February 2013

From Fort Wayne to the Major Leagues

Getting ready for the season requires some retrospective of years past, and part of that is looking at the all-time roster of the Fort Wayne franchise. According to our records, there have been 670 players that have ever put on either a Wizards or TinCaps uniform, which averages out to 33.5 players on the roster per season. I think that other half-player showed up in our Harlem Shake video

Just a pair of legs in the back of the video...

Just a pair of legs in the back of the video…

From that all-time roster, with the help of TinCaps radio broadcaster Mike Maahs and 2013 TinCaps broadcasting and media relations assistant John Nolan (more on him later this week), I’ve compiled a list of Fort Wayne alumni that have gone on to play Major League Baseball. Some nuggets from the list of 111 players:

-The first Wizards player to reach the majors was LaTroy Hawkins, who debuted on April 29, 1995 with the Minnesota Twins. He is now 40 years old and recently signed a minor league deal with the Mets.

-The first TinCaps player to reach the major leagues was Mat Latos, on July 19, 2009, with the Padres, after having made his last appearance in Fort Wayne on May 18th of that same year.

-24 former players made their major league debut with the Twins

-55 former players made their major league debut with the Padres

-Other teams where alums have debuted include Seattle (5), Baltimore (2), Boston (2), Chicago-AL (2),  Milwaukee (2), New York-AL (2), Pittsburgh (2),  St. Louis (2), Tampa Bay (2), Arizona (1),  Chicago-NL (1),  Colorado (1), Detroit (1), Houston (1), Kansas City (1), Los Angeles-AL (1), Los Angeles-NL (1),  New York-NL (1), Oakland (1), and San Francisco (1).

-The list includes two World Series MVPs in David Freese and David Eckstein

-Justin Germano, who threw a perfect game for the Triple-A Columbus Clippers

-Javier Valentin, brother of TinCaps Manager Jose Valentin, who once hit a home run from both sides of the plate as a member of the Wizards

-A near-Midwest League batting champion in Sean Burroughs, who hit a ridiculous .359 with the Wizards in 1999. Somehow, South Bend’s Carlos Urquiola hit .362 that year to win the title. Burroughs also hit the game-winning single in the first game ever played at the Padres’ PETCO Park.

-2012 National League Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Winner Chase Headley

-Retired pitcher, author, radio host and Tweeter Dirk Hayhurst

-Incredible comeback success story Steve Delabar

Here’s the full list of former Fort Wayne players who have appeared in a Major League Baseball game:

graph

We’re now just 43 days away from first pitch here at Parkview Field, and 36 days from the TinCaps’ first game of 2013, when they play the Great Lakes Loons up in Midland, Michigan.

Stay tuned to the blog this Friday, when you’ll hear from 2013 TinCaps Broadcasting and Media Relations Assistant John Nolan, who will be on all 70 home radio broadcasts with Mike Maahs this season.

———-

Last month I wrote a blog post asking you for some of your favorite memories of players to have come though Fort Wayne, and I promised that I’d include those responses in a future blog post. This is that blog post. Here was the response on Facebook:

untitled

That’s a pretty good range right there from Cuddyer, who played in Fort Wayne in 1998, and Rymer Liriano, who was named Midwest League MVP in 2011. Unfortunately, Liriano will sit out this year after having Tommy John surgery.

The responses in the comment section on the blog were even more recent. Kristin Jackson wrote:

“Travis Whitmore should be recognized- he did great all season for the Tincaps. We really enjoyed being his host family- he’s a great guy who comes from a fantastic family. We are thankful to be a part of his journey while he is living his dream.”

Angela said:

“Cody Hebner doing the “dougie” at multiple games! My son loves that kid! Also Daniel Cropper came in and had a great season. He made our summer the best ever. He always left tickets for my son to attend all the home games.”

That’s one of the fun parts of going to a TinCaps game–you just never know which player you’re watching on a summer night will end up on a major league roster one day. On average across baseball, only two players from any given roster will ever see time in an MLB game. Fort Wayne’s rate has been great through the years, with an average of 5.5 players from every team seeing time in a big league uniform.

———-

As always, thanks for reading.

If you’d like to get in touch, you can reach me via email (Couzens@TinCaps.com) or on Twitter @MikeCouzens.

MCsig

Prospect Previews: Week Four

We are getting closer and closer to Opening Day 2013, with just 45 days standing between you, me, and the first “Play Ball” at Parkview Field this year. It’s starting to feel like baseball season around the TinCaps offices, too. The phones are constantly chirping, the coffee is always brewing and the anticipating is building. There’s a much different aura once February hits–but it’s a comfortable and familiar one. Each day during the baseball season is like riding an old wooden roller coaster; it starts with a slow climb and eventually takes you all the way to the top of the on a creaky car  that rattles your nerves and seemingly takes forever to hit the peak.  Then you go down the hill for excitement (that’s the game), with the wind gushing in your face and your hands uncontrollably flailing in the air. Eventually, three or so hours later (fortunately roller coaster rides don’t last that long, otherwise they’d have to provide a barf bag), you are in the decrescendo and nearing the end of the ride. You’ve had an emotional and physical journey, but crave more. Fortunately in Minor League Baseball, there is no line for the next ride. Another game is but a good night’s sleep away.

I had the privilege of speaking to the Fort Wayne Rotaract group this past week, and gave them a tour of Parkview Field. Believe it or not, it was the first formal tour of the facility that I’d given in almost a year in Fort Wayne. I’ve certainly expended lots of breath talking about the park and spent plenty of time showing folks the press box, but I’d never shared the guts of the stadium or taken anyone out into the dugout for the first time. Here’s the thing about giving tours: I get to see every part of the park whenever I want to. I work here. The people that are on that tour may have never been up to the suite level before and have never seen the TinCaps clubhouse. It’s a new and exciting experience for each and every person, and I have to keep that in mind when I give a detail that I think might be insignificant, like the amount of money players get per day for food when they’re on the road. Like when a child visits Disney World and thinks he or she is really meeting Mickey Mouse, there’s a first-time curiosity with stepping out into the dugout for folks, even if it is half covered in drifting snow and it’s 7:00 and too dark to see the outfield wall.  It’s fun to see and thrilling to share.

Speaking to the Fort Wayne Rotaract group. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Redding.

Speaking to the Fort Wayne Rotaract group. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Redding.

WAR is the Answer

OK, well not in the sense you may think. We’re talking about the baseball term “Wins Above Replacement”. Please stop typing whatever angry email you were writing to me.

There’s a great article on ESPN.com that talks about WAR, and how it’s a necessary statistic in today’s era when it comes to understanding the value of each baseball player:

“Fight it if you like, but baseball has become too complicated to solve without science. Every rotation of every pitch is measured now. Every inch that a baseball travels is measured now. Teams that used to get mocked for using spreadsheets now rely on databases packed with precise location and movement of every player on every play — and those teams are the norm, not the film-inspiring exceptions. This is exciting and it’s terrifying.” 

The author, Sam Miller, does an excellent job of explaining, for those of us unfamiliar with baseball’s advanced stats, what exactly WAR is:

“A single baseball at-bat is magnificently complex, a single game exponentially more so, a team’s season more than that and a player’s career more than that. WAR uses the most advanced available data to measure, in each area of performance, how many runs a major league player saved or produced relative to a consistent baseline: the runs likely saved or produced by an average minor leaguer called up as a hypothetical “replacement.” It expresses those runs as wins — about 10 runs to one win — and calls it a player’s “worth” over a year. It takes all of baseball’s amazing intricacy and sums it up in a number.”

Perhaps the most eye-opening comparison Miller makes is between David Eckstein and Miguel Tejada, and how WAR shows them to be of nearly equal value:

“The mainstream story about Eckstein — he’s small and not technically very good, but boy does he have grit — was told through adjectives, not facts. At the media-criticism site Fire Joe Morgan, there was a David Eckstein category comprising 20 separate posts on Eckstein hagiographies. That’s nearly 12,000 (hysterical) words mocking the reporters who celebrated the plucky Eckstein despite his weak arm, punchless bat and general failure to be athletic.

Now, here’s the twist: David Eckstein was actually very valuable, and it had nothing to do with the adjectives. In 2002 Eckstein (WAR of 4.4, according to analytics-based website FanGraphs) was almost as good as Miguel Tejada (WAR of 4.7), who won the AL MVP award that year. Tejada hit 34 home runs and drove in 131. But Eckstein was nearly his equal while driving in 63 and taking a running start every time he threw to first. How? WAR, and the components that it comprises, tells us:

 1. Eckstein let himself get hit by 27 pitches, giving him a better OBP than Tejada and blunting Tejada’s power advantage.

2 . Eckstein hit into a third as many double plays.

3. Eckstein was actually a good defensive shortstop with more range than Tejada and more success turning double plays.

A writer who wanted to praise Eckstein, then, could have made some assumptions about Eckstein based on his height, weight and skin color (white), collected some flattering athlete-cliche quotes from Eckstein’s teammates and flipped through his thesaurus looking for new words — thaumaturgical! leptosome! — to describe the little guy. Or he could have started with WAR and explained how David Eckstein, ballplayer, was good at playing ball.”

