THE NEWBERG REPORT — JUNE 17, 2007

I live for Sunday morning softball doubleheaders, but this morning at 8 a.m., as I was about 17 minutes into a 20-minute drive to the fields and got the phone call canceling today’s games, I wasn’t ripped up.  I’d already gotten in "Pendulous Threads" (Incubus) as well as the "Baba O’Riley" intro to Elf’s Sunday morning show on the Ticket, so I was sufficiently fired up to play ball, but I was just as happy to turn around and head home to spend Father’s Day morning with my family. 

Erica and Max have settled in for a little Disney channel action, so I figured I’d write a little.

First a shout out to Jeff Wilson’s kid.

How many left-handed relievers would you trade C.J. Wilson for?  The list is probably shorter than you might first think.

Billy Wagner?  Of course not.  He’ll be 36 in a month.

B.J. Ryan?  He had Tommy John surgery a month ago, wiping out the second year of his five-year, $47 million deal and threatening his third.

Mike Gonzalez?  Tommy John less than a month ago.

Thirty-one-year-olds Brian Fuentes and Hideki Okajima are pretty good.  So is 30-year-old George Sherrill.  How do they stack up against the 26-year-old Wilson?

Opponents are hitting the foursome as follows:

Wilson:   .184/.316/.272
Fuentes:  .178/.264/.327
Okajima:  .161/.220/.203
Sherrill: .162/.188/.243

Left-handed hitters:

Wilson:   .089/.241/.111
Fuentes:  .190/.308/.333
Okajima:  .163/.250/.209
Sherrill: .098/.152/.195

Wilson has allowed four hits in 45 at-bats by lefties: singles by Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Prince Fielder, and a Robinson Cano double.

Right-handed hitters:

Wilson:   .246/.366/.377
Fuentes:  .174/.253/.326
Okajima:  .160/.203/.200
Sherrill: .242/.235/.303

Strikeouts/walks:

Wilson:   28/18 in 32.1 innings
Fuentes:  22/8 in 31.1 innings
Okajima:  30/9 in 33.2 innings
Sherrill: 23/3 in 21.2 innings 

Wilson’s in pretty select company.  He’s clearly got to get his walks down, and his success rate against right-handed hitters suggests he might not be ready for a rotation role.  Both those issues need to be addressed before Wilson can be entrusted with the ninth inning.   

But Fuentes is going to make well more than his current $3.5 million salary in his final arbitration season of 2008.  Okajima will make a base of $1.25 million in 2008, with some reachable innings pitched incentives that should kick it closer to $1.5 million.  Sherrill will probably be a Super Two this winter, meaning his first seven-figure arbitration payday comes in 2008.

Wilson, at least three-and-a-half years younger than each of them, has one more pre-arbitration season (likely south of $500,000) before he becomes arbitration-eligible for the 2009 season.

I’m not sure I’d trade him for any left-handed reliever in the game.

One reason righthander Jamey Wright got the call last night in Cincinnati instead of Oklahoma righthander Mike Wood is that Wood had his last start skipped due to shoulder soreness.

Fortunately, the Rangers didn’t have to risk losing a player on the 40-man roster to make room for Wright.  Righthander Josh Rupe was transferred to the 60-day disabled list with an elbow issue that has already sidelined him for a month.

Clarification since there are a couple media versions getting this wrong: righthander Eric Gagné’s limited no-trade clause, I believe, allows him to designate 12 teams to which he can be traded (not 12 to which he *cannot* be dealt).  That, of course, doesn’t mean Texas can engineer a trade with the other 17 clubs — it only means that such a deal would enable Gagné to negotiate some form of compensation (big cash or a contract extension) in exchange for his waiver of the veto right.

Oklahoma outfielder Jason Botts is third in the Pacific Coast League with a .427 on-base percentage.  His .923 OPS is tenth-highest in the league, and nobody has more than his 52 walks (the next most is 43) or 23 doubles.

The Rangers told reporters this week that Botts is not an option to play first base while Mark Teixeira is sidelined with his strained quadriceps muscle.  Botts has been exclusively an outfielder and DH this season.

Frisco second baseman German Duran is the active hitting leader in the Texas League.  His .328 clip had trailed only Chase Headley, who was called up by San Diego this week.  Duran, still just 22, is third in the league with a .963 OPS (third in slugging and ninth in reaching base), second in home runs (13), and leads the circuit in runs scored (50 in 65 games).  The RoughRiders clinched a division title last night as they improved their record to a salty 45-22.

RoughRiders righthander Edinson Volquez is 5-0, 3.57 in six AA starts.  Maybe even more important than the 11 walks in 35.1 innings is the progress the 23-year-old has made in the subtleties of the pitching process and in his maturity, according to organization officials.

Bakersfield catcher Taylor Teagarden’s 1.094 OPS, .630 slugging percentage, and .464 on-base percentage would league the California League but he lacks the requisite number of plate appearances.

Clinton (40-26) has secured a Midwest League playoff berth.  Third baseman Johnny Whittleman (.984) and outfielder K.C. Herren (.938) are second and fourth in the league OPS rankings.  Outfielder-catcher Chad Tracy still leads the circuit with 54 RBI. 

After a 6.35 April, LumberKings reliever Brennan Garr has posted an ERA of 0.81 in May and June.  Last year’s ninth-rounder out of the University of Northern Colorado, where he was a far more dominant hitter than pitcher, Garr has been especially strong in June, firing 8.1 innings in which he has allowed just one hit, walking five while fanning nine.  For the season, he’s held the Midwest League to a .173 average, saving three games and posting a 1.93 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 28 frames.  This is a budding player development success story.

On June 13, I speculated that the "Juan Grullon" who appears in the Dominican Summer League statistics is presumably the same pitcher who has previously been called Gueris Grullon.  Not the case.  Two different guys.  Which suggests that the latter is headed for a short-season club.

Spokane’s Northwest League schedule kicks off on Tuesday.  The Arizona League starts Friday.

It slid under the radar, but Texas managed to sign outfielder Eric Fry, the club’s 33rd-round pick in 2006, a few days before last Thursday’s draft.  Fry hit .343 and slugged .601 for San Jacinto Junior College this year, driving in 51 runs in 57 games and stealing 18 bases in 20 tries.  He was set to transfer to Oklahoma State had he not signed with the Rangers as a draft-and-follow or signed with whichever team would have drafted him on the 7th.   

Texas had drafted Fry in 2006 after he’d hit .341 (slugging .519) with 10 home runs, 18 stolen bases, and a team-leading 62 RBI in 59 games as a freshman.  He’d also been drafted by Detroit in the 29th round in 2005, out of a Lake Charles, Louisiana high school.  His family relocated to Bayfield, Texas after Hurricane Rita.

The Rangers released outfielder Terry Blunt, who had played three seasons in the system since signing as a fifth-year senior out of Kansas State just before the 2005 draft.   

St. Louis optioned righthander Kelvin Jimenez back to AAA.  Oakland designated lefthander Erasmo Ramirez for assignment.

Kansas City signed infielder Jared Sandberg to a minor league contract.

Kevin Jr. and James Millwood’s Dad takes the hill for the Rangers in about an hour.  I’ve got a couch to hit.

Happy Father’s Day.

 

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

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