02 August 2012

Midseason update: Top 25 Prospects, Orioles vs. Depot

This is the fourth and final part of our midseason update on the state of the Orioles system.  Through parts 1 through 3, we looked at a revised Orioles top 25 prospect list (1 - 10 / 11 - 20 / 21 - 25).  We conclude the series with a comparison against the Shadow System that Camden Depot has assembled over the past five drafts.  For a recap on the Shadow System, you can click here for all of our entries tagged "Shadow System".

Summary of top 25 prospects, Orioles vs. Depot
The grades in this table are a loose tiering, with Tier 1 being potential impact talents, Tier 2 being potential everyday contributors, and Tier 3 being fringe MLB contributors. 

Point Orioles
Baltimore will, by most accounts, have two of the top 10 prospects in in minor leagues come "prospect ranking season" this winter -- Dylan Bundy (rhp, Class A-Adv. Frederick) and Manny Machado (ss, Double-A Bowie).  These two players represent the largest financial investments Baltimore has made in the draft during the Camden Depot Shadow Draft/Shadow System project.  The returns on these two investments have been solid thus far, and each look poised to potentially start adding some MLB value as early as 2013.

Conversely, we went a higher-ceiling/lower-probability talent in Derek "Bubba" Starling (of, Rookie Burlington), who is currently raking in the Appy Rookie League, but remains a good three years away in all likelihood.  Our "safe" high ceiling selection of Anthony Rendon (3b, Class A-SS Auburn) started the season with Class A-Adv. Potomac but lasted just two games before being sidelined for most of 2012 with another injury.  When healthy, Rendon is a potential monster and advanced enough to quickly move up the ranks.  The question remains whether he can stay on the field long enough to realize his immense upside.  Finally, our international "big fish" Miguel Sano (3b, Class A Beloit) has shown some of the best power in the minors, but remains a number of evolutions away from being ready to tackle upper-level pitching.

In short, the Bundy/Machado vs. Starling/Rendon battle has just started, but the Orioles duo is comfortably ahead at this point.  Time will tell if the additional investment in Sano turns out to be a nice pickup for the Depot, or just the next in a growing list of international bonus babies that fail to provide a worthy return on investment.

Point Depot
Zack Wheeler (rhp, Triple-A Buffalo) was promoted last week and now sits one phone call away from breaking through into the Majors.  Our selection of Wheeler in contrast to Baltimore's selection of Matt Hobgood (rhp, Unassigned) is a clear point to the Depot's process.  Wheeler may not get a cup of coffee this year, but seems ready to compete for a spot in the Mets rotation next April.

Looking at the Tier 1 talents in each system, the Depot has a little more volume up top, which spreads some of the risk of attrition that is generally found even among top prospects.  Bundy and Machado are currently the top two talents of the eight listed, but having a little more depth probably frees up the Depot system to include a Tier 1 talent or two in trade without striking a heavy blow to the overall quality of the system. 

Finally, the Depot system appears a little deeper in Tier 2 talent.  This is not a huge deal, but it does accomplish the same things that the Tier 1 depth accomplishes, on a slightly smaller scale.  First, it is a weapon against general prospect attrition, particularly on the pitching side.  Second, it frees up pieces to potentially be included in trades, with system depth an issue sure to be discussed come this winter when the Orioles are looking to acquire talent for a 2013 run.

Already contributing
For Baltimore, Xavier Avery (of, Triple-A Norfolk) has already received his first taste of big league action this summer.  He and L.J. Hoes (of, Triple-A Norfolk) should be in a position to compete for a spot on the 25-man roster in 2013.  Both can be fringe regulars, with Hoes having the better chance at growing into a true first division starter off the strength of his bat.  Outside of those two, Baltimore is looking primarily at relief arms as the next most likely to reach The Bigs -- Mike Wright (rhp, Double-A Bowie) and Mike Belfiore (lhp, Double-A Bowie) are probably closest, with Clayton Schrader (rhp, Double-A Bowie) capable of making the jump next year provided he finds a little more consistency.

On the Depot side, Brandon Crawford (ss, San Francisco Giants) is in the midst of his first full season at the MLB level, serving as essentially a glove-only shortstop.  Over 161 total Major League games, Crawford has amassed 1.7 rWAR and 1.2fWAR.  Earlier this month, Josh Rutledge (ss, Colorado Rockies) received his first call-up the Majors, and has been highly productive since arriving. Through 71 plate appearances over 17 games, Rutledge has a triple-slash line of .382/.394/.706, with 12 of his 26 hits going for extra bases.  His on-base percentage will likely be driven by average, but his bat-to-ball skills are solid enough to make it work (and he will certainly walk more than he has thus far).

