to the Dallas Morning News baseball blog where I’ll be joining Evan Grant, Richard Durrett, and Tim MacMahon, starting tomorrow.
This move is something that Evan and I have been kicking around for nearly a year and, after a meeting with the DMN brass last week, everybody decided that it was something worth trying.
I’ll be posting on matters spanning the width and breadth of the Rangers organization, not just the minors. I’ll do some live blogging from Arlington and Frisco and contribute two Farm Fresh Goodness (FFG) reports every week. My first post should go up around noon tomorrow.
For those of you who read this blog, I would really, really, deeply appreciate it if you would save that link as a favorite and check in with me over there — and contribute comments.
“Rangers Farm Report: The Future Is Here” is going away.
Many many thanks to all who followed my work here and contributed comments.
As of Monday, I’ll be blogging elsewhere.
Please check back here on Sunday for more info on that development.
I hope you’ll follow me to my new home on the net (and comment vigorously).
Here are the top 40 starting pitchers in Major League Baseball, by ERA, and how their current club acquired them, with 2008 salary. Kazmir lacks the innings to qualify, but I added him in anyway.
And just to make you feel bad, former Rangers property are in bold type:
Player Club ERA How Acquired Salary
1) Justin Duchscherer OAK 2.02 Minor League Trade $2,000,000
** Scott Kazmir TB 2.03 Pre-Arb Trade $3,700,000
2) Edinson Volquez CIN 2.08 Pre-Arb Trade $380,000
3) Cliff Lee CLE 2.34 Minor League Trade $4,000,000
4) Tim Lincecum SF 2.54 Draft $380,000
5) Ben Sheets MIL 2.59 Draft (Re-Signed) $12,000,000
6) John Danks CWS 2.62 Minor League Trade $380,000
7) Ryan Dempster CHC 2.63 Free Agent $7,000,000
8) Shaun Marcum TOR 2.65 Draft $380,000
9) Felix Hernandez SEA 2.83 Int’l Free Agent $540,000
10) Johan Santana NYM 2.93 Pre-FA Trade $17,000,000
11) Tim Hudson ATL 2.96 Pre-FA Trade $15,000,000
12) Joe Saunders LAA 3.03 Draft $400,000
13) Dan Haren AZ 3.04 Pre-FA Trade $4,000,000
14) Roy Halladay TOR 3.12 Draft (Re-Signed) $10,000,000
15) Jon Lester BOS 3.13 Draft $380,000
16) Carlos Zambrano CHC 3.13 Int’l FA (Re-Signed) $16,000,000
17) Adam Wainwright STL 3.14 Minor League Trade $687,000
18) Jair Jurrjens ATL 3.20 Minor League Trade $380,000
19) Brandon Webb AZ 3.23 Draft $5,500,000
20) Cole Hamels PHI 3.27 Draft $500,000
21) Ervin Santana LAA 3.32 Int’l FA $420,000
22) Armando Galarraga DET 3.32 Minor League Trade $380,000
23) John Lannan WAS 3.34 Draft $380,000
24) Gavin Floyd CWS 3.39 Minor League Trade $380,000
25) Zack Greinke KC 3.40 Draft $1,400,000
26) Scott Olsen FLA 3.44 Draft $400,000
27) Todd Wellemeyer STL 3.46 Draft $1,000,000
28) Dana Eveland OAK 3.51 Minor League Trade $380,000
29) Greg Maddux SD 3.52 Free Agent $10,000,000
30) Aaron Cook COL 3.64 Draft $5,000,000
31) Chad Billingsley LAD 3.64 Draft $400,000
32) Jeremy Guthrie BAL 3.64 Minor League Trade $770,000
33) Nick Blackburn MIN 3.68 Undrafted $380,000
34) Greg Smith OAK 3.69 Minor League Trade $380,000
35) Josh Beckett BOS 3.73 Pre-FA Trade $10,000,000
36) John Maine NYM 3.73 Minor League Trade $450,000
37) Vicente Padilla TEX 3.74 Pre-FA Trade (Re-Signed) $11,000,000
39) Jamie Shields TB 3.76 Draft $1,000,000
40) Matt Garza TB 3.76 Minor League Trade $380,000
OK: So what’s Mike’s point here?
Don’t let anyone tell you that spending money on starting pitchers in free agency is the way to go. There is simply NO EVIDENCE to support that argument.
It’s all about scouting and development folks.
