26 December 2011

Trading Adam Jones: NL Central Edition

The post will focus on a baseline that was suggested by a scout.  So, yes, the opinion of a single professional is how we will value Jones' worth here.  What is that worth?  It was posited that Adam Jones would be worth a top 25 player, a top 50 player, and a top 100 player.  In other words, I would translate this as meaning a A-, B+ and B level player.  One final way of looking at it, a 60, a 56, and a 52.  That means that some in this business think very highly of Adam Jones.  We at the Depot have not thought as highly of Jones in the past, but what matters is who values him the most.

This second part will focus on packages from NL Central teams.  The first piece discussed NL East teams.

Chicago Cubs
Brett Jackson, CF
Trey McNutt, RHP
Josh Vitters, 3B

There is more value to this package than at first glance.  I view Jackson similarly to Jones a few years back, but slightly underrated likely in how others view that comparison.  Jackson could be a first division center fielder or he could be a fringe average left fielder.  McNutt looks like a top end relief arm.  He has move his fastball into the upper 90s in short stints and a plus slider.  If he can improve his change up, then he might be a mid-rotational arm.  Josh Vitters falls into what I call the Shea Hillenbrand mold.  He has a poor ability to walk, but he does a good job meeting the ball.  For me he profiles as a guy who will deliver a few solid average seasons with a couple 300/340/440 seasons ideally at third, but maybe at first or right.  Regardless, I do not think Theo Epstein has any interest in trading for Adam Jones.  Epstein needs a young group of players to build upon and someone like Jackson is that player.  McNutt and Vitters are small pieces that Epstein has been willing in the past to hand out.  I'm not sure the best use of Jones is pulling back a potential replacement, a backend bullpen arm, and a potentially average third baseman or a poor first baseman.

Cincinnati Reds
Billy Hamilton, SS/CF
Zach Cozart, SS/3B
Todd Frazier, 3B/LF

The Mat Latos deal removed a great deal of talent from the Reds system that would interest the Orioles.  Hamilton would be the prize here.  He is an 80 runner with raw hitting and fielding skills.  He profiles as a first division shortstop or could be moved to center field.  Hamilton needs to work on improving his skills, so that he can take advantage of his tool box.  He would likely break into the Majors in 2014.  Cozart could be the Orioles starting third basemen in 2012.  He has good hands and an accurate arm and his hitting should be sufficient.  His true value is likely as a first division utility infielder, but he should make a career as a second division third baseman.  Frazier could also be the Orioles starting third baseman in 2012 or he could be in left field or even fill in at second.  He has spent some time in the past year as a utility infielder.  Frazier has been one of those players whose plus power plays well in the minors, but has questions surrounding it in the Majors.  I used to think highly of him, but Nick would chide me commenting on Frazier's arm bar (a similar issue Nick had with Gordan Beckham).  Frazier may never hit well enough to be a full time player in the Majors, perhaps being better suited as being a platoon player against lefties.  This deal would help fill out the team a bit with more utlity/fringe second division types.  It all basically hinges on your evaluation of Billy Hamilton.

Milwaukee Brewers
Wily Peralta, RHP
Scooter Gennett, 2B
Logan Schafer, CF

This is a poor man's version of the Cincinnati Reds deal.  Peralta profiles as a top end closer or a potential 2/3 starting pitcher.  He throws in the low 90s and primarily works off his fastball.  He has average, perhaps less than average, offerings in his change up and slider.  He had a successful stint in AAA last year and could open the year in Baltimore if given the chance.  Scooter Gennett is a low minors second baseman.  He reminds me a little bit of Brian Roberts and like Brian Roberts, Scooter will likely need to prove himself at every rung on the ladder.  He has less speed than Roberts and is showing power at an earlier age.  Schafer has lost a great deal of time in his minor league career due to injuries.  However, he has shown the ability to play center and show above average power.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Jameson Taillon, RHP
Pedro Alvarez, 1B/3B
Robbie Grossman, LF/RF

Click.  I imagine that will be what Dan Duquette would hear upon mentioning Taillon.  The Pirates do not need Adam Jones, so this is an exercise that likely is not realistic.  Adrew McCutcheon is an very good center fielder.  He will also be a very good left fielder when Starling Marte is promoted.  Maybe the Pirates would want Jones to form an excellent defensive outfield of Marte, McCutcheon, and Jones, but that seems like overdoing the three center fielder idea.  I do not think they would entertain Marte's inclusion here along with Taillon's.  You could probably flip the two and maybe get traction.  We are big fans of Jameson Taillon and openly wished for him to fall to the Orioles instead of Manny Machado.  Taillon throws an easy plus fastball in the high 90s, a plus table drop curve, and a plus slider.  He is a monster.  Grossman profiles as an average to above average corner outfielder.  He is competent defensively and shows a good understanding of the strike zone.  There are some questions as to whether his 2011 performance was more a matter of repeating a level than actually improving to such a remarkable degree.

