Randy Johnson, one of my favorite baseball players ever, won his 300th game yesterday. For those that don’t know, 300 wins is a VERY big deal; in the 100+ years of professional baseball, only 24 total pitchers have achieved this feat, with only 10 of those 24 winning their 300th game in the post war era (including one Roger “Steroid” Clemens, does he really have to count?). This is easily Randy Johnson‘s best moment as a pitcher, and he is all but assured himself a spot in Cooperstown….But which cap will he be wearing when he is inducted?
Johnson is a perfect example of what legends of the free agency era have become. Lets look at the list of teams Randy has played for: Expo‘s (RIP), Mariners, Astros, Diamondbacks, Yankees, Diamondbacks again (just for one season), and Giants. Man, and I thought Brett Farve was ruining his legacy by leaving the Packers! Today’s superstars are mercenaries, and before you go looking for whose fault it is (Marvin Miller and Curt Flood not included), you must first look at the system.
Tom Glavine, another 300 game winner, was recently cut by his original team (the Atlanta Braves). Glavine, who began his career with the Braves, was told that he didn’t have the stuff to compete in the majors anymore. Pretty harsh right? Especially for a guy that is one of your organizations living legends. But before you start to demonize the organization, you also must realize that Glavine left the Braves in 2003 to pitch five years with Mets. Do the Braves really owe anything to a man who left them first?
The problem discussed in this article is not just a part of baseball; super stars like Lebron James in the NBA, and Brett Farve in the NFL have either hinted at moving away from their original teams, or actually went ahead and moved (in Farve’s case). The days of Cal Ripken Jr. are over, and the new sporting landscape is riddled with both selfishness and cut-throat cynicism. It is all about the bottom-line, and if you haven’t produced lately, well, your headed to the curb. This same analogy can be expressed in an even bigger scale, looking at the economic downturn, and the inevitable failure of large and historic companies such as GM.
There is no happy or uplifting way to end this story; we are witnessing the decline of loyalty in all walks of life, and it truly does sadden me. Although their are a few lone examples of guys who have stuck with an organization for the long run (Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning), even they are not immune to this decline; I would not be surprised to see both Jeter and Peyton in different uniforms by the time they retire. In the end, I think that we will be honoring individuals and not teams, even in team sports. I have been meaning to purchase a Randy Johnson jersey to frame and put on my wall, but there are just way too many jerseys to pick from…why bother?
Drafted with the 27th pick in the first round of the 2008 MLB draft by the Minnesota Twins, Carlos Gutierrez was considered by many as a closer in waiting due to arm issues (he had Tommy John surgery late in his high school career which made many question his durability). Despite concerns about his durability, the Twins allowed the young pitcher to start and he has yet to disappoint. Gutierrez has posted a 1.32 ERA over 10 starts (52.2 IP), while posting a 33/22 SO to BB ratio, a fantastic .192 BAA, and the most a freakish stat of all: a 4.48 GO/AO ratio. Carlos showcases a low 90’s fastball with late heavy movement (a plus pitch by all accounts), a plus change up (which has allowed him to cause a crazy amount of ground balls), and an improving slider. Gutierrez will be moving up to AA to pitch with Minnesota’s AA affiliate New Britain; the sky is truly the limit for this fantastic young pitching prospect!
Note: This is the second surprising/fantastic 1st round pick the Twins have made consecutively; last year it was Ben Revere who has become one of baseballs best prospects, and now Gutierrez. Great organization!stat
After a tremendous run in the FSL league (A+), including a complete game shutout in his last start, Kyle Drabek is headed up to AA. Drabek, 21, has always had the stuff necessary to dominate his opposition (97 MPH FB with movement, a CRAZY spike curve, and a ML average change up), but makeup has always been his primary roadblock. Many scouts criticized his cocky demeanor on the mound….those same scouts also cited his issues with the law (underage alcohol abuse) as a potential major issue down the road. Despite his critics, it seems like Drabek has started to mature, and his performance on the mound has been truly fantastic. Look for GREAT things from this kid.
With this promotion already discussed, I leave you with a poll: With the Phillies ML pitching situation in shambles (Brett Meyers is out for the entire year), could we see Drabek fast tracked to the majors by the end of the year? Its a legitimate question, especially when considering how well he has been pitching, and how poor Carlos Carrasco (a top Phillies pitching prospect in AAA) has been throwing this year. Vote!
If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you will know that I am a big Neftali Feliz fan. He has more potential than any pitching prospect I have looked at in a long time (Mark Prior comes to mind), and I think he will be a special pitcher someday in the majors. The key word there is someday.
