Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hot Stove Update: Giants Extend Lopez, Pick Up Affeldt's Option

The Giants fired up the ol' hot stove with a pair of moves that will undoubtedly leave self-styled sabermetricians throughout the blogosphere tearing their hair out by the roots with much weeping and gnashing of teeth. The first announcement was the signing of LH reliever Javier Lopez to a 2 year, $8.5 M extension. At that point most observers, including Affedt himself assumed that the Giants would not pick up his $5 M option and buy him out for $500 K. Instead, a second announcement came down within minutes that Affeldt's option had been picked up! This actually should not have been surprising. Let me explain.

For the second year in a row, the team with the deepest bullpen won the World Series. While relievers may not put up impressive WAR numbers, I believe a strong case can be made that their value is not adequately measured by WAR. Let's take Closer position as one example. If you go simply by WAR and other numbers, almost anybody can close. I real life though, we know that is not true. One doesn't have to look any farther than the years between the Robb Nen era and the Brian Wilson era to know the value of a top tier closer to a team. I agree that Saves are not a good measure of a Closer's effectiveness, but think of Blown Saves. The difference between 4 BS and 6 BS is 2 full games that are almost solely the responsibilty of the Closer, 2 WAR points if you will. Yet, those 2 extra Blown Saves don't show up as a difference of anything close to 2 WAR in Fangraphs.

This year is a thin year for free agents all around, as every year is seeming to become, but no position is thinner than LH reliever. Here's a list of FA LH relievers not including Lopez:

Mike Gonzalez
John Grabow
Damaso Marte
Trevor Miller
Darren Oliver
Arthur Rhodes- $4 M option with $200 K buyout.
JC Romero
George Sherrill
Brian Tallet

See what I mean? If either Lopez or Affeldt, arguably better pitchers than any of the names on that list, were allowed to hit the open market, there is almost no chance the Giants could retain them for what they paid today. At worst, the Giants paid market value, probably a bit less, possibly a lot less.

There are significantly more LH batters in baseball than LH pitchers. This is due to a long term trend for more and more players who are naturally RH dominant to learn to hit LH in their formative years to take advantage of the relative overabundance of RH pitchers. It is easier to learn to bat opposite your dominant side than the throw from the opposite side. Thus, the ratio of RH to LH pitchers approximates the percentage of handedness in the general population, whereas there are significantly more LH batters than would occur naturally in the general population. Cody Ross and Ryan Ludwick are the only batters who I can think of who cross over the other way. The vast majority of switch hitters throw RH. 50 of the top 100 OPS's in MLB in 2011 were compiled by either LH batters or switch-hitters. Most switch hitters are better hitting LH because they face so many more RH pitchers. On the other side of the coin, just 24 of the top 93 ERA's belonged to LH pitchers. Baseball is a game of repetition and recognition. The least common matchup is a LH batter facing a LH pitcher. Guess who usually wins that battle!

Now, take a look at the R vs L splits for Affeldt and Lopez and you start to understand why having them in the bullpen to face those LH batters late in game is so important. It's not like Affeldt and Lopez are pure LOOGY's either. Lopez struggled against RH batters a bit more in 2011 but Affeldt had a respectable 3.22 ERA against them. Both pitchers have historically held their own against RH batters even though their greatest value is admittedly in getting LH batters out in key situations late in the game. The value you get from those key outs in high stress situations is almost certainly undervalued by WAR.

If the Giants had failed to retain Affeldt and Lopez they would have lost possibly their greatest advantage over opposing teams, the ability to shut down LH batters late in games. It's not like they could replace them with pitchers who were less well known or slightly less accomplished. There simply was no alternative available on the market!

One thing that a lot of Giants fans still don't understand about Brian Sabean is that if he makes a definitive statement about something, you can generally take it to the bank. He may talk in cliche'd phrases like "kick the tires", "due diligence" and "at the end of the day" when he wants to be evasive, but when he said he would take care of the pitching first, you had to know that's exactly what he would do and probably what he has to do if the Giants are to contend for another championship.

One other way of looking at this is in trade value. Even if the Giants ultimately can't afford $9.25 M for two LH relievers, they can get something in return in trade whereas they would get nothing and have no replacement if they just let them go. Both pitchers are now under contract at or below market value. Given the scarcity of good LH relievers on the market, that they are now very valuable potential trade chips.

One more point: I knew as soon as I saw the Lopez announcement that the Giants would be picking up Affeldt's option. Why? Because the Lopez signing essentially set the market for Affeldt. I'm not sure why a lot of Giants fans are grumbling more about Affeldt's deal than Lopez'. Look at the numbers. Affeldt is simply a better pitcher and more versatile. As soon as it was announced that Lopez would be getting $4.25 M, you knew Affeldt was immediately worth more than the $5 M in his option. At worst, the Giants could pick up the option and trade him. At best, they have two of the better LH relievers in the game, a position that is grossly underrated in value by most sabermetric analysts, at or below a market value that may or may not be overvalued.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Down on the Farm: Second Base Depth Chart

Before we get started there is an interesting audio interview, Michael Urban with Brian Sabean on CSN Bay Area. Listen and draw your own conclusions. My take? Don't be shocked at a blockbuster trade involving a pitcher.

With Freddy Sanchez and whoever is going to back him up, the Giants are relatively set at the MLB level. Freddy likely won't be around in 2013, so the Giants need to be thinking about who might take his place as the Giants 2B of the future, or whether they will continue to sign mid-market stopgaps to play the position. Let's take a look:


Brock Bond 5'11", 185 lbs, B-S, T-R, BD: 9/11/1985. .246/.338/.333. Bond only played in 19 games before suffering a concussion and missed the rest of the season. Brock has been a favorite of Giants prospect watchers for some time due to his high BA's and ability to draw walks and get on base. The rap on him is he's a bad fielder with limited range and a weak arm.

Conor Gillaspie 6'1", 195 lbs, B-L, T-R, BD: 7/18/1987. .297/.389/.453, 11 HR. I don't think Gillaspie played one inning at 2B, but he took some grounders there while up with the MLB club. He's out of options, so the Giants have to find a MLB role for him or else expose him to waivers thanks to the de-facto MLB contract they agreed to after he was drafted in 2008. His offensive game is more suited to 2B, but having seen him play 3B, it's hard for me to imagine him being even passable at 2B. He may be a tweener in the he may not quite well enough to be a third baseman but might not be able to field the position at 2B.


Charlie Culberson 6'1", 200 lbs. B-R, T-R. BD: 4/10/1989. .259/.293/.382, 10 HR, 14 SB. This was the follow up to Culby's breakout season last year in San Jose. There were some bright spots, but also a lot of slumps. He did finish with a flourish hitting .348 over his last 10 games. Coming into his age 24 season, he could repeat AA without derailing his career, but I think he probably did well enough to earn a promotion to Fresno where he could have a second breakout.

Nick Noonan 6'0", 175 lbs. B-L, T-R. BD: 5/4/1989. .212/.303/.288. Played SS for Richmond this year after playing 2B for 3 years prior. The offense has to come around to project him playing any position.


Ryan Cavan 5'10", 180 lbs. B-S, T-R. BD: 6/28/1987. .270/.352/.435, 12 HR, 10 SB. .341/.438/.537 over his last 10 games. Cavan did not hit as well as Charlie Culberson did last year for SJ and he's almost a full 2 years older than Culby is now. Draws walks and has a bit of power. Should move up to AA for a major test.


Carlos Willoughby 5' 10", 170 lbs. B-S, T-R. BD: 11/12/1988. .240/.341/.308, 33 SB. Willoughby played 3 years in the DSL starting in 2007. This was his first full pro season. He continued to show a knack for getting on base allowing him to use his speed. He slumped badly in the second half though. Will we see him in SJ?


Kaohi Downing 5'11", 180 lbs. B-R, T-R. BD: 5/7/1986. .312/.384/.403. Downing converted from pitching this year and put up surprisingly good offensive numbers for S-K. I think he could jump over Willougby and get the bulk of PT for SJ next year.

Julio Izturis 5'11", 165 lbs. B-S, T-R. BD: .209/.289/.239. Izturi finally walked off the island, but has never really done anything else. He has just developed way too slowly. I might hold out hope for him if he was a SS, but he got moved over to 2B almost immediately.


Cristian Paulino 5'10", 168 lbs. B-R, T-R, BD: 9/4/1991. .277/.379/.438, 10 SB in 112 AB. Paulino is listed as a 3B but I think he played some at 2B. Seems like a dynamic player with good OBP skills, a whiff of power and some speed.

