Results tagged ‘ Toronto Blue Jays ’

Looking at the July 2012 Astros/Blue Jays Trade

Earlier this week, I looked at what the Astros and Blue Jays each netted as a result of the July 2012 10-player trade that sent Astros RHP Brandon Lyon, RHP David Carpenter and LHP J.A. Happ to the Blue Jays in exchange for major-leaguers RHP Francisco Cordero and OF Ben Francisco, and minor-leaguers RHP Asher Wojciechowski, C Carlos Perez, RHP Joe Musgrove, RHP Kevin Comer and LHP David Rollins. From that trade, only Happ remains with the Blue Jays, but not only are the five minor-leaguers still an integral part of the Astros farm system, four of the five appear on Jonathan Mayo’s recently released Astros Top 20 list on MLB.com.

RHP Asher Wojciechowski tops Mayo’s list at #15. He is also the most advanced player on the list, having excelled in his introduction to AA after the trade. In eight starts for AA Corpus Christi, Wojciechowski was 2-2 with a 2.06 ERA and a 1.008 WHIP. According to Mayo, Wojciechowski has a plus fastball and curveball, plus a changeup that is evolving into what may also be an above-average offering. He is projected to be a workhorse and Baseball America puts his ceiling as a #2 starter.

And while Wojciechowski looks to have a promising future, I wondered if he would ultimately prove to be the linchpin of the trade or if one of the other prospects might emerge as a key player in the trade. I discussed this with Mayo last week and got his thoughts on three of the four remaining prospects from the trade.

First we talked about RHP Joe Musgrove and RHP Kevin Comer, two intriguing high school arms drafted by the Blue Jays in the first round in 2011 who are just embarking on their careers. According to Mayo, “They both have tremendous potential and upside. I think that if it comes together for them, they have higher ceilings than Wojciechowski does.”

Comer, who Mayo ranks at #17 in the Astros Top 20 list, signed late in 2011 and did not pitch until 2012. He came to the Astros late in the season as the player to be named later and only pitched six innings for the Appy League Greeneville Astros, but had a respectable first season for Toronto’s rookie league Bluefield team, putting together a 3-3 record with a 3.95 ERA and a 1.177 WHIP. Still very raw, scouts like him for his solid mechanics and repeatable delivery and expect him to, at a minimum, have three average major league pitches.

Musgrove is ranked by Mayo at #19. In 2012, Musgrove was limited to 17 innings pitched due to a muscle strain in his shoulder, but had a solid debut in 2011 with a 4.01 ERA and a 0.987 WHIP in nine games (seven starts). Musgrove at 6’5″ 230# profiles to be a sturdy innings-eater. Add in an above-average fastball, and a curve and splitter that are projected to be at least major league average and you can see why scouts like him.

Mayo went on to talk about the risks and rewards of signing high school pitchers, “Loading up on high ceiling high school arms is the highest risk, but it’s also the highest reward more often than not. Obviously, there are a lot of exceptions, but a lot of the time the guys that end up being the top of the rotation types are those high ceiling high school guys. The nature of development dictates that those kind of young arms are the biggest wild card there is.”

C Carlos Perez is currently ranked by Mayo at #20, “I kept him in the 20 for a reason. There’s enough there to like. Sometimes with catchers, it can take a while. There’s a lot that you’re learning. So I tend to be a little more patient in waiting for catchers to develop. Not everybody’s Buster Posey.”

Mayo continued in his assessment of Perez, “He is at worst a back-up and a good one because not only does he have a good arm, but he also moves well behind the plate. There’s plenty of guys that catch and have strong arms and they can’t do anything else and what good does that do [if] it takes them too long to get rid of the ball and their footwork’s all messed up and things like that. He does all those things well so that will get him to the big leagues. How much he hits will really determine whether or not he’s an everyday guy or a decent back up.” Perez hit .275/.358/.447 in the Low A Midwest League before the trade and .318/.368/.409 in 26 games after the trade with High A Lancaster in the California League.

The final piece of the puzzle is lefty David Rollins. Although Rollins isn’t ranked as a top prospect, he had an impressive season at Low A in his second professional season, putting up a 7-4 record with a 2.98 ERA and a 1.252 WHIP in 24 starts. Since Rollins wasn’t on Mayo’s radar, I contacted Rollins to find out a little more about him and this is what he told me, “My pitch repertoire consists of a fastball (2 and 4 seam), curveball, slider, and my favorite, the circle change. I’d say my changeup is my best pitch. I can command it well and it helps keep hitters off balance. I’ve been working a lot this off season on my curve ball. I stopped throwing it this past season because I lost confidence in it. I’m steadily gaining it back and ready to see it in a game situation. I have been doing a lot of long tossing and band work to get arm strength so I can gain velo. The movement on my fastball and off speed help me get ground outs and pop ups so I just need to learn to command them all to be successful.”

When asked about his strengths as a pitcher as well as what he needs to work on, Rollins stated, “I would have to say I keep the hitters off balance well. I now recognize if the hitter doesn’t hit something well, I’ll go to that pitch. Also I have been working on a pick-off move and it is now in my arsenal of things I have worked the kinks out of. The main thing I need to focus more on and to improve is the command of my pitches and I have been working hard this off season to do that so when I go into spring training I’ll already know the feel for all my pitches.”

It is doubtful that all five of these prospects will end up contributing to the Astros at the major league level some day simply because the odds are against even one prospect making his mark, much less five of them. But I like the talent and potential that GM Jeff Luhnow added to the farm system in this deal – a durable AA righty, two high ceiling high school draftees, a great defensive catcher with a promising bat and an up-and-coming lefty with a plan. Any one of these players could make the Blue Jays rue the day that they agreed to this trade.

Thanks to Jonathan Mayo for taking the time out to talk to me. Mayo’s Prospect Watch for 2013 can be found here. For more on the Astros minor league system, visit What the Heck, Bobby? or follow me on twitter @whattheheck57.

Fantasy Keeper Leagues – The Sell Off and the Reload

The moment it happens, you realize your team isn’t going to make that final push to the playoffs and it’s time to look forward to 2013 (and beyond) in an attempt to keep your team competitive for years to come.  It happened to me in the winter between the 2010 and 2011 seasons, and since then I have dealt Yovani Gallardo, Joey Votto, David Wright, Carlos Beltran (acquired in the Gallardo deal), and Matt Cain to acquire Brett Lawrie, Matt Moore, Manny Banuelos (who was dealt to get Michael Choice), Jean Segura, Gary Sanchez, Eric Hosmer, Shelby Miller, and Francisco Lindor (amongst others).

Below is a brief list of players you may want to consider who should be up in the next two seasons that could make a big impact on your team, and another list for players who are much, much further away.

