Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Just a couple of Giants Playing Giants Baseball

Was the call as Mac Williamson tripled in Christian Arroyo.

(I was working on this right after the AFL championship but then life got in the way)

Williamson will not likely make any top 100 lists.  Andrew Susac barely did, and Matt Duffy famously did not.  Will Arroyo get "the Susac" treatment and get an add on in the late 80s-90s?  In my view this year he has proven out big time, the bat is for real.  Respected former scout/MLB writer Bernie Pleskoff likes both these lads, writing several nice things about them over the past month.  He named Arroyo, Williamson and Ray Black to his informal AFL all-star list.  Williamson didn't make the all-star game but was nominated for MVP.  He outperformed hyped bonus baby Clint Frazier, looked good in LF for the most part, and possibly the best sign was great plate disclipline, matching BBs and Ks.  Arroyo is getting a lot of noise about his bat playing from many sources.  The bias seems to be not being able to stick at short...

And to that I have to say two things: first, he makes all the plays he gets to (including the game ender, a nice running sliding catch), second, who really cares?  The Giants have SS's all over the infield who "couldn't stick".  This is the best example of value drafting yet, and both Panik and Arroyo were roundly mocked as overdrafts.  Its always been a strange one for me - when you are picking in the late 20s, what do you think you are getting?  A 5 tool OF stud?  A lefty throwing 95 with control?  The Giants patiently pick the best player they can see - and with that they are going after shortstops, the premium athlete, ignoring what the consensus says can be wrong about them, and now they are reaping these rewards big time.

I fully expect Arroyo to be a big win now.  His struggles in Augusta gave pause, but he has really turned it on.  The next big test is that Big Bad Eastern, and then the sky is the limit.

Ray Black just looks like a closer.  If the Giants can keep him healthy the way they have with Josh Osich... suddenly it looks like we have a bunch of hard throwing dudes in the pen again with Osich and Strickland.  The SJ pens have been lights out (and look for it to happen again, some very exciting arms coming up from Augusta) for several years.  Black had a beautiful pitch to freeze Jurickson Profar, painting the black on the outside.  He'll most likely go to Richmond as well, but it might not be for long...

I expect Mac Williamson to break camp with Los Gigantes and be the LF for the majority of the season.  I think their belief in him is the main reason Aoki wasn't brought back.

So the question becomes... Where does Arroyo play?  Before the draft there was talk about catching actually.  Don't see them retarding his development now, that decision has been made.

Buster Posey - 2010 #7 Prospect BA/#9 Prospect BP 2009 #14 Prospect BA/#9 Prospect BP
Blue chip as they come.  4 other teams passed on him, then the Giants swopped at #5 2008.
Batted 325/416/531 at SJ/Fresno (with not much difference) in 2009, famously played 47 games in Fresno before getting "the call" in 2010, batted 349/442/552 in 208 PAs.  Posey had exactly 750 PAs before getting up for good.  Poseys OPS+ scores are as blue chip as they come, best catcher in baseball: 133, 116, 171, 134, 143 and 135. 

Brandon Crawford - UNRANKED
Picked in the same draft as Posey, #117 overall in the 4th round.  
Batted 258/294/365 in 2009 in the Eastern, last year in Connecticut.  Next year they moved to Richmond, Craw batted 241/337/375.  He did have a good 2009 AFL, hitting 312/396/455, it was dismissed at the time.  The big deal was that Craw battled injuries in both years in the Eastern, and it really masked his talent as far as stat counting.  He was just getting hot in 2009, and sometimes those hot streaks can make big differences in the overall stat line.  After 2010, he was rehabbing again, he got sent to SJ to start 2011, he hit 322/412/593 before getting called up.  He struggled in the show, but the pitchers loved his glove.  I hated Miguel Tejada with a passion.  Keep Craw and get offense elsewheres I said!  The Greybeards disagreed, and went out and traded Thomas Neal for Orlando Cabrera.  It was a weak, weak move.  Craw hit 204/288/296 in SF, then 234/291/327 in Fresno.  He got sent to the AFL again, hit 276/315/414.  Then he was in the mix for 2012, and the rest is history.

Crawford sure has the knack for big time hits though, more of a student of the game type, his #s have risen each year.  Shorthanding OPS+ it goes 67, 86, 91, 104, 114.  League average SS with a plus defensive profile is a big time win.  His last season he was the best SS statistically in baseball, and with the departure of Simmons and Tulo, he has to be called the pre-season 2016 best SS in the NL.

Brandon Belt - 2011 #23 Prospect BA/#22 Prospect BP
Drafted in the 2009 draft, (third time drafted, both the Red Sox and Braves had drafted him previously, both in the 11th round), 147th overall in the 5th round.
Belt got his ranking the honest way: murdering two leagues and getting big promotions.  Hit 383/492/628 in SJ, that might get dismissed as "college hitter in a hitters league" but then he went to the Eastern and did something only Pablo Sandoval had done: hit 337/413/623 in Richmond (Pablo did it back in a different park but similar mashing).  Fresh off the ring, Giants were a little bit buzzed still, but Cody Ross got hurt, so they broke camp with Huff in RF and Belt at 1B.  The silliness among saber fans, and particularly Giant fans (saberz versus KNBR callers as the stereotype) conveniently ignores the fact that Bochy loved Belt, couldn't stop talking about him, Sabean was the one trying to draw the breaks and give him a bit of time in AAA.  Through an up down season in SF with all sorts of drama he ended up with a 225/306/412 line, he hit 309/448/527 in Fresno.  Obviously there wasn't much to learn there.  He did the Dominican winter league, hitting well, and then got back in 2012 and the rest is history.