Garrett Buechele 6'0", 200 lbs. B-R, T-R. BD: 10/23/1989. .235/.288/.350, 5 HR in 200 AB. I'm thinking Buechele is not going to hit enough to play 3B and could be moved to 2B. We'll see. Very unclear where he fits in the future.


Alberto Robles 5'11", 155 lbs. B-R, T-R, BD: 9/14/1990. .344/.459/.399, 14 SB. Nice numbers but very old for the DSL.

Randy Ortiz 5'11", 170 lbs. B-R, T-R. BD: 6/15/1993. .292/.396/.363, 19 SB. I'm thinking we see this kid in Arizona next summer. Gets on base and steals bases.

Here's my attempt at ranking the Giants 2B prospects:

1. Charlie Culberson
2. Ryan Cavan
3. Cristian Paulino
4. Randy Ortiz
5. Conor Gillaspie
6. Brock Bond
7. Carlos Willoughby
8. Alberto Robles
9. Nick Noonan
10. Julio Izturis
11. Garrett Buechele

Not an inspiring bunch!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hot Stove Update: Scouting the Second Basemen

There hasn't been too much talk about the Giants second base situation, but they have some uncertainty to deal with there too. The incumbent is Freddy Sanchez who played a big part in the WS championship season. He underwent surgery to repair damage from a dislocated right shoulder. The hope is he will be ready to start the season as the starting second baseman. In reality, shoulder surgeries can take much longer to come back from and can be career ending. Remember Marcus Sanders and Eddie Martinez-Esteve? The Giants need a backup plan. That's where the drama comes in for the Hot Stove season.

Jeff Keppinger has one year of arbitration left and make $2.3 M last year. He started off hot after the Giants acquired him in a trade mid-season, but faded down the stretch. He is a decent defender at 2B with limited range. He's a similar hitter to Freddy Sanchez in that he'll hit for average with doubles power, won't take many walks and will hit into his share of DPs. The other in-house option is Mike Fontenot who is more versatile than Kepp, but not as good a hitter. Fonty is also arbitration eligible and made $1.05 M last year. Lastly, there is Emmanuel Burriss who has been hanging around the fringes of the team seemingly forever. Burriss is an excellent fielder at 2B, can play SS in a pinch and is a difference maker on the basepaths. His big problem is he can't steal first base! So far, he has shown no sign of ever becoming a MLB caliber hitter.

With that background, let's scout the FA and trade market and see what's heating up on the Hot Stove:

Clint Barmes and Jamey Carroll have already been discussed in the SS segment. The Giants like versatility and these guys fit the profile. They both are more versatile than Kepp and either might be an upgrade on Fonty, but would likely cost more $$ than Fonty.

Robinson Cano and Brandon Phillips both have club options that will almost certainly be picked up so mark them off the list.

Rest of the pack: Pretty much the usual suspects here. Orlando Cabrera, Alex Cora, Craig Counsell, Mark Ellis, Jerry Hairston, Jr., Bill Hall, Aaron Hill, Kelly Johnson, Adam Kennedy, Felipe Lopez, Jose Lopez, Aaron Miles, Drew Sutton. If anyone on that list excites you, please discuss.

I think the Giants should re-sign Fonty and offer arbitration if necessary. I don't think they need Kepp, but should try to get something for him. They can either trade him before the arbitration deadline or go ahead and get him signed, offer arbitration if necessary, and then trade him after he is under contract. They can always make another mid-season trade if they have to. There is no need to delve into the FA market at 2B unless it's to sign a Barmes or Carroll to play SS and they'll double as backup options at 2B.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Down on the Farm: BA's Giants Draft Report Card

BA has posted their annual draft report cards. Here's some highlights from the Giants entry(these categories only compare Giants draftees to each other, not the entire draft):

Best Pure Hitter: Joe Panik. Not too much of a surprise here.

Best Power Hitter: Andrew Susac. Susac gets the nod over Ricky Oropesa because he has more "usable power." Ricky has more raw power but dissipates it with too many swings and misses. Neither has played an inning of professional baseball yet, so we'll see how it turns out. If Susac proves to be an even better power hitter than Ricky and can stay at catcher to boot, then the Giants have themselves a real nice prospect.

Fastest Runner: Kentrell Hill and Travious Relaford.

Best Defensive Player: Joe Panik. Reliable SS with good hands. Kelby Tomlinson and Christian Otero have better pure tools but they rated Panik as a better all around defender at SS. I have to say I'm a bit skeptical of this. Hope it's true.

Best Fastball: Kyle Crick, Chris Marlowe, Ray Black, Bryce Bandilla, Josh Osich. 5 drafted pitchers who can reach 97 MPH! Crick and Marlowe were the only ones of this group to get into professional games. Crick had mixed results with 8 K's and 8 BB's in 7 IP. Marlowe had 5 K's and 1 BB in 3 IP.

Best Secondary Pitch: Marlowe with an 84 MPH hard breaking ball.

Best Professional Debut: Joe Panik. Not too much mystery here. Shawn Payne and Clayton Blackburn also got mentions.

Best Athlete: Hill and Relaford again.

Best Late Round Pick: Blackburn

One Who Got Away: Tyler Leslie. Andrew Triggs stayed at USC to enroll in a Master's Degree program. I think the Giants have until the next draft to sign Triggs though as he was a senior draftee.

The Giants placed a couple of mentions in the national summary.

Best Pro Debut: Joe Panik led all draftees in the entire draft! How's that?

Best Pro Debut High School Draftee: Clayton Blackburn ranked #2! Gotta love that!

Best Late Round Pick At or Below Slot: Clayton Blackburn ranked #1! Again, gotta love it!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Down on the Farm: Corner Outfield Depth Chart

Corner OF is actually a lot thinner in the Giants organization than CF. The Giants scouting and drafting emphasis is, and always has been, up the middle. They figure that if they are strong in the middle of the field, the corners will take care of themselves. To an extent, that's true. It's theoretically easier to find a good first baseman or LF on the open market than, say, a catcher or CF. It's just that the Giants haven't always done that. It should come as no surprise that 2 of the top players on the corner OF organizational depth chart are also on the CF depth chart. The Giants place a lot of emphasis on OF defense and you would expect a corner OF who is capable of playing CF to be a better defender in a corner than one who can't. It doesn't always work that way and that approach may be sacrificing some offense, but on average it's probably a sound approach.


Nate Schierholtz- 6'1", 205 lbs, B-L, T-R. BD: 2/15/1984. .278/.326/.430, 9 HR, 7 SB in 335 AB. Nate watchers saw a gradual metamorphosis in 2011 from a kid who was up there just protecting the plate, to a MLB player who was looking for pitches to drive. By the time his season was cut short in mid August by a foul ball off his foot, Nate had become one of the more dangerous hitters in an admittedly weak Giants lineup. His HR into the upper deck in Colorado might be the longest I've ever seen a Giant hit one. It was a truly mammoth shot! Nate is the only established major league corner OF currently in the Giants organization. Brian Sabean proclaimed that RF is his next season. We all know how much weight THAT carries. He is a magical defender in RF in AT&T park, one of the trickier positions to play in baseball. He should be the starting RF next season. At age 28, he is early in the prime years of his career with 1000 MLB AB's under his belt and could be primed for a breakout. Next hurdle? Stay healthy all season!

Brandon Belt- 6'5", 220 lbs, B-L, T-L, BD: 4/20/1988. .225/.306/.412, 9 HR's in 187 AB's. Brandon Belt was drafted and developed as a first baseman, but as he showed last year, he is athletic enough to play a passable LF even with virtually no experience there. He rocketed through the Giants system in 2010 while playing at 3 levels in a stupendous season. He also rocketed into the national top prospect rankings. The Giants succumbed to the temptation to rush him to the majors, even moving Aubrey Huff to the OF to make room for him. That move proved to be a bit too much, too fast for the wide-eyed kid from Nacogdoches, Texas and the awkwardness of the situation it created proved to be a metaphor for the Giants entire 2011 season. The fractured hand he suffered just as he was starting his second stint in the majors was another microcosm of the Giants season. Possibly lost in all this is Belt's second half stat line: .231/.296/.469 with 8 HR's in 130 AB's. If you project his HR's over a full season of AB's, you are already in the high 20's and his second half line is a whole lot better. The Giants are currently contemplating whether to send Belt down for more seasoning to start 2012. If he plays in the majors, it will probably be as a LF. IMO, the Giants could do a lot worse, and the price is certainly right.


