Saturday, January 21, 2017

DrB's 2017 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #49 Jordan Johnson

Jordan Johnson, RHP.  DOB:  9/15/1993.  6'2", 175 lbs.  Drafted in 2014 Round 13 out of Cal State Northridge.

2016 A+:  8-9, 5.33, 120 IP, 2.93 BB/9, 8.33 K/9, 24 HR.

Jordan Johnson came into the 2106 season riding a wave of excitement over his 2015 performance.  After a 32/1 K/BB in the AZL, he was promoted all the way to San Jose and put up a K/9 of 9.48 against a BB/9 of 2.87 in 31.1 IP.  Those number slipped a bit over a full A+ season in 2016 but what blew up his ERA was a severe case of goferitis.  Yes, it was the Cal League, home to several well known launching pads, but the home park in SJ is actually quite pitcher-friendly and 17 of Jordan's 24 dingers allowed came in his home ballpark.  Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs reports that Johnson's velocity was down from 93-96 to the 91-93 MPH range which may be part of the problem, but yet the K/BB remained fairly strong despite the velocity drop.

2017 looms as a critical season for Jordan Johnson.  He has to get the dingers under control to progress toward a MLB career.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Fantasy Focus: Impact Rookies- Jharel Cotton

Jharel Cotton, RHP, A's.  DOB:  1/19/1992.  5'11", 195 lbs.  Drafted by the Dodgers in 2012 Round 20.  Acquired by the A's midseason from the Dodgers in the Rich Hill trade.

2016 AAA(Dodgers):  8-5, 4.90, 97.1 IP, 2.96 BB/9, 11.00 K/9.
2016 AAA(A's):  3-1, 2.82, 38.1 IP, 1.64 BB/9, 8.45 K/9.
2016 MLB(A's):  2-0, 2.15, 29.1 IP, 1.23 BB/9, 7.06 K/9.

We often read or hear about a pitcher's "stuff."  What is "stuff", anyway?  We know it is not the same as performance.  Often the term is used to describe a pitcher whose pitches look great but somehow are not getting batters out.  Often it it used as a synonym for velocity.  Eno Sarris and Alex Chamberlain, who write for Fangraphs, have made an interesting attempt at quantifying "stuff."  Roughly, the method looks at outcomes for individual pitch types such as groundballs, pop ups, swinging strikes, etc, gives them weights based on percentage of usage by the pitcher and impact of each parameter in getting outs and comes up with a single score they have dubbed Weighted Arsenal Score.

It speaks well of the method that the names at the top of the list include well recognized aces such as Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw and Noah Syndergaard.  Jharel Cotton ranked #13 on that list.  Of course his numbers are based on a 29 inning sample size, but still, Jharel Cotton has "stuff."  What Cotton has is 3 plus pitches, FB, cutter and changeup, all of which he has plus command over.  It appears from Fangraphs metrics that the FB is actually split about 2/3 and 1/3 between a 4-seam and 2-seam grip so some analysts would say he has 4 pitches, but the WAS score did not differentiate between the 2 fastballs.

Jharel Cotton was on my final fantasy team roster.  Our commissioner is starting a keeper system which allows us to keep 2 position players and 2 pitchers from last year.  I am seriously considering making Jharel Cotton one of my 2 pitcher keepers.

Hot Stove Update: Bautista and Trumbo Off the Market; An Interesting Trade

Jose Bautista and Mark Trumbo resigned with the the Blue Jays and Orioles respectively.  Bautista got a little more than if he had accepted his QO with a 1 year/$18 M contract with an option for 2018 with a buyout of $1M.  This deal make sense for the Blue Jays but has to be a big disappointment for Bautista who made some rather exorbitant demands last year for a contract extension.  Trumbo's deal is for 3 years/$37 M and is a good fit for both the Orioles and Trumbo who is a 1 dimensional player who should continue to thrive playing in dinger friendly Camden Yards.

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The Reds traded SP Dan Straily to the Marlins for 3 prospects including Luis Castillo, a former Giants farmhand who reportedly was hitting triple digits last year in the Marlins minor league system.  The Reds also got RHP Austin Brice and OF Isaiah White in the deal.  This trade is a nice flip for the rebuilding Reds who picked him up off waivers last year and got a solid season out of him which rebuilt his value.  Straily has had an up and down career and would seem likely to regress again in 2017, but Marlins Park may be a boon to his flyball style.

Castillo is 24 yo and has not pitched above AA.  He is most likely a future MLB bullpen arm.  Brice is your average RP prospect with middling numbers in the minors.  White is a sleeper who hit just .214 last year, but has plus-plus speed and a plus defender in CF.  He is just 20 yo, so has time to develop.

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The Phillies signed OF Michael Saunders to a 1 year/$9 M contract with a team option for 2018 with a $1 M buyout.  Saunders had a great first half last year but was terrible in the second half.  His 140 Games last year was his most since 2013 as he has had recurrent injuries and has a bum knee.  This is a bridge signing for the Phils who are rebuilding.  It's a bit of a head scratcher what the Phils are thinking here as they might be better off in the long run to play Aaron Alther and/or Roman Quinn and give them MLB experience.

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Oft-injured RHP Josh Johnson announced his retirement from baseball after signing a minor league contract with the Giants earlier in the offseason.  You have to think his rehab from his 3'rd Tommy John surgery was not going well.

