Results tagged ‘ Portland Sea Dogs ’
By Sam Dykstra/MiLB.com
No one gets to the World Series by accident. There are three* rounds of baseball taking up at least seven and at most 13 (counting Wild Card play-ins) combined games where teams get to prove that they are, in fact, superior to their American or National League cohorts, not to mention the 162 regular-season contests to earn a spot in the postseason.
But beyond even that, Fall Classic appearances can be earned in the preparation that goes in way beforehand. This year, both the Red Sox and Cardinals leaned on incredible organizational depth, especially this postseason, to earn their spots in this year’s Series. Perhaps that shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, given that the farm systems for both are consistently ranked among the top five in baseball.
With Game 1 coming this evening, let’s take a look at some prospects (or former prospects that played heavily in the Minors in 2013) from each squad that should influence this year’s World Series, in order of highest impact to lowest.
1. Michael Wacha, Cardinals right-handed starter: Though 2013 is Wacha’s first full professional season, many believed entering the season that the 2012 first-rounder (19th overall) was the most advanced among his cohorts, especially after a strong first Spring Training. He carried that into an impressive introduction with Triple-A Memphis (4-0, 2.05 ERA in nine starts) before making his first Major League start in late May. After returning to the PCL in June, Wacha was back in the Majors for good in August as a reliever. He finished with a 2.65 ERA and 0.99 WHIP over 15 starts for the Redbirds. He transitioned back to the starting role in August and showed dominant stuff that allowed him to be slotted into the postseason rotation for the NL Central champs.
You should know the rest. Armed with a plus fastball and a changeup that could very well be the best in the game, Wacha, who turned 22 on July 1, has been arguably the best pitcher of the postseason. He carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Pirates and didn’t allow a run in either of his starts against the Dodgers en route to MVP honors. In total, he’s 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA and 22-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 21 postseason innings. He’s slated to take the ball in Game 2 at Fenway Park and will likely take the hill again for Game 6, if the Series gets that far. At one time, you could have said Wacha is the next big thing in St. Louis baseball. Right now, I’d say he is the big thing.
2. Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox left-side infielder: The 21-year-old wasn’t a lock to be on this list, never mind this high, a few weeks ago. After an excellent Minor League campaign in which he slashed .297/.388/.477 between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, Bogaerts was brought up to the big club in late August, receiving sporadic starts at shortstop and third base. In one of their bigger roster decisions, the Sox decided to keep him on for the postseason with the thought being his bat could help off the bench.
The Aruba native showed his worth with two walks and two runs scored in a 3-1, series-clinching win over the Rays in Game 4 of the ALDS and provided some spark with a ninth-inning double and run in Game 4 against the Tigers. With Will Middlebrooks struggling, Red Sox manager John Farrell made the move to Bogaerts in Game 5 and 6, and Boston’s prospect took off from there, going 2-for-4 with two doubles, three walks and three runs scored while playing serviceable defense at the hot corner. The third base job will be his to lose in the World Series, and although the rookie shouldn’t be expected to maintain his ALCS production, Bogaerts, who is known for his calm demeanor, should be a serviceable bottom-of-the-lineup hitter. With Stephen Drew a free agent this winter, it is expected that Bogaerts will slide over to his natural spot at shortstop come Opening Day next year.
3. Carlos Martinez, Cardinals right-handed reliever: This one has to sting a little for Red Sox fans. As told in this MLB.com story, Boston signed the right-hander when he was known as Carlos Matias, only to have the contract voided due to identity issues. The Cardinals scooped him up instead after things were cleared, and they are the ones who will enjoy his services in this year’s Fall Classic and beyond.
Like Wacha, Martinez yo-yoed a bit between Triple-A Memphis and St. Louis this season, serving as an impressive starter (2.51 ERA in 13 starts) at the former and an at-times struggling reliever (5.08 ERA in 21 games) in the latter. Thanks to his plus fastball and better-than-average breaking stuff, he improved in September, when eight of his nine outings were scoreless, and the Cardinals felt comfortable enough to give him the setup role heading into the playoffs. In his seven postseason appearances (all of which have come in the seventh or eighth innings), he’s allowed only two runs on two hits and two walks over 6 2/3 innings. Martinez’s future as either a starter or reliever is still to be determined, but either way, the Cardinals have yet another quality arm in their arsenal going forward.
4. Brandon Workman, Red Sox right-handed reliever: With bigger-named arms in the system like Matt Barnes, Henry Owens, Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo, Workman was admittedly overlooked entering the 2013 season as a right-hander whose ceiling didn’t appear to be as high as the others. The 6-foot-4 former Texas Longhorn proved plenty steady in the Minors, sporting a 3.21 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 101 innings for Pawtucket and Portland before moving up in July. He was used exclusively out of the bullpen from August onward and finished with a mediocre-at-best 4.97 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP along with a 47-to-15 K/BB ratio.
The numbers in the postseason have been another story, though. Workman hasn’t allowed a run in five appearances and has scattered four hits and two walks over 5 1/3 innings. He tossed 1 2/3 big frames in Game 6 of the ALCS to keep the Sox within a run of the Tigers before exiting in the seventh (following his own error on Torii Hunter’s bunt attempt). Shane Victorino then hit his forever-famous grand slam in the eighth. The 25-year-old hurler is Boston’s third-best right-handed option out of the bullpen following Junichi Tazawa and the superlative Koji Uehara (and fourth-best overall behind southpaw Craig Breslow) and should be expected to see time in the middle innings when the Red Sox starters don’t last seven-plus innings.
(In a comical aside, Workman grabbed Bogaerts after Game 6 and said, “‘We’re a long way from Portland right now, aren’t we?’”)
5. Others: Cardinals left-hander Kevin Siegrist, who started the year in Double-A Springfield, has been a left-hander out of the bullpen for the NL champions who can also get righties out. He’s allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits in 2 2/3 innings. Only one of his five outings has lasted longer than two outs. … Second baseman Kolten Wong and outfielder Adron Chambers, both of whom spent most of the season in Memphis, have been used exclusively off the St. Louis bench. Neither has recorded a hit in 10 combined at-bats. … One can’t help but wonder what kind of impact top Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras could have had if he hadn’t missed most of the season with an ankle injury.
By Jake Seiner / MiLB.com
The Minor League season has come and gone, and sadly, that means Notable Quotables will be heading into hibernation until the games start up against next spring. We’ll still have plenty of regular content, both here on the blog and over at MiLB.com, but to celebrate the end of the 2013 season and the temporary end of this column, we’re going to bring you a “Best Of” from this summer featuring each of MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects.
