Thursday, October 31, 2013

Scouting the Draft 2014: Marcus Wilson

I had never heard of Marcus Wilson before watching the Under Armour All-American Classic on TV.  I can't seem to find a boxscore from that game, but I have a recollection of Marcus Wilson getting on base twice and stealing 2 bases.  That sort of go it into my head that he is a slap and dash guy.  Well, he isn't!

Marcus Wilson is a 6'3", 175 lbs OF from Serra HS in Gardena, CA where he was a teammate of Dominic Smith who was drafted in the first round last year.  Among Wilson's HS accomplishments is hitting a HR in Dodger Stadium in the CIF playoffs.

Judging from video that is available, Wilson has an upright batting stance.  He stands in the batter's box with his feet only about a foot apart in an open stance.  As the ball is delivered he takes a long slide step with his front foot and delivers a powerful uppercut swing that is direct to the ball with a slight wrist snap, but not as pronounced as Jacob Gatewood's.

Wilson's name is farther down most early draft rankings, but his stock is rising and he has a good chance of reaching at least the mid-first round, possibly has high as the top 10.  Matt Grabusky has him ranked at #32 in BLF's early ranking.  Matt Garrioch at Minor League Ball has him at #29.  BA does not have him ranked in the top 50.  My comp is a young Andre Dawson!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Thoughts on Adrian Cardenas and Quitting Baseball

I remember when Adrian Cardenas was considered one of the very best prospects in baseball.  In 2006, he was named High School Player of the Year by Baseball America.  He was drafted by the Phillies in the supplemental first round, #37 overall.  Many analysts believed the Phillies, who took Kyle Drabek in the first round, had one of the best drafts of the year.  Cardenas was a second baseman.  He hit between .290 and .310 at almost every minor league stop with single digit HR's and double digit steals.  He was traded to Oakland in 2008 as part of the package for Joe Blanton.  With Oakland, he was shuttled between AAA and AA multiple times for no apparent reason and finally released.  He hooked on the with the Cubs and finally made the majors in 2012.  He hit just .182 in limited action.  His main claim to fame being that he broke up a no-hitter by AJ Burnett.  After the 2012 season, Cardenas was outrighted off the Cubs 40 man roster and he announced his retirement from baseball because he no longer enjoyed playing the game.

In an article published today in the New Yorker magazine, Cardenas tells his story and gives his explanation of why he quit the game.  After reading it through a couple of times, I am not sure I still understand why he quit or if he is maybe still not being completely honest with himself.  He talked of long sleepless nights on buses in the minor leagues, but goes on to say those are some of his best memories.  He talks of being driven to succeed in the game to the point that he could not really enjoy the fun aspects of the game.  He talks about relationships and how the game separates you from the people you love, yet, he reveals nothing of his own experience in this regard.

Cardenas signed out of high school, but started college 3 years before he quit the game.  He says he gradually came to the realization that he enjoyed school and the subjects he was studying more than he loved being a ballplayer and at some point came to the realization that he had to choose one or the other.

It seems that a big part of his dissatisfaction stemmed from his inability to reconcile that playing a game that should be fun was a job and a business.  He stated "I quit because baseball was sacred to me until I started getting paid for it."  In his mind, the players who succeed are the ones who are able to separate their playing the game from the business side, live in the moment and enjoy the thrill of what they do on the field.

After reading his essay, you can't help but wonder if the teams who employed him saw his ambivalence more clearly than he did.  Perhaps that is why he was shuttled around in the minors for so long.  Maybe he simply was not as good as the scouts thought he would be and finally, deep down, realized that he was not going to be a star in the game and found other reasons to justify quitting the game.

I also wonder how many other players have similar feelings about the game but never get to a point where they are willing to admit that they need to quit.  I have long believed that the baseball life, especially in the minors, takes a fearful toll on relationships and must, at least at times, be an extremely lonely life.  When I see a player struggling in their game, plateau in their development, or even regress, I always suspect there must be more to the story than swing or delivery mechanics.  Does the player have nagging injuries that go unacknowledged?  Are they struggling in a relationship?   Have they become depressed?  Are they self medicating their depression?

I think Adrian Cardenas starts to get at these issues in his New Yorker essay, but barely scratches the surface.  I want to know more about the things he experienced personally and things he observed that led him to this career decision.

The article can be found by googling Adrian Cardenas New Yorker.  There is also a link at the bottom of his Wikipedia page.  The full link is:

Down on the Farm: Review of 2013 Giants Draft #11-20

11.  Johnshwy Fargas, OF:  AZL  .299/.393/.351, 8 SB, 9 BB, 11 K in 77 AB.  Right now he's all slap and dash with some nice plate discipline added in. Tons of room to grow.  Very encouraging pro debut!

12.  Ty Ross, C:  AZL  .182/.308/.273 in 11 AB.  Short Season  .243/.313/.350.  Defensive catcher who might hit a little.

13.  Pat Young, RHP:  AZL  1-0, 3.60, 5 IP, 1 BB, 5 K.  Short Season  3-1, 0.92, 39.1 IP, 9 BB, 27 K, GO/AO= 1.64.  Solid pro debut.  Love his size at 6'5", 200 lbs.

14.  Nick Jones, LHP:  AZL  0-0, 1.93, 18.2 IP, 9 BB, 18 K, 2 Saves.  6'6" LHP.  Low starting level.  SSS.

15. Geno Escalante, C:  Short Season  .300/.377/.400, 11 BB, 34 K in 130 AB.  A lot of K's.  Otherwise a nice pro debut at appropriate level.

16.  Jonah Arenado, 3B:  AZL  .211/.286/.263 in 38 AB.  Signed at the last minute, so very small sample.  Terrific size at 6'4", 195 lbs and he's Nolan Arenado's bro.  Maybe a project, but the upside is exciting.

17.  Rene Melendez, C:  AZL  .154/.154/.231 in 13 AB.  Tiny sample size from Puerto Rican HS draftee.

18.  Christian Jones, LHP:  AZL  0-0, 1.69, 5.1 IP, 2 BB, 4 K's.  Short Season  2-0, 3.29, 13.2 IP, 2 BB, 14 K.  High upside lefty.  Hails from Danville, CA.  Had some injury problems at Oregon.  Could be a sleeper if he can stay healthy.

19.  Garrett Hughes, LHP:  AZL  2-0, 4.70, 7.2 IP, 8 BB, 7 K's.  Huge LHP(6'9", 230 lbs) out of Stanford.  Extreme SSS here.

20.  Brett Kay, SS:  AZL  .255/.368/.351, 16 BB, 26 K in 94 AB.  College draftee playing in the AZL.  Drew some walks but that's a hefty K rate considering the level.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Scouting the Draft 2014: Dylan Cease

Dylan Cease is yet another hard throwing RHP coming out of HS in the 2014 draft.  Some analysts have him as the best HS RHP in the draft ahead of Tyler Kolek and Touki Toussaint.  Whether you believe in Cease may depend partly on whether you believe he is 6'1", 170 lbs or 6'2", 180 lbs.  Whatever his size, he has long arms with a loose delivery that produces a FB that sits 92-95 and has topped out at 97 MPH.  He has a 12-6 curveball, if such a thing exists, and a changeup that he needs to throw more often.

Big League Futures has him ranked at #14 which just happens to be the Giants draft slot.  Mack's Mets early Mock Draft has him down at #21.  Matt Garrioch at Minor League Ball has him at #13 while BA has him all the way down at #35.  Kiley McDaniel has him at #10.

Personally, I like Kolek and Touki, but I think Shankbone like Cease a bit more.

Down on the Farm: 2013 Draft Review Rounds 21-30

21.  William Simpson, RHP:  AZL  1-0, 2.35, 7.2 IP, 5 BB, 9 K.  JC draftee.  Small sample here.  Like his size at 6'3", 210 lb.

22.  Ethan Miller, RHP:  AZL  1-0, 3.27, 11 IP, 5 BB, 16 K's.  Jumbo sized college reliever(6'5", 220 lbs) out of San Diego St.  SSS at a low level here.

23.  Brandon Zajac, LHP:  Unsigned.

24.  Nick Gonzalez, LHP:  AZL  2-1, 1.04, 17.1 IP, 3 BB, 17 K, 1 Save.  I love this pick!  Even though it was a low level to start him out at, you gotta like those numbers.  Love the size(6'4", 220 lb) out of a LHP.  Went multiple innings in 6 of 7 appearances including on 4 inning stint.  Could be converted to starter.

25.  Blake Miller, SS/1B:  AZL  .211/.412/.237 in 38 AB.  Short Season  .309/.373/.485, 3 HR, 3 SB, 9 BB, 19 K in 97 AB.  Drafted as a SS out of obscure Western Oregon St. College(I had never even heard of the place before he was drafted), Miller played mostly 1B.  He raked in college and just kept right on raking at S-K.  Had the luxury of playing most of his first pro season literally in his own backyard.  Terrific size at 6'3", 195 lbs.  Extremely interesting prospect to keep an eye on next year.  If he pans out, gotta give the Giants scouts tons of credit on this one.

26:  Jake McCasland, RHP:  AZL  1-0, 4.73, 13.1 IP, 10 BB, 13 K.  Giants drafted him out of HS, but he spurned their bonus offer and went to college in NM.  Inauspicious pro debut.

27.  Mike Connolly, RHP:  AZL  2-0, 1.32, 13.2 IP, 7 BB, 7 K.  Short Season  0-2, 10.61, 9.1 IP, 6 BB, 9 K's.  Rough pro debut for this college draftee in a very small sample.

28.  Dusten Knight, RHP:  AZL  5-1, 1.13, 32 IP, 11 BB, 43 K, GO/AO= 2.00, 2 Saves.  Low level start for this college draftee, but hey, you gotta start somewhere!  Nice numbers which is more than you can say for some other college guys who started out in the AZL.

29.  Ryan Tuntland, 3B:  AZL  .360/.467/.480 in 25 AB.  Short Season  .254/.393/.393, 3 HR, 26 BB, 30 K in 122 AB.  Here we see the theme of low K/BB we've started to see from a lot of hitters the Giants have drafted recently.  Keep an eye on this guy.  He could be a sleeper.

30.  Dylan Brooks, RHP:  0-0, 6.14, 7.1 IP, 11 BB, 8 K's.  This is the kid I wanted the Giants to sign!  6'7", 230 lbs, drafted out of HS in Canada.  Did not turn 18 until 8/20.  Obviously very raw and a long term project but gotta love the upside here.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Scouting the Draft 2014: Kyle Schwarber

The hot stove has died down to a few smoldering coals until the World Series ends and it get re-stoked again.  In the meantime, we'll just keep on with our reviews and draft profiles.

