By James Bailey
If you have a question, send it to email@example.com. Please include your full name and hometown if you'd like your letter to be considered for use in an upcoming column.
December 22, 2000
I received a tip from a reader on Mark Dewey's whereabouts. You might recall from Wednesday's column that he has signed with the Pirates after four years of inactivityat least as a player. Dewey was the pitching coach for Rookie-level Kingsport last summer after taking a few years away from the game with his family. His arm is healthy again and he decided to give it another shot. If he can come back anything like he was before, he should have no trouble logging steady employment for a couple of years at least.
Now that we're caught up on that, here are today's questions, the last of the year. I'll be out of town next week, so have a nice holiday and I'll catch you again in January.
Could you please give your take on the Twins franchise? They complain there is just not enough money, so consequently no free agent signings. That is OK and understandable, yet they do not even give a full effort in building through the farm system.
Everyone knows cultivating prospects is the way to compete with the large markets, yet they let two high choices in last years draft slip by them. How can this be? It is not just last year either. They have a history of not signing premium picks. They are not even especially active in the Latin American market. It would seem the Twins should have academies in every possible venue.
Sorry for venting.
To me it seems like the Twins have given up. I'm sure most folks in the organization wouldn't agree with that, but it's hard to look at that club and say they've made much of an effort the last five years. They're not aggressive in signing amateur talent, they haven't effectively mined the waiver wires and they've long ago sworn off big contracts.
Minnesota hasn't seen a winning season since 1992, and the Twins have only made one good run at .500 since then, going 78-84 in 1996. The Pirates and Brewers last had winning records in 1992, while the Tigers and Royals last broke .500 in 1993. But for some reason all four of those teams give off a more positive vibe than the Twins do.
Minnesota hasn't hit the jackpot in the first round of the draft since taking Chuck Knoblauch in 1989. Todd Walker looked like he had a shot at becoming an above-average major league player for a while, but somewhere got off track. He'll point the finger at Tom Kelly, and he's not the first to leave town happy to have T.K. in his rearview mirror. It's too early to judge some of the recent drafts, but Ryan Mills and B.J. Garbe both have serious questions to answer at this point. This despite the Twins drafting eighth, 13th, second, ninth, sixth, fifth and second overall since 1994.
There was only one player, second baseman Luis Rivas, on the Twins Top 10 that was originally signed by the club as a foreign free agent. Meanwhile, other low-budget teams comb the Caribbean looking for another Vladimir Guerrero. Maybe the Twins are looking, but they're not coming away with much.
It's refreshing sometimes to see a team not buckle to every demand of a recent draftee, but at some point the Twins need to stop letting players like Tag Bozied and Aaron Heilman just walk away from a team in desperate need of help. I won't actually fault them for losing Travis Lee, because by all accounts they tried to heed by Lee's requests to not negotiate right away while he played with Team USA, and later he turned that to his advantage because they didn't offer him a contract within 15 days. He hasn't turned out as much of a loss to this point anyway, but maybe that's all due to karma.
What you have, Twins fans, is a team that looks to me to be content to lean on its small-market crutch and not make much effort to actually improve itself even within its limited means. On the other hand, that's better in some ways than seeing teams like the Pirates spend money on players like Pat Meares and Kevin Young just to spend money. If a club is going to spend foolishly, it might as well hold onto what little it has.
As a Brewers fan, I've seen plenty of high ceiling prospects go to waste. In 1998, the Brewers selected high school righthander J.M. Gold from Toms River, N.J. Gold has good size and was supposed to be a very good pick, however, once again, injuries became a factor. He suffered an arm injury at the beginning of the 2000 season. I was just curious as to where J.M. is on his rehab? About when will he be back? And also, what do you think the future holds for him? Can he come back and fulfill his first-round status?
Gold got off to a strong start at Class A Beloit in 2000, going 3-1 with a 2.91 ERA in his first seven starts. But he blew out his elbow and had to have Tommy John surgery, ending his season. It generally takes a year for a pitcher to come back from that, and another year for them to return to full strength. I'd guess that Gold will return to action sometime during the upcoming season, but won't really cut loose until 2002.
Gold's mechanics were a concern to some scouts when he was in high school, and some teams shied away from him a bit because of it. He also experienced some minor elbow trouble in 1999. He might have to make some adjustments to his pitching motion when he comes back. It's always a concern when a young pitcher has a major surgery like Gold did, but there are so many success stories these days that you have to cross your fingers and hope for the best.
Gold was passed by righthanders Ben Sheets and Nick Neugebauer in the Brewers system even before the injury, but it would be a big boost for the organization if he were to join them in Milwaukee a couple of years down the road. Considering what Jeff D'Amico has overcome, anything is possible there.
What's the eligibility rule for Caribbean winter ball? It seems that a few years ago Major League Baseball and the Caribbean leagues reached an agreement that effectively made all MLB regulars ineligible. Now quite a few of them are playing.
Two years ago, MLB and the Caribbean winter leagues worked out an agreement that players with 520 or more at-bats the previous season wouldnt be allowed to play in the winter. Ivan Rodriguez was one of the players affected by the rule, and the Rangers seemed pleased at the time that he wouldn't be participating because he had a history of tailing off in the second half of the major league season.
The problem, of course, is that the rule was really unenforceable, because it never was approved by the union. That kind of restriction would have to be part of the collective bargaining agreement and can't just be unilaterally imposed by the owners. That's not likely to happen.
I do think teams are smart to request of certain players that they don't participate in winter leagues, because theres a lot of evidence that the wear and tear catches up in the end. Especially for pitchers.
It's hard for even Rodriguez to ignore the benefits of a winter of rest. After not playing in Puerto Rico in 1998-99, he went on to have his best year ever in 1999, hitting .332 with 35 homers and 113 RBIs. He actually hit significantly better in the second half as well.