A quick note: Though we managed to feature just about every Top 100 prospect this season, there are a few who evaded our eyes/tape recorders for one reason or another. In that case, rather than leave you hanging, we’re going to drop in one fun fact or statistical quirk of note that hopefully reveals a little something about the player.
51. Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland Indians –
Despite striking out in 31.1 percent of his at-bats, Frazier managed to hit .297 with five homers and an .868 OPS in the Arizona League. The 2013 first-rounder finished among the league’s top five in home runs, OPS and isolated power (.209).
52. Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox –
Portland manager Kevin Boles on Owens after his Double-A debut:
“If you look at Henry out on the mound, he knows what he’s doing. … He has an advanced approach. It’s just from one outing, but it looks like a very advanced approach to pitching at such a young age.
“He seems like a very bright kid. … His game makeup, from what we saw, was above-average tonight. He wants the ball. There’s no fear of contact. He attacks the zone, and he had a lot of pluses going for him.”
“His stuff is outstanding and he’s just got to get his first full season pitching in. This is a pretty big step for him to go five months, to prepare every five days for five months. … He’s looked very well all season so far. He has great composure for an 18-year-old kid and a really good arm. He always enjoys coming to the ballpark, doing his job.
“Right now he’s a strike thrower and those things are getting better daily, from start to start. We expect him to keep improving.”
54. Matt Barnes, RHP, Boston Red Sox –
Barnes on the process of pitching with and without his best stuff:
“When you have your stuff, you’re working to keep it. When you don’t have your stuff, you’re working to find it. You’re always working on something.”
55. David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies –
Dahl played in just 10 games this year after first being demoted to extended spring training due to behavioral issues and then suffering a torn hamstring that ended his season in early May.
56. Jorge Alfaro, C, Texas Rangers –
Alfaro’s 16 home runs were second among all catchers in the South Atlantic League, with Alfaro also among the youngest backstops on the circuit. Alfaro’s .364 weighted On-Base Average helped him create runs at a clip 28 percent higher than an average SAL hitter, per FanGraphs.
“My stuff is better [than last year] and my location is better. … Everything is becoming a lot sharper. The hitters will tell you how good your stuff is when they take a lot of quality pitches. It’s one of the biggest indicators, how they take pitches and how they swing at pitches and how they approach you.
“A lot of guys are starting to respect my fastball and how I locate it. Hitters are trying to hunt for it. When I have my off-speed early, I can get ahead with my fastball and then go off-speed later in counts.”
58. Mike Olt, 3B, Chicago Cubs –
Olt on his philosophy and preparation as a third baseman:
“I definitely know before the game starts who’s a speed guy, a slap guy, who’s looking to make plays like that, so I study a little bit. I can kind of read them and hopefully get them a little bit fooled [to] think that I’m not paying attention.
“I’m constantly moving in and out, trying to [assess] different situations. I think third base is all reaction and reading.”
“You can’t force anything when you know you don’t have anything and everything’s not working for you. … You can’t force it. The moment you’re forcing fastballs in there or even offspeed pitches, you leave stuff up and get hurt. I went out and had the mind-set, ‘Hey, you don’t have your best stuff, but go out and work your [butt] off,’ and I was lucky to do that.”
60. Lance McCullers, RHP, Houston Astros –
McCullers (117 strikeouts), along with Quad Cities teammate Vincent Velasquez (123 strikeouts), ranked fourth and second, respectively, in the Midwest League in strikeouts despite throwing 30-40 fewer innings than most of their competitors on the leaderboard. The duo also tied for the league lead in strikeouts per nine innings, with each punching out 10.06 per nine.
By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com
With the season over, we’ve started to look back at the best performances of the year in our Organization All-Star series, with some help from team personnel. Obviously, we can’t fit every quote into those pieces. That’s where this comes in. So borrowing a page from colleague Jake Seiner’s Notable Quotables book, here’s some of the best quotes from Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett that didn’t quite make the Org All-Stars cut.
On Christian Vazquez’s improvements at the plate:
“Christian had a really good year offensively, too. He did a good job of working on things that the staff presented him with to improve. He did a great job of getting on base and I think some of the rewards of his improvements were some pretty good stats that everyone could see. The consistency of his approach with every at-bat was something that helped contribute to that.”
On Mookie Betts’ breakout season:
“He took a nice leap forward from a skill-set point of view. He brought a lot of skills to the table, but a difference was he brought more confidence this year as well, and that was able to push him to accomplish what he did. He really developed in terms of recognizing pitches. Once that happened, he did a lot of damage. And that helped get even more confident.”
On Xander Bogaerts’ stint in the Majors:
“Being around Major League players and Major League staff and the professionalization they exude is huge for young players. Now there are distractions, but Xander cuts through that and gets back what he needs to do to improve on the field. That’s something that makes him so special. From my perspective — I don’t want to talk on [the Major League staff’s] behalf — he worked really hard when he got up here. He brings energy and asks all the right questions as part of that learning process. That’s something you want to see in every young player.”
On where Garin Cecchini goes after leading the Minors in on-base percentage:
“There’s definitely still work to be done. Until he’s had success in the bigs, you don’t know how a player will work out up there, so you need to keep working at it. It was good to see him getting tested at Double-A, and he certainly enjoyed some early success. But then, pitchers adjusted some to him and, after a while, he adjusted back. That, in particular, is where there will be coming challenges. As he moves, he’ll have to keep making those adjustments because pitchers attack you differently at each level.”
On what the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year award means for Anthony Ranaudo:
“Sure, it’s nice. It’s a compliment for anyone when you’re compared to your peers that way. But I think any player, including Anthony, would trade an award like that to get to the big leagues. So, sure, he was a top performer from that [award] standpoint, but you’re always striving to get to the big leagues and do what you can to help the team win. All the same, that award was a big credit to what Anthony did this season and the progress he made.”
On the camaraderie of the Portland rotation, which at one point featured Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Drake Britton and Brandon Workman:
“Each one of those guys didn’t want to let the group down. They were all trying to help each other in a positive way as teammates, and when the game started, they’re trying their best to keep the team in it. Also, off the field with regard to work, they pushed each other to be better and that’s obviously a big positive. You look at some of the best rotations in the game and they have ended that way with guys feeding off each other like that.”
