Being a prospect junkie, the most interesting part of that interview for me was the discussion of the four “untouchable” kids that the M’s won’t deal. The big four, in the M’s minds, are Clint Nageotte, Travis Blackley, Jose Lopez, and Felix Hernandez. There was no mention of Chris Snelling, Shin-Soo Choo, or Rett Johnson.
Now, no one has been a bigger supporter of King Felix than I, and USS Mariner was the first place that anyone not in the organization ever heard of Felix Hernandez. But, honestly, to say that a 17-year-old pitcher in the Northwest League is untouchable, well, I don’t like that. Hernandez has tremendous upside, but he’s got tremendous risk, as well. If the Pirates had called and said they would give us Brian Giles in exchange for Hernandez, you have to make that trade. As good as Felix Hernandez’s arm is, he has a better chance of turning into Ryan Anderson or Cha Baek than he does Joel Pineiro.
Also, the inclusion of Travis Blackley among that group is odd, to me. Nagoette, Lopez, and Hernandez are upside guys, and I can understand the fear of moving them, because they all have the potential to be special players. You don’t want to be remembered as the guy who traded Pedro Martinez for Delino Deshields, for instance. Again, no one was on Travis Blackley earlier than I was and I believe he has a solid future, but he doesn’t have that kind of upside. At this point in his development, he has one major league pitch that he has confidence in (his change). Everyone sees the potential for his curve to be his best pitch, but he’s not to the point where he’ll throw it in big situations yet. His fastball is never going to be more than an average pitch. So, if his curve develops as hoped, he’s a breaking ball and change-up guy with average command. He’s closer to John Halama than Barry Zito, honeslty. Blackley’s a nice arm, pitching well in AA, and is left-handed, but he isn’t a commodity that you should fear giving up. If the right offer came along, I wouldn’t have too many problems moving him.
In case you missed it — and I did, only catching a replay a few minutes ago — our favorite general manager was on KJR this morning talking about a variety of topics. He seemed non-committal with respect to whether Armando Benitez would be a closer or set-up man, saying only that Benitez gave Box Melvin more options out of the pen. Gillick did say, however, that Kazuhiro Sasaki — despite his joining the team in Cleveland today — would be making another rehab appearance in Tacoma this weekend, so apparently he’s not as close to returning as we’d all been lead to believe this week.
Reports that Sasaki has only been hitting around 86 on the radar gun during his rehab appearances aren’t difficult to find. He’s also been hit quite hard, particularly by some hitters who are years away from the majors (three homers in two innings against the Northwest League?!). Just so we’re clear:
1. He’s throwing only fastballs, not splitters
2. Those fastballs are getting hit hard, and by inexperienced hitters
3. Those fastballs aren’t going fast enough to set up his splitter anyway
Yeah, sounds like a few more rehab appearances would be a wise course of action.
Oh, and Derek’s right. I consider myself pretty far up the list when it comes to Jay Buhner fans, but that ends with his play on the field and in no way, shape or form includes his work in the broadcast booth. If the M’s are looking to groom a replacement for our beloved Niehaus, and they should be, Mike Curto would be a fabulous choice. And hey, that would also open up a spot in Tacoma for current Everett broadcaster Pat Dillon.
It pains me to write this, because I love Niehaus, but maybe… maybe it’s time for the team to seriously look for a replacement. I’ve listened to broadcasts of all different teams and heard dozens of crews, but Dave’s still one of the best. And yet I find myself embarassed when he mixes up Cameron with McLemore, as he did a couple of games ago, the increasingly frequent mix-ups of team players (and teams, when he reads off the wrong side of the lineup card), the inability to follow substitutions or player position moves… I’m worried.
There’s no standard for when it’s time to wish him farewell and thank him for all the pleasure he’s brought us, but at the least, it’s time we admitted that it’s going to happen. The team needs to add someone to the play-by-play rotation and start getting them time in the booth. Personally, I advocate Mike Curto. Dude’s been in Tacoma for a while, does a great game, knows the players, he’s smart, knows when to talk and when to be quiet — he’s everything you want in a play by play guy, whether you’re Joe Stathead or Jane Veteranpresence. While we’re at it, I’d like to see some upgrades in the color men. Even Jason, who would be seeded highly in any competition for Jay Buhner’s biggest fan, would admit Jay’s not a good addition to the broadcast team. Niehaus’ eventual move is certainly a cause for sadness, but like all passings, it’s also an opportunity I’d like to see the team take to turn new generations of fans on to the joy of baseball.
I’m headed down to Tacoma tonight to see the Raniers featuring Chris Snelling, Official Outfield Prospect of the U.S.S. Mariner, as they play Fresno. Dollar beer night, folks, and Chris Snelling. What could be better? Which reminds me — isn’t there a better way to describe baseball matchups then the Fox “Division/League rivals collide when Player X and the Team Y face off against Player A and the Team B.”
I’m more eager to be sold on great matchups — that’s what I set to TiVo every morning before I leave the house. I’m looking for interesting hooks. “The free-swinging Tigers take their hacks against the Rangers pitching…” I don’t know. But this template promotion they’re doing hasn’t sold me on a game all year.
Let me echo the sentiments of my cohorts and thank everyone for visiting. We really never imagined it would become anything this size. Keep reading, keep sending us email, and keep being patient if it takes us a while to respond. We’re trying.
Also, Derek mentioned it briefly, but The Future Forty has been updated with a lot of movement from #7 on down. King Felix makes his debut in the top ten, and barring an injury, he won’t be leaving anytime soon. I’ve started adding in the 2003 draftees as well, as they make their pro debuts. One name to watch is Casey Craig, a 21st round pick who was considered a lock to go to school, but the M’s got under contract anyways. He may be the best hitter they drafted this year.