Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Scouting the 2015 Draft: DJ Stewart

DJ Stewart is a corner OF for Florida St.  He is built more like a football linebacker or running back at 6'0", 230 lbs.  In fact, he was a high profile RB in HS prior to choosing baseball as his main sport.  His father played professional baseball and was drafted by the Padres in 1991.  Stewart B-L, T-R.  He hits from an extreme crouch.  He has a quick swing with terrific bat speed, but with a fairly long stride that can make the swing get long.  He has shown tremendous plate discipline with a pronounced reversal of the normal K/BB in his sophomore season.  Here are his college numbers at Florida St:

2013:  .364/.469/.560, 5 HR, 38 BB, 40 K, 225 AB.
2014:  .351/.472/.557, 7 HR, 49 BB, 30 K, 194 AB.

BA has him ranked as the #20 draft prospect in 2015 while Kiley McDaniel has him at #22.  The Giants have not taken a corner bat in the first round that I can recall during Brian Sabean's tenure as GM.

Fantasy Focus: Savvy Vets 2014 Year in Review

2014 was not a good year for Savvy Vets as strategic decisions, and old fashioned bad luck conspired to produce an 8'th place finish out in a 10 team league.  If you recall, my strategy for the last 2 seasons has been to punt Saves and try to maximize Wins and K's by loading up on starting pitchers at all pitching roster spots plus keeping an all SP bench to rotates starters in and out of the rotation in a league that allows daily lineup changes.  I finished 4'th in the league with that strategy in 2013 and felt I had underspent on offense in the draft.  I adjusted the drafting strategy this season and spent about 3/4's of my budget on offense while mostly scavenging for pitching.  I tried to find SP with a low WHIP with the reasoning that WHIP approximates ERA but is more stable from year to year, and let sheer numbers take care of W's and K's.   The result was a very competitive team in 9 categories almost every week, but the matchups were not kind.  I remember one week early in the season where I finished 2'nd in the league for the week in 7 categories, but the guy I was H2H with finished first in all 7 of those categories so I got shellacked 0-10 on the week.  Had I been able to go just 5-5 that week, I would have been within a win or 2 of finishing 6'th in the regular season with a shot at the championship in the playoffs.  There were a couple of other similar weeks that ruined my season.  BTW, the guy who shellacked me 0-10 did not win the championship or even finish first in the regular season standings.

So, here is my final Savvy Vets roster with season stats for each player:

C  Jonathan Lucroy- 73 R, 13 HR, 69 RBI, 4 SB, .301 BA.
1B David Ortiz-        59 R, 35 HR, 104 RBI, 0 SB, .263 BA.
2B Jason Kipnis-      61 R, 6 HR, 41 RBI, 22 SB, .240 BA.
3B Pablo Sandoval-  68 R, 16 HR, 73 RBI, 0 SB, .279 BA.
SS Ian Desmond-     73 R, 24 HR, 91 RBI, 24 SB, .255 BA.
IF  Mike Napoli-       49 R, 17 HR, 55 RBI, 3 SB, .248 BA.
OF Carlos Gomez-   95 R, 23 HR, 73 RBI, 34 SB, .284 BA.
OF Jose Bautista-      101 R, 35 HR, 103 RBI, 6 SB. .286 BA.
OF Marcel Ozuna-    72 R, 23 HR, 85 RBI, 3 SB, .269 BA.
UT Ryan Braun-       68 R, 19 HR, 81 RBI, 11 SB, .266 BA.
UT Alex Gordon-     87 R, 19 HR, 74 RBI, 12 SB, .266 BA.

SP Rick Porcello-     15 W, 129 K, 3.43 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 0 SV.
SP James Paxton-     6 W, 59 K, 3.04 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 0 SV.
SP Bartolo Colon-    15 W, 151 K, 4.09 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 0 SV.
SP Max Scherzer-    18 W, 252 K, 3.15 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 0 SV.
SP Chris Archer-      10 W, 173 K, 3.33 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 0 SV.
RP Danny Duffy-        9 W, 113 K, 2.53 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 0 SV.
RP Josh Collmenter- 11 W, 115 K, 3.46 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 0 SV.
RP Marcus Stroman-11 W, 111 K, 3.65 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 0 SV.
P    Jared Cosart-       9 W, 75 K, 4.41 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 0 SV.
P    Alex Cobb-         10 W, 149 K, 2.87 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 0 SV.
BN Willy Peralta-     17 W, 154 K, 3.53 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 0 SV.
BN Jimmy Nelson-   2 W, 57 K, 4.93 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 0 SV.
BN Matt Garza-        8 W, 126 K, 3.64 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 0 SV.
BN Kevin Gausman-7 W, 88 K, 3.57 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 0 SV.
BN Bud Norris-        15 W, 139 K, 3.65 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 0 SV.
DL Homer Bailey-    9 W, 124 K, 3.71 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 0 SV.

I made just 2 changes in my offense over the course of the season.  I traded James Shields for David Ortiz when Brandon Belt was injured.  I also dumped Shin-Soo Choo for Ozuna as Choo had a terrible season finally ended by injury.  I waited way to long to dump Choo!  Poor seasons from Ryan Braun and Jason Kipnis hurt me quite a bit.  Braun was my highest cost player at $47. He wasn't terrible, but you have to get better production than that out of a $47 player.  Still, in a league where Mike Trout went for over $70, I'm not sure I what you are supposed to do!  On the plus side, I got a steal on Lucroy who I got for about $5.  I had 2 of the 5 20/20 players in MLB in Desmond and Gomez.

On the pitching side, I probably should have been more insistent on only rostering pitchers with WHIPs  under 1.30, but the pickings were slim after mid-season.  I made 2 big mistakes in giving up on Corey Kluber and Colin McHugh way too soon.

I'm currently trying to think of an alternate strategy that does not involve grossly overpaying for and chasing Saves, but I may have to relent and get back into the Closer Wars.

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #7 Keury Mella

Keury Mella, RHP.  DOB:  8/2/1993.  6'2", 200 lbs.

2012 DSL:      3-3, 2.47, 69.1 IP, 28 BB, 75 K, GO/AO= 1.39.
2013 AZL:      3-2, 2.25, 36 IP, 11 BB, 41 K, GO/AO= 2.39.
2014 Low A:  3-3, 3.93, 66.1 IP, 13 BB, 63 K, GO/AO= 2.27.
2014 SS:         1-1, 1.83, 19.2 IP, 6 BB, 20 K, GO/AO= 0.85.

Keury Mella has had some buzz about him for awhile now.  The selling point is his mid-90's, heavy FB that produces, in addition to a healthy K rate, a good number of broken bats and a lot of ground balls.  He also has a curveball and changeup that are plus pitches at times, but still somewhat inconsistent.  David Lee, the reporter who covers the Augusta Greenjackets, has an extensive scouting report in which he states that Mella has the highest ceiling of any Augusta pitcher since Kyle Crick and the best stuff since Madison Bumgarner.

While Mella forms a high ceiling trio with Tyler Beede and Kyle Crick, he does not come without risk. He has a rather extreme "inverted W" in his arm load, which some analysts equate with injury risk, particularly UCL tears.  I would add that the "inverted W" theory is still unproven and highly controversial.  Mella did suffer what sounds like a rotator cuff strain from Lee's description in June which caused him to miss almost 2 months of the season.  He came back on a rehab assignment in Salem-Keizer ramping up from 1 inning to 5 over 6 appearances without any apparent setbacks.

If he is fully healthy, I would expect him to be assigned to San Jose for 2015 and I hope to see him pitch sometime during the season on one of the trips to SoCal.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Scouting the 2015 Draft: Kyle Cody

Kyle Cody is a huge, 6'7", 245 lb college RHP from Kentucky with a big fastball.  The FB runs 92-97 MPH.  He's pitched mostly in relief for Kentucky, but may move into a starter role this spring.  Here are his stat lines for his first two years:

2013:  3-3, 4.84, 57.2 IP, 20 BB, 47 K.
2014:  4-0, 2.84, 38 IP, 13 BB, 20 K's, 5 Saves.

The relative lack of K's probably reflects a relative lack of secondary stuff.  He has a passable curveball that has more lateral movement than depth and an emerging changeup that has shown some tumble down and away to LH batters.   Otherwise, it's pretty much pound the zone with the heater.  I tried to find out if there was a reason for the low IP last year but was not able to dig up anything.  His Cape Cod League season was cut short by some sort of injury that was described as minor and he spent the rest of the summer in a conditioning program.

On video, he's a drop and drive guy with a long stride that gives him a release point very close to home plate.  He gets fairly good extension on a mid-3/4's delivery with a strong follow-through.  He's been compared to former Kentucky RHP Alex Meyer but with better control of his body.  He'll likely be a bit of a project for whoever drafts him, but I really like the foundation.  You can't teach size and can only teach a small increase in velocity.

BA has him ranked as their #19 draft prospect for 2015 while Kiley McDaniel has him at #20.

Thoughts on Rankings and Grades

Humans love lists!  I don't know what it is, but whether it is a list of favorite movies, music, travel destinations or athletes, you can write exactly the same things about them in a random order and nobody will pay a scrap of attention.  As soon as you rank them it some sort of order, any order, you will have people flocking to read and then quoting the rankings to others.  Maybe it's just the moral certainty of thinking you know that movie X is the 3 best of all time vs movie Y which is only the 5'th best as opposed to the ambiguity of the actually review?  I don't know.

Just an example of how crazy all this is, there is probably no more subjective experience in life than listening to music.  I recently bought the Rolling Stone Neil Young Collector's Edition.  They did a ranking of Neil's top 100 songs.  I was happy to learn that, like me, Rolling Stone thinks Powderfinger was his best song.  On the other hand, I can think of at least 50 Neil Young songs that I like better than Cortez the Killer which was RS's #3.  Love is a Rose is a song I like a lot, and it did not even make the top 100!  From a rational standpoint, it makes no sense at all to rank something this subjective, yet, I guarantee that Rolling Stone sells a lot fewer copies if it published the exact same reviews of each song, but in a random manner.  Maybe it somehow makes us feel more secure if we know that someone who is considered an authority likes Powderfinger as much as we do?  Maybe it makes us feel superior if we know of a great song that doesn't get ranked at all?  I don't know.  I mean, I really don't care if 9 out of 10 music critics think Tommy is a better album than Quadrophenia.  I personally find Tommy to be virtually unlistenable while I have listened to the entire Quadrophenia album more times than I can count!  Still, we love our lists and rankings and grades.  Lists give us something in a neat, concise package that we can compare, discuss and argue about with others.

Let's take a look at the Giants prospect rankings for 2014 and at Joe Panik in particular.  Last year, I ranked him #11 on my Top 50 Giants Prospects list, not particularly high at all.  BA had him at #9, John Sickels at #13 with a C+ grade.  A lot of rankings had him a lot lower.  Marc Hulett of Fangraphs did not have him in his top 15.  Beyond the Boxscore did a composite of multiple rankings and had him at #15.  Rankings like that in one organization that is generally regarded as weak to begin with will usually generate some yawns and a mental checkbox that this guy might get a cup of coffee someday.  What Joe Panik did for the Giants in 2014 might have caught you by surprise.  On the other hand, if you took the time to read what was said about him in some of those rankings, you might not have been as surprised.

