Archive for July 11th, 2009

Thunder Win In Connecticut

July 11, 2009

(PR) (Norwich, CT)- Trenton Shortstop Eduardo Nunez had the go-ahead RBI single in the eighth inning, and the Thunder held off Connecticut 6-5 on Saturday night from Dodd Stadium in Norwich, CT. Trenton and Connecticut have now split the first 12 games of the season-series.

Trenton broke a 5-5 tie in the top of the eighth inning. Third baseman Marcos Vechionacci led off the inning with a walk against Connecticut Reliever Geivy Garcia. Garcia was then replaced by Connecticut Reliever Matt Yourkin. Center fielder Austin Krum followed with a sacrifice bunt to move Vechionacci to second base. After a groundout by Second baseman Reegie Corona, Vechionacci advanced to third base on a wild pitch by Yourkin. Nunez drove Vechionacci in with the go-ahead RBI single. Trenton tied the game in the eighth inning at 5-5 on an RBI single by First Baseman Jorge Vazquez. Trenton Reliever Michael Dunn (3-3) tossed 2 2/3 shutout innings to pick up the win. He struck out five and did not walk a batter. Trenton Reliever Jose Valdez worked out of a jam in the ninth inning with runners at the corners with two outs to notch his fifth save of the season. In the win, six Thunder players had multi-hit games.

Trenton (43-44) scored four runs in the second inning to take a 4-0 lead. Designated hitter Chris Malec walked to start the inning against Connecticut Starting Pitcher Tim Alderson. Left fielder Noah Hall followed with an infield single to advance Malec to second base. Right fielder Richie Robnett then delivered a two-run RBI triple to plate Malec and Hall. Catcher Kyle Anson produced an RBI single to score Robnett, and later in the frame Corona singled home Anson to cap off the scoring.

But the Defenders would score three runs in the bottom half of the second inning to cut the lead to 4-3. Connecticut Third baseman Brad Boyer singled to lead off the frame, and scored with one out on an RBI triple by Designated Hitter Adam Witter. Shortstop Brandon Crawford followed with an RBI double to make it 4-2. Second baseman Brock Bond connected on a two-out RBI single to score Crawford.

Trenton Starting Pitcher Zach McAllister received a no-decision. He allowed nine hits and five runs over 5 1/3 innings. The nine hits tied a season-high. He had allowed nine hits to Connecticut on June 16th. The five runs were the most that he has given up in a game this season. Alderson gave up eight hits and four runs in five innings to also receive a no-decision. In his first start against Trenton, Alderson tossed seven shutout innings against the Thunder on June 16th.

Trenton and Connecticut play the third game of a four-game series on Sunday afternoon. RHP Kanekoa Texeira (6-5, 3.17) will start for Trenton against Connecticut RHP Brooks McNiven (1-2, 3.90). Game time is set for 1:05 pm.

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It’s Report Card Time (Position Players)

July 11, 2009

Really, I do stuff like this for the purpose of creating discussion more than any other reason.  You’ll agree with some of the grades, think some are too high and others too low. 

Good, that’s what I want. 

But I also want you to make your case as to why I may be wrong in some of my assessments of the position players that currently comprise the 2009 Trenton Thunder…

CATCHERS

#35, Kyle Anson

Anson is a solid all-around player, but not spectacular in any way.  His greatest strength is likely his throwing arm, as he throws out a decent amount of runners and also calls a good game.  He has a good eye at the plate — he currently has more walks than strikeouts — but isn’t much of a power threat and has little speed to speak of.  He’s been a steady contributor to the Thunder so far this season and has shown some improvement at the plate, but considering his age (26) and depth at the catcher position in the organization, he needs to show more to warrant being considered more than an organizational backup.

All-Star Break Grade: C+

#48, Jesus Montero

The 19-year-old has only been with the Thunder for a little more than a month now, and has already made quite an impact.  He’s popular off the field, and impressive on it.  He’ll be representing Trenton at the Eastern League All-Star Game on Wednesday, and while you could certainly make a strong case that someone else should have gone considering he’s yet to play in 30 EL games, the numbers are certainly there.  Montero can drive the ball a long way with ease, with a simple flick of the wrists sending balls on a line towards the outfield fences.  Most balls he hits seem to be line drives, with his memorable first Double-A home run making a resonating thud against the batters eye in center field as a result.  He seems to have some trouble with offspeed pitches at times, but he may have the strongest bat in the organization right now.  Defensively is where Montero struggles, as his size causes him trouble in transferring the ball and making a strong, accurate throw to the desired base.  One American League scout recently told me that overall, he liked Austin Romine better than he did Montero as a result of Montero’s defensive troubles.  But his bat will keep him in the lineup every day, regardless of where he is on the field.

