What could possibly go wrong with Toronto's top prospects? A lot, actually.
Prospect #1: C Travis d'Arnaud Background with Player: My eyes; industry sources Who: A supplemental first-round selection in the 2007 draft, d’Arnaud has slowly moved up the prospect food chain and now finds himself wearing the label of alpha catcher in the minors. The 23-year-old brings a balanced skill set to the table, with what some scouts have suggested is a well above-average bat for the position, and improving defensive chops that grade out in the solid-average range. d’Arnaud crushed last season in Double-A, hitting for average and power, and propelling himself into the major league discussion for 2012, despite the fact that the Blue Jays already have a promising young catcher penciled into the lineup. Some scouts believe d’Arnaud has multiple All-Star Games in his future, and could emerge as one of the best all-around players at his position in the majors. Lofty praise.
What Could Go Wrong in 2012: With lofty praise comes lofty expectations, and in the case of d’Arnaud, I’m afraid a really good player is being miscast as a really great player. I think d’Arnaud is going to hit in the high-minors, probably not to the level of 2011, but he’s going to hit. He has a good swing that is short to the ball, and he generates good bat speed. He shows legit pop and can lift a ball over the fence, although he’s a better contact oriented gap-to-gap hitter than a sellout-for-power type. At the highest level, I don’t see d’Arnaud as a .300 hitter with 25+ home run potential; rather, I see an above-average stick for the position, but more of a .270 hitter with 25+ doubles and 10+ home runs. I think the swing and the setup can be exploited by pitchers who have location ability and sequence, and since I’ve only seen d’Arnaud crush fringy stuff, I can’t speak to how he will handle top-shelf velocity. It’s a small nitpick, but it’s the difference between a solid major league regular and a perennial all-star. What could go wrong is built into the expectations placed on the player, with the high-end ceilings making letdown and failure almost inescapable. If you think d’Arnaud is a balanced, all-around high-five/low-six type of catcher, he’s probably going to make you happy by playing good defense, hitting for a respectable average, and showing good pop for the position. If you are expecting a Gold Glove-quality defensive player with batting champ credentials and 25+ home run pop, you might be in for disappointment. If d’Arnaud had that suggested potential, he would be considered a top tier prospect in the entire minors, someone who could stand next to the Trouts of the world as a future 7 player. The scouts who put him in that class are either onto something and ahead of the curve, or they are on something and should share with the rest of the class.
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Which player do scouts feel is the best unknown major leaguer?
The question was posed to a dozen front-office types and scouts during the final days of spring training: Who is the best player in baseball that nobody knows about? The winner of the highly informal poll was a bit of a surprise, especially since he entered this season having played in just 43 major-league games. Yet there is a strong feeling that Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie won't be a secret much longer.
Spring training is nearly over, but each team still has some nagging questions to answer.
In five weeks of bouncing around the country while watching spring training—or at least the news of it—I've compartmentalized the sore shoulder-driven roster dramas and other mundanities to the point that I'm left with one nagging question for each team, one loose thread that I can't resist tugging upon as the season nears. Showing my blatant East Coast bias, today I'll run down those loose threads from the near coast, working my way westward next week.
The Royals' bullpen suffers a couple of blows, and the pain around the rest of the league is plentiful.
Carlos Quentin, San Diego Padres (Right Knee Surgery)
Quentin has had a difficult time staying healthy, and he’s starting his injury train early this year. The outfielder will undergo arthroscopic surgery today to fix a torn meniscus and remove loose bodies from his right knee. Meniscal injuries can cause pain, swelling, or a clicking sensation depending on the type, size, and location of the tear. If left untreated, meniscal tears can lead to arthritis. Loose bodies can also act as irritants and lead to arthritis.
The procedure is straightforward. The surgeon will remove the loose bodies and try to stitch the torn meniscus back together but will most likely have to trim the torn portion because the tissue is degenerated beyond repair. Standard recovery is four to six weeks, but it could vary if there are additional injuries not seen on the MRI. With the recovery expected to be four to six weeks, we should see Quentin back in mid- to late April. When Quentin returns to the outfield, his knee might flare up or swell.
Offering at least one reason to tune in to each potentially talent-challenged team when you're flipping through your MLB.tv options this season.
Bad teams have been much on my mind lately. Blame it on being an A's fan, blame it on marrying into a Mets family, blame it on my generally sour personality. Irrespective of the cause, I find myself less intrigued by the powerhouses or the teams in tight races for the playoffs than by the squads that will come out of the gate slow, dawdle through the dog days, and finish in a muddle of obscure Triple-A players crowding the expanded September rosters as they fight for 2013 jobs on what will likely be yet another mediocre team.
