Can plate discipline and pitch recognition be taught?
A mid-season demotion for a promising young hitter is as synonymous with summer as a trip to the beach or a glob of sunscreen. These players leave the show toting unsightly numbers and, almost always, poor strikeout and walk totals. The commentary surrounding these roster moves features the usual chatter: Needs to control the zone better. Needs to learn how to take a walk. Needs to lay off the high fastball. Needs to stop swinging at the curve in the dirt.
Alvarez is 1-for-19 to start the season, but are the images as ugly as the numbers?
Later tonight, the Pirates will take on the Diamondbacks. Pittsburgh is unlikely to start Pedro Alvarez because Joe Saunders is scheduled to take the mound for Arizona. Alvarez as a platoon player isn’t what the Pirates envisioned for him back on Draft Day 2008, but the reality is more grim. There are slow starts, and then there are 1-for-19-with-12-strikeout starts. Why is Alvarez floundering? I went back and reviewed his at-bats while taking some notes.
The Athletics have recently padded their farm through several trades, but will their prospects pan out?
Prospect #1:RHP A.J. Cole Background with Player: Industry Sources Who: He’s a prototypical starter drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by the Washington Nationals. Cole was traded to the Athletics in the Gio Gonzalez deal, and has everything you want in a future major-league starter: size, stuff, and feel for the mound. In his full-season debut in 2011, Cole showed off his combination of polish and power, striking out 108 Sally League hitters while walking only 24.
What Could Go Wrong in 2012: As with any young pitcher climbing the ladder, each step will bring new challenges and adjustments. In 2012, Cole will need to continue his sharp command while focusing more attention on the development of his changeup. With good arm action and precocious command, Cole isn’t likely to fall apart by throwing more changeups. But the changeup is a feel pitch, and it takes time to gain command of the nuances of its utility and execution.
As Jose Bautista can attest, the percentage of pitches a batter sees in the strike zone tells us a good deal about his capabilities.
The pitcher begins each confrontation with a batter with the initiative. He alone controls when the baseball is thrown, how it moves, and where it is located. Thus, the batter is by nature placed in a reactive position. However, the batter, too, has a measure of control over how the plate appearance proceeds. He stands at the plate with a club, and it is within his discretion to swing his weapon or not.
Examining what it means to have a hit tool, and a look at why it is so difficult to project power.
Because of my ego and this convenient link drop, I’m going to assume you read my previous article, which, at least on an academic level, attempted to set the table for what I look for when scouting a hitter. In the closing paragraph of that piece, I offered up this nugget of forced profundity: “While it’s true that the body and the mechanical profile start the process, the product is what ultimately makes the prospect.” Yes, I just quoted myself. I’ve become that guy. Please bring me a chilled Apollinaris with a lime wedge and a warm cloth. Jason needs to have some Jason time.
As we’ve discussed, hitting is the product of many components, ranging from the strength required to create bat speed, the hand-eye coordination required to make contact, and the comfort and fluidity in the mechanics that allow the other components to exist in sweet, blissful harmony. Let’s move away from the possibilities exposed in the batting cage and move forward to the realities that are on display in game action. Let’s break down how the hit tool is graded, how approach and maturity at the plate can influence the utility of the raw tools at play, what makes a power hitter a power hitter, and, finally, I’ll explain where babies come from.
The Rangers prospects are blue-chip talents with rough edges, but will 2011 see them get sanded or beaten down?
Not so long ago, the Rangers' farm system put the sex in sexy, ranking as the top organization in baseball thanks to an assembly line of talent that ran from the lowest complex leagues all the way up to Triple-A. After a few seasons of major league promotion, attrition, and stagnation, the system has lost some of its mainstream shine. As we head into the 2011 season, the overall depth remains impressive, but depth is a drug without immediate effect. However, if you prepare yourself for the developmental hurdles, embracing a system stacked at the lower levels can be a more rewarding high, assuming of course that following the development of minor-league baseball players gets you high, which—believe me—it does.
For this article, let’s move away from the dreams associated with low-level depth, and take a look at the top five prospects in the Rangers’ system, and how their 2011 seasons might end up breaking a few hearts.
David Ortiz, whose career seemed in an unstoppable downward spiral at this time a year ago, punctuates his return to prominence.
Some stat geeks and sabermetric fanatics usually pass-up the All-Star Home Run Derby, calling the event purely commercialized for the younger or more casual fans, not for the true fans that study the game! Well, now at 18, I’d like to think of myself as a “scholar of the game.” I’m increasing my knowledge each and every day with Baseball Prospectus, as numerous research and analytical assignments ensures the expansion of my baseball mind.
However, I can happily admit that there was nothing wrong with enjoying Monday night's showcase of baseball’s best power hitters (well, beside A-Rod, Pujols, and Ryan Howard….). Maybe, aside from bragging rights, it didn’t count for anything, but what it did do was bring to light the competitive nature of a baseball player. Yes, it was just a derby, but it still meant something to each and every one of those participants. Especially for Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who was pronounced as good as dead at the same time last year. Now, once again an All-Star, Big Papi put on a show at Angels Stadium in Anaheim.