Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Prospect A to Z: Matt Spann

The Rays' 25th-rounder from a Tennessee high school in 2010, Spann followed up a promising debut in the GCL with a nice 2011 season at Princeton. The 6-7/185 lefty was 4-1 with a 3.13 ERA, striking out 61 and walking 18 in 63.1 innings. He also used his downhill plane to his advantage with a 1.76 GO/AO, and held opponents to a .239 average. While the Rays like to take it slow with prospects, Spann might be ready for full-season ball. He's a candidate for the Bowling Green rotation, along with:

Jason McEachern - 2008 high school draftee, pitched at Bowling Green/Hudson Valley
Ryan Carpenter - 2011 college draftee, pitched at Hudson Valley
Andrew Bellatti - 2009 high school draftee, pitched at Hudson Valley
Parker Markel - 2010 junior college draftee, pitched at Hudson Valley
Jacob Partridge - 2009 high school draftee, pitched at Hudson Valley
Jeff Ames - 2011 junior college draftee, pitched at Princeton
Felipe Rivero - 2008 international signee, pitched at Princeton
Brandon Henderson - 2010 high school draftee, pitched at Princeton
Taylor Guerrieri - 2011 high school draftee, did not debut
Grayson Garvin - 2011 college draftee, did not debut

It's a pretty crowded lot. McEachern deserves another shot at Bowling Green, unless his stuff is good enough to skip him, but he's struggled statistically above Hudson Valley. Carpenter and Grayson could both theoretically be skipped up to Charlotte as college guys. Markel is probably a lock for Bowling Green. I see the Rays taking it slowly with Taylor Guerrieri, starting him in extended spring training. Jeff Ames has a nice shot at the Hot Rods unless the Rays fast-track him as a reliever. Partridge and Bellatti seem to have pitched well enough to get their promotion, and it'd be unusual to hold them back in short-season another year. Brandon Henderson will likely follow the Bellatti/Partridge track and pitch at Hudson Valley; he wasn't as good statistically as Spann.

How do you see it shaping up?

Winter League Scores and Highlights from 11/29

Dominican Winter League
Leones del Escogido 7, Gigantes del Cibao 0
Nevin Ashley was 0 for 2 with a walk.

Puerto Rico Winter League
Criollos de Caguas 9, Leones de Ponce 5
Sergio Espinosa pitched 2/3 scoreless inning with a hit and a walk.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Winter League Scores and Highlights from 11/28

Venezuelan Winter League
Navegantes del Magallanes 10, Leones del Caracas 4
Justin Ruggiano was 0 for 3 with a walk.
Stephen Vogt was 1 for 5 with an RBI.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Prospect A to Z: Ryan Carpenter

Just a quick note before everyone goes and places Grayson Garvin ahead of Ryan Carpenter in their prospect rankings based on draft position...

2011 college stats
Garvin (SEC) - 13-2 2.48 era 112.2 ip 98 h 25 bb 101 so
Carpenter (WCC) - 8-2 2.63 era 96 ip 72 h 33 bb 107 so

2010 Cape Cod stats
Garvin - 36.2 ip 18 h 3 er 12 bb 37 so
Carpenter - 38.2 ip 32 h 11 er 10 bb 39 so

Garvin 10/27/89
Carpenter 8/22/90

Scouting reports (BaseballAmerica draft database)
Garvin - Garvin has performed as well as any Division I pitcher over the last calendar year. He was the Cape Cod League's ERA champion last summer at 5-0, 0.74 with 37 strikeouts in 37 innings. In the spring, he was 11-1, 2.08 and was a perfect 9-0 in Southeastern Conference play until his last start of the regular season. He was named SEC pitcher of the year. Garvin's performance stems from his size, solid stuff and ability to pitch off his fastball. At 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, he gets a good angle on his fastball, pitching downhill, coming inside effectively at 90-92 mph and reaching 94-95 on occasion. His fastball velocity should be a tick above-average as a pro, and he uses his fastball well to set up his solid-average changeup, which has solid fade when he turns it over. His slurvy slider is below-average and rarely generates swings and misses, which limits his upside for many scouts, and he may wind up throwing more of a cutter eventually. Garvin is considered a safe pick, and his summer performance could push him into the first or supplemental first round despite his short breaking ball.

Carpenter - Gonzaga lefthander Ryan Carpenter has been an enigma for scouts. He's 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds and has touched 97 mph in the past, though he has been around 89-92 early in starts this year and even as low as 84. He had mediocre results his first two years at Gonzaga, though he was always impressive in summer ball against wood bats. In 2009, he led the Alaska League in strikeouts, and he came within five whiffs of leading the Cape Cod League last year. His time in the Cape helped him trust his fastball more, and he's working off it primarily for the first time this year. Statistically, Carpenter had his best year by far, going 8-2, 2.62 even though his stuff has been down. Carpenter also throws a big curveball, a slider that shows flashes of being a plus pitch and a changeup. The team that drafts Carpenter will be hoping that his size and relative youth will allow the stuff they've seen in the past to come back.


Carpenter had worse (but not by a ton) college stats once you adjust for competition, very similar Cape Cod rate stats (strikeouts and walks per inning), is 10 months younger, has flashed better stuff in the past but still succeeded with "down" stuff, not to mention 23.2 excellent innings with Hudson Valley (26 strikeouts, 4 walks, 2 earned runs). Just sayin'.

Winter League Scores and Highlights from 11/27

Venezuelan Winter League
Leones del Caracas 5, Cardenales de Lara 4
Stephen Vogt was 1 for 4.

Dominican Winter League
Gigantes del Cibao 9, Aguilas Cibaenas 5
Nevin Ashley was 3 for 4 with a triple, RBI and 2 runs scored.
Omar Luna wsa 2 for 3.

Australian Baseball League
Melbourne Aces 14, Canberra Cavalry 8
Darryl George was 1 for 4 with a double and 2 runs scored.
Todd Glaesmann was 0 for 3.
Ty Morrison was 1 for 3 with a run scored.

Canberra Calvary 4, Melbourne Aces 1
Darryl George was 2 for 3 with a double and a run scored.
Todd Glaesmann was 2 for 4 with a double, RBI and a run scored.
Ty Morrison was 0 for 3 with a walk.

Puerto Rico Winter League
Leones de Ponce 6, Indios de Mayaguez 4
Sergio Espinosa pitched 2/3 no-hit inning with a strikeout.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Future Considerations Podcast (Episode 9: John Sickels' Rays List, Final AFL Thoughts, CF Prospects, and Baseball's New CBA)

This week, Scott and Kevin talk about John Sickels' Rays top 25 list, give their final thoughts on the Arizona Fall League, and tackle centerfield as their prospect position of the week.On the broader Major League front, they discuss baseball's new Collective Baragaining Agreement and what it means for the Rays.

Questions or comments? E-mail

Music is from Isle of Q

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Winter League Scores and Highlights from 11/26

Venezuelan Winter League
Tiburones de La Guaira 4, Leones del Caracas 3
Stephen Vogt was 2 for 4 with a double.

