Wednesday, December 31, 2008

In Retrospect: 2008 Top 10 Hitting Prospects

Below is the Top 10 Hitting Prospects list I wrote up prior to the 2008 season, along with my comments on each hitter at that time. I have also included comments to follow up on where I stand on each hitter now that the season is over.

When I sat down to make this list, I wanted to combine hitter potential with actual current development levels, which means that I had to go against popular beliefs with some of my choices. But if my list looked just like every other list then why bother making one? Anyways, here it is...

1. Evan Longoria

Pre-2008: A lot of lists have either Longoria or Jay Bruce at the top, and I have to go with Longoria here. He’s a more complete hitter right now than Bruce and can handle the hot corner at third. I would take him over Alex Gordon, and I think he compares very well to Mark Teixeira and Frank Thomas, with a slightly higher strikeout rate. I think he could easily top 30 home runs in the next couple of years with the Rays, and he has the power to hit 40 or more once he settles in. Tampa Bay is a low stress environment for a young player just starting out, and with a line-up that already features Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena I think Longoria will blend right in.

Post 2008: I still believe that Longoria was the best hitter in the group this year (that doesn't include guys like Matt LaPorta and Matt Wieters who had played very little pro ball prior to '08). His performance with the Rays this year showed that he could definitely handle big league pitching, and his defense is fantastic. I worry that injuries could effect his career, but that doesn't change the fact that he'll be a great hitter when healthy.

2. Jay Bruce

Pre-2008: I am hesitant to put Bruce so high on my list simply because his plate discipline isn’t as good as it should be, but he proved that he could be successful at AAA at a very young age, and that has to be taken into account. His work ethic is solid and he’ll be in a Reds line-up that should spare him too much responsibility too soon, so I think he could be a mid-summer call up with solid early production. His power numbers are comparable to Longoria’s, but his strikeout rate is worse than Delmon Young’s and almost as bad as Brandon Wood’s, so expect some growing pains.

Post 2008: Bruce would still get the #2 spot, and I think my concern over his strike out rate proved to be correct. His AAA numbers were very good, but once pitchers figured him out in the majors, his numbers took a dive. Now that the Reds will no longer have Adam Dunn or Ken Griffey Jr., I'm worried that the team and fans will rely too much on Bruce and he won't be able to meet their expectations or maintain his confidence.

3. Daric Barton

Pre-2008: By now I can hear several of you wondering out loud what I’ve been smoking, but stick with me for just a second. Barton is perhaps one of the most advanced hitters to come through the minors in a while, and should easily nail down a starting job with the Athletics this spring. He reminds me of J.D. Drew with a little less power, which might scare some people off, but both Drew and Barton are on-base machines. Barton won’t put up flashy numbers, and it might take him a few years before he breaks 25 homeruns, but he’s an excellent hitter that should have a very good early career. His recent power surge (4 HRs in 82 plate appearances with the Oakland Athletics) might be a sign of things to come. Hitting out of the #2 spot, Barton will see a lot more good pitches that he can pull down the right field line.

Post 2008: I have to say that I was off with this one. Barton is a very advanced hitter, but his numbers from '08 suggest that he'll take some time to adjust and develop a bit more. However, his second half numbers showed some remarkable improvements in his walk and strikeout rates, and I think 2009 will be a much better year for Barton. He probably belongs somewhere around #6 or #7 on this list.

4. Steve Pearce

Pre-2008: Here’s where I’m sure I’m going to lose a few of you. If Pearce played for anyone but the Pirates he would be a lot higher on this year’s various prospect lists, and as it stands it looks like the Pirates don’t even want to play him. He’s better than Hunter Pence and Jason Bay at the plate, and should be a nice summer surprise. He has 30-35 home run potential on the low side and will hit for solid average. I like him a lot and hope he gets a shot at an outfield position sometime soon. If he has a good spring I don’t think the Pirates can afford to hold him back much longer.

Post 2008: Well, the Pirates did exactly what they should not have done. They let Pearce prove himself in Spring Training, and then sent him back down to AAA where he never really reestablished his 2007 numbers. I'm sure the whole experience rattled his confidence, and it proved once again that the Pirates have no idea what to do with talented prospects. I expect a significant rebound in 2009.

5. Colby Rasmus

Pre-2008: Rasmus is young, plays good defense and compares well to Larry Walker. His power isn’t as developed as Jay Bruce’s, but Rasmus will put up some 30+ home run season in St. Louis, while hitting in the .270-.290 range. For his sake I hope Cardinals fans don’t expect too much too soon from him, but he will eventually become a very good all-around player with extra power.

Post 2008: Putting Rasmus at #5 seems to be an appropriate ranking, and my previous projections are unchanged.

6. Chris Marrero

Pre-2008: Travis Snider gets all the love, but Marrero is already a better hitter at a younger age. He has 40+ home run power right now that could develop even further as he grows, and he has a very good approach at the plate. Pencil in plenty of opportunity to play early and often for the Nationals and you’ve got a recipe for a very good hitter.

Post 2008: I think I gave Marrero too much credit too soon. I still believe he has 40+ home run power, but he should probably have fallen in at #8-10 on this list behind Chris Davis and Fernando Martinez. We have to remember that Marrero broke his leg in June, so it's hard to say how his season might have ended, but I'm going to wait to see how his first 200-300 plate appearances go in 2009 before revisiting his potential major league success.

7. Chris Davis

Pre-2008: Davis is another very much over-looked hitter simply because he plays for the Rangers, and not some popular east coast team. A lot of prospect lists have shied away from him, claiming that he’s a one-tool player, but when that one tool is 50+ home run power, I don’t think you can justify overlooking Davis. His recent success at AA has convinced a lot of people –especially the Rangers—that Davis is for real and destined for great things. He compares very well to David Ortiz and Chris Young, and I think he’ll be just as good at the plate as Rasmus, if not better. He’ll post an early OPS of .825-.850, and reach the 40 home run mark within 1,500 plate appearances. Playing in Texas and in the American League should help his power numbers, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him jack 50+ home runs in his late 20’s. Davis' teammate Taylor Teagarden is also a very good hitter worth keeping an eye on.

Post 2008: Looking back, I should have had the confidence to put Davis in the top 5, but I was too afraid to go out on a limb and embarrass myself. When I originally wrote this post, Davis had yet to make a top 50 appearance on any major prospect list, and there might have been a handful of people who agreed with my assessment of him. But 2008 proved to be a spectacular year for Davis, and convinced me to not worry about what everyone else thinks and go with my gut when arranging these lists. For anyone interested, Bill James is projecting 40 HR, 118 RBIs, and a .302 average for Davis in 2009. I personally think that's a bit generous considering the guy has less than 400 major league plate appearances, but I also wouldn't be surprised if Davis actually matches those numbers.

8. Fernando Martinez

Pre-2008: Though Martinez gets credit for having a lot of projectable skills like power and speed, I think he’ll make a solid major league player even if those skills never fully develop. As it stands, I think he’ll hit 20+ home runs early in his career and top 30 home runs in his mid-20’s, and he has a nice plate approach for such a young age. Any power he adds beyond that is icing on the cake, and I think he could become as good of a hitter as B.J. Upton or Carlos Lee in the future. The Mets are sold on him and as their only current noteworthy prospect Martinez should have an outfield spot reserved for him in the coming years. He won't live up to the New York hype machine, but he'll still be a very good player. I would like to see him exhibit more speed in the future, but like I said before, it's not an absolute must.

Post 2008: Martinez maintained his numbers through '08 and seems on track to meet most reasonably expectations in a few years.

9. Hank Conger

Pre-2008: If you think switch hitting catchers are hard to come by, try finding a switch hitting catcher that has .300/30 home run potential. They don’t come often, so I think Hank Conger deserves to be on this list. With a season in the California league up next, I think Conger will fully establish himself as one of the best prospects out there.

Post 2008: When I heard last spring that Conger has suffered a shoulder injury, I was concerned that his career might take a drastic turn for the worse. However, Conger ended the year with his best numbers yet, and looks solid for the 2009 season.