2013/2014 Call Ups

Tyler Skaggs (ARI – LHP) – Initially drafted by the Angels in the supplemental first round of the 2009 draft (the Mike Trout draft) and dealt to the Diamondbacks in the Dan Haren trade, Skaggs has dominated at every level.  While Trevor Bauer has received all of the headlines, Skaggs has quietly dominated in his 52.2 innings, striking out 45, walking 16, and putting up a 2.91 ERA in the offense-friendly environment of the Pacific Coast League.  Skaggs may not open the year with the Diamondbacks, but, barring injury, he won’t be in the minor leagues for long.

Zack Wheeler (NYM – RHP) – The Mets got Wheeler in the Carlos Beltran deal last July and he has not disappointed (unless you’re a Giants fan).  In 116 innings for AA Binghamton, Wheeler put up a 3.26 ERA while striking out 117 across 116 innings.  Since his promotion to AAA, Wheeler has had two starts.  He allowed 2 runs in 4.2 innings in his first start, and then allowed one run over six innings in his second start.  Wheeler may open the year in Queens, especially given the Mets’ dedication to youth.

Shelby Miller (STL – RHP) – The 19th overall pick in the 2009 draft, Miller has been moving up prospect rankings every year.  After an amazing 2011 – a combined 170 strikeouts while dominating High A and AA across 139.2 innings, Miller has looked merely human lately, putting up a 5.23 ERA across 112 innings.  But that does not tell the whole story, as he has been much better as of late, causing rumors of a September call-up.  I think Keith Law’s tweets will help elucidate:

Casey Kelly (SDP – RHP) – If you think Miller’s year has been up and down, the ultra athletic Kelly’s season has been even more up and down.  After dominating in spring training, Kelly hurt his elbow after two great AAA outings.  After three tune-up outings in Rookie ball, Kelly threw five innings in AA on August 10, striking out four and facing only 16 batters.  Kelly looks like a good bet to start the 2013 in San Diego, and will benefit from playing in one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the league.

Jurickson Profar (TEX – SS) – On most teams, Profar would be getting called up now, if not a guaranteed call up in September, but the Rangers have Elvis Andrus, who is also quite good.  As far as shortstops go, Profar is the total package: smooth defense, good speed, average to plus power, and a great hit tool.  His ceiling is that of a perennial All-Star.  When does he come up?  That all depends…

Billy Hamilton (CIN – SS) – The fastest player in organized baseball presents a fascinating conundrum for the Reds’ front office.  They can bring him up for the September stretch run and use him as an extra infielder and pinch runner extraordinaire, or keep Hamilton in the minor leagues until next season.  Of course, Hamilton is more than just pure speed, after hitting 323/413/439 in the hyper-inflated offensive environment of the California League, Hamilton has hit 289/410/412 in AA.  With 139 stolen bases, Hamilton is just six behind what is believed to be the minor league record of 145, set by Vince Coleman in 1983.  When will Hamilton come up?  My guess is mid-2013, but having a pinch runner like Hamilton would cause absolute chaos in October.

Hak-Ju Lee (TBR – SS) – The main talent acquired in the Matt Garza trade, Lee shot up the prospect rankings due to his smooth defense and hitting in 2011, putting up a 318/389/443 like in the pitching-friendly High A Florida State League.  Despite a 261/336/360 line in 2012 while in AA, Lee hit better as the year wore on, putting up a 330/387/450 line in June and a 292/391/434 line in July.  Lee is also blocked by former #1 pick Tim Beckham, who is the shortstop in AAA, but Beckham is hitting 255/332/332 and was suspended for marijuana use.  While Lee is widely considered to be an above average defensive shortstop, Beckham is viewed as more of a utility infielder, significantly decreasing the chance that Lee will need to get past Beckham.

Wil Myers (KCR – OF) – After an injury limited Myers to a 254/353/393 line in 2011, Myers returned to AA to start 2012 and put up a 343/414/731 line across 35 games before being promoted to AAA, where he continued to hit, putting up a 300/377/572 line in 80 games.  While only Jeff Francoeur stands in his way, the Royals seem unwilling to bring up Myers and start his march toward arbitration during a losing season.  Expect Myers to be promoted in September, though his role may be undetermined as the season draws to a close.

Oscar Taveras (STL – OF) – After a 386/444/584 showing in A during 2011, Taveras has destroyed AA as a 20 year old in 2012, putting up a 321/382/574 line while primarily playing center field.  Though viewed as someone who will eventually need to move to right field, Taveras is widely viewed as one of the best pure hitters (if not the best pure hitter) in the minor leagues with an upside that is that of a perennial MVP candidate.  To quote Jason Parks, “His swing is going to bother scouts up the chain, and he’s also going to hit all the way up the chain. It’s not always pretty, and he swings the bat like he’s trying to kill someone breaking into his home, but it works.”

Dylan Bundy (BAL – RHP) – While Orioles fans are advocating for Dylan Bundy to be called up to help out in the bullpen in September, Bundy’s future lies as a Cy Young candidate-caliber pitcher for the next decade, becoming the next face of the Baltimore Orioles.   Of course, that is if Dan Duquette allows Bundy to use his best pitch.

Miguel Sano (MIN – 3B) – Who is leading the Midwest League in home runs, RBI, and extra base hits (ok, he’s tied)?  Miguel Sano.  Who is leading the Midwest League in walks and second in strikeouts?  Miguel Sano He turned 19 in May, he will probably end up as a right fielder, and he has 80 power (just ask Kevin Goldstein).  His power, and the Twins’ lack of talent will get him to the majors by the end of 2014, and he’ll be there to stay.

Austin Hedges (SDP – C) – I know what you’re thinking, how can a guy hitting 253/313/426 in A ball be in the major leagues in two years?  Simple – he’s the best defensive catcher current in the minors (well, of potential prospects, 35 year old veterans need not apply).  With San Diego’s pitching prospects, it may make sense to push Hedges quickly and start building trust to help San Diego compete in the future.

Anthony Rendon (WAS – 3B) – Possibly the only player who can stake a claim to the best pure hitter in the minors other than Taveras, Rendon has battled injuries since his time in college.  Recently promoted to AA, Rendon appears to be the last piece of the puzzle in Washington.  While he has exclusively played third base while in the minors (and DH’d, but that doesn’t really count), his defensive home is not assured.  Despite Rendon’s defensive acumen, Washington has gold glover Ryan Zimmerman locking down the position for nearly the next decade, so either Rendon will be shifted to first base or second base, or Zimmerman will move over to first base.  Either way, Rendon is not long for the minor leagues and figures to hit wherever his defensive home may be (and we all hope second or third, for fantasy purposes).

Project 2015, and beyond – Here is a brief list of players who won’t be up for at least two years, but, if they make the major leagues, figure to make an absolutely huge impact.

