Results tagged ‘ St. Louis Cardinals ’
By Jake Seiner
Fresno manager Bob Mariano on Gary Brown’s recent acceptance of his need to make adjustments (Coachable Brown breaks out for Fresno)
“It started in Salt Lake City. Our hitting coach, Russ Morman, was working with him a lot, and Shane Turner, our field coordinator, came in. Gary’s been real reluctant to really make adjustments. Some guys just take some time and are a little stubborn. He really started opening up and asking questions to Shane and us about what he needed to do. We looked at some video of him in San Jose, and he was taller in his setup back then, and that allowed him to stay above the ball in his setup and stay through the zone.
“He’s been asking more questions and been more receptive to some teaching that Russ was trying to get through to him, and Shane Turner was trying to get through to him, and he just started catching on fire. He’s barreling up the ball. He’s had three good games now where he’s really swinging the bat. Tonight, he had probably the best game he’s had all year.
“He was a little wider in his setup and was really rushing out there with his mechanics on the front side and was constantly working underneath the baseball. He had a long swing and he was in and out of the zone real quick. Now, he’s taller, and he’s working high to low, keeping the barrel above his hands. He’s more short to long, staying inside the ball and barreling up. He’s catching fire and putting together some good at-bats, and that’s something we’ve been waiting for for a long time.
“Sometimes, guys might have success for their whole lives, whether it’s in college or a lower level. He had success in San Jose, but as he started moving up — in Triple-A, it’s a whole different animal. Pitchers are throwing to different sides of the plate and they can add and subtract real well.
“Sometimes guys take time to make adjustments and are more open to it. Gary, he was kind of — he wasn’t real receptive earlier. Sometimes failure is your best teacher as a coach. You let guys fail, and they have to take a couple of steps back before they can take steps forward. That’s what was going on, and now, he’s swinging the bat well. It’s a good thing, because we have a lot of games left. We’re only midway through the season.”
San Francisco prospect Gary Brown on battling through his struggles this season (Brown rights the ship with four hits):
“It’s hard because in this game, you can do everything right and fail. Earlier this year, I wasn’t doing much right, but, even when I was doing things right, I was still failing. It’s good to have a night like this.
“It’s definitely been building. I haven’t stopped working since the season started. I just haven’t seen the results. I finally got some balls to fall today. I found a couple holes in the infield, and sometimes, that’s just what it takes.”
Springfield pitching coach Randy Niemann on Cardinals’ prospect Seth Blair pitching in Double-A (Cards’ Blair outduels Drillers’ Oswalt):
“When he started the year, he was probably a level above where he should’ve been in the sense that he didn’t pitch a lot last year. He had a very good Spring Training and we took a chance on taking him up here. He’s had some growing pains, but he’s done a great job of making adjustments to his delivery and basically getting comfortable at this level.
“We knew coming in that he had all the ability to be able to pitch at this level. He just didn’t have the experience. Now, he’s gaining the experience, and he understands himself and his delivery better and he’s making better pitches.
“I think in Spring Training, we realized that not only did he have the ability to be at this level, but he had exhibited the mental capacity to handle it. You knew going in that it wouldn’t be easy. There were some rough spots. With every outing, even if the results weren’t showing up, he was improving and mentally, he was staying strong, and it’s a credit to him that he was able to do that.
“He didn’t let the results overwhelm him. He understands the process and he kept working hard at that. Now, we’re starting to see the results of that work. We’re very pleased and proud of the work he’s put in.
He had a delivery where he actually stepped back and then had a big leg turn, more of a leg swing than a turn. What it was doing was affecting his posture through his delivery. Sometimes, he would maintain it, and sometimes, he would get out of it. It was making him very inconsistent. He calmed that down a little.
“He still goes over his head and makes a turn, but he’s picking that leg up and doing a little side step rather than stepping back and swinging his leg around and getting his posture off line. He worked hard on that. Also, out of the stretch, he had a little higher of a leg kick, so we cut that down. That’s helped improve his command, also. It’s that old saying, ‘Keep it simple.’ By simplifying those things, he’s helped his delivery and his command. The stuff is definitely there — it’s just about being able to keep it in the strike zone.
He’s got an overpowering curveball, but the issue with it — it’s kind of a spike curve, and the issue is commanding it. He’s starting to improve that a lot. We’ve kind of adjusted his grip and gotten him to where he can throw a slower curve and a harder one. He’s ended up with two curveballs, and he’s improved his command with both. With the changeup, again, it’s a plus pitch for him, but he has a tendency to fly open and lower his arm angle. When he’s able to maintain that same angle as his fastball, that’ll affect that pitch.
“Those are the little things guys with experience are able to understand and do. He’s doing it and experiencing it and fixing it with each outing and side session and bullpen he throws. Those are the kinds of things — other than results — those are the things we noticed him improving on and getting better. Now, it’s showing up in games.”
Washington prospect Robbie Ray on the adjustments that have led to his resurgence with Potomac (Ray continues to rebound for Nats):
“It was a mechanical thing. I had kind of tightened up my windup a little. I have a little turn now, and I raised my arm slot. I’m more of a high three-quarters now than a low three-quarters.
“That was actually last season, in the last game of the year last year, Chris Michalak, my pitching coach, we were working on stuff in the ‘pen before my next start. He said, ‘Let’s try this,’ and it felt good. I took it into the offseason, and it seemed to be working, and I stuck with it.
“It’s allowing me to keep my body going straight toward the hitter, toward the plate. Last year, I was flying open and leaving everything arm side. When I get that turn, I stay closed and I’m moving toward the plate, and that allows me to keep the ball in the zone.
“From last year, I thought I could just come out and throw stuff and it’d be good. I didn’t know how to pitch to hitters. This year, I have more knowledge of what to throw in what counts, where as last year, I was trying to blow it by guys. I’m being a little more selective about my pitches.
