Morning Minor League Ball Notes, December 20th, 2011
**As you know by now, the Texas Rangers won the bidding rights for Nippon Ham Fighters ace Yu Darvish. He's big (6-5, 215). His fastball hits 95 MPH, and he has a strong arsenal of secondary pitches including a cutter, slider, curveball, and changeup. Scouts love his size, strength, durability, stuff, and feel for pitching. The general consensus is that he'll be a number one or number two (at worst) starter in the majors, won't require much (if any) adjustment time, and is going to have an easier time adapting to North America than other Japanese pitchers.
Converting Japanese statistics to US equivalents isn't easy, but even if you consider Japanese baseball equivalent to just Triple-A, Darvish has been terrific. He went 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA and a 276/36 K/BB in 232 innings in 2011, allowing 156 hits and just five homers. In 1024 innings in Japan over five seasons, he's got a 1.72 ERA with a 1083//221 K/BB and just 691 hits allowed. I don't see how you can rate him as anything but a Grade A prospect for success in Major League Baseball.
**I'm working on the Washington Nationals prospect list, and will have it done either this evening or tomorrow morning. In case anyone wonders, I am fully on board the Bryce Harper bandwagon and don't have any contrarian tendencies regarding his future.
**A.J. Cole is an interesting case. Right now I have him on the borderland between a Grade B and a B+. He's not refined yet, but I like his fastball and his breaking ball. If his changeup comes around and he builds additional stamina, he could be in the Top Ten pitching prospects in all of baseball this time next year.
**I still believe in Derek Norris, and despite his problems getting over the Mendoza Line in '11, his stock actually seems improved among scouts. I think Mike Napoli's season might have something to do with that, perhaps acting on the subconscious minds of observers who would normally be suspicious about players with Norris' profile (low batting average, good power, high walk rate, underrated defense).