Saturday Roundup: Louisville, Vanderbilt Among Strong Finishers
Vanderbilt set a new record for Southeastern Conference wins in a season Saturday, beating Alabama 14-10 to clinch the series and finish 26-3 in SEC play. The previous record was [...]
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Scout’s View: B.J. Upton
B.J. Upton technically isn't a prospect anymore, thanks to the Devil Rays giving him 159 at-bats in Tampa Bay last season. Upton hit .258 with a .409 slugging percentage and 46 strikeouts, showing flashes of the talent that made him the No. 2 pick in the 2002 draft.
But the 20-year-old is back in the minor leagues in 2005, and it's clear that's where he needs to be. The Devil Rays fiddled with Upton's position last year in the major leagues, playing him 13 games at third base, 16 games at shortstop and even once in the outfield. They've decided to try patience this year and sent Upton back to Triple-A Durham to work on his defense.
Early returns were not good, though. Upton made 17 errors in the Bulls' first 25 games, many of them on throws, a problem also plaguing his brother Justin, who projects to be the top pick in the 2005 draft. Scouts assessing the draft have mostly decided Justin Upton needs to move to center field, where he could be a premier defender and where his polished bat could move quickly.
But a veteran scout who watched him several times in April with the Bulls is just as convinced that B.J. Upton is far from done as a shortstop--if the Devil Rays can remain patient.
"There's no question he has the tools for shortstop. We have to understand, a lot has been thrown at this kid in a short time, including incredible expectations. He justifiably was put on the fast track, because he can really hit. There's no doubt he'll hit in my mind; he handles the ball inside as good as anyone I've seen.
"Right now, he's making a lot of errors, because he's playing tight; he's afraid to make errors, he's trying too hard, and that leads to more errors. He'll make a body-control play, for example, come in real good on a ball, come in fast and grab it, but then throw it too hard to first, or take a little off and bounce it over there. He's got a hose for an arm--it's a 70 arm--but he worries himself to death right now about it. Billy Evers is a player's manager, and he's the kind of manager who can let him play through it but also know when to put an arm around him and instill confidence in a guy who might be shaky.
"He doesn't nonchalant it. I haven't seen him carry a bad at-bat into the field with him, or vice-versa. He's a sharp kid with tons of ability, and a great future still. He's 20. If he had gone to college, he'd be a junior going into his first draft; instead, he's in Triple-A. Think about that before someone tries to bury him as a prospect.
"If they move him to the outfield, it would be the greatest mistake and travesty you could ever make with a player. He has the tools to play a premium position in the middle of the diamond, and to waste that would be awful. When he was drafted, the questions were whether or not he had enough bat to go No. 1 overall, because everyone thought he could definitely play shortstop, maybe be a potential Gold Glover. So that shows you how inexact this sport and this business is."
• Several prospects got callups yesterday as Robinson Cano (Yankees), Eziquiel Astacio (Astros), Jeremy Accardo (Giants) and Ryan Howard (Phillies) were all sent up to the big leagues. Cano, Astacio and Howard played last night, and with Jim Thome on the 15-day disabled list with back problems, Howard will see a lot of playing time over the next two weeks. "This is a good chance for Howard and I don't want to put a lot of pressure on him, but this is a good chance for our other guys to become heroes or become better players or get in the limelight or get in the spotlight or however you want to say it," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel told the Express (N.J.) Times.
A scout who covers the International League said Cano was ready to help the Yankees, calling him one of the “bright lights of the league. He should help them. He’s a lefty bat who can drive the ball to all fields, and he can play defense; he has infield actions. He might move to third base, but that’s down the line, and if he gets stronger, he could be able to make that move.”
• As if losing Thome wasn't enough, there was more bad news for the Phillies, as righthander Gavin Floyd got ripped again at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Floyd lasted just three innings and allowed six earned runs on six hits in a 10-5 loss to Buffalo. In two starts since being sent down from Philadelphia, Floyd is 0-2, 12.96. He's allowed 12 earned runs on 15 hits and struck out six in 8 1/3 innings.
• Big doings in Greensboro. 22-year-old lefthander Jason Vargas was promoted to high Class A Jupiter after going 4-1, 0.80 with 33 punchouts in 33 2/3 innings. To replace him in the rotation, the Grasshoppers have activated the Marlins' 2003 first-round pick Jeff Allison. More known for his well-chronicled drug problems, Allison has been with the team, but on the inactive list since the start of the season. He is schedule to make his first start tomorrow against Delmarva.
