December 2011

What they like about Yu (Darvish)

With the deadline for bids for Yu Darvish now in the past, I thought it was time to see what all the fuss is about. The headline possibilities are almost endless:

What I like about Yu (variation used above)

I only had Yu

Yu had me at hello

Anyway, you get the point.

 

We’ll know soon who has won the rights to negotiate with the right-hander. To get fans of teams who might be in the running ready, I spoke with a scout in Japan who has seen Darvish throw on many occasions. Here’s what he had to say:

 

If you ask him, he throws more than ten pitches. I’ve seen him throw four-seamers, two-seamers, cutters, splitters, forkballs, curve balls, sliders, and changeups with variation on most of the breaking stuff.  What he uses depends on how he’s feeling that day.  Basically, he’ll sit 93-95 mph and touch as high as 98 mph. His two seamers are 91-93 mph, his cutter is 89-91 mph. I’ve seen the curve as low as 64 and as high as 82 with pretty good arm speed. The slider can be 86-87, 82-84, 77-78 (Japanese slurve), all over the place, really. It’s his go-to pitch.  Splitter 87-88, but he doesn’t throw it much.  His hands are small for a guy his size, and it looks like he has trouble getting his fingers around the ball for the splitter. He’s very good with a very high ceiling. He has the right amount of cockiness to get through the new challenges that await him.  I think he’s a #3 starter at worst, obviously with a chance to be an ace.

There’s a lot of information about Darvish out there, with more assuredly to come. Hopefully this adds a little something to that file.

A few parting Winter Meetings thoughts

I’m home now after another Winter Meetings in the books (for the record, this was my 11th Winter Meetings, third here in Dallas), and I figured I’d leave with a few parting thoughts, of course with a prospect slant.

  • With Mr. Pujols now officially gone from St. Louis, most talk has been about moving Lance Berkman or Allen Craig to first base. I wonder if they’ll give Matt Adams a shot to play somewhere now. Probably unlikely, but that guy can hit.
  • With Mr. Wilson now officially gone from Texas, is there anyone internally who’d get a crack at that rotation? Martin Perez isn’t ready,  maybe a Neil Ramirez type? Of course, Texas could dive into the Yu Darvish sweepstakes (more on him after I get home). Conversely, with the Angels getting him, does that mean a guy like Garrett Richards can get more development time in the Minors?
  • With the Marlins not getting Wilson or Pujols, do they have enough left in the piggy bank to go after Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes?
  • Will the best players not taken in the Rule 5 Draft — Jiwan James, the intriguing story of Drew Cumberland — make people wish they had taken them with strong seasons in 2012?
  • Will anyone provide the A’s with enough prospects to get Gio Gonzalez? Sounds like Oakland is selling high, so we’ll see if a team that needs a starter is willing to bite.

That’s it for now. Take a deep breath and we’ll talk more next week.

The latest Rule 5 talk

Yes, there is some. Maybe not the intrigue of where Albert and C.J. will sign, but people are talking about tomorrow’s Rule 5 Draft. Here’s some of what’s being talked about regarding the draft.

  • The Houston Astros might be shopping the No. 1 overall pick. That doesn’t mean they don’t want two players, but perhaps might be able to swap the pick, collect some extra cash, and still make two selections. Jiwan James of the Phillies is getting a lot more buzz, either as a No. 1 pick or a player the Astros is very interested in. James has only been a position player for 2+ years.
  • It seems more and more likely the Padres will lose Drew Cumberland. The very talented infielder hasn’t played since 2010, having retired because of an inner-ear issue. As I hear it, Padres doctors haven’t cleared him to play, but Cumberland has a doctor who has.
  • The Kansas City Royals cleared a spot on the 40-man with their trade with the Pirates and they have their eye on a left-handed reliever. Don’t know which one, but Cesar Cabral of the Red Sox has been mentioned in general quite a bit.
  • While most people expect the Cubs to lose Ryan Flaherty, they could also lose infielder Marwin Gonzalez, who can play second, shortstop, third and even left field. He hit .288 in 2011 and spent half the year in Triple-A.
  • The Pirates might lose reliever Diego Moreno, the right-handed reliever who’s pitched very well in winter ball.
  • Teams looking for lefties might take a look at the Indians’ T.J. McFarland or Josh Smoker of the Nationals. Hard-throwing southpaw Philippe Valliquette, despite not having pitched in 2011, is getting a good amount of attention, with the Blue Jays perhaps hoping he’s available when they pick.

