Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Where Will Reddick Be Next Year?

This is Josh Reddick. Josh Reddick likes to do shampoo commercials.

He was standing on third and clearly had the urge to Herbal, so he lathered up and took care of his luxurious locks.

Okay, not really. Anyhow, Reddick is having an excellent year, but one makes me wonder what's going to happen in right field for the Sox in the coming months. Are we going to re-sign J.D. Drew, or is he going to retire or opt for free agency? How about Kalish - what's going on there? Who's going to play right field for the Sox next year?

I really do like Reddick and I'd love to see it be him. The kid has a good attitude, works hard, and doesn't let repeatedly being optioned down to Pawtucket get him down. I'd love to see him stick with the team, but I'm not sure if they're higher on him or Kalish - or someone else, for that matter. I'm not sure I would like that very much, because I don't want to see him leave, but I do have fears that he might leave the team.

But I want him to stay. I think he's at the very least earned a start somewhere at this rate, and although I'd prefer it with us, I'm worried that it won't be. At the very least, though, he needs to be starting in the bigs. He's figured it out.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Slade Heathcott Likes To Punch People

In an imitation of the A-Rod vs Varitek fight back in '04, Yankees prospect Slade Heathcott started a battle, too.

So Charleston and Greenville are playing right now. Greenville's starter accidentally hit Heathcott with the second pitch of the game. For whatever reason, Heathcott decided this meant he had to turn around and punch the catcher, which he did.

I don't have any other details besides this so far, but boy, does this make Bryce Harper seem like a grown-up all of a sudden.

Heathcott is currently rated as the ninth best prospect in the Yankees' farm system by Baseball America.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Magical Minor League Mystery Tour, 5/6/11 - 5/9/11

Three cities, four games, four days. Probably somewhere like 500-600 miles.

I scouted prospects at three different levels of the game. During the trip, one, Jose Iglesias, was called up and made his Major League debut. I saw a walk-off in Frederick, heard things I wished I hadn't yelled at players, and saw a bunch of kids playing the game that they loved, regardless of their skill level.

The one pictured here, Tyler Townsend, is rebounding after a benign tumor was removed from a blood vessel in his hand. Really scary, but the kid's swing looked great on Friday - he's recovering nicely. I was excited to see him play finally - I'm so proud when prospects come back from injuries, especially terrifying ones like that.

Brian Ward ended up walking off for the Keys that night.

Saturday and Sunday were a birthday present from my best friend - we went up to Moosic to see my PawSox play the SWB Yankees. I have quite a few notes from these games, in fact, so let's bullet-point these.
  • The SWB Yankees really struggle on the double play. There were several opportunities in both games for them to turn them, and they were too slow on nearly all of them. The runner moving to first repeatedly beat out the throw. Got me wondering how effective the middle infield's really been for them.
  • Jose Iglesias is the real deal. I also think he's not quite ready yet, though, because he was rushing on some plays and he made a couple of errors. Although he's definitely offensively ready to go, he's got a long ways to go defensively still. He just needs to stop rushing and relax - he doesn't need to prove anything, since we know he's good!
  • Josh Reddick (above, right) looks like Jayson Werth right now. In the above image of him on third base, he is clearly pretending to be in a shampoo commercial.
  • Lars Anderson (left) has the greatest mullet of all time right now. I have nicknamed him Thor in addition to already referring to him as Tycho Celchu.
  • The SWB Yankees are getting a stadium makeover soon. This is highly needed, since nobody seems to go to the stadium anymore, the screens have spots on them where the lights are out, there are no highlights whatsoever because the screens are still in black and white, and the fans just don't seem very engaged with the game or the filler contests in-between innings. I'm excited to see the stadium redux, because going to games in Moosic is really sad - it's depressing to see a franchise as storied and popular as the Yankees not being able to draw fans in.
Three of us scooted up to Binghamton the day after. Robert Carson definitely didn't bring his A-game for us - or rather, he brought his A-game, but not his AA-game. New Britain actually won 8-5 (although there may have been a scoring error, since my two friends with me say the score should have been 9-5). The best part of the game was the discounted prices - on Markdown Mondays, the B-Mets sell everything at the price it was at in their inaugural season, 1992. This meant we got lots of good food (I got a big tub of popcorn and a souvenir cup for $6). We also got some bad food, as you can see from my friends' reactions to the banana-flavored cotton candy (my best friend and roommate, Mary, is on the left and our other amazing friend, Nick, is on the right). I also bought a bat that had been used by Sean Ratliff. Oops, me.

