West could surprise for the Marlins
The Marlins have never been shy about pushing prospects -- especially pitching prospects -- to the majors fairly quickly. That was one of the reasons I had pegged a hurler who spent the entire season last year in high Class A ball as a sleeper to monitor for this year.
Sure enough, 22-year-old Sean West made his pro debut Saturday night, allowing two runs in five innings of work, walking four and striking out five. He ran up his pitch count a bit early and needed 91 tosses to get through five innings, but there were impressive moments.
A 6-foot-8 southpaw, West was one of the more intriguing prospects in the minors. Many have never heard of him despite the fact that he was a first-round pick back in 2005. The reason is that he fell off the radar screen when he missed then entire 2007 season because of a torn labrum.
He returned last season in the Florida State League and predictably started slow.
"About halfway through the year, the consistency with my fastball came back, and that made the difference," West said.
By the end of the year, he had posted a 2.41 ERA in 20 starts, despite still struggling with control in his first season back, and then turned some heads at the Arizona Fall League with his size and stuff. Some scouts rated him among the best left-handed starting prospects in the game.
The reason for that is the good down-plane angle he gets from his tall frame, and a fastball that he can dial up to 93 or 95 mph. He has a hard 86 mph circle change that has good fade despite its speed, and he throws two variations of a slider, one a harder version, the other a slower version that acts like a slurve and that he uses when he absolutely needs a strike. (There's been a lot of confusion about his breaking ball in the past, even for me: I first reported it as a slider, and then someone with the Marlins and another scout told me it was a curveball. I corrected myself, but it turns out I was right, as I had West himself confirm that it's a slider. It's not really a big issue, obviously, as it's more about what the pitch does than what you call you it, but I'm a stickler when it comes to getting a pitcher's repertoire right.)
The concern is that he's 22 and has had only 42 2/3 innings in Double-A, where he wasn't always sharp. Although he's been a ground-ball pitcher in the past, he had a 4.85 ERA in eight Double-A starts before being called up -- he allowed nine homers in 42 2/3 innings even while striking out 50. He's had problems with leaving the ball up in the strike zone, and his command still has a way to go.
Taller pitchers can have problems with their mechanics and repeating their delivery because of their longer levers. (Just look at Randy Johnson early in his career.)
"[Tall pitchers] have more of a tendency to lean and fall forward, and then you have to speed the arm up," West said. "We have to focus more on staying back, using your lower-body strength and driving with your lower half to keep everything intact."
He did get more serious about his conditioning as he was recovering from his shoulder surgery and did a better job of developing that lower half. He used to lose velocity later in games, but his stamina is much improved.
West delivers the ball with a slight crossfire delivery, which doesn't always help him maintain consistent command.
"It was 10 times worse before the surgery," West said. "I think it's one of the reasons I had the surgery. I've fixed it a bit -- I'm more line with home plate, and it's not as bad."
West has been focusing most on commanding his fastball on the inner half of the plate, figuring everything else will flow from doing that.
"I can work the outside part," West said. "My delivery makes it tougher to get inside, but it's nastier when it does get in there.
Obviously, since he was one of my preseason sleeper prospects, I am very high on West. I do worry about his command and control at this juncture, but the stuff is there, and the upside is interesting.
It looks like he's going to get an extended look in the Marlins' rotation, which makes him a prime target to pick up in NL-only formats this week.
Based on the examination of deep AL- and NL-only leagues, here are some thoughts on the latest additions to the player pool, and other players you might be considering picking up.American League
A couple of quick notes before delving into the AL pickups: My sympathies to all AL owners sitting with the most money in their FAAB budget this week, as we all got excited about a mid-May league switch for a player of Jake Peavy's caliber. I was in that position in Tout Wars. Sadly, our hopes were cruelly dashed. Second, check the availability of David Price (who starts in place of Scott Kazmir on Monday) in your league before the transaction bringing him to the big leagues officially takes place. Also, the Orioles will announce shortly who will take Adam Eaton's place in the rotation Tuesday, and Troy Patton or David Hernandez could be intriguing to AL players. Chris Tillman was pulled from his most recent start with groin tightness, so he won't be a consideration.
