Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Astros 11 top Prospects from Baseball Prospectus

January 28, 2008
Future ShockAstros Top 11 Prospects
by Kevin Goldstein

Five-Star ProspectsNone

Four-Star Prospects1. J.R. Towles, C

Three-Star Prospects2. Felipe Paulino, RHP3. Bud Norris, RHP

Two-Star Prospects4. Brad James, RHP5. Josh Flores, OF6. Chad Reineke, RHP7. Mitch Einertson, OF8. Eli Iorg, OF9. Jordan Parraz, OF10. Sergio Perez, RHP11. Collin DeLome, OF

Just Missing: Samuel Gervacio, RHP; Tommy Manzella, SS; Polin Trinidad, RHP

Friday, January 25, 2008

Brves 2007 Minor League Player of the year

Atlanta Braves to honor their Minor League pitchers and players of the year on Future Stars Night, Sept. 16, at Turner Field
Minor League Stars to participate in pre-game autograph and Q & A sessions in Fan Plaza

Atlanta Braves Minor League Pitchers and Players of the Year will be honored on Saturday, September 16, on Future Stars Night at Turner Field. Several of the Atlanta Braves future stars will sign autographs for fans from 5:00-6:00 PM and participate in an interactive Q & A session from 6:00 - 6:20 PM in Fan Plaza. Braves Executive Vice President and General Manager John Schuerholz will join the future stars on the field for a pre-game ceremony honoring the Pitchers and Players of the Year at approximately 6:40 PM. The Atlanta Braves, a division of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., is Major League Baseball's winningest franchise since 1991. Since then, Braves teams have earned a record 14 consecutive division championships, five National League pennants and a World Series title. Based in Atlanta since 1966, the Braves franchise is the longest continuously operating franchise in Major League Baseball. Atlanta Braves games are telecast nationally on TBS and regionally on Turner South and FSN South, with radio broadcasts heard in Atlanta on 640 WGST and 96 Rock and regionally on the Atlanta Braves Radio Network. Atlanta Braves Minor League Pitchers and Players of the Year

Pitcher of Year Player of Year

Richmond Braves
Kevin Barry Scott Thorman

Mississippi Braves
Matt Wright Yunel Escobar

Myrtle Beach Pelicans
Matt Harrison Van Pope

Rome Braves
Jo-Jo Reyes Eric Campbell

Danville Braves
Jamie Richmond Larry Williams

Gulf Coast League Braves
Chad Rodgers Adam Coe
Dominican Summer League
Junior Rojas Jesus Sucre

A's claim Jeff Fiorentino

01/25/2008 2:09 PM ET
A's claim OF Jeff Fiorentino off waivers from Cincinnati
RHP Ruddy Lugo designated for assignment

OAKLAND -- The Oakland A's today claimed outfielder Jeff Fiorentino off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds. To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, the A's have designated right-handed pitcher Ruddy Lugo for assignment.
Fiorentino spent the 2007 season in the Baltimore Orioles organization and was claimed off waivers by Cincinnati on Jan. 4. He batted .282 with 15 home runs, 65 RBI and a team leading 44 walks in 126 games for Double-A Bowie. The 24-year old outfielder was originally selected by the Orioles in the third round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft and made his Major League debut with Baltimore in 2005. Fiorentino has a .253 career average with one home run and 12 RBI in 32 games with Orioles in 2005 and 2006. He was named the Orioles ninth best prospect by Baseball America entering the 2007 season.
Lugo was claimed off waivers by the A's from Tampa Bay on June 14, 2007 and went 4-0 with a 4.30 ERA in 27 games over three stints with Oakland. He also had two wins and a 9.28 ERA in 11 games with the Devil Rays and was 6-0 with a 5.40 ERA in 38 relief appearances overall last year.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Alan Mills by Lisa Winston

Perspective: Mills' return went beyond stats
Former Major Leaguer's comeback in Erie impressed players, coaches
By Lisa Winston / MLB.com

