Tagged: Nelson Cruz

Royals Pains and Trades, Misconceptions, and a Diamond in the Rough

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ryan braun face.jpg

When
the Kansas City Royals released Ryan Braun on
November 17th, I thought of a lot of things: 
“That’s unfair!” “Jeez Dayton,
you have done it again”, and finally “Who will be the brilliant GM who signs
this minor league free agent?”  Since
Braun has been a FA for less than a week, he hasn’t been signed yet, but any GM
should take a look at Braun.  I wouldn’t
say that he would be my pick for the 2009 Comeback Player of the Year (Nelson
Cruz anyone?), but Braun is an obvious guy who could turn out to be a diamond
in the rough.  But hey, this wouldn’t be
the first time I have
seemingly
started blabbing
away
about
an unknown little pitcher.


ryan braun.jpg

Lets
take a look at Braun’s career statistics shall we?  A 1.06 ERA in AAA?  Only Jason
Bulger
can beat that.  The catch is
that he did what he did in 2007, and missed all of 2008 due to undergoing right
elbow surgery.  Maybe he should look
into Dr. Mike
Marshall’s school
.

 

Anyway,
after dominating in Omaha to start 2007, Braun got called up to the Royals and
struggled, displaying a 6.64 ERA in 26 games. 
He was 26 then, but now he’s 28 and it’s time for him to prove to
everyone in baseball that he is not a Four-A player.  I believe Braun will be a good pitcher next year, and I
don’t see any reason why Braun cannot bring a little of his dominance from the
minors to the bigs.  I’m preparing to
applaud the GM who signs Braun.  I may
be at a crossroads though, considering I have bashed so many GMs on this blog
before (ex.
ex.
ex.). 

 

I
really hope I am not jinxing Ryan.  What
if nobody signs him?  I guess he will
just sign with an independent team and I’ll probably just praise the GM of that
team. 

 

Speaking
of independent ball, it makes me sick when people refer to non-affiliated
baseball as “minor league baseball”. 
It’s not minor league baseball!  Minor
league basebal
l is when that team is affiliated with a major league
franchise.  Independent baseball
is a professional league (where players get paid), but is non-affiliated.

 

Another
misconception about independent baseball is that it is at a lower level than
the lowest level of the minor leagues. 
That’s not true at all.  Take Matt LeCroy
for example.  He played in the major
leagues for eight years, and was an important part of the Twins teams between
2002 and 2005.  But last year he played
for the non-affiliated Lancaster Barnstormers. 
Does that mean he isn’t good enough to play rookie ball?  No. 
The Barnstormers pay much better than what a team will offer a free
agent to play in Double-A and if you watch a ‘Stormers game it be at a quality
better than that of AA. 

LancasterBarnstormers.gif

I have to
imagine LeCroy didn’t get any teams that could offer him a roster spot in AAA,
so he signed with Lancaster.   The
Barnstormers of course, are part of the Atlantic League, the premier
independent league in the country. 
Leagues like the United League could be considered lower than rookie
ball but that is a rare case.  Most
independent leagues hold a higher quality of baseball. 

 

And
while we are on the case of misconceptions, it grinds my gears when people
don’t distinguish Low-A ball, A ball, and High-A ball.  Most people are aware that they exist, but
just don’t distinguish them when writing or talking.  The difference between Class-A Short Season, and Class A Advanced
is huge.  Players who are in Class-A
Short Season generally are players that were drafted that same year out of
college.  Players in Class A and High A
are usually in their first or second full professional season. 

 

Man,
how did an entry that started out about Ryan Braun end up being about minor
league class level distinguishers?

 

Well,
while I’m discussing the Royals, I might as well give my take on the Coco Crisp/Ramon Ramirez
trade.  Do you want it simple?  I hate for KC, love it for Boston.  A little more analysis?  Dayton Moore has traded yet another great
and young reliever for another so-so position player that is just barley good
enough to be a starter. 