But the decision to sit out needs to be his, and not MLB's or the Rangers'. Even in this era of big money for everyone, many Latin players love to play for next to nothing for their hometown fans, and their chance to do that only comes in the winter.
December 20, 2000
The Juan Gonzalez era apparently has come to an end in Detroit. The slugger rejected the Tigers' offer of arbitration yesterday and now has until Jan. 8 to reach terms with Detroit. But it sounds like neither side is interested in working something out.
I have to say I think the Tigers dodged a big bullet on this one. Before the season they had an eight-year, $143 million deal on the table, but Gonzalez nixed it for some inexplicable reason. Whatever the reason, it's a good bet that he won't see that kind of money tossed his way again any time soon.
A year ago, he was regarded as one of the top hitters in the game. Now he's in jeopardy of becoming the next Jose Canseco. Gonzalez is only 31, but 2001 is going to be a big year for him. He needs to prove that he can return to his previous level, and that last year was an aberration and not the beginning of a trend. It will be interesting to see where he gets the opportunity to make his statement.
Now for questions, we start today with one about the now Gonzalez-less Tigers.
My question comes in the aftermath of the Detroit-Houston trade, specifically the Mitch Meluskey-for-Brad Ausmus part of it. I understand that Randy Smith is trying to put runs on the board and Meluskey could help, but he could hurt, too. Meluskey is more likely to let a runner get into scoring position, but he's also more likely to drive someone in. However, the Tigers pitching staff, a good one last year I think, despite the team's record, no doubt benefited from Ausmus' experience. My question is, can one gauge in any way how putting a younger catcher like Meluskey behind the plate might affect the Tigers pitching staff? It's tough to draw any conclusions from his past performance because Comerica and Enron are so different.
I don't think there's any quantitative measurement of a catcher's influence on a staff that can take into account the veteran wisdom that a guy like Brad Ausmus brings to the table. There are various stats, like catcher's ERA, that can be interesting to look at, but they all have their limitations.
Last year, the Tigers posted a 4.71 team ERA, seventh best in the American League. The ERA while Ausmus was catching was 4.63. The Astros, meanwhile, were last in the National League with a 5.41 team ERA. With Meluskey behind the plate that number was 5.52. So you could infer from that that the Tigers were slightly better with Ausmus in the game and the Astros slightly worse with Meluskey in the game. That might not be a correct assumption, however.
Often times a catcher will work primarily with certain pitchers. If he generally catches the weaker starters in the rotation, he's going to have a higher catcher's ERA in all likelihood. That may or may not reflect on his ability as a catcher.
Defensive reputations often have no basis in statistics, which can make comparisons difficult. Despite the subjectiveness of some defensive rankings, I think reputation can often be a more valid means of comparing playersdefensively onlythan anything stat-based. Ausmus has a reputation as a strong defensive catcher, while Meluskey is viewed as an offense-first guy. Now you get down to the question of just how much of a difference that makes over the course of a season. I might surprise you, but I'll say not much.
Here's why: It's generally agreed that Mike Piazza is one of the weaker defensive catchers in baseball, while Ivan Rodriguez is one of the best, if not the best. Last year Piazza's Mets had the third-best ERA in the game at 4.16 (3.87 with him behind the plate) and Rodriguez' Rangers had the worst at 5.52 (5.35 with him playing). Obviously, the Mets had a better pitching staff than the Rangers did. But there wasn't much room for them to have played better with a better defensive catcher than Piazza. And there wasn't much room for the Rangers to play any worse.
One factor in the Astros' desire to deal Meluskey may have had nothing to do with his offense or his defense. He's not reputed to have been the most beloved Astro in the clubhouse last year. There was one instance in particular where he and outfielder Matt Mieske got into it when Meluskey wanted to take extra swings in BP. That stuff won't happen with Brad Ausmus.
Any idea why the Rangers removed Jason Grabowski from the 40-man roster? There seemed to be several more likely candidates, beginning with Brian Sikorski. Have the Rangers truly lost their minds?
The Rangers' decision probably has more to do with a crowded third-base picture than anything else. With the recent signing of Ken Caminiti, there have been reports that the Rangers plan to send Mike Lamb back to Triple-A next year after having rushed him a little in 2000. Triple-A, of course, is the next logical stop for Grabowski, who spent the 2000 season at Double-A Tulsa, hitting .274 with 19 homers and 90 RBIs.
Assuming the Rangers still like Lamb better than Grabowski long term, that puts Grabowski fourth in the organizational line for the position, behind Caminiti, Lamb and Hank Blalock, who played at Class A Savannah last year. In fact, Blalock may have a stronger claim on the job down the road than Lamb does. So Grabowski was kind of a borderline player and those are the guys who get knocked off the 40-man when a spot is needed.
I was surprised to see in the transaction columns that several former major leaguers are still kicking around in Organized Baseball. Andy Stankiewicz, Eric Anthony, Mark Dewey and Mark Kiefer all were signed by teams in the past couple of weeks. It seems like they haven't played in the big leagues since the mid-90s. Where have they been playing the past couple of years?
Anthony, Kiefer and Stankiewicz all signed with the Dodgers last week, while Dewey signed with the Pirates, for whom he played in 1993 and '94.
Anthony hit .176 in 17 at-bats for the Somerset Patriots in the Atlantic League. He's been with the Dodgers off and on since 1997, playing for Triple-A Albuquerque in '97-99. Last year he was released by Los Angeles at the end of spring training. He most recently appeared in the major leagues with the Dodgers in 1997.
