26 January 2010

MLB Fanhouse's Organizational Rankings

Frankie Piliere puts the Orioles as the 6th best farm system. I wouldn't go that high. The highest my ranking for the O's was 7th and that was by applying a somewhat arbitrary coefficient to Wang's methodology of prospect worth. A more scientific model yielded the Orioles as 11th.

Another team helped immensely by smart trades (see: Jones, Adam), the Orioles are only going to get better as another wave of talent appears to be on the way. Brian Matusz looks ready to stick in the big-league rotation, and others like Jake Arrieta are knocking on the door.


Strangest ranking?
Tigers as 21st. He has them with 5 guys in the top 100.

Second strangest?
A's at 3rd with only 3 guys in the top 100.

MLB Fanhouse's top 100 prospects

Frankie Piliere, formerly of Saberscouting and the Texas Rangers, put up his top 100 prospects over at MLB fanhouse. The Orioles make the list with:

8. Brian Matusz
42. Josh Bell
48. Jake Arrieta
55. Zach Britton

He had mentioned before in a chat that Erbe had just missed the 100 player limit.

Additional players from our shadow minor league system: None.

I would also regard this as a pretty fair assessment as well. It puts the Orioles system as average to very slightly above average. That fit in with our study modifying Wang's methodology to free agent cost efficiency. From Sickels' grades, Brandon Erbe was a tweener for a top 100 list. So were our shadow selections Tim Melville and Zach Wheeler.

25 January 2010

Depot Retro: Junichi Tazawa scouting report

Thursday, Oct 30, 2008

Scouting Report: Junichi Tazawa, RHP, Japan

By Nick James

We take a quick break from the US Amateurs to provide a scouting report on Junichi Tazawa. Japanese teams in the Central League and the Pacific League adhered to the amateur’s requests not to draft him in the amateur draft. Instead, Tazawa hopes to sign with one of the thirty Major League Baseball organizations. Peter Abraham’s September 14, 2008 article is an informative look at the situation.

So, what’s the deal with Tazawa? The 22-year old righty is a bit undersized at 5’11” / 180 lbs, potentially making him a better fit for a Major League bullpen than as a rotation. He has the makings of a starter’s arsenal, however, so we could see him go either way.

Grading Out

Motion – 55
Tempo – 55
Fastball – 50
Curveball – 50
Slider – 55
Changeup – 50

Mechanics

Overall Motion – Tazawa’s motion is a bit herky-jerky at its apex, but none of his mechanical ticks seem to interfere with his ability to command his pitches. He loses some energy as he exits his leg kick and enters his stride. Rather than extending into his stride, he kicks his stride foot out towards third base. The resulting recoil returns a bend to his leg as he strides forward and shortens his step. The result is a slight loss in momentum towards home, in addition to a limiting of the drive he’s getting out of his back leg. Smoothing this out could add some velocity.

Arm Action – Tazawa generates his velocity, as well as his spin on his breaking balls, through a quick and short arm that gives the ball the appearance of flying out of his right shoulder. Though he breaks his hands a little early, he does a good job of keeping the ball hidden from the hitter. The result is a playing-up of his fastball velocity and a breakingball/changeup that are difficult for the batter to ID. He’s able to throw his curveball, changeup and fastball out of the same slot, though he drops down ever-so-slightly on his slider.

Pace – Tazawa keeps a solid pace, with a delay at the apex of his leg kick that varies slightly in duration. This does not seem to throw-off his command, and can serve as a disruption to the batters’ timing mechanism. His arm plays catch-up with his lower-half, as his legs and hips rotate through before his shoulder. As discussed above, his quick arm is where he generates his velocity, so it works. The downside is added stress to the shoulder and arm, though his ability to throw with easy effort may assuage some fears.

Mechanics Grade – B-

Arsenal

Fastball – Tazawa comes with a low-90s fastball that has occasional arm-side run. He commands it well to both sides of the plate. His quick arm action allows the average velocity to play up and the ball really sneaks-up on the hitter. Though not overpowering, his fastball is above-average due to his arm action, command and velocity differential from his secondary stuff.

Curveball – The first of his breakingballs is a big, loopy curveball he throws off of his right shoulder (like his fastball). His curve sits in the mid- to upper-70s and serves as an offspeed pitch, as well. While he gets a nice bend and solid downward action, it’s still a bit too loopy and there isn’t enough late bite to make it a true above-average pitch. It remains effective as an offspeed offering and as a get-me-over pitch for hitter’s counts (to avoid having to throw his fastball).

