Saturday, January 31, 2015

Scouting the 2015 Draft: Richie Martin

Richie Martin is the relatively rare college SS who is believed to have the tools to stay at the position.  He has 2 plus tools:  speed and arm.  His sophomore slash line was not terribly impressive at .265/.354/.337 with 18 SB's.  He had a breakout Cape Cod League with a .364 BA and 3 HR's.  He could move up the rankings with a big junior season.  BA currently has him at #30 while Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs has him at #37.

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #38 Blake Miller

Blake Miller, IF.  DOB:  4/25/1990.  B-R, T-R.  6'3", 195 lbs.

2013 Rookie AZL:  .211/.412/.237, 19.6 BB%, 23.5 K%, 51 PA.
2013 Short Season: .309/.373/.485, 8 2B, 3 HR, 8.2 BB%, 17.3 K%, 110 PA.
2013 AFL:              .193/.303/.211, 10.6 BB%, 16.7 K%, 66 PA.
2014 High A:         .299/.354/.453, 24 2B, 4 3B, 8 HR, 6.4 BB%, 19.6 K%, 409 PA.
2014 AA:               .304/.373/.402, 5 2B, 2 3B, 8.8 BB%, 20.6 K%, 102 PA.

To me, Blake Miller is an example of why the Giants farm system is better than what it is generally given credit for.  He does not get a sniff in any top prospect lists.  Yet, if you look at his numbers stretching back to college, he has done nothing but hit at every level.  He has ideal size, a well proportioned body, can play multiple IF positions, and he hits, and hits and hits some more!  I mean, what's not to like here?  He got a late start in the pros as he was drafted as a college senior, so age vs level may be a big factor in getting no respect, but now that he has had significant PA's at AA, it's less of a concern.  I just look at that AA line and think there is a ton of reason for optimism that the hit tool is for real.  You hit like that and there is a place for you in MLB somewhere!  It will be interesting to see if the Giants extend his time in AA to start 2015 or if he moves up to Sacramento.  What position he settles into will be interesting to watch too.  He played 2B, SS and 3B last year, but more 2B than the other two.  He might be best served continuing to play multiple positions to keep his options open.  He might even consider trying on an OF's glove and patrolling some in LF a la Travis Ishikawa!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Fantasy Focus: Early Mock Auction Draft

Yahoo fantasy baseball opened today so I jumped right in and joined a mock auction draft, 12 teams, 23 roster slots.  Here were my results:

C  Travis D'Arnaud  $1
1B  Anthony Rizzo $33
2B  Neil Walker $1
3B  Miguel Cabrera $46
SS  Alcides Escobar $3
OF  Bryce Harper $28
OF  Starling Marte $21
OF  Marcel Ozuna $8
UT  Jayson Werth $2
UT  Adam LaRoche $2
SP  Cole Hamels $26
SP  Zack Greinke $32
RP  Carlos Carrasco $3
RP  Matt Shoemaker $1
P    Jordan Zimmermann $25
P    Alex Cobb $15
P    Andrew Cashner $2
P    Yordano Ventura $3
BN Chris Archer $2
BN Justin Verlander $2
BN Jose Fernandez $1
BN Marcus Stroman $1
BN  Scott Kazmir $1

I had $1 left over.

The big one that got away was Evan Gattis who went for $3.  For some reason I thought had bid the $3.  I was wiling to go to $5 or $6 for him.  I like D'Arnaud, but I like Gattis better.  I also think I might like Gattis better than eiher Werth or LaRoche for a UT slot.

Guys undrafted included Pedro Alvarez, Steven Souza, James Paxton.  I think all 3 of those will be significantly better than replacement in most leagues.

I wanted to stash Kris Bryant, but he went for $7 and I just didn't have the $ resources to bid that up.

I am not sure I have enough HR's, especially in the OF.  I'm depending on 3 young players taking steps forward.  It was a small sample size, but Bryce Harper had a helluva NLDS against the Giants.  Marte had a huge second half last year and his peripherals suggest it was for real.  Ozuna projects for about 25 HR's but has contact issues.

As always, I used my RP slots on pitchers with dual eligibility who will be starting.

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #37 Sam Coonrod

Sam Coonrod, RHP.  DOB:  9/22/1992.  6'2", 180 lbs.

2014 College:  2-6, 2.86, 84.2 IP, 4.98 BB/9, 8.15 K/9.
2014 Rookie AZL:  1-0, 3.86, 27.2 IP, 1.93 BB/9, 8.04 K/9.

The Giants drafted Sam Coonrod out of Southern Illinois in the 5'th round last summer.  His reputation was a hard thrower, 93-97 MPH but with shaky command.  He also throws a slider and changeup.  He used the slider more.  He was seen as a possible future closer/setup man with a chance to start if he harnessed his command and developed his secondary stuff.  As you can see, his walk rate improved dramatically in Arizona in his pro debut.  Did the Giants pitcher whisperer's find something to tweak, or is that all sample size/level of competition?  I found a BA report of Coonrod pitching at 94 MPH in fall instructional league.  I'll say we most likely see him as a starter for Augusta in 2015.  He's an interesting arm to watch develop.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Hot Stove Update: Late Deals That May Impact

There have been several largely under-the-radar moves in the last 3 weeks which may end up having a bigger impact than it appears at first.  Here is a rundown:

D'Backs sign Yoan Lopez:  Compared to the Tomas signing and the hype surrounding Yoan Moncada, the Lopez signing sure went down quietly.  Pitchers who can hit triple digits are getting more plentiful, but they still don't grow on trees.  Dave Stewart loves him some high velocity pitchers.  The D'Backs sprung for $8.25 M which comes with a 100% overage tax on their international bonus pool.  Not sure how close they were, but I'm sure it comes to an extra several $million.  The D'Backs will now be limited to $300 K for any one international prospect in the upcoming signing period.

Brewers trade RHP Yovani Gallardo to the Texas Rangers for SS Luis Sardinhas, RHP Cory Knebel and RHP Marcos Diplan.  Gallardo is a solid SP who seems to be starting on the downside of his career.  Brewers had a surplus of starters including RHP Jimmy Nelson who needed a rotation spot, so Gallardo was expendable.  They got 3 solid prospects in return.  Miller Park and Arlington Park are both very pitcher unfriendly, so park effects are a wash.

Cubs traded 3B Luis Valbuena and RHP Dan Straily to the Houston Astros for OF Dexter Fowler.  Fowler should start in CF for the Cubs, but what is most interesting about this trade is how quickly the Cubs cleared out Valbuena to make room for Kris Bryant.  Everybody expects the Cubs to keep Bryant down in AAA until they can get an extra pre-arbitration year out of him which would probably be sometime in May, although I think the rules changed on that in the last CBA.  Mike Olt would be the placeholder starter until Bryant is "ready", but make no mistake, Bryant is the guy as soon as the Cubs are ready to bring him up.  If the Cubs have any inkling of being competitive this year, they should start Bryant out of the gate in April

Marlns signed Ichiro Suzuki to a 1 year contract.  The Marlins have a solid starting OF in Stanton, Ozuna and Yelich.  Ichiro will serve as a 4'th OF and possibly DH in interleague games.

Rangers traded LHP Robbie Ross to the Red Sox for RHP Anthony Ranaudo.  Ross is a swingman/back of rotation SP while Ranaudo is a formerly highly regarded pitching prospect whose star has dimmed.

Orioles acquired OF Travis Snider from the Pirates for LHP Stephen Tarpley and a PTBNL.  Snider as upside as a hitter and does not hurt you in the OF.  Solid get for the Orioles.  Snider should thrive in their ballpark and should be more than a replacement for Nick Markakis.  The fantasy alert here is this move opens up RF in Pittsburgh for a full time Gregory Polanco gig.  An OF of Polanco, McCutchen and Marte should be a fun one to watch.

ChiSox signed Gordon Beckham and DFA Dayan Viciedo.  Beckham give the Sox some versatility as a utility IF.  The DFA of Viciedo seems to assure Avisail Garcia of a full-time gig in the OF.  Garcia could be a fantasy baseball sleeper.

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #36 Mitch Delfino

Mitch Delfino, 3B.  DOB:  1/31/1991.  B-R, T-R.  6'2", 210 lbs.

2014 High A:  .289/.333/.424, 28 2B, 4 3B, 12 HR, 6.0 BB%, 13.5 K%, 571 PA.

Delfino was drafted out of Cal in 2012.  He won some kind of team award in instructional league that fall, most impressive prospect in camp or something like that.  The Giants conservatively placed him in Augusta for 2013 where he put up good, though not eye-popping numbers.  He continued along that line in San Jose in 2014.  I would note his progressive improvement in K rate and SLG% over his 3 pro seasons.  He should move up to Richmond in 2015.  Based on his contact rates, I think he can hold his own there and keep moving up.  I see his ceiling as a Casey McGehee type 3B at he MLB level.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fantasy Focus: Shortstop Rankings

Here are the Steamer SLG% PROJECTIONS for shortstops in 2015:

1.  Troy Tulowitzki- .527, 601 PA.
2.  Hanley Ramirez- .474, 601 PA.
3.  Javier Baez- .418, 589 PA.
4.  Ian Desmond- .416, 619 PA.
5.  Jose Reyes- .410, 640 PA.
6.  Starlin Castro- .409, 611 PA.
7.  Xander Bogaerts- .406, 547 PA.
8.  Jhonny Peralta- .401, 573 PA.
9.  Jed Lowrie- .397, 561 PA.
10.  Wilmer Flores- .396, 513 PA.
11.  JJ Hardy- .392, 616 PA.
12.  Brad Miller- .389, 420 PA.
13.  Asdrubal Cabrera- .383, 600 PA.
14.  Jordy Mercer- .383, 564 PA.
15. Alexei Ramirez- .379, 634 PA.
16.  Erick Aybar- .378, 620 PA.
17.  Andrelton Simmons- .373, 625 PA.
18.  Jean Segura- .372, 515 PA.
19.  Danny Santana- .371, 519 PA.
20.  Jimmy Rollins- .358, 561 PA.
21.  Alcides Escobar- .347, 602 PA.
22.  Elvis Andrus- .345, 663 PA.

Shorstop is a wasteland from about Ian Desmond on.   The problem is you will have to pay a first round draft pick or over $40 for Tulo, a guy who has not stayed healthy for a full season in recent memory.  Hanley is in a similar boat, although you will only need to spend a 2'nd round pick to get him.  Desmond has been going in the second round in every experts mock draft I've see so far.

I would target Desmond in the second round or for about $30 in an auction.  It's a steep price, but the alternatives are grim.

With a position this thin, it might be a good idea to take a flyer on breakout by Bogie.

The other way to go is to take a guy who will give you SB's such as Segura, A. Escobar or Andrus.  Don't plan on you being the only one in your league who thought of that, though.

I'm just not seeing that many breakout/sleeper candidates at the position.  With Didi Gregorius out of the way, Chris Owings should get about 600 PA's which would boost his HR's into double digits.  If Brandon Crawford continues to improve, he would start to be fantasy relevant, even in mixed leagues.

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #35 Brian Ragira

Brian Ragira, 1B.  DOB:  1/22/1992.  B-R, T-R.  6'2", 185 lbs.

