Saturday, March 26, 2011

Spring Training Trip Report

My dad, my granddad, and I went on a trip to Spring Training in Surprise, Arizona over Spring Break. It was the 6th straight year we’ve gone to Arizona for Rangers Spring Training. We got there on Sunday, March 13th and left on Thursday, March 17th. It was a great trip and I had a blast. This week I’ll give a recap of my trip and a report on how the players looked.

Sunday, March 13th:

We had an extremely early flight in the morning that required me to wake up at about 3:00 AM the morning of Daylight Savings Time. Needless to say, that part was not too fun, but it was well worth it. Our flight went very smoothly, and my dad got us upgraded to first class, which was very nice. We landed on time and got to Surprise in time to go to the backfields for the Rangers morning workouts. At the workouts, I spent some time watching Hector Nelo pitch. It wasn’t a great outing, and he left everything high. I also got to see Joe Wieland and Matt Thompson pitch. Fortunately, they both looked good.

One of the fun parts about going to spring training is getting to catch up with the people we see there every year. On Sunday morning along, I got to talk with Jamey Newberg (and his kids Erica and Max), the Cookie Lady and her husband, Thad Levine, and TR Sullivan (whose blog I was mentioned in the next day at After the workouts, we went to lunch at NYPD (New York Pizza Department), which we go to every year, and which, as usual, was very, very good. I got pepperoni and sausage, my dad got the same plus meatballs, and my granddad got a salad that he said wasn’t too good, but it was his own fault for getting a salad at a pizza place.

After a good lunch, we headed over to the Rangers game. The Rangers were playing at home against the Giants, in a World Series rematch (in fact, it drew the biggest crowd ever at Surprise Stadium – over 11,000 people with even standing room sold out). Tommy Hunter started the game, and he looked horrible and just got clobbered. He allowed 7 runs, 4 earned, and 9 hits in 3.2 innings pitched. Mark Lowe came in to pitch the 5th after Mark Hamburger finished off the 4th inning, and looked fantastic. The Giants’ hitters went down 1-2-3. In the 6th inning, Arthur Rhodes really struggled, as he allowed 2 runs, both earned in his one inning of work. The Rangers brought Darren O’Day in to pitch the 7th, and like Lowe, he had a 1-2-3 inning. Brett Tomko pitched the last two innings for the Rangers, and while he looked decent in his first inning of work, he struggled in his second inning, and his final line was 2 runs in 2 innings. Offensively, the Rangers did well, however, and Elvis Andrus went 2-for-4 with 5 RBI’s, and David Murphy belted a Wilmin Rodriguez pitch in the 9th inning for a solo home run. Also of note would be Julio Borbon, who went 3-for-3 and scored twice, but looked very bad on defense. Mike Olt, the Rangers’ 2010 3rd round pick out of Connecticut, was impressive, as he connected for a double over the left fielder’s head at the plate, and also made two very slick defensive plays. In fact, Olt impressed me all throughout camp, between the games and the morning workouts. The final score of the game was Giants 11, Rangers 8.

That night, after the game, we went to Red Robin and got some burgers. This time my granddad got the restaurant’s specialty and ordered a burger. Red Robin is always good, and I enjoyed my fries, my burger, and my Oreo shake.

After dinner, we went to our hotel, a Marriot Residence Inn that is in easy walking distance of the Rangers’ stadium and backfield. It was awesome. We had two bedrooms, which my dad and granddad took, and a living room with a kitchen attached to it that had a sleeper sofa that I took. Having all of this space was great and made for a much better trip. In previous years, the three of us had been crammed into one big room. This year, we each had our own room (and our own TV), plus there were two bathrooms between the three of us. And being in walking distance of the stadium was nice because we could come and go between the hotel and the ballpark whenever we wanted all week.

Monday, March 14th:

On Monday morning, my dad, my granddad, and I all headed over to the workouts, and today we got to talk to Anthony Andro and his family, Jim Sundberg, and Terry Clark. We also talked with Tim Murphy for a few minutes, and he’s having to go through rehab this spring after he needed Tommy John late last year. Tim is easily one of the nicest guys in the Rangers’ system (which is saying a lot because the Rangers have a lot of nice guys in their system). We were at a table with him at a Rangers Winter Awards Banquet a few years ago and, ever since then, whenever we see him, he always takes time to come and talk with us. Even if he sees us first, he goes out of his way to come over and talk. We also talked to Josh Hamilton for a little while, and again I’m always amazed at what a great guy Josh is. He was on his way in from the workouts and was probably tired and ready to shower, but when he saw us, he still put his stuff down and spent about five minutes with us. It’s been almost three years since I interviewed him but he still always remembers me and takes time to talk.

While we were at the workouts, we saw a lot of batting practice and some PFPs (pitcher fielding practice). I also got to see Michael Kirkman’s bullpen, which was not impressive, as he was leaving a lot of pitches up.

After workouts, we headed over to the ballpark, where the Rangers were hosting the Dodgers. Neftali Feliz was the starter in this one, and he looked fantastic. His location was great, and the results showed it, as he allowed just one run in his four innings of work, and he struck out five. Eric Hurley came in next, and also pitched very well, and his results were identical to Feliz’s: 4 IP, 1 ER, 5 K. We also got to see Miguel De Los Santos pitch in the 9th, in his only major league Spring Training game before being sent down to minor league camp. Even though he allowed two runs, both earned, he was impressive to watch. I’m looking forward to seeing him in Frisco soon. The Rangers offense wasn’t all that great in this game, but Josh Hamilton did manage to hit a bomb over the Rangers’ right field bullpen. David Murphy also hit well, going 2-for-4 with a double. This game was Adrian Beltre’s first game of the spring, and he went 1-for-3. The Rangers ended up beating the Dodgers in this game 5 to 4.

After the game, we drove to Outback, where I got a steak and a baked potato, both of which were very good. I didn’t have much time to eat my steak, though, because Jamey Newberg had a Q&A session back at Surprise Stadium with John Rhadigan, Scott Servais, Tom Grieve, Eric Nadel, and Josh Boyd. I have a summary of the Q&A posted on my blog at It was a lot of fun. We went back to the hotel for the rest of the night and I watched TV after the session was over.

Tuesday, March 15th:

When we woke up on Tuesday, we went to the lobby and ate the mediocre (but free) breakfast that the hotel provided, and then walked over to the backfields, where the Rangers were playing against the Royals in a B game. During the game, I got to talk to Jamey Newberg, Scott Lucas (who had just arrived in Surprise), and Evan Grant.

Darren Oliver started the game, and pitched two innings, and he looked much better in the second one than the first. Dave Bush also pitched in the game, and in the three innings I saw him, he was inconsistent. He looked very, very good in the first inning, bad in the second one, and solid in the third one. He had great stuff, but the Royals hitters were pouncing on his fastballs. At the plate, Yorvit Torrealba did not look good, and swung at multiple pitches in the dirt. Brian Barden, however, did not look so bad, and actually looked good as he hit a home run off of Vin Mazzaro. There were two different mental errors in the game. One was when Endy Chavez got picked off, and the other was Jose Ruiz, as he just flat-out dropped a throw that was right to him.

Tuesday was a very busy day, as after the B game we went straight to the Dodgers’ stadium in Glendale to see the Rangers play the Dodgers. Derek Holland started in this game, and really struggled, allowing four runs, all earned, on seven hits and two walks in four innings. Alexi Ogando followed that up with a poor performance of his own, as he allowed three runs on six hits in 3.2 innings. Cody Eppley got the final out of the game. The Rangers hit Clayton Kershaw well, but after he was pulled they couldn’t get anything going. Once again, David Murphy swung the bat well, going 3-for-4 with 2 RBIs and the Rangers’ only extra-base hit of the game. The Dodgers ended up winning 7-6.

Right after the Rangers game was over, we drove over to Scottsdale, and went to eat at the Pink Pony. The Pink Pony is a steak place that has a lot of baseball memorabilia and in the past has been a hangout for baseball players like Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin. The Pink Pony actually closed last year after being open for 60 years, but new owners opened it back up just last month. The steak was very good, and the fries were good, too.

After eating, we headed over to see the Giants at Diamondbacks game in the Diamondbacks’ new stadium (that they share with the Rockies), Salt River Field at Talking Stick. It was fantastic, by far the best stadium in the Cactus League. Even though we left after five innings (it had been a long day), we still got to see three home runs, one for Chris Young, another for Justin Upton, and one for Freddy Sanchez.

After leaving the game, we made the hour-long drive back to our hotel in Surprise and called it a day.

