Wednesday, October 31, 2018

RIP Willie McCovey

This is very sad.  Willie McCovey is no longer with us.  The Giants announced his death today at age 80 after a long battle with multiple health problems.  Willie McCovey was almost a magical name to me as a kid in the late 1960's.  I first became aware of Major League Baseball and the Giants in 1965 at the age of 9 when my mother started encouraging me to listen to games on the radio.  Willie Mays and Willie McCovey were larger than life batting 3'rd and 4'th in the Giants lineup.  The names seemed to kind of fit together and they complemented each other.  One Willie was right-handed, all round athlete, flashy.  The other was left-handed, big and slow but a fearsome hitter and presence at the plate.  Except for Jim Ray Hart, the rest of the lineup wasn't very good, but those 3 were a lineup all by themselves!  Every summer in the mountains of Napa County, I would set up a radio on our patio and a pitchback in the yard.  I would throw balls at the pitchback while listening to the games.  I couldn't wait for the middle of the Giants lineup to come around every 2-3 innings.  Mays, McCovey and Jim Ray.

Willie McCovey broke in with the Giants in 1959 at the age of 21.  In his very first MLB game, he went 4 for 4 with 2 triples.  He finished the season with a .354 BA and a .656 SLT% in 219 PA's.  He continued to mash at the plate but had to battle for playing time with Orlando Cepeda, another slugging Giants youngster.  Perhaps Willie Mac's most memorable moment came in game 7 of the 1962 World Series in what Fangraphs has called the single highest leverage AB in the history of baseball.  The Yankees were clinging to a 1-0 lead as the Giants came to bat in the bottom of the 9'th inning.  The Giants got runners at 2'nd and 3'rd with 2 outs when Willie McCovey stepped to the plate.  Willie smashed a line drive to the right of 2B.  Yankees 2B Bobby Richardson took 2 step, reached out and snagged it.  Game over and the Giants lost. It wasn't so much the difficulty of the catch that got noticed but how hard Willie hit the ball.  1-2 feet further to the right and it might have carried all the way to the fence! All it needed to do was get past Richardson and the two runners would score for a Giants win.

McCovey and Cepeda both developed bad knees and could only play 1B so the Giant finally resolved that dilemma by trading Cepeda to the Cardinals for Ray Sadecki in one of the more maligned trades in a long history of Giants trades that turned out badly.  In reality, they were better off with McCovey as their full-time first baseman and Ray Sadecki actually pitched pretty well for the Giants, but Cepeda was the final piece of a juggernaut Cardinals team that included Lou Brock and Bob Gibson in their primes as well as an All-Star catcher in Tim McCarver.  The Cardinals ran away with the NL pennants in 1967 and 1968 and Cepeda won an MVP.

Meanwhile, Willie McCovey continued to put up tremendous offensive numbers of his own with the Giants during one of the most pitching dominant eras in baseball history.  He won an MVP of his own in 1969 with a slash line of .320/.453/.656 with 45 HR's.  Among his many accomplishments, Willie Mac hit 18 grand slam HR's in his career which I think is still a NL record.  I know I was listening on the radio when several of those grand slams were hit.  None other than Bob Gibson called him the "scariest hitter in baseball".

The Giants tore their team down as baseball entered the free agent era and McCovey was traded to the Padres where he struggled with injuries.  He hit just .203 with 7 HR's in 71 games for the Padres in 1976.  The Padres sold his contract to the A's late in the season.  Willie Mac hooked back on with the Giants in 1977, coming to spring training without a guaranteed contract. He was a bright spot in an otherwise dismal season hitting 28 HR's to lead the team by a wide margin.  It was the last really good season of his career.

After retirement, Willie McCovey remained a valued member of the Giants organization and much beloved in the Bay Area.  He was active in the Junior Giants program and had a special award for the team's most inspirational player each season named after him.  He remained an avid fan of the team and attended most of their home games in person.  When the Giants moved to what is now AT&T Park, they erected a statue of Willie Mac swinging his bat out beyond the RF wall by an inlet of the bay which became known as McCovey Cove.  How fitting that making a "splash hit" in McCovey Cove has become recognized as a special feat of power hitting!

Sadly, a series of surgeries on his knees that did not go well left Willie McCovey unable to walk in his later years.  This led to other health problems and repeated hospitalizations.  His long battle with these recurrent illnesses ended today in Stanford Hospital.  Willie Mac is gone at the relatively young age of 80, at least by today's standards.  He is gone, but won't be forgotten as McCovey Cove and the Willie Mac Award will be a constant reminder of his greatness as a baseball player and person.  RIP, Willie Mac!

Scouting the Trade Market: Zack Greinke

Before we dig into an intriguing and likely polarizing potential trade target, let's do a bit of housekeeping on where the Giants stand in regard to payroll room.  First of all, the Giants likely have close to unlimited resources for player payroll.  What held them back in 2018 was a desire to stay under the CBT threshold to avoid some nasty penalties that would kick in this year if they didn't.  You have to look at Cot's Tax Tracker shows that as of right now, they are committed to a bit over $168 M.  The Threshold rises significantly next year to $206 M giving them $37.8 M to spend before they reach it.  Looking ahead, they are committed to $132 M in 2020 and $96 M in 2021 so they are not in terrible shape in future seasons.  The Giants can also go as much as $20 M above threshold before the harsher penalties start kicking in so they might be willing to spend up $57 M for 2019 on player acquisition.

The conventional wisdom is that the Giants should start paring down payroll, try to dump big longterm contracts and set themselves up for a rebuild which would hopefully peak early next decade.  The problem with that scenario is the Giants have openly stated that is not an option.  They want to try to win in 2019 plus build for the future.  Crazy as it seems, if you look at the numbers above, they may well have the resources to do just that.

The D'Backs are openly considering a teardown of their current team as their window to win with Paul Goldschmidt is rapidly shrinking with must 1 more season before he becomes a FA.  The lions share of their payroll commitment is to one player, Zack Greinke.  If they are contemplating trading Paul Goldschmidt, then they almost certainly would jump at an opportunity to shed Greinke's salary even though Greinke has been earning his keep on the field.  Greinke has 3 years/$104.5 M left on his contract with an AAV of $34.4 M which is pretty close to his actual yearly compensation.  It's my understanding that some of that about $40 M of the total money is deferred beyond the end of the contract.  There is also a small bonus that activates if he is traded.

So here's the question: What if the Giants zigged when everyone says they should zag?  What if they took on Zack Greinke and all or part of his remaining contract?  On the surface, adding his contract would put the Giants right back up against the threshold all by itself which is clearly a bad idea.  But there's the question of how much overage the Giants might be willing to pay and their might be some ways to mitigate Greinke's cost.  As MLBTR pointed out, the D'Backs probably don't have to take back much of Greinke's cost because he appears to have plenty of value left but there might be some wiggle room.  They probably would balk at taking back the $73.3 M left on Evan Longoria's contract, but what if they took back Mark Melancon and the $31 M left on his deal?  What if they agreed to pay all or part of the deferred money?  Those scenarios could allow the Giants to add Greinke and still have money left over to upgrade the OF.  Let's break down what Zack Greinke brings to the table:

Performance:  Greinke is not what he was in his prime, but he's turned in solid numbers in his 3 years with the D'Backs with fWARs of 2.2, 5.1 and 3.5.  He's thrown over 200 innings in 4 of the last 5 seasons with steady K and BB rates with a modest GB tendency.  The one area in which he has been worse than in LA is HR/FB which should improve with pitching half his games in AT&T Park.

Stuff:  Greinke has excellent command of 4 pitches:  FB, Slider, curveball and changeup.  He has adjusted to the inevitable erosion of his FB velocity by gradually reducing how often he throws it and by relying more on a terrific changeup.  The curveball and changeup are his two best pitches.

Intangibles:  Zack Greinke will be 36 yo in 2019 and 38 in the final year of his contract.  He has aged very gracefully and seems to be in good position to maintain productivity through the end of the contract through adjustment in his pitch repertoire.  He fits in well with the Giants tradition of taking advantage of their pitches hitting abilities.  He is a bit of an odd duck personality with an open interest in Sabermetrics and commentary on management issues like the draft.  On the other hand, there has never been any hint of not fitting into a clubhouse or causing dissension.

Cost:  See discussion above.

Conclusion:  If the Giants are serious about contending in 2019, they should probably at least kick the tires on Zack Greinke and see how much of his cost the D'Backs might be willing to keep or take back in a swap of bad contracts.

Flame away!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Scouting the Free Agent Market: Tyson Ross

Once upon a time, there was a pitching coach with the Detroit Tigers named Roger Craig who was able to fix pitchers.  His method was very simple:  Teach them the split-fingered fastball.  Bruce Sutter had made a career out of exclusively throwing that pitch, but Roger Craig saw it as an add-on pitch to for pitchers who maybe had just 2 good pitchers like a fastball and slider or fastball and curve.  Jack Morris, Dan Petry, Milt Wilcox, Juan Berenguer,  those pitchers with Roger Craig as their pitching coach won the World Series for the Tigers in 1984.  The next year, Craig became the manager of the Giants and brought his split-fingered magic with him.  He decreed that every pitcher on the team had to at least try to learn the splitter. It seemed to be an easy pitch to learn and most Giants pitchers were already throwing it in his first season as manager.  Although the results were mixed, it seemed to help more than hurt and Craig became one of the Giants most successful managers largely because of his teaching the spitter to his pitchers.

That brings us to Tyson Ross, a pitcher who has had much more success against the Giants than most other teams in his career.  He started his career with the Athletics and later the Padres. At one point seemed to be a rising star.  Then he suffered a shoulder injury in the first game of 2016 and missed the rest of the year.  The Padres did not pick up his option and he signed with the Rangers where he again struggled with injuries and poor performance.  He signed a minor league deal with the Padres for 2018 and pitched with mixed results with an ERA over 4.00.  He was claimed off waivers by the Cardinals and the Padres let him go.  He had a 2.73 ERA in 21 IP for the Cardinals down the stretch. He's always been good agains the Giants, though.  2018 was not exception as he posted a 0.84 ERA in 4 appearances, 3 Starts.

Production:  His combined pitching line for 2018 was 8-9, 4.15, 149.2 IP, 7.34 K/9, 3.73 BB/9.  FIP 4.39.  xFIP 4.25.  GB/FB= 1.66.