Kiefer was a 20-game winner last yearin Taiwan. He went 20-3 with a 1.62 ERA for the Sinon Bulls in the Chinese Pro Baseball League to earn MVP honors. Winning 20 games in a league that plays only 88 games is pretty amazing. Of course, the CPBL schedules only a few games a week, so a pitcher can have even more of an impact on his team. Kiefer has pitched for Sinon since 1997, and last played in the big leagues in 1996 with the Brewers.
Stankiewicz hit .234 in 64 at-bats at Triple-A Columbus last season. He last appeared in the big leagues with the Diamondbacks in 1998.
Dewey is a mystery man for me. I can't find any record of him pitching since 1996, when he was with the Giants. Maybe he has been inspired by Jim Morris to try a comeback after a long absence from the game. He's about the same age as Morris was when he made his comeback. Dewey will be 36 on Jan. 3.
December 18, 2000
It's the holiday season, and we're in a generous mood here, so we've got extra Ask BA for you this week. Remember this when I'm on vacation next week and you get none. Anyway, we'll switch over to a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule this week, and perhaps we'll aim for three days a week after the holidays as well.
It was only a matter of time until the A-Rod questions started pouring into my inbox, and I guess I can't resist giving my take on the whole thing. I don't even like thinking about all of the big contracts, because that's not really what the game should be about, at least to me, but you can't really ignore them, so set me up for a good shot at A-Rod . . .
A-Rod has a clause in his contract that after seven years, he has to make more than the highest-paid player in the game. What happens if another player gets the same clause? Who gets the most money? Shouldn't this clause be illegal? As soon as another player gets this same clause, will it mean that A-Rod will have to restructure his contract so theres less conflict?
We were joking about that clause here last week. I envision two players' contracts bouncing back and forth like the automated bidding on an eBay auction until one team's budget maxes out and the other guy wins.
Should it be illegal? Well, there probably should be some rule against clauses like that, because technically, only one player at a time can have one. But beyond the legality of such a clause comes the morality of it.
A-Rod's image has taken a major hit lately, and deservedly so, I think. He did a lot of things right in Seattle and had a great reputation, also deservedly so. Unlike Randy Johnson and Ken Griffey Jr., he didn't cry his way out of town. He honored the last year of his previous contract and he played as well as he was capable of. Look back on what the Big Unit did in his final four months in Seattle (9-10, 4.33) and it's hard to say he wasn't dogging it, especially when he went 10-1, 1.28 to finish the '98 season after the trade to Houston. There was obviously nothing physically wrong with him that a good veterinarian couldn't have fixed. And we all know how Griffey came across when he had to relocate to his Floridaum, Cincinnatihome. A-Rod avoided all of that by playing hard in 2000 and managing to avoid any distractions his looming free agency could have created.
But now, what can you say for the guy at this point? He's said that he places taking care of his family ahead of winning. Well, that's great. I think everyone should put their family ahead of their work. We'd be a better country for it. I'm personally grateful every day that my dad worked all those years as a college professor, even though I know he hated those damned students, because the $25 million a year salary came in so handy in keeping me and my sisters well stocked with gold-plated underwear.
Get real, Alex. You don't need $252 million to take care of your family. When ballplayers say stuff like that all of their credibility disappearsinstantaneously. I know college tuition is getting a little pricey, but most schools are still well within the reach of the struggling ballplayer getting by on $5 million a year. Even if he has triplets.
I guess I shouldn't fault a player for getting paid what he can get. But don't try to gloss it over. Just come right out and say it: "I'm greedy. I love money. I have to have the most, because that's the only way I can show I'm the best. All of my actions on the field no longer speak loud enough."
As a lifelong Mariners fan, I was really hoping the M's would find some way to hold on to A-Rod. That is, until about two weeks ago when he said that the fences in Safeco Field should be moved in because the existing configuration was bad for the team and bad for baseball. At that moment, I figured the team was going to be better off without him. At that moment, the ridiculous claims (private office space in the stadium, etc.) no longer could just be chalked up to Scott Boras and later denied by everyone involved.
How is a pitching-friendly ballpark bad for Seattle? The Mariners set a team record with 91 wins this past season while drawing their second-highest all-time attendance. While Rodriguez might not have hit as well at home as on the road, neither did the Mariners' opponents. It can provide a solid home-field advantage if you work it right.
Rangers fans, have fun with your delusional shortstop. And when your team doesn't win because there's no money left to sign the next Mark Clark as the No. 3 starter, don't look for that to bother A-Rod. He'll be too busy looking for a small university to purchase for his future offspring to even notice.
The White Sox just obtained Miguel Olivo from the A's, as the player to be named in the deal that sent Chad Bradford to Oakland. I see where Olivo was Oakland's No. 7 prospect prior to the 2000 season. He's still young, had pretty good combined numbers in 2000 and appears to have great tools. Is he still as highly regarded as he was last year?
I was surprised to see Olivo left off the A's 40-man roster this year. They took a calculated gamble that teams wouldn't take him because it would be tough for him to stick in the big leagues all year. And they were right. But then to see them deal him off a few days later, I guess that says that he has slipped a little in the estimation of the Athletics.
Olivo, a catcher, still has phenomenal defensive tools. His arm has been compared to Ivan Rodriguez' and some people have said he'd have the second-best arm in the big leagues if he were in the majors right now. But he took a step back offensively in 2000, hitting .282-5-35 in 227 at-bats at Class A Modesto after hitting .305-9-42 in 243 at-bats for the same club in 1999. He dropped off to .237-1-9 in 59 at-bats at Double-A Midland later in the season.
Olivo is just 21, and I still like him as a prospect, so I would have expected the A's to get more for him than Bradford if they felt they wanted to move him. Bradford, a submarining righthander, has been very effective at Triple-A over the past few seasons, but he's 26 and never has really broken through in Chicago. I don't doubt he'll become an effective setup man for the A's. But I still think they paid a steep price for him, given that his value with the White Sox wasn't all that high. Remember, he was taken off Chicagos 40-man roster prior to the deal.
