Notable quotables: Rob Kaminsky

(Paul R. Gierhart/MiLB.com)

(Paul R. Gierhart/MiLB.com)

By Kelsie Heneghan / MiLB.com The story of Rob Kaminsky’s journey from New Jersey outfields to the mound as the Cardinals top pitching prospect was published today on MiLB.com. Some further quotes from the 20-year-old Kaminsky, private pitching coach Jim Wladyka and Peoria pitching coach Jason Simontacci.

Kaminsky on his 6-0 record with the Chiefs: “Playing in Peoria, it was fun. You get in a better routine when you’re at home because you get the field at a designated time, you don’t have to show up five hours early and sit in the locker room, so that’s nice. But at the end of the day, it’s 60 feet, 6 inches, so I don’t think it matters where it is on the map.” (more…)

Billy McKinney Q&A outtakes

Billy McKinney

(Rick Nelson / MiLB.com)

By Ashley Marshall / MiLB.com

Today at MiLB.com, my Q&A with Cubs prospect Billy McKinney went live. He spoke about coming over from the A’s in the Jeff Samardzija deal last June, staying mentally strong at the plate and eating late-night pizza on the road. You can read that full feature here

Here are some more thoughts from the 2013 first-round Draft pick that didn’t make it into the original piece.

McKinney on how instincts affect his running game:

I wouldn’t say speed kills, but speed is very important. The instincts and getting the reads is an extremely important part of the game, especially for me. I try to learn something new about pitchers, seeing tendencies, seeing what they’re doing and reading balls in the dirt is very important for me. That’s a huge part of the game for me and I try to be smart as a baserunner. That’s important for me.

On speaking with Cubs GM Theo Epstein:

I’ve gotten to talk to him a little bit, but not about his vision or plan for the Cubs or anything like that. But I’m a left-handed bat and I know there’s always the mix you need in a lineup for the left- and right-handers, so I’m really hoping I can help and be a big asset to the team in the near future.

On his approach at the plate and how long it takes to make adjustments: (more…)

Minoring in Twitter: From ‘American Sniper’ to ‘DeflateGate’

By Danny Wild / MiLB.com

Minor Leaguers got the memo about American Sniper this past week, and the praise has been flowing like Randy Johnson’s hair:

It’s pretty rare everyone agrees on something in this country (even Michael Moore relented and admitted the film itself was good). For those not paying attention, American Sniper stars Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL sniper who had more than 220 probable kills and 160 confirmed kills during his four tours in Iraq. The Clint Eastwood film shows Kyle’s struggle with taking lives and protecting his fellow American soldiers in a high-stress combat zone while also cycling back to his “normal” life as a husband and father. The ending is just brutal.

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Blue Jays’ Norris a man for all seasons

By Josh Jackson / MiLB.com

Among other things (an unfathomable wealth of talent, for example), it takes a tremendous amount of focus and determination to climb from Class A Advanced ball to the big leagues over the course of a single season.

It should be pretty clear, then, where Blue Jays left-hander Daniel Norris’ concentration is. The guy is a ballplayer, and he’s locked in on being a ballplayer.

That doesn’t mean, however, that he doesn’t have other interests when his baseball-related work is done for the day. Norris, whose slow offseason journey to Blue Jays Spring Training camp in Dunedin is chronicled on MiLB.com, caught the eye of Danny Wild and was featured in the latest Minoring in Twitter for his offseason beard and his modeling for a Johnson City, Tennessee, men’s clothing and outdoor goods store.

NorrisBlogBoard

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Minoring in Twitter: Pitch clock, Norris’ beard reactions

By Danny Wild/MiLB.com

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Major League Baseball has instituted a 20-second pitch clock for Triple-A and Double-A games this upcoming season following a test program in the Arizona Fall League. Are you ready to see how Minor Leaguers reacted?

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Q&A: New Orleans manager Andy Haines on pitch clocks coming to Triple-A, Double-A ball

Andy Haines helped Salt River capture the 2014 AFL title. (Bill Mitchell)

Andy Haines helped Salt River capture the 2014 AFL title. (Bill Mitchell)

By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com

News broke Thursday that pace-of-game measures, first tested in the Arizona Fall League a few months back, are coming to Triple-A and Double-A leagues this spring. The most drastic of such changes is the pitch clock, of which there will be three — two behind the plate and one in the outfield beyond the fence or close to a scoreboard. In the AFL, pitchers had 20 seconds to deliver their next pitch with exceptions for timeouts and various other reasons. Failure to do so resulted in an automatic ball. Other measures included a rule that hitters had to keep one foot in the batter’s box throughout an at-bat, intentional walks could be issued without a pitch, pitching changes were limited to a 2:30 time period and a team could use only three non-pitching change timeouts in a game. The clock and box initiatives will move to the Minors in 2015.

Triple-A New Orleans manager Andy Haines had a front-row seat for it all as manager of the AFL’s Salt River Rafters, whose home field was the testing ground for the pitch clocks. On Thursday, he talked to MiLB.com about his reaction to the coming changes and whether he thinks they were the right move.

