About a month into the season, it's a good time to see how the kids are doing in the minors. Rankings are the preseason rankings courtesy of Baseball America. The letters in parenthesis refer to the league. They run in the following order, from highest to lowest.
AAA: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, International League
AA: Reading, Eastern League
A+: Clearwater, Florida State League
A: Lakewood, South Atlantic League
Short Season A: Batavia, New York-Penn League
Rookie: GCL Phillies, Gulf Coast League
1. Cole Hamels, SP (Age 22)
1-1, 1.77 ERA, 20 1/3 IP, 16 H, 4 ER, 0 HR, 9 BB, 29 Ks (A+)
1-0, 0.00 ERA, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 HR, 0 BB, 14 Ks (AAA)
Hamels earned a call to Scranton after a good start in Clearwater, and absolutely steamrolled the Norfolk Tide in his first start. As long as he stays healthy, he is a premium talent.
2. Gio Gonzalez, SP (Age 20)
1-1, 1.48 ERA, 24 1/3 IP, 15 H, 4 ER, 1 HR, 8 BB, 28 Ks (AA)
Gonzalez is a lefty on the short side of 6' tall. The usual concerns from scouts are the only mark on his report. His first four starts in AA are about as good as you can get from a 20 year old pitcher. He's bound to have a rough start here and there to drive back his rate stats, but early returns are outstanding. Gonzalez is close to breaking onto Top 50 prospect lists.
3. Greg Golson, OF (Age 20)
.159/.209/.206, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 1 SB (A)
63 at bats, one extra base hit. As Baseball Prospectus noted, "it would be nice if his performance bore the slightest resemblance to what the tools watchers say he can do." Maybe Golson has upside. But there is no way he deserves the number three ranking in the organization, no matter how thin it is. It is still early, but if I do not see results at the end of the year, I am writing him off.
4. Michael Bourn, OF (Age 23)
.230/.269/.324, 0 HR, 4 RBIs, 9 SB (AA)
Bourn's batting line includes three triples, and he has yet to be caught stealing. Bourn is an extremely fast runner with excellent plate discipline. The problem is that he has very little power, and pitchers are not apt to pitch around him when he will not drive the ball. That negates his ability to get on base. Bourn posted an acceptable .348 OBP last season, but that will not propel him to star status. Bourn is good defensively with a great arm, so at minimum he can provide a team with a 5th outfielder.
5. Scott Mathieson, SP (Age 22)
1-1, 4.26 ERA, 25 1/3 IP, 24 H, 12 ER, 2 HR, 6 BB, 30 Ks (AA)
That K:BB ratio is extremely good, and he does not allow an unusual number of home runs. Allowing twelve runs is more bad luck than anything else. Mathieson's carried this kind of stat line his entire career however. There are several who think Mathieson's future is as a power closer. Since he carried his ratios to AA, he at least has a future somewhere.
6. Daniel Haigwood, SP (Age 22)
1-1, 2.61 ERA, 20 2/3 IP, 17 H, 6 ER, 0 HR, 17 BB, 17 Ks (AA)
Seventeen walks?! Ouch. Haigwood's other numbers are very good, but that is a serious red flag. It could be a sample size issue, or an indication of something lurking underneath. We need more data here.
7. Welinson Baez, 3B/SS (Age 21)
.250/.241/.393, 1 HR, 8 RBIs, 0 SB (A)
Yes, Baez's on base percentage is lower than his batting average. He has not drawn a walk in 56 at bats, while striking out 16 times. Baez has tools and had a great year last year after three shots at the Gulf Coast League. I am pessimistic at this point. Baez was a league repeater and lacks plate discipline. He's still got time though.
8. Mike Costanzo, 3B (Age 22)
.263/.310/.450, 3 HRs, 12 RBIs, 0 SB (A+)
Costanzo's numbers are slightly low, but given that it is less than a month in and the Florida State League is a tough hitters' league, it is not a serious problem just yet. Costanzo led Division I baseball in walks last year, so I do not think his plate discipline is an issue.
