tepid participation

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

Month: August, 2012

Blue Ribbon Gold Star

Well, here we are. It’s the end of another minor league baseball season. Do you know how many young men have been through a season like this? Lots. That’s not an exact number. I’ll leave the exact number up to someone with a subscription to the Internet or Wikipeeedia, or a VCR, or an encyclopedia. Anyway, every season begins with heralded kids from all over the western hemisphere (and some from the far-east) being written about by blibber-blabberers like me and zillions more kids who aren’t mentioned in preseason rankings or blogs or Baseball Ameri-spectus. I kinda like these kids, the unmentioned, the unranked. I think you do to. I love Jurickson Profar. But he’s part of the chosen. The kid made an entire nation dance when he was 11 years old for pete’s sake. Jurickson’s been ranked since he was born. So Ima gonna shine a flashlight’s worth of wattage on the unranked. Unfortunately the fleeting nature of being unranked is that it’s only a coat you can wear for one winter. Next spring, the unranked will be written about, but this past spring they weren’t, they worked hard and now they’re here. So here:

 

Jared Hoying “Rabbit” Hoying is a left-handed hitter. So that’s cool. He can play all 3 outfield positions, which is also cool. I’ve seen him take solid routes on balls while playing left, center, and right. He makes a ton of contact and he handled the formidable jump to AA ball with aplomb. He’s damn near hit .300 since being called up and despite being extricated from the hitters doom that is the Carolina League, this is no small feat. He’d been in that league’s dense air for more than a season. Jared hit like it was easy in short-season Spokane after being drafted in the 10th round of 2010 from baseball megalith, University of Toledo. Then in 2011, he met the Myrtle Beach pitcher’s parks, sea breeze, 140 game schedule, and interminable bus rides.  He picked himself off the floor, came into 2012 with a publicly stated goal to be promoted to AA, and I’ll be damned if he hasn’t done just that. He’s an aggressive hitter who could probably stand to work the count a little more. He enjoyed the first pitch of many at-bats I’ve seen. But that’s cool, because he often puts the good part of the bat on it. His above-average speed translates more into extra-base hits than it does stolen bases, but he’s got 9 of the latter. According to his bio, i.e. his Twitter feed, he really likes to hunt and fish and as a Midwest boy, he could probably use some help from a couple of you folks on good spots down here to do both. He signs a crapton of autographs after games, something I’ve noticed time and time again. He’s often the last player signing even when the cheap bastards that own the Riders have turned off many of the lights. That’s a true story. I’ve seen him keep signing in a partially dark stadium on a number of occasions. I know what you’re thinking, so I’ll go ahead and get the comparison out of the way. He’s an affable, left-handed hitting, outfielder that can play all three outfield positions and likes to hunt and fish- so go ahead with you’re David Murphy comps. They’re inevitable.  I like the kid. Welcome to the prospectdome, Rabbit Hoying.

Phil Klein Phil is First-Team All Bus. This is the dude you want to amble off the transport right after rolling into a village you aim to conquer. You tell the swerving opponent, “That’s our relief pitcher.”  Phil is not sleight. He’s not fat, not even chubby, but he’s listed at 6’7” and 245lbs. That’s a big baseball player, and not a very heralded one. Coming into this season, the 30th rounder from 2011, was more of a project than anything else. Another Ohio native, Klein finished a rather unspectacular four year baseball career at Youngstown State (well, there was that Second-Team All-Horizon League honor following his senior year), and began the 2012 campaign as a 23 year-old at low-A Hickory. Texas felt like there was more velocity in his robust frame and they’ve been right. While not a traditional power pitcher, Klein regularly works in the low-90s and could feature even more velo with continued refinement. He also throws a slider that seems to confound most radio folks into thinking it’s a cutter. I have yet to see the pitch in person or ask the kid what the hell it is, but Jason Cole says it’s a slider, and that is certainly good enough for me. He’s got good command for a big fella and has a long stride that must be quite a physical presence for hitters. He’s never started a minor league game and probably won’t. He’s succeeding following a late-season promotion to Myrtle Beach, but the big jump awaits. He’s going to have to work hard on his secondaries in the off-season if he wants to succeed at the higher levels and possibly one day the fancy-pants world of major league baseball bullpens. But I think the kid can do it. He’s a smart kid, right? I mean, he did spend four years in college.

