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Farm Notes – 6.14.06

Posted by Jason A. Churchill on June 15, 2006

By way of Al Gore's great invention and a short drive to Cheney Stadium, I was able to follow two great pitching performances while watching the PCL's strikeout leader do his thing — all at the same time.

I caught the play-by-play radio broadcast of San Antonio's matchup versus Corpus Christi while following Inland Empire's game down in San Jose via milb.com's great coverage. The two games overlapped each other for a few innings and Tacoma began their doubleheader in between so I took in quite a bit of info tonight.

I heard, read and watched some serious pitching.
What did I hear?

I heard Ryan Feierabend throw first-pitch strike after first-pitch strike to Corpus Christi batters, including uber-prospect Hunter Pence who is among the top prospects in baseball, and finish the night with 10 strikeouts in 6 2/3 of scoreless baseball. He allowed just five hits, all singles and did not walk a batter.
The 20-year-old gave up a single to Pence in the bottom of the first and then retired 13 in a row before Jonathan ash singled to lead off the sixth inning. How did Feierabend react?

The southpaw picked off Ash at first base and then struck out the next batter — his 8th strikeout of the night to that point.

Feierabend struck out the side in the fourth and the first two in the fifth, including Pence swinging on a change.

The 6-3, 200-pounder was sensational on Wednesday night. It was the best start of his career, specifically citing that he surrendered zero extra-base hits, did not issue a single base on balls and eight of his 10 whiffs came on swinging strike threes.

He's now just 3-5 on the year and sports a so-so 4.41 ERA after a blow-up start last week, but has fanned 51 in 65 1/3 innings while walking just 21 batters. He's allowed 71 hits, which is quite high, but he's starting to limit the base hits as well as the impact of the hits he does yield.

Feierabend typically sits 87-90 with his four-seam fastball and mixes in a solid change and a developing curve ball. He took a big step up with his breaking ball a year ago and it appears that he;s repeating that improvement again in 2006. His velocity is very consistent and it stands to increase incrementally as he refines his mechanics and matures physically.

A safe bet is that Feierabend lands in the 89- 92 mph range, which is above average. But his command is already very solid and his change is close to becoming a plus pitch. The curve ball is still a work-in-progress, but every year it has gotten better.

He's missing bats in Double-A San Antonio at 20 years of age and is a very projectable pitcher, both physically and in terms of stuff.

He'll probably battle consistency issues for awhile, but much of that is due to the fact that he's pitched in leagues far beyond his age and experience for the last three seasons.

But he's more than handled his business and he has no issues with mechanics or injuries and isn't the type to get complacent. He's a worker and quickly becoming one of the smartest pitchers in the system.

Feierabend is truly a diamond in the rough, but as a former third rounder, you can see what kind of "projectable" prep kids you can get after the first round.

So, what did I read?

I followed left-hander Robert Rohrbaugh, last June's 7th rounder out of Clemson, slice up the San Jose Giants over6 1/3 innings. He gave up one run on six hits, walked two and struck out eight.

Rohrbaugh gave up a run in the second inning and then retired 11 of the next 13, five via the strikeout, including the side in fourth.

Five of the six hits off him were singles and neither walk came around to score. The 22-year-old improved to 6-1 on the year and sports a nasty 1.75 ERA in his nine games, eight of them starts.

Rohrbaugh has struck out 37 and walked just eight in 46 2/3 innings. He's surrendered just 39 hits.

Rohrbaugh is not a flamethrower either, but his command is impeccable, and he hits his spots on a regular basis. His stuff isn't as impressive as fellow 2005 draftee Justin Thomas, but employs a three-pitch arsenal that includes a fastball in the 86-89 range, a pretty good curve ball and a quality change.

Rohrbaugh threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of 26 batters and found himself behind 2-0 only three times. Now that's called pounding the strike zone with solid stuff, keeping hitters off balance and making all nine spots in the batting order a big group of guess machines.

Rorhbaugh is never going to be an ace that mows down big-league lineups for 35 starts a year or piles up the strikeouts, but he's certainly got a chance to become a No. 4 starter that gets by with control and guile.

He's not unlike Bobby Livingston in that way.

What did I see at Cheney?

I saw a pretty good 24-year-old right-hander pitch without his best stuff but still fan seven in a complete game win over a tough lineup.

Francisco Cruceta gave up four runs, all earned, and was still impressive. But that's what quality arms do.

Cruceta threw 102 pitches, three left the yard, 67 were strikes.

He got a big lead and was on cruise control, just trying to throw strikes, like a good soldier, and was tagged a few times for the long ball. But Cruceta is a tough customer.

