Tag Archive | "Hurlers"

Wacha, The One Hit Wonder

It’s been quite the year around Michael Wacha thus far. Long before his nearly historic outing last night, the rookie righty has put together an enticing showing in his first rodeo, one that is just getting started. The reward for the pick that Pujols brought to St. Louis, is quickly establishing himself in the fashion that was so eagerly awaited since nearly his first day with the team this spring.

Washington Nationals  vs St. Louis Cardinals

The most impressive things on the surface level for Wacha are the hard fastball, which and the fast rise that it has afforded from college to the Majors in under a year. Yet, as last night’s performance has showcased, it is the poise that is his greatest ally. Balancing upper 90’s fastballs with strategic placement both in the zone and offsetting them with a changeup that he deploys with the knowledge of a hurler 10 years his senior is one thing, but handling the breaks was the most impressive part of his outing last night.

After missing his chance at becoming the third Cardinal rookie to throw a no-hitter in as many of the memorable outings as the franchise has hosted, his demeanor told the story of where he was. Despite missing finishing his fantastic effort by inches, as Ryan Zimmerman’s heart-breaking single bounced through the infield, he did not make a big deal of the situation. He held his head steady as he was removed from the game after that 112th and final pitch, and took a convincing approach to the “failed” outing, which in actually won a crucial series for the club.

While the concern with young hurlers is if they can stand up to pressure of the moment, a closer look at Wacha’s year shows another encouraging factor in his readiness for the postseason. While batters have hit .281 on his pitches 51-75, he does his best work after passing that point, with opposing batters having to .167/.210/.190 split from pitches 76-112. It’s that fortitude that makes him a promising option for the type of arduous games ahead.

The levity of the no-hitter wasn’t his focus, as much was delivering a solid start in a tight game, as well as keeping it in focus. The magic number for clinching the National League Central, and thus avoiding the trap of the Wild Card Game, was in need of yet another strong outing, which he delivered unequivocally. As he relayed to MLB.com’s Jennifer Langosch, he accomplished what he set out for:

That focus is what can make him as much of an asset as the fastball, the eye-popping compliment pitches and the imposing 6’6 frame packaging it all. In a clear cut sense of this, the disappointment from teammates such as David Freese and Pete Kozma, both of celebrated postseason form, was far more evident than his own. And while without a doubt, he will have a time where he runs the scenario back through his mind, his poise in a personal defeat, yet team victory says a lot about what he can bring to the team in the upcoming week when every game hinges on such major moments.

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2013 UCB Progressive Game Blog: The Fourth Inning

For the sixth consecutive year, the United Cardinal Bloggers, one of the premier organized blogging communities in all of baseball, will be conducting one of their signature projects, the progressive game blog.  This year, the organization has selected the May 4 game in Milwaukee for their focus.

As is the case every year, each blogger is assigned a portion (usually an inning) of the game.  The blogger will not only describe the action but will use what happens in that portion as a jumping-off point for other ideas and topics.  Each blogger will link to the previous portion and the next portion of the game, forming a circular chain that will allow people to see the game through various eyes.

UCBLogoBig

Following the third inning over at Pitchers Hit Eighth, the fourth inning comes to rest here at i70baseball.

Ho Hum Pitcher’s Duel
The progressive game blog almost always begins with the excitement of a fantasy baseball draft.  The writers anxiously await the official press release from UCB founder Daniel Shoptaw to tell us what inning we have drawn.  The storylines flow through our heads ahead of time as we look forward to our inning and anticipate what we may be able to write about.

Imagine my thrill when I drew the fourth inning of a Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals.  A game that pits Adam Wainwright against his counterpart in blue, Yovani Gallardo.  Drawing the fourth inning when two aces are taking the mound is not a desirable position as you would expect both hurlers to be settling in and a fairly easy inning to flow from either of them.

That’s exactly what happened.

The top of the inning would see the Cardinals send the heart of the order to the plate, with cleanup hitter Allen Craig due to leadoff.  The Fox Sports announce team was kind enough to remind the fans at home that Craig has not produced a home run this season, though his runs batted in should more than make up for the perceived lack of power.  Craig, who has been impressive with runners in scoring position, did not have that luxury when leading off the inning.  After two quick outs from Craig and Yadier Molina, a struggling David Freese stepped in and produced his second hit of the ballgame.  Jon Jay ended the inning with the next at bat and an uneventful top of the fourth came to a close.

