Tag Archives: Desmond Jennings

Season Preview: AL East


With Spring Training well under way and the first games starting very soon, I figured it was a good time to take a look at my own predictions for the league, and the changes the respective teams have made.

Last Year’s Records
Tampa Bay – 96-66
New York – 95-67
Boston – 89-73
Toronto – 85-77
Baltimore – 66-96

Notable Additions

Baltimore – Derrek Lee, Mark Reynolds, Vladimir Guerrero, J.J. Hardy, Justin Duchscherer

Boston – Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Bobby Jenks, Dan Wheeler

New York – Russell Martin, Rafael Soriano, Pedro Feliciano, Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, Eric Chavez

Tampa Bay – Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez, Adam Russell, Cesar Ramos, Felipe Lopez, Sam Fuld, Chris Archer

Toronto – Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Juan Rivera, Scott Podsednik, Brett Lawrie, Rajai Davis

Notable Losses

Baltimore – Kevin Millwood, Julio Lugo, Ty Wigginton, David Hernandez, Kam Mickolio

Boston – Adrian Beltre, Victor Martinez, Anthony Rizzo, Casey Kelly, Bill Hall

New York – Javier Vazquez, Andy Pettitte, Lance Berkman, Kerry Wood

Tampa Bay – Carl Crawford, Matt Garza, Rafael Soriano, Carlos Pena, Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit

Toronto – Vernon Wells, Shaun Marcum, John Buck, Miguel Olivo, Scott Downs

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Free Agent Signing – Carl Crawford To The Red Sox


I know I skipped that humongous contract that Jayson Werth signed last weekend, and I plan on getting back to that, but this signing seemed to come so far out of left field that I felt I needed to write about it first. Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe is reporting (via MLBTR) that the Red Sox have not completed their offseason spending spree, and have agreed to a contract with the top position player free agent on the market, Carl Crawford, on a 7 year, $142 million contract. Before I get into the impact on the involved parties, let’s note this: Crawford will now be the highest paid outfielder (based on Average Annual Value) in the history of baseball.

From the Red Sox Perspective

Clearly, they felt that they needed to make a gigantic splash after not reaching the playoffs last season. Crawford will bring them an excellent defender, a definitive speedster to pair with center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, and another middle of the order type hitter. I am not entirely sure how this lineup will be constructed, but this seems like a definite possibility:

  1. Carl Crawford LF
  2. Dustin Pedroia 2B
  3. Kevin Youkilis 3B
  4. Adrian Gonzalez 1B
  5. David Ortiz DH
  6. J.D. Drew RF
  7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
  8. Marco Scutaro SS
  9. Jacoby Ellsbury CF

Of course, this could change by having Gonzalez and Youkilis switch to offset having too many left handed batters in a row, but I’m not sure I see a lineup that makes a lot of sense for the Red Sox that doesn’t put Crawford at the top of it. They don’t really need him to be a #3 hitter type like the Rays did, and will probably not use him that way as a result.

I find it extremely interesting to see what the Red Sox are going to do long-term. They have now committed to Crawford through 2017, and seems like they have spent an amazing amount of long term money in the past few offseasons.

That said, they do have J.D. Drew, David Ortiz, and Mike Cameron all coming off the payroll come 2012. Speaking of Cameron, I’m not sure where he plays coming into 2011 unless they are completely banking on needing another full-time outfielder for when J.D. Drew or Jacoby Ellsbury get hurt. Always a possibility at this point.

From the Rays Perspective

The Rays will receive two compensation draft picks for losing Crawford to the Red Sox. They will receive the 24th pick for sure (the Red Sox’ first round pick), and a pick in the sandwich round as well. The only way that they could possibly lose this pick is if the Red Sox were to also sign Cliff Lee (based on the Elias rankings reported by MLBTR). The team had already established previously that they were extremely unlikely to retain Crawford, as they would simply be outbid for his services. Thankfully for them, they have a player who appears to possess similar tools (which I also wrote up last year) in Desmond Jennings.

What This Means for the Free Agent Market At Large

Crawford was pretty far and away the top prize on the position player side of the free agent market. As a result, his contract may start the dominoes going for a lot of the other secondary free agents on the market. To me, the players who could stand to benefit the most include Adrian Beltre, Cliff Lee, and Carl Pavano. The rising tide raises all ships, and Beltre now is the best offensive option available who is still on the market. Pavano’s value is helped if Lee’s value goes up, and with the Red Sox taking these shots across the bow of the Yankees, I am not sure I see a scenario where the Yankees don’t offer Lee the most money of any team.

