Today's Daily Dish has a definite bias towards pitching. We'll cover plenty of hitters over the rest of the week, but here's a look at four pitchers who stood out last week.
Kyle Gibson had to wait a long time to make his first pro start. Thankfully his second start came just five days later.
The Twins' 2009 first-round pick missed all of last season with a stress fracture in his forearm, so his Opening Day start against Brevard County (Florida State) was also his pro debut. He allowed five runs, three of them earned, on six hits as he lasted just 3 2/3 innings.
Fort Myers pitching coach Steve Mintz said that Gibson's first start wasn't as bad as it appeared–he gave up a pair of home runs on balls that carried in a stiff wind. But naysayers who had concerns about Gibson's heavy reliance on his slider and last year's forearm injury had reasons to worry. [...] Continue Reading »
"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 »
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 »
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.
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.
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."
GLENDALE, Ariz.—The Dodgers have shown a knack over the years for taking prospects and moving them to catcher. Russell Martin is the most successful example, a third baseman who moved behind the plate in 2003. Carlos Santana, traded to the Indians last year for Casey Blake, is another third baseman-turned-catcher and one of the game’s elite prospects. Tony Delmonico and Lucas May, both still in the Dodgers farm system, began their careers in the infield before converting to catcher.
With 22-year-old Kenley Jansen, the Dodgers have another conversion project on their hands. Only this time, the Dodgers are moving a player off the catching position and putting him on the mound.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.—Giants catcher Buster Posey might have been the best position prospect in the Arizona Fall League.
Posey, 22, hit .325/.416/.531 in 115 games between high Class A San Jose and Triple-A Fresno during the regular season. Yet he had a rather pedestrian showing for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League. A few talent evaluators around the league said Posey looked tired, though he still showed good bat speed and the other solid all-around tools that made him the fifth overall pick in the 2008 draft out of Florida State.
"You see the catching ability, obviously the receiving, the blocking, the nice arm, you see the arm strength and the quickness in his release," said Scottsdale manager Jeff Banister, the Pirates minor league field coordinator. "The bat plays—he’s hit some balls very well here. I think being tired and worn out that he’s trying to press a little bit and trying to generate a little too much with the bat, but you do see all the skill set of a major league catcher, of a guy that potentially could be that everyday catcher that San Francisco is looking for."
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.—It doesn’t take long to see what all the fuss is about with Phillies right fielder Domonic Brown.
Brown, 22, is a potential true five-tool player with a wiry 6-foot-5, 204-pound frame that screams projection. He’s an outstanding athlete with plenty of bat speed, plus raw power that’s beginning to translate to game situations and, despite a bit of an awkward load, a solid swing with good extension. After tearing through the league in his first dozen Arizona Fall League games, Brown’s performance has tapered off to .239/.302/.407 through 29 games.
"Early in the season, he showed you the raw power and showed you the hitting ability," said Scottsdale manager Jeff Banister, the Pirates minor league field coordinator. "He’s playing deeper now than he’s ever played before, more games than he’s ever played—it is a grind. But he does possess all the five tools to go out and take over the game. When he’s not doing it with the power, he can do it with his legs on the bases. He has that dominating right fielder’s arm that can shut down guys on the basepaths as well. He’s big and lanky, and he can use that speed in the outfield. Boy, I tell you, I wouldn’t mind having him patrolling right field every day."
PHOENIX—For all the accolades Stephen Strasburg has received, he might be even better than you think.
Strasburg didn’t have much need to throw his changeup at San Diego State, not with an arm that consistently pumps mid- to high-90s fastballs and a filthy breaking ball.
Strasburg does have a good changeup though, as Aaron Fitt points out in the Nationals top 10 scouting reports, and the Arizona Fall League provides him with the perfect outlet to mix in his changeup against more advanced hitters. It’s plus pitch at 88-91 mph with good sink, which the Peoria Saguaros found out on Saturday.
