THE NEWBERG REPORT — JUNE 13, 2007
Who has a record of 4-13, an ERA of 6.90, more than 12 hits allowed per nine innings, a home run surrendered every six innings, about five strikeouts per nine, and four walks per nine?
Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla, combined.
Opponents are hitting .382/.449/.618 off Millwood. Think about that. There’s not a hitter in baseball whose batting clip is as high as the *average* Millwood opponent, and only two (Alex Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez) who have a higher OPS.
The elephant in the room is the mounting stack of stories about a rift in the clubhouse, rumors of dissension between a manager who has never managed at this level and a group of players who have no history with him. It’s boiled to the point that every local columnist and a good number of national columnists have weighed in — mostly hatchet jobs with the exception of one local writer who suggests that Ron Washington deserves from the media an effort to avoid dealing in unattributed clubhouse gossip — and while it’s not as irritating as watching bad defense and bad baserunning, I’m getting sick of it.
Mainly because there are beefs in the dugout and in the room on every team at every level in every sport, particularly on those that are playing poorly. And it’s only when teams are playing really poorly that these stories find the light of day.
If there were disagreements about game-calling or count-working on a team that was 33-31, instead of 23-41, there wouldn’t be one paragraph devoted to it.
I’m not saying the stories are untrue. I’m not saying they don’t matter. I have two policies I’ve tried to adhere to since starting this newsletter: (1) I don’t break news, even if I hear something I trust; and (2) I don’t devote space to commentary on someone else’s commentary. I try to limit my writing to analysis of news reported elsewhere, and my own observations regarding things I can see for myself or that I can base on my own research, with an occasional reference to trade rumors or similar developments being reported by reputable media outlets.
I’ll admit there there’s a possible head-in-the-sand thing going on, too. I’ll write about pitchers not getting outs and defenders not making plays and my team not winning on getaway days, but I don’t want to write about guys wearing the same uniform not getting along, because I want to believe it’s not any bigger a deal than it is in the Milwaukee or Cleveland or Boston clubhouse.
But I’ll say this: If the team with the worst record in baseball *isn’t* worked up about it and busting water coolers, then that’s a story.
While on the subject of things that irritate me, here’s one that I have no problem addressing: Rick Porcello. Would I have been pumped to see Texas take a shot on the high-profile high school righthander, especially at pick number 24? Sure. But the media is completely missing the point on the reason Texas and a whole lot of other teams did not use a pick on the 18-year-old, considered by many to be the top high school arm in last week’s draft.
It’s not the money.
Well, for some teams it probably was. Scott Boras is reportedly seeking $7-10 million to keep Porcello from attending the University of North Carolina.
But why are reporters everywhere ignoring the bigger piece to this puzzle?
Porcello wants a major league contract.
I spent 30 minutes the other day researching to come up with an exhaustive list of the high school pitchers who have gotten big league deals to start their careers. A complete rundown of the pitchers in that category, so we can once and for all look at the wisdom of going down that road from a franchise standpoint, and decide whether Porcello is worth adding to that illustrious registry of young pitching prodigies.
Todd Van Poppel and Josh Beckett.
Not Jeremy Bonderman or Zack Greinke or Cole Hamels or Scott Kazmir or Clayton Kershaw or Matt Cain or Adam Loewen or Homer Bailey or Chris Gruler or Gavin Floyd or Mark Rogers or any other high first you can think of in recent years (or in any year).
Van Poppel and Beckett. That’s it.
How many innings do you think those two Texas-bred righthanders pitched in high school, compared to the New Jersey-born Porcello? Is Porcello ready to pitch a full, unregimented minor league season? Can his team afford, on the other hand, to bring him along methodically when the options clock begins ticking as soon as he reports to duty?
He would get a fourth option by way of the loophole that addresses players who have exhausted three options before five full seasons as a pro, but so did Van Poppel, and we know how that worked out. How do you think the Tigers will feel if they put $8 million in Porcello’s pocket and he goes on to pitch for six big league clubs, mostly in middle relief?
Beckett made it pay off. And Porcello might, too. But are the odds good enough that they warrant that sort of bonus commitment?
Van Poppel made less in his career (a little more than $7.5 million) than Porcello will probably get from Detroit before he throws a minor league pitch.
And one additional reason that Texas might have had not to go down the Porcello path, an issue that Detroit didn’t face: Let’s say the Rangers took Blake Beavan at number 17 and Porcello at 24. At 35, not wanting one Boras pick to hold up the other, Texas passes on leadoff-hitting center fielder Julio Borbon and takes another high school pitcher — maybe Neil Ramirez (whom the club took at 44 and was in fact the first high school arm taken after 35).