2013 Short Season:  .263/.371/.391
2014 High A:           .260/.320/.444, 20 HR, 7.3 BB%, 25.1 K%, 506 PA.

Brian Ragira was one of my favorite HS prospects coming out of HS.  John Klima of Baseball Beginnings liked him a lot and had some video on his site.  What I loved about Ragira was what I call the wrist snap in his swing.  It reminded me of a couple of other guys who put a lot of wrist into their swings, Eric Davis and…..Hank Aaron.  Klima described it as "flicking" his wrist.  What it does is give an extra acceleration of the bat head just before the moment of impact.  I think of it as analogous to the "second stage" that Kruk says some pitchers put on a fastball.  Ragira was a skinny kid back then but still generated a lot of power.  He's filled out his frame and the wrist snap is toned down a bit after 3 years at Stanford, but it's definitely still there.  I recommend looking up videos of Ragira swinging the bat then comparing them to videos of Eric Davis and Hank Aaron.

Ragira's pro career started off a bit ho-hum after the Giants took him in the 4'th round of the 2013 draft. Then he found another gear at mid-season last year with San Jose.  His first half slash line was .224/.287/.364 with 5 HR in 228 AB.  Second half he was .297/.353/.524 with 15 HR in 229 AB.  He hit .341 over his last 10 games including one game where he went 5 for 5 with a grand slam HR.  The big test will be whether he can keep it going in AA Richmond in 2015.  One big downside to Ragira's prospect status is why he moved to 1B so early in his career.  He is athletic with some speed and a strong throwing arm.  He just looks like an OF!  He'll have to keep on hitting like he did in the second half last year to make it as a 1B, but maybe he can.  He does that this year in Richmond and he will move way up this list next year!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Scouting the 2015 Draft: Kyler Murray

Kyler Murray is a two sport star from Texas playing SS in baseball and QB in football.  He is committed to play both at Texas A&M where his father, Kevin Murray, played QB.  Oh, and he is also the nephew of former Giants OF Calvin Murray.  Murray stands just 5'11", 180 lbs.  He is very fast.  According to the PG scouting report, his bat can "catch up to fastballs."  In spite of being one of the premiere QB recruits in the country, some have wondered if Murray might be wise to choose baseball as a career due to his size limitations for football.  The new draft slot rules make it more difficult for two-sport stars like Murray to leverage their options into bigger bonuses.  For that reason alone, he might be a tough sign unless he is a top 5 pick or so.  BA has him ranked #29 in the 2015 draft while Kiley McDaniel has him at #39 with a comment that he may move up into the top half of the first round after scouts get an chance to see him in in HS season.  Up to now, Murray has shown little interest in baseball and played in just one showcase event.  The Giants in recent years have stayed far away from two sport athletes, probably because they don't want to have to deal with the leverage the player has in bonus negotiations.

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #34 Jesus Galindo

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

2014 High A:  .268/.334/.379, 2 HR, 31 SB, 7.0 BB%, 19.6 K%, 445 PA.

Jesus Galindo is a classic speed/slap/CF type international prospect.  His hit tool has always been his weak link.  His walk rate, which was really good at lower levels has slipped with each promotion.  My guess is the Giants have encouraged him to be more aggressive at the plate to try to get better pitches to hit.  His one big plus tool is his speed.  For that, I believe he will continue to get his opportunities despite getting a bit long in the tooth for his level of play.  He should move up to AA in 2015 although the Richmond OF might be crowded with Williamson, Carbonell and Horan also competing for playing time and I don't see Galindo bumping any of those 3 to the bench.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Fantasy Focus: Third Base Rankings

Here are the 3B rankings by Steamer PROJECTED SLG% for 2015:

1.  Miguel Cabrera- .484 648 PA
2.  Kris Bryant- .496, 473 PA
3.  Adrian Beltre- .484, 634 PA
4.  Josh Donaldson- .470, 632 PA
5.  Pablo Sandoval- .464, 597 PA
6.  Nolan Arenado- .461, 616 PA
7.  Anthony Rendon- .454, 644 PA
8.  Ryan Zimmerman- .449, 508 PA
9.  Pedro Alvarez- .448, 562 PA
10. Evan Longoria- .446, 641 PA
11. Manny Machado- .436, 609 PA
12. Kyle Seager- .433, 630 PA
13. Todd Frazier- .432, 575 PA
14. David Wright- .432, 576 PA
15. Aramis Ramirez- .431, 527 PA
16. Brett Lawrie- .427, 548 PA
17. Lonnie Chisenhall- .426, 357 PA
18. Josh Harrison- .421, 612 PA
19. Mike Moustakas- .415, 527 PA
20. Chase Headley- .412, 596 PA
21. Alex Castellanos- .408, 531 PA.


Cabrera played 10 games at 3B last year so maintains 3B eligibility in a lot of leagues.

Ryan Zimmerman and Pedro Alvarez move to 1B, but retain 3B eligibility for 2015 in most leagues.

Rendon maintains 2B eligibility which is where most fantasy teams will roster him.

Most analysts expect the Cubs to keep Kris Bryant on the farm until May or June to get an extra year of  contract control.  I would not pay a premium for him, but if you can nab him late in the draft or for under $10 in an auction, he would be a nice bench stash to start the season.  He is, of course, long gone in keeper leagues.

Wow!  Steamer must really think Fenway Park is going to goose Sandoval's stat line!  He has not come close to a .464 SLG% in 3 seasons.

I really like Nolan Arenado to have a breakout season.

So many people think Kyle Seager is undervalued, he is now overvalued.  He will likely be much higher than the 12'th 3B drafted.

Josh Harrison gave elite BA last year but with an insane .353 BABIP.  Expect a regression and he does not give you elite power.  Double digit SB's from 3B are nice, though.

Todd Frazier put up a 20/20 season last year. Steamer thinks he'll hit 20 again, but regress in SB's.

Can Manny Machado finally stay in one piece and have the breakout season everyone thinks he can?  Steamer does not think so, but .436 SLG% is solid.

Kind of jarring to see David Wright down at #14.  They are moving the fences in at Citi Field once again.  Will that be enough to revive his career?

Overall, 3B looks deeper this year.  Other than Cabrera, I would not pay a premium price for the position.  If you believe Steamer, Sandoval could be a steal moving to Fenway.

I really like Arenado!

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #33 Erick Cordier

Erik Cordier, RHP.  DOB:  2/25/1986.  6'4", 230 lbs.

2014 AAA:  4-3, 3.59, 52.2 IP, 5.30 BB/9, 11.62 K/9, 3 Saves.
2014 MLB:  0-0, 1.50, 6 IP, 3.00 BB/9, 13.50 K/9.

Erik Cordier was originally drafted by the KC Royals in 2004.  He kicked around the minor leagues with the Royals, Braves and Pirates while at various times battling knee and elbow injuries and wildness.  Like Hunter Strickland, he actually started his pro career as a soft-tossing command/control pitcher.  His velocity picked up into the mid-90's while still with KC and then jumped to high-90's/triple digits when he was finally moved to the bullpen by the Pirates.  The Giants signed him as a minor league FA before the 2014 season and he pitched well for AAA Fresno, albeit with some continued wildness.  That earned him a September callup and he immediately raised eyebrows by repeatedly hitting triple digits in his MLB debut.  It kind of came down to Cordier vs Strickland for the last bullpen spot on the postseason roster.  Bochy chose Strickland, probably because of better command.

Prior to the Vogelsong signing, Cordier seemed to be in the mix for the final bullpen slot out of spring training in 2015.  Barring injury, he will likely go back to AAA and wait for an opportunity.  Pitching with triple digit velocity will get you noticed, though.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Scouting the 2015 Draft: Alonzo Jones

If you are looking for a poor man's version of Yoan Moncada, Alonzo Jones is your guy.  Jones comes out of HS in Columbus, GA.  He has a similar build to Moncada listed variously as 5'10", 182 lbs or 5'9", 197 lbs.  I would say from his appearance in videos he is closer to the latter numbers.  He is probably the fastest man in the draft, timed electronically at 6.17 sec in the 60.  Several scouts who timed him by hand had higher numbers but he has another time of 6.37 recorded which still makes him the fastest guy in the draft.  He also has a pair of the biggest, strongest arms I've seen.  I mean, those dudes look like branches on a sequoia tree!  PG's comment is that he has "good hitting tools with power from both sides of the plate."  In one video I saw batting left-handed, he laid into one pitch and the sound off the bat was literally like a gunshot!  Right now, he is a middle infielder that most scouts think will end up at 2B, but they are also thinking his tremendous speed would be best utilized in CF.

I guess the downsides are 1.  He is already fairly heavy for his height.  2.  He is committed to Vanderbilt which always makes signing a bit dicey.  3.  As with all HS hitters, you don't know for sure if the hit-tool will develop.

All in all, though, he is the most exciting prospect I have encountered in this series since I profiled Justin Hooper early on.  BA has Jones ranked as the #28 prospect in the 2015 draft while Kiley McDaniel has him at #18.  Personally, I would be thrilled if the Giants took him in round 1.

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #32 Gary Brown

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

2014 AAA:  .271/.329/.394, 24 2B, 6 3B, 10 HR, 36 SB, 20 CS, 6.0 BB%, 20.0 K%, 596 PA.
2014 MLB:   3 for 7, 0 BB, 0 K 7 Games.

What is that saying about an enigma wrapped in a riddle and packaged in a conundrum?  That would not be a bad description of Gary Brown's situation.  There are so many unanswered questions surrounding Gary Brown I hardly know where to start!  Here's just one.  I saw Gary Brown beat out a tapper late last season, and man, he got down to first base in a hurry!  I don't know when I've seen a guy go from home to first quicker than that.  Here's the question:  How does a guy with that kind of speed continue to get throw out stealing well over 30% of the time?  Then there are the persistent stories and rumors about disagreements with the Giants coaches, possibly all the way up to senior management.  Stories of trying different approaches at the plate only to discard them.

The most definitive article I could find on the subject was by Alex Pavlovic in the SJ Mercury News from spring training 2014.  What Alex said was that like his college coaches at CS Fullerton, the Giants coaches have tried to get Brown to be more of a slap hitter to take better advantage of his speed.  Brown responds by saying, "I'm not that guy!"  He sees himself as a gap-power hitter.  No less of a coach than Hensley Meulens responded by saying that Brown might not be a leadoff hitter with that approach.  Brown comes back insisting he has always been a leadoff hitter and thinks his approach will work there.  Meanwhile, Brian Sabean weighs in by saying he still considers Brown to be very much a prospect.

If it was clear that Brown's star dimmed judging from the location of his locker in Scottsdale last spring, it was even more obvious from the parade of players who were tried ahead of him in LF last year.  I mean, at one point Juan Perez was getting starts while hitting under .100.  Chris Dominguez got a start in LF and Gary Brown didn't.  Travis Ishikawa eventually won the starting LF job for crying out loud!  If that doesn't scream out a message to Gary Brown from the organization, then I don't know what would.

I have to admit I have mixed thoughts on all this.  Here are some of them in no particular order:

1.  I don't know that you have to be a slap hitter or have a particularly high OBP to be a leadoff hitter.  Angel Pagan is not a slap hitter nor does he have a particularly high OBP, yet the Giants are clearly a better team when he is leading off(although that remains to be seen with Nori Aoki on the team).  On the other hand, at this point, Gary Brown would be smart to say he is happy to bat anywhere the Giants want him to bat!

