Thursday, December 30, 2010

Arizona Fall League Scouting Report: Eric Hosmer

Eric Hosmer 1B (Kansas City Royals)

Age: 21

Bats: Left

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 215lbs

From: American Heritage High School, Plantation, Florida (#3 Overall pick in 2008)

Hosmer’s first pro season (2009) was extremely disappointing as he posted a paltry .707 OPS (major league average is .730) between low and high A ball. His struggles can be attributed to an astigmatism, which he developed during the offseason prior to the 2008 campaign and was diagnosed with prior to the season. Combined with his poor eye sight which was eventually corrected by Lasik eye surgery, Hosmer fractured a knuckle on his right hand which impeded his ability to grip the bat. When you can’t see the ball you’re supposed to hit or grip the bat you’re supposed to hit it with, you are going to struggle. The results he yielded in 2009 caused him to fall to #5 in Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook, down from #2 the previous year.

The following season, Hosmer had a fantastic .977 OPS while hitting 20 HRs, 7 of those HRs coming in an infamously difficult home park at Single A Wilmington. He reached AA ball at age 20 and completely reestablished his astronomical value as one of baseball’s better prospects. He’s turned everything around and has all star potential.


Hosmer has a smooth left handed swing. He combines fine bat speed with good balance and generates plus raw power. He takes the ball the other way comfortably. More impressive for me are his low strikeout totals. Hosmer struck out 66 times in 520 at-bats in 2010 and walked 59 times. That’s a rather impressive ratio for someone to boast for their 20 year old season.

The one problem Hosmer has is a tendency to get his front foot down late (Ryan Howard has the same problem from time to time) which throws his swing off and causes him to get pull happy.

Hosmer is a below average runner and won’t help on the bases.


Hosmer has an above average throwing arm that would play in the outfield which would be beneficial to the Royals because of the glut of 1B/DH types they have coming up through the minors, but his slow feet would limit his range in an outfield corner and he’d end up as a liability. He has soft hands and is enough of an athlete to be above average at first base.

As far as ceilings go, Hosmer may be the best 1B prospect left in the minors (though Brandon Belt is much closer to the majors) and is one of the crown jewels of the Royals’ stellar farm system.

Above: A couple looks at the swing
Below: A really great at-bat

Monday, December 20, 2010

Arizona Fall League Scouting Report: Jeremy Jeffress

Jeremy Jeffress (Kansas City Royals)

Age: 23

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 185LBS

From: South Boston, VA (1st rounder in 2006 straight from High School)

Part of the recent Zack Greinke trade, Jeffress had one of the more electric arms I got a chance to see at the Arizona Fall League. We’ll get into that in a minute, but upfront there’s one very important piece of information you should know about Jeffress. He’s one toke away from a lifetime ban from baseball. Jeffress has already been suspended twice for violating baseball’s substance abuse policy and a third time means he’ll get the boot. I don’t have a problem with pot use as long as it doesn’t alter work habits or on field performance, and in Jeffress’ case it just might.

Like a lot of the pitchers in Arizona, Jeffress had primarily been a starter during his pro career (unitl this past season) but projects as a bullpen arm. The Royals will almost certainly insert him in the bullpen immediately, in part to free him from the more strict nature of the minor league drug testing policies. If the Royals decide to trade Joakim Soria, Jeffress will be ticketed for high leverage inning (the few that exist in KC) work right off the bat.


Jeffress’ fastball is devastating. He sat at 95-97mph and touched 99 once when I saw him in person in mid October, and then hit 101mph on TV during the Rising Stars game. It’s very straight, almost no tail, but the raw velocity behind it more than compensates.

Sure, the fastball is good but the secondary stuff is lacking. I had read that his curveball was flashy and inconsistent but I didn’t even see a glimpse of a swing and miss breaking ball in any of his outings in Zona. When he did throw it, it was blunt and hittable in the upper 70s. His changeup sits in the mid to high 80s. He can throw it for strikes, but his arm speed is noticeably slower than it is when he throws the heater. The dominant fastball and lack of viable secondary offerings already points to the bullpen.


Throws from a three quarters arm angle and has fairly easy arm action for someone who throws so hard. He does not repeat his delivery well. You can clearly see this in the video below when he drops his arm angle significantly on his final warm up offering. This inability to repeat the same throwing motion leads to control problems and is likely the cause of his curveball’s inconsistency as well as his problems with command.


He strikes out a ton of batters, and has had problems with walks (sounds like a reliever to me). His walk totals dropped significantly last season (from 8 per 9 innings in 2009 to 3 per 9 innings in 2010) but the sample of innings from 2010 is too small (due to the suspension) to say his control issues are solved.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

NFL Draft Pospect Scouting Report: Jerrel Jernigan

Jerrel Jernigan

Position: WR

School: Troy

Height: 5’9”

Weight: 190lbs

Offensive trends in the NFL are ever changing. We now see more shotgun formations and multiple WR sets than ever before. As such, teams are finding value in WRs that change direction quickly, run good routes, and get yards after the catch. Guys like this (Wes Welker, Davone Bess) turn a high percentage, short pass into gains of 7-15 yards and some even bust them for big plays. This is the kind of player I was hoping to see when I turned on the New Orleans bowl to watch Troy WR Jerrel Jernigan. The things I read in preparation for scouting Jernigan had me thinking that he might just be evolution’s next logical step in wide receiverdom.

Speed: He’s got plenty. He’s not DeSean Jackson or anything like that, but he’s certainly faster than your average receiver. I timed him at 4.46 from the 40 to the goal line in full pads on a QB Power Right run out of the Wildcat. It’s good to know that his stature doesn’t hinder his speed when he’s fully dressed. Lots of these WRS that run good 40 times at the combine can’t carry pads and a helmet and maintain that speed. Jernigan can.

Route Running: This is a difficult thing to scout from watching TV because often times WRs will run out of frame. From what I DID see, his routes aren’t sharp all the time. He’s been able to rely on his physical gifts to get open thus far. He won’t be able to in the NFL. Route running can always be coached, though, as long as Jernigan is receptive to it. So while he’s raw right now, he has tremendous potential in this area.

Hands: He catches the ball with his hands, which sounds like the most obvious thing in the world, but lots of receivers use their bodies to catch the ball, which lead to drops. I counted two occurrences on Saturday when Jernigan looked to turn upfield before he had the catch well secured.

Other: Not a good blocker. Operates very well with the ball in space a la Donte Stallworth. Didn’t have a chance to see him go up for any jump balls. Jernigan average 15 yards per catch his junior year and only 9 yards per catch during his senior campaign. While this would normally be cause for concern, it’s likely due to the absence of QB Levi Brown who graduated after last season and is now in the NFL. May have trouble with press coverage.

Prediction: 2nd maybe 3rd round. Not enough skills to offset his physical limitations and be a #1 WR but should excel in the slot guy and as a weapon on returns.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

NFL Draft Prospect Scouting Report: Ben Ijalana

Ben Ijalana

Position: Guard/Tackle

School: Villanova

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 320lbs

With college bowl season around the corner, I have a long list of NFL prospects to watch over the holiday break. It’s much different from scouting baseball players and I haven’t published anything like this to this point, but once upon a time I was better at evaluating football players than baseball players.

I’d heard about Ben Ijalana and watched him in person at Lehigh, on TV vs. Richmond and again today against Appalachain State. I feel comfortable enough to publish my thoughts on him and will continue to do so with other draft eligible players over Winter Break. Here are my thoughts on Ijalana

Run blocking: Ijalana certainly has the size to be an effective run blocker. He has long arms to control defensive linemen and plays with good footwork. He pancaked several defenders on crash plays to his right which has to appeal to teams that run cutback runs and nakeds. He kicks out well on sweeps.

Pass blocking: Kick slide isn’t so great, his legs even cross at times. Savvy ends would recognize this and knock him to the ground while he’s off balance or swim inside while he over extends toward the outside. He has a hard time deciding who to block when teams overload his side. When he does lock on to his guy, the play is over, he won’t let him go. He kept ‘Nova QB Whitney clean all game vs. App State.

