Saturday, November 13, 2004

Casey Abrams Report

Casey Abrams, LHP, Seattle Mariners
Drafted 146th Overall (5th rd), 2003 Draft, Wright State
Bats L/Throws L
23 YO, 6'4", 190 lbs

Abrams caught my attention when he struck out 119 batters in 81 innings as a junior at Wright State with a tight slider and a low 90's fastball. He was drafted by the Mariners and has struggled with his command as a pro. Thus far in 35 2/3 career innings, he has walked 31 batters and has struck out 34. This season, he worked out of the pen and posted a horrific 12.74 ERA in the Midwest League.

Abrams looks like a major disappointment after being a genuine sleeper candidate going into the draft. The sample size is still low, but he needs to really pick up the pace or else he'll find himself looking for a job back home. As it stands now, he's a fringe LOOGY prospect.

ETA: 2008
1 Star

Felix Pie Report

Felix Pie, CF, Chicago Cubs
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 2001, Dominican Republic
Bats L/Throws L
19 YO, 6'2", 175 lbs

He's the toolsy kind of player that gets overrated by scouts, but he's starting to turn those tools into skills. He was already a very good defensive center fielder thanks to his great speed, strong arm, and good instincts. But now he's starting to hit the ball with some authority. He hit .297/.358/.441 as a 19 year old in the Florida State League. Not bad. The FSL is not the best place to be a hitter, especially one who is the equivalent of a college sophomore. I like the progress he's making. He'll still be a bit overrated by scouts, but this is clearly a good prospect. He'll start 2005 in AA

ETA: 2007
4 Stars

Friday, November 12, 2004

AL Cy Young Analysis

Whew! That was a relief. I was worried that I was going to have to write a downright acidic diatribe calling for mass murder of award voters. Maybe these writers are smarter than I give them credit for.

Curt Schilling had a great season, but it pales in comparison to the season that Johan Santana treated us to. The numbers leap off the page, or the monitor if you're like me and do your research online. 228 innings, a 2.61 ERA, 265 K's, 54 walks, 156 hits allowed, a 182 ERA+. He was freakishly good.

Further down the ballot, if I would have come to you a year ago and told you that Joe Nathan would get a third place vote in the Cy Young race, you probably would have had me committed or maybe taken away my car keys. It may have been in only 70 innings, but a 292 ERA+ is enough to make you do the John Stewart "WHAAA?" and rub your eyes gesture.

We'll have to wait for monday and tuesday to find out who wins the MVP awards.

Rogearvin Bernadina Report

Rogearvin Bernadina, CF, Montreal Expos
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 2001, the Netherlands
Bats L/Throws L
20 YO, 6'0", 170 lbs

Montreal has an academy in the Netherlands, and Bernadina is one of the better fruits from that effort to this date. The small european country is improving as a source of potential major league talent. In addittion to Bernadina, the Expos also have 3B prospect Vince Rooi, and the Twins have pitcher Alex Smit. They're a powerhouse in european baseball, though that's not a particularly lofty ambition at this point.

Bernadina is a toolsy center fielder who is still learning how to hit. He's still young (when the season started he was still 19 and in his second season of full season baseball), and shows some good signs. He spent his second year in Savannah, hitting .240/.340/.371, but with 24 doubles, 7 triples, 7 home runs, 60 walks, 113 strikeouts, and 24 steals (only being caught twice) in 450 at bats. The walk rate is good, and the stolen base percentage is a nice indicator of speed and good head on his shoulders. He needs to make more contact, especially hard contact. The batting average and isolated slugging percentage are both sub-optimal. He's still very raw though, and he has a steep learning curve.

His defense earns rave reviews thanks to his speed. He'll probably start next season in the Florida State League, where he'll be one to watch.

ETA: 2008
3 Stars

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Royals Sign Truby

I'm not wild about this one. I know that the stakes are low since he's only a stopgap on a bad team, but I was hoping for better.

Truby had a much better season in Nashville than I had at first realized. It is awfully late in a career to learn plate discipline, as he was 30 this season, but he did put up a decent .300/.367/.558 line this season in Nashville with 41 doubles, 25 home runs, and 47 walks in 466 at bats. As Rotoworld pointed out, his career major league line is .231/.269/.388in 819 at bats.