The Problem: Even by just looking at his box scores this year you can see his biggest issue: control. He is overthrowing his pitches, causing an increase in both wild pitches and walks which can fluster even the most veteran of pitchers, let alone a 20 year old pitching in AAA. It is clear that his confidence is hurting, and to make matters worse management in Oklahoma City (Texas AAA affiliate) seems to have very little leniency with him; he has been given the hook before the 5th inning five out of nine starts this year.
The Solution: It seems to me that this kid just needs to take a breather and work out his control problems….With the velocity at which he throws, command should be his #1 priority. Most control problems can be handled through good coaching, and a solid and consistent amount of innings. The biggest irony that I see here is with the Texas management: they call this kid up to AAA to challenge him, yet that don’t let him stay in games and work out his own problems. Demote him to AA, and let him pitch every 5th day, and go from there. As long as he is getting consistent innings, this really isn’t a step back, but a step forward (as long as he sees at least SOME improvement in his command). If they feel like rushing him to the bigs as a closer, fine, but I really think this kid has it in him to become a phenom in the majors before too long.
I got word today that Poveda is heading up to Oklahoma City (Texas AAA affiliate) to take Derek Hollands spot in the rotation. He is only 21 years old at this point, and he has truly been under the radar (much like Zach Britton), overshadowed by the other great pitching prospects in the Texas system. His 2009 stats may not seem that impressive, but I have also heard that his pitching arsenal has been limited (he was told not to use his change up so he could work on his curve); this explains his sub par GO/AO numbers. Poveda boasts a low 90s fastball, to go along with a plus change up (which have proven to be his best pitch) along with an improving curve. Although his arsenal is impressive in its own right, his command and bull-dog demeanor on the mound is what has separated him from other pitching prospects. Look for special things from this guy in AAA, especially if he is allowed to use his change up.
This is just a quick little prospect comparison I came up with, I hope you enjoy it!
Brian Matusz vs. Zachary Britton
Both are pitching at Class A+ Fredrick. Both of these player are in their early 20’s; both are also tall lefties with a good mix stuff. Matusz was drafted 4th overall by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2008 MLB draft; he was heralded college pitcher for San Diego State before being drafted in his Junior year. The O’s drafted Britton in the third round of the 2006 MLB Draft; at the time, Britton was a relatively unheralded high school pitcher with good velocity. Through 2008, Britton has shown improvement at each professional level he has pitched at.
Here are their stat lines for this season:
- Matusz: 2.68 ERA, 53.2 IP, 65/19 SO to BB ratio, 1.54 GO/AO, 5 HR, .230 BAA
- Britton: 2.54 ERA, 47.2 IP, 47/26 SO to BB ratio, 2.29 GO/AO, 3 HR, .222 BAA
Britton stats are big skewed because of his work hourse nature. Here is an example of that:
Date OPP ERA SV IP H ER BB SO
May 16 @KIN 1 0 0.00 0 6.0 4 0 2 6
May 17 @KIN 1 0 5.40 0 5.0 5 3 3 4
He had his worst outing of the season due to the fact he pitched a 5 inning relief spot after pitching 6 innings one day earlier.
With all of that said, I think that they are VERY similar. Britton does have more experience at the professional level, but he is also 6+ months younger than Matusz. Brian does tend to get more strikeouts (up to this point), but Britton tends to get more GO and less H.
Previous to this season, Matusz was ranked as the 25th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America. Britton was not listed on that list, and is still regularly ignored by most scouts. How much more will it take for Britton to be considered an elite prospect? That remains to be seen. Right now I consider Britton a top 70 prospect, probably somewhere in the early 60‘s or late 50‘s. If he continues on his torrid base, you could see Britton climb into the 40‘s or 30‘s. Time will tell!
Souza, a Nationals third round pick in 2007, has a speed/power combination that few can contend with…but why is no none talking about him? As a 19 year old last year, Souza held his own on Class A (Hagerstown) posting a .741 OPS (2 HR, and 8 SB in 23 games) but was sent down to Short-Season ball due to to poor defense. Souza was on a role in Vermont (The Nationals SS affiliate), even earning NYP player of the week honors in late June. Steven then missed a good amount of time due to a broken hamate bone in his wrist caused by a bean ball…Even after a good amount of recovery time, Souza still seemed off, ending the year on a massive down note (batted .189 on the year)….Despite his injury woes, Souza still showed potential stealing 22 bases while vastly improving his defense at third base. Although most have forgotten about Steven (especially due to his slow start to the 2009 season), he has been showing signs of living up to the massive potential the Nationals saw in him during the ’07 draft….Over the past 10 games, Souza has batted .412 with 1 HR and 3 doubles. It is my opinion that it is just a matter of time before this kid starts catching scouts eyes again!
