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

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