Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Thoughts on Edinson Volquez and Ray Searage

Just a year ago at this time, Edinson Volquez' career appeared to be in serious jeopardy.  He had been DFA'd by the Padres in late August, picked up by the Dodgers, then left off their postseason roster.  His ERA on the season was 5.71.  This spring, he was signed to a 1 year/$5 M contract by the Pittsburgh Pirates whose pitching coach, Ray Searage, has a burgeoning reputation for being a pitcher fixer.  Volquez only added to that reputation by turning in one of his best seasons in years if not the best of his career.  This raises the question of what did Ray Searage do to resurrect Volquez' career?  Did he teach him a new pitch?  Did he notice something in his mechanics that he corrected?  I don't follow the Pirates closely enough to know the answer to those questions, but clues can be found in Volquez statistical lines that I think tell us the answer.

2010(Reds):  4-3, 4.31, 62.2 IP, 9.62 K/9, 5.03 BB/9, BABIP= .323.
2011(Reds):  5-7, 5.71, 108.2 IP, 8.61 K/9, 5.38 BB/9, BABIP= .298.
2012(Padres):  11-11, 4.14, 182.2 IP, 8.57 K/9, 5.17 BB/9, BABIP= .292
2013(2 Teams):  9-12, 5.71, 170.1 IP, 7.50 K/9, 4.07 BB/9, BABIP= .325.
2014(Pirates):  13-7, 3.04, 192.2 IP, 6.54 K/9, 3.32 BB/9, BABIP= .263.

So yes, Volquez cut his walk rate, but his K rate has taken precipitous drop at the same time.  The other outstanding feature of these lines is the BABIP which is a full .029 lower than in any of his previous 4 seasons.  I read somewhere that his BABIP over his last 12 starts is something like .225.  So, it looks like Volquez' success this season is the result of reducing his walk rate and a whole lotta BABIP luck!

But wait a minute!  Maybe Ray Searage has some secret formula for suppressing BABIP and this is all sustainable.  Let's take a deeper look to see if there is evidence that Volquez' stuff has changed  or if he might have learned a new pitch.  According to Fangraphs stat charts, Volquez is throwing the same 3 pitches he has always thrown(he ditched his slider prior to 2010), a FB that goes about 93.5 MPH which he increased in usage from about 50% to about 55%, a CB that he throws about 25% of the time,  and a changeup that he that he has reduced his reliance on from about 26% down to 19%.  His GB/FB remains at 1.5, pretty much his career average.  Nothing too earthshaking there, right?  So what else is going on here?

Fangraphs also had a nice article entitled Edinson Volquez:  Starting the Most Important Game of the Year.  The author looked at what point in the count Volquez was able to end AB's against him.  He found that in 2014, he got hitters out early in the count at a significantly higher rate than in 2013 and he got hitters out late in the count as a significantly lower rate than in 2013.  That may not seem like a hot news flash for a pitcher who lowered his BB/9 by almost a full walk, but the differences are most dramatic on 0-0, 0-1, 3-1, 3-2.

So, what did Ray Searage tell Edinson Volquez about pitching that dripped his ERA by over 2.00 if he did not show him a new pitch or tweak his mechanics?  Here's what I think Ray Searage said, "You've always had good stuff.  You need to trust it!  You don't have to nibble!  You can get soft contact if you stay out of 3 ball counts and you will cut down on your walks to boot.  Throw that 93.5 MPH fastball in the early counts and make sure it's for strikes.  Yes, they will hit the ball more, but the pitch is good enough that it won't be hard and you will get outs.  Trust me and most of all, trust your stuff!

So, is Ray Searage a pitcher fixer or did Volquez just get BABIP lucky?  The answer is, probably some of both.  Volquez dropped both his K rate and his BB rate, and that is by design.  He's getting more contact early in the count with his best pitch and it is inducing weaker contact because hitters are not sitting on a get-it-over FB on a 3-1 or 3-2 count.  Volquez and Searage also caught a perfect storm of BABIP luck that enhanced the results of what they designed.  A BABIP of .263 might be sustainable, but probably not, especially in light of Volquez' historic BABIP rates.  A BABIP of .225 which he has had over the last 12 starts, is clearly not sustainable!  I would also add that except for the BABIP part, the trends we've seen this year started last year under Bud Black in San Diego, but were ruined by an unlucky BABIP.