Francisco Peguero 5'11", 195 lbs, B-R, T-R, BD: 6/1/1988. .309/.312/.446. We discussed Peguero in the CF rundown. He's actually played more RF than CF the last 2 seasons. Performed very well in a league that is notoriously tough on hitters. Allergic to walks. May be a bit of a tweener: Not quite enough D for CF and not quite enough bat for a corner. Logical progression would be for him to start the 2012 season in Fresno.

Roger Kieschnick 6'3", 215 lbs, B-L, T-R, BD: 1/21/1987. .255/.307/.429 16 HR, 13 SB. Roger is starting to get a bit long in the tooth for a prospect. Lost a year of development to a bad back in 2010. Had a pretty good 2011 considering the environment, but slumped at the end of the season. I think he should start 2012 in Fresno where I could see him breaking out. Arm is strong enough for RF.

Wendell Fairley 6'2", 195 lbs, B-L, T-R. BD: 3/17/1988. High A .245/.329/.317. AA .265/.321/.337. Fairley came advertised as a raw, toolsy kid when drafted in 2007. He's never shown any power or speed and was moved to LF early in his pro career. At this point he's an aging prospect with "old player skills." Pretty hard to envision a MLB future for him right now.

High A

Jarrett Parker 6'4", 210 lbs. B-L, T-L. BD: 1/1/1989. .253/.360/.387 with 13 HR, 20 SB. Another guy discussed in the CF mix. Has the size and arm to play RF if his power develops. Plate discipline was the strongest part of his offensive game last year but showed just enough power and speed to give hope for a higher ceiling. I saw him gun down a runner from RF with a throw that would rival anything I've seen Nate unleash.

Nick Liles 6'0", 165 lbs. B-R, T-R. BD: 7/23/1987. .281/.317/.372. Hits for average and has a bit of speed. Played some LF for SJ in a 4'th OF role. Seems to be more of an organizational player at this point.

James Simmons 6'3", 190 lbs. B-R, T-R. BD: 9/3/1985. High A .270/.329/.522, 10 HR in 159 AB's. AAA .228/.279/.386 3 HR in 57 AB. I still think James is one of the best athletes in the Giants organization. Based on my own observations, he can't hit a breaking ball to save his life although he seemed to handle them a bit better this year. Showed impressive power in limited playing time in 2011. I'd like to see what he does in a full season with Fresno in 2012. Probably organizational filler at this point, but man, you look at his athleticism and it's hard not to see possibilities.

Low A

Rafael Rodriguez 6'5", 198. B-R, T-R, BD: 7/13/1992 .236/.284/.297. Given a choice between a prospect dominating a level or being dominated, it's pretty safe to go with dominating being the preferable of the two. For a prospect who gets dominated, you have to look for mitigating circumstances. With Raf, it's that he did not turn 19 until half way through the summer and the Sally League can be pretty tough even on seasoned hitters, especially Augusta which has a huge field of play. Not sure where the Giants will send him next season, but he could repeat Augusta for a full season and still be not old for the level. It's kind of tough to project those numbers to anything good, but it's also still way to early to give up on him.

Ryan Lollis 6'2", 185 lbs. B-L, T-L. BD: 12/16/1986. .314/.393/.422, 10 SB. Old for the league with nothing really inspiring about the numbers. Probably on organizational player.

Devin Harris 6'3", 225 lbs. B-R, T-R. BD: 4/23/1988. .231/.310/.414, 15 HR. I hope Harris gets a chance to play in San Jose next year. I still think he's a legitimate sleeper. with some power and plate discipline. I liked him in college before the Giants drafted him.


Chuckie Jones 6'3", 235 lbs. B-R, T-R. BD: 7/28/1992. .218/.322/.315. Chuckie had a rough season plagued by nagging oblique strains and playing against mostly older players. I still think he has a high ceiling. Hopefully he fully recuperates this offseason and is able to get a full season worth of AB's next year. Still quite young as he'll start next year at age 19.

Brett Krill 6'4", 195 lbs. B-R, T-R. BD: 1/24/1989. .304/.350/.488, 6 HR in 207 AB. I first found this guy on Baseball Beginnings, now Baseball Prospect Report, when he was playing for UCLA. His college stats weren't impressive with a BA of .294, but he did show some power. It was the video clips that got my attention. He's a big brawny kid who does not look like a baseball player until he puts it in motion, then you start to see that he's a lot more athletic than he looks. I was happy to see his name go up on the Giants 2010 draft list in round 25. He had a very nice first professional season for Salem-Keizer. I noticed that he rang up several OF assists from his RF post. Brett Krill is a sleeper who I will be watching for in 2012.

Leonardo Ochoa 6'0", 180 lbs. B-L, T-R. BD: 10/20/1989. .265/.330/.451, 5 HR in 102 AB. Ochoa was signed as an undrafted FA out of Canada in 2008. He had a nice start to his pro career in 2009 in Arizona: .288/.388/.405. He then missed the entire 2010 season before re-surfacing in Salem-Keizer in 2011. Another sleeper. Next year should be pivotal in his pro career.


Leonardo Fuentes 6'4", 215 lbs, B-R, T-R. BD: 11/29/1992. .257/.306/.425, 5 HR in 179 AB. One of several international prospects the Giants have signed in the mid 6 figure range in the last couple of years. This was his debut in the States at age 18. Gotta love the size on this kid. He is already starting to show his power potential. Not sure where we'll see him next year, Augusta? Salem-Keizer? Repeating Arizona? He's got plenty of time to develop that talent. He's a kid we can dream on for awhile. I just have a feeling this kid has an enormous ceiling.

Karl August "Gus" Benusa 6'1", 190 lbs. B-L, T-L. BD: 1/30/1991. .297/.338/.419. Benusa was drafted out of HS in round 8 in 2009. He played in the AZL that summer but missed the entire 2010 season. Hit .313/.389/.500 over his last 10 games this year. It will be interesting to see where he turns up in 2012. I'm glad the Giants are taking more flyers on these HS prospects who are flying under the radar. All it takes is for 1 or 2 of them to reach their potential.

Elliott "Major" Blair 6'1", 181 lbs. B-R, T-R, BD: 2/3/1988. .333/.421/.500, 4 triples, 6 SB in 114 AB. Drafted out of Oklahoma. Had good BA's in college, but very little playing time. Giants scouts must have seen something. Arizona too low a level to get much of a read on a draftee from a major D1 college program, but so far so good.

Christian Diaz 6'1", 170 lbs, B-L, T-L. BD: 7/15/1993. .231/.375/.308. One of the contingent of Puerto Rican high schoolers drafted by the Giants this year. Only got 13 AB's in 10 games. Very young. Again, I'm all in favor of the Giants taking flyers on these kids in the later draft rounds.

Eldred Barnett 6'1", 190 lbs. B-R, T-R. BD: 5/2/1989. .248/.310/.385. Drafted out of Grambling State. Started off hot but slumped at the end of the season. Kind of a longshot at this point.


Carlos Cartegena 6'2", 190 lbs. B-R, T-R. BD: 12/22/1993. .147/.291/.231. There was no hitting to speak of for the Giants DSL team in 2011. Cartegena is another of their mid 6 figure signings. Like the size. Hit a couple of HR's which is actually an accomplishment in the DSL. Not sure if he'll repeat this level or if we'll see him in Arizona.


Ricky Oropesa They've been trying to make Ricky a 3'rd baseman, but he always seems to end up back at 1B. He has some speed though, and a arm good enough to be a pitching prospect, so I don't think it is out of the question that he could play a corner OF position with some experience out there. Signed too late to get into games this year.

OK, this is a tough one, but here's a stab at ranking the Giants corner OF prospects(Brandon Belt is no longer officially a prospect):

1. Francisco Peguero
2. Jarrett Parker
3. Leonardo Fuentes
4. Roger Kieschnick
5. Chuckie Jones
6. Rafael Rodriguez
7. Brett Krill
8. Carlos Cartegena
9. Leonardo Ochoa
10.Gus Benusa
11. Christian Diaz
12. Wendell Fairley
13. James Simmons
14. Devin Harris
15. Nick Liles
16. Ryan Lollis
17. Major Blair
18. Eldred Barnett.
Bonus: Ricky Oropesa.

Did I miss anyone?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hot Stove Update: Scouting the Corner Outfielders

Before we get started, I'll just mention that Shankbone has some interesting ideas in the most recent Fanpost, Fighting the Middle Market over on McCovey Chronicles. Check it out!

Although Brian Sabean specifically identified CF as the position of need where the Giants lack in-house options, they aren't exactly flush with corner outfielders either. With Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, Mark DeRosa and Carlos Beltran hitting the free agent market and Gamer released before the season was over, the Giants are left with just one established MLB corner Oufielder on the roster, Nate Schierholtz. Sabes has proclaimed that Nate will be the starting RF next year, which is probably the Kiss of Death for poor Nate. Anyway, LF could be manned by either Huff or Belt, but Huff was terrible in the OF in 2011 and the Giants appear to be considering sending Belt to the minors to start the season. Let's scout the options.