One of my favorite minor leaguers, Chris Cates, is on the Rock Cats, so I'd love it if you could all show him some love. He's the same height as me, 5'2", so I jokingly refer to him as my Spirit Animal. I'm very much a fan. (Some of the fans in the crowd were yelling horrible things at him. It broke my heart.)

As much as I love seeing the AA Mets, though, the highlights at a B-Mets game are their mascots, particularly Bingo, who comes out of the home bullpen and dances every time a B-Mets run crosses the plate. Every. Single. Time. It's hysterical. Bingo is famous, of course, for falling over the wall after a homer by Lucas Duda, to the point where he'll come up on a Google search for the phrase 'Lucas Duda Bee.' Play him off, Keyboard Cat.

Basically, if you can get out there to Binghamton, you have to go. It's a real experience, trust me.

Over this trip, I definitely got quite a few scouting reports, and I've got a good idea of what the big clubs might be looking for in these kids. It was also fun to hit up three different cities in four days and get a little bit of the culture in each one - that's my favorite part of Minor League Baseball trips, seeing America. If anything, that might just be the best thing about Minor League Baseball in general - you see the country in a whole new light as you actually explore it, and that's an experience you'll absolutely never forget. My I-81 adventure? Totally worth it.

Besides, the Hot Dog Horse posed for me in Binghamton. Made my night.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Is Iglesias Up?

I was watching Jose Iglesias today in Scranton as the PawSox beat the SWB Yankees to the tune of 7-6. His bat looked amazing, but his glove...well, he made two errors today, at least. And he bobbled a ball or two.

He's a future Gold Glover, absolutely - he gets to balls no Red Sox shortstop has even come close to in years. But he still needs some work on his hands. He's just a kid, though, so that will come with time.

Now, I just heard a rumor that Iglesias is being called up (via Melissa Segura of SI). What does this mean for the Red Sox? With Lowrie able to play the entire infield and essentially playing a fill-in role for everyone who goes down, are the Sox shopping Marco Scutaro to other teams in order to make room for the kid? Scutaro's essentially benched since Lowrie's been outplaying him lately, so he's not a bad candidate to move for Iglesias so everybody gets some playing time.

Eh, let's save the speculation for once this is confirmed or not.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Two Quick Oregon State Notes

1. Darwin Barney was named the NL Rookie of the Month! According to this article from OSU, Darwin "played in 191 games, batting .311 with 40 doubles, six triples, seven home runs and 136 RBI. He is currently the program's all-time leader with 765 at bats and 238 hits and his 152 runs scored is second only to current Boston Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury."

2. Josh Osich. Not only did he outduel Trevor Bauer (who I wrote about here earlier today), he did so by throwing a no-hitter, the fourth in Oregon State's history! Check out all the awards he's been receiving as a result.

Let's Talk MLB Draft: Draft Order

So back on April 14th, posted the draft order. It's only one month away, so I'm going to let you read it here and tell me who you want to pick up, who you think is going to be picked up, and all sorts of fun stuff.

First Round

  • 1. Pittsburgh Pirates
  • 2. Seattle Mariners
  • 3. Arizona Diamondbacks
  • 4. Baltimore Orioles
  • 5. Kansas City Royals
  • 6. Washington Nationals
  • 7. Arizona Diamondbacks (Loux - unsigned)
  • 8. Cleveland Indians
  • 9. Chicago Cubs
  • 10. San Diego Padres (Whitson - unsigned)
  • 11. Houston Astros
  • 12. Milwaukee Brewers
  • 13. New York Mets
  • 14. Florida Marlins
  • 15. Milwaukee Brewers (Covey - unsigned)
  • 16. Los Angeles Dodgers
  • 17. Los Angeles Angels
  • 18. Oakland Athletics
  • 19. Boston Red Sox (V. Martinez - DET)
  • 20. Colorado Rockies
  • 21. Toronto Blue Jays
  • 22. St. Louis Cardinals
  • 23. Washington Nationals (Dunn - CWS)
  • 24. Tampa Bay Rays (Crawford - BOS)
  • 25. San Diego Padres
  • 26. Boston Red Sox (Beltre - TEX)
  • 27. Cincinnati Reds
  • 28. Atlanta Braves
  • 29. San Francisco Giants
  • 30. Minnesota Twins
  • 31. Tampa Bay Rays (R. Soriano - NYY)
  • 32. Tampa Bay Rays
  • 33. Texas Rangers (C. Lee - PHI)

