Archive for June, 2012

Gamecocks Roll On

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

It’s been awhile since the South Carolina lost a post season elimination game.  After yesterday that streak was carried to seven.  They now play Arizona in a best of three match to try to become the first team to win three college championships in a row since USC in 1970-1974.

The Gamecocks took advantage of nine Wildcat walks to overcome a 2-0 deficit.  Christian Walker walked with the bases loaded in the fifth to tie the game and in the seventh Adam Matthews walked with the bases loaded to plate what proved to be the game winner in the Gamecocks 3-2 win.

Tyler Webb extended his scoreless streak while pitching in relief in the College World Series to 14 with four shutout innings yesterday.  Matt Price pitched the last three innings to pick up the win, giving up only one hit while striking out five.

Joey Pankake drove in the first run for the Gamecocks with a single and was on base as a result of a walk to eventually score the game winning run.  Matt Reynolds drove in both runs for the Wildcats with a single in the first and a sacrifice fly in the third.

Progress of Diamondbacks Top 10 Prospects

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

The Diamondbacks have a healthy group of pitchers down in their farm system.  After winning the division in 2007 with a number of young players they followed it up with two of their worst seasons. Last year they won the division. They hope they don’t repeat the debacle of 2007. In Arizona success always seems to be followed by failure.  The below are the top ten as identified by Jonathan Mayo of mlb.com.

1. Trevor Bauer RHP - Trevor was the third overall pick in 2011, teaming with number one overall pick Gerritt Cole to lead UCLA to the finals in the 2011 NCAA College World Series.  They lost to South Carolina.  He has his own work out regimen that includes long toss and other unorthodox techniques to help his pitching.  As long as he keeps winning he could soak his arm in pig’s blood and the Diamondbacks will not change it.  He has a nice mid-90s fastball and 12 to 6 curveball that should make him a future ace of the Diamondbacks rotation.  He also throws a slider, change and splitter, probably too many pitches to please some pitching coaches.  He got off to a good start in eight AA starts (1.68 ERA), resulting in a promotion to AAA.  His seven AAA starts have not been so dominating (2.79) but he should at least see a September promotion.  His one issue is improving command as he averages a little over four walks per nine innings.

2. Archie Bradley RHP - Archie is another 2011 first round pick, compensation for the Diamondbacks failure to sign their 2010 first round pick Barret Loux.  Archie was drafted out of high school so he is not as advance as Trevor.  He also has a mid-90s fastball and the makings of a good curveball.  His change is still in the developmental stage.  Last year he was only able to pitch in two games, working two innings and giving up just one hit.  This year he has gotten 14 starts.  Like Trevor, he struggles to throw strikes with over five walks per nine innings.  His last six starts he has equaled or walked more than he has struck out.  Righthanded batters are hitting a miniscule .137 off him and overall they are only hacking him at a .156 clip.  Once he improves his command he could rise quickly.

3. Tyler Skaggs LHP - Tyler was a number one supplemental pick in 2009, but drafted by the Angels and acquired in a trade for Dan Haren.  He throws from the left side with a fastball lacking in juice when compared to the top two players on this list, coming in at 88-93.  His signature pitch is the 12 to 6 curveball which was voted the best breaking pitch in the California League.  This is his second year in AA and while his ERA is good (2.51) his other numbers such as walks (2.51) and strikeouts (9.32) per nine innings pitched has digressed from last year.  He had a slow April (4.29) even though his walk to whiff ratio has been the best of the three months.  He tends to fare better against lefties (.196) than righties (.241).  His ERA in May and June starts sits at 1.53 so it shouldn’t be long to see a promotion to AAA.

