Every Wednesday, our broadcast intern Conor Green will take a look at a former Chiefs player who’s made his way to the Major Leagues. Enjoy…
Tyler Clippard was born in 1985 in Lexington, Kentucky. He played for Palm Harbor University High school, but unlike most future professional athletes he was not an instant star. Clippard did not make his varsity debut until his Junior year. He was eventually drafted out of high school in the ninth round of the 2003 draft by the New York Yankees.
Unique in our additions to Chiefs in the Show, Tyler Clippard reached the big leagues prior to appearing in Syracuse. After progressing for three years in the Yankees organization, the right-hander journeyed to New York for a spot start in May of 2007. The youngster’s first major-league appearance came against the rival Mets and was a sparkling performance. Clippard went six innings, allowing just one run on three hits while striking out six, en-route to a 6-2 Yankee win. His sharp outing led the New York media to brand the pitcher with the moniker: “The Yankee Clippard”. However, his time with the Yankees was short lived. He was sent back to Triple-A in mid-June and was dealt to Washington following the season.
Following the trade, he was moved into a relief role. Clippard began the 2009 season in Syracuse and was nearly un-hittable. In 24 games, the right-hander had a 0.92 ERA with 42 strikeouts over 39 innings. He received a promotion on and pitched 41 effective games for the Nationals, sporting a 2.69 ERA in 60.1 frames. Clippard pitched the next five seasons for Washington. He was a horse in the bullpen, pitching 70-plus innings each year.
His best season as a professional came as an all-star 2011. In 72 games over 88.1 innings, Clippard allowed just 18 earned runs accompanied by 104 strikeouts and a 0.84 WHIP. The stellar season led to the Kentucky native’s promotion to the closer role following the season. Clippard recorded 32 saves in for the Nationals in 2012.
In the next two years combined, Clippard threw 141.1 innings, sporting a sub-three ERA both years with 155 strikeouts, while being named as an all-star for the second time in 2014. That year, he went unscored upon in three ALDS appearances, while allowing just one hit. After the season, Clippard’s successful stint in Washington came to a close. The Kentucky native moved to Oakland, following a trade with the Athletics.
Since 2015, this former Chief has played for three teams, the Athletics, the Mets and the Diamondbacks. The 31-year-old continues to be effective in relief, with only 37 earned runs in 90-plus innings of work. And after 10 major-league seasons the two-time All-Star has solidified himself as one of baseball’s preeminent relievers.
Is there a cure for a case of the Sunday Scaries that rolls right into the Monday Blues? Scientists have yet to find a definitive remedy, but us here at NBT Bank Stadium think we may be onto something with our Minor League Monday Blog. This weekly piece will go into detail about a current Washington prospect and the outlook on their career moving forward, and is sure to settle down any symptoms of the Weekday Worries. So without further ado, let’s restore some weekend glory and dive into this week’s prospect, catcher Spencer Kieboom.
Position: C Age: 25 DOB: 3/16/1991 B: R T: R Height: 6’0’’ Weight: 210 lbs
Spencer Kieboom is currently in his fifth professional season after being drafted by the Nationals in the fifth round of the 2012 Draft. Prior to this season, MLB.com ranked Kieboom as the 21st rated prospect in the Washington system. The catcher was selected out of Clemson University following his junior season, his second year as the Tigers full-time catcher. He did find some playing time late in his freshman year in 2010, starting 13 games with 11 of them coming in tournament play. This included the College World Series, where Clemson fell in the semi-finals to the eventual champion South Carolina Gamecocks.
When Washington took Kieboom, it was for his defensive prowess behind the plate. This reputation has followed him from the collegiate level to the professional leagues, where Kieboom displays his defensive calling card with ease. Scouts like the technical side of the right-hander due to his quick feet and release when throwing to second on a steal play in addition to his large frame which can block pitches in the dirt with ease. On the other side of things, many have long praised Kieboom for his leadership tendencies which play into his ability to work naturally with any and all pitchers. This chemistry is intricately important when rising through the minor-league levels thanks to the wide array of pitchers any given catcher will see. Kieboom has had the chance to form a great battery with several other Nats prospects, including Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, both starters who earned their Major League debuts just recently. Also, while the pitcher plays a role in protecting against base stealers, any hurler can feel much more at ease with Kieboom behind the dish. The catcher has thrown out runners at a career 36% rate, a great number for any level of play.
While saying that Kieboom’s defense is his best tool, it is not to throw shade on his offensive play. He has done well at the plate in his time in the Washington system, with a slash line of .269/.346/.388 over his young career. His solid hitting and big body does not necessarily translate to power (14 career home runs) but does well for him when employing a solid-contact mentality, particularly when trying to drive balls up the middle. This could translate to a nice end of the lineup type hitter at the Major League level. Scouts have not been enamored with Kieboom at the plate, but are in consensus he could hit enough to earn that spot. Many believe his swing can get too long at the plate and that his ability to hit secondary pitches needs to be improved. However, when Kieboom barrels up a baseball, he can drive it a long way.
