Results tagged ‘ Anthony Ranaudo ’

Spring Training: Red Sox camp

The Red Sox’s new digs at JetBlue Park are very nice indeed. For someone who loves spending time on the back fields, the best part is having the Minor League side right alongside where the big league action takes place. In years past, you had to drive a couple of miles down the road to get to Boston’s minor league camp, so the facility gets props just for that.

This was my first opportunity to get some real prospecting stuff done (I did write a feature on Matt Hague while I was covering the Pirates yesterday). It was a great day indeed, getting to see hitters like Will Middlebrooks, Bryce Brentz and Juan Carlos Linares in action. All of course are firmly on the Red Sox’ Top 20 list. I also had the chance to chat with Brentz, the supplemental first rounder from 2010 who hit 30 homers last year. The story from that (as well as an interview with farm director Ben Crockett) will be up on redsox.com tomorrow. For now, though, here’s the complete video interview with Brentz.

 

 

It wasn’t just a day for bats, mind you. Anthony Ranaudo started the Double-A game and was pretty much lights out. He went three innings and touched 97 mph. He was leaving his breaking ball up in the zone a bit, not uncommon given where we are in spring, but he was throwing it for strikes. He also threw his changeup in the zone, leading one Red Sox official on hand to comment that they thought it was the best they’d seen him. After a good learning experience following his promotion to Salem last year, Ranaudo could take off in 2012.

While my main focus with Crockett was on Brentz, I did ask him about a number of other prospects in the system. Here’s what he had to say:

Blake Swihart: “He’s a tremendous worker. He has  a really professional approach for an 18-year old kid coming out of high school. Clearly, he’s played at some of the higher levels within the high school [ranks]. His approach to the game is pretty impressive. He did a great job in the offseason with the strength and conditioning program, put on some strength and some good weight. On the field, we’ve been really happy with the progress so far. He’s still learning the position. He hasn’t caught a ton, but he’s a really quick learner and has picked up things rapidly. It’s been exciting. Obviously, with the bat, that’s the calling card. It’s been good. We’re trying not to preach the final result, but more the approach and how we get to the end of the at-bat.” (meaning making hard contact or working the count to get the pitch you want to hit).

As a pretty advanced bat, Swihart has the chance to make the Greenville club, as the Red Sox do have a history of doing that (Sean Coyle comes to mind). The one thing that could hold him back would be the defense, just to give him some more time to work on the nuances of catching.

Matt Barnes:“He’s been really impressive. He’s shown the stuff that got him to where he was last year. He’s adapted well to the program (strength and conditioning, preparing for the five-day routine). He’s worked hard, gone about his business very well. We’re looking forward to seeing him in a game later this week for the first time. We haven’t gotten the chance to see him yet in games. The live BPs and bullpens have been really good.”

Barnes will, in all likelihood, start with either Greenville or Salem.

Xander Bogaerts: “He’s had a really good camp. He hit a home run the other day against Tommy Hunter, then later in the game had a line drive to right field. That approach, those are the exciting things to see that adjustment within a game, especially for a young player who came into his power last year. He came into camp in great shape. Lost a couple of pounds of fat from last year, gained some strength. He’s definitely still a shortstop for us. The athleticism really continues to play. It’s more a matter of refining the fundamentals, the routine types of plays. He has the ability to make some of those highlight type plays.”

Look for him in Salem this year.

Brandon Jacobs: “We’re continuing to push him to make improvements. He made huge strides last year as he got more time in the outfield. The arm strength increased with the programs we had (shoulder strengthening) and improving some of the footwork. Keeping him aggressive out there has been huge and we’ve seen the strides there this Spring Training. I think the impressive thing about him, kind of like Will Middlebrooks did up in the big leagues this spring… despite the power and the lack of overall experience, he really does stay in the middle of the field pretty well. He does a nice job of taking what’s given to him and isn’t always trying to get to that power, which is something that plagues young players sometimes.”

Jacobs should provide a nice 1-2 punch in the Salem lineup with Bogaerts.

Finally, I asked Crockett about any players who have really stood out, maybe who are poised to make a nice jump forward in 2012. He mentioned two: Drake Britton and Kolbrin Vitek. Britton had a pretty awful 2011 season, kind of forcing him off the radar. Vitek had a ho-hum first full season, but as Crockett points out, fared much better as the season wore on (he hit .300 in the second half).

