Sheets Signs with Oakland

January 27, 2010

By now you’ve heard about Ben Sheets’ one-year, $10 million contract he just signed with Oakland. But what you may not know is what makes Sheets such a special pitcher. Here’s my scouting report on the right hander:


NAME: Ben Sheets
POSITION: RHP
BORN: 7/18/1978
AGE: 31
BATS: Right
THROWS: Right
COLLEGE: Northeast Louisiana
MLB DEBUT: 4/5/2001

2008 MLB STATISTICS
GM IP W-L ERA SO K/PA BsRA9
31 198.1 13-9 3.09 158 19.5% 3.56

When Ben Sheets is on the mound he’s been fantastic. The problem over his career has been keeping him healthy enough to be on the mound. Although he has missed time, the number of games has gone up each of the past three seasons. In 2006 he appeared in only 17 games, 2007 he found the mound in 24 games and a career high 31 times in 2008. So while the trend has gone up, the lingering worry still hangs over his head. Just ask the Brewers and their fans.

Although when Sheets is on the mound he’s a true ace. Sheets has a 3/4 arm slot delivery which produces an impressive fastball. The fastball sits in the low to mid-90’s with great life both up and down in the strike zone. Sheets also has the ability to locate his fastball consistently on both sides of the plate and even can add a little cut motion to it. The former Brewer also possess a huge plus-power curveball with a fantastic downward drop and a changeup with solid fading action which he disguises well with an arm speed similar to his fastball.

As you can see when Sheets is on and healthy he can be one of the best pitchers in the game. Sheets is also a great competitor and wants to win with everything he has. This makes him a great addition to any club. I’ve always enjoyed watching the righthander on the mound and I highly suggest trying to find an archived game somewhere on MLB.com or iTunes and checking him out.

[Photo courtesy of: Scott Abelman/Flickr]


Thome Slugging in Target Field?

January 22, 2010

Jim Thome has been the biggest Twin killer of them all over the past decade (Keith Allison/Flickr).

I’ve seen numerous reports this afternoon popping up around the Internet that the Minnesota Twins may be close to signing the veteran slugger Jim Thome.

Not only would this type of a signing be uncharacteristic of the normally frugal Twins, but it would also make a very left handed heavy lineup even heavier. The Twins currently have an abundance of lefties including Denard Span, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Justin Kubel in their starting lineup.

It’s unclear whether Thome would slide into their DH role (which would surely bump Delmon Young to the bench) or if he would simply play a major role off their bench.

The Twins have most likely jumped in on Thome due to the declining dollar amounts in the free agent market and possibly the fact that Thome has been a Twin killer over the years. In only 662 career at-bats against the Twins, Thome has posted a .311/.410/.628 line with 57 HR and 142 RBI. Now that’s a vicious thrashing he’s given them over the years.

The bottom line is as a lifetime die hard Twins fan, a Jim Thome signing would shock me only to follow that up with a big smile.


Phillies, Blanton Avoid Arbitration with 3-Year Deal

January 21, 2010

Blanton has been "Mr. Consistency" during his stretch with the A's and Phillies (scot2342/Flickr).

Philly.com: “The Phillies just announced the team has reached a three-year extension with pitcher Joe Blanton worth $24 million. Blanton, who was set to be a free agent after the 2010 season, had requested $10.25 million in salary arbitration.”

Diamond Cutter Spin: Well I can’t argue with this decision as the Phillies make a solid baseball decision by locking Joe Blanton (12-8, 4.05 ERA, 163 K in 31 starts) down for three more years. The nice thing about Blanton is that not only is he an innings eater (averaging 203.2 innings per year over past five years since becoming a starter) which the Phillies desperately need due to their weakened bullpen but he is also the model of consistency winning between 12-16 wins four of past five seasons with an ERA right around four.

Blanton is the type of pitcher every club should clamor for. He’s as solid a number three guy in your rotation as you can ask for and has been healthy ever since becoming a starter with Oakland back in 2005. Plus this also solidifies their rotation for the next three seasons as their top four starters are all locked up through 2012.

The Phillies are definitely the team to beat in the NL East once again in 2010.


Cubs’ Lineup Starts to Take Shape

January 17, 2010

Byrd looks to solidify the Cubs' lineup (Keith Allison/Flickr).

One of the most mind-boggling batting orders that I can ever remember is when the Chicago Cubs have decided to hit outfielder Alfonso Soriano in the leadoff spot. Just the idea of having a guy with a career .326 OBP (with a horrible .303 in 2009) atop your lineup in the spot you expect the guy to get on to set your table gives me fits. It just doesn’t make sense.

Apparently Cubs manager Lou Piniella has had an epiphany over the winter as he has stated that Soriano will now hit in the sixth spot this upcoming season. Finally the world makes sense again.

This comes on the heels of the Cubs signing another outfielder, free agent Marlon Byrd, who Piniella says will slide into the ever important five spot to backup Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. This will be a major upgrade over Milton Bradley who spent most his time hitting fifth for the Cubs where he provided almost no protection at all for the middle of the order.