Here's what John Sickels had to say about Joe Panik in his #13 writeup:  "Seems like a useful utility player to me, but there is a chance he can be more than that.  Still showing the contact approach that sometimes correlates with unexpected offensive growth in late 20's."

Now, here is what I had to say in my more extensive discussion:  "2013 was a rough year for the former first round draft pick…."  I then went on to detail his stats from AA Richmond including the fact that his XBH's did not drop off as much as his SLG% would make it appear.  I then went on, "When you add in the difference in league average OPS….Panik did not have nearly as terrible a season as it may appear, and he actually had a higher percentage of his hits go for extra bases."  "Assuming he stays healthy and moves up to AAA Fresno, I think we'll see a much better season out of him in 2014."  "If he can hit .280-.290 with an OBP of .340-.360, he will be a valuable middle infielder regardless of his power and he should be able to hit the gaps regularly.  He should be ready for his MLB debut about the time Scooter is done."

Well, Scooter was done an lot sooner than I or anyone else thought, but damn!  Joe Panik was ready!  But back tot he point of this post.  What gave you a better picture of Joe Panik's future, the various rankings on the lists, Sickels C+ grade, or the comments made by both Sickels and me in the discussion?  I would submit if you simply read my discussion in a vacuum, without the knowledge of where he ranked or what grade Sickels gave him, you would have had a much better idea of who Joe Panik was as a prospect and what his future might hold than you would with the added frills of the rankings and grades.

This is why I constantly preach to not get too hung up on the exact order of prospect rankings.  It really did not matter one wit whether Joe Panik was ranked #9 or #15 or somewhere in between.  What mattered was the information in the write-ups that followed.  In fact, I would go so far as to say the rankings and grades got in the way, producing a biases in people's minds that made their interpretation of the discussions less complete and accurate!

Monday, December 29, 2014

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #6 Mikey Edie

Mikey Edie, OF.  DOB:  7/3/1997.  5'11", 175 lbs.  B-R, T-R.

2014 DSL:  .298/.424/383, 2 HR, 14 SB, 8 CS, 19 HBP(ouch!), 9.5 BB%, 12.9 K%, 232 PA.

I actually thought long and hard about ranking Edie #1 on this list.  That's how excited I am to have him in the Giants organization.  Maybe it's just because I have dreamed for so long of seeing a legitimate 5 tool prospect come up through the system and star for the Giants.  I think you have to go all the way back to Chili Davis for that, If my memory is correct.  Back in the 60's and early 70's, in the George Genovese days, the Giants used to churn kids like this out at a rate that seemed like 1 or 2 per season.  So, why else am I so darned high on Mikey Edie?

Unlike most international signees, Edie comes with a fairly extensive baseball resume in international competition.  He played in the Little League World Series for Venezuela and later starred in the 15U international tournament.  Although BA did not rank him in the top 30 international prospects of 2013, the year he signed, another scouting website, Baseball Instinct, ranked him #9 and had this to say in their profile:

"I always give the edge to players who succeed in international competition….The ability to excel on that stage as a young kid is something worth paying attention to if it is accomplished with tools…..Mikey Edie is a possible 5-tool player who absolutely mashed at the 15-and-unders.  He has a good chance of sticking in CF and could become a 20-20 player.  His bat speed is excellent.  Edie has a very level swing that he moves through the zone quickly, creating above-average line drive power."

Edie trained at the Ozzie Guillen Academy.  There is video available of him taking batting practice there.  There are pictures posted of him at instructional league in Arizona this fall, so we should see him in Arizona this summer where he won't turn 18 yo until the summer short season is underway.  Putting his age, pre-signing resume, scouting report and DSL performance together, I think this kid is the real deal and could be a true 5-tool athlete who can actually play the game and actually has the most important tool, the hit tool.

PS:  He does have a Cody Ross leg kick in the Ozzie Guillen video that probably needs to be toned down a bit.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Scouting the 2015 Draft: Riley Ferrell

Riley Ferrell is a college closer from TCU who is slated to move into their rotation this spring.  At 6'1", 200 lbs, he joins a long list of relatively short-statured but hard-throwing college pitchers in the 2015 draft class.  Here are his stat lines for this freshman and sophomore seasons:

2013:  0-2, 2.20, 32.2 IP, 11 BB, 39 K, 3 Saves.
2014:  3-1, 0.79, 45.1 IP, 14 BB, 70 K, 15 Saves.

His scouting report says he throws 93-97 MPH with the FB.  He also has a slider and an improving changeup.  On one video I watched, he sat 93-94 MPH with his final pitch of the inning going 96.  He also had a slider that went about 84 MPH.  It had more of a downward break than lateral making me wonder if it was more of a splitter or spike curveball.  One scouting report did say he had a curveball.  He has a compact delivery with an almost straight over-the-top release point, creating an impressive downward plane despite his relative lack of height.  There is moderate effort in his delivery.

BA has him as the #18 draft prospect for 2015 while Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs has him at #35.  If he makes a successful transition to starting on the college season, I could see him being taken closer to #18.  If he goes back to closing, he could fall into the supplemental first round.  There are pluses and minuses to college closers.  They usually have a limited repertoire and often do not have stuff that translates well to the pros.  On the other hand, they often throw hard and don't already have a lot of mileage on the arm.  The Giants like hard throwing college closers, but tend to draft them from the 4'th round on.  The last college closer they took in round 1 was David Aardsma.

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #5 Mac Williamson

Mac Williamson, OF.  DOB:  7/15/1990.  6'4", 235 lbs.  B-R, T-R.

2012 SS:  .342/.392/.596, 7 HR, 4.8 BB%, 15.2 K%, 125 PA
2013 High A:  .292/.375/.504, 31 2B, 25 HR, 10 SB, 8.5 BB%, 22.1 K%, 597 PA.
2014 High A:  .318/.420/.506, 3 HR, 6 SB, 13.0 BB%, 14.0 K%, 100 PA.

Mac Williamson is probably the premier power hitting prospect in the Giants minor league system right now.  He's a big dude, but with a lean, athletic looking build that actually still has some room to fill out.  He has some speed to steal a few bases and cover a corner OF position.  He also has an absolute rocket for an arm.  Well, at least he did before undergoing Tommy John surgery at the end of April, 2014, which cut short his 2014 season.  It's bit hard to get a read on him as a hitter, except for the obvious power as his BB and K rates have been all over the place in limited sample sizes.  I'm thinking his 2013 numbers are probably pretty close to his true rates.  Those are manageable.

He should have played last year with AA Richmond, but was sent to SJ to start the season because of the arm injury which he initially tried to rehab.  He was limited to DH duties and the EL does not use a DH in the home parks of NL affiliates.  Hitting back in the Cal League after tying a record(I think) for HR's there in 2013 was obviously not much of a challenge.

The key for Mac in 2015 is how soon the arm will be ready to make throws from the OF.  If he has to DH to start the season, he could be back in SJ which would not be good for his development as a hitter, which already suffered a 1 year setback.  At age 24, turning 25 mid-season, he is not getting any younger, but power hitters often develop later anyway.

I've seen him play in person a few times.  As you would expect from a guy his size, the swing looks like it could be a bit long and he seemed to get tied up on inside pitches a bit.  Again, not surprising.  He strikes me as being like a RH Brandon Belt, but not as giraffy, which is a good thing.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Scouting the 2015 Draft: Ian Happ

Ian Happ is a switch-hitter who has played multiple positions for Univ. of Cincinnati and has made the Cape Cod League All Star team twice.  Here are his Cincy stat lines:

2013:  .322/.451/.483, 13 2B, 6 HR, 25 SB, 5 CS, 47 BB, 32 K, 205 AB.
2014:  .322/.443/.497, 13 2B, 5 HR, 19 SB, 5 CS, 32 BB, 35 K, 171 AB.

He also hit .329 with 12 2B and 4 HR in 149 AB's in the 2014 CCL

He has played 2B in college but also CF.  Most scouts think he will end up in LF, but think he can hit enough to play there.  There is some thought that he could be a 3B.

He is ranked as the #17 draft prospect by BA, #13 by Kiley McDaniel who comments that he has above average hit/power tools and plus speed. He is ranked #16 by

There are some things here that the Giants historically look for, versatility, switch-hitting, CCL credentials.  I could see them pulling the trigger if he is there when they pick.

DrB's 2015 Top 50 Giants Prospects: #4 Christian Arroyo

Christian Arroyo, SS/IF.  DOB  5/30/1995.  5'11", 185 lbs.  B-R, T-R.

2013 Rookie AZL:  .326/.388/.511, 18 2B, 5 3B, 2 HR, 9.1 BB%, 15.3 K%, 209 PA.
2014 Low A:           .203/.226/.271, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 3.2 BB%, 17.6 K%, 125 PA.
2014 Short Season:  .333/.378/.469, 14 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 6.7 BB%, 11.6 K%, 267 PA.

Christian Arroyo was not on many radar screens as a baseball prospect until Kiley McDaniel correctly predicted that the Giants would make him their first round draft pick in 2013.  Arroyo was a HS SS out of Florida with fringy tools except for a really good hit tool.  When asked whether he could stick at SS, Giants management's answer was they thought so, but didn't really care.  He was drafted for his bat.

The bat certainly played in his first pro summer as he raked the Arizona League.  2014 took him to Augusta to start the season.  The Giants curiously moved him to 2B which was a bit sooner than a lot of people, including me, expected.  Even more curiously, the move to 2B seemed to be to make room at SS for Ryder Jones, who was drafted as a 3B.  Christian got off to a rough start in Augusta and later admitted that he was pressing due to high expectations.  He also was beset by a string of injuries including a thumb strain, thumb bruise and a case of the flu.  After some time off, he resurfaced in Salem-Keiser where he again lit up the league after a brief slow start.  He hit just .187 in June at S-K but then hit .359 in July and .364 in August, hitting .400 in his last 10 games.

So which is the real Christian Arroyo?  Probably somewhere in between, but I'm going to say closer to the Salem-Keiser version.  Mitigating factors in Augusta included adjusting to a new level, an extreme pitching-friendly environment, the move to a new position, the injuries and the pressing from high expectations.  As for level of play, the average age of prospects in the SAL is 21.5 vs 21.1 in the NWL, so virtually the same.  The NWL is definitely more hitter friendly than the SAL.

In a videotaped interview with Conner Penfold of Giant Potential, Arroyo comes across as a confident, intelligent young man who likes to talk.  He uses big words appropriately.  I am not sure if he will go back to Augusta or make the jump to San Jose for 2015, but I think he will do well and start to move up quickly in the organization.  It remains to be seen what his future position will be.  With Arroyo, you either believe in the hit tool or you don't.  I believe!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Scouting the 2015 Draft: Daz Cameron

Daz Cameron is the son of former MLB CF Mike Cameron.  At 6'1", 185 lbs, he is very similar in appearance to his pop and possesses the same 5 tools.  Daz also plays CF and projects to play that position in the majors with his 6.61 60 time.  He hits 90 MPH on the gun on throws from the OF.  Two scouting reports I read say his hit tool is more advanced that Mikes.  He has gap-to-gap power with HR power to the pull side.  He B-R, T-R.  His swing is described as smooth with "explosive" hand speed.