Wednesday, March 16th:

On Wednesday, we went to our last Rangers game of the trip, but before that, we went to the workouts, which this morning was only the minor leaguers. In batting practice, Jonathon Roof was really impressive, and in his bullpen, Yoshinori Tateyama had very good location. This day, there were two intrasquad games on the minor league side, one with Double-A vs. Triple-A, and another with High-A vs. Low-A, where Wilfredo Boscan got pummeled and Alejandro Selen homered off of him.

Since the Rangers played a night game, during the day we went and saw the first few innings of the Giants at White Sox game in Glendale, which featured an impressive pitching match-up, with the Giants throwing Tim Lincecum, and the White Sox pitching Mark Buehrle. When we left after four innings, both pitchers had pitched well, and it was 1-1. The final score was Giants 5, White Sox 3.

The reason we left early was so that we could see the Rangers major league workouts, but it was so crowded we didn’t stay long. However, we did get to see the pitchers hit BP, which was kind of cool. In general, the crowds at Rangers camp were large this year, the largest we had ever seen at spring training. I guess that’s what winning the pennant will do for you.

At 6:00 PM, the Rangers played a game at home against the Rockies, and I took play-by-play notes of this one. See the end of this post for my notes from this game.

Thursday, March 17th:

On Thursday morning, we went over to the minor league workouts. Since the Rangers had another night game, the major leaguers were not out in the morning. I got to talk to Jamey Newberg and Scott Lucas again, and also got to talk to Jake Krug for a while. I watched Jordan Akins hit, and boy is he big. He looked a little inconsistent, but very powerful.

After we watched the minor leaguers work out for about an hour, we headed back to our hotel and packed up before going to the Reds game. After we were packed, we headed over to Goodyear to see the Indians play against the Reds. My dad was born in Cincinnati, so my dad and I are both Reds fans, although they are second for both of us. It was a fun game, and the Reds won 5-1. We got to see some good pitchers, but the most exciting pitcher we saw was Aroldis Chapman, and seeing him was so cool. Unfortunately, though, they didn’t have the radar gun on, so I can’t report that he hit 300 MPH or some crazy number like that.

After the Reds game was over, we drove straight to the airport, and our flight home went extremely smoothly. It was a great week like always. I’d like to thank my dad and granddad for taking me every year and I’d also like to thank Rich Rice for the help he gave me during the week.

My play-by-play notes from the March 16th Rockies/Rangers game in Surprise:

Top 1st – CJ Wilson pitching

Eric Young, Jr.: Strike-out looking. CJ fooled him on a backdoor slider, and had great location this AB.

Dexter Fowler: Flyout to Left Field.

Ty Wigginton: HR. Left a 2-2 pitch down the middle, and was hit over the LF fence.

Troy Tulowitzki: Infield Single. Elvis Andrus should have made this play, but he took a bad route to the ball.

Jason Giambi: Groundout to 2B.

1 run, 1 hit (Rockies 1, Rangers 0)

Bottom 1st – Jason Hammel pitching

Ian Kinsler: Double. Ian ripped a grounder down the LF line that was barely fair.

Elvis Andrus: Groundout to 3B. Very weak ground ball.

Josh Hamilton: Sac fly to LF. High fly ball that scored Ian.

Adrian Beltre: Single to CF. Line drive up the middle.

1 run, 2 hits (Rangers 1, Rockies 1)

Top 2nd – CJ Wilson pitching

Ryan Spilborghs: BB.

Jordan Pacheco: K looking. 3 pitch at-bat.

Ian Stewart: Groundout to 2B. CJ had good location in this AB.

Charlie Blackmon: K swinging. CJ threw a great slider for the third strike.

0 runs, 0 hits (Rangers 1, Rockies 1)

Bottom 2nd – Jason Hammel pitching

Mike Napoli: Popout to CF. His swing did not look good.

Mitch Moreland: Double to Left-Center. Hit liner to the warning track.

Chris Davis: Double to Right-Center. Hit the ball to the wall. Got an RBI.

Doug Deeds: Single to RF. Poked an 0-2 pitch over the second baseman’s head.

Ian Kinsler: E2. Ian got a sac bunt down, but catcher overthrew first and Ian got to third base.

Elvis Andrus: Groundout to 2B. Did not score Ian because the infield was playing in.

Josh Hamilton: BB. 4-pitch walk.

Adrian Beltre: 3-run HR. Crushed the ball over the right-center field wall.

Michael Young: BB. Got down 0-2, then watched 4 straight balls.

Mike Napoli: Groundout to SS. Didn’t look very good.

6 runs, 4 hits (Rangers 7, Rockies 1)

Top 3rd – CJ Wilson pitching

Eric Young, Jr.: Single to RF. Hit a broken bat grounder through the hole.

Dexter Fowler: E1. CJ made an error on a sac bunt attempt.

Ty Wigginton: Flyout to RF. CJ came back after starting down 3-0.

Troy Tulowitzki: Single to RF. Got tagged out after a big turn at first base.

Jason Giambi: Groundout to 2B.

1 run, 2 hits (Rangers 7, Rockies 2)

Bottom 3rd – Jason Hammel pitching

Mitch Moreland: Flyout to LF. Hit the ball to the warning track.

Chris Davis: Solo HR. Hit a moon shot to dead center. Hit the ball extremely high in the air.

Doug Deeds: K swinging. Chased two pitches.

Ian Kinsler: HBP.

Elvis Andrus: K swinging. Swung at three pitches in the dirt.

1 run, 1 hit (Rangers 8, Rockies 2)

Top 4th – CJ Wilson pitching

Ryan Spilborghs: K swinging. CJ had good location in this AB.

Jordan Pacheco: Groundout to 2B.

Ian Stewart: Single.

Charlie Blackmon: Single to 3B. CJ jammed him, but weak grounder was placed well.

Eric Young, Jr.: Groundout to Pitcher.

0 runs, 2 hits (Rangers 8, Rockies 2)

Bottom 4th – Eric Stults pitching

Josh Hamilton: Single to RF. Soft liner.

Adrian Beltre: Groundout to SS. Fielders Choice.

Michael Young: BB. 4 pitch walk.

Mike Napoli: Flyout to RF. Looked bad again.

Mitch Moreland: K swinging. Bad swings.

0 runs, 1 hit (Rangers 8, Rockies 2)

Top 5th – CJ Wilson pitching

Willy Taveras: Groundout to 2B.

Ty Wigginton: K looking. CJ had good location this AB.

Troy Tulowitzki: Groundout to SS.

0 runs, 0 hits (Rangers 8, Rockies 2)

Bottom 5th – Eric Stults pitching

Chris Davis: Single to 2B. SS threw the ball away after Davis got the hit.

Doug Deeds: Groundout to 1B.

Ian Kinsler: Groundout to 3B.

Elvis Andrus: Single to RF. Blooper that scored Davis.

Josh Hamilton: Groundout to SS.

1 run, 2 hits (Rangers 9, Rockies 2)

Top 6th – Mark Lowe pitching

Jason Giambi: Solo HR. Has that ball come down yet?

Ryan Spilborghs: Single to CF. Smashed the ball.

Jordan Pacheco: Flyout to RF.

Ian Stewart: BB.

Charlie Blackmon: Single to RF.

Eric Young: Single to RF. Got picked off of first base after taking a big turn on single.

Willie Taveras: Single to RF.

Ty Wigginton: Flyout to LF.

4 runs, 5 hits (Rangers 9, Rockies 6)

Bottom 6th – Rafael Betancourt

Brian Barden: K swinging.

Chad Tracy: Flyout to CF.

Taylor Teagarden: K looking.

0 runs, 0 hits (Rangers 9, Rockies 6)

Top 7th – Darren O’Day

Alfredo Amezaga: Triple to CF.

Mike Jacobs: 2-run HR. Crushed over Rangers bullpen in RF.

Cole Garner: Double to RF. Blooper fell in between three fielders.

Wilin Rosario: Groundout to SS.

Hernan Irabarren: K swinging.

Charlie Blackmon: Flyout to CF. Hit to warning track.

2 runs, 3 hits (Rangers 9, Rockies 8)

Bottom 7th – Franklin Morales

Joey Butler: Solo HR. Crushed into the Home Run Party Deck sign.

Jose Ruiz: Groundout to 3B.

Endy Chavez: Flyout to CF.

Omar Quintanilla: Lineout to 3B.

1 run, 1 hit (Rangers 10, Rockies 8)

Top 8th – Darren O’Day

Eric Young, Jr.: E1. O’Day made an error. Caught Stealing. Taylor Teagarden gunned him down at second with a perfect throw.

Willy Taveras: Single to 3B.

Ben Paulson: K swinging.

Alfredo Amezaga: Flyout to RF.

Bottom 8th – Matt Daley

Esteban German: K looking. Good battle. 8 pitch AB.