4. Matt Davidson 3B - The first position player on this list, he joins Tyler as a 2009 number one supplemental pick, but he was selected by the Diamondbacks.  He will never be a great defensive third baseman so he needs to hit to keep himself in the lineup.  His speed tends to be station to station on the basepaths.  This year he is hitting for a little greater power with 15 homeruns in just 70 games.  Last year he hit 20 in 135 games.  His average (.270) remains consistent with what he hit last year (.277).  The Diamondbacks recently moved Ryan Roberts from third base to utility to make room for Josh Bell.  That strategy has backfired.  Matt may be next to move to third.

5. Chris Owings SS - Chris was the second of three supplemental number one picks by the Diamondbacks in 2009.  He has the tools to play the position defensively with good range and arm.  Last year he hit only .246 but he had a horrible 15/130 walk to whiff ratio.  This left him with a .274 OBA, which will not cut it in the major leagues.  He repeated High A this year and almost reached his walk total from last year with less than half the number of at bats.  He did equal his homerun total (11) and hit .324, putting his OBA at .362.  This resulted in a promotion to AA where he has only five at bats.  Strikeouts continue to be a problem as he still averages almost a strikeout a game.

6. A.J. Pollock OF - A.J. was one of two back to back number one picks in 2009, just behind Borchering.  He missed the entire 2010 season with a fracture in the growth plate of his right elbow.  Despite the injury he skipped High A in 2011 to hit .307 in AA.  He is considered one of the Diamondbacks better defensive outfielders, getting good enough jumps to play center field.  He doesn’t have great speed, which limits his range, meaning a move to a corner outfield is a possibility.  His .352 average this year and an injury to Diamondbacks centerfielder Chris Young gave him an opportunity to patrol center field for the major league team.  He held his own, hitting .245.  He’s back in AAA where he continues to rake, with a .350 average in June.

7. David Holmberg LHP - Another 2009 draft pick, but drafted in the second round by the White Sox.  He was the throw in player in the Edwin Jackson for Daniel Hudson trade that the Diamondbacks made with the White Sox.  Like Tyler, his fastball sits in the low 90s, but his best pitch may be his changeup.  Last year in High A he struggled with command, unusual for a pitcher who won the pitcher with the best control in Low A ball, going from 1.41 walks per nine innings pitched to 4.42 walks per nine innings pitched.  This year the control has returned and his success in High A (2.99) resulted in his promotion to AA.  He only has two starts in AA so it is difficult to measure his performance there.

8. Patrick Corbin LHP - Patrick was a 2009 second round pick by the Angels and was also another of the players included in the Dan Haren trade.  Another lefthander whose fastball sits in the low 90s, he also throws a slider and a change.  He started out at AA but after early success (1.67) he was promoted to the major leagues.  He had minimal success in the major leagues (5.27) and was demoted to AAA where his numbers have improved (3.86).  He is probably better suited for the back end of the rotation.  His biggest issue with major league hitters was his .435 average against lefthanders, not what you expect to see from a lefthanded pitcher.

9. Michael Perez C - Michael is only 20, drafted out of Puerto Rico in the fifth round of the 2011 draft.  He didn’t play much last year, striking out ten times in his 23 at bats with two homeruns.  He still has a lot of work to do on the defensive side of the game but has the arm for sticking behind the plate.  Michael was in extended spring training, but now that the rookie level teams have started he opened the season in the Pioneer League.  His average is similar to last year (.214) with two more strikeouts with nary a walk.  He does show the ability to tag the ball on occasion with two homeruns, matching last year’s total.

10. Evan Marshall RHP - The fourth round pick out of the 2011 draft pitched well in the bullpen his first year (1.16), finding himself moviing three levels all the way to AA.  He was credited with the save in the Southern League championship game.  His fastball hits the mid-90s with a good curveball and change.  He has started the season in AA and has picked up 14 saves with a 1.85 ERA.  The only negative you can say about him is that his hits equal his innings pitched and he only averages a little over five strikeouts per nine innings pitched.  Last year at the lower levels he struck out a little better than one batter per inning pitched.  Lefthanders are hitting him at a .324 clip.

