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Triple-A All-Star Game Notes

The annual Triple-A All-Star Game was held during All-Star week in Salt Lake City, home of the Salt Lake Bees. Here are some late, very late comments from what I saw.

The setting for Spring Mobile Ballpark itself was nearly as interesting as the game. Surrounded by the Wasatch Mountains, providing gorgeous views for fans that visit the ballpark.

Broadcast for the game was conducted by Chris Rose and the always boisterous Kevin Millar. Rose isn’t that good of a game-caller (though he does have a good impression of Dan Plesac), but in his defense, MLB was really pushing the audio coverage of the activities within the game. All bases, the managers, the umpire, catchers, first basemen, even the outfield walls were mic’d up. It was a little over-done as they tried to pull any conversation or sound out that they could.

Toronto pitching prospect Brad Mills was the first to toe the rubber. They described him as having a decent fastball, curve, and a “tremendous changeup”. His over the top pitching style had a lot of movement that may be somewhat distracting to hitters that are trying to pick up the ball.

One of the batters facing Mills was second baseman Jason Kipnis. Kipnis has somewhat of an odd stance, he holds bat level backward toward the umpire and out over the plate until pitcher just about starts his windup, he then gets into a more traditional batting stance. He showed good patience in his at bats and showed hustle by grabbing two bases after right-fielder Andrew Brown dropped his liner. Except for a throwing error, Jason also played decent defense for a converted center fielder.

His middle-infield partner was Cody Ransom, who was drafted in 1998. Ransom was once one of the Giants prospects, but he’s always been a Four-A player. He currently has an OPS above 1.000 at Triple-A, but has never hit enough in the majors. Ransom did provide a pretty decent interview for Kevin Millar in the latter part of the game.

Outfielder Brandon Guyer and first baseman Matt Hague provided good in interviews. Personality-wise, Matt reminded Millar of Sean Casey.  Hague is light in the power department for a first baseman, but his Triple-A statistics show that he can still hit well. The Seattle native might be a nice, relatively low-cost pick-up for the Mariners. He may be a poor-man’s Sean Casey.

One of the more impressive pitchers on the day was Indians’ Zach McAllister. This big, tall, powerfull arm was able to spot his pitches relatively well. He induced three ground ball outs in the first inning. Overall he struck out two and induced four ground ball outs in two innings.

Royals prospect Johnny Giavotella has a quick, compact swing. Seems like a bit of a scrapper. I like how he hits and plays defense.

Dodgers prospect Tryvon Robinson came into the All-Star game hitting .400+ when making contact, but strikes out a ton. Obviously, he struck out in his first plate appearance. He’ll be eaten up in the majors without a signficant change in his approach at the plate.

Another player that didn’t impress much was Cardinals outfield prospect Andrew Brown. After dropping a liner from Kipnis, he didn’t race back to the ball after it passed him. Brown also struck out in his first plate appearance and nearly grounded into a double-play later in the game.

Dayan Viciedo was relatively impressive though. Although he had some big swings at the plate at times, he was able to adjust and put the ball on the bat.  He had two singles in the game. His only out came when he hit a deep fly to opposite field.  He should hit well in show. Due to his stocky stature I’d question him at the hot corner, as a few scouts have already noted.

I noticed that pitchers Adam WarrenShane Lindsay, and John Gaub were able to stay in the mid-90s during their stints.  Warren was the most impressive of the three, where as Lindsay and Gaub had control issues. Two former big league lefty starters Dana “Big Sweat” Eveland and Chuck James got into the game as well. I was more impressed with James’ stuff, but he was wild at times.

Some other brief notes on players:

  • Collin Cowgill seemed to be always smiling. The breakout hitter didn’t do much in the game, but both managers supposedly raved about him.
  • Rangers prospect Cody Eppley looked good, inducing three ground ball outs.
  • Angels prospect Gil Vilazquez has a high batting average at Triple-A, but you can tell he will never have any power. Slap hitter that holds his hands low.
  • Eric Sogard looked completely lost against fellow lefty Chuck James.
  • You can see why pitcher Mark Worrell of the Norfolk Tides had Tommy John surgery, he has quite a funky delivery.
  • Braves outfield prospect Jose Constanza couldn’t catch up to fastball. He looked over-matched by it.
  • Although David Cooper‘s batting average is nice, his upright stance and swing don’t exactly spur thoughts of the “power hitter” type that you typically see at first base.. But he has a number of doubles and is patient at the plate (even drew a leadoff walk in the game).
  • Manager Mike Sarbuagh (Columbus) has 8 seasons of managing in the minors under his belt. He also has 4 titles in those 8 seasons.

I believe at least Kipnis, Giavotella, Robinson, Cowgill, Constanza, and McAllister have all graduated to the majors since that game.


2011 Draft

Today’s the first day of the future of your favorite baseball team.  Ok, so is this day every year.  The annual Rule 4 amateur draft will start today and go on through Wednesday, allowing teams to restock their farm systems with talent.  A vast majority of the picks won’t make it to the majors, especially beyond the first few rounds.  But there may just be that diamond in the rough, that Mike Piazza (62nd round) that may be a game-changer for your team down the road.

