Results tagged ‘ San Diego ’

Post Hype Prospect – Casey Kelly – @IamCaseyKelly

Every once in a while an athlete so talented comes out of high school who has the natural ability to play two premium positions.  Often, those athletes are stars in multiple sports, whose natural talents and flashes of brilliance mask a lack of feel for playing baseball, with those athletes later failing to succeed at any level due to an ability to turn those physical tools into baseball playing ability.  Out of Sarasota High School in Sarasota, Florida, one of those athletes was the 2008 first round pick (#30 overall) of the Boston Red Sox, Casey Kelly.  Kelly was viewed as a top prospect both as a shortstop and a pitcher, along with being a good enough quarterback to get a scholarship offer from the University of Tennessee.  Video of Kelly’s reaction to being drafted:

Kelly, who was named Mr. Baseball Florida for 2008, quickly signed with the Red Sox, agreeing to a $3 million signing bonus, the seventh largest in the 2008 draft class, behind only Buster Posey (#5/Giants), Tim Beckham (#1/Rays), Pedro Alvarez (#2/Pirates), Eric Hosmer (#3/Royals), Justin Smoak (#11/Rangers), and Brian Matusz (#4/Orioles).  Kelly was sent to the Rookie Level GCL Red Sox, where he played shortstop and hit poorly, putting up a 215/255/331 line in 36 games before being promoted to the Short Season A Lowell Spinners of the New York Penn League, where he played shortstop and hit well, putting up a 344/344/563 line.  Despite the poor showing, Kelly was still viewed as an elite prospect, with Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus calling Kelly “the most talented two-way player available in the draft,” while raving about Kelly’s power potential, good defensive range and instincts, and plus-plus (70 on the 20-80 scale) arm.  Goldstein dinged Kelly for his tendency to chase pitches and generally unrefined game.  Goldstein ranked Kelly #6 in the Red Sox system.  Baseball America generally agreed, expressing similar concerns and ranked Kelly the #6 prospect in the Red Sox system, naming Kelly as the pitcher with the “Best Curveball” in the Red Sox’s organization.

For 2009, the Red Sox struck a deal with Kelly.  The Red Sox wanted Kelly to solely focus on being a pitcher while Kelly preferred to play every day and remain a shortstop.  Kelly would be a pitcher for approximately half of the season and then play shortstop for the duration of the season.  After the season, there would be a discussion between the Red Sox and Kelly regarding Kelly’s future based upon potential and results.  Kelly was assigned to the Greenville Drive of the A Level South Atlantic League, where he absolutely dominated, putting up a 1.12 ERA over 9 starts and 48.1 innings, striking out 39 batters while slowing 32 hits and walking only nine batters.  After being named to the South Atlantic League All-Star Team, Kelly was promoted to the High A Salem Red Sox of the Carolina League, Kelly continued to excel, putting up a 3.09 ERA over 8 starts and 46.2 innings, striking out 35 while allowing 33 hits and only seven walks.  At this point, Kelly became a shortstop, putting up a 214/290/464 line while back in the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League and a putrid 224/305/313 line while playing for the Greenville Drive of the South Atlantic League.  During the 2009 season, Kelly also appeared in the Futures Game for the United States team, pitching one inning and allowing no base runners on nine pitches, six of them strikes.

After the 2009 season, Kelly drew rave reviews for his pitching and was named the Boston Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year.  Baseball America ranked Kelly the #2 prospect in the Red Sox’s system (behind Ryan Westmoreland) and the #24 prospect in all of Baseball.  Baseball America named Kelly the pitcher in the Red Sox’s organization with the “Best Fastball,” “Best Curveball,” “Best Changeup,” and “Best Control;” also naming Kelly the #6 prospect in the Carolina League and  the #2 prospect in the South Atlantic League.  Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein generally agreed with Baseball America, ranking Kelly the #2 prospect in the Red Sox’s system (behind Westmoreland) and the #30 prospect in all of Baseball.  Goldstein commented how advanced Kelly was as a pitcher, with “excellent sink and run” on an 89-93 mile per hour fastball, an already “plus” curveball, and a developing changeup that looked like it would become a plus offering.  Additionally, Goldstein noted Kelly’s athleticism and his “smooth, repeatable, and effortless” delivery.  After the season, it was agreed that Kelly would no longer play shortstop and would focus his energy on becoming a pitcher full-time.

