Saturday, December 31, 2011

Down on the Farm: #3 Tommy Joseph

#3 Tommy Joseph, C. 6'1", 220 lbs. BD: 7/16/1991. B-R, T-R.

High A .270/.317/.471, 32 2B, 22 HR.

I don't think any Giants prospect improved his stock as much as Tommy Joseph in 2011. Joseph is built like a boulder of granite and has been hitting tape measure HR's since high school. The problems were that he really didn't have a position to play and had a lot of trouble making contact when he wasn't hitting HR's. Joseph took a big step forward in 2011 at San Jose.

He started out struggling to make contact again and his BA collapsed to a .164 for the month of May. Then he seemed to find himself at the plate. First, he raised his BA to .297 for the month of June and kept it at .299 for July and August. Then, he started hitting HR's with 6 in July and 8 in August. He did have one HR binge in Lancaster, a well known launching pad, but beyond that, he hit 10 of his 22 total in San Jose which is much tougher on hitters than the average Cal League ballpark. He still struck out a lot, but dropped his K rate from 24.5% in 2010 to 18.2% in 2012.

What really propelled Joseph forward as a prospect, though, was defense. He was drafted as a catcher and has a strong arm with a pretty quick release. His size and granite-like build kept him from being agile behind the plate and he had clumsy footwork. Working with Andy Skeels at San Jose, Joseph was able to make major strides in improving his overall catching defense to the point where BA actually rated him as the top defensive catcher in the Cal League. Despite the "light tower power", Tommy Joseph's bat does not project all that well as a first base prospect or DH. As a catching prospect, though, the bat is legit.

The other big thing Joseph has going for him is his age. He was the second youngest prospect in the Cal League last year. He may well struggle mightily as he advances to AA, but he's young enough that he can spend 2 full seasons at AA and still be age appropriate for his level. Best case scenario for Joseph is he advances 1 level per year and is ready for the majors in 2014. More likely scenario is he takes 3 seasons to advance through AA/AAA and hits the majors in 2015 at age 23.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Down on the Farm: #2 Joe Panik

#2 Joe Panik, SS. 6'1", 193 lbs. BD: 10/30/1990. B-L, T-R.

Cape Cod League 2010: .297, 9 2B, 3 HR, 23 BB, 15 K's, 11 SB in 175 AB.

St. John's(college): .398/.509/.642, 19 2B, 3 3B, 10 HR, 21 SB, 6 CS, 44 BB, 24 K, 9 HBP in 226 AB.

Short Season: .341/.401/.467, 10 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 13 SB, 5 CS, 28 BB, 25 K in 270 AB.

AFL: .323/.394/.473, 6 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 0 SB, 9 BB, 10 K in 93 AB.

Joe Panik was a busy boy in 2011 playing the equivalent of a full MLB season between college, short season ball and the AFL. Is this guy too good to be true, or what? There were some raised eyebrows when the Giants selected him as their first round draft pick, although in retrospect, it probably should not have been a surprise. Panik was a late riser on several analysts draft boards after a terrific junior season at St Johns. Giants fans who were initially skeptical were quickly won over when Panik signed immediately and started raking in the Northwest League.

Just looking at his stat lines is almost a surreal experience as they practically ooze with a seemingly endless supply of statistical goodness. By now, everybody knows how much I love to see high batting averages. Well, Panik has those. Power, maybe just a tad short, but it's there. Speed? Between college and the pros, he stole 34 bases with a 75% success rate. Consistency? Just notice how similar the lines are across every level he played! But, if you really want to get your sabermetric juices flowing, just take a look at those BB and K numbers. When was the last time you saw a Giants prospect with consistently more walks than K's? OK, want one more? He hit .393 against lefthanders in the AFL! To top it all off, Panik didn't turn 21 yo until after the season and already has close to a full season's worth of professional AB's under his belt. That is almost unheard of in a college draftee.

So, what's the problem with Joe Panik and why isn't he considered an elite prospect? Unfortunately, a ton of his value is tied to his ability to play shortstop in the majors and there are questions about that. He has a history of a shoulder injury and there is concern about whether he can make the throw from the hole. Also, his range may be a bit short. He makes up for these perceived deficiencies with excellent footwork, positioning and hands. Analysts are divided on whether he can stick at SS. The Giants insist he can, but the doubters were not assuaged by him playing 2B in the AFL. The stated reason for him playing 2B in the AFL was because the Giants wanted Brandon Crawford to start there and they wanted Panik to get the extra AB's. Besides, it's not a bad thing to gain versatility. It's not that he's a bad prospect at 2B, but he might be an elite prospect at SS due to the position scarcity factor.

I expect he will be the starting SS for San Jose in 2012, but wouldn't be totally shocked if he skipped SJ and went to Richmond on the strength of his AFL showing. Whether he is the Giants SS of the future or their 2B of the future, there seems little doubt that Giants fans can safely dream about the day when he bats 2'nd in the lineup behind Gary Brown with Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey waiting to drive them in. Now, how great of a mental picture is that, anyway?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Down on the Farm: #1 Gary Brown

Gary Brown, OF. 6'1", 190 lbs. BD: 9/28/1988. B-R, T-R.

High A: .336/.407/.519, 34 2B, 13 3B, 14 HR, 53 SB, 19 CS.

AFL: .220/.278/.300 in 47 AB.

In his first full professional season, Gary Brown lived up to his first round draft pick pedigree, not only hitting for average and stealing a lot of bases, but also showing he can take a walk and not depend on BABIP to get on base. Although he probably won't ever hit a lot of HR"s he showed impressive extra-base power with 61 XBH's out of 188 hits and he did reach double digits in all 3 XBH categories. He struggled in the AFL but as hampered by a persistant respiratory virus and possibly by the same fatigue from a long season that Buster Posey experienced in 2009. Since he got sick in the desert, there was some concern that he might have contracted Valley Fever, but the Giants issued a statement specifically saying it was not Valley Fever.

The Giants have come under some criticism this offseason for not promoting Brown aggressively to AA. I have to admit I'm not sure what came first, the chicken or egg, but Brown did go into a rather severe month long slump in June just about the time teammates Heath Hembree and Chris Dominguez were promoted. He recovered nicely in July and tore it up down the stretch in August. I might have liked to see an August promotion to AA, but in light of the fatigue issue in the fall, it's probably better they didn't ask more of him than they did.

In his post-season presser, Sabes strongly suggested that the Giants won't have Brown skip AA like they did Buster Posey and for all practical purposes, Brandon Belt. He will likely start the season in Richmond which is always a challenge for Giants hitting prospects. The mid-season slump and uncertainty about how he will fare in AA probably limit Brown to B+ prospect status. A strong season in 2012 would almost surely vault him into elite prospect status. We could see a September callup, although 40 man roster considerations may play a role in that determination. 2013 would be the earliest to expect him to arrive permanently on the MLB scene.

I do see Brown as the Giants CF of the future. I read recently that the Mets wanted Brown in the trade for Beltran and the Giants definitely preferred to part with Zack Wheeler, so that tells you something about how highly the Giants valued Brown. He's an excellent fielder in CF covering a tremendous amount of ground. The arm is rated slightly above average but what he lacks in arm strength he makes up for in accuracy and decision making. CF is not usually a big position for assists but Brown had several from there in 2011. As for things to improve on, he needs to show he can avoid prolonged slumps and he could improve his success rate on steals.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Down on the Farm: Dr B's 2012 Giants Top 50 Prospects

The Giants don't have an elite prospect this year such as a Buster Posey or Madison Bumgarner. They do have a fairly clear #1 in Gary Brown. They also run very deep with prospects who I think have a chance to have significant major league careers running deep into the honorable mention category. Most analysts would prefer to see 1 or 2 elite prospects at the top than depth, but a lot of these kids are quite young and have a chance to break out into elite status. Having a large number of those increases the probability that some of them will break out. Overall, I think it's a strong farm system, certainly much stronger than when I used to do these in the early-mid 2000's. Remember too that the list would look a lot better with Brandon Belt on it, but Belt has technically graduated even though he's still a prospect for all practical purposes. Anyway, here's the list. We will give a more detailed report on each prospect on on a nearly daily basis running up to Spring Training. As always, please don't get too hung up on the exact order. The main point of the exercise is to get better acquainted with the prospects in the Giants organization.

1. Gary Brown, OF

2. Joe Panik, SS

3. Tommy Joseph, C

4. Heath Hembree, RHP

5. Francisco Peguero, OF

6. Kyle Crick, RHP

7. Andrew Susac, C

8. Eric Surkamp, LHP

9. Hector Sanchez, C

10. Ehire Adrianza, SS

11. Chris Dominguez, 3B

12. Ricky Oropesa, 1B

13. Clayton Blackburn, RHP

14. Jesus Galindo, OF

15. Adalberto Mejia, LHP

16. Jarrett Parker, OF

17. Mike Kickham, LHP

18. Seth Rosin, RHP

19. Josh Osich, LHP

20. Hector Correa, RHP

21. Leonardo Fuentes, OF

22. Rafael Rodriguez, OF

23. Angel Villalona, 1B

24. Joan Gregorio, RHP

25. Charlie Culberson, 2B

26. Roger Kieschnick, OF

27. Dan Otero, RHP

28. Kendry Flores, RHP

29. Conor Gillaspie, 3B

30. Jake Dunning, RHP

31. Austin Fleet, RHP

32. Chris Marlowe, RHP

33. Alex Burg, C/3B/1B

34. Brett Bochy, RHP

35. Adam Duvall, 3B

36. Jacob Dunnington, RHP

37. Chuckie Jones, OF

38. Ryan Cavan, 2B

39. Justin Fitzgerald, RHP

40. Chris Heston, RHP

41. Stephen Harrold, RHP

42. Shawn Payne, OF

43. Kentrell Hill, OF

44. Edward Concepcion, RHP

45. Bryce Bandilla, LHP

46. Ray Black, RHP

47. Cody Hall, RHP

48. Emmanuel Dejesus, LHP

49. Demondre Arnold, RHP

50. Jean Delgado, SS

Honorable Mention: Brett Pill 1B, Stephen Edlefsen RHP, Johnny Monell C, Justin Christian OF, Tyler Graham OF, Kelvin Marte LHP, Ydwin Villegas SS, Chris Lofton OF, Carlos Willoughby 2B, Gaspar Santiago LHP, Brett Krill OF, Ben Thomas 1B, Joe Staley C, Mike Murray C, Dan Burkhart C, Cameron Lamb RHP, Lorenzo Mendoza RHP, Reiner Roibal RHP, Brandon Allen RHP, Matt Graham RHP, Garrett Buechele 3B, Leonardo Ochoa OF, Chris Gloor LHP, Jack Snodgrass LHP, Stephen Shackleford RHP, Keith Bilodeau RHP, Mike Merganthaler OF, Kelby Tomlinson SS, Eric Sim C, Christian Otero SS, Elliott Blair OF, Jose Cuevas 3B, Christian Paulino 3B/2B, Christian Diaz OF, Edwin Escobar LHP, Miguel Ferrer RHP, Luis Angeles RHP, Paul Davis LHP, Brian Maloney RHP, Derek Law RHP, Danny Sandbrink RHP, Ryan Bean RHP.

