Monday, December 31, 2012

DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects #13: Andrew Susac

Andrew Susac, C.  DOB:  3/22/1990.  6'2", 210 lbs.  B-R, T-R.

High A:  .244/.351/.380, 9 HR, 12.9 BB%, 23.5 K%.

Andrew Susac is another 2011 draftee who the Giants gave an aggressive assignment for his first professional experience.  A tidbit of information we found out after the Giants drafted Buster Posey is that on college ball, pitches are called by the coaches from the dugout, while in the pros, it is the catcher's duty to call each pitch.  That is a huge mental jump right there.  Add in the aggressive placement and Susac had his work cut out for him in 2012.

At first glance, you might not be impressed with his batting line, but factor in the level of play, the mental adjustment and then look at his OBP/BB% and there is plenty of reason for optimism.  He also finished the season strong hitting .333 in August and .378 over his last 10 games.  I turn, once again, to Fred Stanley's comments to Joe Ritzo at

"....Susac was trying to do two things.  He was trying to learn how to catch at the professional level with pretty good arms that were throwing out there.  Plus, learning the league, remembering which hitters can do what and how we can get this guy out.  Knowing what a pitcher's best stuff is.  His role was harder than anybody's.  Not only was he learning how to hit, but he was also learning how to catch.  That's a very tough task.  I think a lot of people don't realize how difficult it was to do what Posey did.  What Buster did was off the radar.  For a catcher to move as fast as he did and be as good as he was on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively. He's one of a kind."

I saw Susac play several games.  I can't say anything I saw really stood out.  I seem to recall a couple of nice throws to 2B.  The one big impression was an apparent teachable moment.  I'm not sure exactly what happened, but it was something on defense.  It was a complex play involving several throws and several baserunners and it just looked a bit funky.  When he got back to the dugout, Andy Skeels spoke with him and a couple other players for a couple of minutes.  As they broke up, Steve Kline called Susac back and Skeels continued to have a prolonged, animated discussion that went on seemingly forever, although it was probably no more than 2-3 minutes. My impression was not that there was any problem between them, but rather that Skeels was taking advantage of a game situation to teach his butt off and make a point that would not be forgotten.

As for where Susac will be assigned next spring, Stanley had some very interesting comments on that, shedding some light on the Giants decision-making process:

"We'll evaluate in spring training.  He'll get a chance to impress the ones that need to be impressed..  Brian Sabean will make that final decision about what's best for him.  Whether they think it's best for him to repeat- Pablo Sandoval did it, so that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world and would give him a chance to play everyday.  He could make the double-A team too.  It depends on what Dick Tidrow and Brian Sabean want to do.

Stanley went on to say that players drafted out of major conferences like the SEC and Pac-12 are candidates for aggressive placement due to the high level of competition in those conferences.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects #12: Ricky Oropesa

Ricky Oropesa, 1B.  DOB:  12/15/1989.  6'3", 225 lbs.  B-L, T-R.

High A:  .263/.338/.425, 30 2B, 3 3B, 16 HR, 10.1% BB, 25.7% K.
AFL:      .234/.373/.362, 2 HR, 18.6% BB, 27.1% K.

First the obligatory disclosure.  I have never claimed to be in unbiased reporter in any of my writings, but I work with Ricky's mom and have followed his career closely since he was a junior in HS, so I am particularly biased in regards to him.  You can take my opinions for what they are worth and certainly have a right to hold and express your own, in a constructive way, of course.

Brian Sabean has been vocal in the last few years that he does not think the Giants will be able to convince power hitters to come to SF as free agents, so they will have to draft and develop their own.  Since the arrival of John Barr as scouting director, the Giants have followed a now familiar pattern of drafting up-the-middle players in round 1 and then look for at least one power hitter in the next 2-3 rounds.  The result has been a modest infusion of prospects with potential to develop into MLB power hitters, but who also have some flaws that could derail those efforts.  It appears the hope is by adding 1-2 per draft, 1 or 2 will eventually make it.

Ricky Oropesa may be the most promising of these players currently in the Giants system.  He has a pedigree, coming out of a Pac 10 program, a conference that tends to be known more for it's pitching and plays at a very high level.  In addition to his power, Ricky has also shown solid plate discipline and the ability to take walks.  The Giants challenged him by assigning him to high A San Jose for his first professional experience and he responded with a successful season finishing just behind the more experienced Adam Duvall in RBI's with 99.  The Giants rewarded him with an assignment to the Arizona Fall League, a league generally reserved for top prospects with AA and AAA experience.   Again, he hit a couple of HR's and drew a lot of walks.

A lot of people have focused on a relatively low BA and his strikeout rate and consigned his 2012 season to the failure bin.  I beg to differ for the following reasons:

1.  As I already mentioned, high A ball is an aggressive placement for even a college draftee's first professional experience.

2.  While the Cal League is a hitters league overall, San Jose is no better than neutral and specifically suppresses LH power due to what I have read is a prevailing headwind from RF.

3.  Selective hitters are going to have higher strikeout rates precisely because they go deeper into counts and you can't get to strike 3 without getting to strike 2 first!  It's really a very simple mathematical concept that the "OBP is Everything" crowd generally does not comprehend.  They can't have it both ways.  If they want higher walk rates, they have to be willing to accept the higher K rates that go along with it.  The same mathematical dynamic also suppresses BA's as the walks do nothing to help your BA but the K's make it harder due to the necessity of generating a higher BABIP.  OK, maybe if you are more selective, you will hit better pitches and have a higher BABIP, but it seldom works out that way.  Also, it's mighty tough to get a good pitch to hit with 2 strikes.

Having said all that, I do think Ricky may need to become a bit less selective at the plate in order to cut down on a pretty steep K rate, but a change in approach carries risks too and he might be better off being a 3 true outcomes guy.  But, it doesn't really matter what I think, now, does it?  Here's some quotes from Fred Stanley in his recent interview with Joe Ritzo on

"Ricky is a big strong kid.  He was starting to figure out how they were pitching him.  He had a pretty solid year.  I think if you asked him, he'll tell you he'd like to cut down on his strikouts a little bit.  But when you're a strong guy and have the opportunity to hit 30 home runs, you're going to strikeout some.  He learned a little bit about himself this year."

"Oropesa is learning to play first base.  There are a lot of things going on with your footwork around the bag.  J.T. Snow, Will Clark, Russ Morman have been working with him.  He's received a lot of instruction.  Every time he came out on the field during (fall) instructional league, he had an assignment on what we were working on for that day....That would have been tough during the regular season because you're playing 150 games and travelling.  You don't want to wear everyone out.  Instructional league was a time where we really bore down on him and he made really good progress."

AA is Ricky's probable assignment for 2013. It will be a very big challenge, especially in those first 1-2 months when the weather is still cold and he faces a lot of pitchers with way more professional experience.  What he has to do, in my mind, is keep his head above water and show improvement.  He's not young for his level but he's not old either.  If he simply keeps his head above water, he has time to build on that in 2014.  Hopefully he does a lot better than that!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects #11: Francisco Peguero

Francisco Peguero, OF.  DOB:  6/1/1988.  5'11", 195 lbs.  B-R, T-R.

AAA:  .272/.297/.394, 20 2B, 10 3B, 5 HR, 1 SB in 449 AB.
MLB:  .188/.188/.188, 3 SB.
DWL:  .194/.231/.290, 3 SB.

Francisco Peguero has been the most tooled up prospect in the Giants system for several years and apparently still is.  He's a prospect who tends to spark the classic tools vs stats debates among various analysts depending on their biases.  I have to confess to not quite knowing what to make of him or how to rank him on several levels.  I had him ranked much lower in my first draft of this list.  Then I saw a couple of references that have the Giants believing he still has the best bat speed in the organization and that caused me to move him up to #11.

Peguero has the tools, that's for sure.  He can run, catch, throw and hit.  He can hit for gap power even if he has not hit a lot of HR's, but he has had projectability for more dingers.  His SB's have fallen way off the last two years but he also has had knee surgeries each of the last 2 springs.  During his September callup, he showed no ill effects from the surgeries and ran the bases with impressive speed.

He does have some things working against him.  While I am no slave to the notion that OBP is the end-all, be-all, but even I blanche at the sight of his walk rates!   No matter how you spin it, he has to be swinging at a lot of pitches outside the strike zone to be walking that little. That, in turn, has to make you wonder whether the bat translates to the MLB level.  He also is not getting any younger.  Once upon a time he was young for his level and seemed to have a ton of projectability.  Now, at age 24 going on 25, his window for breaking into MLB is getting very tight.  Lastly, where do you put a guy like this?  He is fast enough to play CF, and has the arm for RF, but does he have enough bat to play corner OF?  Where do you put him in a lineup?  On the surface, he looks like a leadoff hitter, but that OBP is prohibitively low for the top of the lineup.  My opinion is you don't try to force him into being a leadoff hitter.  You slot him lower in the lineup, let him slash away and see what you end up with.

Barring an unexpected setback or a new injury, he should come to spring training fully healthy for the first time in 3 years.  It appears he will get a chance to compete for a roster spot as a 5'th OF.  More likely, he will get sent back to AAA Fresno where he really needs to put up numbers like he did in Augusta and San Jose and be ready to grab his chance if an injury or face plant by a Blanco or Torres opens up an opportunity in SF.

Friday, December 28, 2012

DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects #10: Mike Kickham

Mike Kickham, LHP.  DOB:  12/12/1988.  6'4", 205 lbs.  B-L, T-L.

AA:  11-10, 3.05, 150.2 IP, 75 BB, 137 K, GO/AO= 1.61.

Mike Kickham was drafted out of Missouri State in the 6'th round of the 2010 draft.  He only got into 3 AZL games that summer and stumbled out of the gate with a 11.57 ERA in 2.1 IP.  The Giants played it conservatively in 2011 assigning him to low A ball in Augusta.  He started off slowly there too but made some adjustments around mid-season and finished very strong posting an overall line of 5-10, 4.11, 111.2 IP, 37 BB, 103 K with a modest groundball tendency, GO/AO= 1.46.

This time the Giants go aggressive with him and promoted him over high A SJ sending him to AA Richmond for 2012.  He pitched well there all year, but improved his K/BB as the season progressed posting a 61/23 ratio post All-Star Break.  For the months of June, July and August combined, he posted a 2.77 ERA before allowing 3 runs in 2 IP in one September appearance to bring his ERA after June 1 up to his season average.

I have not seen Kickham pitch, but he reportedly has a low 90's FB that he can get up to 94.  In an interview he said the hardest he ever threw a single pitch was 95 MPH.  He has a plus slider that he has a lot of confidence in.  He said in the same interview that he feels he can get any hitter out with the slider.  He also has a curve and change that he is developing.

