February 2010

Young and Molitor.

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Robin
Yount and Paul Molitor made me want to be a baseball player.

– September 13, 2004 Newberg
Report

 

When
I was growing up, the Rangers were so predictably terrible every year, and
seemingly comfortable being so uncompetitive, that I cheated a bit by
mid-summer and began scanning for a second box score every day before rummaging
through the rest of the sports page.  By
the mid-’80s, it was the Reds . . . . But before that, it was the Yount-Molitor
Brewers, with Coop and Simba and Gumby and Vuke and Rollie and Stormin’ Gorman.
 I think there were even years that I had
a fitted Milwaukee cap, with its genius logo, and didn’t have a Ranger lid.  Although Texas was always my team first and
foremost, the Brewers were a big deal to me, and remained so, at least
marginally, until the Reds pushed them aside.

– March 3, 2003 Newberg
Report

 

According
to Scott Miller of SportsLine.com, during a roundtable discussion in
Cooperstown in the course of the weekend’s Hall of Fame festivities, several
Hall of Famers were asked to identify the young player they’d trade their
futures for.  Johnny Bench chose Albert
Pujols.  Lou Brock picked Miguel Cabrera.
 And Paul Molitor selected Young.

– July 29, 2004 Newberg
Report

 

[Young
is] going to change positions at some point.  It may be this year, it may be next year, it
may be after that.  It’s going to happen,
and I suspect he knows it, and understands it.  There’s some merit to the Paul Molitor comp.

– November 7, 2008 Newberg
Report

 

I
want to ask all five of you [Michael Young, Chuck Greenberg, Jake Krug, Chuck
Morgan, and Jamey Newberg] who your favorite Rangers player is.  We all get emails from Jamey every couple
days that are kind of like love letters to Michael Young, so Jamey, you can
tell us who your second favorite is.

– a fan at the
February 2, 2010 Newberg Report Q&A event at Sherlock’s

 

The Young-Molitor comps have resurfaced this week, this time
trained on the idea that it wouldn’t be unprecedented for Young, like Molitor, to
be even better after turning 33 than he was before.  (Molitor hit .298/.361/.432 in his career
until that age, and .316/.378/.466 thereafter in nearly as many games, sealing his
Hall of Fame credentials.)  Young’s
numbers through age 32 (.302/.349/.449) are actually a shade better than Molitor’s
were, but it’s more about what Molitor did in the second half of his career
that Young is focused on.

 

“The guy is a huge motivator for me,” Young told Evan Grant
of the
Dallas
Morning News
. “He had a lot of success, including winning a World
Series, from the mid-point in his career until the end.  He was a guy  who always seemed to raise the bar.  He was an animal for the last eight years of
his career.  I know he’s the exception to
the rule, but it can be done.  You have
to trust your approach to the game and . . . keep yourself prepared, physically
and mentally.”

 

Where I hope the comparison breaks down is that while
Molitor was a Brewer for the first half of his career before splitting the
second half split evenly between Milwaukee, Toronto, and Minnesota, I’m hopeful
that Young accomplishes everything Molitor did, including winning a World
Series (in 1993, when he was the MVP runner-up in his age 36-37 season), but would
just assume it all happens here.

 

Young on Molitor: “I love talking hitting with him and would
talk it all day long with him, if I could.  I think we are kind of the same way in the way
we approach hitting.  And I hope I can
keep raising the bar for myself, too.”

 

The young player that Molitor singled out six years ago is
now the veteran player who looks to Molitor as motivation for the back half of his
career.  Not so much the Cooperstown bullet
point as the sustained productivity.  The
approach and the preparation and the adjustments.  The World Series title.

 

The player who made me want to be a baseball player, and the
player who makes Max want to be a baseball player.

 

So endeth this love letter.

 

 

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(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Josh Hamilton, day to day.

Hambone dings shoulder
Blast the breaking news sounder!
With Josh: So much ink.

Josh Hamilton is a physical specimen, a powerful, graceful, seven-skills ballplayer who could have pitched or played wide receiver or dominated on a hockey rink.

He’s also assaulted his body, on the field and off of it, and given his history, and the recent stack of evidence, his durability will always be part of the profile.  With Michael Young, you never ask about durability.  With Hamilton, you never don’t.

So when Hamilton bruised his left (throwing) shoulder during Wednesday’s first full-squad workout of camp – reportedly losing his balance while stretching for a pop-up and falling to the ground in what he described as an “embarrassing” moment – it was news.  Had it happened to David Murphy (and who’s to say it hasn’t?), we probably wouldn’t even know about it.

But this is Josh Hamilton, who in three big league seasons has had documented in-season instances of a rib cage strain, abdominal muscle tear, right wrist sprain, right hamstring strain and left hamstring strain, left knee inflammation, right hand bruise, right foot bruise, groin strain, lower back pinched nerve, gastroenteritis, viral infection, dizziness, and tooth abscess.  This is apparently nothing more than a shoulder bruise (with a muscle spasm near his neck), calling for a couple days off the field and some ice, but there’s a reason that a minor Milton Bradley injury would get more attention than a Marlon Byrd tweak, that a bark in Brandon McCarthy’s throwing arm would have been a bigger story than if it were Matt Harrison.

X-rays on Hamilton’s shoulder were happily negative, and he’s day-to-day.  Not perpetually so, like they used to say about Bradley, but he is for now.  Hopefully this story goes away in a week or two and is forgotten by time the games count.

The voiding of Khalil Greene’s contract reduces the roster to 41 players (Omar Beltre and Alexi Ogando don’t procedurally count against the limit of 40 until camp ends), but don’t expect the addition of another veteran infielder until much later in camp, if at all.  

For the time being, middle infielder Marcus Lemon has been given a non-roster invite, meaning he will train with the big league squad for at least a couple weeks before returning to minor league camp in preparation for a likely season-opening assignment to Oklahoma City.  Nice moment for Lemon, an all-world character kid whose ceiling is probably on a big league bench but who is solid across the board.

