Archive for the ‘Prospects’ Category

The Z-Meter: Your Votes are In!

oaklandchriscarterI recently asked readers to help fill in the last few slots on the Z-Meter, and you obliged. I carry 25 minor-leaguers on the meter at any given time, and keep track of their movements throughout the system, until they finally hit the majors. I kept nineteen names from last year, so I needed six more. Here are the results of your ballot-stuffing:

1. 18% Chris Carter, IF/OF, Athletics
2. 16% Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Indians
3. 13% Jason Heyward, OF, Braves
4. 12% Jennry Mejia, RHP, Mets
5. 12% Kentrail Davis, OF, Brewers
6. 6% Jurickson Profar, SS, Rangers

And the rest:

4%: Brian Matusz, LHP, Orioles; Eric Young, Jr., OF, Rockies
3%: Dustin Ackley, 1B, Mariners; Aaron Hicks, OF, Twins; Tyler Flowers, C, White Sox
1%: Starlin Castro, SS, Cubs; Michael Ynoa, RHP, Athletics; Jarrod Parker, RHP, Diamondbacks; Ryan Kalish, OF, Red Sox

Eight other players received no votes, so let’s not call them out and embarrass them.

We’ll add them to the list of players I felt had potential to continue growing from last season:

AAA
Austin Jackson, Detroit
Justin Smoak, Oklahoma City Redhawks
Travis Wood, Louisville Bats

AA
Lars Anderson, Portland SeaDogs
Madison Bumgarner, Richmond Flying Squirrels
Carlos Santana, Akron Aeros
Andrew Locke, Corpus Christi Hooks
Kyle Drabek, Reading Phillies
Pedro Alvarez, Altoona Curve

A
Ian Gac, Bakersfield
Mike Moustakas, Wilmington
Che-Hsuan Lin, Salem Red Sox
Collin Cowgill, Visalia Rawhide
Tim Beckham, Bowling Green Hot Rods
Zeke Spruill, Rome Braves
Brad Brach, Ft. Wayne TinCaps
Jamie Owen, High Desert Mavericks
Stephen Strasburgh, Nats

It’s been suggested that I keep the non-roster spot for a college player we admire, like we did with Strasburg last season, but I’m starting to feel like that might make for a separate post each week, rather than an addendum to the Meter.

Thanks for voting!

Advertisements

Seeing Strasburg and Paying the Cost

Sorry I am little late in writing this, but did you know The Battle of New Orleans took place two weeks after The War of 1812 ended?

What do you mean, that was 200 years ago?

Last Sunday on a gorgeous day in sunny Viera, Florida, I saw “The Next BIG Thing” Stephen Strasburg make his second spring start as the Nationals squared off against the St. Louis Cardinals. I was impressed as were the Cardinals.

To be honest, I was a bit surprised by Strasburg’s wind-up. Having never seen him pitch before, I pictured him as more of a straight up and down, standing tall pitcher – a la Mark Prior – but his wind-up reminded me a bit of David Cone, except with only one arm angle.

Unfortunately, the Capital City Messiah only pitched three innings. Then the Nationals featured a litany of has-beens, never-will-bes, and future insurance salesmen. The only names I recognized were Livan Hernandez and Ron Villone.

Of course, the Nationals lost.

Fortunately for me, I didn’t mind. As cliche as this sounds, I was there to have a good time. I met up with fellow BusLeagues writer Will, made friends with the Nats Tiki, heckled Mitchell Boggs of the Cardinals, saw former Mets manager Davey Johnson (now working with the Nationals in some capacity), bought a cheeseburger, almost met Mark Zuckerman of NatsInsider.com, talked blues with a random stranger, and saw people wearing some awesome jerseys, to include a Don Drysdale, an Ozzie Smith, a George Foster, a Johnny Bench, and one that just said “Funk”.

Unfortunately (yes, again), my day at the ballpark almost didn’t happen. Even though I was told there were plenty of seats inside Space Coast Stadium, there were no tickets being sold outside the ballpark.

That’s right, it was a sell-out.

Thank you, Mr. Strasburg.

Fortunately (again), I found someone scalping a ticket. 30 bucks for a 17 dollar seat! For a spring training game! Where the main attraction is only in 1/6 of the action!

I am seeing this more and more every spring. When I was a kid growing up in Central Florida, I used to be able to go to the ballpark right before a game and buy a seat in the bleachers for less than 10 bucks. Now the only team you can do that with is the Pirates.

I know it makes me seem old and crotchety, and maybe I am, but I miss those spring training days. Before teams realized they could capitalize on spring match-ups. Before tickets were 30 dollars each (as they are to see the Yankees).

Before the dark times. Before The Empire.

