Posts Tagged ‘Baseball prospects’

Around the EL: Lars Anderson

August 7, 2009

larsAsk and ye shall receive. 

Lars Anderson was the winner of a recent poll on here, asking which Around the EL feature you’d like to see next.

The Sea Dogs slugger entered the season as the Red Sox top prospect, according to Baseball America.  During Portland’s last trip to Waterfront Park this year, I sat down with the laid-back California native for a few minutes and asked him a number of questions…

(Note: Friend and colleague Kira Jones, who works for MiLB.com, was also there for part of the interview and asked one of these questions as well…)

Mike Ashmore: The Boston Red Sox picked you in the 18th round in 2006, certainly a bit lower than I’m sure you thought you might go.  Thinking back to the day you got selected, what comes to mind?

Lars Anderson: “At the time, I was really indecisive about if I wanted to play pro ball or if I wanted to go to school.  I kind of felt some relief, because I was supposed to go a little higher than that and I slipped.  So I was like, ‘OK, I kind of want to go to school.’  Then the Red Sox picked me.  I was on my way to baseball practice and my brother called and said, ‘Hey, how do you like Boston?’  And I thought that was cool, so it just worked out nicely.”

Ashmore: Baseball America has got you rated as the Red Sox number one prospect this season.  Does being held in such high regard like that weigh on your shoulders at all, or do you not really think about it?

Anderson: “I try to not pay attention to that, and I think I would be able to do that, but people remind you of it.  So it’s there, and it’s a matter of managing that.  I don’t think it reflects on me as far as how I am as a ballplayer or as a person, it’s just a subjective opinion of the organization.  I don’t even know if that person who made that list has seen me play.  So it’s pretty arbitrary.  I know a lot of guys in this organization are at the top of their game, so I don’t really know how accurate that whole thing is.”

Ashmore: Can you give me a little scouting report on yourself for someone who hasn’t seen you play?

Anderson: “Offensively, when I’m going really well, I’m quiet, my swing is easy and I’m driving the ball up the middle and in the gaps.  When I struggle, I’ll start to pull off of balls.  And I think that’s true for a lot of hitters.  I like hitting fastballs, but I think I’m getting better at hitting offspeed stuff.  They always say that the best offspeed hitters are the guys that hit the fastballs, so it seems like it’s a nice approach to take.”

“Defensively, I’m pretty pleased with some of the strides I’ve made.  There’s some situational stuff that I’ve made mistakes on that it’s good to have that happen now.  There was a play last night where that happen, and I was like OK, next time I’ll be a little bit more aware of that.  I feel fundamentally a bit more comfortable on the field, which is great.  I’m working hard at it.”

Ashmore: You got to play in the Eastern League All-Star Game here in Trenton recently.  What was your experience like?

Anderson: “It was great.  I wish the All-Star break was about four days long so I could have a couple days to myself, but it was fun.  It was really cool meeting up with all these guys and kind of picking their brains and seeing where they’re at.  I really had some good connections.  A lot of times they’ll just come through first base and you’ll have a brief conversation, but there I was able to connect with them a little bit more.  That was a cool thing for me.”

Ashmore: You came into tonight’s game hitting around .270, and a lot of people consider that struggling for you considering what you’ve hit in the past.  Does that seem ridiculous to you at all?

Anderson: “No, it’s not.  I know I can do better than what I’m doing, and I always feel that way.  I think I’m going to look back on this year, regardless of what happens in the next month and a half, and be like, ‘Wow, that was a huge year for me, I learned a lot.'”

Ashmore: In reading a lot of scouting reports on you, it seems a lot of people feel like you can hit in the big leagues right now.  Is that an asssessment you’d agree with?

Anderson: “I don’t know, I haven’t really had much experience.  I had a few at-bats in spring training, but it’s just a handful.  I feel like if I was locked in, I could probably hold my own.  I don’t know.  I’m sure if they execute their pitches…those guys get big leaguers out, so it would probably be tough.  I don’t know, I’d like to try.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Around The EL: Madison Bumgarner

July 24, 2009

BumgarnerIf the Giants — surprisingly still in the National League West race (10 games back) and certainly in the NL Wild Card race (one game behind Chicago) — are looking to add a Major League arm to give them a boost for the pennant race at the trade deadline, it seems likely that the guy pictured to your left would have to be involved in any serious talks.

But anyone who’s seen Madison Bumgarner pitch will tell you that they’d be foolish to deal him.

Still more will tell you he might just be that big league arm they need.

Back when the Connecticut Defenders made their final trip into Waterfront Park this season — a trip in which Bumgarner did not pitch — I was able to spend a few minutes with the soon to be 20-year-old outside of the visiting clubhouse.

Mike Ashmore: A lot is being made about you being a 19-year-old kid in Double-A…do you feel like a 19-year-old kid in Double-A?