So, will Edinson Volquez regress in tomorrow's game?  He might.  Statistically, he is almost guaranteed to at some point in the not-to-distant future.  On the other hand, BABIP luck is no more or less likely tomorrow than any other game this season, so he may just flummox the Giants with hittable stuff that they fail to hit hard.  The Giants tend to not do so well against those kinds of pitchers.

Down on the Farm: Rookie Arizona League 2014 Giants Season Review

Rookie League is the lowest professional level in the U.S.  The Dominican Summer League would be a bit lower due to the younger ages of the players.  Historically, the Arizona League is a place for players drafted out of high school to get their first pro experience and for DSL graduates to get their first U.S. experience.  In recent years, the AZL has become a Grand Central Station of sorts where college draftees get evaluated for a few games before flying off to a more permanent assignment.  Quite a few players spend some time in the Arizona League while rehabbing injuries.   This review will be limited to players who spend all or most of the short season on the Arizona Giants roster.

2014 High School Draftees:

Byron Murray(OF)- .279/.347/.412, 68 AB.  Murray was drafted late.  I did not realize he had signed until I saw his name turn up in boxscores.  Very nice start.  I think this guy has a high ceiling with excellent power potential.

Kevin Rivera(2B)- .228/.281/.296, 162 AB.  14'th round draft pick out of Puerto Rico.  Hit .333 over his last 10 games.

Luis Lacen(OF)- .250/.321/.271.  48 AB.  Lacen started out hot, then cooled off considerably.  Played only sparingly in the second half.  Possible had a nagging injury of some sort.  Has nice size and athleticism.  As always, the question is whether he will hit.

Stetson Woods(RHP)- 5-1, 2.25, 16 IP, 4 BB, 20 K's.  9'th round draft pick out of Madera, CA.  Big kid at 6'8", 200 lbs.  Oodles of room to fill out.  Got rocked in the championship game, but Giants pitchers gave up a total of 15 run in that one.  Things like that can happen in Arizona.  I'm very high on this kid's future, but it will take time.

Logan Webb(RHP)- 0-0, 2.25, 4 IP, 3 BB, 5 K's.  Giants 4'th round pick out of Rocklin, CA.  dOnly made 3 appearances, none after 8/3/2014.  Not sure what was up with that.

2014  College Draftees:

Chase Compton(1B)- .282/.391/.342, 117 AB.  College guys who stay in the AZL usually do not have much of a future.

Richard Amion(OF)- .267/.379/.385, 135 AB, 22 BB, 36 K's.  Amion started out red hot then cooled off.  Again, college guy in rookie ball.

Matthew Gage(LHP)- 2-0, 1.89, 33.1 IP, 8 BB, 32 K's.  College pitchers should dominate Rookie ball, but it's better than not dominating.

Greg Brody(RHP)- 1-1, 0.63, 14.1 IP, 3 BB, 27 K's.  College Closer.  Pitched in relief in Arizona.

Mark Reyes(LHP)- 1-1, 3.00, 12 IP, 3 BB, 14 K's.  Don't know much about him.

DSL Graduates:

Michael Santos(RHP)- 4-3, 2.56, 59.2 IP, 13 BB, 50 K's.  Legitimate pitching prospect.  Logged the most innings of any AZL Giants pitcher this year.

Repeaters:

Hector Mercedes(SS)- .296/.330/.469.  98 AB.  Big kid for a SS, but I don't think he's a true SS.  This was his 3'rd rodeo in Arizona.

Jonah Arenado(3B)- .250/.340/.304.  184 AB.  Arenado led the AZL Giants in AB's.  Strong walk rate.  Modestly encouraging performance for a low round 2013 draft pick who barely appeared at all in 2013.  He's a project, but I like his ceiling.

Dylan Brooks(RHP)- 2-1, 3.18, 34 IP, 15 BB, 45 K's.  Late, late round draft pick in 2013.  Another tall drink of water at 6'9".  Struggled last year in a few appearances, but looked great in 2014.  Very encouraging season!

