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November 7, 2012

BP Unfiltered

Jason Bay and Evaluating This Offseason's Deals

The math of free-agent analysis is simple enough, but gets overwhelmed by the reality.

There weren't many defenders of the Jason Bay deal when it happened. Bay was a very good player, coming off a 5.9-WARP season, but to justify his four-year, $66 million contract he'd need to continue to produce about four wins per year. That seemed just a bit too much for a player who was an excellent hitter but (by most metrics) lousy on defense. Maybe three wins per year, but not quite four. That's why the Red Sox had refused to offer more than four years and $60 million. Those extra $6 million that the Mets offered sure looked like an overpay. 

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BP Daily Podcast

Effectively Wild Episode 78: Quantifying Coaches/Why Some Fielders Look Better Than They Are/How Do We Know What Pitchers Should Weigh?

Ben and Sam answer listener emails about the importance of coaches, defensive stats, and how we know whether pitchers should gain or lose weight, with guest appearances by Colin Wyers and Doug Thorburn.

Ben and Sam answer listener emails about the importance of coaches, defensive stats, and how we know whether pitchers should gain or lose weight, with guest appearances by Colin Wyers and Doug Thorburn.

Episode 78: "Quantifying Coaches/Why Some Fielders Look Better Than They Are/How Do We Know What Pitchers Should Weigh?"

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Minor League Update

Games of November 6

Notes on 8 minor leaguers playing in the Arizona Fall League and Dominican Winter League.

The general manager meetings start today! Here's hoping we have a few free-agent signings and trades to make my day more interesting until it's time to work on the Minor League Update again.
  • David Adams, 2B/3B, Yankees (Scottsdale): 3-for-5, 2 HR (2), 3 RBI. As the Yankees work to get their payroll beneath the $189M tax threshold before next offseason, it’s important that they get more contributions from young players who'll make the minimum salary, or just above it. The 25 year-old Adams, who has a career .825 OPS in parts of five minor league seasons, could fit the bill as a backup infielder who gets significant time at third base if the 37 year-old Alex Rodriguez continues to get more and more at-bats as the designated hitter. 
  • Christian Bethancourt, C, Braves (Licey-DWL): 2-for-4, 2B. Currently penciled into my projected Braves’ starting lineup, mostly by default, Bethancourt lacks the offensive skills to succeed at the major league level anytime soon. Heck, he wasn’t very good at the plate in Double-A last season. But the plus defensive skills are obvious. And to be fair, he was only 20 years old and had a fair amount of success in 54 Lo-A games in 2011 as a 19 year-old (.753 OPS).  With Brian McCann expected to miss the start of the season after shoulder surgery and free agent David Ross no lock to return, it’s possible that Bethancourt makes his big league debut early in 2013, even if it's just a temporary stint.
  • Nick Franklin, 2B/SS, Mariners (Peoria): 4-for-5, 6 RBI, 2 2B. The Mariners' 1st Round pick in 2009 is closing in on the major leagues, thanks to an above-average hit tool that produced an .800 OPS between Triple-A and Double-A in 2012. The question is whether he'll be a second baseman or shortstop. Most scouts view him as a second baseman but his quickest path to Seattle might be at shortstop, where the all-glove, no-bat Brendan Ryan is set to start the 2013 season. As Jason Churchill pointed out in a recent story on top prospect trade candidates, the M's have depth at second base (Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager) and shortstop (Ryan, Brad Miller), and Franklin could give the team a very good trade chip. 
  • Onelki Garcia, LHP, Dodgers (Mesa): 2 IP, 0 R, H, BB, K. Yasiel Puig wasn't the only Cuban defector to sign with the Dodgers this year. The team's 3rd Round draft pick in 2012, Garcia is a hard-throwing 23 year-old who has had quite a journey since leaving Cuba in August 2010. Dodgers Assistant General Manager Logan White, speaking at the Baseball Prospectus stadium event at Chavez Ravine in September, mentioned Garcia and the process that led up to him being drafted. This You Tube clip starts at the beginning of that mention.  
  • Junior Lake, 3B/SS, Cubs (Oriente-DWL): 4-for-5, 2B, RBI: The most asked about minor leaguer in Kevin Goldstein’s twitter timeline during the 2012 season, Lake isn’t quite the prospect that Cubs fans want him to be. He can do some things very well, however, and he’s showing off his hitting skills down in the DWL. The 22 year-old has eight hits in his last 10 at-bats with four doubles. Look for him to get more time at third base, where he could get a shot in 2013 if Ian Stewart or whoever starts at the hot corner isn’t doing squat again.  
  • Chris McGuiness, 1B, Rangers (Surprise): 3-for-4, HR (4), 3 RBI, BB. Acquired in the trade that sent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to the Red Sox at the trade deadline in 2010, McGuiness continues to put up solid numbers in the AFL (22-for-66, 4 HR, 4 2B, 20 RBI, 11 BB, 10 K). He does have some power, but as Jason Parks points out here, the 24 year-old doesn’t appear to have the bat speed to succeed as a big league regular.
  • Anthony Rendon, 3B, Nationals (Salt River): 3-for-3, 2 2B, 4 RBI, BB, SB (4). If it wasn’t already, it’s becoming apparent that Rendon’s bat is just about big league ready, as was expected when he was drafted in the 1st round of last year’s draft. Still, the Nationals have given no indication that the 22 year-old third baseman will be making a position change anytime soon in order to get he and Ryan Zimmerman on the field at the same time. If he was going to make a move, the AFL would’ve been a good place to start. As they say, it’s a good problem to have. My guess is that this situation will play itself out by mid-season.
  • Carlos Sanchez, 2B/3B/SS, White Sox (Salt River): 5-for-5, 2B, 2 SB (10), 5 R. A relatively unknown before the 2012 season, Sanchez started the season as a 19 year-old in Hi-A Winston-Salem, had an impressive performance in the mid-season Futures Game, earned promotion to Double-A shortly after, and was in Triple-A by season’s end. The switch-hitting Venezuelan gives the White Sox a future top-of-the-order hitter with speed and on-base skills that they lack from their current group of infielders. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him in Chicago before his 21st birthday in late June.  

