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)

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: 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.

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

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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.

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

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