The SnakePit Hatchlings Report: Prospects 6-10 w/ Esmerling Vasquez

Today while watching the D-Backs once again trounce the Mets, I was stunned to see Esmerling Vasquez's stats appear when he came on for the eighth and ninth innings.  His ERA is now well below 4 at a shining 3.72 after tonight's two scoreless frames, and this is despite starting the season with a 6.91 ERA by May 26.  So I looked up his numbers since then, and found that in that span, he has pitched 24.1 innings, allowed 18 hits and 10 walks (this is the most important number) for a 1.15 WHIP, allowed 4 runs, all earned, for an ERA of 1.49, and struck out 21 for a 2.1:1 K/BB ratio.  For all that people have been talking about Jon Rauch's run of success and recent tears from guys like Mark Reynolds, Kangaroo Trent Oeltjen, and Ryan Roberts, it's been easy to pass over the run that Esmerling has had.  So, with this edition of the Hatchlings Report, featuring SS/2B Mark Hallberg, LHP Daniel Schlereth, RHP Cesar Valdez, OF Evan Frey, and LHP Patrick McAnaney, I'll also take a look at Vasquez's rise through the minor leagues into the majors.  Rankings credited to Scout.com.

Another subplot - I've downloaded the Geico "Somebody's Watching Me" song (off of geico.com) from the commercial with the stack of money with the googly-eyes, and plan on listening to it for the entire time I write this (because it's awesome).  It's race to see what comes first - me finishing, or me dancing around the house screaming "SOMEBODY'S WATCHING ME!!!"  We'll see.

#10 (ranked #4 by Baseball America) - SS/2B Mark Hallberg.  Born December 9, 1985.  23 years old.  Drafted in the 9th round in 2007 by Arizona.  The Baseball Cube ratings - Power: 41 / Speed: 65 / Contact: 99 / Patience: 71.

2009 Stats: AA-Mobile

AA-Mobile - 107 games, .269 BA, .329 OBP, .341 SLG, .670 OPS (average Southern League OPS: .715), 35 K, 27 BB (1.3:1 K/BB ratio), .072 ISO, 9.0% K-Rate, 6.9% BB-Rate, .295 BABIP.

2008 Stats: Hi-A Visalia

Hi-A Visalia - 69 games, .283 BA, .357 OBP, .368 SLG, .725 OPS (average California League OPS: .752), 28 K, 30 BB (1:1.1 K/BB ratio), .085 ISO, 9.3% K-Rate, 9.9% BB-Rate, .303 BABIP.

2007 Stats: Low-A Yakima

Low-A Yakima - 58 games, .313 BA, .384 OBP, .464 SLG, .848 OPS (average Northwest League OPS: .730), 21 K, 22 BB (~1:1 K/BB ratio), .151 ISO, 8.2% K-Rate, 8.6% BB-Rate, .318 BABIP.

Hallberg came into the season as probably the top infield prospect in the system (scout.com has Josh Whitesell fifth...  debatable), and while he hasn't had a dazzling season, there isn't one statistic that has ballooned or fallen off the table enough to suggest that it isn't an issue that another year of development and starting next season in AA, possibly for a mid-season promotion to Reno (or an aggressive assignment to Reno to start the season and get him to hitter-frieldy confines), cannot fix.  The strikeouts stayed remarkably low.  His power output dropped slightly due to the transition from the hitter-friendly, Hi-A-level California League to the humid, AA-level Southern League, commonly thought to be the most difficult minor-league jump to make.  His walk-rate has slightly dipped, but not enough to set off any major alarms, and is to be expected with the more advanced pitching found in AA.  As long as he keeps those strikeouts as sparse as he has been able to, he'll remain a top prospect due to natural BABIP odds.  Evidence that Hallberg is getting the hang of AA - his last ten games, he is 13-38 (.342) with 2 doubles, 4 RBI, 3:3 K:BB, and 3 SB (0 CS).  That gives him a line of .342/.390/.395, and an OPS of .785.  Nothing that has us expecting Hallberg playing everyday in the majors in the next two years, but certainly not a major step back or stumbling block in his progression.

 

*Who's watchin'?......  Who's watchin'?.......*


#9 (ranked #3 according to Baseball America) - LHP Daniel Schlereth.  Born May 9, 1986.  23 years old.  Drafted in the 1st round (26th overall) in 2008 by Arizona.  The Baseball Cube ratings - Control: 8 / K-Rating: 100 / Efficiency: 87.