Archie Bradley (ARI – RHP) – While Skaggs and Bauer are viewed as more sure things, Bradley has the potential of being a true ace, the perpetual top of the rotation starter that opening day for a decade and, if everything goes right, starts Game 1 of the World Series.  Of course, Bradley’s potential is shown as he is second in strikeouts (the leader is 23, Bradley is 19) and his problems are shown as he leads the league in walks with 72, at 5/7 per nine innings.  But Bradley turned 20 just last week, underscoring how much time has to work on his command and unleash his fastball/curveball combination on major league hitters.

Gary Sanchez (NYY – C) – Gary Sanchez is probably the heir to the Jesus Montero crown in more ways than one – questions about his defensive future behind the plate, but a great hitting catcher whose bat will play at any position.  Of course, playing for the Yankees only serves to increase the comparisons, but Sanchez is his own player.  After being suspended by the Yankees in 2011 for poor attitude, he came back with a vengeance in 2012, hitting 297/353/517 in full season A, followed by 288/354/441 after his promotion to the pitcher-friendly Florida State League.  Sanchez’s ultimate value is related to his ability to stay behind the plate (at least enough to qualify as a catcher), but his bat should play even if he ends up as a first baseman.

Aaron Sanchez (TOR – RHP) – Part of the vaunted “Lansing Three” with Noah Syndergaard and Justin Nicolino, Sanchez has a great fastball to go with his developing curveball and changeup.  After somewhat struggling in 2011 (5.31 combined ERA in rookie and Low A ball), Sanchez has broken out in 2012, putting up a 2.36 ERA with 84 strikeouts across 76.1 innings.  While his command still needs work (5.2 walks per nine), he could be the next ace to ply his trade on the other side of the border.

Luis Heredia (PIT – RHP) – Signed out of Mexico has a 15 year old; Heredia has dominated the college-heavy New York-Penn League despite not turning 18 until August 10.  Despite not striking out that many batters (only 27 in 48.1 innings), Heredia has shown great command (2.6 walks per nine) while pitching with limited innings.  Next season should be Heredia’s first season in full-season ball, and in a season with #1 Gerrit Cole and #2 Jameson Taillon, Heredia may have the highest ceiling of them all.

Tyler Austin (NYY – OF) – in 2011, Austin began putting it together, hitting 390/438/622 in 20 games for the GCL Yankees then 323/402/542 for the Staten Island Yankees.  In 2012, Austin took the next step, hitting 320/405/598 in 70 games in full season A before being promoted to High A, where he has continued to hit, despite the pitching-friendly environment, putting up a 299/372/429 line while primarily playing right field.  Austin may become the next great slugging outfielder for the Yankees, though comparing anyone to Ruth, Dimaggio, Mantle, or Jackson is cruel, at best.  How good could Austin be?  The sky is the limit.

Francisco Lindor (CLE – SS) – Like Profar?  Then you should like Lindor too.  A switch hitter with great bat speed who is as close to a lock to stay as a shortstop as anyone else, Lindor projects to hit for a good average while hitting 15 home runs per season.  He lacks Profar’s MVP-level upside, but a shortstop who goes to the All-Star game every season is pretty valuable.

Adonys Cardona (TOR – RHP) – While his numbers have underwhelmed (4.55 ERA in 2011 and 6.32 ERA in 2012), the 6’1″ 170 pounder has the upside of a future ace and the pedigree associated with the player who received the largest bonus out of any prospects ever signed out of Venezuela, a list that includes Felix Hernandez, Johan Santana, Bobby Abreu, Carlos Gonzalez, and Jesus Montero.

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.

 

P.S.  Sorry about the complete lack of posts lately, work has been incredibly busy, but I should be able to return to my normal 1-2 per week schedule for the rest of the season!

http://thefuturists.mlblogs.com/2012/05/17/brett-lawrie-post-hype-prospect-blawrie13/

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.

Sources:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/rankings/top-100-prospects/all-time.html

Carlos Correa: Real Deal or Future Bust? #Astros

When the Astros drafted Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa first overall, they picked the player with the most potential for impact – and most potential to become a complete bust – in the draft.   A tremendous athlete, Correa has been lauded for his quick hands and potential at the plate, his grace and strong arm in the field, and his speed, Correa is a 6’3” shortstop approaching 200 pounds at age 17.  Much of the commentary has focused on Correa’s potential and his age – Correa won’t turn 18 until September 22 (the same day as Tommy Lasorda will turn 85), which further underscores his potential for improvement, especially given the results of a groundbreaking study published by Rany Jazayerli at Baseball Prospectus.

Carlos Correa - Source: Houston Chronicle

Source: Houston Chronicle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Correa signed quickly – and for under slot - there was a lot of buzz around whether the Astros picked the best available player, a player who would sign quickly for less than the maximum, or had hastily gone Matt Bush on the organization. Personally, I think it’s a great move.  The Astros got a top flight talent at a premium position and saved some money to spread to other picks.

But I began to wonder out of the shortstops drafted out of high school in the first round of the major league draft:

  1. How many made it to the major leagues;
  2. Were successful major leaguers; and
  3. How many remained shortstops?

In order to answer these questions, I used MLB draft data from Baseball-Reference.com to pull all of the draft picks from 1990-2007 for the first two rounds.  Here is the full data set via Google Docs (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AjuFn-ctXd3VdF9jQkVtMC03dE9TeENMYVg2SHZJOFE).

I filtered for:

  1. Listed position when being drafted, assuming the likelihood of a player moving TO shortstop was exceedingly low;
  2. Filtered for shortstop (as opposed to college players);
  3. Filtered for players drafted out of short stop; and
  4. Looked into only the first round (as second round picks would rarely be a prospect of the level of Correa).

Here’s what I found:

First Round HS SS in MLB Draft 1990-2007

38 players fit the requirements, including:

As you may notice, the success rate is exceedingly low, with only a few players who are even potential hall of famers and almost as many players are colossal flops as good players.  A total of 13 never made it to the major leagues in any capacity and five appearing in under 100 games.

Successful picks:

  1. Chipper Jones: Basically a third baseman from the start of his major league, though he played a little time in left field and even less at short stop.  What’s most amazing is was not even supposed to be the #1 pick – more on that here.
  2. Derek Jeter: A short stop from day one and has not played another defensive position in the major leagues (unless you count his games at DH).  Not the greatest range but sure hands and makes it look good.
  3. Alex Rodriguez:  Historic talent and historic centaur.

Good Picks:

  1. Pokey Reese:  Basically a defense-only player but, wow, could he pick it.
  2. Michael Cuddyer:  According to Baseball-Reference.com, he has never played short stop in the major leagues, primarily a right fielder (731 games), first baseman (214 games), and a third baseman (214 games).  Stopped playing shortstop after making 61(!) errors while playing for the Fort Wayne Wizards of the Midwest League at the age of 19.
  3. Felipe Lopez:  One good offensive year (291/352/486 in 2005), but appeared in 1185 games across 11 major league seasons.  He was a better hitter – and a worse fielder – than I realized.