Facing Houston’s Jose Vallejo to lead off the game, Strasburg struck out Vallejo swinging on a 91-mph changeup on a 2-2 pitch. After Padres shortstop Lance Zawadzki popped out, Reds outfielder Chris Heisey struck out swinging on another 91-mph changeup in a 2-2 count. Strasburg struck out Heisey swinging again in the fourth inning, this time getting him to swing through an 89-mph changeup in a 3-2 count.
"He has an excellent changeup, and he has thrown it quite well," said Phoenix pitching coach Paul Menhart, who spent the 2009 minor league season coaching the Nationals’ high Class A Potomac club. "It is a plus pitch, in my opinion, and he’s used it as we’ve asked him to quite effectively to go along with the electric fastball and very above-average curveball."
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.—There isn’t anything too flashy about Chase D’Arnaud.
While the Pirates infielder won’t hit 460-foot home runs, show off a rocket arm or fly down the line in four seconds flat, he’s a very good athlete with a well-rounded skill set.
"He does everything well enough," said an American League scout. "He doesn’t have a standout tool, but he has some bat speed and he can square it up. He’s got gap power, but he can turn on one and hit it out."
Coming into the season, Bell appeared to be a likely candidate to move off of third base, while Snyder was a below-average defender at first base after trying his hand at catching earlier in his career.
That perception is changing.
SURPRISE, Ariz.—Jenrry Mejia signed with the Mets two and a half years ago in relative anonymity.
His $16,500 signing bonus looks like a clearance-aisle price today for the organization’s No. 1 prospect, a power-armed righthander who reached Double-A in June before just turning 20 last month.
Pitching for Surprise yesterday after missing his last scheduled start due to illness, Mejia touched 96 mph with his fastball once, otherwise ranging from 90-95 mph and mostly sitting 92-95 (he’s been clocked as high as 98 mph in previous outings here in the AFL and during the minor league season).
His fastball is a swing-and-miss offering, not just because of its velocity but because of its outstanding movement. Mejia generates tremendous cutting action on his fastball, and he’ll also put some sink on his heater as well. Between the velocity and movement, Mejia has a pitch he can use as an out pitch or to induce grounders—71 percent of his outs on balls in play were groundouts during the minor league season.
“It has a lot of power—it gets on you quick,” said Surprise pitching coach Tom Phelps, the Yankees’ Double-A pitching coach at Trenton during the 2009 minor league season. “He has a fastball that will cut, and he also has a fastball that will sink. As long as he keeps it down in the zone, he gets a lot of ground balls and a lot of early outs and quick innings. The big thing for him is controlling it in the zone and not getting behind hitters and walking hitters.”
PEORIA, Ariz.—After catching all season, some of the catchers in the Arizona Fall League are starting to show some wear and tear.
While it’s been a struggle for the 2008 first-round picks after the grind of their first full professional seasons, Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy has been a standout for the Peoria Javelinas.
“He’s pretty impressive as a catcher,” said an American League scout. “He’s been one of the better—if not the best—catchers here. He plays good defense, has just enough power and throws well at times.”
SURPRISE, Ariz.—How a player translates his tools into game situations is important, but batting practice is a great time to get a better feel for prospects.
BP is an opportunity to measure a player’s raw power and get a better feel for his swing—the length, the plane, the bat speed, how a hitter loads and generates torque, and so on. It gives scouts (and journalists) an extra 40-50 swings or so for each player that they won’t see in the game, and while the ability to translate everything from BP into game situations is another question, it’s a helpful way to assess raw tools and mechanics.
Yet while watching Mesa take BP, I found myself unable to take my eyes of the left side of their infield taking ground balls. I know I’m not the only person to say that, either.
The AFL is a great league for hitters with the favorable Arizona air and disproportionate ratio of hitting prospects to hitting prospects. Still, the Mesa pitchers have to feel pretty good when a ground ball is hit to third base or shortstop, where the Solar Sox have three premium defenders: Red Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias, Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro and Marlins third baseman Matt Dominguez.
