Diamond Cutter Scouting Report: Josh Johnson

November 23, 2009

Johnson has proven to be ace material. (afagen/Flickr)

Name: Josh Johnson
Number: 55
Position: Starting Pitcher
Born: 1/31/84
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Height: 6’7″
Weight: 250
Debut: 9/10/05

Scouting Report: Johnson has established himself as a rising ace for the Marlins. He is a tall power pitcher who is very imposing on the mound with his 6-7 frame. He has a very smooth, sound delivery and takes advantage of his stature by producing a fantastic downhill angle to the plate which gives the appearance that the pitch is coming down on the hitter.

His pitch arsenal includes both a two and four-seam fastball (sitting between 92-96 mph) which is lively both up and down in the strike zone. Johnson does a great job pitching inside on hitters which helps open up the strike zone for him where many pitchers are affraid to go. His secondary (strikeout) pitch is a power slider that he is able to change the break on depending on if he is facing a lefty or a righty and keeps hitters honest. Also adds a decent changeup as a third pitch.

Johnson has completely recovered from his Tommy John surgery he had a few years ago and established himself as a legitimate star on the mound. The only question now remains how good can he become and what uniform will he be wearing as he realizes his greatness.

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The Maturing Marlin Staff

February 9, 2009

Teams have learned time and time again that in order to be successful you need a lot of solid, consistent pitching. This especially becomes true once October rolls around. Oh and of course, the younger the better.

Is 2009 the year of the Marlin? (ohad*/Flickr)

Is 2009 the year of the Marlin? (ohad*/Flickr)

There are some teams don’t follow the “younger the better” philosophy. Just look at all the money teams like the Yankees and Mets have spent in recent years on old talent. And how many championships (or even World Series appearances) have they won recently? Exactly.

Now that’s not saying that having a veteran presence in your rotation isn’t a good thing, because it is. But on the same hand when you are relying on numerous pitchers in their late-30’s to early-40’s, you are eventually going to get burned when they break down in July and you are left scrambling to fill their slot. I also understand the other side of the coin that when you rely too heavily on young and inexperienced pitching, that can come back to bite you too.

In 2008 the Florida Marlins surprised everyone by finishing with a 84-77 record and sticking in the NL East playoff race for the majority of the season. Their offense showed a lot of power and run production with their centerpiece, Hanley Ramirez, posting yet another MVP caliber season. But the biggest surprise was the Marlins young rotation that seemed to come together perfectly. They are young, they are talented and they still have a ton of potential. Take a look below at how the five men who will fill out the 2009 rotation fared last season:

+----------------+-----+-------+-------+------+------+-----+------+
| PLAYER         | AGE |  IP   |  W-L  | ERA  | ERA+ | SO  | WHIP |
+----------------+-----+-------+-------+------+------+-----+------+
| Ricky Nolasco  |  26 | 212.3 | 15-8  | 3.52 |  121 | 186 | 1.10 |
+----------------+-----+-------+-------+------+------+-----+------+
| Josh Johnson   |  25 |  87.3 |  7-1  | 3.61 |  118 |  77 | 1.35 |
+----------------+-----+-------+-------+------+------+-----+------+
| Chris Volstad  |  22 |  84.3 |  6-4  | 2.88 |  148 |  52 | 1.33 |
+----------------+-----+-------+-------+------+------+-----+------+
| Anibal Sanchez |  24 |  51.7 |  2-5  | 5.57 |   76 |  50 | 1.57 |
+----------------+-----+-------+-------+------+------+-----+------+
| Andrew Miller  |  23 | 107.3 | 6-10  | 5.87 |   72 |  89 | 1.64 |
+----------------+-----+-------+-------+------+------+-----+------+

As you can see, the first three did an incredible job last season all posting well above league average in ERA+. The scary thing is none of them appear to have reached their peaks yet. The bottom half of the rotation didn’t fare as well, but if you look at their ages and their experience (especially Miller) you can cut them some slack. Miller has all the tools as a former top prospect both in Detroit and Florida and Sanchez had an incredible rookie season in 2006.

The problem is that not too many people know these names. As good as they are, they don’t get national attention. Do you remember ESPN or Fox having any of their games broadcast nationally last year? Neither do I because it didn’t happen (I highly recommend checking them out as much as possible if you have MLB Extra Innings or MLB.TV as you won’t be disappointed). So for those of you not familiar with the names or if you want to learn a little more about their make-up and scouting report, let’s take a detailed look at each and why this rotation is going to make a huge difference in the NL East race.

Nolasco appears to be the ace (ac4lt/Flickr).

Nolasco appears to be the ace (ac4lt/Flickr).

