I was going to make a comment, but didn’t want to bury it deep in the last post about all of the roster cuts. Mathieson and Stutes were drawing lots of interesting discussion, and I figured I’d share my thoughts as well. I’m actually also planning on a new piece that will be up either later tonight or tomorrow about my predictions for 2011, so be sure to check back for that. In the meantime, more on Mathieson and Stutes below the fold
My take on Mathieson: I left him off of my top 30 for 2 big reasons. First, his health is a massive issue. Guys who have 2 or 3 major arm surgeries, and then go on to have successful big league careers…well you can probably count them on one or two hands. No one has ever questioned Mathieson’s character or work ethic. From everything I’ve read and from everyone I’ve talked to, he’s an outstanding person and very dedicated to his craft. His comments simply indicated he was disappointed he didn’t make the team. I’m sure everyone in his situation would be disappointed. If you’re not disappointed, then maybe you’re head isn’t in the right place. But I think he knows he has things to work on, and if he does put in the work, he’ll get another shot, either in Philly or with another big league team. The second reason I left him off the list revolves around his raw stuff. His fastball, from what I’ve heard, is consistently 91-95, and hes capable of hitting a bit more when he reaches back. Part of the problem, however, is his delivery still has a lot of effort, and this effort impacts his control and command. He consistently misses up in the strikezone, something big league hitters (the good ones, at least) are able to lay off of. In the minors, you can live at the letters a bit more, because guys will swing. His fastball also lacks movement, either horizontally or laterally. MLB hitters can turn around a 99 mph fastabll if its straight and they know its coming. His secondary pitches are also a work in progress. It seems his slider and changeup will be distant third pitches, and he’s going to rely on the splitter, a new pitch for him. Its really difficult to control a split finger fastball and throw it in the zone consistently. Most successful pitchers who have used the splitter have used it as a chase pitch and a complement to their fastball to get swings and misses. He obviously hasn’t mastered the pitch yet, and it looked like a below average offering in my brief spring training viewings. With more work, if the pitch can become MLB average in quality, then he’ll be a workable 7th/8th inning reliever. But given his spotty fastball command, I don’t think hes there yet, and with an option remaining, its not hard for me to see why the team is keeping Baez, on a guaranteed contract or Herndon, who has shown a much improved slider and has better fastball movement and command right now.
On Mike Stutes: Everyone is quick to point out that I didn’t have him on my Top 30 list. It should also be noted that Baseball America didn’t have him in their top 30 either, and he wasn’t mentioned among the prospects at BP or ESPN either. Stutes is transitioning to the bullpen, and not everyone makes the smooth transition in their first season. Last year, he showed good swing and miss stuff (79 K in 76 innings), but he had fairly substantial control issues (44 BB) and he served up 7 HR in the 76 innings, a highish rate. The reports I read on him indicated his slider was a legit swing and miss pitch, but that he often fell behind because he couldn’t spot his fastball with any regularity. A big breaking slider, if you aren’t going to throw it for strikes, isn’t as much of a weapon if you’re always behind in the count 2-0, 3-1, etc etc. This spring, his control has been markedly better. I’m not sure if the Phillies had him work on anything in particular, but I was impressed with his fastball, just as much as with his slider. If he throws strikes, he can help the team now as a 7th inning guy. I don’t think he’s a closer at this point, so I don’t have a ton of regrets about not putting him in my Top 30, but my ranking was based on the reports I had on him at the time, and thats all I can go on. He’s been a great story this spring, and if he makes the club out of ST, that’s a nice opportunity for him.
For what its worth, and its not totally prospect related, I was very impressed with what I saw from David Herndon this spring. His slider has a lot more depth. I noted a number of times last year that he was extremely unlucky on balls in play, as he generated a ton of groundballs and weak contact, yet always seemed to be the victim of bloop base hits and balls placed perfectly between two infielders. His slider was a below average pitcher last year, in terms of his ability to consistently locate it and get swings and misses, but it’s looked a lot better this spring, and I think you have to be excited about what he can do. He’s not a prospect anymore, but I think he will serve as a 6th/7th inning guy if he makes the club, capable of going multiple innings, or the Phillies could elect to stretch him out as a starter this year at AAA. I like what I see. I also like what I saw out of Michael Martinez. He’s old (and technically a prospect because he has no big league time) but he got a real late start in baseball, and his speed and versatility could be big pluses for the team this year. I expect he’s going to make the team, as Charlie Manual has heaped praise on him all spring.