Monday, December 9, 2019

Thoughts on Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller

I don't usually comment too much on the Hall of Fame.  I think it's become a bit of a joke since players from the PED era became eligible.  I will comment on the two people who were elected yesterday.  

Marvin Miller is probably not who most fans would pick for the HOF.  He was the founding director of the MLBPA, an organization many fans, probably falsely, feel vicimized by.  The MLBPA is probably the strongest players union in a major sport and that is largely due to Marvin Miller's efforts on their behalf.  Fans may long for the day when players would spend their whole career with one team and didn't get paid in numbers that don't even make sense to most people.  On the other hand, the Reserve Clause was a highly regressive rule which should never have been legal in the first place. Once the Reserve Clause was abolished, the owners have benefitted as much from the contracts they have signed with the MLBPA because the alternative would be unrestricted free agency.  Marvin Miller deserves to be in the HOF. The only shame in it is he was elected posthumously.

Once upon a time, I thought Ted Simmons was the best hitter in baseball.  Modern defensive metrics would probably not be kind to him, but the man sure could hit.  He was a switch-hitter who had almost identical career slash lines from both sides of the plate.  He was a Joey Votto type hitter who walked more than he struck out with a high BA and decent power.  His breakout season came in 1975 when he slashed .332/.396/.491 with 18 HR.  He then had a down season in 1976, but bounced back with 4 consecutive seasons in which he hit over .280 with at least 20 HR's, OBP's of at least .369 and SLG%'s above .500.  Remember, all this occurred when pitching was still dominant in MLB.  His best seasons were with the Cardinals.  He won a championship with the Brewers but his production at the plate tailed off dramatically after being traded from the Cardinals.  So, I'm all in for Ted Simmons, one of my favorite players from when I was a lot younger.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Scouting the 2020 Draft: Cade Cavalli

Cade Cavalli RHP, College(Oklahoma).  6'4", 220 lbs.

2018:  3-2, 6.75, 17 IP, 13 BB, 18 K.
2019:  5-3, 3.28, 60 IP, 35 BB, 59 K.
2018:  .202/.333/.332, 7 2B, 6 HR, 14.04 BB%, 40.00 K%, 235 PA.
2019:  .319/.393/.611, 5 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 10.71 BB%, 28.57 K%, 84 PA.
2017(Futures League):  0-0, 0.00, 2.1 IP, 2 BB, 3 K's.
2018(Cape Cod League):  0-1, 4.15, 13 IP, 15 BB, 15 K.
2017(Futures League):  .206/.265/.286, 2 2B, HR, 7.35 BB%, 30.88 K%, 68 PA.
2018(Cape Cod League):  .167/.167/.167, 0 BB, 4 K, 6 PA.

Cade Cavalli is a true two-way player who has gradually migrated toward pitching.  Most scouts see him as a pitcher in the draft.  Sources I have read seem to indicate Cavalli is conceding that reality and plans to focus on pitching his junior season.  Tremendous physical tools with plus athleticism despite the large frame.  FB has reportedly hit 99 MPH with a plus curveball and a changeup that projects as average.  Obvious struggles with walks gives him some reliever risk.  If he dramatically cuts down on the walks his junior season, I could see him rising to a top 5-6 pick.  If not, he would profile as someone you would take a flyer on late first or even 2'nd/3'rd round.

Given Farhan Zaidi's obvious belief in a strong player development program, I wonder if he would be more likely to favor drafting a player like this who has a high ceiling but needs development to reach it as opposed to a J.T. Ginn who is more of a high floor type?  I'm going to lean toward yes.

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DrB's Updated 2020 Draft Board:

1.  Austin Martin SS, College(Vanderbilt).
2.  Spencer Torkelson 1B, College(Arizona St).
3.  Emerson Hancock RHP, College(Georgia).
4.  Cole Wilcox RHP, College(Georgia).
5.  Zac Veen OF, HS.
6.  Robert Hassell OF, HS.
7.  Pete Crow-Armstrong OF, HS.
8.  J.T. Ginn RHP, College(Mississippi St).
9.  Jared Kelley RHP, HS.
10.  Mick Abel RHP, HS.
11.  Austin Hendrick OF, HS.
12.  Cade Cavalli RHP, College(Oklahoma).

