The New Pitching Tag Teams

February 27, 2008

Haren's addition makes the D-Backs the favorites in the West (DJ Anto D/flickr)

(DJ Anto D / flickr)

If history has taught us anything, it is that good pitching has become more and more important in the world of Major League Baseball. With short playoff series, less and less quality innings being pitched, and bigger and better hitters, finding a gem to crown as the “ace” of your pitching staff is becoming a daunting task. That’s why whenever you witness a team that is able to lump two star pitchers together at the top of their rotation, you have to step back and admire their tenacity.

While we have seen many outstanding 1-2 punches throughout the years, 2008 will bring us three new tandems that will automatically make their respective teams a contender. So today we will take a look at these three new tag teams with brief scouting reports on what exactly makes them so special – both individually and as a pair – in what will help assure that their team will be in the hunt this October.

(click here to continue this article on Baseball Digest Daily)

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2008 Top 5 Prospects: Cleveland Indians

February 22, 2008

As we lead up to both the start of the 2008 season and our “Diamond Cutter” top 100 prospects list, I will be taking a look at the top five prospects from every single Major League team. Each team will have its top five prospects along with a brief scouting report on each player that I have pulled from my scouting notes. Today we continue with the American League Central with the pitcher and hot corner deep Cleveland Indians Minor League organization. As always, let me know how you feel about the rankings in the comments section below or via email.

1.) Adam Miller, RHP: Despite having to battle back from a couple of different injuries, Adam Miller continues to be the Indians top prospect. Miller’s arsenal includes a mid to upper-90’s four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, change-up, and a great power slider with late break on it. He also has a great make-up and good command of his pitches. As of now he is projected as being a front line starter but that could change depending on how he returns from his injuries. If he doesn’t bounce back he could slip down to be a middle or back of the rotation guy or even to the bullpen.

2.) Beau Mills, 3B: Mills is a big, left-handed hitting third base prospect with a ton of upside. He has excellent hitting skills and has a chance to be a very good hitter as a professional. He does a great job adjusting to pitches and really makes pitchers pay when they make a mistake. Mills also has plus power with a solid line drive swing. He has some loft to his swing and will hit a lot of doubles and homers as a pro. Currently he’s a third baseman with average skills (range, arm, etc) and has many people saying he may end up at first base which I feel would be best for him.

3.) Chuck Lofgren, LHP: Lofgren is a polished lefty who has continued to improve his abilities on the mound. He has a low-90’s fastball and a fantastic change-up that many feel is one of the best in the Minors. Lofgren’s ability to get into the Indians’ starting rotation may run into a snag with how many players on currently on the list. He may find a spot in the bullpen in the meantime until someone falls off or gets injured.

4.) Wes Hodges, 3B: Hodges is a good overall athlete with a solid bat. His bat has great potential to hit for average as he makes good contact, has strong hands, has great bat speed, and a consistent eye at the plate. Hodges has improved his ability to drive the ball which as he does this more will continue to improve his power numbers. With Beau Mills most likely moving to first, Hodges has a shot to be Cleveland’s future third baseman.

5.) Aaron Laffey, LHP: Laffey is only two outs away from losing his prospect eligibility so he technically qualifies for this list. Laffey is an incredible ground ball pitcher which pro coaches love to see. He has good command of his fastball that sits in the upper-80’s with good sink but isn’t his best pitch. His best pitches are his change-up and slurvy breaking ball that generates a lot of grounders. Look for him to be part of the Indians rotation heading into 2008.

