tepid participation

I mostly write about minor league basball and I take very little of it seriously. Booorring!

Month: July, 2012

A Unique Walk in the Park

I wanted to share this footage of former Giants farmhand Tommy Joseph shot just after the trade deadline expired. Joseph was the catcher for the Giants’ AA Richmond Flying Squirrels, until he was traded to the Phillies as part of the Hunter Pence deal. It just so happened Richmond was hosting the Phillies AA affiliate, Reading. So Tommy simply loaded his gear, said his goodbyes, and began a strange walk, along with a team employee, to the other side of the stadium to meet his new teammates. This is a unique look at a unique part of the baseball business. Enjoy.

 

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Brain Dump

First- Trade stuff. I don’t know. Neither do you. Obviously, I’m going to be a little bummed to lose a player I’ve been tracking, but as I’ve said on Twitter, you have to give up stuff to get stuff. Actually, I said a top of the rotation pitcher is like a panda bear- a zoo doesn’t just trade a panda for 2 chimps and a llama. Even an oldish panda’s gonna cost you a kimodo dragon, an albino alligator, and an baby hippo.  Anyways, I’m kinda just ready for the deadline to pass. You know who the Rangers hold in highest esteem and they are a sharp front office. If they make a change and move some key prospects, I feel confident they’ll be getting a piece(s) they feel can help them fly a flag this year.

Second- Speaking of flying flags. If the Angels don’t fly a flag in the next 1-5 years, this could mark the beginning of a long period of futility for that club. They are incredibly stacked right now. Adding Greinke solidified a rotation already anchored by an ace. Pujols is Pujols, Trumbo is way better than I thought he’d be and Trout could simply be “generational”.  If you don’t think the Angels are a legitimate championship contender you’re both delusional and kidding yourself, not to mention wrong. They’re good. Except when it comes to their farm system. I can’t recall a team going for it in the current sphere while sacrificing the long term future, more than this team is. Their system was not strong before the Greinke trade, it is baby-pool shallow now. I saw Segura, Hellweg, and Pena play on several occasions, and they are all quite good. I was behind homeplate when Hellweg hit Mike Olt on the hand a few weeks ago with a 95 mph heater that cost Olt a week on the shelf. (he hits a lot of batters)  The system is now led by 20 year old Kaleb Cowart and 22 year old CJ Cron, both currently in High-A. Cowart is a stud and could be a first division star, Cron is a 6’4″ 235lb 1B/DH. Cron has huge power, but a quick roster check indicates at the big league level, the 1B/DH positions are currently taken by a guy with 9 years left on a guaranteed contract and another guy with realized MLB power and no real defensive home. The point is, the Angels are flat-out goin’ for it. I say good for them. It makes baseball more exciting and it damn sure makes the AL West more exciting. I know they have a huge TV contract ready to kick in and a fantastic team, but there is next to nothing coming down the pipes to help them, so the team you see now is the one they’re set to roll with for the next 5 years. That is unless they can’t sign Greinke at the end of this season, at which point, they’ll have some serious questions to answer.

-Engel Beltre. Getting a lot of questions about him lately, because he’s hitting like crazy. This is true. The hits are flying all over the place for him right now, including the long ball. He’s a plus runner, plus defender, plus arm centerfielder who hits from the left side. He is still not doing what the team wants him to do which is see more pitches and generally make pitchers work harder, but hey, he’s hitting the crap out of the ball, so, ok. Repeating a level is never really a good thing for any prospect and Beltre is in his second year in Frisco at age 22. He’s earned a chance to move to AAA next year assuming his quasi-doppleganger Julio Borbon has moved on. The kid has raised his season average by 20 points in the last 3 weeks, so he deserves some credit even is he is still swinging at damn near every flying pill coming his way. Also in the last month, he dropped his head and jogged on a pop-up to left field which was dropped- he barely made it a single, and in another game he was doubled off of first on a pop-up to second, which is both stupid and actually kinda hard to do. At this point I’d project him as a 4th OF type, but only if he continues to have a poor approach. If he could improve that facet as well as becoming an overall more heady player, he could be an everyday MLB outfielder in a couple years.