I really like Kickham a lot.  I love his size and tools.  I like his attitude from interviews I've read.  He seems to have an ability to accept instruction and work through challenges coming out stronger in the end.  I like the way the Giants are developing him in an aggressively deliberate way.  I think you could make a case for him ranking at high as #4 on this list, but regardless of his exact ranking, isn't it great the Giants have prospects in the system we can have that conversation about?  While the Giants don't currently have that grade A blue chip prospect at the top, I don't think there are all that many organizations who have a prospect as good as Kickham at #10.

AAA will be a big test, but the Giants can afford to be patient with him and make sure he is fully developed as a pitcher by the time they need him in the majors.  Hate to say it, but I also think he is building up a lot of trade value should a need for that arise.  Oh, and if you are a numbers freak, he turned 24 yo on 12/12/12.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects #9: Heath Hembree

Heath Hembree, RHP.  DOB:  1/13/1989.  6'4", 210 lbs.  B-R, T-R.

High A:  0-0, 0.00, 5 IP, 1 BB, 7 K's.
AAA:     1-1, 4.74, 38 IP, 20 BB, 36 K's, 15 Saves.
AFL:      0-0, 3.00, 9 IP, 3 BB, 12 K's, 2 Saves.

The Giants drafted Hembree in the 5'th round out of College of Charleston in 2010, and quickly served notice by ringing up 22 K's against 0 BB's in just 11 IP in what was left of that season.  He was put on the closer track and blew through two levels, high A and AA in 2012 while racking up 78 K's in 53.1 IP while collecting 38 Saves.  He ran into a bit of a headwind in AAA in 2012 as his walk rate crept up and his K rate took a hit.  He missed part of the season with a forearm strain.  Those can sometimes be harbingers of TJ surgery, but he came back fairly strong at the end of the season and had a successful AFL campaign.

Hembree is a big rawboned dude. More rangy big than stocky big with a long, loose arm.  I saw him pitch early in the 2011 season for SJ.  He relieved Zack Wheeler who had an absolutely dominating fastball that day and Hembree's was noticeably harder.  The Stadium gun had him at 95-96.  I didn't see more than one offspeed pitch from him that day.  I had read some rumors of a loss of velocity before he hit the DL last year, and have not seen anything since he came back.  I have the feeling he was throwing hard again.  He is reputed to have a plus slider as a secondary offering.

It appears the Giants are setting him up to go back to Fresno to start the 2013 season.  Whether he gets called up midseason would depend on team needs and his continued health and success at AAA.  As I have said many times, I am not particularly a fan of the closer track for future closers unless there is an immediate need at the MLB level that you need to fast track a guy for.  I just don't think closers face enough batters to polish their game, develop secondary stuff and improve command.  I mean, has hard as he threw, even Brian Wilson needed both command and secondary stuff to be successful at the MLB level.  I will say that over the last several years, Giants pitchers have been very good at developing new stuff on the fly while competing at the MLB level, so maybe it's a non-issue.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Fantasy Focus: Players I Think Will Be Undervalued in 2013

In my last fantasy post, I pointed out the importance of being willing to pay for a valuable player, even if everybody else is thinking the same thing about him.  Now we get to the part that gets everyone's juices flowing, finding the undervalued player.  Undervalued players may not necessarily be the deep sleepers you get for $1 at the end of the draft or snag in the last round of a snake draft.  Sometimes, a player can be undervalued even if you have to pay $25 or $30 for him.  Last year I paid $30 for both Andrew McCutchen and Prince Fielder and they both ended up being bargains.  So, who are the potential bargains I'm looking at for 2013 and why do I think that?

1.  Bryce Harper, OF, Wash.  It may seem strange thinking a guy coming off a Rookie of the Year honor is going to somehow be undervalued in a fantasy draft, but Harper's trophy has gone largely unnoticed in all the hoopla surrounding that guy in the other league.  I'm not saying I wouldn't pay a premium for Mike Trout, but Mike Trout has absolutely nowhere to go in his career but down while Bryce Harper still has a ton of projection left.  It's not like 22 HR's and 18 SB's last year was valueless either.  I like Bryce Harper's future a lot and up to $30 for him might get you a player who is as valuable as someone you'd be willing to pay $50 for.

2.  Brett Lawrie, 3B, TOR.  Lawrie's stock was so overvalued last year, you could call it a bubble!  As with real stock market crashes, sometimes the market over-corrects.  Lawrie had a rough season last year but still put up double digits in both HR's and SB's, something you don't see often out of the 3B position.  It was also his first full MLB season.  He could be a huge bargain if you can get him in the $10-15 range.

3.  Pablo Sandoval, 3B, SF.  Pablo might have blown his cover with his WS performance, but I'm thinking he's still going to be undervalued come fantasy draft time.  His weight and conditioning in spring training will have to be checked out, but with no hamate bones left to fracture, he's a good bet to stay healthy and regain his power which was non-existent for a couple of months after his return from the injury last year. I paid $20 for him last year and thought I got close to equal value.  I'll be willing to push the bidding to $25 or even $30 this year.

4.  Mike Moustakas, 3B, KC.  There are a lot of people out there thinking Moustakas was a bust last year, but he quietly hit 20 HR's in his first full MLB season.  If you want to wait until the end of the draft to fill your 3B spot, he should be available and could give a huge return on the investment.

5.  Alcides Escobar, SS, KC.  Escobar remained available on the FA market in my fantasy league all last year, but he's quietly become a reliable source of a .300 BA with 30+ SB's which is not at all bad from the SS position.  If the SS options early in the draft are too rich for your taste, you can safely wait until the end of the draft and grab Escobar.

6.  Everth Cabrera, SS, SD.  If you are looking for SB's from your SS position and nothing more, Cabrera might be an even better option than Escobar.  Once he took over the position for the Padres in 2012, he stole 44 bases in 115 games/449 PA.  You'll have to monitor the Padres plans for SS during spring training to make sure they don't intend to put someone else at the position, but if ECab is their starting SS on Opening Day, he could be a very cheap source of a lot of SB's.

7.  Melky Cabrera, OF, TOR.  Seems like Melky makes this list every year, but a lot of people are going to discount his 2012 performance as drug enhanced.  Since I don't put a lot of stock in the efficacy of drugs to enhance performance, I'm not too worried about that.  He should still be the same Melky of 2011 and 2012 playing in a park that should give him more HR's.  I paid about $3 for him last year and I'm thinking he'll be a bargain for under $10 again in 2013.

8.  Wilin Rosario, C, CO.  Rosario is not a good defensive catcher, but we don't care about that in fantasy baseball.  He did hit 28 HR's in 426 PA's last year.  He may not be flying totally under the radar in 2013 but it's very possible Buster Posey goes for twice the cost in an auction draft and several rounds earlier in a snake draft.  I'm pretty sure Rosario will be ranked behind Posey, Mauer, Molina and maybe even AJP on a lot of draft boards.  

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects #8: Gustavo Cabrera

Gustavo Cabrera, OF.  DOB:  1/23/1996.  6'0", 190 lbs.  B-R, T-R.

2012:  DNP.

Gustavo Cabrera was BA's #5 ranked international prospect prior to the July 2 signing day.  The Giants managed to get him signed for $1.3 M.  I'm guessing the new international spending limits agreed to in the new Basic Agreement with a the MLBPA helped out a lot as without those limits, I'm sure Cabrera would have gone for at least double that amount and the Giants might have been reluctant to spring for that.

If I was ranking on ceiling alone, Cabrera would be a strong candidate for #1 on this list.  Even though BA had him ranked #5 overall, they had him ranked #1 in tools.  In the past, I ranked both Angel Villalona and Rafael Rodriguez much higher before they played any professional games.  Their records make me much less irrationally exuberant with Cabrera.  On the other hand, I have this feeling that the third time is going to be a charm.  Villalona and RafRod had pretty obvious flaws from the get-go with Villalona having a significant weight issue and a one dimensional toolset(power), while RafRod was tall and thin and has yet to fill out his frame.

Cabrera, on the other hand, has a very well proportioned, athletic looking frame with narrow hips and a tapering torso with hulking shoulders. If I was going to comp his body type, I'd say Mike Trout!  His speed has been described as "plus-plus."  He can put on a show in batting practice, but in the video I've seen, he has a bit of a windup with a lot of length.  Scouts reportedly have doubts about whether he will hit in games.

We don't have a track record of statistics to study, but Cabrera is not just a kid who wowed a scout at a tryout.  He played on the Dominican team for RBI(Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) and toured the states with them.  He reportedly got 2 hits in their championship game with a walk and steal to earn MVP honors.

I've got to disagree with Rainball on the name here.  Yeah, Gustavo Cabrera doesn't have much of a ring to it, but what if he becomes well known enough to just go by his first name?  Gustavo!  Not so bad, eh?  The other option is GCab which would be most apropo as long as he remains in the Giants organization.

If he follows the same path as prior 7 figure international Giants signings, he will surface in Arizona this summer during short season ball.  Look up his video on YouTube.

Merry Christmas, Everybody!

It's a good Christmas to be a Giants fan.  Hate to say it, but Peace on Earth and Good Will among people are in mighty short supply these days.  That needs to change!  Us Giants fans can at least be thankful to have a great team in a great ballpark in a great city run by a very able and classy organization.  I'll probably post something later today after all the festivities and family stuff is done.  I just have my immediate family plus my mother who lives near us.  That keeps it all very simple.

Pray for Peace!

Dr B

Monday, December 24, 2012

DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects #7: Martin Agosta

Martin Agosta, RHP.  DOB:  4/7/1991.  6'1", 180 lbs.  B-R, T-R.

2012 NCAA:  9-2, 2.18, 103.1 IP, 27 BB, 95 K's.
2012 Rookie AZL:  0-0, 4.22, 10.2 IP, 9 BB, 19 K's.  GO/AO= 5.00

I was pleasantly surprised when Martin Agosta lasted until the second round and the Giants grabbed him.  He's a local kid from St Mary's.  A bit undersized, but with a big fastball.  He had a sensational junior season as you can see from the stat line.

We didn't get to see much of Agosta after the draft.  In his interview with Joe Ritzo on, Director of Player Development, Fred Stanley said Agosta was tired after pitching a lot in the college season so "we took it easy on him."  He did respond to a direct question by Ritzo by saying that Agosta(along with Stratton and Williamson) could push for a spot on the San Jose roster in 2013.  On the other hand, Marc Hulett at Fangraphs did not rank Agosta in his top 15 due to his contacts in the organization being "reluctant to push him."

