Monday, July 25, 2011

Newberg Night Report

Last night was Newberg Report Night at the ballpark. As always, it was lots of fun and Jamey did a good job of putting it together. I would like to thank Jamey Newberg and Eleanor Czajka for making it happen, and Jason Parks, Kevin Goldstein, Thad Levine, and Jon Daniels for doing the Q&A sessions.

he Q&A sessions were held in the Rangers Hall of Fame’s theater like usual. We got there at about 2:35 and went on up to the theatre, which was already almost completely full, even though the doors had just opened at 2:30. Jason Parks and Kevin Goldstein were the first Q&A session, which started at 3:30. They both did a great job, and it was Jason’s first year to be at the event. Here are a couple of the questions and answers:

Q: How would you rank the American League West farm systems?
A: (Kevin) I think you would have to rank the Rangers first right now. The Rangers are the best team in the West and also have the best system in the West, not only to bring people up, but to use another purpose of a prospect, which is being an asset to bring something in a trade. Those are equally important things. That said, Oakland and the Angels both have a very good farm system, and have things coming, and are not going to go away and start handing the Rangers division titles for the next decade. It’s going to be tough. Seattle’s system is just so-so. It’s not horrible, it’s just so-so, but at the same time, Seattle just called up Michael Pineda this year, who is pretty darn good, and Dustin Ackley this year is pretty darn good, so they’ve added an above-average position player and a potential stud starting pitcher. Their system’s done its job for a while, and even if it’s down a little bit, that’s ok. The Rangers still have a good system that’s one of the better ones in baseball, and while it’s not the best, it’s one of the better ones. They do a good job drafting and a crazy good job internationally.

Q: Where do you think Jurickson Profar will be in the next couple of years and who is he comparable to?
A: (Kevin) As young as he is, I think we’ll see him in High-A next year and Double-A in 2013, I don’t think he should have a big league timetable now. This kid is so young and is really, really good, and you look at what he’s doing in Low-A. Everyone always talks about how young Bryce Harper is, and Profar is six months younger than him. And he’s playing an elite, up-the middle position very well, hitting, stealing bases. I think he has the potential to be a shortstop who hits .280-.300 with 15-20 home runs, and 15-20 stolen bases, and that’s a massive talent, which is a $15-20 million dollars on the free agent market.

(Jason) This is a guy who I think could be at Double-A right now. He could handle Double-A. Profar adjusts to the level he’s on well, which is why he was able to handle this advanced assignment to start the season, and that’s why he could handle an advanced assignment next season. He could start at Double-A next year, I wouldn’t be surprised, and could handle the major leagues by the time he’s 20.

After the Goldstein/Parks Q&A session, an auction was held that raised over $15,000 for the Shannon Stone Memorial Foundation. Following the auction was the main event, the Jon Daniels Q&A. Assistant GM Thad Levine was there as well and also answered a few questions. As usual, Jon did a great job, taking questions for more than 90 minutes. Here are some excerpts from the Q&A.

Q: How much of an information gap is there between the players that you have and the players that other teams have, as far as scouting goes?
A: We’ve tried to do as much as possible to narrow that gap. We don’t really talk about that, but at the end of the day that is our goal with our pro scouting. We scout their personal history, and that kind of stuff to try to help us know everything possible about players on other teams.

Q: (me) When you are working with agents on contracts, what are some of your biggest pet peeves?
A: (Jon) When they open their mouths.
(Thad) I think that one thing that we’ve done since we’ve been here is really try to forge relationships with everybody in the industry, whether it’s other GMs, other team’s scouts, agents, so I think for the most part we have done just that. We have pretty good relationships with agents. I think the biggest issue I have when you’re negotiating a player’s contract is when there is an early impass, when somebody says, ‘We’re at an impasse, there’s no way we’re gonna get a deal done’, and there’s no creativity in the flow of conversations. But beyond that, I think we’ve learned if you have the relationships beforehand and you treat each of these negotiations as the next building block of the relationship, then there’s no reason you can’t come to an agreement. It’s when they treat it as one isolated event instead of as a building block to a relationship; otherwise there’s nothing stopping you from getting a deal done.

Q: Do you enjoy the trading deadline or free agency period more?
A: Definitely the trading deadline, no doubt. What we do now is going to have an immediate impact on a pennant race. In November, what you do isn’t going to do anything to help your team win for a few months.

Q: What are some teams that you like and don’t like doing business with?
A: I can’t name specific teams, but there are teams that we casually keep in touch with year-round for no trade reasons or anything else, but just to catch up with, and there are some organizations that we don’t do that with.

