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January 3, 2013

Minor League Update

Ten NL Prospects Who Could Start the Season in the Majors

Ten NL Prospects Who Could Start the Season in the major leagues.

Yesterday, I listed ten American League prospects that will be competing for a big league job in Spring Training and have a legitimate chance to start the season in the majors. Here's a look at ten National League prospects.

  • Tony Cingrani, LHP, Cincinnati Reds: If Aroldis Chapman happens to start the season in the rotation, as has been discussed, the Reds would have just one lefty, Sean Marshall, locked in to a bullpen spot. While Cingrani appears to have a future as a big league starter, he could help out now as a second lefty out of the 'pen. The 23 year-old made three relief appearances during a September call-up, allowing a run in five innings with 2 walks and nine strikeouts. 
     
  • Adam Eaton, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks: The Diamondbacks traded center fielder Chris Young to the A's early in the offseason, which seemingly opened up the starting job for Eaton, a 24 year-old who had a .794 OPS in 22 September games. But the recent signing of Cody Ross clouds Eaton's immediate future because the team already has Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra, and Justin Upton on the roster. While they say they're happy to stand pat, which means Eaton would likely start in Triple-A, they are very likely to continue exploring a deal for Kubel or Upton so Ross can play a corner spot and Eaton can play center field. 
     
  • Evan Gattis, OF, Atlanta Braves: This offseason, the thinking was that the Braves would add two outfielders, allowing Martin Prado to move from left field to play third base full-time. As of now, they've only added one, center fielder B.J. Upton, leaving a platoon of Juan Francisco (3B) and Reed Johnson (LF) to fill the void. Recent talks, however, involve Gattis, a converted catcher who is playing left field in Venezuela, getting a shot to win a starting job in Spring Training. The 26 year-old had 34 homers in 2012 between Hi-A, Double-A, and Venezuela. 
     
  • Jedd Gyorko, 2B, San Diego Padres: The Padres could be content to allow Logan Forsythe to start the season as the starting second baseman but Gyorko's bat appears to be major league ready and he could break camp with the team if he clearly outplays Forsythe in Spring Training. Despite his defensive limitations, the Padres think he can handle the position and his bat should more than make up for it. The 24 year-old had 30 homers and a .921 OPS in 126 games between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012. 
     
  • Kyle McPherson, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates: The Bucs now have solid veterans filling out the first four spots of the starting rotation and one spot up for grabs with McPherson among the candidates. The 25 year-old is coming off of a stellar season in which he walked just 16 batters and struck out 84 in 93.1 innings between Double-A, Triple-A, and the majors. He's not going to strike out a ton of hitters in the big leagues, but he throws strikes and should be a solid back-of-the-rotation innings-eater for a Bucs team that has ran out of gas in the second half of the past two seasons. 
     
  • Shelby Miller, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals: Something clicked for Miller in the second half of 2012 and he appears primed to make the permanent jump to the majors in 2013. After posting a 6.17 ERA in his first 17 starts, Miller dominated with a 2.88 ERA, 7 walks, and 70 strikeouts in his last 59.1 Triple-A innings and then pitched well after a late-season major league call-up. The Cardinals have excellent starting pitching depth, but Miller could force his way into the mix with a strong camp. 
     
  • Josh Prince, IF/OF, Milwaukee Brewers: Primarily a shortstop until 2012, when he played 128 games in center field for Double-A Huntsville, Prince has the versatility, speed, and on-base ability to help the Brewers in the near future. The 24 year-old hopes to parlay an impressive Arizona Fall League performance (1.064 OPS, 10 SB in 25 games) into an opportunity to win a super-utility role with Milwaukee. 
     
  • Trevor Rosenthal, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals: A deep bullpen could allow the Cardinals to keep Rosenthal in the minors where he can continue to develop as a starter. But why do that when he could be a dominant late-inning reliever now? The 22 year-old posted a 2.78 ERA with 7 walks and 25 strikeouts in 22.1 big league innings in 2012 while flashing a fastball that reached triple digits and an assortment of secondary pitches. 
     
  • Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks: His main competition for the last rotation spot, Trevor Bauer, was traded to the Indians, meaning Skaggs is now the front runner for the job. Many think the 21 year-old Skaggs would've won the job anyway, filling out an impressive rotation that includes right-handers Ian Kennedy, Brandon McCarthy, and Trevor Cahill, and All-Star lefty Wade Miley
     
  • Julio Teheran, RHP, Atlanta Braves: On the prospect radar for years, the buzz surrounding Teheran had died down after a disappointing season in Triple-A. But once people remember he's only 21 years old and still has top-of-the-rotation potential, it's hard not to get excited about Teheran winning a rotation spot in the spring and pitching every fifth day for the Braves. He'll have to beat out Randall Delgado, although he already left a lasting impression with his last three starts in the Dominican Winter League (16.2 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 4 BB, 15 K).

