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Articles from January 2012

Top 50 Prospects: #10 – Jesus Montero

#10 Jesus Montero

Seattle Mariners

DOB: 11/28/1989

Previous Rank: 7

ETA: 2011

As the centerpiece of the deal that sent Michael Pineda, a power arm in his early 20s that has already been named to an All-Star team, Montero obviously has earned himself quite a reputation already.  This trade is further evidence of the reevaluation that is taking place with regards to the relative worth of premier bats and premier arms.  Additionally this represents the second consecutive season in which the Mariners have managed to land a hitter in our top 10.

Montero blew up at Yankee Stadium, slashing .328/.406/.590 in 61 at-bats during the Yanks’ playoff push.  While no one expects him to immediately hit that way to open 2012, and he notoriously starts slow regardless, that slash line is not impossible or even unlikely for the 22-year-old catcher/1B/DH/?.

Year Age Tm Lg Lev G PA AB R 2B 3B HR RBI BA
2007 17 Yankees GULF Rk 33 123 107 13 6 0 3 19 .280
2008 18 Charleston SALL A 132 569 525 86 34 1 17 87 .326
2009 19 2 Teams 2 Lgs A+-AA 92 379 347 45 25 1 17 70 .337
2009 19 Tampa FLOR A+ 48 198 180 26 15 1 8 37 .356
2009 19 Trenton EL AA 44 181 167 19 10 0 9 33 .317
2010 20 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre IL AAA 123 504 453 66 34 3 21 75 .289
2011 21 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre IL AAA 109 463 420 52 19 1 18 67 .288
5 Seasons 489 2038 1852 262 118 6 76 318 .308
AAA (2 seasons) AAA 232 967 873 118 53 4 39 142 .289
A (1 season) A 132 569 525 86 34 1 17 87 .326
AA (1 season) AA 44 181 167 19 10 0 9 33 .317
Rk (1 season) Rk 33 123 107 13 6 0 3 19 .280
A+ (1 season) A+ 48 198 180 26 15 1 8 37 .356
2007 17 Yankees GULF Rk 33 123 107 3 19 12 18 .280 .366 .421 .786 45
2008 18 Charleston SALL A 132 569 525 17 87 37 83 .326 .376 .491 .868 258
2009 19 2 Teams 2 Lgs A+-AA 92 379 347 17 70 28 47 .337 .389 .562 .951 195
2009 19 Tampa FLOR A+ 48 198 180 8 37 14 26 .356 .406 .583 .989 105
2009 19 Trenton EL AA 44 181 167 9 33 14 21 .317 .370 .539 .909 90
2010 20 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre IL AAA 123 504 453 21 75 46 91 .289 .353 .517 .870 234
2011 21 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre IL AAA 109 463 420 18 67 36 98 .288 .348 .467 .814 196
5 Seasons 489 2038 1852 76 318 159 337 .308 .366 .501 .867 928
AAA (2 seasons) AAA 232 967 873 39 142 82 189 .289 .351 .493 .843 430
A (1 season) A 132 569 525 17 87 37 83 .326 .376 .491 .868 258
AA (1 season) AA 44 181 167 9 33 14 21 .317 .370 .539 .909 90
Rk (1 season) Rk 33 123 107 3 19 12 18 .280 .366 .421 .786 45
A+ (1 season) A+ 48 198 180 8 37 14 26 .356 .406 .583 .989 105
2007 17 NYY-min 33 123 107 13 30 6 3 19 12 18 .280 .366 .421 .786
2008 18 NYY-min 132 569 525 86 171 34 17 87 37 83 .326 .376 .491 .868
2009 19 NYY-min 92 379 347 45 117 25 17 70 28 47 .337 .389 .562 .951
2010 20 NYY-min 123 504 453 66 131 34 21 75 46 91 .289 .353 .517 .870
2011 21 NYY-min 109 463 420 52 121 19 18 67 36 98 .288 .348 .467 .814
2011 21 NYY 18 69 61 9 20 4 4 12 7 17 .328 .406 .590 .996
1 Season 18 69 61 9 20 4 4 12 7 17 .328 .406 .590 .996
162 Game Avg. 162 621 549 81 180 36 36 108 63 153 .328 .406 .590 .996

We at The Sombrero expect Montero to be used a lot like Victor Martinez was used in 2011 with Detroit.  Everyone is fully aware of Montero’s struggles behind the dish and the unlikely prognosis of him ever even reaching replacement level status as a backstop.  Montero is slow, uninterested, and inaccurate behind the dish.  He calls a poor game and is likely to be bad defensively no matter where he plays.  The logical play is to put him wherever he can do the least damage on the defensive end. He is plus to double-plus in both the hit and power tools as well as the eye tool.

