Seeing the logic behind Texas’ decision to pass up N0.1 prospect Neftali Feliz in favor of Derek Holland for a call up is becoming easier every time Feliz steps on the mound.
After walking 14 in his first 14 innings, Feliz gave up four free passes in 2 2/3 innings of work in OKC’s 8-1 loss to Omaha Monday night. It was Feliz’ shortest outing of the year and maybe his worst.
The 20-year-old has a fastball that would peel paint (101 mph on the scoreboard at The Brick last week) but he’s still working on developing his other pitches with mixed results. He has yet to have a quality start this season but you have to figure he dials down the walks and gets in a groove sooner or later.
His control problems are resulting in very short outings. In less than three innings Monday he threw 88 pitches.
Meanwhile Holland has looked good in two appearances in Arlington with a 1.69 ERA and four strikeouts in 5.1 innings. The Rangers thought Holland was a more polished product and that looks to be the case.
In this week’s edition of Okies in the Majors we take a look at Josh Fields, the former Stillwater and OSU standout who was given the thanks but no thanks treatment by the White Sox right before the season opened last year in the form of a one way ticket to Triple-A.
Now Fields is a few weeks into what figures to be his first full season in the majors as a regular starter. So how’s it working out? Good but not great. In 65 at bats, he’s hitting .261 with a homer and 10 RBIs.
The not-so-good numbers: Fields is tied for third in the majors with 22 strikeouts, just eight behind league leader Chris Davis of Texas who seems determined to set a new MLB record for K’s. Fields also just hit his first homer of the season Wednesday meaning he’s well off the 20-25 homers he figured to hit before the season.
The good news for Fields is he’s outpacing several other players in Chicago’s lineup. Jermaine Dye has 21 strikeouts and last year’s breakout player Alexei Ramirez has become the poster boy for sophomore slumps, barely hitting over .200. Fields looks like Roy Hobbs in comparison.
More work for Koyie Hill?
Lawton native Koyie Hill may be getting some more work, this time as a third baseman thanks to the cavalcade of injuries that are rocking the Cubs this year. The latest is Derrek Lee who left Sunday’s game with neck spasms. The Cubs are also without Aramis Ramirez who has a calf injury.
Good thing for the Cubs Hill can do more than catch. In his career, majors and minors, he’s played in 16 games at third base and nine at first. Incidentally, Hill’s pretty productive when he gets a chance. Filling in for Geovany Soto he hit .318 with a homer and five RBIs. Meanwhile, the supposed All-Star (Soto) is off to a miserable start with no homers and only two RBIs in 17 more at bats.
Former Moore High School pitcher catching on with Nats
Mike Hinckley, a third round pick of Montreal in the 2001 draft, has found a spot in the Nationals bullpen. Hinckley is rated the No. 22 prospect in Washington’s farm system and had been ranked as high as No. 1 in 2005. Looks like Hinckley may be a late bloomer. He’s appeared in 11 games with a 2.08 ERA as a middle reliever. The 26-year-old also got a crack at the bigs last season with 13.2 innings of work and a 0.00 ERA. About the only negative on Hinckley’s stat line so far is his nine walks in 8.2 innings.
Throughout the season we’ll take a look at some of the top players in the minor leagues with Oklahoma connections. Here’s a look at some of the young pitchers working their way through their respective farm clubs.
Tommy Hanson, RHP, Atlanta (Tulsa)
Hanson’s Oklahoma connections are thin. He was born in Tulsa but never played high school baseball here. Still, we’ll list him anyway because he’s so intriguing.
The No. 1 prospect in Atlanta’s farm system, Hanson’s MLB debut has been eagerly anticipated by everyone from Bravo fans to fantasy nerds. The wait may be worth it as Hanson has been dominating even though he is 0-2 in three starts. Hanson’s ERA is a very low 2.45 and he has 23 strikeouts in 14.2 innings of work in Triple-A. Atlanta believes Hanson is a future ace and he may get to show it soon if someone in their current rotation falters. Either way, there’s little chance Hanson stays in the minors all season.
Bobby Bundy, RHP, Baltimore (Sperry HS)
The No. 15-ranked prospect in the Orioles system according to Baseball America, Bundy was an eighth round pick in last summer’s draft and received the largest signing bonus of anyone in that round ($600,000).
Bundy looks slated to start the season where he finished, with the Gulf Coast Orioles or with Aberdeen (A-ball). He pitched in two games last summer after the draft with a 9.00 ERA.
