Diamond Cutter Scouting Report: David Price

December 29, 2012
David Price is one of the best young pitchers to enter the league in years (keithallisonphoto.com).

David Price is one of the best young pitchers to enter the league in years (keithallisonphoto.com).

Name: David Price | Organization: Tampa Bay Rays
Position: Pitcher | Drafted: 2007 1st Round (1st Pick)
Bats: Left | Throws: Left | Height: 6-6 | Weight: 215

When the Tampa Bay Devil Rays once again had the number one overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, it was no surprise when they chose a lanky-lefty from Vanderbilt. The 6-foot-6 college star named David Price was a shoe in to be the first overall pick in the draft. This kid is not only good, he’s the best pitcher to come out of college in many, many years. So what makes him so special?

History: David Price has been dominating hitters for as long as anyone can remember. His stellar career started off in the small town of Murfreesboro, Tennessee pitching for Blackman High School where he would compile a 0.43 ERA and 151 strikeouts. Price would also win many, many awards for his efforts including the Rutherford County MVP Pitcher in 2003 and 2004, the Co-District 7AAA Pitcher of the Year in his senior season, the Rutherford County Male Athlete of the Year in 2002, 2003, and 2004, and also received the honor of playing in the 2004 High School All-American Game his senior season. All of this success at such a young age was only the beginning for Mr. Price.

Just as Price had set records and won awards for his brilliance on the mound in high school, he would continue this as he attended Vanderbilt University. As a freshman, Price received the honor of being named a Freshman All-American by both Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball after posting a 2-4 record, a 2.86 ERA, and racking up 92 strikeouts in only 19 games and 69.1 innings. The following season Price didn’t have as dazzling of a stat line, but he did set a school single season record with 155 strikeouts (he also only gave up 43 walks for a 3.6 K/BB ratio) including one game with 17 against Arkansas.

As impressive as his first two college seasons were, he definitely saved the best for last. In his junior season (which would be his last collegiate season) Price would go 11-1 with a 2.63 ERA and would shatter his old school record as he lead the nation with 194 strikeouts (his K/BB ratio this time was an unbelievable 6.26). Price would win many awards that season but none greater than his winning of college baseball’s top honor, the Golden Spikes Award. As sad as Vanderbilt’s team was to see him go, it was time for him to move on.

Before we get into the 2007 draft, it is important to note Price’s great work while playing for our country. In 2005 Price was a member of the United States National team where he went 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA and 39 strikeouts. Then in the summer of 2006, Price helped the United States win the gold medal in the World University Championships in Cuba. Price would post impressive numbers again going 5-1 with a minuet 0.20 ERA. The world was now on notice of just how good this kid really was.

With a laundry list of awards, achievements, and records attached to his name, David Price had pretty much made a fool-proof case for himself to be drafted first overall in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. So with Tampa Bay possessing the first overall pick, it was a no-brainer for them to choose the dominating lefty. Price would go on to sign his first ever contract on August 15, 2007 for six-years and $8.5 million. This of course came with a $5.6 million signing bonus which stands as the second highest bonus in MLB history behind Justin Upton’s $6.1 million following the 2005 draft. This was the third highest guaranteed contract ever for a draft pick and was well worth the money for such a special talent.

To see what this much money gets you (other than the obvious that we just covered) is a player with a glimmering scouting report. The Diamond Cutter scouting report that I have built shows not only how talented this kid is but, as scary as this sounds, show’s he still has a little room for improvement.

Scouting Report: Price’s money pitch has always been his dominating plus-fastball which sits at about 90-94 mph (it can sometimes reach upwards of 95). As a lefty, what makes him even more difficult to hit is that his fastball has excellent tailing action that moves away from right-handed hitters. This really gives no one, right or left-handers, any advantage. The two other pitches he mixes in are a 77-79 mph slurve and a plus-slider that ranges around 84-86 mph. He uses his slider very well in two-strike counts making it very difficult for hitters expecting a fastball. Price is also working on a changeup pitch to add to his arsenal (one of the areas for improvement I mentioned). Right now it is average at best but if he can work on not tipping it off by dropping his arm slot when throwing it, he could develop it as a third plus-pitch making him even more difficult to hit. This is one area the Devil Rays organization will be working very closely with him on.

Another area that can sometimes hamper Price is his control. While it doesn’t happen much, occasionally he can lose control of the strike zone and start allowing walks to pile up. This happens when his mechanics begin to get shaky and he loses his fluid delivery. He very rarely walks hitters which can be seen with his very low BB/9 ratios so as long as he can keep his rhythm going with this delivery he will be just fine.

Price has the make-up, the athleticism, the overpowering stuff, and mentality to be a frontline starter in the Majors for many, many years. Once he harnesses his developing changeup as a third plus-pitch, he will be virtually unstoppable and one of the elite pitchers in the game.

With a glowing resume like this its no wonder that once Tampa Bay learned they had the first overall pick that they knew they could put their feet up and relax. Because when a star like this falls into your lap it tends to make your job very, very easy.


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.


Drew Stubbs 2010 Outlook

January 17, 2010

Stubbs should win the starting CF job coming out of spring (Barbour/Flickr).

