While we’ve been in basketball remission after a busy tournament weekend, John Nolan is here to save the day. Our intrepid broadcasting and media relations assistant has dug deep into the archives to bring us the Sweet 16 Baseketball Bracket. John has analyzed the baseball fortunes of the current NCAA basketball Sweet 16 participants. Enjoy.
The NCAA Tournament field is down to 16 teams — coincidentally, the same number of days left until Opening Day at Parkview Field on April 11. So tying the two together, here’s a look at the baseball backgrounds of the remaining schools in March Madness, and an analysis of who would reach Atlanta if these games were played on the diamond instead of the court.
No. 1 Louisville v No. 12 Oregon
Starting with the tournament’s top seed, the Cardinals may be the odds-on favorite to cut down the nets in Atlanta, but their baseball past isn’t as strong. Through the years, U of L has produced 67 players in affiliated pro ball. However, you may not have heard of any of them. Perhaps the most successful Louisville baseball alum is Sean Green. No, not Shawn Green. Sean Green, as in the reliever who broke into the bigs with the Mariners in 2006 and has since pitched for the Mets, Brewers, and most recently for the Rangers Triple-A affiliate. You could find more former Louisville Cardinals in the majors soon, though. The program has appeared in five consecutive NCAA Tournaments, including a run to the College World Series in 2007. That’s after not making its first ever NCAA Tournament until 2002.
Meanwhile, the Ducks almost certainly have more uniform combinations than they do NCAA Tournament berths. Oregon’s only made baseball’s NCAA Tournament four times, with a College World Series trip in 1954, although, like Louisville, Oregon is trending upwards with two trips in the last three years. Also similarly, there aren’t many Ducks who have made a name for themselves as big leaguers. However, one did: Joe Gordon, who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009 after a 13-year career as a star second baseman with the Yankees and Indians from 1938-50.
Wouldn’t you know it that both sides are currently off to great starts to the 2013 season? Baseball America has Louisville ranked No. 10, and Oregon isn’t far behind at No. 12.
The Pick: Louisville
No. 2 Duke v No. 3 Michigan State
Maybe the most compelling Sweet 16 matchup doesn’t taste as good when you switch sports.
Baseball has its share of famous Dukes. From the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Snider to the present day Zach, who pitches for the Nats. However, neither went to Duke University. How about this: In the time since Duke baseball’s last NCAA Tournament appearance in 1961, the Blue Devils basketball team has gone dancing 35 times. That includes a current run of 18 straight bids under Mike Krzyzewski.
That isn’t to say some ex-Dukies won’t ring a bell, though. For one, there’s Greg Burke who pitched in Fort Wayne in 2006 and last season was in the Orioles’ organization. Plus, the past two seasons the TinCaps had reliever Dennis O’Grady. But there’s also the real-life “Crash” Davis (whose name was the inspiration for Kevin Costner’s character in Bull Durham), Dodgers starter Chris Capuano, recently-retired reliever Scott Schoeneweis, and outfielder-turned-Astros Director of Player Development Quinton McCracken.
Michigan State’s reputation for winning in baseball isn’t much stronger than Duke’s. The Spartans have reached five NCAA Tournaments — two more than the Blue Devils. But last year was actually Sparty’s first time in the field of 64 since the 70s. When it comes to name recognition, however, the green and white boast the likes of two-time all-star Mark Mulder, Hall of Famer Robin Roberts, and ’88 World Series hero/current Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson.
The Pick: Michigan State
No. 1 Louisville v No. 3 Michigan State
Like the potential battle in Indy, it’s a tough call. One’s a rising program. The other’s history has some star power.
The Pick: Louisville
No. 9 Wichita State v No. 13 LaSalle
Not many had this one filled out in their brackets last week. In baseball? It would only be half-shocking (pun intended). That’s because in Wichita State, you have a program with the fourth highest winning percentage in NCAA Division I history at 68-percent. LaSalle baseball, on the other hand, is more than a Southwest Philly Floater away from catching your attention.
The Shockers won the 1989 NCAA Championship and have been to 27 NCAA Tournaments in total with seven College World Series appearances (tied for 18th most). To compare that to hoops, only Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, Connecticut, Michigan State, and Arizona have reached the Elite at least seven times. So not surprisingly, Wichita State’s list of alums is long and impressive. Among their fifty-plus all-Americans are Joe Carter, Fort Wayne native and Northrop High grad Eric Wedge, Darren Dreifort, Doug Mirabelli, Casey Blake, Braden Looper, and Mike Pelfrey. (Mets fans are allowed to criticize the use of “impressive” next to those last two names.)
Conversely, the Explorers have only had three alums ever play in a big league game, and none since 1992. Fortunately for basketball fans, Friday night on the hardwood shouldn’t be as lop-sided as this hardball matchup.
The Pick: Wichita State
No. 6 Arizona v No. 2 Ohio State
Another example here of the seeding for basketball belying the baseball quality.
The Wildcats are the reigning national champions — their fourth title in program history. Only USC, LSU, Texas, and Arizona State have claimed more. Needless to say, Arizona has had standout talent pass through over the years: former Padres closer Trevor Hoffman, J.T. Snow, Shelley Duncan, Scott Erickson, and Terry Francona to name a few. And you can’t forget Padres catcher Nick Hundley, who played in Fort Wayne in 2005 and ’06.
For the purposes of this analysis, though, we must also highlight Kenny Lofton, whose major league career spanned 17 years with 11 teams. But did you know that the outfielder actually went to Arizona to play basketball? That’s right, Lute Olsen signed Lofton as an undersized but speedy point guard. Lofton was the backup point guard on the Wildcats’ Final Four team in 1988 and started for the ’89 squad that reached the Sweet 16. It wasn’t until his junior year that Lofton tried out for the baseball team at Arizona. In fact, the six-time MLB All-Star took only one official at-bat in college, but his potential stood out to scouts and led him to being drafted. The rest, as they say, is history.
Coincidentally, the Buckeyes have an interesting baseball-basketball connection of their own. In 1950, Fred Taylor became the first Ohio State baseball player to be named an all-American. He went on to play sparingly for the Washington Senators for three seasons. A few years after his baseball playing days, Taylor, who also played basketball for the Buckeyes, returned to Columbus as an assistant hoops coach. A year later, in 1959, he became Ohio State’s head basketball coach. The rookie head coach proceeded to lead his alma mater to the 1960 NCAA championship, thanks to a roster that included John Havlicek and Jerry Lucas, as well as a bench player named Bob Knight. Taylor also took the Buckeyes to the title game in ’61 and ’62.
Taylor, though, isn’t the only Ohio State product to reach the majors. While the list of Buckeyes in the bigs doesn’t match Arizona, it still counts the likes of current-Indian Nick Swisher and former Dodgers/Senators great from the 60s and 70s, Frank Howard. Even without too many other big names, Ohio State has managed to reach the NCAA Tournament 19 times, even winning the College World Series in ’66. But the Buckeyes haven’t been back to the World Series since ’67.
The Pick: Arizona
No. 9 Wichita State v No. 6 Arizona
In a pairing of two teams with rich traditions, you can’t go wrong. But four titles tops one.
The Pick: Arizona
So that’s half of the bracket. Hope you enjoyed the illogical logic. Hopefully it beats thinking you know what you’re picking on your own. Join us again tomorrow to find out who will emerge from the South and East regions.
We have reached the final post of our eight-part Prospect Previews Series and, believe it or not, there is still snow on the ground in Fort Wayne. I’d expect that of some of the clubs in the league like Wisconsin, where snow is commonplace at this time of the year. Last year on this date, the temperature was as high as 72 and as low as 51 here in Fort Wayne. One year later?
Those Adirondack chairs will make a really nice spot to watch a game during this summer…just not right now.
This past week I was traveling again, this time calling some NIT action between Iowa and Stony Brook on ESPNU on Friday night. I’d never been to Iowa City before, but I’ve got to say that the crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena was really enthusiastic:
Iowa ended up winning a game that was close for the majority of the night, and the Hawkeyes will take on the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA, later this week. Hope that didn’t bust anyone’s NIT bracket.
As for your NCAA brackets, how about Florida Gulf Coast? They’ve got to be the most exciting team in the tournament right now, right? Deadspin put together a compilation of all of the team’s high-flying dunks from the Atlantic Sun tournament and the NCAA tournament. It’s must-see video. It’s particularly exciting for a member of the TinCaps front office, too. Our Assistant Director of Marketing-Community Relations, Abby Naas, is an FGCU alum. Bet you didn’t know that! Go Eagles!
Soon enough, though, I’ll be traveling to Midland, Michigan, or Eastlake, Ohio, as we get into baseball season. That leads us to our final set of five potential 2013 TinCaps. We should know the official opening day roster by the end of the week, at which point you can stop relying on my prognostications and know the 25 names that will begin the season in green and white. Here we go!
