Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fantasy Focus: Impact Rookies- Billy Hamilton

Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds.  B-S, T-R, 6'0", 160 lbs., DOB:  9/92013

2013 AAA  .256/.308/.343, 6 HR, 75 SB in 547 PA
2013 MLB  .368/.429/.474, 13 SB in 22 PA.

Steamer 2014 Projection:  .249/.305/.338, 69 SB in 564 PA
Oliver 2014 Projection:     .250/.304/.335, 76 SB, 88 R, 600 PA

With all the games teams play with arbitration eligibility rules these days, it isn't often that a team just announces that a rookie will have a starting job out of spring training allowing fantasy owners to draft him without having to worry about stashing him on the bench for  a third of the season.  This year, the Reds are doing just that with Billy Hamilton.  Hamilton is a player that has interested fantasy baseball owners for several years now due to his prodigious SB totals in the minor leagues.  SB's can be a vexing category because many of the players who produce high SB totals can hurt you in other offensive categories.  Hamilton is no exception, but you might want to roster him anyway because, simply put, he just might win the SB category for you all by himself which frees you up to concentrate on power categories with your other roster spots.

The problem will be how much to pay either in draft position or auction money on draft day.  If your league is anything like mine, there are SB hunters who will know all about Hamilton on draft day and will be willing to pay a premium price for him.  As the song says, "you've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em...."

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #7 Adalberto Mejia

Adalberto Mejia, LHP. 6'3", 195 lbs.  DOB:  6/20/1993.

High A:  7-4,  3.31, 87 IP, 23 BB, 89 K, GO/AO= 0.76.
AAA:  0-0, 3.60, 5 IP, 2 BB, 2 K.
AFL:  1-3, 8.47, 17 IP, 8 BB, 14 K.

Adalberto Mejia was a 6 figure international bonus baby, I think somewhere in the $300 K range.  He made his debut in the DSL in 2011 showing dominant command at a young age.  The Giants were so impressed they jumped him all the way to low A ball for 2011 where he turned another very solid performance after getting off to a shaky start.

2013 saw him more than hold his own in the very tough High A Cal League and he even did OK in an emergency start for Fresno!  He missed a few weeks with an oblique strain early in the season, so the Giants sent him to Arizona Fall League to get in some extra innings.  He got knocked around there a bit in a very small sample size.

Although Mejia has terrific size for a LHP, he has depended more on pitchability and command than velocity although Baggs in his BA scouting report has him sitting at 92-93 MPH which is not too shabby.  He throws 3 solid pitches for strikes and already has a good feel for the change up.  Baggs variously describes his FB as a "2 seam" and having "natural cut."  I'm not sure how that correlates with his rather extreme flyball tendency, as that usually goes along with a 4 seam FB.  The flyball tendency is a possible red flag to me in the face of a low 90's FB and not super-dominant K rate, although both could change as he gets older and stronger.

The positives for Mejia are size, age vs level and command of 3 pitches.  The negatives are the flyball tendency without elite velocity or elite K rates.  He should be a member of the Richmond starting rotation for 2014.  That is a pitching friendly environment, a  great place for him to get stronger, gain experience and solidify his game.  He will still be very young for the level.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Scouting the Draft: Max Pentecost

Credit again to Shankbone for highlighting this guy first.  Pentecost is an athletic college catcher out of Kennesaw St.(for some reason I always associated Kennesaw St with a pitcher named Kyle Heckathorn as I had never heard of it before Heckathorn got some ink as a draft prospect a few years ago).  Pentecost is 6'1", 190 lbs so is on the small size for a catcher, but reportedly is athletic enough to play multiple positions.  His sophomore stat line is not that impressive with a BA of .302 and just 3 HR's, but he won the Cape Cod League MVP hitting .346 with 6 HR in 130 AB, which got him some national notice.  He's a name to watch as the college season gets underway.

BLF has him ranked at #24 overall.  Matt Garrioch at Minor League Ball has him down at #54.  BA has him at #28 and mentions his athleticism and "boffo" CCL.  Kind of the type of sleeper the Giants like to surprise people with and they do like their CCL performances, but he also probably has to put up better numbers at Kennesaw St his junior season to justify anything approaching a #14 overall pick.

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #6 Christian Arroyo

Christian Arroyo, SS.  B-R, T-R.  6'1", 180 lbs.  DOB:  5/30/1995.

Rookie AZL:  .326/.388/.511, 19 BB, 32 K, 184 AB.

With the recent advent of a televised amateur draft in MLB, you have to wonder what impact having pundits instantly analyze a team's choices might influence decisionmaking.  While I am not accusing any teams of playing to the pundits, I think we all know there is at least one team that doesn't give a $#@% what the pundits say!   No team took more heat after the 2014 draft than the San Francisco Giants, mostly for their selection of Christian Arroyo in the first round, #25 overall.

One thing that continues to mystify me is that with all the people out there proclaiming how great sabermetric knowledge is and how it leads to superior decisionmaking, the Giants continue to be one of the most vilified teams in MLB by these self-proclaimed wise men despite decisionmaking by the Giants which follows both classic and cutting edge sabermetric thought.  Arroyo is one example.

Sabermetrics has long held that the hit tool is the rarest tool and the most difficult to develop.  The opening chapter in Moneyball is a flashback to when Billy Beane was a prospect and running 60 yard dash times for scouts, the point being that those 60 yard dash times didn't mean a lot without a hit tool.  Christian Arroyo is a solid enough all-around player.  He's athletic enough to play SS in HS and for Team USA.  On the other hand, he does not have outstanding speed or size or a cannon for an arm.  What he does have is a very good hit tool, and that is why the Giants drafted him.

A great performance in rookie ball the summer of the draft does not make or break a future MLB career, but the Giants have to be pleased as punch with the early returns on their much maligned draft pick.  Arroyo started off a little more slowly than the Giants second round pick, Ryder Jones, but he kept getting stronger as the season went along and finished with the 5 highest BA in the league and led the league in OPS at .896.

Now, I'm sure this comes as news to those who continue to loudly proclaim that the Giants know nothing about sabermetrics and do not value plate discipline, but in the last several years, they have quietly exhibited a strong trend toward drafting hitters who control the strike zone with relatively high walk rates and low K rates with excellent K/BB ratios.  Not that they do it in every case, but the trend is definitely there.

Just for fun, I compared the BB% and K% for Arroyo and several other heralded draft picks who played in the AZL and performed very well:

Christian Arroyo- 9.1 BB%, 15.3 K%
Travis DeMerritte- 16.6 BB%, 28 K%
Clint Frazier-  8.7 BB%, 31.1 K%
Josh Williams- 5 BB%, 21.7 K%
Billy McKinney- 8.3 BB%, 14.1 K%

Interesting that the one guy who comps the closest in that list is McKinney who was drafted by none other than Billy Beane himself.  Some of those guys are bigger and faster than Arroyo and may well end up having a bigger impact at the MLB level, but after years of seeing the the Giants draft "tools" players who couldn't hit a lick, I am more than ready to see if a guy like Arroyo, who turns that equation on its head might also turn out to be a better investment.  My comps for Arroyo, mostly off the top of my head, are Nomar Garciaparra, Ryne Sandberg and Craig Biggio.  The common denominator of those guys is they were not big guys and did not have outstanding tools except they could all hit.

Arroyo should be the starting SS for the Augusta Greenjackets in 2014 in what should be a most interesting first full season for him.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Fantasy Focus: Impact Rookies- Jameson Taillon

After many years of misfiring on high draft picks, the Pirates finally started getting it right and are starting to reap the benefits even as they have managed to build a more competitive team at the MLB level.  If everything goes as planned, it's all about to come together in a perfect storm of talent that will make them very tough to beat for years to come.  Last year it was Gerrit Cole graduating to the majors.  This year, we could see the other half of the two-headed pitching monster, Jameson Taillon join him in the Pirate rotation.

Taillon is a 6'6", 225 lb RHP who throws triple digit heat with some regularity.  A couple of years ago, a video of him blowing FB's past a helpless Joe Mauer went somewhat viral on the internet.  His numbers in AA and AAA last year were not quite as dominant as the reputation of his stuff:

AA 4-7, 3.67, 110.1 IP, 36 BB, 106 K.
AAA 1-3, 3.89, 37 IP, 16 BB, 37 K.

Like many hard throwers, the walks are a bit on the high side and his ERA is higher than you would like to see from a guy you expect dominance from, but Cole had similar ERA's and seems to have settled in nicely at the MLB level.

The Pirates expect Taillon to start the season in AAA, but GM Neil Huntington isn't ruling anything out, saying he's learned to "never say never."

Taillon is a guy you will want to follow closely and consider rostering as soon as he hits the majors.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #5 Mac Williamson

Mac Williamson, OF.  B-R, T-R, 6'5", 240 lbs.  DOB: 7/15/1990

High A:  .292/.375/504, 25 HR, 10 SB, 51 BB, 132 K in 520 AB.

Mac was the Giants 3rd round draft pick in 2012 out of Wake Forest.  After a cameo in Arizona that summer, he was assigned to Salem-Keizer where he raked NWL pitching to a slash line of .342/.392/.596 with 7 HR in 114 AB. The Giants promoted him aggressively to San Jose for his first full pro season.  There, he started off hot for his first few games but then suffered an injury diving to make a catch early on.  He missed several games and then struggled for the remainder of April and May.  He turned things around in June hitting .320 and kept getting hotter as the year went along hitting .321 in July and .356 in August.  He slashed .331/.408/.578 with 16 HR after the All Star break and hit .412 over the last 10 games of the regular season.

Williamson is an exceptional athlete who, despite being listed at 240 lbs actually looks lean! He's got speed to steal an occasional base and covers more than enough ground to play corner OF, possibly even in AT&T Park.  His arm is a cannon.  He tied for the league lead in OF assists with 15 including 3 in one game on August 31!

Mac now faces the big test that all Giants hitting prospects seem to face, the dreaded AA Eastern League.  The concern, as with all tall, lanky looking hitters is that his swing will be too long for more advanced pitching and he will have trouble controlling the strike zone.  His K rates so far, while not stellar, have been more than manageable.  Were his early season struggles in SJ due more to a nagging injury or more to adjusting to the league? How he responds to the challenge will go a long way toward telling us if Mac has a future as a middle of the order force in the Giants lineup or not.

Scouting the Draft: Michael Chavis

Gotta give credit to Shankbone for spotlighting this kid first over on You Gotta Like These Kids.  Brian Sabean has a long history of returning to strategies that have worked for him in the past and abandoning ones that have failed.  Since John Barr took over Scouting Director duties, the Giants have tended to target a certain type of position player emphasizing the hit tool over the other 4 major tools, catching, throwing, running and power.

