Sunday, September 16, 2012

Eric Previews an Eagles opponent: Baltimore Ravens

Since there's no more minor league baseball to go scout I figured I'd satisfy my craving for writing by previewing Eagles games and shit. It's not going to be beautifully written and I'm not going to try be a fortune teller week to week, I just want to present some matter-of-fact stuff (mostly via Football Outsiders) that you would wanna know while you watch the game.  Let's talk about the Ravens.

General Offensive stuff:

Baltimore's offensive formula isn't hard to decipher. Hand the ball to Ray Rice, throw bombs and dump the ball off to Ray Rice when the deep routes aren't open.  That's mostly it.  It makes sense when you realize that Ray Rice is one of the league's most valuable players, Joe Flacco has the howitzer to chuck it down field and Torrey Smith is one of the NFL's fastest wideouts.  The problems with this offense are that it often lacks rhythm and Flacco is statuesque so he needs the O-line to block well to give deep routes time to develop since he's not creating time for himself.  The Ravens generally suck against standard nickel pakages and thrive against vanilla 3-3-5 nickel looks.  The Eagles don't have the true nose guard to play a 3-3-5 so don't sweat that.

The Ravens are one of the few NFL teams to still use a true fullback, Vonta Leach, and he plays a lot. Last year the Ravens ranked last in the NFL single back looks.  It follows then that they ranked 30th in 3-wide receiver sets. You're gonna see a lot of 2RB 1TE 2 WR looks today.

Individual Offensive stuff:

Joe Flacco: Joe throw ball far. Flacco threw 78 passes last year that traveled 20+ yards (third in NFL) and drew 5 more pass interference penalties to go with it.

Ray Rice: Rice rushed 290 times last year, about 240 of those coming with a fullback in front of him.  of the 90 passes Rice caught in 2011, 60 of them were as checkdowns. He is the Ravens' bellcow.  He's had 200+ carries and 60+ catches for 3 straight years.  The only other gys to do that? Marshall Faulk, Priest Holmes, Roger Craig and Marcus Allen.  He's a very special player.

Anquan Boldin: Awesome career is starting to wind down.

Torrey Smith: Look for Smith to be targeted off of play action. 22% of his targets last year were off play action, as were 3 of his 7 TDs.

Offensive Line: Left tackle Michael Oher is freakishly talented but doesn't pick up blitzes well.  No more Ben Grubbs at guard is a big loss for Baltimore.

General Defensive Stuff:

This was the best defense in the league last year.  They've lost Terrell Suggs who, despite the presence of Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata and Ed Reed, is the best player on the squad.  Suggs had 14 sacks and 2 INTs last season but also pressured the opposing QB 39 other times last year.  Those pressures led to 3 INTs, 2 fumbles, an intentional grounding penalty and several holding penalties.  He's a monster but he's not playing.  The Ravens rush five guys almost 30% of the time, fifth most in football last year.

Baltimore only got pressure on Andy Dalton 8 times last week.  If they can get to Vick (after his 35 yard completion last week, Vick was 0-18 on passes under pressure) this game is going to be a disaster.   Last week the Eagles had trouble with defensive backs blitzing and struggled to communicate on stunts.  Danny Watkins sucks. No more Jason Peters.  Evan Mathis is just okay.  It could be a problem.

Okay that seems pretty good.  Go football.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

MLB Prospect Scouting Report: Trevor May (Phillies)

Scouting Phillies righty, Trevor May, this year has not been easy. A whiff inducing howitzer one start, a frustrating, homer prone mess the next, May entered the 2012 season as the Phillies' consensus #1 prospect and leaves it having taken an enigmatic step backwards. It's not an insurmountable retardation of the Washingtonian's development, especially when you remind yourself that May only realistically projected as a mid-rotation starter anyway. Of course, a full page write-up and action shot in Baseball America's annual handbook will often alter the layperson's perception of a player, no matter how uninspiring a system for which he is the masthead.  There was more hype surrounding May this year than was warranted and, as such, his tumultuous season feels worse than it actually was.  It's time we take a step back, forget about May's pre-season status as the top dog in the Philly system, and have a context-free look at what there is to work with.  That's what I've got for you here.

Trevor May looks mighty impressive in his uniform. A broad-shouldered 6'5", he has the frame of an inning eating horse.  There's no projection left, but as May has filled out nicely.  He's only listed at 215lbs but trust me, he's carrying more than that and he carries it quite well. May 's athleticism isn't anything to write home about.  He doesn't always repeat his delivery well and his command suffers as a result.  He cuts himself off a bit before he gets to his 3/4s delivery, an arm angle which stifles some of the downhill plane you'd like to see s 6'5" pitcher get on the ball.  Onto the stuff…

May mostly pitches with a low-90s fastball that will touch as high as 94mph. I did see him kiss 96mph several times in a start early this season but I didn't see that much heat again all year.  May will incorporate a two-seamer every now and then ( it usually hums in around 89mph) but it's not much of a weapon right now.  While previous reports indicate healthy armside run, from my vantage point May's fastball looked straight.  And boy, does he leave it up in the zone a lot.  Many of the whiffs May induces come from high fastballs that big league hitters will either scoff at or launch into orbit.  It's been an issue of May's for a while now and it hasn't been corrected or even improved. 

May’s stable of secondary pitches is headlined by a good looking curveball.  It’s usually sharp with good depth and breaks late.  He can bury it and throw it for strikes and he adds and subtracts from it well.  It usually sits upper-70s but he’ll take some off and throw a big, loopy curve in the low 70s once in a while. I can’t decide if I’m pleased he’s learned this little trick or concerned because he thought he had to.  There’s one HUGE problem with May’s curveball.  He throws it from a different arm slot than his other pitches.  He’s 3/4s for everything except the curve for which his arm becomes more vertically oriented upon acceleration.  As such, it’s easy to pick up out of his hand.  This needs to be corrected yesterday.

May’s changeup is bad.  In his Eastern League Semifinal start last week he threw just one handsome changeup through 5.1 innings of work.  He often leaves it up in the zone, same as the fastball, and it rarely exhibits the fade/action you look for en un buen cambio.  May also throws a slider/cutter type thing in the 82-86mph range.  It’s short and unrefined but it exists.

So what exactly do we have here? In short it’s a pitcher with an ideal build and above average velocity with some fatal flaws in his secondary stuff and whose control/command development has stagnated.  I wouldn’t be surprised if May began next season back at Reading, though if I were in charge, I’d send him to Triple-A where more seasoned hitters won’t let him get away with the stuff he still mostly gets away with against Eastern League bats.  Maybe adversity and failure in front of minor league baseball’s biggest crowds will catalyze development.  If he’s an abject failure next season, maybe I start thinking about penning him.  Regardless, May’s ceiling is mostly the same (folks, I saw 96mph, a plus curve and a plus change at various times this year. A mid-rotation starter is in there somewhere) but the chances he gets there are now minute. 
I could go on forever about May because, most of the time, prospect failures are far more interesting than their successes.  You’ll see a new name atop the Phillies organizational prospect rankings next year but that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up on Trevor May.  It’s just time to over hype somebody else. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

MLB Prospect Scouting Report: Tyler Cloyd (Phillies)

Tyler Cloyd is now set to make his first career big league start tonight so why don't you read this hastily written scouting report so you know what you're watching?

