"I know it was just a spring-training game, but he made a lot of quality pitches," Dubee said enthusiastically. "He commanded his stuff as well as most of the guys we’ve got in this camp."* * *
Carpenter struck out the side – Jason Giambi, Jorge Posada and Wilson Betemit – in the seventh. In the ninth, he worked out of a no-out, bases-loaded jam with two strikeouts and a pop-out.
"He’s got great presence," Dubee said. "I loved that ninth inning. I’m not saying I want to see guys struggle, but at the same time you like to see how they will react when their backs are against the wall. He really responded."
Carpenter mentions in the story that he hopes to have a similar rise to the majors that fellow Phillies righthander Kyle Kendrick had last year, when Kendrick threw 81 1/3 Double-A innings before a promotion to the majors, where he had a 3.87 ERA in 121 innings. Phillies officials have also commented this off-season that Carpenter may be ready for an ascension similar to Kendrick’s. [...] Continue Reading »
A year after the Mets made Philip Humber the third overall pick in the 2004 draft, the righthander went under the knife to have Tommy John surgery. Since that surgery in July 2005 and a sore shoulder that ended his Arizona Fall League stint in 2006, Humber’s velocity has tumbled along with his prospect stock. He has lost 4-5 mph off his fastball, and he’s still trying to hone his command. While pitchers can sometimes return from Tommy John surgery after a year off, some pitchers take longer to return, and some say it takes even longer for them to truly feel comfortable on the mound again.
"There’s not a lot you can do with your elbow; pretty much, the joint moves one way," Humber said of his rehab, "so you spend a lot of time doing (shoulder work). After you go through that, you realize the importance of it."
* * *
"I think mentally I’m in a better spot now, just because I feel like last year was kind of a feeling-out year, kind of getting that mentality of going after hitters and what is it that you do as a pitcher," Humber said, "so I feel like I’ve got that now, and it’s just a matter of getting better every time.
"I never had any problem with worrying that I was going to get hurt again. For me, it was more a matter of figuring out what I used to do before I got hurt."
Homer Bailey is heading back to Triple-A.
The Reds optioned the 21-year-old righthander to Louisville after Bailey’s command issues continued in spring training.
"It wasn’t wildness, as much as it was ‘near-control,’ " manager Dusty Baker said. "That shows you how near he is to the big leagues. … You see how long we stuck with him; we stuck with him big-time. He was heavily under consideration."
Baker said he had seen big improvement from Bailey this spring, and that the Reds people who had seen him last year said there was "vast improvement."
"He was trusting what (Reds pitching coach Dick Pole) was telling him, which is the hardest thing in modern baseball – gaining the trust of young men," Baker said.
The Reds had Bailey make his last spring training start on Monday on three days rest, and Bailey responded by walking six batters in 4 1/3 innings, although he allowed just one run and it was unearned. Including the start on short rest, Bailey’s command has been shaky all spring, with an 11-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 19 spring innings.
Toward the end of the 2006 season, it seemed unlikely that Phillies righthander Scott Mathieson would still be eligible for the 2008 Prospect Handbook. Mathieson had just cruised through Double-A and Triple-A, striking out out 135 batters in 126 innings. He struggled in 37 1/3 major league innings that year, but the most damage came when his season ended to have Tommy John surgery that September.
Mathieson returned to the field at the end of the 2007 season after nearly a year off, but he pitched just eight innings before the Phillies shut him down to have a second elbow surgery. Last week, Mathieson threw off the mound for the first time since his second surgery, tossing 20 pitches in a bullpen session.
"Once I got out of the stretch and started throwing from the windup, I was like ‘This feels good – finally,’" said Mathieson, who first went under the knife in September of 2006 with Tommy John surgery.
"He was fine – he had a nice, controlled velocity and after 20 pitches," added Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee, who watched over the right-hander’s shoulder Tuesday morning. "His arm seemed to be working fine and he didn’t have any different feeling from his long toss to his mound work, so that was good."
Mathieson is the No. 12 prospect in the Phillies system.
Sometimes it helps to be in ‘old media.’ As old media, Baseball America actually publishes a magazine about baseball (making us just about the only people who do that anymore), and we have an actual office. Because we were once owned by the man (Miles Wolff) who owned the Durham Bulls, we are based in Durham, N.C.
Being in Durham actually has made sense for what we do, covering baseball from a scouting and player-development point of view, because of North Carolina’s amazing baseball diversity. The state has produced two high school players drafted No. 1 overall (Brien Taylor, 1991, and Josh Hamilton, 1999), and has strong college baseball programs in the Triangle area with Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State, not to mention nearby schools such as East Carolina, UNC Charlotte and UNC Wilmington. And we can drive to games at five different pro levels, from Rookie (Burlington, Appy League), low and high Class A (Greensboro, Kinston, Winston-Salem), Double-A (Caroina in Zebulon, N.C.) and Triple-A (the Bulls, a two-block walk from our current office).
