17 June 2008

Age Curves for 2B Fielding

This will be a continuation of the recent Brian Roberts articles, but also the beginning of a new series. We often mention how certain positions age differently or utilize certain skills that are often age dependent. When it comes to fielding there are two main considerations when it comes to generating outs: the ability to field "cleanly" and range. Fielding cleanly or fielding efficiency is a skill that maximizes when the player has had experience at the MLB level. Aging will affect efficiency, but not to a great extent. Range on the other hand is heavily affected by aging, or that is what I would assume. As a player ages, he should experience decreased ability to cover the same territory or have his reaction time slow.

Revised Zone Rating (RZR) will be used as a surrogate for fielding efficiency. This metric assumes there is a given territory that a defender should be expected to cover. Of all the balls that pass through this zone, outs are recorded and compared to the number of chances. This is not ideal as RZR will be effected eventually by decreased range, but it should be rather representative because players are typically moved off positions if they are so unable to defend this standardized area.

Out of Zone (OOZ) Plays will be used to represent range.
These plays are those that are made outside of the zone designated to the position. Again, there are potential issues. If a defender is playing next to a player who has great range then the number of OOZ plays he can accrue will probably be reduced. The resulting effect may not be great because several players seasons will be used to determine the aging curve line.

The data was collected from the Hardball Times fielding statistics. Fielding performance was recorded from 2004-2007. Out of Zone plays for each player was divided by the number of innings played and normalized over 162 9 inning games. Ages were then determined and applied to the seasons. Ages with less than three data points were removed from consideration. Only full time players were considered.

Second Baseman Fielding Age Curves
The curves depicted to the right show the effect of age on fielding efficiency (orange) and range (black). It should be noted that each horizontal mark represents five plays. For instance, if a player moves from one horizontal line to the next over the course of two seasons then the player has improved or declined by five plays. A single play is worth about 0.6 runs, so each line represents 3 runs saved or lost. Fielding efficiency maxes out around age 30 or 31. Range is maximized at age 23 or 24. Ages 27 to 29 are when fielding ability is greatest for second basemen as their efficiency rises and their range has not been greatly compromised.

The curves may be surprising. Well, they are surprising to me. I would expect them to have a much wider range in terms of efficiency and range. What may explain why I do not see this is that the tail end of the curve is being dictated by guys who can still play the position. Players who are not able to field are no longer at those position and would not be able to be included in the study.

Second base appears to be a position of considerable skill. It takes several years before fielding efficiency is optimized. Taking this data into consideration, defensive second basemen are hurt by free agency for the most part (or the organizations who sign them). After the renewal system and arbitration cycles take their turns, defensive minded second basemen hit free agency with their better days behind them. It is more likely that the dropoff is far more severe than depicted on these curves due to older 2B neutralizing the aging effect.

Odds Update: Convergence

Another week goes by and the predicted number of total wins is converging. At one point the range between these methods was 30 wins and now the range is 3 wins. Updated postseason odds for PECOTA and ELO show a slight decrease. PECOTA has the Orioles at 1:106 and ELO has us at 1:22. Here is the new graph:

16 June 2008

Does a low bullpen ERA result in more 1 run wins?

This past weekend Rick Maese wrote the following in the Baltimore Sun:

Generally, you notice the impact of a manager in the close games, when the outcome might hinge on a single decision. At this point a year ago, the Orioles were 6-15 in one-run games. They finished the year 13-31.

And this year? With last night's win, the Orioles are 15-9 in one-run games, tops in baseball.

Much of that credit goes to the bullpen and to the fact that one of the first things Trembley did after last season was add pitching coach Rick Kranitz to his staff.

I'm not really sure that this is true. Typically, you hear that winning percentage in one run games is the result of luck. I disagree with that, but only slightly. I imagine that one run record is largely luck, but that general team talent is also a contributor. For instance, I expected a team with a .600 winning percentage to do better than one with a .400 winning percentage, but that due to limited sample size you will often see a "noisy" relationship between total team winning percentage and 1 run winning percentage. Today, I am going to try to test this and figure out if a bullpen is largely responsible for a team's record in 1 run games.

I took data from all AL teams from 2005 to 2007 (3 seasons - 42 data points). I calculated their bullpen ERA+. I used ERA+ instead of plain ERA in order to normalize year to year changes in run scoring. I also calculated their 1 run game winning percentage and overall winning percentage for each team-year. I then related 1 run winning percentage to bullpen ERA+ and overall winning percentage. Additionally, I compared bullpen ERA+ to the % difference between 1 run winning percentage and overall winning percentage.

Bullpen ERA+
Maese's basic assumption (and it really isn't fair to attribute this assumption to Maese as you hear this rabbitted about nearly everywhere) is that a good bullpen ERA results in a good 1 win winning percentage record. What we see when we graph these is that there is an incredibly poor relationship between these two measurements (r2=0.06). This basically means that knowing a team's bullpen ERA essentially tells you nothing about what their winning percentage will be in 1 run games. Can you find the Indians in 2005? They are a solitary dot with an ERA+ of 155 and a win pct of .378. I would say that is an outlier, but the general pattern is also rather bunk. True, there does seem to be a pattern, but either there just isn't enough sample size to determine if the bullpen is the deciding factor or not.

Overall Winning Percentage
I assumed this would be far more relevant to the 1 run winning percentage than the bullpen ERA+ metric. This turned out to be the case and overall winning percentage seems to be much better than bullpen ERA+, but still not a great predictor (r2=0.3).

Non 1 Run Winning Percentage
It also bears season that overall winning percentage would obviously have greater significance for the sole reason that the 1 run games are included in that result. Perhaps a better way to determine the effect is to compare 1 run games to non 1 run games. What we see here is a result that is just as worthless as bullpen ERA+ (r2=0.05). We are basically back to where we started as in we have no idea to what we can attribute 1 run game success.

Can Bullpen ERA+ predict difference in Winning Percentage
Finally, I decided to compare bullpen ERA+ to the difference in 1 run winning percentage and >1 run winning percentage. The result is that we have another two statistics that cannot predict each other (r2=0.08).

Maybe small sample size is distorting what we can measure; but, based on these three AL seasons, bullpen ERA+ and non-1 run winning percentage are poor indicators of success in one run games. Overall team record is helpful, but that is most likely due to the inclusion of the 1 run data within that data set.

15 June 2008

Orioles Recap: Oh So Fickle

I typically never run recaps because you can easily find your descriptive columns elsewhere. At Camden Depot we try to go underneath the surface and try to explain how things happened or what will happen. Last night though is a good time to introduce leverage index values and winning probability added. These two statistics are collected by FanGraphs.

Here is the graph from last night's game:

Winning Probability (WP) is shown on the top graph. Essentially, the statistic is based on the probability of a certain result in relation to the score, inning, and outs affects a team's chances to win. This is often expressed as Winning Probability Added (WPA). This try to discern how different players producing certain events affect changes in WP. For instance, Salazar's homerun increased the Orioles' chances of winning by ~40%. His WPA for the single event would be 0.40 and this would be added to his other events during the day. His final WPA for yesterday's game was .321 and was third among Orioles' hitters for the day.

Leverage Index in the bottom graph. Basically, the greater your value, the greater the probability in winning is shifted. For instance, in the top of the first inning, you can see that the leverage decreases as each out is made. In relation to other innings, the leverage is low because the game is tied and there are plentiful opportunities to score runs later. A run in the first has less meaning than a run in the ninth because the opposing team has less opportunity to score that single run back to even it out. Another example would be in the top of the ninth when George Sherrill entered the game. The leverage starts high because the Orioles have a one run lead and the Pirates have no outs. It then becomes greater with Nady's single to right. After LaRoche's home run, the leverage is almost nothing because there is no one on and the Orioles are down by a run.

Hopefully, you found this interesting.