Friday, December 6, 2019

Hot Stove Update: Trade Market Heats Up

The trade market heated up as the Padres continued to remake their OF situation by acquiring Tommy Pham from the Rays for Hunter Renfroe.  SS prospect Xavier Edwards is also moving from the Padres to the Rays with a PTBNL coming back.  Pham is probably more of an all-around player than Renfroe, but Renfroe has tremendous power that he may be just starting to tap into.  Fangraphs also surprisingly(at least to me) grades Renfroe out as a better fielder.  The Padres seem to be making aggressive challenge trades this hot stove season and it's a challenge to see how they have really helped themselves.

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The Brewers acquired left-handed hitting C Omar Narvaez from the Mariners for a prospect and a CB round draft pick.  I always like the setup of a left-handed hitting primary catcher paired in a straight platoon with a righty hitter.  The Mariners apparently see Tom Murphy emerging as their primary catcher which made Narvaez, who seems to be a bit defensively challenged, expendable.

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The Astros shipped OF Jake Marisnick to the Mets for a couple of minor leaguers.  Marisnick has all the tools in the world but struggles at the plate against RHP's so is limited to the the short end of a platoon and late-inning defensive replacement.  It's not clear how this trade moves the needle much for the Mets.

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The Giants announced a couple of hires:  33 yo Donnie Ecker will be the new hitting coach.  Ecker was the assistant hitting coach for the Reds and is credited with helping Aristides Aquino unlock his power.  Ecker's playing career never got past the low minors and indy ball but he has made a name for himself as a coach at the HS, college and pro levels. The Giants also announced the addition of Mets Director of Pro Scouting Jim D'Aloia to the Giants scouting staff. Aloia is reported to have argued strongly against including Jarred Kelenic in the Cano/Diaz trade.  So far, it looks like he was right in that argument.  I'll give credit to Farhan for casting a wide net and creating new roles for his coaching and scouting hires while bringing in young guys who appear to be very innovative and forward thinking with strong emphasis on getting better performance out of talent already in the organization.  We look forward to seeing results in the field.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Thoughts on Payroll

LG read someplace the Giants payroll target for 2020 is around $140 M.  Now, $140 M is a whole lot of money and quite a bit more than some teams are planning to pay their players, so if that's what the Giants feel they can spend, I should not begrudge them.  It's the rationale that bugs me.  They don't want to get boxed into a corner with more big, longterm contracts.  Again, I don't know what "cap" Giants ownership has given Farhan to work with.  Attendance is down dramatically over the past two seasons.  Spending more money in preceding years has admittedly not resulted in winning and a sold out ballpark.  I have a sneaking suspicion, based on nothing more than suspicion, that perhaps a side project or two may not be progressing as smoothly as drawn up.  Maybe there's a reason why family members of the financial heavy hitters in the ownership group have recently become dramatically more involved?  But all that aside, the Giants are still widely believed to be one of the most financially successful teams in MLB and should be able to afford a payroll close to the CBT target of about $210 M.  So I'm still working with the theorem that the Giants can easily afford whatever the CBT threshold is for a given season.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I'm not suggesting the Giants need to saddle up with a bunch of contracts that get all the way up to the CBT, not just this year but for 5-7 years down the road, but you have to remember their current payroll obligations are not static going forward either.  $140 M is a full $70 M under that target.  On top of that, there is at least another $18 M coming off the books after 2010 and another close to $70 M coming off after 2021 and yet another $13 M after 2022.  I mean, how much payroll flexibility is enough?  Working off the CBT as the "cap", my target for 2020 would be more in the range of $180 M which still gives them $30 M of payroll freedom this year, close to $50 for 2021 and almost unlimited amounts for 2022.

Not that they should spend money just to meet a minimum target, but if there is a player(s) who can help this team now and for 3-5 years into the future, there is no reason to hold back to maintain payroll "flexibility" now or into he future.  Just my opinion.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Hot Stove Update: Pitchers Fly Off Shelves

Each Hot Stove season has it's own character and rhythm.  Last year it seemed like forever before the first major signing took place and several big names remained on the market into February and even beyond.  This year the pace has picked up a lot earlier with pitchers leading the way.  The biggest signing today was Zack Wheeler going to the Phillies on a 5 year/$118 M contract.  That's a long contract for a lot of money for a pitcher with a pretty extensive injury history.  On the other hand, after missing all of 2015 and 2016 and only pitching 86 innings in 2017, the Giants former first round draft pick has turned in two solid seasons of 182 and 195 IP with sub-4.00 ERA's.  As long as he stays healthy, Wheeler should be a solid addition to the Phillies rotation.