• In what has become a daily Brad Eldred Watch, the slugging first baseman went homerless for the first time in six games, but went 1-for-4 with an RBI in his Triple-A debut for Indianapolis in a 6-0 shutout against Toledo. The better story was lefthander Zach Duke, who had his best outing of the season. Duke, a 20th-round pick in 2001 out of Midway High in Clifton, Texas, went 6 2/3 shutout innings, allowed just two hits, walked two and struck out 11. On the season, Duke is 5-1, 3.41 with 24 strikeouts in 37 innings, and he’s tied for the minor league lead in wins.
• Double-A Portland closer Cla Meredith was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket. The 21-year-old righthander racked up nine saves in 12 appearances, didn't allow an earned run in 15 innings, walked three and struck out 12.
• One of the best hitting teams in the minors is Double-A Montgomery and yesterday they took it out on Dodgers' righthander Chad Billingsley. The Biscuits rattled out 13 hits in an 8-4 win over Jacksonville. In his return from a three-game suspension from bumping an umpire last Friday, right fielder Delmon Young went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs. Billingsley allowed five earned runs on nine hits, struck out six and walked two over five innings. Montgomery lefthander Chris Seddon went six shutout innings, allowed four hits and struck out six. Seddon, a fifth-round pick in 2001 out of Canyon High in Santa Clarita, Calif., is 3-0, 5.64 with 30 strikeouts in 30 innings.
• High Class A Kinston lefthander Rafael Perez allowed another earned run--his second in 30 innings--last night in a 7-1 win against Lynchburg. The 22-year-old Dominican allowed a run on five hits and struck out six over six innings. Using a fastball that touches 96 mph and a nasty slider, Perez is now 4-0, 0.60 with 27 strikeouts and six walks this season.
• High Class A Salem righthander Rory Shortell allowed just two hits over seven shutout innings and struck out six in a 1-0 win against Myrtle Beach. Shortell, the Astros' third-round pick in 2002 out of San Diego State, is 2-2, 2.81 in 27 innings this season. Shortell had Tommy John surgery in 2003 and has pitched just 40 innings since being drafted. In his first four starts this season, he went 1-2, 3.38. "I've been doing a lot of thinking since my last start," Shortell told the Roanoke Times. "I haven't felt like my normal self since I had the surgery. Tonight I had my mindset back. I wasn't afraid of anybody." The hard-luck loser in the game was Braves lefthander Jake Stevens, who allowed a run on five hits and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings. Stevens, a third-rounder in 2003, is now 2-3, 3.86 in 26 innings.
• Getting named No. 2 on the most recent prospect Hot Sheet must've gone to his head. Matt Cain struggled for the first time at Triple-A Fresno as he labored through 4 2/3 innings against the Las Vegas. The 20-year-old Giants prospect did fan seven, but walked six and allowed four earned runs in one of the rougher outings of his young career. "It wasn't very pretty for me. I'm not happy with it," the righthander told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "The fastball just wasn't there, and that got in my head a little bit. It just never felt good coming out of my hand." In his last start against Las Vegas, Cain took a no-hitter into the eighth while striking out 10.
• Dave Haehnel didn't get the save, but he did get the win and he still hasn't allowed a run this season. The lefthander threw two scoreless innings for low Class A Delmarva as they defeated Hickory 4-3. The Orioles No. 12 prospect has allowed only 12 baserunners in 11 2/3 innings while striking out 16.
• Trying to return to the majors as an outfielder, Rick Ankiel is hitting more like a pitcher for Double-A Springfield. Ankiel went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts in the Cardinals 5-4 win over San Antonio, and is 1-for-19 (.053) with seven strikeouts in five games.
• Oakland righthander Jason Windsor struck out a career-high 13 last night in high Class A Stockton's 5-3 win over Modesto. With 40 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings, Windsor trails only teammate Dallas Braden (42) for the California League lead.
• Reds righthander Homer Bailey, the seventh overall pick in last year's draft, celebrated his 19th birthday in grand style, earning his first professional victory by striking out six and allowing only one hit over five innings in low Class A Dayton's 2-0 win against Kane County. Bailey, who lowered his ERA to 3.31, has struck out 25 in 16 1/3 innings on the season.
• Righthander Anthony Swarzak, the Twins second-round pick last year, struck out a career-high 10 batters over six shutout innings in low Class A Beloit's 10-3 win over Cedar Rapids to earn his first win since tossing six no-hit innings in his first outing of the year. Swarzak is tied with Cubs righty Sean Gallagher for the Midwest League lead with 37 strikeouts.