Derek Holland (knee sprain) is hoping to be back on a mound this weekend.  

According to Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine, the MRI on righthander Omar Poveda’s elbow was “fairly conclusive” in its indication of a tear in the ulnar collateral ligament, but the club awaits a second opinion from Dr. Lewis Yocum before scheduling season-ending Tommy John surgery for the 22-year-old.

Max Ramirez is working out at first base, according to a local report.  Meanwhile, Taylor Teagarden is said to be impressing early.  As they did in 2009, he and Jarrod Saltalamacchia will alternate starts once exhibition play begins March 6.

There are good things being said about McCarthy’s work and first baseman-outfielder Mitch Moreland’s bat speed.

Speaking of first base and rave reviews, according to one local report Justin Smoak is defending “significantly better” than he did last spring – but Ron Washington is quick to note that Chris Davis is the best defensive first baseman in the American League.

The Rangers signed Plano East product Wes Bankston to a minor league deal.  The 26-year-old corner infielder spent the first six years of his pro career in the Rays system, followed by one season with the Athletics (including a 59-at-bat look in Oakland) and one with the Reds.  He’s a lifetime .277/.341/.467 hitter in the minor leagues.

Word emerges from Baseball America assistant editor Ben Badler that the signing bonus Texas gave 16-year-old lefthander Victor Payano late in 2009 – months after his $900,000 deal with Boston was voided due to a failed physical – was $75,000.  

Boston righthander Josh Beckett, set to become a free agent after the season, told reporters last night that he doesn’t plan to negotiate an extension with the Red Sox during the season.

Florida and Tampa Bay are reportedly considering Hank Blalock.

The Yankees signed righthander Chan Ho Park.  Philadelphia signed outfielder Brad Wilkerson to a minor league deal – without an invite to big league camp.  Same with Colorado and lefthander Nick Bierbrodt.

Boston released righthander Edwin Moreno after having signed him to a minor league contract last month.  The 29-year-old has decided to pitch in Mexico in 2010.

The Fort Worth Cats of the independent American Association re-signed catcher Kelley Gulledge, son of Chuck Morgan.  The New Jersey Jackals of the independent Can-Am League signed infielder Enrique Cruz.  The Kansas City T-Bones of the independent Northern League signed lefthander Ryan Knippschild.

LSU righthander Anthony Ranaudo, expected by many to be the first pitcher drafted this June, has been scratched for tonight’s start with discomfort in his throwing elbow.  Team officials are saying it’s not a ligament issue.  Texas drafted Ranaudo out of a New Jersey high school in the 11th round in 2007 but couldn’t persuade him to sign.  

The Rangers promoted Mike Daly from Assistant Director of International Scouting, removing “Assistant” from his title.

Oakland has rehired Grady Fuson, naming him special advisor to the baseball operations department.  Upon rehiring Fuson, A’s GM Billy Beane promptly threw a chair through a wall.

The Rangers’ “30 Clubs in 30 Days” feature on MLB Network is set to air on March 25 at 6:00 p.m.

Here’s hoping there’s no mention in the hour-long program of Josh Hamilton’s shoulder.

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(c) Jamey Newberg
http://www.newbergreport.com
Twitter  @newbergreport

Bring it.

vlad_camp.jpg

Photographic
artistry courtesy of the great Ron Jenkins /
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

 

 

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(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Projections, comps, and trade ideas: A topic dump.

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You all came up with
a ton of great suggestions for report topics. 
Can’t get to nearly all of them, but let’s hit on a few.

 

What happens to the bench now that Khalil
Greene is out of the picture?
 Can’t be answered yet.  But the Rangers have said the utility infield
job will be won internally (Felipe Lopez? 
Really?  Why would he ever sign here,
when the job of backing up Elvis Andrus, Michael Young, and Ian Kinsler
promises so little opportunity?), and Esteban German isn’t a very good
shortstop, so that means the competition at this point features Joaquin Arias
and Ray Olmedo.  If Arias’s shoulder can
hold up on the left side of the infield, the job should be his.  As for the other infield spot, preferably a
right-handed bat that can play both corners? 
I give Matt Brown a one-in-three shot, Mike Lowell twice that.  Another possibility: either infield spot on the
bench could be manned by a player in someone else’s camp a month from now.  Such as Arizona’s Augie Ojeda.

 

In the age of video scouting and league adjustments,
can Scott Feldman do it again?
 
As long as he commands that filthy cutter, a true
out pitch, you bet.  It’s not the kind of
pitch a hitter can sit on and punish when it’s working.  Remember, Feldman’s 17-8, 4.08 mark – 17-8,
3.79 as a starter – came in just 31 starts. 
Given a full year in the rotation, can he win 17 again?  Of course. 
Can he maintain the peripherals?  Don’t
see why not.

 

Compare the 40-man roster to that of the last
Rangers playoff team.
 
Good
one.

 

Going into 1999, 19 pitchers were on the roster: starters
Rick Helling, Aaron Sele, John Burkett, Esteban Loaiza, and Mark Clark;
relievers John Wetteland, Tim Crabtree, Eric Gunderson, Danny Patterson, and Al
Levine; minor league starters Doug Davis, Ryan Glynn, Danny Kolb, Corey Lee, Jonathan
Johnson, Brandon Knight, Derrick Cook, and Matt Perisho; and reliever Mike Venafro.

 

The current roster has 24 pitchers – 26 if you count Omar Beltre
and Alexi Ogando – including starters Feldman, Rich Harden, Colby Lewis, Tommy
Hunter, and we’ll say Brandon McCarthy; relievers Frankie Francisco, Neftali
Feliz, C.J. Wilson, Darren O’Day, Darren Oliver, Chris Ray, and Dustin Nippert;
staff contenders Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Doug Mathis, and Ben Snyder;
minor league starters Eric Hurley, Michael Kirkman, Guillermo Moscoso, and Omar
Poveda; and minor league relievers Beltre, Ogando, Pedro Strop, Warner Madrigal,
Luis Mendoza, and Zach Phillips.