On the 18U Team USA, he was the second best hitter to Trenton Clark with a .444/.556/.852 slash line tying Clark with 3 HR's. He drew 19% walks and struck out less often at 16.7%.  In 31 HS games he hit 12 doubles, 6 HR's and had 18 SB's.

On video, I think I see a slight dip of the hands before he loads for the swing.  I don't know how much of a concern that would be, or if it is a concern at all.  The only significant negative I could find in scouting reports is that his motor maybe doesn't run at full speed all the time.

BA has him ranked #16 in the 2015 draft class while Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs has him at #8.  Teams looking for a true 5 tool CF with power will probably be hunting for  him in the draft.

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #3 Kyle Crick

Kyle Crick, RHP.  DOB:  11/30/1992.  6'4", 220 lbs.

2012 Low A:  7-6, 2.51, 111.1 IP, 5.42 BB/9, 10.35 K/9
2013 High A: 3-1, 2.87, 68.2 IP, 5.11 BB/9, 13.79 K/9
2014 AA:       6-7, 3.79, 90.1 IP, 6.08 BB/9, 11.06 K/9

Kyle Crick was drafted in the supplemental first round in 2011 out of HS in Oklahoma.  I believe he only started pitching in his junior or senior year.  He's a big kid who throws hard. He bears a striking resemblance to Matt Cain although he is slightly taller and leaner.  Crick pitched just 7 innings over 7 appearances the summer after the draft.  His first full season was spent in Augusta in 2012 where he dominated, albeit with a generous walk rate.  He moved up to San Jose in 2013 where he again dominated, but missed 6 weeks early in the season with a strained oblique.  His AA season in 2014 was a bit more of a struggle as his BB/9 crept up above 6 and he was moved to the bullpen for the AA playoffs.  Despite is struggles with command, there were some positives.  He ERA was solid if not dominating.  He also had the highest K/9 of any pitcher with at least 90 IP across all AA leagues and was a full 1 K/9 above the second place guy.

I saw him pitch in the game where he strained his oblique.  He pitched just 2 innings of that game but looked good.  I saw him again in the Cal League playoffs where he looked good for 3 innings but then ran into trouble in the 4'th and was not able to get out of the inning.  What I saw in that game was very similar to what we used to see from Matt Cain early in his career where batters couldn't hit the fastball but he also didn't completely miss bats with it either.  Batters kept fouling the FB back and he didn't have enough secondary stuff to make them pay for sitting on the FB.  The pitch count ballooned, he got frustrated and the command got more shaky as the inning went on.

Crick has the elite fastball that sits 95-96 and touches 98.  His changeup goes 90-91 MPH which probably needs more separation in velocity from the FB.  He's got a good breaking ball, but without enough command to make it a put away pitch.   Based on my relatively small observation sample size, my hypothesis is that Crick is not wild with the FB so much as he just does not have a wipeout secondary pitch that he can consistently go to if hitters are fouling off the FB.  He then starts trying to overthrow the FB and everything comes unraveled.  Of course, the K rates would tend to refute that idea, but the FB is really very good and the secondary stuff is good enough to get K's some of the time, but maybe not consistently.

It is very hard to find comps of pitchers who have both K and BB rates as high as Cricky although there are plenty of examples of pitchers with BB/9's in the upper 4's who went on to MLB success.  Felix Hernandez had a BB/9 of 4.91 in AAA.  Matt Cain was at 4.19 in AA and 4.50 in AAA.  Robert Stephenson who is considered a top prospect in the Reds system had a BB/9 of 4.87 with a K/9 of 9.22  and an ERA of 4.74 at the same age in AA last year.  So, while the control/command issue is one that needs to improve, I don't think it is quite the daunting problem that it has been made out to be in some circles.

Crick may just need more time to refine his secondary stuff.  He was one  of the younger players in AA last year at age 21 so age is not an issue yet.  He could repeat AA and still be relatively young for the level.  If he fails to make progress with the current secondary pitches, he may need to try using a cutter as his breaking pitch and maybe a splitter instead of the changeup.  He still has a very high ceiling with plenty of time to figure it out.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Christmas came in October for us Giants fans, but I do hope everybody is having a great day with your families or friends.  I'll probably do a regular post later today.

Dr B

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #2 Andrew Susac

Andrew Susac, C.  DOB:  3/22/1990.  6'1", 215 lbs.  B-R, T-R.

2012 High A:  .244/351/.380, 9 HR, 12.9 BB%, 23.5 K%, 426 PA
2013 AA:        .256/.362/.458, 12 HR, 13.5 BB%, 21.9 K%, 310 PA
2014 AAA:     .268/.379/.451, 10 HR, 13.4 BB%, 19.8 K%, 253 PA
2014 MLB:     .273/.326/.466, 8 2B, 3 HR, 7.4 BB%, 29.5 K%, 95 PA.

When Andrew Susac was in 4'th grade in Carmichael, CA, he wrote a paper in class about his dream job playing for the San Francisco Giants and beating Barry Bonds' HR record.  He must have been so excited to be drafted by the Giants in round 2 of the 2011 amateur draft out of Oregon St.   The Giants had taken Joe Panik in round 1 and Kyle Crick in the supplemental first round.  Word was the Giants did not expect Susac to be there in round 2, but he fell due to a hamate fracture suffered during the college season.  Susac did not start his pro career until the 2012 season when he was aggressively assigned to High A San Jose.  That first season was an adjustment to the rigors of catching and calling games at the professional level.  He moved up to AA in 2013 and improved his numbers significantly despite the much tougher hitting environment in Richmond and the Eastern League.  Prospect analysts like John Sickels started to take notice of his combination of power and high walk rates.  Susac put up similar numbers in AAA in 2014 and got the call to SF when Hector Sanchez went down with a concussion.

To say Susac impressed at the MLB level as backup catcher to Buster Posey would be an understatement.  He showed he could handle himself behind the plate, but where he really shined was at the plate.  The BB and K numbers don't look so good, but he showed excellent pitch recognition  and plate discipline within PA's and was not afraid to drive the ball.  If you project his counting stats to 600 PA's you get 50 doubles and 19 HR's!

Susac is so similar to Buster Posey in pretty much everything from size to facial features and hairstyle to his batting stance and swing you have to look twice even on HDTV to tell which one you are looking at.  I looked up some videos from the Cape Cod league before he was even drafted by the Giants.  Even back then, he sure looked a whole lot like Buster at the plate.  They are listed as the same dimensions of 6'1", 215 lbs.  After looking at video of both players, I think Susac packs a bit more of his weight up around the shoulders whereas Buster carries more of his in the upper legs and butt.  I just know that Susac looks like a tank up there!

Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean have already said that Susac is the backup catcher going into spring training and it is up to Hector Sanchez to reclaim the job.  One concern that I have is if Susac is the sole backup catcher, his opportunities for PA's are going to be limited mostly to the games he starts at catcher, since you don't want to burn your backup catcher in a PH appearance if you don't have to.  This takes away as many as 100 PA opportunities a young bench player would otherwise get to progress in their development.

Beyond the concern about his development as a backup catcher, Susac certainly looks like the real deal.    He's kind of a 3 true outcomes type with the high walk rates and relatively high K rates plus the power, but he also looks like he has the potential for extra base power on balls in play as evidenced by the doubles he hit.  It probably will help his development to caddy for Posey for 1 season, but if he continues to impress at the plate the way he did in 2014, I would think there will be pressure to find more PA's for him one way or another.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #1 Tyler Beede

Tyler Beede, RHP.  DOB:  5/23/1993.  6'4", 200 lbs.


2012:  1-5, 4.50, 71.2 IP, 4.00 BB/9, 8.50 K/9.
2013:  14-1, 2.32, 101 IP, 5.61 BB/9, 9.18 K/9.
2014:  8-8, 4.05, 113.1 IP, 4.21 BB/9, 9.24 K/9.

Rookie AZL:  0-1, 3.12, 8.2 IP, 4 BB, 11 K, GO/AO= 1.50.
Salem-Keizer:  0-0, 2.70, 6.2 P, 3 BB, 7 K's.  GO/AO- 1.40.

Tyler Beede was the Giants first round draft pick in the 2014 draft, #14 overall.  He has been an elite prospect since HS when he was drafted in the first round by the Toronto Blue Jays at #21 overall.   He chose to go to Vanderbilt and had a strong career there.  He's a big kid with almost perfect pitcher's dimensions.  On video he looks like a big strong strapping kid who may weigh 10-15 lbs more than his listed weight and he still looks like he has room to fill out!.  He just is a very commanding presence on the mound dominating the batter's view.

He has a strong, aggressive looking windup and delivery with a 3/4 release point.  It looks like he may still have a bit of variance in the location of that release point.  He has a 4 seam FB that sits 92-94 and has touched 98 against Xavier in the college playoffs.  He is not just a hard thrower though.  He also has a plus curveball and a change up that has been described as "plus-plus"  When he lost command of his FB in the college WS, he was still able to get batters out with the change.  Kyle Crick may throw harder with the FB, but his secondary stuff is not nearly as developed.  Again, there is more to "stuff" than just velocity.

Beede's pro debut was limited to an extremely small sample size as he had to wait for the college WS to end before signing and I am sure the Giants did not want to tax his arm anymore after the extra college work.  His pro numbers were similar to his college numbers.  From a tools and "stuff" standpoint, Beede is, by far, the top pitching prospect in the Giants system.  The big concern is his command/control.  First of all, I don't think his command issues are quite as serious as they've been made out to be.  His walk rate was a lot worse in 2013 when he had a dominant season. Timmy had worse walk rates in college.  Sonny Gray's walk rates at Vandy were almost as high as Beede's, in the high 3's.  Secondly, the while the Giants Pitcher Whisperer reputation may be a bit overblown, they do have a track record of helping pitchers overcome command problems.  Thirdly, I think his stuff is so dominant that once he gets the hang of pitching to wood bats, his confidence will skyrocket and he will be much more comfortable challenging hitters.

Lastly, I would like to break down a video that I think has freaked a lot of people out.  It's of one inning from his Arizona League experience.  The Video was posted by Conner Penfold from Giant Potential.  Beede was indeed wild to the first two batters he faced, walking both, and not really coming at all close to the strike zone.  Here is the pitch sequence of the next 3 batters:

Batter 3:  Ball 1, low and away.  Foul pop.  Called strike, inside corner at the knees.  Weak check swing for strike 3.  Ball looked in the zone on outside corner.

Batter 4:  Ball, Foul, Ball, Foul, flyout to RF by RH batter.  Late on FB.

Batter 5:  Ball(slightly high).  Ball, low and away.  Foul.  Swinging Strike FB just below letters.  Called strike 3, outside corner at the knees.

So you see, after walking the first 2 batters with pitches that were not near the strike zone, he really settled down and dominated the next 3 batters to get out of the inning.

I don't know about you, but I see that as a big positive in a video that has been widely cited as worrisome.