And finally, I want to say a few words about Newberg Night at the Ballpark. I think I’ve been to all but one of these unique events. There really isn’t another way to phrase the night as anything other than the ultimate Rangers dork-out. It is the single greatest collection, in one room anyway, of well-versed and articulate Ranger fans. I know there are other events like Fan Fest or whatever, but not very many people at Fan Fest are worried about calling up Olt and costing him a year of team control. Very few people at other events are going to ask Coach Welke questions about Gobbles Gallo or Jorge Alfaro. I often call Jamey “The Godfather” and the term was also used by JD to describe Welke yesterday. Newberg has built an online army of fans seeking more information than the traditional media outlets provide. He is an unabashed fan and I’m proud to say he is my friend. Every year I make new friends at Newberg Night. That is, at times, hard for me-as it is for anyone, but somehow easy at this event. I have a tacit enough understanding of how the machinations are working right now to understand JD’s decision to bring the entire brain trust up from the war room was nothing more than a quick break given to these guys by their boss during a stressful time. Nonetheless it was absolutely fantastic to see him lead in the troops. I surmise it was an opportunity for many in the room to put a face to names like Thad Levine, Josh Boyd, and Tim Purpura. Hell, even Director of International Scouting, Mike Daly was there. Until yesterday I’d never seen Daly, primarily because I don’t live in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Colombia, Honduras, or Curacao.  So yeah, it’s a pretty remarkable night. I hope you were there. If not, next year, don’t hesitate, just go. Duh.

This concludes my brain dump, you may now resume your regularly scheduled activities.

Thanks for reading and, as always, Enjoy Baseball! Love Ya!

Your Friend,

Tepid

An Immeasurable Measurable

It’s neither tangible nor distinctly quantifiable. It’s not always manifested in results and it’s not always apparent in physical attributes. Yet, it’s somehow always obvious. Swagger. There really isn’t a more articulate and accessible word for “it” in current parlance. It is one of the most fun attributes to reference when discussing prospects and player development. It is fun as hell to see some of these kids who know they are good, and they know the other team knows they are good, and they know you know they are good. Make sense? Well, I guess it’s a little like internet porn- you’ll know it when you see it. Let’s discuss.

I got a heapin’ helpin’ of swagger recently at a Frisco Rough Riders game. Maybe it was  because I was looking for it, but it was in ridiculous abundance that night. I mean, even the national anthem had swagger. Usually the minor league baseball national anthem is the territory of a local church singer or a teenaged progeny whose inner circle has mistakenly convinced her of an uncanny vocal likeness to Kelly Clarkson, but that night, Frisco had some out-of-towners from the touring cast of the musical Jersey Boys. Needless to say with a couple of Tony nominations tucked securely in their back pockets, they nailed it. So much so that even the crankiest of scouts- I’m talking about you, Mr. AL East Guy- raised both eyebrows in tacit approval and pleasant surprise.  It was actually, really kind of breathtaking to hear it sung like that in a small, sparsely attended stadium. And I won’t soon forget the look on the cast member’s face as he strolled out to the area behind home plate. He knew he was about to, sort of, melt our faces with a flawless rendition of a song so close to our hearts. He’s probably done that dozens of times before and he knew how we were going to react before we did. Swagger.

Long before the national anthem, I wandered down the third base side of the field to watch the pitchers warm up. It was a rather unique night in that Frisco was to feature two starters. Justin Grimm had just been sent down from his brief foray into MLB and he needed to get in some live game work before leaving for his slightly more permanent home in Round Rock. And it was Cody Buckel’s regular turn in the rotation, so the word was that Grimm would go 3 innings then hand it over to Buckel. I was properly excited by this scenario. So I watched intently as Grimm began his warm-ups on the flat outfield grass. The other players begin to trickle out of the clubhouse for their stretches and it was clear they had already said “hello” to him as they just casually walked past, toward that spot on the grass behind 3rd base where all baseball players lay down and “stretch”(read: bullshit with each other). I’ve seen Grimm rather extensively this season and, well, frankly, this was a different guy. It was an absolute pleasure to watch him. He had been given a taste. He’d seen the Promised Land. He had pitched on a Saturday night in a huge stadium, in front of a sellout crowd for a first place team. He wants to do it again, and again, and again. You could see it on his face. You know how some people juxtapose being laid-back and intense?  That’s Grimm. But not this night. It was a business trip. I stood literally 5 feet from him during his bullpen session and apart from some quick reminders and exchanges regarding mechanics with the pitching coach, he was as intense as I’ve ever seen him. He was there to get his work in and move on. Swagger.