10. Carlos Gonzalez

Pre-2008: Coming up with the #10 player is hard to do because I’m not sure who to leave off the list. There are a lot of good, young hitters out there, but I think Gonzalez has earned the #10 spot. He has 30+ home run potential and should see plenty of playing time in Oakland. He has much more plate discipline than Cameron Maybin, and compares very well to guys like Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano.

Post 2008: I still like Gonzalez, but he has bounced around a lot lately due to various trades, and I'm not sure what to expect from him in '09.

Well, that's it for now. Overall, I'd give myself a B- for 2008. I got most of the rankings for the big names right, but didn't go with my gut a few times and paid for it. Hopefully I'll do better in next season. Let me know if you have any thoughts about the above list, or what you think the 2009 Top 10 hitters list should look like.
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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Josh Reddick Videos

Here's a few clips of Josh Reddick from YouTube.  Nothing amazing to see here, but for those of you who like to see a prospect in action, this is the best I can do for now.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

TPC Time Machine: Troy Glaus

While watching Evan Longoria this past season, I started digging around to see what other third basemen he matched up well against, and to my surprise, I ran across Troy Glaus.  At first I thought there had to be some kind of mistake, but once I began looking at the numbers, it turned out to be a pretty close fit.  

In fact, Glaus had much better power at 21 years old than Longoria did, and his plate discipline was a bit more advanced.  The only problem with comparing Glaus to Longoria is that Glaus had a total of 227 plate appearances in the minors before being called up to the majors, so the chances of the numbers being skewed due to such a small sample size is relatively high.

With that in mind, I dug around and found a few other third basemen that showed equivalent potential at an early age.

(Please note that I only included each players most extensive stats from AA for the sake of comparison.)

I was amazed to find that Adrian Beltre and Eric Chavez both posted better numbers than Longoria at younger ages.  What ever happened to those guys?  Those were elite caliber numbers they put up, and now they both struggle to hit over 25 home runs in a single season.  And Ryan Zimmerman, while not as impressive at AA, has seen a steady decline in his production every year since his rookie campaign.  

And what about Glaus?  At 23 years old he hit 47 home runs and posted an OPS of 1.008, followed by 41 home runs the next year.  Since then, his career OPS has dive bombed to .858.  So, what's the deal here?

There really is no simple answer, but the most basic of answers is injuries and steroids.  Each of the above players has spent some time on the DL due to shoulder, back, or other injuries (including a ruptured appendix that Beltre suffered back in 2001 in the Dominican Republic), and at least Glaus' name has been linked to steroids.  Of course, injuries and steroids have not been confined to young, talented third basemen, so there could be some other common thread linking the demise of these 4 players, but there aren't many other positions on the field that require quick, high impact dives and long, akward throws as frequently as third base.  Other than catcher, it is perhaps the most physically demanding position on the field, and can quickly grind away at a player's back, knees, ankles, and shoulders, all effecting bat speed, blance, torque, and power generation.

Is Evan Longoria destined to become another talented, yet oft injured third baseman?  Not necessarily.  But, his ability to stay off the DL will likely determine whether he is remembered as just another good third baseman, or a Hall of Fame level player.       

Monday, December 22, 2008

BoSox Prospect Watchlist: Josh Reddick and Nick Hagadone

Hey guys, I was cruising ebay looking at card prices, and I noticed that Josh Reddick's autographed Bowman Chrome card is going for about $10.  I thought that seemed a bit low for a guy that has done very well in the minors and plays for a big team like Boston, especially when you consider that Lars Anderson's autographed Bowman Chrome card is going for $50 or more as of late.  There's a basic stat comparison post at the Baseball Think Factory from July comparing the 2 players, but I don't think it goes far enough with analyzing Reddick's potential.  If he keeps up his stats in 2009, he will compare very well to some very good current ball players.   Here's a quick and basic side-by-side comparison of Reddick and some current major league players with similar minor league stats, as well as the minor league stats of Lars Anderson.

By the age of 25, Morneau posted a .321 average with 34 home runs and 130 RBI, while Quentin hit .288 with 36 home runs and 100 RBI.  Could Reddick post similar numbers in a few years?  I don't see why not.  He doesn't walk quite as much as Morneau and Quentin, but his power potential is significant enough that I can overlook such a minor difference.  

Reddick also plays the field very well, and if he remains in right field, there won't be much talent blocking him from moving up over the next 2 to 3 years (J.D. Drew could put up some competition, but by the time he turns 35 in 2010, Reddick will be just as productive and cost a whole lot less money).  Meanwhile, Lars Anderson could be blocked by the signing of a slugger like Mark Teixeira.  

Anyways, long story short, I think a lot of people have completely overlooked Reddick's potential, so I bought a handful of his cards off ebay.    

Another Red Sox player I'll be watching this year is Nick Hagadone, who underwent Tommy John surgery last season, and is expected to return to the mound by May 2009.  While he only logged 34 total innings in the minors before his injury, Hagadone struck out 45 while maintaining a GB% of 65%.  If he can reestablish those types of numbers, he'll be in the majors by late 2010.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

In Retrospect: 2008 Top 20 Pitching Prospects (#10-20)

Here are my picks for the number 10 through 20 pitching prospects entering 2008, along with my comments from the time I posted the list, as well as my thoughts on each pitcher now that the 2008 season has come and gone.

10. Jacob McGee --

Pre-2008: McGee keeps getting better and better, and I think he could have a long and productive career, but right now he's got David Price, Jason Shields, Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, and Wade Davis to contend with, just to name a few. McGee should have similar success to Yovani Gallardo (if Gallardo pitched in the AL East), but he needs to work on keeping the ball low, as well as developing secondary pitches.

Post-2008: With a season cut short by Tommy John surgery, there's not much to say about McGee.  Hopefully he'll be back and good to go by spring 2010.

11. Michael Bowden --

Pre-2008: Bowden was cruising through the minors up until mid-summer last year, but he has a good track record and a great work ethic, so I think he'll bounce back this year and be poised for a 2009 call-up in Boston. He's still very young, and his style is a little unorthodox, but you can't argue with the results.

Post-2008: The results were there, and Bowden actually got a short and sweet 5 innings with the Red Sox.  I still like Bowden in the top 15.  Not dominant, but good stuff, with solid potential.

12. Gio Gonzalez --

Pre-2008: After bouncing around between the White Sox and the Phillies, the Athletics traded for Gonzalez this off-season with the hopes that he'd bring some good mojo to go along with his nasty curveball. He has almost identical stats to Jacob McGee, but Gonzalez is just a bit older, thus the lower ranking. He should do pretty well out in Oakland, and put up some solid numbers very soon.

Post-2008: Well, Gonzalez kind of crashed and burned in 2008.  His K% dropped at AAA and with the A's, his BB% also went up, and his GB% went down at each level.  All together, it culminated in a September 8th outing against Detroit during which Gonzalez gave up 9 runs in 1.2 innings, including 3 home runs, a triple, and 2 walks.  While I believe the talent is still there, it isn't certain if Gonzalez will have the confidence to rebound in 2009.

13. Clayton Kershaw --

Pre-2008: Everybody wants to put Kershaw in with the top 10 prospects in all of baseball, but I don't think he's even a top 10 pitching prospect at the moment. He's got good stuff, and he misses a lot of bats, but most of it isn't on purpose. His control is all over the place at times, he doesn't have the ability to keep the ball down when he wants to, and major league hitters will catch up to him pretty quickly. He'll be about as good as Chad Billingsley, which is pretty good, but he's no King Felix, or even Matt Cain for that matter.

Post-2008: I'll be the first to admit that I was too hard on Kershaw.  He probably should have been in the top 10, and maybe even in the top 5.  I think the Dodgers rushed him a bit, but he'll be fine.  

14. Justin Masterson --

Pre-2008: Masterson has done pretty well for himself thus far in his career, but he seems destined to be a 2-pitch bullpen specialist. He has good control, but his real strength is in keeping the ball on the ground, and if he develops a solid third pitch, he could be a pretty good starter down the road.

Post-2008:  Masterson did a great job coming out of the bullpen for the Red Sox, but I think they really want to put him in the rotation and keep him there for good, and it looks like he won't be forced to spend his career coming out of th pen.  Then again, things could always change.

