Sunday Notes: Brewers Perrin, Padres Allen, Iggy, Indians, more

Brewers pitching prospect Jon Perrin issued his first free pass of the season on Friday night. Accompanying that solitary walk on his stat sheet are 47 strikeouts and a 2.50 ERA over 36 innings of work. Pitching for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Perrin has essentially been the Midwest League equivalent of Greg Maddux in his prime.

His long-term goal isn’t necessarily to be the next Maddux. Nor is it to be the next Josh Tomlin, a more realistic control-and-command comparable. Perrin aspires to be an attorney.

The 22-year-old right-hander graduated from Oklahoma State before being drafted by Milwaukee last year in the 27th round. He took his LSAT over the winter, and if he gets an acceptance letter from his target school there’s a good chance he’ll bid baseball adieu.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen, but if I get into Harvard, I’m probably going to be out of here,” Perrin told me. “I love the game, but I think I can do more good in this world with a degree from Harvard Law School than I ever could playing baseball.”

Perrin is smart enough to know the odds are against him making it to the major leagues. His numbers may be eye-opening, but he’s also a late-round senior sign pitching in low-A. He admits to being “kind of your standard college right-hander, 88 to 92; I’m not going to blow guys’ doors off.” He will, however, fill up the strike zone with an artist’s touch.

If he does stick with baseball, Perrin feels he can reach the big leagues by “executing at a higher rate than everybody else.” He’s also fearless.

“The way I look at it, if I throw a ball on the plate to one of the best hitters in the league, I’m going to get him out seven out of ten times,” said Perrin. “If you walk into a casino with those kind of odds you’re probably going to put a lot of chips down on the table.”

The righty wasn’t as willing to gamble in the Big 12. When I asked why his college walk rate wasn’t anything special, he pointed to weapon-based probability.

“The biggest thing here is switching from metal to wood,” explained Perrin. “You can’t pitch the same way in college because they’re swinging a piece of frigging iron up there. It’s harder to get in on guys and mistakes get punished a lot more.”

Walking away from the game could pay dividends — lawyers eat steak and lobster, minor-leaguers eat at McDonald’s — but there’s a big ‘what-if’ in the equation. There is always the chance he could become the next Maddux or Tomlin.

“That kind of came up when I was out to dinner with the scout who signed me,” Perrin told me. “He said, ‘Look man, you’re not a top-of-the-rotation stuff guy, but there are guys in the big leagues making $10 million a year doing what you do.’ I told him, ‘That works for me.’”

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I was in Cleveland a few days after talking to Perrin, so I took the opportunity to ask Tomlin if he had any advice for the pitcher/prospective law student.

“Whichever one is your dream, chase it,” responded the Tribe righty. “If your dream is to play in the big leagues, it’s not going to be an easy road, but in the end, that not-so-easy road is really gratifying.”

Tomlin admits he wasn’t the best player on his high school, junior college, or college team. He doesn’t have a classic pitcher’s build, and his fastball isn’t all that fast. Not surprisingly, he’s had a lot of doubters over the years.

“I heard it a lot,” said Tomlin. “Nobody in the organization ever told me I couldn’t, but I’d hear the rumors on the street. People around town would say, ‘I don’t know why he’s still playing; he’s never going to make it.’

“Being an underdog, you’re always having to prove yourself to other people. You also have to keep within yourself. For me, it’s telling yourself, ‘I might not have the most overpowering stuff, but I put it where I want it and the athletes behind me are going to make the plays.’ You can’t have any fear of throwing strikes across the plate.”

He throws a lot of them. His career BB/9 is a stingy 1.49, and this year he’s walked just two batters in 23 innings. They’re usually quality strikes. Stretching back to last season, Tomlin has won 11 of his last 13 decisions while posting a 3.05 ERA.

He’s not taking his success for granted.

“Being hurt in 2013 (Tommy John surgery) put into perspective where I’ve been, and the road I took,” said Tomlin. “You realize that it can be taken away from you even quicker than it was given to you. But I never sit back and think, ‘How did I get here?’ or ‘Why me?’ The second you start doing that, it seems like someone is creeping up your tail.”

