Friday, January 31, 2014

Fantasy Focus: Second Base Rankings

Second base has been Robinson Cano and everybody else for the last few seasons.  That may be changing as he moves to a much less favorable hitting environment in Seattle.  It is a thin position where you don't have to worry about other owners stocking up on utility guys from the second base pool.  This means that if you are in a 10 team league, you can reliably count on your 10'th or at least 11'th ranked guy still being there at the end of your draft.  If that guy is gone, then most likely a higher ranked dude fell instead, so it's win-win, if you can live with the 10'th ranked guy, that is.  On with the list:

1.  Robinson Cano, Mariners:  81 R, 27 HR, 107 RBI, 7 SB, .314 BA, 681 PA.  I think you can pretty much count on these numbers being down significantly in Seattle, but he's still probably the best fantasy  second baseman, just not by as much of a margin.

2.  Jason Kipnis, Indians:  86 R, 17 HR, 84 RBI, 30 SB, .284 BA, 658 PA.  With Cano's power numbers almost sure to drop, a lot of fantasy owners might prefer the additional SB's that Kipnis gives you.

3.  Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox:  91 R, 9 HR, 84 RBI, 17 SB, .301 BA, 724 PA.  Pedroia definitely benefits from being in a good lineup, but who cares in fantasy?

4.  Matt Carpenter, Cards:  126 R, 11 HR, 78 RBI, 3 SB, .318 BA, 717 PA.  Talk about benefitting from your lineup!  Carpenter will likely move to 3B but retain 2B eligibility for fantasy purposes in 2014.   Can he repeat these numbers?

5.  Brandon Phillips, Reds:  80 R, 18 HR, 103 RBI, 5 SB, .261 BA, 666 PA.  Phillips isn't the 5 category threat he used to be, but the R, HR, RBI are still very nice.

6.  Ben Zobrist, Rays:  77 R, 12 HR, 71 RBI, 11 SB, .275 BA, 698 PA.  Zobrist will consistently give you moderately good numbers across the board.  There is a lot of value in that, but only if you don't have to pay too much.

7.  Daniel Murphy, Mets:  92 R, 13 HR, 78 RBI, 23 SB, .286 BA, 697 PA.  Wow!  I did not realize Murph stole 23 bases!  He put up better numbers across the board than Zobrist last year and can be had for a lot less.  Can he repeat it again this year?

8.  Jedd Gyorko, Padres:  62 R, 23 HR, 63 R, 1 SB, .249 BA, 614 PA.  Gyorko showed surprising power in his first full MLB season.  He should be on an upward swing of his career trajectory.

9.  Ian Kinsler, Tigers:  85 R, 13 HR, 72 RBI, 15 SB, .277 BA, 614 PA.  Kinsler is on the downside of his career and is moving to a much less friendly hitting environment.

10.  Chase Utley, Phillies:  73 R, 18 HR, 69, RBI, 8 SB, .284 BA, 531 PA.  Utley seemed to be healthier than in years in 2013, but how long will it last.  He's good when he plays.

11.  Jose Altuve, Astros:  64 R, 5 HR, 52 RBI, 35 SB, .283 BA, 672 PA.  How can a guy who hits .284 and steals 25 bases end up with only 64 Runs?  I am sure there will be someone in my league who overpays for the SB's, though.

12.  Neil Walker, Pirates:  62 R, 16 HR, 53 RBI, 1 SB, .251 BA, 551 PA.  Walker is always a guy I take a long look at and have even added a couple of times, but his production is ultimately disappointing and inadequate for a 10 team league.   Maybe in a 12 teamer?

13.  Howie Kendrick, Angels:  55 R, 13 SB, 54 RBI, 6 SB, .297 BA, 513 PA.  Is there a more empty BA in all of baseball?

14.  Dan Uggla, Braves:  60 R, 22 HR, 55 RBI, 2 SB, .179 BA, 537 PA.  I'm sure someone in my league will go for the dingers, but the BA absolutely kills you!

15.  Brian Dozier, Twins:  72 R, 18 HR, 66 R, 14 SB, .244 BA, 623 PA.  I had only vaguely heard of this guy before I researched this post, but those are close to Ian Kinsler numbers!  Can he do it again?

16.  Jurickson Profar, Rangers:  30 R, 6 HR, 26 RBI, 2 SB, .234 BA, 324 PA.  The Rangers traded Kinsler to make room for Profar as a fulltime 2B for 2014.  Do they see a breakout coming?  Hey, if you are not enamored by some of the names higher on this list, why not take a flyer?

17.  Anthony Rendon, Nationals:  40 R, 7 HR, 35 RBI, 1 SB, .265 BA, 394 PA.  Former first round pick who has had setbacks due to injuries.  He as blocked at 3B and 1B in Washington, but took over 2B last year when Espinosa's performance collapsed.  I picked Rendon up late last year and really liked what I got out of him.  He's a sneaky bottom of the barrel pick who could have a huge upside.

18.  Omar Infante, Royals:  54 R, 10 HR, 51 RBI, 5 SB, .318 BA, 476 PA.  Nice safe fallback pick.

19. Aaron Hill, D'Backs:  45 R, 11 HR, 41 RBI, 1 SB, .291 BA, 362 PA.  Those numbers would look a lot better with more PA's.  Nice pick for a bounce back.

There is nothing wrong with going for one of the top 4 here, but if you miss out on one of them, might as well wait it out and pick up the pieces at the bottom of the draft.  Rendon is my secret weapon here.  Profar has huge upside with a lot of risk.  I think Hill is a nice potential bounce back pick.

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #37 Shilo McCall

Shilo McCall, OF.  B-R, T-R.  6'1", 210 lbs.  DOB:  6/2/1994

SS:  .235/.330/.398, 14 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 21 BB, 67 K, 196 AB.

This was Shilo McCall's 2'nd pro season after being the only HS player drafted and signed by the Giants in 2012 in the 9'th round out of Farmington, NM.  He put up similar numbers in his pro debut in rookie ball.  His assignment to short season Salem-Keizer was a step up, but probably more conservative than sending him to Augusta and the rigors of hitting in the SAL.  Still, he was the youngest player on the S-K roster and 3 years younger than the league average age.

Although he had his ups and downs and struggles, I find a lot to be encouraged about in his numbers, especially considering his age vs level as a 3 year difference from league average is significant.  I like the walk rate of approximately 10%, the strong IsoP with 21 of his 46 hits going for extra bases.  He'll have to cut down on a 30% K rate but you expect young players to K a lot.  He is stoutly built and will have to hit a ton as he is already a left fielder.

I would expect a promotion to Low A Augusta where hopefully he will be ready after 2 short seasons, 2 instructionals and 2 spring trainings.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #36 Tyler Horan

Tyler Horan, OF.  B-L, T-R.  6'2", 220 lbs.  DOB:  12/2/1990

College(Virginia Tech):  .342/.391/.603, 11 HR, 18 BB, 38 K in   AB's(41 of 88 hits for XBH).
Rookie AZL:                  .245/.321/ 388 in 49 AB.
Short Season:                  .295/.372/.460, 4 HR, 4 SB, 20 BB, 34 K, 176 AB.

On November 25, 2012, I wrote this about Tyler Horan in a Scouting the Draft post:  "While they(Giants) continue to look for up the middle talent in the first round of the draft, in recent years, they have drafted at least 1 hitter with raw power in rounds 2 and 3 of each draft.  If that is the case again this year, I think I've found just the guy they are looking for, Tyler Horan out of Virginia Tech."

OK, maybe I was a bit irrationally exuberant about him thinking he might go in rounds 2 or 3, but my goodness!  I have to say I have no idea how he dropped all the way to round 8!  Needless to say, I think Tyler Horan is one of the steals of the 2013 draft.  I am so darn excited that he is in the Giants organization, I can hardly contain myself!

So, what caught my eye about Horan before he put up those numbers in his junior year of college?  He hit just .282 his sophomore season, but that came with 15 dingers.  He also tied a Cape Cod League record by hitting 16 HR's while batting .331.

Horan is, obviously a big body, some would say a bad body, although he looks more muscularly big than fat big to me, but he has run sub 7 60's and is rated as a better than adequate corner OF.  On video, he has a quiet, squared up stance with almost no motion.  He has a small toe-tap with minimal load and mostly arm in his swing.  This helps him make contact and does not seem to have hurt him in power generation.

IMO, an assignment to High A San Jose is a must.  I can hardly wait to see what he does with the opportunity.  I think we will be hearing a lot more from Tyler Horan in the near future.  The Giants drafted a lot of potential steals in the 2013 draft, but none more so than Tyler Horan, IMO.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

More Thoughts on Brandon Belt

The "Belt Wars" seem to have died down to an uneasy truce of late since he is coming off a good season and seems to be well entrenched as the Giants starting first baseman with a chance for a breakout in 2014.  The "Beltists" seem to be reasonably satisfied that the Giants management has finally come to its senses and installed him as the unquestioned starter and that he has not been permanently ruined.  The Giants management "Loyalists" seem to feel vindicated that Belt was, in fact handled properly with his success last season as proof.  So, I wasn't really expecting to get hit by a roadside bomb this morning when I read Ray Guilfoyle's rundown of the Top 30 Fantasy First Basemen.  Bam!  It hit me on the blindside!

"Belt entered the major leagues a few seasons ago with much acclaim, but was mishandled by manager Bruce Bochy, who historically favors veterans over prospects.  Then they tried to change his swing, which didn't work, so Belt went back to his old swing, and that resulted in Belt having the best year of his short big league career last season."

Say what?  You know, I've read stuff like this for so long now, I guess I should not let it get to me, but there was just something about the nonchalance of it, like he considers it a proven fact, a closed case, that just ate me up.  I have never figured out how to log into a SB Nation account so I don't post comments on their sites, so I will call him out on this here.  BTW, I consider Ray Guilfoyle to be an excellent source of fantasy baseball information and generally find his writing to be fair and balanced, so this only goes for his comment today about Belt.  I don't expect a guy who has to cover every player and every serious prospect in baseball to necessarily have in depth information about any one player that dedicated fans of that team would have, but maybe he could have couched it in some kind of qualification such as "Many analysts believe Belt was mismanaged in the first 2 years of his career" or something like that. Instead, it's presented as a well known fact without any apparent sense that there may be another side to the story or that maybe some of the supporting "facts" are just plain inaccurate.

Let's go back and review Brandon Belt's professional career from the beginning.  Of course, we all have our biases and we all filter information through those biases, but this is how it unfolded to the best of my recollection.  Folks can correct me in the Comments if I am misremembering.

Belt was a good hitter in college, but a bit light on power for a first baseman:  .323/.416/.523, 8 HR, 15 SB, 40 BB, 57 K's in 235 AB.  Note the strong K/BB that has become a familiar feature of hitters drafted by the Giants under the John Barr Scouting Directorship.  Also note that 2009 was before the introduction of BBCOR bats into college baseball.  Belt was scouted by Doug Mapson who by now famously saw him hit a HR to dead CF off a good pitcher and advocated for Belt in the draft room assuring the rest of the Giants brass that he had enough power to play 1B in the majors.  He was drafted in the 5'th round.  He did not sign in time to play pro ball in 2009.