Waiting in the wings for the Depot are Zack Wheeler (discussed above) and Roger Kieschnick (of, Triple-A Fresno).  Outside of those two, the Depot's talent is probably another year away from contributing at the MLB level, with the note that Rendon has the ability to break-in during the 2013 season if he stays healthy (though it's doubtful Washington would push him that hard).  Overall, Wheeler is the best soon-to-be-promoted prospect between the two lists.  Rutledge gets a small edge over Avery and Hoes as an up-the-middle talent with the bat to start and the glove to stick at a middle-infield position. Kieschnick and Crawford each slot in slightly behind the Hoes/Avery duo.

Investment delta; comparison moving forward
As noted in our earlier examination of the Shadow Drafts, and the current Shadow System Top 25, the Depot spent about $5.7 MM more in the draft over the past five seasons than did the Orioles. Additionally, the Depot signed Miguel Sano for $3.6 MM, bringing the total investment delta up to about $9.3 MM, or $1.14 MM more a year on average in the draft between 2008 and 2012, and a lump payment of $3.6 during the 2009 off-season.

With Avery, Hoes, Crawford, Rutledge, Wheeler, and Kieschnick all likely to get significant MLB time next year, and the younger draftees accumulating more of a track record in the minors, 2013 should be the first year where we can sit down and start to really compare returns on investment.

As we try to note this as often as possible, the concept of a Shadow Draft and Shadow System is not to try and determine whether our process is better or worse than the process in Baltimore.  It is simply an attempt to put into practice the ideas we put forth on this website.  Hopefully, we do okay for ourselves, and along the way are able to provide some hard evidence as to why you might put some weight into our thoughts on prospects moving forward.

In any event, we hope you enjoy following the Shadow System with us, and encourage you to share your thoughts on what we've done over the past five drafts.

Midseason update: Top 25 Orioles Prospect Links
1 - 10 / 11 - 20 / 21 - 25 / vs The Depot


Anonymous said...

love the blog! first time commenter. I was curious how you felt about the loss of brad bergeson. it hasn't been spoken about by anybody; and I feel that he may play out to be a decent reliever. any comment on how they let that happen? does he have potential to rebound?

Nick J Faleris said...


Thanks for checking in with us; glad to have you!

I think Bergie has solid middle-relief potential. Fits best as a 7th inning guy that can get some ground balls when he's on.

I believe he finishes the season as a 27 yr old and is arbitration eligible next year, so I'm not too concerned about the loss. The Orioles should be able to plug the hole with someone like Mike Wright at a fraction of the cost.

Maybe in a best case scenario Baltimore gets one more year of cheapish production out of him, but there are bigger battles to fight for the front office, I'd think.


Matt P said...

Why isn't Matt Skole a top 25 guy? He's not terribly old for the level even if he is defensively limited.

I don't understand what you're trying to do.

You've shown that given an unlimited budget that you're able to draft a decent farm system. You spent nearly 10 million or a quarter more than they did. Since you didn't sign your third round pick in 2012, I believe that you would be in the tax by about 300k. That should be another 225k in penalties plus 100k for not being able to share in the tax revenue. In other words, you spent probably 10 million more. I question whether that's reasonable. The Orioles only spent 35 million on those top ten picks... why do you think you'd have that much more money?

As for the picks, I'd be interested in seeing how your system compares to the Nationals (before the trades) and the Pirates. Both teams spent about the same as your team and that may be a more helpful comparison.

Nick J Faleris said...


Skole was an oversight -- he'd slot into the back end of the Tier 2 grouping.

Regarding use of resources, look at the chart in the linked piece (the updated Top 25 Shadow System). What is so outrageous here? 2011 is the big outlier, and that was due to having two top 5 picks in a loaded draft class:

2008 - $200K more spent
2009 - $1.2 MM more spent
2010 - $5.4 MM less spent
2011 - $10 MM more spent
2012 - about same spent

So, about $6 MM more over the course of five years. That's nothing, and we didn't spend what PIT or WAS did per pick -- we were under by, I believe, a decent amount.

$3.5 MM on a single international signing makes up the rest of the difference, and we know post-facto that BAL had at least that much tabbed for Sano but decided not to give it to him.