12 June 2008

Brian Roberts and the General Aging Curve

The recent talk about potentially acquiring Rickie Weeks for Brian Roberts has brought up an uneasy reality. Brian Roberts will not be an above average second baseman for much longer. Many of us remember when he was battling Jerry Hairston, Jr. for playing time or impersonating a home run king. Many of us remember him breaking his arm and the 18 months it took for him to get back to his playing shape. During this dark period of Orioles history, Brian Roberts was the brightest and biggest star we had. He sometimes wondered aloud if the Orioles had any intention of becoming competitive, but he never whined about it or demanded a trade. He has been a near perfect ball player (what hGH?).

The problem now is that we have a time line in terms of when the Orioles will be competitive. We are not competitive right now. We are about three very good players from that point. We need upgrades at first base, third base, and shortstop. We probably need one at DH, too. Our pitching, at the moment, is solidly average. This offseason we could address first base with Teixeira and SS with Furcal. Nothing looks like a steep improvement in the following free agent class. That is the basic problem we have. We can improve in the short-term, but not the long term. This is where Brian Roberts falls. He is great for us in the short-term, but not for the long-term. His ability is probably worth about 3 games to us over a replacement level 2b, but when the difference is between 78 and 75 wins . . . what is the point? It makes sense to use his talent and exchange it for a piece or pieces that will actually be able to contribute in the future.

Now, some would argue that the point of baseball is to win games and that sending away talent is foolish. Well, that is simply short-sighted. Baseball is not about winning games. It is about winning championships. You are doing one of two things in baseball if you are successful: 1) sustaining a championship caliber team or 2) building a championship caliber team. Trying to be a 78 win team instead of a 75 win team does not always mean you are closing the gap toward becoming a champion. What shocks me is that people do not understand that this method of playing the middle is what we have done for 10 years. We have many examples of this behavior:
1. Signing Ramon Hernandez
2. Signing Dannys Baez, Chad Bradford, and Jamie Walker
3. Trading for Kris Benson
4. Trading for Jaret Wright
and so on and so on.
Spending millions of dollars that could be spent on signing bonuses to high contract demand draftees or exploiting latin american talent is where this money should go. We should not be giving up 10 MM or so and a draft pick for Dannys Baez. These short term moves immobilizes cash flow and places it in diminishing return investments. It has been thought that free agents place winning high in their choices of going somewhere or not. Well, that is true to an extent. What is also true is that if you marginalize yourself with 78 win talent, you may get the occasional free agent. It should be recognized that few good players hit free agency at a young age due to the increasing commonality of signing extensions. Acquiring marginal talent is an incredibly inefficient way to build a team. Out of the 100 MM dollars spent on the six players itemized, how many top tier amateur domestic and international players could we have signed? That is the problem with trying to net free agents through slight increases in play. You undercut your minor league player development with guys who you can sign as opposed to who is the best player.

So, yes, Brian Roberts is approaching that stage. He is a very good second baseman, but we are devoting money to him that will not help us become a championship team. To the right is a generalized age curve (from The Hardball Times). That should fit Brian Roberts age curve somewhat well. He is a second baseman, which narrows the curve. He also has above average power and great plate discipline, so that should extend it to about where it is now. It is pretty amazing how the graph matches Roberts career line. Right now his OPS+ is 121. In the projection under unlimited number of at bats, this is what we could expect:
2008 110 OPS+
2009 109 OPS+
2010 103 OPS+
2011 94 OPS+
2012 90 OPS+
2013 73 OPS+
The italics denote what an average 2B hits. It should be noted that this worth is with respect to average defensive play. Roberts play, which was very good three years ago, has been in steady decline since. This year he is actually below average. Based on UZR, he is the fifth worst defensive second baseman in the game. This could be the result of having played only a third of the season, but I doubt that changes much. In all likelihood, Roberts will be an average 2B in 2010 as opposed to 2012. By the time he is 34, he will be a bench player. His past career may be able to keep him a roster spot. He should be out of baseball by the time he is 37. Now, I should add the caveat that this is the generalized aging curve. He may be different as I mentioned before i think his eye and his slight power has him keep the curve even though he plays second base.

To compare with other second basemen, I have written a list of All Star 2B and when they became roughly average (solely based on batting, inclusion of fielding may reduce these by a year or two):
Willie Randolph 35 (last year 37)
Manny Trillo 31 (last year 38)
Lou Whittaker 37 (last year 38)
Steve Sax 31 (last year 34)
Roberto Alomar 33 (last year 36)
Carlos Baerga 26 (last year 36)
Ryne Sandberg 33 (last year 36)
Tommy Herr 33 (last year 35)
Mariano Duncan 30 (last year 34)
Jay Bell 34 (last year 37)
This list is filled with guys who had significant power, speed, and/or plate discipline. Almost across the board you see precipitous decline in performance with second basemen. The best you could hope for within these comps is Willie Randolph. With the increasing likelihood that Roberts has issues with defending his position, I'm not sure Randolph is a good comp because Brian might have to shift off 2B.

Should we extend Roberts contract if he wishes to stay in Baltimore?
Well, it depends. We can trade him now for cheaper talent that is more likely to increase our ability to contend as well as increase cash flow for reinvestment. Or, we can extend him at market value (~10MM) for four seasons (2010-2013) for average to below average production from a 2B. I would like to say Roberts is an essential piece toward attaining a championship in Baltimore. In fact, that is probably true. Sadly, his contribution will be to be traded for cheaper talent that will be better than Roberts when this franchise is able to hold its own against the best teams in the league.

11 June 2008

Stotle: M.I.A.

Hi All,

Sorry I've been missing this week. I'm working on the review of the Orioles Draft (which looks like it will be broken into four pieces). I'm out until next week but hope to have this stuff up shortly thereafter.

Other upcoming topics:
- a look at the Depot's Top 20 Orioles Prospects (Multi-Part)
- a look at some prospects to consider come trading season (by organization)
- Scouting the Cape Cod League

We will potentially be covering one or more high school showcases this summer, but that will depend on timing.

Hope to talk to you all soon. Until then I leave you in Crawdaddy's capable hands.


Revisiting Liz's Debut: Fastball Release Point

Today I was going to write about the effect of manager ejections on team performance. Well, I have to cross reference a couple databases to do this and it has been a lot of manual work. I am nowhere near done answering this question in a meaningful way. What I will focus on today was something that was left out of the Liz study I put up last week. It has actually been eating on me and I have been trying to figure out how to show it. I have decided to just do it visually.

Strikes and Balls by Location

My first stab at determining how release point affects control was to use the arrival point as an indication of a ball or strike and compare that to the release point (graph to the right). What you see are two populations. The fastball group is located a little to the bottom and right of the ball group. The difference between the two is clear, but there is overlap. Primarily, the ball group has a lower density as well. A problem that may arise from this analysis is that a ball thrown to the dead center of the strike zone has a lot of room for error and still be considered an accurate pitch. Meanwhile, a pitch on the boundary of the strike zone will have less room for error before considered a poor pitch. This might be the cause for much of the overlap.

Strikes as Called and BABIP
To try to add some sort of qualitative nature to the issue here, I am going beyond pitch arrival location and focusing on the definition of an accurate pitch as one that results in a strike or a ball in play. What we see here is a lot more definition out of the strike release point. Anything over 6.3 feet looks like there is an issue with accuracy. You may notice the strike that has a release point north of 6.5. That one, as expected, resulted in a high fastball. It was chased and hit foul. You can see with this method that the overlap in balls vs strike is decreasing, but there still seems to be a mix in some locations of his release point.

Relating Vertical Release Point to High Fastballs
This is something we all know. Release the ball early and it rides high. One thing that is interesting is that all but five fastballs were within the horizontal bounds of the strike zone. This seems to suggest that Liz doesn't have a horizontal control issue, but that his main problem is not repeating the same release point. The graph shows his issue with high fastballs. He has a high release point. He'll need to be more disciplined in his mechanics to be more effective. As is, he will have difficulty keeping the ball down in the zone. You will notice that the overlap is far less on this graph.

