February | 2012 | The Golden Sombrero Baseball Blog | MLB, Fantasy, College & High School Baseball News

Articles from February 2012

Spring Training Prospect Invitations: New York Mets

Matt Harvey

As Spring Training rapidly approaches and speculation surrounding the future of baseball’s brightest prospects spreads like wildfire, The Golden Sombrero will highlight some of the notable and intriguing Spring Training invitees from each organization.

Cesar Puello*, OF:  Signed out of the Dominican Republic as a 17-year-old, Puello is a toolsy outfielder with power potential.  Between his two seasons in Rookie ball (2008 and 2009), Puello slashed .300/.363/.398 with 22 extra-base hits and 28 stolen bases.  Playing for Low-A Savannah in 2010, the right-handed hitter slashed .292/.375/.359 and swiped 45 bags in 55 attempts.  Even though Puello improved his power production at High-A St. Lucie in 2011, he also saw some of his weaknesses exploited.  In 441 at-bats, he posted career-bests in triples (five), home runs (10), RBI (50), and total bases (175).  However, Puello fanned 103 times compared to only 18 walks due to poor pitch recognition and count manipulation.  He’ll likely never hit for a great average, but his power/speed combo does project well at the big league level – as evidenced by the Mets decision to add him to the 40-man roster.  He has the potential to be the Mets’ starting right-fielder at some point in 2013, but will have to refine both his offensive approach and ability as a base-stealer at Double-A in 2012.

Jeurys Familia*, RHP:  After making a strong professional debut in the GCL in 2008 and following it up by earning Mets minor league pitcher of the year honors in 2009, Familia had an off-year in 2010 at High-A (5.58 ERA, 1.58 WHIP in 121 innings).  One encouraging aspect of his otherwise disappointing season, the 22-year-old Familia fanned 137 hitters – though he walked 74.  Since then he has somewhat regained his form as the 6-foot-3 right-hander posted a 3.49 ERA and 96/35 K/BB ratio after a promotion to Double-A in 2011.  Familia has always featured an above-average fastball that sits in the mid-90s and reaches the upper-90s, as well as a mediocre breaking ball and change up.  Neither pitch has to be exceptional; but definitely good enough complement his fastball and be thrown in fastball counts.

Familia’s ceiling will continue to be determined by his command, which has been consistently iffy.  Despite working primarily as a starter in the minors, his cleanest path to the Major League might be as a high-leverage reliever, possibly even closer.  Out of the bullpen, his fastball will likely sit towards the upper-90s, which should inherently improve both of his offspeed pitches.  Already on the team’s 40-man roster, will definitely make his MLB debut in 2012.  The only question is whether it will be as a starter or reliever.

Matt Den Dekker, OF:  Unlike Puello, den Dekker is more of a fringe outfield prospect.  In his first professional season in 2010, den Dekker posted a slash line of .336/.396/.459 with 17 doubles over 122 at-bats between the GCL and Low-A.  He responded well to a promotion to High-A to begin the 2011 season, batting .296 with 33 extra-base hits and 12 stolen bases in 302 at-bats.  Den Dekker didn’t fare as well after a mid-season promotion to Double-A, though, as his slash line dropped to .235/.312/.426 while posting a 91/27 K/BB ratio.  However, he did tally another 27 extra-base hits (including 11 home runs) while once again swiping 12 bags.  Although he took a step in the right direction hitting for more power, the left-handed hitting den Dekker doesn’t project as a Major League power threat.  He will also need to cut down on his strikeouts (156 in 539 at-bats in 2011) in order to progress through the Mets’ weak system.  Den Dekker projects as a defensively savvy outfielder who will hit enough doubles to make him serviceable as a reserve.  But given the state of the Mets’ outfield – and lack of genuine outfield prospects – his arrival in the Major Leagues may happen ahead of schedule.  For the time being, den Dekker seems destined for another crack at Double-A to begin to the 2012 season.

