WTNYOctober 28, 2004
Important Misses
By Bryan Smith

Over the last few days, my narrow-focused articles have forced me to skip over a few big minor league topics. Today I want to run through those issues, even if not putting out a lengthy article. Enjoy, and please feel free to bounce around your minor league thoughts in my comments. Anything, questions to me, questions to fellow readers. Lets get a mL community here!

WTNY

Jason Kubel provided plenty of headlines this year, going from a average FSL outfielder, to a minor league superstar, to a player in the American League Division Series. Since his regular season ended, Kubel provided us with one more, along the tune of Kubel Likely Out for Most of 2005. Torn ACL. Not exactly what Terry Ryan had in mind.

In order to get Kubel some more at-bats, the Twins opted to send their star prospect to the Arizona Fall League. My guess is the team had in mind what I did: to get Kubel prepared enough to replace Jacque Jones. While Jones is not a free agent, there is no question that his trade could help replace the potential hole Brad Radke could leave.

Despite Kubels injury, the Twins can still trade Jones. This would mean the team uses an outfield of Stewart-Hunter-Ford, and insert Matt LeCroy and/or Joe Mauer in the DH spot. I would recommend this, but there is no question that Terry Ryan wanted his player to bring home the 2005 Rookie of the Year. I mean, this is a guy that Peter Gammons reported was untradeable by June.

I would be remiss to not answer the question, What does this injury do to effect Kubels prospect status? A lot, but maybe not as much as expected. Being a Cubs fan, I saw Corey Patterson tear his ACL running down the line in early July of 2003. Working extremely hard, Patterson was back to baseball-shape by February. Seven months. Kubels injury was a little more extensive, and should be out 9-10 months, with a possibility of the Twins being safe, and waiting for the knee to completely heal.

So, hes not gone from prospect lists. This probably drops him out of the top-five outfield prospects, a list where he recently was second or third (Delmon, Francoeur). Does it drop him from the top ten? I dont know, Ill leave that for another day

WTNY

Another story I missed, but my friend Rich Lederer backed me up on, was the Tigers signing of Justin Verlander. I missed the Tigers conference call on the signing by about sixty minutes, where the team credited Verlanders father for getting negotiations rolling again. This is because only a week before, the Tigers had made the difficult decision to send their second-overall choice back to the Old Dominion.

While I am hardly a draft expert, I was not a big fan of the Tigers choice of Verlander. But what most interests me about this signing, is how it should get the ball rolling on the other first-round unsigned players: Philip Humber, Jeff Niemann, Jered Weaver and Stephen Drew. I have deliberately left off Wade Townsend, who has now been labeled ineligible to sign with the Orioles.

To quote Baseball America, [Verlander] received a $3.12 million bonus in the deal that is worth a guaranteed $4.5 million with a maximum value of $5.6 million. This is right around what the Mets should be looking to sign Philip Humber, who will likely want $500,000-1M more in each number. This should help speed along that process. But as for Weaver and Drew, it might just take a little while. I think both are going to get done, but we might have to way until lonely February, or something of the sort.

WTNY

In the injury news department, we have Mike Jones out all of next year and Carlos Quentin and Jeff Baker are done in the AFL. Greg Miller and Kris Honel are making strides, and both should be ready by next April. All these come courtesy of Jay-Dell Mah of the Scoresheet Rookie Reports, the best minor league news blog/source out there.

You have to feel for Doug Melvin, who had a real rough year with the Brewers. First, Hardy is out for the year with a shoulder injury. Then, Dave Krynzel breaks a leg. Jones is playing off and on, as is Manny Parra. Throw in struggles by Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder...yikes. This is still a very good organization, but may have fallen from the top ten with as disastrous a year as one can imagine.

Quentin has a back strain, so Im not worried, since its not related to the Tommy John surgery he had out of college. Baker has a wrist injury, which tends to linger and drastically affect batting numbers. That will effect him in my next rankings, for sure. Miller and Honel are damn good prospects, and their returns would be huge for their respective organizations. At this point, I dont know who I like more, Logan White or Grady Fuson.

WTNY

Quick check in on the AFL, which I have been ignoring a bit here. This isnt deliberate, and hopefully Ill give you more in the weeks to come.

The AFL has been dominated by five hitters: Mark Teahen, Chris Shelton, Rickie Weeks, Ryan Howard and Tommy Whiteman. Both Teahen and Shelton have shots at big league jobs next year, and are doing nothing but further convincing their AL Central franchises. Weeks is making his season look like an aberration, and making a case to be a top prospect again. Howard is hitting with huge power- shocking, I know- while learning the art of left field. Whiteman is an Astros shortstop prospect that could form a double-play combination with Burke if his success continues.

As for pitching, the big name in Arizona has been Huston Street. Oakland has found its closer next year, whether they bring Octavio Dotel back or not. Street just succeeds at every level of competition, and seems to have the bulldog attitude necessary for a good reliever. Mix Jairo Garcia and Street, and the As could turn games into 7 innings. I also have to mention Dustin Moseley, who not only is leading the league in ERA, but also has only allowed 3 hits in 12 innings. The Reds need all the help they can get.

