Monday, November 30, 2015

Down on the Farm: Community Giants Top Prospect Ranking

Hey team!  I've drawn up a very rough top tier of Giants prospects and would like some input on how YOU would rank them.  Here we go(I've listed them in alphabetical order of last name):

Christian Arroyo
Tyler Beede
Phil Bickford
Clayton Blackburn
Lucious Fox
Mac Williamson

Rank 'em best to worst in Comments.  Explanations are appreciated.  Would you add anyone to the list?  Take any out?

 Thanks everybody!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Hot Stove Update: Zimmermann to Tigers

The Detroit Tigers reportedly agreed to terms today on a free agent contract with RHP Jordan Zimmermann.  The deal has yet to be confirmed by the Tigers.  The price tag is pegged at 5 years/$110 M for an AAV of $22 M.  Zimmermann has been a model of consistency for the past 5 seasons for the Washington Nationals, although 2014 was his best season and 2015 his least good(although it was still quite good).  His cumulative line over that time frame is plus 7 games in 2010, is 70-50, 3.32, 1094 IP, 7.43 K/9 and 1.82 BB/9 with a cumulative fWAR of 20.3.  His fWAR per season has ranged from 3.0 in 2015 to 5.3 in 2014.  His FB velocity has belt steady at 93.0 MPH last year compared to a career average of 93.5.

The Tigers most likely decided they were not in contention for either to the top tier players, David Price or Zack Greinke so grabbed Zimm while the rest of MLB was focused on the lead group which was probably a smart strategy.  Still, he did not come cheaply.  Detroit is paying for an anticipated production of about 3.5 fWAR per season going forward which is just under his career average, although he has topped it just once so far in his career.

In addition, the Tigers take on at least a perceived risk of a long term commitment to a pitcher with a history of Tommy John surgery.  Zimmermann is entering a window where historically, the incidence of recurrent UCL tears starts to dramatically increase.  On top of that, successful recovery rates for second TJ surgeries is notoriously poor.  Whereas a first time UCL tear would likely result in just one lost year out of the 5 in the contract, a second time tear likely busts the remainder of the contract.

So, how does Zimmermann's signing impact the Giants?  More than one analyst predicted the Giants as the team signing him and he certainly had significant support among Giants fans.  I have always been lukewarm at best on him due to the TJ issue which I think is bigger than it's being given credit for.  The signing also likely creates a rough benchmark for both higher and lower rated players in the free agent market.  I would probably slot Zimmermann between Johnny Cueto above and Mike Leake and Jeff Samardzija below in the FA pitcher hierarchy with the 5/$110 representing an absolute floor for Cueto and an absolute ceiling for Leake and Samardzija.

It also takes away one fallback option should the Giants fail or give up their pursuit of one of the top tier pitchers, Price or Greinke.  Leake is on record as saying he wants to choose a team and sign quickly.  If somebody jumps up and convinces Leake to sign with them, who are the Giants left to choose from if they they strike out on Price/Greinke.  So, Zimmermann's signing puts some pressure on the Giants to put their final, best offers up for the top tier guys and move on quickly if they get rejected.

Fantasy Focus: 2016 Impact Rookies- Mallex Smith

With the Hot Stove so cold it's practically frozen over, we'll just keep plodding along with anther Fantasy Focus here. 

Most fantasy baseball leagues have SB's as one of 5 offensive categories in their scoring which means it counts for 20% of your potential offensive score and 10% of your overall score.  Last season was a bit stronger for SB's than 2014, but it was still a weak category.  There were no players with as many as 60 SB's last year, just 2 with 50 or more(Dee Gordon and Billy Hamilton), 3 with 40 or more and 7 with 30 or more.  Out of 30 players with 20 or more SB's, just 4 had as many as 20 HR's.  With the virtual disappearance of the 20/20 player, winning the SB category almost impossible without sacrificing the power categories.  Last season, I overpaid in the draft for both Gordon and Hamilton which cornered the market on 50 SB guys and enabled me to ignore SB's from my other offensive players.

If you don't dig overspending for SB's, or if someone else outbids you or beats you to Gordon or Hamilton, I have a sleeper prospect you might want to tuck away in your back pocket out of the Braves organization.  Here's his profile:

Mallex Smith, OF.  B-L, T-R.  23 yo for 2016 season.  5'9", 160 lbs.  

2015 AA:  .340/.418/.413, 23 SB, 11.3 BB%, 17.1 K%, 240 PA.
2015 AAA:  .281/.339/.367, 34 SB, 7.8 BB%, 14.3 K%, 307 PA.

That's 57 totals SB's in the 5 month minor league season.  He had 88 in 2014 and 64 in 2013 at lower levels.  Despite a lack of power, he's managed to maintain a BB% double digits at all levels prior to AAA while keeping his K% below 20.  Best comp in MLB is probably Ben Revere.  Opportunity is critical when it comes to fantasy baseball.  You may love Andrew Susac as a catching prospect, but he is never going to play much as long as he's in the same organization as Buster Posey.  Mallex Smith may not be a premium prospect, but there is not much standing in the way of playing time in Atlanta.  The Braves may keep him down for a couple of months to delay his arbitration clock, but he is almost certainly going to get his chance to start in the OF and lead off for the Braves in 2016.  Monitor him closely.  When he gets the callup, he'll be a nice, cheap source of SB's.  Oh, and he has a great name!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Down on the Farm: Minor League Free Agent Signings

The Giants signed a handful of minor league free agents last week.  We already discussed Kyle Blanks who was signed earlier.  Here's the breakdown:

Albert Suarez, RHP.  26 yo.  6'3", 235 lbs.  2015 AA:  11-9, 2.98, 163 IP, 6.68 K/9, 2.21 BB/9.  Suarez came up through the Rays organization, but spent last season pitching for the Angels AA affiliate in Midland, TX.  He has been a relatively low K/high BB pitchers over the years.  Last year was an improvement on those ratios, particularly BB's.  Ceiling is probably 5'th starter on a non-contending team.

Hak-Ju Lee, SS.  B-L, T-R. 25 yo.  6'2", 170 lbs.  2015 AAA:  .220/.303/.304, 3 HR, 20 SB, 9.7 BB%, 29.2 K% in 313 PA.  Hak-Ju was once a heralded prospect in the Rays system.  The word on him is he is a plus defender of that premium position, but he has never hit a lick.  So, is he fixable?  Here's my theory, which may or may not be reality:  The Rays are well known to be a strongly SABR oriented team.  Looking at Lee's stat line, you see the high walks and high strikeouts.  He's a 3-true outcomes player without the dingers and the results are predictably ugly.  I'll guess the Rays, in their development process strongly encouraged him to try to take walks.  The cost of taking a lot of walks is hitting in more 2-strike counts which leads to more K's and weaker contact on balls you do manage to put in play.  Lee now comes to an organization that encourages a high contact approach which involves swinging at hittable pitches earlier in the counts.  Players like Joe Panik, Matt Duffy and Kelby Tomlinson have shown this approach can increase hard contact without completely sacrificing walks.  Of course, both approaches still require pitch recognitions skills which Hak-Ju might not have.  It also may be difficult to completely re-tool your approach this late in your career.  This one is going to be interesting to watch.

Ricky Romero, LHP.  31 yo.  6'1", 210 lbs.  Romero hooked on with the Giants last year, but only appeared in 8 innings in Arizona with a 5.63 ERA.  He'll try to get a full season in next season.

Junior Arias, OF, 24 yo, 6'2", 178 lbs, B-R, T-R.  2015 A+(Reds):  .243/.286/.379, 11 HR, 37 SB, 5.1 BB%, 25.9 K%.  A hacker with some power and speed.  Not sure what you do with these guys except give them more PA's and hope they develop better plate discipline.

Carlos Moncrief, OF, 27 yo, 6/0", 220 lbs.  B-L, T-R.  2015 AA(Indians):  .261/.368/.397, 4 HR, 6 SB, 14.4 BB%, 11.9 K%, 236 PA.  AAA(Indians):  .187/.322/.331, 7 HR, 5 SB, 15.8 BB%, 29.1 K%, 203 PA.  Don't get too excited over the low BB% in AA. It's an outlier on the rest of his career.  He's a 3 true outcomes guy with some power.  May also benefit from a more aggressive approach earlier in counts.

The Giants also released RHP EJ Encinosa, LHP Nick Gonzalez, LHP Andrew Leenhouts and RHP Eric Sim.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday Q/A

I'm on holiday today and I don't do the shopping thing, so fire away.  I'll try to answer questions about anything related to the Giants or baseball in general.  I'll check in frequently to write up answers.

Dr B

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Down on the Farm: Another Way of Looking at the 2011 Draft

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!  Here is some reading to pass the time while the turkey is in the oven.

When we reviewed the Giants 2011 draft, we got to see how the drafted players were progressing in their careers, but did not have the context of how other team's prospects are doing.  To review all 1500 draft picks is too long and laborious in undertaking for this blogger.  Instead, I reviewed all of the first round draft picks plus added in any names I recognize from later rounds as having played in the majors or else players still in the minors but considered top prospects.  This is a quick and dirty study, so i'll say upfront that I may well be missing an important name here and there.  I do think it helps give a general idea of the relative strength of the Giants draft compared to other MLB teams:

1.  Pirates:  Gerrit Cole, RHP, UCLA.  2015:  19-8, 2.60, 204 IP, 8.74 K/9, 1.90 BB/9, FB 95.5 MPH, 5.4 fWAR(Total MLB fWAR= 10.2).  Cole is not quite in the top tier of MLB pitchers, but he's dang close and may well achieve that distinction as soon as 2016.  His career fWAR of 10.2 is by far the most of any 2011 draftee, so the Pirates made the right pick.  Josh Bell(Round 2) and Tyler Glasnow(round 5) are the two other draftees most likely to make a future impact with Glasnow, in particular, being one of the likely top 5-10 prospects in baseball.

2.  Mariners:  Danny Hultzen, LHP, Virginia.  Hultzen started his pro career strong, but soon fell victim to injuries.  He has just 43.2 IP over the past 3 seasons and was DFA'd off the Mariners 40 man roster last week.  DFA'd prospects have worked their way back onto 40 man rosters before, but right now the future does not look bright for this #2 overall pick.  Other Mariners 2011 draftees of note include SS Brad Miller(Round 2), RHP Carter Capps(Round 3S) and RHP Carson Smith(Round 8).  Smith is the team's current closer.  Miller and Capps are in other organizations.

3.  D'Backs:  Trevor Bauer, RHP, UCLA.  2015:  11-12, 4.55, 176 IP, 8.69 K/9, 4.04 BB/9, FB 92.7 MPH, 1.8 fWAR(Career fWAR= 2.8).  Bauer was billed as a bigger, stronger version of Tim Lincecum.  He has suffered from command/control issues from the start.  He reportedly clashed with D'Backs coaches and was traded to Cleveland where he finally turned in a decent MLB season.  Unlikely to be any Cy Young Awards in his future.  The D'Backs also had the #7 overall pick in the draft with which they drafted RHP Archie Bradley.