On Noe Ramirez’s first season as a reliever:
“He took to it really well. He was ready to accept the new challenge in the offseason and he seemed excited for it. Moving to the bullpen gave him a chance to compete in a shorter stint, which meant he could attack even more aggressively. Plus, he was able to get some experience in some really high-leverage situations as a reliever and did well there. That’ll only help him as time goes on.”
On the positives at both the Minor and Major League levels:
“It was a positive season in terms of development this year, sure. Obviously, there’s still work to be done and progress we need to make at every level. After all, it’s the success of the Major League team that drives a lot of what we do on our side. Having a group of young players drive that success gives as much pride to our staff as anything. It’s great seeing younger players who have come through our system doing their part.”
By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com
It’s time to hold us accountable. Perhaps that’s a term we should be hearing in Washington right now. Instead, I’m talking about us here at MiLB.com. Before the season, we gave you our lists of 10 Prospects to Watch in each full-season league based on our projections for what was the then-to-come campaign.
Then, 2013 happened.
Admittedly, some of these we were right on, although we can only take some of the credit for that. Many of the game’s top prospects went above and beyond our expectations with fantastic performances at the plate or on the mound. And then, as tends to happen, some others went the other way and underperformed against our expectations. Them’s the breaks, as they say.
Here I’ll break down players that fit each description from our preseason Prospects to Watch lists.
Biggest Hit: Wil Myers, Durham/Tampa Bay – I’ll admit I wasn’t putting myself on any ledges by putting Myers as the top player to watch in the IL, although I will add Billy Hamilton could have gone there instead after his record-setting 2012 on the basepaths. Myers had his ups-and-downs in his first season in the Rays farm system, but a stellar June pushed him to finish with a .286/.356/.520 slash line with 14 homers and 57 RBIs over 64 games before he got his first call-up in the middle of the month. He never looked back, posting a slash of .293/.354/.478 with 13 homers and 53 RBIs in 88 games for the AL Wild Card-winning Rays. The 22-year-old right fielder should compete with Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias for the AL Rookie of the Year award.
Biggest Miss: Trevor Bauer, Columbus/Cleveland – Like Myers, Bauer found himself in a new organization and a new Triple-A circuit at the start of the year. After being traded from the D-backs to the Indians last offseason, the 22-year-old right-hander had a chance to crack the Tribe’s rotation out of Spring Training before he was optioned to Columbus. (It should be noted, however, his first start of the year was with Cleveland as he filled in for Scott Kazmir.) He struggled with command in both the IL (5.41 BB/9 in 22 starts) and the Majors (8.47 BB/9 in four starts). His ERA and FIP (4.15/5.08 in Triple-A, 5.29/7.05 in the Majors) predictably suffered as a result. Given his age and potential, there’s still reason to believe he’ll be a serviceable starter in the Majors. It might just take a little longer than previously imagined.
Hit: Taijuan Walker, Jackson/Tacoma/Seattle – After spending his age-19 season with Double-A Jackson in 2012, it was obvious that Walker would be moving up to Tacoma at some point this season, and he did just that in late June. The 6-foot-4 right-hander posted a 2.46 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 10.29 K/9 for Jackson before being promoted to the PCL, where he was almost equally impressive given his age with 3.61/1.41/10.05 numbers. The Mariners liked what they saw enough to give him a Major League shot starting in late August, and Walker rewarded that faith with a trio of solid performances. He could very well be in line to rejoin the M’s rotation come next spring.
Miss: Mike Olt, Frisco/Round Rock/Iowa – There were reasons to be high on Olt entering this season. His 28 homers in 2012, his .398 OBP. A move to the hitter-friendly PCL. Instead, the third baseman struggled mightily out of the gate with a .139 average and just one homer in 72 at-bats spanning 20 April contests. He missed time due to eye issues and, although his numbers did improve, they still didn’t jump off the page. Olt was traded to the Cubs in the deal that sent Matt Garza to Texas. He finished his year with Triple-A Iowa, where he batted .168 with three homers and eight RBIs in 131 at-bats and 39 games. All in all, it was a lost season for the third baseman.
Hit: Anthony Rendon, Harrisburg/Syracuse/Washington – Xander Bogaerts and Jameson Taillon, both top prospects in their respective organizations, would be quality choices here, but if you were watching Rendon, like my colleague Danny Wild told you to, then you’d know the rocket-like season he had. The 23-year-old put up a slash of .319/.461/.603 in 33 games for Harrisburg before moving up to Syracuse in June. He stayed there all of three games before getting the big call to Washington. He spent time at second, third and even some shortstop for the Nats and slashed .265/.329/.396 with 23 doubles, seven homers and 35 RBIs in 98 contests.
Miss: Dylan Bundy, N/A – This isn’t a knock against Bundy, nor is it one against our list. When our Prospects to Watch article was put together, Bundy was experiencing “mild elbow stiffness” and was believed to be returning early in the season. Then, he underwent Tommy John surgery in late June and there went his season. Again, this isn’t a black mark. He just wasn’t a Prospect to Watch because you literally couldn’t watch him pitch in 2013.
Hit: Yasiel Puig, Chattanooga/Los Angeles (NL) – As if I was going to put anyone else here. “The Wild Horse,” as named by Dodgers broadcasting legend Vin Scully, torched the Southern League with a .313 average, .982 OPS, eight homers and 37 RBIs for Chattanooga before getting called up to the Dodgers and becoming a rookie sensation. He finished with a .319 average, .925 OPS, 19 homers and 42 RBIs and earned a reputation for his cannon arm in right field over 104 games for the NL West champions.
Miss: Taylor Jungmann, Huntsville – The Brewers’ first-round pick from the 2011 Draft moved up to Double-A for the first time and failed to particularly impress. His 4.72 BB/9 and 12.3 walk percentage were both third-worst in the league, and his 4.84 FIP was worst among qualified pitchers. The 6-foot-6 right-hander hopes to work out the kinks in his command when he takes the mound in this year’s Arizona Fall League with Surprise.
Hit: George Springer, Corpus Christi/Oklahoma City – You probably know the deal here. Not only did Springer use his strength to smash the ball this season (.303/.411/.600, 37 homers, 108 RBIs), he also used his speed to swipe 45 bases. He fell three homers shy of becoming the first member of the Minors’ 40-40 club since Len Tucket hit both marks in 1956.