The Beavan slot calls for about $1.5 million, the 35 slot around $1 million. If Texas took Porcello between them, and agreed to pay him upwards of $8 million in a $1.3 million slot, how would that affect negotiations with the other two high school righties, Beavan and Ramirez? Probably not positively.
Every reporter in town is making this out to be a black and white issue — Texas passed on Porcello because of his asking price! — but I think that ignores two bigger issues: the demand for a big league deal, and the impact that taking him would have had on talks with the other high school pitchers the club drafted high.
Final draft results for Texas, including Friday’s 45 choices:
1 (17) Blake Beavan, RHP, Irving High School (area scout: Eddings)
1 (24) Michael Main, RHP, DeLand High School (Fla.) (DeMutis)
Supp. (35) Julio Borbon, OF, Univ. of Tennessee (Wood)
Supp. (44) Neil Ramirez, RHP, Kempsville High School (Va.) (Ardolina)
Supp. (54) Tommy Hunter, RHP, Univ. of Alabama (Wood)
2 Matt West, 3B, Bellaire High School (Tex.) (Taylor)
3 Evan Reed, RHP, Cal Poly (Guggiana)
4 Garrett Nash, OF, Jordan High School (Utah) (Pratt)
5 John Gast, LHP, Lake Brantley High School (Fla.) (DeMutis)
6 Bobby Wilkins, RHP, Valhalla High School (Cal.) (Flores)
7 Tim Smith, OF, Arizona State Univ. (Pratt)
8 Jonathan Greene, C, Western Carolina Univ. (********)
9 Davis Stoneburner, SS, James Madison Univ. (Va.) (Ardolina)
10 Andrew Laughter, RHP, Univ. of Louisiana-Lafayette (Taylor)
11 Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, St. Rose High School (N.J.) (Matsko)
12 Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Collierville High School (Tenn.) (Wood)
13 Kyle O’Campo, RHP, Riverside Poly High School (Cal.) (Flores)
14 Matt Lawson, 2B, Missouri State Univ. (Smith)
15 Hector Nelo, RHP, St. Thomas Univ. (Fla.) (Alvarez)
16 Josh Lueke, RHP, Northern Kentucky Univ. (Giegler)
17 Mitch Moreland, 1B, Mississippi State Univ. (Wood)
18 Ryan Tatusko, RHP, Indiana State (Lee)
19 Kyle Murphy, OF, Univ. of Kansas (Smith)
20 Kenny Smith, 2B, Western Carolina Univ. (********)
21 Erik Davis, RHP, Stanford Univ. (Metzger)
22 Donnie Ecker, OF, Lewis & Clark State (Idaho) (McGraw)
23 Jacob Kaase, SS, Texas Lutheran (Taylor)
24 Chris Gradoville, C, Creighton Univ. (Neb.) (Smith)
25 Andrew Wilkins, 3B, Broken Arrow High School (Okla.) (Eddings)
26 Kevin Keyes, OF, Connally High School (Tex.) (Taylor)
27 Drew Gray, C, Longview College (Mo.) (Smith)
28 Mike Ortiz, 1B, Miami Palmetto Senior High School (Alvarez)
29 Ryan Falcon, LHP, Univ. of North Carolina-Greensboro (********)
30 Ben Henry, RHP, Loris High School (S.C.) (********)
31 Anton Maxwell, LHP, Oregon State Univ. (McGraw)
32 Gaspar Santiago, LHP, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (Thon)
33 Jared Hyatt, RHP, Georgia Tech Univ. (********)
34 Chase Huchingson, LHP, Fayetteville High School (Ark.) (Eddings)
35 Jeff Schaus, OF, Barron G. Collier High School (Fla.) (Alvarez)
36 Brian Dupra, RHP, Greece Athena High School (N.Y.) (Matsko)
37 B.J. Salsbury, RHP, San Jacinto High School (Cal.) (Flores)
38 Hunter Hill, RHP, Prestonwood Christian Academy (Tex.) (Eddings)
39 Tyler Fleming, RHP, Cowley County Community College (Kan.) (Smith)
40 Sean Meehan, RHP, Centralia High School (Wash.) (McGraw)
41 Thomas Edwards, 1B, Rutgers Univ. (N.J.) (Matsko)
42 Jason Sowers, 1B, Cowley County Community College (Kan.) (Smith)
43 Joey Rosas, LHP, Yavapai College (Ariz.) (Pratt)
44 Kris Jiggitts, RHP, Colby Community College (Col.) (Smith)
45 Ryan Turner, LHP, Georgia Tech Univ. (********)
46 Yoandy Barroso Revilla, OF, Miami Springs High School (Alvarez)
47 Ben Petralli, C, Sacramento City College (Metzger)
48 Dillon Baird, 3B, Yavapai College (Ariz.) (Pratt)
49 Brandon Hayes, OF, Sheldon High School (Or.) (McGraw)
50 Paul Zarlengo, 1B, Marian Catholic High School (Ill.) (Lee)
Smith, Moreland, and Maxwell are playing in the College World Series.