St. Louis Cardinals
Shelby Miller, RHP
Oscar Taveras, LF/RF
Zach Cox, 2B/3B

This is an interesting collection of players.  Miller is as sure a bet to be a star as a pitching prospect can be (that will likely be the reason why the Cardinals would never consider having him included in a deal).  He commands his fastball in the mid 90s with workable curve and change.  Without his inclusion, I do not see how the Orioles could get a good return for Jones.  Taveras holds a lot of promise and could be an excellent player as he matures.  He makes great contact and has good secondary power.  He is likely to play in AA this year as a 20 year old.  Cox would provide sure mid-level value.  He will likely profile as an average or above average bat at second or third with value coming from plus contact.

Conclusion

Pittsburgh has the least need for Adam Jones as they sport two above average centerfielders on their 40 man roster.  Chicago is a club that is likely to be short on want as they will very much like to have a player like Brett Jackson who could provide production similar to Adam Jones for a lower cost and a long time frame (if he pans out).  The Cardinals simply are not going to give away a prospect who is a short distance from the Majors and has ace potential.  Although Jones would be of use, the cost seems too high for the Cardinals.  Milwaukee could use Jones to help mitigate the loss of Prince Fielder.  However, Nyjer Morgan and Logan Schafer are two internal options that will be cheaper and not impact the club in the long term as losing prospects might.  Milaukee is dealing with a short window to bring in a World Series Championship, so a move here might make the most sense to them.  For the Orioles, the package is underwhelming.  It is, more or less, Peralta and odds and ends.  The club needs more value here or a higher ceiling value.  A mid-season deal involving both Peralta and Jungman/Bradley would be more suitable, but likely will be asking for too much for only a season and a half of Jones.  That leaves Cincinnati who could use Jones, but would they leverage so many of their assets for 2012?  Hamilton will not factor into their 2012 or 2013 plans and may in fact never be more than a loose set of impressive tools.  Cozart and Frazier would be useful to their 2012 effort, but the Reds may be able to find other ways to fill them in with other players.  It is possible they could add a Robert Andino and Drew Stubbs side deal in there. I could see a Cincinnati deal being workable on both sides, but prefer the options discussed in the NL East post.

25 December 2011

Orioles Celebrating the Christmas





















That may not be the Orioles you are primarily interested in.


22 December 2011

Trading Adam Jones: NL East Edition

The post will focus on a baseline that was suggested by a scout.  So, yes, the opinion of a single professional is how we will value Jones' worth here.  What is that worth?  It was posited that Adam Jones would be worth a top 25 player, a top 50 player, and a top 100 player.  In other words, I would translate this as meaning a A-, B+ and B level player.  One final way of looking at it, a 60, a 56, and a 52.  That means that some in this business think very highly of Adam Jones.  We at the Depot have not thought as highly of Jones in the past, but what matters is who values him the most.

This first part will focus on packages from NL East teams.

Atlanta Braves
Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
Randall Delgado, RHP
Edward Salcredo, 3B

This package would involve two pitchers who have the potential of being 2/3 slot pitchers on a first division team and a corner infield/outfield bat with an above average offensive profile.  Both Vizcaino and Delgado will be able to help out Baltimore in 2012 to varying degrees.  Atlanta used Vizcaino in the pen last year, but has the tools to start.  He has a mid 90s fastball and a plus curve.  Delgado also spent time last year in the Majors, but in the Braves' starting rotation.  His ERA was under three, but his peripherals suggest a great deal of luck was involved.  He has some issues with command and depends more on his curve and change up.  Salcredo held his own as a 19 yo in the SAL.  He shows an above average profile at the plate with power.  His defense may push him to right field where his plus arm can still be used.

Florida Marlins
Christian Yelich, LF
Matt Dominguez, 3B
Marcell Ozuna, RF

The Orioles need more position prospects in their system and the Marlins match up the best to provide those pieces.  This deal consists of an above average all around left fielder, a defense first third baseman, and a young tools oriented right fielder.  Yelich has come out strong since being drafted in 2010.  His arm is merely average and he does not throw well, so he may be shifted to first base where his bat would look more average.  Dominguez has a gold glove caliber glove, but his bat is at best an average one.  He shows poor meaningful contact and does not show much power.  Ozuna is a few years away from the Majors.  He shows a strong arm in right field and plus power.  He has had issues making contact.

New York Mets
Zach Wheeler, RHP
Matt Harvey, RHP
Jenrry Mejia, RHP

This deal involves three pitchers at varying stages of development and varying probabilities for reaching a 2 slot ceiling.  Wheeler was who we suggested to take in the 2009 draft when the Orioles preferred Matt Hobgood (we still feel good about that one).  Wheeler has a plus-plus fastball that sits in the mid-90s and a plus / fringe plus-plus curve.  He is a year or two away from MLB.  Harvey also has a live arm and sits in the mid 90s and shows a plus slider.  His change up is lagging behind Wheelers, which leaves some to think Harvey might be better suited for the bullpen.  Mejia also showcases a mid-90s fastball, but uses a change as his second offering.  His ability to stick as a starter is how his curve develops.  Of the deals available in the NL East, this one has the highest ceiling.