While Grimm was finishing his flat ground work, a few feet away was 20 year old Cody Buckel. If you have yet to see Cody, he goes ‘bout 6’1” 180lbs. About 4 or 5 of those pounds appear to be hair, which is straight and, though recently cut(which he announced on Twitter following a trip to minor league diet staple, Chipotle), still protrudes out from under his prohibitively flat-billed hat. He’s not a big fella. You’re probably already aware that Cody is part of a new group of pitchers. They are interesting. They have interesting philosophies, interesting warm-ups, interesting pitches and they are bright, cerebral young slingers. Cody is a close friend of Trevor Bauer, a pitcher whose been called a lot of things but “wanting for confidence” has never been one of them. Frankly, these guys do their own thing, and they know they’re good. Cody is no different. Double earbuds in, he does a series of somewhat odd-looking stretches up and down the left field line. In his own world, but focused. Then the warm-up tosses begin. Using Val Majewski as a throwing partner, he begins in left field with Val on the warning track essentially under the foul pole. A few tosses, then Buckel scoots back. A few more tosses, scoots back, now he’s standing exactly where the center fielder would when the #4 hitter is up. A few tosses, scoots back. At this point there is tremendous arc in the tosses and they begin to resemble pop flys. Also at this point, Majewski begins short hopping the return, so catcher Zach Zaneski steps in as his cutoff man. Buckel doesn’t need a cutoff man. He just keeps scooting back. The last few tosses are literally almost foul pole to foul pole. The stadium is not highly populated, but all eyes including to those belonging to all the players on both teams are on the small, 20 year old with the shaggy hair and his highly unorthodox warmup routine. Swagger.

“It’s their first game back from the All Star game”, I told a couple of polite, baseball savvy 12 year olds who noticed me taking pictures of Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt. I filled in the gaps the kids had about the Futures Game, JP and MO’s respective paths to being on the Rangers, and some positional questions the tweens had about the two phenoms . After using YouTube to dismiss the boys’ incredulous belief that a guy Profar’s size could hit home runs in big stadiums, one of the boys asked me something pertinent. He said, “Is that why they look like they’re goofing off right now?”  “No” I said, “that’s just they way they are”. It’s true. I hope many of you reading this have had a chance to go see these two guys.  Especially Profar. He plays with a joy that only comes when the game is easy. Don’t misread that. He’s known to be one of the hardest working, most coachable kids in the system. He’s just very good and the act of playing clearly brings him joy. He’s loose. He’s confident. He was stretching and greeting teammates he hadn’t seen in a few days. He jogged out behind second base and exchanged a quasi-hug with Futures teammate, Jean Segura. Then as the players began to make their way into the dugout, both Profar and Olt were the only ones, who took a quick moment and jogged over to the railing to sign 3 or 4 autographs with some folks they’d made eye contact with. Just easily going about their job. Swagger.

It’s been around forever. It is crazy fun to watch. It is nothing if not compelling. It’s a legitmate component to a prospect’s makeup.

Oh,yeah, about midway through the top half of the first inning, Coach Don Welke came and sat down with all the scouts behind home plate. Swagger, personified.

I now present photographic, non-playing field evidence of swagger in motion. It’s a shot of one of baseball’s most charismatic cats, Satchel Paige, leading a cavalcade of kiddos down a street in Harlem. Swagger.

Image

As always, be well and enjoy baseball.

Love Ya,

Tepid

A New Piece About Swagger

I wrote a piece about swagger for Jason Parks’ fantastic site, www.texasfarmreview.com . The piece is about swagger in general and Justin Grimm, Cody Buckel, Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar, specifically. And of course, there is some Satchel Paige thrown in for good measure. Check it out.

Thanks for reading!

Leury Garcia

I don’t write a lot of straight forward stuff, but I thought you’d like to know a little of what I’ve seen this season. Here’s some poorly pooled thoughts on Leury Garcia.  These are just a compilation of my ramshackle notes, but I hope you enjoy something about them.

A Prospect You Should Know: Leury Garcia

21 year old Leury Garcia will probably make it to the big leagues. I’m no different than every other person who blabs about scouting and player development with regards to the number of words I’ve dedicated to Garcia’s Frisco teammates, Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt. They have a chance to be special. Unique talents that not only make it to the big leagues but excel. Scouts refer to players in this category as “first division” starters. The best. But as we all know, the bigs aren’t just filled with All-Stars. There are fringe players. Names you know if you follow a certain squad, but names that are mostly unfamiliar to a wider audience. I’m not saying Leury Garcia is destined to this fate, but he could certainly do worse.

