Saturday, February 28, 2009

Happy Birthday!

It's February 28th, which means it's my wife's birthday!  So, happy birthday to my best friend and the greatest wife in the world!

Love you!

Sweet Thrift Store Baseball Find!

Today was my wife's birthday, so we went out with some friends for lunch and decided to stop at a local thrift store to see if we could find some good deals.  Sitting on a shelf in the back corner was this...

I got it (minus the ball) for a cool $2.02!  I've found some nice stuff at yard sales and thrift stores before, but this is probably one of my favorite finds ever.

Friday, February 27, 2009

TPC Quick Comps: Taylor Teagarden

I've posted about Teagarden before, but I came across a very interesting comp for him that I thought I might pass on.

Teagarden was injured for the majority of 2008, but I think his performance level with Texas spoke volumes about his potential when healthy.  Anyways, once you take into consideration age and level, the strikeout and walk rates between Howard and Teagarden are fairly comparable.  The power numbers seem to be all over the place, but I think the important thing to realize is that on average they both displayed elite power potential in the minors and at the major league level.  

Given that Howard was 25 when he finally won a starting position with the Phillies and Teagarden will be 25 this year, I think it's very possible that Teagarden could match the production Howard posted when he first came up.  Reducing his strike out rate to 29% and bumping his walk rate up to 10% sounds very reasonable, and playing in Texas could help ensure that Teagarden keeps his ISOP and power totals on par with Howard.  Stretching Howard's rookie season totals out to 600 plate appearances, we get 38 home runs, 109 RBI, and 29 doubles, which sounds like a huge stretch for Teagarden, but he has the benefit of playing for a very potent offensive team in a very hitter friendly park, so it is definitely a possibility.  Even if his production level is somewhere around 75% of what Howard achieved he would still post close to 30 home runs and 80 RBI while playing as a very good defensive catcher.  

Of course, Teagarden could fizzle out and never reach his full potential, but the prospect of having a hitter like Ryan Howard playing stellar defense at catcher is a very exciting prospect.  All we can do is wait it out and see if the Rangers give Teagarden a chance.  Jarrod Saltalamacchia is listed as the Rangers starting catcher for now, but maybe Teagarden will have a good spring, or the Rangers can make a deal and send Salty somewhere else in exchange for some pitching.  


(Does anyone else think it's funny that on the show The Office, which takes place in Scranton, Pennsylvania one of the characters is named Ryan Howard?)
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Spring Training Prospect Watch List

I think it would be fun to create a watch list of prospects or young players for Spring Training and keep up with their progress (or lack thereof).  The list can include stats, news, or observations, so feel free to add whatever you like.  I'll start with a basic list and we can go from there.

  • Brett Cecil -- Started Wednesday against the Yankees and promptly gave up a home run to Brett Gardner on the second pitch of the game.  Settled down and went on to pitch 2 innings, striking out 4, walking one.
  • Brett Anderson -- Didn't fair so well in his first start.  1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB
  • Justin Masterson -- Groundball maniac.  Looks like Boston wants to keep him as a starter.  2 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 0 ER, 0 K, 6 GB, 0 FB
  • Rick Porcello -- 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 K, 0 BB
  • Jordan Zimmerman -- Great start.  2 IP, 0 H, 3K against Detroit.
  • Matt LaPorta -- Homered Thursday for the Tribe.  Lost a ball in the sun in the outfield.
  • Freddie Freeman -- Went 1 for 2 Thursday with a home run in the 8th.
  • Lars Anderson -- So far hitless.
  • Michael Bowden -- Got knocked around pretty good Friday afternoon.  1.2 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 2 BB
  • Matt Wieters -- Doubled and walked Friday against Florida.
  • Tommy Hanson -- Had some control issues in his first start, but hit 99 on the radar gun.  2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 K, 1 BB
  • Travis Snider -- Homered against the Phillies Thursday.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

