Thursday, July 9, 2009

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not Around the Minor Leagues: O’s Matusz Looks to be Ready

Matusz has allowed only 1 earned run in 4 Eastern League starts

The American League East is easily Baseball’s best division, and it has been for a few years now. The Baltimore Orioles finished last in 2008, and currently find themselves bringing up the rear. In fact, over the last 7 years they have the Division’s worst record, haven’t finished above 4th place, and have finished an average of more than 26 games out. You have to go all the way back to 1997 to even find a plus .500 finish. In other words, it’s been a tough go if you are an Orioles fan. But things are beginning to look a lot brighter in Baltimore.

Led by 23yo Adam Jones, four of the Oriole’s (Markakis -25, Weiters -23, Reimold-25) seven best offensive players are 25 or younger. 23yo, Brad Bergesen and 24yo, David Hernandez have quickly established themselves as two of Baltimore’s best pitchers. But the real strength of the Orioles, may lie in the near Major League-ready arms. 21yo, Chris Tillman is making the Eric Bedard trade look like robbery. 23yo, Jake Arrieta is in Norfolk, sporting a 2.90 ERA. 23yo, Troy Patton appears to have recovered from labrum surgery and has a 2.63 ERA. And 2008 1st round pick Brian Matusz, may be the best of the bunch. Through 4 Eastern (ESL) League starts, Matusz is sporting a 0.34 ERA, and heads up this Week’s ‘Hot’ List.

Hot Pitchers –
1) Brian Matusz, LHP, BAL - Matusz possesses some of the Minor League’s best secondary offerings, and right now is using it to tear through the ESL. The 4th overall pick last June, Matusz has posted a 0.44 ERA, 0.639 WHIP with a 22:5 K:BB ratio over his last three starts, and now has a 1.65 ERA on the season.

2) Marc Rzepcyzynski, LHP, TOR – We had Rzepcyzynski rated as the 5th best college pitcher available in the 2007 draft, but the scouts apparently saw it differently, as they Jays got him in the 5th round. Although he lacks a true out pitch, Rzepcyznski has excellent control over all four of his offering. Over his last three starts, including Tuesday night’s Major League debut, Rzepcyzynski has posted a 1.04 ERA, a 0.981 WHIP, with a 23:8 K:BB ratio, leaving his season ERA at 2.60.

3) Rickey Romero, LHP, TOR – Back to back Blue Jays, as the 24yo Romero has been lights out all season. While he technically used up his rookie eligibility a couple of starts ago, his 1.26 ERA, .984 WHIP and 19:8 K:BB ratio are worthy of a mention here.

4) Guillermo Moscoso, RHP, TEX – Acquired from the Tigers in December, the 25yo Moscoso is back starting in Oklahoma City after a brief stint as a reliever with the big league club. Although conventional wisdom indicates that he profiles best in relief, since returning to AAA Moscoso has a 0.64 ERA, a 0.643 WHIP and a 10:4 K:BB ratio in three appearances.

5) Matt Moore, LHP, TBR – A holdover from last week, Moore has been one of our favorites since the Rays ‘stole’ him in the 8th round of the 2007 draft. All of his pitches have tremendous late action, and, once he learns to harness his control, he will become one of the best arms in a very talented system. A 0.47 ERA, a 0.828 WHIP with a 26:6 K:BB ratio over his last three starts, leaves Moore with a 2.80 ERA on the season.

6) Jeurys Familia, RHP, NYM – This week’s ‘Who’s He?’ award winner, Familia is rapidly becoming one of the best arms in the Mets’ system. Signed as a 17yo out of the Dominican Republic in 2007, Familia posted a 2.79 ERA in the GCL in 2008. Challenged with a stint in full season ball as a 19yo, Familia has added a couple of mph to his fastball and is throwing with tremendous confidence. Over the last two weeks, Familia has a 0.73 ERA, a 0.730 WHIP and a 14:4 K:BB ratio, giving him a 2.80 ERA in the South Atlantic (SAL) League.

7) Scott Barnes, LHP, SFG – One of the most polished pitchers in the CAL, the 21yo Barnes has dominated lower level hitters since being drafted in the 8th round last June. Working on a stretch of 18 plus scoreless innings, where he has a 1.111 WHIP and a 27:4 K:BB ratio, Barnes has a 2.93 ERA on the season.

8) Chris Tillman, RHP, BAL – Acquired from the Mariners in the Erik Bedard trade, Tillman is rapidly becoming one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. Barely a 21yo, Tillman is dominating International (INT) League hitters, allowing a .219 Average Against. Tillman has posted a 3.14 ERA, a 0.767 WHIP, with a 12:4 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks.