When we started this series the Monday after the SuperBowl (seriously, that long ago?), Padres farmhands had not yet reported to spring training and everyone was seemingly in good shape. However, since then there have been a few injuries that have stacked up throughout the organization. Mostly they’ve been on the big league side, but former Midwest League MVP Rymer Liriano is out for the year, as is River Stevens, who hit .241 at Eugene last season. The 21-year-old is having surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
It’s a tough break for Stevens, whose hometown of Escondido, California, is 30 minutes away from San Diego. It seemed, given his season last year at Eugene where he played second, third and short, that he would be in line for an advancement to Fort Wayne. Not only can he play baseball, but he’s also taught himself the piano, guitar and the drums. Seeing as I have trouble keeping a melody while singing in the car, that’s pretty darn impressive.
Best of luck to a future Moniker Madness competitor in his rehabilitation this season.
When Travis Jankowski joined the TinCaps last year, I’d guess that a lot of people in Northeast Indiana weren’t particularly familiar with Stony Brook University. It’s a part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system, and hadn’t taken part in any type of athletics competitions that would be widely seen on a national scale. That changed last year when the baseball team made a run to the College World Series, with eventual 2012 TinCaps CF Travis Jankowski as one of the staples of their lineup. One of his teammates on that squad was infielder Maxx Tissenbaum, a product of Toronto.
I spoke with 2012 TinCaps hitting coach Jacque Jones, who saw Tissenbaum during the fall instructional league, and this is what he had to say:
“Maxx Tissenbaum is a BASEBALL PLAYER and I mean that in every sense. He can catch the ball, throw it, and hit it. The only thing he lacks is speed which in turn will affect range. He knows how to play the game and he hustles. “
Matt Dompe, the radio voice of the Eugene Emeralds, had this to say about Tissenbaum:
“Tissenbaum is a good offensive infielder. A left handed hitting second baseman, his contact is loud. He probably doesn’t have enough range to play 2B in the majors, but when he was inserted into the middle infield the Emeralds ability to turn double plays increased dramatically. He joined the club late because his Stony Brook Sea Wolves played their way to the CWS in Omaha. Maxx finished the year hot pushing his average to .296 which was 6th best in the league.”
Tissenbaum was originally selected in the 43rd round of the 2009 draft by his home town Blue Jays, but chose not to sign. That proved to be a wise decision, as the Padres took him in the 11th round last year.
In addition to being a highly-touted player, he’s also an avid Tweeter and has done some blogging, too, like where he wrote about spring training:
“Each day the routine is the same, but the drills and topics we cover change. For example, each day we do base running at a different base. We cover our lead offs, situational reads of when to run and when not to, our angles coming around the bags etc. Our cage work changes from tee rounds to soft toss, from working on opposite field hitting to driving the ball into our pull gap. We have been extremely lucky to get these couple of weeks to get really advanced coaching from our staff and to get the time to work 1 on 1 with guys who have played for 10 plus years in the big leagues. One of the cool things that we have been tasked with doing every morning is for a group of players to give a quick presentation of a specific coach so we all get to know their playing background. Each morning before stretch 3-5 players will get up and talk about one coach and discuss the coach’s stats in the big leagues, memorable baseball moments, favorite teammates etc.”
Tissenbaum could well be a part of the Fort Wayne middle infield in 2013.
Tony Wieber played his college baseball not all too far from Parkview Field, just two hours north on Interstate 69 in East Lansing, Michigan, as a member of the Michigan State Spartans. He was their closer last year, posting a 2.22 ERA in 25 games and left as the school’s all-time saves leader with 18. The Padres took Wieber in the 33rd round, and sent him to Eugene for his first professional experience.
Wieber, a 6’0″, 200 lb. righty, pitched exclusively out of the bullpen in 32 games, notching an impressive 1.34 ERA. In 40 1/3 innings he struck out 43 batters, walked 14 and allowed six earned runs, with a .167 batting average against him. When it comes to pitching, the 2013 TinCaps look like they’ll have no short supply of steady arms.
Last year the TinCaps received a top high school pitcher in Joe Ross as a member of the starting rotation. This year, they may well get another highly-touted high schooler in that first five. Walker Weickel was the fourth player selected by the Padres in the 2012 draft, going in the supplemental first round (55th overall). The Padres had that 55th pick because last year’s 54th overall pick, Brett Austin, chose to go to NC State rather than sign with San Diego.
Baseball America says Weickel was paid $2 million by the Padres, which, “more than doubled the $925,900 assigned value for his No. 55 selection. He’s the sixth player to receive $1 million or more above his pick value, joining Lance McCullers Jr. (Astros, supplemental first round), Matt Smoral (Blue Jays, supplemental first), Carson Kelly(Cardinals, second), Rio Ruiz (Astros, fourth) and Ty Buttrey (Red Sox, fourth).”
Of course, teams will have to be more careful about big-time draft spending the the future after the rules changed, starting with this last year’s draft:
“All 30 teams have a cap on signing bonuses for picks in the first 10 rounds, depending on when they pick and the number of compensatory picks they have. The cap ranges from the Minnesota Twins’$12.4 million to the Los Angeles Angels’ $1.6 million. Teams also are no longer allowed to sign players to major league contracts.
If teams spend more than their cap amount, the penalty is punitive to the point of being prohibitive: a 75 percent tax for exceeding the cap by 5 percent, up to a 100 percent tax and the loss of two future first-round picks for exceeding the bonus allotment by more than 15 percent.”
Weickel is already on just about everyone’s radar. Baseball America rated him as the 12th-best prospect in the Padres farm system, writing of the 6’6″ righty: “Weickel grew nearlt two inches to 6-foot-6 between his junior and senior years of high school, evoking body comparisons with a young Adam Wainwright with his tall, lean, broad-shouldered build.”
The Orlando, Florida, native, who throws a fastball, curveball and changeup, spent last season with the Rookie-Level Arizona League Padres and went 1-3 wit ha 4.50 ERA in nine games.
Not everyone in life has options as to where they’d like to take their athletic career, especially if that athletic career ends when high school graduation is over. (Raises hand)
For Chris Wilkes, though, he had the option to either go play quarterback at Ole Miss or sign as a pitcher with the Padres after being selected in the 22nd round of the 2008 draft. Instead of taking the path to SEC glory, he chose the long and tough route of being a professional baseball player. Since signing with the Padres, he played in 78 games, broken down like this:
AZL Padres: 20 games
Eugene Emeralds: 43 games
Fort Wayne TinCaps: 3 games
Lake Elsinore Storm: 11 games
San Antonio Missions: 1 game
Last year he jumped between the AZL, Eugene, and that one game in San Antonio. The three games he played with the TinCaps came in 2011.
Unfortunately for Wilkes, he was released by the Padres during their most recent round of roster cuts. Wilkes was on our original list of players back when this series started, so I still thought to include him here in this last grouping of five.
Among those other players released were: Alexi Colon, right-handed pitchers Ryan Quigley, Will Scott, Adam Schrader, Daniel Cropper, James Jones, left-handed pitchers Jeremy Gigliotti and Dustin Pease and infielder Connor Powers.
Among that group, Cropper, Jones, Gigliotti and Powers all played for the TinCaps in 2012. Best of luck to them as they try and latch on with new organizations.
Rihanna, with a diversion from her usual club/pop hits, gives us a ballad in “Stay”. Prepare to want to listen repeatedly. Rihanna, take it away:
As always, thanks for reading.
Later this week, John will be bringing you an NCAA bracket, but in a different style than you’re used to. Let’s just say it’ll have a baseball twist. Stay tuned.
So, yesterday I had my fantasy baseball draft, which marks my first serious foray into fantasy baseball since high school. I used to wake up every morning before school and check my lineup to make sure it was optimized for that day. It was a thrilling mix of checking the previous day’s box scores and trying to analyze which pitching matchup might be most suitable for my team come that evening. It was usually a heartbreaking process by the time it was over, because my teams were never very good and the same guy would win the fantasy league every year.
That fantasy league did lead to a lot of great lunchtime debates over whether Player X was better than Player Y and whether the Mets would ever gain superiority over the Yankees. It’s fun to think back to a time when I knew nearly every player on every MLB roster and the merits of having any given player on my fantasy roster. Having the time, but more importantly, the energy, to check my team every morning makes it feel like that was forever ago. Once you get older and gain more responsibility–work, kids, etc.–the likelihood of checking a fantasy roster every day drops significantly. Fortunately we now do a weekly head-to-head matchup, similar to fantasy football, where I’ve only got to set my roster once a week. Even then, I might forget. Once this fall I was driving around Fort Wayne on a Sunday at about 12:45, and I was more than 10 minutes away from home. I had not yet set my two fantasy football rosters for that week, meaning I had a fantasy emergency on my hands. I pulled into a parking lot just off of Coliseum Boulevard and frantically dialed up my Yahoo! and ESPN fantasy pages. Let me tell you, the drag and drop feature works great when you have a mouse–not so great when you’re on a touchscreen phone. I probably looked like a complete idiot sitting in my car and sweating which tight end to start that week. Luckily, I got my roster set on time.
