Results tagged ‘ Taijuan Walker ’
By Josh Jackson
What’s that old Roy Campanella quote? The one about needing to be a man to play in the big leagues, but also needing to have a lot of inner little boy?
I found myself thinking about that after a post-game interview with Taijuan Walker, the Mariners’ top prospect. I also thought about child stars and weird chess or music prodigy kids who grow up way too fast under the weight of expectation.
Walker doesn’t turn 21 until August, and his being 19 last year in his first crack at Double-A was among the things we discussed. He talked about the game and his approach to it with the poise and intelligence of a much older player, but one thing he said showed he doesn’t have much in common with those gifted young people who lose sight of the joy of the thing.
Our interview took place in the midst of Yasiel Puig’s insane first few days in the big leagues, and Walker had just pitched against Puig’s former team. I joked that Walker must be glad to have missed Puig.
“Oh, no,” he said. “I’m bummed not to get to throw against him. Throwing against top talent is fun. If you want to be the best, you have to face the best. You really have to go out there, and battle your butt off. That’s the most fun — throwing against top talent.”
He has a different idea of fun off the ballfield: obsessive viewing of a show that debuted two years before he was born.
One of our two brilliant night editors alerted me to the fact that Walker’s walk-up music is the theme song from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I had to ask him about that.
“That is true,” he said. “I’m a huge fan of Will Smith. I have all six seasons on my iPad. All I do all day is watch Fresh Prince.”
As much as he loves the series, it peaked early for him. His favorite episode is the pilot, which has helped him through many hours of long bus rides.
“This season I’ve probably watched it 30 times,” he said, “and it still cracks me up.”
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 Danny Wild
We’re back with the weekly rundown of our favorite Tweets from our favorite Minor Leaguers. We’ll begin with Mariners No. 1 prospect Taijuan Walker, who, since he’s admitting it, won’t make me embarrased to say I also have not seen all the Star Wars movies. Walker is catching up, though, between starts for Double-A Jackson:
I’m on the the 5th Star Wars now! Past 3 days have been nothing but Star Wars! #skywalker
— Taijuan Walker (@tai_walker) May 16, 2013
Who of us has ever gone out to see a movie and been stunned when a medium bag of popcorn costs $10? Gary Brown, probably. Brown, the Giants’ top offensive prospect, has some beef with movie theatres hiking prices:
$11.75 for a movie ticket. $11.75 for a movie ticket. $11.75 for a movie ticket. Sounds terrible every time.
— Gary Brown (@garybrown909) May 16, 2013
Brown signed with the Giants for $1.3 million, though, so he can probably survive for now. For slightly more affordable entertainment, Xavier Scruggs, a first baseman with Double-A Springfield in the Cardinals system, turns to a classic:
— Xavier Scruggs (@Xavier_Scruggs) May 16, 2013
What if there are no good movies out and some little punk kid has already claimed the arcade machines? If you’re Mets No. 3 prospect Noah Syndergaard, maybe you go check out the little tropical fish or cat climbing trees:
Got some time to kill so where do I go? Petco! Where the pets go.
— Noah Syndergaard (@Noahsyndergaard) May 16, 2013
Black Dark roast coffee to kick start this early day. Gotta love 10 30 games and gotta hate em at the same time
— Jameson Taillon (@JTaillon19) May 16, 2013
A waffle is like a pancake with a syrup trap.
— Tony Sanchez (@Tony26Montana) May 16, 2013
Totally. (The pancake quote is actually from the late Mitch Hedberg, who is awesome).
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that, just because you’re a professional baseball player, you aren’t necessarily a grizzled, old, scruffy, bearded, mustachioed veteran. Sometimes you’re 22-year-old Orioles No. 2 prospect Kevin Gausman:
Successfully shaved my face using a straight edge razor!!! Closest shave ever!!! Even more baby faced then I was before!! Haha #Smooth!!!