Aguilas de Zulia 2, Bravos De Margarita 0
Ryan Reid pitched a scorless inning with one hit to earn his seventh save.

Dominican Winter League
Aguilas Cibaenas 5,l Toros del Este 2
Mayo Acosta was 0 for 3.

Australian Baseball League
Melbourne Aces 7, Canberra Calvary 6 (12 innings)
Darryl George was 3 for 6 with a double, RBI and 2 runs scored.
Todd Glaesmann was 2 for 5 with 3 RBI's.
Ty Morrison was 2 for 6 with a home rune and 3 runs scored.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Winter League Scores and Highlights from 11/25

Venezuelan Winter League
Leones del Caracas 7, Cardenales de Lara 3
Stephen Vogt was 3 for 5 with a walk and a run scored.

Dominican Winter League
Gigantes del Cibao 5, Aguilas Cibaenas 4
Nevin Ashley was 1 for 4 with a double.

Estrellas de Oriente 11, Toros del Este 1
Mayo Acosta was 0 for 1.

Australian Baseball League
Canberra Cavalry, Melbourne Aces (Postponed)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Winter League Scores and Highlights from 11/24

Venezuelan Winter League
Leones del Caracas 6, Tigres de Aragua 1
Stephen Vogt was 1 for 4 with a 3 run homer.

Australian Baseball League
Canberra Calvary 5, Melbourne Aces 2
Darryl George pinch hit in the eighth, drew a walk.
Todd Glaesmann 3 for 4 with a doubleand an RBI.
Ty Morrison 0 for 4 with a walk and 2 runs scored.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Prospect A to Z: Juniel Querecuto

This post isn't really about Juniel Querecuto, who signed for more than $500,000 in 2009 and hit .241/.292/.303 for Hudson Valley. But shortstop is the Rays deepest position, so I just wanted to stack up how it'll look in 2012:

MLB - Reid Brignac, Sean Rodriguez
AAA - Tim Beckham
AA - Hak-Ju Lee
A+ - Derek Dietrich
A - Juniel Querecuto
SS-A - Jake Hager
Rk-A - Brandon Martin
GCL-A - Draftee

Once you get down to Bowling Green, it's tricky. Does Jake Hager jump up to full-season ball, letting Querecuto repeat Hudson Valley? Also, Derek Dietrich should start the year at shortstop, but does he finish there? What do you guys think?

Winter League Scores and Highlights from 11/21

Dominican Winter League
Gigantes del Cibao 6, Estrellas de Oriente 0
Nevin Ashley was 0 for 3.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chattin with Chaim Bloom, Part III

(Editor's note: Prospect A to Z will return tomorrow, but here's the third and final part of Jakes' interview with Chaim Bloom)

JL: Is everything starting to "click" for Beckham or does he still have a little more room for improvement(K/BB still worrisome, some questions about his "speed" and size lead to questions about positional changes)?

CB: There is definitely room for improvement, and knowing his drive to get better, I'm sure Tim would tell you the same thing. That said, he really got better this year, especially offensively. He's strong and the ball jumps off his bat, and as he continues to make adjustments and refine his approach, I think we'll see his numbers reflect that.

JL: Robinson Chirinos had a slow start to his year, but improved as the year went on. Is he "major league"-ready or is he still new to the position? Stories, post-trade, kept alluding to the fact that the Rays were very "high" on him and his ST results showed some possible glimpses to his future. Should his age be a worry or a possible reason to worry about how many possible valuable years that he's got to (A) make it to the majors and (B) perform there.

CB: Because of how new he is to catching, Robinson deserves a mulligan on the age question. After a great spring he got off to a poor start at Durham and it took him a while to get hot. When he's on his game he'll hit line drives all over the place. Defensively, he's getting there and he's certainly athletic enough to succeed. It's still about experience and repetition for him.

JL: With the Rule 5 draft becoming more and more important, does it make it harder for you guys to decide who makes the 40-Man rosters?

CB: Yes, but that's a good problem to have because it means we have a lot of talented players. There are a lot of factors that go into those decisions, and we lean heavily on our scouts and development staff in helping us determine the readiness of each player to stick in the big leagues if we were to leave them off our 40-man.

JL: In Matt Bush, Marquis Fleming and Scott Schuman, the Rays have 3 relief prospects with insane K-rates and Lenny Linsky isn't too far behind. What have your pitching coordinators/coaches been teaching these guys?

CB: I'm glad you mentioned our pitching coordinators -- Dick Bosman and Dewey Robinson -- because they deserve a lot of credit for where those four guys have gotten. They're all working on a number of things but with the first three, fastball command is key -- Bush and Shuman throw extremely hard and, if they execute, are really difficult to square up, while Fleming needs to get ahead in the count to allow his changeup to come into play. Our scouts saw tremendous life on Linsky's fastball and they were spot on. It's still early in his journey and we're refining his delivery so he can repeat it better. When he's on, he can make hitters look downright silly.

JL: Tyler Bortnick and Stephen Vogt are 2 guys who always light up scoresheets with crooked numbers, but never get the acclaim that they deserve. What are your thoughts on how these guys have developed and do u think there's more names in the organization of players who are overlooked due to height or lack of "stuff"/upside concerns?

CB: Both of these guys are examples of what I mentioned earlier: players who weren't high draft picks but who nonetheless are on their way to the major leagues. Vogt and Bortnick have very different profiles but they have two things in common: one, they possess outstanding will and dedication; two, they can hit! That determination, though, is very important. Often when you're a lower pick or someone with an unusual profile, you have to pass others on the depth chart and you really have to will your way to the big leagues. Now behind Bortnick we're seeing other infielders like Robby Price and Taylor Motter open some eyes and we can't wait to find out if they can do the same.
JL: What has been the highlight of your career thus far as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays Organization?

CB: It should not be a surprise that the single most memorable feeling I have had here was when Aki stepped on second base in '08 and we won the pennant. But on a more everyday level, I'm extremely fortunate in that I wake up every day excited to get to work, and the biggest reason for that is the caliber of the folks I work with, both in the office and on the field. We have so many terrific people here who deserve a ton of praise for what we've been able to accomplish.

JL: Any thoughts or comments for those who may want to follow in your footsteps and working in a baseball front office or scouting department?

CB: There are many different paths in this game, and everyone needs to blaze his or her own. There are few absolutes. In general, I would say that the more you can do to develop your skills and display your passion, the better off you will be. It's not always easy but there are many things you can do from outside of the business to learn more about it, gain experience, and separate yourself from the pack. The competition to get in is very stiff -- yet another reminder of how fortunate we are to have this opportunity. This takes persistence, hard work and sacrifice, but it's wonderful to feel so passionate about what you do for a living.

