West Virginia Black Bears 2017

By Steve Samek

Tonight, the West Virginia Black Bears begin season number three. The Black Bears had a .500 campaign in 2016 with a 38-38 record. This was after taking the championship in 2015, their first year in the league as the Black Bears.

Taking a look at tonight’s opening roster. The team looks rather pedestrian.  One of the top 30 Pirates prospects have been assigned to the roster. http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2017?list=pit.

Mitch Keller is listed, but it is as a rehab assignment. He belongs with Bradenton.  Michael Suchy is also on a rehab assignment.

The rest seem to be call ups from the Gulf Coast league and Bristol.http://www.milb.com/roster/index.jsp?sid=t5020. No one stands out to even have done anything really worth noting. The closest thing to doing something is Jonathan Schwind. Schwind has seen time at the Double and triple a level. He just hasn’t done much with the bat and isn’t really considered a prospect. This just has to be lineup filler. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=milb&player_id=605462#/career/R/hitting/2017/ALL

Sandy Santos returns to the black and gold after spending last season with them. Santos was with the West Virginia Power, but struggles this season have led to a demotion back to Morgantown. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t5020&player_id=642353#/career/R/hitting/2017/ALL. Santos tied for second on the team with 34 rbi, while hitting .281, also second best on the team. http://www.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t5020.

A fast start with the Bears and it won’t surprise me if he gets returned to Charleston. Last season he showed a bit of dominance, but nothing not 30 worthy, yet. https://www.milb.com/milb/news/santos-flashes-potential-for-black-bears/c-185063200/t-185364810.

Though aside from the yawn fest of a line up, the Black Bears have an interesting addition to the coaching staff. Joel Hanrahan is an assistant pitching coach for the team. Hanrahan was a former all-star closer in Pittsburgh with 100 career saves. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/h/hanrajo01.shtml. This gives that big league feel and experience to the young pitchers and should serve them well.

I will say though even with a lack of pedigree in the lineup I can see moves being made to improve this roster. Shane Baz, the first-round pick that recently signed with the Bucs could perhaps make an appreance here. Though the most likely spot for him would be the GCL. Recent draftees from the college ranks maybe sent here as well after signing. http://bit.ly/2s1uhUo.

 

Though it won’t surprise me either if top 30 ranked pitchers in Braeden Ogle, Travis MacGregor and Max Kranick see time in West Virginia after short, or successful stints in the GCL. http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2017?list=pit.

Plus, with no expectations comes the high possibility of a sleeper prospect emerging.  First pitch for the season is at 7:05 p.m.  against Mahoning Valley.

His Honor

Yankees rookie is on many radars.

By Steve Samek.

The New York Yankees a team of money. Known to flash the cash at whatever free agent can come their way. Yet what if I told you the Yanks did it the old-fashion way and have a home-grown talent dominating the game today.

The domination comes in the form of rookie outfielder Aaron Judge. Judge is hitting at a .344 clip with 21 home runs and 47 RBI. All of those are top marks in the American League.  The 21 homers are a league-wide best. Throw in additional top marks for runs scored, walks, total bases and the dominance is real. http://m.yankees.mlb.com/news/article/235942730/aaron-judge-is-named-al-player-of-the-week/.

Judge is coming off a week where he hit .500. Got on base at a .600 while slugging 1.00. The Yanks won five of the six contests and led the American League East.  The impressive week gave Judge the nod as player of the week for the first time in his career.

http://m.yankees.mlb.com/news/article/235942730/aaron-judge-is-named-al-player-of-the-week/

This comes on the heels of Judge being named AL rookie of the month for both April and May. http://m.mlb.com/awards/history-winners/?award_id=ALROM&year=2017

If that doesn’t get your attention his power should. On Sunday June 11,2017 Judge hit 495 feet, clearing the left field bleachers at Yankee Stadium. It was the second longest tracked home run ever, sense 2015 and the longest homer in the majors this year. http://m.yankees.mlb.com/news/article/235942730/aaron-judge-is-named-al-player-of-the-week/.