You’ve probably never thought of Eckstein and Tejada as possible equals, right? There’s so much that I don’t understand about WAR and advanced baseball statistics, but that area of the game is something that I am going to learn more about this year. I may not incorporate those numbers into my broadcasts, but I do want to know more about how numbers can help explain what happens on the field. The days of “only nerds use advanced numbers” and “I’m not a computers guy” are gone. I agree with Miller. This is the future.

Bonus: Here’s the ESPN The Magazine podcast where Miller talks more in-depth about his article: http://espn.go.com/espnradio/play?id=8972646

———-

Onto Week Four of our Prospect Previews series. If you’re just joining us, here are the first three weeks:

Week One (Brian Adams, Corey Adamson, Brandon Alger, Jeremy Baltz, Cory Bostjancic)

Week Two (Erik Cabrera, Felix Cabrera, Stephen Carmon, Matt Chabot, Joe Church)

Week Three (Rodney Daal, Jose Dore, Zach Eflin, Max Fried, Jalen Goree)

Prospect-Preview-2013

Justin Hancock

It was former Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O’Neill who coined the phrase “All politics is local”, which  means that the success of a politician is tied to his or her ability to deal with constituent issues.  The more local focus, the better. In 2012, that morphed into “All baseball is local” as Fort Wayne not only had Matt Wisler (Bryan, Ohio) but Justin Hancock, from Defiance, Ohio, which is just an hour away from the ballpark. The presence of those two players provided a lot of interest within the region, because instead of having to travel to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, or Bowling Green, Kentucky, the players’ families and friends could make a day trip out of seeing a TinCaps game.

Hancock, a ninth-round pick out of Lincoln Trail Junior College (IL) in 2011, opened the season with Fort Wayne. He didn’t have great success in a TinCaps uniform, but that doesn’t mean his whole year was a wash. Here are the splits:

Fort Wayne (April 5-May 28) 0-4, 6.95 ERA, 13 games, 2 starts, 33 2/3 IP, 44H, 31R, 26 ER, 20 BB, 23 K, .312 BAA

Eugene (June 17-August 30) 5-1, 1.61 ERA, 15 games, 14 starts, 72 2/3 IP, 52H, 17R, 13 ER, 23 BB, 66 K, .203 BAA

His numbers at Eugene were stupendous. He gave up only eight more hits in 39 more innings and 13 fewer earned runs. Here’s what Eugene Emeralds broadcaster Matt Dompe had to say about Hancock:

 Pitching coach Nelson Cruz raved about Hancock all year long.  He has four pitches of which Cruz already rated three of them as big league caliber.  He is a big guy and a quick worker.  When Hancock was able to get into a groove he was pretty much lights out allowing one run or less in 12 of his 15 outings.

Justin Hancock pitches for the TinCaps in 2012. Photo courtesy Brad Hand.

Justin Hancock pitches for the TinCaps in 2012. Photo courtesy Brad Hand.

MadFriars.com’s John Conniff, who has covered the Padres farm system for several seasons and made a trip to Fort Wayne last summer, named Hancock his pitcher of the year in Eugene:

While I like FIP, like all statistics, it measures some things better than others; specifically it will undervalue a pitcher like Justin Hancock who thrives on mishits to induce weak ground outs. The opposition only hit .203 against him as compared to .280 against Marcano and Hancock gave up significantly fewer hits (52) than innings pitched as compared to David’s choice. After posting an ERA of 4.26 in June, Hancock’s ERA in July and August (60 innings) was 1.05. A big factor in his improvement was his ability to master the two-seam fastball that enabled him to have the success that eluded him in Fort Wayne earlier in the year.

Bonus question: The 2012 TinCaps players, at some point, decided that I was a dead ringer for Hancock. Thoughts?

18-Hancock_Justin HS 01MC

Chris Haney

We didn’t get to see much of Chris Haney during 2012 because he pitched in only three games in a TinCaps uniform, and struggled during the time he was here. Haney’s 2012 TinCaps stats were:

0-2, 15.75 ERA, 3G, 4IP, 9H, 8R, 7ER, 4BB, 8K

He did a lot of travel last season, beginning the year with Advanced-A Lake Elsinore, coming to Fort Wayne, and then being sent, on the day of the Midwest League All-Star game, to Eugene. Haney will be a bit on the older side of the Midwest League spectrum when the season starts at 24 years old,  and may open the year with Lake Elsinore, but it all depends on how rosters shake out and how minor league camp goes next month.

Drew Harrelson

This past weekend I was in Cedar Falls, Iowa, to broadcast a basketball game at the University of Northern Iowa. My broadcast partner for that game, former college basketball coach Rich Zvosec, said he got one of the greatest presents ever…when he was fired from his job at the University of Missouri-Kansas City on his birthday. That’s definitely a story you should read about. But someone else who got a more classically exciting birthday present is Padres farmhand Drew Harrelson, who was selected by the Padres the day before his birthday in the 12th round of the draft last summer.

The Nashville, Georgia, native turned 18 last June and made his professional debut with the rookie-level Arizona League Padres, pitching in 10 games out of the bullpen. In 11 innings, he struck out eight, walked six and allowed seven earned runs.

Here’s some background on Harrelson, courtesy of The Valdosta Daily Times:

Harrelson is a 6-foot-6, 180-pound left-handed pitcher with a fastball that has been consistently clocked between 87-89 mph. When he worked out for the Philadelphia Phillies earlier this year, he reached 93 mph on the radar gun three times.

Last season, he went 9-1 with a 2.49 earned run average for Berrien. He set the Rebels’ single-season record with 109 strikeouts, while facing just 307 batters. He was chosen the Region 1-AA Pitcher of the Year for the second consecutive season. He also helped the Rebels win the Region 1-AA championship.

“We’re very proud of Drew,” Berrien head coach Doug Nix said. “Any time you get a kid drafted, that’s a great honor. As a young boy growing up and playing, that’s always your dream. Every kid has that dream of one day playing Major League Baseball. To be drafted out of high school, it’s just a great honor and a dream come true, one that I’m sure he’s worked towards all his life.”

The Berrien High School program seems to have had a run on talent the last few years, with the Phillies having selected Harrelson’s former teammate Larry Greene, who played for the Williamsport CrossCutters on the New York-Penn League last year, in the supplemental first round of the 2011 draft.

Harrelson turned down a scholarship to Middle Georgia College to sign with San Diego.

Goose Kallunki

Best name ever?

Maybe.

Kallunki was a strong competitor in the annual “Moniker Madness” competition held by Minor League Baseball, losing in the second round to eventual champion Rock Shoulders. Seriously, that’s someone’s name. There’s no question Kallunki will be back for more in 2013 in that competition.

Let’s put the baseball on hold here for a second…how did he get that name?

Great story there from KVAL-TV, which tells us that Maclain Kallunki received the nickname “Goose” because his father liked it and it came from baseball Hall of Famer Goose Gossage.

Kallunki had a big summer in 2012, being named one of three finalists for the Dick Howser Award (college baseball’s  Heisman trophy), and then being drafted in the 27th round by San Diego. He went to Eugene, playing exclusively at first base, and hit .254 with two home runs and 13 RBI in 53 games.  We’ve already noted that Jose Dore could be a contender for the first base spot, so there’s possibly a decision to be made when the TinCaps break camp.

Michael Kelly

Last year Michael Kelly was selected in the supplemental first round (48th overall) by the Padres out of high school in Florida, and rated by Baseball America as the 27th-best prospect in the organization. He was taken out of West Boca Raton Community High school and turned down a scholarship from the University of Florida to go pro.

Seinfeld side note: Whenever I see or hear “Boca Raton”, I always think of Jerry Seinfeld’s parents on the TV show, who lived in the fictional Del Boca Vista, Florida.

Michael Kelly pitches for the TinCaps in 2012. Photo by Brad Hand.

Michael Kelly pitches for the TinCaps in 2012. Photo by Brad Hand.

Oh, baseball…right.

Well, Kelly struggled mightily in a TinCaps uniform to being the season last year, with walks being his biggest issue. In 14 1/3 innings, he walked 18 batters and struck out 14. He also allowed 18 hits and 12 earned runs. Kelly was with Fort Wayne from Opening Day until his last appearance on May 2nd. He finished the year with the Arizona League Padres and was able to significantly correct his walk numbers. In the AZL, he was 0-5 with a 7.11 ERA (35ER in 44 1/3 IP), but struck out 37 and walked just 25.

There seems to be no question that the stuff is there–a very strong fastball, among other qualities–it was just a matter of settling down and finding location in year one for Kelly. He’s 6’5″, 185, a good height for a pitcher,  and will be just 21 on opening day this year. Kelly might find himself getting a second chance with the TinCaps this season.

