Friday, January 28, 2005
While I haven't heard Jon work Marlins games on radio (what with me being in Minnesota and all), I have spoken to him enough to know that he will be head and shoulders above most of the play-by-play guys working national games when it comes to bringing an interesting approach and some actual insight to the broadcast. In other words, there's a chance he might not just keep spewing those same tired cliches that are staples for announcers. As I told Jon when I congratulated him on the new gig yesterday afternoon, it'll be nice not to know what the announcer is going to say before he says it for once.
Here's hoping there are a few more Jon Sciambis on the way.
Tony hit .315/.377/.427 as a redshirt freshman for the Gophers in 2003 and then hit .283/.410/.364 as a sophomore last season. He is expected to be the team's starting centerfielder this season, taking over for Sam Steidl, who hit .372/.441/.500 last year and was taken by the Dodgers in the 12th round of the draft. As for me, I'm still talking about the time I hit a grand slam off my uncle playing one-on-one baseball two summers ago.
Sadly, that appears to be the only interesting thing that happened that day (aside from me being born, obviously). However, on January 3, 1920, the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees. What this has to do with anything is anyone's guess, but this is the sort of stuff you come across when you spend hours aimlessly searching the web for interesting stuff to blog about on a Friday in late January.
There are obviously a ton of different places to get help preparing for your fantasy baseball draft, but I can personally vouch for Rotoworld's magazine being extremely good. I wrote three lengthy articles -- one on prospects, one on sleepers, and one on busts -- and I also worked extensively on the previews for each team. Those of you who are familiar with Rotoworld.com know what an outstanding website it is, and the same guys who run things there were in charge of the magazine.
Incidentally, I showed my mom a picture of the cover -- which as you can see features Albert Pujols -- and the first and only thing she said to me was, "Boy, he's really got some big thighs ... is that Barry Bonds?"
Thursday, January 27, 2005
NRIsAlong with Carlos Delgado signing with the Marlins and Doug Mientkiewicz being traded to the Mets, the one other thing that caught my eye yesterday was that the Twins announced their list of non-roster invitees for spring training. NRI lists aren't typically bursting with talent, but Twins fans can look back to last year's list to see that the players can have an impact. Last season's NRIs were Joe Mauer, Chris Heintz, Brandon Marsters, Gabby Torres, Jake Mauer, Alex Prieto, Luis Rodriguez, Jesse Crain, Seth Greisinger, Peter Munro, Jeromy Palki, and Joe Roa.
Everyone knows about Mauer, obviously. Greisinger spent part of the year in the Twins' rotation, going 2-5 with a 6.18 ERA in 51 innings before the team decided to give Terry Mulholland a chance. Roa did a nice job as the long man in Minnesota's bullpen, going 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA in 70 innings. Crain joined the Twins in the middle of the year, tossed 27 innings with a 2.00 ERA, and is expected to be one of Joe Nathan's setup men this season. Prieto got a little action, hitting .250/.306/.375 in 36 plate appearances. And though Munro didn't pitch a single inning for the Twins, he went 4-7 with a 5.15 ERA in 99.2 innings with the Astros, and then actually started two postseason games for Houston.
All of which leads us to this year's group: Scott Baker, Willie Eyre, Trey Hodges, C.J. Nitkowski, Brent Abernathy, Andy Fox, Luis Maza, Eric Munson, Glenn Williams, Todd Dunwoody, Josh Rabe, Jason Tyner, Mulholland, Heintz, and Torres. It is an interesting group with a lot of fairly recognizable names who were once thought of as pretty good prospects.
Munson, whom I discussed in some length when the Twins signed him to a minor-league deal last week, was the #3 pick in the 1999 draft. For my thoughts on him you can read last week's column, but the short version is that he's got a lot of pop in his bat and is a good player to take a flier on, but his .215/.287/.414 career offense and lack of defensive ability makes him someone who would be pretty stretched as an everyday player on a contending team.
Tyner was the #21 overall pick by the Mets back in the 1998 draft and has never really done anything -- in the minors or the majors -- to justify that selection even for just a little bit. He has as little power as you will ever see from a major-league outfielder, setting a career-high with a .400 slugging percentage at Triple-A in 2003. He is a career .309 hitter in 561 minor-league games and has good speed and decent on-base skills, but it has only translated to .257/.294/.299 in 246 major-league games. If a team asked for a fifth outfielder from Central Casting, Tyner would be high up on the list of guys they sent.
Abernathy was Toronto's second-round pick in 1996. He hit pretty well in the minors and was traded to the Devil Rays for Steve Trachsel and Mark Guthrie in the middle of the 2000 season. Abernathy debuted for Tampa Bay in 2001, hitting .270/.328/.382 in 79 games, and then hit just .242/.288/.311 in 117 games as their starting second baseman in 2002. He got 37 plate appearances between Tampa Bay and Kansas City in 2003 and then didn't play in the majors at all last season. Though he's only a career .245/.295/.327 hitter in the majors, Abernathy hit .294/.357/.463 at Triple-A last year and there's a decent shot he could match Luis Rivas' production at second base in 2005 -- and he'd do it for about 20% of the cost. It'll never happen, of course -- he'll do a nice job for Triple-A Rochester.