Parker Frazier, RHP, Colorado (Bishop Kelley)
Frazier was an eighth round pick in 2007 and has steadily developed. He also has good genes. His uncle was a football star at the University of Tulsa and his dad is former big league pitcher George Frazier who is also the Rockies TV color guy.
Frazier was ticketed for the Rockies Single-A affiliate, Ashville of the Gulf Coast League. The 20-year-old is 0-2 with a 6.06 ERA over 16 innings. Frazier has yet to pitch in a full season league so given the Rockies cautious approach it will be worth watching how this year plays out. Maybe the best stat of Frazier’s career is his low walk rate. Prior to this season he walked just 38 in 132 innings.
The RedHawks lost 15-9 to Omaha Tuesday night in a game that didn’t do the profession of throwing baseballs for a living any favors.
Omaha and Oklahoma City pitchers tossed 333 combined pitches through the first seven innings alone in a four-hour game. The RedHawks burned through so many arms, infielder Casey Benjamin took a turn on the hill.
Some struggled more than others, but you have to wonder when the Rangers will call up a prospect from Frisco who is in their long term plans to fill spots of players who may not be.
Several candidates might be lefty Kasey Kiker and Tommy Hunter. While Omaha and OKC pitchers were giving up hit after hit, three hours to the south in Frisco Kiker pitched seven scoreless innings of one hit ball with two walks and seven strikeouts.
Kiker, 21, is the No. 19 ranked prospect in the Rangers farm system according to Baseball America. There have been some concerns about his conditioning, so much so team president Nolan Ryan personally talked to him about it. Those issues caused him to drop 12 spots on BA’s rankings this season, but there’s no denying he has potential.
Kiker projects as a starter on the major league level, but the Rangers called up Derek Hollland who is a starter and the No. 2 prospect in the organization to Arlington to pitch in the pen while getting his feet wet on the big league level. Doing the same with Kiker seems plausible if he were promoted to Triple-A before later working him into the rotation.
Hunter pitched in Oklahoma City last year as both a reliever and a starter. He’ll probably land in OKC anyway eventually. The Rangers have been taking a slow approach with Hunter since he suffered a groin injury in spring training.
Texas could also choose to stand pat and leave OKC’s pen and rotation alone. Kiker didn’t pitch nearly as well in his first start so there are still some rough edges to smooth out and Dustin Nippert was added to OKC’s roster Tuesday on a rehab assignment. He figures to take a turn or two in the rotation or in relief, along with Michael Ballard who started out in the pen but will make at least one start later this week.
Not every Okie in the majors get the hype guys like Matt Kemp and Brad Penny do. For every player like that there’s two or three guys who have quietly carved out careers in the bigs. Here’s a look at how some of them are doing this season.
Brian Tallet, RP (Toronto)
Before Brian Tallet began his pro baseball career he starred at Putnam West and also helped Louisiana State win a national championship in baseball.
Tallet has been mainly a reliever during his career but he has made some spot starts for Toronto. In his latest outing he started in place Jesse Litsch and pitched 5 1/3 innings with a walk and a strikeout.
For the season Tallet has 12.7 innings pitched wit ha 4.26 ERA and 10 K’s against just five walks.
Nick Blackburn, SP (Minnesota)
Blackburn was born in Ada and went to Seminole JC by way of Del City High School.
A former 29th round draft pick, Blackburn has carved out a spot in the Twins rotation, with mixed results. In his most recent start he pitched 6 1/3 innings allowing four runs on eight hits in a no decision.
The 27-year-old is 0-1 with a 5.71 ERA so far. He reached a career high in wins with 11 last season and a 4.05 ERA. Blackburn isn’t a strikeout pitcher, but he had a nice balls to strikeout ratio with 96K’s against 39 walks.
Okie’s in the majors stock watch
Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers: Kemp has been en fuego to start the year with a .383 three homers and 14 RBIs. His walk-off granny against Colorado is emblematic of the way he’s playing with a pace to set career highs in RBIs and stolen bases.
Brad Penny, SP, Red Sox: Penny will make $9.2 million for Boston but his 11.00 ERA is not going to make many in Red Sox Nation happy. Penny seems to be having control issues with seven walks against three strikeouts in nine innings.
Matt Holliday, 1B, Oakland: Some thought when Holliday left the National League and the thin air of Coors Field his numbers might suffer. Well, the numbers are suffering. Holliday is hitting .266 with no homers and 11 strikeouts in 45 at bats. Holliday hit .321 with 25 homers last season. His previous high was 36 in 2007.