I think a year or two down the road, this is going to be a trade that the White Sox feel pretty good about.
I was wondering why you guys did not find room for Blue Jays farmhand Orlando Woodards on the Top 15 Prospects. He had a great year, then got placed on the 40-man roster, but still gets no respect from Baseball America for being one of the good prospects in the farm system. I was just wondering if you guys even thought about putting him on the list, or is it just because he was not drafted in the top five rounds, or because he's not a starter? The Blue Jays must think of him as being a top prospect or they would never have protected him on the 40-man roster.
John Manuel, who wrote the Blue Jays Top 10 list, said Woodards was close to making the cut for the top 15, but just missed. Woodards, 22, throws a plus fastball and a nice slider, but the concern is that he hasn't mastered an offspeed pitch. He's likely to get slotted in as a middle reliever, given that Billy Koch and Bob File are ahead of him as closers, and that was taken into consideration in the rankings.
This past season at Class A Dunedin, Woodards went 8-1 with a 2.27 ERA, striking out 69 batters in 87 innings while allowing 65 hits and 32 walks. Those are nice numbers, and if he continues to post similar statistics, he should move up on next year's list.
December 14, 2000
We've got a few good questions on tap today, but before we get to them, I'd like to remind everyone to include their full name and hometown when submitting a question. We're going to be sticklers about this, and your question won't run without that info, so save me the trouble of e-mailing you back to ask about it and just include it the first time. Thanks.
Now for our first letter. It's actually an answer, not a question. On Tuesday we had a query about former Phillies farmhand B.J. Schlicher. I didn't know what had happened to him since he left baseball after the 1997 season, but a couple of readers wrote in to advise that he's alive and well. Here's one of them.
I read this week a question about B.J. Schlicher. I represented B.J. and thought I might offer you this followup. B.J. quit baseball after two seasons with the Phillies. He had played well and the Phillies spent much time trying to talk him into returning. B.J. is now the starting quarterback at the University of Indianapolis, a Division II school, where he has already set many passing records.
So now we know what happened to Schlicher. If we had known about his whereabouts a couple of months ago, Lacy Lusk could have included him in our Baseball Quarterbacks package.
There is a lot of talk that the Angels were ripped off by the Reds in the Wilmy Caceres-Seth Etherton trade. People are saying that they paid way too much and that Wilmy Caceres is one of many all-field, no-hit shortstops that can be had for very little, or nothing for that matter. I was wondering how much of a prospect you would rate Caceres, given that he played in the Southern League. Did the fact that he played in a very pitching-dominated league overshadow his skills? Or is he as bad as his .317 on-base percentage? Should we Angels fans be happy with this trade? Will Wilmy be worth it? Maybe only time can tell.
Ripped off? Hmmm. That might cover it, I guess. I know the Angels have a void to fill at shortstop, but a trade like this one doesn't make sense. Caceres never has hit and doesn't appear likely to begin hitting any time soon. He's a solid defensive shortstop, but in today's game, that doesn't play any more. And Etherton may not be an ace in the making, but he's at least capable of becoming a solid No. 3 or 4 starter in the big leagues. Considering how tough pitching is to come byespecially in AnaheimI wouldn't be hasty to throw a guy like that away.
Caceres was 21 this year at Double-A Chattanooga, which is a hair young for the Southern League, but not much. One could make the argument that he had the disadvantage of jumping from low Class A in the Reds farm system, which didn't include a high Class A club at the time. However, he did just about the same thing at Chattanooga (.268, no power, a low on-base percentage) that he did in Clinton in 1999 (.261, no power, a low on-base percentage), so that wouldn't appear to be a factor. He still has a lot to learn about playing the little man's game, but even if he perfects it, he's not a starting major league player, at least not on a winning team.
Etherton, 24, posted good strikeout-walk ratios in the minor leagues, but like most rookies, his ratio slipped in his big league debut. He just has to make some adjustments and he should be fine. He's a command guy who doesn't throw exceptionally hard, but he's bright and has four solid pitches.
There's something more that baffles me about deals like this. Just two years ago, Etherton was the Angels' first-round pick, and they signed him to a $1.075 million deal. Teams keep crying about spiraling draft bonuses, yet they're willing to pay them out and then in some cases, deal players away before reaping any reward from that. There are plenty of instances of this occurring in the last couple of years. Here's a chart of first-round picks from 1996-98 who have already been dealt away. The number in parentheses indicates where in the first-round that player was chosen.
#Key player acquired in deal. Most trades were not one-for-one swaps.
In most of the deals, the teams at least were dealing for big-name players, and many of those were pennant-race pushes. There are a couple of deals where the trade was an acknowledgement that the signing bonus was a colossal waste, as in Travis Lee and John Curtice's cases. The ones that really jump out at me, though, are a couple of Cubs deals and two that happened this week. The Cubs foolishly dealt away $2,225,000 in players (Jon Garland and Todd Noel) for bullpen chaff Matt Karchner and Felix Heredia, respectively, in 1998. Yeah, they made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth, but you have to think they'd undo both those deals in the blink of an eye if they could.
The Etherton and Jayson Werth deals might be the worst of all, though, because there really shouldn't be any illusions that the Angels and Orioles got good players in return and neither team can use the excuse of a pennant race to justify them. (We talked about the Werth deal on Tuesday, so scroll down for more on that if you're interested.)
You surprised Indians fans with your No. 4 ranking of Willy Taveras. There seem to be two birthdates for him: The 2001 Almanac has December 25, 1981; STATS, Inc.'s minor league player listing has him at January 15, 1979 (pretty old for 2000 in Burlington). Can you help out?