Re: 2012 3rd rounder Avery Romero, he signed on the final day, so we had access to that pool money.

In any event, as noted, this is just an exercise. It gives us a measure of our prospecting, and gives readers something to look at in considering whether our opinions on player evaluation should be taken seriously.

Saying we were drafting with "unlimited money" is unfair, and not really honest. We clearly stayed in line with Baltimore's general spending habits, with 2011 being an outlier. During the 2011 Shadow Draft, we noted this would likely be the teams' last opportunity to grab talent without financial limit, and we took advantage of that.

We maintain Baltimore should have done the same, going for upside talent like Dillon Howard or Daniel Norris over a safe slot signing like Esposito.

If that in some way negates the exercise for you, I am sorry. These are negligible amounts of money as far as budgeting is concerned. If we were doing this to say "We are better or worse than Joe Jordan", sure we should be operating with the exact same budget. That's not the point of the exercise, though. We stayed well within a reasonable amount for all of these picks, and I think the numbers back that up.


Nick J Faleris said...

On more note, the 2009 difference of a little over $1 MM spent by us in the Shadow draft is essentially the discount Baltimore got in drafting and signing Matt Hobgood, who was amenable to a lower bonus due to his projected draft slot.

Again, I guess in the aggregate $9.3 MM looks like a lot more spent, but we know the money was there for Sano, and the rest is essentially around $1 MM more a year per draft, which is nothing, and in practice was a negligible amount each year.

Chris said...

I wouldn't call what Bubba Starling is doing "raking" (.275/.378/.495) but he's hanging in there OK.

Nick J Faleris said...

I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but 40% XBH rate, 220-ISO and 100bip on-base delta are all pretty great by most standards.

Approach has to tighten, but walking more than many scouts expected for first taste of pro ball.

More important, swing is tighter than it was at complex and squaring balls more consistently.

Liam said...

This is slightly off topic but relates to the earlier post about the Orioles going all in. If the Orioles had matched the Depot's drafting and wound up with more first and second tier players, minus the studs like bundy and machado, do you think they would have made a bigger splash at the deadline? Considering that the timeframe for these prospects contributing was further down the road, would it make more sense to make a run now?

Their farm system as is ill-fitted to making big trades this year, but would you have advocated them giving up top tier talent if there was more of it?

Nick J Faleris said...


I think the big benefit is that you have more players that another org might be interested in. Teams have their own target list for the other 29 orgs, and those lists aren't going to match up with Baseball America's lists.

It's the biggest problem with folks saying with certainty that a particular package is worth a particular player.

For example, I know a scout who was taxed with looking at some Blue Jays pitchers for trade purposes and put one of their top arms in as a future #4. This is a kid that BA/Goldstein routinely call out as a potential frontend guy and often times list as one of the top two arms in the Jays' system.

So, yeah, I think it's generally easier to make a deal if you have a wide variety of pieces with which to build your trade package. Of course, none of that matters if the other team simply isn't looking for "reasonable", they're looking for "we are getting more than we should."

I am not sure the latter wasn't the case for some of Baltimore's potential deals, and I'm not sure it won't be the case for some time until the org's reputation changes some more (it's improving, but slowly).

Matt P said...

Fair enough, so you're basically trying to show what the system could look like if the Orioles spent more money and trying to show who you would have picked given that extra money. It is true that there were teams that spent in your range so unlimited money wasn't fair. My apologies.

I understand that the Os had the money for Sano. I do wonder whether the money would have come out of the prospects budget.

The only other thing I would note is that we should take a look at 2012. I'll try to create a chart(this commenting interface isn't conducive to that so hopefully it will be understood) that includes what the Orioles spent, what Camden Depot spent and the slot amount. Penalty stands for the slot room the Os lose for not signing their fifth rounder. I understand that the Rays signed Kirsch but I don't know for how much. I do understand it was mid six figures which means it would just push you deeper in the hole.