The best pure college hitter in the 2014 draft is a guy I had not heard of before until early draft previews started coming out this summer after the college season had ended.  Kyle Schwarber is a lefthanded hitting catcher for Indiana.  He's a stocky guy at 6'0", 230 lbs with a low center of gravity.  There are some questions about whether he can stick at catcher.  If not, then he's a short first baseman or a DH where the bat has to come up huge.  That is certainly possible as he has destroyed the Big Ten for the last 2 seasons, especially 2013, his sophomore campaign:

2012  .300/.390/.513 with 8 HR, 5 3B, 9 SB in 12 Attempts, 30 BB, 24 K in 230 AB.
2013  .366/.456/.647 with 18 HR, 4 SB in 7 Attempts, 39 BB, 33 K in 235 AB.

He'll never be known for his speed, but it seemed to slip a little between his freshman and sophomore seasons.  His CS% also slid from about 30% down to 19%.

Big League Futures does not have a draft profile up on him yet, but has him ranked at #22 in their early 2014 draft rankings.  Mack's Mets does not have in in the first round in his early mock draft.  Matt Garrioch at BA has him at #21 his his very early 2014 draft ranking.  BA has him ranked at #17 with the comment that his best position is clearly the batter's box!

He is certainly not what the Giants usually look for in the first round.  If you want a great bat and don't care about anything else, Schwarber is your man.  I think he will most likely be taken in the second half of the first round or at least the supplemental first round.  He could be a steal if his body and defensive questions drop him to the second round.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Down on the Farm: Giants 2013 Draft Review Rounds 31-40

The Giants only signed 4 players drafted in rounds 31-40 bolstering the argument that the MLB amateur draft could be reduced to 30 rounds without jeopardizing farm systems.  The guys they did sign are interesting.  All of the unsigned players were coming out of HS.  Here's the list:

31.  John Riley, C:  AZL  .200/.321/.292 in 65 AB.  Drew some walks, but struck out about 35% of his PA's. I really like his swing on video I found on Youtube.  Giants sprang for a $400 K+ signing bonus to land him.

32.  Nick Cieri, C:  Unsigned

33.  Craig Massoni, 1B:  AZL  .272/.401/.384, 2 HR, 19 BB, 29 K in 125 AB.  Massoni raked in college from a second tier program at Austin Peay St.  AZL is probably too low a level for him, but there was no room at higher levels.  He did well in the situation he found himself in which is all you can ask for.

34.  Rayan Hernandez, RHP:  0-1, 8.31, 8.2 IP, 6 BB, 8 K's.   Jumbo kid at 6'4", 230 lbs who did not turn 18 until  9/24.  Extremely small sample size.  We'll see what happens and where he pitches after an instructional league under his belt.  He will likely return to the AZL after extended spring training.

35.  Aubrey McCarty, 1B:  Unsigned.

36.  Grand Goodman, RHP:  Unsigned.

37.  Will Callaway, 2B:   AZL  .271/.345/427, 10 BB, 19 K's in 96 AB.  College Senior out of a second tier program at Appy St.  Hit well at this low level, but the Giants have 2B prospects coming out their ears.  Will have a tough time finding a place to play next year.

38.  Osvaldo Garcia, RHP:  Unsigned.

39.  Chris Vail, RHP:  Unsigned.

40.  Ryan Kirby, OF:  Unsigned.

Scouting the Draft 2014: Tyler Beede

Tyler Beede was a highly rated draft prospect coming out of high school.  He was drafted #21 overall by the Toronto Blue Jays but did not sign and went to school at Vanderbilt.  He struggled a bit his freshman season, but became one of the better college pitchers in the country last year in his sophomore campaign.

Big League Futures has a Draft Profile up on him.  It's linked to the left.  He's a big, strong hard-throwing workhorse of a pitcher at 6'4", 215 lbs.  He can take his 92-95 MPH FB deep into games.  He throws both a 4 seam and 2 seam FB both of which have enough movement to make batters swing and miss.  He also has a curveball and changeup with the change seeming to be a more advanced pitch for him at the present time, which is actually a really good thing, IMO.

Here are his numbers from his first two college seasons:

2012  1-5, 4.52, 71.2 IP, 32 BB, 68 K's.
2013  14-1, 2.32, 101 IP, 63 BB, 103 K's.

As you can see, the walk rate is a concern.  That will have to improve in the pros.

BLF has him at #10 in their early rankings.  5 of 6 mock drafts have him in the top 3 with Through the Fence putting him #1 overall over even Carlos Rodon!  Keith Law apparently has him ranked all the way down at #18 which again demonstrates the crazy depth of this draft more than a dis on Beede.  Matt Garrioch has him ranked at #5 at Minor League Ball.  He also has a draft profile posted on 10/24/2013 with a terrific discussion in the comments section.  The comments are a must-read to anyone interested in the draft!  Kiley McDaniel, the guy who sniffed out the Giants intent to draft Christian Arroyo, has Beede ranked at #21!  BA has him ranked at #7 in their 2014 Draft Top 50 posted 10/15.  My MLB Draft has him going at #14 to the Giants in their updated mock draft from 10/23.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Down on the Farm: Review of DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects- Dominican Dandies

Hengerber Medina, SS:  DSL  .162/.279/.196, 7 SB.  Disastrous season for a kid who seemed to have a lot of promise in 2012.  What happened?  Stock is way down.

Royel Astacio, 3B/1B:  DSL  .184/.350/.284.  Another disappointing season from a guy who looked promising.  Best you can say is he can draw a walk.  Stock is down.

Carlos Valdez, OF:  DSL .273/.377/.447, 5 HR, 20 BB, 22 K in 132 AB.  Not a bad line there.  Hit .316 post AS break.  Is this good enough for a promotion to Arizona?  Stock is slightly up.

Anthony Gomez, 3B:  DSL  .154/.327/205 in 39 AB.  Must have been some injury issues here.  Doesn't turn 19 yo until November so has time.  Stock is down.

Kleiber Rivas, C:  DSL  .250/.358/.371, 2 HR, 19 BB, 15 K in 116 AB.  Decent season with a terrific K/BB.  LH hitting catchers always have a leg up on the competition. Stock is stable.

Carlos Diaz, LHP:  AZL  2-3, 4.99, 39.2 IP, 21 BB, 51 K, GO/AO= 1.44.  Held his own with a nice K/9 in a hitter's league.  Needs to get the BB's down.  Stock is stable.

Keury Mella, RHP:  AZL 3-2, 2.25, 36 IP, 11 BB, 41 K, GO/AO= 2.39.  Hard throwing RHP.  Very nice stateside debut.  Video from instructional league is amazing.    Stock is way, way up!  Might be the #2 pitching prospect in the organization and possible top 10 overall prospect, maybe even top 5!

Alejandro Flores, RHP:  AZL  1-1, 7.16, 16.1 IP, 9 BB, 11 K.  Disappointing stateside debut. Stock is down.

Diomedes Mateo, LHP:  DNP.  Not sure what happened here.  He's an older prospect who ran into identity issues. stock is way down.

Shawn Gomez, RHP:  DSL  7-0, 2.76, 42.1 IP, 15 BB, 27 K.  Love his size at 6'4", 180 lbs.  Nice 18 yo season.  Low K rate with flyball tendency does not bode well.  Stock is stable.

Angel Villalona, 1B:  High A  .229/.278/.433, 14 HR, 15 BB, 76 K in 284 AB.  AA  .235/.273/.413, 8 HR, 8 BB, 60 K in 196 AB.  AFL  .258/.324/.323, 3 BB, 13 K in 31 AB.  Hit the ball HARD when he makes contact.  Still strikes out a frightful rate.  Big kid with a bat that has a chance to be special.  Still a high risk to be a complete bust.  Stock is way up now that legal troubles are behind him.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Blast From the Past: Was Dick Dietz Blackballed Out Of Baseball?

One of my favorite players from my early days as a young Giants fan was catcher Dick Dietz, AKA "The Mule."  Dietz was an excellent hitter and a poor defensive catcher.  He was also the Giants Player Representative to the MLBPA at a critical juncture in the formation of that organization.  I have always thought that Dietz' MLB career came to a rather abrupt end and was never quite clear on why.  Former Giants RHP John D'Acquisto thinks he knows why.  He has a long article on a site called Instream Sports(  The way I found the article is it was linked in a Hardball Times article over on Fangraphs by Bruce Markusen entitled The Blackballing of Dick Dietz.  If you are a Giants fan who goes back as far as me, or even if you aren't, D'Acquisto's article is a must-read!  It's mostly about Bobby Bonds and Bobby Murcer and the dismantling of the 1960's Giants, but it's the paragraph about Dietz that we'll focus on here.

Dietz was a pretty good hitting backup catcher for the Giants from 1967-'69.  After Tom Haller was traded, he shared catching duties with Jack Hiatt from what I can remember.  He became the outright starter in 1970 and responded with one of the great seasons of any Giants catcher:  .300/.426/.515 with 19 HR's.  Yeah, you read that right, an OBP of .426!  He walked 17.8% of the time and struck out 17.3%.  He made the NL All-Star team.  I think that was the year Pete Rose barrelled into Ray Fosse while scoring the winning run for the Nationals.  His numbers fell off a bit in 1971, the year the Giants won the NL West only to lose in the playoffs to the Pirates, but he was still darn good:  .252/.387/.419 with 19 HR's.  He put up 5.1 WAR in 1970 and 4.0 in 1971.  

The 1972 season started with the first player's strike.  Dick Dietz was the Giants Player Representative and was one of the most enthusiastic and vocal player reps in baseball.   To old-school owners like Horace Stoneham, such a thing was unthinkable.  Despite coming off 2 terrific seasons, Diets was placed on waivers 3 days before the 1972 season was scheduled to start.  The Giants said the reason for the release was his poor defensive play(he led the league in PB's 2 years in a row).  The Dodgers claimed him, but he suffered a season-ending injury a few days into the season.  He spent 1973 with a Atlanta Braves as a utility catcher/first baseman and led a strong bench effort that became knows as the "F-troop."  In 83 games and 197 PA's, he hit .295/.474./.432.  .474!!.  He walked an amazing 25.7% and struck out just 13.1%.  Simply amazing.  The Braves rewarded him by releasing him after the season.  He was never able to hook on with another team, his MLB career over.

John D'Acquisto is pretty sure Dick Dietz got blackballed, not just off the Giants, which seems pretty clear, but out of baseball entirely.  I'd say there is a greater than 50% chance that he is right.

Hot Stove Update: Brian McCann?

A very strange rumor hit the internets yesterday evening, apparently originating with Jon Heyman, that the Giants are interested in making a run at Brian McCann.  Brian McCann?  He plays catcher, right?  The Giants already have an All-Star caliber catcher who won an MVP as recently as 2012, right?  What's even more strange is that Heyman's "source" added that it might depend on how much playing time McCann is looking for.

Apparently the Giants feel they need another lefthanded bat to support the RH tandem of Buster Posey and Hunter Pence.  McCann is certainly a hella LH hitter, when he is healthy, and there is the rub.  There are all kinds of things wrong with this rumor:

McCann is reportedly drawing enough interest from enough of the right teams that estimates of his contract size are routinely in the 9 digit range.  You don't speculate about playing time with a $100 M player!

