You Could be Mine

Edinson Volquez        9-2;  1.64 ERA  (1st in MLB) —     $380,000

Justin Duchscherer    6-4;   2.20 ERA  (3rd in MLB) —  $1,200,000

John Danks               4-4;   2.90 ERA (13th in MLB) —     $380,000

Armando Galarraga  6-2;  3.31 ERA (23rd in MLB) —      $380,000

Chris Young               4-4;  4.50 ERA                    —    $2,650,000

Which reminds me….

Remember all of those people who seemed to gleefully write and talk about how DVD didn’t turn out to be anything special?

Living in Dallas, I know from my local media that you have to spend money to build a rotation.   Spending money will solve all of the Rangers’ problems.

I’ve also been told by the same pundits that the Rangers can’t develop pitching.

 

Game Report: Frisco 4, Corpus Christi 2

FRISCO —   About a month ago, Frisco pitching coach Terry Clark admonished his 23 year old, 6’7″ righty Michael Schlact (4-5;  4.55) to lengthen his stride to the plate, and “drive it in there.”   

Schlact.jpgLike many tall pitchers,  Schlact had been coached throughout his life to stay tall, use his height and pitch downhill, so stretching out and incorporating more leg drive into his delivery was something totally foreign to him. 

But as always, Schlact the student listened,  did his best to do what his coaches were asking of him, and the lessons are really starting to pay off. 

Last night’s seven-inning performance, holding Corpus Christi to two runs on nine hits and no walks, was Schlact’s third seven-inning outing in his last five starts.    As always, he kept the ball in the yard — he’s surrendered just three long balls in 83 innings of work this year — and showed the best command of his arsenal this year.

Schlact got through his seven frames in 97 pitches (13.86 per inning), 67 of which were strikes.   And his sinker — always his best pitch — was nastier than ever, inducing  13 ground ball outs, including a fourth-inning double play.

Though there were a few bumps along the way,   Schlact has come to feel as if the increased length in his stride has helped him immensely.   “I don’t even think about the stride anymore,”  says Schlact.  “We’ve put the work in on the side so that it feels second nature now.  I believe it’s helped me add more depth to my sinker, stay behind my slider and really just get the most out of his body.  I’ve never had the length of stride I should have relative to my height.”

Steve Murphy (.294 / .328 / .531), who finished 2-4,  smacked a two run bomb in the first to give Frisco a 2-0 lead.    Craig Gentry (.267 / .330 / .350)  went 2-4, driving in a run and stealing his 15th bag of the year while once again providing plus defense in center field.  

 

Run, Don’t Walk: Projecting Julio Borbon

The first thing you must keep in mind about Julio Borbon is that this is a guy who was drafted
JulioBorbon 010.JPGone year and ten days ago.   And he’s tearing up a high-A league with a .312 / .351 / .397 line while succeeding on 31 of 38 stolen base attempts, while delivering exceptional defense in center field.   Phenomenal stuff.

But his statistical profile worries me.

Since June 1, Borbon has posted multi-hit performances in seven of 12 games.  And his OBP is under .300 for the month.  Over his last 26 games — a month’s worth of work — he has drawn two bases on balls.  

His BB/PA ratio this year is 0.045 and his BB/K ratio is 0.43.   

In both categories, these numbers would place Borbon among the worst Major League Baseball regulars (bottom 15 in BB/PA and bottom 40 in BB/K).

When I see things like that, I’m always inclined to bury the kid a little bit– jump to the conclusion that he’ll never make it because of a lack of plate discipline.   Guys who never walk — especially those who don’t have plus power — just aren’t going to cut it in the big leagues.     

When you look at Major Leaguers with BB/PA and BB/K ratios like Borbon’s, you find some good players, but most are hacking power hitters like Jeff Kent and Ryan Braun.  More often, you find weak middle-infield hackers like Yuni Betancourt and Cristian Guzman.    You don’t project Borbon as either a Braun or a Guzman.   He’s got good pop, but not a ton, and elite speed while providing plus defense in the outfield. 