Wainwright took to the mound in the bottom of the fourth finding a groove that many were worried wouldn’t exist today after a nearly disastrous first inning (you can read about that inning over at Aaron Miles Fastball).   Shadows were creeping in and Wainwright was taking advantage of it as it put the Brewers down in order.

Material for a blog post is hard to come by when pitchers are performing well and the game is simply moving along.  One of the biggest points to take away from the fourth inning is the fact that David Freese seems to be finding his stroke and driving the ball.  Over the last few games he has been hitting the ball with authority and you can tell that he is starting to come out of the slump and timing issues that have plagued the beginning of this season for him.  Additionally, seeing Wainwright settle in, especially after struggling early, and produce shutout innings to keep his team in the game makes it very apparent why he is the ace of this staff.

Stay tuned and check in with On The Outside Corner for the fifth inning of this year’s Progressive Game Blog.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can follow him on Twitter by 
clicking here.

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Yahoo Sports: A Look at the Future St. Louis Cardinals Hurlers

COMMENTARY | The St. Louis Cardinals organization has been named by many different sources as having one of the best farm systems in baseball and the pitching talent is a large reason for that. Perspective becomes increasingly important however when determining if a pitcher is considered a major-league pitcher or a top-of-the-rotation major league pitcher.

JoeKellyShelbyMiller

My previous article took a look at why the Adam Wainwright extension was a much more sound decision than the possibility of signing Albert Pujols to a long-term deal would have been. During that discussion, I point out that Wainwright was much harder to replace since there were very few arms in the minor league system that project to take over his position as “ace” with this club.

Many fans have to wonder what I might have been talking about. The young pitching has looked more than impressive at the end of 2012 and during the spring of 2013. Why then, fans wonder, would I say that there is only one pitcher that projects to be the potential heir to the Wainwright throne?

Click here to read an in depth look at the young hurlers in the Cardinals organization.

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Pitching Showcase

Spring Training 2013 was not supposed to be an exciting one for the St. Louis Cardinals.  A team that had made very few offseason moves was primarily set for the upcoming season.  Then, an injury to a veteran starter opened up a door.

 

Cardinals prospect Michael Wacha

Cardinals prospect Michael Wacha

The injury to Chris Carpenter might have opened up a door but the depth within the organization has kicked it wide open.  The arms in camp are plentiful and it will result in someone finding themselves in Memphis waiting for their time to arrive.

Thursday was the showcase of that talent at a very real level.  The day started with all of the focus on the starting rotation and young hurlers Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller bidding to be the fifth starter for the club.  They both reached their pitch counts and there was more baseball to be played, so manager Mike Matheny opened the doors to the trophy case and gave the world a glimpse of the future in St. Louis.

The first arm behind Kelly and Miller was that of flame thrower Trevor Rosenthal.  Rosenthal recently was removed from the three horse race for the final rotation spot but has found himself strongly entrenched in the major league bullpen.  Matheny has been noted as saying that he can see using Rosenthal to help get closer Jason Motte some down time with full confidence.  The young man has wowed the crowds in Florida this Spring with pitches over 100 miles per hour and great control.  His breaking ball is sharp, his changeup is keeping guys off balance, and the heat is definitely there.

Once Rosenthal was done, however, there were two more innings left to play.  The surprise of the Spring has been the emergence of young Michael Wacha as another power arm that is close to ready for prime time.  Wacha would enter the game to pitch the final two innings and secure the win.  The young man proved his continued worth and helped showcase the future of the Cardinals with two solid innings of relief.

The showcase of talent led to some clarity after the game, however.  The Cardinals continued to trim their roster on Thursday with the official announcement coming Friday morning.  Wacha, as expected, was sent to minor league camp and placed on the Triple-A roster.  Joining him in Memphis will be reliever Eduardo Sanchez.

That adds yet another wrinkle to the competition in camp.

