This will likely be the only Newberg Report ever centered on Colorado Rockies lefty Greg Smith.
And it has nothing to do with his effort against the Rangers' California League affiliate in Bakersfield on Thursday afternoon (a rehab start in which the 25-year-old overcame an Ian Gac home run and an Engel Beltre triple and defeated the Blaze with six solid innings).
Smith, a pitchability lefthander, was Arizona's sixth-round pick in 2005. He was the Diamondbacks' number 13 prospect after the 2005 season, according to Baseball America (which ranked Arizona's farm system number one in baseball that winter), number 15 after 2006 (for the number three system), and number 13 again after 2007.
That is, until he was traded on December 14, 2007 to Oakland, with five other prospects (one of whom had reached the big leagues), for Dan Haren and another player.
He didn't have the highest ceiling of the six players the A's got (lefthander Brett Anderson, outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and Aaron Cunningham, and first baseman Chris Carter were generally graded higher), but it was Smith who made the most significant big league impact in 2008. Making 32 Oakland starts, Smith went 7-16, 4.16 at age 24, leading the A's with 32 starts, 190.1 innings pitched, and two complete games. In his first six big league starts, he was 2-1, 2.54. Through the end of May that season, his ERA was 2.84, with seven quality starts out of 10. And while his second half wasn't as strong as his first, he did have a six-start stretch from late August until mid-September that included three scoreless outings.
Smith's number three or four ceiling notwithstanding, he showed a ton of promise over his first six months in the big leagues, giving payroll-challenged Oakland an intriguing pitcher it could control for another five years.
And then Billy Beane took advantage of that rookie campaign and sold high on Smith, flipping him to the Rockies, along with Gonzalez and reliever Huston Street, for outfielder Matt Holliday (whom he'll lose to free agency next winter, if he doesn't trade him first).
So what, you ask?
Matt Harrison was Atlanta's third-round pick in 2003. He wasn't among the Braves' top 30 prospects after the 2003 or 2004 seasons, according to Baseball America. He was number 10 after 2005, and number 3 after 2006.
Then he was traded on July 31, 2007 to Texas, with four other prospects (one of whom had reached the big leagues), for Mark Teixeira and another player.
He didn't have the highest ceiling of the five players the Rangers got (catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, shortstop Elvis Andrus, and righthander Neftali Feliz were generally graded higher), but it was Harrison who made the most significant big league impact in 2008, making 15 starts and winning nine, the most by a rookie lefthander in franchise history. And he's been brilliant in his last three and a half starts of 2009, going 4-0 and giving up two runs in 28 innings, with one walk and 18 strikeouts in that stretch.
Harrison's number three or four ceiling notwithstanding, he's shown a ton of promise over his first four months in the big leagues, giving Texas an intriguing pitcher it can control for another five years.
Would you trade, say, Harrison and Justin Smoak for Matt Cain? For Chris Volstad? For Josh Johnson?
Harrison, Michael Main, Max Ramirez, and Jose Vallejo for Jake Peavy, if he'd change his mind about that no-trade clause?
Would you do what Beane did, acquiring the lefthander as part of a blockbuster, seeing him increase his value meaningfully, and moving him in another huge deal?
The difference here is that while Oakland gave up on the futures of Smith and Gonzalez for a rental player that it will turn into more prospects or two draft picks within the year, the type of deal I'm talking about would net the Rangers a starting pitcher - with arguably greater upside than Harrison - that would be under club control through at least 2011 (Cain, Johnson), 2013 (Peavy), or 2014 (Volstad).
Don't suggest Brandon McCarthy instead of Harrison in any of those proposed deals. Won't get it done.
Think about it for a bit.
A few quick hits:
Texas signed lefthander Mike Hinckley, a former blue-chip prospect with the Nationals who debuted in the big leagues last year with a 0.00 ERA in 13.2 relief innings (eight hits [.178 opponents' average], three walks, nine strikeouts) but who struggled this season, walking 11 in 9.2 innings en route to a 4.66 ERA out of the Washington bullpen and leading to a designation for assignment, a clearance of league-wide waivers, and an outright assignment that he had the right to decline. The 26-year-old will go to Oklahoma City.
Ben Sheets was spotted hanging around the Rangers on the field and in the clubhouse before yesterday's game, but there's no news. He continues to rehab with Rangers team physician Keith Meister but has yet to throw since February surgery.
By the way, Dr. Meister will take your questions on the Newberg Report message board on Friday at 10 a.m.
The latest reason Chris Davis conjured up Tony Romo for me? The play he made on Tuesday, backhanding a sharp grounder on the run and firing across his body to a sprinting Scott Feldman, hitting the pitcher in stride as he was headed in the opposite direction from Davis, toward the bag.
