September 6, 2006
Activated OF/1B-L Darin Erstad and OF-L Curtis Pride from the 15-day DL; recalled RHP Chris Bootcheck and C-R Jeff Mathis from Salt Lake (Triple-A); activated 3B/1B-L Dallas McPherson from the 15-day DL, and optioned him to Salt Lake. [9/1]
I'm always interested in seeing what the Angels are up to in their lineup, but I don't think reactivating Erstad endangers any of the player usage patterns that Mike Scioscia has slowly settled on-not the Garret Anderson/Tim Salmon job-share at DH, and not the Adam Kennedy/Robb Quinlan platoon on the right side of the infield, with Howie Kendrick alternating between first and second depending on which of the two is in the lineup. I know, there's some sort of deathride instinct to let Erstad go down with his cleats on, but as long as the Angels are within spitting distance of Oakland, putting the punter on the field would only send the message that the organization's reached fourth down-and-forever where the 2006 season is concerned.
Recalled RHP Hayden Penn from Ottawa. [9/3]
Fiorentino and Penn were two of last summer's ill-advised rush jobs, but now that the Birds have enjoyed better returns from Nick Markakis and Adam Loewen, now may well be the time to bring the pair back, now that they actually have some greater amount of experience above A-ball. Fiorentino's overall numbers at Bowie aren't that great-he hit .275/.365/.413 overall-but ankle and hamstring injuries handicapped him early on, and he's been much stronger in the last two months (.340/.425/.470) and against right-handers in general (.294/.391/.450). If he can stick as a center fielder, he'll have value, otherwise he'll really have to slug well to make it, even as part of a left field platoon. He'll only be 24 next season, though, so there's reason to hope he'll continue to make strides in hitting for power. Penn would have been up in May, but an emergency appendectomy derailed that. To his credit, he's been solid overall, and especially strong in the last month at Ottawa, striking out 39 in 36.1 innings. Although his first start against the A's was terrible, it makes a lot more sense to give him every opportunity to earn a slot in next year's rotation than it does to invest much hope in Russ Ortiz.
Recalled LHP Javier Lopez from Pawtucket. [9/4]
Haeger and Logan have had their big league moments already this season, so both are really only here to fill in at the back of the staff. Stewart's a third catcher on team that lacks a legitimate backup-predictably, Sandy Alomar hasn't proven to be worth much-so nobody should get especially worked up about having him up now either. The name to watch is Sweeney's. He spent the year in Charlotte, mostly starting in center field, but also in both corners, and after hitting .296/.350/.452, there's a very real opportunity for him to take the job in center from Brian Anderson next spring. If you're a scouty sort, you'll like his rangy build and athleticism, and if you're a believer in birthday determinism, the fact that he'll only be 22 next year should impress. He was much stronger against right-handed pitching. I've been perhaps overly skeptical about him, but much of that was a reaction formation against scouting mavens who, depending on your point of view, were either too easily impressed or were right about him early on, and perhaps both. That said, now that he's shown much more power in Triple-A than he did in either the High-A Carolina League in 2004 or Double-A in 2005, he's clearly making adjustments and improving, and next spring's fight for the job in center should be interesting to watch. The only caution I'd note these days is that, reputation for athleticism aside, he's not a great base thief, but he's got the arm for right and apparently enough range to handle center, and those are more important tools to consider if you want to see him become an everyday player in this lineup next season.
Purchased the contract of 3B-R Kevin Kouzmanoff from Buffalo (Triple-A). [9/2]
Kouzmanoff's numbers this season are silly-good, adding up to .379/.437/.656 between Buffalo and Akron. Pretty obviously, the back woes that had us wondering about his future last winter haven't been much of a problem of late-the time he missed in June was to a hamstring strain, and slugging .650 isn't the sort of something you just write off as one of those things. The question is, where does he fit in? He's not a great glove at third, but he's certainly not worse than Casey Blake was a few years back, and there's the little matter of being in the same organization as Andy Marte. First base? The team's taking an extended look at Ryan Garko, who isn't disappointing them. Travis Hafner's at DH. All of which suggests a move to the outfield barring an epic disappointment out of Marte. That wouldn't be so terrible for the Tribe as outcomes go: Shin-Soo Choo will probably never escape being platooned in one corner, while the aforementioned Blake and Jason Michaels don't hit well enough to be everyday players in the other. Obviously, either one could cover for Choo against lefties, and both make for solid insurance if Marte, Kouzmanoff, and Garko all disappoint, and since Blake can handle all four corners, he's a nice bench weapon to have.
