Daily Archives: January 16, 2012

Casey Lawrence Interview: Blue Jays Pitching Prospect (Casey’s Got Game!)

Monday January 16, 2012

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  I love talking baseball prospects. I can discuss them and debate them all day long. I get asked all the time: how do you know which prospects will make it? The truth is…picking prospects is not an exact science. Some highly touted ones end up falling off the map, while relative unknowns can shoot up and shine. But if you ask me my measuring stick, it always begins with one statistic. Walks. I look for hitting prospects that take walks and pitching prospects that give up very little walks. It is that simple. The process if far more complicated and this is an oversimplification. But if a walk total stands out, you definitely have my attention.

On the hitting side, take Jaff Decker in the Padres system. The outfield prospect took 103 walks last year in AA. Ranks him very high in my books. But as rare as it is to find  a hitting prospect who can take a walk with pop in his bat, it is even more rare to find a good control pitcher in the minors that gives up few walks and punches hitters out. Let’s say I was to find you a pitcher. In his first two professional seasons combined, here are his numbers: 21-11 record, 2.80 ERA, 1.082 WHIP, 228 1/3 IP, 211 hits allowed, 172 strikeouts and…only 36 walks allowed.  Interested? That is a 4.78 SO/BB ratio. Only 1.4 BB per 9 IP. At 24-years of age, welcome to the world of Casey Lawrence.

At 6’2″, Casey has good size for a pitcher. He stepped into professional baseball in 2010 and has dominated from day one. As starting pitchers goes, I really like his potential. There is a common obsession in baseball circles to favor pitchers who throw 99 mph gas but are generally wild. In my book, an out is an out. Casey Lawrence still has a good share of strikeouts, but it is his control and stinginess on walks that separates him from the pack. 2012 will be a big year for the kid who’s got game. I would like to see what he can do in AA. He has shown that he can pitch. The Jays now need to take that potential and put it up against the next level. If he continues on his current path, Toronto will not be too far behind. 

For all his success to-date, Casey has not let the numbers get to his head. With his down to earth nature, Casey is not getting too far ahead of himself. He does not consider himself above the game, but rather a student of the game. This is what we call the total package- and Casey Lawrence will continue to turn heads in the coming years. Featured today on MLB reports, we are proud to present our interview with Blue Jays Pitching Prospect, Casey Lawrence:

MLB reports:  Welcome to the Reports Casey!  First question we like to start off with: Who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?

Casey Lawrence:  The player that I most idolized growing up was Cal Ripken Jr. of the Orioles. I admired Cal for his ability to show up to the field day in and day out, without ever taking a day off and playing through injuries. I admired the way he accepted a position change from SS to 3B for the betterment of his team. I admired the way he played the game and had fun doing it.


MLB reports:  Which current MLB star do you most admire and why?

Casey Lawrence:  Today, I admire Derek Jeter for the way he handles himself on and off the field. He is the type of player that has become a household role model. He plays the game the way it is supposed to be played and has that “it” factor; the ability to make the big play, clutch hit, and find a way to win.


MLB reports:  Reflecting on your career to-date, what are your proudest accomplishments on the baseball field?

Casey Lawrence:  My most proudest accomplishment of my career-to-date would have to be a combination of two: the day I signed my contract with the Toronto Blue Jays and being given the honor of starting the 2010 New York-Penn All-Star Game. I consider both to be honors and rewards for the hard work I’ve put in each and every day.


MLB reports:  You started your baseball career with the Jays organization in 2010.  Did you expect to be signed by Toronto? What was that process like?

Casey Lawrence:  I had been shown some interest from a few teams after my junior year at Albright College heading into the draft. While no teams took a chance then, I still had faith that my time would come after graduating my senior year. My senior year was greeted with several more teams showing interest, but yet again the draft came and went without a single phone call from any of the 30 MLB teams. That means I had been passed over in the draft 3,000 times in two years. But wasn’t the first time I had been looked over, so I had accepted the fact that I had to continue to prove people wrong each and every day. I had actually been in Florida for vacation during the 2010 draft. I returned home that Sunday and pitched in a local men’s league game for the Brushtown Bulldogs. Monday morning I received a phone call from Blue Jays scout Bobby Gandolfo saying that they would like to offer me a contract. I flew back to Florida Tuesday morning and my journey started.


MLB reports:  What do you consider your greatest baseball skill(s)?

Casey Lawrence:  I consider my knowledge of the game as one of my greatest baseball skills. I grew up learning and playing  the game I love from my Grandfather, who was offered a professional contract from the St. Louis Browns. But he turned it down because my Grandmother insisted he stay home and take care of the family, my Father and my Uncle. I really enjoy talking the game and strategy of baseball every day and don’t know what I’d do without it.