— Kevin Gausman (@KevinGausman) May 16, 2013
Peoria right-hander Tyrell Jenkins, the Cardinals’ 2010 first-round pick and No. 7 prospect, discovered an unidentified teammate’s hidden talent: reading with his eyes closed. As others Tweeted, he’s keeping his hand warm, too:
— Brotha Jenkins™ (@TyrellJenkins14) May 16, 2013
Yankees right-hander Danny Burawa got innovative when he needed to follow the New York Rangers’ playoff game on Thursday:
Not having cable sucks, stealing internet to listen to radio though #LetsGoRangers !!!
— danny burawa (@dannyburawa) May 17, 2013
Jeremy Barfield continues his streak of Tweets with this thought on Ian Kinsler:
Imagine a T-Rex sliding head first. That’s what Ian Kinsler just did. #nottop10
— Jeremy Barfield (@Baseclogger) May 17, 2013
Cody Decker took some time to put ham back in its place among basic lunch meats:
Okay, take it easy, Black Forest Ham…… You’re ham…..
— Cody Decker (@Decker6) May 11, 2013
Taijuan Walker, evidently not inspired to meet anyone from Star Wars, holds out another dream:
My goal is to meet will smith!
— Taijuan Walker (@tai_walker) May 16, 2013
Tony Sanchez was elated to get a birthday card from a youngster in this nice moment:
Jax was kind enough to sign my BDay card after he gave it to me. What a guy. twitter.com/Tony26Montana/…
— Tony Sanchez (@Tony26Montana) May 16, 2013
Chipotle Tweet of the Week
Finally, Lancaster’s Aaron West may be a pitcher, but he didn’t hesitate in going to bat for his favorite burrito house:
— Aaron West (@WestAaron14) May 11, 2013
By Danny Wild
Twitter helps fans and media alike can take a peek behind the curtain to see what burritos some outfielder is currently eating or what their thoughts are on Justin Bieber. From a journalistic perspective, Twitter has helped us in finding small, lesser-known details about games and players (great catches, unseen in the box score, come to mind), usually in real-time. Attend the Winter Meetings and you’ll see the entire battalion of reporters are all getting their scoops from rumors on Twitter.
But Twitter is also a pretty entertaining source of life in the Minors. We’ve made it easy for you to spend hours, maybe even days, waiting for updates from players about their workouts, dinner plans and new T-shirts — check out our custom Twitter list.
But really, who has time to waste just to see what kind of bizarre socks Mets right-hander Collin McHugh is wearing today?
Because some days regular socks just won’t do. instagram.com/p/YlKGBeIoeM/
— Collin McHugh (@Collin_McHugh) April 26, 2013
Nice carpeting too. Let’s browse some recent Minor League player “news”:
Beau Wright, who is actually left-handed, was the Marlins’ 48th-round pick in 2010 and is currently on the roster of short-season Batavia. Not really the progress he probably had in mind three years later, but the man is hungry to advance:
I’m SO hungry
— Beau Wright (@LeftbutWright35) April 26, 2013
Adam Eaton reached the Majors last season but has yet to suit up this season after suffering a small ligament tear in his left shoulder during Spring Training. Now, he’s stuck rehabbing in the warm Arizona sun.
Air conditioning in my car is working over time right now.. It gets hot in these rhinos..
— Adam Eaton (@AdamSpankyEaton) April 26, 2013
Braves prospect Mycal Jones knows the weekend is near, which for us means it’s a chance to relax, but for him likely means at-bats against Double-A Huntsville.
Well word on the street is it’s TGIF Friday, Thank God I’m Fresh
— Myke Jones (@MykeJones21) April 26, 2013
As a Jets fan, I was hoping the team pulled the trigger Thursday night on Geno Smith, who led all FBS quarterbacks with 42 passing touchdowns in 2012 for West Virginia. The Jets, as it’s occasionally mentioned on ESPN, have two quaterbacks who can’t throw the ball at all. Blue Jays No. 5 prospect Marcus Stroman had the right idea.
— Marcus Stroman (@MStrooo7) April 26, 2013
Mark Sanchez nervous? I’d rather have Stroman himself in the Jets huddle at this point.
