Johnny V

Back to looking at possible/likely Indianapolis Indians for 2007
JOHN VAN BENSCHOTEN
born 4/14/1980� in San Diego, California
ht: 6′ 4″��� wt: 215 lb.������ B: right����� T: right
Van Benschoten ( pronounced Van BEN-sko-tin) was the Pirates’ first round draft choice in 2001.� Like Brad Eldred, Van Benschoten was a hitter in his college career, at Kent State University.� In 2001, he was named Mid-American Conference Player of the Year, as he led the conference with 31 HR’s,�99 hits, and 84 RBI.� Unlike Eldred, Van Benschoten opted to concentrate on pitching.� He started his professional career in 2001 with Williamsport.� While his record was 0 – 2 in 9 starts with a 3.51 ERA, he gave up 23 hits and only 10 walks, with 19 strikeouts in 25.2 innings.� He advanced to Hickory for 2002, where his record was 11 – 4, including winning 8 of his last 10 starts.� He earned a 2.80 ERA in 148.o innings, giving up 119 hits and 62 walks� (1.22 WHIP), with 145 strikeouts.� Van Benschoten started 2003 in Lynchburg, where he won 6 games (no losses) in 9 starts and struck out 49 in 48.2 innings.� He was promoted to Altoona, where he started 17 games to earn a 7 – 6 record, and a 3.69 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, and 78 strikeouts in 90.1 innings.� He also participated in the 2003 All-Star Futures game.� He struggled more in 2004 with Nashville (AAA), earning a 4 – 11 record, with 4.72 ERA and 1.40 WHIP.� He was promoted to the Pirates and made his MLB debut on August 18, 2004.� In 5 starts and one relief appearance for the Pirates, his record was 1 – 3, with 6.91 ERA, 1.84 WHIP, and 18 strikeouts.� He didn’t totally forget how to hit, though — his first major league hit was a home run.� Van Benschoten missed the entire 2005 season and most of the 2006 season after having surgery on both shoulders in 2005.�
Van Benschoten was able to return to pitching in August 2006.� His first game was with the GCL Pirates, where he pitched 6 innings, giving up one hit, 2 walks, and struck out 4.� His next start was with Altoona, where he pitched 5 innings, giving up 3 hits, 3 walks, and struck out 3.� He got his first AAA start in Indianapolis on August 19th, when he earned the win by scattering 2 hits and two walks over 6 innings, with 5 strikeouts.� He made a total of 3 starts for the Indians, earning a 1-1 record, with 5.40 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in 11.2 innings, with 7 runs and 13 strikeouts.
In spring training, Van Benschoten has been reported to have some good early throwing sessions.� However, his first game appearance yesterday did not go as well as hoped.� He didn’t start, but came into the game in the 8th inning (not exactly “relief”, during spring training), and only lasted 1/3 of an inning.� He gave up two hits and two walks, giving up three runs to take the loss.� Of course, this is only one game, and there are four weeks of spring training still�to come, so let’s not give up on Johnny V just yet.��Having pitched so little last season though, it is not likely that Van Benschoten will start the 2007 with the Pirates.� We can expect to see him here with the Indians, where he can really test his shoulder over many starts.

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Prospect Profile: Andrew McCutchen

There’s enough info on McCutchen to write a decent-sized book, so I’ll play the role of gatherer and bring it all together for you. I won’t pretend to know more than the average fan (although I’ll do something most Pittsburghers won’t when I track Andrew down at Altoona this April):
From The Baseball Cube:
D.O.B.: October 10, 1986
5’11″, 175 lbs.
B/T: R/R
Draft: 1st round (11th overall), 2005

Yr Level G AB HR RBI AVG OBP SLG
05 GCL 45 158 2 30 .297 .411 .430
  A- 13 52 0 5 .346 .443 .442
06 A 114 453 14 62 .291 .356 .446
  AA 20 78 3 12 .308 .379 .474
Tot.   192 741 19 109 .298 .377 .445

Wikipedia on McCutchen‘s 2006 season:

The start of 2006, saw Andrew attend his first major league spring training with the Pirates in Bradenton, FL. After spring training, McCutchen was sent to the Pirates Low Single-A affliate, the Hickory Crawdads. He hit … and was selected for the league’s All-Star game along with fellow Pirates’ prospects Brent Lillibridge and Brad Corley.
On August 15, 2006, Andrew was promoted to the Double-A Altoona Curve of the Eastern League in Altoona, PA. He was even more dominate in Double-A than in Low Single-A, which is surprising considering he skipped the Pirates’ Hi-A Lynchburg Hillcats squad. McCutchen was the youngest player to ever play for the Curve at the age of 19. Upon arriving in Altoona, he hit a homerun in his first home game for the Curve.