“Drake Britton had a really good camp up there (on the big league side). I know he was greatly on the radar last year and now suddenly [is off] the radar. The stuff in big league camp was really good. He was using his changeup effectively which is a hard thing to do when you’re in that limelight. He really stayed under control a lot better than what he did last year. I think he could step up.”

“Kolbrin Vitek is someone that flew under the radar in part because we pushed him to Salem, in a tough hitter’s park, in his first full season. He’s an advanced college hitter… you look at his second half numbers compared to his first-half numbers, there’s a pretty big difference there. He’s someone who could jump off from where he was in the second half last year and pick up from there and produce a little more than what he did on the whole, and garner a little more attention from the industry.”

The strange case of Anthony Ranaudo

So, we all know what’s been going on with LSU’s Anthony Ranaudo of late. Early injury, major struggles since, Draft slide as a result. His start today in the SEC Tournament could go a long way toward either reversing the disturbing trend or continuing his fall, perhaps even out of the first round.

His performance was his best of the season, though that’s not saying a whole lot based on what’s gone on the past few weeks. He went 7 2/3 innings, by far his longest outing of the year. Over his first two innings, he was touching 95 mph and his breaking stuff, said scouts, looked better than it has in a long time. As the game went on, he lost some velocity, finishing at 91-92 mph in the eighth. And here’s the puzzling thing. His stuff got raves, with some calling it “top 10″ pure stuff. But at the same time, it very hittable. He gave up eight hits and was charged with six runs (five earned), though he left the game with runners on base and the bullpen didn’t strand them.

Ranaudo struck out two in the first inning and his stuff was downright nasty. And while LSU and Ranaudo were thrilled that he was “back,” he looked a little more ordinary later in the game. There is definite concern about the lack of life on his fastball. Straight and 95 mph might work here, it won’t at the next level; straight at 91 mph even gets hit here.

So where does that leave Ranaudo? I was chatting with Baseball America’s Jim Callis about that very subject (yes, us arch rivals do talk to each other) and he felt today’s start had to help the right-hander, at least a little. I’m not sure how much it helped him, but I agree it definitely didn’t hurt him. I think it helped him stop the slide to an extent, especially if he follows it up with a better outing in a regional. That could mean, as Callis pointed out, that a team that might have thought he’d slip into the sandwich round will have to snag him in the first round instead.

In the end, then, it can be looked as a step in the right direction, however unsure it may have been. Things are still inconclusive, I think and what he does in regional play could go a long way in determining if Ranaudo can sneak back up draft boards.

Greetings from the SEC

Tomorrow’s a big day here in Hoover, Alabama, with the start of the SEC Tournament. Four games today, four tomorrow. Dozens of scouts planning to attend.

They’ll get their money’s worth in Day One on Wednesday. That’s because Drew Pomeranz is pitching for Ole Miss against South Carolina in Game 2 and Anthony Ranaudo starts for LSU in Game 3. I talked to Pomeranz, who was named SEC Pitcher of the year, today for a story that will run in a few days.

I also talked to Arkansas third baseman Zack Cox. While Pomeranz is pitching Wednesday, scouts who were hoping to see Cox swing that bat in this tournament will be disappointed. Cox missed three out of the four games against Vanderbilt last weekend with a ribcage injury. Playing in that one game, it seems, aggravated the injury, so he’s not going to play. Arkansas is ranked highly and has the chance to host a Regional regardless of what happens here. For the same reason, Brett Eibner is unlikely to play much, if at all. The two-way player got hit in the hand a couple of weeks back and it’s continued to bother him. He pitched in relief over the weekend and the velocity was fine, but he gave up two homers and the Razorbacks think he was changing his mechanics because of the injury. Scouts will have to wait to get one more look at the potential first-round tandem (as well as lesser prospect Drew Smyly) until regional play. Smyly, for those interested, is Arkansas’ top starter and would’ve faced Vanderbit and Sonny Gray on Wednesday if it hadn’t been for a bliser problem.

There’s no doubt the starts for Ranaudo and Pomeranz are big. As detailed in my last post,  both have had some struggles lately, with Ranaudo’s more dramatic and slide-inducing. He ended up relieving twice over the weekend. Pomeranz started and wasn’t terrible, but wasn’t dominant and once again, was reported to have a drop in velocity.

