Forgive me for not having something more substantive to offer this Sunday afternoon, for last night's Texas-Texas Tech showdown did not elicit much joy in the Matschulat household.
Sports can inspire and invigorate you. They can also kick you in the groin and leave you writhing in pain on the ground.
● Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes that the Red Sox (Michael Bowden, Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson), the Brewers (?) and the Reds (Homer Bailey) are likely the best fits for the catcher-for-pitcher deal the Texas Rangers are evidently pursuing in earnest, and also strikes the fatal blow to any Jake Peavy-centric trade speculation, confirming that Peavy will not waive his no-trade clause to come to Texas.
Bailey has personally intrigued me for quite some time now, although perhaps that is because he might require a smaller relinquishment of talent on the Rangers' end than Buchholz and his ilk. The La Grange, Texas native doesn't celebrate his 23rd birthday until next May, but has thus far failed to live up to the enormous hype generated by industry publication Baseball America's designation of Bailey as baseball's fifth-best prospect before the 2007 season and baseball's ninth-best prospect before the 2008 season.
MLB.com's Mark Sheldon pinpointed Bailey's "resistance" to mix in off-speed pitches as one of his most crippling flaws during his attempted transition from Triple-A Louisville to Cincinnati -- a somewhat perplexing assessment, given that Bailey still seems to possess the filthy fastball-curveball combo that made him one of the most electrifying pitching prospects in baseball as recently as this past February, when Baseball America's J.J. Cooper issued this tantalizing scouting report:
Strengths: Once he was healthy again in September, Bailey was back throwing in the mid-90s with his fastball and buckling knees with his curveball. They're both already well above-average major league pitches, and he has shown the ability to take a little off his heater. He's also added a high-80s cutter to give him a pitch with more lateral movement. A natural athlete who also played basketball in high school, Bailey has excellent flexibility that's apparent in his clean, loose delivery.
Weaknesses: Bailey has no shortage of pure stuff, but he still has to refine his control and command to get big league hitters out and to work deeper into games. He threw strikes on only 58 percent of pitches in the majors and just 61 percent in Triple-A. His changeup is still below average.
Some 11 months earlier, Cooper wrote that Bailey's fastball sat primarily at 92-96 mph and would occasionally touch 98 mph, an offering complemented by a nasty curveball that he wielded two versions of: a "12-to-6 hammer" and a "slower, loopier version with 11-to-5 break." Even his change-up was touted as an "improved" secondary weapon with "some potential [...] some deception and a little sink."
So what on earth happened? The prevailing theory is that his issues are mostly mental, but a quick comparison of his 2007 Pitch f/x pitcher card to his 2008 Pitch f/x pitcher card (both generously supplied by the prolific Josh Kalk) reveals that he has not only lost several inches of horizontal and vertical movement on his most highly-touted secondary pitch (the curveball), but has also suffered from extremely inconsistent release points.
It's certainly possible that Bailey is beyond salvaging, but there also might not be another heralded young pitcher in the game right now that could benefit more from a proverbial change in scenery. And while I don't think that Bailey's necessarily attainable for simply Gerald Laird by himself (an idea which has been kicked around quite a bit in baseball circles), the addition of a lower-level arm on the Rangers' side could conceivably bring the two sides fairly close together.
In short, I sure wouldn't mind seeing Texas getting a shot at unlocking Bailey's ace-caliber ceiling.
● Should the Rangers and Reds eventually hook up on a deal sending Bailey to the Lone Star State, the man tasked with reversing his fortunes and converting his considerable promise into tangible Major League results might be Mike Maddux, who failed to reach an agreement with the Brewers on Saturday and could be announced as the Rangers' new pitching coach as soon as Monday:
"Now Nolan has someone in the clubhouse to watch his back," said someone close to the situation.
I presume this comment is an vague allusion to the purported reluctance of some coaches in the organization to adhere to team president Nolan Ryan's new pitching philosophy, although that's little more than speculation on my end. But it would make sense, would it not?
● According to John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus, Texas is willing to part ways with Laird, Max Ramirez or Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but not Taylor Teagarden. This dovetails with the widespread suspicion that the Rangers have already committed to Teagarden as their franchise catcher.
● And finally, it would seem that ESPN.com's Jason Grey is an enormous Julio Borbon fan:
He's so good at making contact that he really doesn't worry too much about patience at the plate, which means his OBP is always going to be an issue (29 walks in 546 at-bats this season), but there's a lot to like about the rest of the package.
He has great range in center field, plus makeup, and an excellent work ethic. He hasn't hit for a ton of pop yet, but there is still a bit more projection in him and he should eventually have some pull power. He's squaring balls up consistently, and even his outs have been hard-hit balls right at fielders. He needs to be firmly on your radar screen.
Borbon's commonly cited comp (Juan Pierre) seems to evoke quite a bit of teeth-gnashing amongst Rangers fans, but let's not forget that he was a quality center fielder at his peak, posting EqAs of .273 and .278 in 2003 and 2004 respectively while providing superb range at a very demanding defensive position.
Factor in the likelihood that Borbon will ultimately deliver more power at the Major League level than the perpetually light-hitting Pierre (who, to this point in his professional career, has hit just 14 home runs -- Borbon hit seven in 2008 alone), and you have a player with a better chance of emerging as an long-term asset than a liability.
And you've gotta like that.