Share It

Thursday, March 31, 2011

2011 Cleveland Indians Preview

The 2011 Indians do not seem to have much room for improvement over 2010.
Much like the Pirates,the Wahoos made some small additions,but nothing that should change their fortunes much.
Of the two teams,I would give Pittsburgh the edge in the everyday lineup and Cleveland an advantage on the mound.

Carlos Santana will attempt to bounce back from a season ending injury and establish himself as the Cleveland catcher.
Santana's bat has few questions,but the big question involve his defense and if he can develop enough there to catch long term.
Light hitting Lou Marson will be the backup backstop.

Travis Hafner will be the DH as he continues his climb back from injuries that left him a shell of what he once was.
Hafner will never be among the top hitters in the game as he once was,but he still is decent enough,although considerably overpaid for his production.

Matt LaPorta will finally get his shot at the full time first base position.
LaPorta has disappointed with the stick since being the jewel of the CC Sabathia swap with the Brewers.
LaPorta has hit with less than expected power and an low average as well.
If LaPorta fails to make progress this year,the Tribe will likely look for a new first baseman for 2012.
Veteran shortstop Orlando Cabrera was signed as a stop gap at second base.
Cabrera could be a trade deadline move in the making,especially if Jason Kipnis starts strongly in Columbus.
Asdrubal Cabrera keeps his job at short as he tries to be the long term answer there.
Cabrera is flashy with the glove and has hit better than advertised as well.
The third base issue is a huge one as Cleveland attempts to slide by for a season until Lonnie Chisenhall is ready for 2012.
Journeyman Jack Hannahan will start the season there,but who knows who will finish the season.
Hannahan is light hitting to be generous and will need to be better than his career has shown to have any chance to stay the year.
Jason Donald seems to be a better fit as a utilityman,but will likely replace Hannahan after he returns from a broken finger.
Adam Everett was signed as the utility infielder over the winter.

The outfielder looks pretty mundane for the opener,but will hopefully move up if Grady Sizemore returns to his pre-injury form.
Sizemore will be starting the season on the DL,but could be back before April ends.
Michael Brantley will start in Sizemore's place and could find time in left when Sizemore returns.
Austin Kearns re-signed after a 2010 season that saw him split time between Cleveland and the New York Yankees and will start in left.
Kearns is what he is and at his top game is a little above average.
Travis Buck was picked up from Oakland after three injury riddled seasons and will attempt to revive a once promising career.Buck had a strong half season as a rookie in 2007,but has rarely been healthy since.
Shin-Soo Choo might be the games most underrated player in right field.
Choo isn't a superstar by any means,but he is a solid player and I like the way he plays the game.
Shelley Duncan will be the fifth outfielder and pinch hitter.

The Cleveland rotation of five righthanders has promise and could be a surprise if all works out.
Fausto Carmona bounced back from a two poor seasons with an ERA under four and is the ace of the staff.
Carmona could also be deadline trade bait with a strong half season.
Carlos Carrasco finally gets his chance to pitch in the bigs in the rotation after another excellent season at AAA.
Carrasco was decent in his handful of late season starts and is as ready as he will ever be.
The stuff is there,but the key is command.
Lanky Justin Masterson struggled last season,but I am not ready to give up on him yet.
Josh Tomlin looks less than great until the evening ends and you look at the numbers.I may have a Tomlin bias,but he is just what a team looks for at the back of the rotation-throws strikes and keeps you in the game.
Mitch Talbot had his moments in 2010,winning ten games and might be ready to make another jump in the upcoming season.

The bullpen is led by Chris Perez,who is developing into a quality closer.
Chad Durbin was signed as a free agent to be the righthanded setup man and Rafael Perez should be in the lefty setup spot.
Tony Sipp fills the lefty middle reliever spot and Frank Herrmann will join spring surprise Vinny Pestano and well traveled veteran Justin Germano as the righthanders in the long/middle relief jobs.

The Indians seem to be relying on their pitching to make advances this season and with even more young power arms arriving in the next year or so,Cleveland could make a few strides this season.
Not enough to contend,but enough to give glimmers of promise.

Prediction: 72-90

2011 Pittsburgh Pirates Preview

The 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates do not seem to be that much improved over the 2010 Pirates,but they could finish with a better record with a few breaks going their way.
Pittsburgh will have pretty much the same regular lineup that they finished last season with,especially when Chris Snyder comes off the disabled list to catch.
Ryan Doumit will catch most of the games until Snyder returns and Jason Jaramillo will back him up for now.
Trade rumors involving Doumit are still around,but until something happens,Jaramillo will be the odd man out in a few weeks.
Free agent first baseman Lyle Overbay arrives from Toronto as the main offensive addition and will be the starter at first.
Overbay is not finished as a player,but I still think the Pirates could have gotten equal,if not more production from a Steve Pearce/John Bowker platoon and they could have had it at a cheaper price.
Pearce will back Overbay up at first and has begun to work out at third to add versatility to his game.
The remainder of the infield is the same as the one that was the season finisher.
Neil Walker returns at second after a career saving 2010,when it appeared the Pirates were all but ready to give up on him.
Walker is still a work in progress there defensively,but his bat will play well above average there.
Ronny Cedeno continues to start at short in the absence of other options.
Cedeno had his best season last year and it was pretty average offensively along with being maddening with the leather.
Rule 5 selection Josh Rodriguez will see time at second,short and third as the utility infielder.
Pedro Alvarez starts his first full season at third and looks to have the potential of launching 30 or more homers.He had better because this team doesn't strike me as the 78 Red Sox as far as the longball goes.

The outfield features young guns Jose Tabata and Andrew McCutchen in left and center.
Tabata will also be starting his first full major league season after a promising half season.Tabata could hit for more power,but he runs well and the power might develop.
McCutchen is a coming star as he continues to grow into the role.
I think McCutchen makes that leap this season.
Garrett Jones will platoon in right with free agent pickup Matt Diaz.
Jones has struggled with lefties and Diaz murders them,so it could be effective on paper.
I'll reserve judgement though.
John Bowker,who never seems to get a true chance anywhere,is the fifth outfielder.
Bowker is out of options,so the Pirates will lose him,if they try to send him to Indianapolis...

The rotation adds one new member and adds another for an entire season.
Kevin Correia was signed from San Diego and will get the Opening Day start.
I am not too excited about Correia's signing,especially when you figure he was less than stellar last season in the best pitchers park in the game.
Correia did have personal issues to deal with last year and that could have affected his pitching,so I am open to a better year than I expect.
Paul Maholm returns in the two slot as does Ross Ohlendorf in the three.
Both are average and would be better in lesser roles on good teams.
Charlie Morton gets one last chance to harness his stuff and prove himself as more than a 4A pitcher.
The ability is there,the question is will Morton ever be able to show it.
James McDonald and the killer curve rounds out the rotation after being stolen from the Dodgers last season.

The bullpen is righthander dominated as all but one member of the relievers are righties.
Former Oriole prospect Garrett Olson will get plenty of chances to prove himself as the only lefthander available.
Jeff Karstens,Jose Veras and blog favorite Mike Crotta will handle the long and middle relief roles.
Chris Resop and Evan Meek will be setting games up for closer Joel Hanrahan.
Meek is the closer in waiting and Hanrahan could be trade bait at the deadline,if Meek continues to improve.

I don't see where the Pirates have made any huge leaps this offseason,although they could mildly improve.
I look for another season of losses to come and yet another high pick for 2012,but hope is eternal.
I do believe in the plan for the Buccos,it just takes time....

Prediction 64-98

Look for the Indians preview later today.....

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Greene Light!

Andy Greene's goal (4) with just under five minutes to go in the third period erased some mistakes that he made on the defensive end and lifted the New Jersey Devils to a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders at the Rock.
Devils goals also to Ilya Kovalchuk (28) and Jacob Josefson (3).
New Jersey takes tomorrow off before home games against Philadelphia and Montreal on Friday and Saturday.

Hell Raisers

1) The Kovalchuk goal in the first period ended the Devils goalless streak that dates back to their game in Boston in the first period against the Bruins.
Way too long...

