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. 

Saturday, February 08, 2014

2014 Lexington Legends Preview: Part Three

An ongoing look at Royals prospects likely to make up the 2014 Legends roster

FEB 8th, 2014-Continuing on with a look at prospective players for our Lexington Legends in 2014, there are a lot of possibilities to consider.

One caveat concerning the Legends, this year: besides the young rookie-league prospects from the three rookie teams in Kansas City's organization, there are also a number of players who could likely be returning to Lexington for at least the first part of the season. There are a number of reasons for this (further experience in Class A needed, player too young to advance to High-A at this time, need to work on specific skills before facing higher-level players, etc.), but they are the sorts of reasons used to consider in the handling of players at all levels.

For the purposes of this post, I'm looking only at rookie-league players. Here's a look at four more players who could be hitting the Sally this year (or returning to the league for an encore):


Bats: R Throws: R
Ht: 6'1” Wt: 175
Born: July 7th, 1993 in Los Angeles, California
School: Centennial HS (Compton, CA)
Drafted: by the Texas Rangers in the 4th round of the 2011 MLB Draft

Signed out of high school for $200,000 by the Rangers in 2011, Desmond Henry was acquired in the trade that sent Tommy Hottovy to the Rangers. Henry has outstanding speed (6.47 in the 60 at the 2010 Area Code Games, an easy 80 on the scouting scale), excellent range in the outfield, and his arm could grade out as 'plus' at his peak. Simply put, he's one to watch. Remember Terrance Gore, last year? Very similar, only Gore is likely stronger than Henry (even given the size difference). Henry swiped 20 bags with Burlington in the Appalachian League in 2013, batting .244 in 48 games. He was suspended in 2012 after an arrest on a charge of possession of alcohol by a minor, but it seems that this was an isolated incident. He may not ever produce much in the way of power (4 doubles, 2 HR in 2013), but players who are this fast are rarely required to do so. Keep an eye out for him.

Bats: B Throws: R
Ht: 5'10” Wt: 155
Born: January 22nd, 1993 in Moncion, Santiago Rodriguez, Dominican Republic
Drafted: NDFA in 2009 by the Kansas City Royals

Torres spent 26 games here with the Legends last season, and is known to have line-drive skills with the bat and solid pitch recognition. He has steady defensive skills, though his previous numbers definitely seem to refute that assessment (13 errors in 42 games at short with Burlington). I see him more as a second baseman than as a shortstop, and that certainly doesn't affect the outlook on him as a prospect. Torres has good speed on the bases, hits his share of doubles (41 in 233 career games), and walks nearly as much as he strikes out. Mind you, he rarely strikes out; 116 Ks in 965 career PA is pretty darn good. He's pretty much a lock to start the year in Lexington, and I expect him to contribute in a significant way to the Legends.

Bats: R Throws: R
Ht: 6'2” Wt: 170
Born: February 9th, 1994 in Cartagena, Columbia
Drafted: NDFA by the Kansas City Royals in 2011

Cano has a lot of projection left, possesses above-average speed and solid bat control, and has a solid-average arm from the OF. He definitely projects better as a left-fielder than if he were in right, as he doesn't have the sort of arm strength you'd ideally like to have in RF. He's got plenty of time to develop (he turns 20 tomorrow), and as he adds a bit of size he could become a gap-to-gap guy with a lot of doubles. Can might very well be an 'under-the-radar' type of prospect.

Bats: L Throws: R
Ht: 6'3” Wt: 225
Born: December 29th, 1992 in Lee's Summit, Missouri
School: Metropolitan Community College-Longview (Kansas City, MO)
Drafted: by the Kansas City Royals in the 12th round of the 2013 MLB Draft

Dulin has prototypical size for a 1st baseman, but his 6 triples and 5 steals in 46 games in the Arizona League last year are surprising. He's a powerfully-built hitter who manages to play an agile 1st base, with an above-average arm for first. He can turn on the ball very well and has easy plus power for his position. Dulin has some experience in the OF, but as he moves up the chain he's likely to play the majority of his games at the first sack. The best part, as far as I'm concerned, is that he's only 21 years old. Thus, he has some time to move up the chain and the 1st base prospects ahead of him might be thinned out a bit before KC has to make a decision on him. I like his future, but with hitters this big there's concern over injury risk. Playing full-season ball will tell us a lot more about how well he'll adjust to the pro circuit.