However, there are two problems, one small, and one major. The little problem isn't so terrible-the Indians can afford to put Franklin Gutierrez back in Buffalo another year if they want to just leave Grady Sizemore alone in center. The big problem is that Aaron Boone has a mutual option for 2007 for $3.75 million, and he'd be crazy to risk that and take his chances on the market after the weak season he's had at the plate. Maybe the Tribe can find a taker this winter or next spring, and I suppose if the Tribe considered moving Kouzmanoff to left, the problem is more Marte's for the time being. Suffice to say that this will be a significant issue to address this winter.
Recalled 1B-R Chris Shelton from Toledo. [9/2]
I don't know if Shelton's Mudhen August was even more discouraging than his May, June, or July in the Motor City was, because he hit only .266/.372/.440 while striking out 37 times in 129 plate appearances. Skip being the first baseman of the future, he might not have much of a present if he can't do better than that at the age of 26. It's only a month's sample, so it's not like I'm recommending the Tigers rush into a commitment with Sean Casey or something, but this remains a sour footnote to a superb season for the organization, and one with the potential to cause problems this winter and next season.
Recalled OF-L Shane Costa from Omaha. [9/3]
Recalled OF-R Josh Rabe from Rochester. [9/4]
Baker's back, and back into the rotation for the moment, at least as long as Brad Radke's out of action. As ugly as his major league stats are, there's little left for him to prove in Rochester, so it's not quite the mortal blow to the Twins' chances as you might think. There's a big difference between losing Radke and losing Francisco Liriano, and however unfortunate Baker's been, he's no Jose Silva either. If Baker pitches the way he can, and Matt Garza continues to do relatively well, the Twins are still in this thing, although their coming weekend series against the Tigers-in which Garza, Baker, and Boof Bonser will all start-should prove telling.
Otherwise, the promotion of note was Casilla. Although he's bounced between short and second, he's a good shortstop, but played second in Fort Myers in deference to organizational favorite son Trevor Plouffe. Promoted to Double-A, he stopped playing second, and combined between the two levels, he's hit .318/.385/.398 with 50 steals in 60 attempts. Only 22, he's obviously going to elicit comparisons to Luis Castillo, although his ability to play short might make you think of a speedier edition of Jose Oquendo. It might be early to anticipate that Casilla's so ready that he'll encourage Terry Ryan to skip picking up Castillo's option for 2007, but he's very close to being ready, and that might allow Ryan the opportunity to listen to listen to offers for Castillo.
Recalled RHP Emiliano Fruto from Tacoma (Triple-A). [9/1]
Activated INF-R Ty Wigginton from the 15-day DL. [9/1]
Recalled RHPs Edwin Jackson and Brian Stokes from Durham (Triple-A). [9/2]
Although Stokes is younger than Salas and spent the full year at Durham, Salas is the one to really think of as a prospect. Although Salas will turn 28 this winter, he's a converted hitter who throws strikes that move in the low 90s, and between the Biscuit and Bull bullpens, he struck out 85 in 63.1 innings, while walking only 25 and allowing only 28 hits. In contrast, Stokes is about to turn 27, and while he survived Tommy John surgery that cost him all of 2004, he doesn't throw particularly hard or fool all that many guys with a solid curve. He's still decent enough fifth starter/swingman/long relief material, but you could say that about a few dozen guys, and unlike the Edwin Jacksons of the world, he won't get an unlimited number of opportunities to show whether or not he's got something.
Recalled RHP Dustin McGowan from Syracuse. [9/2]
Barker's just a minor league vet getting rewarded for giving the organization a couple of good seasons of service-at 31, this is as good as it gets for him. The name to note is Lind, as good an example as you'll find in support for J.P. Ricciardi's stated inclination for picking college hitting talent in the amateur draft. Although he's really a one-tool player, the bat is the one to have, and he scrambled through both upper-level steps in the organization this season to reach The Show, hitting .330/.394/.556 in only his second full season as a pro. It doesn't look like he'll need to be platooned and he's already seen as a polished hitter at the plate, so with Frank Catalanotto's free agency in the offing, there's a possibility for the franchise to let the Cat walk and let Lind strut his stuff at Reed Johnson's expense next season. Left is pretty much the only position that Lind can handle, so while PECOTA compared him to Curtis Granderson before this season, that will no doubt change now that it doesn't seem likely that his glovework is going to improve much, if ever. This is what picking more advanced talent out of college ball is supposed to offer a team, so we'll see if Ricciardi goes with the homegrown prospect that reflects well on his brief reign, or if he returns to spending liberally in his on-again, off-again proposition that the Jays can contend while not trying to spend money the way the Red Sox and Yankees do. Certainly, plugging in a Lind for less in the lineup helps a team afford the deals with guys like A.J. Burnett or B.J. Ryan, but it remains to be seen if Ricciardi has the strength of purpose to turn a blind eye to the perhaps-inevitable fourth estate complaints if he lets even the odd Catalanotto skip town.