If you believe that the Giants are happy with their choice of Christian Arroyo in the first round of last year's draft, then you should also be interested in Michael Chavis in the upcoming 2014 draft as it would be difficult to find two more similar players.  Chavis is a Georgia HS player with unimposing size at 5'11", 180 lbs.  He is listed as a 3B, SS, OF, but his best position as a pro is probably 3B.  His best tool, by far, is the hit tool.  PG describes his bat as "very fast."  While his other tools are not outstanding, he is above average in all of them.  The power is more than adequate as he homered in 5 different PG tourneys and won the PG AA HR Derby!  He runs a 6.68 60 yard dash and his IF throws have been clocked at 90 MPH.

As you might guess from his size, he has a very simple, direct, quick swing that gets to the ball quickly with power to drive it.  He tends to have a level, line drive swing but added some uppercut to win the HR derby.  He does have a bit of a front leg kick although not exaggerated.

BLF does not have in ranked in their top 50 draft prospects.  BA has him at #42 with the comment, "5-foot-11 gamer offers all-around skills with plus bat speed, contact ability, and above-average raw power to go with above average wheels and arm."  Matt Garrioch has him all the way up at #22 at Minor League Ball.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #4 Andrew Susac

It seems like we got the Andrew Susac discussion out of the way in the Heath Hembree post, but we can keep it going here or circle back to talk about Hembree or we can move on to other prospects.

Andrew Susac, C.  B-R, T-R.  6'2", 210 lbs.  DOB:  2/22/1990

AA   .256/.382/.458, 12 HR,  42 BB, 68 K in 262 AB.
AFL  .360/.507/.480, 2 HR, 16 BB, 11 K in 50 AB.

Susac put up very strong numbers in the first half for AA Richmond, a place that is usually kryptonite for Giants hitting prospects.  His numbers tailed off in the second half and he got shut down early with injuries raising questions about whether the first half was due to sample size idiosyncracies or the second half was due to the injuries.  Susac mostly answered those questions with a most impressive showing in the AFL putting himself in position to start 2014 at AAA Fresno.

There  is really nothing at all to not love about Susac's batting line except for the time missed due to injury.  With a projection over 600 PA's, he's at 24 HR's over a full season which is most impressive for the EL.  He's got the tremendous OBP and both his walk rates and K% are beyond solid.

So, it really comes down to whether he can polish up the finer points of catching in the pros and can he stay on the field for a full season?  If his AA and AFL numbers are any indication, he should destroy PCL pitching when at the plate.

Looks like 2015 season will bring with it some very big decisions involving the catcher position which almost automatically drags 1B and/or 3B into the discussion and possibly LF too!  Great, great problem to look forward too!

Just for fun, here are Susac's MLB projections for 2014(this is if he skipped AAA and went straight to the majors):

Steamer:  .238/.317/.384, 13 HR in 450 PA.
Oliver:     .229/.313/.374, 16 HR in 600 PA.

Fantasy Focus: Impact Rookies- George Springer

Just a random observation, but John Sickels seems to have developed writer's block on the Giants top 20 prospect list.  It's a tough one to rank, I'll give him that.

George Springer is one of the more interesting prospects in baseball from a fantasy perspective.  He's a 5 tool OF talent who weighs in at a strapping 6'3", 200 lbs, a first round draft pick, #11 overall out of Connecticut in 2011.  His progress through the minor leagues has been rapid and he destroyed both AA and AAA pitching last year:

AA    .297/.399/.579, 19 HR, 23 SB in 273 AB.
AAA  .311/.425/.636, 18 HR, 22  SB, in 219 AB.

The Astros have quite a few OF's on their roster, but none who should stand in the way of Springer entering their lineup.  Since they will not be contending in 2014, Springer will likely start the season in AAA if for no other reason than to delay his arbitration clock, but whenever his does get the call, he will be immediately rosterable on fantasy teams, especially in deeper leagues.

Just for fun, his Steamer projection is .256/.330/.460 with 5 HR, 6 SB in just 131 PA.  His Oliver projection is not as optimistic as his Steamer, .222/.307/.427, 26 HR, 26 SB in 600 PA.  The one concern about him is his strikeout rate of about 25% in the minors which could rise in his MLB debut and hold down his BA.  Still, a 25/25 guy is going to have serious fantasy value irrespective of his BA.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #3 Heath Hembree

Heath Hembree, RHP.  6'4", 210 lbs.  DOB:  1/13/1989.

AAA  1-4, 4.07, 55.1 IP, 16 BB, 63 K, 31 Saves.
MLB  0-0, 0.00, 7.2 IP, 2 BB, 12 K's.

Heath Hembree was what has become recognizable as a typical Giants college relief pitcher draft pick when they nabbed him out of little known College of Charleston in round 5, 2010.  He almost immediately started ringing up strong strikeout ratios while developing a reputation for throwing a high 90's fastball.  He moved up quickly in the organization reaching AA in the second half of his first full season, 2011.

He started 2012 in AAA with some anticipation that he could be an early callup to the majors, but ran into command and arm fatigue problems.  He as back in AAA for 2013 and in May and June it was starting to look like he might have reached his ceiling, putting up a 5.73 ERA in May which ballooned to 7.84 in June.  Reports of his velocity seemed fine, but he was reportedly relying on the velocity with poor command and essentially no secondary stuff.  The Giants Pitcher Whisperers went to work and his numbers improved considerably in the last two months with sub-3 ERA's in both July and August.  Even though his full season ERA was only slightly better than 2012, his K/9 and BB/9 were both significantly improved.

The improvement got him a September callup where he was most impressive in his 9 appearances.  I saw several of his appearances on TV.  He had a FB that registered 92-94 MPH on the radar gun but appeared to get on hitters quicker and harder than that.  It also appeared to have excellent life with late movement.  He also had a tight slider or cutter with a late hooking, downward break that was a swing and miss pitch.

Best of all, he looks just a little bit crazy or off-center out on the mound which, IMO, is an essential quality for an ace MLB closer or setup man.  He is similar in size to Brian Wilson.  Whereas Wilson had that kind of crazed, vacant stare, Hembree has this nasty lip curling thing that he does with a slightly different look in his eye, but just as inscrutible as BWeezy's.

There has been some carping about his velocity being lower than advertised.  I believe this is a purposeful dialing back to gain command and movement.  That he was able to do it and add the effective secondary pitch in such a short period of time, bodes well for the future, IMO.

Barring injury or a complete loss of command, I see Hembree as a lock to make the Giants 25 man roster pitching out of the bullpen where he should continue his dominance.  This proximity to the majors coupled with a high probability of success and an eventual ceiling as high as MLB closer is what got him the #3 ranking on my 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects list.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Hot Stove Update: Tanaka Posted

Just as the Hot Stove seemed to have died down to a bed of barely warm coals, the Japanese League Rakuten Golden Eagles announced that they will indeed post RHP Masahiro Tanaka making him available to come to the USA to play baseball.  Tanaka, just for a quick review, is 25 years old and ran up some pretty ridiculous numbers last year going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in the Japanese Pacific League.

His impending transfer to MLB is comparable to Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish in past years, but the process is different in his case due to MLB flexing it's muscle and forcing a revised process onto the Japanese teams.  Whereas teams in the past had to submit sealed posting bids for the right to negotiate exclusively with the player, in Tanaka's case, the maximum posting bid is $20 M which buys the team the right to negotiate amongst other teams posting the maximum amount with the player.  The effect of this is to shift the leverage from the posting team in Japan to the player.  Whereas the Red Sox and Rangers paid very large posting fees for "Dice K" and Darvish respectively, the players ultimately signed relatively small contracts because they could only negotiate with one team.  Since the posting fee of $20 M is relatively small in comparison to his overall cost, and because only the team that ultimately signs him actually loses the $20 M, it is expected that multiple teams will submit the maximum posting fee.

 With pretty much all of the heavy hitters in the baseball market expected to be involved in the bidding, Tanaka is not going to come cheaply.  Initial speculation has his expected contract in the $100 M range.  Given what we have seen so far this offseason, I think it will probably be higher than that.  Just the fact that the signing of FA pitchers has come to a virtual halt tells you that the market for Tanaka is probably already overheated.  All of the FA pitchers on the market come with major baggage, loss of draft pick, history of injury, history of inconsistent performance.  Tanaka is now THE premier pitcher available on the market.  My guess is $100 M will merely be the opening bid.  A final number of $200 M would not shock me in the slightest.

The burning questions for Giants fans is, should the Giants enter the bidding and will the Giants enter the bidding?    As for the posting fee, there is virtually no risk involved in that since the money does not get paid out unless the player is actually signed.  As for whether there is any point in doing that, probably not.  Sabes already said that the Giants have "moved on" from Tanaka and has also said they are not comfortable adding any more large, longterm commitments than they already have.  In short, the Giants are not going to be signing anyone to a $100 M contract let alone what it is likely to cost to sign Tanaka.

Much of Giants fans angst over the situation is undoubtedly linked to the fear that the Dodgers will do what the Dodgers have been doing under their new ownership and blow everyone else out of the water, sign Tanaka to give them a super-rotation while the Giants sit on their hands up north.  That may well happen and if that is what the Dodgers want to do, probably what WILL happen.  The problem is, if that is what the Dodgers WANT to do, having the Giants involved in the bidding will not stop it from happening.  Simply put, if the Dodgers have decided they want Tanaka, they will not be outbid, period!

Personally, I am not convinced this is what the Dodgers want to do, but we'll see.  The Yankees also appear to be a natural fit while the Rangers appear to be interested and have the Darvish history to back them up.  The Chicago Cubs are rumored to be ready to wage war for Tanaka.  The D'Backs seem to be making some noise on the Tanaka front but if they have the financial resources to sign him, it will be the final destruction of the entire concept of a small market team and of any financial constraints on baseball salaries whatsoever.

In summary, Masahiro Tanaka will likely be a solid addition to any MLB pitching staff.  He will not be an undervalued commodity, if such a concept is even relevant anymore.  I would love to see Tanaka pitching in a Giants uniform next season.  I do not expect to see that happen!

Merry Christmas!

.....and Happy Holidays, everybody!  Hope the New Year brings a much improved season for the Giants.

Pray for Peace!

Dr B

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Scouting the Draft: Monte Harrison

Monte Harrison is a HS player with tools coming out of Missouri.  He plays OF, 3B and pitches.  B-R, T-R.  6'2", 195 lbs.  PG calls him a "very projectable all around talent."  His 60 time is 6.65 and his throws from the OF have been clocked at 97 MPH.  They call the bat "projectable" and add that it "made great strides this summer."

One problem is he is a two-sport star who is also an accomplished wide receiver in football.  He is committed to Nebraska and may want to go to school to pursue both sports.

BLF does not have in ranked in their top 50 draft prospects.  BA has him at #41. Minor League Ball also has him at #41.

There are several reasons why the Giants probably won't draft him:  There are other, higher ranked, toolsy players who will be available at #14.  He may not be still be on the board in round 2.  The Giants are unlikely to want to compete with the 2 sport option when it comes to bonus negotiations.