Slider – He mixes in a slider with good bite and upper-70s to low-80s velocity. He doesn’t command the slider quite as well, but it is a much better swing-and-miss pitch at this point. While his curveball is a bit more refined, his slider has much more potential. If MiL coaching can’t get some of the loop out of his curve, it would make sense to focus on developing the slider as his primary secondary offering.

Changeup – Since his curve has a better velocity differential than his change, Tazawa doesn’t rely on his changeup as much as he should. It already has solid depth and can be a second true swing-and-miss pitch if he learns to command it. Generally a low-80s offering, the change is effective when down in the zone, but he can get in trouble when he leaves it up (where it also tends to flatten-out).

“Stuff” Grade – B – Tazawa is an interesting case. He gets the most out of an average fastball and a loopy curveball, despite his best potential offerings being his slider/changeup. Some mechanical tweaks may add velocity to his fastball, though it’d be nice to see more consistent run on the pitch. If he stays with a loopy curveball, he’ll need to do a better job of keeping it down, as professional hitters won’t be as thrown by the velocity dip. His slider and changeup are his best bets for plus-pitches, though both need improvement in consistency and command.

Nick’s Notes

Tazawa could be groomed as a reliever or a starter. Any team hoping for him to become a successful starter would be well advised to try and correct his kick-and-recoil coming out of his leg kick, and lengthening his stride. This may be too much, though, in which case his stuff could certainly play in short stints out of the pen (which is my projection). If he’s able to add some velocity to his fastball and/or develop his slider/change into plus-pitches, he could eventually turn into a mid-rotation guy. However, his size and the stress he places on his shoulder with his quick arm action raise durability questions. The best bet would be to switch him to the pen and focus on the fastball/slider combo. He has enough feel for the curve to use it as a “show me” pitch, and the change is serviceable as is. Depending on how the pitches develop, he could be anything from a seventh inning guy to a potential closer.

Prospect Grade – B-

24 January 2010

Miguel Tejada is back in Baltimore


Pending the results of his physical, Miguel Tejada will be rejoining the Orioles as their starting 3B. Shortly before the signing, Orioles GM Andy MacPhail had apparently narrowed down his choices to Joe Crede and Miguel Tejada. Speaking with Roch Kobatko, MacPhail said:

We would hope that next corner infielder we could add is a solid hitter. (But) there isn't a multitude of those power guys in the game, and I think the game is shifting a little bit away from the gaudy power numbers that were put up 10 years ago that we were used to seeing. The game is starting to shift and you can see, rightfully so, clubs starting to put emphasis on defense . . . There are also durability issues with Joe over the course of his career, and not so much with Miguel, who's had over 650 plate appearances in all but one season in recent memory . . .


It seemed somewhat obvious then what the Orioles preference was and that they hoped Tejada could take to the new position.

After the jump, thoughts on Tejada switching to third, his hitting, and the new projected win total.


Tejada will be learning a new position this year. He has not logged a single game at third base in the Majors during a career that has spanned 1846 games or 16097.2 innings in the field. His transition to the hot corner will be interesting as what has plagued him most as he has aged has been the reduction in his range. His hands and his arm still look sharp, the range has been the issue. Having not seen him much in Houston, I am not sure what is hurting that range. If it is just a decrease in speed (as was apparent in Baltimore) or a decrease in reaction time as well. The latter will have the most effect on him at third. We may see something similar to Melvin Mora where he actually played a few steps back to give himself more time to react to batted balls. Thankfully, no one really bunts anymore because Mora was often not in a position to field them well. Tejada might find himself in a similar place. I think we can probably expect something in the -5 to 0 runs above average defense from him at third. That might be slightly optimistic. It really all depends on his response time. I think his throwing motion is compact enough to not make that an issue.

Tejada has seen a gradual decline in his offensive abilities from his 2004 career year. Starting with his last season in Baltimore and his two in Houston, he has displayed a couple of interesting changes. First off, although his ISO has been fairly consistent in the .130 to .140 range, his HR/Fly rate has been cut dramatically from the mid teens to about 8%. He has made up for that dropped by increasing his contact rate (mid 80s to high 80s) and has largely done that by increasing his swing rate (40s to low 50s). He is one of the most prolific ball players over the past couple years in terms of contact rate. As one would expect, an increase in swing rate will often be matched by a decrease in walk rate. Tejada is not a prolific walker with a career line of 6.3%, but his rate of 2.8% was a severe drop from his peak years. All in all, his the rates suggest the Tejada is feeling the effects of aging. His lines are entering the phase of his career where you could potentially see a complete and utter drop in performance. His success will depend entirely on his contact rate as he has pretty much lost his other batting skills.

