12 December 2011

2012 Top 25 Prospect Chat

Here is a link to all of our Winter 2012 Orioles Prospects pieces, including our "Minor League Year in Review" series and write-ups for each of the Top 25 prospects in the system. Our coverage concludes with our Top 25 Prospect chat below.

Top 25 Prospects:
Chat and all player write-ups together here.
*Primer for scouting grades here.

MiLB Year in Review:
Double-A Bowie / Triple-A Norfolk
Advanced-A Frederick
Class A Delmarva
DSL Orioles / Rookie GCL Orioles / Short-season A Aberdeen


10 December 2011

Tempest in a Teapot: Teagarden and Eveland

The one thing the Orioles' fan base has is hope.  Hope that with intelligent moves and a slight increase in spending, the Orioles could compete in the American League East.  There is certainly a good core of players in Baltimore with Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy, and Matt Wieters.  However, most successful teams win with several players who maximize production...otherwise known as superstars.  Of those four, Matt Wieters is the only one who you could make that argument.  Markakis needs to walk more, Jones needs to get more contact, and Hardy needs to stay healthy.  This is not a combination of guys like Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez, Dustrin Pedroia, and Jacoby Elsbury.  It is not a combination of guys like CC Sabathia, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixiera, and the rest in New York.  Nor is it like David Price, James Shields, Evan Longoria, and Ben Zobrist.  The Orioles need some complementary pieces and it wouldn't hurt if a couple of them were superstar quality players.

One avenue to get that type of player is free agency.  Premier players are becoming more and more a rarity on the free agent market.  The Orioles are a middle market team (perhaps barely small market).  Teams like the Yankees pull in about 180 MM in profit from their regional network.  The Angels just signed a deal with their yearly income being at least 100 MM.  From what we know about Baltimore, the base pay is about 30 MM and we do not know how much gets thrown on top of that.  The revenue of MASN as a whole is about 170 MM.  The point simply being that when the higher revenue teams want someone like Albert Pujols, the Orioles simply cannot compete with them.  Teams with higher revenue streams will be willing to hand out inflated deals because they have a greater margin of safety with which to play.  Think about AJ Burnett.  Some of the fan base was upset that the Orioles did not outbid the Yankees and AJ Burnett has shown that he is clearly not an elite pitcher.  He consists of about eight percent of the Yankees payroll.  For the Orioles it would be more like twenty percent of the payroll.  There is just no good reason to leverage your team to that degree.  I am not saying that a team should never invest twenty percent of their payroll in a player, I am saying that when two teams go after the same player that the richer team will force an inflation of cost where it becomes untenable for the lower revenue team to invest in that player.

This leaves trades as a more suitable option for a lower revenue team.  Unfortunately, the Orioles do not have a great abundance of minor league talent.  The team should not let go of their top three: Manny Machado, Dylan Bundy (who really cannot be practically traded until this summer), and Jonathan Schoop.  Beyond those three are a short collection of players who have a solid, but not elite ceiling.  The value drops away rapidly after that.  It is not a strong footing to deal from.

Two deals have been made.  Neither of them are for superstars.  They are minor deals and ones that the baseball world in general has not paid much attention.  This was to be expected as many of the local Baltimore reporters mentioned that trades were going to happen and that no one should get too excited.  The aftermath of these trades illustrates a few things: (1) fan bases pay attention to prospects these days, (2) fan bases understand the abstract value of prospects, and (3) fan bases significantly overvalue their prospects.  If you go back twenty years, these deals would have been met with a decent amount of fanfare.  Taylor Teagarden was a top prospect and Dana Eveland ate people up in the minors earlier in his career and threw a one hitter against the Orioles a couple years back.  I want to dive a little more into the two deals.

Taylor Teagarden (C) for Randy Henry (RHRP) and Greg Miclat (INF)

This is not a very interesting trade.  The Orioles acquired a defense oriented back up catcher with some pop (not much else).  He displays good technique behind the plate which makes his above average arm play better.  He is a strong pull hitter who waits for his pitches when he is at the plate.  Based on the Pitch F/X numbers, it appears that he tries to sit back on fastballs and change ups.  s back up catchers go, he is a solid one.  It  has been reported that Buck Showalter wanted Teagarden, which leaves one hoping that Buck realizes that Teagarden's ceiling is not what it was thought to be when Buck was in Texas.

Randy Henry has been a pitcher that has been brought along slowly in the Orioles system.  He was one of the injury upside selections in the 2009 draft.  He has a plus fastball and throws strikes with it.  It is a pitch that works in the low minors, but his limited repertoire will prove to be a challenge as he advances through the minors.  I had him about 30 deep in my list and the last list I saw from Nick had him outside of his top 25.  For me to have him rated higher, I would have to see him locate his fastball better and, more importantly, develop his breaking ball.

Greg Miclat was taken the year before in the 2008 draft out of Virginia.  He was a slap hitter that had a wrist injury.  The hope was that with a change in mechanics and getting healthy would allow Miclat to show more gap power.  The power never truly arrived and at 24 he will likely make his debut in AAA.  He has shown the ability to handle second base and can fill in elsewhere in a pinch.  He shows good base running instincts.  I had him as the Orioles' 9th prospect and, according to my last conversation with Nick, he had Miclat in the 12-15 range.  We both saw him as a future utility infielder who would have several years in the Majors on the bench.

The argument against this trade is that you can go out and sign a back up catcher and then you do not have to give up prospects.  Some focus on Henry's ceiling as a late inning fireball reliever or Miclat's ceiling of being an average second baseman.  It is ignored how unlikely it is that either event will occur.  Henry lacks pitches and needs to improvement his placement.  That just does not automatically happen.  Miclat's lack of power and lack of top end speed typically means that it is difficult for a player like that to succeed against more advanced pitchers found in the Majors.  Teagarden provides the team with a solid defensive catcher with some power.  Those are not found littered upon the ground.  The value of that profile is not great, but it certainly is not easy to find.  To put it another way, Teagarden has 392 plate appearances and a career WAR of 1.7.  Guys like that pretend they are starters and typically do not sign to catch behind a player like Matt Wieters.  They typically sign where they can start and then show why they have never started extensively over their career.

Dana Eveland (LHSP) for Jarret Martin (LHP) and Tyler Henson (OF)

Dana Eveland has been given lots of chances.  Milwaukee, Arizona, Oakland, Toronto, Pittsburgh, and the Dodgers have all had him in their organizations.  He is a lefty that shows promise with a somewhat sterling minor league record and a MLB career with moments where it looked like everything clicked.  Last summer, Eveland threw 154 innings for the Albuquerque Isotopes with a 4.38 ERA that looks better when it is recognized that the league average ERA was 5.11.  In a handful of innings for the Dodgers (29.2), Eveland struck few, walked fewer, and induced grounders at a rate of 55%.  His xFIP in that stint was 3.60.  I would be hard pressed to say he can do that in 2012 because he just does not have the track record and that he was acquired for not much in return.

Jarret Martin was a 2008 19th round selection and a 2009 18th round selection by the Orioles.  During to injuries, he was not able to entire professional ball until 2010 with 59.2 IP in Bluefield.  He had 110.2 IP for Delmarva last year with a 4.96 ERA (league average was 4.11).  He sports a low 90s fastball and has some touch for a curve and change.  His mechanics need help as he tends to throw across his body which is a major reason why his walk totals are so high.  Neither Nick or myself had him as a top 20 prospect.

Tyler Henson was a 5th round selection in the 2006 draft.  Next year if he is not placed on the Dodgers' 40 man roster, he will be a MiL free agent.  This should be informative with respect to his value.  Henson came into the organization as an athletic player with good power upside.  However, he has not been able to generate a high enough contact rate and he did not show himself to be adept in the infield.  In the history of Camden Depot, we have written about him once.  He is still young at 24 going into next year...I just do not see a great improvement happening.  Henson will provide good AAA filler for several more years and may even see a cup of coffee or two.  I have a hard time seeing anything more than that.

The argument against this trade is that you can Minor League invite players like Eveland as he was invited to the Dodgers' camp last year.  As with the former deal discussed, the argument is really about signing these abstract nebulous players that exist everywhere instead of dealing out lower level prospects.  Some people love Martin's look and that he has the foundation for a good repertoire.  There is just a lot for him to overcome.  It just does not happen.  I have not heard anyone lament Henson's movement, so I think people understand his worth.  So why Eveland and not player X?  Orioles' scouts apparently like him as many teams' scouts have before.  He has been a part of three deals where decent pieces have moved.  Maybe the Orioles' scouts think Eveland has finally put it together and has a higher upside than your typical minor league invite opportunities.  The point being, if he is your guy and you do not have to give up much value to get him, then get him.


Conclusion

Teagarden and Eveland are not big pieces.  They are not going to change the direction of this franchise.  They are not star players.  They are additional pieces likely to be worth less than two wins for the team in 2012.  Eveland may not even make the club.  For a team that will struggle to reach .500, these are inconsequential moves.  However, young pitchers benefit from good defensive catchers and rotations always need arm for innings.  That are useful pieces, but not particularly valuable.

