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November 6, 2012

Wezen-Ball

Athletic Supporters

The 1968 presidential election featured a surprisingly large number of athletic endorsements amid one hard to believe aphorism.

Early last month, ESPN: The Magazine released the results of a survey they had conducted among players from each of the four major American sports. Unsurprisingly, the responses showed the wealthy athletes leaned to the right on the political spectrum. For example, the group as a whole said they would vote for Mitt Romney in today's election by a margin of 64.5% to President Obama's 22.9%. Major league baseball players were even more unanimous in their support of Romney, favoring the governor 81.8% to the president's 4.6%.

Apparently, the release of survey results like these would not have always been so ho-hum-predictable. In 1968, amid the highly contested election between Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, and George Wallace (among many others), the New York Times detailed the support many of the nation's athletes were throwing around that summer. Describing the varied groups of athletes standing behind the two lead candidates, Robert Lipsyte wrote this:

The Democrats are not in the Republicans' league [with regards to the stature of players supporting their candidates], belying the old aphorism that the owners of teams vote G.O.P. and their players ride the donkey. Bonuses and investment portfolios have made every rookie somewhat conservative.

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BP Daily Podcast

Effectively Wild Episode 77: The Teams in the Winter Spending Sweet Spot

Ben and Sam discuss which teams might benefit most from adding a few wins this winter.

Ben and Sam discuss which teams might benefit most from adding a few wins this winter.

Episode 77: "The Teams in the Winter Spending Sweet Spot"

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Minor League Update

Games of November 5

Notes on eight players who had notable performances in Monday's AFL and DWL action.

I love this time of year. Hot Stove talk. NFL and College Football are in full swing. The NBA season is underway. And Baseball Prospectus has begun to release Top 10 Prospect Rankings, starting with the Astros. Oh yeah, and there's still plenty of baseball being played around the world. 
  • Cody Asche, 3B, Phillies (Peoria): 3-for-4, 2 2B, 2 RBI. Only Kevin Frandsen sits ahead of Asche on the Phillies’ 3B depth chart, but the 22 year-old is at least a half-year away from the big leagues. An .824 OPS with 12 HR and 11 SB in 130 games between Double-A Reading and Hi-A Clearwater in his first full pro season gives the team hope that they’ll have a homegrown talent manning the hot corner for the first time since Scott Rolen did from 1996-2002.
  • Seth Blair, RHP, Cardinals (Surprise): 4 IP, ER, 3 H, BB, 2 K. The 46th pick in the 2011 draft, Blair hasn’t been able to find the strike zone very often as a pro (78 BB, 15 hit batters in 101.1 IP). He was in control, however, during his latest AFL start. After walking eight batters in 13.1P over his first four starts, he walked just one hitter and allowed just his 2nd ER in 17.1 IP.
  • Robbie Erlin, LHP, Padres (Peoria): 4 IP, 0 R, 3 H, BB, 4 K. A rash of injuries decimated the Padres' pitching staff in 2012, and Erlin couldn’t take advantage because he was sidelined himself with elbow tendinitis at a time when the the team was desperate enough to give Kip Wells seven starts. The 22 year-old also missed out on a chance to pitch in the spacious confines of Petco Park. The fences are being moved in, so his home park will now be less pitcher-friendly. I doubt it will be much of a problem. His 7.36 K/BB ratio in the minors should translate well to any ballpark. 
  • Dee Gordon, SS, Dodgers (Licey-DWL): 2-for-4, 2B, SB (6): Hanley Ramirez’s acquisition and the emergence of journeyman Luis Cruz knocked Gordon down the depth chart, much to the dismay of SB-starved fantasy baseball players. The 24 year-old has speed to burn, as evidenced by his 4 triples and 5 stolen bases through 13 games with Licey. The problem is that he doesn’t get on base enough to take advantage of his wheels (.280 OBP in 87 games last season). He does have a .410 OBP in his first 13 DWL games, which is encouraging, I guess. 
  • Sean Ochinko, C, Blue Jays (Salt River): 2-for-4, HR (1), 3 RBI, 2 R. The Jays might have the most catching depth in all of baseball and Ochinko was buried on that list at the start of the offseason. But the trade of Yan Gomes to Cleveland bumps him up one spot. A potential offseason trade of starter J.P. Arencibia to make room for prospect Travis d’Arnaud could also help move him up the chart, at least until A.J. Jimenez returns from Tommy John surgery. 
  • Jimmy Paredes, OF, Astros (Cibao-DWL): 2-for-5, HR (3), 3 RBI, R:  Although he’s starting to show some power the past few seasons (23 HR between Triple-A and Double-A in 2011-12), to go along with a career .289 BA in six minor league seasons and 116 SB over the last three, Paredes walks very little and strikes out very much. Not a great combination. I hope the Astros didn’t ask him to work on trying to draw some more walks during the DWL. They’d be very disappointed thus far (0 BB, 7 K in 38 at-bats).  
  • Jimmy Reyes, LHP, Rangers (Surprise): 2 IP, 0 R, H, 0 BB, K: One of two pitchers in the AFL to have not allowed an earned run (C.J. Riefenhauser is the other), Reyes has his streak up to 10 innings after tossing two scoreless on Monday. He hasn’t walked a hitter, either. But that’s no surprise. Reyes has walked only 26 hitters in 144.2 IP since being drafted in the 7th round if the 2010 draft.
  • Kolten Wong, 2B, Cardinals (Surprise): 2-for-5, 3 R, K, 2 SB (5): The 22 year-old Wong posted a .911 OPS in 47 games in the Lo-A Midwest League after being drafted in the 1st Round of the 2011 draft. He made the jump to Double-A in 2012 and held his own with a .754 OPS. So does he make the jump from Double-A to the majors in April? My guess is no, but he could be the Cardinals’ #2 hitter by mid-July.      