Winter League Scores and Highlights from 11/20

Venezuelan Winter League
Leones del Caracas 6, Aguilas del Zulia 1
Stephen Vogt was 1 for 5.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

John Sickels' Rays Top Prospects

Click for grades and comments, but here's the list:

1. Matt Moore
2. Hak-Ju Lee
3. Alex Torres
4. Alex Colome
5. Taylor Guerrieri
6. Mikie Mahtook
7. Brandon Guyer
8. Parker Markel
9. Ryan Brett
10. Drew Vettleson

11. Chris Archer
12. Enny Romero
13. Tyler Goeddel
14. Jake Hager
15. Tim Beckham
16. Oscar Hernandez
17. Granden Goetzman
18. Tyler Bortnick
19. Felipe Rivero
20. Derek Dietrich

21. Lenny Linsky
22. Nick Barnese
23. Josh Sale
24. Jeff Ames
25. Kes Carter


By the way, the RaysProspects individual lists will be coming out the first full week of December.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chattin' with Chaim Bloom, Part II

Part II focuses on compensatory picks, Kirsch's Pac-NW scouting, Pitching Vs. Positional prospects, Mikie Mahtook and HJL. Enjoy!!!

JL: Before 2010, the Rays had 0 compensatory picks in drafts. In the last 2 drafts, the Rays have seemingly made up for every draft with multiple extra picks. Do you believe that this is to the Rays' benefit to add extra picks to the early rounds,thus causing the budget for the Draft to rise by a few million or does it make it harder by having more players to scout on a yearly basis?

CB: The June draft is vital to our success and we were certainly glad to have as many extra picks in 2011 as we did. Of course they come with financial and logistical challenges, but they give us a chance to add a lot of talent to the system and so those are challenges that we welcome.


JL: It seems, on a yearly basis, that the Rays have drafted an abundance of players from the Pacific Northwest. In fact, according to some fact-checking by BurGi of Rays Prospects(cheap plug), the Rays have never had a draft in which they drafted less than 5% of their players from Washington or Oregon. In fact, 2010's draft started out with a plethora of Pac-NW players. Does Paul Kirsch know something that others don't?

CB: PK's grasp of the Northwest is as good as there is in the industry and he backs that up with a great work ethic and conviction in his opinions. When those things are in place, an area scout is going to get players, because he puts the scouting director in a position to take them. For a player to go at the top of the draft, a lot of people need to believe in his ability, but you may not even get to that point unless the area guy does his homework.


JL: In the last few years, it's become blindingly clear that the Rays produce pitchers like no farm system has since the Early 2000's Cubs(Prior, Wood, Cruz, Willis, Nolasco to name a few). However, Rays fans have questioned the farm system's ability to produce homegrown positional talent. Do the Rays incorporate a certain philosophy when it comes to positional talent as it appears that it does with pitchers?

CB: We try to have a method to everything that we do, whether it's with position players or pitchers. Certainly, in recent years we've been much more successful developing pitching, especially starting pitching, which is a hugely important area for us. But we've had some high-quality position players come through our system, too, and have a number of prospects now at various levels that we think have a real chance to make an impact.


JL: Rays fans were quite shocked when the Rays decided to add Mikie Mahtook's name to the list of Rays representative's for the Arizona Fall League. Was this due to how advanced he was believed to have already been as a hitter at the time of his draft or did the organization believe that a post-draft layoff for him would not be beneficial to his benefit?

CB: Mikie came to us as one of the most accomplished players in college baseball and, coming from the SEC, was used to a high level of play. We felt he'd be able to hold his own against the competition in Arizona and to his credit he's done even better than that. He comes to play every day, and he's had great at-bats and hit the ball hard.


JL: With the trade of Matt Garza, the Rays somewhat shored-up 2 positions that it was believed that the organization didn't have quality or "impactful" depth at, shortstop and catcher. Hak-Ju Lee had a very successful season at PC, but somewhat hit a bump when he got promoted to AA. Did his early-season health issues have anything to do with possible conditioning problems that may be to blame for his declines in Montgomery?

CB: Hak-Ju's still young and still growing into his body, and between that and the extreme heat of both the Port Charlotte and Montgomery summers, he was a little worn out by the end of the year. The learning experiences in the minor leagues aren't confined to the quality of the opposition -- they're also about learning what you need to do to prepare your body on a daily basis, and getting ready for the longest season -- 162, and hopefully more, big league games. It's a process, and there are going to be bumps in the road, especially for players who are young for their level.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chattin' with Chaim Bloom, Part I

It's been awhile since I've posted here, however I shall make up for the delay in posts with a Q&A that I had with Chaim Bloom, the Rays' Assistant Director of Minor League Operations. Due to the size and content of the Q&A, I chopped it up into 3 parts. In the 1st. we will focus a bit on his beginnings at BP, thoughts on the future of the Farm system, International Scouting, Oscar Hernandez and the extreme park factors of the VSL Rays' ballpark and how it prepares our youngsters for life in the AL East.

  • Jake: Your beginnings, unbeknownst to some, were at Baseball Prospectus. What did you do there and what style of articles did you write? Were you familiar/friends with fellow Rays front office member James Click back then?
  • Chaim: My work there was behind the scenes at first, but I eventually got the opportunity to write articles on different topics. Everything I did at BP, and being exposed to the sharp minds that were there, helped me greatly in honing my critical thinking skills. James was a part of that group and his work was very impressive.

  • JL: Since Stu's ownership took over the team, it seems that the Rays farm system has actually improved by leaps and bounds in the way things are run and how expansive it is. This is shocking, considering the past that the Rays endured pre-2008 with high-end draft picks. Without going into full detail, do you foresee anymore changes and expansions to the Rays' farm system?
  • CB: We've emphasized repeatedly how important player development is to this organization, and that means doing everything possible to help every player in our system and not only our high picks. That's why we have as many minor league teams and instructors as we do, and why we continue to grow our investments in peripheral programs such as nutrition and mental skills. We are always looking for ways to develop more big leaguers and will continue to look for ways to improve and grow.

  • JL: Inquiring minds would like to know how the Brazilian Academy is doing. Looking at VSL/DSL rosters, the word "Brazil" will pop up in hometowns of players, but do you foresee in the near future when more and more talent from Brazil starts playing in summer leagues and short-season leagues state-side?
  • CB: Our efforts in Brazil are definitely a long-term project but, as you mention, the search for talent has begun and we look forward to it paying dividends in the years ahead.

  • JL: Stepan Havilcek was an interesting signing a couple years ago, out of the Czech Republic, do you see the Rays expanding into Europe, the Pacific Rim and Australia for Int'l talent?
  • CB: There are different challenges that come with expanding into countries outside of the US and Latin America but we can't ignore any part of the world that could potentially yield major league caliber talent. All of the areas that you mention have produced players, though on a smaller scale than the Americas, and as with Havlicek, our scouts will continue to identify young talent that has a chance, with time, to play in the big leagues.