Hodges and Dunwoody weren't high draft picks, but they were each considered one of their team's best prospects at one point. Hodges went 15-9 with a 3.19 ERA in 172 innings at Triple-A in 2002 and combined to throw 77 innings with a 4.77 ERA with the Braves between 2002 and 2003. He then went 5-2 with a 4.82 ERA in 52 innings back at Triple-A last year before being sold to a Japanese League team, where he went 2-3 with a 5.31 ERA in 40.2 innings. It's unlikely Hodges will make the Twins out of spring training, but his track record suggests he could get the job done as a fifth starter or long reliever in the majors. If nothing else, he should be one of the better starting pitchers in the International League.
I don't have nearly as much hope for Dunwoody. He put up some impressive numbers while in the Marlins' minor-league system in the late 90s, but hasn't done a whole lot since then. An outfielder, Dunwoody batted .281/.317/.473 with a ridiculously bad 75-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 107 games at Triple-A last year and is a career .267/.313/.471 hitter in 595 games at Triple-A. I checked out his page over at Baseball-Reference.com and was shocked to learn that he has played parts of six seasons in the major leagues, combining to hit .233/.277/.348 in 986 plate appearances.
On the other end of the spectrum from these former prospects is Baker, who was the Twins' second-round pick in the 2003 draft. He has breezed through the system, going 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA in 220 innings between Single-A, Double-A, and Triple-A, while posting a fantastic 192-to-42 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Baker is one of the team's best pitching prospects and, like Crain last year, seems destined to impress the coaching staff during spring training, start the season at Triple-A, and then make his big-league debut in the second half.
Eyre, Rabe, Maza, and Torres are also all original Twins' draftees. Maza is a 25-year-old infielder who looked like nothing more than organizational filler before last season, but then hit .311/.365/.470 in 126 games at Double-A New Britain. Rabe is a former 11th-round pick who has had a couple decent stops, hitting .340/.427/.481 in 80 games at Single-A in 2002 and .303/.361/.445 in 94 games at Double-A in 2003, but hasn't done much of anything beyond that. He is a career .279/.350/.401 hitter in 547 minor-league games and hit just .264/.333/.376 in 121 games at Triple-A in 2004.
Eyre is a right-handed pitcher who has put together quite a few solid seasons while going up through the system, but his sub par strikeout numbers and lack of control suggest he probably isn't destined for much more than a few more years in the minors and maybe a cup of coffee or two in the big leagues. On the other hand, Torres is an intriguing player. He didn't have a great year in 2004, but he is a catcher who has hit .290/.366/.420 in 216 career games at Double-A. Torres will be 27 years old in 2005, so he's not destined for stardom, but he seems like someone who deserves a shot at being a backup catcher somewhere. Plus, you've got to love a guy who says his "favorite baseball player growing up was Bo Diaz."
Mulholland is the NRI most likely to make the team out of spring training and would likely be the team's swingman if Joe Mays is healthy. Nitkowski is around to presumably "compete" with Mulholland, although considering his lack of major-league success (5.35 ERA in 475.2 career innings) and inability to move back and forth from the bullpen to the rotation, Mulholland shouldn't be very worried. Similarly, Fox is around to give Minnesota's assortment of middle infielders a little competition during the spring, but he's destined for Rochester along with Heintz and Williams.
Oh, and one last thing: If you'd have bet me that I couldn't write 1,300 words on the Minnesota Twins' non-roster invitees for 2005 ... well, you'd be wrong.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- The Hardball Times 2005 NCAA Pre-Season All-America Team (Part Two) (by Craig Burley)
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Thank YouYesterday I suggested that those of you who had some money to spare donate a little to Larry Mahnken, who suddenly found himself homeless after his apartment in New York burned down. I talked to Larry a couple times yesterday and he told me how incredibly generous people have been. While the amount of money he was able to raise yesterday will never be enough to offset his losses, he shared the number with me and it will certainly go a long way towards getting him back on his feet.
So thank you, from both me and Larry. He appreciates the donations and I appreciate the fact that you guys allowed me to do something that helped a friend in need. The generosity and thoughtfulness of the people who read this blog is really amazing, and I know I'll think of the help you gave Larry the next time I get a negative e-mail or two that would normally upset me.
Now, for those of you interested in reading something about baseball ... As promised yesterday, I crunched the numbers on Tadahito Iguchi and I have a write-up of Chicago's new second baseman over at The Hardball Times.
The Hardball Times: Coming to America
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Old News, Bad News, Worse News
Seriously, these annual Griffey-is-healthy stories are getting to be like some sick version of Mad Libs. Writers can use the same basic template and quotes over and over again, and all they need to do is fill in a few blanks with specific information about whatever current injury Griffey is recovering from.
