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Monday, February 05, 2007

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Minor league filler...how exciting.

Can only hope these guys help. Totten does seem interesting at least.

Forget Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels. Heath Totten, Greg Jacobs, Brian Mazone, Randall Simon and others are the heart and soul of Beerleaguer.

Saw the report in the Inquirer on Fabio; it's nice to see the young man have so much success this winter. I wonder where he'd rank among the rest of the Phillies prospects if he didn't pass the maximum number of big-league innings.

Castro's height (5' 8") probably hurts him with the scouts. Don't know if he has the endurance to be a starter, but I think he has the best chance of all of the minor leaguers discussed to help the Phils this year. I was impressed with his fastball and curve last year. Did anyone buy the MLB.TV offseason package here and see him pitch ?

As I said in the previous thread, I believe Casto has this team made. He would have to have an incredibly poor showing in ST in order to not make it.

RSB- I wish you were right, but I think the Phils plan on sending my Model Dictator Castro to Ottawa no matter what.

It appears that Castro has the smarts, skills, and deception that small pitchers need. If he does, kudos to the Phils' brain trust for breaking a tired prejudice toward big guys that brought us the likes of Ben Rivera, Pat Combs, Tommy Greene, Eric Junge, Ron Blazier, Wayne Gomes, Bobby Munoz...shall I go on and on and on?

ok, but lay off tommy greene a little. he was drafted by the braves, first fo all, and was acquired with dale murphy for 3 nobodies. sure, he flamed out by the time he was 27, but he had two stellar years in 92 and 93, finishing 6th in the cy young voting in the later year. i'd kill for a '93 tommy greene season out of any of our minor leaguers.

eric junge. love it!

ANOTHER former Mariner signing? I don't believe you, Weitzel!

Eric Junge is with the Reds now. Looks to start at AAA in Louisville.

Dick, point taken, and not to nitpick, but Greene was the real deal before he got hurt and Combs never fit that bill at all. He was a medium-sized lefty who didn't throw all that hard.

To RSB and all others who are touting Castro as someone who should be on the Big Club this year, let's look at the situation rationally. He's 22 years old and small for a pitcher, leading to concerns about his stamina. As someone pointed out, he has 17 innings above Class A ball, and 15 of them were in mop-up duty. Those 17 innings represented a year of development lost, by the way, though that couldn't be avoided because of the Rule 5 rules, which are all about management and to hell with the players involved. So after that layoff he goes to winter ball, where I gather he pitched a fair amount. He will next go straight to spring training, where -- thanks to his winter full of pitching -- he'll be lights-out to start with because he's ahead of the hitters, which I fear could lead to the team taking him north. By June, he will have had six straight months of pitching -- a full major-league season's worth -- with scarcely a break.

Does this sound like a smart way to treat a decent prospect? If Cole Hamels had been handled this way (with his injury history it wasn't really an issue, of course), people would scream bloody murder about overuse. But Castro is just another Latin American picked up on the cheap, so screw him, right? I mean, who cares if we burn out a talented young arm -- it's not like we invested millions in signing bonuses for him, right?

Alby, if Castro's skin was white and his last name was Johnson or Smith or something along those lines, would you even bring it up? Look at all the other players who go to winter ball and DON'T make the club, but still opt to pitch in the minors. Highly-touted prospects like Bisenius and Happ have pitched through winter ball and will continue to pitch in the minor leagues after they don't go North. Are you whining about them being over-used? No. And neither of them got huge signing bonuses either. Your point that simply because he's a Latin American means that the Phils are trying to burn him out comes up a bit short. Ultimately, it's up to the player to listen to his body and decide what feels best. If you blame anyone, blame Fabio Castro, because I doubt Gillick's sitting up in a luxury suite trying to cause a Latin-American player to expeience "burn out."

Phillies brain trust likes big pitching? I wonder who is pushing that agenda... Dallas Green, anyone? Another reason for him to go! Not that we needed another!

