The asterisks (*) here denote instances of 40-man roster players who have agreed to terms on the minor league portion of their split major league/minor league contracts. These players are entitled to salary minimums dictated by baseball's Collective Bargaining Agreement. See our feature on minor league salaries for more.
With spring training just about over with, we're about to be beset with a storm of released players. The first wave hits in this installment.
Released: RHP Matt Elliott, RHP Daniel Vasquez, 2B Eli Rumler
Signed: RHP Manny Acosta*, RHP Luis Valdez*, OF Gregor Blanco*
Released: RHP Cody Railsback, LHP Eric Barrett, LHP Derick Himpsl, LHP Clayton McMillan
Recalled: RHP Todd Redmond
Outrighted to Triple-A, removed from 40-man: RHP Todd Redmond
Optioned to Triple-A: RHP Manny Acosta, RHP Luis Valdez, OF Gregor Blanco
Atlanta cleared a path for right fielder Jason Heyard to make the big league team by removing Redmond from the roster. Because Redmond cleared waivers, the Braves will have him available for emergency situations as he heads back to Triple-A Gwinnett, where last year he went 9-6, 4.41 with 106-47 K-BB in 145 innings. [...] Continue Reading »
TEMPE, Ariz.—When most of a team’s top prospects are ticketed for the lowest full-season level in the minors, it might be cause for concern.
Usually it signals a dearth of talent in the upper levels of the system. For the Angels, however, their youngest wave of talent has been the source of plenty of optimism at spring training.
After not placing one player among the Midwest League’s top 20 prospects a year ago, Cedar Rapids could have several of the low Class A circuit’s top youngsters. The Kernels’ outfield will feature Mike Trout and Randal Grichuk, two first-round picks from 2009. Joining them in the lineup is promising second baseman Jean Segura, while fellow Dominican righthander Fabio Martinez will pitch in a rotation that could potentially include five of the Angels’ top pitching prospects.
In the previous installment of our preseason minor league options saga, we examined seven position players who had reached a crossroads in their careers. Because each was out of options for the first time in his career, he either stood poised to make the big league team . . . or he served as trade bait. These decisions take on added significance with the conclusion of spring training just days away.
We turn our attention this time to pitchers, touching on those from all walks of lives—starters and relievers; righties and lefties; domestic and international. As was the case last time, each pitcher's composite left/right and home/road splits for his time at Triple-A is present. In addition, you'll find a synopsis of his strengths and weaknesses as well as an educated guess as to his fate for this season.
For the pitchers included here, the minor league performance sample is not intended to present conclusive evidence of anything. These pitchers did not accumulate nearly the amount of time in Triple-A granted to their position-player counterparts. The reason, one surmises, is that teams do not often hesitate to call up a promising pitcher to the big leagues if he has proven himself for a few months in the high minors. Some pitchers get hurt, while others lose effectiveness for no apparent reason, so clubs are always on the lookout for fresh arms. Position players, particularly corner outfielders and first basemen, have fewer such opportunities. [...] Continue Reading »
TEMPE, Ariz.–When Jordan Walden entered the game yesterday for an inning of relief, nearly 20 fellow Angels crowded behind the plate to see what number would flash on the radar gun.
Walden, who struggled last year for Double-A Arkansas before being shut down with a strained forearm, had yet to throw a pitch in a spring training game after he tweaked his hamstring shortly before the start of minor league camp.
Walden's first pitch alleviated any concerns about his arm strength: 98 mph.
He retired the side on a groundout, a pop out and a fly out, hitting 98 mph four more times and never throwing a fastball slower than 96.
He'll also have to get used coming out of the bullpen, as the Angels have made the 22-year-old righthander a full-time reliever.
GOODYEAR, Ariz.–Jason Kipnis hasn't taken an official at-bat since early September, but he's already raised his prospect stock considerably in the last six months.
The Indians drafted Kipnis out of Arizona State in the second round last year, then put him in left field with short-season Mahoning Valley. The organization's intention on draft day wasn't to move him to the infield, but the Indians asked him to spend time playing second base during instructional league last fall.
