Archive for August, 2013

September is that special time of year, that time where Major League Baseball teams can expand their rosters from 25 to 40 players.  Extra bodies to give a guy on a  run away contender a break, or maybe a few guys try their hand for a Major League club that is way out of contention so that club can see what they have for next season and beyond.  Or perhaps some players are getting their moment in the show, maybe as a reward for a good minor league campaign.  There are also those teams that are in the thick of a pennant race, looking to get that extra edge and maybe win an extra game or two that could make all the difference between playing on and going home, come September 29.  Those are the players we are focusing on today.

 

Cincinnati Reds- Billy Hamilton (cf)

The Reds are in a dog fight for the National League Central with Pittsburgh and St. Louis.  Currently 3.5 games behind the Cardinals for first, and 3 games behind the Pirates for the second wild card, the Reds need a spark that can help close the gap.  The Wild Card is a consolation prize known, but no team wants to find themselves in a one and done scenario so the division is what all teams strive for.  Billy Hamilton brings a couple of Major League ready tools to the table that might be able to mean a couple of games in the standings in September.  We all remember what Dave Roberts did on the base paths for the Red Sox in October of 2004, and for a team that is as bereft of speed as the Reds are, I’m sure there will be several opportunities, especially late in games, for Hamilton’s speed to be a factor.  In addition, Shin Soo Choo, a guy with a very good slash line, is not a good defender in centerfield.  Hamilton would make the perfect caddy in late innings that would allow the Reds to shift Choo to a corner.  Hamilton’s glove and elite speed would make him a factor in this year’s NL Central race.

 

Oakland Athletics- Michael Choice (of)

Coming into today, the A’s sit 2.5 games back of the Texas Rangers for the AL West, in what is a two horse race.  And there is no guarantee, that the team that doesn’t finish first will grab a wild card spot, thanks to the Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, Yankees and Indians, who still remain in the wild card hunt.  On July 31, the A’s had a comfortable lead of 4 games on the Rangers.  In the weeks surrounding the deadline, the Rangers made two impact trades- landing Matt Garza from the Cubs and Alex Rios from the White Sox.  Dealing with injuries to numerous pitchers this season, Garza has been a breath of fresh air for Texas, throwing quality innings and winning 3 games in his first five weeks with the club.  And while Rios bat hasn’t quite lit Arlington on fire yet in his 2 and a half weeks in the club, his bat is certainly a welcome presence in the middle of the order.  Oakland didn’t make any upgrades at the deadline, but I think Michael Choice has the skill set, and is ready, to make an impact this September.  The A’s have struggled with their DH slot all season, and Choice’s bat could provide a steady, consistent bat from that spot.  With a slash line of .300/.388/.422 at AAA this season, the 23 year old has proven he has the ability to hit for average and power as well as the ability to take a pitch and work the count and would fit nicely in the 2 or 5 spots in the line-up.

 

Tampa Bay Rays- Tim Beckham (if) and  Mikie Mahtook (of)

Unlike many of the Rays’ division rivals, they often don’t have the cash to make the big money splash in the off-season or at the deadline.  It is scouting and development that has been key to this team’s success, and if they want to catch the Red Sox, they are going to have to bring up a couple of their top prospects this September, as opposed to waiting for next year’s Super-Two deadline.  Extremely poor second half performances by several members of the Rays offense, specifically James Loney, Kelly Johnson, and Luke Scott, have thrown the Rays offense into disarray.  If Tampa Bay wants to avoid a potential one and done scenario on Sept. 30, or worse, now is the time to throw some life into a sagging line-up.  Bringing up Tim Beckham, at age 23 in his third go around at AAA Durham, to play second base and Mikie Mahtook to take some cuts at designated hitter, or spell an outfielder, might just be the moves the Rays need to make.  The call up of Beckham would give the Rays a good defender with plus speed and doubles power, who they could slot right in the line-up, and if he can hit like he has at AAA this season, he could help ignite the stagnant offense.  And, although Mahtook’s power hasn’t developed as yet as the Rays hoped, he’s put smacked 27 doubles and stolen 25 bases so far at AA Montgomery, and should be able to take enough pitches to have a respectable slash line, while using his running game, as part of a platoon with Luke Scott.

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Wilmer Flores, Pure Hitter

Posted: August 15, 2013 in by Freddy Berowski

For the last six years, New York Mets fans and Bowman Prospectors alike have been hearing the name Wilmer Flores.  The young slugger’s star has shone brightly, faded darkly, and once again is burning strong.  Once compared to a young Manny Ramirez, Flores signed as a 16 year-old international amateur free agent out of Venezuela and big things were expected of him from the start.  He received a $750,000 signing bonus and immediately reported to Rookie League Kingsport.  After breezing through Low-A Brooklyn he completed the 2008 campaign at Class-A Savannah, finishing with .307/.347/.468 line on the season.

Entering the 2009, Baseball America ranked the sweet swinging young shortstop as baseball’s 47th best prospect.  Flores struggled mightily throughout 2009, posting a .264/.305/.332 line resulting in a repeat at Savannah the following season.  Following-up on the disappointing 2009 campaign, Flores entered 2010 ranked 88th on Baseball America’s Top 100.  Flores’ numbers improved across the board slightly, but his power was still lower than what was expected of him.  It was around this time that scouts and the front office began to believe that his future may not be at shortstop, as Flores body continued to change.  The range just wasn’t there to be an every day big league shortstop, but there were still believers in the swing.