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Scouting Snapshot: Troy Tulowitzki

February 20, 2008

Troy Tulowitzki stands in at the plate (Naked Eyes/flickr)

(Naked Eyes / flickr)

TROY TULOWITZKI | SS
Organization: Colorado Rockies
DOB: 10/10/84 | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 205 | Bats: R | Throws: R
Season & Career Statistics
Scouting Report
· Offense: Tulowitzki stands in the box with a spread stance and loves pitches from belt high down. Drives the ball with good power to all fields. His weakness is fastballs up and out of the zone and breaking balls in the dirt. Tulowitzki established himself as one of the best hitting shortstops in recent memory.
· Defense: As good as his bat is, his glove is even better. Very instinctive sense on defense. Great range with the ability to get to balls on either side very easily. This coupled with his rocket arm takes a lot of hits away from hitters. Has no fear at all and wants the ball hit to him on every single play. Also has established himself as one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball.
· Overall: Never before have I seen a rookie step into a clubhouse in his first season and instantly become the clubhouse leader. Tulowitzki leads this team vocally as well as with his bat and glove. No matter where the ball his hit he wants to get his hands on the ball and is incredibly intense on the field. Special players like this don’t happen all the time.
Grade: 3.8/5.0

Catch my “Diamond Cutter” column now featured on Baseball Digest Daily or my column “Twins Killings” every day only on the Most Valuable Network.

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2008 Top 5 Prospects: Chicago White Sox

February 19, 2008

As we lead up to both the start of the 2008 season and our “Diamond Cutter” top 100 prospects list, I will be taking a look at the top five prospects from every single Major League team. Each team will have its top five prospects along with a brief scouting report on each player that I have pulled from my scouting notes. Today we move on to the AL Central with the depleted Chicago White Sox farm system. As always, let me know how you feel about the rankings in the comments section below or via email.

1.) Aaron Poreda, LHP: Poreda’s success seemed to just pop up over night. He gained a miraculous 6-7 mph on his fastball over the course of last season brining it up to the mid-90’s. He does a great job of throwing it for strikes and has a nice sink to it and can run in on hitters. While he has a nice fastball, his slider and change-up need a lot of work in order for him to be successful. He’s a big strong lefty with a solid frame. Since his success happened seemingly out of nowhere, he hasn’t yet gained the poise he needs on the mound. This will improve as he gains experiences and begins to throw his secondary pitches more effectively.

2.) Jack Egbert, RHP: Egbert certainly hasn’t dazzled anyone with his stuff during his pro career but he keeps getting the job done on the mound. While he is extremely old for AA ball (25 years old) he does have some characteristics that pro coaches like to see. His fastball sits around 90 mph, he has a good sinker and he has a change-up that usually keeps hitters off guard. But the thing coaches love the most is how he keeps the ball on the ground. In fact, over the last 342.2 innings he’s only given up five home runs. What coach wouldn’t love that?

3.) Nevin Griffith, RHP: Griffith is very mature and has excellent demeanor on the mound for someone his age. His fastball has a nice tailing action and sits around 91-93 mph. He also has a curve that sits 86-88 mph and a change-up around 80 mph that he is still working on becoming comfortable with. His sharp slider is his strikeout pitch and it sits in the low-80’s with great control when he’s on. He already has the mentality, body and arm to be an above-average pitcher so if he can harness his curve and change he might be a nice low pick for the Sox down the road.

4.) Lance Broadway, RHP: It’s difficult to get a good read on how Lance Broadway will turn out. He’s got ho-hum stuff and has limited upside despite success in his only MLB start. He has been working feverishly on improving the location of his fastballs as well as the effectiveness of his change-up in order to make an impact for the White Sox. Looking at his stuff and potential, I see him as a number five starter at best in his career and may even end up in the bullpen if he lasts in the Majors.

5.) John Shelby, OF: Shelby’s name isn’t mentioned often in the talks of big baseball prospects but some scouts are very high on him. Thus far in his pro career he hasn’t done too much to impress me to say he can be anything more than a reserve player at the Major League level. He finished off 2007 strong after a lethargic beginning to the year. When Shelby makes contact with the ball (which is more often now since cutting back on his strikeouts) he does hit the ball hard and has shown some power potential despite his small stature. He’s a little old for the level he’s been playing at in the Minors so he will need to make some vast improvements in order to make it up the ladder.