This looks fixable.

10 June 2008

Odds Update: PECOTA Was Being Coy

There seems to be a lot more convergence over the past three weeks. The good folks over at BP have acknowledged that their PECOTA-based odds system was fixed as opposed to dynamic. I have done my best to backtrack and project where PECOTA would have been in the process of predicting the end of season record. I am also updating my own projections on a weekly basis.

ELO - 1:20

09 June 2008

Looking for a Deal: Rickie Weeks

Ken Rosenthal recently wrote how the Brewers have been scouting the Orioles lately. The supposed targets are Brian Roberts and, potentially, George Sherrill.

Here's a deal that makes sense: Brian Roberts for Rickie Weeks. The Brewers, who recently had two scouts watching the Orioles, are interested in Roberts, but it remains to be seen whether they are ready to give up on Weeks.
Roberts, a more accomplished leadoff hitter and better defender than Weeks, is a more natural fit for a contender. The Orioles, meanwhile, could be patient with Weeks defensively, much as the Twins are being patient with the erratic Carlos Gomez. Weeks would be another young, athletic building block to go with Adam Jones and Nick Markakis.
A straight-up deal might be out of the question, considering that Roberts is a free agent after next season while Weeks is under club control through 2011. But the Orioles could add a young pitcher or even one of their veteran relievers while perhaps getting another piece back in return.

I agree that a straight up deal, Roberts for Weeks, would be incredibly in our favor. Weeks is a young talent who has shown flashes of power and OBP skills, but his defensive ability leaves a bit of a need for improvement. To trade him for Roberts seems like a heavy dose of short term thinking on the Brewers part. This is especially true with regard to the Cub juggernaut. Where it does make sense for them is that Roberts is one of the few ideal lead off men in the game. He has speed and he gets on base. He plays average defense and he has a little pop. He probably will not be a league average 2B for another couple years, so you don't lose as much in the long term as you may gain in the short term.

George Sherrill is another player the Brewers may want. Gagne has failed as a closer and Salomon Torres is not someone to count on. Sherrill has a decent track record and is cost controlled. He would be an obvious target player for the Brewers to shore up their pen. The Orioles also have options to replace him. They can plug Jim Johnson back there or they could give Adam Loewen the role when he returns from his farm rehab. I guess most people know I have been down on Loewen for a while now. I think he'll settle in as a 4 pitcher and think that as a closer he has more immediate value to us. If we need him to start next year, we can stretch him out in spring training. Also, Trembley has already stated Loewen is going to be in the pen the rest of the year.

My suggestion:
Brian Roberts, 2B
George Sherrill, Cl
Rickie Weeks, 2B
Matt LaPorta, LF/DH
Brent Brewer, SS

With Corey Hart and Ryan Braun in the outfield, LaPorta is probably somewhat expendable. There is concern that with Fielder heading out one of these days that LaPorta's most likely destination would be 1B, but I think Mat Gamel and Taylor Green will be ready by the time Fielder exits. Mat Gamel might be ready next year. Gamel's superior hitting this year in AA and ability to play 3B most likely makes him more valuable to the Brewers than LaPorta (I think LaPorta is their best guy though). Brent Brewer is a young incredibly toolsy SS. He has not been able to hit for a lick, but he is fast and has a lot of projection to grow. We need guys like this in our system. I also think the Brewers prefer Alicedes Escobar anyway.

I think this would be a fair deal. If the Orioles could squeeze a little bit more out of the Brewers, I'd probably think that Caleb Gindl could be had.

What Andy MacPhail Has Reaped?

This post will be focused on whether or not MacPhail has made the Baltimore Orioles better in the present. This analysis will not consider draft picks, which are primarily dependent upon the scouting department and not the GM these days. This analysis will also view value as value. As in if we traded from a position with depth, we should still expect equal value in return. Players acquired who are in the minors will not count until they actually help the Major League club. The way we will look at this will be via win shares. Oh, and yes, this idea is kind of an extended look at what Dempsey's Army has set up in it's margins (thanks for the idea!). DA only took into consideration trades, I want to have a more inclusive look. I am assuming that Andy Macphail's ability will be reflected in his ability to get a positive win share differential in total and within four areas: trades, free agency, waiver wire, and rule 5 acquisitions. I will mentioned mainly players who have played in the Majors after a move, but not those who wound up out of baseball or mired in the Minors.

MacPhail has engaged in six trades:

John Parrish for Sebastion Boucher
Money for Victor Santos
Money for Victor Zambrano
Steve Trachsel for Scott Moore, Rocky Cherry, and Jake Renshaw

The 2007 season trades resulted in a total win shares of -0.1. This is calculated by adding all of the win shares that the Orioles gained (-1.1) and subtracted it by the win shares the Orioles gave (-1). Needless to say, everyone seems to have lost in these deals. Of all players involved, only Scott Moore had a positive win share value. Now, there is a possibility that Scott Moore becomes a decent guy off the bench, Cherry may have a couple good relief seasons, and Renshaw may find his ways to the majors as a relief pitcher . . . so, this could become more in the Orioles favor.

2007 Offseason
Miguel Tejada for Troy Patton, Luke Scott, Mike Costanzo, Dennis Safarte, and Matt Albers
Eric Bedard for Adam Jones, George Sherrill, Chris Tillman, Tony Butler, and Kam Mikolio

The offseason deals were successful for all teams involved, but more immediately successful for the Orioles. Tejada has done well in his stint with the Astros as he has garnered 9.6 win shares and is on pace to match his 2005 performance level. Eric Bedard has not been so lucky with injuries and a couple poor outings limiting him to 2.3 win shares a third of the way through the season (last year he had 18.7). In total we gave up 11.9 win shares. In return we received 23.9 win shares from Luke Scott, Matt Albers, Dennis Safarte, Adam Jones, and George Sherrill. That is a difference of 12 ws or 4 wins. This is a difference that I imagine will become larger as time passes. Tejada, even at Minute Maid, is experiencing a decrease in power production. Bedard still can look amazing on some nights, but he seems to have some lingering injury issues this year. It is also arguable if the Mariners will be able to sign him.

In total, Andy MacPhail's trades have netted us 11.9 win shares.

Free Agency
The part of the evaluation is not as kind as the former.

Fernando Cabrera (I believe he was signed and not claimed)
2007 Offseason
Guillermo Quiroz, Steve Trachsel, Alex Cintron, and Lance Cormier
Let Go
2007 Offseason
Gustavo Molina, and Corey Patterson

Cabrera (-1.5) and Trachsel (-2.4) overwhelm the positive contributions of Quiroz (0.5), Citron (0.3), and Cormier (1). Most of the people who we have let go do not play in the majors and some are absent from any professional league located in the continental United States. Gustavo Molina has evened himself out with the Mets (-0.2 hitting, 0.2 fielding) and Corey Patterson managed to defend his way to 1.1 win shares before being demoted for Jay Bruce. Although the Orioles have not been big players in free agency, MacPhail has basically gotten nothing out of it so far. As the season wears on, this number should shift toward the positive end as Cintron, Cormier, and most likely Cabrera will contributed for the ML squad. Of course, this assumes they will give a positive contribution, which is certainly not a given.

The free agency win shares total is -3.2.

Waiver Wire

We have only had two waiver wire acquisitions that have contributed to the Major league squad: Gustavo Molina (0.2) and Greg Aquino (-1.5). We have given up three players who have helped other clubs: Kurt Birkins (1.4), Chris Gomez (2.5), and Jeff Fiorentino (0.3). It should be noted that Fiorentino is now back in Norfolk, so his contribution there is not going to change much. This section looks like it will shift more against us. MacPhail, in his short time here, has not been much in terms of a GM who acquires talent on waivers. It may be that nothing was available.

The waiver wire total is -5.8.

Rule 5

Well, this is a short compilation as in the one year MacPhail has been in charge we have acquired one Major League player and given none up. Randor Bierd has contributed 1.4 win shares.

