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Arrieta’s Major League Debut To Be Pressure Packed

Fresh off the heels of Stephen Strausburg’s historic debut, another young arm will arrive on the Beltway—this time in Camden Yards, as Jake Arrieta makes his major league debut against A.J. Burnett and the New York Yankees.

Arrieta was drafted in the fifth round by the Orioles in the 2007 Amateur Draft and since that time has become one of the Orioles’ top pitching prospects in the vein of Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz before him.

Although it is far too early to make a final judgment on any of the Orioles’ young pitchers the transition hasn’t been as smooth as the Orioles would have hoped. They have a league-worst 4.87 ERA, have given up more runs than any other team in the league, and have the highest batting average against. The blame cannot be attributed to a select few as nearly everyone has struggled for a significant portion of the year.

Brad Bergensen hasn’t been able to recapture the magic of his outstanding rookie season and a 7-5 record last year has turned into a 3-4 record and 6.75 ERA. Matusz, the incumbent ace, has struggled as well after starting out strong with a 2-0 record. Matusz is now 2-6 with a 5.10 ERA and has difficulty working late into games. 

David Hernandez has been moved to the bullpen in favor of Tillman who hasn’t fared much better in three starts. Kevin Millwood, who Baltimore signed to stabilize an inexperienced pitching staff has yet to earn a win, and the only starter with an ERA under 4 is Jeremy Guthrie, who has pitched effectively at times in 2010.

Arrieta has been dominant in Triple-A this year with a 1.85 ERA through 73 innings pitched.  Arrieta is a power pitcher who likes to challenge hitters with a fastball that can reach 97 mph. His secondary pitches—a slider, curve, and change-up—are all improving, but his fastball velocity and command are his biggest asset.

When Arrieta first joined the Tides in 2009, he had his worst year in the minors but still maintained a 3.93 ERA and won five games. This year Arrieta has made the proper adjustments and is already only 14 strikeouts short of his total last year with significantly fewer innings. Arrieta’s WHIP has lowered as well, although his walk totals have increased.

The Orioles will throw Arrieta into the proverbial fire against reigning World Series champion New York Yankees. The Orioles will be looking to the 24-year-old pitcher to end a two-game losing streak and to earn just their second win against New York this season.  
The Yankees not only boast a lineup filled with power threats, but are consistently one of the league’s most patient teams at the plate. Arrieta will have his work cut out for him, but shouldn’t abandon his aggressive approach if he hopes to make his major league debut a successful one.

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2010 MLB Draft: Mock Draft

# 1 Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper

For the second year in a row, the Nationals get the first pick of the MLB draft-and thus a player under the management of Scott Boras. Harper may not carry the same hype as fellow #1 Selection Stephen Strausburg, who happens to make his MLB debut the day after the draft, but he will garner his fair share of attention. Harper leapt into the national conscious after donning the cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline, “The Lebron James of Baseball”. The 17 year old first gained attention for blasting home runs upwards of 500 feet, dropping out of high school two years early, earning his GED, and playing baseball at the College of Southern Nevada to help hasten his eligibility for the draft. While some may question his decision making, this may be the last draft featuring big bonus money for early round picks before the collective bargaining agreement comes into play. Besides, Harper has done anything but disappoint: He hit .442 with 29 homers in 215 at bats for Nevada in a wooden bat league. He’ll be drafted as a catcher, but will likely make the transition to the outfield to avoid wear on his knees and the extra years of development needed to become a major league ready pitcher.

#2 Pittsburgh Pirates: Manny Machado

Machado is a tall, rangy shortstop in the mold of Cal Ripken Jr. and most often compared to Alex Rodriguez. Just like A-Rod, he grew up in Miami and is of Dominican descent. By all accounts he has the soft hands, cannon arm, and athletic ability to remain at shortstop-depending on how his body fills out. Machado takes pride in his position and has expressed a desire to remain there. But the batter’s box is where Machado flourishes. He hit .639 at Brito High School with 12 home runs. Machado made a commitment Florida International, but should find it dffficult to resist a significant signing bonus since he’s unlikely to fall past the third pick.

