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   1. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: April 14, 2007 at 03:44 PM (#2334805)
Everybody is hitting in Lancaster. It has been mentioned before, but it is a hitter's park in a hitter's league. Seven of their first nine games were at home. There is a discussion of the park effects on soxprospects.com.

A poster over there also noted that Lars Anderson hit his first professional HR last night.
   2. Xander Posted: April 14, 2007 at 04:02 PM (#2334809)
Anderson has far out-shined Place in the minuscule amount of games they have played (.991 OPS vs. .429 OPS). Although obviously anyone could out-shine a .429 OPS. Place's start has been disappointing, but not unexpected. It's the adjustments he makes that will determine how far he goes. He is athletic enough and hard enough a worker to make those adjustments. It will just take time (he's still only 18).

The most important thing about Kottaras, IMO, is the marked improvement in his defense that has been reported in ST. The Sox hired Gary Tuck this season, and apparently he put in a lot of work with Kottaras. John Gibbons, unsolicited, commented on how impressed he was with Kottaras's receiving skills behind the plate during a ST game.
   3. philly Posted: April 14, 2007 at 04:26 PM (#2334819)
Huh, I was surprised that Kottaras was off to a good start. Could have sworn that I just saw him in the "disappointment" bin a couple days ago.

Sure enough... after a 3-17 start he went 4-7 with a couple of doubles the last 2 days. Probably jacked up his OPS by 2-300 points!

Out of the 9 Lnacaster hitters who have 20 AB, Wagner currently ranks 7th. Which is to say, holy crap that team is loaded!

I really don't think the Sox have good catching depth. At this point all of the catchers behind Kottaras are more recognizable names (which isn't bad I guess) than actual prospects.
   4. philly Posted: April 14, 2007 at 04:38 PM (#2334826)
I think that begs the question - how many genuine prospects are there? Especially at a single tough position like catcher?

Not that PECOTA is the be all end all (or neccessarily even any good at prospects), but as a quick way to cull the herd it isn't bad. Silver listed 23 catching prospects in his PECOTA series. Kottaras was 11th and Wagner and Egan didn't make it. Some of the 23 who did make it are imo nobodies with virtually no chance to be starters. Are those guys really prospects?

BA ranked Egan 24th and Wagner not at all out of the Sox good, but not great farm system. Is that really over the standard for what constitutes a prospect?

I suppose that's a personal preference more than anything else, but they don't for me. They're recognizable names. And even at that only recognizable to Sox fans.
   5. philly Posted: April 14, 2007 at 05:11 PM (#2334851)
I would be shocked if only 23 catchers in the entire minor league system ever became big leaguers.


That's part of the problem with having a standard. Was a guy who eventually becomes a backup for a few years (ie a big leaguer) a genuine prospect? Or do you want the player to be a decent regular.

A year or so ago I went through every minor league roster from 1994 to see just how deep the minors in any given year might be. I'm sure this won't format and/or make sense but here's a quick cut and paste of the catchers that I found.

12  Pitt  Jason Kendall   Hi-A-CAR    61.7     53.1
16  NYY   Jorge Posada    AAA
-IL      58.0     30.7
25  Fla   Charles Johnson AA
-EL       50.1     41.1     2
33  PHL   Mike Lieberthal AAA
-IL      44.0     25.2
65  Minn  Damien Miller   AA
-SL       30.5     24.5
76  LA    Paul LoDuca     Hi
-A-CAL    27.8     10.1
102 Minn  AJ Pierzynski   Comp
-GCL    23.8     23.8
121 Cal   Benjy Molina    Lo
-A-MWL    19.9     19.9
123 Bos   Scott Hatteberg AAA
-IL      19.7     10.2
129 Cle   Einar Diaz      Lo
-A-SAL    18.9     16.2     7
151 Fla   Mike Redmond    Lo
-A-MWL    14.8      6.7 
159 Bal   Gregg Zaun      AAA
-IL      13.7      8.6
170 SF    Doug Mirabelli  AA
-TL       11.6      3.4
172 Cal   Jorge Fabregas  AAA
-PCL     11.5      9.6 


I found 14 catchers that exceeded a measly 10 WARP and several of those guys in the back half of that list were really just longterm backups.