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November 5, 2012

BP Daily Podcast

Effectively Wild Episode 76: The Free Agents the Internet Can't Agree On

Ben and Sam discuss the discrepancies between lists of the top free agents this offseason.

Ben and Sam discuss the discrepancies between lists of the top free agents this offseason.

Episode 76: "Episode 76: The Free Agents the Internet Can't Agree On"

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Minor League Update

Games of November 2-4

Updates on 12 players from the Arizona Fall League, including the Rising Stars game, and the Dominican/Venezuelan Leagues.

If you haven't heard, Reds prospect Billy Hamilton is the fastest man in baseball. He broke the minor league single-season record of 145 stolen bases, set in 1983 by Vince Coleman, and finished the season with 155 steals between Hi-A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola. The 22 year-old Hamilton, who was recently moved from shortstop to center field, was easily the most exciting player in Saturday's Rising Stars game. When you start a game like this - leadoff walk, steal 2nd, steal 3rd, score later in the inning - it tends to cause a lot of excitement in the ballpark. Baseball fans, not to mention Fantasy Baseball players, love the stolen base almost as much as the home run. More excitement ensued later in the game when Hamilton bunted for a base hit. Unfortunately, one of the most disappointing moments of the game also occurred during that same play. A two-base throwing error meant that he couldn't steal second and third again. I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one yelling, "Stay at first! Stay at first!"
 
I'm gonna go out on a limb and predict that Hamilton will someday become the first player to steal 100 bases in the majors since Coleman last did it in 1987. And when he does, it will be the fifth time a player named Billy Hamilton steals 100 bases in a season. The other Billy Hamilton, an outfielder who stole 914 bases in his career and at least 100 bases in a season four times, played from 1888-1901.
 