Dominican Dandies: Randy Ortiz 2B, Carlos Cartegena OF, Marvin Barrios RHP, Simon Mercedes RHP, Royel Astacio, 3B.

Hope I haven't missed anyone. Not too late to add somebody if I did.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Hot Stove Update: Have the Giants Upgraded Their Offense?

Merry Christmas, everybody! Hope Santa thought you were all nice in 2011. My family opened presents this morning, I've done a few household chores and Christmas dinner is cooking, so I have a few minutes and am rapidly getting bored. Thought I'd write a quick post.

In the seemingly endless discussion amongst internet Giants fans is a common assertion that the Giants have done nothing to upgrade their offense this year. I decided to do a little research on this question and see if I could bring some light instead of just more heat to the discussion.

First of all, at no time last year did the Giants have their best lineup on the field for more than a couple of games mainly due to injuries. Here is a list of Giants Team OPS Splits by month:

March/April- .675
May- .658
June- .653
July- .657
August- .636
September- .756.

As you can see, there was a significant dropoff after Buster's injury and a big rebound in September after Beltran recovered from his wrist injury. I believe Crawford and Belt hit better in September too. Taken as a whole, though, which is probably the most fair way to look at it, the team OPS was .671 which ranked #27 out of 30 MLB teams and #15 out of 16 NL teams. The range for all teams was .640-.810 with the Phillies at .717 and the Cubs at .715 the two middle teams. The range for the NL was a narrower .653-.766 with the Cubs at .715 and Marlins at .706 the two middle clubs.

It is difficult to compare team stats for last season with projections due to uncertainties and inconsistencies in playing time. Baseball Reference has a breakdown of stats by position that might help us get close though. Here are the Giants OPS Splits by position for 2012:

C .628
1B .732
2B .667
3B .817
SS .564
LF .684
CF .646
RF .801
P .372

The average for the positions is .657 which is lower than the true Team OPS because a simple averaging by position gives too much weight to the pitching position and to positions that might have hit lower in the order than others. It does, however, provide a fairly simple reference point against a projection of next year's likely lineup. I used ZIPS projections for a likely Giants lineup in 2012. ZIPS is probably the most advanced of the projection systems and is more conservative than Bill James.

C(Buster Posey+Chris Stewart)- .759
1B(Aubrey Huff)- .751
2B(Fred Sanchez)- .686
3B(Pablo Sandoval)- .844
SS(Brandon Crawford)- .627
LF(Melky Cabrera)- .765
CF(Angel Pagan)- .725
RF(Nate Schierholtz)- .736
P .372

Total average projection= .696. Again, this is a slight underestimate due to weighting for lineup position. I will correct for this by adding in the difference between the Team OPS for 2012 and the average of Team Splits by position which is .014 for a total of .710 which puts them at #9 on the NL, .005 behind the #8 Cubs. It would put them at #19 for all of MLB, .007 behind the #15 Phillies. In other words, the Giants as currently constructed project to an approximately league average offense, which is a significant improvement over their aggregate lineup in 2011.

The estimated playing time for Buster is conservative. The projection rises if he plays more games at catcher. The projection systems love Brandon Belt and have him at an OPS of .817. That would be an upgrade at all 3 positions he is capable of playing, 1B, LF, RF. Going by projections alone, the best lineup would be to make Nate the 4'th OF(sorry Nate), move Melky to RF and put Belt in LF.

Projecting a 2012 lineup with Nate as a reserve and Belt in the lineup with Buster playing 140 games at C instead of 120 gives us an average .707. Add in the .014 correction for lineup weighting and you get .721. This gets them to #15(top half) in MLB behind Tampa Bay at .724. It gets them to #7 out of 16 in the NL behind the Mets at .725. Comparisons are to 2011 team stats and rankings because figuring out a projection for each team is prohibitively difficult and time consuming.

Using actual numbers, the Giants, as currently constructed project to close to a league average offense. As we have noted before, Brandon Belt is a huge wild card depending on whether his projections are accurate and how much playing time he gets. Of course, there are the usual caveats about projections. There is a reason why they play the games. Whether Belt plays or not or whether he is as good as projected or not, if you accept projections as more objective and conservative than say, taking a wild guess, then, as long as the pitching stays healthy, the Giants should be in great shape to contend for another title in 2012.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Scouting the Draft: Travis Jankowski

OK, team. Gotta go into Christmas on a more positive note than the Beltran post.

Brian Sabean has a history of going back to things that work, until they don't work. The early returns on the last two drafts are that they have worked out very well for the Giants. In both cases, they went for low risk, high floor college hitters with excellent BA's but limited power at positions of relative scarcity. There is at least one player who fits that profile to a T in the upcoming 2012 draft. Travis Jankowski is a 4 tool CF for Stony Brook, an emerging program and alma mater of Joe Nathan. Acknowledgement to MLB Draft Guide linked over on the left for a nice career summary and scouting report on Jankowski.

Jankowski has nice size at 6'3", 190 lbs. He hits LH and throws RH. He is rated as a plus defender in CF with plus speed and and a strong arm. His offensive profile is a high batting average with some plate discipline and an ability to steal bases. Power is his one heretofore missing tool although he has the size for some possible upside in power. Here are his stats for his first two college seasons:

2010: .262/.339/.301 with 13 SB against 1 CS in 103 AB.
2011: .355/.419/.457 with 30 SB against just 4 CS in 186 AB.

Brian Sabean is well known to put a lot of stock in performance in wood bat summer leagues, particularly the Cape Cod League. This just happens to be where Jankowski has really shined:

2010 .346/.414/.385 with 6 SB in just 26 AB.
2011 .329/.410/.445 with 15 SB against 5 CS in 173 AB.

He was the 2011 Cape Cod League MVP while leading the league in hits, runs and triples. He was second in steals. has a scouting video up that includes a nice AB where he hangs in against a LHP and drives a ball up the middle. I found the link to the video by searching Travis Jankowski on Google Video. That's the only video of Jankowski in action I could find.

I've seen a couple of mock drafts with Jankowski going to the Giants at #20. I've seen him ranked anywhere from #20 down to about #35 or so. He certainly fits the mold of Gary Brown and Joe Panik from the Giants last 2 drafts. The danger in going back to the same well too many times in the draft is it can unbalance your organization. On the other hand, there are worse things for an organization than to have a surplus of talent at a position of relative scarcity. 4 tool CF's don't exactly grow on trees. I would be happy, though maybe not thrilled, if the Giants drafted Travis Jankowski at #20 in the 2012 draft.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Hot Stove Update: Beltran Signs With the Cardinals

Yesterday, it was announced that the St. Louis Cardinals had reached an agreement on a contract with Carlos Beltran at a cost of 2 years/$26 M. Predictably, the Giants oriented internet community erupted in a salvo of F-bombs directed at Giants management in general and Brian Sabean in particular, raging at a litany of fan grievances old and new, but mostly old.

Before getting into the signing, or non-signing, and it's impact on the Cardinals and Giants, lets get a few things out of the way"

1. Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand were signed 6 and 5 years ago, respectively. Those signings have been hashed and rehashed, reviled, spat upon repeatedly and ad nauseum. Whether they are Brian Sabean's fault or Peter Magowan's, it's water under the bridge, folks. Water under the bridge! The Giants have won a World Series Championship with those two contracts on the books. Time to move on!

2. The Giants are never going to have a payroll like the Red Sox or Yankees or Angels. I don't know if the Giants ownership group can afford more or not. I don't pretend to have inside knowledge of the Giants accounting books. But you know what? It doesn't matter! $130 M is a very reasonable payroll for a MLB team and ownership is going to set their payroll limits based on whatever they set them on and raging about it from now until doomsday is not going to change it. Again, time to move on!

3. The Beltran trade is done and has no bearing on this offseason. There was no team option to use as leverage for a new contract. There were no compensatory draft picks coming. Beltran became a free agent at the end of the season as in free as a bird. The Giants traded their best pitching prospect for a chance to revive a moribund offense, get back into the playoffs and possibly win a second consecutive World Series, nothing more, nothing less. Seeing how the postseason played out, it wasn't a pipe dream that if they could just squeak back into the playoffs they had a chance to go all the way again. It didn't work out. Time to move on!

If you need one more round of raging catharsis about any of the 3 above topics, I suggest visiting the Message Board at and They are conveniently linked over to the left. You will find plenty of like minded folks at both places to rage along with. On to the signing!

Carlos Beltran is one of the better hitters in baseball. He was probably the 4'th best offensive player on the free agent market after Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes, maybe even better than Reyes. He signed for a very reasonable contract both in years and dollars. The Cardinals can now move Lance Berkman to first base and put Beltran in RF and still have a very good offense despite the loss of Pujols. They also have to run the table on Beltran, Berkman and Furcal staying healthy for the length of the season at somewhat long odds.

As for the Giants, most fans long ago accepted that they were not going to get Pujols, Fielder or Reyes, but the flame of hope still burned for Beltran. That he ended up signing for a seemingly affordable price caused the frustration to boil over with even greater intensity. Was he really that affordable? Beltran essentially said at the end of the season that signing him came with strings attached for the Giants, namely they had to also upgrade the top of their batting order. In essence, Beltran presented Brian Sabean and the Giants with a Gordian Knot and said, "if you can untie this, I'll consider signing" The knot consisted of 3 strands of rope tied together, 2 strands provided by Beltran, 1 by the Giants ownership group: 1. Upgrade the top of the order. 2. Sign Beltran 3. Stay under a payroll budget of $130 M. Brian Sabean countered by setting his own priorities: 1. Keep the pitching intact. 2. Upgrade CF and the top of the order. 3. Sign Beltran if there was enough left over. You had to know at that point that Beltran wasn't signing with the Giants.

As currently constructed, after all the players offered arbitration are signed, the Giants payroll will likely stand at somewhere around $126-127 M. Signing Beltran would put that number up to right around $140 M, $10 M over budget. The money would have to had to come from cuts elsewhere in the budget. This is where the discussion gets interesting and the rageaholics may have a legitimate claim that needs to be addressed. Did Brian Sabean paint himself into a corner with premature moves that ate up the money that could have been spent on Beltran?