Oakland prospect Max Muncy on rediscovering success after a hot start and a long slump (Muncy’s three shots lead homer barrage):
“It wasn’t really an adjustment to my swing. It was more to my mental approach. I started off the season really hot, and I think I let that get to my head a little and got away from my approach. My approach is to be a linedrive hitter. The home runs will just come when I get a little underneath the ball and get it into the air.
“I started struggling when I started trying to put the ball in the air instead of sticking to line drives. The last couple weeks, I’ve been trying to get back to that, and I think I’ve done a good job of that. Tonight, I just happened to get underneath it.”
Muncy on what’s gone into him already tripling his homer output from last season:
“I’m getting a little more backspin on the ball. Last year, I had a lot of doubles, and I can honestly say a lot of those were balls with topspin. I’d topspin balls down the right-field line over the first baseman’s head, and even the ones I’d hit into right-center field, I’d be getting some topspin on them. This year, I’m putting more backspin on it.
“It’s just about staying through the ball a little more and not getting to the point of contact and coming out early. I had been doing that my whole life, and that’s really what creates the backspin. I really worked in the offseason to stay on the inside part of the ball and get backspin.”
Fort Myers manager Doug Mientkiewicz on importance of winning in Minor Leagues (Miracle clinch first-half division title):
“I was lucky enough to play with the same group of guys all the way up with Dave Ortiz and A.J. Pierzynski and Torii Hunter and the list goes on — Corey Koskie. We were all together from, ever since we all signed, we played together and won at every level. I think that was a big reason why we turned the franchise around, is we believed in each other.
“We won at every level, and we took our lumps and got our butts kicked every night the first couple years in the big leagues, but that group understood about taking those lumps, and we thought once we got established, things wouldn’t be any different. With the guys we already had out there, the Eddie Guardados and the LaTroy Hawkins and Brad Radkes — our group believed we could win.
“That’s something the Twins always believed in in the development stage. It’s not about developing individual talents. It’s about developing winning players. Winning players find a way to stick around in the big leagues.”
With the 2013 MLB Draft starting Thursday, we thought we’d take the next few days to run down how some of the more intriguing picks out of the top rounds from the last few Drafts have fared. On Monday, we looked at 2009. On Tuesday, we looked at 2010.
Today, we turn our attention to 2011.
The 2011 Draft had some noteworthy storylines, ranging from two UCLA Bruins being selected in the first three picks to two Oklahoma pitchers being taken in the top seven. The Rays punched up their farm system with a league-high 10 picks in the first and sandwich rounds, starting with Taylor Guerrieri at No. 24 and finishing with James Harris at 60. But with only one full-time Major Leaguer among its ranks thus far, the book on the Class of 2011 still largely remains to be written.
- Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh (2013: Triple-A Indianapolis) – The 6-foot-4 right-hander has shot up the Pirates’ ladder and should be expected to make his Major League debut within the next few months before taking a more permanent role in the rotation next season.
- Danny Hultzen, Seattle (2013: Triple-A Tacoma) – The southpaw got Mariners fans excited by going 3-1 with a 2.78 ERA through his first four starts in the hitter-happy PCL this season. But he’s been shut down ever since with a rotator cuff strain and tendinitis.
- Trevor Bauer, Arizona (2013: Triple-A Columbus, MLB Indians) – Bauer was shipped to the Indians system as part of the deals that sent Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati and Didi Gregorius to Arizona last offseason. He’s played the role of spot starter at the Major League level this season, going 1-2 with a 2.76 ERA in three starts for the Tribe but hasn’t shown enough consistent command (11-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16 1/3 innings) to earn a more permanent spot.
- Dylan Bundy, Baltimore (2013: injured) – MLB.com’s No. 2 prospect has yet to take the field due to elbow stiffness but has been cleared to begin throwing again. He will not undergo surgery.
- Bubba Starling, Kansas City (2013: Class A Lexington) – The Royals were slow to bring the center fielder along by not allowing him to make his full-season debut until this year. He’s struggled at the plate so far, batting .206 with a .649 OPS in 49 games for Lexington.
- Anthony Rendon, Washington (2013: Double-A Harrisburg, Triple-A Syracuse, MLB Nationals) – Rendon, who turns 23 on Thursday, tore up the Eastern League (.319/.461/.603) and even earned a promotion to The Show when Ryan Zimmerman hit the DL. He made a short stop in Syracuse but is back in the big leagues — this time as a second baseman — due to Danny Espinosa’s recent injury.
- Archie Bradley, Arizona (2013: Class A Advanced Visalia, Double-A Mobile) – At 7-1 with a 1.18 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 12 starts between two levels, the 20-year-old right-hander has made a case to claim the best statistical season by a pitcher in the Minors thus far.
- Francisco Lindor, Cleveland (2013: Class A Advanced Carolina) – The reviews on the 19-year-old’s defense have always been high, but he looks like he’s taking the next step forward at the dish (.306/.375/.427) so far with the Mudcats.
- Javier Baez, Chicago (2013: Class A Advanced Daytona) – The Puerto Rico native has a lot of pop in his bat for a shortstop, although that’s not necessarily where he’ll stick given Starlin Castro’s place there for the Cubs. Through 51 games at Daytona, 33 of his 59 hits have gone for extra bases. He’s walked, though, just 23 times in 577 career plate appearances.
- Cory Spangenberg, San Diego (2013: Class A Advaned Lake Elsinore) – Spangenberg finds himself back in the Cal League after a concussion and hitting woes kept him from having a solid first full season. He’s improved in his second trip with the Storm however — his OPS is nearly 150 points higher — and his speed continues to be his calling card.
