WTNYDecember 03, 2004
Mix And Match
By Bryan Smith

For those of you that were sick of hearing Barry Bonds name before this story broke, here is some weekend reading material.

Though the story was broken first here on A-B over at the Beat, I wanted to touch on the signing of Kendry Morales. In case you havent read Rich or Transaction Guy recently, the Anaheim Angels announced a six-year signing of Morales, a switch-hitting Cuban 21-year-old first baseman, yesterday. The terms call for a $3 million signing bonus, with incentives built in that could make the contract worth ten million dollars.

Given the lack of success from other Cuban signees, this move is a large risk on the part of the Angels. But according to Scouting Director Eddie Bane, who has apparently had Morales on his radar since the age of 16, it is a very calculated risk. During the conference call announcing this signing, Bane said that Morales has faced Scott Kazmir and a few other players currently in the Major Leagues.

Everything I have heard about Morales screams talent. He is supposed to have plus-plus power, and his numbers in the cleanup spot with the Cuban National Team are fantastic. He did not participate in the most recent Olympic Games, because he had already left in America.

My policy when doing my formal prospect rankings is to never include players with no professional experience, eliminating foreign signees and recent draftees alike. Because of this policy, Morales will not be in my top 75 prospects list (I promise, it will come sooner or later). If so, I cant say I know where he would fit in. My guess is somewhere after Kotchman and Fielder, but before James Loney and Jason Stokes.

Speaking of Kotchman, he has a spot in all of this, because as said by Mr. Lederer, With the addition of Morales, Casey Kotchman becomes more expendable than ever. I have always thought that the Angels could offer Arizona the best package of any Unit-Contender. If I were the Diamondbacks, I would take a Kotchman, Ervin Santana, Juan Rivera package in a second.

Rivera would provide a replacement, and an improvement, over the departing Danny Bautista. While the Diamondbacks are currently flush in outfield prospects between Josh Kroeger, Conor Jackson, Carlos Quentin and Jon Zeringue, but Rivera is an extremely safe bet. Kotchman would immediately be inserted at first base, providing an improvement on Lyle Overbay, who they unfortunately traded for Richie Sexson a year ago. And Santana, while not currently ready, would become the Diamondbacks best pitching prospect.

At the same time, Im just not sure I would make this offer if I were Bill Stoneman. More than any other prospect, Casey Kotchman is the surest bet to reach his ceiling, though we wonder if that tops out at Sean Casey, Will Clark, or something greater. Bane could not think of a comparable player for Morales, which scares me a bit. It has been a year out of organized ball for this kid, to expect him to immediately claim a spot on the Major League roster is expecting way too much.

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In a story long developed, but under-reported on my fault, Jeff Allison has announced that he will be back in Spring Training next year. Allison spent the 2004 season not playing, because of a substance abuse issue. Apparently over his addiction, the 2003 first-round pick will try to pick up where he left off as the nations best high school pitcher during the spring of 2003.

Before Allison got over the addiction, it appeared as both Florida teams would have problems with local legends. Tampa Bay had the best prospect in the game before Josh Hamilton stopped playing organized baseball, of which he has still not returned to. Allison, who posted some of the best numbers Ive ever seen as a high school Senior.

To me, Allison is a similar player to Scott Kazmir, in the fact that both were legitimate top-five talents that fell into the teens due to signability concerns. Both had insane stuff coming out of high school, and both were two of the top players drafted in their year. If Allison can bounce back, he still could turn into quite the prospect.

But these kind of stories are larger than baseball, and lets just hope that Allison continues his strong quest to overcome an injury that goes much beyond the body.

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OK, and yes, I will give you guys the Winter League update that you deserve. I cant explain why Ive been so quiet on the AFL and on other winter leagues, but I try to give yall an update every now and again

First of all, we begin in the Venezuelan League, where this year, they will play the whole season. In this years season, Yusmeiro Petit and Alex Romero look to be the two aces. Petit broke out this season with the Mets, showing an increased ability to change speeds and strike out batters. He has continued success in his hometown Venezuelan League, though Im not sure playing extra is the best idea for me.

As for Romero, hes showing similar power that Alexis Rios showed in the Winter Leagues last year. But I believe this means very little, as Rios brought that power to the Majors not at all, showing less power than just about everyone else in the Majors this season. Im not sure whether he is a good Rule 5 pick or not, but I would love to see what he does in the Eastern League if hes not.

Since I mentioned a good baseball story in Jeff Allison already, I want to mention that WTNY favorite Rick Ankiel is continuing his return success in the Puerto Rican League. He is second in the league in strikeouts, and while his ERA leaves a little to be desired, his progress is fantastic.

But it has been the Dominican League that has been the largest haven for prospects. Two players featured in my reliever report, Jose Capellan and Denny Bautista, have been disastrous in the DL, making many wonder why their organizations let them continue pitching. Carlos Lugo, over at Baseball Prospectus, made this comment on Capellan (supporting my relief claim in my mind):


Jose Capellan had a rough outing Monday against the Estrellas in San Pedro de Macoris. Capellan came into the game with just six hits and two walks allowed in 12 innings, and a 0.75 ERA. But that night the prospect's secondary pitches were not effective, his fastball a couple of miles slower and poorly located. The result was seven runs in an inning and a third, with seven hits allowed. An interesting note on Capellan is that he seems much more bigger than last winter, and bigger than the 6'3", 170 lbs. he's listed at the Register. Capellan must weigh around 200 lbs.

Cubs prospect Felix Pie is struggling, hardly able to muster a .300 OBP. But the same cannot be said for Joel Guzman, who is hitting over .300, showing his dominance over Pie in prospect terms. Frankly Cub fans, I dont see Pie hitting for power as first projected, and we just better hope he continues walking and provides us with a good leadoff hitter for years to come. Or, at least trade bait.

Ill do a full-length Dominican report another time, but just wanted to give you guys something to chew on for the weekend.

Comments

When the heck did Morales face Kazmir?

Regarding Hamilton, he's eligible to return to baseball in mid-March and if he does come back I expect the Rays will stick him in A ball and see if he has anything left after all this. I don't think any of us are very interested in him any more though....if he can make a worthwhile contribution sometime, great, but if not we won't be surprised or disappointed. Sad how it all turned out.

Just curious, why do you think Romero's power in Venezuela means "very little"? Is the air down there Coors-like or are the parks over there smaller...or is the pitching weaker?

I ask not because I'm interested in Romero, but because one of my favs, Franklin Gutierrez is among the league leaders in HR in the VL. He certainly didn't show this kind of power in AA this year. Is his power legit or is that again, due to the league he's playing in?

Robinson Cano is certifying his prospect status, with his play thus far I think.

ZTiger--
Bane said that the Cuban Junior National Team faced the US Junior National Team when Morales was 16. One of the members on the US staff was Scott Kazmir. Again, this is paraphrased from the conference call announcing the signing.

Yankman--
I guess it was Alexis Rios' huge winter last year that turned me off of really paying attention to these numbers. People thought Rios had turned the corner with his huge numbers, but his ISO was one of the lowest for Major League regulars this year. Given, that was in the Dominican League, but I will remain skeptical until proven otherwise. In the case of Gutierrez, this is a guy with a lot of power potential, that very well could have turned the corner. And people know I love Romero, even saying his FSL numbers were comparable to those of Jason Kubel in 2003.

Fabian--
Thought about including Cano, who is doing well in the Dominican League. Torn between him and Chris Burke on prospect lists, and this might put me over the edge. He will definitely be included in a longer report.

Ah, thanks. That makes sense.