Those guys can have value, but in terms of solid major league regulars the list ends at Molina in the 8 spot. Who knows how 1994 compares to other years, but it doesn't sound unreasonable that there are only ~8 future starting catchers in the minors at any given time. Just counting starters there are 180 minor league catchers. That would be a success rate of about 4% which again doesn't sound unreasonable to me.

How many of those 180 minor league catchers should we consider genuine prospects? 25 to find the right 8? 50 to find the right 8? I don't know, but I still don't think Egan and Wagner are interesting catching prospects at this point.

There's a ton of attrition as you move up the ladder and the guys with jobs are in no hurry to get out of the way. Accepting more and more players under the prospect umbrella mostly just reduces the success rates.
   6. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: April 14, 2007 at 05:31 PM (#2334876)
Slightly off topic:

Is anyone going to the Minor League doubleheader at Fenway this year? August 11 with the Spinners-Tampa Bay and Portland-Nationals.

If you went last year, when did you get tickets? Did you need any special promotion? I went by there last year and was surprised by the crowds. It did make sense after I thought about it and I don't want to miss it this year.
   7. Walt Davis Posted: April 15, 2007 at 06:32 AM (#2335362)
Philly ... is your list limited to guys who made the majors as catchers? Or is the list based on their minor-league positions? Just wondering how often it is that a minor-league C has a successful non-C ML career. I'd guess not very often, but Carlos Delgados are not unheard of -- and I think he would be on your 1994 list if based on minor-league position.

If Kottaras can concentrate on improving his defense AND improve his hitting in the same season, that would be impressive. Still, it's just a handful of games and even so I'm guessing those numbers (even if a neutral park) would translate to about a BA of 260 and SLG of 400 which isn't gonna blow anybody's doors off.
   8. NTNgod Posted: April 15, 2007 at 08:50 AM (#2335371)
Everybody is hitting in Lancaster. It has been mentioned before, but it is a hitter's park in a hitter's league.

Even that's probably an understatement. It's probably one of the top 5 hitting enviroments in the minors (certainly top 10).

If you're just eyeballing stats from there, you'll need a big honkin' grain of salt for both hitters and pitchers.
   9. bibigon Posted: April 15, 2007 at 09:32 AM (#2335375)
Even that's probably an understatement. It's probably one of the top 5 hitting enviroments in the minors (certainly top 10).


If I recall, someone posted data saying it's actually the single most extreme pro-run environment in all of American baseball.
   10. Darren Posted: April 15, 2007 at 11:51 AM (#2335386)
Okay, okay, o-freakin'-kay. I get that Lancaster is a hitter's paradise. I only said that Wagner's 'continuing' to 'hit reasonably well.'
   11. Josh Posted: April 15, 2007 at 12:22 PM (#2335389)
If you went last year, when did you get tickets?
I bought them when they went on sale in the pre-season -- but there were plenty of seats available until the final couple of weeks when they started to sell. No promotion - just click here. I'd buy the tix now, fwiw. You can likely resale them latter at or near face with little effort.

Last year, the day was beautiful -- great weather. Fun games. Great crowd. There are some great pitchers online on sittingstill's website, and other random places. I'm not going this year as it falls on our anniversary and I'm not sure that will go over well.

Philly - isn't Egan an interesting catching prospect simply by virtue of his draft position and his, thus far, lack of falling completely on his face? FWIW, I still think the relative comparison for judging the Egan pick (and, possibly and insight into English) is Teagarden. They certainly valued the Egan over Teagarden. As both were well known, this is a decision that should have been carefully vetted.
   12. 44magnum Posted: April 15, 2007 at 01:55 PM (#2335411)
I could swear that during last years Futures Game I heard someone say Kottaras never played amateur baseball; but was a fast pitch softball player?
   13. Josh Posted: April 15, 2007 at 02:21 PM (#2335423)
He didn't play HS baseball, but did play baseball at Connors State JuCo.
   14. 44magnum Posted: April 15, 2007 at 02:37 PM (#2335430)
Thanks, Josh.
   15. 1k5v3L Posted: April 15, 2007 at 02:37 PM (#2335431)
Does Kottaras have the defense to stay at C in the majors?

