Wednesday, January 17, 2007

MiLB Geeks: For Your Eyes Only

The RCDP (or the Minor League Baseball Rookie Career Development Program) gathers all of the top-talent prospects and tries to prepare them for the Major League jump. Tomorrow morning at 11am baseball nerds like myself will be over at where you can get a videodiary-type insider's look at the conference. Hopefully, Yankees newly acquired pitching prospects like Ross Ohlendorf and Humberto Sanchez will be highlighted.

While we're on the topic, I came across an honest, impressive scouting report on Humberto Sanchez from a year ago. The analysis came following the Arizona Fall League and gushed over his ability. They also cringed at his vulnerability toward injury. Don't overlook the irony at the close of the story, as the author applauds Detroit's refusal to deal Sanchez. From's report:

All five of our guest analysts compared Humberto Sanchez to Bartolo Colon. But not all five were complimentary about it. Sanchez looks a bit like the Angels' 2005 Cy Young Award Winner, which is to say he's...girthy. He also throws a bit like him, which is to say hard, and occasionally wild, and often up in the zone. He's also shown that he may be injury prone like Colon, and that's where the comparisons stop being favorable.

"It's tough to say whether you want the kid to drop a bunch of weight," our AL scout said, "because you have to believe that's where at least some of his power comes from, and you never know how that is going to affect his arm. But you wonder if that might be the reason he's had some trouble up until now."

Our two players [didn't enjoy facing Sanchez].

"Oh man, you step in the box to face that guy and you are just not comfortable," one said, "I know it from experience, you just feel like if it hits you, it's not going to stop, it's going to go right through you. And with that curveball..." the player tails off, obviously remembering a personal experience, "it's just not fun to hit against him."

Consistency is the name of the game for Sanchez, both in health and in his stuff. An NL Scout [was trying to make a deal] near the trading deadline last season. His team was pushing hard to get Sanchez included in a deal, and that the Tigers nixed the deal because of it.

"They're not letting him go anywhere," the scout says, "and they're smart not to."

In Sanchez's last start of the AFL season, he showed why. Against a Phoenix Desert Dogs lineup that included studs Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Stephen Drew, and Andy LaRoche Sanchez threw seven shutout innings, allowing just three hits and striking out four. That came after a five shutout inning stint against the Grand Canyon Rafters the week before. Sanchez's AFL ERA was a sparkling 2.15 for the season. Among the league leaders.

"He's the real deal," our Senior scout said, "if he can stay healthy he could dominate."

If Sanchez is able to harness Colon-like dominance at AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre, it will be hard to keep him from the Major League level. Many now believe that Humberto should come out of the bullpen a la Tigers flamethrower Joel Zumaya. As you may have read in the recent Daily News article, Sanchez seems to be a good kid from the Bronx (Dominican Republic originally) who will pitch in whatever capacity gets him to the bigs.

Mentally, I believe he is capable of spending time in the bullpen and eventually returning to the starting rotation. Hopefully Joe Torre's tendency to ignore young bullpen arms does not sabotage a Humberto promotion. The biggest questions on Sanchez center on his ability to remain healthy and physically fit. Are his arm problems the abberation of a young starter's arm or does the medical issue go deeper?

Another proclamation of wait and see falls at the feet of a Yankee prospect. The bottom line: I have yet to come across a scouting report downplaying Humberto's electric stuff. As one NL scout noted "If he had that nasty curveball every start, and spotted his fastball every start, he'd win 20 at any level." That's some big talk on the big guy.

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