Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Project Prospect Top 25 Pitching Prospects

For those of you interested, ProjectProspect.com recently released their list of the top 25 pitching prospects in baseball. It's a pretty good list, and well worth checking out. I'm not sure when they'll be releasing their top 100 or top 200 prospects list, but be on the look out for it in the coming months.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Brett Anderson's Place in History

I realize these types of posts may be somewhat annoying to people, but I just signed up for a 1 month subscription to baseball-reference.com, so I'm trying to get my moneys worth.

Anyways, I wanted to take a look at Brett Anderson's season stats as compared to historical performances and see if he's as good as I think he is. I ran a screen for players that at or before the age of 21 struck out at least 150 batters, while posting an ERA below 5.00. My search brought up a total of 60 instances, with 48 individual pitchers on the list (multiple players accomplished the feat multiple times). With such a large number of players to sort through, I decided I would shave down the list a bit more.

So, I then checked for the best K/BB ratios among the list, with Anderson's 2009 season coming in at number 8. Of course, there are a lot of other stats that should be considered when putting players into historical categories, but a solid K/BB ratio usually suggests that a pitcher is successful at an individual level regardless of his team's performance. I'm not going to draw any conclusions just yet, but I want to finish off by posting a simple chart comparing Anderson's strikeout and walk rates from this year with those posted by other pitchers in baseball history.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Billy Butler and Pablo Sandoval: Headed for the Hall?

This past month, Billy Butler and Pablo Sandoval became the first players since Prince Fielder to top 70 extra base hits with 20 or more home runs in a season at the age of 23 or younger. It might seem like an arbitrary set of parameters to judge a player by, but it got me to thinking. Could either of these 2 young players be headed to greatness?

So, I checked to see how many times a 23 year old player had ever posted 70 total extra base hits with 20 or more home runs in a single season. A total of 71 instances came up, with 29 inactive or retired players and 19 active players accomplishing the feat (multiple players topped 70 extra base hits and 20 home runs before the age of 23 in multiple seasons).

Here's a list of the 19 active players included on the list.

And here are the inactive or retired players (obviously, I'm having trouble with font sizes).

Quite an impressive list of players. To put it all in perspective, I wanted to see how many of the retired players went on to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Of the 29 players that were eligible for the Hall of Fame, 17 have been inducted, which is a cool 58.6%. Not an overwhelming percentage, but if it's any indication for the future, we might be able to project that current players like Butler and Sandoval have roughly a 50:50 chance of making the Hall of Fame. While not definitive by any means, those are pretty good odds for any player, and very good company to be listed among.

Catching Up

I need to apologize for not posting in so long. The weather has been really nice lately, and school duties have been minimal the last 2 weeks, so I've been taking some time to go play a bit of golf and relax instead of crunching stats and chasing down overlooked prospects.

Though I haven't been writing much lately, I have been keeping up with the Wild Card races, as well as the Rookie of the Year races. Enough has been said about both, so I won't rehash either topic. I do want to make a few points about a handful of rookies from both leagues that might not be getting the attention they deserve:

  • Chris Coghlan is hitting .318 right now, which ties him with Ryan Braun for 5th in the league. His .387 OBP ties him with Pablo Sandoval for 15th in the N.L., and according to fangraphs.com Coghlan's 2009 stats are valued around $9.0 million. If he wins ROY, it will be well deserved, although I don't think he'll come out on top since voters usually gravitate toward more popular teams.
  • As far as I can tell, Garrett Jones' .955 mark leads all N.L. rookies in OPS. His 21 home runs and 44 total extra base hits tops Chris Coghlan's line despite the fact that Jones has received only 60% the number of at-bats. Fangraphs.com puts his performance at $11.0 for the year.
  • I have no idea who is going to win the A.L. Rookie of the Year, but I think voters should strongly consider Brett Anderson. His overall stats are less than impressive, but here are a few things about Anderson that may surprise even die-hard baseball fans. His K/BB rate is 17th in the majors, and 8th in the A.L. His FIP is 8th in the A.L., right behind C.C. Sabathia and Josh Beckett, and just ahead of John Lackey. Anderson's LD% is second in the majors, and his GB/FB rate is 5th in the A.L., right between Roy Halladay and Josh Beckett. According to fangraphs.com, Anderson's 2009 performance is valued at $17.2 million, good for 11th in the A.L., and so far I can't find a single player in either league with a more valuable stat line. While Rick Porcello has a better win loss record, his value is estimated at $7.7 million, and his other stats don't really compare to Anderson. Fellow ROY front runner Elvis Andrus has a 2009 value of $12.9 million. To me, this is a no-brainer. Anderson has essentially acheived the status of a #1 starter in his rookie season, at the ripe old age of 21.
  • I think my top pitching prospect heading into 2010 might be Jenrry Mejia.
  • The Braves almost pulled it off at the end there, but couldn't top the Rockies. I'll be really interested to see what Frank Wren does during the off-season. I'd like to see him trade one of his pitchers (Vazquez or Lowe?) and Kelly Johnson for one or two bats.

Ok, that's all for now.

Monday, September 7, 2009

TPC in Retrospect: Tommy Hanson 2009 Projection

Back in January I put together a post projecting Tommy Hanson's stats for 2009. At the time, it was hard to say how much the Braves would use Hanson, but ZiPS had him pegged for a total of 19 innings, a 5.21 ERA, and a 1-1 record. My projection wasn't perfect, but I think it was a bit better than the ZiPS projection.

To come up with my projection, I didn't simply grab some figures out of a hat. I compiled a list of comparables for Hanson and averaged out their performances during their major league season at the age of 23. At first glance, the compilation technique might not seem extremely accurate, but I think if we look a bit beyond the surface, we'll see that it is actually a very viable and mostly accurate approach.

Here's my projected line for Hanson coming into 2009:
7.9 K/9
4.1 BB/9
1.42 WHIP
4.56 ERA
.500 Win Percentage

Actual 2009 stats to date:
7.49 K/9
3.51 BB/9
1.25 WHIP
3.07 ERA
9-3 record, or .750 Win Percentage

The K/9 projection was relatively spot on, and the BB/9 projection wasn't too far off, but it would seem that my WHIP, ERA, and win percentage projections were completely obliterated. However, I would like to throw out another stat that Hanson has posted this year that will help make sense of the chaos:

Tommy Hanson 2009 tRA: 4.37

For those of you not familiar with tRA, here's the explanation given by fangraphs.com:

tRA involves assigning run and out values to all events under a pitcher’s control and coming up with an expected number of runs allowed and outs generated in a defense and park neutral environment. tRA is on a R/9 scale and does not involve any regression of the rates.

In essence, tRA gives us an idea of what a pitcher's true ERA should be given their overall performance throughout the season minus good luck and timely fielding.

Apparently, Hanson has had quite a bit of luck this season, and for whatever reason, his ERA is substantially lower than his tRA. This also helps explain why his WHIP and winning percentages seem to be so much better than my projections. Somewhere among all of his starts, there were a certain number of events that kept men off base and runners from crossing the plate while Hanson was on the mound, and his surface level stats depict a pitcher that is much different from his true production.

With that in mind, I feel like my projection of a 4.56 ERA is not far from Hanson's tRA of 4.37, and I think if we repeated the 2009 season 100 times in a vacuum, my projection would be remarkably accurate. Unfortunately, we don't live in a vacuum, and each season is only played once, and half of my projection has taken a sharp beating. I guess Tommy Hanson's good luck is by default my bad luck in this situation.

...Read more

Sunday, September 6, 2009

TPC in Retrospect: 2009 Top 10 Hitters: #6-10

Prior to the 2009 season, I put together my list of the top 10 prospect hitters, and I think it's about time I reviewed the list to see how I did. I'll start with the last 5 hitters, and then cover the top 5 hitters later this week.

6. Chris Carter (Oakland) -- I couldn't remember how highly Carter was ranked before this season, so I checked Baseball America, and they had him as the 76th best prospect in baseball, behind players like Jose Tabata, Taylor Teagarden, and Wilson Ramos. I understand why some folks don't like Carter, but hopefully his numbers at AA this year have opened some eyes. At 22 years old, he improved his plate discipline by posting career bests in K% (20.1%) and BB% (13.9%), while also posting career highs in batting average, OBP, SLG, and OPS (.337/.436/.576/1.012). To put that in context, Carter's numbers this year are almost identical to the AA stats of 22 year old Pedro Alvarez, who signed with the Pirates last year for a guaranteed $6.355 million. Not too shabby.