Right-hander Alan Mills enjoyed a comeback season unlike any other I have ever seen in my 20 years of covering baseball.
Like a meteor shower in your own backyard, it was brilliant and unexpected and all-too-brief.
In his first 27 games with Detroit's Double-A Erie SeaWolves, Mills went 23-for-23 in save opportunities, posting a 1.65 ERA and limiting Eastern League hitters to a .154 average.
He finally got hit on Aug. 28, giving up four runs in two-thirds of an inning to "skyrocket" his final ERA to 2.79.
All this came at the age of 40 after having been away from the game since the end of 2001.
A fellow closer in the league mentioned that he thought of Mills when his pitching coach had been filling out a survey that asked for "the best" in every category in the league.
"How great would it be," he mused, "if Alan Mills was named the top relief prospect in this league?"
I witnessed first-hand the season he had when he should have been voted the best relief prospect in his league.
It was 1989 and I was the rookie beat writer for the Yankees' Prince William Cannons in the Class A Carolina League.
At the end of the first half, the team had the worst record in the league, and was mired in last place in the first-half North Division standings.
The team's biggest bugaboo was its pitching, which was in shambles. Great talent but no consistency and a bullpen that could not find a true closer (or, as we called it in those days, stopper).
That changed on June 24 when the Yankees brought up Alan Mills from their Class A Fort Lauderdale team.
He wasn't immediately welcomed as a savior, at least not to any Prince William fans who had known him in his previous two full-season stints with the Cannons in 1987-1988, when he'd combined to go 5-19 with a 5.07 ERA (2-11, 6.09 in 1987 and 3-8, 4.13 in 1988).
"In 1987 I had pitched so badly that I was probably one of the worst pitchers in the league," Mills recalled of his first few go-rounds in Virginia. "I was fortunate not to get released. ... and 1988 wasn't much better."
During the following offseason Mills knew he would have to do something drastic to continue his career so he built a mound in his backyard and hung up a tire to throw through several times a day.
"Before that I was more of a thrower," he said, "But pitching is much easier when you can locate and throw strikes."
In the second half of 1989, the Cannons went from worst to first, going on to win their first -- and only thus far -- Carolina League title (they're now the Potomac Nationals).
Much of the credit for that can go to Mills. Going 6-1 with an 0.91 ERA, he was not only the best pitcher on the team but he made everyone else better as they discovered their roles.
The Yankees responded by doing what was almost unheard of for them at the time. They brought Mills from Class A to the Majors to start 1990.
He posted a 4.10 ERA in 36 games with the Bronx Bombers in '90, en route to a 12-year Major League career in which he went 39-32 with a 4.12 ERA in 474 games.
He spent the bulk of his career with the Baltimore Orioles, to whom he was dealt in 1992, with a brief stint in Los Angeles. His best season came in 1992 when he was 10-4 with a 2.61 ERA in 35 games for the Orioles. His last regular-season appearance came with the Orioles in October 2001.
So when I saw that he had returned to the mound this past summer, I circled the date that Erie would come through Bowie in red pen and headed out to Prince Georges Stadium that afternoon.
One thing I knew about Alan was that although he is one of the most kind and thoughtful gentlemen I have ever met in my 20 years covering the game, he's not comfortable being in the "media spotlight" and generally respectfully declines to talk about himself on the record.
So when people there found out who I was there to see, I got a very definite, "yeah, good luck with that" look.
But when Alan peeked out and saw it was me, the slightly wary expression was replaced by the big welcoming smile I'd missed.
He explained to me he still wasn't talking on the record -- yet -- about the comeback attempt. He just wanted to see how everything worked out.
He was flying so far below the radar that even some of his family was still in the dark about what he was doing. His dad knew, of course, but his siblings all thought he was there as a coach.
"Well, what if they Google you to find out your stats? Won't they find out then?" I asked.
He gave me a slightly mischevious smile.
"Lisa, how many people Google a coach for his stats?"
But last week, while enjoying the holidays with his kids, he shared his story, reflecting on his reasons for leaving, his reasons for coming back and his plans for 2008.
During Spring Training of 2002, with two of his three children still babies, he made the decision to walk away from the game to be with his family.