Joy R. Absalon/MiLB.com
One worry about this prospect comes with his injury history. In 2013, Kieboom missed all but four games in the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Then in late July of 2015, he suffered a concussion which put him out of the game until the Arizona Fall League. While these injuries could damage a prospect long term, Kieboom took a very mature approach to his ailments and used them to get even better. After his Tommy John surgery, Kieboom focused his time in rehab on his offensive game. He worked on his swing by practicing one-handed, and found a more comfortable stance in the box. Kieboom worked very hard on improving his ability even at a time when he wasn’t able to play the game. He also applied this approach in the time following his concussion diagnosis. Since he couldn’t physically exercise after being concussed, Kieboom turned to a healthier diet in order to not gain weight. When he was able to, he began to work in cardio and other activities to go along with the diet. After an offseason of on this schedule, Kieboom entered Spring Training 20 pounds lighter. The weight loss improved his agility and endurance behind the plate, something very important when his position asks him to squat down for hours on end, day after day.
While his working and training even after being injured improved his game, many were impressed with Kieboom and his commitment to his profession. Over his time in the minors he has built not only his on-field skill, but also his character off the field. This is an intangible than cannot be taught, and is only employed by players with a mature approach to the game. It is not a tool that will be graded on the 20-80 scale, but one that is viewed and measured by coaches and scouts and can play a role into working his way to the majors.
With Kieboom, the Nationals have a mature, team first defensive-minded catcher who could round out a lineup card offensively. He is the type of player that coaches and teammates alike root for to make it to the bigs, though his skillset lags a little behind. That is not to say Kieboom can’t reach the majors, more to say that if he does it would be in more of a backup, not everyday role. The good news for Kieboom is that with his approach to the game, this is likely a role he would accept at the time and work that much harder in order to make his case to see consistent playing time. He has had lots of success, a two time Mid-Season All-Star, and now has the hardest push ahead of him, from Double-A to the Majors. He will certainly get a chance, with Triple-A likely for next season and a debut not far off from that. It will be up to him to improve his offense and show he deserves a starting role. Spencer Kieboom does not have some of the allure of a blue-chip prospect, but he will certainly get his chance at the top level within the next few years.
Today we continue with another installment of our blog segment, I.L. Trip Advisor! Sometimes what makes or breaks a road trip for Kevin and I is where the hotel and ballpark are located in relation to great food spots. Thanks to uber, we have been able to explore the local cuisines of the I.L. cities even further. So on Fridays, I’ll try and be your I.L. Trip Advisor. This is not a complete list, as there are far too many spots to try and get to in the few days we have in each city. But I’ll do my best to try and bring to light some of the best spots the I.L. footprint has to offer. Today, a trip down to Durham and Norfolk (Note: All pictures are my own)…
Durham, North Carolina
Dame’s Chicken and Waffles
Why not start with the best. This is as good a meal as any in the league, except for maybe one (coming soon on an adventure to Pawtucket, RI). I’ll be honest, I didn’t always get chicken and waffles. Seems like a pretty random combination. But when done right, boy can it be good and at Dame’s “almost” world famous should really be just that. I got a boneless tender on top of a waffle (you can go with a bone-in chicken as well). The chicken is excellent as is the waffle, but what makes it is the shmear. As the place describes, “Shmears” are made of sweet creme butters combined with another ingredient. I got a Vanilla Almond shmear. Who needs syrup when you have smears. The flavor was incredible, and it connects the chicken and the waffle in a way you didn’t expect to be possible. And then as bonus, our waiter recommended an excellent side of mac and cheese, that wasn’t too heavy, a perfect blend of cheese to supplement a meal that if you randomly threw together, might make little sense. But at Dame’s, not only does it work but it is as good a meal as you will have in this league.
Southern Fast Food
A quick side note. I dont like to eat a ton of fast food. But if I lived in the South, boy it would be difficult not to. A breakfast biscuit at Bojangles. A hot glazed donut at Krispy Kreme. A chicken finger plate at Zaxby’s or Chicken Sandwich at Chick-Fil-A. A cheap breakfast or late-night snack at Waffle House. And all on the same street as our hotel in Durham. If you had to go fast food, that is tough to beat.
Durham Bulls Athletic Park Press Spread:
The DBAP is as nice a ballpark as any in this league except for one major problem. The press box. What used to be a perfect view behind home plate has turned into a small, obstructed space down the right-field line, making you choose between seeing right-field or seeing home plate. But, to help make up for this, the Bulls allow the press to eat for free in their PNC club buffet behind home plate. And this comes about as close to making up for the booth as anything. Below is a complete list of available food options from the buffet on our final day in Durham:
- Fish and chips
- Crab, avacado, arugula salad
- Stuffed clams
- Four different types of sausages…
- Nacho bar with meat, cheese, guac and salsa
- Ceasar salad
- Meat and cheese platter
- Antipasto bar
- Mozzarella cheese balls
And then for dessert…
- Fried banana cheesecake
- Heath bar crunch cakes
- Assorted cookies
And that was just Wednesday. DBAP gets a 10/10.