9) Jordan Lyles, RHP, HOU – One of the most scrutinized picks of the 2008 draft, it looks like the Astros are going to end up with the last laugh. Only 18yo, and in the SAL, Lyles has posted a 2.12 ERA, a 1.235 WHIP, with a 20:5 K:BB ratio over his last three starts and now sports a 2.92 ERA for the season.

10) Andrew Cashner, RHP, CHN - Two weeks in a row at the #9 spot, the Cubs first round pick in 2008, had a horrendous debut last summer. His start wasn’t a lot better this Spring, as Cashner struggled mightily with his control. However, since mid-May, Cashner has reduced his walk rate to 2.0 BB per 9IP. A 1.00 ERA, 0.839 WHIP and a 9:3 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks leaves his season ERA at 1.53. Even more impressive, after allowing more walks than strikeouts last season, Cashner now has a 40:15 K:BB ratio on the year.

Hot Hitters –

1) Derek Norris, C, WSN – We were one of the few places that had Norris as a Top 100 prospect entering the season, and Norris has not disappointed, as he has quickly established himself as one of the top 5 catching prospects in the Minors. A .362/.464/.787 over his last 60 PAs, leaves him with a 1.021 OPS on the season.

2) Alex Liddi, 3B, SEA – Since the first pitch of the season, no position player has more consistently performed this year than Liddi. Rarely do you find a player with the tools, the projectable frame, the work ethic and the production on the field, all in the same package, but that is exactly what Liddi brings to the table. A .444/.468/.822 over his last 50 PA’s gives him a 1.050 OPS on the season. While his strikeout rate is improved slightly (26% to 24%) over last season, this still remains Liddi’s biggest obstacle to elite prospect status.

3) Matt Dominguez, 3B, FLA – Already one of the Minor’s best fielding third basemen, Dominguez’s bat is also starting to come around. A .320/.414/.660 over his last 60 PAs, ups his OPS to .740 for the year. Remember, Dominguez is still a 19yo playing in Hi-A.

4) Sebastian Valle, C, PHI – The Phillies signed Valle as a 16yo out of Mexico in 2006 and sent him to the Dominican Summer (DSL) League in 2007, where we had him with the third best age-adjusted offensive performance. After getting off to a fast start in the GCL last June, Valle limped home with a .748 OPS. The Phillies, for some reason, decided to start him in the SAL this year, where his struggles continued. When the short season leagues opened, Valle was shipped to Williamsport of the NYP and has seen a change of fortune. The 19yo has posted a .406/.475/.719, through 40 NYP PAs.

5) Jonathan Galvez, 2B, SDP – Galvez commanded one of the highest bonuses given to a Latin American 16yo in 2007, when the Padres inked him to a $750,000 deal. The Padres sent him to the DSL last year, where he posted a solid, but not spectacular performance. 55 Arizona League ABs this year have been eye-opening, as Galvez has posted a .400/.526/.578.

6) Anthony Gose, OF, PHI - Admittedly, Gose doesn’t profile well as the type of player we like. He is limited defensively to LF, is more tools than production, and strikes out way too often given his limited power. All that being said, we are intrigued, both by his 47 SBs this year, and the fact that he seems to be holding his own offensively as an 18yo in the SAL. While not predicting he will reach it, we can see a Lonnie Smith type ceiling for him. Over the last two weeks, Gose has posted a .462/.533/.590 and now has a .745 OPS on the season.

7) James McOwen, LF, SEA – This is one of the rare times that a nearly 24yo in the California (CAL) League will appear on this list. While, given his age and defensive limitations, McOwen is not a ‘prospect’, he currently sports a 44-game hitting streak that is the longest in the Minors since 1954 and that rates a ‘hot’ spot. Over the last two weeks, McOwen has posted a .480/.519/.820 and now has a .913 OPS on the year.

8) Greg Halman, OF, SEA – The Minor League’s streakiest player is on another run. After nearly a month of absolutely abysmal play, Halman seems to have things back on track. When he’s hot he’s hot and over his last 63 PAs, Halman is on fire, posting a .339/.381/.814. More impressive is that while Halman has fanned nearly once every 2.5 ABs on the season, he has fanned only once every 4 ABs during this stretch.

