February 2008

And just one more thing: Cardinals

My Cardinals preview is up and running. It’s an organization that seems to be very much on the rise in terms of organizational depth. It used to be that it was challenging to find this many guys to talk about. Now, there were a few who didn’t make the cut, but could have. Here’s an example.

Jose Garcia, 2B/SS: The Cards seem to keep producing these intriguing, under the radar middle infielders. He must missed the cut in that category in the preview. Last year, we profiled Jose Martinez as an "Under the Radar" player and he went on to hit .275 with 12 homers, .300 after a promotion to Double-A. In fact, he could’ve been my "And just one more thing" subject… Anyway, Garcia is a lot like Martinez in that he’s under-appreciated by most but can do a lot to help a team win. He’s got more speed than Martinez and should get a chance to use it in the Quad Cities infield this year.

And just one more thing: Astros

It’s two-for-Thursday!!! Kevin Czerwinski’s got his Astros preview up as well. Here’s his "extra man."

Robert Bono, RHP: Though the Astros mostly stuck to the Commissioner’s slot Rbono_1recommendation — and
caught grief about it from their fans — they did give a six-figure bonus to
Robert Bono, last year’s 12th-round selection. The right-handed pitcher also
caught in his school but Houston decided it would be best if he stayed on the
mound instead of behind the plate. That said, he posted a 7.34 ERA in 34 Appy
League innings last year. But he’s got a nice curve, which is his signature
pitch, and that could carry him far. Where he’ll be to start this season remains
a mystery but you too can see Bono at some point this year and see if he has any
edge. Aw c’mon, you saw that comin’ didn’t you?

And just one more thing: Pirates

Lisa Winston checks in with the Pirates preview. Here’s the bonus coverage:

Pedro Powell, OF: Truth be told, the Pirates have one of the shallower systems so pretty much all

of their best prospects made the list. But I have to write a little here about
one of my favorite underdogs, outfielder Pedro Powell. The
18th-rounder from 2003 out of high school in Georgia is
officially listed at 5-foot-7 and that?s probably a few inches generous. On
tiptoes. And a phonebook. But ****, the guy can fly. This is goingPpowell to be a make
or break year for the center fielder (and protg of likely starting Pittsburgh
center fielder Nyjer Morgan), as he has to show the Pirates that he can reach
base enough to make those steals happen on a regular basis. He holds a somewhat
dubious record of leading the Carolina League in steals two years in a row, with
63 in 2006 and 67 in 2007, but his average dipped from .263 the first time
around to .241 last summer due to a mid-season slump. His on-base average was
just .325 so he needs to bump that up. He is so much fun to watch that I am
really hoping he does it.

And just one more thing: Reds

Lisa Winston’s Reds preview is up now on MiLB.com. They’ve got some serious talent, particularly with the "Fab Four" Lisa wrote about. Here’s her first entry for our "And just one more thing" feature:

With what now seems to be a perennial though ever-changing glut of middle
infielders, twoCvalaika
favorites of mine did not make the cut so I want to give them
some love here: Chris Valaika and Justin Turner. Both enjoyed solid first full
seasons coming off killer debuts, but the future for both remains a bit murky as
they probably project more as utility infielders. Valaika, who has played at
shortstop both of his pro seasons, saw time at second base during Hawaii Winter
League this year and that could be his eventual position. A third-round pick out
of UC-Santa Barbara in 2006, he was Pioneer League MVP that year, hitting .324
with eight homers and 60 RBIs. He hit well at Dayton to start this season,
batting .307 with 10 homers and 56 RBIs in 79 games but saw his numbers dip with
his mid-season promotion to Sarasota, hitting .253-2-23 in 57 games there. (It?s
interesting that all of last year?s shortstop triumvirate fell off the list this
year, Jturnerwith Paul Janish struggling woefully at the plate at Chattanooga and Louisville and Milton Loo hitting the voluntarily retired list as he returned home to
Hawaii Turner, a seventh-round pick in ?06 out of Cal State Fullerton, is another guy
we love, a real scrappy gym rat who loves to play. After hitting .338 with six
homers, 41 RBIs and 12 steals at Billings in his debut, he batted .311 with 10 homers and 59 RBIs at Dayton in his debut. A
second baseman, he also probably projects as a utility guy. Both of these
players would have made the list in many organizations and it?s really just the
Reds? newfound depth that saw them just miss making the cut.