On September 30, he was named the Pirates Minor League Player of the Year along with Tom Gorzelanny, who won Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Andrew was also unanimously selected by scouts and managers as the #1 Prospect in the South Atlantic League.

WTM:

McCutchen was considered one of the strongest tools players in the 2005 draft. He’s very fast and a legitimate CF with a good arm. He’s not just a tools guy, though, as he was considered very advanced and possibly close to the majors for a HS prospect. The two possible drawbacks with him were questions about his power and the fact that he faced weak competition in HS. He hit for more power than expected during the 2005 HS season, however, and could have moderate power in the majors, although that issue will continue to linger due to his size.

Project Prospect:

It hasn?t taken Andrew McCutchen, who is now 20, long to realize his potential at all. The centerfielder is an exciting athlete that does a great job of finding his way onto the base paths (career OBP: .377). McCutchen also keeps developing as a power threat as his slugging percentage has increased as he advances to each higher level. He will continue to develop at a rapid pace and Pirates fans should get ready to hear Andrew McCutchen?s name being announced as the team?s starting center fielder as early as this coming September.

McCutchen himself (via MinorLeagueBaseball.com):

“The coaches and [Pirates manager] Jim Tracy know I’m a pretty good baseball player,” McCutchen said. “I still go out there and treat every day like it’s a game of baseball. I don’t look at the level of baseball. I just look at baseball in itself. There might be some things I might have to work on at the time … but they know that I can adjust.”
Things such as learning different pitchers’ and catchers’ timing, which McCutchen agreed would come with age and experience.
“I’m kind of like a baby, just growing up and trying to learn,” he said. “I’m sure when I get it down, I’ll be stealing bases like it’s nothing.
“There’s no pressure on me now, I’m just going out there, and I’m having even more fun than last year.”

And, of course, my analysis of his 2007 Grapefruit League debut:

You can?t ask for much more from a top prospect. He led off for the Pirates and hit a homer on the third pitch he saw. In his next at bat, he doubled into the gap. Cutch finished the day at 2 for 4, and will get a long look this spring before opening the year with Double A Altoona.

So this September, the Pirates’ outfield will be infused with speed, power and defense. I can’t wait.

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Tribe Trivia– answers

If you haven’t seen the questions yet, scroll down and read the questions first!
1.� Who was the Indy Indians’ MVP in 2006?
Carlos Maldonado– He finished the season with .283 AVG, 6 HR, 47 RBI, including 24 multi-hit games and a 14-game hitting streak in July.� He had the top fielding percentage of the International League catchers:� .996.� He was also the Player of the Month in June.�
2. Who was the Indy Indians’ MVP in 2005?� What team did he play for in 2006?
Cesar Crespo — In 2005, he hit for a .261 AVG, with 9 HR, 51 RBI, and 31 stolen bases.� In 2006, Crespo played with the Richmond Braves.� He hit for a .239 AVG, with 5 HR, 29 RBI, and 15 stolen bases.
3. Who was the Indy Indians’ MVP in 1984?� What is he doing now?
Razor Shines — In 1984, he hit .282 AVG, with 18 HR and 60 RBI.� He was promoted to the Montreal Expos, where he played in 12 games, hitting .300 AVG with 2 RBI in 20 at-bats.� In 2006, Shines managed the Charlotte Knights.� He is currently listed as the third base coach for the Chicago White Sox.
4. Who was the last Indians’ MVP to also be�the League MVP for that season?
Roberto Petagine — In 1998, Petagine was both the Indy Indians’s MVP and the International League MVP.� That year, he hit for a .331 AVG, with 24 HR and 109 RBI with the Indians.� He was promoted to the Cincinnati Reds and played with them for 24 games.� In 62 at-bats, he hit .258 AVG with 3 HR and 7 RBI.� From 1999 through 2004, Petagine played in Japan.� He returned to US baseball in 2005, playing for the Pawtucket Red Sox and Boston Red Sox.� In 2006, he played for the Tacoma Rainiers and the Seattle Mariners.
Go Tribe!