Way to misread what I wrote, Ace. I never said the Phillies were trying to burn him out. If anything, it's the bozos on this board, not the front office, who are giving the matter no thought and looking at Castro as nothing beyond a short-term solution to the bullpen problem. So try again, and this time try looking at the facts instead of looking for points I wasn't making:
1) He's young
2) He's undersized
3) He barely pitched at all last year
4) He's barely pitched above A ball
5) He's pitching meaningful innings over the winter (I haven't read any quotes about Bisenius or Happ pitching for his country; Americans in Latin American winter ball are getting their work in, not trying to prove something to their countrymen). Just for the record, though, I take a dim view of winter ball for any pitcher who's expected to pitch in the majors. The minors are a different story, as the games don't matter and pitch counts are more likely to be adhered to. The season also ends a month sooner.

Beyond that, your statement that "Ultimately, it's up to the player to listen to his body and decide what feels best" illustrates gross ignorance of the difference between American players and Latin players. Young Latin Americans do not have the luxury of "listening to their bodies." They are typically seen as the economic salvation of their families, and will do anything and everything they're told to keep the American dollars rolling in. The Phillies are far from the only MLB franchise with an unenlightened attitude toward Latin pitching, but they're right up there. Quick, name me a Latin American pitcher who's had more than one year of success with the Phillies.

You should definitely add Chris Coste to the heart and soul of beerleaguer...every transaction comes back to Coste

By the way, Ace, both Bisenius and Happ are more than 2 years older than Castro. In Happ's age 22 season, he threw 78 innings, 72 of them in A ball. In Bisenius' age 22 season, he threw 64 innings at Lakewood. Do those sound like the equivalent of 60-odd innings in MLB to you?

As I wrote on the previous thread I agree with RSB on Brito -- it will take a hot spring for him to go north -- but not Castro.

Castro has a mere 17 IP above A ball. Phils front office would like to see him get at least a half season of Triple A and I think that's smart.

If he's lights out in ST he may force their hand, but if he's mediocre or worse or walks too many, I guarantee he'll open in Ottawa or Reading. He's far from a lock to go north.

I think Castro, if he makes the team, will be used in pretty much the same role he was used in last year, with perhaps a few more sixth/seventh inning appearances - at least to start the season. I don't see where it's unreasonable to think he could do a serviceable job in a lower-key role; regardless of his 17 innings above A ball, he has shown he can get big leaguers out. I *don't* think he is up to the task of being counted on to regularly pitch in key spots, and I doubt he would be used that way. I think the idea is to have a second lefty in the pen, though, and he isn't a bad option. Do you know of a better one at this point? I don't see the Phillies going with only one lefty in the bullpen - with that one guy, Smith, hardly being an experienced guy himself.

Being a Rule 5, Castro didn't get that much work last season. I don't know what kind of workload he's had in his winter ball trials, but it's not a foregone conclusion that the health of his arm is a dire concern at this point. It could well be that he has been going full bore in the off-season precisely because he lost some time in his overall development by having to be on a major-league roster all year. Additionally, if his size is such a concern, then it would make more sense if he would be projected as a reliever and not as a starter - so the argument that he's merely a 'short-term solution' for the bullpen doesn't necessarily hold water. Here are three things to remember, to counter Alby's list of points against Castro to be on the team:

1) though limited, he has big league experience
2) he was successful during it
3) the Phillies need relievers, especially left-handed relievers; the only other one they have has practically as short of a major league record. Gillick has said he is 'done with free-agents', so short of a trade or last-minute snag of someone who is released towars the end of March (or, god forbid, that ever-popular mystery exchange for Lieber), there aren't going to be any other options.

All this points to a very good chance of Castro opening the season with the Phillies. I would say it's his spot to lose.

The Phillies have stated that they plan on starting Castro in AAA and probably having him start. A bullpen job is not his spot to lose. 17 innings is not enough to show he can get major league hitter sout. He struck out a decent number of batters, but struggled with walks, and was incredibly lucky on balls in play (BABIP of .177 with the Phillies). He will probably improve a lot when he develops his secondary pitchers better, and that's what he'll work on in Ottawa. At that point, we'll see how well he can do in more crucial situations-- who knows if opponents were even scouting him when he was the mop-up guy last year?

That 'plan' is pretty much out the window, Matt. There was talk of this very early in the off-season - perhaps when there was hope of bringing in more experienced pitchers - but Gillick and Manuel have since both backed off this and stated that Castro will be considered for the bullpen on the major league team.

