Entries Tagged as 'Rookie Watch'

Saturday links

They’ve gone through physical training.  They’ve fine-tuned their hitting, pitching and fielding skills.  Now, MLB rookies must go through a special class to  “prepare them for life under the lights: how to live with the attention”. 

In other words, don’t post incriminating photos on the Facebook and Twitter, rubes.

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A few years ago, it was hard to get any info at all on winter league action.  Not so much anymore.  Teams are getting ready for the Caribbean Series.

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bi The Pirates unveiled a statue of Bill Mazeroski at PNC.  Word has it, Maz was pretty teary-eyed at the event.  The statue depicts him hitting his famous homerun against the Yankees in the 1960 World Series.  I’m not a Pirate fan but I’d rather have it showing his fielding prowess.  Your thoughts?

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On a personal note, tomorrow is my big day at the Kiwanis Sports Trivia Championship.  My friend Shawn and I are team are teaming up to hopefully going to show our sports trivia prowess (or embarrass ourselves trying).  Wish us luck!

McCutchen Redeems Himself

Staff PhotographerNeither closer has had all that much success this year, neither Matt Capps, nor Brad Lidge.  Capps spit out a one run 9th inning lead, allowing back to back doubles, and then with two outs Shane Victorino lined a ball right at Andrew McCutchen, McCutchen froze, and the ball took off over his head, and gave the Phillies a one run lead.  Now it was time for Brad Lidge to protect a one run lead.  Hits by Luis Cruz & Brandon Moss, with a wild pitch in between, tied the game when Jayson Werth over ran the ball, and pinch runner Brian Bixler scored.  That brought up the kid, Andrew McCutchen.  Andrew talked with Lastings Milledge during the game, talking about what he’d do if he hit a walkoff home run, and told him he’d be like a basketball player taking the dunk to the hoop when he reached home plate.  He thought he might get the bunt sign, but when he didn’t, he focused on the job at hand and looked for a ball to hit hard.  And BANG it happened!

Which got me to thinking of managers putting their players into positions where they can achieve success.  I remember a couple of nights ago where Jim Tracy didn’t panic, he told Adam Eaton to take three pitches with the bases loaded (he walked), trailing in the game, wanting Ryan Spilborghs to bat with the bases loaded, and BANG it happened!

Then there was the opposite, which happened in last night’s Texas/Yankee game.  With nobody out in the bottom of the 9th New York trailed the Rangers 10-9 with runners on 1st & 2nd, facing Frank Francisco.  Now we all know Swisher cannot bunt, I presume Girardi knows this as well, but he had him try, popout.  And then BANG it happened!  Linedrive up the middle by Melky Cabrera, caught by Elvis Andrus for a game ending DP.

I’m reminded of what Stacey King always says regarding Da Bulls, KYP, Know Your Personnel!  Don’t have players do what they can’t!

Gordon Beckham Makes Big League Debut

gordonbeckhamap21 I was at the Cell today to witness, firsthand, Gordon Beckham’s major league debut with the White Sox. The University of Georgia’s Beckham was the first player drafted by Chicago in the 2008 rookie draft. As a SS, Gordon led the nation in homers as a senior Bull Dog. I’d seen the White Sox twice this season and the combined score in those two ballgames was 20-0 Bad Guys, so anything Mr. Beckham could provide, would be greatly appreciated.

In his first at bat, he grounded to third, on a slow developing force at 2nd, he was able to beat the relay to first, thus avoiding a doubleplay. In the field, A’s batters were able to take advantage of the youngster learning to play the hot corner on the fly, by hitting balls between him and the line.

The White Sox have struggled all season against rookie starters. They are 7-1 with a 1.51 ERA in 10 games this year. I’ve kind of lost track, but this was either the 7th or 8th time the club has been shutout this season, I’ve been to three of them.

Something’s got to change, sitting Jim Thome in favor of Josh Fields, was basically inserting Gordon Beckham in place of Big Jim. Besides Fields, the Sox lineup also featured offensively challenged Jayson Nix and minor leaguer Dewayne Wise (.260 avg .309 OBP in over 3,500 minor league at bats). Is there a worse outfielder ever to play for Chicago? Maybe Julio Ramirez, who ironically batted .261, with a .308 career OBP in over 4,000 minor league at bats. The Hawk’s infamous quote about Julio, “Man, this kid can do it all, if he could only learn to hit”.

Matt Holiday came to the plate, after doubling passed Beckham, with a runner on 2B, Ozzie decided to setup the DP by walking Matt to get to Jason Giambi. I asked Buck what he thought Giambi was thinking, he said, “I hope I don’t hit into a doubleplay”. I said, he’s thinking, “Those rightfield seats don’t really seem that far away”. First pitch went screaming over the rightfield fence for a three run bomb, making the score 4-0 Oakland. Final score 7-0 A’s.

My three game total, 27-0 Bad Guys.

LET’S GO WHITE SOX!!! but where???

