Storm Watch: First Impressions and Bias

I got my first look at the 2011 Lake Elsinore Storm last weekend. They lost to Stockton, 9-7, in extra innings.

Right-hander Jerry Sullivan started and had a rough night. More specifically, he had a rough first inning, surrendering four runs before his team even had a chance to bat. He fooled nobody.

Sullivan settled down after that, but ran into more trouble in the fifth. Where the first had been a matter of his getting smacked around, this time, he was victimized by broken bats and bleeders. Everything found a hole, and he didn’t survive the inning.

According to my notes, Sullivan was working with an 87-90 mph fastball that touched 91 mph (so sayeth the scoreboard, anyway). He also paid too much attention to baserunners for my taste.

On the offensive side, I hoped to see center fielder Reymond Fuentes, third basemen Jedd Gyorko and Edinson Rincon, and shortstop Jonathan Galvez. I saw all but Galvez, who didn’t appear until after we had left The Diamond.

I have expressed a skepticism of Fuentes in the past. His main assets are that he is a good athlete, a former Red Sox prospect, and the cousin of Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran. That last one troubles me — bloodlines are great if you are an Alou or a Boone, not so much if you are a Guerrero or a Gwynn. It seems to me that a prospect should have better selling points than “cousin of Carlos Beltran.”

The point is, I have a certain amount of bias when it comes to Fuentes. It would be nice if I could eliminate said bias, because it has the potential to cloud my judgment, but I’m human and this isn’t a reasonable goal so the best I can do is to account for it in offering my assessments.

Why do I tell you this? Because Fuentes had a terrible night, and I don’t want you to get the wrong idea.

Fuentes went 0-for-6 with two strikeouts. I saw only his first three plate appearances, which consisted of a called strikeout in the first, a weak grounder to shortstop in the third, and a sharp line drive to second base in the fifth.

In the field, Fuentes struggled as well and in fact contributed a great deal to Sullivan’s poor first inning. The leadoff batter drove a ball to left center field that Fuentes appeared to misread, taking a poor route and drifting toward it rather than sprinting, which resulted in a triple. Three batters later, he ran into left fielder Wande Olabisi, who was camped under a fly ball and had it in his glove before making contact with Fuentes, at which point it caromed toward center and turned into a three-base error (would have been four bases had the batter been running hard out of the box).

In Fuentes’ defense, the wind was blowing pretty hard from right field across toward right. He may well have had a valid reason for struggling out there.

If it sounds like I’m making excuses, maybe I am. But I’m bearing two things in mind as I recount this: First, I have preconceived notions about Fuentes as a ballplayer and I’m trying not to let those cloud my judgment. Second, it was one game and anyone can have a bad game, which brings me to my next point.

Gyorko looked awful. He singled and struck out four times in six trips to the plate. The single came on an 0-2 pitch that caught way too much plate (he looked awful on those first two pitches as well). Had this been my first look at Gyorko, I might have come away with a bad impression of him, as I did with Fuentes.

However, my first look at Gyorko came in a game last year where he was spraying line drives all over the field and I fell in love. So that’s a different kind of bias. Still, dude is hitting .380/.452/.635 this year and .328/.400/.509 in 455 professional plate appearances.

My guess is that Gyorko will move up to San Antonio after the draft and James Darnell will end up in Tucson. For now, however, Gyorko and Rincon are splitting time between third base and designated hitter this year. It’s cute that Rincon continues to get reps at the hot corner, but it’s also increasingly apparent that this is a waste of time:

Player  G PO  A  E DP FPct RF/G
Gyorko 17 16 42  4  3 .935 3.41
Rincon 17 13 22 10  1 .778 2.06

Rincon will hit anywhere. The trick is find a place where his glove doesn’t negate his offensive value. I hope such a place exists…

* * *

  • Updated benchmarks for pitch types (Hardball Times). Information overload alert. I haven’t absorbed this yet, so the best I can say is that it looks interesting.
  • FanGraphs Scouting: Bird-Dogging Brad Mills for SD (FanGraphs). Marc Hulet wants the Padres make a play for Blue Jays left-hander Brad Mills. Not that I’m adovcating such a move, but wouldn’t a straight challenge trade — say Wade LeBlanc for Mills — be fun? [h/t reader Didi]
  • The curious case of Bill Parsons (SweetSpot). Steve Berthiaume remembers a pitcher from the early-’70s with an unusual career trajectory.
  • Speed Traps (Baseball Prospectus). Pitching seems to be today’s theme… Mike Fast wonders about velocity and injuries.
  • 20,000 days since wild day for Ted Williams (Hardball Times). Chris Jaffe recalls an incident involving San Diego’s own Ted Williams. Former Padres Mark Kotsay, Bruce Hurst, Gaylord Perry, Bill Almon, Dave Winfield, Jeff Cirillo, and Bobby Jones (all both of ‘em) show up in the lists at the end.
  • Latos (Inside the Padres). Tom Krasovic talks about Mat Latos. Krasovic also discusses whether Bud Black should give Logan Forsythe a shot at second base in Orlando Hudson’s absence, noting that some folks have suggested Black is “overly partial to veterans.” Really? I’ve got two words for those folks: Bruce Bochy.
  • Why I Think Steroids Are Out Of Baseball (Joe Blogs). The obligatory Posnanski…
  • 2011 Baseball Mock Draft: First Round (Minor League Ball). John Sickels has the Padres taking Connecticut’s George Springer (to add to our collection of toolsy outfielders) at no. 10 and Oregon left-hander Tyler Anderson at no. 25.
  • Prospect of the Day: Jaff Decker, OF, San Diego Padres (Minor League Ball). Quoth Sickels: “His 1.092 OPS is a full 40 percent better than the current Texas League OPS, testimony to his dominance.” [h/t reader Didi]
  • Prospect Hot Sheet (Baseball America). This is last week’s, but better late than never. Gyorko and Anthony Rizzo get mentions. So does Simon Castro, in a not-so-good way. Also, Sean Burroughs is tearing up the PCL, which probably says more about the league than the player. Seriously, he even has a home run.
  • Q&A: Felix Hernandez (FanGraphs). It’s great to see our pal David Laurila over at FanGraphs. [h/t reader Didi]
  • Geer stays strong during fight with cancer ( Padres farmhand Josh Geer has skin cancer. I’ve never thought much of Geer as a pitcher, but that hardly seems relevant now. Here’s wishing him a quick and full recovery.
  • Do Prospect Busts Ever Reach Their Potential? (FanGraphs). Former Padres Vinny Castilla, Wily Mo Pena, Russell Branyan, and Ben Petrick show up here.