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2008 Top 5 Prospects: St. Louis Cardinals

February 15, 2008

As we lead up to both the start of the 2008 season and our “Diamond Cutter” top 100 prospects list, I will be taking a look at the top five prospects from every single Major League team. Each team will have its top five prospects along with a brief scouting report on each player that I have pulled from my scouting notes. Today we wrap up the NL Central with the St. Louis Cardinals. As always, let me know how you feel about the rankings in the comments section below or via email.

1.) Colby Rasmus, OF: Colby Rasmus projects all plus tools and is the superior, impact-type prospect the St. Louis Cardinals organization has been waiting for ever since Albert Pujols was plucked from it. Rasmus is a perfect example of a five-tool player as he can run, throw, field, hit, and hit for power. He has very quick hands which gives him excellent plate coverage. Projects to have plus power and should be able to put up a fantastic stat line. Excellent bat speed, good pitch recognition, and plus runner. Not sure how much St. Louis will allow him to run once he reaches Majors but could have 20+ stolen bases per year. He’s doing an excellent job on his move to center field which is where the Cardinals desperately need someone ever since Jim Edmonds departure.

2.) Chris Perez, RHP: Chris Perez projects to be the future closer for the St. Louis Cardinals. Perez has a fantastic mid-90’s fastball with good sinking action on it. He also offers up a plus slider that reaches the mid to upper 80’s. This combination of pitches is perfect for a power closer and should make it much easier for him to be successful. The problem however is that when Perez makes mistakes, he makes them up in the zone which leaves his pitches very vulnerable and can get hit very, very hard. He needs to work on keeping the ball down (especially in a crucial save situation where you only have a one to three run cushion) and if he can he will make a solid closer.

3.) Jamie Garcia, LHP: Garcia is an excellent athlete who has run into some elbow injury problems recently. Garcia has a plus curveball that he tends to get a little curveball-happy with and it started wearing on his arm (may miss most or all of 2008). He will need to cut back a little bit on his curve and start relying more on his change-up and plus fastball with great sinking action that sits in the low to mid-90’s. The sinking action is so solid on his fastball that he has made himself one of the best ground ball pitching prospects in baseball. If not for his injury and the upcoming significant time he will miss, he would probably be in the number two spot on this list.

4.) Bryan Anderson, C: Bryan Anderson is a few ticks above average as a catcher with some areas to work on. Overall he’s decent but he does have some polishing to do in terms of his game. On one hand he is improving on calling a game and has a strong arm but he does need to work a little on blocking balls in the dirt. Offensively he has a nice, smooth left handed swing which generates a lot of line drives. He doesn’t have much power to speak of but then again he won’t ever really be thought of as an offensive catcher.

5.) Adam Ottavino, RHP: Ottavino looks to have a very strong set of developing pitches in his repertoire. Currently he has a plus fastball that sits in the low to mid-90’s (at times can crank up to 98 mph) and a set of developing pitches including a quality slider (on the brink of being a consistent plus pitch) and curve. One of the biggest things holding him back right now with these pitches is his control. He tends to struggle a bit with this and might be able to clean it up with some work on his mechanics. If he’s able to fix his control problems, he projects to be a high as a number two starter but my guess is he’ll be more of a mid-rotation type guy.

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Joba Rules: Part II

February 13, 2008

Apparently last season’s strict set of pitching rules for phenom pitcher Joba Chamberlain, also known as the “Joba Rules”, have a new edition out for the 2008 season.

According to ESPN.com, the New York Post reports that the New York Yankees will begin the 2008 season with Chamberlain coming out of the bullpen as Mariano Rivera‘s set-up man as opposed to joining the rotation.

Joba RulesThe current plan (which I’m sure has its wiggle room if need be) is to have the 22-year old start the season in the bullpen and limit his innings. Then in around June he will head down to the minors to get some work in as a starter only to rejoin the club as part of the Yankee rotation. Essentially the “Joba Rules” are to limit his arm to 140 innings in the 2008 campaign.