Jason Heyward is a Whole Lot of Awesome

As you might have noticed, we’re typically a little slow to unfold from the winter-long hibernation here at Bus Leagues. This is our third spring, and the routine is almost always the same: finish the season strong, fade away to virtually nothing from October to February, start working out the kinks in March, and really start firing on all cylinders in April. Just like the players, we need a little bit of spring training to get ourselves back in the groove.

I bring this up because it is the best explanation for our ignorance to-date of Braves minor leaguer Jason Heyward. Heyward is Baseball America’s top-ranked preseason prospect, although you wouldn’t know it from the way we (and, in fairness, everyone else) wax poetic about Stephen Strasburg. Not that there’s anything wrong with Strasburg – it’s just that Heyward is pretty darn good too.

In fact, here are three good reasons to keep an eye out for Heyward this season (besides the fact that Baseball America – and pretty much the rest of the baseball world – has already proclaimed his excellence):

  • He Tweets – Not only does Heyward have a Twitter account, he’s active on it, taking time to answer questions from his 3,000+ followers.  That’s where I found out that he prefers oatmeal raisin cookies to chocolate chip (BLASPHEMER!) and grew up a Yankee fan (…).
  • He Has Already Drawn Favorable ComparisonsBobby Cox is 68 years old, 69 in May.  He’s been around baseball, and the Braves, for more than fifty years.  So while his statement that the sound of Heyward’s line drives is “kind of like ol’ Hank Aaron’s sound” might initially be taken as an off-the-cuff utterance of a grandfatherly old man, it also has to be considered as the wisdom of a guy who has seen a lot of good players in his day.  Oh, who am I kidding – it was a completely crazy thing to say.  All it does is make the public’s expectations of Heyward even more unreasonable.
  • He Destroys Stuff – Earlier this spring, Heyward’s bombs to right dented cars and smashed windshields in a parking lot used by Atlanta’s front office, requiring a net be put up for protection.  Once you get past the fact that these people continued to park there – maybe someone familiar with the Braves’ spring training facilities could shed some light on that, because I find it hard to believe that there was NOWHERE else to park safely – you realize how awesome it is: a 20-year-old kid consistently hitting the ball 450 feet.

So yeah, Heyward is good.  And truth be told, all of this got me thinking.  Two years ago, we had a contest and gave Jay Bruce (the consensus number one prospect at the time) a nickname.  Shouldn’t we do the same for Heyward?  (I know what you’re thinking – what about Matt Wieters?  Unfortunately, Wieters appears destined to go the way of the 1904 World Series – he loses out because the powers that be couldn’t get their crap together.)

I tossed the idea around Bus Leagues headquarters, where it was well received (not a surprise, really; giving people stupid nicknames is one of our raisons d’etre).  A few ideas were tossed around – Hank; the J-Hey Kid; at one point, Pookie was mentioned (I think Eric might’ve been drinking) – but nothing definite.  So what we can do is backburner this for the moment.  It’s only early March, no need to rush things.  If you, the reader, happens to think of one that works, leave a comment or email us.  Pay it forward.  And when we have a few, we’ll figure out some way to pick the best one.

But rest assured, Jason Heyward will be awesome.  And he will be awesomely nicknamed.  This is fact.

Where Will Strasburg Start The 2010 Season?

Stephen Strasburg is gonna rock some lucky fan base’s world in 2010.  The question is, where?

Tuesday morning, Nats manager Jim Riggleman “strongly hinted” that Strasburg would spend some time riding the buses in ye olde minor leagues to begin the season, the reason being that live game action against Double- or Triple-A hitters will provide a better overall measure of the phenom’s performance than a few spring training outings against major leaguers.

Tuesday evening, of course, Riggleman “definitely didn’t rule out” the idea of Strasburg in a Natinals uniform on Opening Day.  So really, nobody knows what the hell is going to happen.

That leaves me with only one option: to assume that if Strasburg starts off in the minors, it will be in either Syracuse or Harrisburg, and to figure out when those teams might be coming to a ballpark near me.  Because obviously, the main objective is to see this kid throw in person.

I looked at the road trips for each of those two teams, but first the lightning in a bottle scenario: my second annual baseball road trip takes me through Washington in early June, either the fourth or the fifth, when the Nationals play the Reds.  This guarantees at least a shot at seeing Jay Bruce, of course, and is also right around the time that Strasburg would likely be getting a callup if he does in fact go to the minors.  So there’s that.

(And don’t get me started on the possibility of a Strasburg-Aroldis Chapman matchup…)

Now, if he does start off in Triple-A, here are the Chiefs’ road trips through the end of June:

April 14-16 @ Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
April 17-20 @ Lehigh Valley
April 27-30 @ Toledo
May 1-4 @ Columbus
May 14-17 @ Pawtucket
May 18-21 @ Rochester
May 27-28 @ Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
May 31-June 3 @ Buffalo
June 12-15 @ Charlotte
June 17-20 @ Gwinnett
June 29-30 @ Buffalo

It must be noted that my friend Chris, who writes for this blog, lives in upstate New York, so even if Strasburg gets called up at the end of May, he’s still a) playing his home games in nearby Syracuse, and b) making trips to Buffalo and Rochester. If Strasburg ends up in Triple-A and Chris DOESN’T see him at least once, he’s doing something wrong.

