Archive for December, 2008

For the Baseball Junkies…

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

MLB NetworkJust a quick reminder folks, you may have seen this before, but remember, the new MLB Network debuts on New Year’s Day at 6 pm (EST) and they’ll re-broadcast Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series at 7.

It should be a great way to raise the profile of the sport, especially because unlike NFL Network, which has had a hard time partnering with some cable operators, MLB Network will debut in 50 million homes. 24/7 baseball. Should be fun. By the way, they have a studio up in Secacaus.

For the Cablevision folks: 149 and 790 (high definition).
For the Comcast folks: 280 (if someone can find the HD channel on Comcast, please pass it along)
For the DirectTV folks: 213 (standard and high definition)

More Top Ten Notes, Bowl Update

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

Baseball America releases their top ten Phillies Prospects on Monday, and let’s take a look at some of the pitchers that could be included on the 2009 list. We’ll look at the hitters over the next few days.

Early indications are that the majority of the top ten, in the Phillies case, will be position players. Remember, Matt Maloney (BlueClaws 2006) and Josh Outman (2006) were both in the top ten in recent years but both have been traded.

Carlos Carrasco (1.72 ERA over 6 starts in AAA last year): Carrasco started the year in Reading and earned a promotion to Triple-A. He started the Futures Game last year too, and will be #1 on the list for the third straight year. He has a chance to hold the #1 spot for four years, depending on how well he does in spring training. Expect him to get a look with the big club this year, but it might not come until the second half of the season.

Andrew Carpenter (5.67 ERA over 16 starts in AA last year): Carpenter, drafted in the 2nd round in 2006, skipped over Lakewood. Despite his struggles in AA, he did throw a good game in AAA at the end of the season. The Long Beach State product has been consistently mentioned in media reports that he’ll be in the mix for the 5th starter spot with the big club, but he’s the longest shot of the group also including Chan-Ho Park, Carrasco, Kyle Kendrick, and JA Happ. He went from 17 to 9 last year and will be somewhere around there this year.

Joe Savery (4.13 ERA over 27 starts in Hi-A last year): A first-round pick in 2007 out of Rice, Savery spent all of 2008 in Clearwater and is on track for a big league debut sometime in 2010. He debuted on the BA list at #3 last year, and his 2008 season was pretty good. He did stay healthy and start every five days, which is relevant. A preventive surgery was one of the reasons why he fell to the Phillies in the late part of round one in the first place. The Phillies bucked a trend of taking raw, projectable high school pitchers, so they like him. I would say top 6 or so.

Kyle Drabek (injured): Drabek did come back and have a strong Hawaiian Winter League. #2 and #5 on this list the last two years, even with the injury, he performed well enough in Hawaii to stay up on the list. The question is where does he go from here? He got hurt in Lakewood in 2007, and the former first-rounder could be back in the beginning of 2009. Not impossible.

Drew Naylor (4.85 ERA over 13 starts in Hi-A last year): Naylor earned a promotion from Lakewood where he had a sub-3 ERA. The 4.85 doesn’t look so good but he only allowed 8 runs in his last 35 innings in Clearwater. He was #29 last year. He’ll move up, but probably not enough to make the top ten.

Julian Sampson (4.33 ERA over 25 starts in Lo-A last year): He moved himself up from #19 last year. He’ll be close to the back end of the top ten list. Remember, he had a 7.33 ERA in April last year, and really finished the season strong. Another high school, projectable arm, he’ll likely go to Clearwater in 2009. I’ll say just outside the top ten, however.

JA Happ (3.60 over 24 games in AAA last year): Happ also had a 3.69 ERA over 31 innings with the big club. He’s only thrown 35 innings and it doesn’t appear he’s been on the roster for more than 25 days. So I believe he has rookie eligibility and thus will be included on this list. He improved last year, and either he or Kendrick lead the way in the race for the 5th starter. Happ was in AAA in 2007 and 2008, and last year he took a huge step forward in WHIP (1.21 vs 1.52), Ks/9 (10.1 vs 8.9), BBs/9 (3.2 vs 4.7), Hits/9 (7.7 vs 9), and thus ERA (3.60 vs 5.02). If he’s eligible I think he’s on the list.

