Saturday, September 21, 2013

Chris Dwyer Scouting Report (Kansas City Royals)

I’ve never seen a no-hitter. Over the past six years I’ve been to probably 500 baseball games in person and it’s never happened. On Tuesday, I came as close as ever to finally seeing one as Royals left-handed pitching prospect Chris Dwyer was perfect through 6 2/3 innings. He was positively masterful and hurled one of the best games I’ve ever seen anyone pitch, ever.  

Dwyer stands a solid 6’3” and is listed at a solid 210lbs. While his weight is something of a question (he had a thyroid condition in 2012 that caused some pretty serious weight fluctuation) he looks solid and strong now and while the thyroid condition might give me pause about his long-term health, he showed no signs of the 83-86mph fastball he was pitching with while he was sick.

The delivery is nearly straight over the top and Dwyer stands tall throughout while using his lower half adequately while sending everything toward the plate. There’s some deception and all of Dwyer’s pitches come out of his hand at the same release point. The fastball sat 87-90mph and topped out at 92mph. The heater features nice run, especially for someone with an arm angle as vertically oriented as Dwyer. Towards the very end of his start, Dwyer lost a good amount of velocity. He was down to 85-87mph range in the seventh when it became clear el perfecto wasn’t going to happen. He pitched up in the zone a little too often for my taste with the fastball but through a ton of strikes and can move everything in and out. I put a 50 n the fastball and a 60 on his control of it with the command lagging a bit behind it. Oddly, Dwyer’s main bugaboo during his minor league career had been his poor control and command. Many thought it would be the death of any chances he had to start. On this night, however, he was almost surgical.

The changeup sat in the high 70s and had nice arm action and some fade when Dwyer threw it right but it sailed on him at times. Overall it’s an average pitch and it might have some projection, though Dwyer is already 25 years old. The curveball has been plus in the past and I can see why some really like it, but for me it’s a 5. This is a near 12-6 offering with plenty of depth but it’s a little loopy and slow for me, sitting in the 74-76mph range. I’m not sure it’s going to get the swings and misses in the big leagues that it’s getting right now. Dwyer relies heavily on it.

Overall we’re looking at three average pitches. If the control/command I saw on Tuesday night were backed up by reports from the past I’d have no problem labeling him a #4/5 starter. But the discrepancy between what I saw and what Dwyer’s track record has been has my enthusiasm tempered at least a little bit. I’ve got him pegged as a role 45 player, a #5 starter who isn’t exactly an innings eater.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts: A Comprehensive Review

If you’re not having fun within the system, it’s just a system. And that’s boring. This is why I don’t hesitate to skirt tasks at work in favor of actual fun. This fun comes in many forms and if I were to write about all of them, it too would be insanely boring. Really the things we consider fun in the office are only interesting in the context of the office itself where the alternative is mind-numbing interaction with a computer. Alas, this one is interesting because it involves food, a common cultural thread that runs through every part of the world. More specifically, it involves junk food. And we young Americans love junk food. We are, after all, the kids who grew up eating cereals made of cookies, Reese’s, marshmallows and Oreos. Fascinated by the colorful garbage that comes off of assembly lines in both ironic and legitimate ways, you can only imagine what it was like when I and a few co-workers of mine stumbled upon these:

We had to try them, of course, but that wasn’t enough for me. No, I needed something more. Intense records were kept and opinions were polled. Each taste tester graded several aspects of the pastry and submitted them for review. The categories included were: Visual Appeal Crust Taste Filling Taste Frosting Taste Overall Taste Sustainability (Can you see yourself eating several of them?) Versatility (Can you think of other interesting culinary uses for the pastry in question?) Grading was done on the 2-8 scale, a scientific scale in which 5 represents the average and each integer away from 5 represents a standard deviation away from the mean. In short, it looks like this:

8- This is Earth Shatteringly good and tasting it is like having sex

 7- I’m going to buy these things next time I’m at the grocery store even if I need to push an old lady over to get to them

6- These are delectable

5- Average

4- This is edible but I’m not gonna have another one

3- I’m making the “Ewwwww Face” as I chew

2- So bad you had to spit it out

The results are in. Below are the grades for each category along with comments from some of the tasters. Their names have been removed to protect their anonymity.

Visual Appeal

Average: 5.2

High: 7

Low: 4

Comments- “It has sprinkles. They’re pretty. How can you not like the way it looks? What has sprinkles and tastes bad?”

