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Archive for the ‘Gettin’ the Call’ Category

Pirate’s Quadruple-A slugger Jones mashes seven homers in 12 games.

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To say the Pirate’s front office and management team is the worst in baseball could, quite possibly, be an understatement. It might be the worst in all of sports.

The team’s owners refuse to spend money. As a result, star after budding star heads to free agency and bigger markets; over the last couple years, fans have seen the departures of favorites Xavier Nady, Jason Bay, and Nate McLouth. The returns on those stars have been less-than-stellar. And despite having multiple first round picks every year, the team hasn’t put together a good draft since 2005 or even groomed a solid minor league system. In the best example of the team’s draft failures, the club insanely passed on switch-hitting catcher Matt Wieters for left-handed pitcher Daniel Moskos in 2007. Moskos, who was once an okay prospect, projects as nothing more than a league-average middle reliever while Wieters is already a major league starting catcher.

To put it bluntly, the team deserves to finish in last place every year.

But sometimes even the worst organizations can do good things.

The Pirate’s took their time bringing up star-in-the-making Andrew McCutchen. That’s one of them. They took a chance on the tantalizing Lastings Milledge as part of a fairly nondescript trade earlier this season. That’s another. And during the 2008 offseason, they acquired Quadruple-A slugger Garrett Jones. It was a subtle move of actual management that proves there just might be something resembling hope in Pittsburgh.

Before the 2009 season, Garrett Jones had spent the better part of the last decade toiling in the minor leagues as part of the Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins systems. And while his batting average perennially left something to be desired, it was hard for clubs to dismiss his power and run-creating potential. Jones’ good glove in the corner outfield positions and first base was also a plus, but never enough to earn himself a spot on the major league roster.

Jones' minor league stats.

After the 2008 season, Jones became a free agent. No matter how much they may have wanted to, it didn’t make sense for the Twins to keep him with his only positions blocked for the foreseeable future by former-MVP Justin Morneau and the resurgent Michael Cuddyer.

The Pirates, who have desperately lacked power since Bay’s departure, took a flier on the free swinging lefty.

Jones flourished during Spring Training with the team, but with proven major leaguers (and also left-handed hitters) Eric Hinske and Nyjer Morgan occupying reserve and starting spots, Jones was once again sent to Triple-A. He responded by hitting .307 with 18 doubles, 12 home runs, and 48 RBI in just 77 games. When the time came for the Pirates to cut ties and deal both Hinske and Morgan, they didn’t hesitate, knowing Jones’ track record and improved consistency.

On July 1, Jones was called up by the Pirates. He went 0-for-4.

The next night, he hit a home run on his way to a three hit evening. It was a sign of things to come.

Jones is the Pirate's best power option.Since that night, Jones has been the best player on the Pirate’s roster.

Batting in the third spot in the National League’s most anemic offense, Jones already has seven home runs in his first 12 games. Astonishingly, that puts him second among active Pirate’s players on the team’s home run leader board (behind just Adam LaRoche). He’s homered in his last four outings, including two dingers (one a game winner that splashed into the Allegheny River) last night. During those 12 games, Jones has raised his batting average to .313 and has recorded a hit in the last nine contests.

Jones should continue to be a good outfielder for the Pirates. While there is absolutely no way he’ll keep up this torrid pace, his minor league numbers indicate that he will continue to hit for power but suffer a significant regression in batting average in the near future. He still strikes out way too much and his on-base percentage isn’t exactly what a team desires from one of its middle of the order bats.

Still, Jones’ pop will keep him in the lineup. There’s absolutely no way the Pirates can afford to leave his game-changing power on the bench, especially since Brandon Moss has the punch of a toddler and the return of Milledge is still undecided.

Hey, sometimes all you need is an opportunity. Or a crappy team to pick you up.

(Rotoworld, Rotowire, Post & Courier, Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, Baseball America, Baseball-Reference…hire me.)

White Sox #1 prospect Gordon Beckham to make MLB debut.

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It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a #1 prospect!

In the course of one week, we’ll have seen three MLB teams’ #1 prospects make their MLB debuts: Baltimore’s Matt Wieters, Atlanta’s Tommy Hanson, and Chicago’s Gordon Beckham. For those who love seeing the future of Major League Baseball in early action, it’s a busy week.

Of all the promotions, Beckham’s is surrounded with the least fanfare and hype. Such is the way Chicago goes about its business…

But for a floundering franchise struggling to stay afloat in the American League Central, Beckham is an exciting breath of fresh air for South Side fans.