Henry, Miclat, Martin, and Henson are not big pieces.  None of them have superstar ceilings.  Their presence in the organization does not change the future of this organization.  Players like them are needed in every organization, but these players specifically are not needed.  Does that make sense?  A C level or lower prospect alone has little value, but your organization should have a bunch of C level prospects.  Likewise, one lottery ticket is near worthless while ten lottery tickets have value.  It is an odds game.  What differs between lottery tickets and players is that it is possible to differentiate value between players.  They are not the same.  The key here is that the organization needs to trust its scouts in determining that these four players are not likely to provide any meaningful production for the Orioles.  That holding onto them will do little to improve the standing of the team.

That level of sensitivity...the ability to discern between quality C level prospects and non-quality C level prospects is difficult.  People get paid to do that and spend years and years getting better and better.  That is not to say that they are always right, but it should give us all pause when we decide whether or not to so completely and aggressively dismiss any merit to the two above trades.  How much do we actually know?  How comfortable do we feel extrapolating beyond what we know?

Personally, I find the trades to be somewhat pointless.  I do not really appreciate what they both have to offer.  I would prefer John Hester backing up Wieters and keeping both Henry and Miclat.  I am not particularly impressed with Eveland and find it rare that players all of a sudden break out.  That said, the value being exchanged here between these teams is minimal.  I may disagree with the deals, but it is not worth making much fuss over.

09 December 2011

2012 Top 25 prospects: #16-20

Follow us on Twitter: @CamdenDepot

For prospects 11-25 on our Top 25, write-ups will be abbreviated, with five prospects examined in each of the next three pieces. Prospects 16-20 rank as follows:

#16 Gabriel Lino
#17 Oliver Drake
#18 Matt Angle
#19 Ryan Berry
#20 Trent Mummey

Player: Gabriel Lino
Position: catcher
Ht/Wt: 6-3/195
B/T: R/R
Age at 11/2011: 18y6m
2011 level(s): Rookie GCL Orioles
2011 statistics: Baseball-reference; Minor League Central
Overall Future Potential: 41-45
Prospect Grade: C+

*Click here for primer on Grades

Discussion:
Backstop Gabriel Lino has some offensive upside and a strong arm behind the dish, but may lack the lateral quickness needed to stick at catcher long term, particularly if he gets any bigger. He has soft hands but lets his glove float a little too often when receiving, which he'll need to tighten. The power is still raw, and does not project particularly well to a corner infield spot. Just 18-years old this year, he has time to work on his problem areas. Should his power tool emerge, he could shift to first base in order to allow more developmental focus on his bat. He is on the large side for a catcher, and it still remains to be seen how he will hold up physically over the stress of a long full season ball season.

Ceiling: Starting catcher on first division team
Floor: Non-prospect
Projected: Fringe back-up catcher

_________________________________

Player: Oliver Drake
Position: right-handed pitcher
Ht/Wt: 6-4/210
B/T: R/R
Age at 11/2011: 21y11m
2011 level(s): Advanced-A Frederick; Double-A Bowie; Triple-A Norfolk
2011 statistics: Baseball-reference; Minor League Central
Overall Future Potential: 41-45
Prospect Grade: C+

*Click here for primer on Grades

Discussion:
Drake has a compact, under-control delivery and maintains a good line to home. His 89-92 mph fastball has some life and can induce soft contact down in the zone. His cut slider is a solid average to above-average offering, and he has also flashed average throughout his pro career with both his off-speed and curve. Drake has the body and endurance to chew through innings, but his stuff may be better suited for the pen, where his fastball/slider combo could be solid in middle-inning work. Baltimore will give him a second run at Bowie next year. If he stumbles, he could shift to the pen prior to promotion to Norfolk.

Ceiling: #4 starter on first division team
Floor: Non-prospect
Projected: Middle-reliever

_________________________________

Player: Matt Angle
Position: center field
Ht/Wt: 5-10/175
B/T: L/R
Age at 11/2011: 26y2m
2011 level(s): Triple-A Norfolk; MLB Baltimore
2011 statistics: Baseball-reference; Minor League Central
Overall Future Potential: 38-43
Prospect Grade: C+

*Click here for primer on Grades

Discussion:
Matt Angle arrived in Baltimore this summer with largely the profile expected of him since he entered the system in 2007. Devoid of power, the former Buckeye center fielder fits best as a 4th outfielder capable of plus defense and solid value as a pinch runner. He could slot in as a placeholder in a starting lineup, but it is unlikely he will be able to handle Major League velocity on the inner-half to the point that he maintains even a passable on-base percentage. He should have the inside track on the 4th outfield spot this spring, depending on what transpires over the remainder of this off-season, and could see significant innings as a late-inning defensive replacement, pinch runner and Sunday starter.

Ceiling: 4th or 5th outfielder on first division team
Floor: Four-A
Projected: 4th or 5th outfielder on first division team

_________________________________

Player: Ryan Berry
Position: right-handed pitcher
Ht/Wt: 6-1/195
B/T: R/R
Age at 11/2011: 23y2m
2011 level(s): Rookie GCL Orioles; Short-season A Aberdeen; Advanced-A Frederick
2011 statistics: Baseball-reference; Minor League Central
Overall Future Potential: 38-43
Prospect Grade: C

*Click here for primer on Grades

Discussion:
Berry eased back into baseball activities in 2011, following off-season shoulder surgery. Originally projected as a potential mid-rotation starter, the resurfacing of shoulder issues may move Baltimore to shift the former Rice ace to the pen. When healthy, Berry boasts two curves, with a hard spike (or knuckle) curve being his best offering. His fastball is generally fringe-average velocity, sitting upper-80s to low-90s, but he could see a slight bump in velo if he shifts to shorter stints in the pen. 2011 was very much about building shoulder strength back-up; it will be interesting to see if Baltimore gives him another shot in a rotation or bumps him to relief to get him moving.

Ceiling: #4/#5 starter on first division team
Floor: Non-prospect
Projected: Middle-reliever

_________________________________

Player: Trent Mummey
Position: outfield
Ht/Wt: 5-10/185
B/T: L/L
Age at 11/2011: 22y11m
2011 level(s): Class A Delmarva; Advanced-A Frederick
2011 statistics: Baseball-reference; Minor League Central
Overall Future Potential: 38-43
Prospect Grade: C

*Click here for primer on Grades

Discussion:
Trent Mummey missed time after crashing into an outfield wall in May, then again due to hamstring issues later in the summer. While he only logged 29 games and 134 plate appearances this summer (14 and 69 in Delmarva and Frederick, respectively), he showed a good feel for the game and solidified his status as a prospect. Mummey has limited ceiling, but plays a good center field, runs well, and has a short swing capable of spraying the gaps. He's undersized, but strong, and likely fits best as a future 4th outfielder. He gets tied up on the inner half when faced with good velocity, and his ability to adjust to more advanced secondary stuff at Double-A Bowie will say a lot about his future potential.

Ceiling: 4th outfielder on a first division team
Floor: Non-prospect
Projected: Fringe bench

2012 Top 25 Prospects: #11 - 15

Follow us on Twitter: @CamdenDepot

For prospects 11-25 on our Top 25, write-ups will be abbreviated, with five prospects examined in each of the next three pieces. Prospects 11-15 rank as follows:

#11 Xavier Avery
#12 Ryan Adams
#13 Glynn Davis
#14 Eduardo Rodriguez
#15 Michael Wright

Player: Xavier Avery
Position: center field/left field
Ht/Wt: 5-11/180
B/T: L/L
Age at 11/2011: 21y11m
2011 level(s): Double-A Bowie
2011 statistics: Baseball-reference; Minor League Central
Overall Future Potential: 46-50
Prospect Grade: B-

*Click here for primer on Grades

Discussion:
Xavier Avery remains an upside prospect with promise, despite completing his third full season with strikeouts in over 20% of his plate appearances. The reason for optimism is simple -- he continues to keep his head above water while being promoted by the O's and remaining one of the youngest players in the league, year-in and year-out. He will start 2012 at age 22, and could get a bump to Norfolk following a solid AFL campaign and provided he shows well in the Spring. A speed-first talent, Avery is among the fastest prospects in the system (along with Kyle Hudson and Glynn Davis -- all "80" runners on the 20/80 scouting scale). His heavy left/right split could spell a future as part of a platoon. If he can tighten-up his routes in center field, he should have easy value as a fourth outfielder. His ability to improve against lefties and to learn to more consistently ID off-speed will determine if he can become a regular at the highest level.