2009 Stats: Split between AA-Mobile and MLB-Arizona (currently in Arizona)

AA-Mobile - 21 games in relief, 26.2 IP, 1.01 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 39 K, 16 BB (2.4:1 K/BB ratio), 13.2 K/9IP, 5.4 BB/9IP.

MLB-Arizona - 6 games in relief, 4.2 IP, 9.64 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 7 K, 3 BB (2.3:1 K/BB ratio), 13.5 K/9IP, 5.8 BB/9IP.

2008 Stats: Split between Rookie-level Missoula and Mid-A South Bend

Rookie-level Missoula - 3 games in relief, 3.0 IP, 0 ER, 1.67 WHIP, 6 K, 2 BB (3:1 K/BB ratio), 18.0 K/9IP, 6.0 BB/9IP.

Mid-A South Bend - 7 games in relief, 9.0 IP, 2.00 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 14 K, 4 BB (3.5:1 K/BB ratio), 14.0 K/9IP, 4.0 BB/9IP.

Well this is where things get interesting.  Another situation that the organization handled horrendously, IMO.  Schlereth was picked in the first round of the draft out of college.  Players who are taken so early as relief pitchers after three seasons of polish in the college-ranks are supposed to be making major-league impact the year they are drafted.  What did Schlereth prove by throwing twelve innings in Rookie-ball and Mid-A?  If you really don't feel he's ready for the Big Show, put him in AAA, or, at the very least, AA, so that you can have him starting in AAA against decent competition this season as the guy to step in to a major-league bullpen role in case of struggles or injuries, rather than having him use AA hitters as living strike zone practice.  Have you seen Schlereth's stuff?  That's a plus-plus power curve he's throwing out there from 80-82.  The kid could have handled it.  Anybody could have told you that he was a man pitching to boys in Rookie-ball and Mid-A.  Big-league stuff like Schlereth's doesn't belong at that level.  Then, you also have to factor in the fact that Schlereth isn't going to last long, as his delivery violence is on the wrong side of the meter.  He recently discovered that he has an extra pair of ribs (fun fact) as he was recovering from a rib strain that recently shelved him in AA, and he had a significant medical bill at U of A.  He's got absolutely toxic, big-league closer's stuff, but it's not going to be there for long.  Yes, there are control and walk hiccups, but the kid belongs in the majors.  Nevermind years of control, how about worrying about whether or not the kid can get experience against the real deal so that he can be a shut-down bullpen option when we need him?  There's no sense in keeping him in Mobile (Mobile? not even Reno?) putting up an ERA just over 1 and a WHIP of 1.12.  While Scott Schoenweis has a very valid, very tragic reason for not performing up to his career standards this season, the fact remains that Schlereth is better option for us than Scott, and is also a left-handed pitcher, hence not leaving us with just Clay Zavada as a left-handed bullpen option.  A funny thought now that Schlereth is back and Schoenweis has taken a leave from the team - both of the left-handed pitchers in our bullpen started out the season in AA.  Great game, this baseball.

 

*I always feel like....*

 

#8 (ranked #7 according to Baseball America) - RHP Cesar Valdez.  Born March 17, 1985.*  24 years old.* Not Drafted - Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2005 by Arizona.  The Baseball Cube ratings: Control: 97 / K-Rating: 67 / Efficiency: 98.

*Age not certain with Dominican prospects - D.O.B. is according to Dominican papers.

2009 Stats: AAA-Reno

AAA-Reno - 15 games started, 1 game in relief, 86.0 IP, 4.60 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 56 K, 27 BB (2.1:1 K/BB ratio), 5.9 K/9IP, 2.8 BB/9IP.

2008 Stats: Split between Hi-A Visalia and AA-Mobile

Hi-A Visalia -15 games started, 96.0 IP, 2.53 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 80 K, 16 BB (5:1 K/BB ratio), 7.5 K/9IP, 1.5 BB/9IP.

AA-Mobile - 12 games started, 64.1 IP, 4.06 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 60 K, 23 BB (2.6:1 K/BB ratio), 8.4 K/9IP, 3.2 BB/9IP.

2007 Stats: Mid-A South Bend

Mid-A South Bend - 25 games started, 148.0 IP, 3.14 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 106 K, 32 BB (3.3:1 K/BB ratio), 6.4 K/9IP, 1.9 BB/9IP.

