Archive for April, 2008

Getting DFAed Is Not Fun

The Boston Red Sox designated reliever Bryan Corey for assignment yesterday, the second time they have done so this season.  The Boston Globe’s Gordon Edes had a very good column on Corey today, reminding us that there is still a significant caste system in Major League Baseball:

Feel sorry for him? That’s the last thing he would want. A little understanding, maybe, that there’s a huge difference between the big-league life lived by Manny and Papi and ‘Tek and Schill, and the one lived by Bryan Corey and the many like him inhabiting the periphery of the game, here one day, a line of small type in the newspaper the next.

“We’re not all millionaires,” he said the other morning in Tropicana Field. “I have a nice life, a comfortable life – well, somewhat comfortable.”

Corey strikes me as a 4A player, a guy who is plenty good enough for the highest levels of the minor leagues but never quite manages to stick in the majors for very long, for whatever reason.  (Curtis Pride was a 4A-type player.)  This season, he has a 10.50 ERA in seven games (six innings), largely due to a couple of terrible outings prior to his first DFA.  He has only pitched once since then, on April 25, and struggled with his control.

Given Boston’s bullpen issues thus far, there’s a good chance that Corey will be back with the team soon (assuming he clears waivers and isn’t traded and all that good stuff).

Spotlight on AA Ball: 4/30/2008

I like that the Erie Seawolves (Tigers) have a reading program for kids. At first I thought that it was aiming a bit low, only asking kids to read three books between April and September to earn game tickets, but then I realized there were no restrictions on how many times a kid could come back for more. Plus, the mascot C. Wolf is kind of cool. []

When the Altoona Curve (Pirates) pay tribute to working implements, also known as “tools”, they’re going to honor football coach Nick Saban as a Tool with a capital “T”. Now that’s funny. []

The West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx (Mariners) have a LOT of rules at Pringles Park. If I were you, I wouldn’t collect $200 without passing Go, either. []

I always enjoy the Hawaiians in baseball. Meet Micah Kila Kaaihue of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Royals). He’s only hitting .225, but he’s blasted six homers already. []

And, since I blew off Monday’s A-ball news to write my final school paper ever, I’ll throw in the story of the Quad Cities River Bandits (Cardinals) and their battle with the Big Muddy… the Old Man… the Mighty Mississip… []

Indy Spotlight – The Ballparks

Minor league ballparks have always been a source of fascination for me.  One of the most interesting things about working for the Nashua Pride (how many more mentions can I make of that job before the hate mail starts rolling in?) was “Historic” Holman Stadium, a city-owned ballpark that played host to a number of amateur activities (including, for many years, high school football) as well as the various professional baseball teams that rolled through the area over the years. 

Holman Stadium was, by far, the oldest ballpark in the Atlantic League; I’m fairly certain that the league’s six other venues were all built in 1998 or later.  But one thing that I always liked about Holman, and this may just be the home team bias talking, was the history that had taken place there.  It was the place where Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe had played in 1946, to become the first black ballplayers to see action for a professional team based in the United States.  Sure, the layout is terrible – the field of play isn’t visible from the main concourse, for example, so on a busy night, you could go for a hot dog and miss three innings – but there was, and still is, a certain charm to the place. 

But don’t take my word for it.  I still get all misty when I visit Fenway Park.

There are 62 independent teams in action this season, 61 of which have home stadiums.  Wikipedia lists the cost information for 20 stadiums, the year opened for 55 stadiums, and the capacity for 60 stadiums.  Using that, I put together a few lists – oldest and youngest ballparks, biggest ballparks, most expensive, yadda yadda yadda.  It’s interesting stuff, but take it with a grain of salt.  For one, the information is from Wikipedia, and two, the listed capacities aren’t always accurate.  For instance, Lancaster’s Clipper Magazine Stadium is noted as having a capacity of up to 7,500.  On Opening Night, however, they set an Atlantic League record by packing 8,485 fans into the place.  Obviously, there’s a slight difference there, probably due to standing room, but still – grain of salt.