2.  I think it is quite possible that the Giants have changed more than Gary Brown since he was drafted.  The Giants have not always appeared to value OBP and contact even at the top of the lineup.  They certainly seem to now, but I believe they probably knew exactly what they were getting when they drafted him in the first round in 2010 and didn't care.

3.  Whatever message the Giants are sending Gary Brown, it seems quite clear he is not listening.  He also does not seem to be a guy who responds well to negative feedback.  My suggestion at this point is let Gary Brown be Gary Brown.  At age 26, it is unlikely that a major change in his approach is going to succeed anyway.  Encourage him to be the best he can be at whoever and whatever Gary Brown is.  The next time a need arises in the OF in SF, go ahead and give him a try.  It can't be any more of a longshot than Chris Dominguez or Travis Ishikawa!  If  the organization is not willing to take that approach, they should try to find another organization who will trade for him, even if it is for a low level prospect.  The number of MLB organizations who still value someone with Gary Brown's skill set  is shrinking, so there might not be many takers, but Baltimore and the Chicago White Sox have shown interest in these types of players in the recent past(I am thinking in particular of Baltimore giving Francisco Peguero a look-see).  KC is another organization that might be a fit.

For now, it looks like Brown will be back in AAA doing what Gary Brown does and there is not a clear path out of that box.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

RIP Ernie Banks

Ernie Banks was part of the vanguard of young African-American baseball players who revolutionized Major League Baseball in the 1950's after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 followed by several Negro League veterans.  The "new wave" started with Willie Mays in 1951 and was quickly followed by Hank Aaron and Banks followed later by players like Frank Robinson, Bob Gibson, Willie Stargell, Joe Morgan, Maury Wills and Lou Brock.  Players who dominated baseball headlines of the 1950's and 1960's and into the 1970's.  The National League embraced African American players first and the AL was amazingly slow to follow which led to two nearly two decades of dominance for the NL as the league that played the superior, more exciting brand of baseball.

Ernie Banks was unique in that he was really the first power hitting shortstop in baseball.  He broke in with the Cubs as their first African-American player in 1953 and quickly established himself as one of the most valuable players in baseball routinely hitting 40+ HR's per season while playing a premium defensive position.  Advanced defensive metrics were not recorded back then, but according to Fangraphs, he regularly put up WAR's ranging from 7-10 during his peak seasons in the mid-1950's.  Banks moved over to first base in 1963.  I did not become aware of baseball until I was 10 years old in 1966.  I always thought of Banks as a first baseman.  By that time, the first base position was dominated by Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda, so I was not as impressed by Banks as I probably should have been.  As I got older and started reading more about the history of baseball, I was surprised to learn that Banks had been a shortstop and thinking to myself how special that must have been to see.

In addition to his on-field performance, Ernie Banks had an irrepressible, optimistic personality that influenced those around him in a positive way.  There were no dog days for Ernie Banks.  He would come to the ballpark, look around and say "let's play two!"  It became his signature slogan, as recognizable as Yogi Berra's "it ain't over, 'til it's over!"  One thing I did not know about Ernie Banks before I started reading his obituaries was that he ran for city council in Chicago in 1963 while still very much a star player for the Cubs.  His campaign slogan was "City Hall needs a slugger!"  He lost the election, but that did not stop him from loving the Cubs and the City of Chicago.  He would remain an ambassador for the Cubs, Chicago and Major League Baseball to the day he died.  Banks was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in 1977, 6 years after he retired.  In 2013, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

Somewhere in the Universe, if only in our mind's eye, it is a clear, sunny day, 70 degrees, and Ernie Banks is looking out on a Field of Dreams with green grass stretching as far as the eye can see saying "let's play two!"  RIP Ernie Banks.

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #31 Adam Duvall

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

2013 AA:     .252/.320/.465, 17 HR, 8.1 BB%, 16.7 K%, 430 PA.
2014 AAA:  .298/.360/.599, 27 HR 7.6 BB%, 20.8 K%, 394 PA.
2014 MLB:  .192/.234/.342, 3 HR, 3.9 BB%, 26.0 K%, 77 PA.

Adam Duvall has methodically worked his way up the Giants organizational ladder since he was drafted in round 11, 2010 out of Louisville.  Duvall is a masher who has pretty much crushed it at the plate at every level.  He has played 3B most of the time, but struggled with a tendency to sail his throws to first.  He was called up to SF last summer during a spate of injuries on the MLB team.  He showed his power with 3 dingers in a small sample size, but also showed why analysts are concerned about his contact skills despite non-terrible K rates in the minors.

At this point, it is hard to figure out what to make of Duvall's future.  I think it is too early to give up on the bat, but it will probably take some sustained playing time for him to get established and the Giants clearly do not think they have the luxury of being able to give him that time.  The problem for Duvall is baseball is full of defensively challenged corner IF who can mash at AAA so it is not clear where else he would get an opportunity.

Right now, it looks like he will most likely be back in AAA biding time in case of an injury.  Again, though, with Travis Ishikawa and Joaquin Arias ahead of him on the depth chart, Sacramento is going to be long, long ways from SF.  Ceiling is most likely AAAA player with a small chance that he could find himself in the right place at the right time and catch lightning in a bottle.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Blogger's Note

Unfortunately, due to the behavior of 1 or 2 trolls on the site, we had to institute a moderation function for comments.  Comments will not appear until they they have been reviewed and approved.  I will try to check the inbox as frequently as possible to keep the flow going.  I hope everybody understands.

Dr B

Hot Stove Update: Vogey Is Back!

Wow!  I guess Vogey just can't quit the Giants, huh?  After Jake Peavy re-signed, giving the Giants 5 starters plus a swingman, it appeared there was no chance that Vogey would be back for another year as a Giant.  When it was reported that he was close to a deal with the Astros I was all ready to write a Thoughts on Ryan Vogelsong farewell post. Then, in less than 24 hours, it all turned around.  The Astros talks stalled.  As soon as it was reported that the Giants were involved, you KNEW he was coming back.  Remember, this is the guy who wouldn't sign a minor league deal with the Dodgers when literally nobody else wanted him because he DIDN'T WANT TO BE A DODGER!  So the Vogey story continues for at least one more season.

Vogelsong actually had a much better season last year than his 8-13 W-L record would indicate.  He started 32 games, pitched 182.2 IP.  He had the second best K/BB of his Giants tenure, very close to his 2012 numbers.  His average FB velocity rebounded by a full MPH into the 90 range.  It would seem that even though he will turn 38 about mid-season, he still has something left in the tank.

The question now is what role is he going to play?  The Giants now have 6 SP's on the roster plus Yusmeiro Petit.  Will they put Petit plus one of the SP's in the bullpen?  Will they dabble with a 6 man rotation to make up for the extra wear and tear of another long postseason run?  How likely is everyone to stay healthy?

The most likely scenario is that when everybody is healthy, either Timmy or Vogey will come out of the bullpen, but I would like to see the Giants try some things with a 6 man rotation.  Instead of a standard 6 man round-robin, I would like them to use the extra guy to allow each starter to skip a start every 6'th start or so.  It could be adjusted according to who is going good and who is or isn't feeling fatigued, but I think a scheduled skipped start here and there could do wonders for an aging rotation that has been overworked now for 5 seasons.

What do you think Ryan Vogelsong's role will or should be?

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #30 Dylan Davis

Dylan Davis, OF.  DOB:  7/20/1993.  B-R, T-R.  6'0", 200 lbs.

2013 College(Oregon St.):  .335/.375/.502, 22 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 19 BB, 35 K, 257 AB.
2013 Cape Cod Leaugue:   .317/.378/.567, 8 2B, 6 HR, 12 BB, 16 K, 104 AB.
2014 College(Oregon St.):  .283/.333/.430, 7 HR, 21 BB, 31 K, 237 AB.
2014 Rookie AZL:             .297/.341/.486, 7.3 BB%, 29.3 K%, 41 PA.
2014 Short Season:             .200/.269/.341, 4 HR, 7.5 BB%, 24.7 K%, 93 PA.

After researching this post, I understand better why the Giants drafted Dylan Davis in the 3'rd round of the 2014 amateur draft.  BTW, there was another similar player named Dylan J or DJ Davis drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays out of Cal State Fullerton.  Anyway, Davis fits several descriptions of the type of player the Giants have been drafting in rounds 2-5:  1. College power hitter/corner player.  2.  Great Cape Cod League performance.  3.  Player whose stock slipped a bit in their draft year.

Davis had a breakout college season in 2013 followed by a very good summer at the Cape.  His 2014 at OSU was not terrible, but it was not quite up to the expectations created by his 2013 season.  The Giants got him signed and after a few games in Arizona, sent him to Salem-Keizer.   His BA there was alarmingly low, but he did hit 4 HR in just 93 PA which is a rate of 25 in 600 PA.

Davis also pitched some in college and has a mid-90's FB and a sharp breaking slider.  He is unpolished as a pitcher and gets a wild hair up his nose, walking about as many as he K's.  Most draft analysts believe his best path to the majors is as an OF.  He's strictly a corner guy, but has more than enough arm to play RF.  He is on the stocky side with a simple upright stance and a quick stroke.  His build, with relatively short arms that are large in the shoulders and biceps then telescope down, As well as his swing all remind me of Dan Uggla.

Davis could be assigned to either Augusta or San Jose next year.  I'm going to guess San Jose.  Ceiling is a corner OF with a great arm who can hit in the low-mid .200's with 25 HR power.  Significant bust potential.  Interesting guy to follow.  2015 will be a critical year for him to establish himself as a legitimate prospect.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Scouting the 2015 Draft: Gio Brusa

Gio Brusa is a 6'3", 220 lb switch-hitting OF for Univ. Of Pacific.  He was BA's #177 draft prospect in 2012 out of HS but chose to go to his hometown college and his mother's alma mater, Pacific.  He had a breakout summer in the Cape Cod League hitting .322 with 6 HR's earning a #4 BA ranking of CCL prospects.  He is a free swinger with contact issue as those CCL numbers came with a 31/4 K/BB.  His sophomore line at UOP was a modest .257/.322/.406, 17 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 202 AB.  He was nursing an injury to start the season and improved to a .306 BA in conference play.  His speed and arm are rated average.  He is strictly a corner OF, probably LF.  He's a guy to watch once the college season starts.  Personally, I'd stay away from him in the draft, at least in the first round, but the Giants do like their CCL stars.  BA has him ranked as the #26 draft prospect in 2015 while Kiley McDaniel has him at #34.

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #29 Chris Stratton

Chris Stratton, RHP.  DOB:  8/22/1990.  6'0", 194 lbs.

2012 Short Season:  0-1, 2.76, 16.1 IP, 5.51 BB/9, 8.82 K/9, GO/AO= 1.00.
2013 Low A:           9-3, 3.27, 132 IP, 3.20 BB/9, 8.39 K/9, GO/AO= 1.13.
2014 High A:          7-8, 5.07, 99.1 IP, 3.26 BB/9, 9.24 K/9, GO/AO= 1.52.
2014 AA:                1-1, 3.52, 23 IP, 4.70 BB/9, 7.04 K/9, GO/AO= 1.29.

Chris Stratton has been a bit of an enigma to this point in his professional career.  He was the Giants first round draft pick in 2012 out of Mississippi St after a breakout college junior season.  His pro debut with Salem-Keizer was cut short by a concussion suffered when he was struck in the head by a batted ball during batting practice.  It took him all of the offseason to recover and the Giants conservatively placed him in Augusta for 2013 where he put up good numbers, but not as strong as you would hope for from a first rounder drafted out of college.  Augusta Chronicle sportswriter, David Lee, wrote positive things about his stuff and felt he pitched better than his numbers indicated.

