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Author Topic: Notes from Spring Training  (Read 1518 times)

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Notes from Spring Training
« on: March 19, 2005, 11:17:31 pm »

Some organizations just have it and others don't.

The Braves seem to find ways to find pitchers on the scrap heap and render than useful--Jaret Wright comes to mind. Ditto Juan Cruz, who has always had a world of raw talent but showed little skill, if the wordplay makes sense. About the time you think they are destined to fall from on high they retool and the farm system churns out a kick-in-the-pants spark. This year? They are going to get good returns on Brian Jordan and Raul Mondesi, who were left for dead by most clubs.

The Twins and A's seem to have the small market thingy down. They continue to produce more than their fair share of minor leaguers who turn into solid major leaguers. The Twins nurture their rookies so well there is rarely a sophomore slump. And, because the guys are floated around prospect lists for so long they don't seem like prospects by the time they hit the bigs. They seemingly have a replacement at every position who is a plus prospect. When the vets get too pricey they are sent packing and replaced. The A's are almost as flush with prospects. The A's are a bit deeper on the mound and that is where they need help this year. Trades brought in great prospects Danny Haren and Dan Meyer to couple with their own Joe Blanton and Jairo Garcia. Exciting teams because they are willing to stand toe-to-toe with the Yankees and BoSox.

Then, there are the Devil Rays. I have Jorge Cantu at a cheap price in a keeper roti league and have been secretly hoping that Alomar would disappear. Ta-da, he announced his retirement today. Not to be outdone, Danny Bautista hung it up, despite being owed $1.7M (or thereabouts) this year. That's a lot of scratch to serve as a roadblock for a wealth of great young OF. Everyone knows about Delmon Young, but they have Joey Gathwright (FAST but no stick...think Ober Moreno) and Jonny Gomes (serious power with serious strikeout problems) with nothing to prove in AAA. Young hit .429 before being sent to camp. He'll be back mid-summer, or so one would think. This is the same system that drafted Josh Hamilton, one of the best HS hitters ever who developed a serious chemical addiction problem and is still on the MLB suspended list. They moved Wes Bankston from OF to 1B to free up some space and he could contribute. So...what do they do? Well, in addition to the Alomar and Bautista signings in the off-season, they inked Travis Lee to a 2-year deal, blocking Bankston, and talked trades for Aubrey Huff, the best power hitter on the roster, and the second best player on the team. Oh, so the two retirements will free up space, right? Nope. Before the two retirements could hit the Tampa newspapers the Rays announced they signed Alex Sanchez to occupy CF until Rocco Baldelli is healthy, circa all-star break. WTH? Gathwright is faster and better defensively. Gomes is as good defensively and brings much needed power. I won't even go into the handling of BJ Upton, who is back in AAA while Julio Lugo (in all fairness, good numbers last year) is at SS and Alex Gonzalez was SIGNED to play 3B.

Another stunner is the way the Blue Jays have managed their pitching staff this off-season. They have Lilly and Halladay as solid SP. Miggy Batista saves a few games last September and looked good but was announced in October as the #3 starter. They have failed closers in Jason Frasor, Justin Speier and, to make the list complete, signed Billy Koch over the winter. So, this week found the Jays announcing that Batista is back as the closer (a role he doesn't want), Koch is gone, and the best closer in the system, Brandon League, due to start the year in AAA, possibly being groomed as a starter. Better parent club closer options would be Kerry Ligtenberg or Chad Gaudin, but the former never got the shot last year and the latter is headed for AAA. Maybe he's going to start there also. They've got rookie Gustavo Chacin penciled in as the #5 starter yet he began last year in A ball. They looked past more seasoned minor league starters (Jason Arnold and Francisco Rosario come to mind; Dustin McGowan is still recovering from Tommy John surgery last spring).

Did anyone read Paul White's column in the latest Sports Weekly? He is the first to put in print what I've been saying for a long time--the Yankees are old, fragile, and shallow. When the wheels start falling off look for them to fade quickly. There is nothing in the farm system left to deal and they have no starter who can reasonably be expected to improve upon their career year to date. Rivera is not the dominant closer he once was and that rotation gets the senior discount at Denny's, right? When you can spend like you are the CEO of Enron I guess it doesn't matter but it'll be hard to clear salaries next off-season for whomever they want to rent for their run. And, they'll be another year older.

Two other teams deserve mention. The Rangers and the Rockies seem to do a solid job of developing offensive squads but can't seem to assemble a pitching staff to save their soul. Both systems have more than enough pitching prospects to fill out the staffs, if not in 2005, then 2006 or 2007. Neither has had anything like a 5-man rotation. The Rockies may be closer, today, with Jennings, Kennedy, Francis and Jimenez. The Rangers have the end game much more solid with Cordero, Francisco and Almanzar. Those are names that were acquired early in their careers or came up through the system. Note that both lists are one man short of a complete list--the Rockies #5 starter and Rangers #2 set-up guy (Almanzar is more of a long-man). If they can be found then these clubs are headed in the right way.
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