Bowl Update: Last night Jason Jaramillo’s Oklahoma St Cowboys lost to Oregon and Ben Pfinsgraff’s Maryland Terapins beat Nevada.

Today in the Sun Bowl, Andrew Baldwin (2005) and Michael Stutes (2008), Oregon State alums, watch their team play Pitt, alma mater of 2004 BlueClaws Nick Evangelista, in the Sun Bowl.

We have two former BlueClaws on one team playing today: Kansas. Gus Milner (2007) and Mike Zagurski (2006) are both alums. The Jayhawks take on Minnesota in the Insight Bowl.

Also today, Kevin Shepard (2004) watches his Boston College Eagles take on Vandy in the Music City Bowl.

Tonight, before the ball drops, Jeremy Slayden’s (2006) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets meet LSU, alma mater of fellow 2006 BlueClaw Clay Harris, in the Peach Bowl.

There are more tomorrow.

Top Ten Notes, Bowl Update

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Baseball America releases their list of the top ten Phillies prospects on Monday. Before we look forward, let’s look back. Here are their rankings of the top Phils prospects the last two years.

2008
1. Carlos Carrasco, RHP
2. Adrian Cardenas, 2B
3. Joe Savery, LHP
4. Josh Outman, LHP
5. Kyle Drabek, RHP
6. Dominic Brown, OF
7. Greg Golson, OF
8. Lou Marson, C
9. Drew Carpenter, RHP
10. Jason Jaramillo, C

2007
1. Carlos Carrasco, RHP
2. Kyle Drabek, RHP
3. Adrian Cardenas, 2B
4. Edgar Garcia, RHP
5. Scott Mathieson, RHP
6. Josh Outman, LHP
7. Michael Bourn, OF
8. JA Happ, LHP
9. Matt Maloney, LHP
10. Greg Golson, OF

Obviously a lot of these guys either slipped back, used up their prospect status, got injured, or are no longer with the organization. These lists are free flowing and really just an educated guess at one moment in time, but that’s the best you can do. In the case of the Phillies 2009 list, I think we can safely say Carrasco will top the list, but beyond that, that’s a tough call.

Looking at the list from 2008, Cardenas, Outman, Golson, and Jaramillo are all out of the organization, traded in various deals in the last six months. Michael Taylor, who was not ranked this year, exploded and is probably in the top ten. Jason Donald was ranked 15th last year, he’s probably in the top ten after an outstanding 2008, including the Fall League. We’ll have more in the coming days including our Q&A with Baseball America editor John Manuel, who made the Phillies list.

JA Happ and Dan Brauer’s Northwestern Wildcats lost a tough game last night, 30-23 in overtime to Missouri in the Alamo Bowl.

Two more, unofficially, today: Ben Pfinsgraff’s Maryland Terapins take on Nevada in the Humanitarian Bowl (on the blue field). And tonight, Jason Jaramillo’s Oklahoma State Cowboys meet Oregon in the Holiday Bowl.

Several more tomorrow. Enjoy.

Couple of Things…

Monday, December 29th, 2008

We’ve mentioned before that 2005 BlueClaws pitcher JA Happ will be at the Winter Tour in two weeks (where you can get your picture taken with the World Series trophy). This begs the question, actually it doesn’t, but play along…What is JA Happ doing tonight? Happ, along with 2006 BlueClaws pitcher Dan Brauer, will probably be watching their school, Northwestern, in tonight’s Alamo Bowl against Missouri.

We’ve built a small database of former BlueClaws and their schools and we’ll follow along during the bowl season. There are a couple of more tomorrow. We’ll check in tomorrow morning with some stuff for the Phillies Top Ten prospect list that Baseball America releases next week along with those names (hint: Maryland, Oklahoma State, pitcher, catcher)

The tremendous video that was our Video of the Week, posted Sunday, was from the 1949 movie “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” and yes, that was Frank Sinatra singing along with Gene Kelly.

