Sunday, February 28, 2016

Weekend TTM Roundup: 2/22-2/27

Received On: 02/23/2016

My first return is from Braves prospect Andrew Thurman.
Thurman was originally drafted by the Houston Astros in the 2nd round of the 2013 MLB Player Draft. Thurman is armed with a fastball, a change up, a slider and a curveball and projects to be anywhere from a middle of the rotation starter to a middle reliever in the big leagues. Thurman was a bit of an overlooked prospect in what was an absolutely loaded Astros farm system in 2014 but he was one of the players sent to Atlanta in the Evan Gattis trade, after which he became one of the Braves' top prospects. And he continues to be in their top 30 (on most rankings) even after the Braves continued to load up on young pitching talent.
Thurman's 2015 season was a bit of a mixed bag where he was fairly good in high-A (2.99 FIP according to Fangraphs) but wasn't overly impressive in double-A (his walks-per-nine jumped from 1.73 to 5.92 according to Fangraphs). However, I'm willing to bet that Thurman's struggles in double-A (which was near the end of the season) in 2015 was a result of an injury he sustained after the team bus he and his then-teammates (the Carolina Mudcats) flipped on it's side. As a result of that crash Thurman (along with six other Braves prospects including Lucas Sims) ended up on the disabled list. Thurman eventually came back in mid July and he was even one of the Braves prospects sent to the 2015 Arizona Fall League to make up for lost time and development.
Although he's quickly becoming overshadowed in the Braves organization due to them acquiring every pitching prospect ever, Thurman is not one to be overlooked. Keep an eye on him, you might be surprised.

Received On: 2/25/2016

My second return this week was my first return from Spring Training 2016, courtesy of Cardinals southpaw Austin Gomber!
Austin Gomber was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourth round of the 2014 MLB Player Draft. The lefty is equipped with a low-mid 90's fastball, a change up and a slider. Gomber also added a curveball to his arsenal after the Cardinals' pitching coordinator Tim Leveque taught him the pitch. Adding the curveball gave Gomber quite a boost as he ended up leading all lefties in the Cardinals organization with 140 strikeouts in 2015. Gomber's strikeouts per nine jumped to 9.33 (per Fangraphs) in A-Ball and he shared the 2015 Cardinals' Minor League Pitcher of the Year award with righty Alex Reyes.
In 2016 Gomber may either get assigned to high-A or double-A depending on how he does in Spring Training. This year he was invited to the Cardinals' Spring Training as a non-roster invite, but it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to see him be back, this time as a guy on the roster in a couple of years. As of this moment Gomber has the potential to be anything from a middle of the rotation starter to a really capable bullpen. He's a Cardinal though so he's probably going to end being a really really good third or fourth starter in the future.

The really cool thing about this Gomber was that this got back to me in record time. I sent this request out on the 19th and it got back to me roughly six days later. Thanks Austin!

Received On: 2/26/2016

My next return was a pretty cool one from former first overall draft pick, Mark Appel.
Mark Appel was drafted by the Houston Astros in the first round (first overall) of the 2013 MLB Player Draft.
Appel features an arsenal that includes a mid 90's fastball, a slider and a change up. All of which are quality pitches and makes it all the more puzzling why Appel's results in the minors have been so poor.
In any case expectations for Appel have been lowered tremendously these past few years. So much so that Appel was part of the trade package sent to Philadelphia in the Ken Giles trade. While his mediocre results have scared many away, he still has the talent to one day break out and reach his potential as a frontline starter. After all his fastball still touches 96 mph.
Whether or not Appel can turn his career around in Philadelphia remains to be seen but for now let's hope that his legacy isn't being the guy the Astros picked instead of Kris Bryant.

Received On: 2/26/2016

My next return came from White Sox righty, Chris Beck.
Beck was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 2nd round of the 2012 MLB Player Draft.
Beck is armed with a fastball, a slider, a change up and a curveball. After he was drafted he's sped through the White Sox farm system by getting to triple-A during his second full year as a pro. His fastball and can reach as high as the mid-90s and his change up is also said to be a dominant pitch but scouts seem to doubt Beck's ability to reach his ceiling due to the lack of a third breaking pitch.
Despite that though, Beck still has potential to be a serviceable starter in the big leagues. Beck got his first taste of the big leagues in 2015 around early May. If he can add a good breaking pitch he could be the third best starter on the team behind Sale and Rodon. If he can't add a good breaking pitch he could still be a really useful fifth starter or a pretty good reliever.

