25 December 2008

Orioles Prospects: 21-30

Top 30 Prospects: Baltimore Orioles (12/29/2008)

Prospects 21 - 30

21. Luis Montanez | Stats | Depot Grade: C+
6-2 / 200 | Age - 27 | OF | B/T - R/RDrafted - 2000 (R1) | Miami HS (FL)
Floor: 5th OF | Ceiling: AVG LF | Projection: 4th OF

Notes: After winning the Eastern League Triple-Crown, Montanez enjoyed modest success with Baltimore over the last two months of the season. Offensively, his approach is adequate. He shows average power when he squares-up, but fringy pitch-ID will likely continue limit the frequency with which this occurs at the Major League Level. On a brighter note, his game generally translated well between AA and ML. His MLE at Bowie (.293/.328/.499) was similar to his actual line in limited action with the Big Club (.295/.316/.446). He's a solid fastball hitter that struggles with offspeed stuff. His plus-raw power will always play against mistakes, but his upside is limited.
Defensively, Montanez can handle any of the three outfield positions. With average footspeed, he isn't ideal in centerfield. Further, his routes are fringy, limiting his value in Camden Yards with a spacious right/center gap. Left-field is the best fit, and likely where Montanez will see the most action as a Major Leaguer. At 27, Montanez is what he is at this point -- a bat-first 4th outfielder that can fill-in around the outfield. He's athletic enough to play some infield in a pinch.
22. Tony Butler | Stats | Depot Grade: C6-7 / 205 | Age - 21 | LHP | B/T - L/L
Drafted - 2006 (R3) | Oak Creek HS (WI)
Floor: AAAA | Ceiling: Mid-rotation Starter | Projection: Middle-relief

Notes: Butler has been hampered by injuries since beginning his professional career. As a result, he has struggled to build upon his impressive debut in 2006 with the Mariners organization. The former 3rd-rounder has a terrific frame with more room to add some strength and velocity. He throws on a tough downward plane which makes it difficult for hitters to square-up when he's commanding his pitches. His fastball tops out in the low-90s, though it more recently sits in the upper-80s. His curveball is a potential above-average pitch, though he showed fringy feel for it in limited work this past season. His changeup is a work-in-progress but flashes some fade and gives him a potential weapon against righties. He tends to sling the ball, which sometimes causes him to lose his release point, particularly with his secondary offerings.

The big question marks right now for Butler are health and endurance. With plenty of other arms in the system, the pressure is off and Butler can focus on staying healthy and improving his endurance. He could benefit from adding some muscle mass, though at this point Baltimore would likely be happy with just keeping him on the mound for a season. If Butler isn't able to make solid progress in 2009, the Orioles could consider shifting him to the pen where endurance would be less of an issue and he could dial-up his fastball. While his curve is adequate, his arm action may be better suited for a sweeping slider.
23. Jim Hoey | Stats | Depot Grade: C6-6 / 205 | Age - 26 | RHP | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2003 (R13) | Rider University
Floor: Middle-relief | Ceiling: Closer | Projection: Late-inning Relief

Notes: When healthy, Hoey boasts legit shut-down stuff. His fastball is a plus-plus offering that sits in the upper-90s with lots of late armside run. His slider has plus-plus depth and can be used as a freeze pitch or a chase pitch. Injuries, however, have limited his ability to progress. In 2006 he underwent Tommy John surgery and he missed all of 2008 due to setbacks in his rehab.

With velocity to spare, he doesn't need to be 100% in order to hold solid value for the Orioles. Baltimore will focus on getting him healthy, and with two remaining option years there is ample opportunity to be patient. However, with several other intriguing arms closing in on the Majors, with each further setback comes an increased likelihood of Hoey missing his window.
24. Ronnie Welty | Stats | Depot Grade: C6-2 / 180 | Age - 20 | OF | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2008 (R20) | Chandler-Gilbert CC (AZ)
Floor: Non-prospect | Ceiling: Above-AVG RF | Projection: AVG RF

Notes: Welty flew below many radars this Spring, primarily due to the inconsistent competition he faced at Chandler-Gilbert. As a result, Baltimore may have grabbed a single-digit talent in the 20th round. Offensively, Welty has intriguing plus-power potential. There are questions as to whether his swing (which can get hitchy at times and generally has too much going on in his load) will play at the higher levels. An optimist would point to Hunter Pence and argue that Welty's hand/eye coordination will continue to allow him to square-up consistently, adding another member to the ugly swing/pretty production club.  After a solid showing at Rookie Bluefield, Baltimore will undoubtedly watch with anticipation as he tackles some more advanced pitching in 2009.

