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.

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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.


Mauer and Halladay Set Deadlines

December 1, 2009

Mauer should receive his payday any day now (Keith Allison/Flickr).

It appears as if the two biggest names that have been swirling this winter, AL MVP Joe Mauer and ace pitcher Roy Halladay, have set deadlines for their teams to get something done.

The reigning American League MVP has laid down a deadline of opening day for the Twins to resign their franchise player according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports. If the Twins don’t by then, Mauer will enter free agency following the season in which the Twins will have absolutely no chance to match dollars with the Yankees and Red Sox. According to reports the Twins do plan on having the issue resolved by Christmas which would make many Twins fans (including myself) sleep better at night.

According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Blue Jays only have until the start of spring training to trade their lanky righthander. Following that he will veto any trade attempt (a powerful clause in his contract) in order to avoid distractions during the season. If the Jays can’t get the trade done all they will get is a compensatory draft pick while one of the best pitchers in baseball walks right out the door. They need to get something done ASAP.

I agree that it is extremely important for the players to set deadlines so that it doesn’t carry over into the season. Both sides have plenty of time to make something happen and I expect to see both stories wrapped up in plenty of time for pitchers and catchers to report.

[Update @ 8:25 AM: Halladay’s friend and former teammate AJ Burnett has spoken out about his desire to see the ace land with the Yankees and pitch alongside him once more. This would give the Yankees and incredibly strong top half of the rotation most likely making them the strong favorites to win the AL East again in 2010.]


What’s Up Doc?

November 22, 2009

Which team will Halladay lead to the promise land? (ben lei/Flickr)

Despite not even being a free agent, starting pitcher Roy Halladay may be the most talked about and hottest commodity of the winter.

The ace righty has already indicated to his club, the Toronto Blue Jays, that he intends to test the free agent waters after the 2010 season when his contract is up. This negates any chance that the Jays may have hoped to have to sign him to an extension this off season. While this is what they would like people to think, reality is I don’t believe they ever had any intention of doing this as it would have cost them a very large sum of money.

What the Jays will do now is precisely what they tried to do before the trade deadline last summer and that’s to move the ace to the highest bidder. While the price tag is steep, there are teams out there who are willing to unload their farm system in order to add one of the few elite pitchers in the game for an entire season and give them that much better of a chance to win a World Series.

Is Halladay worth depleting an organization’s farm system? Of course this depends on what exactly would be given in exchange for him, but I do believe he is the type of impact arm that can put a team over the top. Here’s a snapshot of my scouting report on him:

Halladay has a smooth, repeatable delivery with a low 3/4 arm slot. He has incredible command of his pitches including a low-90’s tailing fastball, very original change up and a tight curve with a huge bite that can be thrown at any point in the count. Halladay is a workhorse who has thrived in the toughest division in baseball for many, many years. What is scariest about him is how he seems to be getting better with age. The past two seasons he has posted 37 wins, a 2.79 ERA, 18 complete games in 66 games started and 414 strikeouts. Those are incredible numbers for this day in age.

As you can see, he is very much worth the steep price tag. This coupled with Halladay’s thirst to win a World Series and you have yourself a legit workhorse ace.

Now that we have established that Halladay isn’t interested in having his paychecks converted between Canadian and U.S. dollars anymore and that the Jays want to cash in on their potential future Hall of Famer, the question is now who will be able to pull the trigger?

Unfortunately for the state of baseball, the clubs that are most interested (and most willing and able to part with young talent and try to pony up a big time extension) are the normal cast of characters. The Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers are the teams most heavily linked. The only teams who are noticeably absent, the Los Angeles Angels (too many players to try to resign) and New York Mets (an absolute train wreck), are always wild cards and could jump in at any time. But are the others all realistic?

Ace of aces (Keith Allison/Flickr).