Taijuan Walker may pitch for the Mariners, but he’s got plenty of love for D-backs No. 1 right-handed prospect Archie Bradley:
— Taijuan Walker (@tai_walker) April 26, 2013
Archie Bradley actually has bigger things to worry about besides pitching, though — like getting verified on Twitter.
Finally got that blue check mark!!! Officially verified in twitter!! twitter.com/ArchieBradley7
— Archie Bradley (@ArchieBradley7) April 26, 2013
Pretty pumped for the Monkey Rodeo tonight at Lewis Gale. Definitely one of my favorite nights of season every year!
— Sean Coyle (@SeenCoyle) April 26, 2013
You know, tiny monkeys riding on a dog during a professional baseball game?
Chipotle Tweet of the Week:
@shawnomalley311 at what point is the newness of Chipotle in Montgomery going to die down?
— Mikie Mahtook (@MikieMahtook8) April 25, 2013
Will Leitch, one of America’s best sportswriters, has a feature in the current issue of New York Magazine called “The Glass Arm: Inside the art and science (but mostly still art) of keeping pitchers from getting hurt.” Check it out here.
On a warm, windy day in Tampa, everyone—fans, coaches, other pitchers—stops what they’re doing to watch Brett Marshall throw. It’s just a warm-up, with no actual game action scheduled for a few more days, so he’s not really letting it fly, but he doesn’t have to. Everyone is still staring.
It’s not the velocity, although that’s there. It’s not the distinctive thump of the ball hitting the catcher’s mitt the way it does only for those blessed with such lightning arms. It’s how easy it looks. Each motion looks like the last motion, which looks like the last motion, which looks like the last motion. The fastball comes in at a consistent 94 mph, but it’s the changeup, widely considered his best pitch, that you have to keep an eye out for; the arm action is perfectly deceptive for being so repeatable. Marshall looks fluid and simple, like he could throw forever. To watch him pitch is to think that throwing a baseball is the most natural thing in the world. When he finishes, a group of fans standing on a walkway above burst into applause. He has simply been playing catch.
In the clubhouse afterward, Marshall is taking a sip of water and checking his iPhone with his non-throwing hand. He is 22 years old and seems unaware of the show he’s just put on. The display is over, just another workout session in a career full of them. Marshall has been in the Yankees organization for five seasons, and has climbed through the team’s minor-league ranks at the exact pace you’d want him to. He will likely spend this season in Triple-A Scranton, one stop from the bigs, where guaranteed contracts and the major-league-minimum salary of $490,000 a year, at the very least, await. If he puts up the kind of numbers scouts think he’s capable of—double-digit wins, with a 4.00 ERA, 175 innings a season, say—he could well earn $10 million a year or more. He’s on the verge of becoming a millionaire and playing for the New York Yankees in front of the entire world. And he knows it could all blow up in a second. “You just want your arm to hold up,” he says. “You have to not think about it. I do not, man. Not at all.”
Marshall is a Texas kid (baseball scouts have long had a fetish for Texas pitchers, from Ryan to Roger Clemens) who exploded on the scouting scene his junior year in high school. The fact that he had started out as a shortstop made many scouts believe he would be less injury prone because he’d thrown fewer pitches (the “you only have so many bullets in the gun” theory). Marshall lost the last start of his high-school career when he hit a batter in the state semifinals to force in the deciding run. It was his 146th pitch. The Yankees drafted Marshall in the sixth round in 2008. He pitched a total of twenty games (poorly; his ERA was 5.21) before his arm started feeling sore and the Yankees shut him down. He then had Tommy John surgery. He was 19.