I would think Beede should start the 2015 season with San Jose.   I think he will do well and move fast.  I can easily see him getting a September callup, starting 2016 in AAA with a final ETA of midseason 2016.  I think he is going to be the next great Giants homegrown starting pitcher in a line that started with Matt Cain followed by Timmy and Bummy.  He really was an easy choice for #1 Giants prospect for 2015.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Scouting the 2015 Draft: Chris Betts

Chris Betts is a LH hitting HS catcher from Southern California.  He has shined in showcases this summer showing off light tower power in batting practice and then producing at the plate in games.  On the defensive side, he has a strong arm with a 90 MPH FB and pop times under 1.9.  He's got nice size for a catcher at 6'2", 210-220 lbs.  He is not a runner.  His Dad was a NCAA Div 1 catcher for Oklahoma and has been teaching Chris the finer points of catching since he was a youngster.  Chris has been calling his own games since he was 11.

He is committed to Tennessee because he does not dig the west coast college approach of having cleanup hitters bunting.  I think it's a safe bet that if he is drafted in the top 2/3's of the first round he will turn pro out of HS.  He has been comped to Brian McCann.  I would say I also see a bit of Miguel Montero in him in videos of him batting.  BA has him ranked as the #15 draft prospect for 2015 as does Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs.

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Giants Prospects

Time to unveil my 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects list.  There may be another trade or two coming down the pike that could affect the list, but I have a feeling most of the big deals are done.  Can't wait forever anyway.  This was a challenging list as there is no clear #1 in the system and  a very deep top tier without a lot of clear breaks between tiers.  There is an unusually large number of prospects with MLB experience and a strong draft class with several interesting HS draftees which makes for some interesting juggling at the extremes of the proximity vs ceiling spectrum.  As always, I really hope people don't get too hung up on the exact order.  Mine might be a bit different if I did it another day!  We will provide profiles of each of the prospects through the rest of the offseason and into spring training aiming to profile everybody by the start of the season.

1.  Tyler Beede, RHP
2.  Andrew Susac, C
3.  Kyle Crick, RHP
4.  Christian Arroyo, SS
5.  Mac Williamson, OF
6.  Mikey Edie, OF
7.  Keury Mella, RHP
8.  Clayton Blackburn, RHP
9.  Daniel Carbonell, OF
10. Matt Duffy, IF
11. Tyler Horan, OF
12. Luis Ysla, LHP
13. Ty Blach, LHP
14. Adalberto Mejia, LHP
15. Gustavo Cabrera, OF
16. Steven Okert, LHP
17. Hunter Strickland, RHP
18. Ray Black, RHP
19. Cody Hall, RHP
20.  Derek Law, RHP
21. Michael Santos, RHP
22. Johneshwy Fargas, OF
23. Skyler Ewing, 1B
24. Austin Slater, OF
25. Aramis Garcia, C
26. Joan Gregorio, RHP
27. Ehire Adrianza, SS
28. Ryder Jones, 3B
29. Chris Stratton, RHP
30. Dylan Davis, OF
31. Adam Duvall, 1B
32. Gary Brown, OF
33. Erik Cordier, RHP
34. Jesus Galindo, OF
35. Brian Ragira, 1B
36. Mitch Delfino, 3B
37. Sam Coonrod, RHP
38. Blake Miller, IF
39. Chuckie Jones, OF.
40. Stephen Johnson, RHP
41. Byron Murray, OF
42. Logan Webb, RHP
43. Stetson Woods, RHP
44. Jonah Arenado, 3B
45. Dylan Brooks, RHP
46. Kelby Tomlinson, IF
47. Matt Lujan, LHP
48. Ty Ross, C
49. Christian Jones, LHP
50. Matt Gage, LHP

Honorable Mention(in no particular order):  Jarrett Parker OF, Chris Dominguez OF/3B/1B/SS, Chris Heston RHP, Mike Kickham LHP, Jake Dunning RHP, Brett Bochy RHP, Austin Fleet RHP, Kelvin Marte LHP, Mario Lisson 3B, Devin Harris OF, Ricky Oropesa 1B/3B, Angel Villalona 1B, Jeff Arnold C, Phil McCormick LHP, Carlso Alvarado RHP,  Dan Slania RHP, Bryce Bandilla LHP, Elliott Blair OF, Ben Turner C, Brandon Bednar IF, Alberto Robles IF, Jared Deacon C, Joe Biagini RHP,  Pat Young RHP, Joe Kurrasch LHP, Tyler Rogers RHP, Tyler Mizenko RHP, Martin Agosta RHP, Nick Vander Tuig RHP, Rafael Rodriguez OF, Jeremy Sy IF, Ryan Jones 2B, Chase Johnson RHP, Steven Messner LHP, Carlos Diaz LHP, Robert Ramer RHP, Donald Snelton LHP, Conner Kaden RHP, Seth Harrison OF, Jason Forjet RHP, Ethan Miller RHP, Eury Sanchez RHP, Hector Mercedes SS, Chase Compton 1B, Richard Amion OF, Luis Lacen OF, Kevin Rivera 2B, Rayan Hernandez RHP, Rodolfo Martinez RHP, Kendry Melo RHP, Greg Brody RHP, Mason McVay LHP, Travious Relaford IF, Hunter Cole OF.

Dominican Dandies:  Kelvin Beltre SS, Manuel Geraldo SS, Mecky Coronado C/DH, Robinson Medrono OF, Deiyerbert Bolivar LHP, Prebito Reyes LHP, Victor Concepcion RHP, Jose Morel RHP.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hot Tip: Ryan Sadowski Featured on MLBTR Podcast

Our old friend, Ryan Sadowski, is featured on a MLBTR podcast discussing the Korean Baseball Organization.  He is representing Global Sporting Integration, a company that assists ballplayers in transitioning to and from Asia.  Glad to see that Ryan has found a way to put his baseball experiences to a good use as he transitions out of of playing career.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Hot Stove Update: AJ Preller Blows Up the Hot Stove

New San Diego Padres GM, AJ Preller, likes to watch the fire grow after throwing another log on.  Yesterday, something snapped and he just kept throwing log after log in until the old Hot Stove couldn't contain it anymore and the thing just blew up!  That's all figuratively speaking, of course, but oh my!  A day after the Matt Kemp trade was finalized, Preller quadrupled down on RH power hitters by acquiring Justin Upton from the Braves for a package of prospects.  He also sent recently acquired veteran C Ryan Hanigan to the Red Sox for 3B Will Middlebrooks and sent of a couple of very promising young pitchers to the A's for C Derek Norris.

The common denominator in all these Padres deals is the acquisition of RH power to the point of selling out everything else for it.  The Padres now have a projected starting OF of Kemp, Upton and Myers.  Who is going to play CF out of that bunch?  Kemp is going to want to, but can he?  Myers played some CF in the minors, but nobody thinks of him as a MLB CF.  Upton has never played there, so he's out.  There is some speculation that Myers might move to 1B or that Preller might flip him to Texas for Jurickson Profar who would become the Padres SS if he can stay healthy.

The Padres already had decent options at 3B in Cory Spangenburg and Yangervis Solarte.  Middlebrooks joins that mix as an all or nothing power hitter who is not much of a fielder.  Derek Norris is also a guy who can jerk the ball out to LF and his BA has improved over the last 3 seasons.  Norris' defense came under criticism after the Royals ran wild in the Wild Card game.

Beyond that, trying to sort out who will be starting where for the Padres and who will be a reserve and who will be shopped out gives me a gigantic headache.  As for the Braves, they seem to be burning the ship down to the water line.  Fried may be a legitimate pitching prospect, but is coming off TJ.  The other prospects look more suspect to me.  Billy Bean made a nice haul for Norris as both Hahn and Alvarez are legitimate pitching prospects who both broke in last year.  Hahn went 7-4 with a 3.07 ERA in 12 starts for the Padres last year and Alvarez is a hard throwing RHP with a good shot at eventually being a MLB closer.

In other news, the Marlins acquired Martin Prado from the Yankees for RHP Nathan Eovaldi.  Prado will play 3B for Florida after Casey McGehee got sent to the Giants.  Prado is nice player, but Miami might have been better off to just keep McGehee and Eovaldi.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Hot Stove Update: Giants Fill 3B Hole With Casey McGehee

The Giants filled their 3B hole today with a reported trade for Casey McGehee from the Marlins.  McGehee has had an up and down career including a stint in Japan in 2013.  He is coming off a return season to MLB in which he had a solid BA for the Marlins but almost no power.  He was a late bloomer who got started on his MLB career late so is still arbitration eligible at the age of 32.  MBLTR estimates that he will make $3.5 M through arbitration this year.  After initial rumors had the Giants shipping out Matt Duffy and/or Hunter Strickland, they ended up giving the Marlins RHP's Kendry Flores and Luis Castillo.  I had Flores at #21 in my preliminary Top 50 prospect list with Castillo as an Honorable Mention at best.  Flores has displayed solid K rates with very low BB's indication plus command at an early stage of development.  On the other hand, he has been more hittable than you would like from a top pitching prospect.  Flores has probably been passed by both Keury Mella and Michael Santos in rankings of Giants pitching prospects.

McGehee was not what I had in mind for the 3B position, but you could argue he was the best available 3B after Chase Headley was taken off the market.  McGehee comes dirt cheap compared to Headley and Headley is not without his risks, so this is a low risk deal for the Giants which could pay decent dividends.  If it allows some flexibility to fill other needs, either in the offseason or in midseason, it is even better.

McGehee's batting line last year was .287/.355/.357, 29 2B, 4 HR, 4 SB, 9.7% BB, 14.8% K, 177 H, 691 PA.  Just for a point of reference, McGehee had the 13'th most hits in MLB last year.  In fact, his nickname in Miami was Hits McGehee!  His OBP would have been second on the Giants after Buster Posey, his 29 doubles would have tied for 2'nd with Hunter Pence.  His 56 Runs would have been 4'th on the team and his 76 RBI's would have been 3'rd.  The question of course is whether he can sustain that level of production. It came with a BABIP of .335.

Hot Stove Update: Giants To Re-Sign Jake Peavy

The Giants apparently threw in the towel on signing a frontline starter and will instead bring Jake Peavy back on a 2 year/$24 M deal.  The deal calls for a $4 M signing bonus with $7 M in 2015 and $13 M in 2016.  As we all know, Peavy came to the Giants in a midseason trade with the Boston Red Sox last year for Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree.  At the time, it looked like a too little, too late trade as the Giants had several other holes to fill.  The headline deadline deals were being made by Billy Beane across the bay.  As it turned out, Joe Panik filled a huge hole at 2B and Peavy stepped into the gap left by Matt Cain's early departure to the DL and the Giants season was saved.  Peavy turned out to be the single biggest impact acquisition out of the deadline trades.  His pitching line after joining the Giants was 5-4, 2.17, 78.2 IP, 17 BB, 58 K.

Part of his turnaround with the Giants was undoubtedly due to ballpark differences between SF and Boston and the NL West and the AL East.  Dave Righetti also helped him with some mechanics tweaks, emphasized establishing the FB on the inside corner which opened up the outside half of the plate to his breaking stuff which he threw more often.  His changeup also improved noticeably.  Peavy's postseason performance was disappointing and may have hurt his market value this offseason.  I thought he looked a bit gassed in the postseason which might be explained by his 202 IP in 2014 compared to 144 in 2013.  He also had a thumb injury prior to WS Game 6 which only lasted a couple of innings.

If you compare this deal to the ones given out to the likes of Jason Hammel, Edinson Volquez and Brandon McCarthy, it looks pretty good from the Giants perspective.  It would be foolish to expect Peavy to replicate last year's August and September for a full season, but he should be solid pitching in he NL West.  The dollars are not going to constrain the Giants from acquiring other players they may need in the future and it avoids a risky, big money, longterm commitment.