Since I was so unsuccessful in that fantasy league in high school, I decided to try a new method this year. I drafted my entire team based on WAR projections for this season. Seriously. If you’re unfamiliar with the acronym– it stands for Wins Above Replacement–it’s designed to show how many wins a player is worth over the average replacement player. ESPN has a great article on the topic and how it relates to last year’s AL MVP race. Will this strategy work? I have no idea, but I figured it was worth a shot.
For those of you who are interested in my roster (Nobody?) here’s what I ended up with:
C: Miguel Montero, Jonathan Lucroy
1B: Ryan Howard, Yonder Alonso
2B: Aaron Hill, Jedd Gyorko (former TinCaps infielder)
3B: Ryan Zimmerman, Evan Longoria
SS: Asdrubal Cabrera
OF: Mike Trout, Jay Bruce, Shin-Soo Choo, Logan Morrison, Carlos Quentin, Coco Crisp
SP: Jarrod Parker (Fort Wayne’s own), Ryan Vogelsong, David Price, Yovani Gallardo, Tommy Milone,
RP: Jonathon Broxton, Chris Perez
Wish me luck, friends. I wish you the same.
Odd sidenote: Somehow during my draft I discovered that former MLB relief pitcher Armando Benitez was in the pool of draftable players. Not only has Benitez not been on an MLB roster since 2008, but he hasn’t been on a minor league roster since 2010. I couldn’t believe he could actually be drafted. Why my fixation with Benitez? Well, growing up as a Mets fan I was never more nervous than when Benitez came in to pitch. I’ve really never trusted any Mets closer since then. Fittingly, Benitez is number one on the list of the “Top” 10 Mets Blown Saves of the 2000’s. No, I did not write this list.
Onto happier things, like TinCaps baseball. John Nolan joins us with the third and final part of his series checking in with former TinCaps to gauge their chances of making the Padres roster. John, take it away…
We’ve already evaluated the former TinCaps on the Padres 40-man roster and those still in big league camp. Now it’s time to dig deeper. Here are some recent Parkview Field stars who could find themselves at Petco Park in 2013, or the not-too-distant future.
Johnny Barbato (2012): The 20-year old Barbato was a workhorse for the TinCaps last season. The righty came out of the bullpen a team-high 48 times, which was also good for fourth most in the Midwest League. And it wasn’t just quantity from Barbato, but quality, too.
The Miami native posted a 1.84 ERA in his 73.1 innings of work. Opposing batters hit a meager .195 against Barbato — the third lowest average among relievers in the league. Many of those batters couldn’t even make contact against Barbato, who struck out 84. In fact, his strikeout per nine innings ratio of 10.31 was fifth best in the Midwest League.
Barbato won’t be finding himself with the Padres to start 2013, as he was just reassigned to minor league camp in Arizona. However, if Barbato can replicate his Fort Wayne success going forward, it may not be too long before he finds himself in San Diego.
C Jason Hagerty (2010): Only one player in the Midwest League had a better on-base percentage than Hagerty did for the TinCaps in 2010. That one guy? Mike Trout. While Hagerty’s success since then can’t compare with the reigning American League Rookie of the Year, he’s still a catching prospect with promise.
Hagerty walked 88 times with the TinCaps on his way to that .423 OBP. Those 88 walks are the second most ever by a Fort Wayne player in a single season. But when the right-handed hitter did swing the bat in ’10, the results were good as well. Hagerty belted a team-best 14 HR and 74 RBI, while putting up a .302 average. Along the way, he earned two Midwest League Player of the Week awards and postseason All-Star honors.
The former Miami Hurricane flourished in Advanced-A in 2011, too. Hagerty hit .311 with 8 HR and 47 RBI before being transferred to Double-A San Antonio in mid-July. Since then, though, Hagerty’s numbers have diminished.
In the second half of 2011, Hagerty batted .231 for San Antonio while clubbing only 1 HR. A year ago, he hit .248 with 7 HR. Maybe more striking, since the 88-walk season with the TinCaps, Hagerty drew a combined 81 walks the last two campaigns.
Hagerty, 25, was reassigned to Minor League camp on March 5.
C Austin Hedges (2012): Hedges was only 19-years old for the majority of last season with the TinCaps, yet you wouldn’t think so by looking at his production. In 95 games behind the plate, Hedges not only shined in how he handled Fort Wayne’s staff, but also as a hitter. The catcher hit .279, while cranking 10 home runs and driving in 56 runs — both second best on the team. That’s better than the Padres could have hoped for entering Hedge’s first full season of professional baseball. (In 2011, he took only 26 at-bats between the Arizona League and playing for Eugene.)
And the second-round pick from the 2011 draft continued to impress during the offseason. Baseball America ranks Hedges as the No. 4 prospect in San Diego’s system, and already tabs him as the best defensively in the organization.
Given Hedges’ age, there’s no need for the Padres to rush him through the ranks. For proof, he was just reassigned to minor league camp over the weekend. However, if his all-star-caliber performance last year with the TinCaps is any indication, it won’t be too long until Hedges is a major leaguer.
SS Jeudy Valdez (2009-10): Valdez was the TinCaps’ opening day second baseman in 2009 and 2010. The Dominican Republic native struggled in his first Fort Wayne season, hitting .212 over 193 at-bats in an abbreviated season that ended in the Arizona League. But Valdez bounced back in his second go-around as a TinCap. The right-handed hitter upped his average to .247, while hitting 10 HR and 34 doubles. He also showed off some speed, swiping 34 bags.
Valdez made an even bigger jump in development after he left Fort Wayne in Lake Elsinore. There, he turned in a .295/.339/.481 line with 15 HR and 92 RBI, while again stealing 34 bases. Such a season bumped Valdez up to Double-A in 2012. But with San Antonio, the numbers weren’t as gaudy. The 23-year old’s line dropped to .225/.273/.364. Although for a middle infielder, he still did reach double-figures in HR for the third straight year (12).
Earlier this month, Valdez was optioned to Triple-A.
RHP Jerry Sullivan (2010): Sullivan set a career-high for wins with the TinCaps in 2010. The 3rd round pick in the ’09 draft went 7-4 — good for the second most wins on the team — in Fort Wayne while sporting a 4.03 ERA. With the fifth lowest walks per nine innings ratio in the league, Sullivan was named to the Midwest League All-Star team that year.
But since then, Sullivan’s numbers don’t indicate rapid progress. The former Oral Roberts Golden Eagle spent each of the past two seasons with Advanced-A Lake Elsinore. After going 6-9 with a 5.95 ERA in 2011 as a starter, Sullivan moved to the bullpen in 2012. The righty reliever posted a 4-5 record a 4.20 ERA. He has, however, maintained strong control. In 81.1 innings last year, Sullivan walked only 12 batters.
Sullivan’s timetable for reaching the bigs took a hit recently, though, as he was reassigned from the Padres camp in Arizona to Minor League camp.
Don’t forget to share your ice cream, folks:
Imagine Dragons…take it away!
Thank you, John. One other item of note before we go–in this week’s Prospect Previews post, I noted that Jonathan Roof might be a potential TinCaps outfielder in 2013. Little did I realize, Roof was signed to a minor league deal by the Tigers back in January. I apologize for the confusion. Best of luck to Mr. Roof as he looks to climb the Detroit ranks.
As always, thanks for reading.
Here we are with Week 7 of our Prospect Previews series, meaning there is just one week of the series left before we close in on April 4th, when the TinCaps open their season in Midland, Michigan.
Before we look at the next five possible players for this year’s roster, an interesting (and somewhat mathematical look) at runs per game scored across Minor League Baseball the last three seasons. Matt Eddy of Baseball America dove into the numbers to find out which stadiums across MiLB are launching pads and which are pitcher friendly. I definitely suggest reading the article, as Eddy writes:
“Baseball America gathered home and road data for all 120 full-season minor league teams dating back to 2010. Distinct patterns emerge over the course of three seasons—encompassing more than 200 home games and 200 road games for most teams—and differences in weather conditions and varying talent levels from year to year tend to even out.
The bulk of our presentation considers only how teams—that would be the home team and its opponents—fared in each of the 120 ballparks. This way we can stack up how parks compare with one another in terms of runs, hits and home runs per game over the past three years. (Exceptions are noted when a sample does not stretch to three years.)
The data allowed us to isolate five categories—runs, hits, home runs, walks and strikeouts—for batters and pitchers at each minor league park and scale them to games played.
The home run may be baseball’s ultimate weapon, but the strongest correlation between categories exists between a park’s hits and its runs scored. That is to say that parks featuring many hits tend to feature many runs. The opposite also is true. Parks that feature few hits typically feature few runs.”
