Prospect Previews: Week 7
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.