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.
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.
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:
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.
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
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.
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
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.
“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?”
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
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:
For comparison, 2012 reliever Daniel Cropper pitched nearly double that amount (90 2/3 IP) in just his senior season alone at 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:
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.
I’ll be back next week with the third segment of this eight-part series.