NASHVILLE–We just arrived in Nashville, and it's time to catch up on the buzz surrounding Thursday's Rule 5 draft here in Music City. Padres righthander Paul Abraham was the latest name to surface over the weekend, and White Sox righthander Fernando Hernandez continued to build momentum as well.
Abraham, a 2001 12th-round pick of the Rangers, was released by Texas at the end of spring training in 2004. After catching on with independent Quebec, the Padres brought him back to affiliated ball, beginning at low Class A Fort Wayne. Abraham, 27, went 1-3, 2.39 with a 53-20 strikeout-walk ratio in 53 innings at Double-A San Antonio this season, and is following that up with a strong performance in the Venezuelan Winter League for Caracas. In 17 innings, Abraham is 2-1, 2.60 with a 2.23 GO/AO ratio.
Abraham gets good sink on his 89-94 mph fastball and also has an average slider. In the past, he had tinkered too much with his mechanics, which threw off the quality of his stuff, but his arm slot has remained consistent this winter, improving his stock.
Hernandez, a 49th-round draft-and-follow out of Broward (Fla.) Community College in 2002, spent two stints in the Mexican League in 2005 before spending all of 2006 at high Class A Winston-Salem. The 23-year-old pitched at Double-A Birmingham this past season and boosted his profile significantly in the Arizona Fall League.
Often compared to Twins righthander Matt Guerrier for his command and control rather than pure stuff, Hernandez is also an innings-eater with an above-average curveball.
"This is a guy someone's going to bite on," said one National League scouting director. "He's all guts and showed the ability to shut people down with games on the line. He profiles as more of a middle reliever, but any manager you talk to who's had him will tell you they're not afraid to put him in there in the ninth inning.
"His fastball can be fringy, but he's got a pretty good curveball with a lot of depth to it, and his changeup is probably his second-best pitch."
Hernandez went 0-0, 0.00 in 12 appearances for Phoenix during his AFL season. He struck out 11 in 12 innings, walking four.
Scouts Of The Year
The annual Scout of the Year awards–voted on by scouts from the 30 major league organizations and the Major League Scouting Bureau–were announced Monday, and the winners will be honored at a Wednesday luncheon. Four scouts are honored, by region. This year's recipients:
• The Mets' Sandy Johnson, Baseball America's 2005 Roland Hemond Award winner, won the Scout of the Year foundation's Director's Award. Johnson is the Mets' vice president of scouting.
• Rangers senior advisor/special assignment scout Tom Giordano was the East region winner. Giordano has spent the last 61 years in pro baseball as a player, minor league manager, scout and player-development official, working for organizations from the Athletics, Reds, Seattle Pilots and Expos to the Orioles (where he drafted Cal Ripken Jr.), Indians and Rangers, whom he joined in 2002.
• Jim Walton of the Scouting Bureau was named for the Midwest. Walton has more than 50 years of experience in the game and spent the last 33 years with the Bureau. He has been one of the Bureau's advance scouts for USA Baseball in recent years, helping the Americans win the 2000 Olympic gold medal as well as the 2006 Olympic qualifier and the 2007 World Cup.
• The Scouting Bureau's Ed Sukla won the West award. Sukla, who pitched in the big leagues from 1962-75, has worked for the Bureau in California since 1976.