See? Everything is fine

Steven Strasburg
, RHP, Nationals (AFL: Phoenix)
Yesterday’s stats: 4.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 K

Strasburg’s last start created some undue panic in a small set of fans in our nation’s capitol, but he proved everything was fine on Tuesday by not allowing a hit and lighting up that elusive third digit on the radar gun on multiple occasions. He also threw 42 of his 67 pitches for strikes. One scout put it best by saying, “I agree with starting him in the minors, but I’m not exactly sure what I’d need him to work on.”

The good and the bad remain the same

Jose Tabata
, OF, Pirates (AFL: Scottsdale)
Yesterday’s stats: 3-for-6, 2B, HR (1), R, 6 RBI

It’s the usual for Tabata so far in Arizona. Now batting .326 after yesterday’s effort, there’s little doubt regarding his pure ability to hit, but at the same time, that’s only one home run to go with just two walks in 43 at-bats. The lack of secondary skills, as well the fact that he’s stretched to cover ground in center, leaves some doubts as to his ultimate ceiling.

Rolling right along

Mitch Moreland
, 1B/OF, Rangers (AFL: Surprise)
Yesterday’s stats: 2-for-4, 2B, RBI, BB

While it’s hardly pretty to watch, Moreland just keeps on hitting, now batting .333/.444/.600 in eight games for the Rafters. He’s not some kind of great, fluid athlete; he’s big and almost awkward-looking at times, but you just can’t argue with the results, as he’s hit with at least average power at every level. He certainly has enough arm strength for right field, but his range is a bit short there. His future might be as a left-handed bench bat who can fill in at three positions.

Making up for lost time

Hecton Rondon
, RHP, Indians (VEN: Caracas)
Yesterday’s stats: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 4 K

Like Zach Putnam (who was discussed yesterday), Rondon was temporarily moved to the bullpen during the regular season with the hope that he might help a brutal major league relief staff. That move was short-lived, and while he was excellent in Double-A, he struggled a bit after moving up a level, with a 4.00 ERA. If anything, he can be a victim of throwing too many strikes without a pure plus-plus put-away pitch to get away with that style, and he’ll need to make some adjustments.

Others of Note

  • Grant Desme
    , OF, Athletics (AFL), 1-for-2, 2B, 3 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, K: What? No home run?

  • Michael Saunders
    , OF, Mariners (VEN), 2-for-4, 2B, RBI, K: He’s up to .344/.417/.594 in eight games so far. Scouts still think he’ll be fine despite his poor showing in Seattle.

  • Sebastian Valle
    , C, Phillies (MEX), 2-for-4, HR (6), R, 2 RBI, K: He’s basically the Grant Desme of Mexico, as the 19-year-old backstop is now 12-for-26 with six bombs and 15 RBIs.
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Can I get a pronunciation on Desme?
I mean seriously Mr. Desme (if you read this)... no HOME RUN!!! Just terrible. A Quad-A hitter now for sure....
I always thought it was DEZ-may.
That's correct on the pronunciation. I wrote a little about him in a comment yesterday, and not to belabor the point but he just played his first full season at age 23, split evenly between Low-A Kane County and High-A Stockton. I can't speak to Kane County's park, but Stockton is a hitter-friendly ballpark where the wind often blows out to center -- not as severe as Lancaster or High Desert but still a good hitter's park where a guy with average power is going to hit a lot of homeruns. Desme hit 31 homers last year, but also struck out 148 times, which is a remarkable number for a class-A player at that age. Just on my own observation, which admittedly is very non-scouty, he looks thick and not particularly athletic, and he seems to swing at a lot of marginal pitches. To me, and I did see him again in the AFL the first week of their season as well as a number of games for Stockton in the summer, he just looks like an Arizona Fall League mirage. I'll be surprised if he ever has any kind of major league career.
Kane County is an absolute nightmare to hit in, and I think you are way to pessimistic on his. He's not a massive prospect, but he's way better than you have here. And yes, it's Dez-may.
Thanks KG. I hope I'm wrong, and I often am since all I can offer by way of experience is having watched hundreds upon hundreds of minor league games as a fan, plus whatever I hear in talking to scouts who happen to be sitting near me at the games. It's a long list of guys who I've thought were going to be stars based on their time in the Cal League, then disappeared before ever reaching the majors, and by the same token a long list of guys who I thought were roster filler and turned out to be good major league players.
"I agree with starting him in the minors, but I'm not exactly sure what I'd need him to work on." That quote sounds really dumb from a pure baseball perspective. It makes it sound like the scout wants him in the minors for no good reason. On the other hand, there are some non-baseball reasons to keep him in the minors. There is a certain culture that comes with being a professional baseball player and it would probably help to ease him into that. Get him some time getting used to the travel and being away from family before the pressures are on. It'd probably be good to give him a chance to buddy up with some guys who will be on the major league club soon so that he doesn't feel like a loner in the clubhouse with all the media attention.
Unfortunately that would require the Nats to have guys in the minors who will be on the major league club soon. Can't think of a guy in AAA to whom that would apply.
Also of course there are the pure business reasons--not wanting to start his arbitration/free agency clock quite so soon (specifically, waiting at least til mid-May to avoid Super Two status).
Is the arbitration clock a real concern? He has a Major League contract already. According to Cots, he'll get paid: - 2009:$0.4M (pro-rated), - 2010:$2M, - 2011:$2.5M, - 2012:$3M
It's not dumb, it's just real. I'd do the same, but I don't know what I'd have him work on either. I just would want him to get adjusted without the pressure of the big leagues. I say it all the time, these are human beings we are dealing with, not strat-o-matic cards.
Just because there's nothing he needs to work on, just beacuse all his pitches are good and his pitch selection works, and so on, doesn't mean that he wouldn't benefit from facing tougher competition than he's ever faced before he faces the toughest competition he'll ever face. There are good business reasons not to bring him up too fast, viz. you don't need his arbitration clock ticking when your team (the nationals) isn't going to be a competitor this season. There's also the injury factor. If you leave him in the minors, you can keep him under a strict 80-90 pitch count, skip him in the rotation occasionally, and so on, without needing more pitching on your 25 man roster. The Nats are nuts if they bring this kid out and crack the 150 IP barrier in his rookie year. Let his arm get used to the stress and take good care of it.
Thanks Kevin. Do you think Moreland could possibly help the big league club sometime next year? It seems likehis patience would be a nice add to their lineup.
A recent analysis in Bleacher Report on Desme is down on him, and says he won't be anything but Jack Cust with speed. Not saying he's going to be that... But wouldn't Jack Cust plus serviceable center field plus stolen bases be a championship caliber player?
KG: Is Valle too young to project if his bat plays elsewhere than C? His defense has been questioned elsewhere, and D'Arnaud is still above him in terms of Phillies prospects. Thanks.
He's 19 -- you let him catch until you are sure he can't.