Just named International League Pitcher of the Year, Cloyd has been fantastic for the IronPigs this year but the scouting reports are underwhelming in comparison. My thoughts are no different.  I've got notes on Cloyd from two periods of his development (from some relief appearances he made in last year's Arizona Fall League and two starts with the 'Pigs this year, including one last week) and they're identical both in my subjective evaluation and all sorts of objective measures like his times home from the stretch (about 1.35 seconds).  I'll make this short and sweet since I'm at work charting Justin Verlander, who diarrhea'd in the tub last night.

Cloyd is a 6'3", 190lb righty with a comfy, athletic delivery which he repeats very well. His arm comes through a little late but his mechanics are otherwise effortlessly smooth.  It's allowed him, for the most part,  to consistently throw strikes.  However, be forewarned that I've seen him have multiple batter lapses where he just can't find the zone and, contrary to how most pitchers respond to these swoons, Cloyd starts to work faster and faster until the catcher needs to come out just to calm him down.  Most of his listed weight is located in his ass and thighs and he uses his lower half well to generate "velocity" which I have in Bennett Brauer quotes because there just isn't very much of it.

Cloyd's fastball sits in the upper 80s (86-89mph, might touch 92 tonight with the adrenaline pumping) and is mostly straight, though it does exhibit some natural cut when he locates it to his glove side. He'll throw a two-seamer on occasion.  It's not a good major league pitch and I expect it'll take a back seat to his best offering, a cutter, which he tosses in anywhere from 83-86mph.  Cloyd's cutter moves quite a bit and he uses it as a multi-tasker even Alton Brown would be proud of.  To left handed hitters, he'll back door it for strikes or run it in on hands to induce weak contact.  He'll run it away from righties to garner swings and misses or throw it early in counts for called strikes. I'm comfortable putting a 50 on it despite the lack of velocity just because Cloyd has harnessed it so well.

Cloyd's secondary stuff in underwhelming.  His curve, which has 11-5 movement and sits in the mid 70s, will flash average but it's mostly a liability.  He didn't work with his changeup enough for me to slap a grade on it. To me, that's telling.  From the scout seats at Coca Cola Park it was easy to pick up release variation on the curveball but I have no idea what it looks like 60 feet away.

Folks, we're looking at a back end starter/bullpen guy here. Someone who'll provide value for the big club by virtue of the fact that he's not awful and probably won't get hurt. Spot start him, get mop up innings out of him on his day to throw, send him down, call him up, long man....Cloyd's going to have a major league career as a swiss army knife as long as being jerked around doesn't negatively impact his performance.  That's great, and guys like this are useful to have around on the cheap.  But don't look at his Triple-A ERA and expect a savior. He's not one. He's just a reason to watch tonight's game.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

MLB Prospect Scouting Report: Adam Morgan (Phillies)

Adam Morgan has made impressive strides

It’s been a pretty upsetting year for Phillies fans on all fronts.  Not only has an aging Major League roster provided the fan base with perhaps 2012’s most disappointing season in all of sports but a farm system bereft of elite talent doesn’t inspire much optimism for the future. A small ray of light, peering out through the morass of injuries, IronPigs and subtle radio caller racism, was recently brought up to Reading.  This faint but legitimate photon, poking his head out from an obscure corner of an all time dumpster fire, is young lefthanded pitcher, Adam Morgan. 

Adam Morgan didn’t come into the season with much heat on him at all. He wasn’t on Keith Law’s organizational top ten, he wasn’t on Kevin Goldstein’s Future Shock top twenty and he barely made it on to Baseball America’s top thirty, sneaking onto the Phillies’ list at number twenty nine, seven spots behind his Crimson Tide rotation mate, Austin Hyatt. Something has changed. No longer is Morgan, a third rounder from the 2011 draft, being described as a “soft tossing, command and control guy.” He’s started missing bats, more than one per inning, and forced his way up from Clearwater into a really fun, prospect laden rotation at Double-A Reading.  With the fan base’s silver lining forty five minutes away from me, you know I made the drive with my stopwatch and notebook.

What was cool about this scouting trip was the clean slate on which I could conduct my analysis. I didn’t accidentally stumble upon any opinions or reports on him because there just aren’t any yet, and I didn’t actively seek any out before I saw him because I wanted to be surprised and uncontaminated by anyone else’s ideas. I hopped in the car not knowing if Adam Morgan was right handed, short, fat, black, handsome, blonde or cross eyed. It made me all the more excited to see him and drink everything in.  If you’re not into dry, vanilla, missionary position type scouting reports then I’ll just tell you now that I like this kid quite a bit and I think he’s going to be a useful big leaguer. Here are those sentiments expressed in more detail….

The twenty two year old Morgan is not a jaw dropping physical specimen. He’s in fine shape, but his 6’1” frame offers no positive projection. What you see is what you’re going to get.  If Morgan’s physique is going to change, it will change horizontally. Let’s hope it doesn’t because sometimes guys who gain weight have a hard time maintain the athleticism in their delivery, which right now for Morgan is just fine. Morgan lands hard on a stiff front leg and there’s a little bit of effort as he fires but nothing is so violent that I’m concerned about repeatability or sustainable health. These sound mechanics help produce above average control and average command of a slightly above average fastball (I’ll put a 55 on it, 89-92mph) that plays up thanks to terrific movement.  That movement, however, is inconsistent and Morgan’s heater will get flat and straight at times.  His somewhat diminutive stature prevents him from getting natural downhill plane on his fastball which he left up in the zone a handful of times on Tuesday. He got away with it because, hey, it’s Double-A and Trenton’s lineup is pretty bad but that won’t fly in the big leagues and Morgan will have to continue to hone in on the lower third of the zone to avoid becoming homer prone.

The fastball is complimented by a plus changeup (60 but flashed better three or four times), a true swing and miss pitch which consistently made Thunder hitters look both uncomfortable and ridiculous.  It is clear this is where Morgan has made strides this year as his changeup was previously just a footnote on his scouting report. The pitch sits in the upper 70s with lots of fade and action and, most importantly, Morgan maintains his fastball’s arm speed when he throws it. I see this as a weapon that will miss some bats in the big leagues one day.