Received On: 2/26/2016

This next return is a doozy and from top Reds pitching prospect Robert Stephenson.
Robert Stephenson was drafted by the Reds in the first round of the 2011 MLB Player Draft.
Stephenson is armed with a mid-90's fastball, curveball and change up and he projects to be anything from a really good middle of the rotation starter to a dominant reliever with plenty of potential to be even better than that to boot. Experts say it depends on how well he learns to control his pitches (Fangraphs, 2016).
Stephenson made it to triple-A in 2015 so it's likely that he'll start there in 2016 and if he makes the improvements necessary he could be a September call up. Or possibly left in the minors until 2017 to delay service time.
Either way, the 32nd best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America (2016), will be an important part of the Reds' rebuilding process.

Received On: 2/27/2016

My final return this week was another Spring Training success, courtesy of Matt Boyd this time. Matt Boyd was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the sixth round of the 2013 MLB Player Draft.
Matt Boyd is armed with a fastball (a two-seamer and a four-seamer), change up, curveball and a slider. Boyd's slider in particular was recently reported to be catching attention in Tigers Spring Training as Boyd spent a fair bit of time this past offseason refining his grip for the pitch and preparing to use it in games.
Boyd made his MLB debut in mid 2015 as a member of the Blue Jays and made two starts before being traded to the Detroit Tigers in the David Price trade. He made 10 more starts for the Tigers in 2015 and here in 2016 he is currently fighting for a spot in the Tigers rotation.
With any luck he could get one of the starting pitcher roles in the back of the Tigers' rotation and use his refined slider to good use in 2016.

And those were my returns this week. Big thanks to Mr. Thurman, Gomber, Appel, Beck, Stephenson and Boyd for the awesome autographs.

And as always thank you (the readers) for stopping by :).

Take care.

2016 TTM Count: 26


Monday, February 22, 2016

Torrenator 2K16

The 2016 Minor League Baseball season is set to start roughly six weeks from now. Different prospects face different challenges coming into this season. Some will have to live up to heightened expectations after a positive 2015, some will have to reestablish themselves after a negative 2015, others will have to do a little of both.

Photo Credit: Me ;)

Obviously one of the players I'll be keeping an eye on is blog hero and the savior of the New York Yankees franchise, Luis Torrens.

Luis Alfonso Saez Torrens is set to return to baseball action after spending the entire 2015 season on the shelf due to a major shoulder surgery. People inside the Yankees organization and people close to Torrens have both said that he is ready to pick up where he left off in 2014, on the path to greatness.

In the February 12-26 2016 edition of Baseball America, Gary Denbo (the Yankees' senior VP of Player Development) spoke highly of Torrens and the progress he's made during his year away from the diamond.

Torrens made the most of his year off by spending it preparing his body for the hardships of a full season on your knees and learning English. RESPECT THE HUSTLE!

Torrens will likely begin the 2016 season in Charleston. Chances are he'll get a chance to catch some of the other top prospects in the Yankees organization like Domingo Acevedo (remember that name) and Jeff Degano. Who knows, he might even catch the likes of Ian Clarkin, Drew Finley and Luis Cedeno.

With luck and Torrens' natural talent it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to see Torrens up in high-A Tampa by the end of the season either.

Still, there are a few concerns about Torrens (that I have) heading into the season.

Big thanks to Waiting 'til Next Year for the awesome LUIIIIISSSSSSSSSSS drink coasters

The biggest issue is Torrens' shoulder, obviously, since that's the part of his body he had surgery on. Before the surgery Torrens drew a lot of praise for his ability to gun down runners and for his strong arm. However, before the surgery there were some visible warning signs. After all he did miss roughly two months of action early in the 2014 season when those shoulder issues first started.
So yeah the shoulder and how it holds up will be the main thing that scouts, talent evaluators and obsessed fanboys like myself will be keeping an eye on all season.

But I'm hoping for the best. That arm was an absolute cannon and there is a chance that a year off and Torrens' new body strength helped the shoulder not only recover but get better. Yeah, yeah, wishful thinking I know but be darned if I'm just going to focus on the negatives and question marks all the time.

Photo Credit: Me Again ;)

I suppose that there are concerns about Torrens' stamina. Although Torrens had a very great 2014 season, he did show signs of slowing down as the season drew to a close. The thing scouts and fans wanted to see the most in 2015 was how Torrens would fare across an entire season of minor league ball and whether his body would hold up. One way or another we'll get our answer a year later in 2016.