2) The Devils are still alive in the playoff race.
All they have to do is win their last six games and either Buffalo or the Rangers lose all their remaining starts.
Simply put-Ain't happenin'

3) This game was hard fought,but not exactly well played.
That is not always the case late in the campaign when both teams are cooked in the playoff chase.
Credit to both teams for scrapping hard,if not well....

4) Andy Greene saved the day with his game winner,but played a hand in both Franz Nielsen goals in the third period that awakened the Islanders.Greene didn't reach a Mattias Tedenby pass that handed Nielsen the puck for his shorthanded breakway goal and he was one of many milling around the crease on the second goal by Nielsen.

5) The Devils had not been dropping the gloves much recently,but slugged it out twice in the first period with David Clarkson against Zenon Konopka and Jay Leach battling Matt Martin.
That type of scrappiness is what the team may have been missing over the last few games....

Photo Credit-AP Photo

Quicker than expected...

Karma struck back quicker than anyone expected last night in Cleveland as the undermanned Cavaliers outworked and outhustled the vastly more talented Miami Heat and their soft hearted half-leader LeBron James to a stunning 102-90 win.
Cleveland used sizzling 56 % shooting from the field to dampen the Heat and send them slumping from Ohio with a popular and unexpected defeat.

I try to catch the Cavaliers whenever they are televised and not against the Devils,so this was a rare treat for me as usually I settle for the free NBA league pass week long preview or their games against Washington.
NBA TV allows fans to choose a game for them to show on Tuesday Fan Night and the fans voted for the Miami-Cleveland games.
I suppose mainly to see how the fans would treat whats his name,not really expecting a competitive contest.

With the ladies out of the house,I settled in to watch the expected pounding,especially when it was reported before the game that Cavalier security was unwilling to allow James and his "posse'" to park in the parking lot reserved for Cleveland players.
I figured that after that,he would dominate and then moan about being disrespected.
On top of that,the traitor refused to leave the bench for the pre-game introductions of the starting lineup.
That was an first for me,never seen that done before and the league needs to step in and stop that before a trend begins.
After all,if he didn't want to be announced,Miami could have had him come off the bench at the first opportunity.

To my surprise,the Cavaliers played them even in the first period and dominated the second for a halftime lead of eleven points.
Cleveland increased their lead to as many as 23,before a late period rally cut into the lead deeply led by a half court shot by the deserter,that was called no good and then good after a lengthy delay.
The NBA issued a release after the game that said the shot should not have counted.
Lot of good that would have done if that shot determined the winner.

Miami was as close as even with seven minutes to go,but Cleveland shut down the Heat without a point for the next four minutes and pulled away for the win.
J.J.Hickson posted the double/double with 21 points and 12 boards and Anthony Parker finished with 20 points with a 4 for 4 shooting night from the three point range.
Give some credit to Ryan Hollins and Baron Davis as well.
Hollins showed some toughness and physicality by basically controlling Chris Bosh on both ends of the floor and Davis played very well considering he is clearly less than 100 %.
Davis can be a real help to the team next season once his physical issues are repaired and his attitude seems far better than most expected as well.

A great night for basketball and a great night for Northeast Ohio.
One game can never pay back for the actions of that person,but it can be a beginning.
Here is hoping for the next step in the rebuilding is for some help with the hidden hand with two sets on ping pong balls in the lottery hopper!!

Photos to come when I can add them.Blogger is having internal server issues at this writing...

Photo Credits-Cleveland Plain Dealer Photo Staff

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Happy 4th anniversary!

Today marks the fourth anniversary of this endeavor,which is about three years and nine months more than I thought it would last.
It is hard to believe that I have stuck with this for this amount of time,but I enjoy doing it,but also looking back from time to time to see how right or wrong I was about things and also how I have changed in four years.

You can disagree with this if you wish,but I believe that one never truly matures.
We just advance to various stages of life and gains experience from each.
I might have matured for a parent of a teenager through my experiences,but I am learning on the job with the ups and downs of dealing with an adult child and his experiences after the leaving of the nest.

I am also pleased that we seem to turning a corner here as well.
Our readership has doubled over the last six months and continues to grow.
I still wish that we saw more comments from those of you out there,but there is always room for improvement.

I enjoy looking at the various places that we gain regular readers from,especially when it is clear to me that I have never met the person or mentioned the blog to and wonder just how they found us as well as why they enjoy reading.
Another issue is checking out the links that referred us and two posts that have ranked among the top that bring readers here are the space post from last year,which seems to be the deep space picture that I posted that does the trick and the recent forgotten superstars post on Carlos Monzon.
Monzon has brought the blog the most readers ever from non-North American locations.


Time for a few thank yous to the people that help make this go.
Of course,I cannot start any list without the person that means more to me than anything and gave the idea for this to begin with-the lovely Cherie.
Thanks to Ryan,The Jeff and Battlin' Bob for their contributions that show up most often in the cleaning of the inbox.
All three of them send me things that have an above average chance of being seen in that regular feature.
Thanks to "Sue Dinem" for his words and referrals from NationalsProspects.com.
A special thanks to the folks that have been so gracious with their time for interviews,such as Erik Arnesen,Danny Rosenbaum and Eric Krebs.
We have three more interviews on tap after the current one with Eric Krebs,one from baseball,one from hockey and one from the world of autographs.
And finally, a word of thanks to the person that might be our biggest fan.
Thanks to "Big Don",who is always giving me input and compliments and makes me feel that someone out there cares about our little space in the blogosphere.

Thanks again for dropping by and celebrating,,I hope we do this again for year five.
Don't forget to grab some cake as you leave!!!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Eric Krebs Interview-Part 1

We start our interview with Eric Krebs from over the winter.
The original interview was a four parter,but there was an additional part with a twist added on a few weeks later.
I hope you enjoy it and thanks to Eric for taking the time..


TRS: Tell me about the highs of the 2010 season

EK:  Starting off in AA again and having a real good start to the year. Throwin' more strikes and good velocity
 
TRS: The Lows?
 
EK: Getting sent down to High A and being frustrated because I only had 2-3 bad outings in AA but being a reliever that can sky rocket your era
 
TRS: Your numbers at AA didn't seem bad,what did the Dodgers want you to work on at Inland Empire?
 
EK: Throwing more strikes and have consistant velocity

TRS: Have they suggested adding a new pitch?
 
EK:  No they haven't. all I'm really throwing is fastball and slider with some occasional changeups when needed

TRS: Was the Southern League travel as brutal as reported?
 
EK: Actually the travel wasn't that bad since Chattanooga is located kinda in the middle. I think the longest trip was 7 or so hours to Carolina and Jacksonville.

I hope to be back later with more thoughts or part two of our talk with Eric...

 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

An evening with the Albany Devils

Our annual visit to the Giant Center in Hershey Pa to see the Devils AHL affiliate occurred last night and for a change,the Devils hung in there and challenged the Hershey Bears,despite the 7-4 score.
Honestly,one could even say it was a controversial win and usually I cannot say anything near that after Hershey hammers the Devils squad,whether they were named the Albany River Rats,Lowell Devils or Albany Devils.

The Devils played the Bears to a 4-4 tie for close to two and a half periods until a 45 minute delay due to bad ice in the Albany crease that never got better,but a soft area doomed the Devils chances as Hershey scored two goals that were at least partially accountable to that factor after the delay.
Boos to the behavior of Hershey coach Mark French,who spent time slamming the entry doors to the ice and screaming at the referees about the delay.
Well,Mark,since you aren't that concerned about the surface and its safety for the players,perhaps you should have put your goalie on the end with the issues.?
Poor behavior on the part of French,especially since it is his teams surface that was having the issues.

Moving along from the event aspect,since I have written about that before,I was impressed with some of the Devils that I came to scout.
Adam Henrique was very impressive with two assists and just missed a goal.
Henrique was the most impressive Devil all night and I came away feeling really well about his chances of contributing to the parent club next season.
I also liked David McIntyre,who scored a goal and he showed a high energy game that might need a bit more seasoning,but might be a Devil in the making.
Mike Hoeffel played some,but didn't really stand out as he is getting his feet wet in just his third game as a pro.
Alexander Urbom looks to be progressing as a puck mover and could be a Devil as early as next season with the defensive group.