Miss: Cody Buckel, Frisco/AZL Rangers – They call it Steve Blass Disease, after the Pirates hurler who inexplicably lost his command on the mound in 1972. After issuing 48 free passes over 144 2/3 innings in 2012, Buckel walked 28 and allowed 27 runs (21 earned) in just 9 1/3 frames to start the year with Frisco before the Rangers decided to put him on the shelf. He didn’t return to game action until August, when he walked seven and allowed four runs in 1 1/3 innings during a pair of appearances in the AZL.
Hit: Archie Bradley, Visalia/Mobile – In the end, Bradley’s stay in the Cal League wasn’t very long, but he certainly left a mark. The D-backs’ top prospect posted a 1.26 ERA and struck out 43 in 28 2/3 innings for the Rawhide. Upon making the biggest jump in the Minors to Double-A ball, he continued to put up nice numbers, including a 1.97 ERA and 119 strikeouts over 123 1/3 innings. His 1.84 ERA and 162 punchouts on the season were third and fifth among full-season Minor Leaguers respectively.
Miss: Trevor Story, Modesto – The Cal League is where hitter’s stats usually become inflated. That wasn’t the case for Story, who saw his numbers drop across the board in 2013. (It should be noted he did play in a hitter-friendly atmosphere in Asheville last season.) Still, he batted just .233 in 130 games with the Nuts and struck out 183 times, third-most in all the Minors.
Hit: Garin Cecchini, Salem/Portland – The No. 7 Red Sox prospect enjoyed nice seasons in his first two years in the pros before really breaking out in 2013. He was especially dominant in Salem, where he put up a .350/.469/.547 slash line in 63 games. The third baseman continued to reach base in bunches in Portland and finished with a Minors-best .443 OBP and career-best .915 OPS.
Miss: Courtney Hawkins, Winston-Salem – The 19-year-old outfielder was pushed back to Class A Advanced ball for his first full season after reaching the level at the end of 2012. Though he exhibited some nice raw power with 19 homers, he struggled to make contact, striking out 37.6 percent of the time for Winston-Salem. He only put up a .178/.249/.384 slash line as well and is likely to head back to the Dash next season.
Hit: Javier Baez, Daytona/Tennessee – I was really tempted to put Miguel Sano in this spot because of the fantastic season he had, and yet I think Baez took such a leap forward this season that I went with him instead. Baez posted a .294 average, .888 OPS and 16 homers in 2012 but struggled in the FSL. Here’s what my colleague Jake Seiner wrote about him in the preseason: “The maturing of his approach from last year to this year is one of the league’s most interesting storylines.” What followed was a .282 average, .920 OPS and incredibly 37 homers (including four on one night) from the 20-year-old shortstop. Whether he sticks at that position will be another thing to watch in 2014. In the meantime, Cubs fans have plenty to be excited about in their top prospect.
Miss: Mason Williams, Tampa/Trenton – It wasn’t a banner year for the Yankees’ No. 2 prospect. First, he was arrested for DUI in late April. Then, his overall numbers for the year weren’t exactly anything exciting. He slashed .261/.327/.350 in 100 games with Tampa and went 15-for-24 on the basepaths. He moved up to Trenton for a 17-game stint and put up a .153/.164/.264 line in that short span. Williams possesses plenty of athleticism, and that could lead to better results in the future as he continues to develop. They just didn’t come this year.
Hit: Byron Buxton, Cedar Rapids/Fort Myers –Plenty of ink has been spilled about Buxton’s big 2013 season, so let’s just look at what he told MiLB.com about his goals in an offseason Q&A last year. “Just work hard, keep swinging the bat well, take advice, listen and my performance hopefully will take me where I want.” Hopefully he wanted something along the lines of a .334/.424/.520 slash line, 49 extra-base hits, 77 RBIs, 55 steals and stellar defense because that’s what he got in an amazing first full season.
Miss: Roberto Osuna, Lansing – There were plenty of reasons to be high on Osuna coming into the season. The big one was that he was making his full-season domestic debut as an 18-year-old after two years in the Mexican, Appalachian and Northwest Leagues. Now, it might be time to pump the brakes. The 6-foot-2 right-hander had a solid April before tearing part of his UCL in his throwing elbow. He returned in June but struggled before finishing the year with a 5.53 ERA over 10 starts. Osuna didn’t pitch again after July, and it’ll be interesting to see if the elbow concerns linger into next season or if Tommy John surgery becomes a real option.
Hit: Joey Gallo (Hickory/Arizona League), Lucas Sims (Rome) – If you’ll so allow me, I’m going to split this spot. Sims was downright stellar in his first full season, posting a 2.62 ERA, 2.81 FIP, 1.11 WHIP and 10.34 K/9 for Class A Rome. Meanwhile, Gallo led all Minor Leaguers with 40 homers and placed among the best in slugging (.623) and OPS (.961). Quite the year for a pair of 2012 first-rounders.
Miss: David Dahl, Asheville – You can put this under the same category as Bundy. I mean no slight to the Rockies’ No. 2 prospect by putting him here. I just meant to point out that there wasn’t much to watch from the outfielder in 2013. He missed most of April after being sent to extended spring training for disciplinary reasons, and he only played in nine games upon returning before tearing his hamstring and missing the rest of the season. Dahl, the 10th overall pick in the 2012 Draft, will hope to start anew in 2014.
By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com
Over the weekend, I covered my picks for MVP in each Minor League full-season circuit. Now I present my selections for the best pitching performances in the same leagues. I’d say you could call them the Cy Youngs of the Minors, but the Hall of Fame right-hander only pitched part of one season in the Minors (1890 for Canton of the Tri-State League before signing with the Cleveland Spiders of the National League later that year). So let’s just call them what they are — the Pitchers of the Year.
International League: Greg Reynolds, Louisville – There was a lot to like from the 6-foot-7 right-hander during his first year in the Reds system. His 2.42 ERA ranked second in the IL, behind only Indianapolis’ Kris Johnson who posted a 2.39 mark, while his 1.06 WHIP was best in the circuit. His numbers get more impressive the deeper you dive as well, with his 2.98 FIP and 1.50 BB/9 both ranking second. His strikeout numbers — 97 in 156 1/3 innings — don’t jump off the page, but Reynolds showed you don’t necessarily need that tool in your bag as a groundball pitcher. The league went with Durham’s J.D. Martin, who led the league with 16 wins for the champion Bulls and posted a 2.75 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 27 starts. That’s fine. I’m just more apt to go with the pitcher who has the more impressive overall stats. (Actual Pitcher of the Year: Martin)
Pacific Coast League: Brian Flynn, New Orleans – Speaking of looking past the W’s and the L’s, I hope you don’t mind if I put on my Brian Kenny hat here for a second. Here are two stat lines, sans win-loss record, and you decide who the better pitcher was.
