Notable Players Available In The Rule 5 Draft
The Rule 5 draft is fascinating because of its timing and its format. Positioned right in the middle of the baseball offseason, it gives everyone a chance to scour rosters […]
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Compiled by Kevin Goldstein, Chris Kline and Matt Meyers
It’s a nice problem to have . . . too many infielders. That’s the situation for the Mariners’ affiliate at low Class A Wisconsin this year.
With four players that rank among the Mariners’ top 30 prospects on the roster capable of playing in the middle of the field, Seattle has gone with a rotation system, splitting time at second, third and shortstop among the four while allowing for days off and filling the DH slot. We talked to one pro scout who recently saw the Timber Rattlers about the four.
On shortstop Matt Tuiasosopo, who received a third-round record $2.29 million bonus last July: “Physically, he just stands out when you look at him. He’s definitely one of the best hitters I’ve seen in this league all year. He has a very mature approach at the plate and hit hits the ball hard wherever it’s pitched. The power will come, and it’s easy power--he doesn’t try to pull the ball too much and he doesn’t over swing. He just focuses on making good contact; because he knows if he makes contact, it’s usually going to be hard contact. In the field, he needs a lot of work. He’s not going to be able to stay at shortstop. He’s already big, and he’s just going to get bigger. As good an athlete as he is, he doesn’t have a good first step, which makes me wonder if he can even play third. That said, he’s clearly dedicated to his craft and could get better.”
On Asdrubal Cabrera, a 19-year-old Venezuelan who has played primarily at second base since missing time with an ankle injury: “He has very good balance at the plate and surprising power for his size. He’s a very flashy player defensively, but his mechanics are pretty bad and right now. He gets away with it (now) because he is such a good athlete. I could live without his theatrics--even in fielding drills, he’s just throwing behind his back and scooping with his glove when he really needs work on his fundamentals. He’s certainly a prospect, but I’d like to see some more maturity there.”
On Yung-Chi Chen, the 21-year-old who played third base for Taiwan in the 2004 Olympics, and has stayed primarily at the hot corner this year: “He makes OK contact and has an OK approach at the plate. Defensively, he has OK range, OK hands and an OK arm. I wish I could say more about him, but that’s the thing--just nothing about him really stands out for me, but it’s not like I can point out a bunch of weaknesses, either.”
On Oswaldo Navarro, the 20-year-old Venezuelan who is generally considered the best defender in the Seattle system: “I just see him as more of a utility guy because of his bat. He has a smooth, flat swing, but tried to do a little too much at the plate, when he should be more focused on contact. Defensively, he certainly looks the part--with good speed, a solid arm and nice instincts.”
• In the last week or so, we've seen some surprising callups from Double-A straight to the big leagues--righthander Hayden Penn to the Orioles and lefthander Derek Thompson to the Dodgers among them. Keeping in that tradition, the Tigers called up shortstop Tony Giarratano to Detroit. Giarratano singled in the tying run and later scored the game-winner in the Tigers' 6-4 win against the Rangers at Comerica Park. The third-round pick in 2003 out of Tulane batted .253 with 22 RBIs in 170 at-bats at Double-A Erie this season.
• Triple-A Buffalo catcher Ryan Garko hit two homers in last night's 10-8 loss to Toledo, raising his average to .264. Garko has been struggling somewhat this season as the organization continues to get him adjusted to the rigors of catching everyday--something Garko hasn't done since his college days at Stanford. Scouts have been critical about his ability to stay behind the plate, the Tribe is trying to see just how good he can be as an everyday catcher in Triple-A while giving him some time at first base as well. "He's exceeded our expectations from when we drafted him," Indians GM Mark Shapiro said of the third-round 2003 draft pick. "We never drafted him thinking he had a chance to be a major league catcher. He is a true leader with very rare leadership skills. From the people that were here when Sean Casey was here, I get a lot of Sean Casey comparisons to Ryan Garko.
"And to me, Sean Casey is the most impressive makeup player I've ever been around in my career. So to have that comparison out there has pulled weight with me. If he can continue to work on his defensive game--there's no question this guy's a big league hitter, and I think his bat is so good that it's ultimately going to push us to play him everyday somewhere."
• After injuring his knee while celebrating a game-winning grand slam last season, Tagg Bozied is back and is mashing. After hitting .333 in 12 games at Double-A Mobile, the Padres first baseman is continuing to hit in Triple-A Portland. Bozied went 3-for-5 with a homer and a double last night and is back on track to the majors. He just needs to tone down the celebrations.
• Todd Linden is hitting like someone who deserves a shot at the majors. The LSU product hit .260/.349/.466 at Triple-A Fresno last season and is building on that in 2005. The right fielder went 2-for-4 with his PCL-leading 15th homer last night and is now hitting .312/.448/.656 at Fresno.