I agree (again) that Castro shouldn't and almost certainly won't be considered for pressure situations if he is on the team. I imagine he may get a shot here or there in later innings against a tough lefty or two if he does well enough at the outset (keeping in mind lefties hit .115 off him as a Phillie). But at the same time, one cannot make the argument that the twenty-three (not seventeen) innings he pitched were completely meaningless and that the results of them proved absolutely nothing. If he had been lit up, you certainly wouldn't be saying that. 23 innings with a 1.54 ERA doesn't mean you're going to necessarily be nearly as successful over 67 innings, but it's not a bad indicator, either. Regardless of the situations, he was *getting people out*. I concur that his numbers wouldn't have been so sparkling if he was pitching in tight ballgames, but regardless, hitters don't go up to the plate and say to themselves, oh well, it's 7-1 and it's some guy named Fabio on the mound - guess I won't bother trying to get a hit. In those 23 innings, he allowed only 12 hits, and 6 walks - and if you want to call that 'struggling' and being lucky, I think that's pretty harsh. If you want to attribute what success he did have to scouts not even bothering with him, I think that's downright unreasonable.

So, is 23 innings enough of a barometer on a pitcher? Absolutely not. He has plenty left to prove. But is what he did in those 23 innings enough to propel him into contention for a shot at a job this season - particularly as the bullpen lacks many viable options? Sure.

Only he and Matt Smith are lefties out of the pen. He has a pretty decent shot at making the team unless a veteran lefty is acquired between now and the start of the season.

Actually, we're both wrong; he pitched 23 1/3 in Philly and 8 1/3 in Texas. That's 31 and 2/3 over which he struck out 18 and walked 13. In Philly, he had about 40% groundballs, walked 6 and struck out 13. That usually translates to an ERA just under 4. That's why 1.56 is lucky. (In Texas, his peripherals translate to an ERA arond 4.7.) No pitcher has a batting average on balls in play that deviates very far from .300, so .177 with the Phillies is part of that luck. Also, any pitcher who only gets 40% groundballs is bound to surrender more than 0.3 HR/9 if he pitches for long enough; that is another source of luck. The key is too look at peripherals. His were good, but it's not like he's going to repeat that performance.

Eric Junge is my boy from Bucknell. I remember on one of the college nights back at the Vet on a frigid April evening, I got on tv for about 15 seconds because Junge came into pitch and my wife and I were like the only fools up in the 700 level and we were wearing Bucknell hooded sweatshirts. I had tons of messages on my phone when I got home, telling me that they saw me on tv.

That and getting struck out by former #1 overall pick, Matt White, are my claims to fame.

RSB: To clarify, the 17 IP above A ball are his MINOR league numbers. I didn't include his mlb numbers because, given the context, they are meaningless. And yes they would be just as meaningless if his ERA were 8.50.

As I said earlier, he's no lock to go north. It will depend on what he shows in ST. His K/BB ratio, however, suggests he needs more seasoning.

MattS, that's pretty cool, that you can take the ground ball percentage along with walks and strikouts data and extrapolate an expected ERA for Castro. According to your calculations, Castro will be lucky to land a job at Ottawa, let alone the Phillies bullpen. I tend to agree that Castro will be spending money this summer with maple leafs on them.

Here's what Conlin said about Castro today: "Forget Rowand for Linebrink and move Fabio to the head of Uncle Charlie's setup audition class. I watched the game on Dominican TV. [The Serie Caribe between the champions of the DR, Venezuela, Mexico and Puerto Rican winter leagues]. His stuff was filthy." Have him begin the season in Ottawa and work on his control. He can start there to get the innings. Then bring him up when's he ready. He's still a puppy.

clout -

MLB time is never meaningless, it could be more pressure-filled, but he was still pitching against major league batters, in a major league game.

Developing his second pitches in Ottawa? What development does he need? His secondary pitches are plus pitches already, and good enough to get major league batters out.

I just don't see what he's going to learn in Ottawa. His peripheral projecting to a 4.0 ERA? Thats great, league average is around 4.5.

If there are thoughts on converting him to a starter, look at Papelbon for a model.

I didn't calculate his ERA. That's from BaseballProspectus.com. There a million ways of doing it, but the keys are that pitchers mostly control K/9, BB/9, and HR/9 (or at least flyball and groundball percentages). Overachieving pitchers tend to have low ERA but deficiencies in these areas.