2014 will be McCann's age 30 season.  That's not all that old for a ballplayer, but it is for a catcher, and he's been beaten up pretty bad over the last 3 seasons while failing to play in more than 130 in any one of those seasons.  He hits well enough to DH in the AL, but has never played any other position but catcher and does not appear to have a body that could man even first base.  If we are talking a contract in the neighborhood of 6/$100 M, it will almost surely be a terrible contract by the midpoint.

Maybe the Giants are thinking McCann would do most of the catching and Buster Posey would move to 1B with Brandon Belt moving to LF?  That would fly in the face of what Brian Sabean said about Posey remaining at catcher at the end of the season and also goes against what beat reporters are hearing from the organization.

The one angle that I could see possibly working is if the Giants envision a tandem catcher/first base situation with Buster and McCann sharing duties equally.  I proposed such an arrangement in the past when I was stumping for Mike Napoli or Ryan Doumit or someone like that.  The only problem, once again, with this notion is that McCann has never played a game at any position but catcher.

I love Brian McCann as a ballplayer(I love him a little less as a person after his ridiculous reaction to the Gomez HR and bat flip), but I am inclined to believe that this is a case of a reporter making something up and talking to a janitor who worked the Kardashian gig to claim as the "source."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Scouting the Draft 2014: Jacob Gatewood

Kids with the raw tools that Jacob Gatewood possesses do not come along very often.  Gatewood is a 6'4", 190 lb HS SS from Clovis, CA.  Although almost nobody expects him to stay at SS in the pros, he is a true 5 tool athlete with almost unbelievable power potential, so it probably does not matter where he ends up playing.  It won't be DH or first base!  Big League Futures has a capsule scouting report that calls his swing compact which will enable him to hit for both contact and power.  He has elite bat speed and gets a "ton" of backspin on the ball.  He can hit to all fields but can turn on a high velocity pitch and pull it.

There is another article linked on his BLF profile from USA Baseball in which it sounds like this kid's makeup is off the charts.  He is very goal oriented.  He wrote down a list of things he wanted to accomplish in HS before starting his freshman year:  Hitting 90+ from the mound, committing to a college before his junior season and being considered among the best in the Class of 2014.  I don't know about you, but to me, these goals demonstrate both ambition and realism.  He accomplished all 3!  BTW, he has another goal:  He wants to play SS in the major leagues!

There is another story of how a classmate asked Gatewood to work with his little brother who was struggling in Little League.  Gatewood obliged and the kid went from hardly ever playing to being the starting second baseman for his team! In the process of teaching the kid, Gatewood said he became a better player too.    Now, how great is that?!

I saw Jacob Gatewood play on TV at the Under Armour All American game in Wrigley Field.  He got the only XBH of the game with a laser beam double directly over the head of the LF.  There is scouting video on BLF and others on Youtube.  His swing reminds me of a combination of Darryl Strawberry and Eric Davis!  It's a bit long like Straw's but has that wrist snap like Davis.

BLF has him as the 7'th ranked draft prospect.  Mack's Mets Mock Draft has him at #15.  Matt Garrioch has him at #10 in his Extremely Early Minor League Ball 2014 Draft rankings.  BA has him at #5 in their early ranking.

I have a hard time believing he is going to drop out of the top 10, but this is a deep draft, so you never know.  There is always some risk to young toolsy players, but this guy's ceiling is as high as any prospect in recent memory.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Down on the Farm: Review of DrB's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects Honorable Mention

Alberto Robles, 2B/SS:  Low A  .304/.360/.387, 13 SB, 13 BB, 22 K in 194 AB.  Could be a serious sleeper if he can stay at SS.  Stock is up.

Jose Valdez, RHP:  AA  3-2, 5.46, 56 IP, 48 BB, 53 K's.  Physical monster who is still maddeningly inconsistent.  These numbers ain't gonna get it done.  Stock is down.

Fabio Castillo, RHP:  AA  2-2, 3.34, 32.1 IP, 17 BB, 44 K.  AAA  4-5, 6.47, 57 IP, 26 BB, 51 K's.  Minor league FA pickup from out of Texas.  Hard thrower with uninspiring numbers.  Not sure if he's re-signed yet or not.  Stock is stable to slightly down.

Scott Shuman, RHP:  0-0, 9.51, 23.2 IP, 42 BB, 39 K.  Minor League Rule 5 Pickup from the Rays.  Hard thrower with major control issues.  I was hoping the Giants could fix him, but I guess not.  Stock is down.

Johnny Monell, C:  AAA  .275/.364/.494, 20 HR, 59 BB, 105 K in 415 AB.  MLB:  .125/.222/.125 in 8 AB.  Monell had a fine season for Fresno and got a cup of coffee in September.  There has to be a place for this guy somewhere.  LH hitting catchers with some pop aren't plentiful.  Stock is up, but where does he play?

Jarrett Parker, OF:  AA  .245/.355/.430, 18 HR, 13 SB, 60 BB, 161 K in 444 AB.  A 3-true-outcomes hitter whose numbers don't look so bad in the Eastern League as they did in the Cal League.  I sort of have a feeling this guy just might put up similar numbers in MLB, which would be pretty darn good.  Stock is up.

Rafael Rodriguez, OF:  Low A  .208/.262/.304, 4 HR, 15 BB, 52 K in 250 AB.  There really isn't anything to be encouraged about in these numbers.  Stock is way down!

Alex Burg, UT:  Released before the season started.  I did not see that coming.  I really liked Burg as a potential utility player.

Ryan Cavan, 2B/3B:  High A  .283/.331/.367, 3 HR.  Got sent back to SJ, ostensibly to learn to play 3B, but soon got bumped back to 2B by Myles Schroder.  That did not earn him a promotion.  Stock is down.

Justin Fitzgerald, RHP:  AA  3-0, 1.09, 33 IP, 8 BB, 41 K, GO/AO= 1.76.  AAA  2-8, 5.61, 77 IP, 33 BB, 65 K, GO/AO= 1.30.  Fringe prospect who stayed on the fringe.  Stock is stable.

Demondre Arnold, RHP:  Released before the start of the season.  I did not see this one coming either.

Jackson Williams, C:  AAA  .230/.289/.356, 5 HR.  Good defensive catcher who will probably never hit enough to  even be a backup at the MLB level.  Stock is stable to down.

Ryan Lollis, OF:  AA  .267/.345/.377, 8 HR, 6 SB, 50 BB, 61 K in 469 AB.  I really like Lollis and think he could be a reserve OF somewhere in MLB.  Athletic enough to play CF. Stock is slightly up.

Brett Krill, OF:  AA  .258/.313/.329.  Disappointing power numbers from my former favorite sleeper.  On the other hand, the EL is a beast for hitters.  Stock is stable.

Mitch Delfino, 3B:  Low A  .270/.324/.413, 13 HR, 35 BB, 76 K in 477 AB.   Augusta is a tough place to hit for power.  Moved up to SJ for the playoffs.  Looked good at the plate in the 2 games I saw.  Stock is up.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Hot Stove Update: Giants Sign Timmy!

Just when it looked like the Giants and Tim Lincecum were going to be doing the QO Kabuki Dance, the announcement that they got him signed for 2 years/$35 M comes out.  OK, there is absolutely no point in going through any WAR analysis on this one.  In terms of performance over the last 2 years, this was a gross overpay.  The Giants obviously think Timmy has shown signs of improvement and can be a better pitcher over the next 2 years than he has been for the last two.  He has been a huge part of their success over the last 4 seasons and the fanbase still thinks he can walk on water.  The Giants wanted to keep Timmy and did not want to mess around.  

Say what you will about the RDF and the Giants cheap owners.  They do NOT cheap out when it comes to signing the guys they want.  Larry Baer addressed the overpay issue with Kruk and Kuip on the TV broadcast after the Hunter Pence deal went down.  He said the Giants are a classy organization and they do not play games with the players they want.  They would rather make the players feel like they are really wanted than to feel like the Giants chiseled them down to the lowest number of dollars they could.  That's great as long as overpays do not keep them from acquiring other players they need to compete.  So far, there has not been an example of such a contract, even Zito's and Rowand's!

In his end-of-season State of the Giants press conference, Brian Sabean said that his priorities were 1. Re-sign Hunter Pence.  2.  Re-sign Tim Lincecum.  3.  Acquire another starting pitcher irrespective of what would happen with Timmy's contract.  4.  Improve team depth particularly LF.   I believe re-signing Javier Lopez is also a priority.  I think we can expect something on that front before FA kicks in now that Timmy is off the table.  Brian Sabean may keep his own council when he is working on trades and draft picks, but when he goes on record with a priority, you can usually take it to the bank.  He has now made good on his first 2 priorities.  I believe there is a high probablilty he will make good on the rest of it too.  If history is any guide, we won't have to wait long to find out.

Hot Stove Update: Abreu and Guerrero Off the Market

As the postseason grinds toward baseball played in freezing rain(seriously, what is MLB going to do if the Minnesota Twins every make it into the World Series?), other teams are already firing up their Hot Stoves getting ready for the winter.  The first players to get warm by the fire were Cuban expatriates Jose Abreu and Alexander Guerrero as they signed contracts with the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers respectively.

The Guerrero signing by the Dodgers had to be expected as he had already signed with them once only to have the contract voided on a technicality.  Abreu signing with the White Sox probably should not be a big surprise either as the ChiSox have a history of signing Cuban players and Abreu's skill set probably fits better on an AL team.

Probably the most puzzling thing about Abreu is what, exactly, was the Giants interest or involvement?  Cove Chatter has a nice post up where he is scratching his head over what we know about the Giants end of the chain of events leading to Abreu's signing.  Cove Chatter is linked over on the left.

I'm going to take a stab at what I think might have gone down in the Giants front office over Abreu, all pure speculation on my part.  Abreu does not fit the profile of the type of player the Giants have ever tried to acquire.  On the other hand, he does represent power, which is probably the one thing the Giants lack most at the MLB level.  I think that someone influential in the Giants organization, I'll just make a guess and say John Barr or less likely Felipe Alou, made a strong pitch for Abreu to Brian Sabean.  Sabes was skeptical, but decided he better see more for himself, thus the junket to the Dominican Republic to see Abreu's workout in person.  Ultimately, whoever was pushing for Abreu in the organization failed to convince Sabes that he wanted Abreu enough to shell out the bucks it was going to take to sign him.

Of course, it's also possible that the Giants made a competitive offer and Abreu just had a comfort level with the White Sox due to their history with Cuban players.  At any rate, the 6 years/$68 M the White Sox will pay him seems like a whole lot of money, but in the current baseball economy, it is worth just 2 WAR per season over the course of the contract and $11 M per season should not bankrupt or seriously hamper any MLB organization going forward.  I can see an argument that Abreu's skills were not a fit for the Giants, but the White Sox got themselves a low risk lottery ticket that has at least even odds of paying off big time.

