"I've seen rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen."
After watching a Springsteen live show in 1974, Rolling Stone rock critic Jon Landau set off a massive amount of hype with that one sentence. At the time, Springsteen had two poorly selling records. Not long after Landau's comments, Springsteen released "Born To Run", was on the cover of Time and Newsweek magazines at the same time and made the leap from unknown singer to rock and roll superstar.
I'm not nearly as talented as Landau, and I'm not a scout with a trained eye, but after watching Royals lefthander Mike Montgomery throw against the Kinston Indians, it was hard not to want to yell something equally audacious. You could watch minor league games every day year after year and never see a better outing. Some of the scouts at Tuesday's game were debating if they had ever seen a minor leaguer pitch any better.
Montgomery dissected, carved up and dominated the Kinston lineup in a 3-1 win for Wilmington. He carried a perfect game into the seventh, allowed just two hard-hit balls all night, didn't walk a batter (he fell behind 3-1 in the count only once) and struck out a career-high 13. And he did it on a 90-pitch limit. He needed just 84 pitches by an unofficial count, throwing 20 balls. [...] Continue Reading »
In the natural world, a keystone species plays a critical role in maintaining an ecosystem. Remove the individual and the whole suffers as a result.
In the world of baseball, the second baseman is the keystone species, of course, and to paraphrase Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel: If you don't have one, then you're not going to turn many double plays.
The Mariners are just one organization attempting to stretch ecological tendencies this spring as they introduce a few of their players to the keystone. Foremost among those players is Dustin Ackley, the second overall pick a year ago as a first baseman from North Carolina. Seattle challenged the 22-year-old with an assignment to Double-A West Tenn this season, where he's off to a 2-for-22 start.
Ackley also has committed two errors through his first five games, but that's just part of the process, according to Mariners farm director Pedro Grifol. "Every day he goes through something he's never done before. It won't come overnight," he said. "He says he's comfortable turning double plays, but every day something new comes up—a runner bearing down, the triangle that forms with the center fielder and shortstop on pop-ups, over-thrown relay throws." [...] Continue Reading »
By Cory Giger, Altoona Mirror
ALTOONA, Pa.—Stephen Strasburg's minor league debut turned into a major spectacle for both the 21-year-old phenom and the Altoona Curve franchise.
More than 70 media members showed up Sunday afternoon at Blair County Ballpark to see Strasburg start for Double-A Harrisburg. The rest of the nation, meanwhile, got a chance to watch his performance live on ESPNews, making it one of the biggest events in Altoona sports history.
"Great atmosphere," Strasburg said of the experience. "It's just an amazing feeling to have your first outing in front of a sellout crowd and all the attention and everything.
"It made it seem like this was one of the biggest games of my life, when it was actually the fourth game of the season." [...] Continue Reading »
By John Wagner
TOLEDO—Some time soon, Cincinnati baseball fans may want to make April 10, 2010 a baseball holiday.
On the same day last year’s top draft pick, Mike Leake, made his professional debut with the Reds, Aroldis Chapman made his pro debut roughly 200 miles north in a Triple-A start against Toledo.
And the 22-year-old Cuban was impressive, shutting down the Mud Hens on five hits in 4 2/3 innings. Four of the five hits off the lefthander, who signed a six-year, $30.25 million contract with the Reds in January, never left the infield as Chapman struck out nine while walking only one.
“I was happy today—everything went the way I wanted it to,” Chapman said through an interpreter, Louisville trainer Tomas Vera. “There were some pitches that I didn’t throw the way I wanted, but overall I am happy.”
Chapman threw 85 pitches, 55 for strikes, but those weren’t the numbers that were most impressive. What caught the attention of the 5,642 fans at the game were the five times the southpaw reached 100 miles per hour or more on the stadium speed gun, as well as 32 pitches that topped 95. [...] Continue Reading »
The season has just begun, but several of the game's best prospects are already on the disabled list. We'll do our best throughout the season to keep you updated when prospects hit the DL.