It remains to be seen exactly what Seattle intends to do with Montero given the presence of Justin Smoak at first, suggesting that some time behind the dish might be expected in 2012.  Wherever he plays, Montero is an All-Star-caliber player and needs absolutely no more seasoning on the farm.  He should open 2012 hitting somewhere near or within the middle of Seattle’s order.

Top 50 Prospects Recap: Nos. 11-50

After a monster 2011 season, Arenado jumps from No. 44 to No. 21

Just as we did prior to the start of the 2011 season, The Golden Sombrero is currently unveiling our Top 50 Prospects.  Due to the promotion of many of baseball’s finest prospects over the course of last season, our new list features a slew of new names thanks to strong performances across various minor league levels.  Only time will tell whether this new crop of prospects will match the hype and success of last season’s, but one thing is certain – they are the future of baseball.  Before we crack the Top 10, however, here is a quick recap of the players we’ve highlighted thus far, and where they were ranked headed into the 2011 season:

50. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

49. Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

48.  Joseph Wieland, RHP, San Diego Padres – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

47. Jarred Cosart, RHP, Houston Astros – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

46. Michael Choice, OF, Oakland Athletics – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

45. Matt Harvey, RHP, New York Mets – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

44. Sonny Gray, RHP, Oakland Athletics – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

43. Zack Cox, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals, — Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

42. Yasmani Grandal, C, Cincinnati Reds – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

41. Zack Wheeler, RHP, New York Mets – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

40. Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Tampa Bay Rays – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

39. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

38. Wil Myers, OF, Kansas City Royals – Pre-2011 Rank: 15

37. Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Boston Red Sox – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

36. Brett Jackson, OF, Chicago Cubs – Pre-2011 Ranks: 43

35. Carlos Martinez, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

34. Gary Brown, OF, San Francisco Giants – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

33. Randall Delgado, RHP, Atlanta Braves – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

32. Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

31. Robbie Erlin, LHP, San Diego Padres – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

30. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Atlanta Braves – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

29. Jonathan Singleton, 1B/OF, Houston Astros – Pre-2011 Rank: 37

28. Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Kansas City Royals – Pre-2011 Rank: 35

27. Travis d’Arnaud, C, Toronto Blue Jays – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

26. Manny Banuelos, LHP, New York Yankees – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

25. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

24. Josh Bell, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates – Pre-2011 Rank: N/A

23. Martin Perez, LHP, Texas Rangers – Pre-2011 Rank: 28

22. Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Colorado Rockies – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

21. Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies – Pre-2011 Rank: 44

20. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks – Pre-2011 Rank: N/A

19. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

18. Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

17. Devin Mesoraco, C, San Diego Padres – Pre-2011 Rank: 27

16. Bubba Starling, OF, Kansas City Royals – Pre-2011 Rank: N/A

15. Jarrod Parker, RHP, Oakland Athletics – Pre-2011 Rank: 8

14. Jacob Turner, RHP, Detroit Tigers – Pre-2011 Rank: 19

13. Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas Rangers – Pre-2011 Rank: N/R

12. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates – Pre-2011 Rank: 14

11. Danny Hultzen, LHP, Seattle Mariners – Pre-2011 Rank: N/A

Spaceman Time Warp: A stoned baseball fan’s look at Bill Lee’s High Times cover story

Back in the day Griff and I collected a lot of sports memorabilia: all kinds of baseball and basketball cards, also various framed, autographed and otherwise notable balls, mini-balls, gloves, mini-gloves, pictures, plaques, and jerseys.  Some were bought with saved up allowance, others were gifts, and some we got waiting in long lines at public appearances by athletes in malls and sporting goods stores.  When we lived in the Woodlands (1994-96) there was a badass little memorabilia/comic store in the mall called Igor’s Dugout where we used to hang out with the owners while our parents shopped.  Usually we’d leave with a pack or two, but sometimes we just pestered them for hours about their opinions on the latest Beckett listings and other dumb stuff that concerns prepubescent sports memorabilia collectors.