With so many prediction systems up these days, we have stopped working on our own as it seems we were only reinventing the wheel. Our laborious excel program just required too much time to update and any of the big five (CHONE, ZiPS, PECOTA, Bill James, MARCEL) are just as good to use with minor variations. For the projections this year, we chose CHONE. CHONE predicts Tejada to have a 297/333/434 line with -12 fielding at shortstop. I kept the offensive portion and modified the defensive portion to be league average defense (i.e. 0) at third. I also predicted him being able to garner 600 PA.

This places the current win projection at 77.8 wins. Under this scenario we have the following odds (using binomial distribution):

82:1 against losing 100 games
5:2 against a .500 record
42:1 against 90 wins
332:1 against 95 wins

Assuming a playoff threshold of 95 wins, the Orioles have a 0.3% chance to make the playoffs right now.

22 January 2010

Cost Efficiency of Pitchers and Hitters in the Free Market

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Yesterday I posted an analysis on organizational rankings using John Sickels' grades (AL, NL) and the Wang methodology to determine worth. In that column, I wrote my suspicion that Wang underestimated the value of pitching prospects about half of what they are truly worth. The basis of that thought was how free agent pitchers are typically a rather poor buy in comparison to free agent hitters (which was rather anecdotal) and that ranking systems and trades seem to view positional and pitching prospects somewhat similarly. Why would this matter? Buying free agent pitching may be so inefficient that having a stable of young pitching prospects may be twice as valuable even though they have a low success rate.

Upon that idea, I decided to engage in a quick study analyzing the cost efficiency of free agent pitchers and position players. It is all after the jump.


Method:
Players included in this study were all individuals that received more than 5MM in total salary signed in the 2007 off season (pitchers, n=26; positional players, n=34; t-test, alpha=0.05). Players with contracts longer than three years only had salary earnings to this point included meaning that the only seasons addressed in this study are the 2007, 2008, and 2009 seasons. Five pitchers and seven positional players are still under contract with more total money devoted to the positional players. This means the numbers presented here are still dynamic. Metrics used were MM/WAR and WAR/MM (to avoid issues with 0 WAR players. Cost efficiency based on previous WAR production was derived from information at fangraphs.

Results and discussion:
Cost efficiency was significantly higher (p=0.03) in the positional players (0.20 WAR/MM; 0.04 SE) in comparison to pitchers (0.092 WAR/MM; 0.026 SE). Both of these means are less than the rates by which they were paid (0.24 WAR/MM). This is to be expected as players are typically paid with respect to what they have accomplished as opposed to what they will accomplish. Some risk management is utilized, but the team with the most optimistic projection or the team who is positioned competitively to more greatly value wins will likely succeed in signing the player. Another way to look at this information is by MM/WAR, which is the typical way this information is expressed. For instance, pitchers from 2006 have wound up getting paid 10.66MM per WAR. Positional players, on the other hand, have earned 5.46MM per WAR.

After taking into consideration that several contracts have yet to end, it appears unlikely that the findings presented here would change greatly. We would expect though that the cost efficiency for both populations would decrease more. Based on projections of a 0.5 WAR decrease for every remaining season under contract, we see a reduction for pitching cost efficiency from 0.092 WAR/MM to 0.089 WAR/MM and for positional players a decrease from 0.20 WAR/MM to 0.19 WAR/MM.

Conclusion:
In no way is this a conclusive piece of research. It is just a simple study used a somewhat small data set. The preliminary indications are that the system has already taken into account the free market cost to acquiring a pitcher versus growing your own. Pitchers are 53% less cost efficient than batters. In Wang's valuing of prospects, he has batter worth 49% more based on a weighted average of the top 100 prospects as ranked by Baseball America. If this is true, it casts doubt on how many try to use the Wang methodology to determine organizational worth. Wang's work appears to be best suited in comparing absolute worth of two different players outside of the pressures of the free market talent available to teams . . . more or less a closed system only considering MLB projection of MiL talent.

UPDATE: How would this change the prospect rankings?
Well, one way to do it would be to multiply the prospect worth as designated by the Wang approach by the factor difference between the the cost efficiency of pitchers and positional players. There are probably better ways, but this is a quick way to do it. Using this approach, pitching prospect values would be multiplied by 1.93 (using the WAR/MM numbers). The following would be organizational worth of the top 20 pitchers in each organization.

