Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A lot of speculative stuff going on, so let's just link and comment:

- One of the more intriguing spring storylines is where all of our prospects will start 2006. I had pretty much assumed Alberto Callaspo and Erick Aybar would be the DP combo in AAA, with Howie Kendrick and Brandon Wood managang the keystone at AA.

However, this article on the Angel site (this and a few other articles mentioned here were first linked by Rob) indicates that Kendrick may start the season at AAA, along with Aybar, likely shifting Callaspo to third base (where he played some this winter and has started to take groundballs this spring).

Callaspo has always been the odd man out in these discussions, and it oft considered the guy who will become the next utility infielder, so this fits in with expectations.

I think it's a good move to start Kendrick in AAA. He tore up AA offensively in his time there last season, and he's on schedule to take over the major league job in 2007, so you might as well put him in the PCL this year. The only question on him right now is his defense, at which he's been working hard. And as long as we have Alfredo Griffin around, who turned David Eckstein into a shortstop and Adam Kennedy into a premier defensive second baseman, I don't worry about the gloves of Halo infield prospects.

Of course, another big question in the future of the Angel infield is what will become of Brandon Wood. Considered a catch-and-throw guy when drafted, his projectable body led many to believe he would develop power and outgrow the position. The first has happened, but it does not appear that the second one has as yet. Buried at the bottom of this article (which I believe was linked by a commenter over at Halos Heaven), Mike Scioscia is quoted as comparing Brandon to Cal Ripken, Jr. -- but not as a hitter, as a defender: "He is like Ripken," Mike says. "He is always in the right spot."

Ripken, of course, established that huge guys could still play good defense at short, so it's certainly possible that Wood will be able to stay at the position. But it's also possible that he will continue to put on weight, lose some range, and find himself at third base. This could also happen if Erick Aybar gets a chance to establish himself at short. Which is what I would guess Dallas McPherson is hoping for, after his rash clears up.

- This was brought up in a speculative fashion last season, but Frankie K. is toying with the idea of introducing a change-up to his repertoire. I don't think he needs one, though obviously if he can master one, that would be great, and it's good that he's always striving to improve.

Per the article, Frankie says, "I've got to bring my walks down, get ahead in counts, I've got to clean up all those little details that caused trouble last year." I concur, but then I noticed something in the article ... he blew only five saves last season. Maybe that's a lot, but four of the five saves were of the Tough Save variety, where he was asked to defend a one-run lead. And three of the five came when Frankie was pitching for the third consecutive day, pretty much a recipe for disaster.

I do think he can improve by having some more consistency in his mechanics. This can be partially achieved by not pitching him too many days in a row, and partially achieved by his having better focus and concentration. K-Rod's an emotional pitcher, and when he struggles he begins to press, trying to overthrow the ball, which leads to wild mechanics and bad pitches. As such, bad pitching begets bad pitching. He needs to work on that.

But he's pretty good the way he is, so I won't complain too much.

For now.

- Intersting little article on plate discipline at the Hardball Times. Did you know that, last season, for every 80 pitches Vlad Guerrero was thrown in the strike zone, he was thrown 100 out of the strike zone? That ratio was the lowest out of any qualifying batter last season.

Well, you probably did know that, or at least would have guessed it. Vlad was often pitched around, and of course he swings at nearly anything, so you don't have to throw him a strike.

The fifth-highest in this regard was our old friend David Eckstein, who was thrown 1.46 strikes to every ball. David used to draw a lot of walks in the minors, reaching via base on balls in 14% of his non-sacrifice-bunt plate appearances. But in the majors his walk rate has dropped to 7% (David's major and minor league stats). And this illustrates why: pitchers throw him more strikes, most likely because of his lack of power means he's not really going to hurt them when he makes contact. If you threw Vlad 1.46 strikes to every ball, you'd be in bigtime trouble.

That's something important to remember in looking at prospects, or even major league players. It's easy for analysts to sit back and say, "This guy needs to walk more," and sometimes that's true, but sometimes guys might be drawing as many walks as they're able based on the pitches they see.

- Not that anyone connected to him will read this, but my sympathies go out to Vlad on his recent losses.

Well, that logjam is lessened a bit. Callaspo has been traded for a 27 year old pitcher...

Story in Baseball America
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