He might be adequate as a stopgap, but the upside is extremely limited, and using a major league roster spot on him is a waste. Players like Truby should be limited to non-roster invitations and minor league deals. If you're going to use a roster spot, then get a player who could have a long term future with the Royals. Trading for Marshall McDougal would be acceptable since he could become a valuable platoon or utility infielder.

But I think we all hope that Truby is not used because of Mark Teahen. I'd much rather see Teahen in KC and Truby in Omaha than vice versa.

Manager of the Year and other stuff

They handed out the manager of the year awards yesterday to Buck Showalter and Bobby Cox. I don't have a lot to say about them because both are selections with at least some sort of rational thought behind them. The award is essentially an award for the manager whose team most exceeded expectations. And to be honest, I really don't care all that much. Sad but true.

Getting somewhat off topic (though relevant in a tangential way for this particular post) from the blog, here in Indy, there's a buzz about the latest Ron Artest dustup. The national media is actually more interested in the story than most locals. Ron Artest does a couple of stupid things every year. The team knows that. Management knows that. The fans know that. Artest knows that. He'll lose some games through suspension each year. He's still worth the hassle though, and the people who say they would trade him are the same idiots who say they would rather field a team of scrappy clubhouse veterans like Bo Hart and Super Joe McEwing than have a moody, high maintenance superstar like Manny Ramirez or Terrell Owens. Would it be nice if every player behaved themselves like Tim Duncan and Marvin Harrison? Absolutely. That isn't reality though. In reality, any good manager (in or out of sports) is a pragmatist, and will always weigh your job performance with how big a pain in the ass you are. Artest is a massive pain in the ass, but he's also a unique and irreplaceable player. The fact is, if you are easily replaceable AND a pain in the ass, they'll replace you pretty quickly. If you are highly valuable to the company and a pain in the ass, they'll have considerably more patience, and will try to slowly guide you towards being easier to handle.

For a year and a half in college, I worked at Radio Shack as a salesman. I was pretty good at it, probably the best at the small store I worked at. We had 2 cellular carriers that we sold. One was Sprint PCS, and one was a regional carrier that has since been bought up by a national conglomerate. The company, the store, and the salesperson made more money from the regional carrier, so my store manager always pushed us to sell the regional rather than the Sprint phones. However, I found the Sprints to be a much easier sale, a much better deal, and a much more productive use of my time. I'm kind of stubborn, so the manager grew a little annoyed with me in this regard. You could say that I came close to insubordination. At a certain point, he decided that the better management decision would be to compromise. He approached me with a deal. He set a particular sales goal for Sprint phones. If I stayed above that goal, I could continue with my particular style. However, if I dropped below that for a month, I would fall in line with the others. I never fell below the goal, and we lived quite happily until I graduated and moved on professionally. The store went from being one of the worst performing stores in the region to the top half. I was too valuable to dump entirely, to transfer, or to alienate. There was a reasonable solution and my manager, to his credit, found it.

The Pacers are being reasonable with Artest. When he does something stupid, they handle the situation pragmatically. Is asking for a couple days off to work on publicity for your rap album stupid? Damn right it is. Is it a deal breaker when you're the 11th man on a 12 man roster? Yes. Is it a deal breaker when you're a legitimate defensive player of the year candidate and an above average offensive player? Not even close. You certainly don't trade him for a one-dimensional shooter like Peja Stojakovic, which is the current speculation.

Jason Stokes Report

Jason Stokes, 1B, Florida Marlins
Drafted 41st Overall (2nd Rd), 2000 Draft, HS, Coppell, TX
Bats R/Throws R
22 YO, 6'4", 225 lbs

He's all about hitting for power. That's what he does. He hit 27 home runs as a 20 year old in the Midwest League before having wrist injuries sap his power in 2003. This season, he hit .272/.345/.513 at AA Carolina with 26 doubles, 23 home runs, 42 walks, and 121 strikeouts in 394 at bats. He's no Jim Thome at this point, but he's a good bat for the middle of the lineup. His plate discipline is acceptable, as is his defense. He strikes out a lot, but that's the collateral damage that comes with being a big power hitter with a big swing. The best offensive comparable that I can come up with is Derrek Lee. Defensively, he's more of a Jason Giambi/Carlos Delgado.