I believe that was the main reason the Padres let him go... they didn't think he could catch.
   16. Josh Posted: April 15, 2007 at 03:10 PM (#2335438)
Spring Training fluff stories, perhaps, but the quotes from Tito and Gary Tuck (the new Bullpen Coach, assigned to help catchers) were all positive on his development, esp his catch-and-throw mechanics and his game calling.
   17. Mike Emeigh Posted: April 15, 2007 at 06:35 PM (#2335525)
Does Kottaras have the defense to stay at C in the majors?


Maybe.

When I saw him in AA last year he was adequate. But in the three games that I saw him play in Durham this past week he wasn't very good; his footwork was poor, he had trouble blocking and framing pitches, and his throws to second were off-target (one led to the winning run in Durham's win on Thursday).

I see Kottaras as a left-handed hitting version of Jason Kendall, with more power potential than Kendall but the same basic skill set otherwise. Kendall's never been more than adequate defensively, either.

-- MWE
   18. Darren Posted: April 15, 2007 at 06:38 PM (#2335529)
Mike--

Do you mean you project him to be as good as Kendall has been? Or just "that type of player?"
   19. Mike Emeigh Posted: April 15, 2007 at 08:33 PM (#2335630)
Do you mean you project him to be as good as Kendall has been? Or just "that type of player?"


More the latter.

I've seen Kottaras about a dozen times now. He has a nice, smooth, quick swing that will generate a lot of line drives to the gaps - just like Kendall, when he was younger, was able to do. Kottaras doesn't life the ball or try to overpower it. His pitch recognition is good; he doesn't take many bad swings and he covers the strike zone well - there doesn't appear to be a spot that a pitcher can pound consistently to get him out. I think he'll hit for average with a good amount of doubles in the majors, and could eventually be a 10-15 HR guy as well.

-- MWE
   20. Mike Emeigh Posted: April 15, 2007 at 08:34 PM (#2335636)
That should be "lift the ball", not "life" it.

-- MWE
   21. Darren Posted: April 15, 2007 at 08:36 PM (#2335637)
"Life the ball?" I've never heard that one. ???

Basically, you're saying he's Kendall without the excellent peak?
   22. philly Posted: April 15, 2007 at 09:26 PM (#2335700)
Philly - isn't Egan an interesting catching prospect simply by virtue of his draft position and his, thus far, lack of falling completely on his face?


I guess. His terrible 2005 on and off the field was a bit of "falling on his face". He did have a very nice year last year, but as a GCL repeater there ought to be some discount for that.

When relatively high picks falter early in there career, it becomes a fine line between "giving up" on a kid who would still be in college and letting his draft status lock in a too high value.

Does Egan have more or less value today than he did on his draft day? I think that's a tough one. I don't think "prospect" is necessarily the right word for these very young players who have already seen their value plateau or diminish.
   23. Mike Emeigh Posted: April 15, 2007 at 11:49 PM (#2335829)
you're saying he's Kendall without the excellent peak?


No, what I'm saying is that he's got the same basic set of skills as Kendall had as a young catcher (except for being hit by pitches; Kottaras has been drilled just four times in his career, which was about Kendall's rate per month). Kendall's injuries in 1999 and 2002 virtually destroyed his power.

It should be noted that at Kottaras's current age, Kendall was in his third season as the Pirates' regular catcher.

-- MWE
   24. JB H Posted: April 16, 2007 at 05:39 AM (#2335936)
Jason Place is now 5-33 with 16 Ks in Low-A.

Daniel Bard and Kris Johnson have given up a combined 17 runs and 13 walks in 12 innings

Gogogogogo 2006 first rounders!
   25. Walt Davis Posted: April 16, 2007 at 07:54 AM (#2335951)
I've seen Kottaras about a dozen times now. He has a nice, smooth, quick swing that will generate a lot of line drives to the gaps - just like Kendall, when he was younger, was able to do. Kottaras doesn't life the ball or try to overpower it. His pitch recognition is good; he doesn't take many bad swings and he covers the strike zone well - there doesn't appear to be a spot that a pitcher can pound consistently to get him out. I think he'll hit for average with a good amount of doubles in the majors, and could eventually be a 10-15 HR guy as well.

and It should be noted that at Kottaras's current age, Kendall was in his third season as the Pirates' regular catcher.