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BP Daily Podcast

Effectively Wild Episode 111: How Do Major-League Managers Differ from Non-Baseball Bosses?

Ben and Sam discuss Joe Maddon's value and the ways in which managers might have more or less impact than the typical non-baseball boss.



 
Ben and Sam discuss Joe Maddon's value and the ways in which managers might have more or less impact than the typical non-baseball boss.

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BP Unfiltered

A New Solution to the DH Debate

Russell proposes a simple solution that might resolve the DH debate to everyone's satisfaction.

It's January. The holidays are over. The Winter Meetings are over. Hall of Fame voting is over. They even solved that fiscal thing. The MVPs and Cy Youngs and Rookies of the Year have been given out. Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton have signed. And frankly, I can only read so many "Where will Michael Bourn sign?" pieces. Baseball is officially stuck in a rut. Well, when you need to start a conversation going on baseball, there's always the old reliable flint in the matchbox: the designated hitter.

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BP Unfiltered

Solutions to Last Week's Baseball Acrostic Puzzle

Between Christmas and New Year's, we challenged you with a baseball twist to a classic puzzle. Here are the solutions.

Thanks to everyone who downloaded and either completed or tried out the acrostic puzzle last week. I hope you enjoyed this baseball spin on one of my favorites from the puzzling world.

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January 2, 2013

Minor League Update

Ten AL Prospects Who Could Start the Season in the Majors

Ten American League Prospects Who Could Start the Season In the Majors

With the new year upon us, we can now officially say that Spring Training starts 'next month'. The Spring Training version of the Minor League Update will be highly-focused on prospects who are getting a chance to showcase their talents in big league games and have a pretty decent shot at making a 25-man roster.

Some unknown minor leaguers will come out of nowhere to challenge for bullpen or bench jobs. Some of the very best prospects -- Travis d'Arnaud and Wil Myers are just two examples -- will technically have a chance to win spots, according to their organization, although the intention will be to keep them in Triple-A so their arbitration and free agency clock are pushed back a year. Then there are those prospects that will be competing for big league jobs and actually have a legitimate chance to break camp with the big league club, regardless of big league service time. Here's a look at ten of those prospects competing for jobs on American League teams. The NL version will be out tomorrow.

  • Chris Archer, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays: Out of the handful of pitchers vying for the fifth spot in the Rays' rotation, Archer has the most upside by far and also flashed signs of dominance in his four big league starts in 2012 (3.88 ERA, 23.2 IP, 17 H, 8 BB, 31 K). Alex Cobb is the safe pick to win the job but the Rays would be ecstatic if the 24 year-old Archer proves consistent enough to take the job and run with it.  
     
  • Trevor Bauer, RHP, Cleveland Indians: The trade to Cleveland likely improves Bauer's chances of winning a rotation spot now that he doesn't have to compete with fellow prospects Pat Corbin and Tyler Skaggs for what was just one available spot. Instead, his main competition right now will come from Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff, and Corey Kluber, although there's a chance no job is up for grabs at all if Carlos Carrasco is fully recovered and strong enough to start the season after returning from Tommy John surgery. 
     
  • Carter Capps, RHP, Seattle Mariners: We know about Seattle's crop of impressive young starting pitching prospects closing in on the majors, but the bullpen shouldn't be overlooked. Tom Wilhelmsen did an outstanding job during his first year as the closer and lefties Charlie Furbush, Lucas Luetge, and Oliver Perez each did solid work out of the 'pen. The guys bridging the gap to Wilhelmsen are undetermined, however, although hard-throwing Stephen Pryor is a strong candidate and veterans Shawn Kelley and Josh Kinney are also in the mix. But don't count out Capps, who throws even harder than Pryor, and posted a 3.96 ERA with 11 walks and 28 strikeouts in 25 innings after an early August call-up. Ideally, both Capps and Pryor could fill high-leverage roles where their upper 90's fastballs, along with Wilhelmsen's, will give opponents fits in the late innings. 
     
  • Chia-Jen Lo, RHP, Houston Astros: Signed out of Taiwan back in 2008, Lo was on the fast track until Tommy John surgery robbed him of most of the past three seasons. The 26 year-old finally made it back in mid-2012 and put up impressive numbers between the GCL and Cal League, then followed it up with a solid Arizona Fall League campaign. Next stop is big league camp, where he'll have a chance to win a bullpen job. 
     