The funny thing about comparative stats: that tepid stat line in 2011?  103 OPS+.  For a slick fielding dude, a rookie?  Then the progression: 123, 139, 114 and 129 OPS+ scores.  2014 was injury riddled but he got back in time for when it counted.  Brandon Belt is a damn fine defensive 1B, he and Crawford combine for at least a gem a week.  I love when they cut off the ball and gun down a lead runner, they have high IQs and are so damn slick out there.  In 2012 I didn't care what they hit in the playoffs (And Belt did struggle mightily) as long as they made plays in the field.  And that worked out just fine.  Brandon Belt is a top 10 1B easily, and a lightning rod for Giant fan silliness.  Hang onto the lad!

Joe Panik - UNRANKED
Drafted out of St. John's in the 2011 draft, 29th overall pick in the 1st round.  Bud Selig mispronounced his name, the MLB team was completely caught off guard, they showed the Giants draft room looking very pleased with themselves.  I laughed out loud, yelled "The Monks of MLB" and had a good feeling about Panik.  Draft nerd!
Panik went straight to the NWL, signing very early for slight underslot, and tore it up: 341/401/467  and then to the AFL: 323/394/473.  His next year in SJ went well, but there was some noise about "college hitter in the California league": 297/368/402.  Critics focused on the SLG and missed on the elite contact rate: he had 58BB to 54K in 605 PAs.    He went to the AFL again: 205/295/269, he was then playing 2B to Crawford playing SS in 2011, this year the Gints insisted he play SS.  The other criticism was that he couldn't handle SS.  Critics really focused on that.  Then onto the Big Bad Eastern: like Crawford he had some injuries slow down the stat line.  He finished with a 257/333/347 line.   2014 saw him in Fresno, and he came correct:  321/382/447 before a promotion once the Dan Uggla experiment hit critical levels.  He responded with an insanely slick glove, hit 305/343/368, and kept hitting in the postseason.

What critics missed: Panik's EL season was the only time he wasn't hitting 300 or close in his career.  Panik had a 104 OPS+ score during the 2014 season, mainly spraying the ball, and broke out for a 131 OPS+ before a very unfortunate back injury.  He would have definitely challenged Dee Gordon for the Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger.  Needless to say, he's one of the top 2B in baseball with a plus defensive profile.

Matt Duffy - UNRANKED
My favorite story, drafted out of Long Beach State in the 18th round of the 2012 draft, 568th overall.  Duffy did not have stellar stats from LBS, the field being a notorious pitchers park with deep fences and a marine layer.  I thought he played quite well in the Cape, that's why I started following him (plus an affinity for LBS).  I heard he had a good glove, and I liked his lanky rangy style.  Duffy went to the NWL and unlike Panik, did not set it on fire: 247/361/268.  Like Panik, his BB/K was missed by the crowd: 26BB/22K in 216 PAs.  Next year Matt went to Augusta, and in the Sally he stayed on the OPS leaderboard with a bunch of hyped 1st round bonus babies.  I really took note of that.  His final stat line was 307/405/418, which earned him a promotion, which is something you should always pay attention to.  He DID set the California league on fire: 292/342/509 with 5 HRs in 115 PAs.  I figured that would lead to a Eastern league promotion, that happened, and it was glorious: 332/398/444, which was good enough for the batting title.   He was asked for at the deadline, the Giants fielded the calls and then... promoted him to the show!  I called this, you can go check minor league ball threads and old posts here.  In a extremely hard role for a rookie, he was a pinch hitter defensive sub, he put up 267/302/300, he had several memorable plays in the championship run, including scoring from 2B on a wild pitch in a painful loss to the Cards.  Next year, amongst all the hype about the Panda, I am quite sure there are certain Greybeards who campaigned for him at 3B.  They aren't going to hand him a job, so Casey McG got traded for.  And you can check back for posts from me on that as well: Placeholder.  It was a very painful year for McG, he was battling old injuries, but the compassion he and Matt showed each other was a very cool story.  Duffy eventually took over 3B and owned it: 295/334/428, plus defensively at a new position, and 2nd for the ROY, won the Willie Mac, just a damn fine ballplayer who can really, really hit.  He can also really, really run.  He's got great IQ, he gets great reads and jumps, he is sneaky fast.  There is nobody I'd rather have on 2B including Blanco and Pagan when the G's need a run to tie or win.

What critics missed: even more so than Panik, the term utility player got thrown up.  Focusing on his skinniness, instead of seeing the gangily athleticism.  Not understanding the defensive value at all.  And finally, dismissing the power potential in the big frame, a la Crawford.  Matt Duffy is my favorite Giant, a total grinder.  I've thrown out Billy Mueller and Ben Zobrist comps.  And he's made everybody forget about Pablo Sandoval with a quickness (worst defensive 3B in the majors this year, and dead last in the shiny WAR scores with a -2.0, a slash of 245/292/366 for 5 years and 90 plus MM bucks... wowza that's a bad beat contract).