What he didn't expect was to go through a divorce shortly thereafter. It took awhile for him to, in his own words, "regroup," and he didn't want to venture too far from his home and kids in Lakeland, Fla.
During that time, Mills coached local amateur baseball teams, staying in shape and keeping his 90-mph fastball, slider and changeup sharp.
There were a few times he looked into returning to the game with teams that had local Spring Training camps. He came close to signing with the Cleveland Indians, and went to Spring Training in 2004 for several weeks with Tampa Bay, but in both cases their farm teams were too far from home so he walked away.
Over time, though, he and his ex-wife worked through the situation to the point that by last spring, Mills felt he was ready to give it one last try.
"I knew the window of opportunity was closing," he said, "And our ability to communicate allowed it to take place without any conflict of interest when it came to our kids."
Through a network of local baseball friends and former players, the word spread to Dan Lunetta, Detroit's director of Minor League operations, that Mills still "had it." He arranged for Mills to throw for pitching coordinator Jon Matlack and player development director Glenn Ezell and, after a few months, Mills was headed to Erie, Pa.
He joined, in early June, a club that was just 30-25, somewhere in the middle of the Eastern League pack.
He joined a pitching staff that featured several of the Tigers' top young prospects. For that matter, even his manager, Matt Walbeck (who has since left the organization to become Texas' third base coach) was younger than Mills at 37.
Mills did not set any particular goals for himself, no deadline that said "Detroit or bust." All he wanted was the chance to see what he could do after more than half a decade away from the game he still missed.
"After being out so long, I really didn't know what to expect, or even if I'd be able to endure the rigorous demands of a season," he said. "I just went with the intention of trying to be available every day. I couldn't have imagined pitching the way I did."
By September, Mills had helped lead the team to an 81-59 record, first place in their division, and a spot in the Eastern League playoffs. If he was disappointed not to be called up to Detroit in September, he hid it well.
"They were in the race and were having issues in the bullpen with injuries and what not," he said. "So once a certain amount of time passed by I figured it wouldn't happen."
Ezell already had some strong thoughts about where he wanted to see Mills down the line -- as a member of the Tigers' player development field staff -- and his performance, both on and off the field, simply reinforced them.
"He is absolutely a consummate professional," Ezell said, "The players had the utmost respect for him."
Ezell's impressions were confirmed when he went to see his Tigers prospects play in the Arizona Fall League. While there, he was chatting with Matt Rankin, the trainer for Triple-A Toledo, who was serving as the trainer for the Peoria Saguaros.
"He asked me, 'Who is this Alan Mills guy that all the pitchers were talking about?' Because everybody who came up from Erie to Toledo had nothing but high praise for him," Ezell recalled. "That to me is the ultimate compliment. Even after numerous years in the Majors, here he was in Double-A, still working to get better, and the young players saw that and appreciated it."
Mills met with Ezell and Matlack this fall and was offered the position of pitching coach at West Michigan, the two-time defending champions of the Class A Midwest League. Among the pitchers expected to be in his charge could be teenage right-hander Rick Porcello, the Tigers' top draft pick in 2007 and a young man widely regarded as the top high school pitcher available in that draft.
But just because he's no longer pitching doesn't mean he's lost his competitive spirit.
"I hope that I never lose the feeling of wanting to play, because it allows you to maintain a certain energy level and passion," he said. "But there comes a time when you have to let go of playing."
Meanwhile, instead of throwing a ball through a tire in his backyard this offseason, he's reading as many books and watching as many videos about teaching pitching as he can, while trying to reflect on everything he learned over the years from a variety of great coaches that have included A.J. Sager, Dick Bosman and Ray Miller.
But maybe one of the best lessons he could pass along to his charges this summer, came from one Alan Mills circa 1987-1988.
"When you get to the Majors and become established, sometimes you can forget about the past," he said. "I try not to forget about the rough years I had, because I had talent but wasn't seasoned enough to really know what I needed to do with it to be successful."
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

