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Prospecting: The Rest of the Righthanders

The Comeback Player The Young One

  • Juan Gutierrez In Sickels' book
          Number Eight on
    Baseball America's organizational list
9 - 5, 3.21 at A Lexington in 2005; 100K/43BB/106H in 120-2/3 IP
1 - 1, 3.00 at High-A Salem; 9K/8BB/10H
Twelfth on Baseball America's list in '05, and moved up to eighth for 2006, this product of the Venezuelan Baseball Academy spent two years in the Venezuelan Summer League, and another two in the Appalachian Rookie League stateside.  So he might be a little old:  he had a good year at Martinsville in 2004, co-leading the Appy League in victories, for example, but did so at the age of 21.  On the other hand, by skipping the New York Penn League in 2005, and getting the late-season callup to High A Salem, Gutierrez may be starting to catch up a bit.  He sits at 92 and 93 with his fastball, supposedly getting up as high as 96, and has a plus curveball that he sometimes has trouble commanding.   Sickels thinks he may need to learn to change speeds better.  
I wonder why he wasn't invited to the Ryan camp?
  • Ryan McKeller At the Ryan Camp
4 - 4, 4.99 at A Lexington in 2005; 42K/23BB/68H in 57-2/3 IP
6 - 5, 4.50 at Short A Tri-City in 2005; 76K/33BB/69H in 82 IP
Not sure about this one.  McKeller--a 45th round pick in '03 who posted a 4.86 ERA at Tri-City in 2004--began the 2005 year at Lexington, but pitched inconsistently, and only showed improvement after a demotion back down to the New York-Penn League.  He ended up leading the ValleyCats in innings and strikeouts, and was considered their ace while he was there, but the ERA was at 4.50.  McKeller throws 90 - 93 with a curve, and attempted to introduce a slider into his repertoire during his stay at Troy last year.  Perhaps it is for instruction in that slider that McKeller has been invited to Houston this week; otherwise, I might suggest that the company is a little too fast for him.

  • Ryan Mitchell In Sickels' book
3 - 1, 3.34 at Rookie Greeneville in 2005; 33K/14BB/30H in 35.0 IP

Won't turn 19 until August is the biggest thing, I guess, so there's plenty of time to teach him how to mix his low 90's fastball with what Sickels describes as his serviceable curve and change.  On Deck, who give lots of extra credit for performing ably while very young, has given Mitchell a score of over 200.  Mitchell is the only pitcher on the Astros farm besides Troy Patton with a score that high.
  • Fernando Nieve In Sickels' book; at the Ryan Camp
          Third on
    Baseball America's organizational list
4 - 3, 2.65 at AA Corpus Christi in 2005; 96K/29BB/62H in 85 IP
4 - 4, 4.83 at AAA Round Rock in 2005; 75K/33BB/92H in 82 IP
The hits went way up for Nieve after the promotion to the PCL; somehow, what were strikeouts at Whataburger Field turned to hits at the Dell Diamond.  But no-one seems worried, and I'd bet that if Nieve doesn't win a major league job out of ST, he'll be around Minute Maid Park at some point during the summer.  92 - 94 fastball, and a hammer slider that is the difference-maker for him.  Sickels says he should throw his change more, and that he'll aim his pitches when behind in the count.  I say Zeke Astacio and Wandy Rodriguez shouldn't get complacent.
  • Felipe Paulino In Sickels' book; at the Ryan Camp
          Seventh on
    Baseball America's organizational list
2 - 2, 3.82 at Short A Tri-City in 2005; 34K/11BB/21H in 30-2/3 IP
1 - 1, 1.85 at A Lexington in 2005; 30K/6BB/21H in 24-1/3 IP

Sickels is less than impressed with the improvement Paulino showed in 2005, when the Venezuelan righthander  most famous for his Nuke Laloosh impersonation appeared to actually harness his impressive fastball.  Owner of a career 5.02 ERA and a 1.37 k/BB ratio coming into '05, Paulino posted a 2.94 ERA with a 3.76 strikeout to walk, and actually appeared to improve when promoted.  Listen to Tim Bogar, who managed Paulino in 2004 at Greeneville and for the last month of '05 at Lexington:
He's got an above-average fastball.  He can throw anywhere from 93 to 98, has a pretty good curveball, and he's been working on his change-up. He needs to be consistent within the strike zone, and if he is. . . he's going to be a pretty good pitcher.

Sickels rightly points out that Paulino has never pitched a full season, but he will get that opportunity in 2006, perhaps even at Salem?
  • Chris Sampson In Sickels' book; at the Ryan Camp
4 - 12, 3.12 at AA Corpus Christi in 2005; 92K/19BB/147H in 150 IP
If I just had paid more attention to the back of a few baseball cards last year, and the year before, I'd have known the story that Sickels relates about how Sampson--drafted as a shortstop out of Texas Tech in 1999--was one and done at Auburn in '99, then came back to the organization four years later, hoping to make it as a pitcher.  He's had quite a bit of success since coming back:  Carolina League pitcher of the month for August 2004, and Texas League midseason All-Star in 2005.  And now look:  invited to the Ryan camp.  You can guess:  average fastball, good change, keeps the ball down, pitches smart.  If I had to guess, I'd say he'll spend this year and the next two at Round Rock, giving Jackie Moore quality innings, but never generating enough excitement among Astros' organizational brass to warrant an extended callup.
  • Mitch Talbot In Sickels' book; at the Ryan Camp
8 - 11, 4.34 at A Salem in 2005; 100K/46BB/169H in 151-1/3 IP
Talbot was picked by the Baseball America people as having the best changeup in the organization, both for 2005 and 2006.   Back in 2003, Topps wrote of him, "live arm. . .good sinking fastball with running action. . .spins a tight curve," although that last might be a bit of baseball-card hyperbole, as Sickels calls Talbot's breaking ball "mediocre."   Possessed of a 90 mph fastball, Talbot is seen by On Deck as the tenth best starter in the Astros chain, and a member of the second echelon of Astros pitching prospects, with guys like Albers and Douglass.
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Anyone know what the story on Robert Stiehl is? Or Derick Grigsby, for that matter? Baseball America had Grigsby "out of baseball," but I'm not sure that's right . . .

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Congratulations to Dewey Robinson on his promotion.  I hope the guys on this page work hard and work well for you.

Lastly, I'd like to nominate Roger Clemens pitching batting practice as the biggest non-story of the week to be picked up by the major networks, seing how his eventual decision--important as it might be--will have nothing whatever to do with the negligible amount he contributed to this week's camp.