Rayan Hernandez(RHP)- 0-3, 1.53, 29.1 IP, 9 BB, 25 K's.  Another 2013 HS draftee.  Big body who likes to pitch to contact and keep the ball on the ground.  Did that and did it well this year.  Significant progress!

Reyes Maronta(RHP)- 0-1, 4.66, 19.1 IP, 11 BB, 30 K's.  Actually dropped back from a 2013 S-K gig.  Injury rehab?

Rehabber:

Brennan Metzger(OF)- .354/.460/.500, 16 BB, 8 K's, 82 AB.  Drafted out of Long Beach St. in 2012.  Missed all of 2013 due to an illness.  We'll see if this earned him another look at a higher level next year.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Down on the Farm: Short Season Salem-Keizer Volcanoes 2014 Season Review

The 2014 Salem-Keizer Volcanoes started off their short season with a team about as bereft of talent as any I can remember in the the Giants organization for years, and that is saying something.  Historically, S-K has been rostered with mostly same year college draftees  Later drafting dates, signing rules and a subtle shift in emphasis by the Giants to taking more HS players in later draft rounds have caused a shift in roster makeup to more AZL graduates and holdovers from past partial seasons.  This year was an extreme example as the opening day roster did not include a single 2014 draftee, if I am remembering correctly.

The lack of talent took its toll on the team's performance in the early going.  Things picked up a bit as some of the 2014 draftees started trickling in and a few rehabbers showed up.  Here are some of the key players:

2014 Draftees:

Austin Slater(OF)- .347/.417/.449, 2 HR, 7 SB, 118 AB, 10 BB, 17 K's.  Early returns have Slater as the steal of the 2014 draft in the 8'th round out of Stanford.  He signed a bit late, so it's a SSS, but those numbers project to 10 dingers and 35 SB's over a full 600 AB season with a healthy walk rate and a low K rate.  Again, the low K rates and strong K/BB seems to be something the Giants are targeting in recent drafts with Joe Panik and Matt Duffy already paying dividends.  The HR's may go up if Slater can shake the Stanforditis in his bat.

Skyler(Not Skip) Ewing(1B)- .291/.417/.473, 8 HR, 182 AB, 36 BB, 28 K's.  We again see the reversed K/BB we saw with Joe Panik but in Ewing's case, there is toonder in the bat.  That is 26 dingers in a  full 600 AB season!  Not sure how many of the BB's were intentional.  Extremely interesting bat to follow next year.

Seth Harrison(CF)- .266/.298/.354, 11 SB, 158 AB, 8 BB's, 42 K's.  Obviously, the Giants do not refuse to draft any hackers.  Those K and BB numbers are no bueno for a player who projects more as a leadoff/speed guy.  The SB's are interesting if he can improve on those ratios.

Dylan Davis(OF)- .200/.269/.341, 4 HR, 85 AB, 7 BB's, 23 K's.  Not much to like in a very SSS except for the dingers.  Has lots to work on in almost every other aspect.  He did show off a cannon for an arm in RF and his future may very well be on the mound.

Hunter Cole(OF)- .239/.311/.424, 4 HR, 92 AB.  Not much of a BA, but love the power.

Aramis Garcia(Catcher)- .229/.289/.357, 2 HR, 70 AB.   Somewhat disappointing numbers from the second round pick in a SSS.

Tyler Beede(RHP)- 0-0, 2.70, 6.2 IP, 3 BB, 7 K's.  Extreme SSS for the first rounder who signed late.  The Giants took it very slow with him, probably because he pitched to the end of the college WS.  We'll probably see him in San Jose to start next season which will be the first big test of his pro career.

Kids With Growing Pains:

Christian Arroyo(SS)- .333/.378/.469, 5 HR, 6 SB, 243 AB, 18 BB, 31 K's.  Arroyo stumbled out of the gate in Augusta in the spring then broke a bone in a finger on a HBP.  There was also the strange position shift to 2B in favor of Ryder Jones at SS.  Arroyo resurfaced at SS in S-K at the start of short season ball and looked a lot more like the guy the Giants drafted in the first round in 2013.  The BB's could be a bit higher, but he keeps the K's down and why try to take a walk when you can rake like that, anyway?  Personally, I would ignore the stumble in Augusta when evaluation Arroyo's season and call it a resounding success!