TPC 2009 Projection Combo: Mat Gamel

Since Gamel caught fire in early 2008, there's been a lot of interest and discussion about his future potential.  I've seen him on several National League Rookie of the Year candidate lists for 2009, but Gamel has to get past Bill Hall (or whoever the Brewers can get to play third base) and some recent shoulder pain before he'll really be considered for the award.  I'll list the 2009 projections for Gamel according to Bill James, CHONE, and Marcel, and then I'll throw in my own projection.
The biggest question mark here is how much playing time Gamel will get with the Brewers.  I think most of the above projections are fair, with CHONE being a bit on the low side.  Gamel isn't the greatest fielder, and unless there's a real need for him, I don't think the Brewers will really benefit from calling him up for any substantial amount of time this year.  The Bill James projection seems to be based around Gamel nailing down the starting job this spring, but I don't see it happening, nor do I think he'll garner more than 250 or 300 plate appearances at the major league level.

Anyways, here are my projected totals for Gamel this year.  The first set is based off of 600 plate appearances, and the second set is what I believe he'll actually end up with.

As you can see, my projections come in on the high side, but I think overall there's a good chance that some of Gamel's gap power will translate into home runs once he reaches Milwaukee.  If Gamel were a second baseman or even a shortstop those numbers would be pretty good, but at third base he won't really stand out much, especially when you consider his lack of superior defensive skills.  Overall, not bad, but I'd rather have a guy like Brett Wallace playing the hot corner for my team.
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Home Run Heroes of 2008

Yesterday I spent some time checking out the home run data for 2008 posted on Hit Tracker Online.   Here's a quick list of the 10 longest home runs last year, as well as the 10 home runs with the fastest speed off the bat.

Pretty interesting list.  I was surprised by some of the names (Gabe Gross?), but it looks like Adam Dunn pretty much had the Mammoth Home Run title on lockdown last year.  

Another list I looked over was the average standard distance per home run posted by each player.  Here's the top 10 list for that category.

Once again, a few surprising names on the list, but Adam Dunn retained the overall Home Run King title.  Votto and Napoli both did very well for themselves, and Torii Hunter somehow got on the list at #3 which was a bit of a shock.  

I was interested to see where Chris Davis came in on the list, but for some reason he wasn't included.  He averaged a standard distance of 403 feet, which would have put him at #14 right behind Vlad Guerrero, Rick Ankiel, and Chipper Jones, and right in front of Jim Thome, but I think there was an at-bat limit or something of that nature.  

Anyways, I thought it was a fun way to blow 30 mintues, so check out the site if you're interested.  I'm guessing that Dunn won't have quite the same success with Washington as he did in Cincinatti, so my money is on someone like Prince Fielder or Josh Hamilton to take the title of Home Run King in 2009.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Quick Hits from Spring Training

It's still February, but baseball is in the air, and Spring Training games are just days away. Here are a few tid bits I recently came across...

  • Brett Cecil will start the first Grapefruit League game for the Blue Jays when he takes the mound against the Yankees this Wednesday.

  • While I don't generally like to give much credit to Spring Training prospect hype, Oakland A's manager Bob Geren took time out of a Sunday meeting with reporters to make a few comments about first baseman Chris Carter.  "Chris Carter hits the ball about as far as I've ever seen.  Are you kidding me?"  Pretty high praise for a 21 year old.
  • Though not completely forgotten, Indians pitcher Aaron Laffey has a lot of ground to gain this spring.  He finished the 2008 season rehabbing an inflamed elbow that had plagued him since June, and all reports indicate that he is in good shape and ready to compete for a starting job in Cleveland. 
  • What happened to this guy?  Andy Marte was recently placed on waivers by the Cleveland Indians, just 3 years after he was considered one of the elite prospects in the country.  Marte never lived up to the hype, and has yet to reach even basic production levels in the majors.  Maybe it was another case of great expectations gone sour, or perhaps another casualty of the steroid era, but either way, Marte has been one of the biggest busts of the past decade.
  • After spending big bucks and an early first round draft pick on shorstop Gordon Beckham, the White Sox are now considering utilizing him in the outfield due to an overcrowded young infield.  I don't believe they'll ever actually do it, and if it did happen I would really question the sanity of the White Sox front office, but the fact that the idea has even surfaced seems absurd to me.  Shortstops with above average defense and .300/20 home run potential can be quite a valuable asset.  Left fielders with those types of stats?  Not so much.
That's about it for now.  I can't wait for games to start, even if they don't really mean anything.  The country needs some baseball in its blood. 