This has nothing to do with the BlueClaws or Phillies but I thought it was great and wanted to share it here. I saw this on ESPN’s Outside the Lines last Sunday. Two young men in India won a contest, similar to American Idol, where they got the opportunity to come to the US and train with the goal of signing a professional baseball contract as pitchers here in the States. Sure enough, they made it, signing with the Pirates, despite neither one having ever seen a baseball game prior to entering. Pittsburgh has a SAL affiliate in West Virginia, and who knows, maybe they make it up to the SAL this year, though more likely, if they’re good enough, it would be next year. Either way it’s a great, and fascinating story. Enjoy.

Q&A: Chance Chapman (Part Two)

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Here’s part two of our Q&A with 2008 BlueClaws pitcher Chance Chapman. For part one, click here.  

Question: Who was the best hitter you faced in college?

Chance Chapman: There were quite a few. Our coach lined us up against some good teams. it’s hard to put a name on the best, but Texas, Cal, Long Beach State, Wichita State, all had some great hitters. Tyler Mach of Oklahoma State (who the Phillies drafted) was definately one of the toughest.

Q: Describe your game.

CC: More finesse. I’m not a power pitcher. I’m around 88 or so with a lot of movement, sinking fastball, cutting fastball, slider, and a changeup. I need to hit my spots to keep the hitter off balance. I like to work inside and outside a lot.

Q: Was there a pitcher you grew up watching that you tried to mold your game after?

CC: My favorite pitcher growing up was Randy Johnson, but of course our games are nothing alike. Brandon Webb is a guy a try to be like. We have similar type of stuff and velocity, and he wins 20 games a year in the big leagues.

Q: Take us through draft day.

CC: My senior year, I basically talked with every team’s area scout. They projected me between the 10th and 14th rounds, or so. That’s where I was expected to go, but the Phillies picked me in the 8th round. I was really excited. I know they have a good organization. I know they like to home grow a lot of their guys, so it’s a great organization to be a part of.

Q: Who called you?

CC: The scout called me, Paul Scott. I met him once my senior year. He called me the night before and asked about how I felt. I told him I was excited. Then draft day he said “Congrats, we drafted you. Take a few days to celebrate and we’ll talk.” He flew out to California, which was nice, to meet with me personally and sign the papers.

Q: What are your goals for 2009?

CC: Just to start in Clearwater and make it to Reading during the year. I’m not sure what the Phillies have in store for me. I’ve talked with Gorm (Heimueller, pitching coodinator) quite a bit, and they think I’ll be a long reliever if I were to make it to the big leagues, so I want to make the transition from a starter to a reliever.

Q: Off-season training?

CC: I have a pretty rigorous training schedule. Right when we ended I rested my arm, started playing catch after Thanksgiving, and I’ve been swimming, running, and lifting just about every day.

Video of the Week

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

Enjoy. Who can name this movie?

Baseball Prospectus Top Eleven

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

Baseball ProspectusBaseball America releases their list of the top ten Phillies prospects on Monday, January 5th. For the next few days we’ll build up to that release, including a chat with the man who makes the list, Baseball America editor John Manuel.  

To get us started, Baseball Prospectus released their annual look at the top prospects in the Phillies system. This is as much as you get as a non-subscriber. Please note that numbers 1 thru 8 are all former BlueClaws, while Collier, Knapp, and Hewitt all played at lower levels last year and have good chances to be in Lakewood on April 9th.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Carlos Carrasco, RHP
Four-Star Prospects
2. Michael Taylor, RF
3. Kyle Drabek, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
4. Travis D’Arnaud, C
5. Lou Marson, C
6. Jason Donald, SS
7. Dominic Brown, OF
8. J.A. Happ, RHP
9. Zach Collier, RF
10. Jason Knapp, RHP
11. Anthony Hewitt, 3B

Just Missed: Travis Mattair, 3B; Drew Naylor, RHP; Joe Savery, LHP

Q&A: Chance Chapman (Part One)

Friday, December 26th, 2008

Chance ChapmanDrafted in the 8th round of the 2007 draft, Chance Chapman began his pro career with Williamsport of the NY-Penn League before joining the BlueClaws for 2008. While with Lakewood, he posted a 2.98 ERA, the best for any Phillies starter in their minor league system, though poor run support led to just a 7-7 record. Training in California, last week he took some time to talk about his 2008 season and more.  