———-

BONUS

I’ve received a few emails asking about the TinCaps in spring training, so here’s a look at the Padres minor league spring training schedule:

March 1 – Pitchers & Catchers report

March 8 – Position Players report

March 10 – First full-squad workout

March 15- First game

March 30 – Last game

March 31 – Camp breaks

Games (All are 1:00 local time)

Friday, March 15 at Kansas City (Surprise, AZ)

Saturday, March 16 at Texas (Surprise, AZ)

Sunday March 18 at Los Angeles-NL (Peoria, AZ)

Monday March, 18 vs. Seattle (Peoria, AZ)

Tuesday, March 19 at Texas (Surprise, AZ)

Wednesday, March 20 vs. Milwaukee (Peoria, AZ)

Friday, March 22 vs. Seattle (Peoria, AZ)

Saturday, March 23 at Kansas City (Surprise, AZ)

Sunday, March 24 at Los Angeles-NL (Glendale, AZ)

Monday, March 25 vs. Seattle (Peoria, AZ)

Wednesday, March 27 vs. Texas (Peoria, AZ)

Thursday, March 28 at Seattle (Peoria, AZ)

Friday, March 29 vs. Seattle (Peoria, AZ)

Saturday, March 30 at Los Angeles-NL (Glendale, AZ)

———-

As always, thanks for reading.

If you’d like to get in touch, you can reach me via email (Couzens@TinCaps.com) or on Twitter @MikeCouzens.

I’ll be back next week with the fifth segment of this eight-part series.

MCsig

Prospect Previews: Week Three

Today, Monday, February 18, 2013 is a day many people do not have to work. It is the birthday of George Washington, our first president. It is also a holiday that celebrates many of our presidents. I have taken deliberate measures to avoid the use of an apostrophe in these first few sentences, and even in naming the holiday at all. For this, I turn to Wikipedia:

“Because Presidents Day is not the official name of the federal holiday, there is variation in how it is rendered. Both Presidents Day and Presidents’ Day are common today, and both are considered correct by dictionaries and usage manuals. Presidents’ Day was once the predominant style, and it is still favored by the majority of significant authorities—notably, The Chicago Manual of Style (followed by most book publishers and some magazines), The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Webster’s Third International Dictionary, and Garner’s Modern American Usage. In recent years, as the use of attributive nouns (nouns acting as modifiers) has become more widespread, the popularity of “Presidents Day” has increased. This style is favored by the Associated Press Stylebook (followed by most newspapers and some magazines) and the Writer’s Digest Grammar Desk Reference (ISBN 978-1582973357).

President’s Day is a misspelling when used with the intention of celebrating more than one individual (see also apostrophe); however, as an alternate rendering of “Washington’s Birthday,” or as denominating the commemoration of the presidency as a singular institution, it is a proper spelling of a possessive. Indeed, this spelling was considered for use as the official federal designation by Robert McClory, a congressman from Illinois who was tasked with getting the 1968 federal holiday reorganization bill through the House Judiciary Committee. Nonetheless, while Washington’s Birthday was originally established to honor George Washington, the term Presidents Day was informally coined in a deliberate attempt to use the holiday to honor multiple presidents, and is virtually always used that way today. Though President’s Day is sometimes seen in print — even sometimes on government Web sites, this style is not endorsed by any major dictionary or usage authority.” (Emphasis added by It’s All Relative)

The official name of the holiday which some of us celebrate today is Washington’s Birthday. For all that I was told in college about not using Wikipedia as a source, I’m perfectly comfortable with citing these two above paragraphs to make a point about grammar. Many people will see today as an occasion to get laundry or errands done, but why not throw in a little learning, too? Thank you, Washington and Wikipedia.

Back to sports…

Before we get to week three of our Prospect Previews, a quick recap of a trip I took these past few days with the IPFW men’s basketball team. I was filling in for my friend (and TinCaps broadcast partner) Kent Hormann, playing the role of broadcaster for the Mastodons’ games against the Kangaroos of the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Coyotes (pronounced KYE-oats) of the University of South Dakota.

First was our stop in Kansas City, a nice place and also the home to the world’s oldest waterbed store. No, seriously:

The other side of the sign makes the same claim for futons. College students everywhere are rejoicing.

The other side of the sign makes the same claim for futons. College students everywhere are rejoicing.

These are the types of things you’ll find on a quest for a Radio Shack. Lesson: Never forget AA batteries.

Here’s where the Mastodons (head coach Tony Jasick is in the black shirt) practiced and played against UMKC. IPFW won, 65-60. It’s a small facility, but it gets the job done.

This is the Swinney Recreation Center at UMKC. It's also the Roos' home court.

This is the Swinney Recreation Center at UMKC. It’s also the Roos’ home court.

After this game, it was off to Vermillion, South Dakota, about a five-hour bus ride from Kansas City. I hadn’t been on a bus ride that long since the end of baseball season, so it was a nice way to get myself used to being on a bus again before we start the 2013 TinCaps campaign. We stopped to eat in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and let me tell you that Sam’s Italian Villa is the hidden gem of Council Bluffs. The chicken parm sandwich is a delicacy. Next time you’re there, tell them I sent you.

Odd travel note: For the entirety of the 2012 baseball season, I sat on the right side of the team bus. Bus seating is a bit like seating in a college classroom; once you pick your seat, that’s what your stuck with, for better or worse, for the entire year. I always slept with my bus pillow on my right side and that was comfortable. On this trip from Kansas City to Vermillion I sat on the left and it was something else. I just couldn’t get used to it. Back to the right side for the baseball season. It might seem like a little detail, but with the amount of sleep that takes place on the bus, it’s a huge detail.

Friday dinner took place at Little Italy’s in Vermillion:

Perhaps Little Italy's (never got to meet him) is the cultural mecca of Vermillion on a Friday night--I can't be sure. But a decent crowd gathered to watch these two gents attempt to eat this giant pizza.

Perhaps Little Italy’s (never got to meet him) is the cultural mecca of Vermillion on a Friday night–I can’t be sure. But a decent crowd gathered to watch these two gents attempt to eat this giant pizza.

If you and a friend can eat that entire pizza in an hour, not only is the $40 meal free, but you also get $50. I snapped this photo as we were leaving, and it didn’t look like these guys were going to make it.

Saturday was game day, which meant a trip to the DakotaDome:

858831_4760942946370_1772657494_o

Vermillion’s 10,000 seat sporting venue is home to the Coyotes, not only for basketball, but for football, too. This is what the football turf looks like right now:

860684_4760944106399_89770789_o

And here’s a shot of the roof:

857809_4760943906394_930929007_o

Unlike the roof of the Carrier Dome at my alma mater, Syracuse University, the roof of the DakotaDome is not entirely supported by air pressure. It was built in 1979, but the roof collapsed twice within the first three years. The structure is now entirely supported by metal, meaning there are no worries about all of the air escaping from the building.

Here was my broadcast position for the game:

2013-02-16_18-24-59_460

If you replace the hand-written chart with a filled-out scorebook, you’ve got pretty much the same setup for baseball, too.

All in all, it was a fun trip because the Mastodons went 2-0 and I got to check South Dakota off my list of states visited. I’ll be calling more basketball on a return trip to Iowa this coming Saturday the 23rd for ESPN’s BracketBusters, as Denver takes on Northern Iowa. You can catch the game on WatchESPN.com Saturday night.

To baseball…

We are into week three of our prospect previews series, and this week we’ll look at Rodney Daal, Jose Dore, Zach Eflin, Max Fried, and Jalen Goree. If you’ve missed either of the first two weeks here’s week one and week two.

Prospect-Preview-2013

Rodney Daal

2012 was the year of the catcher as far as prospects went for the TinCaps, with the much-heralded Austin Hedges playing 96 of a possible 140 games behind the plate. Much of the buzz about Hedges revolved around his defensive prowess and later, his hitting talent. Observers also were impressed that Hedges was only 19 for a majority of the season. If Rodney Daal is to play with the TinCaps in 2013, the team will have yet another young backstop.

Daal, a native of Amsterdam (the Netherlands, not New York or Missouri), is 18 years old as of this writing and will turn 19 on March 23rd.  In two years in the Padres system, he’s still only seem limited action, playing in 25 games in 2011 and 42 games in 2012. He hit .243 with the Arizona League Padres in 2011, also playing in one game with Triple-A Tucson, and then last year split his season between the AZL Padres and the Eugene Emeralds. Daal, in the 2013 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, is listed fourth on the minor league depth chart behind Hedges, Jason Hagerty and Dane Philips. By all indications, Daal is still young, raw and getting acclimated to the professional game in the United States.

Here’s what Eugene Emeralds broadcaster Matt Dompe had to say of Daal after last season:

“Daal was a good catch and release defensive catcher but did have trouble blocking balls in the dirt.  He has plans to work this winter with Yankees catcher Russell Martin so it will be very interesting to see how he progresses into next year.”