Out of the top 41 (including Kazmir), here’s how teams acquired these pitchers:
Draft (or undrafted American signee): 16
Free Agent Signee: 2
International (Teen) Free Agent Signee: 3
Minor League Trade: 12
Pre-Free Agency Trade: 8
You either draft and grow it (Kazmir, Lincecum, Sheets, Marcum, Saunders, Lester, Webb, Hamels…)….
Or you use superior scouting to get your hands on someone else’s young arms when it comes time to sell (Duchscherer, Danks, Volquez, Lee, Floyd, Wainwright, Eveland, Smith…)….
Or you use your stocked farm system to trade for the stud before he becomes a Free Agent (Beckett, Hudson, Johan, Haren…)….
Or you find the stud when he’s 16 years old in the Dominican Republic or Venezuela (Felix, Zambrano, Santana…)….
But you do NOT go out and buy it on the open market.
It just doesn’t work that way.
Pretending that they were on the doorstep of a championship when, in fact, they weren’t has cost the Texas Rangers dearly over the years. The cost of going out and buying that ‘one extra veteran piece’ seems to turn out to be ridiculously expensive far more often than not.
Most of you know that on a Saturday, July 29, 1989, having lost four of their last five games and trailing the juggernaut Oakland A’s by eight games, the Rangers traded three young players to the Chicago White Sox for DH Harold Baines. A fine player and a big upgrade over who had been getting most of the att-bats at DH that summer (Rick Leach).
By the end of the year, Texas had fallen from third place to fourth in the AL West, and had fallen from eight games back when the deal was made, to 16 games back.
Exactly 13 months later, the Rangers traded Baines to Oakland…for pitcher Scott Chiamparino (now one of Scott Boras’s chief henchman) and the spectacularly anonymous Joe Bitker.
The three kids Texas gave away all had big league careers with varying degrees of success: lefty starter Wilson Alvarez was a key to the successful White Sox clubs in the early-to-mid 90’s, Scotty Fletcher was a somewhat useful shortstop for many years and, of course, the skinny 20 year old Dominican kid in that deal — outfielder Sammy Sosa — went on to have a pretty good career.
Texas was trumped a year later when the Orioles thought they needed to add a big bat to their lineup, so they went out and got what was left of All-Star Glenn Davis at the cost of three relatively unknown kids named Curt Schilling, Pete Harnisch and Steve Finlay. Baltimore finished sixth in the AL East that year. Davis played in only 185 games for the Orioles over the three years in Baltimore and then retired from baseball.
That’s ancient history, of course, but more recently, a string of similarly short-sighted moves have made the Rangers far less talented than they could be.
In November of 2000, the Rangers didn’t trust a young, up-and-coming second baseman named Michael Young whom they had acquired the previous summer in a trade with Toronto for Esteban Loaiza, so they went out and traded for 38 year old veteran Randy Velarde. Why not? Velarde didn’t cost much. Just a couple of anonymous low level minor league pitchers. One, Ryan Cullen, never amounted to anything.
The other? His name was Aaron Harang, a big pitcher toiling in the lowest levels of the minors. Since then? He’s delivered double-digit wins and over 200 innings a year for Cincinnati on a habitual basis for five seasons now.
Velarde? He played in 78 games for Texas that year, was run over by Young who seized the position, and then — when he had no value — was traded to the Yankees in July for Randy Flores and Rosman Garcia.
I didn’t think so.
At about the same time, the Rangers traded once-heralded outfielder Ruben Mateo for once-heralded pitcher Rob Bell. It was a trade of disappointments, with the thinking that each might benefit from a change of scenery. As an incentive, the Rangers ‘threw in’ an anonymous low-level minor league third baseman named Edwin Encarnacion, who hit .289 / .346 / .438 with 16 homers and 78 RBIs for Cincy last year.
Arguably the two worst moves of Jon Daniels’ tenure as General Manager were made under the premise that the Rangers were close to competing for a title and therefore needed to trade young players for more trustworthy veterans who were ready to contribute to a big league pennant race right away.
Youngsters Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez begot veterans Adam Eaton and Aki Otuska. John Danks and Nick Masset begot “battle tested” Brandon McCarthy. Armando Galarraga was exposed to waivers (and subsequently traded for ‘whatever we could get’) to make room for Jason Jennings.
