GREENSBORO, N.C.—The Indians stepped up their spending in the 2008 draft, going over slot to sign two high school pitchers and another college arm.
And in a span of less than 24 hours, I was fortunate to enough to be able to watch all three of those pitchers at Greensboro, with two of them making their full-season debuts for low Class A Lake County.
On Monday night, righthander Trey Haley made his first start of the year after beginning 2009 in extended spring training. Haley, who signed for $1.25 million as a second-round pick last year, gave up six runs (five earned) in 5 2/3 innings, striking out just one and struggling with his control with four walks.
Haley, 18, was particularly wild in the first inning, walking Greensboro leadoff hitter Kevin Mattison on four straight fastballs, then walking No. 2 hitter Danny Pertusati on five pitches. Haley has plenty of effort involved in his mechanics, with a prominent head jerk apparent on most of his pitches. His fastball sat at 90-92 mph in the early innings, touching 93 mph. By the 4th inning, Haley’s fastball velocity ranged from 87-92 mph
"We saw good life (on his fastball) from him, it’s just a matter of making sure he stays in the strike zone and trusts his stuff, as they say," Captains manager Aaron Holbert said. "I think sometimes he begins to overthrow out there. He wants so badly to throw that strike to get ahead of guys, and he’s starting to overthrow. He knows he has a good fastball … and so it’s just a matter of making sure he calms himself down, understands the situations, gets ahead of guys, then he’s able to get to that pretty good curveball that he has. Unfortunately he was a little off, he walked some guys, and then he had to throw fastball after fastball—he wasn’t able to get to his curveball and changeup."
Haley featured a 75-77 mph curveball with two-plane depth, though the ball appeared to slip out of his hand on multiple occasions. He threw one changeup at 78 mph.
"(Haley’s curveball) had good bite to it," Holbert said. "I’m not sure if he couldn’t get the good grip on the balls—maybe they’re a little slick, maybe the nerves, you know, sweating a little bit, which is understandable—but when he did throw it for a strike it did have good bite to it and it seemed like he had guys off balance to it, as long as he keeps it down. He threw a couple hangers, a couple got away from him and he hit a guy or two. It’s just a matter of having confidence in what you’re throwing and thinking pitch-to-pitch compared to thinking ahead, ‘What am I going to do with the next batter? I need to throw this curveball right here, I need to throw this fastball.’ And with that said, I think he’ll be OK."
Righthander Bryce Stowell, 22, made his first full-season appearance in relief of Haley. Stowell, who signed for $725,000 last year as a 22nd-round pick out of UC Irvine, struck out seven with no walks and one hit allowed in three shutout innings.
Stowell pitched at 84-88 mph with his fastball and touched 90 mph, but he was able to locate his pitches to both sides of the plate, striking out Marlins catcher Kyle Skipworth swinging on an 84 mph fastball. Stowell mixed his location and sprinkled in a 74-77 mph slider, showing his college experience against the Marlins’ young hitters.
"That was actually my first time seeing Bryce," Holbert said. "I was very excited by what I saw. He had very good life to his fastball and he seemed to be extremely confident out there. He didn’t let the pressures of his first true professional outing get to him, playing under the lights in a nice stadium, fans in the stands—that didn’t bother him. He came out aggressive, he came out wanting to show why he was drafted, why he’s a Cleveland Indian. You see with the numbers he had—no base on balls with seven strikeouts—that’s something that caught my eye, because I’m going through the box score at the end of the day thinking he had four or five strikeouts. I didn’t realize he dominated as well as he did, so that was very good to see, and that’s going to be a big plus for us going into the latter part of the season."
On Tuesday afternoon, lefthander T.J. House, who signed for $750,000 last year as a 16th-round pick, made his eighth start of the season. House, 19, has been solid but not spectacular on the season, holding down a 3.83 ERA in 40 innings, with 30 strikeouts (6.8 K/9), 16 walks (3.6 BB/9) and one home run allowed on the season.
Pitching at Greensboro, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound lefthander allowed three runs (two earned), five hits, three walks and struck out two in 4 1/3 innings. House’s lively fastball ranged from 86-90 mph, sitting at 87-89 mph with a good, compact delivery.
"We saw pretty good command of his fastball, his changeup was a little high so we need to work on that, make sure he gets that ball down, and then the slider command was good," Holbert said. "A few positives, but unfortunately he came out of it on the losing end, but hopefully he can take some things out of this that are positive going into his next start."
While many pitchers in their first year out of high school tend to rely heavily on their fastball or on a fastball/breaking ball combination, House mixed three pitches liberally against the Grasshoppers, featuring an 80-81 mph slider and a 78-80 mph changeup.