And the Preview goes on and on...Part Four coming soon, with a look at pitchers after that. Also, will be happy to write posts by request. If you have a favorite player you'd like to read about in more detail, drop me a line and I'll make it happen. 

Sunday, February 02, 2014

2014 Lexington Legends Preview: Part Two

An ongoing look at players likely to make up the 2014 roster

FEB 2nd, 2014-Continuing my look at prospective Legends hitters for the 2014 season, I'd like to state the obvious (yet again): there are quite a few promising hitters in the Royals system who are due to come up from the rookie leagues. Yes, I know that rookie-level ball is not the best measure of future potential; it certainly doesn't hurt, however, when you compare numbers with scouting reports, along with other factors (age, player's size/frame, background, etc).

And with that in mind, we soldier on:


Bats: L Throws: L
Ht:6'2” Wt: 225
Born: June 17th, 1994 in Ponce, Puerto Rico
School: Montverde Academy (Kissimmee, Florida)
Drafted: by the Kansas City Royals in the 10th round of the 2012 MLB Draft

Another rather large teenager from the rookie leagues, Rivera has the makings of a power-hitting corner outfielder. His numbers last year at Idaho Falls weren't all that inspiring (8 doubles, 4 HR, 26 RBI in 57 games, .269 BA), but not all rookie-level leagues are created equal. He's powerfully-built, has great bat speed and a sound eye at the plate, skills which should give you a ready-made #3 or 4 hitter at the higher levels. While he draws a fair amount of walks, he has only gone down on strikes 66 times in 388 total pro at-bats; that's what is the most telling stat, to me. He's also managed 18 steals in those 105 games, but he's not going to be swiping a lot of bags as he advances. He simply isn't built for it. Another stat of interest: .333 BA in 45 AB with 2 outs and runners in scoring position. Not a big sample size, but something to note nevertheless.

Bats: R Throws: R
Ht: 6'2” Wt: 200
Born: November 9th, 1990 in Sugar Land, Texas
School: University of Texas at San Antonio
Drafted: by the Kansas City Royals in the 9th round of the 2013 MLB Draft

Plus side: .310, 11 HR, 53 RBI in 58 games. Minus side: put up those #s as a 22 year-old in rookie ball. Grain of salt, and all that. Still, Rockett is someone to watch. He's athletic and pretty much gets all he can out of his ability, although I don't see him sticking in CF as he advances up the chain. He covers a fair amount of ground in center, but his ability would play up in left. He's 23 now, and he'll need to move quickly in order to keep from being passed by younger, more highly-regarded (or highly-drafted) players, but I fully expect strong numbers from him in his first year in full-season ball. Considering his age and ability (quick bat, solid glove and range), he could be heading to Wilmington in the Carolina League, leapfrogging Lexington altogether.

Bats: L Throws: R
Ht: 6'4” Wt: 215
Born: January 14th, 1991 in Waynesville, North Carolina
School: Tuscola HS (Waynesville, NC); University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC); Walters State Community College (Morristown, TN)
Drafted: by the Boston Red Sox in the 29th round of the 2009 MLB June Amateur Draft from Tuscola HS (Waynesville, NC), the Washington Nationals in the 14th round of the 2011 MLB June Amateur Draft from Walters State Community College (Morristown, TN) and the Kansas City Royals in the 8th round of the 2013 MLB June Amateur Draft from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC).

Drafted three different times from 2009 to 2013, Stubbs certainly had his share of suitors. Each time he was drafted, it was earlier on than before (29th round, 14th round, 8th round, respectively), and after his first year in the pros one can understand why. With good size a slight bit of projectability left, as well as developing lefty power and a strong arm for the position, Stubbs might soon find himself bypassing more experienced players already in the Royals system.
In 64 games at Idaho Falls last year, Stubbs batted .284 with 6 homers, 43 RBI, 13 doubles and even 7 triples. Those triples were more a product of power than speed, though he runs the bases well. He did strike out 61 times in 264 AB, so that's something which could work against him as he advances, and at 6'4” it will probably take a little time and work to cut down on those Ks. At 23, he's another player who'll have to move quickly if he's going to keep from being passed on the organizational ladder. Stubbs has the tools to do just that.