Philadelphia Phillies
Trevor May, RHP
Brody Colvin, RHP
Jesse Biddle, LHP

This is one of the weaker packages as all three profile as mid-rotation arms and none of them pitching above A ball last season.  May throws a low 90s fastball with good movement and is working on his curve ball and change up.  He ate up HiA ball hitters last year with 208 ks in 151 innings.  Colvin was another shadow selection we made back in 2009.  He struggled with a back injury last year.  He has a heavy mid 90s fastball and above average secondary offerings (curve and change).  I still think he has an outside shot of being an ace, but that probability has slimmed up quite a bit.  I liked Biddle coming out of high school.  The long season though saw his fastball velocity dip below 90 mph, which is problematic long term.  He needs to get stronger and be able to add velocity.  If not, he may be best suited in relief where it might be easier for him to regain velocity.

Washington Nationals
Brad Peacock, RHP
A.J. Cole, RHP
Sammy Solis, LHP

Ideally, Anthony Rendon would be in play here, but he won't be due to him signing last August.  It is unrealistic to think the Orioles could let him stick with the Nationals for almost the entire season before he could be spun.  Peacock could break camp with Baltimore.  His low 90s fastball and curve are plus pitches and he is gaining better use of his change up.  He could be a 2 slot pitcher.  A.J. Cole has two plus pitches in his mid-90s fastball and his curve.  However, he needs to improve his command of the curve as fewer batters will swing at it as he moves up the ladder.  Solis throws in the mid 90s and has less control and command of his curve than Cole.  All throw pitchers look like mid-rotation arms.  A.J. Cole though could be special if he figures out his curve and develops his change up.

Conclusion

The Nationals, Braves, and Marlins need center fielders.  The Phillies have Victorino and the Mets need to hold onto their young talent right now.  I am not fond of what the Marlins have to offer.  Yelich could provide a good average to above average option in left field, Dominguez could be an average third base man, and Ozuna might flare out in the upper minors.  I am of the opinion that a team wins based on star talent and this package does not flash that enough for me.  The Nationals package does flash star talent with A.J. Cole and Brad Peacock.  A downside here is that the value is all pitching.  The inclusion of Salcredo makes me prefer the Braves package here.  An infield of Jonathan Schoop, Manny Machado, and Edward Salcredo could be an excellent infield core.  If Salcredo's defense falters then he could spell Markakis.  Vizcaino and Delgado are excellent pitching prospects that are essentially MLB ready.  I doubt the Braves would do it, but it is what I would target.

20 December 2011

Some Writings of the Os New Numbers Guy

Here are a few of Steve Walters columns at the Wages of Wins blog.  Enjoy.

April 2007
It Ain't Necessarily So

May 2007
Baseball's Arm Race and the Prisoner's Dilemma

June 2007
Optimistic to a Fault
Rocket Science

December 2007
Stop the Presses

August 2009
Why Smart GMs Do Stupid Things


19 December 2011

O's Scouting: Shake-up and fallout, follow-up

On Friday we discussed news of Baltimore gutting its pro scouting department. As not much information was available at the time the story broke, we wanted to make sure we followed-up Friday's discussion in order 1) to fairly portray the moves that were made, and 2) to provide a useful commentary on the impact of these moves. That is what we will do this morning. If you have not read Friday's piece, it might make sense to do so before diving into this piece. It contains a couple of longer threads regarding the shift from pro to amateur scouting that are not rehashed here, and it also touches on a couple of assumptions (both here at the Depot and in the media at large) that have proven incorrect with further digging.

What has changed?
Entering 2011, Baltimore's roster of non-amateur scouts included one advance scout (scouting future Orioles opponents), two Major League scouts (primarily responsible for evaluation of talent on other Major League teams), and seven pro scouts (primarily responsible for evaluation of talent in the Minor Leagues). These evaluators were not limited to their primary scouting responsibilities, and might be assigned to assist in other areas as needed. Because the primary amateur scouting season runs February through May, leading up to the draft (spring training through the first third of the season on the pro side), it is generally uncommon for pro scouts to regularly participate on the amateur side.

Upon Dan Duquette's taking over as President of Baseball Operations this November, filling the office vacated by Andy MacPhail, the Orioles began an overhaul of the pro scouting department. Late November, the Director of pro scouting (Lee MacPhail IV) was demoted to pro scout, with the position of "Director" rumored to be removed altogether. At the end of last week, word came down that the Orioles were reassigning five pro scouts and their MLB advance scout to the amateur side. The specifics are as follows:

Advance scout, Jim Thrift (new assignment, area scout in western Fla.)
Pro scout, Lee MacPhail IV (new assignment, area scout in Mich./Ohio/W.V.)
Pro scout, Jim Howard (new assignment, area scout in N.Y./N.J./Penn.)
Pro scout, Ted Lekas (new assignment, area scout in New England)
Pro scout, James Keller (new assignment, rover/area scout in California)
Pro scout, Todd Frohwirth (new assignment, area scout in Wisc./Minn./N.D./S.D.)

By my count, this leaves the remaining pro scouting department as follows:

MLB scout, Dave Engle
MLB scout, Bruce Kison
Pro scout, Chris Bourjos (based out of Arizona)
Pro scout, Gary Roenicke (based out of California)
Pro scout, Fred Uhlman, St. (based out of Baltimore)

Brady Anderson will apparently be joining the organization in some official capacity, though it is unclear what his role will be.