9. Brad Harman, SS/2B (Age 20)
.217/.286/.261, 0 HRs, 6 RBIs, 2 SBs (A+)
Harman had a great series in the World Baseball Classic for Australia, but has struggled mightily in the Florida State League. The walks are there, I think this is just a case of a slow start.
10. Jason Jaramillo, C (Age 23)
.250/.328/.385, 0 HR, 5 RBIs, 0 SB (AA)
The Phillies' Great White Hope behind the plate. The Phils' skipped a level for Jaramillo, and he's held his own so far in Reading. Considering his primary asset is his defense, this is certainly encouraging.
Bored's recent blog on the 1996 Athletics mentioned the name of Ernie Young, a current mainstay in the minor leagues. His blog got me thinking. I attend Scranton/Wilkes-Barre games regularly, and I see several players who are very good, but lack (or seemingly lack) the ability to play in the Major Leagues. They still provide some value however, and they make minor league games worth watching. Only a handful of the players in AAA are real prospects, after all. I thought I would draw up a list of some of my favorites. The only criteria is that the player should be a AAA veteran, and for the most part a non-prospect.
1. RP Colter Bean, Columbus Clippers.
Free Colter Bean! Bean is a 6'6", side-arming right handed pitcher in the Yankees' organization. Most do not consider Bean a prospect due to his lack of noticeable velocity. He's the kind of pitcher that scouts feel do not adapt to the majors. I regard that as sheer foolishness. Since joining the Clippers in 2003, Bean has compiled a 19-12 record in relief, including a 2.62 ERA and 274 strikeouts in 233 innings. Meanwhile the Yankees sit in the Bronx and wonder why the hell they can not find relievers.
2. OF/1B Jim Rushford, Reading Phillies.
Rushford looked headed to the Northern League before re-signing with the Phillies' organization the last week of March. Unlike Bean, Rushford's failings are pretty apparent. He hits for a high average and has good plate discipline. He does not hit for much power however, only hitting more than 10 home runs once, in 1997. He's a below average right fielder and average first baseman. Most teams do not have a need for that type of player in the majors, but he fits well in the minors.
3. OF Ernie Young, Charlotte Knights
The essential minor league journeyman. Young has hit over 300 home runs between the majors and minors, and won a Gold medal with the 2000 Olympic Baseball team. He could help a major league club in a fifth outfielder's role yet.
4. RP Dan Giese, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons
Giese retired midway through last season for unspecified reasons. I'm glad to see him back. Giese is pure control out of the bullpen. Last season he walked just one batter in 38 innings. This season Giese has come out firing, striking out 17 batters and walking one in 10 1/3 minor league innings. He's a pitcher that could really surprise people, and could grab a spot in the Phillies' bullpen if it struggles this summer.
5. SP Brandon Duckworth, Indianapolis Indians
At one time Duckworth was a prospect. He compiled a 15-3 record for the Red Barons in 23 starts, including 164 strikeouts in 165 innings, with just 40 walks. Then he fell apart in Philly and hasn't been the same pitcher. He's got a name and face that suggest he shouldn't be that good, so it's fun to watch him when he succeeds.
6. 1B Brad Eldred, Indianapolis Indians
Eldred's plate discipline is abysmal. He struck out 157 times last year while drawing just 35 walks. He struck out 148 times in 2004 while drawing 41 walks. If you gave him 600 ABs in the majors, he would absolutely shatter Adam Dunn's strikeout record. The beauty is though that if he gets ahold of one, he can hit it as far as any player in baseball.
7. C Bobby Estalella, whereabouts unknown.
Estalella, due to injuries, will never get his chance in the majors. He was once a young AAA prospect with power and plate discipline, but now he's on the wrong side of 30. It's a shame because his grandfather was an MLB semi-regular who also never got a fair chance.
I'm running a greatest teams tournament on Strategic Baseball Simulator, and I figured I would post the results here. I am running the tournament in the same manner of the College World Series. It is extremely unscientific, so take any results with a grain of salt. The tournament consists of four rounds...
Sixteen separate four team brackets. The competition is double-elimination, meaning the losers fall into a second bracket. Teams are eliminated after two losses.
Eight brackets of two teams each. Best of three games.
This is where the competition reaches Omaha in the College version. Again we have two brackets of four teams each, double elimination.
