Thursday, February 28, 2008

Spring Training Notes

Wow, school is burying me! And all I wanna' do is head down to Florida and watch a few Spring Training games! Anyways, here's a few Spring Training notes from around the web...

Francisco Liriano finally got his visa and has made it to camp with the Twins. Meanwhile, Johan Santana and the Mets picked up where they left off last year by tying the University of Michigan's baseball squad.

Athletic's fans are cursing the name of Billy Beane right now, but the young talent he brought in this off-season is already showing signs of impressive talent.

The Red Sox are stockpiling pitching arms, and even asked Barry Bonds if he could throw a knuckle curve.

Andruw Jones showed up to camp at a very healthy 240 pounds. Maybe he's depressed that the Braves didn't sign him, or maybe the new uni makes him look fat, but he sure didn't miss many meals this off-season. Right now he's only 30 pounds lighter than Prince Fielder, who has decided to quit eating meat and cheese.

Scott Kazmir, Chad Billingsley, and a whole bunch of other pitchers have been scratched from starts already this year. Kazmir will be out for at least a couple of weeks. It sure would be a shame if he can't anchor the Rays pitching staff this year.

The Pirates have expressed plans to "build around" young guys like Steve Pearce, but obviously have planned to "lose around" guys like Xavier Nady for at least a few more months.

Ryan Howard is hoping to entertain contract offerings following the 2008 season of 8 to 10 years, worth $20 million annually. I wouldn't support committing that much money to a guy that will be 38 years old in 10 years, but I could think of worse investments.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Beckett Suspended Me for Using

Some of you (probably most of you, actually) know of me and my blog from posts that started out on the Beckett Baseball Message Boards. I like to cruise the boards and keep an eye on the hobby, but I also like to get to know people on the boards and their stories. Anyways, I recently started a thread about microlending, which I recently tried out on The thread was met with mixed responses, but overall I think people were appreciative of the idea and showed an aptitude for thinking of more than just their own bottom line.

The thread was not meant to promote Kiva or to increase my own financial numbers, but Beckett suspended my account for "spamming" the boards. I understand that my thread was borderline promotion of a financial institution, but anyone who knows anything about Kiva realizes that it's a non-profit organization and there is absolutely no way that I or anyone else would gain some kind of monetary kick back for informing others of its existence.

My suspension from the Beckett boards will last until March 23, so my threads titled under the "My $.02" heading will continue some time after the suspension is lifted. Until then, I'll be posting solely on this blog or the Chief Noc-a-homa blog. My thanks goes out to those who defended my microlending thread, and hopefully some of those that opposed it will realize the sincere intentions behind it.

Here's a picture and short profile of the family that I lended my first $25 to:

Mrs. Yon Phalla is 37 years old and works as a teacher at Check Angre secondary school in the Takmoa district of the Kandal province. Her husband, Mr. Chhan Vanthan, is 44 years old and drives a motorcycle taxi. They have two children who are both in school. To earn a living for their family, Yon and her husband work hard everyday. Yon is requesting $1100.00 in order to build a fifteen-room house that she can then rent to customers. She has proven to be a reliable client of HKL. And she thanks HKL for their support and promises to be accurate in her loan payment.
(About 13% of the requested $1100 has been met, for a total of $150. As I get updates about Yon and her family I'll post them here.)


Adam G.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pirate Pearce Posting

Found this article by Matt Bandi about Steve Pearce that I thought was very insightful. Bandi says that the reason Steve Pearce won't start the season with the Pirates is because GM Neal Huntington is trying to maintain Nady's trade value and will wait for a team in need of an experienced outfielder to come calling with a decent offer. Bandi also feels that if Pearces does well for a month or so at AAA and a trade doesn't happen then Pearce will eventually be called up and given a shot at right field. It all sounds reasonable to me.

2008 Top 10 Hitting Prospects

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
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.

2. Jay Bruce
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.

3. Daric Barton
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.

4. Steve Pearce
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.

5. Colby Rasmus
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 son from him, but he will eventually become a very good all-around player with extra power.

6. Chris Marrero
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.

7. Chris Davis
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.


8. Fernando Martinez
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.


9. Hank Conger
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.

10. Carlos Gonzalez
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.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Chief Noc-a-Homa Spring Training Tips

Over at my Chief Noc-a-Homa Braves Blog I've posted some tips for making the most of your time when heading down to Spring Training. I've also posted an article about Jo Jo Reyes and Anthony Lerew, so if you're interested fell free to take a look. You can click the link above or click the link at the left side of the page.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Chris Davis Update

Chris Davis Back to 1st Base to Stay

I know that most people don't care much about the Rangers, and Chris Davis isn't considered a very popular prospect, but I really like him and with so little baseball news right now, this is actually a very interesting development. The Rangers are going to leave Jarrod Saltalamacchia at catcher and are basically projecting Chris Davis as their 1st baseman for 2009 by playing him solely at 1st in AAA this year. That means that if he's playing well come August or September, he'll likely get a call up and be in the bigs to stay.