Pitcher X: 23 G, 23 GS, 138 IP, 2.80 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 3.05 FIP, 127 H, 40 BB, 122 K
Pitcher Y: 23 G, 23 GS, 125.2 IP, 3.15 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 4.67 FIP, 103 H, 81 BB, 89 K
The answer is obviously Pitcher X. A lower ERA, a significantly lower WHIP, a much lower FIP and almost half the walks over the same span. Pitcher X is Brian Flynn. Pitcher Y is Johnny Hellweg. Brian Flynn went 6-11 in front of a New Orleans squad that ranked at the bottom of the PCL with 3.8 runs per game. Hellweg went 12-5 for Nashville, who owned a noticeably better offense this season. Hellweg was the PCL’s choice for Pitcher of the Year. It’s pretty easy to see they valued wins more than the other stats there. I’m not willing to do the same, although for the record — no pun intended – I’m closer to Jay Jaffe’s “stick [the win] in the junk drawer” philosophy than Kenny’s #killthewin. (Actual Pitcher of the Year: Hellweg)
Eastern League: Anthony Ranaudo, Portland – Now, here’s something on which we apparently all agree. With 109 2/3 innings pitched before his promotion to Triple-A, Ranaudo didn’t technically qualify at season’s end for the major pitching categories, but his numbers there are too good to ignore. Upon leaving the Eastern League, he was best in WHIP (1.09) and batting average against (.204) while striking out 106. His 2.95 ERA would have been tops among pitchers too at the end of the season, had he qualified. Harrisburg’s Nathan Karns (3.26 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 155 strikeouts) and New Hampshire’s Marcus Stroman (3.30 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 129 strikeouts) also deserve mention. (Actual Pitcher of the Year: Ranaudo)
Southern League: Kyle Hendricks, Tennessee – Even the Southern League seemed a little torn on this one. Hendricks was named the right-handed pitcher on the circuit’s postseason All-Star team, and yet fellow righty Archie Bradley took home the honors as Most Outstanding Pitcher. Put me down on the side of Hendricks. His 1.85 ERA, 2.65 FIP and 1.05 WHIP were all tops in the league and his 1.85 BB/9 rate was second. Bradley’s respective numbers and ranks in those categories were 1.97 (second), 3.33 (fourth), 1.23 (10th) and 4.31 (24th), although he did best Hendricks in strikeouts (119-101) and wins (12-10). I get that those latter two categories are sexier, if I dare use that word here, when it comes to pitching stats, and Bradley is no doubt helped by his status as MLB.com’s No. 7 overall prospect. Still on the whole, Hendricks was the better pitcher in the Southern League this season, and that’s what this category is meant to reward. (Actual Pitcher of the Year: Bradley)
Texas League: David Martinez, Corpus Christi – Like Ranaudo above, this one is fairly cut-and-dry. The 26-year-old right-hander led the league with a 2.02 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, two complete games and — yes, alright, fine — 14 wins over 26 games (18 starts). Although he only struck out 5.98 batters per nine innings, he only walked 1.39 per nine too, good enough for third in the league in that spot. Padres prospect Keyvius Sampson was a close second in my mind after he put up a 2.26 ERA with 110 strikeouts and 33 walks in 103 1/3 innings (9.58 K/9, 2.87 BB/9) for San Antonio. (Actual Pitcher of the Year: Martinez)
California League: Daniel Winkler, Modesto – Let’s face it, no one wants to pitch in the California League, where run totals are known to climb like some of the California desert thermometers in the heat of the summer. However in 2013, Winkler and San Jose’s Ty Blach exhibited some mighty impressive campaigns. The two both pitched exactly 130 1/3 innings, which is pretty great in terms of creating statistical side-by-sides. Blach allowed 42 earned runs for a 2.90 ERA while Winkler allowed 43 for a 2.97 mark. The pair went 1-2 in the circuit with those numbers. While the two were so close there, Winkler stood out in WHIP (0.93-1.09) and strikeouts (152-117). Although Blach holds a lead in other areas, I think those two stats are enough to tilt the see-saw in the Nuts starter’s favor. (Actual Pitcher of the Year: Winkler)
Carolina League: Cody Anderson, Carolina — Pretty easy one here. The 23-year-old right-hander was tops in the Carolina League with a 2.34 ERA and a 2.89 FIP and was second with a 1.08 WHIP. His 8.17 K/9 was third-best and he balanced that out nicely with a 2.26 BB/9, which was also good enough for third. All in all, a non-controversial choice. I hope. (Actual Pitcher of the Year: Anderson)
Florida State League: Matthew Summers, Fort Myers – When the league announced that Justin Nicolino was its Pitcher of the Year on Aug. 22, I had no qualms with the selection. His 2.23 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 96 2/3 innings would have ranked among the league leaders had he enough innings to qualify. Then again, there was still some season left to play, and that’s how Summers, I believe, stole this spot. Summers made two quality starts on Aug. 23 and 28 to lower his FSL ERA to 2.47 and his WHIP to 1.11 — both officially best in the Class A Advanced circuit. His 3.02 FIP was a smidge lower than Nicolino’s at 3.03 as well. I think Summers might be hurt by his difficult stretches with Double-A New Britain (6.45 ERA in six appearances). However given that this is a Florida State League award and not based on performance outside the league, I think he’s earned it here. (Actual Pitcher of the Year: Nicolino)
Midwest League: Dylan Floro, Bowling Green – Some of Floro’s numbers are straight from a video game. He posted a 1.81 ERA and 2.67 FIP over 109 1/3 innings for the Hot Rods this season, both of which were best among Midwest hurlers with at least 100 innings this season. His 1.12 WHIP was good enough for fifth, and his 4.47 K/BB ratio was third. Bowling Green Ballpark has a decent reputation as a pitcher’s park, so if you need more convincing, consider Floro’s road ERA of 1.72, which was actually better than his 1.93 mark at home. (Note: The Midwest League did not name a particular Pitcher of the Year. Floro took the right-handed starting spot on the postseason All-Star team while Clinton’s Tyler Pike represented the southpaws.)