David Paisano: Flyout to RF.

Brian Barden: K swinging.

0 runs, 0 hits (Rangers 10, Rockies 8)

Top 9th – Seth McClung

Mike Jacobs: BB. All over the place.

Cole Garner: 2-run HR. Demolished the ball over LF fence.

Wilin Rosario: E6. Caught Stealing. Taylor Teagarden hosed him trying to take second base with a terrific throw.

Hernan Irabarren: Groundout to 1B.

Charlie Blackmon: Single to CF. I’m not sure if he could’ve hit the ball harder.

New Pitcher – Zach Jackson

Eric Young, Jr.: Single to SS. Slow roller, but ran it out.

Willy Taveras: Single to LF.

Ben Paulson: Groundout to 1B.

3 runs, 5 hits (Rockies 11, Rangers 10)

Bottom 9th – Craig Baker

Chad Tracy: K looking.

Taylor Teagarden: BB. 4 pitch walk.

Joey Butler: BB. 4 pitch walk.

Jose Ruiz: Lineout to 3B. Runner on second picked off by third baseman.

0 runs, 0 hits.

FINAL SCORE: Colorado Rockies 11 (22 hits), Texas Rangers 10 (11 hits)

Come back next week for my season predictions.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Rangers Spring Training Pitchers Analysis

The Rangers have had 30 pitchers in major league camp, although some of them have already been sent to minor league camp. I did an analysis of all of the pitchers who were in big league camp at any point this spring, gave their chances of making the team at the end of Spring Training, and predicted the pitching roster. I’ve also included each player’s spring training stats as of March 18th.

Omar Beltre (0 IP)
Due to surgery on his spinal cord to fix his spinal stenosis, Omar will start the season on the 60-day DL and will miss at least 2 months of the season due to the surgery. Obviously, this means that there is a 0% chance of Beltre being on the Opening Day roster. Last year, Omar made two spot starts for the Rangers, but neither went very well. In his first game, he allowed 3 runs, all earned in 4 innings against the Angels, and while he struck out 6, he also walked four. In his second start, against the Indians, Omar allowed 4 runs in 3 innings. However, Omar pitched very well in AAA in 2010, with a 2.65 ERA in 85 innings of work. Despite a very low ERA, Omar had a record of just 3-9 with the Redhawks. Had he been healthy, Omar would have had a chance at a spot in the back end of the rotation, but since he isn’t healthy, he will not have that chance.
Percentage: 0%

Yhency Brazoban (4 IP, 1 ER, 2.25 ERA, 5 BB)
Probably due to the difficulty of spelling his name, Yhency has been sent down to minor league camp, and is now somebody else’s spelling problem. This, of course, leaves him with a 0% chance at making the major league team out of Spring Training. I would be very surprised if he was on the big league team at any point this season. Brazoban does have major league experience, though, with 115 major league innings spread out over five years, all with the Dodgers. He has a career ERA of 4.70, but really struggled in his only year in which he had a full season in the majors. In 2005, Yhency had a 5.33 ERA and converted 21 out of 27 save opportunities in 72.2 innings. While Yhency has seen a decent amount of time in the big leagues, he has no opportunity to be on the Rangers Opening Day roster, and has already been sent down to minor league camp.
Percentage: 0%

Dave Bush (8 IP, 4 ER, 4.50 ERA, 5 K, 4 BB)
Dave Bush is still fighting for either a back-of-the-rotation starting job or a job coming out of the bullpen as a long reliever, and while he wouldn’t be a bad option at either, he wouldn’t necessarily be a good one. He has thrown 95+ innings in every year since 2004, and has a career ERA of 4.66. His only 200-inning season was in 2006 with the Brewers, when he threw 210 innings. The last three years have been up and down for Bush. In 2008, Dave posted a 4.18 ERA in 185 innings, and was a pretty solid pitcher for Milwaukee. But then in 2009, Bush had a terrible year, and had an ERA of 6.38 in 114.1 innings. But Dave got back on track in 2010, as he lowered his ERA back into the 4.00s, as he had a 4.54 ERA in 174.1 innings. He has one postseason start in his career, and it went well, as he allowed just one run in 5.1 innings. Dave will most likely not make the Opening Day roster, but he would be a fantastic option as a spot starter.
Percentage: 38.5%

Fabio Castillo (0 IP)
Not only has Fabio been sent down to minor league camp, but he is also injured with a broken bone in his foot. This puts him at a 0% chance of making the Opening Day roster in two ways, and even if he was healthy and in big league camp, he still wouldn’t have made the team. Fabio spent the bulk of last year in High-A Bakersfield last year, where he dominated, posting a 1.94 ERA in 51 IP. He also spent a very short time in Frisco, giving up 2 runs in 3.1 innings. There is no way that Castillo has any chance at being on the major league roster coming out of Spring Training.
Percentage: 0%

Miguel De Los Santos (1 IP, 2 ER, 18.00 ERA, 2 K)
Miguel never had a chance to make the team, as he has never played above Low-A ball, but since he has been sent down to minor league camp, he really doesn’t have a chance. However he did pitch very well in the minors last year, with a 1.69 ERA in 32 short-season A innings with Spokane and a 3.99 ERA is 38.2 low-A innings with Hickory. However the fact that Miguel was added to the Rangers 40-man roster during the offseason is a clear indication as to how the organization feels about his potential.
Percentage: 0%

Cody Eppley (5.1 IP, 4 R, 3 ER, 5.06 ERA, 3 K)
In his third pro season, Cody pitched very, very well in both High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco, but then struggled a little bit once he got promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City. He had a 0.00 ERA in 18 High-A innings, a 1.19 ERA in 22.2 Double-A innings, but then a 4.08 ERA in 28.2 Triple-A innings, which is where he will most likely start the 2011 season, as the major league level was ruled out when he was sent down to minor league camp. Cody doesn’t have a chance at making the Rangers Opening Day roster, but if there’s room on the 40-man roster for him, he may end up being one of the Rangers’ September call-ups if he has another good year.
Percentage: 0%

Scott Feldman (0 IP)
Scott went into the 2010 season as the Rangers #1 starter, and enters the 2011 recovering from knee surgery, which will prevent him from being ready for the start of the regular season. In 2009, Scott went 17-8 with a 4.08 ERA in 189.2 innings, including a 3.79 ERA in 31 games started. But in 2010, Scott really struggled, with a 7-11 record to go along with a very disappointing 5.48 ERA in 141.1 innings. Players hit .313 off of Feldman last year, and that is a very bad number. Even if he was healthy, Scott would’ve had to fight to win a spot on the team.
Percentage: 0%

Neftali Feliz (9 IP, 1 ER, 1.00 ERA, 9 K)
After the All-Star season that Neftali Feliz had last year, in which he set the rookie record for saves in a season with 40, there is no question whether he will be on the Opening Day roster or not. But there is a question as to which role that will be in, as the Rangers have been stretching him out this spring to see if he should be a starter for the 2011 squad. In two big league seasons, Feliz has a career ERA of 2.42, which is incredible. In 2009, he justified his being called up with an outstanding 1.74 ERA in 31 innings. Then in 2010, he justified his spot as the team’s closer with a 2.73 ERA in 69.1 innings, and 40 saves. And despite some location problems in the playoffs, Neftali had a postseason ERA of 1.23. Feliz will be on the Rangers major league team to start off the season. The only question is whether it will be as a starter or as a closer.
Percentage: 100%

Matt Harrison (9 IP, 1 ER, 1.00 ERA, 5 K)
To this point a disappointment, Matt will most likely have a chance to change that this year. In his bid for a job in the starting rotation, Harrison has had a very good spring, allowing just one run in nine innings of work. Last year, Matt spent most of his time coming out of the bullpen, as he made 31 appearances out of the ‘pen, while making only 6 starts. Matt also pitched better coming out of the bullpen, with a 4.26 ERA as a reliever, and a 5.29 ERA as a starter, which totaled up to a 4.71 ERA on the year. But despite a very mediocre season last year, Matt’s spring has been good enough to where it looks as if he will be in the Rangers Opening Day starting rotation.
Percentage: 81.3%

Derek Holland (9 IP, 5 ER, 5.00 ERA, 12 H, 9 K)
Derek is fighting for a spot in the starting rotation, and the Rangers are hoping that this is the year that he can put it all together. He improved last year from his 2009 form, as his ERA went from 6.12 in 2009 to 4.08 in 2010, and his batting average against dropped from .288 in 2009 to .247 in 2010. His WHIP also dropped by 0.12. But due to injuries, Derek only got to pitch in 57.1 major league innings last year in the regular season. Derek’s statistics in his first two big league seasons aren’t that great, but even though the stats don’t blow you away so far, he has the potential to be an ace, and so I think that he will make the team coming out of Spring Training.
Percentage: 74.6%