Thanks to yelp for this one. The Handsome Biscuit is an 10-minute uber drive down the road from the team hotel in downtown Norfolk. This is the definition of a hole in the wall joint. Three tables in the whole place, just a small counter with the hot kitchen visible to all. We went a little after breakfast, but normally the line would be well out the door. Whatever you could imagine getting on a biscuit, here you get the chance.
What a find this was. The hash was creamy and perfectly cooked, the biscuit wasn’t too dry, and the red eye sausage gravy was a treat. This was a surprise find, but a cheap and awesome start to the day.
Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint
Originally started at James Madison in Western Virginia, Jack Brown’s had recently moved to Norfolk, and thank goodness they did before we got to town. Jack Brown’s is self described as a bar that serves a great burger. The menu is simple, it isn’t trying to please all tastes.
If you want a great selection of beer and a great burger, this is the place. The bar is designed as a place the owners would want to hang out in, not too big, small and simple. But dont let simple fool you, the burger is top notch.
My eye got the Greg Brady, a burger topped with mac and cheese. Our waitress explained this had just been a Friday special in the past, but became so popular it went on the menu full time. The mac and cheese was not too heavy, and topped with potato on a perfectly cooked burger, this was an awesome, perfectly-proportioned lunch.
Every Wednesday, our broadcast intern Conor Green will take a look at a former Chiefs player who’s made his way to the Major Leagues. Enjoy…
It’s William Edward Hickson that said, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” In this week’s Chiefs in the Show we recall a former Chief who, at first, didn’t succeed. Then didn’t succeed again. Then didn’t succeed a few more times. But who always tried again.
Sandy Leon was born in 1989 in Maracaibo, Venezuela. He was signed by the Nationals organization as a switch-hitting 18-year-old in 2007. It took Leon five years to advance to Triple-A Syracuse. In those years, he played with the rookie-level Gulf Coast Nationals, Single-A Hagerstown Suns, Short-Season A Vermont Lake Monsters, and the Class-A Potomac Nationals. From 2007 through 2011, Leon never once hit higher than .251 and never tallied more than 43 RBIs in a season.
He hit over .300 for the first time with the Chiefs in 2012. Playing in Syracuse for the tail end of the year, Leon compiled a .346 average, while tallying seven extra-base hits in 19 games. However, the successful slash line did not result in a promotion to Washington. Leon wound up back in Double-A Harrisburg for the majority of his 2013 campaign.
Leon finally found his way to the majors with the Nationals in 2014, but hit just .156 in 20 games. He spent most of the year in Syracuse and continued to struggle at the plate, hitting just .229 in 170 at-bats.
At the conclusion of the season, Leon was traded from Washington to Boston in exchange for cash considerations.
With the Red Sox in 2015, the catcher hit a meager .184 in 114 at-bats. As a result, Boston chose to designate Leon for assignment. He cleared waivers and finished the year with Triple-A Pawtucket.
Entering the 2016 season, Leon was a career .187 major-league hitter, with just three extra-base hits. Despite the poor offensive output, Leon was given a chance with the Red Sox, after injuries to both Ryan Hanigan and Blake Swihart. And the catcher instantly turned things around, going 4-for-4 with a double and two RBIs in his first game. The explosive offensive performances continued.
Since the promotion, Leon has inexplicably turned into one of the best hitters in all of baseball. In 21 games with Boston, the catcher is hitting a prolific .452 with nine doubles and 13 RBIs.
A factor Leon attributes to his newfound success is his consistent eye level at the plate. Red Sox assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez helped the catcher accomplish this, saying, “We did a couple drills just to keep him tall. He used to crouch and his first move was to come up. So we just kept him tall, and he was going direct to the ball. And he’s staying through the ball.”
The adjustment has Leon enjoying the strongest stretch of his career. One of his best performances came last Saturday against the rival Yankees. The former Chief went 2-for-4 with a three-run home run and a career-high four RBIs at Yankee Stadium. When asked about his offensive outburst, Leon remained humble, saying, “It feels good, but it’s only like 60 at-bats. I know it’s a lot of hits in 60 at-bats, but like I say, I’m trying to keep it simple and help the team.”
After struggling for years, across all levels, this former Chief is enjoying career bests in the show. A decrease is eventually expected to some extent, but for the time being, Leon looks to continue his all-star caliber play in 2016.
It’s Monday in Syracuse which means another edition of the weekly Minor League Monday series is here in full force. So far we’ve seen plenty of talent that the Nationals have stockpiled in their farm system, and today’s prospect is no different. His physical makeup immediately sets himself apart from other competition, and he has the baseball tools to increase that disparity as his career progresses. However, in the case of this product, all skills and tools can only be viewed at as raw ability, as the left-handed pitcher is currently throwing in just his second professional season.
Position: LHP Age: 21 DOB: 9/30/1994 B: L T: L Height: 6’5” Weight: 210 lbs.
Taylor Hearn is a young southpaw with tremendous upside. Prior to the 2016 season, MLB.com ranked the young pitcher as the Washington’s 25th best prospect in the system, just a year after signing with the club. The Nationals selected Hearn in the fifth round, 164th overall, in the 2015 draft. It was the fourth consecutive year Hearn had hear his name called in the draft. He had previously been selected by the Pirates in 2012, the Reds the following year and then again by the Twins in 2014. Lucky for the Nats, Hearn declared himself not mature enough for professional baseball until after his 2015 season with Oklahoma Baptist University.
