Apparently, the long chain of Chris Snelling injuries didn’t begin in 2002 when Mariners’ 3rd-base coach Dave Myers told the then-20-year-old Aussie to put the breaks on, or even in 2000 when he broke his hand playing in the minors. The Free-Lance Star chronicles Snelling’s bizarre injury history as he prepares to battle for an outfield job in the other Washington this spring.
Chris Kline over at Baseball America has done yoeman’s work over the past 12 months or so in improving American sports media’s coverage of international signings by leaps and bounds. Last year, Kline surveyed a number of Latin American scouting directors and published a preliminary list of top names for the upcoming signing season – sending prospect junkies and hardcore fans into a frenzy daydreaming about their team’s next great Latin American (or Asian, or Australian) phenom.
Kline’s coverage starts early this year, in a blurb in his latest prospect pulse (subscriber only – sorry) . In it, he mentions 3 Dominican outfielders generating buzz as teams start formulating opinions and priorities in ancipation of July 2, 2007. The first names to remember: Ricardo Garcia, Itaniel Guzman, and Anderson Pujols (no clue if there’s any relation).
Kline also reports that he’s hearing the two Boston signees, Angel Beltre and Oscar Tejeda, along with Venezuelan Yankees’ signee Jose Pirela, are widely considered the best hauls/values of last year’s signing period. I’ve heard similar things about Beltre, who has been universally praised by everyone I’ve spoken to.
As exciting as it is to have real coverage of the international talent pool, we should remember that the whole process, while slightly more reliable than throwing darts blindfolded at sticky notes on a wall, is pretty much a crapshoot. This guy signed for $500,000 with the Cubs in 2002, and put together a .525 minor league OPS over 3 seasons before the team decided to try converting him to the mound in ’04. This one was an $800,000 signing just 3 years ago. This guy looks likely to resurrect his career as a relief pitcher after signing a bonus north of $700,000 to play third base in the late ’90s. And of course, the jury’s still out on this kid, inked to the largest bonus ($710,000) given to a pitcher in 2005, but initial results don’t look too hot (the Brewers are still cautiously optimistic).
Has Latin American scouting somehow gotten better in the past few years? Doubtful. The same guys are still in control of the budgets, and player development has not gotten any better regulated since teams handed out those contracts. It’s much more likely that the international scouting game is every bit the educated crapshoot it’s always been, and most (if not all) of the players who have become household names among their teams’ most dedicated fans thanks to unprecedented exposure will become colossal disappointments.
But as one of my sparetime activities, I did my first open water dive today since getting scuba certified in December. After intending for a week to get out in the water but being delayed by an unfortunately timed sickness, I finally decided clear sinuses be damned. It was totally worth it. I went with longtime friend Jeff Shaw, a Fulbright scholar to Okinawa who some may recognize as a contributor to USSMariner, and Jeff’s friend Otis, who works for this totally awesome dive company (you know, in case anyone’s ever in Okinawa and looking for someone to take them out diving). You can check out photos over at Jeff’s blog. Some cool videos, and a pretty sweet still of me balancing a sea cucumber on my nose.
I’m running the risk of becoming completely addicted to scuba – a hobby I can’t currently afford to do more than once or twice. As Jeff noted, it’s the closest either of us will ever come to visiting another planet. Neutral buoyoncy is also probably the closest I’ll ever get to experiencing weighlessness, unless A) commercial space travel becomes anywhere near affordable in my lifetime or B) I somehow manage to get an honorary invitation to test out the Vomit Comet.
With apologies to Jeff, who gets full credit for snapping the photo, I’ve gotta post this shot, where I finally (albeit briefly) caught up to the Hawksbill Turtle we’d been following for about 5 minutes.
21-year-old Arismendy Arias, formerly known as 19-year-old Jose Luis Arias.
Credit: Hector Acevedo
Lastings Milledge Facts. Perhaps most impressive: after seeing how many of these “facts” there are, one would naturally expect the site to devolve into ripping off Bill Brasky one-liners. Nope. These guys are 100% original.
Good for at least a smirk or two, and maybe even a couple full-fledged chortles.
For what it’s worth, Miguel Tejada no longer considers himself a home run hitter, preferring to rack up hits in pursuit of a high batting average. He’s been working hard to improve his hitting the other way as opposed to swinging for the fences, he told the Listin Diario.