Monday, December 23, 2013

DrB's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #2 Edwin Escobar

Sorry for the slow pace of posting right now.  I've been hit by a back-to-back GI virus followed by a respiratory virus.  Hard to build up much enthusiasm for posting when every pain receptor in your body is firing full blast and you are coughing your brains out.  OK, in the words of the immortal Sweet Brown, "...ain't nobody got time for that!"

Edwin Escobar, LHP.  6'2", 200 lbs.  DOB:  4/22/1992.

High A  3-4, 2.89, 74.2 IP, 17 BB, 92 K, GO/AO= 1.00.
AA        5-4, 2.67, 54 IP, 13 BB, 54 K, GO/AO= 0.88.

Once I got past Kyle Crick at #1, I immediately faced 9-10 legitimate candidates for #2.  I felt Escobar got some separation from the other second tier pitchers by being the one who got the promo to AA midseason as well as some postseason kudos from Brian Sabean.  There were a few hitters to consider too as well as a couple of very high ceiling kids in Gustavo Cabrera and Keury Mella.  Ultimately, Escobar's proximity to the majors and high probability of making it, possibly as soon as 2014 won the day and I named him #2 prospect in the system.

Escobar came to the Giants in a trade with the Texas Rangers when they wanted to keep Rule 5 Draft pick Ben Snyder in the spring of 2010.  The Giants had scouted him in Venezuela prior to the Rangers signing him in 2008. He didn't do much in his first two seasons in the Giants organization, but turned it up a notch with Low A Augusta in 2012 with a line of 7-8, 2.96, 130.2 IP, 32 BB, 122 K.  He then backed that up with his terrific season for SJ and Richmond in 2013.

Bagg's scouting report from BA says he got serious about conditioning before the 2012 season which helped give him the strength to keep his elbow from dropping.  Once again, we see conditioning as being key to a player's performance.  He features a FB that goes 92-93 MPH with good location, a good slider that can be a "put away" pitch at times and a changeup that is average to plus.  With the 3 pitch mix, he should be able to hang as a starter at the MLB level.  I've also read that he has become skilled at altering speeds on his pitches never throwing the exact same velocity on two pitches in a row. I forgot where I read it, though.

I expect him to start the season in Fresno where he will be the #2 option after Yusmeiro Petit should the need for additional starters on the MLB team arise during the season.  If that does not come to pass, I expect him to replace Vogelsong in the rotation in 2015, but by that time there could be at least 2 or more other pitching prospects knocking on the door.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

DrB's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #1 Kyle Crick

Kyle Crick  RHP:  DOB 11/30/1992.  6'4", 220 lbs.  Drafted Supplemental First Round #49 2011.

High A:  3-1, 1.57, 68.2 IP, 39 BB, 95 K.

AFL:  0-1, 2.87, 15.2 IP, 11 BB, 24 K.

As is often the case, the Giants farm system has a consensus #1 top prospect and the consensus has it right!  Despite a 6 week layoff early in the season for an oblique strain, Crick put a headlock on the #1 position by demonstrating dominant stuff and with dominant performances on the field.

On the mound, he looks so much like Matt Cain if you did not know which one was pitching, you probably could not tell just by looking from the stands, all the way from his physical appearance down to his stance, windup and delivery.  Much like Cain, he features a hard, hopping fastball that sits at 96 MPH.  Also like Cain, especially in his early days, his secondary stuff is still developing and inconsistent leaving him without an out pitch at times.  He has a hard curveball with decent downward bite when he can command it.  His changeup sits in the high 80's and even the low 90's!  I know I saw some pitches that I could not identify as anything other than changeups that were 90 and 91 MPH.  In a recent interview, Jeff Arnold mentioned that his changeup is a bit firm and he ideally needs to achieve more separation in velocity from the FB.

Folks will undoubtedly bring up the walk rates, which are a concern.  I believe these are fixable and in the process of being fixed.  Crick's inconsistency in control is more game-to-game than pitch-to-pitch or inning-to-inning.  He has games where he keeps the walks down to 0-2, so has shown the ability to maintain control through a full start. In his last 4 AFL appearances he pitched 9 innings with 12 K's and just 3 BB's.  I believe that by the time he arrives in the major leagues, he will not be walking people in bunches.

Brian Sabean has said that the only thing holding him back right now is the need to ramp up his innings to MLB levels in the wake of the early season layoff.  I expect him to start the season heading the rotation in AA Richmond where he should dominate as long as he stays healthy, with the possibility of a midseason promotion to Fresno.  An MLB appearance sometime in 2014 is not out of the question.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Hot Stove Update: Choo Choo Stops in Texas

In a not terribly surprising development, Shin-Soo Choo signed a contract to play for the Texas Rangers for 7 years/$130 M.  Perhaps the most interesting thing about this contract is it is for $10 M less than he reportedly turned down from the Yankees.  Just for fun, let's look at the contracts for the top 3 FA OF's this offseason:

Hunter Pence 5 years/$90 M.  Pence has accumulated a total of 24.5 WAR over his last 7 MLB seasons for an average of 3.5 WAR/Season. 2013 WAR 5.4.

Jacoby Ellsbury 7 years/$140 M.  Ellsbury has accumulated a total of 22.4 WAR over his last 6 MLB seasons for an average of 3.8 WAR although he had that one stupendous year of 9.1 WAR which accounts for almost half the total.  2013 WAR 5.8.

Shin-Soo Choo  7 years/$130 M.  Choo has accumulated a total of 22.8 WAR over his 6 full MLB seasons for an average of 3.8 WAR.  2013 WAR 5.2

All 3 players had very similar production over the course of their careers and in their most recent season.  The Giants signed Hunter Pence for 2 years/$50 M less than Ellsbury and for 2 years/$40 M less than Choo.

I do not expect ballpark change to be a factor with Choo as the stadiums in both Texas and Cincinnati are quite hitter friendly.

Cincinnati GM Walt Jocketty reiterated that Billy Hamilton is the Reds projected starting CF for 2014 which has major fantasy implications as he will be an elite base-stealing threat, but may be a liability in other offensive categories.

Thoughts on Eric Surkamp

Eric Surkamp's story makes a nice case study in the differences between scouting and statistical analysis in how they impact the evaluation of baseball prospects.  The Giants drafted Surkamp in 2008 in the 6'th round out of North Carolina State where he was part of a 1-2 starting pitcher tandem with the much more heralded Andrew Brackman.  Surkamp put up strong numbers for NC State, but scouts were less impressed by his stuff.  Here is a pre-draft scouting report from PG Crosschecker, a scouting oriented site:

"...Surkamp does not throw particularly hard and his stuff is marginal by pro standards.  His fastball is just in the 86-89 mph range though will touch 90, but he has an advanced feel for pitching and can keep hitters off balance with a 3 pitch mix...He has a good changeup and an average breaking ball, but needs to spot those pitches, along with his fastball, consistently to be effective."  An update later in the college season said, ".....a good feel for pitching but ordinary stuff."

He signed fairly late in his draft year and pitched just 17.1 innings between Arizona and S-K. He knocked around a bit, but had a solid 23 K against 5 BB's with a 1.55 GO/AO.  He put up remarkably consistent and quite dominant numbers over the next 3 seasons while moving up one level per season:

2009  11-5, 3.30, 131 IP, 39 BB, 169 K, GO/AO= 1.16.
2010   4-2,  3.11, 101.1 IP, 22 BB, 108 K, GO/AO= 0.91.
2011   10-4, 2.02, 142.1 IP, 45 BB, 170 K, GO/AO= .97.

I googled Eric Surkamp Scouting Report and found a lot of interesting articles from this period mostly making the case that Surkamp's numbers trumped his mediocre scouting reports.  I remember a few internet legends sprouting up.  One was that the secret to his success was a devastating curveball and another that his velocity was actually closer to 92 MPH.

He was called up from AA in 2011.  I had never actually seen him pitch in the minors so I watched his first MLB start with some anticipation and curiosity about his stuff.  I remember being disappointed.  The scouting reports were remarkably accurate.  His fastball might have touched 90 mph once, but sat at around 88 and tended to be up in the zone.  The curveball, which was supposed to be his big strikeout pitch was more of a slurve and did not appear to do much on it's way to the plate.  The changeup certainly did not make anyone forget Noah Lowry's MLB debut.  He made a total of 6 starts and finished with line of 2-2, 5.74, 26.2 IP, 17 BB, 13 K, GO/AO= 0.68.
I read a PitchFx analysis of his MLB stint which confirmed that his average FB velocity as just under 88 MPH and tended to be up in the zone.

John Sickels of Minor League Ball who is a statistics oriented analyst ranked him at #7 in his 2012 Giants Top 20 prospect list 1 slot ahead of Kyle Crick.  I think his comment is most interesting and stands in contrast to the earlier PG Crosschecker comments:  "Doesn't throw hard, but has the statistical components of a power pitcher, excellent K/IP's and few hits, in the minors anyway.  Was more tentative in the majors once the scouting reports got aroundand was hit hard.  I think he can adjust and become a solid number 4 starter." His comment about Crick, "High ceiling arm, potential for four major league pitches with a workhorse body, still refining command.  Could be a top prospect in the system in 2 years but isn't there yet."

I think you can sense the distinct difference in tone between Sickels, who looks at Surkamp's numbers and sees dominance, and his relatively faint praise for Crick's raw talent as opposed to PG Crosschecker's fairly open disdain for Surkamp's stuff.

I saw Surkamp pitch in spring training of 2012 against a relatively weak Mariners travel squad, but came away more impressed than I was from what I saw in 2011.  His fastball seemed to have a little more life and he commanded his 3 pitch mix well keeping the Mariner batters off balance.  He outpitched none other than Felix Hernandez that day!  I thought he would start the season in Fresno but be the first option for a callup and I was optimistic that his second chance in the majors would go a lot better than his first.  Of course, the 2012 season was the lost to injury and ultimately TJ surgery.

Surkamp came back from TJ around mid-season of 2013.  He pitched well for Fresno winning 7 games with a sub-3 ERA, but his K/9 took a hit coming in just under 7 and he continued to show a strong flyball tendency.  He got 1  MLB start and was hammered as we all know.

He got caught in a numbers crunch and was DFA'd from the 40 man MLB roster yesterday to make room for Mike Morse and Ryan Vogelsong.  This does not automatically spell the end of his Giants career, but certainly puts up a huge question mark around his future with the team.  Just the fact that the Giants apparently prefer to keep Hunter Strickland on the 40 man roster than Surkamp probably tells you a lot.  Personally I was willing to chalk up the drop in K rate and the shellacking he took in the MLB start to not being back to full strength from the TJ surgery.  I was kind of looking forward to seeing what he could do in his first full season back, figuring he would start out in Fresno where we might see a return of the high K numbers.  I did make note that Sabes sounded annoyed with his performance at the end-of-season press conference and wondered if that might be a sign of trouble ahead for Surkamp's Giants career.  I guess we found out yesterday!

