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.