 The power looks to be real too. By homering 21 times to date, Judge has already amassed a career high in homers. Judge hit 56 homers in the minor leagues, with 39 of them coming in the past two seasons. 27 of those round trippers came at the triple a level. http://m.mlb.com/player/592450/aaron-judge?year=2017&stats=career-r-hitting-minors. Think twice pitchers before throwing the high heat.

Judge was a great player in the minors. Three times he was selected as an Milb.com Yankees organization all-star. In 2014, he received an invitation to play for Scottsdale of the Arizona Fall League for advanced prospects. Judge made the AFL all-prospect team for his play with Scottsdale, while also being an AFL player of the week award. Then in 2015 Judge was selected for the Futures game as a member of the Scranton/WB Railriders. http://m.mlb.com/player/592450/aaron-judge?year=2017&stats=career-r-hitting-minors. The first call to the majors came on August 13,2016 when the Yankees selected his contract.

Judge suited up in 27 games during that final month of 2016. He hit .179, but had 4 home runs and 10 rbi. Though an oblique strain sent him to the 15-day DL. http://m.mlb.com/player/592450/aaron-judge?year=2017&stats=career-r-hitting-mlb. Now the injury looks to be behind him and the numbers are improving.

Judge’s stellar season has gained the attention of fans league wide. Judge has the led in the All-star game vote for the American league outfield. His over a million and 250 thousand and 500 votes is the top mark in the American league for any position. http://www.baseballamerica.com/majors/american-league-star-game-voting-a/#5ysDggDukcAhpHQC.97. To capitalize on this success Judge has earned his own cheering section. The section has been dubbed the Judge’s chambers and sits in right field. Fans wear judges robs and receive foam gavels that say “All Rise.” https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/05/22/yankees-aaron-judge-chambers-cheering-section-photos.  True intimidation factor for opposing right fielders. Judge approves of the section too. http://www.nj.com/yankees/index.ssf/2017/05/what_yankees_aaron_judge_thinks_of_the_judges_cham.html

 

Can’t wait to see this guy in the all-star game. Should he win the triple crown, Judge can easily put a stamp on Rookie of the Year as well. No jury deliberation needed on that one.

 

Logo Mania 2017

By Steve Samek

The chase for supremacy once again hits minor league baseball. This time in the form of Logomania 2017. A contest of 36 teams and four rounds naming one champ the best logo in minor league baseball. Here is how I voted in the first round of the contest and my thoughts on the included teams.
Pool A
Biloxi
Montgomery
Carolina
Beloit
Buffalo
Charleston
This pool features three good logos fighting for two spots in the next round. The Carolina Mudcats is a classic goofy logo that is much loved. The Biloxi Shuckers have made some waves sense rebranding from the Huntsville Stars. Either of these fine aquatic themes offering should end up advancing to the second round as pool A’s runner up. Beloit has a slightly better than average logo, but it’s in a strong pool and should not advance. So many negative points to whoever though to include the likes of the Charleston River dogs and Buffalo Bison in this tournament. They are so boring and uncreative that they don’t deserve a shot at the best logo title. The easy winner here is Montgomery. The Biscuits are the original food themed logo. Take that Lehigh Valley and Fresno. http://bit.ly/2njLZ0M. They will make you laugh and take the title belt with it. Vote Montgomery.

