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November 20, 2009

40-Man Roster Additions

Texas added pitchers MICHAEL KIRKMAN and ZACH PHILLIPS to the 40-man roster.

Texas drafted Kirkman out of high school in 2005’s 5th round. After a solid debut, injuries and mechanical problems derailed Kirkman’s next two years:

75 innings
10.37 RA, 8.32 ERA
23% walk+hbp rate (!)
2.54 WHIP (!!)
.470 opposing on-base percentage (!!!)

Fortunately, being 6-3, left-handed and hard-throwing affords plenty of opportunities, and a healthier Kirkman pitched pretty well overall – brilliantly at times -- during 2008-2009. Promoted to AA Frisco this May, Kirkman’s peripherals backslid somewhat; his walk rate crept above 10% while his K rate dropped to 15%. That said, he also just turned 23 and pitched respectably down the stretch despite surpassing his previous career-high workload by a whopping 60 innings.

Phillips is a 23rd-round draft-and-follow signing from 2004 and struggled mightily in his introductions to low-A (in 2006) and high-A (2008). Repeating a level for the second time in three years, Phillips and his old-fashioned curve excelled upon conversion to relief and earned a midseason promotion to Frisco. Phillips’ control faltered near the end of his term in Bakersfield but returned in the season’s final month. He also struck out 23% of opposing batters, quite impressive for someone who doesn’t throw terribly hard.

To be blunt, Texas’s collection of Rule 5-eligibles is rather vanilla. As I mentioned in September, the three must-add players (Feliz, Andrus, Strop) had already reached the Majors, and the remainder include some intriguing names but none whose omission from the 40 would be a travesty. I couldn’t envision more than three additions (the other being Beau Jones).

The most interesting of those left behind, and to me the most likely to be swiped in the R5 draft, is Jones, the final piece of the Mark Teixeira trade. Another lefty, Jones was punitively demoted to Bakersfield after a disastrous June in Frisco. He utterly destroyed the Cal League (57 batters faced, 26 strikeouts, 10 baserunners) and was solid upon returning to Frisco. Jones has typically has taken a long time to acclimate to a new level, so jumping from AA to the Majors could be especially problematic.

Mike Ballard is another possibility. He’s certainly the most refined pitcher of the R5 group, but the curve-change specialist has yet to make an impact in AAA. Still just 20, the maddeningly inconsistent Fabio Castillo won’t be picked.

Chad Tracy again hit well after a slow start and finished with 26 homers in AA. Unfortunately, he’s practically a DH at this point, and his bat alone isn’t yet strong enough to warrant a Major League roster spot. At present, 3B John Whittleman and CF David Paisano are toolsy cases of arrested development, and COF Cristian Santana is the destitute man’s Mark Reynolds.

I don’t think Texas will lose anyone.

Posted by Lucas at November 20, 2009 01:08 AM