All-Star Break Grade: B+

INFIELDERS

#32, Reegie Corona

Reeginald!  It seems to be rare that you notice Corona out there, unless he’s playing shortstop, which is a position that he still has yet to master.  Most times, his defense at second base is impeccable, and he has the range to make dazzling plays on occasion.  Offensively, he doesn’t have a standout tool, but can hit for average and has shown improved power to the right side of the field.  His speed is probably a little overrated, but he is capable of stealing 15-20 bases in a season.  His discipline at the plate probably overplays his speed a little bit, as his penchant for walks gets him on base a little more than he should be.  Corona was named to the Eastern League All-Star Game this season, and deservedly so.  But ideally, he’d have stuck in Scranton by now.

All-Star Break Grade: B-

#17, Chris Malec

A lot of what Malec brings to the table doesn’t show up in the boxscore.  He works hard and is committed to his unique pre-game warm-up, in which he does various running drills in the outfield.  One of the leaders on the club, Malec’s hustle has been the bright spot in many a Thunder loss.  However, he may also be the slowest player on the team, and likely loses a few extra-base hits a year because of his sub-par speed.  Malec’s bat is consistent, and occasionally has some pop.  Defensively, he’s an average corner infielder who can occasionally come up with a spectacular play and rarely takes a play off.  But like Corona, he likely should have stuck in Scranton by now.

All-Star Break Grade: B

#37, Eduardo Nunez

Nunez is one of the better pure hitters on the team, and will likely have the big leagues in his future at some point.  But unless he can improve defensively, he’s unlikely to be a regular player.  Nunez is a singles hitter at this point, but if he can develop the ability to find the gaps, his speed could change that assessment.  Far from a burner, his speed is still above average, and may ultimately be his best asset to a big league club.  Defensively, Nunez is error prone, occasionally making the routine play look amazing.  But, he can also make the amazing play look routine.  At this point, he could use the polish of the rest of the season in Double-A, and perhaps at least part of 2010.

All-Star Break Grade: B-

#9, Justin Snyder

Snyder’s grade only takes into account his play this season, and not the fact that he’s skipped a level and dealt with sporadic and somewhat unpredictable playing time.  But it does seem somewhat clear that Snyder, who excelled in his first two professional seasons, isn’t quite ready for the Double-A level, at least with his bat.  He’s been adequate at all of the spots he’s had to play at in the field, but he simply hasn’t seen the caliber of pitching here having come up from Low-A last year.  Ultimately, Snyder will have learned a lot from this season, and may be a better player for it next year, when he will likely return to Trenton.  Anyone thinking this season is an indication of what kind of player Snyder is should be mistaken.  Simply put, he appears to be in a bit over his head this year.

All-Star Break Grade: D

#52, Jorge Vazquez

Vazquez’s bat is likely ready for the big leagues right now.  But his glove seems to be in Little League.  Vazquez has done a lot of work at first base hours before the game at Waterfront Park, but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.  Right now, he simply couldn’t be used as anything else other than a designated hitter at the big league level.  But boy, can he hit.  Vazquez ‘s bat covers all of the plate, and he has pure power that could take him very far in the organization.  On the basepaths, Vazquez is a liability, but his ability to hit the ball to all fields still leads to a lot of doubles.  He’s the one hitter in the Thunder lineup who can truly change the game with one swing.  If he can continue to lose weight and improve at first base, it would do a lot to help his cause at advancing through the system.

All-Star Break Grade: B-

#46, Marcos Vechionacci

Vechionacci has not been good this season.  There’s no other way to put it.  Once considered an elite prospect in the organization, injuries and inconsistency have caused his stock to plummet over the past few seasons.  Vechionacci says that making an adjustment from switch hitting to exclusively hitting from the right side has affected him this season, but unless he can start putting things together in the second half, he’s in danger of becoming organizational dead weight.  Defensively, he has a penchant for making spectacular plays, but has also made some bad decisions that have led to some errors.  It’s still clear that Vechionacci has the tools to be an above average player, but his time to do so in this organization may be running out.

