Archive for December, 2015

Or, what’s cooking in the minors.

As usual, a preamble of sorts.

I find impossible keeping current with trades, signings, releases, waiver moves and the like since I have a real job.  Thus, the ratings to follow are a summation of the 30 major league teams and their ability or inability to develop talent at the minor league level as the business of baseball swirls.  Occasionally, I do recall trades from late-July and the winter, thus will note who developed who.

My general guidelines include, but are not limited to, refusing to consider anybody over the age of 30 and most 29 year olds.  Granted, these guys make great stories regarding the ever endearing underdog, but prospects they are not.  Catchers with toss rates of 40% get my attention even in light of crap on base percentages or the inability to hit their respective weight.  I do not rate below A ball.  Rating A- ball and rookie ball is the equivalent of herding hundreds of cats and expecting to distinguish Snookems from Tabby.  These kids are just that, kids.  Too young, too similar and struggling to distinguish themselves as they await, hopefully, promotion to A and A+ ball.  Beware the California League and the High Desert Mavericks ( Texas Rangers ) and Lancaster Jethawks ( Houston Astros  ) because the wind blows forever and usually toward the outfield, thus greatly inflating offensive numbers.  I rate third basemen with an iron hand.  If you hit .310 and smoke the ball for 25/80 in 130 games, but have 19 kicks, you are not a third baseman.  You are a dh.  Finally, if you cannot develop pitching (both kinds; starters and relievers), your organization will travel poorly through my rating system.  I’m extremely reluctant to find praise with a pitcher whose bb/9 is in excess of 3.  The wisdom of “you can’t defend a walk” is most fitting.  Sure, exceptions lurk, but walking more than 3 guys in a nine inning measure speaks badly on behalf of the art.

What makes a rating of 4 or 3 or 2 or 1?  If an organization has legitimate prospects at a particular position, say first base, from AAA to AA to A+ to A ball, they rate a four.  A gap at a level rates a three.  One guy in AA ball and one guy in A ball rates a two.  You get the idea.  Also, if a crowd of three legitimate ball players at one position hoovers at AAA ball, I find depth, thus an above average rating for that particular spot.

What follows is division grouping (not in rated order.  I didn’t feel the urge).

A.L. East.

Boston Red Sox:  Rating 2.7 (out of 4.0).  Strengths include catching and to a lesser extent second base, short, center and right.  The 2-9 spots rating average to below average are first (Sam Travis is the only reason Boston receives a 2.0 at this position), left and the barren area known as third base (one guy.  Rafael Devers).  Starting pitching and relief both rate above average with a 3.0 each.  Assuming Eduardo Rodriguez sticks in Fenway in 2016, watch the ascent of starter Aaron Wilkerson (AA in ’15). Davan Diaz (AA) is the top reliever in the Red Sox system.

2-9 players to watch:  The aforementioned Sam Travis and Rafael Devers along with Mauricio Dubon (2b/A ball), Marco Hernandez (ss/AA), the much ballyhooed Andrew Benintendi (center/A), Kevin Heller (right/A+) and Nick Longhi (right/A).  Sam Travis is the best of the lot.

Baltimore Orioles:  2.3.  A shoulder shrug bordering on shoulder separation.  Of the 2-9 positions, a mere two rated above average:  Second and center.  Catching, first (solely due to Trey Mancini), third and left are average.  Right is almost vacant of prospects while shortstop has not a single candidate.  Pitching development saves the O’s.  Starters are deep as are relievers.  The best of the starters is Dylan Bundy who skipped AAA as he jumped from AA ball to the Bigs.  But, beware the rush job.  The relief corps is loaded.  Steven Johnson and Oliver Drake should remain in Baltimore.  Andrew Triggs (AA) and Richard Rodriguez (AA) are waiting their turn in 2016.

2-9 players to watch:  Trey Mancini (Mark Trumbo may be a full-time dh by the time he turns 31 if Mr. Mancini continues his current rate of development) and Jomar Reyes (3b/A).  Sadly, no other names follow.