Comp Round A

  • 34. Washington Nationals (Dunn - CWS)
  • 35. Toronto Blue Jays (Downs - LAA)
  • 36. Boston Red Sox (V. Martinez - DET)
  • 37. Texas Rangers (C. Lee - PHI)
  • 38. Tampa Bay Rays (R. Soriano - NYY)
  • 39. Philadelphia Phillies (Werth - WAS)
  • 40. Boston Red Sox (Beltre - TEX)
  • 41. Tampa Bay Rays (Crawford - BOS)
  • 42. Tampa Bay Rays (Balfour - OAK)
  • 43. Arizona Diamondbacks (LaRoche - WAS)
  • 44. New York Mets (Feliciano - NYY)
  • 45. Colorado Rockies (Dotel - TOR)
  • 46. Toronto Blue Jays (Buck - FLA)
  • 47. Chicago White Sox (Putz - ARI)
  • 48. San Diego Padres (Garland - LAD)
  • 49. San Francisco Giants (Uribe - LAD)
  • 50. Minnesota Twins (Hudson - SD)
  • 51. New York Yankees (Vazquez - FLA)
  • 52. Tampa Bay Rays (Hawpe - SD)
  • 53. Toronto Blue Jays (Gregg - BAL)
  • 54. San Diego Padres (Torrealba - TEX)
  • 55. Minnesota Twins (Crain - CWS)
  • 56. Tampa Bay Rays (Benoit - DET)
  • 57. Toronto Blue Jays (Olivo - SEA)
  • 58. San Diego Padres (Correia - PIT)
  • 59. Tampa Bay Rays (Choate - FLA)
  • 60. Tampa Bay Rays (Qualls - SD)

Second Round

  • 61. Pittsburgh Pirates
  • 62. Seattle Mariners
  • 63. Arizona Diamondbacks
  • 64. Baltimore Orioles
  • 65. Kansas City Royals
  • 66. Philadelphia Phillies (Werth - WAS)
  • 67. Cleveland Indians
  • 68. Chicago Cubs
  • 69. Houston Astros
  • 70. Milwaukee Brewers
  • 71. New York Mets
  • 72. Florida Marlins
  • 73. Los Angeles Dodgers
  • 74. Toronto Blue Jays (Downs - LAA)
  • 75. Tampa Bay Rays (Balfour - OAK)
  • 76. Detroit Tigers
  • 77. Colorado Rockies
  • 78. Toronto Blue Jays
  • 79. St. Louis Cardinals
  • 80. Chicago White Sox
  • 81. Tampa Bay Rays
  • 82. San Diego Padres
  • 83. Texas Rangers
  • 84. Cincinnati Reds
  • 85. Atlanta Braves
  • 86. San Francisco Giants
  • 87. Minnesota Twins
  • 88. New York Yankees
  • 89. Tampa Bay Rays
  • 90. Philadelphia Phillies

Third Round

  • 91. Pittsburgh Pirates
  • 92. Seattle Mariners
  • 93. Arizona Diamondbacks
  • 94. Baltimore Orioles
  • 95. Kansas City Royals
  • 96. Washington Nationals
  • 97. Cleveland Indians
  • 98. Chicago Cubs
  • 99. Houston Astros
  • 100. Milwaukee Brewers
  • 101. New York Mets
  • 102. Florida Marlins
  • 103. Los Angeles Dodgers
  • 104. Los Angeles Angels
  • 105. Oakland Athletics
  • 106. Detroit Tigers
  • 107. Colorado Rockies
  • 108. Toronto Blue Jays
  • 109. St. Louis Cardinals
  • 110. Chicago White Sox
  • 111. Boston Red Sox
  • 112. San Diego Padres
  • 113. Texas Rangers
  • 114. Cincinnati Reds
  • 115. Atlanta Braves
  • 116. San Francisco Giants
  • 117. Minnesota Twins
  • 118. New York Yankees
  • 119. Tampa Bay Rays
  • 120. Philadelphia Phillies

