02 February 2010

Keith Law on the Fan Tonight

Keith Law appeared on the Fan with Jeremy Conn's Playmakers tonight to talk about prospects on the Orioles.

On Matt Wieters:
Law said he was not surprised that Wieters needed time to adjust. Few players come out and perform when they hit the big leagues . . . there are few Ryan Brauns. He thinks he will be a star by 2012 and 2013 when the Orioles will be ready to compete in the AL East.

Thoughts on the Orioles not signing a big name this offseason:
Law said he has been a supporter of Andy MacPhail devoting money to the minors leagues and developmental system. You won't win by trying to outspend the Yankees and Red Sox. The GM needed patience for the system to replenish itself and prepare them to having waves of talent rising up every year. In a year or two guys like Wieters, Jones, Reimold, and Matusz will be performing at a high level. A year or two after that another wave of talent will arrive in the form of guys like Britton and Joseph. Then another wave will come with guys like Hobgood, Coffey, and others.

On Brian Matusz:
Matusz is a player who was not going to develop in the minors. He secondary pitches are very good and overmatched HiA and AA batters. Add that to an above average fastball and it was clear that he would need to develop in the majors. The only aspect of his game that needs work is fastball command. When he solidifies that he will profile as a no. 2 starter or even as an unconvential no. 1 starter. He has a David Cone style approach where he uses his secondary pitches against both right handers and left handers to set them up on his fastball.

On Zach Britton:
Law is high on Zach Britton. He is a traditional sinker/slider pitcher with a good slider and a plus sinker. He uses these quite well to miss bats and induce groundballs. He should be able to be a top of the rotation pitcher. The high grade (no. 25) in this year's rankings is in large part due to his improving changeup which makes him more of a threat to batters on both sides of the plate. Law then talked about how he talked to three scouts who each said he was one of the best if not the best pitcher they watched all season. They gave very high praise including one who joked with Law not to place him too high on the list because he is trying to talk his GM in trading for him. Law mentioned that that won't happen as the Orioles are high on him as well. It may take about a year and half more development, but if Britton cuts down on his walks and improves the changeup he could be very special.

On Josh Bell:
Bell needs some developmental time. He has one of the best left handed swings in the minors, but his right handed approach needs a lot of work. His defense is a work in progress. His feet and athleticism are there, so Law thinks he can make it. He views the Dodgers system as one where players do not get a high level of instruction and that the Orioles do a better job of that. He thinks Bell is good enough that it would have been foolish for the Orioles to lock themselves in place with a 3 to 4 year deal at the corners and block Bell.

On Brandon Snyder:
The big question is if Snyder will have enough power. His swing is very nice, but it has never produced any power. His defense is solid at first, too. The power needs to show up if the Orioles are going to slot him in at first. If he does start hitting home runs he will clearly be an everyday player.

Jake Arrieta
Law sees him as a fourth starter, but mentions that the O's brass think higher of him than that. He has improved his control, which was the big knock on him. The consensus from scouts is that he is a 4th starter and that is not a bad thing as there are several pitchers in the pipeline that will challenge him for a slot in the rotation.

On Chris Tillman:
He looks light a number 2 pitcher, but has more development to go. The Orioles were somewhat forced to promote him before he was ready and will need to do that development in the majors. His curve has good depth on his curve and he has a good body. His command needs improvement. Very high potential.

bergesen
Law thinks Bergesen is a bottom of the rotation type of pitcher. He does not miss enough bats, but he does work down in the zone so that minimizes the damage of batted balls. His main role on the team will wind up being someone who can hold a rotation position warm on the cheap until another arm pushes him out of the way. He could be a 5th or possibly a 4th starter on a good team.

01 February 2010

Connecticut would do good for a bad team.