Maybe Scott Hatteberg would be a more likely comparison? I'd never really thought of Hatteberg and Kendall together (don't think I've ever thought to compare them before) but they've been pretty similar except as a part-timer and lefty, Hatteberg has gotten the platoon advantage a lot. Also of course Kendall had much more speed and enough D to stick at C, but Kottaras definitely doesn't have the former and may not have the latter.

For his career, Hatteberg has more BB than K. His career numbers are 270/360/406 compared to Kendall's 300/379/398. At their peaks, their ISOs were about the same (Kendall hitting for a much higher BA of course).

And Hatteberg got a late start to his career (27 for his first full action) and bats lefty which increases the similarity to Kottaras. If Hatteberg could have stuck at C, he'd have been pretty valuable (roughly AJ Pierzynski). As it is, he's had a nice career.
   26. Walt Davis Posted: April 16, 2007 at 07:56 AM (#2335952)
Although it may never approach Bagwell for Andersen

Oh, and barring Kottaras morphing into Roy Campanella, I think we can safely say that it WILL never approach Bagwell for Andersen. :-)
   27. Darren Posted: April 16, 2007 at 12:10 PM (#2335973)
Hatteberg did stick at C though, for much of his early career. After he hurt his arm though, he was completely useless there. If Kottaras is Hatteberg pre-arm-problems, that would be very nice.

The Bagwell thing was just an artistic flourish!
   28. Darren Posted: April 16, 2007 at 12:32 PM (#2335981)
Bowden pitched another nice game (on the road) last night. His season totals:

15.2 IP, 11 H, 1 HR, 4 BB, 15 K.
   29. Darren Posted: April 16, 2007 at 01:03 PM (#2335991)
Daeges had 3 hits as well, raising his season totals to: 362/444/553.
   30. Darren Posted: April 16, 2007 at 01:05 PM (#2335996)
One more quicky: the great Travis Beazly pitched for Greenvile last night, striking out 9. He's now at: 15.2 IP, 11 H 0 HR, 0 BB, 17 K. I guess 24-year-olds in A ball tend to do well.
   31. plim Posted: April 16, 2007 at 07:15 PM (#2336385)
Although it may never approach Bagwell for Andersen


Unless Kottaras turns into Mike Piazza, I think Slocumb for Varitek and Lowe is a better comparo for Bagwell for Andersen.
   32. plim Posted: April 16, 2007 at 07:16 PM (#2336386)
Although it may never approach Bagwell for Andersen


Like Walt Davis said, unless Kottaras turns into Mike Piazza, I think Slocumb for Varitek and Lowe is a better comparo for Bagwell for Andersen, and that trade doesn't match up either.
   33. Mike Emeigh Posted: April 17, 2007 at 01:49 PM (#2336907)
If Hatteberg could have stuck at C, he'd have been pretty valuable (roughly AJ Pierzynski).


Pierzynski is another guy who is a good comp for Kottaras, in terms of skill set.

Kottaras's defense is going to be a work in progress for quite a while, I think. I don't think he's a "natural" - he doesn't do things instinctively behind the plate that good defensive catchers do.

-- MWE
   34. JB H Posted: April 18, 2007 at 03:30 AM (#2337828)
Lancaster
Player    IP    H    R    ER    BB    SO    HR    ERA
Bard     4.0    4    2    1    5    1    0    8.64 


Bard's been bad enough that I'm rooting for Tommy John surgery. If he's this bad and healthy he's already a bust.
   35. Xander Posted: April 18, 2007 at 03:41 AM (#2337839)
Hey, that's actually progress.
   36. Xander Posted: April 20, 2007 at 02:00 AM (#2340077)
Just got back from the game. It seemed like the entire night Portland was trying to shake off some rust; which is understandable. From Clay needing a couple innings to get in the flow, to shaky defense in the field, to not being able to hit a junkball pitcher, the lay-off was evident.

My first comment was going to be that the stadium gun was probably off tonight. Buchholz was around 88-92 all night, but no pitcher other than Cox threw a pitch over 84. I find that hard to believe (Cox hit 87 and 91 each once, more on him later).