Madison Bumgarner: “Yeah, it’s weird.  Not really, though.  I just feel like one of the guys, you know.  I don’t really think about the age difference.”

Ashmore: But you are more or less hanging out with a bunch of older guys…that wasn’t always the case when you were coming up through the lower levels…

Bumgarner: “When I first started playing in pro ball, it was a little different.  That was really the only time.  Last year there were some older guys on the team and then in San Jose and then here it’s been the same way.”

Ashmore: You’ve got grown men climbing over chairs to get you to sign your name on a baseball or a piece of paper or whatever…I guess what has the adjustment been like to really being in the spotlight on a full-time basis like you are now?

Bumgarner: It’s…I don’t know, I don’t really have a good answer for that.  It’s definitely weird, at first especially.  You don’t really have that…mostly it was little kids was all I’d had before.  Now, people collect cards and stuff and always want your signature.  It’s pretty cool though, that’s for sure.”

Ashmore: It has to be pretty cool to be on cards, too.  Did you collect at all when you were a kid?

Bumgarner: “Yeah, it is.  When I was about eight or nine, I did a little bit. I went through that stage, but I kind of grew out of it.”

Ashmore: You were the 10th overall pick in the 2007 draft…take me back to draft day, what was that like for you?

Bumgarner: “We were at graduation practice in high school.  It was definitely exciting.  I didn’t really have a real good idea of where I’d go, I was hoping in the first round but I didn’t know what team.  When they called my name for that spot, I was definitely thrilled.  It was exciting to get started.  It took a while to get the deal down.”

Ashmore: So you signed when you were 17 still…

Bumgarner: “I’d just turned 18, I was 18 for about ten days.”

Ashmore: So you went from being a high school kid to signing a multi-million dollar deal…did you have like a high school job or anything like that before all of that?

Bumgarner: “No.  My parents didn’t really want me to get a job because they knew I’d have to work one day, so they wanted me to just have fun while I could.”

Ashmore: OK, so you went from essentially pitching for free to landing a bonus check for two million dollars…I think it’s safe to say most 18-year-olds don’t have that kind of cash in their wallets…

Bumgarner: “It’s humbling, because I couldn’t have got here without my faith in the Lord.  It’s awesome to be able take care of your family and take care of your mom, because she’s taken care of me my whole life.”

Ashmore: What kind of role did your parents play in helping you in your career?

Bumgarner: “They were always there for me, you know.  They drove me practice all the time, whenever I needed to.  They’ve always supported me.  I couldn’t be where I’m at without them, that’s for sure.”

Ashmore: In reading scouting reports on you, it seems the fastball is the big pitch for you.  Is there something you feel makes your fastball stand out compared to other pitchers or your other pitches?

Bumgarner: “I don’t really know.  I just know it’s my best pitch for sure.  I’d like to be able to see it for myself, to be in the box or something and see me throw it.  But I don’t think that’s ever going to happen.”

Ashmore: So with your fastball where it is, how important is the command and execution of your secondary stuff to you?

Bumgarner: “It’s definitely a lot more important the higher you go up.  Here, it’s way more important than it was last year.  The last year was way more important than it’s ever been for me in high school.  You’ve got to keep locating.  My slider and changeup is getting a lot better, so hopefully they’re both on the way to being plus pitches.”

Ashmore: In the Baseball America Prospect Handbook, the scouting report says that you kind of scrapped throwing the curveball in order to work on the slider…is that still a work in progress?

Bumgarner: “Well, I never really threw a curveball, so I don’t know where that’s coming from.  I’ve heard a couple people say that.  But I’ve thrown a slider the whole time.”

Ashmore: For someone who hasn’t seen you pitch before, can you kind of give me a self-scouting report on what kind of pitcher you and what you like to throw and so on…

Bumgarner: “I like to think of myself as a power pitcher.  I don’t know, I just like to go out there and go after guys and try to get them out and stay in the game as long as I can.  I’ve been trying to get quicker outs so I can stay in the game longer, so that’s kind of a tough adjustment from being more of a strikeout guy.”

Ashmore: When you look at the young pitching in this organization — yourself, Tim Lincecum, Tim Alderson — are you excited of being a part of that at the big league level soon?

Bumgarner: “Oh yeah.  That’s for sure.  I’d love to be there and contributing as soon as possible.”

Ashmore: You’ve got Alderson here with you on the Defenders, so naturally a lot of people are comparing the two of you.  What is something you do better than him and what is something he does better than you?

