Saturday, May 16, 2015

Posts From The Past: Zack Greinke Scouting Report, 2006

Name: Zack Greinke
Ht: 6'2" Wt: 175
Position: SP
Organization: Kansas City (AL)
Bats: R
Throws: R
Drafted: KC's 1st pick, 2002

Greinke was drafted out of Apopka High in Orlando, Florida, as KC's #1 pick in 2002. Having pitched only limited innings in Rookie and A-ball that year, KC made the unique decision of assigning Greinke to the Puerto Rican League for the winter, the first player coming out of HS ever to appear in the league. Greinke made a strong showing in 25 2/3 innings, posting a 2.45 ERA and more than holding his own against much more seasoned talent.

Zack made a great impression in Class A Carolina League in 2003, making an 11-1, 1.14 ERA showing in 14 starts before a Double-A promotion in July. Perhaps most notable was his 18 walks in 140 IP, an astounding 1.16 per 9 IP!

A very good indicator of future success in the Majors, BB/9 IP is something to which I pay quite a biy of attention. Perhaps for this reason, Greinke has drawn the obvious Greg Maddux comparisons from some, and that may not be as far off target as it may sound.

Greinke has solid command of four pitches, changes speeds very well, is poised well beyond his years, and projects to actually get better than he already is, which will carry him into #1 starter-land in the ML.

Forget about the 5-17, 5.80 ERA in 2005; the experience he gained will be valuable in his learning process. Greinke throws a mid-90's's four-seamer, altering speeds to disrupt a batter's timing in deference to just blowing it by them. He also throws a late-sinking 2-seamer, a hard and late slider, and a slow curve at around 66 mph that baffled most hitters. What stands out about Greinke's mound presence is that he focuses on changing speeds, grips and arm angles, as opposed to the common tendency of most young pitchers to throw it past you. This, in my opinion, is key to a pitcher's longevity: let the changing of speeds and location work for you.

Greinke is also very athletic, fielding his position well. In terms of endurance, his body has yet to fully mature physically, and by the time that happens he could easily be a 220 inning guy each year.
All things considered, Zack Greinke is definitely One to Watch.

2006 Projection: 10-14, 4.50 ERA, 30 starts, 175 IP, 65 BB.

I don't expect Greinke to do much better than this. After all, he DOES play for KC. If the Royals can manage even a slight improvement in run production, Greinke could make it to 12 wins, but don't hold your breath. Look at the month of April, for example. He lost all 5 of his starts, allowing only 10 ER (3.65 ERA) for the month, but with a handful of runs from KC he could have won 2 of those, at least. His first 2 starts (2 1/3 IP, 6 IP) he allowed exactly 0 runs. OK, so 2 1/3 doesn't really count, but April 2005 could be the story of his young life for a while.

The important thing to remember is that, barring injury (of course), Zack Greinke will be a ML starter of the highest order within 3 years.

Division Leaders: AL West - May 15th, 2015

AL West

Houston Astros - 22-13

Intriguing, to say the least. This is an Astros team that whipped off a 10-game winning streak (from April 24th to May 3rd), has spent 30 days in 1st place, and hasn't lost more than 3 games in a row all year. Their record is somewhat odd: 10-9 at home, 12-4 on the road. Not the sort of numbers you'd expect to see; it ought to be the other way around, right? They're also 9-2 in one-run games, which is notable for obvious reasons: their 'pen holds up under pressure, and they can handle the tough games. 

One important note: until today, the Astros were the only team in the AL West with a winning record.

League Rankings, Batting-1st in HR, 4th in SB, 4th in BB, 7th in runs scored, 15th in BA

There's actually a lot to like about this Houston team. For starters, they are leading the league in homers and steals. That's nice, right?

Well, here's a problem: they're dead last in batting average and 13th in OBP. That's definitely not nice. Not exactly hard to see how that's possible when you have guys like 1B Chris Carter (.150, 5 HR, 12 RBI, 51 SO in 131 PA), 3B Luis Valbuena (.202, 8 HR, 14 RBI), LF Colby Rasmus (.223, 6 HR, 13 RBI, 44 SO in 113 PA), and C-DH Evan Gattis (.181, 6 HR, 18 RBI) hacking away with impunity. Of course, 2B Jose Altuve is doing what he does (.333, 4 HR, 21 RBI, 9 doubles, 13 steals), and CF Jake Marisnick (.288, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 9 steals) is delivering on his promise and reputation as a highly athletic outfielder and base runner. 