Drew Robinson DROB! Apparently in 2010, amidst stumbling home values and the dust like disintegration of the financial wherewithal for new high rises, Las Vegas was pumping out ball players. Texas’ 4th round pick, a University of Nebraska commit, Drew Robinson was one of those. (side note: Gobbles Gallo sprang from the similar LV fountains two years later). Ranked by Baseball America as having the second best, well everything, Robinson was perpetually behind preternatural Vegas wunderkind, Bryce Harper. No worries for DROB though, he was snatched up by TEX, and now figures to be the top 3rd base prospect in the system. I mean, Olt is a big leaguer, Villanueva was traded and Gobbles may not stick at the position. Drew plays a crisp third. Good actions and an arm strong enough to make all the throws. His footwork is a strength as was to be somewhat expected from the HS shortstop. But he’s made his biggest impression on me at the plate. He has shown a little pop in the form of 11 homers, something that should increase as he physically matures, and strikes out too much. But he has a trait not often seen amongst 20 year olds. He leads all Texas teams, including the dudes at the top, in walks. 81 free passes he’s taken this year. Second is Joey Butler’s 75 in Round Rock, Mike Napoli leads the MLBers with 50. That’s the sign of a good approach and above-average pitch recognition and it’s generally, a skill that translates well as you move through the levels. If he keeps walking and hitting and walking and hitting and playing a good third base and walking and hitting, he’ll get somewhere. That’s what we all want anytime we walk, to get somewhere.

So there you have it, three dudes who began the year as underdogs and who won’t wear that cape ever again. Now we know who they are and with that knowledge comes an entirely new set of expectations. Frankly, none of these guys project as big league stars and even more frankly, it’s very likely they may not even be big leaguers at all. But they’ve busted their tails, had a good 2012, and deserve to be recognized in the most public of all forums, the Internet.

As always, thanks for reading and, please, enjoy baseball. Love Ya!

 

Your Friend,

Tepid

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Aggie Loux

Writing about scouting a pitcher is tough. It’s tough because of the natural tendency to get swept up in the numbers and results. This is an important distinction because, for the most part, the numerical metrics you’ve become accustomed to using while measuring the effectiveness of a big league pitcher are far less important at the prospect level. The assumption is that if the “stuff” is good enough, the results you desire will follow at the big league level. In the minor leagues, you want to see “stuff”. This is why writing about Frisco pitcher Barret Loux is a challenge.

Most of you reading this are familiar with Barret’s story. Drafted 6th overall by Arizona in the 2010 draft, he was unable to pass the Diamondbacks’ physical and did not reach an agreement with them. All of this was due to reported fraying in parts of his labrum(shoulder) and bone chips in his elbow. It’s even more dramatic than you think. Loux and his family flew to Arizona for what appeared to be a formality. Take the physical, sign the previously agreed to $2 million deal, pose for pictures, start your career. None of that obviously happened. Arizona chose not to sign him and per a Bud Selig-ordered edict, Barret became an unrestricted free agent in September of 2010. He’s a Houston dude, Stratford High, and a proud Texas A&M former student, so he signed, in November of 2010, with the Rangers organization for $312,000.

Barret is a big guy, 6’5″ 225lbs with shoulders that can obviously bear more than just their own weight. Given his age and advanced experience (Big 12 baseball- and lots of it), Texas somewhat aggressively sent him to High-A, Myrtle Beach for his first assignment in 2011. He started 21 games and was basically a beast in the pitcher-friendly Carolina League. 127 strikeouts in 109 innings against only 34 walks and 6 home runs. Reports of his velocity sitting in the low-90s, touching the mid 90’s in many of his starts, had the Rangers looking especially sagacious, all while the concerns of his long-term durability remained.