 Crust Taste

Average: 4.6

High: 5

Low: 4

“It tastes like every other plain crust on everything else. It’s not bad but I feel like an opportunity was missed here.” 

“Crust was bland.” 

Filling Taste

Average: 4.4

High: 5

Low: 4

“Pumpkin Flavor very limited.” 

“Too Sweet.” 

“Lacked the earthiness of actual pumpkin pie and was sweeter than I anticipated. Aromatics were one note: Nutmeg.” 

“I would have liked if there were more filling.” 

Frosting Taste 

Average: 5

High: 6

Low: 4

“It’s standard Pop-Tart frosting so it’s good. You need to eat it with the frosting side down to maximize frosting taste.” 


 Average: 5

High: 6

Low: 4


Average: 3.8

High: 5

Low: 2

“I’d like to try it after dipping it in coffee.” 


Average: 4.8

High: 5

 Low: 4


“Edible but not a top-tier Pop-Tart.” 

“Overall an average Pop-Tart but will not replace Belvita Breakfast Biscuits as go-to breakfast related snack.” 

 We also asked our panel to decide if the pop tart would be better warm. Most responses were affirmative in this regard although one panelist stated that he/she would never think that warming the Pop-tart could make any of them better and claimed warm tarts to be, “Gross.” We cannot, in good conscience, recommend Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts to anyone who is looking for an exceptional product. They are a middling, mediocre offering far beneath the standards set forth by the Kellogs forefathers.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Joe Panik Scouting Report (San Francisco Giants)

Amateur talent in the northeastern part of the country is tough to come by and even tougher to scout when you do come by it. One of the first round one players I saw as a amateur was former St. John’s shortstop Joe Panik who was selected 29th overall by the San Francisco Giants in 2011. A shortstop in college, Panik spent most of his time in 2013 at second base.

Joe Panik has your commonplace middle infielder body. He’s a relatively thin 6’1”, 190lbs with long limbs. He is not overly physical but also isn’t so wiry that you’re concerned he’s going to have the bat knocked out of his hands. There’s still some projection left here and I do think Panik will put on some weight as he ages. How that weight will impact his game remains to be seen. It’s possible it could allow him to hit for more power than he does right now (which isn’t much) but it could also sap the already fringe range he has at second base.

Let’s keep it right there and address the defense. Panik has below average speed and his first step and reactions aren’t quick enough to hide it in the field enough for him to play shortstop every day. Not for me, anyway. The arm is average both on strength and accuracy. The hands and feel for the position are just okay. I’ve seen Panik make some fine plays toward the bag from both directions and I’ve also seen him make an adventure out of plays that I regard as routine. He could probably play a passable short for some, but my personal tastes prefer an above average defender at the position unless the bat is exceptional.

Panik’s bat is not. The pure bat-to-ball skills are really interesting. I put a future 55 on Panik’s hit tool. He’s short to the ball and displays good eye-hand coordination. He sports a simple, toe-tap stride and closes before he takes a nice, balanced swing. The bat speed is not good and, as a result, Panik just doesn’t hit the baseball very hard all that often, though he does show the ability to spray balls in every direction. I have a 35 on the power right now but I think that contact skills are good enough that he’ll hit his share of doubles in the gaps. I project the power to a 4.

So what kind of value does a player like this possess? There’s not enough glove to play shortstop (not that he’d play there for San Francisco anyway with Brandon Crawford there right now) and not bat to make you say, “Screw it” and stick him there anyway. Is there enough of both for him to play everyday at second base? We’ve seen players like this succeed there before. Marco Scutaro has had a nice career with a similar skill set (though his is a true plus hit tool and might be more) as did Randy Velarde and Tony Graffanino. One thing those guys have/had that Panik doesn’t right now is some positional versatility. Panik has worked at 2B and SS but I’d like to see him log some practice time in other places. The way the Giants have groomed him thus far suggests that they think he can be an everyday secondbaseman. The lack of pop would relegate him to second-division status for me if that’s the case. You could certainly do worse. Panik did not have a good year in 2013 and it's not out of the realm of possibility that he's sent back to Double-A to begin 2014. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Drew Hutchison Scouting Report (Toronto Blue Jays)

I ran into an oddly high number of rehabbing starting pitchers this season. The most unique of these was Blue Jays right-hander, Drew Hutchison. Hutchison had barely pitched above A-ball before making his Major League debut in 2012. After logging about 60 innings with the Jays (and seeing his fastball velo tick up inexplicably) Huchison suffered an arm injury and needed Tommy John surgery. I saw four of the thirty-five innings he threw this year in rehabilitation on that injury.