The primary target of the "naysayers" is the contracts for Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez. Add those two and you get just under $10 M. Put that with the $3-4 M surplus and you are right at the $13 M that Beltran signed for. We'll go ahead and assume Beltran would have accepted the same deal from the Giants, no sure bet. Do you really want to lose the advantage the Giants have in the late innings of close games against LH middle of the order bats? Do you really want to turn those AB's over to George Sherrill and Dan Runzler, or to Santiago Casilla? I don't care what the WARmongers say. WAR undervalues those high leverage outs. I know there are a lot of people out there who know a lot about baseball who will continue to insist that Affeldt and Lopez are completely fungible assets and the money spent on them should have been spent on Beltran. I'm not buying what they are selling. The thought of George Sherrill or Dan Runzler facing Prince Fielder or Jay Bruce in the 8'th inning with runners on base is just too sickening, and that doesn't even count the Miguel Monteros, Andre Ethiers or CarGones of the world. OK, maybe Sherrill holds his own against LH batters but there's also the switch-hitters who managers like to turn around to bat RH. Affeldt and Lopez fair much better against them.

What about Melky and Pagan? They are going to make about $9-10 M between them. Instead of trading for them, the Giants could have simply non-tendered Sanchez, Torres and Ramirez and taken the money saved to sign Beltran with the $3-4 M budget surplus thrown in, of course. There are a few problems with this scenario:

1. It eliminates the upgrades at the top of the lineup, something Beltran had stipulated as a precondition for him to consider signing.

2. It leaves the Giants with no CF. OK, maybe you consider Tyler Graham or Justin Christian perfectly acceptable options to play CF and hit leadoff and you might be able to defend it from projections. I'm pretty sure Beltran would not find them acceptable.

As currently constructed, if the Giants stay healthy and, on average, play to their projections, they should make the playoffs and have a chance to get another ring. Signing or not signing Beltran, under the Giants circumstances does nothing to change that, in fact, a case can be made that the cuts it would have taken to sign Beltran would lessen those chances.

At this point, the Giants are looking for 5'th starter options who are willing to sign minor league deals. I think they still need another RH bat with some pop off the bench who can play OF. There should be some options for that still on the shelf after the arbitration guys are all taken care of. I can't wait for the season to start!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Down on the Farm: Pick 2

Hey team,

Pick 2 of these 4 players to round out the Top 50:

Johnny Monell
Steve Edlefsen
Demondre Arnold
Jean Delgado

Hot Tip: The Giants Are Good at Baserunning

Hey team,

OGC did a great job researching some very interesting info on the Giants baserunning skills. There is a lot more that goes into baserunning than just SB's. Look for his article by clicking on ObsessiveGiantsCompulsive over to the left.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Down on the Farm: Help With Dr B's Top 50 Giants Prospects

Hey team!

I have completed a list of players to consider for DrB's 2012 Giants Top 50 Prospects list. Guys, there's 90 players on the list! I ovviously need to pare that down a lot. Out of those 90, I have identifed 40 who I think are definite keepers for the final list. That leaves 50 players vying for the last 10 spots. Just for fun, I'm going to list those 50 players here and ask you to rank your top 20, in order if possible. I will then compile a new list using those opinions to narrow it down to the final 10 and then rank those last 10. Here goes(no particular order):

Johnny Monell, C, AA
Ryan Cavan, 2B, High A
Justin Fitzgerald, RHP, AA
Stephen Edelfsen, RHP, AAA
Chris Heston, RHP, High A
Stephen Harrold, RHP, High A
Kelvin Marte, LHP, High A
Ydwin Villegas, SS, Low A
Chris Lofton, OF, Low A
Carlos Willoughby, 2B, Low A
Edward Concepcion, RHP, Low A
Gaspar Santiago, LHP, Low A
Brett Krill, OF, Short Season
Ben Thomas, 1B, Short Season
Joe Staley, C, Short Season
Mike Murray, C, Short Season
Cameron Lamb, RHP, Short Season
Lorenzo Mendoza, RHP, Short Season
Reiner Roibal, RHP, Short Season
Brandon Allen, RHP, Short Season
Matt Graham, RHP, Short Season
Garrett Buechele, 3B, Short Season
Leonardo Ochoa, OF, Short Season
Cody Hall, RHP, Short Season
Chris Gloor, LHP, Short Season
Jack Snodgrass, LHP, Short Season
Stephen Shakleford, RHP, Short Season
Keith Bilodeau, RHP, Short Season
Mike Merganthaler, OF, Short Season
Kelby Tomlinson, SS, Rookie
Eric Sim, C, Rookie
Christian Otero, SS, DNP
Elliott Blair, OF, Rookie
Jose Cuevas, 3B, Rookie
Christian Paulino, 3B/2B, Rookie
Jean Delgado, SS, Rookie
Christian Diaz, OF, Rookie
Demondre Arnold, RHP, Rookie
Edwin Escobar, LHP, Rookie
Miguel Ferrer, RHP, Rookie
Randy Ortiz, 2B, DSL
Carlos Cartegena, OF, DSL
Marvin Barrios, RHP, DSL
Ray Black, RHP, DNP
Bryce Bandilla, LHP, DNP
Dan Burkhart, C, Short Season

OK, That's only 46. my numbers are messed up somewhere. Go ahead and list your top 20 out of the above list.

Thanks for the help, everybody!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hot Stove Update: Projecting Emmanuel Burriss

The Giants recently raised some eyebrows they offered arbitration to Emmanuel Burriss virtually guarateeing him a spot on the Opening Day 25 man active roster. Giants VP Bobby Evans commented, "His value is catching up after all his injuries. He's getting back to his game. We've seen things we haven't seen in the past. Amazing play in the OF. Even at first base, he showed a lot of utility and value. We think he's earned it." So, it seems that Burriss is set to be one of two reserve middle infielders along with Mike Fontenot and will double as one of two reserve OF's at the same time.

The eyebrow raising part was that virtually everyone was looking for the Giants to find a reserve infielder, preferably who bats RH, with some pop in his bat. Emmanuel Burriss is about as close to 180 degrees opposite as you can get. Last year, he was so weak offensively, that despite excellent defense at multiple positions, he got sent back to Fresno to make room for Bill Hall of all people! So, have the Giants brass lost their collective minds entirely? Well, maybe or maybe not depending on how you look at it. I decided to take another look at Burriss and focus not on what he can't do, but what he can and might do.

Burriss was drafted in he supplemental first round of the 2006 draft, the Timmy draft. Burriss was a fast riser on draft boards after an effusive Baseball America article late in the spring. Here was a kid who looked like he could stick at SS who hit .360 with an OBP of .446 with 42 SB's and only 2 CS. He even showed a whiff of power with 4 HR's! Shortstops who can get on base like that and then steal bases like that don't exactly grow on trees. It looked like the Giants got not one, but two steals at the top of the 2006 draft.

Burriss signed quickly and was assigned to Salem-Keizer where he got off to a great start to his pro career with a line of .307/.384/.366 with 35 SB's. The first sign of trouble came in 2007 when he got off to a horrible start in San Jose and was demoted to low A Augusta where he got his feet back on the ground with a line of .321/.374/.381 with 51 SB's.

The Giants fast-tracked him in 2008 and he put up an interesting line of .283/.357/.329 with 13 SB's in 240 AB's for the MLB club. I had forgotten his numbers were that good! One problem seemed to be that the GIants lost faith in his ability to play SS and he played mostly 2B. He won the starting 2B job out of spring training in 2009 over Kevin Frandsen in what was a somewhat controversial decision and one that was not taken well by Frandsen.

Burriss struggled offensively in 2009 with a line of .238/.292/.267 with 11 SB's, and got sent down to Fresno in favor of Matt Downs due to his weak offensive production. He later fractured his left foot and then refractured it in the spring of 2010. He underwent surgery to have it pinned and later came back to finish the 2010 season in Fresno with a line of .282/.334/.337 with 11 SB's in 273 AB's.

Burriss started the 2011 season in Fresno, but got another chance with the Giants after Freddy Sanchez went down with a separated shoulder. In 127 AB's he put up a pathetic line of .204/.253/.212 with 11 SB's against 3 CS. His overall line at Fresno was much better at .297/.386/.389 with 24 SB's against 5 CS.

So, where does that saga leave Emmanuel Burriss in the overall scheme of things Giant? Well, for one thing, 2012 will be his age 27 season, so he should be entering the prime years of his career, whatever that turns out to be. For another, he's now put in over 1900 professional AB's not quite 1 season's worth more than the 1500 that Brian Sabean believes is necessary to prepare a prospect for the major leagues. His overall minor league line sits at .285/.348/.344 with 147 SB's against 44 CS in 1353 AB's. He composite MLB line is .250/.311/.281 with 35 SB's against 12 CS in 584 AB's. Just for fun, here is Burriss' ZIPS projection for 2012: .255/.308/.306 with 23 SB against 8 CS in 337 AB. At this point it seems like we have enough data to draw several conclusions:

1. He is unlikely to ever hit for any power, period.
2. He is able to maintain a respectable IsoOBP of about .060 which is not half bad for a guy with no power.
3. He is able to steal bases with about a 75% success rate which means his SB's are an asset to his team.

Burriss will likely won't be the first backup option at any of several positions to start the season. He's going to have to take make the most of his chances when they come, which will make it harder to to get his BA above .250 which he needs in order to have any real offensive value. Over the last 2 years, Bruce Bochy has shown an interest in using Burriss and Darren Ford almost like designated pinch runners late in close games with some isolated successes, most notably Ford's mad dash around the bases to save the 2010 Championship season. Look for Burriss to get quite a few of those chances, then possibly staying in the game as a defensive replacement. How many SB's and Runs do you suppose he might accumulate if he appeared 162 times as a pinch runner and nothing else? I'm thinking about 30/30 which wouldn't be terrible production from a bench player.

Burriss also gives Bochy an option of going with a "speed lineup" with consisting of Pagan, Burriss, Melky, Nate, Brando Belt and Brandon Crawford. Projecting that lineup over a full season I'm thinking they could generate 124 SB's:

Pagan- 35
Burriss- 35
Melky- 18
Nate- 12
Belt- 10
Crawford- 6
Sandoval- 4
Posey- 4

That would put them near the top 10 in MLB as opposed to the #24 with the 85 they had last year. For an offensively challenged team who plays a lot of close ballgames that might not be a terrible way to play it. If Freddy Sanchez can get back to his pre-injury production at the plate, he might generate more offense than Burriss, but possibly not by a lot. If Burriss could get his BA above .250, I'm thinking he could get his SB's into the 40's and generate at least as many runs as Freddy's marginally better power.