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Trevor Bauer struggled with his command from time to time. The issue reared its ugly head on Thursday when the Cleveland right-hander was taken deep by Nick Castellanos in a win over the Tigers.

“I didn’t put it where I wanted to,” said Bauer after the game. “I was trying to go in and it was down the middle. He’s hot right now. I threw a lot of pitches down the middle tonight that didn’t get hit. That one did.”

Castellanos is hitting an AL-best .376, but he’s drawn just four walks. When a free-swinger of his ilk is mashing, where you miss matters.

“You have to make sure you miss in the right spot,” confirmed Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway. “Sometimes you have to realize, ‘This hitter will help me out and swing at a pitch off the plate,’ especially when they’re hot and there are runners in scoring position. Castellanos swings probably 45% of the time in those situations, and we need to know we can expand the plate on him.”

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On Friday, I Tweeted that Castellanos is two months younger, and has one more big-league home run, than Kris Bryant. @GavSLee responded, asking if it makes sense to compare Castellanos to a college draftee who put up 6.5 WAR in his third professional season. It was a fair question, and I think the answer is yes.

What if Bryant had signed out of high school and Castellanos had gone to college? Would either be what the other is now?

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Jose Iglesias was seemingly born to play shortstop. The 26-year-old native of La Habana, Cuba has a gun fighter’s hands and the lithe agility of a ballerina. He makes plays that most infielders only dream of.

Despite heavy skepticism, he can also hit a little. Since the beginning of the 2013 season, no shortstop with at least 900 plate appearances has a higher batting average than his .297.

Batting average can obviously be a hollow stat, and “Iggy” admittedly doesn’t boast a high OBP, nor does he have much pop. Even so, the Red-Sox-turned-Tiger has proven wrong the myriad skeptics who insisted he’d be a black hole with the bat.

“Early in my career, in Boston, it got a little tough,” Iglesias told me on Wednesday. “A lot of people were saying I can’t hit. I heard that a lot and I knew they were wrong. Right now, I’m just happy that I’m do what I’m doing.”

Iglesias has added some muscle to his lean frame, but his biggest gains have come from the neck up.

“My mind is stronger,” said Iglesias. “There is a lot of mental in this game — more so than physical, I believe — and I was able to figure some things out. When I try to go big, I struggle. If I stay with the short game, the line drive game, I’m fine. I’ve also never been a technique guy. I basically go out there and see the ball and hit the ball. I keep it simple. I try to avoid thinking.”

What does he think about having the highest batting average among shortstops over the last three-plus years?

“That’s great,” said a smiling Iglesias. “It’s fun. It keeps me hungry to improve my game and get even better. That’s my goal every day: improve my game and get better.”

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The Atlanta Braves haven’t exactly enjoyed home cooking this year. Their record in soon-to-be-gone Turner Field is an abysmal 1-14. Overall, the NL cellar dwellers are 7-22.

Along with a not-ready-for-prime-time roster, the Braves have played a brutal schedule. More than half of their games have been against the powerhouse Cubs, Mets and Nationals. They’ve also played the Cardinals, Dodgers and Red Sox. Fredi Gonzalez refuses to use that as an excuse.

“The schedule is what it is,” the Atlanta manager said recently. “You can’t change the schedule. You can’t call commissioner Manfred and say, ‘Hey, can you change the rotation they’re throwing against us?’ It is what it is. Not everybody is Cy Young, but sometimes you have to beat Cy Young.”

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Austin Allen is making mincemeat out of Midwest League pitching. In 96 plate appearances with the Fort Wayne TinCaps, the 22-year-old Padres prospect is slashing .425/.510/.538. A fourth-round pick last year out of Florida Institute of Technology. he was the circuit’s player of the month for April.

His hitting approach is pretty straightforward. Allen says he’s looking for balls up in the zone and thinking middle of the field. Blessed with a good eye — he has more walks than strikeouts so far this season — the lefty swinger likes to “attack pitches when they’re in a certain zone, and lay off them if they’re not.”

Allen attributes much of his early success to offseason tutorials. He worked with Johnny Washington, a coach in the Dodgers system, and with Marlins infielder Derek Dietrich. A bigger influence has been Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, who has been more than a workout partner. He’s also been a purveyor of sage advice.