The question has remained the same: what happens to the starter that does not make the rotation?  Generally speaking, my opinion has stood that if Kelly is the starter, Miller will be in Memphis to start the year.  On the opposite side of the coin, if Miller was chosen to start, Kelly would most likely find himself in the St. Louis bullpen.  The challenge to all of this is the emergence of a solid Spring showing for Fernando Salas.  His four appearances this spring, which produced four innings, have been solid and have him laying claim to a bullpen spot this year.

As we enter the last few weeks of Spring Training, there are now three arms – Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, Fernando Salas – for two spots.  One will be the fifth starter.  One will be in the bullpen.  One will be in Memphis.  The 2013 roster is shaping up with some interesting decisions.

The future beyond 2013 looks very, very bright.

 

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Shutdown Theory

Ligament Replacement Surgery—known better by the moniker “Tommy John Surgery”—is almost a foregone conclusion for Major League pitchers today. Teams practically build their rotations and, many times, entire seasons around when, not if, a certain pitcher will need to take a year or two off for an elbow rebuild. In 2012, the most famous case is that of Stephen Strasburg of the first place Washington Nationals. But the St. Louis Cardinals may have a similar case to review regarding their ace Adam Wainwright.

Saturday, the Nationals announced Strasburg will be shut down for the rest of 2012, including any postseason games the Nats might play. Strasburg underwent his procedure on September 3, 2010—two full years ago. Conventional wisdom suggests a pitcher needs anywhere from 12-18 months of rehab before he is truly ready to return to form on the mound, and most hurlers don’t feel back to 100% until two years after the surgery. Technically, Strasburg should be hitting his stride right about now. Imagine the boost the Nats would be getting from that, assuming they were close to where they currently are. Instead, they’re forced to go the rest of the season without their de facto ace. Arguments and hindsight from both sides are numerous: should he have rehabbed at all in 2011…should he have started 2012 late…the Nationals are doing this to protect his and their futures…this is just another power flex from Scott Boras…how can the Nats do this to their fanbase…how can they not do it…etc.

The Cards are in a somewhat similar situation with Wainwright, though the scales are vastly different. The righty underwent his procedure February 28, 2011, and was in training camp less than one year later. Wainwright started the Cards’ home opener—albeit to little success—and hasn’t missed a start yet. As the 2012 season progressed, Wainwright seemed to get stronger. Aside from the occasional hiccup, he looked to be inching closer to pre-surgery form right before our eyes. Cardinal coaching and front office eyes, however, were no doubt laser-focused on his health the entire time. And while the Cardinals also have to ponder the future, their perspective is quite different: coming off a World Series victory that punctuated perpetual success under Tony La Russa, followed by a complete sea-change with the transition to Mike Matheny…losing Chris Carpenter at the start of 2012…could Wainwright have rested a few more months and joined the team mid-year…only having Wainwright under contract one more season, with designs on trying to re-sign him…the Cards are still in a dogfight for a return to the postseason…etc.

Ironically, the two pitchers’ last few outings have been similarly bad. Strasburg pitched well against the Cards last week, but that start was bookended by giving up five earned runs in each of two outings—one of five innings, one of three. Wainwright’s last two starts have been even worse: six earned runs in less than three innings and five earned runs over five innings. Under normal circumstances, these events could be looked at as a slump or even just a radar blip for two pitchers so obviously better than the numbers they posted. But is it more than just irony that Strasburg’s stumble came as he inched closer to the 160 IP limit the Nats originally discussed, or that Wainwright seems to be losing gas as he hits 18 months since his surgery?

Wainwright has said that failing to repeat the proper arm slot has led to his bump in the road, not soreness or fatigue. But fatigue is sometimes just as much a symptom of mechanical issues as anything else. And even if he cannot perceive something being off—or simply can’t fix it—Wainwright runs the risk of injuring himself in other areas.

That’s not to say the Cardinals have to shut down Wainwright like the Nationals are doing for Strasburg. Even with all the similarities, the two cases have differences too: namely, Wainwright being a veteran, being older, not being as much of a power pitcher, etc. But the situation definitely bears watching, especially if Wainwright’s starts continue to go badly. And if Carpenter ends up able to pitch at all in 2012, perhaps that’s a scenario where Waino can at least get some extra rest.

