Archive for April 2010

Tigers in EST: Wilfredo Ramirez

April 30, 2010

Wilfredo Ramirez spent the first three years of his professional career in the Cleveland Indians organization.  The left-hander signed a free agent contract with the Indians in 2005 and made his professional debut the following summer in the Dominican Summer League.  He started 14 games for the DSL Indians, pitching 81.2 innings and posting a 2.31 ERA.

Photo courtesy of Roger DeWitt

In 2007, Ramirez was brought stateside to play in the Gulf Coast League.  He was moved to the bullpen, pitching 27.2 innings in relief and posting a 2.60 ERA.  He also showed excellent command, recording 27 strikeouts and only 4 walks.

Ramirez was promoted to the New York-Penn League in 2008, spending his final season in the Indians organization with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.  He pitched 28.2 innings and posted a 3.77 ERA to go along with a very good 23 to 5 strikeout to walk ratio.

Despite his solid numbers, Ramirez was released by the Indians in February 2009, but he was not unemployed for long.  Seeing potential in the 6-foot-4 left-hander, the Tigers inked Ramirez to a contract in May.

Ramirez was unable to obtain a visa to play in the United States, so he spent the 2009 season with the Tigers Venezuelan Summer League affiliate, posting a 3.84 ERA in 61.0 innings pitched.  Clearly more advanced than his younger opponents, Ramirez had the best season of his career.  His ERA was inflated by an unlucky .393 BABIP, but his strikeout (9.6 SO/9) and walk rates  (1.0 BB/9) were the best of his career.

After obtaining his visa, Ramirez reported to Lakeland, Fla. for fall Instructional League and is currently in extended spring training.  He will probably begin his 2010 season with the Connecticut Tigers, but he has the opportunity to move up the ladder quickly thanks to his excellent command.  Ramirez’s TigsTown.com profile says he throws an 88-89 mph fastball, a curveball and a changeup.

Name: Wilfredo Ramirez

DOB: Nov. 24, 1987

Birthplace: Barcelona, Venezuela

Bats-Throws: Left-Left

Connecticut Tigers links

April 30, 2010

Info on a town hall style meeting scheduled for Saturday in Mystic

Baseball America article about attendance at Dodd Stadium

Photo of new mascot C.T. the Tiger

Tigers in EST: Kevan Hess

April 29, 2010

Photo courtesy of WMU

The selection of Kevan Hess in the 14th round of the 2009 MLB draft may have caught Tigers fans by surprise considering the Kalamazoo, Mich. native  posted an ugly 8.14 ERA in 24.1 innings at Western Michigan University.  Hess had primarily been a catcher for the Broncos before moving to the mound as a junior.  Despite his lack of experience, the Tigers decided Hess’ raw arm strength and low 90s fastball were worth taking a chance on.

After signing, Hess joined the Oneonta Tigers and quickly became a weapon out of the bullpen.  He recorded 35 strikeouts in 44.0 innings for the O-Tigers, missing an impressive number of bats for a guy who just started pitching earlier that year.  His 4.30 ERA was deceptively high thanks to an unlucky .360 batting average on balls in play.  Hess’ 2.97 FIP gives a better indication of his ability.

Hess is currently in extended spring training and will probably to be assigned to Connecticut in June.  With more experience, he has a chance to develop into one of the better relievers in the Tigers’ farm system.

Hess’ older brother Andrew spent over two years in the Tigers organization before being released in March 2010.

Name: Kevan Hess

DOB: March 30, 1988

Drafted: 14th round, 2009

School: Western Michigan University

Tigers in EST: Matt Mansilla

April 28, 2010

Photo courtesy of CofCSports.com

Matt Mansilla joined the Tigers organization after being selected in the 22nd round of the 2009 MLB draft.  He showed good tools including speed and power while playing for the College of Charleston, but struggled during his first taste of professional baseball last summer.

After signing a pro contract, Mansilla was assigned to the Oneonta Tigers of the New York-Penn League.  He showed good arm strength, racking up four assists in 41 games in left field for the O-Tigers, but his offensive production was miserable.  In 120 at bats, Mansilla hit .175 and slugged .267.

On the bright side, Mansilla showed good patience, drawing a walk in 10.4 percent of his plate appearances.  Additionally, he seems to have been a victim of bad luck.  His batting average on balls in play was .224, which is much lower than one would expect from a player like Mansilla who has above-average speed.

Mansilla will likely be assigned to Connecticut in June, where he will look to put 2009 behind him.  With a little luck, Mansilla should post significantly better numbers his second time around the New York-Penn League.

Name: Matt Mansilla

DOB: May 25, 1986

Drafted: 22nd round, 2009

School: College of Charleston

Could Dodd Stadium host an NCAA Regional?

April 27, 2010

UConn 3B Mike Olt/Photo courtesy of uconnhuskies.com

Having won 21 straight games, the University of Connecticut baseball team is the hottest in the country.  The Huskies currently sit atop the Big East standings and rose to 23rd in the RPI after last weekend’s sweep over Rutgers.

UConn will put itself in a position to host an NCAA tournament regional if it continues to win, but a regional cannot be held in Storrs, as the on-campus baseball facility, J.O. Christian Field, does not have enough seating capacity to host such an event.

Among the baseball facilities in Connecticut with sufficient seating capacity, Dodd Stadium is the closest to Storrs, located approximately 22 miles from the UConn campus.