Bats: R Throws: R
Ht: 6'1” Wt: 205
Born: June 29th, 1992 in Livingston, NJ
School: St John's University (Queens, NY)
Drafted: by the Kansas City Royals in the 18th round of the 2013 MLB Draft

Schwindel is solid at both catcher and first base, but his future (at the moment) appears to be at catcher. His arm rates plus as a first baseman, if he ends up there, and I could definitely see him as a plus defender at the first sack. He had 8 passed balls in 2013 with three errors, which are certainly indications that he needs work behind the dish. However, he threw out 39% of basestealers as well, so that's also a promising sign. Schwindel popped 6 homers and 14 doubles in 64 games at Idaho Falls, batting an even .300. While he only struck out 24 times (260 AB), he drew a pathetic 9 walks. One would think that most batters could draw nine free passes accidentally. Drawing walks is something that I watch closely, so nine doesn't cut it. Schwindel should head to Lexington for 2014, and his work behind the plate will interest me more than his work in the batter's box.

Bats: R Throws: R
Ht: 6'1” Wt: 190
Born: August 11th, 1992 in Frankfort, Germany
School: Salt Lake Community College (Salt Lake City, UT); University of California-Irvine (Irvine, CA)
Drafted: by the Houston Astros in the 33rd round of the 2011 MLB Draft from Salt Lake CC; by the Kansas City Royals in the 15th round of the 2013 MLB Draft from UC-Irvine

Taylor might just be one of the late-round steals of last year's draft. At age 20, Taylor batted .322 with 8 homers, 37 RBI, 14 doubles, 50 runs scored and 13 steals in 62 games, impressive numbers even taking into account the offensively-inclined Pioneer League. Add to that only 29 strikeouts in 233 AB, and you can see that he had very little trouble adjusting at the plate to pro ball. I see him as an 'under-the-radar' type of player, though he likely won't go unnoticed by the pro and/or advance scouts for very long. Assuming they make a stop in the Sally League, I see Taylor and Zane Evans being Ethan Chapman-type guys for Lexington: great energy, good clubhouse presence, spark plugs in the batting order, always 100% in the field, fan favorites.

More to come, including more hitters on their way up, as well as pitching prospects who could take the mound at The Bank. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

2014 Lexington Legends Preview: Part One

A look at players likely to make up the 2014 roster

JAN 31st, 2014-With the start of the 2014 SAL season due to get underway in a bit over 2 months, now is a good time to consider who might be making their way to Class A Lexington. With the considerable talent on our roster last season, this year could bring with it the promise of even more potential.

The Royals minor-league system consists of three rookie-level teams: the Arizona League representative, Burlington in the Appalachian League, and Idaho Falls in the Pioneer League. Kansas City has typically partitioned these three teams according to the organization's own talent assessment: the AZL Royals usually get the youngest players and/or those who need the most polish, Idaho Falls gets the most advanced rookie-level players, and Burlington seems to be the way station between those two teams. With that knowledge in mind, we're first going to look back at the Royals' top rookie team in Idaho Falls.


Bats: L Throws: R
Ht: 6'2” Wt: 175
Born: August 23rd, 1991 in Scottsdale, Arizona
School: Cactus Shadows HS (Cave Creek, AZ)
Drafted: by the Colorado Rockies in the 38th round of the 2010 MLB Draft from Cactus Shadows HS

Drafted in 2010 by the Rockies, Davis opted instead to attend the University of San Diego to hone his game within a program with an excellent reputation. He ended up signing with the Royals as a non-drafted free agent and spent 2013 learning the ropes in the rookie league with the AZL Royals as well as the Chukars. Davis is the son of former MLB closer, All-Star and 1989 Cy Young Award winner (!) Mark Davis, who amassed 44 saves and a 1.85 ERA for the San Diego Padres in '89 and took home the hardware for his efforts. Davis the Younger has versatility in the infield and could end up at third if he is able to add a bit more muscle. He shows decent speed and a somewhat-advanced base-running sense. Davis is just getting his feet wet in pro ball, and as such could end up in extended Spring Training while he awaits assignment to Class A. A few more games at Idaho Falls would not be shocking, either.