All-Star Break Grade: D-

OUTFIELDERS

#31, James Cooper

Currently injured, Coop could have been in line for the brief promotion to Scranton that Richie Robnett ultimately got.  Like others on the team, he doesn’t have one standout tool, but does a lot of things well enough to be a solid player at this level.  With a bat that could be considered average or just a tick below, a little more speed could serve him well to get on base a little more.  Defensively, he’s adequate, but doesn’t really hurt you in any way.  Cooper has a strong work ethic, which has been shown by the extra work he’s been doing in trying to come back from his current oblique injury.  Right now, he’s probably a 3rd or 4th outfielder, but slight improvement in any one area could improve his stock.

All-Star Break Grade: C+

#25, Edwar Gonzalez

Gonzalez is a hard worker and one of the more approachable players on the team, but it’s also fair to say he may be the biggest disappointment on the club this year as well.  After hitting 20 home runs last season between Tampa and Trenton, that power has seemed to disappear, possibly sapped as the result of an early season oblique injury.  Once thought to be the top candidate for a call-up to Scranton, it was telling that a healthy Gonzo was bypassed in favor of Richie Robnett for the most recent promotion.  Defensively, Gonzalez doesn’t have a strong arm by any means, and his so-so speed prevents him from ultimately getting to a lot of balls that he hustles for.  Still, a rejuvenated Gonzalez may be the key in the Thunder turning their season around, and the tools are still there for that to happen.

All-Star Break Grade: D+

#44, Noah Hall

Hall has done what he was brought in to do; stabilize a struggling Double-A outfield.  A veteran bat brought in from the independent Atlantic League for the second time in three years, the easygoing Hall takes a good approach at the plate and can spray singles with ease.  But he has little pop left in his bat, and shouldn’t be considered a threat for too many extra-base hits.  Defensively, Hall is solid, and is average on the basepaths as well.  His veteran leadership is an asset for many of the young players on the club, and he’d make an excellent coach in the organization down the road.  But he still has some hits left in his bat.

All-Star Break Grade: B-

#4, Austin Krum

Krum has struggled in his first foray into Double-A, but has shown signs that he can make an impact down the road.  So far, Krum’s standout tool has been his throwing arm, which has been very strong but occasionally inaccurate in center field.  His speed could eventually become an asset as well.  Offensively, he needs to make better choices at the plate to cut down on strikeouts.  His hustle is a plus, and the numbers may reflect that at some point.

All-Star Break Grade: D

#26, Richie Robnett

Offensively, Robnett has shown that he’s above being at Double-A.  Defensively, he still needs some work.  He occasionally takes bad routes to balls and seems to make bad reads on others.  Overall, he isn’t bad in the field, but he occasionally will make a glaring mistake.  At the plate, however, Robnett is impressive.  While he hasn’t shown as much power that might have been expected of him, he seems to hit the ball with ease, and has shown a penchant for the clutch hit.  He’s still very toolsy and not very polished, and you have to wonder when he’ll be able to put everything he has together.  But if he ever does, he’ll be a valuable asset for someone.

All-Star Break Grade: C

Stay tuned for a look at the pitchers…

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Around The EL: Kyle Drabek

July 11, 2009

drabek

Continuing a series of interviews with some of the best prospects in the Eastern League, Reading Phillies pitcher Kyle Drabek and I sat down for about six minutes before a recent game at Waterfront Park to talk about his relatively brief career.

Now the subject of trade talks that would reportedly net the Phillies Roy Halladay in return, Drabek, son of former Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek, has been named to play in the 2009 Futures Game.  But where his future ultimately lies likely won’t be decided until the trade deadline comes and goes.

Ranked as the Phillies fifth best prospect by Baseball America, that same scouting report labels the 21-year-old as “no choirboy” and states that he’s been knocked for his immaturity before.  But Drabek couldn’t have been nicer to me — we spoke on several occasions during the series — and reporters who conducted similar interviews with him shared similar sentiments.

Without further ado, here’s “Around the Eastern League with Kyle Drabek.”

