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Posts Tagged ‘scouting the sally

Game Recap: Charleston RiverDogs vs. Rome Braves 4/25/10

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TANGENT ALERT!

I ravenously devoured Matt McCarthy’s Odd Man Out over the last two days. The Million Little Pieces-like book is a humorous and often painful look into the turbid and unforgiving world of Minor League Baseball. For any baseball fan, it’s a must-read. It will open your eyes as to what it’s like to be a minor league player and I promise you, you will never heckle a A-baller again. It’s an odd combination of Jim Bouton’s revealing Ball Four and the refreshingly honest and invigorating movie Sugar.

As soon as I finished the book, I knew it was time to take in a South Atlantic League game. The newfound respect I garnered from the book made me immediately more interested in and intrigued by the lives of minor leaguers. And for some, the South Atlantic is a step in the long and arduous ladder to the majors, but for others, it’s just a flash-in-the-pan story they’ll be able to tell their grandkids.

Either way, the South Atlantic League is full of Odd Man Out stories just waiting to be written.

There are plenty of sites out there that write about Sally League prospects, but most of them do it from a distance. However, there’s some that do it from behind home plate. Mike Newman’s Scouting the Sally is, by far, the most comprehensive and honest look into the league. His coverage of the Savannah Sand Gnats conveys an undying loyalty to the game and he’s not afraid to go against conventions. Check it out.

I, however, will be covering the Charleston RiverDogs, the New York Yankees’ low-A affiliate. When I go to the games, sure, I’ve got my 2010 Baseball America Prospect Handbook with me, but I never let it influence my evaluations. So if you see me rip someone who you’re sure is a huge star in the making, it could be a product of small sample size. And if I tout a guy who you think is a dud, well then, we’ll see who comes out right in a couple years.

Today’s game featured the Charleston RiverDogs and their anemic offense and the Rome Braves and their deep system of possible impact prospects (mostly pitchers). The pitching matchup was Charleston’s Sean Black versus Rome’s Brett Olberholtzer. Black has done nothing but get beat around lately, while Olberholtzer has looked good, with an ERA under 2.00.

The ‘Dogs won 3-2. Here are the notable players from the game.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Know Your Prospects: Melky Mesa, OF, New York Yankees

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If I had to describe New York Yankee’s prospect Melky Mesa in one word, it would be “polarizing.”

Those that scout him have routinely been blown away by his explosive raw power and simultaneously baffled by his superiorly under-developed and sophomoric plate discipline. To add to Mesa’s mystique, he looks like a ballplayer: at 6’1″, 165 pounds, his sinewy and lanky frame is fluid in the outfield and promising in the box.

Baseball America named him the No. 20 prospect in the South Atlantic League for 2009 and also included him in an August 2009 Helium Watch. On Pending Pinstripes, a Yankee’s minor league blog, however, Mesa didn’t even break the organization’s top 30 prospects.

But perhaps Mike Newman of Scouting the Sally said it best: Mesa is a “lottery ticket” with enough “red flags to fight back my adoration of his raw tools.”

Born Melquisedec Mesa, “Melky” was just 16-years-old when the Yankees signed him as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2003. He spent two years in the Dominican Summer League before joining the Gulf Coast League Yankees in 2006.

Initially, the Yankees suspected that they had a legitimate five tool player in Mesa: he could hit for average, he had great speed, a good power stroke, a cannon of an arm, and good defensive instincts. But how would these skills translate to a real game on American soil? Would the promising tools develop?

Mesa’s first professional season clearly and succinctly presented the answers to some of those questions: in just 40 games, Mesa struck out 45 times, batted just .201, and posted a subpar on-base percentage of .261. Despite his “world class speed,” Mesa stole just three bases and was caught three times.

He did, however, play great defense.

His 2007 stat line is peculiarly similar. Every positive improvement was hindered by an equally powerful negative. Improvements in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and batting average overshadowed a drastic upturn in strikeouts and a decreased walk rate.

With the New York-Penn League’s Staten Island Yankees in 2008, Mesa showed marked improvement in power. He finally flashed the pop that many thought he would develop, crushing seven homeruns in just 122 at-bats. His OPS jumped a notch over .700 for the first time in his career.

Mesa had found his calling card.

In his first full professional season with the Charleston RiverDogs in 2009, Mesa worked on harboring his game-changing, light tower power at the expense of plate discipline of any kind. He led the team with 20 homeruns, 74 RBI, and 24 doubles. He also, however, led the South Atlantic League with 168 strikeouts in 497 at-bats. He batted just .225.

Because of Mesa’s molasses-like offensive development, he has earned comparisons to Alfonso Soriano, another Dominican Yankee farmhand that didn’t wow anyone until he broke out at an advanced 25-years-old.

Having seen Mesa play a lot in 2009, I firmly believe the comparisons are premature.

At no point in his career has Mesa shown an ability to hit for average, posting measly batting averages of .201, .235, .221, and .225 from 2006-09.

Soriano, by comparison, never hit below .250 at any level he played more than 60 games at. One has to consider Soriano’s putrid playing in Japan a result of the conditions; he was so miserable overseas that he “retired” in order to get out of his contract with the Hiroshima Carp. Sure, it’s not an entirely fair conclusion to make, but clubs don’t usually offer $3.1 million to someone who really stunk it up in the Japanese Central League.

For a 22-year-old still toiling in the low A South Atlantic League, one would think Mesa would attempt to refine his hacking approach at the plate. Still, just once in his four-year professional career has he posted an on-base percentage over .300 (.309 in ’09). For someone who was pitched to “like [he’s ] Barry Bonds” this season, as RiverDogs’ manager Torre Tyson said, you’d think that number would be significantly, if not substantially, higher.

In 2009, the Yankees never promoted Mesa when it seemed most appropriate, when his numbers separated him so far from the rest of the league that it seemed imminent.

That’s a telling judgment of where the club thinks his development is. And it’s justified.

Mesa is Jekyll and Hyde act in the purest sense.

On May 9, 2009, Mesa crushed a game-trying homerun against the Asheville Tourists in the bottom of the ninth inning with two out. I remember the at-bat vividly. He patiently sat on a middle-in fastball and crushed it well beyond the wall in left field.

I also, however, remember a game against the Savannah Sand Gnats late in the same month where he struck out two times on consecutive breaking pitches. He reached into the left-hander’s batter’s box for both, something I’d seen him do multiple times before. He repeated the performance the next night.

Two different nights, two different players: one a five tool star, the other a lost cause.

One thing about Mesa is certain, however.

He is a premier defensive outfielder. His speed plays better in the outfield than on the basepaths and he has a natural knack for route running. His arm is well above-average and could be the best in the Yankee’s farm system (it was definitely the best on Charleston). His 19 outfield assists led the South Atlantic League in 2009.

Mesa is slated to begin 2010 with the Tampa Yankees of the high A Florida State League.

And the promotion should serve as a good barometer for Mesa’s future. Will he thrive in the pitcher friendly F.S.L.? Or will he regress?