Stratton got off to a rough start in San Jose in 2014 with an ERA of 5.30 over his first 5 starts.  He improved those numbers as the season progressed and put up strong peripheral numbers including a much improved groundball ratio.  He got a late season promotion to AA where his ERA improved but his K/BB suffered.  The K/BB was skewed by his second AA start in which he walked 6 batters in 3 IP throwing his K/BB out of whack in a small sample size.  He pitched 6 shutout innings with 6 K's in the clinching game of the first playoff series.

Joe Ritzo in a mid-season article, reported that Stratton's FB velocity was 89-91 MPH with a good curve and changeup to complement it.  I also know the Giants converted him from throwing mostly 4-seam FB's in college to mostly 2-seam in the pros.  I think you can see this reflected in his steadily improved GB rates.

I think 2015 will be a key season for Stratton.  With his borderline velocity, he needs to be more consistent keeping the ball down and on the ground, and his secondary stuff needs to work consistently.  Right now, he is looking like his ceiling is fringe MLB starter.  The guy who pops into my mind is Brad Hennessey.  Pitchers can succeed in MLB with that kind of velocity, but it's a tightrope with little margin for error.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Fantasy Focus: Second Base Ranking

Lots of exciting young second basemen coming into the game, some more fantasy relevant than others. These rankings are based on Steamer PROJECTIONS   for SLG% in 2015.

1.  Robinson Cano- .461, 646 PA
2.  Anthony Rendon- .454, 644 PA
3.  Neil Walker- .439, 564 PA
4.  Mookie Betts- .422, 389 PA
5.  Javier Baez- .418, .589 PA
6.  Ian Kinsler- .413, 674 PA
7.  Jose Altuve- .411, 667 PA
8.  Dustin Pedroia- .406, 621 PA
9.  Ben Zobrist- .406, 658 PA
10.  Matt Carpenter- .404, 630 PA
11.  Chase Utley- .403, 611 PA
12.  Jedd Gyorko- .400, 577 PA
13.  Aaron Hill- .398, 633 PA
14.  Howie Kendrick- .397, 551 PA
15.  Marcus Semien- .396, 571 PA
16.  Daniel Murphy- .393, 617 PA
17.  Roughned Odor- .391, 357 PA
18.  Jason Kipnis- .386, 611 PA
19.  Brandon Phillips- .385, 535 PA
20.  Kolton Wong- .383, 517 PA
21.  Brian Dozier- .381, 654 PA
22.  DJ Lemahieu- .371, 529 PA
23.  Joe Panik- .338, 599 PA
24.  Dee Gordon- .335, 587 PA


1.  Cano and Rendon are the cream of the crop.  Will cost a lot, but should deliver.

2.  Lots of interest in Mookie Betts.  Not completely clear how the Boston roster will shake out, but unless Betts falls on his face, he should get a lot more than 389 PA's.

3.  Baez projected to hit 27 HR's with double digit SB's.  If you don't mind punting your BA and taking a risk that he could bust, is a great guy to sell out for power with.

4.  Altuve comes with about 35 SB's.

5.  Dee Gordon comes with about 45 SB's.

6.  I sure was impressed by Kolton Wong in the postseason.  I will be mighty tempted to go higher in my own projection.  There are a couple of pretty rabid Cardinals fans in my league.

7.  Steamer is not impressed by Joe Panik and thinks he will regress to a BA of about .255.  That might be a bit harsh, but Panik's game is not fantasy friendly at best.

8.  Dozier was one of just five 20/20 guys last year.  He's projected to go 16/16 in 2015, but the overall SLG% is not impressive.

9.  Steamer does not think Jason Kipnis is going to have much of a bounceback.

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #28 Ryder Jones

Ryder Jones, 3B.  DOB:  6/7/1994.  B-L, T-R.  6'3", 185 lbs.

2013  AZL:  .317/.394/.400, 1 HR, 8.5 BB%, 23.0 K%, 165 PA.
2014  Low A:  .220/.272/.339, 7 HR, 6 SB, 4.5 BB%, 23.3 K%, 399 PA.
2014  Short Season:  .243/.293/.393, 3 HR, 1 SB, 6.0 BB%, 17.9 K%, 117 PA.

The Giants drafted Ryder Jones in round 2 of the 2013 draft.  They got him signed away from a Stanford commitment and he got off to a strong start to his pro career that summer in Arizona.  The Giants apparently thought enough of his defense and athleticism to try him at SS in Augusta to start the 2014 season.  He got off to a strong start in Augusta, particularly in the month on May when he put up a split of .272/.299/.511 with 5 of the 7 HR's he hit there.  He slumped badly in June and July due to fatigue from the daily grind of pro ball.  He was transferred to Salem-Keizer and put back at 3B there.  He started off slowly in S-K, but rebounded for a pretty good August with a .267/.302/.433 slash line.  I really like his size and the power potential he shows.  He obviously needs to figure out how to not wear down in the long pro season, and he needs to make better and more consistent contact.  Logical place for him to start 2015 would be back in Augusta, but I wouldn't be shocked to see him assigned to San Jose.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Scouting the 2015 Draft: Kyle Tucker

Kyle Tucker is a lanky 6'4", 175 lb power hitting corner OF from the Florida HS ranks.  He is the brother of Preston Tucker who attended Florida U and was drafted in the 8'th round by the Astros.  Kyle has a smooth swing with loft.  He hits the ball high and deep.  He hit the only XBH in the PG All-American classic in Petco Park when he hit a ball that 2-hopped the CF fence.  The exit velocity on that hit was 105 MPH.  His power swing did not prevent him from making contact in HS as he K'd just 12 times in 3 HS seasons encompassing 262 PA.  Here is his full HS stat line:  443/565/.887, 20 2B, 3 3B, 20 HR, 44 BB, 12 HR in 262 PA.  Of course, HS stats are HS stats.  I cannot recall the Giants taking a player remotely resembling Kyle Tucker in round 1, ever.  BA has him ranked at #26 on their early 2015 draft rankings.  Kiley McDaniel has him at #25 and comments that his swing has been compared to Ted Williams, Ken Griffey Jr and Daryl Strawberry.

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #27 Ehire Adrianza

Ehire Adrianza, SS/2B.  DOB:  8/21/1989.  B-S, T-R.  6'1", 170 lbs.

2014 MLB:  .237/.279/.299, 106 PA.

After I made my 2015 Top 50 Prospects list, I wasn't sure Adrianza actually still qualified as a prospect after spending all of 2014 on the MLB active roster(except for a rehab assignment).  So I looked up BA's definition of a prospect.  Adrianza still qualifies with 115 AB's over the last 2 seasons with 130 needed to "graduate".  Service time is not a factor.  IMO, Adrianza might be one of the great sleepers out there.  He is a true SS, a plus defender at the toughest position to find plus defenders, except maybe catcher.  I think the bat is underrated.  True, he hasn't shown much at the MLB level in very limited playing time and he had his ups and downs in the minor leagues, but he also maintained walk rates ranging from 8-13% in the minors with K rates in the 15-20% range.  He also batted .333 in 31 PA's in June of last year and .313 in July before going down for the season with a hammy.

I don't think it is fully appreciated how close we came to an alternate universe in last year's championship run.  Joe Panik did not exactly hit the ground running after his callup and Adrianza appeared to be slowly but surely gaining control of the 2B position.  Adrianza started all the games from 6/14-6/21 going 6 for 21 or a .285 BA before his first hammy.  When he came back in July, Panik had still not solidified his position and Adrianza started the games from 7/21-7/24 going 4 for 14 or .267.  Those are not great numbers, but they were better than what anyone else was doing up to that point.  Adrianza went down with the bad hammy on 7/24 and did not return.  Panik took over and continued to struggle for a few games, then went 3 for 4 on 8/4, 2 for 5 the next game and 3 for 5 the game after that.  The position was his and the rest is history.  The position is now Panik's to lose and he appears to have a death grip on it.

I don't know if the reason why Adrianza has not been traded yet is because other teams are not interested or because the Giants refuse to include him.  Maybe the right deal just hasn't come along.  For now, I expect him to be the reserve MI to start the 2015 season.  If he ever gets an extended chance, I think he can be at least an average MLB SS with above average D.  Problem for him is the Giants already have a guy who fits that description entrenched at the position.  It will take an injury or someone doing a face plant for Adrianza to be more than a reserve with the Giants.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Scouting the 2015 Draft: Chandler Day

Chandler Day is a tall, thin RHP from HS in Ohio.  Listed at 6'4", 162 lbs.  He has a long, loose arm.  Hits 91-93 MPH with the FB. Has a big overhand curveball.  Committed to Vanderbilt, so will be a tough sign.  I think he SHOULD go to Vanderbilt where he can fill out his frame while developing as a pitcher at a good pitcher development program.  Besides, his name SOUNDS like it belongs to someone who would go to Vanderbilt!  BA ranks him as the #25 draft prospect for 2015.  Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs has him at #32.  I think he is going to Vanderbilt, so won't get drafted in the early rounds.

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #26 Joan Gregorio

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

2010 DSL:               6-3, 2.80, 74 IP, 2.07 BB/9, 4.99 K/9.
2011 AZL:               3-0, 2.32, 50.1 IP, 2.86 BB/9, 7.69 K/9.
2012 Short Season:  7-7, 5.54, 76.1 IP, 2.71 BB/9, 8.14 K/9.
2013  Low A:          6-3, 4.00, 69.2 IP, 2.20 BB/9, 10.85 K/9.
2014  High A:         2-2, 6.75, 22.2 IP, 5.16 BB/9, 10.72 K/9.
2014  Low A:          2-7, 3.57, 68 IP, 3.57 BB/9, 8.60 K/9.

Although Gregorio's progress has been slower than you might expect for a kid with his size and stuff, the ceiling may still be there.  He started off 2014 strong with an ERA of 1.88 and 21 K's in 14 IP in his first 3 starts for San Jose, but then hit a wall with 2 disastrous starts followed by a back strain.  When he recovered from the back strain, he found himself back in Augusta where he settled down and pitched fairly well.  The Giants are excited by his final start when he struck out 10 batters with just 1 BB in 6 IP.  He was given a 40 man roster spot in the fall to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.  Baggs, writing for BA, reports he still works in the 91-94 MPH range with occasional excursions to as high as 98 MPH.  Best guess is he will start 2015 back in San Jose.  When or if he puts it all together with a full season of good health and consistent mechanics, he could be a fast mover.  He may end up in the bullpen, but the Giants are keeping him at starter for now in deference to his ceiling and getting him innings of experience.  Yet another high ceiling prospect in the system with some risk attached.

Hot Stove Update: Nationals Sign Scherzer

SABR enthusiasts like to talk about a future "perfect storm" team that has elite financial resources and makes use of statistical analysis to leverage those resources into an imagined perfect team that crushes everything in its path and dominates MLB for years if not decades.  While those SABR enthusiasts are busy dreaming about future juggernauts in Los Angeles and Chicago, the Washington Nationals, while maybe not fitting the ideal SABR model of doing business, are combining great baseball decisions with financial muscle and creating a team that outclasses everybody else, at least on paper.  Before last night, the Nationals were looking at a starting rotation of Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister and Tanner Roark.  That is already one of the best rotations in all of baseball, maybe even THE best.  Then, the Nationals signed Max Scherzer to a 7 year/$180 M contract.  Holy moly!  The deal does not even put them into the Luxury Tax range!