#3 Baltimore Orioles: Jameson Taillon

Like Josh Beckett and Kerry Wood before him, Taillon is 2010’s prototypical hard throwing Texas high school right hander. His fastball sits anywhere from 94-97 mph and can get as high as 99mph, which went a long way in helping him notch 114 strikeouts in 62 innings his senior year. Taillon not only throws hard, he has an intimidating presence on the mound, standing 6’7 and weighing in at 225 pounds. His curveball and slider are both plus pitches, clocking in the 80-88mph range. His change-up also has the makings of a solid pitch. Taillon does have control issues, but nothing out of the ordinary. Plus, scouts rave about his make-up. Taillon should have plenty of time to develop in a Baltimore farm system heavy on pitching prospects.

#4 Kansas City Royals: Chris Sale

A left handed pitcher from Florida Gulf Coast University looks to be the Royals selection as they hope to bolster the organization’s young pitching talent. Sale is tall at 6’5, but weighs only 183 pounds. His sinking fastball tops out at 94 mph and induces a lot of ground balls. Sale’s curveball has a sweeping action and can be devastating to left-handed batters. A low arm slot and lean frame have generated some concern about durability and long term effectiveness, but the 1.97 era he put up in his final season did not.

#5 Cleveland Indians: Drew Pomeranz

The left-handed Mississippi Junior has potential to be the first college pitcher off the board, and unlikely to fall any lower than the second. Pomernaz features a low 90’s fastball with good movement. He throws his breaking ball and change-up for strikes. With a solid three pitch repertoire, Pomeranz is the clearly the class of this year’s left handed pitching classs. The Indians may look at Yasmani Grandal here as well, but they need help on the mound. The fact that two out of their last three first round pitching selections have been collegiate left handers bodes well for Pomeranz.

#6 Arizona Diamondbacks: Deck McGuire

McGuire is perhaps the most polished pitcher available in the draft, which in baseball speak means he doesn’t have much of an upside. He complements a powerful slider that can reach 86 mph with a low 90’s fastball that tends to stay straight and a solid changeup. As Georgia Tech’s premier starter, he’s shown exellent control and poise. McGuire projects as a middle of the rotation starter, but could be among the fastest in his class to reach the major league level.

#7 New York Mets: Yasmani Grandal

The ACC Player of the year for the University of Miami, Grandal is one of 2010’s premier college bats. He hit .428 with 13 home runs in his final year of college, which helped elevate his draft prospects. Grandal has impressive power as a switch hitter, but only marginal bat speed. To be successful at the next level, he will need to improve defensively. Grandal’s stock is also helped by the fact that he is a college catcher, which is at a premium right now.

#8 Houston Astros: Josh Sale

With the premier pitching talent off the table the Astros will look to pick up the next best high school position player. Sale is the best high school bat in the draft after Machado. Sale’s power is well above average and he projects to have a .280 average with the potential for 30 plus home runs. Sale is an average fielder with a strong arm, but doesn’t possess much range in the corner outfield. Doubts about Sale center on his ability to make contact which is the only way to make use of his considerable power.

#9 San Diego Padres: Michael Choice

Choice is a toolsy junior outfielder from Texas-Arlington whose most outstanding attribute is big time (but raw) power to all fields. His swing isn’t exactly mechanically sound, but with some slight tweaking he could be a legitimate threat in the box-as evidenced by his .383 average and 16 homers his junior year. A solid outfielder with a strong arm and good range, his stocky build will likely force him from center to a corner outfield position. Choice has been compared by many to Marlon Byrd with more upside. He also displayed some potential on the basepaths with 12 steals this year.

#10 Oakland Athletics: Zach Cox

Cox has been discussed as the best pure hitter in the draft and won’t fall any lower than tenth. A compact swing allows him to make excellent contact. His ability to hit for average assuages all concerns about his middling power. Cox was a third baseman at Arkansas but may make the move to another positon to better accomodate his skill set. Plus arm and smart on the base paths. He hit .432 during a strong sophomore season.

#11 Toronto Blue Jays: Nick Casetellanos

A high school bat with excellent hitting potential, Castellanos will most likely move from shortstop to third base at the next level. He profiles as an overall average fielder with a strong arm. He has decent raw power, and that potential to fill out and get stronger is what intrigues clubs like the Blue Jays. Castellanos led his team to the state title and is said to be a hard worker-saying a lot about his make-up.