ZEBULON, N.C.—When you think of 19-year-olds playing in the Southern League, the first name that comes to mind is Mississippi’s Jason Heyward, though he just turned 20. The second is probably Jacksonville’s Mike Stanton. The third? Well, there aren’t too many options, but it should be Tennessee’s Starlin Castro.
Just a year removed from playing 51 games in the Rookie-level Arizona League, Castro made his 2009 debut for high Class A Daytona (Florida State) and drew rave reviews. In 96 games for the Cubs, the 2006 international signee out of the Dominican Republic hit .302/.340/.391 with 17 doubles, three home runs and 35 RBIs. He also stole 22 bases in 33 tries. Castro’s rapid ascension through the minor league ranks surprised many, including himself.
"I was surprised when I saw my name on the roster to go to Daytona; I thought I was going to Peoria," Castro said in translation through Smokies teammate Robinson Chirinos. "After that, I expected to be in Daytona all year. But I did think I would move fast because I’ve worked so hard."
GREENSBORO, N.C.—While Jordan Lyles is the best pitching prospect with low Class A Lexington (and arguably the best pitching prospect in the Astros’ entire farm system), a handful of other young pitchers threw for the Legends in their recent four-game series at Greensboro as well:
Ross Seaton, rhp: Seaton, 19, had the worst start of his career on Friday, allowing nine runs in 3 1/3 innings. Seaton allowed nine hits and three walks, striking out just two of the 22 batters he faced. Seaton’s ERA is still solid at 3.39 through 24 starts with just 2.6 walks per nine innings, though the 2008 third-round pick is averaging just 5.6 strikeouts per nine.
His fastball sat at 88 mph, ranging from 87-91 mph and touching 92 once. After racking up a high pitch count by the third inning, he was in the 86-89 mph range.
DURHAM, N.C.–Minor leaguers are prepared (and want) to change teams during the season. Yet White Sox righthander Dan Hudson’s experience has been more nomadic than usual.
Hudson, a fifth-round pick last year from Old Dominion, began the year in low Class A Kannapolis. Four months later, Hudson is in Triple-A Charlotte after stops in high Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham. With a late-season promotion to Chicago still a possibility, Hudson will have crossed paths with nearly everyone in the organization.
Pitching yesterday at Durham, the 22-year-old Hudson allowed one run in five innings, surrendering two walks and six hits while striking out four. Through three starts with the Knights, Hudson’s ERA is now 2.81 in 16 innings with 12 strikeouts and five walks. On the season, Hudson has a 2.26 ERA in 139 1/3 innings with 154 strikeouts (third-most in the minor leagues) and 30 walks.
"He pitched pretty good considering that he didn’t have real good command of his pitches," said Knights pitching coach Richard Dotson. "He battled well and he showed an excellent changeup, so he did what he was supposed to do."
GREENSBORO, N.C.—Had Rangers lefthander Martin Perez been born in the United States instead of Venezuela, he would likely be twiddling his thumbs right now, waiting for the Aug. 17 draft signing deadline to sign as a first-round draft pick.
Instead, the 18-year-old Perez made his Double-A debut last night for Frisco as the youngest player in the minors above Class A.
Sure, Tulsa completely pasted Perez, who left after surrendering seven runs (six earned) in 2 2/3 innings, allowing eight hits, one walk and striking out three.
But Perez is well ahead of schedule with the Rangers flooring the accelerator by skipping him over high Class A Bakersfield, promoting Perez from low Class A Hickory straight to Double-A.
In his final appearance for Hickory on Friday, Perez pitched one inning of relief, a scheduled bullpen outing designed to limit Perez’s innings, according to Crawdads manager Hector Ortiz.
Perez, who signed with the Rangers in 2007 as a high-profile 16-year-old prospect, sat with his fastball at 93-95 mph and touched 96. Perez showed a free-and-easy delivery, mixing in a curveball and a changeup. Perez left the league with a 2.31 ERA in 96 1/3 innings, averaging 10.1 strikeouts and 3.2 walks per nine innings.
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