This past week NESN's own Peter Gammons stated that there have been some (probably minimal) discussions about relocating the Tampa Bay Rays to either New Jersey or Connecticut. The idea is spurned by the fact that the Rays have been around for about two decades and have been recently successful, yet they have proven to be a tough draw. They were 11th in the AL with a draw of 1.875 million people. Their average ticket price was $18.35 and their premium seats were averaged at $59.82 last year. In comparison to the Orioles, the average ticket price is cheaper ($23.42), but the premium price is more expensive ($42.86). The final price index shows going to either the Orioles or Rays games to be rather similar in cost.

Again, the problem is that the best the Rays can do when they are coming off a World Series is the best the Orioles can do after more than a decade straight of losing records. That is pretty much the definition of a poor market. Moving to an area with more cash flow would be ideal. The is where New Jersey and Connecticut come up first. They have money and they have well established markets to set up in. Problem is though that they will be in the Red Sox and Yankee markets in Connecticut or in the Yankee/Mets/Phillies market in Northern Jersey. It would seems that the people in these markets who would follow a team probably already have sworn allegiance to a club. Furthermore, the Yanks and BoSox have been incredibly successful, so even the band wagon fans are appeased at this point. The money generated by a new club will probably be more about siphoning money already in the market as opposed to generating a new, money laden fanbase.

The big negatives:
1. Yanks, BoSox, Mets, and Phillies may need to be given a monetary incentive for letting another team in their markets. It would probably be cost prohibitive for any owner to meet these prices and set up shop in a new locale and it might not be something the MLB office wants to handle.
2. Little new revenue. MLB probably won't get richer because the money in these markets is probably already spoken for.
3. Stadium and infrastructure construction. No MLB ready existing facilities are available in the region, so new facilities and infrastructure related to those would need to be built. We are probably talking somewhere between 700-1000 MM. Neither state would be willing to help out.

So, knowing all of that . . . it is unlikely that the Rays will move in either of these locations. It will probably take a building/tax boom as well as the Rays outright tanking and watching their awful attendance halving before a move would be considered.

That would not make this a fun column though, so after the jump . . . what may be the most cost effective way to get either of these places to work. Be weary, this is kind of long and rather rambling.


The first assumption is that the Rays would be able to get tax cuts to equalize Tampa and their new home. This might be a faulty assumption. The second assumption to be made is that there will be little to no money available for stadium construction. In light of this, it will be necessary to use existing stadium that would be modified slightly to fit baseball uses. Stadium size will also be an issue because the team would rely greatly on Red Sox and Yankee travel to boost income. This will help on a couple fronts as it would prevent the need to immediately invest a great deal of capital into construction and it would allow the team to saunter around and find a suitable place to build a stadium several years down the line.

So, what level of support would make the Rays break even?

As mentioned earlier, the Rays pulled in about 1.875MM fans last year. Each person paid roughly $41.35 based on the fan cost index (FCI). In comparison, Yankees fans FCI was $102.75 and the Red Sox FCI was $81.61. As this is an Orioles blog, I'll note that the average cost for an Oriole fan is $40.92. So you can see why Camden Yards is full of BoSox and Yankee fans, particularly on weekends. You can get much closer to the action and break about even if you carpool and get a room with a person or two next to the stadium. The way a Connecticut team would work would be by bankrolling on these two fan bases. As this region only has a population of 3.5MM, it probably makes sense to use more than one stadium. Smaller stadiums for non-BoSox/Yanks games and temporarily convert a football stadium for BoSox and Yank games.

So, if the FCI for premium games was set at $70 with the non-premium games at $40, what would be needed for the teams to break even?

Assuming, at $70 you are able to pull in 50,000 for Yankee games and 40,000 for Red Sox games then, in those 18 games, the Rays will have earned 73% of their current annual revenue. Although incredibly unlikely, if the premium games were sellouts at 57,000, that would account for 92% of the current income. An average of 61,250 would generate the same revenue that the Rays currently enjoy. Under the 45,000 average assumption, the rest of the home games can depend on a relatively small fan base for the remaining money (20.8MM).

