12 January 2010

Baseball America Loves us...well, sort of...by extension

To recap, we've run a shadow draft the last two Junes, noting the selection we would make were we drafting for the Orioles in their slots. Here are the results (first five rounds in 2008 and first ten rounds in 2009):

Year (Round) - Player
2008 (1) - Brian Matusz, LHP, Univ. of San Diego
2008 (2) - Tim Melville, RHP, Holt HS (MO)
2008 (3) - Roger Kieschnick, RF, Texas Tech
2008 (4) - Brandon Crawford, SS, UCLA
2008 (5) - Brian Humphries, OF, Granite Hills HS (CA) (ATTENDING PEPPERDINE)
2009 (1) - Zack Wheeler, RHP, East Paulding HS (GA)
2009 (2) - Todd Glaesmann, OF, Midway HS (TX)
2009 (3) - Chris Dominguez, 3B, Louisville University
2009 (4) - Dustin Dickerson, 1B, Baylor Univ.
2009 (5) - Ian Krol, LHP, Neuqua Valley HS (IL)
2009 (6) - Brody Colvin, RHP, St. Thomas More HS (LA)
2009 (7) - Madison Younginer, RHP, Mauldin HS (SC)
2009 (8) - Kendal Volz, RHP, Baylor Univ.
2009 (9) - Ryan Berry, RHP, Rice University
2009 (10)- Sam Dyson, RHP, Univ. of South Carolina (BACK TO SOU. CAROLINA)

After our third pick in 2009, we made this obervation during our draft day chat:

"For the fourth time in eight rounds in the history of our Shadow Draft here at CamdenDepot.com, the San Francisco Giants make our pick exactly one pick after us (Kieschnick, Crawford, Wheeler and now Dominguez). I guess this means we're pretty close with our player valuations...I'll take it as a good sign, but still eerie."

Today, Jim Callis of Baseball America writes, "We grade every draft from 2005-08 in the new Prospect Handbook, and no team outdid San Francisco's 3.50 GPA." (link to insider article). That alone was enough to get me excited, but I was truly surprised when I went back and looked at the other organizations that selected "our" players, and BA's corresponding view of how those organizations draft. More after the jump...

Callis had the following to say about San Francisco's selections in 2008:

"That [2008 draft class for San Francisco] could be San Francisco's best hitting crop in years, led by Buster Posey (first), third baseman Conor Gillaspie (sandwich), outfielder Roger Kieschnick (third) and shortstop Brandon Crawford (fourth) (emphasis added)."

The full comparison of our selections and how the matched against the actual drafting organizations:

San Francisco (4)
2009 Zack Wheeler (us, R1; them, R1) and Chris Dominguez (us, R3; them, R3)
2008 Roger Kieschnick (us R3; them R3) and Brandon Crawford (us, R4; them, R4)

Boston (3)
2009 Madison Younginer (us, R7; them R7) and Kendal Volz (us, R8; them R9)
2008 Brian Humphries (us, R5; them R19)

Baltimore (2)
2009 Ryan Berry (us, R9; them R9)
2008 Brian Matusz (us, R1; them R1)

Oakland (2)
2009 Ian Krol (us, R5; them R7) and Sam Dyson (us, R10; them, R10)

Kansas City (1)
2008 Tim Melville (us R2; them R4)

Tampa (1)
2009 Todd Glaesmann (us, R2; them R3)

Florida (1)
2009 Dustin Dickerson (us, R4; them R6)

Philly (1)
2009 Brody Colvin(us, R6; them, R7)

Baseball America listed GPA's for each organization's drafting from 2005-2008 (link). This only relates to players signed and does not include 2009, but it gives an indication of which organizations draft well, in BA's opinion. Here's how the above orgs graded out:

Organization (number of matching picks with us) - Baseball America GPA, BA Rank
San Francisco (4) - 3.50, T-1st
Boston (3) - 3.50, T-1st
Tampa (1) - 3.38, 3rd
Florida (1) - 3.13, T-7th
Philly (1) - 3.00, 11th
Baltimore (2) - 2.88, 13th
Oakland (2) - 2.75, 14th
Kansas City (1) - 2.38, 23rd

So ten of our fifteen picks were made by organizations that have, from 2005-2008, earned a 3.00 or better from Baseball America when it comes to drafting and signing talent, and only one of our picks was made by an organization ranking in the bottom half by Baseball America.

This is a really quick and dirty way of looking at things, as obviously it's the pick in particular that matters, but I'm encouraged by two things. First, that so many of our picks were made in rounds close to where the player actually came off the board. This indicates to me that our valuing of the payer is fairly accurate -- we're taking players around where other teams think a player should go. Second, teams that seem to know what they are doing like a lot of the players we like. Again, it's the pick in particular that matters, but if I buy a painting and an art collector I respect states that he likes that painting as well, I'm feeling pretty good about my investment.

Once the Prospect Handbook is out, we'll take a closer look at this, as well as where our Shadow Picks rank in their current organzations.


11 January 2010

McGwire Admits Roid Use; Can we admit him now? Raffy too?

Both Raffy and McGwire look like solid Hall of Famers to me.

But not Jose Canseco.

Huff signs with Giants; Market Narrowing

With Aubrey Huff signing with the Giants, I can only imagine that Adam LaRoche's and Russell Branyan's agents are on hold with the Mets. Last year's DH situation is showing up again as this year's first base situation (as well as DH, by the way). Players who were expecting multiyear deals near 10MM per will not be getting what they once thought was a cinch to get. Adam LaRoche, in fact, turned down an offer of 2 years and 17MM from the Giants. I imagine that offer is now off the table with Huff, Pablo Sandoval, Mark DeRosa, and Juan Uribe in the mix for their corner positions. That leaves the Giants 5MM to spend on someone like Jon Garland.

This also leaves teams like the Orioles in a better bargaining position. Andy MacPhail has mentioned that he sees Garrett Atkins as more of a first baseman than a third baseman, but the market is void of talent at third. He has also mentioned a desire for a right handed power hitter, which the market also lacks at first base. If he is really dead set on getting another bat, it seems like it will be a buyer's market on left handed first basemen desperate for a starting slot.

A brief look at the teams and who they have spelling 1B, 3B, and DH after the jump.

Corners and DHs:
Arizona Diamondbacks - Allen, Reynolds
Atlanta Braves - Glaus, Jones
Baltimore Orioles - Aubrey, Wigginton, Atkins (1B/3B weak)
Boston Red Sox - Youkilis, Beltre, Ortiz
Cincinatti Reds - Rolen, Votto
Chicago Cubs - Lee, Ramirez
Chicago White Sox - Konerko, Beckham, Teahan
Cleveland Indians - Peralta, Hafner, LaPorta (~1B)
Colorado Rockies - Helton, Stewart
Detroit Tigers - Cabrera, Inge, Ordonez, Guillen (~DH)
Florida Marlins - Cantu, Bonifacio (3B weak)
Houston Astros - Berkman, Feliz
Kansas City Royals - Gordan, Fields, Butler (~1B/DH)
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - Morales, Wood, Matsui (3B weak)
Los Angeles Dodgers - Blake, Loney (~1B)
Milwaukee Brewers - Fielder, McGehee, Gamel
Minnesota Twins - Morneau, Punto, Kubel, Harris (3B weak)
New York Mets - Murphy, Wright (1B weak)
New York Yankees - Teixeira, Rodriguez, Johnson, Swisher
Oakland Athletics - Barton, Carter, Chavez, Fox, Cust
Philadelphia Phillies - Howard, Polanco
Pittsburgh Pirates - LaRoche, Clement, Alvarez (1B weak)
Texas Rangers - Young, Smoak, Davis
St. Louis Cardinals - Pujols, Freese (3B weak)
San Diego Padres - Gonzalez, Headley, Kouzmanoff
San Francisco Giants - Huff, Sandoval, Uribe, DeRosa
Seattle Mariners - Kotchman, Figgins, Griffey, Bradley
Tampa Bay Rays - Pena, Longoria
Toronto Blue Jays - Overbay, Encarnacion, Snider (DH weak)
Washington Nationals - Zimmerman, Dunn

Teams in need of a 1B: Orioles, Mets, Pirates, Indians, Dodgers
Mets seem intent on signing a player. Thin money is on them resigning Carlos Delgado, but I could also see them going with Russell Branyan or Adam LaRoche. Pirates will enter the market if the money becomes tight for the position. They want more offense, but have little interest in paying for it. They probably need one more year to buffer Pedro Alvarez and can always shift Andy LaRoche to second base. The Indians have a situation where they can continue to run LaPorta out to left field, but he really is more of a first baseman. They could enter into the market similarly to the Pirates, but have less need than the Pirates. Last season, the Dodgers were irritated with James Loney's stagnant bat. He appears to have the approval of Joe Torre and money appears tight for the Dodgers with the owner's divorce hearings going on.