- George Springer, Houston (2013: Double-A Corpus Christi) – The University of Connecticut product could be the game’s next big thing, given his start to 2013. His 17 homers in the Texas League lead all Minor Leaguers, a hopeful sign for any Astros fan desperately looking for one.
- Taylor Jungmann, Milwaukee (2013: Double-A Huntsville) – Jungmann has yet to take off and, with a 4.78 ERA in 10 starts with the Stars, will need more seasoning before he or the Brewers can even entertain any thoughts about a promotion.
- Brandon Nimmo, New York Mets (2013: Class A Savannah) – The Mets have taken a similar approach to the Royals with their 2011 first-rounder, allowing Nimmo to finally make his full-season debut this season. He missed nearly a month in May, however, with a hand contusion and a back issue.
- Jose Fernandez, Miami (2013: MLB Marlins) – The first member of the Class of 2011 to become a full-time Major Leaguer, Fernandez has been one of the few bright spots for the Fish this season and remains a candidate for NL Rookie of the Year, despite having never previously pitching higher than Class A Advanced.
- Jed Bradley, Milwaukee (2013: Class A Advanced Brevard County)
- Chris Reed, LA Dodgers (2013: Double-A Chattanooga)
- C.J. Cron, LA Angels (2013: Double-A Arkansas)
- Sonny Gray, Oakland (2013: Triple-A Sacramento) – The A’s only pick in the first or supplemental rounds, Gray was merely OK (4.14 ERA, 1.39 WHIP) in his first full season in the Texas League a year ago, but the right-hander is trending up once more after a solid start (2.40 ERA, 1.26 WHIP in 10 appearances) with the River Cats.
- Matt Barnes, Boston (2013: Double-A Portland)
- Tyler Anderson, Colorado (2013: Class A Advanced Modesto)
- Tyler Beede, Toronto (2013: did not sign, Vanderbilt) – Beede was the highest selected player who elected not to sign in 2011. The Auburn, Mass., native instead chose to play at Vanderbilt, where he went 14-0 with a 2.20 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 98 1/3 innings and was named a Golden Spikes Award finalist Tuesday. He will be draft eligible next season.
- Kolten Wong, St. Louis (2013: Triple-A Memphis) – The University of Hawaii product forms just one part of a very strong Cardinals system and has performed admirably at each step up the ladder. He’s already garnered a handful of honors — Texas League All-Star, Futures Game selection, AFL Rising Star — and should join Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez in making his Major League debut by this September at the latest.
- Alex Meyer, Washington (2013: Double-A New Britain) – Meyer moved to the Twins organization last offseason in the trade that sent Denard Span to the Nationals. He’d be the top prospect in the system if not for stellar sluggers Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. As it stands, the 6-foot-9 titan is MLB.com’s No.38 prospect and remains part of a promising future for those in Minnesota.
- Taylor Guerrieri, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Bowling Green)
- Joe Ross, San Diego (2013: Class A Fort Wayne)
- Blake Swihart, Boston (2013: Class A Advanced Salem)
- Robert Stephenson, Cincinnati (2013: Class A Dayton) – The Reds chose to bring the right-hander along slowly, not allowing him to make his full-season debut until this year in the Midwest League. He did not perform well out of the gate, going 0-3 with a 5.48 ERA in five April starts but has since shown flashes of dominance. He was 5-0 with a 1.96 ERA in May for the Dragons.
- Sean Gilmartin, Atlanta (2013: Triple-A Gwinnett) – The left-hander advanced to Triple-A in his first full season and finds himself back there once again, where he’s been mostly solid. At 23, it’s still early in his professional development, and plenty of time remains for him to pitch his way into the already logjammed Atlanta rotation.
- Joe Panik, San Francisco (2013: Double-A Richmond) – Panik has shown an ability to hit for average and reach base at every level, and that’s continued in the Eastern League where he’s batting .286 with a .375 OBP.
- Levi Michael, Minnesota (2013: Class A Advanced Fort Myers)
- Mikie Mahtook, Tampa Bay (2013: Double-A Montgomery) – The tools are there for the Rays’ No. 11 prospect, even if the results necessarily haven’t been quite yet. The LSU product is batting just .240 for the Biscuits this season, but he’s shown some pop as well as speed. Of his 53 hits thus far, 24 have gone for extra bases, including seven triples.
- Jake Hager, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Advanced Charlotte)
- Kevin Matthews, Texas (2013: injured) – The left-hander has yet to pitch in 2013 due to an impingement in his left shoulder.
- Brian Goodwin, Washington (2013: Double-A Harrisburg)
- Jacob Anderson, Toronto (2013: Unassigned in Blue Jays Org) – The 20-year-old outfielder couldn’t muster anything in the way of results (.194/.271/.304, 72 strikeouts in 191 at-bats) with Rookie-level Bluefield last year. As such, the Jays held him back from making his full-season debut this year and will look for him to grow in the short season once more before a trip to Lansing is considered.
- Henry Owens, Boston (2013: Class A Advanced Salem) – Owens, a lanky left-hander, showed some promising signs at Class A Greenville last year especially in the strikeout department, where he collected 130 strikeouts in 101 2/3 innings. He seems to have taken another step forward in 2013, where he is 3-2 with a 3.53 ERA and 62 K’s in 51 frames. The southpaw could be in Double-A before his 21st birthday in July.
- Zach Cone, Texas (2013: Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach)
- Brandon Martin, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Bowling Green)
- Larry Greene, Philadelphia (2013: Class A Lakewood)
- Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston (2013: Triple-A Pawtucket, MLB Red Sox) – A breakout spring led to calls from Red Sox Nation to have Bradley on the team’s Opening Day roster, and the outfielder indeed found himself in the lineup in Game 1, only to be optioned back down in mid-April after struggles and inconsistent playing time necessitated the move. After a successful turn with the PawSox, he’s back up with the big club now due to Shane Victorino’s trip to the DL, and the former South Carolina star hit his first Major League home run Tuesday night.
