Monday, October 30, 2006

Prospect Review: Burke Badenhop

What better place to start reviewing minor league performances from the past year than with the Tiger's Minor League Pitcher of the year, Burke Badenhop, someone who I have kept an eye on for quite some time considering our parallel paths. Badenhop is, like me, from Perrysburg, Ohio, the hallowed ground which gave us Jim Leyland, and Badenhop, like me, attended Bowling Green State University. Background aside, Badenhop had an outstanding year at West Michigan, but his status as a major league talent has been the subject of debate. What we do know are the stats he has given us through 1 year of playing time at West Michigan as well as time at Oneonta, so let's check out the stats:

2005 Oneonta 6-4 2.92 14 14 1 0 77.0 69 32 25 0 26 55 .238
2006 WMI 14-3 2.84 27 27 3 0 171.0 170 59 54 6 31 120 .260

Two seasons of minor league ball have produced a good amount of success for Burke with a very impressive ERA. His success actually increased as the year went on, going 6-1 with a 1.97 ERA and limiting opponents to a .223 BA in his last 10 games. His late season improvement is very appealing, seemingly indicating that he is learning from mistakes and understanding how to better pitch to hitters. His BA against still needs to come down, but his second half numbers do show a good trend in that category as he went 7-1 with a 2.45 era and a .249 ba against after the all-star break. A 14-3 win loss column and a 2.84 era does impress, even at the Low A level, but he could have easily had an era in the mid to high 3.00s. Still, though, the fact that he is having success is promising and has to make him rate higher in the organization's eyes.

Badenhop was originally selected in the 19th round of the 2005 draft and wasn't seen as much of a prospect. At 6'5" 220 he looks to have the frame to build a power pitcher on, but he throws mid to high 80's and does not overpower hitters with a great fastball. Of course, we have seen time and time again that not having a big fastball does not necessarily hinder a pitcher's progress in success at higher levels, however Dombrowski's love of power pitching could result in Badenhop having a short leash as a viable prospect. Even with continued success his pitching style could end up making him trade fodder down the road as Dombrowski continues to load the organization with power arms.

It will be interesting to see how Badenhop responds to higher levels of competition as he moves up the food chain, but it is worth noting that he is a very intelligent man who seems to get better as he faces more and more hitters... he's not just a thrower. Next year will be a very big test for him (given that the organization will move him up a level) and should flesh out whether or not he is a legitimate prospect, but for now he has to continue to be rated a bit lower than his success should grant him.

Prospect Grade: C

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Arizona Fall League Update

A prospect by prospect update of the Tiger's minor leaguers playing in the AFL this Autumn on the 10-5 Phoenix Devil Dogs who have just hit the halfway point of the season (keep in mind that the sample size of these stats is quite small):

Jordan Tata P (3 gs, 2.70 era, 10 ip, 7 h, 6 r, 3 er, 5 bb, 7 k)

Ten innings is not a whole lot to go on, but Tata has been making a case for consideration as a long reliever with the Tigers next year. Coming off of a very impressive season in AAA (his first) he has performed well at the AFL. His control has been much better than it actually appears to be, as 4 of the walks he has issued came in a single game. His strikeout to innings pitched ratio has been maintained perfectly from AAA to the AFL and are in line with what he should be achieving based on past minor league seasons.

Add these stats to his (admittedly small sample size) MLB playing time this year and you're looking at a very good pitching prospect who has a shot at making the team out of spring training next year with Miner struggling late in the season and Colon's status up in the air.

Preston Larrison P (5 g, 5.06 era, 5 ip, 4 h, 3 r, 3 er, 5 bb, 5 k)

Larrison has really struggled with his control in the AFL. Opposing players are hitting just .211 off of him but 5 walks really are setting off mild alarm bells for a guy who walked just 11% of batters faced splitting time between Erie and Toledo. What's more alarming is that the walks are scattered throughout his 5 ip and aren't the result of one poor outing like Tata. That said, he has struck out 5 in those 5 innings pitched, an impressive run for Larrison, who is not much of a strikeout pitcher (he struck out just 12.9% of batters faced this year). All of his appearances have been in relief.