Kelly pitching in the Futures Game:

In 2010, Kelly appeared in two spring training games for the Red Sox, putting up a 3.60 ERA across five innings in his first appearance against big league hitters.  Below is video of Kelly pitching against Northeastern University:

For the 2010 season, Kelly was aggressively assigned to the Portland Sea Dogs of the AA Eastern League, where Kelly struggled significantly, putting up a 5.31 ERA across 95 innings in 21 starts, averaging under 4.2 innings per start.  Kelly allowed 118 hits (11.2/9) and walked 35 batters (3.3/9) for a 1.611 WHIP while striking out 81 batters (7.7/9).  While Kelly struggled, he showed flashes of his enormous potential and had a few good outings, including a three-start run from July 11 through July 21, where he totaled 15 strikeouts in 17.2 innings, allowing 19 hits and only walking four batters while putting up a 2.55 ERA.  Kelly was shut down for the month of August after straining the Latissimus Dorsi in his back.

Source: Wikipedia

After the season, Kelly went to the Arizona Fall League to pick up some extra starts.  Kelly pitched 16 innings across four starts in the extremely hitter-friendly AFL, putting up a 6.75 ERA that was heavily colored by one particularly bad start on October 25.  Kelly put up a 2.57 ERA in his other three starts, showcasing his talent against much older competition.  After the season, Kelly was the key piece to Boston’s acquisition of slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, going to San Diego along with Anthony Rizzo, Reymond Fuentes, and Eric Patterson.

After the trade, Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein ranked Kelly the #1 prospect in the San Diego Padres’ organization and #48 in all of baseball, stating that Kelly “shows the potential for three average to plus pitches to go with plus command and control,” but that Kelly was “in over his head at Double-A” in 2010 and needs to be more aggressive with his pitching.  Baseball America Ranked Kelly the #1 prospect in the Padres’ organization and #31 prospect in baseball, naming Kelly the pitcher in the Padres’ organization with the “Best Curveball.”  Due to the timing of the trade, Kelly was also rated to have the “Best Curveball” in the Red Sox organization, as the Red Sox’s ranking came out prior to the trade, but the Padres’ ranking came out after the trade.

In 2011, Kelly was invited to the Padres’ spring training as a non-roster invitee with the expectation that he would open the season in the minor leagues after a view into the life of a Major Leaguer and a full welcoming to the San Diego Padres’ organization.  While in the Padres camp Kelly put up a respectable 3.00 ERA in 9 innings and 4 appearances, with one start.

Kelly was assigned to the San Antonio Missions for the 2011 season, back in AA but now in the Texas League.  Kelly’s results improved considerably, putting up a 3.98 ERA across 27 starts over 142.2 innings, striking out 105 (6.6/9) while allowing 153 hits (9.7/9) and 46 walks (2.9/9) for a 1.398 WHIP.  After the season, Baseball America ranked Kelly the #3 prospect in the Padres’ organization (behind Anthony Rizzo and Rymer Liriano) and the #76 prospect in baseball.  Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein echoed BA’s drop, ranking Kelly the #7 prospect in the Padres’ organization and the #78 prospect in baseball.  Goldstein expressed concern regarding Kelly’s lack of development and downgrading Kelly’s potential from a #2 or #3 to a #3 or a #4 in a rotation.

Back in the Padres’ spring training camp for 2012, Kelly looked like a new pitcher, putting up a 1.74 ERA across 20.2 innings while striking out 18 and only walking two, while drawing rave reviews  On March 14, Kelly threw three shutout innings against the Cincinnati Reds, giving up five hits and striking out four without walking a single batter.  In his first two starts, Kelly threw five shutout innings without giving up a walk, fanning six.  Kelly’s performance continued when he was assigned to the Tuscon Padres, the Padres’ AAA affiliate in the Pacific Coast League.  In his first two starts, Kelly went six innings in both games.  In the first game, Kelly allowed seven hits and three runs, striking out five.  In his second start, Kelly allowed five hits and zero runs, striking out nine while hitting one batter.  Prior to his third start Kelly experienced soreness in his right elbow and traveled to San Diego to have Padres’ team doctors perform an examination and get an MRI.  Padres’ manager Bud Black said that there was no structural damage and Kelly merely had inflammation around the elbow.  The Padres were going to be cautious and give Kelly a few weeks of rest before starting a throwing program to see how the elbow would respond, before even thinking about returning Kelly to Tuscon.  As the North County Times has reported,  Kelly, who was shut down with arm problems after two starts at Double-A San Antonio, has resumed throwing.