ETA: 2006
4 Stars

Brad Thompson Report

Brad Thompson, RHP, St Louis Cardinals
Drafted 16th Rd, 2002 Draft, Dixie JC, Utah
Bats R/Throws R
22 YO, 6'1", 190 lbs

Thompson had a big breakout this season. It was the first season as a starter, and his first season in the upper minors. Single A to AA is the second biggest step in baseball, trailing only AAA to the Majors, and Thompson passed with flying colors. He posted a 2.36 ERA, 57 strikeouts, 11 walks, and 56 hits allowed in 72 1/3 innings for Tennessee in two stints. He also tossed 2 complete game shutouts for the Smokies. In between, he had a brief callup to AAA Memphis, where he got hammered. In only 14 2/3 innings, he gave up 20 hits and 9 earned runs. Then he got sent back to the Southern League. I don't like the decision. He was getting shelled, but you can't tell much about a pitcher in under 15 innings, and he clearly didn't have anything left to prove in AA. Let him adjust to AAA before you send him back down to sort things out.

Thompson is a sinker/slider pitcher, and will probably rely on his infielders a lot, as is typical of the species. The Cardinals probably will keep him in AAA for most of 2005. If he repeats his numbers from AA, he has a good chance at a september callup and a shot at a 2006 rotation spot.

ETA: Late 2005
4 Stars

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

NL Cy Young Analysis

The NL Cy Young Award was handed out yesterday, and as I predicted, the wrong guy got the hardware. Roger Clemens had a great season. He had an ERA under 3, struck out 218 batters, and walked only 79 in 214 1/3 innings. He also "won" 18 games. I put won in quotation marks because the Astros won those games and I'm sick and tired of award voters giving out awards based on a statistic that hasn't been relevant to meaningful analysis since the 19th century.

Randy Johnson was better. He had a 2.60 ERA, 290 K's, and 44 walks in 245 2/3 innings, but he lost the award because Chad Tracy, Alex Cintron, and Scott Hairston sucked. The Big Unit only "won" 16 games while playing for a team that gave 80 relief innings to Stephen Randolph. Randy Johnson was punished because his teammates were terrible. The idea that the best pitcher (or player) in any specific year can't possibly be a player that played for a terrible team is something that infects awards voting like a virus.

Roger Clemens won the award because he came out of retirement to be the best pitcher on a playoff team. The problem with asking writers to hand out awards is that most of them know very little, and care very little about performance analysis, and instead look for the best story. They screw up at least one award every year because of this stupid fixation.

And this doesn't just affect baseball. According to Pro Basketball Forecast 2004-05, Larry Banks of the Chicago Sun-Times voted for Jermaine O'Neal instead of Kevin Garnett because O'Neal was nicer in interviews than Garnett. That's just stupid and childish. And I expect nothing less of a profession who counts Bob Ryan, Bill Plaschke, Jay Mariotti, and Michael Wilbon as major stars.

Also of note, Jake Peavy and Oliver Perez had major breakthroughs this year, but didn't even get a single third place vote. Ben Sheets was the second best pitcher in the NL, but for all intents and purposes, we could call him the mini-unit because he got a single 3rd place vote because he played for a bad team.

Thursday they hand out the AL Cy Young Award, and if Johan Santana doesn't win, and I die because of a cerebral hemorrhage thursday night, it will not be a coincidence.

Dirk Hayhurst Report

Dirk Hayhurst, RHP, San Diego Padres
Drafted 221st Overall (8th Rd), 2003 Draft, Kent State
Bats R/Throws R
23 YO, 6'3", 190 lbs

He's a bit of an unknown right now. He put up good numbers. He wasn't a premium draft pick. He wasn't rated as one of the Padres top prospects coming into the season. The only scouting report I could find for him was a one paragraph pre-draft blurb from last season telling me that he was a senior who throws a low 90's fastball and an improving slider.

