Results tagged ‘ Johan Santana ’

The Rollercoaster Year of Scott Kazmir


For years Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Scott Kazmir has been considered one of the rising stars of Major League Baseball. As recently as 2007, he held off  a late season rush by Minnesota Twin’s fire-baller Johan Santana for the American League strikeout crown. It was a sign of greater opportunities for Kazmir.  At that moment, Kazmir was being thought of as one of the next big stars to grace the fields of the MLB, after his 2008 season Kazmir is only 47 wins away from 300 for his short career. In the past season, Kazmir began to not only believe the hype but also creat some of his own earlier in 2008.

Usually when you see a “Handle with Care” sticker on a package you tend to gracefully pick it up, move it and set it down. But if it is attached to one of your hard-throwing left handers, does the same thing apply?  Kazmir has gone through a interesting 12 months since the beginning of his 2008 Spring Training camp.  Kazmir had come into camp with a renewed confidence and an eager chance to put the Rays in the drivers seat in 2008. But on his last warm up pitch before throwing in a Inter squad game during the early stages of Spring Training, Kazmir felt some discomfort in his left elbow and the Rays quickly pulled him from starting the game.


On March 25, 2008 the Rays officially put Kazmir on the 15-day disabled list for a left elbow strain.  The MRI showed no damage to the joint, but was considered to only be down two weeks at the time. The injury actually was actually a bit more severe than originally thought, and the team extended his disabled list time until Kazmir could throw 90 pitches, or 5 innings of work.  After 44 days on the disabled list, the Rays activated Kazmir on May 3rd back onto the 25-man roster.  Kazmir has always been known as a public favorite when it comes to interviews and appearances during the season. 
He had always done a lot of preseason publicity for the team, actually going on local radio station 97X,  on the Fisher and Boy show and predicting 20 wins for himself and a post season or bust mentality for the team. At the moment, the Rays media and maybe the medical staff must have thought he had gotten into the good medications and made a off-the cuff remark. But Kazmir restated the prediction before the end of the interview and the legend began.  But the prediction would not be the biggest shocker of the season, when Kazmir and the Rays just days later revealed that they had agreed upon a contract extension . It was a 4-year deal for $ 28.5 million with a club option for 2012 of $ 11 million. 
At the time of the contracts announcement, Kazmir  had two years of arbitration eligibility before he would have hit the free agent market in 2010. The deal in essence sealed his next 4 years, including one year of his free agency before the club options will be considered by the Rays.  Kazmir only went out on May 27th and toss one of his best performances of the year in a  7-3 win over the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas. In the contest Kazmir struck out 10 batters and went 7 innings, giving up only 3-hits and 1 run in the game.  The game also increased his record to 4-1, in which Kazmir had a 4-game winning streak. Also of importance was the fact he has only given up 1 walk in the last 2 games.


The season looked to be turning around for Kazmir. First the great contract, and now heading to a 5-1 mark at the end of May.  In his last start of the month, Kazmir shutout the Chicago White Sox 2-0 on a 7-inning, 3-hit masterpiece. The year looked to be turning totally in his favor.  There was talk that maybe he had finally broken through the threshold that kept him from becoming one of the league’s elite pitchers.  June even started on a hot note as Kazmir again took on the Rangers and won his 6th straight game tossing 8 innings and giving up 2 runs and striking out 6 and issuing no walks in the game. It is important to watch his walks totals, in the past when that mark usually hits between 4 -6, the Rays leftie has problems in his starts.  His ERA was slowing creeping downward at  1.40, and he was listed among the American League’s best ERA’s at that point in the season.