I think this is a step in the right direction for the Cubs who are in some desperate need for all the help they can get in an improved National League Central. It’s not going to be an easy task for the Cubs to win the Central this season with the Cardinals locking down Matt Holliday last week and the Brewers solidifying their rotation with Randy Wolf. If the Cubs are going to succeed they are going to need help from everyone and need to avoid the injuries and internal implosion they experienced a year ago.

The first step is getting some stability to their lineup and I believe this is a step in the right direction.


Hot Stove: Moving Brett Wallace

December 15, 2009

Wallace is on the move again, this time to Toronto (mwlguide/Flickr).

So by now I’m sure you have received all the talk about the mega blockbuster trade between Philadelphia, Toronto and Seattle, but just in case your cable, internet and cell phone have all been broken over the past few days, here is a peek at what happened:

PHILLIES GET:
– Roy Halladay, RHP (from Toronto)
– Phillippe Aumont, RHP (from Seattle)
– Tyson Gillies, OF (from Seattle)
– Juan Ramirez, RHP (from Seattle)
– $6 million cash (from Toronto)

MARINERS GET:
– Cliff Lee, LHP (from Philadelphia)

BLUE JAYS GET:
– Travis d’Arnaud, C (from Philadelphia)
– Kyle Drabek, RHP (from Philadelphia)
– Brett Wallace, 1B/3B/DH (from Oakland)

A’S GET:
– Michael Taylor, OF (from Philadelphia via Toronto)

There it is in a nutshell. Like I said, you’ve probably heard all of it before. But the new pieces of the puzzle saw the Blue Jays have Kyle Drabek added as one of their players as well as turn around and send newly acquired Michael Taylor to Oakland for prospect Brett Wallace. To start, here’s a look at Kyle Drabek:

Diamond Cutter Scouting Report on Kyle Drabek:

Son of former Major League pitcher, Doug Drabek, Kyle may even be better than his old man. Despite a strong mid-90’s fastball, his money pitch is a devastating spike curveball that has a sharp, late drop that kills opposing hitters. Despite some off the field issues, the Phillies hope he enhances his work ethic and continues to blossom into what he is capable of.

As you can see, he was a very nice piece to have pried away from the Phillies who did not want to give him up. The second player I mentioned is a highly touted offensive prospect in Wallace. Here is my brief scouting report and a link to my long and detailed analysis of Wallace:

Diamond Cutter Scouting Report on Brett Wallace:

Wallace’s greatest asset is his approach at the plate. He has very good plate discipline considering his age as it generally takes some time to get everything in synch. But Wallace is the type of hitter who refuses to expand his strike zone and waits pitchers out, forcing them to throw him something he can make solid contact with. Wallace also does a great job in plate coverage thanks to his batting stance which crowds the plate. With his advanced approach, Wallace has the potential to translate his success to the pros and could end up being a perennial on-base machine. I project him a .280-.300 hitter, around .380-.400 OBP and a slugging percentage in the upper .500’s. Then add in his 25-30 homers and 100+ RBI and you have a pretty strong offensive weapon that Albert Pujols will love having hit behind him. With all that said, he is an average defender at third (I view him higher than most) who would be better suited to play first, but with that position locked up, he will do just fine at the hot corner (read my extended scouting report on Wallace with his “Prospect Spotlight“).

As you can see I think very high of the youngster and even ranked him at number 12 in last year’s top 25 prospect list. As I have seen more of him I’ve convinced myself that he may not be able to handle staying at third (apparently based on Oakland’s willingness to trade him they feel the same way) as he just has no range. This being said, a move to first in Toronto or preferably DH is what Wallace needs.

This trade has continued to build and become bigger and better every day.


Hot Stove: Halladay and Lee in a Mega 3-Way

December 14, 2009

Lee will now make the best 1-2 punch in baseball with Kind Felix (artolog/Flickr).

ESPN Report: “A three-way deal that would send Roy Halladay to Philadelphia and Cliff Lee to Seattle is “close” but “not done,” according to two sources familiar with the negotiations…Toronto would get highly regarded Mariners pitching prospect Phillippe Aumont, Phillies catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud and another Phillies prospect in exchange for Halladay. Indications are that the Phillies have balked at Toronto’s repeated requests for outfielder Domonic Brown, and the Phillies are offering highly touted outfielder Michael Taylor instead…Seattle would also send two prospects to Philadelphia in exchange for Lee, who is a year away from free agency.”

Diamond Cutter Spin: Wow, what a deal this is looking to be. If this ends up going through (which it looks like it will) the Phillies get an ace locked up for a few years, the Mariners get another stud pitcher to go with King Felix and the Blue Jays reload their farm system. Looks pretty good all the way around.

I have to say, while this is a good deal for the Phillies considering Halladay (click here for my coverage and scouting report on Halladay) is locked up for a few seasons in Philly, I am really impressed with how aggressive the Mariners have been this winter. They have now added Chone Figgins to the top of their lineup and Cliff Lee to the front of their rotation to go with Felix Hernandez. They are setting themselves up to give the Angels the fight of their lives especially since the Angels have now lost Figgins and their ace John Lackey (to Boston).

Now is the time for the M’s to strike while the Angels are weakened.


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.