Mike Ashmore: The Phillies selected you with the 18th overall pick in the 2006 draft.  Take me back to draft day, what was that like for you?

Kyle Drabek: “It was an amazing experience.  It’s been my dream since I was a young kid, and to see it coming true, it was a great moment.”

Ashmore: How did you find out you’d been picked where you were?  Did you get picked around where you were expecting to go?

Drabek: “I knew the Phillies were really interested.  I’d had a whole bunch of people over at my house for it, and we were all just having a little party.  My dad was just on the internet looking at it, and he came in and told us.  It was just amazing.”

Ashmore: You had to undergo Tommy John Surgery in 2007.  How big of a setback was that for you, and how close to you feel like you are now to where you were before that?

Drabek: “The setback, it really wasn’t that bad.  I came out of it, I think, a better player.  Mentally and physically.  My arm right now, I mean it feels great.  It keeps getting better and better.  I’ll want to say it’s 100 percent, but the next day it feels better, so I’d say somewhere in the 90’s.”

Ashmore: You said that you came out of it better mentally and physically…so how different are you now compared to then?

Drabek: “Before, I was probably just a thrower.  I would just go out there and try to strike people out…”

Ashmore: Do you think that’s what led to having to have surgery in the first place?

Drabek: “Maybe.  I think the way I was throwing it and trying to throw as hard as I could almost every pitch probably hurt it.  But then afterwards, I became a pitcher.  I was trying to locate pitches and just get outs.”

Ashmore: In doing some research about you, you come across a lot of compaints about maturity issues and makeup and so on.  When you see stuff like that, what goes through your mind?

Drabek: “I don’t really think about it too much, because most of the stuff on there I think is false.  I mean, I haven’t had any problems.  I just let it go, it doesn’t really bother me at all.”

Ashmore: How big of an adjustment has it been for you coming up to Double-A?

Drabek: “A huge one. Coming up here, the hitters better, the umps are tighter and just all-around, the players have gotten better.  It’s a great challenge for me to come up here and try to pitch like I know how to and prove that I was a good choice to move up.”

Ashmore: Your numbers in Double-A have been really good so far.  Are you doing better than you thought you would have at this point?

Drabek: “You know what?  So far, yeah.  I didn’t know what it was going to be like.  But, I think the only reason is that the control of my fastball has gotten a lot better this whole year than it has been in a real long time.”

Ashmore: For someone who hasn’t seen you pitch before, can you give me a self-scouting report on what kind of pitcher you are and what pitches you throw, etc.

Drabek: “Fastball, curveball, change.  Mid 90’s fastball.  I guess I can throw any pitch at any time.  I’m still working on my changeup, though.”

Ashmore: So what do you do work on that pitch?

Drabek: “Just in the bullpen, throwing it more than the curveball, just trying to get the feel for it.”

Ashmore: I’m sure pretty much every interview you do, people bring up your dad…and I guess something I was kind of curious about came up when I was talking to Ozzie Smith yesterday.  He has a son trying to get into professional baseball, and he was saying how that any perceptions of there being nepotism in the game are false and that it’s actually been harder for him given the name he has.  Given that your dad was a very successful pitcher who won a Cy Young Award, I was kind of curious if you agreed with The Wizard…

Drabek: “No, not really.  I would say they kind of expected more.  With my dad, he didn’t really care what I did.  If I didn’t want to be a baseball player, he’d be perfectly fine with it.  He would just help me out, and he always told me just to go out there and play like I know how to and don’t worry about anything, really.”

Ashmore: So what role did he play in your development?

Drabek: “A big one.  He pretty much taught me everything since I was born.  It’s been great having him around for after games, I can call him and stuff.  It’s good.”

Ashmore: Were you one of those kids who essentially kind of grew up at the ballpark; hanging out with dad in the clubhouse and so on?

Drabek: “I was probably one of those guys that was in the clubhouse.  I got to go in there, I got to hang out with him before the games.  And then during the game, I’d go and sit with my mom.  It was great being able to go into the locker rooms and just see all the big name players and know that that’s where you want to be one day.”

Ashmore: So with that said, do you kind of have any sort of timetable as to when you think you’ll get to put on the big league uniform for the first time?

Drabek: “Nah.  Whenever they want me, I’ll be ready for it.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com