I assume this means the James Shields talks are dead and the Giants will keep their first round draft pick, which makes me very happy, although the backloading of the contract into 2016 suggests the Giants may have something else up their sleeve for 2015.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hot Stove Update: Giants Re-Sign Sergio Romo; Wild Three-Way Trade and More

The Giants finally made their first significant move of the offseason and, wait for it, they re-signed Sergio Romo to a 2 year/$15 M contract.  It might be a slight overpay, but considering MLBTR had him pegged for 3 years/$21 M, it's probably a pretty good one in the current FA environment.  Romo had some struggles mid-season as he started hanging his slider a bit too often and lost his closer role, but finished strong and was again a solid contributor in the postseason.  This signing gives the Giants a solid 5 in the bullpen with Casilla, Affeldt, Machi and Lopez.  Yusmeiro Petit will presumably move back to his long-man/6'th starter role after the Giants acquire another starter.  That would leave 1 spot open to competition among Hunter Strickland, Eric Cordier, George Kontos and others.

Whether this impacts the Giants search for another high profile starter remains to be seen.  If the Giants have a self-imposed salary cap equal to the luxury tax threshold, then it would seem to put a cramp in efforts to land a James Shields, Max Scherzer or Cole Hamels.  With a large chunk of payroll coming off the books after 2015, the Giants may decide they can go above the threshold for 1 season then go back down below it next year.


The Padres, Rays and Nationals completed a wild 3-team trade that just may have been won by the Nationals even though they were apparently latecomers to the deal.

The Padres get OF Wil Myers, RHP's Gerardo Reyes and Jose Castillo and veteran C Ryan Hanigan.  This is kind of an all or nothing trade for the Padres as they role the dice on Myers, who has a huge upside, but is coming off an injury and slump plagued season with the Rays.  As for the Rays, they were willing to sell low on the guy who cost them 2 good years of James Shields, so that may tell you something right there.  The deal is contingent on Myers passing his physical with the Padres.  Hanigan is being brought in to mentor and take pressure off Austin Hedges who will likely move up to the MLB club in the wake of Rene Rivera leaving in this trade after Yasmani Grandal got moved to the Dodgers in the Matt Kemp trade.

The Rays get C Rene Rivera, RHP Burch Smith and 1B/DH Jake Bauers from the Padres, and OF Steven Souza and LHP Travis Ott from he Nationals.  Rivera had a breakout season last year at the age of 31.  He recently had an article written about him in The Hardball Times featuring his pitch framing technique which resulted in a lot of extra strikes for the Padres last year if you believe in those measurements.  I am not impressed with Burch Smith.  Bauers looks like a good hitter, but he is still in the lower minors.  Souza is an interesting case.  He's bit long in the tooth for a prospect at age 25, but he has put up the kinds of numbers in the minors that make sabermetric enthusiasts drool with power, speed, great walk rates and manageable K rates under 20%.  I would not be shocked if Souza turns into a better hitter than Wil Myers!  Ott is a big LHP in the lower minors.  This may not be as bad a haul for the Rays as it looks at first glance as Souza and Rivera will help right away and there is younger talent to boot.

The Nationals get RHP Joe Ross and SS Trea Turner from the Padres.  This is a huge win for the Nationals as they trade a blocked OF, albeit a good one, for a first round draft pick and obvious replacement for Ian Desmond who they are rumored to be trying to trade.  Since Turner was drafted just last year, he will have to be a PTBNL and will not come to the Nationals until after the 2015 draft in June.  The Nationals also get a high ceiling pitcher who is much closer to the majors than the guy they gave up, Ott.

On a side note, the Matt Kemp trade to the Padres appears to have hit a snag, possibly having to do with Kemp's physical.  It is unclear if this trade has anything to do with the Kemp situation.  Obviously, the Padres are denying that it does.


The KC Royals agreed to terms with RHP Edinson Volquez for 2 years/$20 M.  Interesting since he will be replacing James Shields who the Giants are rumored to be trying to sign since the Giants could have signed Volquez as a FA.  I like this deal for the Royals, although Volquez has admittedly  had his ups and downs and his success last year appears to be largely BABIP driven.


The Mariners traded for another player who I think could have helped the Giants, Justin Ruggiano.  Ruggiano is an OF with enough defensive chops to play CF and has some pop and speed from the right side of the plate.  He would make a nice platoon partner for the LH hitting Gregor Blanco at the least. All the Mariners gave to the Cubs in the deal is a relatively low level pitching prospect.


Last but not least, Michael Morse signed a 2 year/$16 M deal with the Marlins.  He will likely play mostly 1B for the Marlins.  Sounds like a good deal for him.  Wish him the best.  He was a good Giant.  He didn't really have a place to play with the Giants as they had given up on him as an OF and there is no room at 1B.

What do you think of these moves?

Scouting the 2015 Draft: Ashe Russell

Ashe Russell is a HS RHP from Indiana.  He has a prototypical pitching prospect's body at 6'4", 195 lbs with oodles of room to fill out.  He's got a long, loose arm.  He throws both a 4 seam and 2 seam FB in the 91-94 MPH range topping out at 96.  He adds a plus slider which he uses as a put away pitch and a changeup that is also a plus pitch at times.  He maintains velocity deep into games.

On video, he looks like he puts a considerable load into the elbow with a hint of the dreaded inverted W which may be a concern in terms of future injury.  The delivery is 3/4 to low 3/4.

BA and Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs both have him ranked as the #14 draft prospect going into 2015.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hot Stove Update: Giants Remain Quiet As Options Dwindle

We have not heard a peep out of the Giants camp since the Lester deal went south, or north depending on your point of view.  Meanwhile several players who have been mentioned as free agent options went off the board yesterday in a new flurry of activity around the Hot Stove.

Melky Cabrera signed a 3 year/$42 M deal with the White Sox.  Cabrera was looking for a 5 year deal so apparently settled.  At one point the Giants were thought to be interested in bringing Melky back to play LF.  Melky is 30 years old which makes this a nice deal for the White Sox.  On the other hand, he is a negative defender and has to pretty much hit .300 to contribute on offense.  He also would have cost the Giants a first round draft pick to sign him.  No great loss here.

Chase Headley agreed to a 4 year/$52 M deal with the Yankees with a chance to earn an extra $1 M each year if he makes 550 PA's.  Headley was the last viable replacement for Pablo Sandoval left on the market.  This is one I personally wanted for the Giants.  He has out-produced Pablo by fWAR every year for the last 3 years and just signed for barely over half Pablo's cost.  He does have his warts. He has had back issues and went through a prolonged slump at the plate which he seemed to come out of in the second half last year.  Maybe the Giants really weren't that into him or maybe he just wanted to remain a Yankee.  IMO, it's a good deal for the Yanks and one the Giants may come to wish they had topped.

Jed Lowrie agreed to a 3 year/$23 M deal with the Houston Astros.  Again, there was talk of the Giants signing Lowrie and moving him to 3B.  Lowrie's camp went so far as to signal his willingness to move.    I believe Houston is his hometown and he will get to play SS there.  His downside is his lengthy injury history.

Alex Rios agreed to a 1 year/$11 M deal with the KC Royals.  Rios had a down year in 2014 largely due to a thumb injury and is looking to rebuild his value on a 1 year deal.  This is a couple of $M more than I thought he might get, but still a nice risk/reward for KC.  On the downside, Rios' D has been slipping which might be less likely to come back than the bat.

Michael Morse is rumored to be close to a 2 year deal with the Marlins.  A bit of a surprise he would not go to an AL team where he could DH.  The Marlins have an opening for at least a platoon at 1B where his D is not nearly the liability that it is in LF.  The bat is good enough for 1B.  Happy for Morse if this is true.  Wish him the best.  He was a good Giant!

Where this all leaves the Giants is unclear, but they are looking more and more like they are up a creek without a paddle.  They are presumably in negotiations with James Shields who will likely overpriced, at least in number of years and will cost the first round draft pick.  At this point, I don't think Shields alone is enough of a difference maker to be worth losing the draft pick.  Shields just seems like the pitching version of Aaron Rowand to me.  I would rather go after Edinson Volquez who looks like he would cost about a 2 year/$18-20 M.  He's had his ups and downs but is still relatively young and still has good stuff.

As I mentioned, there are no obvious 3B options left on the market.  They might consider signing Gordon Beckham on the cheap and letting him compete for the 3B job, although he is not a clear upgrade on internal options.  They might be able to swing a deal with Boston for  Brock Holt or for my White Whale, Garin Cecchini.  Chris Johnson in Atlanta is probably available by trade, but it's pretty tough to get too excited about him.

As for LF, they might try to revive the Justin Upton talks but he would be costly and they would be only getting him for 1 year.  Besides, Upton is on record as hating AT&T Park.  They might be better off just going with Blanco as a stopgap until one of Carbonell, Williamson or Horan are ready.  Again, it seems  like Gary Brown should get a decent look somewhere in all this, not that he deserves it.

Man!  It may all still work out in the end, but so far, this offseason is looking like a disaster!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Community Question: Is Gary Brown Still a Top 50 Giants Prospect?

Hey team!  I'm hard at work on the annual Top 50 Giants Prospects for 2015 and the usual thorny questions come up.  It's always hard to compare pitchers with hitters, power guys vs speed guys, AAA prospects with low ceilings vs rookie ball prospects with high ceilings.  One this year that has me a bit flummoxed is what to do with Gary Brown.  He seems so close, but at the same time, so far away.  He seems to have no support from the organization and no clear path to the majors.  Where would you rank Gary Brown?  Is he even a Top 50 prospect anymore?  Yes or No and please defend your answer.

Bonus Question:  Same question for slightly different reasons for Adam Duvall.

Scouting the 2015 Draft: Carson Fulmer

Carson Fulmer is a hard throwing RHP for Vanderbilt who split time between closing and starting last year. He will probably start for Vandy in 2015.  He could project as either a starter or reliever in the pros.  He is compact, but solidly built at 5'11", 195 lbs.  He generates tremendous arm speed with a quick, jerky windup with rather abrupt acceleration and deceleration with quite a bit of effort.  The arm speed produces a FB that goes 92-96 and has touched 97 MPH.  He also has above average CB and CH to go with it.  Here is his stat line from 2014:

7-1, 1.98, 91 IP, 41 BB, 95 K, 10 Saves.

His windup and delivery looks more like a reliever's to me, and I wonder about his injury risk with the abruptness of the arm speed, but his pitch mix would work as a starter.  The comp that comes to me is Roy Oswalt.  He is the exact same size as another Vandy alum, Sonny Gray.  Fulmer has much more jerky and abrupt mechanics than Gray.  BA has him ranked as the #13 draft prospect for 2015 while Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs has him at #17.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Down on the Farm: 2014 Draft Prospect Debuts

Our review of the 2014 Top 50 Prospects list did not include the 2014 draftees for obvious reasons.  Let's catch up with how the newest Giants fared in their professional debuts.  We will only include the draftees who signed contracts.  We will list them by draft round and overall draft position:

1-14:  Tyler Beede, RHP.  Rookie AZL- 0-1, 3.12, 8.2 IP, 4 BB, 11 K.  Short Season:  0-0, 2.70, 6.2 IP, 3 BB, 7 K's.  Young Beedah signed late due to pitching in the College WS.  Giants gave him a few brief looks probably mostly for evaluation purposes going into instructionals. I would project him to start next season in the San Jose rotation.  Bad sign if he starts the season in Augusta.