The story is not finished yet, and the ending may be forever inconclusive because of the injury that came at a key moment in his career, but as it currently stands, the lesson is, don't trust minor league stats if they are not supported by the scouting report!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects

This actually came together a lot faster than I thought it would.  I figure no sense in agonizing.  I've always taken tests on the premise that your first answer is usually the best and it's held me in very good stead.  There were really just 2 names that I had to think long and hard on:  Gustavo Cabrera and Keury Mella.

Had Cabrera not suffered that terrible injury early in the offseason, he would have been my #2 overall and I would not have had to think about it long.  He's a premium 5-tool position prospect whose on-field performance in the second half of the DSL bodes well for his future development.  With the severity of the injury and the uncertainty of full recovery, I will discuss him in the Dominican Dandies section.

With Mella, I honestly think he might be the #2 pitching prospect in the organization.  I initially penciled him in at #2 overall, but then got to thinking there is a long road between rookie ball and the major leagues.  Just ask Waldis Joaquin and Jose Valdez!  In the end it doesn't really matter whether Mella is #2 or #14.  If he's #2 it just bumps guys who other analysts have higher down a notch.  If he's as low as #14, it is a terrific sign for the organization that a kid like that is ranked that low!

Again, please don't get too hung up on the exact order here.  The main value of the exercise is it gives us a chance to become better acquainted with some of the prospects the Giants have in their farm system.  On with the list!

1.  Kyle Crick, RHP
2.  Edwin Escobar, LHP
3.  Heath Hembree, RHP
4.  Andrew Susac, C
5.  Mac Williamson, OF
6.  Christian Arroyo, SS
7.  Adalberto Mejia, LHP
8.  Clayton Blackburn, RHP
9.  Ty Blach, LHP
10. Chris Stratton, RHP
11. Joe Panik, 2B
12. Kendry Flores, RHP
13. Joan Gregorio, RHP
14. Keury Mella, RHP
15. Gary Brown, OF
16. Derek Law, RHP
17. Martin Agosta, RHP
18. Ryder Jones, 3B
19. Angel Villalona, 1B
20. Ricky Oropesa, 1B
21. Chase Johnson, RHP
22. Jesus Galindo, OF
23. Ehire Adrianza, SS
24. Mike Kickham, LHP
25. Cody Hall, RHP
26. Josh Osich, LHP
27. Jarrett Parker, OF
27. Adam Duvall, 3B
29. Chuckie Jones, OF
30. Matt Duffy, SS
31. Jeff Arnold, C
32. Mitch Delfino, 3B
33. Alberto Robles, SS/2B
34. Ian Gardeck, RHP
35. Stephen Johnson, RHP
36. Tyler Horan, OF
37. Shilo McCall, OF
38. Blake Miller, 1B
39. Brandon Bednar, SS
40. Brian Ragira, OF
41. Jeremy Sy, SS
42. Dan Slania, RHP
43. Pat Young, RHP
44. Luis Ysla, LHP
45. Donald Snelton, LHP
46. Carlos Diaz, LHP
47. Johnshwy Fargas, OF
48. Jonah Arenado, 3B
49. John Riley, C
50. Dylan Brooks, RHP

Honorable Mention:  Brett Bochy RHP, Chris Dominguez, Ryan Lollis OF, Jack Snodgrass LHP, Myles Schroder 3B, Devin Harris OF, Bryce Bandilla LHP, Hunter Strickland RHP, Rando Moreno SS, Joe Rapp 1B, Shayne Houck 3B, Joe Biagini RHP, Matt Lujan LHP, Mason McVay LHP, Tyler Mizenko RHP, Joe Kurrasch LHP, Steve Okert LHP, Eugene Escalante C, Ryan Tuntland 2B, Ryan Jones, 2B, Tyler Hollick OF, Ty Ross C, Chris Johnson RHP, Andrew Leenhouts LHP, Cameron McVey RHP, Raymundo Montero RHP, Christian Jones LHP, Eduardo Encinosa RHP, Nick Jones LHP, Ben Leslie OF, Christian Paulino 3B, Craig Massoni 1B, Dusten Knight RHP, Carlos Alvarado RHP, Eury Sanchez RHP, Nick Gonzalez LHP, Nick Vander Tuig RHP.

Dominican Dandies:  Gustavo Cabrera OF, Nataniel Javier 3B, Jean Angomas OF, Carlos Valdez OF, Kleiber Rivas C, Eusebio Encarnacion RHP, Jose Morel RHP, Raffi Vizcaino RHP, Cesar Yanez RHP, Luis Castillo RHP, Michael Santos RHP

Fantasy Focus: Impact Rookies- Javier Baez

Javier Baez is a member of a rare breed, power hitting shortstop prospects.  He's coming up through the Cubs organization and looks like the cornerstone building block they will build their team around for the future.  He's a former first round draft pick(#9 overall) in 2011 out of Puerto Rico.  His power numbers have been coming on strong and he hit a total of 37 dingers between High A and AA last year.  Looking at his numbers, he appears to be a free swinger with relatively low walk rates and relatively high K numbers.  He is someone who could move to 3B and his bat would be just fine there, but the Cubs are keeping him at SS for now.

At 6'0", 190 bls, he's not a real big guy, but remember that Hank Aaron and Willie Mays were not big dudes either and somehow managed to hit over 1400 HR's between them.

He only played half a season at AA last year, so I would guess he starts out in AAA.  If Starlin Castro continues to struggle at SS or if the Cubs need a 3B, which they almost certainly will, I could see a relatively early callup.  Again, he will be rosterable at 3B, but a potential monster at SS.

Just for fun, here is his Oliver projection for MLB in 2013:

.245/.297/.489, 33 HR, 5.5 BB%, 32.2 K%, 4.3 WAR.

Hot Stove Update/Fantasy Focus: Twins Trade Ryan Doumit to the Braves

This is an interesting little trade worth commenting on from a fantasy perspective too.  The Twins traded Ryan Doumit to the Atlanta Braves for LHP prospect Sean Gilmartin.

The fantasy impact here is that Doumit is a pretty good hitter who has mostly DH'd or played LF for the Twins but has catcher eligibility in most fantasy leagues.  This means that even though he is a terrible defensive catcher and doesn't catch much, he has a lot of fantasy value because most fantasy leagues don't count defensive stats and he gets more playing time than most catchers.  That all goes away as he moves back to the NL where the Braves will likely use him mostly as a PH and backup catcher.  In short, he pretty much loses all fantasy value!

Gilmartin is a cautionary tale about the fate of polished college pitchers with marginal stuff.  He's a soft-tossing LHP, former first round draft pick out of Florida St., who can get it up to 90 MPH but mostly works in the high 80's with very good secondary stuff.  He did well in the lower minors but stumbled in AAA.  Of course, he also had some shoulder issues so that could have impacted his performance.  Gilmartin fits the mold of the type of pitcher the Twins like to run out there.  Pitch to contact, keep the walks down, keep it in the ballpark and hope to win a lot of 5-4 and 6-5 games.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Scouting the Draft: Aaron Nola

The Top 50 list is coming along.  I have identified 86 Giants prospects to consider for the list.  I think I have a pretty good handle on the top 20 at this point.  Now gotta pare down the remaining 66 to 30.  Great problem to have though!

Aaron Nola is a RHP from LSU.  He is a pitchability guy with a 4 pitch mix(4S, 2S, Curve and Change), all at least average to above average with plus command.  He's on the small side for a pitcher at 6'1", 183 lbs.  He has a low release point, a bit Romo-esque. Here's his college numbers:

2012  7-4, 3.61, 89.2 IP, 7 BB, 89 K.
2013  12-0, 1.68, 118 IP, 17 BB, 117 K.

He will be LSU's Friday night starter and is expected to dominate in his Junior season.

BLF has him ranked #27.  Matt Garrioch at Minor League Ball has him at #28 while BA has him at all the way up at #10 with the comment that he has "excellent life on a low 90's fastball and a plus changeup.".

Nola probably does not fit the profile of what the Giants look for in a first round pitcher.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hot Stove Update: D'Backs Trade Matt Davidson for Addison Reed

The D'Backs made a very odd trade yesterday sending up and coming power hitter Matt Davidson to the Chicago White Sox for closer Addison Reed.

Davidson is coming off a AAA season where he hit .280/.350/.481 with 17 HR.  In 87 PA with Arizona, he hit .237/.333/.434 with 3 dingers.  He was blocked at 3B by Martin Prado, but Davidson will be just 23 yo and Prado can play multiple positions, so it was not an impossible situation to manage.  Of course, Reno is a hitter's paradise so the D'Backs may have felt his AAA numbers were inflated.

Reed is a proven closer who will take over that role for the D'Backs.  His record last year for the ChiSox was 5-4, 3.79, 71.1 IP, 23 BB, 72 K.  He is a flyball pitcher who keeps his HR/FB low which is not ideal for the Arizona ballpark.  Then again, the White Sox crib is not exactly pitcher friendly.  His fastball velocity was reportedly down by two ticks at 93 MPH last year.

I'm not as convinced as some that Davidson will hit in the majors, but I'm not in love with Prado as a starting 3B either.  The D'Backs needed a closer, but they gave up a lot and it's far from certain that Reed is going to hold up in the long run.  This may pay off big time for the D'Backs in 2014, but could come back to bite them in the long run.

Fantasy Focus: Impact Rookies- Josmil Pinto

Don't worry if you've never heard of this guy.  I hadn't either until I got to digging this offseason.  Josmil Pinto is, get this, Joe Mauer's likely replacement at catcher for the Minnesota Twins.  He is also a great example of why you should not write off a prospect whose progress appears to stall out for a couple of seasons.

Pinto has been in the Twins organization since 2008 and will be 25 years old when the season starts.  He put up lines of .329/.394/.541 and .332/.387/.610 in 2 seasons of rookie ball.  Then, in low A of 2010, he stumbled to a .225/.295/.378.  He did a bit better the next year in high A .262/.305/.389.  He repeated high A in 2012 but showed improvement, .298/.365/.553 with 12 HR.  He got 52 PA in AA hitting .308. He started 2013 in AA and went .308/.411/.482 with 14 HR in 453 PA.  He got 75 PA in AAA with a .314/.333/.486 line with a HR.  He got the callup to MLB late and put on a show slashing .342/.398/.566 with 4 HR in 83 PA.

Just for fun, his Steamer projection for 2014 is .257/.319/.404, 10 HR in 398 PA.  His Oliver projection is .249/.305/.409 with 18 HR in 600 PA.  He is the odds on favorite to win the starting catcher job for the Twins, but GM Terry Ryan recently said the catcher job is "open" and that Pinto "has work to do."  Other catchers on the Twins 40 man roster include Ryan Doumit who is not a fulltime catcher anymore, Eric Fryer who only has a handful of MLB AB's and light-hitting Chris Herrmann.  It would appear that the starting job is Pinto's to lose unless the Twins make another acquisition.