No word on whether Daal did work out with Martin, but he would certainly be a good pro to learn from. The Padres had Daal as a member of their instructional league corps following last season, too. With the AZL Padres last year Daal hit .306 in 21 games and .288 in 21 games with Eugene.

Jose Dore

When the first batch of 25 players arrived in Fort Wayne to begin last  season, it took me a few days to be able to match names to faces and to discern personalities. With Jose Dore, however, that process was a little bit easier than with most. After the team had dinner with their host families at the field that first night in town, I needed a few volunteers to help film a video and Dore was one of the first to volunteer. As we shot the video, which took a few hours, he kept everyone loose with a good attitude and good humor (sadly, no Choco Tacos). Unfortunately for Dore, he only played in three games with the TinCaps during 2012 because of a dislocated left shoulder he suffered on April 7th against Lake County.

With the TinCaps trailing, 9-1, in the bottom of the ninth inning, Dore singled to lead off the inning and then tried to steal second, but was thrown out. I remember being down in the dugout, waiting to do a postgame interview at the time, and watching Dore walk to the locker room with trainer Isak Yoon. Dore was hunched at the waist, grimacing in pain, and holding his left elbow, but really supporting his shoulder. We did not see him again at Parkview Field in 2012. He played in four more games with the Arizona League Padres and two with the Eugene Emeralds, and only had 33 at-bats for the season.

Last year was supposed to be a transition year for the native Floridian who signed out of high school in 2010, and was attempting to become a first baseman after having played the outfield for the first two years of his career. A return to Fort Wayne to begin the season wouldn’t be out of the question, at least to start the year, for Dore.

Zach Eflin

The most consistent buzz from around the Padres system that I keep hearing about the 2013 TinCaps is about the pitching rotation. There’s a strong possibility, sources tell TinCaps.com’s Mike Couzens, that the pitching staff could include names like Walker Weickel, Max Fried, Joe Ross and Zach Eflin. All were taken in either the first round (Ross ’11, Fried ’12) or supplemental first round (Weickel ’12, Eflin ’12). The 19-year-0ld Eflin (he’ll turn 20 on April 8th) was taken with the 33rd overall pick, given to San Diego as compensation for when Heath Bell signed with the Miami Marlins. (Bell has since been traded to Arizona, meaning he’ll face his former team much more often this season.)

Eflin is listed at 6″4″, 200 pounds and in his senior season at Hagerty High School in Ovideo, Florida, he went 7-0 with a 0.51 ERA. He didn’t pitch last April due to triceps tendinitis, and Baseball America says, “if not for the injury he might have been a first-round pick.” That said, going 33rd overall and signing for $1.2 million isn’t bad, either. His post-draft action was understandably limited, as he worked just seven innings over four Arizona League appearances. He struck out four, walked three and allowed six earned runs.

Baseball America calls his changeup “above average” and says he consistently throws strikes in the low 90’s. Consistency is one of the biggest keys to success in the Midwest League, especially when it comes to attacking the strike zone.

Worth reading is this piece from the Orlando Sentinelwhich details the rough childhood endured by Eflin. Here’s an exerpt:

“My family means the world to me,” said Eflin, who signed with UCF. “I wouldn’t be on this Earth without every single one of them.”

Eflin was barely more than a year old when two tragedies struck his family.

Zach’s grandfather, William Adams, died in October 1995. Two weeks later, his 7-year-old sister, Ashley, died of complications relating to leukemia.

“The one thing I can take out of it is that the worst thing that could have happened to my life has already happened,” said Larry Eflin, Zach’s father.

Those hardships led Cathy, Zach’s mother, to start drinking, and she battled alcohol addiction for several years.

“It was a tough situation to live through, and I wasn’t as strong as I would have wanted to be,” Cathy said.

Cathy and Larry are divorced, and Zach said he has a “very weak” relationship with his mother, talking to her once every couple of weeks.

Max Fried

Tell me if this sounds familiar–a first-round pick of the Padres, committed to UCLA, from California tall, lanky pitcher…well, if you follow the TinCaps, you’ll bring to mind Joe Ross, who started with Fort Wayne in 2012. That description also fits another pitcher who might find himself in a TinCaps uniform in 2013, and his name is Max Fried.

Ross’ last start in a Fort Wayne uniform was May 4th (sore shoulder), so if Fried opens the year here we’ll hope to see him injury-free, and potentially anchoring a very young, very talented staff.  Here’s the book on Fried:

Baseball America: “A quality fastball, operating in the low 90’s and peaking at 96…(His) downer curveball is a plus-plus pitch at its best.”

“Exceptionally gifted for a high school lefthander and could speed through the minors in the same fashion as Cole Hamels and Clayton Kershaw.”

Now let’s just see how quickly both Hamels and Kershaw went through the minor leagues. Hamels was drafted 17th overall in 2002 by the Phillies and made his MLB debut on May 12, 2006. He pitched just 201 innings in the minors before making the big leagues, and appeared in just 13 games at the Low-A level with Lakewood of the South Atlantic League. Kershaw was drafted 7th overall in 2006 and made his MLB debut on May 25th, 2008. He had almost a full year in the Midwest League, going 7-5 with a 2.77 ERA with the Loons in 2007. Overall, Kershaw had 220 1/3 innings in the minors.

For comparison, I randomly selected John Lackey of the Boston Red Sox so that we could observe how long, relatively speaking, it took him to get to the majors. Lackey was a second round pick of the Angels in 1999 and made his MLB debut June 24, 2002, tossing 556 innings in the minors before appearing in his first big league game. Kershaw never pitched at Triple-A, Hamels made three starts for the then Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons (now RailRiders!), while Lackey pitched parts of two seasons a Triple-A. In summary, most guys don’t speed through to MLB in about 200 innings, even if they end up having a sustained career like Lackey.

Back to Fried, who last season went 0-1 with a 3.57 ERA and six walks in 17 2/3 innings during 10 games (nine starts) for the Padres’ rookie team.

Of playing at a new level, Fried told Padres.com:  “It’s just a matter of adjusting to the lifestyle of playing professional baseball, every day and the grind.” Towards the end, I really focused on not walking anyone and throwing strikes.”

Fried pitched his senior season at Harvard-Westlake High School in California, where he was a teammate of Lucas Giloito (16th overall pick), who was selected in the draft by the Washington Nationals.

Baseball America says he will “probably” begin the year in Fort Wayne.

Jalen Goree

If you like speed, chances are you’ll like watching Jalen Goree. All accounts say that he’s a guy who can move on the basepaths and his accolades coming out of Alabama indicate he’s a talent. Goree, a sixth-round pick of the Padres last June, was named the Class-4A Player of the Year for the state of Alabama:

“Goree was picked for the All-State first team as a shortstop. 

Goree hit .459 and drove in 36 runs during his senior season and led the Choctaws to the second round of the Class 4A playoffs. He had 10 doubles, two triples and seven home runs and stole 24 bases. Goree drew 39 walks and struck out only seven times in 122 at-bats.

As a pitcher, Goree posted a 5-3 record with a 1.67 ERA. He struck out 58 batters in 5413 innings and threw one shutout.”

Let’s go Choctaws!

Goree is from Brent, Alabama, population 4,024. Fort Wayne (pop. ~250,000) might take some getting used to, but I’m sure he’ll have no trouble adjusting. Last season with the rookie-level Arizona League Padres, he hit .270 with one home run and 13 RBI in 30 games. He then wrapped up his first season as a pro in instructional league in Arizona. The Padres took him as a shortshop, and he could be the 2013 successor to Jace Peterson in the six-hole this season.

SPECIAL GUEST

Today we’ll get a Padres perspective from Jim Callis of Baseball America. During one of his recent web Q&A sessions, he answered this question about his ranking of the San Diego farm system:

Was there a typing error when you didn't include the Padres in your top 10 farm systems in the last Ask BA? They seem to be loaded good prospects and I would have thought that they at least would crack the top 10 of anyone's list.

Dustin Beers
Winnipeg, Calif.

I say this a lot, and I’ll repeat it again: Except for the very best and worst farm systems, it’s hard to know exactly where they’ll rank until I sit down and start stacking them all up against each other. In my mind, I thought the Padres had one of the best systems in baseball. But when I started looking at all the systems, San Diego wasn’t as impressive as I thought.

I do think the Padres have one of the deeper systems around, but their Top 10 list pales in comparision to several others. I love the ceiling of 2012 first-rounder Max Fried, the best high school lefthander since Clayton Kershaw, and Austin Hedges is the third-best catching prospect in the game. Jedd Gyorko is one of the better hitters in the minors, though he’s defensively challenged.

But three members of our yet-to-be-released Padres Top 10 are pitchers who had elbow issues in 2012: Robbie Erlin, Casey Kelly and Joe Wieland. Neither Erlin nor Wieland has overpowering stuff to begin with. I don’t want to reveal the whole Top 10, but the back half of it didn’t stand out.