Phillies should continue the trend of signing has been players by extending a minor league deal to Juan Gonzales. Once they do this they should trade a pitching prospect to the Rangers for Sammy Sosa. Finally, if we could get Otis Nixon to come out of retirement, the OF will be set. Phils should maybe consider a Jose Mesa signing.

Gosh, I wish we could have signed some decent bullpen guys. AHHHHGH!

Parker -

I hear Eckersley may make a comeback, we could pick him up :-)

(the voices in my head told me)

I saw that too ROA - but I think he at least gets a shot to be in the mix this year. If he is starting in that kind of meaningful game it speaks volumes for him. We need as much filthy stuff as possible in the pen.

Perhaps Totten and Mazone can exchange recipes.

We need ST to start. Some of the comments are getting plain silly! Exchanging recipes???

Frankly, I'm disappointed in all of you for getting so off topic. Is it too much to ask for an intelligent conversation about Heath Totten?

Weitzel- that was funny, as I hope you intended it to be.

It's getting rough coming up with new topics. I've considered running an entry that said "PAT BURRELL. DISCUSS."

OK, Jason, I'll try.

I would never name my kid Heath. If I was Totten's mama, I'd name him Hot N. Totten.

Oh, sorry. Not good enough?

Weitzel, I sympathize. That's why I go the comedy route a lot on my site. But you do a wonderful job at presenting the facts and giving a forum for discussion.

I did't do a piece on Heath Tutter, you beat me to the punch, so I'm jealous.

OK, Totten, take two:

I looked at Totten's stats. They don't look too bad. The low walks ratio is good. You got to give him credit for playing winter ball. This is his do or die year. I don't see any playing time with Seattle or Texas, which makes me wonder why PG signed him. Maybe he'll show something in ST. With his low BB totals, he might be a good bullpen man to bring in with men on base, when you absolutely positively don't want a walk given up.

How's that?

As long as the post doesn't read:

Abreu Trade: Discuss (clout is moderator)

:-)

Jason, you could put up a list of topics and we could vote like on Carson's site about topics. Here are suggestions:

Burrell's foot, is it healed?

Abreu trade, will we ever recover?

Coste, when will he be named our no. 1 catcher?

Castro, will he go north?

Bell trade, who cares?

Lieber, where will he end up?

Barack Obama, can he help our bullpen?

No Hit Nunez, will he make the roster? Why?

Cholly, is this his year to shine?

Will the new coachs make any difference?

Who will be our 8th inning pitcher?

Same question as above but about 3B, CF, or RF.

Who should bat first?

Who should bat fifth?

Will Eaton amount to anything worth his salary?

When will PG retire?

Who will be PG's successor?

Predict the NL East 2007 final standings.

Predict the division winners plus WC.

Will Bond pass Aaron? Who cares?

Who's RF will be better: Yankees or Phillies?

What do you now think about the name "Iron Pigs"?

Can you still read Beerleaguer if you have a drinking problem?

OK you guys asked for it......very interesting comments from Chase Utley regarding Abreu from a Kevin Kennedy column 2 days ago at FoxSports.com:

"He said that Howard is a humble guy and a phenomenal hitter, and hopefully also will sign with the team for the long haul. Utley told me that the midseason trade of Bobby Abreu to the Yankees helped galvanize the ballclub. While he respected Abreu as a real professional hitter, he always felt the team could compete and win without him."

No, please, anyone but Burrell...

Some quippy answers to some of LF's questions:

"Barack Obama, can he help our bullpen?" At the very least, the Phillies can hire him to make motivational speeches at the end of the sixth inning. Ramon Henderson can translate.

"Cholly, is this his year to shine?" Yes - when he takes his cap off, and the lights reflect off his scalp.

"Will the new coachs make any difference?"
Word is that Davey Lopes' pat on the butt is far more affirming than Marc Bombard's.

"Coste, when will he be named our no. 1 catcher?" On March 31 - in the Ottawa Citizen. (Just kidding, DavThom)

"Can you still read Beerleaguer if you have a drinking problem?" Yes, but it helps if you're not actually expecting discussions about beer.


Manuel may shine coaching the special olympics...ok, I've crossed that line...oops!

Cabin fever much???

I didn't think my comment was bad enough to get deleted?

OK. I'll exempt Tommy Greene from my gallery of big guys who flopped. But I'm tempted to go look for more of them...nah!...point made.

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