#12 Cincinnati Reds: Bryce Brentz

Regarded as one of the best hitters in college baseball, Brentz is a relatively safe pick. His short swing which allows him to make good consistent contact with potential for plus power one day. Brentz has a great arm to complement average range in the outfield. He’ll need to reign in his aggressiveness at the plate in order to harness his excellent offensive tools in the big leagues. He couldn’t quite live up to his .465 average, 28 home run season in 2009, but still hit.365 and hit 15 homers.

#13 Chicago White Sox: Stetson Allie

Stetson Allie may be the hardest thrower in the draft, but as a high school pitcher he struggled with command; how he improves his command will determine his success. Allie throws both a two seam fastball with movement and a four seam fastball that reaches 98mph. He also throws a nasty slider in the high 80’s and has an effective change-up that could become a plus pitch in the future. Allie struggles with command late in games, which leads most to believe (sort of ironically so) his future is as a reliever.

#14 Milwaukee Brewers: Brandon Workman

The Texas starter won’t drop past the 15th selection of the Texas Rangers, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Brewers pick him 14th overall. Workman features a mid 90’s fastball with a lot of life too it. He also handes a plus cutter while wielding a curveball and change-up with good command. Workman’s time at Texas has served him well and he has a great feel for pitching to go along with a solid repertoire of pitches. The Brewers are in dire need of talented arms at the major league level and Workman could rise through the minors quickly. He struck out 87 batters in 88 innings in 2010.

#15 Texas Rangers: Karsten Whitson

Whitson may have gone much higher in the draft until a poor end to his senior year possibly affected his draft stock. The RHP throws a hard fastball topping off in the 90’s range and a biting slider around 10mph slower. He uses an average 80 mph change-up to keep pitchers honest. One of Whitson’s best qualities is the no fear approach he has on the mound. Combined with solid control, Whitson keeps his walk totals low.

#16 Chicago Cubs: Asher Wojciechowski

Wojciechowski is a big, strong right handed pitcher with the 94mph fastball to prove it and a slider that sits around 83mph. For long term success, Wojciechowski will need to develop his change-up to keep hitters off his plus fastball that tends to stay straight. Wojciechowski has struggled with command issues and some believe his future lies in the bullpen where he can rely on his strong two pitch combination. He struck out 128 batters in only 84 innings at the Citadel last season.

#17 Tampa Bay Rays: Kolbrin Vitek

Vitek is a consistent hitter without a true home defensively. He played second base at Ball State, but a transition to an outfield spot may be forthcoming in the minors. Vitek is a consistent contact hitter with superb bat speed. He hit .368 with 17 home runs in his junior year, but scouts are still doubtful about his power output. Legitimate speed may land him in center field and make him a base stealing threat/

#18 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Dylan Covey

Covey is a Californian and could very well land in Anaheim if he falls this far. He’s considered one of the top high school pitchers in the draft because of his two plus pitches: a lively fastball that sits around 93mph and a powerful curveball that clocks in at around 80mph. Some teams may be scared away by a drop-off in fastball velocity. The 200 pound RHP’s sound mechanics that should protect him from injury. Covey spelled dominance his senior year with a A 0.24 ERA and 112 strikeout’s in 58 inning.

#19 Houston Astros: Delino Deshields Jr.

This son of a former major leaguer is loaded with potential, though some scouts are wary of his motivation and desire to play the game. Deshields is a line drive hitter with the upside to be a major contributor with his bat, albeit without power. Deshields also has top notch speed that he can use to play center and rack up steals-provided he can get on base at the professional level. He has great range in center and is a capable enough fielder that he could make the transition to second base, which may be under consideration because Deshields arm strength isn’t on par with his other defensive skills. He hit .415 with 29 steals at Woodward Academy (Ga.) last season.

#20 Boston Red Sox: Anthony Ranuando

College baseball’s most heralded pitcher entering 2010, Ranuando struggled in his final year at LSU and as a result his draft stock plummeted. Although it should be noted he had an elbow injury to open the year, Ranuando has yet to return to his 2009 form. Ranuando’s record this year was 3-2 record with an 8.49 ERA. Many of his struggles can be attributed to his inability to keep the ball down in the zone. His repertoire features a 93mph fastball and spike curve alongside a relatively pedestrian change-up. If the Red Sox don’t draft him at 20, he could fall even further down but probably won’t fall out of the first round due in part to his past success.

