First Day Jitters

I took an extended hiatus from writing and business in general to handle a breathtakingly bad year, but couldn’t stay away once spring training rolled around. And my family is sick of my constant attentiveness, and grateful I’ve returned to the keyboard. I suspect my audience will be significantly lower, but that’s OK. With any luck I’ll find one new associate to banter with, and that will be enough. And yes, I’ve been on Roto Wire for years, appeared on radio, Yahoo! and Sandbox among others, and contributed to the baseball mags as well as football. But for at least this season, I’m here. So let’s begin.
My methodology for prospecting and the minor leagues is comprised of the usual stat-guy evaluations, — I am, after all, an accountant and financial analyst by trade – but tend to dig deeper than simply K/BB ratio, and use physical scouting and reports more, applying it against different statistics and variations to come to conclusions that I think obvious, but many of the industry’s straight stat lovers don’t see it, or agree with.
The one thing I can’t abide is those within the industry that consistently write on their brilliance. I’ve written this many times – Minor league prospects are a minefield of pain and failure. For every one that has made me look good, there are 2-3 that haven’t. I’ve had Jerome Williams, Hee Sop Choi, and Gavin Floyd grace the top-15 of my 100 lists, and I’m still waiting for MY brilliance to emerge. God, I hope at least one of them does. Did I also mention Rafael Soriano?

I’m not going to necessarily restrict this blog to the minor leagues as I am a fantasy “expert” too, or so they say, and I do love a good keeper auction as well as a dynasty league. But for now let’s jump in with a few pitchers from the “D’myna’s” to watch this spring training.

Marlins

Ricky Nolasco versus Reynel Pinto

While neither is the cream of the organization’s top pitching prospect, it’s an excellent lefty/righty study in contrasting styles, with both arriving from the Cubs.

Pinto – The 23-year-old southpaw scores high on stuff with sold velocity to 94 mph, but low in control due to erratic mechanics. At his age, it’s not too late to learn consistency in motion, but I doubt he’ll be a part of the big club when camp breaks.

Nolasco – I’ve followed Nolasco closely the past couple of seasons and I’ve gained a fondness for him. He’s the anti-Pinto in as much as his trademark is control, but can get his fastball into the low 90s, thus avoiding the moniker of the next Jamie Moyer.

Comparison – Neither is the next coming of Mark Prior. Ordinarily I prefer pure stuff, but in this case I’ll go with Nolasco, one of those guys who can sneak up and surprise people by forging a decent career. In Pinto, I believe the left-handed gene will save his career but likely as a reliever. A sudden change in his walk rate is the only thing that is likely to change this viewpoint, and frankly I don’t see it.

Blue Jays

Dustin McGowan versus David Purcey

I chose these two as they are my favorites among a decent group of pitching prospects within the Jays’ organization.

McGowan – I really like him on all counts. I fell in love after witnessing a spring training outing in 2004, and have overvalued him since, refusing to remove him completely off my list to begin last season, despite the elbow surgery that had him put on the shelf for most of 2004. Sometimes it’s about feel. I felt the same way about Roy Halladay during his struggles and was rewarded on that account, and feel the comparison is over-stated to the high end, but apt.

Purcey – The 22-year-old first-rounder from 2004 is still raw, but his stuff is solid with a hard mid-90s fastball, described as explosive to the catcher’s mitt. His control and mechanics need further refinement as a power pitcher still in the making.

Comparison – McGowan’s ceiling is that of an ace whereas I’d surmise Purcey could be his number two. McGowan likely begins the year at Triple-A, Purcey should start at Double-A. We’re likely to see McGowan up at some point in 2006, with a rotation spot in ’07, while Purcey needs to show better mechanics to fulfill his destiny. He’s a good candidate for the bullpen later if the issues are unresolved, with the long-term potential as closer still viable at this point.

I’ll cut it off here given I’m uncertain if anybody will read this, and I hate to give my best to me alone.
Dan Quon

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