Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mariners FanFest

I attended FanFest this weekend and I got to get a look at the young guys.  Most of my information on prospects comes from scouting reports and other writers and it's hard to watch these kids in the minor leagues.  So I just wanted to give you my initial reaction to how these kids looked and acted.

Danny Hultzen - I know this guys mature and major league ready, but he still looks like a huge teenager, however he was really comfortable with the fans and publicity unlike a lot of the young guys.

Jesus Montero - I know he's already played in the big leagues, but he was not how I pictured him.  I'd expect a power hitting prospect that was swapped for the humongous Pineda to be another giant.  He was very stocky, but there is no way this dude is 6'3.  His English is not bad at all, much better than Ichiro especially when he first arrived.

James Paxton - Another tall lanky guy like Hultzen, but his full beard made him look a lot older.  I didn't know what to expect with James.

Taijuan Walker - I have never seen hands so big, he looked like he was holding ping pong balls when he was signing the baseballs.  He looked very uncomfortable with all the fans and I got the feeling that he was just born to pitch.  I doubt he had ever gotten quite so much attention.

I know these mean next to nothing in how they will perform on the baseball field in the future, but I just wanted to give you some insight on these kids.  These guys are the future of the Seattle Mariners and our success.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Kevin Millwood- A quick reaction

According to multiple sources the Mariners have acquired Kevin Millwood thus shoring up that "veteran" spot in the rotation I mentioned earlier.  I guess I was being way too optimistic when I was thinking Oswalt or Edwin Jackson, however this is a solid pickup.  I expect him to make the team opening day rotation and be an innings eater early in the season

I apologize for forgetting Hector Noesi in my 2012 rotation projection, because he has a shot to make the rotation.

Now we have:

To be honest I'd rather see Iwakuma in the bullpen and give both Hultzen and Noesi a shot,but that won't happen.  So I believe it will come down to Hultzen and Noesi and I think you have to give Noesi a shot. 

It's nice to see Millwood as a Mariner and it's great to have all this depth in our rotation.  Go Mariners!

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mariners Pitching Rotation

At this time last year our starting rotation was pretty much set, we had an ace in Felix and three good, established starters in Jason Vargas, Doug Fister and Erik Bedard.  By the time spring training rolled around it looked like rookie prospect Michael Pineda would close out our starting five.

Now two of those starters remain Felix and Vargas, so what will our rotation look like opening day?  Let's assume Felix and Vargas are guaranteed spots in the rotation, that leaves three spots available.  These are the candidates for those spots: Blake Beavan, Danny Hultzen, Anthony Vasquez, Charlie Furbush, Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton.  Of these seven options three have experience in the big leagues (Vasquez, Furbush and Beavan).

I'm expecting/hoping that we get a veteran free agent, hopefully someone along the lines of Roy Oswalt or Edwin Jackson.  If that doesn't happen I'd expect we trade for one, probably for a package including Miguel Olivo who is expendable with the Montero trade.  So now I'm going to assume those seven pitchers are fighting for two spots.

  • In seven starts as a Mariner Anthony Vasquez had a 8.90 ERA and did not impress with his stuff. 
  • In his time with the Mariners last year Charlie Furbush posted a 6.36 ERA, but did show the potential to strikeout major league hitters.  
  • In 15 major league starts Blake Beaven really impressed, posting a 4.27 ERA and proving he was big league ready.  

It's harder to get a grasp on the other guys because they have no major league experience, but I feel safe saying these guys have much more potential than the three listed before.
  • Hisashi Iwakuma is 30 years old and has established himself as a dominant starter in the Japanese league, Mariners fans can only hope his pitching is effective in Seattle.
  • Danny Hultzen was the #2 pick in the most recent MLB draft out of University of Virginia.  Many scouts believe this lefty is ready for the big leagues right now.
  • Taijuan Walker is the #1 prospect in the Mariners organization and projected to be an ace at the big league level, but at 19 probably is too young for the big leagues in 2012.
  • James Paxton has pitched two shortened minor league seasons, but the lefty looks major league ready and has impressive stuff.
Prediction: Iwakuma wins the fourth spot behind Felix, Vargas and a new pitcher.  Mariners go into spring training trying to decide between Beavan, Hultzen and Paxton.  With a strong spring Hultzen wins the job and if we don't pick up another starter I expect Paxton to win out over Beavan.