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A Touch of Tribe Trivia

Opening Day is five weeks from today!

To help pass the time, how about a little bit of trivia?� How much do you remember from the Indianapolis Indians’ 2006 season?� Or from before that?� We’ll start with some easy questions — but no cheating!

1. Who was the Indy Indians’ MVP in 2006?

2. Who was the Indy Indians’ MVP in 2005?� What team did he play for in 2006?

3. Who was the Indy Indians’ MVP in 1984?� What is he doing now?

4.� Who was the last Indy Indians’ MVP to also be the League MVP for that season?�

Answers tomorrow!

Don’t forget to watch the Pirates vs. the Braves tomorrow afternoon on ESPN (1 pm EST).� Some of our minor leaguers will surely be playing.

Go Tribe!

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Prospect Profile: Steve Lerud

Let’s take a look at the real winner in the Neil Walker position change. No, not Humberto Cota. Steve Lerud, the Pirates’ best catcher in Single A.
Lerud was the Pirates’ third-round draft pick in 2003, but as you can see, he hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in the low minors. Due to a lack of quality catching prospects in the system, though, Lerud can get to Altoona as soon as he picks up his game. There’s no #1 pick blocking his path now.
The background:
October 13, 1984
6’1″, 205 lbs.
B/T: L/R
Galena, Nevada

Yr Level G AB HR RBI AVG OBP SLG
04 GCL 48 175 5 20 .246 .297 .411
  NYPL 8 29 0 2 .241 .353 .241
05 Rk 18 60 2 15 .267 .351 .450
  A- 10 32 1 2 .125 .176 .219
  A 25 80 2 13 .088 .149 .238
06 A 117 393 12 57 .239 .330 .402
Tot.   226 769 22 109 .222 .301 .377

Here’s what Wilbur Miller has to say:

Lerud managed to stay healthy in 2006 and spent the year as the regular catcher at Hickory. He showed good power for a catcher and drew some walks, but obviously had huge problems making contact. He’s not an impatient hitter. He tries to wait on a good pitch, but when I’ve seen him it’s tended to leave him behind in the count more often than not.

He’ll be playing his 22-year-old season this year and has a legitimate chance to earn a promotion from Lynchburg to Altoona, so Lerud’s not a lost cause quite yet. He’s an above average season away from being back on the radar as a possible bench player for the future.
Here’s a bit from the P-G:

[Lerud] seldom has played in his first three professional seasons, his .239 average at Class A Hickory last season would impress no one, and neither would his 35 passed balls.
So, why is it that anytime the subject of prospects in the low minors is raised with Pirates officials, Lerud’s name is among the first mentioned?
And why has he been in the major-league camp the past two springs?
“Because the kid can hit for power,” director of player development Brian Graham said. “And he can catch. And he’s got one of the strongest arms of anybody in the system.”

A quick news item from 2006 fall ball:

“…Honolulu Sharks teammates Steve Lerud, Kanehisa Arime, and Takanobu Tsujiuchi have been named Position Player and co-Pitchers of the Week for October 10-14. Lerud, a catcher from the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, is currently batting .500 on the season. Though he only played in two games this week, he made his plate appearances count, going 5-for-8 with one home run”

But the final results

The 22-year-old backstop was hitting .306 on Nov. 12, but went into an 0-for-17 slump over his last five games, dropping his average to .227. Lerud also struck out 26 times in 22 games for Honolulu.

What should we expect? Honestly, not a lot. But if Lerud can tear up the Carolina League in April and May, he might get a trip to Blair County Ballpark. From there, he’s only a promising season or two away from turning into J.R. House or Ryan Doumit.

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