I wound up ranking the Padres 17th on my personal organization rankings. I put that list together before the Blue Jays gave up catcher Travis d’Arnaud and righthander Noah Syndegaard in the R.A. Dickey trade, so I’d move San Diego up a notch now. The three other editors who ranked systems for the 2013 Prospect Handbook put the Padres at 13th, 16th and 19th, so I wasn’t alone in keeping them out of my top 10 systems.

———-

As always, thanks for reading.

If you’d like to get in touch, you can reach me via email (Couzens@TinCaps.com) or on Twitter @MikeCouzens.

I’ll be back next week with the fourth segment of this eight-part series.

MCsig

Prospect Previews: Week Two

A good portion of what I do during the off-season revolves around my appearances for the TinCaps Speakers Bureau. Last week I was down in Huntington, Indiana to speak to the Rotary Club, and one of the members, who happened to be sitting next to me, got up to tell a story before my presentation. He began to talk about Babe Ruth and how the Bambino had once played in Fort Wayne, long before anyone in the room was born. This Rotarian was telling the story of the longest home run that Ruth ever hit. Here, in a piece from the The News-Sentinel published in 1992 (which is miraculously archived online), is the anecdote of the homer that is said to have been launched here in downtown Fort Wayne:

“(Ruth) was here during a barn-storming tour after the 1927 season. His team was playing an exhibition game at the old League Park on North Clinton Street.

Ruth belted a ball over the left-center-field fence. The story says that the baseball landed on a freight train passing through town at the time.”

As a humorous appendix to that story, I found a great note at the Fort Wayne History Center, written by a gentleman name Frank Howserstein. He wrote to say that his father ran a hot dog stand at League Park, and on the day of that game his father sold six hot dogs and four Coca-Cola’s to Babe Ruth. We’ll never be able to confirm how far that home run really traveled or if Ruth really did consume that much food and drink that day, but they are fun stories that are a part of Fort Wayne’s baseball lore.

Speaking to the Huntington (IN) Rotary Club on February 5, 2013.

Speaking to the Huntington (IN) Rotary Club on February 5, 2013. Thanks to Club President Derek Dyer for the photo.

If you’d like to hear more stories like that one or learn more about the behind-the-scenes operations of the TinCaps, take a minute today to find out more about the TinCaps Speakers Bureau. This off-season I’ve traveled around Northeast Indiana and Northwest Ohio to speak to Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, and Optimist clubs and I’d love to spend some time sharing stories with your group. You can reach me via email – Couzens@TinCaps.com, or by phone at 260-482-6400.

Prospect-Preview-2013

And now for week two of our Prospect Previews series, in which I’ll tell you about five Padres farmhands that could end up on Fort Wayne’s Opening Day roster. Last week we looked at Brian Adams, Corey Adamson, Brandon Alger, Jeremy Baltz and Cory Bostjancic. Here’s week two:

Erik Cabrera

For a guy who had never pitched in the United States prior to this past August, Erik Cabrera did a pretty good job in the five regular-season starts he made for the TinCaps in 2012. While the numbers might not necessarily reflect it, Erik Cabrera has the talent to be a good pitcher at this level. I don’t claim to be able to prognosticate about his ability beyond the Midwest League, but what he showed last season indicated the potential for sustained success. Before arriving in Fort Wayne, he’d only pitched in the Dominican Summer League, so this was a big jump for him.

Let’s compare the numbers from his first two starts against those from his final three starts:

8/6/12 & 8/12/12:  8 2/3 IP, 11H, 11R, 8 ER, 3 HR, 3BB, 10K

8/19/12, 8/25/12, 8/31/12: 15 2/3 IP, 6H, 4R, 1ER, 7BB, 10K

It’s the one earned run in those final 15 2/3 innings that really stands out for me. He showed off a big, hooking curveball that fooled a lot of hitters. Cabrera was a participant in the Padres Instructional League activities at the conclusion of the season, and could be a good contributor here in 2013.

Overall 2012 Fort Wayne stats: 2-2, 3.33 ERA, 5 GS, 24 1/3 IP, 17H, 15 R, 9 ER, 20K, 10BB

Felix Cabrera

It’s not uncommon to have to players with the same last name end up on the same roster. After all, there are thousands of players across Minor League Baseball. But what’s the likelihood that the two are brothers? Well, that’s exactly the case when it comes to Erik and Felix Cabrera. Felix is Erik’s older brother. Erik was born August 15, 1990, and Felix was born July 14, 1989. And as far as I’m aware, there is no relation to Padres infielder Everth Cabrera (who, if you’re wondering, did not play in Fort Wayne).

Felix is an infielder who saw action in 18 games last year for the TinCaps, hitting .209, 1 HR, 4 RBI, while striking out 10 times and walking twice in 43 at-bats. He played in a reserve role behind Tyler Stubblefield at second base after being added to the roster on June 19–the same day Casey McElroy was transferred from Fort Wayne to Advanced-A Lake Elsinore.

Felix will have a couple factors to compete with if he ends up in Fort Wayne, the first of which is his age. He’ll be 23 to start the season and will turn 24 in July. Tyler Stubblefield, who manned second base for the TinCaps for the majority of the 2012 season, was 24 last season and was the oldest player on the roster, with the exception of the few weeks that 26-year-old Chris Fetter was with the club. The other factor for Cabrera is the inevitable grim reaper of pro sports–the fresh crop of younger guys ready to take your spot.

On the 2012 Eugene ballclub both Maxx Tissenbaum (with whom we will read about next month) and River Stevens (also next month) played 43 and 26 games, respectively, at second base. Tissenbaum was drafted in the 11th round and Stevens in the ninth, while Cabrera was signed as a free agent. This level of Minor League Baseball is all about development (seriously, just ask the manager of a team on a losing streak), and the younger guys will get their licks over a veteran.

Stephen Carmon

The goal for most players looking to come out of the collegiate ranks and get into pro baseball through the draft is to go before their senior season rolls around. The blog Minor League University explains why:

“Leverage is a junior draftee’s best friend – it’s the money maker. When negotiating a signing bonus, the organization must throw enough money at a junior to make it worth his while to leave school – forgoing his senior season, not to mention a college degree – and sign a professional contract.

The negotiation process can take weeks, even months if either side is stubborn, but rarely do you see a top junior prospect go unsigned. Leverage can only go so far – as insulted as he may be by the team’s offer, he knows it’s likely far more than he’ll get the following year as a senior


Unless you’re a top pick, seniors don’t get rich on Draft Day – they get anopportunity to get rich.

Teams don’t negotiate signing bonuses with seniors, they tell them. “Hey, we’re gonna draft you in the 32nd round. You’re gonna get $1000 and a plane ticket. Sound good? Welcome to the organization.” 

They offer you a chance to play baseball at the next level, and if you’re not interested, that’s ok – they’ll find someone who is.”

Stephen Carmon, next in our Prospect Previews series, was selected by the Padres in the 2012 draft after his senior season at the University of South Carolina-Aiken. The undergraduate population at the school is approximately 3,300 students. In comparison, the average TinCaps crowd last year was 5,589 people.

As a senior for the USC-Aiken Pacers, he hit .348 and stole 45 bases. He also scored a team-best 57 runs. So he appeared to be a guy that could not only get on base, but move around the bases without the direct aid of his teammates. But then when you look at where he hit in the Emeralds lineup, it’s a little interesting. For the majority of games in which he played, he batted ninth, while former TinCaps outfielder Corey Adamson hit in the leadoff spot. But late in the season, Carmon began hitting first or second in the lineup. His numbers (.275 average, .383 OBP) display a propensity for getting himself on base. Then again, TinCaps Manager Jose Valentin used Kyle Gaedele in the lower third of the lineup to ensure continuity, even though his numbers might have warranted him being placed in the five or six-slot on the card.

Emeralds broadcaster Matt Dompe channels Paul Harvey to give us the rest of the story:

“Carmon committed 10 errors in his first 15 games but went on to commit just three errors over his final 34 games.  His feet and hands are just so quick the coaching staff had to convince him to slow things down and when he did he became the defensive backbone of the infield.

At the plate he managed just 10 hits in 50 at bats to start his pro career.  He started to work the count deeper and draw more walks and as a result his batting average started to climb.  He battled some an illness and an oblique strain but when he came back from the DL for the stretch run he hit safely in 12 of 13 games and really became the top of the order rabbit the Ems were looking for to set the table.”

Never has the term rabbit been such a compliment. To the next prospect on our list I say, “What’s up, Doc?”

Matt Chabot

One of the staples of the 2012 TinCaps team was its strong bullpen; arms like Matt Stites, Johnny Barbato and James Needy were consistently relied upon to get big out after big out on the run to the Midwest League Championship series. Matt Chabot looks like he could be another reliable arm.

The 21-year-old from Riverside, California, stayed at home for college and went to Riverside City College. After two years at RCC, he was selected by the Padres in the 21st round of the 2012 draft. In addition to getting some interest from the Padres, he also had workouts with both the Rockies and Yankees.