Sunday, February 22, 2009

TPC Video Break: Neftali Feliz

Here are a couple of looks at Rangers pitching prospect Neftali Feliz. Scouting reports have him consistently hitting the radar gun in the high 90's, with the occasional triple digit popping up. I couldn't find any actual game footage, so we'll have to settle for bullpen footage, which means we aren't really seeing Feliz's full, dedicated motion.

His motion reminds me of somebody, but I can't remember who it is right now. Overall I don't have many complaints, but his motion feels a little bit raw to me, and if I was going to be picky, I'd get Feliz to drop his front leg kick into a more forward motion with his upper body, instead of dropping it down towards the mound and then shifting his weight forward. When I see pitchers wasting their leg kick with such a vertical drop it makes me worry that they're putting too much strain on their arms and aren't utilizing their hips and torso enough. You can see what I'm talking about in this next clip as well.

Of course, we're only seeing a bullpen session, so Feliz's game time motion might be a bit different, but I would guess that he still displays a severe vertical front leg drop even in games. Like I said though, that's just something that I would work on if I was going to be picky. The arm motion isn't bad, maybe a little less fluid than I would like, but I'm not a mechanics expert, so I'll leave the details up to the professionals.

Update: Here's a short clip of Octavio Dotel from the stretch, who as Jim pointed out in his comment has some similarities in not only his motion but his haircut as well.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Looking Ahead to the WBC: Yu Darvish

In case you haven't heard of Yu Darvish, here's a nice little article to help you familiarize yourself with the Japanese pitching phenom. I'd love to see some big market American team throw up some huge money to pry Darvish away from Japan, and maybe the upcoming World Baseball Classic will help turn some American teams on to him. I love his motion, both from the stretch and windup, and I think he could be huge in the U.S..

Here's an interesting video about Darvish and the Japanese baseball culture.

Sports Videos, News, Blogs

And here's one more short clip with some slow motion replays of Darvish's pitching motions.

While I think the WBC is generally a bad idea for American players, I think it creates a great opportunity for foreign players to be seen, and it provides baseball a chance to gain popularity outside of the U.S.. International players like Darvish will help carry the game into the future, and hopefully one day we'll be reading high school scouting reports from not just places like Japan and South America, but China, India, and Africa.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

One More Sleeper for 2009 Yankees Style

I was reading over the list of the top 30 pitching prospects that Project Prospect recently released, and while I thought it was a pretty solid list, I thought they left out one very important prospect that has also failed to appear on almost every other prospect list that I've seen so far.

While a lot of young pitchers drafted in the 2007 draft have received most of the fanfare, in 2008 Jairo Heredia -- a very talented but unheralded international signee in the Yankees farm system -- made a very strong case for himself to be included in the discussion of elite young arms in baseball. Below is a list of several young pitchers that appeared on the top 30 list at Project Prospect, the ranking they received, their 2008 stats, and finally the 2008 stats for the Yankees new young stud.

Of the pitchers included in the above list, I think Bumgarner is the only one that Heredia can't currently compete with. Otherwise, he posted very competitive numbers all around at A ball, and did so at a year or 2 younger than all of the other pitchers on this list. While I can't really say that he's absolutely better than any of them, I do feel like he obviously has equivalent talent and he deserves to be mentioned along side the other pitchers. Leaving Heredia off of just about every major top 100 prospects list seems like a mistake to me, and I think we'll see him rise quickly up the ranks over the next year.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

TPC Video Break: Yonder Alonso

A decent look at Yonder Alonso at the plate during the Hawaii Winter League, may it rest in peace. Yonder is pretty good at working the count, and this particular at-bat is no exception. The swing looks nice, and I really think he could fill out over the next 2 or 3 years and pretty soon harmless fly balls like this one will be headed for the right field bleachers in Cincinatti.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

TPC Quick Comps: Chris Carter

Sorry Boston fans, this post is about the other Chris Carter.

Carter has had a couple of impressive seasons, posting an ISOP of .257, an OPS of .901, and 90 home runs in 1503 at-bats through A+ ball. I'm still not sure why the White Sox traded the slugger, but he's got some very well known comparables.