For your reading pleasure, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo has listed his Top 50 prospects in the draft.  The Pittsburgh Pirates have already let it out that they will be taking UCLA pitcher Gerrit Cole with the first overall selection in the draft, adding to an already impressive stock of young arms in their minor leagues. Third baseman Anthony Rendon is likely to go to the Seattle Mariners with the second pick.

Baseball America writers have conducted a number of mock drafts lately, readers without a subscription can look at executive editor Jim Callis’ picks.  They also provided a live blog and links to the Twitter accounts of their top analysts.

Let’s look into the crystal ball this afternoon and see what the future potentially holds for your team.


Fearless Predictions – 2011

Every year the major media outlets make their “bold” predictions as to who will win it all. I go a step further and predict the final standings and some other predictions along the way.

Fearless Predictions
AL East
Boston Red Sox Red Sox v. Tigers (wc)
New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles
AL Central
Chicago White Sox White Sox v. Red Sox
Detroit Tigers
Minnesota Twins
Cleveland Indians
Kansas City Royals
AL West White Sox v. Rangers
Texas Rangers
Oakland A’s
Anaheim Angels
Seattle Mariners
NL East
Atlanta Braves Phillies (wc) v. Rockies
Philadelphia Phillies
Florida Marlins
Washington Nationals
New York Mets
NL Central Phillies v. Cardinals
St Louis Cardinals
Cincinatti Reds
Milwaukee Brewers
Chicago Cubs
Houston Astros
Pittsburg Pirates
NL West
Colorado Rockies Cardinals v. Braves
San Francisco Giants
San Diego Padres
Los Angeles Dodgers
Arizona Diamondbacks
Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox
2011 World Series Champions
1. Albert Pujols
2. Carlos Gonzalez (beat, even with a 30/30 season)
3. Ryan Braun
4. Jason Heyward
5. Mike Stanton
1. Evan Longoria
2. Joe Mauer
3. Alex Rodriguez
4. Adrian Gonzalez
5. Miguel Cabrera
NL Cy Young
1. Tim Lincecum
2. Roy Halladay
3. Josh Johnson
4. Tommy Hanson
5. Ubaldo Jimenez
AL Cy Young
1. Felix Hernandez
2. Trevor Cahill
3. David Price
4. Jon Lester
5. C.C. Sabathia
NL Rookie of the Year
1. Freddie Freeman
2. Aroldis Chapman
3. Brandon Belt
4. Domonic Brown
5. Craig Kimbrel
AL Rookie of the Year
1. Jeremy Hellickson
2. Kyle Drabeck
3. Mike Moustakas
4. J.P. Arencibia
5. Jesus Montero
1. Kendry Morales
2. Jacoby Ellsbury
3. Grady Sizemore
4. Manny Ramirez
5. Joe Nathan
6. Ben Sheets
1. Tommy Hanson
2. Colby Rasmus
3. Matt Wieters
4. Pedro Alvarez
5. Brett Anderson
6. Max Scherzer
7. Elvis Andrus
8. Shaun Marcum
9. Travis Snider
10. Gordon Beckham
Fading Stars
1. Magglio Ordonez
2. Paul Konerko
3. Scott Kazmir
4. Vladimir Guererro
5. Todd Helton
6. Carlos Beltran
7. Scott Rolen
8. Jim Thome
Number of times Milton Bradley will blow up: 0 (contract year)

First General Manager let go: Bill Stoneman


Over Spilled Milk: Huddy to Georgia

Over Spilled Milk is a feature where we will look back on previous drafts and trades to see how well the teams involved fared.  Essentially, we will rehash issues like the Scott Kazmir trade to the Devil Rays that are still making Mets fans ‘cry over spilled milk’.

The break up of Oakland’s Big 3 was one of the major story lines of the 2004-2005 off-season.  The Oakland A’s sent Tim Hudson to the Atlanta Braves and Mark Mulder to the St. Louis Cardinals, leaving Barry Zito in Oakland until he left via free agency.  It was hard for the A’s to deal the pitcher with the second-best record of the decade in Tim Hudson, but it was highly doubtful that the team would be able to retain him long-term.  So Billy Beane traded Huddy to the Atlanta Braves for pitching prospect Dan Meyer, reliever Juan Cruz, and outfielder Charles Thomas.

The season before, the Braves were relying on Russ Ortiz and Mike Hampton for the top two spots in their rotation.  Although they racked up the wins, they weren’t true aces.  So the team moved John Smoltz back to the rotation and decided they needed to trade for a surefire ace-type pitcher to help shore up the top of the rotation.  The move was ideal for the Braves as it gave the team a rotation of Smoltz, Hudson, Hampton, John Thompson, and Horacio Ramirez, a relatively solid looking rotation on paper.  It also brought them a player that was born in Georgia and raised in nearby Alabama, increasing the odds that they could work out a long-term contract with him.  Tim settled in and signed a four-year, $46 million contract in March of 2005, the deal also included an option for 2010 at $12 million .

