21 February 2012

Scouting the 2012 Draft: Ryan Ripken

We begin our 2012 Draft coverage with a name with which all Orioles fans will be familiar. Ryan Ripken, son of Cal, is a senior first baseman at Gilman Academy and is elgible for the MLB Rule 4 Draft this June. Ryan is committed to the University of South Carolina, should he choose to forgo pro ball this summer.

Ryan Ripken / 1b / Gilman Academy (Baltimore, Md.)
Ht/Wt: 6-5/190
B/T: L/L
Age at Draft: 18y11m
College Commit: Univ. of South Carolina
Views: 4 (in person); 2 (video)

Grading Out
Now (Future)
Hit: 20 (40/45)
Power: 20 (50/55)
Speed: 25 (30)
Arm: 40 (50)
Defense: 30 (50/55)

*Description of 20/80 scout scale: The Scouting Scale works from 20-80, with 50 being Major League Average. The scale operates loosely on a bell curve, so the further you move from 50 the fewer grades you'll find among ML players (e.g. Justin Verlander's fastball, Mike Trout's speed, Mark Reynold's power, and Albert Pujols' hit tool would all be 80 grade). A 60 grade is sometimes referred to as plus and a 70 grade is sometimes referred to as plus-plus.

Physical Description
Ripken is a long and projectable athlete that should add a significant amount of strength over the next few years. He can struggle with body control, which is expected of a big-bodied high schooler in the midst of a heavy growth period. Despite some clunkiness in actions, he is clearly a solid athlete and shows excellent flexibility. A below average runner, he should pick-up his first step as his coordination and strength round out.

Ripken provides a large target for his infielders, reads throws well, and makes good use of his reach and flexibility. His range is fringy right now, but should improve as he matures and improves his first step. His hands are better than he will sometimes show. He could easily develop into an above-average glove at the three-spot. His arm strength is solid.

At Bat
Ripken has the offensive aptitude that you would expect of the son of a Hall of Famer. He has a good feel for the strikezone and a more advanced approach than many of his contemporaries. Ripken often does a solid job identifying secondaries and is generally ahead of the curve at picking-up pitcher patterns. His physicality, however, is currently lagging behind his mental approach. While Ripken delivers the barrel fairly well, he lacks the "now" strength to drive the ball. He struggles against better velocity -- particularly up in the zone -- and lacks the bat speed to compensate for late starts when he is looking off-speed. There is some ceiling here, including potential for a solid hit tool and above-average pop, but he is still a ways away from realizing that potential.

Ripken is currently best suited for college ball, where he'll have an opportunity to continue to refine his game while he finishes growing into his frame. Coach Tanner and the USC staff work well with young hitters, and it is easy to picture a scenario where two years under their tutelage (Ripken will be draft eligible again as a sophomore, due to his age) could result in his reemergence as an early-round prospect in 2014. Ripken has the make-up, bloodlines, and smarts to succeed as a pro -- he just needs his body to catch-up with the rest of him. Area scouts will check-in on him throughout the summer to gauge his physical progress, his bat speed and the development of his power. Barring a jump in physicality over the next three months, the new collective bargaining agreement (which limits teams' ability to give mid-six figure bonuses outside of the first few rounds) will likely make Ripken's decision as to whether to enroll at USC an easy one.


20 February 2012

Orioles Will Be Forced to Spend Less on Draft than They Did '08-'11

Baseball America released their projected bonus caps for the 2012 draft.  You will notice that the Orioles have the 11th greatest allotment even though they were the 4th worst team last year.  You will also see that the allotments given to twelve teams, including the Orioles, will be the lowest they have spent on the draft when looking at the past four years.  This includes the Rays who are one of the poorest teams in the league, least capable in competing for free agents, and they have the fourth least amount of money to spend in the amateur draft.  Um, progress?