Trades.................... +11.9
Free Agency............... -3.2
Waiver Wire............... -5.8
Rule 5.................... +1.4
Total..................... +4.3

Wins...................... +1.4

In these four areas, MacPhail has done poorly in free agency and the waiver wire. It should be noted that neither is catastrophic. Our free agency misses were spent on one year deals. The same is true with respect to what we gave away. The waiver wire costs were for a journeyman reliever (Birkins) and a utility guy (Gomez). Those two areas represented a cost of 3 losses. Some of those positions are tempered due to the trades, which have been a major source of talent for the squad. Jones replaced Patterson and that is a positive move. Safarte or Albers replaced Birkins, so that was a plus. Tejada has done well, but as the years pass . . . it should go more into the Orioles favor. The same is true with Bedard, but our end should also increase in value. The Rule 5 section should also shift in the O's favor.

Overall, MacPhail has done well. As the years pass and the younger talent emerges, this should become even more clear. He has been able to find a way to make the team far less expensive to run and far richer in talent. He does seem to ignore the waiver wire, but often the players available that have any worth are though in which we have redundancies (i.e. Dan Johnson).

Current Major League Value Grade = C+
Longterm Projected ML Value Grade = B+

08 June 2008

2008 Shadow Draft

How The Draft Was Run

The intent was to do this during the draft in conjunction with each of Baltimore's first five selections. Though our draft day coverage was cut short due to the demands of the real world, the Shadow Draft has been run. Each pick was made without taking into account the actual happenings in later rounds -- in other words we did not note where various players went and then draft accordingly (we'll point out players we missed out on and overdrafts we may have made). We will follow the careers of these players, occasionally comparing their progress with the progress of the actual players drafted by Baltimore. And now, on to our draft!

1:4 -- Brian Matusz (SP) University of San Diego
6'4" : 200 lbs : B/T (L/L)
1.71/1.00, 105 IP, 22 BB, 141 SO, 83 H, .211 BAA
Scouted: Film

Brian Matusz makes history as the first member of the Camden Depot Shadow Farm System, and what a building block he'll be. Since we've already provided a fairly in-depth scouting report (linked above) and will be examining Matusz in our Orioles recap, we will not spend much time on him here. He has the potential for four above-average Major League pitches and some tweaks to his motion could increase his velocity (it currently sits anywhere from 88 to 92). He'll move quickly through the system and while many place him as a future #2 we are confident that with some work he could be a staff anchor.

Actual Draft Slot: 1:4 (Baltimore Orioles)

MLB Scouting Video: Available at the Orioles Draft Recap

Notes: Many of our readers insist that Justin Smoak was the pick we should have made. While Smoak should be an excellent producer, we felt a polished lefty with room for growth and an advanced repertoire on the mound was more valuable to our system. A case can be made for each but we are satisfied Matusz was the correct pick, here.

2:4 -- Tim Melville (SP) Holt High School (Missouri)
6'5" : 210 lbs : B/T (R/R)
3.00/1.00, 47 IP, 15 BB, 72 SO, 32 H
Scouted: Film

It's difficult to know whether Melville tumbled due to an uneven showing this past high school season or because of signability concerns. Either way, we couldn't let the opportunity to land a second preseason top 10 selection pass us by. Melville is a big body who already possesses above-average arm strength. His arsenal consists of a low 90s fastball, an inconsistent knucklecurve with good depth and plus-potential and a changeup that is currently a "show me" pitch. Mechanically, he is sound, though there is certainly room for improvement. He doesn't do a good job of centering over the rubber, instead tending to start towards home before the apex of his leg kick. There is plenty of room in his frame for him to thicken and, accordingly, add even more velocity. He's far from a finished product, but the upside is undeniable and his tool set and raw stuff is first rate. Melville will be a tough sign, but we have plenty saved after cutting payroll -- we saw this as our chance to make this draft a success with two picks alone.

Actual Draft Slot: 4:3 (Kansas City Royals)

MLB Scouting Video: Available at the Royals Draft Recap

Notes: Though Melville would have been available at 3:4, it turns out not to matter as we likely would have selected Kieschnick here anyway.

3:4 -- Roger Kieschnick (OF) Texas Tech
6'3" : 215 lbs : B/T (L/R)
.305/.407/.632, 220 AB, 15 2B, 3 3B, 17 HR, 35 BB, 42 SO
Scouted: July 20, 2007 -- USA vs. Cuba (Film)

Roger Kieschnick is a great get for our system in the third round. We were close to selecting him at 2:4 and were thrilled to find him still on the board one round later. Again, our focus was trying to identify potential first round talents and Kieschnick more than makes the grade. His largest shortcoming this season was being a little too aggressive at the plate, striking out 42 times while walking only 35. He was successful at the plate last season (posting a batting average 50 points higher than this season), but his '08 struggles have (unfoundedly, we think) forced scouts to question his offensive approach.

Further, we disagree with scouts who have said there isn't enough in his lower half to generate power at the next level. He opens his hips a little early and gets the bat head out in front, limiting some of his power to "pull-side". Still he was able to generate adequate power this season (over half of his hits went for extra bases) as well as with a wood bat last summer with Team USA (over a third of his hits went for extra bases). We're confident there is plus-power potential here. His bat is otherwise clean through its swing plane, though some looseness in his lead arm would allow him to better get inside the ball and drive it to the opposite field. Defensively, Kieschnick flashes a plus-arm and takes clean lines to the ball, making him an excellent fit in right field. He also flashes above-average speed. He is a potential five-tool outfielder with moderate questions surrounding his swing -- an easy pick for us at 3:4.

Actual Draft Slot: 3:5 (San Francisco Giants)

MLB Scouting Video: Available at the Giants Draft Recap

Notes: After passing on Kieschnick in Round 2, we would have considered James Darnell (3B) University of South Carolina here had he still been around. Dave Adams (2B) University of Virginia was the target for Round 4.

4:4 -- Brandon Crawford (SS) University of California - Los Angeles
6'2" : 200 lbs : B/T (L/R)
.302/.394/.491, 13 2B, 5 3B, 7 HR, 31 BB, 59 SO
Scouted: March 1, 2008 vs. Bethune-Cookman (Film)

Sticking with the theme of first round upside, Brandon Crawford is an easy selection at 4:4. Our hope was that David Adams (2B) University of Virginia would fall past the third, but Crawford is a fine consolation prize. The two middle-infielders were attractive for similar reasons -- both displayed future first round talent in their freshman and sophomore years before suffering through down junior campaigns. Crawford struggled last summer in the Cape Cod League, and his uncertainty at the plate carried over through the start of the season. Dating back to the Cape, he has been pressing rather than letting his game flow naturally. As his struggled continued, he pressed harder -- regularly lunging at pitches and frequently showing signs of frustration. He has demonstrated a potential for plus-power, but he'll have to improve his contact rate to realize it.

Though uncomfortable at the plate this year, Crawford was again clean and true in the field. He ranges well to both sides and charges the ball well. His footwork is advanced and his plus-arm will easily play at the next level. Even if his bat doesn't mature, his floor is a great utility option with the ability to play any infield position at the next level -- fine value in the fourth round. If he's able to find his swing, he could be a solid everyday player. Now that he is starting his pro career, he should be able to put his struggles behind him and just focus on playing. With lowered expectations, some of the spotlight should be off him, allowing him to develop at his own pace.

Actual Draft Slot: 4:5 (San Francisco Giants)

MLB Scouting Video: Available at the Giants Draft Recap

Notes: Crawford is a high risk pick, but in our estimate a reasonable risk for the fourth round. We would have preferred the offensive upside of David Adams but are confident Crawford will be a nice start to building solid speed and defensive depth up the middle.