I would expect C Jason Castro to pick up the pace soon and bump that .231 BA up a few notches. IF Jonathan Villar has yet to deliver on his potential, but the tools are definitely there for him to contribute in both XBH and SB. Give him a little time; with the Astros' batting order significantly improved (in talent, if not in raw numbers), Villar may kick things into gear along with the rest of their batters.

League Rankings, Pitching-3rd in ERA, 3rd in SV, 5th in Hits Allowed, 1st in Walks Allowed, 6th in K

There is actually a lot to like, here, and it starts with LHP Dallas Keuchel (4-0, 1.39 ERA, 7 GS, 51 2/3 IP, 29 Hits Allowed, 15 BB, 37 K), who is showing the rest of the league's hitters a great deal of disdain. Oh, he's also only allowed one homer, so far. He was 12-9 with a 2.93 ERA last year, so it looks like Keuchel is the real deal. RHP Fausto Carmona Roberto Hernandez (1-3, 4.12 ERA, 43 2/3 IP, 12 BB, 20 K) is solid, thus far, but he's certainly not the ideal pick as a long-term solution in the rotation. He should bear scrutiny throughout the season.

RHP Collin McHugh, however, was a significant addition to the starting five, as he demonstrated with an 11-9, 2.73 ERA showing last year. At 4-1 with an ERA at 3.50, he's on his way to a repeat performance. From 2011-2014, RHP Scott Feldman has delivered a solid, if unspectacular, effort (4.12 ERA, 28-36 in 517 2/3 IP), and he should post numbers similar to those in 2015. That's acceptable if you have an offense which can score you runs on a consistent basis.

Righty closer Luke Gregerson (2.40 ERA, 15 IP, 12 K, 2 BB, 8 SV) is away from the team attending to a 'personal matter', and the 'pen will definitely feel his absence. RHP Will Harris (who?) has been stellar thus far, posting a 0.53 ERA over 17 IP (13 appearances), with 22 K and a measly 4 walks. Submariner and fellow baseball card collector Pat Neshek has been delivering the goods in his 16 appearances, striking out 14 over 14 1/3 innings without walking a single batter (51 batters faced total). From the 45th round to ML reliever, Tony Sipp (0.63 ERA, 13 appearances, 14 1/3 IP, 12 K, 3 BB) is doing his part to keep the bases clear. Sipp's numbers over his 7-year ML career have been fairly steady, more or less (3.62 ERA over 323 IP), and there's no reason that this should change this year.

Finally, 36 year-old righty Chad Qualls (3.38 ERA, 15 appearances, 13 1/3 IP, 17 K, 3 BB) is still humming along at near-peak efficiency, having returned to his original ML team in 2014 after a 6-year sabbatical/tour of roughly 1/3 of the rest of the Majors. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Division Leaders: AL Central - May 13th, 2015