 

The
Royals’ bullpen will suffer big time, and as result will look like this:

 

Joakim Soria
(CL)

Robinson Tejeda

Ron Mahay (They
need to trade him NOW)

Doug Waechter

Chris
Hayes
(

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gotta
read this
post
)

Devon
Lowery

 

That’s
a really poor ‘pen, and it includes Ron Mahay who should be traded for
prospects in my opinion.  Plus, if you
noticed, those are only six pitchers. 
Who will the seventh be?  I don’t
know; maybe Jimmy
Gobble
(8.81 ERA), Joel
Peralta
(5.98), or possibly Matt
Wright
(5.47 ERA in AAA).  The
vastly over paid Kyle
Farnsworth
will be added in their if he passes his physical.  Maybe the strong 2008 Wilmington bullpen (Hartsock, Swaggerty, De La Vara
{who has been taken in the Rule 5 draft}, Holland, Nicoll) will
hold some answers to the Royals’ bullpen pains.  They just need more relievers. 

 

At
least the Royals have players to trade. 
Personally, if I took over the Royals right now I’d attempt to flip over
Mike Jacobs
and Coco Crisp to another team.  But
seeing how that won’t happen, the Royals probably are looking to trade Jose Guillen,
Mark Teahen,
and at least one of their young first basemen. 
I’ve enamored enough about Kila Ka’aihue
in this
post
, but if the Royals are keeping onto Jacobs then they can’t hold on to
both Ka’aihue and Butler.  One of them has to go.  Oh yeah, and there’s that guy who had 29
homers and a .363 OBP this year (111 G in AAA, 20 G in MLB), Ryan Shealy. 

 

Trading
Teahen and Guillen will be a tough task because there are no perfect fits.  Teahen makes sense for a team that has a
lack of depth at third base and right field.  The Mariners make the most sense, but that doesn’t mean much.  Even if they trade Ichiro and Adrian Beltre, they have Wladimir Balentien and Michael Wilson to join Franklin Gutierrez in the outfield, with Michael Saunders waiting in the wings.  It wouldn’t hurt young third baseman Matt Tuiasosopo to play another year at AAA in which case Teahen could play third base next year for the M’s, but it is obvious Seattle doesn’t need him. 

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New reports are suggesting
that the Cubs are offering Mike Fontenot
and Sean
Marshall
for Teahen.  It’s just in
the rumor phase, but I really like it for both teams.  Fontenot would be more valuable to a club that can let him start
unlike the Cubs.  Marshall has never had
a consistent role with the Cubs even though he has proven he is a reliable,
steady pitcher.  Although I think
Marshall is more valuable as a starter, the Royals would love to have him in
the bullpen.  Their rotation is pretty
set anyways, with Zack Greinke,
Gil Meche, Brian
Bannister
, Kyle
Davies
, and Luke Hochevar.  Although if Bannister and Hochevar bring
their 2008 struggles into next season, they’ll probably find themselves in
Omaha.  I’m not sure Teahen is the type
of player the Cubs need in order to find that next level, but he is a young
affordable who may benefit from escaping a pitcher’s park like Kauffman
Stadium.  However, despite his injuries, Milton Bradley is the best fit for the Cubs, not Mark Teahen.

jose guillen.jpg

As far Jose Guillen, I
have know idea where he could go. 
People are saying the Mets are an option.  That could be true, but you could say any starting OF would be a
good fit for the Mets.  Guillen is not
that great of hitter, as he probably will never hit 30 home runs again, and
struggles to keep his OBP above .300. 
Dayton Moore may find a taker who is willing to give up a mid-level
prospect but Guillen isn’t the player that can turn a team around.  In fact, he has the ability to do the exact
opposite with his attitude and occasional fights with upper management. 


I feel bad for Royals fans, they have had dumb management, a lousy team, but at least they have one of the most underrated ballparks in the country:

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What’s a Pitching-Seeking GM To Do?

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Japanese
hurler Junichi
Tazawa
is about to announce he has signed with the Boston Red Sox. 

tazawa1.jpg

Although it’s not the first thing that comes
to mind, the Tazawa signing really shows just how large Daisuke Matsuzaka’s
presence is in Japan.  Tazawa chose the
Red Sox over the Texas Rangers who reportedly offered over one million dollars
more than Boston. 

