Category Archives: Phenoms

Mike Trout is a Major Leaguer

Mike Trout has been promoted to the Angels big league roster, in a move that both excites and surprises many in terms of the timing. It was widely expected that Trout would be promoted at some point this season, but many close to the situation thought it would be later in the year.

We actually thought it would be a move made right around now if not sooner. Trout was tearing up the minor leagues at every level. His most recent stop at AA yielded a .324 average with 28 stolen bases, to go along with an on base percentage of .415 and a slugging of .524; these are numbers that say a young man doesn’t have a lot left to prove at given level.

He is a phenom in every sense of the word. He’s 19 years old, and won’t be 20 until August 7th. He’s one half of two of the most exciting prospects that have ever been called up to the big leagues–we’re personally even a little more excited when Bryce Harper’s day arrives–but Trout is a really nice appetizer for the main event.

We’re holding out for a guest post from our friend MTD at Off Base Percentage. If you keep it locked over there through the weekend, we can guarantee you the scotch will be flowing and if Trout does anything noteworthy on his first weekend in the big leagues, Off Base may even pour you a celebratory glass.

Mike Trout’s time has arrived, and Mike Trout day will forever be known as July 8th. Welcome to the Show, Mike Trout.

Bryce Harper should quit acting like a dick

The porn stache. The long, punky hair. Blowing kisses after home runs.

I’m in awe of his talent. But I feel the exact same way that Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk does:

Harper is a very special talent and, as such, people are going to be gunning for him.  Testing him.  A teammate of the pitcher he blew that kiss to hit Harper with a pitch the other day.  That sucks, and it certainly explains Harper’s response yesterday.  But it was the wrong response. The way to fight back is by depositing pitches in the seats and showing those who would try to take him down that he can’t be intimidated and that they — as insignificant barriers on his way to glory — don’t even show up on his radar screen.  That’s a kind of high road that does not require false humility or the dulling of an edge. It’s the kind of thing, actually, that would turn him into a cold-blooded assassin.  It’s also how he will be expected to handle this sort of thing when he reaches Double-A, Triple-A (if he even stops there) and the majors. Which he’ll be doing well before any of his peers, assuming he has some.

I don’t know who the biggest adult or the former player with the most gravitas is in the Washington Nationals organization. But whoever he is, he needs to have a friendly talk with Harper about how, for as unfair as it may seem, he is a unique case and as such, he has to leave his brash and arrogant 18-year-old self behind and let his bat do the talking for him.  Because if he doesn’t, he’s going to represent a serious case of arrested development by the time he reaches the bigs.

And again, this idea doesn’t appeal to me because I’m an old man who wants arrogant punks like Bryce Harper off my lawn. It’s because I want to see Bryce Harper fulfill the promise he has with as little bullshit as possible.  I want this kid to be everything he can be and more, because if he is, he’ll be able to do things no one else has ever done.

Now you see why the Washington Nationals are being hesitant to call up Bryce Harper. He’s physically ready to start logging big league numbers. Mentally, he’s a long ways off.

I cannot tell you the number of hits that I get daily that deal with searches like: “Bryce Harper’s teammates hate him” or “Bryce Harper won’t sign autographs” or “Why is Bryce Harper such a dick”. Where there is smoke there is certainly fire, and this guy has rubbed a whole host of people the wrong way.

The shame of all of this is that he’s only hurting himself. It might not be a huge deal at this point. But other than Bryce Harper mentally not being as mature as he can be–he has it all. There is no substance abuse problems, shortcomings in his physical ability or anything else that could stop him from being the best of our generation. But this, this anger he seems to play with and lack of general maturity, it’s going to be a problem at some point. It’s going to catch up to him.

Bryce, let the anger go. Start signing a few more autographs. Be a teammate that you’d like to have. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Generally, don’t act like a dick as a rule of thumb. Don’t show up some single-A pitcher that will be working as a doughnut fryer in a few short years after shitting all over him and hitting one over 400 feet into the seats. In the grand scheme of things, he doesn’t mean anything to you.