The Giants reworked his batting stance and swing during fall instructional league opening up his stance and giving him some loft in his swing.  They gave him an aggressive assignment to High A San Jose in 2010 where he tore into the Cal League with a vengeance:  .383/.492/.628, 10 HR, 18 SB, 58 BB, 50 K in 235 AB.  He was given a midseason promotion to AA Richmond where he continued to rake:  .337/.413/.623, 9 HR, 22 BB, 34 K.  He was promoted yet again to AAA Fresno where he finally hit a wall: .229/.393/.562, 4 HR, 13 BB, 15 K in 48 AB.  It had been a whirlwind year and the low BA in Fresno was the only blemish on the entire year's work, probably simply a sample size issue.

When Belt came to spring training in 2011, he was not expected to make the Opening Day 25 man roster.  The Giants had won the World Series the previous season with major contributions from 2 rookies, Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner.  Belt had a strong spring and Bruce Bochy, contrary to popular belief, was itching to see if he could get a boost from another young player.  Bochy got his opportunity when Cody Ross pulled a hammy late in the spring and started the season on the DL.  Bochy was so eager to play Belt that he even moved Aubrey Huff to the OF to make room for Belt at 1B!  That hardly seems like the behavior of a manager who favors veterans now, does it?  Unfortunately, Huff came to camp that year out of shape and the results in the OF were downright comical.  For his part, Belt hit an early HR against the Dodgers, but otherwise struggled to get his MLB career off the ground.  He completely lost control of the strike zone, watching called strikes go down the middle of the strike zone and swinging at sliders that hit him on the back foot.  He consistently got tied up on pitches on the inner half of the plate.  He drew quite a few walks, but that was more from just a reluctance to swing than any kind of plan at the plate.  He was clearly lost up there.  It did not help that the Giants were the subjects of a documentary TV series with cameras recording everything.  Belt cried when Bochy informed him that he was being sent down to Fresno.

Belt was given specific things to work on in Fresno and hit well there.  He was brought back to the MLB club but promptly broke his hand on a HBP and missed 6 weeks on the DL.  Bruce Bochy can hardly be blamed for THAT!  Belt went through a normal rehab period after recovering from the broken hand and was brought back to the MLB club in late August.  He finished the year strong and hit most of his 9 HR in the last month.

Belt had a roller-coaster 2012, experiencing more slumps, more temporary benchings, more things to work on, hot streaks.  He ended up on a strong note finishing with a line of .275/.360/.421, 7 HR, 12 SB, 54 BB, 106 K in 411 AB.  He did not get sent down to Fresno!  He was the starting 1B throughout the postseason that culminated in another World Series Championship for the Giants.  Remember, this was Belt's first full MLB season!

2013 saw further progress.  There was one slump around June where he looked lost.  Some posters on Giants oriented websites and blogs noticed that his swing looked awfully funny.  One guy, I forget his internet handle, Speier-something, noted that his knuckles were not aligned properly. The Giants said he was "wrapping" which I understand is a characterized by a misalignment of the hands on the bat.  Belt was taken out of the lineup and spent one memorable day taking extra batting practice supervised by Bruce Bochy himself!  Once again, as soon as Bochy was convinced that the lessons had sunk in, only a matter of a few days, Belt was back in the starting lineup.  From that point on, Belt hit better and better through the end of the season.  He finished with a line of .289/.360/.481, 17 HR, 52 BB, 125 K in 509 AB.  That just happened to be the top OPS on the team, better even than Hunter Pence!  His line for the second half of the season was much better than that.  There were still days where he sat against certain LHP's when Buster Posey would move to 1B to spare his legs.  There were some Giants oriented websites that decried sitting Belt in favor of Hector Sanchez.  What they failed to take into account was the it really wasn't a choice between Belt and Sanchez.  It was a choice between Belt and Buster Posey because Posey was not going to catch on those days!

So, what can we conclude about how the Giants handled Brandon Belt's MLB career?  Based on the timeline of events outlined in the above paragraphs, I would conclude the following:

1.  Rather than favoring the veterans, Bruce Bochy was so eager to play Brandon Belt that he rushed him to the majors and was even willing to move a veteran off his best position to make room for Belt.

2.  Rather than refusing to play Belt, Bochy only took him out of the lineup when he was struggling, gave him specific assignments to work on and always brought him back when the lesson had been learned.  In each case, Belt came back with improved results.

3.  The only times Belt change his swing was at the Giants request.  The only going back to his old swing was when he slipped back into old, bad habits.  He has always hit better when doing it the way the Giants want him to.

4.  Belt's career trajectory has been quite typical of a good young player breaking into MLB.  At this point, his MLB performance is much better and more advanced than you would expect from a 5'th round draft pick with a mediocre college resume.

In conclusion, I believe the preponderance of evidence indicates that the Giants have handled Brandon Belt's professional career very well. It is quite possible, even likely, that Belt would not be where he is today, on the threshold of a possible breakout MLB season, had he been drafted by another organization.

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #34 Ian Gardeck; #35 Stephen Johnson

Ian Gardeck and Stephen Johnson are like two peas in a pod they are so similar as prospects.  Hard throwing RHP's whose FB's have been clocked in triple digits and who kicked around a bit in college but got drafted for their velocity and upside.  Both pitched at Low A Augusta last year with similar levels of success.

Ian Gardeck, RHP.  6'2", 215 lbs.  DOB 11/12/1990.

Low A:  4-3, 3.21, 56 IP, 40 BB, 66 K, GO/AO- 1.71, 1 Save.

Gardeck had his ups and downs and as you can see, continued to have control issues.  He did turn in a 1.35 ERA over his last 10 appearances but still had 8 BB's against 12 K's in that stretch.  It's probably enough to get him promoted to San Jose for 2014 where I would expect him to continue pitching out of the bullpen trying to hone his game.  Still very much a project.

Stephen Johnson, RHP.  6'4", 205 lbs.  DOB  2/21/1991.

Low A:  5-1, 3.61, 52.1 IP, 30 BB, 71 K, GO/AO= 1.52, 8 Saves.

Johnson also had his ups and downs but seemed to settle in late in the season as he moved into a closer role when Tyler Mizenko faltered.  He started off the season strong allowing 0 ER in 10 appearances in April but his ERA ballooned to 11.37 in May.  It came back down to a manageable 4.15 in June and 3.24 in July.  He finished up with a flourish going 3-0, 0.00, 12.2 IP, 6 BB, 15 K over his last 11 appearances in August and September.  Looking over both stat lines again, Johnson's finish to the season seems a bit stronger so I probably should have ranked him ahead of Gardeck, but they are very similar in tools, current level of development and future ceiling.  I also would expect Johnson to graduate to San Jose next year where he should team up with Gardeck, Tyler Mizenko and Dan Slania to a powerful right side of the bullpen.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #33 Alberto Robles

Alberto Robles, INF.  B-R, T-R.  6'1", 155 lbs.  DOB:  9/14/1990.

Alberto Robles is listed as a SS in his bio, but if my memory serves me, he has mostly played 2B in his minor league career.  He hails from Venezuela.  He started out his pro career in the DSL in 2010 hitting .263.  He returned to the  DSL Giants in 2011 and upped his BA to .344.  A promotion to the AZL in 2012 resulted in a BA of .380 but he hit just .167 in 45 AB's after a promotion to Augusta.  He did not arrive in Augusta last season until May 31, but showed steady improvement with each month hitting .271/.340/.387 in June, .315/.373/.389 in July and .329/.379/.424 in August.

His listed weight makes him sound like a lightweight, but in both still pics and a short video, he looks solidly built, though possibly an inch or two shorter than 6'1".  Robles got a bit of a late start for an international prospect as his first DSL season was age 19.  With the repeat year in the DR, he is not young for his level.  He does seem to have a hit tool and has shown the capacity for improvement along the way.  I found an Augusta Chronicle article that reported he played solid D at both SS and 2B but better at 2B and is particularly adept at making the pivot on DP relay throws.  His longterm stock would be helped if he can hold down the SS position, though.  I see him as another nice little sleeper in the system.  There is a lot of competition in the Giants lower minors for middle infield slots, so it will be interesting to see where he plays in 2014.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Scouting the Draft: Taylor Sparks

Taylor Sparks, 3B, UCI.  B-R, T-R.  6'4", 225 lbs.

.360/.388/.581, 10 HR, 7 SB.

Taylor Sparks is a big, strong right-handed hitting 3B for UC Irvine, a school not known for producing power hitter, or any kind of hitter, for that matter.  He's obviously a hacker, but my goodness!  If you can hit like that swinging, why would you want to take?  Now, 10 HR's may not seem like a lot, but UCI plays in the Big West Conference which has some mighty fierce pitching.  Add in the BBCOR bats and the balls with raised stitches and 10 dingers is pretty darn impressive!  He also played for the collegiate Team USA and hit .396.

On video, he's big and athletic looking with a bat waggle in his stance.  He has a quick front foot lift that he puts back down almost immediately.  His bottom half doesn't move much but he gets torque from his torso and tremendous bat head speed as is comes through the zone.

PG ranks him as the #26 overall draft prospect while BA has him a bit lower at #50.   A big junior campaign could boost his stock into the mid first round.  I have a feeling his swing mechanics may need some work, but that kind of raw talent and power are not easy to find, especially from the right side of the plate.

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #32 Mitch Delfino

Mitch Delfino, 3B.  B-R, T-R.  6'2", 210 lbs.  DOB:  1/13/1991.

Low A:  .270/.324/.413, 13 HR, 35 BB, 76 K, 477 AB.

Delfino was drafted out of Cal in the 20'th round of the 2012 draft after hitting .355 his junior season.  He's a bit of a hacker, but that helps keep his K rate down.  He puts the ball in play with some power behind it.  He was promoted to San Jose for the Cal League playoffs.  I saw him play in San Bernardino where he rapped out a couple of line drive base hits in one game where the rest of the SJ lineup was flailing.

He should be the starting 3B for SJ in 2014.  I see him as a bit of a sleeper, a guy nobody is paying attention to who could surprise in the future.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hot Stove Update: Brewers Sign Garza and Reynolds

The Milwaukee Brewers are quietly having a very nice little Hot Stove party this winter.  We're getting into fanfest season and the Brewers were able to announce at theirs, the signing of perhaps the top pitcher on the FA market with MLB experience for a very reasonable price.  The deal is 4 years/$50 M guaranteed with $1 M per season in incentives and a vesting option for a 5'th year at $13 M.

Garza has long been viewed as a pitcher with tremendous stuff who has been just a bit of an underachiever.  He is a fiery competitor whose emotions cut both ways which may partially explain his underachieving.  He averages a K/9 of about 8 and a BB/9 of about 2.5-3.0.  He had a 4 year stretch where he started at least 30 games but has been limited by injuries his last 2 seasons.  He finished 2013 apparently healthy, though.  Over the course of his career, he has averaged 2.7 WAR per 30 starts, but got up to 4.9 in 2011 with the Cubs.

