Tag Archive | "One Of The Guys"

David Freese Cracks Top Ten Right Now

Fans of MLB Network know that they have been subjecting players to “The Shredder” for statistical analysis to determine the top ten players at each position right now.

In an episode of the show, hosted by Brian Kenny, that will air Friday night, i70baseball has learned from an MLB Network executive that St. Louis Cardinal David Freese will indeed be featured as one of the top 10 thirdbaseman in baseball.

Photo Courtesy of/Copyright Erika Lynn

Photo Courtesy of/Copyright Erika Lynn

The “Top Ten Right Now” series is enjoying it’s third incarnation and will feature a Cardinal third baseman for the first time when Freese’s name is revealed.  Sabermetric Godfather Bill James and former Oriole second baseman Bill Ripken will be on hand with Kenny to help analyze The Shredder’s results and provide their own lists for comparison.

Bill James:
“The only thing you like about him really is the bat. He [has] a terrific bat, quick bat, hits the ball hard [to] straightaway center. He’s not a defensive wonder, he’s not a base stealer, but he does hit.”

Freese has garnered some attention since his now famous heroics in the 2011 Post Season.  However, it was 2012 that helped solidify that Freese could be seen as a consistent contributor to the Cardinals roster.   A player that has battled injuries for most of his career, Freese was able to take the field for 144 games last season and show solid production while he was at it.

Bill Ripken:
“When King Albert left and went out to Los Angeles to play with the Angels, here’s one of the guys that picked up the slack.”

He would reach career highs in almost every offensive category, posting a .293/.372/.467 “slash line” while hitting 20 home runs and driving in 79.  He was a spark plug at times for the 2012 team and added much needed depth in the lower part of the lineup.  He would achie his first appearance in the midsummer classic after being voted in as the final roster spot by fans on the heels of a very successful social media campaign for the position.

Brian Kenny:
“Freese has established himself now as a solid contributor to the Cardinals.”

“He’s a player who isn’t great at any one thing, but is above average everywhere and that makes you an excellent player.”

“Last year, [he had] 20 homers, .293 batting average, 57 walks. Just enough power, average and plate selection to add up to sixth in OPS among qualifying third basemen last year.”

Freese’s future looks bright for the team and the team is currently in negotiations with the home town hero to avoid arbitration and possibly secure him to a long term deal.

The show will air at 8pm Central Time on MLB Network, Friday February 8th.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Coach Berkman

*Note: at the time of the writing of this article, Adam Wainwright had just completed a four-hit shutout, which provided a tremendous boost to an overused St. Louis Cardinal bullpen and a huge step towards Waino reaching the consistency he desperately longs to regain. He struck out 9 and walked only 1 and said “..that might be the best feeling I’ve ever had pitching…I’ve done some things that are pretty fun, but I can never remember feeling that emotional after a game”. Huge news in Cardinal Nation, but not a topic I want to delve into in this  space…however, rest assured that weighs easy on this writer’s mind as we deal with a tougher topic here…

Lance Berkman.

He is one of the guys that reminds me that baseball is ultimately a game people play because they love it, or at least at one point in time they did.  Berkman is one of the few guys that does not give “jock-talk” interviews, but actually speaks openly and honestly with the media. He stands up and takes the heat when the team does not play well. He is refreshingly honest about what he is good at, and what he is not. And he is also a dang good baseball player.

2011 postseason heroics aside (which will always be revered in Cardinal Nation), Berkman revitalized his career after a very disappointing and injury marred 2010. For the season, he played in 145 games, hitting 31 HRs 94 RBI and a slash line of .301/.412/.547. He was, in my opinion, unquestionably the first half MVP last year, putting up 24 HR and 63 RBI by the All-Star break. He did all of this after rehabbing a knee injury that greatly hurt his 2010 performance. Many doubted at 35 years old, he would be able to return to “the Berkman of old”, and that the Cardinals were throwing 8 million dollars down the drain last season.

We all know how that story ended. Berkman was a key piece of the 2011 World Series title, felt he could still contribute at a high level, and wanted to stay in St. Louis. Speaking openly with the club and the media, he said his services should be worth 12 million for the 2012 season, and the Cardinals agreed. Contract signed. Full speed ahead in the attempts to defend the crown.

Then come the injuries.

Berkman had just returned from the DL when he re-injured his right knee last weekend against the Dodgers, on a seemingly routine play. An MRI Monday revealed a tearing of the meniscus and cartilage responsible for cushioning the knee. Berkman is undergoing surgery this week, which will be his fifth knee surgery. Early prognosis is he will be sidelined a minimum of six weeks.