Be humble, or at least as humble as you can be. Because in general, I’m telling you that people right now as a whole either do not like Bryce Harper, or at the very least are starting to get the wrong idea about him altogether. Either way, stay good and quiet until the stage is yours. And even then stay simple and let your greatness do the talking rather than your foolish actions.

If you’ve lost track of Bryce Harper, here’s an update

We are as excited about Bryce Harper as the next guy, unless that guy is Dave Cameron. We like Cameron’s writing quite a bit. When we’re ready to jump off a bridge because Jay Bruce isn’t hitting–Cameron is the voice of reason–he tells us that due to the data he’s reviewed and the abstract he has looked at, Bruce is going to be alright and a pretty darn good player for our Redlegs. He’s been right so far.

Cameron, like us; loves prospects. He writes for FanGraphs and the USS Mariner. He’s the man. Here’s what he had to say about Bryce Harper today:

And yet, despite all the hype, I’m still not sure we’re accurately appreciating just how good this kid really could be. He’s 18 years old, playing in his first professional season at a time when he should be getting ready to graduate from high school, and he’s hitting .396/.472/.712. That’s his line after last night’s 4 for 5 performance – one which included a grand slam, his eighth home run of the season.

He’s eighteen years old. Sure, it’s only 111 at-bats, but he could go into a slump of epic proportions and still match the numbers put up by some of the best age-18 seasons of all time.

So to sum it up, this kid is good. Like, really, really good. We get daily Google hits each day asking things like ‘why is Bryce Harper such a dick’ along with ‘Bryce Harper’s teammates think he is a dick’. There’s probably some levity to it. But we don’t care. We’re like Dave Cameron, picking pretty flowers, forming a nice boquet for the day he’s ready to accept it; and waiting for the day we can watch him hit like crazy at the Major League level.

We’ve just started following the Minor Leagues in the last few years, and this is one of the most impressive displays of something we’ve ever seen. Right up there with Jay Bruce end of 2007 and beginning of 2008 when the Reds wouldn’t call him up because they were thinking about their pocketbook, foolishly in Bruce’s case because he wasn’t tough to extend long-term anyways.

Bryce Harper wants to know if you’ve ever felt ‘hitterish’

The more we read about Bryce Harper, the more we can’t help but like him.

Today, he’s talking about feeling ‘hitterish’. Yea, you know. Wake and rake.

“I feel really good up there,” Harper said. “I feel really confident in myself. There’s guys who are going to come after you. I want to hit right now. I’m feeling hitterish. I’m trying to go up there and get some hacks in. I’m not going to be here for a long time. I want to try to go up there and get my hits in.”

Yeah, he really did say “hitterish.” So now we have to add one more word to the Bryce Harper Dictionary, just ahead of “oppo boppo” and “rinky dinks.” And what, exactly, would the definition be?

“You wake up in the morning, and you’re feeling hitterish, you’re going to get a hit that day,” Harper said. “That’s what it is. If you get a hit every day, you’re feeling hitterish, for sure. Wake and rake.”

It’s funny because some people might laugh at his quote or say ‘that’s not even a word’. But if you’ve played baseball for any length of time, there truly are days in which you roll out of bed and just feel a three hits in you. And you can’t be stopped. You were feeling hitterish on those days.

The key, is being hitterish on the days when you feel like a sack full of a-holes. That’s how the best survive.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see Bryce Harper in 2011?

This is a blog who puts a lot of focus on prospects–and probably does a good job of revving up the hype train for a good portion of these guys.

That said let’s lay out a couple of points here:
1) Bryce Harper is the granddaddy of them all. He’s the Sports Illustrated proclaimed ‘Lebron James of baseball’. He is like Aerosmith–the kings of rock. There is none higher. Of all the prospects who have passed through this blog on the archive pages, he’s supposed to end up the greatest of them all. He is as can’t miss as can’t miss can be.

2) Harper seems like a dick. Please don’t wear that bullshit eye black at the MLB level. You’re better than that. If I were a pitcher and I saw that I would definitely throw a fastball near your noggin.

3) Seeing Bryce Harper at the Major League level at age 18 would be more exciting to us than seeing Stephen Strasburg this past season. You mix them both in together in a few years–and you have maybe the most captivating two young stars in baseball.