I can’t say that this is a huge surprise as I know how protective the Yankees are about Chamberlain and his arm. Many have wondered if he has the endurance and durability to be a starter at the Major League level. This new set of rules, as disappointing as it may be to many Yankees fans, is the smartest move long term for the man who invoked “Joba Fever” on baseball last season.

Personally I think Chamberlain is an outstanding talent and whatever the Yankees have to do to protect him is the best thing to do. Regarding Chamberlain’s abilities, here is a quick scouting report I wrote on him for my “2008 Top 5 Prospects: New York Yankees” column a few weeks ago.

Chamberlain has already proven to be a big time Major League pitcher coming out of the bullpen for the Yankees last season and causing Joba-fever everywhere. He has a mid to upper-90’s fastball, a sharp moving plus slider, and an improved changeup. The righty has plus stuff and plus command with a big frame that he uses for his power pitches. Has also learned to incorporate his secondary pitches more rather than relying strictly on fastballs. Looks to be moved to the rotation in 2008.

Now as far as Chamberlain’s long term success, we will have to look at who he is as a pitcher. There’s no doubt that he has the skill set as well as the personality to be a shutdown set-up man and closer, but to truly realize his abilities you need to have him in the rotation. I discussed Chamberlain’s skill set the other day in my “Clay vs. Joba” column where I compared the two pitchers and who is better. While Chamberlain’s fastball and slider are devastating and perfect for an end of the game guy, he does need to solidify at least one more pitch to become an effective starter. Two such pitches he needs to sharpen are his change and his curveball. Here’s an excerpt from my column discussing these two pitches:

• Chamberlain has been working on improving his change-up and it is getting better with time. As of now it is sitting in the low-80’s and is lacking enough movement to make it a stand out pitch. It is effective enough of a pitch to incorporate into his game plan but it will take more work to be a solid Major League pitch.

• Chamberlain is also at a bit of a disadvantage with this pitch too as he doesn’t use his curve as much as Buchholz for a couple of reasons. For one it’s not nearly as good as his fastball or slider which he predominantly uses coming out of the bullpen. Secondly it just isn’t that effective of a pitch for him yet as he doesn’t have reliable control over it. It is more of a slow looping curve that generally sits between 79-82 mph. This approach is ok during his time in the bullpen when a dominating fastball and hard slider will work great, but he may want to fine tune it a little more before joining the Yankees rotation.

I’m sure this will be one of the top priorities of the Yankees during his seasoning process as adding two more plus type pitches is exactly what Chamberlain needs.

Once again I want to reiterate that this is the best move the Yankees can do for this youngster’s future. With so many young, talented pitchers like Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy ready to insert into the rotation, there shouldn’t be any rush with Joba.

I for one can’t wait to see how this new set of “Joba Rules” plays out and just how good he can be as a starting pitcher in Major League Baseball.

Catch my column “Twins Killings” every day only on the Most Valuable Network.

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2008 Top 5 Prospects: Pittsburgh Pirates

February 12, 2008

As we lead up to both the start of the 2008 season and our “Diamond Cutter” top 100 prospects list, I will be taking a look at the top five prospects from every single Major League team. Each team will have its top five prospects along with a brief scouting report on each player that I have pulled from my scouting notes. Today we continue on with the NL Central with the Pittsburgh Pirates. As always, let me know how you feel about the rankings in the comments section below or via email.

1.) Andrew McCutchen, OF: Andrew McCutchen is one of the four from the famed crop of high school outfielders in the 2005 draft. He is a smart and exciting player with a stellar glove in center field. Despite his great defensive prowess, his impact bat may be his best skill. McCutchen has quick hands and a compact swing which produces a surprising amount of power for someone of his stature. He is a line drive hitter due to his quick bat speed and is able to hit consistently to all fields. He’s very fast both on the base paths and in the outfield. He’s just about ready to join the Pirates as their everyday center fielder.