5:4 -- Brian Humphries (OF) Granite Hills High School (Calif.)
6'3" : 190 lbs : B/T (L/R)
.390 AVG / .602 SLG, 98 AB, 8 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR
Scouted: Film

We fell in love with Brian Humphries's tool set and frame (which we project could eventually produce plus-power at the Major League level). He has an average arm in CF, fringe-above-average speed and fringe-above-average defense. As he fills out his frame and becomes more comfortable with his size, he should show steady improvement in his consistency in the field (which has been a red flag for some scouts).

His offensive game is unrefined, but his size and above-average hand-eye coordination has produced flashes of brilliance at various showcases. He tends to hit off of his front foot a bit too much, and his swing tends to get a little tight and herky-jerky from stride to contact. Humphries is committed to Pepperdine, so this is another signability pick that we believe is worth the investment. Baseball America agrees that three years from now Humphries could be among the top talents in the 2011 draft -- we'd like that development to happen in our farm system rather than at Pepperdine.

Actual Draft Slot: 19:30 (Boston Red Sox)

MLB Scouting Video: Available at the Red Sox Draft Recap

Notes: Humphries's drop to the 19th round was likely tied to signability issues. As noted above, our approach was to identify the best talent available and pursue it aggressively.

Grading Ourselves

While this may not be the way that Major League teams approach the draft, we considered Baltimore's reduced payroll to be an excuse to up our draft budget by a couple of million dollars. Matusz has been rumored to be be highly signable (for close to slot) as he's apparently eager to get his pro season started. There should be enough in our budget to aggressively pursue Melville. I'd go so far as to offer top 10 money, which I firmly believe to be enough to keep him out of Chapel Hill. Prior to the start of the season, there was no indication that his commitment was rock solid.

Kieschnick and Crawford represent high upside picks that we feel are not as risky as the stats may make them out to be. Both have shown a track record of success prior to their respective hiccups in 2008. Both have tool sets that should allow them to provide value both in the field and at the plate, regardless of if they fully realize their ceiling with regards to both aspects of their games.

Humphries represents our attempt to land a first round talent three years before he's developed into that talent. Again, there was no indication entering the season that Humphries was unsignable, though it will certainly take an aggressive offer. He has the frame and base skill set to ultimately develop into an above-average Major Leaguer (though his tools are all only fringe-above-average right now).

Let us know what you think -- we'll update you as soon as our players sign!

07 June 2008

Radhames Liz 2008 Debut and Pitch f/x

On June 3, Radhames Liz was recalled from AAA Norfolk where he is 1-5 with a 4.05 era in a pitcher's park. His peripherals there are actually quite good with a 0.6 HR/9, 8.7 K/9, and a 3.8 BB/9, but his WHIP is at a pedestrian 1.35. When he is not striking people out, he seems to be quite hittable. His groundball rate is 34%, which isn't great. In the game against the Twins, he basically did the same as he was doing in Norfolk. He threw into the sixth, struckout guys at a decent clip (4Ks), walked one, and did not give up a homerun. One thing he did that has been different from his Norfolk norm is that he actually took in a win. To see if we can squeeze a little more out of his 2008 debut, we'll turn to Pitch f/x data.


Liz throws three different pitches: fastball, changeup, and slider. They could each be quality pitches, but there is some control issues that need to be iron out before he can become a top end of the rotation kind of pitcher.

Liz' fastball covers a wide range of speeds, hovering between 90 and 98 mph. Typically on the slightly higher end as he average about 94.4 mph. He relies on this pitch over two thirds of the time and it often sets up his change up and slider. He throws his change up 10% of the time and it runs in about 85 +/- 2 mph. It may be the result of a small sample size, but it appears that he almost exclusively uses this pitch on two strike counts. He throws his slider 20% of the time and will throw this pitch on any count occasion. Based on this one outing, it does not appear that he uses different pitches for different handed batters.


He gets a lot of tailing movement off his fastball, which suggests he is throwing a lot of two-seamers. The way you should read this chart is as if you are facing the pitcher. You will see the fastball tails into right handed batters and away from lefties. What is unusual about his change up is that he gets so little tail on it in comparison to his fastball (one less inch on average) It drops 5.5 inches more than the fastball, so that helps with deception. In terms of trajectory, these two pitches look identical except for speed, which is probably why it is a two strike pitch. It doesn't look like that good of a change up, so he may have been utilizing it in places where they were completing looking to catch up on his hard, tailing fastball. The slider looks like an average slider, but it is all over the place.

Release Point

A consistent release point is also key to being able to deceive the batter. Pitches that are thrown from the same slot give the batter less time to make a correct identification. What you will notice is that there is a great deal of variation in the release point. Fastballs are typically thrown from a diagonal oval about 3 inches side to side and 5-6 inches in height. Variation going from top left to bottom right is more of an issue with timing in the release. Variation from right to left in a downward movement is a result of a changing arm slot. You can see how Liz' slot differs on his slider. He throws it at a slightly lower slot than his fastball. I'm not sure if the difference in throwing pattern is discernible to the batter. The change up looks to be all over. Just eye-balling it, he seems to have only thrown three change ups properly.


On his fastball, he seems to be overthrowing a bit or opening himself. The reason why I write this is that he is locating high in the strike zone. He did not throw much of anything in the 18-24 inch slot, which is typically the bottom quarter of the strike zone. I'm not sure why a pitcher would choose to do that, so I assume he just couldn't hit his marks down there. That is usually due to overthrowing or a mechanical flaw. He only threw three of his change ups for strikes, but he really only threw it with a two strike counts and I imagine he was trying to get a batter to chase one. For the most part, it did induce a swing. He throws his slider reasonably well in terms of location. It seems to hit about where he would want it to the majority of the time. Still, as with all of the pitches, I am confused why he repeatedly did not hit the bottom fourth of the strike zone. I took a look at other pitchers the night and where balls and strikes were called. The data looks right.


The only thing I can really comment on is that Liz did a great job staying ahead in the count. The Twins are know for having a hack first philosophy when it comes to hitting, so I am unsure to what extent this game played out differently than if Liz went against a more patient lineup (i.e. Yankees). To remind everyone, I defined the count as to proximity to an end. For instance two balls and one strike was considered an even count in my analysis because the pitcher is two balls from a walk and two strikes from a strikeout.

Batted Ball Data

There really isn't enough data for me to put together a graph as it would most likely imply more than can really be said about his performance the other night. His batted ball data does cause some concern. Sixteen balls were hit into the field of play. Only three (19%) were ground balls. This is a bit extreme. I think he will settle in probably around 35%, so this should improve even though I doubt with his current style he will be a groundball pitcher. He was lucky with his flyballs (50%) as none were hit over the fence. On average, about one out of every eight to ten flyballs will be hit for homeruns. The rest were line drives and he was benefited by a slightly depressed BABIP for line drives (.600). I think the key thing to take home from this is that this sort of trajectory data completely fits in with the location chart. His pitches were ignoring the bottom of the zone and you should see more line drives and flyballs. That is what happened.


Liz has a great fastball. He throws it hard and it has a very good tail to it. His change up looks a little weak. His slider looks slightly above average. His release point needs more consistency. It isn't horrible, but he does seem to need to tighten his release vertically in order to improve command and lower his pitches in the zone. By ignoring the bottom quarter of the strike zone, he is putting himself in a dangerous position when he faces a team that is slightly luckier and has more power potential. He needs to figure out how to induce groundballs or at least use all of the strikezone. Liz can be a very good pitcher, but I do not think he is there yet.

06 June 2008

Craw's Schedule

I'm not sure what Stotle's schedule is, but here is mine:

Saturday: Radhames Liz 2008 Debut Review
Monday: ML level +/- of MacPhail's decisions
Tuesday: Odds update will be back with new correction for my projections
Wednesday: Effect of Managerial Ejections on Team Performance
Thursday: Any suggestions?

Thanks once again for checking out the site. All of you make this site worthwhile running it. Stotle should have a breakdown next week of both rounds and I am pretty eager about hearing his take on a couple guys selected today.