What do people miss with the Giants?  First, they value BATTING AVERAGE.  I cannot tell you how many times I've seen BA get dismissed snidely on the interwebz in the past 10 years.  Batting average matters.  It is still an important component of the game.  Second, they don't look at what a player CAN'T do, they look at what they can do.  Third, they look at INTANGIBLES.  Personality, work ethic, ability to adjust.  Do the Giants do things different?  Hell yes, Monks of MLB.  Is this the only way to do it?  Of course not, other teams have successful methods as well.  Are the Giants a pure scouting org?  I would say no, they are not.  I think they have been quite sneaky with contact rates for example.  But I do think they place extra value on glovework, and look at how they have been rewarded?

Finally, there are some stereotypes about the Giants that drive me nuts.  How did these guys get missed on the rankings?  I think first and foremost that prospect list makers/watchers are too obsessed about youth, and are always looking upside/worrying about age/level.  (Even though all these players played at or below age/level, drastically at times).  Second, I do think there is too much emphasis on the top 20 types and not enough looks beyond that.  I don't see a lot of differences between the Giants typical 4-10 guys on any typical prospect list and any other squad.  Generally it turns on a) being seen at the big tourneys such as UnderArmor, b) being drafted high and c) lights out statistical zoom zoom (that's how Belt got on the lists).

What do these guys have in common?  All college boys.  What do pundits say about the Giants way too often?  Giants are old!  Well, they always have a few warhorses spiking (or hiding!) their average age, last year it was Hudson/Vogey/Scutaro...  Duffy is 24.  Panik is 25.  Belt is 27.  Crawford and Posey are 28.  That's a young infield.  It is entirely homegrown.  It is the best defensive infield in the majors, hands down.  There is a good case (although the projections and the doubters will be out in force to counter this) that it is the best offensive infield in the majors.  It is a huge, huge organizational strength.  Giants fans should be proud as hell of their scouts, front office, trainers and coaches who have contributed to make this happen.  Because this is one of the prime reasons the Giants are ready to go compete for titles the next 5 years.

Just a couple of Giants playing Giants Baseball.  Alright alright...

Friday, November 20, 2015

Roster Games Time

Its getting close to the Rule 5 deadline now.  So teams have to go protect their shiny prospectos.  The Giants haven't participated in Rule 5 recently, the last guy to get snagged was lefty Joe Paterson in 2010.  I remember there was a little uproar.  Well... You can't protect every player, and sometimes it happens. 

So it looks like the Gints have 8 spaces available currently.  Here's the excellent Joe Ritzo's predictions

Not much to add.  It makes sense for the Giants to protect the arms.  Blackburn and Mejia are slam dunks.  Crick very close to a slam dunk, some team would snag him and put him the pen with a quickness.  Okert and Blach, as lefties, make a lot of sense.  And Chris "Meh" Stratton, if he ever gets back his velocity that made him a first round pick, should get protected because that's what you do with 1st round picks. 

That would leave them at 39.  Martin Agosta will be exposed.  Jake Smith and Ian Gardeck are very interesting arms - you can't protect everybody.  I could see a team taking a chance.  Smith is rocking a excellent K/9, and Gardeck got some of his wildness kinked out. 

But we might see some trades today.  Should be fun to follow. 

Arizona Fall League championship tomorrow on MLB!  That should be good stuff.  Mac Williamson has the OPS lead for Scottsdale.  His slash line is a pretty 370/442/493 with 11BB/11K in 73 at-bats.  2 HRs and 3 2Bs among his 27 hits.  Mac has outperformed bonus baby Clint Frazier, but ain't getting much press outside of Bernie.  All good in the hood though, we'll just see him at 2nd and King, patrolling LF, and be happy with that.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Team Stats, Through The Decade

All from fangraphs...

2015 Giants ranked 2nd in team defense behind the Royals (who nearly doubled the field).
Ranked 2nd in team offense behind the Blue Jays (by not a lot at all)
Ranked 25th in team pitching.  25th in starters, 22nd in pen.

2014 Giants ranked 16th in team defense.
Ranked 6th in team offense (Dodgers/Angels/Orioles/Pirates/Nationals)
Ranked 26th in team pitching.  23rd in starters, 24th in pen.

2013 Giants ranked 6th in team defense.
Ranked 5th in team offense (Red Sox, Rays, A's, Dodgers)
Ranked 26th in team pitching.  27th in starters.  22nd in pen.

2012 Giants ranked 9th in team defense.
Ranked 4th in team offense (Angels, Yankees, Cards)
Ranked 19th in team pitching.  16th in starters.  26th in pen.

2011 Giants ranked 9th in team defense.
Ranked 17th in team offense.
Ranked 5th in team pitching.  4th in starters.  6th in pen.

2010 Giants ranked 1st in team defense.
Ranked 6th in team offense.
Ranked 4th in team pitching.  14th in starters.  4th in pen.

2009 Giants ranked 3rd in team defense.
Ranked 18th in team offense.
Ranked 5th in team pitching.  5th in starters.  9th in pen. 

OK now... Offense and pitching are WAR based.  Is there really any real point to comparing all 30 teams instead of breaking it up national/american?  I'm not sure, but the different parks, especially the AL East bandboxes versus the NL West death valleys...  The teams build differently, they have to evaluate differently, its a very different style of game.

The biggest trend you can pick up though... The Giants have fielded good defensive teams for a long time, and obviously value defensive players at a different "weight" than other organizations.  There is a lot of roster churn between 2009-2015, there usually is.