Question: Having spent four years in college, you were one of the older players on the team. Did you try to establish a leadership role as one of the veterans?

Chance Chapman: I tried to with some of the younger guys, since they didn’t have as much experience. It wasn’t new to me, since I was a captain my senior year of college and I was older than most of my college teammates too.

Q: Is it harder to lead as a pitcher compared to an everyday player?

CC: It didn’t feel that way. You can lead every day, in the clubhouse or in the dugout, helping them out with advice or certian situations.

Q: You got pretty close to going to the College World Series at Oral Roberts?

CC: Yea, we lost at Clemson two games to none. Originally, I was going to be the game three starter. It was really tough. We were ahead in game two and I was going to pitch in relief to close the game, but the lead was big enough were they decided to save me for game three. Then we ended up losing the lead and the game.

Q: This past year, eight times in 22 starts, you had two runs or less. How tough was that?

CC: Not too bad. Baseball is a funny game. Runs come at funny times. I was concerned with putting our team in a position to win the game. That’s what I felt my job was to do. Whether we won or lost, I tried not to let it frustrate me too much.

Q: Was having significant experience against metal bats an advantage moving into the professional ranks?

CC: I would say yes. Playing at the D1 level, some of those guys can hit very well, especially with the metal bats. I had to learn to make good pitches and quality pitches, knowing that mistakes are getting hit. It does prepare you for pro ball quite well.

Q: What do you think of metal bats?

CC: Well, from a pitcher standpoint, you’d want them outlawed. Some guys can get a hit on a pitch with a metal bat that breaks a wood bat. Outlawing them, it’s very very expensive, because there are so many players and programs. But for me, it made me a better pitcher. 

Stay tuned for part two.

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Merry Christmas from the Lakewood BruceClaws.

Where can I get that hat Stevie is wearing?

What Are the Players Doing?

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Mantle and BerraLisa Winston at MiLB.com has penned a great article about minor league players trying to make a few extra bucks during the off-season. People might not realize it, but the players only get paid during the baseball season, and that money might not top $15,000 for the year.

After all, Yogi Berra spent an off-season as head waiter at a restaurant on The Hill, the Italian section of St. Louis. Mickey Mantle worked in the mines. Here’s a 20-year old NY Times article that notes Casey Stengal drove a taxi, Carl Furillo ran a deli, and Walter Johnson dug holes for the Idaho Telephone Company, all to pay the bills in the off-season.

Q&A: Julian Sampson (Part Two)

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Here’s part two of our Q&A with 2008 BlueClaws pitcher Julian Sampson. Click here for part one.

Question: Were the Phillies pleased with your 2008?

Julian Sampson: They said I showed great improvement and they were happy with the way I handled myself on that level. They said to come back strong and I have a chance for a rotation spot in Clearwater next year.

Q: What did you work on in the instructional league?

JS: They wanted me to work on finding more consistency with the off-speed pitches. They just changed me to a slider from my curveball and I did a lot of work with my straight change-up, which I was working on the last month and a half of the season.

Q: What’s your day like during instructional ball?

JS: We’d go there and throw two innings every five days. Just get your work in on the little things. We’d film ourselves pitching and go over it with the coaches. Things like that. I learned a lot.

Q: What are your goals for 2009?

JS: I’d like to get a spot in the Clearwater rotation. I want to have a good start, a good April. Last year was kind of rocky. But I know what to expect now, and how long the season goes. I want to improve my off-speed pitches and throw them for strikes in any count.

Q: Is the length of the season a big adjustment?

JS: You can feel it. You’re really worn out by the end. But you have to fight through it. Right now I can relax but you really have to push yourself at the end of the season.

Q: Will you work out with (Phillies pitcher) Adam Eaton this year like last year (Sampson lives in Sammamish, Washington, close to Eaton’s off-season home)?

JS: We’re going to start playing catch pretty soon. He lives five minutes from me. It’s cool. You can talk to him about what he’s going through. He signed out of high school and he told me how he went through the system. He was in the same boat I was. He worked his tail off to earn the promotions.