We probably get it from our dad, who still has his personally signed Brooks Robinson glossy and the Colt 45s jersey he got as a kid.  He loves telling us about all the great cards he used to have, which at some point all got mistakenly thrown out in an old shoe box.  Griff and my dad recently started ordering unopened boxes of old baseball cards off the internet and tearing them open pack by pack, but I’ve had neither the funds nor the inclination to do so myself.  However, my interest in sports memorabilia hasn’t totally waned and this week at the original Gas Pipe in Dallas I saw something I couldn’t live without: a copy of the July 1980 issue of High Times magazine featuring Bill “Spaceman” Lee on the cover.  As a devoted High Times reader and devout Spaceman believer, this was special.  It was a treat just to hold in my hands and I had to have it.  Even totally broke, the ten dollar price tag seemed like a bargain.

I said in my earlier Spaceman homage that Bill Lee was the only major athlete I knew of to appear on the cover of High Times while playing.  I’m happy to report that this is no longer true.   Tim “Light my fire” Lincecum was included on the January 2012 issue of High Times as one of the “92 cannabis celebrities appear[ing] at a fantasy pot party” (Congratulations to Westley Cramer, who won a trip to the 2012 Cannabis Cup for correctly naming 89 of the 92 cannabis celebs).  Lincecum also made it into the same issue’s “Pots Greatest Hits” where he was named the “Top Baseball Stoner” of the present.  He shared this distinguished honor with Bill Lee, who High Times named the “Top Baseball Stoner” of the past and is undoubtedly the top baseball stoner of all time.  Sure Freak has stacked far more accolades (2 Cy Youngs and a ring) and cash ($23 million in 2010) than Spaceman ever did, but from a stoned baseball fan’s perspective, none of that really compares to Bill Lee calling out then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn about MLB players blazing the herb, on the cover no less.   Lee was blackballed by the league within two seasons of this article’s printing over thirty years ago, and it is impossible to conceive Big Time Timmy Jim blasting Bud Selig on the cover of High Times in 2012.  It just couldn’t happen.  Even in an age when many athletes spew tweets by the million, nobody who makes their paycheck playing sports gets to be this candid.

While this certainly gives value to the magazine as a relic of a bygone era, it is Lee’s own words that are truly priceless.  As Ken Kelley, who conducted the original interview, says in his introduction, “Lee is nothing if not imminently quotable,” and much of the Spaceman’s wisdom rings true, maybe truer, three decades later.  Lee was unhappy with how the article came out, telling the Boston Globe that summer, “Kelly is a jerk. He tried to exploit me, make a buck off me. I always try to deal straight with people. Then you run into a situation where they only use what they want to use. They don’t give the complete answer, or everything you had to say about a subject. There’s never any clarification.” Here Lee appears to be a victim of his own naivety, and to this stoned baseball fan, the whole interview is a gem. For copyright reasons I don’t think we can run the entire thing; instead here are some of the highlights, so to speak, from my new favorite piece of sports memorabilia.

First question:

“High Times: So let’s begin with a discussion of drugs.

Lee:  Whatever’s cool.”

This is just what every journalist wants to hear when starting an interview, and gives the reader a pretty good idea where things are headed.  Lee then explains how exactly he ended up getting fined $250 for his admission of using marijuana while playing for the Boston Red Sox.

Then there is this sequence, which begins with the question on the cover:

“High Times: What would happen if Bowie Kuhn levied a $250 fine against every player in baseball who smoked dope?

Lee:  He’d be a rich man.

High Times: So it’s safe to assume that lots of ballplayers smoke it?

Lee: Who doesn’t? Smoking’s a way to let you down slowly from a ballgame… It makes people better in the way they act towards society.  Everybody’s nicer.  It’s hard to be mean when you’re stoned.  It’s made players a lot less alcoholic.”

