Minor League Players of the Week (ending July 11). Names like Peter Bourjos (LAA), Paul Goldschmidt (ARI)), Kirk Nieuwenhuis (NYM), and Clint Robinson (KC) should start becoming familiar to your lexicon, well at least the first three for sure. I’m nearly a week late and several [million] dollars short, but, as we all now know, fCliff Lee and Mark Lowe were traded to the Rangers for Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke, and Matthew Lawson. Without going into full analysis, I don’t buy Beavan’s high groundball rate; Lueke, at best, could be a decent bullpen option when he is healthy; Lawson is depth for the Mariners’ farm system. Grey likes Lee in Arlington more than I do. I don’t buy a fly ball pitcher thriving in Texas, even if he is The Adverb. Enough rambling, most of you have read the followup debates on this trade, hopefully you enjoy this column as much as the last. On a completely random side note, both of the following players for this Scouting the Unknown share a birthday.
Michael Pineda | RHP-SP | Seattle Mariners | DOB: 1-18-89 | 6’5” | 250 lbs | B/T: R/R | 2005 signed out of the Dominican Republic | SEA #7 ranked prospect according to Baseball America; #6 according to Keith Law | MiLB Player Page
With the aforementioned Cliff Lee trade, there are rumors of Pineda getting called up; doubtful but nevertheless, newsworthy. I pegged Pineda for this week’s column before this trade happened; I’m on a roll picking players (thanks Travis Wood, Dan Hudson, Andrew Cashner). He throws an 88 to 94 mph fastball with some sink. He has “good armside run” which is tough on right handed batters according to Baseball America; there is also a 86 to 91 mph cutter; depending on your source, his changeup has, “advance feel,” (Baseball America) is, “very good,” (John Sickels) or, “needs to develop changeup” (Keith Law); slider is still a work in progress. Those are the basics, here is what I wrote about Pineda in the Mariners off-season Minor League Review series, “I will let Marc Hulet (of FanGraphs) do all the work here because he did an awesome job describing Pineda. He looks like an unheralded stud in the making.” This is me quoting me quoting someone else. Guess I’ll have to have some numbers speak for me.
2010 Stats: 9.6 K/9 | 2.3 BB/9 | 99 1/3 IP | 2.72 ERA | 2.64 FIP | 1.09 WHIP | .3 Hr/9 | 7.5 H/9 | .302 BABIP | 43.5 GB% | 21.6 LD% | 30.7 FB% | 3.4 Hr/FB%
Career Stats: 8.6 K/9 | 2.1 BB/9 | 364 1/3 IP | 2.22 ERA | 3.03 FIP | 1.07 WHIP | .4 Hr/9 | 7.6 H/9 | .291 BABIP | 46.5 GB% | 15.8 LD% | 33.9 FB% | 4.6 Hr/FB%
Hulet’s report was positive, Baseball America’s was positive, Sickels’ was positive, and even Keith Law was positive by pushing him to his number 25 ranked prospect on his mid-season updated Top 25 Prospect Rankings. However, he essentially said that his fastball is good but he needs to improve his off-speed offerings, which is code for potential that hasn’t been proven. Statistically, he has thrived at each level. Before his last start in the PCL, Pineda was annihilating opposing batters. Posting good strikeout and walk rates, Pineda shows plenty of positive upside. He was able to only throw 44 innings in 2009 because of elbow soreness; this caused all my sources to downgrade his overall ranks to enter the season. Looks like this concern has gone the way of the dodo bird for talent evaluators and the 24 hour news hype has started. The “unheralded prospect” phrase was dropped often; I’d tend to agree, except with more reservation than the hype is starting to build. Progressing from a ground ball pitcher to a fly ball pitcher works well at Safeco, but giving up line drives (21.6%) at a high rate will become an issue too. Could he be a Matt Garza? Possibly, but he needs to develop more than just a fastball to stay in the starting rotation. If he cannot get his slider to work and consistency from his changeup, he’ll be helpful in hold situations and maybe as a closer. I think he’ll see a September call-up and an invitation to spring training in 2011. Don’t expect him to be solid contributor until mid-2011 or later.
Brett Lawrie | 2B | Milwaukee Brewers | DOB: 1-18-90 | 5’11” | 200 lbs | B/T: R/R | 1st rd, 16th pk, 2008 from H.S. | MIL #2 ranked prospect according to Baseball America; #2 according to Keith Law | MiLB Player Page
Quoting me from the Brewers Minor League Review, “The only question about Lawrie from scouts, farm directors and analysts is “What position should he play?” Lawrie is the top power hitting prospect for the Brew Crew, even more than Mat Gamel. At the end of the season, he was given a call up to Double-A where he struggled, slashing .269/.283/.308 in 52 AB. Given his age and small sample size, this brief appearance shouldn’t worry anyone. His stick is solid, with 30 homer potential, he should also hit for decent average (.275 to .290) as he has a good eye at the plate, but does become pull conscious, which can cause prolonged slumps.” Other snippets from more recent sources, he struggles with changing speeds; he’s an intense, aggressive, and a “one-speed” player (read: a fiery competitor). His position may not stay at second base, with most predicting a move to right field where his arm would play well, although some reports are saying his defense is coming along better than anticipated, almost up to Dan Uggla standards. His swing has Keith Law describing it as, “A classic left handed swing, but from the right side with tremendous rotation and raw power.” He has an extremely quick bat and strong hands. Lastly, his speed is average, even with a stocky football player build. How is his second professional season going?
2010 Stats: .295/.359/.473 | 353 AB | 40 XBH | 6 Hr | .178 ISO | 24/9 SB/CS | 78:38 K:BB | .364 BABIP | 46.7 GB% | 11.6 LD% | 41.7 FB% | 11.6 IF/F%
Career Stats: .283/.349/.453 | 777 AB | 77 XBH | 19 Hr | .170 ISO | 43/22 SB/CS | 162:74 K:BB | .337 BABIP | 44.7 GB% | 13.2 LD% | 42.1 FB% | 12.5 IF/F%
Not an absolute masher yet, he has hit 23 doubles with 11 triples this year displaying gap power and his speed on the base paths. The extra base hits are there, he is taking an extra base, but his slash line is inflated with a high BABIP (.364). Also a little disheartening, an 11.6 line drive percent. With how many extra base hits he has, especially the triples, I’d guess the official ballparks scores are calling some line drives fly balls. Also of some concern, he is striking out at a 22 percent clip. Nothing catastrophic, just something to keep your eyes, or in my case an eye, on because he is an aggressive hitter. Lastly, he has been hitting primarily in the one and two slot in the line up and a few games hitting as the number three hitter.
If you clicked the link back to the Brewers Minor League Review, you’ll noticed my future predictions of Lawrie, if not, “As we all know, with Rickie Weeks often injured, [his call-up] could be sooner rather than later. Still don’t hope for anything more than a September call-up this year or, more likely, a June call-up in 2011.” If he tries to improve his second base defense, scouts say Lawrie reminds them of Jeff Kent. Yeah, that’s high praise.