Beckham’s Better

beckham There is a current battle underway for the starting secondbase spot with the Chicago White Sox, with the incumbent Alexei Ramirez sliding over to SS replacing Orlando Cabrera. So the guys battling are Jayson Nix, Chris Getz, and Brent Lillibridge. What I really don’t understand is why there hasn’t been more discussion about leaving Alexi at 2B, with Gordon Beckham taking over the starting SS position.

Beckham was the White Sox #1 draft choice out of the University of Georgia, where he led the NCAA last season with 28 homers, while batting .411 in 197 games at Georgia. Gordon is a born SS and a born competitor. He reminds me of former White Sox SS Bucky Dent in the field, but with a much better bat.

Jayson Nix is a solid fielding secondbaseman, with pop, however he strikes out quite a bit, and is not a leadoff type hitter. Nix was handed the starting job last season with the Colorado Rockies, but couldn’t get the job done. Now Jayson, at 26, understands the importance of not taking this opportunity lightly.

I really like Chris Getz. He’s a lefthanded batter out of the University of Michigan, he’s a real battler, does all the little things well, not as good a fielder as Nix, but he can bat leadoff.

Brent Lillibridge was a SS in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, but is competing with Getz & Nix for the starting secondbase job. Brent has excellent speed, but lost his stroke last season with Atlanta, batting only .220 in AAA.

Competition’s good, I hope it’s not a closed competition. Last season Jerry Owens won the starting CF job last year, but was injured, so Carlos Quentin got a shot, and we all know how well that turned out. Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t think Beckham needs to pay his dues in the minors, this kid’s from a big time college, and he’s ready to PLAY BALL!

BC’s Cole Armstrong Hoping to Catch On

cole-armstrong The White Sox used the minor league rule five draft to pluck Cole Armstrong out of the Atlanta Braves system. Armstrong was a catcher and a goaltender growing up in British Columbia, Canada. I first saw the big lefthanded hitting catcher in Fall Ball a few months ago in Arizona.

Growing up in Canada, Armstrong, like most of his baseball-playing compatriots, saw some national team action, playing for the Junior squad from 1999-2001. In fact, he caught while Martin manned third base. But this year’s selection to the provisional roster is the first time since ’01 that Armstrong has been tabbed for Team Canada.

“It’s a huge honor anytime you get asked to play for your country, but especially now with Canada having so many big-name guys,” he said. “It would be a really neat opportunity to get to play with some of them. And I haven’t had the chance to play in front of 50,000 people, so that would be a nice experience too.
Talking to some of the guys who were on the Olympic team or the qualifying team, they say it’s definitely like you come back together. Everyone knows each other. Even if you never actually played together, you know the same people. That was something I really wasn’t expecting. From day one since the White Sox picked me up in the Rule 5 Draft, they have been such an incredible organization and have given me so many opportunities that I probably wouldn’t have gotten with other organizations.”

The White Sox plan to send him to the recent Rookie Career Development Program, an honor saved for an organization’s top “big league-ready” prospects. Chicago decided not to re-sign Toby Hall, so there is an open spot on the big league roster as a backup catcher.

FLOWERS FOR VAZQUEZ

The White Sox packaged the extremely talented righthander Javier Vazquez and bullpen lefty Boone “They’re not saying Boone” Logan to the Braves for C-1B Tyler Flowers, SS Brent Lillibridge, 3B Jon Gilmore, and southpaw reliever Santos Rodriguez. Vazquez has a dynamite fastball, an explosive curveball, and very good control, yet he is two games below .500 in his career, despite the fact he has over 2,000 strikeouts. Down the stretch, when the White Sox needed him most, Ozzie Guillen & Vazquez, himself, lost confidence. This game is hard enough, but there is no way to succeed when you don’t believe in your stuff. That, in a nutshell, seems to Javier’s problem, not believing in his ability. It seemed, from my vantage point 34 rows behind home plate, Vazquez would be getting batters out, overpowering them, when all of a sudden he’d start trying to fool hitters, rather than just get them out. He’d get ahead 0-2, then nibble, rather than take advantage & put the hitter away. Still in this pitching starved era, this 32 year old will give you 33 starts & 200 innings, not bad, but he’ll drive you crazy, good luck Atlanta! Then there’s the case of Boone Logan, a herky jerky motion, from the leftside, couldn’t get my grandmother out in the second half of the season. In fact 97 year old granny was two for three, with a homer against Logan.

Now here’s what we got back, it was better than a half eaten bag of potato chips, so I’m happy. Tyler Flowers is a 6’4″ 245 pound righthanded hitting catcher/firstbaseman out of Georgia. Flowers played in High Class A ball for the Braves in 2008, where he hit 17 homers & 32 doubles, while hitting .288, with 98 bases on balls. But where Tyler really shined was the Arizona Fall League, where he was the home run leader with 12 home runs in only 20 games, with a batting average of .387. Atlanta drafted him in the 33rd round of the 2005 draft out of a junior college, then he was suspended fifty games for testing positive to taking performance enhancing drugs. A knee injury may limit him to a career at firstbase.