Ricky Nolasco, RHP
Nolasco has always had the label “impressive upside” attached to him and it seemed to finally blossom in 2008. After missing most of 2007 with elbow inflammation, he bounced back in a major way and has adopted the “ace” label for the staff. Nolasco has a power arm that comes out of a 3/4 arm slot which is all packaged with a very laborious delivery. His rough delivery ends with a stiff front leg and recoils with a high arm finish. His repertoire includes two plus pitches, a fastball (91-94 mph) with good life attached to it and a knee-buckling plus slurve that kills hitters. He also mixes in a decent changeup and a cutter to the mix as a third and fourth pitch. The big knock on him in the past was due to his strenuous delivery, he at times was inclined to fly open upon his follow through and lose his release point. He looks to have spearheaded this issue as watching him last season he appeared to have worked out the kinks. The only other thing is he is a flyball pitcher who gives up a few too many home runs. Either way Nolasco is extremely competitive and is one of the best young pitchers in the game today.

Johnson is the other ace in Floriday (wallyg/Flickr).

Johnson is the other "ace" in Floriday (wallyg/Flickr).

Josh Johnson, RHP
Johnson is the other ace of the group who is a tall power pitcher who is very imposing on the mound with his 6-7 frame. He has a very smooth, sound delivery and takes advantage of his stature by producing a fantastic downhill angle to the plate which gives the appearance that the pitch is coming down on the hitter. His pitch arsenal includes both a two and four-seam fastball (sitting between 92-96 mph) which is lively both up and down in the strike zone. Johnson does a great job pitching inside on hitters which helps open up the strike zone for him where many pitchers are affraid to go. His secondary (strikeout) pitch is a power slider that he is able to change the break on depending on if he is facing a lefty or a righty and keeps hitters honest. Also adds a decent changeup as a third pitch. Johnson looks to have completely recovered from his Tommy John surgery he had two years ago and looks to be the second ace for Florida.

Volstad looks to come into his own (kla4067/Flickr).

Volstad looks to come into his own (kla4067/Flickr).

Chris Volstad, RHP
Volstad is a tall, lanky righty with a very smooth and repeatable delivery. His claim to fame is the minuet number of homers he gives up every year. He has always been a fantastic groundball pitcher thanks to his best pitch which is a plus hard sinking fastball that drops off the table to hitters. Volstad also has a plus curve that he baffles hitters with and a very strong changeup which helps keep hitters on their toes when looking for the sinking fastball. He has very good make-up on the mound with great control of his pitches. One thing that Volstad has been working on for a while is that he needs to find a way to finish hitters off better as he tends to struggle with this. Due to this he has never been a strikeout pitcher but when you keep the ball on the ground, it ends up evening things out. Volstad has had the label of “front line starter” attached to him for a while now so it is nice that he is able to settle in to the middle of the rotation and not worry about being the man right now in Florida as he gets ready for his first full season in the bigs.

Sanchez looks to bounce back to his 06 season (Sportech/Flickr).

Sanchez looks to bounce back to his '06 season (Sportech/Flickr).

Anibal Sanchez, RHP
Sanchez had a fantastic rookie season in 2006, missed most of the season in 2007 due to a torn labrum and tried to put things back together in 2008. 2009 should hopefully be Sanchez’s bounce back season now that he’s fully recovered from his injury. His smooth, 3/4 delivery will certainly help with that as it is a nice fluid delivery which doesn’t cause a lot of unnecessary stress on his body. His repertoire includes a two and four-seam fastball which sit in the neighborhood of 90-95 mph with good life up and down in the zone and can be placed on both sides of the plate. He does a great job intimidating hitters with these as he isn’t affraid to come inside and back hitters off the plate. With hitters looking for his explosive fastball, he is able to trick them with his changeup which looks just like his fastball coming out of his hand. The only troubles he has is that he can open up too quickly during his delivery which can cause his fastball to loose control. If he can stay closed he is a very good strikeout pitcher and can begin working back to his 2006 form.

Miller was one of baseballs top prospects (wallyg/Flickr).

Miller was one of baseball's top prospects (wallyg/Flickr).

Andrew Miller, LHP
Andrew Miller looked to be the best pitcher to come out of the 2006 draft which was filled with quality pitchers. But due to injuries and significant mechanical issues he has yet to live up to his projections. Part of Miller’s problem is his inconsistent, long 3/4 delivery in which he throws too much across his body. Because he doesn’t have a repeatable delivery and tends to loose control of the strike zone which ends up driving up his pitch count. His pitches include a fastball (88-95 mph) with late movement, an above average sharp breaking curveball and an average sinking change-up. For Miller to become a more effective pitcher, he will need to work on developing a more consistent and fluid delivery. This is important for any pitcher to have but even more so for a pitcher like Miller who tends to lose control of his accuracy. Remember he’s still only 23 so there is plenty of time to right the ship but the longer it takes to fix, the harder it will be.