At 6’2” and 195lbs, Hutchison is of average height and build. He’s thin, angular and proportional with strength in his thighs. There’s some room for him to add weight and maintain his current delivery but he looks comfortable with where he’s at right now. Hutchison’s delivery is slow and casual until he begins to accelerate his arm when everything speeds up in a mildly violent manner. He cuts himself off a bit in the process but for the most part everything heads for home plate. It’s not an easy-does-it delivery that’s going to summon visions of ballet dancers or make you think of a warm cup of tea on a cool autumn morning, but it also isn’t so bad that I think he’s going to break again.

The fastball sat 87-92mph for me with a little bit of movement. Hutch commanded it well on the horizontal axis but really struggled to keep the ball down a lot of the time. By my count, he yielded 12 outs in the air as opposed to just one on the ground. I put a 55 on his control and a 45 on his command. How those two develop as his rehab continues will have a big impact on his success. He can’t live up in the zone with a 55 fastball in the big leagues.

Hutchison’s slider was his best pitch. A true grade-6 weapon, slidey’s velo ranged anywhere from 82-87mph with serious horizontal whip. He worked it back toot to left-handed hitters and away from righties. I’d like to see him pitch backwards with it. He only threw four full innings in the start I saw so perhaps he’d be more likely to do so if he saw the lineup turn over a third or fourth time. The changeup is a fringe-average pitch with good arm speed but lacking in movement. The changeup grip was easy for me to see as the ball left his hand but whether or not the hitter can also make that distinction from field level, I don’t know.

I put a 50 on Hutch as an overall grade and I think he’s a fourth or fifth starter at the big league level. My main concern is how often that fastball was left up in the zone and whacked into the outfield somewhere. If he can correct that then I think he can attain the grade I’ve assigned him above. If not, I wonder if a move to the bullpen would allow the velocity to tick up a bit more and thus provide him with more margin for error on those pitches he leaves up. In that case I think he could be an interesting 7th or 8th inning reliever when you throw in that nasty slider.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Felipe Rivero Scouting Report (Tampa Bay Rays)

Rays pitcher Felipe Rivero had the most impressive arm of any that I saw during my trip to Florida. The 21 year-old, Venezuelan lefty presents scouts with an interesting conundrum. He has flashes impressive stuff but comes with a few concerning warts.

Rivero’s size has been an issue for scouts since he signed in 2008. Listed at 5’10” and 150lbs, Rivero looks every bit of that and might even be a hair taller. He certainly pitches taller, staying very upright through his release and firing from a nearly true 3/4s arm slot. He pitches far enough downhill that I’m not worried about him being homer-prone because of his height and a flat fastball. Rivero has certainly put on weight, mostly in the right places, as his thighs and ass are thick and strong. He makes good use of the lower half in his delivery. Rivero’s arm works pretty well, It’s not the most gorgeous, athletic delivery I’ve ever seen but I’m not squirming when he throws, either. The control and command aren’t great (control is fringy right now, command is a little worse) but aren’t so bad that you banish him to the bullpen solely because of it (though, if the ‘pen is his ultimate destination, it will be a contributing factor). There’s essentially no physical projection remaining here.

As far as pure stuff is concerned, Rivero is packing. His fastball sat 91-94mph in his first inning of work with late tail, a true plus offering that showed even better at times. Rivero lost velo, however, as his outing wore on. He was showing mostly 87-90mph as early as the third inning and struggled to amp things up above 91mph when he wanted it later. There are several potential causes for this drop, obviously. Again, if this is something Rivero experiences habitually, it’s something that could contribute to a move to the bullpen.

Quality secondary stuff is a rarity in Hi-A ball so it was a treat to see not one, but two potential weapons in Rivero’s curveball and changeup. The curve will spin in the 76-78mph range with impressive vertical depth. The pitch is consistently average and will show plus more than a few times. Like the fastball, Rivero’s breaking ball was less and less enthralling as his start progressed. It was never bad, it was simply less dangerous. The changeup is behind Rivero’s other two pitches but it isn’t bad. A tad firm at times (mostly 83-86mph), it featured quite a bit of arm-side run and arm speed to match the heater, showing a tad better than average in a few instances while settling in as a grade 45 pitch overall. Rivero clearly has a feel for it and it’s not unreasonable to think it might be a swing and miss weapon one day.