Morgan has two breaking balls, a slider and a curve.  The two can overlap a little but the hook (30) will usually sit mid to upper 70s while the slider (45), which I like much better, hangs out in the low 80s.  Further development of one of these pitches is crucial to Morgan’s future.  He has an idea what to do with the slider, getting a swing and miss or two at some back foot work against righties, but it needs refining and I’d like to see him pitch backwards with it later in his starts to get ahead of hitters with something new. 

I’d love to get another look at Morgan before the season’s out to better grasp the nuances of his craft.  After one look, I think the Phillies have stumbled upon a nice backend starter who has a chance to be a solid mid-rotation guy if he improves even just one or two of his current deficiencies.  Stick a feather in the cap of the Phillies’ player development staff.

Friday, July 6, 2012

MLB Showdown: Available for Trade

Here's the list of the stuff I'm willing to part with to round out my collection.  If you're looking for a list of what I need, you can find it HERE

2000 Base Set- Chuck Finley, Jay Bell, Luis Gonzalez, Randy Johnson, Matt Wiliiams, Greg Maddux, Kevin Millwood, Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, Dean Palmer, Luis Castillo, Carlos Beltran, Kevin Brown, Gary Sheffield, Jeromy Burnitz, Brad Radke, Vlad Guerrero, Ricky Henderson, David Cone, Bobby Abreu, Tony Gwynn, Trevor Hoffman, Ken Griffey, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Canseco, Ivan Rodriguez, Jeff Zimmerman

2000 Pennant Run- Erubiel Durazo, Keith Foulke, Ken Griffey Jr, Chuck Finley, Moises Alou, Roger Cedeno, Mark Quinn, Shawn Green, Mike Hampton, Tim Hudson, Jim Edmonds,

2001 Base Set- Randy Johnson, Rafael Furcal, Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey Jr, Barry Larkin, Roberto Alomar, Todd Helton, Jeff Bagwell, Kevin Brown, Jason Giambi, Robb Nen, Edgar Martinez

2001 Pennant Run- Billy Wagner, Jimmy Rollins, Mike Hampton, John Smoltz, Vernon Wells, Ben Petrick

2002 Base Set- CC Sabathia, Bobby Higginson, Roy Oswalt, Ben Sheets, Mike Piazza, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, Jason Giambi, Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Joe Kennedy, Carlos Delgado
2002 Trade Deadline- Marty Cordova, Roberto Alomar, Jeff Cirillo, Charles Johnson, Ryan Klesko, Frank Thomas, Nomar Garciaparra, Kevin Brown, Pedro Martinez, Victor Zambrano, Chan Ho Park, Kevin Appier

2002 Pennant Run- Roger Clemens SS

2003 Base Set- Garret Anderson, David Eckstein, Luis Gonzalez, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Junior Spivey, Rafael Furcal, Tom Glavine, Andruw Jones, Gary Maddux, Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Lowe, Pedro Martinez, Mark Prior, Sammy Sosa, Mark Buerhle, Paul Konerko, Magglio Ordonez, Austin Kearns, Jim Thome, Larry Walker, Lance Berkman, Eric Gagne, Kaz Ishii, Paul LoDuca, Torii Hunter, Vlad Guerrero, Jose Vidro, Mike Piazza, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, Alfonso Soriano, Miguel Tejada, Mike Williams, Trevor Hoffman, Jeff Kent, Joel Pinero, Kaz Sasaki, Ichiro, Jim Edmonds, Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Randy Winn, Alex Rodriguez, Roy Halladay, Eric Hinske

2003 Trade Deadline- Luis Vizcaino, Francisco Rodriguez, Tom Glavine, Randy Winn, David Wells, Roy Oswalt, Ivan Rodriguez, Orlando Hernandez, Chipper Jones, Kevin Millwood, Jeff Kent, Rocco Baldelli, Hideki Matsui, Jim Thome, Jason Jennings, Derek Jeter, Scott Rolen, Mike Piazza, Ichiro, Nomar Garciaparra, Kerry Wood

2003 Pennant Run- Shawn Chacon, Gil Meche, Carlos Delgado, Gary Sheffield, Hoyt Wilhelm, Brooks Robinson, Robin Yount, Harmon Killebrew,

2004 Base Set- Garrett Anderson, Curt Schilling, Chipper Jones, Javy Lopez, Gary Sheffield. Nomar Garciaparra, Bill Mueller, Mark Prior, Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood, Magglio Ordonez, Milton Bradley, Todd Helton, Ivan Rodriguez, Dontrelle Willis, Richard Hidalgo, Billy Wagner, Carlos Beltran, Kevin Brown, Eric Gagne, Scott Podsednik, Richie Sexon, Shannon Stewart, Orlando Cabrera, Vlad Guerrero, Jose Reyes, Roger Clemens, Derek Jeter, Mike Mussina, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Randy Wolf, Jason Kendall, Jason Schmidt, Jamie Moyer, Edgar Renteria, Aubrey Huff, Alex Rodriguez, Roy Halladay, Vernon Wells

2004 Trade Deadline- Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, Curt Schilling, Brian Giles, Kevin Brown, Bartolo Colon, Kaz Matsui, Esteban Loaiza, Alex Rodriguez, Javy Lopez, Vlad Guerrero SS, Derek Jeter SS, Nomar Garciaparra SS, Todd Helton SS, Greg Maddux SS, Roger Clemens SS, Richie Ashburn, Al Kaline, Mike Schmidt

2004 Pennant Run- Albert Pujols ASG, Paul LoDuca ASG, Ronnie Belliard ASG, Alfonso Soriano ASG, Sean Casey ASG, Lyle Overbay, Danny Graves, Jim Thome ASG, Carl Crawford ASG, Mann Ramirez ASG, Whitey Ford, Eddie Mathews

2005 Base Set- JD Drew, Melvin Mora, Manny Ramirez, Adam Dunn, Travis Hafner, Ivan Rodriguez, 
Miguel Cabrera, Roger Clemens, Eric Gagne, Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez, Eric Chavez, Mark Mulder, Eric Milton, Jim Thome, Jason Kendall, Hank Blalock

2005 Trade Deadline- Carlos Lee, Randy Johnson, Carlos Delgado, Sammy Sosa, Brad Wilkerson, Tim Hudson, Pedro Martinez, Adrian Beltre, Hoyt Wilhelm, Yogi Berra, Robin Yount, Reggie Jackson, Harmon Killebrew

Sunday, June 3, 2012

MLB Draft Prospect Scouting Report: Joe DeCarlo

The Northeast is perpetually understocked on amateur baseball talent.  It is the nature of the meteorologically uncooperative beast.  There’s not much to see up here, a problem compounded this year by one of the weaker draft classes the industry has seen in a while.  All that made seeing Garnet Valley High School shortstop, Joe DeCarlo, my top amateur scouting priority of the Spring.  A top 60 recruit on his way to Georgia, I scouted DeCarlo twice and both times left underwhelmed.  Don’t get me wrong, DeCarlo is a talented young man and there’s plenty to like about him (and I’ll get into all that in a minute), it just didn’t look to me like this was one of the top high schoolers in the country.  In fact, between what I saw and the report from Baseball America’s Nathan Rode that DeCarlo was likely to be selected somewhere between rounds six and ten, I had all but decided against spending time writing this report.  Then today ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel reported that teams were considering him in the sandwich round.  I can’t ignore that.   Let’s talk Joe DeCarlo.

