Saturday, November 06, 2004

Position by Position: the 2005 Free Agent Market III

Second Base:

As we continue in the wading our way through the major league free agent list, we come to 2nd base - ostensibly the weakest position on the market. Unlike every other position, there isn't a true superstar available to teams this season. There are, however, quite a few very solid players that almost any team in the league could use.

The rankings:

1. Jeff Kent (age 37 next season) - Don't let anyone tell you he's not the best second baseman available on the free agent market. Still a force in the middle of the lineup, Kent has kept his slugging percentage over .500 for the last seven years, while always hitting above .289. And the two issues that usually plague an older player - durability and defense - haven't affected this 36-year old second baseman yet. He's been able to play 130+ games a year, and MGL has him #2 at +5 runs above average in the NL for defense using UZR which goes along well with his rankings over the past 4 years (from 2000-2003 at +4 runs per 150 games). Kent isn't a good long-term investment, but if a team (like the Yankees) need a second baseman who can fill in for the next 2 years, Kent fits the profile perfectly. I'd expect his power and average to decline a bit, but Kent could hit at the tune of .280/.350/.480 next year.

2. Placido Polanco (age 29) - Spots 2-5 are extremely tough, as Polanco, Todd Walker, Mark Bellhorn, and Mark Grudzielanek all post similar numbers. The only reasons Polanco gets the nod at number 2 here are because of his defense and age. MGL's UZR has Polanco as one of the best defensive 2nd baseman in the league - and it also rates his defense at 3rd base top-tier. At age 29, Polanco's not a good bet to break out, but he's posted similar lines the past two years:

Year Ag  G  AB   R    H   2B  3B  HR   RBI  SB  CS  BB  SO   BA   OBP  SLG

2003 27 122 492 87 142 30 3 14 63 14 2 42 38 .289 .352 .447
2004 28 126 503 74 150 21 0 17 55 7 4 27 39 .298 .345 .441


While .290/.350/.445 looks good - Polanco will never really take that many walks, and he's not a sure bet to hit with power. In full-time action in St. Louis at ages 25 and 26, Polanco never slugged above .400, and even now he's not hitting that many doubles - telling me that he doesn't hit the ball hard all that often. He's a definite gamble, hasn't been able to play a full season in the last two years because of injuries, and in my mind won't hit as well as he did the last two years - but his defense is so good that it more than makes up for any offensive shortcomings he'll have. I'd project a .290/.340/.420 line for him next year.

3. Mark Bellhorn (age 30) - One of the bigger surprises this year, Bellhorn followed up his horrendous 2003 season with a solid campaign, taking 88 walks and posting a beautiful .373 OBP. I don't think anyone can characterize Bellhorn as an above-average defensive 2nd baseman, and there aren't many accurate numbers on him. From what I've seen, his range is adequate, and he plays very well around the bag at 2nd - turning the double play well. The last three years, Bellhorn also grounded into only 17 double plays in his last 1456 PAs. Compare that to Walker - 28 in 1746 PAs - or Grudzielanek - 36 in 1375 PAs - and you can see how many less outs Bellhorn was responsible for. I'd project the switch-hitting Bellhorn to hit .260/.370/.450, right about where he left off last season.

4. Todd Walker (age 32) - Stinks at defense. You can see it on the field - UZR has him at -9 runs coming into 2004, and his range can only get worse. Still, you know you're going to get a .270/.340/.440 out of him, and he's a solid lefthanded batter.

5. Mark Grudzielanek (age 35) - Another incredibly boring player. I could probably right a dissertation on whether the Cubs should keep Walker over Grudzielanek (or vice-versa), but they'll both produce about the same net results in the end. Walker's younger and hits for more power and has an easier name to spell, while Grudz... plays marginally better defense and hits for a higher average. Whatever.

Also on the list of free agents is Roberto Alomar along with Pokey Reese and then a pile of crap. Alomar stinks at defense right now, and is a huge gamble who's gotten pretty old. Reese is a solid defensive 2nd baseman and SS, who will never ever be able to swing a bat correctly.

A Fit with the Royals? - Well, you can usually find good utilitymen out of the mix of 2nd basemen, but we've already got a good utilityman in Tony Graffanino. Unfortunately, he's starting at 2nd base for us, so we'll probably have to carry another utility player on the team. It's doubtful the Royals will take a long look at any of these players, and will probably fill the UT spot with a minor-league free agent or Mendy Lopez or Wilton Guerrero or someone who stinks like that. Hopefully Graffanino can slug better than .335 next season.