As for a scouting report, I have seen 96 MPH being used a lot in connection with his fastball, but his BA pre-draft scouting report said he mostly pitched in the 90-92 range. It went on to say that when he reaches back for more, he usually leaves the ball up in the zone.  His main secondary pitch is a cutter and he mixes in a slider.  He'll need to add a changeup to start in the pros.  Some think he might work out better as a reliever where he can air it out for short periods and concentrate on 1 secondary pitch.

Putting that all together, I'm going to say the Giants relieve the logjam in San Jose by assigning Agosta to Augusta to start the 2013 season.  I'm guessing at least one of the SJ phenoms will get promoted to AA by midseason which would open up SJ for an Agosta promotion if he dominates low A ball.

Scouting the Draft: More College RHP's.

I tend to believe there is a lot of talent in the 2013 draft if you look past the top 10 picks where you have to decide whether to drop several $ million on talent that may not be much better than what you can get for a fraction of the cost later in the draft.  None of these guys I'm going to profile here is likely to be a first rounder, even late in the first round, but worth knowing about so you can be happy if your team calls their name later in the draft:

Alex Balog, RHP, San Francisco.  Alex Balog is a big 'ol dude, 6'6", 225 lbs who was USF's Saturday starter last year.  He was overshadowed by the sensational junior season of Kyle Zimmer, but pitched well himself.  His season line was 4-4, 3.43, 78.2 IP, 57 K, 31 BB.  He held opponents to a BA of .224 and struck out a season high 11 batters against Hawaii.  I found one scouting report that has his FB high 80's to low 90's.  Given his size, he would seem to have some projection left in the heater.  I found one video on youtube of one pitch that shows a nice two seam FB with downward tail in slow mo.  BA has him ranked as their #23 college prospect.  He should be the Dons' Friday starter in 2013 and definitely worth scouting the boxscores on.

Scott Frazier, RHP, Pepperdine.  Frazier is another big RHP who I liked a lot coming out of HS in 2010.  He actually isn't just big, he's huge at 6'7", 230 lbs.  He was Pepperdine's Saturday starter last year and was a workhorse going 7-5, 3.93, 103 IP, 69 K's, 31 BB.  He only allowed 2 HR's all season!  From those numbers, I'm guessing he used his height to pound the zone on a downward plane inducing a lot of groundballs.  I found one video with some radar gun readings that had his FB ranging from 88-93.  He should move up to Friday Starter and will be someone I look up the the boxscores each week.  Just an aside, his facial features remind me of John Elway.  Oh, BA has him listed right behind Balog as their #24 college prospect.

Jonathan Gray, RHP, Oklahoma.  Gray is another big RHP, 6'4", 240 lbs.  He's a hard thrower with a FB that goes 92-97 but sits comfortably at 94 according to Big League Futures.  He pitched in JC ball in 2011 but started 18 games for Oklahoma last year going 8-4, 3.16, 102.2 IP, 104 K's, 42 BB. Inconsistent command is his main detraction but he improved as the season progressed.  He pitched just 4.2 IP in his first 2 starts but lasted at least 5 innings in 14 of his last 16 starts. He won 5 of his last 7 starts while striking out 53 in 43.1 IP.  Given his size and velocity, I could really see him rising on draft boards depending on whether he can get his walk rate down.  BA currently has him ranked as their #36 college prospect.  Personally, after reading up on all of them, I would rank him above both Balog and Frazier.  Definitely someone to follow in the college boxscores.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects #6: Adalberto Mejia

Adalberto Mejia, LHP.  DOB:  6/20/1993.  6'3", 195 lbs.  B-L, T-L.

Low A:  10-7, 3.97, 106.2, 21 IP, 79 K, GO/AO= 0.91.

Adalberto Mejia was signed out of he Dominican Republic in the spring of 2011 for $350 K, along with RHP Simon Mercedes who at the time looked like the stronger of the two prospects.  Mercedes ran into identity questions and his contract was eventually voided.  The scouting report on Mejia at the time had his velocity sitting 87-90, touching 92 MPH.

He immediately went out an dominated the DSL with crazy good control for a kid that young:  5-2, 1.42, 76 IP, 8 BB, 71 K.  DSL kids usually spend a year in Arizona after coming to the US, but the Giants jumped him all the way to low A Augusta.  He struggled in his first month running up an ERA of 12.46 in April.  For awhile, it looked like he might need to be sent back to Arizona, but the Giants put him in the bullpen and let him work things through.  His outings gradually became more and more successful.  His ERA in May came down to 4.67 in 9 appearances, all out of the bullpen.  He was put back in the rotation in June and put up a 1.99 ERA.  He got shelled in one start on July 14 in which he allowed 8 ER in 4.1 IP.  Take out that one awful start and his ERA in his other 9 starts to the end of the season was 2.08.  All games included, his line over his last 10 starts was 5-3, 3.29, 63 IP, 5 BB, 44 K's.

Marc Hulett, writing in Fangraphs, noted that his contacts put Mejia's velocity at 88-92 some projectability.  I'm always a bit skeptical of projectability, but he's at an age where it is not uncommon to see a spike in velocity.  He also has a curveball and changeup with the curve rated as a plus pitch.

Mejia is another young pitching prospect who I expect to see in the rotation in San Jose.  He'll be a must-see on my personal scouting trip list.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fantasy Focus: The $50 Club?

The standard budget for fantasy baseball auction drafts is $260.  In my league, we have 26 man rosters, so that averages out to $10/player.   After participating in a couple of mock auction drafts and 1 real one, I strongly advocate going into any auction draft with a budget in mind.  You don't have to slavishly adhere to the budget.  You have to be flexible enough to take advantage of unexpected opportunities as they arise, but you also should not deviate too far from your original game plan.  

Most experts recommend spending no more than about $40 on any given player.  Last year, I made a list of 7 players I was willing to spend $40+ on and mentally budgeted one of those players.  From what I recall, those 7 players were Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun, Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Jose Bautista...and I can't remember the other two.  Josh Hamilton is probably a $40 plus value, but he is permanently on my do not draft list.  I ended up spending $42 on Jose Bautista who was not terrible, but ended the season on the DL and was generally not worth the $40 I paid for him.  Of the 5 names above, Braun and Cabrera were more than worth the investment while Pujols was probably nearly a break even.  Matt Kemp was a flop due to injuries.

After going through those drafts, I have concluded that I can afford to liberalize my budget to include 2 $40 players or else go as high as $50 on one elite player if I really want to.  It's just too easy in my 10 team league to get cheap value late in the draft or even to upgrade your roster from the FA market as the season progresses.

This year, it is looking like there is a tier of just 3 players who have separated themselves from the rest of the elite players:  Mike Trout, Ryan Braun and Miguel Cabrera.  You could make a case for Josh Hamilton, but again, he's on my do not draft list.  I'll let other players fight it out for him.  Matt Kemp is a good bet to bounce back and I would rank him as right at $40 in value.  Andrew McCutchen is probably a $40 value but not in quite the same class as the top 3.  Buster Posey deserves consideration but catchers have injury risks that other players don't have and they also don't get as many AB's.  Of course, catcher is a premium position and you might consider spending more there in order to spend less elsewhere.  That's about it.  

The question then becomes, how high do you go with the top 3?   The smaller your elite tier is, the more valuable those players become.  I believe a case can be made for spending up to $50 on one of Trout, Braun or Miggy Cab. while going up to $45 on Kemp or McCutchen. 

It is important to have a value in mind even for players you might not be targeting, because you don't want another team getting a huge bargain just because everybody is afraid to bid up.  There is a fine line between overpaying yourself and letting another manager get away with a bargain.

Personally, I would not let Trout, Braun or Cabrera go to another manager for less than $45 unless I already have one of them on my team.  Likewise, I would not let Kemp or McCutchen go for less than $40.  I will stay out of the bidding for Hamilton and hope his move to the Angels gets all the guys I play with from SoCal to get in their own bidding war for him.  I would probably not pay more than $35 for Buster Posey, much as I like him in real life.

DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects #5: Clayton Blackburn

Clayton Blackburn, RHP.  DOB:  1/6/1993.  6'3", 220 lbs.  B-L, T-R.

Low A:  8-4, 2.54, 131.1 IP, 18 BB, 143 K, GO/AO= 2.32.

Clayton Blackburn was the wallflower at the 2011 draft dance in Oklahoma while all the attention swirled around Dylan Bundy and Archie Bradley.  He didn't have the huge fastball that gets scouts all in a lather, but he did have a fastball, with 3 other pitches to go with it, and the ability to command it and get ground balls.  The Giants took him in the 16'th round and persuaded him to sign.

He reported to Arizona and proceeded to dominate there with an ERA of 1.09, 30 K's against just 3 BB's in 31 IP with a GO/AO of nearly 3.  Was he lucky?  Was he just too polished for the kids in rookie ball?  He went to Augusta last year and put up the line you see above.  He then got a late callup to SJ for the Cal League playoffs and struck out 9 batters in 7 IP while allowing just 3 hits.

Blacburn's fastball is nothing to apologize for, topping out at 93 with excellent movement and sink.  He compliments that with 3 other solid to plus pitches all of which he can command.  The result is a rare combination of high K's, low BB's and an extreme groundball tendency.  The Holy Grail of pitching statistics!

Blackburn is an extrovert who likes to talk, while at the same time seeming to be well grounded with a good head on his shoulders.  He knows what he wants to accomplish and how to accomplish it.  He's a big kid who should be able to eat a lot of innings, but may have to watch his conditioning.  I can't wait to see him pitch in the Cal League in 2012!  I figure I better go see him early in the season because if he pitches like he did in that one playoff game, he'll be in AA by the time SJ makes their August swing through SoCal.

Friday, December 21, 2012

DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects #4: Chris Stratton

Chris Stratton, RHP.  DOB:  8/22/1990.  6'3", 195 lbs.  B-R, T-R.

NCAA  11-2, 2.38, 109.2 IP, 25 BB, 127 K
Short Season  0-1, 2.76, 16.1 IP, 10 BB, 16 K.

The Giants selected Chris Stratton out of Mississippi State as their first round draft pick in the 2012 draft.  2012 was a breakout year for him after posting ERA's >5 in his first two years there.  The improvement was mainly in his walk rate as his BB/9 progressed 4.83, 3.15, 2.05 over the 3 seasons while his K rate improved modestly, 8.73, 8.96, 10.42.