Remaining Shadow Draft

Apologies for the delay, but the remaining Shadow Draft will be pushed off until the weekend. Thanks for following along with us; we hope you enjoyed the first day of the Draft!

First Day Recap

The first six rounds were completed yesterday. The actual selections are as follows:

1. Brian Matusz, LHSP, San Diego
2. Xavier Avery, CF, Cedar Grove HS, GA
He is perhaps the best athlete in the draft. He has signed a letter of intent to play football, but is considered a relatively easy sign. He will most likely play football in the fall and baseball at all other times. He possesses a lot of speed, but it is questionable if power will develop. With safer players available, Avery provides a great amount of upside and probably a bit more risk than what I would be comfortable with.
3. Jerome Hoes, 2B, St John HS, MD
He is a local boy who was asking for 1-3 rd money or he would go to school, so he should most likely be a good signing. Hoes is another guy who has a lot of upside, but there is also risk.
4. Kyle Hudson, CF, Illinois-Champaign
He has some speed and has good plate patience, but he has no arm. He seems like someone you would want to give a look at 2B, but he may be slotted for LF. To me, he seems to be a 4th outfielder type of guy if he develops. Tim Melville went to the Royals just before this pick.
5. Greg Miclat, SS, Virginia
He seems to have a somewhat advanced perspective at the plate, which makes his growth somewhat limited. He has no power. My best guess at upside is slightly above Brandon Fahey.
6. Richard Zagone, LHSP, Missouri-Columbia
I once accidentally saw him pitch. I never go to college games, but I was doing some work in Columbia and saw this lefty with a weird leg kick. Awfully high leg kick and he seems to open his shoulders up a bit much, running off to the side. I think it lowers his speed and results in wildness. Anyway, he camps out with his fastball in the high 80s and works in some offspeed pitches.

When Stotle comes back on-line . . . I am sure he will correct me.

05 June 2008

2008 Shadow Draft

***At 2:4(#50) the Baltimore Orioles Select ____________ ***

5:45pm Unfortunately, we will not be able to go live with our second Shadow Pick, but this is currently the five we are looking at for 2:4(#50):

1. Jordy Mercer (SS) Oklahoma State University
2. Tim Melville (SP) Holt High School (Missouri)
3. Dennis Raben (OF) University of Miami (FL)
4. Roger Kieschnick (OF) Texas Tech
5. James Darnell (3B) University of South Carolina

We're leaning towards Melville (pictured above), a pre-season top 10 pick, though the preference was to take a bat with this pick. Mercer makes the most sense in that regard, but Raben, Kieschnick and Darell all profile as above-average hitters with power.

5:28pm I will be called away shortly, but will try to stick around long enough to put in our second Shadow Pick. Upadates will continue later this evening, including a Day 1 Draft Wrap. Thanks for following along!

5:14pm The first round concluded with the following picks:

1:26 ARI -- Daniel Sclereth (RP) University of Arizona
1:27 MIN -- Carlos Gutierrez (CP) University of Miami (FL)
1:28 NYA -- Gerrit Cole (SP) Orange Lutheran High School (Calif.)
1:29 CLE -- Lonne Chisenhall (SS) Pitt Community Coll.
1:30 BOS -- Casey Kelly (SS) Sarasota High School (Florida)

The last five picks feature three pitchers that all project to be power relievers (Cole still has starter potential) and two interesting picks at shortstop. Chisenhall began at South Carolina, hitting third between the likes of Smoak, Havens and James Darnell. At the beginning of conference play in his first season, he was arrested for grand larceny and burglary and was subsequently dismissed from the team. After pleading guilty and receiving six-months probation, he surfaced at Pitt and re-dedicated himself. He is a bat-first infielder that probably projects best as a 2B.

Boston stayed true to form selecting a high-ceiling player that will be difficult to sign (Kelly has a scholarship to both play baseball and quarterback the Tennessee Volunteer football team). In Gerrit Cole (pictured above), the Yankees have a power HS arm with what some have described as questionable make-up. He could move quickly as a reliever, though the Yankees will likely start him off in a rotation if for no other reason than to get him his innings. Sclereth may be the current over-pick in the draft, as most had him going in the mid- to late-second round.

4:25pm At 1:21 the Tigers grab a solid right-handed starter in Arizona Wildcat Ryan Perry. Perry sports a plus-plus fastball though it lacks deception, causing it to play down. He has a serviceable changeup, but his power fastball/slider combo have most projecting him as a closer. Reese Havens (SS) University of South Carolina goes to the Mets at 1:22. Havens profiles as a shortstop at the ML-level and should hit towards the front of a ML-lineup. Allan Dykstra (1B) Wake Forest University (pictured left) goes to San Diego at 1:23. Dykstra didn't give scouts a ton to go on because he was stuck in a weak-hitting Demon Deacon lineup, making him easy to pitch around. There is plus-power in his bat and his 6'5" 240 pound frame, and an advanced approach at the plate. On knock is that he tends to be overly-patient, and could benefit from being a little more aggressive early on fastball counts. Philly grabs Vandy commit Anthony Hewitt (OF/SS) Salisbury (Conn.) School. Signability concerns make this a high-risk/high-reward pick in the first round. More info on Hewitt is available in our Draft Preview Scouting Report: Rounds 2-3. Christian Friedrich (SP) Eastern Kentucky University is officially the first steal of the draft, going to Colorado at 1:25. A case could be made for him going in the top 10, as he combines a power curve, a low-80s slider, a low-90s heater and an advanced approach on the mound. Coming into today he was clearly the second best lefty available in the draft.

4:03pm Had to briefly step away. One surprise in the top 10 as Houston selects Jason Castro (C) Stanford University. Castro was a consensus 1st round pick, but few if any saw him as a top 10 talent. Further confusing the matter is the fact that Houston promoted their top prospect this year, J.R. Towles, a hitting-first catcher. Picks 1:8 and 1:9 were reasonable selections with Gordon Beckham going to the White Sox and Aaron Crow heading to the Nats.

1:11 TEX -- Justin Smoak (1B) University of South Carolina
1:12 OAK -- Jemile Weeks (2B) University of Miami (FL)

1:13 STL -- Brett Wallace (3B) Arizona State University
1:14 MIN -- Aaron Hicks (OF) Woodrow Wilson High School (Calif.)
1:15 LAN -- Ethan Martin (SP) Stephens COunty School (Georgia)
1:16 MIL -- Brett Lawrie (C) Brookswood SS (Brit. Col.)
1:17 TOR -- David Cooper (1B) University of California (Berkley)
1:18 NYN -- Ike Davis (1B) Arizona State University
1:19 CHN -- Andrew Cashner (CP/SP) Texas Christian University

1:20 SEA -- Josh Fields (CP) University of Georgia

It's a bit surprising to see Smoak falling out of the top 10 -- Texas faired pretty well with there last switch-hitting 1b selected in the first round. Jemile Weeks (pictured above) goes about five picks earlier than I expected. He does not have the power potential of his older brother, Milwaukee Brewer 2b Rickie Weeks, and is a bit of a reach this high with so many impact bats still available. Weeks should be a solid MLer, but I don't think he's the impact player you look for this high in the first round. Fields is a solid pick for SEA and has the stuff, command and poise to be pitching out of a ML bullpen right now.

2:54pm The top two catchers in the draft go 1:5 and 1:6 as the Giants select Posey and the Florida Marlins select Kyle Skipworth (C) Patriot High School(Calif.). The first surprise of the afternoon goes to Cincy, as the Reds opt for Yonder Alonso (1B) University of Miami (FL). Alonso is one of the best college bats in the draft, projecting to hit for power and average. Aside from Alvarez, there is probably not a more Major League-ready bat than Alonso. He should hit for a little more average than Smoak but is a far inferior defender. It will be curious to see what the Reds do, as they have young stud Joey Votto at the 3-spot right now. If Alonso signs early he could be ML-ready by some time next season.

