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Monday, February 13, 2006

Pickoff Moves, Bedtime Edition

Gammons Love For Wood

On-The-Radar-Love Dep't: Brandon Wood helps Peter Gammons ($$$) answer the question, "Of all the rookies and young players in their first full seasons, which do you believe will eventually be 'difference makers'?"
Look, this is the future, unless he's at third base come July. Orlando Cabrera has three more years and is a great defender, and there are many teams that lust for Erick Aybar, the Angels' other shortstop prospect. But the rangy 21-year-old Wood has rare power that should only get better as he fills out -- 43 homers in the minors, 13 in 29 games in the Arizona Fall League, diligent makeup.

Neyer Love For Angels, Dodgers Prospects

Rob Neyer espouses his love ($$$) for both systems:
The Angels, too, are absolutely loaded with impressive hitters. Shortstop Brandon Wood, only 20 last season, racked up 101 extra-base hits (mostly in Class A): 53 doubles, five triples, 43 home runs. Granted, he's just a decent shortstop, and likely will move to third base eventually. But still.

In fact, in three years, the Angels might feature one of the best young infields ever. At third base: Brandon Wood. At shortstop: Erick Aybar, who teamed with Wood last season in Arkansas. Aybar is regarded as a solid defensive player, and in four minor-league seasons he has posted a .316 batting average with mid-range power. At second base: Howie Kendrick, whose career average in the minors is .359 -- with a .555 slugging percentage, too. And at first base: Cuban Kendry Morales, who defected in 2004, debuted in the minor leagues last May, batting .315 with 22 home runs in 96 games (most of them in Class AA). Oh, there's also catcher Jeff Mathis (who might also be considered a sort of infielder). Mathis, pushed into a role in the majors by the departure of Bengie Molina, isn't likely to become a star. But he figures to become, as Sickels says, "solid, workmanlike, reliable."

All these young Angels do have one weakness: They don't draw walks. [...]

According to Sickels, the Dodgers have the fourth-best pitching prospect (Chad Billingsley), the 13th-best hitter (shortstop/outfielder Joel Guzman), the 13th-best pitcher (Jonathan Broxton), the 16th-best pitcher (Scott Elbert), the 21st-best hitter (third baseman Andy LaRoche), the 24th-best hitter (catcher Russell Martin) and the 30th-best hitter (third baseman Blake DeWitt). According to Deric McKamey, author of the "2006 Minor League Baseball Analyst," the Dodgers have nine of the top 75 prospects (pitchers and hitters): the seven listed above minus DeWitt, plus first baseman James Loney, outfielder Matt Kemp and pitcher Chuck Tiffany (and I suspect the omission of DeWitt was an oversight).

Virtually none of these guys is ready to help the Dodgers much in 2006, as the best of them spent most or all of 2005 in Class AA. This is why new GM Ned Colletti signed a number of established major-leaguers to short-term contracts this winter. But in 2007 and especially 2008, the Dodgers -- like the Angels -- will be loaded with exciting young players.

Baseball America Announces Winter All-Stars

Baseball America announced its winter league All-Stars, and there's a bunch o' local players: Mike Napoli, Brandon Wood, and Willie Collazo for the Angels, and Harold Eckert and Yhency Brazoban for the Dodgers.

Gammons might be incorrect to include Brandon Wood on his list of first year or rookie players likely to make a difference. Wood figures to start the season at Arkansas and may not even play in Anaheim until September, if at all.

Not surprisingly, Brandon Wood is shortstop on BA's winter all star team. But not to be overlooked is shortstop Erick Aybar. He was praised in several publications for his winter play, some observers saying that he was one of the main reasons Licey won the Dominican League title.

Who is Angel pitcher Willie Calazzo, who also landed on BA's winter all star team? Has he been pitching at the Angels' Dominican academy for the last year or so, without yet logging any playing time stateside? Does anyone know?
I knew there would be some issues if I didn't give out the Baseball Cube links for those players. Collazo is essentially organizational filler who had a good series, nothing more.
Stop the presses! Neyer actually says something nice about the Angels? Maybe that will only last until those guys make the big leagues. And why is it that everyone talks about the future Angel infield without McPherson and Kotchman? I realize people are down on McPherson right now, but Kotchy is still young and proved he can play at the major league level last season. Is it that once they make the majors, they don't exist?
What is one to make of this blurb in Simers' Tuesday piece:

'THE DODGERS released the following news release on Dec. 19: "The Los Angeles Dodgers announced today they have signed five-time All-Star Nomar Garciaparra…"

'A day later they issued another release: "The Los Angeles Dodgers announced today they have signed six-time All-Star Kenny Lofton…"

'I'd hate to think you can't believe a thing the Dodgers have to say, but I heard the Dodgers still haven't signed Lofton or Garciaparra.

'"You're correct," a Dodger spokesperson said. "We're still working on the contracts."

'Maybe so, but there was also talk the agents for the unsigned players were giving consideration to filing grievances with the players' union.

'My concern, of course, is the Boston Parking Lot Attendant has run out of money and is unable to make good on the signing bonuses until he can get some more deposits on season tickets.'

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