Flores remained at short for the 2011 season where he ranked 59th on Baseball America’s Top 100.  This is the last time Flores would appear on Baseball America’s annual pre-season rankings.  Flores put up similar numbers at High- A St. Lucie, but his meager power output actually decreased in his age 19 season, with his slugging percentage bottoming out at a mere .380.  After the 2011 season, there were many question marks relating to the kid’s future.

The Mets placed Flores for the third time in High-A St. Lucie to start the 2012 season, and in the process, moved him to third base.  Something seamed to click in the 20 year-old as he posted a .289/.336/.463 line in 64 games, earning a promotion to Double- A Binghamton.  Another position switch followed as he was shifted to second base, where he continued to rake.  Flores put up an even better .311/.361/.494 line in 66 games to finish the 2012 season.  But while he starting to show the promise with the bat that was expected of him when he signed four years prior, with average-at-best defense he was starting to earn the reputation of a hitter without a position.

The Mets started Flores in his age 21 season, at Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League.  Flores did not make the Bowman Top 100 or Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospect list to start the season, but he did nothing but rake from day one.  In 107 games for the 51’s, Flores posted a .321/.357/.531 line, with a league leading 86 RBI and an .887 OPS.  Playing primarily second base, Flores performed adequately enough with the glove that when David Wright went down with a leg injury, the Mets felt confident that he could competently fill the role of Mets’ third baseman.  In his first seven big league games Flores posted a .259/.310/.407 line with a home run and nine RBI.

Unfortunately, the other day Flores twisted his ankle running the bases and there remains a strong possibility that it could land him on the disabled list.  It is clear his long-term position with the club is not third base – as that space is occupied by the team captain – but second base and first base are distinct possibilities.

I see Flores long-term as the New York Mets second baseman, where he will provide average defense and a plus bat.  It has been some time since the Mets system developed an All-Star quality bat and regardless of what position Flores ultimately settles at, he has certainly displayed the tools needed to be a plus big league hitter.  Earlier this year, when asked what position Flores would play, Mets Assistant GM and VP of Player Development and Scouting Paul DePodesta said “hitting in an RBI spot.”

Potential September Call Ups

Posted: August 15, 2013 in by J.P. Schwartz

As we are on the cusp of September, below is my list of the top 15 most notable prospects who have a shot at getting added to their parent teams’ rosters next month.

1)      Xander Bogaerts (AAA Pawtucket, Red Sox) – Has youth, power and a great shot at sticking at short. He can certainly help the Sox maintain their lead in the A.L. East.

2)      Archie Bradley (AA Mobile, Diamondbacks) – The top pitcher in the MiLB this season, he has a Major League arsenal and could help Arizona in their pursuit of L.A.

3)      George Springer (AAA Oklahoma City, Astros) – The minors’ only 30/30 man this year, he certainly seems ready. The question is will Houston add him, knowing they won’t be contending anytime soon; meanwhile, Oklahoma City currently leads the PCL American Southern Division.

4)      Nick Castellanos (AAA Toledo, Tigers) – With Miggy entrenched at third, he has been groomed as an outfielder. He’s developed more pop in his bat since last year, and would be a great boon to Comerica Park.

5)      Taijuan Walker (AAA Tacoma, Mariners) – The M’s top farmhand, he’s been having a great season overall, with terrific athleticism.

6)      Billy Hamilton (AAA Louisville, Reds) – His bat may have taken a hit since last year, but he’s still as fast as ever. Could serve Cincy as a pinch-runner, if nothing else.

7)      Eddie Butler (AA Tulsa, Rockies) – In the middle of a breakout season, he could possibly get his feet wet in the inhospitable climate of Denver sooner than people think.

8)      Jameson Taillon (AAA Indianapolis, Pirates) – Admittedly the biggest longshot on this list, as the Pirates are certainly doing fine without him, and he’s just getting started at AAA. Perhaps if one of Pittsburgh’s rotation goes down to injury, he could see some time.

9)      Andrew Heaney (AA Jacksonville, Marlins) – The top lefty in the MiLB this year, according to Baseball America. The Marlins obviously are not adverse to promoting prospects from AA, and his excellent command and arsenal could make for an interesting tryout.

10)   Yordano Ventura (AAA Omaha, Royals) – The Royals have been grooming him as a SP, but his heater could motivate them to use him earlier than expected, likely in the pen at first.

11)   Joc Pederson (AA Chattanooga, Dodgers) – LA’s outfield is crowded enough already, but should the injury bug strike again, they could summon Puig’s former teammate to show off his impressive tools.

12)   Marcus Stroman (AA New Hampshire, Blue Jays) – They’re obviously not contending, but Stroman was considered one of the most Major League ready arms in last year’s draft, and he could be an asset in Toronto’s pen.

13)   Jimmy Nelson (AAA Nashville, Brewers) – The current top arm in their system, he could be called upon for a spot start or two, just as Wily Peralta was last year.

14)   Michael Choice (AAA Sacramento, A’s) – As Oakland tries to take the lead from the Rangers, Choice’s power is a tantalizing option for them.

15)   Erik Johnson (AAA Charlotte, White Sox) – The top arm in an otherwise desolate system, he might get his first cup of coffee sooner than later, likely in the pen at first.