2:34pm***At 1:4 the Baltimore Orioles Select (Actual: Brian Matusz (SP) University of San Diego; Shadow: Brian Matusz (SP) University of San Diego)***
Matusz is at the top of our draft board and we're excited to add the talented lefty as the first prospect in our shadow farm system. We've discussed him a fair amount already so I'll forgo the rest of the analysis until next week when we start our draft review.

2:28pm At 1:3 the Kansas City Royals select Eric Hosmer. Looks like the board is going as expected. Baltimore is up!

2:24pm At 1:2 the Pittsburgh Pirates select Pedro Alvarez. Apparently Beckham was not slipping past Pittsburgh, as word has come out the two were deep into their negotiations last night in-case Tampa opted for Posey at 1:1. As far as the Pirates are concerned, they are at Boras's mercy as they cannot afford to let Pedro's demands get in the way of signing him after last year's debacle (passing on Wieters for Moskos).

2:15pm At 1:1 the Tampa Bay Rays select Tim Beckham (SS) Griffin HS (Georgia). No surprises here.

1:40pm Word is still that Pittsburgh is locked in on Pedro Alvarez. Nothing more out of the Kansas City camp, but the odds still favor selection of Eric Hosmer (1B) American Heritage HS (Florida) (pictured left). We did not determine Hosmer to be a likely target for Baltimore, so he was not included in our preview. He may have the best power potential of any draftee, but it was believed that his stiff signing bonus demands (his advisor, Scott Boras, indicated Hosmer would be seeking $7mio) would drop him at least out of the top 5. Now, Kansas City looks like they will be pairing him with last year's 1:2 selection, Mike Moustakas (SS) Chatsworth High School (Calif.). Both would project to arrive with the big club around 2013.

1:25pm We expect Tampa to go with Griffin HS standout shortstop Tim Beckham. Our best guess is Brian Matusz will be the best available when we pick, but no one predicted Wieters falling to us last year. There are still some fingers crossed that someone throws a curve and we get one of Pedro Alvarez or Tim Beckham.

04 June 2008

Draft Preview -- Final War Room Review

Well, the Draft is finally upon us. Here is a summary of where we stand for the First Annual Camden Depot Shadow Draft for the Orioles, as well as some recommended links to use while you follow the draft. Though most will likely follow on MLB.com, ESPN or various message boards, please feel free to comment below as the day progresses. To the extent there are questions and/or comments, I'll be responding.

Now, onto our War Room.

Camden Depot Shadow War Room

Our Draft Board for 1:4 has changed a bit. Word came out last night that Buster Posey is looking for $12mio. While we believe we should take the best talent available, we can't justify paying twice the price for Posey that we paid for Wieters. Accordingly, he has dropped to sixth on our board. As it currently stands, we rank the players for 1:4 as follows:

1. Pedro Alvarez
2. Tim Beckham
3. Brian Matusz
4. Justin Smoak
5. Aaron Crow
6. Buster Posey
7. Gordon Beckham

Our current projection is that Tampa will be selecting Tim Beckham at 1:1 Pittsburgh will opt for Pedro Alvarez and Kansas City will be choosing between Eric Hosmer and Justin Smoak (Hosmer the likely selection).

After 1:4 has been selected, we will start updating our top 5 for 2:4.

Links for the Draft

Here are some good links to info as you follow the Draft:

- Great discussion regarding the Orioles's draft at the Orioles Hangout Draft Board
- Baseball America's Top 200 Player Chart
- Baseball America's Draft Page (Most Content for Members Only)
- MLB.com Draft Coverage
- MLB-Draft.com gives a run down of their projected first 50 picks and some solid info on the players.

Draft coverage will officially start at 1:30 EST for us. Enjoy the links and please check back in to see who we select at 1:4!

Draft Preview -- Beyond 1:4 (Rounds 4-5 and Signability Fliers)

Continuing with our look at Round 2 through Round 5...

Round 4

Josh Romanski (SP) University of San Diego
6'0" / 185lbs / B-T (L/L)
Scouted: July 20, 2007 USA vs. Cuba ( Film)
4.00/1.11, 96.2 IP, 20 BB, 78 SO, .240 BAA
Romanski offers a nice balance of solid arsenal and good command, while not setting himself apart in either respect. He sits in the upper-90s with his fastball and gets good late movement away from right-handers. His curveball is a potential above-average pitch, and he mixes in a changeup and slider, as well. Like teammate Brian Matusz, Romanski is generally clean through his mechanics. One item that will likely be addressed at the pro level is his tendency to finish by falling-off to his glove-hand side. Though he was knocked around with Team USA last summer, he was impressive in the PanAm Games gold medal matchup with Cuba (the game scouted), appearing in relief and posting a line of 1.1 IP, 1 BB, 1 H, 2 SO, 0 ER. Romanski profiles anywhere from a back-of-the-rotation starter to a number 3, depending on who you talk to. He would be a relatively safe pick after round 3 and is a good bet to find a spot in a Major League rotation.

Chase Davidson (1B) Milton High School (Georgia)
6'5" / 222lbs / B-T (L/R)
Scouted: Film
.429 AVG / 1.071 SLG, 70 AB, 5 2B, 2 3B, 12 HR

Davidson has plus-power potential, though it hasn’t consistently manifested itself in games. At 6’5” and 216 pounds he is well on his way to filling out his Major League frame and is athletic enough for teams to try him at RF/LF. He has good bat speed, though his mechanics leave a fair amount of room for improvement – especially in his weight transfer. He'll need to improve his balance and avoid falling off and opening up his hips too early in order to realize his full potential as a future power hitter. He profiles as a #4 or #5 and presents good power upside to go along with a Major League average bat. He is a well below average runner, clocking in at 4.56 seconds to firstbase.

Lance Lynn (SP) University of Mississippi
6'5" / 250lbs / B-T (R/R)
Not Scouted
4.52/1.35, 89.2 IP, 110 SO, 31 BB, .251 BAA

Lynn does not have electric stuff, but he has been a consistent producer at Ole Miss. His arsenal is built around a low-90s fastball and a low-80s slider. Both his curveball and changeup pitch up because of his command, but project to be average offerings. Lynn isn’t a frontline starter, but should be a safe bet to be a solid workhorse at the back of a competitive rotation. In addition to solid numbers at Ole Miss, he was impressive last summer with Team USA, posting a line of 2-1, 1.80/0.84, 25 IP, 26 SO, 9 BB, .136 BAA.

David Adams (2B) University of Virginia
6'2" / 205lbs / B-T (R/R)
Scouted: March 29, 2008 vs. Virginia Tech (Film); May 25, 2008 vs. Miami (Film)
.286/.384/.411, 231 AB, 11 2B, 0 3B, 6 HR

Adams's down season has likely dropped him from a 2nd rounder (or possible 1st round or supplemental pick) to at least a 4th or 5th Rounder. After an impressive junior campaign, he saw his batting average fall over 100 points this season. He has gap-to-gap power and doesn't figure to hit many homeruns as a Major Leaguer. He has a professional approach at the plate that translated into successful campaigns his freshman and sophomore year at UVA, as well as in the Cape Cod Summer League (though some have expressed concerns that his swing will not play at the next level). Defensively, he profiles as an average 2B with above-average baseball instincts. His arm is probably not strong enough to play at 3B professionally, though he was recruited by UVA to follow in Ryan Zimmerman's footsteps. Adams is a moderate risk in the 4th or 5th round that could reap late 1st round dividends.

Anthony Capra (SP) Wichita State University
6'1" / 200lbs / B-T (L/L)
Scouted: Not Scouted
2.87/1.17, 75.1 IP, 87 SO, 30 BB, .212 BAA

In Capra's first season as a member of the Shockers's rotation, Capra dominated in route to a 9-0 record in 11 games started. The lefty sits in the 88-93 range with his fastball, which shows good boring action and late life. His changeup was arguably the best in the Missouri Valley Conference and rates as a plus-pitch that could miss Major League bats. There are conditioning concerns as Capra is a little heavy for his frame, but this should not affect his draft slotting. To be successful at the professional levels he will have to fine tune his curveball, which is inconsistent to be kind. He may be well-suited to scrap it and work on a splitter or a slider, which would play nicely off of his fastball and changeup.