Stadiums to use for non-premium games:

New Britain Stadium in New Britain , Ct
capacity 8,200
14 years old

The Ballpark at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Ct
capacity 5,500
12 years old

McCoy Stadium at Pawtucket, RI
capacity 11,800
64 years old

Sixty three non premium games will be played each year. A non premium game is defined as a game played against someone not named the Yankees or Red Sox. Each stadium here would serve as a home field for 21 games. The specific series for each stadium would be decided before the season and adjusted for what the team desires. For instance, the season may be split into three sections with each stadium serving as the home field for two months.

Perhaps the nicest stadium of those three will also be the most difficult to include. The Ballpark at Harbor Yard has a capacity of 5,500. Each game has to make 330k to break even with the Rays mark assuming the Yanks and BoSox can average 45,000 for each game. That would make a FCI of $60.60, which would be a very expensive ticket. Based on the current design of the ballpark about 1,000 temporary seats could be erected for games. That would bring the cost down to $51.28, which is still rather expensive. More serious construction could probably maximize the stadium at 7,500, which would drop the per game FCI to $44.44. That would need to include a solution to add 500-1000 seats to the outfield corners and maybe left field. This is the weakest one of the three, but may be a good idea as it would reach another location to generate interest in the team.

The other two stadiums would suit the team fine (which may mean ignoring Harbor Park and just settling in on New Britain and Pawtucket). In New Britain, existing infrastructure allows for an FCI of $40.65 to break even. Temporary stands could raise the capacity to roughly 10,000 which would drop the FCI to $33.33. In Pawtucket, existing infrastructure allows for an FCI of $28.25. If only New Britain and Pawtucket were used with a $40 FCI, then with 80% and 70% fill of their respective stadium (8,250 tickets sold per game) would break even with the Rays current system. If they would be able to sell out their home schedule in those stadiums, they could make another 7.5MM. That is a 10% increase over their current draw based on the FCI.

Premium Games:

Yale Bowl in New Haven, CT
64,246
97 years old

The east end of the stadium would have to be closed off as those seats would be too far away from the action. Some replacements could be placed out into the right field. A reasonable estimation would be that the stadium would be able to fit about 57,000 fans. If need the far end of the stadium could be opened up to allow for another 10,000 fans to congregate in the stands and field. In addition to this, a see through fence would need to be erected in left field to make the short distance playable. Otherwise, you will have a 215 ft porch. It would quickly recess back to about 370-380 is left center, so the wall would only be needed for a short distance. An example would be the Los Angeles Coliseum when the Dodgers first moved out west. Another potential fix would be to put home plate at one end and have two extremely short porches that quickly move back. Essentially the porches would be about 195-200ft, while the alleys could be as deep as 430 feet. In this scenario the high walls would be present for about 25-30 ft. It would also make it easier to seat the fans close to the infield. It is not an ideal situation, but it has been done before. The hope would be that Red Sox and Yankee fans would be interested in coming to a road game within driving distance of home with a ticket price that is less than what it would cost in their respective stadiums.

Benefits:
1. Minimal cost in temporary seating and field adjustments.
2. Current infrastructure is already designed to meet attendance levels.
3. Greater region to draw fans. It may be easier to get one person to buy season tickets in New Britain and someone else to buy the other other season tickets in Pawtucket as opposed to one person buy a full season slate in New Britain.
4. Provides greater scarcity of a product in some locations. Fewer games means that the games take on more importance as an entertainment good.
5. If it is a complete fiasco, nothing large and expensive has been built to keep the team staked down to an area.
6. Greater cost efficiency in running a game as larger venues could be sought for larger crowds and vice versa.