Honestly, I’m not sure that there is a future free agent that this particularly affects as of right now. There is the possibility that the Red Sox don’t get Adrian Gonzalez inked to an extension. (As of this writing, I can’t find anything involving the Red Sox that definitively states a contract extension is complete.), which could affect the First Baseman market come next offseason, but it seems likely to me that someone is going to get paid to play 1B by the Red Sox starting in 2011 regardless of whether or not it is Adrian Gonzalez.

My Overall Thoughts

This one really came out of left field (not to be punny), as I didn’t really think that the Red Sox would go out and attempt to sign Crawford. I think he’s a class guy that will fit in well with the organization, and will definitely be able to take on the role of the “face of the franchise”, but will not necessarily need to do so. It seems a bit like an overreaction to not making the playoffs in 2010, but it’s hard to argue with spending your money on a player of the caliber of Crawford. The contract’s length does concern me some, as Crawford is a player who does rely on speed pretty significantly, and the contract will pay him until he is 36 years old. But otherwise, a job well done by the Red Sox, as it clearly makes the other teams that were chasing him weaker.

Prospect Reviews: Season in Review Part 2


Back in January and February, I reviewed 30 minor league prospects, and made some predictions. With the season over at the Minor League level and nearly over at the Major League level, I figured now was a great time to look back at how I did. I posted my thoughts on the first 10 prospects yesterday, and will continue with 10 more today.

Christian Friedrich (COL)

In January, I predicted that Friedrich would start the season in AA for the Rockies, and post the following line: 9 – 5, 2.75 era, 165 innings pitched, 190 strikeouts, 55 walks. His actual line: 3-6, 5.05 era, 87 1/3 innings pitched, 78 strikeouts, 35 walks. Friedrich missed a fair amount of time during the season due to injury, which clearly nobody loves. He did average nearly a strikeout per inning, but clearly this wasn’t quite the performance the Rockies were looking for. I think that honestly he will return next season to AA to start the season.

Desmond Jennings (TAM)

Tampa Bay is notorious for taking it extremely slow with their prospects, and Jennings is no exception. He was not called up until right around September 1st, and clearly much later than the All Star break like I had thought. My prediction: .285/.365/.450, 5 homeruns, 35 rbi, 35 stolen bases (Majors – 3 months). He hit .278/.362/.393 with 3 homeruns, 36 rbi, 37 stolen bases in 109 games in the minors. He’s extremely likely to be the starting left fielder or right fielder to begin next season in Tampa, and should be a decent fantasy outfielder.

Jason Heyward (ATL)

What else is there to say about Heyward at this point? He’s going to be at worst top-2 in the NL Rookie of the Year voting, and hit .285/.400/.472 with 18 homeruns, 71 runs batted in, and 10 stolen bases in 133 games. I thought he would not make the team out of Spring Training, and was nearly right on with some of the numbers anyway: .285/.370/.470, 6 homeruns, 10 stolen bases in 80 games was my prediction. Heyward is going to be one of the best outfielders for years to come.

Starlin Castro (CHC)

Back in January, I figured he might get a call up to AAA after spending a majority of the year at AA. Oops, guess I didn’t know exactly what the Cubs would do. They called up their top prospect in May, and he definitely disappoint. In 116 games, he hit .304/.350/417 with 50 runs scored, 3 home runs, 41 runs batted in, and 9 stolen bases. The power and fielding seem really likely to improve, and even the speed has gotten better over the length of the season.

Aaron Hicks (MIN)

Hicks came into the season as the top prospect for the Twins, and he really hasn’t done a lot to keep that ranking for next season. He posted a decent line (.279/.401/.428) with 27 doubles, 8 homeruns, 49 runs batted in, and 21 stolen bases. My prediction was pretty close (.280/.360/.430, 25 doubles, 8 homeruns, 25 stolen bases), but I thought he could do that at High-A. Instead, he repeated Low-A again this season, and it concerns me that they felt no need to promote him even at the end of the season.

A.J. Pollock (ARI)

Pollock had a completely lost season, as he missed the whole season with an injury. I think that once he’s back to playing next year, the predictions I made then could very well be similar.

Martin Perez (TEX)

It was a bit of a lost season for Perez as well, but I have to remind myself he is still just 20 years old. At AA, I thought that he would post the following line: 7-7, 3.30 ERA, 140 IP, 130 strikeouts, 45 walks. His actual line: 5-8, 5.96 ERA, 99 2/3 IP, 101 strikeouts, 50 walks. His FIP (4.24) indicated he pitched slightly better, but he definitely took a step back from the previous season. I think he’s very likely to start 2011 back at AA, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he still was promoted to AAA.