Argument for restructuring
The removal of a full-time advance scout is probably fine. Statistical analysis is highly effective at the Major League level, due to the relative stability in year-to-year output and overall predictability of player performance. That is not to say that the advanced metrics used by front offices (versions of which can be found at sites like BaseballProspectus.com, BillJamesOnline.com, TangoTiger.com, and Fangraphs.com) are infallible. But for the most part you can get a good idea of players' relative strengths and weaknesses in various situations by giving the right numbers to the right people and letting them go to work. Additionally, HD video is publicly available for every inning of every game, so to the extent you need to see game tape, it's there. It isn't perfect, but if you want to rely on stats and video at the Major League level when it comes to advance scouting, you can probably get by.

The number of MLB scouts has not changed, it is around the typical number of evaluators that you will see an organization devote primarily to the MLB-level. Many organizations do not have an official "advance scout" position, instead opting to divide the duties of an advance scout between the MLB scouts on payroll and perhaps a pro scout or two, depending on timing.

Argument against restructuring
The biggest argument against the restructuring is that Baltimore is gutting the group of scouts listed as "pro scouts", which are primarily responsible for Minor League evaluation. Stats and video are much less useful tools when evaluating players from other organizations at the Minor League level, and become increasingly less useful the further away you get from the Majors. Totaling three pro scouts at this point, the Orioles would be significant outgunned in this department should they opt to proceed without filling the void with new hires. Toronto and New York (A), for example, each boasted double-digit pro scouting positions in 2011. Tampa had fewer listed pro scouts in 2011, but also mix-in "special assignment" scouts and one or two dual role international/pro scouts.

The loss of manpower means fewer eyes on Minor Leaguers and less information for the front office when trade talks take place. As free agent bargains become fewer and fewer, and with modifications to the collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the MLBPA removing teams' ability to spend without ramification on amateur talent, the trade market is quickly becoming one of the most important avenues for talent acquisition. Accordingly, Baltimore needs to be a leading organization in talent evaluation to maximize their efforts on the trade front.

One of the largest questions currently facing the Orioles is whether or not they will extend Adam Jones. If they elect, instead, to trade him, it will likely be for a package of players. Making sure Baltimore gets the most out of that package is of the utmost importance. Will the three remaining pro scouts have enough opportunity to cover five or six levels of Minor League baseball such that the Orioles will be able to not only accurately gauge the value of a proposed package of players, but to also compare that package against other possible packages in order to determine which of two or three deals is preferable? Perhaps more important, will Baltimore be able to spot that struggling prospect that an organization might undervalue and add as a piece to close a deal?

In a world where knowledge is power, it makes little sense to limit your avenues of information gathering. No stat line/video combination will tell you what you need to know about an Advanced-A arm when trying to project whether he will be able to improve his command, or whether he will work hard enough on his change-up to make it the third Major League average-or-better offering he needs to stick in a rotation long term. You need eyes on the field before the game and after the game. You need to be able to talk up the people at the field and around the team. A player's make-up is an important factor in determining whether he will be able to weather the challenges of rising through the Minors and transitioning to playing the game at the highest level in the world. While not tangible, make-up is real, it is important, and it needs to be evaluated.

The importance of timing
This issue was touched on in last week's post, but should be reiterated. There is negligible positive value for Baltimore in adding these five evaluators to the amateur side, as they are starting out a good deal behind their competitors when it comes to identifying the draft-eligible follows and getting multiple looks at those talents. Additionally, these evaluators will need to make inroads in creating contacts with the high school, JuCo, 4-year college, travel team and showcase coaches and personnel in order to stay on top of pop-up talents (e.g. arms that see a big bump in velocity during the spring). It is simply a large ask and places these evaluators in a difficult spot when trying to make judgments on volatile assets such as amateur players, and doing so with limited views and potentially limited access to info from third party coaches and evaluators.

There is some danger that shuffling scouts around outside of the general "hiring/firing/assignment" period for scouts -- generally the fall -- will make outside evaluators wary of joining the Orioles organization for fear that a similar restructuring could take place in the future. Baltimore can explain some of this away by pointing to the late hiring of Duquette, and the accordingly late ripple of moves in restructuring the scouting department. One evaluator from another organization commented, "Definitely weird [timing to shuffle things up]; somewhat understandable with [the late GM hiring]."

Unfortunately, while this reasoning makes sense it still reflects poorly on the organization as a whole. The fact that Andy MacPhail was unlikely to stay after October was the worst kept secret in Baltimore, starting around early-July. The long hiring process for MacPhail's replacement, highlighted by a handful of very public rejections from would-be candidates, did not sit well with those watching from afar in other organizations, and reinforced a stereotype that the Orioles, as an organization, lack focus and professionalism.

The fact that issues at the top have rippled down to effectuate reassignment of scouts well after they could reasonably be expected to find work elsewhere is not the end of the world, but it is another reminder to the industry that Baltimore continues to struggle putting together any sort of coherent plan for the future. Now, with Duquette apparently set to turnover larger chunks of the organization over the next ten months, some of the talented up-and-comers throughout the ranks of Major League baseball may be more inclined to wait out the upheaval to see what the organization looks like before signing-on as part of the rebuild.