Tommy Hunter (8.2 IP, 11 R, 8 ER, 8.31 ERA, 15 H, 10 K)
Tommy’s numbers have gotten better in every big league season. In 2008, he pitched 11 innings, and had an ERA of 16.36 while hitters had a batting average of .404 off of him, which made his WHIP extremely high at 2.36. Then, in 2009, Tommy lowered his ERA to 4.10 in 112 innings, while his WHIP improved to 1.30 as his batting average against lowered to .259. In 2010, Tommy’s ERA lowered again to 3.73 in 128 innings, as his WHIP (1.24) and batting average against (.255) also lowered again. But while his numbers have gotten better, the pattern in each of the past two seasons has stayed the same. He has started off the year well, with a 2.35 ERA pre-All-Star break in 2009, and a 2.34 ERA pre-All-Star break in 2010. But then, after that, Tommy has started to tail off at the end of the year with post-All-Star break ERAs of 4.55 in 2009 and 4.41 in 2010. He also really struggled in the playoffs last year, with a 5.56 ERA in 11.1 postseason innings. So while Tommy has been getting better every year, he still might not make the Opening Day roster, although I think he probably will.
Percentage: 84.6%

Eric Hurley (9 IP, 1 ER, 1.00 ERA, 5 K)
Despite a very good spring, Eric has been sent down to minor league camp, and has a 0% chance of making the team, after missing two full seasons due to injuries. But even though Eric will not be on the Opening Day roster, my guess is that he will be on the major league team at some point in the 2011 season. That could change, though, if he continues to struggle at any level above Double-A. In two stints in Triple-A Oklahoma City, Eric posted ERAs of 4.91 and 5.30 in 73.1 and 74.2 innings pitched, and those certainly are not very good numbers. Eric made it to the majors in 2008, and in 24.2 innings, Eric had an ERA of 5.47 while allowing 5 home runs, which is way too many for 24.2 innings. But while Eric will not be on the Opening Day roster, don’t expect him to stay in the minors all year long.
Percentage: 0%

Zach Jackson (4.1 IP, 3 ER, 6.23 ERA)
Even though Zach Jackson is a former Aggie, which obviously improves his chances tremendously, he probably does not have much of a chance at making the Rangers major league team out of Spring Training. He has spent parts of three seasons in the majors, but they haven’t gone so well, as he has a career ERA of 5.81 in 105.1 major league innings. And if he doesn’t improve his performance at the minor league level, Jackson probably won’t have another shot at the majors. The last three seasons at Triple-A, Zach has had ERAs of 7.85, 6.09, and 6.38. That won’t get it done, and I don’t see Jackson being on the Rangers’ active roster anytime soon.
Percentage: 2.3%

Michael Kirkman (11.1 IP, 13 R, 7 ER, 5.56 ERA, 9 K)
After a fantastic season at Triple-A last year, where Michael had a 3.09 ERA in 131 innings, Kirkman got called up to the big leagues, where he also pitched very well. Kirkman had a 1.65 ERA in 14 regular season major league games, while holding opposing hitters to a .161 average. So while he may not be having the best of springs, his performance at every level last season, in my opinion, should at least get him on the Rangers Opening Day roster, even if they do have a very short leash on him.
Percentage: 61.3%

Colby Lewis (9 IP, 5 R, 4 ER, 4.00 ERA, 6 K)
In his first year back from Japan, Colby pitched well enough to lock himself into a rotation spot in 2011, most likely the #2 spot. Colby had an ERA of 3.72 in the regular season, and started off the year strong, with a 3.33 ERA pre-All-Star break. He broke the 200-inning mark, with 201 innings, and finished the season four strikeouts away from 200 K’s. But while Colby pitched well in the regular season, his biggest mark was in the postseason. He went 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in 26.1 innings pitched and held opponents to a .176 average. His three wins include the Rangers’ only World Series victory, and the win that sent the Rangers to the World Series.
Percentage: 100%

Mark Lowe (6 IP, 8 R, 7 ER, 10.50 ERA, 11 H, 3 K)
Despite a horrendous spring and a terrible short stint with the Rangers last season, Mark seems like he has a bullpen spot to lose. Mark has played two full major league seasons, and has had one good one and one bad one. In 2008, Mark pitched 63.2 innings, and had an ERA of 5.37, while hitters crushed him, with a .301 average. But then in 2009, Mark had an ERA of 3.27 in 80 innings, while hitters hit only .232. He started off 2010 well with the Mariners, as he had an ERA of 3.48 before he got injured and then traded to the Rangers. He then allowed four runs in three innings in the regular season with the Rangers, and then had an ERA of 67.50 in the playoffs, as he allowed 5 runs in 0.2 innings. But while he hasn’t performed at all with the Rangers, his 2009 season seems to have given him an edge for a spot in the bullpen.
Percentage: 51.2%

Seth McClung (6 IP, 9 ER, 13.50 ERA, 7 BB, 10 H, 2 K)
Despite six years of big league experience, Seth McClung has no shot at being on the Rangers Opening Day roster, as he has been sent down to minor league camp. And, really, Seth doesn’t have much of a chance at being on the Rangers’ big league squad at any point during the season, as he is not on the 40-man roster, and isn’t exactly first in line to be put onto the 40-man roster. Seth has had three big league seasons in which he has thrown more than 100 innings, two with the Devil Rays and one with the Brewers. In 2005, he threw 109.1 innings for Tampa Bay, and had a 6.59 ERA, which did not improve much the next year, where Seth had a 6.29 ERA in 103 innings for the Devil Rays. In 2008, McClung pitched 105.1 innings, and had a 4.02 ERA, as he made 12 starts and made 25 appearances out of the bullpen for Milwaukee. Even though he is a major league veteran, I would be very surprised if he wore anything but a Round Rock Express uniform in the Rangers organization.
Percentage: 0%

Darren O’Day (6 IP, 4 ER, 6.00 ERA, 12 H, 4 K)
With the seasons that Darren O’Day has had in each of the past two years, there is no way that the Rangers can leave O’Day off the team. In 2009, Darren had an ERA of 1.84 in 58.2 innings, with 55.2 of those innings coming with the Rangers. Then in 2010, Darren had an ERA of 2.03 in 62 innings. In both years, Darren had a batting average against of below .200 (.199 in 2009 and .196 in 2010). Unless he gets injured, he should once again have a very, very good year coming out of the Rangers bullpen.
Percentage: 100%

Alexi Ogando (8.2 IP, 5 ER, 5.19 ERA, 12 H, 8 K)
Alexi will be on the Rangers Opening Day roster, whether it’s as a starter, a reliever, or even as a closer. The Rangers have been pitching him as a starter this spring, but my guess is that he starts the season as the set-up man. Last year, Alexi was incredible, as his ERA was 1.30 in 41.2 innings pitched for the Rangers, and he also pitched well in the postseason. In his six postseason innings, Alexi allowed only one run (a 1.50 ERA), and struck out eight. So while Alexi is not locked into any one role going into the regular season, he does have a spot on the roster, wherever that might be.
Percentage: 100%

Darren Oliver (2 IP, 3 R, 1 ER, 4.50 ERA)
Oliver is the third of the Rangers ‘O No’s’ in the bullpen (O’Day, Ogando, and Oliver - the other teams’ hitters say ‘O No’ when they come in to pitch). He has had ERAs below 3.00 in each of the past three seasons, and had the lowest ERA of his career last year, when he had a 2.48 ERA. He pitches very well against lefties, as he held lefties to a .200 batting average off of him last year, while righties hit .281. Despite the possibility that Darren will need a cane to get to the mound from the bullpen by the end of the season, there is a 100% chance that he will be on the Rangers Opening Day roster.
Percentage: 100%

Zach Phillips (2.2 IP, 0 ER, 0.00 ERA, 3 BB, 4 H, 2 K)
Ever since Zach has been moved to the bullpen, he has been very successful in the minor leagues. However, Zach has been sent down to minor league camp, and will have to continue his minor league success if he wants to be on the big league team at any point in 2011. Up to 2008, Zach was a starter, and had a 5.54 ERA at High-A Bakersfield in 28 starts. Since then, though, he has been great. In 2009, he was moved to the bullpen, where he posted ERAs of 1.23 and 1.60 in High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco, respectively. Then, last year, Zach had a 1.08 ERA in 16.2 Double-A innings before being moved up to Triple-A Oklahoma City, where his ERA was quite a bit higher at 3.22, but still very good. If Zach can keep this up in the Rangers’ farm system, he should at least be a September call-up.
Percentage: 0%