Keep in mind “I’m not a home run hitter” was the yearly mantra of Ken Griffey, Jr. during all of his 50+hr seasons in which the pursuit of 61 was a legitimate possibility. However, a once in a generation stud in the middle of his prime with a perfect home run swing and mammoth natural power humbly saying he’s not a home run hitter feels a little different than an…ahem…31 year old SS who once had 35hr power and now has 25hr power saying he’s no longer about hitting the long ball.
If Tejada’s preference translates into a significant dip in power, it will be more dismal news for Oriole fans who are already suffering through the rapid declines of Melvin Mora and Javy Lopez and appear ready to take what projects to be a pretty lengthy turn as the new whipping boys of the AL East.
Greetings from Okinawa! I haven’t really gotten used to the fact that I’m half a world away from where I was about 72 hours ago yet, so I’ll probably be putting that ! in whenever I mention the name of the Japanese prefecture for awhile. Okinawa! It’s tough to say without getting excited.
This one slid under my radar, which is why we’re so fortunate to have guys like the Taiwanese Terror combing news feeds and milking inside connections to bring us the latest news from the Pacific Rim. The Colorado Rockies have inked a 6’4″ Taiwanese pitcher named Sheng-An Kuo, who’s apparently a former high school teammate of current maddeningly talented but underperforming Rockies’ prospect Ching-Lung Lo. According to the TT, Kuo received a bonus somewhere between $150-200k.
As a Mariners fan it pains me to admit it, but the Rockies probably have the best overall international scouting department in the majors. Well, at least right now. The Ms cast a wider net more effectively, leaving no stone unturned by scouting places like the Netherlands, Italy, South Africa, and apparently El Salvador, but the Rockies cast a relatively wide net while boasting a VERY successful Latin American program (without spending huge money) to give them some of the best depth in international talent in the minors.
I want to say the track record for highly touted Taiwanese pitchers the last few years isn’t that great, and their injury rate tends to be pretty high, but not paying all that close attention to the couple dozen Taiwanese players in the minors, don’t hold me to it if it turns out I don’t know what I’m talking about.
Latino Sports has released their end-of-year awards for Latino baseball players, voted on by the press corps at the Caribbean Series. Not too many surprises in any of the categories.
AL: David Ortiz
NL: Albert Pujols
Pitcher of the year
AL: Johan Santana
NL: Carlos Zambrano
Rookie of the Year
AL: Melky Cabrera (I voted Francisco Liriano)
NL: Hanley Ramirez
Relief Pitcher of the Year
AL: Mariano Rivera (I voted K-Rod)
NL: Salomon Torres
The Mexican team actually played a decent game in this one, behind the solid if unspectacular pitching of former Florida, Texas, and San Francisco journeyman Michael Tejera. Unfortunately for them, the Dominican team was just too good. The player of the game for the Dominican Republic was Jose Fernandez, who hit a home run and a double.
Not a whole lot of craziness to report today. El Aguilita only dressed up in one crazy costume, which I can’t even begin to explain here, nobody was injured or ejected. You’ve gotta admire these Mexican fans for showing up every single day and staying in the game until the last out given the way there team has played all week.
This will be my last update from the Caribbean series. I’ll stay through part of the Puerto Rico/Venezuela game, but I have to go home and pack. Pack for where you ask? Okinawa! That’s right, the next time I check in, I’ll be covering the Japanese league’s spring training in the Ryuku Islands.
Okinawa is controlled by but ethnically distinct from Japan: Okinawans practice their own religion, speak their own language (of which I speak not a word) and are geographically located closer to Taiwan than Japan. I have very little idea what to expect, but it should be a blast.
Pitcher Serguey Linares signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates this week for a bonus reported to be around $125,000.
When Linares tried out in front of dozens of scouts in the Dominican Republic last July, he was hyped more than fellow Cuban defectors Yohannis Perez and Yoslan Herrera despite worse stats than Herrera in the Cuban league. However, the 23-year-old righthander failed to impress at that outing. He was reputed to hit 97-98mph with his fastball, but at the tryout he was sitting at 85-86. Food poisoning was blamed, and he has since been reported to be both back up to his previous velocity and down to 90-91 at various tryouts. In any case, this is not a bad low risk, high reward signing for Pittsburgh, who also signed Herrera to a $1.95 million major league contract last year.
Supposedly Linares was previously signed by the Red Sox for a bonus in the neighborhood of $450,000, but the contract was voided for some reason. I don’t have any details on why.
Photo Credits: Natali Torres
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