Archive for June 21st, 2008

The Huntsville Eight

(Earlier this week, one of our readers, a friend and fellow blogger, contacted me to ask about doing a guest post about one of the minor league affiliates of his beloved Milwaukee Brewers.  Since Huntsville clearly falls under the Bus Leagues umbrella, and Andrew is already a friend of the blog, saying “yes” was easy.

Reader contributions are always welcome.  To inquire about the possibility of doing a guest post, contact us at or

Hi, I’m Andrew. I was the one who brought you fine folks at Bus Leagues Baseball to the attention of the Wonder Mat(t)’s. But did you know that’s not all? It’s true!

For one thing, I’m one of the dudes at The Grand National Championships. But that’s neither here nor there, I’m just saying it to stroke my ego. Did you know that the Huntsville Stars have 8 prospects with Major League capability? And why I’m here is to bring them to you.

(Stats as of 6/20)

1. Mat Gamel (3B)
.367 14 HR 62 RBI .431 OBP .622 SLG

You know it’s rare to have a dude hitting .370 and not be within sniffing distance of a AAA promotion.* But Mat Gamel is just that man. His defense was so shaky last season that he seriously thought of quitting. Not to say that a .906 Fielding percentage is something that engenders confidence in his long term ability to third base? But it is a marked improvement over his 2007 at the hot corner. At 22, his bat is ready now, he just needs to consolidate his defensive gains. We’ll see him in September.

2. Matt LaPorta (RF)
.297 19 HR 58 RBI .411 OBP .610 SLG

Gamel may be the more complete hitter, but LaPorta has the power bat. His college experience has been able to get him from Gator Nation to the dominating Double-A level in 12 months. He is still raw on defense, but he’s improving rapidly. He’ll end up moving from right field, but he’s been more than worthy of his First Round hype. He’ll be in Milwaukee in September. 

3. Alcides Escobar (SS)
.333 6 HR 43 RBI .368 OBP .448 SLG 19 SB

Here’s where some intrigue is developing. Escobar is a vacuum-cleaner at shortstop, and his 19 steals come with 79% success rate. But he is developing power to the gaps (18 XBH compared to 21 last season)and nascent plate discipline (18 walks in comparison to 21). As a 21 year-old in AA? That’s just awesome. If he keeps improving on his plate discipline, he’ll be in Milwaukee sometime in 2009.

4. Angel Salome (C)
.349 7 HR 46 RBI .405 OBP .548 SLG

Coming off a 50-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs, the power of the 5’7″ Salome was called into question. But as his 2008 statistics show? His gap power is legitimate. His defense is good in terms of the fundamentals, but he needs to improve the technical aspects on defense and he will never walk or strike out very often. He’ll displace Kendall sometime in 2009, but he’s engaged now. Sorry ladies.

5. Michael Brantley (CF)
.319 4 HR 32 RBI .400 OBP .409 SLG 19 SB

He 21-year old Florida native posesses the best plate discipline in the Brewers organization and is just a touch below Escobar in the wheels department. He has no power, and he is a tweener. (Defensively, he is best suited for left field or first base.) He’s got a Juan Pierre game with plate disipline.

6. Cole Gillespie (LF)
.272 9 HR 45 RBI .375 OBP .484 SLG

The Oregon State alumnus is somebody who plays above his tools. He has doubles power, excellent plate discipline, and excellent baserunning judgement for someone with average speed. His defense is solid and his arm is accurate as well. But with Braun locked up, the Kentucky Ninja Corey Hart being awesome, and LaPorta as the heir apparent? The 24 year-old Gillespie may be more trade bait than anything. 

7. Steven Hammond (LHSP)
7-4, 3.45 ERA, 88 2/3 IP, 33 BB, 78 SO

For a 26 year-old Long Beach State alumnus who is repeating a level for the second time, the veracity of his prospectdom may not be exactly the most sound. He has a deceptive devilvery which enhances an average fastball that touches 91. He’ll challenge hitters and keep the ball down, but as the walk total shows? He does lose his command. He may never be one of the top Brewer prospects, but he will get starts.