Comp Round B

  • 121. Seattle Mariners (Stanek - unsigned)

Rounds 4-50

  • 122. Pittsburgh Pirates
  • 123. Seattle Mariners
  • 124. Arizona Diamondbacks
  • 125. Baltimore Orioles
  • 126. Kansas City Royals
  • 127. Washington Nationals
  • 128. Cleveland Indians
  • 129. Chicago Cubs
  • 130. Houston Astros
  • 131. Milwaukee Brewers
  • 132. New York Mets
  • 133. Florida Marlins
  • 134. Los Angeles Dodgers
  • 135. Los Angeles Angels
  • 136. Oakland Athletics
  • 137. Detroit Tigers
  • 138. Colorado Rockies
  • 139. Toronto Blue Jays
  • 140. St. Louis Cardinals
  • 141. Chicago White Sox
  • 142. Boston Red Sox
  • 143. San Diego Padres
  • 144. Texas Rangers
  • 145. Cincinnati Reds
  • 146. Atlanta Braves
  • 147. San Francisco Giants
  • 148. Minnesota Twins
  • 149. New York Yankees
  • 150. Tampa Bay Rays
  • 151. Philadelphia Phillies

Let's Talk MLB Draft: Trevor Bauer

It's about a month until the draft, and I think it's due time we start looking at some candidates to be drafted. Trevor Bauer, an engineering major out of UCLA, is high on my list if you're looking for a solid arm. This kid is absolutely the real deal.

His delivery is very deceptive - he throws his arms and legs all over, and yet at the same time it's oddly compact. He brings the ball over directly overhand, too, which adds to the confusion. Just looking at him warming up in that video, you get the idea that opposing batters would struggle to hit him. He's very impressive.

Watching him in game action is equally eye-catching. That odd delivery certainly helps, but he's also just plain overpowering. For a team looking for a power arm that could contribute fairly quickly, Bauer might be a good choice in the upcoming draft, considering that he'll likely move through a Minors system pretty fast because he's so talented and intelligent. I wouldn't suggest rushing him, of course, since I'm not fond of rushing anybody (I've seen it go horribly with both Eddie Kunz and Craig Hansen now). However, I do think he would be able to spend less time in the Minors than the average college draftee and would be an asset to any club looking for a starter.

The only problem a team might face would be Bauer deciding to return for his senior season at UCLA. Engineering degrees are in high demand lately, after all, and if anything happened that prevented Bauer from continuing on in baseball it'd be a good thing to have. Stanford has a program that allows its student-athletes regarding their coursework, making it easier for them to come back and finish their degrees during the off-season - and indeed, many of their baseball players do (trust me, I can name way too many). If UCLA has a similar program, Bauer would be able to complete his degree after all, which would be a win-win for everyone involved.

I'm not going to make any huge projections yet, but I could easily see Bauer going in the early rounds in this year's draft. I can't say that he'd be a number one overall pick, but he's definitely going to be taken early now that he's eligible. Keep an eye on this kid.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Bryce Harper's Playground Brawl

Okay, so his playground was Municipal Stadium in Hagerstown. But still, you get the point. The kid picked a fight after taking a called third strike, and the benches cleared. Fortunately, no combat went down, but the point is that Harper still has a lot of maturing to do.

The article I linked to includes the following passage:

There was this from Baseball Prospectus before Harper was drafted: "It's impossible to find any talent evaluator who isn't blown away by Harper's ability on the field, but it's equally difficult to find one who doesn't genuinely dislike the kid.

"One scout called him among the worst amateur players he's ever seen from a makeup standpoint, with top-of-the-scale arrogance, a disturbingly large sense of entitlement, and on-field behavior that includes taunting opponents."

"He's just a bad, bad guy," one front-office official told Baseball Prospectus. "He's basically the anti-Joe Mauer."

Well, then. I think that says it all. He's got amazing talent, this kid. Unfortunately, just as I suspected, he's been coddled and spoiled and it's affected how he treats other people. He really needs to mature in personality before he belongs in Harrisburg, let alone even with Potomac. I love his upside, but I'm not a big fan of his bratty personality. He'll have to realize he's not entitled to everything automatically and he'll have to work his way to the top just like everyone else before he can actually advance. Remember, Bryce, this is a mental game, too, and mean people get ostracized and disliked. And that does not bode well for you.