Below, thanks to the yeoman’s work of John Nolan, is all of Eddy’s data sorted from highest to lowest:
This is about as math-y (not a word) as we’ll ever get on this blog, but I figured this was good data to share. Fort Wayne has the fifth highest total of runs per game in the Midwest League, for whatever that’s worth. Onto the prospects:
Richardson was selected last June out of the University of Central Florida in the 16th round of the draft. He and college teammate Roman Madrid were reunited in Eugene last summer, where Richardson played in 52 games for the Emeralds. Despite playing exclusively center field last season, Richardson says in the interview below that the Padres have asked him to learn a few infield positions in preparation for a possible move to a utility role:
Last season the Eagle Lake, Florida, native set a UCF school record for being hit by a pitch more times than anyone else. In his three-year stay with the Knights, he was plunked 65 times, 35 of those coming in his final season. That trend carried over to his stint in Eugene, where he was hit 16 times. He doesn’t have a big frame–5’8″, 180 lbs.–which makes it even more remarkable that the ball continues to find him.
He hit .233 but had an on-base percentage of .396, no doubt aided by his propensity for being hit by the baseball. Richardson also has some speed, having led UCF with 24 stolen bases during his junior year and 10 more with the Emeralds.
There are a lot of small world, six degrees of separation-type moments that happen in baseball every day. Jonathan Roof has that type of connection with one of the 2012 TinCaps. Roof was selected in the eighth round of the 2010 draft out of Michigan State University by the Texas Rangers. He played in 2011 for the Hickory Crawdads, the South Atlantic League (also Low-A) affiliate of the Rangers. A teammate of his there in North Carolina was 2012 TinCaps infielder Clark Murphy. Unfortunately for Roof, he, too was cut by Texas. Roof was let go during spring training last year, but didn’t have to wait all too long to find his next stop in professional baseball.
The Padres called him and signed him to a minor league contract, having him ship off to Advanced-A Lake Elsinore, Short-Season Eugene and even Triple-A Tucson for 49 games. Prior to last season, he had never played above Advanced-A, when he spent 12 games with Myrtle Beach in 2011. That Roof was in Tucson last year at 23 years old and was not a super-prospect spoke to the difficulty the Padres had last year with injuries, especially at the major league level. And, by the way, Roof played in the outfield for the T-Pads, despite having come up as an infielder.
From the Digital Journal:
“Roof comes from a long line of professional baseball players. Being a Major League catcher for 14 years, Kennedy himself has many connections to his family. The current Padres manager played with Roof’s father Gene when they were within the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Roof’s uncle Phil was a catcher for the Oakland A’s when Kennedy’s father Bob managed the team.
I still remember it like it was yesterday: May 10, 2012. That was the day Joe Ross was scheduled to make his seventh start in a TinCaps uniform, but he didn’t. I was just a few minutes from going on the air for our TV broadcast at Parkview Field, and someone asked me which TinCaps pitcher was warming up down the right field line. “Joe Ross,” I said without thinking. “Think again,” I was told. So I looked out the window to see not Joe Ross on the bullpen mound, but lanky (then) reliever Colin Rea. My mind began to race and I jolted downstairs to the dugout to find out what was happening. I couldn’t get to pitching coach Willie Blair, because he was down in the bullpen and I didn’t want to bother him right before the game, but I had to know what was happening so I wouldn’t be completely lost when I went on the air. Finally, I found out that Ross had some shoulder soreness and would be missing his start. Little did we know, that was the last time he’d be called upon to start for Fort Wayne that season.
Ross, who was just 18 when last season started, was a first-round pick out of high school in Los Angeles. He, like 2012 TinCaps catcher Austin Hedges, had committed to play college baseball at UCLA, but instead chose to sign with San Diego. Highly touted, Ross was crushed in his Midwest League debut, only lasting 1 1/3 innings and giving up six earned runs.
After his shoulder soreness, he didn’t pitch again until June 28th with the Padres’ Arizona League team. After that appearance, he went to Eugene and was 0-2 with a 2.03 ERA in eight starts, striking out 28 and walking just nine.
Early indications are that Ross, who will turn 20 on May 21, could begin the year with the TinCaps to try and establish himself with a full-season club.
If you’ve never heard of Walters State Community College, don’ be alarmed. Most people have never heard of the small school of about 7,000 students located in Morristown, Tennessee. It’s that school, though, that produced Will Scott, who may find himself in a TinCaps uniform in 2013. His pro career began with three outings with the Arizona League Padres in 2010 and then pitched to a 2-2 record with a 3.17 ERA in 19 games with Eugene in 2011.
Take it away, Chicken Friars:
“He seemed primed to climb up the organizational depth chart and rise in the ranks. However, Scott repeated the level and pitched in 2012 for the Emeralds.
“It was definitely a little rough. I started to feel like I would never get out of Eugene. I started out the year feeling pretty good, then went through a rough stretch where my head was not really in the game. By the end of the year, things started falling into place for me.”
Scott turned things around after a rough start and won the Northwest Pitcher of the Week award in August. In that stretch he turned his best outing of the year, when he pitched six shutout innings against the Everett Aquasox. The award comes with an interesting story.
“I didn’t even know I had won the award until a few weeks after I won it. There was no announcement, Pat Murphy(former Emeralds manager, now Tucson Padres manager) told me casually one day. It was a big accomplishment for me, especially since I did not feel like my mind and body was always there.”’
The next step for Scott seems like a leap to Fort Wayne in 2013.
Another option for Jose Valentin’s bullpen this season is Matthew Shepherd, who was taken in the 31st round (945th overall) last June by the Padres. Shepherd hails from the booming metropolis of Bluff City, Tennesee — population 1,733–located in the Northeast corner of the state.
Shepherd spent the past four seasons pitching at Tennessee Tech University, compiling an 11-16 career record and registering 183 strikeouts for the Golden Eagles.
He was just 4-5 with a 6.12 ERA this season, but the scouts saw something they liked in the 6-foot-3, 185-pound right-hander. Baseball America ranked him as one of the best prospects in the Ohio Valley Conference before the season and lauded what he had to offer on the mound.
“I just try to go out there and do everything I can to give my team a chance to win,” Shepherd said. “I threw pretty well when the conference schedule started; I had a 4-0 record and an ERA around two or three. But I struggled near the end. My fastball was still pretty good and my change-up was working well. I was throwing strikes and not walking many people. I guess they just saw me battling every time I went out there.”
Right now it looks like the team is scheduled to arrive in Fort Wayne on March 31st, which leaves plenty of time for prospects to play their way onto or off of the roster.
As always, thanks for reading.
Later this week, the third and final installment of John Nolan’s series in which he checks in with former TinCaps in the minors.
In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday, It’s All Relative presents our TinCaps All-Irish Name Team. Dozens of players have passed through Fort Wayne during the last four years and donned the TinCaps green, but the following lads have names more Irish than the rest.
(Note: To complete the roster, players qualified for position assignments as long as they have played the position previously, even if it isn’t their primary one.)
C – Chris O’Dowd (2012)
1B – Jason Hagerty (2010)
2B – Casey McElroy (2012)
3B – Sawyer Carroll (2009)
SS – Pat McKenna (2011)
OF – Clark Murphy (2012)
OF – Wes Cunningham (2011)
OF – Daniel Killian (2011)
LHP Allen Harrington (2009)
RHP Michael Kelly (2012)
RHP Jeremy McBryde (2010)
RHP Dennis O’Grady (2011-12)
RHP Jerry Sullivan (2010)
Our march toward Opening Day continues–20 days until the road opener at Great Lakes (Will I be eating sweet potato fries at The Creek? Yes.)–which means we get to learn more and more about some of the prospects who may be coming to Fort Wayne on Opening Day. Since I’m not traveling out to Arizona for Spring Training, I rely on the eyes and ears of those who are able to scour the backfields for as much information as possible.
Over at Baseball Prospectus, Jason Parks has a breakdown of 10 of the “youngest and brightest” arms in the Padres farm system. He saw them pitch this past week against Indian Hills Junior College down in Arizona. While you do need a subscription to read the entire piece, here are some snapshots of a few pitchers we might see in Fort Wayne this season:
Joe Ross: “Hard to ignore raw stuff; very impressive young arm; high ceiling/impact potential.”
Justin Hancock: “Blew 96 by the final hitter for the punch out; wow stuff from tall, projectable arm.”
Erik Cabrera: “Fastball was 93-94, touched 95; throwing across body and missing to glove side; showed promising 79-83 slider; missed barrels and was thrown in the zone for strikes.”
Brandon Alger: “Favorite delivery of the day; very smooth; good timing/balance; standard three-quarters release; from the stretch; two-seam fastball was 89-90; good sink”
Leonel Campos: “Dropped vertical breaking ball that looked like standard three-quarter curve at 86 mph; it was extremely nasty and I can’t really explain it except to say it really did look like a violent curveball; nastiest secondary pitch of the day; I’m still thinking about it.”
Max Fried: “Showed three pitches with above-average potential; loved the composure when obvious strikes were called balls; hammer is legit; strong showing.”
Tayron Guerrero: “Looks 7 feet tall on the mound; listed at 6’ 7’’; incredibly long limbs; lanky; gets crazy extension; basically slapping hitter with his release” (Ed note: My favorite description of them all.)