MLB reports:  What facets of your game do you most wish to improve upon?

Casey Lawrence:  I am continually working to better myself within this game whether it be mentally or physically. I always keep “The Mental ABC’s of Pitching” close by me and consider it a pitcher’s Bible. I also have been striving to continue to get stronger and increasing my arm strength in order to stay healthy and consistent.


MLB reports:  I am very impressed with your numbers.  Good win totals, low ERA and WHIP.  I am particularly blown away by your low walks rates.  What’s the secret of your success?

Casey Lawrence:  The secret to my success is no secret at all but rather hard work. I have always worked hard at throwing strikes, locating all my pitches, getting ground balls, and allowing the defense to make plays. My Uncle Dave (also my pitching coach at Delone Catholic High School) and Gary Yeager Jr. (my pitching coach at Albright College) always preached about pounding down in the strike zone and that hasn’t changed since signing with Toronto.


MLB reports:  Long-term do you see yourself as a starter or a reliever?

Casey Lawrence:  Long-term I see myself doing whatever the team asks me to do. Obviously, I’d love to continue to start; but if they feel I’d help the team more by relieving ,then that’s what I’ll do.


MLB reports:  What pitches do you throw?  Best pitch? Anything you are currently working on?

Casey Lawrence:  My repertoire consists of a 2-seam sinking fastball, 4-seam fastball, change-up, slider and curveball. I’m continuing to develop my breaking pitches into being more consistent and sharper.


MLB reports:  If you had to look into a crystal ball, when do you see your expected time of arrival in the big leagues and what do you think you need to do most to get there?

Casey Lawrence:  That’s a tough one, really putting me on the spot with this one! I’ll say this. I see my arrival in the big leagues whenever the team feels I’m ready. Obviously, everyone wants to get there sooner rather than later, but it takes a lot of hard work to get there. They are the greatest players in the world. The truth is “if you think you’re ready, you’re probably not”. Every day is another opportunity to get better and learn something new. No one is guaranteed the opportunity to play at that level and if I’m fortunate enough to one day have that opportunity, that would be a blessing.


MLB reports:  What do you do for fun when you are not playing baseball?

Casey Lawrence:  When I’m not playing baseball, I enjoy going to the movies, watching television, playing some video games and golfing.


MLB reports:  Have you visited Toronto yet?  

Casey Lawrence:  I honestly have never been outside the United States. My passport is ready if the time calls for it, but I’d rather not just visit.


MLB reports:  You just completed your second professional season, finishing in High-A ball.  Do you know where the Jays likely plan to start you this season?

Casey Lawrence:  I have no idea where the Blue Jays plan on starting me this season. I’m anxious for Spring Training to start and earn a spot on the team they feel I fit best.


MLB reports:  If you could send out a message to the Jays fans, what would it be?

Casey Lawrence:  My message to the fans of the Blue Jays would be to continue with their unbelievable support and that the whole entire organization is working very hard day in and day out to bring them a World Series. Hopefully in the near future!


MLB reports:  Final thoughts?

Casey Lawrence:  Finally I’d like to thank my family, friends, and fans for their continued support. I don’t think they get enough credit for what they have meant to me in my life. It’s truly a blessing and I thank God each and every day for the opportunity I have to play the game I love for a living.

***Thank you to Casey Lawrence for taking the time today to speak with us on MLB reports (and the pictures used in todays’ feature)!  You can follow Casey on Twitter (@CaseyLawrence). Casey is very social media savy, so please feel free to send him any questions/comments you have.  Good luck in 2012 Casey, the crystal ball sees big things for you this season!***

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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Was the Era In Which Juan Gonzalez Played in the Reason Why He Is Off the HOF Ballot?

Tuesday January 17th, 2012

Sam Evans: Juan Gonzalez was the finest Texas Ranger power hitter to ever roam the outfield at Arlington Stadium. He played the game with poise and stayed humble, which made him a fan favorite in Texas. In his second year of eligibility, the 2012 Hall-of-Fame voters only gave Gonzalez 4% of the vote, which is 71% less than what is needed to be elected…and took him off the ballot. Is there any chance that this vote was affected by the Steroid Era, in which Gonzalez played in?

Juan Gonzalez grew up in an impoverished barrio in Puerto Rico.He overcame adversity as a child, and is still a role model to young Puerto Rican baseball players. He was signed by the Rangers at the tender age of 16 in 1986. He shot through the minor leagues in only two years, and soon, he was considered one of the best prospects in all of baseball. After word spread of Gonzalez’s jaw dropping power, he was named AL MVP in 1996 and 1998. He never won a World Series, but he did win one of the most thrilling Home Run Derbys ever in 1993.