The Snakes have wound up making an early exit from the wild-card picture, so now's the time to start looking at the leavenings of the roster. For Choate, this is probably a last chance, because I suspect that both Aquino and Green will still have their shots at their sorts of jobs-pen filler and last man on the bench, respectively-next spring. The interesting guys are Slaten and Montero. Slaten's an organizational soldier, a big lefty who's moved from failed starter to fringy lefty situational specialist material to out-and-out interesting relief prospect after a season in which he struck out 80 in 63 innings between Double- and Triple-A, while allowing only 22 walks, 41 hits, and a lone homer. He wasn't have problems with right-handed hitters, after seven seasons down on the farm, his shot at becoming the team's Choate-eraser looks pretty strong.
Even more interesting is Montero's arrival, which has seen him make quick strides up from the High-A California League through Double- and Triple-A in just two seasons. The Venezuelan backstop's 24 years old, so he's not a phenom, but between his receiving skills and his coming off of a year hitting .286/.373/.461 between Tennessee and Tucscon, the Snakes will have an interesting decision to make about Johnny Estrada's arbitration case this winter. If Montero shows something in this last month, the organization does already have Chris Snyder around as well, which might make Estrada a luxury that GM Josh Byrnes would rather let somebody else afford. A Montero/Snyder platoon or job-sharing arrangement wouldn't be too shabby, and Estrada might bring Arizona something else they'll need for their future bid at contention in the NL West.
Activated 2B/3B-B Willy Aybar, 1B/OF-R Brian Jordan, and RHP Kyle Davies from the 15-day DL; recalled C-B Brayan Pena and 1B-L Scott Thorman from Richmond (Triple-A); recalled RHP Joey Devine from Mississippi (Double-A). [9/1]
Optioned RHP Anthony Lerew to Richmond. [9/4]
Whether Davies' return to the rotation is potentially the most helpful or merely the most hopeful add-on to the ballclub remains to be seen. You might wichcast Aybar or Devine to similar levels of magnitude for the club's desperate wild-card push. Unfortunately, I don't see either being able to do so. Aybar still has a hurting hand that handicaps his ability to sub for Chipper Jones, let alone effectively replace Wilson Betemit, while Devine lost much of the year to back trouble. Devine has struck out 40 in 25.1 innings the last two months, but a dozen unintentional walks in that time suggests that he isn't entirely wart-free.
So to my way of thinking, much depends on Davies. He was very strong in his last three rehab starts down in Richmond, and while he got smacked around last weekend in his first start, the groin's apparently healed up. The team's already just trying to get by with Oscar Villarreal doing five-and-out Mike Morgan-style gigs, and both John Smoltz and Tim Hudson have had a few too many bad days at the office for the Braves to be able to survive an extended bit of struggling from Davies.
Some of this really doesn't matter. Eyre will pitch in the pen, Marshall will return to the rotation, and Marmol will have to settle for relief work instead of getting another crack at starting. Miller might be active, but he's still dealing with a sore shoulder, and really shouldn't merit a start while there are people around who might make next year's staff.
As for Barrett, my stars, I'll bet that smarts. Presumably, this means that Dusty Baker will rely too heavily on Henry Blanco instead of investing some time in seeing whether or not Soto can move up into the backup job next season. That would be a pity, because Soto gets good marks as a receiver, makes solid enough contact at the plate, and even manages to walk in 10% of his PAs. He's not a top prospect, but giving him as much as a third of next season's starts and having him caddy for Michael Barrett would save the team more than a million bucks while not costing them anything in terms of the strength of their roster.
The guy I find interesting is Moore, because he's coming off of another solid season since being dealt by the Tigers: .276/.359/.480 in 133 games (132 in Double-A) after .281/.358/.485 in High-A Daytona last year). His command of the strike zone didn't falter in his first season above A-ball, and he managed to slug better than .520 against right-handed pitching. Although he's only 22 this year, he's not considered a good glove at third; he does have an arm, which suggests that his best possible future might be in the outfield, especially with Aramis Ramirez signed through 2008. Much as I like Moore, I wouldn't go so far as to suggest that he's likable enough to deal Ramirez, and I really wouldn't move Derrek Lee to have both Ramirez and Moore in the lineup. However, if Moore could handle either outfield corner, he'd be in a position to challenge Matt Murton for playing time, and that's not a bad thing.