4) Thank God he moved out from behind the dish to the outfield. See Santana, Carlos.

Even though Harper doesn’t play for the our team; if you like young ballplayers you’ve got to be excited about his arrival. We hope that the date is sometime in spring or summer 2011. We’ll have a lot more to write about on this blog for sure.

Even at age 18, he’s probably a .280/20/70 RBI guy. Any guy who can do that, we don’t care how big of an a-hole that he is. We’re guaranteed to over pay for him in every single keeper league.

Reds: Lock up Jay Bruce long-term

Cincinnati.com’s John Fay asks today (in an almost campaigning fashion), whether or not it’s time to sign Jay Bruce long-term:

Bruce’s OPS after the All-Star Break was .951. Only five full-time National League players did better: Carlos Gonzalez, Joey Votto, Troy Tulowitzki and Jayson Werth. And Bruce will still be 23 on Opening Day 2011.

The Reds think Bruce will qualify for arbitration as a Super 2. They’ve got to look at locking him up long-term.

What do you think? Time to offer Bruce a multi-year deal?

What I think; is that our team’s beat writer who watches them play every day thinks that we should offer him a long term deal.

Before I campaign–and why should I have to when it comes to all-world, home-grown talent finally delivering like it should–I’d like to reference a quote that I hope the Reds see.

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get where you’ve always been.

For how long did the Reds and their ownership group try to pay players on a year to year basis while finishing in the basement of the NL Central? How many years did the Reds ride it out only to trade guys who grew up on our farm system? It didn’t get them anywhere, except show us all a place we don’t want to return to.

It’s time for the Reds front office to make a statement. Take a player like Jay Bruce who is loved by the fans a great face of the organization, sign him long term. Say to the people who follow your organization that: “This, this is the type of guy we want to build around. This is the type of reward that people get here by handling themselves with class, hard work, and getting it done on the field.”

I’m not talking about a three year deal. Or a four year deal. That’s what old, loser front-offices did to lock guys up “long-term” here. They did it with Brandon Phillips. Walt Jocketty knows what a real long term deal is. He pounded out plenty of them in St. Louis. A true long term contract would be between 6 and 10 years. Buy out a few of Jay’s arbitration-eligible years; similar to how Tampa Bay did with Evan Longoria. Or to how the Cleveland Indians did with Grady Sizemore a few years back. That’s just two examples.

As for the why they should do it (and trust me, they know they should), from Fangraphs: Jay Bruce finished the season with a UZR of +19.9, the second highest rating in all of baseball behind Brett Gardner (LF).

Jay Bruce finished this season with a WAR of 5.2, the second best on the team behind Joey Votto. Scott Rolen was third at 5.0. For a 23 year old to finish a season with a WAR of 5.2, and he had six weeks in which he didn’t really hit much; that’s a guy who is scary good.

His Line Drive % increased back to 20.1% and his walk rate increased again from 9.8% or 10.1%. On defense, he is one of best defensive players in the game. It’s going to be a sheer crime if he doesn’t win the Gold Glove award. I’m gonna make a prediction: Jay Bruce will be a contender for the NL MVP in 2011. And if that happens, how many millions of dollars will the Reds have cost themselves by trying to wait one more year?

If you are a winning organization; and the Reds have taken the steps to tell us that they are every step of the way, you don’t let a kid that grew up in your farm system who plays corner outfield (differing from first base where Joey Votto plays because offense and defense aren’t at a premium at that spot as they are in right field) ever leave town. Jay Bruce is not the type of individual that LeBron James is, and he won’t hold the organization hostage. He’ll take a fair contract that provides him with stability for the next 6 to 7 years, allowing him to possibly be a free agent again when he’s 30.

Take care of this kid. Do the right thing here, and do it now while it is a win-win for both sides. That’s what good business is all about. And take into consideration the fans. This is what the knowledgeable, die-hard, and good fans really want to see. You want to build off-season excitement in your organization? Lock-up a guy long-term who puts butts in the seats every night.

If nothing else, it’s simple economics guns & butter. Jay Bruce was meant to be a Cincinnati Red for a long, long time. It’s time to make it happen, Reds.