  • JL: Oscar Hernandez had an amazing season for the VSL Rays this year, posting an astounding .400 average and 20+ HRs, what were your thoughts on Oscar's year? He wasn't considered to be a "bonus baby" talent, but performed to that level.
  • CB: Obviously, Oscar had an incredible season -- clearly the best offensive year in the history of the VSL and one of the best in Rays minor league history as well. More important to him was that we won the VSL championship -- you really couldn't have asked for more. He is still a long way off, but both his offensive and defensive tools show real promise. That was a great find by Ronnie Blanco and his scouting staff, and a great job by our coaches in Venezuela to help Oscar improve year over year as much as he did.

  • JL: Also, questions around minor league message boards and blogs question the size of the Rays' Venezuelan League Ballpark, stating it's splits make it appear no bigger than a Little League ballpark with the insane amount of HRs hit out of hit and the fact that the VSL Rays have posted the league leader in HRs basically every year that the team has been in existence. Do you have any thoughts on this?
  • CB: As you might guess from the park factors, we play in a hitter's park in Venezuela -- there's a short (but very high) fence in left field due to a paved road running behind the complex. The league has very few teams and also some larger parks, which makes ours look more extreme, even though center and right at our home field are very fair. The dimensions in left aren't something we can control, but the upside is that our pitchers learn very quickly that they need to keep the ball down...and they get an early preview of what it's like to pitch at Fenway Park!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Prospect A to Z Day 16: Parker Markel

Parker Markel was twice a late-round pick, selected by Detroit in the 32nd round out of high school in 2009 and again in the 39th round by the Rays in 2010, when he signed from Yavapai Junior College in Arizona. He was unheralded, as 30-something-round picks are, with inconsistent scouting reports. Here's BaseballAmerica's report on him from 2009:
Righthander Parker Markel had arm problems in the fall and was recovering from them this spring, so his stuff was down a little bit. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder still had enough stuff get results. He was throwing just 82 mph in a fall bullpen session, but his stuff came back as the spring progressed--he touched 91 mph--and he gets a lot of sink on his fastball from his three-quarters arm slot. He could add velocity as he matures. He has clean mechanics, the ball jumps out of his hand and he competes well. He'll head to Yavapai if he doesn't sign.
And from 2010:
Righthander Parker Markel can run his fastball up to 93 mph, but he's another guy who doesn't have a clean delivery and profiles as a middle reliever.
Emphasis mine, for the obvious contradiction. But such are the ways when getting second- or third-hand information about a lesser-known guy like Markel. He signed in time to pitch 10.1 innings in the Gulf Coast, striking out 13 and walking three. Impressive, but hardly enough to call him a guy to watch. Assigned to Hudson Valley, ESPN's Keith Law happened to see one of his early-season starts and filed this report:
A 39th-round pick out of Yavapai Junior College in Arizona, Markel was 92-97 mph early in the outing with a plus slider at 81-82 and a solid-average changeup with good arm speed at 81-84, although I think the low arm slot will still work against him somewhat against left-handed hitters. There's a lot of effort in his delivery without much use of his lower half, and as a result he didn't hold the velocity through his outing, working at 91-93 in the sixth with much less bite on the slider. He's a low-3/4 slinger who doesn't stride much or get over his front side well, and that -- plus the fact that he didn't hold his stuff -- makes him more likely to be a reliever. Even then, he's a reliever with two plus pitches, an average third pitch, and an aggressive approach making him a potential asset with late-game potential.
That raised some eyebrows for sure. A quality fastball, a plus slider, AND the makings of a usable change-up? Sign me up. Law noted some issues with his stamina, arm slot, and delivery, jiving with the earlier report, but that still sounds like a heck of a prospect.

But Markel had kind of a weird overall statline. Perhaps because of his stamina issues, he was excellent in June and July before getting rocked in August and September. His ERA (3.14), BB/9 (3.6), and K/9 (6.9) are okay but nothing special. The strikeouts, in particular, don't match up with the scouting report. That's one half of the weird part, along with his low H/9 of 6.6. Guys with great stuff are generally able to post low hit rates in the minors because of their ability to get strikeouts or at least weak contact. Matt Moore's career rate, for example, is 6.1. But a rate that low generally comes with a high number of strikeouts, as logicially strikeouts cannot go for hits while batted balls can.

So I think in 2012 at least one of those stats is going the other way. If his strikeout rate stays low, expect the hits to climb. If the hit rate stays low, expect it to be because he's striking more people out. In 2010, Jake Thompson had a strikeout rate of 6.9 -- identical to Markel -- and a hit rate of 5.3, along with similar reports of quality stuff. In 2011, he got the double-whammy as his strikeout rate fell to 4.4 and the hit rate inflated to 8.9.

I fear Markel may be of a similar profile. Reports on his stuff are great, and BA rated him the #3 prospect in the NY-PL, but the lack of strikeouts are a concern. Even though stats don't matter as much at that level, it seems players with his stuff would be able to overwhelm lower-level hitters. Markel didn't show that ability; even in June and July he was fanning under a batter per inning.

But it's obviously possible that things go the other way, his strikeout rate bounces up as he continues to develop and a regression of his .248 BABIP doesn't sting too badly. He was able to clean up his delivery somewhat, but his late-season struggles, if they were due to fatigue, may be a sign pointing toward the bullpen. 2012 will be a telling season as he handles a a full-season workload.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Future Considerations Podcast (Episode 8: Early Hot Stove Moves and Rumors, Three Pitching Phenoms, More Minor League FAs, and SS Prospects)

This week, Scott and Kevin review the early off-season action including the YouTube sensation Yoenis Cespedes, the Marlins suddenly-deep pockets, the Jonathan Papelbon deal, and the Giants-Royals trade. Moving to the Rays, the guys weigh in on the Stephen Strasburg vs. Matt Moore vs. Yu Darvish debate, talk about a few more minor league free agent possibilities, and continue their weekly positional rundown with shortstop prospects.

Music is from Isle of Q

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Veterans Day - And Thanks To Those Who Served

Prospect A to Z will return on Monday, so enjoy the 3-day weekend. But make sure you take a few moments to think about the men and women who've served in our armed forces, and if you know any veterans, let them know how much you appreciate their service.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Prospect A to Z Day 15: Justin O'Conner

Continuing on with our prospect per day. Today: Princeton catcher Justin O'Conner.

Justin O'Conner struck out a lot. That's probably not news to you, but it's obviously the first thing that needs to be discussed with him. After signing quickly as the 31st overall pick in 2010, O'Conner played 48 games in the Gulf Coast League to a .211/.301/.348 line - disappointing but not a disaster. Promoted to Princeton in 2011, he played in the same number of games (he had 10 more plate appearances in 2011), so let's see which way his numbers went:
Stat                2010   2011
Batting Average .211 .157
On-Base Percentage  .301   .234 
Slugging Percentage .348   .354 
Doubles               13      8 
Home Runs              3      9 
Walks                 18     17 
Strikeouts            46     78
He actually hit for good power when he happened to make contact as his 8 doubles and 9 home runs account for 17 of his 28 hits. But he went from striking out roughly once per game, a 24.6% K%. In 2011 that jumped 15% up to 39.%. That was third-worst in all of the minors, trailing only Juan Romero of the Indians in the AZL (43.5%) and the Red Sox' Seth Schwindenhammer in the NY-PL at 47.1%. Romero hit .225 and Schwindenhammer .213, and it's not hard to guess that a metric ton of strikeouts are going to lead to a low batting average. O'Conner wasn't helped by a .207 BABIP, but even if you bump that up, it maybe brings him over the Mendoza line.

So is there any hope for him? I think there is. O'Conner still made BA's Appalachian League top 20, because the tools that made him a first rounder -- big power, big arm -- are still there. He threw out 36% of baserunners and should be able to stick behind the dish, meaning he won't have to hit as much as if he were a third or first baseman.

While Drew Vettleson, Ryan Brett, and maybe even Josh Sale (who also struggled in Princeton, but didn't have anywhere near the swing-and-miss that O'Conner did) should be in Bowling Green next season, there's little doubt that O'Conner belongs in extended spring training to start the year and work on his swing. Then he'll likely head to Hudson Valley, where the hope is he can get his strikeouts back down to once per game and be happy with that, as he's probably never going to excel at making contact.

Winter League Scores and Highlights from 11/9

Arizona Fall League
Surprise Saguaros 10, Peoria Javelinas 7 (10 innings)
Tim Beckham was 0 for 5.
Tyler Bortnick was 0 for 1 with a walk.

Venezuelan Winter League
Leones del Caracas 4, Tiburones de La Guaria 3
Jose Lobaton was 2 for 3 with a walk.

Dominican Winter League
Estrellas de Oriente 6, Leones del Escogido 5
Cole Figueroa pinch hit in the seventh, drew a walk and scored.

Tigres del Licey 5, Gigantes del Cibao 1
Elliot Johnson was 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI.

Puerto Rico Winter League
Gigantes de Carolina 3, Leones de Ponce 2
Sergio Espinosa allowed a hit to the only hitter he faced in the sixth inning.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Prospect A to Z Day 14: Nevin Ashley and the Rays Catching Situation

Continuing on with our prospect per day. Today: The Rays catching situation and Nevin Ashley.

The Rays have - once again and like nearly every other club - some big decisions to make this offseason. They have to find at least a stopgap solution for shortstop (Nick Punto + Sean Rodriguez anyone?), they have to find at least one above average bat-first player for 1B and DH (internal options for more playing time: Brandon Guyer, Russ Canzler), they should solidify their bullpen by adding some talent to the mix (Mike Gonzalez, Michael Wuertz, Yoel Zumaya, Fernando Cabrera, Josh Kinney, ...) and they have to make a decision about their catching duo for '12 and beyond.

The Rays catchers combined for only 1.3 WAR (25th in the MLB) with a wOBA of .274 (26th) and an OPS of .611 (27th; all stats from FanGraphs). Versus righties (.573 OPS, .258 wOBA; 27th) they have even been worse. The Rays now more or less have two options (the 3rd option of a stopgap backstop won't do it as there is no sure-fire starting catching prospect in the system right now). They can bring in a catcher who is able of playing 70% of the games (e.g.: Yasmani Grandal, Chris Iannetta, ...) or they can go on with what they have in-house. I'm going to look at the 2nd option. Therefore I also included Kelly Shoppach despite him not having been offered arbitration this week.

The stats in the following table are the '11 stats from fangraphs for Shoppach and Jaso and the major league equivalents (calculated with this tool) for Lobaton, Ashley, Vogt and Chirinos according to their '11 MiL numbers. The splits for these 4 players are from historical '10 data (from here) and they are not major league equivalents but the real MiL numbers from MiL-splits (the data set for '10 doesn't seem to be complement. I took it anyway in order to get a tendency). They are here in order to show the tendencies of the players.

(Click at the table for a larger view)

While the front office doesn't seem to be pleased by John Jaso's defense, the platoon splits tell me that he seems to be the only one of the six catchers who very, very likely will be on the Rays opening day roster in '12. He is the only left hander ready for the bigs (according to reports about Stephen Vogt's defensive abilities behind the plate). And even the switch hitter on the list seems to play better against lefties. Therefore, Jaso - barring a trade for or signing of an everyday catcher - seems to be a lock for the next years' roster. After that I could see any one of Shoppach, Lobaton and Chirinos on the roster. In my private roster projection for '12 I have the Rays trading for Yasmani Grandal (giving up Wade Davis+). In this scenario I'd start Grandal in AAA and begin the season with Jaso/Lobaton in the bigs.

So, if Kelly Shoppach is out of the picture, the Rays will most likely go with John Jaso and one of Jose Lobaton/Robinson Chirinos in 2012. This would mean that one of Chirinos/Lobaton, Nevin Ashley and maybe also Stephen Vogt (mainly in the OF or at DH) would play behind the plate in Durham. Both, Jose Lobaton and Robinson Chirinos, are better against lefties and therefore they'd complement John Jaso very well. This scenario indicates John Jaso getting most of the plate appearances against righties and more than half of all plate appearances.
The front office, however, is not very enthusiastic about Jaso's defense, and, therefore, I think that they will bring Kelly Shoppach back (or another catcher from outside in). The reasons are that he first of all is good against lefties, that he is better defensively than Jaso and that he was a bit unlucky in '11 and looks to be better in '12. This would mean that Shoppach would play most of the games against lefties with John Jaso playing mostly against righties. Shoppach, however, should never ever see a right handed pitcher and therefore we have the same problem again. The '11 John Jaso is not good enough in order to play in 70% of the plate appearances and Kelly Shoppach shouldn't play against a rightie. In this scenario, however, there would be a logjam in AAA as all other four catchers have proven themselves in AA (or even in AAA already).

Either way, if the Rays don't bring in an MLB ready catcher from outside, they have the same problem. They have four catchers who are ready right now for backup catching duty in the majors (Shoppach, Jaso, Lobaton, Chirinos) with another one having the bat for the majors (Vogt) and the other playing well above average defense (Nevin Ashley). Neither of them, however, seems to be able to play a starting catching role adequately. That's a logjam at a position with below average major league talent.

Therefore, - by individually looking at the catching situation and ignoring other roster moves - I hope for the Rays to trade for/sign a starting catcher. One of Jaso/Chirinos/Lobaton can play a solid backup and one of these three can be traded (in order for them to get a chance in another organization). Then Ashley, Vogt (often at DH and in the OF) and one of Jaso/Chirinos/Lobaton would man the '12 catching duties in Durham, providing very solid major league depth. If the traded for catcher needs more time in the minors (like in my scenario with Grandal who I think should play at least 1-2 months in AAA), I'd start the season with Jaso/Lobaton until this catcher is ready. What do you guys think?

Winter League Scores and Highlights from 11/8

Venezuelan Winter League
Cardenales de Lara 5, Leones del Caracas 3
Jose Lobaton was 1 for 4.