Brian Matusz (BAL)

With Matusz, I clearly underestimated how bad the Orioles’ offense would be this year. My prediction in January had Brian posting this line:  12-8, 3.75 ERA, 175 IP, 160 strikeouts, 45 walks. His actual through late last week: 8-12, 4.59 ERA, 162 2/3 IP, 126 strikeouts, 59 walks. I was a bit optimistic on his strikeout rate, and his walks as well. But I’ll be really interested to see what he does next year with the improvement the team has shown since hiring Buck Showalter.

Domonic Brown (PHI)

I thought Brown would not be above AA this year, and would have a great line: .290/.375/.500, 17 HR, 75 RBI, 25 stolen bases. He got a call up to AAA after 65 games, and ended up with a midseason callup as well due to some injuries in the Phillies outfield. He hasn’t really gotten a lot of consistent playing time, but he’s going to be a solid outfielder for the Phillies in 2011.

Daniel Hudson (CHW/ARI)

I really think that the White Sox blew this one. Hudson has been nothing short of amazing since being slotted into the Diamondbacks rotation, and has been much better than my original prediction: 5-5, 3.85 ERA, 110 IP, 95 strikeouts, 28 walks. His actual line: 7-2, 2.49 ERA, 86.2 IP, 79 strikeouts, 25 walks. Hudson really looks like he will be a solid #2/#3 starter going forward, with the potential to be a #1 starter if everything falls right.

Prospect Reviews: Midseason Review – Majors and AAA


As we approach the Major League All-Star break, I’ve seen quite a few of the prospects I reviewed back in January who have already made an impact in the show.

Note: Each of these players are listed under the level that they are currently at, but will include their stats at all levels. All statistics are through Saturday’s games, and courtesy of Baseball Reference.

Majors

Carlos Santana (Writeup)

Level G AVG OBP SLG R HR RBI SB
AAA 57 .316 .447 .597 39 13 51 6
Majors 20 .313 .438 .641 11 4 15 0

Carlos was called up on June 11th, and has continued to hit at a torrid pace ever since. I wrote back in mid-May that I thought he would be called up sometime after the expected Super-Two deadline, and that is pretty much exactly what happened. Over at FakeTeams, I ranked Santana as my 5th best catcher for the remainder of the season, and I think that’s probably pretty accurate. He’s going to continue to hit for an excellent average, and the power looks legitimate, even if there is some minor regression. At the end of last season, I owned the rights to both Carlos Santana and Buster Posey in my 14-team keeper league. During our minor league draft, I traded Posey for Ryan Westmoreland and a draft pick towards the end of the draft. That pick? Used to take Michael Pineda.

Mike Stanton (Writeup)

Level G AVG OBP SLG R HR RBI SB
AA 53 .313 .442 .729 42 21 52 1
Majors 20 .218 .271 .333 10 2 13 3

Stanton was called up on June 8th, in a much quieter debut than the other major rookie on that date, Stephen Strasburg. Stanton hasn’t quite shown the power in the Majors that he did in his minor league career to this point, but that was probably asking a bit much of the rookie. The 3 stolen bases to this point seem a bit out of place, as he only had 8 total in his 4 minor league seasons, but that could just be a fluke. I think that realistically he’s going to continue to experience some growing pains, and until the strikeouts get a bit more under control (33 so far in only 78 at bats), he’s going to continue to struggle.

Buster Posey (Writeup)

Level G AVG OBP SLG R HR RBI SB
AAA 47 .349 .442 .552 3 6 32 1
Majors 29 .308 .330 .423 12 2 11 0

Posey was called up on May 29th, but strangely it was to play 1B for the most part. The Giants’ main concern was to get the top prospect’s bat into the lineup, and not worry too much about having him catch immediately. He has been playing nearly every day, but has only just now started to catch every day with the trade of former starting catcher Bengie Molina to the Giants. I will be interested to see how he continues to hit now that he will be catching every day, and it will be interesting to see if there is any impact on the pitching staff. Posey has been widely touted for his ability to work with a pitching staff, but until it actually happens there is always the chance of something going wrong.

Jason Heyward (Writeup)

Level G AVG OBP SLG R HR RBI SB
Majors 71 .251 .366 .455 41 11 45 5

Heyward is currently on the disabled list for the Braves, after a thumb injury that occurred late in May apparently, but did not sideline him until late June. This is probably at least a part of the explanation as to why Heyward struggled so much in the month of June.  He was the prohibitive favorite to win the NL Rookie of the Year award after the month of May, but if he is out for an extended period of time, this race could pretty easily get away from him with as many good rookies as there are this season.

