Weekend BlogApril 29, 2007
Ready for The Show?
By The Baseball Analysts Staff

  • 2006 first rounder Tim Lincecum is slowly becoming a household name, at least with MLB prospect watchers. The diminutive (5'11'' 160 lbs) but hard throwing righty is dominating Triple-A in his first full season.

    Here is what Baseball America had to say about Lincecum before the draft:

    [Lincecum's] fastball, already a plus pitch, improved a grade as he added nearly 15 pounds of muscle and has reached 98 mph this season, often sitting between 91-96. His power curveball already was one of the best in the country and has become more effective now that he also shows a slider he can throw for strikes... His unorthodox delivery has been described as resembling a pinwheel as he rocks back, makes his body do most of the work and seemingly brings his lightning-quick arm along for the ride... His delivery, resilient arm, size and stuff remind many scouts of Angels setup man Scot Shields, and most scouts think Lincecum will thrive in a relief role. His present stuff rivals any pitcher in the draft, and he should move quickly.

    But based on his solid pro showing as a starter in 2006 and 2007, the Giants see Lincecum as a starter, and so they should. As of April 27, Lincecum had been very, very good for Fresno:

            W-L   ERA  GP   IP   H   BB-K   BAA
    Fresno  3-0  0.36   4  25.0  9  11-32  .113

    Left-handed batters are hitting .083 against Lincecum. With runners in scoring position, he has yet to allow a hit in 5.1 innings. Although it is early in the season, it seems Lincecum is at least as ready to be in the majors as fellow 2006 first rounders: Seattle's Brandon Morrow and New York's Joe Smith.

    The biggest problem is that the Giants don't have a spot for him in the rotation. The National League West club has a solid starting rotation and two other young pitchers in the bullpen that could be starting for most teams.

                           ERA   IP    H  BB-SO
    LHP Barry Zito        3.70  24.1  20  11-15
    RHP Matt Cain         1.55  29.0  11  13-21
    RHP Matt Morris       2.49  25.1  24  12-12
    LHP Noah Lowry        3.38  26.2  22  13-13
    RHP Russ Ortiz        4.50  26.0  33   7-14
    RHP Brad Hennessey    3.24   8.1   8   1-3
    LHP Jonathan Sanchez  5.14   7.0   7   5-7

    So what do you do with Lincecum? Do you leave him where he is until an inevitable injury occurs? Do you bring him up and throw him in the pen as a long reliever and spot starter, while sending down Hennessey or Sanchez to get extra minor league seasoning? Or do you replace fifth starter Russ Ortiz, who appears to be rejuvenating his career?

    Either way, it's a nice problem to have, especially for an aging team such as the Giants.

    - Marc Hulet, 4/29/07, 10:30 a.m. EST

  • While on the subject of "Ready for The Show?," let's take a look at a number of other highly regarded arms in Triple-A who stand a reasonable chance of being called up before the All-Star break.

    Pitcher          AGE   ORG   LG   IP    H   R  ER  HR  BB  SO   ERA
    Homer Bailey      21   CIN  INT  21.1  12   6   4   2   9  13  1.69 
    Yovani Gallardo   21   MIL  PCL  23.0  14   6   6   0   7  33  2.35
    Matt Garza        23   MIN  INT  19.0  20  10   6   2  10  18  2.84
    Adam Miller       22   CLE  INT  25.0  23   9   8   0   8  23  2.88 
    Jeff Niemann      23    TB  INT  25.0  23  10  10   4   9  30  3.60
    Kevin Slowey      23   MIN  INT  18.2   9   3   2   1   1  20  0.96 
    Andy Sonnanstine  24    TB  INT  30.0  21  11   9   3   6  37  2.70
    

    Check out Yovani Gallardo's stats: 12.9 K/9 and 5.5 H/9 without allowing a home run. Gallardo's numbers matched up well with those of Phil Hughes and Homer Bailey last year in the Florida State (A+) and Southern/Eastern (AA) Leagues, but the second-round pick in 2004 has never quite gotten the acclaim of his fellow first rounders from the same draft. He just may turn out to be the best of the three.

    - Rich Lederer, 4/29/07, 9:45 a.m. PST

  • The above post serves as a nice segue to another first-round selection from the 2004 draft. Jered Weaver made his third start of the season yesterday, holding the Chicago White Sox scoreless for 5 2/3 innings. Weaver's outing was not only in sharp contrast to his previous start against the Detroit Tigers when he couldn't even get out of the second inning but it showed that he and his brother Jeff are not one and the same:

    4/29/07

    Pitcher   OPP   IP  H  R  ER  HR  BB  SO
    Jered     CWS  5.2  6  0   0   0   0   5
    Jeff       KC  0.1  7  6   6   0   1   0
    

    2007

    Pitcher    IP   H   R  ER  HR  BB  SO    ERA
    Jered    13.1  17  11   8   2   4  11   5.40
    Jeff     11.1  31  23  23   2   4   7  18.27
    

    CAREER

    Pitcher     IP    H     R   ER   HR   BB    SO    ERA
    Jered    136.1   111   47   43   17   37   116   2.84
    Jeff    1579.1  1703  877  821  194  432  1051   4.68    
    

    Although Jered has thrown less than 10% of Jeff's career innings in his one-plus seasons in the big leagues, it is pretty obvious that the brothers are not one and the same as so many have suggested.