Introducing you to another Atlanta Braves centerpiece of the future

We’ve given a lot of mention to the Atlanta Braves stockpiling young talent. They’re good this year, and they’re going to be very good very soon for a very long time. Today we give mention to another young Braves prospect, Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel is 22 years old, and is probably the future of the Braves closer role.

From The Golden Sombrero:

Kimbrel was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the 33
rd round of the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft, out of Huntsville, AL; he opted not to sign and attended Wallace State Community College. The following year, the Braves once again drafted Kimbrel–this time in the 3rd round–but this time signed him, despite a pending scholarship opportunity to play at Alabama.

At 5’11”/205lb. Kimbrel does not possess the size and strength of most major league closers; then again, neither does Billy Wagner. Since entering the Braves system in 2008, Kimbrel has absolutely dominated minor league hitters at all levels, posting video game-like numbers along the way.

In 3 minor league seasons, Kimbrel has produced the following line:

8-7, 1.85 ERA, 51 saves, 151 IP, 74 H, 31 ER, 5 HR, 95 BB, 242 K, 1.12 WHIP & 14.4 K/9

Every aspect of Kimbrel’s minor league career indicates that he has what it takes to close at the major league level. With a fastball that sits in the mid to upper 90s and an absolutely nasty slider, he possesses one of the best young arms across MLB bullpens, and should be viewed in the same light as both Aroldis Chapman and Chris Sale.

Braves manager Bobby Cox–who like Wagner, is set to retire at the end of 2010–has clearly recognized Kimbrel’s potential, as evidenced by his use of the youngster in key situations, including a save situation against the Mets on Sunday night. Kimbrel has made Cox’s life easy down the stretch of his illustrious career in baseball, as each time Cox has summoned for the right hander, Kimbrel has embraced the opportunity while making MLB hitters look foolish.

Kimbrel is going to be a name you hear about a lot over the next decade or so down in Hotlanta, so brush up on him now.

He’s also a guy who probably figures to come back next year as the set-up man at least initially. I look for the Braves to most likely try and bring back Billy Wagner for one more season at a reasonable price tag. If they can do that, they can slowly transition the young Kimbrel into the closer role.

By this time next year, Kimbrel should have a handful of saves on his resume and should be a guy you might think about selecting in a keeper league for your fantasy draft.

Love that young talent in Atlanta!

Just maybe, we shall see #32 back this weekend

Whether the huge numbers are there yet or not, no one should again question the importance of Jay Bruce in the Reds lineup. Many have been long awaiting his return, and maybe he makes it the perfect sports weekend by coming back and leading us to a win or three against the Pirates. He’s had a nice career against the Buccos thus far, so maybe Jay Bruce writes a new chapter here.

It’s been a while since we’ve given the above video any play. Maybe it brings the team from the Queen City a little luck on this September weekend.

Aroldis Chapman brings out Matthew Lecroy's inner woman

Last night, I saw the fear in Matthew Lecroy’s eyes as he tried to fend off, fight, scratch, and claw through an at-bat with the 6 foot 6 Cuban flamethrower on the mound.

You could see that this man was no longer a Major League Baseball player but a man who was fighting for mere survival and his only weapon in this jungle was a toothpick. It was something you could only understand if you’ve played for a while but I know how he felt; to a degree.

Lucroy knew he was absolutely shit on the moment he stepped foot in the box and nothing in his arsenal could do anything to combat what the Cuban lefthander had in his. If he’d faced Chapman 100 times out of 100, he’d only have been able to break a few bats and the tears would have started flowing.

After a slider that headed for the back foot of Lecroy dropped in, it was over. He’d been shit on and made into less of a man. And you saw the look of helplessness in his eyes that a 104 MPH fastball and a plus-plus slider does to a big league hitter. He looked like Matthew Lecroy, little league piss-ant.

And it was awesome.

Aroldis Chapman’s Big League Debut

Seems like a day of reckoning has arrived Reds fans. After a decade and a half of losing, we’re as close to the top of the baseball world as we’ve been since 1990.

Last night, as Joey Votto and Scott Rolen made back to back extraordinary plays to close out the Reds 8-4 victory and ensure another series win; they did it just as Thom Brennaman had announced that the Cardinals had been shut out yet again. The Reds lead over the Cardinals had been increased to seven games with just 30 left to play.

