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Junichi Tazawa had his first professional start in America and got the win. He pitched 5 innings giving up only one earned run (and three runs) in the first. It took him 98 pitches, however, to get thru five innings. Following Grey’s philosophy on rookies, I would still hesitate to pick him up even for the higher win probability. His next start – if he gets one (which he should after last night) – would be at Texas. A tad daunting to pitch there in mid-August.

Well, now on to StU:

Jake Arrieta | SP | Baltimore Orioles | DOB: 3/6/86 | 6-4 | 225 lbs | Bats/Throws: Right | BAL #4 ranked prospect according to Baseball America
The Cube: Control (41) | K-Rating (94) | Efficiency (90)

Arrieta is the third head in the three-headed monster that the Orioles have/had in their farm system (Tillman/Matusz/Arrieta). Arrieta is built like your stereotypical innings eater. His large frame creates a mid-90′s fastball that tops out at 97 mph with, as Baseball America claims, “explosive” late movement. The only thing on the baseball field that I know that is explosive is a Sammy Sosa bat; otherwise most other exploding-esque adjectives are reserved for comics and Joe Morgan. Well, following his fastball, his repertoire includes a slider, a 12 to 6 curveball, and a change-up. His slider is the better of the two breaking pitches by far, but still is developing both pitches. Truthfully, most scouts claim that neither are above-average and each needs tons of work. His change-up is adequate but still needs much developing too. He has an excellent mentality when he is on the hill. Many opponents claim he is arrogant or cocky when he is pitching. However, when he isn’t pitching, his teammates rave about his personality and generally enjoy his presence. What about his stats? That’s a good question:

08 (A+) 9.56 K/9 | 4.06 BB/9 | 113 IP | .56 HR/9 | 2.87 ERA (3.39 FIP) | 1.16 WHIP
09 (AA) 10.68 K/9 | 3.51 BB/9 | 59 IP | .61 HR/9 | 2.59 ERA (3.08 FIP) | 1.15 WHIP
09 (AAA) 8.19 K/9 | 2.85 BB/9 | 62 2/3 IP | 1.01 HR/9 | 4.74 ERA (3.98 FIP) | 1.44 WHIP

Drafted out of Texas Christian and going straight to high-A proved to be the best decision for his development. There are several glaring positives that come from his raw numbers. The first is that his control has improved with each promotion. The O’s should be able to stomach 3 BB/9 if his K/9 stays in the upper single-digits. Until AAA, he was able to keep the ball in the park, and, really, one homer for every nine innings isn’t the end of the world. He also pitched two complete game shutouts in AA this past year.

However, as with all positives, there are weaknesses that need to be addressed. Just because the control looks to be there in AAA, it doesn’t just appear overnight. I would expect his walk rate to stay more in the middle of the two he has this year, so about 3.2 BB/9 with his strikeout rate near 8.5 to 9 K/9. Not seen in the numbers is his own personality. Several sites and sources stated that he battles himself when he is on the mound. When he struggles, he beats himself up mentally leading to a poorer performance. This is derived from his hyper-competitive drive and compulsion to win (which is a great attribute).

Due to his poor secondary pitches (past his fastball – slider combo) some believe he would be better suited for the bullpen (a great set-up man or a power closer); others believe he will be better than Matusz or Tillman. I am not sure where I stand. He should get a September call-up and I would be shocked if he wasn’t on the 2010 opening roster. The youth movement in Baltimore is now in full swing.

Yonder Alonso | 1B | Cincinnati Reds | DOB: 4/8/87 | 6-2 | 215 lbs | Bats/Throws: Left/Right | CIN #1 ranked prospect according to Baseball America
The Cube: Power (98) | Speed (56) | Contact (80) | Patience (100)

First off, the Baseball Cube is starting to frustrate me with such misleading information based on their rankings. Alonso isn’t a speedy person by any means. As a matter of fact, several sources claim he is slow and merely a marginal baserunner. Sure he runs them bases wisely, but he doesn’t even measure up to the speed of a three-toed sloth. Really, the Cube? Really? I mean, he only has one stolen base! BLAH! *end rant

Considered the best pure hitter in the 2008 draft (which also had Justin Smoak), Alonso hasn’t failed to live up to that hype—yet. He signed late and didn’t get a real chance to play in rookie ball, so the Reds sent Yonder over to Hawaii to play winter ball. Hitting .308/.419/.510, he made the All-Star team and looked primed for a stellar 2009 season. Actually he had a great half of 2009, but the second half of the season was derailed by a broken Hamate bone on June 19th (for more detailed info on what the Hamate bone is, look here). In short, this is what the Hamate bone does:

“The hamate, a hook-shaped bone in the wrist, is one of eight small bones that give the wrist joint strength and flexibility. It owes its shape to its function, which is in part to protect a sheath of tendons, blood vessels and nerves traveling from the arm to the fingers in the hand. “ – taken from the third link.