I wonder how Spaceman felt about the Red Sox this year.

Maybe the Dodgers should team up with some of LA’s dispensaries for a new form of crowd control.  Roving blunt vendors at Dodger Stadium? Sign me up.

Lee shares his thoughts on other drugs as well.

On cocaine: “Some ballplayers grind it up with Cheerios for breakfast.  Gotta keep it up on the up and up though – as long as he can do his job, and it’s an ally of his instead of an adversary, it sure beats coffee.”

On mushrooms: “I like them because they cause a periodical cleaning out of the system.  Roto-Rooter type of thing. They do that for me… mushrooms are kind of like a psychedelic enema.  I think probably High Times readers do the same thing.”

Well I know at least one of them who does.

On other drugs:

“High Times: Let’s talk for a moment about the drugs that are sanctioned – indeed, virtually mandatory – in organized sports, such as novocaine, cortisone, the steroids –

Lee:  It’s all rotgut.  Your kidneys produce enough cortisone.  As far as the management is concerned, the short-term goals outweigh the long-term ones.  Novocaine and steroids, especially.  It’s ironic that Bowie Kuhn gets upset about pot when, every day, ballplayers are being shot up with drugs that actually destroy players’ system.”

He goes on to claim that baseball management encourages players to use steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.  While this may have seemed outlandish when it was published, looking back it reads as an ominous warning for what would come in MLB over the next twenty years.

“High Times: What else, in your opinion, are the most harmful drugs in America?

Lee:  All are bad if you don’t neutralize them with another one.”


A great metaphor: “Some people clean the laundry; some people do the laundry.  Doing the laundry means not really understanding the concepts that are involved.”

And to finish it off, Bill Lee on the big picture:

“High Times: So, in summation, what’s the meaning of life?

Lee:  Play to win and always adhere to the law of averages.  The strange may occur.  But just because things may happen and the sun comes up and gravity pulls on you and you age, resist age and stay healthy and go easy into the future.  And keep laughing, and be kind to people on the way up because you’re gonna see them again on the way down.  Actually, I don’t know what nuthin’ means.  English is not my trump card.  That’s why I get quoted a lot, like Casey Stengel.  I walk the tightrope between two worlds.  Between the oral and the doing, which I think are contradictory worlds.

High Times: How do you resolve the contradiction?

Lee:  Do ‘em both.  There’s a time and place for everything.  And keep your mouth shut at all times.”

As a hippie ski bum working on a master’s degree in creative writing, I feel like I sometimes walk that same tightrope.  And as a stoned baseball fan, I’d like to give a huge thank you to Spaceman and High Times for inspiring me to keep fighting the good fight.

Top 50 Prospects: #11 – Danny Hultzen

#11 Danny Hultzen

Seattle Mariners

DOB: 11/28/1989

Previous Rank: N/A

ETA: 2012

Hultzen is the best pitcher in the history of the Virginia Cavaliers and was drafted second overall in the 2011 draft in what will go down as the deepest draft in history as far as collegiate pitching goes.  His first taste of professional baseball came in the form of six starts in the Arizona Fall League.  He gave up three runs in around 20 innings, striking out nearly a guy an inning and walking five.  The small sample really tells us nothing new and hardly confirms anything we already supposed.

Regardless, Hultzen should break camp with the Mariners out of Spring Training, and we see no reason to expect him not to succeed immediately.  His 6-foot-3 frame is athletic, and his mechanics are repeatable, although not textbook.  He is a bit of an across-the-body thrower with some wrap in the back, but there is nothing in his delivery that screams injury to us.  He has a fastball that can reach 97 mph as well as an above-average to plus changeup with good fade and excellent command.

His breaking pitch improved greatly in the last season and, while it was not nearly as sharp during the NCAA season, looked like a solid average pitch in the AFL.  His command with all three is above-average, and in a yard like Safeco, Hultzen should make several All-Star teams and have a very solid and lengthy career.

