Saturday, January 31, 2009

Secondary Factors for Prospect Success in the Major Leagues

This isn't an analytical approach to prospect analysis, so much as it is just a few things that I feel are important factors in determining the future success of a prospect once they reach the major league level.  Obviously, strikeout rates, walk rates, power, and speed all play an important part in a player's success, but I would consider those primary factors.  The following list could be considered factors that are outside a player's realm of control, and therefore are secondary factors in my mind.  This is not a comprehensive list, so if there are other factors you think are important, feel free to add to the list.
  1. Ballpark -- This isn't really a new idea, but I've come to realize that the ballpark a player plays in has a much more profound effect on the way they play the game and consequently their overall production level than I originally thought.  Watching Alex Gordon and Delmon Young -- two hitters with tremendous power in the minors -- struggle to accumulate even moderate slugging percentages has been an eye opener for me.  Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City -- where Gordon plays -- ranks 29th in the country with a home run park factor of 0.788 and the Metrodome in Minnesota -- where Young plays -- ranks 21st with a home run park factor of 0.896.  For Gordon, that means an overall decrease in his home run totals at home of about 21.2% compared to what the number of home runs he would hit at balanced park like AT&T Park in San Francisco, which has a home run factor of 0.992.  If Gordon played in Baltimore at Camden Yards, his home run total for 2008 would have been 157% higher at home than in Kauffman Stadium.  That is a very significant difference (and should be very helpful for Matt Wieters).
  2. Surrounding Offense -- Once again, this isn't a new concept, but I'm beginning to feel that the hitters that surround a rising prospect can have a significant impact on his major league production.  Once again, watching Alex Gordon try to find a rhythm in Kansas City where he has very little supporting talent has convinced me that without an average or above average team offense, most young hitters will find it very difficult to put up respectable numbers.  Ryan Zimmerman in Washington is another good example of the surrounding offense dragging down a young, talented player.  In contrast to Gordon and Zimmerman, Ryan Braun and Chris Davis both made their rookie debuts on teams that had established offensive production, which meant that pitchers and other teams spent most of their time planning for the rest of the hitters on the team, while Davis and Braun were able to fly under the radar for a while and get some success and confidence early on.
  3. Managerial Talent Utilization -- As a Braves fan, I grew up watching pitching coach Leo Mazzone work his magic on countless pitchers over the last decade.  I'm sure other teams thought that the Braves front office was somehow more skilled at analyzing pitching talent, and thus signed a lot of overlooked players, but in reality I think it all came back to Mazzone.  He tended to amplify his pitchers strengths and hide exposure to their weaknesses.  While most teams might not have seen the potential in a young Greg Maddux and tried to focus on increasing his strikeout totals, Mazzone understood that by teaching Maddux to pitch low and away, he could establish a wider strike zone and then overpower hitters with control.  Had Maddux been coached by a more power pitching oriented instructor, he might not have been the Hall of Fame pitcher that went on to win 355 major league games.
  4. Surrounding Pitching Staff -- Just as young hitters benefit from a good supporting cast, pitchers can often benefit from teammates with complimentary talent.  I've heard of teams signing veteran pitchers with the hopes that they will help develop younger pitchers, and while I think that's a good enough idea, I think teams should also look for pitchers that provide good contrast to their young pitchers.  By that I mean, if you have a young flame thrower like Clayton Kershaw, it would be to his benefit to pitch the day after a guy like Derek Lowe, who gets most of his outs via groundballs.  The Red Sox genereally do a great job of staggering their pitchers so that one day the opposing offense faces a power pitcher, and then the next day they face a finesse pitcher like Justin Masterson or Tim Wakefield.  Not a new idea here, just something to keep in mind. 
  5. Team and Fan Expectations -- In general, I have seen very few prospects do well in the majors under the pressure of extreme team expecations.  Some of the best hitters in the game were obscure, overlooked players that surprised team management and fans alike.  Consider Brian McCann, Albert Pujols, Dustin Pedroia, Ryan Braun, Kevin Youkilis, Hanley Ramirez, and Josh Hamilton.  Each of these players came into the majors with next to zero pressure to succeed.  If they had a bad day at the plate, no one noticed because they weren't expected to do much.  Since there were no expectations, everything they did was just icing on the cake.  That allowed them to go out, do their best, and look past their failures quickly, which is a very important thing to be able to do in a sport that is predominantly based around individual failure.  In contrast, consider the position of guys like Alex Gordon, Delmon Young, Jeff Francoeur, Ryan Zimmerman, Andy Marte, and Rickie Weeks.  Each of them came into the majors with overinflated expectations, and no matter what they did, everyone thought they could do better.  If they had a bad day at the plate, fans started to question them.  If they went a week without a hit, managers started to squirm.  If they finally hit a home run, they started trying to pull the ball until they hit another one.  Ultimately, these players spent the majority of their time concentrating on their failures and overlooking their successes, and entered into a brutal cycle of depressed expectations and depressed results.  
As I said, this is not a complete list, and there are a lot of factors that play into a prospects success, so if you can think of others, feel free to add to the list.           
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Friday, January 30, 2009

A TPC Thank You

Recently, The Prospect Corner broke through the 30,000 page views mark and also reached $25 in total ad revenues.  After almost a year of posting, I just want to say thanks to anyone and everyone who stops by to read, comment, vote on polls, or click on ads.  I hope you all enjoy the site and my posts, and if you have any suggestions, feel free to let me know what kinds of things you like about the site, what you don't like, and what you'd like to see included in the future.  I've also added a few more ads recently, and though it has never been my goal to make money off the site, I am grateful that you all have taken the time to click on some of the ads and send a bit of cash my way.  Thanks once again.