Kevin Slowey - Investment Potential?

01/24/2008 12:14 AM ET
Slowey getting tips from the top
Young hurler spending time with veterans during Caravan
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com

Kevin Slowey is expected to be in the Twins' rotation during the 2008 season. (A.J. Olmscheid)

OWATONNA, Minn. -- For Kevin Slowey, the past year has been one to remember -- even if he admits that he hasn't taken the time to really appreciate it.
On the southeast leg of the Twins Winter Caravan with fellow pitcher Scott Baker and broadcasters Bert Blyleven and John Gordon, Slowey has gotten a chance to relive his first big league season at each stop. It's been a chance to remember what he did to earn that first callup and what he still has to learn.
But Slowey feels that he has gotten a boost in that learning process by being a part of this particular leg of Caravan.
The common thread of the three players, both former and current, on this trip is that they are all pitchers. And with that similarity has come the opportunity to share stories of their time on the mound and also what it takes to improve.
Considering Blyleven's 23-year career and the stellar numbers he put up during that time, he would seem to be a tremendous resource for any young pitcher. Slowey has taken full advantage of the chance to sit on the long bus rides and talk to Blyleven and Baker about everything from working certain areas of the plate to understanding how to adjust to the type of stuff you have the day you're on the mound.
"It's been great to have him here," Slowey said of Blyleven. "I know he coached a little bit after he got done playing, so he's helped to instruct guys before. But the best thing is that he treats me -- who has had 13 Major League outings in my life -- as a peer and asks our opinions.
"He doesn't tell you what he thinks and then shuts you out. He wants to know what you think about it and what's happened to the game since he's been out of it. So you get a lot out of your talks with him. And it is stuff that you hope you remember when you're out on the field."
Prior to the Caravan, Slowey admits, he had not gotten much of a chance to know the former pitcher.
"Before this week I knew Bert as our announcer, a pretty funny guy and a great pitcher, but now I know him as a lot more than that," he said. "You really see that he's there for you. I think he wants guys to come and ask him and get his opinion on things, to share stories with him. It's been a great opportunity for me to get to know him, and I know I'll seek him out in the future."
It appears that Slowey will have that chance in 2008, as he's expected to be one of the Twins' five starting pitchers for the upcoming season. But he hesitates to put too much stock into projections.
Selected by the Twins in the second round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Slowey has made an ascent through the system that has been rapid, to say the least. And now he knows that he must work just as hard to stay as he did to get to this point.
"Everything has gone a lot quicker than I originally envisioned it," he said. "But ... you just don't know things are going to go. I don't know how it will all shake out in Spring Training. But I'm excited about what's to come, and I'm going to prepare for whatever happens the best that I can."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

Kansas City Royals Minor League Players of the Year

01/23/2008 8:50 PM ET
Aviles, Hardy win Kansas City awards
Infielder, left-hander named Minor League Players of 2007
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com

Rowdy Hardy was 15-5 with a 2.48 ERA in 26 games for the Blue Rocks in 2007. (Ben Platt/MLB.com)

