Friday, January 22, 2010

Pitching Prosect #7: B.J. Rosenberg

B.J. Rosenberg is my next rated pitching prospect and he lands at the #7 spot. This is much higher than most people rate Rosenberg due to his lack of pre-draft hype and the fact that he is a relief pitcher. Relief pitching prospects typically hold less organizational value compared to starting pitching prospects. This is another reason why the Phillies recently converted Phillipe Aumont to a starter.

Rosenberg was drafted in the 13th round in 2008, out of the University of Louisville. There, Rosenberg was a starter until he had a shoulder injury which forced him to miss the entire 2007 season. When Rosenberg came back from injury, the Louisville Cardinals converted him to a reliever where he really seemed more comfortable.

Rosenberg has really forced his way into the prospect rankings due to his success at the minor league level. At the time of the draft, he was not highly touted in any way and wasn't really expected to make the major league roster anytime soon. Rosenberg has completely dominated in his 2 years as a minor league relief pitcher, and that cannot be ignored. In 2008, Rosenberg pitched at Williamsport and completely embarrassed the New York Penn League hitters. In 36 innings, he went 3-1 with 10 saves and posted a 1.00 era, Rosenberg struck out 52 batters compared to only 15 walks. In 2009, Rosenberg continued his dominance as he started the year in Lakewood and finished up in Reading. Rosenberg pitched a total of 61 innings between the two leagues and finished with a 7-3 record and 22 saves. He posted a 1.18 era while striking out 73 batters compared to only 14 walks.

Rosenberg will probably start the 2010 season at Reading, as he didn't pitch too much at that level. Assuming Rosenberg continues his success, he will probably see Lehigh Valley pretty quickly in 2010. The Phillies think enough of Rosenberg that he will be invited to spring training this year, so it will be nice to see what he can do against actual major league hitters. He hosts a 92-95 mph fastball and a good slider, he also has a changeup but doesn't use it too often. The most impressive thing about B.J. is his ability to command his pitches as he can throw them at anytime. He is 23 years old and due to the combination of his pitching ability and maturity, he probably has the ability to get major league hitters out right now. He also may get the chance to prove that in 2010 as Contreras is 38 years old, Baez and Durbin have both been injured in the past 2 years, and both Romero and Lidge will start the season on the DL. If the Phillies bullpen does need to bring somebody up, Rosenberg will probably get a look right after Mathieson.

Phils Sign Jose Contreras

The Phillies are reported to have signed Jose Contreras to a 1-year deal. Contreras had a 4.92 era in 2009 so the signing doesn't hold much promise, especially when considering that he is 38 years of age. Amaro hasn't made any official comment on the signing, so the amount of the deal isn't known at this point. Due to Contreras's decline in recent years I couldn't imagine that the Phils reached too deep into their pockets for this one, or at least I hope not. This signing reminds me alot of the Ryan Franklin signing. Lets hope this works out better. Both have been starters for their entire career with a handful of relief appearences. The Phillies will allow Contreras to compete for the 5th rotational spot but it is clear that the Phillies want that to go to Kyle Kendrick. At this point I think the Phillies see Contreras as a good long relief option and if anything else, just decent insurance policy for Kendrick/Moyer.

Phillies Extend Victorino

On Friday the Phillies officially signed Shane Victorino to a multi-year extension. They signed him for $22 million over 3 years. $7.33 million per year is very fair for Victorino even though he was only asking for $5.8 million in arbitration this year. This keeps Victorino on the Phillies through his first year of free agency where he probably would of demanded a much larger annual salary along with more years, especially after his projected increase in power and rbi numbers in the 2010 season. Yes, that will happen while batting in the 7-hole for 162 games. This was an intelligent fiscal move by Amaro because it locks up an elite centerfielder. It is very nice to see a general manager of a championship team thinking multiple years down the road. It is also nice to see a general manager not locking players up to extensively long contracts.

The only negative one can take out of this signing would be the departure of Werth. Unless Amaro trades somebody in the offseason, Werth is guaranteed to be hitting the free agent market. From there, Werth will be gone as he will be searching a substantial pocket enhancer. I just hope that the Mets won't be pursuing him. That would blow. Even before the Victorino signing it appeared that the Phillies wouldn't be able to resign Werth, so it's not really devastating. At least our 2011 rightfielder won't be looking like this. What the hell was he thinking.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Phillies Extend Blanton

The Phillies have just signed a 3 year extension with Joe Blanton worth $24 million. By extending Big Joe, the Phillies avoid arbitration where they could have potentially, but unlikely, paid him $10.25 million this year. This is a good signing as Joe Blanton is a very quality pitcher and one of the most durable in the majors. Blanton is a very underrated pitcher because he doesn't do anything spectacular but is extremely consistent and rarely has bad outings. 2009 could have been a breakout season for Blanton if he didn't have such a poor start. This is actually an amazing signing when you compare that the last pitcher the Phillies signed at 3 years for $24 million was Adam Eaton. I am predicting that Blanton will have the best season of his career to date winning 17 games. Yes, bold, but Blanton is a much better pitcher than most think. For me to be so high on Blanton is rare because I am still a little bitter due to the fact that Josh Outman and Adrian Cardenas are no longer in the Phillies system. I guess Outman would be a little overkill though, how many young lefthanded starting pitchers does one team need.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Phils Looking to Extend Victorino