Every pitcher is different, so it’s tough to assign hard numbers and come up with the right answer every time. And any ill effects for these two teams either way are still weeks to months away from being truly known, if they ever are at all. No team should ever give up on a season, especially one that includes a legitimate shot at postseason play. The Nationals know what price they were willing to pay regarding Strasburg, and they believe they just hit their limit. Do the Cardinals know their price regarding Wainwright? Will they know when they’ve hit it?

Chris Reed also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained.

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Over-easy for Odorizzi in Naturals win

SPRINGDALE, ARJake Odorizzi set a new single-game franchise record punching out 11 batters as the Naturals snapped their four-game slide with a 5-0 win over the Springfield Cardinals Monday night in the opener of a four-game series at Arvest Ballpark.

Odorizzi (2-1), in by far his most dominating Double-A outing since his mid-summer promotion last season, fanned 11 in seven innings to set a new franchise record.  Four different Naturals’ hurlers – most recently left-hander Will Smith last August 30th – had fanned ten in an outing. The Royals’ top right-handed pitching prospect, Odorizzi scattered his 11 strikeouts over his seven frames – setting down at least one batter via the strikeout in each inning in a brisk game that ended in two hours and 19 minutes.

Northwest Arkansas (6-11) started the effort necessary to back Odorizzi with a pair of runs in the third. Johnny Whittleman’s two-run double in the bottom of the third scored Christian Colon and Wil Myers and put the Naturals up by a 2-0 margin.

They added three runs of insurance in the eighth. Sharlon Schoop, inserted in the eighth as a defensive replacement at first base, homered to left and then after back to back singles by Kurt Mertins and Paulo Orlando, who was also inserted for defensive purposes, Julio Rodriguez recorded the first two RBI’s of his Naturals’ career with a two-run double.

Patrick Keating, the Naturals’ franchise leader in saves, worked around an eighth inning walk to help Odorizzi and the Naturals complete the four-hitter.  For Keating, who had a rough outing in the road series opener Thursday at North Little Rock, it was his league-leading fourth save on the season.

Starter John Gast took the loss for Springfield (8-9).  Coming into the game with the league lead in wins, Gast (3-1) allowed a pair of runs and eight hits over six frames of work.

Christian Colon and Kurt Mertins had two hits each for the Naturals, who totaled 12 on the night.  Outfielder Lorenzo Cain, on a rehab assignment from the Kansas City Royals, served as the designated hitter and leadoff batter.  He hit the ball very hard, but ended the night 0-for-5 in the second game of his rehab.

Game two of the series with Springfield is Tuesday night. Left-hander Noel Arguelles (0-2, 6.08) will take the hill for Northwest Arkansas opposite right-hander Trevor Rosenthal (1-2, 4.30) for the Cardinals.  First pitch is 7:00 P.M. Listen live on News/Talk 1030 KFAY.  The game will also be available on Milb.TV (subscription required).

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Three To Watch: Cardinals Meet The Brewers

Opening Day is in the books for the defending champions, now the St. Louis Cardinals will play the remainder of the month against the Central Division and it starts with a series in Milwaukee against the Brewers.

It’s time to grab a cold frosty one (heh, heh, heh), make some nachos and settle in on the couch, the season is starting.  Don’t get any cheese on the keyboard and I will tell you the three things you should be watching for during this series.

Ryan Braun
The reigning Most Valuable Player had quite the tumultuous offseason.   Follow that up with a decidedly uncharacteristic Spring Training, and many wonder whether or not it is all weighing on his mind too much to focus on the game.

When faced with a scandal that will get a player ridiculed around the league, there always seems to be an over-enthusiastic level of support at home.  Braun will certainly get some home cooking and be focused in the dome of Miller Park.  With the weight of a scandal, and a franchise, on his shoulders, it may be time that fans learn what Ryan Braun is really made of.  The team will be relying heavily on him to help with the transition away from the Prince Fielder years.

Adam Wainwright vs Zack Greinke
If you are like me and love a good pitching match-up, Saturday’s game is tailor made for you.  Adam Wainwright toes the rubber for the good guys while Zack Greinke is on the bump for the Brew-Crew.

