Monday, April 09, 2007

Free Austin Bibens-Dirkx!!! Quick Update...

So, Churchill's got a nice scouting report on Austin Bibens-Dirkx up on Prospect Insider. Check out that awesome photo, too. I wonder where that came from. Hmmm... Heh.

Bigger news today, though, is that my e-mails and prodding likely helped push Dave Cameron to add him to his Future Forty. Okay, well, I doubt I had anything to do with it, seriously, since Dave's standards are so incredibly high (and rightfully so) that my opinion is probably 99,999th on the list of folks he's likely discussed things with to put together his list. Still, it's nice to see him come around on Austin at least a little bit, and recognize him at least a little more as I do -- maybe not a potential superstar like Felix or Jones or whatnot, but rather a guy who likely will help a major-league club greatly by filling a smaller role -- and doing it very well, if not at a star level for that role.

I'm OK with thinking that relief pitchers are dime-a-dozen interchangable parts. I also believe in the concept of "relief aces" that can consistently stop the bleeding or slam the door in tight contests. Whether or not the door-slamming happens in the 6th, 7th, 8th, or 9th inning, it's a pretty important role either way, and a team likely needs at least two of these types of players in the bullpen, and one of them is most likely the closer. These types of players are more expensive and less dime-a-dozen. Rafael Soriano was one of these types, and trading him for a border-line league-average starting pitcher was a horrible decision that could have some serious long-term consequences on the Mariners pitching staff.

But what about those guys in between? While I'm a HUGE George Sherrill fan, even I recognize that he's not quite the relief ace that Soriano and Putz were in 2006. When I argued last year that he should inherit the closer title, it was because he's less of a relief ace than those other two, and with Hargrove being a bit of an old-schooler, he'd be better served having the weakest of the three top relievers in the "Hey, we have a 3-run lead here in the 7th -- let's get another guy out there and save our closer for the 9th..." role. He's shown some struggles vs. righties in the majors (despite not having too much of a problem vs. righties in the minors), and I believe he's been pretty much pigeonholed into the "LOOGY" class of pitchers. I still think he could develop into a relief ace, given more of an opportunity. But while that opportunity is waning, his opportunity to have a decent MLB career is improving. Even if he remains as a "LOOGY" I'm quite confident he'll be one of the best in the league in that role. If that's the only opportunity that he gets to have a job in the majors, and never makes it into the closer's role (hence the "Free George Sherrill" campaign still going alive and well...), I'm quite certain he'll take that 8 days a week and twice on Sundays.

So, while the "Free George Sherrill" campaign is still alive, I'm also laying the grassroots for the next MarinersMorsels campaign: "Free Austin Bibens-Dirkx!" When I saw him pitch in Tacoma, and talked to folks like Dave Cameron and several others right after that, I discovered that Austin was probably a guy that would fly under the radar a bit, and would, like George, have to work a little harder than guys like Morrow, Butler, Tillman (all drafted higher in the 2006 draft) to earn the spotlight and have a little more blue-collar route to the big leagues. If he had a chance to even make it to the bigs at all...

It seems Austin's performance in the pros thus far has already caught several eyes. Hey. I let the player do all the work, and I take all the credit :-)

I kid, I kid...

Still, here's to hoping that Austin's K rates stay steady. He'll need 'em in the matchbox that is High Desert. In his two outings so far, he's got 3Ks in 3 IPs. I'm awaiting some reports on his scouted velocity, and some more time to see his splits vs. lefties (although, somewhat strangely, it seems like he's had more issues vs. same-handed hitters, according to Churchill's report). Those are two evidence points that will really convince the folks in the suits what to do with him. His 2006 numbers suggest that he's very much a pitcher -- and as Jason captured what Austin said himself:
“I know how to pitch,” he said. “Not just throw. I had to learn how to pitch first, because I didn’t throw very hard until my sophomore year in college.”
Indeed, he's shown to me that he's moreso a 'pitcher' than a 'thrower' -- being a side-armer, too, that's important. But if he's got his velocity up in the mid-90's consistently, and can show he's got excellent command of his pitches, then watch out. He'll soar quickly through the system.

I'm a little nervous that I may have seen his only appearance in a Tacoma uniform. If he has a decent year this year, he could very well do most of his development in AA, and then jump right up to Seattle in September, and stick around for good in 2008.

Free Austin Bibens-Dirkx!

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At 4/11/2007 12:26 PM, Blogger Ozzie said...

Nice article,
I too think that Austin Bibens-Dirkx could be a solid reliever now. I expect him to move up the ranks fast again this year in be on the big league club by August. He was a much better option than Morrow to be rushed. Free Austin Bibens-Dirkx

At 4/17/2007 10:23 AM, Blogger Kevin Harding said...

As a former catcher of Austin's (Chemeketa Community College), I can truly say that he has some great stuff. Good command of his fastball (which topped out at about 92 mph two years ago) and an absolutely filthy slider. I can't wait to see what he will do in the show.

At 4/18/2007 10:36 AM, Blogger PositivePaul said...

Cool, Kevin! Yeah, I can't wait either. He'll be up sooner rather than later, I believe.

If you happen to poke your head in again, I'm curious how he fared vs. lefties in college. That's been one of the 'criticisms' against Austin, and I'm trying to get some data back from his college days to see if he does indeed have more than anecdotal evidence that the success he had vs. lefties wasn't just a fluke.

Sounds like he's hittin' the mid-90's now, too.


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