Will The Rakuten Eagles Post Masahiro Tanaka?
With the new pending Japanese posting system putting a $20 million cap on posting fees, the question around baseball is whether the Rakuten Eagles will still post their ace, 25-year-old [...]
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Compiled by Kevin Goldstein, Chris Kline and Matt Meyers
Rockies righthander Juan Morillo hit 99 several times in Sunday's Futures Game, as he faced just two batters, including whiffing Marlins' outfielder Jeremy Hermida with a nasty 83 mph slider.
But with fellow 21-year-old fire-balling righthander Ubaldo Jimenez in Colorado's system, selecting Morillo to this year's event might have caught some by surprise. The two spent May as teammates at high Class A Modesto before the more-polished Jimenez, 21, moved on to Double-A Tulsa in June. Morillo has more gas in his can but is still working out some rough edges after beginning the year in low Class A Asheville.
"Last year, Morillo couldn't throw a ball in the cage let alone throw a strike," Modesto pitching coach Butch Hughes said. "He's just learning how to throw strikes right now. He's got a good slider and a good changeup, he just doesn't know when to use them and how to use them.
"In the bullpen, his changeup is outstanding. His mechanics in the bullpen are as solid as a tack. It's just when he gets on the mound that he gets out of his comfort zone. He's comfortable in the bullpen, not on the mound. He hasn't really pitched that much. He's only 21 years old and hadn't pitched that much in the Dominican. But he has a one-in-a-million arm. He throws a hundred miles an hour. It's insane.
"And as for Jimenez, he hits 97 (mph). That's enough. Jimenez has got a better feel for pitching right now. He can throw his changeup when he wants to and he's trying to get a better curveball--trying to throw it in the zone more often. He's probably about 40 or 50 percent (locating it in the zone), where he needs to be 60 or 70 percent. Fastball command is there to both sides of the plate and he does a good job of keeping the ball down. He's a more complete pitcher right now. He's ahead of Juan in terms of development. But both of them are going to get there. Both of them are going to be big time power arms for years to come."
Devil Rays outfielder Delmon Young grounded out to second base against Morillo, then offered some advice.
"He has to come inside more," Young said. "He can throw that 99 (mph) out over the plate, and it's going to get hit. That 99 in on your hands would be another story."
• Francisco Liriano was untouchable in his one inning of work in the Futures Game, with his fastball clocked in the 95-97 mph range. He got Kevin Thompson (Yankees) and B.J. Upton (Devil Rays) on back-to-back groundouts to third before striking out Diamondbacks' first baseman Conor Jackson--who has only fanned 22 times in 292 at-bats at Triple-A Tucson this season. "I'm just really happy I got a chance to pitch this time," said Liriano who started this Futures Game after sitting in the bullpen for the entire time last year. "I was glad to be able to get out there and show what I can do. It was an honor to start for the World team with all the great pitchers we had there." Devil Rays outfielder Delmon Young, who was on deck when Liriano struck out Jackson to end the inning, was nothing but impressed. "I'm glad I didn't have to face him," Young said. "He's got some nasty stuff and isn't afraid to throw inside. He's tough."
• The Mets promoted four players--outfielder Lastings Milledge, and righthanders Brian Bannister, Philip Humber and Gaby Hernandez. Milledge was promoted to Double-A Binghamton after hitting .302-4-22 in 232 at-bats at high Class A St. Lucie. Bannister was promoted to Triple-A Norfolk after going 9-4, 2.56 in 109 innings at Binghamton. Humber was promoted to Binghamton after going just 2-6, 4.99 in 70 innings at St. Lucie, and Hernandez was promoted to high Class A after going 6-1, 2.43 with 99 strikeouts in 93 innings at low Class A Hagerstown.
• Indians righthander Jeremy Sowers seems to be figuring out Double-A, even though he has yet to record a victory. Sowers struggled in his debut for Akron, but has allowed just one earned run over his last 18 innings. Saturday, Sowers allowed just three hits, struck out 10 and did not issue a walk in six innings. "The thing that impressed me the most was that Jeremy used his changeup effectively, and that's the pitch we want him to work on," Indians scouting director John Mirabelli told the Akron Beacon Journal. Since going to Double-A, Sowers is 0-1, 1.99 with a 24-6 strikeout-walk ratio in 23 innings.
• OK, Edwin Jackson is officially an enigma. After struggling in Triple-A, Jackson was sent down to Double-A Jacksonville. After struggling in his first start, Jackson was nearly untouchable Friday night, allowing a run on five hits and striking out seven in seven innings in a 2-1 win against Montgomery. "Confidence means everything," Dodgers farm director Terry Collins told the Whittier Daily News. "He made some mistakes at Las Vegas that came back to hurt him. (Friday night), he got one ball up and a guy took a good swing at it, but the center fielder ran back and caught it. In Vegas, that's a double or a triple. (Jacksonville pitching coach) Kenny Howell is trying to get him to have more consistent outings and get command of his fastball so he can pitch off (it)." In 25 innings for the Suns, Jackson is now 2-2, 2.88. At Triple-A Las Vegas, he went 3-7, 8.62 with a 33-37 strikeout-walk ratio in 55 innings.