But there are a few who have  BB/PA and BB/K ratios roughly similar to Borbon’s and  whose scouting reports as minor leaguers were similar to Borbon’s  —  speedy, toolsy outfielders who don’t draw as many walks as you might like:  Carl Crawford, Corey Patterson, Adam Jones and Delmon Young

 

Player                                BB/PA         BB/K         AB/K         BA/OBP/SLG/OPS 

Player

BB / PA

BB / K

AB / K

BA / OBP / SLG / OPS

Borbon

0.045

0.43

8.82

.312 / .351 / .397 / .748

Crawford (Minors)

0.054

0.33

5.56

.295 / .336 / .400 / .736

Crawford (MLB – Career)

0.048

0.34

6.66

.294 / .330 / .434 / .764

Patterson (Minors)

0.069

0.37

4.84

.284 / .340 / .499 / .839

Patterson (MLB – Career)

0.046

0.22

4.46

.259 / .295 / .411 / .706

Jones (Minors)

0.071

0.35

4.37

.291 / .354 / .476 / .830

Jones (MLB – Rookie)

0.048

0.22

3.76

.244 / .282 / .368 / .650

Young (Minors)

0.062

0.34

4.96

.317 / .363 / .517 / .880

Young (MLB)

0.063

0.34

5.27

.287 / .318 / .404 / .722

 

Young, of course, projects to be much more of a power threat than Borbon will ever be and Jones really isn’t a candidate to steal 50 bases, like Borbon is.   Borbon’s power hasn’t shown up in games yet, but for those who saw him this spring — not only in minor league camp, but in a few big league spring games — it is generally agreed that he’s got plenty of pop and it’s going to show up eventually.

While Borbon’s BB/PA is extremely low,  his contact rate is much better than any of these players, with Crawford’s being most similar.    Borbon goes almost nine at-bats between strikeouts.   Moreover, Borbon’s baseline numbers — batting average, OBP, slugging percentage and OPS — most closely resemble Crawford’s.   And, of course, Borbon has Crawford’s speed and baserunning skills.

There’s nothing to guarantee that Borbon doesn’t become more like Patterson than Crawford, and yes the sample is small, but based on the early returns, I think it’s not out of the question to think that Borbon will become a player much like Crawford while providing the Rangers with plus-plus defense in center field for many many years.  

Game Report: Frisco 15, Corpus Christi 0

FRISCO —  The RoughRiders fought through having the ‘Famous Chicken’  spending several innings as their first base coach to secure the Texas League South’s first-half divisional championship, scoring 15 runs before an overstuffed Dr. Pepper Ballpark crowd.

But  the most important and most exciting thing happening in the ballpark went almost completely unnoticed by at least 9,000 of the more than 10,000 fans (almost none of whom had ever heard of Elvis Andrus and who were generally far more interested in libations than crafty lefties).

ballard.jpgSouthpaw starter Michael Ballard (5-3;  4.20)  painted a masterpiece.   And if his past performances hold, he’s set to put together an excellent second half.

The University of Virginia alum got through seven innings in a remarkably efficient 86 pitches (that’s 12.28 per inning folks), blanking the Hooks on five hits and a walk, punching out five.

Ballard kept Corpus hitters off balance all night with his assortment of a high-80’s fastball, a mid-70’s change and high-60’s 12-6 yakker.   He worked with enormous confidence, throwing any pitch in any count for strikes.

Ballard is not going to blow anyone away with his stuff, but — and this comes as no surprise given his alma mater — he’s an extremely intelligent pitcher who has proven that he does a better job of adjusting to a league’s hitters than they do adjusting to him.

Like John Danks before him, Ballard’s record of constantly figuring out how to succeed after first struggling in a league is a sign of more good things to come, so long as people don’t jump to any conclusions too soon.

In 2007,  Ballard spent three months with Clinton, posting a 5.12 ERA in April (.316 opponents average), a 4.37 ERA (.284 opponents average) in May and a 2.11 ERA in June (.250 opponents average).

He then moved on to Bakersfield where he posted a 6.10 ERA in two June starts,  a 5.63 ERA in six July starts and a 3.48 ERA in five August starts.   Cal Leaguers hit .314 against him in July and then only .227 in August.

Ballard’s Texas League career got of to a great start in April, but he struggled mightily in May.   Halfway through June, however, he’s the clear front-runner for Texas League pitcher of the month with a 0.83 ERA while giving the Riders 21.2 innings through three starts.

 

 

 

Knock Knock. Knock Knock Knock.