Starlin Castro (Writeup)

Level G AVG OBP SLG R HR RBI SB
AA 26 .376 .421 .569 20 1 20 4
Majors 50 .269 .332 .365 17 2 18 1

Castro has been a bit of an enigma to this point in his Major League career. It was a big surprise that he was called up when he was, but it was thought he would be able to adapt pretty easily despite being only 20 years old. His average has been solid, but not amazing. But his power seems to have disappeared entirely, and his speed is not far behind it. The part that really concerns me about Castro is the fact that in 50 games, he already has 11 errors. Granted, you can’t get errors on balls you don’t make a play on, so this partially could be the reason he has so many. It seems unlikely to me at this point that the Cubs would send him down to improve, as the Cubs are going nowhere this season.

Brian Matusz (Writeup)

Level G W L SV ERA IP K WHIP
Majors 16 2 9 0 4.90 93.2 70 1.441

Matusz, it was hoped, would help to lead this team’s pitching staff this season along with veteran Kevin Millwood. Unfortunately, the Orioles’ offense and defense forgot to help with that. Matusz has a league worst 9 losses this season, but there are signs of hope. He has a strikeout rate of 6.83 per 9 innings, and his FIP is lower than his ERA (4.25 vs. 4.90), so there does appear to be hope for Matusz. Until this team starts hitting like they mean it, it’s probably going to be some tough-luck losses in the future for Brian Matusz.

AAA

Desmond Jennings (Writeup)

Level G AVG OBP SLG R HR RBI SB
AAA 59 .298 .374 .428 45 1 21 20

Jennings has missed some time this season due to an injury, and it appears that the Rays are extremely unlikely to call him up this season. The Rays have done well with their starting outfield of Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, and Ben Zobrist, and have had both Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez fill in as necessary. Jennings still looks like an elite prospect, and seems like to be up at the start of the 2011 season, as Crawford is still a free agent at the end of the season and seems unlikely to be resigned due to money concerns. I still think Jennings is an elite prospect, although I am wondering how long until the power comes.

Jesus Montero (Writeup)

Level G AVG OBP SLG R HR RBI SB
AAA 74 .248 .319 .410 30 6 33 0

Back in January, I wrote that I thought the best thing for the Yankees to do with Montero would be to continue to leave him in the minors and allow him to develop as a catcher, so that they could use him as the long-term replacement to Jorge Posada following Posada’s eventual retirement. At this point, I would say that they need to figure out a different position for him long term. Montero is probably not ever going to be an elite caliber catcher, and with the Yankees having 3 excellent catching prospect also in the minors (Austin Romine, Gary Sanchez, J.R. Murphy) in addition to Montero, they can probably work on letting him hit and just assume he is likely to end up either in the outfield or as a DH.

Domonic Brown (Writeup)

Level G AVG OBP SLG R HR RBI SB
AA 65 .318 .391 .602 50 15 47 12
AAA 11 .395 .415 .711 6 3 10 1

Brown is a player who is vaulting himself to the top of prospect rankings with his amazing performance down at AA. Clearly, if he can continue a majority of the pace he is on so far, he looks like he will be a perennial 30-30 threat with a high batting average. There have been rumors that the Phillies may try to move Jayson Werth to help improve other areas of the team and insert Brown into the everyday RF job, but that seems a bit rushed. I would like to see the Phillies leave Brown down at AAA for the rest of the season, and give him the opportunity to win the RF job out of Spring Training in 2011.

Dan Hudson (Writeup)

Level G W L SV ERA IP K WHIP
AAA 16 11 3 0 3.57 88.1 102 1.211

Hudson has done everything that the White Sox had hoped and more, but unfortunately no one in the starting rotation is really pitching all that badly. The White Sox are correct to leave him down there starting if that is what they hope to use him for long-term, and at some point he is likely to get a shot. It would help if the Sox would fall out of the race, but Hudson could potentially be moved for a short-term piece if they think they still have a chance to win it all this season. I’m not sure where that would come from, but stranger things have happened.

Chris Carter (Writeup)

Level G AVG OBP SLG R HR RBI SB
AAA 81 .242 .346 .497 55 17 58 0

Carter has been a bit of an enigma so far at AAA. The power is still there, although not to the same extent has it had been in AA. The batting average is clearly not where he was in AA, but with the amount of strikeouts that he normally racks up, this isn’t that much of a surprise. The concerning part to me is two fold – He hasn’t even attempted a stolen base this season after trying 19 times with 13 successes. Also, the strikeout rate has gotten worse, as he already has 94 strikeouts in only 81 games. The A’s don’t have a place to play him right now at the Major League level, and realistically, he’s not shown that he’s ready for it either. If the A’s were in the heat of the pennant race, they might have brought him up to provide some pop to the lineup, but since they aren’t, I don’t think he sees Oakland this season except when he passes it in his car.