This April, our location is going to give us an extra treat, as we learned yesterday. The Marlins have sent outfielder Cameron Maybin down to Double-A Carolina to begin the season, and the Rays have continued their generosity of late, sending third baseman Evan Longoria back to Triple-A Durham. Shortstop Reid Brignac will join him. Forgive us for giggling with glee at our good fortune, even if it comes at those players’ expense. [...] Continue Reading »
The Rays on Monday formally optioned 22-year-old third baseman Evan Longoria back to Triple-A Durham, where he finished 2007 by hitting .269/.398/.490 in 104 at-bats. The long-anticipated move could save Tampa Bay a few dollars down the road by delaying the point in time at which Longoria will qualify for arbitration and, then, free agency.
For their part, the Rays state that the move was purely a baseball decision aimed at getting their top prospect more developmental time. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon told Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times:
"We believe it’s best for Evan to put him in this situation right now, and then we believe that as he goes through this process it will turn out to be the best for him and the best for us. So we’re looking at it to being win-win in our regard when he comes back." [...] Continue Reading »
"I told him this morning that he’s our starting opening-day second baseman," manager Clint Hurdle said this afternoon after the Rockies beat Milwaukee 6-5 in a Cactus League game. "He’s coming off a very good finish in Triple-A last year and a very good winter campaign. He had maybe a one-week or 10-day period when he was trying to find his way, and since then he’s done nothing but pick up momentum."
Nix, 25, hit .292/.342/.451 in 483 plate appearances last year with Triple-A Colorado Springs, one year after hitting just .251/.317/.313 in 397 plate appearances at the same level. Nix has credited his offensive improvement last year to some mechanical changes that Colorado Springs hitting coach Carney Lansford helped him make in the middle of last season. Since June, Nix’s OPS rose from .665 to .793. Nix went on to have a fantastic winter, helping Team USA win the gold medal at the World Cup in Taiwan and being named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and USA Baseball’s Athlete of the Year.
"Defensively and offensively he was outstanding," Team USA manager Davey Johnson said after the World Cup. "He’s very much a leader; there wasn’t anything I didn’t like about him . . . Jayson runs well and he turns double plays that nobody else can. The only thing I would like to tell Clint Hurdle is to find a place on that club, because he can play."
Even if Nix ends up being a below-average hitter, he should have value as key component in the Rockies’ run prevention. Nix is an above-average defender—Lansford called his fielding “the best I’ve ever seen at second base, hands down”— which is an important factor for the Rockies, whose pitching staff last year was second in baseball in groundball percentage. With Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop, the Rockies should have one of the top defensive middle infields in baseball.
After the White Sox made Aaron Poreda the No. 25 overall pick in the draft last June, the lefthander went out and dominated the Rookie-level Pioneer League, flashing a mid-90s fastball that touched 100 mph for Great Falls.
"They have this jumbo radar gun when we were in Casper (Wyo.), and people were telling me I hit it once or twice," Poreda said. "You try not to focus on it. It’s a nice accomplishment and something to look highly upon. But in the end, it really doesn’t matter."
Poreda realizes the lack of a sharp second pitch was one of the reasons why he wasn’t drafted higher last summer.
"Everyone has been ragging me since the draft on secondary pitches," Poreda said. "I always try to improve upon them. I never think they’re going to be as good as my fastball in the majors or wherever I’m at.
"I’m always going to be throwing between 70 to 90 percent fastballs. That’s my thing. But I feel my secondary stuff is good enough."
Poreda is one of hardest throwers in the minors and the hardest-throwing lefty, but his low three-quarters arm slot has contributed to his inability to spin a quality breaking ball. He leaned heavily on his fastball last year, when he had a 1.12 ERA with 48 strikeouts and 10 walks in 46 1/3 innings.
"What I told Cameron in the meeting was we don’t think any different of him," President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest said. "He came as advertised. We’re really happy with him. When he’s ready, he’ll show us and he’ll be out in center field.
"He just needs to refine a few things and needs additional at-bats at the minor league level to work through some of those things, and then hopefully he’ll be our center fielder for a long time."
The move to keep Maybin in the minor leagues makes sense for the Marlins. While Maybin has tremendous tools and hit .304/.393/.486 in 350 plate appearances last year with high Class A Lakeland, he has just 79 plate appearances above high Class A. The Marlins should win around 70 games this season and aren’t likely to contend for a playoff spot, so there’s no need for them to rush Maybin (who turns 21 on April 4) to the majors to start his service clock and accelerate his path to salary arbitration and free agency.