Recalled 2B/OF-R Norris Hopper from Louisville. [9/2]
Recalled RHP Matt Belisle and LHP Chris Michalak from Sarasota (High A-ball); recalled 2B/SS-B Ray Olmedo from Louisville; purchased the contract of OF-L Dewayne Wise from Louisville; recalled RHP Elizardo Ramirez from Louisville, and placed him on the 60-day DL (shoulder tendinitis). [9/4]
Purchased the contract of 3B-R Vinny Castilla from Colorado Springs (Triple-A). [9/2]
Recalled C-B J.D. Closser from Colorado Springs; purchased the contract of RHP Nate Field from Colorado Springs. [9/4]
Castilla's getting his shot to tip his cap to the fans who remember the days when the Blake Street Bombers were terrorizing the National League in the dry days of the past. In the soggier present, I wouldn't hazard a guess that he'll be worth much, but here's hoping that he smacks a tater or two at home. As much as I've been critical of anyone valuing Castilla all that highly in any of the last seven seasons, he'll leave the game with more than 300 homers and some fine glovework to his credit, and if there's more than a Rockie fan or two who considered him one of the guys worth the price of admission, I wouldn't begrudge them that.
Recalled RHP Randy Messenger from Jupiter (High A-ball); recalled RHP Jose Garcia from Carolina (Double-A). [9/4]
This is mostly a matter of putting people who'd been up before back on the big league roster, with the exception of their bringing up Garcia. A homegrown find from the Dominican Republic, Garcia's only 21, but has shot through four levels in his first full season pitching in the states, throwing a combined 165.2 innings, striking out 161, walking 42 unintentionally, and allowing four runs per nine. Although he's that short righty that some scouts shy away from, he throws into the mid 90s, and mixes in a good change, and throws strikes with both. That can lead to expectations that he might at least wind up being a good fourth starter in the bigs. That may not sound like much, but that's good enough to be in a major league rotation as opposed to wondering if the club's going to go out and get Kevin Jarvis after a bad start. I wouldn't expect that next April, mind you, but Garcia's coming up fast, and even in an organization as well-stocked with pitching talent as the Marlins, he merits your following what he's doing.
I've touched on Albers in the past, so only thing to note here is that it seems a bit strange to see Jimerson get the call after he hit a weak .247/.288/.445 for Round Rock. It's more a matter of his being a decent glove and pinch-runner type, plus the fact that he's been on the 40-man roster. That last thing may change this winter, since Jimerson's already 26. This just seems sort of petty, because Jimerson would come in handy for Round Rock in the PCL playoffs, while he won't really add all that much to the Astros' sputtering bid for the wild card. At least the Astros were generous enough with their affiliate to leave 2B/3B Brooks Conrad behind, although now that he's coming off of a season in which he belted 40 doubles, 15 triples, and 24 home runs, he should either get added to the Astros' 40-man this winter, or get a Dan Uggla-style look somewhere else via the Rule 5 draft, even if he will be 27 next season.
Outrighted RHP Giovanni Carrara to Vero Beach (High A-ball). [9/3]
A pretty interesting pair of call-ups, although each might be seen as something of a longshot. As I noted in this year's book, Sarfate seemed to drive PECOTA into a particularly pessimistic frenzy. His groundball rate has improved this year, and he hasn't allowed much power, but nevertheless, after opening the year in Nashville's rotation, he was bumped into the pen for the last month or so, a role in which he struck out 20 in 17.2 innings. His breakdown this season involves a pretty major platoon split, and since he's never had a solid breaking pitch, a move to the pen really does seem for the best. I wouldn't be surprised if he joins Jose Capellan next season in providing the club its best relief work, because like Capellan, he's a minor league starter who just didn't seem to have the staying power to make it in a big-league rotation. Taking a chance like this certainly beats investing much money in Dan Kolb, and I wouldn't worry as much about Sarfate's career arc as a reliever as PECOTA so obviously did over his prospects as a starter.
By contrast, Rottino's relatively uncomplicated, your basic organizational soldier who's started games at third, catcher, and the outfield corners while hitting .314/.379/.440. He's already 26 and far from prospectdom, but he demonstrates pretty nicely one of the benefits of the organization's longstanding willingness to give local-college products a shot: signed as an undrafted free agent out of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, he's a decent enough pick for the last spot on a major league bench. Think of him sort of as a latter-day Charlie Moore, without the unfortunate "let's make this guy an everyday right fielder" diversion that those Brewers were prone to back in the day.