Yonder Alonso (Writeup)

Level G AVG OBP SLG R HR RBI SB
AA 31 .267 .388 .406 19 3 13 4
AAA 51 .246 .283 .365 17 4 28 3

Alonso has become the subject of some trade rumors for the Reds, as he realistically should be a first baseman at the Major League level. Unfortunately, that position is manned by a potential MVP candidate in Joey Votto, and looks like it will be for quite some time. The Reds have been trying him in the outfield, but it appears that may be at least somewhat affecting his ability to hit at AAA, as he has struggled so far.

Michael Pineda (Writeup)

Level G W L SV ERA IP K WHIP
AA 13 8 1 0 2.22 77 78 1.091
AAA 3 2 0 0 2.37 19 26 0.842

Pineda came into the season as a bit of an unknown, but is now rocketing up the prospect rankings for a lot of the experts as he continues his excellent performance from last season. He’s earned a promotion to AAA recently, and the poor performance overall by the Mariners makes me wonder if he may see a September call-up. The strikeout numbers have been dominant, with over 1 per inning so far at both levels. This one is really making me look pretty good so far in my keeper league.

Tomorrow, the rest of the prospects down at AA and below.

How are They Doing So Far? part 1


Over this week, I am going to look at how the prospects I reviewed during this offseason and see how they have done so far this season. Today I’ll be going over the players who are currently in either the Majors or at AAA. All statistics are through Sunday

Welcome to the Show

Jason Heyward (ATL): 28 games, .291/.410/.616, 8 HR, 26 RBI, 14 R, 16 walks, 26 strikeouts

Heyward was named the starting right fielder out of Spring Training, as he impressed nearly everyone who saw him down in Florida. He hasn’t let up since, and is well on his way to winning the Rookie of the Year award. He’s been sidelined of late with a minor groin injury, and there has been talk as to whether or not he will need some time on the disabled list. He is already past the stats that I thought he would post in the Majors this season when I reviewed him. Whether or not his split numbers will stay that high remains to be seen, but he’s been a definite hit so far.

Jennry Mejia (NYM): 15 appearances, 13 2/3 IP, 0-2, 2.63 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 9 strikeouts, 7 walks

I was extremely surprised when the Mets put Mejia into the bullpen out of Spring Training. When I wrote about him during the offseason, I predicted (incorrectly) that he would not be in the Majors until 2012 at the soonest. Leave the Mets to make a liar out of me. However, I did also say that unless his control issues were managed, he’d struggle. 7 walks in 13 2/3 IP would qualify as struggling for me. The problem I really see at this point is that this seems likely to severely stunt his development. Long term his best value would seem to be as a starting pitcher, and he’s not going to develop as one until he goes back to the minors to get reps there. Now, there is the potential for the Mets to be grooming him as a closer-in-waiting for after the 2011 season, when Francisco Rodriguez will be a free agent again. But it just doesn’t seem to be the best answer for him.

Brian Matusz (BAL): 7 starts, 40 1/3 IP, 2-3, 4.91 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 33 strikeouts, 14 walks

Matusz was slated to start the season in the rotation for the Orioles, and has pitched  reasonably well so far. When I wrote him up, I thought that he would post a strikeout rate of 8.25 per 9 innings, and a walk rate of 2.3 per 9. So far, he’s at 7.425 strikeouts per 9 and 3.15 walks per 9. He hasn’t quite matched the numbers I predicted, but until his last start had pitched reasonably well all the same.

Starlin Castro (CHC): 3 games, .333/.333/.833, HR, 6 RBI, 0 walks, 1 strikeout

Castro was called up on Friday to help spark the offense. His callup also moved previous SS Ryan Theriot over to 2B, and potentially for good if Castro hits while he is here. It will be interesting if Castro has a lot of struggles, as he has not played at all at AAA, and did not play a lot at AA either for that matter.

AAA

Carlos Santana (CLE): 29 games, .309/.446/.526, 5 HR, 24 RBI, 3 SB, 22 walks, 19 strikeouts

Santana has gotten off to a hot start, and realistically I have to imagine he will probably be up to the big club as soon as the expected date to avoid making a Super-Two player passes. The player currently blocking him at the Major League level, Lou Marson, is not hitting worth anything, and is realistically just a place holder until they bring up Santana.

Buster Posey (SF): 29 games, .345/.434/.536, 4 HR, 20 RBI, SB, 16 walks, 18 strikeouts

Posey was sent down to AAA after Spring Training so that he could play every day. His offense could very well be needed at the Major League level sooner rather than later, but unless something changes with Bengie Molina, there really isn’t a good spot to play him. I’ve heard talk that Posey is athletic enough that he may be able to play 1B or RF potentially, but clearly his future is behind the plate. I still don’t entirely understand why they brought him up at the end of last season. Hopefully, they don’t bring him up just to sit on the bench.