UPDATE: Here is some video of the incident. It makes me wonder if the pitcher saw Bryce Harper leaving his helmet at home plate as an affront, as he was walking away without it after dropping it at home. It's very hard to see what's happening here, so I can't determine if this video tells me who's really at fault here, Harper or the opposing pitcher. Either way, though, this is at least entertaining. The strikeout comes around the 1:25 mark.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Daniel Murphy Is A Baseball Player

Last I checked, players in the Major Leagues who are batting .315 and adapting to a new position in the field are baseball players. In fact, I'm pretty darn sure they are.

This, of course, makes me wonder why the Nationals' color commentators are saying Daniel Murphy isn't one, considering he fits all of the above criteria. He's made a few errors at second base, yes, but he's developing his instincts there on the fly. The Nats' commentators apparently are stuck on his slow reaction time getting to the bag in the game last night after Jason Bay dropped a fly ball. They keep bringing it up. And here's the thing - yes, players make errors. But the Nationals lost the game last night, namely because Daniel Murphy tied the game with a homer and later helped overcome a 3-2 Nationals lead with a clutch double that drove in two in the 8th. In fact, although that 3-2 lead came as an indirect result of his slow reaction time to the bag, Murphy redeemed himself and helped permanently put the Mets in front.

There are lots of baseball players who make errors. I highly doubt we'd hear these men suggest shortstop Ian Desmond isn't a baseball player even though he's notably error-prone. We can't use just one error here to determine whether or not someone is a ballplayer. In addition, Murphy has a reputation for being a pretty clutch hitter. I wouldn't go around saying someone in the Majors who comes through in the clutch isn't a ballplayer. I just don't think it makes sense to say, "Oh, so-and-so's instincts aren't so good at that position. As talented as he is, he's not a baseball player." If someone's worked extremely hard, traveled all over the country on uncomfortable buses for hours on end, spent prolonged time away from loved ones, and developed the skills they needed to work their way all the way up to the top, they've earned the right to be called a Major League Baseball player. If you've made those sacrifices and you're succeeding in MLB, you're a baseball player, whether you're Dustin Pedroia or Albert Pujols.

And honestly? Daniel Murphy's succeeding. Therefore, Daniel Murphy is a baseball player. Don't tell me otherwise.

We now return to your regularly scheduled Minor League coverage.

Photo of Daniel Murphy by me, because I got a new Nikon Coolpix P500 for my birthday and tested it out at the Mets game on Tuesday night in Washington. Murph was 2-5.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

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I'm posting lots of Minor League photos there, so check it out!

Short Video: Xavier Avery's Swing

His swing is very short and compact. I liked what I saw, even though he wasn't particularly offensively successful on the night I was there (Saturday).

Friday, April 1, 2011

All of my Charm City Yakyuu Prospect Previews are posted!

You can check out the entire series here. If there are other prospects you're interested in seeing, let me know - I'll be going to quite a few minor league games this season, so I'll do my best!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mets' Eddie Kunz Traded to Padres for Allan Dykstra

After many a struggle in the Mets' minor league system, former Oregon State Beaver Eddie Kunz has been traded to the Padres in return for Allan Dykstra. Dykstra is not related to the Mets great Lenny of the same name, so don't get too excited.

Frankly, I saw this coming for some time, considering that Kunz has never really panned out as a Mets prospect and has come across as somewhat of a bust in recent years. He was rushed to the Majors instead of being given the developmental time that he needed in the Minors, which likely contributed to his demise. Since then, he's had all sorts of mechanical issues and has struggled to find a good release point for his sinking fastball.

On that night I was in Binghamton this past summer, Kunz actually pitched fairly well (left). However, the very fact that he was in Binghamton when most people had projected him to be in the Majors by 2010 is a testament to how poorly he was managed as a player. I felt horrible for him because of how he was rushed to the front when he clearly was not ready to go.

Best of luck to you in the Padres organization, Eddie - you deserve success, and I hope you're able to find it in San Diego!