I bragged on Berkman’s honesty earlier, and will again. He is just not sure he wants to go through the grinding rehab one more time to get himself back to playing at an elite level at 36 years old. I can not say I blame him for feeling that way. It would be a terrible way for him to go out, but reality is, he may never play again. There is some time needed to figure out what the rehab process will look like following surgery, but I began to run through the “what-ifs’ regarding a Berkman retirement…and not from the standpoint of replacing his production on the field, but figuring out a way to keep his leadership, toughness, and knowledge within the organization.

The Cardinals have shown a trend towards hiring former players as coaches in recent years. Jose Oquendo has been third base coach for a long time, Mark McGwire the hitting coach the last two seasons, and John Mabry was brought into the fold as assistant hitting coach this season. Why not make Berkman an offer to stay on as a coach if he finds out his playing days are done? I realize there is not an open slot at this moment, but the organization should make a commitment to him, just like they did Mike Matheny, and give him a chance to scout or coach.

Of course, there is a great chance he would say no. He may want to return to his ranch in Texas or even rejoin the Astros organization. I just hope Mozeliak would make his best effort to keep Berkman in the mix after his playing days are over. The organization would be much stronger for it.

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Lamb’s Accolades Reveal Depth Of Royals Prospects

Most off-season talk is being devoted to the Royals farmhands anchoring Team USA through the qualifying round of the 2010 Pan Am Games. Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer have started every game helping Team USA to a 9-1 showing to start off qualifications. Meanwhile, 60% of the starts have gone to Royals southpaws, Danny Duffy, Mike Montgomery, and Everett Teaford. Tim Collins is the icing on the cake, the undersized reliever leads Team USA’s bullpen in appearances.

Mike Moustakas by Erika Lynn

While not playing internationally Hosmer, Duffy, and Montogomery stay busy in the Arizona Fall League playing for the Surprise Rafters. The Royals sent pitcher Patrick Keating, pitcher Brandon Sisk, outfielder Derrick Robinson, and second baseman Johnny Giavotella along with the threesome to sharpen their game in the AFL.

Everywhere you look, Royals prospects are beginning to pop up at every minor league level. All of a sudden it isn’t just a few standouts. When guys who aren’t featured as top level prospects begin to perform like youngsters Giavotella and catcher Wil Myers have, everyone else around the league takes notice.

It all started with the regime shift. With fresh minds in the front office, the Royals were more willing to give the top level talents in the draft the money they wanted. The money the Royals have spread across the amateur drafts is now beginning to show some impact. A perfect example is the 20 year old lefty who won the Royals Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award. Consider this, Kansas City has a minor league with such a depth of prospects, the winner of the most prestigious pitching award for Royals prospects, isn’t even one of the guys playing for Team USA or the Rafters.

On September 1, 2010, the Kansas City Royals named John Lamb as the Paul Splittorf Pitcher of the Year. Lamb is a perfect example of a kid a more conservative Royals front office wouldn’t have invested in. Lamb was a top level high school talent, but wanted six figures and had missed his entire senior season due to a car accident. The Royals put down $165,000 on the 6’3’’ lefty in the fifth round of the 2008 amateur draft. The Royals approach in the 2008 draft was dead on.

The 2008 MLB draft class has already began its impact on the league. First rounders Andrew Cashner (Cubs), Ike Davis (Mets), Brett Wallace (Astros), Justin Smoak (Mariners), Brian Matsuz (Orioles), Pedro Alvarez (Pirates), and Gordon Beckham (White Sox) all have already made their way to the big leagues. The draft class is probably headed by a guy still making a huge impact on the World Series, the Giants catcher Buster Posey.

The Royals took away a pretty impressive haul from the large pool of talent. The Royals spent their first six picks on Hosmer, Montgomery, Giovatella, RHP Tyler Sample, RHP Tim Melville, and Lamb. Hosmer and Montgomery’s success has been well documented. Sample and Melville haven’t put up as impressive numbers, but are still considered high talent prospects.

Giovatella started the 2010 year off in AA Northwest Arkansas. He had the best season of his young, three year career posting a line of: .322/.395/.460, 35 2B, 9 HR, 65 RBIs, and 13 SB. Giovatella was named a 2010 Texas League All-Star. He was a mainstay at second base and in the number two spot in the Natural’s lineup. He played in 134 games for the Texas League Champions.

He’s now extended his career year into the first few weeks of the AFL. Giovatella leads the Rafters in hitting and doubles at .448 and seven, respectively. He also leads the team in total bases (23) thanks to his first AFL dinger on October 22.

Lamb has had a similar success through his first two professional seasons.

Considering he hadn’t pitched in over a year, there weren’t many expectations for the Laguna Beach, California, native. Lamb impressed so much he was promoted to Idaho Falls after only six starts in Burlington. This year he started his season in Class A and ended it in AA, contributing to the Texas League crown. As Lamb progressed from Class A to high A, his numbers improved across the board.