Buchholz: First, let me try go grade his pitches on the 20-80 scale:

Fastball: 55. Lost control of it sometimes and it lost a couple MPH when he was in the stretch. At other times he could spot it well and dial it up to 92.
Change-up: 70. Easily his best pitch...at least tonight it was. Would throw multiple changes in a row to lefties or righties with confidence.
Curveball: 60. In his second to last batter of the game he threw his best curve of the night. He also got screwed by the ump several times, who gave up on the curve too early. When it's on, it's above average.
Slider: 55. First couple innings had trouble leaving them up. Not up in the strike zone, but just really high for a ball. By the end of the outing he was throwing a hard slider (81-84 mph) which was fooling hitters.

What Impressed me: His change-up was truly plus-plus at times; and he has so much confidence in it. He tripled-up on it in two consecutive AB's to the same hitter (Chip Cannon). Leading off the game one of the Majewski's hit a HR. I'm not going to make an excuse there, Clay just left a fastball up and Majewski stroked it the other way. Legit shot. But after that, he calmed down. It still took him a couple of innings to get everything working. After the third inning, it was basically a wrap. Hitters had no chance. When he began throwing all his pitches for strikes, the hitters basically had to take a shot in the dark with what was coming. Very poised on the mound and athletic when he needs to come off it. Very impressive night overall. Looked like at least a #2.

Cox: Definitely had a slow start. His fastballs began the game in the low-80's on the radar. But after the first two hitters it was Bryce Cox of old. His slider had bite and he started throwing boring fastballs in the high-80's-low-90's. He's fine. If he had a 2nd inning to pitch he would have had better numbers.

Ellsbury: All 3 hits could have been outs against major league defenders. But you have to give him credit for making things happen. Nothing spectacular in the field.

Lowrie- HR was a legit laser.
   37. Darren Posted: April 20, 2007 at 03:07 AM (#2340138)
Great writeup, Temple. Thanks.

In other action:

Greenville scored 13 runs, today, with Still hitting 2 HR, Anderson getting 3 hits to raise his average to .365, and the great Pedro Vazqeuz going 3/5 with a HR. Josh Papelbon got knocked around for 5 H and 3 runs in 2.1 IP.

Masterson has 4 IP, 3H, 0 R, 3K, 1 BB for Lancaster, who have yet to get a hit.

Pawtucket split a DH, getting shoutout once and shutting the other team out in the other. Hansack went 5.1, 8 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR.
   38. Darren Posted: April 21, 2007 at 03:41 AM (#2341238)
Ho hum, another 4 hits for Ellsbury tonight, including 2 triples. 500/538/806 now.
   39. chris p Posted: April 21, 2007 at 03:54 AM (#2341249)
Ellsbury is ready for the bigs, IMO.

the game-tying triple in the 8th by crisp was nice, though. you're probably right, though ... i'm a bit torn.
   40. Darren Posted: April 21, 2007 at 04:01 AM (#2341255)
Torn about what? Keep playing Crisp, let Ellsbury prove he's for real, and in a couple months you've either got a replacement for Crisp or a wonderful problem.
   41. Darren Posted: April 22, 2007 at 03:37 AM (#2341922)
Another respectable home start for Bowden: 5.1 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 0 HR. He's doing a nice job in a very hostile home park.

Also in mL news, the Sox acquired LHP Daniel Haigwood from Texas for RHP Scott Shoemaker + cash. Haigwood is 23 this year and has had some impressive K and HR numbers the past few years, but a lot of walks. He'll apparently be reporting to Portland, and be on the 40-man. Shoemaker spent 06 mostly in A ball at age 24, and barely K'ed anyone there. I'm assuming that the Rangers did this deal because of a roster crunch.

Perhaps Haigwood will be more effective as a reliever.
   42. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: April 23, 2007 at 06:25 PM (#2343255)
Bard was hit again. 6 R's in 2 2/3 IP, 4BB and 2K, according to soxprospects.com
   43. Darren Posted: April 24, 2007 at 09:45 PM (#2344551)
Going to see Buchholz tonight. I'll share my thoughts on him/Natale/Ellsbury afterward. Boy, this team is stacked!
   44. Xander Posted: April 25, 2007 at 02:06 AM (#2344960)
Buchholz: 5.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 8/1 K/BB

MCoA is still dubious.
   45. Darren Posted: April 25, 2007 at 02:16 AM (#2344977)
See my writeup in the other thread.

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