Stuff:  Early in his career, Ross had a standard FB/Slider/Change up repertoire.  Since 2015, he's ditched the changeup and replaced it with a cutter which breaks similarly to a slider.  His FB has lost velocity over the years to an average of 91.1 in 2018.  He threw it just 42.5% of the time and threw the slider 40.9% per Fangraphs.  The Cutter was 15.8%.  So, Ross now has an unusual mix of FB/Slider/Cutter. As you might expect, he is kryptonite for RH hitters but struggles against LH batters.

Back to Roger Craig.  The current rage among sabermetric enthusiasts is to fix pitchers by eliminated their worst pitches.  This appears to be what Ross has done with the changeup.  He replaced it with the cutter but the cutter is a far different pitch than the changeup and is quite similar to the slider which Ross already throws a huge percentage of the time.  There is an interesting series currently in Fangraphs entitled "Pitch Mix Improvements for Free Agents."  In every case, the "improvements" are to remove an underperforming pitch from the repertoire.  Here's what was said about Ross:  "I believe his pitch mix(slider, four-seam and cutter) has his production maxed out.  The problem with Ross is his velocity is down 3 mph from his peak levels...."  I'm convinced Roger Craig would take one look at Tyson Ross's repertoire and absolutely drool over what he could do by adding his patented splitter!  I don't know if Curt Young teaches the splitter or not.

Intangibles:  Ross is from Oakland and pitched for Cal in college.  As I mentioned above he's always stymied the Giants.  Hey!  If they signed him, they wouldn't have to face him!

Cost:  I believe Ross rebounded enough in 2018 to get a major league contract but should come at a very reasonable price.

Conclusion:  Tyson Ross is someone the Giants should target. If he is willing to sign with them, they should then convince him to learn a splitter or split change to give him another out pitch that is more effective against LH batters.

Thoughts on the World Series

Don't have time for a regular post this morning so I'll offer my thoughts on the outcome of the World Series.  Whew!  With the entire world seeming on its way to hell in a handbasket as they say, the Dodgers were threatening once again to finish it off for good.  I'm happy to report the world as we know it is safe for at least 1 more year and I won't have to spend it listening to Dodger fans brag about their championship.

Carry on.  Regular programming will hopefully return tonight.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Scouting the Draft: 2011 Retrospective

The 2011 draft did not quite have the spectacular successes that 2010 had with Harper, Machado and Chris Sale, but it was much deeper with the majority of first round picks enjoying significant MLB careers.  The Giants were drafting way down at #29 after winning the 2010 World Series.   Gerrit Cole was the #1 overall pick by the Pirates.  Danny Hultzen(#2) was a bust.  Other "successful" picks included Trevor Bauer(3), Dylan Bundy(4), Anthony Rendon(6), Archie Bradley(7), Francisco Lindor(8), Javier Baez(9), George Springer(11), Jose Fernandez(14) and Sonny Gray(18).  It was a bit of a mixed bag after Gray went to the A's at #18:

19.  Matt Barnes(Red Sox).
20.  Tyler Anderson(Rockies)
21.  Tyler Beede(Blue Jays)- did not sign.
22.  Kolten Wong(Cardinals)
23.  Alex Meyer(Nationsals)
24.  Taylor Guerrieri(Rays).
25.  Joe Ross(Padres).
26.  Blake Swihart(Red Sox).
27.  Robert Stephenson(Reds).
28.  Sean Gilmartin(Braves).

Nobody anticipated the Giants pick at #29, Joe Panik, a SS from St John's, who was not expected to stick a the position.  The pick left the TV commentators practically speechless.  John Barr or Brian Sabean or someone came out and said they took him for his bat but thought he could stay at SS. Panik quickly moved to 2B and rose quickly through the Giants system but not without some criticism, especially of his performance in AA.  He was a big part of the Giants 2014 Championship run, especially on defense.  He was an All-Star in 2015 and won a Gold Glove in 2016.  His 2017 season was pretty good but 2018 was marred by injury and poor performance.  Still, looking at the lists above, he was probably the best player drafted after Sonny Gray at #18.

John Barr and the Giants had no control over who got picked ahead of Joe Panik.  As with 2010, I want to look at who was drafted later to see if they missed a better choice.  Here's the list:

30.  Levi Michael, Twins- Bust.
31.  Mikie Mahtook, Rays- Bust.
32.  Jake Hager, Rays- Bust.
33.  Kevin Matthews, Twins- Bust.
34.  Brian Goodwin, Nationals- Limited success.
35.  Jacob Anderson, Blue Jays- Bust.
36.  Henry Owens, Red Sox- Bust.
37.  Zach Cone, Twins- Bust.
38.  Brandon Martin, Rays- Bust.
39.  Larry Greene, Phillies- Bust.
40.  Jackie Bradley Jr, Red Sox- Very good player.

So, much like in 2010, you have to go 10 more picks before you get to a player who might have been a better pick than Joe Panik, and that is probably debatable.  There were some nice picks later on like Michael Fulmer(44), Trevor Story(45) and Blake Snell(52).

Other Giants draft picks of note from 2011 include Kyle Crick(49), Andrew Susac(86), Josh Osich(207), Ray Black(237), Derek Law(297), Kelby Tomlinson(387) and Joe Biagini(807).

Conclusion:  Short of knowing the future, the Giants took the Best Player Available with Joe Panik.  In fact, you could make a strong case that Panik should have gone as high as to the BoSox at #19.  While you could argue they might be better off today with Bradley, Fulmer, Story or Snell, it is highly unlikely that a different scouting and management team would have done better in this draft.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Scouting the Free Agent Market: Jeremy Hellickson

Jeremy Hellickson has has his ups and downs since he was the darling of the sabermetric crowd as a Rays prospect in the late 2000's.  Last year was a pretty good season when he pitched but he was limited to 19 Starts and 91.1 IP due to injuries including a hammy strain early in the season and a wrist sprain in August that he aggravated in late September.  Here's Hellickson's breakdown:

Performance:  After accepting a 1 year QO from the Phillies in his first FA season, he had a terrible 2017 with an ERA of 5.43.  He was traded to the Nationals midseason.  Last year he had to take a minor league deal with the Nationals.  His ERA was a much improved 3.45 although is FIP and xFIP were 4.22 and 4.27 respectively.  He has always been a control pitcher with low walk rates and 2018 was his best yet with a BB/9 of 1.97.  His K rates have always been pedestrian at best and his 2018 of 6.41 was close to his career average.  His has a small groundball tendency, but is better at inducing pop ups and short flyballs(more on that later).

Stuff:  Hellickson features at least 5 pitches:  4-seam, 2-seam, Cutter, knuckle-curve and changeup.  His average FB velocity was a barely passable 89.7 with his 4-seamer a tick higher.  There is an interesting Fangraphs article from just yesterday looking at Potential Pitch Mix Improvements for Free Agents(Part 1).  Hellickson topped the list with the observation that his 2-seam FB is just not very good.  He only got a 2% swinging strikes out of it and just a 40% GB rate.  The 4-seamer which he throws up in the zone is a much better swing and miss pitch and has a high soft flyball rate.  Meanwhile his curve and changeup are both quite good with the changeup being his best pitch.  The conclusion was that he could improve his numbers by ditching the sinker and relying on the other 4 pitches.  I don't know if I am completely sold in that because he may need the sinker to set up the high 4-seamer, but it's an interesting take.

Intangibles:  Hellickson is from Iowa but has spent his entire MLB career pitching on the East Coast. If he's willing to move out west, he may find AT&T Park, Dodger Stadium and Petco Park more friendly to his style of pitching as they should lower his HR/FB.  He'll be 32 years old and you have to be somewhat concerned about a pitcher that age with borderline velocity coming off an injury plagued season but the injuries weren't necessarily the type that would be career threatening by themselves.

Cost:  Hellickson took a minor league deal last year.  I think he may get a low cost MLB deal this year, possibly with incentives.  He may be looking for a 1 year deal to rebuild his value for one last big payday.  If that is the case, AT&T Park and the NL West is a perfect place to do it.

Conclusion:  Jeremy Hellickson is a reasonable bounceback candidate who should come at a relatively low price and could be a nice fit in the Giants rotation.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Scouting the Free Agent Market: Yusei Kikuchi

Lefties here, lefties there, lefties everywhere!  If Derek Holland, Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel aren't enough choices for you, there is a Japanese lefty, Yusei Kikuchi, hitting the market this winter who has caught some buzz.  Kikuchi is a relatively rare hard throwing lefty who is rumored to have hit 98 MPH with his FB, but usually sits more in the 92-94 MPH range.  He is currently 27 yo with a June 17 birthdate.  He has pitched 7 seasons in the JPPL.  He is 6'0", 195 lbs.

Performance:  Kikuchi had the equivalent of a Cy Young season in 2017 posting a 16-6 W-L record with a 1.92 ERA with a 10.4 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 187.2 IP.  His numbers slipped in 2018 with an ERA of 3.08 and a lower K/9 of 8.4.  His BB/9 remained steady at 2.5.

Stuff:  Kikuchi has a standard FB, Slider, Changeup 3 pitch mix.  From videos, all 3 offerings appear to be above average with excellent command.  His delivery is high 3/4.  His FB velocity is what sets him apart from other Japanese LHP's.

Intangibles:  Kikuchi is reportedly a competitor with excellent concentration at all times.  His 2018 was marred by 2 bouts of shoulder soreness which might give some MLB teams pause.  He reportedly did appear to be healthy in his final start of the season. As with most Japanese pitchers at his age, he already has a ton of mileage on the arm.

Price:  I've given up trying to figure out pricing on Japanese free agents.  I doubt we see the signing circus we got with Shohei Ohtani.  Kikuchi's expected contract would be more along the lines of Kenta Maeda of the Dodgers.

Summary:  The Giants reportedly had scouts at his last game along with several other MLB organizations.  Yusei Kikuchi is definitely a get if he is fully healthy, but personally, pitcher's with shoulder issues scare me.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Scouting the Free Agent Market: Dallas Keuchel

OF clearly has to be the Giants top priority this offseason, but SP is a not so distant second.  As you saw from the SP Depth Chart, while it's not desperation time, there is a pretty big drop-off in reliability after Madison Bumgarner at #1.  If the Giants want to compete in 2019, they need to bolster the pitching staff with more than just re-signing Derek Holland.