Although mostly known for his glove at short stop, Danny Espinosa has been crushing the ball during these first few weeks of the 2009 minor league baseball season. Espinosa, a 3rd round pick by the Nationals in 2008 draft, comes from a long line of successful Long Beach State short stops (Bobby Crosby and Troy Tulowitzki are two notables)….and as of yet, he hasn’t disappointed. Through 63 at bats, Danny has posted a fantastic .961 OPS (.317 average), with 8 doubles and 1 HR. If that isnt enough, he has also been successful on the base-paths (7 steals in 20 games).With MLB ready tools at short (including plus arm strength), Espinosa will likely be short-tracked to the majors if he continues to hit….Watch out for this guy in the future! Although their hasn’t been much buzz about him lately, it is just a matter of time before MilB affiliates such as Baseball America start noticing him.
Does someone need to remind Al Davis that he is running a FOOTBALL TEAM and not a Track team? This past weekend’s draft just reaffirms my belief that the Oakland Raider’s (no, not the win-less Detroit Lions) are the biggest laughing stock in all of sports. After the coaching merry-go-round, which has plagued that organization for years, culminated in the firing of Lane Kiffin last year, the Raiders have done absolutely nothing to slow the staggering and depressing decline of their once historic franchise.
Al Davis (owner of the Raiders), once a professional football coach and commissioner of the AFL, refuses to admit that the game has passed him by; his dictatorial control over the organization is in exact correlation with the decline of this once proud football establishment. His lack of current football knowledge has been none the more noticeable than in the 2009 NFL draft where the Raiders selected wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey with the 7th overall pick. Although Michael Crabtree (the consensus best wide receiver in the draft) was still on the board, Davis decided to go with the guy who had the better 40 yard dash time, despite the fact that the rest of his game is VERY raw; he was considered by nearly everyone to be the 3rd best WR prospect in the draft, behind both Crabtree and Missouri wide out Jeremy Macklin…. If that pick wasn’t bad enough, their 2nd pick may have been even worse: They selected Ohio (not Ohio State…) safety Mike Mitchell with the 15th pick in the 2nd round….Most considered Mitchell to be a borderline prospect at best (6th or 7th round selection at best), but of course Mitchell’s raw speed caught Davis’s eye , and thus Mitchell became a second rounder.
Its hard to fathom how a man like Davis can still exist in today’s sports world; yet he remains, a broken down figure from a forgotten sports era, slowly losing the respect he spent 70 years to gain. Sometimes, when looking at the Raiders, twisted and disfigured, I almost want to cry instead of laugh…..almost.
Frame: 6,3 180 lbs
Stuff: Four seam fastball (94-99 MPH consistently, plus plus pitch), Curveball (promising), and a Changeup (improving).
The Past: The Atlanta Braves signed Neftali at the age of 17 out of the Dominican Republic during the 2005 season. After two short stints in RC ball with the Braves, Feliz was traded (with a few other prospects) to the Texas Rangers through the 2007 Mark Teixera deal. In 2008, Feliz broke out posting a 2.69 ERA with a 10.8 SO/9 ratio through two levels in the minors (ending up with the Rangers AA affiliate Frisco). Neftali skyrocketed up many scout’s top 100 lists, and is universally considered one of the top 10 prospects in all of baseball. His Fastball may be considered as the most intimidating pitch in the minors as a whole. The scary thing is that Neftali still has a lot of projection…his curve and changeup both have a good amount of potential, which, coupled with his fastball, could make him almost unstoppable. His mechanics are smooth and clean, and he has good makeup.
The Present: Neftali found himself starting the year, surprisingly, with the Rangers AAA affiliate Oklahoma City. Through two starts Feliz has a 2.00 ERA with a 9/8 SO/BB ratio. His command has been a bit off, but he has shown good poise allowing only 2 ER through nine innings pitched.
The Future: Like his fellow AAA teammate Derek Holland, Neftali should find himself in the majors somtime during the 2009 season, likely in the bullpen. The Rangers will likely call him up sooner rather than later as their pitching has been struggling in the young season while they offense has played great; many beleive that the Rangers are a few good arms away from a serious playoff run.