Arthur Rhodes (4 IP, 3 ER, 6.75 ERA, 5 K)
It’s not often that a relief pitcher that is not a closer makes it into an All-Star game, but Arthur Rhodes pitched so well last season that he forced his way onto the National League All-Star roster at the age of 40. Rhodes had a 2.29 ERA last season with the Cincinnati Reds, including a 1.54 ERA before the All-Star break, and has posted ERAs below 2.55 in each of the past three season, and four of the past five. After a 2.08 ERA in 2005, Rhodes struggled in 2006 as he recorded a 5.32 ERA on the season, but then found his 2005 form following Tommy John surgery which cost him the entire 2007 season to post a 2.04 ERA in 2008, a 2.53 ERA in 2009, and a 2.29 ERA in 2010. There is no way that Rhodes is not on the team coming out of Spring Training.
Percentage: 100%

Tanner Scheppers (1.2 IP, 4 ER, 21.60 ERA, 5 H, 2 BB)
Tanner came into camp with a decent chance at making the Rangers big league team, but due to a back injury, he really doesn’t have much of a chance at this point. After dominating Double-A with the Frisco RoughRiders last year, where he had a 0.82 ERA in 11 innings, Tanner was called up to Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he ran into some problems. His ERA with the Redhawks was 5.48 in 69 innings. While Tanner will probably not make the major league team on Opening Day, he definitely has the talent and potential to be on the team at some point during the 2011 season.
Percentage: 8.7%

Pedro Strop (7 IP, 0 ER, 0.00 ERA, 9 K)
Despite a terrible year when he was in Arlington last year, Pedro Strop has pitched well enough this spring to garner roster consideration. So far this spring, Pedro has pitched extremely well, which was not expected after his 10.13 ERA in 10.2 major league innings last season, and after his 7.71 ERA in 7 major league innings in 2009. However, he did not at all struggle at Triple-A last year, as he had a 1.91 ERA in 42.1 innings for Oklahoma City. So while I don’t think that he will be on the big league team on Opening Day, I think he has a good shot at it, and I would be surprised if we didn’t see him in Arlington at some point during the season.
Percentage: 43.5%

Yoshinori Tateyama (4.2 IP, 4 ER, 7.71 ERA, 11 H, 2 K)
Yoshinori has also been sent down to minor league camp, after having a horrendous spring on the big league side. In 4.2 innings, he allowed 11 hits (a .458 average), and really struggled against righties, which is supposed to be his specialty. Righties hit .583 off of Tateyama. In Japan last year, righties hit just 1.86 off Tateyama, as Yoshinori had a 1.80 ERA for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. With his age at 35, Tateyama needs to have enough success at Triple-A this year to get called up to have much of a chance at a decent big league career in America.
Percentage: 0%

Mason Tobin (3.2 IP, 3 R, 0 ER, 0.00 ERA, 3 BB, 2 K)
After missing the entire 2010 season and most of the 2009 season, the Cubs claimed Tobin in the Rule 5 draft from the Angels, and then sold him to the Rangers. In 2009, Tobin got injured after 2.2 innings and needed Tommy John surgery. In his last lengthy minor league action, Mason had a 3.13 ERA in 37.1 innings for the Angels Short-Season-A squad, the Cesar Rapids Kernels. If Tobin does not make the major league team, the Rangers will need to either offer him back to the Angels or offer a trade to the Angels to keep Tobin.
Percentage: 31.2%

Brett Tomko (7 IP, 6 ER, 7.71 ERA, 10 H, 6 K)
Brett will most likely not make the major league roster coming out of Spring Training, but if he does well in Round Rock, may have a chance to be moved up to the big league team. If he pitches like he did last year in the minor leagues, he will most definitely not be called up. He had a 7.18 ERA in 62.2 innings pitched split between three different levels. However, Brett does have 13 years of major league experience, and pitched very well in 57.1 major league innings in 2009. He had a 3.77 ERA between the Yankees and the Athletics. While Brett probably will not be on the Opening Day roster, if he pitches well in the minors, he may be called up at some point during the season or used as trade bait.
Percentage: 17.2%

Ryan Tucker (5.1 IP, 3 ER, 5.06 ERA, 8 H, 5 K)
The Rangers claimed Tucker off of waivers from the Florida Marlins last October, and his stats over the last couple of years definitely called for waivers and for the minor league camp that the Rangers have sent him down to. In his only major league stint (2008), Ryan had an ERA of 8.27 (awful) and a WHIP of 1.92 (awful) in 37 innings. After that, he fell apart in the minor leagues, too, as he posted an ERA of 8.40 in 15 Triple-A innings in 2009 (his only innings above Rookie ball), and an ERA of 6.15 in 33.2 innings pitched in 2010 (all in Triple-A). Ryan has no chance at being on the Opening Day roster.
Percentage: 0%

Brandon Webb (0 IP)
While Webb will definitely be in the Rangers major league rotation when he is healthy, there is no way that he will be healthy by Opening Day. However, when Brandon is healthy, if he can return to his pre-injury form (an injury that cost him two full seasons of baseball), then he should be an ace. In six years pre-injury, Brandon never posted an ERA above 3.59, and hit the 200-inning mark in 5 of the 6 years, his rookie year being the only one below 200 innings (180.2 IP). Brandon won the Cy Young Award in 2006, and is an extreme groundball pitcher, with a career GO/AO (ground-out/air-out) ratio of 3.15, which is unheard of, as he is getting over three groundball outs for every one fly ball out. So even though Brandon won’t make an appearance on Opening Day, he will still hopefully have a huge effect on the Rangers’ season.
Percentage: 0%

CJ Wilson (14 IP, 8 R, 7 ER, 4.50 ERA, 18 H, 11 K)
CJ comes into the season pretty locked into the #1 spot in the Rangers rotation, which means that barring an injury, there is a 100% chance that he makes the team. In his first year back in a starting role after being moved to the bullpen permanently in 2006, CJ went 15-8 with a 3.35 ERA in 204 innings pitched. He held opponents to a .217 batting average against, which was second in the American League, and held lefties to a .144 batting average against. He was very consistent throughout the season, as he had a 3.35 ERA before the All-Star break, and a 3.36 ERA after the All-Star break. CJ will go into Opening Day as the Rangers’ ace, and I expect him to go into October as the Rangers’ ace.
Percentage: 100%

Projected Pitching Rotation:
SP #1: CJ Wilson
SP#2: Colby Lewis
SP #3: Matt Harrison
SP #4: Tommy Hunter
SP #5: Derek Holland

Projected Bullpen:
LRP: Michael Kirkman
MRP: Mark Lowe
MRP: Arthur Rhodes
MRP: Darren Oliver
MRP: Darren O’Day
SU: Alexi Ogando
CL: Neftali Feliz

Next in Line:
Pedro Strop
Dave Bush
Mason Tobin

Come back next week for my spring training trip report.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Summary of Jamey Newberg's Spring Training Q&A Event

On Monday night in Surprise, Jamey Newberg held a Q&A event with Tom Grieve, Eric Nadel, John Rhadigan, Scott Servais, and Josh Boyd. The event lasted for about an hour and 15 minutes. It was a great evening, with a very relaxed atmosphere and a lot of good information. I would like to thank Tom, Eric, John, Scott, and Josh for all of their time and Jamey for organizing the event.

I was able to ask two questions during the evening:

Me: Who do you think are the three most underrated players in the Rangers minor league system?

Scott: There are some younger players on our backfields that are pretty exciting. David Perez is 17 years old. He’s about 6’5”. He hits 90-94 miles per hour, very good curve ball and changeup. I saw him pitch today. He’s a guy who’s not really on the radar yet, because he’s so young. He would definitely be one of those guys. One guy we’re looking at to maybe have a breakout year is Leury Garcia. Some of you may have seen him. He’s played in some of our big league (spring training) games. Very talented, very toolsy player. Quick runner, great arm, plays shortstop, quick hands. He’s starting to slow the game down a little bit so will hopefully make a few less errors this year. Every time you come to spring training, some players take the next step. We’re hoping Leury’s one of those guys who can take that step. The third player that sticks out… I’m trying to pick someone who’s not on Jamey’s Top 50 list. Those are probably the top two guys.

Me: Which positions do you feel have the most and least depth in the system?