But Kazmir’s luck finally ran out on June 11th when he lost for only the second time in 2008 against the  hard hitting Los Angeles Angels. In a pitcher’s duel with Angels starter Jon Lackey, both men traded strikeouts until finally Kazmir gave up a 2-run double to Macier Izturis that knocked him out of the game. Even though Kazmir got 10 strikeouts in the game, and threw over 117 pitches, it was his three walks that put the Angels  in a position to win that night. This was the beginning of a period when Kazmir would have mixed reviews on the mound for the Rays. His first hint of trouble came in the game against the Chicago Cubs when he lasted just 4.2 innings and struck out 7, but also gave up 4 walks in the game. 

From that June 17th contest against the Cubs, until his last start of the first half against the Cleveland Indians, Kazmir made 6 starts and settled into the All-Star break with a 7-5 record for the Rays. During that span he did have a lot of things go his way, In the June 27th game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh, Kazmir only lasted 5 innings, but an early rout by the Rays on  Pirates rookie Jimmy Barthmaier secured his 7th win of the season.  In his last three appearances of the first half, Kazmir went 0-2, with a no-decision. 

Kazmir was showing a huge difference in his pitches than earlier in the season. He seemed to be trying to place the pitches instead of just pitching his style. It was rumored that he had elbow situations again, but nothing materialized and it was just decided that his mechanics were just off right now. But what was evident to fans and players like was that he had almost abandoned his slider, which had been one of the best in the A L  when it was hitting its marks. Without that pitch, Kazmir relied more on his fastball and his change up in the first half of the season.




 Kazmir did have some good news in the first half of the season as he was selected to his second All-Star game. But the Rays sent strict directions to American League  All-Star team Manager Terry Francona that Kazmir was not to pitch extended innings and be kept out of the contest at all costs. That seemed to work into Franconas favor when in the top of the 15th inning, with everyone else used in the Bullpen and the bench as pitchers, he had to call upon Kazmir to throw at least one inning for the American League. Kazmir came in and on 14 pitches got one strikeout and give the American League a chance to win the contest. For his efforts, Kazmir became the first Rays pitcher to record a victory in the All-Star game. With that positive momentum, you would think it would have worked in his favor to boost both his confidence and his ability on the mound. 

Rays Manager Joe Maddon gave Kazmir a couple of extra days off after that All-Star game appearance before finally using him for his first start of the second half on July 21st. In his first start after the All-star game, Kazmir  went 7 innings in a 2-0 shutout of the Oakland A’s at home. In the contest, Kazmir only gave up 2hits, but he also posted 9 strikeouts and gave up 4 walks in the contest. He was not back yet with his control, but the contest helped him boost his record to 8-5 for the Rays.  Kazmir then went 3 starts with a no-decision before finally losing on August 12th against the Oakland A’s.  Over his next 4 starts he averaged only 4.5 innings of work and gave up a total of 21 hits, but only surrendered 11 runs in those games.


Kazmir was also starting to show signs of sporadic pitching in which he was exiting the game earlier than usual and not hitting his spots again. He was trying to hit the outside corners more, and the umpires were not giving him the corner and the frustration was evident on his face during his time on the mound.  Finally in his 3rd start of the year against the Rangers, Kazmir got back on the winning side by throwing a 4-hit, 2-run 7 strikeout game on August 17th.  But in that contest Kazmir again was showing a wild side as he also surrendered 4 walks to the Rangers in the game. Kazmir again took the mound on August 23rd against the Chicago White Sox and was rendered a no-decision after only going 6 innings in the game.


Kazmir finally got back on the winning horse when he won on August 29th in Baltimore with a 5.1 innings stint that produced a 3-hit shutout on 102 pitches. Also important on this day was the fact that it was the Rays 63rd victory of the year and it secured their first winning season in history.  Kazmir seemed to be riding the upward slope on his roller coaster year as he again blanked the New York Yankees on September 4th in a 1-hit shutout. Kazmir only lasted 6 innings in th contest, but again he posted 7 strikeouts in the game to go along with 4 walks. But it was the September 9th start against Diasuke Matsuzaka in Fenway Park that set the stage for the Rays claiming the American League East title.



