Rule 5 Draft Preview: Cubs’ Marcos Mateo Draws Late Buzz
ORLANDOâ€”The Rule 5 draft is the finale of the Winter Meetings for many team officials. Bags are packed, and often brought to the convention hall where the draft is held. [...]
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Compiled by Kevin Goldstein, Chris Kline and Matt Meyers
When Orioles lefthander Adam Loewen was named to the Futures Game two weeks ago, he was somewhat stunned.
"I couldn't believe it," Loewen said. "It's an honor to be headed to Detroit and to represent the organization, but it definitely was a surprise."
Loewen, the highest drafted Canadian ever, went fourth overall in 2002 and signed for a $3.2 million bonus as part of a $4.02 million big league deal. But since then, he's battled inconsistent command and was diagnosed with a torn labrum at the end of last year.
Though the injury didn't require surgery, Loewen has yet to show consistent dominance, though scouts still believe it's possible for the 21-year-old to harness his command and be a frontline starter in the big leagues.
But results this season aren't very promising, despite representing his native Canada on the World roster in this year's Futures Game.
Loewen is 2-6, 4.62 in 86 innings at high Class A Frederick this year. And while he has shown flashes of brilliance--he tossed six shutout innings and struck out seven in his last start against Myrtle Beach on Saturday--he still leads the Carolina League in walks (59) and is tied for the league lead in wild pitches with 11.
"He has the best breaking ball in that league by far," a National League scout said, "but the inconsistencies in his mechanics and using different arm slots from pitch to pitch, from at-bat to at-bat, are what's leading to the lack of command.
"He's so athletic, though, which is why I see him eventually ironing out his delivery and being able to be an impact-type pitcher in the big leagues. With that (90-92 mph) fastball and the breaking ball--both can be plus pitches at times--there is a lot of raw potential there. I think part of it is he just needs to believe it.
"It's like a love-hate relationship. Sometimes you see him and he's unbelievable, hitting his spots, locating well and showing a real feel for pitching. And then there are times when he can barely hit anything and when he does, it's usually the barrel--hard.
"But there is enough pure stuff there, and enough athleticism for him to get all of those inconsistencies corrected. And you're obviously going to take your time with any 6-foot-6 power lefthander."
• And so it finally happened. With all the callups the Braves have made this season, Jeff Francoeur wasn't one of them--until last night. Atlanta called up Francoeur after placing Brian Jordan on the disabled list. Francoeur, a first-round pick in 2002 out of Parkview High in Lilburn, Ga., was hitting .275-13-62 with 28 doubles in 335 at-bats at Double-A Mississippi. Another Futures Gamer was called up to the big leagues today as the Yankees summoned outfielder Melky Cabrera from Triple-A Columbus, where he went 11-for-34 with three home runs after batting .267/.310/.413 in 303 at-bats at Double-A Trenton.
• One move that will affect the Futures Game roster is Giants' second baseman Marcus Sanders with a shoulder injury, though he returned to the lineup last night with a 2-for-5 effort. Sanders, who is hitting .298/.391/.426 in 289 at-bats at low Class A Augusta, will be replaced by Giants second baseman Kevin Frandsen. Frandsen, a 12th-round pick out of San Jose State in 2004, batted .351-2-40 in 291 at-bats at high Class A San Jose before being called up to Double-A Norwich on Tuesday.
• Speaking of Futures Gamers, Athletics first baseman Daric Barton has done anything but slow down after a promotion to Double-A. Barton was 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles in Midland's 2-1 win over San Antonio last night, and is now 5-for-9 with 10 total bases in three games for the Rockhounds.
• While Indians righthander Adam Miller's first three starts at short-season Mahoning Valley were unimpressive, last night was another story in his first outing at high Class A Kinston. Miller, on his fourth rehab start from a strained elbow ligament, was virtually untouchable in a 2-0 Kinston win against Wilmington. The Indians No. 1 prospect showed outstanding command of his explosive fastball, locating it well to both sides of the plate. His heater was consistently in the 93-94 mph range, topping out at 96. The command of his slider was inconsistent, however, even though the velocity was all the way back to where to it was before the injury--sitting at 86-87 mph. He only threw nine changeups, though that pitch will continue to be implemented as his rehab continues. Miller went six shutout innings, allowed three hits, struck out two and walked one. He threw 74 pitches--49 for strikes. "He missed with the slider a little bit off the plate at times, but honestly I thought that it was so good that it fooled the umpire a couple times," Kinston pitching coach Steve Lyons said. "He threw more strikes with it than the chart might say. He located well and was very efficient, which is what you want to do."
• Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz started July on a tear at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. A second baseman when Phillies director of international scouting Sal Agostinelli signed him for $8,000, Ruiz was moved behind the plate as a pro and has flourished in the system. So far this month, Ruiz is 10-for-18, upping his overall numbers this season to .297/.337/.458 in 155 at-bats.