The final highlight was a fight that saw Hershey's tough guys roll over as Chris Murray tossed Brian Fahey down the ice in a skid and Pierre (3L) LeBlond pound a turtling up Mattheu Perreault.
Watching the youtube one can see Albany goalie Jeff Frazee challenging the Bears netminder Nolan Schaefer to add to the brawl,but his challenge was dismissed.
All and all,I always enjoy the Giant Center,although I have yet to enjoy a result of the game yet!



Two good meals over the course of the day with the better of the two being a long time favorite-the Middlesex Diner in Carlisle PA.
Huge portions,a very reasonable price and 24 hour access makes Middlesex a usual stop after Hershey Bears and Harrisburg Senators games.

The parent Devils were shutout in Buffalo 2-0 last night.
In Lou We Trust coverage here


Photo Credit-Cherie Heimberger

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Short supply of power

In a tight checking game,only one puck eluded a goalie and it took until the third shootout turn for Pittsburgh's James Neal to post that goal as the Pittsburgh Penguins took a 1-0 win over the New Jersey Devils in Pittsburgh.
I will not be seeing the Devils game against Buffalo tonight as I will be in Hershey for my annual trip to see the Albany (formerly Lowell) Devils and their prospects.
Please check the new poll to the right for a idea for me,if there is time conflicts over the next few weeks...

Hell Raisers

1) Not much to say for this one,the Devils didn't really have a ton of great scoring chances against Marc/Andre Fleury although Vladimir Zharkov couldn't control the puck in front of the net once against an out of position Fleury that looked to be a sure goal.

2) Colin White and Anton Volchenkov both were banged up in the game and neither will play in Buffalo tonight.
Both players suffered the "lower body injury".

3) Jay Leach was recalled from Albany to play tonight.
As nice as it is for Leach to get an NHL game paycheck,it doesn't help me much as now Leach isn't around to sign his card tonight after the game....

4) New Jersey had power play chances and fanned on all four of them.
Two of them late in the third period were especially large failures with the largest one coming on a pass from Patrik Elias that bounced over the waiting Ilya Kovalchuk's stick on what would have been an excellent chance.


5) It is over despite the Devils earning a point.
Buffalo's win leaves the Devils ten points out with eight to go.
The questions now are where do the Devils settle in for the draft and does Zach Parise return for a cameo?





    
6) If there were no lottery,the Devils would be in the 6th slot in the first round.
New Jersey has three more points than the Islanders (5th) and two fewer than the Blues (7th)..

Photo Credit-AP Photo


Friday, March 25, 2011

The legacy of the Fab Five

Finally had some time last night to watch ESPN Films two hour documentary on the "Fab Five" of michigan basketball and even though it was an interesting watch and a well done film,I still didn't change my opinion much of this heralded,but in the end,underachieving group.

Although the Fab Five only stayed together as a five man unit for two years with Chris Webber leaving for the pros after two years,Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard after their junior season and Jimmy King and Ray Jackson staying for the duration of their careers,they are well remembered.
But,what are they remembered for,really?
Long shorts,trash talk,big game losses and embarrassing outbursts when they lost games.

Toss in the hip-hop stuff and one can well make a case that the Fab Five were pretty influential-in a negative way.
Arguably they were the group that began to send college hoops down the road to being NBA lite as far as how their players conduct themselves on the court and they can take tons of blame for truly making college basketball more about Me than We.

Watching the film,it seems that Jalen Rose hasn't grown up a bit and still seems to think that he was a better player than he was,Jimmy King seems pretty normal,Ray Jackson came off as someone bitter about his post NBA career,Juwan Howard looks to have matured a bit through the years and Chris Webber didn't participate in the film.
Despite their two title game losses in the two year span of the entire group,they really underachieved in many ways.
In neither season,did they win the Big Ten title (regular season,there was no tournament then).
Perhaps,the true story behind the Fab Five was that these guys were not quite as good as the hype.
Chris Webber had an excellent NBA career,but was not a clutch performer and in my opinion was not a true player that you could build a team around.
Webber could have thrived as being the number two player on a team,but as a top guy,his flaws in the big game always came to the surface.
Juwan Howard is still in the league as a role player on the Miami Heat and was a very good player that earned the type of dough that great players earn.
Jalen Rose's career was pretty similar to Howard's before his career ended with knee problems,while Jimmy King played just one season in the league in addition to two games the following year to end his NBA stint and Ray Jackson didn't play in the league at all.
Talented players?Surely.
Worthy of the hype on the basketball floor? Perhaps,but they never won anything either.
No member of the Fab Five have played on an NBA Championship winner.



I am going to let the scandals involving Webber and Rose go by,because to me,if you dig deep enough you can find these types of issues at just about any top school in football and basketball.
I also will refrain from the racial aspect based on Jalen Rose's comments on the Duke basketball program as well and keep to the focus on the Fab Five legacy.
That legacy leaves one of self-promotion,marketing (that they saw little of the money from).selfishness and the damage done to the college game that may prove to be irreparable.
In the end,they are remembered more for what they wore and how they behaved than how they actually played the game....
Not so fab to me....



Photo Credit:
Joe DeVera/The Detroit News

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cleaning out the Inbox

Time for a sweep of the inbox,but first a bit of cleaning up.

Sorry,this is late,but was called into work last night and all that entails.
That knocks everything back a bit.
I did have time for the pictures at my parents,so look for a "big ball"universe return next week.
I also plan on a signing front post soon once my coolest addition arrives with the great stuff that I have brought in lately.

My good friend Wooden or Sue Dinem at NationalProspects.com knows how much I love (or is it loathe? Pretty sure it is loathe) Gus Johnson and sent me this,which is both well done and funny as well.
Johnson (if he was in on this) shows a sense of humor and cements himself as someone that seems to be a good guy to hang out with,even if his commentary makes me want to hang myself...



Sorry to hear of the passing of Rick Martin,one of the three members of Buffalo's classic French Connection line of the 1970's.
Martin suffered a fatal heart attack while driving recently at the age of 59.
Martin teamed with Rene' Robert and Gilbert Perrault as the key component of the first contending years of the Buffalo franchise....

Rex Ryan is reporting that Buddy Ryan is again fighting cancer and this time that it isn't skin cancer as Buddy has battled twice successfully in the past.
Best wishes to Buddy in his latest fight and look for more of Buddy Ryan here in the near future...

Texas Tech made possibly the best hire in years in any sport with the addition of Billy Gillispie to run their basketball program.
Gillispie is motivated after the problems that he had at Kentucky and no one recruits the state of Texas better than Gillispie,who turned around struggling programs at both UTEP and Texas A&M in the past.
The bigger question is this-After Billy Clyde turns the Raiders around,can they keep him long term???

From the cola wars department,Diet Coke has passed Pepsi as the nation's second most popular cola brand.
As I am not a huge cola drinker and the Coke family being the least of the bunch for me,I am pretty sure I am not among that group!

ESPN posts this interesting story on the city of Richmond and its basketball craze with two teams (Richmond and VCU) in the Sweet 16.
I would not be surprised to see VCU defeat Florida State,but Richmond has a tough road against Kansas.
It would be neat to see the two schools from a smaller city face off for a trip to the Final Four....

Battlin' Bob sends us this note on Breezewood PA and its wonderful (?) strip that forces travelers on I-70 to twist through its nooks and crannies to get anywhere east of there.
It truly is an interesting article on both Breezewood and how/why it is such an important stop for what seems to be no reason....

I also hope to be working on the Eric Krebs interview soon as well.
It took an interesting turn and we needed to extend it,but I think you will find it worth the wait....


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Good Night,Everybody.........

The sound that you hear is the New Jersey Devils walking off the playoff stage after their third loss in four games,this one to the Boston Bruins 4-1.
Ilya Kovalchuk's power play tally (27) that gave the Devils the early lead was the only goal on the evening.
The loss places New Jersey nine points out of eighth place with nine games remaining in the season.
In the simplest of terms-the Devils need to win all nine and hope for help.
Now considering the pace that the Devils have set until recently,the nine game win streak is possible.
Not likely,but possible.
However,a whole lot of teams need to fall apart in the stretch and I do not see all of those squads falling apart.

In lieu of Hell Raisers on a game that mainly featured dumb penalties that then allowed goals with the man disadvantage,I would like to offer some thoughts on why a Devils winning streak would not be a terrific thing unless the playoff miracle would occur.

1) This note is the empty netter of the bunch.
Draft position as of now shows this news- despite the Devils awesome string of wins,their point number is 72 at this writing.
That total ties them with Atlanta (who has one game in hand) in the standings and would put them at either 6th or 7th in the draft.
Considering the Devils usual drafting spot,this would be a chance to add a player that could truly pay dividends in a few years and as I fully expect for this season to be an aberration,a rare opportunity.
However,the Devils are just one point behind St.Louis,could pass Atlanta easily and a long streak could pass Toronto (4 behind),Columbus (5) and maybe even Minnesota (6).
Suddenly the sixth pick has become the tenth or eleventh.
That is far better than usual,but could be far better as well.

2) However,the Devils could also gain a spot or two.
The Islanders are just two points behind and they have played well of late and Florida is four back of the Red and Black.
The Devils could fall to the fourth pick,but no lower as Ottawa,Edmonton and Colorado are far ahead (or behind perspective depending) of the pack.
The further that you fall,the better the lottery chances are and the chances lessen for a team behind you to leap over you.

3) The Devils also would not need to rush Zach Parise back into action
In the playoff chase,both the team and Parise are trying to get the star winger back into action.
This could be helpful,but it could also hurt the 11-12 Devils,if the hurry causes a setback for Parise.
Considering the state of the team now,I fail to see a huge upside unless a dramatic change is in order..

4) With that settled,Jacques Lemaire can continue to give plenty of ice time to the building blocks of the future such as Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson without worrying about mistakes that are bound to happen.
The occasional scratches of the pair (More often Tedenby) would be unnecessary and their development can continue to grow in situations that will not decide seasons.

5) Maybe even a few players from Albany can get their feet wet before the season ends.
Alexander Urbom started the season in the NHL and he may have to be counted on next season,so why not a few games for Urbom under Jacques Lemaire?
I might even add the same for Adam Henrique,who I would much rather see than Adam Mair...

Watching this stunning run of games has almost salvaged this season for me,but if the playoffs are not going to happen,the best things could be some or all of the above....

Photo Credit-AP Photo

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Killer Clarkson leads Devils

This will be brief since it is two days old,but wanted to get it posted anyway.
I did manage to use my time yesterday to get pictures of the "big ball stadiums" and will try to be working on those in a few days.

David Clarkson scored two goals (11 and 12) and that was all the New Jersey Devils needed as the Devils lock down defense did just that in a 3-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Ohio Capital.
Nick Palmieri (7) scored the other of the Devils goals.

New Jersey continues their four city road swing tonight in Boston against the Bruins...

Hell Raisers

1) David Clarkson's game has been revitalized since being placed on a line with Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson.
Clarkson has struggled this year and it has become very apparent that he needs to be with talented offensive players and then clean up messes around the net.
Playing Clarkson on the fourth line was not giving him chances offensively and his game suffered as a result.

2) Clarkson had a chance to earn the hat trick in the third period,but his backhand on the breakway went left on the net and Steve Mason.

3) Martin Brodeur earned the shutout against just 13 Columbus shots and only one was a difficult save.
Considering that he faced just 12 shots in the Washington loss,the defense is certainly keeping Brodeur's workload down.

4) Mike Hoeffel will be joining Albany on an entry level contract and will finish the season in the AHL.
Hoeffel was the Devils top pick in 2007 (2nd round) and played his college hockey at Minnesota...

5) I will be in Hershey Saturday night for Albany;s visit there,so I'll be writing about that trip next week...

I hope to be back with an inbox cleaning or the Devils-Bruins game.
Lots of features that I hope to be working on over the next week....

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Parade rained on....

Mixed day yesterday as an excellent mail day (check next weeks On the Signing Front for more) was combined with Xavier's elimination in the NCAA's and the Devils dropping a 3-0 decision to Washington in their throwback Red and Green sweaters.

I flipped back and forth between the two games,so I won't be doing a through recap of either game,but did want to toss a few things out there.
Xavier just was outmuscled on the boards by Marquette and allowed the Marquette defense to control the game by suffocating Xavier star Tu Holloway.
Holloway was held to just five points on the evening.
Solid season for Xavier as the Musketeers continue to make their case along with Gonzaga and maybe Butler as the program most likely to be considered a major power without being in a major conference...

As for the Devils,the less said the better,as the second loss in as many nights may have been the death blow to the playoff hopes.
The Devils fired 33 shots on net,but none of them found the back of it and Washington might have been the end of the line for the Devils.
Check In Lou We Trust's recap here out for more...

Not a ton else to say,although I may be back time permitting....

Friday, March 18, 2011

Changes I would make to March Madness

Time for a few changes that I would make for March Madness.
That is not counting firing Gus Johnson that is.....
These aren't all huge moves,but moves that would make it more enjoyable for me.


1) Since the move to 68 teams in set in stone,I would rather see the last eight at large teams play in those four added games.
This gives the small conference winners one shot at the big boys instead of two of them going home in a game few watch...

2) Want upsets,you say?
Instead of the final four at large teams playing for the right to be 12 seeds and play a 5,how about those teams are the 15 or 16?
No doubt in my mind that sooner or later,one of those would drop a top seed and they get the deserved tougher road to hoe....

3) Eliminate any commentator from whining about "the top 64 teams" not being in the tournament.
The small schools are what makes the tournament great,there should be a few more,not whining about the 7th place team in the ACC not getting in....

4) I know this year was extreme,but cap the conference bids at six.
Usually few even get to six,but as good as the Big East seemed to be,did we really need eleven teams?
I'll even give this break,you can have seven-IF one of them is in the play-in round of games....

5) Since the NCAA is constantly tweaking the names of the regionals,scrap them all together,put one in each area of the country,but name them after great players or coaches.
An example could be the West could be the John Wooden bracket,the South Dean Smith etc....

6) Can we please get rid of the NAPA guy singing about "NNNAPA know how"?!
I counted nine times seeing this commercial in the first game and a half alone that I watched yesterday!
Wasn't last year enough?


7) Oh,Gus Johnson has BOTH Ohio State and Xavier's games today?
Fire Gus Johnson!!!!

Got your number....

In the second half of the season,the New Jersey Devils have had most teams numbers,but one team has not cooperated and it is the last place Ottawa Senators,who used a bounce of the puck and some tremendous goaltending to once again defeat the Devils 3-1 and give a huge blow to the Devils playoff chances.
Brian Rolston's third period power play goal (13) cut the margin to 2-1 before Ottawa finished the game with an empty net goal.
New Jersey hosts Washington tonight at 7.

Hell Raisers

1) The Devils didn't play badly at all in the loss.
The main reason was Ottawa goalie Curtis McElhinney,who made terrific save after save.
Martin Brodeur was good,McElhinney was great...

2) Ilya Kovalchuk had a chance to tie the game in the third on a breakaway.but was denied by McElhinney.
Just one example of the evening that the Ottawa goalie had.

3) The game winner for Ottawa was kinda flukey as Chris Neil batted what looked to be a shallow pop up by Brodeur.Neil's stick wasn't high,just a solid play and a bad bounce....

4) New Jersey did have a goal disallowed as Colin White's goal was taken off the board as Adam Mair was ruled to have made contact with McElhinney.
I could see the slight contact and would not have said much,IF I hadn't seen the goal by Atlanta in the game against the Thrashers where Nik Antropov laid on Brodeur like he had "special" interests and the Dustin Byfuglien shot that went by Brodeur counted as a goal.

5) If this comeback falls short of the playoff,the four points that the Devils handed to Ottawa in nine days might be the difference.
Some years teams just have your number and this year that team looks to be in the Canadian capital.

6) Note to Ottawa-PLEASE get rid of these "Sens" jerseys.
Not good at all and I have a history of hating shortened nicknames as I rarely use "Cavs" for the Cavaliers...

Unsure on Devil coverage against Washington.
I am leaning towards Xavier vs Marquette in the NCAA's.
Either way,I'll have something up tomorrow.....

Photo Credit-AP Photo

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A few thoughts

Just a few thoughts in general on issues that make me think.

Note to President Obama-When you have the looming disaster in Japan,a major issue in Libya and the two countries with troops fighting still-I could care less who you like to win the NCAA Tournament.
I realize that you need something to relax and I know that you love the game,but it sends an awful message to people with loved ones around the world when the issues that plague us are going on and you seem to be kicking back and watching some hoops.
Nothing wrong with relaxing and filling out your brackets,but seeing you spend time with ESPN explaining your picks is a poor public relations move and a slap in the face to friends and relatives with people in danger.
This is an example of things that George "Now,watch this drive" Bush did that you should not be emulating.

I would take the Republican challengers for next season far more seriously if they spent more time pushing candidates for the office that didn't seem to pimping for publicity constantly.
Sarah Palin has established her lack of credentials already,Michele Bachmann has major problems with American history (how can you be expected to not repeat history,if you do not know it) and Donald Trump is simply a publicity hound with overrated business skills.
Although,I must admit this-if those three run (among others),the GOP debates will be must see TV...

The problem in Japan certainly makes one wonder about Nuclear Power.
The issue to me isn't the need for the energy or the safety of the running plants,it is the simple fact that we have yet to design a easy and safe way to dispose of the spent fuel,fuel rods and other waste products.
I have concerns over a product that takes 10,000 YEARS to be considered safe from radioactivity.

The news media is only now beginning to truly focus on the state of Japan.
I suppose that finally it and the Libyan issue are beginning to be marginally more important than Charlie Sheen and whoever these "Jersey Shore" people are....

Please keep the people in Japan in your thoughts or prayers (depending on your beliefs).
I have a good friend and his family there and he tells me that things are worse than are being reported here.

Devils hockey tonight and I may be back with a March Madness post....

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pittsburgh Pirates Top Prospects 1-5

We finish the Pirate series today with the top of the food chain for prospects in the Pirate system.
I hope to start our next interview sometime over the next few days.

1) Jameson Taillon RHP
Taillon was the second overall selection in last years draft and has brought comparisons to Josh Beckett and Roger Clemens in his high school career.
The 6'6 righthander throws usually in the 93-97 range with the fastball and touches 99 on occasion.
Taillon is also known for an excellent curveball and throws a hard slider as well.
Over time,teams usually have a pitcher scrap one or the other of those two breaking pitches,but the Pirates are dedicated to keeping both for now.
Taillon shows plenty of polish and is unusual for a high schooler to be a pitcher as well as thrower.
Jameson Taillon projects to be the Pirates first true number one starter since Doug Drabek and has the ability to far surpass any Pirate pitcher that you can think of in a franchise not known for pitching.
Taillon will start at Low A West Virginia.....

2) Stetson Allie RHP
The Pirates second round pick was a top fifteen talent,but fell due to signing concerns.
Pittsburgh used their second rounder and gambled on signing him,which they did with a 2.25 million bonus.
Allie actually throws harder than Taillon and has been clocked in three digits,but his control is nowhere near the level of the Texan.
Allie also throws a high 80's slider,but will need something to use as a change of pace.Allie is a work in progress,but at minimum looks to be a future closer,but the Bucs will see how far he can run as a starter.
I have heard two different starts for Allie-if the Pirates want to challenge him,he could join Taillon at West Virginia,if they decide to take it slow,Stetson will start at short season State College.

3) Tony Sanchez  C High A Bradenton
The 2009 top pick was hitting over .300 for the Marauders until a broken jaw sidelined him for the season.
Sanchez would have likely gotten a promotion to AA Altoona for the second half,had he not been injured.
Sanchez is an excellent catcher defensively and the arm is good enough to keep runners from going wild.
Sanchez might be a 10-15 homer hitter eventually and makes enough contact to keep his average solid.
Sanchez will start at AA Altoona and could hit AAA Indianapolis with a good half season.

4) Rudy Owens LHP AA Altoona
Owens continued his surprising rise with an excellent season in Altoona.
Owens led the EL in ERA (2.46) with a WHIP under one.
Owens began to improve his velocity last season as well as he now can throw in the low 90's.
Owens uses a change as his main off speed pitch and reminds many of Zach Duke-before Jim Colborn screwed him up!
Owens will start in AAA with Indianapolis and could finish the season with the Pirates.

5) Starling Marte OF High A Bradenton
Marte was hitting .315 in May for Bradenton when his season ended with a broken hand.
Marte hits for average,runs very well and has an excellent throwing arm.
Marte looks the part of a average power hitter,but he didn't hit one in the FSL and has just five in the last two seasons.
The tools are there for Marte,although he does need more plate discipline and work on using his skills to get on base more.
Marte was playing so well for Bradenton that it makes sense for him to go to AA Altoona,but he could also start in Bradenton for a short term as well....

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Devils pick up the pace!

The New Jersey Devils had a pretty lousy first period all around falling behind 2-0 and generally looking flat until Travis Zajac tipped (13)a Mark Fayne shot into the net with roughly a minute to go in the period.
From then on,the Devils controlled the pace and the puck as Patrik Elias (16) tied it up in the second and Jacob Josefson's goal (2) in the third was the game winner.
Ilya Kovalchuk mopped up with an empty netter (26) to finish the 4-2 win.
The Devils have back to back outings on Thursday and Friday with a trip to Ottawa and a home game against Washington....

Hell Raisers

1) The Devils had a makeup call go their way late in the game.
Unfortunately for Atlanta,the call made up for the game winner last week in the Devils loss to Ottawa.
Evander Kane touched the puck with a high stick with Atlanta having six skaters on the ice and his goal was waved off.
It was close,but a good call.....

2) Travis Zajac tied the Devils consecutive game record held by Ken Daneyko in the win.
It was the 388th game in a row for Zajac,who will set a new standard in Ottawa Thursday.

3) Jacob Josefson and Mattias Tedenby are both Swedes and former first round picks,so it was thought that they would have chemistry on the same line at some point.
That has come quickly and the result was clear on the game winner as Tedenby set up in the corner and hit Josefson perfect in the circle for the bullet that doomed Atlanta.
These two look to be stars for the Devils for quite a while and they are going to fun to watch grow and develop...

4) The win moved the Devils into a tie in points with Atlanta and Toronto at seventy,but with the NHL's new tie breakers that places more weight on non-shootout wins,the Devils would win that one over both teams.
Carolina's win over Buffalo leaves the Devils six points behind the Sabres for the final playoff spot.

5) Martin Brodeur didn't have to be great in the final two periods,but he sure did in the first.
Despite allowing two goals and ending the Devils scoreless first period run,it was Brodeur stepping up and keeping things close with his work in the first period that meant the difference in this game..

Hope to be back later or tomorrow with a few different posts and finish the Pirate prospect series....

Photo Credit-Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Two firsts pull Devils out of the fire

The New Jersey Devils had two players score their first goals of the season with Anssi Salmela's goal (1) in overtime being the game winner as New Jersey dropped the New York Islanders in overtime for the second time in a week by a 3-2 margin.
Jacob Josefson scored his first career goal (1) less than two minutes into the game,while David Clarkson tied the game at two (10) in the third period.
The Devils are off until Tuesday when the Devils will host the Atlanta Thrashers.


Hell Raisers

1) Nice to see Anssi Salmela finally score and he has the skills for more of this,but give Mattias Tedenby credit for a sharp pass to the breaking Salmela for the game winner.

2) Jacob Josefson's first career goal might not have been flashy,but it did get his scoring moving as he added an assist later in the game.
Josefson had his first NHL assist in the previous game against the Islanders.

3) The new line of Tedenby,Josefson and David Clarkson not only provided two goals,but style wise they seem to be a nice fit.
Clarkson's net crashing will work much better when paired with scorers that will be putting the puck on the net and creating rebounds....

4) Adam Mair was wiped out in a fight against Michael Haley and he got extra punishment as well.
Mair was pounded and after the refs were about separate them,Mair fired a cheap shot at Haley,who then pummelled Mair further....

5) Jacques Lemaire often uses five forwards on the PP and it backfired tonight with the Islanders scoring shorthanded and Brian Rolston feebly attempting to break the play.
Five forwards is high risk/high reward and these things can happen at times.

6) The Devils are now just six points out of eighth place.
I'll start considering things as possible when they get to three or four...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Pittsburgh Pirates Top Prospects 6-10

Our Pirates series continues with prospects 6-10.
If you haven't voted in the poll yet,please do so as I'll take time (hopefully) to use my off days to work on the winning entrant....

6) Luis Heredia RHP Did not play
I hesitate to rate a player this high with zero data to rate him by,but Heredia comes with a high amount of touting from talent graders and the Pirates sure spent enough on his right arm at a bonus of 2.6 million.
That dwarfed the previous Pirate bonus leader in Latin America,who was signed for a comparably small 400 grand.
The lanky 6'6 Heredia will not turn 17 until August and throws in the mid 90's and has a plus curveball.
He also has a change and slider that need work and polish.
I look to see Heredia with the Gulf Coast League Pirates making his pro debut later this season....

7) Bryan Morris RHP High A Bradenton/AA Altoona
Morris gets my vote for comeback of the year in the Pirate farm system after a strong bounceback from a less than stellar 2009.
Morris dominated the Florida State League and his Altoona numbers are better than they appear after a few later season outings that fluffed the ERA a bit.
Morris finished the season in the Curve bullpen in an effort to limit his innings and work on some mechanical issues.
Morris throws in the low to mid 90's and when I saw him in 2009 had a hard 12 to 6 curveball.
Morris also has a change and slider,but needs to work on both.
It seems to me that most pitchers have issues with having both a strong curve and slider,so look for Morris to perhaps stop throwing the slider at some time.
Morris will start the season in the rotation at AAA Indianapolis.

8) Andrew Lambo OF AA Chattanooga/Altoona
Lambo was the Dodgers top prospect as recently as 2009 and the Pirates were able to steal him along with James McDonald for the Dodgers getting about a month out of Octavio Dotel in what looks to be the best trade yet for Neal Huntington.
Lambo served a 50 game suspension for a second positive drug test (marijuana) before the trade,so the Pirates will have to be diligent in keeping Lambo on track as they don't want another Jeremy Jefferies here.
Lambo might have been pushed too soon by the Dodgers as he repeated AA in 2010 before the trade.Lambo will have to make it with the bat as his main tool and his power is still a work in progress.
I like Lambo's upside and think this will be his breakout year after an excellent stint in the Arizona Fall League.
Lambo will likely start at AAA Indianapolis....

9) Zack Von Rosenberg RHP GCL Pirates/Short Season State College
Von Rosenberg struggled early with the Spikes,but was downright dominating over his last seven games in which he allowed just three earned runs.
The Pirates kept ZVR on a tight pitch count and have to be pleased at his finish of the season.
Von Rosenberg throws in the low 90's and mixes a change and curve in as well.
Von Rosenberg will be part of the prospect laden West Virginia rotation this season....

10) Chase D'arnaud SS/2B AA Altoona
D'Arnaud was rocketing through the farm belt until last season when AA pitchers slammed on the brakes and defensive issues sent him to second for the Curve in August in favor of Jordy Mercer.
Chase runs well (33 steals) and has plenty of range on defense,but the arm has been erratic.
D'Arnaud needs to make better contact (over 100 K's last season) for a player that projects to be a possible number two hitter in the bigs.
D'Arnaud could return to AA Altoona after not really mastering the level,but the Pirates may want to keep him and Jordy Mercer together as well,so he could be either the starting shortstop at Altoona to start or the starting second sacker for the AAA Indianapolis Indians depending on that decision.

PPP Power Play!!!

The slumbering New Jersey Devil power play awoke in Atlanta before what seemed to be about 15 people and a cat last night with three goals with the man advantage with Travis Zajac scoring two of them (11 and 12) including the game winning in overtime to lift the Devils to a 3-2 win over the Thrashers.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored (25) the other goal for the Devils.
The Devils host the Islanders tonight at the Rock.

Hell Raisers

1) Time to admit it-during most of this game,I was beginning to write the Devils off.
Time is running out and they still are eight points out of the playoffs and only gained one point on Atlanta last night despite the win.
I started thinking like that when I saw the Islanders had won and at that time before the game was over,the two teams had the same amount of points...
It sounds VERY cliche',but every game from here on out truly is must win......

2) Nice to see the Devils power play finally wake up and especially to see Travis Zajac reap the harvest.
Zajac has been one of the teams unluckiest players this season and perhaps his game is improving with the addition of Dave Steckel.
Why Steckel? Well,Steckel replaces Zajac on key faceoffs now and that lightens the load on Zajac a bit....

3) The Atlanta crowd (all 18 of them) boos Ilya Kovalchuk relentlessly.
I have no problem with that as they feel betrayed by Kovalchuk and I can "feel their pain" as Bill Clinton used to say.
I have been there with the Devils with losses of players that I liked a lot and one needs only to reference "the decision" for the biggest defection of all,but the only thing I would add is this to the Atlanta fans- Boo as much as you like,but remember to cheer your team as well.

4) I was mildly surprised by Martin Brodeur starting in Atlanta over Johan Hedberg after the loss to Ottawa.Not that Brodeur played badly,just thought Hedberg might have a shot at the start considering the game was in Atlanta.

5) The Atlanta goal by Dustin Byflugen sure looked like goalie interference to me by Nik Antropov.
The slightest nudge sent this Russian Oak falling into Brodeur and allowing the puck to zoom by.
Not a bad move by Antropov as the result allowed the Thrasher to gain a point in the standings,but still a bad call....

I will attempt to be back later with more Pirate prospect talk...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cleaning out the Inbox

Time for work on the inbox with a few interesting notes accumulated recently.

One of my all time favorite hockey stars that passed away last year,Bob Probert was found to have had the brain condition Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy before his death.
Probert donated brain tissue to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy for research.
This research will go a long way into making games both safer and could eventually change the games themselves,which could be good or bad depending on the changes.
In any event,no game is worth life changing or ending damage.

Farewell to Washington Post columnist David Broder,who passed at the age of 81.
Broder won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Watergate scandal in 1973.
Broder had become a regular television pundit on the various networks through the years,most notably on NBC's Meet the Press.

Goodbye to former Seattle Pilot and boxing trainer Greg Goossen at the age of 65.
The colorful Goossen also spent time in Hollywood as a character actor.
Goossen is most noted here for his appearances in Jim Bouton's book Ball Four.
Goose,I guess he had to consider the source....

I know little about Duff McKagan musically,but his ESPN column encouraging Sacramento Kings fans to rise up now before the chronically immature Maloof brothers abscond their team to Anaheim is dead on.
McKagan offers a look at Seattle since the loss of the Sonics and discusses the pain of losing a team is more than just sports....

As McDonald's continues to attempt to transition into more than "fast food",one person has been less and less visible-one Ronald McDonald.
More and more coffee and other "high falutin" offerings have sent Ronald into the background.
Note to parents,if you are influenced by your children to eat at McDonald's more than you should because of Ronald,you are the problem,not the damn clown.

Ronald's gang might still be the most profitable food business in the world,but Subway is the new king in one area.
Last year,Subway passed McDonald's in number of units and become the largest food franchise in the world in that statistic.
If Subway just added a drive through system,McDonald's would really be worried!

Photo Credits
Unknown

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pittsburgh Pirates Top Prospects 11-15

We start our look at the Pirates system with prospects 11-15.
Thanks for the nice thoughts that were sent to me on the Indians series,I hope you enjoy this one as much as that one....

11) Colton Cain LHP GCL Pirates/Short Season State College
Cain's numbers at State College look pedestrian on the surface with an over five ERA,but a closer look shows an almost strikeout an inning average and hitters hit under .200 against him.
Cain stays in the low 90's but that velocity could improve a bit as time wears on.
Cain works a curve and change,but needs to refine both to improve.
Cain should be part of a West Virginia rotation that might be the most prospect laden in all of minor league baseball...

12) Jeff Locke LHP High A Bradenton/AA Altoona
Locke is the last hope for the Pirates to get anything out of the Nate McLouth trade of impact with the other pieces from the deal (Charlie Morton and Gorkys Hernandez) being disappointing to say the least.
Locke has lost a bit off of his fastball from his days with the Braves,but has used improvements with the curve and changeup to lift his numbers in 2010.
Locke was impressive in his Altoona stay after being promoted and showed good command with the Curve walking just twelve batters.
Locke could start with AAA Indianapolis,but I think he will return to Altoona to begin the season...

13) Robbie Grossman OF High A Bradenton
Some are beginning to drop Grossman on their charts,but I'll give him another year.
Grossman spent last year with light power and tons of strikeouts (118),which usually is not an effective combination.
Grossman projects to have decent power that hasnt shown up in games and has struggled with pitch recognition along with a less than terrific caught stealing ratio,which should not be happening with his plus speed.
On the plus side,Grossman was aggressively placed with Bradenton and was not entirely out of his element,showing potential to improve.
Grossman is likely to return to the Marauders with a fast start moving him to Altoona....

14) Mel Rojas Jr.OF Short Season State College
The only non pitcher selected by the Buccos in the first ten rounds of the 2010 draft,Rojas looks the part of a prospect with a 6'3,200 pound frame and speed to burn.
The questions to me looks to be power as in the lack of it and the average as in .207.
Zero homers and the same number of triples in a small sample size sets off a few alarms for me.
The body gives hope that Rojas could grow into his frame a bit and help the stick.
Rojas looks to be all projection and could either rise on this list next year or fall off completely.
Rojas will be the starter in center for low A West Virginia.....

15) Justin Wilson LHP AA Altoona
Wilson's second pro year was much more impressive than his first as he was able to keep the ball on the ground and his strikeout rate was much improved as well.
Wilson did have the occasional bout with the wildness bug and needs to keep working on the control aspect of the game.
Wilson uses the curve as his breaking pitch and stays in the low 90's for the most part,although he touches 95 per Baseball America.
Wilson might move up to AAA Indianapolis,but a Altoona return is possible with the large amount of possible entrants for Indianapolis rotation spots available.
Either way,Wilson should see more than his fair share of AAA time.....

Sometimes the bear gets you....

The New Jersey Devils had been walking the tightrope of late in one goal games and sooner or later,these things start to even out.
As they did last night as the Ottawa Senators. led by someone named Erik Condra, scored with under two minutes to play and gave Ottawa a 2-1 win.
Patrik Elias (15) scored the only New Jersey goal.The Devils are off for the next two days to stew about this one that got away until a trip to Atlanta kicks off the weekend.

Hell Raisers

1) The breaks and bounces to tend to even out and on this night,the bounces that had going the Devils way during this excellent run went towards Ottawa.
Neither Ottawa goal had anything to with Martin Brodeur and both goals were set by turnovers.
The first goal by Erik Condra was batted out of the air and over the prone Brodeur.
That was dangerously close to played on a high stick (I think the call was close enough either way) and that leads us to number two..

2) The Devils looked to be robbed of a goal by Travis Zajac that was ruled no goal as Jacob Josefson "hit" the biscuit with a high stick.
Replays showed that Josefson never touched the puck,but the NHL replay rules do not allow for a replay in this situation since the call was no goal.
Had the call been goal,the replay could be used to wave it off,but a no goal call cannot be changed to a goal.
Dumb rule and that is one that needs to be changed.
Why replay anything at all then?

3) Patrik Elias had the good news/bad news game.
Elias scored the only New Jersey goal,but his turnover led to the game winning goal.
Funny how these things happen in one goal games....

4) For all the hullabaloo on the high stick,blame the Devils power play for the loss.
The Devils threw away three power plays in a row with one of those being a 5 on 3.
Wasting all of that man advantage time with nothing to show for it went a long way towards this loss...

5) The Devils didn't lose ground to Buffalo as the Sabres lost,but could have gained two more points or at least one point.
The deficit is eight points and the loss to Ottawa looks to be a tough one as just getting to overtime and earning one point would have tied them with Atlanta with a win leaping them over the Thrashers.
Time is running out...

Back later with either a feature or part one of our look at the Pirate system....
Replays showed that

Monday, March 7, 2011

Rolston leads Devils to shootout win

Brian Rolston might have been sixth in the shootout line,but he was the difference in winning for the New Jersey Devils as Rolston's shootout goal lifted the Devils to a 3-2 win over the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum yesterday.
Rolston scored the Devils first goal on the power play (12) as well,so clearly Rolston was the key player in the victory for New Jersey.
Ilya Kovalchuk (24) tripped the twine for the Devils other goal.
New Jersey returns to the frozen water tomorrow against Ottawa at the Rock....

Hell Raisers

1) The Devils set an obscure NHL record in the win as the team held the Islanders scoreless for the first period.That was the 13th game in a row that the team had accomplished that feat.


2) Congratulations to Jacob Josefson for his first NHL point with an assist on Ilya Kovalchuk's goal.
It was the tenth game for Josefson this season.

3) For all the attention on Rolston in the shootout and he deserved it,much of the credit should go to Martin Brodeur.
Brodeur was magnificent in the shootout and his glove save robbery on John Tavares was the difference between winning and losing....

4) Rough game for Mark Fayne,who botched a pass and allowed the Islanders to tie the game in the third period.Fayne's error was a mental mistake as well..

5) The Devils are now chasing Buffalo for the playoff spot as the Sabres passed Carolina by one point for the spot for now.

Photo Credit-AP

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cleveland Indians Top Prospects 1-5

We finish our look at the Indians top prospects today with a hope to start the Pirates top 15 next week.
Our next interview was finished,but circumstances with that person have changed and we are in the process of adding more updates to the interview....

1) Lonnie Chisenhall 3B AA Akron
The lefty swinging third baseman has the potential to have the best all around hitting skills for an Indian third baseman since Jim Thome or Matt Williams played there years ago.
Chisenhall doesnt have their power,but he should be good for 20 or so homers a year and should hit in the .280 and up area.
Chisenhall still needs time to develop as a hitter and especially defensively,but after a year at Columbus,Chisenhall should be ready to be the starter in 2012....

2) Alex White RHP High A Kinston/AA Akron
The top pick of the 2009 draft,White dominated the Carolina League and posted similar,if not better numbers after being promoted to Akron.
Some see White as a potential closer,but the Indians want to give him every chance to succeed in the rotation first.
White throws in the low to mid 90's and uses a splitter as an out pitch.
White is refining a slider that would make his fastball even more effective.
White will start at AAA Columbus and could see Cleveland by July....

3) Drew Pomerantz LHP Ole Miss
The 6'5 lefty was the Indians top pick last season and did not play after signing.
Pomerantz throws in the mid 90's and is reported to have a devastating knuckle curve.
Pomerantz has shown touches of wildness and that seems to be the main flaw in his game.
If he can harness his stuff and throw strikes a bit more consistently,Pomerantz has the abliity to be a number one or two starter.
Pomerantz will follow the same course as Alex White last year,starting at High A Kinston and hoping to finish at AA Akron....

4) Nick Weglarz OF AA Akron/AAA Columbus
Weglarz recovered from a .229 2009 at Akron to perform well at both levels last season.The lefty slugger has the potential to be a well above average power producer and he isnt afraid to walk either.
His swing will produce strikeouts and the bat will have to carry him with both his speed and glove being average on a good day.
The comparison that I like best is Adam Dunn with a little less power and a tick higher average,if all goes well.
Weglarz should return to Columbus and has a chance to get the call to Cleveland before seasons end....

5) Jason Kipnis 2B High A Kinston/AA Akron/AAA Columbus
Kipnis roared through the Indian system last season after being shifted to second base and passed Cord Phelps as a prospect on most depth charts.
Kipnis will always be a work in progress defensively after just one season,but he looks to hit for average and should be in the low double digits power wise.
Kipnis isnt a base stealer,but has average speed and should evolve to avoid being slow for the position.
Kipnis will start at Columbus and assuming that free agent Orlando Cabrera is a trade deadline sale asset,Kipnis should get the call as his replacement.....

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Kovalchuk gives and then takes!

Ilya Kovalchuk's defensive miscue allowed the Pittsburgh Penguins their only goal of the evening and then took their hopes for a win away with a power play goal (23) over with 24 seconds to go in overtime to lift the New Jersey Devils to another two points with a 2-1 win.
Travis Zajac's second period score (10) was the other Devils goal.
New Jersey takes today off before tomorrow's afternoon game on Long Island against the Islanders,who always seem to play the Devils tough...

Hell Raisers

1) Worst part of the game?Because the game was broadcast by NHL Network,who used the Pittsburgh feed,the Devils network was blacked out.
Paul Steigerwald and Bob Errey aren't quite as bad as the Washington pair,but they are pretty close.
I miss the days when Pittsburgh used the fun to listen to Mike Lange as their TV voice.
I always enjoyed Lange,who does the Penguin play by play on radio currently.....

2) The Kovalchuk misplay was only partially his fault,the linesman got in the way of Kovalchuk once and forced the pass from the corner to Kovalchuk to be placed on a bad angle in order to avoid the ref.
Bad luck,but part of the game....

3) The game winning power play was on the first penalty on Pittsburgh all game.
Of course their announcers thought it was a bad call on Zbynek Michalek for hooking Travis Zajac,but they had a choice on interference or hooking.
Either could have been called on the play....

4) Pittsburgh had plenty of shots on Martin Brodeur (26),but Brodeur never seemed in serious trouble except for the goal by Tyler Kennedy,who played very well in the loss for Pittsburgh.
Kennedy was the Penguin that seemed to be all over the ice...

5) Carolina lost to Chicago,so the Devils gained two points in the standings.
The Devils are in 12th place and nine points behind 8th place Carolina.Next on the list to pass for 11th?
Atlanta,who the Devils trail by one point and will play the Devils twice in the next ten days....

Photo Credit-Bruce Bennett-Getty Images

Friday, March 4, 2011

Cleveland Indians Top Prospects 6-10

The Indians prospect series continues with prospects 6-10.I would say that the top five prospects will go up either Sunday or Monday.

6) Levon Washington OF AZL Indians
The speedy Washington was the top pick of Tampa in 2009 and was unable to come to a contract agreement with the Rays.
In order to enter the 2010 draft,Washington attended a junior college instead of a four year school and lasted to the Indians second round selection due to the risk of being able to sign him.
Washington earned comparisons to Carl Crawford as far as his skill set before the draft and signed for 1.2 million on the bonus scale.
Washington played very little after signing and scouts are mixed on his future.
I'll risk rating him this high for now with next year having more data to rate him on.
I would bet that Washington starts at Low A Lake County....

7) Jason Knapp RHP AZL Indians/Low A Lake County
Another example of gambling on a rating,the fireballing Knapp was super impressive when I saw him pitch for Lakewood (Phillies) against the Hagerstown Suns and could be the only player with impact potential left from the Cliff Lee trade.
Knapp came to the Indians with shoulder trouble that shut him down for the end of 2009 after the deal and missed most of 2010 after cleaning the shoulder up.
At his best Knapp can touch the high 90's (If not 100) with the fastball and the curve had Suns hitters befuddled.
This is a key year for Knapp health-wise.
If he is healthy,I think he will quickly pass through the system as either a possible front end starter or the Indians closer of the future....
Knapp will possibly start at High A Kinston,although a few early season starts at Lake County isn't out of the question.

8) Joe Gardner RHP Low A Lake County/High A Kinston
The 6'4 Gardner dominated the Carolina League last season with his ability to get groundouts.
Gardner has a very relaxed motion and throws in the low 90's,although he doesn't touch much higher than that.
The sinker is his best pitch and he needs to add something else to the mix to succeed at higher levels.
If he can do that,Gardner could be a mid rotation starter,if not the sinker could make him middle relief fodder.
Gardner will start at AA Akron in 2011.

9) Tony Wolters SS-AZL Indians
Wolters was the Indians third rounder and had to be bought out of a commitment to San Diego with a bonus check of 1.35 million,which was higher than LeVon Washington in the second.
Wolters is thought to have leadoff or second slot of the order potential and the Indians think he could mature to average power.
Wolters is projected to stay at shortstop for the long term defensively.
Wolters will be the shortstop for the Low A Lake County Captains this season.

10) Nick Hagadone LHP High A Kinston/AA Akron
The prize of the Indians trade of Victor Martinez,Hagadone has been treated with kid gloves by the Red Sox and Indians for the last two years and Cleveland should truly see what they have this season.
Hagadone's velocity was down a bit last season,although still touching the mid 90's and his slider was inconsistent as well.
The Indians want to give Hagadone every opportunity to be a starter,but some see him as a late inning reliever with his injury history and power stuff.
Hagadone will most likely return to the Akron rotation,although depending on training camp he could be assigned to AAA Columbus.....

Photo Credit-SportsLogos.net

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cleveland Indians Top Prospects 11-15

We return to the Indians and Pirates top fifteen prospects editions after a one year absence that was unintentional and then lacking in time to get caught up.
We start today with the Indians 11-15 and since the Devils are off today,most likely 6-10 tomorrow.
These will not always be posted everyday,but I want to get these up ASAP...

The Cleveland Indians system has been a disappointment over the last few seasons.
The Wahoo drafts had struggled for a few seasons when the team was competitive,but their last three drafts show lots of promise,to the point that this was more difficult to do than the last time that I tackled this task.

11- T.J. House-LHP-2010 High A Kinston
I have a bias towards House as I have thought that he is one of the nicer players that I have met through the last few seasons and seems to have his head on correctly.
On the field,House is difficult to slot into a category as a pitcher.
He throws hard enough to resist the label of soft tosser,yet is not quite in the fireball division either.
House excels when both his fastball and changeup work well as a mix as his slider is still a work in progress.
House should start at AA Akron in 2011.

12) Alex Lavisky-C AZL Indians
This is a hunch pick as Lavisky played just five games in the Arizona rookie league after dropping to the eighth round in the draft due to signability concerns.
Lavisky was thought be either a sandwich selection or a second rounder on talent,but his asking price caused him to drop in the draft,much like his high school battery mate Stetson Allie.
Lavisky settled for one million flat and coming from the hometown Indians likely sealed the deal.
Since I have not seen him play or have much stat data,this is a chance,but I like catchers projected to have power and look likely to remain a catcher.
Lavisky also comes with the experience of having caught a top notch talent like Allie that should be invaluable defensively.
We'll have a better idea on Lavisky next season after he spends the season at Low A Lake County

13) Cord Phelps 2b-AA Akron-AAA Columbus
Phelps split the 2010 season between the Aeros and Clippers and hit well for average at each spot,but continues to lack power and owns less than average speed.
Phelps has one major problem with the Indians-he likely is blocked by better prospects at two positions.
Phelps was tried at third in the Arizona Fall League,made eight errors and even if he had been flawless-Phelps is not going to beat out Lonnie Chisenhall there.
At his natural position,Phelps has to deal with Jason Kipnis,who matches Phelps for hitting for average and exceeds him in both power and speed.
With both Chisenhall and Kipnis projected to start at Columbus this season,Phelps looks to be in trouble as far as place to play even at Columbus until one or the other gets the call to Cleveland and that could be late June.
Phelps reminds me a lot of Jeff Keppinger,who has used one tool (hitting for average) as his calling card for a decent major league career.
There is always a calling for a decent bat that can pinch hit and fill in at a few different spots when needed.
Phelps will return to AAA Columbus to start 2011....

14) Abner Abreu-OF High A Kinston
Abreu has dropped off the prospect radar of some after an average 2010 in Kinston that saw him miss some time (again) with injury,hit with less power than expected (4 HR's) and strike out an average of over once a game.
The toolsy Abreu still leaves me hope that he will put his game together because the skills are there.
In hindsight,the Indians may have rushed Abreu to Kinston after an excellent,but abbreviated 2009 at Low A Lake County and between the level advancement and the downtime,Abreu could have been just a bit unprepared.
I'll give the 6'3 rightfielder another year before moving him off my radar,
Abreu is expected to return to High A Kinston and attempt to master that level.....

15) Bryce Stowell-RP-High A Kinston,AA Akron,AAA Columbus
Stowell dominated both the Carolina and Eastern leagues last season before coming back to earth a bit in a late season stop at Columbus.
Stowell was moved to the bullpen before the season and watched a low 90's fastball hit the high 90's and looked unhittable the night that I saw him in Frederick.
Bruce Drennan on Sports Time Ohio has reported that Stowell has hit 100 in Tucson in spring training already.
Stowell uses a slider and needs to work on changing speeds more effectively as he is prone to giving up a walk or two.
Stowell will start in AAA Columbus,with a possible callup to the big club,if all goes well....

Photo Credit-SportsLogos.net