I'm presuming that Baseball America is accurate with its slot information. If it isn't, than maybe that explains why I'm confused.
Baseball America has an excellent primer here that gives us slot amounts for each team: http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/draft/draft-preview/2012/2613426.html
This tells us how much each team spent. http://www.baseballamerica.com/blog/draft/2012/07/bonus-pool-spending/

1st 4.320M 4.320M 4.200 M
2nd .794M .650M .794
3rd .482M .700M .482 M
4th .350M 1.300M .350 M
5th DNS .196M .262 M
6th .197M .167M .197 M
7th .150M .026M .150 M
8th .140M .015M .140 M
9th .125M .010M .130 M
10th .010M DNK .125 M
Total 6.568M 7.843M 6.830M
BTotal 6.568M 6.568 M
DTotal 7.843M 6.705 M

By my count, you're 1.138 Million over or 16.9% over. As you're more than 15% over, my understanding is that you'd face a 100% tax and the loss of two first round picks. You'll note that I used the actual amount that players signed for as opposed to the numbers you thought it would cost to sign them which saved you 175k. Also as a low revenue team, the Os get a share in the tax money(100k) because they didn't go over. Instead of spending about the same, I have you at 2.376 more and the loss of two first rounders in 2013 and 2014. According to your numbers, it would be 2.726 and two first rounders.

If you don't sign Buttery and Kirsch(?), then you'd spend 6.543 compared to a slot of 6.355 which would mean you'd be nearly 3% over. If you use your numbers, it would be 4.1% over. Whichever numbers you use, there should be less than a 500k difference.

Nick J Faleris said...


Agreed this isn't the best format for the discussion, but our Shadow Draft pieces on the site explained how the draft shook out and gave our estimates for player cost.

Baltimore had $6,826,900 to spend (an additional $341,345 as well, which would be taxed at 75% for a total of $597,353 in cost to the org). The full amount we could spend without losing a pick was $7,168,245.

Our picks (signed all 10 so we get full pool):

1 Gausman (4MM and change)
2 Rahier (650K)
3 Avery (700K)
4 Buttrey (1.3MM)
5 Rutledge (200K)
6 Elander (167K)
7 Rathjen (25K)
8 Cooper (15K)
9 Boyden (10K)
10 Kirsch (100K)

Admittedly, we expected Kirsch to be signable for a nominal amount, which was supposed to free up as much as $4.1 MM for Gausman.

In any event, I can't fathom Gausman going back to school if offered $4MM and change as a take it or leave it proposition. Just so I wasn't taking complete liberties, I did run the actual Gausman bonus by a handful of MLB evaluators for thoughts and every one of them said he got more from Baltimore than his leverage dictated he should and more than he likely would have signed for.

The thought in the industry seems to be that Baltimore couldn't get deals done with some overslot kids and essentially decided to dump the extra on Gausman rather than play chicken. I don't know if that is right, but it makes intuitive sense.

So, yeah, we went into taxable money, but it's essentially $600K split between Gausman and Buttrey (our two big overslot guys). 150K of that is the "tax", so it's as if we paid Gausman $4.1MM instead of $4MM and change, and Buttrey $1.4 MM instead of $1.3MM.

The short story? Because of the tax the org cost for Buttrey was 37th overall money rather than 40th overall money. Still easily in the area that we had him graded as a player.

Does that make sense? We definitely stretched the budget, but the only area that can be argued where things may not have worked out would be Gausman deciding $4MM and change wasn't enough to dissuade him from returning to school.

That just doesn't make sense -- he'd have to go in the top 4 picks again next year to have a bonus allotment that could give him $4MM or more, and even then he'd be entering negotiations a year older with less leverage and once again competing with Mark Appel and the likes of Stanek and Manaea, just looking at college arms.

Finally, Baltimore would have had the ability to say "this is all the money we have left and we are not losing picks. We will go to the utmost of our taxable money to get you every sent we can, but that's as high as we can go." There is simply no way Gausman goes back to school in that scenario. He wants to play pro ball, and the folks at LSU I spoke with while scouting him down in Baton Rouge this year indicated he was ready and focused on starting his pro career.

I'll discuss this more than Jon and decide if we need to reconsider where we came down on this. To be honest, I don't think we do. Now, had we taken the stance that Gausman would have signed for $3.5 or even $3.75MM, I think that's more dubious. But we are talking about a couple hundred thousand for a kid who likely got a fair amount more than he or his agent were truly expecting.

Matt P said...

First of all, I made a mistake in my earlier post. I added 510k to your total instead of 51k. It should really be around 7.39M not 7.843M. That does change things considerably.

The whole Gausman situation confuses me. Zimmer signed for 3 million right off the bat. Matusz got 3.2 when he was signed fourth. Wheeler got 3.3 when he signed fifth. Pomeranz got 2.5 when he signed fifth. Bauer got 3.4. Harvey got 2.5.