7. Max Ramirez -- This pick looks like my worst pick among the whole list. At 24 years old, I really thought Ramirez would force the Rangers to settle their future catching situation by trading at least one of their top catching prospects. However, no one has really stepped up to nail down the position, especially Ramirez. He has posted career lows in just about every category, and has been a complete disappointment in '09. There have been some injury issues, and maybe Ramirez just had a really bad year, but his future is looking a lot less promising than it was just 12 months ago.

8. Jesus Montero -- If I were to put this list together today, I'd definitely put Montero ahead of both Ramirez and Carter. His numbers this year were absolutely stellar, and I think he has a chance to be just as good as Miguel Cabrera or at least Pablo Sandoval. I think he's easily a top 10 prospect at this point, and maybe a top 5. It's amazing that Baseball America had him as the 38th best prospect heading into 2009.

9. Josh Reddick/Freddie Freeman/Lars Anderson -- During the preseason, I couldn't decide which one of these guys I liked more. At this point, I'd definitely go with Reddick. Anderson was much more hyped a few months ago, but he's struggled a ton, and has only gotten worse as the season has progressed. Freeman hasn't done too bad, but his power has dropped, and he probably won't be a major league contributor for another 3 years. Meanwhile, Reddick (who was completely left off Baseball America's top 100 list) was able to improve his plate discipline at AA while maintaining his power production, and has even been given a few spot starts with the Red Sox this season, hitting 4 doubles and a home run in 35 plate appearances.

10. Colby Rasmus -- I think putting Rasmus in at #10 was a good pick (Baseball America had him as the 3rd best prospect in baseball in front of Jason Heyward and Brett Anderson). He is obviously very talented, but will take a while to develop.

Summary: Looking back, I'd probably leave Ramirez off this list, include just Reddick at #9, and probably put Andrew McCutchen somewhere in my top 10 (probably around #8). I'm glad I left Travis Snider off the list (ranked #6 by Baseball America), who continues to struggle with Toronto, and I'm also glad I passed on Mike Moustakas (Baseball America's number 13 prospect, and Cameron Maybin (#8 by Baseball America).

Overall, I'd give my #6-10 list here a 'B'. I whiffed on Ramirez, but my other 4 picks were pretty good, so I'll take 80%. Could have been better, but could have been much, much worse.
...Read more

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

TPC 2009 Top 10 Hitters in the Midwest League

Over the coming weeks and months heading into the off-season, I'm going to be combing through a ton of minor league stats and highlighting the top 10 hitters and pitchers from each league this year. Today, I'd like to start with the top 10 hitters from the Midwest League.

I didn't spend a lot of time putting this list together, but I did spend a few hours breaking down stats and trying to eliminate players that I thought didn't belong in the running. I think the list is pretty good, but if anyone has thoughts about players I might have left off, let me know.

1. Jaff Decker -- At 19 years old, Decker is a rare mix of patience and power. He's not quite an elite hitter, but could very well develop into a blend of Pat Burrell and Adam Dunn, hitting 30 or more home runs a year, with an on-base percentage that floats around in the high-.300 area. Unfortunately, he'll also play in San Diego, which means he might have to settle for a bunch of doubles during the first few years of his career.

2. Josh Vitters -- Vitters moved up to advanced A ball in July, but while he was in A ball with the Cubs, he tore the cover off the ball. With 15 home runs and 28 total extra base hits in 288 plate appearances, he was on pace to put up some huge numbers. My biggest concern with Vitters is that he has yet to post a walk rate above 4.7% in his professional career, and this year he's sitting right around 2%. I don't think hitters necessarily have to walk a ton to be successful, but this could become a really big problem for Vitters at higher levels.

3. James Darnell -- The Padres have 2 of the top 3 hitters on this list, with Decker taking the #1 spot, and Darnell coming in at #3. At 22 years old, Darnell will probably be rushed through the minors, which so far hasn't been a problem, as he's posted an OPS of .965 or higher up through advanced A ball this year. His career numbers match up with an odd group of players that include Andy Laroche, Conor Jackson, and Alex Gordon, so it's hard to say at this point what the Padres can expect from Darnell.

4. Brett Lawrie -- Lawrie recently made the jump to AA, but I think a bit more time at A ball might have been a good thing for him. He has decent plate discipline with moderate power, but he seemed to struggle at times, and didn't show much improvement as the year progressed. Lawrie has the tools to be a very good player, but putting them all together might take some time.

5. Josh Fellhauer -- A 7th round pick by the Reds in the 2009 draft, Fellhauer came into professional ball as a hitter with what might be considered an average set of skills. But I like the fact that he signed quickly, and jumped right into A ball hitting 6 home runs in his first 2 months, and posted a strikeout rate of just 13%. He's not a big guy, and the power numbers may never substantially increase, but his overall make-up leads me to believe that Fellhauer should at the minimum make an average everyday major league player down the road.

6. Brett Jackson -- With a small sample size and suspect plate discipline, I'm not ready to believe this 2009 1st round draft pick is the real deal, but I'll give him a chance. Good defensive skills, raw plate approach.

7. Kyler Burke -- Burke's stats prior to 2009 were very average to say the least, but something seems to have clicked this year, and he has developed a lot as a hitter. He might regress next year, but for now I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and keep an eye on him in 2010.

8. Andrew Cumberland -- I really like to see a young hitter that can post a strikeout rate of about 10% and match that with a walk rate between 8% and 12%. It seems to be a good indicator for major league success. With that in mind, I think 20 year old Andrew Cumberland might have the skills to be a major league shortstop in the coming years. His highest career strikeout rate is just 11%, and this year he posted a walk rate of 12% while hitting .302.

9. Alexia Amarista -- Amarista has essentially the same stats as Cumberland, but will probably end up in the outfield or at second base, making him a little less valuable on defense.

10. Allan Dykstra -- I was hoping to see Dykstra really turn it on this season, but other than working the count a lot, I'm not sure he has much to offer. I'm not giving up on him entirely, but he's slowly fading from my radar.

...Read more

Friday, August 21, 2009

TPC in Retrospect: 2009 Top 20 Pitching Prospects #6-10

Last week I reviewed my top 5 pitching prospects for 2009, so this week it's time for the other 5 guys I ranked in the top 10. While there are a few changes I would make given the chance, I think my top 10 actually came out pretty good.

6. Neftali Feliz -- Up until about 6 weeks ago I wasn't sure how this pick was going to work out. Last year Feliz rocked AA hitters, posting 47 strikeouts in 45 innings, while hitting 100 mph on his fastball at the ripe old age of 20 years old. But Feliz struggled in AAA this year, posting a relatively meager 18% K% in April and June. I'm not sure if the learning curve was a little steeper this year, or if Feliz focused more on his secondary stuff, but it took about 3 months and a move to the bullpen before he looked like the pitcher we saw in 2008. Of course, we all know how well Feliz has performed at the major league level for the Rangers, accumulating 17 strikeouts in 11.2 innings with 0 walks, and a WHIP of 0.34. It's obviously not a very large sample size, but still very impressive. I hope Frank Wren never again allows a guy like Feliz to slip out of the Braves farm system.

7. Rick Porcello -- My gut told me to rank Porcello a bit higher than I actually did before the season started, but it seemed like there was going to be plenty of opportunities to reevaluate the Tigers young ace since he hadn't yet thrown a single pitch above advanced A ball. Guess I was wrong. The Tigers gave Porcello a spot in their starting rotation, and he has done quite well given his age and experience level. Looking back, I think I should have given Porcello the #4 or #5 spot and dropped David Price to #7.

8. Jhoulys Chacin -- This doesn't seem like a very radical pick, but going into 2009 Baseball America had Chacin ranked as the 46th best prospect in baseball, right behind Tim Alderson. I'm not saying this was a great pick by me, but I think having Chacin in my top 10 was a smart move. He's not going to be a dominant pitcher any time soon, but I think he could be just as good Jair Jurrjens in a few years.

9. Jairo Heredia -- Heredia was my most radical top 10 pick. He still isn't on any other top 50 list as far as I know, and I don't think he's going to get much attention for at least another 6 to 12 months. Heredia spent the majority of 2009 on the DL for a mystery injury, but has put in 26 innings at A and advanced A ball since July, collecting 21 strikeouts and just 3 walks. In retrospect, I might drop Heredia to #11 or #12 and maybe replace him with someone like Jenrry Mejia, but Heredia still deserves a lot more attention than he's been getting.