Brad Eldred Report

Brad Eldred, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates
Drafted 163rd Overall (6th Rd), 2002 Draft, Florida International
Bats R/Throws R
24 YO, 6'5", 275 lbs

You expect a 6'5", 275 pound mountain of a first baseman to hit for some power. Eldred doesn't disappoint in that respect. He split the season between the Carolina League and the Eastern League, and hit 31 doubles and 38 home runs along the way. His lines: .310/.397/.570 in 335 at bats for Lynchburg (CL), and .279/.329/.687 in 147 at bats for Altoona (EL). This shouldn't be a huge surprise. He 29 homers as a senior at Florida International.

He doed strike out a lot. He whiffed 148 times this season, bringing his career total to 364 in 1178 at bats. He also could draw more walks, as he only drew 41 free passes this season, and has only 97 career walks. He does augment his OBP by taking one for the team (20 HBP this season). But he could be more effective if he tightened up his strike zone. His defense is questionable. And while he has better speed than you expect in a player this big, and he can steal a base on occasion, he isn't a big threat on the basepaths.

ETA: Late 2005
3 1/2 Stars

Friday, November 05, 2004

Jarred Ball Report

Jarred Ball, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
Drafted 278th Overall (9th Rd), 2001 Draft, HS, Houston, TX
Bats B/Throws R
21 YO, 6'1", 170 lbs

Stop me if you've heard this one before. Jarred Ball is a Diamondbacks outfield prospect who can hit a little bit. What a novel concept! He isn't a prospect in the Jon Zeringue/Conor Jackson class, but he's not a stiff. He hit .297/.359/.472 with 26 doubles, 6 triples, 15 home runs, 45 walks, and 123 K's in 472 at bats with Lancaster, of the Cal League. Not bad. The walk rate has improved little by little and is now acceptable. He strikes out a lot more than you expect from a player with mid-range power. But I think he'll hit as he moves up, and might add more power as he fills out a bit.

Right now he's a center fielder with good speed. However, he rates as kind of a tweener defensively, as his arm is weak, and he isn't a true flycatcher, like Juan Pierre or Mike Cameron. He might settle in as a Shannon Stewart type of outfielder.

ETA: 2007
3 Stars

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Carlos Beltran: Still Underrated.

In early May this year, Rob Neyer wrote a column that discussed the merits and performance of Carlos Beltran. Trying to stem the media frenzy about Beltran, Neyer wrote:


A great number of people seem to have reached the mistaken conclusion that Beltran's one of the very best baseball players in the world. He's not.

It's certainly true that OPS doesn't tell the whole story about Beltran. He's a solid (if somewhat overrated) defensive player, and of course he's one of the best basestealers, percentage-wise, in major league history. But as they do with most players, on-base percentage and slugging percentage do tell most of the story, and Beltran's numbers just aren't all that impressive...

Right now he's not the best player in the game, or one of the 10 best players in the game. And even if you think that Beltran's one of the best players right now, why would you think he'll be one of the best players in, say, 2006? Most truly great players are great before they turn 27, not only after.

Neyer would probably take back that statement about Beltran after he closed in on a near-40 HR season, but I still have an issue with many of the assertions that Neyer makes.

The first is his use of OPS to judge Beltran. Neyer acknowledges that "it's certainly true that OPS doesn't tell the whole story about Beltran" - which is a complete understatement. It's downright misleading to use OPS to judge Beltran - he is by far, without a doubt, the best player in the game when you strip hitting from the game. There are 5 major attributes OPS cannot measure:

1) Defense
2) SB/CS
3) Baserunning
4) Ability to stay out of GIDP
5) Position.

Perhaps Beltran's defense is a little overrated - regardless, he is an above-average outfielder. His SB/CS is tremendous - the best ever, and he steals a lot of bases. He has tremendous baserunning skills and rarely grounds into a double play - additionally, he plays CF, which is pretty far left on the defensive spectrum. Just how good is Beltran at these secondary attributes - coming into the season, he was projected (using mgl's SLWTS) to be +12 runs above average in those categories - an incredibily high number. Add that to the +21 runs above average projection on offense and then a positional adjustment (so that first baseman don't get a huge advantage), and Beltran was projected to be the 5th best player in the league coming into the year behind Bonds, Helton, A. Rodriguez, and Pujols. Now figure that Beltran beat all of his hitting and SB/CS projections, and you've got a top 3 player.