4.  Orioles:  Dylan Bundy, RHP, HS.  AA:  0-3, 3.68, 22 IP, 10.23 K/9, 2.05 BB/9.  Dylan Bundy was once considered one of the elite pitching prospects in baseball.  Then TJ came knocking on his door and his recovery took longer than expected.  He was quite good in his return to action, but was shut down early in the AFL this fall due to shoulder pain.  I did not recognize any other names from the O's 2011 draft, so Bundy and his shoulder may be all that stands between them and coming up empty for the draft.

5.  Royals:  Bubba Starling, OF, HS.  2015:  AA:  .254/.318/.426, 10 HR, 366 PA.  AFL:  .274/.350/.440, 4 HR, 5 SB.  Big OF with some tools.   Continues to have a high ceiling but has yet to break out.  Continues to have significant bust potential.  His current numbers suggest a fringy MLB career.  The only other name I recognize from the Royals draft is OF Terrance Gore(Round 20) whose MLB career may consist of pinch-running in the postseason.

6.  Nationals:  Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice.  2015:  MLB:  .264/.344/.363, 5 HR, 355 PA, fWAR 0.9(Career fWAR= 8.9).  Rendon has been very good when healthy which has not been very often.  There are no other names I recognize from the Nationals draft.

7.  D'Backs:  Archie Bradley, RHP, HS.  2015  MLB:  2-3, 5.80, 35.3 IP, 5.80 K/9, 5.55 BB/9.  Comp pick for failing(purposefully, IMO) to sign Barrett Loux in 2014.  Bradley is a big hard throwing kid who has struggled with command/control issues.  Still has a high ceiling, but slower to realize it than expected and has big time bust potential.  2 other names I recognize from the D'Backs draft are LHP Andrew Chafin(Round 1S) and RHP Evan Marshall(Round 4).

8.  Indians:  Francisco Lindor, SS, HS.  2015 MLB:  .313/.353/.482, 12 HR, 12 SB, 4.6 fWAR.  Lindor has always been an elite defensive SS.  His offensive debut was unexpectedly strong.  If he can build on that, he could be THE pick of this draft.  The Indians better hope he is, because I do not recognize any other names from the Indians draft.

9.  Cubs:  Javier Baez, SS, HS.  2015 MLB:  .289/.325/.408, 1 HR, 80 PA, 0.5 fWAR(Career fWAR= -0.3).  Baez has hit dingers in bunches in the minors, but his 30%+ K rates seem to have caught up with him in the majors.  He is probably not a MLB SS either and has no clear position to play.  High ceiling, high bust potential.  I was surprised to not find any other names I recognized in this Cubs draft.

10.  Padres:  Cory Spangenburg, 2B, JC.  2015 MLB:  .271/.333/.399, 4 HR, 9 SB, 345 PA, 2.1 fWAR.  Some things to like here, but Spangenburg's power has never developed which probably does not endear him to Padres GM AJ Preller.  Has played 3B more in the majors.  The Padres also had the 25'th overall pick in the draft taking RHP Joe Ross.

11.  Astros:  George Springer, OF, Connecticut.  2015 MLB:  .276/.367/.459, 16 HR, 16 SB, 3.7 fWAR(Career fWAR= 5.3).  Likely future 30/30 guy if he can keep the K's under control.  Nice pick for the "Stros.  Other 2011 draftees I recognized were RHP Nick Tropeano(Round 5) and 3B Matt Duffy(Round 20).  Tropeano is now in the Angels' organization, traded for Hank Conger.  Matt Duffy is not Matt Duffy!

12.  Brewers:  Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Texas.  2015 MLB:  9-8, 3.77, 119.1 IP, 8.07 K/9, 3.54 BB/9, FB 91.9 MPH, fWAR 1.6.  Jungmann fits the Brewers mold of low ceiling high floor pitchers.  Could develop into something more, but profiles as a #3-4 SP.  The Brewers also had the #15 overall pick with which they took LHP Jed Bradley.

13.  Mets:  Brandon Nimmo, OF HS.  AAA:  .264/.393/.418, 3 HR, 5 SB, 112 PA.  Big OF with some tools who popped up late in the draft out of Wyoming.  Some things to like here, but still has a ways to go.  High ceiling/High bust but more likely something in-between, much like Bubba Starling, a very similar prospect.  Other 2015 Mets draftees I recognize are RHP Michael Fulmer(Round 1.5) and RHP Logan Verrett(Round 3).  Fulmer was traded to Detroit in the Cespedes trade.

14.  Marlins:  Jose Fernandez, RHP, HS.  2015 MLB:  6-1, 2.92, 64.2 IP, 10.99 K/9, 1.95 BB/9, FB 95.9 MPH, 2.1 fWAR(Career fWAR= 7.8.  Strong return from TJ surgery. One of the best pitchers in baseball when his sophomore season was interrupted by the UCL tear.  Rumors of discord with Owner Jeffrey Loria seem to be getting smoothed over.  The only other 2015 draftee whose name I recognize is C Austin Barnes(Round 9).  He was traded to the Dodgers in the Dee Gordon trade.

15. Brewers:  Jed Bradley, LHP, Georgia Tech.  2015 AAA:  2-4, 9.00, 26 IP, 5.19 K/9, 3.46 BB/9.  Well, he's at AAA, but I'm not sure there is anything else positive to say.  His numbers at each stop have been less than impressive.  I do not recognize any other 2015 Brewers draftees.

16.  Dodgers:  Chris Reed, LHP, Stanford.  Frank McCourt reportedly did not want to spend money on the draft, so he wasted the money he did spend.  Reed pitched 4 AAA innings for the Marlins this year.    He had unimpressive numbers in the Dodgers organization.  I did not find any other names I recognized from the Dodgers draft list.

17.  Angels:  CJ Cron, 1B, Utah.   2015 MLB:  .262/.300/.439, 16 HR, 404 PA, 0.5 fWAR(Career fWAR 0.2).  Cron hit reasonably well in his first extended MLB experience.  He has a bat that will hit for both average and power.  He's a big body who is limited to 1B and DH defensively.  Other names from the Angels draft list I recognize are OF Zach Borenstein(Round 23) and C Jett Bandy(Round 31).

18.  Athletics:  Sonny Gray, RHP, Vanderbilt.  2015 MLB:  14-7, 2.73, 208 IP, 7.31 K/9, 2.55 BB/9, 3.8 fWAR(Career fWAR= 8.4).  Quintessential Moneyball pick.  While teams higher in the draft order chased 5-tool HS studs and flame throwing pitchers jonesing for TJ surgery, Solid Sonny Gray who had more than adequate velocity and great command to go with it.  If the A's could afford to draft Sonny Gray, the Dodgers certainly could too, and Gray was the better prospect by several orders of magnitude.  The only other name of the A's draft list I recognize is RHP Blake Treinen(Round 7) who is in the Nationals organization now.

19.  Red Sox:  Matt Barnes, RHP, Connecticut.  2015 MLB:  3-4, 5.44, 43 IP, 8.16 K/9, 3.14 BB/9, FB 94.7 MPH, -0.4 fWAR.  The K/9 and velocity would suggest there is more here than the ERA would lead you to believe.  The Red Sox also had the #26 pick and took Blake Swihart with it.

20.  Rockies:  Tyler Anderson, LHP, Oregon.  2014 AA:  7-4, 1.98, 118.1 IP, 8.06 K/9, 3.04 BB/9.  Anderson missed the 2015 season, presumably spending the time with TJ.  Has pitched very well when healthy.  Other names I recognize from the Rockies draft list:  SS Trevor Story(Round 1S), SS Taylor Featherston(Round 5).  Featherston was taken by the Angels in last year's Rule 5 draft and spent the season stashed on their bench.

21.  Blue Jays:  Tyler Beede, RHP, HS.  As we all know, Beede did not sign and was drafted #15 overall by the Giants in 2014 after a college career at Vanderbilt.  Other BJ's draftees from 2015 include LHP Daniel Norris(Round 2), RHP Anthony DesSclafini(Round 6) and OF Kevin Pillar(Round 32).  Norris and DeSclafini were traded out of the organization for David Price and Jose Reyes respectively.

22.  Cardinals:  Kolton Wong, 2B, Hawaii.  2015 MLB:  .262/.321/.386, 11 HR, 15 SB, 2.3 fWAR(Career fWAR= 3.9)  Somewhat disappointing numbers after a late season splash in his 2014 MLB debut.  2016 will be a pivotal season in his career.  Interestingly, the only other name I recognize from this Cardinals draft is RHP Seth Maness(Round 11).

23.  Nationals:  Alex Meyer, RHP, Kentucky.  2015 AAA:  4-5, 4.79, 92 IP, 9.78 K/9, 4.70 BB/9, FB 95.6 MPH.  Big, tall dude.  Meyer has struggled with command his entire minor league career.  He is now in the Twins organization where he may have a future in the bullpen. Meyer was the Nationals second pick in this draft.  I did not see any other names I recognized from their draft list.

24. Rays:  Taylor Guerreri, RHP, HS.  2015 AA:  3-1, 1.50, 36 IP, 7.00 K/9, 2.00 BB/9.  Like many fireballing HS pitchers, he missed some time for TJ, but the numbers suggest he may still be a high ceiling prospect.  The Rays also had picks 31 and 32 in the first round of this draft.

25.  Padres:  Joe Ross, RHP, HS.  2015 MLB(Nationals):  5-5, 3.64, 76.2 IP, 8.10 K/9, 2.47 BB/9, 1.4 fWAR.  Ross was the Padres second pick in this draft.  He was traded to the Nationals with Trea Turner in the 3-way that brought back Wil Myers.  Other names I recognize from the Padres draft include C Austin Hedges(Round 2), RHP Matt Andriese(Round 3), RHP Paul Quackenbush(Round 8) and RHP Burch Smith(Round 14).

26. Red Sox:  Blake Swihart, C, HS.  2015 MLB:  .274/.319/.392, 5 HR, 4 SB, 1.5 fWAR.  Swihart was the second Red Sox pick in this draft.  He is an offense-first catcher whose D has improved enough to start at the position at the MLB level.  He looks like the BoSox catcher of the future.  Other recognizable names on the Red Sox draft list include LHP Henry Owens(Round 1S), OF Jackie Bradley Jr(Round 1S), 2B/OF Mookie Betts(Round 5) and 1B Travis Shaw(Round 9).  Great haul for the Red Sox who stockpiled high draft picks and got several high level prospects who have performed up to expectations.

27.  Reds:  Robert Stephenson, RHP, HS.  2015 AAA:  4-4, 4.04, 55.2 IP, 8.25 K/9, 4.37 BB/9.  Analysts keep raving about what a great prospect Stephenson is, but the numbers have not matched the hype.  Other names from this Reds draft include LHP Tony Cingrani(Round 3) and LHP Amir Garrett(Round 22).  Garrett looked a lot like Aroldis Chapman in the Futures Game.  Cingrani pitched unhappily out of the Red bullpen in 2015.

28.  Braves:  Sean Gilmartin, LHP, Florida State.  2015 MLB(Mets):  3-2, 2.67, 57.1 IP, 8.48 K/9, 2.83 BB/9, 0.9 fWAR.  Gilmartin was traded to the Twins then the Mets.  He pitched well as a swing man/long reliever in 2015.  He could have a nice career as a Jeremy Affeldt-type lefty reliever.  Other Braves 2015 draftees I recognize are SS Nick Ahmed(Round 2) and 2B Tommy LaStella(Round 8) both of whom are now with other organizations.