Joba Chamberlain

I wrote this article in December and posted it on Wax Heaven, but for those of you who haven't had a chance to read it, I've decided to post it here. There were are 2 follow-up posts to this one that I might post in another day or so.

I’ve had several people ask me to take a look at Joba, and I’ve been putting if off for a while simply because I haven’t quite figured out what I really think about him. At first glance it would seem that he’s everything a prospector could hope for. He’s young, he’s got a cool name, he plays for the Yankees, he throws gas and he pitches with his cap down low. Even though his BC auto prices seem high right now, there’s still room for growth, especially when you consider how much Yankees fans are willing to spend for their favorite players. So what’s holding me back? Why can’t I pull the ebay trigger? Well, part of my hesitancy has to do with this pesky list…

John Maine

Hideo Nomo

Kyle Davies

Steve Avery

Rick Ankiel

Kerry Wood

Mark Prior

Dontrelle Willis

Without digging too far back into baseball history, I came up with this list to illustrate the dangers of falling for the hype when it comes to young pitchers. Maine pitched 26 scoreless innings, Nomo transcended continents, Davies didn’t allow a run in his first 3 big league starts, Avery dissolved into thin air, Ankiel turned into an outfielder, Wood and Prior played for the Cubs, and Willis is taking his NL East 5.17 ERA over to the AL Central.

So I feel like I have plenty of reasons to be cautious with Joba, but most collectors are aware of the dozens of pitcher busts that started out so promising, and that still hasn’t deterred many people from driving Joba’s prices through the roof. To be fair, each player should be judged according to his individual situation and a list of duds hardly amounts to solid evidence against anyone. So in the spirit of accuracy, let’s look a closer at the facts and see what we can come up with (for the purpose of making clearer comparisons to other players, I will take the most definitive stats from a players minor league career and compare them by age rather than organization and level).

Joba Minor League Stats


21 88.1 2.45 27 135 13.79 2.76 1.01

Those are good, solid stats, and looking at them it’s easy to see why Yankees fans are so excited about this guy. As a comparable, let’s use another fireball pitcher that saw similar success in the minors.

Roger Clemens Minor League Stats


20 71.0 1.33 12 95 10.55 1.33 0.80

21 46.2 1.93 14 50 9.64 2.70 1.14

You could argue that Clemens was better in some areas while Chamberlain might have been better in others, but I don’t want to try extracting too much deep meaning from these numbers. It’s tough to compare two guys that played in the minors 20 years apart, but you can see that Chamberlain and Clemens both showed good control, high K/9 ratios, and strong ERA and WHIP totals at an early age, and that’s all I’m really interested in looking at right now. To get into more details, we’ll need some more recent comparison.

Scott Kazmir Minor League Stats

20 101 2.49 42 104 9.26 3.74 1.20

Felix Hernandez Minor League Stats (strictly his AAA ball stats)

19 88.0 2.25 48 100 10.23 4.91 1.25

Justin Verlander Minor League Stats

22 118.2 1.29 26 136 10.35 1.98 0.89

Huston Street Minor League Stats

20 25.3 1.42 8 30 10.67 1.42 1.15

Looking at these comparables, it’s not hard to understand why the Yankees faithful are so giddy. Put a guy like Huston Street or Verlander in New York and their card prices would probably be pretty high as well. Add in the fact that Chamberlain has a higher K/9 ratio and you’ve got one very appealing prospect. If his comparables are any indication, Joba could post a 3.50 ERA, maintain a nice K/9 ratio, improve on his BB/9 ratio, keep his WHIP around 1.25 and probably pick up some wins playing for the Yankees. And let’s not forget that as a perennial favorite to make the play-offs, the Yankees will provide plenty of opportunities for Chamberlain to make a name for himself in the postseason.

And now for a word of warning: Joba may be a starter in the Yankees rotation in ’08.