• Speaking of tears, Tigers outfielder Curtis Granderson has been swinging a power bat for the last three games at Triple-A Toledo. In his last 15 at-bats, Granderson has seven hits, including three homers. His plate discipline could use a little work, however--he's fanned 100 times in 331 at-bats this season. Overall, the third-round pick in 2002 out of Illinois-Chicago is hitting .287/.353/.498 with 11 homers.
• Phillies lefthander Cole Hamels made his Double-A debut last night at Reading, and allowed three runs on five hits and struck out six in six innings in a 5-3 loss to Akron. The first-rounder in 2002 gave up a solo shot to Indians outfielder Brad Snyder in the sixth, and was bested by Tribe righthander Jake Dittler. Dittler went 5 2/3 shutout innings, allowed four hits and struck out six.
• Mets righthander Yusmeiro Petit just keeps dominating. Last night, Petit allowed two runs on five hits and struck out 10 in a seven-inning complete game against New Hampshire. On the season, Petit is now 3-2, 2.97 with a 75-10 strikeout-walk ratio in 67 innings.
• Marlins outfielder Reggie Abercrombie went 1-for-3 in his Double-A Carolina debut last night--his one hit was a homer, however. Abercrombie, always known for his raw tools and high strikeout totals, batted .276-15-45 in 297 at-bats at high Class A Jupiter this season.
• Red Sox first baseman Ian Bladergroen returned to high Class A Wilmington last night and went 0-for-3 with a strikeout against Indians righthander Adam Miller. Bladergroen missed nearly a month this season with a wrist injury and was sent down to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League to rehab. He batted .444 in 18 at-bats in the GCL before returning to the Blue Rocks.
• The Astros' Fernando Nieve began the season at Double-A Corpus Christi and was dominant over 14 starts going 4-3, 2.65 with 96 strikeouts in 85 innings. That was good enough to earn a promotion to Triple-A Round Rock and the righthander has continued to impress. The 22-year-old threw a complete game shutout last night over Iowa, walking one and fanning four. He is now 2-2, 3.00 in 27 innings.
“He was real good when he was here,” Double-A Frisco pitching coach Steve Luebber said. “The upper tier in this league this year with (the Angels’) Ervin Santana and now Edison Volquez. “Nieve threw hard, threw well and threw easily. He showed velocity on his slider with very little effort.”
• Taylor Tankersley, like many major college stars, is having little trouble with the SAL. The lefthander improved his record to 2-2, 2.93 last night as he allowed two runs over six innings and struck out seven in low Class A Greensboro's 8-5 victory over Charleston. The lefthander out of Alabama missed the first two months of the season recovering from left shoulder tendonitis.
• Scouts thought Daryl Jones was going to honor his commitment to Rice, but the Cardinals lured the former football star with $450,000 and he has been producing in the Rookie-level Appalachian League. The 18-year-old went 2-for-5 with a double last night and is now hitting .295/.340/.477 with two homers in 44 at-bats for Johnson City.
• The Stephen Drew express continues to roll last night, as the 2004 first-round pick blasted his sixth home run last night in high Class A Lancaster's 6-1 win over Lake Elsinore. In just 14 games, Drew is batting .382/.469/.855 with 17 RBIs.
• It's only two games, and only four innings, but Orioles supplemental first-round pick Garrett Olson is opening some eyes in the short-season New York-Penn League. Pitching for Aberdeen, the former Cal Poly star has struck out nine of the 14 batters he's faced, allowing only one hit and one walk.
• Angels live-armed righty Jose Arredondo struck out six over six shutout innings, surrendering just three hits, in Rookie-level Orem's win against Casper last night. Arredondo features a fastball that has touched the upper 90s and helped him earn a sampling of Double-A last month before reporting to the Rookie-level Pioneer League. The 21-year-old is 2-0, 2.93 with a 16-1 strikeout-walk ratio in 15 innings at Orem.
• Righthander Mark Kelly was one of five Phillies pitchers to hold the Braves to seven hits in a 4-1 Phillies' win in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Wednesday. Kelly is a 6-foot-5, 210-pound 19-year-old Australian. Righthander Reymond Cruz started and picked up the win with five innings including five strikeouts and a walk.
• Red Sox righthander Rhys Taylor was perfect in three-plus innings in the GCL. Taylor, 19, has struck out seven without a walk or a run in 9 1/3 innings this season.
• Righthander Brad Sullivan had his best start of the year in the Rookie-level Arizona League. The 2003 first-round pick out of Houston is recovering from shoulder and back problems, as well as offseason surgery to alleviate headaches stemming from a childhood car accident. Sullivan pitched five shutout innings before giving up a three-run homer in the sixth to Padres draftee Will Venable, and the Padres rallied for an 8-5 victory.
Contributing: John Manuel, Alan Matthews.