The River Cats couldn't touch his splitter and though his fastball was down a notch to 89-91, he was able to strongarm most hitters into a good pitcher's count.

Cruceta gave up just four hits, but he did walk three. He's 5-4 with a 3.71 ERA on the year, which is pretty impressive considering he's made three of his 13 starts in severe hitter's park in Colorado Springs, Salt Lake and Las Vegas. That's like pitching a game at Coors Field, one at Minute Maid and another at Ameriquest Field in Texas.

Cruceta is a 6-3, 215-pound fastball, curve ball, splitter guy with No. 2/3 starter stuff and inconsistent command. He leads the PCL in strikeouts with 85 in 70 1/3 innings – proof that his stuff is pretty darned strong.

He's averaged six innings per start since April 22 and though he's walked 33 batters, his walk rate is under 4/9 since May 17. He'll need to continue to clean up the control issues to present the M's with an option down the road.

Right now, Cruceta is a much better bet to get through five or six innings in the majors than Joel Pineiro. And to think, Bavasi picked up Cruceta off the scrap heap after he was waived by Cleveland.

If the Dominican native keeps pitching like this, he's going to get a look, perhaps in the rotation, but the bullpen is also an option. His fastball-split combo would look pretty nasty for 2-3 innings stints in a Julio Mateo-like role in the majors.

But he'll have to throw strikes consistently. He's got good mechanics, maybe the best of any of the power arms in the system, but his arm slot and release point fall out of whack, usually without warning.

More often that not, Cruceta is 90-93 with his fastball. His splitter is throws at varying speeds, one a power split at 84-86 mph and another at 81-83. His curve, which he throws less than a dozen times per game on average, is a below average pitch in the low 80s. An average curve ball with decent command would probably give Cruceta frontline stuff.

A Twins scout at Cheney tonight, liked what he saw from Cruceta, citing his out pitch as an impressive offering.

"They can't even touch that splitter, can they? He gets two strikes and goes to that split early and that's that. Late in the game he's got them thinking splitter and he gets them looking at the fastball."

With Pineiro's starting slot on the ropes, don't be shocked if he's moved to the bullpen in favor of Bobby Livingston or Francisco Cruceta. Cruceta even pitches in turn with Pineiro's spot in the rotation.

With the exception of Wisconsin having the night off and Joel taking the pill to the hill in nemesisland, the pitching was pretty spectacular tonight down on the farm.

I did my best to get as much out of it as I could.


75 Responses to “Farm Notes – 6.14.06”

  1. MatthewCarruth said

    According to the Finnigin article, the leadign candidate for Pineiro’s spot in the rotation is…Jake freakin’ Woods.

    Please tell us differently Jason. Doesn’t it make more sense to put Pineiro in the pen, and swap Fruto for Livingston and put Bobby into the rotation? Fruto wont get any work if there’s another righty in the pen and Livingston has to be more worthy of a rotation look.

  2. willmore2000 said

    It does. But I’m guessing that it’s Hargrove call, so …..

  3. NWBaseball said

    Another thing to mention from Cheney last night was the defense of Asdrubal Carera. He made a couple of plays on balls hit up the middle that I thought sure were hits. On one he got to the ball, several steps to his left, while still maintaining his footing and threw the batter out at first; on the second one he had to run to his left and dive to smother the ball then flipped it to second to get the force. Mark me down as impressed. BTW good chatting with you Jason.

  4. 2quarters said

    Man, Cruceta was such a great pickup. How did his K rates take such a leap this year?

    Doesn’t appear he was ever an high K guy before this year.

  5. Ivan said

    Thanks, Jason. Articles like this are why I read Prospect Insider every day.

  6. Re: Cruceta

    He’s always had the ability he just needed to throw strikes… he’s doing that more now.

  7. eknpdx said

    Multi tasking three different games, man that must have been tough 😉

    With regards to the amount of hits Cruceta gives up. Is it Cruceta leaving it out hanging, or are those hits off of tough pitches?

  8. Willmore said

    The guy gave up 4 hits, what do you want from his, a no-hitter ?

    He is giving up less than 1 hit per inning, that’s about as good as you can expect in the minors. Cruceta’s only problem is walks and if he masters that, well yippie, we have a starter.

  9. yeah, Cruceta doesn’t give up many hits.

    He served up a couple bombs last night but he was just tryig to throw strikes. He had a big lead.

  10. KB said

    Any speculation as to why Snelling was in CF last night?

    Random question: are we going to see Steve Uhlmansiek this year?

  11. eknpdx said

    I wasn’t asking based on last night’s results. I’m pretty sure I’ve read something regarding Cruceta giving up hits as a concern. But if it’s less than 1 per inning, I have no worries.