WTNY

Baseball America has released a full-list of minor league free agents. I need a few more days to peruse the list to see if I can find any worthy acquisitions, but if you beat me to it, drop it in the comments.

And lastly, congrats to the Boston Red Sox, and all their fans. You deserve it. Now bring on the Hot Stove League already!

Comments

There are three 6-year minor leaguers that stand out to me. They may not have the biggest names, but can be servicable in the near future.
1. Ricardo Aramboles, rhp, CIN - Injury-riddled career has derailed his future, but he still has a lively arm and could be dominating if his velocity returns. Too inconsistent for a 40 man roster spot at this point, but still projects a classic risk/reward project.
2. Brent Hoard, lhp, MIN - He's lefthanded and throws hard. Once he cleans up his mechanics, he could be a valuable lefty set-up man in the majors.
3. Bernie Castro, 2b, SD - I'm not too fond of him defensively, but he's a usable middle-infield bat and has speed.

Bryan, love your articles. Please keep 'em coming.

I spend a fair amount of time evaluating minor league prospects and have been having a hard time getting excited about Jeff Francoeur in the near term. I think his poor K/BB ratios indicate a long period of struggles once he gets to the majors before achieve a level of success. What's your take on Francoeur, and when do you think he'll make it to, and make an impact at the major league level?

Personally I see Jeremy Hermida as a more advanced hitter than Francoeur and expect Hermida to have a more immediate impact in the majors than Francoeur.

I'm having the same concerns I have about Francoeur with Joel Guzman. I'm worried his plate discipline will not be strong enough in the majors for his power potential to fully develop. What type of player do you think Guzman will become, and when do you think he'll make it to the majors?

Finally, I wanted to add that I believe James Loney's poor season was the result of injury and believe he will bounce back strongly in 2005. I think the kid's going to hit and be an on-base machine. Do you agree? Also, how much superior, if at all, do you consider Prince Fielder to be as a hitter to Loney?

Thanks again for the great articles and for taking the time to answer my questions.

Jake--
Forgive me, I'm going to skip the Francoeur and Guzman questions for now, and present my answer in article form on Monday. So yes, I am asking you to wait the weekend.

As for Loney, I disagree. Loney had a wrist injury last year, and while those tend to linger, I don't know how much it still bothered him. He was fantastic in Spring Training, which indicates his talent, but also indicates he was probably over the wrist injury. Loney needs to get out of the Southern League, ASAP.

The difference between Loney and Fielder is immense right now. Fielder is a lock for my top 25, Loney is not a lock for the top 100. With that being said, I have not actually done either list, so I admit I could be wrong.

I don't think Kubel's injury should hurt him too much once recoverd. Opposed to Patterson , Kubel wasn't all that fast to begin with, some might even say he was slow.

Bryan, I very much appreciate your thoughts. Thanks again, Jake.

I think that A.J. Zapp wouldn't be a bad pick up by a low-end club looking for first base help. Granted, there's always a ton of minor league first basemen out there, but Zapp's glove is near gold, he isn't too old, and, strikeouts aside, his RC/27 was about 7 and a third playing half his games in a pitcher's park. Might pay off for someone willing to take a risk.

Bryan, you refer to Loney's wrist injury from 2002 and note that he must have gotten over that. Yes, that injury healed, but it sounds like you are unaware that the middle finger on Loney's left hand was broken a few games into this season, it became infected, and Loney required surgery. We know that the finger on Loney's throwing hand bothered him for the rest of the season, because even near the end of the season, he was noted to have trouble gripping a baseball well enough to make a decent throw to the pitcher covering first base when he fielded ground balls. Now, Bryan, please try the following experiment: take a baseball bat and swing it with your middle finger on one of your hands only loosely wrapped around the bat while your other fingers grip the bat tightly. How does that swing feel? I would venture to guess it feels shaky, and not very strong.

Bryan, you seem to be heavily influenced by sabermetrics in your analysis of prospects, and of course the sabermetricians value hard numbers over scouting information. Therein lies your problem. Scouts all know about Loney's physical situation this year, and Loney's playing through injury may be one reason why one gets the impression from Baseball America that scouts love Loney this year even more than they did last year. Loney will certainly make Baseball America's next Top 100 list, and I doubt he would be below the top 50. According to BA, some scouts even prefer Loney to Prince Fielder. Loney's numbers this year are completely excusable given his injury. But sabermetricans like Dayn Perry have dumped on Loney this year because they don't know what Loney has been through injury-wise (Perry clearly has no clue about the broken finger, based on what he has written). To sabermetricans, numbers are the only reality, seemingly, so they draw conclusions based only on the numbers. Numbers are not a substitute for real information about prospects.

I've become a big fan of Kubel following him this year, and, yea, hopefully this injury won't affect his progress too much.

Anyway, Bryan, my sim league will be having its 2004 draft soon, and I was wondering who your personal favorites were from the draft... signing bonuses and even signability aren't an issue (since we retain rights to the player even if they aren't signed). I'm hoping to land Stephen Drew with the third overall pick, and possibly Huston Street with a later 1st round pick... any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.