• Blue Jays righthander Casey Janssen was impressive in his debut at Double-A New Hampshire. Janssen, a 2004 fourth-round pick out of UCLA, went seven shutout innings, allowed two hits and struck out eight in a 4-0 win against Portland. "He went out there and shut down a very good first place team on 86 pitches," Fisher Cats manager Mike Basso told the New Hampshire Union Leader. "His performance speaks for itself." Janssen went 6-1, 2.26 in 60 innings at high Class A Dunedin this season prior to his promotion.
• Ryan Shealy just keeps on raking. The Rockies first baseman is now 14-for-32 with three homers in his last seven games for Triple-A Colorado Springs. On the season, the 25-year-old is hitting .332/.385/.590, but with Todd Helton locked up in Colorado for the rest of the decade, Shealy's shot in the majors will likely be somewhere else. He will be participating in the Triple-A all-star game in Sacramento on Wednesday.
• While he didn't light up box scores in his brief stint in the short-season New York-Penn League, Trevor Crowe has been doing it since his promotion to the South Atlantic League. The 2005 first-rounder hit .255 in 51 at-bats for Mahoning Valley in the NYPL, but is 9-for-22 since joining Lake County.
• The transition to pro ball has not been too smooth for the Cardinals Tyler Herron thus far. The righthander, a supplemental first-rounder this year, has been quite erratic in his first four starts. On Saturday, he fanned five over 3 2/3 innings, but also walked three and allowed a solo homer, his only run allowed in the game. On the season the 18-year-old has a 4.16 ERA in 14 innings with 18 strikeouts, eight walks and three homers allowed for Rookie-level Johnson City.
• Weird injury of the month: Athletics outfielder Danny Putnam suffered a torn esophagus while choking on a grape in the clubhouse. Originally thought to be much more serious, Putnam is expected to only miss a week or so. The 2004 supplemental first-round pick out of Stanford is batting .289/.380/.457 with 10 home runs and 64 RBIs in 315 at-bats for high Class A Stockton.
• It has taken just 17 games for Arizona shortstop Stephen Drew to establish himself as one of the top prospects in the game. Drew went deep in his fifth straight game on Friday night, and while the streak ended on Saturday, he still had a pair of doubles and two RBIs in high Class A Lancaster's 6-3 loss to High Desert. In 71 at-bats, Drew is batting .380/.470/.887 with eight doubles, eight home runs and 25 RBIs.
• Padres righthander Jared Wells is making a strong case for a promotion to Double-A Mobile. Wells, who is now 7-0, 1.40 in his last eight games, pitched his second straight complete game for high Class A Lake Elsinore Friday night, limiting a powerful Rancho Cucamonga lineup to just four hits in a 4-1 victory. On the season, Wells is 11-2, 2.91 in 108 innings.
• Announcing his presence with authority is Indians first baseman Stephen Head, the club's second-round pick last month. Playing for Mahoning Valley in the short-season New York-Penn League, Head is batting .441-5-13 in nine games with 13 RBIs.
• Rockies third baseman Ian Stewart may have finally found his groove. Colorado's top prospect went 3-for-3 with a triple and a home run in high Class A Modesto's 11-9 win over Inland Empire last night, and is batting .400-3-14 in his last 15 games. Stewart, who missed the first month of the season with a hamstring injury and hit just .211 in May, is now batting .264/.353/.464 in 239 at-bats.
• Athletics shortstop Cliff Pennington went 2-for-4 with his first professional home run last night, as low Class A Kane County topped Lansing 7-4. Oakland's first-round pick out of Texas A&M, Pennington is batting .319/.405/.420 in 69 at-bats for the Cougars with five stolen bases.
• Cardinals outfielder Nick Stavinoha was available in four straight drafts, and his bat finally got him selected out of Louisiana State as a cost-effective senior sign. The bat has played well so far as a pro, as Stavinoha is batting .422-2-9 in 14 games for low Class A Quad Cities.
• Righthander Mark McCormick, the Cardinals supplemental first-round pick out of Baylor, made his pro debut last night, firing two hitless innings in short-season New Jersey's 9-5 win over Aberdeen, walking two and striking out three.
• Pirates first-round pick Andrew McCutcheon busted out in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League on Friday with a 5-for-5 performance. The 18-year-old center fielder, drafted 11th overall out of Fort Meade (Fla.) High, hit two doubles and a triple while driving in three runs. He has just 34 at-bats this season, but Friday's outburst raised his average from .276 to .382.
• Royals shortstop Jeff Bianchi, a second-round pick in June out of Lampeter-Strasburg High in Lancaster, Pa., continues to obliterate pitching in the Rookie-level Arizona League. With a pair of two-hit games this weekend, Bianchi has now recorded multiple hits in 10 of his first 16 professional games. Bianchi is hitting .483-4-21, but just as impressively, 12 of his 28 hits have been for extra bases.
Contributing: Aaron Fitt.