  • Mike Olt, IF/OF, Texas Rangers: 3-for-4, 2B, 3 RBI. The trade of Michael Young opens up some at-bats, although the Rangers have several options to fill out the designated hitter spot in the lineup. Veterans like A.J. Pierzynski, Nelson Cruz, and Adrian Beltre could get at-bats there so they can avoid the normal wear and tear from playing defense over a full season. Olt, however, is the one option I can see getting regular at-bats because he currently doesn't have anywhere to play and might have enough bat to have value as a designated hitter. The 24 year-old was only 5-for-33 without a homer in his late-season stint with the Rangers but he's a highly-regarded right-handed hitting prospect who had a .977 OPS 95 Double-A games. 
     
  • Martin Perez, LHP, Texas Rangers: If remaining free agent starters Kyle Lohse, Shaun Marcum, and Joe Saunders go off the board and neither of them land in Texas, Perez's chances to make the team will remain high. His numbers in the upper minors aren't pretty, but Perez is only 21 years old and still has great stuff and profiles as a future #2 or 3 starter. Could he hold down the #5 spot until Colby Lewis returns from elbow surgery around mid-season? If the Rangers fail to address the spot between now and the start of Spring Training, that gives you a pretty good indication that they think he can.
     
  • Jurickson Profar, IF, Texas Rangers: There has been some talk of Ian Kinsler potentially moving over to first base to make room for Profar at second base. It makes sense since it wouldn't be a huge surprise if the 19 year-old Profar is so impressive in the spring that the Rangers have no other choice but to give him a starting job. How impressive is Profar? Well, you can count on seeing his name somewhere near the top, if not the very top, of BP's soon-to-be-released Top 101 prospects list. 
     
  • Bruce Rondon, RHP, Detroit Tigers: With Rafael Soriano and Brian Wilson still available on the free agent market and the Tigers without a proven closer in their bullpen, it seems like a matter of time before a deal gets done with one of those veterans. For now, all is quiet on the closer front and the Tigers have let it be known that they believe in Rondon and might be willing to start the season with him as their man in the 9th inning. The 22 year-old Venezuelan has a fastball that can exceed 100 MPH and improving control, along with what could be a nice supporting cast of veterans from Latin America in Detroit's bullpen. 
     
  • Dan Straily, RHP, Oakland Athletics: One of the fastest rising prospect I can ever recall, Straily went from being a very little known pitcher in Double-A to Triple-A to the majors to a top 100 prospect in less than a year. Between the three levels, the 24 year-old struck out 222 batters in 191.1 innings. Based on that workload and his solid numbers in seven big league starts (3.89 ERA, 39.1 IP, 36 H, 16 BB, 32 K), Straily should be ready to handle a full year in the majors.
     
  • Michael Tonkin, RHP, Minnestota Twins: It seems like every spring, some reliever who spent the previous season in Double-A or Hi-A gets an invite to big league camp, then impresses enough to stick around until the end before just losing out for the last bullpen spot. Tonkin could be one of those guys in 2013. The 6'7" right-hander has the heavy mid-90's fastball and wicked breaking ball, success in the low minors last season (2.08 ERA, 20 BB, 97 K in 69.1 IP between Lo-A and Hi-A), and a strong stint in the Arizona Fall League (14.2 IP, 4 ER, 8 H, 3 BB, 7 K). On another team, his odds would be long to make the jump from A-ball. On the Twins, it could happen.

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BP Unfiltered

The Year in Clint Hurdle's Face

The faces Clint Hurdle made shortly before or after getting ejected in 2012.

According to Body Language University, which sounds like a completely legitimate and accredited academic institution, facial expressions are among the most important elements of human nonverbal communication. That explains how Clint Hurdle has earned a reputation as an especially good communicator: he has the most expressive face of any major-league manager. Most of the time he uses his facial expressions for good, but sometimes he gets angry at umpires. And when Hurdle gets angry at umpires, his face contorts into shapes that some viewers may find disturbing.

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BP Unfiltered

The Twins and Sabermetrics

We know the Twins use PITCHf/x data. That's about it.

The Twins use sabermetrics. That is the takeaway from Parker Hageman’s interesting Twins Daily piece on Minnesota’s quantitative analysis. Hageman quotes Jack Goin, Minnesota’s Manager of Major League Administration and Baseball Research (and ostensibly the club’s lead quant), throughout the article. Here are some highlights:

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BP Daily Podcast

Effectively Wild Episode 110: Players with Criminal Pasts/How Much Do Pitcher Hitting, Fielding, and Baserunning Matter?

Ben and Sam answer listener emails about how players with criminal pasts should be treated and how much pitchers' non-pitching skills matter.



 

Ben and Sam answer listener emails about how players with criminal pasts should be treated and how much pitchers' non-pitching skills matter.

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