a willingness to walk and some decent power with 11 doubles.  After the season, Baseball America ranked Saltalamacchia the #3 prospect in the GCL and the #19 prospect in the Braves’ system.

For 2004, the Braves assigned Saltalamacchia to the Rome Braves of the Sally League, where he shows a little power (19 doubles and 10 homers over 366 PA), some patience (34 walks), and enough defensive chops to keep him firmly entrenched as the Braves catcher of the future.  After the season, Baseball America ranked Saltalamacchia the #9 prospect in the Braves system and the #7 prospect in the Sally League.

For 2005, the Braves assigned Saltalamacchia to the high A Myrtle Beach Pelicans of the Carolina League, where he exploded, putting up a 314/394/519 line across 529 plate appearances while hitting 35 doubles and 19 home runs.  Baseball America took notice, ranking Saltalamacchia the #1 Braves prospect, the #1 prospect in the Carolina League, and giving Saltalamacchia the “Best Hitter for Average” superlative after the season.  Baseball America also ranked Saltalamacchia the #18 prospect in all of baseball (between Conor Jackson and Andy LaRoche), firmly establishing his prospect status.

In 2006, Saltalamacchia was promoted to the AA Mississippi Braves of the Southern League, where he struggled, putting up a 230/353/380 line while he struggled with injuries.  Though none of them were considered career threatening, Saltalamacchia had a down season.  After the season, Saltalamacchia was again ranked the Braves #1 prospect and the “Best Hitter for Average” in the Braves system by Baseball America, which also ranked him the #10 prospect in the Southern League and the #36 prospect in all of baseball (between Jeff Niemann and Jacob McGee).

In 2007, Saltalamacchia returned to the AA Mississippi Braves and returned to form, putting up an amazing 309/404/617 line before being called up by the Atlanta Braves, where he put up a 284/333/411 line while splitting time between catcher and first base.  On July 31, 2007, Saltalamacchia was dealt along with Beau Jones, Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz and Matt Harrison to the Texas Rangers for Ron Mahay and Mark Teixeira.  Saltalamacchia spent the rest of the season with the Rangers, putting up a respectable if unimpressive 251/290/431 line for the rest of the season, splitting his time nearly evenly between first base and catcher.

In 2008, Saltalamacchia opened the season with the Oklahoma RedHawks (yes, apparently it is one word), putting up a 291/391/491 line across 15 games before being brought back up to Texas.  Saltalamacchia served as the Rangers starter when healthy, putting up a 253/352/364 line.  Saltalamacchia was injured much of the season, with a bruised hand, a groin strain, a broken bone in his foot, and an elbow issue.

In 2009, Saltalamacchia was the Rangers’ primary catcher, putting up a 233/290/371 line.  At the end of the 2009 season, Saltalamacchia was a 24 year old catcher with a career 251/314/389 line, good for an OPS+ of 83.  Furthermore, Saltalamacchia’s skills behind the plate were not improving as the Rangers had hoped; making many wonder if he would ever develop into anything resembling what he displayed in 2005.

After the second game of the season, Saltalamacchia was placed on the DL with upper back stiffness.  After being activated, Saltalamacchia was sent to the Rangers AAA affiliate, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, where he put up an unimpressive 248/319/453 line, displaying good power, some patience, and too much swing-and-miss.  On July 31, the Rangers dealt Saltalamacchia to the Boston Red Sox for Chris McGuiness, Roman Mendez, Michael Thomas, and cash.  Saltalamacchia spent the next month playing sparingly for the Pawtucket Red Sox (or, as they’re more commonly known, the PawSox) of the AAA International League, putting up a 278/350/500 line before being called up to Boston, where he put up a 158/360/316 line across 10 games.

In 2011, Saltalamacchia experienced a rebirth of sorts, putting up a 235/288/450 line as the Red Sox’s primary catcher, showing good power with 23 doubles and 16 home runs, but little patience (24 walks in 358 PA) and a lot of swing-and-miss (119 strikeouts, or more than 33% of his at bats).