Another issue I take with Neyer's column is the line "Most truly great players are great before they turn 27, not only after. " While this is true for the most part, most power-speed players peak well after the age of 27, and their careers tend to last much longer.

Beltran is a tremendous player, and he'll almost certainly post even better offensive numbers in the next couple years as he's not taking as many walks as he can (and unlike some players, he's not a contact hitter who swings early in the count as illustrated by his high K totals). If he stays healthy next year, Beltran could be taking 110-120 walks in 600 PA, raising his OBP, all the while still slugging around 35-40 HRs with great speed on the basepaths. He had a great year this year, but don't be surprised if he plays even better in the next few years.

What's he worth? To the Royals - 12-13 million a year. To another team with not as many holes? Perhaps 17-18 million (7 Wins Above Replacement X 2 million per win above replacement + no other holes to fill on the team). Because the Royals have another capable CF, they made the right decision in trading Beltran, although they got much less than they should have. Because there are so many other holes on our team, devoting 30-40% of our player to one player could be disastrous, especially when the other 60% of our payroll is spread thin trying to fill in numerous other gaps (pitching, second base, pitching, third base, pitching, pitching). So while Beltran's might actually be worth the money a large-market team is paying him, don't be upset at the Royals not re-signing him. The decision to trade him was correct, even though the execution was definitely flawed.

Position by Position: the 2005 Free Agent Market

Shortstops:

Moving on left in the defensive spectrum, we’ll analyze the shortstop free agent class now.

At first glance, the shortstops look extremely weak, and any team looking to fill a gaping hole will need to shell out some serious dollars to land one of the top 3 prized shortstops.

In reality, however, the shortstop group is extraordinarily deep, with the 2nd-tier players having exceptional glovework, more than making up for their offensive ineptitude.

1. Nomar Garciaparra, age 31 in 2005 – Clearly the best of his class, Garciaparra turned down a 4-year, 48-million dollar contract extension from the Red Sox last winter, and the Red Sox are sure glad he did. Five or six years ago, Garciaparra had tremendous potential, and could have developed into one of the game’s top 3 shortstops ever. At age 23 he hit 30 HRs, at age 24 he hit 35 HRs. Then, at ages 25 and 26 he took aim at the batting titles, hitting .357 and .372 respectively. And from ages 23 to 26, his OBP increased each year: .342, .362, .418, .434. Garciaparra was a master of the strike zone at age 26, taking 61 walks while only striking out 50 times. And then all of a sudden, Nomar hurt his wrist, and just as fast as his numbers peaked, they soon started declining.

While Nomar has the ability to work counts, as pitchers respect his power, he’s become a contact-first hitter, as evidenced by his low walk and strikeout totals. Because he swings early in the count, or is unwilling to take a walk, Garciaparra limits his on-base abilities, and must rely on a high batting average and slugging percentage to generate performance. The major problem with this approach is that as Garciaparra ages, it will be extremely likely that his batting average will slowly fall as will his power – just like most aging players. However, most power hitters, as they age, tend to draw more walks – not because their eye has gotten better, but because pitchers don’t throw as many strikes, and the hitters have the option of not swinging at balls outside of the zone. A few examples of this phenomenon are players like Sammy Sosa or Carlos Beltran – players who adjusted their approach at the plate to take more walks after they became feared by pitchers. Garciaparra, however, is more like Garrett Anderson – although he’s experienced a power spike, the resulting walk spike doesn’t go along with it – and as he gets older, both his average and power will drop, and they won’t be offset by a high OBP.

That being said, Garciaparra is still a very good hitter. Once a slightly above-average fielder, his range has declined – in part because of his Achilles injury – and now he’s around average. Four seasons with a .300/.360/.480 is about what you’d expect in a neutral ballpark for Garciaparra, and for a shortstop, that’s pretty awesome. And with that, you’d expect a 4-year, 45-million dollar contract. Still, I wonder what could have been had Nomar not missed almost all of his age 27 season because of that wrist injury.

2. Edgar Renteria, age 29 in 2005 – Solid defensively and extremely durable, Renteria is two years younger than Nomar, but unspectacular with the bat. Good doubles power and a couple home runs, Renteria makes a good 6 or 7 hitter on most teams. Not good enough to bat leadoff on most teams because of his low OBP and cruddy stealing percentage, you could make a case for Renteria as a top 5 shortstop. He deserves perhaps 4-5 million dollars a year, but will probably garner upwards of 7-8 million dollars in a multi-year deal. His true talent level for the next few years lies around .290/.335/.420.