2012 opening day rotation
  1. King Felix
  2. Oswalt/EJax/etc
  3. Vargas
  4. Iwakuma
  5. Hultzen
This makes for a very solid rotation, barring any serious injuries.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

UW 2013 recruiting class best ever?

 A look at 5 star recruits that are considering Washington in the 2013 recruiting class.

Jabari Parker- (6'8 220 SF ESPN's #1 recruit)
Many experts call him the best high schooler is the country as a junior.  Has an offensive game very similar to Carmelo Anthony.  Was the first freshman to ever make Simeon High School's varsity team (Derrick Rose didn't make the team until his Sophomore year).  Parker is now a Junior and is the leader of Simeon High School the #1 team in the nation.
Why is Jabari Parker interested in Washington?
First off Jabari's father Sonny was teammates with UW's coach Lorenzo Romar.  There has been speculation that the two are fairly close friends.  Recently Jabari's older brother decided to enroll at Washington next year.  If your asking me it's going to come down to UW, Duke and BYU and at this point I really believe UDub is the favorite.
What would signing Jabari mean?
Signing Jabari would be the biggest recruit Washington has ever landed.  His presence alone could potentially make us PAC-12 favorites and vault us far into the NCAA tournament.

Aaron Gordon - (6'7 210 PF ESPN's #6 recruit)
Considered the most athletic recruit in the class, Aaron Gordon can out-muscle anyone and hit the open midrange shot.  It has yet to be seen what position Aaron will play at the college level, but he will be a mismatch no matter what.  If you put a small forward on him he has the touch to shoot over them and the height to out-rebound them.  If you try a power forward on him he will get around him with ease.

Why is Aaron Gordon interested in Washington?
Aaron is a west coast guy and has four PAC-12 teams in his top 5 (Washington, Arizona, Stanford, Oregon and Kansas).  There has been speculation that Gordon will not come to Washington if
Jabari Parker comes, but those are just rumors.  I don't see any reason why the two wouldn't want to play together as they would both demand playing time with their talents.  That being said I have a feeling Arizona and Kansas are the most likely destinations for this big guy.
What would signing Aaron mean?
Most importantly it would mean having a frontcourt presence the Huskies haven't had since Jon Brockman or Spencer Hawes.  It would also mean we wouldn't have to face him regularly if he picks a PAC-12 rival.

Jabari Bird (6'6 190 SG ESPN's # 11 recruit)
Extremely explosive in going to the rim and athletic enough to finish with highlight reel dunks.  Has a silky shot that is deadly from midrange, but a little inconsistent from 3.
Why is Jabari Bird interested in Washington?
Bird is another west coast guy, he already claims he is down to UW, Cal and Arizona.  I see it coming down to UW and UA and if Bird has a chance to start right away (meaning Ross and Wilcox are gone) I see him choosing Washington.
What would signing Jabari Bird mean?
I predict by Bird's freshman season Hikeem Stewart will be Washington's starting Pg.  These two could easily make up the best backcourt in the PAC-12

Isaac Hamilton (6'4 170 SG ESPN's #19 recruit)
Can play either the one or the two and can take anyone off the dribble.  Has tremendous passing abilities and is a very reliable shooter.
Why is Isaac Hamilton interested in Washington?
Isaac likes UW's uptempo system and lists team in his top 7 (UCLA, USC, Washington, UConn, UNLV, St. John's and Arizona).  I suspect it will come down to St. Johns and UNLV.
What would signing Isaac mean?
Simply put Hamilton would be another guy Washington could build their backcourt around.