Stats listed are from Nov. 2nd thru Nov. 4th.
  • Chase Anderson, RHP, Diamondbacks (Salt River): 2 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 0 BB, 4 K. After two shutout innings in the Rising Stars game, where he flashed an impressive changeup, Anderson has allowed just 2 ER in 10 IP over his last three appearances with 1 BB and 17 K. He’ll start the season in Triple-A, where he'll remain in the shadows of several elite prospects in the Dbacks’ system. 
  • Nick Castellanos, OF, Tigers (Mesa): 5-for-9, BB, K. Only 14 hits in his first 67 AFL at-bats before a three-hit game on Friday and a pair of singles in the Rising Stars game on Saturday. Drafted as a third baseman, the 20 year-old has been playing both corner outfield spots in order to expedite his arrival in the big leagues, possibly as early as April 2013.
  • Rhiner Cruz, RHP, Astros (Cibao-DWL): IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K. The top pick in last offseason’s Rule V draft, Cruz struggled throughout his rookie season before finally showing some promise in September (8.1 IP, ER, 8 H, 0 BB, 11 K). So it’s good to see that late-season success carry over in his first appearance in the DWL, as he tossed a clean inning with 2 strikeouts. Command of his mid-90’s fastball could earn him a key role in the Astros’ bullpen next spring.
  • Brian Goodwin, OF, Nationals (Salt River): 2-for-5, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2 K. If the Nationals don’t go out and sign one of the top free agent center fielders to a multi-year deal this offseason, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise. That’s because Goodwin, the 34th pick in the 2011 draft, is on the fast track to D.C. and could be leading off and playing center field on Opening Day 2014.  The 22 year-old led off the Rising Stars game with a HR and added an RBI double later in the game. He'll return to Double-A to start the 2013 season.
  • Billy Hamilton, CF, Reds (Peoria): 2-for-4, 2 BB, 2 R, K, 2 SB. With only 10 hits in 42 at-bats, Hamilton's impact had been minimal in the AFL heading into the weekend. But the switch-hitter singled in his lone plate appearance on Friday and then stole the show at the Rising Stars game with an electric performance that included two walks, a bunt single, and a spectacular diving catch. A few months of progress in center field and at the plate could land the converted shortstop at the top of the Reds’ lineup by mid-season. 
  • Rymer Liriano, OF, Padres (Peoria): 6-for-9, HR (3), 2B, 4 RBI, BB, 2 R. The closest the Padres might have to a five-tool player in their organization since Dave Winfield, the 21 year-old Liriano has been one of the most impressive players in the AFL and the Rising Stars game was no exception. After back-to-back three-hit games on Thursday and Friday, Liriano had three more on Saturday, including an opposite field double.  
  • Ernesto Mejia, 1B, Braves (Zulia-VWL): 5-for-11, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 K. The 26 year-old celebrated being added to the Braves’ 40-man roster by hitting two homers on Friday. Mejia, who has spent eight seasons in the Braves’ farm system, has a career .836 OPS and 50 HR between Triple-A and Double-A the past two seasons. He has a legitimate shot to win a major league job as a right-handed bat off the bench in 2013.
  • Mark Montgomery, RHP, Yankees (Scottsdale): 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 3 K. This reliever has already been mentioned in the Minor League Update three times during the AFL season. Normally, I’d say that’s two times too many, but he did have the most impressive outing of the Rising Stars game. The 22 year-old struck out a trio of right-handed hitters, Michael Almanzar, Bryce Brentz, and Nick Ahmed, in a scoreless inning and is putting himself in position to compete for a spot in the Yankees’ bullpen next spring. 
  • Marcell Ozuna, OF, Marlins (Cibao-DWL): 2-for-11, 2 HR (7), 4 RBI, 2 R, BB, 4 K. After starting the weekend with an 0-for-7, Ozuna slugged his 6th and 7th homers of the season on Sunday to extend his HR lead by three in the Dominican Winter League. The 21 year-old has 69 HR between Hi-A and Lo-A over the past three seasons. We’ll start to find out if he’s the real deal when he plays in the Double-A Southern League next season.  
  • Kevin Pillar, OF, Blue Jays (Salt River): 2-for-4, R, 2 SB (7). When former Baseball Prospectus prospect guru and current Houston Astros pro scouting coordinator Kevin Goldstein was asked on Twitter a few months back to name the best sleeper prospect in the Blue Jays’ system, he replied, “maybe Kevin Pillar”. A 32nd Round pick in last year’s draft, the 23 year-old didn’t have much trouble in his first two professional seasons and the AFL has been no different. He has 16 hits in his first 37 at-bats with 7 steals in 8 attempts.  
  • Austin Romine, C, Yankees (Scottsdale): 1-for-2, 3B, 2 R, K. The 23 year-old allowed two stolen bases to Hamilton in the 1st inning of the Rising Stars game, but redeemed himself by blasting a triple over Hamilton’s head in center field later in the game. The Yankees are in need of a starting catcher this offseason and Romine, who missed most of the 2012 season with a back injury, might end up in the mix if they don't re-sign Russell Martin.
  • Gary Sanchez, C, Yankees (Escogido-DWL): 3-for-12, HR, 3 RBI, 3 K. The Yankees’ ‘Catcher of the Future’ homered on Friday and singled twice on Saturday. Re-signing Martin could make sense with a very thin class of free agent catchers available this offseason, but it might take a three-year deal. If that’s what happens, Martin could spend year three of his deal backing up Sanchez, who could reach Double-A in 2013 at age 20.