In 25 relief outings with the Emeralds he was 0-0 with a 2.17 ERA, including two saves in as many opportunities. He didn’t give up a hit in the first six innings he worked and didn’t allow an earned run until his seventh professional appearance. He struck out 23 batters, walked 11 and surrendered seven earned runs.

Here’s a link to his full stats page from last season: http://www.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?sid=milb&t=p_pbp&pid=621187

Joe Church

Like the aforementioned Stephen Carmon, Joe Church was a senior sign for the Padres this past year, as they took the Princeton, West Virginia, native in the 17th round. Church, though, is a more difficult case study when it comes to trying to translate a college career into a professional one. I, again, claim no expertise on the extrapolation of college stats–or really any numbers for that matter. Why do you think I majored in journalism? (As a side note–the only math class I took in college featured open-textbook(!) tests, and I still couldn’t get an A in the class. We move on…)

In four years at Marshall University, Church pitched just 47 innings:

Joe Church's numbers from his four years at Marshall.

Joe Church’s numbers from his four years at Marshall.

For comparison, 2012 reliever Daniel Cropper pitched nearly double that amount (90 2/3 IP) in just his senior season alone at UNC-Wilmington:

Daniel Cropper's 2011 stats from UNC-Wilmington.

Daniel Cropper’s 2011 stats from UNC-Wilmington.

And as a final sample, here’s what 2011 TinCaps reliever Kevin Quackenbush did during his collegiate career at the University of South Florida:

quack

Kevin Quackenbush’s career stats from the University of South Florida

Without having to break out your bifocals, I’ll tell you that he worked 107 1/3 innings with the Bulls.

Church was injured during his sophomore year and only pitched in one game, which limited his opportunities to get on the hill. Even then, he only saw 28 2/3 innings in his senior season.

From a purely innings pitched standpoint, it seems like it might have been a long spring and summer last year for Church, who pitched in 25 games for Eugene and came two outs away from matching his senior-year innings total. The 6’2″ righty had a 4-2 record and a 3.54 ERA working exclusively in relief. He struck out 35, walked 15 and had a .226 batting average against him.

So last season, between college and pro ball, Church logged 56 2/3 innings. Here’s what type of time full-season members of the TinCaps bullpen saw last year:

Johnny Barbato – 73 1/3 IP

Luis De La Cruz  – 69 IP

Players will say, time and time again, that the adjustment to a full season league (more innings, more at-bats, games every day, long bus trips) is one of the tougher things they’ve had to do. If Joe Church ends up in the Fort Wayne bullpen in 2013, he’ll go through that, too.

———-

As of today, Monday, February 11th, we are just 59 days away from Opening Day 2013 at Parkview Field. Don’t forget there’s a big event coming this Saturday here at the ballpark as Opening Day Tickets and single-game tickets for all 70 home games will go on sale at 9AM. If you get here early enough, you’ll even be treated to a free breakfast (while supplies last), courtesy of the TinCaps. You can buy tickets here at the Parkview Field Ticket Office from 9AM-2PM that day, by phone at 260-482-6400 or any time online at TinCaps.com.

As always, thanks for reading.

If you’d like to get in touch, you can reach me via email (Couzens@TinCaps.com) or on Twitter @MikeCouzens.

I’ll be back next week with the third segment of this eight-part series.

MCsig

Prospect Previews: Week One

Let’s begin with this:

Quite an exciting Super Bowl last night, which perhaps will be best remembered due to the power outage that stopped the game early in the third quarter.

While most people can’t relate to being a professional football player, some of us (Ok, mostly just me me) can relate to what happened on the broadcasting side of things. While having a bat interrupt a game I was calling was certainly an anomaly, having to broadcast a game on either a land line phone or cell phone is something that’s happened plenty of times. In Minor League Baseball, sometimes your phone line in the booth doesn’t always work, or your equipment is being a little cranky and so the only way to get your broadcast on the air is to just call the studio and have them put you on the air. When the power went out last night at the Superdome, that’s exactly what Kevin Harlan, the play-by-play broadcaster for Dial Global Sports, had to do:

Kevin Harlan describes the scene at Super Bowl 47 via the telephone. (Image courtesy Dial Global Sports)

Kevin Harlan describes the scene at Super Bowl 47 via the telephone. (Image courtesy Dial Global Sports)

Minor League Baseball prepares you well for life, folks.

With the Super Bowl behind us, baseball is officially knocking on the door, and that means it’s time for the first in our eight-part series of Prospect Previews:

Prospect-Preview-2013

Each week for the next eight weeks I’ll be taking a look at five different players that could end up on Fort Wayne’s Opening Day roster on April 4th, when they visit the Great Lakes Loons. The series will go in alphabetical order, and I’ll bring you some opinions and insight from folks around the Padres farm system and the world of Minor League Baseball. Away we go!

Brian Adams

Adams played his collegiate baseball at the University of Kentucky, the same school as 2011 TinCaps infielder Chris Bisson. Adams, unlike Bisson, is not in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. The potential 2013 TinCaps outfielder hails from Gainesville, Georgia and was selected by the Padres in the 8th round of the 2012 draft.

Quick trivia question: What do does Adams have in common with 2012 TinCaps shortstop Jace Peterson? Both of them played football in college. While Peterson was on the defensive side of the ball, Adams was a wide receiver for the Wildcats. Although he was on a football scholarship, he managed to juggle his time between the football field and the baseball diamond. Here’s an excerpt from a “day in the life” piece that ran on UKAthletics.com:

“The sophomore from Gainesville, Ga., has known since the beginning of spring that this day was coming. When football coach Joker Phillips and baseball coach Gary Henderson decided a month ago that they would allow Adams to play both sports, they decided they’d give him the shot to play both games in one day on April 23.

Adams played a role in both. The 6-foot-4, 223-pounder caught a game-high seven passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns in the Blue/White Game at 3 p.m. before hustling across Cooper Drive to start and play center field in the 7 p.m. baseball game.”

So we know he’s got athletic ability. But why did he choose baseball over football?

Q: Recently you decided to give up football full-time, and focus on baseball. What were the reasons for the switch?

A: “I just really liked baseball. I feel like I had more opportunities with the game, and that I could do a little more with baseball. It was a tough decision, but I am excited to focus on baseball full-time.”

Q: When exactly were you looking for in a team when going through the draft process? When teams preach about signability, what specifically made you want to sign?

A: “I was really looking for honesty. I was honest with the teams that talked to me, and I wanted them to be honest in return. It was not specifically about the money, but I wanted to go to an organization that really wanted me to play for them. The Padres, along with the Red Sox, Diamondbacks, and Blue Jays were the teams that showed the greatest interest in me.”

Q: What can fans expect from Brian Adams?

A: “I play aggressive, hard, and I have a lot of speed. I really have enjoyed watching Mike Trout play recently, and I think that we have a lot of similarities in our games.”

Here’s what Baseball America has to say about Adams: “Plus raw power but is still figuring out how to unlock it after playing sparingly at Kentucky…(He) easily has the best strength among the Padres’ speedsters.”

Lastly, I caught up with 2012 TinCaps hitting coach Jacque Jones, who served as one of the hitting coaches during the Padres 2012 Instructional League. Here are his thoughts on Adams:

“Brian Adams is a big raw kid in the mold of Kyle (Gaedele). He’s just now fully turning his attention to baseball. He played football In college. He is a hard worker and quick learner.” 

2012 stats (Eugene – 12 games): .321 (9-28), 3 HR, 7 RBI, 4 SB, 1 CS

Corey Adamson

Adamson is a very intriguing prospect. The Australian-born outfielder opened the 2012 season with the TinCaps, but struggled mightily, hitting .111 (9-81) in 29 games.

Corey Adamson on Opening Day 2012.

Corey Adamson on Opening Day 2012.

Adamson was sent to extended spring training on May 14th, and did not make it back to Fort Wayne in 2012. He did play in 66 games with Short-Season A Eugene, and hit .240 with one home run and 24 runs batted in. He had a good .327 on-base percentage and stole 15 bases.

He’s been in the system for a while, having started his professional career in 2009 with the Arizona League Padres, but he’s still young. Adamson will turn 21 on February 23rd, meaning he’s still in the average age range for a Midwest League player.

Adamson received some good news last month when he was named to the 28-man provisional Australian team that will compete in the World Baseball Classic. This, from the Melbourne, Australia, based Herald Sun:

Luke Hughes and leading ABL hitter Corey Adamson, who at 20 is the youngest member of the team, will also contest the sport’s biggest tournament in Taiwan from March 2-19.

The squad features eight former Major Leaguers and two Olympic silver medallists, including Ryan Rowland-Smith, Peter Moylan, Hughes and Chris Oxspring.

Australia will compete in Pool B against Chinese Taipei, South Korea and The Netherlands.

Teams involved in the Classic are generally at full strength, with MLB players’ participation unrestricted.”

Corey also once explained to us in a TinCaps Report Podcast that he didn’t like cricket. His dad was a big-time Australian baseball player, and so Corey got into baseball before anything else. Tony, his father, is an Australian Baseball Hall-of-Famer.