Garza comes without a draft pick penalty.  He was not eligible for a QO due to being traded mid-season.  He is currently 30 years old.  He will join a rotation that includes Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada and Kyle Lohse.  Wily Peralta, Tyler Thornburg, and Tom Gorzelanny will compete for the 5'th starter role.

Given that Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez have warts of their own and come with a draft pick penalty, and given the price the Yankees paid for Tanaka, and given the crazy inflation we've seen on the FA market this winter, I think the Brewers made a very solid deal here.

Last week, the BrewCrew also signed a minor league deal with Mark Reynolds.  The Brewers have struggled to find an adequate replacement for Prince Fielder at 1B.  Given that the only other 1B option on the roster is Hunter Morris who hit .245 in the minors, Reynolds has a good shot at winning the 1B job.  Reynolds is a classic 3 true outcomes guy who gives you walks, dingers and K's.  His WAR would be higher if he could play defense at 3B worth a lick, but he should be adequate at 1B.  Very nice, cheap pickup for the Brewers here.

Combine the acquisition of Will Smith which gives them a left-handed force in the bullpen, the Brewers have really helped themselves this offseason for a very reasonable price.

Fantasy Focus: First Base Rankings

Most fantasy baseball leagues only count offensive stats.  Since 1B is primarily an offensive position for most teams, first basemen tend to be sought after on fantasy draft day.  At first glance, it would seem like it should be easy to find a mashing first baseman in a 10 or 12 team league, but first basemen can also fill Infield and Utility positions, so it is not unusual for one fantasy team to roster 2, 3 or even 4 first basemen making it no sure thing to find even one!  In addition, several MLB teams have first basemen who are also eligible at other, more scarce positions, so that effectively shrinks the 1b talent pool for fantasy purposes because fantasy owners will roster those players at the more scarce position.  Joe Mauer and Miguel Cabrera would be the prime examples this year.  Of course, many DH's have 1B eligibility so that helps expand the position.  1B is changing as some of the old standbys have started to age and are being replaced by new stud hitters.  Here is a list of fantasy first basemen along with the standard fantasy stats from last year:

1.  Paul Goldschmidt, D'Backs:  103 R, 36 HR, 125 RBI, 15 SB, .302 BA, 710 PA.  Goldy has become the premium first baseman in the game, the only true 5 category stud at the position.

2.  Chris Davis, Orioles:  103 R, 53 HR, 138 RBI, 4 SB, .286 BA, 673 PA.  It's easy to dismiss Davis' 2013 as a fluke, but he hit 33 dingers in 2012.  He might not hit 50+ again, but he's a strong bet to come in at 30+ which is becoming increasingly difficult to find.

3.  Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays:  90 R, 36 HR, 104 RBI, 7 SB, .272 BA, 621 PA.  Another guy you might dismiss as a fluke, but he hit 42 dingers in 2012.  Another great bet to hit 30+.

4.  Prince Fielder, Rangers:  82 R, 25 HR, 106 RBI, 1 SB, .279 BA, 712 PA.  Many people think Fielder had a down year last year, but there were less than 10 first base eligible players who hit more HR's and only 3 who had more RBI's.  Look for his HR production to go up playing his home games in Texas.

5.  Freddie Freeman, Braves:  89 R, 23 HR, 109 RBI, 1 SB, .319 BA, 629 PA.  Ideally, you would like more dingers from 1B, but again, 30+ dingers are mighty hard to find these days and Freeman gives you rock solid production in 4 categories.

6.  Joey Votto, Reds:  101 R, 24 HR, 73 RBI, 6 SB, .305 BA, 726 PA.  Votto's stock may be unfairly down a bit due the inexplicable RBI drought last year.  Look for a bounce back in that category while staying steady in the others.

7.  Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers:  69 R, 22 HR, 100 RBI, 1 SB, .293 BA, 641 PA.  His 40 HR days are probably long gone, but he still give solid production in 4 categories.  Be aware of a likely continued slippage in his numbers, though.

8.  Eric Hosmer, Royals:  86 R, 17 HR, 79 RBI, 11 SB, .302 BA, 680 PA.  Hosmer is still on the upswing of his career.  Good chance of his numbers making another advance in 2014.

9.  Allen Craig, Cardinals:  71 R, 13 HR, 97 RBI, 2 SB, .315 BA, 563 PA.  Will probably play RF for the Cardinals which could expose him to more risk of injury.  Many fantasy owners will want to roster him as an OF or a utility player rather than at 1B.

10.  Albert Pujols, Angels:  49 R, 17 HR, 49 RBI, 1 SB, .258 BA, 443 PA.  If he's healthy, he should have an nice bounce back and give you 30+ HR's, but will he ever be fully healthy again?

11.  Mark Trumbo, D'Backs:  85 R, 34 HR, 100 RBI, 5 SB, .234 BA, 678 PA.  Most fantasy owners will want to roster Trumbo at 3B or OF or Utility rather than 1B, but he gives 1B level production.

12.  Mike Napoli, Red Sox:  79 R, 23 HR, 92 RBI, 1 SB, .259 BA, 578 PA.  Napoli loses catcher eligibility which will be a blow to his fantasy value.  He's still a solid performer at 1B as long as the dead bone in his hips does not crumble.

13.  Brandon Belt, Giants:  76 R, 17 HR, 67 RBI, 5 SB, .289 BA, 571 PA.  His career is definitely on the rise with some analysts projecting a breakout season.  One drawback is he is still likely to sit against certain LHP's if only because of Buster Posey's availability and the need to find AB's for Buster when he needs days off from catching.

14.  Anthony Rizzo, Cubs:  71 R, 23 HR, 80 RBI, 6 SB, .233 BA, 690 PA.  Not quite what some Theo Epstein groupies were expecting, but those are good numbers.  I don't think he'll ever hit for much average.

15.  Kendrys Morales, ?:   64 R, 23 HR, 80 RBI, 0 SB, .277 BA, 657 PA.  We don't know where Morales will end up.  His QO is proving to be a barrier in finding a team to sign with.  His numbers should improve almost anywhere besides Seattle.

16.  Justin Morneau, Rockies:  62 R, 17 HR, 62 RBI, 0 SB, .259 BA, 635 PA.  Morneau moves from one of the toughest parks to hit in to the easiest which should boost his numbers.  Will he ever be fully healthy again?

17.  Matt Adams, Cardinals:  46 R, 17 HR, 51 RBI, 0 SB, .284 BA, 319 PA.  Adams is reportedly in the Best Shape of his Life.  Widely expected to get the bulk of playing time at 1B for the Cards with Craig moving to RF.

18.  Brandon Moss, A's:  73 R, 30 HR, 73 RBI, 4 SB, .256 BA, 505 PA.  From a fantasy perspective, Oakland's penchant for platooning is a huge frustration and limits Moss' value.  His production is good enough that you might want to live with the reduced PT.

19.  Ryan Howard, Phillies:  34 R, 11 HR, 43 RBI, 0 SB, .266 BA, 317 PA.  Howard put up strong numbers when he finally returned from the DL.  He probably doesn't have any more 40 HR seasons in him and he'll always be BA challenged, but he could be a great value if other owners are sleeping on him.

20.  Adam Dunn, White Sox:  60 R, 34 HR, 86 RBI, 1 SB, .219 BA, 607 PA.  Good source of dingers and RBI's as long as you don't mind punting Average.

21.  Chris Carter, Astros:  64 R, 29 HR, 82 RBI, 2 SB, .223 BA, 585 PA.  Adam Dunn clone.  Nice player for the owner who is punting Average.

22. Adam Lind, Blue Jays:  67 R, 23 HR, 67 RBI, 1 SB, .288 BA, 521 PA.  Nice production for a second utility guy.

23.  Nick Swisher, Indians:  74 R, 22 HR, 63 RBI, 1 SB, .246 BA, 634 PA.  Second utility guy here.

24.  Adam LaRoche, Nationals:  70 R, 20 HR, 62 RBI, 4 SB, .237 BA, 590 PA.  More second utility numbers here.

25. Justin Smoak, Mariners:  53 R, 20 HR, 50 RBI, .238 BA, 521 PA.  More of a guy for deep leagues.  20 HR is impressive for Seattle's ballpark, though.

26.  Garrett Jones, Marlins:  41 R, 15 HR, 51 RBI, 2 SB, .233 BA, 440 PA.  Another deep leaguer, but should get more PA's with Miami than last year with Pittsburgh.

27.  James Loney, Rays:  54 R, 13 HR, 75 RBI, 3 SB, .299 BA, 598 PA.  Wow! How long has it been since Loney, Russell Martin and Matt Kemp were going to rule the NL West for the next 15 years?  Kemp had one great season and could have some more, but Martin and Loney never quite lived up to expectations.  Loney seems to have found a home in Tampa Bay.  Still strictly a deep leaguer though.

Comeback Candidate:  Mark Teixeira, Yankees.  Has to prove he can stay healthy and hit above the Mendoza line but the potential is there.

Wild Card:  Jose Abreu, White Sox.  Will probably be drafted fairly high.  Could pay off big time, but I would let other owners take that risk.

Sleeper:  Tommy Medica, Padres.  Might be relegated to the short end of a platoon with Yonder Alonso, but he's a much better hitter than Alonso ever thought of being.  Petco tends to be friendlier to RH power than LH.  I would watch this situation closely and if Medica ever gets the full time gig, I'd grab him, especially in a deeper league.

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #31 Jeff Arnold

Jeff Arnold, C.  B-R, T-R.  6'2", 205 lbs.  1/13/1988.

High A:  .251/.333/.460, 13 HR, 38 BB, 116 K in 350 AB.

Jeff Arnold is a defensive catcher drafted in the 26'th round of the 2010 draft out of Louisville.  He has moved slowly, but steadily up the organizational ladder on the strength of his defense, but enjoyed a bit of an offensive breakout in 2013.  At the plate, he shows both patience and power with a walk rate of 9.6% and 43 of his 88 hits going for extra bases.  He did strike out at a 29% rate, which sometimes happens to guys who work deep into counts.

He has already developed a reputation for helping young pitchers.  There is an interview out there that Cove Chatter linked awhile back that really impressed me in how much Arnold knew about the stuff the SJ pitchers threw, what worked in certain situations and what they need to improve on or develop.  He may have a future as a backup catcher in the majors, but I think his real calling is in coaching or managing.  He should move up to Richmond along with the majority of the 2013 SJ pitching staff.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Hot Stove Update: Odds and Ends

The big news since we last checked in on the Hot Stove is the signing of Masahiro Tanaka by the Yankees.  He signed for a whopping 7 years/$155 M with the $20 M posting fee pushing his total cost to $175 M.  I think I predicted awhile back that Tanaka's contract would come in at well over $100 M and could go as high as $200 M.  It ended up closer to $200 M than $100 M.  I think Tanaka will be a good MLB pitcher, probably more of a #2 or #3 like his teammate Hiroki Kuroda.  While most teams would be better with another pitcher like that in the rotation, including the Giants, the price tag is daunting, even with the wild revenue/price inflation/bubble we are seeing in MLB right now.

