Archive for May 2010

Previewing the Hudson Valley Renegades

May 31, 2010

Image courtesy of sportslogos.net

The Hudson Valley Renegades, New York-Penn League affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, finished last season in third place in the McNamara Division with a 38-37 record.  They will play a three game series with the Connecticut Tigers at Dodd Stadium August 4-6.

Kevin Gengler of RaysProspects.com joined Connecticut Tiger Den to help preview the 2010 Renegades.

Stephen Hamel: Is there a chance Luke Bailey plays for the Hudson Valley Renegades this season? Can you give a brief scouting report on him?

Kevin Gengler: It’s tough to say, just because of how unique Bailey’s situation is. Last season’s catchers, Mark Thomas and Mayo Acosta, were promoted, while the rookie-level catchers aren’t really prospects. I would guess Hudson Valley is his destination, though. The Rays took Kyle Lobstein, a high school pitcher, in 2008, paid him an over-slot bonus (like Bailey), and he was assigned to Hudson Valley in 2009 with no pro experience. Whatever the case, he’s likely to split time between Catcher and Designated Hitter as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

Bailey’s an athletic catcher, with above-average contact and power tools. He has good footwork behind the plate, and his arm graded out well before the surgery, and is expected to return to that level.

SH: The Rays have a couple of athletic outfielders from Texas in extended spring training in Todd Glaesmann and Cody Rogers. What are the strengths and weaknesses of their games? Do you think one or both of these guys may be assigned to Hudson Valley in June?

KG: Cody Rogers will almost certainly be in Hudson Valley, since he had a strong season in Princeton a season ago. Glaesmann is a little bit similar to Bailey, in that he’s a high school player who got a big bonus. He only played in 5 games in the Gulf Coast League last season, and being as it was the first year the Rays have had a GCL affiliate, there’s no track record to see what they’ll do with guys at that level. My guess would be Hudson Valley, but Princeton wouldn’t surprise me.

Rogers showed he could do a little bit of everything last season. He’s got speed (14 steals), he hit .303, and showed some power. His weakness is the strike out, as he whiffed 54 times in 52 games last season. Glaesmann is big (6’4″ 205 lbs) but athletic. He’s a line-drive hitter with power potential. He’s not as speedy as Rogers, who plays quality defense in centerfield, but Glaesmann’s plus arm and good athleticism make him a decent defender at a corner outfield spot.

SH: Jeff Malm is one of the Rays’ top prospects in extended spring training. Where you you see him spending the 2010 season?

KG: Malm is in the same boat as Bailey and Glaesmann: 2009 high school draftees who signed for an over-slot bonus. He was considered a polished bat coming out of high school, so I’d expect him to start in Hudson Valley. He’s limited to 1st base, which means his bat will need to be his calling card. He should make good contact, but the question is how much power he can hit for with wood bats.

SH: Albert Suarez was Hudson Valley’s opening day starter last year, but Tommy John surgery prematurely ended his season. Any chance he is back in Hudson Valley late in the year? What was his stuff like before his injury?

KG: I haven’t heard anything on Albert Suarez’s recovery, but if he does make it back in 2010, I’d expect it to be in the Gulf Coast League, at least to start out (Jake McGee made 5 appearances there last year coming back from Tommy John surgery). If he comes back early enough, it’s possible he does get assigned to Hudson Valley at the end of the season.

SH: Is there anyone else in extended spring training who could make an impact with Hudson Valley this season?

KG: Trevor Shull showed some promise last season with Princeton. He should make the Hudson Valley rotation and could have a break-out season if his stuff has sharpened. Brian Bryles is another athletic outfielder, but he really struggled last year and should be back with Princeton. Kevin James, the Rays 9th round pick in the 2009 draft, has the stuff to play in the New York-Penn league, but his control and overall game need refinement, so I’d expect him to start in Princeton. Jacob Partridge was outstanding in the GCL, but I’d expect the Rays to take it slow with him as well.

I’d like to thank Kevin Gengler for helping me preview the 2010 Hudson Valley Renegades.