9) Austin Romine, C, NYY – One of the most underrated catching prospects in baseball, the 20yo Romine was the Yankees’ 2nd round pick in 2007. He has the complete package for a catcher, including tremendous baseball savvy. Over the last two weeks, Romine has posted a . 290/.371/.581 and has a .801 OPS for the year.

10) Roger Kieschnick, OF, SFG – Selected by the Giants in the 3rd round last June, Kieschnick didn’t make his professional debut until this year. Making up for lost time, Kieschnick has been on fire in the California (CAL) League. A .318/.400/.750 over the last two weeks, gives the 22yo a .905 OPS on the year.

The Nots –

1) Brett Cecil, LHP, TOR – Cecil can’t seem to get over the hump in moving from AAA to the Majors. Major League hitters are batting .344 against him in two stints this year and over his last three starts he has a 14.73 ERA, a 3.682 WHIP with a 6:8 K:BB ratio.

2) Adys Portillo, RHP, SDP – So far, it hasn’t been a good year for the 2008 class of Latin American 16yos. Michel Ynoa has battled arm problems and has yet to make his debut. Juan Duran went 22 ABs before getting his first hit. In 18 games, Yorman and Rafael Rodriguez are still without an extra base hit. And Adys Portillo is getting lit up in the Arizona League after signing for $2.0MM last July. Through 3 starts, Portillo has posted a 8.10 ERA, a 2.500 WHIP and a 7:7 K:BB ratio.

3) Aaron Bates, 1B, BOS – Bates has never been more than a fringe prospect, but at the moment even that status appears to be in doubt. A .088/.162/.118 over the last two weeks, leaves the 25yo Bates with a .808 OPS on the year.

4) Kyler Burke, OF, CHN – After posting solid months in May and June, where he had an OPS above .830, Burke has faded badly over the last two weeks, where he has gone .136/.224/.136. To make matters worse, he hasn’t had an extra base hit since June 19th.

5) Nick Schmidt, LHP, SDP – The 23yo Schmidt completely dominated Midwest (MWL) League hitters over the first 2 ½ months. Unfortunately, as we always point out, results by older players against younger opponents don’t typically mean a whole lot and Schmidt has found the going in the CAL a bit more difficult. He’s posted a 11.48 ERA, 2.025 WHIP with a 8:10 K:BB ratio over his first three Hi-A starts.

6) Brad Holt, RHP, NYM – After laying an egg in his season opening start, Holt strung together 8 straight excellent starts in the Florida State (FSL) League, earning him a promotion to Binghamton. Unfortunately, the 22yo Holt is finding the ESL quite a bit more challenging. Over his last three starts, Holt has a 12.46 ERA and a 1.731 WHIP. His ERA since the promotion stands at 8.40.

7) Ty Worthington, OF, ARZ – Worthington is a ‘toolsy’, athletic, project that the Diamondbacks took on with a 5th round pick in 2007. Medical issues have limited both his playing time and his productivity. In his third season, but still in short season ball, Worthington is once again struggling. A .100/.156/.133 over the last two weeks, leaves him with a .406 OPS in 50 Northwest (NWL) League PAs.

8) Xavier Avery, OF, BAL – Another of those ‘toolsy’, athletic types (is it clear yet that I don’t like them), Avery has struggled in his first look at full-season ball. A .159/.196/.182 leaves his OPS at .644 on the season. At only 19yo, there is still time for the tools to turn into production…but I remain skeptical.

9) Efrain Nieves, LHP, MIL – The 19yo Nieves entered the season seemingly poised for a breakout, after adding a couple of MPH to his fastball, but things haven’t worked out that way, as Nieves continues to miss his spots within the strikezone—allowing opposing hitters to tee off on him to the tune of a .321 Average Against. Over the last two weeks, Nieves has posted a 15.00 ERA, a 2.667 WHIP and a 4:6 K:BB ratio, leaving him with a 6.49 ERA on the season.

10) Angel Villalona, 1B, SFG – While we aren’t in ‘danger’ territory yet, there are beginning to be a number of concerns surrounding Villalona. Still just 18yo, and already in the California (CAL) League, is a positive sign, but at 6’3”, 205 lbs, his increasing immobility continues to raise the bar for his bat. A .167/.167/.188 over the last two weeks has dropped his OPS to .704 on the year and 73 Ks in 292 ABs doesn’t make one feel any better.

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Anonymous said...

Next time do your homework and realize that Holt got hit around after coming back from a sprained ankle that took a month to heal. Look at his first and last starts for the B-Mets and you'll see what he can do when not injured.

Sporterblog said...

He will be good for us either next year or the following, we need to give him time,. Go O's