Carlos Beltran- Beltran did exactly what the Giants wanted him to do when they traded Zack Wheeler for him at the trade deadline. It's just that the timing was all off. Beltran went into a slump and then was injured right after he was acquired and right in the middle of the toughest part of the Giants schedule. Now, anyone who knows anything about baseball statistics knows anything can happen in a small sample size, but a lot of fans blame Beltran for the tailspin that knocked the Giants out of the NL West Division race. On top of that, Beltran's cool demeaner was taken, rightly or wrongly, as a lack of caring and hustle. Some fans also objected to him taking the starting RF job away from Nate even though Nate's injury made it a non-factor for the most part. Now that he's a free agent, Beltran possesses the best OF bat on the market. If the Giants can afford to sign him for not more than 3 years and still keep their staring pitching intact, by all means, they should sign him. An alignment of Beltran in LF with Nate in RF would seem to be preferable to the other way around, but when you're talking about a bat like Betran's and an offense as pathetic as the Giants without him, I don't think it's worth quibbling over. Nate is a better RF, but it's not like Beltran is terrible.

Cody Ross- Ross is clearly hoping for a long term deal. I doubt he's going to find one on the open market. I hope the Giants haven't burned their bridges with him. He can play CF and with the sorry state of the CF market, he might be a good value on no more than a 2 year deal. The Giants are clearly hoping next year's CF is a leadoff hitter, and Ross does not steal many bases, but he does get on base and sees a lot of pitches. I'm not sure a single leadoff hitter who steals bases really adds that much to an offense anyway.

Pat Burrell- Pat the Bat could come back on another 1 year low $$$ deal if he and the Giants are convinced his heel is OK. Otherwise, he'll retire. Maybe $500K with incentives? I doubt he'll be brought back as the starter in LF though.

Mark DeRosa- In a similar situation as Burrell. The talk is that he'll sign a minor league deal with ATL or Houston to be closer to his home. I could see a $500 K deal with incentives working for the Giants. He'd be coming back strictly as a utility/bat off the bench , not the starting LF.


Josh Willingham 33 yo- Hard to believe a guy who hit 29 HR's with an OPS Of .810 in Oakland had a WAR of just 2.1, but Willingham is a terrible fielder, even for LF, which is a double negative. Willingham has been believed to be undervalued for so long, he'll likely be overvalued this offseason due to the dingers. I'm with Shankbone on this one. The Giants should stay away. He'll cost a first round draft pick to boot.

Juan Rivera 33 yo- Rivera has had 2 good seasons in his career and ha never played more than 138 games in a season, averaging less than 100. He seemed to help the Dodgers offense gel after his mid-season acquisition. It's hard to imagine Ned Colletti not grossly overpaying to keep him. the Giants should show just enough interest to drive the price up!

Juan Pierre 34 yo- Here's a guy who's been believed to be overvalued for so long, he may well be undervalued now. He's coming off a down season. Was it just a down season or is he starting on a steep decline in his career trajectory? If the Giants are looking to get seriously faster on the basepaths, they might consider bringing in Pierre to play LF on a 1 year discount to see if he can rebuild his value, while also bringing in a Coco Crisp to play CF, or even bringing back a Torres/Christian platoon. Another possibility would be to bring in DeJesus to play CF with Pierre in LF to handle the leadoff duties.

Laynce Nix 31 yo- Had a nice season for the Nats and could probably be had for not too much. Do you really want this guy to be your starting LF though? I would think Belt is at least as good an option right now to day nothing of the future.

Ryan Ludwick 33 yo- Here's a guy who was undervalued for so long he became overvalued, and now has been overvalued for so long he might be undervalued again. Would probably hit a bit better in SF than SD. One year deal to rebuild his value?

Raul Ibanez 40 yo- A Brian Sabean Special if there ever was one! I could so see Sabes signing him to a 2 year deal. It might be worth it just to see MCC melt down to a puddle of orange and black goo if it were to happen!

Conor Jackson 30 yo- Conor Jackson had an OPS of .822 for the D'Backs in 2008, and appeared to be a budding star. He contracted Valley Fever and has never fully recovered. Still, gotta be intrigued by the upside here. He could be a Sabean "lightning in a bottle" special in a cheap 1 year deal or even a minor league ST invite.

Jonny Gomes 31 yo- Gomes has been the darling of the Saber crowd for a long time due to his relatively high OBP's and SLG% compared to his BA's. He's been a terrible fielder most of his career, but actually had a + UZR in 2011. That is likely a sample size fluke though. Another potential bargain bin pickup.

Johnny Damon 37 yo- Damon hit 16 HR's and had 19 SB's for the Rays last year. Knows how to get on base. Might want to finish his career in the AL and on teh east coast though.

Michael Cuddyer 33 yo- Solid hitter who can play multiple positions if necessary. Sabes was rumored to be pursuing him at the trade deadline. The only problem with signing him as a FA is it will likely take an overpay and he will cost a first round pick.

David DeJesus 32 yo- Yikes! 32 yo? How time flies! Another player Sabes has pursued at the trade deadline, but in 2010. Coming off a weak season with Oakland. He can play all 3 OF positons and might sign a 1 year deal to try to rebuild his value. He'd probably prefer a more hitter friendly environment to do it in though. Doesn't hit HR's or steal bases. His value is dependent on BA/OBP and doubles power.

JD Drew 36 yo- If the fans didn't dig Beltran's style, they would hate Drew's. He will probably either re-up with Boston or retire anyway. Just don't see him coming to SF, although he is getting into Sabean Special territory age-wise.

Kosuke Fukudome 35 yo- Almost all his value is tied to his OBP, which is actually quite good. Sabean has seemed to be allergic to Japanese players since the Shinjo debacle. Still, there might be enough veteran savvy here to interest him and there is still serious marketing potential for Asian ballplayers in SF.

Brad Hawpe 33 yo- Terrible fielder who was a terror at the plate in Colorado, but his offense tanked in San Diego. Seems to be more of a first baseman now. Hard to see how he fits in SF. Has a $6 M option with a $1 M buyout that likely won't be picked up.

Jason Kubel 29 yo- Once a highly rated prospect, Kubel has never quite lived up to he perceived ceiling in Minnesota. He's a solid hitter coming off a down year with a career OPS of close to .800. Terrible fielding probably limits him to AL.

Nick Swisher 31 yo- Swish has been a fairly reliable 3.5-4 WAR player and is coming off a 3.8 WAR season for the Yankees, so his $10.25 M option should be picked up. The Yankees are almost desperate for LHP's. Would they have any interest in trading him for Jonathan Sanchez, or perish the though, part of a bigger package for Matt Cain?


Carlos Quentin 29 yo- Could be part of a housecleaning in ChiTown. Has hit 20+ HR's in 4 straight seasons, but has had trouble staying on the field due to injuries. Has never played more than 131 games in a season. Interesting option as long as the price isn't too high.

Logan Morrison 24 yo- This guy is in the doghouse with Marlins ownership big time due to his big mouth and indiscriminate use of Twitter. Not sure what the status of his grievance with the Marlins is, but that can't be helping to rebuild his relationship with his employers. He's certainly not popular with Giants fans either for some of the things he said in the wake of Buster's injury. I'm sure he would have some rough introductions in certain corners of the Giants clubhouse too. Still, baseball is a business and LoMo is a serious hitter who is cost controlled for years to come. Gotta think about it for the right price.

Andre Ethier 30 yo- Yikes! 30 yo? Time flies again! Ethier has made noises about not being thrilled with the Dodgers' situation and the feelings may be mutual. His power numbers were way off this year and he has battled nagging injuries the last 2 years. Ethier is a good player, but he seems to be more interested in building his GQ portfolio than his baseball career. He tends to start off every season red hot and progressively cools off as the season progresses which makes me think he doesn't spend a lot of time on conditioning. Still, he'd probably be an upgrade for the Giants. Doubt Agent Ned would trade him within the division even if he is Agent Ned.

Ryan Spilborghs/ Seth Smith- Colorado probably would not trade within the division and you have to be wary of anyone moving away from Coors Field as their home park anyway.

I'm sure there are a lot of other possibilities out there I'm not thinking of. Any other ideas from readers? Send in your comments!