Do you think Emmanuel Burriss has any role on the 2012 Giants and beyond?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Scouting the Draft: Jeffrey Gibbs

I think I've stumbled onto a sleeper of sleepers who seems like a perfect Giants draft pick. I was perusing the College Baseball Daily website and came across an article about a RHP named Jeffrey Gibbs who plays for Univ. of Maine. Gibbs is from Canada and had a scouting video on for the 2009 draft coming out of high school. He's got great size: 6'4", 215 lbs. Here's the part that got my attention: He throws 97 MPH! Well, he actually uses an easier motion to sit at 92-94 MPH and gets more movement in that range, but he dials it up to 97 when he has to. He also has a drop-off-the-table breaking ball that generates swings and misses. He is reportedly hard at work this fall on a changeup that he plans to use more in the spring games.

His stat line in 2011 wasn't spectacular, but that makes him all the more typical of a Giants pitching draft pick, right?

8-5, 3.42, 76.1 IP, 46 BB, 69 K's. He held opposing batters to a .204 BA

This guy has the strength to go deep into games. He could be developed as a starter or else go to the pen and hump up that velocity into the 97-99 mph range.

One more tidbit: Keith Bilodeau, who the Giants drafted and signed in the 2011 draft, was a teammate of Gibbs last year, so we know the Giants are aware of him. The Giants seem to have a very active scout up in the far northeast.

I looked Gibbs up on some top college prospects lists. He was nowhere to be found! He isn't even listed as a top 55 pitcher for the draft by the guy at MLB Draft Guide! His coach says he could be drafted in rounds 1-5. He might be a bit of a reach in round 1 but I could so see the Giants drafting him in round 2 or 3. He would be a steal in round 5.

Jeffrey Gibbs is definitely one of several pitchers we'll be following closely once the college season starts.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hot Stove Update: Padres Trade Latos for Huge Haul

The San Diego Padres made a major trade with the Cincinnati Reds today, sending Giants nemesis Mat Latos to the Reds for a package including Edinson Volquez, Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal and Brad Boxberger. I like this trade for the Padres. I appears to me that the package they are getting is stronger than the one they got last year for AGone. This is an example of how a rebuilding team can take top notch, cost controlled talent and leverage it into even more talent that is even more cost controlled.

We all know about Latos. I don't dig his punky attitude or his hideous tattoos, but he does have undeniable talent. From the Reds' perspective, they gave up several good, but blocked prospects for a top of the rotation starter that they hope will put them over the top while they have a window with Joey Votto. There is a point of view that the Reds might have been better off in the long run trading Votto for a big package, but there is nothing wrong with this move either. Latos is more than a Product of Petco. He's big, athletic, throws hard. He can get strikeouts and grounders. He does tend to be on the wild side with both his arm and his mouth. Reportedly the Padres had concerns about how his lack of maturity would impact him going forward.

I would think Yonder Alonzo is the centerpiece of the deal from the Padres perspective. I've really liked Alonso since his college days in Miami. He not only hits for power but a terrific BA too. You all know how much stock I put in BA, especially when it's combined with power. He also exhibits excellent plate discipline to top it all off. He was a guy I wouldn't have minded the Giants drafting in 2008, not that I'm at all unhappy with Buster Posey. Alonso is kind of the opposite type of first base hitter as Anthony Rizzo, the guy the Padres got in the AGone trade last year. Alonso will likely give you a solid BA with extra base power. I project him to hit 20-25 HR's in a neutral ballpark so he could be more like 15-20 in Petco and the other west coast ballparks. Rizzo is more all power with questions about whether he can make enough contact.

Grandal is a switch-hitting catcher also out of Miami. He's projects to have a solid bat from both sides of the plate with adequate defense. He will likely spend the year in AAA for a bit more seasoning, but should be the Padres starting catcher for 5-6 years after that.

Brad Boxberger was an underachiever at USC. He seems to have found a niche in the bullpen and projects as no worse than an 8'th inning guy. He's put up outstanding K/IP ratios in the minors so far.

Volquez is a reclamation project. The Padres are likely hoping he can find success in the friendly expanses of Petco which they can parlay into even more inexpensive talent with a deadling trade or a trade next offseason.

Solid trade for Josh Byrnes and the San Diego Padres.

In other news, the Colorado Rockies signed Michael Cuddyer to a 3 year deal. Cuddyer is a guy who could really thrive in Coors Field. He could be a nice #5 in the order behind CarGone and Tulo.

Jimmy Rollins signed a 3 year deal with the Philies for $33 M and a vesting option for a 4'th season. This one hurts a little. It seems like the Giants could have figured out a way to swing this deal and give themselves a solid SS for the next 3 seasons. I think Crawford will do a fine job, but is unlikely to come close to Rollins' production over the next 3 seasons, and Rollins' deal is not crippling by any stretch.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Blast From the Past: Barry Bonds Sentence

Barry Bonds was sentenced today for his conviction of misleading a Grand Jury. More on that later. The sentence was for a month of home confinement, a fine of $4,100, 250 hours of community service and 2 years probation. The sentence was immediately stayed by the Judge to allow Bonds to appeal his conviction to the Federal 9'th Circuit Court of Appeals, a process that could take an estimated 18 months. The federal prosecutor, who was seeking a prison sentence, was not happy. He argued that Bonds led a double life, used steroids, kept mistresses while he was married 3 times, none of which had one shred of anything to do with what Bonds was convicted of. More on THAT later too!

I have to admit to conflicting feelings about the whole sorry steroid/performance enhancing drug(PED) mess. On the one hand, I abhor the whole notion that kids feel they have to take drugs like this to have a chance to succeed in their chosen sport. I want a level playing field for kids who don't put harmful substances into their bodies. The whole PED episode in Major League Baseball has diminished my own appreciation for the achievements of many players during that era, including those of Barry Bonds. On the other hand, PED's, in one form or another, are ubiquitous in the workplace for all of us, and have always been a part of the game of baseball.

Caffeine is a PED. It is a stimulant that makes you feel energetic when you would otherwise feel tired. It makes you alert when you would otherwise feel sleepy. It's everywhere! It is mildly addictive. Society has decided that it's benefits far outweigh any harm that it does or any unfair advantage it may give us. As far as I know, there is no disease process that has been linked to caffeine except maybe some irregular heart rhythms in some people, and there is no evidence that is shortens anyone's life.

Nicotine is a PED. There is a reason why it is used by many ballplayers during games other than peer pressure. Nicotine improves concentration and possibly other cognitive functions. Similar drugs have been studied as possible treatments for Alzheimer's Disease. Unfortunately, nicotine is highly addictive and it's long term use causes a host of terrible diseases that cost all of us enormous amounts of money in increased healthcare costs. There is no question that it shortens lives. Once upon a time, society accepted that the benefits of nicotine outweighed its negatives. While that is no longer the case, it is still a legal drug that can be purchased without a prescription, even though it continues to be a significant public health problem.

Alcohol could be considered a PED when used in small-moderate quantities in certain social situations. When used in high quantities or for prolonged periods of time, it can be extremely impairing and downright dangerous. It has severe addictive potential and can cause a wide variety of diseases, some fatal. It is legal for adults to buy and sell alcohol and it is widely used.

Amphetamines are PED's. They have a similar effect as caffeine only much more dramatic. They are highly addictive and can lead to behaviors that endanger not only the user but others around the user. Society has collectively decided that the risks of amphetamines outweigh the benefits. Most of them are either illegal or else require a special prescription from a physician. Yet, their use remains widespread. They were used extensively by ballplayers in the 60's and 70's, probably the 80's too.

Anabolic steroids are also PED's. They aid in building muscle mass and possibly in wound healing. Long term use can cause a variety of disease processes and behavior disorders. There is overwhelming circumstantial evidence that their use by baseball players and participants in other sports was widespread in the 1990's and early 2000's. Although many of these substances , like amphetamines, were illegal to prescribe or distribute, they were not banned by Major League Baseball until the last Collective Bargaining Agreement(CBA) with the Player's Association. There is abundant evidence that they were used with the knowledge and support of the people who govern the game. Society has rightfully collectively determined that these substances not only give the users an unfair advantage, but also carry a greater risk than benefit to the users. Although Major League Baseball has banned these substances and is now testing players for them, the Ryan Braun incident tells us that they are likely still being used by some baseball players.

I'm not sure what the point of all that is. I'll just make a few summary observations:

1. Most of us use PED's of one form or another in our own work and lives.

2. Drugs that are clearly harmful are still perfectly legal and easily obtainable.

3. Whether drugs/PED's are considered "good" or "bad" or acceptable vs unacceptable is largely determined by the consensus of public opinion.

I believe it is an open question whether it is right for players who used PED's prior to their formal banning in the CBA to be punished, either by MLB or by society through the judicial system. Of course, now that there is a formal ban and players are being tested, the rules need to be either enforced or eliminated.

In my opinion, the "War on Drugs" has done way more harm to our country than the drugs themselves. Not only has it led to incredible levels of violence and deaths, not only has it diverted resources that would be better used for other things, it has led to an erosion of our civil liberties that we should not tolerate.

A common practice by prosecutors is to use Grand Juries as a "perjury trap". Unlike other settings, you are not allowed to invoke the 5'th amendment in Grand Jury testimony if you are not the target of the Grand Jury, but neither do you get immunity from prosecution for things that are revealed by your statements. Most of us first became aware of this practice during Kenneth Starr's pursuit of Bill Clinton in the Whitewater investigation that somehow morphed into the Monica Lewinsky investigation and, well, you know the rest.

Federal prosecutors set the same trap for Barry Bonds. He had already told investigators he did not knowingly use PED's. Now he was going to be asked these questions again under oath in front of a Grand Jury. If he admitted to using PED's, then they would charge him with perjury in the investigation. If he denied using them, the prosecutors were confident they had enough evidence to convict him of perjury to the Grand Jury. Mind you, there was never any attempt to convict him of, you know, actually using PED's.

Bonds answered the key questions with "rambling, non-sequitors" that the Jury in his trial determined were "misleading" to the Grand Jury. He was convicted, not of lying to the investigators, but of misleading the Grand Jury, Obstruction of Justice. Fair enough. My only question is why is it a crime for Barry Bonds to "mislead" a Grand Jury, but it's apparently perfectly alright for the prosecutor to attempt to mislead the jury and judge by invoking all kinds of irrelevant information such as Bonds' still alleged longstanding PED use, and his habitual use of mistresses while he was married 3 times? Non sequitors! Now, THAT ought to be Obstruction of Justice!

In my opinion the biggest lesson we all should learn from this sad, sordid tale is that we can all apparently be convicted of a crime if we fail to enthusiastically support an investigation. That, and the general misuse of prosecutorial power, ought to scare the heck out of all of us.

Scouting the Draft: Taylore Cherry

The trade of Zack Wheeler to the Mets for a 2 month rental of Carlos Beltran left a gaping hole in the Giants ordinarily strong organizational depth chart for pitchers. Even before that, the system had thinned out a lot with the graduation of Madison Bumgarner and the recent organizational emphasis on hitting. While you always want to see your team draft the best player available, especially in the first round of the draft, there are often several players who grade out as approximately equal at different positions giving some flexibility. In that situation, drafting for organizational need is not a terrible idea. HS RHP Taylore Cherry is a name that seems to move between #15 and #30 from mock draft to mock draft, keeping in mind that these rankings fluctuate wildly between now and draft day.