 

Call Sele and Feldman a wash.  Burkett was coming off a 5.68 ERA season; I’ll
take Lewis.  Loaiza had a 5.90 ERA after
his summer arrival in Texas; Hunter is just as good a bet today as Loaiza was
going into his first full season as a Ranger. 
Clark or McCarthy?  Clark or
Holland?  Clark or Harrison?  C’mon.

 

Helling or Harden?  Tough
call.  Lunchpail consistency vs. risk/reward.  Depends on what you’re looking for.

 

The bullpens aren’t close. 
Wetteland beats Francisco but every other matchup favors the current
group.

 

The minor league pitching groups are close, but there’s
greater upside today.

 

To be fair, there was one non-roster invite at this time in
1999 who promised to make an impact during the season, but there’s one today,
too.  This isn’t a hindsight exercise,
though, and anyone who says he expected Jeff Zimmerman (whom Baseball America judged that winter to
be the Rangers’ number 10 prospect) to be anything close to a rookie All-Star
in middle relief is lying, and there’s just as much buzz about 23-year-old
Tanner Scheppers as Camp 2010 gets rolling as there was in February 1999 about the
26-year-old Zimmerman.

 

Catchers?  The
red-shoed ’99ers (Ivan Rodriguez and Gregg Zaun) have the obvious advantage.

 

The Lee Stevens/Mark McLemore/Royce Clayton/Todd Zeile
infield?  Texas is measurably stronger
now at second, shortstop, and third, and similar at first offensively.  But Chris Davis has a better chance of outproducing
Stevens than McLemore had to put together a Kinsler-type year (not to mention
Davis’s massive edge defensively), and nobody would take the 29-year-old
Clayton over Andrus.  I’d take Young over
Todd Zeile, even discounting the off-the-field factors.  Luis Alicea and Jon Shave probably make a stronger
bench case than Greene or Arias plus a non-roster type like Brown or Esteban
German, but Lowell would tilt things the other way.

 

Outfield and DH: Juan Gonzalez, Rusty Greer, Tom Goodwin, and
Rafael Palmeiro vs. Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton, Julio Borbon, and Vladimir Guerrero.  There are scenarios in which you can imagine
the current group outplaying the 1999 group, both offensively and defensively,
but you have to give the old guys the edge. 
Roberto Kelly and David Murphy as fourth outfielders make a pretty good
match.  Other big leaguers: Ruben Mateo
and Mike Simms in 1999; Brandon Boggs and Craig Gentry today.  You had to give the older crew the decided edge
because of pre-injury Mateo and the 1998 that Simms was coming off of.

 

Minor league position players: catcher Cesar King, infielders
Kelly Dransfeldt, Shawn Gallagher, and Rob Sasser, and outfielders Mike Zywica
and Ricky Williams (yes, that Ricky Williams) in 1999.  Today: Catcher Max Ramirez and no infielders or
outfielders.  Off the roster but in camp,
the club now has Justin Smoak, Mitch Moreland, and Chad Tracy, but in 1999 had
Carlos Pena and Mike Lamb.  Strong in
both cases.

 

Overall?  Better pitching
staff today, better catcher and outfield then, better infield today. 

 

And Martin Perez’s on the way: 2010 one, 1999 zero.

 

What Rangers player has the biggest 2010 beta?  I’m not sure which I’d say is
more likely: Scheppers starting and finishing the year with Frisco (remember,
he logged only 19 innings last summer), or closing games in Arlington in September.  Surely it will be something between the two
extremes, but the possibilities are all over the map.

 

You
nailed it coming up with realistic trade ideas for Zack Greinke and Josh
Johnson a year before each of them really broke through.  Do it again.
  OK, in time. 
I will say this: The odds of making an impact July trade go up this year,
for two reasons: (1) the ownership transition and (2) tougher 40-man roster decisions
this coming November than in any off-season in memory.  Among those who will need to be added to the
roster to avoid exposure to next December’s Rule 5 Draft: Moreland, Wilmer
Font, Kasey Kiker, Danny Gutierrez, Engel Beltre, Wilfredo Boscan, and Carlos
Pimentel. 

 

I’ll go ahead and say this: If (when) Kansas City is 20
games out in mid-July, despite a second straight Cy Young-quality season from Greinke,
I’d call the Royals and offer them Holland, Font, Ogando, Moreland, and Engel Beltre
for Greinke and a middle reliever or veteran bench piece (whichever makes more
roster sense at that point).

 

But that’s just off the top of my head.  I’ll work on this idea and expand it to other
trade targets soon.

 

OK, one more: Smoak, Font, and Kiker for Brandon Webb.

 

Twist my arm: Poveda and Engel Beltre for (righthander) Chris
Young, or – if the decision is made to move Feliz into the rotation – Harrison,
Font, and Engel Beltre for Heath Bell, who is under control through 2011 (a
year longer than Frankie Francisco is).

 

Can
Texas commit to Neftali Feliz in the bullpen again without scuttling the idea
of making him a starter eventually?
 
Of
course.  See what the Dodgers did with Pedro
Martinez at age 21 in 1993 (after his brief 1992 debut).  One difference to think about, though: Los
Angeles was coming off a terrible 1992 season (63-99) and managed to play only
.500 ball in 1993.  They were arguably
better able to blueprint Martinez’s development, with little heed paid to the
team’s chances to win, than the Rangers can now.  Texas expects to win, and for that reason the
decision on Feliz may have more than just his own development to factor
in. 

 

In other words, even if the Dodgers thought Martinez was one
of their five best rotation options coming out of camp in 1993, they probably
didn’t expect to win and could focus on what was best for the young Martinez’s development
(managing his workload in a bullpen role). 
If, on March 15, Texas believes Feliz gives it a better chance to win
than the pitchers against whom he’s competing for the fourth or fifth rotation
spot?  Trickier.