Walker Weickel: “The CB is going to be a plus pitch; showed a 78 CH; some fade; good overall profile.”
As I’ve said previously, the early indications are the the pitching for this team has the potential to be really, really good. That said, potential doesn’t always translate at this level into immediate results, so we have to somewhat temper our expectations. For instance, just have a look at this Twitter exchange between a few Padres bloggers and Padres Director of Player Development Randy Smith:
Words of wisdom from Mr. Smith. Jones did have a rough year last season with 33 errors at third base (Twins super-prospect Miguel Sano of Beloit had 42 at third base), but at 19 years old, he was also on the very young side of the Midwest League. Sometimes a second go-round in the Midwest League (Rymer Liriano, Adys Portillo, anyone?) can be a good thing.
Speaking of bloggers, I want to recommend the newly-opened PadresPublic.com. It’s a fantastic resource for fans of the Padres and all of the minor-league affiliates. Since coming on board with the TinCaps a year ago, one of the things I found with the Padres blogosphere was that it was scattered all over the place with so many different voices and different blogs. From the “About” section on their website:
“Padres Public is a collection of current Padres blogs that will provide content on a daily basis here in one place instead of doing so dispersed across the web. Over the years we’ve found it challenging to create dynamic content on a consistent basis at our own websites. Equally difficult has been the task of visiting so many different Padres sites each day. Hopefully Padres Public will help to alleviate these issues.”
Check it out. Bookmark it. Read it. You might even see a guest post or two from me on there during the season. I don’t want to get your hopes up, but it’s possible. And as they say at the end of their introduction:
“Let’s get back to that whole idea of this place being like a public house. A pub is nothing more than a location for friends to meet over beers and some lighthearted conversation. But time is always limited and meeting up with friends can be difficult so we created this place to talk Padres. We invite you to crack open a beer with us and stay awhile. Maybe we can all do it in person some time.”
Well, I did have to scrape ice off my car this morning…San Diego vacation, anyone?
//snaps back to reality
And with that, I bring you more baseball. Here’s part two of John Nolan‘s look at former TinCaps that might be cracking the Padres roster in the near future:
Well, Mike, last time we evaluated the ex-TinCaps who are on the Padres’ 40-man roster. In this edition, let’s explore former Fort Wayne players who are still among San Diego’s 57 in major league spring training.
Kevin Quackenbush (2011): Quackenbush came to Fort Wayne for the second-half of the 2011 season after beginning the summer with Eugene. The 6-foot-3 right-hander tossed 21.1 innings for the TinCaps, giving up just two earned runs in the process. Quackenbush fanned 38 and walked six.
Last season, he was even better in Advanced-A for Lake Elsinore. There, Quackenbush surrendered a mere six runs over 57.2 innings to earn a 0.94 ERA. His strikeout-to-walk ratio remained impressive at 70-to-22.
The 24-year old has made three appearances for the Padres so far this spring. Two of the three were scoreless outings.
Matt Stites (2012): To call Stites the TinCaps’ “closer” in 2012, almost doesn’t do his role justice. Instead, Stites was more like the “dominator.” Setting a franchise record for lowest ERA by a reliever (0.74), the righty allowed four earned runs in 48.2 innings, while racking up 13 saves. Stites struck out 60 batters and walked three. In case you’ve trouble with numbers, that’s a 20-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. (Of course the context of the Midwest League compared to the majors is different to say the least, but former Padres closer Trevor Hoffman’s best single-season ratio was 7.73-to-1.)
Stites, who played two seasons at Missouri before being selected in the 17th round of the 2011 draft, is currently 22.
Although Stites himself says he hasn’t been pleased with his performance so far in Arizona, he’s catching the attention of others in camp. And remember, if Stites is able to join the Padres’ pen this season, he’ll be reunited with Willie Blair, who served as the TinCaps’ pitching coach last season and is now San Diego’s bullpen coach.
SS Jonathan Galvez (2010): Since Fort Wayne’s inaugural season in 1993, only two players have ever hit three home runs in a game. Galvez is on that list. He’s the most recent to achieve the feat, and the only TinCaps player to do it at Parkview Field, back on July 22, 2010.
Of all the guys who’ve come through Fort Wayne over the years, Galvez wouldn’t be one who you’d peg as a candidate to go deep three times in a game. As a matter of fact, in 2010, the shortstop had just seven other homers.
His stellar summer night aside, though, Galvez batted .259 and had 59 RBI for the TinCaps. He displayed a propensity for both striking out (121) and walking (58). The Dominican Republic-born prospect also stole 18 bases.
After his season in Fort Wayne, Galvez improved his average, HR, RBI, and stolen base numbers with Lake Elsinore (.291, 13, 86, 37). The 22 year-old’s progress continued last year with San Antonio, where he hit .292 and lowered his strikeout total to 70 in 312 at-bats.
In Peoria so far this spring, Galvez has appeared in as many games as anyone (16). Through 21 at-bats, his .381 average has him staying in camp and warranting consideration to make the 25-man roster.
2B Jedd Gyorko (2010): Hailing from the country roads of Morgantown, West Virginia, Gyorko seems to be on a route to the majors. And in 2010, Parkview Field was a pit stop along the way for the Mountain State native and former West Virginia University Mountaineer.
Gyorko spent only the second-half of the ’10 season in Fort Wayne, after taking the Northwest League by storm to start that summer (.330, 5 HR, 18 RBI in 26 games). With the TinCaps, the then-rookie hit .284 over 162 at-bats and posted a .366 on-base percentage. The righty bat has only gotten better since.
Staying on the two-stops-a-season pattern, Gyorko went from Advanced-A to Double-A in 2011, and then Double-A to Triple-A in 2012. And to this point, Gyorko has found success at every level. That includes in Tucson, where he hit .328 with 24 HR and 83 RBI. Gyorko’s .588 slugging percentage was third best in the Pacific Coast League.
While Baseball America predicts Gyorko — No. 3 in its San Diego prospect rankings — as the Padres’ future left fielder (he played primarily third for the TinCaps), he’s played the infield so far in spring training. Not only that, but big league skipper Bud Black has been impressed with the 24-year old’s transition to second base. Offensively, meanwhile, he’s hitting .273 in 33 at-bats and is the only Padre to have hit three homers.
Don’t be surprised if Gyorko is wearing navy and white on opening day.
Check back next week, when we’ll wrap up the series by taking a look at other former TinCaps who may not make the opening day roster for the Padres, but who are on the radar in San Diego.
Enjoy your weekend, folks. There’s lot of basketball to enjoy with conference tournaments in full swing. Oh, it’s also St. Patrick’s Day weekend–so wherever you are, please enjoy it responsibly.
Before I go, I’m going to revive a segment of the daily blog posts that I’ll be doing again this season…our musical guest:
The Naked and Famous (hey, I didn’t pick the name)…take it away!
As always, thanks for reading.
Today, March 12th, we are just 23 days away from the first radio broadcast of TinCaps baseball this season. Fitting, I think, to mention radio, because on March 12th, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt held his first “fireside chat”, which focused on the banking crisis of that time. Although the importance of what I’ll be talking about on the radio this season won’t be nearly as high as what the president was discussing, I can confirm that our audio quality has advanced in the 80 years since his first of 30 radio addresses.
Wouldn’t it be nice if radio still had the same power as a medium as it did back then? The entire family gathered ’round the hearth with their attention solely focused on the silky smooth voice emanating from the AM radio…
I’d love to think I could capture attention like that, although I imagine more of my audience ends up like this on a given night:
I’m kidding, of course. I’m glad to have each and every person along for the ride when I take the air each night. It sure is interesting to think how radio has persevered through the years, though. I had the good fortune of hearing Steven Portnoy, a national correspondent for ABC News Radio, speak at a banquet a few weekends ago. We were in Syracuse, New York, at our alma mater, Syracuse University, for the annual alumni banquet of our college radio station, WJPZ, and Steven was the keynote speaker. His message centered around the medium of radio, and how despite the changing times and shift toward the internet and television that our culture seems to have made, there is no substitute for the intimacy of radio. He used the example of Hurricane Sandy, which hit the east coast back in November. When people lost power and couldn’t get information online or from TV, they turned to radio and that became their lifeline.
And beyond that, he spoke to how people connect with certain voices and personalities on radio. For me, I am a loyal listener of NPR’s This American Life, because I want to hear what stories host Ira Glass will have to share with me this week. I like to listen to The Moth podcast, which features different storytellers each week, who bring their stories to life in front of an audience. One of my favorite stories is this one by Malcolm Gladwell, in which he details a competition he had to fit the words “perverse and often baffling” into The Washington Post as many times as possible:
There’s a connection that you can make with the theater of the mind through radio, that you can’t get anywhere else. That was a great refresher for me to hear, and it’s a thought I’ll carry with me into this coming season, especially when it comes to storytelling.