What Washington saw in Hearn was an overpowering lefty who threw a mid-90s fastball that could sometimes push upwards of 99 miles an hour. Hearn’s height also lends him to be able to throw at a downhill angle, compounding his speed and making it that much harder for hitters. A deceptive slider and improving changeup round out his arsenal. Something the Nationals knew on draft day as well was that they could begin Hearn’s career as a starter, and if needed use him in relief down the road. Not only would this give the Nats a shutdown pitcher for the later innings, but it could also fast-track Hearn to the Bigs with the parent club.
Coming out of Oklahoma Baptist University in 2015, Hearn had just concluded a perfect season. He amassed a 9-0 record to pair with a 3.50 ERA while striking out 71 batters in 64 innings of work. It’s easy to see what Washington scouts saw, tempting them to draft the southpaw. In his first professional season that began in the summer of 2015, Hearn struggled some to find his stride. After two games in the Gulf Coast league, where Hearn threw five innings and didn’t allow a run, he was moved to Low-A Auburn of the New York Penn League. In ten starts, Hearn compiled a 1-5 record with an ERA just under 4.00. While the relative lack of success showed in the box scores, Hearn remained unphased after his first pro season. He focused constantly on video of himself while also throwing every day in the offseason. His raw tools were there, they just needed a little more time to develop. This came the following year in 2016. Hearn is currently in the midst of a solid second season, where he is really displaying his potential talent. His ERA, now with Single-A Hagerstown, is at 3.46, though that is inflated due to a game where Hearn allowed five earned runs. He has only allowed an earned run two other times in 13 innings. Strikeout numbers are up as well, with 18, while the southpaw has only doled out four walks. The ability for Hearn is shining through as he is delivering on the skills noticed when he was drafted.
These skills include both his physical makeup and his pitching ability. Hearn is a combination of height and weight tough to come by, standing at 6’5’’ while filling out at 210 pounds. The build of Hearn, tall and lanky, and his left-handed pitching, have drawn comparisons to the famed Randy Johnson. This is not to say that Hearn will be the next Big Unit, though that would be great, more of a comparison of body types and potential, completely maxed out, ceilings. Hearn has a great genetic makeup for a pitcher, and can really use that to his advantage. Not only can he capitalize on that downwards throwing motion as mentioned, but his length alone can make a pitch come out faster, and closer to the plate, than his teammates. For a closer look, watch this bullpen session of Hearn. Pay special attention to his length when he is fully extended and just about to release his pitch. Can’t teach size. This build alone would mean nothing, however, without pitching skill to match with it. Lucky for the Nationals, that skill is very evident with Hearn.
Hearn’s bread and butter pitch is his fastball. Sitting mid-90s, it can overpower any batter, especially in the lower levels of professional leagues. What’s more is the speed isn’t the only huge asset to the pitch. There is late break, and plenty of it, on Hearn’s heater, which earns him lots of swings and misses and also broken bats. With that, a hard to hit pitch can become nearly unhittable. Then comes the slider. Deceptive in its own right, it becomes a great out-pitch when combined in succession with the fastball. Hearn throws his slider like he does any pitch, hard and with speed, making it dip out of the way of opposing bats. Top potential could be earned for Hearn if he develops his changeup more and more. It currently sits well behind his fastball and slider, though if it did develop into another strong option, Hearns three-pitch arsenal would be hard to match, not to mention hit. Another necessary development for Hearn comes with his control. While it certainly hasn’t plagued the young lefty, only 26 walks in 71.1 professional innings, scouts see this as a hurdle still facing Hearn as he continues to climb the ladder. With refinement on his control, there could be a very successful career in professional baseball waiting ahead for Hearn.
This career will likely remain in the minors for a few years to come. Hearn is still just competing at the Single-A level and despite his success does have a ways to go in front of him. However, that is not to say Hearn will not eventually make his MLB debut. At the rate he is going, and with the talent he naturally possesses, an educated guess would see him in a Nationals uniform likely in the 2019 season, or perhaps the later stages of 2018. While this is a little ways down the road, it is not a-typical for the minor league path to take that long. Many, many players, if they make the major leagues at all, toil in the minors for much longer than four to five seasons. Hearn is certainly on the right track with his abilities, and could possibly be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.
Our subject of today’s Sabermetric Saturday is FIP, a topic which hasn’t yet seeped into the baseball mainstream. I know this because of the first Google result for “FIP”:
Yikes. I promise you, we’re not here to talk about Tanner Roark’s Feline Infectious Peritonitis. (That does sound fun, though.)
We’re here to talk about Fielding Independent Pitching – a metric which some baseball writers have begun preferring to ERA.
First of all – what the heck is FIP, exactly? Here’s Baseball Prospectus‘ explanation:
Fielding Independent Pitching converts a pitcher’s three true outcomes into an earned run average-like number. The formula is (13*HR+3*BB-2*K)/IP, plus a constant (usually around 3.2) to put it on the same scale as earned run average.