Dominican Winter League
Leones del Escogido 6, Toros del Este 2
Alex Colome pitched 2 scoreless innings with 2 hits, 3 strikeouts and a walk.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Prospect A to Z Day 13: Ty Morrison

Continuing on with our prospect per day. Today: OF Ty Morrison.

Ty Morrison showed very much progress - month for month - in his full season debut in 2010.
He very much showed what he can do with his excellent speed on the basepaths (58 SB, 85.2% SB%). This progress, compared with scouting reports (e.g.: here and here as well as in Kevin's Rays Prospects Guide in '11) which suggest of him being able to develop into a top-of-the-order-hitter (plus hit tool, excellent speed, average plate discipline), made me very much looking forward to his '11 season.

Unfortunately, he was hurt for the first half of the season. After that, he didn't show much development in his 67 games in the Florida State League. That's the same history (playing well in A-ball, then being hurt most of the season in A+ ball) another very talented Rays minor league center fielder (while on a much higher level, talent and production wise) had two years ago. Desmond Jennings played very well in A-ball in 2007 (.866 OPS) and then was hurt for most of '08 (only 24 games, .776 OPS). I remember myself hoping for the cautious Rays to nevertheless move him up to Montgomery in '09. And they did, with Jennings responding very well to this move. I hope - while it has to be remembered that Ty Morrison, especially considering his approach at the plate, is not Desmond Jennings II - that Morrison will be promoted to AA in '12. His hit tool is fine, his speed is fine and he even showed some power when healthy. The only - while legit - question mark is the plate discipline. I hope - and belief - that he can respond well to AA pitching and that he could follow up the progress he made in A-ball next year in Montgomery. What do you guys think? Should Morrison start in A+ or AA?

Winter League Scores and Highlights from 11/7

Arizona Fall League
Phoenix Desert Dogs 4, Surprise Saguaros 3
Tim Beckham was 1 for 4.

Dominican Winter League
Toros del Este 7, Gigantes del Cibao 6
Nevin Ashley was 0 for 3.
Elliot Johnson was 0 for 5.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Prospect A to Z Day 12: Kyle Lobstein

Continuing on with our prospect per day. Today: LHP Kyle Lobstein.

Kyle Lobstein was the Rays second-round pick in 2008 and received a signing bonus of $1 million, more for his projection than his current stuff. As a junior in high school, Lobstein was throwing in the 92-94 mph range but that dipped into the 80s as a senior. He's 6-3 and athletic, so there was good reason to think he'd able to regain the velocity and maintain it when he added strength, but that hasn't happened as a pro.

He debuted in 2009 with Hudson Valley where he struck out a batter per inning, but it wasn't due to an uptick in stuff. It's not uncommon for lefties with decent command and control like Lobstein to find success at the lower levels without a good fastball, and sure enough his K/9 has fallen from 9.1 in 2009 to 7.8 with Bowling Green and 6.5 in 2011, mainly with Charlotte. The good news is that he's been able to limit the walks, and his career strikeout-to-walk rate is 2.67.

But with a fastball that's relatively straight without below-average velocity, it'll be tough to find sustained success at the upper levels. In 11 late-season innings with Montgomery, Lobstein allowed nine runs, including four home runs. He's been a flyball pitcher in his career, so the longball is always going to be a concern.

But I think there's still some hope here. He's still just 22 years old, still 6-3 and athletic, and has the ability to locate at least decently well. If he can get his fastball into even the 88-91 mph range while tightening up his command, he profiles as a back-end rotation pitcher. Of course, with the Rays glut of pitching, even if that happens he may be a reliever or a trade chip. Lobstein will be back in Montgomery to start the 2012 season, what sort of year do you see him having?

Winter League Scores and Highlights from 11/6

Venezuelan Winter League
Leones del Caracas 6, Bravos de Margarita 0
Jose Lobaton was 0 for 3 with 2 walks.

Dominican Winter League
Leones del Escogido 3, Toros del Este 2
Cole Figueroa was 0 for 2.

Estrellas de Oriente 6, Gigantes del Cibao 5
Nevin Ashley was 0 for 4.
Elliot Johnson was 1 for 3 with an RBI.

Australian Baseball League
Brisbane Bandits 9, Canberra Calvary 6
Todd Glaesmann was 2 for 3 with a double, walk, stolen base and 3 runs scored.
Ty Morrison was 0 for 5.

Sydney Blue Sox 2, Melbourne Aces 0 (5 innings)
Darryl George was 0 for 1.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Future Considerations Podcast (Episode 7: Free Agency Preview, AFL Rising Stars, and Third Base Prospects)

This week, Scott and Kevin take a look at Keith Law's top 50 free agents and try to guess where the top ten will sign. Then they discuss some of the Rays free agents and arbitration eligibles along with some minor league free agents they may look into. After that, they dissect the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars game and which of the game's prospects impressed and disappointed before wrapping up with their prospect position of the week, third base.

Music is from Isle of Q

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Winter League Scores and Highlights from 11/5

Arizona Fall League
AFL Rising Stars West 11, AFL Rising Stars East 2
Tyler Bortnick was 0 for 1.
Mikie Mahtook did not play.

Venezuelan Winter League
Bravos de Margarita 12, Leones del Caracas 7
Jose Lobaton was 2 for 3 with a double, home run, 3 RBI's and a run scored.

Dominican Winter League
Gigantes del Cibao 8, Toros del Este 3
Nevin Ashley was 1 for 3 with a double, walk and 2 runs scored.
Elliot Johnson was 1 for 5 with an RBI.

Australian Baseball League
Brisbane Bandits 7, Canberra Calvary 4
Todd Glaesmann was 2 for 4 with a triple and an RBI.
Ty Morrison was 0 for 5.

Canberra Calvary 5, Brisbane Bandits 4
Todd Glaesmann was 0 for 2 with a run scored.
Ty Morrison was 1 for 3 with a double, 3 RBI's and a walk.

Sydney Blue Sox 8, Melbourne Aces 6
Darryle George was 1 for 4 with a double.

Melbourne Aces 13, Sydney Blue Sox 9
Darryl George was 3 for 5 with 2 RBI's and 2 runs scored.

Puerto Rico Winter League
Criollos de Caguas 2, Leones de Ponce 0
Sergio Espinosa suffered the loss, allowed 1 run on no hits, 1 walk and a strikeout in 1/3 inning.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game Tonight

The AFL Rising Stars Game is tonight at 5:05 local time (8:05 eastern) and can be seen on MLB Network, and probably streaming on as well. Here is the complete West team roster (which includes the two Rays participating, Mikie Mahtook and Tyler Bortnick), and here's the East team.

If I had to guess, the starting infield from 3B to 1B would be Mike Olt, Nick Franklin, Jeff Gyorko, and Joe Terdoslavich, which Bortnick coming off the bench. In the outfield, I'd guess Michael Choice starts in CF and Wil Myers in RF, leaving Mahtook in the mix to start in LF.

