Is 2010 Clay Buchholz’s Year?

January 20, 2010

Buchholz can handle the pressure of the big stage.

So is 2010 finally the year that Clay Buchholz takes that big step towards super stardom?

I feel funny asking that question of a guy who threw a no hitter in his second big league start. But then again, the way hyped-up prospects have a way of occasionally fizzling out, it may never happen.

To me I don’t think this will be the case. I don’t see Clay Buchholz being another big name, sure-fire, can’t miss prospect that dwindles away into obscurity. Not this kid. I just see too much potential in him and too much talent in the that right arm for him to not make some sort of impact in baseball.

I have scouted many players up close and from a distance during my time as a fan and a writer and Buchholz is one of those guys I have watched extra close. This is because I have been impressed with him and what he can do on the mound. Here are some of the detailed notes on Buchholz as a pitcher that I have taken over the past few years of watching him throughout the minors as well as in a Red Sox uniform…

Pitch Repertoire

The Fastball
• Buchholz has a nice combination of a two and four-seam fastball 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.

The Change-up
• Right off the bat Buchholz has a major weapon with this pitch 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 and keeps hitters off balance when expecting a fastball.

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, being a batter and worrying about a second out pitch can’t be easy.

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 tricks.

Pitcher’s Makeup

Buchholz has a wonderful delivery (hubertk/Flickr).

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 difficult to pick up. 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.

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.

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.

FINAL GRADE

From what I’ve seen over the years is a young pitcher who is confident on the mound with some fantastic pitches at his disposal. Buchholz has a lot of pressure on him with big expectations from a very impatient fan base along with not a lot of room for learning on the job. The Red Sox need every win they can get in the ultra competitive AL East as well as a slew of veteran pitchers they bring in each year making it difficult for Buchholz to really feel comfortable.

Coming into 2010 I expected Buchholz to be a big piece to the Red Sox rotation. But with the signing of John Lackey this may make it difficult for him to get a spot once again. I do believe that before the end of the year, we will have seen Buchholz get an extended period of time on the mound and he will have seen that young kid from 2007 show us why he is a big part of Boston’s future.

And if you ask me that’s a pretty nice place to be.


Hot Stove: Texas Winter Heating Up

December 10, 2009

While everyone expected the cash-strapped Texas Rangers to be quiet this winter, it appears as if they are being anything but.

After a deal yesterday to send starting pitcher Kevin Millwood to Baltimore for setup man Chris Ray and a player to be named, the Rangers ended up completing a deal to sign free agent starter Rich Harden to a one-year deal that is worth between $7-$8 million (which I discussed yesterday) and a trade with Boston to acquire third baseman Mike Lowell in exchange for catcher/first baseman Max Ramirez.

The moving of Millwood was a strategic one that not only gave them end-game bullpen help with Ray, but also freed up the money they needed to sign the free agent Harden who will now take Millwood’s spot in the rotation.

The Rangers have been very smart this winter in the methodical moves they have made. Now the only question is what their plans are regarding their vacant center field spot with the possible exit of free agent Marlon Byrd. While the possibility of Byrd returning is still an option, the Rangers are definitely going to visit cheaper options that are out there. Their wiggle room isn’t enormous as they have Byrd’s expiring contract (a little over $3 million from 2009) as well as the difference between Millwood’s $12.8 million and Harden’s $7 million plus to work with.

It should be interesting to see how their master plan unfolds the rest of the off season.


Pedrioa Wants Move to Shortstop

December 1, 2009

Can Pedroia make the switch back to short? (Keith Allison/Flickr)

ESPN News: The team has asked second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who won the AL MVP Award in 2008, if he could play shortstop for the team if needed next season.”

Diamond Cutter Spin: For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you heard me announce this news early this morning (so in other words, follow @diamondcutter on Twitter for instant news, rumors, analysis and opinions all day everyday). I for one think this could be a great move for both the Red Sox and Pedroia.