This will be Washington's best recruiting class ever and will compete for the top recruiting class in the nation.  I think UW will win the battle for both the Jabari's.  I still think we have a chance to scoop up Gordon, but I don't think we have any shot at Hamilton.  I believe we will also get Stephen Domingo a four star recruit who can shoot with the best of them.  This would give us Jabari Parker #1, Jabari Bird #11 and Stephen Domingo #28.  This will be one of the greatest recruiting teams in the 2013 class.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Portland Trailblazers vs. Houston Rockets

The game began with the Blazers looking unable to rebound without Camby in the middle.  Both teams came out of the gates slow, as both teams were on the second nights of back to backs.  The Blazers were able to create open, long shots, but couldn't convert early on. Crawford and Batum checked in late in the first and hit three big threes, but Aldridge was unable to get going, he went 0-4 in the first.  Meanwhile Kyle Lowry couldn't do wrong scoring 11 in the quarter.  The first quarter ended with Houston leading 27-21.

 The second quarter started with Craig Smith scoring the Blazers first 9 points (yes it was actually Craig Smith).  Let me reiterate this, Craig Smith scored the Blazers first 9 points of the quarter!!  Then the Rockets went on a run, Portland  missed point blank shots and Lowry capped off the run with a pullup three.  Batum was the only thing keeping it from a blowout, He hit five threes and finished with 20 points in the half.  They were down 58-53 at the half.

Gerald and LaMarcus bumped and bruised their way to a small lead midway through the third, but Lowry had a response.  Portland had no answer for Lowry and went into the fourth down 84-76.

The Blazers started the quarter doubling Lowry and posting up Aldridge.  Lowry began to struggle and LaMarcus sort of got it going, but not in the way Blazers fans have been accustomed to.  The Blazers defensive intensity really seemed to pick up in the fourth.  The game went down to the wire with the Blazers taking a small lead and then trading buckets.  Down 2, LaMarcus hit a long jumper to tie the game with 22 seconds remaining.  For the last shot of the game the Rockets elected Kyle Lowry to shoot.  Lowry took a twenty footer just left of the key for the win, but Felton got his hand in Lowry's face and Lowry missed off right iron.

In the overtime both teams struggled to score and traded steal after steal.  Kevin Martin hit a huge floater to put Houston up 3 with 31 seconds left.  Gerald drew the foul, and converted one of two free throws.  On the other end Martin got Batum on the pump fake and hit both his free throws.  The Blazers got a quick two on a Batum alley-oop, but Martin hit another pair to ice the game.  The Blazers fell to the Rockets 107-105 in overtime.

Player Grades
LaMarcus Aldridge C (22 points, 7-21 shooting,10 rebounds, 5 assists) Aldrige missed from point blank time and time again and didn't defend as well as I would have hoped in Camby's absence.
Gerald Wallace C- (10 points, 4-12 shooting, 8 rebounds) Other than rebounding well Wallace didn't do much and was terrible from outside.
Wes Matthews D- (5 points, 2-8 shooting 2 rebounds 0 assists) Wes disappeared in this game.
Raymond Felton B- (13 points, 6-12 shooting, 0-6 3 pointers, 5 assists) Ray didn't miss a shot that wasn't a three, but he missed 6 3's, he got to the rim at will against Houston's defense.
Kurt Thomas B (4 points, 2-5 shooting, 7 rebounds) In his first start Kurt really helped on the glass and interior defense.  This is all we need from him.
Jamal Crawford B- (11 points, 3-12 shooting, 4 steals) Most of Jamal's misses came at the end of the shot clock making his shooting look much worse than it actually was.
Nicolas Batum A+ (29 points, 9-15 shooting, 8 rebounds 4 blocks) Nic was amazing, his offense not only kept Portland in this game, but he also played lock-down D.  He also had 4 highlight worthy blocks.  You will rarely see me hand out A+'s, but Nic deserved it tonight.
Craig Smith A- (11 points 4-5 shooting, 3 rebounds) Craig dominated Patrick Patterson and got to the rim at will, I would've hoped for a little more rebounding out of Craig though.
Nolan Smith C+ (1 block, 2 fouls, 3 minutes) Nolan didn't score, but was extremely aggressive and did a good job trying to spark the Blazers.