After watching Chris Davis in Frisco over the last month of the 2007 season, I told the DMN‘s Evan Grant that Chris Davis would be ready for Arlington by the end of July. 

I was off by about a month. 

One of the reasons I was so high on Davis was that he adjusted so quickly to Texas League play after his promotion from Bakersfield.   And now, 18 games into his Pacific Coast League career, he’s already proven that he’s too much hitter for that league as well.

The 22 year old Davis is ready for Arlington right now.

Davis has started 17 games for Oklahoma.  He’s hit safely in 14 of them.  He’s delivered multiple hits in six of them.   He’s hitting .323 / .400 / .597 / .997 — for an OPS higher than the figure he posted in Frisco.   His BB/K ratio for Oklahoma is 0.47 and his BB/PA ratio is 1.00 — both better figures than he posted in Frisco this year.

The difficulty, of course, is that the Rangers already have two left-hand hitting first baseman on the roster — Frank Catalanotto and, any day now (until he’s hit with a raging case of fibromyalgia, as seems certain at this point) Hank Blalock.

 

 

Are you sh!##!&g me? Smoak at 11?

When I go into a mediation with a client, one of the first things I tell them is that there may come a time today when we have to make a decision.    And that’s what we’ll do if and when that time comes.  

Until then, just lay in wait.  Let the game come to you.   Don’t form any expectations.   Don’t make any decisions until there’s one to be made — if there’s one to be made.

Because sometimes the other side makes the decision for you by either making you an offer you couldn’t possibly accept or making you one you couldn’t possibly turn down.   The latter is an offer that exceeds your wildest expectations.   It does’t happen often, but when it does, you just sit back, laugh your butt off and exchange high fives around the room.

Yesterday, the Rangers didn’t have any real decision to make when the 11th pick came around.    I can only imagine the laughter and celebratory high-fiving that took place in their draft room when a nearly comatose Bud Selig (was he drunk, or did he suffer a stroke yesterday morning?) announced that the Astros were taking Stanford catcher Jason Castro with the tenth pick.

Leaving Justin Smoak on the board.  

Probably the third or fourth best player in the draft. 

At #11.

 

smoak.jpgIf you are wondering why absolutely nobody connected the Rangers to Smoak in pre-draft speculation it’s because it seemed to be completely beyond the scope of possibility that he would still be there when Texas picked. 

The switch-hitting first baseman has power from both sides of the plate, is a potential Gold Glover, a great teammate,  the kind of dude who typically loves Texas (i.e. sort of a redneck),  a proven commodity against high-level competition with wood bats, likely to be a quick and easy sign, and should be ready for a big league job within about 20 months.   As one scouting report puts it, he is what he is and that’s awfully good.  As is.  Right now.  

This isn’t some sort of project. 

There won’t be a 1500 at-bat adjustment period for Smoak. 

There won’t be any retooling of his swing or time wasted on learning a new position.   

He’s simply going to need some time — not much, but some — to get used to centering the ball on a wood bat on a consistent basis, and then he’ll be ready to roll.    Maybe two months in Bakersfield this summer.    Maybe three or four months in Frisco next year and then a final polishing in Oklahoma City in July and August of 2009.

 

In the second round,  the Rangers took Robbie Ross, a diminutive high school lefty with great stuff from Nicholasville, Kentucky.   Here again, there probably wasn’t much doubt that he was the best prospect on the board when the selection — number 57 overall — was made.  Ross was ranked the 43rd best prospect in the draft by Baseball America.  

Ross stamped himself as a top-two round guy last summer in a scouting showcase where he upstaged the likes of Tim Melville:    Ross “pitched at 89 mph, touching 92 on the Baseball America Stalker. His slider was up to 82 [with] hard, late tilt, and helped him rack up empty swings. Ross allowed one baserunner, on a walk, and struck out nine of the 12 batters he faced in four hitless innings.”

He fell, in large part, because he’s a signability question. 

Yesterday, Ross told the Louisville Courier-Journal that   “(Teams are) just wondering if they’re going to pay me as much as I’m asking for,” Ross said. “It’s not so much, ‘Is my body built right?’ or ‘Am I throwing well?’ It’s really more about their opinion about the money than it is about my ability.”

Ross, who has the same advisor as Smoak,  is said to be asking for $1.5 million — which is about what Texas paid Blake Beavan last year.  Beavan was the 16th pick in the draft.