29.  Giants:  Joe Panik, SS, St Johns.  Career fWAR 5.8.  We've already written up the Giants draft in a previous post.  So, what did the Giants see in Joe Panik that others did not?  The single most important tool out of the classic 5 is the hardest to recognize and is often overlooked or discounted.  The Giants recognized Joe Panik's hit tool and figured that it was good enough that he did not have to stay at SS, but as a college SS he had the athleticism to play some position well.  Great pick!  As for the rest of their draft, using the same methodology, if I was a fan of some other team, I am quite sure I would still recognize Susac, Tomlinson, Osich, Blackburn, Crick and Black.  I would probably overlook Cody Hall, Derek Law and Jake Smith.

30.  Twins:  Levi Michael, SS, North Carolina.  2015 AA:  .267/.369/.434, 5 HR, 18 SB, 264 PA.  I did not recognize any other names on the Twins draft list.

31.  Rays:  Mikie Mahtook, OF, LSU.  2015 MLB:  .295/.351/.619, 9 HR, 4 SB, 115 PA's, 1.8 fWAR.  Quite the splash for his MLB debut!  Low BB rate and high K rate suggest this might not be sustainable.  Mahtook was the second of 3 Rays first round selections.

32.  Rays:  Jake Hager, SS, HS.  2015 AA:  .271/.316/.376, 4 HR, 4 SB 490 PA.  I did not recognize any other names from the Rays draft list.

33.  Rangers:  Kevin Matthews, LHP, HS.  Has had shoulder issues and has never gotten traction on his pro career.  Just 8.1 IP in 2015.  The only other recognizable name from the Rangers draft is RHP Jerad Eickoff(Round 15) who was traded to Philly in the Hamels trade and made is MLB debut with the Phils.

There were 4 teams who did not have first round draft picks in the 2011 draft:  Phillies, Yankees, Tigers and White Sox.  I will list the recognizable players from each of those teams draft list:

Phillies:  3B Cody Asche(Round 4), RHP Ken Giles(Round 5).

Yankees:  1B Greg Bird(Round 5).

Tigers:  C James McCann(Round 2).

White Sox:  SS Marcus Semien(Round 6).


Comments:  It probably takes at least 10 years before you can fully evaluate a draft, but 5 years is a pretty decent window where you can get a pretty good idea of where things are headed.

Ranking these drafts in terms of the impact on MLB talent/production, regardless of draft position or numbers of picks I would probably go:

1.  Red Sox
2. Pirates
3. Giants

If you define draft success as getting at least 1 player who makes a meaningful MLB contribution, 19 out of 30 teams would meet that criteria with several more still having a chance to meet it down the road.  If you up the stakes and say you need at least 1 player with 2+ fWAR or 2 players who make a meaningful MLB contribution the number goes down to 14, less than half, with several teams still having a chance to join that group.

The higher a team drafts, the more likely they are to land a star player, but it is by no means a guarantee.  Some of the worst results in this draft were from teams drafting in the top 10 or even top 5 which may partly explain why they were drafting that high.  Multiple first round picks increases your chances of success, but also is no guarantee.

Teams that can consistently get 2 or more contributing players out of their drafts have a significant competitive advantage over the rest of the league.

Pre-draft prospect rankings appear to be poor predictors of future success after being drafted, although in general, odds are way better for first rounders than any other rounds.  Once you get past the second round, it is actually quite uncommon to draft a contributing player, let alone an star player.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fantasy Focus: 2016 Impact Rookies- Corey Seager

OK, this will be a bit of a downer for us Giants fans, so let's get it out of the way early.  Corey Seager will likely go into the season as the #1 prospect in all of baseball and he's a Dodger.   A former first round draft pick, Seager has raked at every level in the minors.  He got a September callup last year and played a big part in the Dodgers stretch run.  He's listed as a SS and that's where he got most of his September PT, but he probably is more of a 3B in the long run.  He is 6'4", 215 lbs, B-L, T-R.  His line  in 113 MLB PA's:  .337/.425/.561, 4 HR, 12.4 BB%, 16.8 K%.  Steamer's projection for him in 2016 is a more modest .265/.315/.423, 16 HR, 5 SB in 579 PA.

He was a negative defender at SS in his MLB debut, which could improve with experience.  The Dodgers may also choose to move him to 3B right away which is probably his long term position.  For Fantasy purposes, he will have SS eligibility in 2016 and should be drafted in all leagues.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Down on the Farm: 2011 Giants Draft Review

The recent 40 man roster adds of mostly players from the 2011 draft got me to thinking about doing a full review of those drafts to see where the players are at this point in their careers.  2011 was the year the Giants drafted Joe Panik in the first round, #29 overall, to much laughter and eye rolling among commentators on the MLB channel.  The pick was savaged by other analysts such as Keith Law of ESPN who famously called Joe a "utility infielder at best".   Here's the Giants complete draft list from 2011 excluding players who ended up not signing.  We'll list them by round with the highest level reached and their 2015 stats if they are still playing:

Round 1(#29):  Joe Panik, SS, St Johns.  MLB:  .312/.378/.455, 8 HR, 100 games.  Panik was in the middle of a tremendous season having earned 4.2 fWAR points by just past the halfway mark when he was stricken with a back injury that never completely healed.  Projected to 160 games, he was on a pace for a 6+ fWAR season which would have made him the top 2B in MLB by a safe margin.  He has earned 5.8 fWAR points in just over a full season's worth of PA's over 2 seasons.  On top of that, the Giants probably do not win the 2014 WS without him as his stellar play at 2B down the stretch was an immense help in securing a Wild Card spot and then there was his possibly game-saving play in Game 7 of the WS.  This draft would already be a success if no one else but Joe Panik reached the major leagues!  The challenge going forward is keeping the back healthy.  2016 will be a pivotal year in that regard.

Round 1(S):  Kyle Crick, RHP, HS.  AA:  3-4, 3.29, 63 IP, 10.43 K/9, 9.43 BB/9.  Cricky still has the fantastic stuff, but has struggled with his control.  Moving to the bullpen helped some, but he was still wild.  Added to the 40 man roster, the Giants have clearly not given up on him.  Ceiling is an elite closer or a #1/2 SP, but the bust potential is definitely there.

Round 2:  Andrew Susac, C, Oregon St.  MLB:  .218/.279/.368, 3 HR in 148 PA.  Susac struggled all season with a bad wrist and finally ended up having surgery early this offseason.  He's a terrific hitter when fully healthy and an adequate defensive catcher with room to improve.  As with all catchers, his future depends largely on being able to stay healthy.

Round 3:  Ricky Oropesa, 1B, USC.  AA:  .254/.311/.424, 17 HR in 499 PA.  Ricky has struggled mightily at AA.  His 17 HR's were tied for 3'rd in the EL, but most of them came in 2 hot streaks.  He's hoping for an assignment to Sacramento in 2016 where the PCL may feel more like home to the California kid.

Round 4:  Bryce Bandilla, LHP, Arizona.  DNP 2015.  Status unclear.  Bandilla was the first of a string of hard throwing college relievers taken in this draft.

Round 5:  Chris Marlowe, RHP, Oklahoma St.  Last played 2013, High A.

Round 6:  Josh Osich, LHP, Oregon St.  MLB:  2-0, 2.20, 28.2 IP, 8.48 K/9, 2.51 BB/9.  Started the season in AA, spent just a couple of game in AAA then made in immediate impact in the Giants bullpen with a mid-high 90's FB and a wicked change up.  Odds on favorite to make the 2016 Opening Day 25 man roster as Jeremy Affledt's replacement.

Round 7:  Ray Black, RHP, Pitt.  High A:  2-1, 2.88, 18.36 K/9, 9.00 BB/9.  Black routinely hit triple digits out of the SJ bullpen then lit up the guns in the Arizona Fall League topping out at 104 MPH.  A strange midseason trial as a SP did not work out.  His future is in the bullpen and could arrive in 2016.  The BB's are worrisome as is his injury history, but he's been mostly healthy for 2 seasons now and he does have stretches with apparently good control of the strike zone.

Round 8:  Jean Delgado, SS HS PR.  Last played 2013 Short Season.

Round 9:  Derek Law, RHP, JC.  AA:  0-1, 4.56, 25.2 IP, 11.22 K/9, 2.81 BB/9, 13 Saves.  Coming off TJ surgery, the ERA was a bit disappointing, but the K and BB ratios look great.  Look for a big breakout in 2016.

Round 10.  Kentrell Hill, OF, Ark. Baptist.  Last played 2013 Short Season.

Round 11.  Christian Diaz, OF, HS PR.  Last played 2012 Rookie.

Round 12.  Kelby Tomlinson, SS, Texas Tech.  MLB:  .303/.358/.404, 2 HR, 5 SB 193 PA.  Tomlinson had to stand in the gap when Joe Panik went down and did so admirably.  He started out shaky on defense but improved immensely with a little experience.  At the plate, he just kept pecking away and was one of the toughest outs in the lineup all the way to the end of the season.  Will likely be the #1 utility IF to start 2016.

Round 14:  Garrett Buechele, 3B, Oklahoma.  Last played 2012 Low A.

Round 16:  Clayton Blackburn, RHP, HS.  AAA:  10-4, 2.85, 123 IP, 7.24 BB/9, 2.34 BB/9.  Blackburn has worked his way up the organizational ladder.  He got himself into tremendous shape for the 2015 season and is paid off with the top SP performance in the entire PCL by a wide margin.  Not much left to prove in the minors.  Some analysts question whether he has the stuff to be more than a back-end SP in the majors. Hey! You never know until you try!

Round 17:  Paul Davis, RHP, Florida Atlantic.  Last played 2012 Low A.

Round 18:  Cristian Otero, SS, HS PR.  Last played 2012, Short Season.

Round 19:  Cody Hall, RHP, Southern.  MLB:  0-0, 6.48, 8.1 IP, 7.56 K/9, 4.32 BB/9.  Had a 3.46 ERA in AAA.  The hard throwing RHP showed flashes of brilliance in a brief MLB callup in September.  Will compete for a bullpen spot in the spring, but will likely start the season in AAA.

Round 20:  Mitchell Beacom, LHP, UCLA.  Last played 2012 High A.

Round 21:  Cameron McVey, RHP, Biola.  Last played 2014 Short Season.

Round 23:  Jonathan Jones, 3B, Canada JC.  Last played 2014 Short Season.

Round 24:  Keith Bilodeau, RHP, Maine.  Last played 2012 Low A.

Round 25:  Demondre Arnold, RHP, JC.  Last played 2012 Low A.

Round 26:  Joe Biagini, RHP, UC Davis.  AA:  10-7, 2.42, 130.1 IP, 5.80 K/9, 2.35 BB/9.  Big Joe had something of a breakout season in 2015 although some would scoff at the low K rate.  He throws hard and tries to induce weak contact.   Was left unprotected in the 2015 Rule 5 draft and I could see some team taking a flyer on him, although the Giants have not had a player selected in the Rule 5 draft since Joe Paterson a long time ago.