That said, the fact that Torrens is older and the way his body appears to be more developed now than it was in 2014 gives me great hope. By pure logic there should be a pretty good chance that his body is more ready for the rigorous challenge of a full season than it was two years ago.
And yes I know that logic doesn't always apply to baseball but hey, I'm trying to be positive over here ;).

Photo Credit: Me, Myself & I ;)

Torrens has a lot to prove in 2016 but I'm sure he'll do his best to make up for lost time. That said, keep in mind that by the end of the season he still won't be legally old enough to drink alcohol in the US (he turns 20 this May) so he is still ahead of the curve by a considerable margin.

Seeing as how this will be his first season back in action after I dedicated my blog to him, I'm thinking of implementing a segment I've been planning since last year where I track Torrens' progress on possibly a daily basis. I'll have to get back to you all on that.

Anyway, this is all a very exciting time. Spring has sprung (in FL and AZ), both the major league and minor league opening days are on the horizon, and we're another day closer to the return of the Torreantor. If you're not on the Yankees be afraid, be very afraid.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

Monday, February 8, 2016

One Month Of Baseball Card Sobriety (Sort've)

So I've had this goal of going six months without buying a baseball card. I'm one-sixth of the way there and it's been okay.

I did acquire a handful of baseball cards this past month but all of them were either via trades or were TTM returns that came back.

Like for example this sweet A-Rod that came to me courtesy of Dan over It's Like Having My Own Card Shop. There were more A-Rods, but this is special because it's a cool Pacific insert. Thanks for the A-Rod da Gawds Dan!

One of the questions some of you might have is whether or not I miss acquiring baseball cards by giving up money.

The answer is no. I don't miss spending money on baseball cards. Especially since nothing notable or useful to me is available during the first month of the year (except maybe Elite Extra?).

Not in terms of baseball cards at least.

I did snap and ended up buying a handful of Star Wars The Force Awakens (Series 1 apparently) cards. Which broke my no cards (in general) for a month goal for January. And as some of you may have noticed I went a bit crazy and ended up buying several Star Wars related things.

Come to think about it the money I've spent on Star Wars things this past month probably rivals (if not exceeds) what I spend on baseball cards in a given month.

I've purchased four different LEGO sets including the Poe's X-Wing Fighter (75102), The Battle Of Takodana (75139), Rey's Speeder (75099) and The First Order Battle Pack (75132).

And some Kanan Jarrus related goods including a comic book, a novel and a Disney Infinity figure.

Anyway, seeing as how I screwed up the no cards in general for a month goal I decided to make the most of it by obtaining what I needed from Star Wars centered offerings from Topps.

Like some Star Wars Rebels tattoo inserts. These were in the Star Wars Rebels trading card set made by Topps in 2015. I acquired the Ezra above,

And this Chopper tattoo.
With these two I'm only one more tattoo away from completing the 10 tattoo insert set (only need number 4 - Hera Syndulla) and from completing a master set of Topps Star Wars Rebels.

Speaking of Rebels, I also decided to just bite the bullet and pull the trigger on some cool Star Wars Tek cards.

Obviously I went for this Kanan Jarrus card from Tek. The design is apparently a Millennium Falcon motif. This is a pretty cool piece of plastic. We see Kanan as a gunslinger more than as a Jedi. Which is basically an accurate way to describe a large portion of his post-Jedi order life.

Also, I went for a non-autographed card because Kanan Jarrus' voice actor Freddie Prinze Jr. didn't sign autographs for Tek.

And here's a "Tidal Diffractor" of Chopper that's numbered 80/99. Chopper is a droid who speaks in beeps, therefore he has no voice actor and in turn has no autographed cards.

Now the rest of the Ghost/Rebels crew does have autographs in High Tek and I'll have to track the rest down another day. But I got this autograph of Vanessa Marshall along with the other two Tek cards for the sake of saving on combined shipping.

This is also a "Tidal Diffractor" but the autographed TD-parallels appear to be numbered to 75 as this is 32/75.

Anyway now that we're into February here's where the real challenge starts. 2016 Topps Series 1 has hit the market and several more sets will soon follow in the upcoming months. Luckily I'm the type of person who doesn't care for most of the big league releases so avoiding the urge to buy them should be fairly easy. Plus it's the shortest month of the year meaning that it should be an easy home run for me to not spend any money on baseball cards this month.
That said, I am fairly interested in doing those "mail-ins" where you mail Topps/Bowman a PWE with your name and address and they send you a card for free-ish.

One last note is that all of this has been a grim reminder that I've been putting off my clone breaks for eons now. Oops. Guess I might save them for the summer now ;).

Anyways thanks for stopping by and take care.