On one hand the Red Sox can try to fill out second base rather than shortstop which will be much easier particularly with this year’s batch of free agents. The in regards to Pedroia, he can return back to his collegiate days when he was an All-American shortstop at Arizona State. Plus he seems extremely excited about it. It’s a win-win.

Of course this could all go down the drain quickly as once again the Boston Red Sox are sniffing around Florida to see what it would take to bring Hanley Ramirez back to the organization to fill their shortstop needs. While this would undoubtedly take a hefty ransom, it may be worth it to get one of the game’s best players.

We’ll keep an eye on this and keep you updated if we hear anymore on this story or if Francona speaks out on the idea.


Diamond Cutter Scouting Report: Kevin Youkilis

July 16, 2009
Kevin Youkilis is the heart and soul of the Sox.

Kevin Youkilis is the heart and soul of the Sox.

Name: Kevin Youkilis | Number: 20
Position: First/Third Base | MLB Debut: May 15, 2004
Bats: Right | Throws: Right | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 220

Scouting Report: Kevin Youkilis has one of the most advanced approaches at the plate in all of baseball. He has a game plan each and every trip to the plate and adjusts it on the fly accordingly depending on how the pitcher is trying to attack him. He will work every count and sit on pitches until he gets what he wants. Youk has superb bat control and uses his hands and wrists a lot in his swing. He is a gap-to-gap hitter and generates most of his power to the alleys. What makes him so valuable is his ability to hit anywhere in the lineup you need him and has a solid glove at first and third base. At both corners he has great instincts and can get to the ball easily and control it with his soft hands. Combines a fantastic baseball mind, hardcore grit and a never-give-up attitude making him one of the game’s elite.


2009 Preview: Baseball’s Top Bullpens

February 21, 2009
Where do the Twins and baseballs best closer rank? (gamergirl27/Flickr)

Where do the Twins and baseball's best closer rank? (gamergirl27/Flickr)

Often the most overlooked part of a team’s success is also often the most valuable. In this case, it’s usually the bullpen.

The bullpen isn’t as sexy as a powerful or fast lineup and it’s not as glamorous as a dominating rotation. But in this day in age where starting pitchers have become coddled and pitch fewer innings each game, bullpens have had to get 9-12 outs per game now and having it loaded with reliable arms is more important than ever.

With that being said, I figured the best way to start our 2009 Preview series (one of this site’s most popular series) is to take a look at the top five bullpens in all of baseball.

[5] Chicago Cubs
With the Cubs not bringing back their closer Kerry Wood, the spot has been seemingly opened up for hard throwing right hander, Carlos Marmol. But the winter addition of Florida Marlins closer Kevin Gregg has added some competition for the ninth inning gig. These two will battle this spring, one with power on his side and the other with experience, with the winner getting the nod from skipper Lou Pinella. Don’t be surprised if Gregg wins this job with Pinella’s track record favoring veterans. Also make sure to keep an eye on the youngster Jeff Samardzija this season as he could be the closer in the making.
Closer: Kevin Gregg (R)/Carlos Marmol (R)
Set-up: Carlos Marmol (R)/Kevin Gregg (R)
Impact Arm: Jeff Samardzija (R)
The Rest: Aaron Heilman (R), Luis Vizcaino (R), Neal Cotts (L), Chad Gaudin (R)

[4] Philadelphia Phillies
It’s hard not to put these guys in the top five considering they had one of the best set-up men in baseball (Ryan Madson) and a closer who was perfect right up until the final pitch of the World Series (Brad Lidge) last season. Lidge seems to have gotten over the Pujols shot heard round the world that seemingly crushed his confidence back in the 2005 NLCS and was able to become the most reliable closer in the game. The Phillies had inklings of making Madson a starter until he became an indispensable 8th inning guy. The Phillies pulled in the number four spot even without the cheater JC Romero who won’t be back until mid season due to his suspension.
Closer: Brad Lidge (R)
Set-up: Ryan Madson (R)
Impact Arm: JC Romero (L) (if he’s still good without the juice)
The Rest: Chad Durbin (R), Scott Eyre (L), Clay Condrey (R), Adam Eaton (R)