2006 Stats: Low-A Yakima

Low-A Yakima - 16 games started, 97.0 IP, 3.15 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 81 K, 20 BB (4.1:1 K/BB ratio), 7.5 K/9IP, 1.9 BB/9IP.

2005 Stats: Dominican Summer League (assumption?)

Dominican Summer League (?) - Stats not available.

The first thing to note is that with Valdez's advanced level and time in professional baseball, it's highly unlikely that he's managed to sneak by with false papers for this long, so the age is probably correct.  Now, onto the production.  Cesar Valdez's fastball barely reaches 90, but he's a control artist who relies on good sink on that fastball, a plus-change, and a huge, slow curve that is particularly nasty against righties.  Sound familiar?  Sounds a helluva lot like our very own Doug Davis to me (when Doug is at his best and not walking tons of batters).  The biggest reason why he's had an issue or two this season in Reno has been the increase of his HR/9IP rate by an entire point from last year's rate at Mobile.  But, earlier in the season, Valdez was probably the fourth option (after Petit, Buckner, and Augenstein) to fill in for the rotation, but we just never got around to needing him before he got hurt.  Unfortunately, he hasn't pitched since July 9 (his last three appearances before then included two of his worst and killed his stat line - 4 IP, 5 ER / 5 IP, 9 ER / 5 IP, 2 ER - depending on the injury, which I couldn't find details on, that may be an explanation).  Will compete for a rotation spot to start next season, especially if Webb isn't healthy or retained.  If not next season, he'll probably be ready for a full-time rotation spot in 2011 if he progresses in Reno next season without any setbacks, injury-related or otherwise.  He could stand to have another year in AAA to help re-build his K-Rate up and continue to lower his BB-Rate after it spiked in Mobile in '08, although there has been some progress made in Reno this season, even across the AA-AAA promotion.  A side note - not to beat a dead horse, but it's interesting that Valdez got a promotion to AAA to start this season, but Matt Torra did not, despite Torra playing much better at Mobile in 2008.  Seth Etherton.....  *sigh*

 

*Somebody's watchin' me......*

 

#7 - OF Evan Frey.  Born June 7, 1986.  23 years old.  Drafted in the 10th round in 2007 by Arizona.  The Baseball Cube ratings - Power: 20 / Speed: 80 / Contact: 66 / Patience: 82.

2009 Stats: AA-Mobile

AA-Mobile - 108 games, .256 BA, .338 OBP, .318 SLG, .656 OPS (average Southern League OPS: .715), 72 K, 46 BB (1.6:1 K/BB ratio), .062 ISO, 15.9% K-Rate, 10.2% BB-Rate, .309 BABIP.

2008 Stats: Split between Mid-A South Bend and Hi-A Visalia

Mid-A South Bend - 75 games, .327 BA, .401 OBP, .417 SLG, .818 OPS (average Midwest League OPS: .694), 38 K, 39 BB (~1:1 K/BB ratio), .090 ISO, 10.9% K-Rate, 11.2% BB-Rate, .369 BABIP.

Hi-A Visalia - 56 games, .297 BA, .399 OBP, .402 SLG, .801 OPS (average California League OPS: .752), 46 K, 37 BB (1.2:1 K/BB ratio), .105 ISO, 17.3% K-Rate, 13.9% BB-Rate, .357 BABIP.

2007 Stats: Low-A Yakima

Low-A Yakima - 58 games, .309 BA, .384 OBP, .390 SLG, .774 OPS (average Northwest League OPS: .730), 42 K, 27 BB (1.6:1 K/BB ratio), .081 ISO, 15.4% K-Rate, 9.9% BB-Rate, .373 BABIP.

Frey was considered to jump from being a potential role player to being the future leadoff man and solid center fielder for the D-Backs after a remarkable 2008 season split between South Bend and Visalia, but is currently in the midst of a lackluster season at Mobile that has seen that stock fall back to the former category.  The biggest thing for Frey is that while his BABIP remained steadily in the .360-.370 range in his first two seasons, it has taken a dramatic fall back to earth in AA, compounding the issues created by his decrease in raw power and declining walk rate.  Frey will get the chance to repeat Mobile next season and try to improve upon this season's struggles, but if that BABIP has regressed permanently, he'll struggle to be productive since it will diminish much of his ability to reach base, which is how he is able to take advantage of his speed and instincts in stealing bases (74-105 career in the minor leagues on stolen bases-attempts, a 70.5% mark).  If he can somehow get that to climb back up around .350, Frey will return to being a top prospect, and will be headed for a callup to Reno in very short order.