Later this week
Tuesday: Okies in the minors.
Thursday: History corner, a look back at past Okies in the majors.
Former Midwest City product and current Dodgers star Matt Kemp hit a walk-off grand slam to beat the Rockies Sunday afternoon.
It was Kemp’s second home run of the game and his third this year. He’s gotten off to a roaring start with a .383 average, hitting safely in seven straight games at one point. He is yielding no ground to Manny Ramirez when it comes to the spotlight in LA’s outfield.
Kemp’s homer pace is slightly behind what he had last year, but he is on pace for career highs in RBI with 121 and stolen bases with 54. He may not hit those numbers but he’s off to the right start.
Prized pitching prospect Derek Holland was called up by Texas Saturday morning, scratching his scheduled start tonight against Memphis.
To make room for Holland the Rangers designated reliever Josh Rupe for assignment. It’s an interesting move for the Rangers, especially since Holland didn’t look strong in his first Triple-A start last week. Holland pitched four innings, giving up five hits and four earned runs with five strikeouts.
Thomas Diamond will start in his place. Diamond had begun the season in the bullpen. It’s unclear whether or not he will stay there with Holland’s departure.
Holland is likely to start his career with the big league club as a reliever, something team president Nolan Ryan has said was under consideration during spring training.
Taking a look back at the first home game for Oklahoma City, one thing was pretty clear: This is going to be an inconsistent team and at times, wildly inconsistent.
At least for awhile.
Starting pitcher Elizardo Ramirez looked pretty good in his first start, but not in his second. Oklahoma’s bats came alive during their series with Nashville, but not so much in a 4 hit loss Friday night.
Tonight’s second home game with Memphis could be a different story if the early season pattern holds up. OKC could put a dozen on the board.
The good news for the RedHawks is they have time to get it together. Nobody is running away with the PCL South anytime soon. All four teams have at least 5 losses, with Round Rock checking in with six. No team is over .500 either.
If you’re Oklahoma City you hope to win every other night, and get on a hot 6-8 game win streak at some point in the season and more than likely, the division title is yours.
It’s a lot harder than it sounds, but even without mashers like Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis, it’s doable. And the RedHawks may have a few mashers yet anyway. Catcher Max Ramirez has started the season cold, but he’ll hit at least 20 this summer. Royce Huffman and Ben Harrison also have the potential to hit a few over the fences too.
Not a good night for RedHawks starter Elizardo Ramirez who just left the game after being pounded for six hits and five runs. Ramirez took the loss in his first start but looked good, going seven innings with a 1.29 ERA.
Not so much Friday night. Ramirez had trouble throwing strikes with two walks and a wild pitch in three innings.
Incidentally, Royce Huffman gets the honor of the first home dinger for Oklahoma City, a solo shot to left in the third.
Former Stillwater pitcher Brett Anderson made his second big league start for Oakland Wednesday, taking the loss against Boston.
He pitched much better than his debut (when he gave up five earned runs) throwing seven innings while allowing five hits and two earned runs. He struck out five, three more than his first start. One pitch got him in the most trouble, a two-run homer by Mike Lowell early in the game.
So after two starts, is Anderson ready for a full time gig in the show?
Probably not yet. The 21-year-old was dynamite in spring training, but he had just 19 starts between A-ball and Double-A last summer, in part because he was a member of Team USA and pitched in the Olympics.
Lefties also usually take longer to develop and while he has a lot more than a fastball in his arsenal of pitches, none of them could be considered finished products. Gutting it out in Triple-A games without the pressure of the big leagues has a way of smoothing out those edges.
But none of that means Anderson is going anywhere.
Since he’s already the top pitching prospect in the organization, there’s not much in the way of call ups threatening his spot, and No. 5 starter Josh Outman was even worse in his debut.
Justin Duchscherer could be back from elbow surgery by the middle of next month, but may be one bad toss away from the DL all season.
Anderson may not be ready, but it’s easy to see how Oakland could leave him in the rotation largely out of necessity. And even though he took another loss, he lasted three more innings, gave up three fewer runs while doubling his strikeouts in his second start. For a kid taking his first few steps as a pro, that’s no small thing.
ON EDIT: Thanks to the wonders of MLB TV I was able to watch each inning Anderson worked. Lost in the box score was his six consecutive ground ball outs and three strikeouts of JD Drew. He also got Big Papi once. People will focus on the loss, but Anderson actually looked pretty good overall. He was still hitting 93 mph with his fastball in the seventh.
*In the interest of full disclosure, Anderson is on my fantasy team.