Category Archives: Young Guns

New Favorite Pitcher

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Yeah so; Yordano Ventura was as-advertised. I cannot state how much fun it is to watch this guy mix 101 MPH aspirin tablets with devastating offspeed stuff to middle of the order hitters like Wil Myers and Evan Longoria.

The Royals were futile enough that they couldn’t even get the kid a run so he could win his first big league start like he deserved, but that didn’t blemish the fact that we’ll always remember the first time we got to see Yordano take the pill and shut down the opposition for six strong.

Happy Taijuan Walker Day

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Today is a day that belongs to Taijuan Walker. In the annals of baseball history, August 30th, 2013 will go down in history as the day that Walker was introduced to the baseball world. He’ll make his big league debut tonight against the Houston Astros

Here’s the scouting report. Since Baseball Prospectus (who we usually use for this portion) took the day off from their prospect scouting report, we use a site called Baseball Prospect Nation for the skinny on Walker:

Body: Absolutely flawless frame (6-4, 195) that oozes future projection. Has natural strength and room to add more without become stiff. 
Makeup:
I’ve heard nothing but good things about his makeup in my conversations with area scouts from his time as an amateur and in discussions with the Mariners.
Delivery/Mechanics:
Everything is easy in his delivery. Employs a modest leg kick that allows him to maintain excellent balance over the rubber. His arm action is exceptionally clean and lightning fast. He finishes well out front and lands in a position that allows him to field come backers.
Fastball (FB) Velocity (Wind-up):
High – 99, Low – 92, Average – 94-95, Grade – 70/80
Fastball (FB) Velocity (Stretch):
High – 98, Low 92, Average 94-95, Grade – 70/80
Fastball (FB) Movement:
  Has good life and gets on hitters thanks to his long limbs and extension in his delivery. Will show some boring action in on right-handers at times. Shows aptitude to manipulate the ball. Grade – 50/60
Overall Fastball:
Potential elite fastball velocity with such an easy delivery that it explodes to the plate and has added deception as a result. Grade – 70/80

 

Curveball (CB): Scouts saw both a true hammer and a loopier breaking ball from him in 2011. The hammer has elite potential and could be one of the better ones in the game if he can find consistency. Has 12-6 to 12-5 break that is hard and biting when it’s on. Grade – 50/70
Change-up (CH):
Maintains arm speed and slot well but lacks feel for the pitch. Doesn’t always trust it and will try too hard to take some off it at times. Shows some sink when its working. Grade – 30/50
Control:
  Athleticism allows him to repeat his delivery well which helps him pound the strike zone with both FB and CB.  Will work up in the zone too much at times, particularly when he tries to dial it up. Needs to trust natural velocity and pound the bottom of the zone. Grade – 40/70
Command:
  Locating within the zone is a work in progress.  He will show flashes of moving the ball side to side and can intentionally elevate at times, but is too often just throwing at the zone rather than trying to hit a spot. Ultra-projectable delivery and athleticism gives plenty of projection. Grade – 30/60

Summation: You can imagine Walker becoming just about anything down the line. With crazy athleticism, great arm action, two pitches with at least 70 potential and a good head for pitching, he could be a true front of the rotation monster. He will require some developmental time but his potential is undeniable. The nuances of the game such as fielding his position, pickoff moves and pitch sequencing are still very much a work in progress, but they should come with experience. If the change-up leaps forward to be an average pitch there won’t be much left to stop him.  The ace tag is thrown around too often by fans but Walker has everything needed to develop into a legitimate top of the rotation stud.

If a guy gets one of these posts, we’re clearly excited about the kid. Walker should have an electric future in the Seattle rotation. I’ll have at least one eye on it tonight as I follow the action around the league. Here’s to a decade of jaw-dropping stuff out of Walker.

Happy Gerrit Cole Day!

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Today is Gerrit Cole’s Major League Debut. As he walked out to do his warm-up session for his first career start, they said it best on MLB Tonight (on MLB Network). “This is how they’re supposed to look”.