[3] New York Mets
I haven’t had too many kind words for the choke artists over the years, but I will say they have put together a pretty good bullpen. Going out and getting the best closer available in Francisco Rodriguez was something they had to do with Billy Wagner being out for a long, long time. Then they went out and acquired another solid closer in JJ Putz to be their set-up man. Pretty good start. I do however have a bad feeling about Rodriguez. I can’t put my finger on it, but I just have the feeling Rodriguez is on the verge of completely burning out. His strikeout total took a big drop last and I just don’t know how much longer he has as an elite closer. His 62 saves last season was miraculous but I see troubles possibly late this season.
Closer: Francisco Rodriguez (R)
Set-up: JJ Putz (R)
Impact Arm: JJ Putz (R)
The Rest: Pedro Feliciano (L), Sean Green (R), Bobby Parnell (R), Duaner Sanchez (R)

[2] Minnesota Twins
Those on the outside looking in may not be very impressed with the Twins’ bullpen. Granted they don’t have the big arms they once had (Juan Rincon, Pat Neshek, etc), they do have some good young arms that can hold their own. They have Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain ready to take the 7th and 8th innings as well as newly added Luis Ayala available to get hitters out. But the impact arm may be left handed rookie Jose Mijares who had a spectacular September call up last season posting a 0.87 ERA and 0.29 WHIP in 10 games and holding hitters to a .088 batting average. Oh and there’s always that Nathan guy who happens to be the best closer in baseball.
Closer: Joe Nathan (R)
Set-up: Jesse Crain (R)
Impact Arm: Jose Mijares (L)
The Rest: Matt Guerrier (R), Craig Breslow (L), Luis Ayala (R), Phil Humber (R)

[1] Boston Red Sox
We all know the intensity of Jonathan Papelbon and how lights out he has been. But it’s the rest of the group that can make or break them. The addition of Takashi Saito was huge as he gives the Sox a right handed set-up guy. This is especially important after Francona backed off using Hideki Okajima in close and late games down the stretch last season after a rough first half. Of course the wild card in all of this is the man who would be starting for most other teams in Justin Masterson if not for the Red Sox 19 veteran starting pitchers they have to choose between. If Okajima can bounce back, look out.
Closer: Jonathan Papelbon (R)
Set-up: Takashi Saito (R)
Impact Arm: Justin Masterson (R)
The Rest: Hideki Okajima (L), Manny Delcarmen (R), Javier Lopez (R), Ramon Ramirez (R)

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
diamondcutter@columnist.com

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News and Notes: “Mop-Up Duty”

January 18, 2009

Ace Cole Hamels is the latest to sign long-term with the team he loves (BernMarsh/Flickr).

Ace Cole Hamels is the latest to sign long-term with the team he loves (BernMarsh/Flickr).


Today’s “News and Notes” is going to be a delightful hodgepodge of baseball stuff all thrown together. Sort of like a long reliever in some mop-up duty, I have a large array of items to get through and clean house with. Ok, that’s a bit of a stretch, but whatever. Hopefully it sticks to the wall and we can call it a big win. Now on to the news and/or notes…
Boston has inked the heart of their team for years (keithallisonphoto.com)

Boston has inked the heart of their team for years (keithallisonphoto.com)

