And, for the grand finale, Kevin’s got the Padres preview. It’s a system that’s improved lately, and Kevin’s got a pitcher relatively new to the organization for our final AJOMT:
Will Inman, RHP: There were some folks in
the San Diego hierarchy that were unimpressed with what
they say out of Will
Inman after he joined the organization following the mid-season trade that
brought him from Milwaukee. To point to his 3-3 record and 4.17 ERA in seven
starts with San Antonio and say boy was that bland isn’t being fair considering he was 1-5 with a 5.45
ERA in eight starts for Double-A Huntsville before the deal. One scout I spoke
to said Inman looked tired and that could have been the case. It’s difficult to
argue with his body of work prior to his Double-A meltdown. He was 20-5 in 47
Minor League appearances (38 starts) with a 1.77 ERA in 233 1/3 innings. He
also had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly five-to-one. Perhaps he just
needed some time adjusting to the better hitters in Double-A. Before anyone
rushes to judgement, give Inman this season to see what everything is all about.
The penultimate (yes, I love that word) organization preview was my look at the Giants, which went up on Saturday. The system is vastly improved, largely by all the early picks the Giants had in last year’s draft. As a result, that club in Augusta is going to be a lot of fun to watch. For my last AJOMT (And Just One More Thing), I’m going with a southpaw who called Augusta home last year.
Ben Snyder, LHP: The fourth-round pick from the 2006 draft out of Ball State, Snyder’s brother Brad
is an outfielder in the Cleveland Indians system. Snyder is the quintessential pitchability college lefty, with several pitches he can go to and throw for strikes. His stuff won’t wow you, but he mixes it up well and has outstanding command. It certainly worked in the South Atlantic League as he finished second in the league in ERA, third in wins and tied for third in strikeouts, all while walking just 32 in 151 IP. He led the organization in wins, while finishing second in strikeouts and in ERA, finishing behind only the Minors’ ERA leader, Kevin Pucetas. The jump to the California League (though Double-A is the true test) is always in interesting one for a guy who relies on command more than pure stuff. With another year like his first full season, Snyder will have to find his way onto the main preview a year from now.
My Dodgers preview is up today and boy, are there a lot of arms to talk about. Here’s one more that didn’t quite make it into the main story:
Justin Orenduff, RHP: A supplemental first-round pick in 2004, Orenduff came out of Virginia
Commonwealth and moved quickly, reaching Double-A in his first full season and helping Jacksonville win the Southern League title in 2005. But he got hurt in 2006 and made just 10 starts, getting shut down for the rest of the year and requiring surgery. He made it back to throw 109 innings last year for Jacksonville in what was an up-and-down year performance-wise, though the important thing was that he made it through healthy. That makes 2008 a big one for him. He got some time in big-league camp and will head to Triple-A Vegas hoping to be the first guy who gets the call when there’s a need. When he’s on, he’s able to work quickly and efficiently, keeping hitters off-balance with good command of his three-pitch mix. I saw him pitch back in 2004, in a much-ballyhooed meeting with Justin Verlander, then at Old Dominion. The game lived up to the hype. Orenduff struck out double-digits and lost. I don’t know if he’ll ever be THAT good, but here’s hoping the ’08 season shows he’s able to be all the way back to pre-surgery form and able to help the Dodgers out at some point this season.
Once upon a time, the Arizona Diamondbacks had one of the best systems in baseball. They used that depth to trade for Dan Haren. Lisa writes in today’s Diamondbacks preview that there’s still talent, it’s just in the lower levels of the system. That being said, here’s an extra guy who should play his ball in the upper levels in 2008:
Chris Rahl, OF: Coming out of the Cal League can always be a bit of a shakeup for a hitter and
can take a little while for them to recover. So was the case for outfielder
Chris Rahl, yet another member of the amazing crop of Chesapeake-area Virginia
kids. A fifth-rounder out of William and Mary in 2005, Rahl raked in his
full-season debut in 2006 when he hit .326 with 13 homers, 80 RBIs and 18
steals. In his promotion to Double-A Mobile, he hit .259 with eight homers, 51
RBIs and 15 steals. Look for an ’08 closer to his ’06 numbers than those of ’07
in a likely move to Triple-A Tucson.
We all saw all those young Rockies help in the playoff push and into the World Series. Well, guess what? There’s plenty more where that came from, as Lisa reports in her Rockies preview today. For her "just one more thing" subject, she’s got yet another young, electric arm. Doesn’t seem fair, does it?
Jhoulys Chacin, RHP: Normally I don’t like to write about guys whose names I can’t pronounce in
someone asks me to talk about them and I sound like an idiot (no comment, please)
… as long as I can spell it I’m good, right? But I’m making an exception for
right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (go on, say it, I dare you). In his US debut in 2007
he shared the Pioneer League lead with 77 strikeouts in 92 innings, posting a
3.13 ERA. The 20-year-old has good command of a lively sinking fastball in the
low 90s and some fine secondary offerings in his curveball and changeup.