Pinto's situation should be monitored closely in spring training. Catcher is a shallow fantasy position.  If he comes out of spring training as the starting catcher, you could do worse than to draft him if you someone who likes to wait on their catchers.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Scouting the Draft: Bradley Zimmer

If you are looking for a local college kid to root for in the 2014 draft, you've go Kyle Zimmer's lil' bro at USF, Bradley who plays outfield and is starting get some notice as a hitter.  He's big at 6'5", 205 lbs and puts up 5 tool type numbers:

2012:  .242/.274/.314.
2012(summer):  .279/.343/.490, 7 HR.

2013: .320/.380/.504, 7 HR, 19 SB, 11 BB, 19 K's.

he doesn't walk a lot, but also does not strike out a lot.  He bats left and throws right.

On video he is very quiet at the plate with minimal load and only about a half inch front foot raise and turn.  Like most taller hitters, he looks like he likes to get his arms extended and may have trouble with inside pitches.

BLF does not have him ranked in their top 50. Matt Garrioch of Minor League Ball has him at #38. BA has him ranked all the way up at #12 with the comment, "the rare college bat with projection as well as strong present tools."  Kiley McDaniel at scout.com ranks him #44 and calls him "very athletic" and "still growing into his frame."

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Fantasy Focus: Impact Rookies- Xander Bogaerts

After seeing Xander Bogaerts play for the Red Sox in the postseason, it's hard to believe he is still a rookie, but he had just 50 PA's in the regular season.  Bogaerts came up through the minors as a SS, but played mostly 3B in the postseason.  With Stephen Drew likely moving out of Boston, Bogaerts may well be the 'Sox starting SS in 2014.  If he stays at 3B, though, he probably still has SS eligibility in a lot of fantasy leagues as he started 6 games there in the 2013 regular season with 8 appearances.  That's important because while he is worth considering for your fantasy roster as a 3B, he has the potential to be a beast at SS and guy you might want to draft fairly early, especially if you like to take risks on young players.  It may be already too late to draft him in a lot of keeper leagues.

Here's a look at his numbers(this guy just tore up the minor leagues at every stop):

2012 High A:  .302/.378/.505, 15 HR, 9.9% BB, 19.5% K in 435 PA
2012 AA:        .326/.351/.598, 5 HR, 1% BB, 21.6% K in 97 PA.

2013 AA:  .311/.407/.502, 6 HR, 13.5%, 19.7% K in 259 PA.
2013 AAA:  .284/.369/.453, 9 HR, 10.9% BB, 17.2% K in 256 PA.
2013 MLB:  .250/.320/.364, 1 HR, 10% BB, 26% K in 50 PA.
2013 Postseason:  .296/.412/.481, 17.6% BB, 26.5% K in 34 PA.

Just for fun, his Steamer projection for 2014 is .261/.325/.413 with 15 HR.  His Oliver projection is .266/.331/.481 with 21 HR.

He's definitely someone to consider rostering even if he only has 3B eligibility.  If he also has SS, then you will probably have to grab him early and should consider doing so.  Ian Desmond, Hanley and Tulo are the only SS's I can think of off the top of my head who I would rank ahead of him right now and we all know about Hanley's and Tulo's injury histories.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Blast from the Past: Should Jeff Kent Be Voted Into the Hall of Fame?

Actually, I'm not sure why this is a question.  Jeff Kent hit more home runs than any second baseman in history, unless you count Alfonso Soriano, but he's played less than half his games at the position while Kent played over 90% of his games at the Keystone Sack.  It's not like Kent just barely hit the most either.  He hit 377 which is 76 more than Rogers Hornsby who hit the second most.  That pretty much settles it for me.  You hit more dingers than anyone else in the entire history of baseball to play your position, you belong in the Hall of Fame, period.

There was a long article in Beyond the Boxscore which used to be linked over to the left, which goes into all kinds of graphs of peak years vs career stats and WAR scores and such.  I like to keep it simple when you can.  Dude hit more dingers than anyone in the history of the position.  End of story for me!  Oh, and he also had the 3'rd most RBI's after Nap Lajoie and Rajah.  Go ahead and make fun of RBI's all you want, but again, 3'rd most in history of the position?  I'm not going to quibble with that!

It's not like he was a slouch in the more sophisticated stats either.  Kent places #17 in alltime WAR for the second base position.  That he is lower than top 5 is mostly because he wasn't a great fielder, but he wasn't in negative territory either.

Now we'll get to one of my big pet peeves.  Should Kent be a FIRST BALLOT Hall of Famer?  If the whole first ballot or not issue is not one of the stupidest in all of sports, I don't know what is.  You are either a Hall of Famer or you are not.  It's not like sitting out another year is going to change your contribution to the game, on iota.  So F@#$ Yeah, as Timmy would say, Jeff Kent should be a FIRST BALLOT Hall of Famer!

Oh, and how ridiculous will it be if Kent is a Hall of Famer and Barry Bonds isn't?  That's a whole other story that has nothing to do with stats and has been hashed and rehashed way too many times.

Scouting the Draft: Matt Chapman

Matt Chapman is a Christian Arroyo type guy who plays college ball for Cal State Fullerton.  He's a SS/3B in college who projects as a plus fielding 3B in the pros.  He's not big as ballplayers go, but solidly built at 6'1", 195 lbs.  On video, he has a quiet powerful swing with minimal load and a small slide step on the front end.  Here are his college numbers:

2012  .286/.340/.370 with 2 HR, 12 BB, 29 K in 189 AB.

2013  .285/.415/.457 with 5 HR, 34 BB, 29 K in 186 AB.

2012(Northwoods League)  .279/.379/.448 with 7 HR in 201 AB.

I see Chapman as being more of a 2'nd or 3'rd round talent.  BLF has him ranked at #26.  Matt Garrioch at Minor League Ball has him at #51.  BA has him ranked #14 on their college top 100 and has him listed at 6'2", 215 lbs.  BA also has him at #25 overall in their early draft top 50.

Chapman also pitches some and could move to the mound if the position thing doesn't work out.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Fantasy Focus: Impact Rookies- Archie Bradley

Just a couple of years ago, the D'Backs appeared to have an entire rotation full of frontline starter prospects at various stages of development.  Hmmm.....does that sound familiar?  Anyway, all that appears to be left of that mother lode of talent is Archie Bradley, the second best pitching prospect out of Oklahoma the year he was drafted, sandwiched between Dylan Bundy and Kyle Crick.  Bradley has been marching his way through the D'Backs minor league system and is now poised to take on AAA in the PCL.  I don't expect him to stay there all season, unless the D'Backs make some more trades or sign some more FA's, which is possible.

Bradley started out last season in the Cal League along with Kyle Crick, but was promoted to AA after 5 games.  His AA pitching line was 12-5, 1.97, 123 IP, 59 BB, 119 K's.  He's a big dude at 6'4", 225 lbs and features what BA describes as a "plus-plus" FB that sits 93-94 MPH and hits 97.  He also has a curveball that BA rates as plus and a still-developing changeup.  He obviously still walks too many batters, but is showing improved command as he goes along.

Archie Bradley is a guy you will want to follow and consider adding to your fantasy roster when and if he gets a MLB callup.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hot Stove Update: Giants Sign Michael Morse

Before they blew out of the Winter Meetings, the Giants snuck in a last minute signing, Michael Morse, to play LF.  Morse is a guy with enormous offensive talent, an extremely poor defensive player, and has a body that is apparently made of glass.  Brian Sabean loves to talk about "catching lightning in a bottle."  It doesn't always work, but when it does, it's can be spectacular.  When it doesn't, who cares as long as the risk is low?

In short, Michael Morse is pretty much Pat the Bat all over again, except they are paying more up front for Morse.  The plan is obviously to start Morse in LF most games then pull him for a defensive replacement as soon as they get a lead from about the 6'th inning on. If he can stay healthy, something he has rarely been able to do, he should be good for a .280-.300 BA with 25 HR's.  He may give 2/3's of that back on the defensive side, but hey, MLB needs more scoring and Morse will give it on both offense and defense!

I don't happen to think this is an upgrade for LF when all things are considered, but Morse brings a few other possibilities to the table.  He can DH for the interleague games and in AL parks in the postseason.  On days he does not start, he can be a power threat off the bench as a PH.  He can play 1B if Belt gets hurt or needs a few days off to work on his swing again.

It's not a great move, it's not a terrible move.  Most of all it is a low risk move.  I would have hated to see one of the pitching prospects traded and apparently the Giants felt the same way.  It's 1 year/$6M.  If it doesn't work out, nice knowin' ya, Mike.  I know I am looking forward to seeing him bat out of the 7 hole, which if that's where he hits, it means the rest of the Giants lineup is pretty darn good!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hot Stove Update: Winter Meetings Day 3

Nothing happened.  What a waste!  Sabes is probably already on a flight home.  Rule 5 draft in the morning.  Giants won't select anyone in the MLB phase and could lose a prospect or 2.  They have taken players in the minor league phase the last 2 years.  Players taken in the minor league phase can be assigned to any level without offering them back to the original team.  On the other hand, Rule 5 eligible players are only 1 year away from minor league free agency.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hot Stove Update: Winter Meetings Day 2

It wasn't quite a blockbuster trade, but pretty significant.  The Angels, D'Backs and ChiSox pulled off a 3-way deal with Mark Trumbo ending up in Arizona, Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago in Anaheim and Adam Eaton on the South Side of Chicago.  There were a couple of minor leaguers exchanged between the Angels and D'Backs to boot.  So, where to start with this?

Last year, the D'Backs unloaded all their power hitters who struck out too often in favor of gritty, scrappy dudes who got on base a lot.  This deal would appear to be a renouncement of that strategy just 1 year later.  Trumbo is a guy who strikes out a lot, doesn't walk much and is poor on defense, except at first base, and he ain't gonna be playing there in Arizona.  What he does is hit a lot of dingers and drive in a lot of runs.  The Sabers may scoff at that, but it's not nothing.  Looking over his UZR's, it looks like he is not as terrible in LF as he is at 3B or RF or it could be just a sample size thing.  As a Giants fan, I was pretty happy when they traded away all their power hitters and I think they are just a bit more dangerous with Trumbo in the lineup, although there are trade-offs as is almost always the case.

The D'Backs have a surplus of pitching.  Skaggs was a highly touted pitching prospect as recently as last offseason, albeit one I always thought was a bit overrated.  He had a terrible season and showed reduced velocity.  Some analysts are saying the reduced velocity is due to mechanical changes the D'Backs forced on him, but I'm always skeptical of theories like that.

