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Eric Arnett, RHP, Indiana University; Mike Leake, RHP, Arizona State University

Just a quick note to college coaches: Stop it! In the never-ending debate over pitch counts, I’m actually more than a bit liberal, feeling that most are far too cautious when it comes to pitcher usage, and gleefully welcoming Nolan Ryan taking the Rangers a step back to work their pitchers more than has become the norm. That said, the world of college baseball continues to be one where winning takes precedence over anything else. Arnett and Leake could both go in the first round of this June’s draft, and both aces took the mound this Friday for their respective teams. They did their jobs well, delivering complete games, but a closer look at the box scores show 138 pitches for Leake and 141 for Arnett. The NCAA needs to establish some rules here, say a 120-pitch limit for starters, in order to prevent careers from being ruined by coaches who are only focused on wins, instead of also accepting some responsibility for these kids’ futures. But then, has the NCAA done anything smart… ever?


Homer Bailey, RHP, Reds (Triple-A Louisville)

After striking out a career-high 15 in his last start, Bailey was more efficient on Saturday night, delivering a seven-inning five-hit shutout against Buffalo. Much of his success can be attributed to mechanical changes, or, more accurately, his reverting to his former delivery, which puts more downward bite on both his fastball and breaking ball. There’s no immediate, obvious opening in the Reds’ rotation right now, but when one does arise, Bailey could finally be ready to step in and live up to his once mighty promise.


Devaris Gordon, SS, Dodgers (Single-A Great Lakes)

Tom’s kid arguably has the best set of tools in the system, but he is also among the most raw talents in the organization, so it wasn’t a big surprise to see him hitting just .259 a week ago. Heck, that was almost an encouraging number for a player in the Midwest League, the lowest-scoring league in the minors, and even more so during this April’s brutal weather. The thing about tools-oriented prospects is that sometimes they just begin to click, and Gordon is doing just that lately. A three-hit game on Sunday was his second with as many safeties in a row, and his fourth of the past week, giving him 10 runs and 16 hits over that span, and thereby raising his triple-slash numbers to .326/.363/.463, with his plus-plus speed adding four triples and nine stolen bases. The rawness is still there, as evidenced by 10 errors and just five walks in 95 at-bats, but at the same time, his ceiling is extraordinarily high.


Cyle Hankerd, OF, Diamondbacks (Double-A Mobile)

A third-round pick in 2006, Hankerd made a massive splash after signing that summer, hitting .384 in the Northwest League and then slugging eight home runs in just 18 California League games. Since then, he’s all but fallen off the map, hitting just 13 home runs over 228 games in the past two seasons-not nearly enough for a player whose bat is his only ticket to the big leagues. Suddenly, he’s now the hottest hitter in the minors, slugging a pair of home runs on Friday, adding three doubles on Sunday, and going a ridiculous 14-for-20 over his last five games to raise his averages to .388/.450/.627 in 21 games. The 24-year-old has not quite transformed himself into a massive prospect, but he’s at least made his blip on the radar visible once again.


Luke Hochevar, RHP, Royals (Triple-A Omaha)

For the Royals to not begin the year with Hochevar in the rotation was a bit baffling. His 5.51 ERA in the big leagues was obviously nothing to write home about, but it did serve as a valuable lesson for the former first overall pick. The team thinks that he needs to learn something at Triple-A, and that makes sense, but to do it so that you can keep Sidney Ponson and Horacio Ramirez in the rotation? That’s just confusing. Now, a month into the season, the American League Central looks even more wide open than initially predicted, and the Royals are right in the middle of it. With a seven-inning, two-hit shutout on Sunday, Hochevar has a 1.13 ERA in five starts for the O-Royals, with a ground-ball ratio of three grounders to every fly-ball out. If the Royals want to stay in first place, they might be best served by getting Hochevar back in the big leagues.


Mat Latos, RHP, Padres (Single-A Fort Wayne)

After missing the first month of the year recovering from an ankle injury, the Padres’ top prospect returned to action on Saturday with six shutout innings, allowing just two hits and a walk to the 19 batters he faced while striking out six. Latos’ fastball was as good as ever, featuring above-average velocity and location, and while he threw few breaking balls, that’s not uncommon for a pitcher in his first game back. The only bad news was the roster move related to Latos’ activation, as 2007 first-round pick Nick Schmidt headed to the DL with elbow soreness, this after missing all of 2008 recovering from Tommy John surgery.