Round 27:  Jack Snodgrass, LHP, Austin Peay St.  AAA:  1-2, 4.84, 27.1 IP, 8.06 K/9, 4.84 BB/9.  Tall lefty.  Could still emerge in a second AAA season.  Most likely ceiling is MLB lefty specialist.

Round 28:  Tyler Mizenko, RHP, Winthrop.  AA:  4-3, 1.98, 50 IP, 5.04 K/9, 2.52 BB/9, 4 Saves.  Was a closer at lower levels, but probably does not K enough to close at higher levels.  He's an extreme GB pitcher who could thrive as a long-middle reliever.

Round 29:  Eldred Barnett, OF, Grambling St.  Last played 2012 Rookie.

Round 31:  Phil McCormick, LHP, Missouri.  AA:  4-3, 2.04, 57.1 IP, 5.97 K/9, 3.30 BB/9, 5 Saves.  Lefty reliever who can go more than 1 inning.  Held his own in the AFL.  Let's see what he can do in the big bad PCL!

Round 32:  Mike Mergenthaler, OF, Richmond.  Last played 2012 Low A.

Round 34:  Ben Thomas, 1B, Xavier.  Last played 2012, Low A.

Round 35:  Shawn Payne, OF, Georgia Southern.  Last played 2014 High A.

Round 38:  Brian Nicholson, 1B, Concordia.  Last played 2012 Short Season.

Round 41:  Steven Neff, LHP, South Carolina.  Last played 2014 Short Season.

Round 42:  Danny Sandbrink, RHP, Stanford.  Last played 2014 High A.

Round 43:  Drew Stiner, C, HS.  Last played 2013 Rookie.

Round 44:  Travious Relaford, SS, JC.  Low A: .237/.313/.292.  Hit with a 50 game suspension early this offsetseason which he will have to serve at the start of the 2016 season. Future was already on shaky ground.

Round 45:  Brian Maloney, LHP, Franklin Pierce.  Last played 2011 Short Season.

Round 46:  Elliott Blair, OF, Oklahoma.  Last played 2014 AA.

Round 48:  Jake Smith, RHP, Campbell.  High A:  4-4, 2.35, 84.1 IP 12.59 K/9, 2.24 BB/9, 16 Saves. Workhorse reliever for the great SJ bullpen in 2015.  Added to the 40 man roster a few days ago.  Looking to become a late round success story.

So there you have it.  This draft would be a success if no one else made the majors except Joe Panik.  In fact, 4 others have already played in the major leagues with Tomlinson, Osich and Susac making significant contributions.  4 others, Smith, Blackburn, Law and Black are on the 40 man roster and appear to be well on their way to MLB careers.  If Panik can stay healthy and just a couple more make it to the majors, this has a chance to be one of the all-time great Giants drafts.  This draft demonstrates the importance of competing for each round of the draft.  All it takes is finding 1 or 2 extra MLB players out of every draft class and you have established a significant competitive advantage over teams that stop paying attention after the first round.

Hot Stove Update: Dodgers to Name Dave Roberts Manager

When Don Mattingly and the Dodgers parted ways after yet another early Dodgers exit from the postseason, it seemed to be a slam dunk the job would go to Gabe Kapler.  Kapler had ties to Andrew Friedman going back to the Tampa Bay Rays.  Kapler spent most of his career playing for SABR-conscious organizations and is an unabashed apologist for SABR-driven decisionmaking.  Friedman hired him away from a TV commentary job to run the Dodgers player development program.  Early reports had Kapler as the runaway favorite to inherit the Manager's Office in Dodger Stadium with any interview process being a mere formality.

Reports I've read have the Dodger's ownership group insisting that the interview process be real and that a genuine search for the best man for the job take place.  They did, in fact, interview a wide range of candidates from Kapler to Bud Black to Darren Erstad, the former Angel who is now the head coach at Nebraska.  As the process narrowed the field, Kapler remained the apparent frontrunner, but another name kept progressing along with him.  Dave Roberts is well known to NL West fans for his playing stints with the Dodgers, Giants and Padres.  The most famous moment of his playing career was during a partial season with the Red Sox in 2004 when his SB helped the BoSox come from behind to beat the Yankees in the NLCS.  In his post-playing career, he has mostly coached for the Padres as a 1B and Bench coach. He was successfully treated for Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2010.  

Yesterday, after the Dodgers Manager search process narrowed down to Kapler and Roberts, it was announced that Roberts won the job and would be introduced at a formal news conference after Thanksgiving.  As a Giants fan, I hate to say I think the Dodgers made the right choice here.  I don't know too much about Dave Roberts, but he's always been seen as a team leader and a smart baseball player.  His on-field demeanor both as a player and coach suggests to me that he is simultaneously intense while being soft spoken and patient.  It may be significant that he played under Bruce Bochy in San Diego and followed Boch to San Francisco at the end of his playing career.

While Kapler is obviously knowledgeable about the game, I found his style on TV broadcasts to suggest that he may be a better talker than listener.  His intense promotion and defense of SABR principles may play well in the short term, but could wear very thin in a clubhouse over time.  Dave Roberts is the best man for the Dodgers Manager job.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Down on the Farm: AFL Review

The Scottsdale Scorpions won the AFL title by winning the 1 game playoff against the Surprise Saguaros 6-4 with the help of 4 Giants farmhands who appeared in the game:

Christian Arroyo, SS:  2 for 5, 2 Runs.  Arroyo also made a sliding catch of a flyball in foul territory to end the game.

Mac Willliamson, OF:  2 for 5, 3B, Run, RBI.  Big Mac hit a triple up the R-CF alley to drive in Arroyo.

Ray Black, RHP:  1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's.  No word on his velocity in the championship game.

Phil McCormick, LHP:  0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K.

Overall, the Giants had 7 prospects participate in the AFL this year and all had performances that should enhance their prospect status:

Mac Williamson:  .370/.442/.493, 2 HR, 11 BB, 11 K, 73 AB.  For a guy his size, Big Mac has always been able to control the strike zone.  No exception here.  I, for one, am hoping the Giants do not make a big, longterm commitment to the LF this offseason as I think Big Mac is just about ready and can be a devastating offensive force for the Giants.

Christian Arroyo:  .308/.360/.487, 3 HR, 4 BB, 14 K's in 78 AB.  Good think Arroyo is only 20 yo and has yet to play at AA, because if he had experience in the upper minors, the Giants would have one heckuva roster issue on their hands.  Still a bit unclear where he is going to end up playing in the majors, but with the bat, he'll definitely play somewhere.

Austin Slater:  .250/.338/.338, 10 BB, 19 K's in 68 AB.  Slater started slow but finished strong hitting .286 over his last 10 games out of 19.  Again, not sure where he's going to play in MLB or when, but he's already more than held his own at AA.  Could stand to work on hitting for power a bit more.

Adalberto Mejia:  2-2, 3.48, 31 IP, 14 BB, 26 K's.  Mejia also started slow, but came on strong in his last 3 starts putting up a composite line of 12.2 IP, 3 ER, 4 BB, 13 K's.

Dan Slania:  1-0, 2.25, 12 IP, 4 BB, 15 K's.  Big Dan quietly had a very good AFL.  Should move up to AA for 2016.

Ray Black:  0-2, 2.00, 9 IP, 6 BB, 16 K's.  Black made headlines by consistently hitting triple digits on the radar guns, topping out at 104 MPH.  His command was shaky at the start, but he ironed that out down the stretch.  We could very well see him throwing that bad boy in SF in 2016.

Phil McCormick:  0-0, 4.15, 8.2 IP, 4 BB, 6 K's.  McCormick is a lefty who has the feel of someone who might be better as a starter.  Or, he could end up as a pure lefty specialist.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Hot Stove Update: The 40 Man Roster Is Full!

It's that time of year again.  Teams that want to protect players who are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft have to either put the players in their 40 man MLB roster or expose them to the MLB phase of the Rule 5 Draft.  For those who are not familiar with the Rule 5 Draft, minor league players who were drafted prior to age 19 and who have 5 years or minor league service time OR players drafted at age 19 or above who have 4 years of minor league service time can be drafted by another MLB team.  That player then has to stay on the 25 man active MLB roster for the entire next season or be offered back to the team he was drafted from.  There are also minor league phases of the Rule 5 Draft which allow organizations to protect more players, but that is complicated to explain, although the Giants have been more active in the minor league phases in recent years.  Players drafted in the minor league phase do not have to be kept at any certain level and do not have to be offered back to the team they were drafted from.

So, the players who potentially needed to be protected this year included players drafted before their 19'th birthday in the 2011 draft or before and players drafted at age 19 or above in the 2012 draft or before.  The deadline for protecting players by adding them to the 40 man roster was yesterday at 5:00 PM EST.  As usual, the Giants waited until the last minute to announce their additions.  Usually teams like to leave at least 2 or 3 spaces open on the 40 man roster this early in the Hot Stove season so they have room to add free agents who may sign later on.  The Giants had 8 spots open on their 40 man roster. Somewhat surprisingly, they added 8 Rule 5 eligible minor leaguers at the deadline, all pitchers:

Clayton Blackburn
Ty Blach
Chris Stratton
Adalberto Mejia
Kyle Crick
Steven Okert
Ian Gardeck
Jake Smith

Some eligible players who got left off include Martin Agosta, Mitch Delfino, Ben Turner, Joe Biagini and Jason Forjet.

So what happens when and if the Giants sign a free agent?  They have made it quite clear that they are in the FA market for at least 1 pitcher and possibly 2.  They are also probably looking for at least 1 OF. First of all, they could fill their needs via trade using players currently on the 40 man roster.  They could also wait until after the Rule 5 draft on the last day of the Winter Meetings to sign a FA then try to sneak one of these players through waivers.  They also could drop a couple of arbitration-eligible players who they may not want to tender contracts to such as Yusmeiro Petit and Hector Sanchez.  You certainly have to think that the Giants are not planning on taking anyone in the MLB phase of the Rule 5 draft this year!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Hot Stove Update: Cameron Maybin Gets Traded, But Not To the Giants

The Hot Stove flickered to life today with several relatively minor trades.  Probably the biggest involved Cameron Maybin who the Braves unloaded to his first pro organization, the Detroit Tigers.  Billy Beane swung into action by dealing Jesse Chavez to the BJ's and the Astros shipped Jonathan Villar to the Brewers for a pitching prospect who looks somewhat promising.  Here's the rundown:

Tigers get:   Cameron Maybin- .267/.327/.370, 10 HR, 23 SB.  Maybin had been linked to some Giants speculation.  It is unlikely that he will duplicate even these mediocre offensive numbers in a stadium like Comerica Park, let alone AT&T.  I was surprised to find that his Fangraphs defensive metrics were slightly negative last year.  I'm happy to let Detroit have him.  If the Giants really want a defense-first CF, Austin Jackson would be a better player for them.