Adam Eaton is a darling of the Sabermetrics crowd due to prodigious walk rates in the minors and in a partial MLB season.  At one point he appeared to be the guy the D'Backs were going to build their future around, well, him and Paul Goldschmidt.  He lost about a year due to TJ surgery and was not as effective when he returned from the layoff last year. he may still be that rare high OBP leadoff guy, but I suspect MLB pitchers have figured out they don't have much to worry about by challenging him in the strike zone and he will struggle until he proves he can make them pay.  The D'Backs have Tony Campana who can play a similar role and a young OF named Alfredo Marte who may have more upside than Eaton.

In short, I don't think the D'Backs gave up as much as some people are thinking to land Trumbo.

The Angels were in desperate need of starting pitching and got two lefties with MLB experience.  They come with some risk of both busting, though, and the Angels could have still used Trumbo as a DH even with the acquisition of David Freeze and the emergence of Kole Calhoun.  They might have been better off to add pitching via free agency, but they seem to be quite desperate for money which really bodes ill for their future what with their ridiculous commitments to Pujols and Hamilton and Trout's expensive years looming in the future.

The White Sox lose a decent SP and gain a lottery ticket in Adam Eaton as discussed above.

So, could the Giants have landed Trumbo?  The answer is clearly no, because they do not have SP's with MLB experience to trade.  End of story!

Today, Brian Sabean did not even bother to talk about trading for a LF.  He is spending most, if not all, of his time bragging about how desperately other GM's want to get their grubby mitts on his prized pitching prospects, and why not?  He should be proud of them!

I notice that he also spent a significant amount of time singing the praises of Juan Perez who he called a "different player" the second time he was called up last year.  Perez is having a pretty good winter ball campaign too, and we know Sabes pays attention to winter ball.  At this point I have to think there is at least a 75% chance, if not higher, that the Giants open the season with a platoon of Gregor Blanco and Juan Perez in LF, or maybe CF if they move Angel Pagan to left.  I know it's not a popular sentiment, but I'm OK with that.

Hot Stove Update: Winter Meetings Day 1

There were lots of rumors and not much news coming out of the Winter Meetings on Day 1.  The biggest news was Roy Halladay signing a 1 day contract with the Toronto so he can retire as a Blue Jay.  Hard to believe it was just 3 seasons ago that Doc pitched a postseason perfecto in preparation for being ambushed by Cody Ross and the Giants.  I guess everybody knew that Doc had a ton of mileage on that arm.  It finally caught up with him all at once.  The consensus is that Doc will be a HOF'er.  He's finishing his career with a 203-105 record and a 3.84 ERA. He wasn't much of a strikeout pitcher with a career K/9 of 6.93, but had tremendous control with a BB/9 of 1.94.  His first big season was 2002 which was about the time the hitting surge in MLB peaked(Sillyball Era).  He missed time in several seasons with injuries but has a long run of durability from 2006-2011 in which he pitched at least 220 innings each of those seasons.  He had three 20 win seasons which has become fairly rare in MLB and one 19 win season.  He has the postseason perfecto on his resume, but did not pitch in the World Series.  Do you think Roy Halladay is a Hall of Famer?

In other news, the Marlins signed Garrett Jones to a 2 years contract worth $7.75 M.  That transaction probably spelled the end of Logan Morrison's Marlins career as they are openly trying to trade him at the Winter Meetings.  After reviewing Morrison's stats for the last several years, I'm not sure why anyone would want him.  Marlins may end up having to release him!  I like the Jones deal for the Marlins.  I actually would not have been unhappy if the Giants had signed him even though his OF defense is pretty bad.

Lot's of rumors, mostly surrounding Mark Trumbo and Brett Gardner.  D'Backs seem to be the most likely destination for Trumbo as they seem to have surplus pitching with MLB experience to deal from, which is what the Angels desperately need.  The Giants were rumored to be in the mix for Gardner, but again, the Giants may not have what the Yankees are looking for.

Late in the day, Brian Sabean threw even more cold water on the trade rumors saying, "we're trying to explore everyday left field options, which at this point are not coming to fruition or they're not out there."  He added, "I don't feel any pressure at all.  We've done a lot to this point to feel good about.  We've done our heavy lifting."

Sabes also said that Kyle Crick will be invited to big league camp in spring training, not as an option to make the team, but to get an extended look and  taste of big league competition.  Wow!  I don't know if I can remember Sabes being this openly high on any Giants prospect!  Sabes also threw out this quote about Edwin Escobar,  "We're very pleased with Escobar's progress.  Not everybody has to pitch at every level to get to the big leagues." He added, "we found out a lot about our system at the trade deadline.  Crick isn't the only big prospect we have in our estimation."

BTW, the Sabean quotes come from Alex Pavlovic's article on Extra Giants linked to the left.  Make sure and go read the whole article.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Hot Stove Update: Winter Meetings Begin

Major League Baseball's annual Winter Meetings are probably in the process of going the way of record and book stores and shopping malls.  Modern communications make it unnecessary for executives to gather in one place to do business.  I would certainly hope that most transactions no longer require both parties to belly up to a bar to see which one loses their inhibitions first.  The proof was in the almost frantic flurry of activity last week as teams seemed to be almost desperate to complete their hoped for transactions prior to arriving at the meetings this week.  Giants manager Brian Sabean didn't even wait until last week to finish the lion's share of his offseason work completing the top 5 of his 6 stated priorities long before last week's frenzy.  Here is a summary of what Sabes has accomplished so far:

1.  Signed Hunter Pence, the best OF on the FA market, to a 5 year/$90 M contract.  After Jacoby Ellsbury signed for 7 years/$153 M, Pence is looking like the bargain of the offseason!

2.  Signed Tim Lincecum, 2 years/$40 M.  That is a lot of $$$$ for a guy who hasn't pitched very well for the last 2 years, but the key here is the short length of the contract as the Giants have a lot of pitching talent in the minors who should be ready by 2016.

3. Signed Tim Hudson, 2 years/$23 M.  Huddy is coming off a severe ankle fracture but is reportedly on tract for a full recovery.  Again, the key here is the short length of the contract for a guy who should be able to pitch a lot of quality innings and be a huge upgrade on Barry Zito, at least the Zito of last year.

4.  Signed Javier Lopez, 3 years/$13 M.  Gotta have that shutdown lefty specialist if you want to take it all the way in the postseason.  In today's market, $4.5 M/year is a bargain.  The only thing I don't like about the deal is it takes him through his age 39 season.

5.  Signed Ryan Vogelsong, 1 year/$5 M with incentives that could push it to $7 or 8 M.  This one is a bit curious as the Giants declined an option for almost the same amount of money earlier in the offseason.  I have to think Sabes must have thought he saw an opening on the market that did not materialize, maybe Johnson or Haren?  When Phil Hughes gets 3 years/$24 M and Scott Feldman gets 3 years/$30 M, Huddy's contract looks like a huge bargain and Vogey's 1 year deal looks like a favorable risk for the Giants.  Even Timmy's deal doesn't look like so much of an overpay!

6.  Declined Barry Zito's option for $18 M, paying him $7 M to go away.

So what's left?  The clamor is for a leftfielder.  I have never heard Brian Sabean make any declaration that upgrading LF is a priority for him.  At the postseason press conference, a reporter included it in a list of priorities and Sabes reply was "that's about right", or something to that effect.  He has also said that when you look at the overall contribution of the player, including defense, that in upgrade is not as easy as it looks.  He clearly was referring to Gregor Blanco there.  Other Sabes pronouncements on the subject include that while the Giants have room for more addtions to the 2014 payroll budget, they do not want to commit to any more big longterm deals that may limit flexibility in future years.  He has also said that he is not willing to give up the first round draft pick(#14 overall) for a FA with a QO and that the FA market looks weak.  There have been no less than 3 articles on sfgiants.com suggesting that Sabes will be looking for a trade at the Winter Meetings to the point where if he does not come away with something, it will seem like a huge failure, although Sabes himself appeared to throw cold water on expectations by saying not to expect any major deals.  BTW, Sabes also flatly stated that Brandon Belt is NOT moving to LF!

Once you get past Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz, neither of whom are coming to SF, the FA pickings are almost non-existent.  The only guy you might consider is Mike Morse, who the Giants are rumored to be kicking the tires on.  Morse is a terrific hitter when he's healthy, which is almost never.  He is also a terrible OF who gives  away about as many runs as he produces.  He might be able to play a Pat the Bat role, but you would not want to pay much more than the Giants paid for The Machine, the first time!

We've had several good suggestions for potential trades in the comments sections of previous threads in which most of the possibilities have been discussed.  I think we all know that neither Matt Kemp nor Andre Ethier are coming here.  The two names that I find the most attractive are Justin Ruggiano and Justin Maxwell.

Ruggiano may be available as the Marlins are going with a youth movement.  He hit just .220 last year but that came with 18 HR's and 15 SB's. His .260 BABIP suggests that a nice rebound season is possible. He also does not hurt you on defense.  I would not give up much for him, but would go for deal that cost a single bullpen arm or an extra middle infielder.

Justin Maxwell seems to be pushed aside in KC with the acquisition of Aoki.  Again, Maxwell strikes out a lot and will likely never hit for much of an average but he has solid walk rates, enormous power potential and can D it up in CF.  Again, as long as not too much is going the other way, I would be down with a flyer on Maxwell.

Logan Morrison appears to be available.  He was once considered one of the better young hitters in the game. He is coming off 2 abysmal seasons, is a terrible fielder and a bit of a loose cannon personality.  He and Sabes kind of got into a comment war after the Posey injury.  I don't think he's coming to SF and I don't particularly want him.

Without indulging in any Brian-Sabean-is-a-terrible-GM  or the Giants-lineup-is-terrible or the-Giants-are-cheapskates rants, what REALISTIC deals would you like to see Sabes come home with?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Thoughts on the Seattle Mariners Management: Wow! The Emperor Really Does Have No Clothes!

I started this blog in December of 2009 in large part because I believed that the Giants and their management were headed in the right direction.  They already had Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Brian Wilson and Pablo Sandoval in the major leagues with Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner on fast tracks to the big leagues.  I just thought that was a nice little core of homegrown players to build around and showed a commitment to scouting, drafting and development that had not been previously apparent from the organization.

At the time, life was unpleasant for anyone expressing confidence in what the Giants were doing.  The leading Giants blog had become a daily snarkfest of ridicule for Brian Sabean and the Giants.  I was basically run off of the sfgiants.com message board for defending what the Giants were doing as an organization and for predicting a brighter future.  At the time, I was not aware of ogc and his blog being a lone voice crying in the wilderness with basically the same message.

Then, in the spring of 2010, Fangraphs ran their yearly rankings of organizations based on current talent, future talent and front office methods/talent/savvy.  They ranked the Giants #23 and the Mariners #6.  Fangraphs was a champion of defensive metrics and the use of WAR as a tool for valuing players.  The Mariners at the time were full of good defensive players who couldn't hit a lick and somehow Dave Cameron and the Fangraphs staff concluded that their relatively new GM, Jack Zduriencik(Jack Z), was using defensive metrics and getting undervalued players as a result.  Their relative rankings of the Mariners and Giants were almost entirely based on their enthrallment with Jack Z's supposed sabermetric savvy and Brian Sabean's supposed complete ignorance of advanced baseball statistics.  They took a lot of heat for the Mariners ranking but almost none for their ridiculously low ranking of the Giants.  Pretty much every baseball oriented blog at the time believed exactly the same thing about Sabean.