Detriments:
1. Entire plan is based on the assumption that Boston Red Sox and New York Yankee fans would be willing to travel 1.5hr to New Haven to spend 30-40% less while potentially getting better seats than they would have gotten at home.
2. Few box seats.
3. Modifying a football stadium for baseball is somewhat difficult as one or both foul lines will provide for a short porch.
4. Local populace is not very large.
5. Local populace is largely divided amongst Yankees and Red Sox fans with the rest mainly consisting of Mets fans. Baseball is awash in this environment and there are probably very few fans who have no affiliation.
6. Fans are willing to watch MLB in minor league parks where the FCI is probably twice what it costs to watch a minor league game in the same park.
7. That the facilities could be upgraded well enough to provide proper clubhouse amenities for the players.

How would it make sense?

I think there would have to be an increase of about 20%. By using Pawtucket and New Britain, you could probably average about 8000 tickets sold per night. If their FCI was $40 and the premium games were $70, the premium games would need to have an average attendance of 57,000. That does not look very good. If both Pawtucket and New Britain could sustain sell outs every night, then an average premium attendance would be 53,000 to meet the 20% increase goal. I think the 20% goal would be far easier to make if the team was not good at all.

In 2005, the Rays had a season draw of 1.14 million tickets. According to the FCIs, that would be an income of 47MM, 30MM less than they are receiving right now. To get the 20% rise under such a scenario, if the non premium games averaged 8000 tickets, then 29,000 would be needed for the premium games. If the non-premium games were sold old, about 26,500 would be needed to the premium games. In terms of FCIs, with a draw of 1.14 million tickets, if the premium games had an attendance level of 38,000 . . . they would break even. In 18 home games, they would break even with what they could do in Tampa. All else would be increased profit. That should be pretty simple. I think it is pretty easy to say that if the Rays don't move and have a period of about ten years where they have difficulty to compete, their attendance will fall and a place like Connecticut and Rhode Island would look nice.

What about New Jersey?
I think it is more difficult here. First, it would be either going into the AL and depending primarily on Yankees fans to arrive as opposed to Yankee and BoSox fans. They could also try to draw on the Phillies and Mets fans. Also, there are no large minor league stadiums here. They are all in the 5,000 to 7,000 range. Assuming you could fit about 40,000 Yankee fans up in Giants Stadium. If you could get average 37,000 for Yankees and Red Sox games at Giants Stadium, to hit the 20% mark the FCI would have to be $22.68 in those non-premium games for those stadiums. The problem is that if the team is more successful and capable of selling more tickets in Tampa, an FCI of about $110 would be required for non-premium games . . . so you can see that this arrangement is even more limited than what Connecticut and Rhode Island could offer.

If you try to draw on the Mets and Phillies, you probably have to reduce the FCI to about $55. In this scenario, you can reach a 20% increase over what the Rays would make with a 1.14 million attendance mark if you can pull in an average of 35,000 fans in the Mets/Phillies games while hitting 7000 in the non-premium games with an FCI of $45.35. The assumption of Yankee fans being more present and willing to travel to watch a game in addition to the slightly higher draw of a BoSox game and you have a higher attendance rate and higher FCI. New Jersey is probably a better place to have a bad team, but not a better one to have a good team without a larger capacity stadium being built.

So in conclusion, the Rays would do just as well in Connecticut by drawing an average of 45,000 fans for premium games and 8,000 for non-premium games. Under 2005 attendance levels in Tampa, just 18 games of 37,000 attendance for the BoSox and Yanks games would have accounted for all of the revenue Tampa generated that season in 81 home games. An NL team would have very little draw in this region and should not be considered. If the team was placed in New Jersey, a 1.8 million ticket presence in Tampa could not be reciprocated in Jersey with the existing infrastructure. On the lower end of the spectrum, a team could probably get by in the NL, but would probably have a much easier time of it in the AL.

29 January 2010

It takes a village . . .


Daniel Moroz over at Camden Crazies (nee Frost King Baseball for the old school types) brought to light an incidence of plagiarism and copyright infringement on a blog site. Jordan ran Orioles Prospects, a site that specialized itself as a hub for Orioles prospects with him self-identified as an individual qualified to provide top notch insight on players in the Orioles minor league system. To be brief, it was clearly evidenced that Jordan was copying and pasting (sometimes changing a word or juggling parts in a sentence) thoughts and ideas originally printed from Baseball America, PG Crosschecker, and Keith Law.