#21 Minnesota Twins: Alex Wimmers

Wimmers a junior from Ohio State is one of the draft’s more polished collegiate pitchers. Wimmers is a strike thrower first and foremost with a good feel for pitching and above average command at this point in his maturation. He throws a mid 90’s fastball with two seam movement and offsets it with an average curveball and change-up. He isn’t going to overpower anyone or become the Twins staff ace but he could be an asset on the big league level in a relatively short period of time. In his junior season he had a record of 9-0 with a 1.60 ERA.

#22 Texas Rangers: Justin O’Conner

O’Conner is an immensely talented player who can pitch, catch, and play shortstop but his future most likely lies behind the plate as an offensive catcher with a plus-plus arm. O’ Conner has still developing power to all fields and a compact swing which he uses to hit for a high average. While he does have a cannon for an arm it remains to be seen if he has the pure athleticism and range to stay at shortstop. If he does stay at catcher he will need considerable development at the position.

#23 Florida Marlins: Christian Colon

Colon emerged from an early season slump to lead the Big West with14 home runs. Colon’s best attribute is that he is a baseball player through and through. He will make the fundamental plays and has a high baseball knowledge base, but his physical tools are limited. Colon could stay at shortstop but at the professional level could be more cut out for second base. There isn’t much upside, but Colon should be a safe bet to contribute wherever he ends up.

#24 San Francisco Giants: Aaron Sanchez

A California raised high school pitcher, Sanchez is far from a polished pitching product. With considerable talent at the big league level, the Giants can afford to let their young pitching talent mature. Sanchez at 18 years old features a low 90’s fastball with good late sink that he pairs with a straight curve to keep hitters on their toes. He is athletic on the mound with a 6’3 frame just starting to fill out. If Sanchez learns to command his fastball and curveball and can mix an effective change-up he projects as middle of the rotation starter. His fastball velocity still has some upside that could come with time.

#25 St. Louis Cardinals: Matt Harvey

Harvey’s most notable pitch is an explosive fastball that reaches 97mph with little drop off in velocity in the upper innings. He also has the makings of a solid slider even though the pitch is still relatively new to his repertoire. Control issues can flare up, however, especially in difficult situations. Harvey’s delivery can go haywire at times and he struggled in his sophomore year at North Carolina because of it.

#26 Colorado Rockies: Kevin Gausman

Gausman, a local product, could fall right into the Rockies lap where they are unlikely to pass on him. He’s got little else to offer besides a 95 mph fastball at this point in his development, though he does throw a slider, curve, and change-up-none of which have much break or bite. He will need to drastically improve his secondary offering if he hopes to make a splash at the next level. He’s surprisingly fairly efficient at placing his fastball, but that won’t matter until he transitions from a thrower into a pitcher.

#27 Philadelphia Phillies: Kaleb Cowart

If Cowart drops this far, it is because of concerns over that dreaded word known only in small market circles: sign-ability. If he’s still available with the 27th pick, the Phillies are unlikely to pass on a prospect with so much potential at a need position-and the potential to pitch as well. As a position player, Cowart is a switch hitting third baseman with power potential on both sides of the plate. On the mound, Cowart throws a 95mph fastball with plus movement and a slider that could use improvement. For a two way prep player, Cowart shows surprising consistency in his delivery. It seems that most clubs are pursuing Cowart as a pitcher even though he has expressed his interest to hit, an interest that yielded a .652 BA in 92 at-bats during his senior year at Cook County High School (Ga.).

#28 Los Angeles Dodgers: A.J. Cole

Cole is high school pitcher from Florida with a high ceiling, as evidenced by a mid 90’s  fastball, a slurve that breaks hearts, and a change-up with room for improvement. Cole keeps his composure on the mound through a consistent yet lengthy delivery (a la Jubaldo Jiminez?). He got off to a shaky start in his senior year but came around to notch 84 strikeouts in 60 innings.