 

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November 2, 2012

BP Unfiltered

Selectively Sampled Players Say: Beware of Weights This Winter

Are some players about to overdo it in the weight room over the winter?

Every spring, some players show up in camp bragging about how much muscle they built over the offseason. Then, the following spring, some of those same players show up in camp bragging about how much of that muscle they lost. Five examples from 2012:

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BP Daily Podcast

Effectively Wild Episode 75: The David Ortiz Decision and the Offseason Outlook for the Red Sox

Ben and Sam welcome Matthew Kory to the podcast to discuss the David Ortiz contract negotiations and the outlook for the Red Sox this winter.

Ben and Sam welcome Matthew Kory to the podcast to discuss the David Ortiz contract negotiations and the outlook for the Red Sox this winter.

Episode 75: "The David Ortiz Decision and the Offseason Outlook for the Red Sox"

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Minor League Update

Games of November 1

Notes on 12 prospects playing in either the Arizona Fall League or the Venezuelan Winter League.

One of the good things about scouring minor league box scores this time of the year is finding familiar names still plugging away and hoping for another chance in the big leagues. And I am happy to announce that there's been a Runelvys Hernandez sighting in the Dominican Winter League! The 34 year-old former Royals and Astros starter, who has a career line of 25-36 with a 5.50 ERA in 82 big league starts (none since 2008), is currently pitching for the Leones del Escogido. Hey, Royals fans. Remember that one time when Runelvys was your Opening Day starter, and he threw like six shutout innings and beat Mark Buehrle and the White Sox? That was awesome. Here are some notable performances from Thursday:
  • Boof Bonser, RHP, Free Agent (Margarita-VWL): 6 IP, 0 R, 4 H, BB, 5 K. The 31 year-old former Giants and Twins prospect made it back from Tommy John surgery in mid-2012 and now he’s trying to show teams he’s worthy of an invite to big league camp next spring.
  • Bryce Brentz, OF, Red Sox (Surprise): 2-for-4, RBI, BB, K, 2 R, SB. The Sox could use an upgrade at both corner outfield spots in 2013, which is bad timing for Brentz since he’s not quite ready. The 23 year-old is doing just fine in the AFL, however, with 7 hits in 15 at-bats with runners in scoring position and an overall .819 OPS.    
  • Gary Brown, OF, Giants (Scottsdale): 2-for-4, R, SB (2). The 24 year-old speedster has 5 hits in his last 8 at-bats, but it’s unlikely that he can do enough to convince the Giants that he’s ready to fill their CF void. A free agent center fielder, such as Angel Pagan or Michael Bourn, signing a multi-year deal in San Francisco this offseason means Brown goes on the trading block.
  • Evan Gattis, OF, Braves (Zulia-VWL): 2-for-4, HR, 2 RBI, K, R. We already know Gattis can hit (.920 OPS in 222 minor league games) and his future doesn’t appear to be as a big league catcher. So while he continues to hit down in Venezuela (.964 OPS in 17 games), the Braves are trying to figure out if he can play a passable left field. If he can, the 26 year-old would be a nice fit as a right-handed bat coming off the Braves' bench in 2013.