Other Top Prospects

Adam Eaton OF - Adam is not a big guy at 5′8″ but his bat has been big with a .394 average at Reno.  He has 22 steals in 27 attempts with a .465 OBA.  Adam would be an ideal leadoff man if he can keep this up.

Josh Bell 3B - Josh was acquired from the Orioles for Mike Belfiore, one of their other 2009 supplemental first rounders.  With Baltimore his big issue was patience at the major league level, putting together a 6/78 walk to whiff ratio in two seasons.  After hitting .381 at Reno the Diamondbacks promoted him to the major leagues where his .184 average will get him designated off the roster if he doesn’t show some improvement.

Ryan Wheeler 3B - Ryan shared third base with Josh, but also played a number of other positions around the diamond.  The lefthanded bat is hitting .366 with Reno, but .391 against righthanded pitching.

Jonathan Albaladejo RHP - Last year Jonathan pitched in Japan after recording 43 saves in AAA in 2010.  He is hoping the Diamondbacks give him an opportunity this year.  He has already picked up 13 saves with a 2.64 ERA.  It got him a return to the major leagues for one appearance in April, but he would like to return.

Alfred Marte OF - The Dominican is having a breakout year with the power bat, his 13 homeruns in Mobile already eclipsing all his previous one year totals.  His .563 slugging is 100 points higher than his best year.  Can it last?  He’s still pretty young at 23 so expect him to reach the prospect maps for 2013.

Chase Anderson RHP - The last two years he has been voted as having the best changeup in the Diamondbacks system.  Last year he was limited to three starts because of an elbow injury.  This year he is 2-1, 1.98 in eight starts but missed a month of the season because of an elbow injury.  He returned for a two inning start a couple of days ago.

Bobby Borchering OF - Bobby was the highest drafted player in the 2009 draft but he is repeating High A after a move from third to the outfield.  The last three years he has been voted the Diamondbacks best power hitter and he is showing that with his .272/12/47 tag.  The switchhitter has done most of his damage against righthanders (.288 with 10 of his 12 homeruns).

France Recruiting for the WBC

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

France is looking for a few good players with a French background to supplement their national roster for the WBC qualifying tournament in Jupiter, Florida.  If you meet the following conditions you could play for France:

1) be a French citizen

2) be a permanent legal resident of France

3) be born in France

4) have a parent who is a citizen of France

5) have a parent born in France or one of its territories

6) is eligible to become a citizen of France

If you meet those conditions contact the website here: http://www.baseballfrance.com/en

College Update - Champions Prevail; Bounce Second Cinderella

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

The Gamecocks had to play two games Thursday because of the rain on Wednesday.  The two time defending champions prevailed in both, first knocking off the second Cinderella team Kent State, then disposing of Arkansas.  All that remains in their way for a three peat are another victory over Arkansas and Arizona.

South Carolina 4 Kent State 1

Michael Roth tossed a complete game two hitter to slay the second Cinderella team from the tournament, giving up an early run in the second inning for an early 1-0 Golden Flash lead.  Unlike the retirement plan Roth gave no more.  When the day was done he struck out eight without allowing a hitter to reach base on a walk.  LB Dantzler provided him with all the offense he needed with a 2-run homer in the third to extend a 2-1 lead to 4-1.  RBI singles from Grayson Greiner and Chase Vergason in the second had erased the early 1-0 Golden Flash lead.

Arizona 10 Florida State 3

Arizona became the first team to advance to the finals, easily disposing of the Seminoles 10-3.  A 6-run first inning made it a cake walk for them.  Bobby Brown went 2 for 2 with three walks and a homerun and Robert Refsnyder banged out three hits, one of them a homerun to lead the Wildcat offense.  Kurt Heyer went seven plus innings to get the win.  This is the first championship game for the Wildcats since 1986.