And just one more thing: Brewers

Kevin Czerwinski’s Brewers preview is now live on MiLB.com. Milwaukee’s got a terrific system that continues to feed top-notch players to the big-league club. Kevin C. decided to go with a little speed for his "And just one more thing" choice:

Lee Haydel, OF: Speed causes havoc in baseball. It causes excitement, even when it involves a

player who generally isn’t that gifted. I remember one game involving Esix Snead
when I was still covering the Mets. He made a mad dash around the bases one
September evening and he lit up the ballpark. Such areLhaydel the results brought about
by quickness. Which leads us to Lee Haydel, an outfielder the Brewers took in
the 19th round as a draft and follow in 2006 from Delgado Community College in
Louisiana. This guy moves around the bases like a lightning bolt. He stole 12
bases in 17 attempts last year at Helena of the Pioneer League and also
collected five triples. Haydel needs to be more patient at the plate, though, as
he collected only 12 walks and posted a .311 OBP. He’s an above average
outfielder as well, covering huge chunks of earth. He’ll likely head to West
Virginia this season, where it will be interesting to see if he develops into an
Endy Chavez-type or follow the career path of the esteemed Mr. Snead.

And just one more thing: Cubs

It’s always a true sign of spring arriving when the Organizational Previews kick off on MiLB.com and MLB.com.Over the next several weeks, you can read our in-depth reports on all
30 Major League team’s farm systems. Even though they are exhaustive,
there are always a few players we wish we could’ve discussed, but
didn’t have room for.

With that in mind, welcome to ATM’s "And
just one more thing…" feature. Each day there is an organizational
preview post, you can come to He Said, She Said for a little bonus
coverage. Each day, we’ll highlight that one player we wanted to talk
about, but couldn’t. Maybe it’s an additional prospect, maybe it’s an
interesting story, maybe it’s just a personal favorite. Whatever the
case, we hope that more is better when it comes to learning about your
favorite organization.

Today, we kick things off with the Cubs preview.
It’s a much deeper system than it used to was, but there was one guy
I’ve written about in past previews, but he got left out this time:

Ryan Harvey, OF:

Once upon a time, he was sure-fire, can’t-miss prospect, an early
first-round pickRharvey
in the 2003 draft, a guy with tremendous athletic
ability and plus, plus raw power. He’s shown glimpses of that pop,
particularly in 2005 with Peoria, but injuries and an inability to
improve his K zone awareness has stalled him out in Class A Advanced
Ball. He’ll still be just 23 for virtually all of the 2008 season, so I
don’t want to give up hope yet that something will click. But the Cubs
didn’t protect him on the 40-man roster and there were no takers in the
Rule 5 Draft this past December, so he’s going to have to prove himself
all over again. Here’s hoping he’ll start proving doubters wrong this
season.

Tomorrow, Kevin C. checks in with the Brewers…

Baltimore Bedard Bye-Bye

Well, the long-awaited, highly-anticipated, overly-analyzed Erik Bedard to the Mariners deal has finally been consummated. Just who were the Minor Leaguers the O’s got in return for the lefty? I’m glad you asked. I’m not going to talk about Adam Jones at length because 1. He’s no longer a prospect in my book, having lost his rookie status and 2. You really should know about him by now. In a nutshell, he’s an extremely athletic former shortstop who can play center field in the big leagues right now. He can hit for average and power and has some speed to boot. In other words, he’s the key to the deal. Here’s some information on the trio of arms (excluding George Sherrill) who will report to Ft. Lauderdale soon:

Tony Butler, LHP: The Mariners’ third-round pick in 2006, he’s a tall lefty (6-7) who spent the year in the Midwest League. He had some injuries that hampered him (shoulder soreness), but he finished extremely strongly, posting a 3.29 ERA and .204 batting average against in the second half of the season spanning 52 innings. He’s definitely a starter-type — no lefty specialist here — with a fastball that sits in the low 90s, a breaking ball and a changeup. It’s the curve ball that’s his best pitch currently and he’ll pitch all year at age 20.