Other Stuff: I’d like to see if Ijalana is faster in his kick slide at Right Tackle. This is something, at the latest, I’ll know by the combine. He passes the eyeball test as far as physicality goes. That doesn’t always mean anything (see Boothe, Kevin) but he does look the part. There wasn’t an instance where he blocked in space downfield on a screen, something lots of teams would like to see him do. Everything I’ve read on him anticipates a move to guard at the next level, but I’d like to see him at right tackle first. He doesn’t seem quick enough to play LT in the NFL. Keep in mind that, while he looks dominant now, the level of competition he is playing against isn’t on par with other prospects. Some small school guys work out (Jahri Evans) and some don’t (Vlad Ducasse so far).

My Prediction: It’s early and this will change, but I’d say 3rd round with a move inside to left guard.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Arizona Fall League Scouting Report: Michael Taylor

Michael Taylor (Oakland Athletics)

Age: 24 (25 on December 19th)

Height: 6’6”

Weight: 250lbs

From: Stanford (5th round of 2007 draft)

After Taylor was part of the Roy Halladay trade (and immediately spun to Oakland for Brett Wallace) he went on and had what can only be described as a as a disappointing year at Triple-A. He hit a modest .272 and slugging an atrocious .392 Pacific Coast League which tends to be rather hitter friendly. Taylor was my favorite IronPig to watch (because he had actual, big league talent) in his tenure there and I saw, daily, the talent he possesses. I had a hard time believing it all just disappeared. My brief trip to the AFL allowed me to catch a glimpse of those tools all over again.


Taylor’s never fully tapped into his physical potential. He’s a monster at 6’6”, 250 and you’d expect him to have a ton of raw power. He probably does, but his swing doesn’t allow it. Stanford coaches typically alter incoming high-schooler swings and teach habits that a lot of pro scouts claim need to be untaught, but I’ve read Taylor committed to Stanford on the condition that they didn’t alter his swing. Maybe the Cardinal coaches aren’t to blame (by the way, if Stanford is supposed to be this school for brilliant, hard working minds, shouldn’t they pluralize “Cardinal”? ). So the power is good, but not as good as you’d think it’d be by looking at him.

I’ve seen Taylor spray balls all over the field with authority and hitting .270, while disappointing for him, isn’t terrible. He was making solid contact at the AFL when I saw him.

Taylor has above average speed and good instincts on the basepaths.


Taylor has a fine arm and good range. I fondly remember watching him throw out guys trying for a double from the left field corner of Coca Cola Park. He could play either corner at an above average clip.

Overall, Taylor had a bad year, none of which I got to see in person. It’d be stupid to write him off after one bad year just as it would be stupid to crown a player as elite after one good one (see Bautista, Jose). That said, next season is a crossroads in Taylor’s career. He either becomes a solid regular with the potential to have an All Star season or two, or an upscale reserve outfielder in his mid twenties. I’m unabashedly rooting for him. Let’s check some video!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Eric Longenhagen: One Year Closer to Death

Hello, I’m Eric Longenhagen. As you read the introduction to this post, imagine me, Eric Longenhagen, sitting in an easy chair in a luxurious living room at night with a fire roaring in the background. Hear it crackle. I’m staring very intensely, almost sensually, into your eyes. I’m wearing a long, burgundy, paisley smoking jacket with my legs crossed in the most masculine way possible. A wry, mischevous smile creeps across my face. I have a pipe in my left hand. I place the pipe to my mouth for a drag and bubbles slowly spew from the bowl. I speak:

I am now 22 years old. It’s all gone by rather quickly. If you’re experiencing this memoir, you’ve almost certainly affected my life in some way or are interested enough in me or what I have to say to have clicked your way here. I thank you, and hope I’ve somehow positively altered your life experience and that you enjoy what I’ve done here.

As you may know, I’m not really one to celebrate my birthday at all, let alone in a way that is typical of someone in my generation, by getting dressed up, going out to a club or bar, getting totally shitfaced, doing body shots off of a vagrant and eventually breaking down in tears when my tiara breaks after being thrown from a mechanical bull. Alas, it is not my style. So, instead of creating some narcissistic Facebook group inviting everyone to a party I’ve planned for myself, I’ve done this.

I’m constantly worried about “Future Eric”. I want to make sure I leave his keys in a place he’ll be able to find them, keep his cell phone charged, and lock his car doors and basically make sure he only has to worry about the situation at hand. Last week, however, I thought about “Little Eric”. What would I want a younger version of me to have a heads up on as he got older? You think about it, what would YOU want a younger version of YOU, to know? I’ve decided to write an open letter to 12 year old Eric Longenhagen, currently in 6th grade and probably hiding a boner with his social studies textbook right now. I picked 12 because it was 10 years ago, and that a nice round number. I could have picked 18 or 19, because that Eric was pretty stupid too. Actually, in 5 years, I’ll probably look back and say “When I was 22, I was retarded.”, but as of right now I think I’m the smartest and most well rounded person on the planet.

This letter is honest, has inside jokes, and may touch on subjects that people may find in poor taste or too personal, especially considering the fact that I did not have the consent of those included in the letter. Deal with it. 12 year old Eric needs to know this shit, and if we ever find a way to send email back in time, he’ll be better off for having read it. So without further adieu….

Dear Eric,

Hey, little dude. How are you? Horny and acne ridden? I figured. Listen, I’m you. I’m sending you this letter from the future to better prepare you for the next decade of your life. Don’t believe me? You cried yourself to sleep after Kevin Dyson was tackled one yard short of the goal line in last year’s Super Bowl. See! It’s you, dude! Speaking of the Titans, something sucky happens to Steve McNair in 2009, but we’ll get to that later. Right now, I will systematically give you the breakdown of what to expect in the many aspects of life as you age. I’ll try to cover as much as I can but, as you know, I’ll probably forget some stuff. Here we go.

World Events

It is important for you to know what significant things occur between 2001 and 2011 so you know what to devote your time to.

- Cure for Cancer: Nope, not yet, but you never really worked on that one anyway

- Creation of Anti Matter: Yes! Just a little bit for fractions of a second in a controlled environment in which temperatures are near absolute zero in order to slow things down enough for it to be detected, but still, it totally happens. You can stop worrying about this one.

- Bigfoot Existence Proven: No, sorry. Try looking harder out the window when you drive through the woods.

- Next September something really shitty will happen. Not to you but to everyone in general. Try to be strong for your classmates that have trouble dealing with it. This isn’t one you can diffuse with humor, at least at first. The events that take place that day will alter everyone’s life, but just because they will change things doesn’t mean life will be bad. I hesitate to say exactly what happens, for fear that you will somehow find a way to stop things, I know you’d certainly try. While stopping them sounds good on the surface, this one’s bigger than you and altering history like that could cause the universe to collapse or something.

Also, there isn’t actually a kid in the balloon. It’s a hoax.

Women, Relationships and Sex

Alright Cassanova, let’s talk girls. Don’t be embarrassed, asshole, I’m you. Unless things change this is not likely to be your strong suit but that’s okay. Spending most of your life as a single guy hasn’t turned you into a sexual deviant or anything. So while I don’t have a wealth of knowledge to impart, I do have some.

- Your first kiss will come within the next year. It will take place at the Catty Park, in the ditch behind the men’s bathroom. It will be super hot. I won’t say who it is to its still a surprise!

- The girl you kiss will dump you shortly thereafter, citing a lame joke you tell as her primary reason. The joke? That one about the US spending tons of money to make a pen that will write in anti-gravity and the Russians using a pencil instead. Don’t tell it and maybe you get to second base.

- Laura Stubits will dump Andy Shankweiler and want to go out with you. Don’t do it. Andy is your best friend and you’ll feel like shit years later for doing it. This courtesy will eventually be known as “bros before hoes” and the phrase isn’t in vogue until 2008 or so. Maybe you should start saying it?

- Do NOT watch Miss Congeniality alone. If you do, don’t tell everyone about it later.

- Know ahead of time when the SI Swimsuit Issue comes out. Get home fast on those days. If you’re not the first to get it, it will be thrown out.

- Practice unhooking bras, you’re still not very good at it.

- Despite early projections, you become an “Ass Man”

- High School is relatively desolate because you don’t have enough self confidence to trust that a girl could actually like you because you don’t really like you. They do. Failure to realize this creates a casualty or two. Should be avoided, tell Jill and Devin you’re sorry, douchebag.