While Patrick Corbin has the most buzz of all the FA pitchers, there are quite a few others who may well turn out to be better options.  In my mind, Dallas Keuchel should be getting close to the same attention as Corbin, yet you hear very little about him on sites like MLBTR.  Let's break down Keuchel as a Free Agent:

Performance:  Keuchel has been a mainstay in the Astros rotation for the past several years.  While 2018 is probably perceived by many as a down year, it was still pretty darn good was he ran up an fWAR of 3.6 tied for second best of his career and also tied for 19'th best in MLB for qualified SP's.  There does not seem to be anything fluky about his 3.74 ERA as his FIP and xFIP are very close.  His K rate was down a tick at 6.73 but his walk rate was also down at 2.55.  He is an extreme groundball pitcher with a GB/FB of 2.20 which was actually his lowest rate since his rookie season.

Stuff:  Keuchel has alway been a classic soft tossing lefty with excellent command of a multi-pitch mix.  His average FB velocity of 89.3 was actually a tick up from his prior 2 seasons.  He mixes in a slider, cutter and changeup.  Per Fangraphs, he has not thrown a curveball since 2013.  Even with his great command, he is probably living on the edge of effectiveness with that FB velocity and any significant dip would jeopardize the effectiveness of his other pitches.

Intangibles:  Keuchel is from Tulsa Oklahoma and pitched college ball for Arkansas.  He's spent his career so far in Houston.  I'm sure he's a great guy but he just strikes me as likely to be more comfortable in Texas than Northern California.  I can also do without seeing the hipster beard every 5'th game.  He missed some time with a pinched nerve in his neck in 2017 but has otherwise been durable.  On the other hand, the Giants have successfully assimilated other players from the southeastern US so he might fit in just fine.

Price:  MLBTR does not have their contract projections for this year's FA class up yet.  I projected Corbin to get 5 yrs/$75 M which could be selling him short, but Keuchel figures to get less.  We'll say 4 yrs/$60 M which might be a excellent value.

Summary:  The Giants should let some other team overpay for Patrick Corbin and kick the tires on Dallas Keuchel.  If his price is significantly less than Corbin's, it's a good deal.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Scouting the Trade Market: Sonny Gray

If you go back and review Part 1 of the Giants Pitching Depth Chart, I think you will see the Giants need to bolster the pitching rotation if they have designs on competing in 2019.  While the free agent market has several interesting possibilities, almost every team can use more pitching and the prices may be high.  That's why ears stood up when the Yankees announced that Sonny Gray is not in their plans for 2018 and they are looking to trade him, a highly unusual pronouncement which is almost certain to suppress his trade value.

Bay Area fans know Sonny Gray well.  The A's drafted him #18 overall out of Vanderbilt in 2011.  He made his MLB debut in 2013 with immediate success posting a 2.67 ERA over 64 IP.  The next 2 seasons were ace-like with ERA's of 3.08 and 2.73 with over 200 IP each season. He was limited by injuries to 117 IP in 2016 and his ERA ballooned to 5.69.  He rebounded with an ERA of 3.43 in 97 IP in 2017 prior to a deadline trade to the Yankees.  Yankee Stadium and the AL East are both very unfriendly pitching environments, so not surprisingly his ERA bumped up to 3.73 after the trade. What is surprising is just how badly 2018 went for him.  He struggled all season, especially in Yankee Stadium and got demoted to the bullpen after getting booed off the mound while giving up 7 runs in 2.2 IP on August 2. After the season, Yankees GM Brian Cashman stated, "We're entering the winter open-minded to relocation....It's probably best to try somewhere else."

I starte to write this as a Trade/No Trade Smackdown.  After digging into the data a bit, I decided it really wasn't much of a contest as the evidence for Sonny Gray as a bounceback candidate almost anywhere but Yankee Stadium is almost overwhelming, so much so, it's hard to know where to start.

Let's start with the ballpark.  Yankee Stadium is an extremely difficult place to pitch, more so for RHP's due to the short porch in RF.  Although it inflates runs by a small factor of 1.025, it inflates HR's by a whopping 1.3.  Gray's Home/Road splits show an ERA of 3.62 on the road compared to a 7.71 at home.  It appears that the difficulty of pitching in Yankee Stadium got to him more than most pitchers for some reason.  When you factor in other AL East ballparks Boston, Toronto and Baltimore, it is apparent that simply getting out of New York and out of the AL East would probably fix Gray without any other adjustments.

That brings us to repertoire.  Sheryl Ring wrote up a nice article for Fangraphs back in April about how the Yankees were likely ruining Sonny Gray with their pitching philosophy.  It seems that the Yanks don't like their pitchers throwing fastballs.  Since joining the Yankees, Gray's FB usage plummeted from over 50% to around 25% with compensatory increases in Cutter and Curveball usage. Ring's theory, without really offering proof, is opposing hitters were not offering at breaking balls out of the strike zone because they weren't seeing enough FB's to set them up which increased his walk rate and forced him to come into the strike zone with FB's after falling behind in the count.  Beyond that, Gray's FB velocity held steady at 93.8 MPH, he maintained a strong GB rate and a steady K rate.

So, there you have it.  Get Sonny Gray out of Yankee Stadium and the AL East then take the leash off his fastball and you have the perfect bounceback candidate.  There may be other teams thinking along the same lines and the Giants probably can't win a bidding war for prospects to send to the Yankees, but they definitely need to do more than kick the tires on Sonny Gray.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Giants Depth Charts: Starting Pitching(Part 2)

In Part 1 we looked at pitching depth that might be immediately available in 2019.  We now turn to the lower minors starting with the A+ SJ Giants.

A+:  Melvin Adon might have the highest ceiling of any pitcher currently in the Giants organization.  Pitchers who can maintain high-90's heat deep into games don't grow on trees.  In an early season look in San Bernardino, Adon looked soft and overweight and struggled with his command which he pretty much did all season.  He's lighting it up in the AFL so far in a very small sample.  Carlos Sano is a big righty who arrived late on the scene making this pro debut at age 23, but impressed with his size and command.  He could be a fast mover.  Lefty John Gavin dominated the SAL but struggled a bit after a late season promo to SJ.  Raffi Vizcaino battled inconsistency all season.

Low A:  Jose Marte appears to have a high ceiling but like many Giants pitching prospects, battled inconsistency.  Norwith Gudino has been around awhile but seems to be finally getting some traction on his career.  Garrett Cave is another hard thrower with control issue.  Juan De Paula impressed in a small sample after a late season trade with the Yankees.  Righty Aaron Phillips had dominant numbers for the Greenjackets and should move up to San Jose in 2019.

Short Season:  19 year old Gregory Santos impressed until he was struck on the head by a line drive.  The good news is he came back for 2 appearances at the end of the season and seems to be healthy.  The Giants invested heavily in pitching after the first round of the 2018 draft.  Most of those pitchers wound up in Salem-Keizer where they had a very tight leash.  Sean Hjelle's ERA looked scary but had strong peripherals.  Third rounder Jake Wong had the strongest start to his pro career of any of the new draftees.  Solomon Bates had dominant strikeout numbers and has the size and strength to be a SP.

Rookie AZL:  Conner Nurse is a project but has intriguing size and had some nice games in his pro debut for Giants Black.  Lefty Marco Gonzalez had an ugly ERA but nice peripheral numbers.  Jasier Herrera has nice SP size at 6'5".  Lefty Jacob Lopez is a sleeper who had a nice pro debut.

DSL:  This year's DSL Giants team featured a strong set of SP's who look to move up to Arizona in 2019.  Juan Sanchez, Sonny Vargas, Jesus Gomez and Samuel Quintana impressed while throwing from the south side while Ivan Armstrong looked strong from the right side.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Giants Depth Charts: Starting Pitching(Part 1)

At the beginning of last season, the Giants looked like they a strong 1-3 at the top of their starting rotation with competition for the #4 and #5 spots.  All 3 of the top 3 missed large parts of the season. Madison Bumgarner is now back as the #1, but Johnny Cueto is out for most, if not all, of 2019 and Jeff Samardzija future is uncertain at best.  While all that was going on, one of the best parts of 2018 for me was how young pitchers from the minor leagues stepped up and stood in the gap.  The big question for the Giants is how much they can count on those young pitchers maintaining their performances into next season.  Here's the depth chart:

1.  Madison Bumgarner
2.  Dereck Rodriguez
3.  Andrew Suarez
4.  Chris Stratton
5.  Ty Blach

Tyler Beede is still on the 40 man roster, but is coming off a disastrous season making it impossible to list him on any depth chart.  Casey Kelly got released today and is now a free agent, while Tyler Herb cleared waivers and was outrighted to AAA, so at least he is still in the organization.

AAA:  Shaun Anderson has pitched his way to the threshold of the majors and will very likely get a chance to make his MLB debut in 2019.  Tyler Herb will get some more salt and try to put himself in position to be re-added to the 40 man roster.

AA:  Logan Webb might be the Giants top pitching prospect.  He will likely start the season in Richmond and try for a midseason promo to AAA.  What happens after that depends how he performs and the Giants needs at the MLB level. Conner Menez is a big lefty with a strikeout pitch, but needs to polish up his game.  Garrett Williams is trying to find his control and command in the Arizona Fall League.

Free Agents:  This season's free agent pitching crop doesn't have the marquee names like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, but is actually much deeper than the the hitters with a wide range of intriguing possibilities.  Look for the Giants to re-sign Derek Holland and sign another veteran FA to give them more depth in the rotation.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Scouting the Draft: 2010 Retrospective

We have discussed the Giants string of first round draft busts from 2010-2016 with the question being, do the Giants need a new scouting director?  One way of answering that question is to take a look at who was drafted after their first rounder in each of those seasons.  Could or should have John Barr made a different choice that would have turned out better?