Ryder Jones(3B)- .243/.293/.393, 3 HR, 107 AB, 7 BB, 21 K's.  Jones was part of the odd position shifting that went on in Augusta.  He started strong there, but wore down under the grind of daily pro ball.  The move to SS might have contributed to the fatigue.  He resurfaced in S-K back at 3B where he got off to a slow start, but put on a surge at the end of the season.  Big time power potential here.  Count this season as a learning experience.

Johneshwy Fargas(OF)- .240/.373/.329, 3 HR, 15 SB, 167 AB, 24 BB, 27 K's.  I don't think he was hurt at all.  Just a toolsy guy who the Giants are bringing along slowly.  Again we see the great K/BB to go with intriguing speed.  I think his frame can support more power down the road.  Started strong and finished strong.  Slumped in the middle of the season.  Lost some PT to Seth Harrison, which I did not like, but maybe the rest helped him make that late season surge.  Bright future here with some patience.

Keury Mella(RHP)- 1-1, 1.83, 19.2 IP, 6 BB, 20 K's.  Not sure what Mella's injury with Augusta was, but came to S-K for a rehab assignment.  Pitched very well.  Can't wait to see what he does and where next year.  Maybe back in Augusta?

Repeaters:

Travious Relaford(IF/UT)- .283/.380/.372, 3 HR, 9 SB, 258 AB, 37 BB, 39 K's.  Relaford was drafted as a very raw toolsy SS in round 44 in 2011.  He has played all over the Giants farm system as high as AA in 2013.  His bat really seemed to break out this year with sustained regular AB's in S-K.  A very interesting guy to watch going forward.

Shilo McCall(OF)- .200/.287/.333, 3 HR, 165 AB, 19 BB, 53 K's.  I was hoping we'd see Shilo in full season ball.  Instead he repeated S-K and did a face plant.  K rate is downright scary!  Not sure what the future holds at this point.  He'll probably get at least one more chance next year, but he needs to have a good season.

Jason Forjet(RHP)- 7-1, 3.10, 87 IP, 16 BB, 87 K's.  Took a step back from San Jose in 2013, but put up very nice looking numbers for S-K in 2014.

Jose Reyes(RHP)- 6-4, 3.89, 83.1 IP, 16 BB, 64 K's.  Seems like just a pitcher in the organization at this point.

Ethan Miller(RHP)- 5-3, 4.60, 78.1 IP, 15 BB, 57 K's.  Starting July 17, had 5 consecutive starts with at least 6 IP and 2 ER or less.  Love his size at 6'5".

Nick Gonzalez(LHP)- 2-5, 4.06, 71 IP, 28 BB, 47 K's.  Not too exciting numbers there for the big lefty.

Andrew Leenhouts(LHP)- 3-4, 4.73, 72.1 IP, 11 BB, 71 K's.  Peripherals look better than the primary numbers.  I thought we might see him higher in the organization this year.

On Track:

Eury Sanchez(RHP)- 3-3, 3.48, 33.2 IP, 15 BB,   50 K's, 14 Saves.  Smallish pitcher with big time peripheral numbers.  On the closer track early which is usually the kiss of death for a pitching prospect.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Game Wrap 9/28/2014: Giants 9 Padres 3

The Giants wrapped up the regular season with Win and a boxscore that looked more like it was from spring training.  Key Lines:

Gregor Blanco- 1 for 3, BB, SF.  BA= .260.  First 3 batters went 1 for 12 yesterday.  Blanco led the way with a better looking line today.

Joe Panik- 2 for 5.  BA= .305.  2-Hit Joe does his thing again.  He's the Giants 2B for at least the next 6 seasons.

Buster Posey- 1 for 2, HR(22).  BA= .311.  Buster will fall just a bit short of his second MVP, but close enough.  Very nice bounceback season for The Buster who turned it on in the second half instead of wearing down.