• Desmond Jennings, cf, Rays: Jennings has been out with a sprained left wrist since he got hurt sliding head first into second base in a spring training game with the Rays' big league club. He will likely miss all of April before returning to Triple-A Durham to start his season.
• Tim Beckham, ss, Rays: Like Jennings, Beckham is also waiting for a sore left wrist to heal, though he isn't expected to miss much time. He'll start the year with high Class A Charlotte.
• Casey Crosby, lhp, Tigers: Crosby will miss time with a sore left elbow before joining high Class A Lakeland. After signing in 2007, Crosby missed nearly the entire 2008 season due to Tommy John surgery, but he returned throwing 92-95 mph and touched 98 last year to become the No. 47 prospect in baseball.
Opening Day is in the books.
For most teams, anyway. Rain in the southeast washed out some teams yesterday—including my trip with Jim Shonerd to see low Class A Augusta (Giants) at Greensboro (Marlins)—giving us just enough time to see Giants' second-rounder Tommy Joseph smoke two line drives that might not count in the official record books.
Around the rest of the minors, there were plenty of outstanding debuts (and if you're not subscribing to the Baseball America Prospect Report, boy are you missing out). Among the top 10 stars of minor league Opening Day were some familiar faces and some newer names to keep on your radar.
1. Carlos Santana, c, Triple-A Columbus (Indians)
Feliz cumpleaños to Mr. Santana, who celebrated his 24th birthday with two home runs and a double, going 4-for-5 in his Triple-A debut. Santana, the MVP of the Double-A Eastern League last year and the high Class A California League the year before that, probably won't get a chance to pick up the hardware again this year in the International League because his performance could drive him up to Cleveland by midseason. And that broken hamate bone in his right hand that Santana had surgery on just four months ago? It looks safe to say the power is already back.
2. Brad Mills, lhp, Triple-A Las Vegas (Blue Jays)
Opening Day was a good time for Blue Jays pitching prospects. Righthander Kyle Drabek made his organizational debut for Double-A New Hampshire, and while he did give up four runs (three earned) in five innings, he also struck out eight. Lefthander Luis Perez came on in relief and struck out five more in three perfect innings with his heavy sinker. The best night of any pitcher in the minors, however, belonged to Mills, who threw six shutout innings, striking out nine with no walks and just two hits allowed. Not bad for an outing in one of the minor leagues' most notorious bandbox parks. Mills' high-80s fastball won't blow anyone away like Drabek's, but his outstanding changeup, control and ability to mix his pitches are what keeps hitters guessing—mostly wrong guesses last night.
With Opening Day here, we are scrutinizing the rosters to see what are the must-see teams and what teams are hoping and waiting for some promotions. With that in mind, we also decided to look at who are the youngest players in each league. While being the youngest in a league does not always ensure that a player will be a successful big leaguer, it is a pretty good indicator that a prospect has a bright future–it's much easier to have a lengthy big league career if you reach Triple-A as a 21-year-old than it is if you break into Triple-A as a 27-year-old.
UPDATE: This list is now updated now that all of the Opening Day rosters have all been finalized. The youngest player in all of full season baseball is Phillies outfielder Domingo Santana. The Phillies' No. 10 prospect coming into the season, Santana, 17, is a full year younger than anyone else in full-season ball. It's worth nothing that the Carolina League (Salvador Perez) is the only leagues where the youngest player in the league is not ranked as a Top 10 prospect in that organization.
The end of spring training heralds a new baseball season, sure, but it also brings with it bad news for many players who now find themselves out of work. Teams cut ties with 621 players, by my unofficial count, from mid-February through major league Opening Day. That's enough bodies to populate nearly 26 minor league rosters.