MLB NEWS
• Two of baseball’s biggest contenders were able to avoid arbitration with one their best players and signed each of them to deals this past week. First Boston signed their first baseman Kevin Youkilis to a four-year, $41 million deal, then Philadelphia followed suit and inked up their ace Cole Hamels to a three-year, $20.5 million contract. Both of these were fantastic signings by these clubs as not only did they prevent having to deal with arbitration, but now they each have one of their stars locked up for the next few seasons. Not only that, but both teams received “hometown discounts” with their players as each made it clear they wanted to stay with their organizations. While this helps out the Red Sox (who also received a great deal locking 2008 MVP Dustin Pedroia up long term earlier this winter) and Phillies tremendously, it hurts free agents still looking for teams as well as other players who are coming up on arbitration situations. Clubs now have an opportunity to say to their players, “if a reigning MVP (Pedroia), a man many believe should have won the MVP (Youkilis) and a playoff hero and rising star (Hamels) all took discounts, why can’t you?” I believe this will play a large part in many team’s negotiating tactics very, very soon.

• It appears as if Frank Wren has finally woken up in Atlanta after landing Derek Lowe this week to head up his staff in 2009. I discussed this about a week ago in a “GM for a Day” article stating how the Braves could not afford to let Lowe get away from them like AJ Burnett and John Smoltz did. In fact, it now looks as if the Braves are taking a little more of my advice and looking to bring both Tom Glavine and Andruw Jones back to Atlanta. I’m not sure if Wren returned from an extended vacation or started reading this site, but either way, it’s nice to have you back.

BASEBALL BLOGGER NEWS
• Patrick Sullivan wrote a fantastic article for Baseball Analysts depicting how unjust (and uneducated) some baseball writers are in their selection process for the Hall of Fame. He breaks it down and shows how individual awards (MVP, Cy Young) are weighed too heavily by many writers and the player’s statistics in his era should mean more. Check it out.

• My old Minnesota Twins discussion buddy Nick Nelson has posted his Minnesota Twins top 10 prospect list over at his site Nick & Nick Twins Blog. My Twins Top 5 prospects list should be up very soon and I look forward to getting Nick’s thoughts on this as well.

• I finally picked up my edition of “The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2009” the other day at Barnes and Noble. I had been looking for it for a while now in bookstores as I was too lazy to order it online (even though I’m on a computer a lot). I’ve been trying to find some uninterrupted time to dig into it and I think I finally have some today. So far it has been a great read and I highly recommend it. I’ve spoken before about how much I enjoy The Hardball Times site and thus far the book hasn’t disappointed. I’ll give you more updates as I go.

DIAMOND CUTTER NEWS & NOTES
I just wanted to take a look ahead at what is coming up here on “The Diamond Cutter” over the next week or two as I have been receiving some emails as of late wondering.

Click above for Top 25 Prospects!

Click above for Top 25 Prospects!

• The Top 25 Prospects list will continue to take shape as I gradually unveil them one at a time. We will also see the return of the Top 5 Prospects by organization return in the next day or so after a brief hiatus. I wanted to try to space these out a bit so they don’t get too mundane and repetitive. I want to keep these fresh!

• I am currently in the process of working on a couple of larger articles that are taking quite a bit of time. One is a detailed biography of a future Hall of Famer (I assume they will be in the Hall based on their historic statistics, but of course I could be wrong based on if the Baseball Writers Association has a predetermined bias against him already) who I will name at a later date and the other article is a continuation of the “Deconstructing Series” (click here for the first one about Andruw Jones’ collapse) where I will be discussing the rise and fall of Dwight Gooden. Stay tuned for both of those…

• The next couple of weeks will also be another interview (click here for my last one with Red Sox prospect Jeff Natale) that I am in the process of setting up with Toronto Blue Jay catching prospect, JP Arencibia. He has already graciously agreed to speak with me and now it’s just a matter of finding a time for us to meet.

• As spring training draws closer and closer, I will continue the “GM for a Day” series as well as start reviewing each division which will ultimately lead to one of my favorite parts, the predictions for the 2009 season. This is always a fun time as I compile everything that has happened over the winter and smash it into each team to see if we can make some sense out of the upcoming season. I also ask for a large amount of participation from you the reader during this time as I feel it makes it a whole lot more interesting.