This deal is not about 2015, though.  The Nationals ran away with the NL East last year and the rest of the division did not get any stronger this offseason.  The Nationals also did not lose in the playoffs because they did not have enough starting pitching.  Just ask Jordan Zimmermann!  The Nationals are approaching a crossroads that often trips up teams who think they are set up to be dynasties in that several of their key young players are approaching free agency and several of them are Scott Boras clients.  The Scherzer signing, while extremely expensive, gives the Nationals options for the future.  They can trade a Zimmermann or Fister or even Stephen Strasburg for even more young, inexpensive talent and still have a great rotation left over.  On the other hand, they can keep Zimm and Fister for another season and just move Roark into a Yusmeiro Petit role in the bullpen.  What I really like about what the Nationals are doing is the methodical way they are proactively addressing each potential loss to free agency to continue being an elite team into the foreseeable future.

They did that once already this offseason by acquiring Ian Desmond's eventual replacement at SS in Trea Turner.  They have a well stocked farm system led by a couple of high ceiling pitchers in Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez and that does not count Erick Fedde who was their first round draft pick in 2014.  They have OF replacements lined up for Denard Span who is a FA after 2015.  The Nationals are just in really good shape for the future.

Of course, things can still go wrong.  The history of big, longterm contracts for pitchers is known more for its negative outcomes than positives.  Prized draft picks from the past who have turned into young stars, Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, are about to become extremely expensive with no guarantees they will stay in Washington at any price.  Their many pitchers who have undergone TJ surgery could start having recurrences of their UCL tears.  And having the best team on paper does not guarantee postseason success as the Nationals already know all too well.  But for now, wow!  The Nationals look like the best team in baseball, now and going forward.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #25 Aramis Garcia

Aramis Garcia, C.  DOB:  1/12/1993.  B-R, T-R.  6'2", 195 lbs.

2012 College, FIU:  .271/.335/.417, 6 HR, 19 BB, 43 K, 192 AB.
2013 College, FIU:  .321/.368/.522, 11 HR, 17 BB, 39 K, 224 AB.
2014 College, FIU:  .368/.434/.626, 8 HR, 25 BB, 23 K, 163 AB.

2014 Rookie AZL:  .219/.324/.313, 3 2B, 13.2 BB%, 15.8 K%, 38 PA.
2014 Short Season:  .229/.289/.357, 3 2B, 2 HR, 6.6 BB%, 25.0 K%, 76 PA.

Aramis Garcia was a hit-first college catcher whose stock rose rapidly in 2014 leading up to the draft.  He was the 3'rd rated catcher in the draft on most pre-draft rankings behind Kyle Schwarber and Max Pentecost.  Schwarber will likely not stay at catcher.  Garcia's stats speak for themselves.  He can hit and hit for power.  A few additional points:  1.  He missed part of the 2014 college season with an oblique strain.  2.  There was an interview in BA from early in the college season where Garcia said he had gained muscle in college and weighed 220 lbs, so I think his listed weight is low.  3.  Although he has a strong throwing arm and has a good CS rate, scouting concerns centered on footwork and his ability to get down and block balls in the dirt.  4.  There were also pre-draft concerns about his strength of competition at FIU.  He did not make much of  in impression in the Cape Cod League.

Garcia had a rough introduction to pro ball.  He was charged with 6 PB's and 2 Errors in just 8 games in Arizona.  He had just 1 PB but 3 Errors in 20 games with Salem-Keizer.  He did better at throwing out runners with a 9/34= 26 CS%.  Ordinarily, a second round college draft pick would start their first full season in High A ball.  I could see the Giants taking it more slowly with Garcia unless his D has made great strides in instructional league and continues in the spring.  He remains a high ceiling prospect with significant risk.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Fantasy Focus: First Base

First base is where some of the biggest boppers in the game play.  You probably want to roster at least two using 1 or 2 in IF and/or UT positions.  Here are the first basemen ranked by Steamer PROJECTED SLG% for 2015 with Projected PA's:

1.  Miguel Cabrera:  .557, 648 PA
2.  Jose Abreu:  .530, 611 PA
3.  Paul Goldschmidt:  .523, 649 PA
4.  Edwin Encarnacion:  .515, 636 PA
5.  Anthony Rizzo:  .503, 625 PA
6.  Brandon Moss:  .485, 516 PA
7.  Justin Morneau:  .484, 527 PA
8.  Prince Fielder:  .483, 599 PA
9.  Freddie Freeman:  .480, 650 PA
10.  Chris Davis:  .477, 551 PA
11.  Joey Votto:  .473, 601 PA
12.  Steven Pearce:  .467, 586 PA
13.  Albert Pujols:  .466, 614 PA
14.  Mark Trumbo:  .463, 577 PA
15.  Adrian Gonzalez:  461, 642 PA
16.  Matt Adams:  .455, 509 PA
17.  Brandon Belt:  .454, 592 PA
18.  Chris Carter:  .453, 598 PA
19.  Adam Lind:  .451, 560 PA
20.  Mike Napoli:  .444, 547 PA
21.  Eric Hosmer:  .440, 573 PA
22.  Adam LaRoche:  .434, 592 PA
23.  Logan Morrison:  .430, 578 PA
24.  Lucas Duda:  .419, 534 PA
25.  Joe Mauer:  .403, 534 PA

There are just 5 players projected by Steamer to have SLG% .500 or above.  You want at least 1 of those players on your team!  You will have to pay.  Rizzo is a guy who your league might be sleeping on, but I would not count on it.

In the second tier, I like Morneau, Pujols and AGone in case you are lucky enough to snag a Mike Trout or Giancarlo Stanton, or prefer a 20/20 threat like McCutchen or a pitcher like Kershaw in round 1.

If Brandon Belt ever plays a full season, I think he has a legitimate chance to hit 30 HR's, but Steamer is skeptical, as we should probably be too, and projects him for just 20.

Adam Lind is a guy who just might benefit from a change of scenery in Milwaukee.

Steamer obviously thinks Duda is going to regress from the 30 dingers he hit last year, but I would take a chance on him over Morrison, LaRoche and Napoli.  In fact, I just might rank him #16 behind AGone.

There are a few players who will play 1B as their primary position who you may prefer to roster at other positions:  Carlos Santana, SLG% ,433;  Pedro Alvarez, SLG% 448 and don't forget Michael Morse will probably be the full time 1B for the Miami Marlins with a projected SLG% of .438.

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #24 Austin Slater

Austin Slater, OF.  DOB:  112/13/1992.  B-R, T-R.  6'1", 194 lbs.

2014 College(Stanford):  .341/.386/.493, 17 2B, 6 3B, 2 HR, 6 SB, 16 BB, 29 K, 229 AB
2014 Rookie AZL:          .333/.333/.556, 3B, 0 BB%, 22.2 K%, 9 PA
2014 Short Season:          .347/.417/.449, 6 2B, 2 HR, 7.6 BB%, 12.9 K%, 132 PA

Austin Slater was the Giants 8'th round draft pick in 2014 out of Stanford where he played CF and really blossomed at the plate his junior season.  He then just kept right on peppering the field with basehits in his first professional season displaying the high contact approach that the Giants currently emphasize.

I found a Perfect Game scouting report from his HS days(he was drafted in round 44 by the Dodgers out of HS, but did not sign and went to college): "Has all the tools, 6.67 runner, 91 IF, very good D actions, CAN REALLY HIT(caps are mine), 5 tool talent."

I also found a batting practice video from Stanford.  He has almost no extraneous movement in the batters box.  Very slight load, front foot moves forward and toward the plate by about 1 inch.  Stiff wristed swing with a hip turn.  That's about it.  Sound familiar?  Kind of like a mirror image of Joe Panik and not unlike Daniel Carbonell's much criticized swing.

I think there is more power in there somewhere, but he has huge hit tool.  I look forward to seeing him play for the San Jose Giants in 2015.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Hot Stove Update: Giants Sign Nori Aoki

The Giants caused a minor flare up of the hot stove embers.  Unfortunately that kind of drowned out a conversation about my #23 Giants prospect, Skyler Ewing, who I am pretty excited about.  The big Hot  Stove news was the signing of Norichika Aoki to a 1 year/$4 M with a second year team option at $5 M with a $700 K buyout.  In addition, he can earn up to $1.5 M in incentives each year of the contract, so the maximum payout is $12.5 M.

As you might recall, Aoki made a splash in his first MLB season in 2012 with the Milwaukee Brewers putting up a 10 HR/30 SB season with an OBP of over .350.  Although he has continued to be a decent player, he regressed from that promising start.  Here are his full stat lines over his last 3 seasons and his Steamer projection for 2015 per Fangraphs:

2012:  .288/.355/.433, 10 HR, 30 SB, 7.3 BB%, 9.4 K%, 0.5 BsR, 9.3 Off, -5.7 Def, 2.3 fWAR, 588 PA.
2013:  .286/.356/.370, 8 HR, 20 SB, 8.2 BB%, 5.9 K%, -3.9 BsR, -1.6 Off, -3.5 Def, 1.6 fWAR, 674 PA.
2014:  .285/.349/.360, 1 HR, 17 SB, 9.8 BB%, 8.9 K%, 0.4 BsR, 2.6 Off, 0.2 Def, 2.3 fWAR, 549 PA.
2015:  .279/.343/.371, 6 HR, 18 SB, 7.6 BB%, 9.0 K%, -1.1 BsR, 1.2 Off, -5.9 Def, 1.5 fWAR, 593 PA.

If I had to guess, I would say that his HR total may look more like 2014 playing in KC than 2012 and 2013 playing in Milwaukee, but hey, that's the projection.  Even at that, those lines don't look a whole lot different than Gregor Blanco's.  Speaking of which, here are Blanco's stat lines from 2012-2104 with his 2015 Steamer projection, again per Fangraphs:

2012:  .244/.333/.344, 5 HR, 26 SB, 11.3 BB%, 23 K%, 3.6 BsR, 0.2 Off, 7.2 Def, 2.3 fWAR, 453 PA.
2013:  .265/341/.350, 3 HR, 14 SB, 10.2 BB%, 18.6 K%, 1.2 BsR, 1.0 Off, 10.3 Def, 2.9 fWAR, 511 PA.
2014:  .260/.333/.374, 5 HR, 16 SB, 9.2 BB%, 17.3 K%, 0.1 BsR, 3.6 Off, 1.7 Def, 2.0 fWAR, 444 PA.
2015:  .249/.328/.346, 5 HR, 17 SB, 10.1 BB%, 18.9 K%, 0.6 BsR, -0.8 Off, -0.1 Def, 1.7 fWAR, 551 PA.

As you can see, Aoki gives you a higher BA and fewer K's, but in every other respect, Blanco has been the better player over the last 3 seasons.  He was even a better all around baserunner in the year Aoki stole 30 bases!  When you normalize their overall performance to 600 PA/season, Blanco has averaged an fWAR of 3.0 while Aoki has only mustered a 2.3.

Aoki is not an upgrade on Gregor Blanco.  They are actually very similar players, but if anything, Blanco is the better of the two.  What Aoki gives the Giants is depth.  Hey!  2 Gregor Blanco's is better than having just one!  In addition, Aoki comes very cheaply.  Not only is he affordable for this season, he did not cost any prospects, a draft choice or a longterm commitment.