Matt Harvey, RHP: Ranked by The Golden Sombrero as the No. 45 prospect in baseball headed into the 2012 season, Harvey was the clear No. 1 prospect in the Mets’ organization until Zack Wheeler was obtained for Carlos Beltran in late July.  A first-round selection by the Mets out of North Carolina in 2010, Harvey breezed through the Florida State league (High-A), posting an 8-2 record, 2.37 ERA, and 92/24 K/BB ratio over 76 innings.  After a promotion to Double-A Binghamton, Harvey struggled initially but finished the season strong with five wins and 50 strikeouts over his final 47 innings.

The right-hander’s fastball usually works in the mid-90s but has been clocked as high as 97-98 mph, and more importantly, is sustainable late into games.  His other plus pitch, a hard, late-breaking slider, is a genuine out pitch that plays off of his well-located heater.  Harvey also features a big breaking ball and change up, although the latter lacks feel and is the least advanced of his offspeed offerings.

At 6-foot-4, 210-pounds, the 22-year-old is built for innings.  Although Harvey currently may be one of the five best starters in the organization, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll begin the season in the Major League rotation.  However, he’s not too far away and should definitely crack the rotation at some point this season, possibly even before the All-Star break.

*On team’s 40-man roster


Want to discuss prospects with Mike? Be sure to follow him on Twitter: @GoldenSombrero

Baseball’s Unique Place in College Athletics: Academics

As opening weekend of NCAA baseball came and went, baseball fans, particularly those of the amateur and collegiate ranks, were once again swept up in the joy of spring and a return to normalcy.  We have been without the game since the end of the Arizona Fall League in many ways.  Although there is no such thing as the off-season for us here at The Sombrero, the recruiting season just isn’t the same as the spring and summer seasons.

The premier series of the weekend saw Vanderbilt travel to Stanford where Mark Appel, arguably the top talent headed into the 2012 MLB Draft, deal on Friday night.  This series also featured the loaded 2011 Draft’s only unsigned 1st-rounder, Tyler Beede, toss his first collegiate pitch.  Both of these teams rank in the top-10 and are absolutely loaded talent-wise.  What they also are loaded with are entire rosters of players devoted to academic excellence.  This weekend also saw Duke travel to 13th-ranked Texas in a game that also featured nothing but standout student-athletes.  Next weekend Texas travels to Stanford where the same applies.  These teams come from prime-time athletic conferences and perform well in sports other than baseball, but consider the fact that last year’s Texas squad hosted a series against Brown, a school in which no player on the field was receiving athletic-based financial aid, and actually dropped a game to the Bears.  They’re the University of Texas.  Just imagine for a minute the 40 or so kids that the Longhorns football team might send to the hospital if the Bears were to travel to Austin for a football game.  This hypothetical scenario reflects the idea behind this piece.

Baseball is unique in the world of collegiate athletics in that it provides academically inclined players and institutions many if not all of the opportunities that those players and schools where athletics must come first are provided, which quite clearly is not the case across the collegiate sports landscape.


Baseball is Neet: Peach’s Neet Feet

Griff’s neet feet

Here at the Golden Sombrero I would like to take advantage of our viewership to spread the word about a charitable organization that is near and dear to me.  Peach’s Neet Feet is a not-for-profit organization that provides custom shoes for children with cancer and other long-term disabilities.  It was started by my friend Madison Steiner less than a year ago. Her idea was to change not just the world, but the world of each individual who was not fortunate enough to enjoy it as we do. Truly inspiring stuff. The video does more for it than my words, so I will just leave it at that.

Be sure to “Like” Peach’s Neet Feet on Facebook

Author’s Note: She is also developing the design for a Golden Sombrero t-shirt as you read this.

Spring Training Prospect Invitations: Colorado Rockies

As Spring Training rapidly approaches and speculation surrounding the future of baseball’s brightest prospects spreads like wildfire, The Golden Sombrero will highlight some of the notable and intriguing Spring Training invitees from each organization.