New York Yankees:  3.2.  Loaded at first, third and center.  Above average at second, left and right.  Catching is thin while short is a disaster.  On behalf of the organization, I hope Brian Cashman halts his tendency to trade developed talent rather than stay the course.  Pitching (both kinds) is also deep in talent.  Chaz Hebert should join Luis Severino in NYC in 2016.  Eric Ruth (AA/A+) is the best of a talented group of starters at AAA and AA.  Caleb Catham and Nick Goody should be full-time residents of the Yankees bullpen in 2016.

2-9 players to watch:  Where to begin?  Matt Snyder (A+) and Dan Fiorito (A+) may be the best of seven rated prospects at first.  Billy Fleming (2b/A), Jose Pirela (3b/MLB/AAA), Abiatal Avelino (3b/A), Jorge Mateo (ss/A+/A), Brian Gamel (center/AAA) and Dustin Fowler (center/A) are quality looking to rise through the system.

Tampa Bay Rays:  2.6.  Third and left followed by first and short are the best of the 2-9 spots.  Catching (less Nick Cluffo/A who has a toss rate of 45%, thus saves the group), center and right are woeful.  Second base isn’t much better.  Starting pitching is outstanding and loaded with quality candidates.  Taylor Guerrieri (AA/A+) may be the best of all.  Relievers are mostly pedestrian (2.0 rating), but Brad Schreiber (AA/A+) and Hunter Wood (A) attract notice.

2-9 players to watch:  Cameron Seitzer (first/AA), Richie Shaffer (3b/MLB/AAA/AA), Joey Rickard (left/AAA/AA), Coty Blanchard (left/A) and Taylor Motter (right/AAA).

Toronto Blue Jays:  3.3.  First, two catchers with toss rates better than 40%:  A.J. Jimenez (AAA/42%) and Derrick Chung (AA/57%).  Which of the two can catch R.A. Dickey in Toronto?  A lot of talent at second and all three outfield spots.  First is above average.  Second needs to improve.  Third has not a single candidate.  Starting pitching is as deep as Tampa’s.  Daniel Norris and Marcus Stroman have the best chance of earning a Canadian paycheck in 2016.  The relief corps is above average.  Best bets are Blake McFarland (AA), Chad Girodo (AA/A+) and Will Browning (AA/A+).

2-9 players to watch:  Ryan McBroom (first/A), Christian Lopes (2b/A+), Dawel Lugo (ss/A), Kevin Pillar (left/MLB/AAA) and Anthony Alford (center/A+/A).

A.L. Central.

Detroit Tigers:  2.5.  Short and center save the Tigers’ organization from a much lower rating.  First, third and right are above average.  Catching, second and left have one candidate respectively.  Awful.  Starting pitching is deep.  Of their top-ten prospects, all but one are in either AAA or AA.  Relief development is another story.  One of the worst in the A.L.  A+ ball saved the organization from a rare grade of zero.

2-9 players to watch:  Curt Powell (ss/A+), A.J. Simcox (ss/A), Xavier Avery (center/MLB/AAA), Wynton Bernard (center/AA), Mike Gerber (right/A) and Dean Green (1b/AAA/AA).

Cleveland Indians:  2.8.  If your organization needs an outfielder, give Cleveland a call.  All three outfield spots rated 4.0.  So did second.  First and short have talent.  Catching, not so much, less Tony Wolters 49% toss rate.  Third features Taylor Murphy in A ball who had 32 errors.  Ov vey.  Starting pitching development is above average.   Adam Pluto (AA/A+) is the best of the ten rated starters.  Relief is average at best.  Joseph Martin (AA) is the best choice to arrive in Cleveland’s bullpen.

2-9 players to watch:  James Aguilar (1b/MLB/AAA), Bobby Bradley (1b/A), Jose Ramirez (2b/MLB/AAA), Yandy Diaz (ss/AA), Tyler Naquin (center/AAA/AA), Clint Frazier (center/A+) and Bradley Zimmer (center/A+).

Chicago White Sox:  2.4.  A deep group of candidates at first.  Prior to Micah Johnson’s trade to L.A., deep at second.  Same at short.  The rest of 2-9 is average to far below average.  Third, left and center are begging for development.  Catching and right is only mildly better.  Starting pitching is above average.  Yency Almonte (A+) is the one to watch.  If he excels in AA ball, Chicago is close.  In the bullpen, Jeffrey Wendelken (AAA/AA), Miguel Chalas (AA) and Matt Cooper (A) save the relief corps from a below average rating.

