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
BORN: 7/18/1978
AGE: 31
BATS: Right
COLLEGE: Northeast Louisiana
MLB DEBUT: 4/5/2001

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 or iTunes and checking him out.

[Photo courtesy of: Scott Abelman/Flickr]


Tommy Hanson 2010 Outlook

January 18, 2010

Hanson has arrived (Suss-Man/Flickr).

The history of stellar young pitchers developed through the Atlanta Braves organization is well documented. The Braves’ newest anointed future ace has already started his career off very strongly and looks to build on this success during his sophomore season.

With Tommy Hanson the Braves are hoping this tall, lanky right hander turns out to be that 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.

After finally getting the call last June, Hanson went on to dominate in his starts which helped give the Braves a late season surge towards the National League wild card. While the Braves fell short of the playoffs, they got a glimpse into what kind of an arm this young kid has and how well he fits into their future plans.

So what can we expect from Hanson 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:

Bill James 14-7 3.30 191 206 1.15
CHONE 9-8 3.91 152 158 1.30
Diamond Cutter 16-8 3.15 198 210 1.14

As you can see, I believe Hanson will have a very successful sophomore campaign for the Braves. CHONE doesn’t see Hanson pitch quite as much this year whether that means they see him skipped in the rotation or shut down early. For me I don’t think Atlanta will even have the option to shut him down as he will emerge as their best pitcher and I believe they will be in the wild card hunt through September. He will be that big of an impact in Atlanta.

The biggest deciding factor on Hanson’s success will be how he makes adjustments now that the league has seen him and will have even more exposure as the season goes on. This is such a telling time for a young pitcher as they learn how to adjust to the big leagues.

Luckily for the Braves Hanson is a very smart pitcher.

2010 Top 5 Prospects: Tampa Bay Rays

January 16, 2010

Wade Davis is one of three future aces the Rays have in waiting (mwlguide/Flickr).

1.) Desmond Jennings
Position: Outfield | Statistics | Video | 2009 Rank: #5
Bats: Right | Throws: Right | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 185
Scouting Report: People questioned my putting Jennings in my top five last season due to the history of injuries he has suffered including a season ending shoulder surgery at the end of 2008. But when Jennings is healthy he’s a fantastic ball player. While his power has been slow to develop, he brings fantastic speed and a bat that produces laser line drives. Thanks to his plate discipline he should put up a pretty good on base percentage. His speed not only comes in handy on the base paths but also in center where he is able to cover a lot of ground. If he can shake the stigma of being “injury prone” Jennings should be able to have a solid Major League career.

2.) Wade Davis
Position: Pitcher | Statistics | Video | 2009 Rank: #3
Bats: Right | Throws: Right | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 220
Scouting Report: Davis rounds out one of the best collection of young arms in any Minor League system. Davis is a hard thrower with a fastball in the upper-90’s and a sharp moving plus curve. He is currently working on refining one more pitch (between a cut fastball and change up) to help in his battles and to make his other two pitches that much more effective. At first I saw him a middle of the rotation type guy with a ceiling of a number two starter. I’m now coming around more to him being a number two starter with the possibility of becoming an ace type if he can harness one more plus pitch and hold on to his command.

3.) Tim Beckham
Position: Shortstop | Statistics | Video | 2009 Rank: #2
Bats: Right | Throws: Right | Height: 6-0 | Weight: 188
Scouting Report: With the first overall pick in 2008 the Rays once again added an incredible player to their organization with Beckham. Beckham is a five tool player in the truest sense of the word and has an incredible feel for the game. With tremendous bat speed and a lot of power potential, Beckham will most likely be able to hit for a high average with the chance to develop some fairly substantial power. He also brings a little above average speed with the ability to steal bases. What makes him even more valuable is the fact that he has all these offensive tools and yet has the defensive aptitude to stay at shortstop unlike many others before him. He’s very athletic which leads to very good range at short with a solid arm and great hands. Even with all these tools, Beckham still is a bit raw and has some areas to smooth out mechanically with his swing which we saw in 2009.

4.) Jeremy Hellickson
Position: Pitcher | Statistics | Video | 2009 Rank: #4
Bats: Right | Throws: Right | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 185
Scouting Report: Jeremy Hellickson has plus command of his three pitches which enables him to confidently throw them all at any point in the count. He throws a fastball in the low to mid 90’s and a better than average change up and curve. He has very impressive strikeout to walk ratios which will translate well to the major league level if he can continue it. Staying along this path will make him anoter strong upper part of the rotation guy for the Rays down the road.

5.) Reid Brignac
Position: Shortstop | Statistics | Video | 2009 Rank: NR
Bats: Right | Throws: Right | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 195
Scouting Report: Reid Brignac is a strange case. In 2008 he was on my Tampa Bay top five list only to fall off in 2009. I questioned his ability to play shortstop and a need to move to third. Well just as the pendulum can swing one way, it can just as easily swing back for a player. Brignac improved his defense enough to bring him back to life. The key to this kid is his bat which is good enough to warrant a spot in the big leauges if not for the large roadblocks standing in his way. Brignac needs the Rays to trade him in order to earn playing time because Longoria and Beckham aren’t going anywhere.