This got me thinking about how many pitching prospects still in the Minors have undergone the operation we most associate with baseball’s best hurlers. So I wondered how many of the 29 pitchers that I interviewed in-depth last season for our Prospect Pitch series (first edition here, and you can click to other editions using the drop-down menu in the middle of the story) went under the knife. Here’s what I found:
Have undergone Tommy John:
- Cam Bedrosian (Angels) – “It’s frustrating. It is,” he said. “Coming back from it, it’s been tougher than I first imagined. I thought, ‘Once I get to about 12 months and get back in the system and throwing again, I’ll be all ready to go.’ But it’s been a lot tougher getting a feel for everything. My first couple of starts were a little — I was a little wild. It was hard to control the fastball and other pitches. Each time I throw, I feel a little bit better.”
- John Gast (Cardinals) – “I was more of a slinger — I had a lower arm slot in high school — and I had Tommy John surgery and changed my motion. [The slurve] was a little easier to throw when you’re slinging across it. I’m a little more on top than I was, but not by much. The action of the pitch hasn’t changed; the hitters are just better.”
- Drew Hutchison (Blue Jays) — Had the surgery not long after we spoke.
- Brett Marshall (Yankees) – “My first year, I threw a lot of curveballs. Every day, even after a start, I’d throw 100 curveballs on flat ground, just spinning ‘em, trying to get a feel for it. So after Tommy John [surgery in 2009], I was like, ‘Give me my sinker back. That’s what I had when ya’ll signed me, and that was one big thing that got me drafted.’ I have been throwing it ever since.”
- Eric Surkamp (Giants) – Had the surgery not long after we spoke.
- Navery Moore (Braves) – “I was throwing pretty hard in high school for my age, and that’s how I got hurt,” said Moore, who was clocked at 96 mph before undergoing Tommy John surgery on his elbow in March 2007. “I grew fairly quickly, and then out of nowhere, my body had to adjust to throwing that hard, on top of [using] mechanics that probably weren’t the best. … The hardest thing after [surgery] was getting my feel back. My arm strength was back, but it was just something about confidence and repetition to get back the feel for breaking pitches; I was trying to do too much with the breaking pitches.”
- Jake Petricka (White Sox) – Had the surgery way back in 2007.
Thinking back on the mid-December trade that brought baseball’s No. 6 prospect (catcher Travis d’Arnaud) to a pairing with baseball’s No. 8 prospect (right-hander Zack Wheeler) got me writing. Below I project the 10 best sets of batterymates throughout the Minors this coming season. You’ll see that the hurler-catcher duos cover nine different leagues.
An advisory: Each player’s name, once clicked, will take you to his bio/statistics page. His organizational ranking as a prospect is the “No.” in parentheses. If you have questions about a particular player, ask away in the comment section and I promise to answer. Also let me know if you agree/disagree with the rankings and present your arguments.
- Mets — Triple-A Buffalo (INT): Travis d’Arnaud (No. 1 in system) and RHP Zack Wheeler (No. 2)
- Braves – Triple-A Gwinnett (INT): Chrisitan Bethancourt (No. 2) and RHP Julio Teheran (No. 1)
- Mariners — Triple-A Tacoma (PCL): Mike Zunino (No. 3) and RHP Taijuan Walker (No. 1)
- Phillies: Triple-A Lehigh Valley (INT): Tommy Joseph (No. 3) and RHPs Ethan Martin (No. 2)
- Red Sox: Class A Advanced Salem (CAR) Blake Swihart (No. 9) and LHP Henry Owens (No. 5)
- Padres: Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore (CAL): Austin Hedges (No. 5) and RHP Matt Wisler (No. 8)
- Rockies: Class A Advanced Modesto (CAL): Will Swanner (No. 8) and LHP Tyler Anderson (No. 6)
- Rangers: Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach (CAR): Jorge Alfaro (No. 5) and RHP Luke Jackson (No. 13)
- Pirates: Triple-A Indianapolis (INT): Tony Sanchez (No. 16) and RHP Gerrit Cole (No. 1). This omission was pointed out by a thoughtful reader on Twitter.
