A Nabokovian report from the Triple-A National Championship(Reno Aces 10, Pawtucket Red Sox 3).
DBAP/ DURHAM—Brett Butler is probably best known to you as one of the premiere leadoff hitters of his decade, roughly 1983-93. He ranks 25th all-time in stolen bases (less than 30 shy of Maury Wills), and is tied for 78th in career triples (131) with… Joe DiMaggio? Yep. You could look it up.
Maybe you’re an Atlanta Braves or Cleveland Indians fan. In that case, Brett Butler is the main guy (Brook Jacoby and Rick Behenna were the others) traded after the 1983 season from the Braves to the Indians for Len Barker. That one pops up on numerous “most lopsided trades ever” lists, even though Barker had thrown a perfect game in 1981. To add insult to injury, the Braves also gave the Indians $150,000.
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A Modest Proposal for Preventing Trevor Bauer’s Poor Taste in Music from Being a Burden on His Pitching Performance
Coming into the 2012 season, Trevor Bauer was one of the most talked-about pitching prospects in baseball. He decimated records and hitters throughout his college career at UCLA, and won just about every conceivable award, including the Golden Spikes in 2011. After being selected third overall by the Diamondbacks, he signed a major-league deal and was in Double-A before the year was out. In the 2012 BP annual, we called him “a viable 21-year-old candidate for Arizona’s Opening Day rotation.”
Bauer was called up to the big club in June of this year and, instead of continuing to dominate hitters the way he has his entire life (I’m assuming), he, well, kinda sucked. Over four starts, his line looks like this:
This weekend saw Trevor Bauer make his Triple-A debut, Dylan Bundy doing it again (with "it" being almost indescribable) and Tim Alderson regaining prospect status.
Tim Alderson, RHP, Pirates (Double-A Altoona)
Alderson was once a hot commodity. A first-round pick by the Giants in 2007, the six-foot-six right-hander burst onto the prospect scene by putting up a 2.79 ERA in the California League as a 19-year-old thanks to average velocity and fantastic command, but the velocity began to slip, and his career seemed to go downhill after a trade to the Pirates for Freddy Sanchez. After a six-plus ERA in 2010 and a move to the bullpen last year, he was all but off the radar. Except a funny thing happened this year, as Alderson changed his approach and took up an arm conditioning program that included long-tossing, and this spring his 85-88 mph suddenly jumped to 90-92. After dominating out of the Altoona pen, he moved to the rotation this month, and on Sunday he fired seven shutout innings while allowing just two hits and touching 93; at just 23, and after a Sunday promotion to Triple-A, he's suddenly a prospect again as a potential back-end rotation piece.
A trio of very highly-regarded pitchers leads off Arizona's top prospect list, but they're not sure things.
Prospect #1: RHP Trevor Bauer Background with Player: My eyes; industry sources Who: Selected with the third overall pick in the 2011 draft, Bauer was seen by many as the most major league ready arm in the class, a pitcher that could ascend to the highest level in short order. Unfortunately known more for his torque-heavy delivery and idiosyncratic warm-up/cool-down routines than his arsenal, Bauer might have the deepest collection of pitches in the minors, a treasure chest of above-average offerings that he creates and crafts like a scientist on the mound; the 21-year-old righty has multiple fastballs thrown with varying velocity and movement, multiple breaking balls (including a plus slider and a plus curve), multiple change-of-pace offerings (including a plus changeup and a trapdoor splitter), not to mention pitches that are unique creations that observations fail to properly identify. His approach and commitment to pitching is as focused as you will find in the game and, despite some early professional struggles with command and control, the total package has a chance to be special. Assuming good health, Bauer will be a number three starter at worst, and if refinement occurs and efficiency improves, he could pitch atop a major league rotation in the very near future.
What Could Go Wrong in 2012: The great irony of Trevor Bauer is that he is viewed as the ultimate baseball rat; he doesn’t breathe oxygen, he actually breathes pitching. From his long-toss routine, to his stretches, to his relentless pursuit of biomechanical-related scholarship, to his home-brewed arsenal, Bauer is consumed by his craft. But one of the knocks on Bauer has been that he often looks more like a thrower than a pitcher, showing an impressive arsenal, but lacking the feel to execute with efficiency. A few scouts suggested that his current inefficiency stems from his laboratory approach to pitching; his need to tinker with his deep arsenal to the point that he forgets his main objective is to coerce outs. These particular sources weren’t sour on his command profile, as they felt he could throw strikes if he made throwing strikes his objective, but they did mention that the poster boy for pitchability was struggling with his pitchability. If it’s really as simple as too much tinkering and not enough touch, Bauer is going to be just fine. He has a ton of toys and he’s still trying to figure out which ones belong in the toy box and which ones belong on the field. The minor leagues are the perfect environment for experimentation, so it’s hard to fault Bauer for striving to examine and refine this particular aspect of his game. However, with a little more focus towards efficiency and strike-throwing, Bauer could be at the major league level, bringing his unique brand of baseball to the biggest stage, and getting the results that could make him a star.
Of the notable prospects who didn't start the year in the majors, who got jumped ahead and who got left behind?
With Opening Day upon us, roster decisions have been made, and while most players continue to take the standard route up the minor league ladder, there are plenty of prospects either making a double jump, or being left behind to repeat a level. Last week's player of the year watch had three teenagers-- Rangers shortstop Jurickson Profar, Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras and Seattle righty Taijuan Walker--who are all beginning the year in Double-A; here are ten more players beginning the year somewhere other than where many expected.