Stratton has average size for a pitcher.  He features a fastball that goes 90-95 with excellent command.  He has a plus slider and curveball to go with it.  I was not able to find any current video on him, but I recall seeing one after the draft in which he struck a batter out with a true 12-6'er that just dropped of the table.  He is just starting to develop a changeup which has been described as "nascent."

Stratton signed quickly despite being a first rounder, probably due to the new CBA.  He was assigned to Salem-Keizer in the NWL.  The Giants started him off slowly with 1 and 2 inning stints and he initially got hit pretty hard.  He settled down though, allowing 0 ER over his last 5 appearances including 7 K's against just 2 BB's in 7 IP over his last 2 appearances.  His season was cut short by a concussion suffered when he was hit on the head by a batted ball during batting practice.  He participated in fall workouts at AT&T Park and did not appear to show any lingering problems, so should be good to go in the spring.

My guess is he will be in the starting rotation for San Jose in the Cal League, another must see on my personal scouting list.  He should be able to advance quickly, although he will need to develop his changeup in order to realize his potential as a #2, 3 starter in the major leagues.

Hot Stove Update: Angels Trade Orlando Cepeda for Ray Sadecki

In 1966, the Giants had to choose between Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey as their future first baseman.  They made the right choice, but traded Cepeda to the wrong team.  The Giants needed pitching to back up Juan Marichal and Sadecki did actually pitch pretty well for them after he came over, but Cepeda gave the Cardinals a middle of the order bat to anchor their otherwise fairly weak hitting lineup.  They proceeded to win the next 2 NL pennants while the Giants finished in second place both years.

The Angels were in a similar position with Mark Trumbo, Kendrys Morales and Albert Pujols competing for the 1B/DH roles on the team.  Yesterday, they traded Morales within their division to the Mariners for Jason Vargas, a LHP who makes a nice #4 or 5 starter on a contending team.  Yes, Vargas lengthens the Angels' rotation, and the Angels have enough hitting that a 4+ ERA can win a lot of games, but Morales has the potential to transform the Mariners' lineup.  With multiple high ceiling pitching prospects nearing MLB ready, the Mariners can easily replace Vargas from within.  After adding Morales bat to the lineup, they start to look suspiciously like the Giants in their construction.  Meanwhile, Vargas, who is coming off a year in which he had an unsustainable BABIP of .257 will also be hurt by the difference in park factors.

Great pitching generally trumps great hitting and I could easily see the Mariners giving the Angels a run for their money with the added presence of Kendrys Morales in a lineup to support all those young stud pitchers.  I think the Angels will come to regret trading him within their division.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects #3: Kyle Crick

Kyle Crick, RHP.  DOB:  11/30/1992.  6'4", 220 lbs.  B-L, T-R.

Low A:  7-6, 2.51, 111.1 IP, 67 BB, 128 K

If you judge these rankings by ceiling alone, Crick would rank above Brown and Panik and compete with Gustavo Cabrera for the #1 spot.  He's got a classic pitcher's frame and his fastball tops out in the upper 90's.   BA has his FB range at 94-99 MPH.  Mark Hulett of Fangraphs ranked him #1 and posted a couple of quotes from a scout he talked too.  "He is a great athlete for a big guy....and you can't teach that kind of velocity."  "His delivery is pretty easy and the ball really jumps out of his hand.....the fastball is on top of them before they know it."  "He tries to make the perfect pitch, but he doesn't need to.  His stuff is more than good enough."

BA ranked him as the #7 prospect in the SAL and commented that he can throw his secondary pitches, a slider/cutter and a changeup for strikes and made great strides with the changeup during the year.  His Augusta Manager Lipso Nava:  "He's got a bright future ahead of him."  "He is blessed with a great arm.  He's raw, but we accomplished what we wanted for him this season.  He got better for the next level.  He's got a great head on his shoulders, and he will accomplish his goals pretty soon." Fred Stanley's comments on  "Crick has a great arm.  He's a good-sized kid with a lot of arm strength and stamina.  That's a good combination to have.  He pitches anywhere from 92-97 MPH.  He can blow the fastball by anybody."

I would expect to see Crick in the starting rotation for San Jose to begin the season.  Based on past history of similar prospects, the Giants could well promote him to AA by midseason if he gets off to a good start in SJ.  If that were to happen, he would have a fairly airtight case for #1 Giants prospect by the end of the season.  His ceiling is #1 starter.  Think slightly bigger version of Matt Cain with a tad more velocity at the same stage of development, although I think Cainer was more polished even in Low A.

Some interesing statistical factoids:  Take away a month of May when his ERA was 5.23, Crick's ERA for the other 4 months of the season was 1.76.  Interestingly, May was one of his better K/BB months.  He pitched 2 innings of relief in a September game to try to get enough innings to win the league ERA title, but gave up 2 ER  to take him out of contention anyway.  As it was, Clayton Blackburn and Edwin Escobar finished #2 and #3 among qualifying pitchers.  Tyler Anderson won the title with a ERA of 2.47. He is a groundball pitcher.  His GO/AO on the final stat line of his player page is 1.20, but but BA has him at 2.31 which agrees with my recollection of his boxscores, and which puts him in elite status.

So, what more does he need to do to be the #1 prospect?  1.  Show he can keep his walk rate down.  2.  Get it done at a higher level in a more challenging pitching environment.  But yeah, the ceiling is clearly there and something to be seriously excited about.  Remember when, after trading Zack Wheeler, Brian Sabean said it was his and Tidrow's job to find another Zack Wheeler?  It looks like he's made good on that with Kyle Crick!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects #2: Joe Panik

Joe Panik, SS.  DOB: 10/30/1990.  6'1", 190 lbs. B-L, T-R

High A:  .297/.368/.402, 7 HR, 27 2B, 4 3B, 7 HR, 10 SB, 58 BB, 54 K in 535 AB.
AFL:      .205/.295/.269, 4 SB, 10 BB, 7 K's in 78 AB.

Joe Panik was ranked #2 last year also.  While many of this year's rankings put him lower, he is another guy who I think had an underrated season last year and deserves to maintain his position.  Expectations may have been running a bit too high after he put up a .341 BA in the NWL after being drafted in the first round in 2011. Panik got off to a slow start in the Cal League hitting just .221 in April, but from the first of May on, he hit a robust .312 capped by a .379 in the month of August.

The Cal League is, rightfully, known as an extreme hitter's league, but San Jose is actually a neutral stadium to even one that favors pitching.  It especially tends to suppress LH power as there is a prevailing breeze that blows in from RF, from what I've read(I've never attended a game there myself).  Panik hit .268 at home against .324 on the road in 2012.  His L-R splits were equal.  Lastly, he maintained his amazing reverse K/BB even while hitting just .205 in the AFL.

The biggest controversy surrounding Panik is whether he is a true SS or not. The Giants continue to insist he can play the position and requested that he play exclusively there in the AFL.  Giants Director of Player Development, Fred Stanley, addressed the subject in an interview with Joe Ritzo on  He said that Panik has an accurate arm and makes plays on all the balls he gets to.  He expressed confidence that Panik could stay at SS but also said that the final decision regarding position would be made in the future by Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean. I saw him play several times this year and have to say he looks more like a future 2B to my untrained eye.  Personally, I don't think it matters all that much.  It is somewhat harder to find players who can stick at SS, but 2B in MLB is not exactly a Murderer's Row right now either.  I think Panik will hit well enough to be an asset at 2B if that's his MLB future.

He should move up to AA in 2013 with the usual challenges that will bring.  He is 1 full year younger than Gary Brown at the same stage of development for what that's worth.  Looking ahead, he should be fully ready for the majors when Scutaro's contract is up.  Whether Brandon Crawford remains established as the SS by then remains to be seen.  If secondary stats mean anything at all, you've got to believe he will ultimately hit and hit well through a fine MLB career, an nice return on a #29 overall draft pick.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hot Stove Update: Giants avoid arbitration with Casilla; Mets Trade Present for Future

The Giants avoided going to arbitration with Santiago Casilla by signing him to a 3 year/$15 M contract with a vesting option for a 4'th season which can become a club option with a buyout.  Casilla held the Closer role for much of the season after Brian Wilson's injury and racked up 25 Saves.  Even though he eventually lost the closer job, the Saves would have factored into his arbitration value which MLBTR projected as $5.4 M.  After hitting the wall as the closer and blowing several Saves, Casilla got his feet back under him and pitched some very important innings down the stretch and in the postseason as more of a high leverage guy who could be brought in to get high leverage outs in one inning then stay in the game for another full inning.  Pretty valuable stuff.

Still, this looks like at least a moderate overpay both in annual salary and in years.  Casilla has a great arm, but he also has a history of multiple injuries and had blister problems last year.  The Giants found him in the minor league FA market and have had success finding gems in that market all along.  They picked up a guy this year, Fabio Castillo, who could easily be the next Santiago Casilla.  That doesn't count the raft of high velocity bullpen arms they have drafted in the last two years.  By the time Casilla's contract runs out, those guys are going to be backed up like the ships in LA Harbor during the strike!

Around the League:

The Mets traded R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays for top catching prospect Travis D'Arnaud and pitching prospect Noah Snydergaard.  BA had D'Arnaud ranked as Toronto's #1 prospect heading into 2013 with Snydergaard ranked at #3.  These rankings were made before the trade with Miami.  This trade makes a lot of sense for both teams.  The Blue Jays are in full win-now mode after the trade with Miami while the Mets are building for the future.  From a fantasy perspective, D'Arnaud could be the Mets starting catcher out of spring training.  He should be followed closely in spring training and is somone worth considering as a late round draft pick or early add depending on the depth of your league.

Monday, December 17, 2012

DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects #1: Gary Brown

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

2012 AA  .279/.347/.385, 32 2B, 7 HR, 33 SB, 18 CS, 40 BB, 87 K.
2012 AFL .313/.357/.375.

Gary Brown was the Giants first round draft choice in 2010, #24 overall, out of CS Fullerton where he hit over .400 his junior season while stealing over 50 bases.  He only got into 12 pro games that year hitting a meager .159, but blossomed in his first full pro season with high A San Jose in 2011 hitting .336/407/.519 with 14 HR and 53 SB.  

The AA Eastern League has tended to be a huge challenge for Giants hitting prospects, and Brown was no exception hitting just .229 in April.  He quickly got his feet on the ground, though, and hit .289 over the remainder of the season ending with the slash line listed above.  This performance came as a disappointment to many analysts who perhaps had unrealistic expectations from his Cal League performance, despite many of them proclaiming that performance was due to the Cal League's extreme hitting environment.