Listed at 6’1”, 205lbs, DeCarlo actually looked to be about my height at 5’11” or so.  He is very physically mature for a high school kid, strong and muscular.  It’s nice to look at a kid who’s already physically mature and know what his body is going to look like as he ages since it already looks like that.  Conversely, there’s little to no room for DeCarlo to grow and the simple fact that his physical composition is unlikely to improve, that there’s no frame on which to dream, hurts his stock. 

Like most premium high school athletes, DeCarlo’s current defensive residence lies at shortstop.  His hands are terrific and his arm is slightly above average, both adequate for the position.  However, his instincts and feel for short are sub-par.  Combine that with the probability that age will impede upon his already fringy range and DeCarlo profiles at third base where he should be just fine.

Whenever an amateur’s defensive profile pushes him to a corner, you have to ask yourself if his bat will be strong enough to carry him to the majors.  DeCarlo’s bat is interesting albeit unconvincing.  It’s a simple swing that doesn’t produce as much power as the body would indicate.  Failing to extend his hands most of the time, DeCarlo took swings for scouts with a wooden bat after one of the games I attended and failed to do little more than pepper his high school field’s outfield with fliners.  There are issues with his base that can be iron out with good coaching.  It’s not a stretch to think that the team that selects DeCarlo will do some mechanical tweaking to see if the pop can be unleashed.  In games DeCarlo shows signs of advanced pitch recognition for his age.  If embarrassed by a good breaking ball once, the adjustments were made to prevent it from happening again.

For what it’s worth, he has a fantastic taste in neckties.

So there’s a lot to like about Joe DeCarlo but also plenty to be skeptical about.  In a weak draft class, it’s not moronic to think a team that’s had a good look at him will make an early move. As a Philly kid, I’ll certainly be rooting for him.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Domonic Brown: Supernova

I have to accept the fact that I’m going to be wrong quite a bit in this business.  The world of prospecting has a higher rate of failure than any profession this side of meteorology and learning to deal with my own misevaluations as well as the vitriol generated therefrom is a process I’m becoming more familiar with as both the kids I scout and I age.  I’m not alone.  Go crack open any Baseball America Prospect Handbook from the past half decade and see just how wrong everyone (the pundits and the scouts which they use as a supplement to their own opinions) is all the time.  The 2008 BA Handbook has names like Joba Chamberlain, Travis Snider, Franklin Morales and Brandon Wood scattered about the entire sport’s top 15 prospects. From elite to extinct, such is the fate of far too many talented young ballplayers.  Prospects fail all the time. I’ve known this since I started pursuing the art of scouting while I was in college and for the most part, I’ve made peace with it. So why do I feel nauseous when I even entertain the idea that it might be happening to Domonic Brown? Because he might not just become a mistake, he might become my mistake.

If any outsider should know what has gone wrong with Brown, it should be me.  I was there, after all, for most of the roller coaster ride that has been Brownie’s career during the past few years.  A lowly intern/usher for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate during my college summers, I was the guy who would show up early on work days to watch BP, bug the scouts sitting there in their awful polo shirts and scribble in my notebook during games as I fumbled with my stopwatch which I constantly dropped.  I was a terrible employee, but I was becoming a damn fine scout.  I’ll never forget the humid afternoon Brown came up from Double-A and proceeded to litter the parking lot beyond the Philly Pretzel stand in right field with batting practice missiles.  It didn’t take long to see that everything was there.  Above average speed, an above average arm, advanced approach and pitch recognition for his age, average present power with projection left in the body and dreams of above average defense in an outfield corner as he grew into his lanky, 6’5” frame and became more coordinated.  Gracing magazine covers and webpage headlines, Brown was on top of the prospect world.

Between then and now, something has gone horribly awry.  Brown hasn’t homered since August 2nd of last year.  His swing, especially the lower half, is a mess.  He’s constantly late on good velocity.  His misadventures in the outfield are excruciatingly awkward, and not the sort of “Hunter Pence/Larry David, I’m weird but I don’t give a shit and I make it work” awkward, but more of a “Michael Cera, self aware, it’s so bad I need to divert my eyes” awkward.  He sports a sub-.300 OBP to this point and has just 3 steals at a paltry 50% success rate.  People, possibly including the Phillies front office, are giving up.
The causes of this tragic collapse are difficult to nail down.  Scouts are perplexed.  I asked Baseball Prospectus writer, Kevin Goldstein, to comment on Brown:

“I’m confused too…everyone is.”

The response’s simplicity juxtaposes how complicated the problems probably are.  I have my theories, of course.  In my opinion this shit sandwich was spawned from some combination of the tinkering Phillies instructors did with Brown’s swing upon his first arrival to the majors, the long lasting effects of the broken hamate bone Brown suffered last year, the constant jerking back and forth between the majors and minors he has endured and whatever psychological trauma has eradicated his confidence as a result of all that stuff I just mentioned.  It’s a developmental cocktail mixed to induce failure and Brownie has had to drink it. 

The worst part is that all of this is happening at a time when the Phillies big league roster has begun to crumple into a mediocre, geriatric heap.  It’d be nice to have an infusion of offense and youth into the lineup, but without performing well in the Lehigh Valley, there’s little justification to promote Brown and anoint him the savior.  While I’m discouraged, there’s too much talent there to lose all hope, and I’ll be monitoring Brown carefully (I watch every single one of his at bats on MiLB.TV every day) waiting to drink from the cup that still runneth over with ability.  For now, while he tries to work things out, he’ll be booed on a regular basis by ignorant old men who know nothing beyond the fact that Brown was a top prospect who isn’t panning out.  It can’t be easy and it can’t be fun.  

As much as I’d like to give Domonic Brown an elixir to solve his baseball problems, I’d like to give him a manly hug and tell him that some of us realize this mostly isn’t his fault and that we’re not giving up on him.  After the vigor and conviction with which I once touted Brown’s future stardom, I might need one too.   

Friday, April 20, 2012

MLB Draft Prospect Scouting Report: Matt Bowman

Princeton two-way player Matt Bowman had a little bit of heat on him when I caught the Tigers double header against Harvard a little while ago. Scouts from Toronto, Cleveland and San Diego were in attendance and two-thirds of them left after Bowman pitched, neglecting to see him play shortstop, at least on this afternoon. It makes sense since it seems clear Bowman's best chance to make an impact at the professional level is on the mound rather than at short.