3. Orlando Cabrera, age 30 in 2005 – A poor-man’s Renteria. Cabrera possesses about the same power, but hits for a lot less average, with the same unspectacular ability to take a walk. Cabrera’s defense is marginally better, as he’s a stud going back on pop-ups, but a back injury raises question marks about his durability in the future. He could make 5-6 million dollars a year as some team will look to sign him to a 3-year contract, but he’ll probably only hit .270/.320/.410 over the next few years in a neutral ballpark.

4. Jose Hernandez, age 35 in 2005 – A great short-term stopgap for many teams, Hernandez is coming off a career year as a Dodger’s utilityman, hitting .289/.370/.540 in 211 ABs. Another above-average defender, right up there with Renteria and Cabrera, Hernandez is a viable option for the Red Sox, who are looking for a shortstop to fill-in for 1 to 2 years before Hanley Ramirez Hernandez’s strikeouts aren’t that big of a deal in the big picture - a one-year contract for 1-1.5 million would be a good bargain for a solid defensive shortstop whose true talent level lies around .260/.320/.440.

5. Omar Vizquel, age 38 in 2005 – Still a good defensive shortstop, Omar can still get on base, and has all right speed. A cheap, quick 1-2 year plug-in at the leadoff spot, Vizquel is also in the running to take over Boston’s shortstop job. He’ll get 2-3 million dollars a year for 2 years and will post numbers around .280/.340/.390.

Rounding out the rest of the group are two aging veterans who can play excellent defense. Jose Valentin (35) and Mike Bordick (38) were ranked as the best and second-best defensive shortstops respectively coming into the 2004 season. Valentin saved upwards of 26 runs a game with his glove while Bordick saved 18. Their hitting is terrible, however, and both might be better served as backup infielders. Also on the list of free agent shortstops are Barry Larkin, Cristian Guzman (sucks), Jose Vizcaino, Ramon Martinez, Deivi Cruz, Desi Relaford, Craig Counsell, and our favorite, Neifi Perez (who looks to be re-signing with the Cubs).

A Fit With the Royals?: Angel Berroa is locked up for the next 3 years, so we’re stuck with him. The only fit for any shortstop on the team would be one as a utilityman.


Aaron Baldiris Report

Aaron Baldiris, 3B, New York Mets
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 1999, Venezuela
Bats R/Throws R
21 YO, 6'2", 195 lbs

I wonder what life might be like when you're a damned good prospect, yet you have a young star ahead of you whose long term future is actually better than yours. Baldiris has been living that reality for a couple years now, in the shadow of über-prospect turned best player on the Mets, David Wright. Baldiris hit .305/.384/.397 with 15 doubles, 3 triples, and 4 home runs in 406 at bats for Hi-A St Lucie. Then he moved on and hit .222/.273/.284 for Binghamton. The power is a little low for a corner outfielder, but he drew 52 walks, and now has 176 career walks in 1462. He gets on base. That much is clear. He's at least a good Sean Burroughs comparable.

He also happens to be a gold glove caliber defender at third base, with enough range to make some people ponder a move to second. As treacherous as third-to-second transitions have been, I think Baldiris is a better bet than most of the other players who have tried it.

ETA: Late 2006
3 1/2 Stars

The Most Ridiculous Idea Ever

Clutch hitting. Don't mention it to most sabermetricians. Most of them will tell you it doesn't exist, when in fact it does. One of the biggest problems in sabermetrics is that we've become so inundated with data and numbers that if we can't quantify or project something, we assume that it has no effect. There are clutch hitters in baseball - players who hit better in high leverage situations than the normally do - but we can only identify them when the sample is huge because most of these clutch hitters have such a minute difference in the two situations that in a small sample, you can't be confident that it exists.

Another problem with most sabermetricians is that they fail to acknowledge the "intangibles." But just because we can't measure intangibles doesn't mean they don't exist. I can't measure the effect Kevin Millar has on the Red Sox except by using his offensive and defensive statistics - but there might be some extra positives that he somehow brings by being on the team.

I have this crazy idea that some baseball players have a certain attribute that enable them to win more than others. It enables them to make better decisions in key situations when played over and over. It's a ridiculous idea. "Baseball instincts" is what I call it.