Adam G.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

5 Sleepers for 2009 Pitcher Edition

Last year about this time, I wrote a post for Wax Heaven with 10 sleeper picks for 2008 (5 pitchers and 5 hitters). I thought I'd take a moment to quickly review my picks, and then make a short list or pitchers to watch in 2009.

2008 Review 5 Sleepers Pitchers Edition

1. Francisco Liriano

Liriano wasn't completely under the radar last spring, but he also wasn't getting a lot of attention either. He's probably a good sleeper pick for '09 as well.

2. Trevor Cahill

I think this was a pretty good sleeper pick. Cahill had a great season and could start sometime for the A's in '09.

3. Jaime Garcia

The biggest question mark with Garcia going into '08 was whether his arm would hold up. It did...for a while. Would've been a nice addition to the Cardinals if he could've stayed healthy. Too bad.

4. Brett Anderson

I really think Anderson could be very special.

5. Sean Gallagher

Gallagher didn't blow anybody away in '08, but I think he could do a lot better in '09. His teammate Gio Gonzalez could also be considered a sleeper pick this year.

2009 5 Sleepers Pitcher Edition

1. Jack McGeary

While he spent almost the entire year at rookie ball, McGeary posted 28.3% K% and walked just 10 batters in 52 innings while maintaining a 68% GB%. To get McGeary, the Nationals agreed to pay the 6th round pick $1.8 million and allow him to attend Stanford University, maintain his own workout schedule, and play minor league ball in the summer while Washington footed the bill for his 4 year education. Weird, right?

2. Nick Barnese

Recently named the Rays 7th best pitching prospect by Baseball America, I think Barnese could end up in the top 25 prospects for all of baseball next spring. He's got really good stuff, and he's in a great system to develop even further. So far, Barnese has put up almost identical numbers to what Trevor Cahill posted through A ball, and his curveball mixed with his command should baffle hitters throughout 2009.

3. Dae-Eun Rhee

Straight out of Seoul, Korea, 19 year old Rhee reportedly already has 3 solid pitches, and is working on a fourth. Good control, good strikeout rates, keeps the ball down, and the Cubs are in love with him.

4. Christian Friedrich

Friedrich may not pan out like I think he will, but in 48 innings last year at A ball, he averaged 12.2 stikeouts per 9 innings, while walking just 2.8 per 9 innings. He keeps the ball down, which will come in handy in Colorado, and his numbers compare very well to Neftali Feliz, who was recently named the number 4 prospect in all of baseball by Keith Law of ESPN.

5. Jhoulys Chacin

Chacin is slowly getting some attention, including a recent spot on ESPN's top 100 prospects. He has excellent control, keeps the ball low in the zone, which -- like Friedrich -- will come in handy in Colorado. He's not an overpowering pitcher, but he has good numbers so far, and should climb up all the various rankings fairly quickly.
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Sunday, January 25, 2009

TPC Prospect Smackdown: Max Ramirez vs Taylor Teagarden vs Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Recently, Baseball America ranked the Texas Rangers farm system as the #1 system in the country. From top to bottom, the Rangers have loads of offense, great pitching, and defense to boot. It's an enviable position that teams around the nation would love to be in, but the Rangers are learning that, in the words of the ever insightful Notorious B.I.G., mo' money means mo' problems, and mo' talented prospects means someone has to ride the pine.

In 2008, Chris Davis rocketed up the ranks to dethrone Hank Blalock from the third base starting job, causing a minor disturbance in the balance between rising talent and established veterans. While no one is really sure if Davis will stay at third, move to first, or hit from the DH spot over the next few years, it looks like the scenario may repeat itself as the likes of Elvis Andrus, Justin Smoak, and Engel Beltre move through the minors.

Perhaps the first Rangers veteran player to be completely bumped by rookies is Gerald Laird, the 29 year old catcher that made $1.6 million last year and played in 95 games in '08 for Texas. However, unlike Blalock, Laird didn't have just one rising star to worry about -- he had three. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Taylor Teagarden, and Max Ramirez are all very talented catchers hoping for a chance to start for the Rangers, and possibly nail down the job for good.

The Rangers, realizing that despite having 4 talented catchers to choose from, there was just no room to keep them all. In early December they sent Laird packing, and traded him for two pitching prospects. So, with Laird out of the picture, the Rangers are in the process of shopping around Teagarden, Salty, and Ramirez, hoping to pull in a few more young pitchers in return. So far, it doesn't look like a deal is imminent, but if the Rangers get a good offer, which catcher should they give up?

Here are each of the three catching prospects stats stacked up against one another.

Between the three, it's hard to say who has the better potential. Of course, Salty's power numbers are a bit lower, but he was also 2 years younger at AA, so his power potential is still comparable to Ramirez. Teagarden obviously has the most power, but his strikeout rate is considerably higher, so we can't really give him the top ranking. If we're going to establish any kind of order here, we've got to dig a bit deeper.

Here are each players offensive comparables I've found.

Looking at the comparables, I'm still not sure which catcher I would take.

So, let's look at what each comparable hitter did at the age of 25 at the major league level and see if that helps at all.

Based off of those numbers, I'd have to say it's a toss up between Salmon and Bay. Posada went on to have some great years with the Yankees, but early on in his career he just couldn't compete with the other two in terms of offense. Obviously, we can't assume that Teagarden, Ramirez, and Saltalamacchia will absolutely reflect the production of the three players above, but I think they could come pretty close given the right conditions.

