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March 25, 2004

The View from Florida

Bits and (Sound) Bites

by David Cameron

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In wrapping up the series from my trip to Florida, I have several players I want to touch on but not enough substance to create an article dedicated to any singular one. So I'm pulling out the long-time favorite: The Notebook Article. It even gives me the chance to use bullets, which has always looked like great fun. So, onward ho:

  • I have gone on record as saying that, while I think Joe Mauer is a fine talent, he is going to have a poor rookie season with the bat, often using a comparison to the 2002 debut of Sean Burroughs. This is mainly due to a lack of current power. As a comparison, both players spent their age-20 seasons in Double-A, and their performances are below:
    
    Burroughs, 2000: 392 AB, 35 XBH, .401 SLG, .110 ISO
    Mauer, 2003:     276 AB, 22 XBH, .453 SLG, .112 ISO
    
    

    Burroughs went on to have an additional 600 plate appearances in Triple-A the next year and a half, and still managed to slug just .323 in his rookie season of 2002. Despite a classic swing and great plate discipline, the strength just wasn't there yet, and pitchers were able to exploit that weakness.

    I still believe that this is a realistic scenario for Mauer as well, but he certainly looks ready to hit major league pitching right now. Facing Al Leiter, a pretty solid southpaw, Mauer showed a good approach, went with what he was given, and ended up impressing everyone with his discipline at the plate. He is a better hitter to left and left-center than when he pulls the ball, which is why people continue to project him to add significant power in several years. When aligning an outfield defense against him in 2004, however, treat him like a right-handed pull-hitter, as he is going to pepper the opposite field with an inordinate percentage of his line drives.

  • Michael Restovich has shortened his swing in an attempt to make better contact--he struck out once for every 3.8 at-bats last year--though he still appears flummoxed by any kind of major league breaking ball. His raw power is as good as the Twins have in their organization, and despite the glut of similar players in Minnesota, he could find himself being asked to contribute sooner rather than later. There are probably too many flaws in his offensive approach to be a star, but he has all the makings of some kind of lefty-mashing thumper who would be a nice part of a platoon.

  • David Wright is certainly a BP kind of prospect, but I believe a full-year at Double-A would serve him well. He has some adjustments to make at the plate, especially on pitches up in the zone, and adding strength to his upper body would help him. Wright still has the abilities to be a very good major league player, but he isn't as advanced as other top prospects.

  • Subway should call the agent for Victor Diaz and see if he's interested in shilling for the company. The Mets' own male version of Oprah is back to the normal-sized player that the Dodgers thought highly of, rather than the rotund version they shipped off for two months of Jeromy Burnitz. A rumored move to third base was mentioned in St. Lucie, however, as his inability to turn the double play was becoming an issue in camp.

  • One of the more impressive arms in Vero Beach has been diminutive right-hander Jason Frasor, whom the Dodgers acquired from Detroit for Hiram Bocachica in 2002. Going into his third year since Tommy John surgery shut him down, Frasor's fastball is as good as it has ever been, touching 94 to 96 miles per hour with average movement. His curve has improved into a quality second pitch, and the Dodgers are beginning to look at Frasor as a potential option for middle-relief help in case of an injury.

  • On the other hand, Steve Colyer has garnered significantly more press over the past year, with his combination of above-average stuff and left-handedness, but his command of the strike zone is rivaled only by a certain Californian governor's command of the English language. He made some strides last year, reaching acceptable walk rate levels, but is still prone to prolonged bouts of wildness. This could be a real detriment to keeping him from repeating his debut success.

    When comparing the two Dodger relief prospects' performance in 2003, Frasor's stands apart. He was pitching at lower levels and in better environments, but his dominance cannot be denied.

    
    Name      Level        ERA     IP      H       HR      BB      K
    Frasor    High-A       1.85    24      16      0       4       36
    Frasor    Double-A     2.95    37      33      2       14      50
    Frasor    AFL          2.03    27      21      2       11      24
    Colyer    Triple-A     3.21    48      44      1       22      50
    Colyer    Majors       2.75    20      22      0       9       16
    
    

While spring training has its limitations, it is also a great opportunity to see a large amount of players in a short amount of time. The next time you head for Arizona or Florida during March, wander over to the minor league fields. There is quite a bit to be said for a lack of crowds, easy access to the players and coaches, and people working to show their worth. Just make sure to do your best to get your hands on a roster, because trying to keep track of the numerous middle infielders named Hernandez will drive you insane.

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