10. Christian Friedrich -- Baseball America ranked Friedrich as the 95th best prospect in baseball going into 2009 right behind Brad Holt, Phillippe Aumont, and Andrew Brackman, so I think I can give myself a pat on the back for putting him in my top 10. In 103 innings between A and advanced A ball, Friedrich has 140 strikeouts with just 37 walks, and has allowed just 74 hits. He still has work to do, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him get a shot at the Rockies starting rotation early next year.

Overall, I'd give myself a B+ for my #6-10 picks. I probably should have included Tommy Hanson in my top 10, but I'm still not completely sold on him (I'll explain later).
...Read more

Monday, August 17, 2009

2009 A.L. Rookie of the Year Update -- Position Players Still in Contention

Now that we've covered the N.L. position players still vying for Rookie of the Year, let's spend some time on A.L. position players.

Going into the 2009 season, Matt Wieters headed almost every preseason list, and I really thought he had the best chance to win ROY. But things haven't quite worked out for Wieters, and guys like Elvis Andrus and Gordon Beckham are stealing the spotlight.
Let's check the stats for a second, and then I'll cover the A.L. pitchers in my next post.I've highlighted the best stats for each category, and it looks like there are only 3 real contestants here: Elvis Andrus, Nolan Reimold, and Gordon Beckham. However, after looking at the stats of some recent R.O.Y. winners, I'm not sure Andrus has much of a chance. Historically speaking, guys like Elvis Andrus and Dexter Fowler have to do a lot more than steal 30 bases in order to take home the Rookie of the Year Award. Here's a quick list of the 6 most recent position players to win the award while stealing 20 or more bases.

If history is any indicator, Andrus and Fowler don't stand much of a chance. Here's how they stack up against the above players.

Not very comparable, is it? Ultimately, Gordon Beckham is probably the only rookie position player that has a shot at hitting .300 while posting an OPS around .850, which doesn't guarantee him anything, but at least puts him in the vicinity of historical averages in 2 categories.

Overall, I'd call this a very week year for rookie position players in both leagues, which means the R.O.Y. could very easily go to at least one pitcher, if not two.
...Read more

Sunday, August 16, 2009

2009 N.L. Rookie of the Year Update -- Position Players in Contention

Yesterday I took a look at the pitchers still in contention for the N.L. Rookie of the Year Award, so today we're going to take a look at the position players still in contention. There are some familiar names topping the list, but there are also a handful of surprises making a run at R.O.Y.

Pulling some averages from my preseason N.L. R.O.Y. post, here's how the top 6 rookie position players stack up (notice that my list does not include Garret Jones, who has hit just 2 home runs since July 24th).

With about 50 games left, let's assume each player accumulates somewhere around 200 at-bats (I think Casey McGehee is the only player on the list that isn't receiving full playing time). The only players that could possibly reach 20 home runs are Colby Rasmus, Casey McGehee, and maybe Andrew McCutchen, but I don't think any of them will actually accomplish the feat. I also don't think anyone will reach the 75 RBI mark, and I would be surprised if anyone ends the season with a batting average above .300.

Ultimately, I think this will come down to a three way race between Dexter Fowler, Chris Coghlan, and Andrew McCutchen. Fowler has the edge due to his speed, but no one is an obvious frontrunner when compared to the 3 pitchers I discussed yesterday.

To sum up the N.L. race, I'd give Dexter Fowler the overall lead right now, with J.A. Happ coming in second, and Randy Wells pulling in at third. After that, there's a 4-way time between Tommy Hanson, Andrew McCutchen, Chris Coghlan, and Casey McGehee. It should be a very interesting race over the next month and a half, and there's a good chance the award will ultimately go to the player who has the hottest September.
...Read more

Saturday, August 15, 2009

2009 N.L. Rookie of the Year Update -- Pitchers in Contention

Prior to the start of the 2009 season, I made some speculations about who might be in the running for the N.L. Rookie of the Year Award. It's still a bit early to declare an obvious winner, but there are a few interesting candidates that were no where to be found on any preseason list.

For my original 2009 N.L. ROY list, I included guys like Cameron Maybin, Colby Rasmus, Kenshin Kawakami, Tommy Hanson, and Dexter Fowler. Here's the basic projection I wrote up in my preseason post:

"...if I had to narrow down the field (for position players), I'd include Maybin, Fowler, and (Gaby) Sanchez. Overall though, I think this year's position players provide a relatively weak field of candidates, which opens up the opportunity for a pitcher to win the award.

"...I really can't single out any one player that I feel is going to stand out this year, and it might come down to who gets more playing time and doesn't screw up a whole bunch. To narrow it down, Kenshin Kawakami has the best shot at R.O.Y. simply because he has a secure starting role with major league team."

Well, we're over two thirds through the season, and it looks like Kenshin Kawakami is pretty much out of the race. With a 5-9 record and a 4.13 ERA, Kawakami can't possibly keep up with teammate Tommy Hanson, who has a 7-2 record, and a 3.05 ERA. Besides Hanson, Randy Wells and J.A. Happ have both added their names to the debate, each posting WHIPs of 1.20 or less, and ERAs of 3.01 or better.

Since Hideo Nomo won Rookie of the Year in 1995 with 13 wins, the fewest number of wins by any ROY pitcher was 12, when Scott Williamson finished with a 12-7 record and also had 19 saves and posted an ERA of just 2.41 in 1999. The average WHIP and ERA since Nomo has been 1.21 and 3.09 respectively.

There aren't any great rookie closers to add to the list, so for now it looks like Wells, Happ, and Hanson will be the only rookie pitchers making their cases over the next 50 games. At this point, I'm not sure if any of them has a distinct advantage, as each of them pitches for teams involved in a playoff battle with the offensive support and defensive capacity to keep them in line for at least 3 or 4 more wins. At least one of these guys is going to win 5 or 6 more games, and it's very possible that all 3 of them will still be in contention for Rookie of the Year at the end of the season.

Later this week, I'll break down the position players still in the running for N.L. R.O.Y. and then make some predictions about who will win it in the end.

...Read more

Friday, August 14, 2009

TPC in Retrospect: 2009 Top 20 Pitching Prospects #1-5

Finally, I got past my national board exam, and don't have to spend my days and nights memorizing anatomical anomolies of the head and neck and random biochemical metabolic mechanisms. At last, I can get back to reading and writing about baseball, and hopefully there are still a handful of people out there interested in reading my posts.

At the beginning of the 2009 season, I put together my list of the top 20 pitching prospects in baseball, and though the season isn't over, I thought it would be interesting to go back and look at how accurate or inaccurate my list was. I'll just post the names of the first 5 pitchers that made my list, and maybe make a comment or two. Over the next few days I'll work my way down the list.

1. Brett Anderson -- Although he got shelled this week facing the White Sox, at 21 years old, Anderson has displayed the capacity to be a very good pitcher. Not counting his start against the White Sox, over his last 58 innings Anderson has allowed just 16 earned runs, with 56 strikeouts, 18 walks, and 41 hits. According to fangraphs.com, Anderson has hit 95 mph or better on the radar gun in 9 of his last 11 starts, and his evolution as a pitcher has been much faster than I ever expected. If I could travel back in time and recreate my top 20 list, I'd still have Anderson at the #1 spot.

2. Trevor Cahill -- Cahill began the year with some very good starts, but has since keep runs off the scoreboard. His walk rate hasn't been great, and his 1.50 WHIP doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the Oakland faithful, but like Anderson, he's just 21 years old, and is still many years away from reaching his full potential. Even Hall of Famer Greg Maddux posted a 1.64 WHIP as a 21 year old with the Cubs, so don't write off Cahill just yet.

3. Brett Cecil -- Looking back, I don't know if Cecil would still be at #3 on my list, but I'd still have him in my top 10. Maybe I'd switch him with Rick Porcello, who I ranked #7 going into the season. Cecil hasn't been terrible, but he allows a lot of base runners and will need to make a lot of adjustments over the coming years. However, if you take the time to look, Cecil's numbers at the age of 22 compare very well with guys like Justin Verlander, Matt Cain, and Zack Greinke. Keep an eye of Cecil.

4. Madison Bumgarner -- Bumgarner gets a lot of attention, so I don't feel like I need to talk about him too much. He hasn't blown away AA hitters, but at 19 his 1.04 WHIP and 1.98 ERA over 82 innings would still land him in the top 5.

5. David Price -- At the start of the season, every top 10 prospect list had Price in their top 3, and had him as the #1 pitching prospect in the nation. I wrote a ton of posts illustrating why Price was undeserving of such accolades, and I feel a bit vindicated now that Price has proven himself to be very human, and is currently the owner of a 5.13 ERA and 1.55 WHIP, both of which are higher than the corresponding stats put up by Anderson, Cahill, and Cecil. Price is still a very talented pitcher, but if I could do it all over, I might consider dropping him down to as low as #7 or #8, and put Rick Porcello and Neftali Feliz ahead of him.