- Keep this one in your back pocket for a while because this is important. When you intern for the…well, don’t worry about the name of the team because I’ll have to explain it…just know it’s a sports team. As soon as you see the cute usher girl go talk to her. She’s little and might have a bow in her hair. Bring her a diet coke to get things rolling. You will eventually talk to her anyway but much later than you should have. Every second counts with this one and even if pulling the trigger earlier doesn’t change the way things end (in a fireball of sadness that sends you spiraling into a dark emotional and psychological abyss where you stop shaving for 3 weeks and stop working out for 5) it’s all worth it because this one is very special.

- If you like a girl, ask her out. The pain of rejection may seem horrific to you now, but that’s because you’ve never had any real problems. It’s really not that bad. Just do it, pussy.

- Girls will say they like guys who have a sense of humor. They are lying. They just laugh at stupid shit that good looking guys say. Your current pudginess and overall looks force you to develop something called “a personality” and then late in high school and in college you get hot. It’s awesome.

School and Education

- If you run into Mr. Abraham, check to see if his pupils dialate.

- Keep any girlfriends you might have away from Mr. Dreisbach

- Right now you’re probably frustrated that, while YOU have a well developed grasp on the social structure of a small public middle school, nobody else does and you don’t have anyone to talk about it with. Your classmates are rightfully concerned with their own lives and your teachers are too far removed from middle school to remember what it was like. This isolation continues until the second half of high school when your classmates…actually they’re still justifiably worried exclusively about themselves, but one teacher totally gets it. I won’t spoil who it is because it won’t be who you think it is.

- Don’t go to St. Joseph’s University. The people are great and its nice being near but not really in Philly, but it’s cold and grey, the traffic sucks, crime is bad, and the school’s infrastructure is so poor that even now, in your senior year, scheduling classes is a complete pain in the ass. Go to Pepperdine.

Career Path

- Right now you want to be a marine biologist. That will change when you take your first biology class next year. Sharks are really cool, but not cool enough to deal with that horrific smell. That smell is the same reason you can cross any job associated with the elderly off your potential career list.

- In high school everyone will be required to take a government issued test that assesses the line of work they are most suited for. You skip school on the day it is administered to go to a Phillies game with your friends. That should tell you EXACTLY what line of work you need to be in. (It will snow that day, wear more than your zip up Phillies Hoodie, I was really cold that day)

- Keep a small notebook on you at all times. That stand up comedy pipe dream of yours isn’t likely to come true, because you’ve never been able to sit down and write jokes. Most of the funny things you think of come from reactions to everyday occurrences, so having something to put those ideas down on right away can’t hurt your chances.


- By now you’ve started playing MLB Showdown. Unsurprisingly, you get really good at it. Devote more time to the strategy cards, your failure to do so will leave you just short of a spot in nationals.

- Take an art class in high school

- Start acting sooner

- Within the next year you’ll pick up a guitar for the first time. You get pretty good but don’t work at it enough to reach your full potential.


- You never care


- The Phillies will get competitive soon, but not so soon that you should feel guilty for having a little bit of an affair with the Diamondbacks next year.

- Tiger Woods is not such a great dude

- Remember the name Tom Brady

- You don’t realize now, but Chad Solomon’s dad’s request for you to find out who will eventually replace Scott Rolen at 3rd base leads you to learn about a player named Chase Utley. You relay that info to Mr. Solomon and he nicknames you “GM”. You take it very seriously.

- There’s a college basketball player named Stromile Swift. He sucks. Don’t fall for it.

- Steve McNair is murdered.

- Durant, not Oden

- Horford, not Oden

- Conley, not Oden

- Sam Bowie, not Oden

- Michael Vick is not such a great dude

- We later find out OJ Simpson actually didn’t do it. Just kidding he’s a fucking murderer.

- John Kasay will kick the ensuing kickoff out of bounds. It will suck.


- You and Shankweiler will go to see M Night Shayamalan’s “The Village”, but it will be sold out. You’ll see “Anchorman” instead. Happy accident.

- The Series Finale of The Sopranos will take place during your high school baccalaureate. In order to get out of there sooner so you don’t miss it, you will not perform. This is a mistake.

- You watch the pilot episode of Chappelle’s Show and never look at comedy the same again. Don’t get too attached.

- Best Director of the next 10 years: Christopher Nolan

- Be ready for the first 10 minutes of “Up”

- Don’t let Steve Carrell’s season 1 interpretation of Michael Scott discourage you from watching The Office. He gets much less annoying in season 2.

- The Wire, the greatest TV series of all time, starts in 2002. Find a way to watch it as it airs, instead of in gluttenous DVD sessions later.

Self Care

- Wear your retainer

- Take a second to run your hand across your chest. Feel how smooth and hairless it is? You’ve got two years of that left so enjoy it.

While not comprehensive, this list is a pretty good heads up on lots of things. I completely left out music because you do a pretty good job sorting all that stuff out. I guess whether or not you heed my advice will be reflected upon changes I experience in my current state. Have a happy birthday, little guy.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Arizona Fall League Scouting Report: Dustin Ackley

Dustin Ackley (Seattle Mariners)

Age: 22

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 185lbs

From: North Carolina (2nd overall pick in 2009 draft)

Ackley (selected immediately following Stephen Strasburg in the 2009 draft, was expected to fly to the major leagues. He was a very polished hitter coming out of college and everyone figured he’d enjoy a cup of coffee in the big leagues at some point late in the year, especially if the Mariners were in position to contend. Hell, he started his career all the way up at AA. This is all pretty impressive considering that Ackley wasn’t even drafted out of high school.

Instead of tearing through the minors, Ackley had a really rough first couple months. It took time for him to adjust to subtle environmental changes, like using wooden bats. Combined with that, Ackley was learning a new position, second base, instead of playing first base or in the outfield.

Later in the year he started to heat up and by the time the Arizona Fall League came around, he was downright on fire. He was named MVP of the AFL. I figure he’ll be in the majors at some point next season.


Ackley great excellent pitch recognition and handles the strike zone well, walking almost as much as he strikes out. He swing is flawless, he has good hand-eye coordination, takes a short path to the hitting zone, and has fine bat speed. When I saw him, he was hitting the ball HARD, and all over the field. Stuff I read on Ackley as he struggled this year seemed to indicate that he was slapping at the ball Luis Castillo style. That’s not what I saw at all.

As far as hitting for power goes, only time will tell if Ackley will be a serious threat. Hitting for power and getting carry on the ball is about strength and being able to get backspin on it, and Ackley's showed it during batting practice sessions. Now it's just about carrying that forward into games a little more, although he is probably never going to be more than a teens homer hitter.

He had trouble this year against lefties, but it was only a 150 atbat sample size so don’t treat it as gospel.

I haven’t even gotten to Ackley’s most impressive tool, his speed. I timed him at 4.07 from home to first base, a 70 runner on the 20-to-80 scouting scale in terms of raw speed. That is way fast. As he learns to steal bases, he’ll become one of the most dangerous leadoff hitters in the game, because he’ll be on base a ton to use that speed.


Still a work in progress at second base, Ackley obviously has the tools to one day have fabulous range but his footwork is currently poor. His arm is below average, so he’s not an ideal fit in center field. He played a lot of first base in college due to an injury to his throwing arm, but a leadoff hitting, 30 steal threat is atypical for 1b. I have questions about his hands, as well. I'd like to tell you he'll get nice and cozy at 2B but he really looks stiff right now.  I think he eventually ends up in LF, and while that eats a sizable chunk out of his value a LF that hits .325 with a .410 OBP is still a good player.

Future MLB Comparison: None, this guy is a different breed.

A look at the swing

Monday, November 29, 2010

Album Review: Kanye West's Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

My friend Travis asked me what I thought of Kanye West’s new album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” and this is my assessment in short:

“More sexually and racially charged than previous stuff. Too many appearances by other artists and not enough Kanye (I’d say only 60% of the album is him). Lacks but 1 or 2 songs you can truly dance to so I doubt it will get lots of club play. 1 reference to South Park fishsticks episode. The way the samples are mixed in can seem choppy and amateurish at times. I like it but not as much as either of the past two albums”

However, to shake off the rust of a nice relaxing Thanksgiving break, I decided to write up a formal review for the blog. I fully expect this to become my most viewed post, so those of you who are new here, this isn’t my best work, nor what the blog usually consists of. Music is a hobby, sports is the job.

