thoughts on the Mariners, MLB draft, and more homelinksdraftabout me

Borchard Happy To Be a Mariner

Ever since the Mariners traded for Joe Borchard I've become more and more enamored with him. Looking at his college numbers he should have much better plate discipline than he has shown as a pro, and I thought it might be because the White Sox handled him so badly. The evidence is mounting in my favor.

Players often have mixed reactions when they are traded for the first time in their career. Matt Thornton wasn't overly enthused with leaving the Mariner organization, saying, "Being traded is a new experience for me. I don't know how to react to it. I've heard some good things about Ozzie Guillen, and I'm looking forward to playing for him."

However, Borchard's reaction was crystal clear. "It's very exciting," he said. "I'm happy to be part of this organization. I'm looking forward to the opportunity that's been presented to me here. It's a clean slate. It seems to be the best thing for me."

Like Thornton, Borchard is out of options so he must stick with the Mariners or be released, which means he definitely won't be in AAA as I had hypothesized yesterday. There was no place on White Sox roster for Borchard, so it's possible he's excited mainly because his chances of making an opening day roster improved dramatically. Still, I think the reason he is happy runs much deeper. Borchard had the following to say about the White Sox:

"I don't want to sit here and say anything negative about my time there," he said. "I think the best thing to say is that it did run its course. It was just a good time for everyone to move on."

Joe Borchard went to Stanford so he's got a good head on his shoulders and knows better than to torch his former organization. Still, he seems surprisingly thrilled to leave the World Champions to be a reserve outfielder on a team that has lost over 90 games in consecutive years and, though Borchard didn't say anything negative about the White Sox, he had nothing positive to say either and made it abundantly clear that it was time to move on.

There's no doubt in my mind that the White Sox doomed Borchard for failure now that Borchard has said a little bit about his time there. Despite being the 12th pick in the 2000 draft, Borchard received a signing bonus that was the biggest for any draft pick in MLB history, which immediately put ridiculous pressure on him to be an instant star. Then, after an unfortunate injury, Chicago panicked and didn't let Borchard work his way through the system as any prospect should be allowed to do. Instead, they threw Borchard to the wolves by sticking him in AAA and, though he did not fail, he did not look like a guy who should have been given the biggest signing bonus in MLB draft history. As a result, Borchard was pressed by Chicago to deliver and likely especially pressured to hit home runs because his power potential is obviously what netted him such a huge signing bonus. It would only follow that Borchard's walk totals would plummet and strikeouts soar as he swung for the seats every time he stepped to the plate.

Maybe I'm reading into a few paltry comments too much, but Borchard's quotes line up with my original theory on what the White Sox did to him. The more I see and hear, the more I believe that the Mariners have stolen a really good ballplayer, as long as the White Sox did not damage Joe Borchard beyond repair.

Joe Borchard quotes were taken from an article written by Doug Miller for Matt Thornton's quote was gleaned from and article written by Josh Weinfuss for

M's Ditch Thornton, Acquire Borchard

Today the Mariners made an intriguing trade with the White Sox, shipping pitcher Matt Thornton to Chicago for outfielder Joe Borchard. Thornton, a former first-round pick, is an imposing left-hander at 6'6" and can rush the ball up to the plate in the mid-90s, something very few pitchers can do, much less southpaws. However, he never could throw strikes consistently with the Mariners.

Joe Borchard is eerily similar to Matt Thornton. Borchard, a former first-round pick, is an imposing switch-hitter at 6'5" and can crush the ball like few players can, much less guys who hit from either side of the plate. However, between the prodigious blasts were many prodigious whiffs. Like Thornton, Borchard is a special talent who hasn't turned into even a good ballplayer.

Though this deal was essentially one team's bust for another, I think the Mariners definitely were the winners of this swap. Matt Thornton has never figured out how to throw enough strikes to be a major league pitcher and, considering he is now 29 and over seven years into his pro career, the odds are he won't figure out how to throw strikes. The Mariners tried all sorts of stuff to improve his command, most notably switching where he stood on the rubber this off-season. For seven years, they have got few results except for what now has to be deemed a fluke year in single A in 2001.

Joe Borchard's biggest problem is his stikeout-to-walk ratio. At 6'5" Borchard is a taller guy, which makes him more prone to strikeouts, but strikeouts can be limited by not swinging at bad pitches, or in other words, taking balls. Last year, Borchard struck out 143 times while only walking 50, almost a 3-to-1 ratio. In comparison, 6'8" Richie Sexson, a tall power hitter like Joe Borchard, struck out 167 times but also had 89 walks, a better than 2-to-1 ratio. At 27 years old, it is reasonable to assume Borchard will never develop enough plate discipline to be a good major-league player.

However, I still have faith in Borchard because the Chicago White Sox did such a horrible job bringing him along. Looking at Borchard's college numbers, it's obvious why the White Sox picked him. He had size and strength, and it showed in his fantastic power numbers. Borchard hit 19 home runs his last year in college, a pace that translates to over 40 home runs if he had played a major-league length schedule. Furthermore, Borchard was only 21 when Chicago drafted him, which meant he would likely develop even more power, meaning he could be a perennial threat to hit 50 home runs. The White Sox wanted that type of power in the big leagues fast and it caused them to rush Borchard horribly. Moreover, it looks like the White Sox really pressured Borchard to hit home runs because his strikeout-to-walk ratio was so drastically worse than it had been in college. To me, it looks like Chicago inadvertently did everything they could to make Joe Borchard fail.

Now, Borchard gets a new start in Seattle. He no longer has the pressure that comes with being a heralded top pick and hopefully he won't feel the pressure to become an elite slugger. If I were the Mariners I would find some footage of Borchard in college and show him what he was and what he still can be. I honestly think that Borchard's plate discipline has deteriorated as a professional because of the way the White Sox handled him and if he can capture what he once had, he could be a real steal for the Mariners.