Final two teams in a best of three competition.
In order to even things up, I divided the tournament into four eras. 1901-34, 1935-65, 1966-87, and 1988-2005. Each era contains an approximately even number of teams in their talent pool. There have been about 2,100 teams since 1900, and each era contains about 550. (This is the kind of stuff you do to pass time in a boring class). Here are the entrants.
'14 BosN @ '06 ChC
'34 StL @ '32 NYY
'06 Cubs 3, '14 Braves 2
'34 Cardinals 5, '32 Yankees 1
'19 Cin @ '21 NYG
'35 ChC @ '12 BosA
'21 Giants 14, '19 Reds 5
'35 Cubs 3, '12 Red Sox 0
'19 CWS @ '29 PhA
'07 Det @ '27 NYY
'19 White Sox 8, '29 Athletics 3
'27 Yankees 8, '07 Tigers 6
'09 Pit @ '12 NYG
'24 Was @ '11 PhA
'12 Giants 9, '09 Pirates 6
'24 Senators 9, '11 Athletics 4
'50 Phi @ '53 NYY
'57 Mil @ '54 Cle
'53 Yankees 2, '50 Phillies 1
'57 Braves 4, '54 Indians 0
'62 SF @ '55 Brk
'41 Brk @ '46 StL
'62 Giants 10, '55 Dodgers 6
'41 Dodgers 10, '46 Cardinals 8
'65 Min @ '61 NYY
'46 Bos @ '63 LAD
'61 Yankees 7, '65 Twins 5
'63 Dodgers 3, '46 Red Sox 0
'35 Det @ '40 Cin
'59 CWS @ '39 NYY
'40 Reds 3, '35 Tigers 1
'39 Yankees 10, '59 White Sox 5
I'm taking a break from the games for a moment to briefly discuss the managers. Several managers have two teams in the tournament. Walter Alston manages three teams, the '55, '63 and '74 Dodgers. Here are the other multi-team managers.
Sparky Anderson ('75 Reds, '84 Tigers)
Bobby Cox ('92 Braves, '98 Braves)
Alvin Dark ('62 Giants, '74 Athletics)
Tony LaRussa ('88 Athletics, 2004 Cardinals)
Al Lopez ('54 Indians, '59 White Sox)
Connie Mack ('11 Athletics, '29 Athletics)
Joe McCarthy ('32 Yankees, '39 Yankees)
John McGraw ('12 Giants, '21 Giants)
Joe Torre ('98 Yankees, 2003 Yankees)
Top managers in career wins who are not represented.
1. Gene Mauch
2. Tommy Lasorda
3. Clark Griffith
4. Jimmie Dykes
5. Wilbert Robinson
'67 Bos @ '74 Oak
'84 Det @ '80 KC
'74 Athletics 4, '67 Red Sox 3, 12 Innings
'80 Royals 5, '84 Tigers 1
'69 NYM @ '80 Phi
'85 StL @ '70 Balt
'69 Mets 4, '80 Phillies 1
'85 Cardinals 5, '70 Orioles 1
'74 LAD @ '77 NYY
'79 Pit @ '86 NYM
'77 Yankees 6, '74 Dodgers 2
'86 Mets 5, '79 Pirates 4, 14 innings
'68 Det @ '67 StL
'82 Mil @ '75 Cin
'68 Tigers 2, '67 Cardinals 1
'75 Reds 8, '82 Brewers 4
'94 Mon @ '98 NYY
'02 Oak @ '04 StL
'98 Yankees 9, '94 Expos 8
'04 Cardinals 3, '02 Athletics 2
'04 Bos @ '92 Atl
'01 Sea @ '88 Oak
'04 Red Sox 11, '92 Braves 3
'88 Athletics 2, '01 Mariners 1, 10 Innings
'05 CWS @ '03 NYY
'02 SF @ '95 Cle
'05 White Sox 2, '03 Yankees 0
'95 Indians 5, '02 Giants 2
'01 Ari @ '92 Tor
'03 Fla @ '99 Atl
'01 Diamondbacks 11, '92 Blue Jays 5
'03 Marlins 1, '98 Braves 0