2.) Neil Walker, 3B: The much debated move of Neil Walker from catcher to the hot corner appears to have paid off. Of course this isn’t too surprising given Walker’s fantastic athletic ability as well as his soft, quick hands and defensive prowess. The big fear is whether or not his bat would carry over to the hot corner and so far it has. Walker has a strong frame with muscular arms and legs which give him fabulous power potential as line drives jump off his bat. He has excellent physical make-up which is why they decided to take the risk which now that it has paid off, should get him to the pros quickly.

3.) Steve Pearce, 1B/OF: Thus far Steven Pearce has had success at every level in his professional career. Pearce’s greatest asset is his strong offensive abilities. He has the bat to hit for both average and power and has an excellent eye at the plate which will really help with his on base percentage. Defensively he’s nothing to get excited about as once again, he’s in the lineup for his bat, not his glove. He, along with McCutchen and Walker, seem to be the only bright spots in the Pirates thirsty Minor League system.

4.) Daniel Moskos, LHP: This starter turned reliever turned in very strong results since his switch to the bullpen. This should get him to the Majors fairly quickly if he can continue his success. Moskos has a strong fastball in the mid-90’s (up to 96 mph), a plus slider in the mid to upper-80’s and a mediocre change-up. As a reliever he probably won’t need to rely on his change all that much especially considering how strong his slider is. He has an undersized frame which means he is forced to use his entire body to get everything he has into his pitches. With his two primary pitches along with his less than fluid delivery, he is a perfect fit for the Pirates bullpen.

5.) Brad Lincoln, RHP: Brad Lincoln was the Pirates top overall pick in the 2006 draft. He had a good start to his new career until the injuries started mounting up. First he was hit with an oblique injury which was followed up by a Tommy John surgery causing him to miss all of last season. Its not sure how he will bounce back but before going down he had a good moving fastball which sat in the mid-90’s as well as a hard breaking curveball. He had a little trouble with the command of his pitches before the injury so it will definitely be a tough battle for him once he comes back from the surgery. As with all Tommy John surgeries it will take about a year for Lincoln to potentially regain what he once had.

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2008 Top 5 Prospects: Milwaukee Brewers

February 9, 2008

As we lead up to both the start of the 2008 season and our “Diamond Cutter” top 100 prospects list, I will be taking a look at the top five prospects from every single Major League team. Each team will have its top five prospects along with a brief scouting report on each player that I have pulled from my scouting notes. Today we continue on with the NL Central with the Milwaukee Brewers. As always, let me know how you feel about the rankings in the comments section below or via email.

1.) Matt LaPorta, 1B/OF: This former catcher is a big, strong power hitter who made a big name for himself in college. LaPorta has an easy loft to his swing and a strong, powerful frame which still has room to add some muscle. He has fantastic plate discipline and can flat out hit for power to all fields in any stadium. LaPorta doesn’t have much speed and has struggled some adjusting with his move to the outfield. He is a better fit at first base but that spot is already anchored down on the Brewers by Prince Fielder. It appears as if the Brewers will continue on with playing him in left.

2.) Manny Parra, LHP: If Parra can fight off the seemingly endless injury problems he can have some great success with the Brewers as a starter or long reliever. Parra’s greatest weapon is fastball combo with a low-90’s two-seam fastball and a mid-90’s four-seamer. Parra also has three developing secondary pitches including a splitter, curveball and most polished of the three, a change-up which he uses to keep hitters off balance from his hard fastball. As important as the work on his secondary pitches are to his success, more importantly he just needs to stay healthy and try to finish off a full season in the Majors.

3.) Jeremy Jeffress, RHP: Jeffress is an intense and confident young pitcher when he’s on the mound. The flamethrower has a strong fastball in the mid to upper-90’s and can dial it up to over 100 mph at times. He also has a nasty slider that he needs to become a little more consistent with as well as a developing curve and change-up. Even though he throws incredibly hard, he tends to lose velocity as games go on so that coupled with his slider and intensity make him the perfect candidate to be a closer when he hits the big leagues. If he can address his substance abuse problem (suspended 50 games last season which will carry over into 2008) he will have a very bright future ahead of him.