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Veteran Cole Hamels signed a 1 year/$18 M contract with the Braves.  Hamels is 36 years old and not the dominating pitcher he once was, but recorded a 3.81 ERA in 141.2 IP last season for the Cubs.  Hamels was reportedly offered 2-year deals but went against the grain and preferred to go 1 year at a time.  Also interestingly, the Giants were rumored to be in on him and actually in serious contention to sign him until the end.

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The Zack Wheeler contract may have set the market for Madison Bumgarner who seems to be in demand by several teams and also seems virtually assured of landing at least a $100 M deal.  There is a report out there that he wants to stay with the Giants but the Giants have already moved on, which is certainly the sense you get from the whole Giants vibe right now.  If I was the Giants GM, would I go for a 5 year/$100 M deal for Bumgarner?  That's $20 M AAV.  Yes, I would do that and double down by trying to add Gerrit Cole too!

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The Angels traded 4 minor league pitchers for RHP Dylan Bundy.  Bundy has settled into a solid innings-eating role and his numbers should benefit from moving out of Camden Yards and the AL East.  He is arbitration eligible this year and next before free agency.

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The Giants hired former MLB pitcher Brian Bannister to be Director of Pitching.  Bannister has been the Red Sox Vice President of Pitching Development for the past several years, but got let go in a reorganization.  If I remember correctly, Bannister was one of the early advocates for incorporating analytics into his own approach to pitching during his playing career.  He is the son of former MLB LHP Floyd Bannister.  Brian was born in Scottsdale, Arizona and pitched college ball at USC, but lives in the Bay Area.

Scouting the 2020 Draft: JT Ginn

J.T.  Ginn RHP, College(Mississippi St).  6'2", 200 lbs.

2019:  8-4, 3.13, 86.1 IP, 19 BB, 105 K.

Draft eligible sophomore.  Did not sign with the Dodgers after being drafted #30 overall in the 2019 draft.  Physically mature.  Two plus pitches:  A mid-90's FB with command and a "wipeout" slider.  Ceiling limited due to physical maturity, but may have the highest floor of any draft prospect pitcher we've profiled so far due to command and strength of college competition.  This type of pitcher tends to rise on boards late in the draft cycle as teams retreat to safety in the first round.  Draft eligible sophs obviously have more signing leverage so drafting teams will have to plan on full slot bonus.

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DrB's Updated 2020 Draft Board:

1.  Austin Martin SS, College(Vanderbilt).
2. Spencer Torkelson 1B, College(Arizona St.).
3. Emerson Hancock RHP, College(Georgia).
4.  Cole Wilcox RHP, College(Georgia).
5.  Zac Veen OF, HS.
6.  Robert Hassell OF, HS.
7.  Pete Crow-Armstrong OF, HS.
8.  J.T. Ginn RHP, College(Mississippi St).
9.  Jared Kelley RHP, HS.
10. Mick Abel RHP, HS.
11.  Austin Hendrick OF, HS.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Hot Stove Update: Giants Sign Free Agent Pitcher

So, the good news is the Giants signed a free agent left-handed pitcher today.  The bad news is he was only a free agent because they did not tender him a contract yesterday.  How's that?  Some of us were scratching our heads yesterday wondering why Farhan non-tendered LHP Tyler Anderson after claiming him off waivers from the Rockies.  I'm sure if you dig deep enough into the intricacies of waiver claims and the arbitration process there is a perfectly logical explanation for the entire sequence of events.  The simple answer is apparently Anderson was willing to agree to a contract presumably for a significantly lower amount than the $2.1 MLBTR projected him to get in arbitration.  Why this was not announced until after the non-tender became official, we may never know.  I'll guess negotiations came down to the wire and they just did not have time to work out the details before the tender deadline.

I wrote something up on Tyler Anderson after the Giants picked him off waivers.  He's a guy who I think has a decent shot at a bounceback season, especially given a change of scenery from Coors Field to Oracle Park.  In addition, he's coming off surgery on a knee that was bothering him last year. That is worth the risk of a very small MLB guaranteed salary.  If it doesn't work out, the monetary risk is minimal.  If it does, I could see Anderson becoming a solid #4 SP in the rotation or a lefty reliever capable of going multiple innings at a time.  If the Giants stay in contention through the season, great.  If not, I could see him bringing back a nice prospect a la Drew Pomeranz.

Again, I don't understand all the machinations, but in the end, Farhan got the result I hoped for so we'll give him a thumbs up on this one.