The James Loney Call Up

TheDodgers called up James Loney from Triple-A Las Vegas and designated Brady Clark
for assignment. Loney is a solid prospect but didn’t get the call based on
merit having posted a .279/.345/.382 performance in the Pacific Coast League
with one home run and 48/25 K:BB ratio in 56 games.

I’m unsure what’s going on in Los Angeles as
playing time has become a commodity with Matt Kemp having been recently
recalled to go with prospect Tony Abreu, Andy LaRoche having been demoted. Abreu
–- a second base prospect — is the starter at the hot corner at present over Wilson
Betemit, Kemp fights for time with Andre Ethier, possibly moving to centerfield
as the Dodgers have become disenchanted with Juan Pierre’s inability to get on
base or play the position  to the
standard of a centerfielder earning $44 million through a five-year stretch. Loney
could play the outfield in a pinch but is best suited to first base, where
veteran Nomar Garciaparra can be found struggling with offensive woes, one home
run and a .273 batting average in 231 at-bats.

Nomar and
Vlad Guerrero are the anti-Christs to the plate discipline disciples. In the past
10 years both have used their unique abilities — profound eye-hand coordination
in combination with superlative reflexes – to ignore the notion of taking
pitches; hitting for both average and power without the need for a strike to be
thrown. But has Nomar’s time come and gone? I’ve long suspected age-slide
issues would be quick and severe for these two, Nomar more than Vlad for a host of
reasons. There’s a case to be made Nomar, at age 33, has begun to deteriorate.

I’ll help
disclaim this incidental statistical analysis by pointing out I’m comparing two
months of data against three years, at times 10. Small sample size disclosed, here are the

mentioned Nomar annually displays a hit-first approach, and is normally on the
bottom of the pitchers per plate appearance stat, one that can be used to point
to an age-slide; as a player’s reaction slow or his eye becomes less than, he’ll
have a tendency to take more pitches and this increase, in combination to a contact
rate reduction, and possibly a swing in his usual GB/FB rate, is an indication his
best is behind him. Ignoring his small sample rookie call up, his 3.49 pitches
per plate appearance is higher than any of his prior years, well above his
career average of 3.19. He’s a notorious first-ball hitter, his average this
year is .405 on 0-0 counts –- career .336 –- yet he’s made contact just 16.02 percent of the time, again well
below the 22.75 percent he posted the three years subsequent. These in
combination with a groundball-skewed rate of 1.46, the highest of a career that
has averaged a highly neutral 1.01 suggest his career is in quick-slide.


the Dodgers are hoping to trade him the Loney call up seems to indicate
something is afoot.


Draft Rules Need To Change

With the 2007draft now complete, the results are in; the new draft and follow rules and signing
deadlines have had an effect. I won’t go on here, but would like to mention the Rick Porcello pick. The 18-year-old was easily the best high school
pitcher in the country; possibly the best in upward of 10 years. But he fell to
27th overall to the Tigers, who seem willing to meet his agent’s
demands for what some believe is an eight-figure signing bonus.


First – Good
on the Tigers. Ignoring the slotting issue for a moment, Detroit has not sat on their laurels or played
the disassembling game the Marlins have made famous; taking apart a championship
team twice in the past 10 years, pocketing the playoff revenue then looking for
sharing funds in the subsequent season. The Dave Dombrowski led organization has
taken the money from their 2006 season and reinvested it back into winning
another. With this pick they’re showing a willingness to invest beyond just this
season. And why shouldn’t they? The team has a storied history and Detroit and area does not fall under the auspice of small market. They should bring the fans to their new-ish facilities,
and they should be willing to compete annually.


Having a Porcello
fall to the American League Champion defeats the purpose of the draft ranking,
and goes against the steadfast philosophy of the rules that prevent the trade
of draft picks. It’s time to revisit this as it’s become obscene in combination
with the pressures MLB puts on the clubs to remain within their guidelines of
what a drafted player should receive as a bonus. I’ll use a revisionist look
into recent history to make this point.


In 2004 the top player in the country
was shortstop Stephen Drew out of Florida State. The Padres
had the first overall pick in that year, but Drew, a Scott Boras client, was
going to be a difficult sign. So the organization went the safe route attempting
to comply with the MLB prescribed signing guidelines, making a surprise choice
in another shortstop, home grown high-schooler Matt Bush. A sign-able pick, he
received a $3.15 million bonus, and Drew slid to the Diamondbacks at No. 15,
who got into a complicated arrangement, giving Drew $4 million as a bonus with up
to $5.5 through a five-year contract period. For the sake of this argument, we’ll
say they paid $6 million more, with the notion the sum is approximately nine
percent of their (and the Padres) current salary costs. And how did it play out?


Drew is currently
a major leaguer  –called up in 2006 —
being paid a base salary of $750,000, the amortized contract amount already covered
in the six-million tag; a star of the future. And Bush, who lost the home grown
spin potential when he instantly ran afoul of the law, has posted a .221/.291/.276
from Rookie ball through low Single-A, his bat and defense so dismal the Padres
are attempting to convert him into a pitcher. A 21-year-old newfound pitching prospect
with a 90 mph fastball? A potential middle reliever in a few years. The end analysis
shows the Padres have lost three million dollars, in a first overall selection,
strictly due to their willingness to comply with major league baseball, and not
spend nine percent of their salary budget; the Diamondbacks have a bargain on
their hands for a few years.