MiLB.com: First off, what was your reaction when you heard the news?

Haines: It wasn’t too much of a surprise, given that there was enough buzz that what we did in the Fall League would carry into the season. I wasn’t totally surprised, but I wasn’t sure what was going to take into effect. I was actually a little surprised that the clocks made it. With the pitch clocks, it’s a little more complex than it comes across maybe to the outside observer. It’s not as simple as just having 20 seconds to throw the next pitch. I’ve said it a lot. The clock makes things very black and white, but there a lot of different things that should go into it. One big thing is it takes the discretion out of the hands of the umpires. It’ll be interesting to see how things play out. Believe me, I understand what they’re trying to do in cutting the time of the game down. We’re all aware what needs to be addressed. I’m just not sure if the clock’s the way to do it.

MiLB.com: You said it’s a complex issue. What are the complexities of it in your eyes?

Haines: I’ll give you an example. (I’m more in favor of the batter’s box issue getting implemented. I think that accomplished exactly what they wanted, and it lets the umpire manage the game alone.) With the clock, the catcher throws the ball back to the pitcher and he drops it accidentally, but the clock has already started and now he has to rush to get in a pitch. You have all these variables. When did it start? Did it start too soon. As a third-base coach, I’m trying to give signs, but if the pitcher’s ready, I have to tell my guy, “Let’s go, get in there.” It happens a lot faster.

I’m a little surprised, given the feedback we gave them, that they put this into the season. The conversations I had with officials on how this worked, I’m not sure this was going to happen so quickly.

MiLB.com: When you first used the pitch clocks in the AFL, what was the initial reaction from the pitchers?

Haines: Oh, the feedback wasn’t good from the pitchers, I can tell you that. I saw it firsthand. I was adamant that the umpire has to have some discretion when it comes to making these calls. There were a couple of crazy examples. One was what happens when a catcher has to go through the signs again. If they can’t do it in time and there are three balls on a hitter, all of a sudden that’s ball four, and that has an effect on the game.

But for the most part, that was OK because it was in the Fall League. It gets a little scary when you start doing this in the regular season. A Minor League is not a place where you experiment. The Fall League, sure, because that’s what it is — it doesn’t really count. There are so many unknowns with an experiment like that, though. A Minor League season for those of us that are here all year, that’s our life here. They’re not exhibition games. So that’s kind of where I’m at. It’s a different dynamic with a lot more at stake for us.

MiLB.com: But as short as the AFL season was, did you feel like pitchers acclimated to the clocks as the season went on?

Haines: Oh, when the game flows in its usual way, there’s nothing abnormal about it. It’s not an issue at all. To some degree, we all know that it takes away things that drives some fans crazy. It’s just when you have what I call “baseball plays” that you run into trouble. Like I said before, the catcher throws the ball back to the pitcher, he drops it and, before you can catch your breath, the clock’s down to seven so the pitcher rushes to throw. That’s not the point of these rules. That’s not the spirit. But it directly affects games.

Minoring in Twitter: Most players are currently freezing

By Danny Wild / MiLB.com

It’s been a busy week, between Hall of Fame news and Stuart Scott’s passing and something about the Dallas Cowboys, and according to multiple Minor League sources with knowledge of the situations, it’s like really cold outside. By the way, thanks to colleague Sam Dykstra for picking up the slack this past month as I enjoyed some time away from the office.

Let’s start with the Hall of Fame as pitchers John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez joined second baseman Craig Biggio in winning trips to scenic Cooperstown, New York:

Braves outfielder and 2014 first-round pick Braxton Davidson argues that Barry Bonds should be honored despite his “situation,” which possibly refers to the time he may or may not have received drugs from a trainer who is currently in prison:

Jake Gatewood agrees, referring to the guy who was once indicted in federal court on four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice:

Rob Whalen gives his take, with a nod to Mike Piazza, who ought to be in Cooperstown already:

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Notable quotables: Nimmo finds success

Nimmo hit .278 with 51 RBIs across two levels last season. (Gordon Donovan/MiLB.com)

Nimmo hit .278 with 51 RBIs across two levels last season. (Gordon Donovan/MiLB.com)

By: Kelsie Heneghan/MiLB.com

MiLB.com recently talked with the Mets’ No. 3 prospect, Brandon Nimmo, about his breakout season. The 21-year-old outfielder shared so many tidbits and tales from his time in baseball that it seemed natural to post bonus coverage from our Q&A.

On his offseason last year:

I went to IMG [Academy] last offseason and spent seven weeks there. That was big for me because I was able to get down to, I think I got down to 180, 185 [pounds], somewhere in there and then we built muscle from there. We kind of got the fat off me and then we just built muscle from there. I got into camp around 208 and I was pretty strong, moving well. My body was in tip-top shape and I was able to take quite a few swings down there.