South Carolina 2 Arkansas 0

The Gamecocks got another excellent pitching performance, this time from Jordan Montgomery as he pitched eight innings of three hit shutout ball to get the victory.  Matt Price came on in the ninth to close the game out and pick up the save.  The Gamecocks tallied two in the second and then hung on to take the victory.  Tanner English stroked an RBI double and Chase Vergason drove in another critical run to give the Gamecocks the win.  The two teams square off again today with the winner facing Arizona.

Espinosa Leads Nationals Over Rays

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Joe Maddon decided to walk the slumping Adam LaRoche to face Danny EspinosaJoel Peralta, who had just learned he was suspended for eight days for his pine tar on the glove incident, was on the mound for the second straight day.  Espinosa rifled a 1-1 pitch that skipped down the right field line to score Jesus Flores and LaRoche to give the Nationals a 4-2 lead.  It was the second double for Espinosa in the game.  He also walked in the third, was the lead man on a double steal and scored the first run on a shallow fly to centerfield by Michael Morse.  Centerfielder B.J. Upton just could not get enough zip on the ball.

The Nationals had been no hit for nine innings before a bloop single by Xavier Nady in the second inning broke the no hitter.  Even though the Nationals won last night’s game they were left without a hit for the final eight innings of that game.  They were also retired 1-2-3 in the first inning of tonight’s game.

It was not a well pitched ball game, or a tightly wound strike zone.  Matt Moore could only survive the first five innings, giving up two runs.  He threw over 90 pitches, running three ball counts to six hitters before walking four of them.

It was back to back walks in the third, a double steal and a sacrifice fly to shallow center and a clutch 2-out single by Ian Desmond that put the Nationals in front 2-1.  Desmond also caught Matt Moore daydreaming after his single, breaking for second to take the base without a throw.

Gio Gonzalez was just as bad with his command.  He allowed the first run to score in the second when he issued a leadoff walk on four pitches to Hideki Matsui, who is only hitting .158.  The Rays went station to station with Matsui after two singles moved him to third.  Desmond Jennings roped a 2-out single up the middle to make it 1-0.  Gonzalez was able to strike out Carlos Pena for the third out with the bases loaded and two outs and a 3-2 count on Pena.  It would be the first of five innings where the Rays last hitter struck out, stranding eight runners.  It was the first of two strikeouts where the Rays had the bases loaded with two outs and a 3-2 count on the hitter.  Gio finished the second inning with 50 pitches.  Despite the work load he was still able to go six innings to get the victory.

Game Notes: Despite all the pitches thrown by the Nationals, B.J. Upton needed only four pitches to go 0 for 3 in his first three at bats of the game…Gio Gonzales ran the count to three balls to five of the first six Ray hitters he faced.  B.J. Upton was the only hitter among the first six in the Ray lineup not to run the count to three balls, swinging at the first pitch and popping it up to short…Ryan Mattheus came into the game with the bases loaded and two out, worked the count to 3-2 before striking out pinch hitter Will Rhymes.  Mattheus came into that at bat with a 2-1 record, 21 games, 21.1 innings pitched and a 2.11 ERA.  I thought sure he was going to get Will Rhymes out on a 2-1 count…Tyler Moore had a nice 11 pitch at bat to lead off the sixth for the Nationals off Joel Peralta.  It may have been an out but he made Peralta work on a night where the temperature hovered above 90.  With two out Jesus Flores doubled and Adam LaRoche was intentionally walkd before an Espinosa double scored the first two National runs…Ryan Zimmerman struck out his first three times at the plate before ripping a single in his fourth at bat.  He was able to steal second and score on Roger Bernadina’s double.  Rick Ankiel was thrown out at the plate for the final out of the seventh inning.  Zimmerman is killing the Nationals in the three spot with his .225 average.  Unfortunately, there are no other players who are viable alternatives for that number three spot.  Davey Johnson could move him from the spot to take the pressure off of him.