So that's my take on my top 5. I'd give myself a solid 'B+' with this list, with the exclusion of Rick Porcello as my biggest blunder. But I kept David Price out of the #1 spot, which up to this point in baseball history makes my list a lot better than a bunch of the other top prospect lists I saw heading into 2009.

...Read more

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Project Prospect and MLB.com Top Prospect Lists Released

In case you haven't seen it, Projectprospect.com recently published their top 25 prospects list for the summer, and Mlb.com released their list of the top 50 prospects of the summer. I don't want to spoil it for those of you that haven't seen the lists yet, but Braves fans will be very excited to see Jason Heyward's name top each list.

Catching Up: Brett Anderson, David Price, Josh Reddick, Jason Heyward, Brett Cecil, and more -As

I've only got 9 more days until I take my national board exam for dental school, which means that pretty soon I'll be able to spend a lot more time watching and writing about baseball. Until then, it's 12 hours of studying everyday with 30 minutes for lunch, and an hour for dinner.

However, today I've decided to take some extra time off and relax to get my head clear and catch up on missed sleep, so I thought it might be an good opportunity to catch up on baseball as well.

-Over the last year or so, I've stated the case for Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, and Brett Cecil being more talented pitchers than David Price, who went into 2009 as the consensus #1 pitching prospect in baseball. I don't think many people listened to my amateur opinions, but I feel that time is finally proving me correct. Despite being a year older than Cecil, and 3 years older than Anderson and Cahill, Price has the highest posted WHIP and ERA of the 4 pitchers. Obviously, things could change, but I think my pre-season #1 pitching prospect (Brett Anderson) is going to look like a very good choice over the next few years.

-I was surprised to see Josh Reddick's name in the Red Sox lineup the other day after hearing his name mentioned in trade talks for weeks. Instead of being traded, Reddick came up and hit 2 doubles and a homerun over the weekend, while also getting a shaving cream pie to the face from David Ortiz. Reddick's a guy with above average power and contact skills, and hitting in the BoSox lineup should allow him to see plenty of good pitches to hit. Good luck to the Georgia native.

-As a Braves fan, it's great to see Jason Heyward at the top of so many mid-summer prospect lists. I'm not sure that he's a better hitter than Jesus Montero right now, but the two are very close, and Heyward has the benefit of being a bit more athletic with above average speed. Both players have put up some absurd numbers this year for their age, and I'm excited to see if their progress thus far carries over into higher levels.

-If you are the Texas Rangers, what do you do with Justin Smoak and Chris Davis? So much potential, yet so little room at first base.

Well, that's it for now. But I'll be back with a vengeance in about 10 days.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Catching Up with SAL Sluggers and Pitchers

I've been studying my brains out over the last couple of weeks, and if everything goes according to plan, I'll be bumping up my study hours to 4 hours a day over the next week, and eventually up to 8 hours in three weeks. That leaves me a very small window to do my baseball research, but after August 11th, I'll be able to focus on baseball non-stop (well, almost).

Anyways, I've been keeping an eye on the SAL lately, with particular interest in Derek Norris, Jordan Lyles, Jason Knapp, and Martin Perez. I've mentioned Knapp and Lyles in previous posts, and I think Perez is just as good as both of them, and maybe better. Very good K/9 rate consistently above 10, a walk rate around 3 per 9 innings, and a ground ball rate that hovers around 60%, all at the age of 18. If I had to rank them, I'd pick Lyles at number 1, then Perez, and then Knapp, but they'd all be very close.

Derek Norris puzzles me, striking out like crazy one week (27% K% on the year), and then crushing 6 home runs in 4 games like he did this past week (20 on the year in just 325 plate appearances). He's only 20 years old, but his plate discipline can be very erratic, and could lead to some very difficult encounters at advanced levels. However, it seems that the Nationals are content to keep him at catcher, which means that even if he turns into a 3-outcome hitter (walk, strikeout, or home run), he could be a very productive major league player. We'll see if he gets moved up to A+ or AA before the season is over and if he can keep his strikeout rate under control.

Right now, Norris probably ranks as one of the top 20 hitters in the minors, getting an extra boost from his defensive skills. Personally, I think he slowly improves on his strikeout rate, and makes his way to Washington in a couple of years. Other young hitters like Jesus Montero, Jason Heyward, and Jaff Decker will eclipse Norris in pure hype, but Nationals fans should be excited to have such a talented young catcher.

I'm not sure how good each of these SAL players is going to be over the coming years, but I would rank each of them in any top 50 prospects list, and I might squeeze one or two of them on a top 20 list. Once the season starts to wind down and I get past my national board exams I'll have more time to analyze each one in more depth.

For now, it's back to clinic to see patients.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Prospect Smackdown: Jason Knapp vs Jordan Lyles (vs Clayton Kershaw vs Felix Hernandez)

Hey everyone, I don't have a lot of time today, but I wanted to draw some attention to Jordan Lyles and Jason Knapp who are both currently pitching at A ball in the Southern Atlantic League. Both were supplemental first round draft picks (I might be wrong on that, so let me know if that isn't right), and both have been toasting the competition all season long despite only being 18 years old.

Knapp and Lyles both have their strengths and weaknesses, and I won't go into details at this moment, but they both also have a ton of raw talent. Just to give everyone an idea of how good these guys have been this year, check out the following stats.

To make things simple, Knapp has essentially produced about as well as Scott Kazmir or Clayton Kershaw's A ball numbers despite being a year younger, and Lyles' stats fall somewhere between Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and possibly Felix Hernandez (although it sounds like a bit of a stretch, if we just use Lyles' May and June stats -- 12.95 K/9 with a 1.67 BB/9 and 52% ground ball rate -- we could reasonably argue that he is closer to Hernandez than anyone else on the list).

I foresee both of these guys easily making just about every top 25 prospect list next spring, and possibly making their way to the majors before they turn 21. The Phillies don't have enough quality starters to keep Knapp from rising quickly through their system, and the Astros have virtually no one standing between Lyles and the majors.

So, who's the better prospect? At the beginning of the season, I would have said Knapp. He throws in the high 90's and seems to have the most up side. However, Lyles has really turned it on over the past 6 weeks, and he seems to only be getting better with every start. For now, I'm going to pick Lyles, but I wouldn't be surprised if Knapp begins to put up 10 or more strikeouts per start on a regular basis in the second half and nab the top spot. Regardless, both are going to be very good.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Quick Hits: Tommy Hanson

Yesterday, Tommy Hanson took it to the Red Sox despite fighting off the flu, and pitching in temperatures that reached well beyond anyone's comfort zone. He's now got a record of 4-0, with an ERA of 2.48. He hasn't allowed a run in his last 3 starts, and looks to be dominating every team he faces.

It would seem that Hanson -- at the ripe old age of 22 -- is well on his way to establishing himself as one of the Brave's premier starters, and perhaps one of the best in the league. But let me throw out a few numbers at you and let's see what really lies below the surface.

Hanson's current K/BB ratio is 1.06, his groundball rate of 31%, he has a WHIP of 1.41, and a home run rate of 5%. His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching, which measures the number of runs a pitcher is likely to allow in 9 innings given his other stats) is 5.10. National League pitchers with similar stats include Ian Snell, who was recently demoted to AAA after posting an ERA of 5.36, Micah Owings, Jeff Karstens, John Maine, and Shairon Martis. Not exactly a who's who list of ace pitchers.

So, if Hanson's peripheral stats put him in such poor company, why the 4-0 record and stellar ERA? The missing link here is probably the fact that opposing hitters have posted a BABIP of just .239 against Hanson this year at the major league level. That means, that for every ball put into play against Hanson, only 23% of them are finding a gap in the defense.

It's possible that hitters are having a difficult time making solid contact with Hanson's pitches, and the .239 BABIP will prove to be the deciding factor in his future dominance. But if we consider that Hanson has posted a BABIP generally between .260 and .290 in the minors, it is only appropriate to assume that pitching in the majors will result in a BABIP of at least .260 or more. As an example, take Tim Lincecum, perhaps the most dominant young pitcher in the nation. Throughout the minors, Lincecum held batters to a BABIP between .220 and .250, 40 points below Hanson's minor league record. Since reaching the majors, Lincecum has allowed a BABIP between .296 and .336, essentially 60 to 90 points above Hanson's current pace.