Pool B
Clearwater
Corpus Christi
El Paso
Eugene
Hillsboro
Las Vegas
This is the strong, but not strong enough bracket. With the likes of Threshers, Hooks, Chihuahua’s, Hops, Emeralds and 51’s in the house. Each with great local flare, but not really well known nationally. Except maybe the infamous little doggies. https://hammerdownsportsblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/el-paso-embraces-the-chihuahuas/ I vote for the aliens to back up the pups in this one. Vote El Paso
Pool C
Ashville
Binghamton
Chattanooga
Durham
Frisco
Jacksonville
Quirky meets classic in this bracket. Mr. Moon of Ashville graces a glow in the dark cap that does look really cool. A horse meets Rocky in another option. Famous Bulls put the classic in this grouping. Combined with a new rebrand effort, a weird look and a United States President and you have a pool C where anything can happen. Two of these names I talked about here and I agree with my thoughts today as I did before. http://bit.ly/2mBxu8e. Frisco owns the president on the cap and Teddy Roosevelt does hit hard in this competition. My vote goes to the RoughRiders over the most likely picked Jumbo Shrimp. Vote Frisco
Pool D
Stockton
Tennessee
Albuquerque
Salt Lake
Tacoma
Akron
A very underwhelming selection of teams. A standard script R logo yawn. A bee, a bear, an anchor, try no. An Isotope and the RubberDucks should be the picks to move on. I vote for the one mentioned on a long running cartoon. Vote Albuquerque.
Pool E
Rochester
Syracuse
Vermont
Modesto
Ogden
Richmond
A bracket that looks underwhelming at first. The Red Wings and Chiefs are a weak start to this bracket. The next four redeem this bracket. Nuts, Raptors, Lake Monsters and Flying Squirrels make this a tough pick. Lake Monsters advance as does Richmond. My vote goes to the super hero Squirrel. Vote Richmond
Pool F
Harford
Norfolk
Reno
Lansing
New Orleans
Portland.
Save the best for last as the saying goes. This bracket will see two strong players come out of it. Lansing, Portland and Reno could be sleeper picks to advance and surprise people. Hartford and Norfolk also look impressive, yet retain a certain comedy to them. As for New Orleans please do yourself a favor and not rebrand to something stupid. http://bit.ly/2mBxu8e. Read more there. Voting here for a tasteful rebrand. Vote Norfolk.
You can vote in the contest to crown a champion here. http://www.baseballamerica.com/2017-logomania/

 

Crossing The Line.

Promotions that may have been too edgy.

By Steve Samek

Minor League baseball embraces the crazy and unique to make for the perfect promotion. Though what if a promotion goes too far.
Enter the Ogden Raptors and their Hourglass appreciation night. http://www.baseballamerica.com/business/ogden-raptors-announce-quickly-remove-hourglass-appreciation-night-a/#LUOVb6EismcMMCm5.97
Yes, the promotion honored women’s bodies of the curvy variety. The promotion was to include models, 18 of them to be exact each calling a half inning of baseball in the booth. Fans can then take pictures with the beauties.
Sounds harmless, while being so offensive at the same time. You are promoting looks first and all the unhealthy things that women do to match the ideal body shape. Plus, it doesn’t seem like it has anything to do with baseball. I mean baseball doesn’t have a clock, or hour glass like in most other sports, but the connection to honoring that and an hourglass is weak at best.
Not helping the fact is that A.P Harreld a broadcaster for the Raptors has connections with the modeling agency in question.
The promotion was canceled and was never an official thing to begin with. Fans knew about it through social media and internet means, and have been voicing disapproval for the promotion. An apology has been given by the team. http://www.baseballamerica.com/business/ogden-raptors-announce-quickly-remove-hourglass-appreciation-night-a/#LUOVb6EismcMMCm5.97.
Though if you did have models at the ballpark, what’s not to say attendance wouldn’t rise. It’s the idea behind many a cheerleader, or dance team. They entertain and look good doing it.
Also brought up in the article was another failed promotion idea in White Heritage Night by the Orem Owlz.
Orem’s promotion was to celebrate the good and wholesome aspects of American living. A leave it to Beaver feel of the past. Fans didn’t take too well to that idea either. Mostly poking fun at how every day is a white appreciation day. Two days later was the church shooting in South Carolina. One that may have had racial motives. The promotion was canceled.
I think this promotion was more of a spoof than anything else. It made sense with the rest of the heritage night promotions out there to include whites. Though it does raise a lot of eyes for possible connections to white supremacy. That’s a no go. http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/20/us/caucasian-heritage-night/index.html
Sports should be a uniting factor. Even if your bitter rivals are to be hated, there is a line that doesn’t need to be crossed. These promotions may have crossed it.