With that question in mind, let's start with the 2010 draft when the Giants took Gary Brown at #24 overall.  The 2010 draft produced Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Chris Sale and Christian Yelich.  That is a pretty great draft.  How were the Giants so stupid as to end up with a bust like Gary Brown?  Well, first of all, the Giants won 88 games in 2009 so all of those players were drafted before the Giants had a chance to pick them.  In Yelich's case, he went to the Marlins at #23 just one pick ahead of the ill-fated Gary Brown.  What about those players taken after Brown who the Giants still had a chance to draft?  Let's break it down:

25.  Zack Cox, 3B, Cardinals:  Bust.
26.  Kyle Parker, 1B, Rockies:  Bust.
27.  Jesse Biddle, RHP, Phillies:  Bust.
28.  Zach Lee, RHP, Dodgers:  Bust.
29.  Cam Bedrosian, RHP, Angels:  Decent Reliever.
30.  Chevez Clarke, OF, Angels:  Bust.
31.  Justin O'Conner, C, Rays:  Bust.
32.  Cito Culver, SS, Yankees:  Bust.
33.  Michael Kvasnicka, C, Astros:  Bust.
34.  Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Blue Jays:  Decent SP.
35.  Matt Lipka, SS, Braves:  Bust.
36.  Bryce Brentz, OF, Red Sox:  Bust.
37.  Taylor Lindsey, SS, Angels:  Bust.
38.  Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Blue Jays:  Ace SP.
39.  Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Red Sox:  Bust.
40.  Ryan Bolden, OF, Angels:  Bust.
41.  Asher Wojciechowski, RHP, Blue Jays: Bust.
42.  Drew Vettleson, OF, Rays:  Bust.
43.  Taijuan Walker, RHP, Mariners:  Decent SP.
44.  Nick Castellanos, 3B, Tigers:  Average Corner IF/OF.
45:  Luke Jackson, RHP, Rangers:  Bust.
46.  Seth Blair, RHP, Cardinals: Bust.
47.  Peter Tago, RHP, Rockies:  Bust.
48.  Chance Ruffin, RHP, Tigers:  Bust.
49.  Mike Olt, 3B, Rangers: Bust.
50.  Tyrell Jenkins, RHP, Cardinals: Bust.

You have to go down 5 spots in the 2010 draft to find the first player taken after Gary Brown to have a significant MLB career, 10 spots to find the next one and 14 spots to find the guy John Barr should have drafted, Noah Syndergaard.

Conclusion:  The failure of the Giants 2010 first round draft was not due to bad drafting by John Barr, but due to the Giants low draft position and the general spottiness and luck of the draft(Christian Colon was #4, Barrett Loux #6, Karsten Whitson #9, Michael Choice #10, Deck McGuire #11).  In other words, it is highly unlikely the Giants would have done better in that draft with a different Scouting Director.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Scouting the Trade Market: Outfield

You can make a reasonable case for the Giants to stand pat with their current infield and catching situations.  You can't make that case for the outfield where every option is either unproven or is be a bad option!  With possibly only 3 OF's worth pursuing on the free agent market, Bryce Harper, AJ Pollock and Andrew McCutchen, the trade market may be where they have to turn.

I am not going to try to make up specific scenarios here.  That is just way to complex to try to work out in a post.  The purpose of this exercise is to see what might be available on the market at a reasonable price in terms of prospects, that the Giants might be able to afford.  

Kevin Kiermeier seems to be the subject of perennial trade speculation.  He is the one contract the Rays are committed to which means he is probably a trade candidate but it's a small enough investment that the Rays probably feel like they don't have to trade him unless someone is willing to overpay.

The Phillies have signaled they are willing to consider wholesale changes to their roster and are making noises about going all out for Bryce Harper.  That may leave OF's Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr on the block. Any of them have the potential to be a significant upgrade for the Giants but also come with significant bust potential.

In Milwaukee, Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana will be out of options this spring.  The BrewCrew has a ton invested in the OF trio of Braun, Cain and Yelich, so Broxton and Santana may well be available for trade.  They both have nice power/speed combinations but both strike out a ton.

The OF situation in Washington is crowded with or without Bryce Harper.  Michael Taylor could well be on the block, especially if the National re-sign Harper.  Taylor has shown flashes of speed and power and is a top notch defender in CF, but has never quite gained traction on his career and injuries have slowed him down.

Billy Hamilton is coming off a wretched season at the plate but still gives elite defense and baserunning which produced a +fWAR again in 2018.

Relations between Dexter Fowler and the Cardinals are so bad, they may well be willing to eat most of his contract to get another team to take him.  He could be THE buy-low player of this offseason.

Other OF's who might be getting too expensive for their current teams but could be a bargain for the Giants include Corey Dickerson, David Peralta, Avisail Garcia and Kyle Schwarber

The Padres probably want to unload Wil Myers contract and might be willing to pay part of it or else take back a bad contract to get it done.

The Rangers have no less than 5 LH hitting OF's and would probably be wiling to trade at least 1 out of Nomar Mazara, Willie Calhoun, Shin-Soo Choo, Joey Gallo and Drew Robinson.

Do any of those names interest you?  Can you think of others who might reasonably be available in the offseason?

Friday, October 19, 2018

Giants Depth Charts: Right Field

We'll go ahead and finish up the Giants positional depth charts since they help clarify offseason needs.  Andrew McCutchen stabilized a disastrous position for most of the season, but was traded at the end of August when the Giants finally threw on the towel on the season.  Austin Slater got some games as the RF starter but ultimately the Giants let Hunter Pence have his old position back for the last 10 games of the season, which tells me the position is essentially open for next year.

MLB:  Open.  Austin Slater and Mac Williamson are internal possibilities but look for the Giants to fill it from outside either through free agency or trade.

AAA:  Empty.  Eury Perez and Cesar Puello are minor league free agents.

AA:  Empty.  Luigi Rodriguez established himself as a fan favorite early in the season but tailed off badly in the second half.  He is a minor league free agent.

A+:  Sandro Fabian wasn't quite ready for the level although he did manage to hit 10 dingers.  A 2 for 32 skid over the final 10 games of the season sank his BA to .200.  It would be reasonable to have him repeat the level like Jalen Miller did.

Low A:  Logan Baldwin showed some gap power and speed with 26 SB's but hit just .249.

Short Season:  Dalton Combs raised his BA from .208 in 2017 to .318 in 2018 for Salem-Keizer.  That came with power as his SLG% was .512.  Not sure about his defense, but the bat seems ready to move up, possibly to San Jose.  Mikey Edie finally made it out of rookie ball and hit .325 in limited playing time.  Nick Hill played for 3 different levels ending up in S-K.  He's still looking for traction on his career.

Rookie AZL:  Franklin Labour made his Arizona debut after 2 seasons in the DSL.  He slashed .810 with 7 SB's in 130 AB.  Austin Edgette is a late round college draftee who hit .286 with an OBP of .402 in 70 AB.  Bryan Hernandez got some extra bonus money to sign out of Puerto Rico HS.  He hit just .138 but drew 16 BB's in 74 PA for a .342 OBP.

DSL:  Robinson Batista showed flashes of power and speed but hit just .250 in his 3'rd DSL season.  17 year olds Robert Gomez and Yohan Polanco did not hit much in limited playing time.

Free Agents:  Bryce Harper is the Big Fish in this pond.  Expect the Giants to do more than kick the tires.  Andrew McCutchen is probably a distant fallback option again.  Nick Markakis and Jose Bautista are aging but coming off pretty good seasons.  Carlos Gonzalez might draw some interest but he has always had pretty big home/road splits out of Coors Field.   Now that Hunter Pence is a free agent, he might actually be a decent buy low candidate on an incentive laden deal.  He hit .333 over his last 10 games and was even looking spry in RF.

Summary:  This is a position the Giants almost have to fill from outside the organization.  I think they will make a run at Bryce Harper, but also likely fall short of signing him.  After that, the trade market might be a better bet than the second tier free agents.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

State of the Giants: Kim Ng For GM

The Giants are interviewing a seemingly long list of candidates for their vacant GM post(who knows what the official title will be, but to make it easy, we'll call the position the GM).  One of those candidates is not like the others.  Kim Ng has long been the odds on favorite to become the first woman GM and over the years has built an impressive resume.  Unfortunately, her many interviews for various open GM slots have started to look suspiciously like tokenism, a box MLB can check off to prove it is "committed" to diversity.  Yet the actual, you know, jobs, always seem to end up going to youngish white guys who all seem to have gone to the same school or worked under some GM who won a World Series and is labelled "analytically minded".  So, let's go back and remind ourselves of who Kim Ng is and why she always seems to have some buzz in GM searches.

Kim first started hitting radar screens when she emerged as the assistant GM of the Dodgers under Dan Evans, who I still think is one of the most underrated GM's of all time.  Evans likely knew her from when they both worked for the White Sox before their Dodgers gigs.  For his part, Evans was one of the little known pioneers of baseball analytics and the use of technology for baseball evaluation.  He is currently a member of Baseball Prospectus Advisory Board and serves on the Board of Directors of the SABR Rocky Mountain Chapter.  But Evans was also very into traditional scouting.  You may recall he hired the legendary Logan White as Scouting Director for the Dodgers.  In my mind, Evans laid the foundation for the current sustained success the Dodgers have enjoyed.

OK, back to Kim Ng.  Her interest in baseball started with stickball games in Queens NY and softball in HS and college.  She started her formal baseball career as an intern with the White Sox and was hired full-time in 1991.  She started out a special projects analyst and was promoted to Assistant Director of Baseball Operations under GM Ron Schueler.  She became the youngest person and first woman to present a salary arbitration case which she won.

In 1997, she moved the the AL offices and was Director of Waivers and Records approving all MLB transactions.  In 1998, she went to work for Brian Cashman as his Assistant GM at age 29.  She is one of 3 women to ever hold the Assistant GM position in MLB.  In 2001, she was hired by the Dodgers as Vice President and Assistant GM under Dan Evans.  The next 4 years working with Evans and Logan White produced some of the most productive drafts in the history of baseball. It was reportedly her idea to convert Kenley Jansen from catching to pitching.  That's maybe not the hardest transition to envision, but it does show she was involved in player development at the micro level and all the way down to the lower levels of the farm system.

Kim interviewed for the Dodgers GM position when Evans left, but lost out to Ned Coletti, which has to be one of the great travesties in the history of baseball hirings.  Colletti kept her on as Assistant GM. Since 2011, she has served as Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations for Major League Baseball under Joe Torre. Over the years, she has interviewed for GM jobs with the Mariners, Padres and Angels.