 

For
those of us who didn’t get to go to Sherlock’s to meet Chuck Greenberg, is he
going to be another Arte Moreno?  Who
does he remind you of?
 
Roger
Staubach.  (Apologies to Chuck, a
Steelers guy, if he’s reading this.) 
Same inspiring mix of humility and command.

 

Has
Chris Davis ever tried to catch?  He has
the footwork and arm to do it.
 
That’s super-interesting.  A
little too late in the game to consider that kind of transition (Davis did
catch a little in high school), but wow, that would have been an inspired experiment
years ago.  Like Justin Morneau and
Carlos Delgado and Dale Murphy and Mike Sweeney and a bunch of other power
hitters, Davis might not have lasted long behind the plate (to preserve his career
as a run producer), but imagine how valuable he’d have been as a catcher if it
all came together, even for a few years.

 

After
the Rangers are successful this year, do you fear that we could lose Thad Levine
or A.J. Preller or Scott Servais to other organizations raiding our system?
  Damn right I do.  Cost of being good.

 

Jarrod
Saltalamacchia seems to be the biggest wild card in the lineup.  What do you see happening with him this year?
  How great would an Anthony Spencer/Mike
Jenkins breakout be?  Even if
Saltalamacchia doesn’t quite pull that off, he could still be Clint Hurdle’s
greatest Year One accomplishment.

 

With
Marlon Byrd gone, who steps up as the vocal leader in the clubhouse?  Michael Young is more of a quiet leader, and
Vladdy doesn’t seem to be a rah-rah type, either.
  Young isn’t as quiet as you think.  Yes, he leads primarily by example, but one
offshoot of being more selective with your words is that whenever you speak, it
counts.  A lot.

 

Who
are you most looking forward to seeing in Surprise?
  Righthanders Beltre and Ogando, outfielder
Miguel Velazquez, and catcher Jorge Alfaro. 

 

And outfield/baserunning coordinator Wayne Kirby.  That’s when I’ll know it’s baseball season.

 

 

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(c) Jamey Newberg

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Twitter 
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Surprise.

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The weather is still
lousy.  I woke up not feeling great
today.  Our first C League baseball
practice looks like it might get postponed for the second straight week.  I haven’t even thought about getting our
taxes started.  Wade Phillips still
coaches the Cowboys.

 

But I got a little lift when I stopped by our neighborhood
Barnes & Noble this morning and slid over to the sports shelves.

 

 

BarnesandNobleBoundEdition2.jpg

 

 


 

BarnesandNobleBoundEdition.jpg

 













That was a pretty cool, unexpected surprise. 

 

 

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To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get e-mail
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and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to
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Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Small talk.

The winter can be long, and it’s with that caveat that I measure the words of folks who have been champing at the bit not only to put a uniform back on and to get back on the freshly cut Bermuda, or to get back on a director’s chair in front of a live camera, but also to talk baseball again.  

Does it mean anything when Bobby Valentine says on ESPN on February 18 that Ron Washington is on the hottest seat of any manager in the league?  Does it mean anything when C.J. Wilson tells a reporter in so many words that his stuff is better than Rich Harden’s and that he has too many weapons to be assigned to the eighth inning?

We’ve all been waiting months and months for baseball.  Part of that for Valentine and Wilson has been preparing to make bold comments that will show up the next day in newspapers and on blogs and around water coolers, and that’s fine.  What they said wasn’t as carefully scripted as whatever it is that Tiger Woods will say later this morning, but that’s two guys who have never shied away from the provocative, and whether it’s issuing a proclamation — before clubs have even fully reported to camp — as to which manager has the least job security or announcing that you disagree with the role your team has given you, that sort of talk basically generates more talk.  Things will sort themselves out on the field.

Matt Harrison losing 30 pounds is a bigger story than what C.J. Wilson thinks his job should be.  

Look, I hope that a stretched-out Wilson is so dominant in camp that the club has to decide how to sort out having too many quality starting pitchers.  And truthfully, I want every player on this team believing he’s capable of doing more than he’s ever done, or filling a more highly leveraged role.  My guess is that Wilson ends up reassigned to the eighth inning, but there’s nothing wrong with him getting the opportunity to go out and prove he should be entrusted with more.

Speaking of words, and things playing out between the lines, this focus in the press this week on how the situation behind the plate may be the camp’s most spirited battle is interesting.  This isn’t Taylor Teagarden declaring that he should be the starter, or Toby Hall scoffing at the thought that Texas continues to hunt for a veteran to compete for a roster spot.  It’s coming from the manager and the general manager, whose thoughts on such a subject mean something.  The job isn’t being taken away from Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but it’s been made clear the last couple days that it’s not being handed to him, either.

Everyone who is supposed to be in camp in time for today’s first workout is there, and a few who didn’t have to be there yet are, too.  Time to roll.

Changing batteries?
Is there more competition
At C than at P?

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Twitter  @newbergreport

 

Stuff.

A handful of things:

1.  Texas reportedly offered minor league contracts recently to veteran catchers Jose Molina and Rod Barajas, each of whom turned the offers down.  (Barajas seems poised to accept the Mets’ minor league deal, one that reportedly has a million-dollar big league split [similar to what Texas gave Endy Chavez] — and that’s a situation in which he could easily break camp as New York’s big league starter.)  The defensively advanced Molina is reportedly the Rangers’ top choice.  Molina’s agent is Alan Nero, who evidently also represents Toby Hall, the journeyman catcher who signed a minor league deal with Texas last month.  (Potential conflict of interest for Nero?)  

2.  A couple more details on Chavez’s non-roster contract: Chavez reportedly has an out clause that allows him to opt for instant free agency sometime in July should he not be in Arlington at the time.  There’s a $50,000 buyout on the $1.25 million club option for 2011, which increases to $100,000 if he spends at least 30 days in the big leagues in 2010.  He can earn almost $500,000 extra this year if he maxes out on certain plate appearance and service time incentives.

3.  Do you have a pitching machine for sale?  Need to buy one for Max’s Little League team.

4.  I made a mistake two days ago when I wrote that Texas signed Marlon Byrd as insurance behind Kenny Lofton in December 2006.  Byrd actually signed four days before Lofton did.  But the point remains unchanged.

5.  We need someone at our office to wall-mount and hook up a couple HD TV’s.  If you do that sort of thing, let me know.

6.  MLB.com ran a story Tuesday about the 2010 season projections of some of the more prominent sabermetric systems.  All three highlighted systems — PECOTA, CHONE, and CAIRO — project Texas to win the AL West (with between 82 and 87 wins).

7.  Foot cramps suck.

8.  Mike Lowell will head to Red Sox camp believing he’ll end spring training in someone else’s uniform.  But his uncertainty pays him $12 million, which is a far more comfortable situation than the one Hank Blalock finds himself in.

9.  Righthander Dustin Brader caught on with the Southern Illinois Miners of the independent Frontier League, lefthander Broc Coffman hooked up with the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks of the independent Northern League, righthander Josh Giles agreed to terms with the Northern League’s Schaumburg Flyers, and lefthander Michael Tejera is now with Japan’s Chiba Lotte Marines.

10.  Happy Holidays.

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Endy Chavez and how the roster competition might shake out.

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Monday’s signing of outfielder
Endy Chavez doesn’t belong in the same discussion as Vladimir Guerrero or Rich
Harden.  This isn’t a Caron Butler or
Brendan Haywood pickup, or Kari Lehtonen. 

 

But Chavez isn’t necessarily Jason Ellison or Ryan
Christenson, either.

 

Consider the thoughts of the great Dave Cameron, co-force
behind the great U.S.S. Mariner website,
via his Twitter account:

 

Endy
Chavez to Texas.  Another good move for a
club that is making a habit of making them.  AL West, best run group of teams in baseball.

 

Texas signed Chavez, who is rehabbing from major knee
surgery, to a minor league contract that (according to Jon Heyman of
Sports
Illustrated
) will reportedly pay $1 million (half of what he earned last
year) while he’s in the big leagues and includes a $1.25 million option for
2011.  After Chavez tore the ACL in his
right knee in a mid-June collision with Seattle teammate Yuniesky Betancourt, some
expected his 2010 season to be jeopardized as he recovered from surgery.  But there are reports that Chavez is dramatically
ahead of schedule and could be ready for action as soon as a month into the
season.

 

Cameron, a Mariners expert, saw Chavez firsthand in 2009,
when he broke camp as a starter in the Seattle outfield.  Starting every one of the club’s first 13 games
(10 in left, two in right, one in center), and hitting first (while Ichiro
Suzuki recovered from a bleeding ulcer) or second in the lineup, Chavez sat at
a healthy .392/.446/.471 in 51 at-bats.  While it was out of character for the career
.270/.312/.367 hitter (he managed to hit only .171/.234/.186 in his next 80
at-bats), it wasn’t completely a fluke, according to Cameron.

 

“He’s been wildly underrated for years,” Cameron suggests.  “A completely healthy Endy Chavez was
probably in the top two or three best defensive outfielders in baseball, and
the bat is just below average, not terrible. 
Good contact skills, good bunter, good runner, great glove – he’s an
average-ish major league player at full strength. . . . [I]f he recovers, he’s
a high quality role player, and good enough to start in the outfield for a lot
of teams.”

 

For what it’s worth, Chavez was a procedural grab bag early
in his career, signing with the Mets out of Venezuela at age 18, getting
selected by Kansas City in the 2000 Rule 5 Draft; clearing waivers at the end
of 2001 spring training but remaining in the Royals system when they traded
minor league outfielder (and future Frisco RoughRider) Michael Curry to the
Mets for the right to keep him; making it to the big leagues with Kansas City
later that 2001 season, after which he landed with Detroit on a December waiver
claim; ending up back with the Mets on another waiver claim in February 2002; hitting
the waiver wire again just three weeks later and getting snapped up by Montreal;
spending three seasons with Montreal/Washington and a month into his fourth
when he was traded to Philadelphia in May 2005 – straight up for Marlon Byrd; getting
non-tendered after the season and returning to the Mets as a free agent; establishing
himself with New York in 2006 and earning $1.725 million for the 2007 season
and then a two-year, $3.85 million deal for 2008-09; and getting traded to
Seattle midway through that contract in the three-team, 12-player deal highlighted
by reliever J.J. Putz going from the Mariners to the Mets and outfielder Franklin
Gutierrez going from the Indians to the Mariners.  Chavez missed the second half of the 2009
season with the torn ACL and was a free agent this winter.

 

In a way, Chavez and Byrd have something else in common.  Texas signed Byrd as center field depth in
December 2006, as insurance behind Kenny Lofton.  Chavez and Byrd are very different offensive
players, of course, but Byrd was no more of an impact signing three years ago
than Chavez is now.

 

The Rangers were set to feature Craig Gentry, Brandon Boggs
(returning from a shoulder injury), and likely Mitch Moreland in the AAA outfield,
but since the loss of Greg Golson when he was designated for assignment last
month (and traded to the Yankees), the club decided to go out to add another outfielder
to the mix, targeting the versatile 32-year-old.  An insurance policy in the event that Borbon
struggles to hold center field down all season, Chavez can also serve as a
mentor to the three young outfield prospects bound for Oklahoma City.

 

Chavez gets the 15th non-roster invite to Rangers
camp (and there will probably be at least one more – there are reports that
Texas is interested in veteran catcher Jose Molina, for instance).  Toss in restricted list occupants Omar Beltre
and Alexi Ogando and a full 40-man roster complement, and Texas is bringing at
least 57 players to camp, which officially opens in two days.