Dodd Stadium to host NCAA regional

May 30, 2010

The NCAA announced Sunday that Dodd Stadium has been chosen as one of 16 regional sites for the 2010 NCAA baseball tournament.

The University of Connecticut and three other schools to be announced on Monday will compete in Norwich for the right to advance to Super Regionals.  The games will begin June 4 at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, Conn.

Tickets go on sale Monday, May 31 at 2:00 p.m. and can be purchased online at uconnhuskies.com or in-person at either the Dodd Stadium Box Office or the UConn Athletic Ticket Office in Storrs.

Roster changes in West Michigan

May 30, 2010

The Tigers made a slew of minor league transactions Friday, many of which will have a direct impact on the makeup of the Connecticut Tigers roster.

Infielders Chris Sedon and Jimmy Gulliver and pitchers Jared Wesson and Zach Samuels were promoted from extended spring training to the West Michigan Whitecaps.  Going the other way were infielders Luis Palacios and Elvin Soto and pitchers Luis Angel Sanz and Melvin Mercedes.

The four newcomers to extended spring training will likely head to Connecticut when the New York-Penn League season begins.  Palacios and Sanz spent time in Oneonta last season, while Soto and Mercedes played in the Gulf Coast League in 2009.  Mercedes is a candidate to serve as Connecticut’s closer, while Sanz has the versatility to start or relieve.

Previewing the State College Spikes

May 29, 2010

The State College Spikes, New York-Penn League affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, finished last season in third place in the Pinckney Division with a 38-38 record.  They will play a three game series against the Connecticut Tigers July 14-16 at Dodd Stadium.

Pirates prospect expert Wilbur Miller joined Connecticut Tiger Den to help preview the 2010 Spikes.  His work can be found at this link.

Stephen Hamel: Do you expect Zach Von Rosenberg to be the ace of State College’s pitching staff? Can you give a brief scouting report on him?

Wilbur Miller: I think the plan with von Rosenberg was to have him stay in EST for a while and then go to West Virginia. That’s what they did last year with Quinton Miller, although he made a couple of starts for State College first. The Pirates’ view now seems to be that high school players should get acclimatized in EST and/or the GCL and then go to full season ball if they’re ready.

When he was drafted, von Rosenberg supposedly threw 88-91, with good command of a curve and change. When I saw him in training camp in March, though, he was throwing 83-88, which was a bit concerning. Hopefully, he’s built up his velocity since then.

SH: Jeff Inman struggled his junior year at Stanford. Is that why he was not assigned to a full-season team? What kind of stuff does he have? Do you expect his stay in State College to be a short one if he gets off to a hot start with the Spikes?

WM: Inman was shut down with shoulder soreness at Stanford. The Pirates held off having him pitch in 2009 except for a couple brief appearances toward the end of the year. This year, he was throwing as high as 96 in camp and was on the West Virginia roster to start the season, but never appeared. I have no idea what the problem is. I think he’d be with the Power if he was healthy, so he may not be available to pitch at State College. If he is and shows he’s healthy, I doubt he’ll be there long.

SH: The Pirates have several high school arms from their ’09 draft class in extended spring training. Among the quartet of Colton Cain, Brooks Pounders, Trent Stevenson and Zack Dodson, who is likely to be assigned to State College? Who has the most upside?

WM: I expect the Pirates’ plan with these four was about the same as with Von Rosenberg—whichever ones look the best in EST will probably get a chance to go directly to West Virginia, or maybe make just a brief stop at State College. Stevenson and Dodson may be the most likely to spend a lot of time at State College. Pounders is probably the most advanced of the four and should be able to make it to full season ball. Cain had back surgery in the off-season and has only recently been cleared to pitch. If he’s able to pitch in games, he may be in the GCL.

Cain and Stevenson probably have the most upside. They’ve shown the most potential velocity if they can develop their mechanics and if Stevenson, who’s extremely thin, fills out. Pounders is a finesse guy. Dodson throws in the low 90s with a very good curve.

SH: Wes Freeman struggled this season with the West Virginia Power and was demoted to extended spring training. Do you expect him to be assigned to State College when the New York-Penn League season begins? What are the strengths and weaknesses of his game?

