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.