Top Prospects in the Atlantic League So Far

Posted May 18, 2018 by Burly
Categories: Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minor Leagues, New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners

Courtney Hawkins is almost certainly the best prospect in the Atlantic League so far this season.  He’s currently tied for the league lead with five home runs.

The main thing to like about Hawkins is his age.  He’s only 24 this season, in league in which all the top hitters in terms of OPS are at least 27.

Hawkins had a strong year in A+ ball at the age of 20 in 2014 when he slugged 19 dingers and slashed .249/.331/.450.  However, a 3-for-25 start to his 2018 season in his fourth season at the AA level, and he’s playing in the Atlantic League now.

Hawkins’ OPS is only .788, so he needs more time in Sugar Land, Texas. At age 24, he’s definitely still young enough that MLB teams will want to sign him once some players get hurt at the A+ or AA level.

Kyle Kubitza, Johnny Bladel, David Washington and Mike Fransoso are all young enough at age 27 that they will be signed by MLB organizations if they keep hitting the way they have so far. Kubitza and Washington both have limited major league experience which will certainly increase the likelihood of their being signed by a new MLB organization.

Rey Navarro played in only three Atlantic League games before the Yankees signed him a couple of days ago and sent him to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, after a 4-for-27 start for the Mariners’ AAA team in Tacoma.  He’s 28 this year.

Bennett Parry is the youngest pitching prospect I could find.  He’s 26 and leading the Atlantic League with 23 strikeouts (in 17 innings pitched with a 3.17 ERA after three starts).  However, the Dodgers have just signed Logan Bawcom who is three years older and hasn’t pitched as well so far as Parry, but has had past success at the AAA level.

Parry was pitching well as a starter for the Orioles’ full-season A team in 2015 when he apparently hurt his arm.  He made only 17 starts in the American Association in 2016 and 2017 combined, put still pitched well enough to work his way up to the Atlantic League.

Several 27 year olds are among the league’s top starter so far and will likely sign with MLB organizations if they keep pitching well, but I won’t both mentioning their names.  Approximately one-third of each Atlantic League’s roster moves up to better professional baseball opportunities over the course of each full season, enough to keep a lot of players playing at an average salary of only $2,100 per month.

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Dave Roberts Gets the Kiss of Death

Posted May 18, 2018 by Burly
Categories: Los Angeles Dodgers

The dreaded vote of confidence from management to Dave Roberts.  With an under-performing team, this is more of a warning than a vote of confidence.

At least the Dodgers won 7-0 today behind Kenta Maeda‘s best start of the 2018 season.  He allowed only two hits over eight innings in only 96 pitches.

I’m definitely getting the feeling that Maeda will continue to have wild swings as a starter.  He’ll have great days and days when he gets bombed all in fairly close proximity.  Still, the current trend is good.

After today’s game, the Dodgers have scored three more runs than the team has allowed.  Their record is likely because they aren’t winning as many of the close ones, but with Kenley Jansen pitching like himself in May after a terrible first month, that could turn around in a hurry.

Best Hitting Pitchers in MLB Baseball 2018

Posted May 12, 2018 by Burly
Categories: American League, Anaheim Angels, Arizona Diamond Backs, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, National League, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays

Shohei Ohtani has more or less blown up any discussion of the best hitting pitchers in major league baseball.  He’s created a whole new paradigm for two-way players that hasn’t existed since the 1920’s and the only question is whether he is the start of a new trend or a one-off.

Highly touted prospect Brendan McKay is still on pace to be the next two-way player, although he’s still got a long way to go and his hitting abilities may not be able to keep up with his pitching abilities as he shoots up through the minors.  McKay is already ready for a promotion to A+ ball as a pitcher, and I wouldn’t hold him back to let his hitting catch up.  Still, major league pitchers who can also pinch hit should have value in today’s extreme relief pitching game.

1.  Shohei Ohtani.  I didn’t want to jump on the Ohtani as hitter bandwagon too soon, but I was convinced he’s for real (even if he doesn’t continue to bat .344 and produce over 1.000) when he beat the shift with a double down the left field line about a week ago.  Ohtani has what it takes to be a great major league hitter, although he’ll face his forced adjustments and his hitting performance will be affected by the many games in which he does not bat.  That said, the baby-faced 23 year old phenom can hit.