2010 Top 5 Free Agent Third Basemen

December 2, 2009

Can Glaus stay healthy and still be a masher? (bk1bennett/Flickr)

During this year’s Hot Stove season, one position that will be in hot commodity will be third base. There are eight teams that desperately need someone to fill their hot corner, four of which are playoff teams from a year ago. This is why I have taken time to rank the top five third basemen available along with their strengths, weaknesses and my scouting report on each of them. Funny thing is, that three of the top five aren’t even true third basemen which goes to show that this position is thin when it comes to true blooded third basemen.

Chone Figgins
Age: 31 | Bats: B | Throws: R
’09 Team: Los Angeles Angels | Status: Free Agent (Type A)
2009 Stats: .298/.395/.393, 114 R, 5 HR, 54 RBI, 42 SB
A fantastic 2009 season has set Figgins up to be paid a hearty contract this winter as he has established himself as one of the best lead off guys in the business. He’s a fantastic tone setter as he uses his speed and short, compact (slap) swing to make things happen at the top of the lineup. Does a great job hitting the ball where its pitched with some pretty good gap-to-gap pop. Good extra base guy due to his speed and ability to take extra bases. Likes pitches out over the plate and can struggle at times with hard stuff inside. While he’s a better fit as a utility player (can play all over infield including left field), he has made a home for himself as a plus defender at the hot corner with good reaction time, feet and hands.
2010 Prediction: will sign with Philadelphia Phillies

Adrian Beltre
Age: 30 | Bats: R | Throws: R
’09 Team: Seattle Mariners | Status: Free Agent (Type B)
2009 Stats: .265/.304/.379, 54 R, 8 HR, 44 RBI
It’s funny how things even themselves out. After having a monster year in 2004 before becoming a free agent only to not live up to his paycheck in Seattle, he now ventures into the free agent market once more after a truly horrible year at the plate. Beltre swings off his back foot and generates all his bat speed and power with his raw strength. His swing has gotten longer and longer as time has gone on causing more holes to develop. This has made it more difficult for him to catch up to the heat and even worsened his bad habit of chasing sliders down and away. Aside from that he is an extremely dangerous power hitter who mashes the ball to all fields. While his bat has come and gone through the years, his plus defense is what makes him so valuable. Beltre has great range, fantastic reaction time and above average arm strength. Won’t get even near the payday this time as he did back in ’04.
2010 Prediction: will sign with Los Angeles Angels

Miguel Tejada
Age: 35 | Bats: R | Throws: R
’09 Team: Houston Astros | Status: Free Agent (Type A)
2009 Stats: .313/.340/.455, 83 R, 14 HR, 86 RBI
Tejada’s days playing shortstop look to be over as he just doesn’t have the range to play the position anymore. But he still posses good hands and a strong, accurate arm once he gets set which will translate very well to third base. Good at positioning self which too is going to benefit him greatly at the hot corner. As far as how he is at the plate, he has a quick bat and is very aggressive. Prefers the ball up in the zone and is vulnerable in on his hands. Doesn’t have the power he once had but still can drive the ball very well to the gaps and proved to still be a clutch hitter for Houston last season. Will fit in well as a six or seven hitter at this stage of his career.
2010 Prediction: will sign with San Francisco Giants

Mark DeRosa
Age: 34 | Bats: R | Throws: R
’09 Team: St. Louis Cardinals | Status: Free Agent (Type B)
2009 Stats: .250/.319/.433, 78 R, 23 HR, 78 RBI
After a career year in 2008, DeRosa had a very disappointing year last season after battling a wrist injury. DeRosa’s value is definitely tied to his ability to play five different positions, the problem is he isn’t stellar at any of them. Has found a home a third base for the most part due to being a steady, surehanded fielder and having a very strong arm. Covers up his lack of range by positioning himself very well depending on hitter and situation. At the plate DeRosa has a short, compact stroke that he uses to drive fastball well to all fields. He is very balanced at the plate and has solid plate discipline with the ability to make adjustments to his approach depending on the count. Has been able to add power over the past few seasons which has made him more valuable and helps justify his playing third base.
2010 Prediction: signs with Philadelphia Phillies

Troy Glaus
Age: 33 | Bats: R | Throws: R
’09 Team: St. Louis Cardinals | Status: Free Agent (Type B)
2009 Stats: .172/.250/.241, 14 G, 0 HR, 2 RBI
Glaus missed all but 14 games last season with injuries which makes him a bit of a question mark for 2010. With some injury problems in the past, teams have to be cautious with their offers to the big man. On the bright side, when Glaus is healthy he is a force in the middle of the lineup. He has a long swing and likes the ball down and out over the plate. Drives these pitches and has incredible power from right center on over to left. His kryptonite is sliders from righties away as he tends to roll over on them. Defensively he doesn’t have too much range at third base but helps make up for it with good hands and a very powerful arm. Teams always have the option to DH Glaus occasionally to keep him fresh which may be a very attractive option to American League clubs.
2010 Prediction: signs with Minnesota Twins

Honorable Mentions:
· Juan Uribe
· Melvin Mora
· Joe Crede
· Pedro Feliz
· Nomar Garciaparra