Ceiling: Average starting center fielder on first division team
Floor: Four-A
Projected: 4th or 5th outfielder on first division team

_________________________________

Player: Ryan Adams
Position: second base/third base
Ht/Wt: 5-11/185
B/T: R/R
Age at 11/2011: 24y7m
2011 level(s): Triple-A Norfolk; MLB Baltimore
2011 statistics: Baseball-reference; Minor League Central
Overall Future Potential: 44-48
Prospect Grade: C+

*Click here for primer on Grades

Discussion:
Offensively, Adams will swing and miss a fair amount due to average bat speed, and top velocity will likely always give him trouble. But he keeps his swing simple and tight, and finds ways to get the barrel to the ball. His raw power is above-average, with potential average in-game applicability. He could carveout a spot as a 6 or 7 hitter in a first division line-up if he finds enough gaps and is able to produce 15 or so homeruns per year. Defensively, Adams still struggles with his footwork, though he has made strides in cleaning-up the set-up on his throws (which in turn has improved his play-to-play accuracy). He is the type of player that will always need to work to maintain an adequate defensive disposition, but could be making enough progress to be passable at either third base or second base. Adams could be adequate as an inexpensive bridge to Miclat, Hoes or Schoop, but probably profiles best as a bench bat and occasional starter at either second or third.

Ceiling: Fringe-average second baseman on first division team
Floor: Four-A
Projected: Useful bench player

_________________________________

Player: Glynn Davis
Position: center field
Ht/Wt: 6-3/170
B/T: R/R
Age at 11/2011: 19y11m
2011 level(s): Rookie GCL Orioles; Short-season A Aberdeen; Advanced-A Frederick
2011 statistics: Baseball-reference; Minor League Central
Overall Future Potential: 44-48
Prospect Grade: C+

*Click here for primer on Grades

Discussion:
Glynn Davis ranked as the 16th best prospect in O's system this time last year -- a lofty spot considering he signed as an undrafted free agent out of Catonsville CC (Md.) earlier that summer. In his first full year of pro ball the center fielder made solid progress, showing well in the Gulf Coast and Aberdeen before making a one-game appearance with the Keys. The speedy Davis is a true "80" runner on the 20-80 scouting scale and shows enough feel to project as an average to above-average defender. He has begun to improved his approach this summer both offensively and defensively, but remains very much a work in progress. Davis is similar in body type to Hunter Pence, though he lacks Pence's current physicality. Offensively he good develop an average hit tool with fringe-average power, provided he continues to add strength. If he can develop an on-base approach, he could be useful as a #1 or #2 hitter capable of reaching base via infield hit and stretching extra bases as he works out the gaps. He'll need to mature, physically, but has time to do so. He should get the gig as starting center fielder in Delmarva next summer.

Ceiling: Average center fielder on first division team
Floor: Non-prospect
Projected: 4th or 5th outfielder on 1st division team

_________________________________

Player: Eduardo Rodriguez
Position: left-handed pitcher
Ht/Wt: 6-2/175
B/T: L/L
Age at 11/2011: 18y7m
2011 level(s): Rookie GCL Orioles; Short-season A Aberdeen
2011 statistics: Baseball-reference; Minor League Central
Overall Future Potential: 44-48
Prospect Grade: C+

*Click here for primer on Grades

Discussion:
Eduardo Rodriguez does not have putaway stuff, but there is a chance for three workable pitches and he had them all on display through his ten starts and one relief appearance in the 2011 GCL Orioles season. The 18-year old has a broad frame and thickening physique, which bodes well for his future physicality. His motion is generally loose and easy, coming with a clean three-quarters release and staying under control throughout. He frequently fails to get on top of his breaking ball -- a pitch that will flash some bite but for now looks like a future average offering due to rotation and plane. His fastball is an upper-80s offering that bumps 91/92 mph, and he can spot it to both sides of the plate. His change-up has the potential to outdistance his breaker as his go-to secondary offering, and he shows feel for it at an early stage. Rodriguez likely tops out as a mid-rotation arm, more likely to fall somewhere in the back-end of a rotation. None of his offerings project to plus right now, but his fastball and off-speed could grade out as above-average as he continues to refine

Ceiling: #3 starter on first division team
Floor: Non-prospect
Projected: #4/#5 starter on first division team

Player: Michael Wright
Position: right-handed pitcher
Ht/Wt: 6-5/195
B/T: R/R
Age at 11/2011: 21y10m
2011 level(s): Rookie GCL Orioles; Short-season Aberdeen; Class A Delmarva
2011 statistics: Baseball-reference
Overall Future Potential: 44-48
Prospect Grade: C+

*Click here for primer on Grades

Discussion:
Mike Wright started seven games for Aberdeen but may fit better as a sinker/slider reliever, long term, in spite of his workhorse build. He has a short arm circle on the back side and low arm slot, creating a tough angle for hitters to try and square his sinker/slider combo. His sinker is a low-90s offering that can bump mid-90s in short stints, and his slider compliments it well. He spots both pitches to both sides of the plate. His offspeed lags behind in development, and will likely be a focus for 2012. If he can develop a useful change to go with a solid sinker/slider combo, he could top out as a mid-rotation innings-eater.

Ceiling: #3/#4 starter on a first division team
Floor: Non-prospect
Projected: Middle-relief arm

05 December 2011

Reviewing the 2011 Collegiate Diamonds By the Numbers

Last year I took a very simple approach to finding potentially undervalued talent.  This was my criteria:
Plate Discipline - Walk Rate (>15%) and BB:K ratio (>1.50)
Contact Rate - Batting Average (>.300)
Power - ISO (>.180)
For a player to be noted, they had to hit on each category.  Such a simple foundation will probably be fraught with error, but I will go on and evaluate how well it is working.  I won't discuss Anthony Rendon because...well... don't think we really need to follow someone who Baseball America ranked as the best prospect in last year's draft.


Rob Kral
C/1B, College of Charleston

Kral improved on his 16th round selection in 2010 by being taken by the San Diego Padres in the 10th round this past year.  He wound up playing 14 games in the Arizona Rookie League.  Twelve of those games were as a catcher.  I am unsure how well he caught, but teams were averaging about 2.5 stolen bases per game with him catching one out of nine base runners.  Although this is a very thin analysis, it appears his first taste of the pro game behind the plate has left him with a great margin for improvement if he wishes to stay there.  Otherwise, he did quite well with a 275/463/425 line.  It will be interesting to see how he fares against more accomplished players instead of the smattering of high school and college signees you find in Rookie ball these days.

Joe Panik
SS, St. John's

Panik was seen by many as a supplement round or second round talent.  He would up being selected by the San Francisco Giants with the 29th selection in the first round.  He signed relatively quickly and played short-season ball.  He did well at the plate with a line of 341/401/467.  Baseball America ranked him as the fourth best prospect in his league.  Although at a higher level than Kral, I think it is still important to note that these two players may be able to take advantage of pitchers at this level.  Having high plate discipline and a solid contact rate will often translate into good production at these lower levels where even the best pitchers have poor command of their offerings.  Regardless, it is nice to see the first two picks to have done well so far.

Dan Gamache
2B/3B, Auburn

Gamache was taken in the 6th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates.  That is likely before when I would have taken him as I am not completely sure about my criteria and none of the people I talk to had Gamache ranked in their top 300.  The Pirates did though.  He signed early and played 6 games in Rookie ball and 20 in short season A ball.  He appeared advanced for Rookie ball and overwhelmed at short season.  His line was 231/292/338.  I still have faith in him being a better player than this.

Taylor Dugas
OF, Alabama

Dugas was selected in the 8th round by the Chicago Cubs, but decided to go back to school for his senior year.

Matt Duffy
3B, Tennessee

Duffy was selected in the 20th round by the Houston Astros.  He wound up playing 63 games in short season ball with a final line of 298/370/417.  He showed good contact, an above average plate discipline, and the hope that his many doubles may turn into a few more home runs.  It was a very solid debut by a 20th round selection.

Matt Skole
3B, Georgia Tech

Matt Skole was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the fifth round and wound up earn Baseball America's respect by ranking him as the 13th best prospect in the New York Penn League.  His final line was 290/382/438.  He showed good contact, discipline, and power.  None of which was great, but all were solid.

Players that just missed the criteria:

Levi Michael
MIF, North Carolina

The Twins selected Michael with the 30th pick in the 2011 draft.  He did not play as a professional last year.

David Chester
1B, Pittsburgh

Chester did not qualify under the criteria set above have barely missed the contact rate portion.  He was chosen by the Red Sox in the 33rd round and played rookie ball last year.  He has continued to show good power, but has not been able to earn walks and has been having issues with contact rate.  His line is 243/305/450.  If I ran a draft (which it is probably a good thing I do not), Chester would have been a pick for me in the 20s along with several non-draftees: Ross Heffley, Rob Lind, Mark Micowski.

Bobby Valentine Did Not Invent the Sandwich Wrap

Bobby Valentine claims he invented the sandwich wrap.  The story goes that Bobby decided to use a tortilla instead of bread on his menu for a restaurant he founded in 1980.  Of course, flatbread sandwiches long predate 1980 as tortillas and pitas have been used for sandwiches in Central America and the Mediterranean for decades if not centuries.  The distinction for the sandwich wrap though is that a sandwich traditionally made with slices of bread is instead made with a tortilla.