Jason Varitek has it. Bill Mueller has it. Andres Blanco has it. Carlos Beltran now has it. Derek Jeter definitely had it at one time, especially when he made that pitch to Posada to tag out Giambi. Manny Ramirez doesn't have it. Johnny Damon doesn't have it. Kevin Millar doesn't have it. Mike Sweeney doesn't have it.

The players with these instincts will never overextend themselves in key situations and do what they're not supposed to do. For instance - and this is purely unsubstantiated - the actions of Varitek when catching a popup are almost like a checklist: 1) Throw the mask far away 2) Locate the ball 3) Make sure to catch it first 4) Check the runners. It seems that Varitek makes sure never to go from one step to the other without completing the first. Meanwhile, Manny seems all over the place - he'll make an easy drop on a flyball with runners on, he'll cutoff another outfielder's throw, he'll make a terrible throw home missing the cutoff man - spontaneous actions that lack solid reasoning.

Some of these actions can be measured - Manny makes an error, and it goes down on the scorecard. But if I were a GM in a front office, I'd pay a little extra attention to attitude and these instincts, because when two players are pretty even with regards to statistics, I'd take the more intelligent baseball player with common sense every time. The effect of these instincts are most likely very minimal - at most probably a 5-10 run spread between the worst and the best in the league over the course of a season - but something that's been bothering me for awhile. So the next time a smartass sabermetrician tells you that intangibles don't exist, don't be so quick to believe him just because he can't measure it.

Position-by-Position: A Statistical Look at the Free Agent Market

CATCHERS:

An old baseball saying goes "you can never have enough pitching." Teams acknowledge this statement, and stock up on pitching prospects (they exist?) in the draft. What's surprising is that teams don't take the same outlook with catchers.

On the defensive spectrum, catchers are at the very right.
[ - - 1B - LF - RF - 3B - CF - 2B - SS - C - - ]

The basic premise of this spectrum is that positions at the right end of the spectrum are more difficult than the positions at the left end of the spectrum. Perhaps 90% of the all players could play a respectable first base. However, only 5-10% of players could be respectable at the catching position.

This simple fact accounts for why we find many power-hitting first baseman without starting roles while we find offensive black holes like Brad Ausmus or Brent Mayne with major league jobs. If a team can find a catcher who can hit like a first baseman but play catcher, it's already 40 runs (4 wins) better than a team with an average catcher.

Right now, catching is an undervalued commodity in minor league systems - the Oakland A's saw the reluctance of teams to draft Kurt Suzuki and Landon Powell, and grabbed them both. Both of them have good offensive potential, but because they have the potential to stay at catcher, they are even more valuable to A's.

It's a simple concept: catchers are rare. Finding a catcher who can hit is extremely valuable. Why aren't teams investing in catching more in their farm systems? I don't know.

Onto to 2005 Free Agent Catchers:

1. Jason Varitek: The Red Sox want him back, and bad. The front office made it clear that he's their number one priority this offseason. Without getting into the intangibles, Varitek is a fine switch-hitting defensive catcher who posted a .296/.390/.482 line for Boston last season. While the power isn't magnificent, especially when you consider that he plays in a hitter's park, he's found a jump in walks, taking 62 this year with 463 ABs. A .390 OBP from a catcher with pop gives the team a solid cornerstone. The only negative about Varitek is his age (33). Still, the Red Sox don't have many other options, and losing Varitek would leave huge void at another key position.

2. Doug Mirabelli: The Red Sox have the 2nd best catcher too? Even though Mirabelli only plays once every 5 days, Varitek's backup hit .281/.368/.525 in 160 ABs. By no means should any team expect Mirabelli to repeat that performance, but it should factor into a projection, and the Red Sox catcher has a career OBP of .331 and SLG of .421. The selection of Mirabelli as the 2nd best free agent catcher doesn't indicate his greatness as much as it indicates the weak free agent market at the position. A fair projection for Mirabelli would be .260/.340/.440 over a full season at a neutral ballpark. Unequivocally, an above-average catcher who fails to garner recognition. At age 34, he'll be looking for his first starting job, but will probably end up either coming back to the Red Sox as a strong backup or splitting at-bats with a youngster in another organization. His years as a backup might also mean that he's got less wear and tear on his knees or arm.