Overall we’re looking at what I think will be three useful big league pitches one day and a control/command profile that should improve enough to play out of the rotation. The one concern I have is the stamina. As long as that isn’t an ongoing issue for Rivero I think the Rays have a stellar #4 starter here with room for a bit more if the player development staff works an unforeseen miracle or two. I expect Tampa to continue barbecuing this young man like they have with virtually all of their pitching prospects over the last half decade.

The Grades: Present/Future

Fastball: 55/60

Curveball: 55/60

Changeup: 45/55

Control: 40/45

Command: 35/45


Monday, July 1, 2013

Michael Pineda Scouting Report (With notes on Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin)

As the Yankee-loving universe is probably aware, Michael Pineda is working his way back from injury on a lengthy rehab stint in the minor leagues. I made the lengthy journey to my least favorite minor league ballpark to see Pineda as well as a few other Yankee prospects.

Michael Pineda is every bit of the 6’7” and 260lbs at which he is listed (Curiously, he is listed at 260 on Baseball Reference’s MLB page and just 255 on Bref’s MiLB page). He is thick and physical, though not overly athletic and can have trouble repeating his delivery at times. This can, of course, result in spells where the control and command disappear. This was not the case last week when I saw Pineda, who threw 54 of his 79 pitches for strikes. His start on Sunday was poor, however, as he threw just 35 of 70 pitches for strikes. Strike throwing issues are a common occurrence in pitchers of extreme height. The Yankees struggled to remedy this very issue with Dellin Betances (6’8”), who has been relegated to middle/long relief in Triple-A where the results have been much better (Betances allowed just 3 runs and walked 6 while striking out 23 in 18.1 June innings). Pineda’s issues with mechanical repetition are not as horrifyingly bad as Betances’ have been, and I certainly don’t expect them to be bad enough that Pineda has to move to the bullpen, but when you consider how difficult it’s been for Yankees pitchers to iron out control issues over the last half decade or so, it’s worth noting.

Pineda’s stuff is good, albeit incomplete, as it was while he was busy racking up a solid 170 innings during his rookie year in Seattle. His average Fastball velocity during his inaugural 2011 campaign was 94.7mph. Last Tuesday, Pineda’s fastball ranged from 90-95mph and sat 92-93mph. It’s heavy and difficult to elevate thanks to Pineda’s size, but I’m sure the Yankees are hoping to see his velocity return to pre-injury levels. The fastball will have natural cut on it at times.

Pineda’s slider looked fantastic. He gained better feel for it as his start went on, throwing a few for strikes early in counts but mostly using it as a swing and miss pitch in the dirt. His slider displayed a wide variance of velocity. He threw a few as low as 81mph, several at 85mph and even touched 87mph once (on what was the best individual slider I’ve ever seen in person). Mostly he was 83-84mph with it, featuring significant late vertical movement. It’s a consistent plus pitch that will flash better, and a true weapon.

The changeup is another story. Firm, at 88-89mph, it doesn’t move much and is more or less just an offering Pineda can use to change speeds and keep hitters off his fastball. He doesn’t use it much and I don’t expect him to when he returns to the Major Leagues.


Fastball: 65 (will show some natural cut)

Slider: 65 (flashes plus-plus)

Changeup: 40

Control: 45 (was great on Tuesday, was not on Sunday)

Command: 40

Overall, he still looks like a fine #3 starter, especially if the control he displayed in his first start at Double-A becomes the norm for him.

Other Yankee prospects of note:

Slade Heathcott (CF) – Physical and muscular, Heathcott put on the most impressive BP of anyone I saw at last year’s Arizona Fall League last year. He’s a tremendous athlete with plus-plus running and throwing tools and projects to stay in CF despite his thick build. He has the arm and offensive profile to play in RF if, for some reason, he does slow down one day. His swing is handsy, he doesn’t incorporate his lower half very much, but he’s strong enough and has a quick enough bat that balls still explode off the wood when he makes solid contact. Heathcott’s issues come from how he plays the game. His approach is over-aggressive, he’s often erratic and putting himself into situations where he could get hurt (and he often does). The ceiling here is quite high, All Star type stuff. Whether or not he gets there will depend on all sorts of secondary still that take time to develop (and frankly, to scout). I want to see more, but I like what I see very much.


