Thursday, November 18, 2004

Joe Bisenius Report

Joe Bisenius, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
Drafted 362nd Overall (12th rd), 2003 Draft, Iowa Western CC
Bats R/Throws R
22 YO, 6'5", 210 lbs

He's a deep sleeper for those of you in keeper leagues. After being a late round pick out of a JuCo in Iowa, he put up very impressive numbers in 2004. He posted a 1.43 ERA, 38 K's, 14 walks, and only 39 hits allowed in 50 1/3 innings pitched. The catch is that those innings came in the New York-Penn League, where he was facings younger players for the most part. He does have a good fastball, but the Phillies need to start pushing him.

For now, it's really hard to judge him since he has so few innings and they're so far down in the minors.

ETA: 2008
2 Stars

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

AL MVP Analysis/Looking at Transactions

The AL MVP was the last award to be given, and Vladdy won the prize. I can't get too worked up about it. It was a perfectly reasonable decision. He deserved to win.

Here are the lines of the top finishers.
Vlad .337/.391/.598, 39 2B, 39 HR, 52 BB, 74 K, 612 AB
Sheff .290/.393/.534, 30 2B, 36 HR, 92 BB, 83 K, 573 AB
Manny .308/.397/.613, 44 2B, 43 HR, 82 BB, 124 K, 568 AB
Ortiz .301/.380/.603, 47 2B, 41 HR, 75 BB, 133 K, 582 AB
Tejada .311/.360/.534, 40 2B, 34 HR, 48 BB, 73 K, 653 AB

Manny Ramirez was the best hitter of the group, but I can accept the notion that the small gap at the plate was overcome by Vlad's better defense in right field.

The only outrage was in the almost complete omission of Travis Hafner. I wouldn't have given Hafner my first place vote, but with a .311/.410/.583 season, he was at least worth a top 10 selection on most ballots. But one voter gave him the nod (a #10 choice), with the rest instead giving down the ballot votes to players like Torii Hunter, Francisco Cordero, and Johnny Damon.

In other news, the team formerly known as the Expos signed Vinny Castilla and Christian Guzman to be the left side of their 2005 and 2006 infields. It is an indefensible move. When I heard about it, I just shook my head and said "That's awful." That really says it all. They committed 23 million dollars to two players who are roughly replacement level talent. I honestly can't come up with a rational reason why Jim Bowden would saddle his team with this kind of high priced mediocrity. It is making a move just to make a move. This isn't the kind of bold decision making that helped turn the Tigers into a surprisingly watchable team this season. It is signing free agents whose names will be familiar to fans in hopes that the team pretending to take contending seriously is enough to make fans believe that the team is taking contending seriously. I hoped that we were done with this kind of idle, expensive milling about. If this is what we can expect from the new Washington franchise, we're likely to see the script look strikingly similar to old script(s).

Another ugly part of the deal is that the Expos give up their second and third round draft picks in the process. So this team that is rebuilding its farm system is giving up good draft picks to sign free agents that have more PR value than actual value.

On a happier note, it reminds me of my greatest series of fantasy baseball moves. A couple seasons ago, I traded Christian Guzman away for a fifth round pick in a keeper league, then turned around and traded the pick to another team for Hank Blalock, who had struggled in his first exposure to major league pitching. If I had half a dozen more stories like that, I might have actually won something with one of my 2 keeper league teams this season.

Finally, I'll give a status report on compensation picks for next season's draft.

The Rockies have a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds, and the Nationals/Greys/Senators second round selection.

The Indians have the Giants first round pick and a sandwich pick for Vizquel.

The Orioles have a sandwich pick for not signing Wade Townsend.

The Twins get Washington's third round pick for Christian Guzman.

Ben Fritz Report

Ben Fritz, RHP, Oakland Athletics
Drafted 30th Overall, 2002 Draft, Fresno State
Bats R/Throws R
23 YO, 6'4", 225 lbs

He's been a major disappointment for the A's after being a first rounder in the famed "Moneyball" draft class. It got worse this year. At AA Midland, he got lit up to the tune of a 5.63 ERA with 77 K's, 50 walks, and 118 hits allowed in 104 innings before going under the knife. Tommy John surgery will probably keep him out for all of 2005. When he gets back, hopefully he can regain the form that had him drafted so high. His strikeout rate has remained pretty good throughout his pro career, so if the elbow problem was the source of his command and control issues, his career might just have a heartbeat after all.

ETA Late 2006/Early 2007
2 1/2 Stars

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Ho Hum, Barry Wins Again

Anybody who is surprised to hear that Barry Bonds won the MVP yesterday probably is lost, and stumbled into this blog on his or her way to a blog about curling or cricket. But the rest of us are so unsurprised that I find it hard to even write about it. He's done this for half a decade now. The real story is that 8 voters actually voted for somebody else. How do we ensure that these people will never vote again? Adrian Beltre had a great, great season, but anybody who thinks that he was better, more valuable this year is either insane, isn't paying attention, or is so irretrievably biased against Bonds that he could take the Giants to the world series with a team full of high school kids and they still wouldn't vote for him.