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November 6, 2012

BP Unfiltered

Prospect Ranking Regrets and the Importance of Instinct in Scouting

Some scouting mistakes as as memorable and valuable as scouting successes.

Everyone loves a good prospect list. Before each season and at various points throughout the year, prospect lists give us a preview of the talent on the way for each team and allow us to see how each system stacks up against the others. From the reader’s perspective, these lists might seem to spring fully formed from their authors’ minds. But a good prospect list is the product of weeks of behind-the-scenes work.

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Wezen-Ball

Athletic Supporters

The 1968 presidential election featured a surprisingly large number of athletic endorsements amid one hard to believe aphorism.

Early last month, ESPN: The Magazine released the results of a survey they had conducted among players from each of the four major American sports. Unsurprisingly, the responses showed the wealthy athletes leaned to the right on the political spectrum. For example, the group as a whole said they would vote for Mitt Romney in today's election by a margin of 64.5% to President Obama's 22.9%. Major league baseball players were even more unanimous in their support of Romney, favoring the governor 81.8% to the president's 4.6%.

Apparently, the release of survey results like these would not have always been so ho-hum-predictable. In 1968, amid the highly contested election between Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, and George Wallace (among many others), the New York Times detailed the support many of the nation's athletes were throwing around that summer. Describing the varied groups of athletes standing behind the two lead candidates, Robert Lipsyte wrote this:

The Democrats are not in the Republicans' league [with regards to the stature of players supporting their candidates], belying the old aphorism that the owners of teams vote G.O.P. and their players ride the donkey. Bonuses and investment portfolios have made every rookie somewhat conservative.