Virgil Vasquez P (3 gs, 6.75 era, 10.2 ip, 13 h, 8 r, 8 er, 3 bb, 11 k)

Vasquez has actually been quite impressive despite his stats. Most of the ballooned stats come from his first start of the season in which he gave up all 8 of his earned runs on 9 hits in just 1.2 ip. He was basically throwing batting practice as everything he threw was being demolished. A start like that might have really ruined his fall and gotten into his head but he has come back with two very impressive outings, shutting out opposing teams and allowing just 4 hits in 9 innings while striking out 9. Vasquez has always put up impressive power pitching numbers, striking out 22.4% of batters faced this year, but he has also been quite hittable, which is why it's nice to see the 4 hits in 9 innings come along. I would be surprised if his success does not continue this fall and even more surprised if he is not pitching in AAA next year. His stuff has been much better than the hammering he appears to be taking based on statistical analysis alone.

Corey Hamman P (8 g, 2.57 era, 7 ip, 8 h, 2 r, 2 er, 1 bb, 8 k)

Hamman has been decent for the Devil Dogs this Fall, making relief appearances in 8 games and posting some very sparkling numbers including 8 strikeouts in 7 innings, far exceeding his usual strikeouts to innings ratio (he struckout just 56 in 103 innings this year). Despite his low era, good control, and fantastic strikeout total he has given up 8 hits in those 7 innings, something which troubles me a bit. His era could easily be much higher if teams string a few of those hits together, although that is merely rampant speculation with no statistical evidence behind it. That said Hamman allowed opponents a .260 ba with the Mud Hens this year despite posting a 4.02 era and allowed a .291 ba while posting a 4.29 era in erie last year, so he is obviously good at scattering the hits he does allow. Despite his success he has allowed a hit in every appearance except 2 this year (one of them being an appearance of only 1/3 of an inning) and has been forced to pitch through trouble often. Hamman is a borderline prospect who I don't see ever making much of an impact beyond the AAA level, he is simply too much of a risk with the amount of baserunners he allows.

Brent Clevlen CF (.273 BA, 1 hr, 8 rbi, 9 bb, 16 k, .407 obp, .771 ops)

Everyone who saw him light up in the big leagues (pun intended) this season, please take a step back from anointing him as an upcoming superstar and realize that the kid hit .230 with a .313 obp this past season in AA. Of course, he does have a lot of potential and seems to be realizing at least some of it in the AFL. A .273 ba and a .407 obp seem to indicate that he is beginning to turn the corner at the plate and most promising of all are the 9 walks (fourth most in the league) he has garnered, a huge jump from his stats at Erie. We seem to be seeing the Brent Clevlen of 2005 when he lit up the Florida State League and established himself as a good prospect.

Of course, he has not been perfect. He has struck out 16 times, leading the league, and has produced only two extra base hits, a double and hr. He really needs to up those power numbers if he's going to be a viable big league talent, but with the improvement in his all around offensive game over the last few months and into the AFL, I am confident those hits will come in time.

Kody Kirkland 3B (.270 BA, 1 hr, 8 rbi, 6 bb, 15 k, .404 obp, .864 ops)

Kirkland has numbers almost identical to those of Clevlen with only minor differences, including 5 extra base hits to Clevlen's 2, and again the numbers are encouraging for a player who really struggled offensively in Erie this season. His strikeouts are still very high, as they were during summer ball, but any offensive improvement has to be seen as a good sign. Kirkland isn't going to come out and suddenly turn everything around at once and that can't, and shouldn't be, expected.

Mike Rabelo C (.143 BA, 0 hr, 3 rbi, 2 bb, 1 k, .333 obp, .476 ops)

Rabelo played in just two games before leaving the league. Although I have yet to find an official reason for his departure I think it had more to do with his lack of playing time behind Curtis Thigpen than anything else.

World Series Hangover

All I'm going to mention in regards to the World Series is that obviously the breaks did not go our way, and when they did (Chris Duncan) we didn't take advantage of them, something which we did all year and the very reason we were able to demolish both the A's and the Yankees in the postseason.