Here’s the scouting report from Baseball Prospectus on the former #1 overall pick:

Cole fits the physical profile of a workhorse frontline starter, standing 6-foot-4 and checking in at 240 pounds. He is a solid athlete with excellent strength in both his upper and lower body. His delivery is clean and repeatable, and he does a good job of making adjustments to his mechanics on the fly. His ability to consistently repeat his mechanics gives him a plus command profile long term and should help his entire arsenal play up a bit. Cole’s fastball has sat in the 94-95 mph range this season and reached as high as 98 mph when he needs a little extra. The heater shows excellent movement in addition to its plus-plus velocity, making it a true swing-and-miss pitch that can completely dominate hitters.

Cole’s slider is a second plus-plus pitch with good deception, tight spin, and extremely sharp, darting movement thrown in the mid-80s and peaking at 89-90 mph. When I saw him earlier this season, Cole’s fastball and slider were strong enough on their own for him to enjoy sustained success in the majors. With work, his changeup could also become a plus pitch, though it has been inconsistent so far this year.

The biggest challenge Cole faces is maintaining his intensity from one pitch, hitter, and inning to the next. He has looked bored at times in Triple-A, causing apparent lapses in focus and occasionally resulting in his being hit hard. When he is dialed in, though, Cole can be completely unhittable. His raw stuff is that of a frontline starter, and his physicality matches that projection. Now he just needs the mental side of his game to catch up to the rest.

I know I’ve looked forward to watching this start since his call-up was announced last week. He’s one of the premiere young arms in the game and he’s on a team that is surprisingly on the rise. I hope this works out well for both Cole and the Pirates because if the Pirates are relevant again I happen to believe it’s good for the game.

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!

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.

Strasburg is pitching tonight, we’ll be there

“As sensational as the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg has been in his rookie campaign, he has yet to face an elite offense or pitch in a hitter-friendly park. That all will change tonight when Strasburg steps on the mound at Great American Ball Park. The Reds rank in the top five in the majors in runs scored, homers, slugging percentage and OPS, and in the top 10 in several other key statistical areas.” [The Sporting News]

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.

Come Get Some Felix

The Cincinnati Reds frustrated the shit out of me last night. They lost 1-0 to Cliff Lee and the Mariners, and collected only four hits.

I drank some scotch, I watched the Reds try to no avail to hit the lefty Lee, and I drank a little more scotch. This continued until the final out was recorded. I was extremely frustrated. First place is now only a distant memory, as we have no guarantee to ever return to it.

However, tonight Felix Hernandez is on the bump for the Mariners. There’s nothing statistically that suggests the Reds are going to find a way to get to King Felix tonight. But I can tell you this–the Reds are going to beat this guy. I’ve waited a long time for the Reds to have a crack at this guy. They’ve went up against Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda, and Cliff Lee in the same week. Now they get King Felix.

I expect these hitters to take out some frustration on the big fella on a Saturday night in Seattle.

On the Stephen Strasburg Debut

The other night when I was at the ballpark, we were staring at the same other spot on the out of town scoreboard that most folks were. I remember being at the park the day Ted Williams died, and I’ll remember where I was when Stephen Strasburg was dazzling in his first outing.
After the game when I looked at the box score on our way home and I saw that Strasburg struck out 14 Pittsburgh Pirates, I just couldn’t believe it. Maybe this kid really is worth some of the hype. I expected him to strike out six or seven. I even could have seen him only striking out two or three. But from what I understand, he was highly dominating.

We then headed to the bar before calling it a night; where Strasburg was all the rage and the topic of conversation as the highlights reeled on replay on ESPN.

One guy told me he thinks he’s the best young pitcher since Dwight Gooden. I tried to dispute it, but how could I?

Ultimately, I think the guy is going to be special. The only IF would be arm injuries. My friend said he reminds him in fluidity of Mark Prior. Again, Prior won 18 games in one year and then only won around that many in the remainder of his brief career.

Strasburg will be special if he can sustain over time. For the time being, he’s going to take the league by storm. Every 5th day will be absolutely nuts, especially in Washington. And they’re quietly stockpiling some of the best young prospects in baseball in the nation’s capital. Strasburg would represent their crown jewel.