Pawtucket Red Sox 2011 Opening Day Lineup

Minor League Opening Day is one of my favorite days of the year. And now I'm even more excited since Dan Hoard just tweeted this:
PawSox lineup; Navarro, Reddick, Kalish, Exposito, Anderson, Linares, Iglesias, Bates, Khoury with Doubront starting #lookoutIL
Needless to say, this makes me really giddy. That's a damn good lineup.
If we were to do this by position, it'd probably look like this:

C Exposito
1B Anderson
2B Khoury
3B Navarro
SS Iglesias
LF Linares
CF Reddick
RF Kalish
SP Doubront

The outfielders are somewhat speculative, I must admit - you can definitely switch Linares and Reddick's positions if you see it fit to. I just wanted to be really, really excited to see the PawSox this season. They look EXCELLENT.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Let's Talk Linares...

On August 24th, 2010, I was in Harrisburg to catch the Portland Sea Dogs playing against the Senators. And this kid was quite the eye-catcher.

My photo to the right is my best shot of Juan Carlos Linares, which I took a week or two before his 26th birthday. He's a little outfielder - 5'11", 190 lbs - who defected from Cuba to play, and I'm impressed. He didn't make Cuba's World Cup team in November of 2009 and therefore decided to sign with Boston, and he played for both the GCL Red Sox and Portland in 2010, where he was decidedly average (.267 at GCL, .239 at Portland). But here's the thing - he absolutely shone in the Arizona Fall League this past autumn. His swing is nice and short and he can use the entire field with his hitting, but he's going to have to take it easy and learn some patience before he can handle Major League pitching.

Now where are we going to put the kid in 2011? There's a good chance he could make his way up to Pawtucket based on his AFL performance. He did enjoy a Spring Training invite this year, so many fans got a good look at him for the first time. Although the Sox have plenty of outfielders floating around, he's an intriguing possibility to keep in mind as 2011 starts up.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

So I Really Like Sean Ratliff...

I took this photo on a humid night in Binghamton last June. Josh Stinson was pitching, and it was Boy Band Night. Not many fans showed up due to threats of rain.

I was so glad I went, because I finally got to see one of my favorite Stanford boys in person. (See his Cardinal stats here and please laugh at his goofy roster photo.) Ratliff ended up having an insanely good night, going yard twice, if I recall correctly. I fell in love with his swing. It's a thing of beauty.

The problem is, of course, that the Mets have plenty of outfielders at present. A player like Ratliff has to contend with Duda, Nieuwenhuis, and, of course, people like Pagan, Bay and Beltran at the Major League level to make it. Now, we obviously know that all of these people are pretty darn talented. What are we to do with Ratliff? He was drafted in 2008, so he's advancing fairly quickly. The question is whether or not we bump him up to Buffalo at some point this year. Nieuwenhuis is already there - he made it late in the season last year. I almost feel like he needs to be the one who dictates that by playing well and forcing the Mets to make the move. I don't know how much attention they're paying to him since there's significantly less buzz about Mets prospects than there is about, say, Red Sox prospects, but based on the way he played in Binghamton this past season I feel like they should at least start keeping a closer eye on him. He certainly has the talent - I saw it when I watched him playing at Stanford - and it's just a question of whether he gets the recognition for it and continues to have seasons like he did in 2010.

Oh, and if you want to see my video of his swing, you can do that here.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Kipnis is bordering on ready

I like kids from the Pac-10 Conference. It's probably my most notable trait as a prospect stalker - give me a Pac-10 kid, and I can give you his school and oftentimes even his major. (I'm particularly good at doing this with Stanford boys, of course.) But today we're going to talk about a kid from Arizona State, Jason Kipnis, now with the Indians. (In the photo to the right, he's sitting second from the left, with Josh Spence on the extreme left of the image.)

Kipnis, whose ASU bio claims his nickname is Kip, was a BIS major, which means he majored in Interdisciplinary Studies (Dustin Pedroia actually selected the same Major). In 2009, the year he was drafted, he was named Pac-10 Player of the Year, an honor he shares with fellow Indians player Trevor Crowe, as well as Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and this blogger's all-time favorite baseball player, Jed Lowrie. Baseball America actually ranks Kipnis at #3 in the Indians organization, as well, and he's already made it to AAA Columbus despite being drafted just two years ago. He's a fast mover.

As a prospect, Kipnis has played a couple of different positions - he started out as an outfielder, but he was moved to second base, and it's difficult to tell that he was a converted outfielder. Baseball America points out that he still needs work on his double play pivot, but that's something that takes any infielder some time to truly master, so in due time he'll have that down, as well. Because he is so offensively advanced, he could easily supersede Valbuena and Donald at second by the end of the 2011 season, and he might be called up at some point mid-season if the Indians need an offensive boost.