Braves get:  LHP Ian Krol- MLB 2-3, 5.79, 28 IP, 5.46 BB/9, 8.36 K/9.  RHP Gabe Speier A+  4-2, 2.86, 44 IP, 2.45 BB/9, 7.36 K/9.  Braves get a couple lottary tickets in return for dumping Maybin and his contract, which isn't a terrible contract.  It does seem like the Braves are tanking the upcoming season to get another high draft pick.

Grades:  Tigers- C.  Braves- D-


Blue Jays get Jesse Chavez, RHP, 32 yo.  7-15, 4.18, 157 IP, 2.75 BB/9, 7.80 K/9.  Not sure what the BJ's are thinking here.  Do they really think Chavez is going to maintain those numbers pitching in Toronto and the AL East, let alone improve on them?

A's get Liam Hendricks, RHP, 27 yo.  5-0, 2.92, 64.2 IP, 1.53 BB/9, 9.88 K/9.  2015 was admittedly a breakout season for Hendricks, which he might not duplicate again, but a return of Chavez does not exactly seem like taking advantage of selling high.

Grades:  Blue Jays- D.  A's- B+.


Brewers get:  Jonathan Villar, SS, 25 yo.  .284/.339/.414, 2 HR, 7 SB, 128 PA.  Villar was pushed aside in Houston by Carlos Correa, but those are not terrible numbers and he is still young enough to have some upside.  He is a slightly below average defensive SS.  Can start out as a utility guy in Milwaukee with opportunity to move up.

Astros get:  Cy Sneed, RHP, 21 yo.  Low A:  3-7, 2.68, 77.1 IP, 1.98 BB/9, 7.80 K/9.  High A:  3-4, 2.47, 62 IP, 1.60 BB/9, 7.98 K/9.  Exceptional command for a pitcher this young.  Not sure what kind of stuff he has.  Not a bad return for the Astros for a guy they did not have room for anymore.  BTW, I wonder if he gets any ribbing over his first name?

Grades:  Brewers B.  Astros B.

Fantasy Focus: 2016 Impact Rookies- Hector Olivera

Hector Olivera is no spring chicken.  He will turn 31 years old on 4/5/2016.  He still has rookie eligibility.  If you recall, he's the Cuban defector with an injury history who the Dodgers threw some money at about a year ago.  The Braves got him in the trade that sent Alex Wood and some salaries to the Dodgers.  Olivera ended up playing for 7 different teams in the 2 organizations ending with an 87 PA sting in the major leagues.  The most outstanding thing about Olivera is he looks dang good in a baseball uniform!  Beyond that, things are not as clear.  He showed some flashes of brilliance in his pro debut, but nothing to make you want to draft him in your fantasy draft except in the deepest of leagues.

He posted a slash line of .272/326/.376 with 5 2B and 2 HR and a 7% BB rate with an interesting 11% K rate in 135 minor league PA's.  In 87 MLB PA's, he slashed a modest .253/.310/.405 line with 4 2B and 2 HR.  His BB% was 5.7 and his K rate was again interesting at 13.8%.

Olivera was 2B in Cuba but is listed as a 3B prospect by BA.  Word is the Braves are moving him to LF.  He is someone you want to keep in eye on in fantasy baseball leagues, but probably do not want to spend a draft pick on him except in the deepest leagues.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thoughts on Two More Things I Would Like To See In the New CBA

I knew there was at least one more item for the CBA when I wrote the original post.  There are actually two:

9.  Allow limited trading of draft picks.  I completely understand why MLB does not allow the trading of draft picks.  I mean, can you imagine the Brian Sabean of the 1990's with unlimited trading of draft picks?  He might have unloaded every single pick for a whole decade on one trade!  I do think the time has come to allow limited trading of draft picks.  I would limit it to only the upcoming draft.  You would have to wait until draft positions are finalized, then have a "window" from that point in which teams could trade their draft picks through the end of the draft.

10.  No loss of draft picks when signing a free agent.  I would still award a compensatory pick to teams losing a star FA and you could still use the QO to determine which teams get compensation, but the signing team should not be penalized for signing a player.  All that accomplishes is unfairly depressing the value of a very few players who are on the edge of being worth their QO.

Thoughts on Things I Would Like To See In the New CBA

2016 is the last year of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement(CBA) between Major League Baseball(MLB) and the MLB Players Association(MLBPA).  Negotiations for a new agreement will be starting anytime. I am sure groundwork is already being done.  Here are some changes I would like to see in the next agreement which may or may not have a ghost of a chance of happening:

1.  Minor league representation.  Current affiliated minor league players are in the worst of all possible worlds, bound to work/play for just one organization while having no collective bargaining representation.  MLB can continue to fight a current class action lawsuit filed by former Giants farmhand Garrett Broshuis and others, or they can do the right thing and do something about the shamefully low pay and harsh working conditions of the minor leaguers.  Ironically, it is the MLBPA that may have more incentive to block representation by the minor leaguers.  The simplest way to accomplish it would be to include affiliated minor leaguers in the MLBPA.  Since there are more minor leaguers than major leaguers, current MLBPA members may fear getting outvoted by minor leaguers.  This could be circumvented by by weighting the votes.  Bottom line is the minor league players need a seat at the bargaining table.

2.  Pay raise for minor leaguers.  Current pay for most minor leaguers is about $1200 per month only for the 5 months in the season.  It is time to recognize that ball playing is a full time, year around job.  I would suggest a yearly minimum salary structure starting at around $20 K in the short season leagues with graduations up to around $50 K for AAA players.  I am thrilled for Brandon Crawford and his family being set for life, but if Brandon Crawford can get paid $75 m for playing MLB, then MLB can easily afford to pay it's affiliated minor leaguers a fair wage.

3.  International draft.  This may seem terribly regressive compared to #'s 1 and 2 above, but the current system is unfair to American players who are subject to a draft.  Bonus pools quickly became a joke with ridiculous manipulations by all teams, but mainly large market ones.  I would advocate for a separate international draft with similar bonus pools as in the current Rule 4 draft which seem to work quite well and seem fair to both teams and players.

4.  Elimination of the Rule 5 draft.  Yes, there are success stories that come out of the Rule 5 draft, but in the vast majority of cases, the players end up getting lost in the shuffle and actually lose ground in their fight to climb the ladder to MLB.  In most cases, they are eligible for minor league free agency just one year later.  Move minor league free agency up a year.  If the organization wants to keep the player, they can negotiate a better contract.

5.  Draft lottery for the top 10 picks.  There is at least a sliver of suspicion that some teams are doing complete teardowns as a planned strategy to get a series of top 5 draft picks.  It's not quite the same as intentionally tanking games, although that may be happening too, but it's coming awfully close.

6.  Create a subcommittee to study head protection for catchers and pitchers with a mandate to recommend a plan within 1 year.  IMO, it is not a question of if, but when someone is going to die on a MLB baseball field due to head trauma from pitched or batted balls.

7.  Some type of movement toward better strike zone accountability for the Umps.  I don't think we are quite ready for electronic ball and strike calls, but the current system where the ump gets to call whatever he or she pleases is blatantly unfair and lowers the enjoyability of the game.

8.  Some type of adjustment of the usage of instant replay in situations where a runner's foot may instantaneously come off a bag due to momentum and other similar situations where the game has been changed dramatically by instant replay and not for the better.

I am sure I am missing something here.  What would you like to see changed in the next CBA?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Hot Stove Update: Brandon Crawford Gets Paid!

The Giants today announced an agreement with Brandon Crawford on a 6 year/$75 M contract which includes his last 2 years of arbitration eligibility and tacks on an additional 4 years.  The deal includes a $1.2 M signing bonus, $5.8 M in 2016, $8 M in 2017 then $15 M for the next 4 years.  The salaries for the first two seasons are right at where arbitration estimates have him.  The contract also includes a full no-trade clause.  The AAV on the deal for "Luxury Tax" calculations is $12.5 M for each of the 6 seasons.  This tacks on an extra $6.5 M in "Luxury Tax" salary for 2016 but gives the Giants a $2.5 M break in the final four seasons.

Brandon Crawford has steadily improved his numbers each season since breaking in with the Giants in 2011, but 2015 was a true breakout season as he hit 21 HR's and led MLB in SABR Defense, the defensive metric used for 25% of the criteria for Gold Glove Awards.  To top if off, Crawford won both the Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger Award for shortstops, the first time a Giants player has done that since Barry Bonds!

So, is this a good deal for the Giants or not?  Salary in MLB seems to be tied to a large extent to WAR. Crawford's fWAR over the past 4 seasons has progressed, 2.0, 2.3, 3.1, 4.7.  Players are valued at approximately $6 M/WAR point.  So, even if you believe 2015 is likely to end up being Brandon Crawford's career year, it is also likely that he can produce at a roughly 3 WAR rate for several more years.  Whether that will extend to his age 34 season in the final year of his contract, may be a stretch, but it is certainly not impossible   At the same time, Crawford's performance has steadily improved up to this point and it is possible that he has yet to hit his peak year.  No matter how you cut it, it is likely that he can produce at least an average of 2 WAR per season over the life of the contract which is all he has to do to earn his keep.

Add in the value of keeping a homegrown, locally born and raised, popular player and you have a very nice deal for the Giants and a great deal for Brandon Crawford and his family.  His boyhood dream was to play SS for the SF Giants and now he has a real chance to not only do it for his full career, or at least the majority of it, but possibly become the greatest Giants shortstop in franchise history.  Talk about a dream come true!

Fantasy Focus: 2016 Impact Rookies- Steven Matz

We'll start our yearly offseason fantasy coverage with another look at impact rookies.  Last year, we profiled Kris Bryant, Noah Syndergaard, Carlos Rodon, Joc Pederson and several others.   It may be hard to believe after seeing Mets LHP Steven Matz pitch in the postseason that he will still be a rookie in 2016, but he only pitched 35.2 regular season innings, so is under the threshold for "graduated" status.  Matz steadily worked his way up the Mets organizational ladder after being drafted out of HS in 2009.  He is now 24 years old.  He is a big lefty at 6'2", 200 lbs.  He features a FB that averaged 92.1 MPH last year and touches 95.  He commands it well.  He compliments that with a nice curveball and a changeup.

Throughout his minor league career he displayed excellent command with K rates above 8/9 and BB/9 of under 3.  This continued after his promotion last year.  He missed some time last year with a lat tear and then a sore back but ended up with a line of 4-0, 2.77, 35.2 IP, K/9= 8.58, BB/9= 2.52, GB/FB= 1.35.  His FIP and xFIP numbers were not as good, still very acceptable in the 3.60 range.

Matz should take his place in a rather spectacular Mets rotation next season along with Matt Harvey, Jake DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler.  I would not bet on him having the worst numbers of that esteemed group.  I will be looking for him next spring when I need a back-end starter for my fantasy team.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Hot Stove Update: Giants Sign A Player and the Mariners Make Another Trade

As expected, the Giants jumped right into the free agent market and signed Kyle Blanks to a Minor League contract…..wait, what?  The Giants are dumpster diving again?  Well, it figures.  Seriously though, the Giants are reportedly nearing a minor league deal with former Padre Kyle Blanks.  In case you don't remember who Blanks is, he is a gigantic man listed at 6'6', 265 lbs, and he does not appear to be overweight!  He has played a passable 1B and LF for the Padres and put up a respectable .241/.322/.416 slash line in 933 PA's.  In limited action in the last 2 years, he put up a .333/446/.489 line in 56 PA for Oakland in 2014 and a .313/.352/.522 line in 71 PA for Texas in 2015.  His career minor league line is .303/.392/.518 in just over 2500 PA's.  He has tended to come up with injuries just as he appeared to be gaining traction in the major leagues.