This leaves the Orioles who have been mentioned as having an 80MM MLB payroll budget. They currently are sitting around 65MM, so they appear to have money to spend. Bedard, a LOOGY, and a free agent 1B would probably fill most of that up.

Russell Branyan - Baltimore Orioles 1/4.5MM
Adam LaRoche - Pittsburgh Pirates 1/4MM
Carlos Delgado - New York Mets 1/5MM
Hank Blalock - Los Angeles Dodgers 1/4MM
Ryan Garko - Florida Marlins 1/2MM

09 January 2010

The DPL Triology - Agent/Co-Founder Responds

Roch notes that a comment supposedly came from one of the founders of the DPL. As you may remember we were somewhat concerned by Brian Mejia's response that the Orioles were one of the teams that had not shown interest in scouting the players in the upstart Dominican league. It does not appear that Roch called back to verify the commentator's identity, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. He is what Mejia wrote:

This whole DPL and O's presences was blown out of proportion. I was asked a question by ESPN reporter and gave a simple answer. It's not like the O's don't scout, evaluate and sign players in DR. The question was asked, "how many teams are consistently evaluating players at the DPL games". I gave him a simple answer.

The O's have many other things to worry about than being at all 25 DPL games. They do what they do and sign who they like... Budget, sign ability, need and roster spots all come into play when making signing decision in DR. The DR is small but players are everywhere, I'm sure they are doing their due diligence, I'm also sure everyone in BAL FO wants to win asap, any opportunity they have to sign the right guy they will do it.

It is probably fair to say that the one small comment that what interesting to us in the ESPN article may not have been explored to the degree needed to properly assess the Orioles' involvement in acquiring amateur talent. Reading maybe more than I should into this response, it seems the mention of the Orioles having other things to worry about is another validation of the idea that our scouting resources are not very great in the DR. Players may indeed be everywhere, but it seems that the DPL might be something to be more involved with. Anyway, I imagine Mejia is somewhat upset that his off hand comments about the Orioles' involvement in his league took such a negative turn.

08 January 2010

AL East Best Under-26 Team: Part 2 - First Base

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Series Links
Intro / C / 1B / 2B / 3B / SS / OF / RHP / LHP / CL

I'm tackling Part 2, stepping through the Top 3 Under-26 First Basemen in the AL East. There's a large drop-off between number one and the rest of the list, with new-to-the-division prospect Brett Wallace easily the most talented of the bunch.

The full list with brief write-ups after the jump...

1. Brett Wallace / Toronto Blue Jays (AAA/Las Vegas)

Height/Weight - 6-2/245 / Born - 8/26/1986 / Bats/Throws - L/R
Stats - Fangraphs / Baseball-Reference / MinorLeagueSplits

Dating back to his time at Arizona St., Wallace has been labeled a not-long-for-3B guy, mostly due to his bottom-heavy build and limited range at the hot corner. 2010 may finally see his full-time switch over to first, a transition started by the Oakland Athletics at the end of last year. The good news for Jays fans is that Wallace's bat easily plays across the diamond.

Wallace's biggest asset is his advanced approach, which includes a solid understanding of the strikezone and above-average pitch-ID for a player his age. Though he can add some length to his swing at times, his bat speed and pitch-ID more than make up for this by allowing him to be selectively aggressive in the pitches he attacks. He should be up in 2010 and is an excellent candidate to hit right away. One item he may need to clean-up is the variance in his timing mechanism -- a leg raise into his stride -- which adds some inconsistency to the start of his swing.

2. Brandon Snyder / Baltimore Orioles (AAA/Norfolk)

Height/Weight - 6-2/210 / Born - 11/23/1986 / Bats/Throws - R/R
Stats - Fangraphs / Baseball-Reference / MinorLeagueSplits

After posting slash lines of .315/.358/.490 at A-Adv./Frederick in 2008, .343/.421/.597 through 58 games at AA/Bowie in 2009, and .354/.456/.600 in the 2009 Arizona Fall League, Snyder appears to have finally won over the scouting community, with Baseball America now projecting him as a Major League regular. Snyder shows an uncanny ability to center the ball on the barrel and hit it hard, as evidenced in part by his routinely high BABIP (averaging over .350 over 1085 ABs between the start of the 2007 season and his promotion to AAA/Norfolk in 2009). He has little loft in his swing, keeping close to the plane of the pitch (which also aides his ability to make contact), and profiles more gap-to-gap than as a homerun threat.

Snyder's largest looming hurdle appears to be consistency. He's an aggressive hitter that puts a lot of balls in play, making him highly reliant on sustaining a high BABIP. It's likely that Snyder will see a fair amount of variance in his seasonal stat lines at the Major League level -- similar to the career path of Sean Casey (who has unsurprisingly become a regular comp in scouting circles), leading to two possible outcomes. If Snyder is able to reign-in his discipline some he could profile as a solid number-2 hitter with plus contact skills. If, however, his aggressive approach leads to too much "bad" contact (difficult pitches to drive) he may top out as a 6/7 hitter whose production is too inconsistent to slot into the top half of the order. In spite of the slash stats above, Snyder had a rough go at it in his first taste of AAA, and will likely find himself back in Norfolk in 2010 until he forces his way onto the 25-man roster. Lauded by his coaches for his work ethic and enthusiasm, he could prove to be a pleasant surprise for Orioles fans who counted him out after shoulder surgery moved him from behind the plate back in 2006.

3. David Cooper / Toronto Blue Jays (AA/New Hampshire)
Height/Weight - 6-0/175 / Born: 2/12/1987 / Bats/Throws - L/L
Stats - Fangraphs / Baseball-Reference / MinorLeagueSplits

Like Wallace and Snyder, Cooper profiles better as a pure hitter than he does as a thumper. After a strong 2008, Cooper ran into some trouble with advanced pitching in 2009, opening the season with a rough April/May that saw him post a .659 and .692 OPS, respectively. As the season wore on, Cooper appeared to make the necessary adjustments in his approach, culminating in a strong August showing wherein he put up a .284/.408/.490 line over 102 at bats, while walking more than he fanned (21-19). A below-average defender at Cal - Berkley, reports on Cooper's defense have been equally unspectacular at the pro ranks. His most likely point of entry could be DH, and he could arrive sometime in 2010, shortly after Wallace.

HM. Lars Anderson / Boston Red Sox (AA/Portland)
Height/Weight - 6-4/215 / Born - 9/25/1987 / Bats/Throws - L/L
Stats - Fangraphs / Baseball-Reference / MinorLeagueSplits

At this time last year, Anderson was coming off a strong season at age 20 spent between A-Adv./Lancaster and AA/Portland and would have been the unmitigated favorite for this list. Flash forward 12-months and a disappointing 512 plate appearances at AA/Portland and Red Sox Nation is left wondering if their system's top power prospect may have stalled-out. Anderson still carries with him the plus raw power and a solid approach that lead many to peg him as Boston's 1B and middle-of-the-order-bat of the future. He'll start 2010 back at Portland and try to right the ship.

Anthony Rizzo (Boston Red Sox) was also considered for this spot. As impressive as his age 19 season was between A/Greenville and A-Adv./Salem, Anderson was more impressive at the same age, as well as the following season in his first taste of AA before suffering his setback in '09.