On what he learned from Andrew McCutchen at the IMG Academy:

Just that our thinking wasn’t too far off from each other, we are very similar in a lot of aspects of the game. I think that was the biggest thing that he taught me was that even though he’s the NL MVP, our thinking about the game and situations and how we go about our business is not that far off. (more…)

Minoring in Twitter: Trade reactions in 140 characters (or more)

By Sam Dykstra/MiLB.com

Danny Wild is off again this week, probably getting in the holiday spirit a week early in the wilds of Rockland County, so I’m back in the saddle for Minoring in Twitter this week. And what a week in the game of baseball. It feels like we hardly know the Padres anymore, given their acquisitions of Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Justin Upton, etc.. Of course, these trades affect the Minors Leaguers involved as well, and many of them took to Twitter to express their thoughts.

Trea Turner, particularly, found himself in a precarious position.

Let us count the ways this day got interesting for the former NC State shortstop.

1) When he sent out that tweet, he was involved in the Wil Myers-to-San Diego trade rumors with Turner going to Washington in the three-team deal. First off, imagine how weird it must be to be going about your day, only to find out via the internet that you may have a different employer by day’s end. That’s got to be strange in itself.

2) Turner isn’t even technically supposed to be traded yet. As a 2014 Draft pick, he can’t be moved until one year after being selected, so he’s not eligible to head to Washington until June 2015. (The deal technically involves a player-to-be-named-later, although it’s widely reported that the name to be revealed later will be Turner’s.) That has to add to the blind side effect.

Jose Trevino noted just how weird this might be now:

Fellow Padres prospect at the time Jake Bauers had Turner’s back on this issue. Bauers was reportedly being sent to Tampa Bay in the same deal.

When the trade became official, Bauers needed a few more characters to convey his thoughts.

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Yanks coordinators talk Sanchez, Clarkin and Lindgren

By Mark Emery / MiLB.com

Inevitably and for infinite reasons, big-name prospects get snubbed from MiLB.com’s Organization All-Stars series every offseason.

Our 2014 Yankees feature ran on MiLB.com today. For informed input regarding the picks, I spoke with hitting coordinator James Rowson and pitching coordinator Danny Borrell.

In addition to discussing the 12 players who were honored, we talked about several notable prospects who narrowly missed being named to the list, including catcher Gary Sanchez (New York’s second-ranked prospect and MLB.com’s No. 69 overall) and lefties Ian Clarkin (NY’s No. 4) and Jacob Lindgren (NY’s No. 9). While Sanchez was outperformed at his position, Lindgren’s innings total was simply too small. And as for Clarkin, his omission had to do with both performance and time on the field.

Here is what the experts had to say about that trio of Top 10 prospects.

sanchezGary Sanchez, Trenton (110 games): In the Double-A Eastern League this past season, the recently-turned 22-year-old from the Dominican Republic posted a .270/.338/.406 slash line with 19 doubles, 13 home runs, 65 RBIs, 43 walks and 91 strikeouts. Behind the plate, he compiled a .980 fielding percentage and threw out 38.9 percent of would-be basestealers (37 of 95) during his fifth professional season.

“I think Gary is still developing,” Rowson said. “I think Gary is a great talent. I think throughout the industry everyone knows the amount of talent he has. He’s still a young kid and he’s continuing to develop offensively and defensively, just overall I think. You can’t rush that. There’s no specific timetable on when that’s going to be ready. But when you look at the raw skills and the raw talent, he’s as talented as anybody out there.”

clarkinIan Clarkin, Charleston (16 games), Tampa (one game): A year after making just three starts, the 33rd pick of the 2013 Draft appeared in only 17 games this past season. Over 75 innings, he went 4-3 with a 3.12 ERA, piling up 75 strikeouts against 23 walks. He ended the season with a .258 average against and a 1.25 WHIP.

“He was limited, and that’s obviously one thing that doesn’t count, is the extended spring training innings,” Borrell said. “He had his innings, and he came up to Tampa and made his one start in Tampa, and we just shut him down after that. We’re going to build on that coming up next year, but heck, Ian went from, once again, extended up to Tampa as a 19-year-old.

“From the kid I saw when we drafted him in 2013 as a first-rounder, kind of wild, kind of erratic with his fastball, and then he comes to Spring Training this season and then comes up to Tampa for his last start, man, the curveball is obviously a great pitch, it’s going to be a plus pitch for him. The changeup is going to be another plus pitch. His fastball control in the zone was so much better than it was after he signed. So, a testament to him and how he adjusted.”

lindgrenJacob Lindgren, GCL Yankees 1 (one game), Class A Charleston (four games), Tampa (six games), Trenton (eight games): The 21-year-old from Mississippi State was taken by the Yankees in the second round of the June Draft, and in his first season he worked his way up from the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League all the way to the Double-A Eastern League. In 25 frames spread over 19 games, he went 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA, ending with 48 strikeouts, 13 walks, a .135 opponents’ average and a 1.00 WHIP.

“That guy is as filthy as they come,” Borrell said. “I’m sure he’ll be knocking on the door of New York soon, especially with his combination, fastball/slider.”

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