Look, I don't know who the best person for the Giants GM job is.  Heck, I thought Bobby Evans' processes were OK, which shows how much I know.  I believe Kim Ng is as qualified as anyone and more than most.  She has a wide range of experiences and connections in the sport.  She appears to have an understanding of both "analytics" and scouting.  She is reputed to be whip-smart and is obviously comfortable working and thriving in an environment dominated by men, which  almost automatically puts her in an exceptional category.  That is why I am rooting for Kim Ng to be the next Giants GM, which is not the same as saying she is the best person for the job, because I do not know that about her or anyone else who is applying.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Giants Depth Charts: Centerfield

Mac Williamson, Austin Slater, Steven Duggar.  The Giants have had a string of young OF's get hurt just as they seemed to be settling into a starting role.  Duggar's injury, a dislocation of his left(non-throwing) shoulder, should be one he's fully recovered from by spring training.  Here's how the CF Depth Chart shakes out:

MLB:  1.  Steven Duggar- played plus defense in CF and hit sustainably well with some speed on the basepaths.  Comps to Steve Finley seem legit.  Should be the starter in 2019 unless the Giants sign AJ Pollock and move Duggar to RF.  2.  Gorkys Hernandez- Hit 15 dingers and stole 8 bases last year but fell off badly in the second half with a .162 BA with 4 dingers.  He's an OK 5'th OF but even that could be upgraded.

AAA:  Empty(Peter Bourjos is a FA).

AA:  Ronnie Jebavy- Fine defensive CF, but the bat has never gotten any traction.

A+:  Bryce Johnson- has a knack for getting on base despite close to zero power.  Stole 31 bases for SJ in 2018.  Johneshwy "Tools" Fargas- finally got over the SJ hump with a .288 BA with 8 HR's and 47 SB's.  May be a minor league FA after 6 years in the Giants system.  Should get a shot at AA if the Giants keep him.

Low A:  Heliot Ramos- Held his own at age 18 in a very tough hitting environment.  2017 first round draftee.  Do the Giants move him up to SJ or keep him in Augusta another season? I currently have him as the #2 prospect in the Giants organization.

Short Season:  Aaron Bond- flashed power and speed with 14 dingers and 11 SB's. Intriguing size at 6'5", 195 pounds.  Jose Layer- Career .296 BA in 3 minor league seasons.  Can he carry that up to full season ball in 2019?

Rookie AZL:  Alexander Canario- Very toolsy 18 yo CF.  Got off to a hot start in Arizona flashing power and speed, then cooled off.  Might be better served by staying in camp then going to Salem-Keizer in 2019.  Patrick Hilson- Toolsy HS draftee struggled in his pro debut.  Longterm project.

DSL:  Richgelon Juliana- Love the name. Showed a nice combination of power and speed at age 18 on the DSL.

Free Agents:  AJ Pollock is a guy the Giants might, and probably should, go after in free agency.  If they do, the Giants need a RF with CF speed so either he or Steven Duggar could move over to RF.  Adam Jones and Andrew McCutchen are not really CF's anymore.  If the Giants sign either, it should be to fill a corner OF spot.  The rest of the CF FA class is made up of the Usual Suspects.

Summary:  I haven't really dug into the trade market for CF but it's likely that either Steven Duggar or AJ Pollock are the Giants best options for 2019.  If the do sign Pollock, one of the two should play RF.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Scouting the Free Agent Market: Garrett Richards

Just when you were starting to think DrB is a hopeless curmudgeon who hates all free agents and doesn't think the Giants should sign anyone, here comes my White Whale for this offseason.  Garrett Richards!  After years of nursing along a torn UCL with rehab and plasma-rich platelet(or is it the other way around?) injections he finally gave in to Tommy John surgery late in the season.  That means he is probably not going to pitch at all in 2019, or if he does, in September at the earliest.  That's a bummer for him because this development just happened to come along in his walk year and now he's a free agent who is not going to play in the season following his free agency.

OK, remember I promised more on Johhny Cueto and HIS Tommy John surgery?  Well, it turns out he has 3 things in common with Garrett Richards that should interest the Giants a lot:  1.  They are both ace pitchers when they are healthy.  2.  They are both going to miss all, or at least most, of the 2019 season.  3.  They should both be healthy again in 2020!  Now, I'm not necessarily ready to give up on the 2019 season just yet, but I also am looking ahead to to 2020, 2021 and beyond.  What if, for a modest additional investment, both Johnny Cueto and Garrett Richards were both healthy for Giants uniforms!  Here's the breakdown on Richards:

Performance:  Richards has performed like an ace when he's been healthy which has not been often over the past 3 seasons.  He seemed to be finally healthy to start 2018 and went 5-4 with a 3.66 ERA in 16 Starts with a 10.26 K/9 and a GB/FB of 1.57.  His walk rate was up, but that may have been due to the loose UCL that finally snapped.

Stuff:  Richards has always had premium velocity.  His FB averaged 96 MPH in 2018 and he threw it about 50% of the time.  He also mixed in a slider(39%) and a curveball(11%).

Intangibles:  Full recovery from Tommy John surgery is not a given, but the odds are good enough that if you have a chance to stash an ace like Garrett Richards for a season on thee chance he will be healthy the next, you have to go for it if the price is right.  Which brings us to.....

Price:  The only precedent for this I can think of is last year when Michael Pineda signed with the Twins for 2 years/$10M.  Hey!  It only counts for $5 M against the CBT threshold!  Pineda gets a nice paycheck for the year he is on the DL and the Twins have a pretty good shot at an ace pitcher for 2019.  In a recent MLBTR Chat, the host opined that Richards would probably sign with some team for the same deal Pineda got.  I'm not so sure he won't get a bit more, but even if the Giants had to go 2/$15 with an option/buyout for 2021, man, that's a gamble I'm taking in a heartbeat!

Summary:  The Giants probably should not try to win a bidding war for Garrett Richards, but if the rest of the league is sleeping on him, they need to grab him!  Selling Point:  AT&T Park is a great place for pitchers to rebuild their value.

Come on, Kim!  Get it done!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Giants Depth Charts: Left Field

Left Field was a black hole for the Giants again in 2018.  A total of 6 players manned the position. While some of them played other positions and their numbers are not exclusive to LF, those 6 players combined for an fWAR of -1.5 on the season.  Last year's Opening Day starter, Hunter Pence, is a FA as is Gregor Blanco.  Both are probably done as Giants. At this point there is no clear cut #1 on the Depth Chart(although players who play mainly CF and RF can generally be moved to LF, I will keep the Depth Chart to only those who mainly play LF or are likely to play LF).  

MLB:  1.  Gorkys Hernandez/Mac Williamson/Austin Slater/Chris Shaw.  At this point, LF is essentially an open position. I would say the Giants will definitely make upgrading it priority, but they are in the same boat with CF and RF which may come first on their offseason to-do list.  Of the currently rostered players, I still think Mac is the most likely to have a breakout season and hit 30+ HR's at some point.  He's out of options, so he's going to have to grab the position in spring training or have his breakout with another organization.

AAA:  Dylan Davis has "light-tower" power but it comes with severe contact issues.  Jacob Heyward spent most of 2018 with A+ San Jose and got a brief late season promo to Sacramento.  

AA:  Empty.

A+:  Heath Quinn bounced back from a terrible 2917 with nice numbers in his second stint with San Jose.  He's a big guy with plenty of power potential who also seems to be able to hit for average. Should take the Richmond Challenge in 2019.

Low A:  Ismael Munguia is a scrapper who profiles as more of a 5'th OF type.  Malique Ziegler is more of a CF type but seems to have serious stamina issues and is unlikely to hit for enough power for LF.

Short Season:  Diego Rincones had a tremendous season for Salem-Keizer.  He'll have to prove it tougher hitting environment like probably Augusta next year, but he looks like he may have enough bat for LF.

Rookie AZL:  Kwan Adkins and Randy Norris were college draftees who made their pro debut in rookie ball with mixed results.  They both seem like leadoff/speed types which is not necessarily what you want in a LF.  Undrafted FA Tyler Flores seemed to have some pop in his bat and Zander Clarke has intriguing size at 6'5", 225 lbs.  All 4 mentioned players are major projects at best.

DSL:  Neither Luigi Pichardo nor Jose Hernandez showed much stick in their DSL debuts.  I doubt we'll be seeing either in Arizona in 2019.

Free Agents:  Michael Brantley the oft-injured LF for the Indians and Carlos Gonzalez who is a bit of a Coors Field marvel and appears to be seriously into the downside of his career head a very mediocre LF FA crop.  If the Giants want to upgrade the position, it will likely have to be by trade

Summary:  LF has been a mess for the Giants for several years now.  The future of the position did not gain any clarity in 2018 and remains in desperate need of an upgrade either from in internal player stepping up, or by trade.

Scouting the Free Agent Market: Patrick Corbin

LHP Patrick Corbin is widely regarded as the top FA pitcher in this year's class, and he's coming off a great season for the D'Backs.  He's also relatively young for a FA at age 29.  The Yankees are reportedly hot on his trail and they have money to spend.  He gonna get paid!  Let's break it down:

Performance:  Corbin made 33 starts for the D'Backs totaling 200 IP with a 3.15 ERA, the best of his MLB career by a fairly wide margin.  His career ERA is 3.91.  His K/9 took a huge jump from 8.45 to 11.07 while his BB/9 has dropped over the past 3 seasons from 3.82 to 2.89 to 2.16.  The numbers do not look flukey as the ERA comes with a FIP of 2.47 and an xFIP of 2.61.  It should be noted, however, that his numbers in prior years do not come anywhere near his 2018 performance.

Stuff:  When Corbin entered the league in 2012, he had a standard 3-pitch mix throwing his FB 70% with 15% slider and 15% changeup.  Over the years, the FB use has trended down while the slider use has trended up.  In 2018, he threw the FB 49% and the slider 41%.  He also ditched his changeup for a curveball defying the notion that a LHP has to have a changeup to keep LH hitters honest.  He remains a groundball heavy pitcher with a GB/FB of 1.79.  Red Flag:  Avg. FB velocity dropped from 92.4 to 90.8 in 2018.

Intangibles:  I don't know of any personality or clubhouse issues with Corbin.  He seemed to be particularly tough on the Giants(who wasn't, I guess) with a 2.27 ERA.  The Yankees have a particularly need for LH SP's to protect that short porch in RF.  Think about it.  All great Yankee teams have had great LH SP's from Whitey Ford to Ron Guidry to Andy Pettite.

Summary:  Someone is going to overpay for Patrick Corbin and his career year.  That someone is likely to be the Yankees.  He has several "Red Flags" which would make me stay away:  1.  Coming off a career year.  2.  Drop in FB velocity.  3.  Dependence on the slider.  I say you live by the slider, you die by the slider.  The Giants should just stay away.