Jon
Daniels
must be feeling pretty bad. 
He’s been criticized ever since Tom
Hicks
hired him four years ago, for not acquiring enough pitching.  And when Daniels has spent money it has for
the most part a bad investment. 

jon daniels.jpg

Kevin
Millwood
was a bust, although if he can pitch well into July of next year,
the Texas may be able to trade him for some prospects.  Vicente Padilla
hasn’t been that bad, but it still was a bad signing considering what the
Rangers thought Padilla would accomplish with them.  Daniels has also traded away young pitchers
like Armando
Galarraga
, John
Danks
and Chris
Young
(who was packaged with Adrian Gonzalez).    He also of course traded away Edinson
Volquez but that’s another story.  The
“Edinson Volquez or Josh Hamilton” argument will go on for a long time.

I
think Jon Daniels deserves to be criticized because he has made a lot of
obvious bad trades and signings but if you look closely, you’ll figure out
Daniels had a sort of “revelation” in the 2006-2007 offseason.  It seems all of Daniels moves before 2007 season
were bad, but suddenly he figured something out and has gone on to make
splendid deals like trading away Mark Teixeira and Eric Gagne (to the Red Sox).

Now
Daniels has “GM momentum” swinging his way, but he still can’t catch a break
with pitching.  It’s not uncommon for
players to accept a slightly lower salary to play for the team they prefer.  But in most cases it is a veteran player
looking to sign the last contract of their career before retiring.  That is why Tazawa is an outlier. He’s only
22 years old, and yet he is already basing his contract options on
preference.  I wonder how much extra money
Texas would have needed to offer to get Tazawa. 
In the end, the teams have to remember he is just a 22 year old pitcher
who has only spent one year in professional baseball.  

knuckkleballer.jpg

You
have to admit he is unique.  He asked the
teams of the NPB (Japan’s MLB equivalent) not to draft him so he could play for
Nippon Oil of an independent league in Japan (the same league female
side-arming knuckleballer Eri Yoshida plays for).  
Now Tazawa is like any other amateur player from Mexico, Venezuela, or
the Dominican Republic or any other country that is not eligible for the
draft.  I am not sure about the
independent league Tazawa played in, but the reports are that he is at least
ready for Double-A.  I know Theo Epstein
would not pay Tazawa so much ($6 mil) if he wasn’t as ready for the majors
than, lets’ say Michael Bowden. 

For
a 22 year-old to take a lesser contract to play for his preferred team is
gutsy, but then again, this is why he chose to skip the Nippon Baseball
draft.  He wanted to experience the MLB
without having a NBL
team involved
in the deal.  And there
is no better way to experience Major League Baseball than playing on one of
America’s most successful baseball franchises and having the opportunity to
play with his hero Dice-K and fellow countryman Hideki Okajima.  He’ll be able to experience being a part of
Red Sox Nation and soak in all of it’s glory: 

dice-k teletubby.jpg

I
still feel sorry Jon Daniels.  Even if Kaz Fukumori
had turned into the next Takashi Saito
or Kazuhiro
Sasaki
, Texas just didn’t have the extra goods to get Tazawa.  However, there is a silver lining.  Adding Tazawa to the pitching mix makes it
more likely Theo Epstein will be willing to deal prospects like Michael Bowden
or Nick Hagadone
(who is much further down the road) to the Rangers for Gerald Laird
or Jarrod
Saltalamacchia
.  Personally, if I was
the Red Sox I wouldn’t make a deal for a Rangers catcher because they can just
sign Toby Hall
and David Ross.  Boston fans may want a big name they already
know, but a combination of George
Kottaras
, Dusty
Brown
, Toby Hall, and David Ross is a solid, less expensive option.  If Kottatas or Brown can do what they did at
AAA this year, then the Red Sox have two starting-worthy catchers.  If they both struggle then the Red Sox can
turn to a combo of a platoon of David Ross, who had .793 OPS against righties,
and Toby Hall who had a .920 OPS against lefties.  There really is no need to spend a bunch of
money on a catcher when the Red Sox need to use most, if not all of their money
on Mark Teixeira because they are by far the best
and most likely fit for him
.  Plus,
judging from this,
the Red Sox won’t have much extra money to spend this off-season.