Um, so it saps a hitter’s power. That is terrible news for the Reds, granted they don’t have space for a non-athletic first baseman with Joey Votto around. However, this does mean that Yonder’s timetable is pushed from a possible call up this year to mid to late 2010. Just recently (August 10th), he could only make it through two rehab at-bats at single-A. It looks like he will have to play winter ball again and hope that his power returns sometime next year. However, let’s still look at his stats and envy what could have been sooner, rather than waiting for later:

Hawaiian (winter 08-09) .308/.419/.510
09 (A+) .302/.378/.503 | 169 AB | 11.5 K% | 16.6 BB% | .201 ISO
09 (AA) .246/.309/.377 | 61 AB | 9 K% | 11.5 BB% | .131 ISO

Just like his college career, his plate discipline is amazing (in college he had 172 BB to 103 K’s). Not that I want to make gargantuan comparisons, but that is nearing Pujols’s level of plate discipline. As you can see, AA didn’t treat him (or his wrist) well. It’s hard to pull much from such a small sample size, but I will relay what both the scouting reports and scouts have said. First off, they said that he is the rare hitter who can exhibit stellar power and continue to keep his average soaring (one could envision a .290 to .300 average and not blink an eye). His defense was acceptable at best; his base-running was adequate; his hitting eye is just short of amazing; and his swing is jaw-dropping and magnificent.

Keep you eye on Alonso, though I’m not sure how the Reds are going to be able to get him into their lineup without a DH spot. A move to 3B has been contemplated, but his athleticism would create more runs for the other team than his bat would create for the offense. A possible move to left? A trade? There are several options, but we won’t have to worry too much for at least another year.

12 Responses

  1. Denys says:
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    Alcides Escobar, SAGNOF!

  2. Stephen says:
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    @Denys: Yup. Maybe even a few runs too.

  3. Clay Zavada ‘Uberstache’ sighting.

  4. SamYo says:
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    Great Job as always !
    Since YOUK is suspended, whos the better replacement, Encarnacion, Beltre or Gordon ?

  5. Stephen says:
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    @SamYo: I would ride the hot streak…. Gordon maybe. I don’t like either of them.

  6. Critter Nagurski says:
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    i thought wallace was supposed to be the best pure hitter in that draft?

    depends who you ask i guess.

  7. Stephen says:
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    @Critter Nagurski: Definitely depends. Wallace, Smoak, and Alonso were the better hitters in that draft. However, the best hitter wont be determined for a few more years.

  8. Doug says:
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    I watched the entire Sox game and the 98 pitches is misleading. He threw 37 in the first inning due to a botched double play with no one getting out and another botched double play resulting in one out. He retired the final 8 I believe and looked sharp after the first inning.

  9. Stephen says:
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    @Doug: That Error really did him in. The Strike to ball ratio was excellent. I didn’t mean to make him sound so shaky. He pitched well, he just took a lot of pitches, even with the error to make it 5

  10. Doug says:
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    @Stephen: I do agree with the assessment, especially considering the 5th lasted 5 pitches. The other 3 more “normal” innings averaged out to roughly 20 pitches a piece. As a huge Sox fan, the future looks good for him (for now). As a fantasy player, not this year.

  11. Stephen says:
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    @Doug: Spot on. The Sox have tons of talent, but it will be more fun watching who pans out than some of the games (I am not a huge East coast fan for any team).

  12. Quintero says:
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    @Stephen: Great post, Stephen. Pointing out plate discipline is what make Alonso special is complete spot-on. You pro!

    Don’t know if you notice or not, but your StU is on a hot streak (Tazawa, Norris, Blanks, Tillman, Latos…the list basically begins from the first issue…)

    I’d also like to know how you value Brett Wallace. Since somehow his market value is a bit higher than it should be. Is he a “fast out of minor but slow-to-no power in major” guy (Billy Butler)? or he will be a suddenly contributor in AVG and HR next year? (Longoria)

    Keep up the good work!

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