I have always liked Kyle Blanks and thought that his ceiling is outrageously high.  He is extremely athletic for hi size.  As with most tall hitters, he has trouble controlling the strike zone at times.  Since it is a minor league deal, I LOVE this signing.  I can finally dream of a breakout season for Kyle Blanks….for the Giants!


The Mariners made another trade today sending RHP Tom Wilhelmson  and a minor league OF to the Texas Rangers for CF Leonys Martin and RHP Anthony Bass.  Martin had a disappointing season, betting just .213.  Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto says he thinks a bounceback is possible due to a very low BABIP for Martin last year.  I like Martin to and think he has a ton of upside.  Giving up Wilhelmson who had lost the Mariners closer job in the past, is a small risk, especially with Bass coming back the other way.


Mariners- B+.  Small price to pay for a ton of upside.

Rangers- C+.  They get a nice bullpen piece, but are selling low on a very talented player.


One of the Dodgers many co-owners was quoted today as saying he expects the Dodgers payroll to drop from nearly $300 M to around $200 M for next season.  Not sure how they fit a Greinke re-signing into that.  There is a growing sense that re-signing Greinke is not the slam dunk for the Dodgers that it's widely believed to be.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Thoughts on Giants Payroll, Present and Future

This is the time of year when "rosterbation" tends to crescendo.  The basic idea is to see what player acquisitions your favorite team can make and stay within your best guess of what the team's payroll limitations may be.  I used to engage in "rosterbation" a lot back in the Giants Message Board days, but ultimately found it to be unsatisfying due to too many unknown unknowns.  I still like to read these ideas and we still do a little of it here, but trust me, there is not much point in trying to outguess what the Giants might do or not do with their money in a given offseason.  Heck, I'm not sure even THEY knew what they wanted to do with their money last year!

Grant Brisbee indulged in a bit of rosterbation on his McCovey Chronicles site.  After reading it and also reading the comments, I had some thoughts I don't think have been widely considered which I will now share:

1.   We've received some mixed signals from the Giants front office about what they consider to be their payroll limit for next season.  On the one hand, you have Giants President Larry Baer saying he does not anticipate going over the Competitive Balance Adjustment aka "Luxury Tax" threshold.  On the other, he also said he anticipates a continued steady rise in payroll by 5-10% per year.  Depending on how you interpret the "Luxury Tax" rules, those two positions may or may not be mutually exclusive.  Depending on what number you believe last year's Giants payroll to be, a 5-10% increase would either put them over the threshold by a small margin or put them under by a small margin.  One thing I did learn from reading that piece and the following comments is the non-salary part of the "Luxury Tax" calculation is around $11 M which means the maximum the Giants can go is about $178 M which is about $7 M above what they started the 2015 season at.

2.  The Giants committed payroll for 2016 for "Luxury Tax" calculations is probably about $4-5 M less than actual payroll due to current backloaded deals with Jake Peavy, Sergio Romo, Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner.  This means they could conceivably go to the low $180's M range and still technically start the season at or under the "Luxury Tax" cap.  BTW, option years do not count unless it is a player option although it appears that buyouts count in the numerator but the year does not count in the denominator.

3.  The Giants have already demonstrated that they are willing to pay penalties to get what they need or want.  They went slightly above the "Luxury Tax" last year after the mid-season acquisitions, and they paid a penalty for signing Lucious Fox and were apparently willing to pay an additional penalty for signing Eddy Julio Martinez.

4.  This is the third season in which the "Luxury Tax" threshold is stable at $189 M.  It will probably go up significantly in the next CBA agreement which will kick in for the 2017 season.  This increases the likelihood that the Giants could get back under the threshold in the near future even if they go slightly above again this year.

5.  Deferred payments were a huge part of Max Scherzer's contract last year.  If the Giants are serious about signing either David Price or Zack Greinke, it is possible, even likely, that they will have to also consider deferred payments as part of the package.  Deferred payments are interesting from a "Luxury Tax" standpoint.  On the one hand, they are counted in the numerator of the Average Annual Value(AAV) equation.  On the other hand, they are discounted to today's dollars.  For example, even though Scherzer's $105 M of deferred payments were counted toward his AAV, they were discounted so that the total compensation was calculated as $191 M instead of $210 M which gave about $3 M per year in "Luxury Tax" relief to the team.  Also, deferred payments are not counted against the "Luxury Tax" in the years they are made.

6.  The Giants, either by design or good fortune have done a good job of staggering their major contracts so that they have significant amounts of salary coming off the payroll in each of the next 3 seasons:  Pagan, Peavy, Romo and Lopez after 2016, Cain after 2017 and Pence after 2018.

7.  The Giants have a deep farm system which should help keep costs down over the next 5-6 years, while continuing to give the Giants flexibility to make needed trades.

8.  The mortgage for AT&T Park will be paid off after the 2017 season freeing up an extra $17 M per season.  Revenues from the new development across from McCovey Cove will start flowing in about 4-5 years which will be revenue that is not subject to revenue sharing.

What does this all point to?  I honestly don't know in specific terms.  I do not expect the Giants to go $100 M over the "Luxury Tax" threshold like the Dodgers or to hand out $105 M in deferred salary like the Nationals did with Scherzer, nor would I want them to do either.  I believe it does show that the Giants have some flexibility and a number of different ways of attacking the free agent and trade market this offseason and still remain true to their commitment to responsible budgeting and also maintaining payroll flexibility in future seasons.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Hot Stove Update: AJ Preller Dismantles Padres Bullpen

A day after AJ Preller dumped Joaquin Benoit and his $7.5 M salary on the Seattle Mariners, he shipped Closer Craig Kimbrel to Boston for a nice haul of prospects including highly touted OF prospect Manuel Margot.  Here are some brief summaries of the players involved:

RHP Craig Kimbrel- Kimbrel was not quite as lights out for the Padres as he had been for Atlanta, although he was still very good.  Boston had huge issues in their bullpen last year and Kimbrel gives them an elite closer to build around.  The move also moves Koji Uehara down to setup man.  Boston will need to do more than just add Kimbrel but it's a heckuva start.

OF Manuel Margot- Margot is a 21 yo OF who played well in High A and AA ball last year.  He is a 5-tool player who can take over CF for the Padres as early as sometime next season.

SS  Javier Guerra- Guerra is a 20 yo who hit .279 with 15 HR's for low A Greenville last year.  He'll require some more development time, but looks to eventually play a premium position in the majors.

LHP Logan Allen- Allen is 18 yo and was drafted in 2015.  He struck out 24 batters against just 1 BB in 23 IP in rookie league and a few innings of SS ball.

2B  Carlos Asuaje- 24 year old who had a disappointing season in the AA EL but put up nice K and BB ratios.  Us Giants fans know about those.  He may get to chance to compete for a MLB job this spring.

This trade may work out in the long run for the Padres.  I will give Preller credit for getting a lot more and better prospects back for Kimbrel than he had to give up to get him, so the flip gambit looks like it worked.  In the short term, it leaves the Padres with no recognizable names in their bullpen.  Preller is presumably not done making moves for the winter, so it's too early to declare them out of contention for 2016, but this is looking an awful lot like a long term rebuild.

Like I said earlier, acquiring Kimbrel gives the Red Sox a cornerstone to build a bullpen around and they have prospects galore to trade.  They will need to add more bullpen pieces to make it all work, though, and this is an awful lot to give up for just a closer.


Padres- B+ Albeit with short term pain.

Red Sox- B.  Addresses a big need, but gives up a lot and they will need to make more moves to make it pay off.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Hot Stove Update: Braves and Angels Complete A Strange Trade

The Braves, today, traded SS Andrelton Simmons along with a very low level catching prospect to the Angels for Erick Aybar and pitching prospects Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis.  Many analysts are saying the Angels won this trade and quite handily.  Others are saying the trade is about even and good for both teams.  Braves fans on Braves websites are perched on window ledges and high bridges.  What do I think?  Well, I am kind of scratching my head thinking it just might be a bad trade for both teams.

First of all, Andrelton Simmons is a very good defensive SS, maybe the best in baseball, although Brandon Crawford might have something to say about that.  He is also under contract for a very reasonable cost of $53 M over the next 5 seasons.  His offense is subpar to say the least, but he did hit 17 HR's in 2013 and may well have it in him to do it again.

Erick Aybar is an aging SS with just 1 year left on his contract.  The Angels are dumping him and the Braves are taking him only to get an extra prospect in the deal.  The Angels are kicking in $2.5 M to even out the money for 2016.

Sean Newcomb is a big LHP first round draft pick from 2014 who pitched very well at several minor league levels last year and should be ready for the majors as early as mid-season 2016.  Opinions are mixed on what is ceiling is.  Personally, I am bit skeptical.

Chris Ellis was a 3'rd round draft pick out of Mississippi in the same 2014 draft as Newcomb.  Ellis is a big dude at 6'4", 220 lbs.  His numbers so far are not as exciting as Newcomb's.  He projects as an innings eating #4 starter with an absolute ceiling of #3.

To me, this seems like a terrible deal for the Braves.  Simmons is eminently affordable and under contract through 2020.  If the Braves don't think they are going to be good again well before then, they need to seriously re-think their whole rebuilding scheme.  Newcomb and Ellis are decent to good pitching prospects, but the Braves already have a stable of comparable pitching prospects.  The only possible justification I can think of is the #3 prospect in the Braves system is SS Ozzie Albies who has put up great looking numbers in the low minors, but it's the low minors.  The Braves might have wanted to hang onto Simmons for another year or two to make sure Albies continues to develop.  On the other hand, I am sure they know their prospects quite well.

From the Angels side, it is true that they were in almost desperate need of upgrading their IF defense, particularly at SS.  They accomplished that.  On the other hand, the Angels rotation is headed by a couple of rapidly aging pitchers and they do not have a deep farm system at all.  I am not convinced that they needed to give up their top 2 pitching prospects, heck, their top 2 prospects, period, to upgrade their IF defense.  It's not like Simmons is also a plus at the plate.  Maybe they think it is easier to get pitching through the FA process than is is to acquire a defensive SS, but man, I don't know about that!

Final Grades:  C- for the Angels.  D for the Braves.


In other Hot Stove news, Colby Rasmus accepted his Qualifying Offer from the Astros.  $15.8 M is a lot of money for one season of Rasmus, but it's also just one season, so probably this is a good deal for both Rasmus and the Astros.