Bats: R Throws: R
Ht: 6'4” Wt: 220
Born: August 22nd, 1991 in Denton, Texas
School: Stephen F. Austin State University (Nacogdoches, TX)
Drafted: by the Kansas City Royals in the 1st round of the 2013 MLB Draft

Dozier has been a polarizing pick among the experts, to be sure. Jeff Passan tweeted the response of a scout in Texas to KC's selection of Dozier at 8th overall:

Heard some good things about Hunter Dozier from a scout in Texas this week ... but another scout already texted: "This is a big reach."

Jim Callis reported a slightly more dramatic reaction to the Dozier selection, writing for Baseball America:

“The commentators at the main desk during MLB Network’s telecast reacted with such shock that the daughter of one Royals official asked her father why the team picked Dozier. Local radio hosts called for the dismissal of Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore and the rest of his front office.”

Now that's funny.

So let's get this out of the way: Dozier being selected in the top 10 was viewed as a secure pick. The Royals didn't want to run the risk of not being able to sign their 1st pick of the year, and so they made the 'safe' choice. Also, it allowed them financial room to sign their 34th-overall pick (Sean Manaea, LHP), so by taking a chance on Dozier at #8 they were able to land the lefty as well.

OK, fine. That having been said...

This kid has a great bat. In 54 games with the Chukars last year, Dozier smacked 24 doubles and 7 homers, driving in 43 and scoring the same in the process. He showed a good eye at the plate and made consistent contact, qualities which should carry over to the higher levels with little difficulty. One thing I wonder about is, he's already right about where he should be in terms of his size. Mind you, he's a chunk of muscle. He's an avid weight-lifter, which is both good and bad (see: Gabe Kapler). The scouting reports on Dozier were generally careful to point out that he has probably reached the apex of his physical development, however, and at his size he could ultimately be a DH-only guy. He is roundly praised for his intangibles and makeup, and along with his age (22) should push him through the minors quickly. IF he can maintain his flexibility and range, then he could man the hot corner in the majors. If not, it's the 1B-DH slot for him. The only way he doesn't come to Lexington this season is if he leapfrogs The Sally on his way to High-A Wilmington (which wouldn't be a huge shock).

Bats: R Throws: R
Ht: 6'2” Wt: 209
Born: November 29th, 1991 in Bethlehem, Georgia
School: Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA)
Drafted: By the Kansas City Royals in the 4th round of the 2013 MLB Draft

Evans was a promising two-way player in college ball, but his future demands that he play the field. In his case, that means donning the tools of ignorance. He had a strong fastball/slider combo in college, bringing it in the mid-90's often. However...

While Evans has a solid bat and will probably end up producing above-average pop for a catcher, there are concerns that he may be a defensive liability at that position. He is, at best, a fringe-average glove at the present. If he can progress defensively, he could end up as a Mike Napoli-type guy: solid power, mixes in some games at first and DH with some appearances behind the plate. Evans tore up the Pioneer League in 41 games, knocking 18 doubles and driving in 31 to go along with his spectacular .352 BA. At age 21, you'd expect a very small learning curve. Still, that's a heck of a year. Evans is, like Dozier, a batter who could end up taking a lot of AB as a DH and first baseman, and if his bat continues to progress he could be a 20-HR guy in the majors. Rookie-level ball is a poor measuring stick for measuring future success, of course, but Evans could hardly have given a better effort in his debut.

Bats: R Throws: R
Ht: 6'4” Wt: 200
Born: November 21st, 1994 in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic
Drafted: NDFA by the Kansas City Royals in 2011

Hernandez is a fascinating prospect: great natural ability, tools are all a bit rough, high-risk/high-reward sort of player. At 6'4”, 200, Hernandez is one large teenager. He moves very well for his size, shows flashes of brilliance with the glove, runs the bases well and puts a real charge in the ball with the bat. The Royals went after him with a purpose, signing him for slightly more than $3,000,000. He's got tremendous fast-twitch reflexes, which bode well for his future at the plate, and he put up big numbers in Idaho Falls (15 2B, 8 3B, 44 RBI, 44 R in 66 games). Granted, 2013 was a repeat in rookie ball, but he was only 18 years old. There's no real reason for him to go back to the rookie league in 2014, so look for him in Lexington after (perhaps) some time in extended ST. He's going to be exciting to watch.