Round 5

Cole St. Clair (SP) Rice University
6'5" / 225lbs / B-T (L/L)
Not Scouted
2.65/1.12, 54.1 IP, 60 SO, 16 BB, .230 BAA

Cole St. Clair is a first round talent that has struggled to regain his velocity following a weightlifting injury. Formerly sitting in the mid-90s with his fastball, this year St. Clair was closer to the upper-80s, topping out at around 91. His curveball is an average pitch with above-average potential, though he has struggled with it as well since the injury. His command is above-average and, coupled with a deceptive delivery, has allowed him to continue to thrive in a challenging Conference USA. Provided St. Clair can find his velocity during the upcoming offseason, it's possible someone will end up with a first round arm between picks 100 and 200. Orioles fans might hope for an Arrieta Re-dux.

Brian Humphries (OF) Granite Hills High School (Calif.)
6'3" / 170lbs / B-T (L/R)
Not Scouted
.398 AVG /.602 SLG, 98 AB, 8 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR

Humphries was hot and cold throughout the summer circuit, leaving scouts uncertain as to his slotting for the 2008 Draft. After some impressive showing in Wood Bat leagues, and a noticeable physical maturing this past winter, Humphries entered the season as a mostly-projection player with impressive upside. The Pepperdine commit shows plus-speed and the potential to develop above-average power, while drawing mixed reviews in the outfield. Humphries has the frame and athleticism to warrant a Round 5 selection, even without a refined offensive game. There is enough here for an organization to work with, and Humphries periodic success with wood makes the pick a little easier to make.

Michael Tonkin (SP) Palmdale High School (Calif.)
6'6" / 192lbs / B-T (R/R)
Not Scouted
2.23/1.07, 67 IP, 97 SO, 11 BB

Tonkin has the size and velocity to throw in a Major League rotation. His fastball sits in the low- to mid-90s, with a boring 2-seamer and a straight 4-seamer. He shows good feel for his changeup and his sweeping curveball shows flashes of a potential fringe-above-average pitch. Like most prep pitchers, Tonkin will need to smooth out a lot of kinks with his motion, but his arsenal is a solid base upon which to build. He has the upside of a middle-of-the-rotation arm, and the size to project as a dependable workhorse. He is currently committed to Southern Cal.

Mark Sobolewski (3B) University of Miami
6'1" / 200lbs / B-T (R/R)
Scouted: May 24, 2008 vs. NC State (Film); May 25, 2008 vs. Virginia (Film)
.326/.393/.483, 230 AB, 13 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR

As an eligible sophomore, it may be difficult to sign Sobolewski as another year could vault him into the first round and perhaps the top 10. He has above-average power and clean compact swing. While he shows the ability to spray balls to all fields, he could stand to improve his approach a bit as most of his power comes when he pulls the ball. In the field, Sobolewski was inconsistent to say the least. The good news is that his struggles were primarily throwing issues and further had nothing to do with his footwork. He has a tendency to drop down and throw across his body, leading to throws that sailed on him from time to time. He has the hands, range and arm to stay at third base and perhaps perform at an above-average level. The Hurricane's clean-up hitter should garner plenty of attention on draft day, though it remains to be seen if a team will be able to pry him away. It wouldn't hurt if Miami were to win a title this year in Omaha.

Brandon Crawford (SS) UCLA
6'5" / 210lbs / B-T (L/R)
Scouted: March 1, 2008 vs. Bethune-Cookman (Film)
.302/.394/.491, 232 AB, 13 2B, 5 3B, 7 HR

One of the top middle infielders in the class coming into 2008, Crawford has suffered through a supremely disappointing season, striking out in just over 1 out of every 4 at bats. He has fringe-plus power but has not been able to develop it in games, primarily because of his high strikeout totals. One aspect of his game that has not fallen-off is his defense. He is athletic and has the range and arm to make each shortstop play in the manual. In addition to above-average defense and a plus arm, Crawford flashes fringe-above-average speed. If he can get his offensive game back on track, he could be a steal.

Some Signability Fliers for Rounds 6 and Up

Ryan Westmoreland (OF) Portsmouth High School (R.I.)
6'2" / 185lbs / B-T (L/R)
Not Scouted
.508 AVG / .902 SLG, 61 AB, 7 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR

Despite wishful thinking from Red Sox fans, rumors have circulated that Westmoreland is all but guaranteed to head to Vanderbilt, following in his mother's footsteps. Westmoreland features plus-speed and an above-average arm and average defense, profiling as a future CF at the professional level. His superior hand-eye coordination allows him to consistently square up on the ball, though he'll have to work on his mechanics to start driving the ball with more force. Like many prep hitters, he's gotten by on "metal bat" bat speed and accurate hands -- he'll need to build more power through his legs to take the next step.

Dan Hultzen (SP) St. Albans High School (D.C.)
6'2" / 195lbs / B-T (L/L)
Not Scouted
0.82/0.53, 66 IP, 127 SO, 13 BB

The likely Virginia Cavalier-to-be throws his fastball in the upper-80s to low-90s with good boring action and brings a fringe-above-average slurve to the table, as well. The lefty has further flashed various show-me pitches, including a split-finger, but for now relies primarily on his fastball/slurve combo. He shows solid command over his best two offerings and could conceivably wind-up a legitimate Round 1 talent if he can't be lured away from Charlottesville.

Sonny Gray (SP) Smyrna High School (Tenn.)
6'0" / 185lbs / B-T (R/R)
Scouted: Film
0.79/0.91, 35 IP, 78 SO, 17 BB

Gray is a little undersized for a pitcher, though you'd never know it from his radar gun readings. His fastball sits in the mid- to upper-90s and his curveball is a second above-average offering that sits in the mid-80s. Throughout the summer circuit he threw each with command and confidence. His size has some profiling him as a shut-down power closer, though he'll likely get the chance to start wherever he ends up. His strong commitment to Vanderbilt may make signing him an issue, but his arm is too good for a team not to take a flier on him.

Jordan Swagerty (SP/C) Prestonwood Christian Academy (Texas)
6'1" / 175lbs / B-T (R/R)
Scouted: Film
0.50/0.55, 83 IP, 147 SO, 10 BB

Swaggerty is not far enough along is his offensive game to warrant top consideration and he has happily committed to Arizona State. These two facts may make it difficult for teams to draft and sign the starting catcher from last year's Junior U.S. National Team. Behind the plate he is efficient and shows a good feel for receiving and throwing. At the plate, his swing lacks force (from both sides of the plate). A bump in velocity since last summer has scouts looking at him primarily as a pitcher. He sits in the low-90s with his fastball and shows average feel for his curveball. Relatively new to the mound, he has a lot of developmental time ahead of him to improve his pitchability. As a tool set, he is an intriguing package that could easily find himself in the first round in three years should he continue on to Arizona State.

Brett Mooneyham (SP) Buhach Colony High School (Calif.)
6'5" / 220lbs / B-T (L/L)
Not Scouted
0.49/1.19, 43 IP, 56 SO, 36 BB

The big bodied lefty is one of the top prep lefties in this year’s class and will likely be among the most difficult to sign. In addition to being a Boras advisee, Mooneyham has excelled as a student and has committed to Stanford. He has a big league frame and stands to add a little more size, as well as velocity, making him an intriguing project. Currently, his fastball sits in the low-90s, occasionally touching as high as 95. While he has not yet had to rely on secondary pitches, his slider stands to be a potential above-average offering. It's reasonable to think that as he cleans up his mechanics and fills-in his frame he could add a few more mph. Rumblings among scouts indicate that Mooneyham is nearly unsignable, but his impressive frame and big league "stuff" should draw a late pick and solid run at signing.

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