The Indians list Taveras' birthdate at December 25, 1981, so that's what we'll go with. I saw him this summer and he doesn't look like he was 21, so I'm not sure where that other date came from.
Taveras is a legitimate prospect, but I think his No. 4 ranking says a lot more about lack of depth in the Indians organization than it does about him in particular. The Indians have made a lot of trades in recent years to keep their major league roster competitive, and the tradeoff has been the depletion of the farm system. They also had some subpar drafts in recent years. I do think that they turned that around this year, though. They took a lot of young players, who were mostly assigned to Rookie-level Burlington, and many of them struggled in their debuts. That's to be expected. I think some of them, like lefthanders Derek Thompson (supplemental first round) and Adam Cox (fourth) could show a lot more next year, probably at low Class A Columbusor possibly at short-season Mahoning Valley in Thompson's case.
They also had a couple of pitchers at Burlington from the 1999 draft. Righthander Fernando Cabrera was a 10th-round pick who signed late in '99 and didn't start his career until last summer. He's got some impressive stuff. Six-foot-6 righthander Jason Davis (a 21st-round pick in '99) signed last spring as a draft-and-follow. He's worth keeping an eye on as well.
The one player I was most surprised not to find on the Top 15, though, was shortstop Jhonny Peralta. The Indians were so excited about Peralta that they pushed him to Columbus to make his U.S. debut last April, even though he didn't turn 18 until late May. The Indians say he's got tremendous range at short and they expect him to hit as well. He struggled with the bat in 2000, hitting .241 with a paltry .309 slugging percentage, but that's about what you'd expect for most kids his age who were jumping from the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League to the South Atlantic League. He'd probably be best served to repeat the Sally League in 2001. If they don't keep pushing him so fast, they might give him a better opportunity to succeed with the bat.
Peralta isnt the only young shortstop the Indians are high on, though. Hector Luna, who is actually four months older than Peralta, made his U.S. debut at Burlington this past season. He struggled offensively and made a lot of young mistakes in the field, but he's got some tools.
So theres a wave of talent about to rise through the Indians system. Next year a lot of those players could start showing up in the Top 15. But at this point they haven't had a chance to really show what they can do, so they didn't make the cut.
I was curious if you had hear anything your way about York, Pa., getting a minor league baseball team. The great mayor of York, Charlie Robertson, seems to think York can support a Triple-A team. He also claims that he has a few teams interested, including the Calgary Cannons. I havent heard anything on a national level involving York, so I was curious as to whether you had. The reason Robertson has ruled out a Double-A team is that the Harrisburg Senators apparently own the rights to the York area and can restrict any new team moving to that area and have done so. I was just wondering what you think.
York has been mentioned as a possible new home for the Cannons, though Albuquerque is considered the frontrunner in that race.
York County is the fastest growing county in central Pennsylvania, according to some information I found on the Internet (and you know it's true if it was on the Web), growing at a rate of 9.9 percent from 1990 to 1998. When you toss in neighboring Lancaster County, there should be enough population to sustain a team. But the city seems like a longshot to land a Triple-A franchise nonetheless.
It's understandable why Harrisburg would object to York getting a team. The minor league territorial rules say that a team has rights to its territory (generally the county it plays in), plus a 15-mile buffer around that territory. Harrisburg's territory is Dauphin County, which borders York County. York is more than 15 miles from the county line, but the city of Harrisburg borders the county line, meaning there wouldnt be a 15-mile buffer there for a team in York.
That's why any team that moved to York would have to be a Triple-A club. A Double-A team only can assert its territorial rights over any team of equal or lower classification. So a Triple-A team would trump Harrisburg, which would likely see its attendance drop off significantly.
York would have to pay compensation to the Eastern League for infringing upon Harrisburg's territory, but if I were the Senators, I'd much prefer to have no team in York than some compensation cash.
December 12, 2000
What a blah Rule 5 draft. Most of the players taken in the major league phase either have no chance of making the jump or their upside is so limited that they don't excite me as big league performers. (For a complete recap of who was taken, click here.)
I was actually more intrigued by some of the players taken in the Triple-A phase. I did a bit of research on this last year, and discovered that there haven't been many success stories from the minor league draft over the years. Jeff Nelson, Heath Slocumb, Rich Amaral, Brian Johnson, Guillermo Mota and Wiki Gonzalez are about as good as it gets. So we have to keep that in mind when looking at some of the players taken yesterday. But the big advantage they have is that they can keep progressing without the disruption of jumping to the big league level.
The one player that caught my attention the most was righthander Angel Caraballo, taken by the Blue Jays from the White Sox in the first round of the Triple-A draft. He was the No. 10 prospect in the Rookie-level Appalachian League in 1999, but he had some off-field troubles last spring and that earned him doghouse time with the White Sox. Instead of jumping him to a full-season league, they kept him in extended spring training before sending him back to the Appy League in June. He didn't dominate the league like he probably should have, but finished with a respectable 7-4 record and 3.14 ERA. He could be worth keeping an eye on in the Blue Jays system, especially considering the cost ($12,000).
Now for some players who are considerably more expensive.
Could you please tell me what compensation, if any, did the Angels receive as the result of the free-agent signings of Ron Gant and Mark Petkovsek?
This was just one of many free-agent compensation questions to come in since the arbitration deadline. Now that we know who we're dealing with, let's take a look at what the signings to date have done to the draft picture.
There are several factors to keep in mind. First, a player won't fetch compensation unless he was offered arbitration by his previous team. Also, the player must be a Type A, B or C free agent. Someone asked about Joe Oliver. He doesn't make the cut, so the Mariners don't get anything for losing him to the Yankees.