2-9 players to watch:  Dayan Viciedo (1b/MLB/AAA.  Dayan must stick in the bigs this year), Carlos Sanchez (2b/MLB/AAA and I’m guessing the reason why the White Sox traded Micah Johnson), Leury Garcia (ss/MLB/AAA) and Tim Anderson (ss/AA).

Kansas City Royals:  2.8.  If third and left rated average, the 2.8 becomes 3.0.  Strongest development is found at second, short, left and right.  Catching is above average.  Starting pitching is as deep as Tampa’s and Toronto’s.  John Lamb (MLB/AAA) and Andy Ferguson (AAA/AA) will seek rotation spots in K.C. during 2016.  Michael Mariot (MLB/AAA) is one of the very few relief bright spots in a badly developed bullpen corps.  K.C. development of relief pitching is as thin and limp as overcooked spaghetti.

2-9 players to watch:  Parker Martin (c/AA), Balbino Fuenmayor (1b/AAA/AA and with a first name of Balbino, you better be good), Angel Franco (2b/AA), Reymond Fuentes (center/MLB/AAA), Brett Eibner (center/AAA) and Jose Martinez (right/AAA).

Minnesota:  3.3.  The Twins have righted the development ship.  Full steam ahead.  Catching is beyond deep, beyond loaded.  Making the choice is the difficult part.  Of the seven rated catchers, six had toss rates of at least 38%.  Two were above 50%.  Life is good.  Along with catching, top-notch development is found at first, third, short and center (even with the light hitting Aaron Hicks bound for the Bronx).  Second is not far behind.  Right is average while left has one lone candidate (Zach Granite in A ball).  Starting pitching is perhaps the best in the A.L.  All top-ten rated starters are AAA and AA with four rated AA candidates falling short of the top-ten.  Deep.  Relief pitching is above average.  Michael Tonkin (MLB/AAA), Nick Burdi (A+) and Trevor Hildenberger (A+/A) are the best of the lot.

2-9 players to watch:  I’m not about to list all seven catchers, but less Alex Swim (c/A+), call the Twins if you need a quality defensive catcher.  Max Kepler (1b/AA), James Beseford (2b/AAA), Danny Santana (3b/MLB/AAA) and the aforementioned Zach Granite.

A.L. West.

Houston Astros:  3.8.  A solid #1 ranking in the A.L. as well as MLB.  Talent galore at catcher, first, third (a rare spot to be deep for any club), short and all three outfield positions.  Second was the only 2-9 spot to rate 3.0.  Starting pitching rated 4.0 featuring Joseph Musgrove (who traveled three levels – A, A+, AA – during 2015) and Michael Felix (AA/A+) are the best of a deep group.  Relief rated a step below starting pitching.  James Hoyt (AAA) should see time in Houston during 2016.

2-9 players to watch:  Alfredo Gonzalez (c/AA/A+/A with a toss rate of 38%), Jon Singleton (1b/MLB/AAA), A.J. Reed (1b/AA/A+), Chase McDonald (1b/A+), Matt Duffy (3b/AAA), Colin Moran (3b/AA), J.D. Davis (3b/A+), Nick Tanielu (3b/A), Tony Kemp (cf/AAA/AA.  A note:  Mr. Kemp played more second base than center during his AA time), Domingo Santana (right/MLB/AAA) and Jon Kemmer (right/AA).  A franchise moving in the right direction.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:  2.8.  Less little at second and short, not bad.  Catching and left are the two strength positions.  First, third, center and right each rated 3.0.  Pitching is another story.  And not pleasant.  No starting prospects at AAA.  AA fared much better (Michael Brady rated the best), but was followed with a shallow count of two starters at A+ ball.  Once a club offers A ball pitchers as proof of depth, the ratings go south.  As for the relief corps, Cory Rasmus (MLB/AAA) should stick in Anaheim given Trevor Gott’s (MLB/AAA) departure.  Michael Smith (A+) and Geoff Broussard (A+) are the next best candidates, but are two years away.