Greinke is in a contract year, which is part of the business of the game that he does not feel we should discuss, and is establishing himself as one of the premier arms on the market this offseason, if not a prime candidate for an extension.  Wainwright took notice this week of Matt Cain‘s deal and will pitch in his first regular season game since 2010.

This setting may feature two hurlers that are in the discussion for the league Cy Young Award before all is said and done.

Matt Holliday
I’m not sure you can take much away from a one game series against the Marlins in a lime green ballpark, but one thing stood out more than anything else to me.   Matt Holliday seemed frustrated.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a guy to make a big deal out of the statistics for one game.  It will take more than that to convince me that a player is struggling or on a hot streak.  What I did notice, is that Matt Holliday was visibly upset at the call made by the umpire and at himself when he missed a few pitches.  A player that is that upset this early is one that seems to be pressing, to me at least.  Keep an eye on how the Cardinals’ outfielder not only performs in Milwaukee, but how he reacts if he is not performing well to determine if he truly is struggling.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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The Immediate Post-Duncan Era

The St. Louis Cardinals’ offseason continued its roller coaster ride this week after Thursday’s announcement that longtime pitching coach Dave Duncan was leaving the team indefinitely to focus on caring for his wife, who has been battling brain cancer. Obviously, personal lives and relationships always trump everything else, and Duncan’s priorities seem to be in order. But the pitching staff he leaves behind has to find a way to do its job without him, and a number of those hurlers have never had a different pitching coach at the Major League level.

It seems like these stories pop up every other day since the Cardinals won the 2011 World Series. First Tony La Russa retired, and then Albert Pujols bolted for greener pastures. Jeff Luhnow is gone. Dave McKay is gone. All these names Cardinals players and fans have seen as mainstays for so many years have disappeared from the register.

Duncan looked like one of only a few holdovers from the old regime. His contract covered him for the 2012 season, and he had an option for 2013. But he has more important things to attend to right now, and his time wearing the Birds on the Bat has come to an end as well. Now the longest-tenured coach on the Cards’ staff is Jose Oquendo. Number two is Mark McGwire.

Duncan’s importance to the Cards’ pitching staffs over the years is impossible to overstate. And many nails will be no doubt bitten down to the nub wondering if that magic he worked on so many Cardinal hurlers over the years is gone forever. But it may not be that way at all.

For the last 12 seasons, the Cardinals have listed exactly two starting catchers at the top of their depth chart: Mike Matheny and Yadier Molina. Now Matheny is the team skipper, and Molina is still behind the plate. Both are among the most highly regarded in their abilities to call a game and handle a pitching staff. Duncan is largely the reason. And when Papa Dunc had to leave the team near the end of August to be with his ailing wife, recently appointed Cards pitching coach Derek Lilliquist stepped in to take his place. All he did was preside over the staff while they were helping to orchestrate the greatest regular season comeback in baseball history. Even Chris Carpenter has stepped in for some coaching opportunities…remember when he found that flaw in Adam Wainwright’s delivery, just before Waino went on a tear to nearly win the Cy Young Award a couple years back? Certainly Carp didn’t wake up one day in tune to every other pitcher’s mechanics. That’s the hallmark of Dave Duncan, and he’s passed his wisdom on to a number of people in the Cards’ organization.

Perhaps we’ve seen the last of the days where a Kent Bottenfield or a Woody Williams find new life under Duncan’s direction. But maybe the Cardinals no longer need that “dumpster-dive” mentality. They have a full pitching staff now, and all those guys know how to get the job done. And the depth in the minor leagues certainly offers a lot of promise as some of the veteran free agents cycle out of town. Plus it’s impossible to know what the future holds. The Cards seem to have a pretty good grasp on player development these days. That makes it a lot easier to take surer bets rather than the projects Duncan specialized in.

It hurts to lose Duncan, and the reason why is even sadder. The Cardinals cannot possibly replace him; the guy should probably be the first coach to go into the Hall of Fame. But he has left this team in capable hands…hands into which he put the tools to succeed. And after all, the coach can only do so much. Execution still has to take place on the field, and that’s true no matter who sits in the dugout.