Homer Bailey throws first career shutout


The Reds and Homer Bailey made a little history yesterday, and it because of it they were able to grab some national headlines. If the Yankees or Red Sox accomplished back to back pitching performances like two of the Reds young guns just had (against the Pirates or not), they’d get a 10 minute segment on Baseball Tonight and would be considered instant darkhorse contenders or favorites based upon their standing.

Homer Bailey became the 7th pitcher in MLB history to throw a complete game shutout on 90 pitches while throwing at least 73 for strikes. Bailey threw 78 pitches for strikes. As I listened on the radio to Marty Brennamen, I thought it was odd that before batters were coming up to the plate in the 9th and Bailey’s first delivery, Marty was actually saying “just mark it in the book now” in regards to Bailey throwing a first pitch strike and getting ahead. This performance is an exhibit of the dangerous Homer Bailey that the Reds can get when he gets a little bit of confidence going in his favor. He has the ability to be a dominant presence on the mound.

The Reds became only the fourth team in since 1994 to have pitchers throw back to back complete game shutouts. Aside from history and getting a little bit of chatter from the national experts, the Reds bullpen basically hasn’t thrown since Sunday. One cannot imagine the ramifications of this as we head into a weekend series with the St. Louis Cardinals, losers of two in a row to the Houston Astros. The Reds are one game back with a three game set against the Cardinals and an off day today.

If ever there were a time for the Reds to make a statement and prove that this 5-game winning streak is for real, it’s this weekend. I believe that they have a chance to really take a stranglehold on this division this weekend and to begin somewhat of a free fall for the veteran Cardinals. Albert Pujols has already acknowledged that the Cardinals are underperforming. This is a real chance for the Reds to show that they’re not intimidated by the intimidators and show the league that they’ve got some staying power.

They’ve had series victories over teams like the Dodgers and Mets that provide as a nice feather in the cap, but to take a series in mid-May from the Cardinals with first place on the line at home would have a lot of leverage in getting the town and fans excited about this team. You want the fans to buy into this group? Go out and put a couple losses on the Cardinals (who won’t be throwing Chris Carpenter this weekend).

This is what it’s all about for Reds fans. Series like this are our playoffs.

Cueto Uno

Alright, so I admit. Between frying my brain with MLB the Show ’10 on my newly purchased Playstation 3 and watching the Cavs blow the biggest game in possibly franchise history, I didn’t catch but a few parts of the Reds game on television. I watched some of it on my phone (gameday, though) and did catch a few key moments.
First off, this is the Johnny Cueto I’ve been waiting on. We’ve all been waiting to see this Cueto, and he hasn’t been this dominant since the first start of his career. Remember that? Against the Diamondbacks at home? Yeah, that Cueto is back. No walks, one hit allowed (he also hit a batter) and a complete game shutout. If this is the Cueto we get for the rest of the season, or anything close to it; it just might end up being a two-team race in the NL Central.
For the Reds, they scored nine big runs of their own. Chris Heisey actually contributed, from the leadoff spot at that! He collected three hits, one of which was his first career home run. Jay Bruce added a triple and three hits along with three RBI. Bruce’s at-bat in the 7th inning was one spot in the game that I was able to catch. I turned it on and he was down 0-2 to a lefty. He laid off two tough pitches away and low to even the count at 2-2. He earned a pitch in the zone and hit a line drive into right field for a 2-run single that kind of opened the flood gates from there.
Bruce is looking less like a power hitter and more like a .290 hitter every day. This is a good thing. He’s becoming a complete player. I saw a stat where he’s actually hitting .309 since the first seven games of the season (and his abhorrent luck) passed.
The Reds have won four in a row, and 11 of 15 overall to crawl within two games of St. Louis. That makes this weekend series a big one, but before that we’ve got a big one this afternoon with Zach Duke for the sweep on getaway day. The Reds don’t hit lefties well and Duke always seems to have their number. This is a big game this afternoon.
Hat tip: to Whack Reds for the post title.