15. Homer Bailey -- 

Pre-2008: I've already done a big write-up on Bailey, but I think he was way over-hyped, and will be a Carlos Zambrano type in a few years. Not great, but pretty good.

Post-2008: Not much to talk about here.  Hopefully, none of you "invested" in Homer Bailey rookie cards.

16. Wade Davis -- 

Pre-2008: I think Davis will be a pretty good starter or a great bullpen guy for years to come, but he won't be better than his teammate Jacob McGee. Lots of ability, but a low ceiling will limit Davis' success.

Post-2008: Once again, Davis had a solid year, and should have a chance at getting a spot on the major league roster this spring.  With Kazmir, Shields, Garza, and Price ahead of him, he'll be a #5 starter at best in 2009, or perhaps a consistent part of the bullpen.

17. Franklin Morales -- 

Pre-2008: The key to Morales' success is his high GB%. Playing for Colorado, Morales will live and die by his ability to keep the ball down, and I think he's very capable of doing so. Like all Rockies pitchers he'll get hammered occasionally, but he's a great addition to a very good, young team.

Post-2008: Morales had a very tough 2008 season.  His K% and GB% both dropped like rocks, and his BB% sat around 15% for the year.  I expect to see better results in 2009, but nothing spectacular.

18. Brooks Brown -- 

: I would like to see Brown have more success at higher levels before officially jumping on his bandwagon, but he's another great ground ball pitcher that will make substantial contributions to a young and talented team. He's Mike Pelfrey, only better and playing in Arizona.

Post-2008: While Brown wasn't horrible in '08, he wasn't great either.  Still not sold on him and would not include him in the top 20 on this list.

19. Johnny Cueto -- 

Pre-2008: Cueto has had some great early success this year, and I even added him to my fantasy baseball team, but I have some serious reservations about how long he'll last before major league hitters catch up to him. He has good stuff, good control, but can leave the ball up sometimes and that could be a substantial issue in Cincinnati. He'll put it all together in a few years and make a great #2 or even a #1 at times, but don't be fooled by his early numbers.

Post-2008: My thoughts on Cueto haven't changed much.  Above average ceiling, but not an immediate ace like some thought he would be in April.  

20. Jair Jurrjens -- 

Pre-2008: I think the Braves got a great young pitcher in Jurrjens, and the immediate impact of Yunel Escobar helps ease the pain of seeing Edgar Renteria head to Detroit. Jurrjens is capable of winning 10+ games this year, and 15+ in a couple of years, and he's in a perfect position to learn from Tom Glavine, who exhibited a very similar skill-set and comparable numbers early in his career.

Post-2008: Jurrjens had a solid year, but had some trouble at times getting hitters out.  We'll see some good progression from him over the years, but don't expect too much.  

So there it is.  A look back at the 2008 top 20 pitching prospects here at The Prospect Corner.  I nailed a few, missed a few, and I guess that's just how it goes.  The 2009 list looks a whole lot different, so be on the lookout.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

In Retrospect: 2008 Top 20 Pitching Prospects (#1-10)

Finals are over, I finally have my laptop working again with a new power cord, and my stocks are up 20% since the beginning of November! What does that mean? It means I'm feeling good and it's time to talk baseball.

Before we get started looking forward to the 2009 season, I thought it would be fun to look back at some of my rankings at the beginning of 2008. Here's my Top 20 pitcher's list with my original pre-2008 season commentary as well as post-2008 thoughts.

1. Joba Chamberlain --

Pre-2008: Some would put Clay Buchholz in this spot, while others would put Philip Hughes here, but when you combine Joba's K/9 rates with his high ground ball rates, his overall make-up puts him at the top of this list. He also had a very low BB/9 rate last year, and as long as he can maintain good control, he'll be special.

Post-2008: I think I was right on with putting Joba at the top. He's a special talent and proved it by posting a 2.60 ERA over 100 innings in the A.L. East. And don't forget, he did so at the ripe old age of 22. Compared to King Felix Hernandez, an equally talented 22 year old, Chamberlain matched him in BB%, GB%, and posted a K% of 28% which was a full 8% higher than Hernandez.

2. Philip Hughes --

Pre-2008: Hughes isn't far behind Chamberlain, and these 2 young pitchers could become a legendary duo in New York. Hughes has as much talent as Chamberlain, but he doesn't share the same ground ball tendencies, which is why Hughes comes in at #2. If I had to choose any 2 young pitchers not named Felix Hernandez to start a team, I'd take Hughes and Chamberlain and wouldn't think twice about it.

Post-2008: Something went wrong with Hughes in 2008, and I think the Yankees know it. If I could do this list all over again, I'd probably drop Hughes down below guys like Brett Anderson and Brett Cecil. There are indications that Hughes is regaining his previous form by striking out 38 hitters over his last 30 innings at Winter Ball(which is great), but he has also allowed 14 earned runs (7 of which came in a 2.2 inning outing in October), and given up 14 walks. I think he has mostly suffered from odd injuries, high expectations, and being tossed back and forth between the minors and the majors all year, but he hasn't come near the type of performances we saw from him in 2006 and 2007. I think the talent is still there, and the Yankees are pursuing veteran pitchers this off-season, so maybe Hughes will have some time to work things out.

3. Jaime Garcia --

Pre-2008: I still don't understand why Garcia doesn't get any kind of recognition for what he's been able to do thus far in his career. He doesn't have the sexy K/9 numbers that other top prospects have, but with a ground ball rate over 60%, a K/9 of 8, and a BB/9 under 3, Garcia has the make-up of a very good pitcher. I wouldn't be surprised to see him put up numbers similar to Fausto Carmona in the next couple of years.

Post-2008: I'm still sold on Garcia. He did very well at AA and AAA ball in '08, and I think by late 2009 or early 2010 we'll begin to see him put up some very dominant performances.  Still in my top 10, but maybe not my top 5.

4. Andrew Miller --

Pre-2008: Miller is another pitcher that doesn't put up big strikeout totals, but his ground ball rate is around 70%, making him one of the best ground ball pitchers out there. He won't get much publicity now that he's with the Marlins, but if you get a chance to see him pitch sometime, don't pass up the opportunity. He's already had a few rough starts in '08, but I think he'll be just fine once he makes a few adjustments.

Post-2008: Rough is a good word to describe Miller's season. His GB% was creeping back up to his minor league average towards the end of the year, but his K% and BB% were all over the place, and it's hard to say when he'll truly settle down. As with Hughes, in retrospect I'd put Miller a bit farther down on this list.

5. David Price --

Pre-2008: Price was a dominant college pitcher in a pretty good conference, so I think his abilities should translate to professional ball fairly well. He showed a lot of talent this spring, but an mild elbow injury has him out for about another month. The injury doesn't sound serious, but the Rays are more than willing to postpone his major league action if it means they save a few bucks (see Evan Longoria). Price should post similar numbers to Tim Lincecum, with fewer walks, and if he keeps the ball down he could be better than almost anyone on this list.

Post-2008: Price came no where near Lincecum's numbers in the minors, and I think he's likely to be more like A.J. Burnett or Ben Sheets. He's possibly a top 10 prospect on this list on a good day.

6. Brett Anderson --

Pre-2008: The trade that Oakland made with Arizona this off-season was pure genius. Arizona got a decent pitcher in the prime of his career, while Oakland ran off with almost enough young talent to field an entire team. Anderson has a K/9 of about 9.5 and a BB/9 rate of 1.5, which makes him a very good prospect, but his 57% ground ball rate makes him a very special prospect.

Post-2008: I think I've made it clear in other posts that I think Anderson is one of the top pitching prospects in the nation, along with Trevor Cahill, Brett Cecil, and Madison Bumgarner.  If I had a time machine, I'd go back and list Anderson, Cahill, and Cecil right behind Chamberlain on this list.  Unfortunately, last spring I didn't have Cahill or Cecil in my spreadsheets and they got completely overlooked, which makes me feel like a complete idiot.  But I'm making up for it now by letting the world know that these guys will be my top 3 pitching prospects going into 2009. 