Scott: Depth-wise in our system, I like our third basemen. We obviously have very talented players at the major league level. We have Mike Olt, Christian Villanueva. We’ve got some very young players at third base. I like our depth there. Shortstop depth is much different in this system than it was probably three to four years ago, with Leury Garcia, Jurickson Profar. Luis Sardinas is a very young talented young player. He’s been out with a shoulder issue but he’ll probably be back by the time the Spokane season starts. Center field. We picked Skole last year. We have a young player, Teodoro Martinez. And pitching is always going to be deep and a focus of our scouts. You cannot have enough pitching. It’s difficult. There are so many things that happen in the development process. There are so many kids who come into the system and they were all the best pitcher on their high school or college team. Just the amount of work and the amount of throwing that we do. Having to pitch every fifth day. Most high school kids have pitched maybe once a week. In college, it’s Friday night or Saturday and that’s it. You can never have enough pitching so that will always be a focus for us.

Below is a summary of some of the other questions and answers from the session.

Q: Talk a little bit about catching depth in the minors and what we may be seeing up here in the next few years.

Scott: Taylor Teagarden will be in the mix. The young player that’s coming is Jose Felix. He played in Frisco last year during the second half of the season. He’s been in major league camp as a non-roster player. He’s a 22-year old, right handed hitter from Mexico. Great personality. All kinds of energy. Has all the intangibles you’re looking for from a catcher. Very good thrower. Threw out over 50% of runners last year. He’s definitely top of the minor league group that’s coming because he’s closer to the big leagues. One of our first round picks last year was Kellin Deglan, a Canadian kid. He’s 19 years old and it’s his first full year. One of the more underrated players out here is Jorge Alfaro, who is an 18 year old player from Columbia and may have as good a tool package as we have on the backfields. Power, good arm, but very very young. Those would probably be the three guys that stick out in our system right now.

Q: I read recently that Feliz now has a plus-plus curve ball. Today I read that he’s really excited about his cut fastball. Can someone give us an update on his secondary pitches?

Scott: We all know that Neftali has a really special arm. Mike Maddux has talked to him over the last week and a half about throwing a cut fastball. The idea behind that is that Neftali gets into a lot of higher pitch counts. Guys foul off a lot of balls. He doesn’t get a lot of easy outs. He gets a lot of strikeouts but usually has 4, 5, 6 pitch at-bats. The cut fastball should allow him to get some easier outs because it looks just like his fastball but it cuts right at the end. It’s a work in progress but it’s something that will definitely help him. Hopefully he can keep those pitch counts down, especially if he’s going to be a starter.

Q: Tom, from your GM past perspective, is it much different today being a GM today than when you were a GM?

Tom: I think it’s much more difficult now. The financial part of the game is so extraordinary. We used to be presented a budget in November. Within that budget, we could pretty much do whatever we wanted. We had to let ownership know what we were doing but, in ten years, I don’t think they ever said no, we long as we stayed within the budget. Because very seldom was there a transaction that would impact the budget in a way that they were worried about. Right at the end, when we were trying to sign Kevin Brown and Ruben Sierra and contracts got to be 4 or 5 years for 20-23 million dollars, ownership began to get involved in those kinds of discussions, and you can understand why. It’s come so far since then. Ownership is very involved in the conversations when you’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars. There are more people in the organization. When I was a general manager, we didn’t have an advance scout and we had one major league scout. We didn’t have a strength coordinator at every minor league team. We didn’t have the budget for that. So I would say that the general manager’s job today is much more difficult than it was when I was a general manager. Just the Internet makes it more difficult. Every single thing you talk about and every single thing you do is second-guessed. The talk radio makes it so much more difficult. I think maybe the last year or two when I was a general manager, The Ticket had just started and they were basically the only one. There was no Internet. I never had a cell phone as a GM. And just those several things give you an idea as to how much more time goes into it now then back then.

Josh: I think another example of that was the question about who the sleepers are in the system. There’s so much coverage now – Jamey, Baseball America, various blogs – that it’s difficult to even identify three sleepers because the players have been talked about since the second they signed. As far as the size of the scouting staff, we have eight full-time pro scouts plus a few special assistants. On the amateur side, there are 20, 25. International is too many to count. 15-20 more there. And then multiple people doing advanced scouting.

Jamey: Josh, can you talk a little about your group and what they do this time of year, how that changes in June and July, what goes on at the end of the season, and that sort of thing?

Josh: This time of year, we basically have everyone split up. Half here, half in Florida. They each have 3-4 organizations they cover. They’re on the backfields for those organizations basically every day. Once opening day starts, each of the pro scouts has four organizations they cover, from the major leagues down to low-A. Five teams within each organization. When June rolls around, there’s more of a focus on specific targets and you’re always trying to stay one step ahead of where that next trade might come from.

Q: John, how are things going so far for you?

John: I think it’s going well. I was surprised how nervous I wasn’t on the first telecast and I think it’s because I have my security blanket, Tom Grieve, with me. Tom couldn’t be easier to work with. Really friendly and a great guy and couldn’t be more patient with a guy who’s doing major league baseball for the first time.

Q: What should we make of Hurley’s performance today?

Scott: He pitched very well today. I know his velocity isn’t where he wants it to be but he had a very effective slider, threw strikes when behind in the count, located his fastball. I thought he did a nice job and had a very positive outing.

Jamey: To dovetail on that, I was hoping you guys could comment on what Miguel De Los Santos did in the 9th. He’s a guy who’s come from off the radar in a similar way that Alexi Ogando did just because he hadn’t been in the states for a while. And what he did today, even though it was against minor leaguers because it was the 9th, I thought was really interesting.

Scott: Miguel had a great season for us last year. He pitched at lower levels. He pitched in Hickory and Spokane and to put a guy on the 40-man roster that pitched that low in our system is kind of unheard of. But if you track his numbers, they’re unbelievable. The number of people he struck out last year in the minors. And you saw the game today. He has a tremendous changeup and a very good curve ball. Command of the fastball will be the thing he needs to work on throughout the season. Very good outing today. He’s a little bit behind the rest of the pitchers and that’s why you hadn’t seen him in spring training to this point. He had an arm issue so they were slow getting him going, but it was definitely a step in the right direction.

Q: If we make Feliz a starter, do we have anyone else in the system who can come up and be a closer and be as strong as him?

Scott: The biggest thing to do in the minor leagues is to develop starting pitchers. What determines whether you can or can’t start a lot of the time is secondary pitches. If you don’t have them, a lot of times you slide to the bullpen. That usually happens around the double-A or triple-A level. We have a really good nucleus of pitchers at the high-A and low-A levels. Those kids are coming. There’s not one person I could put a tag on and say ‘that’s our closer’.

Q: Besides Tanner Scheppers and Martin Perez, who is the next big thing as far as minor league pitchers are concerned?

Scott: Neil Ramirez is a kid who has really come on. Neil was a supplemental pick back in the draft when we had Michael Main, Blake Beavan, Julio Borbon, and Tommy Hunter. The kid who pitched today, Miguel De Los Santos is another one. Robbie Erlin is a kid who had probably one of the lowest ERA’s in all of minor league baseball last year, his first full year. He’s a left-handed pitcher with tremendous control. Like I mentioned earlier, David Perez. Joe Wieland. Jacob Brigham. I could probably go 10, 15 deep. And there are some younger ones who haven’t even pitched that much yet. Our scouts have done a tremendous job of identifying young pitching. And that’s what’s great about our job. We get the chance to mold it and develop it.

Q: What is your favorite stadium to announce games in?

Eric: As far as a vantage point, I really like Anaheim. We’re very low. Most of the broadcast booths now tend to be higher. Our stadium is actually the worst in the American League for us. It’s the farthest from home plate. It’s the highest and the farthest back. In the old stadiums, like in Detroit and Cleveland, you almost overhung the netting.

Q: How did Jarrod Saltalamacchia fail so badly with us and he’s the starting catcher for the Boston Red Sox on opening day?

Scott: You know, I probably spent as much time with Jarrod as anyone in the organization. Obviously there are a lot of things that go into playing that position. The development of catching takes time. We’re built to win now. Last year we knew we had a very good team with a good pitching staff that was starting to come together. We needed to have veteran catching. Jarrod’s probably at a better spot now than he was maybe a year ago. He looks to be healthy. The catching instructor for Boston happens to be a good friend of mine. That’s just part of the game. You make trades. Guys get opportunities. They get a fresh start. And guys get it going. That’s why they make trades. I wish Jarrod the best of luck.

Jamey: Just to jump off that a little bit, Scott, I know you as a player crossed paths with Yorvit Torrealba once or twice. And I’m guessing you had as much input as anybody in targeting that guy and deciding to bring him here. Talk about what about his game attracted you to bringing him forward to be the starter.