Interesting Picks:

  1. Josh Booty:  After signing a contract reported to be worth $1.2 million, Booty struck out a lot and hit for some power.  Gave up baseball after 1998 and went to LSU to be their starting quarterback before being drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the 6th round… and never appear in the NFL.
  2. Sergio Santos:  Santos was a good prospect who never hit enough and made a lot of errors; then he became a relief pitcher and is laughing at all of us.

Colossal Flops:

  1. Brandon Wood:  Read about him here.
  2. Matt Bush:  Read about him here.

 Players Whose Places Have Yet to be Determined:

  1. BJ Upton:  Doesn’t walk, power is streaky, good center fielder.  Looks like he will stall out in the “Good Pick” category.
  2. Justin Upton:  The better of the Upton brothers (so far), could be a perennial MVP candidate and on pace to join the “Successful Pick” category.
  3. Mike Moustakas:  Too little time to judge, but hitting 278/346/480 is a very good start.

 So what does this mean? 

Out of the 38, 13 (34%) never made it to the major leagues, 17 made it and had WAR below 5 (45%), for a total of 30/38 (79%).  Of the successful ones, only Derek Jeter (98.6%), Felipe Lopez (53.5%), and Alex Rodriguez (51.5%) have primarily been shortstops.  Pokey Reese primarily played second base with a fair amount of time at shortstop, Chipper Jones only appeared at shortstop more than six times once (38 in 1996), and Michael Cuddyer is the definition of a defensive tweener.

In short (pun intended), Carlos Correa is probably not going to reach his potential, but then again, neither are the rest of the first round picks, so the Astros made a great pick by grabbing for the stars because, frankly, you seem to have about as good of a chance of drafting Matt Bush with the #1 overall pick as picking Alex Rodriguez.

Also, because someone actually asked, here’s WAR for #1 overall picks that were drafted out of High School:

No 1 Overall Pick Shortstop out of High School 1990-2007

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.

Sources:

http://www.baseball-reference.com

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=correa000car

http://www.baseball-reference.com/draft/?year_ID=2012&draft_round=1&draft_type=junreg&query_type=year_round

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/l/lasorto01.shtml

http://www.perfectgame.org/players/playerprofile.aspx?ID=279388

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=17173

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=15295

Favorite Prospect Struggling? Might Be No Big Deal!

One of the most frustrating things is when a top prospect comes up and does not just fail, but falls flat on his face.  One of the most recent, and frustrating, examples is San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt.  After being drafted in the fifth round in the 2009 draft out of the University of Texas at Austin, Belt was assigned to High A and absolutely destroyed the ball, putting up a 383/492/628 line in 333 plate appearances before being promoted to AA, where Belt kept on hitting to the tune of a 337/413/623 line across 201 plate appearances.  Belt was promoted to AAA for a brief 61 plate appearances, putting up a respectable 229/393/563 line to end the season.  In 2011, Belt spent time in the major leagues, being played inconsistently by Manager Bruce Bochy while failing to produce with a 225/306/412 line and destroying AAA pitching to the tune of a 309/448/527 line.  In 2012, Belt has had similar issues in the major league, putting up a much-improved 230/347/340 line while making an adjustment to stand more upright during his at bats.

But take heart Giants fans (or Royals fans for Eric Hosmer, or Rays fans for Matt Moore), there is a long, long list of great baseball players who were top prospects and struggled early on, eventually becoming great baseball players.

1.  Michael Jack Schmidt.  Chances are if you know more than three males born from 1975 through 1985, one of them will be named Michael or Jack (or Michael Jack) and there is a really good reason for this: Mike Schmidt was an amazing baseball player.  Before he began putting up Hall of Fame numbers, Schmidt put up a putrid 196/324/373 line in 1973.  Schmidt’s learning curve was steep, as he put up a 282/395/546 line, leading the National League with 36 home runs, 138 strikeouts (the following year he would strike out 180 times), and a .546 slugging percentage.

2.  Matt Wieters.  Matt Wieters was supposed to be the next big thing after he was drafted #5 overall by the Baltimore Orioles out of Georgia Tech in 2007.  After being ranked the #12 prospect by Baseball America before playing a single professional game and #1 after putting up a 345/448/576 line in High A and a 365/460/625 line in AA in 2008.  In 2009, Wieters put up a 305/387/504 line in AAA before being promoted to the major leagues.  Wieters struggled his first few seasons in the major leagues, but has since turned into a consistent All-Star and Gold Glove winner who is consistently in the discussion for the best catcher in the league.

3.  Edgardo Alfonzo.  Before becoming one of the best second baseman in the league from 1999-2002, Alfonzo was a top prospect in the Mets organization, being ranked as the #74 prospect by Baseball America after the 1992 season and #31 prospect by Baseball America after the 1993 season.  Alfonzo put up a 278/301/382 line in 1995 and a 261/304/345 line in 1996 before figuring it out in 1997 to the tune of a 315/391/432 line.  Alfonzo’s peak was short due to back problems, but he was one of the most underrated baseball players, and a key cog for the Mets, in the late 90s and early 2000s.

4.  Adrian Beltre.  Beltre is one of the more fascinating career paths, from a top prospect (Baseball America ranked him the #30 prospect after a 1996 season where he hit a combined 284/366/519 at full season A and High A age 17 and then the #3 prospect after he hit 317/407/561 in High A in 1997).  After putting  up a 321/411/581 line in 64 games in AA as a 19 year old in 1998, Beltre hit 215/278/369 in 77 games for the Dodgers.  Beltre played with varying levels of success for the next five years, putting up a combined 265/323/432 line before breaking out with an amazing 334/388/629 line in 2004, his contract year.  After signing a five-year, $63 million contract with the Seattle Mariners, Beltre seemingly returned to his previous level, putting up a combined 266/317/442 line over five years.  In 2010, Beltre finally put it all together for the Boston Red Sox, playing Gold Glove-caliber defense while putting up a 321/365/553 line, a level he has generally maintained during his season and two months with the Texas Rangers.

5.   Jayson Werth.  After being the #22 pick of the 1997 draft by the Baltimore Orioles, Werth hit in every stop in the minor leagues and was consistently a highly-regarded prospect.  Baseball America ranked him #52 after 1998 and #48 after 1999.  After an off season in 2000, Werth bounced back after being dealt to the Blue Jays for Jason Bale and Baseball America ranked him #70 and then #94 after 2002.  Werth then spent the next few years raking in the minors and struggling in the majors (albeit often with injuries), including being dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Jason Frasor.  After having the Dodgers not offer him a contract, Werth signed with the Phillies as a free agent and finally broke out.

6.  Ryne Sandberg.  Sandberg was a 20th round pick by the Phillies in 1978, so he was not exactly the most highly regarded prospect until he hit 310/403/469 as a 20-year old in AA and 293/352/397 as a 21 year old in AAA, while stealing 32 bases both years, primarily as a shortstop.  After being traded by the Phillies with Larry Bowa for Ivan de Jesus, Sandberg won the National League Rookie of the Year with a 271/312/372 line followed by a 261/316/351 line in his second year.  Sandberg broke out in 1984, winning the MVP with a 314/367/520 line, cementing himself as the Cubs second baseman of the future.