2-9 players to watch:  Eric Aguilera (1b/A+) and Ayendy Perez (cf/A).

Oakland Athletics:  3.0.  Even though the A’s have no right field prospects A ball up and only one second baseman worth a look (Colin Walsh/AA), the other spots did well.  Catching, first, third, left and center possess four to six candidates each.  Short was average, but if Chad Pinder (AA) can cut his 26 errors by a handful, 2016 should gather a better rating.  Starting pitching development continues to be a strength.  Less the ninth and tenth ranked pitchers, the other eight are from AAA and AA.  However, the most intriguing starter is Tim Atherton (A+).  Relief pitching in anchored by Ryan Dull (MLB/AAA/AA) and Brendan McCurry (AA/A+).  Sadly, Mr. Dull was the only AAA relief pitcher to qualify as a prospect.  AA and A+ posses the majority of relief prospects.

2-9 players to watch:  Rangel Ravelo (1b/AA), the aforementioned Colin Walsh and Chad Pinder, Matt Chapman (3b/A+), Franklin Barreto (ss/A+) and two players who must stick in Oakland at the conclusion of spring training; Jake Smolinski (left) and Billy Burns (center).  Those of you wondering, Billy Burns?  22 games and 91 at-bats is a AAA exposure beyond rehab.  No more AAA time, gentlemen.

Seattle Mariners:  3.1.  Do I sniff the second coming of the Houston Astros?  Significant progress in player development in a single season.  Less third and left (which was at least average), all other everyday spots rated 4.0.  Very heavy to AAA and AA prospects with a reasonable sprinkle of A+ players.  Impressive.  Starting pitching did well at AAA, thinned at AA, but then gathered steam at A+.  Edwin Diaz (AA/A+) and Dylan Unsworth (A+) are the best of the ten rated starters.  Tony Zych (MLB/AAA/AA) is a closer in waiting.  Trey Cochran-Gill (A+) may be as effective as Mr. Zych.  Paul Fry (A+) also registered impressive numbers out of the ‘pen.

2-9 players to watch:  James Alfonso (c/A), Jesus Montero (1b/MLB/AAA), Chris Taylor (ss/MLB/AAA) and Dario Pizzano (left/AA).

Texas Rangers:  2.8.  Of strength positions, only one rated a 4.0 (second base).  However, above average development was the case at catcher, short, center and right.  First and left were average while third is inadequate, but breathing.  Starting pitching was a solid 4.0 with all but one of the top-ten pitching in either AAA or AA.  Relief was above average with A+ development saving the day.  Speaking of A+, watch Juan Grullon continue to make the best of his opportunity.

2-9 players to watch:  Ronald Guzman (1b/A), Hanser Alberto (ss/MLB/AAA), Lewis Brinson (center/AA/A+ and probably the best position player in the organization), Ryan Cordell (center/A+), Christopher Garcia (center/A+) and Royce Bolinger (right/A+).

N.L. East

Atlanta Braves:  2.0.  How the once mighty continue to plummet.  Of the everyday positions, only one rated a 4.0:  Center.  Only one rated a 3.0:  Short.  Three were average:  Catching (prior to the Christian Bethancourt trade), second and left.  First base has one prospect (Joey Terdoslavich/MLB/AAA).  No prospects at third.  Starting pitching rated above average.  The first eight starting prospects are at AAA or AA ball.  Ryan Weber (AAA/AA) is the one to watch.  Relief is average.  Most of the prospects are found in A+.  Ryan Kelly (MLB/AAA/AA) and Sean McLaughlin (A) are the most talented of a skinny offering.

2-9 players to watch:  Keith Curio (center/A).  One guy.  Ouch.