It is a statement that is too good to be true and it is.  In June 28, 1976's Desert News print a short blurb about pita bread and how you can use it to make regular sandwiches like cold cuts.  It also states that if you wish to give it a "taco-take off" to use a tortilla.  You can actually find earlier mentions of diet tips about replacing regular bread with pitas for sandwich's, but that 1976 column is the earliest I found mention of use a tortilla as a bread replacement.  You can also find earlier mentions of people using pitas for tuna sandwiches (1973) or lettuce to wrap their burgers.  Clearly the 70s were a time of extensive sandwich experimentation.

If one wishes to find an earlier functional incarnation of the sandwich wrap, we can look at this patent that was awarded in 1931.  The inventor was primarily concerned with creating a no mess sandwich and invented a tool to accomplish it.  It is a loaf hollower instead of a true wrap, but the basic idea is there for a wrap.  Combine the desire to create a sandwich that can contain juices and condiments with the increasing presence of tortillas in American restaurants and groceries...the idea that the sandwich wrap was invented in 1980 seems unlikely.  A better search feature than Google News would be able to find some mention of tortilla wrapped sandwiches that predate the 1976 column mentioned above.

I think we can silence Bobby Valentine's claim.  Someone might want to revise Wikipedia too as most organizations seemed to use that as their source to explore the claim.

---

I do believe that I invented the apple and cola drink back in 1985.  As a six year old I decided it to be a good idea to mix apple juice and coke on a 1:1 ratio that was imbibed by using a medicine dropper.  I remember it tasting fantastic.  After 20 years, I tried it again and it did not resurrect that fond memory.  I would like to see someone actually enjoy my invention because I certainly do not.

04 December 2011

Orioles' Payroll Flexibility


Over the past ten years, the Orioles team payroll has varied considerably.  It has been as high at 93.3MM in 2007 and as low as 51.6MM in 2004.  Last season, the club came in at 86.9MM and that is probably a good line for considering what the payroll could be next year and, perhaps, over the next few years.  That would be good for the 15th highest payroll in baseball.  The take home message there is that while the team is not poor, it is in no position to buy themselves into contention as long as we assume that there are no further streams of revenue to increase spending.

The Orioles have a bit of flexibility in their payroll.  In 2012, they are obligated to pay five players 42.4MM: Nick Markakis (12.35MM), Brian Roberts (10MM), Mark Reynolds (7.833MM), J.J. Hardy (7.417MM), and Kevin Gregg (5.8MM).  They also have several players in line for arbitration for 28MM: Luke Scott (3rd arb; est. 6.2MM), Jeremy Guthrie (3rd arb; est. 7MM), Adam Jones (2nd arb; est. 7MM), Darren O'Day (2nd arb; est. 1.2MM), Jim Johnson (2nd arb; est. 2MM), Jeremy Accardo (2nd arb; 1.1MM), JoJo Reyes (1st arb, est. 1MM), Brad Bergesen (1st arb., est. 1MM), and Robert Andino (1st arb., est. 1.5MM).  That commits roughly 70.4MM for the 2012 season and leaves around 17MM left to improve the team.

This tells us two things:
  1. There is supposedly not much money left over to improve the team.
  2. 70.4MM does not get you much to start with.
In the future, things are likely to get worse.  Markakis' salary increase another 3MM, Roberts is around through 2013, Mark Reynolds has an 11MM team option, Guthrie and Scott become free agents, and there are a number of arbitration cases.  Jones enters into his final arbitration day in 2013 where his salary may go as high as 10MM from the 3.25MM he saw last year.  Johnson and Andino may see their arbitration values rise significantly if they wind up with the increase in playing time as a starting pitcher and starting infielder, respectively.  Finally, Brian Matusz, Matt Wieters, and Tommy Hunter become arbitration eligible.  It would not be surprising if the Orioles are at 87MM before entertaining a single free agent.  It could be argued that the ability to bring on a high price free agent would not present itself until 2014 at the earliest.  Brian Roberts' contract would open up a great deal of money, but that cash might be flipped over to Adam Jones.

As Dan Duquette has mentioned, the Orioles are going t have to be able to make the most of the non-premier free agent market.  That includes finding potential players like Mike Antonelli.  However, this model is more and more difficult because other teams are doing and have done the same thing.  Somehow, Duquette has to make up for lost ground and then become an industry leader in finding what others are overlooking.

03 December 2011

How Much is Jeremy Guthrie Worth?

It has been mentioned by quite a few that Dan Duquette is entertaining offer for Jeremy Guthrie.  However, a major issue with Guthrie is that the team wants pitching to come back in return.  This sounds foolish and wrong headed, but this is exactly what happened when Koji Uehara was dealt.  A starting pitcher (depending on your definition of a starting pitcher) and a buy low corner infielder came back in return.  Guthrie is one face value worth more than Koji as he is a starter.  Guthrie will also cost more than Koji (~7MM vs 4MM).

What is Jeremy Guthrie worth?

From 2007-2011, Guthrie is the pitchers with the most losses in baseball with 65.  The top ten behind Guthrie is Derek Lowe (64), Paul Maholm (62), Bronson Arroyo/Barry Zito (61), Matt Cain (60), Livan Hernandez (59), and John Danks/Edwin Jackson/Fausto Carmona (56).  The next slot at 55 is James Shields and Wandy Rodriguez with Mark Buerhle at 53 behind them.  I think the basic point when looking at this is when the electronic and media furor questions the worth of Jeremy Guthrie, the losingest pitcher of the last half decade, it rings analytically lazy.

The bulk of Guthrie's losses have been over the past three years with 17, 14, and 17.  That looks bad, but you also have to consider his team.  The Baltimore Orioles have been an awful team.  They have been awful offensively and defensively.  During that stretch, only 2009 looks bad for Jeremy Guthrie when he earned a 1.3 fWAR.  It was the only time in his past five years that he had an fWAR under two. 

For all intents and purposes, let us say that Guthrie will have his second worst season ever and produce a 2 fWAR.  That would put his value around 10 MM.  He would also be worth a 12 MM offer next year and therefore could bring back a draft pick that would be worth about 2 MM.  With a 2012 cost of 7 MM, I see that as 3-5 MM in surplus value.

What does 5 MM get you?

Victor Wang determined the value for different prospects.  The numbers are a bit dated, but not by much as he did account for inflation that wound up not happening in baseball due to the economic stall out and drop.  I do not agree with his methods though as they take averages of value.  I think risk plays a greater role here and there should be a discount.  I would not go as far as to suggest using the median as that ignores the potential to have a player who achieves star status.  That said, I would probably take Wang's values, adjust them for today's market, and simply cut them in half.  It is not a very elegant method, but one that feels more in line with hypothetical value vs. more certain value.

With that in mind, I see Guthrie worth a back end top 100 pitching prospect or two second tier pitching prospects.  The Orioles could also look toward manipulating the value and bringing back an MLB ready arm that has unfulfilled upside and is a change of scenery player.  That is what Tommy Hunter was in the Uehara deal.  Hunter's unfulfilled upside though is that of maybe a 3 slot pitcher on a second division team if we are being kind.  That has use because teams need those kinds of players to round out the innings, but it was something the Rangers could afford to lose as they needed better performance out of the bull pen.

Potential Deals?

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Angels have been rumored to be in contact about Guthrie, but he appears to be Plan B or C.  Tyler Chatwood would have been a target, but he was deal in the Ianetta deal.  Other MLB ready arms to look at would be journeyman Jerome Williams or the potentially dependable Garrett Richards.  Michael Kohn could be an interesting arm in the pen if Jerome Williams was the MLB ready arm as Kohn can hold his own in a pen right now.

Texas Rangers
The Rangers need an MLB ready arm to fill in for the absence of CJ Wilson and they have built up a strong working relatonship with the Os.  Scott Feldman would be the MLB ready arm here.  He is at best a back end starter for second division team and really only has one good season to his name.  Feldman is also costing about 4 or 5 MM after arbitration.  I could see Feldman paired with Cody Buckel or Tanner Scheppers.  Both of those pitchers are prospects with a mid-rotation ceiling, but a strong middle relief floor.  Personally, I'd want Robbie Ross and Christian Villanueva as a good southpaw prospect and a corner infielder with some breakout potential.

Washington Nationals
The Nationals would be helped by being able to provide a veteran boost to their starting rotation and fill the role Livan Hernandez and Jason Marquis have provided.  A problem though with this matchup is that the Nationals do not have many tweener starting pitchers that could be a buy low proposition for the Orioles.  It could also be argued that with Strasburg, Peacock, Zimmerman, Detwiler, and Lannan among other they already have enough depth.

St. Louis Cardinals
Cardinals have been rumored to be on Mark Buerhle, but the Albert Pujols sweepstakes is locking up a great deal of their ability to spend.  Jeremy Guthrie may prove to be a good secondary option for them.  Setup man Lance Lynn I would think would be the guy the Os would zero in on.  He works in the low 90s as a starter and mid 90s as a reliever.  He would provide the Os with a player with a solid base as they try to make a starter out of him.

Cincinnati Reds
The Reds have Yonder Alonso and no place to play him.  The Orioles could find him a place at first with Mark Reynolds returning to third or going to left field or even DHing.  They could also add another fringe piece like a Nolan Reimold and see if they could wedge Edinson Volquez out.  I think the Reds would be better off just making Volquez into a reliever.  I think Guthrie would be a great fit for the Reds.

Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have a good number of older pieces and high upside young players.  The only pitcher I could see meeting the Orioles' needs is Nate Eovaldi.  He profiles more as a reliever, but the Dodgers are trying to use him to spell a rotation slot.  The Orioles could take back Juan Uribe to offset cash costs, but would likely get a prospect added.  Chris Withrow would be who I would want as the added prospect.  He has been passed by other arms in the system, but has a plus breaking ball and can produce high heat.

Conclusion
With the new CBA rules, Guthrie's value is at its highest now as any team who trades for him would not be able to pull back compensation draft picks.  If he is dealt now, the receiving team will receive that protection.  That single item has a value of about 2 MM attached to it.  As much as Guthrie means to the team with his mid rotation arm, he likely has more value being dealt out to another team.  The hope is the Orioles do not sell themselves short as they may have done in the Uehara deal by chase 'now' value as opposed to seeking 'future' value.

02 December 2011

Cup of jO's (December 2, 2011): O's and Yoenis Cespedes



Taking a break from the Orioles Top 25 Prospect list, this morning I wanted to give a quick write-up on Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes -- the top international free agent currently on the market (technically, he will not hit the market until his residency is officially established in the Dominican Republic). Baltimore was recently linked to Cespedes by Roch Kubatko at MASN, who wrote on Wednesday that the O's were "interested in Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and will watch him work out in the Dominican Republic."

While Cespedes has been closely followed by international evaluators for the last five years, average baseball fans were made aware of his presence this November when his "publicity video" went viral on YouTube (a copy of the video available here), leading to drums of e-ink being spilled by sportswriters around the net. He has been a fixture on the Cuban National Team and was rated by Baseball America as the sixth best prospect at the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

Putting aside the likelihood of Cespedes electing to sign with Baltimore, is he a target Baltimore should consider? To answer that question as best we can we must look at two items: 1) his skillset and projection, and 2) his likely price.

Scouting Snippet

I haven't seen enough of Cespedes to stand firmly behind a full evaluation -- really my exposure has been limited to video feeds and television broadcasts from international tournaments. The following is my take based on about six or seven in-game views, so assign the requisite level of weight to these thoughts. Also, be sure to crosscheck this report with whatever you can find at BaseballAmerica.com, who routinely leads the pack in coverage of international talents.

Physical Description:
Listed 5-foot-10, 200-pounds. Thick, strong, athletic build. Broad chest and wide, strong hips and trunk. Agility and explosiveness to excess. Moves very well underway; can drag out of the box.

Hitting:
Cespedes's calling card is power and he has lots and lots of it. Because of his physical strength, particularly his monster core, he does not need much load or seperation to give his barrel time to accelerate. With a basic, fairly compact swing he is able to produce enough torque to drive the ball out from pole-to-pole. He doesn't need to sell out for homeruns, but his approach in the box can noticeably falter when he gets too focused on trying to force hard contact. This isn't evident in a loss of balance, head pull, or leak, but you will see some backside collapse at times and, more often, he'll extend early and come around the ball, creating holes and some lag in the barrel. There is significant bat wrap, but he seems to overcome it with his bat speed. Raw power grades at a 65, though his in-game realization could be closer to 55 against advanced MLB arms. Hitting could be anywhere from a 40 to a 55 depending on how capable he proves at making adjustments at the Major League level.

Fielding:
Cespedes has more than enough footspeed to cover gap-to-gap in center, and shows a very good drop-step back on balls. He isn't a natural fielder, but shows comfort in the outfield. He can try to do too much at times, and could possibly benefit from pro instruction as to how to play more within his tools -- not getting overly aggressive with his throws and setting up his routes a little better. His arm is an easy 60, though his accuracy can come and go due to his set-up and arm action. I would have no issue believing his glove can grade as a 60 if told so by someone who has spent more time sitting on him, but my limited views lead me to give a more conservative 50 grade.

Summary:
Cespedes is a difficult assignment for evaluators. His physical tools are phenominal, and he has a track record of performing against high level competition (albeit inconsistent and varying talent levels from player to player) both in Cuba and through international tournaments. Still, there is a large degree of uncertainty as to how a player in his situation ultimately reacts to the change in culture, lifestyle, on-field pressure and media scrutiny when making the adjustment from life in Cuba to life as a professional baseball player in the United States.

The safest course of action is likely providing him the opportunity to spend at least half of a season at Triple-A, allowing him to adjust to the pro game outside of the national broadcasts and nightly highlight wraps that accompany MLB games. With limited looks, it is very difficult to wager a guess as to the likelihood that Cespedes is suited to make the transition to the Majors with his production intact. For purposes of this exercise, we'll slap a consertive grade report as follows:

Hit: 45
Power: 55/60
Speed: 60
Arm: 60
Fielding: 45/50
Feel: 45
OFP: 52-56

*Click here for primer on Grades

What we have, for purposes of this exercise, is a potential first division starting center fielder, with some risk that he will not make enough contact for his power to fully emerge at the highest level.

Price Tag

Aroldis Chapman currently holds the record for initial contract given to a Cuban defector, with the Reds handing him a deal $30.25 million over six years. Cespedes figures to easily eclipse that contract, and is rumored to be looking for more than $60 million over six years. At 26-years old, he is entering his physical prime, with his signing Major League team getting his best years for the term of their investment. Significant interest from some potentially big spending clubs (including the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Phillies and Nationals) would seem to all but ensure a big pay day for the standout Cuban outfielder -- for purposes of this exercise we will use a conservative estimate of $60 million over six years. Keep in mind that if Cespedes ends-up at Triple-A for three months, you are eating away part of the value of that first year -- in effect driving the annual price up to around $11 million a year.

Conclussion

Our "scouty" report projects Cespedes to a solid to above-average first division starter, and his upside is that of a five-tooled multiple all-star talent. A 6/60 deal for that type of player would seem to be a steal, particularly for a player entering his best four or five years of production and physicality. The sixty-million dollar question, however, is one of probability.

While evaluators can find comfort in Cespedes's successful track record in Cuba and on the international scene, it is a tall order to ask that evaluator to stake $60 million dollars, maybe more, on that production translating against the best competition in the world. Add to that an inconsistent track record for Cuban defectors and the larger issue of cultural adjustments and the ability to perform under the weight of the media scrutiny and expectations that accompany a record-setting contract, and the evaluator's task of filing a suggested price starts to more closely resemble a game of darts (skilled darts, but darts nonetheless).

Ultimately, for Baltimore, the likelihood is that so long as the big spenders remain interested the price tag will be problematic when considering the risk you are taking on. Additionally, the Orioles may be looking at a situation where they are forced to overpay the market in order to convince Cespedes to turn down a better competitive and higher profile situation in New York, or perhaps a more Cubano-centric situation in a city like Miami.

Cespedes is worth a long look from Baltimore, and the return on investment has a chance to be the type of "hit" that the Orioles will need to have if the organization hopes to turn things around any time soon. Unfortunately, the potential of having $10 million or so tied-up in a fringe-average regular (if things don't break right for Cespedes in his transition), in addition to the combined approximately $47.5 million owed to Roberts and Markakis over the next two seasons, and escalating prices for Baltimore's arbitration-eligible youngsters, could severely limit spending in any other areas, including extending some of the younger Birds.

Were Baltimore a more complete team at the Major League level, or a more wealthy team in terms of prospects in their system, this may be a risk worth taking. But the Birds need to focus inward on systemic changes before a high risk/high reward investment like Cespedes makes sense.

30 November 2011

2012 Top 25 Prospects: #10 Dan Klein

Follow us on Twitter: @CamdenDepot

Player: Dan Klein
Position: right-handed pitcher
Ht/Wt: 6-2/190
B/T: R/R
Age at 11/2011: 23y3m
2011 level(s): Advanced-A Frederick; Double-A Bowie
2011 statistics: Baseball-reference; Minor League Central

Grades - Now (Future):
Motion: 50 (50)
Fastball: 50 (50)
Curveball: 50 (55)
Change: 50 (50/55)
Slider: 40 (45)
Control: 50 (60)
Command: 50 (55)
Feel: 50/55 (55)
Overall Future Potential: 46-52
Prospect Grade: B-

*Click here for primer on Grades

Background:
Drafted in the 3rd Round of the 2010 Draft, out of UCLA, and signed for almost $499,900. Multi-sport athlete in high school and national level prospect in both baseball and football. Missed sophomore year at UCLA after shoulder surgery and pitched exclusively in relief thereafter.

Physical Description:
Broad upper-body, well developed and tapered to a medium waist. Athletic build. Durable physique but history of shoulder issues. Good athleticism and body control.

Motion:
Klein utilizes a simple step-in motion, staying udner control and repeating well. He shows a quick arm with fairly easy action, though he comes close to a hard stab, dropping the ball low to his hip before entering a semi-short arm circle. There is potential for some shoulder strain with that pairing, and with his shoulder surgery in 2009, and now again in 2011, it is worth monitoring. He stays relatively quick to home, often clocking sub-1.3s on the watch.

