WTNYMay 17, 2004
When Bad Teams Make Me Think
By Bryan Smith

I’m not a big fan of tooting my own horn, but I’ll make one exception, and ask any of you that haven’t to read my piece on the Southern League at the Hardball Times. It’s always been hard for me to judge the number of fans that truly love the minor leagues, but I see it as the Internet’s most uncovered baseball topic, and I’ve set out to change that. Whether I have a fan base or not remains to be seen...

As someone noted in the comments section last week, Dustan McGowan has joined the list of players that are out for the season. McGowan’s arm injury should take him out until mid-July, but as Will Carroll points out, it’s really only the second injury the Riccardi regime has faced. This hurts the 2005 Blue Jays that were leaning on McGowan, but he could be ready as early as 2006.

In other minor league news, Brad Thompson extended his scoreless streak to over forty innings with six scoreless innings on Friday. Retiring one out his next time on the mound will give him the Southern League record, and at this point, I think you can bank on that. Whether the Cardinals are simply waiting for him to give up a run to get a promotion, or don’t think he’s ready, Thompson should be in Memphis later this month.

Also, while I think there are holes in the article, Jim Callis has a nice breakdown of polish vs. stuff over at Baseball America. They make out Jered Weaver to have no stuff, and from what I hear from Rich Lederer, he seems a little underhyped. Players like Jeremy Sowers deserve that title more than someone like Weaver, especially with those strikeout numbers. We’ll see how Tim Stauffer’s career turns out, but his first two months have been better than those of Kyle Sleeth. And believe me, Weaver’s stuff isn’t as far behind Verlander’s as Stauffer’s is to Sleeth’s.

While I hate to sound repetitive with what I wrote in THT Live, watching Ben Sheets yesterday just reminded me while I follow this game so closely. Sheets was absolutely perfect, striking out the final six hitters, all of whom were facing him from the left side. The ump was being very generous with the outside corner, almost causing Johnny Estrada to be ejected two pitches before Sheets struck him out to end the game.

Before this year, the Sheets vs. Zito debate has been non-existant. Sheets career ERA+ of 96 has been unexceptional, although his peripherals showed great improvement in the last year. This season Sheets has shown why he was once a first round pick. How? Well, his pinpoint control has further improved, all the way to only walking nine batters in his first fifty-nine innings. In that time, Sheets has also allowed only forty-six hits, but has struck out 66 batters.

But, Sheets is just one of many Brewers that have pushed the club’s record over .500. I predicted the Brewers to finish fourth in the NL Central before the season, and despite the Reds current push, I stand by my prediction. The combination of Ned Yost and Mike Maddux seems great to me, and the Brewers show more energy than most teams, and sometimes that can be enough to win 80 games.

A bigger surprise than Sheets this season has been Lyle Overbay, the stud first basemen that has made Milwaukee fans forget about some guy named Sexson. Overbay’s line of .369/.414/.638 has led to of a Wilson/Overbay/Thome debate for the National League All-Star vote. Lyle’s 21 doubles and 38 RBI are enough to garner my vote, and while I don’t think he’ll keep this up, fifty doubles isn’t out of the question.

In fact, only two first basemen in the last twenty-five years have had seasons with more than 50 doubles and less than twenty-five home runs, John Olerud and Mark Grace. The latter is fitting, as Overbay has garnered comparisons to Grace since his minor league days. Lyle is definitely playing over his head, but in the very least, he should allow the team an extra year to develop Prince Fielder.

And it’s prospects that make up the future of this team. Sure, there have been problems, Rickie Weeks hasn’t shown a ton of power and J.J. Hardy has been lost for the season, but the future remains bright. Junior Spivey and Keith Ginter will allow Weeks all the time he needs, and even Bill Hall has become a serviceable shortstop.

Another amazing Brewers factoid is the fact that through 37 games, Scott Podsednik has twenty stolen bases, against zero times being caught. He has an off chance at 90 steals, and looks to be Doug Melvin’s best minor addition of his career. His .356 on-base percentage could go up, but Podsednik has yet to turn on the jets.

Whether is was Ben Sheets yesterday or just some weird intuition, I’m jumping on the Brewers bandwagon. No, not for this year, but rather for years down the road. This system is too good for the Brewers not to make an impact as early as 2006, and each year this team is learning more and more about their club. If you have a chance, I recommend watching Sheets pitch soon, and maybe his fastball/curveball combination will inspire you to think about Milwaukee as well.

Going from one bad team to another, I couldn’t say anything shocked me more this weekend than discovering Jose Vidro had signed a four-year extension to stay with the Montreal Expos. This is following a three-year extension given to ace Livan Hernandez only weeks before. I’m not the first to imply this, but there is no question Montreal will not be the home of Les Expos next year. Oh, and if you get a chance, head over to Senators and Sabermetrics, a great new blog I’ve seen with a great twist. I’m telling you, find your niche and you’ll make it, what it is I haven’t quite figured out yet though...

Moving back to the Expos, I think those two extensions ensure that Orlando Cabrera will be dealt midseason. I know the Cubs will be interested, maybe as early as July, but the Giants, Dodgers, and maybe even the Twins could all be on the phone with Minaya as well. Signing Jose Vidro probably cost them Dioner Navarro and another prospect, but they also signed one of the better second basemen from the last fifteen years. While he’s started out a bit slow, Vidro’s OPS has improved .063 this month.

Well, that’s all for now. Last week I made a mid-week post on minor league injuries, and I think that’s a direction I’ll go in more and more. Anything you hear interesting on the draft or the minors drop into the comments, and heck, it might even spawn a post, even a Brewer could do that.


I see the Cubs getting Cabrera, just because they have sooooooo many pitching prospects. They could give up 3, and still have at least one future stud at every level.

On the subject of Cubs' pitching prospects, why did Nolasco get the call-up to Iowa instead of Brownlie?

I agree that the minors is an "uncovered" topic on the Internet. I write a blog that focuses mostly on the minors, particularly little-known minor league info. I just started it on 5/12, but it will be updated several times per day. Anything that anybody can do to promote the minor leagues is a good thing.

Well, Nolasco has the lower ERA, and Brownlie has allowed something crazy like six home runs in forty innings, which is a very bad sign. I've heard Bobby's curve is sick, but my guess is that he throws it too much and hangs it occasionally, although just a guess. Nolasco has been more consistent, and while he doesn't have the strikeout numbers some do, he's a good hurler. With that being said, he's the type of pitcher we trade for Orlando Cabrera, along with Chadd Blasko.

My not trade list: Guzman, Sisco, Jones, Marshall, Brownlie

I'd probably toss Hagerty onto that list as well. Right now, nobody wants him (damaged goods), but as he heals, he'll be an extremely precious commodity.

If you're Minaya, and Hendry calls offering Nolasco, Meat Tray, and either Blasko or Ryu for Cabrera, do you pull the trigger?

Right now, the Expos have a pretty nice pitching corp (and Armas and Patterson still haven't came back), a pretty nice defense and absolutely *no* offense.

They have *absolutely* nobody to fill in for Cabrera, except some Andy Fox/Jamey Caroll platoon (ick...).

They probably don't have a shot at the WildCard, but they are 10 games behind teh Phillies. I just don't see Minaya trading Cabrera until the trade deadline. And because he has to think (at least a little) about the future, I don't think he'd go for a trade without a decent SS in the mix.