7. Clay Buchholz --

Pre-2008: I really wanted to put Buchholz higher on this list, but my gut instinct won't let me. He has tons of talent, and the Red Sox will give him a better early education than almost any other team, but his ceiling is a little bit lower than some of the other pitchers above him. He'll put up some great numbers, but he'll also get shelled on occasion until he learns to keep the ball on the ground more often.

Post-2008: I think my gut feeling was right with Buchholz.  Good stuff, good team, but not the absolute best out there.  He got smacked around in 2008 and suffered from a BABIP of .361, but it will trend back towards .300, bringing his ERA down with it, so don't worry about his future.  He'll turn things around and be part of a great Boston pitching staff over the next 5-10 years.  

8. Chris Volstad --

Pre-2008: Another guy without the K/9 rates to impress anyone, but he's got good control and makes hitters put the ball on the ground. He doesn't get much recognition playing for the Marlins, but he'll do well for himself.

Post-2008: Steady as a rock.  In 2008 with the Marlins, Volstad pitched 84 innings with a 2.88 ERA, and matched almost every single one of his minor league stats.  And if that wasn't impressive enough, in 37 innings away from home, Volstad posted an ERA of 1.95, including 6 shutout innings agains the Mets, and 6 shutout innings against the Phillies.  Not badfor a 21 year old kid.

9. Sean Gallagher --

Pre-2008: The Cubs almost traded away Gallagher for Brian Friggin' Roberts this spring, and had they done so, they would've deserved to go without a World Series Championship for at least another decade. Gallagher wasn't great in the majors last year, but he has enough talent to be a solid #3 or #4 starter early, and possibly a #1 starter in his prime. I expect 10-15 wins a year very soon.

Post-2008: So the Cubs went and traded Gallagher anyways, and got knocked out of the playoffs in the first round.  Big surprise.  With Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Gallagher, and Gio Gonzalez, in 5 years watch for the A's to have perhaps one of the most dominant rotations since the mid-1990's Braves when Maddux, Glavine, and Smotlz were all in their prime.   

10. Nick Adenhardt --

Pre-2008: Adenhart gets a lot of buzz from west coast prospect enthusiasts, and most of it is legit. He's come a long way since his surgery a few years ago, and he'll make a fine middle-of-the-rotation started in the next year or so. Good command and good stuff.

Post-2008: Bad AAA numbers, and his stats with the Angels were even worse.  Sme obvious regression issues with few bright spots.  Adenhart is definitely out of my top 10.  

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Quick Thoughts

Hey guys, got my laptop fixed, then my power cord promptly died on me. I've got finals going on right now as well, so things just aren't working out blog-wise.

Anyways, I just read an article at the Atlanta Journal Constitution website about the current condition of the Braves farm system. A lot of people have a lot of opinions about the matter, but let's get a few things clear about farm systems.

  1. Everyone has 1 or 2 Top 50 prospects, so don't get too excited when it happens. Do the math. If every team has a draft pick in the first round every year, and there are less than 50 total teams, then chances are pretty good that one of those draft picks will show up in the top 50 prospects over a three year period.
  2. The Braves have developed as many great pitchers over the past 2 decades as most of the other MLB teams. You can argue that Glavine was "developed" in the Braves system, but Smoltz and Maddux were both acquired via trade or free agency. To be honest, there are at least 5 other teams out there that have developed more pitching talent in their farm systems than the Braves have in the last 10 years.
  3. Teams on a budget will always be a disappointment to fans most of the time. Yes, of course low budget teams can be competitive and occasionally win a division, league, or even the World Series, but the teams that make annual trips to the Fall Classic do so with deep pockets. The great Braves teams of the mid to late 90's were not based around young farm talent. They were based around a select core of highly paid stars in the prime of their careers.
  4. Do NOT let your team trade away young farm talent for middle-of-the-rotation aging starters (ala Javier Vazquez). If you must trade away young talent, do so either for big name talent, or young talent that plays a different position. The Braves did neither of those things, and lost a talented young catcher in Thomas Flowers, and will have little to show for it come early April, and even less to show for it by 2010.
  5. Jordan Schaffer and Tommy Hanson are 4-star prospects AT BEST. Schaffer is really more of a 3-star prospect. And I won't waste your time or mine explaining my views on Hanson. If Frank Wren knows anything about prospects, he'll trade Hanson this off season for a talented young third baseman to replace Chipper "Old Bones" Jones in the next few years. Remember: sell high, and Hanson's stock will never be this high again.
Anyways, it's back to studying. For Christmas break, take some time to read some good books. May I suggest The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham. If you have others you would suggest, add them below.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

2008 Projections in Retrospect Part II

Here are my basic projections for Jay Bruce and Chris Davis at the time of their respective call-ups along with their actual stats on the year.

Chris Davis
TPC Projection:.275 average, 19 home runs, .360 OBP/.550 SLG/ .910 OPS
Actual Stats:.285 average, 17 home runs, .331 OBP/ .549 SLG/ .880 OPS

I was pretty close with this one, although I was a bit off with the OBP projection. Davis' strikeout totals started to climb towards the end of the year, but his power numbers are absolutely amazing for his age, and his overall stat line was very close to that of A.L. ROY Evan Longoria who hit .272/.344/.531/.875 with 27 home runs in 506 plate appearances.

Jay Bruce
TPC Projection:.300 average, 20 home runs
Acutal Stats:.254 average, 21 average

Bruce posted a BABIP that was around 80 points lower than his minor league average, thus his .254 average. I don't see anything in his peripheral stats to indicate that his BABIP will remain that low at the major league level, so I expect that next year Bruce will post an average closer to the high .200 range.

Friday, November 14, 2008

2008 Projections In Retrospect

These are just a few of my projections for 2008, along with actual player totals.

Billy Butler
TPC Projection: 15-20 HR, .295 average, 85 RBI
Actual Totals: 11 HR, .275, 55 RBI

I obviously overestimated Butler's progression in '08. But then again, if the first half of his season had gone as well as the second half, my projections would have been a bit more accurate.

Ryan Braun
TPC Projection: 40 HR, .295 average, 115 RBI
Actual Totals: 37 HR, .285 average, 106 RBI

I got pretty close with this one. In fact, my projections beat out Bill James, CHONE, and Marcel projections.

Jair Jurrjens
TPC Projection: 4.50 ERA, 8 wins, 6 losses
Actual Totals: 3.68 ERA, 13 wins, 10 losses

Jurrjens performed much better than I expected early in the year, and due to injuries, the Braves gave him a much heavier workload than I thought they would.

So there you have it. I didn't come up with a whole lot of projections prior to the '08 season, but there might be some more somewhere in the blog that I'll try and dig out. I think I'm going do a lot more for the '09 season. Also, I'm going to go back and look at some of my prospect rankings from Spring Training as well and see how they look in retrospect.

Quick Hits -- From Frank Wren to Warren Buffet

Hey y'all, unfortunately, my laptop is still out of commission, but I'm finally heading into a soft spot in my schedule and hopefully I'll have it up and running soon. I've also got some things on my mind I'd like to get out there and see what you all think.