Conclusion
Ultimately, the restructuring is not a huge deal, provided that Baltimore brings in additional evaluators at the pro ranks to help more thoroughly cover the Minors. Assuming that is the case, the Orioles have still weakened their pro scouting for at least four or five months (some of the area scouts can assist in pro scouting post-draft, based on several other variables which we can discuss in another post if the reader interest in there) and will be getting additional help at the amateur level, though the evaluators will be operating at a handicap.

One has to question the wisdom behind removing these evaluators from positions in which they were comfortable, and thrusting them into a world in which they will (at least initially) be out of their depth. The addition of amateur scouts is a great strategy, and one already employed by the Blue Jays, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees, each of whom outmanned Baltimore in this department. Baltimore also handled the assignment well, placing each of Frohworth, MacPhail, Howard, Lekas and Keller in areas tied to their home, cutting down some on travel. As luck would have it, the addition of scouting eyes in California, Florida and Ohio will be useful in at least cross-checking some of the top talents in this year's draft, with each state boasting multiple early-round talents (and potentially multiple first round talents in each state).

While the ultimate goal of more amateur scouts and less in-person focus on MLB advance scouting is potentially a solid direction for the organization, doing so at the expense of Minor League scouting is dangerous. Further, while their pay may remain the same (word is that it will), it's tough to not view this as a demotion when you are moving from covering pro ball to covering high school and college ball -- the general "starting point" for many evaluators in the game and a job that usually requires a great deal more travel and inconvenience.

Baltimore could have lessened the immediate impact on Minor League scouting, and potentially avoided any hard feelings on the part of the evaluators, had they opted to rename the position as "special assignment" scout, or even allow the evaluators to keep their titles and simply asked them to chip in on the amateur side for the February to June time period. It's a small point, but one that other evaluators in other organizations have noticed. No one expects that these former pro scouts are going to jump in and be able to operate as seasoned area scouts right off the bat, so their utility is limited for 2012 already. By allowing them to cover their region on the pro side, while dipping over to cross-check the amateurs in their region, all parties would have gotten what they wanted out of the situation.

Finally, and delving into the world of conjecture, it is slightly troubling to hear that the position of Director of Pro Scouting might not be filled -- particularly if the organization is not planning on hiring more pro scouts and, instead, decides to pull eyes from the amateur side as needed. For organizations that opt to assign their area scouts to pro coverage periodically throughout the year, the task of coming up with those assignments is a difficult one. The organization must consider the responsibilities of the area scout in covering their draft-and-follows (players selected and then watched over the summer before deciding upon a signing bonus offer), covering amateur showcases, tournaments and summer leagues in their area, and the distribution of talent across Minor League levels and the teams at those levels. Almost every Major League team has a Director of Pro Scouting, and there is a reason for it -- there is simply a lot to keep track of and a strong need for the creation and implementation of an organization-wide plan.

The situation is not as dire as it appeared on Friday, but the decision to unnecessarily forfeit short-term gains in pro scouting for minimum benefits of handicapped additional eyes on the amateur side is a head-scratcher. If those pro vacancies are not filled in the coming months, the whole issue can be summed up with a very simple question: For an organization struggling to keep pace with the four other organizations in the American League East, what is the likelihood that the key to bridging that gap is putting fewer assets into the evaluation and acquisition of talent at any level?

16 December 2011

O's Scouting: Shake-up and fall-out

UPDATE -- 1:40pm -- I received word that the scouts being shifted to the amateur side were responsible for Minor League coverage as well as MLB advance work. If this is true than the impact is even worse for Baltimore. While statistical analysis can work wonders on the advance level, and more broadly when evaluating Major League players with track records, it is limited in usefulness at the Minor League level. Certain statistical work can aid in evaluating and projecting developing Minor Leaguers, but eyes-on scouting is still an intregal aspect of the process. Gutting that side of your scouting department would be a highly questionable move. Hopefully, the initial reports are true and the evaluators removed were limited to pro scouts at the MLB level, only.

UPDATE -- 2:05 -- More word that Minor League scouting is tied into the pro scout gutting. We will have a reaction to that news in a second piece later this evening. The main takeaways are 1) Baltimore is seriously hindering its ability to maximize value in trades, and 2) scouts from other organization, if ever asked to come over to Baltimore, will note the timing of these moves and the manner in which they were handled.

The shake-up
Jen Royle passed along word of unrest in the Orioles' scouting department this morning via Twitter:

Consensus amongst sources is that #Orioles scouts are not happy with new assignments. Another source: "They thought it was a joke." -@Jen_Royle


Fox Sport's Ken Rosenthal shed further light on the situation with a morning snippet explaining the nature of the "new assignments":

[Dan] Duquette, the team’s new general manager, essentially dissolved the Orioles’ professional scouting department Thursday, reassigning six pro scouts to the amateur side.

Dave Engle and Bruce Kison will remain major-league scouts, and the Orioles will make greater use of video and statistical analysis in scouting the majors, Duquette said.


Rosenthal went on to provide a quote from Duquette, explaining the shift:

It’s a more efficient way to structure the Orioles, better for identifying talent and utilizing people’s strengths to help the team.


So what is the fallout, here? Is this something that should excite Orioles fans? Well, there is some good and some bad...