He dominated with a 2.66 ERA, 106 strikeouts, 19 walks, and allowed 114 hits in 118 1/3 innings for Fort Wayne. Late in the season, he moved on to Lake Elsinore, and struggled, posting a 5.56 ERA, and walking 16 batters in 22 2/3 innings. He dominated in Low A, and he should have since he was a couple years older than his competition. We shouldn't infer much from his experience in the California League. The sample is terribly small. He'll probably start 2005 where he left off, trying to adjust to life in High-A baseball.

ETA: 2007
2 1/2 Stars

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Topical Linkage

Here are som articles that tie into things we've discussed here.

Today's Prospectus Triple Play does double duty.

The White Sox section updates some AFL players, including Brian Anderson.

The Oakland section talks about the bullpen, focusing on Huston Street.

I'm planning on an update to my earlier AFL report, but I don't know when I'm going to do it. It will probably be after the AFL season has ended.

In other news, the trade reaction is starting to appear.

Rob and Rany like the deal. Baseball America gives a clinical analysis of each player.

Update: Dan Szymborski give us his $.02

Awards Week

Well, they started handing out this season's hardware yesterday, and it's time for a rambling essay on what I think of the voting and the players. They started with the Rookie of the Year awards.

In the AL, Bobby Crosby won the prize with Shingo Takatsu and Daniel Cabrera coming in second and third respectively. Crosby deserved the award. He played good defense, and his hitting was very valuable to the A's. He hit .239/.319/.426 with 34 doubles, 22 home runs, 58 walks, and 141 strikeouts in 545 at bats. A lot of fuss is being made about his becoming the player with lowest batting average to win a ROY, but let's cut through the crap. Batting average is a terrible way to judge a hitter. The .319 OBP could use some work, but it doesn't counteract his fringe Gold Glove caliber defense at a crucial position and close to 60 extra base hits. I voted for him in the Internet Baseball Awards. He's a great bet to continue to be a very good player, especially as his batting average bumps up a little bit, pushing his OBP into a more attractive territory. I expect that the next few years will see him consistently post lines in the .270/.340/.500 territory.

Takatsu came in second, and is a reasonable enough choice. He was a lights out reliever all season, allowing under a baserunner per inning, striking out more than 7 per 9 IP, and posting a 2.31 ERA in 62 1/3 innings. He's 35, so he is unlikely to get any better, and is likely to decline from here on out. He's still a pretty damned good reliever. I voted for him to come in third.

Daniel Cabrera came in third and I don't buy it. I voted for Zach Greinke. The only comprehensible reason to vote Cabrera ahead of Greinke is the won/loss record of each. Greinke was clearly the better pitcher, but had fewer wins and more losses than Cabrera.

Greinke: 145 IP, 3.97 ERA, 100 K's, 26 BB's, 112 ERA+, 8-11
Cabrera: 147 2/3 IP, 5.00 ERA, 76 K's, 89 BB's, 96 ERA+, 12-8

This decision will only look worse with time. Cabrera's peripheral stats foretell a future where he fades into oblivion. You cannot survive in Major League Baseball as a pitcher who walks more batters than you strike out. It just doesn't work that way. The voters were saved from an embarrassing gaffe by Takatsu and Crosby. If Cabrera had beaten out Greinke for the award itself instead of 3rd place, then this would be widely seen as a really embarrassing moment for decades. Then again, the writers screw up at least a couple of awards every year. This would be a drop in a pretty sizeable bucket.

In the NL, Jason Bay won the prize, followed by Padres teammates Khalil Greene and Akinori Otsuka.

Bay had a great year, hitting .282/.358/.550 with 24 doubles, 4 triples, 26 home runs, 41 walks, and 129 strikeouts in 411 at bats. I don't expect him to improve much from here, but this is no fluke, and he should be able to repeat the performance as long as he can stay off the DL.