Gonzalez, known more commonly amongst the Rangers fan base as “Igor”, had a 17-season Major League career that was often plagued by injuries. Igor only played more than 145 games three times in his long career. Gonzalez played for the Rangers, Tigers, Indians, and Royals from 1989 to 2005, but he’s mostly remembered for his time as a Ranger.

This worldwide superstar hit 434 homers in his career with a .265 career ISO. ISO, or Isolated Power, is a stat that is used to find a batters true power. In 1996, Gonzalez hit 47 homers and had an ISO of .329. To give you an idea of how impressive that is, from 2000-2010, Albert Pujols led all baseball players with more than 1000 PA, with a .294 ISO. 

Juan Gonzalez was never a five-tool baseball player. The tall, buff outfielder always played shaky defense at best. Even as an offensive player, Gonzalez never offered much of an average, and he always was dragged down by a low OBP%. Igor had only 457 career walks. That’s only one-third of what Bobby Abreu has collected in his 16 years in the majors.

During the peak years of his career, Gonzalez was a key cog in the middle of the lineup contributing towards the Rangers success. If Gonzalez hadn’t been leading his team to wins, and dedicated owner George Bush wasn’t helping the Rangers get a new stadium, the Rangers probably wouldn’t still be based in Arlington.

Igor was a very lovable baseball player. He’ll be remembered for his smiling grimace after every big swing he took. He would shift his weight from foot to foot before every pitch, just daring the pitcher to throw him what he wanted. Then, when he swung, the ball exploded off his bat. He’d finish with the bat in one hand, and nobody had any doubt that the ball was going to leave the ballpark.

As much as it is looked down upon nowadays, Gonzalez was known for his gaudy RBI numbers. He drove in 100 runs eight times in his career.Now that we have learned that RBI is not an accurate statistic when measuring a player’s value, Gonzalez numbers just don’t look the same.

Gonzalez is simply not a Hall-of-Fame caliber player. Despite having ten years where he hit roughly .300 and over thirty dingers a year, Gonzalez wasn’t as great in other facets of the game. He was only worth 38.6 Wins Above Replacement during his career, which is less than Mike Cameron‘s total from 2000-2010. WAR is not always a great statistic for tracking defensive value, but almost all other defensive statistics show that Gonzalez was a below-average fielder.

With Juan Gonzalez not receiving enough votes to continue on his Hall-of-Fame quest, one has to wonder if it was because of steroid suspicion from the voters. It is completely unfair to judge whether or not a player took steroids based on their physical appearance. Sure, Albert Pujols looks like a freak of nature. However, maybe it is just in his genes, or maybe he works harder than anyone else during the offseason.

Unfortunately, the chances are that Gonzalez probably took steroids at one time or another during his career. Jose Canseco says that he gave Gonzalez steroids, and Gonzalez was also featured in the infamous Mitchell report. Unlike most players who have been claimed to have taken steroids, Gonzalez has had his trainer back him by saying that the drugs that the Mitchell report discussed Gonzalez taking, were actually painkiller and flu medicine.

Steroids were not illegal during the 1990’s. People get so worked up about how baseball players who took steroids should be erased from the record books and forgotten forever. The fact of the matter is, steroids were a part of the game during that era. It’s impossible to tell who took them and who stayed away. So why don’t we just appreciate the great ballplayers we witnessed during that time and leave it at that?

Let’s assume that Juan Gonzalez took steroids every year of his career. Assisted by these steroids, Juan Gonzalez helped save the Rangers franchise, while he also gave more back to his hometown of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, than most of us can even dream of. Not to mention, steroids weren’t illegal and about a third of the players were probably taking them at the time at least. Even if Juan Gonzalez used steroids, he not only to become a better baseball player, but he also narrowed the gap between Puerto Ricans and Americans playing baseball. Now, Puerto Ricans see Major League Baseball as an opportunity to make money and improve the quality of their lives, as well as those of their families.

I’m not saying that Gonzalez knowingly ever took steroids. Even though it seemed as if he was always injured, and steroids were especially popular amongst players rehabilitating from injuries, there wasn’t a clear line between steroids and painkillers back then. Igor has repeatedly denied knowingly taking steroids, and I am starting to believe him.

Juan Gonzalez is not a Hall-of-Famer, so I am not surprised he got left off the ballot. The numbers aren’t completely there and the reality is that he doesn’t measure up well against Mark McGwire and the other actual and perceived steroid users trying to be elected. I just hope that in the future, baseball voters will look past the era in which a player competed in, and look more at how each player played during their era and the effect that they had on the game of baseball as a whole.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter***

 

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The Baseball Struggles of Tall/Heavy Players After 30: Is Prince Next?