Speaking of broadcasting, I was in Cincinnati this past Saturday to call the last regular-season Big East game of the year for the University of South Florida and the University of Cincinnati. Quite a lot of fun, especially considering one of my former teammates, Sean Kilpatrick, is the leading scorer for UC. We played together for a few seasons at White Plains High School, and he was a significantly better player than I was. We had some fun showing that disparity on the broadcast:
On Sunday I caught another pretty good game up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, watching Indiana sneak out of Crisler Arena with a win and a Big Ten title:
All in all, a great sports weekend. Now let’s talk baseball:
It’s not often that you come across an Ivy League-educated player in baseball, as so many players that end up being drafted come from power baseball conferences like the SEC or the ACC, or come from the west coast. O’Dowd, who is the son of Colorado Rockies General Manager Dan O’Dowd, was selected in the 25th round by the Padres last June out of Dartmouth College.
“O’Dowd was the Ivy League Rookie of the Year and a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America selection in 2010. The switch-hitter hit .384 that year with a .664 slugging percentage. A first-team All-New England pick as a sophomore, O’Dowd hit .300 with a .417 on-base percentage over his final 17 games in 2012. He also led the team in stolen bases with eight.
The Cherry Hills Village, Colo., native boasts a .315 career batting average, .408 on-base percentage and .505 slugging percentage in three seasons at Dartmouth. He is one of three catchers in the Padres’ 2012 Draft haul, joining Oklahoma City University backstop Dane Phillips, who was taken 70th overall, and Puerto Rican high schooler Christian Munoz, a Bethune-Cookman commit.”
O’Dowd, who is a switch-hitter, played briefly for Fort Wayne last year, joining the roster on August 28. In three games he went 1-for-6, walking three times and striking out once. With a new crop of catchers coming in, it looks like if he were to return to Fort Wayne, it would be in a backup role in 2013.
It doesn’t appear that there have been all too many baseball players that have been selected five times in the draft. I found one notable story, that of Matt Harrington, in which the pitcher was selected five times and never signed, leaving nearly five million on the table.
For Kyle Ottoson, though, it appears the fifth time was the charm. He signed with the Padres last summer after they selected him in the 34th round and played both in the rookie-level Arizona League and with short-season Eugene of the Northwest League.
Here’s his draft history:
2008 (Eaton (CO) High School) – 39th round, Rockies
2009 (South Mountain Community College) – 36th round, Yankees
2010 (South Mountain Community College) – 48th round, Phillies
2011 (Arizona State University) – 24th round, Nationals
2012 (Oklahoma State University) – 34th round, Padres
A little background on being drafted so many times, courtesy of a story on current Padres pitcher Andrew Cashner, who was drafted four times:
“Getting drafted four times is not a record but still far from ordinary. Before Major League Baseball revamped its amateur selection process in 1987, a secondary draft took place in January in addition to the primary draft in June, which helped inflate the selections of some players. Under those rules, at least two players — Luis Medina, who played with the Indians in 1988-89 and 1991, and Pete Varney, who played with the White Sox and Braves in the ’70s — were drafted seven times each.
Among active players who have reached the majors, there are at least four who have been drafted four times each according to research done by Major League Baseball: Cashner; his Padres teammate Alex Hinshaw; former Blue Jay and Cardinals pitcher Brian Tallet who is currently with the Padres’ Triple A team; and Antoan Richardson, who plays for the Orioles’ Triple A team after having a cup of coffee with the Braves last year.”
Ottoson had a stellar high school career at Eaton High School in Colorado, where he went 34-3. After two years in junior college at South Mountain Community College and then a year at Arizona State, he decided to transfer. He said:
“It’s just a new change. Oklahoma State is more of a farming, agricultural area. It’s more country, and I kind of like that because that’s kind of where I came from (in Eaton). It will be a nice change of scenery.”
In his one season at Oklahoma State, he started 11 games and worked a 4-7 record with a 3.86 ERA. In one news article, Ottoson is referred to with the old baseball cliche of “crafty left-handed pitcher“. The thing with that is, when’s the last time you’ve ever heard of anyone referred to as a craft right-handed pitcher? Answer: never. Why not just say he has average velocity and works the zone well? That’s a cliche that’s gotta go…but that’s for another day.
Anyhow, he does throw four pitches–a fastball, changeup, slider and knuckle-curve.
Last season he went 0-2 with a 4.36 ERA between the Arizona League and Eugene, starting five of his 12 appearances.
Last year’s primary backstop, Austin Hedges, was hailed as the next great thing it terms of defense behind the plate. Not only did he deliver as a receiver, but he also swung a pretty good bat, hitting 10 home runs. Dane Philips, who the Padres selected 70th overall last year (two spots behind Jeremy Baltz) is said to be a great offensive catcher, too.
After two seasons of college ball at Oklahoma State, he attempted to transfer to Arkansas but was ruled ineligible to play right away. That forced him to NAIA school Oklahoma City University, where he hit .410 with 14 home runs. Philips also had a .762 slugging percentage last season, albeit against a lower level of competition, facing NAIA teams.
Then-Padres Director of Scouting Jaron Madison, who has since been replaced by Billy Gasparino after leaving for a similar position with the Cubs, had this to say of Philips and Jeremy Baltz:
“[Baltz and Phillips] both have feel to hit, they both have raw power, and we see future power production out of both of those guys. They can both really hit.”
Philips played his entire first pro season with Eugene, hitting .226 in 69 games. He hit four home runs and drove in 30, while compiling a .327 on-base percentage.
At the near-height of baseball my baseball nerdiness is the fact that I enjoy reading Minor League Baseball transactions. I am OK with admitting that. It’s fun to see which teams picked up Player X, or to think about why Player Y might have been released. Reading those transactions is something that only the biggest minor league fan or broadcaster would enjoy, because otherwise it’s just a bunch of names being strewn across the universe of Minor League Baseball.
Last June, the Padres made a move that evaded even my keen eye. Here it was, from Baseball America:
San Diego Padres
Signed: LHP Mark Picca (released by Mets)
He was originally selected by the Mets in the 41st round of the 2011 draft out of the University of Texas-Arlington. (That’s the Mavericks, not the Longhorns) At UT-A he went 4-10 with a 7.96 ERA.
The first year of his professional career with the Kingsport (Tenn.) Mets saw him work to a 1-1 record and a 3.70 ERA in 18 relief appearances. He was released then released by the Mets and signed by San Diego on June 11th of last summer. From that time on, as a member of the Eugene Emeralds, he earned to a 4-2 record and a 4.19 ERA, striking out 36 and walking 12 in 43 innings.
Picca, if he makes it to Fort Wayne, could be another lefty arm out of Jose Valentin’s bullpen.
It’s time for professional baseball surname trivia…Last season between the majors and minors, how many players had the last name Reyes?
If you guessed C, congratulations! You’ve won…nothing, unfortunately. However, you’ve gotten one step closer to knowing something about Genison Reyes.
That also means you know one more thing that most people know about him. There’s not a lot of info out there on the 6″5″, 190 lb. righty from the Dominican Republic. However, we do know that he was a participant in the Padres prospect mini-camp last month, meaning he was just one of 38 farmhands to get the early call to spring training, which is a good omen.
In his two years of pro baseball his earned run total has been a little high, giving him a 5-8 record with a 6.69 ERA (60 ER in 80 2/3 IP). Last year was his first at Eugene, where he went 3-2 with a 2.61 ERA, striking out 38 and walking 22 in 38 innings. He made 16 total appearances from mid-June to late-August, and also started three games.
As always, thanks for reading.
Later this week John Nolan will bring you part two of his series examining which former TinCaps have a chance of making the majors.
Greetings and salutations, baseball fans. I come bearing good news: it’s Friday. The TinCaps will be taking the field at Dow Diamond in Midland, Michigan, in less than one month’s time. How exciting is that?
Very exciting, especially considering that the likelihood of there being snow on the ground is significantly less than it is today. Sign me up for that.
If you’re in the mood for some basketball, I’ll be calling a game tomorrow afternoon. The University of Cincinnati hosts the University of South Florida, and you can catch the game on Fox Sports Ohio (if you’re in Ohio, I suppose), MSG in New York, Cox TV in Rhode Island and Bright House Sports Network in Florida. If you’re not in any of those areas, you can catch the game on WatchESPN.com or with the WatchESPN app. I hope to have you along. Also, a 4:00 game perfectly sets up a dinner at the Montgomery Inn. They claim to have the world’s greatest ribs, and I can confirm that is a fact. Even though I went to college in Syracuse, NY, which is home to Dinosaur BBQ, a world-renowned joint, these ribs are better. Here I come, Cincinnati!
Today John Nolan brings you the first in a three-part series examining former TinCaps in the Padres system, and their chances of making the big-league roster. John, take it away:
As Opening Day nears (by the way, don’t forget to check out our countdown at the corner of West Jefferson and Ewing), we draw closer to discovering who will be suiting up for the TinCaps at Parkview Field this season. Likewise, we’ll soon find out if any former TinCaps will be on their way to the show with the Padres.
In this post, we’ll take a look at recent TinCaps stars who could be the next in a growing list to go from Fort Wayne to the major leagues.
