In some ways, it’s hard to envy Tyler Skaggs — yes, the 21-year-old strong-armed hurler entering the prime of his pitching life. In some ways, not all ways. Here is one: When Skaggs was traded from the Angels in Aug. 2010, he was a bright prospect to be sure, but he didn’t bring with him the sort of homegrown, battling-back-from-Tommy John surgery tale that attracted Arizona D-backs faithful to right-hander Jarrod Parker. This seemed to be fine by Skaggs who was still a lanky left-hander learning his craft on the Minors’ lower rungs.
Then, five months before Parker was traded to the Athletics in December, the D-backs went out and drafted another fire-balling righty in Trevor Bauer. And few ballplayers yield as much attention from the media and the fans because Bauer not only throws nine different pitches (he invented one of them), produces YouTube videos of his mound mechanics (and his musical performances) — he is also willing to discuss all of his zanier interests with any clubhouse visitor.
Skaggs, whom I have interviewed on five occasions for MiLB.com, is a very smart, at times thoughtful, interviewee, too. But it is obvious that he is less interested in what happens on the periphery, beyond the diamond’s white lines, or he is at least reticent to share his observations. As a result — fairly or unfairly –Skaggs has never been the No. 1 guy, and it was difficult to mention his name without comparing him to Parker and, nowadays, Bauer.
In this case, however, a juxtaposition might be justified: Bauer and Skaggs are Arizona’s top-ranked prospects and both excelled in the Minors in 2012 before finding little sweetness in their first cup of coffee in the Majors. So both need to make adjustments to be their best selves in ’13. They’re on no strict deadline, but Skaggs — and Bauer — might be overshadowed by this fellow farmhand soon enough.
Tyler Skaggs in the Minors: 9-6 — 2.87 ERA — 22 Gs — 122 1/3 IP — 37 BBs — 116 Ks
Skaggs in the Majors: 1-3 — 5.83 ERA — 6 Gs — 29 1/3 IP — 13 BBs — 21 Ks
Skaggs going forward: ”He’s gotten a little bit tired, which is understandable when you jump two levels. For him, it will be managing that. Each year, it gets easier. You pitch in the big leagues with fans, pressure, eyes on you — its different than pitching in Mobile.” – D-backs player development director Mike Bell
Trevor Bauer in the Minors: 12-2 — 2.42 ERA — 22 Gs — 130 1/3 IP — 61 BBs — 157 Ks
Bauer in the Majors: 1-2 — 6.06 ERA — 4 Gs — 16 1/3 IP — 13 BBs — 17 Ks
Bauer going forward: “I am anxious to see what changes he’s made next spring. I don’t think Trevor is ever going to make a ton of changes — he is always making subtle changes. In time, he’ll get more efficient, I think, possibly. But you can’t argue with his numbers.” – D-backs player development director Mike Bell
I checked in with a pro scout who has worked with four different Major League organizations and evaluated players from Class A on up to the the bigs. Here is what he said:
Blog: Tell us about one undervalued prospect you scouted in 2011.
Scout: Scooter Gennett. He’s a baseball player with high energy, hitting ability but is underrated due to size. (Gennett, a second baseman in the Brewers’ system, is listed at 5-foot-9, 164 pounds).
Blog: And how about one prospect that is overvalued in your mind?
Scout: Josh Vitters. He looks good in pregame but he has high strikeout numbers, less positive energy at game time and seems to play with a burden on his shoulders. (Vitters, a third baseman in the Cubs’ system, was the third overall pick in 2007.)
Blog: We live in a world where scouting terminology is used more and more in the public sphere. What are some of your most-used terms when discussing players with fellow talent-evaluators?
Scout: “Trending up” or “trending down” or playing at “peak performance.” Plus, “Do you want the player on our team or the other guys team?”
Blog: With recent flicks Moneyball and Trouble With The Curve baseball fans (at least the movie-going ones) might think we know a thing or two about the job of a scout. What might be flawed about our perceptions?