FIP is a component ERA inspired by the work of Voros McCracken on defense-independent pitching statistics, but has become more widely used because of the ease of computation – it requires only four easily-found box score stats, uses only basic arithmetic operations and has four easily-memorized constants. It was conceived of by both Tom Tango and Clay Dreslough, the latter of who called it Defense-Independent Component ERA.
The aforementioned McCracken conducted a stunning study, whose results were published in 2001, finding that pitchers have little control over the outcome of batted balls in play. Take Pedro Martinez, for example. In 1999, a landmark season in which Martinez went 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA, won a Cy Young and finished second in American League MVP voting, he allowed a .325 average on balls in play. In 2000, Martinez was 18-6 with a 1.74 ERA – but his BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) was just .237. That means in 1999, Martinez’ FIP was 1.39.
Let’s back up one moment – because this is a staggering number. While this is a bit of a crude simplification, FIP essentially tells us what a pitcher’s expected ERA would be without batted-ball luck. Using home runs, walks and strikeouts (and hit-by-pitches; although that’s not in the BP formula above, those are generally used to calculate FIP) only, FIP is a number that more accurately represents how well a pitcher throws than ERA, which does not account for batted-ball luck.
So, here’s what we’re saying – in one of the best-pitched seasons in the history of Major League Baseball, at the heart of the Steroid Era in the monstrous American League East – Pedro Martinez was woefully unlucky. He had an ERA 0.68 points higher than expected with average batted-ball luck. That is bonkers. (His FIP in 2000, by the way, was 2.17. ERA doesn’t tell the whole story.)
One flaw in FIP: it does not take into account certain factors that limit balls in play or runners. It does not account for how well pitchers control the run game, line-drive or ground-ball percentage or other factors. We’ve learned that no statistic in baseball should be taken as gospel, and FIP is no exception. It does, however, seem to be more predictive of future results than ERA.
Now, for fun, let’s take a look at some Chiefs pitchers this season – who’s been lucky, and who’s been unlucky…
Erik Davis: 4.58 ERA, 2.57 FIP
Davis’ 2.02 ERA-FIP gap is the largest on the team. His walk number is high – 17 in 35 and one-third innings – while his strikeout number is strong at 37. However, he hasn’t allowed a single home run this season. That means opponents are hitting .353 against Davis on balls in play. League-average BABIP is generally around .300, so Davis has had some tough luck, particular as of late.
Sam Runion: 4.68 ERA, 3.10 FIP
Runion’s walk and strikeout numbers are much lower than Davis’; 10 and 20, respectively, in 32 and two-thirds innings. He, however, has also kept the ball in the park all season, having not allowed a home run in 2016.
A.J. Cole: 4.84 ERA, 3.75 FIP
The award for “unluckiest Chiefs starter” goes to Cole, thanks to a BABIP of .331. Cole’s only walked 29 in 89 and one-third innings and surrendered nine home runs, but he’s allowed 101 hits. This is new ground for Cole – whose ERA far bettered his FIP with the Chiefs in both 2014 (3.43 ERA, 4.48 FIP) and 2015 (3.15 ERA, 3.90 FIP).
And now the other side…
Koda Glover: 0.00 ERA, 2.60 FIP
Bit of an asterisk here, as Glover’s only thrown 11 and one-third innings, but he’s had some luck getting out of them; Glover has struck out just six , allowing plenty of contact. He’s escaped a couple of jams with well-placed line drives and ground balls.
Matt Grace: 2.12 ERA, 2.59 FIP
Grace is a classic ground-ball pitcher who induces tons of contact. His ERA has been better than this FIP in all three of his seasons with the Chiefs. Remember, FIP doesn’t measure for ground-ball percentage, so Grace’s ability to induce double plays is negated here.
Austin Voth: 3.11 ERA, 3.57 FIP
Voth’s start against Norfolk on July 8th was a classic case of the difference between FIP and ERA. By the former, Voth would suffer; he walked six and struck out just two in five innings. By the latter, he excelled; Voth somehow squeezed out five scoreless innings, thanks to double plays in three consecutive innings. Should Voth deserve credit for inducing those three double plays at key moments? Absolutely. Hit a few inches to the left or right, do those ground balls change Voth’s night? Absolutely. That’s batted-ball luck in a nutshell.
To see how the Chiefs fair in FIP, check out the team’s page at Fangraphs, a terrific resource for all things baseball. And if you want to read more about FIP, be sure to include the word “baseball” in your Google searches. Unless your cat gets sick.
Every Wednesday, our broadcast intern Conor Green will take a look at a former Chiefs player who’s made his way to the Major Leagues. Enjoy…
Adam Lind was born in 1983 in Anderson, Indiana and quickly became a star at Highland High School. After passing on the Twins in the 2002 draft, Lind signed with the Blue Jays after being selected in the 3rd round in 2004. Lind had a sharp first season in the organization, hitting .312 with seven home runs in 70 games with the Auburn Doubledays.
Despite the performance, Lind was just ranked as Toronto’s 17th best prospect by Baseball America following the season. However, that sentiment shifted after another phenomenal year in 2005. With the Dunedin Blue Jays, Lind hit .313 with 12 home runs and 84 RBIs. The performance was the catalyst to Lind’s top prospect ranking prior to 2007.