So what is going to come of Kelly?  2012 had become a “make or break” year for Kelly, as he needed to finally justify his draft status and bonus at a level above A-ball, which he was finally doing before he hurt his elbow.  Currently resting his elbow, Kelly should start playing catch soon, but having no news for more than two weeks after being “close” is worrisome.   Kelly could be the perfect #2 pitcher to slot behind an ace (or be the ace on most teams), but an injury would set him back significantly, not to even discuss potentially ending his status as an elite prospect and moving him to the “let’s see where he is in two years” group.  As it looks, Kelly will be back in AAA shortly, with a possible September call-up in the works.  What do we expect?  I would say Kelly is a pretty good bet to be a rotation mainstay for a long time, but TINSTAAPP.

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.


Post Hype Prospect – Phil Nevin

The 1992 Major League Baseball Rule IV draft was an amazing draft.  A number of notable players were taken in the first two rounds: Derek Jeter (Yankees, 1st round/6th overall pick), Jason Kendall (Pirates, 1/23), Johnny Damon (Royals, 1s/35), Todd Helton (Padres, 2/55– though he didn’t sign), Jason Giambi (A’s, 2/58), and John Lynch (Marlins, 2/66 – you know him better as the hard-hitting safety for the Denver Broncos and Tampa Bay Buccaneers).

As you may have noticed, the #1 overall pick was not mentioned (in fact, none of the top five picks were mentioned), as he did not live up to the lofty expectations placed upon him.  Phil Nevin was the #1 overall pick in 1992.

After graduating from El Dorado High School in Placetina, California, Nevin was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers with the 82nd overall (3rd round) pick of the 1989 draft and offered $100,000 to play baseball professionally.  Nevin chose to attend college at Cal State Fullerton.  In 1992, Nevin was awarded the NCAA Division I Golden Spikes Award as the nation’s best amateur baseball player and earned the MVP of the 1992 College World Series.  The Houston Astros selected Nevin with the first overall pick of the 1992 draft.  This pick was not without controversy, even within the Astros organization.  Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser, a scout within the Astros organization, was so upset that the Astros did not pick Derek Jeter that he quit the organization and retired from baseball for good.

Nevin did not sign immediately, as he had more important things on his mind – he was the starting third baseman for Team USA at the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain.

Nevin immediately showed his talent in 1993.  After being ranked the #30 prospect by Baseball America, Nevin put up a 286/359/413 line for the Tuscon Toros, the Astros’ AAA affiliate in the Pacific Coast League.  In 1994, Nevin again returned to the Toros, as the Astros still had Ken Caminiti as their starting third baseman.   Ranked #24 by Baseball America, Nevin seemed to stagnate in Tuscon, putting up a 263/343/393 line.

In 1995, the Astros dealt Caminiti with a number of other players (including Steve Finley) to the San Diego Padres for a number of players (including Derek Bell, Doug Brocail, and Phil Plantier).  Despite third base opening up and being ranked #59 by Baseball America, Nevin began the year back with the Toros.  After putting up a 291/367/463 line in AAA, Nevin was promoted to the Astros.  Appearing in 18 games, Nevin put up a 117/221/133 line that would even embarrass Mario Mendoza.  Nevin got into a shouting match with Manager Terry Collins and, on August 15, the Astros dealt Nevin to the Detroit Tigers to complete a previous trade for Mike Henneman (who was a pretty decent closer for the Tigers at the time, finishing his career with 193 saves and a 3.21 ERA).

Nevin was assigned to the Toledo Mun Hens of the International League, the Tigers’ AAA affiliate.  Nevin was brought up when rosters expanded in September, and put up a 219/318/33 line, primarily playing left field.  With Travis Fryman firmly ensconced at third base, Nevin, no longer considered a rookie and therefore ineligible for prospect ranking, was sent to the Jacksonville Suns, the Tigers’ AA affiliate in the Southern League.  Nevin finally put up big numbers, putting up a robust 294/397/561 for the Suns.  Though primarily a third baseman who played some left field and first base, spent 62 of his 98 games playing catcher, a position entirely foreign to him.  In August, Nevin made his first big league appearance of the year for the Tigers.  Primarily playing third base, Nevin put up a solid 292/338/533 line in 130 plate appearances.