The Red Sox were sufficiently pleased with his play that they signed him to a $2.5 million contract in the off season, thereby avoiding arbitration.  Through September 13, Saltalamacchia has a 229/290/475 line with 15 doubles and 24 home runs for the Red Sox for 2012.

But what do we make of Jarrod Saltalamacchia?  While he was once compared to Joe Mauer and Jason Varitek due to his sweet swing, good plate discipline, and power, Saltalamacchia’s ceiling may be more similar to a lower batting average version of Jorge Posada.  Of course, any time a catcher can play good defense and put up near-league-average offensive numbers, that player can expect a long, prosperous career.

As for now, all we can do is say that Jarrod Saltalamacchia appears to be the perfect example of the “Post Hype Prospect,” a player who once showed the upside of a perennial All-Star, struggled, and has become at least a solid major league regular.

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.


Former Top Prospect – Chipper Jones – @realCJ10 @braves

As the career of Chipper Jones comes to a close, it is amazing to look back at how he went from a consolation price as the #1 pick in the draft to a first ballot Hall of Famer.

While it is easy to look back at the 1990 MLB draft and say “of course Chipper was the #1 pick,” Jones was not the top prospect in the draft, that honor went to Todd Van Poppel, who told the Atlanta Braves not to pick him, as he would go to college at the University of Texas rather than sign with the Braves.  Instead the Braves went the quasi-local route, taking Jacksonville, Florida-native shortstop with the first pick.  After signing for a $275,000 bonus (Van Poppel got $1.4 million from the A’s, who took him with the 14th pick), Jones was assigned to the Rookie League GCL Braves, where he proceeded to not hit, putting up a 229/321/271 line across 164 PA while getting hit by the pitch six times, setting a career high (which is a testament to the poor command of young pitchers more than anything else).  Baseball America was not deterred by his poor performance and ranked Jones the #49 prospect in baseball, between Jeff Juden and Robbie Beckett (Van Poppel was #1, with fellow Braves prospect Ryan Klesko as #3).

Undeterred by his slow start, the Braves sent Jones to the full season A Macon Braves of the South Atlantic League.  Jones terrorized Sally League pitchers, putting up a 326/407/518 line with 24 doubles, 11 triples, 15 home runs, and 40 stolen bases.  More amazingly, Jones walked 69 times with 70 strikeouts – nearly a 1:1 ratio.  As a result, Jones jumped up the prospect rankings, as Baseball America ranked Jones the #4 prospect in baseball, behind only Brien Taylor (the 1991 #1 pick), Van Poppel, and Roger Salkeld.  The #10 prospect was an undersized righty in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, Pedro Martinez.

To start 1992, Jones was assigned to play for the high A Durham Bulls of the Carolina League, where he put up a 277/353/413 line across 70 games, before being promoted to the AA Greenville Braves of the Southern League.  Jones caught fire in Greenville, putting up a 346/367/594 line with 17 doubles, 11 triples, and nine home runs in 67 games.  For the season, the 20-year old Jones hit 311/360/504 with 39 doubles, 12 triples, and 13 home runs across two levels.  After the season, Baseball America ranked Jones the #1 prospect in baseball, ahead of Brien Taylor (#2), Cliff Floyd (#3), Carlos Delgado (#4 – as a catcher), and Tim Salmon (#5).  Van Poppel dropped to #7 in the new ranking as his star began to wane, while one of the hottest prospects was a corner outfielder in the Cleveland Indians’ organization named Manny Ramirez.

In 1993, Jones was assigned to the AAA Richmond Braves of the International League, and he picked up where he left off in 1992, putting up a 325/387/500 line while hitting 31 doubles, 12 triples, and 13 home runs.  Jones earned a September cup of coffee, hitting a robust 667/750/1000 across four plate appearances (one single, one double, one walk, and one strikeout) as a 21-year old.  After the season, Jones was picked as the #2 prospect in baseball, as Cliff Floyd passed him on the strength of a 329/417/600 season year in AA.