• Philip Hughes is at it again. The Charleston righthander raised his record to 6-1 with a seven-inning complete game last night. Hughes allowed only one run on two hits and a walk while fanning four. His ERA is now 1.62 with a 59-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 55 2/3 innings.
• Although Hunter Pence has seen is average drop 64 points to .333 over the last month, his power stroke has not gone anywhere. The Astros outfielder hit his 18th homer of the season for low Class A Lexington. Pence is now hitting .333/.411/.693 and ranks second in the minors in home runs.
• Double-A Norwich righthander Merkin Valdez struck out 10 in a 6-2 win Wednesday night against New Britain. Valdez allowed two earned runs on five hits over six innings, and improved to 4-2, 2.81 with 52 strikeouts in 57 innings this season for the Navigators.
• Double-A New Hampshire closer Lee Gronkiewicz worked yet another perfect inning of relief and picked up his 16th save of the season in a 4-1 win against Portland. Gronkiewicz, who played in both Venezuela and Puerto Rico before being plucked in the Rule 5 draft by the Blue Jays last December, is now 1-0, 1.13 in 24 innings this season.
• Double-A Huntsville lefthander Manny Parra equaled a season-high in strikeouts with 10, but the Stars still fell to Mississippi, 2-1. Parra, a 26th-round pick in 2001 who signed for a $1.55 million bonus as a draft-and-follow the following May, allowed two earned runs on five hits and is now 2-4, 3.86 with 59 strikeouts in 61 innings.
• Double-A Montgomery swept a doubleheader against Birmingham to move into first place in the Southern League's South Division last night. Tempers flared in the nightcap, however, after Barons righthander Sean Tracey plunked Biscuits outfielder Elijah Dukes. Dukes started toward the mound but was stopped and the atmosphere was quelled. According to the Birmingham News, Tracey extended a hand to Dukes when the inning ended and instead of shaking hands and walking away, Dukes shoved the pitcher, causing both benches to empty. Dukes was promptly ejected, but Tracey stayed in the game, finishing with eight strikeouts in six innings of work. Biscuits righthander Jason Hammel was on the winning end, allowing a run on five hits in seven innings. Dukes' anger problems and maturity issues have been well documented. He spent a month in a team-mandated anger-management seminar following a run-in with a South Atlantic League umpire and was charged with first-degree battery (domestic violence) in January--his third arrest in 13 months--after an argument with his sister.
• There has been nothing "sharp-less" about him. High Class A Lynchburg reliever Josh Sharpless has yet to allow an earned run in 21 innings for the Hillcats, and has rolled off three straight saves for the club. The 6-foot-5, 240-pounder is 2-0 with five saves and has a 33-9 strikeout-walk ratio. Opponents are hitting just .063 against the 24th-round pick in 2003 out of Allegheny (Pa.) College.
• Two high profile pitchers made their Double-A debuts last night in the Texas League. Cardinals righthander Chris Lambert, the team’s first-round pick last year, took the loss by allowing four runs on six hits over five innings in Springfield’s 5-2 loss to Midland. Lambert was 7-1, 2.63 in 10 starts for high Class A Palm Beach prior to the promotion. Rangers lefty John Danks, a 2003 first-round pick was wild but got the win in Frisco’s 7-4 win over Arkansas, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits over 5 2/3 innings, walking four a striking out six. Danks began the year with high Class A Bakersfield, going 3-3, 2.50 in 58 innings.
• Another 2004 first-round pick in the Texas League is Royals southpaw J.P. Howell, who continues to roll--striking out 11 over six innings in Wichita’s 7-2 win over Corpus Christi. In three starts for the Wranglers, Howell has allowed just 12 hits in 18 innings while striking out 23. One scout who recently saw Howell said that as successful as he's been, he needs to work on keeping his emotions in check. “He’s a very good pitcher,” the scout said, “but he needs to grow up. He shows up players, shows up umpires--he’s like a spoiled brat out there sometimes, and that kind of behavior isn’t going to play in the big leagues.”
• The good news is that Blue Jays righthander Dustin McGowan made his first appearance in over a year last night for high Class A Dunedin. The bad news is that he retired just three of the 11 batters he faced and allowed a pair of home runs in a 15-5 loss to Clearwater. McGowan is coming back from Tommy John surgery and hadn't pitched since last May.
• We are only two months into the season, and Dodgers third baseman Andy LaRoche is well over halfway to the Florida State League home run record of 33, set by Jim Fuller of Miami in 1971. LaRoche hit his minor league-leading 20th longball of the year in high Class A Vero Beach’s 5-0 win over St. Lucie last night, but it was starting pitcher Justin Orenduff who stole the show. Orenduff, a supplemental first-round pick out of Virginia Commonwealth last June, struck out 12 over six shutout innings. In his last four starts, the 22-year-old righthander has been on the best roll of his brief pro career, with 35 strikeouts over 23 innings without allowing an earned run.