07 January 2010

Roch Kobatko Chases Down Stockstill About the DPL

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Yesterday we commented on an article by ESPN's Jorge Arangure Jr. about the upstart Dominican Prospect League. The league is producing about a 10% signing rate according to the agents who run it and those bonuses are reportedly in the high five figures and low six figures. This suggests that there are low and mid tier prospects here. As Stotle mentioned yesterday, "Some teams have found some "overlooked" value, as Arangure reports further that seven players not signed this past summer have now been inked to mid-five to low-six figure deals. The main takeaway seems to be that the League may not cover all the bases on the Dominican scouting field, but it's a great place to get a look at good talent, particularly for organizations that aren't well-established in the Dominican Republic as of yet."

What was troubling was what Arangure Jr. specifically wrote about the Orioles.

Also, though most teams' scouts have shown up regularly for games, Mejia notes that some teams -- like the Chicago White Sox and the Baltimore Orioles [emphasis mine] -- still have not had a regular presence at games.

After the jump, Jorge replies via twitter and Roch writes a column this morning about the article with quotes from John Stockstill.

After reading the article in full, I was actually somewhat concerned about the Orioles involvement. Resources (i.e. money, personnel) have been reported to being obviously short. For a team who operates with two full time scouts (as compared to Boston who uses fourteen) such a venue would appear to present ample opportunity to not only see these players without dealing with local buscons, but also being able to see these players in real game situations. It sounds like a great resource that the Orioles are not taking advantage of.

This lead to this brief exchange with Jorge:
@jorgearangure Are you surprised by the Orioles' lack of presence at the DPL games?

@CamdenDepot i wouldn't read too much into it. the league is barely getting started. they'll probably increase their presence at some point.

By nature of the medium tweets are rather compact in the amount of information that can be transmitted. This answer, to me, suggests that the Orioles are not seeking out new ventures until they become more established. As in, they may not wish to use resources, however minimal, on events that may be of little consequence to them. That players have been signed from this league appears to contradict that. That other Latin American Scouting directors have made a point to personally attend games also appears to contradict that. From the outside, it looks like this league actually has a good deal of consequence with regard to low and mid tier players who have been overlooked. For a club who seems unable to afford much in terms of looking, this still seems like a poor move.

So, anyway, Stotle, myself, a few others seem to have asked Roch Kobatko to take a look into it and this morning he posted an article about the league. He interviewed John Stockstill, the Orioles international director of scouting.

"We do have people reporting to us," Stockstill said.

Stockstill also pointed out that many of these players are showcased at other events. "And many of them have probably been at our facility and our camp," he said. "And that's not just Baltimore. That's probably a lot of other clubs, as well."

In other words, the Orioles aren't depending only on this prospect league to evaluate the talent over there. On any given day, you might have 20 workouts taking place at various complexes.

Furthermore, he reports that the Orioles have undergone a significant shift in who is scouting for them. These individuals may not be immediately associated with the Orioles. That still leaves it somewhat strange that their presence has not been entirely made clear to the agents who would be the ones who are likely to make a buck of this thing, but I am not an expert at how this league or these kind of league work with regard to scout interaction with agents. I figured there would be a decent amount of flesh pressing and shooting the breeze just to establish connections that may be of use later.

In the end, I think this is just something to take note of and store in the back of your head. Based on the Sun's article a few days back, it appears the Orioles are heading in the right direction at the pace of a tortoise. Our international presence is rather small, but we are being noticed. For instance, our presence was clearly involved in a major prospect this year (Miguel Jean) and that has never been the case before. It appears we are making a movement forward. Still, I question why individuals running a league do not remember or recognize the Orioles presence at these games.

Amateur Talent Addendum: Free Agent Compensation Part I

After writing a piece on an international draft, I figure there were some aspects of it that need more exploration. This multipart series will reintroduce what Type A or B compensation means as well as how to implement compensation into this new draft system I propose. Part I will reacquaint you with what this compensation means.

As it stands now, the loss of a type A or B free agent results in compensation in the form of draft picks. For a type A free agent this means that the former team of the player receives a sandwich round pick between the first and second rounds according to the Elias rating (higher ranking free agents result in a higher draft pick during this round) as well as the new team's first unprotected draft pick. This translates to the second half of the first round (first half picks are protected) or the first half of the second round. Further complicating this approach is that if one team signs two type A free agents, the team who gave up the higher rate free agent would be the one who secures the higher pick. The second team then winds up with the next unprotected pick. An example would be last year when the Yankees signed CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and Mark Teixeira. The Yankees gave their 1st round selection to the Angels for Teixeira (98.889 rating), their 2nd round pick to the Brewers for Sabathia (98.110 rating), and their 3rd round pick to the Blue Jays for AJ Burnett (89.729 rating). It should be noted that although original round 1 to 3 picks are protected for one year, compensatory picks are not. If a team fails to sign a player with a compensatory pick, they do not receive a replacement in the following year's draft.

After the jump, we will more greatly characterize how Type A and B status is determined.

After the conclusion of each season, Elias Sports Bureau uses a somewhat secret formula to determine a rating of every player in baseball . . . not just the free agents. A type A player is considered to be a free agent who has performed in the top fifth of baseball over the past two years. A type B player is considered to be a free agent who has performed in the second fifth of baseball over the course of the previous two years. Former teams who lose players beneath the 60th percentile will not receive compensation.

So are there restrictions on compensation?
Yes, compensation is in effect until the first week in December when there is a deadline for the former team to offer arbitration. Compensatory terms remain in effect if the team offers arbitration and the player declines.

How are players rated?
First, players are divided by position. The groupings are as follows:
Group 1: 1B, OF, and DH
Group 2: 2B, 3B, and SS
Group 3: C
Group 4: SP
Group 5: RP

A weighted system that takes into consideration for lost time on the DL uses these statistics:
G2: PA, AVG, OBP, HR, RBI, total chances, Fielding %
G3: PA, AVG, OBP, HR, RBI, Fielding %, Assists
G4: Total games (relief appearances are discounted by half), IP, W, Win %, ERA, K
G4: Total games (relief appearances are discounted by half), IP, wins and saves, H/IP, K/BB, ERA

As you can imagine, this system is needed in terms of granting compensation for lost players for small market teams, but the manner in which they do this is rather poor. In the next part of this series, I will discuss a revamped approach that will fit into the proposed system of slotting I made earlier.

06 January 2010

Baltimore Might be Dropping the Easy Ones, Too...

ESPN Jorge Arangure Jr. posted an update on the Dominican Prospect League in his blog, today (link for ESPN Insiders). To catch everyone up, the Dominican Prospect League was put together by three agents to help showcase some young and talented ballplayers from the Dominican Republic. The idea was to provide a central location and game situations wherein players could perform for scouts against good competition. Essentially, make the scout's life easier by putting good talent on display in game situations and make the player's life easier by giving him a chance to be seen by a bunch of Major League Organizations.

Troubling Baltimore news as the story continues after the jump...

The league has some questions surrounding it, including whether the cream of the crop will consistently show and how much the buscons might affect the league by trying to force playing time for certain players. But generally, the league seems to be very well received (quote from Arangure's linked piece):

"The league has allowed me to see the supposed top players for this year's signing period in game action," wrote Reds Latin American scouting director Tony Arias in an email. "Time will tell if all the top kids participated in the DPL. I think most Latin Scouting Directors have made it a point to see the DPL games when they are in the Dominican on Wednesdays. It has been beneficial to both the kids and teams in the scouting process in allowing all teams access to scout the kids playing in games amongst their peers. I hope they continue to have harmony and success with this venture as I think it benefits all the people involved with baseball in the Dominican."

Some teams have found some "overlooked" value, as Arangure reports further that seven players not signed this past summer have now been inked to mid-five to low-six figure deals. The main takeaway seems to be that the League may not cover all the bases on the Dominican scouting field, but it's a great place to get a look at good talent, particularly for organizations that aren't well-established in the Dominican Republic as of yet.

Unfortunately, according to Arangure's latest report, Baltimore has not been an active participant:

"Also, though most teams' scouts have shown up regularly for games, Mejia notes that some teams -- like the Chicago White Sox and the Baltimore Orioles -- still have not had a regular presence at games."