In the contest, both pitchers showed early dominance until after 6 innings and surrendering 5-hits and only 2 runs Kazmir left the contest. The significance of this game was that it was the game in which Rays pinch hitter Dan Johnson took Jonathan Papelbon deep into the Red Sox Bullpen in the 9th inning before Dioner Navarro hit a double to win the game for the Rays. This victory snapped a win less streak in Fenway that had eluded the Rays all season long.  With the curse at Fenway now lifted, the Rays ended up securing the series and keep their lead in the A L East race. 

5 days later Matsuzaka and Kazmir again squared off at Tropicana Field and Kazmir lasted only 3 innings giving up 9 runs on 6 hits and only surviving 72 pitches in the contest. This was by far the worst appearance for the young leftie this season for the Rays, and it dropped his record to 11-7.  For one of the first times in his Rays career, Kazmir gave up as many walks as he got strikeout in the game…..4.  But it was his start on September 20th that he showed the big game presence and confidence for the Rays. In this contest against the hard charging Minnesota Twins, Kazmir threw 6 innings of 5-hit ball and shutout the visiting Twins to secure the Rays first playoff berth.  Not only did he improve his record to 12-7, but Kazmir looked amazing in the game starting to use his slider more and confused the Twins hitters at the plate.


In his last start of the regular season, Kazmir again had the chance to put his name in the Rays trivia book as he took the mound on September 25th against the Detroit Tigers in Comerica Park to secure the A L East for the Rays. Kazmir was not sharp and got handed a loss while going 5 innings and posting 6 strikeouts in the game. The Rays would have to wait another day before finally securing the AL East title, but Kazmir was visibly upset after the game. But with the playoffs staring them in the face, the Rays knew that they needed their young ace confident and ready to handle almost anything. 


He got his first postseason start in the American League Divisional Series against the Chicago White Sox on October 3rd and posted his first postseason win in a 6-2 victory over the White Sox to take a 2-0 lead in the best of 4 series.  Kazmir went 5.1 innings and threw 98 pitches while surrendering 8 hits and 2 runs in the game.  The Rays took their 2-0 series lead to Chicago and came back with a ALDS series victory. Kazmir then began to get ready for a rematch against divisional foes, the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship series.  Because of Tampa Bay’s securing the A L East title, they got to host the Red Sox in the first two games.




Kazmir again got to face the Red Sox hitters on October 11th. But in this match up, it was the Red Sox who dominated Kazmir who only went 4.1 innings and threw 98 pitches before bowing out of the contest. He had given up 3 walks in the game and only posted 2 strikeouts, one of his worst pitching statistics of the season. His ERA skyrocketed to 10.38 for the postseason, but the Rays did come back in the contest to score the winning run on a B J Upton sacrifice fly to right in the 9th inning to win 9-8.  


On October 16th, Matsuzaka and Kazmir met again and this time it seemed as if Kazmir had the upper hand in the game. In the game Kazmir did his part by going 6 innings and throwing only 2 hits in shutting down the Red Sox offense. But after he left the contest, the Rays Bullpen had troubles and Kazmir ended up with a no-decision for his efforts that night en route to a 8-7 Red Sox win.  Kazmir did get to lower his ERA to a more respectable 4.35 with the outing. Kazmir did not get to pitch again in the ALCS, but with the Rays clinching a victory in Game 7 at Tropicana Field, they were heading to their first World Series berth.


Kazmir got the call for Game 2 at the Trop., and he proved up to the occasion as he go the start during the first game of the series. He was pitted against Cole Hamels, and the two pitcher were throwing a fantastic game until the Phillies broke loose in the game after Phiilies catcher Carlos Ruiz grounded out to Jason Bartlett to score the third run of the game and put the Phillies up 3-0 on the Rays.  Kazmir ended up throwing 6 innings of 6-hit, 3 run ball, but he also had control issues in the contest as the Phillies were waiting for his pitches outside and took advantage of his wildness. He ended up posting 4 strikeouts and 4 walks in the game on 110 pitches. That was the last time he took the mound for the Rays in 2008.