Of course, this isn’t to say that Belt, Hosmer, and Moore will all bounce back and become great players (or even good ones, history is littered with top prospects who never panned out), but it should be noted that prospects often struggle early on and have very productive careers – not everyone can start a career like Ralph Kiner.

Of course, Giants fans can just keep checking for Brandon Belt trade rumors at MLBTradeRumors.

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.

Sources:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/beltbr01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=belt–001bra

http://nbcbayarea.csnbayarea.com/05/27/12/Bochy-convinces-Belt-to-make-adjustment/nbcbay_landing.html?blockID=714996

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/h/hosmeer01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/moorema02.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/schmimi01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/wietema01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=wieter001mat

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/a/alfoned01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=alfonz003edg

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/beltrad01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=beltre001adr

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/werthja01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=werth-001jay

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/sandbry01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=sandbe001ryn

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/rankings/top-100-prospects/all-time.html

Brett Lawrie – Post Hype Prospect – @blawrie13

Two days ago, Brett Lawrie was facing Fernando Rodney and had worked the count to 3-1.  Rodney threw the fifth pitch of the at bat, which was, according to PitchFX data, was slightly more than one foot outside.  Lawrie, assuming the pitch would be correctly called, dropped his bat and began trotting to first base.  Buck Martinez, the Blue Jays’ play-by-play announcer stated “ball four.”  Alas, home plate umpire Bill Miller had other ideas, calling the pitch a strike.  Lawrie returned to the batter’s box with an astonished look on his face.  Martinez stated “Wow!” in astonishment after the call.

Rodney fired again, throwing a high change-up which, again, Lawrie took and headed to first base.  Again, Miller called the pitch a strike, thereby causing Lawrie to strike out.    At that point, Lawrie absolutely lost his mind.  Lawrie protested, screaming at Miller and threw his helmet against the ground, ricocheting off the dirt and hitting (it did more than graze) Miller in the leg.  The video says it all:

Of course, while his reaction was inexcusable, the last two pitches were not strikes, at least according to MLB’s own PitchFX data.

Source: BrooksBaseball.net

Source: BrooksBaseball.net

Lawrie’s reaction was not particularly surprising, as reports of his attitude have been split, with some praising his intensity and desire to succeed while others have questioned his maturity and desire.  Of course, it all goes back to the beginning, when Brett Lawrie was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers.

Brett R. Lawrie, a catching prospect out of Langley, British Columbia, was viewed as one of the top prospects in the draft.  Lawrie’s exploits were legendary: plus hit tool, plus raw power, plus arm, and plus athleticism.  Lawrie was drafted with the 16th pick of the 2008 Major League Baseball Rule IV Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers.  Prior to the draft, Lawrie was awarded the Top Hitter Award (.469 batting average), Home Runs Award (3), and Most RBI in the Tournament (16), while playing in the 2008 World Junior Baseball Championship in Edmonton, Alberta.  Lawrie was named the starting catcher on the tournament All-World team and joined the Canadian National Baseball team to prepare for the Beijing Olympics.  Lawrie was not as successful in Beijing, going 0-10 in six games, with two strike outs and two RBI.

Lawrie signed with the Brewers for a $1.6 million signing bonus and the accolades began rolling in.  Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein called Lawrie “an excellent natural hitter,” in ranking him the #2 prospect in the Brewers’ system, behind Alcides Escobar, and #57 overall, between Jordan Zimmerman and (fellow Brewer farmhand) Mat Gamel.  Baseball America ranked Lawrie The #3 prospect in the Brewers’ system, behind Escobar and Gamel, and the #81 prospect in all of baseball.  Baseball America, clearly impressed with his time on the Canadian Junior National team, named Lawrie the “Best Power Hitter” in the Brewers’ system prior to a single professional at bat.

Lawrie was assigned to the Full Season A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, the Brewers’ affiliate in the Midwest League, where he put up a respectable 274/348/454 line in 105 games before being promoted to the Huntsville Stars, the Brewers’ AA affiliate in the Southern League.  Lawrie struggled in his 13-game trial at AA, putting up a 269/283/308 line while getting caught stealing twice and striking out 14 times.  Despite being drafted as a catcher and the Brewers publicly stating they wanted to keep him behind the plate, Lawrie exclusively played second base in 2009.  Despite the on-field success, there were many small clashes behind the scenes as Lawrie felt that the Brewers were trying to reign in his personality.

After the season, the accolades poured in, with Lawrie being named the #2 prospect by Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus (again behind Escobar) and #99 overall.  While Goldstein praised Lawrie’s offensive abilities, there was much consternation over Lawrie’s defense at second base.  Baseball America was more optimistic, also ranking Lawrie the #2 prospect in the Brewers’ system, but ranking Lawrie the #59 prospect in all of baseball.  Baseball America called Lawrie the “Best Hitter for Average” and “Best Power Hitter” in the Brewers’ organization, along with the #4 prospect in the Midwest League for 2009.

In 2010, Lawrie returned to the Hunsville Stars, putting up a 285/346/451 line as the 10th youngest player in the Southern League.  After the season, Lawrie felt that he deserved a cup of coffee in the Major Leagues when rosters were expanded in September, but the Brewers asked Lawrie to go to the Arizona Fall League for additional playing time.  Lawrie declined.  The Brewers tried to encourage Lawrie to go to Arizona, dangling the carrot of an invitation to Spring Training, but Lawrie again demurred.

In December 2010, the Brewers, in full “win now” mode and looking to bolster their starting pitching depth, dealt Lawrie to the Toronto Blue Jays for Shaun Marcum.  SBNation’s Brew Crew Ball viewed the trade positively, calling Marcum  “easily #2 caliber, if not a borderline #1″, stating that the trade is one that’s “going to work out well for the Crew.”  While the writer at Brew Crew Ball, Jordan M, was clearly a fan of Marcum, he underestimated how good Lawrie would become and severly overstating the value of Mat Gamel.

Blue Jays fans were excited at the prospect of rooting for their native-born son as he played in Toronto.  About the prospect of being dealt to Toronto (which is actually farther from his B.C. home), Lawrie said:

It was very exciting for me being a Canadian kid. It’s a great feeling to come back to Canada and have the Canadian flag on my chest again. It’s the first time I’ve felt welcome in a long time.