Danks possesses the American League’s third best ERA. Gonzalez leads the National League in home runs at first base. Masset has proven to be an excellent utility man out of the White Sox bullpen this year. Galarraga, at 7-2 with a 3.03 ERA for Detroit, has become the best starter in what most people thought would be the most loaded rotation in baseball.
I hear talk about Texas making a ‘minor’ move this July to acquire another bullpen arm, but as the Harang-for-Velarde deal suggests, there are no minor deals. In this particular context — adding a bullpen arm — there are a myriad of horrible mistakes that should remind us all that the risk just isn’t worth it.
For example: Eighteen years ago, the Red Sox felt they needed to add a bullpen arm for the pennant drive and — voila’ — 22 innings of Larry Andersen cost them 15 years of Jeff Bagwell. Eric Gagne for David Murphy, Engel Beltre and Kason Gabbard may very well make Red Sox fans forget about that nightmare someday.
If the Rangers need to inject something new into their bullpen — and clearly they do — then look within (his name, by the way, is Warner Antonio Madrigal, and he’s currently killing PCL hitters).
Trust the kid Michael Young rather than spend precious capital for the veteran Randy Velarde. Don’t forfeit a talent like Adrian Gonzalez for a thirty-something Aki Otsuka. Believe in Chris Young and John Danks instead of shipping them off for Adam Eaton and Brandon McCarthy.
I’d rather watch Eric Hurley continue to grow into his role in the middle of the rotation than deal him for someone more “battle tested” like Randy Wolf, or even Zack Greinke.
If someone comes to you looking for a left-handed bench bat, then by all means sell Frank Catalanotto. Don’t expect much — the Rangers gave up Joselo Diaz for lefty bat Matt Stairs four years ago. If someone comes to you offering a deal that recognizes Milton Bradley as one of the best hitters in the game (as opposed to an emotional and physical risk), then snap it up. If not, then pass. One way or another, the Rangers are virtually guaranteed to come out way ahead on Bradley.
Jon Daniels doesn’t have to do anything unless he’s absolutely overwhelmed. Standing pat and giving this ballclub a chance to continue to gel and grow together is completely defensible. Selling off Bradley or even Gerald Laird for a Teixeira or Gagne-like package is obviously defensible.
But pretending like the addition of one bullpen arm to this mix is going to radically change things is, in my opinion, like putting a band-aid on a broken leg. It looks like you are doing something, but it’s not going to make a real difference. The leg is going to heal — or not — with or without the band-aid.
And the price of that band-aid might turn out to be Aaron Harang, or Curt Schilling, or Pete Harnisch, or Steve Finlay, or Jeff Bagwell, or….
FRISCO — Thomas Diamond strode to the mound promptly at 11 o’clock this morning to make his seventh start of the year as he attempts to get back on track after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March of 2007, and less than two hours later, he walked off with his best start of the year under his belt, having held Corpus Christi to two runs on four hits and a walk in six innings.
As Oscar Wilde put it, good writers borrow, great ones steal. Accordingly, I’m going to shoot for greatness and simply give you a pitch-by-pitch format created by my friend and Baseball Prospectus minor league guru Kevin Goldstein. (Check out Kevin’s rundown of a Neftali Feliz start earlier this year by clicking on this link).
Here’s Kevin’s explaination on the codes you’ll see in the pitch-by-pitch recap:
First, a quick primer on how I track pitches. This is not how teams do it or anything official, this is just how I keep track when I have access to gun readings. Basically, each notation has three pieces on information: TYPE–VELO–RESULT. Under Type,FB is fastball, CB is curveball, is slider; CH is changeup; Velo is simple enough. Under Result, ‘b’ stands for ball, ‘s’ for swinging strike, ‘c’ is a called strike, ‘f’ a foul ball, and ‘x’ is a ball in play. So, an 81 mph slider taken for a strike is SL81c.
Drew Sutton: FB 90 b; FB 89 c; FB 86 ; FB 90 s (K # 1)
Richard Paz: FB 89 c; FB 90 f; CB 73 b (up); CB 74 b (dirt); FB 91 f; FB 91 b; FB 91 x (foul out to RF)
Chris Johnson: FB 90 b; FB 87 b; FB 89 c; FB 91 x (g/o to SS)
NOTES: Diamond worked very confidently and quickly. When he missed, he generally missed low and away. He’s definitely working lower in the zone than he did before the surgery. The first curve started out above the right-handed hitter’s head and arguably should have been a strike. The second was a yakker that dove into the dirt. The fastball velocity was similar to what it normally was in the first inning back before the surgery and it seems to have a little more life than it did back then — I’m seeing some armside run. Not a lot, but some. In the old days, he’d normally add an MPH per inning and would be sitting 95-96 by the 6th.