The outfielder/first baseman played with the Chiefs on-and-off from 2006 to 2008, while moving back-and-forth to the big leagues. In those three seasons, Lind continued his hot-hitting, with a .394 average in 2006, .299 average in 2007 and .328 average in 2008.
The Indiana native played with the Blue Jays full time in 2009 and had his best season as a professional. Lind was one of the most explosive players in all of baseball, hitting .305 with 35 home runs. Additionally, he led the team in doubles (46) and RBIs (114). He followed with back-to-back solid years in 2010 and 2011, hitting 49 home runs with 159 RBIs combined.
Lind’s All-Star caliber performances came in spite of a habitually bad back. Oddly enough, to remedy the uncooperative ailment, Lind turned to yoga. Prior to the 2013 season Lind hired his own personal yoga instructor, saying later, “It was especially good in the second half of the off-season when she had gotten to understand my body a little better and was able to figure out ways to get to the spots that have bothered me the most last summer.” The ancient Indian practice has allowed for Lind’s career to span 13 professional seasons.
In 2016, Lind has played a pivotal role for the playoff contending Mariners. He’s tallied 13 home runs and 70 RBIs through the midway point, as Seattle trails his former team, Toronto, by five games for the final Wild Card spot. The long-time pro also played a stopper role for the Mariners earlier this year with a walkoff home run to end a six-game losing streak.
This former Chief turned his time in the salt city into a long, sturdy career in the big leagues. He will look to continue his good play out of the All-Star break, as he attempts to top 30 home runs for the second time in his career.
While another Monday brings us another work week, it also signals the return of our weekly Minor League Monday post here on the Inside the Chiefs Blog. Now unless you get to celebrate this week with a few days off thanks to the Triple-A All-Star game like us, use this read up on Andrew Stevenson to start your week off right. Stevenson is the feature of this production, a speedy defensive-minded player who currently patrols the outfield for the Harrisburg Senators, the Nationals Double-A Affiliate.
Position: OF Age: 22 DOB: 6/1/1994 Bats: L Throws: L Height: 6’0’’ Weight: 185 lbs.
Andrew Stevenson was a steal in the 2015 MLB Draft. The Nationals were able to pick up the LSU product in the second round, 58th overall, with the organization’s first selection (Washington lost its top pick of the Draft in the process of signing Max Scherzer in the offseason). Entering the draft, scouts were very high on Stevenson, labeling the three-year collegiate player as possibly the best defensive player out there. The Nationals knew what they were getting in him, a great defensive talent with a definite upside at the plate. Stevenson climbs the ranks thanks to his prowess in the outfield, but with work could become a top of the lineup hitter. His talent led him through a tough freshman year at LSU, paving the way for his success at the collegiate level and beyond.
As a Tiger, Stevenson had a rough go of it in his freshman campaign, hitting just .193 while striking out with more frequency (25 times) than collecting hits (23). However, thanks to his electric play in center, he started every game, helping LSU to the 2013 College World Series in that manner. Switches flipped prior to the 2014 season, and Stevenson really turned it around offensively, batting .335 his sophomore season, a team high, before hitting at a .348 clip in his junior year, which also ended in the College World Series. His efforts earned him a spot on the 2015 All-SEC First Team, an accolade to accompany his two SEC All-Defensive Team honors (2014 and 2015). The awards pale in comparison to his actual play on the diamond, which included many highlight reel catches over that span. It was at LSU where Stevenson demonstrated that he possessed Major League abilities in terms of speed and defensive ability. Those tools were enough to get him drafted in the second round, with the notion that other assets would develop over time in the Minors.
Stevenson made three stops in his first professional season following his exit at LSU. After a two game stint with the Gulf Coast Nationals, Stevenson stopped by Auburn for 18 games, where a .361 batting average quickly moved him to Hagerstown. He finished out the season with the Suns, batting .285 with 16 stolen bases to give him a slash line of .308/.363/.309 after his first professional season. To start 2016, Stevenson was promoted to the Potomac Nationals, Washingtons’ High-A affiliate. This came after MLB.com ranked him as the Nats eighth best prospect in the system, a high debut for a young player. Stevenson carried over his success here, knocking 83 hits in 273 at-bats while driving in 18 and stealing 27 bases. These numbers led to a promotion to Double-A Harrisburg, but not before Stevenson earned Mid-Season All-Star accolades for his work with the Suns, his first professional All-Star appearance. Adjustment to Harrisburg has been a slight issue for Stevenson so far, however. Through 16 games he holds a .183 batting average with just 11 hits with all of them coming as singles. This is nothing to worry about in the long run, as the stretch classifies as his first real professional slump, and can be expected in the transition phase to a higher level.
Let’s take a closer look at what the scouts say about Stevenson, in particular to his MLB.com ranking. Eighth in the organization, scouts tab his fielding ability as his top tool, rating it a 65 on the 20-80 scale. His speed, rated a 60, compounds this success in the outfield, while his arm strength has room for improvement in the Minors (rated a 35). At the plate, scouts know Stevenson can hit, ranking that tool at a 50, though not for power, where he receives just a 30 grading.