The fallout: Good
For an organization who has put limited resources into staffing its scouting department, it's odd to think that six of the professional scout positions were being utilized for advance scouting.

As Duquette touches on in his comments, technology has limited the utility of advance scouts. Statistical analysis has matured to the point that batter and pitcher data is available and accessible such that managers can be armed with an iPad full of splits to access for nearly every in-game situation you can think of. Further, anyone with $119 and a computer, PlayStation 3, tablet or smart phone can watch every inning of MLB baseball, including archived games, in HD quality. In short, stats can tell you most of what you need to know about MLB players you will be facing. For everything else, there's HD video.

That's not to say that there is no need for advance scouting. But for an organization who has utilized a limited fund for scouting endeavors, there is little need for an abundance of advance scouts. The thinning of these ranks is probably something that should have occurred much sooner, which segues us to "the bad".

The fallout: Bad
This move, and particularly the timing, should have Orioles fans concerned in that it removes scouts from an area in which they are familiar and comfortable and drops them into an area from which they are years removed and in which they will be operating at a severe disadvantage.

Talent is talent, and there is little reason to believe that a pro scout is not capable of evaluating amateur talent. That is, the former advance scouts turned amateur scouts, I'm sure, have the evaluative tools to do the job of an amateur scout. However, the process itself is different for an amateur scout than it is for a pro scout.

Amateur scouts are tasked with two goals: 1) identify the current talent of an amateur talent (someone who has yet to sign with a MLB organization), and 2) accurately project the type of player that this amateur will be at the Major League level. To achieve these goals, amateur scouts must weigh numerous factors, including physical aspects of the player, athleticism, baseball tools, baseball skills, coachability, dedication to the game, as well as the player's interest in and willingness to make baseball the sole focus of his life.

Pro scouts looking at Minor League players are in a similar situation to amateur scouts in that they are appraising a player now, projecting him, and determining whether his organization should try and acquire him, though much of the static in evaluation has been removed with the Minor League players more refined and closer to the Majors than are the amateur kids.

Pro scouts doing advance work are concerned with one thing: how does my team beat this player when we face him. They will be consulted in trade and free agent situations, and may be assigned to watch a player considered to be a trade target, but much of the projection element has been removed by that time, as the player generally "is what he is".

The switch from pro to amateur scouting will require the O's evaluators to rewire their thinking some, and it requires them to do this while operating at a competitive disadvantage.

It is late in the game for amateur scouts. Most, if not all, organizations have completed compilation of their follow lists for each region, noting (and in some form ranking) the various talents in each area that need to be seen during the spring. Area scouts, since last June, have spent time at high school travel team tournaments, showcases, workouts, college summer league games, and college fall workouts, enjoying multiple looks at the players eligible for the June Draft.

Multiple looks are particularly important at the amateur level, as players at this stage of development can log erratic performances from day-to-day. The more looks you can get of a kid, the more confident you can be in your appraisal. This group of converted amateur scouts will likely be getting their first looks at players in their region, starting this January and February, while their competition is checking-in for a fourth, fifth or sixth look. Further, while the converted amateur scouts are potentially hustling to get eyes on the top talents in the area, their competition, already comfortable in their appraisal of those talents, will be able to focus elsewhere. For example, a scout from a competing organization might skip his fourth look at an arm in order to check in on the projectable righty that was only 86-89 mph in October, but might be sitting 88-91 mph now six months later.

The converted scouts will also need to familiarize themselves with a landscape that is likely now foreign to them. While many may have started as amateur evaluators, these scouts will need to revist their process and slide back into the day-to-day frame of mind of an amateur evaluator. Which factors are most important to projecting out this particular player's skillset? Who does he remind me of and was that player successful? What's the best way to go about scheduling my spring to make sure I can hit all the players I need to see? Can I catch the power arm at XYZ University during a mid-week game, or does Coach ABC prefer to limit his workload to relief on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays?

That final question touches on another issue -- these converted scouts don't have the network that established area scouts can tap into. As important as evaluation itself is, it's sometimes even more important to have that JuCo coach that texts you about the arm his team faced today, or the high school coach that sends you the scheduled start dates for a pitcher in which you are interested. These are relationships that can take some time to grow, and the converted scouts will likely be operating without them for now.

Finally, no matter how Baltimore spins it, it is a demotion for these guys. Moving from watching elite-level MLB baseball each night and having a place at the table in discussing strategy at the MLB team level is a better gig than traveling all over your region, watching mostly bad baseball and sending a player report up the ladder. Amateur scouting is a wonderful experience, and a personal passion, but taking someone with the more regimented, and more comfortable, job of pro scouting and thrusting them into the world of lots of travel, lots of uncertainty and little prestige is quite simply a big ask.

End game
Most fans might say, "Suck it up and deal with it -- at least you have a job in baseball." To a certain extent, that's true. The utility of advance scouts has changed over the last five years, and it is understandable that the organization might want to reshuffle their scouting assets to adjust to these changes. But one has to wonder if the timing of this move makes sense. Regardless of how talented these evaluators are, are you going to be getting the most you can out of them by dropping them into a job in which they aren't mentally or emotionally invested? By making the move now, you've essentially taken away from them the opportunity to consider work elsewhere, as Major League teams tend to fill their scouting positions in October and November. Is a discontented evaluator the guy you want chiming-in on your draft targets?