Stuff:
Fastball - Klein gets good life on his fastball, running it in on righties with late action. It generally sits 91-93 mph and can come with good bore. He spots it well to each side and shows an understanding of how to use it to set-up his curve, change and slider, depending on the situation.

Curve - a 12-to-6 breaker, Klein's curve is at its best when he throws it in the 76-78 mph range, getting solid shape and depth. He can use it as a freeze pitch but is most effective at this point when he buries it. Klein shows a high level of comfort with wthe offering, and there is enough spin to project it as a potential above-average pitch.

Change-up - Klein's change is generally 85-86 mph, showing drop and even some late fade. It is most effective down in the zone and he has found some success working it under the hands against lefties. The pitch was inconsistent at UCLA, turning flat and hittable up in the zone, but he has since improved his execution. A feel pitch, he will need to demonstrate his latest trip to the surgeon has not set him back.

Slider - The least effective of his offerings, Klein's slider is an 84-86 mph breaker with below average depth and bite. It works well as a change of pace pitch with tilt, breaking opposite his change and inducing soft contact. Like his change, when he misses the pitch it is hittable, though that doesn't stop him from getting aggressive with it. His arm speed produces plenty of spin, so reps should help the pitch reach Major League average in time.

Discussion:
2011 started about as well as it could for Klein, as he breezed through Advanced-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie with little trouble. Throwing exclusively from the pen, Klein utilized his four pitch mix effectively in posting a SO/9 rate of 10.3 and SO/BB rate of 6.17 over 32.1 innings. Unfortunately, his season ended prematurely in June due to tenderness in his shoulder. He was shut down and underwent surgery to repair a SLAP tear in his right labrum.

Regardless of Klein's timetable for return, this setback is a major blow to Baltimore's plans to transition the former UCLA closer to the rotation. Klein has yet to surpass 52 innings in a season since he did so between his high school junior spring and summer, back in 2006. He will pitch most of 2012 as a 24-year old, and it would likely be another three years before he builds up the arm strength and endurance necessary to log 150+ innings.

When healthy, Klein is essentially ready to tackle Major League hitters in a limited relief role. He lacks the putaway stuff to make him a viable shutdown arm, but his solid pitchability and stable of average or above offerings could make him an above-average reliever with 8th inning potential. His health will be the primary determinant in how Klein ultimately develops, and his setbacks in this department are the primary discounting factor in his OFP grade of 46-52.

Ceiling: Late-inning reliever
Floor: Non-prospect
Projected: Useful middle reliever

A second look at Yu Darvish

A few weeks back we looked at how to translate Yu Darvish's performance in the Japanese Player's League to Major League Baseball.  That projection system put Darvish as being capable of throwing an FIP of 2.82 in a league average environment.  That is rather exceptional and seemed unrealistic.  Instead, after looking at the limited data I had at hand...I suggested that he looked more like a 3.50 FIP pitcher.  A couple issue with the translation is that it was based on three data points and those three data points were awfully successful data points with greater weight being given to the pitchers who threw more innings.  In other words, there was a bit of a survivor bias.

To make a different and potential better system, I compared that model's prediction to the actual performance of six recent transitions from JPL to MLB: Hiroki Kuroda. Dice-K, Kenshin Kawakami, Colby Lewis, Koji Uehara, and Ryota Igarashi.  These six pitchers were given equal weight in the translation.  Last time, I present the coefficients as values to divide.  This time to make things less confusing in the future, these values are to be multiplied by the JPL numbers.
Original System Coefficients
K - 0.93
BB - 1.81
HR - 1.24

New System Coefficients
K - 0.98
BB - 2.6
HR - 1.93

15th Percentile Coefficients
K - 0.83
BB - 3.34
HR - 2.53

85th Percentile Coefficients
K - 1.13
BB - 1.83
HR - 1.33

One of the improvements here is that we now have a range that covers 70% of the possible outcomes.  Here is what Darvish's projections look like now over 200 IP:
15th percentile - 177 K, 137 BB, 15 HR, 4.49 FIP
50th percentile - 209 K, 106 BB, 12 HR, 3.47 FIP
85th percentile - 240 K, 75 BB, 8 HR, 2.43 FIP

If Darvish maintains this performance over five years, these are the following WARs and associated values he would be worth:
15th percentile - 5.9 WAR, 29.5 MM
50th percentile - 13.9 WAR, 69.5 MM
85th percentile - 24 WAR, 120 MM

It appears that my first approximation of Darvish's value may have been a bit bullish.  It was based on an aggressive projection and an aggressive assumption on contract inflation (about 10% as opposed to my normal 5% assumption).  That said, it was a pretty decent approximation of value given that I did not think long about it.  Now, I would say the a more reasonable approximation would be some a mix of 70 MM between the posting fee and a five year deal.

What will make it worth Yu Darvish's time?

Darvish made 6.6 MM last year for the Nippon Ham Fighters.  If he does not agree to a contract after this year or next, Darvish would be a free agent after the 2013 season.  If he was to stay in Japan, he could see 13 MM over the next two years and then come across the Pacific as a free agent.  If he maintains his play, he should be worth about 15 MM in the open market.  Over five years, he could earn 58 MM.  If I was his agent, I would be floating 12 MM per year as what to expect in order to sign a contract, but be willing to accept something as low as 45 MM.  There has to be some concern about getting injured in the next couple years.

Suggested move to get Darvish:
30 MM posting fee / 5 years, 40 MM

Likely move to get Darvish:
50 MM posting fee / 5 years, 50 MM

29 November 2011

2012 Top 25 Prospects: #9 Clayton Schrader

Follow us on Twitter: @CamdenDepot

Player: Clayton Schrader
Position: right-handed pitcher
Ht/Wt: 6-0/200
B/T: L/R
Age at 11/2011: 21y7m
2011 level(s): Class A Delmarva; Advanced-A Frederick
2011 statistics: Baseball-reference; Minor League Central

Grades - Now (Future):
Motion: 35 (40/45)
Fastball: 50 (60)
Slider: 45 (55/60)
Curveball: 40 (45/50)
Change: Not scouted
Control: 25/30 (40)
Command: 20/25 (35/40)
Feel: 35/40 (45/50)
Overall Future Potential: 46-52
Prospect Grade: B-

*Click here for primer on Grades

Background:
Drafted in the 10th Round of the 2010 Draft, out of San Jacinto College(Texas), and signed for overslot bonus of $300,000.

Physical Description:
Broad build, wide hips. Strong, especially in core and trunk. Some room to firm up physique and improve conditioning.

Motion:
Schrader throws from an elevated three-quarters arm slot and matches it well with his fastball and breaking balls. Because he doesn't pair the slot with a corresponding tilt, there is some concern for future shoulder injury (though that is off course dependent on the structural specifics of his joint). His delivery, which produces mid-90s velocity, comes with a lot of effort, including a rigid landing and extreme head whack and arm recoil to finish. The result is well below average control and a limited number of pitches in his arm per appearance. While he will be able to smooth out his landing some, much of his mechanics "are what they are," and Baltimore will likely take the good (loud stuff) with the bad (control and limited profile).

Stuff:
Fastball - Big plus offering that runs low- to mid-90s with some life. Schrader will spray the strikezone with the pitch, but has little command to spots.

Slider - Mid-80s offering with hard bite and tilt. Arm slot deception and true swing-and-miss ability. Potential plus offering down the line.

Curve - Downer 78 to 82 mph offering utilized more at San Jacinto than in 2011. Serves as a useful counter to his harder offerings due to velocity delta.

Change-up - Not scouted.

Discussion:
"Clay Shray" is a big arm with big control issues at present, though a slightly softer landing can help him keep his momentum more consistently to home and prevent some off his swing-around. While his arm angle raises some potential red flags from a biomechanical standpoint, it helps him to create a solid downhill plane, even with his listed 6-foot frame. He does an adequate job of hitting his slot consistently and just needs to find a way to stay in the zone with a little more frequency.

While the walk rate is the critique most likely to be touched upon in internet reports, he should be able to survive with 4+ BB/9 at the Major League level due to his ability to minimize baserunning threats by missing bats. That said, he will walk hitters and, like Fernando Rodney, may actually fit better in the closer role than as a 7th or 8th inning arm. This would allow him to enter the majority of his games with clean bases and would help to minimize the potential damage resulting from his inevitable base-on-balls.

Perhaps most important, Baltimore will need Schrader to work on his endurance. While the effort in his delivery causes control issues, the drain on his energy is perhaps more impactful. He is noticeably less effective the more pitches he hangs on his arm per appearance, and as a result Baltimore endeavored to keep him from appearing on back-to-back days. Double-A Bowie will represent his first true pro challenge and will help to ground his projection. If he is able to maintain his power stuff on back-to-back days, and can clean-up his mechanics enough to get his BB/9 down between 4 and 5, he could be a useful bullpen piece in Baltimore as early as the second half of next year. He has the upside profile of a Jorge Julio.