Lawrie also indicated that the Blue Jays did not view him as a second baseman, saying that he’s been working out at third base at the direction of the Blue Jays, with the idea being a move to third base permanently.  As occurred twice before, the accolades rolled in with Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus saying Lawrie “has the tools to be a star,” who is “an excellent pure hitter with plenty of strength,” while highlighting Lawrie’s 60 extra base hits, but dinging Lawrie for his defensive woes and refusal to go to the Arizona Fall League while ranking Lawrie the #3 prospect in the Blue Jays’ system (behind Kyle Drabek and J.P. Arencibia) and the #57 prospect in all of baseball (between Braves flamethrowers Craig Kimbrel and Randall Delgado).  Baseball America ranked Lawrie the #2 prospect in the Blue Jays organization (behind Drabek) and the #40 prospect in all of baseball.

Lawrie spent spring training with the Blue Jays, putting up a 293/326/488 line and fueling speculation that he would open the season in the Majors.  Instead, Lawrie was sent to the Las Vegas 51s, the Blue Jays’ AAA affiliate in the Pacific Coast League.  Lawrie opened the season by absolutely smoking the ball, putting up a 361/371/588 line in April and sitting with a 354/388/677 line at the end of the day on May 30.  The buzz was building, with Blue Jays’ GM Alex Andropoulos hinting that Lawrie’s call up would be imminent, stating “Yeah, he’s close,” when asked if Lawrie would be up soon.  Then, on May 31, Lawrie was hit on the back of his hand with a pitch, causing swelling.  X-rays, taken at a local hospital only revealed a bruise, but Lawrie had difficulty gripping a bat and further tests indicated a broken bone in his left hand.  Lawrie missed the next six weeks, making his return during a rehabilitation stint with the Dunedin Blue Jays in the High A Florida State League.  Lawrie then returned to Las Vegas, where he put up a 348/410/609 line in 17 games before being called up to the Blue Jays.

Upon his call up, Lawrie became the starting third baseman for the Blue Jays, mashing to a 293/373/953 line with an impressive 151 OPS+ in 43 games, hitting eight doubles, four triples, and nine home runs.  Lawrie also showcased his speed and talent on the base paths, stealing seven bases and only getting caught once.  Lawrie hit an 11th inning walk-off home run on September 5 against the Red Sox, becoming the first player born in the 1990s to hit a walk off home run.  Lawrie’s season was cut short when he broke his finger while taking infield practice prior to a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (which is in California) on September 21.

Lawrie began the 2012 season as the starting third baseman for the Blue Jays and was having a slow start, putting up a 281/325/384 line (92 OPS+) when the incident with Bill Miller occurred.  The following day, it was announced that Lawrie would be suspended for four games for his actions.

But what will happen with Lawrie?  Outside of the fine and suspension, nothing will happen to Lawrie.  There are ample examples of players losingtheir minds while playing baseball, from George Brett

to the oddly-similar Jermaine Dye to the absolutely insane Izzy Alcantara video (I’m calling the video insane, though it appears the same could be said for Alcantara):

The only player who got anything worse than a few days off and it appears that George Brett was not even suspended for his attempt to kill Tim McClelland.

Will this impact Lawrie in the future?  I doubt it will have any impact.  Lawrie has always been viewed as an intense competitor with an unyielding desire to win at everything and beat everyone who gets in his way.  Lawrie is, in short, the type of player who has an unyielding desire to be the best and has the #want to do everything he can do in order to succeed (legally, of course – I wouldn’t go all Pedro Gomez and suggest that he does anything illicit).

Was Lawrie’s reaction reprehensible?  Yes; he acted like a petulant child.  Does every fan want a player who wants to win that badly – and show that desire?  Yes.  Does this incident hurt Lawrie’s long term value?  Not in the least bit.

Frankly, I think writers should stop being so hard on Lawrie; imagine if your boss made you do something and then told you it was terrible and that you’re being demoted even though you did a great job.

Also, in case you’re wondering, I think the Blue Jays absolutely fleeced the Brewers in the trade, as, while Marcum is a nice #3 pitcher, Lawrie has the talent and desire to become a superstar.

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.

Sources:

http://www.brooksbaseball.net

http://www.brooksbaseball.net/pfxVB/pfx.php?s_type=3&sp_type=1&batterX=71&inning9=y&month=05&day=15&game=gid_2012_05_15_tbamlb_tormlb_1%2F&year=2012&pitchSel=407845&prevGame=gid_2012_05_15_tbamlb_tormlb_1%2F

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/draft/y2008/reports.jsp?content=lawrie

http://www.bcpbl.com/en/index.php?view=article&catid=59%3Abcpbl-alumni&id=375%3Alawrie-signs-with-milwaukee-brewers&option=com_content&Itemid=211

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=lawrie001bre

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/l/lawribr01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/draft/?query_type=year_round&year_ID=2008&draft_round=1&draft_type=junreg

http://www.thebaseballcube.com/players/profile.asp?P=Brett-Lawrie

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=8347

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=8506

http://www.baseballamerica.com/statistics/players/cards/35058

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/rankings/organization-top-10-prospects/2009/267436.html

http://espn.go.com/mlb/spring2012/story/_/id/7729121/toronto-blue-jays-third-baseman-brett-lawrie-bound-greatness

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=10142

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=10035

http://www.brewcrewball.com/2010/12/6/1859068/the-brett-lawrie-for-shaun-marcum-trade

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/marcush01.shtml

http://www.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110116&content_id=16444702&vkey=news_milb&fext=.jsp&partnerId=rss_tor

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=12746

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=13078

http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=5247&position=3B

http://www.fangraphs.com/statsd.aspx?playerid=5247&position=3B&type=-1&gds=2011-04-07&gde=2011-08-03

http://blogs.thescore.com/mlb/2011/05/31/friday-with-lawrie/

http://sports.nationalpost.com/2011/05/31/super-prospect-lawrie-close-to-callup-jays-gm-says/

http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/08/04/no-more-delays-blue-jays-call-up-top-prospect-brett-lawrie/

http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Brett_Lawrie

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/TOR/TOR201109050.shtml

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news?slug=ycn-9166493

Non-Hype Prospect – Jose Bautista

Jose Bautista, or Joey Bats, as he is known on Twitter, has been one of the most dominant players in baseball during the past two years and, if you looked at him just 24 months ago, you would have seen a career replacement-level player with a poor batting average and a sudden spike in home runs.  Bautista might be the best example of why you should not give up on a minor leaguer with potential, and why the Rule V draft can be incredibly disruptive to the development of a prospect.  But how did Bautista get there?

After not being signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic, Bautista enrolled at Chipola Junior College in Florida, and performed well enough to be drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates with the 19th pick of the 20th round (#599 overall) of the 2000 Rule IV draft as a draft and follow.  Signed prior to the 2001 draft, Bautista was assigned to the Williamsport Crosscutters of the Short Season A New York Penn League, where he showed promise, putting up a 286/364/427 line while primarily playing third base.  After the season, Baseball America ranked Bautista the #14 prospect in the Pirates’ system.