1. Rays
2. Rangers
3. Indians
4. Braves
5. Giants
6. Angels
7. Royals
8. Athletics
9. Dodgers
10. Brewers
11. Orioles
12. BoSox
13. Cubs
14. Rockies
15. Mets
16. Tigers
17. Reds
18. Padres
19. Pirates
20. Blue Jays
21. Astros
22. Nationals
23. Yankees
24. Marlins
25. Twins
26. Mariners
27. Cardinals
28. Phillies
29. ChiSox
30. Dbacks

Of the three lists I have shown in the past two days . . . this one actually looks the best to me.

21 January 2010

Minor League Rankings (thoughts on the Wang Methodology)

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I was emailed at the Sun Board about this post by dougdirt over at Minor League Ball (John Sickels' blog - rankings: AL, NL). The numbers seems a bit screwy to me even when taking into consideration how Wang's methodology views pitching prospects. To clarify, I think Wang's methodology undervalues pitchers because of their injury incidence. You see Wang's values are a product of how well a positional or pitching prospect, ranked at a certain level, does after that point in time. There is more variation in pitchers than hitters in large part as a result of a higher incidence of performance affecting injury. That could lead to the erroneous (in my opinion) conclusion that hitters are worth more than pitchers. I disagree with that because it forgets the other end of the equation.

You see, pitching performance is a volatile commodity. It means that a pitching prospect is quite a risky venture. It also means that a free agent pitcher is also a risky venture. By focusing on pitching prospects, your cost efficiency (cost per run given/earned) will be less than if you ignored pitching prospects and focused on drafting or acquiring hitting prospects. In that regard, I think Wang undervalues the cost savings of pitching prospects. If the system was closed and free agency had no relationship to payroll, then I would say these numbers would be valuable.

Regardless, I decided to take Wang's numbers and run them my own way using the spreadsheet dougdirt came up with (click here to see post with table). All of that after the jump.


I figured the best way to compare different teams was to only look on their top 20 prospects. Dougdirt did not do this. He focused instead on C+ prospects and above. This means that some teams did not receive credit for having C level prospects. I think this unfairly devalues the system and ruins the spectrum for comparison. C level prospects do have value as Wang himself noted. I did not feel like going back through my database, so I assumed that summed prospect totals less than 20 prospects would be filled with C level guys worth 1MM, which is roughly the middle point between hitting and pitching prospects at the C grade.

Here are the rankings I came up with using the modified Wang method:
1. Cleveland Indians 127.1MM
2. Oakland Athletics 124.1MM
3. Tampa Bay Rays 122.7MM
4. Atlanta Braves 117.6MM
5. Texas Rangers 111.3MM
6. San Francisco Giants 111.1MM
7. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 107MM
8. Chicago Cubs 106.8MM
9. Milwaukee Brewers 103.6MM
10. New York Mets 100.6MM
11. Boston Red Sox 99.7MM
12. Cincinatti Reds 96.4MM
13. San Diego Padres 95.4MM
14. Kansas City Royals 93.7MM
15. Los Angeles Dodgers 92.3MM
16. Detroit Tigers 91.1MM
17. Pittsburgh Pirates 90.7MM
18. Baltimore Orioles 86.2MM
19. Florida Marlins 83.5MM
20. Toronto Blue Jays 81.6MM
21. New York Yankees 81MM
22. Washington Nationals 80.3MM
23. Colorado Rockies 78.5MM
24. Houston Astros 77.3MM
25. Seattle Mariners 72.6MM
26. Minnesota Twins 69.8MM
27. Chicago White Sox 54.5MM
28. Philadelphia Phillies 54.3MM
--. St. Louis Cardinals 54.3MM
30. Arizona Diamondbacks 48.5MM

The rankings somewhat pass the smell test, but I do think Wang's method undervalues the true worth of developing your own pitching. Taking that into consideration, I decided that we should make hitting and pitching prospects worth the same. This assumption is defined as saying that the loss of production in terms of performance volatility is canceled out by the benefit in not having to rely on the free market cost of pitching. Under these guidelines the list would be:

1. Texas Rangers 146.5MM
2. Tampa Bay Rays 144.2MM
3. Cleveland Indians 125.8MM
4. Atlanta Braves 121.9MM
5. San Francisco Giants 117.5MM
6. Oakland Athletics 116.4MM
7. Baltimore Orioles 111.8MM
8. Chicago Cubs 108.7MM
9. Cincinnati Reds 107MM
10. New York Mets 106.8MM
11. Boston Red Sox 106.4MM
12. Washington Nationals 106MM
13. San Diego Padres 104.8MM
--. Detroit Tigers 104.8MM
15. Kansas City Royals 104.4MM
16. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 104.1MM
17. Los Angeles Dodgers 102.5MM
18. Milwaukee Brewers 100.2MM
19. Colorado Rockies 94.4MM
20. Toronto Blue Jays 92.8MM
21. Florida Marlins 91MM
22. Pittsburgh Pirates 93.4MM
23. Houston Astros 78.4MM
24. New York Yankees 77.2MM
25. Seattle Mariners 72MM
26. Minnesota Twins 64MM
27. Chicago White Sox 62.4MM
28. St. Louis Cardinals 53.5MM
29. Philadelphia Phillies 50MM
30. Arizona Diamondbacks 47.3MM