1.  Madison Bumgarner (.185 career batting average and .555 career OPS).  MadBum is still baseball’s best full-time pitcher, but the bloom is off the rose compared to Ohtani, who will be DHing three times a week until major league baseball pitchers prove they can get him out.  A one-on-one Ohtani-MadBum home run derby at the All-Star Break would be an enormous amount of fun.  Madbum should be healthy by then.

3.  Zack Greinke  (.229 BA, .579 OPS).   One thing I’ve noticed about good hitting pitchers, writing about them as I have for some years now, is that there doesn’t seem to be a particularly strong correlation between a pitcher’s ability to hit and his having spent his minor league time or the vast majority of his MLB career with a National League team, even though this would presumably mean that the pitcher got a lot more opportunities to hit.  After spending his minor league career and his first seven major league seasons with the Royals, Greinke established himself as a fine hitter by his second National League season.

If I had to guess, I would say that the ability to hit the fastball (and lay off breaking pitches) is probably the most important factor in a pitcher’s ability to hit.  Pitchers hate to walk the opposing pitcher, so any time the pitcher-as-hitter is ahead in the count, fastballs for strikes are likely to follow.

The fact that the Diamondbacks are apparently not willing to give Greinke even half a dozen opportunities to pinch hit each season is a missed opportunity.

4.  Yovani Gallardo (.229, .564).  Gallardo’s career as a major league pitcher may be over, but he sure could hit.

5. Adam Wainwright (.199 BA, .529 OPS).  Another player whose major league pitching career is winding down, but with well over 500 career at-bats, Wainwright has well proven his abilities as a hitting pitcher.

6.  Noah Syndergaard (.181 BA, .561 OPS).  A poor start to the 2018 season has brought Syndergaard’s batting average below the Mendoza Line, but he has power and will take a walk.

7.  Daniel Hudson (.226, .567).  Since coming back from an arm injury as a major league relief pitcher, Hudson has had only one plate appearance since 2012, but he could hit.

8.   Mike Leake (.200, .511).  Mike Leake hasn’t had a plate appearance yet this year, as he is now an American League pitcher.  He hit a ton his first three seasons with the Reds, but hasn’t done much with the bat since.

9.  Tyler Chatwood (.214, .485) and Tyson Ross (.199, .476).  As I point out every year, the best hitting major league pitchers get pretty bad pretty fast.

Honorable MentionsCC Sabathia (.212, .539)  CC hasn’t had a hit since 2010, but he could hit when he had the opportunity to bat more than three or four times a season.  Travis Wood (.185, .537).  Wood’s major league career appears over.

Young Hitting Pitchers to Watch.  Michael Lorenzen (.226, .618).  A shoulder injury has prevented Lorenzen from pitching or hitting so far in 2018.  Ty Blach (.194, .505) hit as a rookie in 2017 but is off to a terrible start with the bat in 2018.  Ben Lively (.182, .545) still has to prove he can be a major league starter.

What Happened to Jarrett Parker?

Posted May 11, 2018 by Burly
Categories: San Francisco Giants

It’s now May 10th, and there is still no word on anyone signing Jarrett Parker, whom the San Francisco Giants released on March 30th.  It’s hard indeed to understand why no one has signed him yet, or why there have been absolutely no reports of any teams having an interest in him.

I’m thinking that the silence is so deafening on Parker that he must be recovering from an injury which hasn’t been reported, possibly because he hurt himself late in Spring Training and his agent doesn’t want to publicize the fact that he’s not 100%.  I can’t think of any other explanation that makes sense.

At 29 this year, Parker is still reasonably young, and he’s awfully close to being a major leaguer with great tools and a .257/.335/.456 slash line in 382 career major league plate appearances.  It just doesn’t make sense that a player his age and this close to the majors would retire or that another major league team wouldn’t want him on a minor league contract.

Parker reportedly was looking for a major league deal after the Giants released him, but when he hadn’t received one by April 15th, I can’t believe he’d continue to hold out for a major league deal.  When everyone else is playing and you’re not, the odds that a player in Parker’s situation will get a major league deal evaporate after about two weeks.

He isn’t playing in the Atlantic League and he isn’t playing in Japan’s NPB, so I think he’s got to be recuperating from some kind of injury (lingering effects of last year’s broken collar bone?).  There don’t seem to be any other reasonable possibilities.