In November 1997, Nevin was dealt to the Anaheim Angels with Matt Walbeck for Nick Skuse.  In 75 games for the Angels, Nevin hit an unimpressive 228/291/371.  Traded on the eve of the regular season, Nevin was dealt again, this time to the San Diego Padres with Keith Volkman for Gus Kennedy and Andy Sheets.  Nevin seemed to bloom in San Diego, putting up a 269/352/527 line across 441 plate appearances while playing third base and catching.  As San Diego’s starting third baseman, Nevin put up a 303/374/543 line in 2000 and 306/388/588 line in 2001 while making his first All Star Game.  In 2002, Nevin strained his arm in May, just three days after his return, Nevin fractured his humerus, missing the next six weeks of the season.  Nevin put up a 285/344/413 line in 2002, followed by a 279/339/487 2003 campaign where he missed four months of the season after dislocating his left shoulder in Spring Training.  Nevin was healthy again in 2004, primarily playing first base and putting up a 289/368/492 line, Nevin’s last big season.  In May, Nevin was accused of spewing a string of vulgarities in front of young fans, including the man’s 8-year-old daughter in Philadelphia.  After taking a called third strike, Nevin was heckled by the historically foul-mouthed Philadelphians and responded in a manner he later conceded to be “unprofessional.”

In 2005, at the age of 34, Nevin began to decline.  After putting up a 256/301/399 line in 73 games for the Padres, Nevin was dealt to the Texas Rangers for Chan Ho Park and cash, where he put up a 182/250/323 line in 29 games.  In 2006, Nevin hit 216/301/415 for the Rangers, then was dealt to the Chicago Cubs for Jerry Hairston, Jr., where he seemed to rebound, putting up a 274/335/497 line over 67 games.  At the trading deadline, Nevin was dealt with cash to the Minnesota Twins for Adam Harben.  Nevin finished the season with a 190/340/286 line in 16 games for the Twins.

After that inauspicious ending to the season, Nevin never played another inning of professional baseball.  Formally announcing his retirement in May 2007, Nevin began working pre-game shows for the Padres, then worked for ESPN as a college baseball analyst in 2008.  In 2009, Nevin was the manager of the Orange County Flyers of the independent Golden Baseball League.  In 2010, Nevin managed the Erie SeaWolves, the AA affiliate of the Detroit Tigers.  In 2011, Nevin managed the Toledo Mud Hens, the Tigers’ AAA affiliate, where he still manages today.

So what happened to Nevin?  He never came close to the lofty expectations placed on a first overall draft pick, but he had a solid career, putting up a 270/343/472 career line (career 114 OPS+) across 1217 games and turning into a top managerial prospect.  Of course, the real vindication was for Hal Newhouser, as the best player in the 1992 draft was, by nearly 20 career WAR, Derek Jeter.


Post Hype Prospect – Matt Bush

In the history of #1 draft picks, only six have not yet played in the Major Leagues.  They are Steve Chilcott (I’ll get to him, I swear) in 1966, Brien Taylor in 1991, Matt Bush in 2004, Tim Beckham in 2008, Bryce Harper in 2010, and Gerrit Cole in 2011.  Beckham is 22 in AA, Harper is 19 in AAA, and Cole is 21 in high A; all three appear to be on their way to making it to the majors in the next few seasons, leaving us with three players, Chilcott, Taylor, and Bush, who will not make it to the majors.  For a little bit in 2011 and during spring training in 2012, it looked possible that it would only be Chilcott and Taylor in the club but, due to recent actions, it looks like Matt Bush may make the undesirable duo into a trio.

The first high school short stop taken with the #1 overall pick since Alex Rodriguez in 1993, Matt Bush was an unpopular pick from the start.  Widely viewed as a fringe top 10 talent, Bush had two things going for him: he attended Mission Bay High School in San Diego and he told the Padres he would sign quickly and for less money than many of the more highly ranked players.  Bush ended up signing for $3.15 million, less than Jered Weaver ($4m at #12 to the Angels) and Stephen Drew ($4m at #15 to the Diamondbacks) and immediately found it necessary to begin making idiotic decisions.  On June 20, mere weeks after being drafted and signing a contract, Bush was arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault, trespass, disorderly conduct, and underage drinking.  Bush was charged with multiple felonies and misdemeanors, and was suspended by the Padres.  After the felony charges being dropped and a deal being agreed upon regarding the misdemeanors, Bush’s suspension was lifted and Matt Bush properly began his professional career. Things did not get much better for Bush once he began playing baseball, putting up a putrid 181/302/236 line in 21 games for the Arizona League AZL Padres, the Padres’ Rookie level affiliate, followed by a 222/276/296 line in 8 games for the Northwest League Eugene Emeralds, the Padres’ Low A affiliate.