The thing that jumps out at you about Cherry is his size, 6'9", 260 lbs. The amazing thing is that even at that weight, he doesn't look overweight at all. Cherry sports a FB that goes 91-94 MPH with late movement. In one extended video on, it looked like he has both a 4 seamer and 2 seamer. The 2 seamer has sink and armside run. His second pitch is a changeup that is rated plus. The breaking ball is a work in progress. Anther standout characteristic when you look at the videos is how easy his motion is. It looks like he just out there playing catch with the catcher with a minimum of visible effort.

Taylore Cherry's profile can be found at MLB Draft Guide linked on the left. There are a couple of links on the site to You Tube videos. I would be happy if Taylore Cherry was the Giants first round draft pick at #20.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Down on the Farm: BA's Giants Top 10 Prospects

Andy Baggerly has his Giants top 10 Prospects list up at I got my print version in the mail last weekend. Here's the list:

1. Gary Brown, OF
2. Tommy Joseph, C
3. Heath Hembree, RHP
4. Joe Panik, SS
5. Francisco Peguero, OF
6. Andrew Susac, C
7. Eric Surkamp, LHP
8. Kyle Crick, RHP
9. Ehire Adrianza, SS
10. Hector Sanchez, C

In the writeups and the chat, Baggs states that the Giants definitely had the option of trading Brown for Beltran instead of Wheeler and preferred to keep Brown.

I'm a bit surprise that both Joseph and Hembree are above Panik. I guess it's a good thing that a guy as good as Panik appears to be in only ranked #4.

I'm not sure about Adrianza in the top 10. His bat seems like it still has a long ways to go to even get to Brandon Crawford territory.

Charlie Culberson is #11. Ricky Oropesa is in the top 20. Brett Pill is in the top 15.

#2-8 could be in almost any order. Baggs sees a dropoff between Brown and Joseph and apparently another tier break after Crick at #8.

The Giants are looking for power like Ricky Oropesa in the draft because most FA power hitters don't want to come to SF.

That's about it. I have no big problem with the list. Baggs does his homework. I think he's gotten better at covering prospects since he started the BA gig.

Hot Stove Update: Giants Roster Breakdown

With the end of the Winter Meetings and Brian Sabean all but declaring his offseason shopping finished, I thought it might be a good time to break down where the Giants stand with their roster construction for the 2012 season. We'll include salary estimates and see if there is any room left under the $130 M payroll limit Giants ownership has set for next season:

Starting Position Players(8)

C Buster Posey $480 K
1B Aubrey Huff $ 10 M
2B Freddy Sanchez $ 6 M
SS Brandon Crawford $480 K
3B Pablo Sandoval $3.2 M
LF Melky Cabrera $4.4 M
CF Angel Pagan $4.7 M
RF Nate Schierholtz $1.2 M

Position Player Reserves(5)

C Chris Stewart $480 K
IF Mike Fontenot $1.3 M
IF/OF Emmanuel Burriss $600 K
1B, 3B?, 2B?, OF? Brett Pill $480 K
1B/OF Brandon Belt $480 K

Starting PItchers(5)

SP Tim Lincecum $19.2 M
SP Matt Cain $ 15.3 M
SP Madison Bumgarner $800 K
SP Ryan Vogelsong $2.5 M
SP Barry Zito $19 M

Relief Pitchers(7)

CL Brian Wilson $8.5 M
RP Sergio Romo $1.3 M
RP Santiago Casilla $1.9 M
RP Jeremy Affeldt $ 5 M
RP Javier Lopez $4.25 M
RP Guillermo Mota $1 M
RP Dan Runzler $480 K

Warrior Spirit $13.6 M

Total Payroll $126.46 M

Numbers are taken from Cot's contracts and MLB Traderumors Projected Arbitration Salaries

Of course, we don't know what the exact total will be until after the arbitration cases are all settled. It's even possible that if things don't go the Giants way, this could bump up above $130 M, which is why they probably won't sign anyone else until after the arbitration process has played out. On the other hand, they could do some multi-year deals with some backloading which might lower their commitment in 2012 a bit further.

Belt probably needs to go to Fresno until/unless Aubrey Huff gets dumped. The one thing the Giants are lacking is a RH bat off the bench. Pill may fill that role, but they could sure use another one in the OF.

Here are some names of RH hitting FA OF's who might still be on the shelf after the arbitration process has played out:

Ryan Ludwick
Jonny Gomes
Marcus Thames
Conor Jackson
Ryan Spilborghs

All of them should be affordable. I probably like Ludwick the best out of that bunch. Jackson probably could be had on a minor league ST invite. Jackson is a guy who I think might be a sleeper, but then again, I've thought that for the last 2 years.

They could also potentially bring in another veteran bullpen arm and send Runzler back to Fresno. I'd probably rather see them let Runzler, Otero and Correa compete for the last spot with a ST invite for Heath Hembree and bring him aboard the MLB roster if he blows everybody away in ST.

Any other ideas to complete the roster? Potential Trades?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hot Stove Update: Arbitration Contract Tender Day

Today is the deadline for teams to tender contracts to their arbitation eligible players. The Giants have an unusually high number of players in this category including some pretty big names. Are Tim LIncecum and Pablo Sandoval big enough for you? Those guys, along with several others are no doubters. They will be offered contracts and the process will go on. At the other end of the spectrum is Eli Whiteside, who will amost surely not be offered a contract today making him a free agent. There are a couple on the bubble, most notably Jeff Keppinger and Mike Fontenot. Brian Sabean has already stated that one will be offered a contract and and one won't. It's almost literally down to who gets the chair when the music stops.

To my eye, the decision is easy. Fonty will be less expensive and can play multiple positions whereas Kepp is, for all practical purposes, stuck at 2B. Fonty had a down year at the plate last year, but Kepp was no great shakes and Fonty's projections are pretty solid. With a lefthanded leaning lineup, you might prefer a RH bat off the bench, but Fonty hits lefty's fairly well.

The Giants started out the Hot Stove League with 13 arbitration eligible players. They have pared that down to 10 with the trades of Andres Torres, Jonathan Sanchez and Ramon Ramirez. In addition to the aforementioned Tim Lincecum, Pablo Sandoval, Eli Whiteside, Jeff Keppinger and Mike Fontenot, they have 5 more including Sergio Romo, Nate Schierholtz, Emmanuel Burriss, Santiago Casilla, and Ryan Vogelsong. I expect all of those to be offered contracts. You might think Emmanuel Burriss might not be, but Sabes has been talking him up as a reserve infielder lately, which makes you wonder slightly if both Kepp and Fonty might be gone.

In addition to the 8 starting position players, teams usually carry 5 reserves and 12 pitchers to round out the 25 man active roster. They have to carry a reserve catcher who I think will be Chris Stewart. As of right now, the other 4 would be Burriss, the winner of the Kepp/Fonty musical chairs competition, Brett Pill and Brandon Belt. I'm more and more thinking Belt goes to Fresno to start the season. Leaving one potential opening for an OF reserve. Usually teams go with 2 OF reserves though, which is why I'm thinking there might not be room for both Burriss and Fonty/Kepp. Sabes specifically mentioned Burriss as having played some OF though, so maybe they only carry one.

MLB Trade Rumors has a list of potential non-tender candidates from around the league. I'll just list a few who caught my eye. Theres always some listed who are most likely going to be offered contracts, but it's fun to take a look anyway. I'm specifically thinking of players who might become non-roster invitees to spring trainging. I'll include a few others who might raise some eyebrows but would not fit into the non-roster invitee category.

Position Players:

Daric Barton- Wow! His stock has sure dropped.
Jesus Flores- Backup catcher?
Tony Gwynn, Jr.
Jeremy Hermida- I one time drafted him at the end of my fantasy draft. LOL!
Ronny Paulino- backup catcher.
Landon Powell- backup catcher
Skip Schumaker
Ryan Spilborghs
Ryan Theriot- reserve middle infielder. Better than Fonty/Kepp?
Luke Scott- Nice bat for a corner OF/1B spot.
James Loney- The Dodgers had announced they would tender him a contract. Does the DUI change that? BTW, did you hear the one about the other cars involved in his accident? They're lucky he doesn't hit hard! LOL!


Taylor Bucholz- reclamation project for bullpen?
Clay Hensley- former Giants farmhand.
Andrew Miller- very nice possible reclamation project. Former high first round draft choice.
Mike Pelfrey- probably will get picked up an a major league deal if non-tendered.
Chris Volstad- I would think he would be tendered or offered a major league deal if non-tendered, but an intriguing name for t he back of the rotation.
Jerome Williams- hard to imagine him not being tendered after his season with the Angels, but the CJ signing might have pushed him out. I would also think he will get a major league deal somewhere.

Who do you like on the possible non-tender list?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hot Stove Update: Baggs Drops A Hand Grenade

Andy Baggerly, the Giants beat writer for the San Jose Mercury News, dropped a small hand grenade into the Matt Cain contract negotiations yesterday that probably deserves some comment. In terms of impact, it was probably closer in payload to a cherry bomb or M80, but it's a bit disquieting, nonetheless.

Apparently what was heretofore known to Matt Cain and his agent and possibly a few other people was that the Giants last original extension offer to Cainer included a 3'rd year, 2013, at $16 M. The Giants pulled it off the table at the last minute and signed him to a 2 year extension. Now Baggs is reporting, without naming his sources, that the reason for the Giants change of heart was an X-ray or scan of some sort that showed "loose bodies" in his elbow. Now, I'd be willing to bet that somewhere around 80% of all pitchers in the major leagues have "loose bodies" of some sort in their throwing elbow, so that news, by itself, is not exactly earthshaking. What's a bit disconcerting is that the Giants were apparently concerned enough about it to yank an already agreed to year on a contract. What's also a bit disconcerting is that this was apparently news to Cain's agent who learned of it when he was asked to comment, saying he wondered why the offer was changed at the last minute. Couple that with the "twinge" Cainer felt in spring training last year, and you start to wonder how solid the Giants commitment to extending Cain really is. You also have to wonder who released this information to Baggs and what their motivation for doing so was. Cain, himself, did not respond to requests for comment vis Twitter. Twitter? Oh man, how times have changed!

Now, Andy Baggerly has every right and duty to report information he gathers as a beat reporter for the Giants. He seems like a guy who would hold himself to a high standard of reliability in terms of what sources he uses to gather and verify his information. In this case, the news has the potential to impact both Cain and the Giants, mostly in negative ways, so I hope Baggs did his due diligence on this one. For starters, the breach in confidentiality and the apparent withholding of information from the player has the potential to inject some negative feelings into the negotiations. At least initially, Cain's agent insists that they are looking to the future and will not let the past influence that, much easier to say than do. The information also potentially depresses Cain's value on the open market as well as depressing his trade value should the Giants end up deciding they can't get him re-signed. It's a 2 edged sword if not more.