If we measure Hanson's BABIP success against other Brave's pitchers, the picture doesn't get much better. Jair Jurrjens has a BABIP of .298 for the year, Javier Vazquez currently sits at .305, and Derek Lowe has a BABIP of .309 despite posting a ground ball rate of 54%.

The most likely explanation for Hanson's current success is probably a bit of luck, limited exposure to opposing hitters, and a small sample size. Given enough time (say 6 to 8 more weeks), there's about a 80-90% chance that Hanson's BABIP reverts back to somewhere around .300, and his ERA drifts upwards of 4.00. It's not absolutely set in stone, but the evidence suggests that Hanson isn't as good as he looks, and sooner or later the results will prove to be less than stellar. As a Brave's fan, I hope he keeps it up, but as a realistic stats fan, I don't see it happening. If I were Frank Wren, I'd sell high and trade Hanson for a big time bat (Adrian Gonzalez would look great in a Brave's uni).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Quick Hits from the Minors and Elsewhere

Hey folks, it's been a while since I posted, and it looks like my summer load at school is only going to get worse. But, I thought I'd take a second and throw out some names from the minors and the majors.

P.S. I take my national board exam August 11th, so after that I should have a lot more time to post.

David Price -- Not as bad as he has looked lately, but the expectations were too high, even after underwhelming performances in the minors. I'm glad I had him as the #5 pitching prospect going into 2009, and not #1 like every other prospect site.

Pablo Sandoval -- If his doubles start to clear the fence, he could be the best hitter on the west coast not named Manny.

Jordan Lyles -- Anyone else watching this guy?

Trevor Cahill -- Looking very good since adding a Greg Maddux sinker.

Matt Wieters -- Give him about 10 more games, and then I think the numbers will begin to match the hype.

Chris Davis -- Ugh. For the benefit of Davis and the Rangers, he needs to work this all out in AAA.

Matt LaPorta -- The Indians really did him a disservice with the way they handled his call-up. Minimal playing time, and then back to AAA. Good job, Cleveland.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Draft Day Tips for Major League Teams

It's draft day for the MLB, which means Stephen Strasburg is soon to be a very rich dude, and a bunch of major league teams are about to drop a ton of money on a handful of kids that -- according to history -- will probably flame out in the minors 5 or 6 years from now. However, there are several teams out there that have shown an increased capacity to make the most of their picks, often out performing teams with considerably more picks in early rounds. How do they do it? Here's a few basic principles the best drafting teams have in common.

1. Draft college hitters based off of their stats at the age of 20. By 21 or 22 years of age, just about any college hitter should be dominating, but it takes a really good hitter to do it at 20. However, beware big freshman numbers at the age of 19. Opposing pitchers might be caught off guard the first time around, so the second year stats are a better reflection of how well a hitter is truly capable of adjusting against a savvy opponent.

2. When it comes to college pitchers, stick to the basics. Strikeouts, walks, and ground ball rates (comment: college level ground ball rates are usually very hard to come by, so teams will need very dedicated scouts to assess this particular stat).

3. To expand on college pitcher stats, keep rule #1 in mind. If a pitcher is blowing away the competition at the age of 20 (David Price had a 13.9 K/9, Tim Lincecum a 12.9 K/9, and Mark Prior a 13.2 K/9 at the age of 20), it's a good sign there's more to come. If he is 21 or 22 when he puts up eye popping stats, chances are the ceiling is pretty low. Also be sure to give proper consideration to injury rates, which sideline a very significant number of young pitching careers.

4. Avoid college hitters with poor K/BB ratios. Seems like a very basic concept, but the Pirates sure weren't aware of it when they drafted Pedro Alvarez last year (20% K% at 20 years old versus a 12.4% walk rate) and paid him somewhere around $6 million dollars to post a .800 OPS at A+ ball.

5. Good luck with high school players. It seems like every team is hit-or-miss when it comes to 18 year olds.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Summer Prospects

Hey guys, just thought I'd let everyone know that I'm still here. I've been studying a lot for my national board exam and putting in a lot of hours seeing patients and doing lab work, so I haven't had much time to focus on baseball or write about prospects. I wish I had more time right now because as many of you know, there is a lot to talk about and analyze in the world of prospects these days.

Anyways, I thought I'd throw a few opinions and see if anyone has additional input.

1. If I were putting out a top 10 prospects list right now, Michael Stanton would be my absolute #1 pick, no questions asked.

2. If I had to choose a catcher under the age of 21, I would probably lean towards Jesus Montero, but Derek Norris is quietly making a very good case for himself. Keep an eye on Norris' strikeout rate once he reaches advanced A ball. If it stays below 18-20% and the power is still there, he could be a top 10 prospect very soon after that.

3. My #1 pitcher right now would probably be Madison Bumgarner (not counting Stephen Strasburg). There are very few players that can do what he's doing at the age of 19. I realize his breaking stuff isn't great yet, but when he's on, there's no one better right now.

4. I never saw much in Pedro Alvarez and never really was convinced about Lars Anderson.

5. Is Josh Vitters for real, or was May just a fluke? His walk rate is going to be a big problem, but he's got time.

6. Obviously, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson haven't been dominant during every start, but at 21 years old, the both have better ERAs than Fausto Carmona, Francisco Liriano, Randy Johnson, Ian Snell, Joe Blanton, and Jon Lester. Keep in mind that Greg Maddux posted an ERA of 5.61 at 21 years old, with a K/9 of 5.8 and a BB/9 of 4.3 (Brett Anderson is currently at 5.17 and 2.5 in those categories respectively).

7. Speaking of young pitchers, Rick Porcello has been amazing, and he's only 20 years old.

8. Pablo Sandoval and Billy Butler have almost identical stats right now, including walk rates, strikeout rates, BABIP, GB%, and LD%.

Anyways, that's all the time I have for now. Later y'all.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Nick Hagadone Update

I haven't seen any official news on Nick Hagadone for a long time, but a recent article by Peter Gammons states that Hagadone recently "...threw 98 this week in extended Spring Training...". The reference is very vague and short on details, but I assume Gammons means that Hagadone hit 98 mph at some point off the mound, which would be a major sign that his recovery following Tommy John surgery is going very well. Thought I'd pass it along.

Long Time No Write

Hey everyone, just thought I would let you all know that I have not completely disappeared. I had finals towards the end of April, and then I took a 2 week vacation with my wife to Europe so I haven't been around computers much lately. I just flew in to Atlanta yesterday, and school starts back up tomorrow so whenever I get some time I'll try and post stuff. I have my first round of national board exams coming up in early August, which means studying 2 or 3 hours every night after clinic and not as much time to focus on baseball. Not exactly my idea of a fun summer, but after my board exam I should have a pretty easy year of school.

Anyways, the Braves are doing about as well as I expected playing essentially .500 ball, and a lot of young major league players are seeing some success while also taking their lumps. Here are just a few players that have sparked my interest for various reasons:

  • Evan Longoria -- Wow.
  • Ryan Zimmerman -- Ditto. It's amazing what a bit of surrounding support and health can do for a young player.
  • Chris Davis -- The strikeouts are crazy, but he's slowly cutting down on them. Power numbers are still very impressive.
  • Jay Bruce -- Numbers don't look great other than the home runs, but the .213 BABIP suggests that Bruce is one of the unluckiest hitters in the country and should be hitting closer to .270 plus with an OPS well over .900. Look for a huge turn around in the coming months.
  • David Price -- Not too impressive.
  • Clayton Kershaw, Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Rick Porcello -- Some days are better than others, but when you're 21 years old pitching in the majors, stuff happens.
  • Brett Cecil -- Very nice.
  • Buster Posey, Pedro Alvarez, Yonder Alonso, Justin Smoak -- I was expecting more from these guys. Not sure what to make of them just yet.
  • Mike Stanton -- His .222 BABIP in May masks some very remarkable numbers. Stanton's strikeout rate has dropped to 23.2% for the year, and he looks to be progressing very quickly at the plate.
  • Alexia Amarista -- Anyone heard of this guy? Not much data to go on for now, but his K/BB rate compares very well to some very famous players (Wade Boggs, Ozzie Smith, Dustin Pedroia).
Ok, that's all I've got for now. Ciao.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pablo Sandoval -- Cold Start, Bust, or Bad Luck?

A few days ago I was checking in on my fantasy roster and spent about 30 minutes trying to figure out what in the world was wrong with Pablo Sandoval. After almost a full month, he was hitting south of .250 with an OPS of .626. I knew he might struggle this year, but I thought he would at least come out hitting about .270 or .280.

So, I decided the best thing to do would be to break down some stats, and see if there was some kind of pattern. Here's what I came up with.