Miami Marlins:  2.3.  Not a person of interest at catcher or right.  Vacant.  Third isn’t much better especially since one of the two guys rated committed 26 errors (Brian Schales/A).  Short was average.  First and center a bit better.  Second holds the strength of the 2-9 players.  Starting pitching rated a 3.0.  Jose Fernandez is the definition of a rush job.  He goes from A+ ball to the Bigs during 2015.  Plus, he spent no time in AAA.  He logged five innings pitched in AA ball.  Why not give him a match, stick of dynamite and send him into an airport to board a plane?  He will struggle to be successful.  Relief pitching development is off the charts.  Arguably the best in the N.L as well as all of MLB.  Grant Dayton (AAA), Nick Wittgren (AAA), Greg Nappo (AAA/AA), Brian Ellington (MLB/AAA/AA . . . though his AAA exposure was 1.1 ip.  I don’t believe that actually qualifies) and Victor Araulo (A+) are the best of a very good group of relievers.

2-9 players to watch:  David Adams (2b/MLB/AA . .  . skipped AAA), James Roberts (2b/A+), Zack Cox (3b/AA) and Marcell Ozuna (center/MLB/AAA).

New York Mets:  3.2.  Second, third and all three outfield spots rated 4.0.  The Mets scaffold nicely from AAA to A+ or A ball at five of those positions.  Catching, first and short rated 2.0. though three of their best prospects are found at first and short.  Starting pitching continues to develop at an impressive rate.  Not a single A+ pitcher made the list due to the depth at AAA and AA.  Jacob Jugo (AAA) and Steven Matz (MLB/AAA) are the best of the best.  Relief development has miles to travel before equating with starting pitching.  However, Paul Sewald (AA), James Duff (A+/A) and Josh Smoker (there’s a last name for a closer to be. A+/A) are within a year or two of arriving in Queens.

2-9 players to watch:  Dominic Smith (1b/A+), Matt Oberste (1b/A+), Dilson Herrera (2b/MLB/AAA and time to stick in Citi), Jeff McNeil (2b/A+), Gavin Cecchini (ss/AA, but reduce the 26 kicks), Michael Conforto (left/MLB/AA/A+, skipped AAA), Jayce Boyd (left/AA) and Darrell Ceciliani (center/MLB/AAA).

Philadelphia Phillies:  3.0.  Notable improvement since 2104.  And most necessary given the state of Philadelphia baseball.  The Phils have more catching prospects than the Twins.  All seven rated catchers, from AAA to A ball, had a minimum toss rate of 35% with a maximum of 60%.  Stunningly good.  Second is almost as good as catching.  Center is another strong position of development.  Third and left each rated 3.0.  First, short and left were average.  On behalf of all long suffering Phillies’ fans, starting pitching is well stocked.  All of the top-ten starting prospects are found in AAA and AA.  Reiner Roibal (AA) and Mark Leiter (AA/A+) should arrive in Philly no later than 9/1 for a taste of The Show.  Relief is average at best.  No prospects in AAA, but AA had four (Jimmy Cordero is the best at the AA level) and Alexis Rivero heads a deep group of talent in A+ ball.

2-9 players to watch:  Rene Garcia (catching/AA/46% toss rate and he can hit), Brock Stassi (1b/AA), Rhys Hoskins (1b/A+/A), Angel Mora (2b/AA/A+), Maikel Franco (3b/MLB/AAA), J.P. Crawford (short/AA/A+), Malquin Canelo (short/A), Aaron Altherr (center/MLB/AAA/AA), Roman Quinn (center/AA) and Carlos Tocci (center/A).

Washington Nationals:  2.7.  Nobody at third (far too common in MLB development).  One in right.  Two guys in center, but both are in A ball.  Catching, first and second are deep.  Short, as long as Trea Turner stays in D.C., is above average.  Starting pitching is one of the best in the N.L.  All prospects are AAA and AA with one of the AA pitchers left off my list because I don’t go past ten guys.  Joe Ross (MLB/AAA/AA) should be part of the Nats 2016 rotation.  Relief has an acceptable mix of AAA, AA and A+ candidates that rated 3.0.

2-9 players to watch:  Grant DeBruin (1b/A+/A), Adrain Sanchez (2b/A+) and Wilmer Difo (short/MLB/AA/A+, skipped AAA).