At just 6'1", 175lb, Bowman will have the "short righty" stigma working against him in draft war rooms. He's quite skinny, skinny enough that he could put on weight without his stuff/tools going backwards and maybe even add a little velocity if he gets stronger in the right places (his legs). Bowman's diminutive stature means he needs to incorporate his entire body in his delivery to generate the velocity he'll need to compete in the pros. For the most part he does it, utilizing his lower half (It's clear when you watch Bowman's mechanics that he's doing his best Tim Lincecum impression) to launch himself off the mound . After watching video from 2011 you can tell Bowman has lengthened his stride and continuing that trend while adding muscle in his thighs and ass might yield a bit more heat. He has the athleticism to repeat a delivery of this type. The top half of Bowman's over-the-top delivery is fine. There's no extreme violence that would raise concerns about his ability to throw strikes or indicate a heightened risk of injury.

Bowman's stuff doesn't blow you away but it's nothing to scoff at. His fastball sits 88-89mph touching as high as 91mph. That's average velocity but the pitch plays down a bit due to how straight it is both vertically and horizontally. Bowman is already at a disadvantage due to his height. He's not going to get natural downhill plane on his fastball. At the next level he's going to have to find a way to make the heater wiggle or sink.

Bowman features three secondary offerings; a changeup, curveball and slider. Of the three, he worked most often with a low-70s curve which suited him just fine against Ivy League hitters but likely won't garner swings and misses from professionals. It has decent depth but its break isn't sharp. The slider shows much more potential. It was inconsistent but flashed nasty, two-plane movement here and there. Scouts nearby mentioned their desire for him to use it more often. Bowman's most consistent offspeed pitch was his changeup which sat in the upper 70s. It showed promising fade and run but Bowman noticeably decelerates his arm.

Other ancillary stuff you might want to know about Bowman:

He obviously fields his position well since, when he's not pitching, he's playing shortstop.

He holds runners well. I timed him in the 1.25-1.35 second range from the stretch. He varies the height of his leg kick from the stretch as well, to screw with baserunners and the timing of the hitter.

Bowman is a slightly below average runner, timed at 4.35 seconds from the right side from home to first.
He is adequate at shortstop, not spectacular, and I'm bearish on his ability to hit at the next level.

Other note: Bowman's teammate Sam Mulroy is a pretty interesting prospect in his own right. He's an above average runner who plays center field, third base and catches. It takes a few trips to properly scout a swiss army knife like Mulroy. I'd like to see him again if I can, but the drive may prevent me from doing so.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

MLB Draft Prospect Scouting Report: Chris Burke

“The hardest thing about this is figuring out who the hell is going to hit.”

Almost every scout I’ve pestered over the past two years has expounded some version of that statement.  It’s true.  Understanding swing mechanics is the most difficult task I’ve undertaken since deciding to try my hand at this scouting thing.  It gets harder as you venture down to A-ball and harder still when you’re looking at amateurs.  Thankfully when I went to scout Iona 3B Chris Burke I had a double header’s worth of at-bats to look at.  I made the most of them, and so did Burke.

At a listed 6’1”, 195lbs, Burke has little projection left in his body.  He could get bigger, sure, but he’s not presently the most limber and agile individual so I’d advise against it.  A bigger, slower Burke means a move to an outfield corner or across the diamond to first base and his value would suffer.  I already have questions about Burke at third base.  He has slightly above average arm strength, enough to play the position, but he struggled with accuracy.  His reactions and hands are both unexceptional.  Of course whichever team drafts Burke needs to let him play third base where he’ll simply sink or swim.  His best chance to make noise in the big leagues is at the hot corner.  He’ll need to sort out his deficiencies there to make it, mechanical, mental, whatever.

Unfortunately I was unable to arrive early enough to evaluate Burke in the cage.  While certainly regrettable, I still managed to get several looks from the appropriate perpendicular angle that is optimal for evaluating swing mechanics.  Burke’s motions are fluid and fast, but what impressed me most was how quiet everything was.  Shoulders between the knees, knees between the feet, barely a stride, clean, simple and fast.  Burke keeps his hands inside the ball allowing him to drive balls to all fields.  He absolutely wrecked Lehigh pitching when I saw him.  He didn’t see a ton of pitches but you can’t blame him since the pitches he decided to swing at were obliterated. 

Burke has a bat, but is it enough bat to profile at a corner? I can’t help but be concerned about the level of competition he’s facing.  If he cleans up the defense he has a shot.

Monday, March 19, 2012

MLB Draft Prospect Scouting Report: Brendan Close (Moravian College)

I had an opportunity to shake off the rust that had accumulated over my eyeballs during the offseason and see Moravian righty Brendan Close on Saturday.  Baseball America pointed their omnipotent finger at Close when they mentioned him in a preseason write up on small school prospects to watch this spring.  Clearly the best player on the field as the Moravian Greyhounds swept a double header from the Catholic University of America, Close has enough raw talent that teams will view him as at least a little more than a senior sign.  He’s not a guy a team will bring on just to help fill the roster of one of their lower level affiliates.  There is a chance, albeit a small one, that Close can find a niche and become a legitimate prospect.  We’ll get into all that in a minute.  For now, I’m going to take the next few seconds and enjoy the fact that a kid this talented fell through the cracks and ended up at a D-III school.  People at Lehigh, Lafayette, Temple and Penn State are paid to find kids like this.  None of them did.  I find solace knowing that the industry is still not very good at mining baseball talent.  I’ll be paid to do this one day, I swear to Christ.  On to Close.


At an athletic 6’4”, 200lbs, Close has just a little projection left in his body.  He has the athleticism to put on a little more weight and maintain his mechanics.  He’ll have to maintain that delivery as is because if it were to get any worse it would become an issue.  While Close’s straight over the top arm action isn’t anything to be concerned about, there’s plenty of noise from the shoulders up.  His head whips around quite a bit possibly causing him to lose sight of the plate momentarily.  It causes his command to suffer a bit. 


Close has an interesting repertoire, consisting of a fastball, curveball, cutter and changeup.  He works primarily with his fastball which sits between 87-89mph and touches as high as 92mph.  It has some run, especially when he’s working to his arm side.  The velocity is average but it’s far too much for hitters at this level to handle.  Close relies on it almost too heavily.  Why shouldn’t he?  It gets the job done.  That’s fine for now, but his secondary pitches are underdeveloped as a result.

When Close does work with the secondary pitches the results are a bit underwhelming.  The curveball has a nice, sweeping, two plane shape to it, but it’s a little soft and loopy.  The cutter moves plenty, so much so that I thought it was a slider before I was corrected by his teammate, Ben Hammel.  The cutter has its moments but again, the movement isn’t very crisp much of the time.  Close tried to back door these pitches against lefties in the first inning and got hit around a bit.  He doesn’t use the changeup very much.  He barely even threw it during between inning warm-ups.  His arm slot is suited beautifully for a splitter and I hope whatever minor league pitching coach gets a hold of him after he signs recognizes that. 