This has created opportunities for other college arms to step up. There’s no doubt that Florida Gulf Coast’s Chris Sale has taken advantage and most people believe he’ll be the first college arm taken on June 7. Deck McGuire has been very good consistently. He may not wow people as much as some of the others have been capable of in the past, but sometimes slow and steady win the race. McGuire may not be a top 10 player in terms of raw stuff/talent, but there’s a good chance he’ll go there, particularly with the question marks left by the other supposed top arms.

Guys like Matt Harvey and Asher Wojciechowski have helped themselves as well, perhaps to a lesser extent. But again, they’ve generally been good and that stands out right now. Pomeranz still should go ahead of both of these guys, but they’ve cemented themselves more as middle-of-the-first types because of their consistency.

Be sure to check back here and on Twitter (@JonathanMayoB3) on Wednesday for reports from the tourney.

What on earth is going on with college pitching?

Remember when it was the college arms that were the safest picks in the Draft? The guys with track records, at big programs were often the way to go when push came to shove, right?

Well, if that’s the case, can someone please tell me what’s happening lately?

I’m talking, of course, of two pitchers who began this year at or near the top of many draft lists, not just for pitchers, but for overall picks. They’re both in the SEC, pitching for big-time schools, and had some track record for success. But things have gone awry lately.

The case of LSU’s Anthony Ranaudo has been well-documented by now. Once thought to be the top college arm in the class, he missed a chunk of time with an elbow issue. He’s back now, but clearly not himself. Some have said it’s not the injury still, but for whatever reason, he has not been throwing well. Here are his last four starts, dating back to that big matchup against Ole Miss:

April 24:    1.2 IP, 9 H, 9 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
April 30:    2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
May 7:      2.2 IP, 5 H, 6 ER, 4 BB, 1 K
May 14:    4.1 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 3 BB, 4 K

Overall, that’s just 10 2/3 IP over four starts, during which he’s allowed 28 hits and 26 earned runs (That’s a 21.94 ERA for those of you scoring at home). His performance, along with his advisor (one Mr. Scott Boras) make him extremely hard to figure out in terms of first-round projections.

Then there’s the lefty who faced Ranaudo in that Ole Miss-LSU matchup, Drew Pomeranz. The southpaw spent the first half of the season cementing himself as the top college arm — if not the top pitcher — in the Draft class. With a strong track record of success he seemed as sure a thing as there was to go near the top of the first round.

Now? Not so sure. There are many scouts who will say that you don’t throw away three yearsPomeranz-Drew_RM_v.jpg of strong performances based on a few bad/iffy ones, but I have to think at some point, it becomes concerning. Pomeranz was equally awful as Ranaudo in that game, but did bounce back the following week, leading many to be willing to give him a mulligan on the one really rough outing. But it’s been heading in a bad direction since. Here are his starts from that LSU-Ole Miss game on:

April 24:   3 IP, 1 H, 4 ER (5 total), 9 BB, 3 K
April 30:   6.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 K
May 7:     6.2 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 8 K
May 14:   5 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 7 BB, 9 K

Cumulatively, that’s 21 IP, 16 H, 10 ER (4.29 ERA), 19 BB, 31 K. His line from this past Friday is beyond bizarre. Now, there have been reports of a strained pectoral muscle and that may have something to do with these performances, particularly the complete loss of command. He threw 108 pitches, only 58 were strikes in his last start. Beyond this pec issue, which the school and Pomeranz downplayed last week, there’s been a loss of velocity. He was throwing 85-90 mph in that May 7 start and in his last start, he was sitting around 87 mph.

I think Pomeranz can right himself if he returns to form in these last couple of starts, but a scouting director was telling me that Pomeranz had a drop in velocity last year late in the season as well. He did not pitch well down the stretch as a result, though he won his regional start (it was against Monmouth) and pitched well in his super regional outing. Whether teams extrapolate from that and worry about his durability and ability to withstand the long Major League season and pitching every five days remains to be seen. But it will definitely make teams pause and want to see how he finishes off the season.

We’ll have to see what this means for the shape of the first round. Tomorrow, I’ll write about some of the college pitchers who have performed well and may have supplanted Pomeranz and Ranaudo as the top of the class.

I’ve got my first projection of the top 10 picks running on Wednesday. Should be interesting, to say the least…

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