On The Level: 20-Apr-10

Welcome back to On The Level. This week I’m back on track with 2 AL and 2 NL prospects and am looking at some deeper prospects, as well as a couple of assured prospects. As always, I’m trying to keep objective about expectations of these players and am using as many sources to establish these opinions as possible. If you do use some of these guys based on what you read here and elsewhere, let me know how it turns out and whether it helped you out some. Here’s this week’s installment.

LoA

Edgar Olmos – LHP – Florida Marlins

Born Apr 12th ’90 in Van Nuys, California – 6′5″ 180 lbs – Drafted in the 3rd round of the ’08 draft

My interest in Edgar Olmos began when I read Baseball America’s take on his talents in the 2010 edition of their Prospects Handbook. Mike Berardino, who ranked and evaluated the Florida prospects for BA in this edition and put Edgar at #15 for Florida prospects, had this to say about Edgar’s potential:

“His fastball sits at 89 mph and touches 92, and the Marlins believe he could add velocity because he has a live, loose arm and lean, projectable frame. He throws from a three-quarters arm slot, and his changeup has shown screwball rotation when it’s working.”

He adds some praise for Edgar’s work ethic and also that he has a nice slow curveball and slider to work with and develop. Injuries, as with some of the other prospects I have covered thus far, are what has hampered Edgar’s ranking as a top prospect thus far. However, there are so many examples of players who had injury problems in the minors and straigthened out once they got to the minors (Cole Hamels is a great example) that I don’t see it as a huge issue unless it holds them back a level. Mike had predicted Edgar would start in short-season Jamestown of the NYP league, but instead Florida decided to push him to a full season in LoA Greensboro, indicating just how much they believe in this 20 year old’s arm and his ability to be healthy this season. There will be some rust and adjustments that he’ll need to work through, but these are non-issues for someone with his work ethic. Want to know where that work ethic comes from? Well, here’ why I decided to promote Edgar and the story behind the scenes that make him who he is.

Eric Sondheimer of the Los Angeles Time wrote a very telling piece about Edgar as he decided to go to college in Arizona, the first in his family to do so by a long shot.  His mom stopped her formal education after the 5th grade, while his father stopped his after the 4th grade in Mexico. His father, Jesus, started his own landscaping company after coming to the U.S. to give his family more opportunities. A great quote Eric got from Edgar’s dad is the perfect example of the train of though Edgar abides by:

“If you’re going to try out for the Birmingham baseball team, you have to keep your grades up. You might be good, but if you’re the best and don’t have grades, you’re not going to go anywhere.”

The sad part is that he never did go to College, as he decided instead to sign with the Florida Marlins after being selected in the 3rd round of the 2008 draft. But, who could blame him when the Marlins were waving a check worth $478,000 in front of him to sign with the club? For a young man from such a humble background, getting close to half a million dollars to play baseball in the minors surely goes a long way to making his mind up and I’m sure he was able to help his dad out with his company.

Back to the baseball side of things, Edgar was sent to the GCL immediately after signing but only got to pitch in 1 game. Incredibly, he pitched only 1.2 innings and all of his outs were by way of strike outs. Quite the first impression. Edgar has to be happy he didn’t chose College now, because they very well could have let him go after 2009 when he spent the vast majority of the season injured with various issues, one of which was a slightly frayed labrum. He pitched the equivalent of a complete game that season, 9 inning with 4 hits allowed, 1 ER, 5 walks, and 9 Ks.

Edgar began the 2010 season as a serious underdog. He has very few innings on his arm, is behind in development time, and yet the organization continues to push him up a level. At 20 years old, he started the LoA season with 2 very encouraging starts. Here are the stats from those starts:

3.1 IP, 6 hits, 2 ER, 3 walks, 6 strike outs

5 IP, 5 hits, 2 ER, 1 walk, 5 strike outs

I say they are encouraging for two reasons – no injuries yet, and they are progressive in terms of performance.

With his size, frame, and stuff, there is no doubt that Edgar can make an impact on an MLB club in some way shape or form. The big question is will he be healthy enough to progress, and if so will it be as a starter or as a reliever? In my opinion, with his work ethic and background, and his ability to throw 4 pitches at a young age, he should have no issue remaining a starter. His control needs some work, but he has grown 2 inches in the last 2 years, so I’ll give him some slack there. We don’t have enough data yet to determine who well his stuff will play at the higher levels, but I’m positive that the Marlins are excited about his potential and are crossing all of the collective fingers to make sure he stays healthy from this point forward. If he does, he could very well become a #2 starter – that’s how high his ceiling goes. If unhealthy, he’ll be the second coming of Anibal Sanchez, take what he can give you when he’s healthy, but always expect to have to replace him at some point due to health issues.

If you’re a Marlins fan you already know all about this guy and what he should be able to give your team in the future. If you own a fantasy baseball team, keep an eye on him this season because he could break out and be in the top 100 prospect list for the 2011 season.