These rankings actually look more accurate to me. It would be nice to see something a little more quantitative than just assuming that the market has figured itself out, but I have no time for that right now. An interesting note here, if Brian Matusz did not qualify for prospect status, the Orioles would have sunk to the 24th ranked system in baseball. This is pretty similar to the argument last year with Matt Wieters.

The Orioles have been pretty lucky to basically make up for the underlying talent. Next year will be another big test on the organizational pipeline. Potential A talent could come in the form of Josh Bell, Zach Britton . . . maybe Snyder, but I doubt it. I imagine the team will have several B and B+ players next year, but no As.

20 January 2010

Garrett Atkins Power



A few weeks back, Daniel Moroz over at Camden Crazies posted the observation that Garrett Atkins home runs have been whittled down to pull shots. He mentions that Atkins use to have more of an "all fields" power, which I do not think is very debatable. I think Moroz' point was not to say that Atkins utilizes all fields, but that there were home runs to right. As in, it was not a true talent assessment. It was a descriptive observation.

Atkins has always been a pull power hitter. It was just that sometimes he managed to hit a couple in right center. In my opinion a true power to all fields type of hitter would have more of a spread distribution. Such a hitter is also typically more of a level plane hitter as an uppercut swing is more difficult to alter timing on for outside pitches. It seems this sort of hitter more often comes early (grounders) or late (infield and short outfield popups) than getting meaningful contact.

After the jump, I'll go into my analysis of Atkins.


Here are two charts of Atkins hit performance. First is his 2008 season and second is his 2009 season. What you will notice is a general power depression. His hit dispersal is still roughly the same rate. It is just the average flight distance has dropped about 10 feet. This follows suit with the numbers. He still delivers a flyball rate just past 40% and his HR/Fly rate decreased from 9.9% to 7.3%. If you look at Moroz' graphs, you will get a similar conclusion just by looking at the proportion of balls leaving the park and traveling 400 ft. Atkins just does not have the power anymore.





I think it is fairly safe to assume two things:

1. Atkins will not reach back to his mid-aughts power days.
2. He perform slightly better than he did last year now that he has moved to a smaller park.

19 January 2010

AL East Best Under-26 Team: Part 3 - Second Base

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

I'll be finalizing the rankings for Parts 3 - 5, with MJ coming back for the RHP. Second base isn't particularly deep in the AL East Under-26 grouping, with our top-rated player still profiling best as a utility guy at this point.

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

1. Sean Rodriguez / Tampa Bay Rays (AAA/Durham)

Height/Weight - 6-1/215 / Born - 4/26/1985 / Bats/Throws - R/R
Stats - Fangraphs / Baseball-Reference / MinorLeagueSplits

Rodriguez is a bat first utility man that fits best as a second baseman in a full-time role. Similar to Brandon Wood, Rodriguez boasts an above-average raw power tool with limited in-game value at the Major League level until he shows an ability to improve his contact rate (in 216 plate appearances he has picked-up 62 strikeouts -- or 28.7%). Also like Wood, there is little left for Rodriguez to accomplish at the AAA level, posting consecutive seasons of over 1.000 OPS in '08 and '09, while hitting a total of 51 homeruns in that same period.

Defensively, Rodriguez is the definition of average. He has limited range and just enough athleticism to turn adequate pivots. His arm strength plays best at the four-spot. With Zobrist in place at second, Rodriguez could compete for a utility spot, along with fellow middle-infielder Reid Brignac. His shortcomings in the strikeout department are tied more to an inability to control the strikezone than any issues with bat speed or holes. At this point, he'll just need to get the reps and either sink or swim. The potential is there for an average-fielding, 6-hole bat with some pop.