After starting his season later than usual, Kazmir did end up starting 27 games and going only 152.1 innings. He did end up giving up the least amount of earned run on the staff with 59 for the year, but also threw less innings in the season. Kazmir did not have a banner year or post season, and people were beginning to question his pitch selection and placement at the plate. Some even thought that he lost his confidence in his slider, and that he might not get it back in time to save a great career. But in the last two post season series, Kazmir did indeed use his slider more and more and it was pretty effective against hitters once again.


In the off season, Kazmir went to work on a strength program where he added about 20 pounds to his frame to help him endure the rigors of pitching more in 2009. When he came into camp earlier in the year there was a sizable difference to him in that his forearms and shoulders did have an added depth and his overall body core looked more lean. He was also selected to be a member of the Team USA squad for the 2009 World Baseball classic. Kazmir was looking to represent his country and maybe even pitch during the first round action against Team Canada in Toronto. But the Rays expressed their desire that he not participate in the WBC because of the workload he endured in 2008.


Even if he did throw less innings, they were worried that the short off season might have after effects on his pitching. So yesterday it was announced that the WBC was taking Kazmir off the Team USA roster because he spent 44 days on the disabled list in 2008. Tampa Bay had filed a request with Major League Baseball that would effectively prevent him from playing in the classic. Players who were on the disabled list for 45 days can be blocked from playing.  Rays executive vice president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman told  Bill Chastain of that, “We felt with the health issues he had at the beginning of last season, coupled with playing the extra month, we felt the prudent thing to do is to push him back a little bit this spring.”



I am going to tell you how it is in my world about this revelation by the Rays to prevent him from playing in the classic. I am appalled that the Rays will not let this guy participate. The WBC has pitch counts set, and also have precautions in place to help prevent injuries and problems that could linger into the regular season. you might only get one chance to represent your country, and it is a great honor to even be considered, much less told you will be a valued member of the staff. The Rays took a huge opportunity from Kazmir here that would be a highlight of his career. 


Ken Griffey Jr, and even Chipper Jones have stated in the past that this is one of the most memorable honors of their careers. For the Rays to take that from Kazmir is showing that management is not afraid to overstep the boundaries to secure their wishes.  Considering that the Rays are going to split their pitching staff into two groups during the Spring Training games shows that they plan on monitoring their pitching staff and also giving them minimum innings before the regular season. Why not let Kazmir play for Team USA, you are letting Rays reliever J P Howell play without any reservations to your Bullpen setup guy maybe getting hurt in the classic.

Photo credits for today’s blog go to RRCollections and the Associated Press Corp photo pool.



Love Me Non-Tender Candidates 2008…Part Two



As they leave the bright lights and glitter of Las Vegas tonight, the decisions and the problems of the 30 MLB General Managers and their respective departments are not over.  Even if they are flying in luxury accomodations, the GM’s and their staff know that the next 24 hours can also make or break a season by selecting the right players to help the squad in 2009. For tomorrow bring more sticky situations to try and either keep or jettison players who might make a difference in 2009.


So in the morning on this Friday, December 12th, every team in the major leagues must decide to either tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players, or set them free as more glut in the 2009 free agent market. And while in past years the non-tendered players weren’t considered to be difference-makers, the list could be more interesting this year.  There are several players on this list who either had bad situation on their teams or might have been fighting back from injuries in 2008.


Players who are “tendered” on Friday are considered signed for 2009 at a salary to be determined, not less than 80 percent of his salary the previous season, and both sides continue negotiating. If a deal cannot be struck, the team and the player will each file a proposed 2009 salary in early January. Those figures are exchanged on Jan. 19, and a date for a salary arbitration hearing is then set for Feb. 1-21. 