- Tyler Goeddel, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Bowling Green)
- Jeff Ames, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Bowling Green)
- Andrew Chafin, Arizona (2013: Class A Advanced Visalia, Double-A Mobile)
- Michael Fulmer, New York Mets (2013: DNP) – Like fellow Oklahoman Bundy, Fulmer has yet to take the mound this season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee in March.
- Trevor Story, Colorado (2013: Class A Advanced Modesto)
- Joseph Musgrove, Toronto (2013: Unassigned in Astros Org) – The 6-foot-5 right-hander was traded to the Astros as part of a 10-player deal last July. He’s pitched in only 41 2/3 innings in the pros since being taken in 2011 and hasn’t made his official Astros organization debut yet, although that will come when short-season leagues start soon.
- Keenyn Walker, Chicago White Sox (2013: Double-A Birmingham)
- Michael Kelly, San Diego (2013: Class A Fort Wayne)
- Kyle Crick, San Francisco (2013: Class A Advanced San Jose) – Crick’s stellar 2012 campaign in Augusta vaulted him to the top of the Giants’ prospect list entering 2013. Three starts into this season, however, he developed an oblique injury and has been sidelined ever since. He’ll bring a plus fastball and solid slider to the California League when he does return.
- Travis Harrison, Minnesota (2013: Class A Cedar Rapids)
- Dante Bichette Jr., New York Yankees (2013: Class A Charleston) – The name alone garnered some attention in 2011, and an MVP season in the Gulf Coast League only added to that. But Bichette hasn’t been able to put it together at the Class A level, which he is repeating this season. Even so, he’s posted just a .623 OPS through 53 games with the RiverDogs — a number that is 30 points lower than the one he put up in 2012.
- Blake Snell, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Bowling Green)
- Dwight Smith Jr., Toronto (2013: Class A Lansing)
- Brett Austin, San Diego (2013: did not sign, NC State) – The Padres couldn’t lure the Charlotte native away from a scholarship at NC State. The catcher/outfielder just helped lead the Wolf Pack to the Super Regionals, where it will take on Rice.
- Hudson Boyd, Minnesota (2013: Class A Cedar Rapids)
- Kes Carter, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Advanced Charlotte)
- Kevin Comer, Toronto (2013: DNP, Unassigned in Astros Org) – Like Musgrove, Comer was part of the Blue Jays movement to take young high school arms that would be projects but could be big-time prospects if everything ironed out. Also like Musgrove, Comer was sent to the Astros and has yet to make his debut with the organization.
- Jace Peterson, San Diego (2013: Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore)
- Grayson Garvin, Tampa Bay (2013: injured)
- James Harris, Tampa Bay (2013: Unassigned in Rays Org)
By Ashley Marshall
With the 2013 MLB Draft starting Thursday, we thought we’d take the next few days to run down how some of the more intriguing picks out of the top rounds from the last few Drafts have fared. On Monday, we looked at 2009.
Today, we turn our attention to 2010.
The 2010 Draft had a little bit of everything, both at the time of the event and — retrospectively — in the three years that have passed.
While Bryce Harper, a highly touted outfielder from a junior college in Southern Nevada, made the most news, the Draft stands out for several other reasons.
Two right-handers taken inside the first 15 picks chose to attend college rather than sign with a Major league team. One — Karston Whitson — missed the entire 2013 college season with a shoulder injury while the other — Dylan Convey — may never have a pro career after he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
The Draft also saw a toolsy young shortstop called Manny Machado draw comparisons with Alex Rodriguez and baseball’s current No. 5 prospect Taijuan Walker selected 43rd overall as the Mariners only pick as compensation for the loss of Adrian Beltre.
Eight first-rounders from this Draft class have already made it to the Majors, while four others are ranked inside MLB.com’s Top 100.
- Bryce Harper, Washington (2013: MLB Nationals)
- Jameson Taillon, Pirates (2013: Double-A Altoona)
- Manny Machado, Orioles (2013: Baltimore) — A two-time Futures Game selection, Machado has played almost one-third of his total professional games in the Majors. The shortstop — the first one drafted by the O’s in the first round since 1974 — appeared in 51 regular-season games with the Orioles in 2012 and he’s currently hitting .327 with 30 RBIs in 57 contests this year. He’s the only high schooler from the 2010 first round to make the Majors so far.
- Christian Colon, Royals (2013: Triple-A Omaha)
- Drew Pomeranz, Indians (2013: Triple-A Colorado Springs) – Acquired by the Rockies as part of the Ubaldo Jimenez deal in 2011, Pomeranz is one of only two left-handers from the first round of this Draft class to reach the Majors. He is 4-10 with a 5.01 ERA in 26 big league starts over two seasons, numbers that are part of why he’s back at Triple-A Colorado Springs again this year. In 11 2013 PCL games, he is 6-1 with a 4.26 mark.
- Barret Loux, D-backs (2013: Triple-A Iowa) — The D-backs opted not to sign Loux due to injury concerns, but he signed as a free agent by the Texas Rangers on Nov. 18, 2010. Last November, he was dealt to the Cubs for former teammate Jake Brigham.
- Matt Harvey, Mets (2013: MLB Mets) — Few rookies have ever made the impact that Harvey has this year. In 12 starts with the Mets, the right-hander is 5-0 with a 2.17 ERA. The North Carolina product — who went 20-10 in the Minors — showed glimpses of this potential in 10 starts in 2012, but nobody expected the level of production he’s given the big club in the first two months of the season.