Quite an impressive rotation, but let’s not forget their new closer.

The fireballer looks to shut the door in 09 (wikipedia).

The fireballer looks to shut the door in '09 (wikipedia).

Matt Lindstrom, RHP
The Marlins traded their former closer Kevin Gregg to the Cubs without any worries knowing full well what they had waiting in the wings. Matt Lindstrom (who turns 29 in a few days) has a cannon-loaded arm and has just the make-up you would want in your closer. He has a nice clean delivery which helps him keep control of the strike zone. His best pitch is without question his nuclear fastball that sits between 95-99 mph and will at times hit 100 mph on the radar. It gets on hitters in a hurry with a late explosion that seems have a life of its own as it approaches the plate. He utilizes it best when the blows it by hitters up in the zone where they have little chance to catch up to it. But when hitters are looking fastball, he frustrates them by throwing a hard, slanted slider that sits around 86 mph and darts away from righties. Also mixes in an occasional changeup for good measure. Now that he is the man to shut the door on opponents, he needs to make sure to keep his pitch selection in check and not get too revved up and let his fastball get away from him. He’s a fantastic choice to take over this role and he should be just what the Marlins need close games out.

I’ve stated a few times this winter how the Marlins are my big surprise pick for 2009 and it is in large part due to this rotation. In fact I’d like to go on record right now stating that they are my pick to win the National League and make their triumphant return to the World Series.

Think I’m nuts? The Florida Marlins won the World Series in 1997 when they weren’t supposed to. Then six years later in 2003 they won it again when they weren’t supposed to. Well guess how many years it’s been since they won it in 2003?

You guessed it. They are due.

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

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Top Prospect #15: Mike Stanton

February 2, 2009

15
NAME: Mike Stanton
POSITION: Right Field
AGE: 19 | BATS: R | THROWS: R
ORGANIZATION: Florida Marlins

2008 STATISTICS
LVL AVG R HR RBI OBP SLG
MiLB .293 89 39 97 .381 .611

Scouting Report: Stanton’s plus plus raw power is, for a lack of a better word, incredible. Perhaps the most powerful bat in all of the minors, what sets him apart from other power hitting prospects is that their power is usually projected, his is already here. He’s a big kid who fits into the prototypical right fielder/clean-up hitter mold. He has shown a lot of growth in the field thanks to his strong work ethic and dedication to getting better. He has improved not only in the field, but also at the plate as he has worked to fill some big holes in his swing. It can get long at times which leads to a lot of strikeouts. In fact a perfect comparison that I use with Stanton is that of Adam Dunn. Both fit into the same risk and reward categories with each at bat resulting in a homer, a walk or a strikeout. Since I’m a fan of Dunn, I am definitely a fan of Stanton and can’t wait to see him hitting behind Hanley Ramirez for years to come.

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

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Breaking News: Pedro Talks with Marlins

January 10, 2009
Will Pedro join the Fish? (penner42/Flickr)

Will Pedro join the Fish? (penner42/Flickr)

According to a source on ESPN.com, Pedro Martinez and the Florida Marlins are reportedly in the early stages of negotiating a contract to bring Pedro to the young Marlins rotation.

To me this would be a fantastic signing for the Marlins who have a very young and talented rotation which could benefit greatly from having a future Hall of Famer join them. The 37-year old Martinez would bring his incredible resume with a career 214-99 record, 2.91 ERA, 3,117 strikeouts and an impressive three Cy Young awards. He would not only bring a world of experience to the club, but specifically playoff experience which would be crucial to an organization that I believe will win the NL East this upcoming season.

I have always been a huge fan of Pedro and would love to see him on a team like the Marlins who are so young and so talented with a great chance to make a lot of noise in 2009.

“The Diamond Cutter” will keep you updated on this story as it progresses.

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

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2008 Division Predictions: NL East

March 21, 2008

Howard at the plate (ebot/flickr)

Big Ryan Howard looks to help his club destroy the Mets for a second straight year. (ebot / flickr)

With the 2008 season opener upon us I figured it would be as good a time as ever to give my exciting 2008 division, playoff and award winner picks! We’ll start off by covering each division (one division per day) with the order they will finish along with some brief statements about each team and the standout players from that division. Once all of the divisions are done we will talk playoffs and then finally the 2008 award winners. As always, let me know your opinion on each one!

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

Catch my “Diamond Cutter” major league coverage now featured on Baseball Digest Daily and my prospect coverage on Big League Futures!

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2008 Top 5 Prospects: Florida Marlins

January 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 I touch on our next team in the NL East with the pitcher deep Florida Marlins. As always, let me know how you feel about the rankings in the comments section below or via email.