If you're a fan of one of these franchises, you'll probably watch them whatever happens. But what will the rest of you watch on the nights when your team is off, or long, lazy weekend afternoons? You can always tune in to see the Yankees and Rays face off in a game with playoff implications for the umpteenth time, but if you're like me, you get a little bored seeing the same (really good) players over and over. Let me present, then, a team-by-team list of reasons to tune into a game at which more casual fans might turn up their noses. Call it the Every Team is Special list.
Will Colby Rasmus continue to be dogged by off-field issues?
In two-plus years as the general manager of the Blue Jays, Alex Anthopoulos has shown a penchant for buying low on other teams’ undervalued players. He did it with Yunel Escobar, who delivered a 3.7 WARP season last year. He did it with Brett Lawrie, who emerged as one of baseball’s top prospects, and then batted a remarkable .293/.373/.580 in 171 plate appearances in 2011. Most recently, he did it with Colby Rasmus and Kelly Johnson last summer, though the returns on those two investments are thus far unclear.
Once viewed as a potential star center fielder, the 25-year-old Rasmus has a much greater role to play in the Jays’ future than Johnson. Rasmus was a 2.3 WARP player—mostly thanks to a .276/.361/.498 triple-slash, because his fielding was 18.8 runs below average—in 2010, and he was expected to blossom into one of the National League’s best players.
The Mets' injury parade drags on, while the Brew Crew might lose an important hitter for the start of the season.
Ike Davis, New York Mets (Valley Fever)
Davis, who is on the mend from a 2011 ankle injury, has been diagnosed with “likely” having valley fever. Valley fever is a soil-dwelling fungus typically found in southwestern United States and northern Mexico, and it grows during rainy periods. The spores can break off and be inhaled whenever the soil is disrupted. Valley fever is generally benign, but more severe cases can include pneumonia, lung nodules, or the fungus spreading to other parts of the body. In severe cases, oral antifungal medications are used.
Davis underwent a routine chest x-ray during his spring physical, but the results were determined to be abnormal. After consulting multiple pulmonary and infectious disease specialists, he was diagnosed with a mild form of valley fever. He is not on any medications, but he must try to avoid extreme fatigue. Conor Jackson also had valley fever, but Davis is expected to make a full recovery without missing any time.
Garfoose wrangler, author, and newly-minted Italian leaguer Dirk Hayhurst discusses baseball, his new book, and his decision to move across the pond.
I recently chatted with former Padres, Blue Jays, and Rays right-hander Dirk Hayhurst about baseball, his new book, and his upcoming move to Italy. I've talked to Dirk (who has a blog and is active on Twitter as TheGarfoose) a few times over the years, and it's always good to catch up with a fellow “Monty Python” fan. (Sadly, we did not discuss “Python” this time, so you'll have to settle for Sir Not Appearing in This Interview.)
We did discuss Dirk's decision to make Italy the next stop in his baseball career. This strikes some people as an unusual choice, but Dirk views it as an adventure. Although he has never been to Italy, he looks forward to working and living in a country whose culture moves at a more relaxed pace than the United States.
Long before there was Prince Fielder, there was Bill Caudill, one of the first beneficiaries of the super-agent's skills.
In 1981, the Seattle Mariners had no closer. Seven Mariners saved at least one game, and nobody saved more than eight. Shane Rawley, he of the eight, walked more batters than he struck out, with an ERA worse than the league average. In March of 1982, he gave up 12 runs in 11 spring training innings. Days before the season began, Rawley was traded to the Yankees for Bill Caudill and Gene Nelson, both young pitchers, and cash. Saves weren’t quite such a big deal yet—just one pitcher in the American League had saved more than 20 in the strike-shortened 1981 season, and only five reached even a dozen—so the Mariners entered the 1982 season without a closer.
But Caudill pitched well, surprisingly well, and in Seattle’s 15th game, Caudill earned his first save. The trade to Seattle "was the biggest break of my life,” he said after the game. “I just love being here. I'm finally getting a chance to play. I was a mop-up man.” He would get 26 saves that year and 26 the next. In 1984, he was traded to the A’s, where he saved 36 games and made his first All-Star team. After that season, he was traded once again, to the Blue Jays, and that’s where the fun begins.
The Jays endure another year of also-ran status in the AL East.
Kiss 'Em Goodbye is a series focusing on MLB teams as their postseason dreams fade -- whether in September (or before), the league division series, league championship series or World Series. It combines a broad overview from Baseball Prospectus, a front-office take from former MLB GM Jim Bowden, a best- and worst-case scenario ZiPS projection for 2012 from Dan Szymborski and Kevin Goldstein's farm-system overview.