If the sides still cannot come to terms before the date of the hearing, a representative for the team and one for the player present a case before a panel of arbiters, which chooses one salary or the other.  On the other hand, if a player is not tendered a contract before Friday’s deadline, he becomes a free agent.


A nationwide economic downturn has affected how Major League Baseball teams are conducting business, and in an effort to cut corners, the number of non-tendered players could increase, based solely on the market’s projected rise in their salaries based on arbitration data and past results.. The same can be said for the quality of those players. Some of the guys being considered for non-tender have been great contributors to their teams in the past, but not during the 2008 season.


Past  players non-tendered include David Ortiz, Rick Ankiel, Ryan Franklin, David Eckstein, and Chad Durbin.  Usually at least a few useful guys are unearthed. I am going to submit a few names that are being considered to be non-tendered starting at midnight tonight. Some of these names might sign free agent contracts with their old teams, but usually if a player is released from that team, they tend to float to another organization instead of resign with their old clubs.




 The Toronto Blue Jays will have to make decision on four of their players on Friday as to if they are being considered as future pieces to the Blue Jays  picture in 2009. General manager J.P. Ricciardi said this week that Jason Frasor, Brian Tallet, Brandon League and Jose Bautista are all likely to receive an offer.  Ricciardi noted that Frasor, Tallet and League are all in the plans to rejoin Toronto’s bullpen, which led baseball with a 2.94 ERA this past season.


Of the three relievers, Frasor is the most likely to not receive an offer, considering he’s due for a raise after making $1.125 million in 2008 and the Jays are strapped for cash this winter.  Last season, the 31-year-old Frasor posted a 4.18 ERA in 49 games for the Blue Jays, serving as a middle reliever. Across 47 1/3 innings, the right hander struck out 42 batters and issued 32 walks. Frasor limited hitters to a .208 batting average, including a .174 mark against right-handed batters.


The 31-year-old Tallet, who earned $640,000 in his first year of arbitration in 2008, established a career best with a 2.88 ERA last season. The left hander appeared in 51 games and registered 47 strikeouts against 22 walks over 56 1/3 innings. Tallet was especially tough on right-handed hitters, holding them to a .230 average. 



League, 25, is eligible for arbitration for the first time this off season after making $400,000 in 2008. Last season, the hard-throwing right hander posted a career-best 2.18 ERA out of the bullpen, with 23 strikeouts and 15 walks in 31 appearances. In his 33 innings, League had a 3.71 groundball to flyball ratio and limited right-handed hitters to a .200 average.  The Blue Jays acquired the 28-year-old Bautista in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates in late August and the utility man appeared in 21 games for Toronto down the stretch. Overall, Bautista hit .238 with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs in 128 games with the Pirates and Jays in ’08, when he earned $1.8 million.




Another ex-Rays has popped up on the non-tender candidates list coming into Friday night’s deadline to offer contracts to arbitration eligible players. The Braves aren’t sure exactly how Matt Diaz fits into their plans for the 2009 season, but the veteran outfielder can at least feel good about the fact that he seemingly fits into these plans. 


Among the group of Braves who are eligible for arbitration, Diaz, who missed most of this past season because of a torn ligament in his right knee, was seemingly the only candidate to be non-tendered by Friday’s midnight ET deadline. But all indications are that the Braves are looking forward to having a healthy Diaz on their roster. He could platoon in left field or simply provided a reliable right-handed bat off the bench. Diaz, Mike Gonzalez, Casey Kotchman, Jeff Francoeur, Kelly Johnson and Omar Infante are the arbitration-eligible players expected to be tendered contracts by the Braves on Friday.



The Dodgers face a handful of non-tender decisions by Friday night’s deadline, with the focus . Takashi Saito. He is arbitration eligible, but only if the Dodgers tender him a contract. And even though he’s the highest-rated reliever in the National League over the past two years, the club might effectively release Saito, who missed two months with an elbow injury.