Andrew Susac- 1 for 3, 2B.  BA= .273.  I didn't see it, but the double was reportedly a mammoth shot off the bricks in right-center.  Baggs seems to think Bochy will carry Quiroz in the postseason roster so he can use Susac's bat off the bench.  Wait a minute!  How many postseason roster spots are there anyway?!

Gary Brown- 1 for 1.  BA= .429.  Brownie has certainly made the most of his meager opportunities.  Will he make the Wild Card roster with a couple of SP's likely being left off?

Joaquin Arias- 1 for 2, 2B.  BA= .254.  Arias hit .351 in the second half, .188 in the first half.  He hit .305 against LHP's and just .186 against RHP's.

Brandon Belt- 1 for 2, 2B, BB.  BA= .243.  Belt went 8 for 21 over his last 6 games of the season.  Belt one into the river, Brandon!  Oh, and there's a wind tunnel to RF in Washington!

Matt Duffy- 1 for 1.  BA= .267.  Duffy continues to have a magical bat off the bench, 6 for 15 in a PH role to be exact.  With Ishikawa likely starting in LF, Duffy becomes the best PH on the team, by far.

Adam Duvall- 1 for 1, HR(3).  BA= .192.  Duvall had his moments and his struggles.  What does the future hold for him?

Chris Heston- 4 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 5.06.  So-so start for Hesto-Presto.  Again, an uncertain future lies ahead for him.

Tim Lincecum- 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA=  4.74.  Looks like Timmy was effectively pitching to contact.  Does he make the postseason roster?

Erik Cordier- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 1.50.  Do both he and Strickland make the Wild Card roster with a couple of SP's being left off?  Can the Giants bend the rules that much?

In a development that the Giants had no control over, they learned that they will be flying to Pittsburgh for the Wild Card do or die play-in game.  Madison Bumgarner will face Edinson Volquez who has been one of the hottest pitchers in baseball over his last 12 starts.  Of course, Bumgarner is no slouch himself and would certainly get serious consideration for the Clayton Kershaw ineligible Cy Young Award voting.  Game time has been set at 8:07 PM EDT or 5:07 PM PDT which means I will get to see most of it after work.  We'll talk a bit more about Keys to the Game in another post, but if the score is still 0-0 or better for the Giants by the time I can tune in, I like their chances.

Matt Cain had arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur from his ankle.  It will not delay his recovery from elbow surgery.  Figured he might as well get it taken care of in this window so as to not miss more time down the road.

Around the League:  Jordan Zimmermann of the Nationals pitched a no-hitter on the final day of the regular season.

Game Wrap 9/27/2014: Giants 3 Padres 1

The game had no relevance to the Giants placement in postseason competition, but was important to some players who may have been auditioning for a postseason roster spot and for a roster spot next April.  Brandon Crawford broke open a 1-1 game with bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 8'th inning for the game winning hit.  Key Lines:

Gary Brown- 2 for 4.  BA= .333.  Brown finally got his chance to start, ridiculously late IMO, and responded with a bunt single and another hit off an IF chopper that contributed to the winning rally.  Now, a couple of IF hits does not a major leaguer make, but man, he can get down that line in a hurry!  Not sure why he has so much trouble stealing bases with that kind of speed!  He also made some nifty plays in CF.  

This is one place where I disagree with Bochy and/or Brian Sabean.  Maybe Brownie hasn't done anything to deserve an earlier look, but we all knew Juan Perez was not the answer a long time ago.  In the KNBR roundtable discussion amongst the game announcers on Postgame Live, the consensus seemed to be that Brown just might be a better option for the postseason roster than Perez.  Kuiper, in particular, brought up how many times Brown has been passed over, so I guess I'm not the only one who noticed

Matt Duffy- 2 for 4.  BA= .254.  Duffy hit the ball hard 4 times.  His outs were on a line drive to RF that was caught and another was on a sharp grounder up the middle that Amarista made a diving stop on, made a great play to get Brown on a force at 2'nd. Spangenburg made a wild throw to first allowing Duffy to end up at 2B from which he eventually scored the go-ahead run.