We all know it takes time to make inroads in Latin America. You need to develop relationships with the buscons and earn some trust and a level of comfort with the communities. But how can an organization so dreadfully lacking on the international scene not take advantage of an opportunity like this? Provided there isn't much more to this story, this looks like another missed opportunity for the Orioles, and another inexcusable failure on the international front.

AL East Best Under-26 Team: Part 1 - Catcher

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Series Links
Intro / C / 1B / 2B / 3B / SS / OF / RHP / LHP / CL

On Monday we penned our introduction to the series. Today, MJ kicks off our series with a look at the Top 3 Under-26 Catchers in the AL East. Not surprisingly, baseball's most highly-touted prospect of 2009 tops the list. The full list with brief write-ups after the jump...

1. Matt Wieters / Baltimore Orioles (MLB)

Height/Weight - 6-5/230 / Born - 5/21/1986 / Bats/Throws - B/R
Stats - Fangraphs / Baseball-Reference / MinorLeagueSplits

Considered not only the top catching prospect in the division but also the best prospect overall according to Baseball America’s top-100 ranking for the 2009 season, Wieters is the rare combination of offensive and defensive prowess at a position known for players possessing one trait or the other but rarely both.

After a relatively slow transition to the big leagues following his promotion from AAA-Norfolk, Wieters came into his own once the calendar flipped to September, posting a .333/.395/.486 line to finish the year, as compared to his .267/.314/.379 slash stats from May-August. In 738.1 defensive innings, Wieters committed five errors, including three passed balls and only threw out 21 of 86 attempted base-stealers (24%) but gradually grew into his role as the team’s everyday catcher. As scouts have raved about his makeup, advanced knowledge of the strike zone and smooth catching skills (despite his atypical size for a catcher), Wieters profiles as a future All-Star behind the dish for years to come.

2. Jesus Montero / New York Yankees (AAA/Scranton)
Height/Weight - 6-4/225 / Born - 11/28/1989 / Bats/Throws - R/R

Stats - Fangraphs / Baseball-Reference / MinorLeagueSplits

As with Wieters, Montero is considered a very advanced offensive prospect, garnering comparisons to some of the game’s best sluggers and drawing raves for his natural power and ability to square up on the baseball. Some scouts have even graded him as an 80 on the 20-80 scale for hitting and power. After destroying advanced A-level ball to the tune of .356/.406/.583, Montero was well on his way to similarly dominating AA pitching (.317/.370/.539) before breaking his middle finger and being shelved for the remainder of the season.

Unlike Wieters, however, Montero’s future as a catcher is in doubt. Whereas some scouts project him as a poor defensive catcher with a ceiling of Mike Piazza’s skills behind the plate, others believe that the Yankees are prolonging the inevitable and that Montero will indeed either man first base or be a full-time DH upon reaching the big leagues. Scouts cite a lack of natural athleticism and poor footwork behind the plate, and, despite a strong throwing arm, nearly all those who have watched Montero behind the plate feel that he is no better than a below average defensive prospect.

3. Austin Romine / New York Yankees (AA/Trenton)
Height/Weight - 6-2/210 / Born: 11/22/1988 / Bats/Throws - R/R
Stats - Fangraphs / Baseball-Reference / MinorLeagueSplits

With Montero’s promotion to AAA after only 167 at-bats at AA, his former platoon-mate Austin Romine will be granted the full-time catching duties at AA-Trenton in 2010. Romine is considered an all-around catching prospect with above-average raw power and solidly above-average skills behind home plate, including a strong and accurate arm. Additionally, Romine is viewed as a good athlete with fair speed for a catcher, evidenced by his 11 steals (out of 16 chances). The 2009 Florida State Player of the Year,Romine – and not Montero – appears to be the heir apparent to Jorge Posada as the everyday catcher of the future for the New York Yankees.

HM. Dioner Navarro / Tampa Bay Rays (MLB)
Height/Weight - 5-10/190 / Born - 2/9/1984 / Bats/Throws - R/R
Stats - Fangraphs / Baseball-Reference / MinorLeagueSplits

Navarro makes this list as much by virtue of his birth date as for the fact that he has crafted a five year career as a catcher at the major league level. Although his skills and stats translate to a roughly average performer at the position, it is nonetheless reason enough to recognize Navarro as one of the division’s best catchers aged 26 and younger.

Travis d’Arnaud (Toronto Blue Jays) was also considered for this spot but Navarro was given preference based on his established major league track record, especially in contrast with d’Arnaud’s 2010 season likely opening at A-Adv. Dunedin.

05 January 2010

Interesting Matt Hobgood Interview at Baseball Beginnings

Matt Hobgood discusses, at reasonable length, about the difficulties he faced after being drafted by the Orioles. He has been quite focused at API and has lost 8 pounds and reduced his percent body fat by 3% in a month. He hopes to come into spring training at 240lbs to quiet anyone about his conditioning.

Here is a short response about his troubles at Bluefield:
It took me a little over a month just to get back to feeling where I could actually throw good, and even then, I think I topped the whole year at Bluefield at like 91. I was trying to throw hard, but I wasn’t trying to look like I was throwing hard, if you know what I mean. I talked to (Orioles scouting director) Joe Jordan a little bit. He came down and he said somebody asked him why high school pitchers loose velocity as rookies. Joe said it’s just different. We’re not used to throwing every day.

You can find the full interview here:
Part I
Part II

Collection of John Sickels' 2010 NL Prospect Grades

In this posting I will link to all of John Sickels' 2010 Prospect Grades for every NL team. Click here for the AL links.

NL East
Atlanta Braves
Florida Marlins
New York Mets
Philadelphia Phillies
Washington Nationals

NL Central
Chicago Cubs
Cincinnati Reds
Houston Astros
Milwaukee Brewers
Pittsburgh Pirates
St. Louis Cardinals

NL West
Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants

04 January 2010

AL East Best Under-26 Team: Introduction

With the Yankees and Red Sox running out front in the AL East for much of the aughts, the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays gave baseball a glimpse into the type of team that will ultimately need to be assembled in order to run with the deeper pockets in the division. Acquiring and developing young, inexpensive talent carries two primary benefits for the non-Yanks/Sox of the division:

1. Defends against the "big contract" injury/busts that can potentially tie-up payroll for a year or more. By adding as much talent as possible while keeping the payroll as low as possible, Tampa, Baltimore and Toronto will give themselves the flexibility to address an injury or bust via trade/free agency, rather than being forced to rush a prospect or, worse, do nothing.

2. Keeps payroll available for selectively aggressive moves in the free agent/trade markets/extension of homegrown talent. By assembling as talented a team as possible while leaving as much capital available as possible, the option hopefully exists to make a run at a more expensive free agent when the potential wins added by that free agent/expensive trade target, or locking-up one of the homegrown talents for a period of years, are relevant to making a playoff run (preferably for an extended period of time).

It remains to be seen how effective Baltimore, Tampa and Toronto will be in executing, but this is likely the best approach to competing with Boston and New York in the standings and, in selected situations, in the free agent and trade market.

So where do each of the AL East teams rank in current under-26 year old talent (a quick and dirty cut-off for gauging "young and cheap" talent)? After the jump we'll step through the criteria we've used for our position-by-position nine-part series. In this pivotal cross-section of talent acquisition and development, which AL East team is best situating themselves....

Subject: The goal of the series is two-fold:

1. To find the best young players at each position in the AL East talent structure, and

2. To get an idea of where the AL East teams stack-up, overall, with regards to young talent in the pipeline.

Parameters: In order to qualify, a player must satisfy the following requirements:

1. The player must be 26 or younger during the 2010 season (born October 1, 1983 to present), and

2. The player must currently be under the control of an AL East organization (the player can be at any level in the organization).

Discussion: The bulk of the pieces will be prepared by myself (Stotle) and by MJ. MJ comes to us by way of the New York Yankees fan base and has contributed as a writer for the popular Yankees site www.waswatching.com. As is the case with Crawdaddy and myself, he follows the AL East closely and should provide good balance to the pieces. The two of us, along with Craw, will be selecting the top players for each position. The author of the piece will be responsible for the ultimate ranking of the players. We hope you'll add your thoughts in the comment section of each piece, as well.