Jesus Montero (NYY): 24 games, .244/.306/.378, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 16 strikeouts, 8 walks

He’s not quite hitting up to the level that he has in the past, but he is still very young, especially for his level. The Yankees are best suited by continuing to let him try to develop as a catcher, as his bat is probably ready for the Majors now. However, he is their long-term solution behind the plate, and he is going to need probably the majority of this season at AAA continuing his development. Thankfully (for him anyway) the Yankees do not need his bat at the Major League level at this point, and can let him do this.

Trevor Reckling (LAA): 6 starts, 33 IP, 3-1, 4.64 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 23 strikeouts, 23 walks

Reckling has struggled a bit to this point, as control has clearly become a massive issue. This had already shown itself in previous seasons, and to me he is going to have to get that under control before he can even be considered for the Majors. Good for the Angels is the fact that they do not need to rush him, as they have other pitchers who can be called upon if they need someone at the Major League level. I wrote back in January that I thought he would be in the Majors during 2011, and I think that’s probably still right. He really could use the full season down at AAA to work on the control issues.

Desmond Jennings (TAM): 12 games, .269/.387/.346, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 6 SB, 5 walks 5 strikeouts

Health remains the problem, as he’s only appeared in 12 games out of 29 possible so far. The Rays are taking an extremely conservative approach with him, as they have their outfield at the Major League level pretty well locked in for this season. His batting eye remains excellent, as well as the speed. I could very well see the Rays leaving him down in AAA at least until September, as they really don’t have any pressing need for him in Tampa.

Daniel Hudson (CHW): 6 starts, 29 1/3 IP, 4-2, 5.83 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 34 strikeouts, 10 walks

Hudson was slated to the minors after Spring Training, as the White Sox have an extremely deep starting rotation, with Buehrle, Peavy, Danks, and Floyd at the top, and Freddy Garcia currently in the 5th starter role. I figured back in January that he would be up at some point this season, and I still think he will be. Garcia has not pitched particularly well, striking out 18 and walking 12 in 29 innings. He’s probably going to be given a lot of rope, but I would be surprised if he is still in the rotation come June 1st. Look for Hudson to be called up when that time comes.

Chris Carter (OAK): 29 games, .259/.354/.518, 8 HR, 28 RBI, 16 walks, 33 strikeouts

Carter has started his year in Sacramento, and while he is performing well, I have to imagine that the A’s are likely to keep him down there until at least midseason. The hard part is that for them to get Carter consistent playing time, he is going to need to play either 1B or DH. Current 1B Daric Barton has been solid this season, and appears very unlikely to lose his job. DH is a different concern, as that is currently being misused by the $66 million dollar man, Eric Chavez. The A’s are going to give Chavez every chance to succeed, and at this point he has managed to stay healthy, even if he hasn’t done well. Look for Carter to debut sometime after the All-Star break.


Team Preview – Tampa Bay Rays


Roster Makeup
Lineup Pitching Staff
Pos Name Role Name
C Kelly Shoppach SP 1 James Shields
1B Carlos Pena SP 2 Matt Garza
2B Ben Zobrist SP 3 Jeff Niemann
3B Evan Longoria SP 4 David Price
SS Jason Bartlett SP 5 Wade Davis
LF Carl Crawford Bullpen
CF B.J. Upton CL Rafael Soriano
RF Matt Joyce RP J.P. Howell
DH Pat Burrell RP Dan Wheeler
Bench RP Grant Balfour
IF Sean Rodriguez RP Randy Choate
C Dioner Navarro RP Andy Sonnanstine

Additional roster information can be found at MLB Depth Charts.

Off-Season Transactions
Key Additions Key Losses
Pos Name How Pos Name How
C Kelly Shoppach Trade (CLE) 2B Akinori Iwamura Trade (PIT)
RP Rafael Soriano Trade (ATL) RP Troy Percival Free Agency

Top Prospects: Desmond Jennings (OF), Jeremy Hellickson (P), Tim Beckham (SS)

2009 Review

The Rays were riding high off of their improbable World Series appearance in 2008, and expectations were high for repeat success in 2009. While the Rays didn’t have quite the same success, posting an 84-78 record last season, there was lots of things to be really excited about.