The Phillies are making an attempt to resign Shane Victorino to a multi-year deal. At this point it is assumed that the deal will be 2 years in length which means almost nothing. This means little because the Phillies have Victorino under team control for the next two years anyway. Victorino has officially filed for arbitration just this past week and he will again be arbitration eligible next year. The Phillies front office has shown in the past that they do not like taking their players to arbitration.

By signing Victorino for the next two seasons, it avoids the arbitration hearings and all but guarantees that he will be on the Phillies the next two seasons. Locking up Victorino now will save the Phillies a few dollars in the long run which is always a good thing.

If the Phillies end up extending Victorino, this probably means that Werth will be gone after this year, which shouldn't come to a surprise by most. By 2011, the Phillies braintrust will be forced to decide between Victorino and Werth unless they find that magical pot of gold at the end of the Lucky Charms rainbow. This means that with Shane locked up at a reasonable price, they would have to trade him to make room for Werth's newly deepened pockets. It just seems that if the Phillies have plans on resigning Werth, Victorino wouldn't be getting a 2011 contract this soon.

Other Phillies Tids and Tats

Blanton has asked for $10.25 million in arbitration which is pretty ridiculous. $10 million is the highest ever awarded to a player in arbitration, so if it does go to the arbitrator, the Phillies will more than likely be the victors. The Phillies are offering $7.5 million.

The Phillies will be trying out Eric Gagne this week. Please no. He did not pitch at all in 2009 and posted a depressing 5.44 era in 2008. As I have made it clear before, I believe the Phillies internal options are much better than the run of the mill relief pitchers that are floating around the league. Scott Mathieson, Brian Rosenberg, Mike Zagurski, Michael Schwimer, Antonio Bastardo, and Sergio Escalona are all quality internal options.

Jimmy Rollins is getting married this weekend in the Grand Cayman's. While at his hotel there was an earthquake recorded at a magnitdue of 5.8. What is happening down there. Bobby Abreu will be his best man.

Shane Victorino has released his own clothing collection through Silverstar.

The Phillies have committed Bastardo to the bullpen. He pitched in the Dominican Winter League and did very well. He posted a 1.50 era in short relief during the regular season. It's good to see that Philadelphia will be seeing BastardBall 3-4 times a week. Get yo popcorn ready.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Phillies Move Aumont to Starter

The Phillies officially announced on Tuesday that they have plans to convert Phillipe Aumont back to a starter. Aumont was the main prospect involved in the Cliff Lee deal, and has almost unlimited potential. Aumont was drafted by Seattle in 2007, 11th overall, where he started his career as a starting pitcher but was moved to a relief role due to injury concerns. Aumont has pitched very well to date, as he has posted a 3.2 era in 106 innings, while striking out 109 compared to only 91 hits.

Moving Aumont to a starting role makes the Cliff Lee deal look significantly better as starting pitching prospects are much more valuable than relief pitching prospects. Originally it appeared that the Phillies replaced their best pitching prospect in Kyle Drabek, with a good relief pitching prospect. Even though Aumont doesn't appear to be a significant drop off in talent, he represented significantly lesser value as a prospect since he was situated in the bullpen.

2010 is a big year for Aumont because he has the ability to ease the Phillies concerns for losing Drabek. When comparing Aumont to Drabek, they both appear very similar based on pitching ability. Both throw a mid-90s fastball with a 12-6 power curveball and an improving changeup. It seems that in Philadelphia, fans are seriously overrating Drabek's abilities, and underrating Aumont's abilities. Across the board, Aumont has much better statistics, albeit mostly as a reliever, but he has still outperformed Drabek to this point in their minor league careers.

Aumont will start the season in the Reading rotation which should be an exhilarating rotation as the mound will see legitimate prospects every day. I expect the rotation to appear as this in no particular order, Worley, Cisco, Flande, Aumont, and Ramirez. Worley and Flande could start in triple-A but due to the Phillies history of being conservative in player development, I expect them to start in double-A and then be promoted to triple-A. The organization will eventually have to make room in Reading for top pitching prospect, Trevor May. That is assuming that May continues to embarass batters at his current rate, 2.72 era and 10.7 SO/9.

One last thing to note, Aumont is 6'7" and 220 lbs. He is officially the second tallest player in Phillies history, only behind 6'8" Gene Conley who played in the 1960s. That should be fun to watch. The Reading Phillies should be ready to welcome Mount Aumont.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pitching Prosect #8: J.C. Ramirez

The eighth pitching prospect slot goes to newly acquired Juan Ramirez. Ramirez was one of the prospects that the Phillies received in the Cliff Lee deal. Ramirez is the worst prospect of the three but is still a good prospect. I will admit that I am not as high on Ramirez as most. He was signed in 2005 out of Nicaragua, he was 16 years old at the time. Ramirez is a 6'3" righthanded starting pitcher that can only be defined as a power pitcher.