In other Hot Stove League news, Tim Lincecum reportedly turned down a 2 year offer from the Giants, but is also reportedly seeking a short term deal during which he hopes to rebuild his value.  Hmmm.....did the Giants maybe lowball Timmy with the 2 year offer hoping he would take that rather than risk a Qualifying Offer?  Is he daring them to make his day with the QO?  Sounds like the Giants and Timmy are playing a little game of QO Poker here!

Around the League:

Don Mattingly is apparently more than just a little bent that the Dodgers left him dangling this season.  He is not rushing to accept the vesting of his contract option for next season, and did not hold back in telling reporters how he really felt about it.

Kirk Gibson, on the other hand, seems to be in a cozy situation in Arizona and is not interested in the Tigers managerial opening in the wake of Jim Leyland's resignation.

Hot Tip:  If you haven't read is already, go on over to Obssessive Giants Compulsive linked to the left and check out ogc's impassioned but thoughtful take on juiced balls and the "Sillyball Era."  I don't happen to agree with his conclusions, but it's a good read.

Update on my daughter's marathon run in the Nike Women's Marathon in SF this weekend:  She finished #771 out of over 31,000 runners overall and #115 out of over 700 in her age group.  As a proud dad, I think that is pretty darn impressive!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Blast from the Past: Who Was Lefty O'Doul?

I spent the last couple of days hanging out in the Union Square downtown area of San Francisco where my older daughter was running in the Nike Women's Marathon.  BTW, this was her first full marathon and she finished it in 4 hours and 10 minutes, #115 out of 700 in her age group!  I think that is pretty darn impressive!  Anyway, while I was exploring the area around Union Square, I came across a SF landmark, Lefty O'Doul's Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge, on Geary Blvd.  I ate breakfast there one of the mornings and got to look around a bit at some of the pictures and memorabilia.  Now, I have known for a long time that Lefty O'Doul was a revered figure in both San Francisco and Giants history, but I have to confess that I've never had a good idea of who he was or why he was so poplular, so I did a little research.

Lefty was born in San Francisco in 1897, so that would be 4 years before the Great Earthquake.  Lefty began his baseball career as a lefty reliever with the San Francisco Seals, the SF AAA team.  He eventually worked his way up to the majors pitching a handful of games each season from 1919-1923 with the Yankees and Red Sox.  His busiest season was 1923 when he made 19 appearances with an ERA over 5.  He set a dubious MLB record in 1923 for the most runs allowed by a reliever in one appearance when he gave up 16 runs over 3 IP.  Errors behind him by the Red Sox made only 3 of those 16 runs Earned.  The record was later equaled by 2 other pitchers.

A sore arm suffered in the 1923 season ended his pitching career.  Lefty went back to the Seals and became a hitter.  He re-appeared in 1928 with the New York Giants hitting .318 in a platoon role.  He was apparently traded to the Phillies for the 1929 season and produced one of the most remarkable seasons in baseball history:  .398/.465/.622 with 32 HR's.  He drew walks in 10.4% of his PA's and struck out in just 2.6%.  In fact, his career K rate was just 3.3%.  Too bad Ol' Lefty isn't still around to give some batting tips to some of these hitters on how to hit for power without hardly ever striking out!  His 254 Hits that year broke the NL record held by Rogers Hornsby and is tied with Giant Bill Terry for the NL record to this day!

He had another fine season with the Phillies in 1930 then another in 1931 with the Brooklyn Robins who later became the Dodgers.  He finished his career back with the Giants where he hit .316/.383/.525 with 9 HRs in 197 PA's.

After retirement from his playing career, Lefty went back to San Francisco and became the manager of the AAA Seals where he had the distinction of managing a young Joe DiMaggio.  He also became an ambassador for baseball in Japan.  He was instrumental in naming the Japanese League team in Tokyo the Giants and outfitting them with similar colors as the New York Giants.  He also likely played a role on the San Francisco Giants being one of the first teams to sign Japanese players.

He started a successful restaurant business in downtown San Francisco that has become a landmark of the city.  It features roast beef and turkey sandwiches and dinners served from a cafeteria style line.  I didn't eat dinner there, but the food looks absolutely yummy.  I spoke with a customer who said they serve "killer" sandwiches.

Lefty O'Doul died in 1969 at the age of 72.  He must have been an outgoing personality who people liked because he seemed to have had numerous friends and was a significant figure in a many lives.  He has the highest career BA(.349) of any player eligible for the HOF, but not yet inducted.  His relatively short career probably means he won't make it.  Personally, I think his impact and influence on Major League Baseball went way beyond the accomplishments of his playing career, which were considerable even though short lived.  After all, it is called the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Most Impressive Career Counting Stats!  He is in the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame, the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame and has a bridge named after him down by AT&T Park.  Come on, Veterans Committee!  Get it done!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Down on the Farm: Review of DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects Honorable Mention

Joseph Rapp, 1B:   Low A  .267/.328/.375, 6 HR.  Missed most of April and got off to a slow start.  Picked it up in the last 2 months with a .280 BA in July and .328 in August.  He hit .390/.431/.512 over his last 10 games.  I think this guy is a real sleeper who should move up to San Jose next year.  A ferocious hitter!  Stock is up.

Joe Biagini, RHP:  Low A  7-6, 5.03, 96.2 IP,  42 BB, 79 K, GO/AO= 1.51.  Pitched really well for 3 months then kind of fell apart, posting a 7.66 ERA in July and an 8.44 in August.  This was a big jump in IP for him this year and it is possible he tired down the stretch.    He only pitched in 3 games in August, so it looks like he was shut down early.  The Giants are giving this local kid every chance to succeed for a reason.  Stock is up.

Joan Gregorio, RHP:  6-3, 4.00, 69.2 IP, 17 BB, 84 K.  Strong season for this 6'7" beanpole.  Gave up 14 of his 31 ER in just 2 starts.  Had a 7 inning no-hitter with 10 K's and just 1 BB on July 18.  Stock is up!

Travious Relaford, SS:  3 levels  .201/.298/.257, 31 BB, 71 K, 10 SB in 268 AB.  Bounced around between Augusta, SJ, and Richmond.  Numbers are not encouraging.  Stock is stable to slightly down.

John Polonius, SS:  High A  .221/.286/.316.  Short Season  .270/.333/.372.  Dude looks good in a baseball uniform, but then, so did Sharlon Schoop!  Stock is down.

Jonathan Jones, 1B:  AZL  .225/.333/.433, 5 HR.  Short Season  .230/.338/.344, HR.  Can draw a walk and has some power.  That should keep him moving up in the system.  Stock is stable.

Randy Ortiz, OF:  Short Season  .253/.341/.320, 16 SB in 150 AB.  Classic slap and dash guy who can get on base and who bats RH, which does not help him.  Stock is stable.

Andrew Leenhouts, LHP:  Short Season  9-2, 2.39, 71.2 IP, 14 BB, 53 K.  Big lefty who reportedly has excellent mechanics  and command.  Earned a chance to prove it at a higher level.  Stock is up.

Emmanuel DeJesus, LHP:  I can't find him in  I'm not sure he pitched at all in 2013.  I think I read that he was released.  Very disappointing outcome from a kid who put up eye popping numbers in the DSL a couple of years ago.  Stock is way down or even off the market.

Gabriel Cornier, C:   .197/.316/.303 in 66 AB.  Draws walks, not much else.  Stock is down.

I will be away for a few days rooting for my daughter in the Nike Women's Marathon in SF this weekend.

Scouting the Draft 2014: Touki Toussaint

There are lots of reasons to like Touki Toussaint, not the least of which is the name itself.  What a great baseball name!  Or, rock star name! Or, any other kind of name, for that matter!  He might be #1 on my draft wish list for the Giants on the name alone!

Touki also happens to be a pretty darn good RHP coming out of HS in Florida.  I've seen mock drafts that have him top 3 in the draft and I think one has him at #1 overall!  He goes 6'2", 190 lbs.  He has one of the most athletic bodies of any player in the  draft with loose, whippy arm action.  The ball jumps out of his hand.  My comp in terms of physical appearance as well as his windup and delivery is a young Doc Gooden.

In one showcase event, he sat 92-95 with the FB and hit 97 while showing a plus curveball.  He's been a tick slower on the velocity in other events, but still impressive.  He has also reportedly been working on what has been described as a cutter/change offering that goes in the mid-upper 80's.

Mack's Mets has him at #2 in his Mock Draft.  BLF has him ranked #16 while Kevin R at BLF has him at #13.  Minor League Ball has him at #17 in their very early ranking.  BA has him at #8.   So, while he could be taken as high as the top 5 in the draft, he also could very easily be there for the Giants at #14, which goes to show just how deep this draft is.

Plenty of video out there on him if you want to see for yourself.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Down on the Farm: Review of DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects #41-50

41.  Austin Fleet, RHP:  AAA  1-5, 3.52, 61.1 IP, 17 BB, 47 K.  High A  6-2, 3.92, 57.1 IP, 16 BB, 54 K.  Kind of a strange season for Fleet as he shuttled between Fresno and San Jose and between the bullpen and starting.  Pretty much the same results in all roles.  A 3.52 ERA in Fresno is not bad, but a relatively low K rate combined with an extreme flyball tendency is not particularly encouraging for future success.  I'll say stock is stable.

42.  Conor Gillaspie, 3B:  MLB(White Sox)  .245/.305/.390, 13 HR.  Traded to the ChiSox at the end of spring training.  Surprisingly strong season.  It looks like he may have platooned 3B with Jeff Keppinger.  I seriously doubt he hits double digit HR's in AT&T Park.  Stock is up, but with another organization.

43.  Carter Jurica, SS/2B:  AAA  .249/.329/.319, 38 BB, 83 K in 357 AB.  May have helped position himself for a future utility role by playing quite a bit of SS, but that is not a good batting line for the PCL, or anywhere for that matter. Only hit .219 after the All-Star break.  Stock is down.

44.  Dan Burkhart, C:  Released before the season started.  I did not see that coming!  Stock is off the exchange!

45.  Edward Concepcion, RHP:  Only pitched 9 innings all season.  Pretty tough to see any future for him at this point.  Stock is way down!

46.  Jesus Galindo, OF:  Low A  .273/.342/.322, 48 SB, 6 CS, 31 BB, 80 K in 326 AB.  Classic CF/Slap and Dash guy with a decent OBP to go with his SB skills.  Can he hit for enough power to survive at higher levels?  Stock is up.

47.  Chris Marlowe, RHP:  High A  3-2, 3.97, 70.1 IP, 35 BB, 55 K, GO/AO= 1.44.  Pitched quite well before a midseason injury.  Struggled after coming back in July.  Recovered with a nice 2.70 ERA over his last 10 appearances.  Stock is stable.

48.  Steven Neff, LHP:  AZL  0-0, 0.96, 9.1 IP, 3 BB, 16 K.  Short Season  1-0, 2.49, 21.2 IP, 5 BB, 23 K.  I assume he was coming off injury.  He's always put up nice K rates and can develop into a nice lefty specialist if he can stay healthy and start moving up to higher levels.  Stock is stable.