Where's the excitement for Beckham?

The team’s first pick in the 2008 draft, Beckham has only a year and a half of professional service under his belt. In the South Atlantic League last year, he accumulated just 58 at-bats, but showed good power and average, smacking three out of the park while hitting .310. Chicago was impressed by his performance and quickly moved him to AA Birmingham to start the 2009 season. He spent 38 games there before they promoted him to AAA Charlotte.

Beckham’s quick rise through the system has no doubt been hastened by the MLB team’s infield struggles. Third baseman Josh Fields has yet to show the game-changing power he displayed during his 2007 Rookie of the Year campaign. And while shortstop Alexei Ramirez is showing signs of life, he has yet to convince White Sox brass that 2008 wasn’t a fluke. Second baseman Chris Getz is struggling to the tune of just 20 runs scored and 10 RBI through 158 ABs.

Beckham will instantly steal ABs from all three infielders. Beckham went through college as a shortstop, but he also dabbled at second base. Upon his promotion to Charlotte this year, the organization immediately had him starting at third. They’re clearly grooming him to take over for Fields, but if Getz and Ramirez continue their lackluster play, he will move around the diamond wherever he’s needed.

While there’s no telling how his power will translate, Beckham has shown good plate presence through all stops on his professional journey (though he didn’t take a walk in 24 ABs at Charlotte). If his pitch recognition stays consistent at the MLB level, he could have the same effect Fields did in 2007.

Braves release Glavine, acquire McLouth, schedule Hanson.

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It was a busy day for the Atlanta Braves yesterday.

The team released 305-game winner and future Hall of Fame inductee Tom Glavine. They acquired 2008 All-Star Nate McLouth from the Pittsburgh Pirates. And then they announced #1 prospect Tommy Hanson will make his major league debut on Saturday.

With the onslaught of moves, the Braves made quite a statement: We’re here to win and we’re here to win now.

While McLouth isn’t a typical middle of the order bat, he provides much needed 30-homer power in a generally pop-less Brave’s lineup. With the struggles of Jordan Schafer, who was sent to Triple-A Gwinnet on Tuesday, a “ready-now” centerfielder was foremost in the Brave’s playoff plans.

McLouth will now be known outside of Pittsburgh.

The team loses outfielder Gorkys Hernandez via the trade. Hernandez’s departure may appear to be significant to the team’s future, but it’s really no big deal. Schafer, who possesses similar tools to Hernandez, has always been higher on the team’s organizational ladder and is clearly the team’s centerfielder of the future. One of the two had to go; Hernandez had to know he was nothing more than trade bait for the last couple years.

The Braves, however, also lose lefty Jeff Locke and righty Charlie Morton, a healthy chunk of their minor league pitching depth. Locke was once a highly regarded prospect in the system after his great 2007 (7-1, 2.66, 74 SO in 61 IP), but his development has stalled. He posted an average 2008 and was struggling mightily out of the gates this year. Morton, who suffers from confidence issues, could be a perfect fit in the Pittsburgh organization. This is an amazing (almost perfect) article about Morton and his development.

Atlanta usually drafts heavy on pitching, so scouts should quickly refill the organization with prospects on June 9.

By far the most compelling story of the day was the release of Glavine and the subsequent announcement that 6’6″, 210 pound Hanson will debut on Saturday. It’s not everyday that a team will cut ties with a player as sentimental as Glavine to clear a roster spot for a minor leaguer.

Apparently Atlanta thinks Hanson’s that good.

Getting the call!

Brave’s fans have been clamoring for Hanson’s debut since the end of the 2008 season. With a no-hitter, a triple crown, and a .105 batting average against, it’s not hard to see why. Hanson also displayed major league poise during his 2009 Spring Training performances, going 1-0 with a 4.08 ERA and 18 SO in 17.1 IP. In 11 starts at Triple-A Gwinett this year, Hanson has a 1.49 ERA and 90 SO in 66.1 IP.

Here’s his scouting report:

Fastball: Low to mid-90’s, it tails in on the hands of righties.

Slider: Upper 80’s, it’s compared to Smoltz’s best offering, but I think that’s probably a stretch.

Curveball: Hanson’s curveball is absolutely filthy. There used to be tons of video of it on Youtube, but apparently MLB is cracking down because I can’t find it anywhere now. It’s a true 12-6 knee-buckler that he throws in the mid-80’s.

Changeup: Average.