There is a lot of hand wringing currently going on around the internet about the Giants "window of opportunity", a term that has almost begun to take on a life of it's own as it has morphed from a theoretical possibility to a metaphysical certainty, an internet meme if you will. The thinking goes that the Giants have this great pitching staff that will only stay together for a limited time, therefore they need to throw payroll constraints to the wind in order to bring in star offensive players to win while this "window" remains open. Much of that angst seems to be centered around the idea that Cain and Timmy are becoming so disgusted with the lack of run support they will bolt for free agency no matter how much the Giants offer. Stories like this tend to add fuel to that fire.

There certainly is something to be said for the "window of opportunity" theory. Billy Beane has been trying to find that window now for at least 10 years and keeps putting if off into the future. Sports history in general and Major League Baseball in particular is filled with dynasties that rise and fall, and many more others that never come to fruition. I have maintained that the Giants are not facing this type of "window". Their talent core is young, they have a strong farm system, they have a strong scouting department with excellent drafting strategy. Their skills at talent acquisition remain strong.

While it is much easier to envision an era of Giants dominance with Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum locked up in long term contracts, It is by no means essential to the process. Big dollar, long term contracts can actually be a hinderence to sustained organizatonal success. Long term contracts given to homegrown players can go just as bad as the same contracts given to free agents from outside the organization. Right now, the Giants have a core of 5 young, homegrown players who look likely to command long term contracts that reach into 9 figures: Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey. Yes, they are staggered a bit, but if you are talking contracts of 5 years or longer, there will come a time when they all overlap. Maybe the Yankees can afford 5 simultaneous $20 M/year contracts, but it's hard to imagine other teams being able to sustain that. Then there is the factor that if even one or 2 of those player get injured or have a steep dropoff in performance, the team becomes stuck in a losing situation with no way to re-allocate resources.

At some point, the Giants will likely not be able to keep all 5 of their current young core. That's where things get a bit delicate and you have to wonder if Sabean is savvy enough to play his cards right. For now, he is giving every indication he is all in on extending Cain and Timmy. He'll worry about the other 3 when their time comes. He's publicly identified keeping the pitching intact as his top priority. He has conserved his resources this offseason specifically to make sure that he can use them to take care of his pitchers. Now comes the negotiations. Whether this is information Baggs stumbled on or if somebody leaked it hoping to influence those negotiations, we may never know. It's hard to see it as a positive for any of the parties involved and does not appear to make it more likely that Cainer will agree to an extension.

At any point where it becomes an existential certainty that any of the core players are going end up as free agents, the most residual value the Giants can get comes from trading them for young talent that is just entering or about to enter the major league level. That is how you avoid "windows of opportunity" and sustain success in baseball. Of course, that has to be balanced against the chances of winning it all in the present with the almost inevitable risk of losing the players to nothing more than a couple of draft picks.

Buckle your seatbelts folks, it we could be in for some turbulence ahead.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Blast From the Past: Is Timmy A Latter Day Juan Marichal?

Throughout the history of their great franchise, the Giants have been blessed by several Hall of Fame caliber pitchers. Christy Mathewson, Carl Hubbell, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry come to mind. I had the distinct pleasure of witnessing the Marichal/Perry era. While Mathewson is probably the dean of the list, I have always considered Juan Marichal to be the gold standard against whom subsequent Giants pitchers are judged. I've waited a long time for the Next Juan Marichal. I had long ago resigned myself to the reality that there will never be another Juan Marichal, and I still believe that. Baseball has changed enough that the things he did in his era will never be done again. Still, what we are currently witnessing from Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain is starting to rival Marichal/Perry. The addition of a World Series Championship doesn't hurt the current guys' case at all.

Fangraphs recently had a brief post of some comments Juan Marichal made about his contemporary, Luis Tiant. Just seeing the name Juan Marichal in print still gives me a thrill and a whole lot of memories came flooding back. About the same time, the guy at Bleacher Report ran a comp of Juan and Timmy that got me thinking that we may be witnessing something pretty special right now too. Something my daughters will look back on and say, "I wonder if there will ever be another Tim Lincecum?"

Juan Marichal was small for a pitcher at 6'0, 185 lbs. He had a distinctive deliivery in which he kicked his front foot almost straight up over his head while holding the ball back behind his right knee. I've always believed it was more for show than anything else, but it seemed to distract the hitters a bit and help him hide the ball. It sure was exciting to see, though. He arrived on the scene in 1960 with a flourish by pitching a complete game 1 hit shutout in his major league debut. He went 6-2 with a 2.66 ERA in 11 games that year. He went 13-10 with a 3.89 ERA in 1961 and 18-11 with a 3.36 ERA in 1962, the year the Giants went to the World Series.

1963 was the start of a remarkable run that rivals the best peaks in the history of the game. Over the next 10 seasons through 1971, he won 204 games, pitched 199 complete games with 43 shutouts. I grew up listening to games on the radio. Marichal's games just had a different tempo to them. Almost every batter had a quick 0-2 or 1-2 count. Juan was not a big strikeout pitcher but he used the pitcher's counts to his advantage forcing the batter to hit his pitch for weak contact. His career BABIP was .261. Despite the exaggerated motions in his delivery, he had legendary pinpoint control of all of his pitches. Over the course of his 16 year career, he averaged 1.82 BB/9.

Juan threw a variety of pitches including a fastball, curve, slider, changeup. His ace-in-the-hole pitch though was a screwball that allowed him to be extremely effective against lefthanded batters. What was unique about Juan was that he could throw all of his pitches from a variety of release points all starting with the signature leg kick.

Marichal's career mirrored his team during his amazing 10 year peak run in that over it's course, he might have been the best pitcher in the game, but in any give year it seemed like there was always one guy who was better. From 1963-1966 it was Sandy Koufax and later on it was Bob Gibson and then Tom Seaver. Juan never won a Cy Young Award. His career was marred by the Roseboro incident which may have contributed to his failure to win a Cy Young and delayed his induction into the Hall of Fame.

Tim Lincecum is even smaller than Juan Marichal, listed at 5'11", 163 lbs. His delivery, while different than Juan's is also distinctive and definitely contributes to his velocity. Like Juan, Tim throws a variety of pitches but has tended to rotate favorites rather than use his full arsenal at any given time. Timmy has added the long flying hair that adds to the flair of his already distinctive delivery. In addition to being a true ace pitcher, he's showman much like Juan.

Tim's major league debut was not nearly as sensational as Juan's as he got cuffed around by the Phillies and ended up with a 7-5 record with a 4.00 ERA in 2007. His sophomore campaign in 2008 rivaled any season any Giants pitcher has ever put up, 18-5, 2.62, 227 IP, 84 BB, 265 K's. That effort won him the Cy Young award in just his first complete season! He followed that up with an even more dominant effort, 15-7, 2.48, 225.1 IP, 68 BB, 261 K's. He cut his walks down while maintaining his K's and lowered his ERA. That effort won him a somewhat controversial Cy Young that was based more on sabermetric analysis than the more traditional W-L record. Timmy was less dominant in 2010, as he struggled with his command and a loss of velocity but still went 16-10 and won a 3'rd straight strikeout title. He capped the season off by going head-to-head with some of the best pitchers and lineups in baseball in the postseason and led the Giants to the only World Series title since they moved to San Francisco. Timmy seemed to return to form in 2011 with his 3'rd sub-3 ERA in 4 seasons but was hampered by a lack of run support for a 13-14 record.

Timmy and Juan are difficult to compare given the different eras they pitched in, but from an "eyeball" look at the stats, Timmy's last 4 seasons are very comparable to the first 4 years of Juan's 10 year peak run, maybe even better! The Cy Young's are voted awards, and the Championship was a team effort, but you can't deny those are things Juan never accomplished. It remains to be seen if Timmy can maintain his dominance for another 6 years. If he does, he may well surpass Juan in my estimation as the greatest San Francisco Giants pitcher of all time.

For those of you who are begging for the Giants to accede to Timmy's demands for an 8 year contract, consider that if he were to maintain his dominance for the duration of the contract, his peak run would last 2 years longer than the reigning greatest pitcher in San Francisco Giants history. Here are some stats that might also give you pause:

K/9 starting 2009: 10.42, 9.79, 9.12.

BB/9 starting 2009: 2.72, 3.22, 3.57.

Incremental changes, to be sure, but a 3 year progression in one direction has to be noticed. 8 years, as we have learned with Barry Zito is a long, long time.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hot Stove Update: Angels Jump Out of the Weeds to Grab Pujols

You had to figure that the Angels were lying in the weeds for Albert Pujols. There's always a team out there that surprises everybody with a massive free agent signing. More often than not, it's the Angels. What is somewhat shocking, if you believe the stories, is how fast it all went down after over a year of dancing around with the Cardinals and a month of the Marlins throwing dust in the air. Apparently the Angels made just one offer....yesterday! Even they expected Pujols and his agent to ruminate on the offer a few days and get back to them. Instead, they got a phone call this morning saying Pujols had ACCEPTED THE OFFER! Bam! Done deal!

It seems Pujols had come to the feeling that the Cardinals organization was taking him for granted. Maybe they were a bit too quick and too enthusiastic about re-signing Matt Holiday. Maybe their offers lacked an air of sincerity. As for the Marlins, it was pretty easy to see through what THEY are all about when they were unwilling to include a no-trade clause in the contract. I mean, you don't sign Albert Pujols to a 10 year contract unless you intend that he's going to retire with your uniform on his back, and clearly that is not what the Marlins had in mind.

It's also pretty easy to see what Arte Moreno is doing here. His game plan is to put as much of his brand on the LA market as he can before the Dodgers get a new owner and start signing these kinds of contracts right and left. I mean, do you have any doubt that if Magic Johnson has anything to say about it, the Dodgers will be building their team around the superstar model? It's now pretty clear why Tony Reagins got canned in Anaheim. It's not because Mike Scioscia didn't like him. It's not because he made a horrible trade for Vernon Wells. It's not even because he traded away Mike Napoli. It's because he failed to sign Adrian Beltre! I remember reading somewhere that Arte Moreno was annoyed that Beltre was allowed to slip away to the Rangers after a long, public courtship by the Angels. It's pretty clear now that Moreno had Pujols in his sights and simply didn't trust Reagins to get the job done.