What is interesting is that the Dodgers apparently drew a line above which they were not willing to go. The party line is their scouts were not as impressed with Tanaka as some, but you have to wonder if even the Dodgers are getting to a point where they are blinking.

Speaking of…..The Dodgers completed the long-awaited contract extension with Clayton Kershaw for a whopping 7 years/$210 M or $30 M per season.  A healthy Kershaw is definitely worth the price in today's baseball economy.  I have to say I think there is at least a 50% chance he has a major injury before the end of the contract.

The Yankees dropped LHP David Huff from their roster to make room for Tanaka.  Huff is a former supplemental first round draft pick by the Cleveland Indians, 2006, the Timmy draft.  He has a world class change up, but is velocity challenged and has never quite been able to break through into the majors.  The Giants acquired him for cash in the waiver deal.

The Padres and Rays completed an interesting trade involving a total of 7 players, most of whom are minor leaguers.  The Rays sent LHP Alex Torres and RHP Jesse Hahn to the Padres for IF Logan Forsythe, RHP Brad Boxberger, RHP Matt Andriese, RHP Matt Lolllis, and 2B Maxx Tissenbaum.   Here's how it breaks down:

Alex Torres, MLB:  4-2, 1.71, 58 IP, 20 BB, 62 K's.  He's small at 5'11", 175 lbs, but is an effective lefty specialist at the MLB level.

Jesse Hahn, High A:  2-1, 2.15, 67 IP, 18 BB, 63 K.  Drafted out of Virginia Tech in 2010, underwent TJ surgery and 2013 was his first pro experience.  He has a GO/AO greater than 2.

Logan Forsythe, MLB:   .214/.281/.332, 6 HR, 6 SB in 243 AB.  Forsythe had solid BB rate and IsoP. His BABIP was just .255 suggesting he has room of improvement at the plate.

Brad Boxberger, MLB:  0-1, 2.72, 49.2 IP, 31 BB, 57 K over 2 partial seasons.  He's a hard thrower who should be an effective 7'th and 8'th inning reliever.

Matt Andriese, AA/AAA:  11-7, 3.27, 134.2 IP, 29 BB, 105 K.  He's a big body, 6'3", 210 lbs, out of UC Riverside.  He's a native of my hometown of Redlands, CA and graduated from Redlands East Valley HS.

Matt Lollis, High A:  2-4, 2.32, 31 IP, 11 BB, 31 K.  Huge body at 6'9", 250 lbs.  He's had control issues and is trying to find a niche as a reliever.

Maxx Tissenbaum, Low A:  .277/.365/.359, 2 HR, 4 SB, 43 BB, 36 K.  5'10", 185 lbs.  B-L, T-R.  out of Stony Brook.

It just seems to me that Torres for Forsythe would have been an even swap as would Hahn for Andriese.  That the Padres threw in 3 more players with some upside tells you once again what kind of premium lefty relievers are commanding these days.

The Giants came to terms with arbitration eligible Joaquin Arias.  Arias was asking for $1.5 M while the Giants were offering $1.1.  The Giants preferred method of resolving these gaps recently has been to settle on the sum of the 2 numbers over 2 seasons which seems to make everybody happy.

Brandon Belt is the lone arbitration case left.  His may be a bit trickier as there is a larger gap between what the Giants are offering, $2.05 M and what Belt is asking, $3.6 M.  complicating matters is the fact that a lot of people think Belt may be sitting on a breakout season in 2014, which would be an incentive for him to not go more than 1 year, which would take away the most common pathway for the Giants to settle these cases.  I could see this getting settled as a multi-year deal, but there are substantial barriers on both sides so it is not a slam dunk by any means.

Jeremy Affeldt says he has been working out, which he is notoriously uninclined to do, and is going to come to camp in the best shape of his life.  He's also helping Tim Flannery raise more money for Brian Stow and his family as well as organizing food programs for poor communities in East Palo Alto.

Matt Kemp may not be ready to start the season for the Dodgers after offseason surgery.

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #30 Matt Duffy

Matt Duffy, SS.  B-R, T-R.  6'2", 170 lbs.  DOB:  1/15/191.

Low A:  .307/405/.418, 4 HR, 22 SB, 45 BB, 41 K in 287 AB.
High A:  .292/.342/.507, 5 HR, 3 SB, 7 BB, 16 K in 106 AB.

Long Beach St was a veritable SS factory in the mid-2000's producing Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria in consecutive drafts, then Danny Espinosa 2 years later.  Matt Duffy played the position for the Dirtbags, but was not regarded as anything close to their class of player.  His highest BA in 3 years there was .266 and he produced no college HR's.  He did have a reversed K/BB his junior season and hit .348 in the Cape Cod League.  The Giants took a flyer on him in the 18'th round of the 2012 draft.

He put up very similar numbers to his college experience at S-K in the summer of 2012, but then broke out in 2013 playing for Low A Augusta and later for High A San Jose.  He quickly became a favorite of Giants prospect watchers by putting up interesting lines in the box scores on an almost daily basis.

I saw him play during the Cal League playoffs.  170 lbs is about 20 lbs under Ideal Body Weight for a 6'2" man and Duffy did not look a lb over that.  I found it surprising that a player with his build could put up the power numbers he showed in 2013.  Since he showed almost no power before that, it makes you wonder if it is sustainable, but he did sustain it through a full season.

A few things to consider here:

1.  Long Beach St plays in a notoriously pitcher-friendly ballpark in a league that is generally pitcher-friendly.

2.  Duffy shows the reversed K/BB(BB's higher than K's) that the Giants scouting department has seemed to favor in recent years.

3.  With a little more meat on his bones, I could see Duffy getting his HR's up near 20 or even more.

4.  I am not  sure if he can stick at SS.  He was all-conference in college as a 2B.  If he continues to hit, it may not matter, but the Giants system is chock full of 2B's disguised as SS's.

His placement for the 2014 season is also interesting to consider.  I do not see anyone in the system standing in the way of him moving up to AA.  He has the secondary stats to make me think he just might do well in Richmond which would then place him within hailing distance of the majors and a lot higher on next year's list.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #29 Charles Jones

Charles "Chuckie" Jones, OF.  B-R, T-R.  6'3", 235 lbs.  DOB:  7/28/1992.

Low A:  .236/.321/.371, 10 HR, 12 SB, 47 BB, 140 K in 407 AB.

Chuckie Jones attended a tiny HS in Missouri as a two-way football/baseball player.  He did not have the resources to attend showcase events so flew under the radar of most draft analysts.  The Giants drafted him in the 6'th round of the 2010 draft.  He signed for a modest bonus and started his pro baseball career immediately.

Jones got off to a strong start in the AZL with a slash line of .279/.366/.461 showing a strong walk rate and some power.  He struggled mightily over the next 2 1/2 seasons while bouncing between Salem-Keizer and Augusta due to a prodigious K rate north of 30%.  Through all this he maintained strong BB rates in the 8-10% range and showed occasional flashes of power.

At first glance you might say his Augusta line last year was just more of the same thing, but his bat came to life in the last 2 months of the season with a .275 BA in July and .280 in August.  Whether his strong second half will carry over into 2014 and serve as the beginnings of a breakout remains to be seen.  The SAL is one of the toughest minor leagues for hitters, maybe the toughest, with league-wide hitting numbers lower than the Eastern League.  I would like to see Chuckie promoted to San Jose, which is in a much more hitter-friendly league and see what happens.  2014 will be his 5'th professional season which means he becomes Rule 5 Draft eligible next offseason.

He has played all 3 OF positions professionally, but probably profiles best as a RF which is where he played last year.  He remains a young players with tools to dream on.  He will need to find a way to cut down on that 30% K rate to succeed as a professional baseball player.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #28 Adam Duvall

Adam Duvall, 3B.  B-R, T-R.  6'1", 205 lbs.  DOB:  9/4/1988.

AA:  .252/.320/.465, 17 HR, 35 BB, 72 K's in 385 AB.
VWL:  .297/.327/.490, 7 HR, 6 BB, 35 K'S in 145 AB.

2014 was Adam Duvall's 4'th professional season as he has worked his way up the ladder 1 season at a time starting with Salem-Keizer in 2010, his draft year.  He was drafted in the 11'th round out of Louisville.  The hallmark of Duvall's professional career is power.  He has hit for impressive power at every level so far, 22, 30 and 17 over his last 3 seasons.  The power has been accompanied by modest BA's, fair walks rates and fair K rates.  Some scouts have worried that his swing is long and may not play at higher levels, but his AA performance at the level that is usually the most challenging for Giants prospects more than held his own.

He has struggled to make his throws from 3B due to a tendency to get under the throw and sail it over the 1B head.  Most of his 26 errors in 2011 and 27 in 2012 were due to overthrows.  The Giants worked on changing his arm slot and some throwing drills and his errors dropped to 18 in 2014.  Making further progress on his throws and overall defense will be a key to his future chances of a MLB career.

Duvall developed Type I diabetes during spring training of 2012 after what sounds like a viral illness, a common scenario of how the disease develops.  It took him awhile to learn to adjust his insulin for the activity of playing baseball, but he seems to be comfortable with it now.  To my knowledge, he has not missed any games or had to leave any games due to the condition.

Duvall's future with the Giants probably hinges on Pablo Sandoval's season.  If Pablo has a great season in 2014 and signs a longterm deal with the Giants, then Duvall's path to the majors is blocked and he will probably end up with another organization.  On the other hand, he is probably slightly ahead of former Louisville teammate, Chris Dominguez, in the race to be Sandoval's replacement from within the organization should Pablo leave via trade or FA.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Blast From the Past: Todd Linden

Of all the Giants prospects I have ever been irrationally exuberant about, I think Todd Linden just might top the list.  His story has to be one of the strangest and most frustrating of any prospect I know about.  He is now apparently retired at age 33 as the Augusta Chronicle has announced that he will be joining the Augusta Greenjackets' coaching staff as a co-hitting coach with holdover, Hector Borg.

Todd Linden was drafted in the supplemental first round of the 2001 draft by the Giants after a dominant junior season at LSU in which he put up a slash line of .312/.397/.609 with 20 HR's.  The Giants had scouted him in the Cape Cod League and liked what they saw of him using wood bats.  Linden, a native of the State of Washington transferred to LSU from University of Washington after his sophomore season due to a conflict with his coach at Washington.  This may have been a harbinger of trouble ahead, but it took a long time for it to become apparent.

The Giants gave him a very aggressive initial pro assignment in 2002 with AA Shreveport in the Texas League where he raked a slash line of .314/.419/.482 with 12 HR in 392 AB.  That was the last time he would play at a lower level than AAA in his career.  He received a late season promotion to AAA Fresno where his line was not as impressive at .250/.380/.380 with 3 HR in 100 AB, but it was a small sample size.