Prediction:  Signs with the Yankees for 5 years/$90 M, maybe more.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Armchair GM: Madison Bumgarner Trade/No Trade Smackdown

I have been openly intrigued by the idea of trading Madison Bumgarner since last offseason when I first proposed the idea.  I don't know if I was the first blogger to propose it, but I think I was at least riding shotgun on that bandwagon.  Since then, I have spent way too much of my time thinking about it from every angle.  I've put together numerous hypothetical trades(BTW, it's way hard to make those realistic.  You almost always end up either undervaluing your guy to get the other team to agree or you end up overvaluing to the point where the other team would hang up).  I've scripted the outcome if the Giants don't trade him.  Out of all that, I just know one thing for sure:  The Giants should not, SHOULD NOT, give Madison Bumgarner the kind of large, longterm extension it will take to keep him in a Giants uniform for his career!  So before we get to the smackdown, we'll stipulate that there is no 9 figure contract with the Giants in Bummy's future.

Resolved:  The Giants should trade Madison Bumgarner this offseason.

This side of the argument rests on two pillars:  1.  The Giants will not be competitive for postseason baseball in 2019.  2.  The Giants will lose Madison Bumgarner after the 2019 season for close to nothing in return.  If you believe in both of those two pillars, the decision is easy.  Bummy gets traded.   There are enough teams out there who are likely to think they are 1 ace pitcher away from a ring to start a bidding war and bring back MLB ready prospects who will not only jumpstart the rebuild, but might be enough of an immediate talent upgrade to make them competitive in 2019!  Here are just 2 possible trade scenarios I have thought of.   They aren't perfect, so don't start throwing the rotten tomatoes, but I think they are close enough to realistic to give us an idea of what is possible:

Trade #1:  Madison Bumgarner to the Brewers for 2B Keston Hiura, OF Domingo Santana, RHP Aaron Brooks and C Jacob Nottingham.  Brewers window of contention is obviously now.  They desperately need an ace pitcher but don't want to pay a lot.  Giants immediately upgrade the bat at 2B(though probably not the glove), a starting OF with power and speed an MLB ready SP and depth at C.

Trade #2:  Madison Bumgarner to the Phillies for OF Odubel Herrera, RHP Enyel De Los Santos, RHP Adonis Medina, LHP David Parkinson.  Phillies think their time is now and are making noise about signing Bryce Harper.  Rotation was a weak spot after Aaron Nola and Bumgarner would make a nice LHP bookend the top of their rotation.  Herrera's production has slipped but is on a very team-friendly contract through 2021 with 2 option years.  The Giants also get a big upgrade on a nearly barren pitching side of their bullpen.  De Los Santos could step into the rotation immediately or be a nice multi-inning reliever.

Other teams who might be in the market for a cheap ace pitcher for 1 year and have multiple good prospects to trade are the Yankees, Braves and Oakland A's.


Resolved:  The Giants should not trade Madison Bumgarner this offseason:

This side of the argument also rests on 2 pillars:  1.  The Giants can put together a contending team for 2019.  2.  An Ace pitcher on a cheap 1 year contract is not a bad thing.

Look, there is a reason why Madison Bumgarner has serious trade value.   Think about it this way:  Would you rather have an ace pitcher on a 6 year/$150 M contract or a 1 year $12 M contract?  I think about 30/30 GM's would pick door #2 there.  Besides, there is no guarantee that any of the your players you might get in return in a trade will pan out.  If the Giants think they can contend in 2019, you are not going to find a better SP on a more favorable contract than Madison Bumgarner.  You upgrade the OF and rest of the rotation through FA and/or trades, hope for good health from a few players and Voila!  You're a contender!  At the end of the season, you make a QO.  If Bummy accepts, you have him for another year without a longterm commitment.  If not, you re-allocate the money and are a year closer to being out from under CBT hell. Plus, you have Johnny Cueto back from TJ surgery(more on that in future posts).

Conclusion:  If the Giants are serious about building a contending team in 2019, they should keep Madison Bumgarner.  If they don't think they can contend in 2019, they should trade him.  That's a big decision!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Giants Depth Charts: Shortstop

Brandon Crawford has 3 years left on his 5 yr/$60 M contract.  He can still pick it at SS so he isn't going anywhere soon.  The bat is worrisome as he finished the season with almost identical marks as 2017 after being close to the hottest hitter in baseball in May and June.  Whether that was due to nagging injuries or his swing is notoriously dependent on timing and just got out of synch we may not know for sure.  I guess the hot streak is encouraging but the collapse afterward is just the opposite.  We should probably expect future seasons to be more like 2017 and 2018 than 2015 and 2016.  On to the Depth Chart:

MLB:  1.  Brandon Crawford- See above.  2.  Alen Hanson- Hanson is OK to fill in occasionally, but if he had to play the position for long stretches, would probably be a defensive disaster.  3. Abiatal Avelino- recent acquisition from the Yankees for Andrew McCutchen.  Has some defensive chops but the bat needs more salt.  Will probably start the season in AAA.

AAA:  Orlando Calixte is on the River Cats roster, but I believe he is a minor league FA.

AA:  Ryan Howard and CJ Hinojosa are interchangeable middle infielders who should both move up to AAA unless the Giants sign some MLB depth to stash there.  One of them could move to 3B so they and Avelino can all play at the same time.

A+:  Brandon Van Horn has a nice glove but the bat has a long way to go.  May not be ready for AA.  Kelvin Beltre has played SS, 3B and 2B.  His big need is to stay healthy.

Low A:  Manuel Geraldo finally conquered the SAL and seems ready for the challenge of higher levels.  I've been high on his potential for a long time, but he has been a slow developer.  Abdiel Layer got a late callup but may start next season back in camp.

Rookie AZL:  Nico Giarratano is a defensive SS from USF who put up decent offensive numbers for S-K.  I expect to see his name in the Greenjackets boxscores next season.  Jett Manning is a defensive SS from Alabama who did not show much stick in his pro debut.

Rookie AZL:  Not much to get excited about at this level.  Marcos Campos, Francisco Medina, Enoc Watts and Edison Mora failed to distinguish themselves.

DSL:  Ghordy Santos has had two seasons in which he couldn't hit his way out of a paper bag for 2 months then got hot in August.  Is that enough to get him a ticket to Arizona?  He has a high-ceiling vibe about him.  Jean Pena was hot early then cooled off but hit 6 dingers, which is a lot for a DSL player.

Marco Luciano was signed on July 2 as a SS.  He is already the #3 prospect in the Giants system on my list.  I expect him to skip the DSL and start next season in Arizona. Augusta would be an extremely aggressive placement and probably not best for his development.

Free Agents:  Manny Machado(26) obviously heads the list.  Freddy Galvis is probably the most interesting other name.  Other's include Alcides Escobar(30), Adeiny Hechiaverria(30), Jose Iglesias(29), Jordy Mercer(32), Eduardo Escobar(30).

Summary:  It's hard to imagine anyone but Brandon Crawford playing SS for the Giants over the next 3 seasons.  It might be time for him to think about changing his hairstyle, though.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Scouting the Free Agent Market: AJ Pollock

The Giants almost certainly need to add at least one veteran OF to roster this offseason.  While you can make a case for bounceback seasons from each of the incumbent infielders, and thus Stay the Course, I don't think any reasonable analyst would recommend starting the season with Mac Williamson, Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar and Austin Slater competing for 3 OF spots if the Giants wish to compete for a postseason berth in 2019.  Bryce Harper is obviously the dominant presence in the free agent market, and I am sure the Giants are going to do more than kick the tires on him, there are many reasons on both sides why Harper may not come to SF, not the least of which is there will be at least 10 other teams doing more than kicking tires on him.

The other clear upgrade on the market is AJ Pollock, long time Arizona D'Back.  Pollock is 31 yo.  He plays a league average CF.  He bats RH and hits for both power and speed.  Pollock had a big breakout season in 2015 in which he hit 20 HR's and stole 39 bases and ran up a fWAR of 6.8.  Since then he has been beset by a string of injuries:  A fractured elbow, a groin strain, and last year an avulsion fracture in his wrist or hand while trying to make a diving catch. The elbow fracture limited him to just 12 games in 2015.  He played 112 and 113 games in 2017 and 2018 respectively with fWAR's of 2.2 and 2.5. He was leading the NL in fWAR when he went down with the injury in mid-May of 2018.  Let's break it down further:

Hitting:  Pollock is part of the Launch Angle Revolution as his GB/FB has dropped from 1.74 in 2015 to 1.10 last year.  At the same time, his IsoP has climbed from .182 to .228.  This, in spite of the humidor in Chase Field which has suppressed overall HR's by about 1/3.  At the same time, Pollock sacrificed BA, OBP and BABIP falling from .302 to .257, .353 to .316 and .338 to .284 respectively.  Pollock is a pull hitter with the majority of his HR's coming to LF, which may play well in AT&T Park.

Defense:  Pollock was once a plus defensive CF.  That has slipped to about league average with age.  He hits well enough to play a corner if needed.

Baserunning:  Pollock's SB's have fallen dramatically from a high of 39 in 2015 to 13 last year which may project to about 20 with 600 PA's.  He's still as asset on the basepaths and would help the Giants move away from station-to-station baseball.

Intangibles:  I am not aware of any red flags or off-field issues with Pollock.  The injury history gives pause, but each injury seems like an isolated event which he should be fully recovered from.  Of course, there is always the issue of whether top FA hitters will come to SF because of the park.

Cost:  Pollock will not cost anything close to what Bryce Harper or Manny Machado will command.  First, he is 5 years older and is coming off 3 consecutive years of missed time due to injury.  On the other hand, he is the only OF on the market other than Harper and possibly Andrew McCutchen who is not a member of the Usual Suspects club. which means there will be at least 1 team willing to overpay.  I'll project a 5 yr/$75 M contract.

Summary:  The Giants should, and likely will, do more than just kick tires on AJ Pollock.  Although I am not thrilled with the idea of adding another longterm 8 digit contract to a player over 30 yo, the Giants might have to if they want to compete in 2019.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Giants Depth Charts: Third Base

For better or worse, Evan Longoria seems entrenched as the Giants 3'rd baseman for the next 4 seasons.  That's right, 4 seasons!  Then the Giants owe him a buyout if they want to make a change for the 2023 season.  Yep, I said 2023!  On the other hand, the Giants don't have any 3B prospects to speak of at a higher level than Low A, so maybe it's just as well.  Here's the 3B Depth Chart:

MLB:  1.  Evan Longoria- The starting 3B unless injured or traded.... for the next 4 seasons.  I actually think after a year of acclimation to NL pitchers and a full season of health, he could be pretty good next year.  2.  Alen Hanson- He's versatile.  3. Ryder Jones- He'll probably start the season in Sacramento for more seasoning.  Pablo Sandoval is listed as a FA although I think the Giants may have some sort of option on him.  Red Sox are on the hook for all but MLB minimum of his salary.

