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Scout Those Kids

   by Bryan Leonard - 09/02/2010

More than any other sport, baseball is a game with a constant flow of newcomers to a roster. Instead of one minor league training area like other sports, baseball has three levels of minor league play. It’s important to keep this in mind as we approach the September call up date, when rosters expand and teams will bring up minor leaguers.
The good teams will bring up top prospects to help them down the stretch. The bad teams will often bring everybody up, looking toward 2011. I recall a few years ago when the Red Sox brought up Dave Pauley to start against the Blue Jays. He was from Double A, but pitched very well and is now a starter in Seattle. The 2005 White Sox brought up several hard throwing young arms from their farm system who helped them to the World Series title.
It’s important for the everyday baseball bettor to keep close tabs on injuries and figure out who a team is going to drop into the everyday lineup as well as the pitching staff. When Francisco Liriano first came up with the Twins, I had a selection on the kid few people had seen because I had tracked his minor league progress.
In my write up I mentioned that, “This is another opportunity to back a terrific young talent before the public knows about him. Francisco Liriano is being compared favorably to his teammate Johan Santana. We were way ahead of the curve on Santana and he has lived up to the hype. We cashed consistently for two years on Santana before he became overpriced. We have the same opportunity here although we doubt it will take two years for the public and the linesmaker to catch up.
“The Twins have a solid bullpen to back him up since Minnesota is limiting his pitches. Minnesota gets the victory as Francisco continues to amaze.” Liriano did amaze in that start, dazzling the Angel hitters and getting an easy win. Best of all for sports bettors, the Twins were an underdog. And that’s the thing with these young relatively unknown pitchers, they are often a dog, providing excellent wagering value. Remember that betting lines in baseball are set largely on the starting pitcher and the betting public is less likely to back a guy they’ve never heard of.
Another thing about young pitchers is that many of them are not ready for the big leagues and are worth a look at as go-against pitchers. The Red Sox currently have very good pitching prospects in the minors, but a team like the Yankees does not and they have had pitching problems in the second half of the season, partly with the injury to Andy Pettitte.
Walks are a major component that struggling young pitchers can have problems with. Check out walks carefully, as that is a key component of the success or downfall of any pitcher. I recall that when Jered Weaver of the Angels first made his debut, he didn’t walk a batter – a telling stat. Young pitchers can offer excellent betting value: For and against!

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