Duffy is 5 for 12(.417) in his last 10 games.  .333 in 15 games in Sept.  He is 7 for 19(.368) with RISP.  He has 5 Runs and 7 RBI's in 59 total AB's.  Forget that he's walked just once.  In the role he has been given, he is not up there looking to walk.  What's important is he has good AB's and gets good pitches to hit.  Matt Duffy!

I don't know if The Duffster has enough arm to make the throw to first from behind 3B, but if he does, he has to be under consideration for the position should Pablo end up leaving via FA.

Brandon Belt- 1 for 3, 2B, BB.  BA= .241.  Belt is 7 for 22(.318) over his last 5 games and looks good heading into postseason play.  Good job getting up to speed in a hurry there, Big Guy!

Brandon Crawford- 1 for 4.  BA= .246.  The 2 Ribeyes gave Crawford 69 on the season.  Somebody in the broadcast booth, I think it was Kuip, pointed out that's as many as Yasiel Puig!  Crawford has also scored 53 runs on the season.  Now, I know Ribeyes and Runs are not the greatest measures of a player's value, but come on, guys!  Crawford has done this while hitting mostly 7'th and 8'th all season!(he was hitting 6'th in this game).

A reporter asked Bochy after the game if Crawford might be under consideration to bat higher in the order.  Bochy said it was a consideration, but he's done so well hitting 7 and 8, he didn't think he'd want to upset the chemistry there.  Here's how I see it.  Each place in the order has it's own characteristics in terms of what situations the batter comes up in and what types of pitches he sees.  Crawford has thrived in a spot that is extremely difficult for most hitters.  He seems to have figured out when to be aggressive and when to be patient.   Even if he doesn't get a hit or take a walk, he fouls off pitches and forces the pitcher to burn up valuable pitches on the bottom of the order.  There are likely other hitters who can bat at the top of the order, but I'm not sure there is anyone else who can do nearly as well as Crawford at the bottom.

Jake Peavey- 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 3 K's.  ERA= 3.73.  This was basically a tune-up game for a hoped for postseason start that will come on Friday, October 3 in Washington if everything if the Giants win the Wild Card Game in either Pittsburgh or St. Louis.

Jeremy Affeldt- 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K's.  ERA= 2.28.   Affledt has been very shaky and at times downright bad in September.  His last 2 appearances, including this one, seem to have him back on track, which is a very good thing for the postseason.

Hunter Strickland- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 0.00.  Another lights out inning for Strickland.  I don't know how much leeway the rules allow for postseason rosters.  My understanding is the only way he can get on is to replace in injured player for whom there is no alternative replacement who was on the 25 man roster before Sept 1?  The roundtable did not seem to think it would be much of a problem, but who develops a mysteriously vague injury between now and 10/1?  I think it's pretty clear that Strickland is better than the 12'th pitcher on the pre-9/1 roster, whoever that is(actually, Timmy, I'm looking at you!).  First MLB W in this game for Strickland.

Santiago Casilla- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, Save(19).  ERA= 1.70.  Casilla seems pretty well entrenched as the closer for the postseason and has firmed up that grip in the last 2 weeks.

As mentioned above, this game had no bearing on the Giants postseason placement.  The Pirates and Cardinals both lost so the Cardinals lead the NL Central by 1 game going into the final game of the regular season.  Giants have to be hoping for a NL Central tie which would force those two teams to burn up their #1's in a one game playoff tomorrow.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Thoughts on Yasmany Tomas

Right now, the fastest and easiest way for MLB team to dramatically upgrade their talent is to sign a player who has defected from Cuba.  There are several reasons for this:  1.  Teams do not have to wait their turn in a draft cue to sign them.  2.  If they have a certain number of years of experience in Cuban baseball, they are not subject to the spending limitations of other international free agents.  3.  The MLB free agent market has all but dried up leaving very few impact FA's available from year to year.  4.  There have been enough signings of Cuban players now to know that worries about level of competition were probably unfounded.  These guys are ready to play right away, for the most part.