Team  2012 2011 2010  2009  2008 
Nationals  $4,436,200 $15,002,100 $11,927,200 $11,511,500 $4,761,500
Pirates  $6,563,500 $17,005,700 $11,900,400 $8,918,900 $9,780,500
Blue Jays  $8,830,800 $10,996,500 $11,594,400 $4,895,200 $4,359,500
Red Sox  $6,884,800 $10,978,700 $10,664,400 $7,095,400 $10,515,000
Indians  $4,582,900 $8,225,000 $9,381,500 $4,943,000 $6,984,500
Orioles  $6,826,900 $8,432,100 $9,159,900 $8,730,200 $6,916,500
Rangers  $6,568,200 $4,193,000 $8,487,800 $4,684,200 $7,388,300
Angels  $1,645,700 $3,318,100 $8,095,300 $6,792,900 $2,728,500
Dodgers  $5,202,800 $3,509,300 $7,992,900 $4,037,100 $4,442,500
Tigers  $2,099,300 $2,878,700 $7,301,400 $9,395,100 $3,742,000
Astros  $11,177,700 $5,545,800 $7,275,530 $4,212,800 $6,544,500
Rays  $3,871,000 $11,482,900 $7,150,800 $4,004,500 $9,921,000
Royals  $6,101,500 $14,066,000 $6,697,000 $6,657,000 $11,148,000
Cardinals  $9,131,100 $4,554,000 $6,692,200 $5,388,500 $5,542,000
Yankees  $4,192,200 $6,324,500 $6,652,500 $7,564,500 $5,122,000
Reds  $6,653,800 $6,378,900 $5,739,300 $5,855,400 $4,801,000
Athletics  $8,469,500 $3,067,300 $5,022,400 $6,439,400 $6,522,000
Mariners  $8,223,400 $11,330,500 $4,942,500 $10,945,600 $4,295,000
Rockies  $6,628,300 $3,967,900 $4,785,700 $7,924,300 $4,157,000
Cubs  $7,933,900 $11,994,550 $4,727,100 $4,044,200 $5,545,000
Mets  $7,151,400 $6,782,500 $4,721,200 $3,134,300 $6,460,000
Diamondbacks  $3,818,300 $11,930,000 $4,399,300 $9,328,200 $4,493,500
Marlins  $4,935,100 $4,135,000 $4,380,500 $4,142,800 $5,377,000
Padres  $9,903,100 $11,020,600 $4,262,000 $9,139,000 $5,449,000
Giants  $4,076,400 $6,266,000 $4,102,900 $6,289,000 $9,080,000
White Sox  $5,915,100 $2,786,300 $3,930,200 $4,178,600 $4,663,500
Phillies  $4,916,900 $4,689,800 $3,927,900 $3,229,500 $6,740,500
Braves  $4,030,800 $3,735,700 $3,925,100 $4,400,500 $5,091,500
Twins  $12,368,200 $5,902,300 $3,511,300 $4,694,100 $7,330,498
Brewers  $6,764,700 $7,509,300 $2,432,200 $6,759,500 $8,395,800
Total  $189,903,500 $228,009,050 $195,782,830 $189,335,200 $188,297,598
Average  $6,330,117 $7,600,302 $6,526,094 $6,311,173 $6,276,587
It may well be that the 189.9MM draft pool does not hit that number.  Several teams have relatively high cap values in comparison to what they normally spend.  It will be interesting to see if there is pressure to get near their cap value.

If you are more of a graph person:

Whiff Rate and Four Seam Fastballs

I was over at Brooks Baseball looking at their Pitch F/X cards, which are beginning to make my talents redundant and obsolete (that is a good thing, less work for me).  I decided to compare the velocity numbers from yesterday to swing and miss rates for four seam fastballs to determine if the two were related.  They were not in the least.  So, I decided to run a regression on several Pitch F/X derived measures and using the Orioles pitchers as a population base.  This is a pretty simple exercise and should not be taken as anything profound.

Population: Orioles currently on the 40 man roster who appeared in a 2011 MLB game.  Said pitchers need to have a four seam fastball and a change up.  I limited it to change ups because I wanted to see the interplay between the two pitches and thought it could make things more difficult if I grouped them in with cutters and splitters.  This resulted in the following pitchers being included:
Brian Matusz, Jason Berken, Chris Tillman, Troy Patton, Zach Britton, Zachary Phillips, Brad Bergesen, Matt Lindstrom, Luis Ayala, Jason Hammel, Jake Arrieta, and Jim Johnson
I chose to include the following metrics and a brief reasoning:
% Four Seamer: prevalence may mean batters can assume a four seamer
4S Horizontal Movement: unlikely to affect things as it stays in the bat plane
4S Vertical Movement: movement out of plane may affect whiff rate
4S Velocity: movement past swing area may affect whiff rate
4S vs Changeup Slot Release: any difference in release point
4S vs CH Horizontal Movement: can the batter perceive a horizontal difference?
4S vs CH Vertical Movement: can the batter perceive a vertical difference?
4S vs CH Velocity: does differences in velocity play into a 4S whiff rate?

Only the % Four Seamer (p = 0.10) and 4S vs CH Velocity (p = 0.08) were relatively close to being significant factors in determining whiff rate.  For MLB quality pitchers going against MLB quality batters, the other variables do not appear to approach anything close to significance (all other p values greater than 0.40).

To elaborate, % Four Seamer approached significance in that the fewer four seam fastballs thrown in relation to other pitches, the most often a batter swung and missed a pitch.  This appears to be a situation where the batter is not able to sit and assume a fastball is coming.  By increasing the element of surprise, a batter cannot simply guess on a pitch and has to quickly recognize what is coming out of the pitcher's hand.  This probably elicits a "Well, yeah, of course."

The reason why a 4S vs CH Velocity is important is also something that is probably well understood.  The shorter the time the ball passes through the swing plane, the less likely the bat will be able to hit it.  To provide some context to this, let's create a scenario.  Troy Patton throws a 90 mph fastball.  That fastball takes 0.45 seconds to reach home plate and an additional 0.015 seconds to pass by it.  An MLB batter with decent bat speed can generate a velocity of 100 mph with his bat, which takes about 0.014 seconds to pass through home plate.  If the batter expects a fastball and swings without change in bat speed, we get the following:

A line drive swing should overlap with the ball for about two feet.  By expecting a 90 mph fastball, the batter can maintain contact from about a 1.5 mph in either direction.  In Robert Adair's Physics of Baseball book, he estimates that a batter must decide to swing or not before the ball is 0.22 seconds from the plate in order to make contact.  Conventional wisdom suggests that a change up needs to be at least 5 mph different than the 4S to be usable in the Majors, which is a difference of 0.02 seconds in reaching the plate in comparison to the 4S.  The best change ups tend to be 8-10 mph slower than the 4S.

It may well be that MLB quality batters correctly read or are able to adapt quickly enough when the arrival time between a 4S and a change differ by 0.02 seconds or less.  It may also be quite difficult to make up the difference if the difference is twice that.  Of course, there is likely a survivorship issue here with speed and arm slot.  There may be certain requirements in place for this population to be established before this relationship occurs.