Ceiling: Late-inning reliever
Floor: Non-prospect
Projected: Useful middle reliever

2012 Top 25 Prospects: #8 Jason Esposito

Follow us on Twitter: @CamdenDepot

Player: Jason Esposito
Position: third base
Ht/Wt: 6-2/205
B/T: R/R
Age at 11/2011: 21y4m
2011 level(s): N/A
2011 statistics: N/A

Grades - Now (Future):
Hit: 35 (40/45)
Power: 40 (45/50)
Arm: 60 (60)
Defense: 55 (65)
Speed: 45 (40)
Feel: 50 (50/55)
Overall Future Potential: 46-52
Prospect Grade: B-

*Click here for primer on Grades

Background:
2nd Round selection in the 2011 draft, out of Vanderbilt University. Signed for overslot bonus of $600,000. Previously drafted and unsigned in 2008 by Kansas City.

Physical Description:
Solid, athletic build. Wide hips with strong trunk and core. Pro body with little projection left, but should be able to tighten physique as he finishes maturing.

Hitting:
Espo takes with him to the plate a solid approach, including a good feel for the strikezone. His swing is compact and he covers the quadrants fairly well. There is enough strength in his wrists to allow him to transfer power from his core to the bat, and he shows that pop by producing hard contact from pole-to-pole. Esposito's bat speed is the primary chink in his armor, and he has struggled mightily when armed with lumber against more advanced competition on the Cape and with Team USA. An issue tangential to his bat speed is pitch-ID. Because he needs to start his swing early to catch-up with better velocity, good off-speed offerings can give him trouble. Additionally, he utilizes a medium-high leg kick in his stride, which cuts into his ability to adjust his timing on the fly.

Defense:
Esposito shows easy footwork and soft hands straight on, though his lower-half can drag some on the move. This makes third base the best fit for him, and the former Vandy infielder has enough arm to man the hot corner at the Major League level. There is enough athleticism in Espo's game to allow him to hold down second base if so required, and he could even play a passable shortstop in an emergency (though extended exposure there would like prove his range and footwork to be lacking at the outer reaches of his zone). He is a below-average runner but moves well enough to cover an outfielder corner, completing his profile as a potential utility talent.

Discussion:
Esposito was a highly touted high schooler and a high follow entering his junior year at Vanderbilt in spite of back-to-back uninspiring summers on the Cape and a half-summer with USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team. His stock took a hit when his spotty offensive performance with the new BBCOR bats (which have a smaller sweetspot and less trampoline than the previous composite bats) forced evaluators to consider more strongly his average bat speed, and whether his impressive sophomore year with the 'Dores would eventually resurface in pro ball.

Despite the questions surrounding his offensive game, Esposito boasts a reasonably high floor off the strength of his glove. He can get a little clunky when forced to operate on the move and at the edge of his range, but could be a true standout defender if allowed to focus his efforts at third base. His pivots and footwork around the bag are solid, and his hands and approach will allow him to provide value at second base, as well as shortstop in a limited capacity, should Baltimore need him to log innings across the infield.

Esposito's well documented struggles to perform with wood, as well as the not-insignificant decrease in OBP (.453 to .403), SLG (.599 to .530), and BB/SO rate (0.97 to 0.38) from his sophomore to junior year, all raise questions about whether or not he will hit enough at the upper-levels to justify an everyday spot on a first division team. The glove could be double-plus quality at third, but he will need to find a way to barrel more off-speed pitches. He has enough raw power that he could be a 15-20 homerun bat if he squares-up enough balls.

Ceiling: Average third baseman on first division team
Floor: Four-A placeholder or injury insurance
Projected: Utility infielder/outfielder

28 November 2011

The Orioles are a Small Market Team

That title probably brought a number of you here to read this column and tell me how I am wrong.  Not only wrong, I imagine some of you might call me blinded by Dan Duquette's words over the past few weeks that suggest he considers the team a small market ballclub ("I learned in a small market, I applied my skills in a small market, to put together a top-quality team").

Mind you, I did not feel that Baltimore was a small market town.  I have always bought into the idea of the Orioles being a sleeping baseball giant as Peter Gammons used to say.  However, my own personal journey challenging that thought emerged as I began as I began traveling around to other cities.  I began to realize how small Baltimore is and how much of the city is probably not all that interested in baseball or inclined to spend money on it.  Add that to some of the money from corporations, perhaps, being siphoned off to the Nationals who are trying hard to be a well liked team (to varying success).  At this point, I became comfortable with Baltimore being a mid-market town, which made sense with respect to information available on how money is dispersed in Major League Baseball.  However, they calculate these things, the Orioles (in the few years available) were right in the middle neither giving or receiving much of anything.  

Recently, Dan Duquette referred to the Orioles as a small market team in being introduced to the fan base and in several interviews thereafter.  Are these valid statements?  Have we been in a situation akin to the frog that sit in a pot of water slowly coming to boil?  Do we not realize we are being boiled...or fading as a city of importance.  It would seem to fit the motif of an old port and steel city that is being marginalized by outsourcing of materials and a trade deficit.  It is also something that was harped on with the Wire.

My methodology was simple.  I consulted four sources:
AL East Rankings

Baltimore
TV Market Rank: 27th
Radio Market Rank: 21st
Population Rank: 21st
GDP Rank: 19th

Boston
TV Market Rank: 7th
Radio Market Rank: 10th
Population Rank: 22nd
GDP Rank: 9th

New York
TV Market Rank: 1st
Radio Market Rank: 1st
Population Rank: 1st
GDP Rank: 1st

Tampa
TV Market Rank: 14th
Radio Market Rank: 19th
Population Rank: 55th
GDP Rank: 23rd

Toronto
(not in United States, so we have to use different sources)
TV Market Rank: Between 4th ranked Philadelphia and 5th ranked Dallas
Radio Market Rank: Between 14th ranked Seattle and 15th ranked Pheonix
Population Rank: Between 3rd ranked Chicago and 4th ranked Houston
GDP Rank: Between 11th ranked Miami and 12th ranked Seattle



Conclusion
The data tends to indicate that the Orioles are likely a low mid-market team or a high small market team.  Camden Yards, a greater population, and a history probably helps the Orioles sustain a higher revenue than the Rays have.  It also helps that the Orioles' regional market deal helps them siphon cash away from the potential gold mine of the Washington DC market.  Of course, DC has had issues with properly supporting the team.  The last time a DC team was dominant was probably back in the late 1860s and early 1870s when the Treasury Department bankrolled the team.

Back to Baltimore, we might have to get use to the idea that this team cannot spend as much money as teams in Arlington or Boston.  The Orioles are at a competitive disadvantage and it makes it difficult for the team to succeed.  It requires a top notch front office that is efficient with how it invests its money and that has not been the MO of the team over the past couple decades (or ever?).  Even the great teams of the 60s and 70s were built on a foundation of out spending teams for bonus babies prior to the implementation of the draft. 

The Orioles were big spenders back in the day, so how did their population size compare back then?

Baltimore does appear to have stabilized in population and one hopes the same is true about the amount of money the team is able to take in from the surrounding area.  During the 1990s Baltimore began successfully (to a degree) shifting from blue collar to white collar commerce and production.  The city is still well behind New York, Boston, and Toronto in terms of available money coming from media deals.  I boiled it down to two things: (1) the Orioles are a threshold middle/small market team and (2) they are in a worst potential revenue market than three of the five teams in the AL East.

25 November 2011

2012 Top 25 Prospects: #7 Parker Bridwell

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Player: Parker Bridwell
Position: right-handed pitcher
Ht/Wt: 6-4/190
B/T: R/R
Age at 11/2011: 20y3m
2011 level(s): SS-A Aberdeen; Class A Delmarva
2011 statistics: Baseball-reference; Minor League Central

Grades - Now (Future):
Motion: 40/45 (50)
Fastball: 50 (55/60)
Slider/Cutter: 45 (55)
Curveball: 40 (45/50)
Change: 40 (50)
Control: 40 (45/50)
Command: 35/40 (45/50)
Feel: 40 (50)
Overall Future Potential: 47-53
Prospect Grade: B

*Click here for primer on Grades

Background:
Drafted in the 9th Round of the 2010 Draft, out of Hereford High School (Hereford, Texas), and signed for overslot bonus of $625,000. Multi-sport athlete in high school and national level prospect in both baseball and football.

Physical Description:
Long, athletic build with projection. Broad shoulders to wide hips with medium-high waist. Long limbs; solid body control.

Motion:
Bridwell begins with a simple step-in to his motion. He is long on the backside and there are some checkpoints that could point to periodic stress on the ulnar collateral ligament, though that is highly dependent on the specifics of his elbow structure. Bridwell throws from a three-quarters slot with some cross-fire and first base falloff. While Bridwell is an excellent athlete, he is still working to rein in his long limbs and make uniform his mechanics. His stride length varies, which combines with his long arm action to throw off his release point and, in turn, both his control and consistency in his secondaries (his curve, in particular). He is relatively quick to home, considering his size, but needs to vary his pacing in order to prevent runners from timing him.