Scott: Anytime we acquire a player, it’s a group decision. With Torrealba, I was at the end of my career and he was just coming up with the Giants. I saw him when he was about a 20-year-old player. At the time, he was not a very good hitter but was a very good catch-and-throw. He’s been a very productive in the major leagues. He’s been on winning teams. He’s helped teams get into the playoffs and been a big part of that. He plays with a lot of energy. I think you’ll all appreciate that. You can see that when you see him play. He has a little flair to his game, which is fine. He’s probably not the defensive catcher he was 5-6 years ago but on the flipside he’s a better offensive catcher. I don’t think anyone projects him to catch 120-130 games. He’s never done that in his career. He’s probably a 90-100 game guy. That’s why we have Matt Treanor and Mike Napoli. I think he’s going to be a good player for us. He does a very good job with the pitching staff. We’ve already seen it in spring training, getting to know our young guys, getting them to use all their pitches. Guys like Derek Holland and Matt Harrison should benefit greatly from it.

Q: Scott, how do you rate our minor league pipeline over the next few years and what are the most significant changes you’ve seen in the game since you played?

Scott: I think we’re in a good position. Obviously every year, the draft is very important. With the depth we have now, I really see us being a top 10 system over the next 3-4 years. My last year of playing was 2002. The biggest change is probably around agents. I had an agent when I played but I didn’t really have one until I got to the major league level. Now it seems like every player in our minor league system has an agent.

Tom: How about in broadcasting, Eric, you’ve been doing it for so long. What sorts of changes have you seen?

Eric: The biggest change of course involves the Internet. Game preparation is just totally different from what it used to be. So much of the information that we gather comes off of the Internet. I still really like to go down and talk to players to get stuff that only I can get. You can go out and get all of the same stuff on the Internet that I can. But you don’t have the access to go down to the clubhouse and get the players’ viewpoints. The availability of the information on the Internet is what’s changed the most.

Tom: How did you get that information before the Internet?

Eric: Well I didn’t have nearly as much. But the information I got generally came from the other team’s announcers, talking to the other team’s manager. But I really went into a broadcast with much less information than I do now. Now it’s a matter of choosing, for me, what’s interesting and what’s just filler. And that’s part of the challenge now, whereas in the old days it was a matter of accumulating enough information to try and fill the time between pitches. Although since I started, the average game time has gone from about 2:20, 2:25 up to 2:50 or whatever it is now, so we have another half hour to fill.

Q: I’m just curious what you see happening with Chris Davis.

Scott: Chris has had a great spring. One of the things we talk about is his versatility. Chris is a special athlete. He can really defend and play a lot of different positions on the field. It’s all about the bat. He really got a great start when he first showed up in Texas and it’s been up and down since. But is he going to make the team, is there a spot on the team for him, we’ll see what happens. But I know one thing. When you’re putting a team together, you can’t have too many good players. There will be injuries and there will be things that come up throughout the season and if he isn’t with the big league club to start, I’m sure he’ll put himself in a position where he’s one of the first guys we go to because he’s versatile. He can play a lot of positions.

Q: We can’t leave without a question about Michael Young. How is Michael really doing and what are the chances he’ll be with us at the end of the year?

Tom: I don’t think any of us can speak to the chances of him being here at the end of the year. That’s a question that I don’t think anybody can answer. How’s he doing? He may still be upset but you’ll never know it when he’s on the field. Some of the silliest things I read in the offseason were questions about whether Michael would report to spring training and if he does will he be a distraction. You can’t know anything about Michael Young and come up with those two questions. He was going to be here when he was supposed to be here. And he addressed his team, which they probably told him he didn’t have to do, to say that he won’t be a distraction. He’ll play hard, he’ll play well at third, short, second, first, DH, wherever Ron Washington puts him in the lineup. If he’s here, he’ll be a huge part of our team. The hardest part about the whole situation is when you look at the people that are involved – the three main players – Jon Daniels, Nolan Ryan, and Michael Young. You can’t get three better people than this. They’ve all got great reputations. Their integrity speaks for itself. So it’s hard to understand how the situation could ever have happened, and it’s too bad. But it will have absolutely nothing to do with what goes down on the field. It won’t matter at all. Michael will be fine. He’ll be playing hard. The players don’t care about it and it will not be an issue. Now whether or not he’ll be here - if someone has an injury and calls up Jon Daniels and they make him a great offer tomorrow, who knows what could happen. Right now, I think all of us feel the same way. We’re glad he’s here, we need him and he’ll be a huge part of our team. I feel bad a little bit for Michael that for ten years, he’s built up this equity and people are so quick to jump off his bandwagon. And at the same time, I feel bad for Jon Daniels because his integrity has been questioned too and that’s too bad because I don’t think he deserves that either. So whatever the miscommunication was, probably none of us will ever know and it won’t impact the team.

It was a fun evening and I’m really glad that it happened while I was in Surprise. Thanks again to everyone involved.

Come back this weekend when I hope to finally post my spring training pitchers analysis, which has been taking me a lot longer than expected to put together. Also, I’ll be posting my spring training trip report soon.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Rangers Spring Training Catchers Analysis

The Rangers have 5 catchers in major league camp. I did an analysis of all the catchers in big league camp, gave their chances of making the team at the end of Spring Training, and predicted the catching roster. I’ve also included each player’s spring training stats as of this morning (March 6th).

By the way, since I didn’t have a post last weekend, I’m posting twice this weekend. If you haven’t read it yet, I just posted my infielders analysis yesterday. It’s the next post just below this one.

Kevin Cash (0-for-3, 1 RBI, 1 BB)
Kevin has almost no chance at making the major league roster coming out of Spring Training, and will most likely not even be the starting catcher at Triple-A, where Taylor Teagarden will most likely fill that role. However, Cash has played in the majors for at least a part of the season for each of the past eight seasons, and it would not surprise me if he had a short stint once again in 2011. He is a very good defensive catcher, but has lots of problems at the plate. His career batting average is .183 in 641 major league at-bats, and his highest season average was .231 in 2009, a year in which he had only 26 at-bats. While Cash does have big league experience, I don’t think that there is much of a chance that he is on the Opening Day roster.
Percentage: 6.7%

Jose Felix (4-for-4, 1 R)
Jose has just about no chance to be on the Opening Day roster, and if he somehow made his way onto it, I would be shocked. So, barring injuries to Yorvit Torrealba, Matt Treanor, Taylor Teagarden, and Kevin Cash, I feel pretty safe in saying that he will not be on the big league team. Jose is solid defensively, and can handle a pitching staff well. In fact, in 2010, he threw out 63% of attempted base-stealers at High-A Bakersfield, which is an amazing rate. Jose also hit pretty well in 2010, posting a .278 batting average between Bakersfield and Frisco. He should start off the season in Frisco, and he will not end Spring Training at a higher level than Triple-A.
Percentage: 1.2%

Taylor Teagarden (1-for-5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 2 R)
Taylor really struggled offensively in 2010, hitting just .155 with 4 home runs and 6 RBIs in 71 at-bats. His offensive production has gone down in each of the past two seasons after hitting well in his rookie year. In 2008, Taylor hit .319 with 6 home runs and 17 RBIs, which he followed up in 2009 by hitting a mediocre .217 with six homers and 24 RBIs. Taylor also struggled defensively last year, and his defense is supposed to be his best tool. At this point, Taylor still has the potential, and should be third on the Rangers’ catching depth chart in the organization. But the top two seem pretty set, which most likely leaves Taylor in Triple-A.
Percentage: 20.3%

Yorvit Torrealba (0-for-3)
Yorvit was signed by the Rangers this offseason as the team’s starting catcher, and it looks like that will be his role to start off the season. I don’t see any scenario (assuming that he’s healthy) in which Yorvit is left off of the major league team at the end of Spring Training. Torrealba is good defensively, and should be a good veteran presence in the clubhouse. He is also coming off of two of his best offensive seasons of his career, if not his best two. In 2009, Yorvit hit .291 (career high) with 2 home runs and 31 RBIs. Last year, he hit .271 with 7 homers (second most in career) and 37 RBIs. He also hits well with runners in scoring position, as in 2010 he had a .316 average in that situation. If he was not on the Opening Day roster, I would be very surprised.
Percentage: 100%

Matt Treanor (1-for-2, 1 RBI, 2 BB)
Coming into Spring Training, Matt seems pretty locked into the backup catching role. It does not look like there is much of a chance that he will become the starter or that he will be sent down to Triple-A at the start of the season. Despite his .211 batting average last season with the Rangers, Matt was a solid role player, and is not a bad backup catcher. As a starter, he would be on the lower end of the starting catchers in major league baseball. He hit 5 home runs and had 27 RBIs in the regular season in 2010 and also hit a homer in the postseason. Matt works well with CJ Wilson and seems to have assumed the role of his personal catcher. Matt should be the backup catcher to start off the season, and if he is not, I will not be able to claim that I saw it coming.
Percentage: 92.6%

Come back at the end of the week for my Spring Training Pitchers Analysis.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Rangers Spring Training Infielders Analysis

The Rangers have 10 infielders in major league camp. I did an analysis of all the infielders in big league camp, gave their chances of making the team at the end of Spring Training, and predicted the infield roster. I’ve also included each player’s spring training stats as of this morning (March 5th).