So jump to 2012. Barret is assigned a position in the Frisco starting rotation. The roads are littered with pitchers who excelled in High-A environments and essentially had their asses handed to them upon making the jump to Double-A, widely considered among the most difficult in a player’s development. Here’s where things get tricky. After tonight, Barret’s season numbers are as follows:

22 Games Started: 14W – 1L, 3.38 ERA, 117.1ip, 110h, 44er, 35bb, 91k, 9hr

Pretty salty stuff. Until you see it in person. The fastball that once touched the mid-90s, now sits in the high 80’s. In 5 innings of charting every pitch tonight, I counted 8 pitches that reached 90 mph. This is especially important because the FB has always been considered Loux’s best pitch. His command is impressive, as you can see by the low number of free passes he’s issued, but 88 mph FBs aren’t very impressive. He also features a curveball that has good spin and relatively late break. He’s able to throw it for strikes and he used it a lot tonight. As a matter of fact, by my chart, he used the CB as his strike out pitch, inducing swings and misses, on 5 of his 7Ks tonight. He mixed in a pinch of CH and SL as well, but was groovin’ with the FB and CB. A scout I spoke with remarked that “it’s really ordinary stuff, but kinda awesome results”.  That’s the mystery of Barret Loux.

I often look at a pitcher and simply think, “could he get batters out at the next level with his pitches.” For most hurlers it’s a pretty obvious answer. With Barret, I don’t really know. I, obviously, have my doubts, as most probably do, but the Texas League is no slouch. He’s faced great, young hitters this year. His stuff isn’t unique, but his command is good, and his pitchability is fantastic. One can’t help but wonder what happens to the velocity as his shoulder and arm continue to tire, or structurally worsen?

If it seems like I’m rambling, it’s because I don’t know what to say about this kid. His stuff is average, but his results aren’t (and this is no longer a small sample size). The strikeouts are down, but the pitching is up. I’m rooting for the kid, ’cause he’s had some weird, crappy situations happen to him that he had no control over and he just perseveres. Is he a good enough pitcher to go to the next level and more importantly, the one after that? In short, I don’t know. But, I know he’s one of the guys I enjoy watching and one of the few for which I take off my prospect-writer hat and simply root for.

(Non-existent editors note: I didn’t attend Texas A&M and I’m basically weirded out by anyone who’s really, really into the college they attended, and kind of, by college sports in general. Or, worded another way, that ain’t my bias. I love ’em all. HA!)

As always, enjoy baseball. Love Ya!

Your Friend,

Tepid

What Does It All Mean?

Her name is Gladys.  She lives in Midlothian. Ever met her? Sure you have. She’s a huge baseball fan and the last few years have reignited her love of the game. Gladys still has over 50 Porter Wagoner albums in their original sleeves. She most certainly has already celebrated birthday number 65, but is not too old to drop your ass if you say one bad thing about Josh Hamilton or Michael Young. Gladys is, however, entirely suspect of Ian Kinsler. He pouts too much for her taste. She thinks he argues with the umps too much and gets himself kicked out of games when he really shouldn’t. Loves Nelson Cruz, has no idea what a boomstick is. Next month she’s going to Canton with one of her daughters and two of her granddaughters. They’re looking for a couple of nice, antique nightstands, but Gladys is hoping to score the 1980’s Rangers felt pennant she regrets not having bought when they were out there last fall. Given the chance, the first question she asks Ron Washington is “why doesn’t David Murphy play more?” Gladys loves baseball and she loves the Rangers and she LOVED the game tonight.

