News and Links for a Very Strange 3/30 [updated]
Sooooo, uh, more spring training anyone? Here’s the downside of having the team set a 28/25 man roster early: Spring training games that are pretty meaningless anyway now even less riding on them. Woo! The team faces San Diego tomorrow night in a game that will probably feature none of the jet-lagged players who made the trip to Tokyo. All of you who’ve been clamoring for another look at Kevin Millwood will be thrilled, but this will be a game made up of the M’s 4th starter backed by a team who have no shot at the 2012 roster.
Thankfully, there’s a lot going on in Marinerland:
1: According to Shannon Drayer, Franklin Gutierrez has been cleared to resume all baseball activities. It’ll be interesting to see how they work him back in, but this is the one thing that might make the next few “games” worth watching.
2: The M’s team blog From the Corner of Edgar and Dave has been doing the internet a great service by posting some box scores of the minor league games that have been going on for a few weeks (and which actually wrap up today). Of note, Carlos Triunfel’s hitting well, Carter Capps has been used as a reliever, Taijuan Walker had a so-so outing (gasp!).
3: One recent High Desert box score stood out – the game featured a reliever named Wes Alsup who pitched alongside 2011 Clinton closer Tyler Burgoon and 2011 HD closer Willy Kesler. Who’s Alsup? He pitched in the independent Northern League in 2010 and while his stats weren’t eye-popping, they were enough to get him a taste of affiliated ball with the Braves low-A team. Nine uninspired games later, he was released and he headed back to the indie leagues, this time with the Windy City Thunderbolts. He was wild, but also, well, this: IP: 34 Ks: 61. I know, I know, it’s the Frontier League – who knows what that means. But it seems that something changed – he had a so-so K rate in the Northern League and walked about as many as he struck out. Having had some success with a reliever from the indie leagues years ago, the M’s signed him in January.
I thought he must be a deceptive-delivery, mid-80s junkballer, but apparently that’s not the case. Jason Parks of BP was down in Peoria recently and saw Alsup’s appearance in a minor-league game. He reported that he sat at 95mph with his fastball, touched 97, and featured a very slider slider from 86-89. Now I’m intrigued. Again, this is a 25-year old who’s pitched one-quarter of a season in low-A, and did poorly enough that it got him cut. His command issues aren’t solved or anything as he still walked quite a few in the Frontier League, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for his name in the box scores when the season starts. Don’t know for sure if he’ll be with High Desert when the season starts; rosters haven’t been finalized yet.
4: While nothing’s official, it sounds like the M’s will have Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton start the year together in AA Jackson. This allows the 19-year old Walker to avoid the video-game run environment of High Desert and the chance to learn from the two lefty prospects. Walker’s not the only teenage uber-prospect to hit AA, as the Rangers will apparently send SS Jurickson Profar to the AA Texas League. I’d quibble about the M’s having to move AA leagues, but I think Profar and Walker will face each other plenty down the road.
High Desert’s a problem, but it’s not the only spot teams are loathe to send prospects. Here’s a story speculating that the Arizona Diamondbacks may start Trevor Bauer in AA to avoid homer-happy Reno, their AAA affiliate (hat tip: Mike Curto). Bauer was the inspiration for this great piece at Fangraphs this morning, which has nothing to do with anything, but it’s worth your time anyway. It’s basically impossible to root against Bauer at this point.
5: Fangraphs Org rankings are back for 2012, and the M’s have tumbled to #23. Better than Oakland (#28), but a chasm now separates the top two teams from the bottom two. The M’s quartet of pitching prospects could help close it, though Texas in particular has an extremely deep farm system of its own. The M’s need to develop some position players, particularly at CF and SS. Nick Franklin’s great, but he’s not closing the gap by himself. A renegotiated TV deal will help the M’s address the financial divide in the AL West (at a cost of higher cable fees for fans), but the M’s really need to identify and develop talent the way Texas is.
6: Here’s a great article on A’s Special Assistant to the GM (and ex-University of Puget Sound and UW coach) Grady Fuson, who addresses his portrayal in the book/movie “Moneyball” and what really went on in the A’s draft room in 2001 and 2002.
7: The M’s have the honor of facing Japanese sensation Yu Darvish in his MLB debut on April 9th. Larry Stone’s blog post echoes Ichiro’s classic quote before he faced Daisuke Matsuzaka in the latter’s home debut in Boston.
8: Kevin Goldstein’s AL West Prospect Preview‘s up at Baseball Prospectus ($). Of note, the player he thinks could make the majors this year is Forrest Snow who could move quickly as a reliever. He’s also high on Francisco Martinez who’s been hitting very well in the minor league games.
[UPDATE - 10:20pm]
9? – As many of you know, Michael Pineda’s got rocked by the Phillies in his Grapefruit league start today amid rumors that he’d begin the year in AAA. Then things got worse – he’s now got a sore shoulder and now the rumors involve things like MRIs. I think (thought?) Pineda was amazing, and I have to admit my first reaction to the big trade was feeling like I’d been punched in the kidneys. I don’t take any joy in hearing of his struggles, but I can admit there’s something weirdly satisfying about “winning” a trade; about feeling like the M’s pulled one over on another team. Jeff’s post at Lookout Landing beautifully explores the weird psychology of fandom and the way trades in particular make things more binary, more Manichean somehow.