Of course, history has since proven these rankings to be completely unfounded.  The Mariners have gone from bad to worse, spinning their wheels and changing philosophy as often as they have changed managers which is often.  The Giants, on the other hand went on to win not just one, but two World Series Championships.  Dave Cameron bailed out of the Jack Z bandwagon awhile back, but continues to criticize virtually every move Brian Sabean makes and generally belittle his accomplishments.

Sometimes when you have a strong belief and find yourself defending it on multiple fronts, you start to wonder if maybe there is something you are not seeing.  Maybe you are just as biased in another direction as the people you are debating.  Maybe Jack Z is on the right track and just hasn't had enough time to see it come to fruition.  After all, Sabes was GM for how many years before the Giants finally broke through and vindicated his methods?  I knew Dave Cameron and the Fangraphs staff were grossly overrating Jack Z, but I have to say even I am a bit shocked at just how bad it's starting to look.

You had to suspect some bad karma coming out of Seattle with the way 3 managers up and quit before they were fired.  The sudden change of course toward power hitters who were also terrible on defense also smacked of desperation and lack of direction.  Now comes an article in the Seattle Times by a dude named Geoff Baker, based interviews with 24 people including former manager Eric Wedge and former Special Assistant Tony Blengino.  According to Baker, based on these sources, Jack Z actually not only knows nothing at all about advanced baseball statistics, he is hostile to them!  Blengino claims that he, Blengino, actually wrote Jack Z's resume for him and cooked the information to make it look like he used a balance of scouting and sabermetrics because he knew that is what it would take to get the job.  During sabermetric presentations, Jack Z would belittle them and complain about font sizes and margins as if those were somehow important.

In addition, Wedge claims that President Chuck Armstrong and CEO Howard Lincoln were meddlers all the way down to the dugout.  He felt betrayed when after being hired to nurture a youth movement, he was verbally ripped by Armstrong and Lincoln for the poor performance of the kids despite the fact that the Mariners record was improved significantly from prior years.

All I can say is wow!  Just wow!  Shadenfreude can be so sweet!  I mean, who knew?  This goes way beyond anything I imagined, and I knew that Jack Z was being overrated.  Granted, both Wedge and Blengino have reasons to be grinding axes, but as many commentators have pointed out, this lines up just too well with a lot of observable facts over the last several years for there to not be a significant amount of truth to it.

I'll just leave you with a quote from Dave Cameron with a tip of the hat to Shankbone for digging it up and posting it over on his blog You Gotta Like These Kids:

"The term "process" has become a cliche in referring to front offices, but quite simply, there are few better examples of an organization that is blending traditional scouting with new ways of thinking than the Mariners.  The GM is one of the most respected scouts in the game, and his right hand man is an accountant who went out and hired Tom Tango as one of his first orders of business.  Teams that have blended both ways of thinking into their decision-making process have been tremendously successful, and this is the path the Marinter have set themselves upon.

The Seattle front office knows how to evaluate talent, and they know how to value talent.  Organizations that do both things well, and are given a payroll of $100 million to boot, win a lot of baseball games."

Dave Cameron  March 31, 2010.

The emperor really does not have any clothes!

BTW, Tony Blengino now works as a writer for Fangraphs.

Fantasy Focus: Impact Rookies- Kolten Wong

This will warm LG's heart.  It's a good thing the Cardinals drafted Kolten Wong 7 spots in front of where the Giants drafted Joe Panik, or I would be really mad at Sabes, et al for not taking Wong instead, or maybe they would have if Wong has still been there.  We'll never know.  The Cardinals pushed Wong hard assigning him to low A ball in his draft year and then jumping him to AA in 2012.

He put up a line of .303/.369/.466 with 8 3B, 10 HR and 20 SB's against 1 CS in 412 AB's.  He was promoted to the MLB club late in the season where he was used mainly as a defensive replacement in 32 games.  He had just 59 AB and did not do much at the plate hitting just .153.

The Cardinals seem undeterred by his lack of hitting.  Their GM has stated that the reason they were able to trade David Freese for Bourjos was because they plan to start Wong at 2B and slide Matt Carpenter over to 3B.

2B is not a deep fantasy position.  I played in a 10 team league last year and had trouble finding an adequate 2B.  Wong may be an option late in the draft or a FA pickup in-season.  Steamer projects him at .269/.322/.388 with 8 HR, 16 SB.  Oliver projection is .265/.318/.378, 9 HR, 19 SB.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Scouting the Draft: Braxton Davidson

Braxton Davidson is a guy you draft for the bat and worry about the rest later.  He's a big dude at 6'3", 215(He looks bigger in videos) with a huge lower half.  His big thick legs combined with his lefthandedness probably limit him to 1B.

I really like his hitting mechanics. He is very quiet at the plate.  He has almost no load and no stride or leg kick.  He lifts his front heel and turn his leg inward on the toe but brings it right back down in the same spot.  The swing is driving with a slight uppercut.  He is from North Carolina and is committed to UNC.

BLF has him ranked #25.  Matt Garrioch at Minor League Ball absolutely loves him, has him ranked #4 overall and calls him the most complete hitter in the draft.  BA has him at #29 as they tend to value athleticism and multiple tools more.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Hot Stove Update: Mariners Make It Rain In Seattle For Robinson Cano; More

After quite literally being laughed out of New York, Jay Z and Robinson Cano get the last laugh as the Mariners reportedly came to terms with Cano on a 10 year/$240 M contract.  The money being thrown around this winter has become so laughable, there seems to be little point in worrying about whether a contract is "bad" or "good".  They are either all bad or all good!  What does matter is that the Seattle Mariners needed to get better, especially at the plate, and Cano was the best player available on the free agent market.  Yes, his numbers may take a hit moving from Yankee Stadium and its short RF porch, but he will help the Mariners.

Once again, for all the complaining about big market teams and how much money they have to spend, the free agent system works to push MLB toward parity, maybe the best parity in all of sports.  And, as free agent contracts become more and more expensive, more and more people have interest in the game and more and more money flows into it.

Seattle is holding the #6 overall pick in the draft, so they lose a second round pick instead.  As for the Yankees, they pick up a supplemental round pick that they may lose due to signing more than 1 QO FA.  I have to think the Yankees took a look at what Boston did last year and made a decision to spread their money around on several big contracts rather than on one gargantuan one.  They played hardball with Cano and Jay Z and had to know this is how it was going to turn out.

In other news, Curtis Granderson signed a 4 year/$60 M contract with the Mets where again, he will have to contend with a real baseball stadium rather than the ridiculously shaped Yankee Stadium that has helped him hit all those HR's the last few years.  It just seems the Mets are not in a position where Granderson is going to be of much help, even if he puts up similar numbers as he did for the Yankees, which seems unlikely.  Maybe this is just a first step and the Mets will be contenders in the last year or 2 of the contract?

Scott Feldman showed why Brian Sabean was smart to get his offseason shopping done early signing a 3 year/$30 M contract with the Astros.  Feldman had a pretty good season last year, but has had an up and down career.  He is not the guy I would want to see in a Giants uniform on a 3 year contract.  I'll take my chances with Ryan Vogelsong and his 1 year deal, myself.

Another signing that shows why Gregor Blanco is not going to be so easy to replace is Nate McLouth, a guy who had almost identical numbers last year, signing a 2 year/$10.75 deal with a third year option for $6.5 M with the Nationals.

The Florida Marlins signed Rafael Furcal to a 1 year/$3 M deal with incentives which seems like an awful lot for a guy whose career seems to be running on fumes.

The Yankees signed Kelly Johnson to a 1 year/$3 M contract which, if he is the replacement for Cano at 2B, seems downright laughable.  Obviously, the McCann/Ellsbury signings help cushion the blow.

The Rangers signed JP Arencibia to a 1 year/$1.8 M deal with some incentives.  He will likely back up Geovany Soto at catcher.

Have I missed anybody?


Yanks re-up Kuroda and sign Beltran for 3 years/$45 M.  No surprises there, but I'm not sure Beltran can stay in 1 piece for 3 years.  Napoli is staying with the BoSox which also was expected, 2 years/$32 M

Fantasy Focus: Impact Rookies- Taijuan Walker

Last year, we did a series on impact rookies to watch for fantasy baseball.  Out of that series, Gerrit Cole, Wil Myers and Shelby Miller made impacts.  Oscar Tavares suffered through an injury plagued season at AAA and Dylan Bundy had TJ early in the season.

First up this year is RHP Taijuan Walker of the Mariners.  He was drafted out of Yucaipa, CA HS in 2010, which is just a hop, skip and a jump from where I live.  He was taken in the supplemental first round #43 overall.  I wish I had made a local scouting trip to check him out when he was here.  I have maintained an interest in how the local kid is progressing ever since.  He has progressed rapidly through the minors and make his MLB debut last season after pitching in AA and AAA in the minors.  Here are his numbers:

AA  4-7, 2.46, 84 IP, 30 BB, 96 K.
AAA  5-3, 3.61, 57.1 IP, 27 BB, 64 K.
MLB  1-0, 3.60, 15 IP, 4 BB, 12 K's.

He has an explosive fastball with a curve and changeup to go with it.  He is relatively new to pitching so is still a bit on the raw side, but the talent is overpowering.

At this point, he would seem to be a lock to make the Mariners starting rotation for 2014, although there has been talk of including him in a trade for David Price, which would be a mistake for Seattle, IMO.  I like to draft hard throwing young pitchers for my fantasy team and have had a lot of success with that approach. I will definitely be tracking Walker through spring training and looking to draft him if he makes the Mariners rotation.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thank You!

When the Giants Come to Town recenly passed 1 million page views in the history of the blog.  I am gratified that people find it worth their time to stop by, read and comment.  Thanks to everybody for your support.

Hot Stove Update: BrewCrew Trade Aoki to the Royals; Wilson Re-Signs With the Dodgers

A significant trade went down today with the Milwaukee Brewers trading OF Norichika Aoki to the KC Royals for LHP Will Smith.  Aoki surprised everybody in 2012, his first year in MLB by OPS'ing .788 with 10 HR and 30 SB.  He was not nearly as good in 2013.  While he maintained his BA and OBP, his SLG% fell way off from .433 to .370 and his SB's fell to 20 with his CS rising from 8 to 12.  Aoki has had slightly negative defensive metrics both seasons.  He became tradeable with the emergence of Khris Davis who will apparently take over in LF with Ryan Braun moving to RF.  Remember that Aoki's numbers were generated in a hitter-friendly home ballpark.  KC's ballpark is not nearly as accommodating to hitters.