What's hard to see is how Jerry DiPoto just woke up yesterday morning and said to himself, "now what should I do with myself today? Hey, I know! I think I'll make Albert Pujols an offer." The Angels had to have had Pujols in their sites all along. Maybe even for more than a year! This is not the first time the Angels have pulled a deal like this. They had to have had a game plan and been monitoring the situation very closely. In the end, I'm betting it was the simple no muss, no fuss sincerity of the offer that appealed to Albert Pujols: 10 years, $250 M, no trade clause, simple, nice round numbers, elegant, with not a hint of hesitation or insincerity.

As free agents go, Albert Pujols is a blue chip as they come. Right now, it's pretty hard to argue that he isn't worth every penny of $25 M/year. Even in an off year for him in 2011, he put up 5.1 WAR, which is worth right about $25 M. The problem is that Pujols is 32 years old come January, and that's if you are not a Pujols "birther". The contract is for 10 years. There might be someone out there who thinks Albert Pujols will still be putting up 5 WAR seasons at age 40, but I know I'm not one of them. To the sharp eyed observer, evidence of the decline is already there: BA's over the last 4 seasons- .357, .327, .312, .299. OBP's- .462, .443, .414, .366. SLG%- .653, .658, .596, .541. WAR- 9.0, 9.1, 7.5, 5.1. After 7 consecutive season in which his lowest WAR was 8.2, he has had 2 consecutive regressions. Gotta wonder, as he enter his mid-30's, if maybe he has already entered the downward phase of his career. This contract was destined to end badly based on length and age alone. If Pujols has already started the downhill slide, it could easily end up almost Zitonian in dreadfulness. Of course, that's not a problem for me since it's the Angels. On the other hand, bad contracts don't seem to be the hinderence to the Angels that they are to some teams.

Almost lost in the hubub of the Pujols signing, the Angels also snatched up CJ Wilson to a $77 M contract. Wilson is no better than the # 3 starter for the Angels, maybe #4, but signing him ripped the heart out of the hated Rangers rotation, and I'm sure that was a motivating factor too. By acquiring Joe Nathan, the Rangers freed up Neftali Feliz to move to the rotation. I'm not convinced that Feliz will thrive in that role. Their rotation is now Colby Lewis, Alexi Ogando, Feliz and a couple of stiffs. Maybe Martin Perez is almost ready, but you sure can't tell it from his stats. The problem for the Rangers is they have their own window of opportunity that may not stay open long and the cupboard for free agent pitchers is now officially bare.

I'll say it one more time: The Giants are as well positioned for the future as any team in baseball!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hot Stove Update: Giants Trade for Angel Pagan

The Giants this evening traded Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez to the New York Mets for Angel Pagan. The trade shakes up the apple cart a bit as Pagan will almost certainly be the Giants starting CF with Melky Cabrera moving over to LF. The ripples keep on going from there as it almost certainly ends talk of Aubrey Huff playing much in LF, which means he will most likely be the starting first baseman and Brandon Belt will likely start the season in Fresno.

Angel Pagan and Andres Torres are very similar players. Both are fast, switch-hitters with some power and the ability to play CF. Both kicked around for awhile before having breakout seasons in 2010 and both had struggles with injury, chronic illness and regressed performance in 2011. We all know the Andres Torres story. As a reminder, here are his stats from the last 2 years and his career line:

2010 .268/.343/.479, 16 HR, 26 SB, 6.8 WAR.
2011 .221/.312/.330, 4 HR, 19 SB, 2.1 WAR.
Career .244/318/.403.

For comparison, here's Pagan's comparable numbers:

2010 .290/.340/.425, 11 HR, 37 SB, 5.5 WAR.
2011 .262/322/.372, 7 HR, 32 SB, 0.9 WAR.
Career .279/.331/.418.

A few comments here:

1. Torres at his best may have more power. Pagan at his best appears to have a higher BA and more SB's. Pagan actually had a much better offensive season than Torres in 2011.

2. Pagan's defense appears to have suffered in 2011 which accounts entirely for him producing a lower WAR than Torres. Pagan's defensive ratings were always good prior to 2011. He uncharacteristically made 10 errors, while his range numbers were not as bad.

3. Both players battled injuries in 2011. Torres has a chronic illness in ADD while Pagan reportedly has a history of "colitis" that flared up last year. There are many types of "colitis", but if he has Chronic Ulcerative Colitis, that can be a real SOB. The Giants signed a minor league FA a few years ago, Adam Pettyjohn or something like that who almost died from the disease at one point.

4. Torres will turn 34 yo on January 26 while Pagan turns 31 on July 2.

Both players have obvious, similar talents, similar flaws and similar career trajectories. If you told me that one of them will repeat their 2010 season, and forced me to put a bet on which one, I'd pick Pagan without much hesitation. To me, WAR is just a bit too dependent on the whims of UZR. Pagan's offense clearly was less of a dropoff than Torres and his career numbers are significantly better too. I realize the importance of defense, but I believe Pagan's D is more likely to bounce back than Torres' bat.

Right or wrong, Torres was clearly not in the Giants plans for 2012. He was likely to be not tendered a contract at the arbitration deadline. Pagan gives the Giants a likely starting CF and leadoff hitter, a role that Melky Cabrera probably could have handled, but not nearly as well. Clearly, the Giants like Pagan enough better than Torres to spend the extra money he is projected to get in arbitration over Torres. Melky can now move to LF and down in the order with Pagan handling the CF/leadoff duties.

Almost lost in the discussion is the fact that Ramon Ramirez was probably actually the principle piece in the Mets end of the trade with Torres being the throw in. Ramirez was acquired mid-season in 2010 and played a key role in the Giant stretch run to the World Series, although he was less successful in the postseason. He was a solid contributor again last year, although not spectacular. The Giants were apparently not excited about paying him arbitration leveraged salary and basically took the money they anticipated Torres and Ramirez would cost and exchange it for Pagan. Candidates to replace Ramirez in the bullpen would include Dan Runzler, giving the Giants 3 LHP's in the pen, Dan Otero, Hector Correa or possibly a minor league FA pickup or even a Rule 5 draftee. Guillermo Mota seems to be more likely to come back at this point.

Overall, it's a decent trade that may solve both the CF and leadoff hitter problem. The big downside to me is it makes Brandon Belt more likely to start the season in Fresno which could be a pretty big opportunity cost, although Belt is not a lock to play up to his intriguing projections and a little more salt in Fresno won't hurt him.

Baggs seems to think the Giants are pretty far along on another trade of Jeff Keppinger to an AL team for an unknown return player. Stay tuned.

Hot Tip: Giants, Reds, Cardinals 1958-1968

For those of you who remember the early Giants teams after the move to SF and who might want to take a trip down memory lane, The Hardball Times has started a series looking at 3 of the more successful teams from that era and all the trades they made with each other and with other teams. One factoid I guess I was aware of but had never really thought about: Willie Mays was 27 years old in 1958 the Giants first year in SF! One more I wasn't aware of: The Giants traded Ernie Broglio to St. Louis. He was the guy who the Cards later flipped to the Cubs for Lou Brock!

Anyway, The Hardball Times is linked over on Fangraphs for those of you who are interested. Great stuff!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hot Stove Update: Jose Reyes to the Marlins

As Giants fans are all too aware, the Florida Marlins have had a boom and bust business model ever since they became a franchise. They splurge on high priced free agents, put together a run to a championship followed by the inevitable fire sale and years of last place finishes. It looks like they are up to their old tricks again.

Last night it was widely reported that the Marlins have agreed to terms Jose Reyes on a 6 year/$106 M deal. This is actually a very reasonable deal for a player of Reyes caliber. Compared to Jayson Werth's contract signed with the Nationals last year, it's an absolute steal. Reyes has been a consistent 6 WAR player when fully healthy. He missed almost all of one season to injury out of the last 6 and still managed to put up a 0.8 WAR in just 36 games. Hampered by injuries in 2010, he still put up a 3 WAR season. Current market value/WAR right now is right around $5M, so you can see that short of an catastrophic injury that takes him out for a full season, the value is more than there. I believe that of the "big 3" free agents from this year, Reyes has the best chance of delivering full value over the course of his contract.

The signing sets up some drama for the Marlins. Their biggest star, Hanley Ramirez has not been a happy camper and this will force him off shortstop. Early indications are Hanley will play 3B and has agreed to the move, but stay tuned. Assuming everything falls into place, the Marlins now have one of the more dynamic lineups in the game anchored by Reyes and Ramirez and also including Mike Stanton, one of the best young power hitters in the game as well as Logan Morrison, assuming he can keep his mouth and Twitter from getting him in trouble with the owner. Gaby Sanchez is no slouch at 1B either. The Marlins still have issues with their pitching, but seem to be intent on addressing that with the rumored signing of Heath Bell. They probably need to add a starter or two if they are going to make a serious run in 2012. While there are still pieces that need to fit together, the basic value the Marlins get from Reyes is solid.

Losing Reyes has to be a big blow to Mets fans. How can a team based in New York with a state of the art stadium not hang onto a lynchpin like Reyes. Shortstop is not like first base or any other position. You can't just go out and find a cheaper replacement that will come close to Reyes' production. The Mets now have to join the scrum fighting over the dregs of the shortstop bargain bin or rush Jordany Valdespin to the majors before he is really ready.

Reyes would have been a perfect fit for the Giants too. Much as I like Brandon Crawford, he will never be anywhere near Jose Reyes' production level, nor is it likely any of the Giants current SS prospects will either. Signing Reyes, would have not just takne care of the position for years to come, but given them a huge advantage at the position taking pressure off other positions for offensive production.

Much as I think Reyes would have been a bargain, I understand the Giants are in a position where they will have to spend similar money,and more to keep their excellent core of young talent intact, a goal I certainly support. Jose Reyes and the Giants and Mets shortstop situations do point up the need for organizations to be constantly searching for young shortstop talent, not just to find that one big star, but to keep a flow of talent coming as hedge to what just happened to the Mets.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fantasy Focus: Hanley Ramirez

There is an article up on Fake Teams entitled Now Is the Time to Buy on Hanley Ramirez. The thesis of the article is basically that Hanley's poor season was due to a low BABIP(Batting Average on Balls In Play) and his low BABIP was due to bad luck, therefore he is lkely to bounce back to his normal awesome self next season. Since his Average Draft Position has dropped considerably from his previous #1 or #2 overall, he is now undervalued and should be drafted aggressively.

This thesis is a classic example of how a superficial understanding of BABIP can lead to misleading and even inaccurate conclusions. First of all, Hanley Ramirez only had 385 Plate Appearances last season, so he obviously had more problems than just a low BABIP, but let's just assume that the injury was an isolated incident that he will be fully recovered from by the start of next season. Is it safe to assume that his low BABIP was due entirely to bad luck and the Baseball Gods will smile on him once again in 2012? Let's take a closer look at some statistics that are readily available which might shed some light on the subject:

Here are Hanley's BABIP's starting in 2006: .343, .353, .329, .379, .327, .275! Aha! Luck, you say! Here's a couple more to consider:

1. GB/FB ratios from 2006: 0.81, 0.67, 0.85, 0.64, 1.01!, 1.08!

2. Line Drive % from 2006: 19%, 21%, 19%, 22%, 20%, 16%!

First, the significant jump in GB% reduces opportunities for HR's and XBH's. This jump occured in 2010. Second, his LD% took a dive in 2011 taking away opportunity for both singles and XBH's. So, there is a reason besides luck for Hanley's poor BABIP afterall: HE DIDN'T HIT THE BALL AS HARD!