Rays lefty David Price will be sidelined for at least six weeks with what the Rays are calling a strained muscle in his left elbow, according to Baseball America correspondent Marc Topkin and Joe Smith of the St. Petersburg Times.
"The good news is that obviously it’s nothing significant," executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "We had that sense pretty soon after it happened, but it’s always good to get confirmation. Hearing the report, the biggest delay is just going to be in terms of building him back up, not necessarily getting him healthy."
Price, the top pick in the 2007 draft and the No. 10 prospect in baseball, was supposed to open the year next month with high Class A Vero Beach.
This week’s installment considers all transactions reported by MLB between March 15 and 22. Last week’s transactions available here.
Released: RHP Danny Rosen, OF Shane Byrne
Optioned to Triple-A: RHP Emiliano Fruto, C Wilkin Castillo, 2B Emilio Bonifacio
Released: RHP James Curtis, RHP Rich Scalamandre, RHP Jared Shaffer, LHP Adam Stanley
Loaned to Mexican League: RHP Sergio Valenzuela
Returned by the Reds as a Rule 5 pick last week, Valenzuela, the 23-year-old who hasn’t pitched above high Class A, got his Opening Day assignment: Monclova of the Mexican League.
Released: RHP Brian Finch, RHP Zach Jevne, RHP Nick McCurdy, RHP Blake Owen, C Morgan Clendenin
Acquired: 2B Mike McCoy from Cardinals for future considerations
Optioned to Triple-A: RHP Radhames Liz, LHP Garrett Olson [...] Continue Reading »
Reds outfielder Jay Bruce, the top prospect in baseball, will start the season in Triple-A after the Reds re-assigned him to minor league camp today.
Bruce isn’t likely to spend much time in Triple-A Louisville. He hit .319/.375/.587 last year in his rise from high Class A to Triple-A as a 20-year-old, including a .305/.358/.567 line in 204 Triple-A plate appearances.
The Reds also re-assigned righthanders Josh Roenicke and Tom Shearn to minor league camp, and optioned righthander Marcus McBeth and outfielder Drew Anderson to Triple-A.
"He’ll have to play the little game till he gets his feet on the ground," Sabean said. "He’s making more contact this spring, that’s the good thing."
The Giants seem to expect Bocock to only be in the big leagues for a week or two until incumbent shortstop Omar Vizquel finishes his recovery from left knee surgery. Bocock’s name in the Opening Day lineup would certainly rank among the top surprises of spring training. His tools as a hitter are all below average at best, and his strike-zone judgment is presently subpar. Bocock, 23, hit just .243/.312/.344 last year in 576 plate appearances split between the low Class A South Atlantic League and the hitter-friendly high Class A California League.
To put that into some context, there were 120 players in the Cal League last year who registered at least 200 plate appearances (Bocock had 398). Bocock’s .621 OPS ranked 111th out of 120. Bocock struck out 105 times in the Cal League (26 percent of his plate appearances). Of those 120 players, only 13 struck out at a more frequent rate.
Bocock’s greatest strengths are his speed and his defense. He is the best defensive infielder and has the best infield arm in the Giants farm system. The decision to have Bocock start the season in San Francisco means the Giants will also now have to place Bocock on the 40-man roster.
Fernando Martinez hit .271/.336/.377 in an injury-shortened 2007 season he spent as an 18-year-old with Double-A Binghamton. Given that, it was a bit surprising to see the teenaged outfielder in big league camp until March 19—or roughly one week prior to Opening Day.
In 47 spring at-bats, Martinez batted .340/.373/.426 with four doubles and seven strikeouts, suggesting he was far from overmatched. Mets manager Willie Randolph told The Journal News:
"Of all the young kids we brought to camp, he was the one I wanted to see most, and he didn’t disappoint,” Randolph said. "He has a chance to be a pretty good player and be a big part of our future.” [...] Continue Reading »
Padres top prospect Chase Headley still isn’t sure if he’s going to start the year in San Diego or in Triple-A Portland. On defense, he’s learning how to play a new position, but at the plate, he said he has already learned the approach he wants to bring with him to the big leagues.
"I’ve put on 25 to 30 pounds since I came out of college, but the biggest thing is learning what pitch you can drive rather than going up there and hitting a pitch that you can put in play but not hit for power," Headley said. "Strikeouts are a product of seeing a lot of pitches."
Headley struck out more frequently last year than he did in 2006, but he also increased his average by 39 points and his slugging average by 146 points.
|CHASE HEADLEY MINOR LEAGUE STATISTICS 2006-2007
Headley has been a third baseman his entire career, but with Kevin Kouzmanoff at third base in San Diego, the Padres are trying to get Headley in the lineup as a left fielder.