Five Oldest Independent Ballparks
Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field (Worcester Tornadoes, Can-Am League) – Opened in 1905
Bosse Field (Evansville Otters, Frontier League) – Opened in 1915
Bringhurst Field (Alexandria Aces, United League) – Opened in 1933
Lawrence-Dumont Stadium (Wichita Wingnuts, American Association) – Opened in 1934
Holman Stadium (Nashua Pride, Can-Am League) – Opened in 1937

Four Newest Independent Ballparks
QuikTrip Park at Grand Prairie (Grand Prairie AirHogs, American Association) – 2008
Regency Furniture Stadium (Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, Atlantic League) – 2008
Sovereign Bank Stadium (York Revolution, Atlantic League) – 2007
Rent One Park (Southern Illinois Miners, Frontier League) – 2007

Five Most Expensive Independent League Ballparks
U.S. Steel Yard (Gary SouthShore RailCats, Northern League) – $45 million
Sovereign Bank Stadium (York Revolution, Atlantic League) – $32.5 million
Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium (Newark Bears, Atlantic League) – $30 million
Haymarket Park (Lincoln Saltdogs, American Association) – $29.53 million
Silver Cross Field (Joliet JackHammers, Northern League) – $27 million

Five Largest Independent League Ballparks (in terms of capacity)
Desert Sun Stadium (Yuma Scorpions, Golden Baseball League) – 10,500
Ottawa Stadium (Ottawa Rapids, Can-Am League) – 10,332
Telus Field (Edmonton Cracker-Cats, Golden Baseball League) – 10,000
Cohen Stadium (El Paso Diablos, American Association) – 9,725
Haymarket Park (Lincoln Saltdogs, American Association) – 8,500

Oldest Average Ballpark Age By League
United League Baseball – 41.4 years
Can-Am League – 37.375 years
Golden Baseball League – 30 years
American Association – 26.2 years
Frontier League – 21 years
Northern League – 7.83 years
Atlantic League – 5.875 years
Continental Baseball League – 5.5 years

Largest Average Capacity By League
Northern League – 6,078
American Association – 5,833
Atlantic League – 5,678
Golden Baseball League – 5,367
Can-Am League – 4,866
United League Baseball – 4,840
Frontier League – 4,647
Continental Baseball League – 2,107

Now Pitching, For The Arizona Diamondbacks…

The time is coming, minor league baseball fans, when prospects will clamor – yes, CLAMOR! – to be included on Extra P’s Z-Meter.  In the past two weeks alone, Evan Longoria and Luke Hochevar earned call-ups to the major league team (and Longoria was immediately rewarded with a big new contract.  See, the Z-Meter can, in fact, bring you the Coin (pronounced “Kwan”, possibly spelled “quoin”.  Somebody get Rod Tidwell on the line!)). 

When Extra P added Hochevar, he also added Diamondbacks pitching prospect Max Scherzer and labeled him, “a story worth investigating.”  Well, he’s gonna be investigating him all the way up Phoenix, because Scherzer and his filthy stuff (4 games, 23 innings, 38 strikeouts, 3 walks) were called up by the Diamondbacks today.  Seriously, his K-BB ratio was just shade under 13-1.  That is not a misprint, unless Baseball-Reference is lying to me.  (He was about 2.5-1 last year, his first as a professional, which seems slightly more realistic.)

According to Bugs & Cranks, which alerted me to this story, the 23-year-old Scherzer will pitch out of the bullpen for the first place Diamondbacks.  For that reason, it’s hard to say when he might make his major league debut; if I were a betting man, I’d say he has a good chance of pitching against the Astros, who are in town through Wednesday.

Previous “Now Batting”: Evan Longoria (Rays); Jed Lowrie (Red Sox)
Previous “Now Pitching”: Justin Masterson (Red Sox); Luke Hochevar (Royals)

How Good Will Jay Bruce Be?