That's just a few of the players who could be patrolling the field at The Bank. Part Two will take a further look at potential Legends bats for 2014 coming out of Burlington and the Arizona League. Stay tuned. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Kentuckians In The 2013 MLB Draft

A look at the 2013 seasons of Kentuckians, with thoughts on the upcoming year

JAN 18th, 2014-The Commonwealth of Kentucky has become a greater presence in the MLB Draft, in recent years, and it seems that there will be more and more Kentuckians in the pro ranks as the years go by.

While Kentucky has traditionally been more closely-aligned with high school and college basketball, the game of baseball is making its own case for respectability. More and more facilities are devoting time to teaching the game, leagues are springing up where none had been before, and established leagues are growing at a slow but steady rate.

Is it possible that, years from now, Kentucky may be known and respected for its baseball talent as much as it is revered among basketball fans?

Maybe that's a reach, I know. But at the rate that we're producing talent on the diamonds, I wouldn't completely rule it out.

Today I take a look at Kentuckians who were drafted in 2013, with thoughts going into the 2014 season:

Bats: R Throws: R
Ht: 6'5” Wt: 260
Born: October 7th, 1991 in Gilbertsville, KY
School: Western KY University (Bowling Green, KY)
Drafted: Kansas City Royals in the 19th round, 2013 MLB Draft

2013 Season (Burlington Royals, Rookie Class, Appalachian League; Wilmington Blue Rocks, High-A, Carolina League):
2-1, 1.16 ERA, 18 games, 16 GF, 9 SV, 23 1/3 IP, 13 HA, 3 ER, 13 BB, 17 K

Edwards is an especially interesting player, to me. Drafted by the Royals out of WKU, Edwards is a massively-built righty who had no problems whatsoever adjusting to pro ball. He signed initially with Rend Lake Community College in Ina, Illinois, where he was All-Conference in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference (69 1/3 IP, 4-5, 1.95 ERA career at RLCC), then transferred to WKU as a junior. While only getting in 23 1/3 innings of time on the bump as a closer, he appears to be ready for a full year in the Carolina League in 2014. He'll be 22 until October, so if he has to step back to the Sally it won't cost him much in the way of development time. If he does, we'll get to watch him bear down on unfortunate SAL batters for at least part of the season.

Bats: R Throws: R
Ht: 6'1” Wt: 195
Born: December 24th, 1994 in Lexington, KY
School: Woodford County HS (Versailles, KY)
Drafted: Toronto Blue Jays in the 2nd round, 2013 MLB Draft

2013 Season (GCL Blue Jays, Gulf Coast League; Bluefield Blue Jays, Rookie Class, Appalachian League):
6 games, 1-1, 3.12 ERA, 17 1/3 IP, 8 HA, 6 ER, 6 BB, 15 K

Oh, this kid. There was a lot of chatter about Hollon as the Draft rolled around, with talk that he might go in the 1st round. As it turns out, the pundits weren't too far off. Hollon ended up with the Jays as the 47th overall pick. This is a pick that could go very well for Toronto, or very poorly. With a fastball consistently in the 91-94 range, peeking as high as 97 at the Perfect Game Pitcher/Catcher Showcase, and an effective mid-80's cutter/change, Hollon has already shown some serious natural ability. His curve lacks consistency, which is a common issue for young pitchers, but it will come around. One thing which concerns me is his size, along with the fact that he seems to be a 'max-effort'-type of pitcher. Hollon spins off the mound a great deal with his delivery, and seems at times to be over-exerting himself in an attempt to impress the radar gunners. He does have a natural feel for the game that is not so common for pitchers his age, and he stepped into limited action at the rookie level in pro ball with little difficulty. At 6'1” and 195, he may be at the peak of his development, size-wise, which could hinder him as he climbs the ladder. He is definitely on my 'Ones To Watch' list.