  • Frank Wren isn't who he thinks he is and neither is Tommy Hanson. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Wren and the Braves have broken off trade negotiations with the Padres concerning acquiring Jake Peavy. It's been reported that the Padres were asking for either Tommy Hanson or Jason Heyward in a deal that would also include Yunel Escobar and a few other low talent prospects. Wren apparently thinks highly enough of both Hanson and Heyward to completely eliminate them from the equation, and at least when it comes to Heyward I agree with him. The guy has way too much potential to let go, especially when you consider the current state of the Braves outfield. However, I think Hanson is way overvalued, and it's the perfect time to sell. I realize that the Braves and Braves fans across the country are counting on Hanson to replace the likes of John Smoltz over the coming years, but it just ain't gonna' happen folks. Though he has decent control and good strikeout stuff, his ground ball rates have languished in the mid to high 30% range, and his first few years in the majors will be a rude awakening when major league hitters find comfortable seats in the outfield for some of his offerings. We need look no further than Kyle Davies, Jo Jo Reyes, and Chuck James, who were all coasting through the minors, but have seen their homerun rates (and consequently their ERAs) skyrocket at the major league level. Then again, it's almost a lose-lose situation for Wren. If he actually traded Hanson for Peavy, Hanson would benefit from pitching in perhaps the most pitcher friendly stadiums in the country, while Peavy's stats would take a hit following the move to a more conventional ballpark, and it would seem to the average fan that Wren let a young ace go for an aging has-been. On the other hand, by not trading Hanson for Peavy, the Braves will have to explain for the next 3 years why Hanson is struggling at the major league level, while Peavy continues to carve up hitters out west. Either way, Wren will come out looking like a chump.
  • In other news, the stock market is down. But just as in baseball, buyers and sellers in the stock market tend to make decisions based off of perceived value rather than any verifiable real market value guage. Enter guys like Warren Buffet and Billy Beane, who know that you sell when everyone else is buying, and you buy when everyone else is selling. It's my opinion that 95% of the population generally doesn't know anything about whatever it is they think they know something about, and if you want to be successful, you'd better not do what everyone else is doing. Case in point, the Yankees. They are constantly buying when prices are at their peak (C.C. Sabathia), and refuse to make moves on players in lower price ranges.
  • Speaking of Billy Beane, I'm still not sure about the Matt Holliday trade. Beane isn't giving up much in the deal, and he's getting a good player in the process, but it's a short term hold with the only upside being a flip for young talent halfway through next summer. I don't really see the A's being a true contender until 2010, and Holliday will walk when his contract is up, so either Beane trades him early, or takes draft picks when he walks. It's a good strategy, but I think it's too obvious, and there's got to be something else going on just beneath the surface here that I'm not quite seeing.
  • Tim Lincecum. Hope you got his autographed rookie card off eBay while prices were still somewhere inside the stratosphere. If you're thinking of buying now, just remember the Warren Buffet approach. If everyone else is buying, you should.......

Well, that's all for now. I'm keeping an eye on the Winter Leagues, but usually all those stats are too erratic to get worked up about. Let me know if you've got your eye on an under the radar player you think might have an impact in '09.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

An Apology to You All

Hey guys, I wanted to take a minute to apologize for not posting anything for so long. School has been a beast this semester, and to make matters worse, my laptop is tanking on me. I'm hoping that with the holidays coming I'll be able to break away from school and post on a more regular basis. Let me know if there is any particular topic you'd like me to address, and I'll see what I can do.

As a side note, how about Tampa Bay? Now there's some young talent!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Quick Hits from the Minors

With the Olympics over, guys like Matt LaPorta and Brett Anderson are back to work in the minors.

  • Matt LaPorta -- While the Olympics weren't a smashing international debut for LaPorta (3 for 19 with 2 home runs), he's back to clubbing AA pitching going 3 for 6 with a home run in his first 2 games since leaving China.
  • Brett Anderson -- Anderson also faced some difficulties in China (4.97 ERA in 12.2 IP), but he's back with a vengeance, posting a 59% GB% while striking out 9 and walking just 1 in 6 innings Thursday night. 92.3% of the batters that Anderson faced either struck out or hit a ground ball.
  • Chris Davis -- The Rangers are pretty much toast for the season, but Davis is heating back up. Since August 18th, he's 13 for 38, with 3 home runs, 5 doubles, and 7 RBI.
  • Andrew Lambo -- Does Lambo have a cool nick name yet? Maybe something like "Rambo"? In 5 games at AA, Lambo is holding a .409/.435/.864/1.299 stat line, with 3 home runs.
  • Madison Bumgarner -- In low A ball where defense can be sketchy at times, it's amazing that an 18 year old (he actually turned 19 on August 1st) has done so well (1.40 ERA) in his first year of professional ball. Mad Bum is lighting it up this month, with 48 strikeouts in his last 32.1 IP and an ERA of 0.28. I wonder if he's beginning to mix in a decent breaking ball, or if he's just doing it all on his fastball still. Either way, he's had an historic season. On a side note, Bumgarner's shrinking GB% suggests that he's letting his fastball drift up high in the zone. For now, those high pitches are helping his strikeout rate, but once he gets to AA ball, those pitches will often find their way into the outfield bleachers.
  • Angel Villalona -- At 17 years old, he's posting a slugging percentage (16 home runs, 29 doubles) higher than Miguel Cabrera at 17, and an average in the same vicinity as the 17 year old Miggy. Watching Villalona, it's obvious that he's a great hitter, but I don't think he's a great batter. By that, I mean that Villalona has exhibited a very poor pitch selection, with a 23.6%/4.2% K%/BB%, while posting an OBP of .306 on the year. I expect Villalona to hit for more power than Cabrera, but I don't think he'll match Cabrera's OPS production.
  • Michael Bowden -- The Red Sox loss is Bowden's gain. With Josh Beckett visiting Dr. James "Death" Andrews, Bowden will face the White Sox to make the first major league start of his career Saturday. I don't expect great things from him right away, but he has lots of potential and could be a very reliable starter alongside Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester in 2 or 3 years.
  • David Price -- Price continues to underwhelm me, and I really doubt the Rays will consider using him as a starter this year. Thursday night Price went 5 innings with 5 strikeouts and 3 walks. His August GB% is sitting at 55%, which is good, but he has a just 17 strikeouts in 18 innings at AAA, with 9 walks. It's becoming increasingly obvious that Price's stuff isn't very deceiving to advanced hitters, and his control isn't that great. If you compare his AAA stats to those of Tim Lincecum, Joba Chamberlain, or even Brett Cecil, you can see that for his age, Price isn't doing anything out of the ordinary.
  • Brett Cecil -- Speaking of Cecil, how about his start on August 23rd? No hits over 7 innings, with 5 strikeouts and 2 walks. Since moving up to AAA, Cecil has a GB% of 69% in 30.2 innings, with a total of 92% of hitters either striking out or hitting a ground ball (compared to the 75.7% posted by David Price).

...Read more

Friday, August 29, 2008

Baseball America Hot Sheet for the Week of August 22nd-28th

Hey guys, I apologize for not posting lately. I'm trying to balance a lot of stuff right now, but I haven't forgotten about you!

Anyways, here's the Hot Sheet from the past week as well as my comments.

1. Brett Wallace, 3b, Cardinals
-- Everyone knew this guy could hit, but I was almost certain that the move to AA would slow him down a bit. Guess not. 14 for his last 35, with 3 home runs, and 4 doubles. I thought he would walk more than he has, but it's a small sample size.

2. Kyle Blanks, 1b, Padres
-- Blanks is still putting up some very good numbers, but he has a huge road block in the way of his future career with the Padres who goes by the name Adrian Gonzalez. I'd love to see Gonzalez get traded to a team with a more hitter friendly ballpark and then watch Blanks take over at first base for the Pads.

3. James Darnell, 3b, Padres
-- Good numbers, but I'll still not sure about Darnell. Wait until we see him against A or AA ball pitching.

4. Brian Bogusevic, CF, Astros
-- Why was this guy pitching for so long when he could swing the bat like he has over the past couple of weeks? Maybe he's just on a hot streak, but maybe not. The next Rick Ankiel? Who knows (but probably not).

5. Pedro Baez, 3b, Dodgers
-- A few good weeks of production don't compensate for being 20 years old and struggling to escape rookie ball.

6. Buster Posey, C, Giants
-- Posey will hit where ever he goes, but why didn't the Giants start him at low A instead of the AZL League?

7. Ivan DeJesus, 2b/SS, Dodgers -- The Dodgers need young middle infield talent, but I'm not real high on DeJesus. Good skills, but he won't be a star.

8. Kris Medlen, rhp, Braves
-- There isn't much to look forward to if you're a Braves fan, so let's hope Medlen keeps up the good work and makes it to the big leagues in a year or so. My only concern is his GB%, which has dive-bombed since moving to a starting role.

9. Brad Holt, rhp, Mets -- Why is Holt still in short-season rookie ball? Move him up already so we can see him against some better competition.

10. Neftali Soto, 3b, Reds -- Good stick, but will he play at third? If I'm the Reds, I'm looking for more power.

11. Madison Bumgarner, lhp, Giants -- Bumgarner absolutely owns the Hot Sheet. It should be called the "Bumgarner Sheet."