The big picture says the move indicates that the Baltimore front office is attempting to be proactive and adjusting to a more efficient model for its scouting department. A closer look reveals that Baltimore might be alienating their evaluators and setting them up for failure -- at least in 2012 -- essentially pushing them out the door once they have the opportunity next fall. It seems like a gradual shift, involving periodic assignments to cross-check on the amateur side and at the Minor League level, could have accomplished the same thing by this time next year, without alienating the evaluators involved in the process. In short, there is relatively little gained in Baltimore making this move right now and in this manner, and it could likely cause them to lose these evaluators to other orgs. Time will tell if such a loss is impactful.

Non-tendered Relievers on the Market

Saunders could be an excellent reliever.
This post will focus on potential finds for relievers who were non-tendered this week.

Doug Slaten, LHP
32 yo
Washington Nationals

Slaten only managed 16 appearances this past season due to issues with ulnar neuritis.  When healthy, he is an effective LOOGY (lefty one-out guy).  Over his career, lefties have OPS'd .666 with righties smacking him at .864.  He uses a 90 mph two seamer and an effective slider.  Against righties he uses a changeup as a show me pitch.

Dan Cortes, RHP
25 yo
Seattle Mariners

Cortes was a top 100 prospect in 2008 and 2009 for Baseball America.  He uses a mid to high 90s fastball, a slider, and a curve ball.  The curve is impressive, but has shows little control of it.  It is a pitch that seems to be left alone by batters who instead sit on fastballs.  It is uncertain what he will bring to the table in the future.  He had an unspecified off field injury that resulted in surgery on his shoulder and his bicep.  He also apparently suffered a fractured hand as well.  If he does heal and if he gains just a little bit more command and control then he could be an excellent reliever.  He could be work a MiL deal.

Jose Mijares, LHP
27 yo
Minnesota Twins

From 2008 to 2010, Mijares was a dependable arm out of the Twins bullpen.  He was roughly a 3 ERA pitcher with 8 k/9 and 3 b/9.  In 2011, injuries finally took their toll on Mijares and he let the opposition get on base.  His fastball dropped from 91.3 to 89.8 and he lost the ability to effectively use his slider.  If he proves himself healthy, he could be a solid option.

Hong-Chih Kuo, LHP
30 yo
Los Angeles Dodgers

From 2008-2010, Kuo was one of the best relievers in the National League.  A lefty who was effective against both right handed and left handed batters.  He often suffered minor injuries, but his 2011 season was marred by them.  Of most concern was his tweaked elbow and the resulting loss of velocity in his fastball (from 94.2 to 92.5).  If a team thinks he can be healthy, then he deserves a Major League deal.

Aaron Laffey, LHP
27 yo
Kansas City Royals

Laffey is a Cumberland, MD native.  Dan Duquette speaks about investing locally, but Laffey may not be exactly what he has in mind.  He is a groundball pitcher who nibbles on the edge.  He walks 3.6 b/9 and manages 4.5 k/9.  Those are difficult percentages to live by.  He could be useful in the pen or as AAA starting depth.  He could be the Orioles new Mark Hendrickson.  He could wind up with a Major League deal for someone in dire need of rotational depth.

Clay Hensley, RHP
32 yo
Miami Marlins

Hensley surprised everyone in 2010 as he helped anchor the Marlin bullpen.  He came into the season with a refined curve and more effective usage of his changeup.  In 2011, his curve left him and he resorted to throwing his slider.  It did not work.  These issues probably result from him cracking his ribs in May and then suffering a shoulder injury in June.  If you ignore his horrific August, he actually had a pretty good year.  He could be a good pickup.

Micah Owings, RHP
29 yo
Arizona Diamondbacks

Owings eats up right handed batters.  They manage a .647 OPS while a .912 OPS is what lefties enjoy.  If protected, he can be a useful member of a bullpen.

Joe Saunders, LHP
31 yo
Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona did not offer Saunders a contract after paying him 5.5 MM last year.  It would be unlikely to convince him to come out of the pen, but he destroys lefties.  Last year he had a .581/.810 left/right split.  A few years after winning 17 and 16 games as well as putting up a 3.69 ERA.  A possibility would be to throw a 5 MM deal under the expectation that he would shift to being a relief pitcher.

15 December 2011

Analyzing Dana Eveland's Fastball

After some time away from the confusion and hysteria that the Winter Meeting can impart, I thought it might be good to go back and focus on the Orioles' acquisition of Dana Eveland.  There was some disappointment when the trade went down as the Orioles acquired a player who has an uneven career that has been entirely unimpressive at the Major League level for two minor league players who some refer to as prospects.  The merits of Jarret Martin's prospect-dom can be somewhat argued.  He is likely at best a middle relief arm if he ever makes it to the majors.  Tyler Henson's prospect status unfortunately left him long ago.  It appears to be a not much for not much kind of deal.