- Delino DeShields, Astros (2013: Class A Advanced Lancaster)
- Karsten Whitson, Padres (2013: none; Draft eligible) — Whitson turned down a $2.1 million signing bonus to attend the University of Florida. He went a combined 12-1 in 33 games between 2011 and 2012, but he missed the entire 2013 collegiate season with a shoulder impingement. He may draw interest from teams in this year’s Draft, but he is not ranked in MLB.com’s Top 100 Draft prospects.
- Michael Choice, Athletics (2013: Triple-A Sacramento)
- Deck McGuire, Blue Jays (2013: Double-A New Hampshire)
- Yasmani Grandal, Reds (2013: MLB Padres)
- Chris Sale, White Sox (2013: MLB White Sox) – Of all 50 first-rounders from 2010, none have posted a greater WAR than Sale (12.2). He posted a 1.93 ERA in 21 games in 2010, and he saved eight games the following year. Converted to a full-time starter last season, Sale went 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA in 30 games, striking out 192 batters in as many innings en route to finishing sixth in AL Cy Young voting. This season, he’s 5-2 with a 2.53 ERA in nine starts.
- Dylan Covey, Brewers (2013: none; Draft eligible) — Convey chose to attend the University of San Diego rather than going pro after being diagnosed with diabetes days before the signing deadline. In his sophomore year at college in 2012, he went 6-3 with a 3.32 ERA while holding opponents to a .247 batting average over 81 1/3 innings. He had just a 5.05 ERA in 16 appearances this spring for the Toreros.
- Jake Skole, Rangers (2013: Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach)
- Hayden Simpson, Cubs (2013: released) – Released at end of spring training, Simpson hasn’t pitched this year. For his career, he sports a 6.42 ERA over 30 starts and 26 relief appearances with Chicago’s Minor League system. He did not pitch professionally the year he was selected after suffering from mononucleosis, and he never lived to the promise of the Cubs only first-round pick that year.
- Josh Sale, Rays (2013: suspended) – Sale has not endeared himself to Tampa Bay. In August he was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for methamphetamine and an amphetamine. He came off the restricted list and was added to the roster of the Charlotte Stone Crabs, but before he had a chance to make his season debut he was suspended indefinitely for throwing two quarters at a dancer in a strip club and then posting about it on Facebook.
- Kaleb Cowart, Angels (2013: Double-A Arkansas)
- Michael Foltynewicz, Astros (2013: Double-A Corpus Christi)
- Kolbrin Vitek, Red Sox (2013: Double-A Portland)
- Alex Wimmers, Twins (2013: Double-A New Britain; injured) — Wimmers missed most of 2012 with a right elbow injury, and he has not pitched in 2013. A two-time Big Ten Pitcher of the Year at Ohio State, he has pitched in just 19 games in his professional career.
- Kellin Deglan, Rangers (2013: Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach)
- Christian Yelich, Marlins (2013: Double-A Jacksonville)
- Gary Brown, Giants (2013: Triple-A Fresno)
- Zack Cox, Cardinals (2013: Double-A Jacksonville) — Acquired by the Marlins from the Cardinals in July, Cox originally improved his Draft stock by 20 rounds after going to the University of Arkansas instead of signing with the Dodgers in 2008. He saw time at Triple-A Memphis last summer before being dealt to the Marlins for Edward Mujica last July. He’s been with Double-A Jacksonville since the trade.
- Kyle Parker, Rockies (2013: Double-A Tulsa)
- Jesse Biddle, Phillies (2013: Double-A Reading)
- Zach Lee, Dodgers (2013: Double-A Chattanooga)
- Cam Bedrosian, Angels (2013: Class A Burlington)
- Chevy Clarke, Angels (2013: Class A Burlington) – Los Angeles took outfielder Clarke one pick after they selected pitcher Bedrosian, who grew up just 50 miles from Clarke in Georgia. Both 21 years old, they have been teammates in the Arizona and Midwest Leagues together and they both started 2013 a bit behind schedule in Burlington.
- Justin O’Conner, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Bowling Green)
- Cito Culver, Yankees (2013: Class A Charleston)
- Mike Kvasnicka, Houston (2013: Disabled list in Twins Org) – Drafted by the Astros as a catcher, Kvasnicka struggled in his first two years of pro ball when the organization tried him at third base and as a corner outfielder. The 24-year-old was traded to the Twins — the team that tried to sign him in the 31st round of the 2007 Draft out of high school — in March, but surgery to repair a broken hamate bone has seen him sidelined this season.
- Aaron Sanchez, Toronto (2013: Class A Advanced Dunedin)
- Matt Lipka, Atlanta (2013: Class A Advanced Lynchburg) – A shortstop at McKinney High School in Texas, Lipka has transitioned to the outfield. He tore his hamstring last summer, and that limited him to 199 at-bats in 2012. Back with the Hillcats for a second year, he’s looking to get back on track. He’s already hit for the cycle this season.
- Byrce Brentz, Boston (2013: Triple-A Pawtucket) – Overlooking the fact that Brentz hit .198 in his rookie year in Lowell, he batted .298 with 47 homers and 170 RBIs across four levels over the past two years. A hitter through and through, Brentz — who moved from left field to right without any issues — is already on pace to better his 2012 power numbers from Double-A Portland this year in Pawtucket.
- Taylor Lindsey, LA Angels (2013: Double-A Arkansas)
- Noah Syndergaard, Toronto (2013: Class A Advanced St. Lucie) – Acquired by the Mets in the deal that sent R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays in December, the 6-foot-6 prep right-hander is looking to build on his 2012 successes with Lansing. Syndergaard has the stuff to record a strikeout per inning in the Florida State League (59 in 57 2/3 IP), and there’s every chance he can post a sub-3.00 ERA (currently at 2.81).
- Anthony Ranaudo, Boston (2013: Double-A Portland) – LSU has seen one of its players drafted in the first round each year since 2009. Ranaudo went 1-3 with a 6.69 ERA in the Eastern League last year, but he’s 6-1 with a 1.48 mark this year at the same level.