12. Wade Davis, rhp, Rays -- Glad to see Davis pick it up in AAA.

13. Wilson Ramos, C, Twins -- Joe Mauer need not fear Senor Ramos.

That's it folks. I'll post more tomorrow if I get a chance.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Washington Nationals Top 5 Prospects

I usually like to find the top 5 pitchers and the top 5 hitters from each team for these lists, but the Nationals have such limited talent that I think a top 5 overall list is sufficient. Of all the teams out there, I can’t find many that can match the Nationals lack of young talent in the minors. While they have 2 power hitters in Michael Burgess and Chris Marrero, there’s not much pitching depth, and they failed to sign pitcher Aaron Crow out of Missouri, their top pick from the 2008 draft. All these things combined make for a really weak farm system.

1. Chris Marrero – Right now Marrero is rehabbing a broken leg he sustained in a collision at home plate earlier this year, but he should be back and ready to go by next spring. I’m beginning to have my doubts about him, however I think he still has a lot of potential, so I’ll stick with him for now.

Projection:.255-.290 average, 25-40 home runs, .750-.850 OPS
Comparable player: Jeromy Burnitz with more power

2. Michael Burgess – If Marrero fails to show signs of development next season, Burgess will take over the #1 spot on this list. I guess if we went purely by possible ceiling, Burgess would be ahead of Marrero, but right now he’s being held back by an inflated strikeout rate, which usually sits in the 25-30% range. He has tons of power and could be a real beast one day, but he’s too raw right now to warrant a #1 ranking.

Projection:.260-.290 average, 30-45 home runs, .850-.950 OPS
Comparable player: Mark Reynolds with a bit more power and more strikeouts

*There are a few other hitters that are just beginning their pro ball careers in the Nationals’ system that could prove to be solid players. However, without any substantial amount of stats to go by, I won’t include any of them on this list. Otherwise, there really aren’t any other above average hitters in the system right now.

And now, on to the pitchers…

3. Jordan Zimmermann -- While not the most talented pitcher out there, Zimmermann still has solid numbers all around and good potential. He’s still at least 2 or 3 years from being a productive major league pitcher, but he’ll have some very good years in the future.

Projection: Good #2, possible #1
Comparable player: Mike Pelfrey

4. Jack McGeary – While it’s true that McGeary has only pitched in rookie ball this year, he has shown significantly more potential than all the other pitchers the Nationals have at the moment. I’m going to go with McGeary at #4 on this list for now and hope his numbers aren’t a fluke.

Projection: Unknown, possibly top of the rotation
Comparable player: Unknown

5. Josh Smoker – I’ve been a little disappointed in Smoker thus far, but he’s still got a lot of time, so maybe he’ll come around. With only about 40 innings under his belt there isn’t much to go on, but his low ground ball numbers and average strikeout rates don’t warrant much excitement.

Projection: #3-5 starter
Comparable player: Ian Snell

Honorable mentions: Ross Detwiler, Colton Willems

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Quantum Physics Jinxed Josh Vitters

Yesterday I included Josh Vitters in my Quick Hits from the Minors post, referring to his current hitting streak (which was up to 25 games according to one helpful reader). Turns out I should've kept my mouth shut. Last night Vitters went 0 for 5 and was unable to squeeze out a hit for the first time in almost a month. Playing and following sports (especially baseball) lends itself to little superstitions, and it's my opinion that by calling attention to Vitters' hitting streak, I inadvertantly jinxed the young man and caused his 0-fer.

Could this have been avoided? Yes. Did I do it intentionally? Certainly not. It happens all the time in baseball, whether it be a hit streak or a no-hitter, and it's just one of those things that comes with the territory.

However, I am curious as to why things like this happen. It could be argued that such random events are simply coincedences, but I have another theory. It's my opinion that this type of thing occurs due to basic princples in quantum physics. Once you observe an event, you also change the outcome, so that every time you measure or quantify something, you also change the nature of what you are measuring, thus rendering your analysis obsolete. In this case we tried to measure Josh Vitters' hitting streak, and ultimately rendered it completely obsolete. So, my apologies to Mr. Vitters.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Quick Hits from the Minors and Around the Web

With the Olympics going on and the approach of football season, there hasn't been a lot of chatter about baseball around the internet, but there's still plenty to talk about.

  • The U.S. Olympic team has had some interesting moments in Beijing, especially against the Chinese national team. Between the 2 teams, there were 7 beaned batters (including a shot to Matt LaPorta's head), 2 flattened catchers, and 3 ejections.
  • Speaking of the U.S. Olympic team, last week I had the chance to watch Trevor Cahill pitch against the Cuban national team. He started out a bit shaky, but once he settled down he looked pretty good. He kept most of the Cuban hitters guessing, and ended with a few strikeouts, lots of ground balls. Cahill pitched 3 scoreless innings this morning against Japan, and teammate Brett Anderson got the win against Canada last Friday. If you're interested in box scores or overall stats, you can check out the U.S. Olympic team's website for more.
  • Back here in the U.S., the A.L. Rookie of the Year race came to a standstill after Evan Longoria suffered a fractured wrist earlier this month. He should be back around the beginning of September, but it's difficult to say if he'll continue his pre-inury level of play.
  • With Longoria on the DL, Chris Davis had a wide open opportunity to steal the spot light and make a run at the A.L. ROY. Unfortunately for him and the Rangers, Davis has seen a dramatic drop in his power prouction, with only 2 home runs and 2 doubles in August and an OPS of just .627 for the month. Overall, he's still hitting for a .275 average, with 12 home runs in 189 plate appearances, but unless he jumps back on the torrid pace he was on in July, he doesn't have a shot at the 2008 ROY.
  • For any card enthusiasts out there, the release of 2008 Bowman Chrome is currently sweeping eBay. Other than a few good auto cards, there isn't much to this year's list of prospects.
From around the web (click the link to read the article)...
From the minors...
  • Matt Wieters -- After 200 plate appearances at AA, Wieters has a .352/.452/.605/1.057 line with 12 doubles, 9 home runs, 32 walks, and 23 strikeouts.
  • Mike Moustakas -- Over the last 2 months, Moustakas is hitting .316, with 9 home runs and an ISOP around .250.
  • Hank Conger -- When Conger started the year with a shoulder injury, I never expected that he'd be able to bounce back and put up the numbers we've seen from him this year (.297/.328/.480/.808). Not stunning numbers, but very good for a young catcher with Conger's potential.
  • Madison Bumgarner -- In 21 innings, Bumgarner has a 39.7% K% rate for August, with a 2.7% BB%.
  • Lars Anderson -- I wasn't a big believer in Anderson at the start of the season, but he has flat out raked at A+ and AA ball this year. After 114 plate appearances at AA, Anderson is hitting .347/.447/.611/1.058, with 5 home runs and 10 doubles. His .483 BABIP suggests that those numbers will come down a bit in the near future, but he still has the potential to be a Boston version of David Wright at first base.
  • Dellin Betances -- In his last 18 innings, Betances has 28 strikeouts with a 54% GB% rate.
  • Josh Vitters -- I've been looking for game logs on Vitters to see how far back his hitting streak goes, but the search has been unsuccessful. For August, Vitters has a .373/.407/.573/.980 line.

...Read more

Monday, August 18, 2008

Prospect Smackdown: Brett Cecil vs. David Price

Hey everybody, sorry for the long lapse in posts. I took a bit of a vacation up to the North Carolina mountains, and then I had some family business to tend to, but it's time to get back to business, so let's get to it. For today's post I want to take a look at Brett Cecil -- one of the most overlooked pitching prospects in the minors -- and compare him to David Price, the most hyped pitching prospect in the minors.

I think most people would be very surprised to learn that not only has Cecil matched Price's stats, but he's done so at a younger age and has generally outperformed Price. To get things started, let's just look at the basics.

I don't want to spend a lot of time comparing and contrasting scouting reports or opinions about the 2 pitchers that are bouncing around the internet, but I would like to take a detailed look at each pitchers' stats and performance records over the last year or so.