3. Damian Miller: .272/.339/.403. Blah. And he'll probably be the most sought-after catcher in the free agent market after Varitek re-signs. The A's saw something good in him after they traded Michael Barrett for him - and I'm speculating that his defense is incredible. Right now, there isn't any metric available to the public for estimating runs saved or given up on blocked balls by catchers, but that doesn't mean that Beane and DePodesta never developed one for the A's. Miller will be 35 next year - he shouldn't get a multi-year deal, but some team will give him a 2 or 3 year contract. The Royals gave a 39-year old catcher 2 years, 4.2 million - Miller's a better offensive player, and a "proven veteran." 2 years, 7 million isn't out of the question.

4. Gregg Zaun - Why the Royals kept Brent Mayne and released Zaun always upset me, especially while watching Mayne slice fastball after fastball into the left-field stands before weakly grounding out to shortsop. Zaun's a switch-hitter with fair on-base skills, drawing 47 walks in 338 ABs (I like a 1:10 ratio here) with a .367 OBP. While he's getting old (34 next year), he'd make a fine backup catcher on almost any team, and could start for many of them over the likes of Sandy Alomar Jr., Mike Matheny, Brad Ausmus, Brent Mayne, etc.

5. Todd Pratt - Gotta warn you, he's old (38 next year). But a fantastic backup with great on-base abilities. Over the last 6 years with well over 100 ABs each year, his OBP has been .378, .327, .449, .400, .351 even while not hitting for a tremendous average each of those years. He can take a walk, and he can still be a fantastic backup catcher who can fill-in during a 15-day DL pinch.

The Rest: Mike Matheny will get some attention for being a solid defensive catcher. Had I been Tony LaRussa, however, I'd have given a thought to using the DH for Matheny during the WS. .247/.292/.348 is well below replacement-level. Not even close to being an average catcher for all the praise he receives. After that, there are a few old veterans who'll find themselves on the back end of a bench or in AAA waiting for an injury: Pat Borders, Tim Laker, Brent Mayne, Mike Redmond, John Flaherty. A couple catchers that might be worth gambling on (and I should point on, former favorite of Bart) are Bobby Estallela and Ramon Castro. They might be worth a chance somewhere as long as you're not competing, but I wouldn't have too much faith in them.

A Fit with the Royals?: Doubtful that we'll see the Royals go after another catcher. The starter next year is John Buck, and Benito Santiago is already under contract in 2005. Even if the Royals move Santiago, they love what Albert Castillo gave them in 2004, and he's signed minor-league deal with the team. Personally, I would look at trying to move Santiago and signing Mirabelli to a 1 year deal for 1-1.5 million. In the end, it might help us win one more game, but won't matter in the long run.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Andy LaRoche Report

Andy LaRoche, 3B, Los Angeles Dodgers
Drafted 1171st Overall (39th Rd), 2003 Draft, Grayson County CC, Texas
Bats R/Throws R
21 YO, 5'11", 185 lbs

Yes, he is the brother of Braves 1B Adam LaRoche, and the son of two-time all star pitcher Dave LaRoche. His bat is similar to his brother's. He sprays line drives all over the outfield. He probably has a higher ceiling though, both because of positional differences, and because I think he has the ability to hit a few more home runs. He was drafted late because of signability issues, and then he impressed the Dodgers so much in a wood bat summer league that they gave him a million dollar bonus.

Now for the details. He hit .283/.375/.525 with 20 doubles, 13 home runs, 29 walks, and 30 strikeouts in 244 at bats in the Sally League. Then he was promoted to Vero Beach, and hit .237/.295/.434 with 13 doubles, 10 home runs, 17 walks, and 42 K's in 219 at bats.

He was drafted as a shortstop and only moved to third this season. He could theoretically move back to the middle of the diamond if given the chance. He could be all that much more of an asset at second base.

ETA: 2007
4 Stars

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Robert Valido Report

Robert Valido, SS, Chicago White Sox
Drafted 112th Overall (4th Rd), 2003 Draft, HS, Miami, FL
Bats R/Throws R
19 YO, 6'2", 180 lbs

At this point he's a defense-only middle infielder. He has a great reputation with the glove. But his bat is still under construction. He hit .252/.313/.333 for Kannapolis this season with 25 doubles, 4 home runs, 35 walks, and 59 K's in 456 at bats. There's a lot of work to do there. And he might not ever be a real asset to an offense. But he's only 19 years old, so the jury is still out. Working in his favor is that he hit .307/.364/.479 in 215 at bats in the Appalachian League after being drafted last season.

