I get a handful of emails a week from people asking about players and just wanting to chat about some particular baseball subject. I thought I'd include a few from the past week as some I've commented on via threads to certain posts, others I've just responded personally.
K.J. wondered what the Aeros might be doing as a tribute to the Virginia tech shootings, especially with starting catcher Wyatt Toregas being a former baseball player at Va. Tech. I plan to check with Toregas when the team returns Friday to see if there's anything special he's done.
K.J. figured maybe the Eastern League could provide small patches for the players to wear on their uniforms. I think it's a great idea, I just don't know if there's enough money in the low minor leagues to pull it off.
Mike's been mentioning outfielder Brian Barton alot, and I promised to talk more about him. He's a very interesting guy in that he played college ball at the University of Miami (a hotbed for players getting drafted), yet wasn't drafted. Cleveland signed him as a free agent in 2004, and got quite a steal.
For anyone whose seen Barton play, it's hard to believe he didn't get drafted. He's an above average outfielder and has a pretty good plan at the plate. When he first came to Akron mid-way through the season last year, Barton told me it was a complete misunderstading as to why he didn't get drafted.
He's a very bight guy and was majoring in engineering (aerospace, I believe). When scouts asked if he wanted to play ball he told them that while he loved baseball, school was important, too. He didn't mean he wouldn't sign, he just wanted them to know upfront his education was important to him and his family. So everyone backed off thinking he wouldn't sign. While his honesty is commendable, it probably cost him a decent signing bonus.
None the less, Barton has quickly risen through the Tribe's minor league ranks, and for many, came out of no where to be ranked by baseball America as the Tribe's 5th best prospect heading into the 2007 season. I think he kind of enjoyed not having much pressure on him as an undrafted free agent, because in his first two pro seasons, he combined to hit .324with 50 doubles, 10 triples, 26 homers and 147 RBI at Lake County in '05 and Kinston/Akron in '06.
Barton struggled a little bit to start the season this year, perhaps unfamiliar with the spotlight being on him. However, in the last week he's begun to have better at bats (although he still leads the team with 17 strikeouts) and is now hitting a more respectable .271 with three doubles, a triple, two home runs, eight RBI and a team-high four stolen bases.
Mike points out that Barton also has been hit by a pitch a team-high four times. That does seem strange to me, but could be a part of his early struggles in crowding the plate while trying too hard to make something happen instead of staying within himself. Let's watch that stat and see what happens the next week or two. My guess is that the number stays at four now that Barton's hitting better.
Lastly, a writer lamented about Joe Ness struggling out of the bullpen in the Aeros loss last night. I like Ness, and just chalk up yesterday's rough outing to him being a starter shoved in the Aeros rotation in an effort to get him promoted to Akron. If an Aeros starter were to go down, Ness could slide right into a starting job. Until then, he's stuck in the pen. So, let's give him a long leash as he adjusts on the fly to a new role.