Money isn’t the burning issue for the Marlins as they approach the non-tender deadline. If they want, they have the allocation to sign all 10 of their remaining arbitration-eligible players. The team must decide if it wants to retain everyone, or pursue other options. 


In all, Florida has 10 arbitration-eligible players who must be either tendered a contract or not. The list includes much of the team’s nucleus: Dan Uggla, Jorge Cantu, Cody Ross, Jeremy Hermida, Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Alfredo Amezaga, Logan Kensing, Joe Nelson and Dallas McPherson. Of the group, the possible non-tenders appear to be Nelson and McPherson.


Uggla, Cantu, Ross, Hermida and Amezaga are position players who will be tendered. Now, the Marlins are continuing to explore possible trades for Hermida. Johnson and Nolasco are the leading candidates to be the Opening Day starter. Kensing and Nelson are right hander relievers.



Baseball’s non-tender deadline should come and go on Friday night without consequence for the Mets, whose arbitration-eligible players will play significant roles on the team in 2009.  But the Mets have little reason not to retain their eligible players: Ryan Church, John Maine, Pedro Feliciano, Duaner Sanchez and Jeremy Reed.


Church, 30, hit .276 with 12 home runs in 90 games last season, his first with the Mets. He was the team’s most productive hitter until a concussion sidelined him in May and created a series of lingering effects that plagued him for the rest of the season. Church, who agreed to a $2 million contract to avoid arbitration last off season, will enter Spring Training as the starting right fielder.


Maine, 27, is expected to be the third pitcher in a starting rotation that also includes Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey. Coming off right shoulder surgery that prematurely ended his season, Maine will be arbitration-eligible for the first time. Feliciano, 32, produced a 4.05 ERA and two saves last season as one of the Mets’ two primary left-handed relievers. He also avoided arbitration last season by agreeing to a one-year contract worth $1.025 million.


Reed, 27, is the outfielder the Mets received as part of the 12-player trade Wednesday that also landed them Putz. He is expected to assume Endy Chavez’s role as a fourth outfielder.

Sanchez, 29, will begin his second full season since missing a year and a half after two surgeries on his pitching shoulder. General manager Omar Minaya has said publicly that he expects Sanchez to be more successful this season, especially now that the presence of Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz will allow him to pitch earlier in games.





Pitchers Shawn Hill, Scott Olsen and Tim Redding, outfielders Willie Harris and Josh Willingham and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman must be offered contracts by Washington or they will become free agents. Entering the Winter Meetings, the Nationals had to make decisions on seven players, but the club released reliever Jesus Colome on Wednesday.


He appeared in 61 games and had a 4.31 ERA while being used as a setup man last season.  As for the rest of the players, Olsen, Redding, Harris, Willingham and Zimmerman most likely will be offered contracts. However, Hill will be a tough decision. He has had elbow problems the past four years in Washington and has pitched in a combined 34 games.



The White Sox are expected to tender contracts to Bobby Jenks and DeWayne Wise prior to Friday night’s 11 p.m. CT deadline for all arbitration-eligible players. This duo stands as the only two arbitration-eligible players on the team’s 40-man roster.





Jenks, 27, could earn 10 times more than his $550,000 salary for 2008 if he goes through the arbitration process, having emerged as one of the game’s steadiest closers. Despite being attached to a great deal of Hot Stove trade talk deemed by general manager Ken Williams as “just rumor and innuendo,” the burly right hander enters the 2009 season as the second-fastest pitcher to reach 100 saves in Major League history. Jenks accomplished this feat in just 187 games, trailing only Kazuhiro Sasaki’s total of 160.


Wise had a rags-to-riches story in 2008. Independent baseball in New Jersey looked to be his season-long vocation, until Minor League director Buddy Bell, who knew Wise from their days together with the Reds, encouraged the White Sox to bring the 30-year-old veteran into Minor League Spring Training.