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BP Daily Podcast

Effectively Wild Episode 77: The Teams in the Winter Spending Sweet Spot

Ben and Sam discuss which teams might benefit most from adding a few wins this winter.

Ben and Sam discuss which teams might benefit most from adding a few wins this winter.

Episode 77: "The Teams in the Winter Spending Sweet Spot"

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Minor League Update

Games of November 5

Notes on eight players who had notable performances in Monday's AFL and DWL action.

I love this time of year. Hot Stove talk. NFL and College Football are in full swing. The NBA season is underway. And Baseball Prospectus has begun to release Top 10 Prospect Rankings, starting with the Astros. Oh yeah, and there's still plenty of baseball being played around the world. 
  • Cody Asche, 3B, Phillies (Peoria): 3-for-4, 2 2B, 2 RBI. Only Kevin Frandsen sits ahead of Asche on the Phillies’ 3B depth chart, but the 22 year-old is at least a half-year away from the big leagues. An .824 OPS with 12 HR and 11 SB in 130 games between Double-A Reading and Hi-A Clearwater in his first full pro season gives the team hope that they’ll have a homegrown talent manning the hot corner for the first time since Scott Rolen did from 1996-2002.
  • Seth Blair, RHP, Cardinals (Surprise): 4 IP, ER, 3 H, BB, 2 K. The 46th pick in the 2011 draft, Blair hasn’t been able to find the strike zone very often as a pro (78 BB, 15 hit batters in 101.1 IP). He was in control, however, during his latest AFL start. After walking eight batters in 13.1P over his first four starts, he walked just one hitter and allowed just his 2nd ER in 17.1 IP.
  • Robbie Erlin, LHP, Padres (Peoria): 4 IP, 0 R, 3 H, BB, 4 K. A rash of injuries decimated the Padres' pitching staff in 2012, and Erlin couldn’t take advantage because he was sidelined himself with elbow tendinitis at a time when the the team was desperate enough to give Kip Wells seven starts. The 22 year-old also missed out on a chance to pitch in the spacious confines of Petco Park. The fences are being moved in, so his home park will now be less pitcher-friendly. I doubt it will be much of a problem. His 7.36 K/BB ratio in the minors should translate well to any ballpark. 
  • Dee Gordon, SS, Dodgers (Licey-DWL): 2-for-4, 2B, SB (6): Hanley Ramirez’s acquisition and the emergence of journeyman Luis Cruz knocked Gordon down the depth chart, much to the dismay of SB-starved fantasy baseball players. The 24 year-old has speed to burn, as evidenced by his 4 triples and 5 stolen bases through 13 games with Licey. The problem is that he doesn’t get on base enough to take advantage of his wheels (.280 OBP in 87 games last season). He does have a .410 OBP in his first 13 DWL games, which is encouraging, I guess. 
  • Sean Ochinko, C, Blue Jays (Salt River): 2-for-4, HR (1), 3 RBI, 2 R. The Jays might have the most catching depth in all of baseball and Ochinko was buried on that list at the start of the offseason. But the trade of Yan Gomes to Cleveland bumps him up one spot. A potential offseason trade of starter J.P. Arencibia to make room for prospect Travis d’Arnaud could also help move him up the chart, at least until A.J. Jimenez returns from Tommy John surgery. 
  • Jimmy Paredes, OF, Astros (Cibao-DWL): 2-for-5, HR (3), 3 RBI, R:  Although he’s starting to show some power the past few seasons (23 HR between Triple-A and Double-A in 2011-12), to go along with a career .289 BA in six minor league seasons and 116 SB over the last three, Paredes walks very little and strikes out very much. Not a great combination. I hope the Astros didn’t ask him to work on trying to draw some more walks during the DWL. They’d be very disappointed thus far (0 BB, 7 K in 38 at-bats).  
  • Jimmy Reyes, LHP, Rangers (Surprise): 2 IP, 0 R, H, 0 BB, K: One of two pitchers in the AFL to have not allowed an earned run (C.J. Riefenhauser is the other), Reyes has his streak up to 10 innings after tossing two scoreless on Monday. He hasn’t walked a hitter, either. But that’s no surprise. Reyes has walked only 26 hitters in 144.2 IP since being drafted in the 7th round if the 2010 draft.
  • Kolten Wong, 2B, Cardinals (Surprise): 2-for-5, 3 R, K, 2 SB (5): The 22 year-old Wong posted a .911 OPS in 47 games in the Lo-A Midwest League after being drafted in the 1st Round of the 2011 draft. He made the jump to Double-A in 2012 and held his own with a .754 OPS. So does he make the jump from Double-A to the majors in April? My guess is no, but he could be the Cardinals’ #2 hitter by mid-July.      