49.  Derek Law, RHP:  Low A  0-3, 2.31, 35 IP, 10 BB, 48 K, 3 Saves.  High A  4-0, 2.10, 25.2 IP, 1 BB, 45 K, 11 Saves.  AFL  0-0, 0.00, 3.1 P, 1 BB, 5 K's.  Did he really have just 1 BB against 45 K's for San Jose?  Wow!  I did not realize that until I looked up his stats for this post!  Needless to day, stock is way, way up!!

50.  Kentrell Hill, OF:  Short Season  .200/.280/.267 in 45 AB.  Disappointing year for Hill.  Was he coming off an injury?  Stock is down.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Thoughts on 1-0 Games(Part 3)

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at the downward trend in run production in MLB that is not into it's second decade and the potential impact that could have on interest in the game going forward.  In Part 2, we looked at some of the possible reasons for this trend including the PED ban(probably a small impact), influx of young pitching talent, evolution of the strike zone and increase emphasis on individual and team defense.  In Part 3, we will look at what, if anything, can be done to halt or reverse this trend.

Generally speaking, if you are wanting to solve a problem, it helps to look at the causes of the problem and correct them.  In the case of declining run production in MLB, that may not be the case.  Lifting the PED ban is a non-starter from a public relations standpoint.  Fans have to believe that what they are seeing is real and possible for anyone with some talent and a willingness to work hard.  MLB certainly does not want to discourage the influx of new pitching talent.  Emphasizing defense is just smart baseball.  Not much you can do if teams want to put quick and fast players out on the field.  We certainly don't need more juice in the baseballs, if any such thing exists, as pitching injuries from batted balls is already a growing problem.

The strike zone is not set in stone and could be altered with a rule change.  Pitchfx could be an effective way to enforce the new zone.  How much this would help or what unintended consequences might ensue, is unknown.  In general, a smaller strike zone should help hitters, but it also might just result in more walks and a slower game.

When pitching dominance threatened the popularity of the game in the 1960's, MLB responded by lowering the pitching mound.  This knowledge got me to thinking about the history of the pitchers's mound.  The pitcher's mound is not an original part of the game.  Pitching mounds were invented by pitchers specifically to help them throw harder and on a downward plane.  Since there was no rule specifically prohibiting pitching off a raised surface, pitchers started asking the ground crews in their home parks to build mounds of dirt for them to pitch off of.  In fact, individual pitchers would often get their mound build to their specifications!  With mounds of of varying size and shape for every game, MLB decided to standardize the height at 15 inches.  Rumor has it that the Dodgers continued to customize theirs with a height of 20 inches in Dodger Stadium in the 1960's.

After the 1968 Year of the Pitcher, MLB lowered the mounds to a height of 10 inches.  There was an immediate uptick in RPG from an alltime low of 3.42 to 4.07 in 1969 and 4.34 in 1970.  Scoring dropped back down to 3.89 in 1971 and 3.69 in 1972, so it appears that after the pitchers adjusted to the new mound height, they went back to dominating suggesting that the height of the mound may be less important than the pitcher's familiarity with it.  Further lowering of the pitching mound is something MLB could consider if the downward trend in run production continues.  The results of lowering the mound are uncertain.

As defensive shifts have more impact, hitters may have to return to an emphasis on hit placement(hit 'em where they ain't) rather than trying to beat the shifts strength on strength.  Of course the opportunity cost of hitting 'em where they ain't is loss of HR's, but as pitching becomes more dominant and run scoring goes down, the value of an extra-base hit to an unguarded area goes up.  Unless you are Chris Davis and hitting 50 HR's in a season, it may be wise to take what the defense gives rather than hoping to hit it over the fence where the defense can't touch it.

At this point, it is probably too early to panic and change the rules of the game which is, and should be, a big step, but MLB needs to be contemplating possible changes if the downward trend in run production continues.

One trend that has paralleled the drop in run production is a steady increase in strikeouts.  This may be the reason why the Giants appear to have started to emphasize low strikeout rates in hitters they draft.  Of course, it is too early to judge the results of this philosophy.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Thoughts on 1-0 Games(Part 2)

In Part 1, we looked at the declining run production in MLB over the last 13 seasons, it's impact on postseason baseball and a possible fan backlash due to boring games(although grand slam HR's in the 8'th inning may tend to quiet those fears).  In Part 2, we will look at what factors may be causing this observed decline in run production.

The easy answer is the banning and testing of PED's.  After all, didn't the peak in power and run production occur at the peak of PED use?  It is certainly possible that PED's contributed to the peak in run production in the late 1990's and early 2000's.  There is certainly an intuitive relationship between hitters being bigger and stronger and being able to swing a bat harder and faster thus hitting it farther when solid contact is made.  On the other hand, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays were not big men and probably never lifted a weight in their life let alone used anabolic steroids.  They somehow managed to hit over 1400 HR's in their combined careers!  There is no obvious connection between PED's and critical elements of hitting such as timing, eye-hand coordination and pitch selection.  In addition, there is ample evidence that pitchers used as much or more than hitters with a much more intuitively obvious connection between strength, velocity and stamina.  Are we to believe that since PED's were banned/tested for, pitchers have somehow figured out how to beat the system and continue to use while the hitters have all quit?  One more point to consider is that run production did not simply spike in the late 1990's or suddenly drop off after PED's were banned.  There was a long, gradual run up to the peak run production of 2000 that started in the early 1980's and there has been a long gradual decline since 2000 up to and including 2013.

One fairly simple explanation is that there are just more and better pitchers in the league now than in the late 1990's.  That also seems to be the case in the later 1960's and early 1970s' during another severe slump on run production.  There is an interesting article up on Fangraphs entitled The Resurgence of Young Postseason Starters looking at the percentages of SP's under the age of 25 in postseason play over several decades.  The results were pretty eye-opening and created one of those Ah-ha! moments for me:

1960's- 30%
1970's- 26%
1980's- 21%
1990's- 17%
2000's- 19%
2010's- 24%

Just as the 1960's saw the influx of a remarkable number of HOF caliber pitchers such as Koufax, Drysdale, Marichal, Gibson and later Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Phil Niekro and Jim Palmer, we are currently witnessing the emergence of a remarkable number of young pitching talent that will prove to be every bit as good over the course of their careers.  That is not to say there were not great pitchers in the 1990's.  RJ, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux may well have beaten Koufax, Marichal and Lefty Carlton in a time warp, but to use relative measures such as ERA+ to prove superiority may draw inaccurate conclusions as it is likely that the average pitcher of the 1990's was simply not as good as in the 1960's and 2010's.

There has also been a fairly dramatic shift in the strike zone from the 1990's until now.  In the 1990's, most umpires were not calling any pitch above about mid-thigh a strike while giving more leeway on the corners, particularly the outside corner.  Who can forget umpire Kevin Gregg calling strikes on pitches by Livan Hernandez  that were a full 8 inches off the outside corner of the plate in the 1997 postseason?  After that debacle, MLB intructed umpires to call a strike zone that was closer to what is in the rulebook with a resulting narrowing, but also vertically expanding the zone.  This had the effect of harming pitchers like Kirk Reuter and Greg Maddux who lived by horizontally expanding the strike zone at and below the knees.  It helped young, hard throwing pitchers like Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw who prefer to challenge hitters up in the zone.  Pitchfx has reinforced this trend by forcing umpires to less creative with the strike zone and call it according to the rule book.

The last two decades have also seen a remarkable evolution in the average pitcher's arsenal of pitches.  Mariano Rivera built a HOF career on just one pitch, the cut fastball, that was not in widespread use before he made it famous.  The cut fastball has similar movement as a slider except that it is apparently easier to learn and throw, easier to control and harder for batters to recognize.  Now, instead of simply throwing fastballs, pitchers like Ryan Vogelsong can throw 3 different versions of the pitch, 4-seam, 2 seam and cutter, which all have different movement which batters have to try to adjust to on pitches that are traveling at 90+ MPH.  There is also the curve-slurve-slider continuum of pitches which all have similar movement but travel at different velocities.  In the ALDS final, Justin Verlander put on a clinic of varying breaking pitch velocities in the middle innings against the A's who flailed helplessly.  Lastly, there is the changeup-circle change-split change-split fastball continuum of pitches which radically expands the off-speed arsenal beyond the straight changeup.

While pitching techniques have advanced rapidly, so has the way baseball teams evaluate both individual and team defense.  Metrics such as UZR have for the first time quantified the effect of defense, especially range, on run prevention.  More and more teams are insisting that their players not only catch the ball reliably but cover a lot of ground in the field.  More teams are showing a willingness to sacrifice offense for improved defense when acquiring players.  Spray charts have enabled teams to be much more aggressive in the placement of fielders in areas where the batter is most likely to hit the ball.  These defensive factors may be making a bigger impact on suppressing run production than we imagine.

In summary, while PED's and their banning may be a factor in the decline in run production, it is more likely that what we are observing is due to an influx of young pitching talent, changes in the called strike zone, the evolution of pitching techniques, and improved defense.

In Part 3, we will look at what, if anything, Major League Baseball can do to increase run production.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Thoughts on 1-0 Games(Part 1)

I'm not sure if this story is true or apocryphal.  The story goes that once upon a time, Jamie Farr, the actor from the TV show MASH, was trying to explain to his family why he liked an American game called baseball so much. He thought that if he took them to a game to see for themselves, they would fall in love with the game the way he did.  One day, he packed them all up and took them to Dodger Stadium to see Sandy Koufax pitch.  Koufax pitched a perfect game that day while the opposing pitcher for the Chicago Cubs pitched a 1-hitter and the Dodgers won the game 1-0.  Farr knew he had witnessed something special.  His family hated it!

I thought about that story yesterday as I watched 4 teams in the LCS series' score a total of 2 runs including one team that did not get a hit until there was 1 out in the 9'th inning.  Just a guess, but I'm thinking Jamie Farr's family would not have enjoyed yesterday's games, and quite possibly a lot of other people watching on TV did not either.  The people who run Major League Baseball have long known that low scoring games do not attract fans.  That is why in the mid-60's, they lowered the mounds and made other rule changes when MLB pitchers achieved unprecedented dominance.  It is also why they looked the other way on the PED issue when HR records were being broken with regularity in the late 1990's and early 2000's.

Those 1-0 games yesterday were not flukes.  Yes, there were games where a lot of runs were scored in the Wild Card and LDS games, and there will probably be a high-scoring game or two in the remainder of this post-season. After all, Pablo Sandoval did hit 3 HR's off Justin Verlander in last year's World Series.  Things like that happen.  On the other hand, Giants fans should know better than anyone, pitching wins championships!  Pitching!  Pitching!  Pitching!  It should come as no surprise that the 4 teams left in postseason competition all have very good pitchers and lots of them!

