Archive for January, 2008

Atlanta Braves Preview (Podcast)

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Are the 2008 Atlanta Braves a nostalgic throwback team or are they front-runners to reclaim the NL East crown? The Pitch’s Joe Aiello and Brandon Rosage debate each side with special guest Martin Gandy from “Talking Chop,” picking apart the acquisitions of Tom Glavine and Mark Kotsay and the losses of Edgar Renteria and Andruw Jones.

Gandy also peers into the unknown Atlanta bullpen, reviews the Braves’ latest trades and measures his panic following the division rival Mets’ pending pick-up of Johan Santana.

Talking Chop (Martin Gandy, author)

2008 MLB Season Preview: Atlanta Braves

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Prospects to Watch in 2008 (Part IV of IV)

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

We close out the series today with a look at some of the relief arms to follow this year. Don’t forget to check back tomorrow when we review the voting results for the top 10 Cubs prospects as voted on by 10 respected Minor League sources.

Billy Petrick – R

He struggled last year in limited action at the higher levels. He’s still young though. Give him some time to learn a little in Iowa and see what he can do.

Rocky Roquet – R

Compiled 18 saves last season. Look for him to pitch in AA as the closer.

Jose Ceda – R

This kid has electric stuff and above average command to go along with it. My only fear is that the Cubs are rushing him along a little too fast. He’s just a kid and has never seen action higher than Peoria. There is no need for him to be invited to Spring Training, despite me considering him for a spot in my bullpen a week ago. It’s hard not to get caught up in the hype. As a fan, it’s OK for me. As a director of player development, it’s important for them to stay level headed with this kid and take it slow.

Carmen Pignatiello – L

I’m a big fan of this kid. He likens himself to a young Jamie Moyer in the sense that he’s a soft tossing lefty with good control. He’s not going to overpower batters, but he gets them out. I’d like to see him move into the role currently filled by Scott Eyre after this season or even before if Eyre is moved.

Geoffrey Jones – L

Time is running out on this former 32nd round pick in 1998. He’ll be 29 this season and desperate for a good year to be able to stick.

Jeremy Papelbon – L

I bet you didn’t know we had a Papelbon in on our team. Yes, he’s related to the one on the Red Sox. That’s his older brother. Jeremy is actually a twin brother to Josh Papelbon, who is in the Minor Leagues in the Red Sox organization last I checked. He pitched well last year, but his age concerns me based on what level he was at. It’s time to start rising quickly.

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Prospects to Watch in 2008 (Part III of IV)

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

We trudge on in our series, this time looking at some of the starting pitchers I’ve got my eye on this season.

Sean Gallagher – R

Gallagher continues to show promise. I’m not sure why people are so quick to dismiss him in trade talks. I see him making an impact with the team in a big way next season, and a partial impact in the event of injury this season.

Kevin Hart – R

Take a look at his improvement over each year and each level. He’s gotten better and better with more experience. He has an outside chance at making the big club out of spring training as the long man.

Mark Holliman – R

I saw him pitch last year against Carolina (AA) and he pitched fairly well. I’d like to see him moved to AAA this season. If he can take the next step and succeed there as well, it would ease my worries about possibly moving pitchers in a trade.

Jeff Samardzija – R

What you have to remember about him is that he was drafted with the understanding that his skills were high ceiling, but very raw because the bulk of his efforts at Notre Dame were focused on football. He was on scholarship for the football team, so his focus had to be to devoted to that sport, with baseball coming second. He struggled big time at Daytona, but figured it out when he was promoted to AA. I saw him close out the season for the Smokies against Carolina and he was all over the place. I’d like to see him go to Tennessee again with the option to be promoted to Iowa if the numbers merit it.

Mitch Atkins – R

Which Atkins will we see in 2008? Will we see the Daytona, 3.13 ERA Atkins with killer control or the Tennessee shell shocked Atkins? There is no doubt he’ll return to AA, but how he performs there is going to be worth watching.

Jacob Renshaw – R

He’s young, but when you win 12 games, people need to take notice. I’m curious to see what level he’s sent to this year. I’m guessing Daytona (High A), but a repeat at Peoria wouldn’t be out of the question.

Donald Veal – L

Major step backward yesterday. He admitted to me that he was nibbling around the plate and just not trusting his stuff to get guys out. He routinely worked deep in counts and as a result averaged under 5 innings per game. For him to vault himself back to the elite prospect level, he needs to show he can handle AA and dominate like he did at the previous levels.

Chris Shaver – L

Battled injuries in 2007 and hopes to return to the 2006 form again. Time is running out for this youngster. It’s important for him to make a big difference this year or he could be on his way out.

Mark Pawelek – L

This guy was a first round pick for the Cubs. We were told to be very excited about his promise. Up until this point, I’ve been disappointed. He did provide us with an amusing injury story when he injured himself by tripping over his Playstation.

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Prospects to Watch in 2008 (Part II of IV)

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Yesterday we took some time to look at some of the hitters I am following this season in the Minor League coverage on the site. Today we finish out the positional players with four more names to watch.

Ty Wright – OF

Yet another product of the 2007 draft, Wright was selected in the 7th round. He saw his numbers decline after a promotion to Peoria, but the setback isn’t enough to write home about. Look for him to return to Peoria to play for Ryno and continue to make a name for himself in the system.

Jake Fox – C

The time is starting to be right for Fox to make an impact with the team. He’s paid his dues and progressed through the system. His taste of the Majors didn’t go well last year, but rare is the time that it does go well for a rookie making their debut. Fox figures to be the Cubs 4th string catcher this season and get his time in Iowa behind the plate and as a DH.

Steven Clevenger – 1B

Clevenger was selected in the 7th round of the 2006 draft and had a great year between Boise and Daytona. Probably won’t amount to a star, but it would be nice to see him continue to find success in 2008.