It is pretty ironic that Fangraphs, which makes an attempt to value defense, and puts so much emphasis on "the numbers" has completely missed on Los Gigantes. 

I was surprised to see how well ranked that 2010 team was.  They were the "lucky" team, the band of misfits.  I do remember a lot of HRs in the 2nd half of the season, that's for sure.  But how did they rank 1st in team defense whilst running out Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell?  I'm quite sure Andres Torres in his prime had a lot to do with the defensive metrics skewing well.  But I also know that Bochy subbed ruthlessly for Pat the Bat.  And here's where the narrative about certain teams does get annoying: when Joe Maddon does something like this, or Billy Beane builds teams around platoons, its breathlessly reported as "cutting edge genius".  Bochy...  Sabean...  Not so much.  Same exact strategy.

There is a sea change among these teams though, the 2009-2011 teams have excellent pitching ratings and the offense lags, the 2012-15 teams have flipped that narrative.  Prospect publications continue to "trust the Giants on pitching" but the real story has been amazing position player development and not much going on with the arms on the farm. 

Obviously a lot of the pitching dings come from the decline of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. 

One hidden gem for WAR scores: Gregor Blanco, who goes toe to toe with guys like Justin Upton. 

The pen ratings are interesting, and it may have something to do with WAR not being able to properly value relievers.  There is a lot of chatter about this with the Royals success right now on fangraphs, and there is attention being paid in the mainstream baseball media about relievers being in hot demand (and look at Trader AJ cashing his in for shiny prospectos). 

Hardcore Gints bloggers know that they have had defensive measures build around a camera system for a long time now.  Instead of hyping it up to writers and saber geeks, they keep it under cover.  But I would guess it has contributed somewhere along the line, as well as good scouting, and Ron Wotus waving players 5-10 feet one way or the other.  The Giants are as saber a team as any, even if that narrative won't catch up to the stereotype. 

I expect them to field yet another good defensive team.  If they can figure out a way to improve CF, they could challenge the Royals.  The rub is getting more pitching help while trying to maintain the offense at a high level.  Looking at it from this (flawed) standpoint, the needs are pretty obvious based off of last years results, but also the trends of the past few seasons.  Its remarkable that they have won 2 championships with the pitching they've fielded, but you also have to adjust for the fact that the stat line isn't capturing every nuance. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Prospectos I Like

One thing I try to publish from time to time is which prospects around MLB that I like.  Guys who I think I have a chance to make it, guys who are underrated, that sort of thing.  Trade targets?  Its pretty hard to get prospects in trade... and my favorite team never trades for prospects anyways...  (I think this is the correct strategy - always be trying to win)

I find a lot of the hyped guys overrated, and that goes especially for certain organizations (cough: Red Sox).  For example, they just spun off some guys for Craig Kimbrel... well, have you actually checked out Manuel Margot's splits?  This dude is a lefty masher 4th OF, not some blue chip no doubter.  Jackie Bradley JR?  Don't get me started...

Anyways, here's some guys I like, Blue Chip and Sleeper types, by position.

I like Max Pentecost.  He's MLB/Callis/Mayo's #4 catcher.  Unfortunately he got hurt.  Blue Chip, Toronto plucked him at 11 in 2014.  I find most the top 10 catchers overrated right now, as well as most of the recent graduates.  I think Andrew Susac is an underrated asset that teams will try to poach with lowball offers all winter.  Hold onto the lad Greybeards!
I also like Cal's Andrew Knapp, who was drafted by the Phils in the 2nd round of 2013.  He took on the Big Bad Eastern and hit 360/419/631 - 11 HRs in the Eastern in 214 At-bats.  I don't know why he isn't getting more hype, I think its a bias against college bats.
Favorite Catcher 2015 draft: Angels overdraft of Taylor Ward hit well at 2 levels (rookie/A ball): 348/457/438.  I figured he was on the Gints radar, they plucked him 26th overall.  Of note: Giants didn't draft a notable catcher this year, an unusual step for them.  (Winn/Brickhouse 14/15)

Don't really like any of the top 10 1B, but if I had to choose one I'd go with the A's Matt Olson.  3 true outcome guy, he slashed 249/388/438 for Midland this year.
Favorite 1B 2015 draft: Didn't like any, but might as well mention that Chris Shaw was one of only 2 drafted in the top 100 picks (Josh Naylor - Marlins 12th overall).  Shaw slashed 287/360/551, led the NW in HRs.  There is tremendous pressure on his bat, as he doesn't profile as a good defender.  There is some talk of OF, I'm doubtful.

Devon Travis done graduated!  I love the scrappers, there are a lot of top guys I like: Micah Johnson, the Yanks Refsnyder, Tony Kemp and the Phillies guys.  Scott Kingery was drafted 48th overall in 2015, the Phils took a shot.  He didn't light the world on fire in the Sally, but its early in the game.
Sleeper Alert: Max Schrock, drafted in the 13th by the Nats out of USC (the Carolina one) hit in early goings: low A ball caution but 308/355/448.  Also Oakland native drafted by the A's Ryan Howell, no hit so far, UNLV via Chabot.
A lot of SS's end up manning 2B.