“But wait a minute,” you’re sayng, “wouldn’t it be better if he was a starter than if he continued to come out of the pen as a set-up man?” Well, yes and no. As a set-up man, Chamberlain had the advantage of facing a batter just once in a game, which usually meant that the batter had very few opportunities to adjust, which translated into higher strikeout numbers, a lower ERA, and an overall sense that Joba was unhittable. Take Huston Street for an example. Compared to Justin Verlander, Street has done considerably better in the majors even though they had similar minor league stats. As a starter, Verlander must face a team’s entire line-up 3 or 4 times in a game, and thus allows more opportunity for hitters to adjust and score runs on him. The same type of thing is likely to factor into Joba’s early career.

With all this in mind, am I sold on Joba? In short, yes. He’s as much the-real-deal as we’ve seen lately, and he’s in a great position to have a very successful early career in New York. Of course we have to be weary of injuries, burn out, bad luck, etc., but the Yankees seem to be making a concerted effort to bring their young pitchers along slowly and not work them too hard. Joba is also a big guy, so you have to like his chances of holding up under a long regular season and an intense post season schedule. Of course he’ll take some lumps along the way, so I expect his prices to drop back down a little bit at some point. If you’ve already spent some money on him, I would hold on to a few cards and hope for a big playoff run in ’08 by the Yanks while selling off a few at a profit while prices are high and optimism overrules reason. If you haven’t picked up any of his cards, I would suggest holding off until there’s a lull in prices and then buying a few cards and waiting for a nice post season or even a Cy Young type year.

Finally, I want to leave you with one last comparable, and then I’m done. I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves.

Josh Beckett Minor League Stats

21 139.3 1.55 34 203 13.12 2.20 0.84

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What Happened to Todd Van Poppel?

I posted an article about Todd Van Popp el on Wax Heaven about a month ago, and I recently got a request to re-post it here on The Prosp ect Corner. Originally, I wrote about Van Poppel because of a previous article I had written about Joba Chamberlain that was picked up by The Baseball Think Factory, where it was listed under the title Joba Chamberlain: The Next Rocket or the Next Todd Van Poppel? In the article I had mentioned that Chamberlain matched up well with Clemens, but I didn’t include anything about Van Poppel, so I wrote this article as a follow up to clarify my break down of Joba. Anyways, here’s the Van Poppel bit…

I was about 10 years old when the Van Poppel craze began, so naturally I don’t remember much about that event in baseball history. However, looking back at his stats, it’s difficult for me to imagine what all the fuss was about. Van Poppel’s A- number were good, but after that his BB/K ratios completely fell apart and he never put up any kind of “elite” numbers that would have given any support to the hype surrounding him. Even if I had remembered to include Van Poppel on my “bust” list, his stats are not at all comparable to Chamberlain’s.

Apparently, when the A’s signed Van Poppel, they signed him to a major league contract and not a minor league contract. Consequently, the A’s could only use a limited number of minor league options on Van Poppel, so they had to rush him through the minors and he never really had time to develop. In scouting reports, Van Poppel was described as having a blazing fastball with no movement, which helps explain the discrepancy between his A- numbers and the rest of his career. I’m not sure what other pitches he developed, but they obviously weren’t good enough to compliment his fastball. Van Poppel also suffered from set-backs due to injury, and that probably added to his demise.

Looking at Van Poppel’s stats got me thinking about a few other pitching “busts” of the last 20 years and one of the first names that came to my mind was Brien Taylor.

Taylor was signed the year after Van Poppel, and had similar hype surrounding him. After his year at AA ball, Taylor suffered a torn labrum in a fight and his numbers only got worse after his stint in rookie ball at the age of 23. His labrum tear was supposedly one of the worst ever seen by doctors and considering that the success rate today for labrum tear surgeries is about 70%, it’s easy to assume that 15 years ago the success rate was much lower. In a sense, Taylor was a bust, but really he was just a kid that lost it all due to one bad decision in a heated moment.

While I feel more assured in my analysis of Joba Chamberlain (at the very least we know he most likely will not be the next Todd Van Poppel), I am interested to know if there are other pitchers out there that I missed that posted similar numbers to Chamberlain but went on to have mediocre careers. I’m sure they are out there, so if you find any, let me know.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Anatomy of a Bust Part 1

Well guys, it's Monday morning, and since I don't feel like studying yet I thought it would be more fun to talk baseball. Over at John Sickels' Minor League Ball blog Sickels has posted some old top prospect lists from 2000 and 2001, including current total major league win shares for each player and commentary on guys that didn't pan out. Here's some of his comments from the 2001 list:

Pitcher Busts

Ryan Anderson (injuries, high school pitcher)
Bobby Bradley (injuries, high school pitcher)
Jovanny Cedeno (injuries, free agent Dominican Republic)
Ben Christensen (injuries, college pitcher)
Chris George (sucked, high school pitcher)
Adam Johnson (sucked, college pitcher)

Nick Neugebauer (injuries, high school pitcher)
Bud Smith (injuries, junior college pitcher)

Hitter Busts
Joe Borchard (tools bust, college)
Dee Brown (bust, high school)
Drew Henson (tools bust, high school)
Abraham Nunez (Age-Gate, Dominican Republic )
Jose Ortiz (Dominican Republic, played well in Japan)


A) Be very skeptical about football players
B) Injuries kill pitchers
C) Talent can come from anywhere. The two best players on this list, Pujols and Oswalt, both came from the junior college ranks and were low-round picks (13th for Pujols, 23rd for Oswalt
D) Some tools guys pan out, others don't. Some sluggers pan out, others don't. Obvious, but true.
E) Even now it is too early to fully evaluate this list. We don't know what will happen with Cust, Hamilton, and Betemit in particular.

I like to look back at old prospects lists and see how accurate or how far off different systems are when predicting major league success, and then break it down like Sickels has done and determine what major factors are behind each bust or break-out player. Like Sickels, I think the #1 threat to all pitchers is injury, while the #1 threat to hitters is the toolsy or slugger type prospect hype that is hard to live up to. As I've spent time going over these types of lists I've also come up with my own explanations for player performance or lack thereof that I think are also important to note.

1. Inappropriate projections based off of body type and not based off of performance.

Whenever I read a scouting report that starts out with something like, "Reminds me of a young ____," then I'm automatically skeptical. Any scout that bases his (or her) opinion of a prospect off of what a player looks like is a scout that is too caught up in appearances and biases and isn't seeing what's really important about a player. I know it sounds like I'm making this too basic, but if a hitter looks, talks, acts, runs, swings, smells and tastes like Ken Griffey Jr., but his mechanics only allow a bat speed that is 65% of Ken Griffey Jr.'s bat speed, then all that exterior stuff is just a deceptive facade. In reality, a hitter or pitcher is simply a sum of mechanical parts being operated by a nervous system rooted in a base of mentally recorded experiences. There are so many minor motions that go into a swing or a throwing motion that it's really only fair to base a scouting report off of appearances only if it is paired with motion detecting equipment that can give a fair and accurate read on the end result. Radar guns are helpful in some regards, but there is some very amazing computer based motion detection equipment out there that I don't think is used adequately when judging hitters, and consequently a lot of guys are touted as the next big thing when really they show very few similarities to established players.

Instead of using superficial analysis of appearances, it would be much more productive to use measurements like bat speed, the ball speed off of the bat, and ball rotation from the pitcher's hand to the plate as well as rotation off of the bat. I know that some these types of measurements can only be accomplished in a lab setting, but it's possible to performs some of these measurements using high speed video equipment, a laptop and a little bit of patience and intelligence. I've had the opportunity to do research using motion capturing sensors and cameras and it's amazing how much information the human eye is unable to observe that other equipment can easily pick up on. I'm certain there are teams and scouts that use such equipment, but I'm also just as certain that there are some scouts out there that don't even know how to open a laptop.

Besides simple mechanics, I think a lot of players are judged based off of "tools" and projected development without proper analysis of already apparent strengths and weaknesses. Just as an example, in 2001 Corey Patterson was ranked the #1 prospect in baseball, with Albert Pujols ranked as the #18 prospect, and while some would argue that Patterson was a bust and Pujols was a surprise break-out, I would argue that the opposite is true.
I know some might say that Patterson had more speed and more "tools", but he wasn't very efficient on the base paths and all of his hype was more assumed projection than anything else. When you cut away all the superfluous excitement, Pujols and Patterson were capable of similar power numbers, but Patterson was a much higher risk based off of his plate discipline. An 11% difference in strikeout rates doesn't seem like much, but when you pair it with a 2% difference in walk rates, Patterson was giving up 13% more of his at-bats, which basically meant that he had half the plate discipline that Pujols did, meaning that his chances at succeeding as a hitter were much less than Pujols'. If you don't believe me, just crunch the numbers while assigning weighted values to each players stats based off of year-to-year statistical consistency from the following numbers and accompanying explanation pulled from an article titled Baseball Prospectus Basics by James Click:

To the far-left we have our offensive metrics, followed by the

R-Squared, as well as the

Standard Deviation. For the uninitiated, R-Squared is another term for "coefficient of

determination"--a measurement of correlation.