Title: “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”

The album was originally supposed to be called “Good Ass Job”, which I like much more, this title is an accurate description of the music that lies within. As a matter of fact, you can pretty much classify every song as one of those adjectives and I will as we move on. I can’t help but wonder if Kanye’s self confidence is waning. “Good Ass Job” just seems like it’d be right up his alley. Seriously, he title is irrelevant, let’s move on.

Track 1: Dark Fantasy

Classification: Beautiful

Best Lyric: See Description Below

The intro harmonies (Auto tuned or not) sung by the chorus are very pleasing to listen to. You won’t get sick of listening to them. As soon as the beat drops in you know that Kanye has had his fun playing with the auto tuner and has now gone back to the straight rapping that made him famous. Kanye delivers what will undoubtedly be the most quoted lyric from the album on this track, “too many Urkels on your team that’s why your Winslow.” I bet more people already have heard that line than have heard the song. I like this song and wouldn’t be surprised if it was released as a single at some point down the road.

Track 2: Gorgeous

Classification: Dark

Best Lyric: “Choke a South Park Writer with a Fish stick”

Classic Kanye venting about all the shit he puts up with and how his blackness is repressed by the man. Nobody makes you wear those polos, Kanye. Try to rap about how shitty you have it next time you hop in your inevitably sweet ass car. The way Kanye takes a shot at the South Park writers is exactly the reason they made fun of him in the first place. He takes himself way too seriously. He’s lucky the season is over and they can’t strike back with a 30 minute blitzkrieg to his 8 word jab. The guitar riff that comprises the primary portion of the track gets repetitive. This one’s not terrible but I wouldn’t recommend buying this track on ITunes or anything.

Track 3: Power

Classification: Beautiful

Best Lyric: “Fuck SNL and the whole cast. Tell ‘em Yezzy said they can
kiss my whole ass. More specifically they can kiss my asshole. I’m an asshole? You niggas got jokes.”

Everyone’s heard this one by now. This song kicks ass. The tribal sounding intro with the siren and everything is adrenaline inducing. Kanye’s shot at SNL is funny but ironic, because he performed this song on SNL in October of this year. This song speaks for itself, go listen to it and make it your goddamn ringtone.

Track 4/5: All of the Lights

Classification: Beautiful

Best Lyric: : “I slapped my girl” Didn’t Kanye know Rihanna would be
singing the hook on this track when he wrote it?

This might be my favorite track from the album. The intro is awesome, mixing strings, piano and horns all in one masterful section. Rihanna’s voice suits the song perfectly. I could have done without the pulsating bongos (I’m not even totally sure what kind of drums they are) that you hear in the heavier parts of the song but I’m nit picking now. Go listen to this one, but try to find a version with the interlude latched onto the beginning.

Track 6: Monster

Classification: Twisted

Best Lyric: “My presence is a present kiss my ass”

The beat is strange and cool, emphasis on the strange. There are weird noises…just…weird. Kanye’s flow (I’m white, am I allowed to say flow? Okay, good) is flawless. He doesn’t leave himself much time to inhale and you can hear him gasp several times during the song. I bet this song kicks ass live. Unfortunately, this is a prime example of this album’s biggest flaw: Feat. This has a bunch of artists that aren’t Kanye. Which is fine every now and then, but the album as a whole and this song especially, has too many other artists. One of these is something called “Nicky Minaj”. I don’t get it. This one’s a keeper though.

Track 7: So Appalled

Classification: Dark

Best Lyric: “Unlike Hammer, 30 million can’t hurt me” –Jay-Z

Jay-Z steals the show on this one and I didn’t want to talk about anyone but Kanye in this review but his performance on this song is relatively unimpressive. This song is another example of overuse your buddies for verses in your rap songs. The “hook” (if you can call it that) comes from Swizz Beats and the way it’s mixed into the songs is choppy and shitty and amateurish. As far as I know, this wasn’t sampled from another song or anything so it was recorded for the purpose of use in this song. Why then, does it sound like it was done in someone’s garage? The supporting track is cool though.

Track 8: Devil in a New Dress

Classification: Twisted

Best Lyric: “I hit the Jamaican spot, at the bar, take a seat I ordered you jerk; she said "you are what you eat”

This is your standard, mid-album, Kanye song. Nothing to write home about but a decent song to listen to. The video for this song (which I’m not sure is official or anything) is really weird featuring who I think is Beyonce dressed as some human-bird hybrid. Whatever, I’d totally do Beyonce. I’m pretty sure I could kick Jay-Z’s pudgy ass 1 on 1. The song lacks musical variety, comprised of the same beat throughout. Not a must listen but not detrimental to the album.

Track 9: Runaway

Classification: Twisted

Best Lyric: The entire hook, don’t act like you don’t love it

The song is built around the chorus which prompts us to have a toast for douche bags and assholes the world over. Unfortunately, there little else in the song worth noting, other than the album’s second Legend of Sleepy Hollow reference. I like the hook enough that I won’t skip this track in the car, but it overrates the rest of the track.

Track 10: Hell of a Life

Classification: Dark

Best Lyric: “No more drugs for me. Pussy and religion is all I need.”

One of the few traditionally structured, verse-hook-verse-hook –rinse-repeat songs on the album. The hook is a callback to Black Sabbath’s Iron Man and the haunting piano arpeggios immediately thereafter are my favorite part of the song. I like this song a lot but sadly, it displays more shitty producing. When you go listen to the song, notice how that aforementioned piano arpeggio just sort of disappears? Doesn’t that sound like shit? Fade that shit out.

Track 11: Blame Game

Classification: Beautiful

Best Lyric: “You weren’t perfect but you made life worth it.” Amen, Kanye

More heavy piano use. As far as lyrics go (and keep in mind, lyrics normally matter very little to me) this one is the most personal and heavy track on the album. I feel Kanye’s pain and regret when I listen to the song. I don’t know if he’s speaking from personal experience or not but he’s good enough on this track to at least make me ask the question. The song would be worth listening to for Chris Rock’s cameo alone, but it is complete and well rounded. Total keeper.

Track 12/13: Lost in the World/Who Will Survive in America?

Classification: Beautiful

Best Lyric: “I’m Lost in the World” Aren’t we all

This one opens with harmonies as well, this time clearly auto tuned. The beat drops in and Kanye has a verse, his only of the song. There’s not much to say about the first part of this song because there’s not much to it. What is there, however, sounds good. When the track turns over, we get a speech from Gil Scott Heron’s “Comment #1”. It’s racially charged. I’d break it down and analyze it but its 11:30 and I’d like to get this up before most of you sign off Facebook for the night so let’s conclude things here. Go listen to the album its pretty good.

Here’s a cool YouTube video of most of the stuff Kanye sampled to make the album:

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Arizona Fall League Scouting Report: Jared Mitchell

Jared Mitchell (Chicago White Sox)

Age: 22

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 200lbs

From: LSU (23rd overall pick in 2009 draft)

White Sox GM Kenny Williams isn’t afraid to make a splash in any facet of his job. Those splashes don’t always work out or make a ton of sense. He’s traded for Ken Griffey Jr., Manny Ramirez, Jake Peavy, and a whole host of other household names. His drafting of Jared Mitchell followed a similar modus operandi. Mitchell is a high upside hitter with lots of tools (he played WR at LSU, too) and projection. Unfortunately, Mitchell suffered a tendon tear in his left ankle while making an awesome catch in spring training so he missed the entire 2010 season. The Arizona Fall League was his first bit of baseball since late in 2009 in Kannapolis. He spent his time off getting bigger and stronger and now looks like he could play linebacker if he wanted to. When I saw him he was rusty but you can still see the pieces of a future major leaguer shining through.


A big part of Mitchell’s game is his terrific speed. His ankle injury inevitably raises questions about his mobility but Mitchell has stated that he feels no issues with the ankle. He’s a 60 runner by my watch and will wreak some havoc on the bases to the tune of 30 or so steals annually.

You can see in the videos below that Mitchell is a classic example of a guy who has good bat speed, but a long swing that takes a while to get the bat moving. His swing path is such that he’ll hit for power but will likely have maddening, Jimmy Rollins-esque streaks of pop ups and weak fly balls as well. I’m thinking 20-25 HRs a year.