Dan Duquette spoke highly of Dana Eveland after the deal.  Duquette mentioned that Albuquerque (where Eveland pitched 150 innings last year) and that is true.  Albuquerque is the least friendly ball park for pitchers in all of the minors.  It increases run production by about 18%.  Eveland's ERA was 5.40 at home and 3.33 on the road.  However, as well as he pitched in AAA it must be said that he was a 28yo in AAA.  Duquette also mentioned that Eveland had some bone chips cleaned out from his elbow in 2010 and that he likes Eveland's fastball.  In this post, I wanted to dive into the Pitch f/x data a little bit and look at Eveland's fastball and how it has looked over the years.

Velocity and Movement

With his elbow cleaned up, one might expect that his fastball would look a little different.  The graph below shows some of the highlights.



You can see that in the data available, fastball velocity has decreased over the last three years.  Movement has also changed where his fastball has more run to it than it used to have by about half an inch.  Vertical movement actually is about half an inch more than it used to be.  To some extent, this is a function of decreasing speed.  It may be with this greater horizontal movement along with slightly more drop results in a fastball that is more difficult to square up on, inducing poor contact.

Fastball Events

To see how the above change in movement has affected batted balls, I have compiled fastball events below.



The first thing to notice is that Eveland was throwing more strikes last year (remember that this is a pretty small sample size).  The increase in strike throwing correlates with an equal increase in the batter swinging at his pitches, so it seems like the batters are responding to an increase in strikes.  Even though they swing more and the swing and miss rate has not increased, balls put into play (fair territory) has not increased.  What has increased has been the number of balls hit into foul territory.

Is inducing foul balls a skill?

I would think it would be, but it is not something that seems to have been specifically assessed.  Mike Fast published two pieces on how pitchers can affect batted balls.  However, it appears that the main variable he focused on (horizontal velocity of a ball coming off a bat) is related to strikeout rate.  Eveland is not a high strikeout pitcher, but it may be that groundball pitchers may affect contact differently than your average pitcher.  It would follow reason that a pitcher who is able to induce a great deal of foul balls is messing with the batters' timing a great deal.

Conclusion

None of this is definitive.  The data is on the thin side, but it appears to depend on a slight difference in how Eveland's fastball moves and whether or not a pitcher can hone a skill that significantly increases foul ball rates.  I think it is prudent to be more conservative about this and attribute last year's success more to luck than skill.

13 December 2011

Science of Baseball: Best Way to Warm Up on Deck

Effects of Various Warm-Up Devices and Rest Period Lengths on Batting Velocity and Acceleration of Intercollegiate Baseball Players
Wilson et al.
published ahead of printing Nov 2011
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

The basis of this research was to determine how to improve a hitter's ability to make contact on a pitch.  The acknowledge that a batter needs 0.3 seconds to process a pitch and swing at it and leaves only 0.1 seconds for a bat to choose to swing at a pitch or not.  The human body cannot improve upon recognition to a greater degree, so the only way to improve hitting in terms of time is to increase bat speed.  The idea is that by reducing bat speed, you increase the time a time can choose whether to swing or not.

Previous study have looked at warm up devices/approaches and their impact on an individual's batspeed.  A study using high school players tested warm up devices that range in weight from 23 to 51 oz with the greatest bat speed resulting from warming up with bats weighing between 26 and 34 oz (Derenne et al. 1992).  Another study looked at the effect using a doughnut weighing 28 oz on a 34 oz bat.  It result in the change in swing mechanics and a decrease in bat speed (Southard and Groomer, 2003).  A third study found that using a 55 oz bat to warm up resulted in decreased bat speed when using a 31.5 oz. (Montoya et al. 2009).  A final study using different bat devices (a study we discussed earlier this year) found that collegiate baseball players did not have their bat speed altered with any tested approach (Szymanski et al. 2011).

What those previous studies did not investigate was what effect the rest period had between warming up and swinging at a pitch.  They used 16 Division II baseball players.  Players practiced with one of five warm up bats on successive days.  The weights were 23, 30, 34, 38, and 50 oz.  The individuals then swung a 30 oz bat one, two, four, and eight minutes after warming up.  Four metrics were measured: peak velocity, peak acceleration, peak velocity at peak acceleration, and time to reach peak acceleration.  Players would warm up and swing the 30 oz bat.  Have ten minutes of rest.  Then they would warm up with a specific experimental warm up bat and then swing the 30 oz bat.

The results were interesting.  None of the warm up bats affected the players ability to generate bat speed.  This agrees with the other study using collegiate athletes.  It may be that once a player reaches a certain level that warm up devices do not improve or impair bat speed.  However, they did find that the more time the player spent resting between his warm up swings and hitting resulted in greater bat speed.  For example, the lowest bat speed was measured during the warm up period.  The greatest bat speed was measured eight minutes after warming up.  No time period after eight minutes was measured, so it is uncertain when this effect tapers off.  Bat speed increased by 8% between warm up and eight minutes.  Peak velocity at peak acceleration increased by 6%.  Peak acceleration increased by 8%.

This seems to suggest a couple things.  First off, a batter might be more susceptible to higher velocity pitches earlier in the count.  Second, a batter might be best off warming up in the tunnel when he is in the hole.  It may well be that all a batter should be doing on deck is watching the pitcher and lightly stretching.

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

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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.

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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.