  • Slade Heathcott, OF, Yankees (Scottsdale): 2-for-4, 3B, RBI. The former 1st Round pick has 6 hits in his last 10 at-bats, including 3 triples and 6 RBI. If he can stay healthy, the 22 year-old could force his way into the Yankees’ plans by 2014, which could be the post Curtis Granderson era. 
  • Kyle Jensen, OF, Marlins (Phoenix): 3-for-3, HR, 3B, 2 RBI, 2 R, BB. Tied Nationals outfielder Brian Goodwin for the most extra-base hits in the AFL with 9 (3 HR, 5 2B, 3B). Could have 30+ HR in the hitter-friendly PCL (Triple-A) next season, although scouting reports indicate he could be more of a 4A hitter (too good for AAA, not good enough for the majors).
  • Chris Owings, SS, Diamodnbacks (Salt River): 2-for-4, K, SB. All the tools to become a very good big league shortstop, but he continues to show that he has a long way to go. After posting an ugly BB/K rate of 24/132 between Hi-A and Double-A in 2012, the 21 year-old is hitting just .233 without a walk in 60 AFL at-bats. He's never passing Cliff Pennington on the depth chart with those types of numbers.
  • Josh Prince, IF/OF, Brewers (Phoenix): 3-for-3, 2B, RBI, 2 BB, 2 R, CS. Might not ever be a big league regular but there’s a lot to like about this 24 year-old out of Tulane University: speed (41 SB with Double-A Huntsville in 2012), on-base ability (.346 OBP, 74 BB), and versatility (has played CF and SS in the minors). Oh yeah, and he’s totally tearing up the Arizona Fall League (.443/.521/.623 in 17 games).
  • Kevin Quackenbush, RHP, Padres (Peoria): 1.1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K, Sv (5). After posting an 0.82 ERA in his first two pro seasons across three levels (A-, A, A+), you probably shouldn’t be surprised that he hasn’t given up a run or a hit in 8.1 AFL innings. Fortunately for people that like to hear the name ‘Quackenbush’ often, he’s on the fast track to the big leagues.
  • Nate Roberts, OF, Twins (Peoria): 4-for-5, 2B, RBI, R, K, SB (5). Career .307 hitter in the minors with a .439 OBP and stolen base ability (27 SB in 76 Lo-A games in 2012), but the 23 year-old gets the ‘tweener’ label because of his lack of power or ability to play center field on a regular basis.  
  • Ben Rowen, RHP, Rangers (Surprise): 2 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 0 BB, K. The 2012 winner of the MiLBY Minor League Pitcher of the Year award, Rowen already has more walks (4) in 8 IP than he had in 57.1 IP for Hi-A Myrtle Beach. The sidearmer is likely to start the 2013 season with Double-A Frisco.
  • Matthew Szczur, OF, Cubs (Mesa): 3-for-5, HR, 2 RBI. Same old story for Szczur. Gets on base (.375 OBP, 8 BB, 7 K) and steals bases (6 SB in 16 games), but has yet to show very much power. The 23 year-old hit his 1st HR of the season on Thursday, giving him 3 extra-base hits compared to 15 singles on the season.   

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