Bats: L Throws: L
Ht: 6'3” Wt: 185
Born: March 21st, 1992 in Louisville, KY
School: Trinity HS (Louisville, KY); University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY)
Drafted: Boston Red Sox in the 5th round, 2013 MLB Draft

2013 Season (Lowell Spinners, Low-A, NY-Penn League):
0-3, 1.74 ERA, 12 games, 10 starts, 31 IP, 28 HA, 6 ER, 10 BB, 30 K

Littrell is a native Kentuckian, went to UK, and was drafted by the Red Sox, so naturally I'm a big fan. He certainly has more to offer, however, than circumstantial details; Littrell acquitted himself very well for the Spinners in 2013, allowing only a .237 BAA for the season. Oddly, lefties hit him rather well in limited AB (.324 vs. LHB in 41 PA), while righties stood little chance (.198 vs. RHB in 90 PA). Littrell already has decent size and a fair amount of projectability, he touches 90 and could end up with an above-average FB (for a lefty). Best of all, he knows how to pitch. That sounds like an odd thing to say, but there are a lot of 'throwers' in the game at all levels. I will be following his career closely.

Bats: L Throws: L
Ht: 6'4” Wt: 175
Born: July 12th, 1995 in Bowling Green, KY
School: Warren East HS (Bowling Green, KY)
Drafted: LA Angels of Anaheim in the 2nd round, 2013 MLB Draft

2013 Season (AZL Angels, Rookie Class, Arizona League):
4.32 ERA, 8 games, 16 2/3 IP, 16 HA, 14 R (8 ER), 16 BB, 11 K

Hunter Green is the prototypical prospect, in all senses of the word: he has tons of physical projectability, lots of raw talent, and youth on his side. At 17 years old he took on the Arizona League for 16 2/3 innings, and while the numbers were as rough as you might expect for a player his age there is plenty to like about his first season in the pros. Green has some definite mechanical issues which should be ironed out, but he sits in the low-90's with his fastball and already has a solid change and an occasionally-plus 12-6 curve. If the Angels take their time with Green, he could end up paying off big-time. He's another 'One To Watch'. Then again, I've always been a fan of these sorts of long-term developmental prospects.

Bats: L Throws: R
Ht: 6'3” Wt: 175
Born: October 12th, 1991 in Frankfort, KY
School: Western Hills HS (Frankfort, KY); University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY)
Drafted: Miami Marlins in the 13th round, 2013 MLB Draft

2013 Season (Batavia Muckdogs, Low-A, NY-Penn League):
59 games, 244 PA, 222 AB, 38 R, 54 H, 10 2B, 2 HR, 18 RBI, 6 SB, 28 SO, .243 BA, .603 OPS

One of my favs in recent years (for reasons which should seem readily apparent), Riddle was a true joy to watch while he manned the keystone for the 'Cats here in Lexington. He was often teamed with SS Matt Reida, and the two of them played the middle of the field together as if they had been doing so for years. As a pitcher with Western Hills HS, Riddle was dealing in the mid to upper-80's as a 16 year-old, but moved to IF with UK. He didn't set the world on fire with the Muckdogs, this year, but he certainly held his own as a 1st-year player. He's not a power-hitter at this point in his career, but his size and frame will allow for a great deal of growth and he could end up as a prototypically-sized third baseman with average power and above-average speed. He has smooth actions in the field and solid arm strength, and shows quick actions and a good transfer on throws. If he doesn't fill out, weight-wise, moving him back to second could be a smarter move for the Marlins. He likely would have a very small learning curve at second, while he'll essentially be learning on the job at the hot corner (where he played in 2013). From my point of view, ideally he adds another 15-20 pounds at most, retains his speed and moves back to 2nd base. He does have the tools to succeed at third, in the event he is there to stay.