The higher the R-Squared total, the greater the correlation, and thus, the more consistent the metric. Depending on how it's being used, an R-Squared of below 0.5000 is typically considered too low to justify any sort of predictive value. Standard deviation, meanwhile, is simply a measure of variance--the higher the number, the more volatile the metric.

In simpler terms, the numbers that are most accurate in predicting year-to-year consistency are K%, BB%, HR% and ISO. Going back to our Pujols and Patterson comparison, we see that the differences in K% and BB% are actually very significant, especially when you consider the weight that K% has in predicting year-to-year consistency. I don't want to spend too much time breaking down the numbers and boring everyone with weighted statistical data, but I wa nt to make it clear that by judging a player's past performance, you can get a pretty accurate picture of what their chances at success at the big league level are, and projected development should be replaced with realized development. With that in mind, I think Patterson has developed about like his stats suggest he would, meaning that he was a victim of hype rather than a simple bust, and Pujols has lived up to his stats as well.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Chief Noc-a-Homa Braves Blog

As a life long Braves fan the only thing I love more than baseball is Braves baseball, so I've decided to start up a Braves blog as well. I'll continue to post on this blog about prospects, baseball, and whatever else comes to mind, but the Braves site will be for breaking down all the Braves stuff that may not be interesting to fans of other teams. I think most baseball fans in general will enjoy the site, but maybe not. I might combine the 2 to make things easier to keep up with, but for now I'll see how it goes.

Anyways, the blog is called Chief Noc-a-Homa, named after the old Braves mascot that was supposed to resemble an American Indian Chief. He was a fatality of the politically correct movement that swept through sports in the recent past, but I remember seeing him at games as a kid and being very intrigued by his mystical yet out-of-place presence. In tribute to him and the mighty Braves I'll try to keep fresh posts up with information for both the casual and super intense fan alike.

Feel free to check it out at or just click on the link on the side of the page.

Jair Jurrjens

Though the off season has been full of big trades and free agent signings, the Braves have mostly steered clear of any major deals. Sure, they let go of Andruw, but that wasn't a big surprise, and they picked up Glavine, but most fans saw that one coming before the '07 season ended. The one transaction that hasn't received much attention is the Renteria trade involving Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez.

The Renteria trade actually began back in July -- maybe sooner -- when the Braves were shopping around for starting pitching. They were looking to move Renteira at the time, but pitching was scarce so they ultimately had to focus on offense. When Mark Teixeira became available it seemed like it was time to make a big move despite the fact that the Braves would be giving up the majority of their top minor league prospects. A lot of fans moaned and complained about trading the future for a shot at a playoff run, but in retrospect Schuerholz and company knew exactly what they were doing. Neither Elvis Andrus nor Jarrod Saltalamacchia were headed for super stardom and neither one will ever approach the offensive capacity of Teixeira, and with Yunel Escobar and Brian McCann around, both Andrus and Salty became very expendable. The Braves also included some young pitching in the deal, but they didn't give up anyone that would make a significant impact in the next several years.

Knowing that they would soon be dealing Renteria, Braves management no doubt spent plenty of time scouting around for replacement prospects and found two that they liked in Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez. The Tigers, who had a hole at shortstop and a deep farm system, were more than willing to make a trade happen. All in all, the Braves traded Renteria and a few above average prospects and got Mark Teixeira and two above average prospects in return. That's a pretty nice deal if you ask me, especially when you consider the fact that the Braves got Renteria for Andy Marte (what went wrong with him?), and the Red Sox paid a nice chunk of Renteria's contract during his time in Atlanta. Not bad...not bad at all.

Anyways, most fans really didn't pay much attention to the Renteria deal and it really didn't get much attention from the media either. It was a classic Braves transaction involving an aging veteran coming off of a career year and some unknown but very talented and undervalued prospects that few fans had ever heard of. Without getting too involved in the details, Gorkys Hernandez is widely regarded as a solid top 100 prospect in baseball and has put up some very solid numbers in the minors, but he was overshadowed in the Tigers farm system by Cameron Maybin. I'll write more about him later, but he'll be a great addition to the club in a couple of years and should be a great replacement following the loss of Elvis Andrus.