The Baseball Show: Hall of Fame Edition

Last night’s episode of The Baseball Show was only supposed to last an hour, but ultimately reached the hour and a half mark, which only means good things.  Clint, MJ, and I touched on several different topics including the Hall of Fame, the Reds’ recent acquisitions, Howie Kendrick‘s extension, and our favorite bizarre MLB injuries.  Last night also marked the debut of “Ask MJ,” a new series where Clint and I ask MJ whatever we want.  Somehow he survived and actually came up with surprising answers, which can be found below.

Hall of Fame Voting

– Barry Larkin is the lone Hall of Fame inductee from the Class of 2012. Would we all have voted for him? Yes.  As a Reds fan, Clint is especially pumped, and we’re pumped for him.

– Larkin isn’t the only player we would have voted for…so who else? We’re not quite sold on Jack Morris, but how about Jeff Bagwell? Absolutely.  Tim Raines? Absolutely.  Edgar Martinez? Hopefully. Perhaps Frank Thomas‘ imminent induction will open the door.

– MJ highly recommends Rob Neyer’s article about players’ integrity and character

– As we look ahead to the Class of 2013, we speculate about which players will make the cut? Our early unanimous votes go to Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, and Curt Schilling.

Reds bullpen

– Clint weighs in on the Reds’ bullpen acquisitions, Sean Marshall and Ryan Madson.

Howie Kendrick

– A great deal for both teams as they lock up Kendrick for his prime years. We all consider him to be about the seventh or eighth best second baseman in baseball.

MLB Injuries

– This past week Dustin Penner of the L.A. Kings injured his back eating pancakes…seriously.  Don’t worry, despite the injury he still finished the meal.

– So naturally we discuss our favorite freak baseball injuries: Clint: Joel Zumaya injuring his elbow playing Guitar Hero; MJ: Clint Barmes falling down a flight of stairs while carrying a slab of deer meat; Mike (three-way tie): Smoltz ironing his shirt while wearing it, Kevin Mitchell microwaving a donut/cupcake that caused the microwave to explode, and Jeff Baker burning his ass while trying to light fights on fire with the Cubs pitchers.

Ask MJ:

Clint’s questions:

– Jerry Dipoto: Over or under career fWAR of 5? – MJ answered under, and was wrong.  Dipoto finished his career with a 6.6 fWAR.

– Worst pick up line ever used on a woman: Told strippers he’s a baseball writer; told women he could get them on a lingerie football team when they were actually having open tryouts; he’s a race car driver.

– In a four-year keeper league, would you rather have Justin Upton or Matt Kemp? – Kemp

– You have to go the next year of your life without either looking at Fangraphs (or any Saber-related site) or drinking booze. Which one would you choose: No booze…it’s hard to be a blogger without using stats.

Mike’s questions:

Who will have more wins in 2012: Reds or White Sox? – Reds

Who would win in a game of scrabble: Delmon Young or Colby Rasmus? – Colby Rasmus

Name the three core ingredients in a Denver omelette: Green peppers, ham, and onions.  Wow, he actually got it right, although his “I’m not even near a computer” claim remains suspect.

Rapid Fire Round – Pick one:
Chuck or Steve Finley: Steve
Freddy or Jason: Jason
Braun or Kemp: Kemp
Todd Hundley or nobody: Nobody
Shane Victorino or Benny Agbayani: Victorino
Todd Walker or Neil Walker: Neil Walker
Nomo or Dice-K: Nomo
Bonds or Aaron: Bonds
Goldstein or Neyer: Goldstein
Trout or Harper: Mike Trout
Paul Assenmacher or Terry Mulholland: Mulholland
Vernon Wells or a pile of rocks: After clarifying that I’m not referring to the rocks beyond the left-centerfield wall…rocks, hands down.
Whiskey or Rum: Rum

Which Hostess product will you be sad to see go? Snowball (Editor’s note: Gross)

Have you ever considered entering the medical field? Somewhat. I am actually a certified medical coder.

If you had the to domesticate one wild animal, what would it be? Probably a hawk or falcon to my bidding.

Who will win the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year? NL? AL: Matt Moore; NL: Paul Goldschmidt

How many dugout/clubhouse brawls will the Marlins have in 2012? It will be a season-long brawl.  Gatorade should remove all dispensers from their dugout.