Bats: L Throws: R
Ht: 6'0” Wt: 190
Born: July 9th, 1995 in Morning View, KY
School: Bishop Brossart HS (Alexandria, KY)
Drafted: Milwaukee Brewers in the 13th round, 2013 MLB Draft

2013 Season (AZL Brewers, Rookie Class, Arizona League):
30 games, 119 PA, 110 AB, 4 R, 21 H, 2 2B, 13 RBI, .191 BA

Norton already has ideal size for a catcher, at 6' (Perfect Game has him at 6'1”, and Prep Baseball Report has him at 6'2”) and a lean 200 pounds. His pop times are excellent, often below 1.9, and has a good approach at the plate. With time, Norton is likely to become a solid defensive catcher (at least), but is athletic enough to convert to a corner OF spot. Whether he has the bat for the outfield, however, is unclear. Perfect Game did have him ranked as the 8th-best player in KY, so that is something to consider. With players this young, it's often a matter of playing a very long waiting game. For that matter, catchers usually take longer than other players to develop. His arm and athleticism make him an intriguing prospect, so it will be interesting to see what he turns out to be.

Bats: R Throws: R
Ht: 6' Wt: 190
Born: August 26th, 1992 in Lexington, KY
School: University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY)
Drafted: San Diego Padres in the 6th round, 2013 MLB Draft

2013 Season (Eugene Emeralds, Low-A, Northwest League; Fort Wayne TinCaps, Class A, Midwest League):
2-2, 2.50 ERA, 27 games, 31 2/3 IP, 23 HA, 9 ER, 12 BB, 33 K

Gott jumped into the pro ranks feet-first, and had as strong of a debut as you could possibly expect. Spending a cursory 4 1/3 innings mowing down 8 batters in Eugene, he quickly moved on to the TinCaps in the Midwest League, where he averaged a strikeout per inning. It's not terribly often that a college pitcher can make such an impact on pro scouts exclusively as a closer, but Gott was easily one of the best college closers in the nation in 2013. He left UK holding both the single-season and career marks for saves, and his appearance in the game usually meant 'game over' for opposing hitters. His size and lack of projectability are common knocks on him with the scouts, but Gott was the anchor for a bullpen that made the 'Cats a perfect 40-0 when leading after 7 innings. There's no arguing with results, but the pro ranks are a very different animal. His first year out, however, could be a sign of things to come. Don't forget the name.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

In Other Words: A-Rod and 'The Legacy' - Part One

Rodriguez Takes His Case to the People – Keeps Mum in Hearings

"I know that I am in a position where I have to earn my trust back. And over time, I am confident that, at the end of my career, people will see this for what it is -- a stupid mistake and a lesson learned for a guy with a lot of baseball to play.” - Alex Rodriguez, during 2009 press conference where he admitted to using PEDs from 2001-03.

JAN 14th, 2014-Well, well, well.

Everyone's favorite Yankees third baseman is in the news, again. Shockingly, the current situation does not show him in a good light.

Let's take a look back at 2009, when Rodriguez found himself in a similar situation: A-Rod was dealing with the accusation (which he vehemently denied) that he had used PEDs during the 2001-03 seasons while a Texas Ranger. After a great many assertions from both the accused and the accusers, Rodriguez finally came clean (or, at least, as clean as he could be):

"As I discussed with Peter Gammons, in the years 2001, '02 and '03, I experimented with a banned substance that eventually triggered a positive test.”

As he put it initially in an admission that was rather late in coming, he 'experimented' with a banned substance. He doesn't just come out and say 'yes, I purposely used what I knew to be an illegal, banned substance', nor does he state what the aforementioned substance happened to be. More on that, later.

What he does say, however, is every bit as interesting:

"Going back to 2001, my cousin started telling me about a substance that you could purchased over the counter in the DR [Dominican Republic]. In the streets, it's known as 'boli' or 'bole.' It was his understanding that it would give me a dramatic energy boost and [was] otherwise harmless. My cousin and I, one more ignorant than the other, decided it was a good idea to start taking it. My cousin would administer it to me, but neither of us knew how to use it properly, providing just how ignorant we both were.”

In this part of the statement, it seems pretty obvious that he's trying to paint a picture of two naïve young men who were using a substance they didn't fully understand. I guess it's just hard for me to swallow; if I were a pro athlete making 25 mil a year (or more), I think I'd want to know every detail about every 'substance' that went into my body. But I guess that's just me.

Anyway, it almost seems like Rodriguez wants the public to believe that he might not have known just how serious was the situation in which he put himself. But then comes this gem:

It was pretty evident we didn't know what we were doing.”