Mitchell has great patience for a young player, sometimes too much, as he tends to let hittable pitches go in order to run up pitch counts. He has also shown an ability to take the ball the other way though that could simply be a product of his long swing. He’ll need to work on getting his front foot down faster to ignite his swing earlier. He’ll also need to recognize off speed stuff better, something that will simply come with a wealth of reps in pro ball.


Defensively, Mitchell played left field in the AFL, though it seems as though the long-term plan is for him to play center field. He probably has just enough arm to play it at an above average level as long as he learns to take good routes to balls. Again, this is something that will likely come in time. Obviously his speed is an asset defensively as well.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Oil Spill: Cleaning Up Edmonton's Hockey Franchise

The Edmonton Oilers haven’t been relevant for quite a while. It has been more than 20 years now since former owner Peter Pocklington allowed LA Kings owner Bruce McNall to have a little chat with Wayne Gretzky during his honeymoon, convincing him (and his wife) that a move to Hollywood was is Gretzky’s best interest. Late in the summer of 1988 the Oilers exiled Gretzky from the Great White North and with him, an era that included four Stanley Cups in a 5 year span. Since then the Oilers have had their moments but for the most part have been mired in mediocrity. New Owner Daryl Katz is hoping to change all of that.

According to the Sports Business Journal, the Oilers are negotiating a contract with an “internationally renowned” architect who will design a new hockey arena that will be the gem of a new downtown entertainment district. Whoever the architect is (the Oilers won’t name names until the deal is final), the article makes it obvious is obvious he or she is not someone familiar with designing sports arenas, so it should be a pretty interesting building.

Along with this famous architect Katz will hire two other partners to help with the design. This will include a group based in Denver who DOES have experience with sports arenas as well as someone local to make sure Alberta building codes are being followed. It looks as though this operation will get pretty expensive. Early estimates place costs at $450 million for the arena with an attached practice rink and another $100 million in additional costs to develop the surrounding area. L.A. Live, the Arena District in Columbus and the Gaslamp Quarter near Petco Park in San Diego have all been looked at as templates.

To date, no public funding has been approved to subsidize construction. This is very refreshing since in other sports, teams are constantly screwing with their books to show loss where there is profit in order to cry poor and garner tax dollars to help them build their palaces. Included in this area will be hotels, condominiums, restaurants and nightclubs, office towers, and student housing supporting three local colleges.

Typical Oilers Fans

Time will only tell whether or not a new stadium will help turn around a franchise with a rabid fan base hungry for a winner. Studies have shown that a new baseball stadium creates what has been coined as “the honeymoon effect” which increases attendance by as much as 37% in the first year of a new stadium’s life. I don’t know if the Oilers are selling out, and I understand that differences between baseball and hockey may alter that increase substantially, but it certainly won’t hurt. With that extra revenue, a couple good young players (they had the #1 pick in the draft this past year and will probably have a high pick again), and they easy ways you can circumvent the NHL salary cap, the Oilers can give their fans the competitive team they deserve sooner rather than later hosers.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Derek Jeter's Pyrite Glove

The Gold Glove Awards are voted on by coaches throughout the league and are given to whom they perceive to be the best fielders at each position. The American League incarnation of the awards was released today. Here they are:

Pitcher: Mark Buehrle

Catcher: Joe Mauer

1B: Mark Teixeira

2B: Robinson Cano’

3B: Evan Longoria

SS: Derek Jeter

OF: Carl Crawford

OF: Franklin Gutierrez

OF: Ichiro

For the most part the coaches did, in my opinion, a terrific job. Lots of players that deserved Gold Gloves (Brett Gardner, Mark Ellis, Daric Barton to name a few) did not get them, but the guys the coaches picked are fine and I won’t argue with any of them. Except one: Derek Jeter.

For years debate has raged about the quality of Derek Jeter’s defense. Stat heads say he is lousy, Yankee apologists want Derek Jeter’s defense to make sweet, sweet love to them. Jeter has become the linchpin in the debate about the usefulness of numbers in baseball. Many baseball traditionalists have been beaten into submission by the nerds and their math as far as offense is concerned, but the one thing Joe Morganites have held onto for a while has been defense. “You have to watch the games to determine who is good defensively, not just look at numbers,” they say, “you fuckin’ nerd.”. I totally agree. Allow me to explain………

For as long as baseball has been around, there have been errors. Errors and Fielding Percentage (the % of plays on which a player doesn’t make errors) are the mainstream benchmarks for evaluating defensive ability. These stats are deeply flawed for two reasons. First off, errors are based on the subjective judgment of the team’s official scorer. Second, and most importantly, the fundamental flaw of the Error lies in its definition. An Error is credited to a player when it looks like he should have made a play but did not record an out. So there are two ways to avoid errors. You can make every play, or you can make it look like a play could not have been made. A lead-footed fielder (Pat Burrell, Adam Dunn, Fatty McInfielder) won’t come close to fielding a ball that even average fielders would get to but won’t be credited with an error because he didn’t misplay/bobble/drop the ball. It just fell or whizzed past his slow, lumbering ass. Conversely, great fielders who flub balls that most fielders wouldn’t even come close to making a play on are credited with errors. Errors don’t work.

“Eric, didn’t you say you agreed with the people who say you have to watch games to determine who is good defensively? Get to that shit.”

In 2004 Baseball Info Solutions (headquarters in Coplay, PA) began Plus/Minus. Every play of every game is watched and charted by by game charters who enter the outcome of the play into a computer. They record the exact distance, direction, speed and type of every batted ball and whether or not the fielder made a play on the ball.

Say, a ball hit softly into the hole to the right of the shortstop (Baseball Info. Solutions has very detailed “vectors” mapped out on the field but I’m being less detailed for simplicity) is fielded successfully and converted into an out 26% of the time. If the shortstop converts the play he is awarded +.74. The player gets credit for the play being made (1.0) minus the expectation that he should have made it (.26). If they play is not made he receives a -.26. The sum of these debits and credits are added up over the course of a season and published in various publications.

I have issues with this process. Namely, cumulative stats have problems. It is possible that the reason Chase Utley is perennially toward the top of 2B Plus/Minus is due to the fact that he has lots of playable balls hit his way. His stats are padded because his pitchers induce more groundballs or just by randomness. To account for this, Baseball Info Solutions also publishes the totals from the past 3 years. This gives a larger sample size and is more representative of players’ actual defensive prowess. So you see, YOU DO have to watch the games to know who the best defensive player is. All of them.

It just so happens that I have a copy of this year’s Bill James Handbook, which has the results from Baseball Info Solutions’ exploits during this past (2010) season. Guess who is in the bottom five Shortstops when it comes to Plus/Minus in 2010? Guess who is in the bottom 5 for the past 3 years?

Derek Jeter.

So while Jeter has been part of some of the most iconic defensive plays of the past decade, he’s not a good defensive shortstop. At age 36, his free agency case is one that will be a lot of fun to follow. While it will be fun to watch the Yankees overpay for a mediocre player well beyond his prime, it won’t be fun when your favorite team is negotiating an extension with their shortstop, and the player’s agent is citing the contract the Evil Empire gave to The Captain’s corpse as precedent for a deal. We shall wait and see.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Get the Led Out: Concert Review

Lots of people love Led Zeppelin. I am one of those people. Nevermind Robert Plant’s impressive and rare vocal range, or Jimmy Page’s guitar riffs. Nevermind John Paul Jones’ technical soundness, or the fact that John Bonham is mentioned in Step Brothers. What makes Led Zeppelin truly great is the vast spectrum of sound one can enjoy while listening to their anthology. I spent an entire week this semester listening to every Zeppelin album, in order. I listened to an album a night while I “did homework”. It was staggering. Bluesy stuff, middle eastern stuff, early metal, folk music, these guys dabbled in everything. Combine the quality of what your ears are enjoying with all the rock and roll intangibles (sex, drugs, Satan, mud sharks {go ahead and Google that one}, sex, long hair, iconic album cover or two, a vomit-induced death, sex) and you’ve got one of the greatest rock bands of all time. These guys were able to own a title like that despite being a little nerdy (come one, The Battle of Evermore? When’s the Dragonball Z marathon guys?)