After Braves’ starting left fielder Ron Gant broke his leg in an off-season dirt bike accident, Jones was expected to compete to start in left field, but tore the ACL in his left knee in spring training and missed the entire 1994 season.  Despite this setback, Jones was still the #3 prospect in baseball for 1995, with only Alex Rodriguez (#1) and Ruben Rivera (#2) ahead of him, and Derek Jeter (#4) directly behind him.  Jones opened the season as the Braves starting third baseman and never looked back, putting up a 265/353/450 line (OPS+ 108) while coming in second place in the NL Rookie of the Year vote behind Hideo Nomo en route to hitting 389/450/833 in the NLDS win over the Colorado Rockies, 438/526/625 in the NLCS victory over the Cincinnati Reds, and 286/385/429 in the World Series win over the Cleveland Indians.

From there, Jones became a true middle of the order hitter for the next 15 years, putting up a 314/411/555 line with an OPS+ of 148 from 1996-2008, which includes an MVP in 1999, leading the league in OPS (1029) and OPS+ (165) in 2007, and batting average (.364) and OBP (.470)  in 2008.  After three sub-par seasons (well, for Jones, most players would love to put up OPS+’s of 117, 120, and 121), Jones is going out with a flourish in 2012, with a 301/381/500 line through August 28rd.

While he will never be known as a great defender, Jones became a sure-handed defender at third base who could fill in a shortstop in a pinch, though he was banished to left field for two seasons.

But how will Chipper Jones be remembered?  Will he be remembered as a middle of the order threat that was never able to win that second World Series ring?  Will he be remembered as the guy who tortured the Mets with a career 314/410/553 line (though in my head it seems like his line was actually 400/600/1000) or as the “cheap” #1 overall pick that worked?  In the end, most people are unaware that Jones was not the top prospect in the 1990 draft and view Jones as guy who just went out there and played as much as he could, and doing pretty well when it counted, putting up a 288/411/459 line in the post season.

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.


Prospect Hype – Tyler Skaggs – @TylerSkaggs23 @Dbacks

Arizona Diamondbacks lefthander Tyler Skaggs began his Major League career about as well as he could have hoped  – 6.2 innings, two runs, three hits, five walks, and four strikeouts – and a win for his team.  Despite having his Major League debut shortly after his 21st birthday, Skaggs was not always looked upon as a top prospect – more of a good prospect with a lot of upside.  The amazing thing about Skaggs is that he is the rare projectable prospect who experiences the uptick in velocity, improved command and control, and pitch quality that allows him to jump up the prospect rankings.

Just before his 18th birthday, Skaggs was drafted out of Santa Monica, California by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim with the 40th pick of the 2009 draft, the Angels’ third pick in the first round.  The first pick was Randal Grichuk (#24), followed by Mike Trout (#25).  After Skaggs, the Angels picked Garrett Richards (#42) and Tyler Kehrer (#48) in the supplemental first round.  Skaggs signed for $1 million and was assigned to the Orem Owlz (yes, Owlz) of the Rookie-level Pioneer League, where Skaggs appeared in two games allowing four runs (two earned) across four innings, striking out six.  Skaggs was then assigned to the AZL Angels (not Angelz), where he appeared in three more games, starting two, allowing no runs across six innings and striking out seven.

Viewed as a lefty with a low-90s fastball with a projectable frame, prospect prognosticators were cautiously optimistic about Skaggs’ future.  Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein ranked Skaggs the #9 prospect in the Angels’ system, stating that “Skaggs oozes projection,” noting his fastball “should gain a few ticks” and that Skaggs’ “command and control” were above average for a teenager.  Baseball America ranked Skaggs the #8 prospect in the Angels’ organization, noting his potential to move up significantly.

In 2010, the Angels assigned the 18-year old Skaggs to the Cedar Rapids Kernals of the full-season A Midwest League, where Skaggs began showing his potential.  Skaggs began the season pitching very well, and his prospect status began to climb.  After his start on May 24, Skaggs’ season line sat at a 2.37 ERA with 41 strikeouts and nine walks across 38 innings.  Skaggs had a respectable 3.61 ERA across 82.1 innings with 82 innings when it was announced he had been traded.  Skaggs was the Player to be Named Later in the August 10 trade between the Angels and Diamondbacks, where the Angels acquired Dan Haren for Patrick Corbin, Rafael Rodriguez, Joe Saunders, and a PTBNL (Skaggs).