Hit: 45 (approach issues and handsy swing need some tweeking)

Power: 50 (could tap into more if he incorporates the lower half into the swing better)

Glove: 60

Arm: 65

Run: 70

Tyler Austin (Corner OF) – A body built for a corner outfield spot, Austin has tremendous bat to ball ability but lacks the power you look for in a left or right fielder. There’s enough pop there that I still think he could put up numbers befitting an average Major League outfielder (especially in Yankee Stadium), especially when you factor in his advanced approach at the plate. The defense is just okay, nothing notable there, good or bad. Austin’s approach is such a big part of his game and will play such a huge roll in his future that, like Heathcott, I want to see more to get a better feel.


Hit: 60

Power: 45 (could play up to due home park environment and thanks to his approach which will get him into favorable counts)

Glove: 45

Arm: 50

Run: 40

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Anthony Ranaudo Scouting Report (Boston Red Sox)

“I need something in the foreground to give it some scale”

That line from Jaws is all I could think about when I first laid in-person eyes on Anthony Ranaudo who is a monstrous human being, one whose size is not done justice in photographs. At 6’7” and a listed 231lbs (which I think might be a tad light), Ranaudo is an imposing presence on the mound. His delivery is a bit odd, slow and meandering to start before everything speeds up toward the end. It looks odd and uncomfortable and may or may not have a little bit to do with the two arm injuries he’s had over the past few years and the problems he’s had with control in the past. One thing I positively love about Ranaudo’s delivery is his arm angle. It’s a nearly straight over the top offering that allows Ranaudo to take full advantage of his frame and create more downhill plane on his pitches than I’ve seen out of any other prospect this year.

Combine that extreme plane with true plus velocity and you have one hell of a fastball. Ranaudo will sit 92-94mph with the heater and will touch 96mph. When a pitch that hard is descending from the heavens, it’s quite hard to do any damage to it. Ranaudo’s best secondary pitch is a 60 grade power curveball that sits in the low 80s and has true 12-6 movement. His command and use of the pitch is not yet refined. I’d like to see him pitch backwards with it, freeze hitters with it, bury it in the dirt for swings and misses. He just kinda throws it and sees what happens right now. That’ll work against Double-A hitters because the pitch is too explosive on its own to be trifled with at this stage. But it’s something for him to work on.

Ranaudo threw an awful lots of curveballs the other night and more or less ignored the changeup, which is a below average offering at present. On the surface you’d think they’d have Ranaudo working on the change, which site in the 86-88mph range and features almost no movement. Ranaudo’s changeup grip is a hybrid straight change/circle-change type grip. I wonder if, given his arm angle and the size of his hands and fingers, if a splitter grip might be more effective.

The raw material is there for a mid-rotation starter, maybe more if everything (an improved changeup, more sophisticated use of the curveball, good health) comes together. At the very worst (if the control goes backward for one reason or another or he continues to struggle with injuries and can’t handle a starter’s workload) I think he has the stuff to be a dominant late-inning reliever. I like him quite a bit and look forward to checking in with Ranaudo again soon to see if strides have been made.


Fastball: 65 (tons of downhill plane)

Curveball: 60 (needs to learn how to optimize its usage)

Changeup: 40 (maybe try a split grip?)

Control: 45

Command: 40

One Other Red Sox arm of note:

Miguel Celestino (RHP) – Acquired from Seattle along with Bill Hall in the Casey Kotchman trade, Celestino is tall, wiry and has 80 grade fastball velo but lacks control over his body and his delivery which results in 30 control/command. It’s really, really messy. He features a split in the low 90s and a short little slider/cutter thing in that’ll touch 93mph. You can’t teach someone to throw this hard, but Celestino’s got to iron some things out if he’s going to be a big leaguer. This is his first year pitching in full-time relief.

Fine, one more guy I kinda like:

Pete Ruiz (RHP) – Plus fastball, plus slider (81-83mph) which he uses in all sorts of fun ways (snuck in the back door several times vs Reading last week) and a curveball with velocity just barely beneath the slider. Control comes and goes, mostly goes. Double-A hitters don’t often see a guy who can spot the breaking ball where Ruiz was sticking it last night. It might not be as effective in the big leagues where more hitters can react to it and do something with it. He’s 25 years old at Double-A but he interests me.