Results tagged ‘ venezuela ’

Non-Hype Prospect – Johan Santana – @johansantana

As I walked back to my apartment from dinner Friday night, I noticed that I had a lot of text messages – a rarity as I do not text much – and I realized that Johan Santana had thrown the first no-hitter in the history of the New York Mets.

Though many people know Santana’s exploits in the major leagues – the Cy Young awards, the sub-1 WHIPs – Santana’s path was anything but ordinary.  In 1995, the Houston Astros signed Santana out of Venezuela as a center fielder.  Due to his arm strength, left-handedness, and perceived inability to become a major league hitter, Santana was soon converted to a pitcher.  After finally being granted a visa, Santana was assigned to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Astros, where he put up a 7.93 ERA across nine games (five starts) and 36.1 innings.  Promoted to the Short Season A Auburn Doubledays of the New York Penn League, Santana made one four-inning start to end the season, allowing just one run and one hit, walking six and striking out five.

To start the 1998 season, Santana was held back in extended spring training, and was sent back to Auburn in June, striking out 88 while walking 21 in 86.1 innings over 15 starts, putting up a 4.36 ERA.  At the end of the season, Santana made two appearances for the full season A Quad Cities River Bandits of the Midwest League.  Santana struggled in his two appearances, putting up a 9.45 ERA over 6.2 innings.

In 1999, Santana had his best season pitching for the Michigan Battle Cats of the Midwest League, putting up a 4.66 ERA in 27 games (26 starts) over 160.1 innings, striking out 150 and walking 55 in his age-20 season.

After the season, the Astros left Santana unprotected in the Rule V draft, and, just two years after losing Bobby Abreu in the 1997 Expansion Draft, the Florida Marlins selected Santana with the second pick of the 1999 Rule V draft.  The Marlins then dealt Santana to the Minnesota Twins for Jared Camp, the first pick of the 1999 Rule V draft.

The Rule V draft is fascinating, as to be eligible for the Rule V draft, a player:

  • Is not included on the 40-man roster of the organization holding his contract; and
  • Either:
    • Has been in the minors and/or majors for at least four years, if he was signed after his 19th birthday; or
    • Has been in the minors and/or majors for at least five years, if he was signed before his 19th birthday.

In short, to hold onto Santana, all the Astros had to do was put him on the 40-man roster.  However, to hold onto Santana, the Twins were required to keep Santana on their major league roster for the 2000 entire season, something that is difficult to do when a young player has not played at a level even close to the majors.  The Twins, sensing the talent in Santana, kept him on the roster as the entire season as the long man and a spot starter, appearing in 30 games, pitching 86 innings with a 6.49 ERA.  In 2001, Santana served in a similar role, pitching 43.2 innings with a much-improved 4.74 ERA before straining his left elbow flexor and missing two months.

In 2002, Santana was to be turned back into a starter and opened the season in the minor leagues for the first time in two years, putting up a 3.14 ERA across 48.2 innings for the AAA Edmonton Trappers of the Pacific Coast League before being brought back to Minnesota.  Santana started to show his talent, putting up a 2.99 ERA in 27 games (14 start) for the Twins, striking out 137 and walking 49.

In 2003, Santana opened the season as a middle reliever for the Twins, putting up a 1.59 ERA in his first 11 appearances.  Santana made a spot start, going five innings against the high-powered offense of the Boston Red Sox, allowing no runs in five innings.  After seven more relief appearances with a 6.52 ERA, Santana became a starter for the duration of the season, putting up a sparkling 3.22 ERA across 92.1 innings, putting up an 8-2 record.  During the 2003 season, Santana put up a 3.07 ERA across 45 games (18 starts) while striking out 169 batters and walking 47 batters.  Despite the seemingly pedestrian statistics (though the 3.07 ERA was good for a 148 ERA+), Santana picked up one fifth-place Cy Young vote.

In 2004, Santana dominated, putting up a 2.61 ERA across 228 innings, striking out 265 with a 20-6 record.  Even more amazing was the second half of Santana’s season.  After putting up a 3.78 ERA in 19 starts across 123.2 innings, Santana overwhelmed opponents with a 1.21 ERA across 15 starts over 104.1 innings while averaging 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.  Even more amazing was Santana’s final six starts of the season, all in September.  Across 40 innings, Santana allowed only two runs (both earned), while striking out 52.  After the season, Santana was awarded the American League Cy Young award.