Personally, I'd be OK with sticking Belt out there for a full season and seeing what he would put up. As much as he struggled and as much as he got jerked around last year, he still hit enough HR's to project to the high 20's over the course of a full season's worth of PA's. I think he is just a sliver away from being a monster at the plate.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Down on the Farm: Shortstop Depth Chart

The Giants organization is thin at the shortstop position, but before you go into a Panik over it, you have to understand that the shortstop position is a vast wasteland all across baseball. Increased understanding of how to measure defense and its relative importance to winning games is creating a premium on prospects who can play shortstop with plus defense, and they are few and far between.

Looking to the future, the Giants are actually in relatively good shape with one young SS possibly ready to take over the position as a full time player and several other intriguing prospects in the pipeline. Let's take a closer look:


Brandon Crawford B-L, T-R. 6'2",215 lbs. BD: 1/21/1987. MLB: .204/.288/.296. Brandon Crawford was once considered an elite prospect coming of a terrific sophomore season at UCLA. He's had his ups and downs at the plate since then, but everybody agrees he can play the position on defense. He's a bit big and stocky for a shortstop, but his range is above average, with great balance and a cannon arm.

Injuries in his pro career have cut into his development time. Prior to 2011, his highest level was AA where he struggled on offense and had his season end early due to a hand injury. He was slated to start the season in AA or AAA but a spring training injury put him back in San Jose on a rehab assignment before he got rushed to the majors. In 66 games with the SF Giants, he won over a lot of fans with solid defense, but predictably struggled at the plate despite a seemingly good approach. The defensive metric UZR likes his D enough that he accumulated a Fangraphs WAR of 0.5 while playing 507 innings in the majors despite obviously negative offensive production. That projects to a WAR of approximately 1.3 over the course of a full season. His bat came to life a bit in September with a .256/.333/.419 line in 43 AB's.

Brandon is currently playing in the Arizona Fall League to get more AB's. The Giants front office brass is evaluating whether to put their faith in him as the starting SS in 2012 or to go after an established SS by FA or trade. Based on the analysis in my last post Scouting the Shortstops, I think the Giants need to either go with Crawford or go all in for Jose Reyes. For what it's worth, MARCEL, a projection system developed by sabermetrician Tom Tango, projects an offensive slash line of .237/.311/.354 for Crawford in 2012. Combined with his plus defense, that should push his projected WAR over a full season into the mid 2's which is worth about $10 M on the open market while Crawford stands to make the MLB minimum salary of under $500 K.


Nick Noonan B-L, T-R, 6'0", 175 lbs. BD: 5/4/1989. .212/.303/.288. Noonan was drafted as a shortstop in the 2007 draft(#32 overall). He split time with Charlie Culberson at the position in his first full season with Augusta, but moved to 2B by the time the season was over. He has struggled mightily with the bat since then and the Giants moved him back to SS for the 2011 season. He was once again overmatched at the plate I have not seen scouting reports of his defense at SS. After an injury, he came back in San Jose and played mostly 3B in deference to Ehire Adrianza. STILL too early to call Noonan a bust, but his future is very cloudy at this point. If Crawford is the starting SS for the Giants and if Noonan's D is deemed adequate, he should probably start the season in Fresno to see if the hitter friendly PCL can revive his bat a bit.

High A

Ehire Adrianza B-S, T-R. 6'0", 170 lbs. BD: 8/21/1989. Low A .231/.315/.378. High A .300/.375/.470. Yet another Giants farmhand who started the season on the DL. With no disrespect to Brandon Crawford, Adrianza might have the best SS glove in the organization. He is blessed with great range and sure handedness. Crawford may have a stronger arm. The question with Adrianza is whether he will ever have the bat to play in the majors. It came around during his second stint with San Jose but will he get overwhelmed in AA? At age 22, he's still has some development time but it's starting to run short.

Carter Jurica B-R, T-R. 5'11", 185 lbs. BD: 9/23/1988. High A .250/.355/.383. I saw Jurica play early in 2011 for San Jose. There was nothing that stood out about him. He does not look at all rangy in the field and he is very non-descript physically. He looks like he's going to have to make it as an offense first SS, and the offense hasn't really been there. The position is thin enought in the organization that he'll probably have some place to play, but I'd consider him an organizational player at this point.

Low A

Ydwin Villegas B-R, T-R. 5'10", 180 lbs. BD: 9/1/1990. 3 levels .190/.216/.239. Villegas is a gifted fielder but was once again overwhelmed at the plate by professional pitchers at every level. He played AAA and Rookie Ball, but played the most games for Augusta. He did hit .263 over his last 10 games so maybe there is still some hope.

Robert Haney B-L, T-R. 6'1", 165 lbs. BD: 8/16/1988. Low A .236/.317/.308 in 66 games. High A .244/.340/.293 in 14 games. Don't know much about Haney, but he appears to have some plate discipline but virtually no power. Drafted in round 22 in 2010.

Short Season

Joe Panik B-L, T-R. 6'1", 193 lbs. BD: 10/30/1990. .341/.401/.467, 6 HR, 13 SB, 5 CS in 270 AB. Panik was the Giants first round draft pick in 2011. He signed almost immediately and was able to get in a full short season. He was the NWL batting champion and played exclusively shortstop. The big question with Panik is whether he will stick at SS. The Giants say he can. Other scouts are divided. He was sent to he Arizona Fall League as a second baseman, but that may have had more to do with position availability than a desire to have him switch positions. Ultimately, his future as a shortstop may depend more on whether Brandon Crawford can establish himself at the position or whether the Giant splurge in a FA SS such as Jose Reyes. I expect to see Panik playing for San Jose next season and playing shortstop there.

John Eshleman B-S, T-R. 6'0", 185 lbs. BD: 4/8/1989. .221/.264/.268 Drafted in round #11 in 2009, this was Eshleman's 3'rd professional season. Much as I would like to see a kid from Yucaipa, CA make it, I don't see it happening here.

Rookie AZL

Kelby Tomlinson B-R, T-R. 6'2", 180 lbs. BD: 6/16/1990. .357/.417/.543, 11 SB, 2 CS. 12'th round draft pick in 2011 out of Texas Tech. Scouting report says he's a steady defender at short with a patient approach at the plate. Speed is his only plus tool. Can't get too excited by his numbers in the AZL as a guy drafted out of a major D1 conference has no business playing there. I like Tomlinson though, and expect to see his name in the Augusta box scores next year.

Jean Delgado B-R, T-R, 5'11", 150 lbs. BD: 2/5/1993. .225/.385/.310. Delgado was drafted in round 8 in 2011, the highest of a contingent of 4 Puerto Rican high schoolers. He seems to be patient at the plate. His scouting report says he takes a big hack with solid bat speed and good barrel awareness whatever all that means. His arm may force him to move to 2B. Obviously a project., but good to see the Giants drafting a few of those.

2011 Draftees

Christian Otero The Giants loaded up on shortstops in the 2011 draft. Otero is another Puerto Rican high schooler drafted in round 18. Scouting report says he has a better chance to stay at shortstop long term than Delgado.

Trayvious Relaford Drafted out of JC ball in round 44. He is the cousin of former MLB'er Desi Relaford. Has the tools to stay at SS, but is very raw in all phases of the game.


Shurendell Mujica B-R, T-R, 6'1", 158 lbs., 3/22/1991. .221/.361/.313, 24 SB, 13 CS. 20 yo is old for the DSL. Iike his combination of OBP and SB's but his CS rate is way too high for the DSL. Outlook: cloudy.

Rando Moreno B-R, T-R, 5' 11", BD: 6/6/1992. .222/.355/.265, 5 SB, 7 CS. Not much to recommend him that I can see.

Richard Rodriguez B-R, T-R, 6'1", 170 lbs. BD: 10/3/1992. .121/.261/.121. Eeek! Well, he was the youngest of the 3 players listed as shortstops on the DSL Giants stat page. That's about all you can say here.

Here's a stab at ranking the Giants shortstop prospects. A lot obviously depends on whether Panik sticks at the position.