 

The 57:

 

40-MAN ROSTER

 

PITCHERS (24): Scott Feldman, Neftali Feliz, Frankie
Francisco, Rich Harden, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter, Eric
Hurley, Michael Kirkman, Colby Lewis, Warner Madrigal, Doug Mathis, Brandon
McCarthy, Luis Mendoza, Guillermo Moscoso, Dustin Nippert, Darren O’Day, Darren
Oliver, Zach Phillips, Omar Poveda, Chris Ray, Ben Snyder, Pedro Strop, C.J.
Wilson

 

CATCHERS (3): Max Ramirez, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Taylor
Teagarden

 

INFIELDERS (6): Elvis Andrus, Joaquin Arias, Chris Davis,
Khalil Greene, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young

 

OUTFIELDERS (7): Brandon Boggs, Julio Borbon, Nelson Cruz,
Craig Gentry, Vladimir Guerrero, Josh Hamilton, David Murphy

 

RESTRICTED LIST (2): Omar Beltre, Alexi Ogando

 

NON-ROSTER INVITEES

 

PITCHERS (5): Willie Eyre, Geoff Geary, Kasey Kiker, Clay
Rapada, Tanner Scheppers

 

CATCHERS (3): Emerson Frostad, Toby Hall, Kevin Richardson

 

INFIELDERS (4): Matt Brown, Esteban German, Ray Olmedo, Justin
Smoak

 

OUTFIELDERS (3): Endy Chavez, Mitch Moreland, Chad Tracy

 

Setting aside the inevitable injury or two going into the
season, here are the near-locks to break camp on the active roster:

 

PITCHERS (9): Scott Feldman, Neftali Feliz, Frankie
Francisco, Rich Harden, Tommy Hunter, Colby Lewis, Darren O’Day, Darren Oliver,
C.J. Wilson

 

CATCHERS (1): Jarrod Saltalamacchia

 

INFIELDERS (4): Elvis Andrus, Chris Davis, Ian Kinsler,
Michael Young

 

OUTFIELDERS (5): Julio Borbon, Nelson Cruz, Vladimir
Guerrero, Josh Hamilton, David Murphy

 

That leaves, in all likelihood, spots for three pitchers, one
catcher, one infielder who can play shortstop, and one right-handed hitter who
ideally can play first base and somewhere in the outfield.

 

As for the three pitchers, if Feliz and Wilson end up in
relief (Jon Daniels has suggested, at least in Feliz’s case, that the starter
vs. reliever determination should be made by March 15-20), the open spots will
be the number five starter, one middle reliever, and the long man.  Of the 20 remaining pitchers in camp, you can
safely pencil in options for Kirkman, Phillips, Poveda, Beltre, and Ogando, and minor league
assignments for Geary, Kiker, Rapada, and Scheppers.  Expect Hurley to begin the season on option,
if not the 60-day disabled list.

 

Let’s categorize the rest further.

 

Fifth starter candidates: Harrison, Holland, McCarthy

 

Middle relief candidates: Madrigal, Mendoza, Ray, Snyder, Strop,
Eyre

 

Long man candidates: Mathis, Moscoso, Nippert
 

Do McCarthy and Ray have an edge in their categories since they’d
have to be exposed to waivers in order to be sent to the farm?  Not really, as we’ve discussed before.  The type of service-time-related waivers
involved for the two righthanders, each of whom still has two options, would be
revocable and are rarely blocked.  Still,
assuming health for each, they might be the pitchers to beat for the number five
and middle relief roles.  But not because
of their procedural status.

 

Holland has three options and (depending on what he shows in
March) could benefit from some extra minor league seasoning.  (Cameron on Holland in a piece
he wrote yesterday for FanGraphs.com
: “In an organization with a lot of
good young arms, in a division with a lot of good young arms, Holland gets
overlooked, but he may be the single most important player in the AL West in 2010.
 If he’s as good as I think he is, Texas
has a legitimate shot at winning 90 games.  This kid can really pitch. . . . There should
be way more excitement about a kid with these tools . . . . Forget the ERA -
Holland can pitch, and could easily emerge as the ace of the Rangers rotation.”)  Harrison, returning from thoracic outlet
syndrome, has two options.

 

In the bullpen, Madrigal has an option, and Strop has
two.  Mendoza is out of options, Snyder
would need to clear waivers and be offered back to San Francisco for $25,000 if
he doesn’t make the active Opening Day roster, and Eyre is off the roster to
begin with.  (For what it’s worth, this
is as good a place as any to let you know that righthander Joaquin Benoit
signed a minor league deal with Tampa Bay yesterday.)

 

The only procedural issue with regard to the three long
relievers belongs to Nippert, who is out of options and would surely be lost on
waivers if he doesn’t make the club. 
Mathis has three options left, Moscoso two.

 

So is the prediction here that McCarthy, Ray, and Nippert
round out the Opening Day staff?  If they’re
healthy, and if they pitch satisfactorily in Surprise, I’d at least give them
the pole position.

 

At catcher, Teagarden (two options) is the favorite to
stick, while Ramirez (one option) is a certainty not to – and he could even be
dealt to Boston if Mike Lowell proves to be healthy and the two clubs revisit those
trade talks.  But a Molina arrival could
push both Teagarden and Ramirez to the RedHawks, where there’s already an
interesting logjam of capable backstops.

 

The utility infielder is likely to be Greene, with Arias a
good bet to be traded.  (Jon Daniels
hinted at it last week, acknowledging that Arias proved enough with his
shoulder this winter that he probably wouldn’t clear waivers.)

 

The right-handed hitter? 
Ramirez figures in there, but probably lags behind Brown, and maybe even
Gentry.  (Boggs may not be ready physically.)  Don’t rule out the Lowell idea, or someone like
Rocco Baldelli.  But don’t count on
Smoak, even if he destroys Cactus League pitching from the right side.  With Guerrero at designated hitter, the role
we’re talking about is likely to get sporadic work, and that’s not a good idea
for Smoak.