Jeremy Sowers, SP, Indians: Pass. Not every soft-tossing lefty becomes Jamie Moyer.
Casey Janssen, SP, Blue Jays: All you need to know about Janssen can be told in one number: zero, as in the number of strikeouts in his first start back. His lack of an out pitch will be even more magnified as a starter, and makes any success in that role not sustainable.
Reid Brignac, SS, Rays: A shortstop prospect with a little bit of pop, Brignac's stay in the big leagues may be short-lived as he could be sent back down to make room for Price.
Dale Thayer, RP, Rays: The 28-year-old has put up great numbers in the minors and picked up a three-inning save in his big league debut. With Troy Percival gone, you never know.
Jason Isringhausen, RP, Rays: Here is another option in the Rays' closer-by-committee arrangement, and manager Joe Maddon left open the possibility he could pitch his way into the role.
Joe Inglett, UT, Blue Jays: Inglett will be in a utility role and likely not get enough playing time to be worth a roster spot.
Anthony Swarzak, SP, Twins: Swarzak had a good debut and has good stuff but had an up-and-down season in the minors last year, struggling with his mechanics and command. His rotation spot going forward is a little uncertain. Still, he appears to have righted the ship and is worth a flier in AL-only formats, even if you have to stash him away for a little bit if he heads back to the minors.
Edgar Gonzalez, SP, Athletics: He's had flashes where he's teased us in the past, but his best role is as a versatile long reliever/swingman at the back of the bullpen, not as a full-time member of a starting rotation.
Jesus Guzman, 1B, Giants: He's a 25-year-old you've probably never heard of and has been released previously by two other organizations. But he just keeps hitting. Guzman, who hit .349 and slugged .545 last season, mostly in the Texas League, was the talk of Giants camp when he hit .412 and slugged .922 during spring training. He also hit .363 and slugged .592 at Triple-A before his callup. Entering the season, he was a man without a position, but the Giants are pleased with how he has transitioned to first base. With San Francisco needing offense and Travis Ishikawa slugging a "robust" .280, Guzman demands some attention.
John Mayberry Jr., OF, Phillies: The word is that Mayberry will be sent back down after the weekend, so he's likely not a short-term consideration. Over the long haul, some scouts think his swing is too long to stick as a big league starter, and that ultimately he will be a platoon player or power bat off the bench.
Jonny Gomes, OF, Reds: Gomes is part of a platoon arrangement in left field, playing against southpaws. He still has power potential, but the batting average will be iffy and his playing time is tenuous.
Homer Bailey, SP, Reds: His latest outing was just like his previous ones at the major league level. Does anyone else think he needs a change of scenery at this point? The control and command are just not there right now, and his stuff is less than it used to be when he was such a hot prospect.
Jamie Hoffmann, OF, Dodgers: Hoffmann replaces Xavier Paul as a temporary backup outfielder and likely won't play much. He has a little bit of speed but little pop.
Brett Hayes, C, Marlins: Hayes is just a temporary third catcher who could hit for an empty batting average at best if he gets some playing time.
Billy Buckner, SP, D-backs: He had a good outing this week, but Buckner has always struck me as a pitcher who will be making lots of trips between Triple-A and the big leagues in his career.
Edwin Maysonet, SS, Astros: He's a utility infielder with no power and no speed. Such players aren't usually desirable in fantasy play.
Justin Maxwell, OF, Nationals: Maxwell will be part of an outfield platoon while Elijah Dukes is on the disabled list, and although he has the tools and athletic ability, his ability to make consistent contact against big league pitching is questionable. With Dukes expected back early in June, Maxwell's window of playing time may be short.
Jason Bergmann, RP, Nationals: The way the Nats' bullpen is right now, anyone called up to join it is a potential option to close. Stranger things have happened. I'm generally avoiding everyone in that 'pen, but if you're desperate for saves you could get lucky.
Diory Hernandez, SS, Braves: He's a slap hitter with a glove who's likely just a temporary fill-in while Yunel Escobar and Chipper Jones are hobbled.