For 2002, Bautista played for the awesomely-named Hickory Crawdads of the A-level South Atlantic League, where he put up a 301/402/470 line with 26 doubles and 14 homers (tied for 8th with Robinson Cano and Shelley Duncan) while almost exclusively playing third base.  Bautista’s prospect status remained on the rise, as he was ranked the #7 prospect in the Pirates’ system by Baseball America.

Bautista’s 2003 season was a lost season due to a right hand injury (caused by pulling a Kevin Brown and punching a garbage can out of frustration), putting up a 242/359/424 line for the Lynchburg Hillcats of the High-A Carolina League and 348/429/522 in seven rehab games for the Rookie Level GCL Pirates.

After the 2003 season, Bautista’s career trajectory took an abrupt jolt due to a massive mistake by the Pirates’ GM, Dave Littlefield.  Despite having three open spots on the 40-man roster, the Pirates chose not to protect a number of prospects, including Pirates’ Minor League Player of the Year, Chris Shelton and Bautista.  Even before the draft, a number of people within baseball were wondering what Littlefield was thinking, leaving so many players unprotected.  In the Major League Phase of the Rule V Draft, the Detroit Tigers selected Shelton #1 overall, with Bautista going #6 overall to the Baltimore Orioles.  Bautista was lauded for his high ceiling and athleticism, along with his solid play in winter ball in his native Dominican Republic.  Now with the Orioles, Bautista was ranked their #12 prospect despite only appearing in 58 games in 2003.

The Major League Phase of the Rule V draft requires draftees to be kept on the Major League roster for the entire season, or they must be offered back to their original team for half of the initial $50,000 used to select the paper (AKA $25,000).  If the original team declines, the new team may send the player down to the minors.

As a result, Bautista opened the 2004 season with the Baltimore Orioles, primarily acting as a pinch hitter and pinch runner, picking up spot starts while putting up a 273/333/273 line over 16 games (with only 12 plate appearances) before being put on waivers in early June.  The Tampa Bay Devil Rays selected Bautista off of waivers on June 3.  Bautista appeared in just 12 games with the Devil Rays over the course of the next three weeks before having his contract being purchased from the Devil Rays by the Kansas City Royals.  With the Royals, Bautista appeared in 13 games before being dealt to the New York Mets for Justin Huber.  Mets GM Jim Duquette, in his infinite wisdom, immediately turned around and packaged Bautista with Ty Wiggington and Matt Peterson for Kris Benson and Jeff Keppinger, errantly believing the Mets were still in playoff contention.  Duquette also dealt top prospect Scott Kazmir with Jose Diaz to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for Bartolome Fortunado and Victor Zambrano, giving a generation of Mets fans a source of woe.  Bautista remained with the Pirates for the rest of the season, appearing in 23 games and putting up a woeful 200/238/250 line.

Bautista’s final line for the 2004 season was 205/263/239 for four teams, though he was part of a fifth team for a hot minute.  Despite all of this, Bautista was still viewed as a decent prospect, as Baseball America ranked him #12 in the Pirates system.  The Pirates assigned Bautista to the AA Altoona Curve of the Eastern League, where Bautista absolutely crushed the ball, putting up a 283/364/503 line with 23 home runs across 117 games.  Promoted to the AAA Indianapolis Indians of the International League on August 24, Bautista put up a 255/309/373 in 13 games.  Given a September call up, Bautista put up a 143/226/179 line over 31 plate appearances during 11 games.  After the season, Baseball America ranked Bautista the #5 prospect in the Pirates’ organization and the Pirates named him their minor league player of the year.

Bautista began 2006 in Indianapolis, but was called up to be the Pirates’ utility man in early May when Joe Randa was hurt.  With Chris Duffy and Nate McLouth, the Pirates center field platoon, struggling, Bautista played a significant amount of center field en route to putting up a 235/335/420 line across 117 games.  Bautista appeared in 57 games in center field, 33 games at third base, 25 games in right field, 6 in left field, and two at second base (the totals will not add up, as Bautista appeared in multiple positions during a game on more than one occasion).

In 2007, Bautista was the Pirates primary third baseman, putting up a 254/339/414 line across 142 games; 126 games at third base, 16 in right field, 5 in center field, and 2 in left field (totals will not add up again due to in-game positional changes).  Bautista missed significant time in July 2007 after Chipper Jones spike lacerated his hand, forcing Bautista onto the DL.

In 2008, Bautista helped the Tigres del Lincy win the Caribbean Series, putting up a robust 250.385/600 line while playing center field, left field, and third base, tying Miguel Tejada and Roberto Saucedo for the Caribbean Series lead in home runs.   Bautista opened the 2008 season as the starting third baseman for the Pirates, but failed to show much improvement, and was supplanted by Andy LaRoche in late July.  Having put up a 242/325/404 line with the Pirates, Bautista was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for a player to be named later, which turned out to be Robinzon Diaz.   Bautista closed out the year with 61 plate appearances for the Blue Jays, hitting a putrid 214/237/411.

Bautista opened the 2009 season platooning in left field with rookie Travis Snider and occasionally backing up Scott Rolen at third base.  Bautista held a 234/356/355 line when the Blue Jays let the Chicago White Sox claim Alex Rios off waivers.  Bautista played nearly every day for the rest of the season, putting up a 236/341/500 line with ten home runs.  As the story goes, Vernon Wells told Bautista:

“You know what you should do.  Think about starting as early as you can possibly imagine, so early that it seems ridiculous. And then start even earlier than that. What do you have to lose? If you look like a fool, you look like a fool. It’s just one game.”

That sudden power surge, with Bautista hitting six home runs in the final eight games of the season signaled that Bautista may have finally putting it all together.

Bautista opened the 2010 season as the Blue Jays’ right fielder and leadoff man, but when Fred Lewis was acquired, Bautista was moved back in the lineup.  After a poor April (213/314/427), Bautista came alive in May and put up a 287/422/766 line with 12 home runs.  Bautista had a poor June (179/324/369) and then came alive for the rest of the season, hitting 11 home runs in July, 12 in August, and 11 in September to lead the Major Leagues in home runs with 54 en route to a 260/378/617 season where he would also lead the majors in total bases with 351 (tied with Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez) while coming in fourth in MVP voting.  Bautista was also elected to the All Star Game and was awarded the Silver Slugger.

After the season, Bautista signed a new contract with the Blue Jays for five years and $65 million guaranteed, with a club option worth $14 million for a sixth year (and a $1 million buyout).  There was a lot of speculation in the off season if Bautista was the next big slugger who finally figured it out, or if Bautista was a player who had one nice season but would never be able to replicate the results.  The Blue Jays clearly thought Bautista finally figured it out, but there were skeptics.  Additionally, there were skeptics who felt that Bautista’s numbers were assisted by unnatural sources, such as steroids.  As the debate raged between the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Bautista remained steadfast in his denial: he had not used performance enhancing drugs.