Chris Reed also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter at @birdbrained.

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Fall League Wraps Up In Surprise

SURPRISE, AZ – The Salt River Rafters topped the Surprise Saguaros last Saturday to claim the Arizona Fall League crown. But that doesn’t discount the strides the Royals’ prospects, particularly the offensive players, made during their eight weeks in Arizona.

Surprise finished with the best record in the 20-year history of the circuit, posting a 26-10 record during the Fall League season. The Saguaros lost consecutive games only once, and the Royals’ three offensive players on the squad, Wil Myers, Christian Colon, and Anthony Seratelli, all fared pretty well. But Myers in particular impressed, as he was named to the Arizona Fall League’s All-Prospect Team.

Myers’ accomplishments for the Fall League season came after a injury-riddled disappointing campaign during the regular season with the Naturals, and may have set the Royals’ top hitting prospect on the fast track to Kansas City. During early October, Royals’ brass was quoted in the Kansas City Star indicating the Myers would begin the 2012 season back in the Naturals’ lineup, but might have turned that timetable over after batting .360 with Surprise. Myers tied for the league lead in walks (20), and triples (5), ranked second in on-base percentage (.481), third in slugging percentage (.674), sixth in both average and runs (24). Even more impressive, he reached base safely via hit or walk in 22 of 23 games he played with Surprise, and scored a run in 18 of 23 contests. He also went 3-for-5 with a double, two RBI’s, a run, and a stolen base during the Rising Stars Game.

Myers describes his production as a product of better poise in the batter’s box, which has allowed him to lay off of pitches outside of the strike zone and drive the ball when opposing hurlers are forced to throw strikes.

“Basically, I’m having more confidence at the plate,” Myers said. “Just going up there knowing I can get hits is important. This year (in Northwest Arkansas) I swung at a lot of pitcher’s pitches…now I’m recognizing what they’re throwing and going deep into counts.”

Myers’ plate discipline has also caught the eye of J.J. Picollo, Kansas City’s Assistant General Manager of Scouting and Player Development.

“He’s seeing the ball very well right now,” Picollo explained. “He’s really maturing as a hitter, being more patient and not being so anxious. People in Double-A knew how good he was, so he got a lot of pitches off the plate. Now when they pitch him that way he’s getting into 2-1, 2-0 and 3-1 types of counts.”

Picollo pointed out that Myers’ improvement is even more exciting because the talent level in the Arizona Fall League is so high.

“Pitching in the fall league is a little better than Double-A,” he said. “Arm after arm coming out of the bullpen are good arms. To do what Wil is doing against a high-caliber type of pitching is great to see.”

In addition to his improved plate presence, Picollo thinks Myers’ power will catch up shortly.

“We all know he has a tremendous amount of power,” Picollo said. “That he hasn’t put up huge home run totals is just reflective of a young player in an advanced league. Remember, he’s one of just three players from his high school draft class to reach Double-A. The power will come out at some point in time. Right now he just needs to worry about hitting doubles, finding gaps, hitting to all fields. That’s part of the natural progression hitters make.”

Through three full seasons in the minor leagues, Myers has connected on 27 long balls, including eight homers in 99 games this year in the Texas League. He hit five in 22 games in 2009 and belted 14 in 126 games in 2010, while also ripping 37 doubles that season for Advanced Class-A Wilmington.

Those numbers were enough to rank him No. 10 on Baseball America’s Top-100 Prospects list entering the 2011 season, just behind fellow Royals’ cornerstones Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. While it’s too early to tell if Myers will make the same type of year-four jumps those two made, his confidence is bolstered because of Kansas City’s willingness to call guys up when they are deserving.

“The Royals have a plan for me,” Myers said. “It’s cool to see those guys (Hosmer and Moustakas) move up, knowing that they like to promote from within.”

Picollo said Myers’ work ethic will serve him well as he tries to make his case for a promotion to Kansas City in the future.

“Wil’s competitive nature will help him. He wants to get to the big leagues, but at this point he just needs to worry about things he can control. He needs to work hard every day and play hard every day.”