Scout: The perception is that most of our work is done at the games — easy life. But people don’t realize the amount of research that goes into writing a report — the length of time it takes to write a report and we have to write a report on every player on the team. Couple that with travel issues with flights, hotels and dealing with stress that is going on with family at home.
Blog: Alright, a couple of lighter questions before we let you go. What is the highest number you’ve ever seen on your radar gun?
Scout: 102 mph, and it belonged to the Reds’ Aroldis Chapman.
Blog: And who hit the longest home run you have ever seen?
Scout: The Reds’ Joey Votto when he was at Triple-A Louisville [in 2007]. That ball may have landed in the Ohio River.
Stryker Trahan won’t return my phone calls.
That was my first thought when I was reporting my ninth and penultimate MiLB.com Prospctive column last month. A friendly D-backs media relations rep had given me a cell number for Trahan — the 26th pick in the 2012 Draft — and told me to give him a ring. I gave him two over the next week and, while not in a rush, was reminded of Pat Jordan, one of the better (and crankier) sportswriters, and his amusing 2008 Slate article, “Josh Becket Won’t Return My Phone Calls.” I think I made this connection because of the first-year catcher’s quick highlight. This video made the rounds, and Trahan was immediately seen (by me and others) as the type of gritty, gutty athlete that is all baseball, all the time and has little time (or interest) in discussing his exploits with reporters.
Well, I was wrong. I don’t know or remember why Beckett dodged Jordan, but Trahan just turned out to be too busy tearing up the Rookie-level Arizona League. (Due to new Draft rules, specifically, moving the signing deadline a month forward to mid-July, Trahan played 49 games this summer). And when he did take time out of his day to speak to me, he was more than helpful, sharing a couple of tidbits about his defensive improvements behind home plate: “Before now, I haven’t had too much instruction. And there they’re tuning up everything from my swing to throw-downs and blocking the plate. As a catcher, they’ve taught me to have a more athletic stance behind home plate, keeping my feet wider apart.”
Offensively, some AZL numbers worth mentioning: .895 OPS, 40-to-48 BB-to-K ratio, 8 SBs in 9 ATT.
Defensively, 11 errors in 40 games behind home plate.
To get the opinion of the front office in Arizona, I checked in with D-backs player development director Mike Bell — and he picked up on the first ring.
Blog: What sticks out to you regarding Trahan’s first season?
Bell: His numbers were very good for an 18-year-old. That’s what stuck out to me.
Blog: How much did he pick up defensively?
Bell: He improved his receiving, throwing and blocking. He’s from a small town in Louisiana, and I can guarantee you he wasn’t seeing the types of arms that he did [in the Arizona League]. For a guy who hadn’t done much catching, he was pretty raw when we got him.
Blog: Who was working with him?
Bell: It’s a credit to Carlos Hernandez and Bill Plummer, our catching coordinators, and to him for putting in the work. He went from having a very difficult time just getting through a game [to improving].
Blog: And he showed you plenty with his bat, right?
Bell: His bat is well advanced. He can go to [Class A Advanced] Visalia and [Double-A] Mobile next year and hit right away, but we have to patient with his defense and let it catch up to his bat so that when he gets to the big leagues, he sticks in the big leagues.
Editor’s note: Lost and Found is this blog’s first offseason series, in which one underrated prospect from each of the 30 MLB clubs will be discussed in a short, snappy post.
Lost: Twelve months after the Los Angeles Dodgers made him its third-round draftee in 2010, lefty-hitting outfielder Leon Landry was hitting in the .220s in what was supposed to be an easier assignment in the Midwest League.
2011: .250/.307/.360 slash line, 36 extra-base hits and 41 RBIs in 500 ABs spanning 125 Gs at Class A Great Lakes
Found: Fast forward another 12 months, and Landry was just about to be traded from LA to Seattle, but not because the Dodgers didn’t want him — the Mariners just wanted him more. Of his uptick in offensive production — while increasing his batting average 91 points, he was +29 in extra-base hits and +35 in RBIs despite playing 21 fewer games — Landry told me by July that his pitch selection had improved.