2. David Adams / New York Yankees (A-Adv./Tampa)

Height/Weight - 6-2/190 / Born - 5/15/1987 / Bats/Throws - R/R
Stats - Fangraphs / Baseball-Reference / MinorLeagueSplits


Adams was one of our favorite middle-infield targets in the 2008 draft, potentially providing Top 50 value out of the late third round. The former UVA Cavalier has taken his professional approach at the plate at the college ranks and transitioned well to the low-minors. Thus far, he's walked in a little over 10% of his professional plate appearances, posting just 1.5 strikeouts per base-on-balls. Adams has a lot of moving parts in his swing, and it remains to be seen whether or not it will continue to play at the upper-levels. A reasonable projection has Adams carving-out a career as a solid average regular, with no spectacular tools but enough defensive value to make a .750-775 OPS playable out of the bottom-third of the order. There is top-of-the-order upside if Adams shows enough gap-to-gap pop to force upper-level pitching to respect him (if not, his plate discipline will be negated by pitchers coming right at him looking for weak contact).


3. Brad Emaus / Toronto Blue Jays (AA/New Hampshire)
Height/Weight - 5-11/200 / Born: 3/28/1986 / Bats/Throws - R/R
Stats - Fangraphs / Baseball-Reference / MinorLeagueSplits


Despite an unimpressive slash line of .253/.336/.376, Emaus turned in an encouraging performance at AA/New Hampshire in 2009. The first positive sign was his ability to maintain the near 1:1 SO:BB ratio he'd posted the prior year at A-Adv./Dunedin, while again walking in
over 10% of his plate appearances. The second positive sign was that his linedrive, fly ball and ground ball percentages were each almost identical to previous year, while he saw a heavy dip in his BABIP of almost 50 points (.050). This could indicate that his 2009 slash line was negatively impacted by a disproportionate amount of poor luck on batted balls. This is somewhat backed-up by his solid showing in the Arizona Fall League (.317/.391/.417), albeit in just under 70 plate appearances. Defensively, Emaus will struggle to maintain average production, due to his limited range and athleticism. He'll be one to watch in 2010, as we look to see if his offensive production bounces back along with his BABIP. He could get a shot at Toronto as an end-of-the-season call-up if all goes well.



HM. Justin Turner / Baltimore Orioles
(AAA/Norfolk)
Height/Weight - 5-11/180 / Born - 11/23/1984 / Bats/Throws - R/R
Stats - Fangraphs / Baseball-Reference / MinorLeagueSplits


Turner (pictured) projected as a utility man at the start of
2009 and a solid, if unspectacular, season did little to change that. Turner continues to show an excellent understanding of the strikezone (34 BB/37 SO over 441 PA), while employing a semi-aggressive approach at the plate. He shows little in the way of usable power and will rely almost exclusively on OBP to provide offensive value at the ML-level. As mentioned above with regards to Adams, Turner will need to show enough gap-to-gap pop to make pitchers respect him, and if he does his solid footwork and range in the field should be enough to complete the picture. At best, Turner could be a serviceable regular at second base for a non-tier-one club. At worst, he tops out as a AAAA bat just shy of enough strength for his offensive approach to translate.

Derrik Gibson (Boston Red Sox) was also considered for this spot. A solid showing at Short-season Lowell was enough to put him on our watch list, but he's too far away to rank ahead of the four others mentioned above.

16 January 2010

Putting Sickels' Rankings into a Top 100 . . . well, 119


With John Sickels completing his preliminary offseason prospect rankings(NL, AL), we are able to generate a tiered prospect ranking list. I compiled this one from his Grades A, A-, B+, and B; which brings us to a total of 119 prospects. Looking at our Shadow Draft system, we seemed to have done pretty well.

Brian Matusz A
Jake Arrieta B+
Zach Britton B+
Josh Bell B
Brandon Erbe B
Tim Melville B
Zach Wheeler B

We have been able to meet the Orioles actually list plus two with Melville and Wheeler. As the seasons pass, it will be interesting to see how well our system lines up to the actual Orioles system.

For all of the rankings . . .

Ranking

Tier 1 - Grade A (1 through 9)
Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves
Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Washington Nationals
Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants
Neftali Feliz, RHP, Texas Rangers
Desmond Jennings, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Jesus Montero, C, New York Yankees
Brian Matusz, LHP, Baltimore Orioles
Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates
Carlos Santana, C, Cleveland Indians

Tier 2 - Grade A- (10 through 18)
Justin Smoak, 1B Texas Rangers
Dustin Ackley, 2B, Seattle Mariners
Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Cincinatti Reds
Martin Perez, LHP, Texas Rangers
Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Wade Davis, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Madison Bumgarner, LHP, San Francisco Giants
Chris Carter, 1B-OF, Oakland Athletics
Mike Stanton, OF, Florida Marlins