 

Let’s say one non-roster player (Brown?) makes the
club.  Will finding a 40-man roster spot for
him be difficult?  Not at all.  Mendoza is likely to be off the roster by Opening
Day.  Arias, too, unless he wins a job,
in which case Greene would probably be dropped from the roster.  The way things shape up, Snyder is probably more
likely to relinquish his roster spot than to win a left-on-left job in the
bullpen.  Hurley could be placed on the
60-day disabled list, too.

 

If Mathis or Moscoso (or one of the two among Harrison,
Holland, and McCarthy who don’t win a rotation spot) were to beat Nippert out for
the long relief role, Nippert’s lack of options means he’d come off the 40-man
roster as well.

 

(There would be no need to create room for Lowell, as he’d just
take Ramirez’s roster spot.)

 

A pitcher like Madrigal could conceivably pitch his way into
a designation for assignment with an awful camp.

 

Yes, two more spots will need to be created so that Beltre
and Ogando can be reinstated from the restricted list and optioned to minor
league clubs to start the season, but the way the roster is set up right now,
it’s simply not going to be much of a problem.

 

Now, if the club decides a month into the season that Chavez
would help?  If Smoak forces his way to
Arlington during the season?  Scheppers
(whose fastball is top five in the minor leagues, along with Feliz’s, says
Baseball America‘s Jim Callis
),
same thing?  Then it gets a little trickier,
not to mention in November, when the club has to figure out whether (and how)
to find room on the roster for Moreland, Kiker, Wilmer Font, Danny Gutierrez, Engel
Beltre, Wilfredo Boscan, and Carlos Pimentel, among others.  That’s going to be difficult, and is one
reason (among several) that I think a major trade in July (several prospects for
an impact veteran) makes a huge amount of sense.

 

Of course, everything you just read is grossly premature and
sort of worthless, since before the roster is set at the end of March there
will be injuries and there could be another non-roster veteran or two added and
there could even be trades.

 

It’s also the exercise of a crazy baseball fan who pretty
much can’t wait any longer for spring training to get rolling.

 

 

===========================================================

 

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(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Rangers sign Australian catcher prospect.

Guy Edmonds was born on March 16, 1993, two years before lefthander Mike Venafro was drafted by the Rangers out of James Madison University.  News came down yesterday that each had signed minor league contracts.

Venafro, who last pitched professionally in 2007 (splitting the season between St. Louis’s, Toronto’s, and Minnesota’s AAA clubs), has signed a non-roster deal with the Nationals, in whose camp he might get a chance to pitch to Ivan Rodriguez, his teammate during his entire 1999-2001 tenure in the Rangers bullpen.  It appears that Venafro’s deal does not include an invite to big league camp, but at age 36 he’s sure to get a look with the big club at some point in March if he shows anything at all on the back fields.

As for Edmonds, the 16-year-old catcher joins pitchers Tim Stanford (2008) and Aaron Thompson (2009) as players signed by Texas out of Australia since Director of Pacific Rim Operations Jim Colborn joined the Rangers organization.  A right-handed hitter, Edmonds starred in the 2009 IBAF World Youth Baseball Championship held in August in Taiwan, putting up a slash line of .464/.484/.893 and driving in 15 runs (third most in the 12-team tournament) as he started all seven games for Team Australia.  He struck out just two times in 28 at-bats and was named the catcher on the Tournament All-Star Team.

Last month at the National Youth Championships in Australia, Edmonds (whose signing bonus is reportedly in the $150,000 range) hit .378/.453/.733 in 45 at-bats for New South Wales, champions of the Under-18 bracket.

Edmonds is currently catching Stanford on the Canterbury Bankstown Vikings baseball club, which sits in third place in the 1st Grade Division of the Sydney Major League, 4.5 games behind the hated Blacktown Workers.  In 104 at-bats, Edmonds is hitting .317/.357/.471.  The Vikings’ regular season concludes on March 7, after which Edmonds (whose father and uncle were professional rugby players) is expected to travel to Surprise to join Rangers minor league camp.

Other news:

As expected, righthanders Omar Beltre and Alexi Ogando received their work visas without a problem, and both are expected to be in Surprise next week.

Texas signed 26-year-old righthander Jae-Kuk Ryu, a onetime Cubs prospect who last pitched in the Tampa Bay system in 2008.  He was claimed off waivers by San Diego last January and then by Cleveland in March, but the latter claim was voided by MLB (because Ryu was injured) on April 1, after which the Padres released him.  Ryu’s Rangers deal does not include an invite to big league camp.

Ryu, whose lifetime minor league record is 39-29, 3.35 (7.9 strikeouts and 3.1 walks per nine innings) and who has a 7.49 ERA in 39.2 big league innings, is perhaps best known for throwing a baseball at an osprey in its perch in his home ballpark with High A Daytona in 2003, striking the bird (an endangered species) with a blow that eventually killed it.

Other minor league deals (with invites): infielder Mike Lamb (Florida) and righthander Kip Wells (Cincinnati).  

Washington is reportedly in discussions with righthander Kris Benson – apparently with the thought that the former number one overall draft pick could serve as a mentor (and cautionary tale) for Nationals righty Stephen Strasburg.

Texas, according to Melissa Segura of Sports Illustrated, is among at least seven teams interested in highly touted 17-year-old Dominican righthander Rafael DePaula, who is reportedly also considering Japan.

Doug Brocail, who retired last week, was named a front office advisor by the Astros, who also offered him a minor league pitching coach position.

The Lake County Fielders of the independent Northern League signed infielder Kyle Higgins.

With spring training about to get underway, I’ll have a new DirecTV/Newberg Report special offer to share with you in the next day or two.  You shouldn’t be heading into camp without MLB Network.