Tons of blue chip guys, I think JP Crawford is awesome (look out for the Phils - Amaro Jr did a nice job of stocking prospects and drafting before departing for the Sox 1B job).  Love Bregman and Swanson from the 2015 draft.  Love Arcia.  Will Barreto hit enough to save Billy Beane's rep as the only thing left from his Addison Russell dismantle?  I say no!  Will Trea Turner?  Remember, Turner has the Gary Brown label, incredible athlete who might not hit...
On the SS front, look at the premium in draft position.  Swanson/Bregman/Rodgers as 1/2/3, followed by Cornelius Randloph (another great Phils pick!) at 10.  Giants fans were expecting Mikey White or Blake Trahan to get snagged, the Giants surprised with Jalen Miller.  I really like that pick, Miller had a rough start at 218/292/259 in rookie ball and some glove questions, but its early in the game.

Its hard as hell to get a blue chip SS.  Most of them are recognized early and sniped early to boot.  Draft position will determine most of the time.  All the guys landing now are huge blue chip (best performance of a rookie class EVER).  Correa, Lindor, Russell... Duffy!

3B: Again, like 1B, I really don't like a lot of the prospects who are hyped as top of the game. From the 2015 draft I liked the Twins pick of 4th rounder Trey Cabbage.  He struggled in rookie ball, hitting 252/302/269 over 129 PAs.  I liked Jake Lamb, he has made the show, and I like Cameron Perkins, who has compiled a 278/330/411 minor league line, with only 11HRs in 1657 PAs (98 BBs/232 Ks - his big draw was contact rate).   And Hunter Dozier, the Royals top pick a couple years back, he put up a pretty tepid 213/281/341 in the Texas league this year.

OF: Not sold on the hype of Byron Buxton, who can't seem to stay healthy.  I'd prefer Austin Meadows (over most, including the hyped Clint Frazier).  I also like Nick Williams (traded to the Phils - they keep coming up in prospects I like) and Lewis Brinson.  I liked a lot of college OFs in the draft this year, headlined by early Boston Red Sox pick Andrew Benintendi, Cristin Stewart, Braden Biship and Rhett Wiseman.  I also liked the Rays 5th round pick of Joe McCarthy, who suffered a injury season at UVA.  I could see him being a Brandon Crawford type who zooms on up.  I did like the Giants pick of Ronnie Jebavy, I think he's a great follow, if the bat can come around to match the glove they have something. 
Meadows hit 307/357/407, the power hasn't really filled in yet. 
Brinson hit 291/328/545 in the Texas league.  I thought at the time of drafting he was Buxton at a huge value point, it'll be interesting to see what he does next year.
Williams hit 299/357/479 in the Texas league, then followed it up in the Big Bad Eastern after the trade to Philly with 100 PAs: 320/340/536.  His ability to add plate discipline is a fairly rare occurrence.  Of the 3 guys Texas drafted (Brinson/Gallo/Williams) I have always leaned Williams. 

Lefties: Urias!  The Dodgers best thing going is hanging onto that guy, and I'm quite sure its why they couldn't add an ace this summer.  Allard!  Great value drafting by the Braves.  Kaminsky on the Cards.  The A's get of Sean Manaea might be the next foundation for a Beane rebuild.  Tyler Jay looks solid.  Lefties are hard to find, I like a lot of them. 
Like Shortstops, teams pay heavy premiums.  2015: Jay, Allard and Aiken 3 of the first 6 pitchers picked, all before the 18th pick.
2014: It alternated lefty righty like this: Aiken, Kolek, Rodon, Nola, Freeland, Hoffman, Medioros, Beede, Newcomb, Touissant, Finnegan.   That was through 17 picks.  Lots of lefties.
2013: A down year, Trey Ball (7th overall, I think this was a poor pick by the Bosox) and then Marco Gonzo 19th for the Cards.
2012: Max Fried and Andrew Heaney in a down year.  Fried has had TJ (And been acquired by the Braves - who are hoarding blue chip draft lefties big time now) and Heaney was traded twice and had a successful debut this year.

Righties: There are some big time righty prospects such as Giolito, Glasnow and Berrios.  Every team in the majors would love to have a prospect like Glasnow.  He continues his low H/9, high K/9 and elevated (not Kyle Crick levels) BB/9.  His ERA continues to be stellar, and he's done some AAA.  Pirates fans have to be pumped for his progress.  The White Sox had another stellar righty drop to them in the draft, I think Carson Fulmer will be making an impact a la Sonny Grey very soon.  On the other hand, there are some overrated guys like Mark Appel and some guys who can't stay healthy like Archie Bradley or Dylan Bundy.  There are more RHP prospects than any other position.  Each draft class has their hypes that can't quite turn it in (Trevor Bauer) but also the next tier that rise (Grey, Jose Fernandez).  Here's the WAR top 5 for a couple recent drafts:
2011: Grey, Fernandez, Cole, Cody Allen, Ken Giles
2012: Alex Wood (Fun fact - the Giants drafted ahead of the Braves and took Stratton/Agosta over Sims/Wood), Michael Wacha, Marcus Stroman, Lance McCullers, Paco Rodriguez
2013: (Too early) Kendell Graveman, Kyle Crockett, Chi Chi Gonzo, Corey Knebel, Zack Godley
2014: Aaron Nola, Carlos Rodon, Brandon Finnegan, Jacob Lindgren

Its possible that the biggest mistake the Astros made in 2014 wasn't lowballing Aiken, it was not going after Rodon.  Time will tell. 