I can’t help but notice, however, that journeys to my corner of the world are few and far between. There’s just one, actually, a four-game trip to Pawtucket in mid-May. It’s a longshot, admittedly, but it’s possible.

Now, there is just as good a chance that the higher-ups will send Strasburg to the Harrisburg Senators. If that’s the case, he could be just up the road in Manchester, right? Or maybe Portland? As my son likes to say, “Uh, uh…no.”

April 8-11 @ Altoona
April 12-14 @ Bowie
April 22-25 @ New Britain
April 26-28 @ Reading
May 10-12 @ Altoona
May 21-23 @ Akron
May 28-31 @ Erie
June 1-3 @ Richmond
June 8-10 @ Altoona
June 15-17 @ New Britain
June 18-20 @ Bowie
June 28-30 @ Portland

I don’t know how the Eastern League puts together its schedule, but if you’re scoring at home, that’s three visits to Altoona, two to Bowie, and two to New Britain before the Senators wind their way up to northern New England in the last week of June. And that stop in New Hampshire, right up the road? Last week in July, my friends, by which point The Strasburg will most certainly have left the building.

So the point of all this, I guess, is that unless the cards fall right, I’m unlikely to see Stephen Strasburg pitch this season. The bright side, though, is that Chris should have ample opportunity to see him if he lands in Triple-A, and fans in minor league towns up and down the eastern seaboard should have that same chance regardless of where he plays.

The Best Names in Minor League Baseball

Hi, you may have forgotten about me and the fact that I actually work here. Not so much work as attempt to write here, but hey. My screeds are at once fun and educational. But today, I will name the best names in each and every organization in the minor leagues. There’s one rule here. Fun factor outweighs crazy syllables. I may not name Atahulpa Severino the best name in the Nationals orgazization.

Then again? I might. Color your asses teased son.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Some say he has the upside of a Damaso Marte? Others say he’s a lefty Guillermo Mota. But I say that if you want the best name in the organization, you go with Leyson Septimo!

Atlanta Braves: And here’s where your fun factor mileage may vary. I’m not hyped for a Barbaro Canizares or a Dimasther Delgado. Not nearly as much as a Freddie Freeman, (1B) they should call him Captain Marvel.

Baltimore Orioles: There are no truly fun names here. So you know what? To avoid trying to make some irrational connection between Matt and Kurt Angle? I will go with an old standby. Choyre Spoone. (SP)

Boston Red Sox: Ryan Westmoreland would be a fine choice. Xander Bogearts would also be a choice worth your while. But my pick to click? Seth Schwindenhammer. Right Fielder.

Chicago Cubs: Obvious choice is obvious, right? Baseball America’s #1 Cub prospect is named Starlin Castro. (SS) But I say there’s a tie here. Because there’s a left fielder named Smaily Borges. He’s gold pony boy.

Chicago White Sox: Sometimes its as simple as clear lyricism. There’s a small righty with a strong arm and several fits of wildness. The name? Clevelan Santeliz! It’s like Heckathorn but awesomer

Cincinnati Reds: Plenty of good names here. But the best of them? Mariekson Gregorious! Dutch Shortstop! If you utter his name five times in rapid succession, a tulip shall grow from where you stand.

Cleveland Indians: Lyricism meets top prospectery with a dash of felonious behavior in Lonnie Chisenhall. He’s also on my fantasy team. He’s an edgier Mat Gamel. Another sentence to make this paragraph official.

Colorado Rockies: In a world with Jhoulys Chacin and Rex Brothers? Why would I go with Al Alberquerque? Obvious reasons. Bullpen mastery? The last name of a city? All that and more.

Detroit Tigers: Here’s the great (good) debate. Toolsy or do we go with the floor polish. I’ll go with toolsy. Avasail Garcia. Right Fielder. Because Avasail? It just brings more lyrical joy than Sborz. Right?

Florida Marlins: Sequoyah Trueblood Stonecipher. The inspiration for this post. He’s an outfielder. In the shortseason. Yay!

Houston Astros: By the rule of Wladimir Balentin, anyone named Wladimir is a default choice for any organization. And with nobody of an interest? His name is Wladimir Sutil. He plays shortstop.

Kansas City Royals: If you need a rap name to steal from any organization, then it’s the Kansas City Royal shortstop currently blocked by Yuniesky Betancourt. Yowill Espinall. He knows how to haul. And other fresh lyricisim. What?