We'll keep a running count of the Top Under-26 Team at the conclusion of each piece, and Craw, MJ and I will put together a "wrap-up" piece briefly discussing our findings.

This is quite an exciting endeavor for the three of us. We hope that even if you disagree with our rankings, our series will trigger some discussion amongst the various fan bases. Part 1: Catchers, is being finalized by MJ now and will post on Wednesday. Craw will be putting-up something fun and interesting in the interim.

Happy New Year's; see you soon.

03 January 2010

Joe Sheehan Chat and AL GM Rankings

Weekend editions are usually a good time to look back on the previous week. So, here are some Orioles focused quotes from the most recent Joe Sheehan chat:

[Mike Gonzalez' deal is] a very inexpensive contract, and the Orioles' bullpen has sucked for a while, so I don't hate the deal. It makes a hell of a lot more sense than signing Garret Atkins, who is 1) not very good and 2) redundant even at his potential skill set and role because of Ty Wigginton. Gonzalez can at least do something.

This echoes my sentiment. Gonzalez is a roughly average to below average deal. It is one that does not seem to make most of having the 3rd pick in the second round, but the value lost there is not great. The Garrett Atkins deal is a headscratcher and only makes sense in take the alternative is atrocious and he has some upside. Of course, sending Scott Moore out there and banking Miguel (Angel Sano) Jean with the difference would have been a better move in my opinion.

[Best GMs in the game are] Epstein, Cashman, Beane, [Zduriencik, and] . . . Daniels or Williams . . .

That puts Andy MacPhail at seventh or lower in the AL.

My ranking of GMs in the AL and some other Sheehan quotes after the jump.

Crawdaddy's list of best GMs in baseball:
1. Theo Epstein, Boston Red Sox - Best run program in the game. Domestic/International talent acquisition is stellar and free agents pickups are largely successful (outside of SS).
2. Bill Beane, Oakland Athletics - Slightly shaky lately and somewhat overrated . . . still the Gold Standard. Set with a misguided run last season, he was able to turn around and replenish his minors.
3. Jack Zduriencik, Seattle Mariners - Nearly every move he has made has been a steal. He wound up with Cliff Lee for less than the Yanks gave for Vazquez.
4. Andrew Freidman, Tampa Bay Rays - Competing in the AL East with a slim payroll and having arguably the best Minor League talent pool in the game.
5. Jon Daniels, Texas Rangers - Has turned things around greatly in the past couple years. He used to be rather awful. Great minors and solid MLB moves.
6. Dave Dombrowski, Detroit Tigers - Great turnover in the system, but he acquires top amateur talent and has made a few excellent trades (although somewhat blemished--Dontrelle Willis).
7. Brian Cashman, New York Yankees - He is difficult to evaluate, but Cashman's tenure has been much smoother since he was given more of a free reign to go after younger players. Money certainly helps though and they do not seem to embrace progressiveness like the BoSox.
8. Andy MacPhail, Baltimore Orioles - He has shown a lot of patience in getting generally solid returns in trades (Bedard and Sherrill deals) and an emerging proliferation of minor league talent. Free agent acquisitions do not seem incredibly shrewd and the team missed out on trading some of their players at the right time.
9. Mark Shapiro, Cleveland Indians - This might be too low for Shapiro. Solid assessment of high round minor league talent and young positional players. Poor drafting (to be kind) and a near complete lack of evaluating pitching. Kerry Wood acquisition was expensive for the team and did not address starting pitching.
10. Kenny Williams, Chicago White Sox - Williams is a gambler who seems to make moves using his gut much more than his head. When he had a set of supernaturally healthy and good starters . . . it worked. He has had trouble getting back to that. The Peavy and Rios deals could set this team well. The Teahan deal is perplexing. The outfield is often peculiarly addressed. Has the feeling of a rotisserie team.
11. Bill Smith, Minnesota Twins - This will probably be a rather controversial placement. Smith though has been underachieving for years. His Santana deal paled in comparison to what the Erik Bedard deal was. Solutions to add offense to the squad were met with continual bouts of failure. MLB level moves look quite poor. The team excels with its amateur scouting. I am unsure how much Smith is involved with that.
12. Tony Reagins, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - They have not done much to replace the massive amount of talent they had. This includes at an amateur levels and at a pro level. Also seems to have a tendency to hold onto prospects for too long. Not much was gained from Tex's departure.
13. Alex Anthopoulos, Toronto Blue Jays - Not much to grade him on, but the Jays did seem to get value closer to what the O's got for Bedard than what the Twins got for Santana. So he easily rates above the fourteenth selection whom I am at a loss to name a single good move.
14. Dayton Moore, Kansas City Royals - Two words: The Process.

[One of the three worst moves of the offseason is the signing of] Garret Atkins, because the Orioles already had a fat, slow, pseudo-corner-guy with a huge platoon split who hits into lots of DPs.

Yeah, Sheehan is not fond of this one. Nor am I.

That is all we have for today.

02 January 2010

Interesting Tidbits From Jim Callis' Chat

Here are just a few interesting comments in Jim Callis' last chat:

When I did my personal list, I rated the Orioles as the eighth-best farm system, which is quite impressive considering that Wieters, Tillman and Reimold graduated to the majors in 2009.

Tillman, easily [has the better career]. And I like Arrieta.

I ranked [the Nationals] 20th, in large part because of Strasburg. If you took him out of the mix, I would have rated their system 27th.

I'd give Pie another shot [at being a starter and have Reimold DH] but I don't have much faith that [Pie starting] will work out.

[Orioles drafted Matt Hobgood because he would sign for slot].

What I found most interesting was that he rated the Rays (2nd) and the BoSox (7th) above the Orioles (8th). That means the AL East has a very talented minor league system. Life will not be easy for the O's.

31 December 2009

Happy New Years Eve

Does Holliday Make Sense for the Orioles?

Tracy Ringolsgy wears a cowbot hat. Rongolsby also writes for Fox Sports. He wrote today that the Baltimore Orioles had extended an 8 year offer to Matt Holliday to the tune of 130MM. That is an annual average of 16.25MM. An eight year deal will also take Holliday through his age 37 season. Andy MacPhail has offered to get together with him and Peter Angelos in Austin where Holliday lives. Roch says MacPhail denied the offer was ever presented.

The alleged offer consists of a rather lengthy contract. Based on his age and position, he projects to roughly 26 wins above replacement over that eight year period. Assuming an increase of 10% increase in the cost per win and that this year's value is 4MM/win, Holliday is worth 137MM over those eight years. More pessimistic projections see his value as closer to 124MM over eight years with those last two seasons rating him as severely below average. In truth, it is difficult to find any projection that is optimistic over years 7 and 8.

Although I am not a great fan of this supposed proposed offer, I can understand why it would make sense. More after the jump.

Some points:

1. We have excess outfielders, why do we need to purchase a left fielder?
By signing Holliday, it leaves a glut of outfielders with Felix Pie, Nolan Reimold, and Luke Scott. Such as situation would enable the team to engage in a trade to move talent around. Players like Pie and Reimold (to a lesser extent Scott) present plus value for other teams with payroll restrictions due to their status under the CBA as renewal year players. Signing Holliday could mean a redistribution of talent from Reimold to Blanks at first.

2. Holliday is on the wrong side of 30, how does that fit?
Players with a high contact rate, decent walk rate, some speed, and power age better than others. What is more worrisome is the athlete who relies many on one or two skills. His bat should age rather well and his defense should remain passable in left field for several seasons. He figures to age much better than Jason Bay.

3. What about the Coors split?
Much concern over Holliday is his home/road splits attributed largely to the Coors effect. While this was a concern last off season, it may not be as much of one this off season. He exhibited another extreme home/road split this year with Oakland and St. Louis (OPS; 982 vs 830). This may just be his performance characterization. He hits well at home. With Camden Yards as one of the top three homerun hitting environments in the Majors, he stands to do well with his high contact rate and power. He should hit well as an Oriole.