 

Another Rarity

By Steve Samek

Ah so many problems with the game of baseball. Though still much loved. First was the mentioning of killing extra-inning games. http://bit.ly/2q82Reo

 Second is the over reliance on the specialty closer. http://bit.ly/2qfDxk6

This problem leads to a very real problem the rarity of the complete game and its possible extinction.

In this ESPN article http://www.espn.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/80161/the-death-of-the-complete-game It shows that the numbers of complete games being thrown are going down by significant margins. As of the writing of this article the 2017 season is on pace for 75 complete games. This is down from 83 in 2016. Sense 2011 and the 173 complete games thrown that season the number has been declining every season this decade.

The percentages of complete games being thrown has also gone down according to the ESPN piece. During the 1900’s 79 percent of game pitched were complete games. Today just about two and a half percent go the distance. The trend has been decreasing percentages the whole time.

One reason behind this is pitch count watching. This season none of the 26 complete games this season, none have been more than throwing 120 pitches. Compared with 250 complete games of 120 plus pitches in 1988. Though in 5 year increments the trend downward is continuing. Just five compete games went 120 or more pitches last year. http://www.espn.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/80161/the-death-of-the-complete-game

This trend has to be assisted by the bullpen argument. The game has shifted to a bunch of specialists in the bullpen, even to the point of the loogy, or roogy. (Left handed one-out guy, or right handed one out guy.) http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/LOOGY.

The point is get the 27 outs even if you have to take six pitchers to do it.

The ideal scenario in a baseball game is have a starter go six, or seven innings for the quality start then move to a set-up man for the eighth and the closer in the ninth. Lots of closers never see the field for days based on the need to lock down the save and the win. Lots of closers are known for being hard throwers. Being able to give maximum effort for a short time is an advantage and shortening the game with a lock down bullpen is a legitimate strategy. Though a lot of the time the closer, which is often one of the best arms on the team gets left on the bench.

Conversely, the closer would mess with the idea of the complete game. Even with a starter cruising and the game in hand, why not bring in the closer in a save situation. Have the starter not throw more pitches than needed and still pick up the win. The starter gets pulled for the all-important save and loses the complete game. http://bit.ly/2qfDxk6

 

The pitcher hitting may have a say in this argument too. A lot of times pitchers are lifted in favor of pitch hitters, for offensive improvement. Yes, using a designated hitter helps keep pitchers focused on pitching, but it still doesn’t mean pitchers will be kept in longer. It just means you won’t have to deal with often time a liability at the plate. Though some pitchers can hit insert Madison Bumgarner here.

Looks lie the key to completeness in 2017 isn’t actually complete a game. Five of this season 22 games have only been eight inning complete games. While technically a complete game because you lost after the top of the ninth with the home team winning, I feel it cheapens it. Full games are nine innings. To truly be a complete game you have to pitch all nine. http://www.espn.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/80161/the-death-of-the-complete-game.

Though I must admit the rarity is what makes it exciting. If it becomes too common to throw a complete game it loses its luster. That’s why perfect games and no-hitters are celebrated. For their difficulty to achieve. Complete games are easier to throw than perfect games and no hitters, but still can be a special thing. Just let your pitchers have a couple more pitches to finish things off.