Both Seratelli and Colon also finished with solid numbers. Colon, playing mostly second base, heated up late and lifted his average from the low-.200s to nearly .300, while Seratelli faded a bit with more playing time late but still finished with a .317 average and .436 on-base percentage against more advanced pitching. Seratelli hopes that the solid showing in the fall league can help his chance to make Triple-A Omaha next spring.

On the pitching end, Jeffress and Lafferty both fanned over a batter per inning but had a couple of rough outings that tainted their numbers. Jeffress was also victimized for four runs in a relief outing during the Championship Game that put the game squarely out of reach for Surprise.

Here is a look at the final statistics for all of the Royals prospects in Surprise.

BATTING

AVG

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

SB

CS

OBP

SLG

OPS

Colon, Christian

.299

19

77

12

23

4

0

2

10

5

10

1

2

.365

.429

.793

Myers, Wil

.360

23

86

24

31

5

5

4

18

20

18

1

1

.481

.674

1.156

Seratelli, Anthony

.317

18

63

9

20

1

0

2

6

14

14

3

3

.436

.429

.864

PITCHING

W-L

ERA

G

GS

SV

SVO

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

WHIP

AVG

Adcock, Nathan

2-2

4.44

6

6

0

0

24.1

27

13

12

1

4

23

1.27

.276

Jeffress, Jeremy

0-1

4.91

11

0

0

1

11.0

16

10

6

0

8

15

2.18

.333

Lafferty, Brendan

0-0

7.16

11

0

0

0

16.1

18

13

13

3

8

17

1.59

.273

Paukovits, Bryan

1-1

5.91

10

0

0

1

10.2

12

9

7

1

7

9

1.78

.267


Naturals/Texas League Notes

Springfield names new manager: Mike Shildt was named Monday as the new skipper of the Springfield Cardinals. He replaces Ron “Pop” Warner, who advances up a level to manage their Triple-A affiliate in Memphis. The remainder of the Springfield field staff remains intact from 2011. Shildt comes to Springfield after three seasons managing their rookie-level Appalachian League club in Johnson City. With Springfield’s announcement, four teams in the Texas League have announced their staffs for next season, with two of them bringing in new managers.

Winter League Report

Several other current and former Naturals are honing their craft this off-season playing in various winter leagues that span the globe.

Puerto Rico: Rey Navarro (Crillos de Caguas) appeared in just one game this past week but his hitless streak continues as his average slumped to .053… Irving Falu (Indios de Mayaguez) has a three-game hitting streak, with three-hit efforts in two of those games including three RBI’s on Sunday… Angel Sanchez, teammates with Falu in Mayaguez, is batting .237 in ten games thus far. He may be in line for more duty next year with the Astros as their starting shortstop from 2011, Clint Barmes, signed with Pittsburgh.

Venezuela: Mario Lisson (Navegantes de Magallanes) had a 2-for-3 effort Sunday to raise his average to .258… Former Natural Jose Duarte (Leones de Caracas), who is currently a minor league free agent, hasn’t had a hit since November 8th, but during that time his playing time has dried up and he’s received only three at-bats, being used primarily as a defensive sub… Ernesto Mejia (Aguilas del Zulia) has hit in five of six games, a couple being multi-hit efforts, as his average lifts to .297. As typical, Mejia is feasting on winter league pitchers, as he has four homers and has 23 runs driven in so far…Manny Pina (Bravos de Margarita) has struggled in 14 games thus far, batting .129.

Dominican Republic: Manauris Baez (Estrellas de Oriente) fanned seven in six scoreless innings in his most recent start, and now has a 1.64 ERA in six outings, including five starts… Mario Santiago (Tigres del Licey) allowed a pair of runs in five innings in his start on Sunday. Santiago has 27 strikeouts and eight walks in 35 1/3 innings…Willy Lebron, Santiago’s rotation-mate in Licey and fellow Royals’ farmhand, hasn’t pitched since leaving a game with an arm injury on November 6th Kelvin Herrera (Leones del Escogido) continues to mount a resume for 2012, as he’s gone scoreless in all nine of his outings. He’s teammates with Everett Teaford, who pitched 5 2/3 scoreless in his last outing on November 16th to lower his ERA to 3.57 in four starts.