Christian Friedrich*, LHP:  After the Rockies drafted Friedrich with the 25th overall pick in the 2008 draft, he posted a 6-5 record with a 2.41 ERA, 1.145 WHIP, 159 strikeouts and 43 walks over 119.2 innings in 2009.  However, he has struggled to repeat that success and has battled a series of injuries over the last two seasons.  The 6-foot-4 left-hander features a low- to mid-90s fastball (usually low-90s since overcoming elbow issues) and a below-average change up, but his best pitch has always been his 12-to-6 curve – an absolute hammer.  Having grown up in the Chicagoland area around the same time as Friedrich, I had the opportunity to see him throw several bullpens, and his hook was one of the best I’ve ever seen. Friedrich’s mechanics and arm-speed still suggest a moderately-high ceiling, which is probably why he holds a spot on the Rockies’ 40-man roster.  Barring a setback in Spring Training, Friedrich will likely begin the 2012 season in Triple-A with a chance for a late-season call-up.

Nolan Arenado, 3B:  Ranked by The Golden Sombrero as the No. 21 prospect in baseball headed into the 2012 season, Arenado had a monster 2011 campaign for High-A Modesto.  The Rockies’ 2009 second-round draft pick slashed .298/.349/.487 with 32 doubles, 20 home runs, and a whopping 122 RBI in 517 at-bats.  Arenado also made strides in his plate discipline and approach, evidenced by his 53/47 K/BB ratio.  Although the results have always been there, scouts have been skeptical of his power potential due to his extremely level bat path.  However, after a subtle alteration to his swing, Arenado’s power emerged last season and is here to say.  His ability to square up the ball and generate extension after contact has always been exceptional.  His defense at the hot corner also improved in 2011, but he’ll never be anything more than an average defensive third baseman.  Arenado will likely begin the 2012 season in Double-A, but if he continues to rake – and considering the Rockies’ lack of a true third baseman – it’ll be hard to deny him a late-season call-up.

Chad Bettis, RHP:  Much like Arenado, Bettis had a breakout season for Modesto in 2011.  The 6-foot-1 right-hander went 12-5 with a 3.34 ERA, 184 strikeouts, and 45 walks in 170 innings and earned Class A California League pitcher of the year honors.  Given his height and arm strength, Bettis’ consistency and durability in 2011 is encouraging.  His arsenal is highlighted by two plus pitches: a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and touches the upper-90s, and a tight, hard-breaking slider.  Bettis also features both a curveball and change up, but neither pitch is particularly advanced and needs considerable development.  At the moment, he projects as a No. 3 or No. 4 starter – the development of his secondary offerings this season will dictate his ceiling as a starter.  Bettis should begin the 2012 season in Double-A, but given his plus heater and slider, he could find himself in the Rockies’ bullpen at some point in 2012.

Tim Wheeler, OF:  Arguably the most promising of the slew of toolsy Rockies’ outfielders, Wheeler batted .287 with 28 doubles, six triples, 33 home runs, 86 RBI, and 21 stolen bases.  However, he struck out 142 times in 561 at-bats compared to 59 walks.  Since entering the minor leagues in 2009, the left-handed hitting Wheeler has struggled with keeping his front-side closed at the plate and therefore has a tendency to swing more with his upper body instead of using quick wrists.  At 6-foot-4, 205-pounds, Wheeler possesses excellent athleticism that is on display at all times.  His defense and arm profile well as a big league right fielder, but his bat will ultimately be the determining factor.  Beyond his strikeout tendencies, the main knock against Wheeler has been his inability to hit left-handed pitching.  If that can improve that in Triple-A, Wheeler has a legitimate shot to make his MLB debut in 2012.

Kent Matthes, OF:  Coming off a season in which he slashed .334/.378/.642 with 39 doubles, 23 home runs, and 95 RBI for Modesto, the 6-foot-2 outfielder has the potential to emerge as one of the Rockies’ top prospects in 2012.  Like Arenado, Matthes has a linear bat path that results in ringing doubles and home runs that might as well have gone through the wall rather than over.  He can turn around the best of fastballs, though he will need to improve his offspeed pitch recognition to be a power hitter at the next level.  While his speed is average at best for a right fielder, Matthes possesses a plus arm that should compensate for any defensive inferiority.  A fourth round draft pick in 2009 draft out of Alabama, Matthes missed portions of the 2009 and 2010 seasons with injuries, so a strong follow-up showing in Double-A in 2012 could significantly boost his stock.

GIF of the Moment: Bryce Harper’s walk-off