2-52:  Aramis Garcia, C.  Rookie AZL- .219/.324/.313, 13.2 BB%, 15.8 K%, 38 PA.  Short Season- .229/.289/.357, 2 HR, 6.6 BB%, 25 K%, 76 PA.  The transition from college catcher to pro catcher is rough because they have to learn to call pitches on their own rather than relay signs from the dugout.  That sometimes impacts offense.  I would project Garcia to start next season in Augusta, although SJ is a possibility.  I would project Ty Ross to move up to SJ.

3-87:  Dylan Davis, OF.  Rookie AZL- .297/.341/.486, 7 2B, 7.3 BB%, 29.3 K%, 41 PA.  Short Season- .200/.269/.341, 4 HR, 7.5 BB%, 24.7 K%, 93 PA.  The power is there, but can he make enough contact?  Threw out several runners with his cannon arm.  Could move to the mound if the contact does not improve.  2015 projection:  Augusta vs San Jose.

4-118:  Logan Webb, RHP.  Rookie AZL-  0-0, 2.25, 4 IP, 3 BB, 5 K's.  Pop-up HS prospect.  successful cameo appearance at end of season.  2015 projection:  Maybe Augusta?

5-148:  Sam Coonrod, RHP.  Rookie AZL- 1-0, 3.90, 27.2 IP, 6 BB, 25 K.  Low walk rate is a pleasant surprise, even at a low level for this hard throwing RHP who may profile more as a reliever.  2015 projection:  Augusta?

6-178:  Skyler Ewing, 1B.  Rookie AZL- .237/.318/.421, 4 2B, 1 HR, 9.1 BB%, 20.5 K%, 44 PA.  Short Season- .291/.417/.473, 9 2B, 8 HR, 15.8 BB%, 12.3 K%, 228 PA.  Those are fantastic numbers combining power and plate discipline, even for Salem-Keizer.  2015 Projection:  All the Way to San Jose!

7-208:  Seth Harrison, OF.  Rookie AZL- .067/.227/.200, 16.7 BB%, 33.3 K%, 18 PA.  Short Season- .266/.298/.354, 10 2B, 2 3B, 11 SB, 4.6 BB%, 24.3 K%, 173 PA.  Harrison showed some speed with doubles power, but atrocious K/BB.  2015 Projection:  Augusta?

8-238:  Austin Slater, OF.  Rookie AZL- .333/.333/.556, 3B, 0.0 BB%, 22.2 K%, 9 PA.  Short Season- .347/.417/.449, 2 HR, 7 SB, 7.6 BB%, 12.9 K%, 132 PA.  A lot to like here, high average, low K's, a bit of pop, speed.  I think there is some power projection here.  Major college program.  2015 projection:  San Jose, baby!

9- 268:  Stetson Woods, RHP.  Rookie AZL- 5-1, 2.25, 16 IP, 4 BB, 20 K.  Very nice debut for the big kid from the Central Valley.  2015 projection:  Augusta.

10-298:  Matthew Gage, LHP.  Rookie AZL- 2-0, 1.89, 33.8 IP, 8 BB, 32 K.  These numbers would be great if they were at Salem-Keizer.  2015 projection:  Augusta?

11-328:  Greg Brody, RHP.  Rookie AZL- 1-1, 0.63, 14.1 IP, 3 BB, 27 K, 2 Saves.  College reliever.  Needs to do this at higher levels.  2015 projection:  Augusta?

12- 358:  Jameson Henning, SS.  Signed.  DNP.  Interesting size for a SS at 6'4".

13- 388:  Luis Lacen, OF.  Rookie AZL- .250/.321/.271, 3 SB, 9.4 BB%, 37.7 K%, 53 PA.  Raw kid with tools.  Mixed success in pro debut.  2015 projection:  Back in Arizona vs Salem-Keizer.

14-418:  Kevin Rivera, 2B.  Rookie AZL- .228/.281/.296, 6.7 BB%, 21.1 K%, 180 PA.  Maybe a bit more advanced than Lacen, but a lower ceiling.  2015 projection:  Hard to see him succeeding at Augusta already.  Maybe Salem-Keizer?

17- 508:  Caleb Smith, LHP.  Rookie AZL- 1-0, 4.35, 10.1 IP, 13 BB, 12 K.  Not particularly impressive.  2015 projection:  Salem-Keizer.

19- 568:  Richard Amion, OF.  Rookie AZL- .267/.379/.385, 2 HR, 8 SB, 13.5 BB%, 22.1 K%, 163 PA.  Some speed and ability to take a walk.  2015 projection:  Augusta.

22-658:  Mark Reyes, LHP.  Rookie AZL- 1-1, 3.00, 12 IP, 3 BB, 14 K.  JC draftee.  2015 projection: Probably Salem-Keizer vs Augusta.

23-688:  Jordan Johnson, RHP.  Rookie AZL- 0-0, 0.00, 2.2 IP, 2 BB, 3 K's.  Tiny sample size.  2015 projection:  S-K vs Augusta.

25- 748: Byron Murray, OF.  Rookie AZL- .279/347/.412, 8 BB%, 20.0 K%, 75 PA.  Encouraging numbers for HS flyer who signed.  2015 projection:  Not sure.  Could be back in Arizona or up to S-K or even Augusta.

26-778:  Hunter Cole, 3B.  Rookie AZL- .444/.444/.556, 9 PA.  Short Season- .239/.311/.424, 4 HR, 7.7 BB%, 19.2 K%, 104 PA.  I'll take the power.  BA should be better with those K and BB numbers.

27-808:  Conner Kaden, RHP.  Rookie AZL- 1-0, 2.79, 9.2 IP, 4 BB, 16 K.  Low A- 0-1, 3.60, 10 IP, 3 BB, 7 K.  Highest level reached for pitching draftees.  2015 projection:  Augusta vs San Jose.

28- 838:  Nick Sabo, LHP.  Rookie AZL- 1-0, 6.75, 2.2 IP, 2 BB, 1 K.  Big dude at 6'8" out of Long Beach State.  Tiny pro debut didn't go so well.  2015 projection: Salem-Keizer vs Augusta.

33- 988:  Jared "Deac" Deacon, C.  Short Season- .219/.311/.234, 10.4 BB%, 11.7 K%, 77 PA.  High A- .217/.280/.304, 7.7 BB%, 19.2 K%, 26 PA.  Highest level reached for 2014 draftees.  May already be seen as an organizational player.  2015 projection:  San Jose?

As Young Beedah goes, so goes the draft.  He's the guy to watch.  Could be a fast mover if the Giants can help him with command.  He has elite stuff.  Ewing and Slater wowed in their pro debuts and could also move fast.  I'm excited by the HS kids, but they will require patience.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Armchair GM Part Deux: Where Do the Giants Go From Here?

Whether you are disappointed in the failure of the Giants to do anything at the just completed Winter Meetings or relieved that they did not, you have to be wondering where they go from here.  While the Giants were sitting around waiting for Jon Lester, other teams were busy making moves and setting others up.  The free agent market is noticeably smaller than it was 5 days ago.  The trade market probably is to, but the trade market is less transparent than the FA market.  The current conventional wisdom is that the Giants are now trying to sign James Shields.

I really like James Shields, but he is 33 years old and reportedly asking for a 5 year contract.  That would take him through his age 37 season.  He is also tied through a Qualifying Offer from the Royals to the loss of a first round draft pick.  Unless his asking price has dropped, and there is no reason to believe it has, the Giants need to just say no and look elsewhere.

So, where else should they be looking?  Let's pull up the old armchair and put ourselves in Brian Sabean's seat again.  What would we do in this situation.  Again, the rules ground rules:  1. Buster Posey is staying at catcher.  2.  Brandon Belt is staying at first base.  3.  Brandon Crawford is staying at SS.  4. Tim Lincecum is not going to be the closer.  5.  The Giants are not going to go past the Luxury Tax threshold for 2015 payroll.

The linchpin of my first Armchair GM plan, Chase Headley, is still out there.   Sabes may have burned his bridges with Headley by proclaiming that the Giants are not necessarily "head over heals" for him, and that there are other options available.  Well, there may be other options available out there, but you have to squint really hard to see them.  There certainly are no other viable FA options available unless you are planning to move somebody to a new position.  A new name popped up yesterday, Asdrubal Cabrera, but Bobby Evans quickly tamped that down saying that ACab prefers to play up the middle and there is not a fit right now.  Jed Lowrie has said he is willing to move off SS.  Gordon Beckham is available and could probably play the position.  There are still some fairly farfetched trade ideas floating around for David Freeze, one of about 3 guys Pablo Sandoval is now blocking in Boston, maybe a Cody Asche as part of a Cole Hamels trade?  There was mention of signing ACab to play 2B with Joe Panik moving to 3B, but hellzbellz, if Panik can play 3B, I would much rather give Matt Duffy! the 2B job and run with it!
 Unless the Giants are serious about really going large on Max Scherzer or think they are really close to a trade for Cole Hamels, they need to get past their ace pitcher obsession and recognize that anything less than Pablo money is a good deal for Headley.  5 years/$75 M?  Get it done, Sabes!  I mean, if you are going to spend $75 M over 5 years, who is a better bet?  A 34 year old pitcher or a 31 year old third baseman?  Yeah, Headley has his well documented warts, but Shields and Pablo don't?  Headley has put up a higher fWAR the last two seasons than Pablo and his peak fWAR was significantly higher too.

Pitching is the next priority.  My 3 mid-level targets, Jason Hammel, Justin Masterson and Brandon McCarthy are all off the board now.  Hammel's contract, in particular, looks like a nice one for the Cubs.  The Giants currently do have 5 starters penciled into the rotation:  Bumgarner, Cain, Hudson, Petit and Lincecum.  Adding another starter would probably push Petit back to long relief/6'th starter and given this bunch, there is a good chance he would be back in the rotation by season's end.  Are there any other cost effective deals to be had out there?

Edinson Volquez is still out there.  He's had his ups and downs but is still just 31 years old and still throws 93 MPH. He also is a strong GB pitcher who would fit nicely with the superior IF defense the Giants would have with Chase Headley at 3B.   MLBTR thinks his price is about 2 years/$18 M.  He would probably jump at a 3 year deal.  A contract in that range is not going to cripple the Giants even if it completely busts.  It's a risk worth taking.

Aaron Harang is another pitcher who has been up and down seemingly forever.  He's 37 years old but might be available on a 1 year deal, 2 at the most.  He's more of a flyball pitcher, but AT&T Park is also friendly to flyball pitchers and the Giants have good OF defense. Again, a decent risk.

I've always liked Kyle Kendrick.  Nothing fancy here but he is a reliable innings eater who has kept his head above water pitching in a bandbox.  I think he would do well pitching in a Giants uniform and he would not be expensive.