HiA

TJ House – LHP – Cleveland Indians

Born Sep 29th ‘89 – 6′2″ 215 lbs – Drafted in the 16th rd of the ’08 draft

When I ask most people “who are the best pitching prospects the Indians have this season?” they always answer with the usual suspects: Nick Hagadone, Alex White, Kelvin De La Cruz, Hector Rondon and the newly acquired Jason Knapp. Do I blame them? No way, those are some very impressive prospects and are a dynasty of pitching waiting to graduate if you ask me. The AL Central may not take the Indians very seriously in 2010, but I firmly believe that their pitching prospects are so talented that they’ll dominate the division again before long. The one missing name from that list above is my personal favorite and most under rated SP in fantasy circles: LHP TJ House, who ranked #12 on the Cleveland Indians prospect list in Baseball America’s 2010 Prospect Handbook.

TJ fell to Cleveland in the 2008 draft because most teams believed he would attend college (you would think that teams would demand that a rule be put in place where players had to make a concrete decision on this before the draft. How many talents fall and are grabbed by high paying teams who simply buy the player out? Yet another advantage for the big market clubs.) As it was, he signed for $750,000 and began his career as a pro in LoA Lake County of the Sally League.

You’ll hear me repeat this over and over as I write about pitching prospects – those who I believe have the greatest success in the majors – if they don’t have the best stuff that blows hitters away – are those who can keep the hitters off balance and work a broad spectrum of speeds while hitting their spots. This is why I love TJ House, as he has the ability to use his change up effectively at such a young age that it will likely become a plus plus pitch by the time he reaches the majors. It already grades as a plus pitch and compliments his other offerings, a fastball at 87-93 mph and slider at 80-84 mph, that give him a very good arsenal of speeds and location changes. Location is the second reason I believe he’ll be effective, as he is extremely consistent in staying low in the strike zone.

People were not expecting much from TJ when he arrived in Cleveland’s very deep pitching prospect pool, but his 2009 stats are indicative of his talents and he was able to catch everyone’s eye (those who paid attention anyway). Here is his 2009 line:

6-11, 3.15 ERA, 26 GS, 134 IP, 127 hits, 56 runs, 47 ER, 8 HRs, 49 BB, 109 SO, .250 AVG

There are a ton of things people could point to in order to criticize these stats. His walk rate wasn’t that great, hitters hit him pretty well at a low level, and he only won 6 games. I say this to those critics: it was his first season as a pro, and he played on a horrible team that scored very few runs. TJ started 2010 with a bang, striking out 10 hitters in only 5 innings while allowing 2 ER on 6 hits and 1 walk.

Finally, one of the best attributes you can give a pitcher in fantasy circles is that he is durable and consistent, and TJ should be both when he arrives. His delivery is smooth, easy, and mechanically sound. There is no reason to believe TJ won’t be a work horse in the majors. This makes him a very sure bet in terms of fantasy impact. You know he has the stuff to start, he has potential as a #3, or even a #2 once he has a good amount of MLB experience, and will get a shot so long as he’s playing for the Indians.

Continue to monitor his progress if you’re thinking of adding him to your fantasy team. How he transitions to AA at some point in 2010 or 2011 will go a long way to addressing how well his stuff translates at the higher levels. Until then, it’s all projections because it’s hard to know whether his fastball will work well at higher levels. With his strong change up, I like TJ’s chances. If you’re an Indians fan, I feel for you because of the whole Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia scenarios. However, I feel that you have a lot more than most teams to look forward to in terms of prospects, and TJ is just another name on a great list of pitching prospects to watch on your club.

You can catch a great video of TJ House pitching here.

AA

Caleb Gindl – CF – Milwaukee Brewers

Born Aug 31st, ’88 – 5′9″ 185 lbs – Drafted in the 5thround of the 2007 draft

One of my favorite little spark plugs, Caleb still draws some good reviews that are “cautiously optimistic” in  my opinion. It always amazes me how scouts and fans will talk up all guys with any power but will be so cautious when it comes to speed and average power guys. Yet, when you look at great fantasy teams or successful baseball clubs, these are the guys you want on board. The Dustin Pedroia or Brett Gardner types that grind out every AB and play hard every single day – no days off. Caleb, however, breaks that train of thought because he’s one of the few, along with Ben Revere of Minnesota, who scouts pointed to right away and almost unilaterally said “this guy is a future star”.

Caleb made the Baseball America Rookie all-star team in 2007, made the post-season all-star team of each league he played for from 2007 to 2009, and is about as sure a 5-tool player as you will find in the minor leagues. I’ll just list his 2009 stats for review (he was 20 most of the season in HiA and turned 21 in August of ’09), but do point out that he had some injury issues that limited his ABs that year:

394 ABs, 109 hits, 15 doubles, 3 triples, 17 HRs, 71 RBI, 18 SBs, 59 BB, 92 SO, .277 average, .363 OBP, .459 SLG

It was the first time Caleb had hit below .300 or had an OBP below .380, so the injuries could have had something to do with his slightly below expectations performance, but it was still a very nice performance. Some have called Caleb pull happy or stated that he had yet to be exposed to many off speed pitches early on in his career, which is why his average  decreased in 2009. I like to think that even if that were the case, and I believe that this could be – along with injuries, it is still something Caleb can and will overcome. His hand-eye coordination and bat speed are strong enough to overcome these issues and learning to hit the other way is something that the majority of big league hitters struggle with maintaining, so I don’t see this as a major issue in his development or potential.