Back in Fresno to start the 2003 season at age 23, he put up a commendable but not dominant line of .278/.356/.412 with 11 HR and 14 SB's.  I saw him play in Fresno that season in a game he almost singlehandedly won.  In the first inning, he singled, stole 2B and scored on a single.  In the 9'th inning he doubled in 2 runs for a walk off 3-2 win.  He was big, fast, a switch-hitter.  He hit for a decent average with power, excellent walk rates and manageable K rates.  In short, he was a true 5 tool player with skills!  I was convinced he was the next great Giants OF!  He got a September callup to the Giants and I saw him hit one of the most impressive HR's I've ever seen into the second deck at Dodger Stadium down the LF line, a truly monster shot that apparently only Frank Howard had ever reached before.  Vin Scully couldn't stop raving about him on the Dodger TV broadcast and predicted  a long, successful MLB career.

He was sent back to Fresno in 2004, much to my disgust at the time.  He put up a disappointing line there of .260/.349/.466 with 23 HR's.  Still, it was disappointing only in light of his enormous expectations.  He hit just .156 in another late season call up.

2005 found him back in Fresno once again, and this time he crushed it:  .321/.437/.682 with 30 HR's.  He got a longer look in SF and did a little better this time:  .216/.280/.333 with 4 HR's.  2006 found him splitting time between Fresno and SF, hitting .278/.385/.449 in 187 AB's for Fresno and .273/.356/.455 with 2 HR in just 77 AB over 61 games for the Giants.

He started out 2007 with the Giants but fell flat on his face hitting just .182/.250/.200 and was traded to the Florida Marlins where he hit .271/.347/.364.  From that point on, he became strictly a AAA player with a  2 year stint in Japan sandwiched in between.

So, what happened to Todd Linden?  Why did he never fulfill the promise of his college and early minor league career?  We may never know.  I still have my doubts about whether the Giants handled him correctly and whether he ever really got a fair shot with them.  I will always wonder what might have happened if they had put him out there one of those seasons and just given him 600 AB's.  It's not like the Giants had alternatives that were setting the world on fire, or that they were contending for a pennant at the time.

One possible answer is his apparently cocky attitude and prickly personality which may have been hinted at by is problems with his college coach at Washington.  I saw him play at Dodger Stadium one night where he clearly misplayed a ball, then threw up his hands and yelled at the second baseman trying to deflect the blame onto a teammate.  I saw several Giants veterans get in his face in the dugout after that and saw him again waving his arms.  Then, Andy Baggarly told a story on his Extra Baggs blog about an unnamed young OF with a lot of talent who missed a cutoff man on a throw.  The next day in the clubhouse a coach asked him if he would like some extra work on his throws. The player declined saying "I'm good."  That player had short MLB career.  It wasn't too hard to figure out who that young player was!

Ironically, as Todd Linden's sad and frustrating career comes to an apparent end, the kid who didn't like to be coached is now a coach himself! I can only wish him the best in his new career and continue to dream about what might have been.

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #27 Jarrett Parker

Jarrett Parker, OF.  B-L, T-L.  6'4", 210 lbs.  DOB:  1/1/1989.

AA:   .245/.355/.430, 18 HR, 13 SB, 60 BB, 161 K, 444 AB.
AFL: .300/.366/.333, 8 BB, 19 K's in 60 AB.

We've talked quite a bit about Parker.  He's a classic 3 True Outcomes hitter as almost half of his PA's resulted in a walk, K or HR.  That has been his pattern so far in his pro career.  He was drafted in the second round in 2010 after Gary Brown which gave them 2 college CF's in the first 3 picks of that draft.  They were teammates in San Jose in 2011 where Brown outshone Parker by a wide margin.  Brown moved on to AA in 2012 and AAA in 2013 with increasing struggles at each level.  Parker went back to San Jose for 2012 and put up pretty much the same numbers he's had ever year as a pro.

The numbers stayed the same in AA, but the higher level and tougher hitting environment made them look a whole lot better.  I kind of have this feeling that is just the way the math falls out when you factor in the K's, BB's, dingers and BABIP and that's what he's going to be more or less what his career line will be wherever that ends up.  An OPS of .785, heck, an OPS in the low .700's, from a good defensive OF will play in the majors.

We'll see where he goes in 2014.  I don't see any point in sending him back to Richmond so he should rejoin his old draft mate and teammate in Fresno where I would project him to put up similar numbers which won't look quite so good in that environment.  His future in the major leagues probably depends on some GM who likes 3 true outcomes guys asking for him in a trade package or claiming him off waivers at some point in the future.  The Giants have historically not shown much of an inclination to sacrifice BA for the other components of a batting line.

News and Notes:

Todd Linden has been named as a hitting coach for the Augusta Greenjackets this year.  Oh the irony that the kid who didn't like to be coached will now be one himself!

We could learn the outcome of the Tanaka sweepstakes today or tomorrow.  The deadline for him to sign with a MLB club under posting rules is Friday.  The Cubs are reported to be the highest bidders, but lots of contradictory stories coming out of Chicago.  I remain convinced that the Dodgers will not be outbid if they really want him and they seem to be seriously interested.  The Yankees remain in the mix and probably have the biggest immediate need for him.  The Hot Stove has pretty much frozen over waiting for the Tanaka decision.  It should get fired up again as there are several moderate profile FA pitchers still on the market.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #26 Josh Osich

Josh Osich, LHP.  6'2", 230 lbs.  DOB:  9/13/1988.

High A:  3-1, 2.45, 40.1 IP, 10 BB, 48 K, 12 Saves.
AA:        2-3, 4.85, 29.2 IP, 12 BB, 28 K, 3 Saves.

Josh Osich has had some twists and turns in his baseball career to date.  He was coming off TJ surgery his junior season at Oregon St in 2011.  He was sensational despite not being allowed to throw a breaking ball until late in the season.  At one point he pitched a no-hitter against UCLA and was being talked about as a late first round draft pick, possibly by the Giants who were known to be scouting him.  Then he missed some games down the stretch of the college season and his draft stock dropped dramatically.  The Giants were reportedly waiting on some final medical reports before they would draft him which is why he dropped all the way to the 6'th round.

He did not make his pro debut until 2012 but he had an aggressive assignment to High A San Jose.  He pitched well, but missed some time due to recurring elbow soreness and only made 2 starts.  At one point he commented that he was more comfortable pitching out of the bullpen and wanted to stay there.  He started the 2013 season as the San Jose Closer and pitched well in that role.  He got off to a rocky start in AA Richmond after a mid-season promotion but settled down to record a 2.87 ERA over his last 10 appearances.  I found 1 article where he was quoted as saying his elbow did not bother him in 2013.

Osich features a mid-90's FB with a curve and a plus change.  On video, he has a drop and drive deliver that comes straight over the top with excellent leverage at the point of release and strong follow through.

My guess is he starts 2014 back in Richmond with a possible callup to Fresno by mid-season if he is pitching well.  He has an outside chance of pitching in the majors if a need for a LH reliever develops.

Thoughts on K's and BB's

There was a recent article on Fangraphs by the Whistleblower From Seattle, Tony Blengino who now writes for the blog, entitled Quantifying the Effect of K and BB Rates on Offensive Production.  In it, I noticed something interesting that I believe probably had nothing at all to do with the point he was making.  The article itself had a lot of very busy tables that I found confusing and the point he was making was extremely difficult to follow, at least for my feeble mind.

Just to summarize, he arbitrarily took all hitters who changed teams so far this offseason and divided them into 4 groups depending on whether their K and/or BB rates were above or below league average.  The 4 groups were as follows:

1.  Low K, High BB.  We'll call this group the Sabermetric Dream Team.

2.  Low K, Low BB.  We'll call this group the Hackers

3.  High K, High BB.  This group is affectionately known in sabermetric circles as 3 True Outcomes.

4.  High K, Low BB.  We'll call this group Da Bums as they are widely hated by almost all in the sabermetric community.

Blengino then compared the average offensive performance of all 4 groups counting only balls in play + HR's vs all PA's.  Not surprisingly, and I'm not sure why he spent so much time on laborious numbers crunching to prove such a trivial point, the group that suffered the most from adding K's into their BIP performance were Da Bums!  OK, I think we already knew that based on both intuition and fairly simple mathematical estimating.

There was something else that Blengino should have noted from just standing back and looking at the names of the hitters in each grouping.  Here they are for your own perusal:

Sabermetric Dream Team:  Aoki, Cano, Choo, Doumit, Fielder, Kinsler, McCann, McLouth, Morneau, Logan Morrison, Schumaker.

Hackers:  Beltran, Rajai Davis, Mark Ellis, Ellsbury, Infante, David Lough, David Murphy, AJ Pierzynski.

3 True Outcomes:  Fowler, Freese, Ibanez, Kelly Johnson, Ruggiano, Salty, Seth Smith, Drew Stubbs, Mark Trumbo, Chris B. Young.

Da Bums:  Arencibia, Brandon Barnes, Marlon Byrd, Garrett Jones, Jhonny Peralta.

OK, I'll concede that there are a lot of good hitters on the Dream Team and not quite as many ratiowise on Da Bums, but the most striking thing to my eye is that there are significant numbers of good hitters and not-so-good hitters in all 4 groups!

What this tells me is that while K and BB ratios may help identify trends, there are multiple plate approaches that can be successful and what determines whether a hitter is good or not lies in some other measurement or equation than simply looking at K and BB numbers.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50: #25 Cody Hall

Cody Hall, RHP.  6'4", 220 lbs.  DOB: 1/6/1988.

High A:  2-0, 1.34, 33.2 IP, 7 BB, 48 K, 2 Saves.
AA:        2-2, 2.39, 26.1 IP, 8 BB, 27 K, 8 Saves.
AFL:      0-0, 3.00, 9 IP, 4 BB, 7 K's.

Cody Hall was drafted by the Giants in the 19'th round of the 2011 draft out of Southern U.  He did not play HS baseball and walked on at a JC Baton Rouge, LA as a position player.  The coaches quickly noted his strong arm and asked him to try pitching.  He started out throwing in the high 80's but with some adjustments to his delivery was soon hitting the low-mid 90's.  He transferred to Southern because it was in the same city as his JC school.  Apparently scouts were impressed by his arm too because he was drafted several times before finally signing with the Giants in 2011.

He has racked up impressive K ratios in his 3 professional seasons and finished 2013 as the closer for AA Richmond.  His AFL campaign was less impressive than Derek Law's.  Those two are probably neck-and-neck in the Giants RP depth chart.   I probably should have ranked them closer together and you could certainly make a case for Hall being ranked higher than Law.  I guess the AFL results tipped the scale to Law for me which is probably not rational given the extremely small sample size.

The Giants have brought in a lot of power arms through minor league deals so Hall and/or Law could find themselves in Richmond just because of the numbers game although I would like to see both in Fresno getting ready for the big callup when the need arises.

Scouting the Draft: Nick Torres

Nick Torres, OF, Cal Poly SLO.  B-R, T-R.  6'1", 220 lbs.  DOB:  6/30/1993.

2012:  .275/.360/.429, 5 HR, 0 SB, 16 BB, 9 HBP, 42 K in 189 AB.
2013:  .333/.376/.520, 7 HR, 6 SB, 14 BB, 7 HBP, 31 K in 225 AB.