You friends with Nick?  He lives in Addison. I bet you are. Nick’s a huge baseball fan and the last few years have reignited his love of the game. He finished high school in the oughts. He’s a pretty big fan of Fleet Foxes, but, you know, “mostly their early stuff”. Beard? Sure, but only sometimes. He has an ironic relationship with Rougned Odor and loves the potential his bat brings to the middle infield. bWAR, BABIP, fWAR, rWAR? Yep, yep, yep, yep. He will absolutely drop your ass (in a non-physically confrontational way. Probably through Twitter, actually) if you say one bad thing about Ian Kinsler. Nick instantly writes you off as a baseball bubba if you utter even so much as a slight compliment towards David Murphy. He’s really excited about Jurickson Profar, but worries about moving Kinsler to left field and what that does to his “value”. The hat the Rangers wore tonight? The ’76 throwback lid, that’s his everyday hat. He wears a red shirsey with Beltre on the back, but he also has one in blue emblazoned with Elvis’ name and number. Hopefully you listen to The Ticket, ’cause if you don’t you’re not going to understand half of his tweets. Next month, he’s going with friends to College Town X for a weekend. They’re looking forward to tailgating, he’s hoping to score the vintage Japanese NPB jersey he saw last year, or the holy grail, the original Larry Parrish pullover he’s certain is long gone from that store. Given the chance, the first question he asks Ron Washington is “why does Michael Young play at all?” Nick loves baseball, and he loves the Rangers, and he LOVED the game tonight.

No matter how you see the game, no matter what it means to you, tonight moved you.

As always, enjoy baseball. Love Ya!

Your Friend,

Tepid

New Post at Texas Farm Review

I have a new piece on Texas Farm Review. I summarize the season, thus far, for Kellin Deglan, Hanser Alberto, and Leury Garcia. Each profile is followed up by insight from Jason.  Hope you like it.

Love Ya!

-Tepid

www.texasfarmreview.com

Beauty is Embarassing

I’m a fan of Wayne White and his work. I’m usually a fan of all weird people making a living doing weird, artistic things. If you have any interest in this, I hope you learn more about Wayne and I hope you see this film. (on Twitter @seewaynewhite) Love Ya!

Stones

It took some stones. They keep showin’ em, and for some reason, I keep being surprised. I’ve written in this space before about the calculated risks the Texas front office takes. One of the things I haven’t yet addressed is the stones they show sometimes, too. The Darvish signing? Stones. Promoting a 20 year old shortstop and moving the face of the franchise regardless of his wishes? Stones. Swooping in, literally in the last minutes of the trade deadline to snap up the last remaining, viable, starting pitcher? Stones. Aggressively promoting your 19 year old Curacao Kid with preternatural ability? Stones. And the latest, may be the greatest. Bringing up a slugging prospect whose rather clear MO will be to play first base and provide relief at third while lumbering some righthanded wood in the lineup. It may be the greatest because, too often front offices in sports, while armed with exponentially more information than any of us, lack the chutzpah to make the difficult moves. We see it all the time. We see it directly across the parking lot from RBiA.  We’ve all seen the regression from the 35 year old, super utility/DH. Some have near violent reactions to his continued inclusion in the lineup. But I don’t think many of us thought they’d actually do something about it this quickly. Well, they did. I’m not necessarily one who is either prone to, nor loathe, to heap praise on the actions of a front office. I admit, most fans vastly underestimate a front office’s collective intelligence and ability, however most fans properly size most FO’s desire to rock the boat, or to do what is necessary. People are involved, and allegiances, and families, and loyalties. But in the current professional sports universe, the successful organizations seem to be the ones unafraid of having difficult conversations and even less afraid of making difficult moves. [he types as Bill Belichick goes stomping across his television screen] I’m not sure why the Rangers’ front office’s moves to do what they feel puts the team in the best position to win, continues to surprise me. But it won’t anymore. Michael Young is struggling mightily, there is a better alternative. Period. Call him up. Put him in the lineup. It’ll be fine. It’ll be better.

This won’t last forever. Nothing does. But it’s pretty cool right now. Stones. Big ones, as a matter of fact. Purrettty big stones.

As Always, Enjoy Baseball.

Love Ya!

Your Friend,

Tepid