"It’s definitely a plus for him to have confidence throwing those three pitches," Holbert said. "In the past he’s been able to get ahead with the fastball and then command the changeup better, getting guys off balance, and then pretty much fastball away or slider down and in, which has been his forte, I guess I’d say. Unfortunately, today the changeup wasn’t truly there for him which got him into trouble, but I think he pitched well enough to have better results than he had tonight. But it’s definitely a learning experience. As a young kid, he needs to grow, mature a little bit more, understand a little bit more about himself and other hitters, but we see positive things in him."
Latos Jumps To Double-A, Inman To Triple-A
As a 21-year-old who has played professionally since signing in 2007 with the Padres as a draft-and-follow, Mat Latos had too much talent to be pitching in the low Class A Midwest League. Now the Padres think he’s also too good for the high Class A California League, as San Diego has promoted the righthander from Fort Wayne up to Double-A San Antonio. Latos allowed just one run—a solo home run—in 25 1/3 innings this year with the TinCaps, striking out 27 with just three walks.
The Padres also promoted righthander Will Inman from San Antonio to Triple-A Portland. Inman, 22, had a 3.05 ERA in 44 1/3 innings with 36 strikeouts. While Inman is more about deception than knockout stuff, he’s shown better control this year, with only eight walks allowed (1.6 BB/9); last year Inman walked 71 batters in 135 1/3 innings with San Antonio.
Poreda K’s 12, Halman The Primary Victim
Word is now out that Jake Peavy is likely headed to the White Sox as part of a four-player deal, pending Peavy’s approval. If the Padres had any scouts watching Chicago’s Double-A Birmingham club last night, they might have liked what they saw out of Aaron Poreda. The 22-year-old lefthander struck out 12 West Tenn (Mariners) batters in seven innings, allowing three runs (two earned), two walks and three hits. It’s early, but Poreda’s strikeout rate is up from last year, as he now has 50 strikeouts in 46 1/3 innings, though with 24 walks and six hit batsmen he’s also more wild than he’s been in the past.
One batter who didn’t seem to enjoy Poreda’s performance was Mariners center fielder Greg Halman, who went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. Halman is the epitome of a feast-or-famine hitter, with a .208/.272/.507 line. In 37 games, Halman has just 30 hits, but 12 of those hits have been home runs and seven have been doubles.
Halman has received comparisons to Alfonso Soriano, but those comps doesn’t seem to be apt, as Soriano showed a much better feel for making contact when he was Halman’s age (21). When Soriano was 21 he was also in Double-A and hit .305/.363/.501 in 1999 for Norwich in the Eastern League. He drew 32 walks and struck out 67 times in 402 plate appearances. Halman already has 65 strikeouts in only 158 plate appearances, a punchout in a whopping 41 percent of his trips to the plate.
Do You Like Sleepers?
The Tigers have an intriguing mix of young, relatively unheralded Latin American prospects in the lowest levels of their system. Among the most promising is right fielder Avisail Garcia, who signed for $200,000 in 2007 and hit .298/.342/.449 in 63 games last year in the Venezuelan Summer League.
Garcia, 17, started the year in extended spring training and didn’t figure to make his U.S. debut until later this summer, likely in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Instead, Garcia debuted with high Class A Lakeland on May 7 and filled in for three games. Instead of sending Garcia back to spring training, the Tigers put Garcia in low Class A West Michigan, where he has played in the team’s last five games. He’s only 3-for-18 with two walks and nine strikeouts for the Whitecaps, but he also doesn’t turn 18 until June 12.
Back Where He Started
Hector Rondon entered the season a starter for Double-A Akron. Then Cleveland moved him to the bullpen. But after just two relief appearances, Rondon is back to starting again. The righthander pitched five innings yesterday in Trenton, allowing two runs with one walk and six strikeouts.
Rondon has a low-90s fastball that he has learned to locate to both sides of the plate and down in the zone, leading to a 2.17 ERA in 37 1/3 innings with 34 strikeouts and eight walks. He also throws a slider and a changeup, but Rondon has shown the ability to dominate Double-A lineups largely on the strength of his fastball.
"I think he is going to have at least a major league average slider," farm director Ross Atkins said. "His changeup can be major league average—it really is a major league average pitch, he just doesn’t use it enough to make it that major league average pitch yet. The action is there, but the use isn’t there yet. But it will be. As much as we can tell guys the need to use it, the hitters are ultimately what tell them. We’re forcing changeups and forcing sliders right now, but as he progresses, when he gets to Triple-A, when he gets to the major leagues, he’ll see more of a need for those pitches.
"But he’s locating his fastball a lot better than he did a year ago. He’s pitching down in the zone than he did a year ago, he’s pitching with more power and he’s pitching with a better delivery. There’s only a couple in our system who say all of those things about. He has the ability to go through the lineup with just his fastball and he’s still getting better, he’s showing improvement, he’s showing strides and he’s dominating a level. Those are all the things that are the most telling about future success."
Comments will be monitored prior to being added to the site. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be rejected. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed.
We have chosen to open up commenting to everyone, so comment away! We want to hear from each and every one of you! Leave a comment.
About This Blog
Syndicate This Blog
Search This Blog