Everybody assumes that Aoki will be the starter in LF with Blanco on the bench waiting for Pagan to get injured.  That is likely true to start the season, but mark this one down.  Like last year with Morse, I think there is a high probability that Blanco is a starting OF by the end of the season whether Pagan gets injured again or not.

There is an interesting article in Fangraphs today by Jeff Sullivan in which he finally gives credit to Brian Sabean for knowing something about advanced metrics.  The Giants are currently projected by Steamer to hit 108 HR's in 2015, by far the lowest total in MLB.  At the same time, they are projected to have one of the higher position player fWAR's in MLB.  Hey!  Brian Sabean apparently believes in WAR!!  Stop the presses!

At any rate, the Giants continue their evolution into a team of low K hitters who grind out AB's and keep the line moving while playing at least average defense,something Brian Sabean prophesied way back in about 2007 or so when he foresaw the precipitous decline in power across baseball, particularly with the nature of the Giants ballpark and the parks of rivals such as the Dodgers, Padres and A's, teams they play on the road every year.

It is an interesting laboratory experiment to watch progress.

BTW, if the 108 dingers is throwing you into a panic, the Giants won the WS in 2012 after hitting just 103 HR's in the regular season and the KC Royals played in the 2014 WS after hitting just 95.

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #23 Skyler Ewing

Skyler Ewing, 1B.  DOB:  8/22/1992.  B-R, T-R.  6'1", 220 lbs.

2014 College(Rice):  .335/.403/.512, 16 2B, 9 HR, 29 BB, 35 K, 242 AB.
2014 Rookie AZL:   .237/.318/.421, HR, 9.1 BB%, 20.5 K%, 44 PA.
2104 Short Season:   .291/.417/.473, 8 HR, 15.8 BB%, 12.3 K%, 228 PA.

Skyler Ewing had a breakout college season in 2014 for Rice after struggling his freshman and sophomore seasons.  The Giants took him in round 6 of the draft.  His 8 HR's for Salem-Keizer are impressive, but even more so are his K and BB rates.  Kind of like a Joe Panik except with power.  Ewing credits his 2014 success to shortening his swing and improved pitch recognition.  He won the Cape Cod League HR derby in the summer of 2013 which is probably where he hit the Giants radar screen.

Ewing was a catcher in HS and did a bit of catching at Rice.  He does not have the tools to be a great defensive catcher and the Giants have kept him at 1B so far.  My feeling is the Giants drafted him for his bat and will not mess around with him catching unless his offensive progress stalls.  He could start out 2015 in either Augusta or San Jose.  I would bet on San Jose.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #22 Johneshwy Fargas

Johneshwy Fargas, OF.  DOB:  12/15/1994.  B-R, T-R.  6'1', 162 lbs.

2013 AZL:  .299/.393/.351, 8 SB, 10.0 BB%, 12.2 K%, 90 PA.
2014 SS:     .240/.373/.329, 3 HR, 15 SB, 11.5 BB%, 13.0 K%, 208 PA.

If anybody out there knows how to pronounce this guy's first name, let's hear it.  Until I find out differently I'm calling him John's Highway.  I read somewhere there's a John's Highway in Puerto Rico, but I Googled it and nothing came up.  At any rate, Johneshwy Fargas is the last of the Tools Trio of Mikey Edie, Gustavo Cabrera and him.  Not that there are no other players in the system with tools, but these 3 stand out as having particularly high ceilings and are 3 very similar players.   I like Fargas a lot and would not count him out of being the best of the 3.  He certainly is tooled up with a recorded time of 6.55 in the 60 yard dash and clocked at 97 MPH on a throw from the OF.  The bat, as always with these types, is the big question.  His contact rates and plate discipline at his first two pro stops are encouraging.  He has good bat speed and oodles of room to fill out his frame so the power potential is there too.  Augusta would be the next logical stop for him.  That will be a serious test of the bat.  If you are looking for a deep sleeper for your dynasty fantasy baseball league, I think Fargas might be your guy.

Hot Stove Update: Evan Gattis to the 'Stros; Beane Flips Escobar

The Atlanta Braves continued to dismantle their team trading C/OF Evan Gattis to the Astros along with RHP James Hoyt for RHP Mike Foltynewicz, RHP Andrew Thurman and 3B Rio Ruiz.  Gattis can hit, but is a negative fielder at any position.  He appeared to be destined to play LF for the Braves in 2015 before the trade, but had not played in the OF since 2013.  The Astros will also probably play him in LF, but also some at C and 1B.  Gattis is a potential 30 HR hitter if he gets enough PA's.  Hoyt is an older prospect who came out of indy ball but has a FB that goes 92-96 MPH and he has consistently put up double digit K/9's in the minors.  The Astros have done some interesting things this offseason and will be fun to watch in 2015.

The Braves get back 3 prospects with recognizable names.  Folty is a former first round draft pick who throws hard, but hasn't quite been able to put it all together in the minors.  Thurman put up nice numbers at UC Irvine but has been so-so in two minor league stops.  Ruiz has some promise as a 3B prospect, but is no sure thing by any means.  It could get real ugly down in the ATL in 2015 as the Braves appear to be burning the ship down to the waterline in order to rebuild.  The problem is most observers are not that impressed with the quality of the return they have gotten in some of these firesale deals.

Meanwhile, Billy Beane was at it again, flipping recently acquired SS Yunel Escobar to the Nationals for RHP Tyler Clippard.  I'll give Beane credit here on this one.  He took on Escobar as part of the price for Ben Zobrist, but Escobar appeared to be blocking Marcus Semien, acquired earlier in the Jeff Samardzija deal.  By flipping Escobar, Beane unblocks Semien and gets one of the great workhorse setup men in baseball.  The Nationals seemed to have soured on Clippard for some reason, even though his numbers were still stellar in 2014.  Escobar may move over to 2B with the Nationals or the Nats may be drumming up a trade for Ian Desmond who will be a FA after 2015 and who they Nationals have not been successful in engaging in extension talks.  I am still not impressed by Billy Beane's 2015 roster, but I like this trade in isolation although Clippard is not cheap at $9.3 M and is a FA after 2015.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #21 Michael Santos

Michael Santos, RHP.  DOB:  5/29/1995.  6'4", 170 lbs.

2013 DSL:  1-2, 2.75, 19.2 IP, 2.75 BB/9, 8.24 K/9, 1.29 GO/AO
2014 AZL:  4-3, 2.86, 59.2 IP, 1.96 BB/9, 7.54 K/9, 1.81 GO/AO

Michael Santos was signed as an international FA in May 2012 for $250 K.  He did not have a lot of meat on his bones so the Giants held him out of competition in 2012 to concentrate on a strengthening program.  He made 4 starts for the DSL Giants in 2013 before being shut down again for more strengthening.  He completed the 2014 short season in Arizona while being held to a 5 inning limit.  He pitched the full 5 innings in all but one of his starts going 4.2 innings in the other one.  His last start of the season was his best as he allowed 0 runs on 3 hits with 1 BB and 6 K's in 5 IP.

Conner Penfold again provides a scouting report and video from Arizona.  Santos is definitely a tall drink of water, but looks like he probably weighs more than 170 lbs.  The frame looks big enough to fill out some more.  Conner reports seeing both a 4 and 2 seam FB that went 90-93 MPH with command to both sides of the plate.  Santos also has a big slow sweeping curveball in the high 70's that Conner rated as a plus pitch.  He also showed a changeup with some downward bite.  The repertoire and stat lines look a lot like Clayton Blackburn's.  He would probably benefit from an intermediate velocity pitch such as a slider or cutter.  The Giants think there is more in the tank velocity-wise as he further fills out his frame.  He should move up to Augusta as a 20 year old for 2015.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #20 Derek Law

Derek Law, RHP.  DOB:  9/14/1990.  6'2", 210 lbs.

2011 Rookie AZL:  0-0, 2.50, 18 IP, 1.00 BB/9, 9.5 K/9, 4 Saves.
2012 Low A:           5-2, 2.91, 55.2 IP, 3.72 BB/9, 10.83 K/9, 2 Saves.
2013 Low A:           0-3, 2.31, 35 IP, 2.57 BB/9, 12.34 K/9, 3 Saves.
2013 High A:          4-0, 2.10, 25.2 IP, 0.35 BB/9, 15.78 K/9, 11 Saves.
2013 AFL:              1-0, 0.00, 12.1 IP, 4.38 BB/9, 11.68 K/9, 0 Saves.
2014 AA:                2-0, 2.57, 28 IP, 4.50 BB/9, 9.32 K/9, 13 Saves.

Last year this time, Derek Law was where Steven Okert is this year, coming off a terrific regular season at 2 levels followed by an outstanding AFL that put him on the national map of prospect watchers.  Law was given a long look in spring training and finally sent down during the final week.  His AA season was good, but the walk rate seemed to spike a bit and something didn't seem quite right.  In late June, he underwent Tommy John surgery for a torn UCL.  He is expected back around midseason this year.

Law has a funky delivery where he turns his back to the batter, torquing his torso and then unleashing a quick, stabbing overhand delivery.  His FB goes 92-96 and is extremely difficult to time due to the delivery.  He also has a wipeout slider and a diving curveball.  Command sometimes suffers after TJ so that will be something to watch when he comes back.  If everything goes well, we could see him in SF come September a la Hunter Strickland, who came back from TJ surgery without missing a full season.

Scouting the 2015 Draft: Cody Ponce

Cody Ponce is a name that popped up on draft rankings this summer after a tremendous season in the Cape Cod League.  Ponce pitches for Cal Poly Pomona, an NCAA Division II college.  He's a big kid at 6'6", 240 lbs who was not recruited heavily out of HS because his FB ran in the low-mid 80's.  Since entering Cal Poly, he has worked to get stronger and has gained velocity as he has gained strength.  He worked in the 93-96 MPH range this summer at The Cape according to BA.  Reports from the CCL All-Star game where he would work more like a reliever had him 94-97 MPH.  Despite is size and velocity, he is not a big K pitcher with 52 in 75 IP, for Cal Poly in 2014 and 32 in 35 IP in the CCL.  He is more of a heavy FB/pitch-to-contact/groundball guy.  He basically features just two pitches, FB and cutter.  He has a changeup, but does not throw it often.  He'll have to develop that changeup in the pros, but you can't teach size and can only marginally teach velocity, so he is a prospect.  BA has him ranked as the #24 draft prospect in 2015 while Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs has him at all the way up at #11.  I am not completely convinced he is a first rounder, myself, due to limited pitch repertoire and mediocre K rates against suspect competition.

Monday, January 12, 2015

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #19 Cody Hall

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

2011 SS:         3-1, 2.63, 27.1 iP, 6.26 BB/9, 13.83 K/9, 4 Saves.
2012 Low A:   3-0, 1.60, 39.1 IP, 2.75 BB/9, 12.36 K/9, 20 Saves.
2012 High A:  1-1, 3.24, 8.1 IP, 4.32 BB/9, 10.80 K/9, 1 Save.
2013 High A:  2-0, 1.34, 33.2 IP, 1.87 BB/9, 12.83 K/9, 2 Saves.
2013 AA:        2-2, 2.39, 26.1 IP, 2.73 BB/9, 9.23 K/9, 8 Saves.
2014 AA:        1-4, 3.14, 51. 2 IP, 2.44 BB/9, 9.93 K/9, 11 Saves
2014 VWL:      0-0, 0.00, 17.1 IP, 3 BB, 16 K, 12 Saves.