Anyways, if we toss out Salty/Posada, now we've got to figure out if we're going to give Bay/Ramirez the top spot, or Salmon/Teagarden. Let's look at each players' production the following year and see who comes out on top.

Once again, it's a close call, but I think Salmon has the edge, putting Taylor Teargarden at the top of the pecking order. Once again, keep in mind that these numbers don't guarantee anything for Teagarden, Ramirez, and Saltalamacchia, but there are enough indicators to suggest that these numbers are pretty close and present reasonable projections for each.

If Teagarden performs similar to Tim Salmon over the next few years of his career, and Max Ramirez performs similar to Jason Bay, either catcher would easily outperform almost every other catcher in the major leagues in offensive terms. In 2008, Mike Napoli was the only catcher to post an OPS over .900, and there was not a single catcher that hit more than 23 home runs (although, Napoli hit 20 in just 262 plate appearances). Given a full season of 600 plate appearances, Teagarden and Ramirez both have the potential to be All-Star backstops.

If I had to make the call, I'd probably trade Teagarden since his value is a bit higher right now, keep Salty as the #2, and give the job to Ramirez for good. Then again, maybe I'd keep Teagarden, trade Salty, keep Ramirez in the minors one more year, then trade Teagarden at the end of '08. Either way, with 3 extremely talented catchers to choose from, I'll be interested to see which one the Rangers go with in 2009, and whether they give him the job outright, or set up a platoon system. Regardless of what happens, I think there's a good chance that Taylor Teagarden and Max Ramirez will be considered 2 of the top hitting catchers in the majors in a couple of years, and Saltalamacchia won't be far behind.
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Saturday, January 24, 2009

TPC Prospect in Retrospect: Jeff Francoeur

After Jeff Francoeur burst onto the scene a few years back, Braves fans and just about everyone else was convinced he was headed for Super Stardom.  But when Francoeur's stats took a nose dive in 2008, fans found very to like about Frenchy.  Now that Francoeur is headed for arbitration, I decided to start digging around his minor league numbers to see if there were any indicators in his past that might have been overlooked in his rise to stardom and might be able to account for his sudden demise.  In the end, the only conclusion I could come to was that Francoeur has one and only one natural talent at the plate: power.  And while 2008 may have been a horrible year for Frenchy, the best is yet to come.

Before I explain myself, the first thing I want to do is to find some comparables for Francoeur, and here's what I came up with (all numbers are averages from each player's entire minor league career).

(*Dale Murphy skipped AA ball and went straight to AAA ball)

It turns out Francoeur's minor league stats were pretty good, and as a whole his closest comp was Corey Hart, followed by Dale Murphy, who both had similar plate discipline and power production in the minors.  I also added Chipper Jones to the list to illustrate the fact that while guys like Francoeur have similar power potential to hitters like Jones, there are very few similarities otherwise.  As evidence, here are Chipper's stats from his first 7 years in the majors compared to Murphy's first 7 years.

At 23, Jones and Murphy were pretty close in terms of plate discipline, but after that Murphy's strikeout rate and walk rate didn't improve much, while Jones continued to improve for the next several years.  Basically, great hitters like Jones display great discipline at an early age to go along with their power, while guys like Murphy never develop better than average plate discipline.  As one more piece of evidence, here are Jeff Francoeur and Corey Hart's stats from the last several years.

While there's evidence of improvement, neither Murphy, Hart, or Francoeur is anywhere near Jones in terms of plate discipline, and they never will be.  It's just a fact.  Plate discipline is not one of their natural God-given gifts, and no matter how much Francoeur or the Braves try to improve on it, it just isn't going to happen.  That's not to say that they shouldn't try, but everyone involved needs to realize that there's only so much that they can do before it's time to let it go and move on.  Like it or not, in terms of plate discipline, Francoeur is not a great hitter.  

The good news is that Francoeur is improving bit by bit, but the bad news is that even though Francoeur's K% and BB% have improved every year, his OBP and batting average do not reflect the difference. At 24, Francoeur struck out less and walked more than he did at 22, but it was the 100 point drop in his slugging that destroyed his production. Had he slugged somewhere around .450, he probably would have ended the year with an average well over .250 and an OBP of .330 or more.  

Luckily however, the one skill that Francoeur, Hart, and Murphy have in common with hitters like Chipper that is not absolutely dictated by plate discipline is power.  And if there's one skill to be born with, power is definitely one of the more valuable skills.  If we use a guy like Ron Gant as a floor, and Murphy as a ceiling for Francoeur,  I think we can determine a realistic power projection for Francoeur based solely off of his minor league stats. Gant was a year behind Francoeur in terms of age and never quite demonstrated the same power potential as Frenchy, so Gant's 321 career home runs seem like a reasonable baseline. Murphy was about a year ahead of Francoeur, so his minor league power numbers can be adjusted upwards to compensate for the difference. With 398 home runs (couldn't Murphy have hit just 2 more before retiring?), he serves as a reasonable ceiling for Francoeur. So, that puts us somewhere in the 325 to 400 home run range.  

I know a lot of Braves fans are concerned that Frenchy's numbers are just going to get worse, but despite his power dropoff in 2008, I'm certain that Francoeur's power will soon return, and his best years are yet to come. In case you don't believe me, check out Dale Murphy's 1981 season, during which at age 25 he posted a slugging percentage of just .390, down from .510 the year before.  Over the next six years, Muphy posted a slugging percentage greater than .500 fivetimes.   In case that doesn't convince you, take a look at Ron Gant's 1989 season, when as a 24 year old he saw his slugging percentage drop from .439 to .335.  Like Murphy, Gant went on to post a slugging percentage close to or above .500 five times over the next six years.