 

*And I have no privacy.... Ohhhh.....*

 

#6 - Patrick McAnaney.  Born March 11, 1986.  23 years old.  Drafted in the 8th round in 2008 by Arizona.  The Baseball Cube ratings - Control: 92 / K-Rating: 88 / Efficiency: 99.

2009 Stats: Hi-A Visalia

Hi-A Visalia - 23 games started, 119.0 IP, 4.76 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 112 K, 37 BB (3:1 K/BB ratio), 8.5 K/9IP, 2.8 BB/9IP.

2008 Stats: Split between Low-A Yakima and Mid-A South Bend

Low-A Yakima - 6 games started, 3 games in relief, 32.2 IP, 0.55 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 38 K, 13 BB (2.9:1 K/BB ratio), 10.5 K/9IP, 3.6 BB/9IP.

Mid-A South Bend - 4 games started, 18.0 IP, 1.50 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 12 K, 5 BB (2.4:1 K/BB ratio), 6.0 K/9IP, 2.5 BB/9IP.

McAnaney absolutely destroyed Low- and Mid-A last season in his first season of professional ball, an impressive but not altogether unexpected feat given his four years of college experience at the University of Virginia.  He's old for being in his second professional baseball season at 23, but not at all too old for his Hi-A level.  As far as his struggles at Visalia, the biggest thing I can notice is just that opponents are averaging 10.3 Hits/9IP and 1.3 HR/9IP, both very high totals that can partially be attributed to the hitter's league nature of the California League.  It would be nice if he finished the year strong and put up a great performance in a Fall or Winter League, but one would think that chances are he'll start next season back in Visalia at 24.  Not great for a top-10 prospect, but he's a left-handed starting pitcher who can rack up strikeouts, so if he can limit the home runs and hits (one would have to expect BABIP is being devious to McAnaney), he'll be just fine and in AA sometime next season.  There would be cause for concern if he suddenly had lost his K-Rate or BB-Rate numbers, but since those have remained steady, there isn't too much to worry about with McAnaney.

 

*When I'm in the shower, I'm afraid to wash my hair.  'Cause I might open my eyes and find someone standing there...*

 

RHP Esmerling Vasquez.  Born November 7, 1983.*  25 years old.*  Not Drafted - Signed as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic.  The Baseball Cube ratings - Control: 18 / K-Rating: 87 / Efficiency: 47.

*Age not certain with Dominican prospects - D.O.B. is according to Dominican papers.

2009 Stats: Split between AAA-Reno and MLB-Arizona (currently in Arizona)

AAA-Reno - 6 games in relief, 9.2 IP, 0.93 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 9 K, 3 BB (3:1 K/BB ratio), 8.4 K/9IP, 2.8 BB/9IP.

MLB-Arizona - 36 games in relief, 38.2 IP, 3.72 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 32 K, 20 BB (1.6:1 K/BB ratio), 7.5 K/9IP, 4.7 BB/9IP.

2008 Stats: AAA-Tucson

Note: Suffered torn labrum between 2007 and 2008 seasons, opted to rehab instead of having surgery.

AAA-Tucson - 15 games started, 9 games in relief, 83.0 IP, 6.72 ERA, 1.83 WHIP, 57 K, 73 BB (!!!) (1:1.3 K/BB ratio), 6.2 K/9IP, 7.9 BB/9IP.

2007 Stats: AA-Mobile

AA-Mobile - 29 games started, 165.1 IP, 2.99 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 151 K, 60 BB (2.5:1 K/BB ratio), 8.2 K/9IP, 3.3 BB/9IP.

2006 Stats: Hi-A Lancaster

Hi-A Lancaster - 18 games started, 16 games in relief, 117.2 IP, 5.89 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 115 K, 51 BB (2.3:1 K/BB ratio), 8.8 K/9IP, 3.9 BB/9IP.

2005 Stats: Mid-A South Bend

Mid-A South Bend - 53 games in relief, 71.2 IP, 3.64 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 79 K, 47 BB (1.7:1 K/BB ratio), 9.9 K/9IP, 5.9 BB/9IP.