There is one video showcasing Hanson. It mostly displays his fastball, but there is a few curves thrown in.

Oriole’s Matt Wieters to make MLB debut tonight, history resets.

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It’s been a while since Oriole’s fans have experienced a little thing called hope.

They’ll feel it tonight when their #1 prospect, switch-hitting catcher Matt Wieters, debuts against the Detroit Tigers.

Wieters has been hyped as the savior of the Oriole’s franchise since he was drafted as the fifth overall pick in 2007. He has done nothing but deliver on that promise, winning Baseball America‘s Minor League Player of the Year award in his lone professional season. Wieters shows above-average plate discipline (.355 average in 130 games in 2008) and above-average power (27 homers, 91 RBI in 2008). He calls a good game behind the plate and threw out 46 percent of baserunners last season. If you’ve ever been to a minor league game, you’ll know that’s an absolutely ridiculous success rate for a rookie catcher. This year, Wieters spent time with the AAA Norfolk Tides, where he batted .305 with five homers and 30 RBI.

Those are the well-known Wieters’ facts. Here are some lesser-known, though important, facts to know before he makes his season debut:

  • Matt Wieters is only a switch-hitter because the league will not allow him to hit backwards with his hands tied behind his back.
  • Brian Roberts will ride Matt Wieters to victory in next year’s Preakness.
  • Matt Wieters doesn’t take pitches, he shows them mercy.
  • When Matt Wieters is hungry, he snacks on batting donuts.

This is outta hand.

For up-to-the-minute updates on God’s return to Earth, check out Frost King’s Oriole’s blog.

We got a winna!

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Oh yeah.

Jordan Zimmermann snatched his first major league win in his first major league start, giving the Washington Nationals their first win in a good, long while. The victory came against the Atlanta Braves and ever-reliable Derek Lowe. The final line for the Man(n) looked like: 6 IP, 6H, 2 ER, BB, 3 SO. In the fourth inning, Brave’s outfielder Matt Diaz took him deep for a two-run shot. It was his only real blemish as he pounded the strike zone all night and made his pitches.

Blatantly stolen from MLB. Thank you MLB.com!

I’d look for him to win a few more, but with the sometimes anemic National’s offense, wins will be hard to come by. They’ll probably still work him like a dog though and he’ll have some great performances along the way. 2010 will be the true test.

Is the Tiger’s Rick Porcello better than Justin Verlander?

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I think so.

After his great ’06 and ’07, Justin Verlander was the poster boy of the Detroit Tigers. But last year, the fireballer took a step back when instead of pitching, he simply threw. And anyone knows that someone who pitches beats someone that throws. Just ask the Washington National’s Daniel Cabrera.

Well Detroit, there’s a new face for your pitching staff.

I've got my bets on Rick.

Last night, the Detroit Tiger’s Rick Porcello won his first major league game after shutting down the Seattle Mariners for 7 innings. He only struck out three, but he also walked none.

Porcello is the Tiger’s top prospect. He draws comparisons to both Josh Beckett and Roy Halladay (to Beckett because of his advanced skills and to Halladay for his body and pitching style). Here’s his scouting report:

  • Fastball: Can reach 97 mph.
  • 2-Seamer: Perhaps his best pitch, it ranges from 92-95 mph with great action, especially against righties.
  • Changeup: Is not afraid to use it in any count.
  • Curve: It’s a work in progress, but he’s demonstrated an ability to throw it for strikes. It’s of the 12-to-6 variety.

In his two games this year, Porcello’s demonstrated a veteran ability to get out of jams with the strikeout and also to control the strikezone. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make strides towards becoming the Tiger’s new ace.

Here comes the Man(n)!

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The Washington Nationals suck.

Jordan Zimmermann doesn’t.

Put two and two together and hopefully you have more than 1-10.

I’m not hopeful given the National’s disastrous (and honestly I don’t know if that’s apocalyptic enough) start to the season, but the big righty could be exactly what the doctor ordered in DC. He’ll start today against Derek Lowe and the Atlanta Braves.

He’s only 22 years old, but Zimmermann looks like a grizzled vet. According to scouts, he pitches like one too:

The Man(n) pitches.

  • Fastball: 90-94 mph, occasionally touches 95.
  • 2-Seamer: 90 mph.
  • Slider: 84-87 mph, but the Nat’s are asking him to throw it less.
  • Curve: 75-78, power curve style.
  • Changeup: Work in progress.

National’s fans rejoice, your savior is here. Here’s to playing sub-.300 baseball!