The latest Cuban defector to come available, or at least soon be available, is OF Yasmany Tomas.  Tomas has played CF in Cuba, but has a relatively short, heavy body type that projects more as a corner OF, probably LF.  There are a couple of videos available of Tomas on Youtube(I don't have a link, but they are very easy to find if you just go to Youtube and search his name) including one of a moonshot HR he hit against an asian team in international competition.

I made a comment awhile back that I see a very quick, short, powerful swing without much, if any extra movement in it.  With the body type and the position he plays, my comp was Kevin Mitchell, a former Giants LF who hit a few HR's in his day.  Although the body type is not exciting, I assume that if he played CF in Cuba, he has enough tools to play LF in MLB.  Beyond that, you are looking at a player for his bat and not much else.  I think the bat has a chance to be special.

Kiley McDaniel, of Fangraphs, wrote up a scouting report on Tomas on 9/25/2014 entitled Scouting Yasmany Tomas that largely agrees with what I have said about him in prior comments.  Kiley posted some video from a relatively recent international tournament which demonstrates his swing mechanics quite well, but also shows him looking heavy and slow.  Like other recent Cuban FA's, he has reportedly gotten himself into the Best Shape of His Life and looks much better now.  If you look up the Fangraphs article, be sure to scroll down into the Comments to find an in-depth analysis of Tomas' swing in answer to a questioner who thought his hands looked slow.  Here is the key paragraph that explains what I see, but does a much better job of explaining than I:

"Tomas generates above average bat speed, but doesn't load his hands as far back as most sluggers.  Almost all power hitters load their hands(maximum distance from contact) about as far back as possible….and Tomas does not do this.  This means he has the power and bat speed of a big time power hitter with the short path of a contact hitter."  Now, I have to confess that differences in bat speed through the strike zone are a very tough for me to see, but I completely agree with Kiley's description of Tomas load mechanism compared to most power hitters.  Think Joe Panik with light tower power!

Now, none of this guarantees Tomas success in MLB.  Swing mechanics is only part of the equation.  I would describe Angel Villalona's swing mechanics in similar terms, but pitch recognition and strike zone discipline have held Angel V back big time.  In the tournament where the video on Fangraphs was filmed, Tomas faced elite U.S. amateur pitchers, many of whom were eventual first round draft picks and did not fare well, generating just 3 singles and a ton of K's against them.  Of course, he also appeared to be out of shape at the time, which BTW raises other questions about his long term value.  Still, the swing mechanics combined with the track records of other Cuban players is enough to convince me that Tomas' bat is for real.

It just so happens that Tomas projects to a position, LF, that the Giants desperately need to upgrade for next season.  It also happens that the Giants have shown serious interest in other Cuban FA's such as Jose Abreu and Rusney Castillo reportedly coming in second in the bidding for both.  It may or may not be relevant information that Tomas is represented by Jay Alou, who obviously has family ties to the Giants organization, and Tomas recent workout was held at the Giants Dominican baseball academy, although attended by over 100 scouts and MLB execs.

I don't know how far the Giants are willing to go to sign one of these talented Cuban FA's.  So far, their strategy seems to have been to make a strong offer, but not get involved in a bidding war.  Now, I am not one of those guys who presumes to know more about the Giants financial situation than they do, or at least what the Giants SAY their situation is.  If they don't have the money to sign another big, longterm contract, then so be it.  So far it is hard to take too much issue with the way the Giants go about their business.  Their reported behavior in the Abreu and Castillo cases would suggest that there is money in the pot to spend on the right player. I will say this:  Based on everything I know about Yasmany Tomas, if they are going to spend big on a Cuban FA, or any FA for that matter, Tomas is a guy who I think the money would be well spent on.

Game Wrap 9/26/2014: Padres 4 Giants 1

The Giants were coming off the celebration of clinching a postseason spot and it looked like it as the offense failed to sustain an attack against Ian Kennedy and Ryan Vogelsong's otherwise strong start fell apart in the 6'th inning.  Key Lines:

Brandon Belt- 2 for 3, BB.  BA= .239.   Apparently Belt's 2-hit night in the series opener was not a fluke as he looked like he was seeing the ball well again in this one.  That is good news for the Giants postseason hopes!