Jon
Daniels can console in the fact that he has put together a farm system that has
a bunch of big pitching prospects like Neftali Feliz,
Blave Beavan,
Kasey Kiker,
Michael Main,
and Derek
Holland
. The system also holds some lesser-name prospects like Tommy Hunter,
Kennil Gomez,
Michael
Ballard,
Beau
Jones
, and Doug
Mathis
who could develop into successful big league starters.

That’s
it for now, but I’d like to round out my entry by a little piece of trivia:

Which
player had these statistics in 2008 when you combine his minor league, major
league, and winter league numbers together?

G        AB      OBP       HR      RBI     SB      TB      SLG      OPS                                 149   556     .431        51      151      28     385    .692     1.123

1 game in Rookie Ball 

102 games in Triple-A

31 games in the Majors    

14 games in the Dominican Winter League

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The
answer?  This guy.

Justice!

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That’s right.  My man Nelson Cruz (pictured) finally
got the call.  If you don’t get what
I am talking about, then read the very last paragraph of this
entry.  Cruz has been the best hitter in
the minors above rookie ball.  Yes, I
admit Roberto
Lopez
and Jaff
Decker
have been better in their limited time. 

nelson cruz.jpg

Cruz was on fire before his injury (which only kept him out for a
week), and after he came back.  I know
I’ve said it before, but Cruz’s
numbers
are SICK.  1.123 OPS?  Why should I even be surprised he’s having
such a great season?  He did the exact
same thing with Oklahoma last year! 

 

But everything isn’t as
great as it appears.  Will Nelson
actually start?  The answer, at least so
far, is no.  The worst part is the
Rangers have a very good argument of why Cruz is not as good as Marlon Byrd or Brandon Boggs.  Boggs is playing great, taking a lot of
walks and hitting for occasional power, although the lack of pop is seriously
noticeable compared to Cruz’s. 


Boggs and Byrd are playing
very well with a combined .386 OBP and 3 home runs within the past ten
games. 


brandon boggs.jpg

Boggs (left) has been playing
continually better since getting called up in late April.  He has a .382 OBP with two homers the past
ten games.  But here’s something
interesting.  Look at Brandon
Boggs’ numbers
at AAA.  Then compare
those stats to Nelson
Cruz’s stats
at AAA.  If Boggs can
be a serviceable starting player in the majors, consider how great Cruz can
be.  Ever since Cruz started putting up
these numbers, he’s never gotten called back up, before now.  Remember, the numbers Cruz put up last year
at AAA, were after his time with Texas.

 

Now it’s time to talk
Marlon Byrd.  Byrd enjoyed a breakout
season last year after Kenny Lofton left, but struggled early this season.  Byrd had a .268 OBP on June 1st
with only one home run.  But after
slowly getting better in June, Byrd went on a tear in late July and early
August. 

marlon byrd.jpg

Obviously, Byrd couldn’t keep
it up, but still is playing well with a .390 OBP and six RBI in his last ten
games.  I really don’t think Byrd is a
starting player on a championship team.

 

I don’t mean to say I
think the Rangers could be a championship team, but just commenting on the type of
a player Byrd is.  I believe that’s a
good way of evaluating a player.  Think
about it this way: if a clone of that player played at every position, could
that team’s offense be good enough win the World Series?  Don’t take it literally.  Juan Uribe is a below average starting
player, yet he was the shortstop for the 2005 Chi Sox.  But, evaluation wise, it’s a good question
to ask yourself when determining how good a player is. 

 

For me, out of all the
players, the most interesting to watch the rest of the season will be Nelson
Cruz.  This call up could make or break
his entire career.  If he fails, he could
be considered one of the greatest Four-A players of all time.

 

How about a crazy
prediction?  Actually, not really
crazy.  This is my true prediction
for Nelson Cruz the rest of the year:

 

OBP     HR            RBI            SB            SLG            OPS

.348     5                9                1            .527            .875

 

Let’s see how close I will
be…