Los Angeles Dodgers: Put it simple? Brian Cavazos-Galvez is the sort of prospect who you cannot say the last name as fast as possible without it degenerating into a horrible Ahnuld impression. Get to the Choppah!

Los Angeles Angels: And like Cavazos-Galvez the last name of Peter Bourjos is funsational. Because he hits triples. And steals bases. And allows me to work my accent work in terms of my crappy Russian.

Milwaukee Brewers: The 30th ranked prospect of the Brewers is dangerous. He’s a loose cannon. He plays by his own rules. His body’s writing checks that he just can’t cash. He’s Maverick Lasker. Riding through the short season danger zone.

Minnesota Twins: He’s kind of in the tall weeds in terms of his control issues. But the one thing that’s honest and true is that Shooter Hunt’s name is awesome. I hope he lands on his feet in some form or fashion.

New York Mets: I would call Jordany Valdespin’s name here. But no. He’s a jerkface. So I will use the familia. Jeyrus Familia. He’s a lower upside, better named Jenrry Mejia.

New York Yankees: In this weeks edition of the adventures of Graham Stoneburner, middle reliever? He allows two inherited runners to score! But it doesn’t hurt his ERA! Huzzah!

Oakland A’s: Are we going to live in a world where every second baseman a crazy name? I say that this is the change we believe in. Because Conner Crumbliss is a man. A second base-man.

Philadelphia Phillies: Dear Steven Inch, What kind of crazy mixed world does Inch become a surname? And it’s not as if your family’s short? You’re 6’4″ for pete sakes! Stop confusing me! Love, Bus Leagues Baseball.

Pittsburgh Pirates: In what sort of crazy mixed-up world does Dinesh, Gift, or Rinku not make the best name list? But there’s a better name. A righty pitcher. His name? Brooks Pounders. I mean, when your name is Brooks Pounders, every outing is like a gangbang!

San Diego Padres: There will be a second baseman that I mention in the future who has a fun listed first name. And in my dreams? Beamer Weems will be playing Shortstop. Rymer Liriano can suck it.

San Francisco Giants: He absolutely has no prospect value. But come on. Brian Bocock is in the organization. Comedy Bocock Factor is everything.

Seattle Mariners: Here’s another one where fun factor trumps syllables. In a world of Kaneoka Texiera and Paul LaFrombase, how in the heck does Shaver Hansen win? Because his first name is Shaver.

St. Louis Cardinals: In a mixture of algebraic principles and gritty back-up catching, Arquimedes Nieto is a fringe pitching prospect. But he’s fun! Yay!

Tampa Bay Rays: Did you know the Rays drafted the King of Queens last year? It’s true! Kevin James currently resides in the organization. And he’s looking to go Paul Blart: Mall Cop on opposing hitters!

Texas Rangers: The struggles of Warner Madrigal last season mean the set-up man is up in here as a contender. That being said? Jurickson Profar. The short stop is #5 in the organization’s prospect list, and #1 in my heart.

Toronto Blue Jays: My fantasy baseball team owns J.P. Arencibia, but I cannot in good conscience pass on Balbino Fuenmayor. The third baseman’s first name has to be an homage to the delightful 1980’s commoner Steve Balboni, right?

Washington Nationals: While the heir to the Applebee’s fortune lives here? It’s Atahulpa Severino. I mean, duh.

1100 Words on nomenclature. I hope you’re happy, because I am?

The Savior Has Landed

Stephen Strasburg made his minor league debut on Friday night, starting and pitching into the fourth inning for the Phoenix Desert Dogs of the Arizona Fall League.  He allowed two hits, struck out two, walked one, kept the ball on the ground, and was voted the 2010 Rookie of the Year after the game.  (One of those things might not be entirely true.)

Strasburg reached the high 90s with his fastball but “wasn’t missing a lot of bats,” according to a scout contacted by Baseball America.  The formula seemed pretty simple: when he got the ball up in the zone, hitters were able to make decent contact; when he kept it down, he got strikeouts and groundouts.  His secondary pitches, a curve and slider, weren’t super-fantastic, but we have to remember: Strasburg hadn’t seen real live game action since the end of May.  It’s gonna take time to work back into shape.

One more item of interest, courtesy of Baseball America’s scout source:

On a long-term basis, the scout sees Strasburg as “a sort of righthanded Dave Righetti. No doubt he’ll begin his career as a No. 1 starter, but later on I can see him being a power closer.”

I think this is the first I’ve heard anyone suggest that Strasburg might follow the Dennis Eckersley/John Smoltz career plan.

Postseason Awards From A Blogger

Tony over at Indians Prospect Insider posted his awards for the 2009 season today.  His writing is always detailed and informative, and this is no exception.  There are seven different award categories and three All-Star teams.  Even if you aren’t a fan of the Cleveland Indians, it’s worth a read.