    Does the 40 man roster factor at all into his chance of promotion Jason? Two spots open IIRC. Is Morrow expecting to fill one of those?

  12. Edman said

    Uhlmansiek is on the Aquasox roster.

  13. Willmore said

    Jason, what are your thoughts on Russ Ortiz ? He’s never been worth the contract he got from the D-backs, but what about giving him a 1 year, 4-5 mil deal to be our #4 guy next year ?

  14. Dr. Detecto said

    ++With regards to the amount of hits Cruceta gives up. Is it Cruceta leaving it out hanging, or are those hits off of tough pitches?++

    His one weakness is that he does have a tendency to center fastballs.

    And since the hitters “tip their caps” on the splitter anyway, they’re always up there hoping for a centered FB.

    Cruceta will give up some dings in the majors, no doubts there, but so did Bert Blyleven (who has many similarities with Cruceta).

  15. Willmore said

    Let’s not get ahead of ourselves with Blyleven comparisons.

  16. Russ Ortiz is worse than Joel Pineiro. So… no.

  17. Andrew said

    If my understanding is correct, doesn’t Arizona keep paying Ortiz regardless of who picks him up minus the difference in salary that the new team offers? So for the next two years, they are paying his salary. Therefore any team who signs him will give him the league minimum and let arizona make up the difference?

    I could see inviting him to spring training, but signing him to any deal more than the league minimum is silly.

  18. Beady Eyes said

    Andrew: No more bad pitchers. If we bring him to spring training and he performs satisfactorily, we have to add him to the 40 man roster. I don’t want to chase after guys like this anymore.

    Let’s keep finding the Crucetas of the world and develop them.

  19. Goose said

    Yeah, the D-Backs will still be paying his huge salary, minus the league minimum. Unless of course somebody claims him off waivers in the next 8 days or so, in which case they assume all of his salary. But somehow, I doubt that will happen.

  20. The thing is, Ortiz is probably going to be able to get more than a minimum offer on an incentive-laden minor league deal for 2007… it won’t matter that the D’Backs are paying him.

    If the new club that signs him THIS year offers him 500k, the D’backs pay his original salary minus 500k.

    But it certainly doesn’t restrict Ortiz ventures and the new club doesn’t get any advantages because Ortiz and agent will still have the leverage of more than one team interested. he’s not going to get much, but it won’t be league minimum for 2007 — but he also won’t likely be guaranteed any money heading into spring.

  21. Grant said

    Is Cruceta fully healthy right now? I thought I had heard that his FB was above even 93 at times and that he had dropped in velocity lately.

  22. He’s 100%.

    It’s not uncommon for a guy to dip down in velo for a few starts here and there.

    There are times when even Felix is 93-95 instead of 95-97… Cruceta is usually 90-93, touching 94 on occasion… his last start, yesterday, he was 89-91 mostly.

  23. Grant said

    Glad to hear it. What’s the soonest you expect to see Cruceta in Safeco?

  24. The soonest?

    I really don’t EXPECT him to see the SAFE, barring injury or trade, until September.

    But if Joel is headed to the pen soon, Cruceta and Livingston are the first two names in the minors…

  25. Jason Twing said

    Loving the progress of Feierabend. His last two starts have been stellar. Was at the 6-1 win against Frisco (man Wolff stadium has some good grub). He maintained a 91 mph fastball throughout (stadium radar) and was hitting his spots. Got himself out of a bases loaded jam with a 3-2 fastball strikeout at the letters. Impressive young man and I am sad/happy to say he will not be in San Antonio past this year. Other than a 2-inning, 9 ER start last month he has been solid and improving daily.

  26. He’s the one M’s young pitcher who has gotten markedly better every year.

    Barring missed time in ’06, there’s no reason for him to repeat.

  27. Center Field Sports said

    Does anyone have a link to the everett roster for this year. it’s not posted on there website yet

  28. willmore2000 said

    Jason, can you confirm that Morrow signed ?

  29. There is no official listing yet, but it looks like the roster will be something like this…

    Catchers – Chao Kuan Wu, Jair Fernandez, Adam Moore, Dan Santin
    Infielders – Dean Zorn, Leury Bonilla, Manelik Pimentel, Ogui Diaz, Travis Scott, Joe White
    Outfielders – David Hall, Julian Henson, Greg Halman, Kuo-hui Lo, Carlos Peguero, Jose (Oswaldo) Graterol
    Pitchers – Greg Nesbit, Doug Fister, Justin Souza, Marwin Vega, Carlos Javier, Diomeny Gaetano, Joseph Kantakevich, Jose Suriel, Natividad Dilone, Juan Colon, Cory Kolisack, Michael Schilling

    Santin may or may not be on the roster, and he may or may not catch any longer. Juan Beltran may or may not begin the year on the roster… he’s a 19-year-old catcher.
    Randall Frye’s presence is pending health of other rosterees… Mike Nannini and Nate Mateo are listed on Everett’s roster but both are paper moves only, as is Schweiger’s. None of the three will play for Everett this year, unless it’s rehab or an emergency fill-in by Schweiger.