Jeff Locke, LHP, Braves (High-A Myrtle Beach)

Locke is one of those players who some scouts tend to like and some tend to love, but his performance has usually fallen firmly in the good-not-great zone. His performance may finally be catching up with the reports, as Locke has taken no-hitters deep into each of his last two starts, including seven shutout innings on Friday while allowing two hits, two walks, and striking out six. He has solid velocity for a lefty, touching as high as 93 mph with a fastball that features outstanding late life, and his curveball and changeup both project as plus pitches down the road. He’s generating a lot of buzz in the Carolina League so far this year, and this could be the beginning of a breakout.


Andy Marte, 3B, Indians (Triple-A Columbus)

Once one of the top prospects in the game, Marte has spent the past three years disappointing both at Triple-A and in the majors, and when the Indians took him off of the 40-man and passed him through waivers before the season, nobody bit. This is hardly the long-awaited “he’s back” entry, but it is notable that after going 0-for-4 in his first game of the season, he’s gone on an eight-game hitting streak, including his first home run of the year on Friday followed by two more on Saturday, for an overall batting line of .344/.389/.719. He’s still just a relatively reasonably young 25 years old, so color me slightly interested.


Fernando Martinez, OF, Mets (Triple-A Buffalo)

During last week’s daily reports, I took a shot at Martinez during a 1-for-18 slump, saying simply that at some point the guy has to start performing as opposed to living off of his reputation. It’s great that this early in the season it only takes a few games’ worth of production to turn around your numbers, and Martinez has done just that, delivering a double and a home run on both Friday and Sunday; in the last four days his OPS has risen 161 points, with a line of .287/.330/.529. It’s hard to argue with the upside his tools represent, and he still may be lined up for a real look in 2010.


Pat Venditte, RHP and LHP, Yankees (Low-A Charleston)

On the surface, he appears to be more of an entertaining distraction than anything else. A 20th-round pick last June out of Creighton, Venditte is truly ambidextrous, attacking hitters from the right with his right arm, and lefties with his left, where he utilizes a different motion that is very low three-quarters and almost sidearm. He’ll never light up a radar gun, rarely touching 90 mph from the right or even the upper 80s from the left side, but his control is immaculate, and his breaking stuff is solid enough. So far he’s been untouchable, delivering perfect saves on Friday and Saturday to keep his ERA at zero. In 10 1/3 innings, he’s allowed just six hits, struck out 18, and not walked a batter, and lefties have had no shot against him, going 0-for-9 with seven whiffs. Nobody’s sure quite what to make of him, but they’re definitely trying to figure it out, and this is a big step forward for a guy who entered the year as little more than a sideshow.