Bumgarner: “I don’t know what I do better than him.  He’s definitely a good pitcher.  His offspeed stuff and throwing that for strikes, he can just do that any time in the count.  He doesn’t really walk guys, doesn’t give up many hits or many runs.  He’s just a good pitcher.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Around The EL: Tim Alderson

July 10, 2009

alderson3As the 2009 Eastern League All-Star Game — to be held at Waterfront Park on July 15th — draws closer, I thought now would be the best time to start breaking out some of these interviews I’ve been conducting with players from around the league.

The first of these chats will be with Connecticut Defenders pitcher Tim Alderson, who entered the season as the San Francisco Giants fourth best prospect, according to Baseball America.

The 20-year old spun what may have been his best Double-A start so far at Waterfront Park on June 16th, allowing no runs on two hits while striking out five in seven innings of work.

The 22nd overall pick in the 2007 draft and I chatted outside of the Defenders clubhouse for about five minutes and discussed a wide variety of topics…

Mike Ashmore: San Francisco picked you 22nd overall in the 2007 draft.  Take me back to that day, what was that like for you?

Tim Alderson: “It was pretty crazy.  I didn’t really know what was going to happen.  I had expectations, but you can’t predict anything on draft day, of course.  So I just kind of had to sit there and wait and see how the cards fell.  It happened to work out, and I was able to sign kind of early and get out there and play.”

Ashmore: Did you have any plans for college if you weren”t going to sign?

Alderson: “Yeah, I had signed with Oregon state to go play there.  But I couldn’t get away from signing with the Giants, so I decided to just go do that.”

Ashmore: Having seen you pitch yesterday, your delivery could certainly be described as unique.  How did you start that, and how would you describe it?

Alderson: “I have no idea that I actually look like that.  So it feels a lot smoother than it looks, I guess you could say.  I didn’t really have a time that I started doing it, because I don’t realize that I really do it.”

Ashmore: It just sort of came natural to you when you first started throwing?

Alderson: “Yeah.  I can’t even try to make it look smooth, I guess.  I don’t know.”

Ashmore: Has anyone tried to change that delivery since it isn’t very conventional?

Alderson: “Not really.  I mean, I can repeat it, so that’s all that matters I guess.  They’ve left it alone pretty much.”

Ashmore: And it’s easy for you to repeat since you don’t really notice it, as you’ve said…

Alderson: “Yeah, it’s not like I have to think about how to move my leg a certain way, it just happens that way.”

Ashmore: For people who haven’t had the chance to see you pitch, can you give me a little self-scouting report on what kind of pitcher you are, what pitches you throw, and so on…

Alderson: “I’m real aggressive.  I like to go right at the hitters and not waste too many pitches, let my defense work.  I’m trying to keep my pitch count down and get deeper into the game.  I’m not worried too much about strikeouts, they’ll come when they come.  Other than that, I’m just trying to get people into the game.”

Ashmore: People talk about your curveball quite a bit…is that something you consider to be your best pitch?  Is it a pitch you work on a lot?

Alderson: “Yeah, it’s definitely one of my best pitches.  It’s definitely my strikeout pitch, you can probably figure that out just by watching the game.  I just try to keep it down and not try to hang anything.  It’s been good so far.  I’m working on other pitches, and that’s going good.”

Ashmore: You’re a 20-year-old kid in Double-A, but does it feel that way to you?  Has this been as easy as you’ve been making it look?

Alderson: “It’s totally different in Double-A than it was last year or even the beginning of the season this year in High-A.  You can tell there are a lot of older guys here who are experienced and know what they’re doing out there.  You’ve got to have a better game plan and think more about each pitch before you throw it.  It’s definitely not been easy at all.  It’s been an adjustment, but it’s a fun battle.”

Ashmore: After that first start you had in Double-A, where you didn’t allow a hit and struck out ten in six and two thirds, were you thinking that they’re all going to be like that?

Alderson: “(Laughs) No.  Those type of starts only happen once in a while.  You’ve just got to enjoy it, but know that there’s stuff that you need to work on even if you have a game like that.  There’s always things you can see after pitching a game like that, you can go out there and find different things to work on.”

Ashmore: Tough to give up the ball after a start like that?

Alderson: “It’s part of the game.  It was a smart move by our manager to bring in a lefty with the lineup they had out there.”

Ashmore: You look at yourself, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum…it seems like this organization is going to be set when it comes to pitching for a long time.  How much thought do you give to being able to be a part of that at the big league level sometime soon?

Alderson: “It would definitely be fun for that to happen.  Madison and I signed at the same time and were drafted in the same class, so it would be fun to get up there together.  You can’t help but think about it.  We have a lot of fun out there each and every day, so you’ve just got to hope for the best.”

Ashmore: What is something that Bumgarner does better than you, and what’s something you do better than him?

Alderson: “I don’t really know.  We have our different styles of pitching.  He’s a real hard throwing lefty, and he’s left-handed and I’m right-handed, which is a big part of it.  He has different things that he works on, and I have different things that I work on.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com