Now, the first inclination when a story like this breaks is to tar and feather the person who broke ethical and legal rules about use of content. To some extent, I think that is fair. Jordan should be held accountable for his actions. He is 15 years old and probably lacks some capacity to understand the ramifications of his actions and is still of an age where concepts of right and wrong can be muddled. These are reasons, not excuses. For this, he needs correction, which I hope is being accomplished in the aftermath of Moroz' piece. I also hope he takes to it as easily to it as he did after the piece was published as opposed to his actions before. Having to face up to defrauding people is difficult and most would try to get out of it just like he tried to do.

That said, I think this is also a time for many of us in this community to look at what we do. One common link I found in comments and in conversing with others is that for a while many of us were rolling our eyes at Jordan's content. I, myself, was brought attention to his work roughly around the Haiti tragedy although I had nonchalantly put him on my Twitter follow list. After the earthquake, Jordan was trying to increase follows on Twitter to help with selling his guide as well as donate money to Haiti by promising a dollar for every new follow, which is probably a somewhat ethically shady way to help people. I decided to take a look at his site and found it to be highly questionable. I could tell from the sentence structure and turns of phrase that it was ripped from other content. I had better things to do at the time and decided to just remove him from my follow list.

Looking back on that, was that enough? I think as a community we need to be more honest with each other. This does not mean an aggressive hunt for any offending fraud offense, like Jordan's. I think what it means is that when there is a member in our group who is obviously posting shady material, we need to engage instead of eye rolling. We need to accept that other bloggers challenging our information is good for our community, ourselves, and our audience. Personally, I could sit in my own world here and just go on and on about my own studies, but I find it much more rewarding when there is a conversation about posts published between Camden Crazies, Dempsey's Army, and us here at Camden Depot.

As much as this was about some teenager pretending to have the experience and know how that takes others at least a decade to acquire, it is also about the community of knowledgeable individuals who let this continue. I think it is also about how maybe we have the chance to take someone who is eager enough to try to cheat his way into the conversation and somehow make him useful to the dialogue. I guess it might be a situation where Jordan grows from this or learns to defraud people in a more competent manner; and how we, as a community, respond to it or to others who find themselves on that path.

28 January 2010

Keith Law's top 100 - Orioles

Last night, Jonathan Mayo put out his top 100 list, which I mentioned to be rather peculiar. Today, Keith Law unleashes his own (subscription required). It makes more sense to me than Mayo's. I think Law is too bullish on Britton and too bearish on Arrieta, but I understand why he thinks the way he does.

His opinion of Zach Britton has improved greatly in the past three or four months. Back in September, Law's view of Britton was more in the 100-125 area of prospects. It seems after reassessing the player and talking with professional talent evaluators, his opinion changed. Britton is now listed at slot 25. His belief in Josh Bell seems a bit tamer in its translation to the list as number 60. Arrieta free falls down to the 90th slot.

Law seems to think it is likely to expect a solid rotation of Matusz as a 1/2, Tillman as a 1/2, Britton as a 3, and Arrieta as a 4. In addition to those players, he rates Camden Depot's 1st round shadow pick in last year's draft, Zach Wheeler, as a potential 1/2. If the Orioles also spent money on Miguel Jean and Aroldis Chapman that would have put them in with seven of the top 100 prospects. Of course, they did not do what we suggested.

Here is his ranking of the Orioles top ten:

1. Brian Matusz, LHP
2. Zack Britton, LHP
3. Josh Bell, 3B
4. Jake Arrieta, RHP
5. Brandon Snyder, 1B
6. Brandon Erbe, RHP
7. Caleb Joseph, C
8. Brandon Waring, 3B/1B
9. Matt Hobgood, RHP
10. Xavier Avery, OF


After the jump a listing of the Orioles who have made the list with some quotes.