Greene shot through the minor leagues like a bullet after a very accomplished career at Clemson. He hit .273/.349/.446 while playing half of his games in the caverous confines of Petco Park. Like Crosby, he played great defense and competently filled a lineup spot for a playoff contender. He slugged 31 doubles and 15 home runs with 53 walks and 94 K's in 484 at bats. He's not a front line star, but he'll be a steady regular for a decade, maybe making an all star game or two if he has a hot first half.

Otsuka was the NL version of Takatsu. He dominated NL hitters to the tune of a 1.75 ERA, 87 K's, and 26 walks. He's 32 years old now, so like Takatsu, this is likely as good as it gets for him. I predicted him as a darkhorse candidate for the ROY, and I wasn't far off. He would have needed some save opportunities to get more votes, but in terms of performance, you couldn't have asked for much more than what he gave.

In the IBA, I voted for 1. Bay 2. Otsuka 3. Greene, so I don't have a big problem with how the awards were given. Nobody in the NL got stiffed in the ROY voting the way that Randy Johnson is likely to get stiffed today.

Danny Rueckel Report

Danny Rueckel, RHP, Montreal Expos
Drafted 12th Rd, 2002 Draft, Furman University
Bats R/Throws R
25 YO, 6'0", 170 lbs

Rueckel is a reliever prospect, and a pretty decent one. He's not likely to be seen as a potential closer, but he will probably be effective in a middle relief role. He was a shortstop in college, but was a late round flier by the Expos because of his strong arm. He split this season between AA Harrisburg, where he spent most of the season, posting a 2.08 ERA with 65 K's and 35 walks in 102 1/3 innings, and AAA Edmonton, where he ended the season with a 2.89 ERA, 10 K's, and 7 walks in 9 1/3 innings. He has a two pitch arsenal, with a brilliant curve and a better than average fastball. While he won't like be seen as a closer by others, he could probably do the job, as any sufficiently successful reliever can be an adequate closer. With Chad Cordero around though that isn't likely to be an issue. The Expos have the start of a nice pen.

ETA: 2005
3 Stars

Monday, November 08, 2004

Trade Time

The Royals have traded Darrell May for Dennis Tankersley. That's how I see it. And here's my breakdown and opinion of the trade.

May's ERA will drop in Petco Park, but he's a replacement level lefty swingman who will do well there because of his tendency to give up gopherballs that will die in the vast San Diego outfield. He's overpaid, but the Pads are only one the hook for 2005 at a little over $3 million.

Ryan Bukvich is a generic reliever prospect. He's filler in the deal, but you never know exactly what you're going to get with relievers.

Terrence Long is a 4th outfielder who also happens to be one of Bill Beane's worst mistakes. Giving Long a 4 year, $11 million deal was ill advised. Long has well known strengths and weaknesses. He's a competent hitter vs RHP, but worthless against LHP. The Padres noticed that and gave him 250 at bats against righties, but only 39 against lefties. He's also a pretty good defensive corner outfielder, but overmatched in center. This also happens to be Aaron Guiel's strengths and weaknesses. His acquisition is a good one as long as the Royals don't insist on letting play every day. If they carry over San Diego's usage pattern, they'll be better for it.

Long is owed approximately 3 mil for 2005, and is in the last year of his deal, just like May. So unless there's some cash changing hands, this deal is monetarily neutral.

The last player mentioned is the one I'm most enthusiastic about. Dennis Tankersley was a hot prospect a couple years ago, but has bounced back and forth between AAA and San Diego. This season, he racked up 120 innings in Portland, and produced a 3.15 ERA with 86 strikeouts, 37 walks, and 114 hits allowed. Not bad. He's struggled in the majors though, as he has lost his command in almost every major league audition he's had. If he can straighten that out, he's a much better pitcher than May, and certainly more of an asset than Bukvich. The Padres got frustrated with him and tossed him out on the curb. The Royals got free talent as far as I'm concerned. I like this trade even if Tankersley doesn't work out.

Update: Better information from MLB.com

It looks like my 2005 salary information was off. May gets 3.225 million in 2005 and Long makes 4.7, however the Padres are chipping in the difference, or close to it, so the implications remain the same.

Some ESPN Complaints

-Why is Sean Salisbury such a prick?