Stuff:
Fastball - Heavy 90-92 sinker that bumped to the mid-90s at various points this summer. When he drives the pitch down in the zone he induces a lot of soft contact -- a trend that should continue through the lower levels. He will need to improve his command of the offering, as more discerning bats will learn to lay off the pitch as it bores.

Slider/Cutter - Good arm slot deception and late cut when he snaps off a good one. Good pairing with his sinker and makes it very difficult for batters to barrel balls when Bridwell has both offerings working.

Curve - Arm generates heavy spin and there is a potential for this to develop into an above-average pitch, as well, if he can find consistency in his release. 11-to-5 action and will flash big depth. 10-13 mph velocity delta and ability to hit his fastball arm slot also makes the pitch a viable off-speed offering.

Change-up - The rawest of his arsenal, Bridwell's change-up is better than the rudimentary version on display prior to being drafted. It is a feel pitch that will require continued reps, but he has shown enough growth to project it to average.

Discussion:
Bridwell's biggest challenge will be finding consistency in his stride and uniformity in his arm action. If he can improve in those departments, he is well suited to develop into a workhorse starter with a couple of above-average to plus offerings. It is unlikely he will ever be surgical with his pitches, but so long as he can spot his heavy fastball and slider he should be able to manage his pitch counts through soft contact.

There is also some ceiling here. With big arm strength and noticeable progress already being made with his change-up, Bridwell has the upside of a #3 starter. While his command may limit his ability to reach that upside, Bridwell is still young with plenty of time to smooth out the kinks. He struggled in his first taste of full season ball this past summer, but rebounded impressively at Aberdeen, where he threw with visably more confidence and comfort.

If command or a useful third pitch prove problematic long term, Bridwell could be well suited to step into a relief role as an 8th inning arm or closer. He will continue to add strength over the coming years, making it possible to project fringe plus-plus velocity for the Texan once matured and throwing in shorter stints. The thought of a durable power arm with a grounder-inducing sinker/slider combo, however, should keep him in a rotation as long as he continues to develop. He will likely tackle Delmarava in 2012 with a half-season in Advanced-A Frederick if things break right.

Ceiling: #2/#3 starter on first division team
Floor: Non-prospect
Projected: #4 starter on first division team or late-inning arm

24 November 2011

Happy Thanksgiving from the Depot

One thing I am thankful for is this:

Music
Download it for 99 cents (No, we do not get a kickback for this. Enjoy)

22 November 2011

2012 Top 25 Prospects: #6 Nicky Delmonico

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Player: Nicky Delmonico
Position: third base/first base
Ht/Wt: 6-2/200
B/T: L/R
Age at 11/2011: 19y4m
2011 level(s): N/A
2011 statistics: N/A

Grades - Now (Future):
Hit: 35 (50)
Power: 35 (55/60)
Arm: 40/45 (45)
Defense: 35/40 (45/50)
Speed: 40/45 (40)
Feel: 40/45 (50/55)
Overall Future Potential: 47-53
Prospect Grade: B

*Click here for primer on Grades

Background:
6th Round selection in the 2011 draft, out of Farragut HS (Knoxville, Tenn.). Signed for mid-1st Round money, receiving a $1,525,000. Heavy bloodlines;.

Physical Description:
Strong, thick build. Broad shoulders and wide through hips with muscular core and trunk. Lacks projection but athletic and already looks the part.

Hitting:
When everything clicks, Delmonico shows an easy swing and generates good leverage and power. He takes an impressive BP and is capable of spraying balls from line-to-line. In-game, he shows a good approach for a prep talent, though he has yet to be challenged by advanced stuff on a day-to-day basis. On good days Delmonico shows balance and good whip in his barrel. On bad days, he creates too much length in his load, gets uphill with his swing plane and can extend early causing some drag in his barrel.

Defense:
Delmonico spent his scouting circuit summer and senior spring behind the plate, but consistently struggled with his transfer, footwork and throws. Mechanics aside, Delmonico's throws show consistent bow and it is far from certain that he will have enough arm strength to make all the throws from the hot corner -- his announced position on draft day. Additionally, Delmonico's lower-half could give him trouble in the infield, though his hands should play well at either of the corners. Defense is an area that can develop quickly under pro instruction and a full-time baseball schedule yielding plenty of reps. He should get a couple of seasons to knock around the infield while Baltimore determines if there is a long-term fit at third. If not, his future success will ride entirely on the development of his bat.

Discussion:
Delmonico represents a significant draft investment, netting the largest ever bonus paid by the Orioles outside of the 1st Round. There is big offensive upside that could come by way of a solid average defensive third baseman, but that tantalizing package is spotted with risk. Delmonico has not been able to produce in-game showings indicative of his natural talent on a consistent basis since the first half of the summer before his senior year of high school, and it is worth considering whether his bonus will serve as a relieving influence on his game or added pressure to produce.

With the skillset to grow into a legit .285/.360/.525 bat, Delmonico could provide an impressive compliment to the Machado/Schoop pairing scheduled to reach Baltimore at some point in 2013 or 2014. Given his background, the expectation should be that his transition to the pro ball lifestyle should be a smooth one, though concerns over his uneven results under the draft scrutiny of his senior year have some evaluators convinced that Delmonico would be better off easing into his first pro season in extended spring training. He'll turn 20 next July, so there is some sense of urgency to get him going.

Were Delmonico a year younger or a better bet to stick at third base, he could easily have snuck into the Supplemental-1st Round, even with his rocky spring. But there are a number of potential pitfalls facing the Tennessee native and, given his limited defensive profile, an immense amount of pressure on both his hit and power tools developing into impact weapons. Outside of Dylan Bundy, he may have the highest ceiling in the 2011 draft class -- albeit with a weighty boom/bust profile.

Ceiling: Above-average third baseman on first division team
Floor: Non-prospect
Projected: Fringe-average first baseman on second division team

21 November 2011

2012 Top 25 Prospects: #5 L.J. Hoes

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Player: L.J. Hoes
Position: left field/second base
Ht/Wt: 6-1/185
B/T: R/R
Age at 11/2011: 21y8m
2011 level(s): Advanced-A Frederick; Double-A Bowie
2011 statistics: Baseball-reference; Minor League Central

Grades - Now (Future):
Hit: 40/45 (55/60)
Power: 40 (45/50)
Arm: 50 (50)
Defense: 45 (50)
Speed: 50 (50)
Feel: 45 (50)
Overall Future Potential: 48-54
Prospect Grade: B

*Click here for primer on Grades

Background:
3rd Round selection in the 2008 Draft, drafted out of St. John's College HS (Chevy Chase, Md.).

Physical Description:
Medium frame but bloodlines and body type to project some strength. Solid athlete, though lower-half can drag at times. Average runner.

Hitting:
Hoes is a natural hitter, utilizing good balance, quick hands and a compact swing. Already in possession of a strong core, Hoes continues to firm-up his physique and could be capable of fringe-average to average power in the future, with 2012 standing out as a potential "jump" year in power production (setting aside the pitching-friendly confines of Norfolk). The only real knocks that prevent him from projecting to a true plus hit tool are some tendencies for defensive at bats and an inability to consistently match swing plane to pitch plane. He can improve in both areas, but even if he doesn't he should make plenty of contact, work walks and hit for enough pop to keep pitchers honest.

Defense:
Hoes was shifted out to left field upon arriving at Bowie. While Baltimore staff has indicated that they still view second base as a viable option for him, he will project as an outfielder until the organization decides to commit time to him at second base. A center fielder as an amateur, Hoes could provide average or a tick above-average defense in left, with enough footspeed to cover the gap, an adequate arm and solid feel. Further, he is worth at least a look in center field come March.

Discussion:
While the overall ceiling is lower, Hoes' hit tool may rank with Machado and Schoop. He shows easy command of the strikezone and the high level of comfort in the box that often belies a successful Major Leaguer. While a shift to a corner position traditionally puts more evaluative emphasis on the power tool, Hoes could get on base enough to provide solid value without hitting 20+ homeruns a year. That notwithstanding, the developing strength in Hoes' core and hands combined with his ability to discern pitches to drive could help him to realize a jump in power production as early as next summer.

Defensively, Hoes would clearly be more valuable as an up-the-middle glove. If the switch to left field proves permanent, however, he could still be capable of providing solid defense out of the seven-spot. Aside from the additional pressure on the bat, Hoes may need to do the little things on the bases to ensure that the total value package adds up to starter-quality.

Hoes will likely get knocked by a number of prospectors due to the position switch, but he so long as he continues to hit he will continue to get the benefit of the doubt here. 2012 should show whether the organization is interested in returning to the experiment with second base, or if Hoes is in left field to stay. To the extent he is stuck in the corner, he will look to prove he has enough pop to keep Triple-A and Major League arms honest, and that his success at Bowie wasn't simply a product of his .354 BABIP. With minimal growth, you can squint and see a Gerardo Parra-esque profile.

Ceiling: Average left fielder on first division team
Floor: 4th or 5th outfielder; bench bat
Projected: Fringe-average left fielder on second division team