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fantasy
5/04
Lets assume Locke's change and curve ultimately do fall in the "plus" category. What would he then project as?
kgoldstein
5/04
Solid big league starting pitcher.
maxinparis
5/04
Does Reese Havens really have this kind of bat? Is it a question of being a polished hitter in a league with younger players? How fast could the Mets move him up the sytem?
kgoldstein
5/04
He's certainly polished. Like I said, that fact that he's hitting and getting on base isn't really a surprise, it's the power. Whether that's a one month thing or a real step forward is still TBD.
gwguest
5/04
Between Baily and Matthew Maloney, it seems that the Reds have some decent options if the rotation gets hit with the injury bug.
dmoriart
5/04
Big Reds fan here... I'm excited about Homer again, which is great, but I wish I shared your optimism about Maloney. Unfortunately, he strikes me as a AAAA starting pitcher. Maloney is a fly-ball pitcher with an OK-but-not-great K rate. I don't think he throws much more than 88 or 90 from what I've read. I'm afraid that is a BAD type of pitcher to be in GABP. Would you agree, Kevin?
kgoldstein
5/04
Totally agree.
BrettG
5/04
I've been a longtime supporter of Andy Marte. It's been a disappointing journey, but I still believe the talent is there. I still remember seeing him crush the ball over the satellite dish in left-center field in Winston-Salem. I'm going to have to get to some games this year to see him seeing that the Indians are now the team with their AAA affiliate here in Columbus.
HankScorpio
5/04
Kevin - A couple questions on Hochevar. First, do the scouting reports match the statistics from Hochevar's starts so far this year? In other words, is he really pitching as well as the numbers would imply? And, secondly, given his apparent ability to sustain this extreme ground ball rate, is it time to start thinking that he could possibly be more than just a 4th starter or so? I realize he doesn't have the K rate to be Webb or Halladay, but this kind of ground ball rate is almost more of an innate ability than a learned one, and it sure seems that Hochevar has it. Could he be a solid 2 or 3 starter? Thanks.
kgoldstein
5/04
Like you say, he's still not a real bat misser, so I wouldn't put anything close to a two on him. But yes, the one scout I talked to who saw him was pretty impressed.
KowboyKoop
5/04
Hochevar's mid 4s FIP from last year (4.48? off of memory) combined with how he has performed in AAA so far this year make the decision to stick Ponson in the rotation for NO REASON extremely dumb. If the Royals lose the divison by two games....there's gonna be an awful lot of angry KC fans.
bdoublegeez
5/04
I know this is annoying and all but it's Indiana University not University of Indiana.
kgoldstein
5/04
Yeah, yeah. Fixed. I don't understand why it's not interchangeable. Can I add this to my list of reasons to hate college sports?
ostrowj1
5/04
I understand why you may think it is silly, but it can be a real pet peeve for some people. I graduated from Miami University which is completely different than the University of Miami.
alskor
5/04
What I dont understand is why people who name their University after a major American city a 1,000 miles away get angry when confusion arises. They should just rename the Ohio school "Fake Miami." Of course, I should mention my parents are both Alums of the Florida school...
ostrowj1
5/04
Ouch! Actually, it is Miami Florida that is inaccurately named. The Miami tribe were native to the Mid-West, not Florida. Add to that that Miami University (of Ohio) was founded years before the Florida territory was acquired by the USA (Miami U was founded in 1809, Florida officially became a US territory in 1819). Has a super bowl winning quarterback ever played for Miami (FL)? Has a US President ever graduated from Miami (FL)? I think we know who the "Fake Miami" is... :) (thank you for listening to me rant)
alskor
5/05
Except the University in Florida was named for the nearby City (actually in Coral Gables), not the tribe, strictly speaking...
kowcore
5/04
Doing some research before opening your mouth would help you not look stupid. Not only is there a city of Miami in Ohio, it and the university there are named after the Miami tribe of Native Americans that was local to the Ohio/Indiana/Michigan area. Miami, Florida, on the other hand, is named after the unrelated tribe of Mayaimi Native Americans.
birkem3
5/04
Not to belabor this, but there is not city of Miami in Ohio. There's a Miami County and a Miami University, but there's no city of Miami. The university is located in Oxford, OH.
kowcore
5/04
Sorry, you're right. I just saw the Miami, Ohio link on the Miami disambiguation page on Wikipedia and assumed that's where Miami University was. As it turns out: "Miami was the name of two towns located in Erie County and Lucas County; however, the exact location of either is unknown."
alskor
5/05
Yeah... about that... Doing some research before opening your mouth would help you not look stupid. My original point was made jokingly, anyway. Besides, I said "MAJOR American city." Major was the important part...
kowcore
5/05
Sure, you said "major"--in the context of stating that Miami University was named after the city of Miami, Florida, which is blatantly wrong. Since it doesn't detract at all from my point, I hardly think that my error of referencing the non-existent city of Miami, Ohio compares with yours.