Monday January 16, 2012


Doug Booth-  Baseball Writer:  I am still astounded when I hear that Prince Fielder has not been signed yet.  This man is a powerhouse that would help any ball club.  So what is going on?  When I thought about this a little more I realized that tall/heavy hitters really have a tough time keeping their productivity up once they are near the second half of their career.  It is really not that hard to figure out.  A player that is taller also carries a larger strike zone, where the overweight players will only lose any speed they had as their career starts winding down.  For this particular article, I choose 4 players to study this exact scenario. Those players are: Richie Sexson, Tony Clark, Mo Vaughn and Cecil Fielder.

Tall Players

Richie Sexson-(Career .261 306 HR 943 RBI), is one of the tallest players ever at 6’6″.  For the first 9 years of his career, this Oregon Native terrorized pitchers and routinely deposited baseball into the bleachers.  During those years, the man clubbed 270 HRs and drove in 824 RBIs, power numbers that put him amongst the best in baseball.  Despite being quite thin, Richie began having problems in the field and at the plate once he hit the age of 32.  In 2007, Richie Sexson only hit .205 and was striking out on the outside pitch at the knees frequently.  We are talking about a professional hitter who put together 6- 100 RBI seasons. Within a year, Sexson was out of the league without any takers.  It wasn’t a real gradual drop either.  At age 31 Richie Sexson hit 34 HRs and 107 RBIs for Seattle, a place where half of his games were played at pitcher friendly Safeco Field.

Tony Clark-(Career .262 252 HR 824 RBI), is 6’8″ and was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 1990 Amateur Draft.  Clark started out his first seven seasons with the Detroit Tigers by hitting .277 with 156 HRs and 514 RBIs.  While he was not as potent as Richie Sexson, Clark ended his career with Tigers with a slugging percentage of .502.  At age 30, the Boston Red Sox now had Clark as their 1st baseman. However, this was short-lived as he struggled badly.  In 2003 and 2004, Clark spent time as injury relief for both of the New York teams. The Mets used Clark when Mo Vaughn retired in 2003, while the Yankees had him play 1st base when Jason Giambi was out for the year with stomach pains in 2004.  In both cases Clark responded with 16 HRs, in half of the at-bats of a regular year.  Tony Clark played regularly during the next season for the Arizona Diamondbacks, hitting 30 HRs in only 130 games, while also slugging a career best .636.   Tony struggled to stay healthy after that year, although he provided some nice pop as a pinch hitter.  His career as a regular had been over since he had turned 33.

Heavy Players

Mo Vaughn-(Career.293 328 HR’S 1064 RBI), is listed as weighing only 225 pounds at baseball reference.com, but for those that watched him play, knew that was way under the weight Vaughn played at once he left Boston.  Vaughn spent his first 8 years with Boston hitting .304 with 230 HRs and 752 RBIs.  Vaughn was named the 1995 AL MVP when he hit 44 HRs and drove in 143 RBIs.  The man was a beast in his Boston days.  After posting 2 decent years with the then ‘California Angels’ hitting 30 HRs and driving in 100+RBIs, Vaughn signed with the New York Mets.  Vaughn showed up to camp out of shape (at age 34) and slumped in his first year with the Mets.  More health issues came up the next year and a knee injury brought the man to retirement.  Those were knee problems that arose very likely from carrying all that extra weight on his frame.

Cecil Fielder-(Career .255 319 HR’S 1008 RBI), is a classic example of what I am talking about. With the Toronto Blue Jays, Cecil hit 31 HRs in only 504 ABs. But there was a problem.  The Jays featured AL home run king Fred McGriff at that time with John Olerud in the system. So Cecil Fielder was off to play in Japan for a season.  Earlier in Cecil’s career, he was much leaner until he joined the Detroit Tigers. In 1990, ‘Big Daddy’ signed with the Detroit Tigers and went on to hit 51 HRs and drove in 132 RBIs.  It was the first time a player had hit 50 homers in a year since George Foster did it in 1977.   Cecil Fielder led the league in RBI for his first three years with the Tigers, and he also finished with 44 HRs to lead the league in homers for his second year with Detroit.  At the age of 32, he was traded to the New York Yankees at the deadline before helping them secure New York’s first championship since 1978.  After the following season, the Yanks felt they were better suited to use Darryl Strawberry at DH and Tino Martinez at 1st base, so they let Cecil leave.  At age 34 Cecil was big and slow and ended his career after a great 10 year run.

So maybe this is the reason that teams have not signed Prince to a huge 8+ years contract.  Based on my research, the most I would give Prince is a 5-year deal.  Pay him more annually if you wish, but do not make the mistake as other teams have made in the past.  I do not want to add Prince to this list after his career is over.

*** Thank you to our Baseball Writer- Doug Booth for preparing today’s feature on MLB reports.  To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Doug Booth, you can follow Doug on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and click here for Doug’s website, fastestthirtyballgames.com*** 

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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