2012: .341/.371/.584 slash line, 65 extra-base hits and 76 RBIs in 449 ABs spanning 104 Gs at Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga/High Desert (full stats here)
So Landry was lost, now he is found. Now, about the Mariners’ returns: Landry may not stay in center field (he was playing left field mostly before the trade), but that’s not all that irrelevant to his increased value as a prospect. He’s being mentioned in this space because of his improvement with the bat. Simply put: He does more things well (make consistent contact, find the gaps, run like mad, etc.) than he does poorly (has more of a “hack” than a fluid swing, not much home-run power). His ceiling is batting first or second at Safeco Field by 2014. His floor, which he’s more likely to top out at, is on the M’s bench as a pinch-hitting outfielder, by 2015.
2013: ??? at Double-A Jackson (he finished 2012 on the DL with strained quadriceps, but he should be ready to go next spring).
Lost: When I was a pup reporter covering the D-backs in 2010, details were hard to come by regarding why Arizona drafted Texas A&M’s Barret Loux sixth overall in June then cast him aside in July. We learned this: After agreeing in principle to sign for $2 million, Loux failed his physical with tearing in his labrum and question marks about his elbow.
Found: Long story made shorter, Loux was made a free agent and latched on with his home-state Rangers. He rested that much-maligned right arm over the winter, then performed solidly in his first pro season. Then, at age 23, he was even better in his second.
2011: 8-5 W-L, 3.80 ERA and 127-to-34 K-to-BB ratio in 109 IP spanning 21 G at Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach
2012: 14-1 W-L, 3.47 ERA and 100-to-41 K-to-BB ratio in 127 IP spanning 25 G at Double-A Frisco
So Loux was lost, now he is found. Now, about the Rangers’ returns: A very superficial look at the numbers — his complete player page is here — shows that Loux’s repertoire didn’t make the jump with him to the Texas League. Yes, he won his first 10 starts (and his first 11 decisions) on his way to being named the circuit’s Pitcher of the Year… but while his inning total was +18, his strikeout total was -27. Of his fastball, changeup, curve, and slider, scouts see four pitches that, at their peak, are merely average. Still, average pitchers with average stuff have carved out important roles in the Majors. Will Loux follow suit? His ability to keep the ball both in the strike zone and the yard bodes well. He’ll turn 24 the week of next year’s Opening Day and will be facing the arduous Pacific Coast League for the first time. This blog estimates that he comes out fine on the other side — but as nothing more than a rotation’s fourth starter and, perhaps more likely, as a middle reliever. So there’s no way to fault the D-backs — or the Rangers — in the case of the seemingly recovered Loux.
2013: ??? at Triple-A Round Rock
Hello, MLBlogs readers and those of you who somehow found your way here by other means. My name is Andrew Pentis, and I’m an editorial producer within Major League Baseball Advanced Media’s small but stealthy Minor League Baseball department. Editorial producer — what the heck does that mean? Well, I’m closing in on 18 months in this position, which is a catch-all term for those of us that write, edit and produce (among other, less interesting tasks). A year and a half in seemed like enough of a grace period before getting this blog going, so here we are — doing some writing, the most interesting of tasks.
The goal of this blog, however, is to be interesting for you, our faithful MiLB.com readers and soon-to-be MiLB.com readers. We are currently the hub for all Minor League news and, in recent years, have made more of a concerted effort to serve your appetite for news and analysis of the prospects among the many Minor League ballplayers we cover. Count this blog, in addition to our offseason content (Prospect Q&As and the like) as well as newer in-season content (linked on the right side of this page) as another small step in that direction.
So what can you expect from this little venture? Well, expect your voice to be heard. Please use the comment section to let me know what kind of coverage you would like to see. (And I’m also always happy to answer prospects-related questions via @AndrewMiLB on Twitter.) For starters, I am going to start small with one project: Writing one post about one underrated prospect in each of the 30 organizations. These posts (and all posts) will be short, snappy and easy to read while also being informative and entertaining, though I would settle for accomplishing one of these latter two goals.
So, without further adieu, the MiLB.com Prospective Blog is born.