Nick Torres is a corner OF for Cal Poly whose stock seems to be rising.  He hasn't gotten a lot of scouting attention due to not playing in the Cape Cod League, but the pro scouts are starting to notice his bat and think he can stick in RF.  Looking at his numbers, it appears he got more aggressive at the plate his sophomore season with much better results.

BA has him ranked as the #79 college draft prospect which would put him somewhere in the round 6-7 range.  I will be monitoring him during the college season.  He just might be this year's Tyler Horan for me!  A bonus is he could play his first professional game as a 20 year old.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #24 Mike Kickham

Mike Kickham, LHP.  6'4", 220 lbs.  DOB:  12/12/1988

AAA:  7-7, 4.31, 110.2 IP, 49 BB, 90 K's, GO/AO= 1.64.
MLB:  0-3, 10.16, 28.1 IP, 10 BB, 29 K, GO/AO- 1.46.

Mike Kickham has always been a guy who tends to underperform his peripheral stats and his scouting report.  Nowhere was that more dramatically displayed than his 28.1 IP for the Giants last year.  He was drafted out of Missouri St. in the 6'th round of the 2010 draft.  His first full season was a conservative placement in low A Augusta where he started slow but finished strong.  He skipped San Jose and went to AA Richmond in 2012 where he had good results but struggled with his control walking approximately 1 batter every 2 innings.  2013 found him in AAA Fresno, a very tough pitching environment.  He struggled at first, but seemed to be making slow but steady progress.

His callup to the majors was probably a bit premature due to injuries in the Giants' rotation.  He was clearly in over his head.  He showed impressive stuff and looked good in individual innings, but once the opposing team put runners on base, he seemed to have no idea how to pitch his way out of trouble.  He bounced back and forth between SF and Fresno most of the season pitching pretty well in Fresno, terrible in SF.  Finally in September, he made several relief appearances allowing just 1 ER in 4.2 IP.  Then, in his last appearance on the final day of the season, he got into trouble again facing the Padres.  Bochy just left him out there to get pummeled.  At times during that inning, it looked like the mound was the last place on Earth he wanted to be.  He was clearly frustrated, unfocused and just throwing the  ball up there.  He finally pulled himself together and got the final two outs of the inning with a flourish, so hopefully walked off the mound on a positive note to end the season.

It's a bit tough to see what the future holds for Kickham at this point.  The Giants rotation is set.  Yusmeiro Petit is probably the first backup option and Edwin Escobar seems to have passed Kickham on the depth chart.  There is a thundering herd of pitching prospects coming up behind Escobar, so there is not much of a window.  I think he still has room to refine and polish his game and can still be a back of the rotation starter for some MLB team.  The Giants may decide to put him in the bullpen in Fresno and groom him to be a lefty specialist who can also face some RH batters, kind of like Jeremy Affeldt.  He should be back in Fresno for 2014 either in the rotation or bullpen.  His most likely outcome with the Giants is an eventual trade.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #23 Ehire Adrianza

Ehire Adrianza, SS.  B-S, T-R, 6'1", 165 lbs.  DOB:  8/21/1989.

AA:     .240/.331/.320, 2 HR, 11 SB, 31 BB, 45 K in 250 AB.
AAA:  .310/.409/.441, 6 3B, 6 SB, 23 BB, 31 K in 145 AB.
MLB:  .222/.263/.444, HR in 18 AB.
VWL:  .179/.303/.250, 5 BB, 7 K in 28 AB.

Minor League Career:  .254/.334/.356, 234 BB, 403 K in 2118 AB.

Ehire Adrianza's climb through the Giants minor league system has been painfully slow.  2013 was his 8'th season in the organization.  He has a reputation as a superior fielding SS with a weak bat.  My own take on him is that his bat is underrated.  While his slash line has had its ups and downs, he has consistently controlled with strike zone with walk rates in the 8-10% range while keeping his K rates well below 20%.  He finally got a MLB callup last year and kind of shocked everybody with a HR off Andy Pettitte in Yankee Stadium.  Giants coaches and broadcasters expressed their positive impressions of him as a player and prospect.

The Giants are now faced with a big decision this spring as Adrianza is out of options and must be exposed to waivers before being sent down to Fresno.  I don't think there is much doubt that he would get claimed.  The Giants have a starting SS in Brandon Crawford with Adrianza, Joaquin Arias and Tony Abreu and possibly others competing for 2 utility IF roster spots.

I suspect that Adrianza is a better defensive SS right now than Crawford and may well have a better bat in the future.  IMO, they need to find a way to keep him on the roster, but the decision obviously won't be easy. I am quite convinced that he won't clear waivers as there is more than one MLB team that could use him as a starting SS right now.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Scouting the Draft: Matt Imhoff

Matt Imhoff, LHP, Cal Poly SLO.  6'5", 220 lbs.

2012:  1-0, 3.04, 47.1 IP, 22 BB, 31 K.
2013:  7-3, 2.74, 101.2 IP, 30 BB, 95 K.
2013 Team USA:  3-0, 0.53, 17 IP, 5 BB, 17 K.

Matt Imhoff is a college prospect whose stock is rising.  He was Cal Poly's Saturday starter last year.  He then tried out for the collegiate Team USA making the squad on the strength of 4 shutout innings against the Wilmington Sharks of the Coastal Plain League, a collegiate summer league.  He pitched terrific ball for Team USA and now returns to Cal Poly for his junior season as the likely Friday starter.

Imhoff is a big dude with a fastball that reaches 94 MPH.  On video, he has a short windup without a back turn.  He just raises his right leg to a 90 degree angle at the hip and knee, then takes a long stride that lands him less than a foot from the edge of the grass in front of the pitcher's mound.  He has a nice stepover in his stride with high 3/4 delivery that gives him great leverage on his pitches.  He pounds both sides of the strike zone and routinely busts in on the hands of RH batters.

BA has him ranked as the #22 college draft prospect, which would make him borderline for being on the board when the Giants pick in the second round.  On the other hand, I have not seen him on any early top 50 draft pick lists.  I really like what I see of Matt Imhoff and would not be unhappy if the Giants drafted him in round 2.

Dr B's Giants Top 50 Prospects: #22 Jesus Galindo

Jesus Galindo, OF.  B-S, T-R.  5'11", 175 lbs.  DOB:  8/23/1990.

Low A:  .273/.342/.322, 48 SB, 6 CS, 31 BB, 80 K in 326 AB.

One of the frustrations I have always had about the team I used to root for as a kid, the 1960's Giants, was their lack of a speedy leadoff batter who could get on base and manufacture a run or two with his speed.  They have had a couple of players like that for short periods of time like Bill North and Brett Butler, but leadoff has mostly been a problem area for them as long as I can remember.  Over the years, the Giants have had numerous prospects who fit the profile, none of which have made in impact at the MLB level.  I guess you can look at this two ways:  They should give up on the idea and not even try to develop somebody like that or they should keep trying.  I would agree that it is probably not a good idea to use up a first round draft pick on a player with this profile, but a low level IFA signing like Galindo is a low risk proposition and worth the effort to develop him.

Bill North is the closest historical comp I can come up with, although Gregor Blanco is also a very similar player.  Blanco can hit for more power than Galindo has shown, but that sometimes works against him too when he starts trying to pull everything.

At any rate, Galindo has come along slowly as he repeated the DSL and Low A ball with Salem-Keizer sandwiched in between.  Interestingly, he never played for the AZL Giants.  He was promoted to San Jose for the Cal League playoffs with mixed success.  I have to say he looked a bit lost in CF in one of the games I saw which it seems like should not happen to a guy with 5 seasons of pro experience.

Galindo has shown no power to speak of in his pro career so far but has consistently drawn walks and maintained a solid OBP despite unimpressive BA's.  The speed is legit and he's an aggressive base-stealer to take advantage of the speed.

He's probably a bit of a longshot to be an impact MLB player, but you don't give up on that kind of speed easily.  I expect him to the the starting CF for San Jose in 2014.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #21 Chase Johnson

Chase Johnson, RHP.  6'3", 185 lbs.  DOB:  1/9/1992.

2012 College:  3-4, 3.34, 35 IP, 13 BB, 31 K, 8 Saves.

2012  Cape Cod League:  2-1, 3.98, 20.1 IP, 7 BB, 23 K.

2013  College:  0-0, 2.31, 23.1 IP, 9 BB, 21 K.

2013 AZL:  1-0, 1.69, 5.1 IP, 1 BB, 7 K's.

2013  Short Season:  3-2, 4.17, 41 IP, 12 BB, 37 K. (14 of 19 ER allowed in last 3 starts).

Chase Johnson must have done something to really PO his college coach at Cal Poly SLO where he not only lost is closer role from 2012 but pitched just 23.1 innings in spite of one of the best ERA's on the team and possessing a 96 MPH fastball with an GO/AO= 2.  The Giants scouts were on the case, though, and sniffed out a kid with low mileage on his arm and enough stuff to make them think he could be converted into a starter.  The Giants brass gave the green light to draft him in round 3 of the 2013 amateur draft.

He was lights out up until his last 3 starts which I am going to chalk up to fatigue from being not used to pitching that many innings until proven otherwise.  His FB may run more in the 92-94 MPH range as  a starter, but his groundball tendency preceded his entry into pro baseball.

With a strong starting rotation from Augusta graduating to San Jose for 2014, I expect Johnson to be in the Augusta rotation this spring.  He pitched a total of 69.2 IP last year so I would expect his IP target to be around 100.  He's an intriguing pitching prospect with an unusual pedigree.   It will be interesting to see what the Giants pitching mavens can do with him and how he develops.

Scouting the Draft: Greg Allen

Greg Allen, OF, San Diego St.  B-S, T-R.  6'1", 165 lbs. DOB:  3/15/1993.

2012  .312/.383/.403, 2 HR, 11 SB.
2013  .299/.397/.350, 0 HR, 25 SB, 36 BB, 40 K in 254 AB.
Cape Cod League  .221, 11 SB, 11 BB, 10 K in 68 AB.

Greg Allen is a CF/Leadoff prospect with a wiry frame that has room to fill out.  He played RF last year, but moves to CF for his junior season which is where he probably has to play to have a chance of making it in the pros.  As suggested by his stat line, his BLF scouting report says he has a patient approach at the plate and grinds out AB's.  I think that's his main attraction as a guy who can do that at the top of a lineup then steal a base is a very valuable player.  He has not shown much power as yet, but should have enough gap power as his frame matures to keep pitchers from pounding the strike zone.

BA has him ranked as the #38 college prospect, so he should definitely be available in round 2 of the draft and quite possibly round 3.  He has won academic honors and plans to eventually go to law school.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #20 Ricky Oropesa

Ricky Oropesa, 1B.  B-L, T-R.  6'3", 225 lbs.  DOB:  12/15/1989.

AA:        .207/.255/.307, 6 HR in 241 AB.
High A:  .295/.368/.477, 8 HR in 220 AB.

I have never held myself out to be an unbiased observer, but in the interest of full disclosure, I work with Ricky's mom and have followed his career since he was a junior in high school.  I am an unabashed Ricky fan!