Brandon Alger

Of all players that made the TinCaps roster in 2012, Alger likely received the most attention in the shortest amount of time. The lefty from Leo, Indiana, just 12 miles away from Fort Wayne, was officially added to the TinCaps on September 5th, the first day of playoff action last season.

Alger works against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in the Midwest League Championship Series.

Alger works against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in the Midwest League Championship Series.

On September 4th, the team was at Parkview Field to do a short workout, but every single newspaper and television station in town wanted to talk to the former Indiana Tech Warrior. He spent just two years on the Fort Wayne campus, and put together a pretty good sophomore campaign. In 13 starts last year he went 8-2 with a 2.37 ERA.  He struck out 80 batters in 91 innings while issuing just 21 walks and allowing opponents to hit .225 against him.  That success continued with the TinCaps.

For as strong a season Fort Wayne had in 2012, one aspect that was lacking was a reliable lefthander out of the bullpen. Robert Eisenbach, who was released on July 27, posted a 5.33 ERA in 25 appearances, striking out 18 and walking 19. He was the only lefty to work out of the ‘pen during the regular season.

Alger’s work during five postseason games was solid: 5G, 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 3.1IP, 4H, 0R, 0ER, 8K, 1BB

I certainly wouldn’t expect him to spend the entire 2013 season here in Fort Wayne, but he could be an asset out of the bullpen, at least to begin the season.

Here’s an interview done by WANE-TV with Alger after he arrived at Parkview Field:

Jeremy Baltz

The New York native (born in Vestal, went to college at St. John’s in Queens), was a late addition to the 2012 roster just like Alger. As a matter of fact, they both were added to the roster the same day.

Jeremy Baltz bats against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers during the 2012 Midwest League Championship Series.

Jeremy Baltz bats against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers during the 2012 Midwest League Championship Series.

Although he didn’t get much time to show off his ability with the TinCaps (.133 average in 5 games), he had a stellar collegiate career. Corey Brock of MLB.com has the details:

“Baltz, a 6’3″, 205-pounder, boasts a right-handed power bat that earned him consensus All-American honors as a freshman for the Red Storm in 2010. A first-team All-Big East selection in 2011, Baltz was named MVP of this weekend’s Chapel Hill, N.C. NCAA Baseball Tournament Regional after hitting .400 (4-10) with a home run, two doubles,eight runs, and a .900 slugging percentage in three games. The projected corner outfielder has shown his ability to perform on the big stage before, as he was also named MVP of the Charlottesville Regional as a freshman.

His All-State high school career at Vestal High School in Vestal, N.Y. earned Baltz a pick in the 45th round by the New York Yankees  of the 2009 Draft before he headed to St. John’s to post one of the most decorated seasons in school history as a freshman. The 21 year-old showed he can hit with the wood, as well, hitting .329 and being named an All-Star with the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod League last summer.”

Baltz had a good showing with the Eugene Emeralds after being drafted. He hit .281 with five home runs and 43 runs batted in nearly a full season of 70 Northwest League games. He also stole 12 bases and was only caught stealing twice.

I think he could end up as a starting corner outfielder for the TinCaps to begin 2013, and be perhaps one of many early-round draft choices on Jose Valentin’s roster.

Cory Bostjancic

Our final player in this opening round of previews comes from California (that’ll be a theme here, folks). Bostjancic, (a name not easily said ten, let alone five, times fast) a 25th round pick by San Diego last June, pitched exclusively out of the bullpen for the rookie-level Arizona League Padres in 2012. The 6’0″, 180 pound righty went 0-2 with a 7.64 ERA. In 17 2/3 innings, he allowed 24 hits, 20 runs (15 earned), walked 13 and struck out nine.

After reading that line, some of you might be scratching your head and thinking, “Why would this guy be on the TinCaps to start the year after struggling at a lower level?” And that would be a fair question to ask. But a small sample size like that is really an inaccurate and insignificant indicator of what a player can become. Matt Wisler blossomed into one of the league’s best pitchers last year and hadn’t even thrown a full inning of Arizona League baseball.

Let’s turn to the Marin (CA) Independent Journal for more on Bostjancic:

“Bostjancic said his fastball has been clocked at 99 mph, but typically is around 94-95 mph. He also features two types of breaking balls and is working to improve both his change-up and a two-seam fastball. After posting a 3.68 ERA at (College of Marin) this season, he said he is eager to see what he can do against professional hitters.

“Throughout high school, you have a chance to look up to the college game,” Bostjancic said. “But honestly, the pro game is where I want to be. But I didn’t know it would really happen until it actually happened.”

Baseball America writes, “(He) opened eyes by throwing 96-98 with heavy life during instructional league.”

It sounds like he could be a weapon for pitching coach Burt Hooton’s bullpen this coming season.

BONUS

In the lead up to each baseball season, writers around the internet like to rank the 30 MLB teams and their respective farm systems. Last year ESPN.com’s Keith Law ranked San Diego as the number one farm system, but this year rankings across the board have slipped just a bit due to players formerly listed as prospects advancing to the major leagues.

I caught up with John Sickels of MinorLeagueBall.com, who does a yearly ranking of baseball’s farm systems, and this year put the Padres at #6. According to Sickels’ bio, he worked as ESPN.com’s Minor League Baseball analyst from 1996 until 2005. Here is the transcript of our Q&A:

It’s All Relative:  What elements (stat/observations/interviews with players or personnel) do you use to evaluate the strength of a farm system?

John Sickels: Well I start from the ground up. I always analyze the players first before trying to judge the overall strength of the system. For the individual player, I look at every piece of information I can get. This includes scouting reports, statistical information, in-person observation whenever possible, video, and talks with other baseball people within and outside of organizations. I try to synthesize all this information in coming to a  judgment about how a player could/should develop.

IAR: What is your evaluation of Padres 2013 draft class, especially players like Max Fried, Walker Weickel and Zach Eflin?

JS: Generally speaking, it takes at least four or five years before we know how a draft class turns out. This is especially true with a class like 2012 for the Padres, which was heavy on high school pitching with three of the first four picks. I really like Fried, and both Weickel and Eflin were getting first round buzz at one point, so getting them in the supplemental round could be a real coup. All three of these guys could develop into top-end starters. Of course, pitching is a risky demographic and if you have three good pitching prospects, you’re doing well if you get one actual major league pitcher. It will take time to pan out but the upside with this group is huge.

College hitting was the emphasis otherwise, beginning with Travis Jankowski and Jeremy Baltz. Jankowski’s glove will get him to the majors but scouts have mixed opinions about his bat. Baltz is the opposite, with a strong bat but doubtful glove.

Their strategy was pretty clear: high-upside young pitching, and value-oriented college bats.

IAR:  Outside of some of the top names in the system (Gyorko, Hedges), who are some players that impressed you in your evaluation of the farm system?

JS: I’m generally a fan of the way the Padres do things and they have several sleeper prospects I like who don’t get a lot of attention. This is especially true on the pitching side. Kevin Quackenbush, Burch Smith, Matt Andriese, and John Barbato all deserve more press than they get and should prove of value at the major league level. You guys saw how good Matt Wisler was last year; I think he is one of the best pitching prospects in baseball even if most casual fans haven’t heard of him. A scout friend of mine who knows him well thinks Wisler could rank with the elite arms of the minor league game in 2013.

IAR: You wrote, “The list tries to find a balance between everything. Both high-end impact talent and overall depth are considered. I probably consider depth more than some other analysts.” Can you take me through your evaluation process and what it’s like from start to finish for each farm system?

JS: Well, like I said, I start with the individual players. This is part of the process for writing my book each year (the Baseball Prospect Book). I’ll study anywhere between 40 and 50 players in each system, then write reports on somewhere between 36 and 42 (sometimes more in a deep system) of them for the book. Each player gets a grade, which is a blend of future potential and present skill, then I will come up with a ranking for 1-20 in the system. I’ll post these top 20 lists so people can see them at my website MinorLeagueBall.com. When all the players for all the systems are written up, then I can compare the systems more readily and rank the organizations, which is also listed on my website.

———–

Thanks to John for his participation, and thanks to you for reading. I’ll be back next week with the second installment of the 2013 Prospect Previews.

If you’d like to get in touch, you can reach me via email (Couzens@TinCaps.com) or on Twitter @MikeCouzens.

MCsig

The Baseball Shop

Opening Day for the 2013 Minor League Baseball season is about two months away, and with each day that passes I think more and more about baseball. Just a few days ago I received my 2013 Baseball America Prospect Handbook in the mail, and within that tightly-stuffed manila envelope was a shrink-wrapped pack of prospect baseball cards.

Baseball cards. I don’t think I’d opened a pack of those since I was a teenager. My days of baseball card collecting have long since passed, but this simple stack of thinly-sliced cardboard embossed with the images and stats of baseball somebodies brought me back to a hobby that used to take up hours of my time.