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November 5, 2012

Minor League Update

Games of November 2-4

Updates on 12 players from the Arizona Fall League, including the Rising Stars game, and the Dominican/Venezuelan Leagues.

If you haven't heard, Reds prospect Billy Hamilton is the fastest man in baseball. He broke the minor league single-season record of 145 stolen bases, set in 1983 by Vince Coleman, and finished the season with 155 steals between Hi-A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola. The 22 year-old Hamilton, who was recently moved from shortstop to center field, was easily the most exciting player in Saturday's Rising Stars game. When you start a game like this - leadoff walk, steal 2nd, steal 3rd, score later in the inning - it tends to cause a lot of excitement in the ballpark. Baseball fans, not to mention Fantasy Baseball players, love the stolen base almost as much as the home run. More excitement ensued later in the game when Hamilton bunted for a base hit. Unfortunately, one of the most disappointing moments of the game also occurred during that same play. A two-base throwing error meant that he couldn't steal second and third again. I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one yelling, "Stay at first! Stay at first!"
 
I'm gonna go out on a limb and predict that Hamilton will someday become the first player to steal 100 bases in the majors since Coleman last did it in 1987. And when he does, it will be the fifth time a player named Billy Hamilton steals 100 bases in a season. The other Billy Hamilton, an outfielder who stole 914 bases in his career and at least 100 bases in a season four times, played from 1888-1901.
 