The Brewers receieved LHP Will Smith who was a starter in the minors and for the Royals in 2012, but functioned as a lefty specialist in 2013 destroying LH batters along the way.  Once again, we see the value of lefty specialists rising on the market.  The Brewers reportedly turned down a deal for Ike Davis of the Mets because they preferred Smith.  His pitching line for 2013 was 2-1, 33.1 IP, 7 BB, 43 K.

It has been suggested by some that Brian Sabean was asleep at the wheel and should have been outbidding the Royals for Aoki.  Personally, I don't see that a .726 OPS generated in a hitter friendly environment with negative defensive metrics is enough of an upgrade  on Blanco to trade Heath Hembree for, and I'm not at all sure Hembree would have gotten a deal done as Will Smith is lefthanded and has 2 full years of MLB experience.

The Dodgers re-signed Brian Wilson which comes as no surprise.  Wilson pitched surprisingly well down the stretch in 2013.  I was most impressed by what appeared to be improved command as he failed to give Dodger fans a taste of the torture experience.  We'll see if it carries over to 2014, but a 1,2,3 bullpen punch of Jansen, Wilson and Withrow could be real tough to deal with.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Scouting the Draft: Derek Fisher

Derek Fisher is one of those players who scouts a lot better than his performance on the field would make you think.  He is coming into his college junior season at Virginia.  He's big, 6'3", 201 lbs., athletic and bats left, throws right.  He was rated as a top 10 draft prospect out of HS, so was a real coup for Virginia.

Here are his stat lines for his first two college seasons:

2012  .288/.375/.507, 8 3B, 7 HR, 4 SB.
2013  .293/.405/.483, 7 HR, 8 SB.

He hit .333 with 6 doubles and 13 SB in 120 AB in he Cape Cod League where he also had 25 BB's against just 19 K's.  He'll probably be a corner OF in the pros.

BLF has Fisher ranked #18 in the draft.  Matt Garrioch of Minor League Ball has him at #15.  BA has him at #16 with the comment "Powerful lefthanded swing makes him a potential first rounder, though his defense and all-around tools are more in question."

I see a little too much Jarrett Parker in him to be comfortable with drafting him in the first round, although the Giants scout the Cape Cod League heavily and like their hitters with reversed K/BB's.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Hot Stove Update: Yanks Sign Ellsbury; Fowler Traded to 'Stros; Morneau to Rockies

The Hot Stove got stoked to a white heat this afternoon as the Yankees landed Jacoby Ellsbury for a price of 7 years/$153 M with an 8'th year option for $!6 M more.  It will be interesting to see how this works out for Ellsbury and the Yanks.  I think it's pretty obvious that LH batters can't wait to play in Yankee Stadium, all that is except apparently Robinson Cano!  Once upon a time, Ellsbury hit 33 HR's in a season.  Since then his power has regressed dramatically.  That short porch should be a nice cure for that.  On the other hand, LH batters have been known to become pull happy in Yankee Stadium to their detriment.  It's also an awfully long contract for a guy who has averaged 100 games played over the last 4 seasons, but you knew he was going to get it from somebody.  Yanks apparently think they still have room to sign Robby Cano, but the Nationals seem to be making a run at him.

The Rockies traded Dexter Fowler to the Astros for OF Brandon Barnes and RHP Jordan Lyles.  Fowler has had his ups and downs with some ugly home-road splits playing out of  Coors Field.  Barnes is an excellent fielding OF but with little stick.  Lyles has never really broken through as a pitcher and you have to think he's going to have a rough time of it moving to Coors.  Minute Maid Park is not a bad hitters park, but it favors pull hitters on either side of the ball with CF being a graveyard for drives that would be dingers in most other parks.  Fowler strikes me as a guy who hits 'em more gap-to-gap.  Still, the 'Stros didn't give up much and Fowler seems like a reasonable risk. I like his potential ceiling despite the squirrelly numbers.

The Rockies also signed Justin Morneau to play 1B.  Morneau appeared to be on the verge of bccoming an elite hitter a few years ago, but has lost a lot of time to injuries including a stress fracture in his spine and a concussion. He may experience an offensive renaissance moving to Coors Field.

In a bit of a surprise, Salty signed a 3 year/$21 M contract with the Miami Marlins.  Salty is a switch-hitter who basically can't hit LH pitching.  No problem.  Since LHP's are only about 25% of starters, you just use Salty as the lefthanded hitting partner in a straight platoon and you get close to the number of games you expect your starter to catch.  Nice deal for the Marlins, but what can they put with him to become competitive?

Lastly, our old whipping boy, AJ Pierzynski, signed to replace Salty in Boston for 1 year/$8.25 M.  I'm of the opinion that almost any 1 year deal is a good one for the team, so nice deal for the BoSox.  AJ is AJ, what can I say?

Chris Haft seems to think the Giants priority at the Winter Meetings is to find a hitter to play LF with a trade being the most likely possibility.  3 names mentioned in the article are Chris Denorfia, Justin Ruggiano and Josh Willingham.  I'll put my bets on Ruggiano who has been my #1 choice all offseason.

A van carrying 11 Giants prospects to a workout in Arizona was involved in a motor vehicle accident(MVA).  5 players were treated at a local hospital and released without any apparent serious injuries.  The injured players included LHP Bryce Bandilla, LHP Adalberto Mejia, RHP Dan Slania, RHP Jeff Soptic and SS Kelby Tomlinson.  Glad to hear everybody is safe and sound.

Hot Stove Update: 3-Way Trade; Beane Keeps Trading; Nathan to the Tigers

The Hot Stove kept crackling away today as the Reds, D'Backs and Rays completed a confusing 3-way trade.  The D'Backs shipped overpaid reliever Heath Bell to the Rays and sent LHP prospect David Holmberg to the Reds.  The Rays got Bell and Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan while sending unheard of minor league RHP Justin Choate and a PTBNL to the D'Backs.  This one is a bit of a head scratcher from the D'Backs point of view.  It appears that they were so desperate to unload Bell and his $5.5 M salary(I thought it was more than that) they not only gave him away, they were willing to give up a pretty good pitching prospect to make it happen.  The Reds trade away a catcher they probably don't need anymore and got a nice pitching prospect.  The Rays apparently hope Bell can help their bullpen and were willing to take on his salary to get an inexpensive catcher as part of the deal.  Everybody seems to think this is a prelude to more deals from the D'Backs.

The Tigers signed Joe Nathan for 2 years $20 M.  On the heels of the Doug Fister trade, this looks like a disastrous series of decisions.  Nathan deepens their bulpen but is not a clear upgrade on anybody they already had

Now back to Trader Billy.  He started the day by trading OF prospect Michael Choice to the Rangers for OF Craig Gentry and RHP Josh Lindblom.  The Rangers also received 2B Chris Bostick in the deal.  Gentry has been strictly a platoon player(plays only against LHP's) with Texas but sports an outstanding OBP, is an accomplished basestealer and plays superior defense in CF.  Choice is a promising hitting prospect who plays only corner OF and whose power seemed to go a bit backwards in the last 2 seasons.  From this trade, it appears the A's are all in to make a run in 2014 and are dedicated to the platoon model.  Choice is a guy who could make them regret the trade in future years.

Billy wasn't done as he further fortified his bullpen by acquiring Luke Gregerson from the Padres for Seth Smith. I think this is a solid move by Beane, especially if he is going for it in 2014, which he clearly is.  Can't say I ever been all that impressed by Seth Smith and I'll be happy to not have to watch Gregerson and his maddening slider as often next year.

Looks like there may be more Hot Stove news coming later in the day, so stay tuned!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Hot Stove Update: Nationals Steal Doug Fister; Billy Beane Buys High on Scott Kazmir and Jim Johnson

The Hot Stove, which has been crackling away for over a week now, heated up even more today with a flurry of trades and signings.  The day got started with a big trade in which the Nationals acquired dependable starter for a reserve IF and 2 pitching prospects.  Fister does not dazzle people with a lot of strikeouts but he keeps his walks way down and shows a strong groundball tendency.  This has resulted in an accumulation of 15.1 fWAR over the last 4 seasons which is worth over 3 times his projected arbitration salary of just under $7 M.  He has 2 arbitration years left including 2014.

The Nationals did not give up nothing.  In addition to utility IF Steve Lombardozzi, they sent Ian Krol, a lefty specialist and Robbie Ray, a AA pitching prospect to the Tigers.  Krol had a line of 2-1, 3.95, 27.1 IP, 8 BB, 22 K.  His numbers against LH batters were significantly better.  The Tigers certainly could have used him in the
ALCS against David Ortiz!  Now who's overpaying for lefty specialists?

Robbie Ray also throws LH.  He pitched at 2 levels last year at age 21:  High A  6-3, 3.11, 84 IP, 41 BB, 100 K.  AA  5-2, 3.72, 58 IP, 21 BB, 60 K's.

Fister certainly is a guy who would fit nicely into the Giants rotation whose projected arbitration salary, at least for 2014 is not a whole lot higher than what Vogey is guaranteed.  The package the Nationals gave up was roughly the equivalent of the Giants giving up Jake Dunning and Edwin Escobar.  The only problem is I think it is clear that Detroit was desperate to add a lefty specialist reliever after getting torched by David Ortiz in the ALCS and would not have wanted to pay Mijares projected arbitration salary of $2.1 M, so I'm not sure the Giants would have been able to give Detroit what they wanted.

Meanwhile, Billy Beane gave Scott Kazmir a contract for 2 years/$22 M.  Kazmir is coming off a season with a line of 10-9, 4.04, 158 IP, 47 BB, 162 K.  That's not a bad line, but it's the first decent one he's has since 2008.  While it's not a terrible contract from the A's standpoint, it is putting some faith in a guy whose career has been marked by inconsistency and injury.

Billy wasn't done dealing and later acquired Closer Jim Johnson from the Orioles for Jemile Weeks and a PTBNL. Billy basically did not give up anything in Weeks, but Johnson is a poster boy for the fungibility of closers racking up oodles of Saves with pedestrian peripheral numbers.  His MLBTR projected arbitration salary is $10 M.

Of course Dave Cameron and the Fangraphs crowd have found some way to spin these deals as Moneyball undervalued asset stuff, but these seem like very un-Moneyball-like moves to me.

Down on the Farm: Community Ranking Question

Here's a not so hypothetical ranking question I would like some input from the community on.  Say you have a highly ranked prospect, and that prospect suffers a severe injury that he may recover completely from, but if he doesn't, it could be the end of his career.  Think Buster Posey having his injury while he was still a prospect or Gustavo Cabrera's current situation.  How would you handle that in ranking said prospect?  I'll make it multiple choice:

1.  Assume they will fully recover and rank them as if the injury did not occur.

2.  Assume the worst until proven otherwise and not rank them at all.

3.  Split the difference. Rank them, but rank them lower knowing that the outcome is more likely to be either #1 or #2 rather than somewhere in between.

What say you?