As he does every so often, Minor League Ball’s John Sickels has put together a “Crystal Ball” on a prospect.  The focus this time around: future Cincinnati Red and current Bus Leagues man-crush Jay Bruce.

John has Bruce getting the call this year and not doing much, then improving over the next several seasons until hitting his peak from ages 26 to 34.

I won’t give away too much; if you want to see one man’s idea of what Bruce will do with his career (I will say this: if his Crystal Ball is even close, Bruce should be fun to watch over the next two decades), head on over and take a look.

Welcome Back, Francisco

It’s official: The Cisco Kid, Francisco Liriano, is returning to the Bus Leagues.

Liriano was sent to Triple-A Rochester before Friday night’s game at Texas, and it was not a surprise. He gave up six runs and got only two outs on Thursday against Oakland, his latest failure to find the strike zone in a return from reconstructive elbow surgery.

“He knew he needed to improve. It wasn’t a shocker to him,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He saw where he was at and he knows he’s got work to do. Maybe he can clear his head, get after it down there and get back up here.”

Eleven days was all it took for the Twins to realize that Liriano was not progressing as well as they had hoped following his 2006 elbow surgery.  He failed to work more than five innings in any of his three starts, capped by an awful outing on Thursday: 2/3 of an inning, six runs, five hits, three walks, no strikeouts.  For the season, half of the batters he has faced (28-of-56) have reached base via hit or walk.  His ERA+ stands at 37.

As seen above, Minnesota’s management doesn’t seem to feel that this is a physical problem, but a mental one.  In all likelihood, Liriano is just having some trouble shaking off the rust that accumulates during a lengthy rehab such as the one he endured in 2007.  It takes some time to get everything working in concert again, including the physical AND mental approach.  In Rochester, he’ll have the opportunity to figure it all out.

It’s Never Too Late To Learn A Knuckleball

It’s embarassing, really, to be one of the writers for a blog about minor league baseball – a writer who has taken it upon himself to follow the numerous independent leagues this season – and to realize after checking your RSS feed that you have been beaten to the punch (by seven hours) on a pretty cool little story.  Damn you, Will Leitch!

Here’s the deal: the American Association’s St. Paul Saints, an organization that is presided over by the legendary Mike Veeck (of the legendary Baseball Veecks), planned on holding two days of open tryouts this week.  Mother Nature did not approve of the schedule ahead of time, however, and both days ended up being cancelled. 

This might have been enough to convince most people that it just wasn’t their day and they should consider postponing the dream until the next time the Saints offered such an opportunity.  Not Jon Secrist, a 53-year-old knuckleballer who appeared in a couple games for the Saints nine years ago and who would not be denied on this day.  He threw for the manager, George Tsamis, and was rewarded with an invitation to spring training.  26 players will be in camp for the Saints, two of which will be cut before the start of the season.  Two more will be let go after the first week, when the team must drop down to its in-season limit of 22.

What we have here is a walking, breathing example of what makes the independent leagues so great.  Only in that environment can a guy who is two years away from earning the senior discount at McDonald’s walk onto the field and impress the coaching staff enough to receive even a chance at making the team.  It’s not happening in Pawtucket, or Greenville, or Albuquerque.  But in St. Paul?  “We like the way you throw and you’re a great story.  Come on down to spring training and we’ll see what happens.”  You’ve gotta admit, that’s pretty cool.