Jair Jurrjens was another overlooked prospect in the Tigers farm system who was playing in the shadow of Andrew Miller, but Jurrjens had a nice combination of solid strikeout rates and a good groundball percentage, something that recent Braves pitching prospects have been lacking. The great Braves teams of the '90s relied heavily on ground ball, finesse type pitchers like Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, so I was happy to see that Jurrjens would be battling for a spot in the rotation this spring. At 6'1" and 160 pounds he's not a big, overpowering pitcher, but he keeps his walk totals low, has good control and is an intelligent pitcher on the mound. Jurrjens doesn't consider himself to be a finesse pitcher, but feels that he falls somewhere in between finesse and power pitching. He throws 4 pitches, including a four seam fastball, a two seam fastball, a change up, and a slurve, and he also speaks 4 languages including English, Spanish, Dutch, and Papiamentu, a language spoken in his home of Curacao, also home of former Atlanta Brave Andruw Jones. Jurrjens began pitching professionally with the Tigers at the age of 17, and through 5 years in the minors he has maintained a 7.24 K/9 rate with 2.17 BB/9 and a ground ball percentage of just under 51%. To give you an idea of where that puts him developmentally, here are a few comparable pitchers that have seen time in the majors recently:


That's some decent company for a young pitcher to be in, and I think Jurrjens matches up pretty well with all of them. Duke, of course has had some struggles recently, but I think he'll rebound and have several more years of productive pitching before his career is over. It's worth noting that Tom Glavine carried a 7.13 K/9 rate along with a BB/9 of 4 and a gound ball rate of 49% in the minors, so if Jurrjens can manage to talk Glavine into sharing some off his secrets, then Jurrjens could possibly be one of the next great Atlanta pitchers. If we use Jurrjens' comparable players to project his 2008 stats (assuming he makes the major league team at some point, which I'm almost certain he will), we get some decent numbers:


Sheets and Willis are pretty consistent, but Duke just had a monster debut and kind of messes up the projection. However, given Dukes recent ERA surge, I think it's safe to say that an ERA in the 4.50 area is very reasonable, and a projection of about 100 innings pitched sounds pretty good. Obviously, depending on how Mike Hampton does coming off of a 2 year DL stint and how much the Braves can rely on several other young pitchers, Jurrjens could see anywhere from 50 innings to 150 innings with the major league club. Regardless of the number of innings we see out of Jurrjens, a 4.50 ERA would be better than the 5.76 and 6.22 posted by Kyle Davis and Jo Jo Reyes respectively in 2007. Chuck James held an ERA of 4.24 over 161 IP last season, and he walked away with 11 wins and 10 losses in 30 starts, so I would guess that a stat line for Jurrjens in 2008 would look something like 100 IP, 4.50 ERA and 8 wins to 6 losses. Over the next few years that ERA will sneak down below 4.00 and Jurrjens will likely have a few 15+ win seasons before the age of 30.

So that's my take on Jair Jurrjens. I think the Braves got a pretty good deal in the Renteria trade, and Jurrjens should make for a solid #3 starter by the end of next year and maybe even a #2 or #1 started in the next 5 years. I don't think he's got Hall of Fame stuff or anything, but in a time when pitching is at a premium, I'm glad to see the Braves get a solid young arm in the rotation.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

2008 Projection Combos

Hey guys, sorry I haven't posted in several days, I had an anatomy exam today at 8:00 a.m., so I've been studying stacks of notes and illustrations non-stop since Monday night. But at least now I have an idea of what NOT to slice open when seeing patients.

Anyways, I was just looking over some projections for 2008 and I thought I would post a few and make some comments. Some of them look good, while others surprised me.

Billy Butler
Bill James-- 17 HR, 35 2B, 90 RBI, .293 Avg
CHONE-- 16 HR, 33 2B, 78 RBI, .281 Avg
Marcel-- 10 HR, 23 2B, 53 RBI, .298 Avg

No matter how you look at it, those are pretty good numbers for a guy who will turn 22 this season. The Marcel numbers are based off of 342 at-bats, so they're a bit low, but I think the average is accurate. So maybe we're looking at 15-20 home runs and an average around .295. Butler's RBI totals could be the most difficult to predict since the Royals are such a young team with so many question marks. If somebody like Alex Gordon gets hot then maybe Butler's numbers would benefit as well, but I think 85 RBIs would be a safe bet.