Wise ended up becoming an outfield starter against primarily right-handed pitchers during the final two weeks of the season, replacing the injured Carlos Quentin, and hit .248 with six home runs, 18 RBIs and nine stolen bases over 57 games. Wise also hit the White Sox first postseason home run in the American League Division Series against the Rays.




2008 Rule 5 Pre-Draft Scribbles and Current MLB Phase Final Rule 5 Draft Results








Who would have thought you could find a Hall of Famer in the Major League Baseball Rule 5 draft? You usually associate this draft with the marginal player who is not good enough for the 40-man roster, but still performing for his team. You would never think a player like Roberto Clemente would be subject to the Rule 5 Draft, but he was, as were notable players like former Oriole Paul Blair, current Met Johan Santana and Royals closer Joakim Soria. And can you even imagine that current Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino went through the Rule 5 Draft twice befores ticking with the Phillies and going on to win his first World Series ring this Fall.



But besides Clemente, the most recent addition to the Rule 5 Draft All- Dumb Move team was former Rays Josh Hamilton. He was left unprotected by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2006 and was selected 3rd by the Chicago Cubs, who then sold his rights to the Cincinnati Reds where he played in 2006 all season long at the major league level. The Rays were trying to hide Hamilton off their 40-man roster because of recent re-instatement to baseball after 2 years of drug problems. But that did not deterr the Cubs, who quickly snatched Hamilton up before the Rays knew what had happened.



Will there be another ” Josh Hamilton or Johan Santana” in the 2008 Rule 5 draft being held on Thursday in Las Vegas?  The answer is not that simple this year. This years draft might be the hardest to predict in the last several years. No one is a clear favorite in any of the three phases ( MLB, Triple-A, Double-A) to be selected this time around.



Alot of basbeball officials call this year’s Rule 5  Draft a bit of a bust. There is not a huge buzz about any one player, or the potential as in years past. The rules changes prior to last year, adding an extra year of protection for teams to keep players. Under the old rules, 2005 high school draft picks and 2006 college picks would have had to be protected (and most international players signed in ’04 as well).


Prep pitchers such as Sean West (Marlins), Chaz Roe (Rockies), Brandon Erbe (Orioles) and Will Inman (Padres) would have to be protected ,but are not on 40-man rosters. That leaves more room to protect fringy players who otherwise might not have made the cut. Some borderline players will get an extra reprieve this year thanks to the new rules, but will have to earn that spot come Spring time.






Similarly, the Pirates don’t have to make a 40-man call on 2006 first-rounder Brad Lincoln, who has missed a year with Tommy John surgery, and the Indians can wait on corner infielder Wes Hodges, who can hit but hasn’t shown he can handle third base.


That has left a thinner talent pool to choose from. The ’06 Rule 5 yielded stars such as Josh Hamilton and Joakim Soria, but the top talents in the ’07 class were players such as outfielder Brian Barton, who stuck all year with the Cardinals; knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, whom the Mariners swung a trade to keep; and lefthander Wesley Wright, who stuck as a reliever with the Astros.






Draft analysts agree there are few position players with Barton’s upside in this Rule 5 class, and and the quality and talent of players and pitchers has dipped accordingly with the rule changes. Big names such as Donald Veal (Cubs) and Eduardo Morlan (Rays) have attracted interest, but Veal pitched poorly all year and again in the Arizona Fall League, while Morlan’s velocity was back in the 89-92 mph range in Puerto Rico but not in the mid-90s he showed earlier in his minor league career. Morlan was the third player garnished by the Rays in the Matt Garza, Jason Barlett trade last November with the Minnesota Twins for ex-Rays badboy Delmon Young, Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie.


The best comparisons to Barton are several prospects with injury questions, such as pitchers Alan Horne (Yankees), coming off rotator cuff surgery on his shoulder, and Pedro Strop (Rangers), a former Rockies farmhand coming off his own arm injury; and catcher Donny Lucy (White Sox), who is athletic and plays a premium position but has never quite performed.