To whom, exactly? Moving on:

"I stopped taking it for several reasons: In 2003, I had a serious neck injury and it scared me half to death. I was scared for my career and truly my career after baseball -- my life out of baseball. Secondly, after our voluntary test, all the players voted for a Major League Drug Policy. At that time it became evident to me how serious this all was (emphasis added) . And I decided to stop then. Since that time, I've been tested regularly. I've taken urine tests consistent with Major League Baseball and blood tests for the World Baseball Classic. Before walking in here today, I took a test as part of my physical, and I will take another blood test next week for the Classic.”

'At that time'”, he is quick to acknowledge, “'it became evident to me how serious this all was.”. So it was only then that you realized just how serious things had become?

He's asking us to believe that he was, essentially, led down this path by an outside influence. The blame lies somewhat more heavily on those who were involved in convincing him to take these substances, right?

And by the way, what was it that he took? Rodriguez says that the street name for the substance is 'boli'. T.J. Quinn of ESPN wrote an analysis of that statement on February 25th, 2009:

'If boli refers to Primobolan (a brand name for methenolone), it can't be purchased over the counter in the Dominican Republic (emphasis added). So how did they get it? The black market?'”

I think the emphasis is, in this particular statement, especially important. It seems to me that critics of PED use seem more often to focus on the potential benefit these drugs offer to the players who use them. The fact that obtaining said drugs without a prescription or by methods which don't involve being under a doctor's care is glossed over in favor of shining the spotlight on stats and records.

A transcript of A-Rods news conference was posted on MLB.com on Feb 17th, 2009. Rodriguez gives a curious response to one question posed to him by the MLB reporter in which he was asked why he stopped using PEDs (supposedly) when he came to the Yankees in 2004:

'I keep going back to -- I entered the game when I was 18. For a lot of people, if I had a son I would definitely recommend going to college and having an opportunity to grow up. And I didn't. I felt like I said in my statement that after I had my neck injury and after I realized MLB was implementing tests that this was serious business. It was time to grow up. Since, I've realized that I didn't need any of it.'”

Ah, so now we have the reason A-Rod used PEDs: immaturity. In essence, he suggests that entering pro ball as a teenager somehow inhibited his ability to grow into a mature, responsible adult. I don't even know how to respond to that.

He goes on to blame his PED use on being 'young and stupid', which is a point I'm not even going to attempt to refute. He most definitely was, in some ways, young and stupid for being involved with what he himself tells us was something he didn't fully understand. He even says that he didn't KNOW that the substance in question was steroids:

"'I didn't think they were steroids at the time. Again, that's part of being young and stupid. It was over the counter...

OK, that's a lie. If it WAS Primobolan, then it most definitely was not over the counter. But I digress:

'...it was pretty basic and it was really amateur hour. It was two guys, we couldn't go outside, who couldn't ask anyone, didn't want to ask anyone. We went outside team doctors, team trainers. It was two guys doing a very amateur and immature thing. We probably didn't even take it right. Like I said in my statement, we used to do it about two times a month...'”

To me, this is a veiled attempt at suggesting that he shouldn't be held fully accountable because he was too ignorant to know how to take the drug that (again, I say) he readily admitted to not understanding fully. Moving further on:

'I don't even know if that is proper. So when this gentleman asked me about how it affected us -- I'm not sure we even did it right to affect us in the right way. All these years, I never thought I did anything that was wrong.'”

In other words, he wants us to believe that what he DID take, in the way he took it, wasn't enough to cast doubt upon his statistics. Are we kids, or what?

A-Rod wants us to believe that he was seeing the professional sports world through the eyes of a child; that he, as I said previously:
  1. Didn't know what he was taking
  2. Didn't know it was wrong, and
  3. Didn't even know if he was taking it properly
Does anyone else find this hilarious? I've been told that I have a quirky sense of humor, but I think it's a laugh riot.

I could go on and on with the farcical sideshow that was Alex Rodriguez in 2009, but I don't see the need. I mentioned all of these statements to set the groundwork for analyzing his most recent attempt at defending his naivete.

It gets even more hilarious from here.

(To Be Continued...)