So while I greatly appreciate what it means to Get the Led Out, my youth had not wnabled me to do so in a live setting. Until last weekend, anyway. I fell into a set of free tickets to “Get the Led Out” at Penn’s Peak. Get the Led out is the east coast’s preeminent Zeppelin cover band. I haven’t written anything non-baseball related in a while and I don’t go to concerts that often so this was special to me. I’ve decided to write a review. Here it is:

All of these guys are knockout musicians. Gangly frontman Paul Sinclair does a terrific Plant imitation and maintains vocal strength all the way through a trying 2 and ½ hours of performing without a set break. Sincalir is a bit awkward on stage, but even the coolest of us (me and Henry Winkler, of course)would have a difficult time looking natural with nothing but a microphone in our hands during long instrumental breaks littered throughout these songs. While Sinclair’s shortcomings as a performer are a bit distracting, they certainly do not over shadow his prowess as a vocalist. Apparently, he also does Aerosmith stuff and I’d be willing to bet he kills that stuff too.

What Sinclair loses in his on stage persona is picked up by co-lead guitarist Jimmy Marchiano. Marchiano is easily the best performer in the group and one hell of a guitar player. The other half of the guitar duo is made up by daywalker Paul Hammond. Both guitarists played Gibson Les Paul guitars for most of the concert, with Fender Stratocasters mixed in where that surf-riff sounding plucking was appropriate. Hammond switched to an SG doubleneck a few times as well, one just like the doubleneck Jimmy Page used.

You guys have to understand that musically, guitar players are a lot like Wide Receivers are in the NFL. They need to have their place in the sun at least a few times each show to remain appeased and if they don’t get that they can become a bit cranky. As such, talented guitar players often indulge in a long, drawn out guitar solo that one might classify as….masturbatory. These guys were no exception. The two of them had a long blues riff, deliverance style solo together that lasted for a few minutes. Other than that Marchiano pretty much played by the book and Hammond’s only other infraction came during the “violin bow solo” during Dazed and Confused. For those of you who haven’t heard that song, go listen to it (just past the 2 minute mark) and then find a live version and watch that, too. The part of the song I’m referring to is my favorite part of the song. The lead guitar player runs a violin bow over his guitar strings creating a noise that sounds like hell is rising up from beneath the earth. It is fucking cool. But the sound itself does not deserve 5 minutes of my time. Hammond thought it did. Other than those two goofs they were great.

Bassist Billy Childs is very good. He looks a bit strung out on stage but while simply looking at his face may lead you to believe he is on the verge of death, looking at his fingers tell a different story. He’s probably the best bass player I’ve ever seen play live. The occupational hazard that comes with being a bass player is that people tend not to notice you. I, as someone new to critically observing live music, am no different. Sorry, Billy.

Drummer Adam Ferraioli is good too. He also engages in the obligatory solo during Moby Dick which lasts entirely too long. Ferraioli is a great drummer and it’s a shame that what I now associate with him is a fucked out drum solo. That said, Zeppelin is no picnic on the drums. The wide array of musical styling, as I mentioned above, requires the ability to play several complicated and compound beats. Ferraioli nailed them all.

The group was rounded out by super-utility man Andrew Lipke. Lipke played some guitar, some keyboards, he sang backup vocals and toyed around with some other cool effects. He is the kind of musician that bands need to be great. Let’s face it, good guitar players are fairly easy to come by. Only the top 1% of guitar players on Earth make their band great (your Hendrix, Van Halens and your Steve Howes). Even guys like Alex Lifeson, Randy Rhoades and Keith Richards are pretty replaceable. As for drummers and bass players, it’s nice to have elite options but it is not a necessity. John Entwhistle might be the best bass player of all time but he’s the last member of The Who you’d be able to name. Guys like Lipke, who can adequately play several instruments and allow flexibility and diversity in the music are the lifeblood of live music. He and Sincalir are the ones who make this band great and are the irreplaceable members of the bunch.

I would have liked to hear more songs, but Zeppelin songs are long and you can’t fit as many into a two and a half hour window as you would at a Green Day concert where songs last 3 minutes. Still, I think they should bag the look-at-me solos and do an extra couple songs. Really that’s the only improvement I can think of. These guys were awesome and I’d be glad to see them again. Here is a link to their website with touring info for the future.

Here is a video of them doing When the Levee Breaks (my favorite Zeppelin song) at the House of Blues a while back. They did not play this last weekend because of those faggy solos.

And here is Kashmir...Hammond is on the right playing the Danelectro specially tuned for Chase Utley's walkup music

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Arizona Fall League Scouting Report: Jose Iglesias

Jose Iglesias (Red Sox)

Age: 20

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 175lbs

From: Cuba

Iglesias was making an impact in Cuba as a 17 year old and defected in July of 2008. The Red Sox gave him the biggest amateur signing bonus in team history, a healthy $6.25 million. He’s played one full season of pro baseball and might already be primed for a cup of coffee in the big leagues next September.


Iglesias has a short swing and makes consistent contact but his size drastically limits his power. As a result, pitchers in the majors and upper levels of the minors won’t be scared of him and will attack the strike zone with extreme prejudice. He’ll be forced to put the ball in play, which will limit his walks and as such limit his OnBase%. The reports about his ability to hit .300 in the future are optimistic but not ridiculous. He won’t be an asset offensively, but isn’t bad enough to be detrimental.


He’s fucking incredible. Watching him take infield practice was like watching that “Beautiful Liar” video, you know, with Shakira and Beyonce (on mute, of course). It looks like he was put on Earth to field groundballs. Effortless transfers, excellent range, fielding balls behind his back. I’ve got a video of him taking infield below. Unfortunately, he’s relatively modest in that one, the best moment coming at about the 1:15 mark when he fields the ball in his glove, transfers it to his throwing hand and whips it to first in one smooth motion. He’s already one of the best fielding shortstops on the planet. The value he provides defensively will make him one of the 10 most valuable shortstops in baseball during his prime.

Future MLB Player Comparison: Omar Vizquel

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Arizona Fall League Scouting Report: Chris Carpenter

Chris Carpenter

Age: 24

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 215lbs

From: Kent State (3rd round of 2008 draft)

Carpenter was drafted out of high school in the 7th round of the 2004 draft by the Tigers but decided to go to college. Carpenter had Tommy John surgery during his freshman season at Kent State, then had another elbow procedure his sophomore year. His medical history is a big reason he fell to the Cubs in the third round in the ’08 draft.

Carpenter has pitched almost exclusively as a starter during his career, but he is working out of the bullpen in the AFL and I really like what I saw from him as a reliever. While Carpenter has not been told that the Cubs plan a move to the pen, I’d anticipate a phone call soon if I were Chris.


His four-seam fastball sits between 91-94mph as a starter and was mostly 95-97mph as a reliever. A few days after I left, Caprenter reportedly touched 100mph with his heater. It doesn’t have a lot of movement on it but his height allows him to pitch on a pretty extreme downward plane which makes it tough to elevate. It will induce plenty of weak grounders.

Carpenter’s secondary stuff needs work. He has an 82-85 mph breaking ball that looks like a slider, but Carpenter actually calls it a curveball so we’ll call it a slurve. It is inconsistent and it movement isn’t always as sharp and devastating as you would like to see, and his command of it is inconsistent.

He also throws a straight changeup that with velocity in the mid to high 80s but it’s not a very good pitch. He’ll need to work on that soon or run the risk of lefties making him pay at the big league level.


There’s a little bit of effort in Carpenter’s delivery (that’s to be expected from a guy who touches 100mph on the radar gun) and its possible it may have been the cause of his elbow trouble in the past. Carpenter hasn't had any injury problems since turning pro so maybe he’s past the injury bug for good. Carpenter needs to repeat his delivery better, and his inability to do so causes him to struggle with control in spurts. His front foot doesn’t always land in the same spot. Sometimes it land toward the third base side of the plate and he has to throw across his body to get the ball to the plate. This probably isn’t good for his arm.


He posted a 2.82 ERA and a 118-to-52 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 130 2/3 innings across two levels in 2009, and a 3.41 ERA and 112-to-57 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 134 2/3 innings, mostly at Double-A, this year. I’d like to see the walks come down a bit.

Carpenter could stick as a starter if he improves his secondary stuff and working as a starter will allow him to pitch more innings and do so. However, his injury history, tendency to get wild, and lack of secondary pitches at age 24 tell me he is destined for the bullpen, albeit high leverage innings therefrom.

