It's Like This and Like That...
I'm heading out of town for the rest of the week today, so call this site on Thanksgiving break until next Monday. Before I do so, I want to get rid of a lot of the random thoughts floating around my brain.
- Now that the AFL has gone, you'll probably see a lot of critiques over real small sample sizes. These numbers are a lot like short-season ball (where it's college players over high school) but instead hitters over pitchers. Sandy Alderson has publicly stated that one of the AFL's largest problems is the quality of pitching doesn't match that of the hitting. This is true for two reasons: teams don't want their top prospects throwing another 20-40 innings, and Arizona isn't the place for pitching. The first step to bridging the gap would be moving over to Florida, a move that Major League Baseball is quite unprepared to make. So for now, we'll have to settle for fringe pitchers fighting for 40-man roster spots.
- This was done successfully by a few players, notably Russ Rohlicek in the Cubs organization. During his 19.2 innings in the AFL, Russ provided what he has done for the last two years: great peripherals that don't involve the BB column. His problem is control, and has been for years. A player with a BB/9 over 4.50 is not valuable, even in short LOOGY-like appearances. But what would make Rohlicek a likely Rule 5 pick is that a team would hope their pitching coach could get the walks under control, while keeping all the other good things. I was pleased to see the Cubs make the right decision here, though I'm not so sure with Geovany Soto.
- Despite the lack of depth in the AFL pitching corps, I do want to mention the players that had a successful fall. Macay McBride falls under the same column as Rohlicek, as his performance locked up his 40-man roster spot. While his ERA was high, that's a column you should pretty much ignore, his good strikeout numbers are enthusiastic. The same can be said for Bobby Bradley, the once highly-thought of Pirates prospect battling back from injury. Sean Marshall, also from the Cubs organization, pitched for the first time in a few weeks, and his K/BB of 8 raises some eyebrows. Finally, Twins prospects J.D. Durbin and Scott Baker were talked about both for their velocity, and poise.
- But the most impressive Fall pitching performances came in the bullpen, from Huston Street and Brad Baker. Street, a first-round pick just last June, struck out 19 and walked only two hitters in 18.1 innings. His continued success keeps drawing interest, and fuels debate that Street should begin the season in the back end of the bullpen. While some worried last March about the A's fringe back-end of Chad Bradford, Jim Mecir and Arthur Rhodes, 2005 provides hope that the 7-8-9 innings of Street, Jairo Garcia and Octavio Dotel will improve at a cheaper cost. As for Baker, it looks as if his move to relief will be another success story, and he should join Akinori Otsuka in the late innings relatively soon.
- As for the sluggers, I would say eight hitters really impressed me with their autumn actions. Chris Shelton was the best player in the league, following a year spent at the highest level in professional baseball. In the very least, Shelton proved that he should at least factor in as the leftie-hitting side of a platoon, if not take over for Carlos Pena in 2005. The next most impressive, and winner of the inaugural Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award, was the Royals' Mark Teahen. Allard Baird really liked Teahen before pulling the trigger on the Carlos Beltran deal, and has left the hot corner wide open next year. Who knows if Teahen will hit for power, but he saves a lot of money, with no loss in OPS from Joe Randa.
Shelton was not the only first basemen raising eyebrows, as that position reigned supreme. Ryan Howard, while making his attempt to learn the left field position (behind the scenes), led the league with 14 doubles. The Phillies are most definitely going to trade Howard for a center fielder this winter, and I've heard names from Scott Podsednik to Endy Chavez even to Vernon Wells mentioned as candidates. The sticking point in trades will be whether Howard can make the transition, which I'm not so sure. While the Indians just traded for Josh Phelps a couple months ago, they have his immediate successor ready in Ryan Garko.
Pardon me while I get sidetracked for a second, but the Indians have a ton of offensive depth, and it's time for Mark Shapiro to start using this for his advantage. Casey Blake just finished up a fantastic year at the hot corner, as did Ronnie Belliard up the middle. Omar Vizquel's exit will allow either Johnny Peralta (IL MVP) or Brandon Phillips (ex-enormous prospect) to fill his shoes. Add Aaron Boone to the mix, and you have a crowded situation. In just 1B and DH, the Indians have Ben Broussard, Travis Hafner, Phelps and Garko. In the outfield, they have Matt Lawton, Grady Sizemore, Coco Crisp, and Jody Gerut. I say...
1. Try to find suitor (Cubs?) for Matt Lawton, one of the more expensive players on the team. In return, get a back-end starter or reliever (Farnsworth?).
2. Package both Phelps and Brandon Phillips together, and see if you can get anything of value. I would imagine a team like the Devil Rays, searching for cheap options, would come in handy here.
3. Move Broussard to left, and keep Coco on the bench for a Gerut injury, or a Garko/Sizemore breakdown.
Easier said than done. Now back to the AFL, with Jason Botts being the last first basemen on my impressed list. Botts obviously can rake, and could either slide into the DH spot (like this move) or let Mark Teixiera move to left (don't like). He has power, and in Coors Light, that power ain't going anywhere. Two already solid prospects, Jeremy Hermida and Conor Jackson, also enjoyed powerful Fall Leagues, with the former leading the AFL in XBH and the latter in HR. Maybe Dave Cameron is right, and Hermida will make the Jeff Francis-ish leap to the top of prospect lists next year.
A couple days after being a bit harsh on Omar Quintanilla, I want to mention his Fall League was fantastic, possibly signaling his late surge was for real. But his zero home runs satisfy the power doubts I have about him, though things could be worse. The kid only struck out five times in 91 at-bats, though he only walked 5 times as well. Note to Billy Beane: start teaching this kid second base...now.
- I pretty much agree with the general consensus that the Angels won in the Jose Guillen trade, as Stonemann got as much back in Rivera as he gave up, for a much cheaper price. I have my doubts about Izturis, though maybe he could enjoy an Alex Cora-like career. And remember that in 2000, though in only 110 at-bats, Cora hit .373 in AAA...at the age of 24. OK, looking at minor league numbers, they are actually a lot more alike than I first realized when I thought of the comparison...weird.
Rivera showed last year that he has a real bat, something that should interest the Arizona Diamondbacks. One spin I didn't hear among major media types, is that this Rivera probably won't spend a day in Anaheim if Stonemann had his wish. The Angels, who could already have a solid Anderson-Erstad-Guerrero outfield, have little room and time for a player like Rivera. But shipping him, as well as some more prospects to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Randy Johnson makes some sense.
- If Peter Gammons is right, and the A's really can get Marcus Giles, Dan Meyer and another prospect for a member of the Big Three, they better do it. I love Dan Meyer, though I do realize that having Mark Redman and Meyer on the same team would be a bit odd.
- Question of the week, and if you are still reading at this point, you must answer. This will in no way be enforced, but I am trusting you the reader here. My top three prospects are going to contain the names Felix Hernandez, Casey Kotchman and Delmon Young. How would you rank these three players?
And enjoy the turkey.