Q: Is there a plan among MLB to improve the umpiring?
A: They changed the leadership on the baseball operations side this year to Joe Torre, who is in charge of all of baseball ops. He hired two vice presidents, who both have extensive experience working for clubs. It’s one of those deals where they’re not going to tell us specifically, or publicize, their specific training or repercussions for umpires, but I know they are pretty confident. You saw them change one of the umpiring groups recently and that made the news a little bit before the All-Star break. I think they’re going to be a little more proactive in addressing some of this stuff. One of the suggestions that Buck Showalter made was that they should take former ballplayers that want to stay in the game (RA Dickey was his example) and put them in an umpiring school to get them into the system.

Q: Is there any developmental difference between Bakersfield and Myrtle Beach?
A: It is such a better environment for developing players in Myrtle Beach. We’re thrilled going over there. It doesn’t change a guy’s developmental plan. We understand that a guy’s number in the California League are going to be different than the numbers in the Carolina League, but it doesn’t change how we approach certain guys, with the exception that we may be willing to keep a guy there a little longer, where otherwise we would have felt it may hurt a guy negatively staying in a bad environment.

A couple of additional interesting comments from Jon:
- They were looking for a way to bring Chris Davis up even before Beltre got hurt. He said that long-term, Chris could be a corner utility guy, as he can play 1B, 3B, LF, and RF.
- He doesn’t believe in giving free agent relievers big, long contracts (which I totally agree with). He said that it was risky, and that while it works out in some cases, it’s normally not worth the risk.

Like usual, Jon did a great job answering the questions and I would like to thank him for giving us so much of his time.

After the Daniels Q&A, we went to our seats for the game. The Rangers lost to the Blue Jays 3-0, and only got 6 baserunners in a complete game shutout for the Blue Jays’ Brett Cecil. Alexi Ogando started for the Rangers and was doing great until a 3-run 6th inning when Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Travis Snider each drove in a run. Offensively, Craig Gentry was the only Ranger to have multiple hits.

Once again, I would like to thank everyone that made this happen.

Come back next week for trade analyses or my July awards. Also, be sure to check out the Newberg Report minor league recaps this weekend. I’ll be filling in for Scott Lucas’ this Friday through Sunday.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Rangers Notes

I will be posting a short blog this week, as I have spent the last three days playing baseball in a tournament up in Stillwater. My team played very well, and although we lost all four games, they were all close, and we were facing some of the best 16-year-old teams in the country, and my team is only 15. My dad and I drove up to Stillwater Thursday morning for our first game, which was at Guthrie High School, and their field was extremely cool. The center field fence was 702 feet from home plate, as the baseball and football fields were connected there, and right field had a hill going up to the fence, like at old Crosley Field. On Friday, we got to play at Oklahoma State’s field which was awesome, and we even got to hang out in the clubhouse before the game. It was a very fun trip. We even got to eat at Eskimo Joe’s.

I am very excited about the All-Star Game on Tuesday, as the Rangers will have five players in Phoenix (Josh Hamilton, CJ Wilson, Adrian Beltre, Alexi Ogando, and Michael Young), including two starters (Hamilton and Beltre). Beltre was moved into the starting role when A-ROD was removed from the roster due to injury, and Ogando replaced James Shields, who pitched on the Sunday before the All-Star Game, making him ineligible. 5 All-Stars is tied for the second most in franchise history with 2004 when the Rangers had Francisco Cordero, Michael Young, Alfonso Soriano, Kenny Rogers, and Hank Blalock, and is only behind 2010, when they had Cliff Lee, Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero, Neftali Feliz, and Elvis Andrus. It is also a very fun game to watch, especially when your team has a lot of players in the game. Out of the five Rangers All-Stars this year, Josh Hamilton is probably the least deserving, as he has been injured for a large portion of the season, and has missed too much time to be a deserving All-Star, in my opinion. The two pitchers, CJ Wilson and Alexi Ogando, are both deserving with 9-3 records and very solid ERAs. Obviously Michael Young should be an All-Star, as he has an average well over .300 with plenty of RBIs. The main reason Adrian Beltre is on the roster is because of his power, as he is tied for 8th in the American League in home runs with 18, and is 2nd in RBIs, to go along with a decent .272 average.

Another good thing that has happened recently is how well the Rangers have been doing in the international free agent market. The Rangers have signed OF Nomar Mazara, who is supposed to have incredible power, for $5 million, OF Ronald Guzman, one of the most sought after international players, to $3.5 million, and SP Pedro Payano to $600 thousand. Also, they are close to signing SP Yohander Mendez, a Venzuelan lefty who Baseball America projected to be one of the top 20 international prospects in terms of signing bonuses, to more than $1 million. It is very exciting to see the new ownership group being willing to spend so much money on prospects, and I can’t wait to see these guys in Frisco and, hopefully, in Arlington.