One more thing to keep in mind is that teams picking in the first half of the first round won't lose their first-round pick no matter how many free agents they sign. So for the loss of Alex Rodriguez, the Mariners get the Rangers' second-round pick and a supplemental choice at the end of the first round. Nice system, eh?
This information has been cobbled together from a couple of difference sources, so I'm crossing my fingers that no one was omitted. But here are all the players who have been signed so far that require compensation:
There are only a handful of Type A, B or C free agents left who have been offered arbitration. Here they are:
Blue JaysCraig Grebeck, 2b (C). BravesJohn Burkett, rhp (B). IndiansSandy Alomar, c (B); David Segui, 1b (A). MarinersTom Lampkin, c (B). MetsBobby J. Jones, rhp (C). Red SoxTom Gordon, rhp (C). TigersJuan Gonzalez, of (A). White SoxHarold Baines, dh (B); Charles Johnson, c (A).
I have seen reports that Gordon had signed with the Cubs, but I can't confirm that with any "official" source, like the Cubs' Website for example, so I didn't include him in the chart. Since he's a Type C free agent, the Red Sox would get a supplemental pick after the second round if he signs with any team other than Boston.
The compensation outlined above is subject to change, should a team that already has signed one or more free agents sign another. For example, before the A-Rod signing, the Angels were in line for the Rangers' second-round pick. But since Rodriguez grades out higher than Petkovsek, the Mariners are entitled to the better pick, knocking the Angels down to the Rangers' third-round pick. For a list of all players who were eligible for free agency (some had their options picked up) and their classifications, click here. You'll also find a refresher on what compensation is required for each class.
Could you explain what happened to Jayson Werth? I know I've been gone for a while, but when I left he was going to be the next great thing in Baltimore, assuming Peter Angelos wouldn't coax Ed Ott out of retirement to play for him. Why the sudden trade/dropping off the O's Top 10 list?
Werth never has been viewed as an above-average defensive catcher. In fact, due to his height, there had been some speculation that he might have to change positions. At 6-foot-5 and 195 pounds, he's shaped more like an outfielder and he runs well.
So the thought all along was that Werth would have to be an offense-first catcher. His performance last season at Double-A Bowie evidently raised doubt in the Orioles' minds. As for moving him to another position, the Orioles figured if he couldn't hit enough to be a catcher, he sure wasn't going to cut it in the outfield.
Considering he's only 21, they may have given up on him a little quick. They dealt him to the Blue Jays for lefthander John Bale, whose upside is probably as a long reliever. This could be a deal that bites the Orioles later, but the bottom line is they didn't foresee him developing as originally envisioned.
I have a question about Blaine Neal of the Marlins. I saw he was added to the 40-man roster. He was a fourth-round pick in 1996. I also noticed that he started off as a pitcher was converted to first base, then back to the mound in 1999. What was the cause for this? I saw that he has put up some impressive numbers the past two years and recently in the Arizona Fall League. How much of a prospect do the Marlins consider him? And what type of pitcher is he?
I've got to credit Mike Berardino, our Marlins correspondent, with this answer. Without giving too much away, Neal will rank in the Marlins' Top 10 somewhere.
Neal's pitching career got off to a slow start due to elbow problems. He managed just 51 innings in 1996-97, and the Marlins decided to let him have a shot at first base for the 1998 season. He didn't hit well and apparently got that bug out of his system. At the end of the '98 season, he had surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow and once again he was able to throw without trouble.
Since the surgery Neal has gained velocity and now throws in the mid-90s. Neal needs to improve at least one of his secondary pitchesa curve, changeup and splitterto give him another real option. He might be able to get by with two pitches as a reliever, considering where his fastball clocks.
Back in the mid-90s (probably around 1996) the Phillies selected an Indiana high school player by the name of B.J. Sliccher (my spelling of his last name is probably wrong). Since then I haven't been able to find anything about him anywhere. I happened to play against him in high school and was very convinced that he had a shot. Can you help me out with any information on him? I've looked everywhere I could and have found very little. Also, what ever happened to another Indiana prep star by the name of A.J. Zapp? The last I heard, he was toiling for the Braves' Myrtle Beach club. Thanks!
B.J. Schlicher was drafted by the Phillies in the seventh round of the 1996 draft. He made it as far as Rookie-level Martinsville, where he played two seasons. He hit .295 with five homers and 34 RBIs in 1997, his second season, but was released sometime before the 1998 season began. I have no lead on where he went at that point.
Zapp, a first-round pick in 1996, is indeed still in the Braves system. He hit .268-8-49 at Class A Myrtle Beach in 2000.
December 7, 2000
It's time at last for the Winter Meetings. And with today being the deadline for teams to offer arbitration to their free agents, we should see some of that logjam break up in the coming weeks. The Hot Stove League is heating up.
We'll turn our attention tomorrow to the Rule 5 draft, with a preview of sorts for Monday's selection. Were also planning a chat with either Lacy Lusk or Will Lingoor maybe bothlive from Dallas on Monday. So be sure to tune in for that, as well as our regular Friday chat tomorrow with Jim Callis. But first, we've got Ask BA for you, right here.
The Giants recently added pitcher David Brous to their 40-man roster. If I'm not mistaken, Brous was not even eligible for this year's Rule 5 draft, having been drafted out of high school in 1998 and signed in 1999. Furthermore, it seems unlikely that Brous would have been chosen even if he were eligible, as he missed all of 1999 due to injury and pitched in only nine games of A-ball this year. What am I missing here?
What you're missing is a complicated rule that had me stumped for a while as well.
Brous, a lefthander, was originally signed as a draft-and-follow in May 1999 after being taken by the Giants in the 18th round of the '98 draft. His contract, however, was voided on June 4, 1999, due to a preexisting injury. He signed with the Giants on June 11 of that year after going undrafted. Brous then spent the entire 1999 season on the DL, following Tommy John surgery.
