Thursday, November 27, 2008

Rebuilding the International Way

The Hot Stove League has hit a lull, the big name free agents are still jockeying for the best possible offer, and many of the trade rumors have cooled for now. The Winter Meetings, being held in Las Vegas beginning December 8th, is where most of that action will occur.

However, some of the best long term moves have been made in recent days, and they also haven't involved players with household names in North America.

On Monday, it was confirmed that the Pittsburgh Pirates had signed Indian contest winners 20-year-old right-hander Dinesh Patel and 19-year-old southpaw Rinku Singh. This is big news for a team that had typically been quiet signing international free agents. Even more important is the fact that Neal Huntington has put another stamp on the Pittsburgh Pirates, giving this franchise some legitimate hope.

The two youngsters have spent the better part of the last year learning how to pitch under the tutelage of the pitching coach from the University of Southern California. The last year has seen the two Indian pitchers gradually learn the nuances of the game, as well as American culture.

According to a report from,
When it comes to the scouting reports, the 6-foot-2 Singh throws 89-90 mph and has a split-finger changeup pitch. The 5-foot-11 Patel throws a circle change and can reach 91-92 mph with his heater.
Not bad for two young arms that are just learning how to throw a baseball.

Further reports from,
Dinesh Patel, RHP, 5′10/185

Aaron: Definitely the more polished of the two. Strong upper body, but the legs are a little thin. Throws from the stretch and starts in a crouched position. Nice tempo — quick, but not hurried. Leg comes in high and he’s very aggressive to the plate. Call it a 3/4 arm angle. Has a very smooth and natural-looking delivery for someone who had never played baseball before last year.

Fastball is 84-85 and touches 87 with some tail down and in on right-handed batters, showing occasional sink. Delivery looks repeatable, but his release point is a little inconsistent, which will create command issues until he sorts it out. Due to his lack of height, he doesn’t get great plane but nice movement on the fastball can compensate for it. The ball doesn’t come out of his hand as easily as I’d like, but I he gets good extension on his follow-through. Nice aggressive finish.

Slider is 77-79. Doesn’t always get a lot of depth, but, again, like everything else with both these players, you have to remember Patel has been playing baseball for a friggin’ year. With that in mind the slider looks like it has the possibility of developing into a useful secondary pitch.

He looks polished and I find that somewhat shocking. It’s difficult to project what Patel might become or if he’s got the talent to be a pitcher in the majors, but I will say I don’t think this is some gimick signing. There’s something there.

Rinku Singh, LHP, 6′2, 185 lbs.

Jackson: Ringku Singh is clearly the less polished of the two prospects and is more of a project, likely a more boom-or-bust type pitcher than his counterpart Dinesh Patel. He has poor command at this point and gives his bullpen catcher headaches, frequently losing his grip on the ball and struggling to find his form.

However, at 6’2 185, the ceiling is there and he’s clearly an athlete. He’s got long arms and legs, a nice, strong high leg kick and overall shows strength and flexibility in his unpolished delivery. He throws from a ¾ arm slot, bringing his arm way down below his waist and then letting go with a sort of catapault-like delivery where he pushes the ball a bit. He struggles to repeat his form, especially with the lower half, and his follow through needs a lot of work. His arm speed is average at best and he relies on leverage to generate velocity.

Singh’s FB comes in 79-83 MPH, with a slow moving curve that ranges from 67-72. He currently lacks a real feel for the breaking pitch and his curve has little bite to it.
As the authors stress, the two players are extremely advanced for the amount of baseball they have played. Another thing to keep in mind is that they have received training from a world class instructor, the pitchers haven't had years of little league ball to develop bad habits, or throw too many breaking balls with poor form.

In other words, the Pirates picked up two high ceiling pitchers that they can mold however they see fit. This is a big move for baseball's most hapless franchise, one, that as I mentioned, has to provide hope for fans of this ballclub.

Which leads me to wonder if people consider moves in November when awarding their Executive of the Year award. While this move may not have an immediate impact on the Pirates, it certainly improves them for the long term, as well as opening the doors to the franchise entering the international market more aggressively.

This more aggressive approach even led Huntington to sending a scout to check in with Junichi Tazawa-only to find out that Tazawa's price tag would be out of the reaches of this small market club.

If you recall
, the hype surrounding Tazawa began at the end of October when he went unselected (as per request) in Japan's entry draft. At this point, I suggested a Major League team blow away the competition and offer Tazawa a Major League contract of $10M a year for 5 of 6 years.

Tazawa has Major League stuff, he has the control to be a quality forth or fifth stater right now. While ten million may be a little steep to pay for an end of the rotation starter, it is a much wiser investment then bringing in a Jon Garland. Not to mention the international dividends from adding a Japanese player, the same dividends that has a report suggesting that Tazawa will reportedly sign with the Boston Red Sox.

With Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima already in New England and the Red Sox in the midst of building a dynasty-like organization, Tazawa does not have a particularly difficult decision to make, all else being equal.

If the Sox sign Tazawa for a sum under eight million dollars, it will have to be considered a failure on the part of the other Major League executives. While the Sox have as much money to spend as anyone, they also have the aforementioned advantage of Dice-K and Okajima. Thus, if a team truly wanted Tazawa, they would have to outright buy him.

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