One system that really stands out to me is the Phillies.  They have had low draft position, made some sell off trades to supplement.
2013: JP Crawford, Andrew Knapp
2014: Aaron Nola, Matt Imhof, Aaron Brown
2015: Cornelius Randolph, Scott Kingery
Supplemented by trades for Jake Thompson, Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro and Ben Lively (I really like Lively - wish the Gigantes took a shot at him) plus Alec Asher.  I think the haul for Cole Hamels was pretty good, I know RAJ gets beat up a lot on the interwebz but I think he got a good set of prospectos. 

Philly should be good sooner than later.  They already have Maikel Franco and Rule 5 pick Odubel Herrera contributing.  They get a breakthrough with Crawford, Knapp and Williams?  I like those chances. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Qualifying Offers Accepted! Will It Put A Dent In The Draft Pick Trolling?

15.8MM is a gigantic amount of moneys.  While baseball players are looking for long term security, lets not forget that a one year payday from accepting the qualifying offer in MLB can set up a family for life, even with income tax, paying your entourage, buying Mom that house, etc...

Colby Rasmus was the first to accept a QO, and he was followed later by Matt Wieters and Brett Anderson.  The other 17 accepted rejected, with the Jays giving a 2 year deal to Marco Estrada. 

So from the ruthless "get the value" standpoint, what were these 3 players worth?  Assuming inflation, let's peg the theoretical WAR at $7MM/WAR, so the QO sits at about 2.2 WARs...

Colby Rasmus put up 2.6 WAR, on a 2.4 oWAR -0.1 dWAR.
Wieters put up a 0.9 WAR, on a 1.1 oWAR and -0.0 dWAR.
Anderson put up 1.5 WAR and ate 180 Innings.

Rasmus hit a career high 25 home runs while slashing 238/314/475, a 113 OPS+
Wieters, recovering from TJ, played 75 games, slashed 267/319/422, a 100 OPS+
Anderson had a 3.69 ERA, 101 ERA+ and a 3.94 FIP.  His H/9 was a pedestrian 9.7, his HR/9 was 0.9, his K/9 was 5.8 and his K/BB was 2.52.

On one hand, there is no bad one year contract from a team's perspective.  On the other hand, this type of expenditure can handcuff other moves.  Of course, with the Dodgers...

For Rasmus, it makes some sense to continue to build value, he has been very inconsistent.  He is not a good defensive outfielder, most likely LF would be best for him, and he brings a lot of K to the game (154 Ks, 47 BBs in 485 PAs). 

For Wieters he didn't have much choice, he needs to prove himself healthy to get a 4-5 year deal.  He has played 101 games in the past 2 seasons.  Once thought to be a superstar, his career numbers are pretty pedestrian: 258/320/423 which is good for a 100 OPS+.

For Anderson this appears to be a easy decision.  He gets a big contract, he can re-enter the next year with a much weakened FA pitcher crop.  He has taken on a lot of injuries over his career, that might have been the deciding factor.

Did any of these front offices expect acceptance?  Were they looking for the draft pick?  Will this hurt the bottom line?

I'd say in the Dodgers case, despite all the cashish going towards players not playing and other general economic inefficiency, it will hurt them.  They just put a 5th starter into the mix.  With the injuries they took on last year (McCarthy, Ryu) they were paying large money for injured birds.  Personally I think the chance is high that Anderson will get injured again, and then you have 15.8MM tied up.  On the other hand, its only one year, that doesn't kill the way Matt Cain being hurt has killed.  But more importantly, you are filling in your opportunity chances with a pretty mediocre pitcher.  That's your guy next year.

Dodgers have several strategies that I believe to be flawed: first, they are trolling the injured pitchers list (for big money).  So far they had some success with Anderson, failure with McCarthy.  Second, they are taking on massive salaries to get prospects.  They paid out 87.5MM to players who didn't play for the Dodgers.  That is crazy, but it somehow gets a pass from all the saber blogs.  This will take time to flesh out, they could have some big wins in the next five years.  Third, they are continuing Freidman's quest for a market inefficiency: signing up sketchballs.

We'll see how it goes, but the stockpile prospects has never really succeeded.  What succeeds is building a core group and then supplementing with a blend of role players young and old.  To be fair, Friedman & Co have to burn off some bad contracts.  They still have too many expensive OFs.  What is surprising to me is they haven't built a better bullpen yet.  They appear to be on the wrong side of the Dee Gordon swap meet.  The resounding opinion of the interwebz last year at the Friedman signing was "look out, he's got money now"...  I've seen a lot of waste and not much value so far.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Giants Hitting Depth - CF Blues

Lots of chatter about the Gints homegrown infield, between Pavs blog and Cove Chatter.  It really is a testament to how good their draft and development is, this ain't no nuclear wasteland baby. 

With the infield pretty much set with Belt, Panik, Crawford and Duffy (Adrianza and Tomlinson able to cover most the infield), and Catcher being pretty much set (Susac's health not withstanding, you have Brown and Sanchez as perfectly good 2nd catchers), the OF basically comes down to one factor: CF defense. 

Its not just the stats, its also the eyes.  There is a very real chance the Giants will need to move Angel Pagan to a corner, where his bat doesn't play nearly as well.  Whereas Pagan gave the Giants a distinct positional advantage in 2012 with a 120 OPS+, injuries in 2013-15 have limited his game.  Defensively he hasn't been in the black (from a stat line, and perhaps from a scout line) since 2010. 