#29 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Tyrell Jenkins

Jenkins is a pure athlete with a scholarship to play quarterback at Baylor University. If he foregoes that opportunity, he has the opportunity to be a solid pitcher. Jenkins features a 95mph fastball with movement, which he has surprising control over considering his other athletic endeavors. He also throws an average slider and change-up. As expected, Jenkins is a raw talent, but with improvements in his secondary pitches, he could become a formidable power pitcher.

#30 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Peter Tago

Tago at 6’1 is one of the smaller right handers in this year’s draft, but he possesses one of the draft’s most electrifying fastballs. Tago needs to improve his off-speed pitches, but he composes himself well on the mound. His mechanics are solid, which is a plus for a pitcher with a smaller frame, but until he improves his control and secondary pitches, he is still a very raw prospect.

#31: Tampa Bay Rays: Michael Kvasnicka

Kvasnicka, a converted outfielder, is still raw behind the plate but has a strong arm . He will need to learn how to handle a staff and perfect his footwork and release. As a switch hitter, Kvasnick has a patient approach in the batter’s box. Power potential is limited, but he projects as a solid offensive catcher with good athleticism.

#32: New York Yankees: Austin Wates

Wates split time between first base and the outfield at Virginia Tech, but will transition full time to the outfield where he can utilize his best tool: plus speed. Wates is solid at the plate and projects to hit for average with extremely limited power potential. The OF should be a base stealing threat once he learns the nuances of the running game. Even with excellent range in the outfield, a below average arm limits his fielding ability.

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Baltimore Orioles Manger Dave Trembley Searching for the Right Combination

Dave Trembley’s official role in the Orioles organization is that of manager. However, recently the Orioles offensive struggles have forced Trembley into the role of chemist.  Time and time again Trembley has mixed and moved nearly everyone around in the lineup in an effort to score runs.

The Orioles have been held to two runs or less a whopping 16 times and only once did they come away with a victory in those outings.

Now Trembley is running out of options with the club’s current collection of players. It hasn’t been for lack of effort, Trembley has continually moved the O’s hottest bat all year, Ty Wigginton, to allow him to drive in runs and Nick Markakis has returned to form, but so far the changes have not translated into better results.

With the loss of primary lead-off man Brian Roberts and early replacement Felix Pie the O’s batting order conundrum starts with the first batter to step foot in the box. Adam Jones, Julio Lugo, and Cesar Izturis have all seen time in the No. 1 position, but none have achieved any meaningful success in the role. 

Not surprisingly the Orioles rank last in the American League in Runs and RBI from the lead-off position. Jones is clearly not the answer as he continues to struggle with a .257 on base percentage through the beginning of May and a team leading 31 strikeouts.

Lugo and Izturis are middling offensive contributors with .292 and .270 on base percentages respectively and there is no reasonable expectation for them to improve any time soon.

However, the O’s have no true alternatives in the major leagues. Nick Markakis has the average, speed, and on base percentage to flourish there, but the O’s can ill afford to move Markakis from a position where he can drive in runs. Markakis is fourth on the team in RBI and is just now starting to swing the bat up to his expectations.

The O’s offense, whenever present, has largely been fueled by Markakis, Miguel Tejada, Matt Wieters, and the aforementioned Wigginton.  Wigginton with his ten home runs has driven in the lion’s share of runs with 20 RBI.

On the other hand, it is unlikely that Wigginton continues to hit homers at a record pace and that is how a considerable amount of his RBI have been generated.

Wieters continues to show improvement and the more power he displays the more potent the O’s offense will become offensively. His slugging percentage of .425 leaves something to be desired, but he is still one of the club’s most reliable offensive players in his first full season.

The best formula for the Orioles offensive success seems to be to position a mix of these four players two through five in the lineup. Then the Orioles must hope to get as many contributions from the bottom of the order as possible until Roberts can solidify the lineup one through five.

Unfortunately, the Orioles and Trembley don’t have time to waste. The losses continue to pile up and they may be forced to make some roster changes. If they continue to struggle Jones, Luke Scott, and Lou Montanez all have minor league options available.

If Trembley or Andy MacPhail feel that they can benefit from another burst of offense like they got from Rhyne Hughes it wouldn’t be shocking if one of the three is soon a member of the Norfolk Tides.  

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