After exciting club officials at instructs, Kipnis, who turns 23 on Saturday, has played second base exclusively in spring training.
Now, it seems likely that he's there to stay.
GLENDALE, Ariz.—The Dodgers have an impressive collection of arms—five of their top six prospects are pitchers—but the one with the chance to make the biggest leap on the prospect scene this year might be righthander Allen Webster, the organization's No. 10 prospect.
Webster showed flashes of three above-average pitches in three innings of work yesterday against the Rangers, though he got into trouble as he didn't have his best control and command. Webster's fastball generally sat at 91-94 mph, touching 95 once. He also flashed two potentially above-average secondary offerings, a lively 78-81 mph changeup and a tight 76-79 mph curveball with sharp break and good depth.
Not bad for a 20-year-old kid picked in the 18th-round pick two years ago with limited pitching experience.
"He’s still learning it," said Chuck Crim, the pitching coach for low Class A Great Lakes. "We drafted him as a shortstop out of high school so he’s still learning how to pitch. He had one extended spring training last year where he was learning how to pitch, and he’s made great strides."
The asterisks (*) here denote instances of 40-man roster players who have agreed to terms on the minor league portion of their split major league/minor league contracts. These players will have their minimum salary dictated by baseball's Collective Bargaining Agreement. See our feature on minor league salaries for more.
Signed: RHP Kris Benson, RHP Jose Marte*, LHP Leyson Septimo*, SS Pedro Ciriaco*
Released: RHP Alex Thieroff, 1B Clayton Conner, 2B David Cooper, OF Tyrell Worthington
Optioned to Triple-A: RHP Jose Marte
Optioned to Double-A: RHP Roque Mercedes, RHP Bryan Augenstein
Signing a minor league deal with the Rangers last year resulted in Benson making eight big league appearances in the first half. A similar situation did not yield a callup to the Phillies in ’08. A third minor league deal in three years establishes Benson's status as journeyman, but that won't stop the first overall pick in the ’96 draft from trying for another bite at the apple with the Diamondbacks. If it doesn't work out, then the 35-year-old Benson certainly won't be the worst role model for the young Triple-A Reno hurlers—Bryan Augenstein, Barry Enright, Wes Roemer, Cesar Valdez, et al.—to follow.
Worthington entered the organization as a athletic prep football recruit and unrefined baseball player. And that's exactly how he leaves the Diamondbacks, who took a $220,000 gamble on the outfielder in the fifth round of the ’07 draft. Worthington, 20, hit just .175/.258/.232 with one home run and a 36-to-140 walk-to-strikeout ratio in three pro seasons, two of them with Rookie-level Missoula and the third with short-season Yakima. [...] Continue Reading »
Danny Duffy's days as a Kansas City Royal ended with a handshake and a good luck wish.
The Royals clearly will be happy if the lefthander decides to return to baseball. But after Duffy made it clear that he wanted to go in a different direction with his life, the Royals' accepted his explanation and wished him luck in whatever he decides to do.
Duffy approached Royals officials about a week ago to tell them he was thinking of quitting baseball, a decision he had wrestled with during the offseason. The team asked him to think it over for a couple of days, which he did. But on Monday he told the team he was confident in his decision to leave. [...] Continue Reading »
Now that we've got all the fine print out of the way—see Out Of Options and Much More On Options—we can take a look at a handful of players who enter the 2010 season with no minor league options remaining. For these purposes, we're going to focus only on players who played in Triple-A in ’09 on their third and final option. For such a player, his organization must decide in the next two weeks if it's in or out. For keeps.
Because the seven players detailed here cannot be sent to the minors without first clearing waivers, look for them either to make the big league club or be traded to an organization where they can do so. At the tail end of spring training a year ago, players such as Josh Anderson, Robert Andino, Jason Hammel, Jeff Keppinger, Edward Mujica and Hayden Penn all were traded because they were out of options. All six stuck in the big leagues in ’09. Other players who were out of options, like the Angels' Jason Bulger and the Rays' Jeff Niemann, made the big leagues and played well. [...] Continue Reading »
Royals lefthander Danny Duffy has left spring training after informing the team that he is quitting baseball.