Is Pagan done though?  Once healthy in September he did put up a 274/346/416 line, but I'm always suspicious of those September stat lines, its call up time, dead teams trying out new things, etc.  Pagan has always been streaky, and injury prone, and the Giants definitely need to have some redundancy built in to an important defensive position. 

They do have some depth, with Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson waiting in the wings.  Parker is basically done with the minors, there isn't anything left to prove (low BA, decent OBP, decent power, you have to learn to embrace the three true outcome...) and Mac is tearing up the AFL something fierce.  That's why Aoki was not brought back, the Giants want flex right now...  But the positional depth they need is in CF, not LF. 

Baggs keeps stomping for Cameron Maybin, I'm not exactly sold unless its on the cheap.  Everybody loves a good defensive CF, but Maybin's bat makes Ehire Adrianza look strong.  Career 251/313/366?  I think I can put up with some Pagan crazy horse routes personally. 

With defensive stats varying from year to year, a 3 year sort tell us anything?  7 names come up as elite: Juan Lagares, Lorenzo Cain, Carlos Gomez, Billy Hamilton, AJ Pollack, Leonys Martin and Jarrod Dyson.  Hamilton might be available in trade for a price, but his bat is as light as Maybin's. 

Interestingly, human highlight reel Mike Trout's got a rating of -3.3 over 3 years, maybe he is channeling another Angel, Jim Edmonds, who always made highlight reel catches after being out of position. 

Flavor of the month Marcell Ozuna has a 5.6 DEF rating, apparently the Marlins are demanding a #2 starter in return.  The Giants don't have that and would not give one up if they did.

Pagan is at the bottom of the list, with a -20.6 DEF rating.  Next to him is a guy Giants interwebz fans salivate over from time to time: Dexter Fowler.  Going up the list from the bottom you get Adam Eaton, Charlie Blackmon, Coco Crisp, Michael Bourn and Maybin.  Gose, Hicks join Trout, Clutch and Ben Revere in negative territory. 

The slightly positives are: Austin Jackson, Brett Gardner, Desmond Jennings, Ozuna, BJ Upton, Span, Rasmus (hah!), Bourjos, John Jay, Ellsbury and Adam Jones. 

Is there anybody in there for Los Gigantes to nibble on?  The obvious look is to Austin Jackson, who is a free agent (Boras client), will start his age 29 year in 2016, has a career slash of 273/333/399.  The big glaring "Giants no like" is that Jackson strikes out at quite a good clip.  Here's an interesting read on Jackson from fangraphs Blandino.  I'm not sold that his defensive profile will keep up, and I'm scared of the contact rate.  I'd vote no-go, and spare the hassle of negotiatin' with Boras.

One thing to consider when looking at these defensive ratings: Mike Trout and Adam Jones led the list in plays made, more than doubling a lot of these players (Pagan was 17th on the list with 494, compared to Trouts 859).  Obviously a defensive specialist like Dyson is playing roughly 1/3rd the regulars.  His bat would most likely take a beating full time, negating some of his amazing defensive value.  Its always a balance. 

Frankly I don't see how the Giants can break into CF without it costing heavy.  Everybody wants a plus defensive CF, its why Sabean takes so many cracks at that position in the draft, in reclamation and in FA.  The answer might lie in finding the next Gregor Blanco, which is easy to say, hard to do.

But speaking of Tomlinson, its looking more and more like the 2011 SF Giant draft will become legendary.  You have Panik, Susac, Tomlinson, Osich and Hall making waves.  Don't count out Crick yet, and Ray Black is getting closer with a lot of AFL hype.  Derek Law will be coming back from his TJ.  And of course Clayton Blackburn might make waves.  That's NINE players in a single draft.  Now nothing is set yet, but its 4 years out as a draft, to have that many guys still going strong, that's a big deal.  But there's actually TEN - Jake Smith as the 48th round pick was lights out for SJ last year, he'll move onto the Big Bad Eastern, we'll see how that goes.  Ten dudes?  Wowza.  Definitely not a nuclear wasteland, the farthest thing from it actually. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Qualifying Offers! 20 Have Em, 10 Pitchers & 10 Hitters

So the QOs got finalized today.  Here's a quick breakdown, and whether its worth it for Los Gigantes to go lose the 19th pick of the draft.

Catchers: Matt Wieters.  Not going to be signing any FA catchers.  Next slide D-day!
Infielders: 1B: Chris Davis: Doubtful, he looks like an AL guy to me.  Lots of Ks, lot of dingerz, the Giants haven't had luck getting HR hitters to come to PacBell.
2B: Daniel Murphy and Howie Kendrick: Very doubtful.  Murphy goes from being a trade target to overpriced now he's on the open market.  An excellent hitter and suspicious defender, I'd steer clear.  And I'd steer clear of Kendrick too, and this is all without factoring in Average Joe Panik.  Pass and Pass.
SS: Ian Desmond: Fell off a cliff!  Brandon Crawford must have stolen his mojo.  Pass!
5 OFs: Alex Gordon, Dexter Fowler, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Colby Rasmus.  First off, pass on Rasmus, he's a punk and a terrible defender.  Upton is pretty overrated and I bet he goes the way of his brother, but he wouldn't come to PacBell anyways.  Gordon will find a way to get back to the Royals, I wouldn't mind him but I do think he's overrated because of the defensive profile.  Will the Yanks go crazy on JayHey?  I bet they do, but I wouldn't try to get into that mix if I'm the G's, he's a very good player but not a franchise cornerstone.  Dexter Fowler... I've found Fowler overrated for years.  Pass!  Pass on every single hitter?  Pass!