Tier 3 - Grade B+ (19 through 61)
Tyler Matzek, RHP, Colorado Rockies
Tanner Scheppers, RHP, Texas Rangers
Fernando Martinez, OF, New York Mets
Starlin Castro, SS, Chicago Cubs
Michael Taylor, OF, Oakland A's
Jordan Lyles, RHP, Houston Astros
Todd Frazier, INF-OF, Cincinatti Reds
Yonder Alonso, 1B, Cincinatti Reds
Matt Moore, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Jason Castro, C, Houston Astros
Mike Trout, OF, LA Angels of Anaheim
Hank Conger, C, LA Angels of Anaheim
Trevor Reckling, LHP, LA Angels of Anaheim
Derek Norris, C, Washington Nationals
Drew Storen, RHP, Washington Nationals
Mike Montgomery, LHP, Kansas City Royals
Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves
Aaron Hicks, OF, Minnesota Twins
Jenrry Mejia, RHP, New York Mets
Ryan Westmoreland, OF, Boston Red Sox
Casey Kelly, RHP, Boston Red Sox
Dan Hudson, RHP, Chicago White Sox
Donavan Tate, OF, San Diego Padres
Simon Castro, RHP, San Diego Padres
Jake Arrieta, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
Zach Britton, LHP, Baltimore Orioles
Dee Gordon, SS, LA Dodgers
Chris Withrow, RHP, LA Dodgers
Grant Green, SS, Oakland Athletics
Josh Vitters, 3B, Chicago Cubs
Wilmer Flores, SS, New York Mets
Logan Morrison, 1B, Florida Marlins
Brett Lawrie, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers
Alcides Escobar, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Cleveland Indians
Casey Crosby, LHP, Detroit Tigers
Jacob Turner, RHP, Detroit Tigers
Christian Friedrich, LHP, Colorado Rockies
Dominic Brown, OF, Philadelphia Philles
Jhoulys Chacin, RHP, Colorado Rockies
Brett Wallace, 1B-3B, Toronto Blue Jays
Zach Stewart, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Kyle Drabek, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

Tier 4 - Grade B (62 though 119)
Josh Bell, 3B, Baltimore Orioles
Garrett Richards, RHP, Houston Astros
Jiovanni Mier, SS, Houston Astros
Brandon Erbe, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
Chris Heisey, OF, Cincinnati Reds
Scott Sizemore, 2B, Detroit Tigers
Matt Dominguez, 3B, Florida Marlins
Ike Davis, 1B, New York Mets
Nick Hagadone, LHP, Cleveland Indians
Chad James, LHP, Florida Marlins
Alex White, RHP, Cleveland Indians
Hector Rondon, RHP, Cleveland Indians
Ryan Tucker, RHP, Florida Marlins
Jon Niese, LHP, New York Mets
Wilmer Font, RHP, Texas Rangers
Michael Main, RHP, Texas Rangers
Austin Romine, C, New York Yankees
Eric Arnett, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
Jonathan Lucroy, C, Milwaukee Brewers
Brett Jackson, OF, Chicago Cubs
Jay Jackson, RHP, Chicago Cubs
Andrew Cashner, RHP, Chicago Cubs
Austin Jackson, OF, Detroit Tigers
Alex Avila, C, Detroit Tigers
Dan Schlereth, LHP, Detroit Tigers
Mike Leake, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Josh Lindblom, RHP, LA Dodgers
Travis d'Arnaud, C, Toronto Blue Jays
Jose Tabata, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Tony Sanchez, C, Pittsburgh Pirates
Ryan Kalish, OF, Boston Red Sox
Josh Reddick, OF, Boston Red Sox
Michael Bowden, RHP, Boston Red Sox
Shelby Miller, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Jared Mitchell, OF, Chicago White Sox
Tyler Flowers, C, Chicago White Sox
James Darnell, 3B, San Diego Padres
Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Chicago Cubs
Grant Desme, OF, Oakland Athletics
Ethan Martin, RHP, LA Dodgers
Aaron Miller, LHP, LA Dodgers
Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals
Aaron Crow, RHP, Kansas City Royals
Tim Melville, RHP, Kansas City Royals
Jaff "Commodore" Decker, OF, San Diego Padres
Wynn Pelzer, RHP, San Diego Padres
Everett Williams, OF, San Diego Padres
Danny Espinosa, SS, Washington Nationals
Julio Teheran, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Randall Delgado, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Alexander Colome, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Craig Kimbrel, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Danny Duffy, LHP, Kansas City Royals
Wil Myers, C, Kansas City Royals
Ben Revere, OF, Minnesota Twins
Thomas Neal, OF, San Francisco Giants
Zack Wheeler, RHP, San Francisco Giants

Sickels' 2010 Prospect Ratings Are Complete

Remember that the ratings on the website may not be the final ones in his guide, but they are relatively close. His site can be difficult to maneuver, so I have provided the listings for his ratings for the National League and American League for your convenience. This may be helpful to look at when proposing mock trades or analyzing actual ones. It may also help comparing the Orioles' system to others. Enjoy.