It’s nowhere
near as simple or clear-cut, the trials and failures go back and forth as the years
wear on. The one certainty is the Padres did a poor job. But they lost because
they couldn’t trade the pick and get something of value, instead choosing to
take a hit that many, myself included, predicted. The trade rules have to
change, and again it’s not all black and white.

baseball is America’s pastime, then the occupation is
the maintenance of the capitalist system. Any move to allow draft pick trades,
would have to be carefully configured with concise legislation. Baseball does
not want to have Scott Boras and co. have any more effect on the draft than
they already do. The ability to manipulate the market is Boras’ job and he does it well. At
present high school draft picks have leverage with college commitments, college
picks have leverage if they have NCAA eligibility left. Some argue that’s
already too much power. But at present the small market teams are not getting
anything in the first round for their draft ranking, choosing the player they
can sign, leaving the best talent to those teams whose financial circumstances make
them better situated and with more juice to ignore the MLB guidelines.


Something has give. The have-nots cannot
continue to watch both the Hot Stove League and the draft process from the

Sean Gallagher Call Up

WithAngel Guzman possibly headed to the DL with tightness in his right forearm, is reporting Sean Gallagher
is a possible replacement to fill a middle relief role. The 21-year-old is 7-2
with a 3.39 ERA in 11 starts for Double-A Tennessee, outstanding in his last outing.

is a solid prospect, one of the Cubs better ones at present, featuring a three-pitch
repertoire; a plus curveball, a fastball that has gained in velocity –- up to
94 mph — since his 12th round selection in 2004 , with a change up
still in development but showing signs of improvement this year. I like him as
a potential No. 4 down the road; an issue in mechanics and motion still
unresolved at this point, his 54/24 K:BB ratio in 61 Double-A innings the first
of many items suggesting he’s not ready for the majors.


The Cubs
have made the mistake of calling up prospects too early in the past, usually to
fill a bullpen need; Carlos Marmol the most recent in 2006. To be fair there’s
no quote from the organization in the report, and I can’t believe they’re
considering Gallagher who is currently a starter, a legitimate prospect, and
not on the 40-man roster. If they were to look to the minors for a middle reliever
to add to the 40-man, why not Triple-A Iowa’s Carmen Pignatiello? The
24-year-old has needed an adjustment period at each level but excelled and is
now the statistically the best pitcher on the squad. After five scoreless
outings at Double-A he’s had 17 appearances in the Pacific Coast League posting
a 0.92 ERA in 19 and two0-third innings with a 17/3 strikeout-to-walk ratio,
opponents hitting him at a .200 clip. The nicest thing that’s ever been said
about him is a comparison to Kirk Rueter for his pugnacious-ness; the ability
to battle without legitimate stuff. But isn’t that the ideal middle relief
candidate? Even southpaw Clay Rapada would be a more viable option than
Gallagher, who’ll be major-league fodder in his present state of development.

didn’t believe the Cubs were entertaining the notion, but then it happened Wednesday morning. It seems like a reach trying to replicate someone with Guzman’s stuff (Gallagher is slightly less in that department

Will Inman- The Florida State League Strikeout King

More Brewers
hype – Many of Milwaukee’s better prospects are already in the majors and succeeding;
my best in system coming into this year — Ryan Braun — recently called up
with Yovani Gallardo more than ready and dominating the Triple-A Pacific Coast
League waiting for a chance to ply his trade at the next level. Lost in the
shadows of all this talent  — which includes
the comeuppance of J.J. Hardy and 23-year-old Prince Fielder tied for the major
league lead with 20 home runs  — is the
early results for arguably their third best prospect; Will Inman, the current
strikeout King of the high Single-A Florida State league.


20-year-old third rounder from 2005 has blown through both of the two lower levels
coming into the year, thus his performance in the FSL — 4-2 in 11 starts with
a 1.33 ERA, a .202 batting average against, and an 84/18 strikeout-to-walk
ratio in 67 and two-third innings – could hardly be viewed as a shock. He is,
after all, a legitimate pitching prospect pitching at the correct level for his
age. Not overpowering, he’s currently getting by with a low-90s fastball and an
improved curve, a changeup still in development. His control is sound, his
stuff is better than described with good life, but the issue is the development
of his secondary pitches.  


He’s due
a promotion this summer, and some have expressed concern his stuff won’t translate
to success at Double-A. I doubt this is the case, while echoing similar concerns
when projecting him as a major league starter. He should have success at Double-A
as well but the lack of overpowering velocity without another above-plus pitch
is an issue. I’ll wait another year before making a prognostication, simply
noting he’s at present in development. He’ll likely succeed, but to a lesser
extent, at Double-A; the need for further refinement of his changeup imperative,
a fourth pitch not present at this time, but possibly an option.