Pretty solid all around. I'd say Eric Davis is the best fit, followed by Fred McGriff, and then Chris Young. Rivera had the worst strikeout rate of the bunch, and that might help explain his poor major league performance (although I think his work ethic had more to do with it). Overall, I really like Carter's power, and his walk rate says a lot about his approach at the plate. Sure, he strikes out a lot, but I think it's a result of waiting for his pitch and getting deep into counts rather than just hacking away.

Anyways, Carter still has to make his way past AA ball before I'm going to jump on the bandwagon, but if he can handle more advanced pitching, I think he could be hitting in the .260 to .280 range with 30 to 40 home runs a year by the age of 24. One indicator that I'll be watching over the next year or so will be his fly ball to line drive ratio. When he gets under the ball his average takes a hit, as does his on-base percentage, but when he's really driving the ball on a level plane, I think he becomes a much more efficient hitter.
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Yankees Prospect Watch: David Robertson

Last year I wrote a post comparing Mark Melancon with David Robertson, and argued that despite popular opinion, Robertson was the better pitching prospect.  Recently, I've done some more digging on Robertson and came up with a very surprising comparable player.

I'm sure there are several Braves fans out there thinking, "Oh, wow, Joey Devine.  Too bad he was the worst pitcher ever" or something like that, because we Braves fans only know the Joey Devine from 2006 who gave up a couple of grand slams at all the wrong moments, and then was quietly shipped off to Oakland the following year.  But, all the Oakland fans are sitting there thinking, "Oh, wow, Joey Devine.  He just finished 2008 with the lowest ERA (0.59) for a pitcher with at least 40 innings pitched in the history of the game" or something like that.  And they would be right.  

Devine posted some insane stats last year, and was only 24 years old at the time.  I looked through some stats from the last few years for relief pitchers, and there were only a handful of young pitchers that came close to Devine's numbers at his age.  At 24 years old, Francisco Rodriguez posted a 1.73 ERA, Joakim Soria posted a 1.60 ERA last year at the age of 24, and Rafael Soriano posted a 1.53 ERA as a 23 year old in 2003.  That's some outstanding company for Devine.  

So, depending on what you remember about Joey Devine, the fact that David Robertson compares so well to him should raise a few eye brows, especially among Yankees fans.  But what I really like about Robertson is that not only does he compare well to Devine, but he is actually better than Devine.  Robertson possesses a phenomenal ground ball rate, and in 138 minor league innings, he gave up just 1 home run.  Devine on the other hand gave up 7 home runs in just 116 innings in the minors.

But, Yankees fans are probably saying right now, "Yeah, but Robertson had a 5.34 ERA last year, and he gave up 3 home runs to boot.  That doesn't seem very Devine-like to me".  And they would be right.  Robertson had some rough patches in '08 with the Yanks, and that could be cause for concern, but it doesn't bother me.  Even Devine went through some growing pains with the Braves.  Any time a pitcher comes up, he has a learning curve to go through, and Robertson was no exception.  But among those growing pains are glimpses of the future, as Robertson posted a 1.46 ERA though his first 11 appearances in '08.  

There's no guarantee that Robertson will repeat the sub-1.00 ERA Devine posted last year, but I think he could be very good, and has a very good chance of becoming a very dominant relief pitcher, and maybe the closer of the future for the Yankees.        

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

TPC 2009 Projection: Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson

Though I don't think that either Brett Anderson nor Trevor Cahill is going to see a significant amount of time at the big league level in 2009, I thought it would be interesting to see what we could expect from them if they got the call. This is a very difficult projection since they are both so young, but I'll try and come up with something reasonable (for comparisons sake, be sure to check out Mike Podhorzer's take on Cahill and Anderson at

CHONE has Cahill and Anderson both posting an ERA in the 5.00 range, with WHIPs of about 1.50. On paper, it looks pretty bad, but Clayton Kershaw put up similar numbers last year, and it's a respectable stat line for any 21 year old in the majors. However, I think they might actually have a shot at doing a bit better than what CHONE has them down for, but before we get into it, let's find some minor league comps.