1. Brandon Crawford/Joe Panik.
3. Ehire Adrianza
4. Ydwin Villegas
5. Kelby Tomlinson
6. Christian Otero
7. Nick Noonan
8. Carter Jurica
9. Trayvious Relaford
10. Jean Delgado
11. Robert Haney.
12. Shurendell Mujica

I'm calling it a tie for #1. Crawford has big league experience and there is no question he can field the position. If he can grab the position by the throat in 2012 he could force Panik to move to 2B down the road, so in a sense, Crawford may control his own fate as well as Panik's. The guy who gets there first tends to have the advantage. On the other hand, the Giants have a lot invested in Panik as a first round draft choice, and he did have a terrific first professional season. Adrianza is a distant 3'rd. I'm putting Villegas #4 based on his reputation as a superior fielder of the position which is a relatively rare trait.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Hot Stove Update: Scouting the Shortstops

The Giants had problems at multiple positions in 2011, none more disastrous than shortstop. Edgar Renteria was a World Series hero in 2010, but was playing with a torn tendon and clearly could not be counted on for more than a backup role. Juan Uribe played remarkably well there but is not a shortstop, and Ned Colletti grossly overpaid to see if some of his Clubhouse Presence might rub off on the Dodgers. The people who thought Uribe was in for a severe regression proved to be right. The market for shortstops last offeason was even bleaker than the market for centerfielders this year. Sabean gambled that Miguel Tejada had one year left in him. He didn't, and there was no backup plan. Tejada couldn't field the position and was overmatched at the plate much of the season, finally going down with an injury. Desperate, the Giants called up Brandon Crawford who himself had started the year with an injury and was basically rehabbing with Single A San Jose. Crawford had never played above AA and had struggled there. He predictably struggled at the plate in the majors too, but a lot of Giants fans found his young athleticism on defense to be a breath of fresh air for the positions. A late season trade for Orlando Cabrera was not greeted with enthusiasm and Cabrera turned out to be little better than Tejada, if at all. Crawford got another look in September after the Giants were all but eliminated and was actually able to hit a little.

Crawford is the Giants in-house option to the the starting shortstop in 2012. Ideally, he could probably use another 500 minor league AB's, but his approach at the plate is already pretty good and he could also continue to develop as a hitter at the MLB level while providing plus defense. Although Crawford was less than a replacement player on offense, his fielding and baserunning enabled him to produce a +0.5 WAR in 507 innings for a value of $2.2 M. I think it's fairly safe to assume that Brandon would be no worse in 2012 and probably better with more experience. Worst case scenario over a whole season is about a 1.3 WAR or about $6 M, very close to what the Giants paid for Miggy Tejada last year, except Crawford will cost less than $500 K! While Sabes went out of his way to say the Giants have no internal options for CF, he did not say the same for SS even while commenting on Crawford's lack of readiness when he was called up last season.

With that starting point, let's take a look at outside options for the shortstop position in 2012:

Free Agents

Jose Reyes- Reyes is one of 3 premium free agents available this year. He's been a consistent 6 WAR player when healthy. At age 28, he should have at least 4 prime years left. A 7 year contract would end at age 35. The question is not whether Reyes would make the Giants a better team, but whether his contract fits into the their payroll structure over the next 7 years. I think it will take a minimum of 7 years/$140 M to get him signed and possibly more. Based on Brian Sabean's comments in the postseason presser, I would have to guess that Reyes won't be wearing a Giants uniform next season.

Jimmy Rolllins- Rollins is not the player who rang up a 6.9 WAR in 2007 and never will be. Next year will be his age 33 season so his time for delivering 3-4 WAR seasons is probably growing short. That would be a huge upgrade from what the Giants have gotten from the position in recent years but it won't come cheap. Rollins has said he is looking for a 5 year deal and I wouldn't bet against him getting it from somebody. I would think $12 M is probably the starting point for yearly salary too. Honestly, if the Giants are going to spend that kind of money on the position, I'd rather they go all in and sign Reyes.

Rafael Furcal- Furcal has a $12 M option that St Louis will certainly not pick up. He's coming off a terrrible season in which he put up a 0.5 WAR in 1.5X the number of innings as Brandon Crawford. Sure he might rebound to a 3-4 WAR player next year, but he's been injury prone for several seasons now, and Crawford could develop into a 3 WAR player too. I say pass.

Clint Barmes- Barmes is a player who might interest me for the right price. He's a plus fielder at SS and has some pop in his bat. On the other hand, he's put up his modest offensive numbers playing his home games in Coors Field and Minute Maid Park so no telling what he'd hit playing 102 games in SF, LA, SD and Oakland. Could be a 1- 2 year stopgap option if the Giants feel Crawford needs more time in the minors. He'll be 33 years old in 2012.

Alex Gonzalez- Was the SS for ATL in 2011. Has a bit of pop in his bat with 15 HR's but does almost nothing else positive at the plate. His defensive stats have been sliding the last 3 seasons and went negative last year. His 1.1 WAR over a full season of play is less than the minimum projected for Crawford. No thank you! 34 yo.

Yuniesky Betancourt- Yuniesky has hit 13 and 16 HR's the last 2 seasons but is allergic to walks and is a negative fielder. Call him a poor man's Juan Uribe. Has a $6 M option with a $2 M buyout. Touch choice for the Brewers, but he has put up < 1 WAR for 4 consecutive seasons. Again, I'd much rather have Crawford for equal price and Crawford will be much cheaper.

Marco Scutaro- This guy knows how to get on base and has a bit of pop in his bat. He's approximately neutral as a fielder. Some of the pop may go out of his bat moving from Boston. He has a $6M club option, $3M player option with a $1.5 M buyout. He's good for about a 2.5 WAR which is a bargain at $6 M so I'm guessing Boston re-ups him unless they want to clear the way for Lowrie. In that case, they would probably trade him before buying him out. He could be an asset to the Giants at $6 M for 1 season if the trade price wasn't too high. 36 yo.

Jamey Carroll- A very pesky hitter who knows how to get on base. Has put up 2.2 and 2.5 WAR the past two seasons for LA. Probably not a full time SS unless you are desperate. I would see him more as a utility guy to back up FSanchez and Crawford than a starting SS. He's a slightly negative fielder at all positons by UZR and that is unlikely to improve at his age. It would have to be no more than a 2 year deal and under $5 M for my taste. 37 yo.

Jack Wilson- Wilson has been something of a white whale for some Giants fans for a few years now. He is a terrible hitter whose fielding is starting to slip. He put up exactly 0 WAR in 2011. Thanks, but I'll take my chances with Crawford.

Nick Punto- Punto might just be the most underrated player in all of baseball. A plus fielder, even at SS, he's great at getting on base. Has accumulated 3.1 WAR in 454 AB's over the last 2 seasons. I would be happy with signing him on a 1 or 2 year deal as either a utility guy or as a stopgap starter at SS. 34 yo.


I can't think of any shortstop obviously better than Crawford who would be on the trading block. If there were, they would be very expensive in terms of prospects the Giants would have to give up.


Brandon Crawford is a solid bet to put up at least a 1.5 WAR as the full time starting SS and has a chance to do quite a bit better than that, all for the MLB minimum salary. Short of a major outlay of FA $$$$ for either Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins, I think the Giants need to put their faith in Brandon Crawford and go with him. Fontenot can be the backup at both 2B and SS to start the season, alternatively, the Giants could let Fonty go and try to sign Nick Punto or Jamey Carroll as utility IF. Desperation trades can be made in-season if necessary.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Movie Review: Moneyball

Perhaps no single work in the history of baseball changed the way fans relate to a sport than Moneyball, a book written by Michael Lewis almost 10 years ago now. Sure, there were a few fans who poured over stat pages looking for things other fans didn't see or care about, but they were few and far between. Before Moneyball, things like scouting and drafting, things General Managers oversee, were held to be the purview of only a select group of shaman's who had special insight into these things. GM's and scouts were the untouchable, unknowable prophets, seers and medicine men of sport. The rest of us could only stare at stat sheets and dream. Moneyball changed all that. It pierced that sacred bubble and allowed for the idea that you actually could scout players from a stat sheet. Add in the sudden ease with which you could find these stat pages on the internet, throw in the explosion of interest in fantasy baseball and you had a perfect storm. Suddenly millions of fans started to not only believe they could be GM's but that they probably knew more about how to identify good players than the GM of the team they root for! It was almost insanely empowering.

Moneyball, the movie, may well be a great way for a non-baseball fan to become better acquainted with the game and it's inner workings. For a fan who has literally lived through the changes that Moneyball brought to being a fan, well, you had to have a pretty strong feeling it would be anti-climactic long before you went to see it. I found Moneyball to be better than what I had anticipated, but then, I wasn't really expecting much.

The movie opens with the Oakland A's losing the final game of the 2001 ALDS to the New York Yankees followed by the realization that they would be losing their best player to those same Yankees for a price the A's could not afford to pay. GM Billy Beane realizes he can't compete with that disparity in financial resources by continuing to evaluate players in the same way all other GM's did. There's a fascinating confrontation with his scouting staff during which the scouts speak in scout speak: "The ball jumps off his bat." "He's a 5 tool player." "He has tremendous upside." "He has a great feel for the game." Billy asks them one question. "...But can he hit?" You see, Billy himself was once a 5 tool player and had heard all those same cliches about himself. The film flashes back to those days.