Future MLB Comparison: Jon Rauch

Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Roster

Here is a PDF link to the rosters for AFL's Rising Stars game, likely my last chance to watch baseball until spring

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Arizona Fall League Scouting Report: Andrew Lambo

Andrew Lambo (Pirates Outfielder)

Age: 22

Bats/Throws: Left/Left

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 190lbs

From: Newbury Park High School, CA (Drafted by Dodgers in 4th round of 2007 draft)
The Pirates acquired Lambo (along with James McDonald) from the Dodgers at the trade deadline in the deal that sent Octavio Dotel to LA. Both McDonald and Lambo are very talented but haven’t seen their tools translate to the field. It was a good trade for the Pirates who seem to be heading in the right direction (toward the top of the league in draft spending this year) as an organization. Everyone says they feel bad for Pirates fans, and while it is a shame that the franchise has been the butt of baseball jokes for almost 20 years, don’t feel bad for their fans. They have the Steelers and Penguins who are plenty good enough. Fuck you, Pittsburgh. Stop complaining.

Lambo’s talent has never been in question. His character, however, has always been a huge issue. The concerns about his makeup are largely what caused him to fall to the 4th round of the ’07 draft. He began his pro career on a tear and was named the Dodger’s #1 prospect by Baseball America prior to the 2009 season. I had a chance to see the good and bad sides of Lambo while I was in Arizona. Lambo is a boom or bust type of prospect and a big part of his future will be determined by his attitude and work ethic.


The good is his raw pull power. He has a simple swing with good leverage (you can see it in the BP video I posted below). He killed fastballs all weekend and, while his power is greatest when he pulls the ball, he can hit balls into the gap the other way as well.
He has below average speed and won’t help much on the basepaths.


Lambo played first base in high school and I think he’d be an above average defender at first if he were asked to play their everyday. The Pirates have kept him in the outfield where his poor range is redeemed a bit by his above average arm. While he can’t throw as fast and far as you’d like a right fielder to throw, he is very accurate.

Character concerns:

The bad has been his on field behavior. Arguing loudly with an umpire (attendance is sparse here, so I could hear every word, and arguing in a Fall League game? Who cares dude?) and, after flinging his bat into the seats on a swing and miss, he held up the game until the young fan who was nearly killed by the bat gave it back bat. On his next swing, Lambo lost grip of the bat again and flung it right back into same spot, and once again made a big fuss about getting his precious bat back.
He’s already been suspended once for marijuana usage, but I couldn’t care less unless it negatively impacts his work ethic or ability to play the game. I am, however, concerned about the immaturity he's shown and the fact that the Dodgers were fed up enough with him to exile a potential star at age 22, because that's a potential sign that he's not going to fare well with coaches trying to help him improve or teammates who will have little patience for bullshit.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Arizona Fall League Scouting Report: Brandon Belt

Brandon Belt

Age: 22

Height: 6’5”

Weight: 200lbs

Bats/Throws: Left/Left

From: Texas (Drafted in 5th round of 2009 Draft by Giants)

Belt was drafted twice as a pitcher (by the Red Sox in the 11th round of the 2006 draft and by the Braves in the 11th round of the 2007 draft) before the Giants grabbed him in the 5th round of the 2009 draft and decided to turn him into a full time hitter.

When SanFran drafted him they told him they were going to make him a full time hitter and make significant changes to his swing. Belt was willing to be coached and the Giants’ minor league coaching staff did a great job revamping his swing mechanics. The results have been staggering, as Belt just finished a season in which he moved through 3 levels of the minors (finishing with a brief stint at AAA), hitting .352 in 492 at-bats with 43 doubles, 23 HRs, 93 walks (only 99 strikeouts), a .455 OnBase% and a huge .620 Slugging%.

Those numbers combined with what I saw over my weekend in Arizona have me convinced Belt is a legit middle of the order threat. With the Giants likely to have an opening at either first base or in left field next season, we’ll probably see lots of Belt.


Belt gets good weight transfer and excellent hip rotation in his swing. There's some noise as he gets his weight back and loads his hands, but once he starts moving forward he's fine. I didn’t get to see anyone pitch him hard and inside so I’d like to see how he handles it, between that extra movement and the length of his arms (remember, he's 6’5”), he may have trouble hitting that. When he gets his arms extended he should produce above-average or better power. Belt has quick hands and good bat speed. He's still mostly a line-drive hitter who squares balls up to the gaps but even if the power doesn’t develop any further Belt will hit around 20 HRs a year.

As far as speed goes, Belt had 20 steals this year, but it won't be a part of his game at the big league level, because is speed about average. He likely stole a number of bags earlier in the year simply by taking advantage of Class A pitchers who were not paying attention to him.

One thing Belt needs to work on is his focus. He gave away a few at bats here and there and that won’t fly at the major league level. I’m sure with age and experience this will come.


As a defender, Belt is very good first base. The Giants have played him at the corner outfield spots just to see if he was viable out there, but his future is at first base, given his good hands there, as well as his poor routes and jumps in the outfield.

Future MLB Comparison: Paul Konerko

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Arizona Fall League Scouting Report: Erik Cordier

Erik Cordier

Age: 24

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 230lbs

From: Southern Door High School in Brussels, WI (Drafted in 2nd round of 2004 draft by Royals)

As if the Braves didn’t have enough young, fire-balling bullpen arms taking the majors by storm, they may have another one in Erik Cordier. Drafted in 2004 by the Royals and traded to Atlanta for Tony Pena Jr, Cordier made it to AAA at the end of this past season. The raw stuff I saw from him in person points toward a major league debut in 2011, but hiss numbers dictate otherwise.


Cordier’s fastball was electric, sitting between 93-95mph and touching 97 once. Even more impressive was that he sat at that velocity over several innings as a starter. I’d imagine that he’d be able to consistently sit between 95 and 97 if he were pitching right out of the bullpen. He had a sharp slider with good tilt and a changeup that is usable and plays up because of how hard his fastball is. The second time through the lineup opposing hitters began timing his fastball and he got knocked around. He’ll have to get comfy with that slider to keep that from happening in the future.


He gets very good extension out front in his delivery, and his late release point should help all of his pitches play up as it gives hitter less time to track the ball.


He walks a ton of guys, almost 5 per 9 innings. If that doesn’t improve he’ll likely have stretches in the majors where he is dominant and stretches where he is incredibly difficult to watch. The stuff is there, the control is not.
Future MLB Comparison: A Right Handed J.C. Romero

Arizona Fall League Scouting Report: Oliver Drake

Oliver Drake(Baltimore Orioles)

Age: 23

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 220

From: Navy (43rd round of 2008 draft)

The Orioles have a stable of young pitching prospects that are ahead of Drake as far as organizational depth is concerned, but Drake can still contribute on a major league level at some point in his career. That’s more than you normally get out of a 43rd round pick, one of the last rounds in the draft. He wouldn’t have gone that late if teams knew he was draft eligible as a sophomore but a lot of teams were unaware. Fewer still realized that Drake could bypass his military commitment if he dropped out of the Naval Academy. The relationship he developed with the O’s scout assigned to his region allowed him to be comfortable to do so and he signed for $100,000.


Drake has a low 90s fastball that topped out at 92mph when I saw him. He can cut it but loses some velocity when he does. His slider is good enough to offset opposing righties but his straight changeup is not good enough to neutralize opposing left handers. His stuff is not good enough to plow through a major league lineup 3 or 4 times.


Drake has an over the top delivery. His arm action lacks deception and is a little stiff. While his delivery does incorporate some effort, it isn’t an ultraviolent action (see Scherzer, Max) that would point toward future injury or anything like that. Combine acceptable mechanics with his large frame and he profiles as a guy who can give you multiple innings.


Drake has struck out a respectable 7 batters per 9 innings throughout his pro career but has recently struggled with walks. Combine the walks with fringy stuff and you’ve got a guy who gives up 1.40 base runners an inning which is not a good number. I don’t think Drake will be good enough to plow through a major league lineup 3 or 4 times. At most he profiles as a long, innings eating reliever who comes in to soak up garbage innings.