- Ryan Bolden, LA Angels (2013: Unassigned in Angels Org) – Drafted as an 18-year-old out of Madison Central High School, Bolden has spent each of the past three years in the Arizona League. The right fielder hit .187 in his rookie year but saw his average drop in each of the following two seasons. He has not played yet in 2013.
- Asher Wojciechowski, Toronto (2013: Triple-A Oklahoma City) – Acquired by the Astros in part of a 10-player deal with the Blue Jays last July, Wojciechowski is looking to build on a 2012 season that saw him go 9-5 with a 3.09 ERA between two organizations. After six superb Texas League appearances to start 2013, he was promoted to the RedHawks of the PCL.
- Drew Vettleson, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Advanced Charlotte) – He spun three no-hitters as an ambidextrous pitcher in high school, and he turned down a commitment to play for Oregon State University to play with the Rays. Now a right fielder, Vettleson set a Bowling Green franchise record with 139 hits in 2012.
- Taijuan Walker, Seattle (2013: Double-A Jackson) – MLB.com’s No. 5 prospect was a Southern League midseason All-Star and a Futures Game selection last year. Still just 20 years old, he’s repeating the league after going 7-10 with a 4.69 ERA there in 2012, and early signs are that he’ll make his way up to Triple-A by the end of the year.
- Nick Castellanos, Detroit (2013: Triple-A Toledo) – A third baseman in high school, the Tigers felt Castellanos was more suited to the outfield in order to help the big club in the near future. MLB.com’s No. 20 prospect finished third among all Minor League players in 2012 with 172 hits and he’s on pace to set new career highs in homers and RBIs in the International League this year.
- Luke Jackson, Texas (2013: Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach) – Jackson did not start pitching until ninth grade, but that did not stop the Rangers from drafting him 45th overall out of Florida’s Calvary Christian High School. The right-hander is repeating the Carolina League where he’s 4-4 with a 2.74 ERA with 50 strikeouts and 23 walks in 46 innings.
- Seth Blair, St. Louis (2013: Double-A Springfield)
- Peter Tago, Colorado (2013: Unassigned in Rockies Org) — Ranked 17th in the Rockies Top 20 prospects, Tago has not pitched in 2013. He walked more batters than he struck out in each of his first two years in pro ball, and his poor debut in Asheville in 2011 saw him reassigned to the Northwest League in 2012
- Chance Ruffin, Detroit (2013: Double-A Jackson)
- Mike Olt, Texas (2013: Triple-A Round Rock) – Of the eight first-rounders from the 2010 class to reach the Majors so far, none were drafted later than Olt, a supplemental pick for the loss of free agent Marlon Byrd. His big 2012 season — including 28 Double-A homers — saw him promoted to Texas, but he’s struggled in his time in the PCL, batting .139 with five extra-base hits in 20 games. He recently missed a month with vision problems, which may now be resolved.
- Tyrell Jenkins, Cardinals (2013: Class A Peoria)
By Jake Seiner
Interviewing for game stories can be a fun process. The thousands of players and coaches spread across the Minor Leagues supply a never-ending chain of unique perspectives on the national pastime. The game story isn’t always the best place for block quotes and expanded thoughts, so once a week, I’m hoping to come here with a look back at some of the more interesting conversations I stumble upon with Minor League players and coaches. Here’s a look back at some quotes from the past week that I hope you’ll find of interest.
Lake County’s Dylan Baker on getting discovered coming from Juneau, Alaska (Baker pitches six one-hit innings):
“In Alaska, there weren’t a lot of scouts. I never talked to one or saw one my whole high school career. Then my parents, they helped me out by getting me to play summer ball in Seattle. They know I love baseball, so they wanted to help me. I played in Seattle, and that got me a couple of looks for college, like one or two colleges. I didn’t get recognized much. I went to Tacoma [Community College], and that wasn’t my favorite. It didn’t work out.
“I contacted my old summer ball coach [Don Moe], and he called up Western Nevada [College] and called me back and said I could go there. I went there and pitched there, and the head coach [D.J. Whittemore] took me in and worked with me every day. I started throwing harder and everything. That really helped me with everything — then scouts started coming. I had never seen a scout at a game before, and I just focused and played hard and did everything I could to get better.
“In high school, I probably threw maybe 83-86 [mph]. My freshman year of college, I think I topped out at 87. Then I went to Western Nevada and, with the workout program, I put on 15-20 pounds and worked with our pitching coach ever day to get my mechanics better and throw better. After winter break, I started throwing 95 and realized I could throw hard.
“I mean, I had wanted to get drafted after my freshman year of college, but, I mean, I was tall, skinny and lanky and nothing really clicked for me, I guess. Then I went to Western Nevada, and I gained some pounds and started long tossing. That was a big thing, I think. My arm was getting stronger, getting more whip on it, throwing harder and scouts started coming and people were talking.”
Palm Beach’s Stephen Piscotty on snapping out of his recent slump (Piscotty breaks out, homers twice):
“I went into B.P. and just started taking pitches, not swinging. I felt my timing was off, and I wasn’t getting ready soon enough. In B.P., I was really focusing on getting my foot down and getting in a good position to hit and not focusing so much on my mechanics. Once I got that base under me, I was able to get that swing path back and go from there. I was able to take that approach from B.P. into the game. I’m taking a few more pitches. Sometimes I can be way too aggressive and swing at too many pitches in a game. That patience paid off.”
Piscotty on learning to battle through slumps:
“I’ve done it my whole career. It’s not too different in pro ball versus college or summer ball. It’s baseball. The game stays the same. In pro ball, I got off to a bit of a slow start [last year], hitting below .300 in Low-A for a while, and I battled my way out of that. I’ve been through stuff and been frustrated before. I learn something new every time to help minimize the slumps. You want to minimize and get out of them as soon as you can. That’s one of the more important things in being a consistent ball player.”
