Monday, May 31, 2010

Mark Trumbo's Potential Impact

When Kendry Morales hit a game winning grand slam the other day, no one was thinking about Mark Trumbo...until Morales hit home plate.

Now, with Morales likely out until at least September, there has been some speculation that the Angels might eventually turn to Trumbo to fill in at first. This hasn't happened so far, as Rob Quinlan was recalled and put in the lineup on Monday.

If Trumbo does get the call, what can we expect?

There is power potential in Trumbo's game, but it's not really the type of power that translates well at the first base position. In 2008, Trumbo hit 32 home runs between high-A and double-A, but most (26) of his homers came in the hitter friendly California League; the same league where Brandon Wood hit 43 home runs back in 2005.

Last season, in his first full year at double-A, Trumbo hit 15 home runs in 533 at-bats.

The other problem is that Trumbo is not a very patient hitter. His walk rates have consistently been around or below six percent at the higher levels, which would make it difficult to project much AVG wise at the Major League level. To this point in 2010, Trumbo is hitting just .273/.317/.513 at triple-A Salt Lake (a good hitters park).

This may be a moot point anyway, as the Angels seem to be looking at other options, but even if Trumbo were to get a shot, he wouldn't likely make an impact outside of AL-only leagues. Think Gaby Sanchez without the plate discipline.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Waiting for the Call: Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta

It seems like it has been going on for a while now, the battle between Jake Arriteta and Chris Tillman to see who gets the call to the big leagues first. Arrieta seemed to have the edge until Tillman threw a no-hitter on April 28th. Both have been rolling along since.

Last night, Arriteta threw seven innings, allowing seven hits, one earned run while striking out seven and walking two. The night before Tillman worked seven innings allowing eight hits, one earned run while striking out seven and walking one.

On the season:
Jake Arriteta - 7.5 K/9, 4.36 BB/9, 3.72 FIP
Chris Tillman - 7.13 K/9, 1.82 BB/9, 3.24 FIP

The difference is clear; Tillman continues to show improvement in his control and command while Arrieta is still struggling in that category.

Based on reports, it looks like Tillman will be the first to get the call in 2010 after David Hernandez was moved to the bullpen.

According to's Major League Equivalent calculator, Tillman's triple-A numbers translate to 5.95 K/9, 2.44 BB/9 and a 4.48 FIP at the big league level. Those numbers would be an improvement over what he did last year with the Orioles, but not enough to warrant mixed league action. However, deep leagues and AL-only leagues should make sure to have him rostered on upside alone.

As for the supposed odd man out, Arrieta will continue to work on consistent control at triple-A. There is a strong possibility that he gets a call-up sooner rather than later, but without consistent control of his offerings, he might find it hard to succeed as a Major League starter.

Personally, I see Arrieta as a short to long-term fix in the back-end of a bullpen. While starters are certainly more valuable to Major League teams, pitchers often "are who they are" when it comes to command. As a reliever, Arrieta could rely mostly on his plus fastball and slider his other pitches grade out as average.

Certainly there could still be a future in the rotation for Arrieta, but it would most likely take a long time to find consistency there (i.e. Geo Gonzalez). Working in the bullpen and focusing on only two main pitches would make for a faster transition and Major League impact. Given the team's current closer situation, there is certainly a scenario in which Arrieta is filling that role both short and long-term.

The Orioles were supposed to turn a corner this season and while that has not exactly gone according to plan, there are still a number of good prospects in the minors. It's not going to happen overnight, but both Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta are getting ready to join Brian Matusz as the cornerstones to the next winning team in Baltimore.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pedro Alvarez May Not Be The Pirates Saviour

Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates first round pick in 2008, is loaded with potential at the plate. There are, however, some issues that are currently holding him back.

To this point in his professional career, the left-handed swinging Alvarez has not shown the ability to hit left-handed pitching with any consistency. Also, his swing, while conducive to hitting for power, may never produce much in the way of AVG at the big league level.

Last season there was a glimmer of hope that Alvarez had made a significant improvement in these categories. At single-A Altoona, Alvarez hit .314 in 70 at-bats against lefties. However, he only managed one of his 13 home runs against them. Once promoted to double-A his struggles re-emerged as he hit .232 in 95 at-bats against lefties.

So far in the 2010 season Alvarez has made little to no progress in his approach against lefties. To date, Alvarez is hitting only .214 against them (9 for 42) with only two of his 10 home runs. All together, between last season and this season (high-A through triple-A), Alvarez is hitting .256/.319/.406 against left-handed pitching with only five of his 37 home runs, which is a huge contrast from his .293/.394/.595 line against right-handed pitching.

The other issue is Alvarez's powerful swing. While there is little doubt that he can generate 30-plus home run power at the Major League level, he may end up looking more like Carlos Pena than Ryan Zimmerman. It took Pena a few years to get over his lefty splits and strikeout rates and he has never hit for much AVG.

According to, Alvarez has done little in terms of hitting line drives over his brief minor league career. Between last season and this season, Alvarez has only hit line drives at a 13.7 percent clip, which would be even lower if not for good numbers at Altoona. At the higher levels, Alvarez just isn't hitting line drives.