Chapman should head North East with the Big Club come April

It’s been a long time since something truly big has hit the Cincinnati baseball world. You can make the case for the day in 2000 when Griffey came home. You can talk about Jay Bruce’s arrival. Those were each hallmark days for the franchise without a doubt.

But right now, we’re talking about something that is getting noticed regularly on a national level; we’re talking about a young pitcher who was coveted by every team in baseball including the big boys. The Reds got him, and looks like all the organizations who had their scouts in watching interest of Chapman were correct; the guy is going to be something to be reckoned with at the Major League Level. It’s simply a case of when the Reds choose to start launching the missile.

Take for instance what John Fay said yesterday in his blog after Chapman’s first exhibition start:
I overheard this from a scout: “He’s their best pitcher right (now). How are they going to start him in the minors?”

Three innings, one walk, five more strikeouts. One earned run allowed on a home run; and that’s all the Brewers touched Chapman for.

If the Reds were going to say that Chapman not having enough control as the reason for starting him in the minors, they’re going to have to find another excuse it would appear. It would seem that the popular choice at this point would be that he’s going to the minors to work on developing other pitches. Yeah, alright.

When GM Walt Jocketty was asked about Chapman making the big club, he maintained that the Reds will go with their best 25, regardless of any arbitration eligible decisions that clubs like the Reds so often make when considering calling up young talent for good.

It’s clear that they’re going to probably start him in the minors and hand the 5th spot to Matt Maloney, who is a lefty with about a fourth of the stuff that Chapman has; breaking ball developed or no breaking ball. Then the only way Chapman and his $30 million contract are helping the Reds is the fact that Joey Votto and Jay Bruce are never going to have to go up against the guy. That’s a plus in itself. When we were listening to the game on the radio yesterday, a Brewers radio anouncer said it best. Chapman is the kind of pitcher who can start you down the road of a long slump.

If the Reds want to do the right thing, they’ll put this kid in the Major Leagues and see what he’s got. If they really want this move to be a statement move, he’ll be out there in April. What we think happens? Chapman starts in a minors and might have a shaky start or two, but then shows the dominance beyond his years at that level and is up with the Reds in May or early June. This after the Reds get out to an average start and see one of their starters go down to an injury or Matt Maloney surrenders 7 earned runs in a start.

Why wait? Let this guy learn against the best in the game because he appears to be ahead of the learning curve in terms of maturity and pure stuff on the mound.

It’s been long enough since the Reds were the true talk of baseball. If they get out to a good start and their youngsters (such as Chapman) are reason for that; can you imagine the positive press it would bring to the organization for having the guts to start Chapman in the big leagues?

The Reds want to delay the inevitable on this. They want to hurry up and wait. We’ve been waiting since 1990. The future is now. We don’t have time to bleed. You’re not going to win a World Series with Matt Maloney pitching every fifth day. Give in to the temptation and let this guy start racking Major League numbers. Afterall, you’d be giving your fielders a day off every 5th day.

Clayton Kershaw’s First Big League Strikeout

This is hardly a gem find, but it’s probably a video you haven’t seen before. Back in the summer of 2008, Clayton Kershaw punches out Skip Schumaker of the Cards to record his first big league punch-out.

I just like the landscape view of Dodger Stadium, since I’ve never been there myself I’ve got to settle for stuff like this until I make enough bank to take the time off work, get the airfare and hotel, and of course land some decent seats for my first time at Chavez-Ravine.

If Kershaw goes on to get 3,000 more of these bad boys, you know where you can re-live #1.

Reds fans: we drew a bad bull for April 5th

Adam Wainwright ladies and gents. Get a good look at him. Unless something weird happens, he’s going to get the ball on April 5th when the Cardinals open up their season in Cincinnati.
We’ll be there, and it will most likely be a long day in which we scratch across one run (on an error) with four hits.
So keep your fingers crossed that a turf-toe rares it’s ugly head. Otherwise, he’s gon’ get.
And here to illustrate what happens when you draw a bad bull, our old friend Bodacious: