Here is an example of the Newsletter, a scouting report from last July.
John Sickels Baseball Newsletter
July 31, 2005
Today we have a trip report for what I saw the past three days in Wichita. This is Part One, dealing with Arkansas. A scouting breakdown for Wichita will follow later this week, probably tomorrow (Monday). I will have a report for you about prospects involved in deadline trades.
Trip Report, Arkansas Travelers at Wichita Wranglers July 28-July 30, 2005
This was a good trip, 4 games in 3 days due to a doubleheader on Friday night. The only negative was that I missed Jered Weaver, who is pitching today for Arkansas. I had to be back in Lawrence this afternoon, but today's game doesn't start until 4 PM. So, alas, I miss Weaver. But even so it was a very productive trip.
Wichita killed Arkansas 13-2 on Thursday. They split the doubleheader on Friday, Wichita taking the first game 9-4 but Arkansas winning the second, 2-0. Arkansas avenged the Thursday debacle with a 15-3 pounding last night.
ARKANSAS TRAVELERS (DOUBLE-A ANAHEIM ANGELS)
Ivan Reyes, INF
Reyes was promoted from Rancho Cucamonga recently, and has played 8 games for Arkansas, hitting .364/.400/.864 with 3 homers already. Don't get excited. He was hitting .179 in 23 games for Rancho, and entered 2005 with a career mark of .170/.272/.260 in 297 career games. Drafted by the Yankees in the 4th round of the '98 draft out of high school in Puerto Rico, he's rather athletic and has raw power in his bat, but his plate discipline is horrible, and he's never been able to make consistent contact at any level. At age 24, it is very unlikely that he's suddenly learned to hit Double-A pitching, so I don't see anything here to be excited about.
Greg Porter, 3B
Hitting .300/.332/.455 in 100 games, 21 doubles, 9 homers, 16 walks, 71 strikeouts. A 45th round pick in 2001 out of Texas A&M, Porter is a huge guy, listed at 6-4, 220 but looks bigger. He came into this year with a career mark of .293/.357/.436 in A-ball, and has maintained production against better pitching. At the plate, he has a levelish swing that looks more tailored for the line drive than power, despite his size. Although he makes contact reasonably well, he is not a selective hitter, and this inhibits his production. Defensively, he moves around well enough for a big guy, and his arm looks strong-enough for third base, but he's not super-reliable. . .his hands don't look soft or quick. . .and has made 23 errors this year. Overall I think he's someone who could end up being a Quadruple-A player.
Howie Kendrick, 2B
17-for-58 since being promoted to Arkansas two weeks ago, .293/.300/.448. He looked very much like he did when I saw him in the Midwest League: lightning-quick wrists giving him plus bat speed. He will swing at bad pitches on occasion, but he's so quick with the bat that he usually makes contact anyhow. One thing I noticed was improved defense: he appeared much more confident in the field compared to when I last saw him, particularly turning the double play. Overall he looked good to me, although I think he will need another year before being ready for Major League competition full-time.
Reggie Willits, OF
Hitting .293/.370/.362 with 29 steals. Very fast, works the count well, slaps the ball from gap-to-gap, at least from the left side of the plate. I don't think he will develop much power, given his swing, but that's not his game. He will go to the opposite field, but I do think he might get overpowered at higher levels. On defense, he misjudged two fly balls, breaking back when he should have broken forward, but both times he was able to use his speed to outrun the mistake. Projects as a reserve outfielder.
Tommy Murphy, OF
Murphy has great physical tools, but since being drafted in 2000, he hasn't shown much in the way of offense, and was very erratic defensively in the middle infield. Now an outfielder, Murphy appears to be having a breakthrough season in his second try at Double-A, hitting .286/.354/.468 with 17 doubles, 10 triples, 11 homers, and 23 steals. He is on course to set career highs in all categories, and has already broken his career record for walks, while also reducing his strikeout rate. On paper, it looks like real progress, and it looks like real progress in person too. His swing is shorter and more compact than in the past, and he works the count MUCH better. The problem here is that he's 26 years old, so while the improvement is impressive, we can't be sure that it is real unless he does this again at higher levels. An Arkansas source speculates that playing outfield rather than shortstop has enabled Murphy to relax and concentrate on improving his hitting.
Erick Aybar, SS
Hitting .281/.327/.401 with 34 steals. He is an impressive guy to see in person. He works the count more effectively than his low walk rate implies, and is very adept at making contact. He reminds me in some ways of a young Cristian Guzman, with Guzman having a bit more pop but a bit less patience. I don't expect Aybar will ever be a walk machine, and right now he'd probably be just a .250ish hitter in the Majors, but given his age, athleticism, and bat speed, he should have a good growth curve. Defensively, he looks quite sharp, more polished than in the past, but maintaining his range and arm strength. Overall, an impressive young player, but like Kendrick he needs a good dose of Triple-A before being pushed into a Major League environment.
Mike Napoli, C
Hitting .238/.382/.482, 20 homers, 72 walks, 101 strikeouts in 101 games, 328 at-bats. An excellent example of a power-patience-low-batting-average hitter. Napoli is very patient, works the count extremely well, and is difficult to fool more than once with the same pitch, at least on the outer half. His swing is "long," and he can be tied up inside, but he punishes mistakes out over the plate. He is an extreme pull hitter, and also an extreme fly ball hitter with loft in his swing. Even his outs tend to be deep (or high) fly balls. His defense is in the "good enough if he hits" category, but he'll never win any Gold Gloves, and would likely fit best as a 1B/C/DH platoon type guy. The question here is batting average. Even if he draws lots of walks and keeps his OBP at a reasonable level, he might not hit much higher than .220 at the Major League level, and it's hard for a guy like that to get playing time. But he is very interesting to watch, and I'd sure like to see what he can do with 500 at-bats.
Kendry Morales, 1B
Since being promoted to Arkansas, the famous Cuban defector is hitting just .248/.294/.412 in 41 games. It is easy to see why scouts like him so much. He is muscled, obviously strong, and has explosive bat speed. He has two problems: plate discipline and defense. With the glove, he catches what he gets to, but he doesn't get to much, being quite slow afoot and not possessing very good range around the bag at first base. That's OK if he hits. But he is having trouble hitting for average and getting on base in Double-A, and it is easy to see why. Morales is a dead-red first-ball fastball hitter. He hit two LONG home runs in this series, both on first-pitch fastballs out over the heart of the plate that he absolutely killed. But if the pitcher uses a breaking ball or changeup on the first pitch, Morales either lets it go for a strike, or swings and misses. And it doesn't get better as the at-bat continues: he'll hit the fastball but look helpless against anything else.
Dan Davidson, LHP
Threw a complete-game victory Saturday night, pushing his record to 10-5, 4.34 in 20 starts, with an 86-35 K/BB ratio. Davidson is a super-soft tosser, working his fastball at a mere 82-84 MPH. It moves well, but geez, 82-84 MPH? Davidson changes speeds effectively with his curveball and changeup, working between 68 and 78 MPH with his secondary pitches. His control is sharp, and he knows how to pitch. He is doing well in the Texas League, but his margin for error is so thin that most scouts are skeptical about his chances at higher levels. I have to say I agree, but he is fun to watch, if you like high-wire acts. Davidson got tired in the seventh inning and started elevating his pitches, enabling Wichita to make some noise, but he got the complete game without too much damage, though he did give up 10 hits.
Kasey Olenberger, RHP
Threw a three-hit shutout in the second game of the double header. I'd never heard of this guy before, and it's no wonder. He is 27, but this is his first exposure in North American pro ball, having previously pitched in Italy. His fastball was mediocre at 87-88 MPH, but he mixed it well with a splitter and slider. On the year, he is 6-5, 3.78 in 26 games, 11 starts, 41/26 K/BB in 83 innings, 94 hits allowed. His K/IP and H/IP marks are not impressive, but he does throw strikes, and he might sneak in as a middle relief or mop up guy eventually. And you have to root for guys coming over from the Italian league.
Willie Collazo, LHP
Refugee from the Braves system, originally a 10th round pick in 2001 from Florida International University. Collazo is a small guy at 5-9, 175 pounds. Like Davidson, his fastball isn't that fast, just 84-85 MPH. He delivers the ball with some deception from a ¾ arm angle, and mixes the fastball with a breaking ball that ranges from 70 to 76 MPH. I think he is stretched as a starter and would be better off in relief, but either way I don't see him as someone who is going to make an impact in the Majors. 4.57 ERA this year in 41 innings, 33/16 K/BB.
Alex Serrano, RHP
Venezuelan pitcher, originally in the Rockies system but released this month after pitching poorly in Triple-A. Since joining Arkansas, he's posted a 1.64 ERA in 10 games, with 6 saves (8/3 K/BB in 11 innings, 7 hits allowed). Fastball at 89-90 MPH, with a very tight slider. He looked pretty good to me; I'm not sure why the Rockies released him. Sure, he had a 5.85 ERA in Colorado Springs, but his peripherals weren't horrible, he had a career 2.84 ERA entering 2005, he has a decent arm, and is just 24 years old. This doesn't sound to me like a guy who should be released. Anyway, it looks to me like the Angels picked up a good guy here, a possible middle reliever with a good track record.
The John Sickels Baseball Newsletter is Copyright 2005 by John Sickels