AL Central
Kansas City Royals – 21-12
League Rankings, Batting – 3rd in runs scored, 1st in hits, 2nd in doubles, 1st in triples, Tied-4th in SB, 1st in fewest SO, 1st in BA, 1st in OBP, 2nd in SLG, 1st in OPS…oh, and 1st in HBP (shocker).
Well, where does one begin? This is what we’ve come to expect from the Royals: getting on base, swiping bags, and scoring runs. That’s pretty much as simple as it gets. Numerous suspensions and poorly-handled and/or misdirected anger aside, the 2015 model is humming along at a sustainable pace, and suddenly fans all over the country are taking the Royals seriously as a legitimate contender and possible heir-apparent to the AL crown, once more. There are a lot of hitters on this roster who are firing on all cylinders. For starters, 1B Eric HYPERLINK ""Hosmer (.326, 21 runs scored, 9 doubles, 6 HR, 27 RBI) is killing it, as evidenced further by his .967 OPS. There’s a confidence in Hosmer that isn’t exactly new, but it’s definitely reached a new level. Shortstop AlcidesHYPERLINK "" Escobar (.307, 7 doubles, 11 RBI) is picking up the pace in recent games, batting .364 over the past 7 days (22 AB), scoring four and driving in three. Third sacker Mike HYPERLINK ""Moustakas (.322, 22 runs scored, 6 doubles, 4 HR, 11 RBI) is continuing to fulfill the promise the Royals saw in him when they made him their 1st round pick in 2007 (finally, right?), and while his numbers in each of the past three seasons were far from All-Star caliber, he is showing signs that 2015 will be the year that it all comes together. In left, Alex Gordon is, well, Alex Gordon (he is what we thought he was!), batting .295 with nine doubles, four homers and 17 RBI. His .913 OPS is second only to Hosmer’s .967 for the team lead. Centerfielder Lorenzo Cain (.314, 23 runs scored, 7 doubles, 14 RBI, 6 SB) is ripping up turf in the field and digging trenches on the base-paths. Yeah, that’s what speed do. KendrysHYPERLINK "" Morales (.299, 26 runs scored, 11 doubles, 4 HR, 25 RBI) is producing runs at a significant pace, which is what was expected of him. Don’t let the paltry homer total concern you; all that matters, especially on this team, is scoring runs. Of course, the Royals have proven that they can manufacture runs the old-fashioned way as well as crush wayward fastballs. And even though they’re near the bottom in homers, they’re at the top in extra-base hits and on-base percentage. On that note, enter Paulo Orlando. The 29 year-old rookie spent a whopping 1,017 games in the minors before making his debut in right field, this year. Overall, he has not disappointed. How many players can you name who hit five triples before they recorded their first double? Strange, right? He’s slowed down a bit, batting-wise, but even if he is pushing 30 he’s still a rookie. It’s a safe bet that he’ll be established as a significant part of their offense by year’s end.
League Rankings, Pitching – 2nd in ERA, 3rd in SV, 3rd in fewest hits allowed, 2nd in HR allowed, 1st in ER allowed
OK, those rankings look pretty good, right? Well, they’re not. What I mean is that the rotation is, to be polite, struggling (Jeremy Guthrie, Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura all have ERAs over 5.00), and while Chris Young has picked up some of the slack (0.78 ERA, 8 games, 2 starts, 23 IP, 19 K), it’s going to take a bit more than the brilliance of Wade Davis (15 appearances, 6 hits allowed, 2 BB, 14 K), Kelvin Hererra (13 appearances, 12 1/3 IP, 14 K) and Yohan Pino (6 appearances, 14 IP, 13 K) to offset that deficiency. Greg Holland is, of course, dominating (8 appearances, 9 IP, 6 K, 6 SV), but that rotation is still a glaring issue. Edinson Volquez is doing his part, to be sure (2-3, 3.19 ERA, 42 1/3 IP, 17 BB, 33 K), but Duffy needs to get it together and Ventura needs to chill the heck out (sorry; can’t measure anger with a stat) if this rotation is going to survive, let alone thrive. The offense is doing all it can do, but the starting pitching makes 1st place a precarious position for the Boys In Blue.

Division Leaders: AL East - May 13th, 2015

Well, we’re just over a month into the ML season, and as usual there are condemnations and exhortations aplenty; one team is “bound to win it all!” while another “needs to be dismantled completely”.
So it is with baseball fans. And perhaps that’s how it should be.
It can test one’s patience. One month does not a season make. Still, one has to respect the passion. That is, after all, what it means to be a fan.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at who’s on in first, and why:

AL East
New York Yankees – 21-13
League Rankings, Batting – 4th in runs scored, 5th in hits, 3rd in doubles, 2nd in HR, Tied-4th in SB, 2nd in BB
Honestly, at first glance it’s sort of hard to figure out how the Yankees have managed to hold the top spot in the East. Then you look at their offensive rankings, and that sheds a bit of light on the subject. They’ve thus far managed to play a power-speed game that has translated into 162 runs scored in 34 games (4.77 runs/game), with 1B Mark Teixeira (.351 OBP, 11 HR, 27 RBI), LF Brett Gardner (24 runs scored, 16 RBI, 10 SB, .318 BA, .397 OBP), CF Jacoby HYPERLINK ""Ellsbury (26 runs scored, 11 SB, .346 BA, .418 OBP) and the seemingly-reborn Chris Young (.303 BA, 6 HR, 12 RBI in 76 AB) and, yes, DH Alex Rodriguez (.243 BA, .357 OBP, 8 HR, 20 RBI) leading the way.
League Rankings, Pitching – 1st in ERA, 1st in SV, 4th in fewest HR allowed, 1st in K, 4th in fewest BB allowed
Hello? Michael Pineda? Yeah, he’s good. But he’s not the only one. RHP Nathan HYPERLINK ""Eovaldi (3-1, 4.14 ERA, 41 1/3 IP, 11 BB, 31 K) is far better, stuff-wise, than his numbers would suggest. He's bringing high-90's heat and a sweet breaking ball; expect him to be a perennial All-Star-level pitcher, soon. If Masahiro Tanaka can ever get healthy again, he can take this staff up a couple of notches. Then again, that’s a big ‘if’. Perhaps the biggest surprise concerning LHP CC HYPERLINK ""Sabathia (1-5, 5.20 ERA, 45 IP, 10 BB, 38 K) is that he’s managed to strike out thirty-eight batters. That’s a dead arm, right there. We shouldn’t forget that RHP Adam Warren (2-1, 4.65 ERA, 31 IP, 16 K) put up some strong numbers in the minors as a starter, even if he’s been throwing out of the ‘pen since he came to the Majors in 2012. He was a 4th round pick in 2009; that’s important to remember, as well. Don’t lose faith.
Speaking of the ‘pen, what has gotten into LHP Andrew Miller? Since 2014, he has struck out 129 batters in 78 innings. Let that sink in, for a moment. Oh, and he’s allowed only 3 homers in that span while producing a sparkling 1.62 ERA. Aroldis Who? Oh yeah…righty DellinHYPERLINK "" HYPERLINK ""Betances has yet to allow an earned run in 2015. That’s 20 innings, 8 hits allowed, and 31 strikeouts. Shouldn’t be too surprising, since he posted a ridiculous 1.40 ERA in 90 innings in 2014 (70 appearances, 46 hits allowed). 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Encore! 2013 Legends Likely to Return to Lexington

FEB 11th, 2014-While there can be a number of reasons for a player to repeat a level in the minors, often those reasons have to do with age and inexperience. Those two go hand-in-hand, when you're working up from the lower rungs. Last year, Lexington's average age for position players was 20.8, which is awfully young even for the South Atlantic League. Indeed, only the Hickory Crawdads and Lakewood BlueClaws could boast a younger group, even though the average difference was no more than half a year.

In Class A, which is the first full-season level in the minors, you usually see players who haven't been in the game longer than a couple of years. Two exceptions to that are non-drafted free agent signings who entered pro ball at 16 or 17, or players who may have stepped back as part of a rehab assignment. SS Raul (Adalberto) Mondesi was only 17 when he spent last year in Lexington and performed well beyond his years. With a .261 BA, 13 doubles, 7 triples and 7 homers to go with 47 RBI and 24 steals, Mondesi was actually one of the core run producers in the lineup. He had the sort of struggles at the plate you'd expect from a teenager in Class A (118 strikeouts), but he rarely looked out-of-place in the field. Yes, he did make 30 errors at short in 108 games, but many of those were on balls that most infielders would never have reached in the first place. One could argue that Mondesi could jump two levels on his glove alone. It hardly matters; he could make a career in the Majors without even swinging a bat, as far as I'm concerned. He's got as much range and plays as fluid and natural at short as I've ever seen. So to recap: great glove, great range, great arm, speedster, switch-hitter. There's a lot to like, and we'll be liking it from the stands when he comes back for a return engagement.