The Cincinnati Reds are one of those teams that you can see beginning to boil. A team that you feel as if you can look down the railroad tracks and see a giant steam engine storming towards you. At least that’s how the rest of the National League Central should be feeling.

Very similar to how we could see the Tampa Bay Rays beginning to form a few short years ago, the Reds too have been quietly assembling an army of incredible young talent. From a dominating starting rotation with Edison Volquez, Johnny Cueto and now Aroldis Chapman to a starting lineup full of great bats like Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and now Drew Stubbs.

Stubbs is the guy the Reds hope can develop into a legitimate lead off hitter to set the table for Brandon Phillips, Votto and Bruce. While Stubbs is not a guy who projects to be a .300 type hitter, he has worked on his plate discipline to the point that he could draw enough walks to keep his OBP high enough to warrant the top of the order spot. Stubbs also has some pretty good gap-to-gap pop that can develop into home run power, especially in the home run friendly Great American Ballpark.

All these things are great but what makes Stubbs so special is his game changing speed. This is why being able to get that OBP high is so critical for this club. Stubbs is a distraction on the base paths and has the 40-50 stolen base potential. This will only go higher the higher he can get that on-base percentage to climb. Stubbs can be a game changer.

So what can we expect from Stubbs heading into his first full season in the big leagues? Here’s a look at how Bill James, CHONE and I, the Diamond Cutter, project his numbers to look:

2010 PROJECTIONS
LIST AVG R HR RBI SB OPS
Bill James .267 76 11 51 51 .726
CHONE .251 62 10 42 26 .708
Diamond Cutter .270 82 14 48 50 .724

All three of us see him as essentially an everyday player. Bill James and I see him as more of an impact player this season than CHONE does in many areas. I believe that if he earns that everyday spot that manager Dusty Baker will allow him to run wild on the base paths. Chances are good he won’t start the season as the lead off hitter for the Reds, but he could very well see that change if he can get off to a hot start. Remember what I said, his OBP is key.

And if it is between Stubbs and Willy Taveras (who had an embarrassing .275 OBP in 2009) to see who will play center and lead off, I don’t see too big of a struggle.


Kyle Blanks 2010 Outlook

January 15, 2010

Blanks is a true masher (SD Dirk/Flickr).

There are a lot of fantastic young players who will get a crack at playing their first full season in the bigs this year that I am very excited about. One of those young guns is a 6-foot-6 masher named Kyle Blanks of the San Diego Padres.

Blanks was drafted all the way in the 42 round of the 2004 draft out of Yavapai Community College in Arizona. The big, lanky right handed slugger is generally thought to be a first baseman but is able to handle himself in the outfield. This is a good thing considering there’s currently a giant road block at first base by the name of Adrian Gonzalez.

The really intriguing thing about Blanks is his proven ability to hit for both average and power – something someone his age and stature generally don’t carry hand-in-hand. He has continually improved his plate discipline which is the key to him reaching his full potential which I see as a Frank Thomas/Jermaine Dye type hitter. That’s a pretty high standard to live up to.

Blanks is one of those guys who I am very excited to see how he progresses this, his first full, season in the big leagues. In only 172 plate appearances last season for the Padres, Blanks put together a solid line of .250/.355/.514 with 10 HR, 22 RBI and .264 ISO. Pretty impressive start.

Now I want to turn our attention to some of the projections out there. The main two I want to look at are the Bill James and CHONE projections (all courtesy of FanGraphs). Alongside them will be my projections for Blanks in the upcoming season:

2010 PROJECTIONS
LIST AVG HR RBI OBP SLG ISO
Bill James .277 25 79 .362 .475 .198
CHONE .265 16 50 .353 .459 .194
Diamond Cutter .275 30 90 .365 .490 .212

As you can see CHONE isn’t projecting Blanks as highly as Bill James and I are. CHONE also has him only having 416 plate appearances too where James and I both see him being essentially an every day player. I really do see Blanks being an annual home run force and competing for the crown on a yearly basis with this year being his coming out party.

I also see Blanks’ batting average and on-base percentage growing in the coming years and giving Padres fans something to cheer about with the impending loss of Mr. Gonzalez in the next couple seasons.

Even big old PetCo can’t hold this monster.


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.


Diamond Cutter Scouting Report: Brett Anderson

December 11, 2009

Anderson has shown signs of brilliance (Kimberly*/Flickr).

Name: Brett Anderson
Number: 49
Position: Starting Pitcher
Born: 2/1/88
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Height: 6′4″
Weight: 215
Debut: 4/10/09

Scouting Report: We have seen incredible improvement from Anderson over the past two years after showing a lot of growth on the mound. Anderson has always had superb command of his pitches and can work them on either side of the plate. His fastball saw a slight increase hitting as high as 95 mph but sitting more consistently in the low-90’s. What makes him even more effective is the fact that his secondary pitches – a curve, slider and change – can be used as both out pitches or, thanks to his confidence in them, at any point in the count. He has really developed his stuff to the point that he can be dominant on the mound.

At this point last season it was difficult to project where he would fall in the rotation. Originally he looked to be a middle of the rotation guy, but thanks to his improvement in his fastball (and his command being his greatest asset) he now projects as a top of the rotation starter that the Oakland A’s have been looking for.