I think Brown's performance last year was just fine, thank you.  In addition to the obvious discounting of April for  level adjustment and the notoriously poor Northeast spring weather, there is another factor that I have not seen mentioned before.  I pulled up a list of Eastern League batting leaders and found Brown's name sitting at #22 for BA.  I noticed that the 21 names listed above him did not exactly read as a who's who of baseball prospects, so I drilled down a bit.  What I found was that all but 5 of those 21 names were either repeating the level, more than 1 year older or in most cases, both.  In other words, when compared just to his peer group of first time AA players, Brown had the 6'th highest BA in the league.  

In his recent Q/A for, Fred Stanley reiterated that the jump from high A ball to AA is the toughest one in the minors.  He also brought up an interesting point that Brown's reputation as a hitter and base-stealer preceded him to the EL and opposing teams spent extra time devising strategies to stop him.  Seeing as how he was the only prospect of significance on the team, that would make some sense, although I've never seen that analysis before.

Brown went on to play in the AFL this fall, putting up respectable numbers.  He will almost surely be assigned to AAA Fresno to begin the 2013 season and I expect him to do well there.  He's had his trial by fire in AA and the PCL is much more like the Cal League in terms of hitting environment.  

The one area I have a concern about is his CS rate.  He had 19 in 2011 against the 53 SB's and then had 18 in 2012 against the 33 which is quite poor for someone who is supposed to be an elite basestealer.  He is going to have to pick up that part of his game as it will have to be a big part of his value as a MLB'er.

The Giants are in full win-now mode and have their roster pretty much set with 4 veteran OF's already signed up.  I would expect Brown to be available for a mid-season callup in case of injury or one of the veterans having a severely down season.  Otherwise, expect a September cup of coffee and a chance to compete for a starting OF job in 2014.  

My own projection for Brown is that he becomes a .270-.280 hitter with some gap power and some SB's with elite defense in CF which translated into a 3.5-4 WAR player.  In other words, Dan Gladden with better defense, which is a pretty darn good return for a late first round draft pick.  Anything more will be icing on the cake.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Down on the Farm: DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects

OK, here's the final DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects list.  I'm sure if I waited another day or another week or another month, I would still be tinkering with it and moving names up and down.  Gotta wrap it up sometime.  I appreciate the feedback from the preliminary list and incorporated many of the suggestions.  Please don't get too hung up on the exact order.  As always, the main purpose of the exercise is to become better acquainted with the Giants prospects who might be playing for the San Francisco Giants in the near or distant future.  On with the list!

1.  Gary Brown, OF.
2.  Joe Panik, SS.
3.  Kyle Crick, RHP.
4.  Chris Stratton, RHP.
5.  Clayton Blackburn, RHP.
6.  Adalberto Mejia, LHP.
7.  Martin Agosta, RHP.
8.  Gustavo Cabrera, OF.
9.  Heath Hembree, RHP.
10. Mike Kickham, LHP.
11. Francisco Peguero, OF.
12. Ricky Oropesa, 1B.
13. Andrew Susac, C.
14. Ehire Adrianza, SS.
15. Adam Duvall, 3B.
16. Mac Williamson, OF.
17. Edwin Escobar, LHP.
18. Chuckie Jones, OF.
19. Shilo McCall, OF.
20. Tyler Hollick, OF.
21. Chris Heston, RHP.
22. Cody Hall, RHP.
23. Shawn Payne, OF.
24. Jake Dunning, RHP.
25. Brett Bochy, RHP.
26. Josh Osich, LHP.
27.  Bryce Bandilla, LHP.
28.  Steven Okert, LHP.
29.  Ian Gardeck, RHP.
30.  Steven Johnson, RHP.
31.  Mason McVay, LHP.
32.  Eduardo Encinosa, RHP.
33.  Roger Kieschnick, OF.
34.  Chris Dominguez, OF.
35.  Nick Noonan, IF.
36.  Juan Perez, OF.
37.  Chris Gloor, LHP.
38.  Jacob Dunnington, RHP.
39.  Kendry Flores, RHP.
40.  Eric Surkamp, LHP.
41.  Austin Fleet, RHP.
42.  Conor Gillaspie, 3B.
43.  Carter Jurica, 2B.
44. Dan Burkhart, C.
45.  Edward Concepcion, RHP.
46.  Jesus Galindo, OF.
47.  Chris Marlowe, RHP.
48.  Steven Neff, LHP.
49.  Derek Law, RHP.
50.  Kentrell Hill, OF.

Honorable Mention:  Joseph Rapp 3B/1B, Joe Biagini RHP, Joan Gregorio RHP, Travious Relaford SS, John Polonius SS, Jonathan Jones 1B, Randy Ortiz OF, Andrew Leenhouts LHP, Emmanuel DeJesus LHP, Gabriel Cornier C, Alberto Robles 2B, Jose Valdez RHP, Fabio Castillo RHP, Scott Shuman RHP, Johnny Monell C, Jarrett Parker OF, Rafael Rodriguez OF, Alex Burg UT, Ryan Cavan 2B, Justin Fitzgerald RHP, Demondre Arnold RHP, Jackson Williams C, Ryan Lollis OF, Brett Krill OF, Mitch Delfino 3B.

We will post profiles of each of these prospects, with the top prospects being more detailed than the ones near the bottom and in the HM list.  We will also post a list and some brief profiles, according to what we know about them, of some of the DSL players who we refer to as Dominican Dandies.

Joe Ritzo has a Q/A with Giants Director of Player Development, Fred Stanley, over at Check it out for a lot of good, interesting information.  One thing that stuck out was that apparently Brian Sabean has the final say on player assignments in the minor leagues, something I was not aware of and certainly cuts against those who day he is disengaged from the player development process.

Fantasy Focus Prospect Edition: Shelby Miller

Shelby Miller was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals out of HS in 2009 with the 19'th pick of the first round.  That was the same year the Giants drafted Zack Wheeler at #6.  Their minor league careers have been an ongoing comparison by many prospect observers with many thinking that the Cardinals got a better pitcher 13 picks later in the draft.  I don't necessarily subscribe to that notion.  I think the jury is still out, but Miller is an elite pitching prospect who made is MLB debut ahead of Wheeler in 2012.  The Giants and their fans got a good look at him in the 2012 NLCS.

Miller has a classic pitcher's body at 6'3", 195 lbs.  He has a 3 pitch arsenal anchored by a mid-90's fastball.  His road to the majors has not been without it's speed bumps.  There was an alcohol related brush with the law, then he got off to a rough start to his AAA stint last year with a first half ERA of 6.17.  He got it turned around in the second half, though, with a line of 7-2, 2.88, 59.1 IP, 7 BB, 70 K's, in his last 10 AAA starts.  His MLB debut was successful in a limited sample size with a regular season line of 1-0, 1.32, 13.2 IP, 4 BB, 16 K's.  He made 2 postseason appearances, both against the Giants in the NLCS with a line of 0-0, 5.40, 3.1 IP, 1 BB, 4 K's.

Assuming Kyle Lohse signs elsewhere and assuming the remaining 4 established Cardinals' starters are healthy, Miller will be competing with Lance Lynn, Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly for the last rotation spot. If he does not win that job, he will likely go back to AAA as starter in waiting.  The Cardinals have a relative surplus of pitching, and a trade for a shortstop like Asdrubal Cabrera could be something they would consider.

Whenever Miller is given the starting role, I will strongly consider adding him to my fantasy roster as a 9'th or 10'th starter as he fits all my criteria:  Size, velocity, high K rate and low BB rate.  The rest will take care of itself.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Hot Stove Update: Arte Moreno Strikes Back

As the current offseason got underway, everyone knew the Dodgers were looking to flex their financial muscles.  There was speculation that in addition to going after the obvious Zack Greinke, they would also make a play for Josh Hamilton.  Down south in Orange County, the Angels put up a surprisingly feeble fight to keep the aforementioned Greinke.  The conventional wisdom was that Arte Moreno had blown his wad on Albert Pujols and was tapped out.

Things took a shocking turn yesterday when Moreno whipped out his checkbook one more time and signed Josh Hamilton to a 5 year/$125 M contract.  In doing so, he was able to poke a stick in the eyes of two competitors:  The Dodgers and division rival Texas Rangers.  The Rangers had been letting Hamilton find his market apparently secure in a promise that he would let them make the last bid.  Moreno is a man of great experience in circumventing that strategy.  He simply makes a bid the player cannot take a chance on turning down and gives them a very narrow take it or leave it window.  As has happened several times in the past, Hamilton took it, and left the Rangers eating Arte Moreno's dust.

Analyzing this trade is actually pretty simple.  When he is healthy and at his best, Josh Hamilton is the kind of player you spend this kind of money on.  He's a clear upgrade on Peter Bourjos or Mark Trumbo or Vernon Wells.  You just aren't going to let those guys stand in the way of making the move.  The problem with Hamilton is he is not always healthy.  In the course of his MLB career, he has played more than 140 games just twice.  He has a history of a drug problem so severe it caused him to miss at least 4 full minor league seasons and parts of others.  He has publicly broken his sobriety at least twice in the last 2 years and has missed playing time with a variety of ailments including a hospitalization for pneumonia.

While the Angels need pitching more than they need hitting, Hamilton will give them value as long as he stays healthy.  The risk is a much higher probability than average that any single game could be the last of his baseball career.

Around the League:

Speaking of pitching:  The Tigers won a bidding war with the Chicago Cubs to keep Anibal Sanchez at a price of 5 years/$80 M.

There is an article by Darren Rovell of ESPN questioning the Dodgers' financial situation.  Definitely worth a read if you can dig it up.

Xavier Nady signs with the KC Royals on a minor league deal.

Hot Stove Update: Andres Torres Finds His Way Home

When the Giants traded Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez to the Mets for Angel Pagan, many observers believed that Sandy Alderson had fleeced Brian Sabean.  IMO, a lot of that belief was based more on a perception of the two men's respective acumen as GM's, but it was also based on a superficial understanding of the WAR stat.  The trade long ago turned into one of the more savvy that the old curmudgeon has pulled off, and he's pulled off some pretty good ones.  Yesterday's signing by the Giants after the arbitration eligible Torres was non-tendered a contract by the Mets, just rubs salt in Alderson's wound and isn't it sweet?

The Giants signing Andres Torres is, on the one hand, something you could see coming from miles away.  On the other hand, it's a bit of an odd signing as it is unclear that that Giants really needed another player with Torres' skill set.  He's a switch-hitter who hit decent from the right side last year, so he could platoon with Gregor Blanco in LF, but his career splits have been inconsistent and Blanco is not terrible against LHP's.  He certainly gives the Giants deep depth in CF, a near fetish with Brian Sabean that drives fans nuts but has paid off on the field.  In the end, this signing may have had more to do with the Giants just liking Andres Torres and he liking them.