AAA:  Empty.

AA:  Jonah Arenado-  tremendous power potential, but has yet to show it's usable in games.  Bigger than his older bro and may end up at 1B, IF the bat ever comes around.  Ryan Howard and CJ Hinojosa likely could play 3B defensively, but don't have ideal power for the position.

A+:  Wander Franco was the starter all season but I believe he is a minor league FA.  Kelvin Beltre is listed on the roster as a SS, but has played 3B in the past.

Low A:  Jacob Gonzalez had a terrible first full pro season in Augusta.  Too early to give up on him though.  Manuel Geraldo was the starting SS  but has played 3B in the past.  He probably does not have enough bat for the position a the MLB level.  40'th round draft pick Abdiel Layer had a fine debut in Arizona but went 0 for 11 after late promo to Augusta. He also played SS in Arizona.

Short Season:  David Villar- Here's where we start getting into some serious 3B prospects.  Villar showed as much bat as Joey Bart in his pro debut.  I project him to start next season in San Jose.

Rookie AZL:  Sean Roby- Strong pro debut, out of JC ball.  Probably ticketed for Augusta next season.  Yorlis Rodriguez- 18 yo from Cuba had a terrific pro debut for Giants Orange.  There is a bit of a logjam for Giants 3B prospects here but it probably layers out with Vilar in SJ, Roby in Augusta and YRod in Salem-Keizer.

DSL:  Luis Toribio- Toribio started of red hot for the DSL Giants then tailed off a bit.  He probably bought himself a ticket to Arizona next season, especially now that the Giants have two teams there.

Free Agents:  Manny Machado(see last post), Mike Moustakas?, Josh Donaldson, Asdrubal Cabrera, Adrian Beltre.

Summary:  Short of signing Manny Machado and finding some creative way to jettison Longoria, I'd say it's going to be Longoria next season, with a decent chance for a modest bounceback.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Scouting the Free Agent Market: Manny Machado

Manny Machado is the other elite free agent in this year's class.  Like Bryce Harper, he is 26 years old and has accumulated an fWAR of 30.2 to Harper's 30.7.  Machado has played more 3B in his career than SS, but has played mostly SS this year.  While Harper had that one season of 9.3 fWAR, Machado's peak season was 6.6 in 2015 but has put up 2 others of more than 6.0 and another of 5.0.  Given is age and WAR record, you have to think that Machado can expect to receive every bit as much in free agency as Harper, which will likely be much more than any free agent has received in the past.  So, let's break it down:

Hitting:  Machado bats RH.  He has averaged 35 HR's over the past 4 seasons, 3 more than Harper.  His BA has ranged from .259 to .297.  If you look at his spray chart, he's a pull hitter with the vast majority of his HR's coming between the LF foul pole and the middle of the L-CF power alley, which could play quite well in AT&T Park.

Fielding:  Machado is a better defensive 3B than SS, but he's not a disaster at SS and he gets extra WAR points for playing the tougher position.  How much longer he is passable at SS is questionable and he will almost certainly move to 3B before his contract is up.(He grades out significantly better at SS by UZR and fWAR then dWAR).

Baserunning:  Machado stole 20 bases in 2015, 0 in 2016, 9 in 2017 and 14 in 2018.  Stealing is not likely to be a significant part of his game going forward, but he should still be an asset on the basepaths.

Intangibles:  I don't know much about Machado's reputation in the clubhouse.  He did demand to play SS this season even though he is a better defender at 3B, which may indicate he is more interested in himself than the team.  On the other hand, it was the Orioles he demanded it of.  Machado has his own injury history with identical ligament tears repaired by surgery in each knee early in his career.  He has been mostly healthy for the past 4 seasons.

Price:  By the numbers, Manny Machado should be right there with Bryce Harper who is rumored to be seeking over $500 M.  For some reason, there has not been quite as much buzz about Machado's free agency as Harper's.  If Machado signs for significantly less than Harper, that would make him a relative bargain.  He also profiles as a much better fit for AT&T Park than Harper.  The Giants may not be as inclined to go after Machado because they already have players signed longterm for SS and 3B.  On the other hand, if you really think Machado is enough of a game-changer and franchise player to invest a half-billion dollars in, you should not let Brandon Crawford or Evan Longoria get in the way of a deal.  Machado would be a better fit at 3B for the Giants because they would want to keep Crawfords's defense at SS.  I believe Machado is a long shot to sign with the Giants for all the same reasons as Harper is, but I think he would be a better signing for the Giants than Harper, much as I am a Bryce fan.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Giants Dept Charts: Second Base

It feels like the Giants are at a crossroads at 2B as their starter since 2014, Joe Panik, had a very rough year marred once again by injuries.  Alen Hanson filled in during 2 DL stints and added an element of enthusiasm and speed to the lineup.  Panik is arbitration eligible and made $3.4 M last year and figures to make more in 2019.  2018 was the first season he has brought back less than $10 M in value, so do the Giants want to see if he can bounce back or do they cut bait and go in a different direction?  Here's the current Depth Chart:

MLB:  1.  Joe Panik- Hit dingers in the first two games which resulted in 1-0 wins over the Dodgers.  A sprained thumb required surgery.  After spending May on the DL, he struggled to find his groove again.  He had another DL stint for a groin strain in July.  His BA rebounded over the last 2 months but with zero power.  He had just 7 XBH's, all doubles, over the last 3 months of the season.  2.  Alen Hanson- Hanson was terrific in May, June and July, but slumped badly over the last 2 months.  Do the Giants give up on Panik and turn 2B over to Hanson after that?  3. Chase d'Arnaud- Much travelled AAAA player who put up good numbers for Sacramento.  He got off to a nice start after his callup to the Giants, then slumped badly.  4. Abiatal Avelino- acquired in the Andrew McCutchen trade.  Has an arm that can play at SS and has some speed.  The bat is iffy and likely not MLB ready.  5.  Kelby Tomlinson- a rough season for Kelby who may be nearing the end of his Giants tenure.

AAA:  Empty(I believe Orlando Calixte is a minor league FA).

AA:  Ryan Howard- has played mostly SS but many scouts project him as a 2B at the MLB level.  CJ Hinojosa- Similar player to Howard and both have played both MI positions.  Both should probably move up to AAA in 2019.

A+:  Jalen Miller- Solid 2'nd season in San Jose for Miller at age 21. Should move up to AA in 2019.

Low A:  Orlando Garcia- Augusta is a tough place to hit even for college draftees.  Garcia did show some pop with 8 dingers and some speed with 9 SB's.  Shane Matheny- Very disappointing season at the plate for Matheny.  I thought his bat was better than that.

Short Season:  Kyle McPherson- .312 BA with 7 HR's for McPherson for S-K.  Most likely moves up to Augusta next season where life is much tougher for hitters.

Rookie AZL:  Jose Rivero- 4'th pro season.  No pop.   Hit .271 but SLG% was .289.  2 XBH's out of 31 H.  Anyesber Sivira- 18 yo DSL graduate.  Has shown nice OBP skills at both levels with some gap power.

DSL:  Andrew Caraballo and Martin Doria were holdovers from 2017.   17 yo Jose Peralta hit just .211 in 38 AB's.

Potential Free Agent Signees(Age):  Brian Dozier(32), Marwin Gonzalez(30), DJ LeMahieu(30), Daniel Murphy(34), Jed Lowrie(35).  Dozier will be expensive and is probably already on the downside of his career.  LeMahieu has brutal home/road splits out of Coors Field.  Gonzalez is versatile and is probably more of a utility player.  Murphy is probably not a good fit for the community.  If the Giants want to replace Panik, they'll probably have to do it by trade.

It sure feels like Joe Panik is on the hot seat, but the Giants best bet is probably to hold him and hope for a bouncback which is not unreasonable to hope for given how important thumbs are to hitting.  The Giants have to hope for a full season of health, which has been a challenge for Panik who has suffered a variety of injuries ranging from a stress reaction in his spine to a concussion to the thumb injury.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Scouting the Free Agent Market: Bryce Harper

I've been battling a bit of writer's block since the end of the season.  Since we have a break between the end of the season and the beginning of the "offseason" with the Giants shut out of the postseason, I thought I would post some thoughts on some of the free agents who will be available this offseason. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are the cream of this year's crop and are both as good as you are ever going to find on the free agent market....ever!  The similarities are striking: They are both 26 years old, about as young as you are going to get for a free agent and both have put up just over 30 fWAR so far in their career.  There are differences too as one is an OF, the other an IF.  One hit LH, the other RH. We'll start with Bryce Harper:

Bryce Harper's free agency has been long anticipated and widely expected to set records for payout.  He's still young enough for GM's to believe his best years are still ahead of him and he has enough talent to carry a team for a full season as his 9.3 fWAR from 2015 testifies.  On the other hand, he has been slowed by nagging injuries and inexplicable slumps with 4.8 being the second highest fWAR of his MLB career.  Let's break it down a bit further:

Hitting;  He's averaged 32 HR's over his last 4 seasons.  His career slash line is .279/.388/.512.  while his overall BA was down in 2018, he rebounded with a .300 in the second half after a near-disastrous .214 in the first half.  Going forward, he should remain a top power hitter for 8-10 years.  One word of caution:  On top of AT&T Park's general hostility to HR's and LH batters in general, a look at Bryce Harper's Spray Chart shows a large cluster around R-CF, which also happens to be Triples Alley in AT&T AKA Death Valley for HR's.

Baserunning:  Harper's SB's rebounded to 13 in 2018, but SB's do not figure to be a significant part of his game going forward.

Fielding:  Harper's UZR/150 slumped to -16.7 in 2018.  It is unclear if this was due to an injury of some sort or just the normal SSS variation of UZR or if this represents an inflection point in his career.  If it is the latter, you would worry about his ability to cover RF in AT&T Park.