I'm not guaranteeing that Francoeur will actually perform like Dale Murphy or Ron Gant over the next five or six years.  But consider this: at 24 years of age, Francoeur has a .268 lifetime average, an OPS of .746, and has averaged about 18 home runs per full season, which compares well to Corey Hart's .277 career average, an OPS of .808, and an average of about 22 home runs per full season. Both Hart and Francoeur will no doubt raise those numbers over the next 10 years, and could both end up with career totals similar to Murphy, who retired with a .265 career batting average, with an OPS of .815 while hitting about 28 home runs per season.  Those numbers are very attainable given Francoeur's skill set, and 2008 will probably be remembered as one the worst seasons in his career.

So, what can we expect from Francoeur in 2009?  Below are the projections for Frenchy from CHONE, Bill James, and Marcel:

CHONE: .276 average, .445 slugging, 20 home runs, 93 RBI
Bill James: .272 average, .435 slugging, 16 home runs, 76 RBI
Marcel: .268 average, .417 slugging, 16 home runs, 79 RBI

Those numbers look adequate, but seem to be extremely conservative.  If history is any indicator of the future, I think Francoeur could post the following line in '09:

TPC Jeff Francoeur Projection for 2009:  .285 average, .505 slugging, 27 home runs, 90 RBI
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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Minor League Mayhem

This really doesn't have much to do with anything, but I was reading a short post about Chris Davis at John Sickel's Minor League Ball, and apparently Chris Davis has become quite a polarizing player.  The post -- which simply asked where you would rank Davis in the top 50 if he were still considered a prospect -- is followed up by a huge and heated discussion about his strikeout rates, home run totals, minor league vs major league stats, etc. etc.  It's amazing that less than 6 months ago Davis was getting next to zero publicity, and suddenly during the offseason he's become one of the most debated topics among stat heads.  

Like I said, it doesn't have much to do with anything, but interesting nonetheless.   

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

TPC 2009 Projection: Justin Upton

Last year, Justin Upton started the season crushing the ball, before he cooled off and finished the year with a .250 average and a .816 OPS.

So, what can we expect from J-Up in 2009?

Here are the CHONE, Bill James, and Marcel projections for Upton:

CHONE: .257 average, 16 home runs, 60 RBI, .793 OPS
Bill James: .263 average, 22 home runs, 68 RBI, .844 OPS
Marcel: .264 average, 13 home runs, 45 RBI, .806 OPS

Everyone seems to be projecting basically the same numbers, except that the Bill James numbers are based off of 576 plate appearances, the CHONE numbers are based off of 492 plate appearances, and the Marcel system is going off an estimated 424 plate appearances, as compared to the 417 plate appearances Upton made in '08. While I think the projections are very reasonable, I think there are a few things to consider that might help us create a more accurate projection.

First, each of the above projections has Upton striking out somewhere between 27-29% of the time in 2009. While that's a bit of an improvement over his 29% in 2008, it severely downplays the capacity of a young player with Upton's talent to improve his contact rates early in his career.  Here are just a few examples of the improvement young hitters can make in just a single season:

Obviously, not every player sees such improvement so quickly (Justin Upton's brother, B.J. actually saw his K% increase by about 7% in his second year, before it dropped in his third full season).  But Justin kept his K% below 26% in July and September with the Diamonbacks, and I think we're more likely to see him decrease his strikeout rate in '09 rather than an increase or no change at all.

Another point I'd like to make is that I doubt the Diamondbacks are going to spend much time moving Upton back and forth between the majors and the the minors this year.  Instead of 417 plate appearances, we can extend Upton's '08 home run rate to 600 plate appearances, which gets us somewhere around 22 home runs.  If Upton improves on that rate by just a fraction, I think 25 home runs is not an unreasonable expectation.  

One last thing to point out is that Upton posted a .169 batting average during away games.  Young players have to make a lot of adjustments when they reach the majors, and traveling to new ballparks can often overwhelm them.  While they may have had a consistent travel routine in the minors, traveling in the majors requires adjustment to new cities and new schedules, and it can all amount to one major distraction.  Given time, I expect Upton's away game stats to dramatically improve, and as a result his overall stats should get a nice boost.

So, with all that said and out of the way, I think Upton should be good for the following stats in 2009:

TPC 2009 Projection for Justin Upton: .268 batting average, 24 home runs,  75 RBI, .835 OPS

Overall, those stats are most similar to the Bill James projection, so we'll revisit this post in 10 or 12 months and see how it looks.  I wouldn't be surprised if Upton hits closer to .275 or .280 with 25 to 30 home runs, but for now we'll stick with the above numbers.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

TPC 2009 Projection: Tommy Hanson

The following projection is based off of the assumption that the Braves will call up Tommy Hanson sometime in 2009. I'm not going to try and guess exactly when they'll call him up, but barring injury or some kind of horrible start in AAA, he should be called up sometime before the All-Star break.

Before we come up with a rough projection, let's first identify some pitchers that have posted similar minor league numbers to Hanson (each pitcher was 21 during their time at AA; all stats are overall minor league averages).

Of these 5 comparable pitchers, I think Johnny Cueto matches up the best with Hanson.  Cueto's walk rate was a bit higher, but his ground ball rate was also a bit higher, so it all kind of evens out.  I threw Jesse Foppert up there (the once rising phenom in the Giants organization) simply because his minor league numbers were somewhat similar to Hanson and Foppert actually pitched in the majors for almost a whole season before undergoing Tommy John surgery.  Unfortunately, I can't find a GB% for Foppert from before his injury, but if we assume that at worst he posted a 40% GB%, then he can provide us with a decent comp for Hanson.