ramjam36
5/05
You guys all have way to much time on your hands.
alskor
5/05
I never said that... I said the University of Miami (the one in Florida) was named after the nearby city. Go read it again. You really, really need to work on your reading comprehension.
dcoonce
5/04
Kevin, I live in Bloomington and it's practically free to see a baseball game and about a 15-minutw walk from my house. IS Arnett (or any IU player) worth checking out, or do you know of any Big 10 players worth seeing when they come here? I know you're not the college guy, but thought I'd ask. Also, the University of Indiana is in Pennsylvania. Really!
kgoldstein
5/04
Arnett could slide into the end of the first, or is likely a sandwich pick. Their catcher, Josh Phegly has some nice heat for his bat, but he's not a good defender.
dcoonce
5/04
Thanks! Just found out that the games are free! SO I'll be checking him out.
blcartwright
5/04
and don't forget Indiana University of Pennsylvania and California University of Pennsylvania
SirVLCIV
5/04
I'd love to see what Pat Venditte could do at a higher level. I have to wonder what Jonathan Hovis has to do to be promoted. He's old for his level (25 years old, in his second year of High-A), and probably has mediocre stuff, but if a sub-2.00 ERA doesn't get you promoted, I don't know what can.
kgoldstein
5/04
Hovis is hardly dominating. He's not missing many bats and RHP are hitting him hard. He's not much of a prospect.
SirVLCIV
5/04
Oh, I didn't think he was a prospect. I just keep seeing ERAs in the mid-1s in his Baseball Cube page. Didn't know that about RHBs hammering him. Just checked milb.com: RHBs have a .353 BA against him this year so far. Ouch.
toddherr
5/04
Regarding Venditte, is there a rule that applies to either the pitcher or batter "declaring a side" that would cover his facing a switch-hitter? Seems like he and the batter could dance all night without a pitch being thrown if at least one of them weren't forced to choose.
rowenbell
5/04
The batter selects a batter's box, upon which the ambidextrous pitcher decides which arm to use. If the batter then wants to change from one batter's box to the other, he needs to call timeout, doesn't he? So, in the scenario you describe, ultimately I think the home plate umpire would refuse to grant a timeout to the batter and force the batter to remain in one batter's box, breaking the stalemate.
dcoonce
5/04
Nope, actually once the batter picks a batter's box, he's there for the duration of the at-bat, unless there is a pitching change (rare mid-at-bat) SInce an ambidextrous pitcher is so unique, I doubt there's any rule covering how often one can switch hands, but I bet that will change if Venditte ever makes the majors.
sungods7n
5/04
You mean like this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiqLaWFufms
harderj
5/04
Thanks for sharing this. Interesting that in this case the batter picked first (unlike the rule), though whether he was compelled to, or just decided to end the stalemate wasn't clear. I was hoping for a switch mid at bat...
kgoldstein
5/04
Important note -- that rule did not exist when that took place. The rule was created basically because of that at-bat.
kgoldstein
5/04
Here's the official rule for this: 1. The pitcher must visually indicate to the umpire, batter and runner(s) which way he will begin pitching to the batter. Engaging the rubber with the glove on a particular hand is considered a definitive commitment to which arm he will throw with. The batter will then choose which side of the plate he will bat from. 2. The pitcher must throw one pitch to the batter before any “switch” by either player is allowed. 3. After one pitch is thrown, the pitcher and batter may each change positions one time per at-bat. For example, if the pitcher changes from right-handed to left-handed and the batter then changes batter’s boxes, each player must remain that way for the duration of that at-bat (unless the offensive team substitutes a pinch hitter, and then each player may again “switch” one time). 4. Any switch (by either the pitcher or the batter) must be clearly indicated to the umpire. There will be no warm-up pitches during the change of arms. 5. If an injury occurs the pitcher may change arms but not use that arm again during the remainder of the game.
harderj
5/04
Brilliant. Especially the pinch hitting contingency. Nice, obscure rule. One of the Greg Harris's was ambidextrous, no?
veg9000
5/04
Is that the MLB rule, or does it cover minor leagues as well? I wonder how they came to the decision to give the batter the advantage. I'm probably missing something, but since the pitcher's feat is more difficult (and rare), shouldn't he have the opportunity to win the switch-off? For the fun of it, I would to see rules that encourage more players to try.
dianagramr
5/04
Does Bailey have the stuff/make-up to be a closer? p.s. One of my roto teams this season is named "Homer Bailey and the Bailouts" :-)
WilliamWilde
5/04
Is Andy Marte taking the Brandon Philips route to the big leagues?
birkem3
5/04
He would've needed a team to claim him when he was passed through waivers, so technically, he's already missed out on that route. He'd have to be called up and then waived again to follow in The (self-proclaimed) Franchise's footsteps. http://clevelandtribeblog.blogspot.com/2007/07/lazy-sunday-with-franchise.html
fielding99
5/04