WM: I’m sure Freeman will go to State College. He’s a big, athletic guy with good speed and a strong arm. His defensive play, especially the arm, made a big impression on people who saw him play for the Power. He has a lot of raw power but massive problems making contact. That last is the issue he has to overcome.

SH: Gift Ngoepe is certainly an interesting story as he attempts to become the first African-born player to reach the Major Leagues. Can you give a brief scouting report on him? Is there a chance he moves up to State College this season?

WM: Ngoepe is very athletic, with good speed and very good range in the field. He’s a good defensive player already, but not advanced with the bat. He didn’t see much quality pitching until he became a pro. The Pirates have said he’ll open back in the GCL, but if he shows improvement with the bat they may move him up. They do consider him a real prospect and not a stunt or anything.

SH: Is there anyone else in extended spring training who could make an impact with State College this season?

WM: The Pirates have some good prospects coming up from Latin America and they don’t hesitate to push guys who perform well. One guy I’d look for is OF Exicardo Cayones. If he does well in EST or gets off to a strong start in the GCL, they might move him up. Among the pitchers, one guy who might be in the opening rotation for State College is LHP Jhonathan Ramos, who made a strong showing last year in the GCL. He’s on the Power roster now, but that may only be a temporary assignment due to some injuries.

I’d like to thank Wilbur Miller for helping me preview the 2010 State College Spikes.

Tigers in EST: Bruce Rondon

May 27, 2010

Bruce Rondon began his professional career in 2008 with the Venezuelan Summer League Tigers.  He started 13 games in his debut season, pitching 55.1 innings and posting a 3.58 ERA.  Rondon struggled with his command, allowing 20 walks to 34 strikeouts, while throwing 9 wild pitches and hitting 10 batters.

Despite his apparent lack of command, the Tigers moved Rondon stateside to begin the 2009 season.  He began the season in extended spring training before being assigned to the GCL Tigers in June.  Rondon would not be pitching in the GCL for long, however, as he was sent back to the Venezuelan Summer League after pitching only 11.2 innings in the GCL.  Rondon managed to record 15 strikeouts during his time in the GCL, while also allowing 8 walks.

The scouting report on Rondon’s TigsTown.com profile says he throws a fastball that sits between 88 and 92 miles per hour, an above-average curveball and a change-up.  Rondon will need to improve his command to become a serious prospect.  He is 19-years-old this season and will either be assigned to Connecticut or the GCL.

Name: Bruce Rondon

DOB: Dec. 9, 1990

Birthplace: Valencia, Venezuela

Bats-Throws: Right-Right

Previewing the Mahoning Valley Scrappers

May 26, 2010

The Mahoning Valley Scrappers, New York-Penn League affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, finished last season in first place in the Pinckney Division with a 49-27 record.  They will play a three game series with the Connecticut Tigers July 4-6 at Dodd Stadium.

Image courtesy of minorleaguebaseball.com

Tony Lastoria of Indians Prospect Insider joined Connecticut Tiger Den to help preview the 2010 Scrappers.  “The Mahoning Valley roster is almost completely filled out from the recent draft as they assign almost every college draft pick there,” Lastoria said.  “As a result, maybe at most a half dozen extended guys make the Mahoning Valley roster.”  The following is a Q and A about those players in extended spring training who may play for the Scrappers this season.

Stephen Hamel: Alexander Morales had a good strikeout rate in the Arizona League a season ago. What kind of stuff does he have? Considering his size, does he project better as a reliever? Do you expect him to be assigned to Mahoning Valley?

Tony Lastoria: Morales will be used as a starter likely in Mahoning Valley, and he is one of the few guys in EST that they consider has some upside. Had an ACL injury in 2008 which wiped out his season, and came back last year with a solid year. 88-91 with his fastball and complements it with a curveball and changeup. His biggest strength is he is an aggressive pitcher and is not afraid to pitch around the strike zone. I think ultimately he becomes a reliever, but he will open in the Mahoning Valley rotation (though there is an outside chance he goes to Lake County in June to start instead).