But the story of the night was the phenom Aroldis Chapman and his fastball going 101, 100, 102, 103 and a slider that fell off the table.

Reds call up Cuban Lefty Aroldis Chapman and his heat

I was out on the golf course last night probably hitting a sliced drive when the Reds announced that Aroldis Chapman was coming to the big leagues today.

And has there ever been a better time to be a Reds fan? Life is good. Here we are in the midst of a pennant race, and we get to add a guy to the bullpen who has been consistently hitting triple digits on the radar gun.

Chapman’s debut will be just as special as the other uber-prospects that have been up in recent years, but it will be a debut that is not able to be predicted ‘when’. I would expect it to come in one of the next two ballgames though; because the Reds pen has been worked pretty hard lately.

Thinking back to our thoughts on when the Reds signed this kid; who knew that he wouldn’t be here until the day until September? We’ve done all of this without his nuclear fastball. Wow, the future is bright barring something unforeseen.

And in his honor tonight, I’ll sit on my porch and smoke one of these. There is no finer cigar than that of a Cohiba from Cuba. It’s smooth, but with just the right amount of strength to it. I’ve got two that are the size of donkey-dicks sitting on my dresser right now because they’re too big for my humidor! So I figure after the Reds win again tonight, I’ll take the hour or so necessary to finish one of these bad boys in honor of Aroldis Chapman.

Welcome to the show, and good luck kid.

Update: For those of you who haven’t seen it yet……

Stephen Strasburg proves to Cincinnati he’s the real deal

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You guys wanted to see Stephen Strasburg. Guess what? We got Stephen Strasburg. He sold out our stadium. His t-shirts were sold in the team shop. He came into town, fanned 7 Reds hitters, and left 5-2 on his rookie season with the Reds lying in the wake another game back of the Cardinals.We hope you enjoyed the show. Strasburg mania. It wasn’t quite as fun as we thought it would be. But hey, at least we saw it in person.

Game was televised nationally on ESPN’s Wednesday Night Baseball. My roommate and girlfriend were watching it on television and said that they announcers commented that Strasburg had turned this sell-out crowd and stadium into a very different environment then normal.

I’ll say this, the kid is the real deal. At first I thought that this start would be what some of his better starts would be like. But it turns out he comes out and pitches this way (still dominant at times) and people are surprised he didn’t strike out a dozen hitters.

The guy is advanced more then most of the great pitchers in baseball who have been here for 5 or 6 years; and he’s one of those rare guys of which you’d ‘pay money to see’. Other guys on that list are the special guys: Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Clemens pre-juice, Steve Carlton, Randy Johnson, Walter Johnson. Great power pitchers of the past. Strasburg should be right there someday if he stays healthy..

Strasburg was between 95-99 for his 5 and 2/3 innings of work last night. He didn’t touch 100 or go over 100 even once in the game. On this humid night when your glasses would fog out after walking out of air conditioning, he definitely had enough gas in the tank to really neutralize the Reds hitters and give the Nationals a chance to win the game.

I’ve been hard on Jay Bruce lately but I have to admit he looked decent against Strasburg. He had a hard lineout and two solid singles off him. Since Jay is primarily a singles hitter now, this is good. This is definitely the type of guy you just want to collect hits off of. The problem is, Jay singles off turds as well now too.

I remember Adam Dunn had a lot of success against Roger Clemens (7 for 16 lifetime). Maybe Bruce and Strasburg have a long career like this ahead–where Bruce gets the edge.

Here’s video of the first pitch of the game to Brandon Phillips. I also shot some zapruder film of the first time Votto and Strasburg went head to head. So yeah, nothing exciting in either one of these videos, but that’s him. That’s really him. Stephen Strasburg. Throwing gas, in Cincinnati on a hot July night in 2010.

Definitely proved why he’s worth millions of dollars on a home weekend pitching in Washington.

Our Standing on Stephen Strasburg as an All-Star

Last night we turned channels and saw that the Atlanta Braves were taking on Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals on ESPN. We decided to watch a few innings of this marvel of a young player. Strasburg is human, finally he got a few runs scored off of him and finally people can chill out just a little bit on the young phenom.