4.) Mat Gamel, 3B: Gamel has had a very consistent professional career so far and has shown he can handle himself at the plate. With a good eye at the plate, Gamel has the ability to hit to all fields and is a doubles machine. It appears as if the Brewers are drafting players with little concern for their defensive abilities (see Matt LaPorta and Ryan Braun) but it has worked out pretty well for them so far. Gamel just doesn’t have the footwork or the accuracy for the hot corner and with a slew of players without skill positions it should be interesting to see where he winds up.

5.) Alcides Escobar, SS: It’s good to see a Brewers prospect that wasn’t drafted solely for their offensive ability. Alcides Escobar is the exact opposite actually as defense is his strong point and offense is what is his a chilies heel. He is a great fielder with stellar range and a very strong throwing arm. But as I said, offense is his weak spot and needs to become a more patient hitter at the plate as he is a hacker. When he does put the ball in play he takes advantage of his speed very well. He’s a very good base runner but needs some work on his base stealing ability. If he can work on these things he could be a good lead off hitter down the road.

Catch my column “Twins Killings” every day only on the Most Valuable Network.

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Versus Series: Clay vs. Joba

February 8, 2008

Joba vs. Clay and Clay vs. Joba. That’s all we seem to hear in the world of prospects ever since last season when these two enigmas exploded on to the scene and helped guide their respective teams into the playoffs. Both players play on major market teams, both players play on World Series contending teams and both players play on opposite sides of the biggest rivalry in sports today: Yankees vs. Red Sox.

So is all the hype for these young guns worth it? You better believe it. If their star potential wasn’t obvious enough before they made their debuts then their dazzling work on the mound this past summer and fall shouldn’t have left any doubt in your mind.

With that being said we now have to do what we analysts do and compare and contrast these young righties to figure out who is better and why. I plan on breaking down each pitcher individually (in alphabetical order to not show favoritism) and their specific games by first looking at their arsenal of pitches and then following that up with their pitching makeup (everything else that goes into being a pitcher). Hopefully this will help give a better look at them and just why they are two of the most impressive young pitchers to hit the Majors in quite some time.

Pitch Repertoire

The Fastball

• Buchholz has a nice combination of a two and four-seam fastballs that sit anywhere in the low to mid-90’s. His two-seamer has the better movement and can bust in on lefties while the four-seamer could use a little more movement on it to make it more effective. He also works his large arsenal of pitches off of his fastball very well thanks to the great movement on his secondary pitches.

• Chamberlain on the other hand is a power pitcher with a big frame whose fastball sits in the mid to upper-90’s and occasionally hits triple digits. He also has very good control of his fastball and is able to locate it anywhere in the zone. This also helps set up his slew of secondary pitches.

Decision: Chamberlain gets the edge with his fastball due to having quite a few more mph on it as well as having better movement.

The Change-up

• Right off the bat Buchholz has a major advantage in this competition due to the fact that he has one of the best change-ups in baseball. The pitch settles in right around 80 mph which he uses as one of his two out pitches and is almost unhittable when he is on with it. What makes it so hard to hit is that he disguises it so well with his normal delivery that it becomes very deceptive.

• Chamberlain has been working on improving his change-up and it is getting better with time. As of now it is sitting in the low-80’s and is lacking enough movement to make it a stand out pitch. It is effective enough of a pitch to incorporate into his game plan but it will take more work to be a solid Major League pitch.

Decision: This one isn’t even close as Buchholz holds a MAJOR advantage over his adversary in this battle. Anytime your pitch is one of the best of its kind in the game today, it’s is very difficult to find someone to rival it.

The Curveball

• Almost as good as his change-up, Buchholz’s knee buckling curve freezes hitters in their tracks. It’s a hard breaking 12-to-6 overhand curveball that just drops right off the table. Like his change-up, he uses it as his out pitch (depending on which pitch is on that night) and will usually sit in the 76-81 mph range. With a solid fastball and one other out plus pitch, the thought of being a batter and worrying about a second can’t be easy.

• Chamberlain is also at a bit of a disadvantage with this pitch too as he doesn’t use his curve as much as Buchholz for a couple of reasons. For one it’s not nearly as good as his fastball or slider which he predominantly uses coming out of the bullpen. Secondly it just isn’t that effective of a pitch for him yet as he doesn’t have reliable control over it. It is more of a slow looping curve that generally sits between 79-82 mph. This approach is ok during his time in the bullpen when a dominating fastball and hard slider will work great, but he may want to fine tune it a little more before joining the Yankees rotation.

Decision: Buchholz wins this battle too as, like their change-ups, Chamberlain’s curveball isn’t even in the same league as Buchholz’s.

The Slider

• As Buchholz’s fourth pitch, his slider comes in somewhere in the low to mid-80’s. Right now it is an above average pitch but shows the potential to be yet another plus pitch. As scary as that sounds, his slider has continued to improve over the past few years and isn’t far off from being yet another plus pitch to add to his bag of incredible pitches.

• Chamberlain’s other dominating pitch is his plus slider. It sits in the neighborhood of 85-89 mph and is used just as much (and effectively) as his fastball. As a power pitcher, Chamberlain uses his hard slider as his strikeout pitch as he keeps it low in the zone and constantly over matches hitters as they swing and miss. When he has it working it is a simply devastating pitch that even if you know it is coming is almost impossible to hit.

Decision: While Buchholz continues to improve his slider, the edge right now has to be given to Chamberlain simply because of how nasty of a pitch it can be. Now in a few years the tables may turn on who has the better slider, but for now Chamberlain can rest assured he has locked this up.

Pitch Repertoire Results: Even though these two split the four pitches by each winning two, I have to give the edge to Clay Buchholz in the pitch repertoire category for a couple of reasons. As I mentioned, Buchholz has one of the best change-ups in all of baseball and a curveball that isn’t far behind. While Chamberlain has a fantastic fastball-slider combination working for him, the fact that Buchholz has an increasingly effective slider on the rise gives him the slight edge in this match-up.

Pitcher’s Makeup

The Delivery

• Buchholz’s delivery looks like you are watching an instant replay on a loop. He has a very repeatable motion after some great strides towards improving it over the course of the last couple of seasons. His delivery melds perfectly with his pitches as he’s able to throw his fastball and change from the same arm slot with the same motion to help make it that much more untouchable. The only concern I have with his delivery is the high arm angle that he pitches with. It could be an issue down the road with injuries so it is something they will need to keep an eye on.

• Chamberlain grades very high when it comes to his delivery despite the fact that it at times can seem a bit violent. But anytime you have a pitcher trying to hit triple digits on the gun you are going to see some sort of effort put into it. Chamberlain’s strong frame and powerful legs are used very prevalently in his delivery which is where he generates his dominating stuff.

Decision: Again, this is an extremely difficult decision between these two. I am going to give the slight edge to Chamberlain because he’s able to repeat his motion so consistently and with so much force.

The Mechanics

• Just like his delivery, Buchholz is very much under control with his pitches. He has solid mechanics from the moment he starts his movement all the way until he releases the pitch.

• While Chamberlain has a very good delivery, he does have a little room for improvement in his mechanics. The real test will be when he moves from the bullpen to the rotation and has to go 6 or 7 innings versus one or two.

Decision: Buchholz edges out Chamberlain due to his ability to stay in control at all times without showing any flaws.

The Big Game Factor

• Buchholz is built to be a big game pitcher for the blood thirsty Red Sox Nation. This kid does not rattle easily and has the presence on the mound to pitch in a very intense city like Boston.

• Like Buchholz, Chamberlain is perfect to pitch in a big time city like New York for a big time team like the Yankees. It has been said numerous times that he has ice water running through his veins and has shown it coming down the stretch run last season.

Decision: As of right now it has to be given to Chamberlain. While Buchholz had some incredible performances at the end of last season for the Red Sox (including a no hitter), Chamberlain was put in some of the most intense situations out of the bullpen at the end of games when the Yankees’ season was on the line. In my book that is proof enough for me.

FINAL GRADE

On the outside you wouldn’t think these two pitchers would have anything in common. One is a wiry 6-3, 190 pound string bean and the other is a meaty 6-2, 230 pound beast. Each have different dominating pitches yet each have an excellent make-up. So as different as they may be, they seem to be just as similar.

The best part about doing the first ever “Versus Series” column with these two is I really can’t go wrong no matter who I choose. As for my final decision, I know I am going against the grain and may have a lot of people argue with me, but I have to go with Clay Buchholz by the narrowest of margins. After the 2008 season I may sing a different tune when we get a chance to see Chamberlain start, but for now I am going to give the nod to Buchholz for his overall ability as a pitcher both now and into the future.

These are just two more stars that have been injected into the intense Yankees vs. Red Sox rivalry and I can’t wait for the opportunity to see them go head to head very soon.


2008 Top 5 Prospects: Houston Astros

February 6, 2008

As we lead up to both the start of the 2008 season and our “Diamond Cutter” top 100 prospects list, I will be taking a look at the top five prospects from every single Major League team. Each team will have its top five prospects along with a brief scouting report on each player that I have pulled from my scouting notes. Today we continue on with the NL Central with the almost bare Houston Astros system. As always, let me know how you feel about the rankings in the comments section below or via email.

1.) J.R. Towles, C: After flying through the Minors in 2007 and joining the Astros by year’s end, it gives you a good idea of how good of a young catcher this kid is. Towles is a very good hitter who can hit for average and has above average power (for a catcher) thanks to his very good eye at the plate. He’s a dead pull hitter (which is fine in Houston’s ballpark) but he does need to learn to hit to other fields to be successful in the big leagues. Defensively he is rather quick behind the plate and calls a good game but he could use some work in a few areas such as throwing out base runners. Otherwise projects to be an above average everyday catcher in the Majors.

2.) Felipe Paulino, RHP: Paulino had a brief stint in the Majors at the end of last season and had some good and bad experiences on the mound. The young right hander has a hard fastball in the upper-90’s (at times hitting triple digits) along with a low 90’s slider and developing change. He can have bouts of control problems as well as delivery troubles (which leads to him leaving pitches up and giving up home runs), but with a little work he can minimize these issues. The Astros are gearing him towards starting as of now but he may be better suited to be a closer with his blazing fastball and hard slider.

3.) Michael Bourn, OF: Despite playing in more than 120 games in 2006 and 2007 for the Phillies, Bourn is still considered a rookie since he is under the 130 career at bat maximum. Bourn’s greatest asset is his plus speed which translates well both to base running and his defense. While he holds some of the key characteristics for an ideal lead off hitter with his speed and offensive approach, he will need to work a little on his plate discipline and ability to get on base. If he can improve in that area it shouldn’t be long until he’s in center field for the Astros.

4.) Mitch Einertson, OF: With little competition in the Astros organization when it comes to outfield prospects (or prospects in general), Mitch Einertson should continue to shoot up this top prospects list if he continues his improved play. He continues to show more power potential and is a very good fastball hitter who can spray the ball to all fields. He showed that he is a consistent hitter and looks to have good gap power which will equate to a lot of doubles for the corner outfielder. If he continues his improved play he may be at the top of this list going into 2009.

5.) Bud Norris, RHP: Right now the Astros are using Bud Norris as a starting pitcher in the system but it looks to me as if he is more built to be a reliever. Norris has a mid-90’s fastball and a nice low to mid-80’s curveball. He has some issues such as fatigue, command problems and the inability to find a groove in his delivery that, while they can be worked out, lead me to believe that he may be better built to be a middle or late innings reliever if he reaches the big leagues. As of right now nothing spectacular jumps out at me about him other than his curve.

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