KANSAS CITY -- Infielder Mike Aviles, a repeat winner, and pitcher Rowdy Hardy, a crafty left-hander, have been named the Royals' Minor League Players of the Year for 2007.
Each will receive the Alex George Award for being named the top players in the organization.
Hardy was 15-5 with a 2.48 ERA in 26 games for Class A Advanced Wilmington. He has a modest 85- to 86-mph fastball and an outstanding changeup to go with a slider and a developing curveball.
His control is exceptional -- he walked just 16 in 167 innings. He also hit 15 batters, an indication that he's willing to pitch inside.
"He's going to pitch with a well-below-average fastball and commands it very well," said J.J. Picollo, director of player development. "He can go in on hitters or pitch off the plate. In fact, he pitched in on right-handed hitters and left-handed hitters as effectively as anybody we had. He knows the importance of pitching in."
Hardy is likely to move up to the new Double-A Northwest Arkansas club this year.
"He was really and truly our best guy from start to finish, although we had a couple of guys with comparable numbers, particularly Julio Pimentel [12-4], who was there with him," Picollo said. "But Rowdy was from day one was the most dominant and consistent starter we had throughout the year.
"He's really kind of fun to watch. In the Carolina League, there are only eight teams, so he's facing the same seven teams over and over and over again, and the results never really changed. The league wasn't able to make adjustments to him."
Aviles also was named the organization's top player in his first pro season, 2003, when he batted .363 for the Arizona Royals. Last season, his second with Omaha, he hit .296 with 27 doubles, 17 homers and 77 RBIs.
"He hit .270 or so in Triple-A in 2006 and went back there and averaged just under .300," Picollo said. "He was another one who was consistent from day one to the last day."
Aviles played second base as well as third base and shortstop. He has a non-roster invitation to the Royals' Major League camp this spring.
"He's got a plus arm, so that's why you hesitate to not have him play on the left side, but with his tool set and his offensive skills, he would make a very good second baseman," Picollo said.
Duckworth designated: Pitcher Brandon Duckworth was designated for assignment Wednesday, clearing roster space for newly signed pitcher Brett Tomko.
Duckworth, who was arbitration-eligible, has already signed a contract with the Royals. If he clears waivers, he could remain with the club by accepting an assignment to Omaha.
Shortstop Jason Smith followed a similar path and will be in camp with the Royals.
Duckworth was injured part of last season and finished with a 3-5 record and 4.63 ERA in 26 games. He began the season in the rotation but was switched to the bullpen.
Top 10 list: It was no surprise that shortstop Mike Moustakas was put at the top of the Royals' top 10 prospects by Baseball America. Moustakas was KC's top Draft pick last summer.
But the publication did raise an eyebrow or two by ranking right-handed pitcher Daniel Cortes No. 2, ahead of highly regarded righty Luke Hochevar.
"Cortes really has made unbelievable strides," Picollo said. "First of all, when he first signed, he was about 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds. Now he's 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds. ... He's as good as anybody you could see -- 97 mph, throwing strikes with his fastball, he's got a power curveball and he's got some feel for his changeup that we need to be sure he uses enough."
Cortes, 20, came from the White Sox with Tyler Lumsden in the 2006 deal for Mike MacDougal. He's expected to compete for a job at the Double-A level this year.
Hochevar is expected to compete for the Royals' rotation in Spring Training after an impressive September callup. Moustakas is ticketed for Class A Burlington.
Here's the Baseball America prospect list for the Royals: 1. Moustakas; 2. Cortes; 3. Hochevar; 4. RHP Blake Wood; 5. LHP Danny Duffy; 6. RHP Carlos Rosa; 7. RHP Julio Pimentel; 8. RHP Matt Mitchell; 9. RHP Yasuhiko Yabuta; 10. OF Derrick Robinson.
Yabuta, coming from Japan, is 34 and was signed for the Royals' bullpen.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

