For a lot of people reading this site, and me included, Rob Neyer has been a staple of our baseball reading over the years. I started reading when his column was called Chin Music and he was cutting edge. He was different. He was new. Tonight, before heading to bed, I surfed over and saw that Rob had actually posted a new column, which is something of a change nowadays. So, I read it. And I realized why I haven’t really worried that he’s no longer a big part of my daily reading. From today’s piece:
The move hardly anybody missed came last Thursday, when GM Billy Beane pulled off yet another of his %#@&-A trades, sending minor-league pitchers Aaron Harang and Joe Valentine to Cincinnati for outfielder Jose Guillen. While Harang and Valentine are both decent prospects, Harang is 25, Valentine’s a career reliever, and anyway the A’s have no shortage of talented minor-league pitchers. Guillen, meanwhile, was hitting .337 with 23 homers in only 91 games with the Reds.
Stuff like this just bugs me. Rob Neyer has a lot of clout, and a large amount of people assume that when he makes comments like that, he’s right, or he’s stating so on information that we may not have. But unfortunately, he’s not right, and his comment about the A’s depth of minor league pitching couldn’t be a whole lot further from the truth.
Unless you consider Rich Harden a minor league pitcher (which you shouldn’t, because he’ll never see the minors again unless he’s rehabbing), the A’s don’t have one front line pitching prospect. Not one. Clint Nageotte, Travis Blackley, Rett Johnson, and Felix Hernandez would all instantly become their best arm on the farm. Here’s a quick look at what they do have:
Justin Duchscherer, RHP, AAA: The A’s got Duchscherer from the Rangers a couple of years ago, and the strike throwing machine is having his best year as a pro, posting a 2.92 ERA and an 11/93 BB/K for Sacramento. Unfortunately, he throws a Jamie Moyer fastball without Jamie Moyer’s intelligence. Remember Greg Wooten, anyone?
Mike Wood, RHP, AAA: Draws comparisons to Tim Hudson because, well, the A’s drafted him. He’s got average stuff across the board, keeps the ball down, and doesn’t strike many people out. He throws strikes, so he might be a useful 4th starter someday, but he’s not exactly going to be banging down the door to any Top 100 lists anytime soon.
John Rheinecker, LHP, AAA: Despite having a miserable season in AA, the A’s promoted him to Sacramento, where he got rocked in his debut, because he’s 24 years old and was a first round pick in 2001. Unfortunately, he hasn’t pitched like one, and is now projecting as a John Halama type long reliever. He has a decent curve ball, an average change, and a below average fastball. His command is average at best. He’s a really expensive version of Troy Cate.
Joe Blanton, RHP, AA: Blanton finally got moved to AA after putting up some gaudy numbers in the Midwest League against people half his age. Okay, thats an exaggeration, but there wasn’t any reason for Blanton to spend half a year in low-A ball. He’s probably the A’s best pitching prospect, at this point, even though he doesn’t have an out pitch and his stuff is average across the board. He throws strikes and knows how to pitch, but he’s not a front-of-the-rotation starter.
There’s also a few other fun guys to root for like Shane Komine, who is likely about as tall as your mother, but hot shot prospects they aren’t.
Put simply, the A’s farm system just isn’t very good right now, and Billy Beane badly misses Grady Fuson. But, he’s Billy Beane, right? He must be about to make another $!&%# trade for a guy with a lifetime .310 on base percentage.
Hey everybody, Derek here. I know in our continual blasting of Box and Pat we’ve neglected the minor league side a little, as Bob Mong (who also has a fine little blog) writes us. So here’s my thoughts on the state of the high-level system:
Tacoma — Rett Johnson is tearing up the PCL (1.80 ERA, 40k, 14bb), and I wish that I had drafted him in my fantasy league’s minor league portion (I was scared off by the shoulder soreness), but the rest of the rotation isn’t that promising, in terms of possible guys with stuff that would survive the step up into the major league rotation. They’ve got some relievers (JJ Putz, for instance, moved over from starting last year). On the hitting side, Jamal Strong’s not putting up a .400 OBP this year (.350ish) and CHRIS SNELLING, Official Outfield Prospect of the U.S.S. Mariner, has been smoking the ball since his promotion: .355/.432/.677 in his 9 games as I write this. Now, we haven’t seen or talked to Snelling lately (I’m working on that), but it would seem he’s baa-aaa-aaa-aaack (AC/DC style, though the Rainiers don’t have black uniforms).