Moreland homered on Friday to help Mississippi State to a win, and doubled twice and recorded the save as his club downed Clemson, 8-5, on Saturday to secure a berth in Omaha. Texas plans to develop Moreland, who won the Home Run Derby at last summer’s Cape Cod League All-Star Game, as a first baseman.
Bobby Wilkins is the highest pick to sign thus far. A San Diego State University commit, he went 5-5, 1.01 for Valhalla High this season, fanning 74 in 64.2 innings with a low-90s fastball and an advanced change. The 6’4", 225-pound Wilkins told the San Diego Union-Tribune that he signed for "six figures" plus additional allowance for education expenses. His slot called for a bonus in the low 100,000s.
Raunado (Louisiana State), Pomeranz (Mississippi), O’Campo (Cal State Fullerton), Huchingson (Arizona State), and Dupra (Notre Dame) are among the high school arms that are considered strong bets to go to college, but Texas will make a run at signing them before the August 15 deadline. Same goes for Keyes, a University of Texas commit with massive power at the plate and in his right field arm. ESPN’s Keith Law ranked Keyes as the number 54 prospect in the draft.
Baseball America ranked Dupra as the draft’s number 116 prospect, suggesting he projected to go somewhere around round four if it weren’t for signability issues.
Fleming was the Rangers’ 20th-round pick in 2006. If he doesn’t sign, he’ll transfer to Wichita State for the 2008 season.
Gradoville’s coach at Creighton was Ed Servias, uncle of Rangers director of player development Scott Servais, who also caught for the school.
Petralli is Geno’s son, and was Zach Phillips’s catcher in 2005 at Sacramento City College — where Geno also played collegiately.
Hayes is the nephew of former big league outfielder Von Hayes.
Law, incidentally, ranked the Rangers’ Day One work (Beavan, Main, Borbon, Ramirez, Hunter, West, Reed, Nash, Gast) as the best in the entire league. A former executive in the Blue Jays baseball operations department, Law is especially high on Main.
Baseball America was impressed with the Rangers draft as well. Said executive editor Jim Callis: "The Rangers have to be celebrating. They wanted pitchers and never could have dreamed that they could have pulled off getting both Texas high school righthander Blake Beavan at No. 17 and Florida prep righty Michael Main at No. 24. And then it kept on going . . . Texas got the best college center fielder in Tennessee’s Julio Borbon at No. 35, two more very good arms in Virginia high school righthander Neil Ramirez at No. 44 and Alabama righty Tommy Hunter at No. 54, and then a pure high school bat in Texas prep third baseman Matt West at No. 80. Wow."
Evan Grant reports for Baseball America that the Rangers had projected lefthander Derek Holland, the lefthander they took last year in the 25th round and signed last month as a draft-and-follow, as a fourth- to seventh-round pick if he’d gone back into this draft.
Cincinnati drafted Rangers scouting director Ron Hopkins’s son Ross in the 40th round out of a Seattle-area high school.
Law pinpoints California high school outfielders Isaac Galloway and Aaron Hicks, University of South Carolina Justin Smoak, University of San Diego lefthander Brian Matusz, and Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez as his top five prospects for the 2008 draft. Law pegs Longhorns outfielder Jordan Danks as the draft’s number 20 prospect.
My greatest hope for the big club’s road trip in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, next to more wins than losses, is for Sammy Sosa to hit at least two home runs, though I’d settle for one. It’s Jason Botts time.
Actually, it’s more important that Sosa string together a decent run of good at-bats (rifling that shot to the right field fence last night: more of those), so that the Rangers have an opportunity to move Sosa for something. Texas traded Andres Galarraga in 2001 for lefthander Erasmo Ramirez, a reliever who was too old for AA; outfielder Chris Magruder, who was too old for AAA; and righthander Todd Ozias, a reliever who was too old for AA. Turned out to be an example of good scouting by Texas. That’s probably the upside of what we can expect for Sosa, but he needs to get back into a mini-groove.
And if he doesn’t (it looks like he’ll get just one more start on this NL road trip), move on anyway. It’s far more important over the second half of this season to figure out where Botts (who will be out of options in 2008) fits than to get Sosa more at-bats.