Colorado Springs Sky Sox Matt McBride on transitioning back to catcher (McBride homers twice for Sky Sox):
“I’m training a lot. The Rockies have great catching coaches that have been able to help me and a lot of great catchers. I’m learning what I can from those guys. Each day, when I’m back there, I’m trying to get a little better each day. I’m trying to get to know the pitchers as well as I can. That’s all I can do. Leave it on the field and try to have fun, but at the same time, try to pick up something new that might help.
“We have a bunch of great players in our organization in the outfield and first base, so getting near the end of Spring Training, I was just sort of thinking hopefully I might be catching more just because there are so many good players on the roster, it’s hard to find a spot. When they told me at the end of Spring Training to focus on catching, they asked and I was really excited about it. It’s something I haven’t done full-time in a while, but I was excited about it. I think it’s a good opportunity.”
MiLB.com will publish the seventh part of my nine-part series on top-ranked prospects who are also top-rated defenders by next week. The piece focuses on the Cardinals’ Oscar Taveras (bio, stats here), the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball. In terms of interview extras — answers that didn’t make it into the story but are significant nonetheless — see below. Enjoy.
Taveras on playing center field in Spring Training (via MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch): “It has helped a lot, me being able to move and read balls in center field. But I don’t know where I’m going to be. Wherever there is an opportunity, I’ll take it… I’ve just played all three outfield positions and I’m comfortable wherever the manager puts me.”
Taveras on the big league camp experience (via Langosch): “I’ve learned a lot from the veterans, especially defensively. I’m happy to be here and learn from those guys. Jon Jay has helped me a lot, especially on where to position myself for some hitters. I feel more confident out there now. I look up to Jay. I like how he’s aggressive out there on balls.”
Outfield teammate Chris Swauger on whether Taveras knows how good he is: “He doesn’t listen to it. He just goes out and plays the game. It’s not as if he is over-thinking stuff or feels the pressure to perform. All he’s really worried about is the game. He doesn’t pay attention to what people are saying about him. I think all Oscar wants to do when he wakes up in the morning is go play baseball. When you play the game like that, everything outside is just noise.”
Swauger on what position Taveras plays long-term: “I think he can play center field, but he has no problem transitioning. To me personally, I think center field is the easiest outfield position to play because you’re straight on. I think he has the speed, range and instincts to play center field, but playing in the corners, not having that priority on fly balls and not having the view, if you want to throw him in right, he has one of the best arms I have ever seen. His routes are good enough for center field and his arm is good enough for right field.”
Double-A Springfield manager Mike Shildt on Taveras’ position long-term: “The good news is he has shown himself to be serviceable in center field.”
Shildt on Taveras’ overall progress: “I look out and see him being more consistent with his work habits, his focus. He has a real sense of purpose now. He has started to take ownership of his defense.
Prospect Q&A: Cardinals Outfielder Chris Swauger on Minor League Camp, Playing Alongside Oscar Taveras
Because Minor League camps are cranking up this week, I thought it appropriate to focus on the kind of farmhand that is not lumped in with those super prospects that receive invites to Major League Spring Training. Enter the Cardinals’ Chris Swauger (bio, stats here), one of the brighter and more thoughtful ballplayers in the Minors.
And he is a prospect. Don’t mistake that. The 2008 26th-round Draft pick has turned himself into just that at age 26.
I caught up with the slugging outfielder — he overcame a fractured thumb and registered two six-RBI games before breaking his collarbone last season — to ask him about getting ready for the rigors of spring. And, yeah, we also chatted about a super prospect who is in MLB camp: Double-A Springfield teammate Oscar Taveras, who likely will be manning the outfield with Swauger at Triple-A Memphis in this summer. (I’m working on a story about Taveras’ defense for our Defensive Gems series. What you see below are good quotes that won’t make it into that story.)
On his offseason: “The last three seasons I have gone off and played winter ball in Latin America during October, November, December, in those months. So it was a different kind of plan [this offseason]. Usually, I wouldn’t start hitting and throwing until the end of January because I would have just got done playing. This year, I got through and cleared out of my rehab in October and then took November and most December off and started hitting right after Christmas So it’s been more of a tuning up this offseason than it has been in the past, but that’s just just because I had such a longer layoff in between. It’s nice to live in Tampa, where I can get outside and on the field anytime I want in December, in January. I took the time to build up my body, get in the weight room, get my conditioning in so that I have a nice base with which I can start my in-season regimen. Our team has designed a really good offseason program through the offseason months and then rolling right into Spring Training, so that I’m already set up for the Minor League season.”
On spring’s rigors: “This is my fifth year going into a Spring Training camp. I have developed a routine of what I need to be able to do — because it is a long day. If you’re not physically ready… There’s a difference between being in shape and being in baseball shape. I found that out the hard way my first year. I was in good physical shape, but I wasn’t used to the cutting, the starting, the stopping, keeping my body loose, cooling down. So I’ve learned to prepare myself for Spring Training.”
On his mindset entering camp: “The short-term goal for me is to move up. I got a little bit of taste of Memphis [in 2012], and my goal is to make that team and be a consistent contributor on that team like I was at Springfield last season. As long as that’s happening, I’m moving forward in my career, that’s the most important thing. I can get better. I want to get better. That’s my goal everyday. If I reach that goal, then getting to Memphis, getting to the big leagues shouldn’t be a problem if an opportunity presents with.”