- Yankees — Double-A Trenton (EAS): Gary Sanchez (No. 1) and RHP Jose A. Ramirez (No. 13)
- Phillies (2): Triple-A Lehigh Valley (INT): Sebastian Valle (No. 8) and RHP Jonathan Pettibone (No. 4)
- Mets (2) Class A Savannah (SAL): Kevin Plawecki (No. 17) and RHP Luis Mateo (No. 9)
- D-backs: Class A Short-Season Missoula (PIO): Stryker Trahan (No. 11) and RHP Ben Eckels (UR)
- Pirates (2): Class A Short-Season Jamestown (NYP): Wyatt Mathisen (No. 10) and RHP Tyler Glasnow (No. 19)
- Brewers: Class A Short-Season Helena (PIO): Clint Coulter (No. 10) and RHP Damien Magnifico (No. 20)
Prospect Q&A: Mariners SP Jordan Shipers on Strikeouts, the Walker-Hultzen-Paxton Motivation Factor, and Facing Miguel Sano
The Mariners doled out $800,000 bonuses to two of their draftees in 2010. The first was 43rd overall pick Taijuan Walker, a Louisiana prep right-hander who is now MLB.com’s fifth-ranked prospect in all of baseball.
The second was Jordan Shipers.
You probably know less about him, but not because there’s less to know. Seattle gave Shipers (bio, stats here) the same amount of money to sign despite the fact that he, then a Missouri prep left-hander, wasn’t drafted until the 16th round. Shipers showed he was worth the investment in his first full season in 2012, compiling a 3.89 ERA in 23 starts for Class A Clinton.
Know this, too: The power-armed if diminutive 21-year-old has accomplished something that Walker — and the M’s other top pitching prospects — have yet to sniff: a professional no-hitter, which was just one of his two complete game shutouts last year.
I caught up with Shipers, presently ranked 13th in Seattle’s system, this afternoon, and we talked about that achievement, among other topics. We started our chat, however, with his off-season job at the gym. Because six-figure bonuses don’t last forever.
Me: So what’s this about your job — working where you work out?
Shipers: I have a job to take up my off-time, when I’m not working out. I work out five days a week, hit the weights hard, run. I work at 68 Inside Sports in Overland Park, Kansas. I just work at the front desk and just sit down, take phone calls and greet people when they come in. Pretty simple.
Me: Nice way to earn a little money in the offseason?
Shipers: Yeah, I just sit. I mean, before I got the job, I would just sit downstairs and do nothing after I was done working out. Then I was like, ‘You know what? I could just get a job and sit somewhere and make money.’ I’m usually pretty busy because there are a lot of baseball, softball people coming in and getting ready for their season.
Me: I bet they don’t know that a pro ballplayer is manning reception…
Shipers: No, they don’t. I try to keep that on the ‘DL,’ so they don’t try to act weird around me.
Me: Aside from workouts, how is your throwing coming along?
Shipers: I started throwing, probably, about three weeks ago. I feel great. I’m excited. I threw my first bullpen three days ago, and it was about 30 pitches. I was already hitting my spots on the corners, which I wasn’t really trying to do. I was just trying to get it across the plate to loosen up the arm a bit. I have another bullpen tomorrow [Friday].
Me: Now that some time has passed, how do you evaluate your 2012 season?
Shipers: I thought it was a really successful season. I learned a lot, and that’s what I tried to achieve. I’m going to take what I learned last season into this coming season.