San Antonio — Justin Leone continues to get a screwing from the team, his red-hot hitting at AA earning him little notice. If they’re going to play no-hit Bloomquist, maybe Leone’d be worth a trial as the backup cornerman the team needs (and that Mabry is not). LHP Travis Blackley’s stellar (2.21 ERA, 123K, 54bb) and so’s RHP Clint Nageotte (2.66 ERA, 132K, 57BB). And LHP Bobby Madritsch (3.47 ERA, 122K, 57BB) has done okay for himself as well.
Putting that together with what we know about the team, etc… here’s the 2004 Mariner outlook:
Freddy leaves for sure, and probably Franklin as well, as his contract’s up after this year. Meche may have broken down by then (hopefully not, but let’s be realistic), and the team in spring training will have at least four great young ML-ready pitchers to compete for the jobs: RHPs Soriano, Johnson, and Nageotte, and LHP Blackley. I hate to say things like this, but if the M’s can keep these guys healthy, they’ll have one of the best (and youngest) 1-5 rotations any team can field. Now, the bullpen’s going to fall apart, it’s expensive and wacky, and whether the Mariners fill it in with Mateo-and-company or spend a lot on veteran filler remains to be seen.
The Mariners will pursue Matsui. They’re huge into foreign players like this, and he’s a monster talent that would replace the fragile Guillen at short. If they get him, hoowah. Snelling replaces Winn in left. Cirillo competes against, uh, his contract for a job at third. Olerud’s signed through 2004, which is probably going to look worse then than it does even now, but it’s not as if the organization has huge bats challenging him. Cameron will almost certainly leave through free agency, as the team’s never appreciated what they have in him, and will be replaced by Doug Glanville or a reasonable facsimilie thereof. If Edgar leaves, the DH slot’s also going to have some schmuck slapped in to fill it. McLemore will leave.
If they get Matsui and make some decent acquisitions to fill CF/DH/the bullpen, this will be an exciting and competitive team I will love to go see.
If they don’t get Matsui and make bad signings to fill CF/DH/the bullpen, this is a 80-win team with some good young talent.
Or combine possibilities to taste.
Seattle Times, Paper of Quality: Part 2 in a continuing series. Acting on a hot reader tip from James Trumbull: Steve Kelley refers to Oakland’s newly acquired Jose Guillen as being a left-handed power-hitting outfielder. Jose Guillen is right-handed. Good job, Steve! Only a couple more months treading water before basketball starts up again!
Hey, if I’ve done this right, I’ve just uploaded the latest greatest version of Dave’s Future Forty. Dave, if you’re not already aware of this, is a prospect maven. Also ladies, he’s available, unlike Dan Wilson, Ben Davis, et cetera.
I don’t understand why Dan Wilson is invulnerable to criticism, why so many people seem to think that you’re a jerk if you mention he can’t throw out baserunners any more, that his defensive reputation is so far beyond reality it’s crazy, and that he can’t hit. I know Dan’s a great guy, but he’s stinking up the joint this season, and Ben Davis is a huge upgrade.
I don’t understand why people seem to think that somehow Dan’s entitled to start most of the M’s games and sometime in the future hand over duties to Ben. Ben’s no spring chicken anymore — he’s at what we’d expect his peak to be, and he’s hitting like it. He’s playing great defense, and gunning down base-stealers.
The team needs to win games and bury Oakland this year, and play the best possible lineup in the playoffs. Ben Davis should be starting two-thirds of the team’s games, more or less, trying to spot Wilson against the lefties he’s hit well historically, especially against teams without a lot of speed.
And, in the interest of trying to stem my reputation as being a total depressive about the team:
Things I Like About the 2003 Mariners
Good players (Edgar, Boone, Cameron, Ichiro, Moyer, Pineiro, Meche, Franklin), the future of Rafael Soriano, endorsed prospects — Rett Johnson, Chris Snelling, etc., Safeco Field.
If you didn’t think the game had passed Pat Gillick by last week, you will now. Wow.