Stay tuned for all this and don’t hesitate letting me know if there are more things you want to see more (or less) of.

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

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News and Notes: “Is Wren Home?”

January 9, 2009
Apparently GM Frank Wren hasnt tuned into a Braves game over the past 20 years (Mori Claudia/Flickr).

Apparently GM Frank Wren hasn't tuned into a Braves game over the past 20 years (Mori Claudia/Flickr).

After quite an array of articles over the past week here on “The Diamond Cutter” which have generated a lot of great discussion, I figured we had better address some of the items that have happened since our last “News and Notes” segment. Today’s will be a very signings intensive News and Notes as that is where all the MLB action has been taking place…

• In an unfortunate turn of events, the Atlanta Braves let the face of their franchise and future Hall of Famer John Smoltz leave town for the Boston Red Sox who now have a 17 man rotation. At this rate each starter will have a solid two week break in between starts in order to better rest them for the post season.

But in all seriousness, someone in Atlanta had better nudge Braves’ GM Frank Wren to see if he’s awake or even has a pulse at this rate. He has had two goals this winter: get an outfielder with a big bat and an ace/front line starter. Thus far he has acquired Javier Vasquez who is at best a number three starter. Not only has Wren already lost out on AJ Burnett (who the Yankees out bid him for), Rafael Furcal (who along with his agents screwed the Braves over even though as we go I’m thinking more and more that Wren was just as much to blame as he shows his lack of effort) and Jake Peavy (who San Diego was asking a lot for). Plus he’s pretty much out of options for impact pitchers and is losing the big outfield bats by the day.

Braves fans everywhere are in an uproar over this and calling for Wren’s head saying he is “singlehandedly destroying the organization.” While I’m not ready to go that far, I am ready to say that he needs to move with a little more sense of urgency. Now to compound the situation he has lost Smoltz, a front line starter and your franchise player, over only $3 million.

I just don’t get it and it makes me mad that they essentially disrespected Smoltz and his legacy (I’m ready for them to do the same thing with Tom Glavine and Chipper Jones next).

Are Chipper Jones and Tom Glavine next on the diss list in Atlanta? (since1968/Flickr)

Are Chipper Jones and Tom Glavine next on the diss list in Atlanta? (since1968/Flickr)

• Speaking of disrespecting a future Hall of Famer and the face of an organization, Trevor Hoffman has officially signed a one-year contract with the Milwaukee Brewers for a reported $6 million. He will now close out games for the Brewers after the self-destructing Padres basically told him to get out. Free agency is good for the sport, but many of these teams have to understand what they are telling their fan base when they kick their favorite players to the curb over small amounts of money (small in terms of baseball salaries).

Giambi comes home (keithallisonphoto.com).

Giambi comes home (keithallisonphoto.com).

• The Mets are on the verge of signing free agent pitcher Tim Redding to a one-year contract for a reported $2 million. This would be a fantastic signing by the Mets as Redding is about as solid of a number five starter as you’ll find in baseball. He is durable as a starter and will give them around 10 wins with an ERA around 4.50-5.00. I’m actually very surprised more teams weren’t in the running for him.

• The other signings that have happened recently: Rocco Baldelli joins Smoltz in Boston (great signing for Boston), Milton Bradley is introduced in Chicago which we discussed in comments this week (stupid signing by the Cubs as Bradley’s fragile body needs protection in the AL with the DH) and of course Jason Giambi comes home where he belongs back to Oakland (fantastic signing as he’s still got pop and the fans love him there).

• The ESPN Prediction Questions article I put up the other day received a lot of great discussions in the comments section and via email. It was good seeing what everyone else thought was going to happen with players this upcoming season. I’m planning on doing more interactive posts like this in the future and will definitely see more before the season starts. Thanks again to everyone who participated and if you haven’t yet, go write yours in or email me at mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com.

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

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