There is an obscure rule in the book that says any player re-signed by a team that released him (within the past calendar year) shall be subject to the Rule 5 draft immediately following his signing. Brous' contract voiding counts the same as him having been released by the team, so he was actually eligible for the draft last December, though the Giants took the calculated risk that no one would take him since he hadn't thrown a professional pitch and still was recovering from elbow surgery.
It seems like the odds would be against anyone taking him again this year, considering he went 1-3 with a 4.59 ERA in 33 innings at Class A San Jose last summer. But the Giants really like his arm and don't want to take any chances. So they put him on the 40-man roster.
It seems that the Boston Red Sox had a fire sale on prospects over the last year and didn't get much in return (Ed Sprague and other flops). How would the Red Sox top 15 prospects list look different if they hadn't traded away so many prospects, dating back to the Carl Everett trade?
Interesting question. I wouldn't quite term the Red Sox deals collectively as a fire sale, but they moved a handful of interesting players. Let's go back a year and see who's been dealt away.
Of course you've got shortstop Adam Everett and lefthander Greg Miller, who both went to Houston in the Carl Everett deal. Righthander Chris Reitsma, who was lost temporarily in the Rule 5 draft last year, went to the Reds in the Dante Bichette trade. Outfielder Lew Ford went to the Twins for a couple of weeks of Hector Carrasco. Righthander Dennis Tankersley was sent to the Padres along with shortstop Cesar Saba for Sprague. Outfielder Michael Coleman went to the Reds in the Chris Stynes trade. Those guys would have to be considered and a few of them would make the list.
I consulted with Jim Callis, who wrote our Red Sox Top 10, and this is what we came up with:
Michael Coleman would have just missed. So if you expanded the list to the 30 that we are running in the Prospect Handbook (available mid-February), he'd rank 16th. Ford, Miller and perhaps Jeff Taglienti, who went to the Rockies in the Rolando Arrojo trade, would slot in later in the list.
Now I don't want fans of the other 29 teams to ask me to do this for their club. Joel gets points for originality and that goes far in getting your question answered (within reason).
I have followed Tommy Davis' career since high school and I know he has disappointed some, but with all the positions he has been moved around to I wonder if that had any effect. I think he had a very consistent year for Rochester but was signed recently by the Cubs. What do you think are his long-term possibilities?
At this point in his career, I don't foresee Davis logging a lot of major league at-bats. His versatility could be his ticket, but he's best at the corners (really at first base) and he doesn't bring the kind of run production teams are looking for from those positions. If he were an above-average defensive catcher who could hit like he does (.287-15-64 in 456 Triple-A at-bats last year), he might have a shot. But there are a lot of other players stuck at Triple-A who are doing more than that at first or third base.
Davis is 27 and should have several more seasons left to play, if he wants to keep at it. Considering what some minor league veterans are making these days (many make $50,000 or more a season), he could earn a comfortable living doing something he really enjoys. That may seem disappointing compared to the expectations from when Davis was a second-round pick in 1994, but ask him how many guys back in his hometown he'd trade places with right now. And ask him again the next time he gets a cup of coffee.
What are the criteria to be placed on the Hall of Fame ballot? Minimum number of career games? At-bats/innings pitched?
A player must play 10 seasons in the big leagues in order to be eligible for the Hall of Fame, then get at least two votes from a six-man screening committee to make it on the ballot. Theres no at-bat, inning or game requirement.
It's time once again for what has gotten to be a regular feature of Ask BA, the handoff to John Manuel. Maybe we should just call this section "John's College Corner."
I am a current Duke student, and as a Duke baseball fan, am currently suffering through the team's woes. The years of Quinton McCracken and Ryan Jackson seem to be gone, when we at least could compete. Is there hope in the future, or even some pro prospects among the group of current players?
John Manuel: Duke is trying, though we were somewhat surprised when Bill Hillier was hired as baseball coach. We thought Duke would go for a bigger name in its efforts to improve the program, but we're also willing to be patient and see what Bill does. Joe Alleva, the AD, has two sons on the team and obviously wants to see Duke baseball succeed while that's the case. The installation of lights and chairback seats is a good first step, because Jack Coombs Field needs help and is getting it.
On the field, Larry Broadway is my favorite Duke player. He looks like he can rake, I like his swing, he's nimble at first base, and I've seen him pitch decently as well. He's a nice two-way guy to have, but his future is with the bat. Ryan Caradonna is a decent righthander and a good veteran to start the rotation with. Kevin Kelly was a big draft pick out of high school (third round, Expos, '98), but I haven't seen it. Allan Simpson says many scouts still say Kelly, who has battled some nagging injuries in his first two seasons, could be a fifth- to 10th-round pick, so maybe I shouldn't write him off just yet, but he needs to get it going.
Thanks for your question. We're in Durham, of course, and maybe I'll see you at the Coombs sometime.
December 5, 2000
I want to thank everyone who stopped by the chat room last Friday. We had a lot of good questions. I guess people are in the mood for good questions lately, because we've been getting plenty of them here at Ask BA. We've got five for you today, covering the gamut from hot prospects to college ball to the police blotter.
There are still occasional Rule 5 questions coming in, and I'm only going to refer you to the explanation we posted last year, so save yourself a step and head right there if you want to learn the basics of the Rule 5 draft. This year's draft takes place next Monday, and we'll have all the coverage you need right here on Baseball America Online. Look for our draft preview sometime on Friday, as well.
Last year Chad Hermansen and Abraham Nunez (of the Marlins) were rated as good prospects. Both didn't have very good years. Do you think that Nunez' injuries will be long term and affect his prospect status? Also, what do you make of Hermansen's subpar year? Is his plate discipline going to make him a good Four-A player who won't be as good a major leaguer as predicted?