Hudson would go on to win 54 games for the Braves from 2005 to 2008 before undergoing Tommy John surgery.  The recovery sat him out for most of 2009, but he did come back and pitch 42.1 innings for the Braves in 2009.  It was  a very quick recovery for a Tommy John surgery patient.  The Braves extended his contract once again after the 2009 season, giving him $28 million over three years, with a 9 million option for a fourth year.

The only prospect Oakland acquired in the deal, Dan Meyer was considered by some scouts to be one of the top five starting pitching prospects that were ready for the majors at the time of the deal.  Meyer was in the running with Yeiichi Yabu for a rotation spot in Oakland at one point, but a shoulder injury that was finally exposed in Triple-A early that season derailed his career.  He never had success in the majors as a starter after that injury and the Marlins claimed him off of waivers after the 2008 season.  The Marlins moved him to relief where the lefty has seemed to thrive.   Meyer went 3-2 with a 3.09 ERA out of the pen in 2009, allowing 47 hits in 58.1 innings while striking out 56. 

Outfielder Charles Thomas had a very nice rookie season for the Braves in 2004, but he fell on his face in 55 plate appearances for the Athletics the following season.  After hitting .288 with 7 home runs, 4 triples, and 8 doubles in 236 at-bats in 2004, Thomas hit only .109 in limited duty and never saw the majors again after that season.

The Braves also sent reliever Juan Cruz to the Athletics.  Cruz had electric stuff and was emerging as a solid setup man for the Braves at the time of the trade.  But after posting a very nice 2.75 ERA with the Braves in 2004, he put together a horrid 7.44 ERA for the Athletics in 2005.  He was then traded in March 2006 to the Arizona Diamondbacks for pitcher Brad Halsey.  Halsey was used extensively in relief that season, with mixed results.  But he never made it back to the majors after undergoing shoulder surgery in 2007.  Cruz, on the other hand, flourished in the Diamondbacks’ rotation and signed a two-year contract with the Kansas City Royals once he hit free agency.

This trade will make any devout A’s fan cry over spilled milk.  But looking back on it, Meyer was highly touted and Cruz had great stuff and was becoming a good reliever under Leo Mazzone’s tutelage.  It should have been at least half way decent for Beane, even then ESPN correspondent Peter Gammons felt that it was a win-win trade.   But it turned into a horrible disaster for Beane and the A’s.  Although the Braves likely paid heavily for his off-year in 2009 (doubt insurance covered a significant chunk of the salary), Huddy has paid big dividends for the Braves so far and looks like he’ll continue to pitch well for them in the near future.


Rainy Day Reading: Fish Going Green

The Florida Marlins blog Fish@Bat recently posted a video from CNN.com that discussed how the new Marlins’ ballpark is going “green”.  Obviously it is impossible anymore to jokingly give the illusion anymore that the ballpark will be horrendously covered in a green color through typical wordplay.  There is certainly no illusion anymore that not considering going green in building design would be ignorant of the world we live in today and is nearing the point that it would be completely illogical not to.

The video has interviews with the contractor for the project as well as a Marlins’ EVP and a couple architects from the reknowned sports architecture firm Populous (formerly HOK).  The new ballpark won’t just have marginal traits that will make it more eco-friendly, they are going to request a LEED Silver designation for the structure.  It’s a certification that is not easy to achieve with a structure of its size.


Trade Bait: Gorzelanny to the Nationals

In an odd attempt by the Washington Nationals to improve their rotation, they have acquired Tom Gorzelanny for three prospects.  The Chicago Cubs in turn added a little depth to their farm system with outfielder Michael Burgess, right-hander A.J. Morris and lefty Graham Hicks.

Gorzelanny is “nothing to write home about” as the starter has never had a WHIP below 1.30 in the majors.  It was actually an ugly 1.496 last season for the Cubs.  His 3.92 FIP last season wasn’t far from his 4.09 ERA in in 136.1 innings.  Tom will eat innings and may benefit a little from a marginally better overall defense in Washington than what the Cubs had last season.

Burgess has nice power potential and a good arm in right field, but there are significant worries about his ability to make enough contact to survive in the majors.  Graham Hicks is a tall, projectable lefty.  But he’s far from a finished product and will need to be moved slowly through the system if the Cubs are to get anything out of him.  A.J. Morris probably has the best chance to survive in the majors.  He has two decent pitches, but his change needs a good amount of work.  Unless is change improves, Morris is probably heading toward a relief role with a shot at setting up.  Jonathan Mayo has a good write-up on each of these players on MLB.com.

I’m not as high on the prospects the Cubs added as other analysts are, but it is still a decent trade for the Cubs.  They cleared out of some of their excess payroll while adding a little depth to their farm system.  The Nationals add an innings-eater that should help out towards the back of the rotation.  But don’t be fooled by that 14-win season in his past Nationals fans, he’s not that good.