Combined, the two big issues with Pedro Alvarez's offensive game could become major problems at the Major League level. Problems against left-handed pitching and an inability to consistently hit line drives (also high strikeout totals) is an equation for offensive struggles. Even if Alvarez hits home runs, the AVG is not likely to come around until, or if, he can improve in both facets of his game.

This doesn't even address questions about his defense and conditioning. Ever since he was drafted, many have questioned Alvarez's ability to stay at third base. Recently a colleague of mine was able to catch a game in Indianapolis (Pirates triple-A affiliate) and said Alvarez looked shockingly "non-athletic".

Pirates fans have been through enough over the past couple of decades. Alvarez is being hailed as the start of a brighter future. A turning point in franchise history. However, in all honesty, Pirates fans need to temper expectations a bit.

The words "future star" have been bestowed upon many top prospects. Not all live up to expectations. Pedro Alvarez has the natural talent to become a star level player in the big leagues, but there are some negative aspects to his game that could cause struggles, especially early in his career. For a team looking for a saviour, expectations may be a bit too high for the young Alvarez.

In reality, this is not the kind of player a franchise would build a team around.

But don't worry Pirates fans. You do have a franchise player. His name is Andrew McCutchen.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Farm Notes From 5/4/10

Dustin Ackley finally gets on the board
It has been a rough start for Ackley who is hitting .167/.314/.274 on the year. Are things starting to turn around? Ackley went 3 for 5 last night with his first home run of 2010. This preseason it looked as if Ackley had a chance to make a quick rise through the Mariners system. Now it seems that 2011 will be the earliest M's fans will see him in Seattle. While his early season slump is concerning, keep in mind that it's only 84 at-bats and that he's certainly spending time and energy learning to become a good defensive second baseman, which could be affecting his swing early on. His walk rate is at 19 percent, so the plate discipline is still there.

Mike Moustakas continues his tear
3 for 5 with a home run yesterday, Moustakasis now hitting .417/.491/.917 with five home runs and six walks to only seven strikeouts in 48 at-bats. He is also 5 for 14 against left-handed pitching thus far with one home run. Moustakas hit .238 against lefties last season.

Could Marco Estrada get a look in Milwaukee?
The Brewers, still in search of a reliable fifth starter, may be creeping closer to giving 26-year-old triple-A starter Marco Estrada a shot at big league action. Estrada, claimed off of waivers from the Nationals earlier this year, allowed one earned run, struck out eight and walked only one in six innings of work last night. He now has a 2.48 ERA on the season with 25 strikeouts and eight walks in 30 innings. Known as more of a fringe prospect coming into this season, Estrada has improved his walk rate over the past couple of years. He doesn't have great "stuff", but he has learned to mix and match while keeping the ball on the corners. There is not enough upside here for mixed leagues to look at, but NL-only leagues will want to keep an eye on his situation.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Shelby Miller Scouting Report

Beloit, WI -- On April 21, 2010, I had a chance to get a firsthand look at Shelby Miller, who was ranked as the Cardinals top prospect entering 2009 by just about every major publication. The 19th overall pick of 2009, Miller is a 6-foot-3 righty with an athletic, projectable frame. It was cold and damp in Beloit, but the night was well worth braving to see the progress made by the high-upside prospect.

Read the full report at

Wilson Ramos Gets the Call as Mauer's Injury Lingers

Joe Mauer is hurt and fantasy owners are sweating. After an MVP season in 2009, Mauer's draft stock was huge, first round huge. However, that MVP season actually caused a bit of a smoke screen. Mauer's history involves injuries and those injuries seemed to just stop worrying fantasy owners this past draft day. One month into the 2010 season, Mauer is hurt again.

The injury is to Mauer's heal and is being described as a "week-to-week" situation. Twins management apparently thinks Mauer may miss chunks of time and so they called upon top catching prospect Wilson Ramos as a replacement.

Ramos is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. Described as an above average defensive catcher, he can also hit, but how much is the question fantasy owners (Joe Mauer owners in particular) are wondering.

It wasn't a great start for Ramos at triple-A as he was hitting .179/.214/.328 over 67 at-bats. Last season Ramos hit a combined .317/.339/.496 in 224 at-bats between a small stop at rookie ball and most of the season at double-A. Like Mauer, Ramos has some history with injures, hence only 224 at-bats last season.

Most scouting reports and prospect publications seem to think that Ramos will hit for AVG at the big league level. There is some potential for plus-power, but his plate approach is very contact oriented. He also doesn't draw many walks, which could hurt his fantasy value in OBP leagues.

In his first Major League game on Sunday, Ramos went 4 for 5. While that gets his Major League career off to a fast start, it there are a few factors that should hold back his overall value in 2010. First, Joe Mauer. Mauer will play when he feels he can go. This may require more time off that fantasy owners would like, but it could be what is best for the long run of the season. When Mauer needs the time off, Wilson will play. Second, Ramos' lack of walks may get exploited at the big league level. This could result in a slight rise in strikeouts and weakly hit balls in play, making it difficult for Ramos to hit for enough AVG. Lastly, there is the normal adjustments a rookie must face upon his first big league action. Catchers have an even more difficult transition than most as they must learn a whole new pitching staff on top of trying to maintain good offensive production.

Long term Ramos still profiles as an above average Major League catcher who will hit for AVG and 10-15 home runs per season. However, for 2010, it may be a good idea to find another replacement option should Mauer miss any significant amount of time.