For the record, Price was at advanced A ball earlier this year, which is a bit more difficult than regular A ball. But it's pretty obvious that Cecil performed very well, and perhaps even better than Price. The 18 months difference in age is quite significant as well.

The above AA ball stats are probably the best numbers to use in comparing these 2 pitchers. AA ball tends to be fairly uniform in terms of difficulty, and both pitchers had 50+ innings while at that level. Once again, the age difference between Cecil and Price is fairly significant, indicating that while their stats seem relatively similar, Cecil is in fact on a more advanced developmental curve than Price. Another interesting point to make is the difference in Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), which is an adjustment of ERA that takes into account a team's fielding percentage, park factors, and luck. Cecil's FIP was over a point lower than Price's, suggesting that Price wasn't nearly as dominant as he looked.

I'm not going to spend much time on AAA stats since both pitchers have under 20 innings at this point. Their numbers are a bit skewed, but the general trends are still apparent. Cecil continues to strike out more hitters at a younger age, while also inducing more ground balls. His control isn't quite as good as that of Price, but it's still very good for his age (speaking of his A and AA ball walk rates, and not so much his AAA stats). While their respective ERAs are very high, their FIPs indicate that they've both been a bit unlucky, and their allowed run totals should drop back to about 3 runs per game.

I don't really have much more to say about these 2 pitchers, except that while they are both very good, Cecil is the more talented of the 2. He has some very good comparables, including Roger Clemens and Phil Hughes, and his future looks very bright. I'll try and come up with some projections for him this week, but he easily ranks as one of the top 5 pitching prospects in the game right now, and will likely surprise a lot of people over the next few years.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

S.F. Giants Mid-Summer 2008 Top 5 Pitching Prospects

In a way, the Giants have all the young pitching talent you could ever ask for. With Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain both in the majors and under 25, and Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson in the minors and both under 20, the future looks very bright. However, once you get past those 4 pitchers, there isn’t much else to look forward to for Giants fans. That’s not to say that the Giants don’t have any other above average pitching prospects, they just don’t have anyone else that compares to the likes of Lincecum or Bumgarner. But enough talk, let’s get down to business.

1. Madison Bumgarner – I know that a lot of people feel that Tim Alderson is the top pick, but Bumgarner has just been too dominant at an early age to not give him the #1 ranking. His control has been absolutely amazing, and power lefties can be priceless in the majors. Don’t worry so much about the breaking ball. It’ll come.

Projection: #1 starter
Comparable player: C.C. Sabathia with better control.

2. Tim Alderson – I considered giving Alderson the #1.5 ranking on this list. The age difference between him and Bumgarner comes down to a matter of only 9 months, but those 9 months are enough to just barely set them apart. I realize that Alderson has been pitching at a higher level than Bumgarner this season and the 2 of them have posted similar stats, but he doesn’t have quite the ceiling that Bumgarner has. Regardless, he’ll be an amazing third or fourth starter behind Lincecum and Cain, with the potential to be a great #2 or even average #1 starter.

Projection: Great #2, possible #1
Comparable player: Adam Wainwright

3. Clayton Tanner— Here’s where the list begins to drop off. Unless I completely overlooked someone in the Giants’ farm system, Tanner is pretty much all there is after Alderson and Bumgarner. He’s a decent prospect, and would be a fantastic back-of-the-rotation guy in the future, but his upside is limited. Good stuff.

Projection: #3-4 starter, possible #2
Comparable player: Mike Pelfrey

4. Benjamin Snyder – I think Snyder has above average talent and some decent comparables, but I can’t find anything really great about him. Like Tanner, Snyder could make a great #4 or #5 starter in the future.

Projection: #3-5
Comparable player: Jon Garland

5. Henry Sosa – I realize this won’t be a popular spot for Sosa, but I gotta’ go with the facts. At his age, Sosa really hasn’t done much, and his progress seems to be stalling. Most 23 year olds with average numbers at A+ don’t get much attention, so why should Sosa? Some may argue that injuries have set him back, and his high-90’s fastball will get him to the top, but don’t expect it to happen in the next 5 years. He may eventually put it all together, but the odds are very much against him by now.

Projection: #4-5 starter, good closer
Comparable player: Boof Bonser

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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Tampa Bay Rays Top 5 Hitting Prospects

The Rays have done a great job drafting and developing position players, and consequently all of their great young talent is currently in the majors. That leaves some pretty big gaps in the minors, filled mostly by over aged AAAA players. However, there are a few decent prospects, and of course the constant influx of #1 draft picks to keep the Rays going.

1. Tim Beckham, ss, 18 – Can’t bet against a #1 pick with Beckham’s skills. I have no idea how good he’ll actually be, but I trust the Rays enough to believe they knew what they were doing when they selected him.

Projection: ?
Comparable player: ?

2. Desmond Jennings, of, 21 – When you mix speed and an above average on-base percentage you usually can’t go wrong. Unfortunately, Jennings sustained a shoulder injury that will keep him out of action until 2009.

Projection: .290-.320 ave., 15-25 home runs, .775-.850 OPS, 40+ steals
Comparable player: Ron Gant with more speed

3. John Jaso, c, 24 – While not necessarily young, Jaso is at least talented. His greatest asset is his knack for picking up lots of walks wherever he goes without posting giant strike out rates. I’m not sure how many pitches he averages per plate appearance, but I would guess that it’s relatively high, making him a great asset to any team that likes to wear down opposing pitchers.

Projection: .285-.310 ave., 15-20 home runs, .820-.860 OPS
Comparable player: Sean Burroughs, Michael Barrett

4. Reid Brignac, ss, 22 – As long as Brignac can hang at shortstop, he’ll be fine. Even if he has to move somewhere like 2nd base he should be able to stick in the majors. However, his strike out rates aren’t going to translate well at the plate, and his power will lag as a result. Expect some good years, but definitely not right away.

Projection: .275-.290 ave., 25-35 home runs, .810-.875 OPS
Comparable player: Dan Uggla with a little more pop

5. Reid Fronk, of, 21 – I haven’t seen much about Fronk, but I like his skill set and I think he could be a solid fourth outfielder in a few years with a shot at starting in his prime. Above average speed, decent power, and an acceptable plate approach.

Projection: .275-.300, 25-35 home runs, .870-.910 OPS
Comparable player: Rickie Weeks in the outfield

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Ground Ball Grafix: The F/X of the GB

When my dad called to tell me his thoughts on the website last week, we had a conversation that resulted in the creation of the TPC Reference Guide I posted last night. After we covered some of the basics, he wanted to know why I was so obsessed with ground ball rates and why I gave ground ball pitchers so much credit. We went back and forth on the benefits and shortcomings of ground balls from a defensive standpoint, but I'm not sure I explained my reasoning to him all that well.

One of my dad's primary objections to ground balls was that fly balls are so much easier to turn into outs. I couldn't really argue with him on that point, since fielding a grounder involves several steps and multiple players before an out is recorded. I remembered that somewhere between 70-80% of ground balls resulted in an out, but I had no clue what percentage of fly balls turned into an out. My dad guessed about 90% or more, and I guessed somewhere just south of that. After a bit of research, here's what I found.

I only used numbers from the American League (all stats from 2007), but the National League is pretty much the same. On average, a major league team will turn 74% of ground balls into outs, and 83% of fly balls into outs. So, in a way, my dad was right. Ground balls don't create as many outs as fly balls. Here's a graphical representation of the above stats for those of you who like to see instead of read things.

Now that we have the basic numbers nailed down, we still have to figure out why ground balls are better for a pitcher than fly balls, despite the fact that fly balls are easier outs. In order to answer that problem, we have to look at this from a different angle.

In a general sense, a pitcher's job is to create outs. But in more specific terms, his job is to eliminate the creation of runs by the other team. That means that anything that could produce a run becomes the common enemy of all pitchers, including hits, walks, errors, home runs, and so forth. However, it is quite obvious that just as a strikeout will produce an out 100% of the time, a home run will also produce a run 100% of the time. And just like a ground ball doesn't always produce an out, a single or walk doesn't always produce a run. So, there are essentially a variety of levels of enemies a pitcher must deal with, and they are not all created the same.