Secondary Skills

Close walked five hitters in eighty innings of work last season.  I showed up thinking I’d see plus control and command.  Close’s control is a true 60 on the scouting scale, but the command doesn’t grade out the same. He left several pitches up.  I am mindful that Close was making his first start after an injury and was likely a tad rusty.  I will see him again later this season and post an update.  For now, I’m going to refrain from expounding about what I’d do with Close to improve his chances of making the big leagues one day.  I’ll do that later this season.  He shouldn’t be worried about that stuff right now anyway. 

Scouting Grades:

Fastball: 50
Curveball: 40
Cutter: 40
Changeup: ? (need to see more of it)
Control: 60
Command: 40
Delivery: 50

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Eastern PA College Baseball Prospects

It's nearly that time of year.  Baseball time.  Opening Day is April 4th with minor league games starting shortly thereafter.  That means you're still nearly two months away from meaningful ball.  Luckily, you have me to clue you in on some watchable stuff in the meantime.  What I have here is a schedule of all the notable college prospects within reasonable driving distance of Eastern Pennsylvania.  It's a small geographical area and this post isn't likely to net me hundreds of page views, but I made this schedule for myself as I look to get better at evaluating amateur prospects (vastly different than looking at minor leaguers) and figured it was worth sharing for anyone looking to do something similar.  Here's stuff you should know about this schedule:

- Be sure to check out the college's athletics webpage a few days prior to attending these games.  Game times change all the time due to weather or any number of external factors.  You don't want to drive for two hours and learn that the game you planned on seeing is already half over because they moved the start time up to avoid a potential rain shower.

- The "DH" after the time denotes a double header.

- The number preceding the player's name indicates their ranking as a prospect in their conference, according to Baseball America. So, Kyle Hansen is the #3 prospect in the Big East.

- If you're trying to look at a pitcher, make sure you're checking box scores to see what day of the week he's pitching.  Th team's best pitcher is likely to throw on Friday nights, but team's with weird schedules and multiple pitching prospects might have an anomalous rotation.

- Moravian pitcher Brendan Close belongs on this schedule, but I live so close to campus that I can scoot over there any time I want to.  I don't have a set date to see him for that reason. I'll get to him when I have time.  The same can be said for Joe Wendle.

Date Game Time Players
1-Mar West Chester at Chestnut Hill 3:00pm  Joe Wendle, 2b, West Chester
9-Mar Iona at St. Joe's 3:00pm  4. Chris Burke, 3b, Iona
10-Mar Iona at Villanova 1:00pm 4. Chris Burke, 3b, Iona
11-Mar Iona at Temple 12:00pm 4. Chris Burke, 3b, Iona
17-Mar Iona at Lehigh 12:00pm DH 4. Chris Burke, 3b, Iona
18-Mar Iona at Lehigh 12:00pm DH 4. Chris Burke, 3b, Iona
23-Mar St. John's at Villanova 3:00pm  3. Kyle Hansen, rhp, St. John's
2. Jeremy Baltz, of, St. John's
11. Matt Wessinger, ss/2b, St. John's
24-Mar Bucknell at St. Joe's 12:00pm DH 2. Taylor Runge, rhp, Bucknell
St. John's at Villanova 1:00pm 4. Matt Carasiti, rhp, St. John's
11. Matt Wessinger, ss/2b, St. John's
25-Mar Bucknell at St. Joe's 1:00pm 5. Ryan Ebner, lhp, Bucknell
St. John's at Villanova 12:00pm 2. Jeremy Baltz, of, St. John's
11. Matt Wessinger, ss/2b, St. John's
30-Mar Rhode Island at St. Joe's 3:00pm  2. Mike LeBel, ss/rhp, Rhode Island
Richmond at LaSalle 3:00pm 4. Adam McConnell, ss/3b, Richmond
Monmouth at Temple 12:00pm 1. Pat Light, rhp, Monmouth
5. Dan Smith, lhp, Monmouth
31-Mar Rhode Island at St. Joe's 1:00pm 2. Mike LeBel, ss/rhp, Rhode Island
Richmond at LaSalle 1:00pm 4. Adam McConnell, ss/3b, Richmond
1-Apr Rhode Island at St. Joe's 12:00pm 3. Chris Pickering, lhp, Rhode Island
Richmond at LaSalle 1:30pm 4. Adam McConnell, ss/3b, Richmond
Harvard at Princeton 12:00pm DH 1. Matt Bowman, ss/rhp, Princeton
2. Sam Mulroy, c/of, Princeton
3. Brent Suter, lhp, Harvard
4. Michael Fagan, lhp, Princeton (2013)
5-Apr Notre Dame at Seton Hall 1:00pm 8. Ryan Harvey, rhp, Seton Hall
6-Apr Notre Dame at Seton Hall 4:00pm 13. Trey Mancini, 1b, Notre Dame (2013)
7-Apr Notre Dame at Seton Hall 1:00pm 13. Trey Mancini, 1b, Notre Dame (2013)
13-Apr Charlotte at Temple 3:00pm  1. Tyler Barnette, rhp, Charlotte (2013)
Georgetown at Villanova TBA 10. Rand Ravnaas, of, Georgetown
14-Apr Charlotte at Temple 3:00pm  5. Andrew Smith, rhp, Charlotte
Georgetown at Villanova TBA 10. Rand Ravnaas, of, Georgetown
15-Apr Charlotte at Temple 1:00pm 5. Andrew Smith, rhp, Charlotte
Georgetown at Villanova 12:00pm 10. Rand Ravnaas, of, Georgetown
20-Apr Richmond at Temple 3:00pm  4. Adam McConnell, ss/3b, Richmond
21-Apr Richmond at Temple 1:00pm 4. Adam McConnell, ss/3b, Richmond
Holy Cross at Lehigh 12:00 DH 1. Mike Ahmed, 3b/rhp, Holy Cross (2013)
Navy at Lafayette 12:00pm DH 3. Alex Azor, of, Navy
22-Apr Richmond at Temple 1:00pm 4. Adam McConnell, ss/3b, Richmond
Holy Cross at Lehigh 12:00 DH 1. Mike Ahmed, 3b/rhp, Holy Cross (2013)
Navy at Lafayette 12:00pm DH 4. Ben Nelson, rhp, Navy
27-Apr Colombia at Penn 12:00pm DH 5. Pat Lowery, rhp, Columbia
28-Apr Bucknell at Lafayette 12:00pm DH 2. Taylor Runge, rhp, Bucknell
29-Apr Bucknell at Lafayette 12:00pm DH 5. Ryan Ebner, lhp, Bucknell
8-May Monmouth at Seton Hall 3:00pm  8. Ryan Harvey, rhp, Seton Hall
1. Pat Light, rhp, Monmouth
5. Dan Smith, lhp, Monmouth
17-May Rhode Island at Temple 2:00pm 2. Mike LeBel, ss/rhp, Rhode Island
18-May Rhode Island at Temple 2:00pm 2. Mike LeBel, ss/rhp, Rhode Island
19-May Rhode Island at Temple 1:00pm 3. Chris Pickering, lhp, Rhode Island

Sunday, January 22, 2012

MLB Showdown Needs

From time to time I spend some discretionary income trying to fill in my MLB Showdown collection.  Below is a list of cards I still  need and HERE is a list of cards I have to trade.  Feel free to post in the comments section or email me to talk about trading like we used to do on the ShowdownCards Forum back in the day.