Future MLB Comparison: Dave Herndon

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Arizona Fall League Scouting Report: Josh Vitters

Josh Vitters

Age: 21

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 200lbs

From: High School (Cypress, CA)

The Cubs seem to be perpetual disappointments. It seems every year they have a bunch of players that have uncharacteristically poor years. This year they had several, including Derek Lee, Carlos Zambrano and most applicably to this post, Aramis Ramirez. The potential heir apparent to Aramis is Vitters, who was the number 3 pick in the 2007 Draft.


Vitters has one of the nicest swings I’ve seen from someone this young. He took the ball the other way in BP, which is a good sign and I don’t remember seeing him swing and miss at a single pitch all weekend so he has good hand-eye coordination, enough that he’ll be a .290+ hitter in the majors one day. He has the power to regularly hit between 20 and 25 HRs a year.

However, he has an extreme lack of patience and plate discipline. Vitters walks in just 6% if his plate appearances and hasn’t posted an OnBase% higher than .300 since he was in Low-A ball as a 19 year old. This is a huge problem and one that will limit his value if he does not improve.


Vitters looked good defensively when I saw him, which is refreshing considering that his reputation as a defensive liability was growing. Now he’s not Adrian Beltre or anything, but he had decent hands and footwork and definitely has the arm to play 3rd. Some scouts though he’d eventually have to move to first base which would destroy his value because he likely won’t get on base enough to be an effective regular there.

Future MLB Comparison: Pablo Sandoval

Arizona Fall League Scouting Report: Engel Beltre

Engel Beltre
Age: 21

Bats/Throws: Left/Left
Height: 6’1”

Weight: 169lbs

From: Dominican Republic

Congratulations to the Texas Rangers on their American League Championship. Not only do you have a chance to win the world series but you still have some nice pieces in your farm system for the coming years. One of those pieces in Engel Beltre.

Beltre was signed for $600,000 out of the Dominican by the Red Sox who included him in their trade for Eric Gagne at the 2007 trade deadline. He’s always had an impressive set of tools but it looks as though he is beginning to put it all together and may be ready for the major leagues toward the end of next season.


Beltre has great bat speed. He can let the ball travel deep in the zone before he swings which allows him to spray the ball all over the field. He loads his hands a little deep, almost barring his lead arm so he might have trouble hitting inside pitches. He gets his weight back well and loads his hips, creating excellent rotation and leverage as he brings his weight forward with his swing.

Beltre doesn't have great plate discipline (he’s only walked 75 times in4 years of pro ball) and he swung an awful lot while I got to see him. At 20 years old he’s getting past the point where we can just wave off his lack of walks as a product of his youth. Only one major leaguer had as many PA as Beltre did in 2010 (488) while drawing fewer walks (A.J. Pierzynski, with 15), and it's time for Beltre to be more selective so he can start using his other offensive gifts. The plate discipline issue is more a lack of patience (perhaps the "I can hit everything" problem) than a lack of pitch recognition, because he seemed to have the ability to recognize breaking stuff and adjust accordingly.


He's an above-average runner with an above-average arm and should be able to stay in center field. I didn’t see him have to make any tough plays or get a read on the routes he takes to balls but things I’ve read indicate he has good instincts and could be an elite defender in Center.

Future MLB Comparison: Austin Jackson

Monday, October 4, 2010

Playoff Scouting Report: Philadelphia Phillies


This is the NL's deepest offense, one without the two or three easy outs found in most lineups in the weaker league; every starting player in the Phillies' lineup was worth at least one win above replacement (WAR) this season, even if we exclude the value of their defense. Their two best hitters are Chase Utley, whose only weakness is his tendency to get hurt because he plays so fucking hard, and Jayson Werth, who had a tremendous free-agent walk year in large part because he beat up right-handed pitching, generally a weak spot for him. Ryan Howard remains a masher of right-handers who will chase sliders down and away until our Sun implodes, making him valuable early in games with a right-hander on the mound but an automatic call for the opponent's lefty specialist in the final innings. Jimmy Rollins had a calf injury that ruined his 2010 season (it's hard for almost any hitter to hit with any kind of leg problem) then missed three weeks in September with a groin strain that may not be fully healed by the time the playoffs start. That left Shane Victorino as the more likely leadoff hitter, but he had a down year with just a .329 OBP and struggles mightily from the left side, limiting his viability in that leadoff role.

The back end up of the lineup is stronger than the lineups that Phillies pitchers will face in the postseason, but it still has its weaknesses. Raul Ibanez has returned to his usual form of struggling against left-handed pitching, and Carlos Ruiz's apparently strong plate discipline is partly a function of hitting directly ahead of the pitcher, as his walk rate dropped substantially this year when he hit seventh. Placido Polanco's struggles late this season could be due to wear that comes with age but also could be related to the bone spurs in his left elbow for which he recently received cortisone shots. His value could be limited in October because of the injury. It's an older, injury-plagued lineup that is full of patience and power when fully healthy, but several key contributors enter October at less than 100 percent.

The Phillies remain one of the best base-stealing clubs in baseball as far as success rate goes (as they have been the past two years), but their raw stolen-base totals dropped this year. With Rollins' leg injury and Utley a year off a hip injury (and getting deeper into his 30s), the Phils likely won't be as aggressive on the bases this October as they have been, but at least they are unlikely to run into a slew of outs through baserunning follies.


Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt all have worked as nominal No. 1 starters in the past year and change, with the first two among the top 10 starters in the league this year and Oswalt doing a pretty good poor-man's ace act himself. Halladay, a possible NL Cy Young Award winner, clearly found the National League to his liking, using his cutter heavily with three other effective pitches. He's no longer the extreme ground-ball pitcher he was earlier in his career, but he misses more bats with the cut fastball and has taken his control to ridiculous, Cliff Lee-like levels, becoming the first pitcher since 1923(when Nucky Thompson reigned supreme) to throw 250 innings with 30 or fewer walks. Hamels struggled with both reduced command and bad luck on balls in play in 2009, and he was likely to return to his true talent level. his The world once again get to see Cole’s plus-plus change, which he'll throw even when behind in the count against left- and right-handed hitters. Oswalt's rejuvenation this year is in large part due to heavier use of his own above-average changeup, which has helped his fastball play up. Aside from reserving his slider mostly for right-handers, he'll use any pitch to any hitter in just about any count. Joe Blanton is fat.

Not only are those three tremendously effective, they also are durable and have helped the Phillies get by without really overhauling a problematic bullpen by providing the team with more innings than any other MLB team got from its starters this year. Brad Lidge can look unhittable at times (especially recently), but it would be kind to say his command is game-to-game. Setup man Ryan Madson is more consistent, featuring one of the best changeups of any reliever in baseball, a pitch that he uses almost half the time in two-strike counts. He also throws a hard slider/cutter in the upper 80s, more to right-handers, but it's more of a show-me pitch to keep hitters off the fastball.

Beyond those two, the 'pen thins out quickly. Jose Contreras is the Phillies' next-best weapon thanks to a tick upward in velocity with his move to the 'pen. He'll work with a lot of two-seamers and sliders, but the two-seamer is the only thing he throws that might move in toward a righty, so he's more specialist than full-inning guy.

The Phillies lack a great left-left weapon for late-game matchups if Madson and his changeup aren't available, with J.C. Romero's control a chronic issue and his recent back injury leaving questions, but they could boost their pen a little by adding Antonio Bastardo as a second lefty.


The Phillies didn't field their ideal defensive alignment often in 2010, but they should have it for the postseason. Utley remains one of the top defenders at second base, with good range but better instincts and hands, while double-play partner Rollins has been one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball for the past few seasons (again, injury may come into play), and third baseman Polanco has made up for his loss of agility with good hands.

The Phillies are thinner in the outfield, where Ibanez is awful in left, and Victorino -- who has been hobbled by injuries -- has lost a step in center. Werth can fill in for Victorino but is best suited in right, where his arm can add value as well.


The Phillies have fewer weaknesses than any NL team and probably as few major weaknesses as any playoff team. Their late-game relievers are shaky but capable of performing at an extremely high level; they have a few key lineup members hobbled by injury or vulnerability to left-handed pitching; their fourth starter is nothing to write home about, unless you’re writing home about America’s growing obesity problem. They enter October in relatively good shape overall (except for Joe Blanton ……who is fat), with their top three starters all looking extremely strong and every expected offensive starter at least nominally ready to play. Any series loss before the World Series will be an upset.

I’ll have my reaction to the Phillies playoff roster when it comes out.