The Padres dumped Joaquin Benoit to the Mariners for a couple of very low level prospects. Man, I really don't know where the Padres go from here.  Less than a year after AJ Preller was the toast of last year's offseason, it's looking more and more like he's produced a train wreck down there.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Giants 2015 Depth Charts: Relief Pitchers

The Giants are entering a transition phase in their bullpen make up.  The "Core Four" of Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez lost one member with Affeldt's retirement.  The other 3 guys are not getting younger.  This comes at a time when the rest of the league is starting to wake up to the fact that relief pitching has been grossly undervalued throughout baseball, particularly by sabermetrically oriented teams.  The success of the Giants and KC Royals over the past 6 seasons has forced that re-thinking.  Just today, an article appeared in Fangraphs showing that having just 1 elite RP on a team appears to produce about 1.5 extra wins than predicted by WAR.  It's not much of a stretch to see that if you have a bullpen deep in elite relievers, you get an additive effect and maybe more than that if you have a deft manager like Bruce Bochy mixing and matching RP's to maximize their effectiveness.  Fortunately, the Giants have a nice stockpile of high velocity arms in the minors which should produce enough talent to keep future bullpen costs relatively low.  Again, these rankings are my opinion.


Santiago Casilla-R
Sergio Romo-R
Javier Lopez-L
Hunter Strickland- R
George Kontos-R
Josh Osich-L
Yusmeiro Petit-R

Ray Black-R
Michael Broadway-R
Cory Gearrin-R
Cody Hall-R
Derek Law-R
Joan Gregorio-R

The first 7 on this list could well be the bullpen that starts the season next year.  Yusmeiro Petit might be on the bubble as far as being offered arbitration after a relatively down season.  Black's FB has been clocked at 104 MPH in the AFL.  He could force an issue if he stays healthy.  Broadway, Gearrin and Hall all showed flashes of being MLB quality relievers in 2015.  Law missed time recovering from TJ surgery.  2016 will be an important year in his career.  Gregorio has all the talent in the world.  He could be either a starter or reliever.  2016 will also be a pivotal year in his career.


Jake Dunning-R
Austin Fleet-R
Steven Okert-L

Not sure if either Dunning or Fleet are really prospects.  Okert was the hot property last year, but got passed by Osich.  Okert needs to stage a bounceback in 2016.


Jose Casilla-R
Kyle Crick-R
Phil McCormick-L
Tyler Mizenko-R
Pedro Rodriguez-R

Santiago's younger bro's progress through the system has been glacially slow.  Not sure if he's still a prospect.  Crick is a reliever for now.  He could eventually return to starting, but may not go anywhere if he does not harness that bad boy FB of his.  McCormick has a chance to be a rare lefty reliever who can get RH batters out and go more than 1 inning.  Mizenko has a super-sinker.


Carlos Diaz-L
Ian Gardeck-R
Tyler Rogers-R
Dan Slania-R
Jake Smith-R

Wow! This group was sensational for San Jose in 2015!  Diaz was a latecomer from Augusta.  He could move back to starting eventually or become a lights-out lefty reliever who can go more than 1 inning.  Gardeck is hard thrower who sometimes gets hittable.  Slania is a big body.  Rogers is a sidewinder with high K rates.  Smith was lights out all season.  Will his stuff play at higher levels?


Rodolfo Martinez-R
Carlos Alvarado-R
Tyler Cyr-R
Conner Kaden-R
Dusten Knight-R
Eury Sanchez-R
Reyes Maronta-R

If I had to name a future closer for the Giants, it might be Rodolfo Martinez, who hits the upper 90's on the radar gun and improved his control immensely in 2015.  Tyler Cyr is a big body from the 2015 draft.  Not much stands out about the rest.


Cory Taylor-R
Caleb Smith-R
Heath Slatton-R
Eric Sim-R
Nathanael Santiago-R
Rayan Hernandez-R
Ryan Halstead-R
Michael Connolly-R

Halstead seems to be the closest to the majors as he was a college closer who had an excellent pro debut.  Sim is trying to convert from catching.


Julio Benitez-R
Dylan Brooks-R
David Graybill-R
Kendry Melo-R
Jose Morel-R
Randy Ortiz-R
Matthew Pope-R
David Owen-R
Stetson Woods-R

Kendry Melo started to come around this year and he may have the top ceiling of this group.  I remain hopeful for Dylan Brooks who pitched very well after returning from a suspension.  Morel put up great numbers for 3 seasons in the DSL and pitched well after finally getting a ticket to the States.  Randy Ortiz is trying to convert from the OF.  Woods had a very disappointing sophomore pro campaign.


Luis Amaya-L
Hengerber Medina-R

Amaya pitched as a 16 year old with great K ratios.  He may well be a future starter.  Medina is trying to convert from SS.  He was lights out in his pitching debut.

As you can see, not a lot of lefties in this category.  The Giants may need to focus on LHP's in the 2016 draft and groom several as relievers.

RIP Tommy Hanson

Two nights ago, we received the shocking news that RHP Tommy Hanson was in a coma in an Atlanta hospital with what was described as "catastrophic organ failure."  Well, THAT did not sound good and it wasn't.  The following morning the headlines reported his untimely death.  Hanson was just 29 years old.  He was once one of the most highly ranked prospects in baseball in the Atlanta Braves organization.  I believe he once started a playoff game against the Giants and pitched well.  A shoulder injury derailed his career.  He had just completed a season in the Giants minor league organization trying to stage a comeback.  While he did not quite make it back to the majors in 2015, he did finish the season on a relative high note pitching for the AAA Sacramento River Cats.  Over his final 4 starts, he allowed just 4 runs in 23.2 IP with 21 K's and 7 BB's.

Multiple Giants players and minor leaguers expressed their shock and sadness at the development.  Tommy seemed to make friends of his teammates easily.  He was reportedly especially close to fellow Oklahoma native Clayton Blackburn in Sacramento.  There is also a local connection for me in that Tommy graduated from Redlands East Valley High School in my hometown and attended Riverside City College locally before being drafted by the Braves.  I have met several people over the years who knew Tommy Hanson and his family.  They always spoke highly of him.

I don't think you have to be a medically oriented person to realize that "catastrophic organ failure" does not tell you much about what befell Tommy Hanson.  Healthy 29 year olds do not just roll in with "catastrophic organ failure" without some major insult to their body.  An investigation into what happened is ongoing and will probably take a few days to sort out.  Just a reminder that ballplayers are humans too.  Away from the glamour and mega contracts of the elite players, baseball life is one helluva tough way to live.  The pressures to succeed, often self generated, as well as the disappointments are enormous and can be quite crushing.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Giants 2015 Depth Charts: Starting Pitching

While the Giants have an acute need for starting pitching at the MLB level, the farm system got a lot stronger from top to bottom last year as multiple pitching prospects made significant progress and several promising arms were added in the 2015 draft.  As always, these rankings are my opinion.


Madison Bumgarner-L
Jake Peavy-R
Matt Cain-R
Christ Heston-R

Bumgarner would be the #1 for most teams.  There is one empty slot and the rest of the rotation is held together with bandaids and bailing wire.  Peavy is still quite good when he's healthy, but when was his last healthy season from start to finish?  Cain's last start provided some hope that another offseason removed from elbow surgery may get him back to being a solid contributor, but it's no more than a hope.  Heston looked great for the first half of the season then struggled mightily.  Was it fatigue or the league figuring him out?  The Giants clearly need to add two SP they can count on as they cannot go into the season with Peavy, Cain and Heston making up 3/5'ths of the rotation.


Clayton Blackburn- R
Ty Blach- L
Chris Stratton- R
Jack Snodgrass-L

Blackburn was the best pitcher in the PCL last year by a pretty large margin.  Achieving an ERA under 3.00 is something to be proud of in that league!  He could take a rotation spot next year, especially if the injuries mount up again.  Blach is a contact lefty whose stuff and style does not tend to play well in the PCL.  Stratton is a former first round draft pick who remains an enigma.  Snodgrass needs a breakout season.


Tyler Beede-R
Adalberto Mejia-L
Chase Johnson-R
Joe Biagini-R
Matt Lujan-L
Matt Gage-L

I've moved Kyle Crick into the RP category for the time being.  2014 first rounder, Beede, conquered High A ball by midseason, then struggled some at AA.  I think he may have started to fatigue by the end of the season.  He still deserves consideration for top prospect in the system.  Mejia got a late start on the season due to a suspension, but pitched well after returning.  2016 could be a pivotal season for him.  Chase Johnson finally put it all together for a full season and broke out.  He might have the highest ceiling of this group!  Biagini keeps working his way up the ladder and had a fine season.  Matt Gage got sent up from Augusta for a spot start and did so well, he stuck with Richmond the rest of the way.  Lujan missed some time early with an injury.


Jordan Johnson-R
Andrew Suarez-L
Martin Agosta- R
Sam Coonrod- R
Jason Forjet- R
Jose Reyes-R
Christian Jones-L
Nick Vander Tuig-R

Jordan Johnson was another breakout pitcher for the organization.  He started the season late and in rookie ball, but exploded onto the Cal League scene with a mid-90's FB, great command and enough secondary stuff to keep hitters off balance.  Suarez worked his way up after being drafted in the second round to pitch well in the Cal League playoffs.  Agosta had tremendous K and BB numbers but a penchant for giving up the longball.  Sam Coonrod had a breakout season pitching at two levels with a mid-high 90's FB.  Jose Reyes is another hard thrower who was terrific for Augusta then struggled after being promoted to SJ.  His last few starts were encouraging, though.  Forjet seems to pitch well wherever he is assigned.  I'll peg him as a sleeper.  It seemed like the Giants were trying to stretch out Christian Jones into a starter near the end of the 2015 season.  Vander Tuig underwent his second TJ surgery making his future uncertain.


Mark Reyes-L
Michael Santos-R
DJ Snelton- L
Pat Young-R

Reyes seems like finesse lefty.  Santos got a late start, perhaps due to injury, but pitched pretty well while gradually stretching out.  Snelton pitched very well after struggling for SJ.  Pat Young found a floor and will try to work his way back up after struggling for SJ in 2014.


Dominic Mazza-L
Logan Webb-R
Nolan Riggs- R
Grant Watson-L
Andrew Leenhouts-L

Mazza was the forgotten SP at UCSB but had a nice pro debut.  Webb pitched impressively for an 18 year old at this level.  Riggs is a tall dude who found some traction.  Watson pitched great for Rookie AZL but struggled in S-K.  He was drafted as a college senior out of UCLA.  Leenhouts just got elected Mayor of Keizer, OR(just joking).


Phil Bickford-R
Deiyerbert Bolivar-L
Mac Marshall-L
Nick Gonzalez-L

Bickford was the Giants 2015 First Round Draft Pick.  He was spectacular in Arizona, but remember this is a rookie league.  Bolivar is an undersized lefty who pitches like he has big stuff.  Marshall was drafted out of JC ball after being caught up in the Brady Aiken fiasco in Houston.  He had mixed results in his pro debut.  Nick Gonzalez has been around awhile and needs to find some traction to his career.


Victor Concepcion-R
Melvin Adon-R
Sandro Cabrera-L
Prebito Reyes-L

Adon and Cabrera were older international signees, but pitched well and the Giants think highly enough of them to bring them to fall instructional league in Arizona.  Concepcion has numbers of a top prospect, but this was his second rodeo in the DSL.  I did not see his name on the instructional league roster, but hope to see him in Arizona in 2016.  Reyes may not have quite enough stuff to get off the island, judging by his DSL numbers.