“I tell him that it’s a long season,” Lindor told me. “If you have a bad day, tomorrow is another day. He’s a smart hitter and a hard-working kid, but sometimes he can be too hard on himself. He’s a catcher. He can’t be frustrated, because then he won’t control the game. That’s his job.”

Allen’s defense is considered to be behind his offense, and at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, he’s a big backstop. He’s working hard to hone that part of his game.

“I feel like I’ve come a long way since college, and even since short-season ball,” explained Allen. “Working with Francisco, I’d ask what he sees from Yan Gomes, or from Salvador Perez when he plays against him. What do they do well, and how can I incorporate that into my game? I want to catch, and I want to be the best defensive catcher I can possibly be.”

As for the eye-popping offensive numbers he’s carried through the first month of the season, he’s not letting them go to his head.

“I try not to think about my average and my stats,” said Allen. “I just go out there and try to be consistent with everything I do, both offensively and defensively.”

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Jarrod Saltalamacchia is viewed as an offense-first catcher. The 31-year-old switch hitter strikes out a lot, but he’s always been able to put a charge into a ball. In 2012 with the Red Sox, “Salty” went deep 25 times.

One thing he’s never been able to do is hit in Comerica Park. Now that he’s a Tiger, that’s problematic.

Earlier this week, without citing numbers or specific venues, I asked him about his experience with different hitting environments.

“For me, it’s more of a feel thing,” answered Saltalamacchia. “I was actually telling guys the other day that the one stadium I’ve always hated hitting in is Detroit’s. I never felt like I could see the ball well there. I had that going against me when I came (to the Tigers). I’m starting to become more comfortable, though. Familiarity helps.”

Saltalamacchia suggested depth perception might be a reason — “It’s always seemed real open to me” — and he admits it might be a mental as well. Regardless of the reasons, the numbers are ugly. Salty is 6-for-72 with 36 strikeouts in the park he now calls home.

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Leicester City winning the Premier League got me thinking about the 1914 Boston Braves. The franchise now based in Atlanta had finished the previous season 69-82, their best record in a decade. They’d lost over 100 games each year from 1909-1912.

On July 16, 1914, at the All-Star break, the Braves were 10 games under .500 and 11-and-a-half games out of first place. From that point forward, they went 61-16 and won the National League pennant with a record of 94-59. They then swept the World Series in four games.

As remarkable as Leicester winning their first-ever Premier League title in their 132nd year of existence, against 5,000-to-one odds? Maybe not, but they’re known as “The Miracle Braves” for a reason.

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

ESPN’s Jayson Stark wrote about what we saw in April, in typical Jayson Stark fashion.

Alex Speier of the Boston Globe wrote about Ben Cherington’s decision to teach at Columbia University this past semester. The former Red Sox GM lectured in the School of Professional Studies, where SABR president Vince Gennaro is the director of the sports management program.

MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm was on hand when Alex Anthopoulos reflected on his time with the Blue Jays.

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick wrote about farewell tours, including Chipper’s.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

The Angels (20.4%) have put the highest percentage of pitches in play this season. The A’s (19.9%) and Rangers (19.4%) rank second and third, respectively.

Josh Donaldson received his last intentional walk on September 25, 2014. Since that time he has 51 home runs.

Robinson Cano has the most plate appearances (4,223) of any player since the start of the 2010 season.

Opening Day rosters featured 238 players born outside the United States (27.5%). Of them, 82 are from the Dominican Republic and 63 are from Venezuela.

In 1963, Juan Marichal threw a 16-inning complete game shutout against the Braves. In 1966, he threw a 14 inning complete game shutout against the Phillies. In 1969, he allowed a run in the 14th inning and lost 1-0 to “The Miracle Mets.”

A reminder that the national SABR convention will be held in Miami from July 27-31. Featured speakers include Barry Bonds, Ozzie Guillen, Michael Hill and Don Mattingly.





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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dhakadabay
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dhakadabay

Wasn’t Marichal’s 16 inning shutout in 1963 against Spahn and the Braves (not the Brewers)?