Moving on the the OF, I know it's not a popular idea, but what OF out there is going to outperform Gregor Blanco?  The Giants already have brought in Justin Maxwell to compete for a platoon/4th OF role and challenge for a starting job.  Ideally, you want a bigger RH bat, but the market is very thin.  Alex Rios is still out there and would probably take a 1 year contract to try to rebuild his value coming off a thumb injury that destroyed his second half last year.  On the other hand, Rios D is slipping badly so what does he really give you that Michael Morse does not.  My pick in the first Armchair GM post was Michael Morse on another 1 year deal and I'm still going with that until he gets a multi-year deal form some AL club.

This fills the Giants immediate needs and leaves some room to add at the trade deadline.  There may be some kids who could help out by midseason too.  The probability is that 2015 will be another down year in the odd-even cycle anyway.  Don't paint yourself into a future corner with something that is not going to change that this year anyway.

Where would you take the Giants now if you were the GM?  Remember, keep it real!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thoughts on the Winter Meetings

Well, THAT wasn't good!  The Giants went into the Winter Meetings with the buzz going their way with Jon Lester seeming to seriously consider signing with the reigning World Series Champions.  Then things started getting really weird.  The Giants basically announced the they would not conduct any other business until Lester made his decision.  Then they waited, and waited and waited some more.  You could almost see their delegation literally huddled around a stove looking down at their feet.  I mean, it was like King Henry waiting to see the Pope, Jimmy Carter in the White House waiting for the hostages to be released, the wallflowers at the dance hoping against hope the quarterback comes over asking for the last dance.  It was horrible!  Even given the probability that whoever signed Lester would live to regret it, still horrible.  Here were the defending champions behaving and being treated like cellar dwellers.  When Lester finally left them cowering in the corner, it was like the Game 6 of the 2002 WS.  You just knew there was no way they were going to win Game 7 and no way they were going to get a deal done the rest of the Winter Meetings.

Now, all this may well turn out for the best in the end.  The number of bad deals done at the Winter Meetings almost always outnumber the good ones by a sizable margin, and the bigger the deal, the more likely it is to turn out bad.  For now, though, wow!  That just felt humiliating!

So here are a few awards for the Winter Meetings.  You've probably already guessed who wins the award for Worst Winter Meetings. Yep.  Here's a few more:

Best Signing:  Jason Hammel, RHP.  Cubs.  I had Hammel pegged as a good value at 3 years/$30 M.  Cubs got him for 2 years/$20 which includes an option for a 3'rd season with a $2 M buyout.  Hammel is no ace, and has had his problems staying healthy, but given the market price for pitching, this is a very solid deal for the Cubs.

Biggest Signing:  Lester to Cubs 6 years/$155 M.  That is a lot of money and a long time for any pitcher.  The last 3 years could get real ugly.  Even with the Hammel and Lester signings, it seems to me the Cubs are just back to where they were before they traded Hammel and Samardzija to Oakland.

Most Improved Team:  White Sox.  The Sox replaced Adam Dunn before the meetings by signing Adam LaRoche.  They then poached David Robertson from the Yankees.  He's expensive, but he provides a much needed anchor to the bullpen for a manageable price.  Lastly, they gave up very little to land Jeff Samardzija who will team up with Chris Sale and Jose Quintana to form a very formidable 1,2,3 in the rotation.  Samardzija grew up rooting for the White Sox so they may have a leg up on signing him to an extension or else re-signing him out of free agency next offseason.  I like what the White Sox are doing!

Team Headed in the Most Wrong Direction:  Oakland A's.  Wow!  It's almost like Billy is trading away his team in a fit of anger over getting blown out of the playoffs in a weird Wild Card game.  That team has had the guts torn out of it and Billy did not get nearly enough in return.  That does not even count a lot of the free agents they have lost or are going to lose.  Right now, the A's are decimated at both the MLB and minor league levels.

Most Interesting Team At the Meetings:  LA Dodgers.  Andrew Friedman did not take long to remake this team.  It remains to be seen if the remake is for the better, but it sure is interesting to watch!  The Dodgers are now a better defensive team, I don't think there is any question about that.  In order to get to that point, though, they had to let go or give up 3 of their top offensive players from 2014, Hanley Ramirez, Dee Gordon and Matt Kemp.  Those guys are going to be hard to replace in the lineup.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

What Awards would you give for the Winter Meetings?

Hot Stove Update: Dodgers Trade Kemp Within Division, Not To Giants

Giants pitchers will still have to face Matt Kemp about 100 times next season, but he will be in the Padres lineup instead of the Dodgers.  The Padres send the Dodgers C/1B Yasmani Grandal, RHP Joe Wieland and probably RHP prospect Zach Eflin.  The Padres also acquire C Tim Fedorowicz in the trade.  The Dodgers will also send $30 M to the Padres to help cover Kemp's salary.  With the trade, the Dodgers clear out some of the logjam in their OF and get a serious catcher in Grandal.  Both Kemp and Grandal have had trouble staying healthy.

Kemp really fell on hard times on the field after 2011 in which he came within a HR of a 40/40 season mainly due to a string of serious injuries to his shoulders and legs.  He came back strong at the plate in the second half last year hitting .309 with 17 HR and was probably the Dodgers best hitter down the stretch.  The rap on Kemp in addition to his injuries is horrific defense.  There was also some friction over him wanting to play CF when he wasn't even able to play well in a corner.  I'm thinking that if he can avoid additional injuries and let his body heal a bit more, he can improve is defense to at least acceptable corner OF levels.  I have to confess, I've always been a huge Matt Kemp fan.  My daughter and I were watching a game in 2011 and she made a negative comment about him.  My response was the only thing wrong with Matt Kemp is he plays for the wrong team.  I would love to have a player like him on the Giants!  I'm not so sure of that after all the injuries and poor D in the OF, but man, dude can still hit!

The Dodgers still have to sort out playing time in the OF for Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson and that does not even count Scott Van Slyke and Chris Heisey.  Gotta think they might trade one more OF before they are done.  I have to say I really like Grandal as a player.  Although he does not hit for much of an average, he has beaucoup power and is a good defensive catcher.  The Dodgers apparently like his pitch framing skills.  He will likely be the Dodgers starting C with AJ Ellis moving to a backup role. Ellis can be a tough out, but he also is not a major threat in the lineup and pitchers get a relative breather when they face him.  He is also not a very good defensive catcher.

The big question in Giants fans minds is where does this leave the Dodgers as a division rival.  I guess it comes down to whether you trust WAR scores or your eyeballs more.  By WAR, the Dodgers are likely to be a better team in 2015 after these trades.  On the other hand, Matt Kemp is the kind of hitter that can carry a lineup for months and Dee Gordon is downright scary on the basepaths, so those are two things the Giants don't have to worry about anymore, at least when they face the Dodgers.  Pederson looks like a good all around player, but is he going to be the offensive force that Matt Kemp has been when healthy?  He would have to be one of the very best players in the game to make that happen.

As for the Padres, it will come down to whether Kemp can stay healthy or not.  If he can, man, that is instant respect in that lineup!

What do you think of these trades?

Meanwhile, the Giants Winter Meetings delegation continues to wander around with dazed looks on their faces.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hot Stove Update: Dodgers Dump Dee

As the Winter Meetings wind down(aren't they technically the Fall Meetings as Winter does not start until 12/21?), the Giants continued to stare into the Hot Stove, and the Dodgers and Andrew Friedman swung into full Moneyball mode.  The Dodgers sent 2B/SS Dee Gordon and RHP Dan Haren to the Miami Marlins for LHP Andrew Heaney and 3 other players.  Wow!  My initial reaction to this one was I'm sure glad I'm not going to be seeing Dee Gordon running the bases for the Dodgers 18 times per season, but let's break it down:

Dee Gordon, 2B/SS, B-L, T-R.  .289/.326/.378, 12 3B, 64 SB, .346 BABIP, 3.1 fWAR.

So, I think it's pretty safe to say that Andrew Friedman hates players who don't walk much, no matter what else they do.  He also probably took one look at that BABIP and went psheww!!!  THAT ain't happenin' again!  I'm guessing Friedman would rather have Justin Turner in the lineup as the 2B and doesn't think Gordon can play SS, oh, and he doesn't walk much.  The Marlins add a very nice piece to their team.  A guy who can play 2B or SS, bat leadoff and steal bases ahead of Yellich/Ozuna/Stanton. They had surplus young pitching and used it to grab Gordon.

Dan Haren, RHP.  13-11, 4.02, 186 IP, 36 BB(1.74 BB/9), 145 K(7.02 K/9).

Haren exercised his option for $10 M.  The Dodgers are reportedly going to pay all of his salary, so they really wanted to be rid of him even though he seems like a good value for 1 year at $10 M.  The Marlins get a veteran RHP who will eat innings, pitch an occasional great game and possibly mentor some of their younger pitchers.  The one catch in the whole thing is that Haren indicated that he might just decide to retire if he could not pitching in Southern California.  Would he walk away from $10 M?

Andrew Heaney, LHP.  AAA:  5-4, 3.87, 83.2 IP, 23 BB, 91 K.  MLB:  0-3, 5.83, 29.1 IP, 7 BB, 20K.

Heaney is a highly touted pitching prospect who made his MLB debut last year and was not as successful as some hoped or predicted.  He's a polished LHP drafted out of college who can reach the low-mid 90's with the FB.  I see him as having a high floor with a high probability of being at least a #4 or #5 MLB starter, but with a limited ceiling of a #3 starter.  In other words, the Dodgers got a young pitcher who in the future might be what Dan Haren is now!

Austin Barnes, C, 5'9", 185 lbs, B-R, T-R.  AA:  .296/.406/.507, 12 HR, 8 SB, 14.4 BB%, 10.3 K%.

Barnes is a smallish catcher who put up very Moneyball numbers in AA last year.  I have to say I like those numbers but have to wonder if he can take the pounding behind the plate at the MLB level, although size for catchers is not as important as it used to be with the new plate blocking rules.

Enrique Hernandez, 2B.  Houston:  .284/.348/.420, 8 BB, 11 K.  Miami:  .175/.267/.425, 4 BB, 10 K.

Seems like a decent bench player.

Chris Hatcher, RHP, 29 yo.  0-3, 3.38, 56 IP, 12 BB, 60 K.  Nice bullpen numbers.

The Dodgers are trying to swing a second trade with the Phillies for Jimmy Rollins and there is some belief that some of these players may be moving on to Philly in that trade.

Man, I have to say that I like this trade as a Giants fan!  To me, Gordon seams like the best player in the trade and the one with the highest ceiling.  Heaney could provide good cheap pitching for several years, but do the Dodgers really want to go cheap?  If this is Friedman's idea of how to make the Dodgers more cost effective, then keep right on doing it, Mr. Friedman!

Scouting the 2015 Draft: Trenton Clark

We'll try to recover from the Jon Lester hangover with another draft profile.

Trenton Clark is a 6'0", 200 lb HS CF from Texas who made quite a name for himself leading Team USA 18U in all 3 components of the triple slash, .565/.694/.1.043.  In the process he showed power(3 HR), Speed(5 SB/0 CS), and a better arm than he's been credited with(2 assists, home and 1B).  Probably the best part was his strike zone management as he drew 13 BB's and struck out only 3 times in the tournament.  BA's comment was that he has a "quick, compact, direct stroke, exceptional feel for the barrel and a discerning eye at the plate."  He also showed plus leadership skills in the clubhouse and dugout.