John Oubre/Advocate Staff
A herky-jerky swing would aptly describe Stevenson’s mechanics at the dish. Weight moves all over, first forward then back, in his preparation for a pitch. This translates to base hits, though not over the fence power. And for the role Stevenson could play, that’s not a bad thing at all. As mentioned, many people project Stevenson to be a defensive-first center fielder who has the ceiling to hit at the top of a lineup. Based on what we’ve seen, this is entirely possible. He can hit, and once on base is always a threat to steal and put himself in scoring position, just what you want to see at the top of a lineup. The ability to see if Stevenson could earn that spot remains to be seen, but from what he has displayed at the collegiate level and now early in his professional career, it is entirely likely he may be atop a Major League lineup in the future.
The skills that will, and have, push Stevenson’s progression forward lies in his defensive abilities. He can fly with his speed, and this combined with excellent route taking makes him a centerfielder with the capability to cover huge stretches of the outfield en route to catching a fly ball. If you don’t believe that even after watching the first video hyperlinked, I’ll throw in some more proof here and here. It’s worth noting that the grab in the first video came in a 3-3 ballgame in the top of the 12th inning, just to add a little more impact to the play. While the second video doesn’t do a great job in capturing the athleticism required to make that catch, you can see how Stevenson couldn’t have taken a wrong step in catching that ball. It was hit on a line, requiring a full extension dive to catch it just above the grass. Had Stevenson taken one step in the wrong direction while first tracking the ball, it would have fallen down ahead of him. Note that these videos are all from his days at LSU (the SEC will always be more glorified than minor-league baseball). He was working here with mostly raw ability, talent that had yet to be honed by professional level coaches. The LSU coaching staff certainly influenced him, but the training Stevenson now is receiving on an everyday bases certainly outshines collegiate play.
The book on Andrew Stevenson is certainly an open one with much left to be written, but the first few chapters yield heavy promise. Stevenson holds rare defensive talent, and has the ability to bring up his offensive talent as well. Syracuse will likely see this player within the 2017 season at some point before he is able to make a jump to the majors following that. From a Tiger to a Sun to a Senator, Andrew Stevenson is quickly progressing his way up the baseball ladder. He is a player of many talents and one with a high ceiling, and much more importantly of course, is this week’s Minor League Monday prospect of the week.
Big bats in baseball are difficult to find, especially with the increased prevalence of power pitchers. Home run numbers have dropped across the board, even at the traditional power positions. In this week’s edition of Chiefs in the Show, we look at one former Chief who’s developed into an All-Star power threat in an increasingly powerless sport.
Ian Desmond was born in 1985 in Sarasota, Florida and attended Sarasota High School. Desmond separated himself as an athlete early on, his high school baseball coach saying, “He’s mature, and a very, very hard worker. Those kinds of traits make him someone that’s probably very inviting for an organization.” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A18438-2005Mar8.html?nav=rss_sports/leaguesandsports/mlb/washington)
(Jim Commentucci | The Post-Standard)
He was selected out of high school in the third round of the 2004 draft by the Montreal Expos and his fielding ability quickly garnered attraction from the organization’s front office. General Manager Jim Bowden said after spring training in 2005, “I wouldn’t be afraid to bring him to the big leagues to play defense.” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A18438-2005Mar8.html?nav=rss_sports/leaguesandsports/mlb/washington)
Despite the verbal accolades, Desmond’s rise through the organization was arduous. The shortstop hadn’t yet developed into a power threat and it took five years before he received a promotion to Triple-A Syracuse. In 2009 with the Chiefs, known primarily as a singles-doubles hitter and an excellent defensive shortstop, Desmond hit .354 with with 12 doubles in 55 games. The stint led to the shortstop’s promotion to Washington for the latter portion of the season.
The promotion was more than just a professional advancement for Desmond. The move to Washington made his lifelong dream a reality. He commented on his 23rd birthday in 2009, “From my 12th birthday until this birthday, every single time I’ve wished that I get to the big leagues.’I never made another wish. Not once.” (baseball.playerprofiles.com) Desmond’s wish was granted and he became the Nationals everyday shortstop for the next six years.
With Washington, Desmond developed into a top-level power threat at the shortstop position. He hit 15 or more home runs in five out of six years, while knocking 20 or more long-balls three times. One of the team’s most reliable producers, Desmond patrolled the middle infield in a period that saw the Nationals progress from N.L. East bottom dwellers to World Series contenders.
Desmond was not re-signed by Washington following the 2015 season and instead joined the Texas Rangers. The move transitioned the Sarasota native to new positions, playing a mix of both left and center field. With Texas, Desmond is enjoying one of his most successful seasons as a professional. At the midway point, he’s batting .321 with 15 home runs and 52 RBIs. The scalding start led to him being named as an A.L. All-Star along with teammate Cole Hamels. His contribution has the Rangers holding the best record in the American league, at 53-32.
Ian Desmond’s journey in the big leagues now features him as one of the best players in all of baseball. From Syracuse to the big leagues, he’ll again play a major role come October. This former Chief continues to be a major difference maker in the Show.