Expect to see a few more releases trickle in once all precincts have reported. The Athletics (four), Angels (12), Orioles (12) and Yankees (14) appear to have abnormally low tallies up to this point. Contrast those totals with the Phillies (38), Mariners (36), Pirates (28) and Mets (27). Every organization seeks to clear roster space on their four full-season affiliates to accommodate last year's short-season ball players.
Pure shortstops make up just three percent (18 players) of the pool of the dismissed. Righthanded pitchers, of course, account for 44 percent (273 players) of the released. Outfielder check in at 15 percent, and lefthanded pitchers are next at 14 percent. [...] Continue Reading »
Here is a look at where the 2010 Baseball America Top 100 Prospects are beginning the 2010 season. The assignments are gathered from the rosters submitted by teams to Major League Baseball Advanced Media and as such are tentative until the games begin on Thursday night. [...] Continue Reading »
During spring training we examined 14 players—seven position players and seven pitchers—who entered the season with no minor league options remaining. Making these players unique, each had reached the no-options juncture of his career this year, having played Triple-A ball in ’09 while (gleefully) using his final option year.
So how did our fateful 14 fare when it came time for big league clubs to hand down their verdicts on Opening Day? Who made the cut and who didn’t?
As it turns out, not one of the 14 players lost his place on a 40-man roster, tenuous as that grasp may be in some cases. Certainly, the Reds gave no serious thought to parting ways with Homer Bailey, but others, such as the Rangers' Joaquin Arias, made the cut thanks to extenuating circumstances. He's one of two out-of-options, light-hitting middle infielders to crack the Rangers' roster by virtue of an injury to Ian Kinsler. Andres Blanco is the other. Which one will they keep when Kinsler returns?
Texas' other out-of-options spotlight player, righthander Luis Mendoza, spent all spring with the Rangers before his trade to the Royals (for cash considerations) on April 2, just three days before Opening Day. Mendoza made Kansas City's roster as a reliever. [...] Continue Reading »
Prospect Star Of Camp: Since Brian Matusz still qualifies as a prospect, albeit barely, it's hard to give this one to anyone else. He was already a shoo-in to make the Orioles' rotation, but he did nothing to dispel the excitement surrounding him with his Grapefruit League performance. The fourth overall pick of the 2008 draft made five starts and posted a 3.10 ERA with a 19-3 K-BB ratio in 20 1/3 innings. His spring was highlighted when he threw 5 1/3 no-hit innings against the Phillies on March 19. On the offensive side, first baseman Brandon Snyder acquitted himself well, hitting .333/.478/.556 (6-for-18) and impressing with his defense at first base, an area he's improved significantly in recent years, in limited action before being optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.
Keep An Eye On: He only made two appearances in Grapefruit League action, but righthander Luis Lebron made a favorable impression on O's manager Dave Trembley. The 25-year-old reliever pitched 1 2/3 innings with two strikeouts and one hit allowed, both appearances coming against the Pirates. Trembley was taken with Lebron's fastball that sits in the mid-90s and tops out at 97 mph, making him a strong candidate for a callup at some point in 2010. Lebron, who had pitched just two innings above high Class A before last year, is coming off a dominant 2009 season in which he went a combined 3-3, 2.54 in 60 1/3 innings with Frederick and Double-A Bowie.
[...] Continue Reading »
Jerry Krause, the general manager of the Chicago Bulls during their six NBA titles in the 1990s, has joined the White Sox, where his focus will be in Latin American scouting.
Krause, who worked for the Mets as a pro scout in 2008, previously worked for the White Sox as a scout in the 1970s and 1980s. The White Sox have been among the least active teams in the international market since the club fired former director of player personnel Dave Wilder and other international scouts two years ago amidst an FBI investigation that Wilder had allegedly skimmed bonus money from the organization's Latin American signings.