Sorry to be a bit tardy with this one, but you know how it goes. Lisa’s White Sox preview went up yesterday. They’ve traded away some talent of late, but there’s still some there, particularly in the lower levels. For the ChiSox extra man, Lisa goes with an eye-witness account.
Salvador Sanchez, OF: Sometimes you see a player who just jumps out at you, even among a field
four fields — of talented ballplayers. White Sox outfielder Salvador Sanchez is
just such a player. At 6-foot-6 and a muscular but lanky 195 pounds, the
22-year-old Sanchez just looks like a ballplayer. And at short-season Great
Falls in 2007 he played like one as well, hitting .343 with seven homers, 51
RBIs and 18 steals. It’s undecided where he’ll start ’08 but don’t be surprised
to see him skip past Class A Kannapolis (where he hit .209 in 88 games in 2006)
to Advanced A Winston-Salem to see how he fares against older pitching.
Lisa’s back with Sunday’s Twins preview (sorry for the delay in posting this one — you know, family obligations and all). They may have traded Johan Santana away, but there’s still plenty to talk about down on the farm — even more than usual because of the aforementioned traded. Here’s Lisa’s bonus coverage:
Tommy Watkins, INF: Can
you hold elected office in two places at once? If so, Twins utility infielder
Tommy Watkins might be able to get voted in as mayor in both Rochester,
home of the Triple-A Red Wings, and Fort Myers,
where he was born, raised and spends every year at Minnesota’s Spring Training camp. Minor
league games on the Fort Myers
backfield are often a Watkins family affair with more vested
fans than one usually sees at those events.
are few more popular players in the system with fans and teammates than the
27-year-old Watkins. That goes a long way to explaining why, when his promotion
to the big leagues after eight-plus Minor League seasons was announced in the
Rochester clubhouse last year by then-GM Terry Ryan, there was not a dry eye in
his nine seasons, the 5-foot-8 200-pounder has played every position except
catcher, though he can most often be found in the middle infield. A 38th-round
pick in 1998, he was hitting .272 with eight homers, 49 RBIs in 12 steals when
promoted. He batted .357 in nine games with the Twins before ending the season
on the DL.
now, he could make the big club as a backup or could go back to Rochester to start the
year. Either way, you can be pretty sure that Watkins’ long-term future in a
Twins uniform in some capacity is pretty much a given.
Kevin is at it again, this time with the Royals preview. There’s some real reason for optimism in KC-land these days. Here’s an extra guy to ponder:
Tyler Chambliss, RHP: A long time ago in a galaxy
far, far away there was a guy named Chambliss
who crushed the spirits of
baseball fans in Kansas City.
Sure, I’m dating myself on references to both Chris Chambliss and Star
Wars. But there will be another Chambliss in the Royals future and his name is Tyler. The Royals
selected the young right-hander in the 11th round of the 2006 draft and he’s
done a more than adequate job since, going 12-6 with a 3.60 ERA in 48 games (16
starts). He collected five saves last year in splitting time between Burlington and Wilmington
and figures to get more opportunities to close things out in the Texas League
this season at Northwest Arkansas. He’s no
Wookie, sorry, rookie, — and why are we talking Star Wars here anyway — at
closing out games either. He was Florida State’s closer in 2005
and collected 15 saves that season. Keep an eye on the kid, he may turn out to
Kevin’s got the Indians preview today. Still a pretty deep system, even if it doesn’t have the elite prospects it once had. Here’s Kevin’s extra guy:
Joe Mahalic, RHP: Right-hander Joe Mahalic
could have gone to Oregon State and played for the
two-time defending national champion Beavers but opted to turn pro after the
Tribe grabbed him in the 32nd round. He was arguably the best high school
pitcher in the Pacific Northwest over the last
two seasons and was also a solid basketball and football player. He rewarded Cleveland for its faith
by going 2-0 with a 4.88 ERA in seven Gulf Coast League games. It’s a small
body of work to be sure but Mahalic showed promise. And, the people looking
after him in Cleveland will take better care of his career than the folks at OSU. I’ve watched the
last two College World Series tournaments and seen how head coach Pat Casey
burns out his pitchers. With Cleveland
he’ll learn how to pitch. At OSU, he’d simply be fed into the machine in an
effort to get the Beavers another title.
My Marlins preview is up as well today — it’s two-for-Thursday at MiLB.com. A lot of talk about all those young arms they have, so I figured I’d go position player here:
Jai Miller, OF: The Marlins drafted Miller back in the fourth round of the 2003 draft and have watched this top-notch athlete slowly develop into a real baseball player. Coming out of high school. the bright and personable Miller was recruited by Stanford for both football and basketball — not exactly common — but the Marlins convinced him to sign. He’s made slow and steady progress and was in big-league camp this spring. He had a bit of a breakout season in 2007, raising his batting average more than 50 points while setting career highs in just about every other offensive category as well. He’s the proverbial five-tool player still trying to sharpen all the tools. Even with the slow climb, he’s ready for Triple-A at the ripe old age of 23.