Ryan Braun
Bill James-- 46 home runs, .326 Avg, 122 RBI
CHONE-- 30 HR, .293 Avg, 88 RBI
Marcel-- 25 HR, .314 Avg, 79 RBI

There seems to be a small debate going on about which Ryan Braun we will see in 2008. Prior the the 2007 season, Braun was an above-average prospect with good power, but no one expected him to hit for such a high average and post such high run production numbers so soon. If Braun has the season that Bill James is predicting, then he should easily be in the top 5 MVP candidates, but if he shows the type of regression that CHONE is suggesting then his rookie year will just be a fluke surge in power and average for Braun. I think Braun is for real, and his 2007 numbers were a result of a player finding his comfort zone and letting things gel at the plate. By the end of the year he was approaching a home rune rate of 1 HR/ 10 PA which is really amazing for a player his age, but his BABIP for the year was .367 while his career BABIP is much closer to .300. I expect those power numbers to remain the same, with an batting average of about 30 points lower. With all the other great young hitters on that team, I think an RBI of 110-120 is very reasonable, so I'd say a line of 40 HR, .295 Avg and 115 RBIs sounds about right.

B.J. Upton
Bill James-- 21 HR, .276 Avg, 29 2B and 32 SB
CHONE-- 17 HR, .273 Avg, 26 2B and 37 SB
Marcel-- 17 HR, .293 Avg, 22 2B and 19 SB

The Marcel projections are based off of 433 at-bats, while the Bill James and CHONE projections are based off of 500+ at-bats, so it looks like all 3 are pretty much in agreement about the power numbers and batting average. Marcel comes in low on stolen bases, but I think 30 or so is about right, maybe more. The only number I am skeptical about is the home run totals because Upton had 24 home runs in 474 at-bats in 2007, so I would guess that if he spends the whole year as a starter then I would expect him to hit 20+ and maybe even 25 home runs. He seems to be developing quickly, so I expect a great season from him with an outside shot at 30/30 status.

Well guys, that's about all the time I have for now. Time to go study for my radiology exam tomorrow, but I'll try to get back to some more projection combos soon.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Eye Heart Pecota

The Pecota Projections for 2008 are slowly leaking out, and though I don't have a subscription, through google searches and other blogs I've been able to dig up projections for some of the guys I'm watching. I'm still considering signing up so I can just use Pecota whenever I feel like it, but between the free info bouncing around the internet and my own stat formulas I think I should be able to get all the information I want. I really like Pecota though and I think it's a fantastic system, I'm just too poor right now to pay for it. Maybe next year, or maybe three years from now when I get a real job.

Here's what I've been able to find on some of the big name guys so far:

Alex Gordon: Bluh...more of the same.

Ryan Zimmerman: Watch out, he could be big

Felix Pie and Lastings Milledge: Expect good showings

Wily Mo: 30+ home runs?

Dontrelle Willis: Not as bad as last year

Felix Hernandez: He'll get better, but still won't meet expectations

Johan Santana: Sub 3.00 ERA, lots of K's

Colby Rasmus: .245/.327/.437...whoa...

Pujols: Biggest, baddest mama-jamma ever

Rick Ankiel: 30+ home runs

Ryan Braun: Dude's for real

Dustin Pedroia: .288/.353/.420, not bad, not good, about right

Joba: 3.39 ERA out of the pen

Lincecum: 3.58 ERA, but doesn't go past 150 IP

Yovani Gallardo: 3.88 ERA

Chad Billingsley: 3.96 ERA

As more info leaks out I'll try and keep you all updated. Or, if you have anything you'd like to add, feel free to leave comments.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Watch List

Just a few under-the-radar guys I'll be watching closely as Spring Training approaches and the new season draws near...

Steve Pearce
2007-- 24 years old--- AAA-- .320/.366/.557/.923

If Pirates fans liked Jason Bay, I think they're going to love Pearce. He's got a very good bat and plays solid defense. Unfortunately he's blocked by several guys on the big league team (Xavier Nady? Are you serious?...), so he'll have to start the year at AAA. I think they'll have to call him up at some point during the year when injuries start to be an issue, and I think he'll be a fan favorite by the All-Star Break.

Jaime Garcia
2007-- 20 years old-- AA- 3.75 ERA, 8.45 K/9, 3.92 BB/9, 56% GB rate

The Cardinals are hoping that their pitching staff will hold up better than it did last year, but in case it doesn't they do have a few young arms they could call on this summer. Garcia is generally listed as their #5 prospect, but I think he's a big sleeper and could be the Fausto Carmona of the National League. He's got good strike out rates, and his ground ball tendencies will carry over well into AAA and the majors. If you're a card collector, you can grab his cars for dirt cheap right now.