In 2010 Lamb threw 147.2 innings, with a 2.38 ERA, while striking out 159 and only allowing 45 free passes. He had two postseason starts, posting a 3.12 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 8 SO, 4 BB, in 8.2 innings of work.

Lamb has been praised for his pitching intelligence and mound awareness. He is an extremely talented athlete, hitting .396 in his junior year. Some saw him as a hitting prospect, a ‘John Mabry’ type stick. Lamb gets his fast ball into the low 90’s, with a change up as his best off-speed threat. The Baseball America 2010 Prospect Handbook described Lamb as, “a 19 year who pitches like a major league veteran, never getting rattled.”

Since Dayton Moore has arrived, there have been many comparisons to the shape of the Royals farm system and the Braves of the 90’s. Lamb’s free flowing, natural motion, along with his athletic background naturally draw comparisons to Braves workhorse Tom Glavine.

Glavine was drafted out of high school in the second round of the 1984 MLB Draft. Glavine displayed similar athleticism in high school, earning a selection in round four of the 1984 NHL Draft as well. The L.A. Kings gambled on Glavine, but ultimately lost out to the Braves.

In reality, Lamb’s high school injury setback his major league arrival by a year. His first two years in pro ball mirror Glavine’s first two years though.

Glavine – 11-9, 2.65 ERA, 143 H, 86 BB, 201 IP

Lamb – 15-10, 2.83 ERA, 179 H, 65 BB, 230 SO, 216.1 IP

Glavine, age 20, began his third year at AA, finishing his year in AAA. Glavine made his MLB debut the next season at age 21. Lamb, who turned 20 in July, seems to be leading a similar path. Expect a mid-season Omaha call-up if Lamb continues his progress. Even if he doesn’t hit the big leagues for a September call-up two years from now, he will still only be 22.

His arrival would coincide with the projected Kansas City arrivals of multiple other highly touted prospects. Glavine’s arrival was complimented by the debut of John Smoltz. A couple years later Braves brass lured Greg Maddux away from the Cubs to complete their famous trio.

Royals’ fans hope the pitching depth will ultimately provide a similar threesome for the future. Many expect the Royals to earn the award for the top minor league organization in baseball. The 2009 winner, the Rangers, can attest what the award means. The Rangers farm has been built on pitching depth and complimented by kickbacks from trading homegrown prospects like Mark Teixeira. The Rangers received shortstop Elvis Andrus and reliever Netalfi Feliz in the deal.

Many have criticized the Braves for overextending. Top MLB level talent comes at a steep price though. This is the type of price Zack Greinke would command. I’m not suggesting a trade, but at this point in the process it’s a mistake to ignore it.

It’s possible the Royals will enhance their roster through free agency and trade over the next few years. But the stars of the future are already within the core of talent surging through the minors now. The Royals amassed so much talent, it will be interesting how many will eventually make a big league impact. With the likes of Lamb leading the way, it is beginning to be undeniable the twenty something’s will be making a splash soon.

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Under The Radar Cardinal Prospects

Even though last Saturday’s Farm Report was the final Farm Report of the season, that does not mean Matt Kelsey and myself are going to step away from the Minor Leagues all together. In fact, Matt and I plan on keeping you informed about all of the Cardinals and Royals Minor League clubs and players even though most of them will not be playing. So don’t worry, we will still be ranting about prospects well into the offseason.

I think I speak for both Matt and myself when I say that the Farm Reports were certainly a learning experience. My MiLB-knowledge right now compared to when we first started the Farm Report feature is night and day. Since we did the FR’s every week, we had to stay on top of all Minor League news.

While doing that, I quickly realized that there are promising players in the system that the casual fan has no idea about. Fans have studied Shelby Miller and Allen Craig all throughout the season, but what about the diamond in the rough playing in Batavia, or Johnson City? Most do not pay any attention to them whatsoever.

That is about to change. Here are 10 players that I feel have plenty of upside, but do not always get the respect that they deserve.

Oscar Taveras, OF
This is one of the guys that the Cardinal scouts are extremely high on. Luhnow said he was easily one of the top 10 prospects in the system, and could move through the ranks very quickly. He’s an 18-year-old outfielder in his first year with a United States farm team. In the 2010 season Taveras hit at a .322 clip with a .526 slugging percentage and an OPS near .900 in over 200 at bats. For a player in his first year in the United States, that is extremely impressive. The only thing that really sticks out to me as something he must work on is his plate discipline. He swings at a lot of bad pitches and rarely walks (12 BB in 229 PA). He does have power potential, even though most think of him as more of a scrappy kind of player. In Johnson City he hit 8 home runs, drove in 43 runs, had a .204 ISO, and of course that high SLG.