What does this all mean? It essentially means that fly balls and ground balls don't generally result in the same number of runs. In fact, there's quite a difference between the 2, as you can see in the following chart.

Once again, the graphical representation of the above chart.

On average, a fly ball results in almost 4 times the number of runs as a ground ball. And if you think about it, it makes sense. Most extra base hits (like home runs, doubles, etc.) are the result of fly balls, while ground balls rarely create extra base hits.

If we translate the above numbers into real life, we can see more clearly why fly balls are such a bad thing for pitchers. Let's say we have a group of 7 pitchers, each exactly like the other in every way. They have the same pitching repertoire, the same velocity and movement on every pitch, the same strikeout rates, the same walk rates, the same defense behind them, and so forth. However, they all have a different ground ball rate. The best of them has a 65% GB%, while the worst has a 35% GB%. Per 100 batted balls they allow, how many runs will each of them give up if we go by the MLB average of runs created per ground ball and fly ball?

With a 30% drop in ground ball rate, the a difference of almost 4 extra runs is allowed by the 35% GB% pitcher as compared to the 65% GB% pitcher per 100 batted balls. It may not sound like a lot, but it's a difference of 40.8% more runs allowed by the worst pitcher than the best pitcher on our list. In a season of 162 games, the difference in runs allowed becomes a major issue.

Using a rough estimate, if a pitcher gives up 500 batted balls over the course of a season, that could be a difference of 20 extra runs over 20 to 30 starts. That means our 35% GB% pitcher is giving up an average of close to 1 extra run per start compared to the 65% GB% pitcher. The Braves, who were 4-21 in 1 one run games through July 1st, could certainly have benefited this season from a Chuck James with a 65% GB% instead of the ghastly 28% GB% they've seen from him.

In conclusion, ground balls don't always create the same number of immediate outs as fly balls, but they certainly reduce the numbers of runs an opposing offense can create. Not to mention the fact that by giving up fewer runs a ground ball pitcher can stay in games longer, allowing relief pitchers to carry a lighter load throughout the season, while also giving their team a greater chance to win day in and day out. And that's why if given a choice between 2 seemingly identical pitchers, I always go with the pitcher with the higher ground ball rate.
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Friday, August 8, 2008

TPC Reference Guide and Definitions

Last week my dad called to tell me that he had stopped by to check out the site, and though he liked what he saw, he didn't understand all the terms used in my posts. So, for the next 15 minutes we discussed things like BABIP, WHIP, GB%, and what they all mean. After our chat I realized that casual baseball fans like my dad might need a simple reference guide for terms and definitions. I'll try to list commonly used terms and definitions in this post, and if you all think of any I should add, let me know. If I can figure out a way to do it, I'll try and make this post a side bar link or something.

  • AB -- At-bat. Plate appearances minus walks.
  • BA -- Batting Average
  • BABIP -- Batting Average for Balls In Play. (Total Hits - Home runs) / (At-bats - Strikeouts - Home runs - Sacrifices). Shows how often a hitter reaches base after making contact during an at-bat. Generally, a BABIP of .300 is considered the norm, while a BABIP extremely above or below .300 indicates good or bad luck on the hitter's part.
  • BB -- Bases on Balls, or walks
  • ERA -- Earned Run Average. (Earned Runs) / (Innings Pitched / 9)
  • GB% -- Ground Ball Percentage. The percentage of all batted balls in play that result in a ground ball. Applies to pitchers and hitters.
  • FIP -- Fielding Independent Pitching. Essentially a modified ERA for pitchers. Eliminates the effect that defense has on ERA by only counting the stats that a pitcher has direct control over, i.e. walks, home runs, and strikeouts. FIP is usually considered a more accurate determination of a pitcher's ability than ERA. The formula for FIP is ((HR * 13 + (BB + HBP) * 3 - SO * 2) / IP) + League Factor (which is generally between 3.0 and 3.5 depending on the league and strength of competition). It should be noted that FIP does not compensate for a pitcher's fly ball to groundball ratio, which directly effects run production, and is usually considered a pitcher controlled ratio.
  • ISOP -- Isolate Power. (Slugging Percentage - Batting Average). Helps define a hitter's power isolated from his contact rates. Power hitters usually post an ISOP above .250.
  • LD% -- Line Drive Percentage. The percentage of all plate appearances that result in a line drive. Applies to hitters and pitchers.
  • OBP -- On Base Percentage. The percentage of a hitter's plate appearances that result in that hitter reaching base safely either through walks and hits.
  • OPS -- On Base Plus Slugging Percentage. Combines a hitter's ability to reach base with his power totals.
  • PA -- Plate Appearances.
  • SLG% -- Slugging Percentage. A hitter's total bases from hits divided by his total at-bats.
  • WHIP -- Walks or Hits per Innings Pitched. A statistic to help track how many batters a pitcher allows to reach base per inning.

Baseball America Hot Sheet: Week of August 1st-7th

It's here! The Friday afternoon Hot Sheet! There are some good names on the list, so let's get to it.

  1. Mike Moustakas, 3b, Royals -- Perhaps Moustakas is finally living up to the hype. He certainly has been very productive lately 7 extra base hits in 26 plate appearances. I'm not sold on Moustakas quite yet, but he's beginning to grow on me.
  2. David Price, lhp, Rays -- After going 12 innings with 17 strikeouts, 4 walks, and only 1 earned run, Price deserves to be at the top of this list. But, his numbers still aren't as great those posted by younger pitchers in AA this season. Here's the stat line of 21 year old pitcher in his last 3 AA starts of the year (I'll let you guess who it is...): 15 IP, 21 K, 3 BB, 2 ER, 56% GB%.
  3. Lars Anderson, 1B, Red Sox -- I know I don't share popular opinion on this one, but I like Anderson over Travis Snider. Anderson has such a better plate approach, and I think he'll succeed faster in the majors than Snider.
  4. Chris Tillman, rhp, Orioles -- Have the Orioles had solid pitching prospect over the last few years? I haven't taken the time to look into it myself, but I think Tillman is probably the best they've had in a long time.
  5. Logan Morrison, 1B, Marlins -- Another great hitter coming up through the Marlins system. What a surprise. Morrison has a lot more power than people give him credit for, and he's got a fantastic approach at the plate. But now the question is, would I take Lars Anderson or Logan Morrison?
  6. Ivan DeJesus, 2B, Dodgers -- Not a bad hitter, but not enough upside at second base to make me take a closer look.
  7. Yamaico Navarro, SS, Red Sox -- It's amazing what playing in the Cal League can do to a player's stats. From .280/.341/.412 at A ball to .379/.400/.589 at A+ ball, all in the same year? I hope Red Sox fans aren't drinking the water.
  8. Madison Bumgarner, lhp, Giants -- Baseball America now has Bumgarner listed as a 19 year old, but he spent almost the entire year pitching at A ball as an 18 year old, while posting a 1.62 ERA and a 125:18 K:BB ratio. Absurd. I am concerned about his depressed GB% compared to earlier in the year, but it's not a major issue when you're striking out 30% of the batters you face and most of them are a couple of years older than you.
  9. James McDonald, rhp, Dodgers -- At 23, McDonald would have to put up some insane numbers to impress me. He's not bad, but his stuff isn't good enough to make him much more than a #3 or #4 starter in the majors.
  10. Carlos Santana, C, Indians -- Another player performing well, but just a bit too old to make me want to know more.
  11. Jesus Montero, C, Yankees -- Here's the kind of prospect I like. Succeeding at a level well above his age, and power to boot. Montero is 6'4" and 225 lbs at 18 years old! What are they feeding this kid?
  12. Tyler Flowers, C, Braves -- I still don't know where Flowers fits into the Braves future plans. On any other team, he would be a prime catching prospect. But the Braves tend to be knee deep in catchers at the moment, and Flowers doesn't really have the bat to play first base, so what do you do with him?
  13. Brandon Erbe, rhp, Orioles -- I spoke too soon about Chris Tillman. Erbe is better. So, when was the last time the Orioles had 2 good pitching prospects?
And that's it. Now it's time for Olympic baseball.
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