Skaggs was assigned to the South Bend Silver Hawks of the Midwest league and dominated for the rest of the season, allowing only three runs in his final 16 innings, striking out 20.  Skaggs cumulative line and great outings at the end of the season bumped up his prospect status.  Baseball America ranked Skaggs the #82 prospect (between Matt Dominguez and Chris Dwyer) in baseball, along with the #10 prospect in the Midwest League, the #2 prospect in the Diamondbacks’ system, and as having the Best Curveball in the Diamondbacks’ system.  BP’s Kevin Goldstein ranked Skaggs the #83 prospect in baseball, between Delino DeShields and Dee GordonGoldstein lauded Skaggs’ “slow, classic 12-6 [curveball] with heavy drop that generates plenty of bad swings,” and ability to throw both his fastball and curveball for strikes.

For 2011, Skaggs was assigned to the high-A Visalia Rawhide of the hitter-friendly California League, where he continued his quality pitching, putting up a 3.22 ERA and striking out 125 (11.2k/9) in 100.2 innings before being promoted to the AA Mobile Bay Bears of the AA Southern League.  In AA, Skaggs pitched even better, putting up a 2.50 ERA across 57.2 innings, striking out 73 (11.4k/9).  After the season, the accolades came in, as Baseball America ranked Skaggs the #13 prospect in baseball, the #1 prospect in the California League, and the #2 prospect in the Southern League, while noting that Skaggs had the “Best Breaking Pitch” and was the “Best Pitching Prospect” in the California League.  BP was just as complimentary, ranking Skaggs #21 overall, between Nolan Arenado and Billy Hamilton, noting that while his fastball used to sit in the average range (89-91), it now “sits in the 91-94mph range with a bit of natural sinking action.”  Kevin Goldstein continued, stating that Skaggs can drop his “plus-plus overhand curveball … into the zone for strikes or bury it as a chase pitch.”  In ranking Goldstein called Skaggs a potential “star-level starting pitcher.”

For 2012, Skaggs was sent back to the AA Mobile Bay Bears, where he dominated, putting up a 2.84 ERA across 69 innings, striking out 71 (9.2k/9) before being promoted to the AAA Reno Aces of the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.  In Reno, Skaggs continued to pitch well, putting up a 2.91 ERA across 52.2 innings while striking out 45 before being promoted to Arizona.

In Skaggs’ first start, ESPN’s Keith Law noted Skaggs’ success:

Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein noted how much he liked Skaggs’ curveball, stating:

Baseball America’s Jim Callis lauded Skaggs’ command and control, stating that Skaggs “has better control and command than Bauer, so Skaggs might be better equipped to make a smoother transition to the big leagues” than Bauer.

So what should we expect from Skaggs for the future?  Skaggs should fit in nicely in the Diamondbacks top-flight rotation of the future with Trevor Bauer, Archie Bradley, Ian Kennedy, and Trevor Cahill.  Will he become a #1 pitcher?  Probably not, but early returns and projections suggest he could become a solid #2, the guy you would love to give the ball to for Game 2 of a postseason series.

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.


Trading Deadline Trades: Good Deals or Buyer Beware

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
Trade 1
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.

Trade 2
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
Trade 1
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.

Trade 2
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
Trade 1
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.

Trade 2
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

Trade 1
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.

Trade 2
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.

Trade 3
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
Trade 1
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.

Trade 2
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
Trade 1
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.

Trade 2
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
Trade 1
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.

Trade 2
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
Trade 1
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.

Trade 2
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.


Post Hype Prospect – Kerry Wood – @KerryWood

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?

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.

Sources:–001ker,0,5284008.story (Scroll down)

Post Hype Prospect – Logan Morrison – @LoMoMarlins

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 ProspectusKevin 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.

Regarding the demotion, Morrison stated:

“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:

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:

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

Until next time, follow me on Twitter @HypeProspect and Logan @LoMoMarlins.


Post Hype Prospect – Bobby Abreu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.


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