The rap on him is that he profiles as a "tweener" with only above average power, arm and running tools.  One video has his OF throw at 78 mph on the radar gun which is way below ideal.  The bat seems real though.  The comp that comes to my mind is Lenny Dykstra, hopefully with a better personality.

BA has him as the #12 ranked draft prospect for 2015 while Kiley McDaniel has him at #23 because the tools are not top notch.  I could see him being the type of hitter/player John Barr and the Giants might go for if he is there when they draft.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hot Stove Update: ChiSox Are All In; World Waits for Lester; Sabes Speaks

The Chicago White Sox continued to load up for a postseason run in 2015 signing RHP and former Yankee Closer, David Robertson, to a 4 year/$46 M contract, and completing a trade with the Oakland A's, who are obviously not at all in, for RHP Jeff Samardzija.  Robertson was one of the premiere setup men in baseball for 3 year behind Mariano Rivera before taking over the closer role for the Yanks last year.  His ERA actually went up by a run, but his peripheral stats and FIP/xFIP were still stellar.  He racked up 39 Saves.  Robertson gives the White Sox a much needed closer, albeit at a high price.  Pitching in the Chicago ballpark is no picnic, but probably easier for a RHP than Yankee Stadium with its short RF porch.  As for the Yankees, Dellin Betances probably takes over as closer while newly acquired Andrew Miller becomes the LH setup man.

The ChiSox also acquired RHP Jeff Samardzija from the Oakland A's as Billy Beane continues to burn his ship down to the waterline.  In return for Samardzija, Billy gets 3B/SS Marcus Semien, who will probably play SS for the A's, and a couple of prospects.  Samardzija may not be quite a top tier SP at this point, but he is definitely one of the better second tier SP's and his career still seems to be on an upward trajectory.  He must be excited for the opportunity to pitch for the team he grew up rooting for. He is projected to make $9.5 M in Arbitration by MLBTR and will be FA after 2015 unless the White Sox are able to sign him to a contract extension.  Given the emotional attachment, they might be the only team that would have a chance to keep him from free agency.  As for 2015, Samardzija will team with Chris Sale and Jose Quintana to form a very solid top 3 in their starting rotation.

Meanwhile, it's all quiet on the western front in the Jon Lester negotiations.  There are reportedly at least 4 teams and possibly 5 in on him.  The Giants appear to possibly be the team that impressed him the most, but I am getting the feeling that he will have to decide to take atmosphere, culture and team success over money to sign with them.  The suspense is building.

Brian Sabean came out of his bunker to say a few words yesterday:

OK, listen up gang!  Sabes once again said there is no discussion of moving Buster Posey off catcher.  "He is a franchise player, a franchise catcher" were his exact words.

Sabes once again threw some shade at his own farm system in discussing the Lester situation and threw some cold water on the Headley rumors, "you should not go by what you read that we're head over heels over Headley."  Wow!  When that gets back to Headley, I'm thinking he crosses the Giants off his list!  Sabes went on to say, "right now, it's all about Lester."  Sabes did not sound like he was desperate enough for Lester to start bidding against himself.  "If it's not Lester, we'll switch gears."

In discussing the Giants interest in Lester, Sabes went into the importance of fielding a strong starting rotation and threw some shade at his own farm system, which is does from time-to-time, while also moving on from Tim Lincecum. "At the end of this(2015 season) there is going to be a lot of attrition(in the rotation) and we don't have the big arms coming up."   Of course Sabes had similar things to say about the farm system before the trade deadline this year, but then turned around and had a meeting with the team veterans and told them the only help would have to come from the farm system.

My take?  It is true that there are no sure things coming along from the farm system, but that does not mean the system is bereft of pitching prospects.  Sabes goes to great lengths to tamp down expectations on the kids for their own good.  Signing Zito was a way of taking pressure off Matt Cain at the time.  Signing Lester would take pressure off whoever may emerge as the next wave of homegrown SP's and reduce the number of slots that have to be filled from within.

Madison Bumgarner was named SI's Sportsman of the Year for his extraordinary postseason run.  When asked about the Chevy man, Bumgarner gave an empathetic answer,  "he had a tough time, bless his heart."  Madison Bumgarner is a good dude!

As I suspected, the Giants named Roberto Kelly their new 3B coach with bullpen coach Bill Hayes moving up to first base coach.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Hot Stove Update: Cubs Sign Hammel; Billy Dumps Moss

The Winter Meetings got off to a strong start today as Billy Beane continued the dismantle the A's of the past 3 seasons.  This time, he shipped 1B/OF Brandon Moss to the Cleveland Indians for 2B prospect Joe Wendle.  Moss combined with Josh Donaldson to form potent L-R, 1-2 HR punch in the middle of the A's lineup.  Moss' power numbers slipped a bit last year and he underwent surgery on his hip at the end of the season.  Wendle put up some decent offensive numbers in AA last year, but was not one of BA's top 10 prospects for Cleveland. had him at #9.  Pretty tough to see how Billy replaces the power Moss and Donaldson provided in the short term.  I just don't see how you can view this as anything but a selloff of short term assets for a long term rebuild.

The Cubs signed RHP Jason Hammel to a 2 year/$20 M contract.   The contract includes a 3'rd year option for another $10 M with a $2 M buyout.  Hammel has had his ups and downs but he is coming off a strong season with these same Cubs and the A's to whom he was traded in the Samardzija deadline deal.  This a really solid signing by the Cubs and could end up being one of the best FA signings of the offseason.  Well, there goes my Armchair GM plan.  I happen to think Hammel would have looked good in a Giants uniform in 2015.

It does sound like the Giants are in the thick of the Jon Lester negotiations.  They reportedly met with Lester's agent last night.  The delegation that visited Lester at his home in Georgia included Buster Posey.  Lester was reportedly particularly impressed by Bruce Bochy.  Decision is supposed to come not earlier than tonight and not later than tomorrow night.  I'll say 7 years/$150 M plus the attraction of playing for a great organization that has their stuff together gets it done.  Not sure how I feel about that. It's exciting for the short term but scary as heck for the long term.

Scouting the 2015 Draft: Nick Plummer

Nick Plummer is probably the top true 5 tool player in the 2015 draft, at least at this point.  He's a high schooler from Michigan.  He's a bit on the short side at 5'11", 200 lbs with a strong, muscular physique.  He B-L, T-L and plays CF.  He is fast with a home-to-first time of 4.19 secs.  Like more and more HS hitters, he appears to have an advanced approach to hitting.  He made a name for himself this summer by leading off the Area Code Game with a HR to RF.  Some scouts question about whether he will stick in CF.  BA has him ranked #11 in its early draft ranking.  Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs has him at #16 and calls him a "quick twitch athlete with plus bat speed, above average raw power and lots of hard contact."

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospect Review-Honorable Mention and Dominican Dandies

Again, this is a REVIEW of LAST YEAR's list.  The HM's and Dominican Dandies are not in any particular order.

Brett Bochy, RHP, Stable to slightly up.  Solid season for Fresno.  May not quite have the stuff for MLB.

Chris Dominguez, 3B/1B/OF, Stable to slightly up.  20/20 season for Fresno.  Getting very old for a prospect.  Severe contact issue remain.

Ryan Lollis, OF, Down.  Strictly an organizational player at this point.

Jack Snodgrass, LHP, UP.  Strong season for Richmond.

Myles Schroder, UT, Stable.  Probably more of an organizational player.  Ability to catch might make him attractive as a MLB utility guy.

Devin Harris, OF, Stable.  Nice season, but probably progressing too slowly.

Bryce Bandilla, LHP, Stable.  Washed out of AA.  Did a nice job of closing for SJ in second half.

Hunter Strickland, RHP, Way up!  We all know the story here.  Spectacular potential as a reliever.  Has to get the gopheritis under control.

Rando Moreno, SS/2B, Down.  Very disappointing offensive numbers.

Joey Rapp, 1B, Released.  First base is a tough gig.

Shayne Houck, 3B, Way down.  I'm not sure what is status in the organization is right now.

Joe Biagini, RHP, Stable to slightly up.  Solid season for San Jose.

Matt Lujan, LHP, Up.  Good season.

Mason McVay, LHP, Up.  Big LHP who can go multiple innings out of the pen.

Tyler Mizenko, RHP, Stable.  Extreme GB pitcher who may have a future at the back of a bullpen.

Joe Kurrasch, LHP, Stable.  Nice ERA, questionable peripherals.

Steven Okert, LHP, Way up!  One of the rising stars in the system.  Strong possibility of being a dominant lefty out of a bullpen in the mold of Jeremy Affeldt or even better.  Outside chance to make the 25 man roster out of spring training.

Eugene Escalante, C, Stable to down.  Needs to find some traction.

Ryan Tuntland, 3B, Stable.  Non-descript season in the lower levels.  Needs to find traction.

Ryan Jones, 2B, stable to down.  Another nondescript season.  Needs to do something to distinguish himself from all the other 2B in the system.

Tyler Hollick, OF, Down.  Not sure what he did either.

Ty Ross, C, Up.  Defensive C who started to hit a little in the second half.

Chris Johnson, RHP, Down.  Not sure what he did.  Very nondescript season.

Andrew Leenhouts, LHP, Down.  Repeated Salem-Keizer and did nothing to distinguish himself.

Cameron McVey, RHP, Down.  Non-descript season.

Raymundo Montero, RHP, Stable.  Did some closing but nothing that jumps out at me as separating him from the pack.

Christian Jones, LHP, Up.  Nice season starting for Augusta.

Eduardo Encinosa, RHP, Stable to down.  Tough guy to figure.  Has pitched well in very small sample sizes, but no obvious reason why the samples have been so small.

Nick Jones, LHP, Stable to down. Tiny sample sizes.  Control issues.

Cristian Paulino, OF, Stable to down.  Toolsy guy who has shown flashes.  Has yet to hit consistently.

Craig Massoni, 1B/OF, Stable to down.  Older guy from a smaller college program. Has to mash to keep his head above water and he didn't.

Dusten Knight, RHP, Stable.  High K rates in the low minors, but old for level with walk rates that are a bit too high.

Carlos Alvarado, RHP, Up.  Pitched great for SJ but got shelled in a very small sample in AA.

Eury Sanchez, RHP, Up.  Closer for Augusta and pitched great.

Nick Gonzalez, LHP, Down.  Big lefty who didn't do much this year.

Nick Vander Tuig, RHP, Stable.  Has some pedigree, but has struggled to get off the ground in the pros.

Dominican Dandies:

Gustavo Cabrera, OF, Up.  Just taking the field in fall instructional league is a big plus.  Now we have to wait to see what he can do in real games.  High ceiling alert!

Michael Santos, RHP, Way up!  Strong stateside debut.  High ceiling alert!

Nataniel Javier, 3B, Down.  Roid Boy did not do well in just a handful of AB's in Arizona after serving his 50 game suspension.  High ceiling alert?

Jean Angomas, Carlos Valdez, Kleiber Rivas, Eusebio Encarnacion, Jose Morel, Raffi Vizcaino, Cesar Yanez, Luis Castillo.  All stable to down.  Morel pitched great for the DSL Giants but he did in 2013 too.  Not sure why he is still there except that he is old for the league.