N.L Central

Cincinnati Reds:  2.3.  One superior spot; short.  Four above average positions; catcher, third, left and center.  Right rated 2.0 while first and second were slightly less than ugly.  Starting pitching is above average.  Seth Varner (A+/A) could be a sight to behold by 2017/18.  Relief pitching is south of pathetic and horrible.  The Reds do not have ten relief pitchers to rate from AAA to A ball.  The eight, nine and ten spots were void of names.  The rare zero was awarded.

2-9 players to watch:  Alex Blandino (short/AA/A+) and Jesse Winkler (left/AA).

Chicago Cubs:  2.3.  Much like the Reds, sprinkling of hope burdened by several weak spots.  Catching has seven candidates from AAA to A ball.  Short, center and right are above average.  First, second and left rated 2.0.  Third was the worst of the everyday positions.  Sadly, organizational weakness is found in the worst possible place . . . pitching . . . both kinds.  Starting rated a 2.0.  Half the prospects are found in A+ ball.  Granted, I find a saving grace when A+ ball fills the last three spots of the top ten, but not half the top-ten coupled with a mere two guys in AAA.  Sadly, relief pitching is worse than starting pitching.  No AAA prospects.  Two AA prospects.  The last four of the top ten are in A ball.  Thinner than the top of Donald Trump’s skull.

2-9 players to watch:  Kyle Schwarber (c/MLB/AAA/AA), Wilson Contreras (c/AA), Chesny Young (2b/A+/A) and Billy McKinney (right/AA/A+)

Milwaukee Brewers:  2.7.  2-9 is almost a yawner.  Milwaukee is one of the few organizations that rated a 4.0 at first.  Second, center and right rated above average.  Catching, third and left are average.  Short is mostly vacant less Orlando Arcia.  Thankfully, pitching rides to the organization’s rescue.  Starting pitching is deep.  Nine of ten candidates are found in AAA or AA.  Tyler Cravy (MLB/AAA), Taylor Jungmann (MLB/AAA) and Hiram Burgos (MLB/AAA) have an excellent shot at leaving spring training Milwaukee bound.  Relief rated above average with three solid candidates at AAA with 2015 MLB exposure:  Preston Guilmet, Jaye Chapman and Rob Wooten.

2-9 players to watch:  Jason Rogers (1b/MLB/AAA), Orlando Arcia (short/AA), Domingo Santana (left/MLB/AAA) and Kyle Wren (left/AA).

Pittsburgh Pirates:  3.6.  The best in the N.L.  Even better than St. Louis.  Three spots did not receive a 4.0:  First (3.0), left (3.0) and right (2.0).  Lots of candidates from A ball up at catcher, second, third, left and center.  Lots.  The real reason why the Pirates rated a 3.6 is because of pitching.  Both starting and relief registered 4.0.  Nick Kingham (AAA), Angel Sanchez (AAA/AA), Steven Brault (AA/A+) and Tyler Glasnow (AA) all have MLB starting potential.  Deolis Guerra (MLB/AAA) is the best of an equally talented group of relievers.  Deeper in the organization, watch the development of Montana Durapau (A+) and Clario Perez (A+).

2-9 players to watch:  Josh Bell (1b/AAA/AA), Max Moroff (2b/AA), Deibinson Romero (3b/AAA), Dan Gamache (3b/AA), Adam Frazier (short/AA), Willy Garcia (left/AA) and Harold Ramirez (right/A+).

St. Louis Cardinals:  3.3.  All three outfield positions are teeming with candidates.  Six of their top prospects are found roaming the green.  Short and second are strong as well.  Third is a step below, but most organizations would wish to have the Cardinals’ ability to develop third basemen.  First and catcher are average.  Pitching rated 3.0 in both starting and relief.  No need to panic. Tim Cooney (MLB/AAA) and Jimmy Reed (A+) lead the starters.  Relief is solid if unspectacular.  Josh Lucas (A+) posts outstanding numbers.

2-9 players to watch:  Aledmys Diaz (ss/AAA/AA), Mike O’Neill (left/AAA/AA), Nick Martini (left/AAA/AA), Derek Gibson (left/A+), Tommy Pham (center/MLB/AAA), Harrison Bader (center/A) and Jeremy Hazelbaker (right/AAA/AA).