Brent Lillibridge was the Bucs shortstop of the future when he was drafted out of the University of Washington in the 4th round of the 2005 draft. In 2003 at the age of 19 Brent batted .388 with some pop at Washington. Even though he batted .220 with 90 strikeouts in 2008 with Richmond, it’s hard to think he’s washed up at the age of 24, in fact the Braves brought him to the majors for a cup of coffee, where he batted .200 in 80 at bats with the big league club. The book on Brent is that he’s a good fielder, with speed, who needs to re-find his stick.

Jon Gilmore is an interesting prospect, drafted by the Braves with the 33rd pick in the 2007 draft out of high school. This, 6’3″ 195 pound, 20 year old, thirdbaseman was born in Florida, but played his high school ball in Iowa City. 2008 was a split decision for Gilmore, as Jon batted .337 with 23 doubles in only 258 at bats in rookie ball, but then really struggled at Class A, hitting only .186.

Then there’s 20 year old lefty reliever Santos Rodriguez. It’s hard to get a read on Santos, as he’s only pitched two years of rookie ball. But in 2008 Rodriguez struckout 45 batters in 29 innings, with a nifty 2.79 ERA.

All in all, I like the deal. Sure we gave up a solid member of our rotation, but we got back value, and Vazquez had pitched on the Southside long enough, let the Braves enjoy him. Kenny Williams has been a genius and I’m not going to second guess him at this point.

Singh and Patel working with House

This article by Diane Grassi elaborates in good detail on the signing of the two Indian pitchers by the Pirates. 

Apparently, they’re under the physical training of former MLB pitcher Tom House who now specializes in working to develop young pitchers

GORDON BECKHAM REDHOT IN THE DESERT

I’m back in Chicago, but Joe (who went with me to the all the games in Arizona) was in the Phoenix house last night. Joe had gotten a free ticket to see the Saguaros battle the Desert Dogs in Phoenix. He gave me a report on the game, including a couple of members of the White Sox. One up, Gordon Beckham, who seems to be finding a home at secondbase, while batting .396. He was three for four last night, including his 5th double of the Fall. Beckham could be the starting secondbaseman for the White Sox in 2009, with Alexei Ramirez moving to SS, and fellow countryman Dayan Viciedo over at 3B. One down, Aaron Poreda, of the University of San Francisco, didn’t make out too well, three earned runs, walking three & surrendering a solo bomb off the bat of Mike McKenry (his 9th) in 2/3 innings of work. The 6’6″ lefthander now has a 7.71 ERA.

Joe picked up a free ticket for Saturday, look forward to his next report.

Outman does his job

Man, for a pitcher, I just love this guy’s name. 

Josh Outman pitched his first start today for Oakland (he had appeared in two games earlier).  And at least for today, his name fit.  In his first career start (against the Rangers) he allowed only one run, four hits, struck out three and walked two. 

Oh, and he recorded 15 outs, man

Pitchers (past and present) whose names did NOT inspire confidence:

Bob Walk

Homer Bailey

Grant Balfour

Bruce Hitt

and I know it’s part of his nickname but I can’t ignore

Hugh "Losing Pitcher" Mulcahy

…any others?

LOVE TO WATCH THE KIDS PLAY

The ultimate supersub Wilkin Castillo got the September callup from the Cincinnati Reds, despite the fact that he batted only .246 at Triple A. I fell in love with this intriguing prospect when I saw him last year at the Arizona Fall League. Castillo is a switch hitter, but what makes Wilkin exceptional is his versatility. Although his primary position is catcher, he grew up playing SS, and I saw him at secondbase, but truth be told, he can play anywhere on the field. Today against the Buccos he’s in leftfeld and he nailed a ball that bounced over the wall for a ground rule double.

Everybody seems to know about Jed Lowrie of the Boston Red Sox. Lowrie has been doing the job for the Bosox in a pennant race filling in at both SS & 3B, but before he got the callup, I remembered Jed as the switch hitting middle infielder with a little pop I’d seen go yard for a walkoff homer in the AFL.

I saw Chris Dickerson play for the Reds in spring training the same day I watched Jay Bruce, Johhny Cueto, and Joey Votto. While I was impressed with the other three youngsters I was to see that day, Dickerson did not impress me. Chris is the nephew of former NFL great running back Eric Dickerson, and while he could run like the wind, there’s one thing that is vastly different between success in baseball and success in football, the ability to hit a curveball. This youngster really didn’t put up the numbers in the minors before this year. Well something must’ve clicked because Dickerson has responded well since his callup to Cincinnati. He got a chance to play when Ken Griffey, Jr. was dealt to the Chicago White Sox, and really came through, hitting six home runs in his first 19 big league ballgames (only the 2nd Red in the team’s history with five homers in his first twenty contests). The 6’3″ 225 lefthanded batter has done quite a bit in his short time in the majors, six homers, 7 doubles, 2 triples, five steals, while batting .320, all this in only 75 ABs. While I might’ve overlooked this 26 year old, it’s going to be hard to overlook him if he keeps playing the way he’s been thus far.