The scene moves to the offices of the Cleveland Indians where Billy tries to make a trade for Indians reliever Ricardo Rincon, a scene that likely never happened in real life. Beane notices that every time Indians GM Mark Shapiro seems to be about to agree on a deal, he glances over at a quiet fat kid standing by the door. Heads shake, gestures are made and Shapiro backs away from the deal. As a frustrated Billy walks out of Shapiro's office, he hunts down this fat kid in his cubicle and demands to know exactly what happened in there. The kid is frustrated himself. He walks out to the parking garage with Billy and pours his heart out. He explains how his statistical model contradicts what most GM's and scouts believe to be true about the game. He is looking for a chance to put his own theories to the test.

Beane gets back to Oakland and the first thing he does is hire the kid away from the Indians and makes him his Assistant GM, much to the annoyance of the scouts and his manager, Art Howe. Here the movie takes an almost Karate Kid turn with the fat kid(named in the movie Peter Brand, but actually a mashup of the real life Paul DePodesta and JP Ricciardi) playing the teacher and Beane playing the student. They emerge from this tutorial with a plan that the scouts and Howe absolutely hate. They will sign 3 undervalued players who all have an OBP of .360 or higher which they have determined mathematically will make up for the lost, much more expensive, players. Beane pays a late night visit to Scott Hatteberg in his home and in a touching scene offers to resurrect his career as a first baseman even though Hatteberg has never played first base and doesn't know if he can.

The start of the season brings a battle of wills between Beane and manager Art Howe over what players to put on the field. The theme is not unlike the battles internet Giants fans had this last year with Bruce Bochy and his lineups. Beane finally settles the argument by trading the players Howe was insisting on playing so he couldn't play them anymore! The climax of the movie was the historic 20 game winning streak and another playoff berth accomplished with the players Billy wanted on the field.

The movie should have ended there, in my opinion. The A's were eventually eliminated from the playoffs, this time by another small market team, the Minnesota Twins. Billy gets interviewed for and offered the GM job in Boston for many times the amount of money he could ever make in Oakland. There are some touching scenes between Billy and his daughter. There was a funny video clip of obese catching prospect Jeremy Brown rounding first base and diving back on a ball that was actually a home run, but otherwise had nothing at all to do with the story. There are a lot of scenes of Billy(Brad Pitt) sitting alone holding his head in his hands. The movie just loses momentum and focus in the last half hour and I started to get restless.

There is some Oscar buzz around Moneyball and Brad Pitt. I don't go to many movies these days, so don't have much to compare it to, but I would not give it any Oscar votes. The closest I would come to an Oscar nomination would be the fat dude who played the Assistant GM. He was great the whole way through. Brad Pitt did a good job of playing Billy Beane. He even almost made you forget he is Brad Pitt and think he is really Billy, but he's Brad Pitt after all and the dirctor just couldn't help himself from avoiding the poses and the cliched scenes of Pitt sitting alone holding his head in his hands.

Some fans of the book will be disappointed that the draft room scene is completely left out of the movie. Think about it though, there was really no way to include the draft room in the movie because the Moneyball draft did not really turn out all that well! Overall, I'd give the movie a marginal thumbs up. The first 3/4 was very good, though not great. The last 30 minutes were a drag and kind of ruined it for me.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Down on the Farm: Centerfield Depth Chart

As we saw in the previous post, centerfield is a position of scarcity in MLB. Finding undervalued commodities is a good management strategy for MLB GM's, but another, perhaps even smarter strategy, is to scout, draft and develop your own scarce, and thus possibly overvalued, commodities. With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to look at the Giants centerfield prospect depth chart. Everybody knows about Gary Brown, but are their other CF prospects down on the farm? We'll first review them by level and then rank them by value as prospects:


Tyler Graham: B-R, T-R, BD: 1/25/1984. .273/.337/.338, 60 SB, 12 CS. Graham is fairly old for a prospect, even one in AAA. He was drafted in the 19'th round out of Oregon State in 2006. Despite an inconsistent minor league career, he has progressed fairly steadily through the system. Clearly has the speed to play CF and steal bases. The red flag is the .273 BA in the PCL which is so hitter friendly. You have to wonder if he can break .220 in the majors. K and BB ratios are not encouraging either.

Justin Christian: B-R, T-R, BD: 4/3/1980. AA .256/.328/.359, 18 SB, 2 CS. AAA .338/.428/.574, 36 SB, 3 CS. MLB .255/.286/362, 3 SB, 2 CS. Christian is more of a reclamation project than a prospect. At one point a few years ago he was told by none other than the esteemed Dr James Andrews that he would probably never play baseball again due to a torn up shoulder. Tore up the PCL in a half season there. His numbers at AA are probably more indicative of his projected MLB performance. I was impressed by the little I saw of him in the majors and could think of worse things than if he was the Giants 5'th OF next year or even the RH part of a CF platoon with Andres Torres. Sabes correctly called him an extra OF, though. Played all 3 OF positions in the minors.


Francisco Peguero: B-R, T-R, BD: 6/1/1988. High A .324/.387/.441, 4 SB, 0 CS. AA .309/.318/.446, 6 3B, 5 HR, 8 SB, 1 CS. Here's a guy I'm not sure why doesn't get more attention. He missed the first part of the year with injury and didn't have enough AB's to qualify for the EL batting title where he would have tied for 6'th in the league. He has actually played more RF than CF in the last 2 years even though he is listed as a CF. He did not steal as many bases this year, but increased his success rate a lot, so he's perhaps being more selective about when he runs. He is allergic to walks so isn't an ideal leadoff hitter. He does have a bit of XBH pop, and I actually see him projecting more as a slashing #3 hitter. Should start out in Fresno next year and I think he's going to tear up the PCL. If the Giants start the season with Andres Torres in CF, we could see Pegs in the majors by mid-May of next year.

Juan Perez: B-R, T-R, BD: 11/13/1986. .256/.303/.381, 22 SB, 6 CS, 10 3B, 4 HR. Perez has been a bit of a white whale for a lot of Giants prospect watchers ever since he was drafted out of Western Oklahoma JC where he was a 30-30 guy in 2008. He had a promising season for San Jose in 2010 but predictably struggled in the Eastern League. Still, .256 is not terrible for that league. He's played CF at the expense of Peguero the last 2 years so I would deduce that he's a superior defensive CF.

Darren Ford: B-R, T-R, BD: 10/1/1985. 3 MILB stops .265/.340/.370, 18 SB, 4 CS. MLB .286/.375/.286, 7 SB, 5 CS. Not sure what level to assign Ford or whether to classify him as a prospect. He's best known for his blazing speed and a couple of mad dashes around the diamond, one of which may well have been the difference between winning the World Series in 2010 and not even making the playoffs. Bruce Bochy has seemed intrigued by the idea of using him as a pinch-running specialist, but several CS's at the end of this season may have cooled that notion. He's always had pretty good walk rates and part of me would like to see what would happen if they just put him in CF and let him lead off for 600 PA's. You wouldn't do that with a contending team though.

High A

Gary Brown: B-R, T-R, BD: 9/28/1988. .336/.407/.519, 34 2B, 13 3B, 14 HR, 53 SB, 19 CS. Brown is definitely the alpha dog among Giants CF prospects. 2010 first round draft pick our of CS Fullerton after a sensational college career. He hit .336 with gap-to-gap extra-base power in his first full pro season for SJ despite a terrible slump in the month of June when he hit just .202. That tells you something about how well he hit in the other months of the season! Concerns about his strike zone judgement and ability to take walks were allayed by an IsoOBP of .071 which is pretty darn good, especially for a leadoff hitter. The two blemishes are the June slump and the relatively high CS rate. The slump may be a blessing in disguise as it forced him to struggle and adjust which he will have to do at some point in the majors. On defense, he not only has the speed to go get it in CF, he showed an ability ring up OF assists to boot. His overall package seems tailor made for AT&t and the other west coast ballparks. Brown is the most likely Giants CF of the future by a wide margin.

Jarrett Parker: B-L, T-L, BD: 1/1/1989. .253/.360/.397, 25 2B, 13 HR, 20 SB, 5 CS. Parker played mostly RF in his first pro season for SJ, with occasional outings in CF when Brown got a rest. He was a CF in college though and could probably play the position as pro if the Giants CF picture wasn't so crowded. Parker had his ups and downs in SJ but showed some promise. He has excellent plate discipline which may contribute to a high K rate due to taking too many called strikes. I saw him unleash a throw from RF that was every bit as strong as anything I've seen Nate do. He has a tall, lanky frame that makes him look a bit awkward at the plate. He is obviously going to take longer to develop than Brown, but may have more upside, especially as a power hitter.