4. So what do I have against this trade?
This sort of contract ensures a nearly worthless player on the team for two seasons down the road. That restricts a team's roster in sunk cost and potentially a sunk 25 man roster slot. Such a signing also means that about 15% of the team's possible budget will be tied to a left fielder who skills are decreasing each year instead of getting better while all the players around him are excelling. Such a signing means that we are ignoring the plus value available from the left field slot that we currently have and hoping to find that elsewhere in the lineup or needing to overpay more to fill positions. It also means we are paying a premium on a position that is of little consequence this season.

I can understand why a Holliday signing makes sense, but I would not suggest it. I think it would do more to limit roster and payroll flexibility down the line in a way that is not essential for the future success of the team.

29 December 2009

Orioles 40 man roster with options

A short announcement today . . . we have been running the 40 man roster with options denoted by a color code in a running column to the left side of this page. This column runs on every page within this blog. We figured that since we often consult this list we figured out on our own . . . you may wish to do the same. Anyway, feel free to consult it and let me know if there is ever anything I miss.

28 December 2009

Fixing Amateur Talent Acquisition

It seems a major issue Bud Selig wants to address before he retires as the commissioner is to equalize the playing field with respect to amateur acquisitions. Apparently, his concept of fixing disparity between franchises is to fix perhaps the one area where small market teams actually can compete. So lets just go for the ride and find a system that can actually work.

Based on current work of Stark, the New York Times, and the Biz of Baseball . . . I think it is safe to assume revenue sharing in general comes to at least 500MM. With that in mind, I think it would be easy to isolate about 300MM of that to amateur talent acquisition. The main step is to abolish the draft and set up annual salary shares.

I'll explain after the jump.

The draft is largely a tool to force talent to sign with certain teams and restrict their earning potential. These two issues would be a stopping point for many Japanese players looking to play state-side. To resolve this, I propose that the draft be abolished and instead teams are allotted fixed salary points based on the reverse order of their records for the previous season.


You can see for this plan each team will be able to sign 100 players each season. This is enough to fill two Rookie league teams, a Dominican Summer league team, and provide a few guys for short season ball. It also provides several high paying positions and there are at least two teams who have contract shares of the same amount. Some may argue that the bonuses in question here are on average much greater than what is doled out in the draft and international free agent market. That is true. A rough estimate on what is currently spent on bonuses is around 240MM. This throws in another 55MM, which will help raise domestic player bonuses, which have been unfairly discounted in the current restrictive market. Another plus for players is that this system gives them choices. Even single shares, even the 10MM one, has at least two teams capable of offering it. This enables choices to be made and a better idea of what is available. It should also result in players quickly signing on as neither side has much room to haggle. The prices are effectively set.

How does this benefit the owners? It establishes a system that is ultimately fare for revenue sharing and should not greatly impede the local markets in Latin America. One issue of concern is that an international draft would collapse the baseball talent streams in areas like the Dominican Republic. In these areas, part of the local economy are buscons who develop children at a very young age and move them into position to sign with big league clubs. Finding fees are associated with these dealings. A run of the mill draft with no leveraging between teams would nip that in the bud as there would be less incentive for an MLB team to invest in these regions. Keeping them free agents with set contracts enables this to continue and MLB continues to get their talent pool stream.

But does this system benefit a player like Dice-K or Hideki Matsui? No, not in this form. Under such a plan, these players would wind up receiving a 10MM bonus and then be forced under the renewal/arbitration system. This would need to be adjusted and a potentially easy solution would be to set aside an additional 20MM in revenue sharing. This money would be used for a pay for play system similar to what is instituted in the NFL. Basically, during the renewal years players will receive a certain point total for plate appearances or innings pitches. The quality of those innings or plate appearances are not considered, just how often a person actually player. This results in a final point total. Add up all of the players that fall under this classification of renewal year talent. Divide 20MM, but that number to determine a price per point value. Players then are paid on how many points they have accumulated.

25 December 2009

Happy Holidays

Unless anything really interesting happens, we'll be back on Monday.

24 December 2009

On the Links . . . Chris Lamb, Projected Win Totals

A links post today . . .

Dean Jones relates a scouting report on our new pitcher from Oz.

Chris Lamb (19 years old) was signed a couple weeks ago by the Orioles. He was also being courted by the Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs. He posted up good numbers in a mid level Australian league, going 2-1 with a 3.03era. He had a K rate of 14.8 per 9 innings, but also walked 10 per 9. The talent level here is more on par with Bluefield. He was promoted to a league that was on par with Delmarva (single A) and appeared to be overmatched. He struck out about one per inning, but walked about 12 per 9. Baseball is somewhat relaxed over in Australia, so hopefully a more regimented scheduled can improves his conditioning.

Jones relates the Aussie team's assistant GM's comments on Lamb:

He's a skinny kid with a live arm and room to add 10-15 pounds of muscle as he fills out. At times he can get erratic and lose the strike zone, but he also has the ability to get hitters to swing and miss. The coaching staff has been working with him on his release point and repeating his delivery. With consistent work in the [United] States he will have a much better opportunity to refine his mechanics. He currently throws his fastball with late sinking action at 88-90 mph and has topped out at 93. His secondary pitches are a real good curveball that drops off the table and a changeup that he is still developing. The coaches have taught him a cutter that he has started to implement into games as well.

As I had mentioned somewhere, he is seen as a potential LOOGY.

Predicted Wins for the 2010 Season Post-Millwood, Atkins, Gonzalez.

The current projected win totals have been posted by Dempsey's Army, Camden Crazies, and us here at Camden Depot. The win totals are as follows:
Dempsey's Army - 83 wins
Camden Crazies - 76 wins
Camden Depot - 77 wins

Mean +/- SD - 78.7 +/- 3.8 wins

23 December 2009

What is Aroldis Chapman Worth?

A week ago Roch Kobatko wrote up his interview with John Stockstill, the Orioles' director of international scouting. He had been present at Aroldis Chapman's workout and communicated that representatives from over 20 teams were present for the workout. It appeared the workout was a sort of resetting the clock with his new agents. The goal being that they wanted to show that Chapman was healthy, in shape, and ready to take his professional career very seriously. At the moment, we are aware that the Red Sox offered 15.5MM several weeks ago and that the Marlins are currently sitting on a 12-13MM bonus offer. Conventional wisdom is that either the Yankees or BoSox will wind up winning his services.

An evaluation of his worth as a prospect and a collection of scouting reports after the jump.

Chapman has played the last four years in Cuba top league. This is a league that has 16 teams while Cuba has a population of roughly 12MM. The competition just is not that strong. I have included in with the stat line an expected MLE that is based on a composite of A ball translations to the pro game. Admittedly, this is a large assumption, but I think it gives a ball park idea about his performance and what level of competition he has faced.

2006 15 15 54.0 48 33 26 5 54 56 4.52 5.33 9.22
2007 23 12 81.1 59 26 25 4 50 100 2.90 3.22 5.57
2008 16 16 74.0 55 36 32 3 37 79 3.49 3.09 5.35
2009 22 20 118.1 109 56 53 7 62 130 3.19 3.34 5.78

We have Pitch f/x data from his WBC game last spring. It is only one outing, but it does present a decent idea as to where his fastball velocity works. He was able to must pitches at 100 and 102 mph, but his working velocity was 93.5mph. Velocity does not exactly match up with performance, but there does seem to be an indication that increased velocity makes a fastball better (of course). The following charts compares average fastball velocity of the top 33 fastballs in the game from starting pitchers, starting with Ubaldo Jimenez and ending with Luke Hochevar. No attempt was made to look at movement or location, just velocity.

Using the equation presented in the chart from MLB quality pitchers. Chapman's fastball velocity was 93.5mph and his projected runs value would be 0.12 runs saved per 100 fastballs. That means it is an above average pitch is about 10.8% above average for this population of starters. If you prefer BtBS's estimate of 94.6mph after weeding out incorrectly defined pitches, then you are looking at 0.52 runs saved per 100 fastballs or 38% better than the average fastball. A major assumption here (on top of all of the other assumptions) is that pitchers will more of a track record are having their pitches properly identified. Regardless, Chapman throws hard. Throwing hard is good. It remains to be seen if he has or will have Major league quality control. I assume many hard throwers are weeded out.