The offense was led by the breakout season of Ben Zobrist. Zobrist played all over the field, mostly at 2B, SS, and RF, and hit everywhere he played. He posted a .297/.405/.543 line with 27 HR, 91 RBI, and 17 SB. A rather amazing season, especially when the Rays were expected to be led by 1B Carlos Pena (39 HR, 100 RBI), 3B Evan Longoria (.281, 33 HR, 113 RBI), and LF Carl Crawford (.305, 15 HR, 60 SB).

The pitching staff was inconsistent, and really appeared to be the reason that the Rays didn’t return to the playoffs. The only starters to post sub-4.00 eras were rookie Jeff Niemann (13-6, 3.94), and Matt Garza (8-12, 3.95). The late season trade of Scott Kazmir was a bit curious, but the Rays had decided at that point that they would not catch the Red Sox, and were able to get a pretty good package for a still very young pitcher.

Team Outlook for 2010

The Rays will look to make another playoff run this season, acquiring C Kelly Shoppach to help address a lack of offensive production behind the plate. They also helped to solidify the back end of their bullpen with the acquisition of Rafael Soriano to be the closer. This is a team that would probably win the Central division on a consistent basis if they were in it, but unfortunately for them, they are not. The records they have posted in spite of having to play the Yankees and Red Sox 19 times each are a credit to manager Joe Maddon and general manager Andrew Friedman.

I think that they will be in the hunt for the majority of the season, but are going to need some luck to catch the Red Sox or the Yankees. Something to watch for throughout the season is how long it takes for the Rays to call up top prospect Desmond Jennings. If Matt Joyce struggles early on, look for him to get the call sooner. Something else is the impending free agency of LF Carl Crawford. Rays’ fans are hopeful that the sides will work out a contract extension before he hits free agency, but the Rays are likely to be priced out of the market if he gets there. As a result, the Rays could look to move Crawford if they fall out of the race early on and don’t believe that they will be able to get anything for him besides the 2 draft picks for type A free agents.

Fantasy Outlook for 2010

OF Carl Crawford was a top-tier outfielder with his 60 stolen bases last season, although he had a precipitous drop off in success after the first two months of last season. Nearly every other everyday player for the Rays is ownable in standard fantasy leagues, with 2B/SS/OF Ben Zobrist and 3B Evan Longoria being the cream of the crop. The pitching staff also is mostly ownable, although I personally have been burned by James Shields one too many times for me to recommend him. Garza should have a better won-loss record this season, and Niemann will hopefully build on his excellent rookie campaign.

Prediction for 2010

The Rays need a bit of luck to help get them past Boston and New York, and should be in this race until very late in the season, possibly even the last weekend. Unfortunately, I think that they’re going to come up a bit short, and have another excellent season that ends with no games in the postseason.

88-74, 3rd in the AL East

Prospect Review – Aaron Hicks – OF – MIN


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The Basics
Bats: Switch
Throws: Right
How Acquired: Drafted in the 1st round (#14) of the 2008 amateur draft by the Twins
Age: 20

Statistics

2008 – Gulf Coast Twins (GCL – Twins Rookie Ball) – 45 games

  • .318/.409/.491
  • 4 HR, 27 RBI, 12 stolen bases
  • 28 walks, 32 strikeouts
  • .372 BABIP

2009 – Beloit (Midwest League – Twins A-ball) – 67 games

  • .251/.353/.382
  • 4 HR, 29 RBI, 10 stolen bases
  • 40 walks, 55 strikeouts
  • .307 BABIP

Rankings
Baseball America – #1 (MIN – 2010)
Baseball Prospectus – #1 (MIN – 2010) -  5 star
John Sickels – #1 (MIN – 2010) – B+

Analysis

Hicks was drafted in 2008, and immediately sent to the Twins’ rookie league team upon his signing. Hicks was drafted to play CF, but was also a highly touted pitching prospect as well. He hit very well, posting a .318/.409/.491 line, which was partially backed by a .372 batting average on balls in play.

Hicks has not as of yet shown a whole lot of power in the minors, only hitting 40 extra base hits in his 2 seasons. That said, he was only 19 when the 2009 season ended. He should develop power as he continues to mature.

Hicks is really known for two main things: his speed, and his plate discipline. He posted a 14% walk rate in both seasons, a very respectable rate. His strikeout rate appears to be a bit high (21% in 2009), but that number should also improve over time.

His speed does not appear to be an elite tool (like Desmond Jennings or Carl Crawford), but should translate to somewhere between 20 and 30 stolen bases on a consistent basis.

2009 was a bit of a disappointing season for Hicks, as his BABIP appears to have regressed to the norm. (.251/.353/.382). His plate discipline didn’t appear to really suffer though, as he was still walking at a 14% clip.

Based on his skill set, I believe that he can stick in CF if that is where the Twins eventually need him. He appears to have a good throwing arm, and a solid range out there.