Intangibles:  Harper has clashed with both teammates and opponents at times, but he plays the game with passion and intensity and there is no evidence that he is considered a bad teammate or a disruptive force in the clubhouse.  He has expressed admiration for the Giants organization and for the city of San Francisco in the past.  I don't think he would be scared off by the park, although the park's configuration is essentially 180 degrees opposite of what would enhance his value.  In fact, he might regard it as a challenge!  A bigger factor may be that after a lot of near-misses in Washington, he may not want to try to pick up an aging core in San Francisco then be the elder statesman after the current core moves on. In other words, he will likely choose a situation where he is more likely to get a ring.

Price:  Harper has a good chance to become the highest paid free agent in baseball history.  Recent speculation has put his asking price above $500 M.  Once upon a time, the Giants signed Barry Bonds to the largest FA contract in baseball history.  That worked out well for them.  Recent mega-deals for A-Rod, Albert Pujols and Giancarlo Stanton have not worked out so well for the signing teams.  While I absolutely love Bryce Harper as a player, there are already hints that his career may have peaked.  A contract the size he will almost certainly receive is likely to end up with a maldistribution of the signing team's financial resources, although the Giants indicated a willingness to take on just such a contract when they made a serious attempt to trade for Giancarlo Stanton last winter. Given their serious and seemingly intractable needs in the OF, I expect the Giants to do more than just kick the tires on Bryce Harper.

Giants Dept Chart: First Base

Brandon Belt is another core Giant signed to a large longterm contract who is coming off an injury marred season which ended in surgery.  In Belt's case. one of the injuries was not really in injury, but appendicitis which required emergency surgery.  Later he hyperextended his knee which ultimately required season ending surgery.  Belt actually got off to a great start to the season hitting .316 in April and .314 in May with 11 HR's in the 2 months.  He went out with appendicitis on June 2.  His numbers plunged after that and never recovered.  After his season ended, the Giants tried Austin Slater and Aramis Garcia at 1B with mixed results.  Here is the Depth Chart:

MLB:  1.  Brandon Belt- Belt remains the most polarizing Giants player among the fanbase.  He drives me crazy watching him bat too, but when he is healthy, he puts up numbers that cannot be argued with.  While it is true this was his second injury-marred campaign in a row, both situations are ones he should fully recover from with no reason to suspect they will seriously hamper him in the future.  2.  Buster Posey- The plan seems to be for Buster to catch again next season coming off his own season-ending surgery.  A potential dilemma for the Giants is a scenario where Buster can't catch anymore.  His only other position is 1B which is occupied by Belt.  3.  Austin Slater- Slater struggled on defense when he played 1B and does not have enough power for the position.  4. Aramis Garcia- Garcia has the power and he could play both C and 1B, but his bat probably needs a bit more salt in AAA.  5.  Ryder Jones- Jones has an intriguing bat and can give plus D at 3B and 1B. He still has not quite put it all together at the plate.  Needs more seasoning.

AAA:  Empty

AA:  Jonah Arenado- intriguing bat and pedigree but still has long way to go.  John Riley- Very slow developing prospect who started his pro career as a catcher.  Light tower power, but struggles to make contact.

A+:  Gio Brusa- Lots of power, but contact is an issue and his career seems to have stalled in San Jose.

Low A:  Ryan Kirby- just completed his 3'rd season for Augusta.  Is he the Mayor of Augusta yet? The bat just isn't quite there.

Short Season:  Wander Franco(The Younger)- Nice numbers in a hitter's league but is Rule 5 draft eligible.  Robinson Medrano- Has some power but development has been way too slow.  I think he is eligible for minor league free agency.

Rookie AZL:  Frankie Tostado- Love the bat.   Let's see what he can do at higher levels.  Angeddy Almanzar- Had a nice pro debut in the DSL in 2016, but has struggled in Arizona the last 2 seasons. Candidate for release.  Beicker Mendoza- Bat came alive in his 3'rd Arizona season.

DSL:  Ismael Alcantara- $300 K bonus baby.  First pro season ended after 6 AB due to injury.  He probably played well enough in 2018 for a promotion to Arizona.  Samuel Jorge- Improved his numbers from 2017 at age 19.

Free Agents:  Matt Adams, Luca Duda, Marwin Gonzalez, Mark Reynolds, Hanley Ramirez.

Summary:  Not a lot of great options besides Belt.  Giants best bet is probably to sit tight with Brandon Belt and hope he can stay healthy for a full season.  Potential for drama if Buster Posey can no longer catch.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Giants Depth Chart: Catcher

We'll start off the offseason discussion by doing our annual Giants Depth Chart series which helps focus on talent the Giants currently have in the organization and how far away prospects are at given positions.

Despite all the happy talk coming out of the Giants organization about what to expect from Buster Posey post hip surgery, they are suddenly facing uncertainties at the position they have not had to deal with since Buster took over the position.  Maybe he will be ready for Opening Day, be as good as new and catch for another 4 seasons, but the Giants would be foolish to not have a backup plan.  So with that happy thought behind us, let's look at the Giants current depth chart.

MLB:  1. Buster Posey(coming off surgery).  2.   Aramis Garcia- Showed impressive power and hit tool in a September callup, but also 48% K rate(30% in AAA).  Probably needs at least another half-season in AAA.

AAA:  Empty

AA:  Matt Winn- I've seen high marks for leadership.  Flashes power, but bat is inconsistent.

A+:  Chris Corbett-  Seems to fit a defensive C profile.  Probably an organizational player.  2.  Tanner Murphy- Ditto Chris Corbett.

Low A:  1.  Rob Calabrese- Bat has been disappointing so far.  2.  Tim Dal Porto- Don't know much about him.  Seems to have been signed as an undrafted FA.  3.  Jeffry Parra- a longterm project.  Unclear if the bat will develop.  Showed occasional pop.  Expect him to repeat Augusta.

Short Season:  1. Joey Bart- Bart got off to a nice start to his pro career in Salem-Keizer, but S-K is a hitter friendly environment.  I expect him to start 2019 in San Jose and could be in AA by the end of the season if the bat plays.  Development timetable might have to be speeded up depending on the outcome of Buster's surgery.  2.  Ricardo Genoves- Another longterm project.  Hit .243 for S-K at age 19.  Should move up to full season ball in Augusta in 2019.

Rookie AZL:  1.  Fabian Pena- 25'th round draft pick out of Manhattan college.  Hit an impressive .309 with 5 dingers in his pro debut, player in rookie ball.  2.  Andres Angulo- spent 2 seasons in the DSL and hit .346 in his second AZL season.  3.  Angel Guzman- 18 yo drafted in round  21 out of PR HS.  Hit a nice .289 with .418 OBP in his pro debut.  4.  Braden Frankfort- 32'nd round draft pick out of Fresno Pacific.  Hit .250 in his pro debut, but in rookie ball.  5. Cody Brickhouse- HS draftee from 2015.  This was his 4'th season in the AZL.

DSL:  1.  Rodolfo Bone- From Nicaragua.  Hit .317 in his pro debut.  He's got the name, he's got the scouting reports.  He's got the bat.  Yes, yes and yes!  Get him to Arizona ASAP!  2. Keyberth Mejias- BA improved from .190 to .256 with 4 dingers from 2017 to 2018.  3.  Cesar Gonzalez- 17 yo. Hit .270 in just 37 AB's.  4.  Omar Medina- BA improved from .213 to .235 in 2'nd DSL season.

Available Free Agents:  Yasmani Grandal(30), Nick Hundley(35), Jonathan Lucroy(33), Martin Maldanado(32), Devin Mesoraco(31), Wilson Ramos(31), Rene Rivera(35), Kurt Suzuki(35), Matt Wieters(33).

Most likely bet is the Giants just re-sign Nick Hundley and try to find a minor league sign as a back up plan should Buster Posey not be ready to start the season.  Yasmani Grandal would be an upgrade even on Buster Posey, but will be expensive and he probably does not want to compete with Buster for catching time. Grandal will likely re-sign with the Dodgers.  Maldanado, Rivera and Suzuki are all affordable options who might be better than Hundley.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Fantasy Focus: 2018 Savvy Vets Recap

In the Q/A, someone asked about fantasy baseball recaps.  I finally posted an answer last night, but in the process thought it deserved a post of it's own, so here it is.  Our league switched to a Keeper system in which we were allowed to keep 4 players, 2 hitters and 2 pitchers.  My Keepers were OF Bryce Harper, 3B Nolan Arenado, SP Madison Bumgarner and RP Edwin Diaz.  I traded Mookie Betts late last year for Bumgarner.  Oof!  Harper and Arenado were good this year, but Mookie was fantastic!  Here is my Auction list:

Freddie Freeman 1B, 3B- $54.
Dee Gordon 2B, SS, OF- $38.
Jose Berrios SP- $5.
Welington Castillo C- $6.
Kyle Hendricks SP- $20.
Jon Lester SP- $12.
Domingo Santana OF- $7.
Zack Godley SP- $17.
Blake Snell SP- $3.
Kendrys Morales 1B- $2.
Carlos Santana 1B, 3B, OF- $10.
Kelvin Herrera RP- $16.
Gregory Polanco OF- $4.
Garrett Richards SP- $7.
Addison Russell SS- $12.
Cam Bedrosian RP- $4.
Archie Bradley RP- $6.
Justin Bour 1B- $2.
Hunter Strickland RP- $1.
Josh Bell 1B- $10.
AJ Minter RP- $1.
Jakob Junis SP- $1.

I was way too conservative early in the draft and ended up leaving $22 on the table.

Savvy Vets was a great team at the start of the season and led the league around midseason.  Then injuries and poor performances especially on the pitching side started to take their toll.  Finished regular season in 3'rd place.  Got bumped from the playoffs in the first round and ended up 6'th.

Final Roster:

C Wilson Ramos
1B Mitch Moreland
2B Dee Gordon
3B  Freddie Freeman
SS Tim Anderson
IF  Ben Zobrist
OF Bryce Harper
OF Carlos Santana
OF  Kyle Schwarber
UT  Nolan Arenado
UT  Jurickson Profar
NA Eloy Jimenez
SP  Kyle Hendricks
SP  Matt Harvey
SP  Steven Matz
SP  Miles Mikolas
SP  Tyler Skaggs
RP Seranthony Dominguez
RP Hector Rondon
RP  Edwin Diaz
P    Will Smith
P    Blake Snell
BN Derek Holland
BN  Jhoulys Chacin
BN  Dereck Rodriguez
BN  Madison Bumgarner
BN  Joe Musgrove

I use my bench as an extended SP rotation.