N.L. West

Colorado Rockies:  3.1.  Well scaffolded at catcher, first, short and left.  Second ranked above average.  Center and right ranked average, yet contain two of the Rockies best prospects:  Raimel Tapia (center) and Jordan Patterson (right).  Third is below average due to error concerns.  Starting pitching is deep.  Very heavy to AA candidates.  Always a good sign.  Relief features two to watch:  Justin Miller (MLB/AAA) and Carlos Estevez (AA/A+).  The other eight were good enough for an overall relief development grade of 3.0.

2-9 players to watch:  The above mentioned Raimel Tapia (A+) and Jordan Patterson (A+) along with Roberto Ramos (1b/A), Christian Adames (ss/MLB/AAA) and Max White (left/A).

San Diego Padres:  2.7.  First is a disaster.  One guy . . . in A ball (Trae Santos).  Third is a touch less worse (there’s praise).  As for the remainder of the everyday spots, development is much improved.  Right rates a 3.0 while catching, second, short, left and center all earned a 4.0.  Now, return to disaster.  Starting pitching development is the worst in not only the N.L., but all of baseball.  Bad, bad, bad.  Colin Rea (MLB/AAA/AA) is the only starter with AAA exposure ranked as a prospect.  AA offers two.  A+ one (barren starting pitching development in A+ ball is an indicator of shame, embarrassment, poor coaching and general disarray) while three A ball pitchers round out the top 7.  I was unable to create a top-ten.  Relief is much more on track with an above average rating.  Michael Dimock (AAA/AA) and Jay Jackson (AAA) are likely denizens of MLB in 2016.

2-9 players to watch:  Rocky Gale (c/MLB/AAA), Autsin Hedges (c/MLB/AAA), Duanel Jones (3b/A), Hector Gomez (ss/MLB/AAA), Jose Rondon (ss/A+), Alex Dickerson (left/MLB/AAA), Yeison Asencio (left/AA), Edwin Moreno (left/A), Nick Torres (left/A), Travis Jankowski (center/MLB/AAA/AA), Rymer Liriano (right/MLB/AAA) and Hunter Renfroe (right/AAA).

Arizona Diamondbacks:  2.1.  Development in catching and first is pathetic.  Both positions received a zero.  Second and short are average.  Third and right are above average while left and center are the strongest positions.  Starting pitching received a 2.0.  The guys who make up the top-ten, less Anthony Banda (A+) and Wei-Chieh Huang (A), are a collective shoulder shrug.  Relief is just short of awful.  Why?  Because four guys from A+ and two guys from A ball dominate the top-ten.  However, Silvino Bracho (MLB/AA, skipped AAA) is a likely to remain in MLB during the majority of 2016.

2-9 players to watch:  James Westbrook (second/A+), Henry Castillo (2b/A), Brandon Drury (3b/MLB/AAA), Idlemaro Vargas (ss/A), Zach Borenstein (left/AA), Victor Reyes (left/A), Colin Bray (center/A) and Socrates Brito (right/AA).  Five of these guys were in A+ or A ball in 2015.  ’tis a long way to the big leagues.

Los Angeles Dodgers:  2.0.  If catching and second did not rate a 4.0, the Dodgers would have been sub-2.  Not good.  First was  the only above average rank.  Third base the lone average rating.  Short and left each rated 1.0.  Right received a zero.  Starting pitching is improving.  Jharel Cotton (AA/A+/A), Julio Urias (AA) and Jose DeLeon (AA/A+) are the best of the top-ten organizational starters.  Relief is not on the same level as starting pitching.  Two guys (book ends as you will see) have the most talent in a thin field:  Juan Gonzalez (AAA/AA) and Joe Broussard (A).  The overall score for the relievers was 1.0.

2-9 players to watch:  Austin Barnes (c/MLB/AAA), Tyler Ogle (c/A+), Spencer Navin (c/A), Brandon Trinkwon (2b/A+), Willie Calhoun (2b/A+/A), Adam Law (2b/A+), Jarek Cunningham (3b/A+), Jacob Scavuzzo (left/A+), Brian Wolfe (left/A) and Alex Verdugo (center/A+ and the most talented 2-9 player in the Dodgers’ organization).