Catcher Chad Johnson made it to Lexington for only 4 games last year, playing 38 in rookie-level Burlington. The view on him so far is “strong arm, good glove, possible average or above-average pop at catcher”, and I can't argue with that (mainly because, hey, 4 games at Lexington). He did throw out 30% of would-be base-thieves in the Appy League, which isn't bad, but hasn't yet demonstrated any semblance of power at the plate. If he can start to turn some of those groundballs into line-shots, you'll probably see good doubles power from him. He's going to need more time here at The Bank in order to make that happen, so expect him to return.

IF Humberto Arteaga spent a difficult 61 games in Lexington (.188 BA, 13 RBI, 0 SB in 61 games) before going back down to rookie-level Idaho Falls and turning into an RBI machine. He was only nineteen, himself, so a bit young for Class A. Once he hit the Pioneer League (literally), he lit up for 15 doubles, an unreal 58 RBI and 56 runs scored to go with his .280 BA in his 69 games there. Arteaga is 6'1”. 160, so there's a lot of projectability there, and he could add some pop as he fills out. As it stands now, he's got the versatility to play second and short, though second base is probably the best fit. He also has a great deal of range for either position, and a middle infield with Mondesi and Arteaga makes it a tough go for anyone putting the ball on the ground. He should return for 2014.

Ah, Bubba Starling...the name seems to encourage lively debate amongst prospect enthusiasts. The physical tools are most certainly there; there's no arguing against that. Whether he can develop them to their fullest is up for discussion. Starling's got a great arm, covers all sorts of ground in center with little effort, and runs the bases far better than you'd expect for someone who's 6'4”. Not a lot of tall basestealers around. He struggled for much of the season offensively, though a good portion of that can be written off to vision problems which (I believe) were corrected. He did bat .322 in August, a dramatic improvement over the high of .250 he had in June. Couple this with an overall .298 with 2 outs and runners in scoring position and you can see a small part of why he was a 1st-round pick. There were moments when he let his youth and inexperience shine through in less-than-positive ways (ahem), but that could be a result of having so much pressure on him as a 5th-overall pick mixed with having to develop while playing against more-experienced players. Being a two-sport star does have its disadvantages, after all. Starling has the tools and size to become a middle-of-the-order run producer who could swipe 20-25 bags a year. The way I see it, most of that hinges on his mental approach and maturity; he can be what he wills himself to be. Coaching aside, the bulk of his future production lies with this factor. If Kansas City wants to handle his development the right way, he should come back to Class A for at least the first part of the season.

Cam Gallagher, who had 66 games in Lexington between injury issues, is another well-regarded talent in the Royals system. Gallagher calls a good game, commits few miscues and has a better arm than his 29% caught-stealing rate would suggest. I expect that he could develop enough power to move to 1st, if needed, especially if he splits his time between there and behind the plate. He's 6'3”, so a move might be best for him (and his legs) in the long run. It's awfully soon to tell just how well he'll turn out, but he's a legit prospect and has yet to show us what he can do. Returning to Lexington would be the best thing for Cam; he needs to establish that he can make it through a full year of ball.

OF-1B Fred Ford has pop (definitely) and filled in at first base as well as RF, though he did make 8 errors at first (47 games) and 6 in right (74 games). Keep in mind He'd be at least average defensively at either position, but I like his arm in RF. The downside of being 6'5” is that your strike zone is the size of a Buick, and Ford's 166 Ks in 126 games is testament to that. He'll have to shorten his swing if he's going to cut those Ks down to a manageable number, and he did show that he's working on that in the games I saw him in. Still, if he can make more frequent contact he could produce 20 homers by accident. That .193 average is troubling, but he did draw 52 walks as well. Even with the talent he has and his relative youth (22 on April 10th), he's at a crossroads. He has to come back.

-3B Hunter Dozier was last year's 1st round pick for the Royals. 24 doubles in 54 games for Idaho Falls, along with a .303 BA, .403 OBP, 7 HR and 43 RBI. He played 15 games with the Legends, notching 6 more doubles and 9 RBI with his .327 BA (55 AB). At 6'4”, 220, he'll either end up starring at third or at first. But he'll star somewhere.

Pitchers up, next. Also, more of the players who could be paying us a visit for the 1st time in 2014.