Anyways, the first thing that strikes me when I look at Hanson's comparables is that he seems to be benefiting from some good luck or pitcher friendly situations.   His WHIP of 1.10 and ERA of 2.74 are similar to Jake Peavy's, but his K/9, BB/9, and GB% suggest that his actual performance is considerably inferior to Peavy.  With that in mind, it comes at no surprise that almost a third of Hanson's minor league innings came at Myrtle Beach, where hitters tend to struggle.  But that aside, we should keep in mind that the quality of minor league defenses can vary greatly, so WHIP and ERA are often out of the control of individual pitchers.  

The few stats that a pitcher can control in the minors include strike out rates, walk rates, and ground ball rates.  So, before we look at some possible major league stats for Hanson in '09, let's move forward with a rough ranking system that has Hanson matched up with Cueto and Jon Lester, while coming in somewhere below Jake Peavy and Jesse Foppert, and somewhere just above Scott Olsen.

Below are the major league stats for each of the above pitchers at the age of 22 years old:
If we dispose of the outliers in each category, we come up with a K/9 of about 7.9, a BB/9 of 4.1, a WHIP of 1.42, and an ERA of 4.56.  I'm pretty comfortable with those numbers for Hanson, and had he posted them in 2008, he would have fit in somewhere between Jair Jurrjens and Mike Hampton, and would probably have maintained a .500 win percentage for the Braves.  Not bad, but not great.

TPC 2009 Projection for Tommy Hanson:  7.9 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 1.42 WHIP, 4.56 ERA, .500 win percentage
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Monday, January 19, 2009

Hit F/X on the Way

Many of you have probably seen the Pitch F/X tracker information that has been utilized my Major League Baseball, and has allowed for in-game analysis of movement of individual pitches. (For a nice look at Justin Masterson using Pitch F/X data, check out

As great as the Pitch F/X system has been, there appears to be a Hit F/X system on the way. The system could provide data that would allow the average stat head a chance to run comparisons between hitters, scouting reports, coaching strategies, and mechanical analysis. If it all sounds like a bunch of boring number crunching, then I can't really argue with that, but for people like me who rely on stats to tell the story behind the game, these types of advancements could provide countless insights into evaluating and projecting player performances and results.

Imagine if your favorite hitter has been in a horrible slump for the past 3 weeks, and his team is struggling. A quick look at the Hit F/X numbers could tell you if he's getting under the ball too much, missing each pitch by a mile, or if he's hitting the ball squarely, but right at an infielder. You could also determine which hitters create the highest ball speed off of their bats, and which hitters create the best angle of projection at the point of contact.

It's some pretty cool stuff, and I think we'll see some really nice analysis come from the blogosphere once it's in place.

Friday, January 16, 2009


I came across, a site dedicated to user submitted videos of baseball prospects. It seems like a good idea, and hopefully will soon have a substantial amount of videos to sort through.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Elvis Andrus to Start for Texas?

There are some confirmed reports online stating that the Rangers are seriously considering moving Michael Young from shortstop to third base to make room for Elvis Andrus this spring.  I'm not sure if that means Andrus will actually be given the starting role at short, but it seems like Texas is eager to give it to him.  While not the worst move ever, I don't think it's a very responsible approach by the Rangers, and should be left alone for at least 6 to 12 more months.

Tommy Hanson vs. Derek Holland vs. Neftali Feliz

"Hanson probably has the best stuff of anybody in the organization right now--even at the big league level. If there is one kid in the whole organization who is untouchable in a trade--that was one of the hang-ups in the Peavy deal--it would be this kid. He's as good as advertised. He's going to have a chance to make this club out of spring training. If we don't make a trade for a No. 1 starter, I'd say it's a pretty good bet the kid could be on the opening day roster. He's not going to be starting Game 1, but you'll probably see him the first week of the season."

I know how much some of you all like Tommy Hanson, and as a Braves fan I really hope he turns out to be a great one, but just in case you've bought into the Tommy Hanson hype, here's a bit of perspective for you.

Raise your hand if you can name the 5 prospects the Braves gave up in 2007 for Mark Teixeira. If you said Matt Harrison, Elvis Andrus, Jarrod Saltalamacchia (I spelled that without looking), Beau Jones, and Neftali Feliz, then give yourself a pat on the back, because you were correct my friend. Prior to that trade, most avid Braves fans knew who Salty was, they also knew a few things about Elvis Andrus, and a few had even heard of Matt Harrison. But there weren't many fans out there who knew much about Beau Jones, and there might have been a handful of fans who recognized Neftali Feliz's name.

Fast forward about 18 months, and suddenly the Braves find themselves with very few options going into the 2009 season, piecing together an aging pitching staff and hoping that Jeff Francoeur and Chipper Jones can collectively put together 500 solid at bats. Meanwhile, the Rangers have a very healthy and powerful offense, and are quietly putting together a respectable group of pitching prospects.

Neftali Feliz, who before 2008 was probably considered basic filler in the Teixeira trade, is heading the Rangers' young pitching stars, putting up some of the best pitching stats of any Rangers prospect in recent history. While most Braves fans are completely hooked on Tommy Hanson, they'll soon find out that the Braves actually sent their best pitching prospect to Texas. To illustrate my point, here's a side-by-side comparison of Hanson and Feliz, along with Derek Holland, a very capable, yet overlooked Rangers pitching prospect.

