#20 – Chris Iannetta, C, Colorado
I believe the reader will agree immediately that, should we endeavor to compose a brief list of Modern Catching Greats, it would be difficult to exclude from said list the names Yorvit Torrealba and Miguel Olivo. So it makes sense, then, that Rockies coaches Clint Hurdle and then Jim Tracy would limit Iannetta’s major league plate appearances over these last two-plus seasons in favor of aforementioned Greats. This year, however, only Jose Morales and a cadre of prospects stand between Iannetta and starterdom. Accordingly, the 27-year-old Iannetta will be given at least some kind of opportunity to build on a 2008 campaign that saw him post a 3.6 WAR. Has Iannetta struggled at times? One-hundred percent yes. Might he have defensive deficiencies? Possibly. Has he also displayed power and patience not commonly found at the catching posish? Also affirmative. Also, he’s Italian — which, that counts for something.
#19 – Brent Morel, UTIF, Chicago (AL)
Morel makes this list for similar — if not the exact — reasons that Mitch Moreland and Gaby Sanchez do, in that he’s a youngish, low-upside player who nevertheless has the ability to contribute immediately. He differs from Moreland and Sanchez in two important ways. For one, at 24, he’s younger than either of those guys. And for two, Morel’s value lies less in his bat — where his power projects only to be moderate and plate discipline also maybe lacks — and more in his glove. Dave Cameron assures me that he (i.e. Morel) could almost immediately be an Adrian Beltre– or Ryan Zimmerman-type fielder, and could cover short without much trouble. Morel’s likely to beat out Mark Teahen for the starting third base job this season. I’m anxious to watch him do his thang-spelled-with-an-a.
#18 – Felipe Paulino, RHP, Colorado
Paulino was on this team last year, too, having posted an unsightly 6.27 ERA — but only 4.10 xFIP — in 97.2 innings for the Astros in 2009. He returns for this year’s iteration of the Team after only staying healthy enough for 91.2 innings last season — over which span he recorded 1.7 WAR anyway. Paulino continues to feature an impressive fastball — one that finished third among starters last season (behind only Stephen Strasburg and Ubaldo Jimenez) at 95.5 mph — and a slider that, despite Paulino’s poor batted ball luck, has graded out to +2.11 runs for every hundred thrown in his career. He was traded to Colorado for Clint Barmes during the offseason — a move that I’m prepared to describe as “the Houston Astros in a nutshell.”
#17 – Manny Parra, LHP, Milwaukee
I can’t confirm officially that Manny Parra has ever shaken his fist at the heavens and cursed his Maker. If he has done that, though, it wouldn’t be entirely unjust. For, through his 454.1 major-league innings, Parra sports a .336 BABIP against — an almost impossible figure to sustain over such a sample. In fact, of the 2,340 pitchers who’ve thrown more than 400 innings ever, only John Coleman (who flourished 1883-1890 in stints with the Quakers and Alleghenys, among others) tops Parra’s mark, with a .355 BABIP against. It’s entirely possible that something about Parra’s game makes him susceptible to inflated batted ball averages. Still, Parra owns skills that you’d like to see from any pitcher, averaging a 8.28 K/9, 4.50 BB/9, and 48.3 GB% for his career.
#16 – Eric Farris, UTIF, Milwaukee
Farris joins Team Joy Squad for two reasons: first, because he has remained almost entirely anonymous despite having an interesting skill set and, second, because he’s not Yuniesky Betancourt. Let’s treat the latter of those points first. It’s a fact, everyone: Eric Farris is not Yuni Betancourt. Alright, now on to the former point (regarding Farris’s skills, that is). A fourth-round pick by the Brewers in the 2007 draft, Farris has gone 138-for-161 (85.7%) on stolen base attempts in the minor leagues. Moreover, he has struck out in fewer than 10% of all his professional plate appearances, and maintained that rate even after an aggressive promotion to Triple-A (from High-A, that is) in 2010. In the Arizona Fall League, he recorded almost as many stolen bases (9-for-9) as strikeouts (11) in 74 at-bats for the Surprise Rafters. And finally, the Brewers have given him game action at short this spring, where he spent his time not being Yuniesky Betancourt.
Team Joy Squad 2011 (w/ Picks #16 – #25):
C Chris Iannetta, C, COL 1B Gaby Sanchez, FLA 2B 3B SS LF CF RF DH B Eric Farris, UTIF, MIL B Brent Morel, UTIF, CHA B Mitch Moreland, 1B, TEX B Cameron Maybin, OF, SD B Robinson Chirinos, C, TB SP SP SP SP SP P P P P Manny Parra, LHP, MIL P Felipe Paulino, RHP, COL P Jordan Zimmermann, WAS
Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.