Kam Mickolio, RHP: Kudos to the Mariners scouts for nabbing Mickolio out of Utah Valley State in the 18th round of the 2006 draft. The 6-foot-9, 255-pound  reliever made it all the way to Triple-A in his first full season and has the kind of stuff that should play well in the back end of a bullpen. He’s been clocked as high as 97 mph and throws the heater comfortably in the low-to-mid 90s with heavy sink. He’s got a pretty nasty slider to boot and with his arm angle and height, he’s really tough on right-handed hitters.

Chris Tillman, RHP: When Tillman was taken by the M’s in the second round of the 2006 draft out of a SoCal high school, he screamed projectability. He stands 6-5 and has plenty of room for growth on his 195-pound frame. The Mariners were so impressed with his ability to pitch and his poise, they didn’t hesitate to advance him to Class A Advanced ball at age 19. Don’t pay too much attention to the stats — the California League can be unkind to pitchers of every type — but it’s interesting to note that he did go 4-0 with a 1.82 ERA in six August starts with High Desert, which plays home games at one of the best hitter’s parks in all of the Minors. Tillman’s got a good fastball in the low 90s, an outstanding curve ball and the makings of a changeup. He could be ready for Double-A Bowie as a 20-year-old and there might be more in there to come.

Super what?

Lisa here …

I figured I’d just check in and chat a bit since it seems like for some strange reason, with pitchers and catchers just over a week away from reporting to spring training, all anyone seems to want to talk about today is football.

Jonathan posted several worthy blog and book links, and I just wanted to add a few more of my own (although I’m not the technical wizard he is so not sure I’m doing it right) with two links in particular I want to pass along …

Jonathan mentioned the awesome Jamey Newberg’s work, so this is sort of in relation to that … http://emc.mlblogs.com/my_weblog/ is one of my absolute favorite MLB.com blogs, "Girls Don’t Know Anything About Baseball" (and I am sure I am setting myself up for some comments about that). The author, who writes under the pen name Marla Hooch (and if you don’t get the connection you definitely need to do some googling and DVD renting), is, like Jamey Newberg, a diehard Texas Rangers fan but, also like the Newberg Report, there is something for everyone in her blog, which ranges from insight into the Texas system (Majors and Minors) to all manner of pop culture.

I’m guessing from many things she’s alluded to that we have a lot more in common than just being diehard Minor League fans (I especially loved a mid-summer column with all sorts of Beatles references). But I don’t know for sure because I’ve never met her nor do I know who she is … maybe this summer at a Rangers Minor League game?

Another favorite site is The Baseball Analysts (www.baseballanalysts.com) which has such a glut of great reads at any given moment that I have to be careful to only visit it when I have plenty of time to kill or next thing I know, it will be two hours later and I’ll have no idea where the time went.

Anyway, speaking of great reads (insert smiley emoticon here) it’s time for me to get back to work on some upcoming packages for our site, so that I can be done in time to go eat chicken wings and pretend I know something about football. But inside? I’ll be counting the minutes until the game clock ticks away and we can officially welcome baseball season.

Prospecting galore

It’s a sure sign of spring when you start seeing everyone post their top prospect lists, whether it’s an overall Top 50, Top 100 or a team’s top 10 list. So in the coming days/weeks (depending on how much I can get myself to post here), I’m going to show you what’s out there. For now, here are glimpses at what a pair of team-related blogs are doing.

Seth Stohs, author of the excellent Twins blog SethSpeaks.net, has been running a poll among Twins readers to determine their top prospects. They’re currently up to No. 25 on TwinkieTown. Anthony Swarzak has the top spot, though Seth acknowledges that if the Santana trade does indeed go through, some serious reshuffling will have to occur.

Joe Aiello at ViewFromtheBleachers.com, a Cubs blog, consulted with a variety of those who follow the Minors (full disclosure, I’m one of them) to come up with a Cubbies Top 10 list.
Looked like there was a split between Geovany Soto and Josh Vitters in terms of first-place votes, but it was the advanced catcher who took the top spot over the recent draftee.

Know of other team blogs top prospect lists? Let me know in the comments. — Jonathan

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