Let’s keep this all very simple and put it in bullet-form. According to a report Friday from the venerable Jeff Passan:
- the Royals are willing to trade their top prospect — and, perhaps, baseball’s top prospect — Wil Myers
- the Royals will seek young, front-line starting pitching in any deal for Myers
- the Royals have discussed such a swap with the Rays, the D-backs, the A’s and the Mariners
As much as it might seem a surprise for a down-and-out, on-its-way-back team to be “dangling” or “shopping” such an impactful slugger with zero Major League service time, this news should not, in fact, come as a surprise. Let’s stay simple and explain why:
- the Royals appear set with their outfield to begin 2013 — and unwilling to make room for Myers (he could force the issue with a big Spring Training)
- the Royals appear set with an offensive nucleus of young sluggers (which includes the names Butler, Gordon, Moustakas, Hosmer, Perez — not Myers)
- the Royals do not appear set with their starting rotation (in no small part because prospects Mike Montgomery, John Lamb and Chris Dwyer have stalled in the Minors)
Which brings us to the Rays, the D-backs, the A’s and the Mariners. What Passan doesn’t tell us, I will. What he doesn’t tell us, of course, is which pitching prospects Kansas City might be targeting from each of these four potential trading partners. Let’s take them one at a time:
- Major League rotation: James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb/Jeff Niemman
- Expendable prospects: Chris Archer (AAA), Alex Torres (AAA), Alex Colome (AAA), Enny Romero (High-A), Felipe Rivero (A), Taylor Guerrieri and Blake Snell (Low-A)
- The proposal for Myers: Chris Archer and Taylor Guerrieri for Myers
- Why it Wil/won’t work: The Rays will be loathe to part with two elite hurlers and may insist on an Archer-and-anybody-but-Guerrieri package, but including their 2011 first-round draftee probably puts them ahead in the race to land Myers. And Tampa Bay might overpay (in its mind) to get a can’t-miss slugger that it can control contractually for the next six years. … Don’t discount Romero or Rivero, who like Guerrieri are far away from the Majors, but have very live arms.
- Major League rotation: Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, Daniel Hudson, Wade Miley, Pat Corbin/Tyler Skaggs
- Expendable prospects: Trevor Bauer (AAA), David Holmberg (AA), Anthony Meo (High-A), Archie Bradley (A)
- The proposal for Myers: Trevor Bauer, David Holmberg and Anthony Meo for Myers and SS/2B prospect Christian Colon
- Why it Wil/won’t work: We’ve seen national reports that — before they were shot down — depicted the D-backs making and taking calls on Trevor Bauer. So this could be the trade makes the most sense: Arizona trades a pitcher it undervalues to Kansas City for a slugger it undervalues. Has there ever been a prospects-only deal that could also be a change-of-scenery-needed swap for both players? … I expanded my proposal above to include two more Arizona hurlers because we know that the D-backs are starving for a shortstop and that the Royals’ Colon, while not a plus defender at the position, can hit enough to play there. (And Colon is obviously blocked in K.C. by Alcides Escobar.)
- Major League rotation: Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin, Bartolo Colon/Brandon McCarthy (free agent)
- Expendable prospects: Dan Straily (AAA), Brad Peacock (AAA), Sonny Gray (AA), A.J. Cole (High-A)
- The proposal for Myers: Dan Straily and Brad Peacock for Myers
- Why it Wil/won’t work: What do Billy Beane and Co. in Oakland have going for them? They may be the lone club of the four that can offer Dayton Moore two Major League-ready, top-of-the-rotation pitchers. The Royals could insist on the more-proven A.J. Griffin or the higher-ceiling Cole, but it’s hard to imagine them not being at least instrigued by a Straily-Peacock combo. … One flaw in this proposal is really two: Peacock, for all of his stuff, had a 6.01ERA at Triple-A this year, and it would behoove GM Moore to wonder if he is too much like another exiled Athletic right-hander: Vin Mazzaro.
- Major League rotation: Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Hisashi Iwakuma, Blake Beavan, Erasmo Ramirez
- Expendable prospects: Danny Hultzen (AAA), Taijuan Walker (AA), James Paxton (AA), Brandon Maurer (AA), Jordon Shipers (A)
- The proposal for Myers: Danny Hultzen and Jordan Shipers for Myers
- Why it Wil/won’t work: Of the four, this deal has the most obstacles to getting done. The Mariners will offer Danny Hultzen, the Royals will want Taijuan Walker, and the Mariners will not want to counter with the logical next best thing: Hultzen AND James Paxton. And I don’t blame them. The M’s MLB rotation is thin, and all three members of the Hultzen-Walker-Paxton trio will probably be needed in Seattle by 2014. Pulling off this transaction would be as gutsy as that Michael Pineda-for-Jesus Montero memory of last offseason.