On paper, the Giants still need a RH masher who can play a passable LF for 6 or 7 innings before Bochy makes his patented defensive substitutions, but it wouldn't be the first time Sabean has failed to fill an obvious hole that shouldn't be that hard to pull off.

Other Giants news:  The Giants signed RHP Chad Gaudin to a minor league deal, and Shane Loux tweeted that he re-signed with the organization too.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Scouting the Draft: Aaron Judge

Aaron Judge, OF, Fresno State, is one of the more polarizing names in the 2013 draft class with mock draft rankings ranging from the top 10 to out of the first round entirely. Most rankings have him somewhere late in the first round. The upside is obvious.  He is huge at 6'7, 230 lbs, yet athletic enough to be a plus defender in RF with above average arm and speed.  You generally expect a guy like this to hit about 20 HR's, but with a .230 BA, but so far in his college career, Judge has hit just 6 HR's in 2 seasons while posting .300+ BA's.  He bats R, throws R.

Here are his college numbers as well as summer league action:

2011 NCAA  .358/.437/.465, 2 HR, 11 SB.
2012 NCAA  .308/.453/.458, 4 HR, 13 SB
2011 Alaska League  .290/.434/.410, 0 HR, 7 SB.
2012 Cape Cod League  .270/.365/.450, 5 HR, 6 SB.

There is a more complete profile on Big League Futures, linked to the left, as well as multiple video clips on BLF and YouTube.

While I tend to like tall pitchers, tall hitters always make me nervous.  Since the strike zone is defined anatomically, tall hitters automatically have larger than average ones thus making it more difficult to control the strike zone.  As we have seen with Brandon Belt, their swings tend to be long and they have trouble barreling up pitches on the inside half of the plate, a problem that becomes more pronounced with wood bats.

It will be most interesting to see where Judge is taken in the draft.  His ceiling is enormous, but comes with a high bust potential.  First round busts are bad, but taking the risk for a ceiling like Judge would not be the worst gamble you could take late in the round.  He'd be a no brainer for the second round, but will almost certainly not be there by then.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hot Stove Update: Indians, Reds and D'Backs in a 3-Way

OK, gotta make this one quick as I have an early meeting, but this is a substantial trade to give you readers and commenters something to chew on today.  These 3-ways get complicated, so I'll try to keep it simple by just listing the players each team is acquiring:

D'Backs:  SS Didi Gregorius, LHP Tony Sipp, 1B Lars Anderson.

Indians:  OF Drew Stubbs, RHP Trevor Bauer, RHP Matt Albers, RHP Bryan Shaw.

Reds:  OF Shin Soo Choo, IF Jason Donald.

Quick Takes:

1.  D'Backs used their pitching surplus to acquire a defense first SS who hit .265/.324/.393 in AA and AAA last year.  Funny how the Giants have become a driving force in MLB trends.  They win the WS with a defense first SS and now everybody wants one!  Shows why it's too early to give up on Ehire Adrianza.

2.  Choo has only played something like 16 MLB games in CF, but the Reds had obviously soured on Stubbs rampant K's and infrequent HR's.  Choo is a big upgrade to their lineup and CF is probably not as big a priority in their park as, say, AT&T.  Choo will be a FA next year and is seen a likely just a placeholder for Billy Hamilton.  Reds can give him a qualifying offer to get the draft pick.

3.  Indians get several power arms.  Bauer high reward/high risk.  Can he turn himself into the next Tim Lincecum or is he a guy pretending to be Tim Lincecum?

Upton now probably stays with the D'Backs.  Rangers options for OF are rapidly dwindling.  Asdrubal Cabrera surprisingly stays put in Cleveland.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hot Stove Update: KC Trades Wil Myers for Pitching

One of the unintended consequences of the Information Age is the amplification and, ironically, the siloing of opinion.  While the explosion of sources where people can get their news and read opinions gives the opportunity for exposure to new information and opinion, people have a strong tendency to migrate to a comfort zone.  As people congregate with like-minded believers, the increased ease of direct communication with multiple people at once often creates what has become known as an "echo chamber" amplifying these opinions as the pass back and forth without dissent.   We see it in our polarized political system, the explosion of passionate advocacy groups, religious fanaticism,  and we see it in matters as inconsequential as sports talk.  Herd and even mob mentalities can quickly arise and be difficult to contain.

The reaction to yesterday's trade by Dayton Moore of the KC Royal of uber-prospect Wil Myers along with prospects Jake Odirizzi and Mike Montgomery to the Tampa Bay Rays for James Shields and Wade Davis may be an example of that herd mentality noted above.  Moore has long been derided by the sabermetrically inclined in the  baseball commenting business and the ridicule and outright anger exploded with a vengeance.  The consensus of most internet baseball commenting sites was this is a terrible trade for the Royals.  Even more, the motivation for the trade was ascribed to Moore desperately trying to save his job, something he has since vehemently denied.  The outpouring of ridicule and anger, along with Moore's reaction to it recalls a long ago quote by Brian Sabean, "I am not an idiot!"

To be sure, Myers is the player with the highest and longest ceiling in the deal, which almost automatically makes it a questionable trade for the team giving up such a player.  It's not at all hard to see another Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio here, or George Foster for Frank Duffy, or Jeff Bagwell for Rick Anderson.  If Wil Myers develops into who he appears to have the potential for, Royals fans will be grinding their teeth at this one for a long time.

It's not like the Royals got nothing in return, though.  They have other highly rated prospects who arrived in the majors last year who have the potential to give them a strong offensive team in the near future.  What the Royals did not have was pitching.  It's not like the pitchers they got are both 1 year rentals either.  James Shields is a quality starter who may be even better moving out of the AL East beast.  His contract is controlled for 2 years.  Wade Davis was a top 3 prospect in a fairly loaded Rays system in the past.  He struggled to get established as a starter but blossomed as a reliever last year with a K/9 of 11+.  He has the size and stuff to move back into a rotation and at the very least eat a lot of innings.  At best, he can become a #2 or 3 starter. His contract is controlled out to 2017.  IMO, Wade Davis could well emerge as the key to the deal and nobody is paying him any attention at all.

As for Odirizzi, Montgomery and Leonard, Odirizzi might become a back of the rotation starter while Montgomery and Leonard are relatively low percentage lottery tickets.

Personally, I would have been hesitant to make this trade from the Royals' perspective, but the trade is not as lopsided as the blogosphere is making it out to be.   Baseball America polled 6 professional talent evaluators who disputed the conventional wisdom of the internet and several rival GM's have spoken up anonymously to defend the trade from Moore's position.

Around the League:  Remember Kevin Correia?  He just signed a 2 year contract with the Twins for $10 M.  I find that remarkable.  Kevin Correia has had one of the more anonymous careers I can recall, but he's stayed healthy and kept plugging away at the back end of weak rotations for several years now.  When he's done with this contract, at the age of 34, he will have earned a total of $23 M in his professional baseball career.  Good for him!  I like to see toilers like him take some financial security away from the game.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Down on the Farm: Dr B's PRELIMINARY 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects

Now that the Winter Meetings have passed and the Giants roster appears to be nearly set with no significant anticipated trades, time to break out DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects list.  This list is a bit tougher than it's been in the past.  While there is no 1 or 2 prospects who stand out above the others, it is a deep system with interesting guys all the way down to #50 and beyond.  I thought I would put out a PRELIMINARY list and let is percolate for comments for a few days.  It's always easy to overlook somebody(I think I completely forget about at least 1 guy every year) or to just have a brain cramp in assigning rankings.  I appreciate any comments and input and will take it all into consideration and put out a final list next week, then start the individual reports.

1.  Gary Brown, OF.
2.  Joe Panik, SS.
3.  Kyle Crick, RHP.
4.  Chris Stratton, RHP.
5.  Clayton Blackburn, RHP.
6.  Adalberto Mejia, LHP.
7.  Martin Agosta, RHP.
8.  Gustavo Cabrera, OF.
9.  Mac Williamson, OF.
10. Heath Hembree, RHP.
11. Mike Kickham, LHP.
12. Ricky Oropesa, 1B.
13. Andrew Susac, C.
14. Ehire Adrianza, SS.
15. Edwin Escobar, LHP.
16. Chuckie Jones, OF.
17. Shilo McCall, OF.
18. Tyler Hollick, OF.
19. Francisco Peguero, OF.
20. Adam Duvall, 3B.
21. Brett Bochy, RHP.
22. Chris Heston, RHP.
23. Shawn Payne, OF.
24. Cody Hall, RHP.
25. Josh Osich, LHP.
26. Bryce Bandilla, LHP.
27. Steven Okert, LHP.
28. Ian Gardeck, RHP.
29. Steven Johnson, RHP.
30. Mason McVay, LHP.
31.  Eduardo Encinosa, RHP.
32. Roger Kieschnick, OF.
33. Chris Dominguez, OF.
34. Nick Noonan, IF.
35. Juan Perez, OF
36. Chris Gloor, LHP.
37. Jacob Dunnington, RHP.
38. Kendry Flores, RHP.
39. Austin Fleet, RHP.
40. Conor Gillaspie, 3B.
41. Carter Jurica, 2B.
42. Dan Burkhart, C
43. Edward Concepcion, RHP.
44. Jesus Galindo, OF.
45. Chris Marlowe, RHP.
46. Steven Neff, LHP.
47. Derek Law, RHP.
48. Kentrell Hill, OF
49.  Joseph Rapp, 3B/1B
50. Joe Biagini, RHP.

Honorable Mention:  Joan Gregorio RHP, Travious Relaford SS, John Polonius SS, Jonathan Jones 1B, Randy Ortiz OF, Andrew Leenhouts LHP, Emmanuel DeJesus LHP, Gabriel Cornier C, Alberto Robles 2B, Jose Valdez RHP, Fabio Castillo RHP, Scott Shuman RHP.


Have the young pitchers moved ahead of Brown and Panik as the top prospects in the system?

Any Dominican Dandies or newly signed international players who should be included other than Gustavo Cabrera?

Anybody I've forgotten about?

Fire Away!

Blogger's Note: Kudos to Big League Futures!