    The younger Weaver's velocity and command were acceptable yesterday. He was throwing 88-91 in the first inning and working mostly in the high-80s the rest of the game. The tall righthander had more than two times the number of strikes as balls and didn't walk a batter. However, he was a little too fine and threw too many pitches (107) for not completing six innings. What impressed me the most, however, was his changeup. Great arm action with the same arm speed as his fastball, yet the change of pace was clocked at 79-81 or about 8-10 MPH below his four seamer. He wasn't afraid to pull the string against RHB and, in fact, used it effectively vs. Jermaine Dye before blowing a fastball by him up and in for his fifth strikeout on his 107th and last pitch of the game.

    - Rich Lederer, 4/29/07, 11:00 a.m. PST

  • I will keep the "Ready for The Show" theme alive and point out that it's about time the Astros found a place for Hunter Pence. At 10-13 and four games behind the Milwaukee Brewers, one has to wonder what sort of difference Pence might have made had he been starting in place of Chris Burke all along.

                         AVG   OBP   SLG
    Burke - 2007        .219  .329  .329
    Burke - 2006        .276  .347  .418
    Pence - 2007 (PCL)  .341  .398  .588
    Pence - 2006 (TEX)  .283  .357  .533
    

    Two notes; First, Corpus Christi, where Pence played in 2006, plays as one of the tougher hitting parks in the Minor Leagues. Second, Pence slugged a ridiculous 1.071 in 28 Grapefruit League at bats this season. There was plenty of evidence there to suggest Pence was ready to contribute at the Big League level. Tim Purpura disregarded the evidence and sent Pence to Round Rock to start the season.

    So my question in a situation like this is "What has changed Tim Purpura's mind in a month?" Did it just dawn on him that Pence would be the superior option? If not, what's the excuse? Baseball teams are in the winning business and should put those players that will best help them achieve that end in the lineup. This is especially true for a team like Houston, who, even if they do qualify for the postseason will likely only do so by the skin of their teeth.

    If the Astros end up just a few games out of the playoffs, you can think back to April when their offense couldn't get going and Hunter Pence was tearing up the Pacific Coast League.

    - Patrick Sullivan, 4/29/07, 2:15 p.m. EDT

  • Outfielder Travis Snider was arguably the best high school hitter available in the 2006 draft and he was taken 16th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays. However, shortstop Billy Rowell was the first prep hitter taken at No. 14 by Baltimore.

    Here is what Baseball America, the definitive voice on the baseball amateur draft, said about Snider before the draft:

    Toronto was prepared to draft [Matt] Antonelli, but now they're hot and heavy for Snider, arguably the best hitter available in the draft. Concerns about his weight (the 6-footer checks in at 240) are outweighed by his impressive, polished bat.

    Snider's powerful left-handed swing generates above-average bat speed and raw power, and he's become noted not just for hitting lots of home runs, but for hitting lots of long home runs. He does a good job of hanging in against left-handed pitchers and staying back on breaking balls, trusting his hands. His work ethic earns raves from scouts; he organizes practices three times a week for his Jackson High team, which was undefeated through 21 games, and gives hitting lessons to local children as a senior class project.

    Snider's selection is noteworthy simply because the Jays had never seriously considered a high school player with the first overall pick since general manager J.P. Ricciardi's tenure began on Nov. 14, 2001.

         college  prep  juco
    2002    30    15      5 
    2003    33     7     10
    2004    35     5     12 
    2005    29    12      8
    2006    32     8      8 
    

    In those five years the Jays signed only seven of their 47 high school picks. Four of those came in 2006 (Snider, OF Mikal Garbarino, IF Luis Fernandez, and IF Jonathan Del Campo).

    So far Snider is having a great season in the Midwest League:

              AVG   OBA   SLG  AB   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB-K
    Lansing  .362  .382  .623  69  25   7   4   1   13   4-11

    He's also not having any trouble fitting in with his teammates - most of whom are three to four years older than he is (the average team age is 22).

    "I feel like I can go out every day and not feel like the young guy or being the first rounder, or whatever. There is so many great personalities in [the clubhouse]," Snider said. "The biggest thing for this team this year is our camaraderie. Everyone sees eye-to-eye and I wouldn't say that we have one spoken leader. I would say that we have a lot of guys here who just go out and play the game the right way and we've got a great manager and a great staff below him and I think that we have some good pieces here. Hopefully we can just put them together and continue to win baseball games."

    With Snider's solid start to his first full season, Jays fans are already beginning to ask when Snider will be promoted. But that is one of the furthest things from his mind.

    "The personal success is something that I can't say that I don't care about, but to me it is not the No. 1 thing. I just want to go out there without putting the pressure on myself to get moved up to Dunedin or to make it to Double-A by the end of the year," Snider explained. "Obviously those thoughts are going to go through any guy's head because that is the name of the game, but for me - as it was in Pulaski [Rookie Ball] - it is just for me to go out there and have a good year and let the Blue Jays, [director of player development] Dick Scott and those guys make the decisions - when they feel I'm ready or if I'm ready."

    "I feel comfortable with the staff and the organization that whenever they think that I'm ready, I'm going to go and that is all that I can ask for."

    Perhaps in part due to Snider's success and maturity, Ricciardi has already gone on record in the local Toronto media stating that he is willing to have more prep players drafted this year, although he is still leery of high school pitchers due to their unpredictability. Toronto has seven picks in the first two rounds of the 2007 draft so scouting director Jon Lalonde will be busy.

    A special thanks to Chad Hillman

    - Marc Hulet, 4/29/07, 3:30 p.m. EST

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