A third-round pick in 2007 out of a Lompoc, Calif. high school, Duffy was ranked as the organization's No. 8 prospect heading into the 2010 season. No Royals pitcher and few prospects in baseball have had more success over the past three seasons—was 19-10, 2.49 in 246 minor league innings with 290 strikeouts. The lefthander was selected to play in the 2009 Futures Game and was considered one of the Royals' pitching prospects closest to the majors–he was expected to begin the season at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. [...] Continue Reading »
The previous blog post about minor league options generated a fair amount of discussion among readers, so I want to address a few points before we delve into specific players whose futures could be shaped by their expired option clock.
The Incredible Vanishing Evaluation Year
As touched on previously, baseball's current Collective Bargaining Agreement, ratified in the fall of 2006, granted an extra year to clubs for the purpose of evaluating players through the prism of the Rule 5 draft. Generally speaking, clubs could delay adding high school and international players to the 40-man roster until after they had completed five seasons. Collegians and junior collegians could play for four years before a club had to decide if it wanted to risk losing them in the Rule 5 draft.
However, with the new CBA and the institution of the signing deadline for the ’07 draft, a player's service clock began ticking once he signed on the dotted line. No longer could he sign a contract for the following season. (Players who sign after the minor league season concludes are held to a different standard, which we'll get to.)
Though a number of drafted players hold out until the mid-August deadline each year, those who ultimately elect to sign chew up one of their evaluation years, even if they don't play in a pro game that summer. For example, the Rockies last year agreed to terms with California prep lefty Tyler Matzek, the draft's 11th overall selection, at the Aug. 17 deadline. But even though Matzek did not play for a Rockies affiliate that summer, his time under contract (and on the sidelines) still counts against his five-year evaluation period. Instead of first becoming Rule 5 eligible five years from now, in 2014, he'll be eligible a year earlier, in 2013. [...] Continue Reading »
Major League Baseball has tabbed Sandy Alderson to reform its operations in the Dominican Republic, and one of his charges will be the help reduce the number of performance-enhancing drug suspensions among players there. More evidence of the problem continues to emerge with two more suspensions of Dominican players Thursday: Indians pitcher Jeffry Cleto and Cubs outfielder Gregorio Robles, both on rosters in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League.
Cleto was suspended for the first 50 games of 2010 after testing positive for Stanozolol. Robles, a switch-hitter, was suspended for 100 games for testing positive a second time for the same drug.
Here we come to the first wave of players to be optioned to the minors. Treat these early assignments as guidelines because teams still can alter the players' minor league destinations.
Optioned to Triple-A: RHP Cesar Valdez, SS Pedro Ciriaco
Optioned to Double-A: RHP Daniel Stange, LHP Leyson Septimo
Optioned to Triple-A: RHP Stephen Marek, RHP James Parr, RHP Todd Redmond, LHP Lee Hyde, LHP Jose Ortegano
Optioned to Double-A: RHP Juan Abreu, RHP Kyle Cofield
Optioned to Triple-A: RHP Brandon Erbe, LHP Troy Patton
Optioned to Double-A: RHP Luis Lebron, RHP Chorye Spoone [...] Continue Reading »
Even if you're a pretty serious baseball fan, it's hard to keep up with how all the top prospects are doing in the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues. To try to help round things up, here's the first in a series of six round-ups of which prospects are impressing and which have fallen flat in big league camps. [...] Continue Reading »
Red Sox top prospect Ryan Westmoreland has been diagnosed with a cavernous malformation in his brain and has taken medical leave to get treatment, the team announced today.