Oh, and one more thing - BA has him listed at just 5'10" and he's now playing second base. Doesn't that remind you of another ASU player who went on to be a successful second baseman in the Majors at least a little bit?

Friday, February 25, 2011

“I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m just following the people who have been here before. I’m still trying to not look very stupid.”

That little bit of adorableness comes from the top prospect in the San Francisco Giants organization, Brandon Belt, in a story that ran in USA Today earlier. Makes him sound very humble compared to Bryce Harper, doesn't it?

Belt is 22 and was drafted out of the University of Texas, where he majored in education. There's some huge awesome points right there. He also, according to what Buster Posey says in that article up there, hit ".350" in Fresno last year and should be totally fine. Here's what you need to know about this kid, who, although he's probably starting in Fresno next season, should be ready for the Majors really, really soon. He comes across as so genuine, and I love that.

With his upside being as ridiculously high as it is, I think we can expect a September call-up at the very least. If not, he'll be up before that, as he likely deserves to be. He's hard-working, educated and totally skilled - what's not to like about him?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bryce Harper thinks he can make the Nationals' roster out of Spring Training

Ah, the optimism of youth. Remember when you were eighteen and you thought you could do anything? (I do, too. It was only four years ago.)

Bryce Harper, who is still eighteen, is hoping to make the big league club out of Spring Training this season. Says he:
"Why can't it be realistic? Why can't I come in here and think I can make this team. I've exceeded expectations my whole life."
I don't want to be the one to break it to you, Bryce, but you're eighteen and you haven't had any professional experience yet. Yes, young players can break through - Jose Reyes was nineteen when he made his Mets debut. However, the difference is that Jose had significant Minor League playing time before being called up and had proven that he could handle the grind of a full season. Bryce doesn't have that to his name yet - he spent time playing for a community college, which, of course, doesn't play for the full-length season that MiLB clubs do.

Exceed expectations all you like, Bryce, but you're still likely going to start in Hagerstown this season. I'll meet you there if you like and we can see how you're feeling at that point, okay? But for now, don't set unrealistic goals for yourself - you'll just end up beating yourself up when you don't achieve them right away. It's about hard work, Bryce, not just talent.

Westmoreland is recovering!

I'm posting here today because Alex Speier wrote an article on Ryan Westmoreland that is an absolute must-read. It's a wonderful story and seeing Westmoreland working back is beautiful.

Basically, go read it. It's right here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Is Ryan Lavarnway the Red Sox's eventual solution at catcher?

With Jason Varitek aging, Jarrod Saltalamacchia having issues with yips, Victor Martinez signing with the Tigers, and Dusty Brown now with the Pirates, the future of the Red Sox behind the dish is a little uncertain. There are a couple of Double-A options, at least, and one of those two is Ryan Lavarnway. (The other, Luis Exposito, has perhaps received more attention, partially due to his entertaining Twitter account.)

Lavarnway is a Yaler. He was signed in 2008 in the 6th round, and he spent some time in the Arizona Fall League this past autumn. He started catching his sophomore year of college, picking up the duties full-time during his junior season. Catching, clearly, is still a work in progress, as he himself admits, but over the past two seasons he's made enough strides to make his way to Portland. He can't be too bad at it, in that case.

Lavarnway's progress as a hitter is just fine, which is a big part of the reason he's progressed to Portland so quickly. He's an extremely polished, patient hitter, and his plate discipline is very advanced. Perhaps most importantly, however, is his work ethic, which is the biggest reason that he continues to improve and maintain his skills as he advances up the Minor League ladder. He's worked hard enough to gain the catching skills necessary to be in Double-A already, and with continued perseverance, he could easily find himself in Pawtucket this season. If anything, he'll likely end up as a good defensive catcher in the mold of Josh Thole, but he won't be on the level that Varitek is (granted, Tek is a benchmark for all young catchers these days, and he's set the bar ridiculously high).

And hey, don't forget that Lavarnway is very smart. That's an advantage if there ever was one.

Photo of Ryan Lavarnway by Stephen Fritzer.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Kirk Nieuwenhuis Exists

So I finally got a chance to watch some Rookie Program videos, and I found this one of Mets prospect Kirk Nieuwenhuis. For whatever reason, I've noticed that the Mets discuss their minor leaguers less than some other teams do (I'm looking at you, Boston), and I almost wonder if that's because Omar had this tendency to trade prospects away so frequently that nobody put stock in the kids.