• Astros righthander Jordan Lyles, the No. 91 prospect in baseball, will skip high Class A Lancaster and open with Double-A Corpus Christi. It's not a huge surprise that Lyles is skipping Lancaster—he's an advanced pitcher for his age, Lancaster is a nightmare for pitchers and the Astros have hinted all offseason that he would begin the year in Double-A—but it's still a significant jump for a 19-year-old. Righthanders Matt Nevarez and Henry Villar will join Lyles in the jump to Double-A from low Class A Lexington.
• The Dodgers will move shortstop Dee Gordon, their No. 1 prospect, from low Class A Great Lakes to Double-A Chattanooga, skipping the high Class A California League. Gordon, who turns 22 later this month, hit .301/.362/.394 in 131 games with Great Lakes last year. The Dodgers' previous top prospect, left fielder Andrew Lambo, returns to Chattanooga for another year after hitting .256/.311/.407 there last year and dropping to seventh in the organization.
• After gaining some experience in the Arizona Fall League, Cuban shortstop Jose Iglesias will make his minor league debut with Double-A Portland. Righthander Casey Kelly jumps to Double-A after making just eight starts last year for high Class A Salem. Someone asked me recently whether Kelly could reach Boston this year. It's possible, but remember that Kelly threw just 95 innings last year because he split his time between shortstop and the mound in 2009, so it's unlikely the Red Sox will push his innings too high in his first full year of pitching. First baseman Lars Anderson also returns to Portland to try to regain some of the luster he lost from a difficult season a year ago.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Prospect Star Of Camp: Dan Hudson is what he is, solid but not spectacular. The 23-year-old righthander came into camp showing exactly what he showed in breezing through four levels of the minor leagues en route to Chicago in 2009, flashing a low-90s fastball, a solid-average changeup and an inconsistent slider with average tilt at times and more sweeping action at others. All of Hudson's stuff plays up because of his advanced feel for pitching, and it shouldn't be too long before he returns to Chicago after opening the year with Triple-A Charlotte.
Keep An Eye On: Sergio Santos' transition from shortstop to reliever continues to progress, and he showed the White Sox enough to give him a spot in the big league bullpen. Santos' lack of experience on the mound are evident—he throws across his body, his command is questionable and his secondary stuff is still inconsistent. Still, Santos' fastball touched 97 mph in spring training (and he's hit even higher in the past) and he flashed a slider with occasional sharp bite this spring. Keep your other eye on hard-throwing righthander Nathan Jones, who will transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation for high Class A Salem.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Prospect Star Of Camp: Brandon Wood never was in any real danger of losing the third base job. Manager Mike Scioscia began talking up Wood's merits as soon as the 2009 season ended. A lot of that was motivated by Wood being out of options, but the young third baseman has buoyed the Angels' confidence this spring, batting .308/.400/.477 with six extra-base hits (one homer) in 65 at-bats. His 8-to-14 walk-to-strikeout ratio suggests the pressure to perform did not affect him. Righthanded reliever Michael Kohn finished last season in high Class A. He may leapfrog that level and head to Double-A after a sterling spring: 8 2/3 innings, 4 hits, 5 strikeouts, zero walks and zero runs allowed.
Keep An Eye On: In addition to Wood, the Angels also face option-related ultimatums with catcher Bobby Wilson and corner outfielder Terry Evans. Each would have to clear waivers to head back down to Triple-A Salt Lake. Evans hit well this spring (.293/.341/.488 in 41 at-bats) and made the team, thanks in part to Reggie Willits beginning the year on the disabled list. The Angels had given Evans all of 18 big league at-bats prior to Opening Day. Wilson is in a tough spot as the third point in a catching triangle that also includes Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis. He stated his case by hitting .370/.452/.481 in 27 spring at-bats and made the team as third catcher. It would have been hard to envision him clearing waivers.
A Rough Spring: Los Angeles gave righthander Rafael Rodriguez 9 1/3 innings over five appearances to work through his issues. The sinker specialist did not respond. He gave up 15 hits, including three homers, and 11 runs while striking out only one batter. [...] Continue Reading »
The Dodgers announced Sunday they are keeping Rule 5 draft pick Carlos Monasterios as a member of the Opening Day roster.