  • Sandoval and the Giants have played against 4 teams this year. Of those teams, the L.A. Dodgers have one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball, allowing opposing hitters to post a .223 batting average so far this year. Not surprisingly, Sandoval is hitting just .231 against Dodgers pitching.
  • With a .760 OPS allowed on average by National League pitchers, the Diamondbacks (.747), Padres (.751), and Brewers (.765) have all looked good to average on the mound this year. Sandoval has an OPS of .900 or greater against both the Brewers and Diamondbacks, but an OPS of .300 against the Padres.
  • During a 1 for 17 stretch from April 10th to April 15th, Sandoval faced Jake Peavy, Chris Young, Chad Billingsley, and Clayton Kershaw and dropped his average from .364 to .179.
  • In his last week of play, Sandoval is hitting .444 with just 2 strikeouts and and OPS of 1.150.
  • After his first 28 at-bats, Sandoval had just 5 hits and an OPS of .472. Over his last 40 at-bats, Sandoval is hitting .375, and has raised his OPS to .769.
It looks to me like Sandoval is mostly back on track after a very rough start to the season. When he's playing against teams with average to poor pitching he's making them pay for it, and his strikeouts aren't piling up like they were at the beginning of April. Obviously, he's struggled against guys like Peavy and Billingsley (not exactly unexpected), but as soon as the Giants begin play against non-division teams Sandoval will get some time off from the relentless onslaught of N.L. West pitching.

Final verdict? I think Sandoval will be fine. He might go a few games without much production here and there, but he doesn't seem to be a very sporadic hitter. He makes contact often, and is playing very well right now. His power numbers are still low, but given the fact that he's only 22 years old, there's not much need for concern. A year or two from now, his doubles will start carrying a bit farther, and his home run totals will start matching what he put up at AA ball last year.

Baseball America Hot Sheet -- April 24th

Last week I failed to post or comment on the first Baseball America Hot Sheet of the year (Buster Posey at #1, Josh Reddick at #2) since I was working on acquainting myself with the Southern Atlantic League, but I wanted to be sure to mention it this week.

I won't cover the entire list from week 2, but if you're interested, you can check out the complete article at Baseball America.

1. Michael Stanton -- We all might as well get used to seeing Stanton's name, because next year he'll either be in the majors or be the #1 prospect in all of baseball. I've written about Stanton before, and I felt that though he struck out a lot, he was very capable of keeping his K%/BB% ratio under 2.0, which along with his power would put him somewhere between Adam Dunn, Andruw Jones, and Alex Rodriguez. So far this season, Stanton has maintained a K%/BB% of 26%/15% or 1.7, indicating that his increased plate discipline and offensive production at the end of last season was indeed the real deal (.300/.430/.660, 18 home runs in 209 plate appearances). Expect very big things from this guy.

2. Jason Knapp -- A relative unknown up until about 5 days ago, Knapp struck out 14 hitters in 7 innings during his last start. At 18 years old, his 15 K/9 ratio is extremely impressive even if he does have just over his 18 innings at A ball. Keep in mind that Tim Lincecum only pitched 28 innings at advanced A ball and posted a K/9 of 15.6 with a BB/9 of 3.9 at the age of 22. If Knapp reaches the 30 or 40 innings pitched mark with his K/9 still above 12.5, his comparable players would include Rick Ankiel, Dwight Gooden, and Nolan Ryan.

3. Desmond Jennings -- Jennings has been around a while now, so I won't say much about him. Very good plate discipline, good power, and lots of speed. Interestingly enough, one of his closest offensive comparables is Wally Joyner.

4. Jesus Montero -- My gut tells me that Montero is going to cool off soon, but he might not, so we'll just wait it out and see. He's kept his strikeout rate low this year, so maybe he's refined his plate approach a bit.

5. Casey Kelly -- I wasn't really sure why Baseball America chose Kelly for the #5 spot, but it's their hot sheet, so whatever. A 19 year old at low A, Kelly has good control and an above average groundball rate, but doesn't look too interesting to me as a pitcher. I don't think he's going to be a very good shortstop either.

That's all I'm going to cover for now. If you want to see the whole list, check it out at Baseball America, and have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Home Run Rate vs. Height of Pitch

Spring semester is wrapping up, which is a good thing, but it also means that it's time for finals, so I'm going to be bogged down with a bunch of studying over the next few weeks and posting will be very sporadic. However, I will be keeping an eye on what's going on in baseball, so I'll try and keep everyone up-to-date on at least the more significant details.

Anyways, I was skimming articles at The Hardball Times this afternoon when I came across an article titled What Makes a Home Run Pitch by Jonathan Hale. As many of you know, I'm a big supporter of groundball pitchers, so I was interested to see exactly what this particular article had to say about the location of pitches that most often resulted in home runs.

To summarize, the article was very well written, and made some interesting observations. A pitch just over a foot off the ground has essentially a zero percent chance of clearing the fence, and the rate of home runs increases almost in a linear fashion as the pitch rises up to a vertical height of 3.5 feet off the ground. Obviously, this means that "keeping the ball down" is the ideal approach for minimizing home runs, and pitchers that have a tendency to leave the ball up in the zone will surrender considerably more home runs.

The article also breaks home run rates down by horizontal location, as well as pitch type. The pitch most likely to not result in a home run? The sinker. Not exactly earth shattering news, but it's just one more example of why 2 pitchers with the exact same strikeout and walk rates but differing groundball rates may end up with considerably different WHIPs, ERAs, and win to loss ratios.

It's a good piece of writing, and well worth a look for anyone interested.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

SAL Top 5 Pitchers -- Week 1

So, yesterday I covered the top 5 SAL hitters, and halfway promised a top 5 pitchers list for week 1 as well. This list is a bit less refined than the hitters list, but I'll be working out the kinks over the next few weeks, so hopefully my lists will be more accurate and easier to create.

For this list, the cut-off was at least 5 innings pitched, and the stats are through April 17th.

  1. Yeliar Castro, 21 years old, ROM -- This is a repeat year for Castro in the SAL, after posting a 4.98 ERA in 2008. So far, so good, as his first start included 10 strikeouts in 5.2 innings with 1 walk. Unfortunately, Castro got the loss after giving up just 2 earned runs.
  2. Eric Surkamp, 21 years old, AUG -- Surkamp came very close to taking the top spot this week, going 5 innings and giving up just 3 hits in his first start of the year. He also recorded 9 strikeouts and issued 1 walk.
  3. Daniel Runzler, 24 years old, AUG -- As a 24 year old relief pitcher at A ball, Runzler probably won't get much attention, so we're giving him some today. In 3 appearances, he has 10 strikeouts along with 2 walks, and has allowed just 1 earned run. To top it all off, he also has a groundball to fly ball ratio of 5.00.
  4. Christian Friedrich, 21 years old, ASH -- As long as Friedrich is pitching against A ball hitters, I expect to see his name on this list just about every week. His first start went 6 innings, included a 3.00 groundout to fly out ratio, 9 strikeouts, 2 walks, and 1 hit.
  5. Jason Knapp, 18 years old, LWD -- You've got to hand it to any 18 year old who can come in and strikeout 16 batters in his first 11.1 innings. Knapp has allowed 8 hits and issued 4 walks in his first 2 starts, and has a GO/AO ratio of 1.50 this year. With a mid-90's fastball and a change-up and curve in the mid to high 70's, expect lots of strikeouts with the occasional control problem.

Friday, April 17, 2009

TPC Top 5 SAL Hitters Through April 17th

Hey guys, I've got a new gig writing a weekly Southern Atlantic League update for FirstInning.com, so I've been spending the last few days putting together stats, spreadsheets, and familiarizing myself with the league. Anyways, I figure I might as well post everything on here that I submit to First Inning, so here's my first SAL weekly update.

With most teams in the South Atlantic League finishing up their first full week of games last night, it's time to start stat crunching. First, we'll start with the top 5 SAL hitters for the week, and then if I get a chance, I'll post the top 5 pitchers either today or tomorrow.

To construct this list, I considered only hitters with more than 20 plate appearances, and I weighted walks, strikeouts, home runs, extra base hits, batting average, BABIP to calculate production levels. I did not take into consideration age, position, or park factors, althought hopefully once I get my stuff together, I will probably at least include age and position into the equation.

So, here it is.