I don't know anything about Dylan Cozens, but his last name says he'll be a star.

I don’t know anything about Dylan Cozens, but his last name says he’ll be a star.

———-

The best, and I mean the best, place for a baseball-obsessed kid like me was a little store in Orleans, Massachusetts. My family vacationed every summer on Cape Cod in the town of Brewster, which sits right on salt-swept shores of Cape Cod Bay. As a part of that two-week stay on the Cape each summer, my mother would always set aside one day for us to ride our bikes the six or seven miles it took to get from Brewster to Orleans. (Keep in mind, this was a big sacrifice for her because it meant we were taking away from time that couldn’t be spent at the beach. Only years later did I realize that I should’ve been more grateful for this.)

At the end of the journey to Orleans was a little store named The Baseball Shop. This was everything that I ever could have dreamed of as a kid. It had jerseys, hats, pennants, stickers, door hangers and the holy grail of a young baseball fan’s life — baseball cards. Hundreds upon hundreds of them in packs, on shelves and even in glass display cases.

“Fifteen dollars?!?”, I thought to myself while rattling the rusted coins and crumpled singles in my pocket. “I’ll have to save up my allowance for the entire year to be able to afford that one.”

I’d tread lightly around the store, making sure not to upset any of the displays in the baseball basilica, stopping to stare at a framed Cal Ripken display on the wall, or flip through the poster display showing off New England baseball heroes of the day like Mo Vaughn, Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Varitek.

I held the Men Behind the Counter at the store in such high regard. They were the classic bifocal-wearing, middle-aged men who wore polo shirts tucked into khaki shorts, with canvas belts and Sperry Top-Siders. If I had a question, I was sure they knew the answer. If I had a question for which they didn’t have an answer, I felt like my hours of scouring the box scores while eating my cereal had finally paid off.

The Baseball Shop was a place where I could add to my collection that already included binders, shoeboxes and cigar boxes full of baseball cards at home. This would be where the highlights of my collection would come from. The shop probably wasn’t much bigger than the inside of a food truck, and so generations of baseball fans would have to shimmy past one another as grandparents and grandkids made their way around the inventory of a Best Buy packed into the size of a beehive.

I’d never come away from the store with much–a San Francisco Giants doorhanger one year, a framed Cal Ripken card another. The doorhanger said something to the effect of, “Don’t bother me. Don’t touch anything. I like my room this way!” I may have been a big baseball fan, but make no mistake that I was still a kid.

It wasn’t so much what I bought from the store that mattered, as much as it was the sentimental value that came along with making that purchase. I’d survived the eternal (four-hour) drive from home in New York to Cape Cod. I’d somehow pedaled myself from Brewster to Orleans and made it to The Baseball Shop for my once-a-year trip to paradise; I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to get something by which to remember my journey. Clinging on to that paper bag that held my fortune as I rode my bike back to Brewster and swerved with excitement, I felt no doubt that I was the luckiest kid on the face of the Earth.

Along with those big-ticket items, I’d get the 99-cent packs of cards that featured the everyday players like Bernard Gilkey or Cliff Floyd. And it was those cards, that held the unknown players within them, that brought me whirling back in time the other night when sitting at my dining room table and, in a way, being a kid again. I was taken back to the enthusiasm, mystery and excitement of baseball and what it holds for us when we’re so young.

The Baseball Shop - Orleans, MA

The Baseball Shop – Orleans, MA

Baseball Shop (1)

Baseball Shop

I haven’t been back to The Baseball Shop in years, but I got the same feeling as being there when I opened the pack of baseball cards at home. I don’t need a bike to get there anymore, but just thinking about making that trip gets my mind’s wheels spinning.

———-

Stay warm and enjoy the Sup–oh, I can’t say that, right? Enjoy the “big game” this weekend, no matter which team you’re rooting for.

If you’d like to get in touch, you can reach me via email (Couzens@TinCaps.com) or on Twitter @MikeCouzens.

Thanks for reading,

MCsig

Chatting Practice: A Payday Podcast – Episode 8

Happy February, everyone! Opening Day at Parkview Field for the 2013 season is now just 69 days away, and the TinCaps will begin play in just 62 days when they take on the Great Lakes Loons on April 4th in Midland, Michigan. If you haven’t checked in with us here on the blog in a while, here’s what you’ve missed:

The 400 Club: On Wednesday, January 30th, the TinCaps announced the construction of the 400 Club, a one-of-a-kind group seating area that is going to be built in straightaway center field at Parkview Field.

It’s scheduled to open in late May of this season, and will accommodate groups from 20 to 150 people. The 400 Club is also the first area at Parkview Field to include all-you-can-drink beer and wine,  in addition to several different buffet options throughout the game. It will have garage-style doors that will open up for an al fresco environment, and will have air conditioning for those sizzling summer days, too.

400-3 400-1 400-2

MiLB.com features ’12 catcher Austin HedgesOne of the mainstays of Fort Wayne’s 2012 lineup was catcher Austin Hedges, who is one of the top prospects in Minor League Baseball. He draws high praise from Brad Ausmus, who is a special assistant to General Manager Josh Byrnes:

“He was the first amateur I had seen in 25 years, so I was comparing him to Major Leaguers, but he stood out on the field head and shoulders above his peers and the players he was going against. Now that I’ve gotten to know him, the most remarkable thing about Austin is his aptitude for the game. For a catcher out of high school, he has a much better grasp of what’s going on around him than I did at his age,” says Ausmus, himself a prep-to-pro catcher as a 48th-round draftee in 1987. “So I think he’s well ahead of the curve. That being said, he has a thirst for learning more about the game and a work ethic that is going to make him much better quickly.”

Hedges will likely begin 2013 with Advanced-A Lake Elsinore.

Prospect Previews: I announced last week that I’ll be starting a new series, beginning this coming Monday, February 4th, where I’ll give you a preview of the 40 players I anticipate may be on Fort Wayne’s roster for Opening Day. Of course the roster limit is 25, but it’s an inexact science. Over an eight-week stretch, I’ll bring you five players per week.

And now for the podcast…

1:40 – In the parenting corner with Michael, who has twins, we learn about sick babies. But not any type of sick baby. The sick 13-month-old that is teething, but also has a nasal drip, and stomach issues which lead to…well, you know.

5:20 – Do they make baby-profen?

5:40 – Me: When you’re sitting in the recliner (with the baby), what is the signal that the diaper needs to be changed?

Michael: It’s very obvious.

8:00 – Massage talk. We are manly men.

8:35 – I deliver my Week In Review(!), which details the great bat incident of 2013, in which a basketball game I was broadcasting was interrupted many times by a winged mammal. There is both photo and video evidence:

Bat 4

13:00 – I’ve had experience with animals interrupting games before. There was a TinCaps game this summer that was delayed by a rabbit, and another delayed by a duck.

15:00 – Michael recalls that a bat once invaded the Memorial Coliseum and then-pitching coach Mike Harkey had some fun with it in the clubhouse.

18:50 – Our Pop Culture Item of the Week takes us to the Vandelay Industries Hotline (TM) as we ask the question: Is it socially acceptable to throw yourself a birthday party?

21:00 – We tell co-worker Abby Naas that she’s on the Vandelay Industries Hotline and we get, “I don’ know what that means.” She also gave some good insight on throwing oneself a birthday party.

22:50 – Abby claims she is 23 years old. Abby is not 23 years old.

23:00 – Abby says a present is not necessary for an adult birthday party because, “People would normally just bring a bottle of soda…or something.” Well said, Abby.

24:45 – After four other co-workers fail to answer their phones, I declare, “Well, this is officially the worst podcast ever.”

27:00 – I share my stance on birthdays, which I share with Ron Swanson from NBC’s Parks and Recreation:

swanson

28:50 – I present Michael with his feast in this episode’s “Odd Food Challenge”:

burgers

I bought him six White Castle sliders. Extra onion is free!

I also got Michael an Arnold Palmer to drink because he has created his own drink, the “Michael Limmer”

2/3 water

1/3 Parkview Field Lemonade

31:35 – Michael reveals my treat, fancy smoked oysters (good until July 2015!)

Looks decent so far, right?

Looks decent so far, right?

There is nothing fancy about this.

There is nothing fancy about this.

32:05 – Me: “Why do they sell these? Doesn’t there have to be market demand for these?” I repeatedly question my will to live while faced with eating this.

34:40 – Michael goes for time, eating the six sliders in three minutes, 40 seconds. A respectable demolition of the fast food.

36:30 – After lots of stalling, I finally bite in to one of the oysters. It is as disgusting as predicted. I wash it down with a “Michael Limmer”. This is gonna be a thing, people.

39:00 – Michael is declared the winner of this week’s challenge. Next we meet–old Valentine’s Day candy!

We’ll be back with you for another podcast on February 15th.

If you’d like to get in touch in the meantime, please email me Couzens@TinCaps.com or tweet me @MikeCouzens.

Thanks for reading and listening!

MCsig

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 113 other followers