Eldred to Play for Carp

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Nick Stavinoha returned to the United States to face knee surgery.  The Hiroshima Carp may have found a pretty good replacement for him.  They signed Brad Eldred, who was leading the minor leagues in homeruns to a one year $230,000 contract.  He was hitting .305 with 24 homeruns and 65 RBIs, resulting in a 1.069 OPS.  The last year he had an OPS this high was when he was a 24 year old prospect with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  That was seven years ago.

His outburst did give him an opportunity to play for the Detroit Tigers, but he only hit .188 in 16 at bats.  He has had three other opportunities in major league baseball, putting together a career average of .203.  His best year was in 2005 when he hit .221 with 12 homeruns.  Too many strikeouts (77) in too few games (55) got him another couple years in the minor leagues.  He only hit .109 in his next opportunity and was released by the Pirates after that.

Nick ended his season with the Carp hitting .238 with nine homeruns and 24 RBIs.  He slugged .431 with a .755 OPS.  Brad should have no problems meeting those numbers.

Florida WBC Moved to September

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

The http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-0617-down-the-line-20120617,0,2275237.story has reported the WBC qualifying tournament that was scheduled for Jupiter, Florida in November may have to be played in September.  This qualifier was to include teams from Israel, France, Spain and South Africa.

The problem with moving the games up to September would mean that major leaguers like Ryan Braun and Ian Kinsler, who are Jewish, would not have an opportunity to play on the Israeli team.  This would probably be a good thing for France, Spain and South Africa, making it more competetive for the other teams.  Israel could still field a roster with ex-major leaguers like Shawn green, Gabe Kapler and Brad Ausmus.

If the major leagues really wants to hold the event in November there are still other venues that would be available.  The Rays ex-spring training facility in Tampa held an international event over the spring and would probably jump at the chance to hold this event if Jupiter’s facilities are filled with youth tournaments.  The events held by Al Lang field last spring were sparsely attended, but they don’t have the advertising potential that major league baseball has.

KBO May Have Shot Self in Foot on Expansion Decision

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Baseball has become very popular in Korea but the KBO might have pushed that popularity out the door with their decision not to expand baseball to a tenth team.  There are some reports that fans are upset about the lack of expansion, but those may just be fans of areas that were being considered for a tenth team.  The players though are very upset.  The players are so upset that they have threatened to boycott the 2013 WBC.  So much for Korea making a good international showing if that happens.

It has been said that one of the reasons for the increased popularity of baseball in Korea was their gold medal finish in the Olympics and a second place finish in the last WBC.  If they can not field a competetive team in the 2013 WBC it could sour a number of fans on baseball.  This could result in a decrease in attendance.  Of course, the same result could occur if they field a competetive team and don’t do well.

They also have the challenge of playing a season with a 9 team schedule next year.  This could result in at least one team having four days off while the other eight teams play a three or four game series.  Fans could briefly lose interest after their team has not played for four games.  Of course, adding two expansion teams could result in decreased attendance, with each team’s schedule filled with expansion teams that many fans may not be motivated to watch.

It will be interesting what long term consequences this decision will have on the continued popularity of baseball in Korea.  If the KBO sees attendance drop or the players fulfill their boycott of the 2013 WBC they may regret their decision.  If attendance remains popular there would be no motivation to change their position.

The KBO has backed themselves into a corner.  It will be interesting to see how they wiggle their way out of it without losing a lot of money in the process.  Ironic that most people think their decision was one of selfishness so they would not have to share the proceeds of the KBO profits with a tenth team.  Now they may find themselves losing money for not approving a tenth team and losing profits from decreased fan attendance.

The WBC may be forced to play the 2013 tournament with an uncompetetive Korean and Japanese team.  The NPB players are scheduled to meet on July 20 to make a decision on their participation in the WBC.  They had been asking for a greater percentage of the proceeds, but the WBC hasn’t budged.  The players have said they will boycott the games as a result.