Seriously, try it for yourself:
All-Star outfielder recovering from (*INJURY*)It really is fun for the whole family. Well, maybe not for the Griffey family.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Top 50 Prospects: Year in Review (31-40) (by Aaron Gleeman)
- Drying Off the Spitty 1910s, Part 1: The Seasons (by Steve Treder)
Monday, January 24, 2005
First ImpressionsI was doing some research for a future project on draft picks when it struck me just how impressive the Twins' 2004 draftees were in their professional debuts. Though Minnesota had to wait until the 20th pick in the draft to make their initial selection, they had a total of five of the draft's first 39 picks thanks to losing free agents Eddie Guardado and Latroy Hawkins during the offseason. Their first pick was high school shortstop Trevor Plouffe (who hit .283/.340/.380 in 60 games in rookie ball), but then they loaded up on pitching. After Plouffe, the team's next six picks were spent on pitchers and they used a total of 14 of their first 17 selections on pitchers.
The team's run on pitching started with the #22 pick and University of Minnesota lefty Glen Perkins, who went 19-5 with a 2.88 ERA in two years with the Gophers. Perkins signed quickly for $1.425 million and reported to Elizabethton of the Appalachian (Rookie) League, where he had a 2.25 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 12 innings. The team then promoted him to Single-A Quad Cities, where Perkins had a 1.30 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 48 innings. Overall, he posted a 1.50 ERA and 71-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 60 pro innings, while climbing up two steps on the organizational ladder. That's about as good as a debut gets.
The 25th overall pick was spent on Kyle Waldrop, a high school righty from Tennessee. Waldrop signed for a million bucks and reported to the Gulf Coast (Rookie) League, which is one level below Elizabethton. He dominated there for seven starts, posting a 1.42 ERA in 38 innings, and then moved up to Elizabethton. Waldrop continued to impress there, with a 3.24 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 25 innings. Any time a high school pitcher puts up a 2.14 ERA and 55-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his first taste of pro ball, it's extremely impressive.
Minnesota's next pick (#35) was used on Matt Fox, a right-handed pitcher who went 14-2 with a 1.85 ERA in his final year at the University of Central Florida. Fox signed for $950,000 and reported to Elizabethton, where he pitched fairly well despite a 5.40 ERA. In 27 innings, he struck out 32 batters, walked eight, and held opponents to a .264 batting average. His biggest problem was allowing six homers in 102 at-bats.
The team's final first-rounder (#39) and fourth pitcher selected was Jay Rainville, a high school righty from Rhode Island who went a jaw-dropping 6-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 70-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 42 innings during his senior year. Rainville signed for $875,000 and joined Waldrop in the GCL, where he had a 1.83 ERA and amazing 38-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 34 innings.
Minnesota's four "first-round" pitchers combined for 184 innings pitched and a 2.35 ERA in their pro debuts. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that they all had outstanding strikeout-to-walk ratios in their first taste of pro ball, combining for 196 strikeouts (9.6 K/9 IP) with just 34 walks, or 5.76 strikeouts per walk. To put that in some context, Curt Schilling led the American League with 5.80 strikeouts per walk last season and Brad Radke finished third in the league with 5.50 K/BB.
The strong pitching debuts from the 2004 draft class stretched beyond the first-rounders, too. Anthony Swarzak, the #61 overall pick out of a Florida high school, tossed 48 innings with a 2.62 ERA and 42-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the GCL. Eduardo Morlan, the #91 pick also out of a Florida high school, had a 2.84 ERA and 28-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 25 GCL innings. The #151 pick, Nevada high school lefty Jeff Schoenbachler, had a 3.92 ERA and 45-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 39 GCL innings.
The team's eighth-round pick out of the University of Arkansas, Jay Sawatski, had a debut similar to Perkins', throwing 34 innings with a 1.59 ERA and 38-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio between Elizabethton and Quad Cities. Even guys who had mediocre ERAs like John Williams (#211) and J.P. Martinez (#271) managed excellent strikeout rates and outstanding strikeout-to-walk ratios.
Here are the numbers of the 12 pitchers drafted and signed with the team's first 17 overall selections:
PITCHER IP ERA SO BB SO/9 K/BBThe Twins made a conscious effort to stockpile pitching in the 2004 draft, taking an interesting mix of raw high school arms and polished college pitchers. So far at least, it has worked out phenomenally well, as the team signed each of the first 12 pitchers they selected in time for them to make their pro debuts, and then watched as they collectively had an excellent first season (with a combined 3.55 K/BB). If things go similarly well this season, Minnesota will have a steady flow of young pitching coming up through the system, led by Perkins, who could be ready for a big-league gig as soon as 2006.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Top 50 Prospects: Year in Review (41-50) (by Aaron Gleeman)
- Paying for the Best (by Studes)