Without Camby

Last night Marcus Camby, the starting center for our Portland Trailblazers suffered an ankle injury.  Now injuries for blazers centers are nothing new, (don't worry I'm not going to mention you know who) but how will this effect the 2012 blazers; the run and gun blazers who rely more on scoring than they have in the past?  Marcus Camby is averaging 3.4 points a game and  according to the average NBA fan the blazers aren't losing much.  We know better, Camby is the heart of our defense and heaps up the boards. 

Tonight we are facing the Houston Rockets, (4-7) a team that lacks inside scoring, once you get past Hasheem Thabeet (yes I'm joking).  For this road trip it means that Aldridge will just have to man up and Batum and Gerald are going to have to rebound even more than they already do.  We should be fine for this game, we should be fine for the rest of the road trip.

Now what happens if Camby misses significant time?  Barring a miraculous comeback from Greg (I said it) we have no legitimate starting center outside of Camby.  This is a huge problem that we need to address, I've thought about trading Gerald for a legit center and it does make some sense.  Batum is more than capable of starting and there is a strong possibility this is Gerald's last season as a Blazer.  But other than Dwight Howard there is no way we will get a center that is as valuable as Gerald.  I believe we can win this season so I don't want a center that might help us in the future

That leaves us relying on the 37 year old body of Marcus Camby, something that doesn't scare me as much as it should.  I really think he can stay healthy for the majority of 2012 and be very instrumental in keeping us as contenders in the NBA.

Reflection on Jesus/Pineda trade

I would like to begin this post with a reflection on Michael Pineda.  I became aware of Pineda three years ago when Baseball America heralded him as the Mariners sixth best prospect.  Since then he has taken the league by storm, winning a spot in the opening day rotation in 2011 and solidifying his spot in the Mariners rotation for years to come.  Let me take you back to last years all star game, when Pineda pitched a perfect inning, striking out both Scott Rolen and Richie Weeks.  At this point in time, Michael Pineda was the clear cut favorite for rookie of the year.

Now lets jump to yesterday, January 13th.  I sit at the computer refreshing my Mariners news hoping for some new, exciting report on Prince Fielder.  I see the headline "Mariners are moving closer to a trade for a young impact hitter" and like any good Mariner fan, I got very excited.  Then came in the reports that closer Brandon League would not be involved in the trade, an idea that troubled me greatly.  How would we get an impact bat if League wasn't involved?  As far as I knew Ackley, Felix and Pineda were all untouchable so I was very unimpressed with these rumors.  Then I saw it, Pineda traded for Jesus Montero.  My initial reaction was the same as every other Mariners fan, I was crushed. Our prized rookie sensation Pineda was gone, and in return we had some over-hyped Yankees prospect.

I have known about Jesus Montero for quite some time.  I knew he was good, but tried to ignore how good because he was a... Yankee.  But almost immediately after I got through the mental picture of seeing Pineda in pinstripes, I decided I love this trade.  

Here is why;  I strongly believe Pineda has reached his ceiling, his ceiling is high, but he has already reached it.  The reason he didn't win rookie of the year was simply because major league hitters figured him out.  Yes, he'll be better if he develops his changeup, but I don't see that happening.  Jose Campos is a good prospect, one I'm sour about losing, but prospects usually don't work out.  We have the best trio of starting pitcher prospects in the MLB, our rotation will be fine.

The Mariners also obtained Hector Noesi in the trade and the more I learn about Hector the more I like him.  His fastball is in the mid nineties and I believe he will be a solid starter in the bottom of our rotation.  Jesus Montero is going to be a beast and he can have an Edgar Martinez like career.  He has tremendous power, power the opposite way, power that even Safeco Field can't contain.  I don't know if he can catch and at this point I don't care, we need hitting, we need it desperately and Jesus Montero can HIT!