Thinking back six years.

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Thumbnail image for Ballparksnow4.jpg

Photo courtesy of
the great Brad Newton

 

As I sat at work yesterday and watched powdered-donut-sized
snowflakes swirling upward out my window, my thoughts wandered to the last time
we were hit with a mid-February blast anything like it.

 

We had two dogs, and one child.

 

Though that was about to be reversed.  We would lose
Sneaker a little over a week after that Valentine’s Day snowstorm.  And
six months later, to the day, Max was born.

 

On Valentine’s Day 2004, on Erica’s bedroom wall was this:


Thumbnail image for elmo1.jpg

 











Once Max was born, I changed it:

 

 

elmo2.jpg

 

 

Other changes:

 

 

bigbird.jpg 

 



bigbird2.jpg 

 

grover1a.jpg


                      

grover2.jpg

 


erniebert1.jpg

   



                

bert2.jpg

 

 

cookie1a.jpg


                    

cookie2.jpg


 

But the baseballing up of the nursery couldn’t make up for
the humiliating baseball blow that had been dealt six months earlier.  On
the day the snow covered everything back on Valentine’s Day 2004, practically
(and laughably) immobilizing the city, the news of the day was this:

 

The
New York Yankees and Texas Rangers have agreed in principle on a trade that
will send American League MVP Alex Rodriguez to New York for Alfonso Soriano
and a minor league player to be named later.

 

It was a cold day in Rangers history, a day on which a
landmark decision was made not to make the club better but to make it more
financially flexible.  The 89-win season that followed – a third-place
finish after A-Rod’s three seasons each produced fourth-place records – felt
like a bit of a mirage, something the front office and manager not only
accepted but also made sure the fans understood with the “managed expectations”
catchphrase we were drilled with that next winter. 

 

It’s different now.  The diffidence – the apologetic
mission statement – following 2004’s 89 wins bears no resemblance to the
confidence and accountability that the Rangers, to a man, from the President to
the General Manager to the players to the prospective owner, are preaching
after last season’s 87 victories.  They believe it’s time to win, aren’t
willing to accept anything less in 2010, and invite all of us to demand the same.

 

So much has changed since the day A-Rod was traded five
years ago.  The health of the Rangers has improved – in many ways
dramatically so – in almost every facet, but that doesn’t necessarily mean 2010
will be The Year.  That’s the plan, but things don’t always work out the
way they’re supposed to. 

 

Case in point: Look back at that final A-Rod club in
2003.  One of the club’s biggest disappointments was 23-year-old
righthander Colby Lewis, having posted a 7.30 ERA in 26 starts.  Today he
finds himself penciled in as the club’s number three starter, after a
two-year-run in Japan that resuscitated his flagging career.  And perhaps
the 2003 club’s greatest young hope, 22-year-old third baseman Hank Blalock
(.300/.350/.522 in his first full big league season), sits here five days
before some clubs’ pitchers and catchers will report and doesn’t yet know which
state he’ll need to fly to for the start of his own spring training.

 

The idea that Lewis would go into 2010 with a multi-year
contract, and Blalock would be facing the real possibility of having to accept
a minor league deal, would have made no more sense five years ago than the way
Alex Rodriguez engineered his way out of Texas.

 

On the subject of making sense, it’s too soon to comment on
Danny Gutierrez’s 50-game suspension at the hands of Major League Baseball, but
giving the righthander every benefit of the doubt, it’s at the very least a
hugely disappointing instance of carelessness, if not bad judgment.  If
the substance he tested positive for was in fact the ADHD medication Adderall,
and if he does have a prescription for it, and if none of this would have
happened had he properly applied to the league for a Therapeutic Use Exemption,
then bad on him. 

 

Would I take back the trade that sent catcher Manny Pina and
outfielder Tim Smith to the Royals for Gutierrez (number eight on my Bound
Edition list of the system’s top 72 prospects, and number nine in the system
according to
Baseball
America
) in September?  Absolutely not.  But it’s too bad
that his regular season, which was set to start in the Frisco rotation, isn’t
going to get rolling until the end of May.  He’s eligible to participate
fully in camp, but his Surprise program just changed.  The organization
will ask him to help educate his teammates about the TUE process, and to set an
example by working his tail off on the field.

 

It will be another abbreviated season for Gutierrez, who
will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft next winter if not added to the 40-man
roster.  Texas will have to make roster decisions on a class that includes
Mitch Moreland, Kasey Kiker, Wilmer Font, Engel Beltre, Wilfredo Boscan, Carlos
Pimentel, and several others who stand as much of a chance today to break
through in 2010 as Michael Kirkman had at this time a year ago.  Texas
will still have four months to figure out whether Gutierrez needs to be
protected – and at least this isn’t an injury issue – but it’s disappointing.

 

It couldn’t look any more like winter today, but in a week
the Rangers will have gotten camp underway in Surprise, where highs are already
in the 70s without a lick of a chance of anything falling out of the sky. 
Hopes are going to be high, as they are in every team’s camp in February, but
for Texas it feels like the first year in many that even a slight improvement
would be viewed as a disappointment.  It’s time to win.

 

Nothing’s guaranteed.  We don’t know who 2010’s Scott
Feldman will be, nor who will take a huge step back like Josh Hamilton did last
year.  This could be The Year, but Texas thought that in 2001 too, and in
2002, and in 2003, when they had the best player in baseball and never finished
anything other than last in the division.  You never know.  And
that’s one of the greatnesses of sports.

 

There will be surprises this season that we can’t anticipate
any more than close to a foot of Metroplex snow in one mid-February day, and
it’s all that awesome uncertainty that I pretty much can’t wait any longer
for. 

 

A Surprise party

Snowballs are
great, but enough –

Could use some
baseball.

 

 

===========================================================

 

To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get
e-mail deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game
recaps, and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to
www.newbergreport.com
and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

 

 

(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter  @newbergreport

 

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