What is indisputable, is that MLB is still very much in a downward trend in run production going all the way back to the year 2000 when teams averaged a peak of 5.14 runs per game.  The trend has been steadily down ever since and appears to be accelerating.  It has dropped every season since 2006 when it was at 4.86 down to 4.17 in 2013.  That is the lowest number of RPG since 1992.  Only 4 seasons have been lower since 1978!  In case you are wondering, there have been just 11 seasons with less than 4 RPG since 1920 which takes us all the way back to the deadball era.  Most of those sub-4 seasons came in the 1960s' and early 70's.

In the next installment we will look take a look at reasons for the downward trend in run scoring in Major League Baseball.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Scouting the Draft 2014: Michael Gettys

Ordinarily I am not thrilled with 2 way prospects, in Michael Gettys' case, that would be pitcher/hitter.  Maybe it's just me, but it seems like they are good at both aspects of their game, but not great.  A lack of commitment may delay the development of their ultimate role.  For some reason, though, Gettys is a kid that really caught my eye.  He as seen mainly as a pitcher coming into the summer showcase season, but then really blossomed as a hitter/OF. I think he is most likely going to be drafted as an OF which is how I will review him here.

He is from Georgia, 6'2", 200 lbs., B-R, T-R.  He is a true 5 tool player with plus-plus speed(he stole 38 bases in 32 games in HS) and by far the strongest OF arm in the draft.  Word is that at one showcase event, he uncorked a throw from the OF that registered 100 MPH.  At the plate, he has a short, compact, powerful swing with bat speed that has earned mention on several scouting reports.

On the mound, he has shown a FB that goes 91-94 MPH with a plus breaking ball.

His body filled out last summer and he has that pitcher's stockiness, so there may not be much projection there, but if he's already a beast, maybe there doesn't need to be!

You can find videos on Youtube and by looking him up on the Video Archives over at Big League Futures linked to the left.  He does not have a profile up on BLF as yet.

I have him competing for the title of top position player in the draft, although there are several strong candidates.  I think he will go top 10 as an OF.  He would be more mid-late first round as a pitcher.  Hey!  If the hit tool doesn't come, he can always be moved to the mound!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Down on the Farm: Review of DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects #31-40

31.  Mason McVay, LHP:  Low A  3-5, 4.12, 67.2 IP, 18 BB, 75 K's, GO/AO= 1.56, 1 Save.  Unexciting ERA, but very solid peripheral numbers.  Finished with an ERA of 2.13 over his last 10 appearances.  Stock Stable.

32.  Eduardo Encinosa, RHP:  Short Season  0-0, 3.12, 17.1 IP, 10 BB, 21 K's, GO/AO= 2.50, 1 Save.  Big hard throwing reliever out of Miami.  Finished 1.46 over his last 10 appearances.  Stock is stable.

33.  Roger Kieschnick, OF:  AAA  .273/.339/.497, 27 2B, 9 3B, 13 HR, 40 BB, 102 K's in 374 AB.  MLB  .202/.295/.226, 11 BB, 29 K.  Solid if unspectacular season for Fresno.  Started strong after callup but faded down the stretch.  Took a defensive posture at the plate.  Stock mixed. Had a nice season but probably got passed on the depth chart by both Juan Perez and Frankie Pegs down the stretch.

34.  Chris Dominguez, 3B/1B/OF:  AAA  .294/.334/.464, 24 2B, 5 3B, 15 HR, 23 BB, 112 K in 466 AB.  Maintained an impressive BA throughout the season.  Unclear path to the majors.  Stock is stable.

35.  Nick Noonan, 2B:  AAA  .255/.323/.345, 0 HR, 17 BB, 44 K in 165 AB.  MLB:  .219/.261/.238, 6 BB, 24 K in 105 AB.  Won a roster spot out of spring training and had some early successes.  Faded in the second half.  Probably got passed on the depth chart by Abreu and Adrianza.  Stock is mixed.  Unclear path to stick in the majors.

36.  Juan Perez, OF:  AAA  .291/.323/.466, 10 HR, 18 SB, 15 BB, 75 K in 382 AB.  MLB:  .258/.302/.348, 1 HR, 2 SB, 6 BB, 21 K in 89 AB.  Very nice season for Perez.  Earned a callup and quickly proved to be an elite defender in the OF with an adequate bat.  Earned an amazing 1.6 WAR in just 34 games and 89 AB, mostly due to his incredible D.  It would appear that a 5'th OF spot is his to lose in the spring.  Stock is up!

37.  Chris Gloor, LHP:  AA  9-7, 4.03, 156.1 IP, 41 BB, 121 K.  Repeat of AA for the big lefty.  Uninspiring numbers.  Stock is down.

38.  Jacob Dunnington, RHP:  3 levels  1-1, 3.60, 20 IP, 10 BB, 29 K, 1 Save.  Must have been troubled by injuries as he did not see much action.  Stock is down.

39.  Kendry Flores, RHP:  Low A  10-6, 2.73, 141.2 IP, 17 BB, 137 K.  Breakout season for Flores who has always put up nice peripheral numbers.  Had an eye popping 15 K with 0 BB in his next-to-last start of the season. Stock is way up!!

40.  Eric Surkamp, LHP:  High A  0-0, 2.93, 15.1 IP, 3 BB, 17 K's.  AAA  7-1, 2.78, 71.1 IP, 20 BB, 54 K.  MLB  0-1, 23.62, 2.2 IP, 0 BB, 0 K.  Came back from TJ surgery mid-season.  Pitched well in High A and then OK in AAA.  Got shelled in 1 MLB appearance.  I thought he did OK considering he was fresh off TJ.  Should compete for a #5 starter slot next spring, but will most likely start the season in Fresno again.  Stock is up simply by being healthy.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Scouting the Draft 2014: Tyler Kolek

Tyler Kolek is a classic Big burly Texas RHP coming out of HS in 2014.  He goes 6'5", 250 lbs but does not look overweight.  To me, he looks a lot like Roger Clemens!  He has shown a premium fastball in showcase games sittting 92-95 MPH and hitting 97 MPH on multiple occasions.  He also has a curve and a slider with the slider probably being his #2 pitch.  The changeup is something that will probably come later.

Again, there is a nice video on Big League Futures linked to the left.  He is my #2 pitcher in the draft after Carlos Rodon and I would have to think twice about taking Rodon if I'm the Houston Astros.  I think Kolek my have the higher ceiling of the two, but has a longer development time which increases his risk.  Kolek might even be my #2 overall prospect in the draft as I cannot think of any of the position players I would definitely take over him.

Most likely will be long gone by the time the Giants draft, but I have seen some mock drafts that have him going as late as #11.

Down on the Farm: Review of DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects #21-30

21.  Chris Heston, RHP:  AAA  7-6, 5.80, 108.2 IP, 46 BB, 97 K, GO/AO= 1.43.  Heston's fall was quite spectacular and a bit puzzling.  He pitched a CG shutout on June 13 with 9 K's.  He then proceeded to allow 24 ER over his next 5 starts, 27.1 IP.  He was DFA'd on July 13 to clear space on the 40 man roster then, surprisingly, released on July 23.

22.  Cody Hall, RHP:  High A  2-0, 1.34, 33.2 IP, 7 BB, 48 K, 2 Saves.  AA  2-2, 2.39, 26.1 IP, 8 BB, 27 K, 8 Saves.  Big hard-throwing RHP who is rapidly working his way up the ladder.  Will pitch in the AFL and could be a candidate for a mid-season callup in 2014.  Stock is up!

23.  Shawn Payne, OF:  High A  .229/.320/.305, 1 HR, 34 BB, 62 K, 21 SB.  Low A  .259/.360/.437, 4 HR, 6 SB, 21 BB, 29 K.  Tough season for Payne who couldn't seem to get untracked in San Jose and ended up back in Augusta.  Provided more evidence that plate discipline isn't everything.  A guy like him needs to bring plus D to the OF and he mainly played LF and DH.  That is not going to cut it.  Stock is down!

24.  Jake Dunning, RHP:  AAA  2-2, 1.49, 48.1 IP, 14 BB, 44 K, 1 Save.  MLB  0-2, 2.84, 25.1 IP, 11 BB, 16 K.  Impressed in a late season callup to the majors.  Will likely compete for an active roster spot in spring training.  Stock is up.

25.  Brett Bochy, RHP:  AAA  1-1, 3.99, 56.1 IP, 16 BB, 57 K's, 2 Saves.  Solid season for Melonhead Jr.  Does he have enough stuff to get MLB hitters out?  Stock stable.

26.  Josh Osich, LHP:  High A  3-1, 2.45, 40.1 IP, 10 BB, 48 K, 12 Saves.  AA  2-3, 4.85, 29.2 IP, 12 BB, 28 K, 3 Saves.  Dominated the Cal League, but had a rough transition to AA but finished strong with a 2.87 ERA over his last 10 appearances.  Stock Stable.

27.  Bryce Bandilla, LHP:  High A  1-4, 3.65, 44.1 IP, 25 BB, 72 K', 5 Saves.  Eye popping K rate but still battles  command and can get hittable at times.  Stock Stable.

28.  Steven Okert, LHP:  Low A  2-2, 2.97, 60.2 IP, 24 BB, 59 K's, 2 Saves.  Had his ups and downs but finished strong with a 1.59 ERA over his last 10 appearances.  Stock is stable.

29:  Ian Gardeck, RHP:  Low A  4-3, 3.21, 56 IP, 40 BB, 66 K, 1 Save, GO/AO= 1.71.  Hard throwing RHP who had excellent K rate but command/control is obviously still a work in progress.  Also finished strong with a 1.35 ERA over his last 10 appearances despite a K/BB of 11/8 over 13.1 IP. Stock is stable.  Could break out any time his finds the command key.

30.  Stephen Johnson, RHP:  Low A  5-1, 3.61, 52.1 IP, 30 BB, 71 K, GO/AO= 1.52, 8 Saves.  Fireballer who got better as the season progressed.  0 ER allowed in his last 10 appearances with a 14/4 K/BB.  Stock is up.

AFL Notes:  Andrew Susac went 1 for 3, with a BB in the first AFL game.  Adalberto Mejia gave up 3 runs in 2 IP.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Scouting the Draft 2014: Trea Turner

We started a Scouting the Draft Series during the season, but there were too many other things going on.  We'll try again now that things are quieting down for the offseason.  We started with college LHP Carlos Rodon who will likely go 1-1 to Houston and is an off-the-shelf frontline starter.  If you want to read his Draft Profile, just put his name in the Search function over on the left hand site of this blog.

Rodon's teammate at NC State, SS Trea Turner, is another player who should go in the top 5.  He is a relatively rare college true SS with size and speed who has drawn comparisons to Troy Tulowitzki.  Turner goes 6'1", 175 lbs, B-R, T-R.  Right now, he is on the slender side but has room to fill out to 180-190 lbs.

2013  .368/.455/.553, 7 HR, 30 SB, 38 BB, 31 K in 228 AB.
2012  .336/.432/.459, 5 HR, 57 SB, 41 BB, 38 K in 259 AB.

He is listed as being on the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox roster in the Cape Cod League, but I cannot find any evidence that he actually played.  His excellent K/BB fits right in with recent Giants first round draftees Joe Panik and Christian Arroyo, but he will likely be gone by the time the Giants draft at #14.  I would profile him similar to those two, but with a greater chance to stick at SS and with more speed.