Here are excerpt from a solid scouting report at Baseball Intellect:

Fastball – Chapman’s fastball is typically clocked in the 93 – 96 range and will occasionally touch 97 – 99. The pitch has tremendous life and carry through the zone with some natural tail. Chapman’s control will vary from start-to-start. On average, his control of the pitch is decent and will often be at least around the strike zone. But commanding the pitch is a different story. Pitching to a right handed hitter, the catcher’s mitt might be positioned on the inside corner and Chapman’s ball will often end up right down the middle.

Curveball – A good change of pace offering with a solid two-plane brake. However, Chapman will sometimes slow his arm down when throwing the pitch. It’s clocked as low as 69 mph, getting as high as 75.

Slider – Chapman’s most effective off-speed offering…I’ve heard the pitch can hit 90, but I’ve only seen it come close to that mark once and I’m still not sure the pitch was a slider. I’ve typically seen his slider in the 79 – 83 range. The pitch has major consistency issues and can rate anywhere from below average to plus.

Change-Up and Cutter – Chapman possesses both a cutter and change-up, neither of which he uses often.

Chapman’s release point is inconsistent and it will vary with each pitch type . . . Chapman has to coordinate a lot of moving parts however, and that will naturally lead to an inability to consistently repeat his mechanics though he has the athleticism to do so.

I think it is a fair assessment that Aroldis Chapman would immediately be a top 50 prospect with his big arm, promising secondary pitches, and for being a southpaw. Using Victor Wang's probability model for assessing prospect worth, he will generate roughly 15-16MM in terms of production. I would argue that having his type of fastball puts him in a higher class and his value should be more around 18-20MM. Velocity transfers better to higher competition than pitchability.

If the Orioles signed Chapman, he would immediately become their second or third best prospect behind Matusz and potentially Arrieta/Britton/Bell depending on your perspective. He would probably start in HiA Frederick though a few games at Delmarva is not entirely out of the question. He will probably be in the majors within 3 years. His upside as a top end starter and low end projection as a middle reliever makes the investment of around 20MM quite fitting.

22 December 2009

GM Family Tree Offseason 2010

Knowing Major League Baseball to be the incestuous place that it is, here is the Family Tree for the GMs. For space considerations, I did kind of eliminate a few brief interactions and maybe accidentally omitted larger ones. Resources included Baseball America and my memory. The former is much stronger of a resource than the latter.

21 December 2009

Could the Rangers Use Luke Scott?

With Mike Lowell's need for surgery, the Rangers' plans on adding a power bat at the DH slot has been reset. Current options in the market would include players like Vlad Guerrero, Jim Thome, and Jermaine Dye (who they were attached to before the Ramirez-Lowell talks). All three of these players could look to see a one year contract at about 6 to 7MM with potential incentive clauses. None of them are competent in the field any longer and pose health risks.

Here is a tally of their play last year vs what Bill James thinks they are capable of this year:
Guerrero 295/334/460 vs 305/369/508
Dye 250/340/453 vs 261/333/480
Thome 249/366/481 vs 245/374/488

All three look to see around 450 plate appearances. That winds up being production around 1.5 WAR or ~6.5MM, which makes sense as to what they may be able to receive in free agency.

A potential alternative would be a player like Luke Scott. More on Scott being an option after the jump.

Scott is a capable left fielder, he managed to rate as average before being pushed out of the role by the plus defense of Felix Pie and then by the hope attached to Nolan Reimold's ability to learn how to play the outfield. This ability to play in the field gives Scott more flexibility than the other three options and allows for some roster juggling and giving some time off to guys in the field. As a left fielder his worth is around 2 WAR. As a DH, he is worth around 1.5 WAR. So he rates well in comparison to the other hitters.

Last Year vs James' Predictions for this year:
Scott 258/340/488 vs 259/342/486

The benefit of dealing for Scott is that the Rangers would not only own control of him for two more seasons, he will be paid somewhere between 4.5 and 5 MM. This is a savings of 1.5MM. More so if you include his ability to play the field.

What would be fair compensation?

I would imagine what would make most sense to the Rangers and the Orioles would be to deal Scott for Chris Davis. The Rangers are deep in potential 1B players and have a stud in Justin Smoak. Davis has little place on this team. He was having great difficulty swinging the bat last year and strikes out often. He is a high upside prospect who probably will not achieve his potential due to issues with contact rate. The fluctuation in his performance means that a second player should be added to the deal. This would most likely be two grade C+ prospects or three grade C guys.

Proposed trades:
Luke Scott for Chris Davis, Tim Murphy, and Kennil Gomez.

Why would the Orioles want to do this?
Chris Davis provides them with a young, cheap, controlled bat to play first and try to wring long term value there. It enables the Orioles to let Brandon Snyder put more time in at AAA and for the team to use the DH slot to get Pie and Reimold in the same lineup as well as provide a refuge for Matt Wieters to log at bats when he is not catching. Long term, it opens up the possibility for a lefty-righty platoon at first with Snyder and Davis as Snyder pushes his way up.

Tim Murphy adds another polished upper round draft pick arm to the organization. He was a third round pick in 2008 and has struggled in the relatively pitching friendly California league. A switch from the rotation to the pen may show up his ability to be a situational lefty. Kennil Gomez also struggled in the California league, but he shows a much higher potential. He averaged nearly a strikeout an inning, but also exhibited some wildness. Both are long shots at making any significant effect in the Majors.

Why do the Rangers do it?
They are stock with 1B and realy do not need Davis' bat nor are they interested in giving him at bats with the AL West tightening up. The two pitchers mentioned are pretty low in their organization. They have several of more interest to them. This should be a rather easy deal to pull off.

20 December 2009

Way-Too-Early Dream Draft

Like many on the East Coast, my wife and I have been kept from our Sunday errands by the massive amounts of snow covering the ground. So, with some down time this afternoon I was left to daydream on the draft. My thoughts eventually brought me to this -- were the draft tomorrow, how would the first ten rounds ideally go down for Baltimore?

I thought about the likelihood of a general draft budget for Joe Jordan to operate under (I kept coming to around $9million -- note that I don't know he's actually given a specific amount). I considered the fact that Baltimore lost it's second round pick when it inked reliever Mike Gonzalez (potentially more money to spread to fewer picks, but fewer picks to bring in talent). And I thought about the players that are draft eligible for this year's Rule 4 draft (this was the easiest, as I'm working on my pre-season positional rankings over at PnRScouting.com and have these talents on my mind quite a bit already). So where did I arrive? At the end of the day, I think there are currently two elite talents in the draft, and if Baltimore has the opportunnity they are best served paying for those talents.

Quick step through my current "dream draft" for the Orioles as of December 2009 after the jump...

1:3 Jameson Taillon, RHP, The Woodlands HS (Texas)
-- I think it's highly unlikely Washington passes on Bryce Harper, at this point. That leaves one elite talent in my book, as I have Taillon ahead of other stud prep arms like Cole and Whitson, and college arms such as Ranaudo, McGuire and Pomeranz. Pittsburgh went slot in the first last year to allow for more room to spend later, and my "dream draft" would have them doing it again in 2010. Taillon gives BAL a prep talent with a big league body (6-7/235) and big league stuff right now (his mid-90s fastball and 2-plane power curve could get out big league hitters right now). He'll likely get a large bonus, but if he's around Baltimore takes him in my ideal draft. Estimated Bonus, $5.5million; Total Spent, $5.5million.

2:3 No Pick -- To Braves as compensation for signing Mike Gonzalez. Total Spent: $5.5million.

3:3 Marcus Littlewood, SS, Pineview HS (Utah)
-- Littlewood is a switch-hitting prep shortstop with good athleticism and clean actions in the field. He's a good bet to stick at short as one of the steadier fielding shortstops in the prep ranks. He's a strong addition to an organization very weak up-the-middle. Estimated Bonus, $450K (a little over slot); Total Spent, $6.0million.

4:3 Tyler Holt, OF, Florida State Univ. -- Holt has very little in the way of power, but he possesses terrific on-base tools, including an advanced understanding of the strikezone and good speed. There are some questions as to his whether or not his arm and instincts will play in centerfield, but I'm confident they will. He could profile as a top-of-the-order bat with gap power and solid centerfield defense. Estimated Bonus, $375K; Total Spent, $6.38million.