Caleb is a consistently clutch hitter who is able to change the course of any game with his many tools. I don’t know how many times I read articles stating that he stole the game, carried his team, or came through with a game changing hit. He always seems to be in the action, someone you have to look out for, even at his slight size (5’9″ 185 lbs).

Thus far in 2010 (AA) he already has 2 HRs in 47 ABs, 3 doubles, a SB, a .340 average and .415 OBP/.532 SLG. That’s not a bad start for someone making the jump from HiA to AA at only 21 years old. He should continue to be a pest and spark plug at all levels he plays in, and will be the Brewers RF player by the end of 2011 if my instincts are right. The Brewers want to save some money to sign Prince Fielder, and the best way to do that is to deal Corey Hart and replace him with an internally cheap option. Caleb can easily play CF as well, but Carlso Gomez should be the regular there very soon.

Both Brewers fans and fantasy fans already know all there is to know about Caleb Gindl. He’s a ton of fun to watch, has a lot of tools to display, and eh should compliment Alcides Escobar or Carlos Gomez very well at the top of the Brew Crew lineup very soon.

Here’s a video of Caleb at batting practice on ProspectTube.com

AAA

Mark Trumbo – 1B – Los Angeles Angels

Born Jan 16th ‘86 – 6′4″ 220 lbs – Drafted in the 18th round of the ’04 draft

Mark Trumbo is a big man with a vast amount of power potential, but unlike most power hitters, he doesn’t strike out a ton, which makes his potential that much better than most who simply have power to give and a ton of strike outs. However, he does have one major problem – he isn’t a great defensive player at any position, which makes him hard to envision in any role other than DH or LF. The position where he has played the most is not an option, as Kendry Morales will be the incumbent there for a long time to come and Mark’s skills there are sub-standard.

So why did I put him on this list? Well, when you put out 32 HRs in HiA/AA in one season (2008) and a;so knock out 35 doubles, steal 8 bases, and maintain a half-respectable average, you start to get interesting. Last season was an improvement for Mark on three fronts – he made much better consistent contact which brought his average up to .291, maintained his strike out rate at 18% (he apparently hates to strike out) even though he played the entire season in AA, and he maintained his doubles/speed numbers with 35/6 respectively. He also added RF to his defensive repertoire where he did not make an error, while still maintaining the majority of his playing time at 1B where he seemed to get a little better defensively (.990 fielding percentage).

What bothers most people about Mark is not only the fact that his HR totals dropped from 32 to 15 in 2009, but also that he is getting older and is progressing so slowly through the minors. However, this is not that big an issue in my opinion, as he started the year in AAA having turned 24 years old in January and is the 3rd youngest position player on the team, only behind Hank Conger (22) and Peter Bourjos (23). He started 2010 off very well, leads the team with 3 HRs, and is staying true to form with a .289 average, .319 OBP, and .533 SLG thus far in 45 ABs.

The reasons I like Mark a lot are that he has power, hates to strike out (which bodes well for his work ethic), has power to ALL fields, and is consistently below average with some numbers. If a team likes what they see and can stand having a slightly below OBP, they can get a lot of good performances out of Mark Trumbo. Do I believe it will be with the LAA? Probably not, as he’ll most likely be traded, claimed in a Rule 5 draft, or through waivers. But, I definitely believe he is good enough to provide a team with a good amount of power (25-30 HRs) while also driving in a ton of runs. He may never hit above .260 in MLB, but even if he turns out to be a Josh Willingham style OF player, he’ll still be an asset to an MLB team.

If you’re looking for an end of draft pickup and have a spot open for an OF/1B player, pick Mark up, he could surprise some and turn out to hit for average which would make him a regular on most clubs. If you’re an Angels fan, you have to believe that he and/or Bourjos will be pushing their way onto the bench in Los Angeles at some point in 2011, and have to feel reassured that they could come up and fill in if injuries occur.

Here’s a video of Mark knocking out a couple of hits.

That does it for this week’s list of OTL prospects to watch in 2010. I hope you enjoyed it and that these players do well for you if you’re a fan of these teams or if you invest in them in fantasy circles.

You can catch my April 13th OTL edition here, where I looked at Riaan Spanjer-Furstenburg, Drew Cumberland, SS SD, Joe Benson, OF MIN, and David Lough, OF KC.

You can catch my April 6th OTL edition here, where I looked at Dallas Keuchel LHP HOU, Heitor Correa RHP PHI, David Phelps RHP NYY, and Ricky Orta RHP SEA.

The Inaugural edition can be found here, and had Carlso Perez C TOR, Nick Ciolli OF CHW, Hector Gomez SS COL, and Lance Lynn SP STL within it.

Mat Germain – Call to The Pen: On The Level (OTL) – Jays Journal

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Topics: Caleb Gindl, Edgar Olmos, Mark Trumbo, TJ House

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