In other Giants news, as you've certainly heard, they signed Omar Vizquel to a an albatross of a contract. In so doing, they gave their first round pick to the Indians. They did the same thing last season with Michael Tucker. It has become an organizational policy that first round picks cost too much to sign and should be avoided. It's already been said by many people, some much smarter than me, that this is at best a curious strategy, and at worst it is self-destructive. This is the classic pennywise, pound foolish approach. The farm system is the source of cheap talent, and every player you produce for your team gives you 3-6 years of below market value salary. This kind of decision can only happen in an organization (like the Giants) that has made consistently bad choices in the first round for a decade or more.

In the end, losing high draft picks is a move that will come back to bite you. In the last decade, losing first round picks has been a primary factor in the decline of farm systems in the Yankee, Red Sox, Mets, and Mariner organizations. Meanwhile, extra first round picks have been a primary factor in the resurgence of Twins, Indians, and A's farm systems. To me a better idea would be to hire a better scouting director and make better first round choices.

They won't have to worry about losing their first round pick for a few years once Barry retires though. Without Barry, their team will surely slide into the bottom half of the league and their first round pick will be protected. And as of yet, there's no mechanism to trade first round picks.

Kila Kaaihue Report

Kila Kaaihue, 1B, Kansas City Royals
Drafted 438th Overall (15th rd), 2002 Draft, HS, Honolulu, HI
Bats L/Throws R
20 YO, 6'3", 210 lbs

He's still a relative unknown, but with a few more singles here and there, he'd be a well known prospect. He hit .246/.361/.431 for Burlington of the Midwest League with 64 walks and 98 K's in 390 at bats. He swatted 40 extra base hits. All that was deficient in his game was his batting average. Batting average is something that he's had issues with from the time that he was drafted, as he had a .243 career average coming into the season with 534 at bats. His power is improved though as his 2004 isolated slugging percentage was 66 points higher than his career numbers coming into the season. And his plate discipline is remarkable.

His defense is marginal, and his speed is already seriously deficient. I think he'll be alright with the bat and will lead him to the major leagues. He's an interesting test case for hitters with great plate discipline and marginal contact abilities.

ETA: 2008
3 Stars

Monday, November 15, 2004

Antoin Gray Report

Antoin Gray, 2B, Chicago White Sox
Drafted 742nd Overall (25th rd), 2003 Draft, Southern University
Bats R/Throws R
23 YO, 5'9", 195 lbs

He has a live bat, witnessed by the .294/.356/.459 he put up at Kannapolis this season. This is consistent with the .292/.406/.451 he posted in the Pioneer League in his introduction to pro ball. His plate discipline slipped a little bit as he drew 39 walks in 477 at bats. But he does show nice power for a middle infielder and he drew 49 walks in only 277 at bats in 2003 as well as his excellent walk rate in college.

The biggest problem is his defense. He's very, very raw for a second baseman, and doesn't quite have the arm to make it as a third baseman, and even if he did, his bat would be mediocre at best for a corner infielder. He also doesn't appear to have the speed that you associate with a second baseman, so a conversion to center field probably wouldn't help matters a whole lot.

He's an intriguing prospect, but still a long way from the majors and a bit of a project.

ETA: 2007
2 1/2 Stars

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Andy Marte Report

Andy Marte, 3B, Atlanta Braves
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 2000, Dominican Republic
Bats R/Throws R
21 YO, 6'1", 180 lbs

Marte only turned 21 in October, so through the season, he was playing very well in AA at age 20. He hit .269/.364/.525 with 28 doubles, 23 home runs, 58 walks, and 105 K's in 387 at bats. The low number of at bats was due to an ankle injury that won't have any long term effects. His defense is acceptable, but not great. His speed is marginal. He'll be a middle of the lineup power source in the majors, and not much of a threat on the basepaths.

The conventional opinion is that Marte is the best third base prospect in baseball. He's certainly one of the best, but where you rank him depends largely on what you think of Ian Stewart and Dallas McPherson, both of whom I like a little bit more than Marte. Bit how they are ranked is of little importance. They are all elite prospects, and potential all stars.

ETA: Late 2005
5 Stars

Eziquiel Astacio Report

Eziquiel Astacio, RHP, Houston Astros
Signed as an Unsigned Free Agent, 1998, Dominican Republic
Bats R/Throws R
25 YO, 6'3", 150 lbs

Taylor Buchholtz was the key player for the Astros in the Billy Wagner trade, but Astacio looks like he's just as good a prospect. He put up a 3.89 ERA with 185 K's, 56 walks, and 155 hits in 176 innings pitched for Round Rock. That's consistent with his career numbers. It also makes him a darkhorse candidate for the back of the Astros rotation next season. If he doesn't make the Astros roster, he'll be back in Round Rock, as it becomes the AAA affiliate next season. He's getting a bit old to be a top prospect, but he'll have a career.

ETA: Mid/Late 2005
3 1/2 Stars

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