Those are pretty nice comps, but none of them really match up perfectly with Anderson and Cahill. If I had to narrow down the list, I'd probably pair Cahill with Gallardo, and Anderson with Hughes and Liriano. However, since this projection will be a rough estimate at best, I'm really just looking for some general similarities here, so we'll make the most of what we've got. Below are the MLB stats for each pitcher at the age of 21 (Gonzalez and Cueto have been dropped since they didn't pitch in the majors until the age of 22).

Judging by these numbers, it's hard to come up with anything conclusive. Liriano put up some great stats, but his home run rate shot up, while Gallardo's numbers were very solid all around. Hughes wasn't bad, but he didn't really dominate, and Billingsley was quite mediocre. If we average out all the numbers, we get something along these lines:

Personally, I think the K/9 is a bit generous, the walk rate is about right for Cahill but high for Anderson, the GB% is low for both, but the home run rate, WHIP, and ERA are reasonable projections. With that said, I think that just by using the comparable pitchers above, we can see that there is a good chance that either Cahill or Anderson could come up and post some outstanding numbers, and there's also a chance that they could come up and post an ERA well over 5.50. I don't really feel comfortable making a projection other than going with the average above, nor do I really feel like there's much reason to try and come up with anything beyond that for either pitcher. But, to personalize the projection a bit for each pitcher, I'll make a few adjustments to the average, and leave it at that.

TPC 2009 Projection for Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson:

Cahill - 9.0 K/9, 4.5 BB/9, 53% GB%, 1.45 WHIP, 0.65 HR/9, 4.50 ERA
Anderson - 7.7 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 50% GB%, 1.48 WHIP, 0.95 HR/9, 4.80 ERA
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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

TPC Video Break: Buster Posey

This is just a short clip of Buster Posey at the plate. Not a lot to go off of, but his swing looks short and smooth, and I could see him developing a little more power in the coming years.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

TPC Video Break: Brett Cecil Bullpen Session

I haven't seen much of Brett Cecil, but the following video gives us a glimpse of his mechanics, at least during a bullpen session. It's not much to go by, and without breaking the video down by frame it's hard to really critique his arm and shoulder motion. However, Cecil has a nice fluid motion, and I really like his transition from leg kick to plant, and then follow-through. I've seen a lot of young pitchers that have a lot of wasted motion in their move to the plate, but Cecil looks very efficient. 

There's also a decent forum discussion at TwoPlus Two Poker I found covering the topic of Cecil's mechanics if you're interested, although I couldn't get the animated images to work.

TPC Video Break: Matt Wieters

Here's a nice look at Matt Wieters' swing from the left side of the plate. I don't have a lot to say about his swing, but it's relatively simple without much noise or wasted motion. His bat speed will pick up as he gets older, and he'll either learn to lay off pitches that jam him inside, or learn to come around quicker and hit them down the line. Overall, a nice look at the top prospect in the game.

Friday, February 6, 2009

2009 A.L. R.O.Y. Projections and Speculation

Update: For a more recent breakdown of A.L. Rookie of the Year Candidates, you can read my August 17th post titled 2009 A.L. Rookie of the Year Update -- Position Players Still in Contention

Trying to narrow down my list of 2009 A.L. Rookie of the Year candidates, I sat down and typed up a chart for all of the hitting stats of each Rookie of the Year winner since 1990. Here's what I came up with, with the overall average stat line at the bottom.

So, if we're going to come up with a reasonable list of (position player) R.O.Y. candidates, we really should only consider the players that have 2009 projections along the lines of that average stat line at the bottom. After reviewing Bill James' projections for a dozen or so players, and then adjusting those stats that I felt were a bit radical, I've come up with the following list of hitters that, under ideal circumstances could match or exceed the R.O.Y. average stat line.

As previously stated, these are ideal stat lines (meaning that these are ideally what each player is capable of accomplishing at their age based off of past performance and historical comparable players) under ideal circumstances (meaning they are given a starting position on their team early, and play often without injury, freak accidents, poor managerial utilization, etc.). The above stats are simply basic projections, and are subject to wide variation and speculation, but I'm comfortable with them and don't feel that any of them are exceedingly radical to any degree.