5:3 Nick Pepitone, RHP, Tulane Univ. -- Pepitone is a big-bodied ground ball machine that projects as a bullpen arm. This past summer with Team USA, Pepitone lead the team with an .045 Batting Average Against and a minuscule WHIP of 0.477. He went 14.1 innings pitched over the course of the summer and didn't allow an extra-base hit. Estimated Bonus, $200K, Total Spent, $6.58million.

6:3 AJ Vanegas, RHP, Redwood Christian HS (Calif.) -- Noting I have NO inside knowledge of the matter, Vanegas's commitment to Stanford and strong academic profile could cause him to hold out for top 2-rounds' money in order to convince him to skip his collegiate years. The righty has potential top 60 overall stuff, but the sheer number of talented high school arms in this year's class could cause some teams to shy away from potential tough signs. Ideally, Baltimore finds an arm like this that drops and snatches him up here. Vanegas profiles as a mid-rotation starter with a low-90s fastball and a downer curve effective in and out of the zone. Estimated Bonus, $900K, Total Spent, $7.48million.

7:3 Colin Bates, RHP, Univ. of North Carolina -- Bates spent 2009 in the Tar Heels bullpen but could get a shot at the rotation in 2010 with the loss of Friday starter (Alex White, Indians, 1st Round) and Sunday starter (Adam Warren, Yankees, 4th Round) last June. A 37th-Round selection by Oakland last year, Bates returns as a redshirt junior and will look to potentially raise his value as a starter. He flashes low-90s velocity with some boring action on his fastball and a solid slider. He'll need to show he can maintain his stuff late in a game in order to stick as a starter, but could otherwise be a useful arm in the pen. Estimated Bonus, $200K, Total Spent, $7.68 million.

8:3 Blake Kelso, 2B/SS. Univ. of Houston -- Kelso isn't known for his bat, but he takes to the plate an advanced and controlled approach (walked more than he struck-out last year) and profiles as a solid glove at second base. He has solid speed but needs to improve his reads on the bases to become a threat to steal as a pro. With a couple of over-slot picks earlier, Kelso serves as an inexpensive sign that could add some depth up-the-middle in the minors and potential slot in as a utility guy. Estimated Bonus, $125K, Total Spent, $7.93million.

9:3 Jake Rodriguez, C, Elk Grove HS (CA) -- Rodriguez doesn't profile enough with the bat yet to warrant an early-round selection, though he's one of the better defensive catchers in the prep ranks. He has played on the showcase circuit for some time, and is comfortable handling talented arms -- I grab him here and sell him on the difficulty he faces facilitating his baseball growth at Oregon State with uber-freshman backstop Andrew Susac set to take over as the starting catcher in 2010. Estimated Bonus, $175K, Total Spent, $8.11million.

10:3 Matthew Price, RHP, Virginia Tech (Sophomore) -- Price is a projectable sophomore-eligible righty capable of getting to the low-90s with his fastball and generally sitting upper-70s with his slider. Consistency of stuff will determine how high he's selected in June, but Baltimore should have plenty of coverage with Virginia Tech so close, and it wouldn't surprise me to see Jordan make a selection like this, looking for good value by jumping on a talent before all the pieces have quite clicked. It'll take some extra jingle to sign him away from his last two years at Va. Tech, but there's good upside as Price was roundly considered one of the more intriguing arms on the Cape this summer when throwing his low-90s gas and solid slider out of the pen. As he adds strength, he could gain enough durability to maintain that stuff as a starter. Estimated Cost, $450K; Total Spent, $8.56million.

Summary: If Baltimore were able to sign each of these nine picks, my guess is there is room for at least one significant over-slot signing later on in the draft. As far as the haul described above, Baltimore would have achieved the following:

1. Added a true elite draft talent on par with the likes of Matusz and Wieters (Taillon, 1:3). He's advanced enough to catch-up to the Hobgood/Bundy group likely headed to Delmarva (A) this summer and profiles as a true ace.

2. Added depth up-the-middle with a potential future starter to above-average shortstop in Littlewood (3:3) and a solid second-baseman in Kelso (8:3). It doesn't fix the system, but it chips away at the dearth of middle-infielders. Kelso should sign quickly and could allow Baltimore to take an extra year with Hoes's development at the Delmarva (A)/Frederick (
A-Adv.) levels, if needs-be.

3. Jake Hernandez (9:3) slots in as an experienced d-first catcher to climb the system with the talented group of Taillon, Hobgood, Vanegas (6:3) and Bundy.

4. "Safe"ish picks of Holt (4:3)/Pepitone (5:3) should be good bets to provide Major League value with upside of solid regulars, and perhaps more.

5. Bates (7:3)/Price (10:3) represent high-upside picks with some risks. Both could develop into solid starters or provide potential back-end value in the pen with more consistency in their stuff. Each qualifies as a power arm, which I'm always excited to bring into the system.

So, it's way too early for any of these thoughts to matter too much -- some players will get injured, some will raise their stock and others will fall some. But I think there's always value in taking stock of where a draft class currently sits, as well as strategizing as to how best to tap into the collection of talent. In the end, I've passed a couple of hours putting these thoughts down, stayed warm with the snow swirling outside and given you a glimpse into the types of selections I'd like to see Baltimore make come June.

Stay warm; speak to you again, soon!

18 December 2009

Composite Orioles Top 10

I devised a consensus prospect list from five sources: me, Nick James at PNR scouting, Tony Pente at Orioles Hangout, John Sickels at Minor League Ball, and the guys at Baseball Prospectus. It should be noted my top 20 and James' top 20 were constructed after the rule 5 draft, so Steve Johnson is not on ours (in mine, he would have come in around 15 or 16). In weighting the composite rankings (located after the jump), I merely moved anyone below Johnson on the other lists one ranking up. Of course, this ranking system assumes equal difference between one rank and the next. This is a faulty assumption, but one I felt was necessary in order to combine the lists. Be sure to click on the image to make it larger. Here is how the five evaluations differ:

After the jump, the composite top 10.

1. Brian Matusz LHSP A
Four solid above average pitches with great control. After dominating HiA and AA, he pitched 44.2 innings in Baltimore. He continued to show a high k rate, low walks, but was susceptible to the long ball as well as hits in general. With time, these should settle.

2. Jake Arrieta RHSP B+
Opinions on Arrieta have diverged greatly over the past year. Some concerns have been placed about his potential trouble in facing batters two or three times through. He has great upside and bottoms out as a force in the back of a bullpen.

3. Josh Bell 3B B+
Bell made great strides in the past year. His defense has improved remarkably, but needs more refinement to be MLB ready. His bat on the left side of the plate plays against righties at a MLB level. He is incapable of hitting anything against lefties when he gets into the right handed batters' box. Still young, there looks like there is more power potential in his swing.

4. Zach Britton LHSP B/B+
Britton continues to improve at each level. His pitchability is through the roof and he induces an incredible amount of groundballs. As he advances, he will probably face better hitters who are more capable of getting solid contact. Britton could be special.

5. Brandon Erbe RHSP B
Brandon struggled some this year with injuries encouraging some concern about how well his body would be able to hold up as a starting pitcher. High upside, but projecting more toward the pen.

6. Brandon Snyder 1B B-
Snyder has a solid swing and has increasingly gained converts to his ability during the AFL season. I'm still not sure there is enough power in that swing.

7. Matt Hobgood RHSP B-
Hobgood flashes pro quality fastballs and breaking balls. Both will require several years of refinement and he will need to develop a useful splitter or changeup to remain a starter. He arrived in rookie ball slightly out of condition, which hopefully should not be a career long concern.

8. Kam Mickolio RHSP C+/B-
Reliever with a big fastball. His success is dependent upon how consistent his changeup is. He was flashing an adequate one at the end of last season.

9. Brandon Waring 1B/3B C+
Acquired in the Hernadez trade along with Ryan Freel and Justin Turner. He managed to acquire a better contact rate and continued to hit for power. Old for the league last season, he should face a ore demanding test in Bowie this season.

10. Caleb Joseph C C+
Uneven season, particularly toward the end when he appeared to get tired. Good hitter who profiles for above average power from the position.