Rob Cosby: FB 88 b; FB 89 x (flyout to RF);
Ole Sheldon: FB 88 c; FB 89 b (low); CH 80 x (flyout to short center)
Val Majewski: FB 91 b (low); FB 91 c; FB 90 s; CB 73 f; FB 90 f; FB 89 b; FB 90 f; CH 79 b (high); CH 79 f; FB 90 x (flyout to LF)
NOTES: None of the fly outs were hit hard. The curve to Majewski was a quality pitch and once again, he’s tending to miss low when he misses. The Majewski at-bat was disturbingly reminiscient of pre-TJ TD: he sometimes has trouble finishing guys off like you think he will. He’s losing a tick on the FB instead of gaining, but he’s locating better than he ever did before the surgery. He’ll work the fastball high and tight and then low and away with purpose. He’s pitching.
Lou Santangelo: FB 87 b; FB 88 c; FB 87 c; CB 71 b; FB 90 s (K #2)
Wladamir Sutil: FB 88 s; CH 80 f; FB 89 x (g/o to SS)
Orlando Rosales: FB 89 b; FB 89 b (way outside — threw across his body); FB 88 c; FB 89 b (low); FB 89 b (BB #1)
** First time from the stretch **
Drew Sutton: FB 88 b; FB 86 c; CH 79 b; FB 86 x (popout to 2b)
NOTES: Diamond spotted three of the four a first pitch ball. The Rosales at-bat was very disappointing in that Rosales came to the plate hitting .189 and Diamond couldn’t drive a nail through him to complete a third perfect frame. The last time I saw Diamond, I noticed that when he started to get a little tired, he threw across his body and so I made a note of that here to see if it would continue to pop up from time to time from here on out. As he did last time I saw him, Diamond immediately lost velocity when going to the stretch. The bender he threw to Santangelo should have been a called strike. Second time so far that the ump probably missed the call on a Diamond bender. The ump seemed to struggle reading the ball as it dropped into the zone. The near 12-6 break is really impressive and still hard for me to believe given how poor his breaking stuff was before the surgery.
Richard Paz: FB 88 c; FB 89 b (high); CB 73 b (dirt); FB 90 s (high — K #3)
Chris Johnson: FB 88 f; CH 80 x (g/o to SS)
Rob Cosby: FB 89 b; FB 88 b (low); FB 88 x (flyout to LF)
NOTES: Went right at the heart of the order. H’s starting to miss high a little more and the Paz whiff would have been a ball high. He looks like he’s having a lot of fun out there. Velocity is holding, but not gaining like it used to before the surgery.
Ole Sheldon: FB 87 b (high); CH 79 x (flyout to LF)
Val Majewski: FB 87 x (double to RF gap; runner out at 3b)
Lou Santangelo: FB 86 b (across body); FB 88 x (popoout to SS)
NOTES: Murphy had trouble digging the ball out from under the wall in RF, then hit Corey Ragsdale with the relay and Rags fired a laser to Foxy a little below 3b, who applied the tag as Majewski tried to slide under him. First solid contact made against TD all day. The next pitch after the double was arguably TD’s worst of the day. He just totally lost his action, threw across his body and had nothing on it. Luckily, it was a bad ball that Santangelo didn’t even consider swinging at.
Wladamir Sutil: FB 84 b; FB 85 b; B 87 s; FB 87 b; FB 87 f; FB 89 x (single to CF)
Orlando Rosales: FB 86 b; FB 87 b; FB 87 f; FB 86 f; FB 88 x (single back up middle)
Drew Sutton: FB 88 s; CH 80 b; FB 87 c; FB 88 x (flyout to CF)
Richard Paz: CH 79 x (single to CF)
Chris Johnson: FB 87 c; CB 73 b (wild pitch; runner scores); FB 89 b (high); FB 88 f; CB 71 b (left it up); FB 89 f; FB 89 b (high) (BB)
Rob Cosby: FB 88 s; FB 89 x (flyout to CF)
NOTES: The Frisco fifth lasted a long time and so I think that played a little part in Diamond’s roughest inning of the day. He’s elevating the ball now when he needs to muscle it up to the high-80’s: the singles to Sutil and Rosales were both chest high, fat part of the plate. All of the balls put into play were up.