Dodd Stadium should be available for NCAA regionals since the Connecticut Tigers home opener is not until June 26.  Regionals will be held from May 29 to June 1.

Norwich hosted the Huskies as recently as last year, when UConn played a regular season contest against the University of Pittsburgh at Dodd Stadium on May 8, 2009.

Promotions from Extended Spring Training

April 26, 2010

Outfielder Chao-Ting Tang (previously featured on Tigers in EST) and right-handed relief pitcher Michael Morrison were promoted from extended spring training to the Lakeland Flying Tigers over the weekend.

These two moves are part of a chain reaction of transactions resulting from injuries to Tigers designated hitter Carlos Guillen and Mud Hens pitcher Ruddy Lugo.  Guillen injured his hamstring running the bases in Thursday’s game against the Angels.  Lugo was hit in the head by a line drive Friday.

Tang’s call-up is probably temporary, but Morrison has a chance to stick with the Flying Tigers if he pitches well.  In his brief time in Oneonta a year ago, Morrison recorded 26 strikeouts in 19.1 innings with a 3.26 ERA.  Mark Anderson, managing editor of TigsTown.com, says Morrison throws a 92-93 mph fastball and a solid breaking ball.

In other news, Daniel Fields has fared well with the Flying Tigers.  He is hitting .308 through seven games.

EDIT: Another transaction to report.  According to Mlive, Right-handed relief pitcher Cory Hamilton has been promoted from extended spring training to the West Michigan Whitecaps.  He is taking the roster spot of 2009 first round pick Jacob Turner, who has been placed on the disabled list with right forearm stiffness.

Q and A with draft expert Andy Seiler

April 25, 2010

MLB draft expert Andy Seiler was kind enough to answer some questions about the upcoming draft for Connecticut Tiger Den.  He is the author of MLB Bonus Baby, a great resource for anyone interested in the draft.

San Diego State pitcher Addison Reed/Photo courtesy of David J. Olender/The Daily Aztec

Stephen Hamel: The Tigers have a tendency to use their top draft picks on power arms.  Who in this draft fits that description and might be available when the Tigers are on the clock with the #44 and #48 picks?

Andy Seiler: There are a good number of arms in the second tier who will be available at those picks. I could see them getting an arm like San Diego State’s Addison Reed in that range, and if they really want to go with a high school arm, they’ll go with someone like DeAndre Smelter out of Georgia or Tyrell Jenkins out of Texas. Each of those guys has a powerful arm that fits in with Detroit’s philosophy when it comes to the draft.

SH: Which first round talents might slip to the Tigers in the supplemental first round because of signability concerns?

AS: Though it’s a bit too early to tell, I can see a few guys slipping that could be picked in that area. Austin Wilson, a high school outfielder from California, is a prime candidate if his Stanford commitment scares off enough teams in the first round. Others could include Stetson Allie, a power arm out of Ohio with a North Carolina commitment, and Nick Castellanos, a third baseman out of Florida with a Miami commitment.

SH: What is your gut feeling on Clemson outfielder Kyle Parker’s signability?  Could he end up playing minor league ball this summer and return to Clemson in the fall to play football like Dennis Dixon did with the Braves?

AS: It’s clear that Parker wants to continue playing football. He missed a baseball game just to get back to Clemson to play in their spring football game. I don’t think he’s unsignable, but it will take more than with an average college outfielder, and there are enough questions not related to signability to scare some teams off early. I do think that if a team invests an early pick in him, they’re going to want him staying off the field. Either way, if he wants to maintain his eligibility for the fall, he can’t take any bonus money, so a team is protected in that area.

SH: Do you think West Virginia’s Jedd Gyorko will hit enough to justify being a high round selection?  What position will he play?

AS: I think he’ll hit just fine. I think the problem is that he won’t hit enough to hold down third base, and you don’t want him playing second if he doesn’t have the hands or range for it, just so that you can justify having his bat in the lineup. I see him settling in at second in the long run, though that’s basically due to wanting his bat maturing without him worrying about hitting for power. A team with a good roving infield instructor could turn him into something solid defensively.

SH: Barret Loux was drafted by the Tigers when he was in high school.  Any chance he is still available at pick #44?

AS: Yes, there’s a pretty solid chance he’s around. He’s sitting around that range right now, but with every outing he seems to be improving his draft stock. It could be that he turns out to be this year’s Eric Arnett, who shot up draft boards during his junior year to go #26 overall to the Brewers. If Loux continues to pitch well and stays healthy, the odds go down that the Tigers can reach him.

SH: Who is the best college left-handed pitcher after Drew Pomeranz and Chris Sale?

AS: I think it’s a two-way race with a third darkhorse candidate. Sammy Solis of San Diego and James Paxton, now an Indy league pitcher, are the two well-known candidates, but Rob Rasmussen of UCLA is coming on fast. Solis and Paxton have question marks of their own, and while Rasmussen doesn’t have prototypical size, he has quality stuff, and he continues to shut down decent offenses.

SH: What is your take on Connecticut natives Matt Harvey, Jesse Hahn and Mike Olt and where do you project them to be drafted?

AS: Harvey and Hahn look like solid first-round arms in the middle of that round right now. They’re both improving with almost every look, and the main difference between the two might be asking prices, as Harvey’s still with Scott Boras and Hahn’s not. Olt is looking like a 3rd-5th round bat, as he hasn’t had the best season. He still has above-average raw power and good defensive tools, but he’ll need to cut down on his swings and misses to become a prospect at the next level.