South Atlantic League: Tyler Glasnow, West Virginia – With Gerrit Cole already showing his potential with the big club and top prospect Jameson Taillon not too far behind him, the Pirates are not in want of great young pitching talent. Yet, Glasnow only improved the team’s situation with a breakout first full season. His 164 strikeouts led the South Atlantic League and were fourth-most in the Minors this season, despite coming in only 111 1/3 innings — a number that kept him from qualifying among the league leaders in other categories. Not to worry though. Among pitchers with at least 100 innings in the Sally League, Glasnow led in ERA (2.18) and of course K/9 (13.26) and was fourth with a 1.03 WHIP. (Actual Pitcher of the Year: Gabriel Ynoa, Savannah)
By Ashley Marshall
With the 2013 MLB Draft starting Thursday, we thought we’d take the next few days to run down how some of the more intriguing picks out of the top rounds from the last few Drafts have fared. On Monday, we looked at 2009.
Today, we turn our attention to 2010.
The 2010 Draft had a little bit of everything, both at the time of the event and — retrospectively — in the three years that have passed.
While Bryce Harper, a highly touted outfielder from a junior college in Southern Nevada, made the most news, the Draft stands out for several other reasons.
Two right-handers taken inside the first 15 picks chose to attend college rather than sign with a Major league team. One — Karston Whitson — missed the entire 2013 college season with a shoulder injury while the other — Dylan Convey — may never have a pro career after he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
The Draft also saw a toolsy young shortstop called Manny Machado draw comparisons with Alex Rodriguez and baseball’s current No. 5 prospect Taijuan Walker selected 43rd overall as the Mariners only pick as compensation for the loss of Adrian Beltre.
Eight first-rounders from this Draft class have already made it to the Majors, while four others are ranked inside MLB.com’s Top 100.
- Bryce Harper, Washington (2013: MLB Nationals)
- Jameson Taillon, Pirates (2013: Double-A Altoona)
- Manny Machado, Orioles (2013: Baltimore) — A two-time Futures Game selection, Machado has played almost one-third of his total professional games in the Majors. The shortstop — the first one drafted by the O’s in the first round since 1974 — appeared in 51 regular-season games with the Orioles in 2012 and he’s currently hitting .327 with 30 RBIs in 57 contests this year. He’s the only high schooler from the 2010 first round to make the Majors so far.
- Christian Colon, Royals (2013: Triple-A Omaha)
- Drew Pomeranz, Indians (2013: Triple-A Colorado Springs) – Acquired by the Rockies as part of the Ubaldo Jimenez deal in 2011, Pomeranz is one of only two left-handers from the first round of this Draft class to reach the Majors. He is 4-10 with a 5.01 ERA in 26 big league starts over two seasons, numbers that are part of why he’s back at Triple-A Colorado Springs again this year. In 11 2013 PCL games, he is 6-1 with a 4.26 mark.
- Barret Loux, D-backs (2013: Triple-A Iowa) — The D-backs opted not to sign Loux due to injury concerns, but he signed as a free agent by the Texas Rangers on Nov. 18, 2010. Last November, he was dealt to the Cubs for former teammate Jake Brigham.
- Matt Harvey, Mets (2013: MLB Mets) — Few rookies have ever made the impact that Harvey has this year. In 12 starts with the Mets, the right-hander is 5-0 with a 2.17 ERA. The North Carolina product — who went 20-10 in the Minors — showed glimpses of this potential in 10 starts in 2012, but nobody expected the level of production he’s given the big club in the first two months of the season.
- Delino DeShields, Astros (2013: Class A Advanced Lancaster)
- Karsten Whitson, Padres (2013: none; Draft eligible) — Whitson turned down a $2.1 million signing bonus to attend the University of Florida. He went a combined 12-1 in 33 games between 2011 and 2012, but he missed the entire 2013 collegiate season with a shoulder impingement. He may draw interest from teams in this year’s Draft, but he is not ranked in MLB.com’s Top 100 Draft prospects.
- Michael Choice, Athletics (2013: Triple-A Sacramento)
- Deck McGuire, Blue Jays (2013: Double-A New Hampshire)
- Yasmani Grandal, Reds (2013: MLB Padres)
- Chris Sale, White Sox (2013: MLB White Sox) – Of all 50 first-rounders from 2010, none have posted a greater WAR than Sale (12.2). He posted a 1.93 ERA in 21 games in 2010, and he saved eight games the following year. Converted to a full-time starter last season, Sale went 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA in 30 games, striking out 192 batters in as many innings en route to finishing sixth in AL Cy Young voting. This season, he’s 5-2 with a 2.53 ERA in nine starts.
- Dylan Covey, Brewers (2013: none; Draft eligible) — Convey chose to attend the University of San Diego rather than going pro after being diagnosed with diabetes days before the signing deadline. In his sophomore year at college in 2012, he went 6-3 with a 3.32 ERA while holding opponents to a .247 batting average over 81 1/3 innings. He had just a 5.05 ERA in 16 appearances this spring for the Toreros.
- Jake Skole, Rangers (2013: Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach)
- Hayden Simpson, Cubs (2013: released) – Released at end of spring training, Simpson hasn’t pitched this year. For his career, he sports a 6.42 ERA over 30 starts and 26 relief appearances with Chicago’s Minor League system. He did not pitch professionally the year he was selected after suffering from mononucleosis, and he never lived to the promise of the Cubs only first-round pick that year.
- Josh Sale, Rays (2013: suspended) – Sale has not endeared himself to Tampa Bay. In August he was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for methamphetamine and an amphetamine. He came off the restricted list and was added to the roster of the Charlotte Stone Crabs, but before he had a chance to make his season debut he was suspended indefinitely for throwing two quarters at a dancer in a strip club and then posting about it on Facebook.
- Kaleb Cowart, Angels (2013: Double-A Arkansas)
- Michael Foltynewicz, Astros (2013: Double-A Corpus Christi)
- Kolbrin Vitek, Red Sox (2013: Double-A Portland)
- Alex Wimmers, Twins (2013: Double-A New Britain; injured) — Wimmers missed most of 2012 with a right elbow injury, and he has not pitched in 2013. A two-time Big Ten Pitcher of the Year at Ohio State, he has pitched in just 19 games in his professional career.