Except for his strike out rate, Holland has outpaced Hanson, and has demonstrated the ability to keep the ball in the park while playing in some very hitter friendly leagues. Feliz is on the verge of being a very exciting pitching prospect, and will probably be soon be considered a top 20 or even top 10 prospect.

Just looking at those numbers, there's really no comparison. Feliz is just nasty (obviously his WHIP and ERA could be better, but his age puts him over the top), while Hanson doesn't even top Derek Holland, who has yet to appear on a single major prospect ranking list (although I expect him to crack the top 50 of several lists in the next few months). And once again, the problem with Hanson is easy to identify: his inability to keep the ball on the ground and inside the park.

Am I saying Hanson will never be any good? Not at all. Am I saying he will absolutely never be better than Derek Holland or Neftali Feliz? Once again, no. But what I'm getting at is that at this moment in time, there are better pitching prospects that for whatever reason are not getting the attention they deserve, while Braves fans (and more importantly the Braves front office and players) are all but certain that Hanson is "untouchable."

I'm not discounting scouting reports or insisting that I'm absolutely right about this one, so if you're a Hanson fan, please don't take all of this the wrong way. However, as a life long Braves fan, I hope that Frank Wren and company are able to realize exactly what guys like Hanson are and are not capable of accomplishing over the next few years, and plan accordingly. And for all you Rangers fans, take a moment to appreciate that your team is making some very smart moves as of late, and that the future is looking brighter.
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Freedom Card Board Forum

For those of you who once enjoyed the baseball card forums on, there's a new forum at Freedom Card Board.  I'm not sure if it was created as a reaction to the horrible changes Beckett made to their forum, but FCB seems to be much more like the old, more user-friendly Beckett forum.  It's also has Razor (the new baseball card company) as a sponsor, and maintains the slogan "Made By Collectors, For Collectors!"

Overall, the site looks simple to use and usually has several hundred users on at any given time.  Check it out if you're interested. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Reviewing the '08 Draft: Yonder Alonso

Hey everybody, even though I don't have a clue when I'm going to be able to read all of them, I bought 3 baseball related books today. Johnny Damon's Idiot, The Long Ball, and We Are The Ship: The Story of the Negro League now all enjoy their very own spot on my bookshelf. I think I'll work my way through each of them as Spring Training approaches.

Speaking of Spring Training, who else is excited to check in on Yonder Alonso, the Reds' first round pick in '08?

Over the last month I've spent some time digging through old college stats of players that have been both studs and duds in the majors. Project Prospect recently ran a very nice article by Lincoln Hamilton, who has concocted his own evaluation system for college hitters, and I tend to agree with the majority of his assessments. Power, strike out rates, and walk rates seem to play the largest factors in the success of a collegiate slugger once they reach the pro level (if you consider OPS a measure of success).

Without delving too much into the mathematics of it all, I just want to take a moment to point out Yonder Alonso's stats at the University of Miami.

Alonso managed a BB% of 21%, while striking out just 12.6%.  Also, 42% of his hits were for extra bases.  By comparison, Pedro Alvarez who the Pirates selected with the #3 pick finished his college career with 42% of his hits going for extra bases (just like Alonso), but had a 15.5% walk rate and a strike out rate of 19.5% (I realize Alvarez had some injury issues, but the difference is too significant to ignore).  In essence, for every 100 plate appearances, both players had similar power production when putting the ball in play, but Alvarez had 6 fewer walks with 7 more strikeouts than Alonso.  That's a total of 13% of all plate appearances that Alvarez was unable to produce, while Alonso maintained offensive leverage simply by having better plate discipline.  

It might seem like a small difference, but if the future success of most college hitters can be best evaluated based off of power, strike out rates, and walk rates, then I'd have to say that going into the '09 season, I like Alonso's chances of early success more than those of Alvarez.

If we look beyond Alvarez, Alonso's collegiate offensive stats compare very well to those of Alex Gordon, Ryan Braun, and Matt Weiters.  As if those comparables weren't enough to sell me on Alonso, we also have to remember that Great American Ballpark is one of the friendliest parks in the nation for left handed power hitters.  

Of course, the future is not set in stone, and Alonso still has to work his way past Joey Votto, but I think there's a very good chance that 3 or 4 years from now, Alonso will be a well established star, and the Reds will use Votto to trade for some pitching or a couple of solid prospects.

TPC Comparable Player: Carlos Quentin
TPC Preliminary Projection: .280-.300 average, 30-40 homeruns        
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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Tommy Hanson Pitching Mechanics

As most of you know, I think that Tommy Hanson has been a bit over hyped, and he'll struggle for a few years in the majors before putting it all together. has an interesting breakdown of his mechanics. Good arm action, but his finish leaves his release point high in my opinion, which helps explain his low GB% (the dominant and glaring weakness in his game).

Trevor Cahill Mechanical Analysis

For those of you interested, there's a nice article breaking down Trevor Cahill's mechanics at While it seems Cahill doesn't have the most ideal motion, it doesn't look like he's high risk either. There are a few indications that he could increase his velocity with a few adjustments, but hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

Jaime Garcia and What Could Have Been

I was a big fan of Jaime Garcia this past year, and it really dissappointed me when I heard that he was undergoing Tommy John Surgery back in September.  While it certainly does not signal the end of his career, it's always unfortunate to watch a young, talented pitcher waste his years away on the DL.  Hopefully he'll recover quickly and make his way back for the 2010 season.  

There's an interesting article on that was written back in July breaking down Garcia's mechanics and some of the potential arm and shoulder problems he could face over time.