After the season, Bush’s talent and performance failed to impress the pundits.  In Baseball America’s top 100 Prospects for 2005, 11 2004 draftees made the list but Bush was not one of them.  Bush’s 2005 season was not much better: a 221/279/276 line while playing for the Fort Wayne Wizards, the Padres A level affiliate in the Midwest League.  After not being ranked in the Baseball America top 100 (you may sense a trend), Bush broke his ankle during spring training and missed half of the season, putting up a 268/333/310 line in 21 games once he returned to the Fort Wayne Wizards.

In 2007, Bush was hitting 204/310/276 for the Lake Elsinore Storm in the hitting friendly high A California League before the Padres decided to try to make Bush into a pitcher.   After six appearances for the AZL Padres across 7.1 innings where Bush struck out 16 (19.6 K/9), walked two, and allowed five hits while frequently throwing mid-to-upper 90s fastballs, including hitting 98 many times.   Bush was promoted to the Fort Wayne Wizards, where he faced one batter before feeling pain in his pitching elbow.  After medical tests showed a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament, Bush was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery.  Bush missed the rest of 2007 and all of 2008.  Despite all of this, Bush remained on the 40-man roster, thereby protecting him from the Rule IV draft.

In early February 2009, Bush committed a drunken assault on a number of boys’ lacrosse players at Granite Hills High in El Cajon, California after a drunken altercation.  The details are best told by Brent Schrotenboer of the U-T San Diego:

A witness, who requested his name not be used because of the ongoing police investigation, said Bush was drunk, threw a golf club into the dirt, picked up and threw a freshman lacrosse player and hit another one. Bush also yelled “I’m Matt (expletive) Bush,” and “(expletive) East County,” before driving over a curb in his Mercedes when leaving the campus, according to the witness.

To put it mildly, the Padres’ management was nonplussed.  Bush was removed from the 40-man roster and dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays for either a player to be named later or cash considerations.  On April 1, 2009, Bush was released by the Blue Jays for violating their zero tolerance behavioral policy.

But Matt Bush’s upper 90s heat was too intriguing to ignore, and he signed a minor league contract with the Tampa Bay Rays in January 2010.  After 5.1 innings (allowing 1 run and two hits while striking out eight batters) for the Rookie level GCL Rays, Bush was promoted to the High A Charlotte Stone Crabs, where he pitched 8.1 innings (allowing four runs, seven hits, and striking out 12).  Bush was sent to the Ray’s AA affiliate in the Southern League, the awesomely-named Montgomery Biscuits, where he pitched 50.1 innings, striking out 77, allowing only 48 hits, and posting a 4.83 ERA.

Still only 25, many pundits felt that Bush could become a dynamic late-inning reliever with his upper 90s fastball and devastating two-plane slider.  Logically, this is when Matt Bush reminded the world that he is still Matt (expletive) Bush.  After borrowing the SUV of teammate Brandon Guyer (who was unaware that Bush did not have a driver license), Bush (allegedly) hit a 72-year-old motorcyclist, running over the motorcyclist’s head while fleeing the scene.  Bush was arrested and charged with fleeing the scene with serious injuries, driving with a suspended license with serious injuries, DUI with serious injuries, and DUI with property damage.  Earlier in the day, Bush caused two other, separate, accidents.  Bush struck a pole (though details are unavailable as to the nature of the pole), then struck a Jeep Cherokee in Guyer’s Dodge Durango, damaging the Jeep but the two people in the Jeep were not harmed.  After his arrest, Bush’s blood-alcohol content (BAC) was an amazing 0.18, or more than twice the 0.08 BAC limit in California.

As of this point, Bush has not yet been released, but it seems likely that he will be released (unless, of course, the Tampa Bay Rays organization fails to do anything, as he may form the only felon duo in modern baseball with Josh Lueke).

But what happened with Matt Bush?  Frankly, I think Matt Bush happened to Matt Bush.  A player with amazing talent, Bush seemingly got in his own way as often as possible.  It appears that he has a drinking problem, which can only adversely impact performance, and his oversized ego poses another problem, especially when coupled with his general lack of elite performance.  In the end, Bush shouldn’t have been picked #1 overall.  If Baseball Reference’s WAR is to be used, either Justin Verlander or Jered Weaver would have been the best picks, with Dustin Pedroia coming in third, and even 45th rounder Tony Sipp ranking a significantly better choice.  In the end, the Padres’ unwillingness to pay an extra $2 million cost them significantly more down the road, and Bush’s boorish behavior will probably cost him a chance at living the dream.

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect!


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