Anyways, based off of those projections, I think Snider and Brignac can be axed early on. Nothing against them, they just don't seem to be on the same level as the other players. Either one of them could have incredible years, but I don't think it's very likely since Brignac isn't really in consideration for a starting position, and Snider will face a huge learning curve. Next up on the chopping block is probably Chris Carter. I'd love to see what he's capable of doing in a full season, but I don't think Boston is going to give him the chance to play everyday, and his stats will suffer as a consequence. That's leaves us with just Wieters, LaPorta, Teagarden, and Cunningham, all of which may or may not start at some point for their respective teams in 2009. LaPorta will most likely have to prove himself at AAA ball before the Indians take a chance on him, and Cunningham will have to compete with various outfielders for a spot on the A's roster. I think that Teagarden has the best chance at snagging a starting position out of Spring Training, but the Orioles have also made it clear that Wieters is their catcher of the future and will probably hand over the starting job as early as May.

So, it looks like it comes down to Wieters (no surprise there) or Teagarden, and which one will see more playing time. Most fans and astute minor league aficianados would argue that Teagarden is a risky pick due to his high strikeout rates, and that Wieters is too good to fail. While I agree with those assessments, Teagarden will be surrounded by a very potent offense and will have little pressure on him to perform, while Wieters will be expected to carry an entire team the moment he steps on the field. It's a tough call to make, and I feel like both of them could very easily be in contention for Rookie of the Year come September (of course we'll have to consider rookie pitchers as well, but we'll get to that later this week). I'm going to wait it out a few more months and see who nails down their team's starting position before I make my pick, but I wish them both the best of luck and can't wait to see what they do when their opportunity comes.
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Quick Comps: Logan Morrison

After posting a .332 average at A+ ball last year, interest in Florida first baseman Logan Morrison is on the rise. Here's a quick look at some of his comparables and some basic projections for the young slugger.

  • David Wright
  • Vernon Wells
  • Ian Kinsler
Keep in mind that Morrison has only played through A+ ball, so his comparable players are going to change a bit over time. However, as it stands, he seems to fit in well with the above players (17 K%, 10 BB%, 9 XBH%, 3HR%), each of which usually hit for a .290 to .310 average with 20 to 30 home runs (35 being his maximum single season ceiling) over approximately 600 plate appearances. Those numbers, along with a career OPS in the mid to high .800 range are adequate projections for Morrison through the first 10 years of his major league career. Overall, good comps and above average projection stats, but unfortunately for Morrison, nothing spectacular for a first baseman.
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Thursday, February 5, 2009

TPC 2009 Projection: Brett Cecil

Last night I went through a handful of comparables for Brett Cecil trying to hammer out a basic projection for him this season.  At 22 years old, he probably won't dominate, but he will be very good for his age.

Playing for Toronto provides Cecil with some advantages -- they have one of the best fielding teams in the nation and a somewhat pitcher friendly park -- but he will also lack run support on most occassions, and he'll be up against some very good offensive teams.  Regardless, the Blue Jays need him in the rotation, with the only question being whether they'll start him straight out of Spring Training or call him up later in the season.  

Based off of some cross comparisons among last years starters for Toronto and some historical comparables, I expect Cecil to post a K/9 of 8 and a BB/9 of about 3.5 with a GB% in the mid to high 50% range.  With those numbers, he should have a WHIP around 1.30, which will translate into an ERA of 3.60 (give or take 50 to 100 points based off of luck, circumstance, relief pitching, etc.).  If Cecil starts 15 to 20 games and pitches between 100 and 150 innings, he could win 7 to 10 games, with 3 to 6 losses.

TPC 2009 Projection for Brett Cecil: 8 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 1.30 WHIP, 3.60 ERA, 10 W, 5 L

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

TPC 2009 Projection: Matt Wieters

The more I look over Matt Wieters minor league numbers, the more I am convinced that he could go down in history as one of the greatest catchers in history. I realize that it sounds absolutely absurd to say things like that when a player hasn't even played above AA, but I'm having a very difficult time finding comparable players for Wieters that don't have Hall of Fame career stats, and so far I can't find a single catcher with comparable minor league numbers. Not one. To show you what I mean, here are the minor league stats for Mike Piazza -- the greatest offensive catcher ever -- next to Wieters' numbers.
At a younger age, Wieters has more power, more walks, and fewer strikeouts than Piazza. It's not even close. Wieters is a very complete and very balanced hitter, and to take the comparisons one step further, here are some of his offensive comparables.