Shohei Otani Beating the Shifts

Posted May 5, 2018 by Burly
Categories: Anaheim Angels, Baltimore Orioles, Baseball Abroad, San Francisco Giants, Uncategorized

One thing that has really impressed me in the last couple of games is Shohei Otani very clearly attempting to hit ’em where they ain’t by hitting the ball to left field.  Here’s video of the first double a couple of days ago, a ball that was hard hit but was playable with the 3Bman playing where he would a right-handed batter, but instead went unmolested down the line for a stand-up double with Ohtani running at only 70%.  You can see video of Otani hitting another double to left field in last night’s game for the next day or two.

If Otani can force defenses to play him straight away, I don’t see any reason why he can’t be a .300 hitter in the major leagues on a semi-regular basis.  Otani is likely to experience swings based on the fact that he will be a part-time hitter and part-time pitcher for as long as Otani wants to keep doing both.

If the hitting we’ve seen from Otani so far is for real, it’s still within the realm of possibility that he could end up as the Angel’s everyday right fielder.

Otani would not be the first great two-way player.  Jack Bentley for the New York Giants and the early 1920’s Baltimore Orioles, the last minor league team almost certainly better than the worst major league teams.

Bentley played 1B and pitched a full season of games for the Orioles for three seasons, and then pitched and pinch hit (at least 39 times) for the World Series losing 1923 and 1924 Giants.  He was probably one of the best players you’ve never heard of.

Matt Harvey Will Be Available

Posted May 5, 2018 by Burly
Categories: Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants

The New York Mets are reportedly going to designate for assignment Matt Harvey, and Harvey has made it clear he won’t accept a minor league assignment, so he will be available.

The Giants certainly have a need with Johnny Cueto just on the disabled list and Madison Bumgarner still a ways from coming back.

Harvey hasn’t been good since 2015, but he’s still only 29 years.  He’s worth a tryout at the minimum wage once he clears waivers, which he certainly will since his 2018 contract is a too robust $5.625 million for someone of his recent performance.

I don’t see that the Giants have anything to lose giving Harvey a few starts at the minimum wage, if Harvey is willing to pitch in San Francisco.  The Mets only gave Harvey four starts, so it’s entirely possible they gave up on him too soon.

Andrew Suarez‘s May 1st start may have made Harvey a whole lot less desirable to the Giants than they might otherwise be.  I certainly think it would be worth demoting Derek Holland to the bullpen and D.J. Snelton to AAA for three Harvey starts, since Harvey has more upside.

I have to say that the 2018 Giants season is so far better than I thought it would a week into the season.  They are a game over .500 (and leading 8-3 in the 7th today, and they’re ahead of the Dodgers.  That’s two things to be thankful for through 31 games.

Tetsuto Yamada May Be Back

Posted May 4, 2018 by Burly
Categories: Anaheim Angels, Baseball Abroad, NPB

27 games into the NPB season Tetsuto Yamada, after a slow start, is slashing .282/.413/.603.  That’s comparable to his 2015-2016 seasons, and a blame sight better than 2017, when he played in all 143 of the Yakult Swallows’ games, but he slashed a brutal (for him and his future MLB prospects) .247/.364/.435.

I suspect that Yamada hurt himself late in the 2016 season and was still healing from it in 2017, even though the team felt it had to play him every day and he apparently didn’t ask for time off.  Maybe he’s fully healed this year, and he’s back on track while still only 25 this season.

If he’s all the way back, he’s NPB’s best hitting prospect for MLB now that Shohei Otani is in Anaheim.  He’s got another year or two of service with the small market Yakult Swallows after this season, but the Swallows will almost certainly post him once his seven full seasons are recorded.

Hideto Asamura is also off to a start that is his best start since his terrific age 22 season in 2013.  He’s slashing .304/..358/.536.

Asamura played mostly 1B in 2013, and the Seibu Lions moved him to 2B next year.  Presumably, he has had to spend more training in the field and less taking batting practice.  Still, he’s young, and he plays for a small market team, so if his 2B defense is major league adequate, he could provide some value to a small market MLB team.

Yoshihiro Maru and Yuki Yanigita are off to terrific starts, but they won’t be so young when they become available to MLB.  Yoshitomo Tsutsugo isn’t off to the kind of start that you want to see for potentially aspiring MLBers.  It’s early in the season, though, and Tsutsugo isn’t far off his mark at .233/.345/.478, so if he heats up with the Japanese summer, he could still be worth considering.