- Kellin Deglan, Rangers (2013: Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach)
- Christian Yelich, Marlins (2013: Double-A Jacksonville)
- Gary Brown, Giants (2013: Triple-A Fresno)
- Zack Cox, Cardinals (2013: Double-A Jacksonville) — Acquired by the Marlins from the Cardinals in July, Cox originally improved his Draft stock by 20 rounds after going to the University of Arkansas instead of signing with the Dodgers in 2008. He saw time at Triple-A Memphis last summer before being dealt to the Marlins for Edward Mujica last July. He’s been with Double-A Jacksonville since the trade.
- Kyle Parker, Rockies (2013: Double-A Tulsa)
- Jesse Biddle, Phillies (2013: Double-A Reading)
- Zach Lee, Dodgers (2013: Double-A Chattanooga)
- Cam Bedrosian, Angels (2013: Class A Burlington)
- Chevy Clarke, Angels (2013: Class A Burlington) – Los Angeles took outfielder Clarke one pick after they selected pitcher Bedrosian, who grew up just 50 miles from Clarke in Georgia. Both 21 years old, they have been teammates in the Arizona and Midwest Leagues together and they both started 2013 a bit behind schedule in Burlington.
- Justin O’Conner, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Bowling Green)
- Cito Culver, Yankees (2013: Class A Charleston)
- Mike Kvasnicka, Houston (2013: Disabled list in Twins Org) – Drafted by the Astros as a catcher, Kvasnicka struggled in his first two years of pro ball when the organization tried him at third base and as a corner outfielder. The 24-year-old was traded to the Twins — the team that tried to sign him in the 31st round of the 2007 Draft out of high school — in March, but surgery to repair a broken hamate bone has seen him sidelined this season.
- Aaron Sanchez, Toronto (2013: Class A Advanced Dunedin)
- Matt Lipka, Atlanta (2013: Class A Advanced Lynchburg) – A shortstop at McKinney High School in Texas, Lipka has transitioned to the outfield. He tore his hamstring last summer, and that limited him to 199 at-bats in 2012. Back with the Hillcats for a second year, he’s looking to get back on track. He’s already hit for the cycle this season.
- Byrce Brentz, Boston (2013: Triple-A Pawtucket) – Overlooking the fact that Brentz hit .198 in his rookie year in Lowell, he batted .298 with 47 homers and 170 RBIs across four levels over the past two years. A hitter through and through, Brentz — who moved from left field to right without any issues — is already on pace to better his 2012 power numbers from Double-A Portland this year in Pawtucket.
- Taylor Lindsey, LA Angels (2013: Double-A Arkansas)
- Noah Syndergaard, Toronto (2013: Class A Advanced St. Lucie) – Acquired by the Mets in the deal that sent R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays in December, the 6-foot-6 prep right-hander is looking to build on his 2012 successes with Lansing. Syndergaard has the stuff to record a strikeout per inning in the Florida State League (59 in 57 2/3 IP), and there’s every chance he can post a sub-3.00 ERA (currently at 2.81).
- Anthony Ranaudo, Boston (2013: Double-A Portland) – LSU has seen one of its players drafted in the first round each year since 2009. Ranaudo went 1-3 with a 6.69 ERA in the Eastern League last year, but he’s 6-1 with a 1.48 mark this year at the same level.
- Ryan Bolden, LA Angels (2013: Unassigned in Angels Org) – Drafted as an 18-year-old out of Madison Central High School, Bolden has spent each of the past three years in the Arizona League. The right fielder hit .187 in his rookie year but saw his average drop in each of the following two seasons. He has not played yet in 2013.
- Asher Wojciechowski, Toronto (2013: Triple-A Oklahoma City) – Acquired by the Astros in part of a 10-player deal with the Blue Jays last July, Wojciechowski is looking to build on a 2012 season that saw him go 9-5 with a 3.09 ERA between two organizations. After six superb Texas League appearances to start 2013, he was promoted to the RedHawks of the PCL.
- Drew Vettleson, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Advanced Charlotte) – He spun three no-hitters as an ambidextrous pitcher in high school, and he turned down a commitment to play for Oregon State University to play with the Rays. Now a right fielder, Vettleson set a Bowling Green franchise record with 139 hits in 2012.
- Taijuan Walker, Seattle (2013: Double-A Jackson) – MLB.com’s No. 5 prospect was a Southern League midseason All-Star and a Futures Game selection last year. Still just 20 years old, he’s repeating the league after going 7-10 with a 4.69 ERA there in 2012, and early signs are that he’ll make his way up to Triple-A by the end of the year.
- Nick Castellanos, Detroit (2013: Triple-A Toledo) – A third baseman in high school, the Tigers felt Castellanos was more suited to the outfield in order to help the big club in the near future. MLB.com’s No. 20 prospect finished third among all Minor League players in 2012 with 172 hits and he’s on pace to set new career highs in homers and RBIs in the International League this year.
- Luke Jackson, Texas (2013: Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach) – Jackson did not start pitching until ninth grade, but that did not stop the Rangers from drafting him 45th overall out of Florida’s Calvary Christian High School. The right-hander is repeating the Carolina League where he’s 4-4 with a 2.74 ERA with 50 strikeouts and 23 walks in 46 innings.
- Seth Blair, St. Louis (2013: Double-A Springfield)
- Peter Tago, Colorado (2013: Unassigned in Rockies Org) — Ranked 17th in the Rockies Top 20 prospects, Tago has not pitched in 2013. He walked more batters than he struck out in each of his first two years in pro ball, and his poor debut in Asheville in 2011 saw him reassigned to the Northwest League in 2012
- Chance Ruffin, Detroit (2013: Double-A Jackson)
- Mike Olt, Texas (2013: Triple-A Round Rock) – Of the eight first-rounders from the 2010 class to reach the Majors so far, none were drafted later than Olt, a supplemental pick for the loss of free agent Marlon Byrd. His big 2012 season — including 28 Double-A homers — saw him promoted to Texas, but he’s struggled in his time in the PCL, batting .139 with five extra-base hits in 20 games. He recently missed a month with vision problems, which may now be resolved.
- Tyrell Jenkins, Cardinals (2013: Class A Peoria)
By Josh Jackson
For Brandon Workman, who deserved victory
The starting pitcher dazzled through the eighth inning
But when he exited the Sea Dogs weren’t winning
And when the dirt cleared
as the Portland faithful had feared,
the Altoona Curve was the team that was grinning
* * *
Northcraft’s Haiku No. 1
He came from the West
He dominates in the South
He’s Aaron North-craft
“In the beginning, I was miserable. Coming from California, where, weather-wise, it’s perfect every day, I had a hard time. It’s always 95 with 100-percent humidity. I remember the ball rolling backwards down my hand from all the sweat. But I’m getting used to the weather. It’s extremely green out here, which I love. I actually love country music, and I line dance now.” – Aaron Northcraft, on being in the South in the summers since 2009.