Ramirez looks like a thrower more than a pitcher at this point in his career but still is young, 21, and has time to learn. He throws a hard fastball that reaches 96 mph, a hard slider, and an improving changeup. Ramirez can be erratic at times, but he is only 21 years old, most 21 year old pitchers are erratic. He hasn’t quite put it all together as a pitcher because he is still very raw. In his 4 years in the minors, Ramirez has posted a 4.12 era in 406 innings. Even though Ramirez is a bit erratic, batters still have a difficult time hitting him as he has only given up 369 hits in those 406 innings. Ramirez is currently a starter in advanced single-A, but with his power fastball he projects as a good reliever down the road.

Ramirez reminds me a lot of Ryan Madson as they are both very tall, lanky, right handers. They also have a very similar repertoire, as they both have good overpowering fastballs, changeups, and a breaking pitch. Ramirez differs a bit from Madson because his breaking pitch is a slider compared to Madson's curveball, and Ramirez's slider is his #2 pitch where Madson's changeup was his #2 pitch. In the first 4 seasons of both pitchers' careers, Ramirez has posted a 4.1 era in 406 innings compared to Madson's 3.77 era in 394 innings. Madson pitched his entire minorleague career as a starter and wasn't converted to a reliever until he was promoted to Philadelphia. I believe the Phillies will take a similar approach to Ramirez based on how his pitches develop.

Ramirez has definitely pitched below his abilities to this point in his career but this is mainly due to having to pitch in a hitter friendly park in 2009 and being younger than his competition. Many Hispanic born pitchers take longer to develop than American pitchers due to signing at such a young age. Many Hispanic born prospects are signed at 16 years old. Personally, I was just studying for my permit test. Not quite as much pressure as playing professional baseball against 21-22 year olds.

I do believe that Ramirez is better suited for a reliever role but if he can improve both of his offspeed pitches, he can easily project into an elite starting pitching prospect. Keith Law, who works for ESPN, has stated that he projects Ramirez as a potential #2 starter in the majors. This is very high praise for a Ramirez and makes me think that his offspeed pitches are better than advertised. 2010 will be a big year for Ramirez as he will be 21 years old and pitching in AA Reading. Ramirez is another prospect that could make a serious jump in the prospect rankings or fade a bit if he repeats his 2009 numbers.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Phillies Sign Danys Baez

The Phillies finally addressed their biggest need, the bullpen. The Phillies officially welcomed righthanded reliever, Danys Baez, as they signed him to a 2-year $5.25 million contract. Baez has had a solid career as a reliever, including an all-star appearence in 2005 as the Devil Rays closer. Since then he has really tailed off and has become fairly pedestrian as he posted a 4.02 era in 2009.

Even though a 4.02 era is not very inspiring as the only bullpen acquisition to date, Baez does hold the ability to be a dominant reliever. As previously stated, Baez was an all-star closer in 2005. Baez also didn't pitch at all during 2008 as he had elbow surgery, so a 4.02 era in 2009 isn't too bad when you define it as a recovery season.

Baez will be taking the place of the departed Chan Ho Park. Park would have been great to retain but he was asking for too much money and he wanted to be a starter again. Apparantly he thinks teams are searching for starters that have an era close to the height of Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo. I am not expecting Baez to be as effective as Park, the reliever version, but he should be a dependable arm. Baez should definitely be improved from last year as he will be regaining strength in his elbow, but still shouldn't be expected to pitch at his all-star level. Anything in between there should be a welcome addition to the Phillies bullpen.

On a related note, Scott Eyre is not expected to return to the Phillies due to salary demands. This means that Bastardo will officially be in the bullpen the entire year and Escalona will be on the major league squad until J.C. Romero comes back from injury.

With the addition of Baez, only one more bullpen spot will need to be filled. This spot will most likely be filled by right-handed Scott Mathieson. I can only hope that the Phillies don't go out and sign a below average free agent reliever, because Mathieson has the ability to be the Phillies' next Ryan Madson.

Many are disappointed as how the current bullpen stands. I really don't think it's that bad. Lidge will be, at the very least, an above average closer again. Madson, will again be an elite setup man. The combination of Romero and Bastardo will be two of the best loogies in the league. The key to the bullpen is Durbin, if he can pitch anywhere close to how he appeared in 2008, the bullpen will be very good. The 2008 Phillies bullpen was one of the best in the league. The 2009 Phillies bullpen was one of the worst in the league. The pitchers in the 2010 bullpen should pitch much more like the 08 bullpen than the 09 bullpen. The Phillies have the best defense, the best offense, and a very good rotation. If the bullpen is average, the Phillies will again find themselves playing in the fall classic.