Mark Hamilton, 1B
I know, he doesn’t exactly fit the prospect description. I understand that he is 26 years old, kind of injury-prone, and strikes out a lot, but this guy can hit. Most do not give him the “prospect” label simply because there is not much hype around him. You can thank Albert Pujols for that one. It’s not Mark’s fault that he is blocked by one of the best hitters of all time. If he was an outfielder, he would probably have made his debut much sooner than earlier this month. Hamilton is currently playing for the big league club, but spent most of the season in Memphis. In 306 plate appearances, he hit .298/.389/.585 with 18 home runs and a .287 ISO that was good for sixth-best in the league.

Hector Corpas, RP
Here’s another guy much like Taveras. The 2010 season was the first the 20-year-old spent in the country, after dominating in Venezuela in ’09. Corpas only pitched 25.2 innings for Johnson City, but they were certainly effective. Hector ended the season with a 2.10 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP while only allowing one home run and three walks in over 25 innings. He throws a mid/high-90s fastball and a high-80s splitter that has been described as MLB-caliber.

Aaron Luna, LF
I’ll be honest, it is really hard to put a finger on this guy. As I said earlier in the season over at Rising Redbirds, Aaron Luna is without a doubt one of the most interesting prospects I’ve ever come across. He’s only 5’11” and his nature position is second base. That usually doesn’t indicate power, correct? While his 14 home runs in 289 at bats in Springfield aren’t extremely impressive, his .201 ISO (great estimate of true power) is the eighth best mark in the league. However, the most interesting thing about Aaron is his abnormally high rate of being hit by pitches. To say the least, it is odd. If you combine the numbers from 2009 and 2010, Luna has been hit by a pitch 55 times in two seasons. That, and his good plate discipline have led to the best OBP in the Cardinals Minor League system.

Thomas Pham, CF
I’ve had mixed feelings about this guy all along, but I’m starting to like what he brings to the table. He spent most of the season in Palm Beach where he struggled to hit above .260, but quickly impressed people when he got the call-up to Springfield. In 140 appearances, Pham hit .339/.429/.537. While he does strike out a lot, his patience at the dish accounts for his 14% walk rate. For example, even though he only hit .262 in Palm Beach, his patience led to a .375 OBP.

Michael Blazek, SP
Shelby Miller receives all the attention in Quad Cities, and rightfully so. He’s phenomenal. But Michael Blazek, Miller’s teammate, has been awfully good so far in his young career as well. Management has been very cautious with Michael in the past, but it seems as if they loosened the leash on him in 2010. In the last two seasons, Blazek pitched a total of 107 innings. In 2010, he pitched 103 innings, and it sure did pay off for the River Bandits. Blazek went 8-4 with a 2.71 ERA and 1.05 WHIP while only allowing five home runs in 32 games. He also struck out 104 batters in those 103 innings.

Brandon Dickson, SP
This guy is starting to become one of my favorites. Like I said on I-70 Radio last Monday night, Dickson has been the most effective and most consistent pitcher in the Cardinals system when looking at the entire season. That is exactly why I named him the Pitcher of the Year in last week’s Farm Report. The 25-year-old led the PCL in FIP, was sixth in ERA, fifth in GB%, fifth in innings pitched, sixth in TBF, and second in strikeouts. He will likely make his debut with St. Louis in 2011, and we should all be looking forward to that.

Scott Gorgen, SP
After the start of the 2010 season, Gorgen was considered one of the top prospects in the system before he injured his throwing elbow. Before he was benched for three months with the injury, Gorgen made eight starts and only allowed six earned runs. Even though he was no longer starting, Scott was just as good after the surgery. All together, Gorgen put together a 5-1 record while sporting a 1.26 ERA and striking out 46 batters in 50 innings pitched.

Rainel Rosario, LF
All I need to say about this one is .933. That is is OPS. It’s extremely good, but not a number that just jumps of the page, right? Wrong. In the past 18 seasons, there have been only 12 players with at least 100 at bats that ended the season with an OPS higher than .900 in Quad Cities. Nine of those 12 players have played for a Major League team. Only one of the 12 did not make it to the Majors in his career. The other two are Xavier Scruggs and Rainel Rosario. Says a lot, wouldn’t you say? The only thing that concerns me about Rosario is his strikeout rate. He K’s in about 25% of his at bats.

Ryan Jackson, SS
I saved one of the best for last. Ever since he was drafted last season, I’ve been high on this kid. He may not hit .330 in the big leagues, but you can bet that he is going to be a reliable option. The main thing that I love about Ryan Jackson is how hard he hits the ball. After watching video of him tearing the cover off of every ball thrown at him in 2009, I checked his line drive percentages. Sure enough, Jackson led the FSL with a 28% LD rate.

Justin Hulsey covers the Cardinals for i70baseball and his blogs, Cardinals Front Office and Rising Redbirds that are also dedicated to Cardinals baseball and their minor league system.You may follow him on Twitter @JayHulsey by clicking here.

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