Let’s start with the group that has the best shot to do so — those currently on San Diego’s 40-man roster:
3B Edinson Rincon (2010): Like many in the Padres’ current batch of top prospects, Rincon hails from the Dominican Republic. The 22-year old played for the TinCaps for the entirety of 2010, when he hit .250 with 13 HR and 69 RBI.
Though his offensive numbers in Fort Wayne may not jump off the page, Baseball America has tabbed Rincon’s arm the strongest of any infield farmhand the Padres have.
And since being promoted to Lake Elsinore for 2011 and Double-A San Antonio in 2012, the right-handed hitter’s prowess at the plate has improved, too. Rincon upped his average to .329 in the California League and turned in a .291 average last season in the Texas League. In those two campaigns, the third baseman knocked 54 doubles and 18 HR.
Of course the Padres seem to be set at the hot corner in the near future with Chase Headley, but nevertheless, Rincon provides reason for optimism going forward.
LHP Jose De Paula (2010): De Paula pitched for the TinCaps in 2010 from late May through the end of the season. Despite missing nearly the first full two months, the southpaw ended up as the team’s leader in wins for the year (8-5, 3.27 ERA). He started 14 games and came out of the pen for another six. In 89.1 innings, De Paula punched out some 69 batters and walked 20.
The Dominican Republic native increased his win total by two with Lake Elsinore in 2011, but his ERA did the same. On a positive note, though, the recently-turned 23-year old struck out 87. Just like in Fort Wayne where De Paula limited left-handed hitters to an average below .200, he performed significantly better against lefties in Lake Elsinore. Opposing lefties hit only .225 against in him in Advanced-A (versus righties’ average of .298).
As for last season? JDP turned in a DNP, due to visa issues. Time will tell if De Paula can return to his Fort Wayne form as a starter. If not, don’t be surprised if De Paula paves out a path to the bigs as a lefty reliever.
OF Yeison Asencio (2012): Heading into 2012, you had to think it would be difficult for Asencio to top the success he had in 2011 in the Arizona League. That season — his first in the United States — the Dominican Republic product led the league in runs scored, total bases, and RBI, while ranking second in hits, and third in triples and homers.
So what did Asencio have in store for a follow up act? Well, how about becoming the first ever Fort Wayne player crowned Midwest League batting champ (.323). Not bad, right? Taking the majority of his at-bats as the cleanup hitter, he clubbed 8 HR and drove home 61 runs.
Meanwhile, defensively, Baseball America says Asencio has the best outfield arm in San Diego’s system. (For the TinCaps, he had 21 outfield assists, which topped all outfielders in the league.)
In September, Padres vice president of player development and international scouting Randy Smith called the 23-year old right-handed hitter a “four-and-a-half tool player.” So don’t be surprised to see Asencio ascend quickly through the rest of the minor leagues.
OF Jaff Decker (2009): Not to be confused with Cody Decker, who also played in Fort Wayne in 2009 (no relation), Jaff had the best full season of his pro career with the TinCaps. Decker led the Midwest League in on-base percentage (.442), while also finishing second in slugging percentage (.514), second in walks (85), and ninth in batting average (.299) to go along with 16 HR and 64 RBI.
As evidenced by his standout season with the TinCaps, the 42nd pick of the 2008 first-round pick is valued for his discipline at the plate. Baseball America credits Decker for having the “best strike zone discipline” in San Diego’s farm system. There’s also pop to his left-handed bat, as he hit 17 HR in 2010 for Lake Elsinore and 19 in 2011 for San Antonio.
Decker’s patience aside, though, his average since leaving Fort Wayne has left something to be desired. The now 23-year old corner outfielder hit .236 in 2010 with Lake Elsinore and then .236 and .184, respectively, the last two seasons for Double-A San Antonio. Last year’s woes can be explained in part, however, by foot injuries.
Healthy so far this spring, Decker is on the Padres’ radar.
RHP Adys Portillo (2010-12): It’s somewhat misleading to see on paper that Portillo played three seasons with the TinCaps. That’s because in 2010, the righty from Venezuela only pitched on the final day of the regular season in Fort Wayne after spending the rest of the summer with Eugene. And after a complete 2011 campaign at Parkview Field, Portillo transferred from the Summity City to Double-A San Antonio last July.
While the 21-year old was shaky in 2011 (3-11, 7.11 ERA), he came on strong a year ago. In 18 starts for the TinCaps, Portillo recorded a 1.87 ERA, which set a new franchise low. The Midwest League All-Star Game’s winning pitcher struck out 81 in 91.2 innings and walked only 45. Just about the only thing the hard-thrower didn’t have going for him in Fort Wayne was run support. Portillo ended up with a 6-6 record in part because the TinCaps scored only 3.67 runs per game in his starts, including a paltry 1.5 in his losses (compare that with the TinCaps season average of 4.32).
Portillo’s dominance didn’t continue in San Antonio, though. His ERA swelled over seven, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio came close to even. But still, scouts rave about his fastball. Baseball America calls his heater — which last year sat in the mid-90s and topped off in triple-digits — the best in the Padres’ system. With such an arm, Portillo could be major league-ready soon, even if it’s as a reliever rather than a starter.
OF Rymer Liriano (2010-2011): Unfortunately for Liriano, he’s the only name here who we can say with certainty will not be playing for the Padres this year. And it has nothing to do with needing more at-bats or a logjam in San Diego’s outfield. Nope, instead, it’s because the 21-year old tore the ulnar collateral ligament of his right elbow while playing long toss in the Dominican Republic on Dec. 27.
Liriano’s injury is a shame considering Baseball America ranks him as the fifth best prospect in San Diego’s organization. You can only hope that Liriano’s recovery time is comparable to his speed on the bases.
Remember in 2011, Liriano set a Fort Wayne single-season record for stolen bases in a season with 65 in just 116 games (76% stolen base percentage). The Dominican Republic native was second in the Midwest League in stolen bags that year to only Billy Hamilton (103). Yes, that Billy Hamilton, so obviously there’s no shame there. With the TinCaps, Liriano also finished fourth in the league in batting (.319), while posting career-bests of 12 HR and 62 RBI.
Last season, the outfielder started with Advanced-A Lake Elsinore before transferring to Double-A San Antonio. Though most of his offensive numbers dipped slightly at the higher levels, Liriano figures to be in consideration for a call-up in 2014.
Coming next week, John will have part two of this three-part series, and on Monday I’ll have the next installment in our Prospect Previews series. Enjoy your weekend.
As always, thanks for reading.
Happy Tuesday and Happy Belated National Grammar Day, which was yesterday. From this tribute to National Grammar Day, I’d like to share the following words:
“Words can make us laugh, cry, fall in love, fall apart. That so many people care about expressing themselves thoughtfully, respectfully, clearly — it’s kind of miraculous”
-Martha Brockenbrough, founder of National Grammar Day
I agree, ma’am.
In even bigger news (I know, you didn’t think there would be bigger news today), the TinCaps launched a fantastic new promotion yesterday. Each week for the next five weeks, we are going to be posting a wall decal of Johnny in certain locations around Fort Wayne. It’s up to you to find that decal, take your picture with it and then send it to us via Twitter, Instagram or email (Johnny@TinCaps.com). The clue for this week’s location has already been posted to our Facebook page, but I’ll post it here, too.
There’s a redheaded girl on the west side of town
Who greets you with a smile instead of a frown
Snap a photo and to you $5,000 we may gift
This restaurant’s service is always on pointe and swift
Here’s your example photo, featuring your excited author:
We’ll randomly select one winner each week. That individual will be guaranteed two tickets to Opening Night on April 11th, and they’ll also win a red, game-worn TinCaps uniform, that has been worn every season since 2009. If you’re selected as a weekly winner you’ll also be entered to win $5,000, which is guaranteed to be won by one fan on Opening Night. Get scavenging, folks!
Without further ado, we jump into our prospect preview for this week. For reference (and possibly entertainment), here are the previous installments of this series:
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)
Week Four (Justin Hancock, Chris Haney, Drew Harrelson, Goose Kallunki, Michael Kelly)
Matt Stites left a impact not just on the 2012 Midwest League season, but also on the Fort Wayne record books. The righthander from Festus, Missouri, finished the regular season with an ERA of 0.74, breaking the franchise record for the lowest ERA of a pitcher with a minimum of 45 innings pitched. It had previously been held by 2009 TinCaps pitcher Nick Schumacher, who had a 1.11 mark that season. If Stites doesn’t give up an earned run in back-to-back appearances on August 23rd and August 28th, prior to which his ERA was 0.42, he could have set that record in even more impressive fashion.
Now the search for the next closer begins, and it looks very good if Roman Madrid is the answer. Last season with Eugene he had a 2.89 ERA, a Northwest League-best 14 saves and 44 strikeouts in 37 innings. Baseball America says his fastball sits between 91-94, which is a few notches down from where Stites’ heater was, but it’s going to be very hard to compare anyone to Stites.