Looking at the remaining clubs, they too have issues that may stand in the way of getting a deal done. The Cubs appear out of the running as I don’t believe they have the young talent to package together nor do they have the money to spare as Halladay is owed $15.75 million in 2010. The Phillies system already took a hit last summer when they traded for Cliff Lee down the stretch which they were very hesitant in making in the first place. The Red Sox could potentially swing a deal but they too are leery of moving youngsters not to mention they want to either resign Jason Bay or add Matt Holliday to fill their left field void. That leaves the Yankees and Dodgers.

Thankfully for baseball the Yankees will most likely not be part of the bidding after spending $423 million on only three free agents last winter not to mention a few guys still needing to be resigned this off season. I guess that really only leaves the Dodgers who could use Halladay 10 times more than any of the other teams mentioned above. Halladay would give them an absolute legit veteran starting pitcher to take some of the pressure off youngsters like Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley. Basically you’d be looking at the difference between just making the playoffs and making it to the World Series. It’s that big.

So for the sake of baseball, I really do hope that if and when Halladay is moved that he goes to a team other than the big money teams who already have multiple aces to begin with to help spread the wealth a little.

But I guess as long as he doesn’t go to the Yankees that it will be just fine with me.


Roy-al Pain

June 17, 2009

After spending the entire season near the top of the very strong American League East despite numerous pitching injuries, the Toronto Blue Jays now find themselves with their worst injury possible.

Halladay has been one of baseballs best for years (keithallisonphotos.com)

Halladay has been one of baseball's best for years (keithallisonphotos.com)

The news came out today that their ace and definite Cy Young contender Roy Halladay will be placed on the 15-day DL (retroactive to June 13). Halladay left his last start against the Marlins after only three innings with a right groin strain. He tried to throw in a bullpen session this afternoon but still felt tightness and it was decided to shut him down until the end of the month.

This is the worst possible injury the Jays could get tagged with. After a strong 27-14 start, they have faded quickly going 8-17 since. Halladay has been their constant through it all going 10-1 this season with 103 innings pitched (both AL leads) and is ranked fifth with both 88 strikeouts and a 2.53 ERA.

If this news wasn’t bad enough, the Blue Jays also announced today they would be putting their closer, Scott Downs, on the 15-day DL with a sprained big toe. Downs has done a fantastic job since taking over the closer role from the injury-plagued and struggling BJ Ryan earlier this season. Downs is 1-0 with a 1.98 ERA and eight saves.

In a division that has been dominated for years by Boston and New York, it has been refreshing to see the emergence of teams like the Rays and Blue Jays as well as seeing the Orioles begin to get stronger. Hopefully the Jays can keep themselves in the race until Halladay comes back and give the other top teams a run for their money.

News & Notes:

· Ivan Rodriguez passed Carlton Fisk on the all-time list for games caught with number 2,227 today in Texas. A huge congratulations to Pudge for this great accomplishment.

· Veteran righty John Smoltz will finally make his highly anticipated debut with the Red Sox on June 25 against the Washington Nationals. What a huge addition to any rotation this is. I bet the Braves are kicking themselves with how good he’s looked in his rehab starts.

· Jose Canseco is suing Major League Baseball and the players’ association for essentially being banished for using steroids. Now he wants to get Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa to join his cause, or as this new alliance will be better know as, “The Cheater’s Club.”

Matthew Whipps is a writer for Baseball Daily Digest and co-writes the new blog The Minnesota Sports Guys. If you would like to contact him via email you can reach him at whipps15[at]gmail.com


2009 Top 5 Prospects: Toronto Blue Jays

December 17, 2008
Snider will be a masher in the middle of Toronto's lineup. (mwlguide/Flickr)

Snider will be a masher in the middle of Toronto's lineup. (mwlguide/Flickr)

The Toronto Blue Jays have some very talented players in their organization. However they also have a lot of question marks. Of course Travis Snider leads the way as the organization’s top prospect, but after him things get a little foggy. After Snider the next four prospects (and a few after that) all have a very strong part of their game as well as a considerable weakness. While the skills are enough to get them to the Major Leagues, their weaknesses, if not improved, can hold them back from being a large contributor for the Blue Jays. But if they can work through them they will be big additions someday soon. Here’s a look at the Toronto Blue Jays’ top five prospects:

1.) Travis Snider
Position: Outfield | Statistics | Video | 2008 Rank: #1
Bats: Left | Throws: Left | Height: 5-11 | Weight: 245
Scouting Report: Snider is best known for his powerful bat with the ability to hit it out of the park to all fields. His raw power is finally starting to translate more into home runs as his swing is becoming more fluid and his plate discipline is honed in. Fits the mold of a typical right fielder with good power, able to drive in runs and the weakness many hitters like him have in the form of too many strikeouts (has difficult time picking up breaking stuff from lefties). Snider is very athletic and while he has the bat to carry him in right field, there has been talk of him moving to first base. Snider also has been cursed with the injury bug thus far in his young career, but when healthy, he is a force in the lineup.

2.) Brett Cecil
Position: Pitcher | Statistics | Video | 2008 Rank: #2
Bats: Right | Throws: Left | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 225
Scouting Report: While there is some debate on what role Cecil should play on a staff, the answer seems pretty clear that he is best fit to be the closer of the future for Toronto (or at least a very strong set-up man). Cecil has a decent fastball in the low-90’s which could use a little more velocity, however what makes him so special is his devastating slider. The slider (his out pitch) sits anywhere in the low to mid-80’s and is virtually unhittable to lefties. This is his money pitch that will get him to the Majors but he still needs a change-up to challenge righties as he currently doesn’t have something to challenge them. This may keep him from closing and at worst he will be a left handed specialist.

3.) David Cooper
Position: First Base | Statistics | Video | 2008 Rank: NR
Bats: Left | Throws: Left | Height: 6-0 | Weight: 210
Scouting Report: Cooper has a fantastic approach at the plate which allows him to be a consistent and productive hitter. His greatest asset is his plus power to all fields which he generates from a long and powerful swing. One thing you probably won’t see is a closet full of Gold Gloves in his closet by the end of his career. Cooper is an average first baseman who doesn’t have much range. But the Blue Jays, like anyone who would have drafted him, weren’t taking him for his defensive prowess as they wanted to get his big bat into their organization. He’ll hold his own at first as a pro and will be carried by that power.

4.) J.P. Arencibia
Position: Catcher | Statistics | Video | 2008 Rank: #4
Bats: Right | Throws: Right | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 195
Scouting Report: Arencibia has received mixed reviews from many scouts regarding his glove. Some say he will be a fantastic catcher while others say he is horrible. As a former catcher I tend to be a little harder on catching prospects than most, but I would have to say his skills are a little below average and not as bad as some say (and are now better than my grading of him last year). While he’s very athletic behind the plate and has a rocket arm, he has trouble blocking pitches in the dirt and could use some improving on his game calling. He’s good enough to keep him back but what makes him so special is his bat. Arencibia has raw plus power but horrible plate discipline. He is too aggressive at the plate but if he can learn this and harness his power he will be a really good offensive catcher down the road.

5.) Justin Jackson
Position: Shortstop | Statistics | Video | 2008 Rank: #5
Bats: Right | Throws: Right | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 175
Scouting Report: Jackson is a tough one to scout as he really hasn’t shown that much consistency to get excited about. He does have some raw skills that could be molded into something pretty good. Jackson has very good bat speed but his swings can be a little long and loopy at times causing some ugly contact. Doesn’t have good speed when he begins running but has good acceleration which will hamper him being a base stealer. Needs to get stronger and may move to third base due to a very strong arm. In fact, he has even done some relief pitching in the past so he always has that trick up his sleeve.

2008 Rankings: (1) Travis Snider, (2) Brett Cecil, (3) Kevin Aherns, (4) J.P. Arencibia, (5) Justin Jackson

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com | thefranch15e

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2008 Division Predictions: AL East

March 18, 2008

Big Papi at the plate (doogin/flickr)

Now that he’s healthy, Big Papi’s doubles will turn back into long balls. (doogin / flickr)

With the 2008 season opener upon us I figured it would be as good a time as ever to start giving 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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