Also, while I was in Stillwater, I was very sad to hear the news about Shannon Stone, the Rangers fan who fell over the left field fence at the ballpark and passed away. This is a terrible thing to have happened, and I hope this kind of thing never happens again.

Come back next week for the third edition of my ballpark rankings.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

June Awards

This week I will post my June Awards. The stats are as of Friday, July 3rd.

My dad, granddad, and I have been to three Rangers games in the last couple weeks, and have managed to see Derek Holland pitch in all of them, including the 5-runs-in-2/3-inning game against Florida. I think that they should give Derek one more start, and if that doesn’t go well, they should move Derek to the bullpen and Tommy Hunter into the starting rotation. Holland has an ERA over 5.00 and that is extremely poor, especially for someone with so much talent.

Also, Darren O’Day didn’t looked too good in his first game back from the DL, which worries me that the Rangers can’t count on him to be their bullpen help. Jon Daniels definitely still needs to trade for some relievers, and the sooner the better.

Rangers Awards:

Rangers MVP: Michael Young, TEX (.318 AVG, 7 HR, 53 RBI) – Michael has had a great year, with a batting average well above .300 and a very good number of RBIs, which was good enough to get him on the All-Star team.
Runner-up: Adrian Beltre, TEX (.259 AVG, 14 HR, 57 RBI)

Rangers Cy Young: CJ Wilson, TEX (8-3, 3.14 ERA, 100 K) – CJ has been extremely consistent this season, as I can’t remember the last time he had a bad start, and certainly deserved the All-Star selection that he got.
Runner-up: Alexi Ogando, TEX (7-3, 2.87 ERA, 65 K)

Rangers Rookie of the Year: Craig Gentry, TEX (.258 AVG, 0 HR, 6 RBI) – The Rangers have not had a whole lot of rookies contribute this year, so while Gentry hasn’t done much, he’s done more than any other Rangers rookie.
Runner-up: Yoshinori Tateyama, TEX (1-0, 1 SV, 3.71 ERA, 14 K)

AL Awards:

AL MVP: Adrian Gonzalez, BOS (.352 AVG, 16 HR, 71 RBI) – Adrian may not have crazy home run totals, but he leads the AL in RBIs and batting average.
Runner-up: Paul Konerko, CWS (.321 AVG, 21 HR, 61 RBI)

AL Cy Young: Jered Weaver, LAA (9-4, 1.97 ERA, 106 K) – Jered has 9 wins, which is towards the tops of the American League, along with an ERA that is sub-2.00.
Runner-up: Justin Verlander, DET (11-3, 2.32 ERA, 130 K)

AL Rookie of the Year: Michael Pineda, SEA (7-5, 2.65 ERA, 99 K) – Michael Pineda, as a rookie, was a possibility to make the AL All-Star team with a winning record, 99 K’s and an ERA below 3.00.
Runner-up: Jeremy Hellickson, TB (7-7, 3.18 ERA, 66 K)

AL Manager of the Year: Manny Acta, CLE (42-37, 2nd place) – The Indians were supposed to be a bad team this year, and I predicted them to be in last place, but they just keep hanging around and are in second place right now.
Runner-up: Jim Leyland, DET (44-38, 1st place)

NL Awards:

NL MVP: Matt Kemp, LAD (.331 AVG, 22 HR, 63 RBI, 22 SB) – Matt has incredible numbers, with a batting average way over .300, great power numbers, and 22 stolen bases.
Runner-up: Prince Fielder, MIL (.302 AVG, 21 HR, 69 RBI)

NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay, PHI (10-3, 2.40 ERA, 123 K) – Roy is tied for the NL lead in wins, and has an ERA well under 3.00. However, the thing that puts him ahead of Jair Jurrjens in my opinion, is his 123 strikeouts compared to Jair’s 55.
Runner-up: Jair Jurrjens, ATL (10-3, 2.07 ERA, 55 K)

NL Rookie of the Year: Craig Kimbrel, ATL (23 SV, 2.63 ERA, 65 K) – Craig has had a fantastic season, with 23 saves a very good ERA and an unbelievable 65 strikeouts in 41 innings pitched.
Runner-up: Dillon Gee, NYM (8-1, 3.32 ERA, 51 K)

NL Manager of the Year: Clint Hurdle, PIT (41-39, 3rd place) – Clint has come to a team in the Pirates that has been awful for years, was predicted to be in last place, and has them in 3rd with a winning record. He has done a great job.
Runner-up: Kirk Gibson, ARI (44-38, 2nd place)

Come back next week for the third edition of my ballpark rankings.