“(He) started his collegiate career at A&M-Corpus Christi before moving on to McLennan Community College in 2011 and UCF in 2012.
This is the second time Madrid’s name was called in the draft. The Cleveland Indians selected him in the 44th round in 2009.
As a junior, Madrid made 31 appearances for UCF and compiled a 5-2 record with a 1.02 ERA and saved three games. He also struck out 46 batters and held opponents to a .222 batting average.
When the Indians selected Madrid three years ago, it was as a catcher.”
So it’s been a quick transition for Madrid from catcher to pitcher, but it seems like he’s had no problem making the move. Hopefully, he’ll also make the move from Eugene to Fort Wayne in 2013.
Last year was the lefty’s first year in the Padres organization, after signing with the Yankees in 2007 as a non-drafted free agent and beginning with their Dominican Summer League club. From 2007-2010 (he did not play in 2011) he pitched in 39 games across three different lower levels of the New York farm system. He pitched 131 1/3 innings in those four seasons, working to a 6-5 record and a 1.92 ERA.
At each of his stops in Minor League Baseball, Marcano has also had a tremendous strikeout-to-walk ratio. During his Yankees tenure, he struck out 167 and walked 54. Last year with Eugene, he went 4-5 in 16 games (9 starts), had a 3.03 ERA and struck out 62 while walking 13. Considering the possibility of a loaded rotation with arms like Max Fried, Walker Weickel, Joe Ross, Zach Eflin, et al., it seems like Marcano could be a premier bullpen arm. Control like his, in terms of strikeout to walk ratio, is hard to come by, especially when it’s in the form of a lefthanded pitcher.
The Padres looked to have Alberth Martinez make the jump from Eugene to Fort Wayne last season, putting him in the TinCaps outfield to begin the year. During his 20-game stint with the team last season, he got off to a slow start that would be indicative of his short stay. Martinez started off 1-for-12 at the plate and finished with a .129 average and a .206 on-base percentage. By May 1, Martinez was headed back to extended spring training and had been replaced in the outfield by Kyung-Min Na.
The Venezuelan-born Martinez played great defense for the TinCaps, showcasing above average speed while playing exclusively in center field, but struggled at the plate. He resurfaced in Eugene, playing in his first Emeralds game of 2012 on June 15th. With the Ems, he split time between right and center fields, and hit everywhere in the lineup except cleanup. In his 66-game stint in the Northwest League he hit an improved .254 and knocked in 20 runs. A return trip to Fort Wayne could be in the works for Martinez, who is looking to put in his first complete year in a full-season league.
While Martinez was bumped from the TinCaps roster on May 1st, pitcher Ruben Mejia was added to the 25-man card just four days later and became a mainstay in the Fort Wayne rotation. His first six appearances came out of the bullpen, but after that the next 15 out of 16 appearances were in a starting role. For the year, he went 2-6 with a 4.29 ERA in a TinCaps uniform.
Mejia was signed as a non-drafted free agent on July 2, 2008. In three prior years in the Padres player development system, Mejia had worked to a 3-6 record with a 3.73 ERA in 31 games, 14 starts. Through 101 1/3 innings, he had struck out 86 and walked 43.
Mejia could be a bullpen arm for Fort Wayne in 2013.
Lipscomb University may not be well known in terms of producing professional athletes, but in recent years it has produced two outstanding pitchers, including a major leaguer and with Chris Nunn, perhaps another on the way.
Rex Brothers pitched at Lipscomb, a school of just more than 4,000 students in Nashville, Tennessee, and was drafted by the Rockies in 2009. He made his Major League debut on June 6, 2011.
Josh Smith pitched at Lipscomb and was selected in the 21st round of the 2010 draft by the Cincinnati Reds. He dominated the Midwest League in 2011 with Dayton, going 14-7 with a 2.97 ERA and striking out 166 batters in 142 1/3 innings. Last year in the batter-friendly California League, he went 9-8 with a 3.80 ERA, recording 140 strikeouts in 147 innings. He should advance to Double-A Pensacola this season.
Nunn was selected by the Padres 24th round of the 2012 draft, and enjoyed success at Eugene last season striking out 45 batters in 31 1/3 innings, all in 24 relief appearances. On top of that, he allowed just two earned runs, giving him a 0.57 ERA.
According to Baseball America, ” (Nunn) Has a low-90’s fastball but thrives more on the deception provided by his funky delivery.”
Last year Fort Wayne had only two lefties pitch out of the bullpen the entire year, so if both Marcano and Nunn can be arms in relief, the TinCaps could be in good shape.
As always, thanks for reading.
I’ll be back next week with the sixth segment of this eight-part series.
MiLB.com’s own Benjamin Hill released his “Top 10 Minor League Stadiums” today and said, in the comments section, of Parkview Field:
“Fort Wayne was the last cut that I made, so put that at number 11! I haven’t been to the Dow Diamond yet, but it’s on the short list for 2013. “
This set off mass chaos around the TinCaps’ offices, and required the convening of the secret council of baseball advisors in a DEFCON 1 meeting. Ticketstock was thrown in an uproarious riot, bobbleheads were strewn left and right across the staff cubicles and panic reached near Harlem Shake-esque levels.
The good people of America came to Parkview Field’s rescue in the comments section, demanding that Parkview Field–named the #1 Minor League Ballpark Experience by Stadium Journey the last two seasons–receive its rightful place in the Top 10:
Fortunately, I had been working on a blog post this week and it is without further ado that I present………”Mike Couzens’ Top 10 Blogs That May or May Not Be About Sports”:
Recent Posts: Ellie’s Top 5 Chicago Tips, The Sounds of College Basketball
Recent Posts: The World of Mediterranean Cheese, Raw-Milk Cheese 101
Recent Posts: I’m a Lazy Kitty, My Birthday!
Recent Posts: White Bread, Juice, 1/2 lb turkey
Recent Posts: Guilford High School, Guilford, CT, 2007, Davis Drive Middle School, Cary, NC 2002
Recent Posts: That’s Just The Way It Is, Bargainista Fashionista Part 8
Recent Posts: Big Bird, Kermit, Cookie Monster
Recent Posts: Parsley Is A Super Baby Food!, What You Did Not Know About Martha Stewart
Recent Posts: Spam Corn Chowder, Spam Macaroni Salad
10) Hungover Owls
Recent Posts: See Above
and coming in at #11, which was a really close choice to bump out of the Top 10…Ben’s Biz Blog.
In unrelated news, as I promised you earlier this week, an introduction from TinCaps 2013 Broadcasting and Media Relations Assistant, John Nolan, who you’ll hear from all summer on the radio during TinCaps home games…
You know, one of my first responsibilities so far in Fort Wayne has been writing the player biographies for the 2013 TinCaps Media Guide. It’s more or less the information you’d find on the back of a baseball card. Of course, it doesn’t share the whole story of a player, but it’s at least a snapshot of who the individual is. So without further ado, here’s a glimpse of how I’d appear in the TinCaps Media Guide…
Name: PxP John Nolan
B: R T: R Height: 5’8” Weight: 155
Born (Opening Day Age): 03/08/1991 (22) in Red Bank, NJ
Obtained: Signed by the TinCaps as a non-drafted free agent on December 7, 2012
MiLB info: In 2012, served as a broadcast and media relations intern for the Syracuse Chiefs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals
College/HS notes (w/famous alumni): Graduate of Syracuse University… Other Orange alums in broadcasting include Bob Costas, Mike Tirico, and… Mike Couzens… Worked on the sports staffs of WAER Radio and CitrusTV, and was Sports Director at WJPZ Radio… Called play-by-play of Syracuse football, basketball, and lacrosse… Attended St. Joseph High School in Metuchen, NJ… Same high school as Philadelphia 76ers center Andrew Bynum, ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Williams, and rock star Jon Bon Jovi
If we included any baseball stats, they wouldn’t be pretty (although, I’d like to think I have enough speed to at least swipe a few bags if I could ever get on base). But alas, like many other broadcasters out there, I realized around the age of 14 that I was probably a few tools short of making it in the bigs and started to focus my efforts towards becoming a broadcaster.
But “broadcaster” is just one of a few hats I wear. There’s also son (to John and Kathy) and older brother (to Katie and Kirsten). There’s a fan of dry humor hat (see: Seinfeld and The Office), pickup basketball player hat, bad golfer hat, and when-I-have-time-for-it distance runner hat.
By the way, as an Edison, New Jersey native, yes, I am indeed a fan of Bruce Springsteen and wear an excessive amount of hair gel. (That last sentence is only partially true. I’ll let you decipher.)
Now, I’m excited to be on board with the TinHatsCaps. Feel free to be in touch on Twitter @John_G_Nolan and let me know what hats you wear (or perhaps what your favorite version of the TinCaps hat is).
Back to you, Mike…
And with that, John, we’ve reached the end of another blog post. Stay tuned to “It’s All Relative” for another edition of Prospect Previews next Monday. Have a great weekend.
As always, thanks for reading.