And that was it. A strong showing to be sure. I think the mental part ot TD’s game is very strong right now. I think he’s pitching with a better idea than ever before and generally locating the ball much better than ever. I like it that, even though he doesn’t have his old velocity, he seems more courageous than he did before the surgery. Once again, all I can think of is that when his velocity comes back, he’s going to be a bad bad man.
A couple of other observations: Elvis Andrus (.277 / .335 / .335), who went 3-5 with a walk, really appears to be growing up. I’d noticed this before, but he’s very good in hit-and-run situations, which should come as no surprise given his ridiculous hand-eye coordination.
Every ballclub should be so lucky as to have an Adam Fox on it. There’s no way to quantify his leadership and or his baseball I.Q. He’s not a heralded prospect, but if you want to watch this great game played the right way, get yourself out to Frisco and pay attention to the nuances of Foxy’s game.
He sports a league best K/9 of 11.26.
He’s got a WHIP below 1.00.
The Midwest League has gotten 47 hits off of him in 74.1 innings (.184 average), and only one of those 47 hits has left the yard.
His 2.06 ERA is the fourth best in the league.
He turned 20 six weeks ago.
He is the best pitching prospect in this system.
End of discussion
The pitchers Spokane is running out there include 17 year old lefty Martin Perez, 18 year old righty Carlos Pimentel (pictured, courtesy of Scott Lucas), and 18 year old righty Wilfredo Boscan. They’re good. Really good. And it hasn’t taken them long to start to prove it.
Pimentel has made two NWL appearances so far — one relief appearance and one start — spanning six innings and he’s allowed one run on three hits and a walk while striking out one hitter per frame and posting an outstanding ground out / fly out ratio of 2.33.
Last year, Pimentel posted a 5.53 ERA in the Arizona Rookie League, but he went into his final two starts with a 3.50 ERA and he averaged an incredible 12.54 strikeouts per nine innings.
The loose-armed 6’3″ Pimentel pitches downhill from a high three-quarters slot, and gets good late movement on a low-to-mid 90’s fastball. He throttled the AZL’s right-handed hitters last year, holding them to a .227 average, but was lit up by lefties who posted a .358 average.
Studying Boscan over the winter, I discovered a rare bird: He’s capable of averaging well over a strikeout per inning while also inducing ground ball outs in bunches. In just over a week of NWL play, Boscan now has seven innings under his belt and he’s yielded two earned runs on seven hits and a walk, fanning seven while posting a gaudy 2.67 grounder / fly ratio.
The 6’2″, 165 lb. Venezuelan scorched the DSL last summer, posting a 1.75 ERA and fanning 61 while walking just 13 in 56.2 innings of work. Along with all of that, Boscan put up another stat one rarely sees in a pitcher who averages better than 10 K’s per 9 IP: his 4.00 grounder-to-fly ratio.
Boscan, who earned an assignment to instructional league last fall, held the DSL to a .210 batting average and allowed fewer than one baserunner per inning pitched. He was especially ruthless against right handed hitters whom he held to a .155 / .225 / .194 line.
The Venezuelan Perez (pictured right, courtesy of Jason Cole), who turned 17 in April, is the youngest player
in the league by a nearly a year and a half (Pimentel is the second youngest), and he looks about two years younger than he is.
The last time a pitcher who had just turned 17 in April made his professional debut not in the DSL or the AZL or the GCL, but in the NWL was probably 2003 when the Mariners assigned a big Venezuelan kid named Felix to their affilliate in Everett, Washington.
Two years and two months later, he was pitching in the big leagues.
Perez whips off an 88-90 mph fastball with incredible life, a tantalizing curve and a change. I had the chance to see him pitch in Surprise this spring and I was knocked out by his stuff, but I could never have imagined that he would throw his first pitch in a professional game for Spokane.
Clearly, he’s up to the challenge. In five innings — 15 outs — Perez fanned five, and got one out in the air. The other nine came on ground balls. He surrendered just one run on three hits…and no walks.
In just about any other system in baseball, these three would represent the future but in Texas, they are relatively anonymous — nearly footnotes. In a system that boasts the likes of Michael Main, Blake Beavan, Wilmer Font and Neil Ramirez among their teenaged pitching prospects, these three kids make it clear that nobody in the game has more elite pitching brewing at the lower levels than your Texas Rangers.