San Francisco Giants:  2.4.  Catching, second and left are strong points.  Short rated above average.  First is average.  Center and right each received a rating of 1.0.  Nary a candidate at third.  Starting pitching rated 3.0.  A lot of potential in A+ ball.  We shall see how the group reacts to AA promotion and reality.  The organizational relief corps is average.  Michael Broadway (MLB/AAA) has the best chance to make an impact in 2016.  Ian Gardeck (A+), Daniel Slanta (A+) and Jacob Smith (A+) give pause for improvement over the next two years.

2-9 players to watch:  Aramis Garcia (c/A+/53% toss rate), Kelby Tomlinson (2b/MLB/AAA/AA), Christian Arroyo (ss/A+) and Jarrett Parker (left/MLB/AAA).

 

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Candidly, a good old fashioned butt-kicking.  The Cincinnati Bearcats never had a chance.

What is a great way to start the game?  Let’s have Rashaad Penny return the opening kickoff 100 yards (more like 105 from where he caught the kick in the end-zone) for a touchdown.  Mostly untouched.  Sweet.

We score each quarter.  We do not attempt a single field goal because putting the ball in the end zone is as easy as putting cheese on a burger.  Dakota Gordon scores not once, but twice.  Once by land, once by air.  Plus, Dakota is the leading receiver with 4/58.  A well deserved exit.

As impressive as Dakota’s scores were, Alex Barrett’s interception (Merry Christmas) returned for a churning 43 yard touchdown was a thing of beauty.

Christian Chapman’s 8/11/113 with, again, no interceptions, was serviceable if unspectacular.  Donnel Pumphrey’s 16 yard toss means more competition at the qb spot in 2016 . . . kidding.  336 total yards on behalf of the offense generates a surprising 35 points (Mr. Barrett excluded).  Squeezing production from every yard produced.  Nicely done, Coach Horton.

As for the other side, consider the Bearcats do not score until the end of the fourth quarter, they are reduced to six punts, suffer three interceptions and register a mere 279 total yards of offense (including a meager 77 yards rushing).  Well done, San Diego State defense.

The results that matter:  11-3.  10 straight wins.  A perfect October, November and December.  Oh yeah, winning the west division (undefeated) and Mountain West championship game.  Do not forget undefeated in MWC play.  Am I missing anything?  Probably not.  A superb year.  Let the success settle.  Get ready for 2016.

SDSU earned the win.  Air Force is never easy, never gives up.  With a mere five seconds remaining and a Hail Mary, until the ball falls to the ground and yellow flags remain in pockets, all was in play.  Thankfully, the ball fell to the ground.

I have never heard such volume and general noise from a crowd of barely 20,000 fans.  Well done each and every Aztec fan.  Why more of us, especially those of us who live in San Diego, do not attend games is a bit of mystery.  Regardless, when the “I Believe We Will Win” chant broke out, so did the momentum.

Consider the following:  Christian Chapman gets his first start and finishes 9/14/0 with a touchdown pass.  Plus, he runs for 32 yards.  Alex Barrett moves to the nose guard spot while Kyle Kelley takes Barrett’s spot.  This game was Kelley’s first start as well.  The conference championship win was consecutive win number 9.  We finish with 10 wins.  We have not lost since September.  The 24 points allowed was the most against a MW opponent the entire 2015 season.  Granted, Air Force is not a passing team, but holding any division one school to 35 yards passing is impressive.  Air Force was a miserable 2/11 in third down conversions.  Consider two of their scores were based on a fumbled punt and what should have been a lost fumble that was kicked a few dozen yards toward their goal line.

Offensively what I liked best was 10-10, 17-17, 24-24.  Our version of determination.  Finally, Donny Hageman settles the score with his 46 yard field goal (I will miss him) and the Aztec defense closes the game.

The Cincinnati Bearcats await.  Our first cousins when uniforms are discussed.  The Hawaii Bowl is perfectly fine with me.  To think of what might have been if we beat South Alabama.  Oh, well.  Spilt milk and all that.  10-3 sits fine with me.

A tip of the helmet to players, coaches and staff.  May Rocky Long coach the Aztecs forever.