    This is subject to change, particularly the pitching staff, due to draft signings.

  30. willmore2000 said

    Anyone exciting to keep an eye on on that roster ?

  31. Halman, Peguero, Lo, Vega, Suriel… and Graterol.

    Lo and Halman are the best two prospects at this stage.

  32. BTW, Morrow has indeed agreed to a deal with the M’s…

    No word on the paramters of the contract as of yet.

  33. Jerry said


    I noticed that Chian Huang isn’t listed on that roster. I figured that he should be in Everett this year. However, there were rumors flying around that he had flaked out, something to do with huge debt or something.

    Have you heard anything about him? Can we expect to see him play this year, or is he quickly becoming a sad story.

  34. Jerry said

    Thats awesome about Morrow. Sweet.

  35. I would be mildly shocked if Huang pitched in the US this year at all.

  36. Jerry said


    Any clues on what it up with him that you can divulge to the masses?

    In other news, did you check out Justin Thomas’ second Inland start today:

    6.0 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 1.50 ERA


    I was pretty upset when the M’s drafted him. But perhaps Fontaine is a lot smarter than I have given him credit for.

    I was also upset when the M’s drafted Butler, Orta, and Fister. Lets hope that Fontaine keeps making me feel dumb for doubting him.

    I know that small sample size is in effect here, but Thomas is looking like a steal.

  37. Thomas has better stuff than most of the rest of the system… his command is the key.

    re: Huang… just what you mentioned… some sort of debt issue and he and a family member ran from it in some manner.

    It doesn’t look good. That was back in February when I heard that, so I don’t know what the latest is… but there is no update.

  38. Jerry said

    Bummer. I was looking forward to seeing him play. I heard that he is a physical specimen.

    Oh well. Hopefully he pulls his head out of his ass and gets over here to play.

  39. Something may have improved, but if so they aren’t talking about it.

  40. Jerry said

    Thanks for the info.

    You rock.

  41. But do I rock… like a hurricane?

    Always wanted to.

  42. Jerry said

    You rock like the kid in the Twisted Sister video who does the Tazmanian Devil spin and turns into Dee Snyder when his dad tells him to turn down the stereo.

    And that is impressive.

  43. J said

    I heard Huang was found, and that the issue was exaggerated. He should be back in the U.S., or so I was told, but that’s all third hand information I’m getting.

    Vega’s in Wisconsin, scheduled to have at it tomorrow.

  44. Center Field Sports said

    any thoughts on Michael Schilling? Friend is his host fam.

  45. Replacement Level Poster said

    Where do you think Morrow and Tillman will start in the system, and at what point?

    I was hoping Tillman would be in Everett to start so I could catch a game of his down in Eugene this year.

  46. Re: Huang

    The M’s knew where he was the whole time… this is what they told me…

    Huang owed someone some money for an extended period of time and it may not even have been “official debt” if ya know what I mean.

    So he changed his address and contact info to try and dodge this person or persons, and his cousin or brother and a girlfriend helped him keep his whereabouts from getting out.

    The M’s apparently loaned Huang some dough and will dock his paychecks… but there is still a lot of doubt as to whether he’ll pitch in the US in 2006, due to Visa problems.

    In March they were hoping it would be done by now, but as of June 2, it was still being “worked on.”

  47. re: Schilling

    Haven’t seen him yet… he was in Tacoma for a day but didn’t get to pitch and I didn’t have time to try and talk with him.

    Get back to me in about 3 weeks and I’ll have a lot more.

    re: Morrow/Tillman

    Morrow’s natural starting point is Inland Empire, but he could make a start or two in Everett to shake off the rust.

    Tillman has to sign first… but I think he’s destined for the Arizona Rookie League.

  48. Replacement Level Poster said

    Thanks Jason, I didn’t expect Morrow to be in Everett…which is why I was hoping to catch Tillman. If I was able to catch Morrow though, all the better! Chances are I’ll get to see neither though.

  49. Everett is going to be much better than a year ago because Halman and Lo are scheduled to be the starting corner outfielders, and one or both may even play some center.