1.) Cameron Maybin, OF: Maybin has a lighting quick bat and long arms that can generate a lot of power. Also due to his speed and stellar base running instincts, he’s a prime 30/30 candidate. Great range and powerful arm in center field which is perfect in Florida (entire “Prospect Spotlight” scouting report).

2.) Chris Volstad, RHP: Volstad is a tall, lanky righty who is a groundball pitcher with a low-90’s sinking plus fastball to go along with a plus curve and very strong changeup. Very good make-up on the mound with great control of his pitches. Needs to find a way to finish hitters off better as he tends to struggle with this. With some tinkering in approach could be a frontline starter very quickly.

3.) Brett Sinkbeil, RHP: Sinkbeil has the make-up to be a very good Major League pitcher but has been continually plagued by injuries. He has a strong fastball and a plus slider and if he can stay healthy should make a nice starter for the Marlins.

4.) Ryan Tucker, RHP: Tucker has a strong mid-90’s fastball and a developing change-up. It’s iffy now on where he will place on a staff as he could be either a starter or a reliever at this point. Needs to work on picking up a good third pitch.

5.) Gabby Hernandez, RHP: Yet another right handed pitcher in the top five brings us Hernandez with a hard fastball and improving change-up. Has a nice build and is developing nicely in the Marlins organization.

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

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Prospect Spotlight: Cameron Maybin

February 27, 2007

Cameron Maybin at the plate vs. Kane County in game 3 of the championship series (mwlguide/flickr)

(mwlguide / flickr)

Cameron Maybin | CF
Organization: Detroit Tigers | Drafted: 2005 #10 overall
Bats: Right | Throws: Right | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 200 lbs

When the New York Mets selected right handed pitcher Mike Pelfrey with their ninth pick in the 2005 draft, the Detroit Tigers (picking tenth) could only be some what disappointed as they saw their top pitching target whisked off the board only one spot before them. After all, there was a fresh out of high school center fielder who “Baseball America” dubbed as the “most promising available outfielder” and “third-best hitting prospect overall” that had miraculously dropped to them. 18-year old Cameron Maybin had dropped much lower than he should have due to the fact that speculation was running rampant that the would be difficult to sign and was looking for a massive bonus. This didn’t stop the Tigers.

Despite some rough contract negotiations between the two sides, Maybin and the Tigers finally came to terms. Maybin’s $2.65 million bonus came only after a four month hold out and missing the entire minor league season. But the question was now posed of whether or not this kid, who still as of today isn’t legally old enough to drink alcohol, was worth all the hassle. Was Maybin truly the “Steal of the Draft?”

History: Cameron Maybin played his high school ball at TC Roberson High School in North Carolina and proceeded to etch his name in not only the school’s history books, but the state of North Carolina’s as well. While holding numerous records at his high school, Maybin also holds the state record for hitting after ending his high school career with a batting average over .600. Maybin also collected a couple of awards including “2004 Baseball America Youth Player of the Year” and “2005 1st team High School All-American Outfield.” Needless to say this garnered the youngster a lot of attention from pro scouts and made his decision to enter into the draft and fore go college a whole lot easier.

Once all of the contract drama was put aside, the Tigers now needed to see how the young center fielder handled himself as a pro. In 2006 (after missing 2005 due to the contract hold out), Maybin finally took the field for the first time as a professional baseball player with the Class A West Michigan Whitecaps. He helped lead the Whitecaps to the Midwest League championship and in doing so was given “2006 Class A Playoff Performer Award” by MiLB.com. In 2006 Maybin put up some very solid numbers for his first professional season hitting .304/.387/.457 with 59 runs, 9 homers, 69 RBI, and 27 stolen bases.

Scouting Report: Maybin has a lighting quick bat which can generate a lot of power and because of this I project him to easily be a 30-plus home run hitter down the road for the Tigers. But because of his size, along with his uncanny power is his enlarged strike zone. Maybin’s swing can at times be a little long with those lanky arms and can have some troubles with breaking balls. While this has improved a lot, it can still pose a problem at times and contributes to his high strike out rates. With his speed and stellar base running instincts, it’s not out of the question to think of him as a potential 30-plus stolen base threat as well. When you combine his offensive threats along with his great range and powerful arm in center field, you can easily see why I think he will be one of the brightest stars by the start of the next decade and why this kid is really something special.

2007 should be an exciting season for the Tigers organization and its fans as they get to see another season of the exciting Maybin. After more people have gotten to see the future of the Tigers in action, some comparisons have been made. Some are saying Maybin is similar to Jermaine Dye with more speed or even Torii Hunter with a better bat or even of the Eric Davis mold. In fact his high school coach proclaimed his skills and smarts for the game to be that of Ken Griffey Jr. But when it comes down to it, it doesn’t really matter who you compare this kid to because what is obvious is that he is filled with natural talent.

While some players claim to be the “Steal of the Draft,” in Maybin’s case this is very much the case.