Stupid Steinbrenner

The Yankees just gave me another reason to hate them today. They placed a sign near a customer service booth on the main concourse of their spring training stadium that stated the following:

Thank you for expressing your concerns. We are sorry that certain players will not be present for portions of spring training. These players have elected to participate in the World Baseball Classic. The World Baseball Classic is an event sanctioned by the commissioner of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association. The New York Yankees did not vote to support this event. Any comments you have regarding the World Baseball Classic should be directed to the commissioner of Major League Baseball or the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Come on, stop your moaning and complaining! Steinbrenner made it clear that he was not a fan of the WBC when he was the only owner that did not vote to implement it in August 2004 (Steinbrenner abstained from voting), mainly because “if a player gets hurt, he’s risking a lot.”

NEWSFLASH: Players get hurt in spring training too! In fact, the odds of them getting hurt in camp are probably the same as playing in the WBC. George Steinbrenner is just being a selfish idiot once again because he wants complete control over his players and, more importantly, he wants all his stars in spring training so that he gets as many fans to flock to the ballpark and spend money. If George were thinking of anything else but the Yankees, he could tell that the World Baseball Classic not only doesn’t put any player at a ridiculous health risk, but that it is also good for the game, especially at the global level. I’ve watched a few of the Pool A games, which are being held in Tokyo. When Japan was playing, there were extremely good crowds. Furthermore, rumor has it that all the games in Puerto Rico may already be sold out. All indications are that the WBC is promoting interest in baseball abroad.

I’ve never been able to pinpoint exactly what I despise about the Yankees until now. For me, it’s not that they have so much more money to play with than any other team or that they have such high expectations year in and year out, it’s that George Steinbrenner is so ridiculously self-centered. Steinbrenner has to know that the World Baseball Classic is a good thing for the game of baseball, but he doesn’t support it because it takes four of his team’s players away from spring training for a couple weeks. He’s such a money-sucking, controlling, competitive freak of nature that it makes me sick. Maybe I’ll like the Yankees once they aren’t owned by Steinbrenner, but for now I hate them as much as ever.

M's Spring Roundup - March 3

With spring training games and the inaugural World Baseball Classic starting up this week, baseball has returned with fervor! Only two games into the exhibition season there is little noteworthy to talk about, but a few interesting Mariner notes have popped up nonetheless:

  • Felix Hernandez struck out the side on only 13 pitches to kick off the Mariners 2006 season! The hitters were Dave Roberts, Mike Cameron, and Brian Giles, most likely the first three hitters the Padres will field to start the season. It’s ludicrous to decide how good of a season a pitcher will have based on only 13 pitches, but it was still a great omen to see King Felix already in mid-season form. He isn’t just the Mariners best pitcher in the future, he’s their best pitcher right now.

  • It will be interesting to keep tabs on Seattle’s team hitting statistics for the spring. There is a weak correlation between spring statistics and regular season statistics for individual players, but team statistics seem to be a little different story. The last few springs Seattle generated very little power and that has correlated to little production in the regular season. They didn’t have a home run in their first game this spring, but Ibanez did crack an opposite field solo home run today against the Cubs.

  • Another team offensive stat to watch will be the K/BB ratio. Very few good offenses strike out a lot more than they walk. Against the Padres, Seattle struck out 12 times and only walked once. Against the Cubs they were much better, striking out five times while walking six.

  • There are many pitchers worth watching in Mariners camp this year and a couple have already appeared in games. Perhaps the most intriguing is Matt Thornton, a southpaw that can rush it up to the plate in the upper 90s but doesn’t know where it’s going. New Mariners pitching coach Rafael Chaves has had Thornton make many changes, most noticeably moving to the other side of the pitching rubber, in hopes of improving his command. Results so far are promising, as Thornton didn’t walk a batter in his first appearance against the Padres.

Here’s some players to look out for Saturday's game against San Diego:

  • Jesse Foppert: Foppert will start tomorrow and probably only work a few innings, but he’s in a very interesting position. Acquired in the Randy Winn deadline deal last year, Foppert was one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball before blowing out his arm a couple years ago. He has completely recovered and his stuff is coming back, most notably a big-time fastball that he consistently throws in the mid-90s. The Mariners starting five looks set, but if Foppert really impresses this spring, he may be able to bump Gil Meche and make the opening day roster.

  • Clint Nageotte: Like Thornton a pitcher with control problems, Nageotte really started to find the strike zone by the end of last year, especially in the Arizona fall league where he was lights out. If he can build on his spectacular fall league showing, he will make the bullpen and open a ton of eyes in the process. The M’s bullpen looks very strong, and it will be one of the best in baseball if guys like Nageotte and Matt Thornton learn how to harness their stuff.

  • Emiliano Fruto: Just 21 years old, Fruto has a fastball clocked around 97 MPH and a change-up and curve that have both been rated among the best in the organization. He played in AA last year and put up good, though not great, numbers because he doesn’t have great command of his pitches yet. Once he learns how to consistently throw at least two of his pitches for strikes, he will be able to dominate on any level, including the major leagues.

  • There is an open battle for second base right now between Jose Lopez, Willie Bloomquist, and non-roster invitee Fernando Vina. Due to a minor injury, Vina has not played in a spring training game yet but he should be back soon. The job may be Vina’s to take because AAA ball probably would be best for Lopez right now and Mike Hargrove seems to love the idea of Willie Bloomquist being a super sub.

  • Greg Dobbs has gotten off to a hot start and if he keeps it up, he may force himself on to the opening day roster. It’s what he did last year but he faces longer odds this spring as a non-roster invitee. Still, he should get plenty of playing time since Adrian Beltre is participating in the World Baseball Classic.