Cody Hall is a big, hard throwing RHP who has worked his way up the Giants organizational ladder in dreaded closer track.  He may be the guy who breaks that curse after a sensational winter league season.  For a point of reference, Jack Snodgrass, Kelvin Marte and Austin Fleet all pitched in the same league and had ERA's over 5.  The rap on Hall is that he does not have much in the way of secondary stuff.  Conner Penfold of Giant Potential posted video from spring training 2014 which clearly showed him using a FB at 93 MPH, a Cutter at 90 MPH, a slider at 87-88 MPH and a Splitter at 83 MPH.  All of his pitches appeared to be well commanded and effective.  Cody was added to the 40 man roster this fall.  I expect him to start 2015 in Sacramento, but he could be in the mix for the final bullpen slot in spring training.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Fantasy Focus: Travis D'Arnaud Breakout Catcher

Travis D'Arnaud is extremely interesting to me as a potential late round fantasy draft pick/breakout candidate.  D'Arnaud is something of a post-hype sleeper.  He was drafted by the Phillies in 2007 and raked for his first few years in the minors.  He was part of Toronto's haul in the Doc Halliday trade.  When thinking of what he might be, I keep looking at his 2011 AA season in the Eastern League:  .311/.371/.542, 21 HR, 466 PA.  He was traded to the Mets in the RA Dickey deal and has battled a series of injuries.

He struggled in 2013 after recovering from an injury and 2014 started out rough too with first half numbers of .217/.292/.354.  He was sent to AAA Las Vegas where Wally Backman worked with him in getting his back foot closer to home plate to give him better coverage of the outside corner.  D'Arnaud came back with a new stance and a new, more aggressive approach at the plate.  His second half numbers were much better:  .265/.313/.474.

Steamer's 2105 projections split the difference between is overall 2014 and his second half split for a .251/.313/.428 with 17 HR in 503 PA.  Even with the modest projection, he has the 9'th highest SLG% of all MLB catcher projected to have more than 400 PA's.  While fantasy draft rankings will likely change a lot before your draft, most of them currently have D'Arnaud ranked in the 13-16 range.


Yasmani Grandal is another guy who could probably stand to be more aggressive at the plate.  He may not do that in LA where the new guys in charge love high walk rates, but Grandal will likely be the primary catcher in LA which should be a more hitter-friendly park than Petco despite the moved-in fences in San Diego.  Grandal had his career side-tracked by a PED related suspension.  He's something of a post-hype sleeper himself at this point.  I kind of expect the Dodger fans in my league to be all over him, though.


Lastly, if you are looking for a deep sleeper, look no farther than our very own Andrew Susac who is a foul tip off Buster Posey's face mask away from a starting gig in San Francisco and should be good for 15-20 dingers right off the bat if he does.

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #18 Ray Black

Ray Black, RHP.  DOB:  6/26/1990.  6'5", 225 lbs.

2014 Low A:  1-3, 3.73, 31.1 IP, 4.02 BB%, 18.38 K%
2014 High A:  1-0, 2.25, 4 IP, 4.25 BB%, 15.75 K%

Ray Black was drafted in round 7 of the 2011 draft out of Univ of Pittsburgh.  He was reputed to be a hard thrower, but was largely an unknown quantity.  Scouts had a hard time seeing him pitch because the team played in a lot of out-of-the way places and he did not pitch very often and usually for just 1 inning at a time.  He lit up radar guns in his first spring training, but 7 innings in, he suffered a labrum tear in his right shoulder.  He tried rehab for several months but did not improve.  He underwent surgery which historically is not very successful.  He was told he had about a 33% chance of pitching again.  He had some setbacks in rehab and finally came to camp last spring apparently fully healthy.

Black pitched in the high 90's and even hit 100 MPH a few times in the spring.  Then went to Augusta where he put himself on the Fangraphs radar by routinely hitting 100 and even 101 MPH in a game against Hickory attended by Fangraphs writer Nathaniel Stoltz who provided videotape of him facing several batters.  Black also has a slider that can be sharp at times but mostly seems to work as more of a changeup.  Several that I saw on the videos stayed up in the zone at around 89 MPH and hitters missed them because they were off balance looking for the FB.

I guess my feeling about Black is that he is a huge talent and a huge injury risk.  I don't think his injury risk goes down by staying longer in the minors.  You want to get as much, anything, you can out of him while you can.  The Giants should push him as fast as they can until they reach a point where he has to develop his stuff more to succeed.  If he can get MLB hitters out, then get what you can out of him while you can.  He was added to the 40 man roster this fall to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.  Not sure where he starts 2015, SJ? AA?  AAA?  MLB?  I would think he is in the mix, albeit maybe as a longshot, to make that last bullpen spot on the 25 man roster.

I should acknowledge Conner Penfold of Giant Potential who appears to be the first writer/blogger to recognize what the Giants might have in Black with a nice writeup and some video from spring training 2014.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Hot Stove Update: Billy Beane Lands the Holy Grail

Billy Beane today, acquired the Holy Grail of Sabermetrics, AKA Ben Zobrist in a 5-player trade with the Tampa Bay Rays.  Here's the full trade:  Rays send Zobrist and SS Yunel Escobar to the A's for C/1B/DH John Jaso and 2 prospects, SS Daniel Robertson and OF Boog Powell(no relation to THE Boog Powell of the '60's and '70's O's teams.  Robertson was the top ranked A's prospect by most prospect rankings and Powell was around #10 or so.  Jaso has also been a SABR darling and both Robertson and Powell put up Zobristian numbers in the minors last year.  In addition, the A's send $1 M to the Rays to help cover Jaso's salary.  Really?

Since some Giants fans in other corners of the internets are bemoaning the fact that the Giants "lost out" on Zobrist, and since Zobrist is the biggest name involved in the trade, I will expound once again why I am not heartbroken over the Giants "losing out" on him.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I think Zobrist is a good player.  He would be probably be an upgrade for the Giants in LF and at the very least would have given them better depth by moving Blanco to a 4'th OF role.  I just don't think Zobrist is nearly as good as he used to be and I don't think he would have been enough of an upgrade to justify losing the kind of talent the A's traded for him.  Zobrist's offensive numbers slipped for the second straight year last year.  His slash line was .272/.354/.395, 10 HR, 10 SB.  OK numbers but Zobrist somehow put up a fWAR of 5.7 giving him an fWAR greater than 5 for the 4'th straight year.  Nobody can quite figure out how he did it, but the crazy good WAR score seems to be mainly due to come crazy good defensive metrics.  His Steamer projection for 2015 is approximately the same as his line from 2014 except for a regression in fWAR to 3.6, still pretty good.  So, there you have it.  Yes, Zobrist is a good player.  Yes, Zobrist could likely help the Giants in 2015.  No, I don't think Zobrist is enough of an upgrade to justify trading the kind of package the A's gave up and not worth the kind of package the Giants would have had to give up.

The other angle I would like to look at is what the A's starting lineup and rotation currently look like:

C    Stephen Vogt(probable platoon with Josh Phegley as Vogt bats LH and Phegley bats RH).
1B  Ike Davis
2B  Marcus Semien or Zobrist
3B  Brett Lawrie
SS  Yunel Escobar
LF  Zobrist or Sam Fuld or Billy Burns
CF  Coco Crisp
RF  Josh Reddick
DH Billy Butler

SP  Sonny Gray
SP  Scott Kazmir
SP  Jesse Chavez
SP  Jesse Hahn
SP  Drew Pomeranz

AJ Griffin and Jarrod Parker are due back around midseason.

Maybe Brett Lawrie finally has his long-awaited breakout season and make Billy Beane a genius once again.  Barring that, I just don't see a contending team here no matter what the WAR scores add up to.  It seems to me that Billy did not have to trade Josh Donaldson and he did not have to trade Jeff Samardzija and this team would look a whole lot better with those two players minus Brett Lawrie, Semien and Josh Phegley, but maybe there is something I am just not seeing?

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #17 Hunter Strickland

Hunter Strickland, RHP.  DOB:  9/24/1988.  6'5", 200 lbs.

2012 AA(Pirates):        2-2, 4.46, 42.1 IP, 3.19 BB/9, 7.02 K/9, 2 Saves
2013 High A(Giants):  1-0, 0.86, 21 IP, 2.14 BB/9, 9.86 K/9, 9 Saves
2014 AA:                     1-1, 2.02, 35.2 IP, 1.01 BB/9, 12.11 K/9, 11 Saves
2014 MLB:                  1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 0.00 BB/9, 11.57 K/9, 1 Save

Hunter Strickland's baseball career has been a long roller coaster ride that reached dizzying heights and dramatic lows during the 2014 season.  He was drafted but he Boston Red Sox in the 18'th round in 2007.  Early in his minor league career, he was a pitch-to-contact starter with a FB in the 89-91 MPH range.  He tended to run modest K rates along with very low BB rates.  He was traded to the Pirates in July 2009 along with RHP Argenis Diaz for Adam LaRoche.  Somewhere along the way he underwent surgery for a rotator cuff tear.  He had an uptick in velocity to the mid 90's in 2012 when the Pirates moved him to the bullpen. The Pirates added him to their 40 man roster in the fall of 2012, but the Giants pounced when they tried to sneak him through waivers in the spring of 2012.

The Giants assigned him to San Jose where he impressed with a high 90's FB and terrific numbers as the SJ Giants closer, but then he blew out his UCL and underwent Tommy John surgery.  He was back pitching again within 11 months of surgery and was lights out as the Richmond closer after a brief rehab stint in San Jose.  He was called up to the Giants when rosters were expanded in September and immediately impressed by hitting 100 MPH in his first relief appearance.  He earned his first MLB Save in a 13 inning win over the Dodgers.  Manager Bruce Bochy put him on the postseason roster.

Strickland continued to throw in the high 90's in the playoffs, occasionally hitting triple digits.  He earned a Save in the 18 inning NLDS win over the Nationals which became the defining game of the 2014 postseason.  Then goferitis struck.  Strickland continued to be lights out against RH batters, but LH batters turned around a total of 6 balls for HR's, mostly off high 90's FB's.  There were whispers that Strickland was tipping his pitches.  I'm not sure he needed to tip his pitches as with most of those dingers, everybody in the ballpark and watching on TV knew what was coming.  Of course, the Giants went on to win the World Series which helped take the sting out of the dingers, but it has to be a concern going forward.  Over the course of the postseason, Strickland went from being a possible closer in 2015 to being a question mark for the final bullpen slot.  I think that spot is his to lose.  Bruce Bochy clearly loves the guy, but a return of goferitis in spring training or anytime during the season could spell trouble as the Giants have a long line of hard throwing relievers ready to step up if the door cracks open.

Friday, January 9, 2015

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #16 Steven Okert

Steven Okert, LHP.  DOB:  7/9/1991.  6'3", 210 lbs.

2014 High A:  1-2, 1.53, 35.1 IP, 2.80 BB/9, 13.75 K/9, 19 Saves
2014 AA:        1-0, 2.73, 33.0 IP, 3.00 BB/9, 10.36 K/9, 5 Saves
2014 AFL:       0-0, 0.75, 12 IP, 0.75 BB/9, 12.75 K/9, 1 Save

Okert is a big, hard throwing LHP who had a tremendous 2014 season across two minor league levels, capped off by a triumphant AFL during which he impressed the baseball scouting community.  Not only did he work as a LH closer at all of the stops, he pitched 80.1 innings in 67 appearances, so went multiple innings a significant percentage of the time.