Hunter Pence- 1 for 3, BB.  BA= .279.  Pence has been in a brutal slump, but seemed to be swinging less wildly in this game.  Hopefully something to build on over the last 2 games and into the postseason.

Ryan Vogelsong- 5.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K's.  ERA= 4.00.  Vogey allowed an unearned run in the first inning on a couple of hits and a PB.  over the next 4 innings he allowed just 1 hit and 1 walk  while showing off what might have been his best curveball of the season.  Like Petit the night before and Huddy the night before that, the wheels rather unexpectedly came off in the 6'th inning.  When the first batter of the inning struck out on a perfect curveball, Vogey appeared to be rolling, but then Will Venable doubled, Vogey appeared to want no part of Yasmani Grandal and walked him, but then Seth Smith delivered the big blow, a shot that caromed off the very top of the wall in RF driving in the go-ahead run and putting runners on 2'nd and 3'rd with 1 out.  The next batter was Rene Rivera, who must have put up at least half of his total 2014 production against the Giants.  Vogey made a good pitch and blew up his bat, but the ball floated out over Brandon Crawford's head for a 2 run single and Vogey's night was done.

Ryan Vogelsong made all 32 of his starts this year and pitched well for the most part.  He got very little run support for long stretches that suppressed his W-L.  He would appear to be a good value on a similar 1 year contract as this season.  On the other hand, he might command more on the open market and the Giants might not want to go that high, so this could have been his final start for the Giants.  Just one of many interesting stories to follow after the season ends.

Erik Cordier- 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 1.80.  Cordier had a rough last appearance, so this one was important to see if he could recover and put it behind him.  He appeared to dial the FB back just a hair to 97-98 MPH and seemed to have much better command of it.   He also used a sharp breaking ball more frequently which kept the Padres hitters off balance.  Nice game from Cordier who is definitely going to challenge for a roster spot next spring.

The Loss eliminated the Giants chances of hosting the Wild Card play-in game.  The Pirates and Cardinals both won, so the Cardinals maintain a 1 game lead in the NL Central.  If the season ended last night, the Giants would face the Pirates in the WC game in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.  The Giants are hoping for a tie atop the NL Central by Sunday night, which would force the Cards and Pirates into an extra 1 game playoff on Monday to determine the division winner and Wild Card entry.

Jake Peavy takes the mound for today's game facing LHP Eric Stults.  Don't expect Peavy to be out there longer than 5 innings at the most though.

Prior to the game, Madison Bumgarner was named the Willie Mac Award winner, which was very well deserved.  Willie watched from a hospital bed where he is being treated for a serious infection.  Willie's daughter presented the award as several other family members looked on.  It was great to see the parade of past winners and wow!  Mike Krukow won it 2 years in a row!  What a warrior he was and how great is it to listen to him explain the game night after night on the TV broadcasts?!  Kruk has his own physical challenges now and it was obviously an emotional night for him too.  The ladies in my family cried during the ceremony and I had a tear or two trying to come out.  The guy who just might be the proudest of all to win the award?  Andres Torres, who I'm guessing would not miss out on the ceremony for anything.  If they didn't invite him, he'd probably force his way in!

It was a strange sequence of events down in Arizonaland as Kirk Gibson got the ax as well as bench coach Alan Trammel.  The D'Backs then turned around and asked Trammel to manage the last 3 games of the season.  So, does that mean Trammel is in the running to be the next non-interim manager?  Weird!  As for Gibson, his tough guy persona might have gone a bit too far.  You need scrappy players on the team, but you also need tools and talent.  Gibby didn't seem to understand that and appeared to be the driving force for several trades that depleted the talent depth on the team.

Dave Stewart has been named the new GM for the D'Backs, though he may have a more lofty title.  This would be Stewarts first experience in an MLB front office(he has been a player representative or agent).  I am sure Tony LaRussa feels he can mentor Stewart  and the ties obviously go back to their days when LaRussa managed Stewart with the Oakland A's, although LaRussa himself does not have front office experience as he spent his entire career up to now managing in the dugout.