Ricky's second professional season was a bumpy ride as he went from the high of getting an invitation to the major league spring training camp and being one of the last guys sent down, to struggling in Richmond, to recovering his mojo back in San Jose capped by homers in 4 consecutive playoff games.

The reasons why so many Giants hitting prospects run into trouble in the Eastern League remains a bit of a mystery.   Everybody agrees that the jump from High A to AA is second only to the jump from AAA to the majors in terms of gap in competition level, but the struggles many of the Giants hitters go through in AA seem extreme even when that gap is taken into consideration.  There is also not perfect correlation between success in AA and future MLB success as John Bowker hit very well in the EL while Nate Schierholtz struggled.  Buster Posey skipped the level altogether and Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt stayed only briefly.

At least 2 factors may have come into play for Ricky in addition to the jump in competition:  1.  This was his first time playing his home games outside of California.  2.  He did not get very many in-game AB's during his extended spring training stay in MLB camp making the first half in Richmond his de-facto spring training.

Unfortunately, many observers have written Ricky off after his 2013 setback.  I just have a feeling the Giants have not written him off and he is still highly regarded within the organization.  A big question is whether they send him back for a do-over in Richmond, or do they send him to a more familiar environment in Fresno?  If it comes down to Ricky vs Angel V for Fresno, it would seem that there is a bit more urgency for them to find out what they have in Angel V and get him closer to the major leagues, although they could split 1B/DH duties in Fresno.

Ricky remains one of the few power hitting prospects in the organization.  I think he could work on being a bit more aggressive early in the count to get better pitches to hit.  He also needs to see and hit breaking balls better.

Fantasy Focus: Catcher Rankings

The catcher position takes a bit of a hit in 2014 due to Mike Napoli's loss of eligibility for the position and Ryan Doumit's trade to the NL Atlanta Braves which is likely to severely depress his playing time. Buster Posey's disappointing 2013 season brings him back to the pack so the position not only gets shallower, but less exciting at the top.  Here is a list of my current catcher fantasy rankings along with last year's production of the standard fantasy categories:

1.  Buster Posey, Giants:  61 R, 15 HR, 72 RBI, 2 SB, .294 BA, 520 AB.  Obviously fantasy owners who draft Buster will be counting on this being his floor and a bounceback in 2014.  His ability to slide over to 1B gives him more AB's than most catchers.

2.  Brian McCann, Yankees:  43 R, 20 HR, 57 RBI, 0 SB, .256 BA, 356 AB.  McCann finally seemed to be healthy at the end of last season and that short porch in Yankee Stadium would seem to be tailor made for him.  Health has been the big issue for several seasons now.

3.  Wilin Rosario, Rockies:  63 R, 21 HR, 79 RBI, 4 SB, .292 BA, 449 AB.  A move to LF is reportedly being considered, but he will retain his catcher eligibility for at least 1 more season even if the LF gig is full time.

4.  Carlos Santana, Indians:  75 R, 20 HR, 74 RBI, 3 SB, .268 BA, 541 AB.  Santana plays 1B and DH's a lot, so is usually going to get more AB's than any other catcher, which is extremely important in fantasy baseball.

5.  Joe Mauer, Twins:  62 R, 11 HR, 47 RBI, 0 SB, .324 BA, 445 AB.  Obviously, the hope here is that moving to 1B fulltime will keep him healthier and get his AB up to around 600.  He retains catcher eligibility for 1 more season so 2014 is the year to take advantage of the extra AB's.

6.  Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers:  59 R, 18 HR, 82 RBI, 9 SB, .280 BA, 521 AB.  Very underrated catcher who took a step up in power in 2013.  He's always given great BA and he even chips in a few SB's!  He's a solid value if he's the 6'th catcher off the board or lower.

7.  Yadier Molina, Cardinals:  68 R, 12 HR, 80 RBI, 3 SB, .319 BA, 505 AB.  Molina gives you tremendous durability and steady production.  He's starting to get a bit long in the tooth and you have to wonder how long he can keep it up.

8.  Matt Wieters, Orioles:  59 R, 22 HR, 79 RBI, 2 SB, .235 BA, 523 AB.  Perennial breakout candidate who will probably never break out.  Gives you dingers.

9.  Salvador Perez, Royals:  59 R, 13 HR, 79 RBI, 0 SB, .292 BA, 496 AB.  Another value pick if he's the 8'th or 9'th catcher off the board.  Value drops off significantly after him.

10.  Jason Castro, Astros:  63 R, 18 HR, 56 RBI, 2 SB, .276 BA, 435 AB.  Castro the Astro.  Emerged as a third tier starting catcher last year.  You can wait on him and hope he makes further progress in 2014.

11. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Marlins:  68 R, 14 HR, 65 RBI, 4 SB, .273 BA, 425 AB.  He was my fantasy catcher at the end of last season and I was satisfied with his production. He even won me a SB category one week with a SB in a Sunday night game!  The problem with him is despite being a switch-hitter, he really only hits from the left side and his power may take a hit moving to Miami.

12.  Wilson Ramos, Nationals:  29 R, 16 HR, 59 RBI, 0 SB, .272 BA, 287 AB.  Could be a major value if his AB's get closer to 500.  Not a bad choice if you don't want to spend anything on the catcher position.

13.  AJ Pierzynski, Red Sox:  48 R, 17 HR, 70 RBI, 1 SB, .272 BA, 503 AB.  Shows up to play every day and you can pretty much count on this production from him which is not that much less than what you might get from the top 3-4 dudes.

14.  Evan Gattis, Braves:  44 R, 21 HR, 65 RBI, 0 SB, .243 BA, 354 AB.  Started out like a house afire last year, then tailed off considerably.  Is probably first in line to be the starting catcher in Atlanta with the loss of Brian McCann.  Playing time is a bit iffy as is the sustainability of his offensive production.

15.  Devin Mesocoro, Reds:  31 R, 9 HR, 42 RBI, 0 SB, .238 BA, 323 AB.  Ryan Hanigan's move to Tampa Bay clears the way for Mesocoro's playing time to increase.  A new manager might help too!  With an additional year of experience and a step up in playing time, we could see a modest breakout in 2014.

16.  Russell Martin, Pirates:  51 R, 15 HR, 55 RBI, 9 SB, .226 BA, 438 AB.  Martin gives you dingers and a few SB's but his BA will never do you any favors.

While it would be nice to have one of the top 4 or 5 guys on your fantasy team, I would not want to spend more than a 8-10 round pick or $15 in an auction on the position.  There is enough production in the 10-15 range here that you can probably afford to wait until the end of the draft and fill your catcher position for essentially nothing.

4 other names to watch closely:  Thanks to a tip from Pato in the comments, Yan Gomes with Cleveland is a sleeper to watch.  He could make it possible for them to move Santana to full time 1B/DH.  Mike Zunino of the Mariners and Travis D'Arnaud of the Mets are poised to move into starting catcher roles.    They both have high ceilings but have gotten off to slow starts in their MLB careers.  Yasmani Grandal should be back at full strength for the Padres and ready to challenge Nick Hundley for the starting role there.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #19 Angel Villalona

Angel Villalona, 1B.  B-R, T-R.  6'3", 260 lbs.  DOB:  8/13/1990

High A:  .229/.278/.433, 14 HR, 15 BB, 76 K, 284 AB.
AA:        .235/.273/.413, 8 HR, 8 BB, 60 K, 196 AB.
AFL:      .200/.243/.246, 3 2B, 3 BB, 19 K, 60 AB.

I have to confess that I'm not sure exactly what an enigma is.  In a sports context, I've always associated  the term with players who seem like they should be better than they are, but nobody quite knows why.  Angel Villalona probably fits within that definition.  No player in the Giants organization has more power potential than Angel Villalona, yet no player seems less likely to harness its full potential.

I saw Angel play in several games early in the season with San Jose.  I love his swing!  The swing is short, quick and powerful.  When he makes contact, he makes HARD contact!  I didn't see any HR's, but I did see several hard, line-drive singles and one shot in particular that went out like a laser beam over the head of the left fielder and banged off the LF wall.  I'm tellin' ya.  There is toonder in that bat! The problem for Angel is making contact often enough.  His pitch selection has come a long ways from when I saw him as a 19 year old in 2009, particularly when he gets to 2 strikes, but he still has a lot of swing and miss in his game.

He started 2013 off strong in San Jose then cooled off.  The Giants inexplicably promoted him to AA in the midst of a pretty bad slump.  I tend to believe the promotion was more to make room at 1B for Ricky Oropesa, who was struggling in Richmond and the Giants wanted to get him out of there.  Be that as it may, Angel's bat came back to life in Richmond and he actually did just as well there as at the lower level.  The Giants wanted him to get more AB's so sent him to the AFL.  Hopefully that was a learning experience because it was a complete waste in terms of performance.

The question now is where does he go from here?  For whatever reason, the Giants felt they had to add him to the 40 man roster before the 2012 season, so unless there is some exception involved, they have 1 more season in which they can option him to the minors before they have to either keep him on the 25 man active MLB roster or expose him to waivers.  While I still love his power potential, I do not think there is much of a chance that he improves his contact rates enough in 1 more minor league season to be ready to play at the MLB level.  I would say we are looking at a minimum of 2 seasons, probably 3 by which time Angel will be 27, not impossibly old for a power hitter, but what happens in the 2 years he has to be exposed to waivers and is a minor league FA?  I don't think his development is going to be helped by bouncing from one organization to another.

This all may be a moot issue if Brandon Belt continues to develop into the offensive force he appears to be on a path for and puts a hammer-lock on the 1B position for the next 5 years.  I know Angel V still takes groundballs at 3B, but to my eye I do not see him playing any other position but 1B.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Scouting the Draft: Casey Gillaspie

Up to this point, we have been looking at potential first round draft picks with the Giants #14 overall pick in mind.  We've covered enough of those that unless they go completely off the board, as they have been known to do, their first round pick will likely be one of the names we've reviewed.  We now turn our attention to players who may be available in later rounds.

If the name Casey Gillaspie has a familiar ring, it might be due to his brother being Conor Gillaspie, a former Giants supplemental first round draft choice and 3B prospect.  Like his brother, Casey attends Witchita St in Kansas.  Unlike his brother, Casey throws left-handed, is a switch-hitter and plays first base.  He is also much bigger than Conor at 6'4", 240 lbs.

On video, Casey has a classic slugger's stance and swing, standing upright at the plate with his bat held high.  He has a slight load and low leg lift, but a long stride and an unrestrained follow-through on his swing.  Here are his college stat lines:

2012  .274/.378/.442, 8 HR, 34 BB, 43 K in 215 AB.
2013  .299/.447/.517, 11 HR, 62 BB, 35 K in 234 AB.

His excellent K and BB ratios have caught the eye of sabermetrically oriented analysts.  In addition to his college experience, he put up a .321 BA with 8 HR in the 2013 Cape Cod League.

College Baseball Daily lists Casey as the #50 college prospect while BA lists him at #28.  He should be available when the Giants pick in round 2 of the draft with an outside chance of still being there in round 3.  The 2'nd and 3'rd rounds are where John Barr has typically looked for power hitters.  Combine the prior Giants connection with his bro and the sweet K and BB ratios and I could see the Giants snapping him up in round 2.