Homer Bailey to Make His Major League Debut This Weekend

Comingoff one of his worse starts of the Triple-A season – a six-inning outing in which
he gave up four runs on seven hits and three walks —   Bailey
is likely to be called up this weekend, according to And despite the
lukewarm showing on Saturday, it’s not a bad decision should it come to pass.

still unconfirmed at this time but the signs are in place, and manager Jerry Narron
has not ruled it out, suggesting a decision has been made, just not announced.
Earlier I wrote on this Blog that the time wasn’t right but things have changed,
most notably in his past three starts where he’s done everything right, putting
the International League hitter way at a more efficient rate. One could argue
that three starts isn’t enough innings, but the opportunity presents itself
now, as soon as Friday.

As to
what to expect should the report prove to be true? It’s always a hit-and-miss proposition
when pitchers first get called up. I’m one of the few that thought Bailey was
the best pitching prospect in baseball coming into this year. A previous
on Tim Lincecum included, I still like Bailey more, feeling his long
term prognostication is higher for both control and injury issues. As mentioned, most first-starts for top pitching prospects are good; they tend to
degrade later, after the hitter and advanced scouts have a read on them, and I
don’t think Bailey is going to be called up for a one and out. He should have
enough success to make Eric Milton’s return from injury irrelevant.

 A realistic projection should be similar to Lincecum’s
season thus far; at times great, while other starts show they’re still in
development mode. The one concern short term is the ability to put the higher
class of hitter away. If he’s hitting the acceptable strikeout-per-nine rate of
around 7.00 in his third or fourth start, it should be a decent year. While the
Giants prospect has the advantage in deception and a nastier fastball, velocities
are basically neutral (both can get to the high 90s at times), and Bailey has
the superior overall repertoire and is less likely to have control problems. The
end numbers could look similar; the best saved for next decad

Yunel Escobar to Play Third Base for the Braves in the Absence of Chipper Jones

Thescuttlebutt is that Escobar will get the bulk of time in Jones’ absence, the
veteran will be placed on the 15-Day DL Saturday with a hand injury; concerns
are there may be ligament damage. The Double-A Mississippi Braves have
announced shortstop Brent Lillibridge has been promoted to
Triple-A Richmond to take Escobar’s place.


Escobar has been hot in the Triple-A International League
hitting .351 in the month of May, a .333/.379/.456 performance on the season;
fifth in the IL batting title race. The 24-year-old has decent defensive skills,
and the ability to make contact evidenced by a 27/14 K:BB ratio in 46 games
this year, has hit the same in every situation throughout his career. He has
gap-to-gap power capable of using the whole field with good speed on the base
paths, but not a burner with upper theft abilities; a fine shortstop prospect
in the Orlando Cabrera mold – slightly below defensively — but has
disappointed many for never driving the ball for home run potential, possibly a
byproduct of his swing-first approach at the plate. While he’s the best option
for the Braves at present he’s not a good long-term fit as a third baseman. His
skills lend themselves to the middle position, possibly a utility player at


I wouldn’t expect too much this go-round, his approach at
the plate should find him behind and in trouble often against the better class
of pitcher; the learning curve issue for the aggressive types. Long term I
suspect he won’t be with the Braves with Edgar Renteria signed through 2008 and
Elvis Andrus — the younger and more highly-touted prospect — possibly ready to
challenge for the role then, but, opportunity has a way of changing these views. And I’d be remiss if I failed to note the aforementioned Lillibridge as a potential major league middle infielder in any long-term Braves discussion.

Projecting The Call Up – Jerry Owens?

Friday shouldfind the White Sox making a move to replace Darin Erstad (ankle). The
candidates from the farm appear to be Jerry Owens and Ryan Sweeney according to
Ozzie Guillen in the Chicago Sun-Times. Guillen said the organization was
leaning toward the speedy Owens because of his leadoff ability.


is the more prolific prospect but not one I’ve personally ever been 100 percent
sold on. Brian Anderson is the other Triple-A outfielder of note, but the
25-year-old failed to impress in 2006 and isn’t making much noise in the International
League at present with a .272/.350/.417 performance in 28 games; he went
3-for-5 with a double on Thursday.  All
three could play centerfield in a pinch although Sweeney has always profiled more
as a right fielder. The knock on him at present is a lack of power and his nine
extra base hits and three home runs (.400 slugging) suggests he’s not banging on
the door loud enough yet.


seems like the better fit for now; a legitimate leadoff type with speed. The
second round Expos’ pick in 2003 and former USC football player –- traded to the White
Sox for Alex Escobar –- has stolen 109 bases in three full pro seasons coming
into this year (23 this season), and had nine at-bats in the majors in 2006. As a late-bloomer
overage college pick he’s 25, but not a veteran minor leaguer. He’s a sold prospect
that should fit the team’s current need, capable of taking a walk and getting
on base, with plenty of speed for both centerfield and the base paths, but he
won’t give you much power, probably less than Erstad (short term) who has a .341 slugging
this year, a .371 the three years prior.


I like
Owens as a decent leadoff prospect and an exciting athlete. I’m looking forward
to him getting regular time, hoping he can change the manager’s mind on Erstad,
as Guillen has become overly fond of “veteran-ness” in recent days