The papers are saying that Mark Teixeira may need more than the minimum 15 days on the disabled list to get his strained left quadriceps back in playing shape. Three weeks? Four weeks? He’s proven in the past to be extremely resilient. Hopefully he’s back and at full strength no later than that.
The timing of his recovery is crucial, obviously.
That’s now 62 at-bats for Marlon Byrd, and he sits at .403/.449/.468 with only eight strikeouts. And he’s playing the kind of outfield defense that his resume promised but that he didn’t show in March in Surprise.
In 77 at-bats, Victor Diaz (.273/.288/.623) has eight home runs and 10 singles.
And one walk.
Brandon McCarthy’s middle finger callous has torn again, and his Thursday start is up in the air.
In his six starts since April, McCarthy is 3-0, 3.26, allowing just two home runs in 30 innings and limiting opponents (Boston, the Yankees, Milwaukee, Toronto, Tampa Bay, and Houston) to a .202 batting average. His stretch has been totally obscured by the team’s slide.
Matt Kata cleared waivers and elected to take free agency rather than accept an outright assignment.
Texas named Bakersfield catcher Taylor Teagarden (.338, eight home runs, 18 RBI in 21 games; 19 walks, 19 strikeouts, minor league baseball-leading 1.199 OPS and .485 on-base percentage) and Clinton righthander Omar Poveda (3-1, 1.99, 30/9 K/BB in 31.2 innings) the organization’s player and pitcher of the month for May.
Outfielder John Mayberry doubled in a run in four trips in his Frisco debut yesterday afternoon.
Outfielder Nelson Cruz homered twice for Oklahoma on Monday.
Like Botts, he’ll be out of options when the season ends.
The Rangers released RedHawks catcher Nick Trzesniak to make room for Chris Stewart on the roster.
Frisco placed six players in the Texas League All-Star game: righthanders Eric Hurley and Doug Mathis, catcher Kevin Richardson, infielders German Duran and Casey Benjamin, and outfielder Anthony Webster.
Eight Clinton players made the Midwest League All-Star team: righthanders Omar Poveda and Brennan Garr, lefthanders Phillips and Broc Coffman, catcher-outfielder Chad Tracy, infielders Johnny Whittleman and Jose Vallejo, and outfielder K.C. Herren.
LumberKings lefthander Kasey Kiker gave up one hit (an infield single) in five scoreless innings on Monday, punching out eight and walking three. The 19-year-old’s numbers are just sick: 2-1, 2.45 in five starts, 35 strikeouts in 22 innings, .187 opponents’ average.
Whittleman and Herren have gotten most of the attention among Clinton hitters, but Tracy is one RBI off the Midwest League lead, with 50 in 61 games.
Phillips took a perfect game to the eighth inning on Friday.
Bakersfield righthander Michael Schlact (2-0, 1.38, no walks in 13 innings) was named California League pitcher of the week.
Righthander Jose Marte was sent from extended to Clinton, and first baseman Ian Gac made the reverse move. Texas released lefthander Jared Locke and righthander Juan Jimenez, and purchased the contract of outfielder Jon Weber from the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks of the independent Northern League, assigning the 29-year-old to the Blaze.
Fargo-Moorhead turned around and signed outfielder Tydus Meadows.
The Dominican Summer League is underway. Predictably, Omar Beltre (15/3 K/BB in 8.2 innings, 1.04 ERA) and Alexi Ogando (5/1 in 7.2 innings, 0.00 ERA) are dealing. Juan Grullon (presumably the same pitcher who has previously been called Gueris Grullon) and Miguel De Los Santos have shown up in the stats as well, but Fabio Castillo, Wilmer Font, and Carlos Pimentel have not, suggesting those three might be headed stateside for the short-season leagues. Spokane opens its Northwest League season on June 19, and the Arizona League kicks off on June 22.
A pitcher named Wilfredo Boscan has thrown 7.2 scoreless DSL frames, scattering three hits and no walks while fanning 11.
Third baseman Emmanuel Solis is also missing from the DSL stats. He’s unquestionably a player to watch once the short-season leagues get rolling.
The Mets released Chan Ho Park, and Houston signed him to a AAA contract.
St. Louis promoted righthander Andy Cavazos to the big leagues after he fanned 28 Pacific Coast League hitters in 25 relief innings for AAA Memphis. The Rangers’ fifth-round pick in 1999, acquired by the Cardinals in the minor league phase of the 2002 Rule 5 Draft, has fanned two, walked two, and allowed two hits in two scoreless innings since arriving in St. Louis.
The Atlantic City Surf of the independent Can-Am League released catcher Angel Sanchez.
I’m going to have to close reservations for Newberg Report Night in the next few days. Please send payment in right away if you plan to attend. Thanks.