Big League Futures, a site linked over on the left, just announced they will be holding a series of draft showcase events with prospects, scouts, writers.....the works.  First one is next spring June 8 and 9.  BLF is my current go-to site for the MLB draft.  If you haven't already, please check out their site.  They've got a lot of really exciting things going on over there.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Hot Stove Update: Dodgers Sign Zack Greinke

The Dodger once again flexed their financial muscle and signed Zack Greinke to a 6 year/$147 M contract to bolster a starting rotation that became a liability last year.  There aren't too many ways to spin this as not a good move by the Dodgers.  I am a Zack Greinke fan and I'm disappointed that I will have to root against him now.  I spent the most on him of any of my fantasy pitchers as I had him targeted at the top of my second tier of pitchers. He was solid for me all year, although his mid 3's ERA was not particularly an asset, though not a detriment either.  The Greinke signing gives the Dodgers a nice 1-2 L-R punch at the top of the rotation and takes pressure off Chad Billingsley to be the #2.  It also gives them a hedge against Billz' elbow problems continuing into 2013.

A couple of quibbles:  1. Greinke is more of a #2 starter than #1 and is clearly the #2 in a rotation with Clayton Kershaw, yet is getting paid as a #1.  The problem with that analysis is the Dodgers have clearly made a business decision to spend whatever it takes to get whatever players they want.  Greinke was the best pitcher on the market and there was competition for his services from the Angels and Ranger, two teams who are not afraid to spend money themselves.

2.  Greinke is a bit of an odd duck personality.  On the one hand he supposedly has a social anxiety disorder.  On the other hand, he has the chutzpah to take his own scouting reports into the war room on amateur draft day, and whoever heard of a player doing that? Oh, and his social anxiety disorder didn't seem to get in his way of marrying a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader either.  It remains to be seen what impact, if any, his different ways will have in a clubhouse already inhabited by some guys with a history of issues themselves.

Around the league:

The Phillies traded for Michael Young and plan for him to play 3B in 2013.  Anyone one who remembers his defense at 3B from the 2010 World Series will undoubtedly not see this as a plus for the Phillies.  They reportedly are aware of his deficiencies, but there were essentially no third basemen on the market this winter.

The Twins trading Denard Span appeared to turn over the CF/leadoff duties to Ben Revere, but in a surprising move, the Twins turned around and traded Revere to the Phillies for Vance Worley and pitching prospect Trevor May.  The Twins are apparently determined to fix their pitching and fix it now.  This leaves them without a CF/leadoff guy with MLB experience.  They could go for a low cost bridge to Aaron Hicks such as Andres Torres or they could just jumpstart Hicks' MLB career.  Or, at the rate they are going, maybe they will just trade Hicks for pitching too!  Fallout from the deal is that Michael Bourn's market is shrinking fast.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Scouting the Draft: Brett Morales RHP

If I had to pick one prospect who I think the Giants have a decent chance of drafting in 2013, I'd have to say the guy I want is Brett Morales.  Although I doubt he will still be on the board at #27, the Giants still have a chance to move up several notches in the draft depending on how the FA's with qualifying offers shake out and Morales could well still be there in the early 20's.

He's out of the Florida HS ranks.  He's got nice size at 6'2", 190 lbs.  He's a hard thrower with a fastball that touches 94 with sink.  What has scouts excited is his changeup which is already an above average pitch with plus potential.  He also has a 12-6 curveball with above average potential.  He throws from a high 3/4 delivery that is easy and loose.  He mixes his pitches well.

Perfect Game comments after one showcase called him one of the best arms so far and called his changeup the best off-speed pitch seen so far.  His HS 2012 line:  6-1, 0.99, 49.1 IP, 14 BB, 58 K.  He's mostly played IF before 2012 so hasn't built up a lot of miles on his arm.  BA had a rave review of another showcase event back in June 2012.

He has a big, strong lower half that reminds me a bit of Chad Billingsley.  Some scouting reports mention that he can learn to use his lower have more to build velocity down the road.  The video I saw looked like he already uses it to his advantage.  It looks like he already knows how to use his legs to take stress off his arm.

Big League Futures has a more complete profile.  They have him ranked as the #11 draft prospect.  Most mock drafts have him anywhere from the mid first round down to the late 20's.  BA has him ranked as the #21 HS draft prospect which would put him all the way out of the first round.  I find that a bit hard to believe after some of the scouting reports I've read!  BA also had him ranked at #23 in their first overall draft ranking from August, so there's a discrepancy there.  Jonathan Mayo has him ranked at #32 with a similar scouting report.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Blogger's Note

You may have noticed that I removed Giants Nirvana from the linked sites over on the left.  Julian announced he is closing the site and is now writing for Bay City Ball which is now linked.  Best wishes to Julian and Bay City Ball.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fantasy Focus Prospect Edition: Jurickson Profar

Jurickson Profar has been considered one of the top prospects in all of baseaball for several years now.  Last year he made it all the way to the major leagues where he hit a HR in his first AB.  Profar was signed as a 2-way international prospect out of Curacao.  Despite sporting a low 90's fastball and an advanced feel for pitching as a little leaguer, Profar told the Rangers that he wanted to play shortstop and he has excelled at the position and at the plate.

Profar is a lean, wiry 6'0", 165 lbs who generates power from both sides of the plate possibly partly by over-swinging a bit. He has strong intangibles and enough self-confidence to tell the Rangers he would make the majors by the time he turned 20 yo, and beat that by 5 months!  When he homered in his first MLB AB he was the second youngest player in MLB history to do so.  Here are his stat lines from the minor leagues:

2010  Short Season:  .250/.323/.373 with 4 HR's, 8 SB in 252 AB.
2011  Low A            .286/.390/.493 with 12 HR, 23 SB in 430 AB.
2012  AA                 .281/.368/.452 with 14 HR, 16 SB in 480 AB.
2012  MLB               .176/.176/.471 with 1 HR in 17 AB.

Profar may begin 2013 in AAA, but will almost surely return to the big leagues to stay before the season is over.  Depending on what happens with Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler may or may not move to the OF to make room for Profar up the middle.  Unfortunately from a fantasy perspective, Profar would probably be the one to move to 2B with Elvis Andrus staying at SS.

If you play in a deep keeper league, Profar is probably already owned in your league.  If you are in a re-draft league, you may want to be a bit cautious in rostering him right away, especially if he does not have SS eligibility, but he has a high probability of becoming at least an above average offensive middle infielder at either position.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Hot Stove Update: The Boys Are All Back In Town!

When Brian Sabean makes a proclamation about having a goal of signing 2 specific players at MLB's Winter Meetings, you best believe he's going to get it done.  Sabes just is not given to making those kind of bold statemements.  The Giants went to the Winter Meetings, Sabes stayed behind due to some sort of illness, with a stated goal of getting Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro re-signed.  Boy, did they ever come through on that one!

We've already reviewed Pagan's deal and given it our stamp of approval.  The Giants added Marco Scutaro yesterday for 3 years/$20 M.  While it is perfectly reasonable to question a 3 year deal of any kind for a player who just turned 37 yo, I'll take this deal for Scooter.  Second base may seem like an easy position to fill, but after living through Freddy Sanchez' injuries, Jeff Keppinger's statuesque performances on defense and Emmanuel Burriss' automatic out act, I've gained a new respect for how difficult it is to find the right guy there.  In a market where 6 teams are reportedly in on Keppinger, including the Yankees, hey, give me Scooter, please!

Scooter does not have a history of accumulating injuries like Freddy Sanchez did.  He showed good range and quick reflexes on defense last year.  He appears to keep himself in excellent physical shape.  The deal is lower risk than it would be for a lot of younger aged players I can think of.

Dave Cameron of Fangraphs wrote a ridiculous comment in his analysis to the effect that Scutaro's new contract is based on his 3 month performance with the Giants last year.  No Dave, it's not!  A contract based on THAT performance would be for about $20 M per year, not over 3 years!  It's not even based on his performance over the last 5 seasons.  Given that his lowest WAR was 2.4 in that time, a contract based on average past performance would be for about $12.5 M/year.  $20 M is worth about 4 WAR points.  To earn his contract, Scutaro has to put up 4 WAR over 3 seasons, or about 1.3 WAR per season.  THAT is based on a very reasonable estimate of what he is likely to do over that time with an excellent chance for him to actually outperform the value of the contract.

The Giants are now essentially done with their offseason work.  They might be in the market for a RH bat for the OF and for a power arm in the bullpen, but they can well afford to let the market come to them on those items.  Personally I would be happy to have Xavier Nady, Francisco Peguero and Roger K fight it out for the two reserve OF roster spots, but I expect the Giants to bring in a low cost alternative from the market to spring training.  I would also be checking out what I could get in trade for Jose Mijares, either in the form of a power arm or OF option, but we'll see how the Giants play that one.  All those LOOGYs came in mighty handy last year.

Around the League:  Anyone who thought Shane Victorino might be a lower cost alternative to Angel Pagan, and I was one of those, well, think again!  In a rather mystifying move, the Boston Red Sox agreed to pay him $39 M over 3 years.  Add in the Mike Napoli contract, and it is becoming apparent that the Red Sox have learned nothing from their past disastrous FA signings.  Maybe they are counting on trading Victorino and his contract back to the Dodgers for Yasiel Puig or something?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Hot Stove Update: Angel Is In the Outfield!

The Giants took a big step toward completing their offseason work by signing Angel Pagan to a 4 year/$40 million contract including a $5 M signing bonus and salaries of $7 M, $9 M, $9 M and $10 M.  While the ideal contract might have had a 4'th year option, and while I would have been satisfied to see Gregor Blanco move to CF and take over as leadoff hitter, I like this deal a lot.

Pagan is the prototypical AT&T Park player.  He's not going to hit a ton of HR's anywhere he goes, you don't have to worry about a dropoff in AT&T Park.  Despite the low HR totals, he is not a slap hitter by any stretch.  He is able to drive the ball to the gaps and AT&T has large ones.  Last year Pagan drove them with regularity hitting 19 doubles and 8 triples in his home park.  I'll take that over a guy who hits 20 HR's in other home parks but might have his total cut in half in AT&T any day.

There will always be a few grousers in every crowd.  There are some scattered naysayers who contend the Giants overpaid due to euphoria from winning a WS and that this contract will end like the Rowand and Huff deals.  Yeah, it might, but this is a much better deal than either of those.  Rowand's pre-Giants value was almost entirely tied up in his ability to hit HR's.  AT&T took away that value and he had nothing to fall back on.  Anybody could see it from the get-go.  Huff was 4 years older and in a lot worse shape physically.  Pagan's deal is for a full $20 M less than Rowand's despite some inflation in $$/WAR since the Rowand signing.  It is also for less/year than Huff's.  Anyway, neither Rowand's nor Huff's contracts stood in the way of the Giants winning World Series' after their signings.  In fact, I believe both players were on the payroll in 2012.