Had he been healthy for the 2009 season, I would have projected something along the lines of a 1.25 to 1.35 WHIP, with an ERA in the 3.50 to 4.00 range.  Along with the help of a decent Cardinals offense, Jaime might have been able to win anywhere from 10 to 15 games.  Oh, what might have been.

Friday, January 9, 2009

David Price 2009 Projection: A.L. ROY?

This will be short and sweet.

After cross analyzing pitchers with similar minor league stats at a similar age to David Price, I'm going to go with the following stats for Price's 2009 season:

K/9 = 6.5 - 7.5
BB/9 = 3.25
GB% = 52%
WHIP = 1.25
ERA = 3.75

I feel like those stats are somewhat conservative, but realistic.

If the Rays offense and defense remain consistent with last year, the above numbers would likely put Price in the 12 to 14 wins range, with 8 to 10 losses. He'll be a solid starter, and will likely pitch in the #4 or #5 spot, depending on how Edwin Jackson and Andy Sonnanstine pitch during the first half.

So, the big question on everyone's mind is whether Price has a shot at the A.L. ROY. My answer, in short, is not likely. But (and this is a big but), if Price out performs the above projections, or if 2009 happens to be a weak year in terms of rookie player production, Price could find himself in R.O.Y. contention by years end.

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TPC Stock Pick of the Day: ACTS

Hey guys, it's time for the TPC stock pick, so get out your pens and pencils, and let's do some math.

Actions Semiconductor Co., Ltd. (ticker symbol ACTS), is a Chinese based semiconductor manufacturer that has seen it's stock price fall from $4.40 down to $1.67 at the present time of writing.

Market Cap: $142.04 m.
Total Cash: $258.25 m.
Total Debt: $1.50 m.
Price/Book: 0.48
Trailing P/E: 3.17
Forward P/E: 15.45
Profit Margin: 40.71%
Operating Margin: 26.11%
Gross Profit: $59.71 m.
Qtrly Rev. Growth: 0.90%
Operating Cash Flow: $55.96 m.
Levered Free Cash Flow: $23.45 m.

ACTS really pops out to me simply because they have so much cash on hand. With over $3 cash per share, the $1.70 price tag per share seems like a steal, and it's always nice to see very little debt on a company's financial statement. While revenues aren't growing right now, the current state of the world economy means that a company that isn't seeing it's income shrink should consider themselves quite fortunate. The forward P/E suggests that while ACTS might not be a fantastic short term gainer, once sales pick up in a few years, this could be a very profitable investment.
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2008 Draft in Review: Buster Posey

There were a lot of great college hitters taken in the first round of the 2008 MLB draft, and I think many of them have bright futures ahead of them. One player I'll watch especially close is Buster Posey, the talented catcher from Florida State. While perhaps not he most polished college hitter, I think the Giants made a smart choice when they drafted Posey.

Before we address what the future may hold for Posey, I want to first state that I don't see much power potential in Posey, and I don't think he'll be a dominant offensive player. Despite hitting 26 home runs with 21 doubles in 2008 with FSU, Posey had just 7 home runs (using a metal bat) over 500+ plate appearances between his freshman and sophomore years in college. Translated into wood bat numbers, Posey isn't the most awe inspiring hitter.

However, Posey has made great strides at catcher, and if he can manage to hit .280-.300 with 15-25 home runs, he'll be considered one of the premier players at his position. While the Giants have decent prospects at other positions, they're desperately thin at catcher, and anytime you can fill a premium position in your farm system with a high quality draft pick like Posey, it's hard to say no.

So, for the Giants, Posey made sense at #5 in the draft. But what I think really made it impossible for the Giants to pass up Posey actually had as much to do with their young pitching talent as it did their need of a solid catching prospect. With Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Tim Alderson, and Madison Bumgarner all under the age of 25, it will greatly benefit the Giants to have a dependable, talented catcher that can grow and develop along with their pitching staff. It makes total sense, and I think the Giants investment in Posey should pay some great dividends down the road.

TPC Preliminary Projection: .280-.300 average, 15-25 home runs
TPC Comparable Player: Jason Varitek
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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Baseball Card Freak!

While I prefer stats over cards, I have been known to look over a checklist now and again to see what kind of autographed prospect cards are out there.  While drifting around the baseball blog-o-sphere, I ran across a site called the Baseball Card Freak, only to find that it is run by several individuals that I had become familiar with when I began writing posts for the Beckett Baseball Forum back in the day before it went all nutz-o and turned into one of the biggest flops ever.

The Baseball Card Freak is a nicely run site, so check it out, and as always, I wish everyone there the best of luck!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Chris Davis Projection Combos for 2009

I've watched Chris Davis for a couple of years now,knowing that one day others would see the potential in him that I saw. After a spectacular power display with the Ranger's in '08, it looks like the Crush Davis Bandwagon is about to overflow with believers.

Below are the 2009 estimates for Davis according to various projection systems:

Bill James: .302 Ave/ 39 HR/ 115 RBI
CHONE: .265 Ave/ 29 HR/ 102 RBI
Baseball HQ: .285 Ave/ 36 HR/ 104 RBI

So, the general consensus is somewhere around a .280 average and 35 home runs with 100+ RBIs. My biggest concern with these projections is that over his last 200 plate appearances in '08, Davis had just 7 home runs, with a strikeout rate of about 30%. I expect Davis to perform a little bit better than that throughout 2009, but I also think the Rangers will probably try to hit Davis higher in their batting order, and he won't get the same meatball pitches he was getting while hitting lower in the order. The Rangers might also suffer from the loss of Milton Bradley, and their entire offense might struggle to match its production from 2008.