Low A

Chris Lofton: B-L, T-R, BD: 3/20/1990. .237/.323/.292, 22 SG, 14 CS. At one point, Lofton had his BA all the way up into the high .290's, but slumped terribly in the month of August harming his overall stat line. He may have just worn down in his first pro season, but I wouldn't be shocked if he gets passed by Shawn Payne and Mike Merganthaler on the organizational CF depth chart.

Short Season

Jesus Galindo: B-S, T-R, BD: 8/23/1990. .276/.353/.364, 47 SB, 8 CS. I gotta tell you, I am so darn excited about this kid I can hardly stand it. He has all the ingredients to be the quintessential CF/Leadoff batter. Switch hitter, check. Draws walks, check. Blazing speed and runs with no conscience, check. I like my speed guys to hit LH or at least switch-hit. They are a step closer to 1B from the LH batters box. BA ranked him the 9'th best prospect in the NWL. His manager, Tom Trebelhorn compared him to Rickey Henderson. His hitting, especially from the left side was suspect coming into this season, but he showed tremendous improvement. The hit tool will make or break him because all of the other tools are there, well, except power, but who needs that if you have a .360 OBP and steal bases in bunches? One of the great sleepers in the Giants system. Don't think he'll stay asleep for long.

Shawn Payne: B-R, T-R, BD: 7/13/1989. .306/.431/.394, 21 SB, 6 CS. Between Joe Panik and Galindo, Payne got a bit lost in the shuffle in S-K, but he had a fine, fine pro debut. In the BA chat, it came out that he just missed the top 20 prospects list for the NWL. I'm really looking forward to his first full pro season. Will he again fight with Galindo for PT in CF or will he leapfrog over Lofton and be the starting CF for San Jose?

Rookie AZL

Mike Mergenthaler- B-L, T-L, BD: 1/6/1989. .388/.476/.592. Merganthaler was drafted out of Richmond and is too old for the AZL, so take the numbers with a grain of salt. A guy who is 6'4" 210 lb and can play CF is worth paying some attention to theough. It will be interesting to see where he gets assigned and what position he plays in 2012.

Kentrell Hill- B-R, T-R, BD: 10/27/1990. .256/.316/.360. Numbers not too exciting but he finished strong with a .320/.393/.520 line over his last 10 games. Scouting reports say he might be the best athlete in the entire system but is a bit of a project.

There were no standout CF prospects in the DSL this year.

That's a rundown of the Giants CF prospects by level. Here's a stab at a ranking in terms of prospect status based on a combination of ceiling and likelihood of reaching that ceiling as well as likelihood of staying in CF:

1. Gary Brown- by a wide margin.
2. Francisco Peguero
3. Jesus Galindo
4. Jarrett Parker
5. Shawn Payne
6. Kentrell Hill
7. Chris Lofton
8. Juan Perez
9. Mike Merganthaler
10.Justin Christian
11. Tyler Graham

BTW, BA released it's EL top 20 yesterday. Eric Surkamp was #11 and Peguero was #14. In the chat, they said Hembree was just outside the top 20.

Scottsdale Scorpions had their first AFL game postponed.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hot Stove Update: Scouting the Centerfielders

It's still pretty warm here in Southern California, but they say 2 winter storms are on the way. Let's fire up the ol' Hot Stove!

Brian Sabean made it pretty clear in his post-season press conference that CF would be the top offseason priority after taking care of the pitching. He also was pretty clear that he is not comfortable with any of the in-house candidates for next season. Andres Torres wasn't mentioned, but the implication was clear. He referred to Justin Christian as an "extra outfielder." The experience with Belt, Crawford, and Hector Sanchez in 2011 has caused Sabean to institute restrictor plates for the fast track, so don't look for Gary Brown anywhere around AT&T Park next April. So who might we look for in CF against the D'Backs on April 6, 2012? Let's take a look:


Coco Crisp: Brian Sabean has all but said he is going to acquire a CF from outside the organization and finding a leadoff hitter is a priority approximately equal to CF. There is exactly one player on the free agent market who fills that bill, Coco Crisp. Crisp is not an ideal leadoff hitter as his OBP last year was just .314. However his career OBP is .330 and he's had it as high as .345. Oakland's ballpark kills BA while AT&T helps BA which would also help his OBP. The Giants have never worried too much about OBP in their leadoff hitters, even though they should. They do seem to be looking for a guy who can steal bases and Crisp is an accomplished base stealer with a career high in 2011 of 49 with just 9 CS. He also has a little pop in his bat with 40 XBH's. Sabean tends to be almost hyperaggressive in situations where he has identified a priority and options are scarce. If he's identified Crisp as his guy, look for him to overpay either in $$ and/or years to land him. I'm guessing $18-21 M over 3 years. 3 years is a risk with Crisp as he's had trouble staying healthy. His 136 games played in 2011 was the most since 2007 with Boston. The Giants experience with injuries in 2011 might make Sabes think twice.

David DeJesus: If Sabes is working with a tight budget and is looking for a cheaper alternative to Crisp and a shorter time commtment, he might consider another Oakland A from across the Bay, David DeJesus. De Jesus is not a classic CF like Crisp and he's not much of a basestealer, but he does know how to get on base. His OBP was 10 points higher than Crisp's in 2011 despite a BA almost 30 points lower. His OBP has been as high as .384. Again, AT&T should help his BA. Sabean personally scouted DeJesus at the trade deadline in 2010 before he suffered a season ending injury so Sabes certainly knows who he is.

Nate McLouth: McLouth has hit just .190 and .228 in the last 2 seasons with ATL, but his OBP is consistently 100 pts higher than his BA. He finished the season on the 60 day DL. ATL has a $10 M option that they won't pick up. I could see him being available as a ST invitee on a minor league deal.

Grady Sizemore: Cleveland is currently debating whether to pick up his $8M+ option. Sizemore was once a potential superstar whose career has been derailed by injuries. Lots of upside here, but I don't see Sabes taking a risk on him even if he's available.

Other FA's: Rick Ankiel, Carlos Beltran, Mike Cameron, Scott Hairston, Andruw Jones, Corey Patterson, Cody Ross. Ross could be back if he fails to find a multi-year deal elsewhere. I actually like Cody as a leadoff hitter even though he is not a basestealer. None of the other options really look like options. There seems to be mutual interest between the Giants and Beltran but there has been no talk of him playing CF.


Angel Pagan: The Mets are thought to be unlikely to tender Pagan. He's a legitimate CF and leadoff hitter. He and Andres Torres had similar seasons in 2010, but Pagan's dropoff was less steep. Sabes would have to wait until the arbitration deadline on Pagan which he has not been willing to do for high priority positions in the past.

Tony Gwynn Jr.: Could be non-tendered by the Dodgers but again, there's the waiting factor and he's not an obvious upgrade over Torres.


BJ Upton: He's a SB threat and can play CF and has some power with potential for a lot more. I think he is just one year short of FA. His low BA and history of attitude problems may be a turnoff. He would be expensive in terms of what prospects the Giants would have to give up. I'm thinking Gary Brown would be the starting point. Doubt Sabes would do that, at least I hope he wouldn't and I kind of like Upton!

Alex Rios: Rios had a terrible season for the ChiSox. He has 3 years left on a 6 year/$64 M contract. Has some upside and could probably be had for almost nothing in trade, but too much danger of him being another Aaron Rowand unless the 'Sox would either send $$$ in the deal or take Zito who is not owed much more total $$$ but over a shorter time span.

Melky Cabrera: The Melkman had a pretty darn good season for KC. They have Lorenzo Cain waiting in the wings and may be looking to sell high on Melky. He has one more year of arbitration and will get a nice raise from the $1.2 M he made last year, but it will probably not be a huge amount and it's a short term commitment. The price in prospects could be steep though.

Denard Span: Span had a disappointing season for the Twins and they may be looking to unload him. He's under contract through 2014 for a total of $15.5 M. The Twins would be looking for a significant prospect or two in return.

Rajai Davis: With the acquisition of Colby Rasmus, Davis may not fit into the Blue Jays plans. He's can go get it in CF and is an excellent basestealer, but you can't steal first base! Under contract for $2.75 M with a $500 K buyout in 2013. Could probably be had for not much in return but is he a better option than a Torres/Christian platoon?


Lastings Milledge, Feliz Pie, Reggie Willits. Some upside with Milledge and Pie but somehow I don't think this bunch is what Sabes has in mind.

That's all I can think of. Any other ideas out there?