SH: Why do you think the Indians gave up on Carlos Moncrief as a pitcher and moved him to the outfield? Will he be ready for Mahoning Valley or do you think the Indians will want to keep him in the Arizona League initially?

TL: Moncrief is just too raw as a pitcher and couldn’t throw consistent strikes. First pitch strike rate and walks were not good. He has an amazing arm, but some guys just have problems mechanically and with throwing strikes. Thankfully, he was just as heralded in the draft as an outfielder as he was a pitcher, so his power bat and plus arm could be a nice find in the outfield. But he is still gonna take a lot of work.

SH: Are you surprised Vidal Nuno was not assigned to a full-season team considering his success with Mahoning Valley last season? Will he be sent back to Mahoning Valley this season?

TL: Nuno actually just got promoted to Lake County in the past week, so likely won’t be in Mahoning Valley. Yeah, he had a lot of success last year at Mahoning Valley, but he is a prime example of how sometime results don’t necessarily don’t make a great prospect. He came out of nowhere and surprised, but some think with him being a crafty lefty and plus strike thrower he took advantage of some very inexperienced bats at the short-season Single-A level. He’s still an interesting guy, but his stuff is nothing special and he will need to continue to put up superhuman numbers to erase the label of being just an organizational guy.

SH: 2009 draftees Kyle C. Smith, Daniel Jimenez and Mike Rayl are all in extended spring training. Who has the most upside of the trio? What roles do you see these three having with Mahoning Valley this season?

TL: Mike Rayl probably has the most upside and is a guy the Indians really like. All three should be a part of the Mahoning Valley opening day pitching staff, though it is possible any of them could go to Lake County as well since lots of mid-season moves are made in Lake County to bring a few Mahoning Valley holdovers there or some college guys from the previous draft. But getting back to Rayl, he is a very interesting lefty with a good pitching frame. He has a low 90s fastball and a changeup and curveball, and most importantly throws a lot of strikes from the left side.

SH: Is there anyone else in extended spring training who may make an impact with Mahoning Valley this season?

TL: Middle infielder Kevin Fontanez is still very young and learning to hit, but is an above average defender who the org likes. Outfielder Trent Baker may move to Lake County first, but if not he will be a key tablesetter at the top of the lineup with his speed. Left-hander Elvis Araujo, if he is healthy, will be the best or one of the best young Latin players in the league when he gets there, though I expect him to pitch in rookie ball to start before going to Mahoning Valley.

I’d like to thank Tony Lastoria for helping me preview the 2010 Mahoning Valley Scrappers.  His work can be found at indiansprospectinsider.com and theclevelandfan.com.

Tigers in EST: Sean Finefrock

May 25, 2010

After nearly a year and a half absence from professional baseball, Sean Finefrock has returned to the Tigers to resume his career.  According to TigsTown.com, the 23-year-old right-hander is attempting a comeback after having retired from baseball in 2008.  Prior to his retirement, Finefrock spent two seasons in the Tigers minor league system.

Finefrock was drafted by the Tigers in the 35th round of the 2007 MLB draft out of Butler Community College.  TigsTown.com’s Jason Avery wrote on draft day that Finefrock had a 90-91 mph fastball and a good slider.

After signing a professional contract, Finefrock was assigned to the Gulf Coast League Tigers.  He made two starts with the GCL Tigers before being promoted to the New York-Penn League and inserted into the Oneonta rotation.  Finefrock would go on to pitch 52.2 innings for Oneonta in 2007, posting a 5.98 ERA to go with 30 strikeouts and 21 walks.

Finefrock was sent back to Oneonta in 2008, but he appeared in only 6 games, pitching 9.0 innings out of the bullpen.  After the season, he announced his retirement and remained out of baseball until this spring when he joined the Tigers in extended spring training.

Finefrock will probably be assigned to Connecticut when the New York-Penn League season begins, though a short stint in the Gulf Coast League would not be surprising considering his time away from the game.

Name: Sean Finefrock

DOB: Feb. 11, 1987

Bats-Throws: Right-Right

Drafted: 35th round, 2007

School: Butler Community College