Monasterios was an unlikely candidate to stick, considering his 4.49 career ERA and 290 strikeouts in 385 minor league innings—just seven of them above Class A. However, the 24-year-old Venezuelan found the right situation, a Dodgers team lacking pitching depth and needing to hold the line on salaries. It doesn't get any cheaper than a $50,000 Rule 5 pickup. [...] Continue Reading »
How big is Stephen Strasburg? ESPNews is planning to televise his minor league debut.
The network plans to broadcast each half inning Strasburg pitches at Altoona for Double-A Harrisburg on Sunday, April 11, according to the Altoona Mirror. The game begins at 2 p.m. E.T.
Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick a year ago and the No. 2 prospect in the game, didn't pitch last year after signing on the Aug. 17 signing deadline, though the Nationals righthander did see action in the Arizona Fall League.
If you can't catch Strasburg's minor league debut, it's unlikely you'll have to wait much longer to watch him pitch again, as he's expected to be in Washington by June.
Prospect Star Of Camp: Tyler Colvin was supposed to get a spring training cameo before heading to Triple-A. But a .459/.459/.716 line has completely changed the Cubs' timetable. Colvin has been the star of camp and has played his way onto the Opening Day roster and even into splitting time in the outfield so that he can start two to three days a week. There are still plenty of reasons to be concerned about whether Colvin is ready for the big leagues–he's shown no improvement in his free-swinging ways, drawing no walks in spring training—but his improved strength and power has shown the Cubs' enough to anoint him as one of the cornerstones of the team's future.
Keep An Eye On: Shortstop Starlin Castro (.433/.452/.667) made a strong argument for making the Opening Day roster as well, but considering he has 31 games above Class A, it makes sense that he will return to the minors for more seasoning. [...] Continue Reading »
Spring training may be just completed, but clubs still have a day or two to finalize decisions on Rule 5 draft selections they made last Dec. 10.
Clubs selected 17 players in the major league phase last year, and we know the fate of 11 of those picks already. The other six still had a chance to stick. Well, it's down to five, really, because Indians righthander Hector Ambriz will begin on the disabled list after pitching just two innings this spring. He walked three and struck out one. The fateful five:
• John Raynor, of, Pirates, taken No. 2 overall
He batted .227/.277/.409 (10-for-44) this spring, with a double, two triples, a homer and an 0-for-1 showing in stolen bases.
• Zack Kroenke, lhp, Diamondbacks, taken No. 6 overall
He went 1-0, 7.71 this spring, striking out two and walking two over seven innings. He allowed 11 hits and one home run.
• Carlos Monasterios, rhp, Dodgers, taken No. 7 overall
He went 0-1, 1.80 this spring, striking out nine and walking seven over 15 innings. He allowed nine hits and one home run.
• Kanekoa Texeira, rhp, Mariners, taken No. 16 overall
He went 1-0, 0.64 this spring, striking out eight and walking four over 14 innings. He allowed nine hits and no home runs.
• David Herndon, rhp, Phillies, taken No. 22 overall
He went 0-0, 0.77 this spring, striking out seven and walking four over 11 2/3 innings. He allowed seven hits and no home runs. [...] Continue Reading »
Red Sox righthander Junichi Tazawa will have Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, ending his 2010 season before it starts.
Tazawa, who will have the surgery on Tuesday, will likely return to the mound at some point near the beginning of the 2011 season. Signed out of Japan in 2008, the 23-year-old Tazawa ranked as Boston's No. 6 prospect and the organization's second-best pitching prospect behind righthander Casey Kelly entering the season.
Tazawa made four starts in six appearances in the big leagues in 2009, though he spent the majority of the year with Double-A Portland. He was expected to open 2010 with Triple-A Pawtucket.
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