-If the choice is to watch Dreamjob or take a nap, I'm going for the nap. With Stuart Scott, Woody Page, Steven A. Smith, and Kit Hoover, I wonder whether they're going for the record for the most irritating people on a set at the same time, a record almost certainly held by a reality show somewhere. If Bill Walton, Donald Trump, and Bill O'Reilly show up for the season finale, we'll all know what's going on. Actually, if it does happen, I won't be around to see it because I'd rather watch Court TV than that tripe.

-One last bitch about ESPN. We're back to playing Taboo with athletes. Remember when SportsCenter was all about delivering sports news and highlights?


Alberto Callaspo/Erick Aybar Report

Alberto Callaspo, SS, Anaheim Angels
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 2001, Venezuela
Bats B/Throws R
21 YO, 5'10", 173 lbs

Erick Aybar, SS, Anaheim Angels
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 2002, Dominican Republic
Bats B/Throws R
20 YO, 5'11", 160 lbs

I'm reporting on both of them at the same time because to be honest, I have a hard time remembering which is which. In 2002 and 2003, they were teammates and were possibly the best defensive middle infield in the minor leagues last season. Callaspo played second base for most part, but is in his own right, a capable defensive shortstop. This season, he played short full time for AA Arkansas (skipping high class A), where he hit .282/.336/.373 with 28 doubles, 2 triples, 6 home runs, 47 walks and 25 strikeouts in 550 at bats. That's a pretty unusual line. It isn't the most impressive you'll find, but I'm intrigued by the obvious ability to make contact. The walk rate is a work in progress, but whenever a players walks at a rate that is almost double what he strikes out, it's a good sign. And this isn't new for him. In 1088 at bats coming into the season, he had struck out 58 times compared to his 81 walks. I still want to see him take more walks, but I have a feeling that's an uphill battle for his coaches since he can obviously make contact with any borderline pitch. I'd also like to see him turn on some pitches and drive more extra base hits to the gaps and over the fence.

This is an extreme skill set and one worth watching. I don't know how it will come out. The fact that he was only 21 years old this season helps with any projecting you might do.

The last thing I have to say about him is that he MUST make better choices on the basepaths. He has good speed, but he got caught stealing (14 times) almost as many times as he was successful (15). I don’t know if this is a function of technique (not being able to get a good jump) or of bad decision-making. Whatever is the cause, he should get it figured out, or else he'll be a real liability in an area where he should be an asset.

Aybar is a gifted defensive shortstop and a potentially potent bat. He spent the season in the California League, where he hit .330/.370/.485 with 25 doubles, 11 triples, 14 home runs, 27 walks, and 66 K's in 573 at bats. He also stole 51 bases, which speaks to his speed. Just like Callaspo, he needs to draw more walks. He looks like he has more power, and more power potential. And he's a potentially great defensive shortstop.

Neither of them is a great shortstop. If Brandon Wood recovers from a mediocre 2004, he could push these two for the tag of future Angels infielder. He has a similar skill set, and he was a first round pick in 2003.

ETA 2007, 3 1/2 Stars for both of them

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Curtis Granderson Report

Curtis Granderson, OF, Detroit Tigers
Drafted 80th Overall (3rd Rd), 2002 Draft, Illinois-Chicago
Bats L/Throws R
23 YO, 6'1", 180 lbs

After 688 career at bats of .304/.381/.469, he stepped up the power and plate discipline this year in Erie. He ended the season with a .303/.407/.515 line. He smacked 19 doubles, 8 triples, and 21 home runs with 80 walks and 95 K's in 462 at bats. There's not much analysis needed for that. He was a little older than the normal AA player, but not enough to really discount his numbers. And it isn't like he was a stiff coming into 2004. He hit well in college. He hit well in his first couple of seasons, and then it looks like he refined his plate discipline and he reaped some pretty sweet rewards.

Granderson is now easily a top 100 prospect, and I think he'll be a solid starter in the majors for a decade or more. He can play center field, though I'm not sure if he'll stay there indefinitely. Wherever he ends up defensively, he'll slot into the middle of the Tigers lineup soon.

ETA: Late 2005
4 Stars

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