Some very impressive comparables, even with Travis Lee included (I have no idea what happened with Lee. His stats at the beginning of his career were pretty good, but he never advanced much and kind of trailed off after about the age of 24 or 25). Berkman and Teixeira have both consistently hit 30 to 40 home runs with career batting averages around .300. They also have maintained an OPS in the .900 to 1.050 range, and usually collect around 100 to 110 RBIs per season. Those numbers are very similar to the stats that Mike Piazza put up during his career, and well above just about every other catcher who played the game. And if you compare those numbers to current star catchers like Joe Mauer and Brian McCann, it makes them look a bit pedestrian.

Before we go any farther with this, let's make it clear that Wieters is not guaranteed anything in his career.  While guys like Teixeira and Berkman have done very well, we have to keep in mind that guys like Travis Lee never really panned out.  While I think that the odds of Wieters performing along the same lines as Lee are not that high, it's still a possibility, so we have to keep it in mind until Wieters reaches his full potential.  Now that we have that out of the way, what can we expect from Wieters in 2009?

If Wieters becomes the Orioles starting catcher at any point in the season, he'll be 23 years old during his rookie season.  We have major league level stats for Mark Teixeira to use in our projection, but Berkman didn't see any significant playing time until he was 24 years old, so we'll have to do some retro-projecting for this analysis.       

Using the numbers above, we can deduce that since Berkman's numbers at 24 were similar to Teixeira's numbers at 24, then Berkman's numbers at 23 would have been quite comparable to Teixeira's numbers at 23.  In the minors, Berkman had power numbers that were a bit inferior to Teixeira's power stats, and his home run rate was a bit behind Teixeira's during his rookie year, so we'll say that over approximately 600 plate appearances, as a 23 year old in the majors Berkman would have hit somewhere in the neighborhood of .270, with 22 or 23 home runs, and an OPS between .800 and .815.  Those numbers aren't exactly based off of a rigorous scientific analysis, but we're looking for basic ballpark figures here, so they'll work.  

Now, if Wieters has demonstrated similar power numbers to Berkman in the minors, then we would expect somewhere between 20 and 25 home runs from him in 2009 were he given a full 600 plate appearances with the Orioles.  I'm fairly optimistic about Wieters, so I'll go with 25 home runs.  As for batting average, Wieters hit .365 at AA in 2008, compared to .306 by Berkman at AA, and .316 by Teixeira at AA.  That means we can tack on at least 25 points beyond what Teixeira hit at 23 with the Rangers to Wieters' major league projection, which gives us something like a .285 to .295 average on the low side.  On the high side, we could add 40 or 50 points and project an average of .320 or so.  I'll take somewhere in between, and say that Wieters will hit .305.  We'll also throw an additional 60 points onto Teixeira's OPS, which gives us something around .870.  In the Orioles line-up, that should be good for somewhere around 80 RBI if he hits in the middle of the order.

So, to summarize, I think the following numbers are fairly reasonable for Wieters in 2009 (all stats based off of 600 plate appearances):

TPC 2009 Projection for Matt Wieters: .305 average, 25 home runs, .870 OPS, 80 RBI

Those numbers are very similar to what Evan Longoria posted last year, so the A.L. R.O.Y award is certainly not out of the question for Wieters.  However, if he only gets 400 or so at bats with the Orioles, he might only hit 15 to 18 home runs, which might not be enough for Rookie of the Year if someone like Taylor Teagarden comes up and hits 30 home runs with a .280 batting average (which I think he very well may do).  

Anyways, that's what I've got for Wieters.  I could be completely wrong on him, but I'm about 80% sure that he'll turn out exactly the way I think he will.  We'll come back and look at these projections in a few months and see how things look.  
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Monday, February 2, 2009

5 Sleepers for 2009 Hitter Edition

I've covered a few of the pitchers I think will rise to the forefront in '09 (there's a few more I'll probably post about later), so let's move on to the hitters and see what we come up with.