22000 Pennant Run: None

2001 Base Set: Mike Sweeney

2001 Pennant Run: Ramiro Mendoza

2002 Base Set: Albie Lopez,  Roberto Hernandez, Tom Goodwin, Nick Neugebauer,Michael Barrett, Kaz Sasaki, Darryl Kile, Bud Smith, Kelvim Escobar

2002 Trade Deadline: Billy Wagner

2002 Pennant Run: David Eckstein, Kenny Lofton, Vicente Padilla, Eric Hinske, Chipper Jones (’98 Braves Super Season), Randy Johnson (’95 Mariners Super Season), Roberto Alomar (’93 Blue Jays Super Season), Trevor Hoffman (’98 Padres Super Season)

2003 Base Set: None

2003 Trade Deadline: None

2003 Pennant Run: Jeremy Bonderman, Carlos Baerga (1993 Super Season),

2004 Base Set: NONE

2004 Trade Deadline: Bob Gibson

2004 Pennant Run:Danys Baez, Jim Palmer

2005 Base Set: David Ortiz, C.C. Sabathia, Aaron Miles, Ugeth Urbina, Armando Benitez, Brad Lidge, Cesar Izturis, Mike Piazza, Kenny Lofton, Mike Lieberthal, Eric Munson, Ramon Hernandez, Jason Schmidt, Ichiro, Jim Edmonds, Francisco Cordero, Justin Speier, Vernon Wells

2005 Trade Deadline: Brooks Robinson, Rod Carew, Nolan Ryan

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Phillies Prospect Retrospective

Phillies fans used to think Carlos Carrasco was the next big thing.

The trade is perhaps baseball’s most fascinating event. The individuals involved suddenly have their lives uprooted and relocated somewhere entirely new, Twitter explodes, the Majestic factory in Easton, PA, begins minting never-before-seen jerseys and you venture to to berate Keith Law for his opinion on the trade because he invariably hates the team you root for. More often than not, these trades involve one party trading a known, short-term asset for one or more relatively unknown, long-term assets. We call these young players “prospects.”
Thanks to the internet, people know more about prospects than they ever have before. Sometimes this is lovely. Rangers fans know who Jurickson Profar is and have interesting discussions about what GM Jon Daniels will do with Elivs Andrus when Profar is ready for primetime. Roto freaks sit with their finger on the mouse waiting for Desmond Jennings to get called up so they can be the first to snatch him off waives and reap the financial benefits shortly thereafter. We also get to make jokes about Yeonis Cespedes’ core strength. That’s all fantastic. Inevitably, there’s also plenty of bad that comes with the obsession. People overreact, become prisoners of the moment and suddenly think the world of Junior Lake and very little ofDomonic Brown. Insufferable blowhards pester Kevin Goldstein, “How is Austin Romine not on this list? He’s a future star! Moron.” Just because you are passionate about something doesn’t necessarily mean you are well informed. Prospects teach us this all the time.
No matter how smart you are when it comes to prospects, you’re not that smart. None of us are. You’re predicting the futures of teenage children, many of who are simultaneously learning baseball and assimilating into an entirely new culture. Mistakes in judgment will be made. To show as much, I have compiled here a nice little case study. Thanks to the aggressive nature of General Manager Ruben Amaro (and his predecessor Pat Gillick) the Phillies have essentially traded away an entire farm system worth of talent over the past four years. This franchise’s sequence of events is prime for analysis. The Phillies went from a franchise suffering from a decade’s worth of mediocrity (Mike LieberthalTravis Lee!) and became one of baseball’s juggernauts. They’ve done a lot of this via “the trade.”
How did these trades shake out for each of the franchises involved? Did the prospects pan out the way we thought they would? With the Phillies, we have a large enough sample of deals and, most importantly, enough time has passed to talk about the principles involved with some degree of certainty. Hopefully you’ve been entrenched in prospectdom long enough to recollect your thoughts on these trades at their time of completion. In parentheses after each prospect’s name is their peak ranking in the Phillies system per Baseball America.
Phillies acquire Brad Lidge from Astros for Michael Bourn (Peak rank: #3), Geoff Geary and Mike Costanzo (#6)
Lidge had one magical season that undoubtedly helped the Phillies win a World Series. “Magical” is code for “he was very good but also very lucky.” Lidge has since suffered a drastic decline in stuff and physical health. Bourn became an above-average regular at a premium position, surpassing many a pundit’s expectations that he’d be a fourth outfielder. Astros GM Ed Wade traded him to the Braves this past season for too little. He’s an excellent player. Geary (a middle reliever) and Costanzo (who never saw the majors) are inconsequential. From a sheer regular season baseball value perspective, the Astros won this trade, but the Phils won a title, so we’ll call it a push.
At least Outman's stirrups are sweet.