Okert has tremendous stuff which starts with a mid-90's FB with excellent command backed by a wipeout slider.  He also has a changeup that is at least average.  He blows up LH batters with a .167 BAA in Richmond, but also holds his own against righty batters with a .225 BAA.

Okert will most likely start 2015 in AAA Sacramento, but don't sleep on him making the 25 man Opening Day Roster.  You can be sure that Bruce Bochy would be very happy to have another lefty in the pen, especially one who can also face RH batters.  I see Okert as being the heir apparent to Jeremy Affeldt's bullpen role, but he has the stuff to be a rare lefty closer or move to the rotation, although that is probably an unlikely outcome.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Fantasy Focus: Ranking the Catchers

As I said in a prior post, I have decided to rely on a metric, Projected SLG%, to rank my fantasy baseball hitters this season.  Oh, I will take other things into consideration including Projected PA's and SB's, but my workhorse metric will be Projected SLG%.   Now, before you get all upset and start calling me a baseball version of a Luddite, remember that the projection systems account for good things like BABIP, BB and K rates, HR/FB, etc.  The thing is, I don't have to go through all those items and then try to eyeball a summary result.  The projection system does the work for me!  The reason I chose SLG% as my main outcome was that SLG% includes elements of BA and HR's, 2 common fantasy categories and SLG% probably is the main determinant of Runs and RBI's too.  OPS might give you a better idea of the player's contribution to TEAM runs, but SLG% is going to be closer the estimating the Runs and RBI's scored by the individual player.

OK, with that out of the way, let's take a look at 2015 catchers ranked by Steamer Projected SLG%:

1.  Wilin Rosario(Rockies)- .488, 343 PA.  The 343 PA's might actually be an overestimation here.  The Rockies appear to have given up on Rosario as a catcher and it is not clear there is a place for him in the OF.  He could be traded.  Stay away until his situation clears up.

2.  Buster Posey(Giants)- .476, 566 PA.  Barring injury, Buster Posey is the elite fantasy catcher for 2015.  Not only is he a great bet to put up a SLG% at least this high, he will get more PA's than most catchers due to his ability to slide over to 1B on some of the days he would otherwise sit.

3.  Peter O'Brien(D'Backs)- .447, 1 PA.  Well hello there, Peter O'Brien!  O'Brien played at AA level in the Yankees organization last year, then was traded at the deadline to Arizona for Martin Prado.  Arizona has pretty much nobody rostered at catcher right now.  There are questions about whether O'Brien can be an adequate defensive catcher, but Dave Stewart is quirky enough that he just might have penciled in O'Brien as his starting catcher for 2015.  No way I rank him #3, starting or not, but his situation is worth monitoring as the season and fantasy draft day approach.

4. Evan Gattis(Braves)- .446, 528 PA.  Evan Gattis position is looking better by the day, that is unless he gets traded by Atlanta before the season starts.  Right now, he's looking like the starting LF in the ATL, from which he could put up some mighty sweet offensive numbers, and you don't care about D in fantasy baseball.

5. Brian McCann(Yankees)- .445, 518 PA.  McCann might be on the downside of his career, but should still put up some nice numbers in Yankee Stadium next year.  Just not sure I would rank him quite this high.

6. Devin Mesoraco(Reds)- .442, 421 PA.  Steamer obviously expects a regression from the breakout catcher of 2014.  At minimum, I would expect another 100 PA's out of him in 2015, so he may approach the 25 HR's he hit in 2014.  I might rank him above everybody but Posey here, definitely above everybody but Posey and Gattis.

7.  Wilson Ramos(Nationals)- .438, 428 PA.  We've been waiting for Ramos to play a full season for just about forever.  It may happen one of these years, but I wouldn't bet my fantasy draft on it.

8.  Michael McKenry(Rockies)- .437, 61 PA.  McKenry will likely have a lot more than 61 PA, but it's not clear how many to expect.

9.  Yan Gomes(Indians)- .435, 458 PA.  Gomes should be the starting C in Cleveland.  I would expect about 50 more PA's.

10.  Carlos Santana(Indians)- .433, 592 PA.  Santana hangs onto his C eligibility in some leagues by the skin of teeth.  His main fantasy value is in the high number of PA's he will get playing non-catcher positions with catcher eligibility….if you followed all that.  He probably won't play C at all in 2015 which means you won't be able to roster him as a C in 2016.

11.  Jonathan Lucroy(Brewers)- .432, 424 PA.  Don't ask my why Steamer has Lucroy, who had 580 PA's in 2013 and 655 in 2014, projected for just 424 PA's.  Lucroy is another C who can slide over to 1B, which he will still do against some LHP's even with the acquisition of LH hitting Adam Lind.  He should easily surpass 500 PA by a healthy margin.  Lucroy is more valuable for BA than for his power, though.

12.  Travis D'Arnaud(Mets)- .428, 503 PA.  I'm looking for something of a breakout from Travis D'Arnaud in 2015.  He was much better in the second half of 2014 and just check out his minor league numbers.  OK, he was in Las Vegas in 2013, but check out what he did to the Eastern League in 2012!  I might even write a more detailed post on why I am wiling to wait on catcher and target D'Arnaud.

13.  Salvador Perez(Royals)- .425, 479 PA.  I've been thinking of Perez as a breakout candidate for a couple of seasons.  Although you gotta love the guy after the Royals run in 2014, I think it's pretty clear why his hacking ways will probably not lead to a breakout season.

14.  Matt Wieters(Orioles)-  .418, .476 PA.  Wieters got off to a hot start in 2014 before missing most of the season with TJ surgery.  No, he was not headed for a long awaited breakout season.  He would have regressed to his mean by mid-season.

15.  Yadier Molina(Cardinals)- .418, 412 PA.  Somebody in my expanded 12 team league will draft Yadier Molina as their catcher.  They shouldn't.

16. Mike Zunino(Mariners)- .407, 452 PA.  Zunino hit 22 HR's last year.  His Mendoza Line BA kept suppressed his SLG%. Tough to see him being much different in 2015 with a 30+% K rate.

17.  Russell Martin(Blue Jays)- .405, 508 PA.  Martin has alway hit for pretty good power and he upped his BA last year.  He is moving to a much more hitter-friendly ballpark, but he's also getting older.  I look for his BA to regress.

18.  Yasmani Grandal(Dodgers)- .401, 447 PA.  Grandal will likely be the Dodgers #1 catcher in 2015 and there is no telling what he might do with a full season's gig.  He has prodigious power, but has been a bit BA challenged.  Decent bet for a breakout season, though.  My back up plan if somebody overpays for D'Arnaud.  The Dodger fans in my league are more likely to overpay for Grandal, though.

19.  Derek Norris(Padres)- .386, 406 PA.  I'm surprised by Norris' low SLG as he does have HR power.  The Padres are selling out for power, so Norris is likely to get a lot more than 406 PA.

So, where does that leave my final rankings?

1.  Buster Posey
2.  Devin Mesoraco
3.  Evan Gattis
4.  Brian McCann
5.  Yan Gomes
6.  Carlos Santana
7. Jonathan Lucroy
8.  Travis D'Arnaud
9.  Salvador Perez
10. Wilson Ramos
11. Russell Martin
12. Yasmani Grandal
13.  Matt Wieters
14. Derek Norris
15. Mike Zunino
16. Wilin Rosario
17.  Yadier Molina
18.  Michael McKenry
19.  Peter O'Brien

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #15 Gustavo Cabrera

Gustavo Cabrera, OF.  DOB:  1/26/1996.  B-R, T-R.  6'2", 190 lbs.

2013 DSL:  .247/.379/.360, 2 HR, 21 SB, 13.1 BB%, 23.6 K%.
2014  DNP(injury)

If I knew for sure that Gustavo Cabrera's hand was completely healed and 100% functional, I might have ranked him #1 overall.  I believe his ceiling is that high.  As it is, I really had no idea where to rank him.  There seemed to be a natural break in the list here at #15 so I stuck him in there.  Cabrera is the most recent $1 M+ international bonus baby to sign with the Giants back in 2012.  He made his pro debut with the DSL Giants in 2013 and got off to a slow start, but really came on in the month of August with a .340/.379/.566 line for his monthly split.

Hopes were obviously high for a stateside debut in 2014, then disaster struck.  While home in the DR on a break, he was involved in some kind of  accident inside his own home where he put his hand through a glass table nearly severing it at the wrist.  He was rushed by the Giants to San Francisco where he underwent reconstructive surgery.  2014 was likely out of the question and his entire career was in jeopardy.  The good news is he showed up at instructional league in Arizona this fall where he both batted and played in the field.  I was able to find some still photos of him actually transferring a ball to his right hand and throwing with no apparent deformity of the right hand or wrist.  He reportedly has full sensation in the hand.

In the photos, he still has that huge upper body and shoulders sitting on top of a sprinters waist and legs.  The comp that always pops into my head when I see pictures of Gustavo is a young Justin Upton.  I would expect him to make his stateside debut in the Rookie Arizona League for his age 19 season, but for whatever it's worth, he is currently listed on the Augusta roster.  His progress will be a story to watch closely in 2015.  The sky is the limit!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #14 Adalberto Mejia

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

2011 DSL:  5-2, 1.42, 76 IP, 0.95 BB%, 8.41 K%, .272 BABIP
2012 Low A:  10-7, 3.97, 106.2 IP, 1.77 BB%, 6.67 K%, .332 BABIP
2013 High A:  7-4, 3.31, 87 IP, 2.38 BB%, 9.21 K%, .277 BABIP
2014 AA:        7-9, 4.67, 108 IP, 2.58 BB%, 6.83 K%, .326 BABIP

Adalberto Mejia was signed out of the DR in 2010 at age 17.  He is a big LHP who is almost certainly heavier than his listed weight.  He showed an uncanny ability to not walk batters from the get-go.  The Giants jumped him all the way to full-season ball at age 18 for his second pro season where he again impressed with his control/command but suffered a dip in his K rate and got BABIP'd.  He then had a solid season in 2013 with San Jose interrupted by an oblique strain.  Moving on up to AA for 2014, he had a similar season to his Augusta experience with a dip in K rate and a jump in BABIP.

Mejia throws a 2-seam FB in the low 90's that he keeps down in the zone.  Despite this repertoire, he is an extreme flyball pitcher.  He also has a slider that breaks sharply when it's on and a sinking changeup he can put on the outside corner against RH batters.  He has a nice, easy low 3/4 delivery and almost looks like he is playing catch with the catcher at times.

Early this offseason, he got hit with a 50 game suspension for using a prohibited diet pill that is available OTC in the DR.  The drug is not a big deal in itself.  What is more worrisome is why he felt he needed to take something like that.   He's a big kid who looks like he might have an extra layer or two, but I saw video of him from Richmond and he did not look any bigger than in San Jose or Augusta.

He loses the first 2 months of 2015.  I think we will see him surface in Arizona in June to ramp up before moving back up to Richmond or AAA Sacramento for the rest of the season.  I think he will be OK.  He needs to get more consistency out of his secondary stuff, but it's already good when he's on.  He probably projects to a ceiling of #3 starter, much like Ty Blach.