Josh Hamilton's 460-foot blast halfway up the second deck in right field last night trails only Paul Sorrento (491 feet, 1999) and Jose Canseco (480, 1994) in its Rangers Ballpark lengthiness. (I think Hamilton's ribs are OK.)
But the throw to the plate to erase Howie Kendrick was better. Show me the home run a couple times, but I will watch that 8-2 laser as many times as you want to roll it.
Same with the Kinsler-Andrus-Davis double play poetry in the eighth.
Or anything else Andrus does.
It is so great to watch fantastic baseball defense, on a nightly basis.
Seattle closer Brandon Morrow, who shuffled off across the third base foul line on the way to the visitors' clubhouse as the Rangers walked off with wins Wednesday and Thursday, is now former Seattle closer Brandon Morrow. Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu is going the committee route for now to save games, with Sturm-a-like righthander David Aardsma the leading candidate to get the last three outs.
Frankie Francisco threw long toss yesterday and could throw a bullpen today. If all goes well, he could be available tomorrow.
Prediction: Marlon Byrd will sign a three-year deal with someone else this winter, not because Texas isn't interested in keeping him but because the 31-year-old will have this one chance to score a lucrative multi-year deal from a club that can assure more playing time (cf., Mark DeRosa two years ago).
But Byrd will return to the Rangers before his career is over.
Love that guy.
Another name to tuck away as a possible July trade target: reliever Danys Baez.
(I fully expect Texas to trade a prospect or two for a high-end eighth-inning righthander this summer.)
Frank Catalanotto signed a minor league deal with Milwaukee.
Derrick Turnbow doesn't have the financial security that Catalanotto had as he patiently waited for the right job, but I haven't seen any news that Turnbow has hooked on anywhere since exercising his out clause two weeks ago.
Wondering if Neftali Feliz is OK after he had a AAA start scratched a week ago due to a shoulder thing?
Five innings, one hit (a home run), one walk, and seven strikeouts on Thursday. Easily his best effort of the year.
A scout said this to ESPN's Jayson Stark this week: "I think [the Rangers have] got a chance to steal that division. What I'd love to see them do is reach down, call up that kid Neftali Feliz and say, ‘We're going to give it a run in September.' I know they don't want to push him. But this kid has electric stuff. It's about the easiest 100 [mph] you'll ever see. It's like he's having a catch, except it's 100 miles an hour."
Another scout, also to Stark: "I'd like to see them do what Colorado did a couple of years ago with [Ubaldo] Jimenez and [Franklin] Morales - put Feliz and [Derek] Holland in the rotation and go for it. I think they could pull it off."
Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com, yesterday: "The proper question for anyone with a working knowledge of Rangers history is, ‘OK, when do they collapse?' The answer: Not now. And maybe not for a long time. Believe it or not, the Rangers have a plan. It actually includes pitching and defense. And it actually should work. ‘I do think they're legit,' A's general manager Billy Beane says, ‘and they're also going to get better.'"
Almost 10,000 walk-up tickets sold last night. Impressive.
Thomas Diamond demoted to Frisco, Richard Bleier promoted to Bakersfield.
The latest July 2 Dominican bonus baby linked to Texas: catcher Jacob Beltre.
Baseball America's first 2009 mock draft has Texas choosing Brownwood High School righthander Shelby Miller over Klein High School lefthander Matt Purke (the latter of whom is considered the number two lefty in the draft but is suspected to be a greater signability risk) with its first-round pick, number 14 overall. Many other draft projections have both Texas high schoolers gone in the first 10 picks.
The draft is in 24 days.
The last time the Rangers had a 2.5-game division lead was June 10, 2006. How long ago was that? It was four days after the club had drafted Davis in the fifth round, and three days after they had put in a draft-and-follow selection on Holland in the 25th round.
The last time Texas was seven games over .500? That was June 19, 2005, a dozen days after Texas drafted Taylor Teagarden in the third round.
Five wins in a row matches last year's longest win streak, a run in early May that included a Feldman/Wright/Benoit/Wilson four-hit, 4-0 win over Oakland's rookie southpaw Smith, as Texas became the first team to put as many as four earned runs up against him.
One of the things this club prides itself on is its composure, its ability to avoid getting too caught up in the highs or the lows, at-bat to at-bat, game to game, streak or slump.
Can you view Matt Harrison's 2009 season that way? Can you avoid putting too much stock in his last 29 innings of genius (0.64 ERA)? And get past the awfulness of the preceding 16.2 innings he started the season with (10.26 ERA)? Do you even want to?
So: Harrison and Smoak for Cain or Volstad or Josh Johnson.
I'm not advocating it.
Or summarily dismissing the idea.
Weigh in at the message board: You in?
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(c) Jamey Newberg
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