 

Glasnow’s Fine

By Steve Samek

Tyler Glasnow struggled in his first start of the year against the Reds. He then followed it up with a better start against the Cubs. Though while improvement was seen a lot of fans are calling for his demotion to the minors. According to this article The Pirates are giving Glasnow a chance and you should too here why. http://m.pirates.mlb.com/news/article/224644378/pirates-want-tyler-glasnow-to-learn-in-majors/

First off is his top prospect status. Glasnow earned this with is dominating play in the minors. Try a 2.03 overall era, including a 1.87 era at Triple A Indianapolis last year. http://m.pirates.mlb.com/player/607192/tyler-glasnow?year=2017&stats=career-r-pitching-minors. This domination has led him being graded as a 60 on the 20-80 scale. Glasnow’s fast ball is rated at a 70 and his Curveball a 60 giving him two pitches grating above average. http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2017?list=pit Glasnow as the stuff he just needs to show it.

Though in his second start against the Cubs he did show glimpses. He racked up seven strikeouts. He touched 95-96 on the radar gun. He got out of a couple jams. This is against a stacked Cubs lineup. Glasnow is capable of getting out major league hitters.

Now If you were going to replace Glasnow who would you do it with. If you’re thinking Drew Hutchinson try again. In two starts Hutchinson is sporting a 7.84 era against Toledo and Colorado Springs. Glasnow just faced the World Series champs.

Steve Brault could make a case to replace Glasnow. In three starts Brault has a 3.66 era and a 2.77 era overall in the minors. Brault is the ninth ranked pitcher in the Pirates system. Brault also has a sub 5.00 era in the majors. Though Brualt’s potential isn’t Glasnow’s. Brault grades out to 50s overall and with his fastball. http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2017?list=pit

My other question to all the Glasnow detractors would be what else does he have to prove in the minors. His every level dominance shows he can pitch to beat the competition. It’s too easy. He’s never going to get any better if he doesn’t face major league caliber hitters. While his two starts weren’t, good there is lots of room for improvement. Plus, its only that two starts. Glasnow should have many more this season. These could very well be outliers statistically. Now I will agree that Glasnow needs work and time. Working with the Major-league staff should help a lot and see if his potential is true. I would say it is. He just needs to stay in the majors and build confidence.

 

West Virginia Power 2017 Opening Day

By Steve Samek

The forth team and last to begin play on April 6,2017 from the Pittsburgh Pirates organization is the West Virginia Power. The announced their opening roster recently in this article. https://www.milb.com/power/news/play-ball-2017-roster-announced/c-222470256/t-196097280 Tie to break down the roster.

Upon first glance none of the pitchers stand out. Though after a second look the Power will be with the services of 14th ranked prospect in the Pirates system Luis Escobar. Escobar is making the jump to full season ball after playing in the New York Penn League last year with good results. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t525&player_id=650813#/career/R/pitching/2017/ALL

He could be this year’s Mitch Keller as far as breakout potential.

Behind the plate also brings system newcomers and unknowns.

The infield is led by 18th ranked Pirates prospect Stephen Alemais. Alemais is returning to the Power after a short stint with them last year. While he struggled a bit in his first looks with the Power Alemais is another talented infielder in a deep Pirates system. Listed as a shortstop it should be interesting to see if he stays at the position.

http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t525&player_id=641301#/career/R/hitting/2017/ALL

The rest of the infield and outfield are very limited in the talent pool. The only other name I recognize on the roster is Trae Arbet. Arbet is a second basemen that hit well for Bristol in 2015, but saw no time last year.  This could be a shape up or ship out kind of deal. http://www.milb.com/player/index.jsp?sid=t525&player_id=641315#/career/R/hitting/2017/ALL

This roster does seem to be the forgotten child of the organization. With just two top 20 Pirates prospects to start the season, the initial look is skewed to the negative.  Though on the positive side it won’t surprise me if one of these unknowns has a break out year. Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte and Mitch Keller are some of the names in the recent trend of turning unknowns into potential studs starting in West Virginia. Another potential thing would be to see this squad boosted with promotions and draft picks later on in the year. For right now though hold off on watching the Power too closely if you’re looking for big time prospect updates.