There have been a few complaints and expressions of concern about what this means for Gary Brown.  A few thoughts:

1.  Gary Brown could stand at least a half year more seasoning at AAA, maybe even a whole year.
2.  I seriously doubt Hunter Pence wears a Giants uniform in 2014.  Pagan would then move to RF with Brownie taking CF or vice-versa.
3.  Pagan's contract should be easily tradable barring a complete collapse of production, in which case the Giants would need Gary Brown even more.
4.  It's not unthinkable to include Gary Brown in a trade for a bigger bat in LF or for pitching in 2014 or 2015.

The WAR value of Pagan's contract over the next 4 years is right at 8.0.  Over the last 4 season including one partial season and 1 down year, Pagan has put up 14.1 WAR.  No contract is risk free, but this is as close as it gets in today's MLB.

Good job, Sabes!

Around the League:  Red Sox signed Mike Napoli for 3 years/$39 M which looks like a really risky contract for a team still trying to put out the hot spots in the smoldering wreckage of their last binge signing guys on the downside of their careers to big contracts.

Rays signed James Loney to a 1 year/$2 M contract with an extra $1 M in incentives.  Loney is a guy whose once promising career really seems to be going backward at an alarming rate.

Hot Stove Update: Scouting the Rule 5 Draft

I've been cruising around the internet looking for Rule 5 eligible prospects who could conceivably interest the Giants.  It's not easy to get a read of who is Rule 5 eligible because you start with the universe of all prospects and then look at each one to see if they have played the number of years necessary to gain eligiblity.  Besides, I really despise the Rule 5 draft.  IMO, it's ruined way more players than it's helped.  Still, for devoted prospect hounds, it has a certain intrigue to it.

As for eligible Giants, the only one I think might be seriously at risk is LHP Chris Gloor who has AA and AFL experience with some success.  Other names who might interest someone include OF Nick Liles, OF Ryan Lollis, 2B Ryan Cavan, UT Alex Burg, RHP Craig Wescott.  None of these players is at high enough risk to use a 40 man roster spot to protect and none are prospects the organization cannot afford to lose.

I could see the Giants taking a flyer on a relief arm, reserve MI, or a 5'th OF.  Here are a few names to consider:

1.  RHP Ryan Chaffee, Angels.  Hard throwing Righty played at A+ and AA levels last year with composite line of 7-1, 2.60, 65.2 IP, 36 BB, 84 K's.  He did not pitch well in just 6.1 IP, in the AFL.  Will be 25 years old in 2013.

2.  RHP Josh Fields, Red Sox.  Former first round draft pick of the Mariners.  He was a college closer for Georgia.  Pitched for AA and AAA last year  4-3, 2.01, 58.1 IP, 18 BB, 78 K's. Will be 27 years old in 2013.

3.  OF Kenny Wilson, Toronto.  Toolsy OF who will turn 23 yo in January.  B-R, T-R.  Played at low A and High A levels last year.  .260/.362/.358 with 5 HR, 55 SB, 12 CS.  Gets on base and steals bases.  Superior defensive CF.  Young enough to have some upside and could possibly stick as a 5'th OF on a good team.

4.  2B/SS Odubel Herrera, Rangers.  B-L, T-R.  Turns 21 in December.  Played at high A Carolina League last year  .284/.335/.382, 5 HR, 27 SB.

5. 2B Rafael Ynoa, Dodgers.  B-S, T-R.  25 yo.  Played at AA level .278/.364/.352, 0 HR, 23 SB.  AFL  .330/.374/.515, 2 HR, 7 SB in 97 AB.  I'd like to see this one just to annoy the Dodgers.

Of course, there is an strong possibility that all these guys will be long gone by the time the Giants pick comes around.

Anyone on your Rule 5 radar?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Scouting the Draft: 3 College RHP's

Here are 3 profiles of college RHP's, 1 who is consistently ranked in the late first round, 1 who has been linked to the Giants in 1 mock draft and 1 who caught my eye as a possible riser or sleeper who may be available in round 2.

1.  Ryan Eades, LSU.  Eades is consistently listed in the late first round in early mock drafts.  He was a bit overshadowed at LSU by Kevin Gausman but has emerged a breakout candidate based on his stuff.  He stands 6'3", 200 lbs.  His FB sits at 91-93 MPH and touches 95.  He shows command of 3 secondary pitches, slider, curve and change with the curve showing plus potential.  The concern is his performance has not matched his stuff.  Here are  his stat lines from 2 college seasons and his 2011 Cape Cod League when he was named the CCL pitcher of the Year:

2011 NCAA  4-1, 4.81, 43 IP, 18 BB, 31 K.
2011 CCL     3-0, 0.84, 32.1 IP, 7 BB, 23 K.
2012 NCAA  5-3, 3.83, 94 IP, 28 BB, 63 K.

I'm always suspicious of college guys who scout better than their performance, but Eades may be poised for a breakout.  You can find a more complete profile and an 8+ minute video over on Big League Futures linked to the left.  To my eye he has a clean 3/4 delivery with quick arm action. Moderate effort. Strong follow-through I do not have GB ratios, but I would guess he induces a lot of GB's.  Eades is the 12'th ranked college draft prospect by BA.

2.  Andrew Mitchell, TCU.  One mock draft had Mitchell going to the Giants at #27(draft placement will change with the signings of FA's with qualifying offers).  He is listed at 6'3", 220 lbs.  FB goes 90-93, touches 94.  Secondary stuff is developing. He has stronger K ratios than Eades, but has had control issues and his stuff sounds like it is not nearly as developed.  Here's his stat lines from 2 college campaigns:

2011  6-1, 2.84, 76 IP, 31 BB, 73 K's.
2012  5-3, 3.74, 77 IP, 46 BB, 101 K.

Again, there is a more complete profile on Big League Futures with a video clip.  In the video he had an easy motion.  The guy making the video had a radar gun that was registering 88-91 on fastballs.  He struck out a LH batter with a breaking ball at the back foot.  The southwest region is tough on pitchers so his performance there may project to higher levels.  He certainly has a big league body.  He is listed at #62 on BA's college draft prospects, so could be available clear down in rounds 4-5.

3.  Aaron Blair, Marshall.  This guy is actually my favorite of these 3 even though he seems to be not as highly ranked in mock drafts.  He stands 6'5", 220 lbs.  FB 90-92, touches 94.  Has a change and curveball that he commands and can throw in FB counts.  He has performed well for Marshall in 2 seasons and was a Cape Cod League All Star in 2012.  Here are his stat lines:

2011 NCAA  2-3, 2.72, 36.1 IP, 13 BB, 34 K.
2012 NCAA  2-8, 3.98, 83.2 IP, 28 BB, 82 K.
2012 CCL     6-0, 1.17, 38.1 IP, 12 BB, 44 K.

Again there is a full profile on Big League Futures as well as video.  It's the video I fell in love with.  Check out his arm action and tell me what you think.  One more observation.  In the video, he's pitching with a runner on base and for a big guy seems to deliver the ball quickly with almost a slide step.  BA has him ranked at #38 in is college draft prospects list which would make him available in round 2.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hot Stove Update: Brian Wilson a Free Agent

In hot stove speak, the term "non-tender" has taken on an active meaning as in the Giants "non-tendered" Brian Wilson last night.  To read that, you would think the Giants handed Brian Wilson a piece of paper and had him sign it or some other action that involve them, you know, doing something.  In reality, "non-tendering" was a non-action, the absence of a contract offer.  Now, Brian Wilson may or may not have received some sort of notification from the Giants that a contract offer would not be forthcoming, but the way Brian Wilson officially knew he had been "non-tendered" was when 9:00 PM PST passed and nothing happened.

Brian Wilson is now a free agent because under MLB's Collective Bargaining Agreement, if the Giants offered him, an arbitration eligible player, any contract, it had to be for no less than 80% of the $8.5 million he made in 2012.  The problem with that is Brian Wilson sat out all but 2 games of the 2012 season after undergoing his second "Tommy John" surgery.  If you look up a list of pitchers who have undergone two TJ surgeries, there is nobody on it who you would want to pay $6.8 million for them to pitch for your team.  Oh, and the Giants won a World Series without Brian Wilson's participation.  Now don't get me wrong here, a healthy Brian Wilson would be an asset to any team and well worth a 20% raise let alone a 20% pay cut, but he's not healthy now and there are no guarantees he'll be healthy next year or ever again.  In fact, it seems likely that he won't ever be fully healthy again!  There is a common perception that ballplayers get paid for past performance.  Not true!  Ballplayers get paid for what someone THINKS they will do in the future.  Now that is partly based on past performance, but other factors such as present and future health play a big part too.

It is now believed the Giants are interested in re-signing Brian Wilson as a free agent to a contract with a relatively low base-pay(which, BTW, would still put Brian Wilson well within the 1% club) with incentives for how much he is able to play.  Brian Wilson is said to find such an offer "insulting" because of all he has done for the Giants in the past.  Admittedly, Brian Wilson has done a lot more for the Giants than just pitch for them.  He is a near-genius at calling attention to himself.  By extension, he has called a lot of attention to the Giants too.  That has resulted in countless sales of fake beards, gnomes and other geehaws that baseball fans love to spend their hard earned money on.  My daughter will be heartbroken if Brian Wilson is not a Giant next season, and if he's a Dodger, well, let's not even think about that one.

Still, for all Brian Wilson has admittedly done for the Giants, the Giants did a lot for Brian Wilson.  They drafted him after his first Tommy John surgery in college.  They stuck with him through struggles in the low minors when a lot of teams might have released him.  They stuck with him after he strained an oblique muscle in something like his second major league pitch.  They gave him to opportunity to be their MLB closer with minimal apprenticeship as a set up man when not many observers were seeing it(OK, they were desperate, but still....).

Brian Wilson was paid $8.5 million last year while spending the entire season on the DL.  I hope he invested that money wisely.  If he did, it will be enough to allow him to live comfortably for a long time.  He's an unusual guy and I certainly wouldn't put it past him to make it all the way back as a MLB closer, but the chances of that happening based on our prior experience with repeat TJ surgeries is pretty small.  As for the Dodgers paying him a lot of money just to annoy and embarrass the Giants, well, I would remind them of Jason Schmidt and Juan Uribe. How did those contracts work out, Ned?

Around the League:  There were several interesting "non-tenders" around the league yesterday including Andres Torres, Ryan Sweeney and Jermaine Mitchell.

Is it just me or did the Braves make a very strange trade by sending Tommy Hanson to the Angels for Jordan Walden?  I'm guessing that trade tells you something about what the Braves think of Hanson's long term health.