There are links to several videos over on Big League Futures linked to the left.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Down on the Farm: Review of Dr B's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects #11-20

11.  Francisco Peguero, OF:  AAA  .316/.354/.408, 3 HR, 3 SB, 13 BB, 51 K in 272 AB.  MLB:  .207/.233/.345, 1 HR, 1 BB, 2 K in 29 AB.  Missed some time after a beaning.  Pretty good season at AAA but seems to have lost his SB skill, still strikes out a lot and still does not walk.  Looked good hitting his first MLB HR in the season finale.  Juan Perez seems to have moved ahead of him on the depth chart, which means his stock is down.  Needs to find a team that can afford to give him time to settle in at the MLB level.  I don't see that happening with the Giants right now.

12.  Ricky Oropesa, 1B:  AA  .207/.255/.307, 6 HR, 15 BB, 74 K in 241 AB.   High A  .295/.368/.477, 8 HR, 24 BB, 55 K in 220 AB.  Struggled mightily in AA as so many Giants hitting prospects have done.  Hit much better back in San Jose including 4 HR in 4 playoff games.  I saw him play 2 games in the championship series.  The 66'er pitchers threw him nothing but off-speed pitches and he struggled along with all the Giants batters.  Needs to prove he can get past the AA hurdle.  Stock down.

13.  Andrew Susac, C:  AA  .256/.362/.458, 12 HR, 42 BB, 68 K in 262 AB.  Started out strong but BA went down progressively each month and did not play after July 31, so health may be an issue.  Encouraging power and very nice ratios.  Stock is up with a caution regarding health.

14.  Ehire Adrianza, SS:  AA  .240/.331/.312, 2 HR, 11 SB, 31 BB, 45 K in 250 AB.  AAA  .310/.409/.441, 6 SB, 23 BB, 31 K in 145 AB.  MLB  .222/.263/.444, 1 HR, 1 BB, 5 K in 18 AB.  Excellent season for Adrianza. Looked good on D in a brief sample in MLB and had a moment in the sun with a dinger in Yankee Stadium to break up a perfecto by Andy Pettitte.  Stock is up, but he is out of options and where does he play?  If I'm the Cardinals GM, I am flooding Sabes with calls on this kid!

15.  Adam Duvall, 3B:  AA  .252/.320/.465, 17 HR, 35 BB, 72 K in 385 AB.  Not a bad season considering the environment.  Not sure how his D is coming along.  Should move up to Fresno next season.  I believe he is Rule 5 eligible.  Might some team out there take a flyer on him?  Stock is stable.

16.  Mac Williamson, OF:  High A  .292/.375/.504, 25 HR, 10 SB, 51 BB, 132 K in 520 AB.  The Giants challenged him with placement in his first full pro season and he responded with a terrific performance, particularly in the second half: .331/.408/.578.  Showed off a cannon arm in RF.  Stock is way up with the caveat that he still has the AA hurdle ahead of him.

17.  Edwin Escobar, LHP:  High A  3-4, 2.89, 74.2 IP, 17 BB, 92 K.  AA  5-4, 2.67, 54 IP, 13 BB, 54 K.  Terrific season for the LHP.  He should at least start next season in AAA. I would think he also should get a long look in big league camp.  Stock is way up!!

18.  Chuckie Jones, OF:  Low A  .236/.321/.371, 10 HR, 12 SB, 47 BB, 140 K in 407 AB.  Seemed to turn it around in the last 2 months hitting .275 in July and .290 in August.  This was an aggressive ranking, so I will say his stock is stable with cautious optimism for the future.  Would love to see him play for SJ next year.

19.  Shilo McCall, OF:  Short Season .235/.330/.398, 4 HR, 3 SB, 21 BB, 67 K in 196 AB.  Solid season considering he was 19 years old in a league whose median age is 22.  I would think Low A would be where he starts next season.  Stock is stable.

20.  Tyler Hollick, OF:  Low A  .178/.245/.267, 4 SB in 45 AB.  Short Season .262/.374/.338, 3 HR, 20 SB, 37 BB, 53 K in 237 AB.  Didn't get a foothold in Low A.  OK line for a 20 year old in a league whose median age is 22.  Stock stable.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Thoughts on Dusty Baker

Dusty Baker was fired by the Cincinnati Reds in the wake of their 1 game elimination from the playoffs by the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Apparently he was fired after he stood up for his batting coach after being informed by GM Walt Jocketty that the batting coach was getting the ax.  Dusty reportedly replied, "if you are going to fire him, why don't you fire me instead?"  Maybe Dusty didn't think Jocketty would take him up on the suggestion?  Maybe Dusty knew the comment would cost him his job, but said it anyway on principle?  Maybe Dusty was fed up with Jocketty after begging for a half-season for Jocketty to trade for Marlon Byrd who ended up on Pittsburgh's playoff roster and Dusty just wanted out?  In any event, if you are going to go down, might as well go down fighting for your guy.  Gotta give Dusty a lot of credit for that.

Dusty Baker has now managed 3 MLB teams for an extended period of time.  His legacy, as it currently stands, is that his teams have success in the regular season, but can't seem to get it done in the postseason.  I'm not sure that is a fair rap.  The postseason is, by it's structure, a series of small sample sizes and pretty much anything can and does happen.  Don't forget that the great Bobby Cox, who will likely be a Hall of Famer, only won one World Series Championship despite perennially taking the Braves to the postseason.  Is it really Dusty's fault that Felix Rodriguez could not get Scott Spiezio out in 2002?  Is it really his fault that Benny Agbayani went nuts in 2000?  That Mat Latos, who usually is death to the Giants gave up a grand slam to Buster Posey?  Is it really Dusty's fault that Johnny Cueto got shelled by the Bucs?  That all his best hitters bat LH and were sitting ducks for Liriano?  That Jocketty ignored his pleas for a full half season to acquire Marlon Byrd, who ended up on Pittsburgh's roster?

Managers tend to get reputations that are undeserved and difficult to overcome.  Fortunately for Bobby Cox, he won a World Series before a reputation as an underachiever in the post-season could gel and he was forever immunized against that rap for the rest of his career no matter how many times the Braves stumbled and fell on their faces.  For the longest time, Bruce Bochy had a reputation for making bone-headed calls on the field, mostly because of one incident where he lost his DH in a World Series game.  It wasn't until he ran circles around several managers with better game-management reputations in 2010 and 2012 that people realized 'Ol Boch was one very smart dude in the dugout.

To be sure, Dusty has had excellent personnel to manage throughout his career, but he has had sustained success with 3 different organizations, so he must be doing something right.  Here are some random impressions of Dusty that I found while rummaging through my memory bank of the years he managed the Giants:

He's a guy who both fans and players like.

He appears to love managing as though it is what he was born to do, even more than play the game.

He did most of his managing in the clubhouse and let the players play the game.  That is both a strength and a weakness.

His teams almost always outperformed their pre-season predictions.

His encouragement of players bringing their kids into the clubhouse and dugout contributed to a family atmosphere and made it a place players wanted to be.

His encouragement of players bringing their kids into the clubhouse on the dugout was a distraction that may have contributed to the 2002 World Series loss to the Angels.

He didn't like playing rookies, at all!

He does not really understand pitching and tends to follow a script to the bitter end.  That is both a strength and a weakness.  If you are going to deviate from your prepared script, you better be a magician out there and have a great feel for the nuances and body language of your pitchers.

He really has run into more than his share of bad luck in the postseason.

Giants fans and management didn't really understand Dusty's strengths as a manager until they experienced a few years of Felipe Alou who frenetically micromanaged the games but was a ghost in the clubhouse.

I know a lot of people will disagree with me here, but I would rate Dusty as the second best manager San Francisco era of the franchise.  My top 3 would be 1.  Bochy.  2.  Dusty  3.  Roger Craig.  I know some people would rate Craig #1, but Bochy has the two rings and Dusty has a better record.  Craig was a breath of fresh air when it was needed and re-invigorated the franchise, but his frenetic, hyperintense managing style ultimately wore thin.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Thoughts on Left Field

The conventional wisdom around baseball oriented publications and websites is that left field was a problem area for the Giants in 2013.  In the season-ending State of the Giants press conference, a reporter ticked off the top 3-4 offseason priorities and they included left field.  Brian Sabean didn't disagree with that assessment.  With that in mind, let's take a look at where the Giants might go this offseason to upgrade the position:

Free Agent Market:  With Hunter Pence re-signed by the Giants, the top available OF's on the free agent market are Shin Soo Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury and Nelson Cruz.  All 3 will command contracts within hailing distance of Hunter Pence's.  They will all most likely come with a Qualifying Offer attached.  None of them play LF, although I am sure they could.  Whether they would want to is another story.  If someone else out there has a favorite sleeper target, I'd like to hear about it.  To my eye, the rest of the OF FA market is a dry, dusty wasteland.  Based on Brian Sabean's dismissal of it, I'm guessing he sees it in a similar light.   In short, the Giants are not going to solve their perceived LF problem through this year's FA market.

One guy who may or may not come available later in the offseason is Justin Ruggiano from Miami.  He's been pushed aside by Marcel Ozuna and Jake Marisnek and is arbitration eligible with an estimated arbitration award by MLBTR of around $3 M.  He had a down year in BA(.220) but still hit 18 HR's and stole 15 bases.  His BABIP of .265 would suggest room for his BA to rebound.  He could be available on the cheap if the Marlins non-tender him.  A trade would stick the Giants with the arbitration case and would cost a low level prospect.  Just a thought. We'll talk more about him later in the post.

Trade Market:  We'll get this out of the way up front:  Giancarlo is not coming here!  Again, if anyone has a favorite trade target not named Giancarlo Stanton, I'm all ears.  Mark Trumbo is probably available, but he is terrible defensively in LF and the Angels are not going to just give him away.  Sabes more or less dismissed the trade market too and I have to say I'm not seeing it either.

Brandon Belt:  Brandon Belt has played a few innings of LF in the past and seems like he has the tools to be at least passable out there, if not above average.  He certainly has the bat to play there.  If he were to make the move, it would open a hole at first base.  Buster Posey is the obvious in-house candidate, but Sabes declared at the State of the Giants presser that Buster will be the starting catcher next year.  Brett Pill is  great guy to root for, but do you really turn 1B over to him?  If you would, hasn't Pill actually played more LF than Belt the last 2 seasons?

On the surface, the FA market at 1B looks more promising, but Mike Napoli is going to be expensive and has long term health concerns and the Mariners have declared they are going to slap a QO on Kendrys Morales which makes him a lot less appealing.  There is Mark Trumbo on the trade market, but again, the Angels are going to want some  serious pitching in return.  That leaves IFA Jose Abreu.  The Giants seem to be doing some serious tire kicking on him, but the CW has him more likely going to an AL team.