What buzz there is has centered on Class A pitchers with stuff rather than track records. Among the names bandied about:





 RHP Jordan Pratt, Dodgers ( above ) : The 2003 fifth-round pick out of an Oregon high school has yet to progress past Class A. He spent 2008 in high Class A Inland Empire and walked 67 (while striking out 80) in 69 innings. However, Pratt has premium stuff, with a fastball that consistently reaches 94 mph, and an inconsistent curveball and a premium cutter that helps him handle lefthanded hitters. They went 2-for-35 off him in Hawaii Winter Baseball, where Pratt showed off some smoother mechanics that helped him throw more strikes. Lefty David Pfeiffer of the Dodgers, a sidearmer, also was getting some attention.





LHP Jordan Norberto, Diamondbacks ( above ) : Norberto has upside, as he’s just 22 and has reached 96 mph with his fastball. He’s also spent the last two years in the low Class A Midwest League, striking out 220 in 204 innings while walking 102.





IF Corey Wimberly, Rockies ( above ) : No one in the class fits the utility profile better than Wimberly, a 5-foot-8 switch-hitter with plus speed and defensive versatility. Wimberly played second base, third base, shortstop and the outfield in ’08 at Double-A Tulsa while posting a .370 on-base percentage. He lacks strength but has a solid track record as a hitter.



RHP Loek Van Mil, Twins: The 7-foot-1 righthander has shown a fastball up to 97 mph in the past but has a partial ligament tear due after injuring his elbow just prior to the Beijing Olympics. Fellow Dutch national teamer Hainley Statia (Angels) remains the top middle-infield possibility in a thin group of players there.


Post Rule 5 Update:


Here is the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft  with final results posted below. Check out the list and see if your favorite might have picked up a young player, or left someone unprotected and they were selected from your squad.


In the Rule 5 Draft, the Tampa Bay Rays lost the rights to Double-A closer Eduardo Morlan, who was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers with the 15th pick of the draft. The Rays then selected starter-turned reliever  Derek Rodriguez with the 19 th pick to swap pitchers with different aspects of the game.




Major League Phase



Drafted By
Drafted From
2008 Club
1 Terrell Young RHP Washington Cincinnati Sarasota
2 Reegie Corona INF Seattle New York (AL) Trenton
3 Everth Cabrera SS San Diego Colorado Asheville
4 Donald Veal LHP Pittsburgh Chicago (NL) Tennessee
5 Lou Palmisano C Baltimore Milwaukee Brevard County
6 Luis Perdomo RHP San Francisco St. Louis Springfield
7 David Patton RHP Cincinnati* Colorado Modesto
8 Kyle Bloom LHP Detroit Pittsburgh Altoona
9 Jose Lugo LHP Kansas City** Minnesota Ft. Myers
10 Benjamin Copeland CF Oakland San Francisco Fresno
11 James Skelton C Arizona Detroit Erie
12 Zachary Kroenke LHP Florida New York (AL) Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
8 Los Angeles (NL)
13 Gilbert De La Vara LHP Houston Kansas City Northwest Arkansas
14 Jason Jones RHP Minnesota New York (AL) Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
15 Darren O’Day RHP New York (NL) Los Angeles (AL) Salt Lake
16 Eddie Morlan RHP Milwaukee Tampa Bay Montgomery
17 Robert Mosebach RHP Philadelphia Los Angeles (AL) Arkansas
18 Miguel Gonzalez RHP Boston Los Angeles (AL) DNP
19 Derek Rodriguez RHP Tampa Bay Chicago (AL) Charlotte
20 Ivan Nova RHP San Diego New York (AL) Tampa
21 Rocky Cherry RHP New York (NL) Baltimore Norfolk

* Acquired by Chicago (NL) in exchange for cash considerations
** Acquired by Seattle in exchange for cash considerations