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The Gregor Blanco era is apparently over in San Francisco as the White Shark signed a minor league deal with the D'Backs.  From 2012-2015, Blanco accumulated a total fWAR of 9.3 as the Best 4'th OF in Baseball.  He played the game with enthusiasm and never complained about starting jobs being handed to others who were not as good all-around players.  His two signature moments were a stunning catch to save Matt Cain's perfect game and as the first leg of a relay throw that nailed Prince Fielder at the plate in the 2012 World Series.  Blanco's defense started to slip the last two seasons which robbed him of a big part of his value.  He also struggled at the plate in 2016 putting his fWAR into negative territory.  While Blanco was one of the best values in baseball for the Giants, he also did quite well for himself financially earning a total of $12.8 M in his 5 seasons in San Francisco.  He should get a lot of very loud cheers at future Giants championship team reunions for the rest of his life.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

DrB's 2017 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #48 Chase Johnson

Chase Johnson, RHP.  DOB:  1/9/1992.  6'3", 185 lbs.  Drafted in 2013 Round 3 out of Cal Poly SLO.

2016:  1-4, 3.27, 52.1 IP, 3.10 BB/9, 6.36 K/9.

What a difference a day makes!  One day, Chase Johnson was one of the more promising SP prospects in the Giants system in AA.  The next, he was pitching out of the bullpen for the Richmond Flying Squirrels.  Not sure exactly why, but the Giants suddenly flipped Dan Slania and Chase Johnson with Big Dan moving into the rotation and Chase moving to the bullpen.  Johnson did eventually move into the closer role for Richmond and ended up with 5 Saves, but it may be ominous that he was shut down on August 7 but the Giants did add him to the 40 man roster for 2017.  Where does he get placed in 2017?

DrB's 2017 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #47 Sandro Cabrera

Sandro Cabrera, LHP.  DOB:  6/22/1995.  6'2", 175 lbs.  International FA.

2015 DSL:  6-2, 2.32, 77.2 IP, 3.01 BB/9, 9.97 K/9.
2016 R:  2-2, 2.81, 41.2 IP, 3.02 BB/9, 8.21 K/9.
2016 A:  0-0, 0.00, 1 IP, 0.00 BB/9, 27.00 K/9.

June birthdays tend to suppress a player's prospect ranking, especially with those obsessed with age vs level.  Cabrera's birthdate meant that even though he had just barely turned 19 yo when signed by the Giants, he did not see game action until his age 20 season which is ancient for the DSL.  You probably need to look at Cabrera in terms of pro experience and he's done everything you would hope for so far. Striking out the side in his 1 inning of A ball work put a nice cap on a successful stateside debut.  I would expect to see him start 2017 in Augusta for his age 22 season, although he will be 21 yo on opening day.

Cabrera is a lefty with an awkward looking delivery.  I don't have a detailed scouting report, but from videos, it looks like he has a low 90's FB with a sharp slider and a changeup.  Likely ceiling is back of the rotation starter or more likely a lefty relief specialist.

Fantasy Focus: Impact Rookies- Andrew Benintendi

Andrew Benintendi, OF, Red Sox.  DOB:  7/6/1994.  B-L, T-L.  5'10", 170 lbs.  Drafted in 2015 Round 1(#7).

2016 A+:  .341/.413/.563, 13 2B, 7 3B, HR, 8 SB, 9.7 BB%, 5.8 K%, 155 PA.
2016 AA:  .295/.357/.515, 18 2B, 5 3B, 8 HR, 8 SB, 9.1 BB%, 11.4 K%, 263 PA.
2016 MLB:  .295/.359/.476, 11 2B, 3B, 2 HR, SB, 8.5 BB%, 21.2 K%, 118 PA.

Well, that didn't take long!  Andrew Benintendi was an early favorite of Covechatter to be the Giants first round draft pick in 2015 only to rocket up draft boards all the way to a top 10 overall pick by the Red Sox, as if they need more talent on that team!  He's now rocketed up their farm system and is now projected to be their starting LF in 2017 and possibly bat second in their lineup where he will have opportunities for RBI's and R to go with double digit HR's and SB's with a .290+ BA.  If you are in OBP leagues, he'll give you that too!  Comp is Adam Eaton, although his defense will be mostly wasted in the shallow LF of Fenway Park.  You don't care about defense in most fantasy baseball leagues, though.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

DrB's 2017 Giants Top 50 Draft Picks: #46 Malique Zeigler

Malique Zeigler, OF.  DOB:  9/8/1996.  B-R, T-R.  6'2", 170 lbs.  Drafted in 2016 Round 22 out of North Iowa CC.

2016 JC:  .395/.490/.726, 16 2B, 22 HR, 31 SB, 35 BB, 43 K, 300 PA.
2016 R:  .290/.384/.419, 4 2B, 2 3B, 4 SB, 13.7 BB%, 20.5 K%, 73 PA.

There are a lot of the Giants 2016 draft picks I really like, but none more than Malique Zeigler.  Do those JC numbers remind you of anyone?  I'll say Juan Carlos Perez, and before you let out a groan, Zeigler is 3 inches taller than Lil Juan P.  Zeigler is a wiry strong 5 tool athlete who looks like he should fill out his frame.  Like a lot of Giants drafted hitters these days, Zeigler has quick, short stroke to the ball. He has shown the plate discipline to draw more than 10% walks while keeping his K's in manageable range.  He's shown speed and power.  Love this kid!

With a glut of OF's in the lower minors and being young enough to not rush him, I expect Zeigler to stay in camp until short season ball starts and then play the summer in Salem-Keizer.