The Orioles listed:
11. Brian Matusz
25. Zachary Britton
Britton is a true sinker/slider pitcher with enough velocity to work as a starter and a potential out pitch in the slider to miss bats when he's not getting ground balls...His control remains below-average and his command of all pitches and feel for the slider need to improve, as well, but he would slot in very nicely as a No. 2 starter behind Brian Matusz, or as an outstanding No. 3 behind Matusz and Chris Tillman.

61. Josh Bell
He's improving at third base and projects as an average glove there, with solid hands and an above-average arm. He should be able to take over in Baltimore sometime between midyear 2010 and the start of 2011 depending on how well he fares against left-handed pitching, regardless of how he does it.

90. Jake Arrieta
Two scouts with whom I spoke saw Arrieta in 2009 and tabbed him a No. 4 starter, but I wouldn't rule out him becoming a solid No. 3 with some command improvements and his feel for adding and subtracting from his fastball.


Shadow System
Our shadow system only had one more player listed in addition to the ones above:
84. Zach Wheeler
He has No. 1/No. 2 starter potential, and given how aggressive the Giants were with Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson, there's reason to believe Wheeler will start out in full-season ball in 2010.


27 January 2010

Not always in the mood for Mayo . . .

Jonathan Mayo put out his top 50 list for MLB.com tonight. He placed only one Oriole in the top 60: Brian Matusz at 5. Where Piliere and Law both found the team to be top ten in terms of organizational talent, I think Mayo would be hard pressed to put the Orioles there. Based on his rankings, the team would be more around 15-18. This would be in line with the Wang approximation, but Mayo seems to be grading prospects differently. Mayo may actually be implementing this method in his assessment as hitters populate the top 50 list in a 3:2 majority.

Some comments:

32-34. Moustakas, Myers, and Teheran. Really? I am surprised he views these players so highly. Especially surprised because Moustakas has looked awful and Myers has not really done much of anything. In my opinion all three of these are incredibly aggressive rankings and I do not agree with them.

Where are Dan Hudson, Fernando Martinez, and Aroldis Chapman? Chapman's exclusion from even the top 60 seems to be a massive oversight. I have no idea how he would not be there. As a lefty starter working in the lower 90s or a lefty bullpen arm in the upper 90s . . . he is a top 50 guy. There is just no way around it. F-Mart has a disappointing year, but he is 21 and pretty much Major League ready. How is Moustakas who has been outright awful in significant time in the low minors worth more than him?

Bell, Arrieta, and Britton? I can understand leaving these guys out in the 60-80 range. Bell might not be able to handle third base (though he right now can hit MLB righties . . . how does Moustakas rank above that?). Arrieta might not be able to start (but he would rate out as a pretty solid reliever and would have to rate out rather similar to Drew Storen who has been a bit susceptible to long fly balls). Britton survives by inducing poor contact with grounders, so there is a question as to how that will transfer at higher levels (though below Nick Hagadone? Really?).

I don't know. The list seems peculiar.

I am not Andy MacPhail: 2010 Off Season


So the 2010 offseason is coming to a close. We can probably expect about 5-6MM more in contracts to be doled out. Erik Bedard is expected to eventually sign here. Mark Hendrikson or Takahashi are also supposed to come in as the lefthander in the pen. Andy MacPhail's moves are summed up as:

Kevin Millwood 1/9MM (or ~11MM considering that Chris Ray has value)
Garrett Atkins 1/5MM (essentially with the buyout)
Mike Gonzalez 2/12MM (essentially 14MM with the incentives or 15MM with the loss of the draft pick)
Miguel Tejada 1/6MM (essentially 6.5MM with incentives)

A total of 26MM for 2010 (28MM with incentives) or 32-34MM by the end of the off season.

I would not have done the above. The moves MacPhail completed were largely short-term without much effect to the future. All of these millions could be spent on future parts. The best case scenario is for Millwood and Tejada to reestablish their value and qualify as type B level free agents.