Leury has played a lot of second base for Frisco (38 games) and is learning the position as he goes this season. He had been a shortstop until The Curacao Kid showed up and bumped him to the other side of the bag.  By most accounts, Garcia is probably a better shortstop. Leury is fast. Like Craig Gentry fast. Lots of 7’s and 7.5’s from scouts on his speed. As I’ve watched him play this year, he’s one of those guys who’s first couple of reactions to the ball being hit are so damn fast he makes difficult plays look easy. Balls hit to the holes are scooped up by his quick hands, all made possible by his lightning quick feet. He just gets to everything. His arm is certainly strong enough for the left side of the infield.  I’ve only seen him play on the left side a couple of times in person,  so I’m also relying on reports from his days in Myrtle Beach and Hickory and the arm is certainly strong enough for shortstop. In an interview with Lone Star Dugout’s Jason Cole, Rangers Minor League Field Coordinator Jayce Tingler, discussed how Garcia often shags balls with the outfielders and if the time ever came, the transition for him to learn the outfield would be a pretty easy one. True to word, he’s actually started two games recently in centerfield. He’s simply that good of an athlete.

So, to recap, great glove, great arm, game-changing speed, incredibly versatile and very capable nearly anywhere on the diamond. What’s the holdup?  Well, Leury has to hit.

At a game last month, I half-jokingly asked 3 or 4 scouts to give me an actual hard number on Leury’s height and weight. The general consensus? 5’5” and 165lbs. Yep, Ronald Guzman is more than an entire foot taller than Leury. The bat? Well, he’s had to work at it. The good news is, the hit tool is developing. He’s a switch hitter, which, in the minor leagues, means you mostly hit from the left side. He is naturally right handed and reports are, when he showed up in Arizona a few years ago, the left sided swing was near comical. It ain’t funny anymore. One of the aspects of the game where he has made strides this season is simply putting the ball in play and letting his speed be an asset. It’s as though someone finally told him, “Dude, you’re pretty small but fast as shit, just hit it anywhere”. He’s not going to be a power hitter and he’s accepted his fate. (8HR in almost 1600PA) After spending the first half of the season right around or a little below .300, he’s now hitting .270. He needs to walk more, only 7 free passes this year, and he still strikes out far too often, 56 times thus far. His pitch recognition and approach need improvement. I watched him strike out on three straight changeups when everyone in the stadium knew the changeup was coming.  But he’s hitting. It is improving.

After a short DL stint, Frisco manager Steve Buechele slid Garcia into the 2 hole as a setup guy for Profar and Olt. He’s done well in this role although as a big leaguer he’d most likely be further down in the line-up, perhaps ninth.  For the last week or so, he’s been in the 7 spot. Guys like Garcia are fascinating to watch. If you never had to hit, he’d be in the big leagues now. But you do have to hit and a guy like him won’t be given a damn thing. He’ll have to earn it. Leury smiles a lot and seems to be a pretty affable kid. When he wears the oversized batting helmet required in minor league ball, he resembles a slightly larger-than-scale bobble head doll. Over the past few years, the Rangers have shown a good ability to find, nurture and develop players like Garcia alongside players like Profar. Every big league lineup needs guys like Garcia. Is he going to be a superstar? Probably not. Is he going to be a big leaguer capable of contributing at certain times? I would bet in favor of it.

Be well and enjoy baseball.

Your Friend,

Tepid

Here’s Where I Put Stuff

This is a post with contents I simply wanted to share. Hope you like some of it. If not, it’s worth exactly what you paid for it.

 

I have watched/listened to this clip at least 7 times this week. I love the cool in the song. Song 1959, clips 1953.

 

I’m not sure I could like a “live” TV performance, more than I like this one:

 

Finally, been a lot of hubhub-debub this week concerning the The Dude  in Bakersfield, Billy Hamilton. He reached 100 stolen bags and he’s been pretty ridiculous over the last month or so. Fielded a flurry of questions ’bout him, so I’ll tell you, he needs to learn to play centerfield, and the “art” of stealing bases. But that’s what the minors are for. He has an unteachable skill-pure, unadulterated, break-neck speed. I think he’ll get promoted to AA pretty soon and the OF experiment will begin. He’ll probably be there through this season and pop up in AAA next year with the possibility of a late season call-up. If the Reds are in a pennant chase next summer, imagine him as a pinch-runner. Whoa, is right. Anyway, I found some good (not in terms of production) footage of the havoc he wreaks on the basepaths. Keep in mind this is High-A ball. Big league pitchers are about 1000X better at holding runners and for the most part, big league catchers are 1000X better at throwing runners out. Yes, he steals a base, but he is such a profound distraction that his influence is difficult to measure. It is, however, not difficult to enjoy.  Ladies and Gentlemen, perhaps the fastest player to play professional baseball in a long, long time, Billy Hamilton:

As always, ENJOY BASEBALL!

Your Friend,

Tepid