Stats listed are from Nov. 2nd thru Nov. 4th.
  • Chase Anderson, RHP, Diamondbacks (Salt River): 2 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 0 BB, 4 K. After two shutout innings in the Rising Stars game, where he flashed an impressive changeup, Anderson has allowed just 2 ER in 10 IP over his last three appearances with 1 BB and 17 K. He’ll start the season in Triple-A, where he'll remain in the shadows of several elite prospects in the Dbacks’ system. 
  • Nick Castellanos, OF, Tigers (Mesa): 5-for-9, BB, K. Only 14 hits in his first 67 AFL at-bats before a three-hit game on Friday and a pair of singles in the Rising Stars game on Saturday. Drafted as a third baseman, the 20 year-old has been playing both corner outfield spots in order to expedite his arrival in the big leagues, possibly as early as April 2013.
  • Rhiner Cruz, RHP, Astros (Cibao-DWL): IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K. The top pick in last offseason’s Rule V draft, Cruz struggled throughout his rookie season before finally showing some promise in September (8.1 IP, ER, 8 H, 0 BB, 11 K). So it’s good to see that late-season success carry over in his first appearance in the DWL, as he tossed a clean inning with 2 strikeouts. Command of his mid-90’s fastball could earn him a key role in the Astros’ bullpen next spring.
  • Brian Goodwin, OF, Nationals (Salt River): 2-for-5, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2 K. If the Nationals don’t go out and sign one of the top free agent center fielders to a multi-year deal this offseason, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise. That’s because Goodwin, the 34th pick in the 2011 draft, is on the fast track to D.C. and could be leading off and playing center field on Opening Day 2014.  The 22 year-old led off the Rising Stars game with a HR and added an RBI double later in the game. He'll return to Double-A to start the 2013 season.
  • Billy Hamilton, CF, Reds (Peoria): 2-for-4, 2 BB, 2 R, K, 2 SB. With only 10 hits in 42 at-bats, Hamilton's impact had been minimal in the AFL heading into the weekend. But the switch-hitter singled in his lone plate appearance on Friday and then stole the show at the Rising Stars game with an electric performance that included two walks, a bunt single, and a spectacular diving catch. A few months of progress in center field and at the plate could land the converted shortstop at the top of the Reds’ lineup by mid-season. 
  • Rymer Liriano, OF, Padres (Peoria): 6-for-9, HR (3), 2B, 4 RBI, BB, 2 R. The closest the Padres might have to a five-tool player in their organization since Dave Winfield, the 21 year-old Liriano has been one of the most impressive players in the AFL and the Rising Stars game was no exception. After back-to-back three-hit games on Thursday and Friday, Liriano had three more on Saturday, including an opposite field double.  
  • Ernesto Mejia, 1B, Braves (Zulia-VWL): 5-for-11, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 K. The 26 year-old celebrated being added to the Braves’ 40-man roster by hitting two homers on Friday. Mejia, who has spent eight seasons in the Braves’ farm system, has a career .836 OPS and 50 HR between Triple-A and Double-A the past two seasons. He has a legitimate shot to win a major league job as a right-handed bat off the bench in 2013.
  • Mark Montgomery, RHP, Yankees (Scottsdale): 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 3 K. This reliever has already been mentioned in the Minor League Update three times during the AFL season. Normally, I’d say that’s two times too many, but he did have the most impressive outing of the Rising Stars game. The 22 year-old struck out a trio of right-handed hitters, Michael Almanzar, Bryce Brentz, and Nick Ahmed, in a scoreless inning and is putting himself in position to compete for a spot in the Yankees’ bullpen next spring. 
  • Marcell Ozuna, OF, Marlins (Cibao-DWL): 2-for-11, 2 HR (7), 4 RBI, 2 R, BB, 4 K. After starting the weekend with an 0-for-7, Ozuna slugged his 6th and 7th homers of the season on Sunday to extend his HR lead by three in the Dominican Winter League. The 21 year-old has 69 HR between Hi-A and Lo-A over the past three seasons. We’ll start to find out if he’s the real deal when he plays in the Double-A Southern League next season.  
  • Kevin Pillar, OF, Blue Jays (Salt River): 2-for-4, R, 2 SB (7). When former Baseball Prospectus prospect guru and current Houston Astros pro scouting coordinator Kevin Goldstein was asked on Twitter a few months back to name the best sleeper prospect in the Blue Jays’ system, he replied, “maybe Kevin Pillar”. A 32nd Round pick in last year’s draft, the 23 year-old didn’t have much trouble in his first two professional seasons and the AFL has been no different. He has 16 hits in his first 37 at-bats with 7 steals in 8 attempts.  
  • Austin Romine, C, Yankees (Scottsdale): 1-for-2, 3B, 2 R, K. The 23 year-old allowed two stolen bases to Hamilton in the 1st inning of the Rising Stars game, but redeemed himself by blasting a triple over Hamilton’s head in center field later in the game. The Yankees are in need of a starting catcher this offseason and Romine, who missed most of the 2012 season with a back injury, might end up in the mix if they don't re-sign Russell Martin.
  • Gary Sanchez, C, Yankees (Escogido-DWL): 3-for-12, HR, 3 RBI, 3 K. The Yankees’ ‘Catcher of the Future’ homered on Friday and singled twice on Saturday. Re-signing Martin could make sense with a very thin class of free agent catchers available this offseason, but it might take a three-year deal. If that’s what happens, Martin could spend year three of his deal backing up Sanchez, who could reach Double-A in 2013 at age 20.

 

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