As much as I can speculate about what he'll do, at this point, the only thing anybody can do is guess, or be more honest and just shrug your shoulders and say that we have plenty of time to find out.

On a side note, he stole 28 bases, with 12 unsuccessful attempts. It's a start, and it shows his athleticism and speed, but he needs to refine the skill so that he doesn't end up as a net negative on the basepaths.

ETA: 2008
2 Stars

Monday, November 01, 2004

Huston Street Report

Huston Street, RHP, Oakland Athletics
Drafted 40th Overall (Supplemental 1st Rd), 2004 Draft, Texas
Bats R/Throws R
21 YO, 6'0", 190 lbs

It's been a while since I've profiled a 2004 draft pick, and Street is an interesting one to profile. We've seen a remarkable rise in the number of college relievers being drafted in the first round lately. While Royce Ring has seen his prospect status decline, Dave Aardsma, Ryan Wagner, Bill Bray, Chad Cordero, and Street have all shot up through the minors and are either good major league pitchers already (as is the case with Cordero and arguably Wagner) or are knocking on the door of the majors with dominating minor league numbers. Street is among the latter.

He has good control of a good low-90's heater and a pretty nice slider. He saw action for AAA Sacramento less than 3 months after being drafted. He started life as a pro with a 1.69 ERA, 14 K's and 5 walks in 10 2/3 innings for Kane County of the Midwest League. Then he moved on and posted a 1.35 ERA with 14 K's and 3 walks in 13 1/3 innings pitched. That's dominating stuff. He finished up the season with Sacramento, pitching 2 perfect innings.

I have little doubt that he'll be a very good major league reliever. The only things I'm unsure about is exactly how great he'll be, and how he'll best be used. I don't have a good gauge on how he'll deal with multiple inning appearances.

ETA: Mid/Late 2005
4 Stars

Fred Lewis Report

Fred Lewis, CF, San Francisco Giants
Drafted 66th Overall (2nd Rd), 2002 Draft, Southern University
Bats L/Throws R
23 YO, 6'2", 190 lbs

It's starting to come together for him. He was drafted as an athlete, but he's learning how to hit. And he's a quick study. He hit .301/.424/.451 with 20 doubles, 11 triples, 8 home runs, 85 walks, and 109 K's in 439 at bats. He even stole 33 bases with a 70% success rate. He's very fast, and great athleticism. He could add some power to his game, but even if he doesn't he looks like a good leadoff hitter prospect.

The only caveat I find is that his numbers were probably inflated by the California League. He's talented. And he's turning that talent into real skills pretty quickly. I like his chances of turning into a major league player.

ETA: 2006
3 1/2 Stars

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Ambriorix Burgos Report

Ambriorix Burgos, RHP, Kansas City Royals
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 2000, Dominican Republic
Bats R/Throws R
20 YO, 6'3", 230 lbs

Burgos is another in the long line of young flamethrowers who can dominate if he has his control, but can also get dominated if he doesn't have his control. He isn't as extreme as Bobby Jenks or Nick Neugebauer, but he's of the same species. In Burlington, he posted a 4.38 ERA with 172 K's and 75 walks in 133 2/3 innings. He only gave up 109 hits, so he can obviously miss some bats.

With high 90's heat, he can be a top notch starter, or high leverage reliever. But he can only be those things if he cuts out the walks. I'm generally pessimistic about pitchers like this. Burgos is no exception.

ETA: 2007
2 1/2 Stars

Joey Votto Report

Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
Drafted 44th Overall (2nd Rd), HS, Toronto
Bats L/Throws R
21 YO, 6'3", 200 lbs

He's a power hitter in the making. He's patient to a fault. He looks like a power hitter, swings like a power hitter, and is starting to show some power numbers.

Votto spent most of the season in Dayton, hitting .302/.419/.486 with 26 doubles. 2 triples, 14 home runs, 80 walks, and 110 K's in 391 at bats. That's an outstanding walk rate. And I think some of those doubles will turn into home runs as he moves on. In the Carolina League, he hit .298/.385/.560 with 7 doubles, 5 home runs, 12 walks, and 21 K's in 84 at bats.

He looks like a future three true outcomes hitter who will have problems keeping the batting average up, but with great on base and slugging percentages. He isn't fast, and his defense is average. His bat is his what will make him or break him.

ETA: 2007
4 Stars

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