  50. DC Mariner said

    At what point could we get excited about Pettyjohn? I know he is old for AA. Nice start yesterday.

  51. eknpdx said

    6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K.

    I think we should always get excited by a feel good story. He may be old, but to come back from a colectomy due to ulcerative colitis in 2002 IMO gives the guy a pass until he absolutely fails.

  52. Pettyjohn should be in Tacoma’s pen. Today.

  53. eknpdx said

    Does tha mean someone is coming off of Tacoma’s roster, Jason “I speak in tongues” Churchill? 😉

  54. So, WTF is up with Andy Hargrove playin’ in San Antonio? That one caught me off guard…

  55. Nah, Pettyjohn isn’t actusally being sent up – yet. He should be, though.

    Re: Hargrove… they wanted to challenge LaHair without rushing Hubbard so needed 1B in AA.

  56. KB said

    Maybe they realized that time is running short for the father-son combo to hit the field together?

    Bavasi’s like, “oh crap, we’re letting Hargrove go next week, send his kid up to AAA!!!”

  57. If they are looking at that, than Grover junior should be hitting cleanup versus the Giants tonight.

  58. If they are looking at that, than Grover junior should be hitting cleanup versus the Giants tonight.

    Heh. At least he’d have a pretty good shot at getting on base. He may not have much power, but he’s got a decent track record with his OBP…

  59. Willmore said

    Well, if it’s like papa, like son, then we are in for a 3 hour ballgame with Jr. in the batting box for at least 10 minutes each time 🙂

  60. He isn’t very good, he’s borderline terrible.

    End of story.

  61. Willmore said

    And that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

  62. There’s a reason why he was the 589th round pick.

  63. Francisco said

    Jason. What do you think are the chances of Cam Nobles signing with the M’s? Seems like he would go to UW because with his talent, couldn’t he become potential pick in the top 3 rounds?

  64. I seriously doubt Nobles becomes a pick that high… i didn’t like what I saw in his fastball. Velo is all he had. Not much movement and he doesn’t hide the ball much.

    He’d be a nice signing for the M’s but he’s probably going to want 5th round money or better. I’d put the chances at 20% or so.

  65. Erik said

    Hi Jason!!

    I just wanted to know who the hardest thrower in the Mariners farm system is, behind Morrow (if he’s number 1).


  66. Erik,

    After watching tonight’s game, I’d say JJ Putz 🙂

  67. haole man said

    Haha. Putz definitely throws some gas, but in the M’s farm system…who are the hardest throwers? (95+ mph)

  68. Kahn is 93-97, Lowe is 91-96… tons of guys are in the low 90s…

    Miguel Marquez has touched the mid 90s…

    I don’t expect Morrow to sit at 97… I hope you all don’t either. I see him going 92-95 with that splitter and a better than advertised slider.

  69. Jerry said

    Wow, I didn’t realize that Lowe threw that hard.

    Isn’t he a sinker/slider guy?

    Is he is, and has that type of velocity, they need to try him as a starter.

    Doesn’t Edgar Guaramato throw pretty hard too?

    It will be interesting to see what the M’s do with Morrow. He might have a tough time starting as a pro with a FB, Split, Slider. A change would be ideal. I haven’t heard anything about a curve. He is going to likely need some sort of off-speed pitch.

    I wouldn’t be suprised to hear about him throwing a two-seamer either. Seems like the M’s love that pitch.

  70. willmore2000 said

    Well depends on the splitter. If his split is anywhere like Putz’ one, he can use that as an off-speed pitch, with slider rounding out a solid starter’s arsenal. I wouldn’t mind a change or a curve, but I don’t see it as a top priority right now, not until it’s clear he can’t be successful with those three pitches. A change to pro ball is very tasking, and he doesn’t need extra work on his hands than he will already have.

  71. StandinPat said

    Morrow has the stuff to be a starter at the low minor league level right now. Worrying about his secondary offerings is a little pre-mature. Let the guy pitch, adjust, and add to his arsenal after he moves up a level or two. With his arm, there’s no reason to think he cant add quality second offerings.

  72. Re: Jerry

    Pat Rice assures me that Lowe is a relief guy not a starter… I think it’s more due to stuff endurance than overall durability or having a third pitch.

    Lowe is a 4-seamer, 2-seamer (sink), slider, change up guy… if his change was as good as his heater, he’d be starting.

    Guaramato is typically 90-93.

  73. U Snow said

    2006 draft when they draft why don’t they also post where these kids will be assigned?

  74. KB said

    Because they need to be signed first.

  75. Because they don’t KNOW where they will be assigned. It’s dependent on WHEN he signs, injuries to each affiliate, etc.

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