There you have it.  The Giants may not have any future Madison Bumgarners or Tim Lincecums here, but the system is deep in quality starting pitching with dramatic improvement in 2015.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Giants 2015 Depth Charts: Corner Outfielders

The Giants are suddenly thin at corner OF after their somewhat surprising decision to not pick up Nori Aoki's option.  It seems like it's now or never for Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson appears to be almost ready to start mashing MLB pitching.  After that, it a bit hit and miss throughout the farm system.  As always, these lists are my opinion.


Hunter Pence
Gregor Blanco
Jarrett Parker
Mac Williamson

Blanco doubles as the backup CF and Angel Pagan has had trouble staying on the field.  Bobby Evans praised Parker and Williamson, but indicated the Giants don't want to hand them MLB jobs without bringing in some competition.  Expect a trade or FA signing here.


Juan Perez

Lil' Juan just keeps hanging around, but doesn't have enough stick for an MLB corner OF.


Hunter Cole
Devin Harris

Cole had a great season at two levels and is a real sleeper in the system.  Harris has been inching his way up the ladder, but may be running out of time.


Steve Duggar
Tyler Horan

Dugger got a promo from S-K for the Cal League playoffs.  Horan had a very disappointing season for SJ and will likely repeat if he even stays in the organization.


Dylan Davis
Andrew Cain
Cristian Paulino
Ashford Fulmer

Davis has power and a strong arm, but contact issues may force him to use the arm on the mound instead of the OF.  Cain showed flashes of a good bat, but his overall numbers were disappointing after recovery from a debilitating illness.  Well, disappointing is probably not a great way to describe it, because I am sure he feels fortunate to just be playing.  Paulino seems to have some tools, but hasn't really put it all together.  Fulmer is a low round 2015 draft pick whose name happens to be on the Augusta roster.


Julio Pena
Shilo McCall
Byron Murray

I think Murray has some upside.  Pena shows flashes of power but is very inconsistent.  McCall will be fortunate to still be in the organization next season.

Rookie AZL

Roger Edwards

Another late round 2015 draft pick.


Brayan De Pena
Sandro Fabian
Beicker Mendoza
Yendrys Gonzalez

Fabian and Mendoza had strong DSL campaigns at age 17.  De Pena is jumbo sized and will likely end up at 1B.

Hot Stove Update: First Trade and Dreaming of Zack Greinke

Jerry DiPoto, the new GM of the Mariners, wasted no time in firing up his hot stove.  He packaged 3 guys,  SS Brad Miller, 1B Logan Morrison and RHP Danny Farquar, who clearly did not figure into his future plans and shopped them to the Rays for RHP Nate Karns, LHP CJ Riefenhauser, and Prospect OF "Boog" Powell.  I'm not going to spend a lot of time on the 3 guys going to Tampa Bay.  Miller may fill their SS hole, but he's a guy whose stat line always seems to look better than he does in person.  I think we all feel about the same on Morrison.  Hate the guy, both on and off the field.  Farquar is a middle reliever coming off a terrible season.

Karns is obviously the centerpiece for the Mariners.  He's coming off a successful rookie campaign so is cost controlled for 5 more seasons.  He looks like a solid back-end starter.  The key is whether he can stay healthy.  He missed some time with the dreaded forearm tightness last year.

Riefenhauser is a lefty reliever who has less than 20 MLB innings under his belt.  His minor league numbers look good.  He has struggled in the majors, but pitched more like his minor league numbers in Sept 2015.  You all know how I feel about lefty relievers.  I definitely see why DiPoto wanted him.

Powell is being dismissed by Dave Cameron and the Fangraphs crowd, but he has very Giantsy minor league K and BB ratios.  I like Cameron's comp of Gregor Blanco.  I think Dave forgot that Blanco has averaged 3.1 fWAR/600 PA's over the past 4 seasons.  Another comp would be a faster version of Joe Panik.  The key is if Powell can D it up in CF.  If he can, I can see him having a solid career there.

Overall, I like this deal for DiPoto and the Mariners.  I am not sure why DiPoto has had so much trouble hanging onto his GM gigs.  He always seems to make solid trades and other acquisitions, then just as his teams look like they are about to break through, boom, he's the odd man out in a regime change or something.  His last gig was with the Angels where he lost a power struggle with Mike Scioscia.  My take on that is when was the last time Scioscia accomplished anything?  Seems like he's still riding his own coattails from 2002.


OK, as we have commented on several times already, there seems to be a harmonic convergence of of the stars for the Giants to make a huge run at Zack Greinke.  He, along with David Price, is one of the two premier free agent pitchers on the market after he opted out of his Dodgers contract.  The Giants have almost a desperate need to seriously upgrade their starting pitching.  The Giants also have stockpiled a very large war chest of available payroll.  The Dodgers are rumored to be seriously considering going young and cutting payroll.  If the Giants signed Zack Greinke, they would not only be gaining him, but taking him away from the Dodgers.  How sweet would that be?

So, let's do a little armchair GM'ing here. Using rough numbers, we'll assume the Giants have $45 M in payroll space for next season.  They do not have a large burden of long term future commitments thanks mainly to a very team friendly contract with Bumgarner.  Here's the question:  Taking all that into consideration, 1.  Do you make a serious run at Zack Greinke and 2.  What is your final offer to him, the one you back away from the table on if he turns it down?  How would it be structured?


Addendum:  A couple of things for additional consideration:

1.  There is a new CBA coming up which will likely raise the Luxury Tax threshold.

2.  I am pretty sure deferred payments on contracts are paid as AAV during the time the player is obligated to play, not when the payments are made.

3.  The Giants mortgage on AT&T Park will be paid off after 2017.

4.  The property development project that just go voter approval will likely bring a financial windfall starting in about 5 years.

Man, are the Giants in the catbird's seat for the future or what?  It seems like the only barrier between them and signing Zack Greinke is whether they want him and if they do, how much are they willing to pay?  There is almost no limit to what they CAN pay!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Giants 2015 Depth Charts: Centerfield

Everybody seems to think that the Giants decision to not pick up Nori Aoki's option means they are out to upgrade LF, and they may well be.  Don't discount the idea that they may actually see a bigger need in CF as they are faced with a rapidly aging Angel Pagan and a more slowly aging Gregor Blanco as the MLB options.  Unlike LF where they have both Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson ready or near ready to help, they do not have any reasonably likely help for CF in the top 3 levels of the farm system. As always these rankings are my opinion.


Angel Pagan
Gregor Blanco
Kelby Tomlinson?

Pagan swung a decent bat when he finally appeared to be healthy in September, but he continued to be a liability on defense.  The beat writers have been speculating since around the first of September that the Giants may be looking for a way, any way, to dump Pagan  Baggs went so far as to suggest that Kelby Tomlinson's attempt to expand his skills by playing OF in Instructional League may be in preparation for him replacing Pagan.  Bobby Evans threw cold water on THAT idea at yesterday's announcement of the declined options.  At this point in his career, Gregor Blanco is a better LF than CF.


Daniel Carbonell
Darren Ford

Carbonell may not be a legitimate prospect, let alone ready to start in CF in the major leagues.  I would assume his current placement on the Sacramento roster is just a place to park him until spring assignments.  Ford is disaster insurance.


Engel Beltre
Jesus Galindo

Beltre is a reclamation project plucked out the Rangers' dumpster.  Fine athlete, but his bat faded in Richmond after a hot start.  Galindo is marginal bat and a terrible fielder who is playing more LF these days.


Seth Harrison

Started out 2015 OK but was in danger of sinking below the .200 BA level by the end of the season.


Johneshswy Fargas
Gustavo Cabrera

Fargas hit over .300 most of the season for Augusta, which is quite a feat in the extremely pitcher friendly environment.  He finished the season on the DL after taking a pitch off his face.  Assuming he recovers, he is a legitimate CF prospect, but still has several years of seasoning in front of him.  Cabrera has to be stashed on this roster.  He has had less than 10 AB's in the last 2 seasons due to injury with his only prior experience coming in the DSL.


Ronnie Jebavy

Nice combination of power, speed and defense from this 2015 5'th round draft pick.


Mikey Edie
Jean Angomas

Edie had a solid stateside debut.  I am quite high on him, but he has a lot of development in front of him.  I am starting to come around on Carmot's favorite sleeper, Angomas.


Jose Patino

Switch-hitting young speedster, may benefit from another year in the DSL.

As you can see, if the Giants want to upgrade CF, they are going to have to go outside the organization, so don't be surprised if this is where they concentrate their offseason efforts.

Hot Stove Update: Declining Options

The weather has turned cool here in SoCal just in time to fire up the Hot Stove with our first update of the season.  The Giants raised some eyebrows yesterday by announcing they had declined options on Nori Aoki and Marlon Byrd.  The Byrd decline was expected, the Aoki one, not so much.  After the $700 K buyout for Aoki, the savings on his contract come to $4.3 M.  Not a huge difference maker, but  not negligible either.  Aoki was cleared from his concussion symptoms and Bobby Evans emphasized that the decision was not due to medical concerns but a desire to maintain financial flexibility going forward.

The Giants have a huge windfall of money coming off the payroll this offseason.  These are rough approximations but here's the tally:

Tim Lincecum- $20 M
Tim Hudson- $11 M
Marco Scutaro- $6 M
Jeremy Affeldt- $5 M
Ryan Vogelsong- $4 M
Nori Aoki- $4 M
Casey McGehee- $4 M
Joaquin Arias- $1.5 M

That all adds up to $55.5 M.  Figure about $15 M for scheduled and arbitration raises and they have a war chest of about $40 M left over for attack the FA market.  Factor in a 5-10% payroll increase and that number could get above $50 M.  My point here is that Aoki is a really good value at $5 M and the Giants could have picked up his option and still had a huge stockpile of cash left over.  To me, the message is clear.  When Bobby Evans says they wanted to maintain financial flexibility, he was telling us they are keeping their powder dry to go after some really big fish!

In a possibly related development, Zack Greinke, as expected, opted out of his Dodgers contract.  There are rumors out there that the Giants are going to make a run at Greinke if nothing else, to drive his price up for the Dodgers.  At the same time there are rumors out there that the Dodgers are intent on going young and cutting payroll.  Hmm…..  This could get verrrry interesting.

While Bobby Evans confirmed that the Giants are going after pitching, he also brought up the OF and stated that they have to look there for upgrades also.  Part of their thinking was that by bringing back Aoki before upgrade options are addressed, they would be creating uncertainty and possibly disappointment with his role next year.  He mentioned Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson but stated that the Giants do not want to go into the season depending on them.  The Giants certainly have a large enough war chest that they could sign a top tier pitcher or a couple of low tier pitchers PLUS go after a FA OF.  There are a number of interesting FA options on the market including Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton and Jason Heyward.  Evans hinted, though, that the upgrade may come via trade as he specifically mentioned some exciting possibilities in the trade market.

Giants fans have been primed for blockbuster signings in the past, but have ended up disappointed.  The difference this year is you don't have to stand on your head and twist yourself into a pretzel to see that they have the financial muscle to actually carry it out.  Should be an interesting Hot Stove League season.  We'll all hope to not be disappointed once again.