Outlook

Hicks appears to be a very high-ceiling prospect. I am not 100% sold that he will develop a lot of power, but should be good for 40-50 extra base hits a season, to go along with 20-30 stolen bases and a .270-.290 batting average. I am really looking forward to seeing the Twins sending him to a full-season league this year, preferably their High-A affiliate.

Prediction for 2010

.280/.360/.430, 25 doubles, 8 homeruns, 25 stolen bases

Expected ETA

I am envisioning him not getting to Minneapolis until 2013. That progression would allow him to spend a full season at High-A, AA, and AAA prior to getting to the Majors. That would still only put him at age 23 when he gets there.

Tomorrow’s Prospect Review: A.J. Pollock (OF) of the Arizona Diamondbacks

Prospect Review – Desmond Jennings – OF – TAM


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The Basics
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
How Acquired: Drafted in the 1oth round of the 2006 amateur draft
Age: 23

Statistics

2008 – Vero Beach (Florida State League – Rays High-A) – 24 games

  • .259/.360/.412
  • 2 homeruns, 5 rbi, 6 stolen bases
  • 14 walks, 16 strikeouts

2009 – Montgomery (Southern League – Rays AA) – 100 games

  • .316/.395/.486
  • 8 homeruns, 45 rbi, 37 stolen bases
  • 48 walks, 52 strikeouts

2009 – Durham (International League – Rays AA) – 32 games

  • .325/.419/.491
  • 3 homeruns, 17 rbi, 15 stolen bases
  • 19 walks, 15 strikeouts

2009 Totals (2 levels) – 132 games

  • .318/.401/.487
  • 11 homeruns, 62 rbi, 52 stolen bases
  • 67 walks, 67 strikeouts

Rankings
Baseball America – #1 (TAM – 2010)
Baseball Prospectus – #1 (TAM – 2010) – 5 star
Project Prospect – #7 (Position Players – 9/2009), #1 (CF – 11/2009)
John Sickels – #1 (TAM – 2010) – A

Analysis

Jennings spent a large portion of his 2008 season not playing, suffering from injuries to his back and his left shoulder. Once he came back, he did the thing he does best: steal bases, going 5 for 7 in just 24 games. His hitting didn’t really come around as much during that season, although his ability to draw a walk remained.

Despite the injuries and the slightly poor showing, he was promoted to AA Montgomery to start the 2009 season. From there, he just went off, posting a .316/.395/.486 line with 37 stolen bases and an excellent walk-to-strikeout rate. He was promoted on August 1st, and continued to tear up the AAA level just as much as he had earlier in the season. He posted a .325/.419/.491 clip, while stealing 15 more bases in only 32 games.

Jennings has been getting a lot of comparisons to another speedster on his team, Carl Crawford. So I wanted to see what Crawford’s minor league numbers looked like in comparison.

Crawford is actually not as good of a comparison as I initially thought he might be. Crawford played his last game in the minors in 2002, at age 20. So he was 3 years younger than Jennings is now when he made the show. But what do the stats show?

Speed: Crawford always stole bases very well in the minors, stealing 134 bases and getting caught 41 times in 401 minor league games. Jennings: 134 SB, 29 CS in 311 games

Power: Crawford posted a career high .456 slugging percentage his last year in the minors. Jennings: .487 last year between AA and AAA.

Eye: Crawford has never been known as a particularly patient hitter, posting his career high for walks last season with 51 (a walk rate of 7.8%). Jennings posted a walk rate of 14.3% last season, his career high. He also has not posted a rate below 10% in the last 3 seasons.

The part I have to remind myself is that comparing Crawford’s minor league numbers against Jennings is not a really fair comparison, as Jennings is 3 years older than Crawford was when he played at AAA. That said, Jennings projects to be a very good outfielder at the Major League level.

Outlook

Jennings will most likely start the 2010 season back at AAA, barring a very impressive Spring Training. I have to imagine that they are likely to want to keep his arbitration clock from starting too soon if they can avoid it, as he is likely to cost quite a bit come the 5th and 6th years of his career.

Jennings looks like a prototypical leadoff hitter: a lot of speed, the ability to draw a walk, and minimize strikeouts. The Rays’ outfield of Crawford, B.J. Upton, and Jennings, looks like a very fast, excellent fielding outfield that could potentially be together for a long time (if they can sign Crawford to an extension).

Projection for 2010

.285/.365/.450, 5 homeruns, 35 rbi, 35 stolen bases (Majors – 3 months)

Expected ETA

2010. No later than the All-Star Break.

Tomorrow’s Prospect for Review: Jason Heyward (OF) of the Atlanta Braves