On the talents of Taveras: “I tell this to everybody who asks. He is, by far, the best player I have ever played with or against. I’ve never seen anyone make this game look so easy. It’s not that he’s not trying hard. It’s that he does everything so well naturally that it looks like he’s just out here playing a different game. We are all out there playing a kid’s game, but he is legitimately playing a kid’s game and the baseball field is his playground. There’s not anything he doesn’t do very, very well. If you watch him play and the ease with which he plays the game at a top level is amazing. There are certain things he does that are not in my tool box. And I’m OK with that. I watch him do things without [him] knowing or trying to do them, and it’s amazing. And I’m not trying to kiss his ass or anything like that. I played with him basically for five months and on a day-to-day basis with the bat and even in the field, it just makes me laugh and shake my head. I know that if I go out there and everything goes perfectly, things will work out for me. But there are some things that I watch him do I’m pretty sure, ‘No, I can’t do that.’ When a guy comes around like that, you don’t try to emulate what he does but emulate the ease with which he plays the game.”
On his go-to memories of Taveras: “I have seen him on so many occasions [where it] looks like the pitcher is in complete command for the first two strikes of the at-bat and it looks like [Taveras] has no idea what he is doing, and then the pitcher makes the best pitch he possibly can, and Oscar not just hits the ball, but barrels it. He finds a way to hit pitcher’s pitches harder than some mistakes. It’s amazing to see that. I would say that he is a left-handed Vlad Guerrero. I told him that one time. I told him he had the same hair and the same playing style, and he goes, ‘No, man, I left-handed.’”
Twenty Top 100 Prospects and Their Chances of Making Opening Day Rosters at The Start of SpringTraining
Today is Friday, Feb. 15. In baseball terms, it is the “voluntary date on which all non-World Baseball Classic position players may be invited to Spring Training.” But most Major Leaguers, from the veterans to rookies, are already in camp. It is the rooks, or would-be rooks, that we focus on here and now. Turns out that 20 members of MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects have at least a reasonable shot of cracking their first Opening Day roster. They are below. Let me know in the comment section what you think of my assessment regarding which ballplayers might/might not make their respective clubs.
A links advisory: Click on the bolded team name for the MLB depth chart; click on the player name for his bio and MiLB stats; and the number in parentheses listed after the player name is his overall ranking in our Top 100 list.
- Questions worth asking: Can Profar unseat veteran Elvis Andrus at shortstop, or do the Rangers shift him to another position (2B, CF) in order to get his dynamic talents into the Majors immediately? Still 19, doesn’t he need a full season at Triple-A to polish his tools? Speaking of positional changes, where does Olt play? He’s a very good third baseman, but isn’t Adrian Beltre, who is signed for three more years, outstanding on the hot corner? Can Olt slug his way into the starting right field spot, or should he join Profar at Triple-A Round Rock? Does Perez finally put it together in Texas’ fifth rotation slot? Can he hold off vet righty Colby Lewis to make his first April rotation?
- Chances worth guessing: Profar (50%), Olt (50%) and Perez (75%)
- Questions: At 20 and with just 23 Minor League starts under his belt, is Bundy ready? He could probably hold his own right now, sure, but would getting beat up early on hurt him down the road? How much better does he have to be than the Matusz-Arrieta-Britton types to convince Baltimore to hand him the No. 5 starter role?
- Chances: 25%
- Questions: With Matt Joyce stationed in left field and Desmond Jennings in center, why not start out with Myers in right? Does Tampa Bay want to delay initializing his arbitration clock, or would Andrew Friedman and Co. rather go with the proven Ben Zobrist out there? With perhaps the deepest starting rotation in baseball, do Odorizzi and Archer have much of a shot? Would a trade of ace David Price make sense, given the unbelievable depth in able arms? Will Odorizzi and Archer foster the Minors’ best 1-2 punch at Triple-A Durham?
- Chances: Myers (50%), Odorizzi (25%) and Archer (25%)
Here’s why he should be: Nine months after major surgery — and 16 months since his last MiLB appearance — Swagerty is healthy again, raring to go.
The last time we saw him in action, the now-23-year-old right-hander swept through three levels in the Cardinals’ system in 2011, compiling a 1.83 ERA and an 89-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 93 2/3 innings, his first since St. Louis made him a second-round draftee in 2010.
Forty-two days from Spring Training, Swagerty is in Arizona, completing two bullpen sessions a week, waiting to resume his trek to the Majors. I caught up with him on the phone this afternoon.
Me: How has the offseason been?
Swagerty: To me, it’s been about a 13-month offseason, but it’s been good. Still going to rehab everyday and getting my arm back in shape. It’s finally coming around. I’m going to be ready for Spring [Training], so it’s exciting to get back to baseball mode.
Me: What stage of rehab are you at?
Swagerty: I have been throwing pens now for a while and actually, probably going to have to slow it down for a bit, just so I don’t build up too fast because I’m going to have a little extra time to play with, which is nice. I’m still strengthening everything, making sure everything is right, stretching everything out. It’s nice to have a couple weeks of time that is extra in case there was something that went wrong.
Me: Sounds like an on-time recovery.
Swagerty: Yeah, actually a little bit earlier than I thought, so everything is on schedule. That is nice thing.
Me: What have you been up to aside from rehabbing this past year?
Swagerty: I did I did a lot of hunting during hunting season, spent a lot of time in the weight room — I can’t do a whole lot of upper body, but whatever I can to strengthen my legs. Reading some books and finding a way to stay focused. I’ve been rehabbing here [in Arizona], but I did get time [in Texas] over the holidays. Two or three weeks at home, always good to see family.
Me: What’s been the challenge of not pitching in a game for more than a year?
Swagerty: Seeing your buddies playing, it’s easy to get you down because you want to be out there. I guess the challenge is staying focused on what you have to do on an everyday basis, going to rehab — rehab get’s very repetitive, so staying focused on what you have to do everyday and not trying to look toward the end of it, I think, is the biggest challenge.