Mexico: Federico Castaneda (Tomateros de Culiacan) continues to be one of the busier relievers in winter ball, as his outing Friday was already his 15th of the winter league season. After a couple rough early outings, Castaneda has settled in, keeping the opposition scoreless in his last five games to lower the ERA to 6.97.

These teams and respective leagues will play the round-robin Caribbean Series which takes place in February just before early reports for Major League Spring Training.

Transaction log: Ryan Verdugo, the southpaw the Royals acquired from the Giants in the trade that also brought southpaw Jonathan Sanchez to Kansas City was added to the 40-Man roster on Friday, protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft which will occur December 8th at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Dallas.

Check nwanaturals.com every two weeks beginning Friday, December 2nd for our Hot Stove Report, where we’ll continue to follow Royals’ minor leaguers in winter ball as well as cover other off-season baseball information that pertains to the Naturals and the Texas League.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans.

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Seedlings To The Stars: Cuthbert and Herrera

Old friend of I-70, Wally Fish (of Kings Of Kauffman fame), has a site known as Seedlings To The Stars. They are currently in the process of counting down their top 100 prospects and we thought our readers might like to drop by there for some insight. Below are I-70 players that are currently profiled. Drop by the site and read up on the future of your favorite franchise.

Kelvin Herrera - Photo Courtesy Of Minda Haas

Top 100 Prospects, #68: Cheslor Cuthbert, Royals
Nathan Stoltz of Seedlings To The Stars says:

At the tender age of 18, Cuthbert held his own in full-season ball, displaying a good approach at the plate and a bit of pop. He was hitting .328/.381/.500 through the end of July, dominating the level, until a late-season slump slowed him, so he looks even better than the numbers suggest.

A Nicaragua native, Cuthbert is a projectable hitter who should grow into well-above-average power as he matures, and many have projected him to be an annual 25-HR hitter if not better. His selective approach at the plate should allow him to see lots of good pitches to hit.

Defensively, he’s not as raw as most third basemen his age, and projects to hold the position down. There’s some question as to what sort of athleticism he’ll have once he fills out, but such a loss of athleticism would probably render him a merely playable third baseman rather than a player who must move across the diamond.

Read Cuthbert’s full profile by clicking here.

The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of: Kelvin Herrera, Royals
Nathan Stoltz of Seedlings To The Stars says:

Many popular opinions of pitching prospects are formed from general scouting reports. While these reports are invaluable resources, they can’t always be trusted. Hundreds of minor league hurlers are credited with “mid-90′s velocity,” but very few MLB starters actually have that grade of heat, for example. It’s incredibly frustrating to hear about a pitcher with “a mid-90′s heater and plus curve,” only to have him come up to the big leagues and show a fastball that averages 90.5 mph and a slider.

When a pitcher come up to the majors, we can finally get a foolproof reading on what exactly his arsenal is comprised of, thanks to the great Pitch F/X system. In this series, I analyze just that–the “stuff” of recently-promoted MLB pitchers. Now that they’ve achieved their big league dreams and thus factor directly into the MLB picture, it’s high time that we know exactly what these guys are providing.

This time, I’m taking a look at Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera.

Touted by several different outlets as “the best relief prospect in baseball” following the 2011 season, Kelvin Herrera opened the season as an afterthought in A-ball before blowing through three levels with a 70/15 K/BB ratio in 67 2/3 innings with a 1.60 ERA. He turns just 22 on New Year’s Eve, so he’s quite young, and he’s just about ready for the majors after absolutely dominating Double-A hitters and holding his own in the Pacific Coast League.

Herrera certainly doesn’t look the part of an intimidating closer, as he’s generously listed at 5’10″, but that impression goes out the window the second you see his fastball. In his very brief (two-inning) MLB exposure this September, Herrera fired the pitch at 94-98 mph, averaging a shade over 96.

 

Check out Stoltz’ full profile on Herrera by clicking here.

If prospects are what you are looking for and you want the most in-depth analysis available, all of us here at I-70 would suggest you drop by Seedlings To The Stars often. I know it is sitting at the top of my bookmarks currently.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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