Phillies acquire Joe Blanton from A’s for Adrian Cardenas (#2), Josh Outman (#4) and Matt Spencer
Blanton, his injuries and his conditioning have all been frustrating of late, but he too played a role that led to Philadelphia’s 2008 championship. Outman reached the majors and looked like he’d be a nice back-end starter until Tommy John surgery sucked some life out of his fastball. He was traded to the Rockies this week. His role is up in the air, but it’s safe to say he’s at least an un-embarrassing placeholder while the Rockies develop upgrades. Adrian Cardenas was named High School Player of the Year by Baseball America in 2006. At the time of this trade, he was the centerpiece. A once potential middle infielder with a plus bat, Cardenas isn’t good enough defensively to play anywhere in the infield (other than 1B) and his bat isn’t good enough to profile in left field. He’s only 23, but he looks like an extra guy at best. Spencer was a throw-in and has never made it to the majors.
Phillies acquire John Mayberry Jr. from Rangers for Greg Golson (#2)
Your classic change of scenery trade, Mayberry had been a first-round pick of the Mariners during Gillick’s tenure in Seattle but decided not to sign and went to college at Stanford instead. He was redrafted by the Rangers a few years later, again in round one. When you’ve been drafted twice in the first round, you’ve got tools to succeed. Mayberry clearly hasn’t optimized his talent for one reason or another (Stanford is notorious for irreparably altering hitters’ swings) but the change of scenery did him some good. He’s a fine fourth outfielder or platoon bat and showed some chops in center field last year. Mayberry whacks lefties, plays every outfield position pretty well and can moonlight at first base in a pinch. To get that for six years at a very low cost is a bargain. Golson had one of the most impressive tool packages you’ll ever see but could never sort it out at the dish. He’s an extra guy.
Phillies acquire Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco from Indians for Lou Marson (#3), Jason Donald (#4), Carlos Carrasco (#1) and Jason Knapp (#10)
I don’t have to tell you what Lee has been up to. Carrasco has always had top-of-the-rotation stuff but had the most glaring on-mound makeup issues I’ve ever seen. As soon as something went wrong, he’d unravel. While Carrasco has gotten things together enough that he’s not a basket case, he’s no world beater, either. He might yet put it together and yield above-average results, but it’s hard to believe he was once the crown jewel of the Phillies system. Knapp was the other piece in this deal with any real upside. A plus-plus fastball and a workhorse build meant Knapp had top-of-the-rotation potential as long he could be kept healthy and develop secondary stuff. That hasn’t happened. Knapp threw just 28 innings in 2010 and didn’t pitch in 2011. There’s still time for Knapp, he’s only 21, but it’s now much more likely he’s just a reliever. Marson has become a fine defensive catcher but profiles as a backup. Donald can’t play shortstop well enough to play every day and doesn’t hit enough for anywhere else. He’s bench fodder.
Phillies acquire Phillippe Aumont (#2), Tyson Gillies (#8) and JC Ramirez (#5) from Mariners for Cliff Lee
The Phillies found out in 2010 what the Mariners had known since 2008 had ended: Phillippe Aumont’s control issues relegate him to the bullpen. The control issues, which stem primarily from Aumont’s size and lack of athleticism to overcome it, are still there and rear their ugly head in frustrating spurts. The stuff, however, is nasty. Mid-90s heater with sink and a plus curveball mean Aumont will be a fine late-inning arm. He’ll arrive in Philly sometime this year. Gillies is still a work in progress after chronic injury issues derailed 2010 and 2011 for him. His slappy swing could mean he’ll have on-base issues in the future. He looks like a nice extra outfielder but if the approach somehow holds up and the defense is either elite in a corner or average in center, he’d be a decent regular. JC Ramirez has regressed to a point where it’s tough to consider him a prospect at all right now. His strikeout rate has plummeted. On a side note, I find it amusing that Seattle now employs both Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero, the prospects they were essentially deciding between when they ultimately chose to send Lee to the Rangers in 2010.
Phillies acquire Roy Halladay from Blue Jays for Michael Taylor (#3), Travis d’Arnaud (#4) and Kyle Drabek(#2)
Taylor was immediately spun to Oakland for Brett Wallace and has been a disappointment. He’s never had the kind of raw power you’d expect from someone built like an NFL tight end (thanks again, Stanford) but had average-or-above tools across the board. Billy Beane re-signed Coco Crisp and acquired Josh Reddick andSeth Smith this winter. Those aren’t exactly endorsements of Taylor’s future. Drabek, his plus fastball and power curveball in tow, looked like a future #2 starter. The Phillies certainly thought so, they deemed Drabek untouchable for quite a while before begrudgingly parting with him in order to land Doc. Drabek reached Toronto last year but couldn’t find the strike zone. He had some embarrassing walk rates before being sent back down to the minors. He’ll need to be rebuilt. Travis d’Arnaud is going to end up being the best player in this trade. The young catcher won Eastern League MVP this past year and looks like he might contend for big boy MVPs one day. In an online environment where we probably talk about prospects too much, we don’t talk about d’Arnaud enough.
Phillies acquire Roy Oswalt from Astros for JA Happ (#8), Jonathan Villar (#22) and Anthony Gose (#6)
Oswalt was miscast as an “ace” when he got to Philly. He’s now a mid-rotation guy whose fastball velocity has dipped enough that it can no longer make up for what he lacks in downhill plane. Teams seem hesitant to give him even a one-year deal thanks to natural decline and his balky back. Happ was always a back-end starter at best. Thanks to some great luck on balls in play, good run support and Ed Wade’s ineptitude as a GM, the Phillies sold way high on Happ after a nice rookie year. Shortstop Villar was just 19 years old at the time of the trade. He remains a bit of a project at the plate but strides are being made. Villar posted a .767 OPS at high-A Lancaster last year before being moved up to double-A as a 20-year-old. The defense will stick at shortstop, so if he can hit even a little bit, Villar will be a fine big leaguer. He’s still a work in progress, perhaps the least polished member of this entire piece. Upon acquiring the uber-toolsy Gose, Ed Wade immediately flipped him to Toronto for … Brett Wallace, again. Toronto made some mechanical alterations to Gose’s swing to improve his performance at the plate, lengthening his stride a bit. I’m relatively bearish on Gose, I just don’t believe in the bat, but he’s one of the toolsiest athletes I’ve ever seen. Gose’s defense in center field is good enough that he’d likely be a nice player no matter how anemic his offensive output might be. Just something to keep in the back of your mind should Gose crap out completely: The lefty touched 97mph on the mound in high school.
Phillies acquire Hunter Pence from Astros for Jonathan Singleton (#2), Jarred Cosart (#4) and Josh Zeid
Jonathan Singleton is just 20 years old, but all indications are he’s going to be a monster. The physicality, the swing, the approach, it’s all there. After struggling a bit at the beginning of last year (the Phillies were tinkering with his swing a bit), Singleton dominated high-A. He hit .333/.405/.512 after this trade. Polished for a hitter his age, Singleton could see a cup of coffee with the Astros at the end of 2013. Cosart has a nasty three-pitch mix, a mid- to upper-90s heater with arm side run, and a curve and change that flash above average. It’s top-of-the-rotation material. Enthusiasm for Cosart is curbed by his violent delivery, which some see as a harbinger of doom as it pertains to his health. He has had arm issues in the past. Zeid is a nice middle-relief prospect.
I spent three intro paragraphs alluding to the importance of objectivity and patience when it comes to talking about these young kids. Then, I revealed my unbridled zeal for Singleton and d’Arnaud. Does this make me a hypocrite? Yes. Yes, it does. I can’t help it, we’re talking about prospects. But look at what we have here: almost a trade a year for five years. Players of almost every career arc imaginable. Established big leaguers (Bourn), relative disappointments (Taylor, Aumont), future studs (d’Arnaud, Singleton), guys teetering between disappointment and stud (Drabek, Gose), change-of-scenery guys who worked out (Mayberry) and didn’t (Golson), and young kids about whom we still have plenty to learn. The ripples from this series of trades will be felt for the next decade or so. I hope this has shown you how volatile even the most highly regarded prospects can be and changes, for the better, the way you perceive them.