People are so hard on Fernando Martinez, but he's only 20 years old. There aren't many guys his age who are ahead of him.
Sacramento
5/04
Angel Villanova turns 19 this August. And he's hitting .322/348/.460 at High-A.
Sacramento
5/04
I wish there was an Edit function, I meant Angel Villalona.
Ophidian
5/05
Not sure whether this is intended is a postive for FMart or not, but he's doing his work at AAA compare to Villalona. I'm much more concerned about FMart's ability to stay healthy than his bat.
fielding99
5/05
There are guys who are younger than Martinez who are better prospects, but how many are at Triple A? Justin Smoak is 22 and he's at Single A. Lars Anderson is 21 and he's at Double A. Gordon Beckham is 22 and he's at Single A. Brett Wallace is 22 and he's at Double A. I'm not saying Martinez is better than these guys, but he's holding his own at Triple A at age 20, and that deserves some respect.
irablum
5/05
Does Elvis Andrus count? or not because he's not a prospect anymore because he's a major leaguer. Ok, Neftali Feliz. ok, well, since there aren't any other 20 year olds at AAA then its pretty much a strawman. But age and level do not make the only determination of prospect quality. People are down on Martinez because he doesn't walk alot, strikes out a ton, doesn't hit for power, and doesn't field well. Plus, since he doesn't steal a whole bunch of bases, field well, or hit alot of triples, he probably doesn't run that well. (if he does run well, then he's not being coached well.) People were down on Chris Davis (and still are) because he strikes out alot even though his walk rate is decent, and he hits for tremendous power and has no speed. But he's a first baseman, not a centerfielder. And Martinez is closer to Corey Patterson than Chris Davis. But he'll probably be a major leaguer by age 21, though he'll never be as good a major leaguer as Smoak, or Beckham, or Wallace, or Anderson. Smoak, btw, will be in AAA by the end of this year and would probably already be in Arlington if it were not for the aforementioned Chris Davis, as there's kind of a log-jam at first right now in Texas. (move Davis to DH? well, Blalock is kinda hitting and he's still under contract, so burying him isn't the best option. and even then we still have Max Ramirez to deal with, and his perennial .300/.400/.500 production, and limited catching ability). Beckham? well, he's also being moved slowly but will probably face AAA pitching by the end of this year or early next year. Many even predict a cup of coffee for him this September. But Alexi Ramirez is doing fine right now, so there's no rush. Brett Wallace hits a ton, but his fielding is a bit suspect, and again he'll move to AAA fast, but for the moment Brian Bardon and Joe Thurston are doing fine. Lars Anderson can also hit, but for some reason (Kevin Youkilis) they aren't in much of a hurry there either. any questions?
fielding99
5/06
Yeah. You seem to be agreeing with me pretty violently. I said: "I'm not saying Martinez is better than these guys, but he's holding his own at Triple A at age 20, and that deserves some respect." Which part of that sentence did you not understand?
gilgamesh
5/05
Smoak is actually already at AA.
alskor
5/05
EVERY YEAR Martinez has never actually done well - he's just held his own against older competition. Id like to see him actually hit well once, regardless of ARL. Until then he's just a good prospect to me, not a top 50 guy.
shmooville
5/04
In regards to Pat Venditte, I can understand why the Yankees have been cautious with moving him up the ladder too quickly. I got to see him pitch last year in what was probably the most entertaining ball game I've attended in years, and a lot of that was gambling on not missing the next ferry in order to see him pitch. From what this amateur fan saw; it looked like his breaking stuff was definitely well advanced for the level. Every time he tried to sneak a fastball in there though, it was hit hard somewhere but he kept the location well controlled so those fastballs were nothing but loud foul ball strikes. The breaking stuff though looked near mlb ready to me, and the batters that night couldn't do anything with them. Not only did we get to see him go righty, lefty, righty in that inning which was great fun, but we also made the ferry in the end which at that time of night meant we saved an hour sitting in the Staten Island ferry terminal.--Mason.
tribe4me
5/04
Hopefully Andy Marte will do something at Columbus to increase his trade value since it's doubtful that he will replace even a struggling Mark DeRosa at 3rd base. That is unless the Tribe holds another mid-year fire-sale and promotes him then.
Cambridge
5/05
Pat Venditte talked about his game with BP last August: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/unfiltered/?p=978
kyleboddy
5/06
I pulled video of Homer Bailey from May 2nd and compared it to last year. I see virtually no changes in his mechanics - he still has the same arm action and followthrough, right down to his weird glove-side foot flip. http://www.drivelinemechanics.com/2009/5/6/866567/homer-baileys-turnaround-due-to-a It's just more confirmation bias, I think. Bailey dominating AAA tells us what we already know: He's good enough to dominate AAA.
aztropf
5/10
Well the Homer Bailey of 2007 and 2008 wasn't good enough to dominate AAA. He could be decent and succeed, but not dominant. So it would be a step forward.