I think most people see Gregor Blanco as more of a 4'th OF.  I have to say that is pretty much how I think of him too, but recently something caught my eye that made me re-think that.  I think it was someone here made a comment that Blanco's WAR score over the last 2 years is approximately equal to Carlos Beltran's.  Wait!  What?  I decided to look up Blanco's stat sheet on Fangraphs.  Sure enough, he had a WAR of 2.3 in 2012 and 2.8 in 2013 while Beltran's 2 year WAR was 5.3, just 0.2 higher than Blanco's 5.1.  I decided to look up leaders by WAR and found that in 2013, Blanco's 2.8 was the 28'th highest in MLB.  That's right, 28'th highest!

There are 30 teams in Major League Baseball.  That means that, base on WAR criteria, there are at least 3 MLB teams on which Gregor Blanco would have been the top OF!  Now, there are some caveats to this.  WAR is not a perfect measure of value and is dependent on a combination of hitting, fielding, baserunning and position value.  Right off the bat, Blanco gets much of his WAR value from defense and he got extra credit for playing CF more than he played LF due to Pagan's injury.  On the other hand, before you go looking for a replacement and bump him down to #4, you better be sure you are getting an upgrade.  While WAR is not a perfect measurement, it also is not terrible and should be take seriously, especially since his 2 year average is also very respectable suggesting that the 2.9 is not a fluke.

While I am completely on board with the Giants exploring other options for LF this offseason, they could do a lot worse than stand pat with Blanco and possibly a RH hitting platoon partner.  Juan Perez anyone?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Down on the Farm: Review of DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects # 1-10

Time to review my pre-season top 50 Giants prospects and how they fared this season.  Remember, this is a REVIEW of the 2013 list.  The 2014 list will be coming out after the Winter Meetings.

1.  Gary Brown, OF, AAA:   .231/.286/.375, 13 HR, 17 SB, 11 CS, 33 BB,  135 K in 558 AB.  Extremely disappointing season to say the least.  Reportedly made an adjustment in his stance and swing around midseason which resulted in a flurry of HR's but then he went back into a brutal slump to end the season.  Perhaps just a coincidence, but seems to go into a tailspin whenever an OF teammate gets a promotion.  Although I probably ranked him too high here, I believe this is more than a flawed prospect finally reaching his ceiling.  No inside info, but I am inclined to believe something is going on below the surface such as a nagging injury or off field issues that has caused a regression.  Stock is way down!

2.  Joe Panik, 2B, AA:  .257/.333/.347, 4 HR, 10 SB, 58 BB, 68 K in 522 AB.  Moved to 2B as his primary position which drops his value right off the bat, although the move was long expected.  On the surface, the numbers are disappointing, but the EL is a tough environment for hitters and he maintained the sweet K/BB.  Stock down slightly.

3.  Kyle Crick, RHP, High A:  3-1, 1.57, 68.2 IP, 39 BB, 95 K, GO/AO= 0.96.  Missed 6 weeks early in season with an oblique strain.  Was otherwise dominant while being young for the level.  Still walks too many, but had some games with 0 BB's which is very encouraging.  Will get more innings in the Arizona Fall League.  Stock up!

4.  Chris Stratton, RHP, Low A:  9-3, 3.27, 132 IP, 47 BB, 123 K, GO/AO= 1.13.  Disappointing placement for a first round draft choice out of a major D1 college program.  Performance was just OK.  The Augusta Chronicle beat writer for the Greenjackets was impressed by his stuff.  Will have to step it up next year, though.  Stock down a bit.

5.  Clayton Blackburn, RHP, High A:  7-5, 3.65, 133 IP, 35 BB, 138 K, GO/AO= 1.34.  FB not as electric as Kyle Crick's.  It was 90-93 on the stadium gun in the game I attended in Rancho Cucamonga.  Maintains excellent K/BB with a GB tendency in High A ball.  Can get hittable at times, possibly due to too good control?  Stock is stable to slighly up.

6.  Adalberto Mejia, LHP, High A:  7-4, 3.31, 87 IP, 23 BB, 89 K, GO/AO= 0.76.   Strong performance in High A, which he was young for.  Got called up for 1 emergency start for AAA Fresno and allowed 2 runs in 5 IP.  FB is in the low 90's.  Size suggests he may have another MPH or two in there.  Stock stable to slightly up.

7.  Martin Agosta, RHP, Low A:  9-3, 2.06, 91.2 IP, 43 BB, 109 K, GO/AO= 0.64.  Another low placement for a college draft pick.  Started off strong with a FB up to 96 MPH.  Suffered a blister and arm fatigue.  Augusta beat writer reports a worrisome loss of velocity after the DL stint that did not come back in season.  Stock down a bit.  Will have to prove he is healthy next season.

8.  Gustavo Cabrera, OF, DSL:  .247/.379/.360, 2 HR, 21 SB, 30 BB, 54 K in 186 AB.  Dominican Bonus Baby started slow but really turned it on in the 2'nd half posting a line of .314/.417/.500 after the All-Star Break(26 games).  Elite 5 tool athlete.  His second half numbers suggest he has the ability to put skills with those tools and become an elite prospect.  Stock way up!!

9.  Heath Hembree, RHP, AAA:  1-4, 4.07, 55.1 IP, 16 BB, 63 K's, 31 Saves.  Struggled in May and June, but came back strong in July and August.  Did not allow a run in 7.2 IP in a Sept MLB stint.  Impressive stuff that can get MLB hitters out.  A 25 man active roster spot is his to lose next spring.  Stock is way up!

10.  Mike Kickham, LHP, AAA/MLB:  7-7, 4.31, 110.2 IP, 49 BB, 90 K's, GO/AO= 1.64.  MLB:  0-3, 10.16, 28.1 IP, 10 BB, 29 K, GO/AO= 1.46.  Rushed to the majors midseason because the Giants ran out of SP options.  Impressive stuff at times.  Other times looked lost and overmatched.  MLB peripherals look good.  Probably just needs a bit more time in AAA to polish up his game.  Stock stable.

I will do these in groups of 10 for easier reading and to spread it out a bit.  Next up will be #11-20.

Hot Tip: Instructional League Videos

Check out some excellent Instructional League videos that are linked over on Cove Chatter in the Twitter column on the right hand side of the site.

Kyle Crick- 95-97 on the FB.  Changeup goes 88!  Man, does he ever look like a clone of Matt Cain?  Still with some pretty obvious command issues.

Keury Mella- FB 93-95 with a nasty curve and slider to go with it.  Looked dominant in the one frame filmed.  I agree with Covechatter.  He may well be the #2 pitching prospect in the system!

Angel Villalona- Big kid with a ferocious swing.  Didn't do much in this extremely small sample size.

Ryder Jones- another small sample.  Can't really get much of a read.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Thoughts on Hunter Pence

Although I generally don't have a lot of warm, fuzzy thoughts about players on opposing teams who play against the Giants, there are sometimes individual players who catch my eye and make me say, "you know, I wish the Giants had a player like that!"  Of course a few years ago, one of those players was AJ Pierzynski, so what do I know?  On the other hand, I can also count Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro in that category, so it isn't all bad.

One such player who I have admired since he broke into MLB is Hunter Pence.  Here are some of the things I like about Hunter Pence:  His size.  His rawboned athleticism.  His intensity.  His combination of power and speed.  There is one more thing that I love about Hunter Pence that sets him apart from other good MLB players.   He chokes up on the bat!   Yes! He is a power hitter who chokes up on the bat!  Do you know who else choked up on his bat?  Yep!  Barry Bonds!  In fact, I believe watching Barry Bonds hit, is where Hunter Pence got the idea to choke up on his bat!  

I have never figured out why more power hitters don't choke up on the bat.  I know, choking up is for banjo hitters and slap and dash guys. It's all about gaining bat control and placing Texas leaguer hits, hitting 'em where they ain't, Wee Willie Keeler.  Power hitters want to be down at the bottom of the bat getting every inch of leverage they can out of their swing.  I happen to believe that is the wrong way to look at it.  Right now, there is nobody in baseball hitting the ball farther than Hunter Pence.  Before him, nobody hit the ball farther than Barry Bonds. Do you think those two get some speed into that bat head?  

Here is what I think choking up did and does for Barry Bonds and Hunter Pence:  1.  It allows them to extend their arms for maximum muscle leverage while exposing less of the bat handle to the ball.  2.  It creates more rotational bat speed allowing them to get around on an inside pitch faster while also maximizing the force of the bat on the ball at point of contact.  Think of it this way:  What happens when a figure skater is spinning with their arms extended and then pulls them in?  That's right, they spin faster!  Hitting a baseball is all about the radial spin of a bat around a central anchor just like those figure skaters.  In addition to choking up on his bat, Barry Bonds used a bat that was noticeably shorter than most.  Nobody got around on a pitch like Barry Bonds!  That added rotational speed allows the batter to wait longer before starting his swing giving him an extra split second for pitch recognition.

One more thing I love about Hunter Pence is his remarkable consistency.  Yes, he is a streaky hitter.  He's got those long arms and legs that sometimes get all out of sync and he can go 0 for 20 or 30 before you know it.  The other side of that, though is he gets into hot streaks that are awesome to behold and can carry a team.  When all is said and done at the end of a 162 game schedule, his season stat line looks remarkably similar from year to year(All stats start in the year 2008 and run through 2013, a total of 6 seasons):

HR:  25, 25, 25, 22, 24, 27.

RBI:  83, 72, 91, 97, 104, 99.

Runs:  78, 76, 93, 84, 87, 91.

Still not convinced?  Here is his slash line from 2013:  .283/.339/.483.  Here is his slash line season average for his career:  .285/.339/.476.

The dude is just a machine!  I have often just stared at his career stat sheet marveling at the consistency of it.  His MLB career is now over 1000 games and 4000 AB's.  I think you can take your wRC+ scores and  your OPS+ and any others you think might have predictive value.  With a track record like that, I would rather look at real runs crossing the plate.  You can pencil this guy in for 90 runs, 25 HR and 95 RBI's and be quite confident you will be very close in all categories at the end of the season.

So, there you have it:  Athleticism, Tools, Intensity, Choking up on the bat, Consistency.  Those are the things I like about Hunter Pence.  So it was an overpay by a couple of $ M/year.  BFD!  Are we really going to quibble over it?  Larry Baer went on the TV broadcast with Kruk and Kuip and addressed the overpay issue head on.  He said the Giants are a classy organization.  They do not try to take advantage of a player who wants to play for them.  There is a reason why players want to play for the Giants.  If the Giants want a player and there is mutual interest, they want the player to feel wanted and will do what it takes to get it done and not worry about whether it is a modest overpay.

I am totally on board with that as long as it does not become a roadblock to the acquisition of other needed players, but I defy anyone to show that any contract has ever become such a roadblock for the Giants!  Hunter Pence is a Giant, something I could only dream about when he was a young player breaking in with Houston.  I really don't give a rat's behind what the overpay was.  I like Hunter Pence as a player and am very happy I will get to watch him play for the team I root for over the next 5 seasons!