Elvis Andrus (1-for-10, 1 RBI)
There is no question whether Elvis will be on the team to start off the season, and there is also no question whether he will be a starter. The only question is, will he be the leadoff man or will he hit out of the #2 spot? Elvis led off last year, and hit .265 with 32 steals. While he had no home runs all year after hitting 6 in his rookie season in 2009, Andrus had enough speed and defense to make the All-Star team. Elvis’ defense is outstanding, and, in my opinion, should have gotten him a Gold Glove last year, and he is extremely speedy, with 65 stolen bases in his first two seasons. There is zero chance that Elvis gets sent to the minors to start off the year, barring an injury.
Percentage of making the Opening Day Roster: 100%

Brian Barden (4-for-9, 2 BB, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 1 E)
While Barden will most likely not make the team out of Spring Training, he has a good shot at becoming the utility infielder if there is an injury during the year (Ian Kinsler perhaps). He has played for a short stint in the majors in each of the past four seasons, but has never had more than 103 at-bats in a year. Last year with the Marlins, Barden went 5-for-28 with 3 RBIs, after hitting .233 with the Cards the year before. But while Brian didn’t necessarily hit well in the majors in 2010, he dominated in the minors with the AAA New Orleans Zephyrs, where he hit .353 on the year and had a .407 OBP. Brian can play 2nd, 3rd, and short, but has played the majority of his games at third. He has also seen a little bit of time at 1st, right, center, and left, but not much time. I don’t think that Barden will make the Rangers Opening Day roster, but I think that there is a pretty good chance that he plays baseball in Arlington at some point in the year.
Percentage: 19.7%

Adrian Beltre (0-for-0)
Adrian is the second 2010 All-Star infielder for the Rangers to this point, with still one more All-Star to go, giving the Rangers an All-Star at 75% of their infield positions. Last year, Beltre hit .321 with 28 home runs (including probably about ten with one knee) and 102 RBIs. Adrian also plays some of the best defense at third base in all of baseball, as he owns two Gold Glove awards, and makes many appearances on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays. Obviously, with his 2010 numbers, his contract, and his defense, as long as he is healthy, Adrian will be the Rangers’ starting 3rd baseman to start off the year.
Percentage: 100%

Andres Blanco (2-for-12, 1 BB, 2 R)
Personally, I don’t think that Blanco should be on the Opening Day roster, as Michael can be the utility infielder and DH, and an extra pitcher in that bullpen would be nice, especially with how many good relievers the Rangers have that might not even make the team. That said, I don’t have any input on who makes the roster, and the Rangers seem set on having a utility infielder on the team. Blanco had a good year last year, hitting .277 with 13 RBIs in 166 at-bats, and did a good job of filling in for Ian Kinsler while he was hurt. From what I’ve heard, it sounds like Andres will be on the Opening Day roster.
Percentage: 79.8%

Chris Davis (5-for-14, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R, 2 BB, 2 2B)
Chris does not have all that much of a chance to make the Rangers out of Spring Training, especially with the Rangers having him play at third this spring, but if he can have a monster camp with the bat, he has a shot at being on the Opening Day team. Chris’ defense has never been the problem, as he is spectacular in the field, but he has struggled with the bat in each of the past two seasons. In 2009, his power numbers were good (21 HRs, 59 RBIs in 391 ABs), but his strikeout totals were ridiculous (150 K), and his batting average wasn’t so hot, either (.238 AVG). His 2010 season was much worse, with just a .192 AVG with 1 home run and 4 RBIs in 120 ABs. He was also striking out at a high rate again, with 40 strikeouts in that small number of at-bats. Chris struck out in 1 out of every 3 at-bats, which is up to Mark Reynolds levels. But even though he has struggled of late, the potential is still there, and the defense is still brilliant, so you cannot count him out.
Percentage: 21.3%

Esteban German (3-for-12, 1 R, 4 K, 1 E)
In my opinion, Esteban starts off Spring Training as the third choice for utility infielder (behind Andres Blanco and Brian Barden). That leaves a very miniscule chance of Esteban being on the major league team on Opening Day. German wouldn’t be a terrible utility man if there are some injuries, but he should not have that role for an extended period of time. Last year, Esteban had thirteen major league at-bats, and got three hits. German was actually on the Rangers AL Division Series roster just due to his speed. Even though he does have speed, I just don’t see him being on the Opening Day roster, especially with him being a non-roster invitee.
Percentage: 13.3%

Ian Kinsler (5-for-9, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB, 3 R, 1 SB)
Ian is yet another Rangers All-Star infielder. The Rangers have three of them, the second most of any American League team behind the Yankees. While Ian’s power numbers were down last season (31 HRs to 6 HRs and 86 RBIs to 45 RBIs), his average was way up (.253 to .286). Ian also has lots of speed, and can steal bases with regularity when healthy. And health is Kinsler’s biggest issue, as he played in only 103 games last year, and has not played more than 144 games in a season in his career. Kinsler was healthy for the postseason, though, and his numbers made that pretty obvious, as he hit .296 in the playoffs with 3 home runs and 9 RBIs. Kinsler will be in the Rangers starting lineup on Opening Day, and as of right now, it looks like he will be doing so from the leadoff spot.
Percentage: 100%

Mitch Moreland (6-for-11, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R, 2 BB, 2 2B)
While Mitch is not a complete lock, he would have to have a terrible spring to be sent back down to Triple-A at the start of the season, and so far, his spring has been very good. Mitch stepped in at first base last year and did a fine job. He was nothing special, hitting .255 with 9 home runs and 25 RBIs in 145 at-bats, but he didn’t hurt the Rangers offensively, and played pretty solid defense. Mitch hit very well in clutch situations, as he had a .333 batting average with runners in scoring position, and hit .400 in the late innings of close ballgames. He also hit possibly the biggest home run in franchise history in Game 3 of the World Series, which basically kept the Rangers from getting swept. So while Mitch is not 100%, I would be very surprised if he was not on the Opening Day roster.
Percentage: 92.7%

Mike Napoli (5-for-10, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 5 R)
Napoli had a very interesting offseason. First, the Angels traded him along with Juan Rivera to the Blue Jays in exchange for Toronto OF Vernon Wells. Just a few days later, Napoli was then turned around and dealt to the Rangers in exchange for reliever Frankie Francisco. So, during this one offseason alone, Napoli was on three different teams at some point. Mike should be a good addition to the Rangers line-up, and while he might not hit for that high of an average (.251 career and .238 in 2010), his power numbers are very good (26 HRs and 68 RBIs in 2010).The plan for Napoli in 2011 is to have him be a part-time DH and a backup first baseman along with Michael Young, but even if that plan changes, no matter what, Mike will be on the Rangers Opening Day roster.
Percentage: 100%

Jose Ruiz (3-for-8, 3 RBI, 2 R)
When Ruiz was signed this offseason by the Rangers, he was not brought in to be on the major league team at any point this season, and it is a major long shot that he will be on the Opening Day team. Jose was in the Tampa Bay Rays organization last season after defecting from Cuba in 2009 while he was playing for the Cuban National Series club. He hit .272 with one home run and eleven RBIs in a limited time in the Rays minor league system. Jose really does not have much of a chance to make the big league team out of Spring Training.
Percentage: 2.4%

Michael Young (5-for-8, 2 R, 1 3B, 1 E)
Despite offseason turmoil, it looks like Michael will play for the Rangers in 2011. Even though Michael had his lowest on-base percentage since 2002 (.330 in 2010), Young still had a solid season at the plate, with a .284 batting average along with 21 home runs and 91 RBIs. Young posted his largest RBI total since 2007, and hit the second most home runs in the past five years. Michael heads into Spring Training as the starting designated hitter and also as a utility infielder. Young will be working some at first base this spring, and the plan is to have him along with Napoli back up Mitch Moreland at first against righties, and start at first against lefties. Unless there is a surprising trade before the season starts, then there is no question whether or not Michael will be on the team.
Percentage: 100%

Predicted Infield Roster:
1B: Mitch Moreland
2B: Ian Kinsler
SS: Elvis Andrus
3B: Adrian Beltre
DH/UTIL: Michael Young
DH/1B: Mike Napoli
UTIL: Andres Blanco

Next in Line:

Come back later this week for my Spring Training Catchers Analysis and part of my pitching analysis.