Q: What are you doing in the off-season to say in shape?

JS: I wake up every morning and go lift, five or six days a week, and get some type of cardio in each day. Then later in the day, starting this week, I’m going to throw 2-3 days a week, and gradually progress up to six days a week. Right now, 90 feet, light tossing, just fastballs and a fwe change-ups to get the feel for it.

Q: What did you like most about your time in Lakewood?

JS: Having that crowd every night was tremendous. They come out every night. Those busrides are tough. When you’re just getting back and five in the morning from a 13-hour busride, you’re exhausted. You go sleep and go back to the ballpark, you’re dragging. But when the lights go on and the fans are there you get excited again.

Baseball Video of the Week

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

Enjoy.

Down on the Boardwalk (and Park Place)

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

Phillies MonopolyIt is rather amazing how many versions of the legendary, educational game Monopoly there are. They keep churning them out, like Phillies World Series Champions Monopoly, now available in the ClawsCove.

How can you not love Bass Fishing Monopoly, America’s National Parks Monopoly, Chronicles of Narnia Monopoly, Elvis Monopoly, Golf Monopoly, I Love Lucy Monopoly, Coca-Cola Monopoly, New York City Monopoly, Night Sky Monopoly, Nintendo Monopoly, Pirates of the Caribbean Monopoly, Planet Earth Monopoly, Shrek Monopoly, and Wizard of Oz Monopoly? This is a partial list, by the way.

Did you know by the way, that Monopoly now has credit cards instead of Monopoly Money? Stop trying to take the apple out of apple pie!

Q&A: Julian Sampson (Part One)

Friday, December 19th, 2008

Julian SampsonDrafted in the 12th round in the 2007 draft, Julian Sampson (stats here) spent just a few weeks in the Gulf Coast League in 2007 before the season ended and spent his first significant time in the minors with the BlueClaws in 2008. A native of Sammamish, Washington, Sampson spent some time to talk to BlueClaws Blog last week.  

Question: You didn’t bring much experience (two innings) into 2008, so what was your first full year of pro ball like?

Julian Sampson: It was a lot harder than I thought, especially jumping from high school. It was a big learning experience, more than anything. It was real tough at first, getting used to all the good hitters. There was maybe a real good hitter or two in a high school lineup. But here there were entire lineups of good hitters.

Q: You signed late. How close were you to going to the University of Washington?

JS: I signed on the deadline. It was real close for me. It all just came down to what I wanted to do, and I wanted to start my pro career earlier rather than later. I think I made the right decision.

Q: If you had gone to school, you can’t play pro ball for three years. Did that impact your decision?

JS: A little bit. In three years, so much can happen to you, especially with injuries. You just don’t know. If you could go out in one year it would be a whole different story and there would be a lot more people going to school for one year.

Q: You had a bit of a rough stretch at the beginning of the year. Were you concerned about getting sent down at the end of April?

JS: I was kind of worried about my spot in the rotation, but it did give me motivation to work harder and figure it all out. I had a really good May and it really helped.

Q: What adjustments did you make?

JS: It was more mental than mechanical. It was just learning how to pitch and getting used to the hitters and learning how to pitch inside. I’d been relying on my fastball and got away with it, but I had to get used to throwing my change-up and curveball for strikes.

Q: You caught a line drive to the rib cage and missed a few weeks. Take us through that experience.

JS: I threw the pitch, it was right down the middle, so I knew it would be hit hard. The way the hitter swung, it looked like it was coming up the middle, and I was in an awkward position with no chance of getting out of the way. I turned to take it in the ribs rather than the stomach. I couldn’t breathe for what felt like five minutes. I was in a lot of pain.

Q: Did you think about that when you went back on the mound?

JS: It’s in the back of your mind. I think about it every now and then, especially if the ball comes back up the middle. It’s just something you try to forget about so it doesn’t affect you.

In part two, we’ll talk about Sampson’s progress through the 2008 season, his goals from 2009, his work with Adam Eaton, his time in Lakewood, and much more.