Also, do you foresee Pablo Ozuna's future as a backup middle infielder behind Luis Castillo and Alex Gonzalez? He seems almost ready for the majors, but seems blocked by these two players.
I've probably said in this space before that I'm not a Chad Hermansen fan. It's nothing personal, I just don't think he can hit. He strikes out a ton and doesn't really seem to have much grasp of the strike zone. I don't care how good his tools are if he can't hit, and he hasn't shown me he can.
Nunez should bounce back from his shoulder troubles with no long-term ill effects. He was back in the outfield in instructional league and has been playing the field in the Dominican League this winter. I still like him a lot as a prospect.
Ozuna could be a solid utilityman some day, but I'm sure he's hoping for a starting job somewhere. The way Castillo has performed lately, he's not about to give up the second-base job in Florida. Gonzalez is another matter, but Ozuna doesn't play short well enough to be an asset at that position. Someone will steal Gonzalez' job soon, though. He's one of the few players in the big leagues who actually take could strike-zone lessons from Hermansen.
I was surprised to see former Auburn Tiger and Pittsburgh Pirate Ryan Halla in the Arizona Fall League this year with the Braves. Can you tell me anything about how he wound up with the Braves and what they think of him? His presence in the AFL makes me wonder how he got away from the Pirates.
Halla got away from the Pirates when they released him in spring training. He hooked on with the Elmira Pioneers in the independent Northern League and tore things up there, posting a 1.40 ERA and 20 saves in 25 appearances. In 25 innings, he allowed 15 hits and seven walks and struck out 36. His 20 saves, incidentally, tied the record for the Northern League's Eastern Division and he was only there until late July.
The Braves signed Halla and assigned him to their woeful Triple-A Richmond team, where he instantly became one of their best pitchers, which really isn't saying a lot. Halla went 1-1 with a 4.32 ERA in 18 games, striking out 19 and walking 12 in 17 innings. He was slightly better than that in Arizona, going 1-1, 3.94 with 19 strikeouts and six walks in 16 innings.
The funny thing is, Halla never got a shot above Class A in the Pirates system. His release turned out to be a big break for him.
A couple of years back the Mets drafted a player named Vicente Rosario, an outfielder from the same high school in New York as Manny Ramirez. He had incredible numbers in his high school career, but then, with a group of friends, ran into trouble with the law. I remember seeing something in the newspapers about the other guys he was with being sentenced, but I don't ever remember Rosario as being convicted of anything. Was he ever absolved from any wrongdoing, and is he still with the Mets or anyone at all in professional baseball? Please let me know, as I have been unable to find out any information.
Rosario, who was drafted in the eighth round in 1997, had a grand total of five at-bats as a Mets farmhand, all in 1999. He was released last June and signed with the Mariners shortly thereafter. Rosario was one of five Mets minor leaguers implicated in a sexual battery of a 17-year-old girl while participating in extended spring training in 1998.
Three playersshortstop Jose Tucent Brea and pitchers Natividad Tavarez and Milton Gonzalezwere convicted and sentenced to two-year prison terms. Charges against shortstop Ruddi de la Cruz were dropped in exchange for his testimony against Rosario. Rosario was acquitted when his case went to trial more than a year after the incident took place. The Mets then reinstated him from the suspended list and he played in three games in the Gulf Coast League, going 1-for-5.
Rosario played in the Rookie-level Arizona League for most of the 2000 season, hitting .343-2-16 in 143 at-bats. He moved up to short-season Everett at the end of the summer, hitting .269-1-12 in 78 at-bats.
Why don't we ever see teams trade prospects for prospects? I seem to remember the Padres and Mets doing a couple earlier in the decade which included players that were at the time prospects (Randy Curtis, Raul Casanova, D.J. Dozier), that ended up not doing anything of real note. Is this why we never see prospect-for-prospect trades?
You don't generally see many trades or major or minor leaguers today that don't boil down to money. Teams are often only interested in moving a player because of his contract status. That doesn't enter the picture with minor league prospects, so there's no impetus for dealing them.
Most prospect-for-prospect trades these days are "fresh start" deals, where players who have sort of stalled in their organization being sent on to a new home. Most teams aren't in any hurry to deal away prospects they like because there's no reason to. They're inexpensive to hold on to, and the teams are generally partial to those players having drafted and signed them.
As a long time Jayhawk League supporter, I have seen many top prospects come and go, especially from the Liberal Bee Jays, El Dorado Broncos and Topeka Capitals. As a Topeka resident and Capital fan, I would like to know whether we will get any three of our top players back, or will they be high draft choices: Zach Parker (San Jacinto JC), Zeph Zinsman (Lousiana State) and. Daylon Monnette. Who out of the bunch is the best prospect?
As per usual procedure, I handed this question off to John Manuel, our college expert. Here's what he had to say:
Here's my best stab at it, with an assist from Allan Simpson: I'd say Zinsman is the best prospect of the three. Hell start at first base for Louisiana State and get plenty of at-bats in the middle of the Tigers lineup. Tigers assistant coach Turtle Thomas likes what he has seen of Zinsman and has likened him to LSU's last first baseman, Brad Hawpe, only with a little more power. Monnette has been drafted twice, out of high school by the Indians in the seventh round in 1999 and by the Pirates in the 17th round this year. He's a good hitter and looks like he can be a true center fielder/leadoff guy and probably ranks next. Parker, 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, played at San Jacinto and was a 21st-round pick this year of the Rockies, He has a power arm but has lacked command. He ranks as the No. 2 prospect among Texas JC players, according to Allan, and also has committed to play at LSU for the 2002 season.
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