Activated OF-L Cliff Floyd from the 15-day DL. [9/2]
Purchased 1B-L Randall Simon from the Rangers. [9/1]
Recalled LHP Matt Smith from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [9/4]
The major news is getting Flash Gordon back, because let's face it, in a tight wild card race this club needs somebody who can save every man, every woman, and every child, not mention a few ballgames now that every late-inning loss is under particular scrutiny. A more minor addition was the club getting Simon from the Rangers. Public enemy number one in the minds of mascots and John Rocker, he spent most of the summer playing in the Mexican League, where he hit .348/.422/.635. He subsequently signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, and spent August getting reacquainted with potable water while avoiding the temptation to beat Myron Noodleman and his ilk senseless. I frankly don't know how he did it, but he's clearly now a man in control of his problem, and back to being what he always was, a source of line-drives on demand. As professional pinch-hitter types go, Pat Gillick could have done worse, and while I'd be more than a little unenthusiastic about clogging the active roster with a positionless 31-year-old before roster expansion, he makes for a nice enough weapon for the September stretch.
Recalled RHP Scott Cassidy from Portland (Triple-A). [9/1]
Activated SS-R Khalil Greene off of the 15-day DL. [9/3]
Sadly, Greene can't yet swing a bat, but he's ready to pinch-run and play the field, and anything that inolves less Manny Alexander sounds good to me. Be sure to watch Will Carroll's column closely, to see how much (or little) hope there is for Greene's being able to play through or recover from his finger injury.
Recalled OF-R Jason Ellison, OF-R Fred Lewis, 1B-R Lance Niekro, C-R Justin Knoedler, RHP Brian Wilson, and LHP Jonathan Sanchez from Fresno (Triple-A); recalled RHP Scott Munter from Connecticut (Double-A). [9/1]
Activated INF-R Kevin Frandsen from the 15-day DL. [9/2]
All names we know from this summer's action. I'd particularly follow Sanchez and Wilson among the pitchers, and Lewis has had his moments on people's prospect radars. However, Lewis spent most of this season in left instead of center, and at 25, you want to see a lot more than just .276/.375/.453 from somebody in Fresno if he's going to make it as a major league outfielder. Interestingly, he repeated his problems with lefties in the PCL (.225/.336/.363) after flailing against them in Double-A in 2005 (.234/.331/.340). That's the sort of thing you can't help but wonder if the right hitting coach could fix, because Lewis' .291/.386/.481 against right-handers is the stuff that keeps his prospect status alive. Among the rest, Niekro bopped 14 home runs in 151 PA in Fresno, while Ellison hit .406/.452/.536, numbers that ought to do wonders for either if they get squeezed off of the 40-man this winter.
Recalled RHP Anthony Reyes from Memphis. [9/3]
I've repeated the point on Reyes perhaps more than anyone cares to have heard, but the good news is that he's back, and back in the rotation. Rodriguez and Thompson will have to do something in the month's final action to merit much consideration for the playoff roster, but I really doubt either will now that the club has Preston Wilson and Jorge Sosa around.
Purchased the contracts of INF-R Melvin Dorta, OF-L George Lombard, and RHPs Chris Booker and Brett Campbell from New Orleans; purchased the contract of RHP Beltran Perez from Harrisburg (Double-A). [9/2]
Cycling through other people's discards is a fact of life when you're as bereft of homegrown talent as the Nats are, but to their credit, the organization has a couple of guys worth looking at. Booker's had his looks with the Phillies and Royals this year, but he was a minor league free agent that the Nats wanted last winter, somebody that Jim Bowden traded for back when he was with Cincinnati, and now that he's been brought back, he's still somebody worth looking at as a hard-throwing reliever. Perez is the same Beltran Perez who was briefly seen as an Arizona pitching prospect; now 24 aboard the National ship as a minor league free agent. Down in Harrisburg, the Dominican has alternated between the pen and the rotation, and done generally decent work, allowing 3.9 runs per nine, and posting a nifty 107-35 strikeout-unintentional walk ratio in 121.2 innings. Campbell's the lone homegrown guy, and has rocketed up through the system after working with Bret Strom to polish up a splitter. Between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A, he's tossed 57.2 innings, and struck out 66 while walking 22 unintentionally. I wouldn't suggest that he's already ready, but it's clear that he's a comer in only his third season as a pro.
As for the outfield call-ups, I suppose it floats some folks' boats to see Lombard get another shot. Now 31, the ill-starred former Braves prospect was hitting .302/.392/.524 in New Orleans, and even swiped 18 bases in 20 attempts. As an alternative to Logan's fifth-outfielder skill set, he's solid enough, while Logan's the internal candidate most likely to take on the role of Austin Kearns' defensive replacement in center, and general pinch-runner par excellence.