Happy New Year!

December 31, 2008

I just wanted to take a moment and wish everyone a safe and happy New Year! Thank you again to everyone for their continued support and participation in “The Diamond Cutter.”

To give you an idea of what is coming up to start the new year, we will be continuing the top 25 count down, the top five prospects for each organization and a new “interviews” section where I will be interviewing players, coaches and others who are part of the greatest sport on earth.

Again, please be safe tonight and I look forward to speaking with you all heading into 2009. And if you want to talk even more baseball, please join me on “The Diamond Cutter’s” Facebook page.

Happy New Year!!!

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com | Facebook

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Top Prospect #23: Justin Smoak

December 28, 2008

23
NAME: Justin Smoak
POSITION: First Base
AGE: 22 | BATS: B | THROWS: L
ORGANIZATION: Texas Rangers

2008 STATISTICS
LVL AVG R HR RBI OBP SLG
MiLB .304 9 3 6 .355 .518

Scouting Report: What makes this kid so special is his incredible eye at the plate, especially for a power hitter, as he consistently drew more walks than strikeouts each year in college. Smoak also posses a very sweet and fluid swing with the ability to hit productively from both sides of the plate as well as having plus-power to all fields. He has outstanding bat speed and takes healthy cuts which together helps the ball jump off his bat. While he does a great job staying inside the ball, he may need to pull the ball more (something you don’t hear too often with power hitters) rather than trying to force things to other fields. Smoak’s power will translate well to the majors and has the potential to hit 35-40 as well as hit for a high average. He’s a player for the Rangers to start building around.

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com | Facebook

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News and Notes: “Stocking Signings”

December 27, 2008
The Big Unit moves home to San Fran (SD Dirk/flickr).

The Big Unit moves home to San Fran (SD Dirk/flickr).

After a short break to celebrate the holiday with my family, I figured we’d jump back into things covering some recent signings and other miscellaneous happenings around Major and Minor League Baseball. Look for the top 25 list to continue tomorrow.

• Future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson will attempt to gain his elusive 300th victory back near his home with the San Francisco Giants as he signs a one-year deal for $8 million the day after Christmas. This is a great signing for the Giants who I have been very critical about in the past for horrible signings. This adds a third former Cy Young winner to be added along with Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito (even though he hasn’t looked anything like one since winning it). Not only will Johnson bring the attention to his 300th victory, the Giants also get a mentor for Lincecum and growing star Matt Cain. While this will help solidify their rotation, it still doesn’t help their flimsy offense which still needs a lot of help if they hope to contend in the NL West.

• The Cincinnati Reds pulled a head scratcher today in signing Willy Taveras to a two-year deal. While Taveras did have a decent 2007 hitting .320 and stealing 68 bases in 2008, he isn’t the great lead off hitter GM Walt Jockety makes him out to be. Sure he has blazing speed and stole 68 bases, but his OBP was only .308 last season and that’s the last issue you want your lead off hitter to have. The financial info on this deal hasn’t been released yet but hopefully the Reds received some sort of discount to warrant signing him for two-years.

• Minnesota Twins beat writer La Velle E. Neal III discussed the Twins signing of knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Just like La Velle, I too am a little confused as to the Twins thoughts behind this. The Twins have a slew of youngsters that they could use as a spot starter or middle reliever and need to address a set-up man before anything else in their bullpen. Also Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune mentions the DeRosa to the Twins talks saying it would take “outfielder Ben Rivere [sic] and pitchers Jose Mijares, Jeff Manship and Andy Swarzak” to get the deal done. I don’t know if Rogers over values DeRosa, has no idea how good those prospects really are or is just delusional, but there is no way that a deal would involve a combination of those players. I want DeRosa on the Twins as much as anyone, but not at that ridiculous price.

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com | Facebook

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Top Prospect #24: Tommy Hanson

December 25, 2008

24
NAME: Tommy Hanson
POSITION: Pitcher
AGE: 22 | BATS: R | THROWS: R
ORGANIZATION: Atlanta Braves

2008 STATISTICS
LVL G IP W-L ERA SO GO/AO
MiLB 25 138 11-5 2.41 163 0.71

Scouting Report: The Braves are hoping this tall, lanky right hander turns out to be their future ace. Hanson has a plus-fastball with good movement in the mid-90’s, a solid change, and a “knee-buckling” curve that is one of the best in the game today to top things off. He has a very commanding presence on the mound which when coupled with the ability to throw all his pitches for strikes makes him very difficult to hit. I have seen some places that he may be given a chance to close first but I don’t see this happening considering he is looked at as a ace in the making and the Braves value starting pitching too much to do that.

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com | thefranch15e

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Top Prospect #25: Chris Tillman

December 24, 2008

25
NAME: Chris Tillman
POSITION: Pitcher
AGE: 20 | BATS: R | THROWS: R
ORGANIZATION: Baltimore Orioles

2008 STATISTICS
LVL G IP W-L ERA SO GO/AO
MiLB 28 135.2 11-4 3.18 154 0.82

Scouting Report: Acquired before last season in the Erik Bedard trade, he quickly jumped up to number two on my list in 2008 after joining the Orioles organization. But after the O’s drafted Matusz he was bumped down a little here in 2009. Right now Tillman looks to be a power pitcher with a fastball that sits 90-94 mph while at times reaching 96 mph. He also has a plus overhand 12-to-6 curve that falls in the mid-70’s with a nice sharp, late break on it. While Tillman does have a nice frame and mechanics, he will only be able to succeed in the Majors if he can begin to gain a little more control and command of his plus pitches. If he is able to continue to grow and develop in this area, he looks to be a solid number two starter or even a possible ace someday. Very impressive especially considering his age.

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com | thefranch15e

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Top 25 Prospects List Returns!

December 23, 2008

Originally the highly anticipated Diamond Cutter Top 25 Prospects list wasn’t going to return until early January. But with Christmas almost here, I decided to pop the bubbly a little bit early and start rolling out the list beginning tomorrow, Christmas Eve.

The original version of the Top 25 list was presented in 2007 by five at a time beginning with numbers 21-25 and so on every couple of days. Then last year I just put it up all at once in one mega column. So for 2009 I decided to do it one a day starting with number 25 all the way up to this year’s number one prospect. Now if there is a day missing in between because I addressed another topic, please don’t come after my head. Rest assured it will be up the next day or even possibly later that same day. Either way, they will come.

Also as each new player is unveiled he will be moved to the home of the Top 25 list which can be reach anytime by clicking up at the top row or the logo in the side column. For those of you who are new to The Diamond Cutter, the list is updated each week throughout the regular season with a “Sunday Ranking Roundup” where we take a look at the list and how the players have fared as well as any changes in the rankings. This will begin sometime in mid-April.

I am really excited to start rolling this list out early this year since the previous two years I didn’t do it until February. This will give me time to fine tune things as we go too. The layout has changed again this year (for the better) as I know many of you enjoyed last year’s version. I hope you like it.

This list has brought in more traffic than any other part of this site. I try to have the most in-depth and most up to date list on the internet. Many other sites will have lists but they only rank players without any analysis as to why. This is something I take great pride in and I hope you continue to enjoy. And as always please share your thoughts on the list and any of the players on it.

So make sure to come back tomorrow and check out who just cracks the top 25 as the 25th prospect is revealed.

I also hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com | thefranch15e

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News and Notes: “Rafael Fur-real?”

December 22, 2008
Furcal continues to spin his agents wrong doings (Malingering/Flickr).

Furcal continues to spin his agent's wrong doings (Malingering/Flickr).

• The Pittsburgh Pirates have reached a three-year deal with catcher Ryan Doumit that will lock him up through his arbitration years. Last year Doumit had a fantastic year out of nowhere hitting .318/.356/.501 with 15 homers and 69 RBI. While my former MVN co-worker Cory Humes at Pirate Revolution believes the Pirates should trade Doumit (or hear his podcast about it), I personally believe that Doumit is an example of the type of player they need to begin to build around. With players like Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez coming up through the system as well other bright youngsters the Bucs need to start now rather than continuing to hit the “reset” button. I do however agree 100% with Humes that the Pirates should sign slugger Adam Dunn as part of the solution.

You know what you will get with Dunn (SD Dirk/Flickr).

You know what you will get with Dunn (SD Dirk/Flickr).

• Speaking of the giant slugger Adam Dunn, why aren’t more teams interested in bringing him aboard this winter? Yes I know he had a strikeout rate of 25.9% last season and yes I know he won’t be winning any Gold Gloves in the outfield any time soon, but who couldn’t use his presence in the lineup? While his career average is .247, more importantly his career on-base is .381 and career slugging at .518. Plus you know he will be healthy and you will get 40 homers and 100+ RBI. So why do I keep hearing about teams not too interested in him or preferring a player who is a head case and will most likely miss 20-40 games a year? I would personally rather have Dunn or Pat Burrell over both Bobby Abreu and Milton Bradley. Call me crazy.

• I’ve already covered the Mark Teixeira saga enough on here by discussing where his options are as well as my annoyance about all the back and forth about who’s in and who’s out. I really hope Jon Heyman’s report on Teixeira’s decision coming by Christmas day is true as I can’t take much more. I think the scorecard has the Orioles, Nationals, Red Sox, Bears, Knicks and three teams from the WNBA as the top contenders.

• The New York Yankees and pitcher Chien-Ming Wang have avoided salary arbitration and agreed to a one-year, $5 million contract thus insuring the Yankees the first ever 11-man starting rotation heading into the 2009 season. Awesome.

• And finally more on the Furcal vs. Braves situation as Furcal continues to lie about his agent’s dirty tricks. Even our poll on this site last week showed 100% of people believe Furcal and his agents screwed the Braves. Just stop talking about it Furcal, we know its not true.

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com | thefranch15e

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