"The entire Red Sox organization stands in support of Ryan as he courageously deals with this issue," general manager Theo Epstein said in a press release. "Ryan is a remarkable kid and a talented player, and we understand that many will be concerned about his health. He is getting the best medical attention the world has to offer, and we will have more information soon. Until then—out of respect for Ryan's privacy and at the request of the Westmoreland family—we will not have any further comment."
Westmoreland, 19, left minor league camp on Thursday, March 4. He was diagnosed the next day at Massachusetts General Hospital, had consultations with three leading experts in the field, and on Tuesday will have surgery with Dr. Robert Spetzler of the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix.
Jared Mitchell, the White Sox' first-round pick in 2009, could miss the 2010 season after crashing into the wall in a spring-training game.
Mitchell, who helped Louisiana State to the 2009 College World Series championship, ranked No. 55 on Baseball America's Top 100 last month and ranked as the White Sox' No. 1 prospect this offseason. He got hurt Friday, tearing a tendon in his left ankle that will require surgery, according to numerous media reports. He made an impressive catch up against the wall on a long drive by the Angels' Juan Rivera.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen told reporters that Mitchell could miss the entire season.
"It's supposed to be about a year," he said. "We have to wait to see after surgery happens. Hopefully, everything goes well. The more important thing after that is the rehab, and hopefully, he'll get back pretty quick. We'll see what happens."
BA correspondent Bill Mitchell checked in on a 35-pitch live batting practice Friday, which normally isn't newsworthy. But the guy throwing the BP was Michael Ynoa, the Dominican righthander who garnered a record $4.25 million signing bonus from the Athletics in 2008, so this was no ordinary side session.
Ynoa didn't pitch in 2009 due to elbow pain and the A's understandably cautious approach. He threw during their Dominican instructional camp in November and ranked No. 11 on the A's Top 30 in BA's Prospect Handbook this offseason. Ynoa threw free and easy and had his fastball in the upper 80s, which makes sense considering it's just BP and how early it is in spring training. He also mixed in a few secondary pitches.
Ynoa is expected to throw again next week. It's likely that he'll start 2010 in extended spring training, then make his much-awaited pro debut either in the Rookie-level Arizona League or perhaps at short-season Vancouver.
A retired baseball executive who had served as big league general manager and assistant scouting director for three-plus decades recently told us that, in his day, clubs never worried about losing players who were out of minor league options.
If a player had not established himself as a big league-caliber talent in six or seven years as a professional, the thinking went, then the chances seemed remote that the player would develop enough at the big league level in his mid- to late-20s to warrant a precious 25-man roster spot. What's the rush? A player without at least one option remaining cannot be sent to the minor leagues without first clearing waivers.
We looked last week at the teams that signed the most international prospects in the 2010 Baseball America Prospect Handbook.
The Yankees, Rockies, Mets and Phillies all came out at the top of the class with at least 10 international signings, but how much predictive power do those numbers have on a team's ability to produce international talent where it counts: at the major league level?
One way to test that is to look back at the 2005 Prospect Handbook, repeating the same process we used last week to count each team's international signings in the 2010 Prospect Handbook. Going back five years ago gives us enough time so that there's just a small amount of prospects who appear in both books, with enough time having passed to give us some idea of the major league success of the players in the 2005 book.
Released: C Mike Payne
Signed: RHP Rick Bauer (LG (Korea)), LHP Scott Rice (Newark (Atlantic))
Bauer, 33, made three appearances in the Atlantic League last spring before signing on to play in Korea Baseball Organization. Rice, 28, struggled to find the strike zone last season, a problem that did not abate when the Padres released him in August. He finished with 6.4 walks per nine in his 34 combined relief appearances for Double-A San Antonio and Newark. Both players were originally drafted by the Orioles, Bauer in 1997 and Rice in 1999.
Released: 3B Michael Hollimon
The switch-hitting Hollimon seemed destined for, if not stardom, then at least utility when in '07 he batted .282/.371/.478 with 14 homers, 34 doubles and 64 walks as a second baseman in Double-A. Granted, the red flags were present. Hollimon struck out in nearly 26 percent of his at-bats with Erie, and that June he turned 25.
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