The skinny on Nestor Molina

The Blue Jays got a dynamic late-inning reliever in Sergio Santos, but the White Sox got a pretty good pitching prospect in return. Here’s some more information on right-hander Nestor Molina.

Like the big leaguer he was traded for, Molina is also a convert to pitching. The Venezuelan originally signed as a hitter, playing the outfield and third base in the Venezuelan and Dominican Summer Leagues in 2006-2007 before turning to pitching full-time in 2008.

He made his United States debut in  2009 and spent nearly all of his first two seasons in the country as a reliever. He pitched well in that role, with a 1.67 ERA in 2009 and 3.11 in his full-season debut across two levels in 2010.

The Blue Jays moved the 22-year-old into a starting role in 2011 and he took to it well, leading the system in ERA (2.21) and finishing third in strikeouts. He walked only 16 while striking out 148. He was a Florida State League All-Star and earned a late promotion to Double-A, where he was extremely effective over five Eastern League starts. The success he had earned him a spot on Toronto’s 40-man roster in November.

Molina features an intriguing four-pitch mix with an advanced feel for pitching. He’ll throw his fastball in the 89-92 mph range and complements it with a slider and a changeup. His best pitch, though, might be his splitter, a true plus offering with a ton of deception. Some have said he might be better-suited to be a top-flight bullpen/setup guy, but his stuff and command say he’ll get more time to start.

Marlins signings: Who gets what comp picks?

As if the newly bargained agreement wasn’t confusing enough, we had  to have one team sign two free agents at about the same time. And with one of those free agents a “modified Type A” in the one-year rule adjustment before Type A and Type B ratings go the way of the dinosaur, it gets even more complicated.

The Marlins have made quite the splash in signing Heath Bell (the aforementioned modified Type A) and Jose Reyes (a good, old-fashioned Type A). Because Florida picks No. 9 overall, they will not be giving up their first-round pick. And because they signed Bell first, they won’t be giving up their second-round selection either.

When Bell was modified, it was decided that a team signing him would not have to sacrifice a pick at all to get him. Instead, the Padres will get a compensation pick (sandwich A, we can still call it) after the first round is over. They will also get a second-round pick right in front of the Marlins’ second-round selection.

Here’s the kicker. Even though the Marlins did not have to give up that second-round pick to the Padres, it’s not available to the Mets as compensation for the Reyes signing. Because Bell signed first, that pick in effect is a part of that signing, even though its part is that it didn’t have to be forfeited. Instead, the Mets will get a Comp A pick and the Marlins’ selection in the third round.

Had the Marlins officially signed Reyes first, the Mets would have received that second-round pick. In other words, they get penalized a round because of the Bell signing. That might be something that doesn’t bother the Marlins, given they are in the same division as the Mets. But it’s probably likely that Bell himself will love it. He’s not exactly a fan of the Mets from his time in their system and the fact that his signing cost them a round  might give him a little chuckle.

Welcome to Dallas

And another Winter Meetings has begun.

As we get our bearings (the Anatole re-designing their lobby made it tougher for me, that’s for sure), there will be plenty to report. And while there’s no question MLB.com is the best place to go for all the big league news, you’ll want to come by for all the prospecty stuff as well, courtesy of yours truly.

Any trade that involves prospects, I’ll be sharing what the industry thinks about the Minor Leaguers involved. There will be Rule 5 buzz (if you want to call it that) to boot.

Keep in mind, the Winter Meetings are, technically, a Minor League event, so there will be plenty to talk about.

Much, much more as the time unfolds.

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