I agree that 4 million would be reasonable and even generous to pay for Gausman. So why didn't the Orioles and Gausman come to an agreement at 3.8 at the start? Even 3.5 should have got it done. Why wasn't Gausman worried with a week left that the Os would sign Velazquez and Poche first and tell him he could either sign with them for 3.2 M (still higher than what the #5 pick got) or go back into the draft?

Maybe he saw an opportunity and decided to go for it. Or maybe he either didn't like the Orioles' track record with pitching prospects or really wanted to go back to school unless he got as much cash as possible.

Everything works as individual pieces but all I know for certain is that your draft would take ridiculous guts. Buttrey signed early for 1.3M. If you signed him early, then you'd need Gausman to sign or else you'd lose two first rounders.

Here's the way I see it.

Your slot values would be about 2.023M without Gausman, Avery and Kirsch yes? 105% of 2.023M is 2.124M. Going into that last day, you'd have spent 2.367M. That's 17% over.

At that point, Gausman has all of the leverage. Avery and Kirsch have extremely little as things turn out.

Fortunately, you get lucky on the last day. Kirsch accepts your offer of 100k which gets you under 15%. You now have 2.148 to work with before paying the tax and you owe 2.467. I believe you're 14.85% over.

If I'm Gausman, I'm asking for 4.5million until a minute before the deadline. If you take it, it gets you under ten percent over. Wouldn't that save you a second rounder. Say yes, and you only lose one pick. Say no and you lose two picks. Can you risk it? But I may end up caving for 4.3 million. Say yes and you keep your picks. Say no and you lose two.

You don't really have a choice. And meanwhile do you get Romero for 500k?

You should check my numbers because I'm not sure I'm getting everything fully accurate. It's Friday, I'm not at my best.

In order to sign Buttrey, you need to get Gausman to sign early or risk the tax. Or Buttery needs to take a discount. The one thing I am sure of is that you can't give Buttrey and Avery money from Gausman's slot without signing Gausman first.

In any event, thanks for chatting. Have a great weekend.

Nick J Faleris said...

Unfortunately, since we are dealing with players that sign with different teams, we aren't in a position to control timing of signing. Additionally, we don't get a perfect picture as to signing demands (as evidenced by Kirsch and Gausman).

Avery appeared content to sit it out to the end to get the money he wanted, so that would have had to happen together w/Gausman (if at all). But since we aren't saving money on him it's irrelevant whether or not we sign him for purposes of other bonuses (outside of the 5% overage -- we'd lose around $25K of that).

Buttrey wanted to sign early, and we could have figured out if that was possible. We have just under $390K in savings from the 6-10 guys, plus 150K from Rahier, I think 100K on Rutledge and around 350K slot allotment. So around 1MM (back of napkin). Maybe it gets done for less, maybe there'd be more pressure to try and get Gausman done.

In any event, these are pretty intricate details and not particularly relevant for the full exercise. We've used bonuses as we have in an order to keep it as clean and simple as possible. Obviously it isn't worth the time to climb inside each negotiation and try and figure out "how could this have been better negotiated?"

I appreciate you are digging into whether or process is realistic -- I guess as someone who is involved in this process with an MLB org I am comfortable that Jon and I are in fact being realistic. If you aren't sold, I can respect that.

At worst, I think Avery doesn't get done, we lose $481K from our pool and $700K from our payout, which leaves us at $6,345,800 available ($6,663,090 including taxable 5% overage):

10 Kirsch (100K) - 6,563,090 left
9 Boyden (10K) - 6,563,080 left
8 Cooper (15K) - 6,563,065 left
7 Rathjen (25K) - 6,563,040 left
6 Elander (167K) - 6,396,040 left
5 Rutledge (200K) - 6,196,040 left
4 Buttrey (1.3MM) - 4,896,040 left
3 Avery unsigned - 4,896,040 left
2 Rahier (650K) - 4,246,040 left

You are right, Gausman could play hardball and say lose one pick or lose two, but that's not reasonable. And if he and his agent were willing to do that (they wouldn't be) 1) Gausman would kill his chances of being drafted early next year and 2) the agent would kill his chances of doing draft business with the O's going forward.

Bottom line, I am highly confident Gausman signs for $4MM and have no issues at all with our collection of Shadow picks as "realistic". Worst case scenario, we lose Avery and Gausman gets $4,246,040.

I think we can all get behind the idea that Gausman wouldn't go back to school for 100K, yes?

Have a great weekend; thanks for the comments this week.