With that in mind, there's 3 different levels of production that I feel we could see from Davis in 2009:

High Range: .310 Average, 41 HR, 125 RBI
Mid Range: .280 Average, 35 HR, 105 RBI
Low Range: .255 Average, 21 HR, 70 RBI

Obviously, that's a very wide range of production, and I haven't really convinced myself that any of them are absolutely the best combo to go with. So, I'll have to go with my gut on this one, and give the following combo as the official TPC 2009 projection for Chris Davis (based off of 600 plate appearances):

.285 Average, 31 HR, 103 RBI, .915 OPS

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Notes on Madison Bumgarner

I just wanted to pass on what I came across while reading up on some of the post-2008 minor league awards.

Going into 2008, Mad-Bum didn't have much of a breaking ball, and relied heavily on his fastball to get batters out. However, according to an interview with posted on November 25th, Bumgarner said:  
"My slider and curve got a lot better. I didn't really have a breaking ball coming into the instructional league last year. It just got better and better [as the year went on]. It just kind of clicked."

I haven't been able to find any recent scouting reports that indicate whether Bumgardner's breaking ball pitches have improved as much as he thinks they have, but his 71 strike outs over his last 53 innings while allowing just 5 walks suggest that there is some truth to his ascertations.  From July to August his strikeout rate went from a respectable 23.8% to an astounding 41%.

An interview with Bumgardner's A ball  pitching coach Ross Grimsley that was posted on September 2nd contains the following:

Q: Can you break down what he throws and what he’s working on?
A: He’s worked on a slider. He had a curveball in the spring but it was erratic. It seemed more like a knuckle curve to me and he wasn’t consistent with it. The slider has gotten better. He’s around the plate with it. It’s got a sharper break and more tilt.

But the biggest thing is the changeup. He’ll need that for the higher levels and he understands that. Down here, he’s just throwing the ball by guys. The closer to home plate they get, the more he reaches back and goes after them. For 19, he’s a very mature, smart kid. He knows he’s got some things he’s got to work on to make himself a more complete pitcher, not just a thrower.

Though none of the above information is definite, there are very good indications that Mad-Bum is developing very quickly and could be developing his secondary pitches much more quickly than anyone expected.  If that's the case, the Giants could have a very talented young major league ready pitcher on their hands within the next 2 to 3 years. 

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Saturday, January 3, 2009

New TPC Feature: Stock Pick of the Day

Over the last several months I've been following the stock market and watching it choke and spasm its way down to some incredibly low levels. As a biology major in college and a current dental school student, I've never spent a lot of time learning the deep intricacies of Wall Street, but I've always found it fascinating and thought that current conditions might offer up some great opportunities for making money.

So, the first thing I did was to start reading up on the history of stock prices, what made them surge upward, plunge downward, and remain constant for years at a time. Here's a chart I found that I really liked.

Dow Jones Industrial Average Over 100 Years

As many of you probably have realized by now, I'm into numbers and charts and quantifying potential, so the above chart really got me thinking.  There are some incredible patterns that pop out, and if the last 50 to 75 years are any indication of the future, we could be in the middle of an 18 to 20 year bear market, with the beginning of a new bull market showing up in about 10 years.  

I don't want to spend too much time discussing the chart because it doesn't really teach us a whole lot, other than the fact that the market has some basic cycles that it works through that seem to be on a generational scale.  My main purpose in this post is to point out the fact that at my current age (26 years old), it's time for me to put some of my brain power to work in learning how to identify investment opportunities so that I can retire at a decent age in the future.  

So, over my winter break, I've been reading anything I could get my hands on that helped me understand how to best take advantage of the market, and what to look for when doing so.  I've read through most of The Intelligent Investor, and am currently finishing up The SnowBall, a bigoraphy about Warren Buffet.  I've also spent many hours digging through Yahoo! Finance, Google Finance,, and any other investment oriented website I thought was worth my time.  Next week I'm going to order Security Analysis and work my way through learning how to identify and value good business investment opportunities.  

I won't spend much time on TPC explaining or regurgitating things I've learned, but I am planning to periodically identify stocks that I've come across that I think are good values and worth investigating.  I won't do so on a daily basis, but I hope to post the stock of the day once or twice a week depending on circumstances.  Let me know what you think of the whole idea.

Adam G.
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Friday, January 2, 2009

Freddie Freeman 2008 Stats Revisited

Hey guys, I wrote a post several months ago highlighting some of the achievements of Freddie Freeman, an 18 year old power hitting first baseman in the Braves farm system. At the time of my first post, Freddie had somewhere around 350 plate appearances, and since the 2009 season is just around the corner, I thought I'd take a moment to reanalyze Freeman's full season stats and compare them to some other players with similar minor league numbers.

Below is a chart including Freeman's A ball numbers as they compare to other hitters' overall minor league totals.

Obviously, Freeman still has to make it through AA and AAA ball before we can make some definite projections for him, but the fact that his numbers (especially his power numbers) match up with this group of hitters is worth consideration. Ryan Klesko, while not a superstar, usually hit in the .275-.300 range, with 25-30 home runs; Justin Morneau is currently entering his prime and has hit .300 or better twice in his career and topped 30 home runs twice; and Ryan Braun has a .301 average and 71 home runs in his first 2 major league seasons (Josh Reddick has shown the potential to be a similar hitter, and I discussed his numbers in a previous post this week).

With those comps in mind, I think we can attach a rough projection to Freeman as a potential .300/30+ home run hitter and an OPS in the mid .900 range. Once again, projections are subject to change according to future performances, but at this point in time, I'm very comfortable with the above basic projection.
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