There may be reasons why he didn't hit the ball as hard:

1. The most obvious reason for him not hitting the ball as hard is injury. If you are injured, you may not be able to swing as hard, or elevate sinking pitches as well, or the swing may be altered in some other way.

2. Pitchers may have figured out something about him and are pitching him differently. This hypothesis could be studied through PitchFx, but would be laborious and time consuming.

3. Off field issues such as deconditioning of substance use. As far was I know, Hanley hasn't failed any drug tests. He has definitely had attitude issues that were evident on the field.

4. Development of a mechanical flaw in the swing.

Hanley Ramirez definitely may bounce back next season. He is obviously a great athlete who should be entering the prime of his career. If his injury is fully healed, if the new stadium and some new teammates improve his mood and attitude, if he readjusts to any adjustments opposing pitchers may have made, yeah, he's a great candidate for a bounceback season. Make no mistake, though. Hanley Ramirez' poor season in 2011 was most likely NOT due to bad luck, well, unless you consider injuries bad luck.

Attributing changes in BABIP to luck as the first option, stops the mind from asking further questions and digging for reasons behind the reasons. If a player experiences a significant change in BABIP over a full season, a search for underlying causes should be undertaken and the change in BABIP should be attributed to luck only if that search fails to turn up likely explanations.

Hot Stove Update: Projecting the Giants

When the Hot Stove is burning low and the winter chill starts to creep into the room, sometimes there isn't anything for a poor baseball fan to do than just fantasize about what their favorite players are going to do in the upcoming season. In this formerly blissful Field of Dreams, everybody hits .300(or if not, at least .280) and hits at least 20 HR's. In recent years, this reverie has been harshly interrupted by a phenomenon known as "projections". Projections are an attempt to use statistical analysis to inject some reality into the fantasies about what players will do in the upcoming season.

Some of these projection systems are quite simple, such as simply taking the player's average for the past 3 seasons and projecting that as their performance for next season. Primitive, but surprisingly accurate. Others are more sophisticated and take not only the player's recent performances, but also career trajectory and secondary stats into account. One of the more advanced projection metrics is one known by the acronym ZIPS. It was invented by a dude named Dan Szymborski, who publishes them at Baseball Think Factory and also on Fangraphs. ZIPS tends to be more conservative than some of the other systems out there. Szymborski recently completed his projections for the Giants. I thought it might be interesting to see what a possible Giants lineup might do statistically using ZIPS projections. I vaguely recall doing something like this last offseason and concluding that the Giants were a lock to repeat as World Series Champions, but hey, let's try it again!

CF Melky Cabrera .284/.330/.435, 36 2B, 5 3B, 13 HR, 15 SB.
2B Freddy Sanchez .273/.313/.373, 20 2B, 5 HR. (370 AB's).
3B Pablo Sandoval .299/.347/.497, 36 2B, 4 3B, 23 HR
C Buster Posey .287/.365/.452, 25 2B, 15 HR.
1B Aubrey Huff .261/.329/.422, 28 2B, 16 HR.
RF Nate Schierholtz .267/.316/.420, 21 2B, 8 HR, 6 SB(333 AB).
LF Brandon Belt .268/.365/.452, 28 2B, 5 3B, 17 HR, 12 SB.
SS Brandon Crawford .225/.291/.336, 19 2B, 4 3B, 7 HR, 6 SB.

Possible FA Signing:

Carlos Beltran .282/.363/.474, 26 2B, 4 3B, 14 HR, 7 SB.(397 AB).
Cody Ross .254/.317/.422, 27 2B, 16 HR. (472 AB).

Possible Reserves:

Mike Fontenot .245/.308/367, 16 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR. (278 AB)
Jeff Keppinger .278/.321/.372, 24 2B, 5 HR. (435 AB).
Chris Stewart .239/.309/.331, 14 2B, 3 HR. (272 AB).
Hector Sanchez .245/.288/.365, 26 2B, 9 HR. (479 AB).
Brett Pill .267/.298/.412, 35 2B, 16 HR. (600 AB).
Justin Christian .247/.298/.355, 24 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR, 25 SB. (462 AB).
Andres Torres .235/.311/.394, 24 2B, 5 3B, 9 HR, 16 SB. (383 AB).

Starting Pitchers:

Tim Lincecum 16-9, 2.92, 212.7 IP, 75 BB, 225 K.
Matt Cain 14-8, 3.04, 213 IP, 62 BB, 171 K.
Madison Bumgarner 13-10, 3.45, 198.3 IP, 48 BB, 164 K.
Ryan Vogelsong 8-10, 4.18, 153 IP, 60 BB, 119 K.
Barry Zito 7-8, 4.28, 124 IP, 52 BB, 92 K.

Eric Surkamp 7-7, 3.85, 142.7 IP, 59 BB, 116 K.

Relief Pitchers:

Brian Wilson 5-3, 3.02, 62.7 IP, 28 BB, 69 K.
Sergio Romo 4-1, 2.20, 49 IP, 11 BB, 62 K.
Santiago Casilla 3-2, 3.40, 53 IP, 26 BB, 48 K.
Ramon Ramirez 4-3, 3.32, 65 IP, 27 BB, 58 K.
Jeremy Affeldt 3-2, 3.52, 53.7 IP, 26 BB, 48 K.
Javier Lopez 3-3, 3.70, 48.7 IP, 22 BB, 33 K.
Guillermo Mota 2-2, 4.05, 60 IP, 24 BB, 51 K.

Dan Runzler 3-3, 3.80, 64 IP, 38 BB, 63 K.


All projection systems rely heavily on regression to career and league averages. They do not predict breakouts or collapses very well. I wish they would either project the stats over a full season's worth of AB's or else try to be more realistic about how many AB's the players will get in reality.

Most of these systems really think Belt can hold his own and more through a full season of starting. That's a huge factor in how the Giants plan for the future. So much is riding on whether the Giants believe in him as much as the projection systems and whether he actually plays up to that.

Signing Beltran makes the lineup better, but only marginally so if the opportunity cost is Belt or even Aubrey Huff. Obviously the projection is skeptical about Beltran's ability to stay healthy. If he's only good for <400 AB's, then he would be a bad investment. A Michael Cuddyer or Josh Willingham might stay healthier, but the marginal benefit may be even less than with Beltran.

For the difference in price and the better versatility, Fonty looks like a better utility IF over Keppinger.

For the difference in price, Justin Christian looks like a better option than Andres Torres.

I would probably "eyeball" Vogey to be better and Zito to be worse than the projection. If Zito pitches that well, he will almost certainly pitch more innings. The system is very optimistic about Surkamp. Nice to know he might be a good fallback option if somebody gets hurt or if Zito is done.

If you believe the projection, the Giants should trade one of the either Lopez or Affeldt and go with Runzler as the second lefty reliever.

Just for interest's sake, here's some selected projections for prospects. Remember this is how the system thinks they would produce if they played at the MLB level this year:

Gary Brown .275/.335/.398, 30 2B, 11 3B, 8 HR, 36 SB. (621 AB).
Conor Gillaspie .261/.324/.376, 26 2B, 7 3B, 6 HR. (556 AB).
Francisco Peguero .274/.295/.375, 16 2B, 9 3B, 5 HR, 19 SB. (485 AB)
Tyler Graham .246/.293/.308, 16 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 39 SB. (426 AB).
Tommy Joseph .226/.266/.368, 30 2B, 17 HR. (598 AB).
Roger Kieschnick .226/.269/.367, 21 2B, 5 3B, 12 HR. (477 AB).
Ehire Adrianza .234/.295/.332, 28 2B, 5 3B, 4 HR, 15 SB. (509 AB)
Jarrett Parker .212/.300/.319, 24 2B, 3 3B, 11 HR, 16 SB. (589 AB).
Chris Dominguez .222/.257/.354, 30 2B, 4 3B, 15 HR. (630 AB).

Heath Hembree 1-1, 3.63, 52 IP, 32 BB, 58 K.
Dan Otero 3-3, 3.86, 49 IP, 12 BB, 36 K.
Hector Correa 4-5, 4.45, 62 IP, 29 BB, 47 K.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Scouting the Draft: Keon Barnum

I've become fascinated with baseball scouting. The proliferation of high quality video cameras and access of these to the internet has enabled some of us who were previously only able to look at statistics and read other people's scouting reports to look at players from around the country, who we would never be able to see play in person, and form our own opinions about them. I started out by going to minor league games in my local area and making mental notes of players physical appearance and some of the good and bad things I thought I saw them do on the field. I then compared my own observations with published scouting reports. Over time, I've tried to remember some of these impressions and follow them to see if they hold true over time. It's been a learning experience. Sometimes I'm right, sometimes I'm wrong, but I feel I've gotten better at it with experience.

There's a great site I've recently discovered, MLB Draft Guide. I have it linked over on the left hand side of this blog. I've already learned a tremendous amount about the upcoming draft class from reading this site and a few early mock drafts around the internet. MLB Draft Guide's current player profile is of a kid named Keon Barnum from Florida. He's not listed in BA's Early Top 50 Draft Prospects, nor is he in Draft Site's current 2 round mock draft. Holy moly! If this kid is not a top 50 draft prospect, all I can say is this must be one heckuva deep draft! Perfect Game reportedly has him ranked #17. Their list requires a subscription though.

He's a B-L, T-L first baseman in the mold of Willie McCovey and Ryan Howard. He's 6'4", 225 lbs. Big boned and long limbed at the same time. He has a tremendously powerful swing that is simple, short to the ball. His follow through may be a bit long and exaggerated but that's all after contact with the ball. On top of the raw power, he's a patient hitter with enough speed to steal 10 bases. He's rangy at first base with an arm that throws 90 MPH. I know HS stats don't mean much, but here's his junior numbers just for fun: .491/.654/.964 with 6 HR, 10 SB in 55 AB. Part of the reason why his AB's are so low is he drew 26 BB!

Check out MLB Draft Guide and look up some of Keon Barnum's videos around the internet. There are some links in his MLB Draft Guide profile. He doesn't fit the profile of the type of player the Giants have drafted in the first round, but man, I love what I see in this kid, even as a first baseman. I would expect his stock to be pure helium or else some team is going to get a real steal in this draft!

What are your thoughts after scouting Keon Barnum by video?