Chris Davis
2007-- 21 years old-- AA-- .294/.371/.688/1.059; 12 HRs and 7 2Bs in 109 ABs

This guy hasn't gotten much love from recent prospect rankings, mostly due to his strikeout totals, but he's a big time power guy and the Rangers are trying very hard to make sure he has a place to play when his time comes. So far I think he's played third, first and right field and due to his rifle arm he's done a decent job at every position, all while posting some absurd home run totals. Right now he profiles as a Ryan Howard type with big time production and big time strikeout totals, but chicks dig the longball, so you might as well go with it. His average has stayed close to .290 at every level so far, and his plate discipline is seeing some gradual but positive growth, so I think we could see a .265-.275/40 HR line out of him in a few years, with a few whopping 50+ home run seasons down the road.

Jed Lowrie
2007--23 years old-- AAA-- .300/.356/.506/.862

Lowrie isn't exactly an under-the-radar prospect, but he's been overshadowed by a few other Red Sox prospects and I think he could surprise people when he finally gets called up. He'll put up better offensive numbers than Boston is currently getting out of the shortstop position, and his approach at the plate fits in perfectly with the Red Sox philosophy of big OBP guys followed up by big SLG guys. His defense has been questioned in the past, but he's solid enough with the glove that he should be able to stick shortstop.

Andy Laroche
2007-- 23 years old-- .309/.399/.589/.988

Everyone knows about Andy Laroche, but his lack of production in the majors last year resulted in a significant drop in his prospect rankings. This year he'll be "competing" against Nomar Garciaparra for a starting job at third base, and he should be a lot more relaxed than he was last year. He's got the talent, he'll just need to let it flow more and stop pressuring himself so much.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Dallas McPherson Signing

With news that the Marlins have signed Dallas McPherson, I spent some time trying to find out where he is in terms of his recovery from back surgery. If he's healthy he could put up some big power numbers, but he's been in the DL for so long that very few people are giving him much chance of getting above 100 at-bats this year. So far I haven't found any information to indicate if he's healthy or not, but after reading up on the type of surgery he had, I'd say there's a good chance that he'll still have problems with his back. I'll be really surprised if he makes over 300 plate appearances, and that's if he can even win a starting or platoon job with the Marlins.

The Marlins are only betting $425,ooo on McPherson, which makes me think that they are just as skeptical about his return as everybody else. If he was healthy and able to prove that his back was doing well then I think a contract closer to $1 million would be in order considering his potential. But it looks like McPherson had to settle for basically the league minimum, which means even he isn't sure of what to expect.

Refractor Tracker February 1st, 2008

Here's a few of the refractor transactions from recent eBay action...

January 31st, 2008

David Price 2007 Bowman Chrome Draft Blue Refractor -- $71.04

David Price 2007 Bowman Chrome Draft Refractor -- $11.72

Ben Revere 2007 Bowman Chrome Draft Orange Refractor Auto -- $90.46

Clayton Mortensen 2007 Bowman Chrome Draft Refractor -- $13.48

Joba Chamberlain 2007 Bowman Chrome Blue Refractor Auto BGS 9 -- $244.50 (reserve not met)

January 30th, 2008

Cedric Hunter 2007 Bowman Chrome Orange Refractor Auto -- $338.33

Brandon Wood 2004 Bowman Chrome Draft Refractor Auto -- $88.21

Hank Conger 2006 Bowman Chrome Draft Blue Refractor -- $28.26

Travis Snider 2006 Bowman Chrome Draft Orange Refractor -- $435.00

Beau Mills 2007 Bowman Chrome Draft Blue Refractor Auto -- $101.59

Matt LaPorta 2007 Bowman Chrome Draft Refractor -- $13.00

Jason Heyward 2007 Bowman Chrome Draft Refractor -- $23.00

Todd Frazier 2007 Bowman Chrome Draft Blue Refractor Auto -- $43.52

German Duran 2007 Bowman Chrome Draft Gold Refractor -- $31.50

Kei Igawa 2007 Bowman Chrome Red Refractor -- $55.00

January 29th, 2008

Matt Kemp 2005 Bowman Chrome Refractor Auto -- $78.00

Peter Kozma 2007 Bowman Chrome Draft Refractor Auto -- $24.25

Brandon Morrow 2007 Bowman Chrome Draft Gold Refractor -- $54.74

Henry Rodriguez 2007 Bowman Chrome Gold Refractor -- $40.00

Lazy Friday

Friday's here and part of me wants to write something really interesting and part of me wants to scan eBay, put in a few bids, and then chill. Several Top 100 prospects lists have been released lately, and I think most of them are decent at best, so maybe I'll get to those next week. This is the time of year that I live for with all the build-up just before Spring Training starts because it means baseball and warm weather are just around the corner. Here's hoping everyone has done their homework and is ready to dominate their fantasy league and watch your under-the-radar stud light it up. I promise I'll write something worthwhile soon...