Tigers invite 21 to Camp - Potential Autographs

DETROIT -- Don't count on many "Where-are-they-now?" stories when the Tigers open Spring Training in three weeks. There could be a few more stories of "Where are they going?"
Detroit released its list of non-roster invitees on Tuesday, and it includes a heavy share of prospects who aren't on the 40-man roster. Some of them, like infielder Michael Hollimon and Jeff Larish, could end up at Comerica Park at some point this season. Others, like Scott Sizemore, Danny Worth and James Skelton, are further down the developmental ladder.
They're all likely to get some time in Tiger uniforms when Spring Training games begin at the end of February.
A total of 21 players received invitations to join the big league camp. Of that list, just two players -- outfielder Timo Perez and reliever Aquilino Lopez -- played in the Majors last year, both with Detroit. None of them are considered likely to crack the 25-man Opening Day roster, barring injuries or trades.
The most experienced player of the group is reliever Matt Mantei, who will make one last comeback bid after spending last year at home. He tried to crack Detroit's bullpen two years ago in camp and looked relatively impressive before injuries slowed him. A brief midseason stint at Triple-A Toledo met a similar fate.
Perez, who will turn 33 years old in April, had a brief July stint with Detroit before being called up late in the season to platoon in left field down the stretch of a playoff chase. The International League all-star batted .389 (35-for-90) with nine doubles and 13 RBIs for the Tigers, including a .414 average in September. He was designated for assignment at season's end to make room on the roster, but came back on a Minor League contract.
Lopez, who also turns 33 in April, served as the closer in Triple-A Toledo while providing some relief depth at times in Detroit. He made 10 appearances for the Tigers, allowing 18 hits over 17 1/3 innings with six walks and seven strikeouts.
After that, the group becomes very young. At first glance, one reason would seemingly be the difficulty signing Minor League free agents this winter, since opportunities to crack the big league roster are limited at best. President/general manager Dave Dombrowski, however, said that wasn't a factor.
"I don't think it's a byproduct at all," Dombrowski said. "For us, it's more a matter that there's still a lot of players that are moving through the system."
The Tigers farm system lost several top prospects this offseason among the eight young players dealt away in trades for Edgar Renteria, Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera. The camp invitations should give fans a good look at the prospects that remain in the system.
Hollimon and Larish played key roles on a Double-A Erie club that won the Eastern League's Southern Division with an 81-59 record. Larish led that league with 28 home runs and 101 RBIs while batting .267 with 87 walks in 132 games. Hollimon batted .282 with 34 doubles, 14 homers and 76 RBIs over 471 at-bats. He also stole 17 bases in 23 attempts.
Larish and Hollimon both competed in the Arizona Fall League. So did Sizemore, coming off his first full Minor League season at Class A West Michigan. He batted .265 with 33 doubles, four homers and 48 RBIs for the Whitecaps.
Right-hander Jeff Gerbe joined them in Arizona after spending most of last season with Sizemore in West Michigan, where he went 2-2 with a 2.34 ERA in nine starts and 10 relief appearances. He'll join them in Lakeland, Fla., too, as will outfielder Clete Thomas, who batted .280 with 30 doubles, six homers and 53 RBIs for Erie. Fellow SeaWolves outfielder Matt Joyce received an invitation coming off a .257 average, 33 doubles, 17 homers and 70 RBIs for the SeaWolves.
Wilkin Ramirez, who split last season between Erie and Class A Advanced Lakeland, rounds out the list of outfielders invited to camp. The other infielder invited was Worth, Detroit's second-round selection in last summer's First-Year Player Draft after a successful career at Pepperdine. He'll join first-round pick Rick Porcello in going from last year's Draft to this year's camp, but Porcello was already going after signing a Major League contract last summer.
With the Tigers needing extra catchers to work with their pitchers during the early days of camp, they invited six catchers to join Ivan Rodriguez, Vance Wilson and perhaps Brandon Inge in camp. That includes Skelton, who became a Baseball America and Midwest League all-star by batting .309 with 24 doubles, seven homers and 52 RBIs in 101 games and throwing out better than 40 percent of would-be basestealers.
Dane Sardinha, Max St. Pierre, Joe Bowen, Dusty Ryan and Nick Trzesniak round out the catching corps.
Additional pitchers include right-hander Chris Lambert, the former first-round pick the Tigers received from St. Louis in last summer's Mike Maroth trade, as well as Preston Larrison, Francis Beltran and Freddy Dolsi.
Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Lakeland on Feb. 14 and begin formal workouts on Feb. 15, though many arrive well ahead of time. The rest of the squad reports on Feb. 19 and works out the next day.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Best Prospects of 2007

Ebay ID is jsenter

Joba Chamberlain's minor league cards were the best sellers of 2007. We will today post one of our last certified autogaphed cards of Joba.

Hunter Pence was a close second with Ryan Braun also in the race.
Ian Kennedy and Jeff Locke were also strong contenders.

Late in the season, Matt LaPorta, Jarrod Parker, David Price, Jason Heyward, and Justin Masterson came on strong and should be very desirable acquisitions in 2008.

We are looking forward to Spring Training and hope to supply a lot of cards for the Autograph Hounds to use.