Photo: St. Paul Saints

AAA Spotlight: Rehab Start Edition 4/25/2008

We started this blog right at the end of the season last year, so we didn’t have a lot of posts before we went into hibernation. But one that did attract attention was a post about the new Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (Phillies), who opened play this season. The nickname alone is noteworthy, but as I perused the roster, I found something even better – it turns out Kris Benson is an Iron Pig. My favorite part of his official bio is this offhand remark: “Married, wife’s name is Anna”. I wonder if the offer to sleep with all of his teammates if/when Kris cheats still applies in triple-A? [Iron Pigs Baseball]

And, speaking of washed up, Mike Hampton will be coming to Richmond (Braves) soon, trying to make his way back to the parent club. []

And, the Red Sox hope Bartolo Colon will be ready to play for the Pawtucket club on Cinco de Mayo. I can’t decide if that’s racist or not. []

Tony Gwynn, Jr. just got back from Nashville, and he’s not havin’ it. “You get a taste of this, and then you go back down there and realize why you don’t want to go back down there,” Gwynn said. “It’s the big leagues! It’s kind of self explanatory.” Hey! Some of us like it down here. []

And, you’ve already read OMDQ’s ode to Curtis Granderson, and his advice for Scott Kazmir, who both spent some time slumming it with the rest of us this past week.

That’s it! See you next week!

Now Pitching, For The Boston Red Sox…

Question: How do you turn Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Jon Lester into David Pauley, Jon Lester, and Justin Masterson?

Answer: Influenza

With a flu mini-epidemic tearing through the Red Sox clubhouse, the team turned today to yet another youngster, 23-year-old righthander Justin Masterson.  Boston’s second-round pick in the 2006 amateur draft, Masterson was brought up from AA Portland to make the start originally scheduled for Lester, who had actually pitched the night before on three days rest when Matsuzaka was too sick to go.

Masterson made his major league debut this afternoon, limiting the Los Angeles Angels to one run on two hits in six innings.  He struggled with his control a bit, walking four, but also struck out four.  The only run came on a fifth inning homerun by catcher Mike Napoli. 

He departed with a 3-1 lead and was in line to pick up the win before the bullpen trio of Javier Lopez, Manny Delcarmen, and Hideki Okajima combined to allow four runs in the seventh (somehow, Okajima’s ERA emerged from the mess unscathed).

If I’m not mistaken, this means that every player the Red Sox offered to Minnesota in exchange for Johan Santana has seen action at Fenway Park this season (with the possible exception of Michael Bowden – I don’t remember if his name came up in the trade talks).  Masterson, Ellsbury, Lowrie, Lester, Crisp, Buchholz – am I leaving anyone out?  More importantly, all of those players have shown at least flashes of brilliance, helping Sox fans to understand why, exactly, Theo Epstein was so reluctant to part with them, even for a talent as transcendent as Santana’s.

(Thanks to YFSF for the tip on Masterson’s start)

The Z-Meter – 4/24/2008

The Z-meter tracks the story arcs of 25 top prospects (or players we just like) on their way to the bigs. It is named after current Washington Nationals star Ryan Zimmerman, who made the transition from anchoring the University of Virginia to starring in MLB in one year.


Evan Longoria, 3B, Durham (AAA) to Tampa Bay Rays (MLB)
Luke Hochevar, RHP, Omaha (AAA) to Kansas City Royals (MLB)

Travis Snider, OF, Dunedin (A-Advanced) to New Hampshire (AA)

Josh Vitters, 3B, Boise (Short A) to Peoria (A)

Last week, I added Max Scherzer and Luke Hochevar to get a little more pitching representation on the Z-meter. Hochevar was promptly called up, and I’m going to try to maintain the balance we’ve established by turning to our search terms. WordPress provides many little gadgets to help writers figure out what readers are reading most, and one of those is a rundown of search terms that bring readers to specific posts. Well, one of our three most popular search terms is “Eric Niesen“, a pitcher I wrote about briefly because his A-Advanced start was put on hold so El Duque could make a rehab start at St. Lucie (Mets). Well, the Wake Forest product seems to be drawing interest for other reasons, and that’s enough for me to put him in my rotation. Welcome, Eric!

I also added Luke Montz of Harrisburg after reading about his stellar play behind the plate for the Harrisburg Senators. Welcome, Luke!

Let’s see who’s hot this week:

The top level. These prospects are in AAA in the prime of their youth, and ready for the call that will change their lives.