While burgers and Budweiser are on the slate for many today, baseball doesn’t take the Fourth of July off, and neither does Minor League Monday. We are back for the third edition of this weekly posting which examines and evaluates prospects across the Washington farm system. So far we’ve touched upon two high end prospects, Lucas Giolito and Victor Robles, but today we are dipping a little further down into the talent pool, where we find a speedster currently stationed in Double-A Harrisburg.
Position: OF Age: 23 DOB: 3/8/93 Bats: R Throws: R Height: 6’2’’ Weight: 165 lb.
Cliff Welch, MiLB
Rafael Bautista is certainly not the blue chip prospect that Giolito or Robles is, but the outfielder possesses enough talent to become a proficient major league player. Bautista, since starting his professional career in 2012 in the Dominican Summer League, has already been twice named an Organizational All-Star, twice selected as a Post-Season All-Star and once tabbed a Mid-Season All-Star. This accolades all came during his 2013 and 2014 campaigns, the best years of his young career. Bautista has a very high ceiling and some raw abilities that show the impact he could have with a major league team somewhere down the road.
Before the 2016 season, Bautista was moved up to Double-A, despite a 2015 season that was cut short due to a broken finger suffered in the first week. His best play came between 2013 and 2014. In 2013 he displayed his stuff stateside for the first time with the Gulf Coast Nationals at the Rookie level, where he slashed .322/.400/.391 with a solid contact swing. A mix of this solid offense and stellar defense moved him up to Hagerstown for 2014, when he really came onto the scene. Bautista hit at a .290 clip with 141 hits and an astounding 97 runs scored, far and away his career best. That rate also led the South Atlantic League. At the end of the season he moved into MLB.com’s top 15 rankings for the Nats, premiering prior to the 2015 season at 15th.
Onto the next season, where according to the prospect rankings from scouts at MLB.com, Bautista was Washington’s 16th ranked prospect prior to 2016. Based on the 20-80 scouting grades, with 50 being an average MLB player ranking and 65 being at an All-Star level, here is the consensus on Bautista:
As we can see here, Bautista’s calling card comes with his defense and speed. Combine these attributes, and you have a pretty solid outfielder in the making, which is exactly the route this young man is on. Many see Bautista as a fourth or fifth outfielder on a major league roster, though his big upside contends that he could become a starter. He has great initial reads when prowling the outfield, which paired with his plus plus speed allows him to reach balls that certainly may have dropped in on other players. The ground he can cover on any given play will certainly be an asset when it comes to earning that major league starting role.
Tracy Proffitt, MiLB
Bautista’s speed also factors in heavily on the offensive side of the game. He has the ability to steal any base at any time, making him a threat to score even when receiving just a walk. Check out this great jump and steal of third base when he was with Potomac. No throw to third on a stolen base attempt? You don’t see that too too often. Bautista has already stolen 211 bases in his young career, including a South Atlantic League-leading 69 in the 2014 season. In perspective, the second highest number of swiped bags in the league that year was 49 by Hagerstown teammate Wilmer Difo. Already in this season at Double-A Harrisburg, Bautista has stolen 35 bags in 41 attempts. Speed also comes into play in regards to Bautista’s bunting ability, which he can do for a base hit.
At the plate, Bautista isn’t an outstanding hitter, but he certainly is no slouch. He puts up stats typical to a center fielder, exempting Mike Trout and a few other outliers. While he doesn’t have outstanding power, though that does appear from time to time, Bautista generates good contact at the plate, which translates into base hits. Of course from there, the threat of a steal is imminent. A positive for Bautista this season is his ability to become more patient and work walks. With his ability to steal, getting on base, however possible, is what he needs to do. Already in 2016, he has reached base 29 times via a free pass in 77 games. This is about to shatter his career high of 33 walks in 2015 when he appeared in 133 games. Through his years thus far, Bautista has a slash line of .289/.353/.360. Clearly not power numbers, but solid averages for a player in Bautista’s role.
All in all, Bautista is a talented young prospect worth of the high grade assessed to him by many scouts. The threat of his speed is a legitimate game changer, either in the outfield or on the basepaths, where it will influence games more. That asset, along with his fielding capabilities, are among the best in the minors. The only downspell to his game comes at the plate. While Bautista can certainly handle himself at the dish, his numbers against minor league pitching does open the door for slight concern over whether he can translate his abilities to the major league level. The power is something that will likely never play into his game. Anywhere from 10 or more home runs a year would be a stretch for Bautista to collect, especially if the power remains as is. However, Bautista can apply solid contact to earn base hits, something he has shown consistently thus far. The X factor in becoming a player at the major league level for Bautista is his ability at the plate. At the rate he is going, a backup outfielder role seems in the cards, but there are variables that could sway that outcome in either direction. More strength to add at the plate would certainly make the case for this young prospect to earn a more valuable, everyday spot. The future is bright for Rafael Bautista, but the path to the bigs is not totally clear yet. We will see what this speedy outfielder, this week’s Minor League Monday feature, has in store in seasons moving forward.