Winter League Scores and Highlights from 11/4

Arizona Fall League
Surprise Saguaros 17, Peoria Javelinas 4
Tim Beckham was 1 for 4 with a double, 2 walks and 2 runs scored.
Adam Liberatore pitched a scoreless inning with 2 hits.
Mikie Mahtook was 3 for 4 with 2 doubles, an RBI and 2 runs scored.

Venezuelan Winter League
Aguilas del Zulia 5, Tiburones de La Guaira 3
Ryan Reid pitched a scoreless inning with a strikeout to earn the save.

Navagantes del Magallanes 6, Leones del Caracas 1
Jose Lobaton was 1 for 3 with an RBI and a walk.
Daniel Mayora was 0 for 4.

Dominican Winter League
Leones del Gigantes 3, Leones del Escogido 1Nevin Ashley was 0 for 3.
Alex Colome pitched a scoreless 2/3 inning with a hit, walk and strikeout.

Australian Baseball League
Canberra Calvary 6, Brisbane Bandits 0
Todd Glaesmann was 0 for 3 with a walk and a run scored.
Ty Morrison was 1 for 3 with a walk and a stolen base.

Melbourne Aces 3, Sydney Blue Sox 2
Darryl George pinch ran in the seventh.

Minor League Free Agents 2011

Three days ago MLB granted free agency to 537 minor leaguers. Baseball America has the complete list.

As usual, there are some hidden gems in there. Lets hope the Rays find some of them as they did with e.g. Russ Canzler last year. Some names that pop out to me at first glance are Manny Corpas (maybe worth a try?), Fernando Cabrera, Jeff Clement (maybe he breaks out), J.R. Towles and Nick Johnson (if there is sth. left in the tank and if healthy). Whom of this list would you like to see in a Rays/Bulls uniform in '12?

Here is the list of the Rays' MiL free agents:

RHP: Brian Baker (AA), Joe Bateman (AAA), Lance Cormier (AA), Richard de los Santos (AAA), Deivis Mavarez (Hi A), Paul Phillips (AA), Adam Russell (AAA), Matt Torra (AAA)
2B: J.J. Furmaniak (AAA)
3B: Daniel Mayora (AAA)
SS: Rey Olmedo (AAA)
OF: John Matulia (AAA)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Puerto Rico Winter League Preview

The final sanctioned winter league kicks off play today. The Puerto Rico Baseball League starts play on November 4. The league consists of five teams wih the league champion advancing to the Caribbean Series in February.

The only Rays minor league on an opening day roster is Sergio Espinosa who will be playing for Leones de Ponce.

The roster for Senadores de San Juan has not been posted.

Prospect A to Z Day 11: Kyeong Kang and David Kubiak

This is a new feature on the site, mainly because we're still in the doldrums of prospect season and we want to get discussion going. We'll be going through the alphabet in October and November to pick one prospect a day before our top prospect coverage starts in December. There's no real rhyme or reason to who we'll talk about, and we're open to suggestions for some letters.

I have always liked Kyeong Kang as a prospect. Positional players who don't have a real weakness and who have a solid approach at the plate intrigue me. They don't even have to have one or more standout tools. And that is exactly what Kyeong Kang is. An outfield prospect with no real weaknesses, a good approach at the plate and no plus tool, but solid tools across the board.

Lets analyse his tools a bit over time. As he started playing in the Rays system in '07 (drafted in '06) I have 5 seasons of data to rely on:

(Click at the image for a larger view)

Usually players without plus tools (or players who can't put their tools together) degress when they move up the minor league levels. Especially their batting average decreases and their strikout-rate increases. Players with plus tools, however, often even get stronger with the competition. They distinguish themselves from the rest
by keeping their batting average high and not striking out more despite better competition. Kyeong Kang always has been a tweener. If everything falls into place he could have enough tools to climb the latter and make it to the bigs but if he doesn't progress to his full potential he won't make it to the bigs. In the first three years of his career he was developing very well. His hit tool seemed to take off with better competition, he refined his already above average approach at the plate, he developed solid power and even used his run tool at the basepaths.

In '10, however, after moving up to Port Charlotte (and after moving up the prospect chart from being the Rays' 6th best MiL hitting prospect after '08 to #4 after '09) he seemed to hit a wall. His power and batting average diminished while his strikeout rate increased. The usual symptoms for players who are not talented enough for the competition. On the other side, you can't write off a promising prospect after one bad year. Kevin and I wrote that he has enough tools but that he needs to completely develop them (okay contact skills, developing power potential, good eye, decent speed) in order to become a major league player.

And that is what we saw this year. His approach at the plate is better than it's ever been while his power increased to the solid value it had before. His only average hit tool, however, seems to hold him back. And that very much is the key to Mr. Kang's future as a baseball player. If he can develop it enough to keep on hitting in the .260-.270 range, then he can make it to the bigs. If not, then he won't make it as the lack of a plus tool can't overcome a low batting average.

David Kubiak

In response to a reader request, I'm also taking a short (couldn't find all that much about him) look at David Kubiak. Kubiak was drafted in the 36th round of the '11 player draft (out of University of Albany). He is a very tall pitcher (6 foot 7) who pitched well in his pro debut (25.1 IP, 12.8 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, 9.2 H/9, 3.26 ERA, 3.36 FIP).

While being used as a reliever in Princeton and Port Charlotte, Kubiak is used to a starting role. He set career highs for the University of Albany in innings pitched and strikeouts. So, the workload doesn't seem to be a problem. He is a hard worker who loves to play baseball and who wants to improve everyday. He tries to play the game the right way and he is eager to learn how to pitch intelligently and successfully.

With the abundance of mid-to-high 90s heat, his success comes from pitching to contact. Not having mid-90s heat right now, however, doesn't mean that he can't have it in the future. Reports (from 2006, 2011 and 2011) indicate that he should be able to add some strength to his frame. This could result in some extra-miles on his fastball, immidiately making it more probable for him to succeed as a pitcher. I'm looking forward to seeing him develop in the coming years.

Winter League Scores and Highlights from 11/3

Arizona Fall League
Scottsdale Scorpions 10, Surprise Saguaros 6
Tim Beckham was 0 for 3 with a walk.
Tyler Bortnick was 2 for 3 with an RBI and 2 runs scored.

Venezuelan Winter League
Cardenales de Lara 4, Tiburones de La Guaira 3
Ray Olmedo was 0 for 3.

Tigres de Aragua 1, Leones del Caracas 0
Jose Lobaton was 1 for 3.
Daniel Mayora was 0 for 3.

Bravos de Margarita 7, Navagantes del Magallanes 5
Albert Suarez suffered the loss allowing 4 runs on 5 hits with 2 walks and a strikeout in 1 2/3 innings.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Prospect A to Z Day 10: Jake Hager

This is a new feature on the site, mainly because we're still in the doldrums of prospect season and we want to get discussion going. We'll be going through the alphabet in October and November to pick one prospect a day before our top prospect coverage starts in December. There's no real rhyme or reason to who we'll talk about, and we're open to suggestions for some letters.