The NBP have identified a manager for the 2013 WBC.  One of the qualities of this manager is an ability to convince players to participate in the WBC.  Both the NPB and the KBO can only hope that a number of players will not honor a boycott if a boycott is approved.

Seminoles Get Rematch With Arizona

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Florida State eliminated the UCLA Bruins with a 4-1 win.  The Bruins were limited to just one run in their last two games.  Scott Sitz went the first six plus innings to get the win.  Sherman Johnson had two hits and two walks from the leadoff spot to score two runs.  The Bruins will now get a rematch with Arizona in the semi finals.  Arizona had beaten Florida State earlier in the tournament 4-3.

Wang Whacked by Rays

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Chien Ming Wang has probably lost his rotation spot.  The Rays showed him no mercy, even with their outs being hit hard.  Ross Detwiler, who will probably be returning to the rotation, retired the first nine hitters he faced, 11 out of 12 hitters he faced in the game.  Wang could not get more than three outs in a row and in both the first and third inning allowed three men in a row to get on base.  When he walked the pitcher in the fourth his night was done.  Davey Johnson let him face one more hitter, Desmond Jennings, who he struck out for his first strikeout of the game.

Wang gave up hits to the first three hitters he faced in the lineup, hard line drives up the middle, between short and third and between second and first.  A hard double play ball hit to Danny Espinosa limited the damage to one run.  He got in trouble in the third, issuing a lead off walk to Desmond JenningsCarlos Pena followed with a homerun to give them the lead, 3-2.  They added two more insurance runs on an Elliott Johnson triple that bounced off the wall in the left field bull pen area.

The National bats have been quiet, especially the 3-4-5 hitters.  The Rays gave them a gift run in the first.  Danny Espinosa ripped a single up the middle, stole second and moved to third on a ground out.  Michael Morse bounced a routine grounder to Will Rhymes at third.  He bounced the throw to Carlos Pena who couldn’t handle the one hopper.  With the run the Natonals tied the game at 1-1.

Ian Desmond went deep into the President’s race bullpen area to give the Nationals a 2-1 lead.  David Price was throwing bb’s for most of the game.  His 94 -97 mph fastball struck out four.  Three double plays by the Rays in the second through fourth inning bailed him out of some rough spots.  Michael Morse just cleared a ball over the right field fence for his first homerun of the year.  The ball bounced back onto the field forcing the umpires to review the homerun call to confirm it cleared the fence.  It did.

There were other delays.  Somone had decided to advertise selling Nationals tickets over the green backdrop in centerfield.  The letters were unfortunately white, which was finally noticed by the leadoff batter in the eighth.  There was a two minute wait for the grounds crew to cover up the buy Nationals ticket logo.  Myworld did not notice when it was displayed.

There was also a delay in the eighth when ex-National Joel Peralta came on in relief of David Price.  Davey Johnson asked the umpires to inspect Peralta’s glove and it appeared that it was standing too close to a jar of pine tar.  He was ejected  for having a foreign substance on his glove.  Rays manager Joel Maddon was upset with Davey and asked the umpires to check Ryan Mattheus glove and hat in the ninth for any foreign substance.  They found nothing.

Game Notes: Wang is effective when he is getting ground balls.  He was not getting a lot of ground balls in tonight’s game.  He also has trouble throwing strikes to the first hitter he faces each inning.  He walked the leadoff hitter in the third and fourth and had a three ball count on Desmond Jennings in the first…Matt Joyce was removed from the game in the fifth inning with a stiff back…David Price has a pretty impressive fastball traveling between 94-98.  That is excellent for a starting pitcher.  He wasn’t afraid to throw it to Bryce Harper, striking him out on three fastballs in the first inning.  Most pitchers throw Bryce the slow stuff…Mike Morse hit his first homerun of the year.  Adam LaRoche is in a slump, with his average dropping to .259.  Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse are struggling at .230 or below with slugging averages less than .350…Fernando Rodney was bringing his heat at 99 to close out the game.