8. Omar Aguilar (Closer)
0-1 4.00 ERA 3 SV 9 IP 6 BB 7 SO

A recent promotion to AA has many in the Brewers organization excited. Aguilar was destroying Brevard County to the tune of 13 hits and 1 earned run allowed in 25 and 2/3 IP, and he can generate excellent velocity on his fastball, though his command is shaky. The stocky (5’11”, 227) native of Merced, California is currently off to a slow start, but the Brewers want a Joakim Soria for their very own.

Honorable Mention: Chris Errecart (1B)
.271 11 HR 28 RBI .343 OBP .510 SLG

An excellent power hitter, Errecart can play tag with the leftfield fence when he makes contact. But his plate discipline is marginal, and 64 strikeouts in 210 at bats is a scary proposition for the 23 year-old. Though I would not count him out, he has overcome back problems, and his power is real. Nevertheless, of all those who could be inflated from the awesome that is Hunstville?  Errecart would be the most logical choice.

I give you nine prospects, from the top of the pops to the next Ryan Garko. But that’s not the amazing thing. The amazing thing is that with all this talent? All the stars and studs in Huntsville?

They didn’t win the Division.


Two Pitching Arms Are Better Than One

When I was a kid, the Red Sox had a pitcher named Greg Harris. Harris came to Boston in his mid-30s after being claimed off waivers and spent six seasons with the team, pitching mostly out of the bullpen. In 1992-93, he appeared in 150 games (148 in relief) for Sox teams that finished 73-89 and 80-82, respectively.

Harris’ claim to fame, aside from being a decent jack-of-all-trades, was his ability to pitch with both arms, a skill he put to use once at the major league level, in his second-to-last appearance.  From the Bullpen:

…Harris found himself pitching for the Expos in the last season of his career, and on September 28, 1995, against the Cincinnati Reds, he fullfilled his career-long ambition of pitching ambidexterously, respectively walking and retiring the two batters he faced as a southpaw, in between beginning and ending the inning, and with it the game, as a right-hander. It is conceivable that a progressive manager or organization might someday make use of a pitcher like Harris, as being a switch-pitcher would allow the pitcher to always have the platoon advantage and also render bullpen usage less wasteful.

On Thursday night, Greg Harris V2.0 made an appearance in Brooklyn.

Pat Venditte, an ambidextrous pitcher out of Creighton, debuted for the Staten Island Yankees in the ninth inning of a game against the Brooklyn Cyclones.  Charged with protecting a 7-2 lead, Venditte retired the first two batters he faced before allowing the third man to reach.  The seemingly inconsequential safety produced an interesting situation: the fourth batter, Ralph Henriquez, is a switch-hitter:

Henriquez had been swinging left-handed in the on-deck circle, so Venditte switched his glove to his right hand in order to face the 21-year-old backstop. Seeing this, Henriquez instead came to the plate batting from the right side. So, Venditte switched his glove back to his left hand. Henriquez then decided to bat lefty, and Venditte switched his glove yet again.

And on and on it went. This rather absurd (and highly amusing) game of chicken ultimately led to a prolonged conference between the umpires and coaching staffs of both teams. After much debate, Manriquez [sic] was made to bat right-handed against Venditte throwing right-handed. Manriquez [sic] then struck out on three pitches to end the game.

I don’t know what’s better: that neither Venditte nor Henriquez refused to back down or that the umpires clearly had no clue what to do in this situation.  (Also: Manriquez?)  Greg Harris never had to put up with this crap. 

It doesn’t matter how good or bad this kid is: he needs to pitch in the major leagues someday.  Yes, Pat Venditte currently has one professional appearance to his credit, and I am already willing to go on record as saying that I will be extremely disappointed if he does not reach The Show.  Just one game.  Just one inning.  Just one batter (as long as it’s a switch-hitter).  That’s all I’m asking.

(Tip o’ the cap to Ump Bump, the first place I saw the story, and Deadspin, for the video)

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