2004 Stats: Split between Rookie-level Missoula and Low-A Yakima

Rookie-level Missoula - 19 games in relief, 30.2 IP, 3.52 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 33 K, 21 BB (1.6:1 K/BB ratio), 9.7 K/9IP, 6.2 BB/9IP.

Low-A Yakima - 5 games in relief, 5.2 IP, 6.36 ERA, 1.77 WHIP, 7 K, 0 BB (RatioFail), 11.1 K/9IP, 0.00 BB/9IP.

Once again, the first thing to mention is that the D.O.B. info is less susceptible due to how long Esmerling has been in the system, but still worth noting for safety's sake.  But onto the important stuff, it's actually really sad to see Esmerling's extremely promising career partially derailed by one of those darned torn labrums.  That 2.99 ERA as a starter in Mobile is nothing to shake a stick at, but after the injury and subsequent rehab, Esmerling struggled to find his command throughout 2008, as evidenced by those ridonkulous walk totals and BB-Rate in Tucson.  Over 7 per 9 innings?  Yikes.  However, with another year after the surgery, he's found his way as a reliever in the D-Backs big-league 'pen, although after suffering through some early season struggles hilighted by those dastardly walks (Esmerling's first 14.1 IP - 10 BB / following 24.1 IP - 10 BB).  But with his electric 96-98 MPH fastball out of the 'pen, it's hard to imagine the D-Backs tinkering and trying to convert him back to a starter - especially since the workload would put a lot of stress on that shoulder and he's already such a rail-thin guy to begin with.  Reminds me a lot of Juan Cruz - throws hard, creates a lot of torque despite a small frame, struggles with giving out free passes from time to time (which is exaggerated if he is used as a starter).  In the upcoming months, it's not out of the question that A.J. Hinch begins using this kid in a few more high-pressure situations, as his performance has certainly begun to merit such usage.

 

*People say I'm crazy (crazy), just a little touched.  But mainly showers remind me of Psycho too much.*

 

Hatchling Bites:

AAA-Reno: Tony Barnette threw another stinker, giving up four earned runs in five innings on three hits and five walks, but was saved by a good effort from the Reno bullpen and a late rally from the offense.  Brandon Allen went 3-4 with 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 RBI, and 1 R.  Cole Gillespie went 2-5 with 1 2B and 2 RBI.

AA-Mobile: Day off.

Hi-A Visalia: None of the four pitchers used tonight against the Stockton Ports had scoreless outings, hilighted by starter Chrisian Beltre's four innings of five run baseball, and Ramon Sanchez's inning of suck in which he gave up four hits, a walk, and a home run, yet struck out the side.  Only two batters reached base more than once, LF James Skelton (learning new positions in Hi-A) on a double and a walk, and 1B Ed Easley's two singles.

Mid-A Visalia: While starter Keny Sosa had a great outing, going six innings and allowing just one run, the SilverHawks one-upped the Rawhide and had only one player reach base twice, Reynaldo Navarro, on a single and a double.  Brian Woodall then came in and made sure the game was sufficiently won for the Lansing Lugnuts by giving up three runs (two earned) in his one inning of work.

Low-A Short-season Yakima: Despite a good effort from starter Rafael Quezada (5.1 IP, 1 ER), Pedro Rodgriguez gave up three earned while getting just two outs as the Bears got shut out by Tri-City.

Rookie-level Missoula: Try as 1B Paul Goldschmidt may, he can't carry Missoula by himself.  His 2 HR's were insufficient as the Osprey pitching stunk up the joint, with starter Enrique Burgos gave up six earned in three innings, and, in the worst of many bad relief pitching outings for the organization's affiliates tonight, 2008 7th-round pick Miles Reagan gave up six earned and notched only one out against the Orem Owlz.  Needless to say, the Osprey were trounced, 13-4.

 

*Who's watchin'...  Tell me who's watchin'...  Who's watchin' me?...  Who's watchin' me?*

 

So that's all for tonight.  Done nice and early at 2:18.  :-)  Only one more of these to do, hard as that is to believe.  It's taken a lot of neglecting my social life to have been cranking these out so often, but I'm getting it done.  A good group of kids today too, with nobody really having much of a major roadblock in their development, although Son of Stink had some organizational mishandling (IMHO), and none of the other four prospects blew anybody's mind with the season they're having.

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