  1. Ben Lasater, 24 years old, 3B, GBO -- No one in the SAL is mashing the ball like Lasater. In 30 plate appearances, he has 11 hits including 5 doubles and 2 home runs, 22 total bases, with only 4 strikeouts. He's probably a bit old for the league, but who cares, it's week 1.
  2. Tim Federowicz, 21 years old, C, GVL -- Federowicz struggled last year at A ball, but he's got speed for a catcher and good plate discipline. So far in '09, he's hitting .308 with 2 home runs and 2 doubles in 28 plate appearances, and a .994 OPS. If the power surge sticks, Federowicz might prove to be a viable option for the Red Sox in a few years.
  3. Calvin Anderson, 21 years old, 1B, WV-- With 2 doubles, 2 home runs, and 17 total bases in just 25 plate appearances, Calvin Anderson looks to be a man on a mission. At 6'7" and 240 punds, size and power projection have never been a problem, but plate discipline and contact rates have been an issue at times.
  4. Jim Murphy, 23 years old, 1B, LWD -- In 109 at-bats last year, Murphy collected all of 24 hits and posted a batting average of just .220. After only 23 at-bats in the 2009 season, Murphy already has 12 hits and is batting a red hot .522, including 4 multi-hit games, and 4 walks to go along with his 5 strikeouts.
  5. Travis Mattair, 20 years old, 3B, LWD -- Mattair doesn't hit for a lot of power (posted an IsoP of just .074 in 507 plate appearances last year), but so far this season he hasn't had to, as he leads the league with 13 walks in 36 plate appearances. The on-base approach won't likely work much longer for a guy who posted a 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio last season, but it's an impressive feat nonetheless.
Just Missed:
Doug Hogan -- 3 home runs, .217 average, 9 strikeouts in 24 plate appearances
Samuel Sime -- .571 batting average, 3 doubles
Ebert Rosario -- .450 average, 3 doubles, 1 triple

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Quick Hits: Hot Hitters

My last quick hits post was pretty much dedicated to pitching performances, so here are a few hitters that have posted note worthy performances over the past week.

  • Matt LaPorta is hitting a cool .500 over 18 plate appearances, posting an OPS of 1.556 with 3 doubles, a triple, and a home run. More importantly, LaPorta has just 2 strikeouts, and has a line drive rate of 43%. For his career, anytime LaPorta is seeing the ball well enough to post a line drive rate of 19% or better, he's posted a slugging percentage of .576 or higher, with 31 doubles, 2 triples, and 30 home runs in 468 plate appearances. If his early results are any indicator, LaPorta might be headed towards some monstrous numbers over the coming months.
  • Josh Reddick has a home run in 4 straight starts for Portland, and is hitting .381 with a slugging percentage of 1.048. With a fly ball rate of 43%, it seems Reddick might be undercutting the ball a bit more than necessary, but so far it's worked.
  • Mat Gamel has picked up where he left off, collecting 4 doubles and 2 home runs in 26 plate appearances. His 1.526 OPS is second in the Pacific Coast League.
  • Buster Posey is off to a great start, posting a walk to strikeout rate of 2:1 and hitting s double and 2 home runs in 27 plate appearances.
  • Cody Johnson and Freddie Freeman are off to fast starts in the Carolina League, hitting 4 and 2 home runs respectively. Johnson also has 3 walks to go along with his 6 strikeouts.
  • In the Midwest League, Brett Lawrie is off to a good start, hitting a homer, double, and triple, with 3 walks and 4 strikeouts in 17 plate appearances.
  • 18 year old Zach Collier has put up solid numbers so far, showing good power with 4 doubles and a triple, and excellent plate discipline with 4 walks in 22 plate appearances in the South Atlantic League.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

TPC Quick Comps: Jordan Schafer

The Braves are off to a hot start this year, and rookie centerfielder Jordan Schafer has done an excellent job both defensively and offensively. There's also been some talk of moving Schafer to the top of the order to utilize his speed. It's not a bad idea, but what kind of production could the Braves expect from the 22 year old at the lead off spot, and would his speed make up for his inexperience? Let's check his comps and find out.

I found a nice group of comparables for Schafer, and the news is part good and part bad for Braves fans depending on their perspective.

The good news is that the majority of the above players have shown a great deal of talent, and at least 3 of them (Sosa, Hunter, and Gomez) have proven to be adequate to above average major league ball players. Also, of the 7 players, Schafer posted some of the highest power totals (although, he was suspended last year for PED substance abuse), and his plate discipline was pretty good as well.

And now, the bad news. Of the above players that have seen significant time at the major league level, none of them would have made a very good lead off hitter as a rookie. Here are their major league production totals.

If we stretch out the home runs and extra base hit totals to 600 plate appearances, Schafer could be good for 12 to 18 home runs this year, and 30 or more doubles and triples, with 20 plus stolen bases. Overall, those aren't bad numbers, but with an average on-base percentage of just .303, the Braves would be much better off leaving Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson at the top of their order for the remainder of the season (.373 and .355 career OBPs respectively). The batting average also projects as less than ideal.

So, maybe Schafer isn't quite ready for taking over the lead off spot for the Braves, but it looks like he has a promising career ahead of him. If Schafer keeps up with his comps, in his prime he could hit between .280 and .300 with 20 to 30 home runs and 20 to 30 stolen bases per year.
...Read more

Monday, April 13, 2009

Brett Anderson Scouting Report at Project Prospect

For anyone interested, Adam Foster has an excellent scouting report of Brett Anderson's first major league start up right now at Project Prospect. I think he'll be adding to it later this evening, and it includes a one minute clip of Anderson pitching to Ken Griffey Jr. I think it's a very fair report, with some very good information. Nice work, Adam.

The Braves Report

I was cruising around on ESPN.com today and saw that they have released their MLB power rankings for the week with none other than the Atlanta Braves sitting at the #1 spot. Anyone can look good for a week (especially when they play a series against the Nationals), so I thought I'd take a closer look at how the Braves have done so far, and maybe break down some stats.

First, the offense...
  • As of today, the Braves are 6th in the majors in plate appearances per home run (21.3). Of the 5 teams ahead of them, Colorado, Tampa Bay, Texas, and Chicago will probably be in the top 10 all season long, and I expect the Braves to fall back about 10 spots by June (they came in at #23 last year).
  • The Braves rank 3rd in the majors in extra base hits with 29. I'd love to see them continue to hit the ball and rack up all these home runs and doubles, but last year they came in at number 19 in the country, and that was with Teixeira batting clean-up.
  • As a team, the Braves have struck out 42 times and walked 21 times in 2009, which puts them at about 15th place in the majors.
  • Atlanta currently has the highest team OPS in the majors, and is the only team above .900. In 2008 the Braves posted a team OPS of .753, suggesting that the offense is currently overproducing and will probably experience a huge collapse in the near future.
  • For those interested in pitch counts, the Braves have just 2 hitters in the top 100 pitches per plate appearance category: Casey Kotchman (#48) and Jordan Schafer (#68).
  • Of the 2 teams Atlanta has played against, Philadelphia's pitchers rank 12th in the nation with a WHIP of 1.36, and Washington's pitchers come in dead last with a collective WHIP of 1.86. The national average is 1.40.
Translation: Atlanta's offense was really hot last week against some very poor pitching. They displayed mediocre plate discipline, and so far have been very inept at working the count. Expect a lot fewer doubles and home runs in the coming weeks, and a lot of opposing pitchers taking advantage of the Braves hack-and-run philosophy by getting early strikes in the dirt or outside the strike zone.

And now the pitching...

  • Atlanta's pitching staff ranks 14th in the nation with a collaborative ERA of 4.17. Last year they finished the year about 50 points higher with a mix of very ineffective pitchers, so as long as the starters stay healthy this year, a 4.20 ERA seems reasonable. That would put them inside the top 15.
  • The bullpen has blown 3 saves this year, which ties them with Milwaukee for the worst bullpen in the country.
  • Atlanta's pitching corp ranks 23rd in the nation in WHIP.
  • Braves starters have provided 3 quality starts this year, which is on pace with the major league average.
  • Philadelphia and Washington rank towards the middle to lower end of major league teams in most offensive categories.
Translation: The Braves pitching has done a decent job so far, all except for a couple of blown saves by the bullpen. The starters have pitched well and aren't giving up a lot of early runs, but they haven't blown away the competition either. Expect more of the same, unless injuries derail the system.

The #1 ranking by ESPN seems a bit aggressive and ill-conceived, but as long as the Braves keep winning, I'll be happy.
Overall, the Braves are looking good, and the rotation looks to be much more dependable than last year. However, the offensive production is likely to taper off, and once it does I think Atlanta will probably carry a winning percentage closer to .500 throughout the season. ...Read more

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Quick Hits

Hey guys, I took a quick vacation to the beach for a few days, and I'm not exactly motivated to go back to school or do anything not related to sleeping and being a bum. But if I can't be at the beach, at least the baseball season is finally in full swing to keep me distracted.

