The prospect three-day weekendby Jeff Moore
April 01, 2011
Finally, a three-day weekend that will include some meaningful baseball!
Not even the dreary weather here along the east coast can put a damper on the the sunshine in my mind this Opening Day. After an off-season that gets shorter yet seems longer with each passing year, we now have our answers to the questions we've been asking all winter. And here at the 3DW, that means all the speculation about which prospects will making Opening Day rosters have been answered.
Although, sometimes those answers just create more questions.
As with every spring, this year saw some interesting decisions made by teams regarding the handling of prospects. Last year, the Braves and Giants had to make difficult decisions regarding Jason Heyward and Buster Posey, respectively. While the decisions were different, neither team ended the season disappointed with the outcome. It remains to be seen how this year's decisions play out.
Michael Pineda - Seattle Mariners
Pineda was no doubt one of the Mariners' top five pitchers this spring. In fact, he easily could have been top two. Based strictly on talent, Pineda should never have been in question for the Mariners rotation. But we all know there's more to it than that.
The easiest reason to keep Pineda in the minors would have been to delay his service clock. That debate, for any player, is a discussion for another time, and depending which side of that fence you reside on will determine your argument on most prospects. Last year's Heyward/Posey decisions were prime examples. But for the sake of this discussion, let's table that part of the argument. That discussion would be the same regardless of the player.
In the case of Pineda, I worry about his injury history. Save me the talk about Tom Verducci and his "Rule of 30," I'm talking about baseball history. In the past 20 years, just 16 pitchers have thrown more than 170 innings in their rookie year, at the age of 22 or younger. Pineda turned 22 this past January.
It's not that it can't be done. Johnny Cueto did it in 2008 and Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill did it as teammates in 2009. But none of those three had the injury history of Pineda, who missed significant time in 2009 with elbow soreness. He was never operated on for the injury and was healthy for all of 2010, throwing almost 140 innings between Double and Triple-A.
So it's not out of the realm of possibility that Pineda throws 170 innings for the Mariners this season, but if he made all 32 starts it takes to get through a full season, that comes out to around 5.1 innings per start (and therefore, extra wear and tear on the bullpen), or well over 170 innings, neither of which is an ideal scenario for the M's.
But then again, it's not like Pineda was going to sit on his hands in Triple-A. He would still have been throwing every fifth day. A few innings would have been saved by the start of the minor league season a week later and the alignment of his throwing days when he is eventually promoted, but Pineda would have been making his starts somewhere, so it's a valid argument that they might as well be in Seattle.
The move is still surprising considering the injury variable, the service time factor, and the Mariners' rebuilding phase, but at the end of the day, it doesn't leave you scratching your head.
Now I'm scratching my head.
It's not that Belt isn't good enough to make the Giants' starting lineup. He is. And it's not that I disagree with the decision to keep him. I don't.
I'm just very confused. Let's reset this scene and see if we can figure things out...
We have a team expected to be competitive in a close yet winnable division. The team has one of the best starting rotations in the majors and a strong bullpen, and is probably one impact bat away from having a genuinely dangerous lineup. It just so happens that this team's top prospect is a major league ready hitter and the team can fit him into the lineup by making a simple roster move. What does the team do?
They send said prospect to Triple-A. Wait, they didn't? But that's what they did last year, isn't it?
That description above describes the Giants situation regarding Brandon Belt this spring, but it also describes the exact situation they encountered this time last season with eventual Rookie of the Year Buster Posey. WIth Posey, they elected to send him back to the minors, delay his service time, and call him up a month-and-a-half-later. The move won them a World Series.
Okay, perhaps it didn't win them a World Series, but clearly it didn't prevent them from winning one.
So, encountered with the same scenario this year, they elect to do the exact opposite?
I'm scratching my head so hard I'm going bald.
Personally, I'd keep Belt in the majors. With their extremely average offense and ridiculously good pitching staff, Belt's offense for the first month or so could be the difference between first and second place. But I also would have kept Posey in the majors out of spring training last season. The Giants lucked out last year, by winning the divisions despite using Bengie Molina for a month instead of Posey. Perhaps they decided that roulette was not the type of game that's wise to play twice, but outside of that logic, I don't see the difference.
The situations seem the same to me. If they sent Posey down last year, why not send Belt down this year? If a month without help wasn't enough to cost them a title last year, why is it different this year? If the same people are in charge this year, and their plan worked last year, why change it?
Again, right or wrong, I'm just surprised. And still scratching.
Kansas City Royals Bullpen
The Kansas City Royals have four rookies in their bullpen.
Love it. Love it. Love it.
What do they have to lose? 100 games? So what if they do?
The 2012-2014 Royals are the ones we care about anyway, right? Otherwise, they wouldn't have traded Zack Greinke. So, given that mentality, the Royals approached spring training (or at least the assembly of their relief corps) with the philosophy of taking the best available arms.
That included Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, Jeremy Jeffress and Nathan Adcock. Good for the Royals.
There are some talented arms setting up for Joakim Soria. Jeffress throws as hard as anybody. Crow is a two-time first-rounder. Collins may be the best of the bunch, but nobody realizes it because he's built like Ricky Otero. And Nathan Adcock is around because he's a Rule V draft pick who has to stick or be returned, but don't let that, or his change-up, fool you.
Again, what do the Royals have to lose?
Bringing up too many prospects at once can be detrimental to the development of a franchise. But we're not talking key elements of a team here. The Royals hope Crow will still be a rotation guy, but otherwise we're talking set-up men, at best. If they started the season with Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers in the starting lineup, there would be reason for concern, but what is the risk of on-the-job learning with a bullpen full of rookie relievers?
I believe in giving credit where credit is due, and if the Royals believe that four of their seven best relief pitchers this season are rookies, than that's exactly who they should employ.
Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for 2013...
Jeff Moore is the creator of MLBProspectWatch.com, your one-stop site for all the information you need about minor league prospects. He can be reached via e-mail at mlbprospectwatch AT gmail DOT com and can be followed on Twitter at @MLBPW