  1. Josh Reddick -- I've posted about Reddick before so I won't go into too much detail right now, but Reddick has some impressive power potential and strikes out a lot less than most people think. He didn't perform all that well during the his time in Winter League this year, hitting just .198, but he also hit 5 home runs in just 98 at-bats. He compares very well to guys like Justin Morneau, Ryan Braun, and Matt Williams, and has the potential to hit between .280-.300 and post 30-40 home runs in his prime on a regular basis. When I first looked into his numbers, I was concerned that he hit just .214 at AA in 2008, but his BABIP during that time was just .221, down from a career average of about .340. I expect his '09 stats to bounce back up once his BABIP fluctuates back towards his average. Besides his offensive stats, Reddick is an above average outfielder, with the capacity to steal 15-20 bases a year. I think that if the Red Sox let him do his thing with the bat and give him a chance to shine in the field, he could be a very talented player.
  2. Max Ramirez/Taylor Teagarden -- Between Ramirez and Teagarden, one or both of them is going to have a big year in 2009. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is still considered the favorite to win the starting job for Texas, but there's still a good chance he gets traded and the Rangers go with Teagarden instead (which I think is the best move). That would leave Ramirez in AAA for one year, after which the Rangers could trade him or Teagarden for some pitching. Both hitters could put up some great offensive numbers while playing very well defensively in the majors, and no matter which one the Rangers ultimately settle on, they're both going to be very good.
  3. Brandon Laird -- This is going to be my wild card pick for 2009. Laird has only played at A ball thus far in his career, and he has a huge roadblock in his way that goes by the name of Mark Teixeira. As the little brother of catcher Gerald Laird, I think Brandon understands that if he wants to play in the big leagues, he's going to have to prove himself and find a position where he fits in with the rest of the Yankees plans. That probably means a move to the outfield, and a lot of work on his defense. However, Laird can hit the cover off the ball, and if he keeps at it, he might find his way to the majors in a few years.
  4. Yonder Alonso -- I'm not sure if a top 10 pick can really be considered a sleeper, but Alonso has been a bit overlooked in my mind. Sure, Pedro Alvarez, Buster Posey, and Justin Smoak will all be solid hitters, but I think Alonso may prove to be the cream of the crop. Great patience, power to all fields, and a chance to play in Cincinnatti could all culminate in big numbers down the road.
  5. Chris Carter (both of them) -- There are 2 Chris Carters out there that could have big years in '09 - Chris Carter of the Red Sox and Chris Carter of the Oakland A's. The Boston Chris Carter is going to have to leapfrog some incumbent starters, but due to age and injury, I think there's a good chance he could very well find his way into a quasi-fulltime position in a few months. At this point, I'd give him an .850 OPS and 20-25 home runs in 600 plate appearances (but I think 350-400 plate appearances are more likely, so maybe just 15 home runs). The Oakland Chris Carter has got some power in his stroke, but he also strikes out a lot and that could become a problem. The one thing I really like about the Oakland Carter is that his stats thus far compare very well to Chris Davis, except that Carter walks a bit more.
So, that's it for the hitters for now. Feel free to add your own if you have any. We'll check back in 6 months to a year and see how this list looks.

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

2009 A.L. Rookie of the Year Candidates

Hey guys, I know it's early, but why don't we get a jump on the 2009 season and throw out some names for the 2009 A.L. R.O.Y. I'll start the list, and if you can think of others, just throw them in as you think of them. Next week, I'll start doing projections and we'll narrow it down to 3 or 4 contenders.

**Keep in mind that all candidates must have fewer than 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched at the major league level.

  • Matt LaPorta
  • Matt Wieters
  • David Price
  • Taylor Teagarden
  • Travis Snider
  • Gio Gonzalez
  • Chris Carter
  • Aaron Cunningham
  • Reid Brignac
  • Brett Cecil
  • Brett Anderson
  • Trevor Cahill
That's all I can come up for now, but keep the list going if you can think of others.