After the jump, what I would have done.

1. Sign Miguel (Angel Sano) Jean for 3.5MM (down to 30.5MM).
The money used to sign Garrett Atkins is better placed in someone who may actually help the Orioles in the field or in a trade. Jean is considered to be a fringe top 100 prospect. He has amazing raw tools and has more worth to 2013-2017 than Atkins does. Atkins has really no above average tools left.
2. Sign Dallas McPherson to a split contract to compete for 1B (30MM).
McPherson fills in for another bat to compete for the first base position with Aubrey and Wigginton. He is a low cost option who could DH at AAA or just be released if he cannot make the parent club out of spring training.
3. Sign Matt Capps as closer 1/3.5MM (26.5MM).
Is Capps as good a closer as Gonzalez? No. But, a closer is really one of the last pieces to add. For a team with no hope of competing . . . paying twice this amount would be inefficient. Capps is also just 26 and under team control.
4. Sign Brad Penny 1/7.5MM (19MM).
Brad Penny had good peripherals last season even though his straight numbers looked poor in the AL East. If Penny gets injured, there are suitable replacements in the pen (i.e. Hernandez, Berken) or at AAA (i.e. Arrieta).
5. Sign Aroldis Chapman 5/25MM (14MM).
Chapman is a large investment, but not considerably so when you consider the added cost of players like Atkins, Gonzalez, and Millwood. By scaling back on those salaries, two seasons of Chapman are paid for already. His addition to the club would put another B+ arm in the system that fits in at worst around the 50th best prospect in baseball.
6. Sign Mark Hendrickson 1/1.5MM (11.5MM).
Hendrickson is a cheap, yet effective lefty situational pitcher.
7. Sign Adrian Beltre 2/23MM+1/14MM w/4MM bo.
This might be the more controversial idea that I have here and assumes that Beltre would be open to signing here. The reason why I think Beltre would be a good fit here is because he is a great defensive 3B with average to above average hitting ability. SafeCo is tough on right handed hitters and Beltre should do much better outside of Seattle. I also think this gives Josh Bell a full season in AAA to play third base and, occasionally, first base. Bell's rookie season (2011) will be a competition between him and Snyder with Bell also being able to back up third base. The tricky season will be the option year. If both Snyder and Bell distinguish themselves, then buying out the last season makes sense. If neither or only one distinguishes themselves, then it makes sense to pick up the option.
8. Trade Felix Pie, Chris Ray, and Kam Mickolio for J.J. Hardy.
J.J. Hardy was traded for another failed prospect in Carlos Gomez. The Brewers have some need for a centerfielder as well as more depth in their bullpen. This deal gives the Orioles two years of J.J. Hardy as their shortstop. At worst, he is Izturis and at best he is a premier offensive SS with Izturis' glove. It is a move that have major upside and resolves a major hole in the Orioles infield.

C Matt Wieters
1 Aubrey/McPherson/Wigginton
2 Roberts
3 Beltre
S Hardy
L Reimold
C Jones
R Markakis
D Scott

P Guthrie
P Penny
P Bergesen
P Matusz
P Tillman

The projected wins for this team is 81.1. That is greater than the projected wins for the current team while using the same resources and devoting 8MM to future players. The odds are:
332:1 against losing 100 games
1:1 breaking even
13:1 against 90 wins
82:1 against 95 wins

I think MacPhail has been inefficient in his use of resources. There are no glaring errors in terms of locking down players long term (i.e. Aubrey Huff, Danys Baez, Jaime Walker) or dealing away useful young player (i.e. John Maine), but the upside on these deals are minimal. Basically, the hope is that players like Tejada and Millwood qualify as type B free agents. Nothing more than that. Very average, uninteresting moves in my opinion. At least, when given with a valuable veteran, MacPhail tends to get good value (i.e Tillman, Bell, Jones).

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...

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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.




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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.