Jake Hager was the Rays final true first-round selection, right before the plethora of supplemental round picks. A shortstop from a Las Vegas-area high school, he signed quickly for $963,000 and was able to get his pro career started. Unlike every other high school draftee, the Rays sent Hager to Princeton and not the Gulf Coast League. While he only hit .269/.305/.399, he impressed nonetheless playing against mainly older competition. BaseballAmerica rated him as the 7th-best prospect in the Appalachian League, behind only Drew Vettleson among Princeton players:
The third of three Rays first-round picks this year, Hager signed quickly for $963,000 and got 47 games of experience under his belt. He may lack prototype range for shortstop, but he's sure-handed and fundamentally sound, and his solid-average arm strength will allow him to play second or third base in the event of a position switch.

Even if Hager's defensive home has yet to be determined, few managers questioned his offensive potential. He has a handsy swing and knack for contact, spraying the ball around and looking to hit the ball where it's pitched. He doesn't project as a big power or stolen-base threat, but he could top out at 12-15 homers at his peak and he has solid speed.
The last Rays high school first round pick was, of course, Tim Beckham. While Beckham got more than six times Hager's signing bonus, he also signed quickly and played 46 games with Princeton (two with Hudson Valley brought him to 48 total; Hager played in 47). Beckham hit .246/.309/.350 and was assigned to Bowling Green the following year. Surely part of that is because he was the top pick in the draft, but it's got me wondering about Hager. If they liked him enough to have him in Princeton and not the GCL, is it possible he follows Beckham's footsteps? It could happen, but Juniel Querecuto played SS for Hudson Valley and is the logical choice to be promoted to the Hot Rods. Meanwhile, Hager could head for the Renegades or be re-united with much of his draft class in Princeton. The Rays will want him and Brandon Martin on different teams so each can play shortstop every day, and I think the most likely scenario is Hager at HV and Martin with Princeton.

Australian Baseball League Preview

The Australian Baseball League begins play today and will run through January 22. The league features six teams that compete in a 45 game regular season schedule. The top four teams advance to the league playoffs which features a three game format. The winner of the playoffs is awarded the Claxton Shield and an invitation to next year's Asia Series.

There are five Rays minor leaguers playing in the ABL. Here are the Rays on opening day rosters in the ABL:

  • IF Darryl George (Melbourne Aces)
  • OF Todd Glaesmann (Canberry Cavalry)
  • OF Kevin Kiermaier (Canberry Cavalry)
  • OF Ty Morrison (Canberry Cavalry)
  • C Mark Thomas (Canberry Cavalry)

You can learn more about the Australian Baseball League by visiting their website.

Winter League Scores and Highlights from 11/2

Arizona Fall League
Surprise Saguaros 5, Scottsdale Scorpions 4
Shane Dyer picked up the win by pitching 5 innings and allowing 2 runs on 4 hits with 3 strikeouts and 3 walks.
Kirby Yates allowed 2 runs on 3 hits with 2 strikeouts and a walk in an inning pitch to notch a save.

Venezuelan Winter League
Tiburones de La Guaira 7, Leones del Caracas 6
Jose Lobaton was 1 for 1 with an RBI double.
Daniel Mayora was 1 for 5 with a run scored.

Dominican Winter League
Aguilas Cibaenas 8, Leones del Escogido 1
Cole Figueroa was 0 for 2.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Winter League Scores and Highlights from 11/1

Arizona Fall League
Surprise Saguaros 7, Mesa Solar Sox 5
Tim Beckham was 2 for 4 with a double and a home run.
Marquis Fleming allowed 2 runs (1 earned) on 2 hits with a walk in 2 innings pitched.

Venezuelan Winter League
Aguilas del Zulia 5, Tigres de Aragua 3
Ryan Reid picked up the save by throwing a scoreless 1 1/3 innings.

Leones del Caracas 14, Tiburones de La Guaira 4
Jose Lobaton was 0 for 3 with 2 walks and 2 runs scored.
Daniel Mayora was 1 for 2 with a home runs, 3 RBI's , 3 walks and 2 runs scored.

Dominican Winter League
Leones del Escogido 3, Gigantes del Cibao 2
Nevin Ashley was 0 for 3.
Alex Colome pitched 1 1/3 no-hit innings with a strikeout and a walk to earn the win.
Cole Figueroa checked into the game as a pinch runner in the eighth, did not get an at-bat.
Elliot Johnson was 1 for 4 with a walk.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Prospect A to Z Day 9: Ian Kendall

This is a new feature on the site, mainly because we're still in the doldrums of prospect season and we want to get discussion going. We'll be going through the alphabet in October and November to pick one prospect a day before our top prospect coverage starts in December. There's no real rhyme or reason to who we'll talk about, and we're open to suggestions for some letters.

I'd like to take today's prospect A-Z post to talk about the Rays supposed drafting bias towards the Pacific Northwest (that fits because Ian Kendall was drafted out of Ashland HS in Oregon). This supposed bias can be tied to pro-scout Paul Kirsch. Kirsch himself was a minor league player for 7 years after being drafted out of the University of Oregon. He then coached and managed in the minor leagues for 10 years before joining the Rays as Northwest Scouting Director in 1996. The fact that Kirsch is with the Rays scouting department since its inception gives me the opportunity to collect a solid amount of data for this mini-analysis. I'm going to compare the league average rates of how often a baseball player is drafted out of Washington or Oregon to the rates for the Rays. First I'm going to take a look at overall draft rates per state.

In the recent 10 drafts, 3.8% of all drafted players have had ties with Oregon or Washington. This means that they either were drafted out of a school from that area or born in that area. The data set is pretty consistent here with 9 of these 10 drafts having between 3.6 and 4.6% of the players from Oregon or Washington (outlier: in '06 only 2.3% were from there). The Rays, however, have not had a single draft in their franchise history, in which they drafted less than 5% of their players (I always looked at the first 20 rounds of each year) from Washington or Oregon. The average is at 8% with 26 of the 327 top 20 round selections since '96 coming from these states. The following graph compares the MLB averages over the last 10 years with the Rays averages since their participation in the draft.

So, there is a bias towards the Pacific Northwest in the Rays draft. I don't necessarily think that the only reason for that is the Rays trusting Paul Kirsch that much (while they certainly do). I also think that the fact that the Pacific Northwest is less scouted than the warm weather states like California, Texas and Florida plays a very big role in that. The Rays do their homework ... and as the graph above shows, they do it even more since the new regime took over (late '05 --> for the '06 draft). Scouting well in less scouted states is a tiny piece of the famous 2%.

Another factor I think is very interesting in this regard: The new regime much more drafts players from the Pacific Northwest in the early rounds of the draft. Since 2006 the average round a player (of the top 20 rounds) from Washington or Oregon was drafted in was 7.25 (1supplemental = 1.5 in this calculation). From 1996 to 2005 it was 12.58. The sample size (26 players), however, is very small in this matter as the following table shows.