Personally, I think you could make the case for Strasburg being an All-Star but as we told people back when it first became a question: he can be an All-Star, but if he’s going to get there he better keep up this All-World pace that he’s begun with.

If you’re going to make it to the All-Star game in roughly half of a first half, then that’s how it needs to be done.

The guy is a show-stopper. He’s a phenom. He might be a ‘Hall of Famer in the making’ as Bobby Cox said yesterday. But unless he brings the lulls and is that much better then guys that have earned it for a full half-season, he’s not an All-Star in my mind.

People want to make the case that there aren’t 12 pitchers better then Strasburg in the NL right now. That’s bull shit don’t you think? First off, we don’t know what we have in the guy. It’s the nature of baseball fans and to a larger degree sports fans everywhere to glorify all young players. We did it with Jay Bruce. People have done it with Jason Heyward, Justin Upton. Everyone is the next great one.

Strasburg might be as well. But unless he goes on an all world pace (like, Ubaldo Jimenez-esque) for every remaining start before the All-Star Break, give me a guy like Mike Pelfrey over Strasburg any day.

I’d be willing to bet Strasburg won’t have six wins by the time the game in Anaheim rolls around. I’d also be willing to bet that some kind of horse-shit last minute vote props up on the All-Star Selection show that gives fans 24 hours to send Strasburg to the All-Star game.

Jay Bruce in elite company

While perusing the internet last night, I found something I really like to read about on Beyond the Box Score.

BtB has done a really cool feature tha they’re calling Beyond the Box Score’s 50 Best of the Next 5 Years.

Recently, they did number 10 through number 6, and we’re pretty ecstatic with who came in at #10 overall:

No. 10: OF Jay Bruce, Cincinnati (Age 23; Total projected WAR: 28.07; WAR Years 1-5: 5.2, 5.5, 5.7, 5.8, 5.8)

Let’s just say that we expect Bruce to improve upon his present MLB track record. Currently the holder of a .248/.322/.463 line (.337 wOBA) in 1073 plate appearances with the Reds, the right fielder has produced only 3.7 WAR in the three years since being labeled the game’s best prospect by Baseball America.

A prodigious hitter with huge power, a developed approach and a track record of success, Bruce was drafted by the Reds out of high school in 2005, the same year as Andrew McCutchen, and immediately established himself as an elite prospect. After killing the minors (his lowest wOBA at any stint was .393 at Hi Single-A in his debut season), Bruce came up to Cincinnati in 2008, but struggled due to a lack of contact and a propensity to swing-and-miss.

Bruce came back in 2009 and showed significant improvement in his approach as a hitter, but a .221 BABIP significantly suppressed his numbers, leaving him with a slightly below average .329 wOBA in 101 games. But few doubted Bruce’s ability even after two underwhelming seasons, and he’s showing signs of breaking out in 2010, with a .368 wOBA this season and a 1.3 WAR that already nearly matches his career-high from last season.

But our projections see a major breakout in Bruce’s near future, as we have the 23-year-old at 5.2 WAR in Year 1 of our projections. Considered a slightly above average defender, we project his bat to take a big step forward, with a +34 RAA in Year 1 compared to his +0.1 mark in 2009 with the Reds. And given his youth, we project continued improvement from his bat through all five seasons, even though his glove’s progressive decline prevents his value from taking truly massive steps in the right direction.

Player like Andrew McCutchen (18th), Ryan Braun (15th), and Joey Votto (22nd) finish behind the younger Bruce.

It’s nice to have our boy ranked with the likes of Chase Utley, Jason Heyward, Troy Tulowitzski, and Ryan Zimmerman.

And honestly, just eye-balling the kid on a nightly basis and seeing the strides he has taken from his first few weeks in the Major Leagues; into a tough season last year and then the adjustments he’s made playing every day this year raising his average and being Gold-Glove caliber in right; he’s a major reason the Reds are in contention as well aside from the veterans who are having MVP type years.

We aren’t surprised that he’s going to be a top-10 talent in the game over the next several years.