Over the next three years, Santana established himself as one of the most reliable and dominating pitchers in the major leagues, winning another Cy Young, coming in third place and fifth place one time each.  From 2004 through 2007, Santana put up a 70-32 record, striking out 983 while walking 198 and allowing 705 hits.  In 2005, Santana went 16-7 with a 2.87 ERA.  In 2006, Santana went 19-6 with a 2.77 ERA, striking out 245 to lead the league in strikeouts for the third consecutive season.  Additionally, Santana won the pitching triple crown, leading the American league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts.  In 2007, Santana seemed to take a step backwards, put up a 3.33 ERA across 219 innings and had his first WHIP higher than 1.000 since 2003.

After the season, the Twins, fearing Santana would leave as a free agent after his contract expired after 2008, looked for a team willing to give up multiple top prospects.   Rumors swirled around multiple large-market franchises, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, and New York Yankees.  The Yankees were rumored to be offering a number of packages involving different prospects, including Melky Cabrera, Phil Hughes, Jeffrey Marquez, Ian Kennedy, and Jhonny Nunez.  The Red Sox were dangling a number of packages as well, including packages that included a combination of Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester,  Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, and veteran Coco Crisp.  The Dodgers were dangling packages involving prospects Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, who was viewed as the best pitching prospect at the time.

While the Mets were rumored to be involved, they refused to part with top prospect Fernando Martinez, thereby significantly decreasing the possibility they would acquire the ace.  In the end, the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers were unable to acquire Santana and it was the dark-horse Mets who acquired Santana for Deolis Guerra, Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber, and Kevin Mulvey.

The Mets, fresh off one of the largest collapses in baseball history (at that point, possibly only eclipsed by the 2004 Yankees in the ALCS and the 1964 Phillies), needed to acquire another arm and make a splash.  Without giving up their top prospect, Fernando Martinez (#20 in Baseball America), the Mets were able to acquire one of the best pitchers in the game.  In the deal, the Mets paid a high price, as Deolis Guerra (#35 in Baseball America) was fresh off a season in High A St. Lucie as an 18-year old, an age most people are finishing up High School, Carlos Gomez (#52 in Baseball America, after being #60 in the previous year) showed significant upside in his brief trial with the Mets, Humber struggled in AAA after being the #3 overall pick in 2004, and Mulvey showed a lot of promise in AA after being a second round pick in 2006.  In short, while the Mets did not give up their top prospect, they gave up a lot of talent to acquire Santana.

In 2008, Santana did not disappoint.  Leading the National League with 34 starts, 234.1 innings, and 964 batters faced, Santana put up a 2.53 ERA and capped the season with one of his best starts of the season in the 161st game of the season, a sparkling 117-pitch complete game shutout, allowing three hits and walking three more, striking out nine against the Florida Marlins.  Unfortunately, the Mets struggled to complete the season yet again, missing out on the playoffs in the final day.  After the season, Santana had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee.

In 2009, Santana pitched well, putting up a 3.13 ERA across 25 starts before being shut down in late August due to bone chips in his throwing shoulder after the Mets fell out of contention.  Santana would return in 2010, putting up a 2.98 ERA in 29 starts across 199 innings before being shut down in September due to an Anterior Capsule Tear.  A capsule is a soft tissue envelope that helps to attach to the scapula, humerus, and the head of the bicep.  Due to this injury, Santana missed nearly the entire 2011 season, only making two appearances at High A St. Lucie.

In 2012, Santana returned with a vengeance, striking out 68 in 68 innings, and leading the National League with 11 starts and two complete game shutouts, including the no hitter on June 1, the first in Mets history – 8,020 games.

After the game, Santana addressed the Mets, saying, “[t]onight we all made history, that’s all that matters.  I give it to you guys, because you guys made it happen.”  Santana’s game was amazing for a number of reasons, it was the first time he had fewer than three hits in a complete game and the most pitches he ever threw in one game, with his 134 pitches amounting to nine more than he had ever thrown in a professional baseball game.

By sheer coincidence (or was it?), the next day I attended a Baseball Prospectus event at CitiField where I, along with a number of other baseball fans, had the opportunity to hear a number of baseball writers including Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks and Ben Lindbergh; BP and’s Jay Jaffe; and’s Corey Schwartz.  Additionally, there was a 30-minute question and answer session with Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson.  Alderson opened by discussing Santana’s outing, discussing Manager Terry Collins’ decision to allow Santana to throw 134 pitches despite only recently coming back from shoulder surgery.  Alderson, while showing a clear preference for not allowing Santana to throw 134 pitches, commented that “probabilities, mathematics take a back seat to emotion,” showing his support for Collins’ decision.

In the end, Santana’s no hitter, the first in Mets’ history, was something that he will remember for years and so will a great a number of Mets, former teammates, and sports fans.  But the best comment is from Johan Santana himself:

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.


Post Hype Prospect – Bobby Abreu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.


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