Jay Bruce, CF – Louisville Bats (Reds): .319 – 10R – 3HR – 12RBI – 4SB – .536 SLG – .879 OPS

Homer Bailey, RHP – Louisville Bats (Reds): 4GS – 3W – 1L – 1.03 ERA – 4BB – 16K

Andrew McCutchen, CF – Indianapolis Indians (Pirates): .282 – 15R – 4HR – 10RBI – 4SB – .549 SLG – .927 OPS

Carlos Gonzalez, RF – Sacramento River Cats (Athletics): .348 – 11R – 3HR – 9RBI – 0SB – .522 SLG – .930 OPS

Ian Stewart, 3B – Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Rockies): .323 – 17R – 5HR – 20RBI – 2SB – .662 SLG – 1.062 OPS

Joe Koshansky, 1B – Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Rockies): .322 – 15R – 4HR – 12RBI – 0SB – .661 SLG – 1.113 OPS

Colby Rasmus, OF – Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals): .222 – 12R – 3HR – 10RBI – 2SB – .358 SLG – .5677 OPS

Max Scherzer, RHP – Tucson Sidewinders (Diamondbacks): 4GS – 0W – 0L – 1.17 ERA – 3BB – 38K

These guys also have the potential to skip straight to the majors, but are more likely to get promoted to the top of this meter first.

Clayton Kershaw, LHP – Jacksonville Suns (Dodgers): 4GS – 0W – 3L – 1.83 ERA – 8BB – 23K

Fernando Martinez, CF – Binghamton Mets (Mets): .262 – 12R – 1HR – 6RBI – 1SB – .381 SLG – .678 OPS

Jacob McGee, LHP – Montgomery Biscuits (Rays): 3GS – 1W – 1L – 2.77 ERA – 7BB – 16K

Cameron Maybin, CF – Carolina Mudcats (Marlins): .286 – 11R – 3HR – 7RBI – 3SB – .492 SLG – .908 OPS

Lars Anderson, 1B – Lancaster JetHawks (Red Sox): .265 – 16R – 3HR – 9RBI – 0SB – .471 SLG – .838 OPS

Wade Davis, RHP – Montgomery Biscuits (Rays): 4GS – 2W – 1L – 4.09 ERA – 8BB – 11K

Elvis Andrus, SS – Frisco RoughRiders (Rangers): .286 – 8R – 0HR – 9RBI – 3BB – 5SB – .325 SLG – .654 OPS

Jeff Samardzija, P – Tennessee Smokies (Cubs): 4GS – 2W – 1L – 2.35 ERA – 6BB – 11K

Luke Montz, C – Harrisburg Senators (Nationals): .400 – 5R – 3HR – 13RBI – 4BB – 0SB – .675 SLG – 1.130 OPS

Travis Snider, RF – Dunedin Blue Jays (Blue Jays): .125 – 1R – 0HR – 5RBI – 0SB – .125 SLG – .347 OPS

These guys have vast potential but need to work out some kinks in A-ball before they can advance.

David Price, LHP – (Rays): No 2008 Stats

Rick Porcello, RHP – Lakeland Tigers (Detroit): 4GS – 1W – 3L – 1.35 ERA – 5BB – 16K

Josh Vitters, 3B – Peoria Chiefs (Cubs): .214 – 1R – 0HR – 1RBI – 0BB – 0SB – .429 SLG – .643 OPS

Matt Wieters, C – Frederick Keys (Orioles): .400 – 11R – 4HR – 13RBI – 10BB – 1SB – .700 SLG – 1.5184 OPS

Mike Moustakas, SS – Burlington Bees (Royals): .204 – 3R – 0HR – 1RBI – 1SB – .204 SLG – .475 OPS

Eric Niesen, P – St. Lucie Mets (Mets): 3GS – 0W – 1L – 4.50 ERA – 9BB – 12K

Prospects chosen from Diamond Cutter’s Top 25, Baseball America, and my own irrational sense of whimsy.