Anyway, deep thoughts aside, meet Kirk.

Once you get to know him by watching this video, you can proceed to make Star Trek jokes about him with me (I admit it, I screamed "KHAAAAAAAAAAN!" at him last year at Spring Training). Although he's a dark horse out of Azusa State, he's risen up through the farm system and he was in Buffalo at the end of the season last year. He'll provide some decent outfield depth for the Mets should they choose to hang onto him, especially since Beltran isn't what he used to be prior to all of his injuries.

Basically, what I'm saying is keep an eye on him this season regardless of whether he begins it in Buffalo or Binghamton. Because he'll impress you, I can guarantee it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cross-Post: Steph makes a guess about Norfolk

I'm the Orioles correspondent for G9 Sports, and I just wrote a post on what I'm projecting will be the starting lineup and rotation for the Norfolk Tides this season. That can be read here!

With Spring Training finally on the way, look for more updates here in the near future - there are camp battles to be won and new minor leaguers waiting to emerge!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

On the Injury-Prone: Reese Havens

Today's task: Who gets injured more frequently, Rich Harden or Reese Havens? And is either still valuable to a club?

Havens was drafted out of South Carolina in 2008, the same season as Ike Davis. Ike has clearly panned out well and is performing just fine at the Major League level. Havens, however, has only succeeded in working his way up to Double-A Binghamton so far. He has hit .261/.363/.467 in 152 pro games since his debut with 26 homers and 80 walks. Not bad at all, but then you remember that those career totals have been compiled over three years.

Three years.

Havens has had a string of injuries since signing - his elbow, groin, quadriceps, hand, oblique and back have all given him trouble, making him even more injury-prone than my favorite klutz, Jed Lowrie. I would consider Havens to still have potential, certainly, but he has problems staying healthy, which is sorely injuring (no pun intended) his prospect status. He's definitely a more than decent hitter - 149 hits in 570 pro at-bats isn't bad at all - and although his defense is only average (he recently switched from shortstop to second base), he would likely be able to hold his own at the position even though he's no Dustin Pedroia.

Here's the question, though: is Havens worth the risk?

Let's compare Havens to another oft-injured RH, Rich Harden. Although Harden is a pitcher, he presents a similarity to Havens - a high upside with a risk of injury higher than average.

As of the time I'm writing this, Harden has pitched for Oakland from '03-'08, Chicago (NL) from '08-'09, and Texas in '10. His first major injury occurred in 2005, when he had an oblique problem that kept him on the bench for a month. He then pitched well until he injured his shoulder in late August, which kept him out for another month. Despite this, he finished the season with strong numbers (10-5; 2.57 ERA, 121 Ks in 128 innings). 2006 and 2007 went less successfully, however, as injury-plagued Harden pitched in only 16 games total, starting 13 of those. Prior to that, he had appeared in 68 games for Oakland.

In 2008, Harden was traded to the Cubs mid-season. By Harden standards, this was an excellent year - 25 starts (13 in Oakland, 12 in Chicago), 10-2 record, 2.07 total ERA. He notched a career high in strikeouts (181) and a career low WHIP (1.061). More importantly, he spent this season playing instead of riding the pine, and he revealed just how good he actually could be when healthy. Comparatively, 2009 and 2010 were sharp contrasts from 2008 - the stats ballooned comparatively, and in 2010 he ended up on the DL again with a gluteal strain.

Reese Havens' minors numbers make him appear to be similar -almost like a position player equivalent to Harden. With the exception of 2009, in which Havens played in 97 games in High-A St. Lucie, he's only been in 55 games total in the years 2008 and 2010. Although comparing a position player to a pitcher is like comparing apples to oranges, the risk-reward with a player like Havens is similar to Harden. Do you retain a player who is highly skilled but frequently hurt, or do you cast them to the wind if they don't actually play enough due to being injured so often?

Oakland's answer was to pick Harden up with a one-year contract for 2011. Now it remains to be seen what the Mets do with Havens. If he remains healthy, he'll likely make it to the Majors by 2012 or 2013, but if his frequent health issues remain, there is a chance he may be labeled as a bust and will toil in the Minors or possibly be released or retire.

Only Reese's health can decide his future.