15 January 2010

Becoming Acquainted: Scouting the Sally


As we occasionally have done in the past and now planning to do more so in the future, we like to interview other individuals who run exciting and rather informative websites that we think you should check out. Scouting the Sally is one of them.

Mike Newman is the founder of the site. He began it after coming to the realization just how much talent comes through the league. In the past four years, talents such as Ben Zobrist, Gaby Hernandez, Alcides Escobar, Hunter Pence, Gio Gonzalez, Phil Hughes, Carlos Carasco, Brandon Erbe, Mat Gamel, Fernando Martinez, Elvis Andrus, Jose Tabata, Austin Jackson, Kyle Drabek, Chris Coghlan, Logan Morrison, Desmond Jennings . . . I can go on and on. The shear number of current and future MLB talent that went through this league was staggering and presented Mike with an opportunity to provide in-depth analysis on a low minors league that is rich in relevance to Major League Baseball. His site provides easy access to some of the most detailed first hand scouting reports and videos on Sally prospects. His main goals for his site are to build up networking and communication through media and professional baseball.

Mike's background also helps provide some credit to his work. He played college baseball on the D1/2 and JuCo levels and spent some time working in professional baseball at AA. He then spent several years coaching high school baseball in Florida before devoting himself to his family. Baseball gnawed at him though and he has now decided to use Scouting the Sally as an outlet, which is much to everyone's benefit who is interested in low minors prospects. Mike's clear, descriptive reports are an excellent tool in getting a first read on a player you have seen (or haven't seen enough) or to cross check your own analysis of a player.

After the jump, I ask Mike about his thoughts on Joe Jordan, LJ Hoes, Xavier Avery, and his future plans for the site.


Crawdaddy: What are your general impressions of the talent that Joe Jordan is introducing into the Orioles system as it passes through Delmarva? How does it compare to other teams?

Mike Newman: Delmarva was down in 2009. They didn't have anything in terms of impact talent; especially on the pitching staff. I'm excited about the 2010 team as Hobgood, Givens, and Bundy would be a fun trio to scout. Overall, I'm impressed with how the organization has drafted over the past couple of years. I know people bashed the Hobgood signing, but it freed up more money to go overslot on a handful of players which builds the organizational depth they are lacking just a bit.

CD: After a promising rookie ball campaign, LJ Hoes statistically took a step back in the SAL. What is your report on him? What do you think his projection is?

MN: Hoes seems to have lost a step or two and his lower body is becoming too large for my liking. He's not nearly as sleek as he used to be and may have to move off of second base at some point. If this happens, it tanks his prospect value as he doesn't have the bat to profile as adequate at the corners. I like his bat speed through the zone, but he's is not going to project for much power.




CD: Similarly, what is your report on Xavier Avery?

MN: Avery had an excellent two-strike approach and understood his limitations on the field. He worked ground balls back up the middle and used his legs which was good to see. The question will be whether or not he can develop enough pop to keep fielders honest as I see little power potential. His glove is a bit of a question mark at this point. He can cover a ton of ground, but I question his route running and every fly ball seems to be an adventure.




CD: What future plans do you have for yourself and Scouting the Sally?

MN: Right now I'm just having a blast making connections in baseball and hearing from readers around the country. The next obvious step would be to rebuild the site to allow ads and incorporate more multimedia elements. I love using web 2.0 tools including Twitter and Coveritlive, but I was a broadcasting major in college and want to grow into a quality weekly podcast.

CD: I'd like to thank Mike for this short interview and suggest all of our readers to go and check out his site, Scouting the Sally.

Acknowledgements: Videos were provided by Mike Newman at Scouting the Sally

14 January 2010

Felix Pie vs RH Fastballs

Here is a quick post today. I decided to chart out how Felix Pie fared against right handers tossing four seamed cheese. The samples was 431 fastballs with a velocity of 92.1 +/- 2.3 mph. You can tell from the graph that Felix's eyes were wide for high heat from the mid to outside part of the plate. He had strikes called on the interior and low outside as we would expect. Most of his hard hit pitches were in the center slanting outward with his range leaning outside as he steps into the pitch. Looking at the graph, for fastballs I would target Pie high and outside to punch him out. Setting him up with an inside pitch would be a good idea perhaps.

Click on the image to get a larger picture with greater resolution.

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.

Predictions:
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:
G1: PA, AVG, OBP, HR, RBI
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.
-Stotle