Brian Dopirak – DH

The only reason Dopirak is on the list is for guilty pleasures. I really want to see this guy succeed. I can’t let him go, and neither can Jim Hendry. Please Brian, live up to the hype this year!

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Prospects to Watch in 2008 (Part I of IV)

Monday, January 28th, 2008

This week is Minor League Week. Over the next four days, I’d like to introduce you to the 26 prospects I’m following closely this season. Why 26? Well, to steal a line from Scott over at Rays of Light, “why not 26?” What I plan to do this year is to follow 26 guys over the course of the year with daily updates on their performance. Are we limited to 26? Of course not. If someone begins to shine, you can bet they’ll make the list. If someone begins to fizzle out, you can bet they’ll be dropped. We’ll close out the week on Friday with the announcement of the Cubs top 10 prospects as voted on by 10 people who’s opinions I respect.

When I was a kid growing up, I would hear that the Cubs made a trade and in return received two or three prospects in return. I didn’t know anything about these kids, and they weren’t in the Major Leagues, so why should I care? Over time, I’ve learned that what type of farm you have has a direct impact on the success of your team over the long haul. The Cubs have shown a new commitment to being successful with their farm system with the addition of Tim Wilken to the mix. I’m excited to see what the system can produce over the next few years, and hopefully you will get there as well. If nothing else, use these farm reports as a way of knowing a little about what is going on in our system.

With that being said, let’s introduce you to some of the hitters we’re following this season. I’ve included the players most recent stats by level for your convenience.

Koyie Hill – C

Why would I choose Hill as part of prospect watch list even though he’s 28 years old? I did so for a few reasons. He figures to be the first catcher recalled in the event that Henry Blanco gets hurt or Geovanny Soto struggles miserably. Many really liked Hill. They felt he handled the pitching staff well and was our best option behind the plate because the staff posted low ERA’s and other secondary stats with him in there. I don’t put too much stock in the catcher ERA stat, but some do. The fact remains that Hill is what we’ve got as a third string guy and warrants being followed in the tracker.

Josh Donaldson – C

Donaldson was selected in the compensatory first round by the Cubs in 2007 and spent the bulk of his time with the Boise Hawks. He cracks many top 10 prospect lists for the Cubs and figures to land a spot on the compilation list I am working on. I’d love to see him get a spot in Peoria this season with the chance to be promoted mid year if performance merits it. He’s been invited to spring training as a non-roster player, but I don’t think that will amount to anything more than a taste of what he’s working for. had the following to say about Donaldson when he was picked.

Donaldson really helped himself with a strong Cape Cod season last summer, but there are concerns about whether he’ll be able to catch up to better velocities with the loop in his swing. He may improve with more experience as a full-time catcher, but his arm is below average and he does not profile as a premium catch-and-throw guy. Some see a switch to the infield — he’s played third in college — but he may make for a good backup catcher who plays the game the right way.

Eric Patterson – 2b / OF

I wrote a post about a week ago on why the Cubs do not need Brian Roberts because they already have Patterson. I’m sticking to my guns on that statement. I believe in Patterson a great deal and would love to see what he has to offer this team in 2008. That being said, I doubt he’ll get his shot unless something drastic happens. I ask you this, though. Is he better than Mike Fontenot? Ronny Cedeno? I think he’s better than both and yet both will probably make this opening day roster. Why not get the speed the team craves with Patterson? This is not Corey. As a fan, we need to put away the sting that Corey Patterson’s time with the team brought and look at his brother as a separate player. For one, Eric has less talent but a much better drive to succeed.

Tony Thomas – 2B

Like Donaldson, Thomas is another product of the 2007 draft, this time coming in the third round out of Florida State. Thomas is similar in stature to Ryan Theriot. He has good speed, stealing 28 bases in his limited time in the minors.

Josh Vitters – 3B

Drafted with the third overall pick of the 2007 draft, Vitters signed the day of the deadline, and as a result did not receive the amount of time to play that Donaldson and Thomas did. He figures to go back to Boise to gain some experience. As a high school draftee, the Cubs have plenty of time to allow Vitters to learn and develop in the minors. He figures to be the heir to Aramis Ramirez when his contract expires after the 2012 season. That should allow for him to progress slowly through the system and develop into the type of player the Cubs envision him to be. had the following to say:

Vitters entered the season as the top high school hitter on most draft boards and he did nothing all season to upset that standing, even though he dealt with a bout of pneumonia during the season. With an uncanny ability to make hard, consistent contact, Vitters has the ability to hit for average and power at the next level. He makes terrific adjustments at the plate and rarely gets cheated. His defensive game isn’t as strong as his bat, but he should be just fine at third base.

Tyler Colvin – OF

I’ve mentioned this plenty of times before and I’ll mention it again. Colvin was drafted in the first round and many felt it was an overdraft to be able to allow the team to offer big money to Jeff Samardzija in the 5th round of the 2006 draft. Colvin has since out played Samardzija and has justified his first round selection by being selected as one one’s top 50 minor league prospects in 2008 and as a member of the Team USA baseball team. Colvin has been invited to Spring Training, but his chances to make the team are slim. However, if he continues on his current pace, I expect to see him in Cub uniform sometime during the season, even if it means a September call up is all he gets.

Kyler Burke – OF

Burke was acquired in the deal that sent Michael Barrett to San Diego. At the time, many felt that Rob Bowen for Barrett was a deal that Jim Hendry lost. However, Bowen turned into Jason Kendall and Burke came along in the Padre deal as well. If he can justify some of the hype around him when he was picked in the first round, the Cubs will have stolen from the Padres big time in that trade.

We’ll continue tomorrow with the look at four more hitters we’re following in 2008.

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