Bench coach Craig Colbert said Headley has the ability to play left field, but is seriously short on game experience there.
"For Chase, the only way he can learn is to play left field under live conditions," Colbert said. "Hitting him fungoes can teach him some things, but it’s hard to simulate a guy throwing 90 (mph) and the ball coming off the bat."
After hitting .298 as a 21-year-old in Double-A last year and holding a .305 career minor league average though 924 at-bats, Bryan Anderson’s hit tool has already manifested itself in game action against advanced competition. Baseball America correspondent Derrick Goold notes that former major league catcher Mike Matheny, a guest instructor at Cardinals camp, has been working with Anderson on his defense.
"He’s a good hitter, and a lot of times good hitters are going to be labeled as offensive-minded people," Matheny said. "You always wonder what their mindset is. But he has a passion for the position."
It’s been weeks since Matheny left camp, but his instruction continues.
Anderson was one of the handful of catchers who soaked up everything the Gold Glove-winner said. Matheny would meet with the catchers early in the morning, and he would stress everyday how they had the most responsibility of any player on the field and that meant they had the responsibility to put in more work than any player on the field. Anderson was a devoted pupil.
Matheny won a gold glove as recently as 2005 with the Giants, for whom he threw out 38 percent of runners and allowed just four passed balls in 132 games. Anderson, 22, allowed 15 passed balls last year in 99 games and threw out 27 percent of basestealers last year, down from of the 36 percent mark he posted in 2006 in low Class A.
Indians outfielder Nick Weglarz was a big reason for Canada’s first-place finish at the final Olympic qualifier in Taiwan last week. The 20-year-old went 9-for-20 (.450) at the tournament with three homers and a double, and impressed manager Terry Puhl with his power.
"He hit a line-drive home run in the Korea game that the first baseman jumped at to try to reach the ball," Puhl said. "I’m talking about shooting it out of a shotgun—it’s scary. I’m still waiting for the day when he gets all of one with backspin on it. I see them in batting practice and its incredible how hard he can hit the ball. But this guy’s going to get bigger and stronger, going to get a bit of a better idea of how to elevate the ball."
At 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, the lefthanded-hitting Weglarz batted .276/.395/.497 in 532 plate appearances for low Class A Lake County last year, showcasing his excellent power and patience at the plate. The 2005 third-rounder soared up to his No. 6 ranking among Indians prospects after missing all but two at-bats of the 2006 season, when he broke the hamate bone in his right wrist in spring training. He should begin this season with high Class A Kinston.
"His rotator cuff was clean," manager Dave Trembley said. "He should be a candidate for a throwing program in instructional league and should be fine to go in spring training, so that’s a positive."
The Orioles had announced two weeks ago that Patton would have to undergo the surgery to repair the torn labrum. The Astros sent Patton to Baltimore this off-season in the trade that netted them shortstop Miguel Tejada. One of the other pieces in that trade that went Baltimore’s way was corner infielder Mike Costanzo, who appears to be headed to Triple-A Norfolk but still has an outside shot to start the year with the major league team due to the 15-day suspension of outfielder Jay Gibbons. According to Trembley:
"He’s not quite there with some of these other guys. I think (Scott) Moore’s ahead of him with experience. Somebody like Costanzo, who we still think is going to get better, the key thing for him is to play. I would not want to keep him here if he wasn’t going to play. And that’s not being disrespectful to him. But I also understand the two-week window that Gibbons is not here is going to allow somebody to stay here and then they’d have to be moved after that."
Costanzo, 24, hit .270/.368/.490 and led the Double-A Eastern League with an alarming 157 strikeouts in 595 plate appearances last year.
Two of the Padres’ brightest prospects received word Tuesday that they were headed to the minor leagues. For now, at least.
Second baseman Matt Antonelli and lefthander Wade LeBlanc, both products of the 2006 draft, will likely open with Triple-A Portland, brushing up for the all-but-inevitable call to San Diego this summer.
Chase Headley, the switch-hitting third baseman-turned-left fielder and the club’s top prospect, is still with the big league team and likely will make the final cut. He’s hitting .371/.385/.771 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 18 spring games.
LeBlanc, a second-round pick from Alabama, has yet to struggle as a pro, thanks largely to a plus-plus changeup—he has two types of changeups, actually—that rivals that of any hurler in the minors. But this spring, it’s all about his fastball, which sits in the mid 80s and touches 88 mph on occasion. He told the North County Times about his spring priority: [...] Continue Reading »
Main was the No. 24 overall pick in last year’s draft and the No. 6 prospect in the Rangers organization. He struck out 34 batters in 28 innings split between the Rookie-level Arizona League and short-season Spokane in his professional debut.
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