Pitchers: By alpha:
Brett Anderson: How slick of the Dodgers, they get a draft pick!  Pass.  Pass.  Pass.  It'd be cool if he accepted.
Wei-Yin Chen: Don't know much about him, undersized lefty who has pitched decently in the Eastern bandboxes.  31 years old next year.  I'd like to know more.
Marco Estrada: See Anderson, Brett.
Yovani Gallardo: Where did all his K's go?  Seems like a good mid-range target, the kind that the Royals pick up every year.  Not sure if this is where the Giants should be shopping, but he's not horrible.
Greinke?  Hell yes.  Lose that draft pick with a quickness!
Hisashi Iwakuma.  See Chen, Wei-Yin.  Pitching in a Seattle backwater makes him pretty low profile.  Older at 34-35.
Ian Kennedy.  Hell.  No.
John Lackey.  One of the biggest dicks in baseball.  No thanks.
Jeff the Shark!  I'm thinking he could be a great value candidate, and I think a draft pick is a perfectly good thing to give up to chase the dream.  Something tells me that the Shark has another gear, a la Jason Schmidt.  If the Giants feel that way, I'd be psyched.
Jordan Zimmermann: Tough tough call, the TJ concern of being the first TJ pitcher to get over 100MM is there.  But he is pretty damn old school, and I love watching him pitch.  Push comes to shove, the Gints take the chance, I'd be OK.

I get a strong feeling of being OK with 3 pitchers: Greinke, the Shark, the Zimm.  If the Gints get shut out of that, they might be able to basement shop on a couple more arms.  They should not basement shop.

Here's the MLBTR list of 50 FAs with predictions.  They predict Jeff the Shark and Mike Leake.  After Ben Zobrist at 21, the list goes pretty south pretty quick.  Here's my quick take based off their rankings:
1.  David Price - sure, try and get him.  I have a feeling he's going to the AL though.
2.  Heyward - Overrated in my book for what he'll cost.
3.  Greinke - the double shotgun blast to the Dodgers is extremely attractive.
4.  Upton - doesn't want to hit at PacBell, most likely to bust like his brother.  Stay far away.
5.  Davis - Will Scott Boras work his magic yet again?
6.  Cespedes - I like Cespedes, and I do think his low OBP and hacking style will devalue as the saber type GMs shy away.  Could be a steal.
7.  Zimmermann - They are predicting 6/126MM.  The new Zito?  I think that's a sweet spot to get into actually.
8.  Johnny Cueto - Inconsistent.  One moment he's a frickin' Cy Young guy, the next he's walking fools and getting slapped around.  Doesn't cost the pick...
9.  Alex Gordon - I can't see Dayton Moore letting his boy get away.  His game would play pretty slick at PacBell methinks, but like Heyward, I think his defensive value makes him expensive overall.   Jeff Kent said it best: there's money in them ribeyes.
10.  Ian Desmond - Yikes.
11.  Jeff the Shark - Premium athlete, I think there is some untapped potential in there, throws heat, can get K's.  Pitcher whisperers, light the beacon.
12.  Mike Leake - I just looked at him, I have to say I hope the Giants pass.  Just not enough upside, they can crank out the 100-115 ERA+ guys on the reclamation project, draft table or trading booth.
13.  Wei-Yin Chen - prone to the longball - like Leake - I'm not feeling it very much, but I don't know him very well.
14.  Kenta Maeda - will he be posted?  Would you have loved the Gints to have one of the various NPL imports lately?  Hasn't been a great track record.
15.  Matt Wieters - Giants draft catchers, love their catchers.
16.  Dexter Fowler - Had a decent walk year.  250/346/411?  11 Wrigley HRs to 6 on the road, I don't believe in his power.  Pass.
17.  Daniel Murphy - long time trade target, I will turn contrarian and say he shouldn't be a FA target.  Not at the price he will command.  The defense is scary, he was Babe Ruth and Bill Buckner in the postseason.  Very extreme to see the highs and lows like that.
18.  Scott Kazmir - with no QO attached he might be had for a reasonable price, but the post TJ as well as all his other injury history will factor in.  I'd be scared of that history personally.  Look to the Dodgers to go after him hard, hopefully after the Giants put a stake through their heart with Greinke.
19.  Ian Kennedy - fun fact: he has faced the Giants more than any other team.  167 IP, 2.86 ERA, only 11 HRs, they just can't hit the dude.
20.  Yovani Gallardo - looks like a great place to land if the Gints get re-buffed.  The pressure is on Bobby Evans to land a fish here, that "we didn't get a rose" crack was mildly amusing last year, it won't be funny two years in a row.  
21.  Zobrist.  I think the Gints are playahs for Zobrist.  Lets see how it works out.

Going to be a fun hot stove.  There really aren't that many guys to like.  I've said for a long time that FA is a wasteland.  But there are some premium talents, which is rare, and the Giants have 40-50MM-to sky's the limit moneys to play with.  They need to go get some premium ammo to go take down the West, enough with this Dodger reign of terror.