Bautista used 2011 to silence his critics: he hit a robust 302/447/608 with 43 home runs (and 24 intentional walks), coming in third place in the MVP vote, making his second consecutive All Star Game, and being awarded his second Silver Slugger.  But Bautista struggled with minor injuries in the second half of the season, as he only hit 257/419/477 after putting up a video game-like 334/468/702 in the first half.

In the 2011-2012 off season, the steroid rumors swirled again, with Bautista stating:

“I don’t mind it; it’s something that is not going to affect my focus and I’m not going to allow it to affect how I play my game.  They are entitled to do whatever they want and test you as many times as they want.  If I get picked to be tested a million times, that’s fine with me.”

So what happens from here?  I think Bautista has a nice next few seasons, but I think we have seen the peak of Jose Bautista.  Bautista is 31, an age when athletic performance declines, and has gotten off to a slow start so far in 2012, with a 181/320/313 line in the season’s first month.  Even baseball writers have noted Bautista’s slow start with an implied belief that (a) Bautista is for real and (b) it’s merely a slump, such as Baseball ProspectusBen Lindberg:

and the Vice President of Statistics for MLB Advanced Media, Corey Schwartz:

and FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi:

and Baseball Prospectus’  Kevin Goldstein:

I think Bautista will bounce back with a solid season with 35+ home runs, a level he will maintain for the next few seasons.  If Bautista hits 25 per year for each of the next four years – a very attainable level for someone who has his talent and #want, he could easily end up one of the top 200 home run hitters of all time (250 total would be 200th all time).

While Jose Bautista will never be elected to the Hall of Fame (unless he goes all Barry Bonds on us), it’s great to see him get a chance and succeed at the highest level after all he’s gone through – especially his horrific 2004.

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.

Sources:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/draft/?query_type=year_round&year_ID=2000&draft_round=20&draft_type=junreg&

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/bautijo02.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=bautis001jos

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/features/9911dfe.html

http://www.baseballamerica.com/statistics/players/cards/12568

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/leader.cgi?type=bat&id=15ab5866

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/features/031209rule5preview.html

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=2496

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/columnists/askbarule5.html

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jim-duquette/a/913/a1a

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/winterleagues/league.jsp?league=cs&y=2007

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080208&content_id=2368100&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090810&content_id=6357702&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1187578/3/index.htm

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?id=bautijo02&year=2010&t=b

Drew Hutchison Prospect Videos

Take a look at Drew Hutchison in these videos from MLBProspectPortal.com. The Toronto Blue Jays have promoted the right-hander from Double-A New Hampshire to make his Major League debut against the Kansas City Royals on Saturday. He has only made six Double-A starts but Hutchison has put up impressive numbers throughout his brief minor league career. In 45 minor league starts (and one relief appearance) Hutchison has struck out 9.4 batters per nine innings, while posting a 2.49 ERA and 1.04 WHIP.

Hutchison made two starts for the Blue Jays during 2012 spring training, logging a total of 15 innings pitched over his five appearances. He more than held his own, recording a 3.00 ERA and 1.07 WHIP.

Take a look at Drew Hutchison’s pitching mechanics:

Watch Hutchison pitching for the Blue Jays during 2012 spring training:

Watch Hutchison warm up before facing the Baltimore Orioles during spring training:

Hutchison strikes out Orioles 1B Nick Johnson:

 

Hutchison warming up on the mound with Blue Jays C Travis d’Arnaud:

 

For more prospect videos, visit the MLB Prospect Portal YouTube Channel.

It will certainly be interesting to see how Hutchison fares against the Royals in his Major League debut. His performance could go a long way to determining how long he sticks around in Toronto. With LHP Brett Cecil losing his rotation spot during spring training and RHP Dustin McGowan back on the disabled list, there are no other sure fire candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation. The Blue Jays used RHP Joel Carreno as a “fifth starter” when he pitched the third game of the season in Cleveland. However since then, the team has had enough off days that they haven’t required a fifth starter until tomorrow’s contest. All eyes of Blue Jays nation will be on the 21-year-old right-hander from Lakeland, Florida. It should be a fun game to watch.

Blue Jays Prospect Report: Lansing Lugnuts (Class-A)

By Daniel Jarrett @ProspectD2J

I made the trip to visit the Class-A Lansing Lugnuts in Michigan for their season opening series against the Great Lakes Loons last weekend. The Loons are the Los Angeles Dodgers Class-A affiliate, and they play their home games less than two hours north of the Lugnuts home in Lansing. The geographic proximity make the teams natural rivals, and a prime matchup for the first series of the season.

The Lugnuts feature three of the Toronto Blue Jays top young pitching prospects in RHP Noah Syndergaard, LHP Justin Nicolino and RHP Aaron Sanchez. Each of those three pitchers is generally a consensus top 10 prospect in the Blue Jays system, of course that can depend on who you speak to. Over at MLBProspectPortal.com we just released our updated Top 20 prospect lists for each of the AL East teams. The Blue Jays top 20 prospect list has Syndergaard ranked fifth, Nicolino ranked sixth and Sanchez ranked ninth.

Noah Syndergaard was front and centre for the Lugnuts as he got the start in the first game of the season. He put on an impressive display, despite being limited to just three innings in an effort to limit his workload early in the season. He allowed just two hits and one walk while striking out six Loons hitters. Syndergaard showed a low to mid 90’s fastball, and developing off speed pitches that kept the Loons hitters off-balance.

I wrote a report on the Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com, that includes more video of Syndergaard and links to video of other Lugnuts players as well. LHP David Rollins was impressive in a start the following day for the Lugnuts, and hitters 3B Kellen Sweeney, OF Chris Hawkins, C Carlos Perez, OF Kenny Wilson and 2B Jonathon Berti led the offense. The Lugnuts are off to an impressive 8-1 start to the season, behind their elite level starting pitching and the depth up and down their lineup.

I previewed the Lansing Lugnuts roster prior to the start of the 2012 season and will be making the trip back to Lansing several times throughout the season to provide further coverage of the team’s top prospects along the way. For more Lansing Lugnuts prospect videos, visit the MLB Prospect Portal YouTube Channel here. For updates follow @ProspectD2J and @MLBProspectPrtl on Twitter.

Here’s a bonus video of Syndergaard striking out Loons 2B Kevin Taylor:

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!

Sources:

http://www.baseball-reference.com

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=bush–001mat

http://www.baseball-reference.com/draft/index.cgi?draft_round=45&year_ID=2004&draft_type=junreg&query_type=year_round

http://www.baseball-reference.com/draft/?query_type=year_round&year_ID=2004&draft_round=1&draft_type=junreg&

http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2009/feb/06/1s6bush03277-padres-cut-ties-matt-bush/?padres

http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2009/feb/05/padres-bush-hot-water-relea/?padres

http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/tampa-bay-rays-minor-leaguer-matt-bush-involved-in-three-accident-on-day-of-hit-and-run-DUI-041012

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/rankings/top-100-prospects/all-time.html

http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20040721/news_1s21bush.html

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