  • The Nick Adenhart tragedy is probably one of the most devastating events baseball has faced in a long time. Forget steroids, forget inflated salaries, and all the other stuff that seemed so important just a few days ago. My heart goes out to the Adenhart family, as well as all of the other families effected by the wreck. I also hope Joba Chamberlain is paying very close attention.
  • Trevor Cahill went 5 innings, giving up 2 earned runs, and walking 5 in his first start for the A's earlier this week. Brett Anderson went 6 innings last night, giving up 5 earned runs during the second inning, but otherwise pitched well.
  • Clayton Kershaw pitched 5 strong innings, giving up just one earned run and striking out 6.
  • Jack McGeary debuted at A ball last night, going 7 innings and giving up 1 earned run with 8 strikeouts.
  • Madison Bumgarner also made his debut last night at advanced A ball, giving up just 2 hits with 5 strikeouts in 6 innings.
  • Tommy Hanson went 4 innings at AAA, striking out 10.
  • It's a bit early to make much of minor league hitting performances, but Pedro Alvarez, Josh Reddick, Yonder Alonso, Justin Smoak, and all of the other well known position players have had at least one impressive game thus far.
More to follow.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

TPC Quick Comps: Lars Anderson and Josh Reddick

Lars Anderson and Josh Reddick both put up some very solid numbers last season, and could soon add some pop to an already talented and youthful Red Sox team. I dug around to find some comps for each hitter, and I think there is good reason for Red Sox fans to be very optimistic .

First, the comps for Anderson (based off of minor league totals).

As it stands, I like the Wright comparison most. Posada didn't have quite the same contact capacity as Anderson does, and Walker had better power numbers, so they don't match up quite as well.

Anderson showed some extra power in 2008 at advanced A ball, so I also broke down the comparison based strictly off of A+ stats.

Once again, I think the Wright comparison is probably our best here. I think that ultimately Anderson will hit for more power than Wright, but not nearly as much as Walker, and should be a solid .290 plus hitter early in his career. I'll be interested to see if his home run numbers start to climb this year, but even if they don't he still projects as a 25 to 30 plus home run hitter with an upside of 35 to 40.

Here are Reddicks comps (once again, based off of minor league totals).

Overall, I feel most comfortable with the Jermain Dye comp, but Reddick has enough power and plate discipline to match up with Morneau and maybe even Braun over the next year or two.

Just for the sake of it, here are each player's A ball numbers (I wanted to use their advanced A stats, but I felt the A ball stats were more accurate for this comparison).

The Sox made it very clear last year that they wanted Reddick to become a more selective hitter and draw more walks, but it seemed to only mess with his head towards the end of the year, and he didn't respond very well. I've read several articles this spring indicating that the Red Sox will probably lay off a bit this year and let Reddick do his thing while quietly iterating pitch selection, and I think that's probably the best approach to take. Looking at the stats and comps, guys like Reddick succeed the most when they're swinging the bat and making contact, so why not let them? If he had a really bad strikeout to walk ratio it might be a legitimate point of focus, but the numbers suggest he'll probably be just fine.

Anyways, Reddick also projects as a .280 or .290 plus hitter early in his career, with 25 or 30 home runs and 40 on the up side. On the surface it seems that Anderson and Reddick will have essentially the same production level, but they'll get there in completely different ways. Reddick will always be a contact based hitter, while Anderson will be a much more patient on-base type player. Either way, I think they both should have very productive careers.
...Read more

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

TPC Video Break: Pablo Sandoval

Here's a short interview Pablo Sandoval gave last summer. He mentions that prior to 2008 he was more of a line drive hitter, mostly for singles and doubles, and then started hitting home runs in 2008.

Sandoval went on to compete in the Venezuelan League Home Run Derby last year, and actually beat Miguel Cabrera in the final round, as seen in the following clip.

Fun With Numbers: Matt Wieters vs Bengie Molina

After comparing Bengie Molina to Pablo Sandoval, I wanted to see how some of Molina's AA stats matched up against Matt Wieters, the #1 prospect in baseball. I was really shocked by the comparison, and it really left me scratching my head. Is Matt Wieters really the next Bengie Molina?

Here are each catchers numbers from AA.

Weird, huh? Of course, the sample sizes are sub-optimal, especially for Molina. But then again, anything over 200 plate appearances is large enough that you can't just completely dismiss it.

As I noted in the Sandoval vs Molina post, Molina bounced around between levels quite a bit in the minors, so it's hard to get a good read on how much of his production was talent and how much was luck. At the age of 21 he posted an OPS of .735 at AA, then went on to post an OPS of .956 and 1.003 at AA ball as a 22 and 23 year old respectively. I used his stats as a 21 year old in the Sandoval comparison since Sandoval played at AA as a 21 year old, and because that was the age at AA that Molina had the largest sample size.

In both the Molina vs Sandoval match-up and the Molina vs Wieters match-up we aren't really considering the whole picture, but it's just enough information that it creates a few problems with various solutions.

I think the most obvious thing to note here is that Molina had a career year during his time at AA at the age of 22 and 23, and for whatever reason he wasn't able to recreate the same level of production later is his career. It's possible that Sandoval also just went through a career year in 2008, and might plummet back down to his previous production level (.788 OPS at A+ in 2007), and it's possible that Wieters experienced a career year in 2008 as well.

There's something unsettling about the whole situation. My gut tells me that Wieters and Sandoval are both very much the real deal, and that Molina is the outlier in this situation, so I'll take that route for now, but I'll definitely keep this match-up in mind.

...Read more

Monday, April 6, 2009

Some Stuff About Brett Cecil

For all you Blue Jays fans or anyone who doesn't think I'm crazy for rating Brett Cecil so high in my 2009 top pitching prospects list, there's a short and entertaining write-up from a blog called 3:10 to Joba I think you might like.

My favorite line:

Little experience in high minors, easily annoyed by J.P. Riccardi's insistence that Cecil must succeed for J.P. to feed his family"

2009 N.L. Rookie of the Year Update

During my original post covering the candidates for the National League Rookie of the Year Award, I left off Jason Motte, the assumed closer for the Cardinals this year. Motte essentially has just one pitch - a high 90's fastball - but last year he was able to strikeout 14.8 batters per 9 innings pitched at AAA, and has been working on a slider and change-up recently.

Motte will be 27 years old this season, and projects to have a K/9 rate around 8.5 and a BB/9 of 3.5 with a 40% ground ball rate. Depending on how many save situations he sees, he might pick up anywhere from 25 to 40 saves, which would certainly put him in the running for Rookie of the Year.

With a weak rookie field in the N.L., I've got Kenshin Kawakami as my #1 pick right now, and Jason Motte as a very close #2.

Pablo Sandoval vs Bengie Molina

After posting a few times about Pablo Sandoval, I was a bit curious to see how he matched up against current Giants catcher Bengie Molina.

Molina spent time at advanced A ball during 2 separate seasons, and played at AA ball during 3 separate seasons, so the first thing I had to do was to determine which years to include in the comparison. Ultimately, I went with the largest sample size closest to the age the Sandoval played at each level. It might not be a perfect approach, but I think it provides a moderate baseline of stats for each player.

Here's their advanced A ball stats.

To keep things short and simple, using these numbers it looks like Sandoval is about 2 years ahead of Molina in terms of power and contact capacity, and about a year behind him in plate discipline.

On to AA stats (Notice that the best numbers I could come up with for Molina at AA ball were before the numbers used for the advanced A comparison. Like I said, Molina went back and forth between levels, so I went with what I felt matched up best).

Once again, Sandoval looks to be much more advanced in the power and contact departments, while falling a bit behind in plate discipline.

So, what does this all mean for Sandoval? Well, Molina has hit in the .275 to .295 range most of his career, with between 15 and 20 home runs a year (he usually averages about 450 to 500 plate appearances a year, so if you stretch his home run total out to 600 to 650 plate appearances you get 20 to 25 home runs a year). Not bad numbers for a catcher, but pretty lousy numbers for a guy who hits in the middle of the order.

If Sandoval gets 600 plate appearances, I think he could hit 20 to 40 points higher than Molina, and hit anywhere from 5 to 15 more home runs per year. That puts him in the .295 to .315 range with 25 to 40 home runs on the high side. That's pretty much in line with my other projections for Sandoval. I'm thinking maybe David Wright without the stolen bases and about half the walks?
...Read more