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #18 Ryder Jones

Ryder Jones, 3B.  B-L, T-R. 6'2", 200 lbs.  DOB:  4/7/1994.

Rookie AZL:  .317/.394/.400, 1 HR, 9 2B, 14 BB, 38 K in 145 AB.

Ryder Jones was the Giants second round pick in the 2014 amateur draft out of HS in North Carolina.  There was some concern that he had a commitment to Stanford, but ended up signing for close to slot.  He is a bit on the old side for a HS draftee. He as a 2-way player in HS at SS and pitching where he sported a low 90's FB. The Giants drafted him as a 3B all the way.

He is bigger than first round pick Christian Arroyo and hit 11 HR's in HS, so was seen as more of a power hitter than Arroyo.  That he had just 10 XBH's out of 45 total hits compared to Arroyo's 25 out of 60 was somewhat surprising, but there are obvious sample size and experience caveats at work here. Of the two, Jones started out hotter and cooled off in the last month of the season while Arroyo just kept getting stronger at the season progressed.

On video, Jones has almost ideal size for a hitter, not too small, not too big.  He has an open stance up near the front of the batter's box and close to the plate with a bit of backward lean.  His swing is pretty, but to my eye might be a bit long and a bit slow getting started.

Ryder Jones may have a higher ceiling than Arroyo, particularly in terms of power, but I think he's going to take more time to develop and may need to make more mechanical adjustments in his swing.  He obviously has the arm to play on the left side of the IF.  Most likely we'll see him starting at 3B in Augusta in 2014.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #17 Martin Agosta

Martin Agosta, RHP.  6'1", 180 lbs.  DOB:  4/7/1991.

Low A:  9-3, 2.06, 91.2 IP, 43 BB, 109 K.

There is certainly nothing wrong with Agosta's numbers from Augusta, except maybe a walk rate that is a bit generous.  What dropped him down compared to other pitching prospects from San Jose and Augusta was injury concern.  He only made 4 appearances after July 5, sitting out at first from a finger blister and later due to "arm fatigue."  Maybe I'm putting too much weight on 1 report, but the Augusta Chronicle beat writer commented that his velocity was down in his final 3 appearances at the end of August.  Put all that together and it's worrisome enough for me to discount the numbers a bit.  He actually pitched fairly well in 2 of his final 3 appearances allowing a total of 3 runs in 12 IP, with 12 K's but 9 BB's.

Agosta is not big for a pitcher, but looks strong and wiry.  He does not have a flashy windup and delivery, which is no muss no fuss.  He just raises his front leg to 90 degrees at the hip and falls forward without any significant drop.  He has quick arm action that produces a nice 360 degree windmill when viewed from the side.  The comp I immediately thought of when watching his video was Roy Oswalt.  When healthy, his fastball gets into the mid-90's.

I would expect Agosta to start 2014 in SJ's rotation, but health will be the key to his success and to his future.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #16 Derek Law

Derek Law, RHP.  6'3", 218 lbs.  DOB:  9/14/1990.

AZL     1-0, 3.18, 5.2 IP, 1 BB, 9 K's.
Low A  0-3, 2.31, 35 IP, 10 BB, 48 K's, 3 Saves.
High A 4-0, 2.10, 25.2 IP, 1 BB, 45 K, 11 Saves.
AFL     1-0, 0.00, 12.1 IP, 6 BB, 16 K.

Derek Law was the Giants 9'th round draft pick in 2011 out of Miami-Dade JC where he racked up 121 K's against just 16 BB in 92 IP.  He pitched well that summer for the AZL Giants and was assigned to Augusta for his first full professional season.  He pitched very well for Augusta in 2012 with a line of  5-2, 2.91, 55.2 IP, 23 BB, 67 K.

The Giants may have been sleeping on him a bit because for some inexplicable reason, he was sent back to Augusta to start the 2013 season.  They woke up around mid-season after a rehab stint for an ankle injury in Arizona and promoted him to San Jose where he almost immediately became the closer and ran up the crazy good numbers you see above.  The Giants sent him to the AFL to get in some more innings and he dominated there too!

Law has an unconventional delivery, but one I like a lot.  It's really a very simple delivery where he torques his body on his back leg briefly showing the back of his uniform to the batter.  He comes to a brief but complete stop, then explosively unwinds in a sudden, straight-over-the-top delivery that makes it look like the ball is coming out of a pitching machine.  The stop followed by the explosive delivery makes it virtually impossible for hitters to time the pitches.  Some scouts apparently think he is a "stabber" but I would disagree in that he gets his entire body in the flow of the delivery with excellent follow-through even though it appears to be sudden.

His fastball goes 92-96 MPH on a severe downward plane, but he is also able to elevate it for K's.  He also has a sharply downward breaking curveball and a slider.  There is one still picture of him about to deliver a pitch that is held in a split-finger grip.  As one scout quoted in BA put it, "he's downhill with funk and finish, and his breaking ball is filthy."

Law will almost certainly get a spring training invite.  He may leapfrog over AA and start the season in Fresno with an outside chance of making the big club out of spring training.  I've always liked his numbers.  I like him even more after seeing video of him in action.  I think he will give MLB hitters fits for 1-2 innings at a time.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #15 Gary Brown

Gary Brown, OF.  B-R, T-R.  6'1", 190 lbs.  DOB:  9/28/1988.

AAA  .231/.286/.375, 13 HR, 17 SB, 11 CS, 17 Assists, 9 Errors.

Gary Brown was probably the toughest Giants prospect to rank this year.  Is he the first round draft pick destined to be the Giants CF of the future who just had a down season, or is he a guy whose baseball career is in a death spiral?  You could probably make a case that he's still a top 10 prospect, but I also actually considered leaving him off the list entirely and talking about him in the Honorable Mention category.  That is how bad last season was for Gary Brown.

The official line seems to be that this is a mechanical problem that the Giants knew about all along.   Much like Brandon Belt, his swing needed to be adjusted to play at higher levels.  Brown has always had problems standing still in the batters box.  Apparently he was getting his hands up into hitting position too late.  He particularly struggles with RH pitching, which unfortunately is about 75% of what he sees.

While I do not doubt that mechanical adjustments were in order, I'm not sure I'm buying that's all there is to the story here.  It does not explain why his success in stealing bases has gone backward every year or why he makes so many errors in the OF.  Perhaps it is just a coincidence, but Brown has had a recognizable pattern of slumping after callups of fellow OF prospects.  Put all that together and you have to wonder how much his mind is in the games.

I am convinced that many prospects end up not achieving a MLB career for reasons that have nothing to do with talent.  We recently heard from Adrian Cardenas, a former highly rated prospect and supplemental round draft pick, who went back to school in the offseason and woke up one day realizing he didn't want to play baseball anymore.  Cardenas talked about the separation from family and friends that the game forces on you as well as the toll it takes on romantic relationships.  I know of another formerly highly rated first round draft pick(not Giants) who was recently DFA'd by his organization who has a reputation as a party animal.  I do not have any information on Gary Brown other than an educated guess from looking at his numbers, but I get the feeling that his mind is often somewhere besides the games when he is on the field.

I think it is too early to write off Gary Brown as a prospect.  Even if he never hits like he did in college or the Cal League again, he can be a valuable player as a strong defensive CF coupled with average offense.  Prospects often have to make adjustments and often come out stronger for it.  Prospects often have down years and come back strong in the end.  2014 is a critical year for Gary Brown, though.  I expect he will be back in Fresno.  He needs to have a better season than he did in 2013.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #14 Keury Mella

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

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.

I am so stoked to be able to talk about Keury Mella out of the #14 prospect slot.  I am so high on him that when I wrote my first draft of the prospect list, I had him as the #2 pitching prospect in the organization and #3 overall.  I am firmly a ceiling guy and I believe that a great prospect is a great prospect whether they are in rookie ball or AAA.  On ceiling alone, I believe Mella just might be the #2 pitching prospect in the organization.  Then I got to thinking about Waldis Joaquin and Jose Valdez, 2 other high ceiling prospects who impressed in the AZL and lost my nerve a bit. Still, being able to talk about a prospect like this all the way down at #14 is a very good thing!

Keury Mella was signed as an IFA FA in 2011 for $275 K.  As you can see, he pitched well in the DSL in his pro debut, and he pitched even better in the AZL in 2013 showing both a strikeout and groundball tendency while lowering his walk rate.  He dominated the AZL Dodgers in the championship game throwing 5 shutout innings with 6 K's.

As for a scouting report, he pounds the lower half of the zone with a hard, heavy 2-seam fastball that runs 92-94 MPH and can throw a 4 seam FB up to 96.  There is a video that I first saw on Cove Chatter from 2013 Instructional League that shows him sitting at 96.  He also has a hard curve and changeup that are developing pitches.

I'd expect him to be assigned to low A Augusta for 2014, but the Giants do not like to ramp up the innings per season on young pitchers too fast.  With just 36 IP in the AZL, he could stay in short season ball to ramp his innings more slowly.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #13 Joan Gregorio

Joan Gregorio, RHP.  6'7", 180 lbs.  DOB:  1/12/1992.

Low A:  6-3, 4.00, 69.2 IP, 17 BB, 84 K, GO/AO= 0.50.

Before we get started on Joan Gregorio's scouting report, there are 4 current minor league players who have the first name of Joan.  It is a fairly common first name in spanish speaking countries. It is not pronounced Jone, but Jo-ahn or Yo-ahn.  There!  Hopefully we an leave the Man Named Joan/Boy Named Sue jokes over at MCC where they belong!

2013 was Gregorio's 4'th on the organization.  He recorded sub-3 ERA's in his first two seasons with the DSL and AZL Giants, but had unimpressive K rates.  His K rate improved at Salem-Keizer in 2012, but he struggled early and finished with an ERA greater than 5.

His K rate took a big jump for Augusta in 2013 while maintaining an excellent walk rate.  His season was highlighted by a 7 inning no-hitter on July 18 which gained him national attention.  The Augusta Chronicle report of that game had him pumping high fastballs in the mid-90's with a sharp downward breaking slider and a changeup that faded away from the lefty heavy Lakewood Blueclaws lineup.  He apparently suffered a blister during that game and he only lasted 2 inning while allowing 8 ER in his next start.  He was shut down for the month of August after his next start, but re-surfaced to pitch 3 shutout innings with 4 K's and 0 BB's on 9/1.

In a couple of videos I found, he appears to have a well-coordinated smooth, easy delivery with loose arm action despite his long, lanky frame.  The FB is a hard 4 seamer up in the zone that generates swings and misses.  He has evolved since his DSL days from being a modest groundball pitcher to an extreme flyball pitcher.  Although his ERA was not as impressive as his K and BB rates, it was inflated considerably by just 3 appearances where he gave up more than 5 runs.

I would expect him to be part of the SJ rotation in 2014 and will be a must-see scouting trip for me when the little Giants come down south.  A full season of good health would be welcome.