Northcraft’s Haiku No. 2
No surfing or burritos
But now I line dance
* * *
Ode to Josh Sale
There was a young prospect for Tampa Bay
Who under suspension missed April and May
When he was ejected from a strip club
On Facebook he bragged of his flub
But on the internet you must watch what you say
By Jake Seiner
Interviewing for game stories can be a fun process. The thousands of players and coaches spread across the Minor Leagues supply a never-ending chain of unique perspectives on the national pastime. The game story isn’t always the best place for block quotes and expanded thoughts, so once a week, I’m hoping to come here with a look back at some of the more interesting conversations I stumble upon with Minor League players and coaches. Here’s a look back at some quotes from the past week that I hope you’ll find of interest.
Corpus Christi manager Keith Bodie on Astros prospect and MiLB home run leader George Springer (Springer, Santana slug off the Hook):
“He does a lot of good things. He came up here last year at the end of the season in August and he was not able to do those things. He’s made adjustments at this level to have success, and he needs to continue to make certain adjustments at the plate for the way people pitch him.
“There are certain locations where people will throw to him, and he has trouble getting to those points, but he’s made adjustments to hit some pitches he’s been getting after they got him out a certain way. He can come back and make those adjustments. You mature as you go through it, and it’s a slow process at times, but he’s doing a good job of doing it.
“All the good players that, you hope when they get to the big leagues, like with [Mike] Trout or other special players when they’re in Double-A at this point in their life, he’s a special player. When you’re watching somebody who possesses those attributes and skills, namely the speed and the power, the sky is the limit for players like that, plus he plays a premium position.
“He has the opportunity to show you those skills not only on base, but he covers so much ground in center field and he can throw. He’s an exciting player — he has a chance to be a perennial All-Star. The sky’s the limit.”
Bodie on the way 20-year-old Domingo Santana has handled Double-A:
“He’s 20 and in Double-A, but his talent is appropriate for this level right now. I don’t think that he’s too young for the level. His skills play at this level. He’s also learning to make adjustments, and with his age, it’s more about getting him his experience. Skill and talent will play no matter where you’re at. There are some young players in the Major Leagues right now that people think are young, but their skills and talent can play, and he’s typical of that type of player.
“He makes things look easy in the outfield. He has a great throwing arm. He has plus speed, and it doesn’t always look like he’s going anywhere, but he covers a lot of ground. He has tremendous bat potential. He has power, and he makes hard, solid contact. He needs to learn to command the strike zone, and he will eventually, but right now he’s just inexperienced.
“Those things come with playing and experience. He’s going to be another plus player. It’s an exciting thing to look in the crystal ball for the Houston Astros right now and see the guys on the horizon.”
Portland’s Nick Natoli after ending a hectic travel day with a five-hit game (Sea Dogs’ Natoli delivers in a pinch):
“Being a utility guy, I’m kind of used to it. I did a little of it last year. Today was a little different. I woke up at 4 a.m. for a flight from Virginia to Detroit, and I had a two-hour layover there. I’ve been up for quite a while today. Days like these, you just glide through them. I figured I’d be playing. That’s usually how it goes. You have to have fun with it. I got up and it was a long day, long process.
“Last night, I was in bed around 12:30. We were supposed to play in Frederick this weekend, so I was going to go home to see my family and my girlfriend. I was laying in bed at 12:30 last night, and I got a call saying I needed to be in the airport, or at the clubhouse at four, to the airport by five. We were at home in Virginia, and I was going to travel the next morning. I had to catch a 6 a.m. flight. At the time, it was kind of frustrating.
“It’s nice moving up and playing at Double-A and helping out, but at 12:30, when you’re sleeping or ready to go to bed and about to go see family…”
The Cubs’ Kyler Burke on transitioning from the outfield to starting pitching (Cubs’ Burke continues conversion):
“It was a big transition going from the outfield. It’s almost a completely different lifestyle, especially as a starting pitcher. I went from starting 130 games to starting 20 something. The biggest adjustment is just the mentality of being a pitcher. It’s a little bit of a different routine. I think I’m kind of starting to figure all that out. I’m trying to go out and work hard every day.
“It was definitely a tough decision. We kind of talked about it mutually. It wasn’t something where they said, ‘You need to be a pitcher now.’ It was a mutual thing, and it was definitely tough because I’d worked hard for 4 ½ years to try to be a hitter. I think it was a good move, and I think things are going in the right direction.
“I think it was a little bit of both. The upside, I think, just baseball in general, there are fewer left-handed pitchers. It’s a commodity in any organization. That was a big part of it right there. It was kind of a timing thing where we had a bunch of outfield guys in the system and everything that went into the decision of doing the conversion.”
Atlanta’s Alex Wood on pushing teammate J.R. Graham to adopt the spike curveball (Wood produces “best start I’ve had”):
“J.R. and I talk every day about different kinds of stuff. His fastball, he can run it up there a little higher than I will, but we’re kind of the same pitcher except that he’s right-handed and I’m left-handed. He kind of has the same deal as I have had up until this year where he’s trying to figure out that breaking pitch he can throw all the time for a strike, and not just as a put-away pitch. I was able to pick up my spike curve from Jonny [Venters] and Craig [Kimbrel], and I had kind of been hinting at him, ‘Try it out, see how you like it.’
“Really, when you throw it, the grip itself helps you get on top of the ball without really trying to. For hard throwers like him and me, it helps us both out. He kind of started messing with it, and then his last start, it was probably the best his curve or slider — I’m not sure what he calls it — but it was the best it’s been. It was a good step in the right direction for him, and I know he’s itching to get back out there and throw it some more.”
Wood on trying not to think about when/if he’s promoted:
They haven’t said anything to me. It’s my first full year, and probably the hardest thing is just telling myself to take it a day at a time and trust in the Braves. I try to tell myself — and I write it down after most of my starts — just take it a day at a time and keep throwing well. Whatever happens, happens. Whenever that day comes to go to Gwinnett or to Atlanta, that’ll be the right time for me. I’m trying to get better and learn every start out. That’s my goal right now for sure.