Defensively, Welty is pure right-fielder. He has a plus-arm, above-average footspeed and good instincts in the field. He tracks the ball well and does an excellent job of keeping plays in front of him. Again like Pence, Welty can appear gangly in his pursuit, but he closes well and sets himself up to make the required plays. An excellent breakout candidate for 2009, Welty will likely get a shot at LoA Delmarva.
25. Ryan Adams | Stats | Depot Grade: C6-0 / 185 | Age - 21 | 2B | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2006 (R2) | New Orleans HS (LA)
Floor: AAAA | Ceiling: Above-AVG 2B | Projection: Below-AVG 2B

Notes: After limited success in the NY-Penn League in 2007, Adams took a nice step forward this season at LoA Delmarva. His strong wrists and quick hands give him above-average bat speed and decent gap-to-gap power. He has good hand/eye coordination but his pitch-ID is still below-average, resulting in too many strikeouts. As he continues to refine his approach and improve his strikezone command, Adams could move quickly once he shows the ability to handle more advanced pitching. Orioles fans should temper their excitement for now, however. As described in more detail in our Organizational Depth (2B) article, Adams's splits indicate a likely regression in '09, though he should continue to see an up-tick in his power numbers.

Defensively, Adams is still very much a work-in-progress. As Delmarva's second-baseman, Adams recorded an error at a rate of once every other game (primarily on throws). While he ranges alright to both sides, he struggles in setting himself-up for his throws. His transfer is adequate but his lower-half is well below-average. He doesn't set his feet well he's expectedly fringy in his pivots. There's almost no chance Adams will ever be an above-average defender, but the Orioles would be happy to settle for fringy at this point. If he can clean-up his throws, he'll move as quickly as his bat will carry him given the lack of middle-infield depth in the upper-minors.
26. Jason Berken | Stats | Depot Grade: C6-0 / 195 | Age - 25 | RHP | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2006 (R6) | Clemson University
Floor: Bullpen | Ceiling: Back-end Starter | Projection: Middle-relief

Notes: Berken was part of one of the better rotations in the Eastern League, posting a solid season for AA Bowie. His low-90s fastball is a solid average to fringe-above-average pitch and Berken is improving upon his command in the zone. His secondary stuff, however, is still lacking. His slider is a low-80s offering that flashes good tilt and late break, but it's still quite inconsistent and at times will saucer over the plate. It could be a plus-pitch if he can improve upon his command and stay on top of it. His changeup ranges from the upper-70s to the low-80s. It has solid depth but lacks enough fade to be a truly effective pitch against lefties. His curveball is below-average and loopy.

Berken comes with two potential above-average pitches, but lacks the third offering or command to succeed as a starter at the Major League level. With more impressive arms coming up with and behind him, a shift to the bullpen seems eminent. He could repeat 2009 at Bowie to continue to work on his secondary offerings, or he could bump up to Norfolk either in relief or as a starter. He profiles as a 7th-inning arm.
27. Tyler Henson | Stats | Depot Grade: C6-1 / 190 | Age - 21 | 3B/SS | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2006 (R5) | Tuttle HS (OK)
Floor: AAAA | Ceiling: AVG 3B | Projection: Below-AVG 3B

Notes: Henson is still very raw offensively. Despite some glimpses of improved plate discipline at the start of the 2009 the Hawai'i Winter Baseball season, Henson regressed back to his free-swinging ways as the games wore on. His ceiling is that of a gap-to-gap hitter with average pop, but he looks fringy offensively as a third-baseman. His approach needs a lot of work and there isn't enough raw power to truly get excited about. On the positive side, he keeps a relatively short path to the ball and he does a good job of spraying the ball to all fields when he does square-up. His offensive profile would drastically improve were he swinging at more hittable pitches -- an issue that will need to be resolved as he progresses to the upper-levels.

Henson is a very good athlete who was originally drafted as a shortstop. While he was quickly moved off of the six-spot, he shows more than enough footwork, range and hands to stay at third. His arm is also more than adequate for the left side of the infield. Worst case, Henson could be shifted to a corner outfield spot where his above-average speed would easily play. The biggest question for Henson will continue to be his bat. Even at his ceiling, it looks like he could a fringy option for third base.
28. Rick Zagone | Stats | Depot Grade: C6-3 / 210 | Age - 22 | LHP | B/T - L/L
Drafted - 2008 (R6) | University of Missouri
Floor: AAAA | Ceiling: Back-end Starter | Projection: Middle-relief

Notes: Not surprisingly, Zagone enjoyed a solid first professional season at Short-season Aberdeen after being selected in the 6th-round of this past Rule 4 Draft. Zagone's refined approach and deceptive delivery played well against less developed talent in the NY-Penn League, his average stuff playing-up on a regular basis. His fastball is a fringe-average offering sitting in the upper-80s with some sink. He can add and subtract velocity from his slider and changeup, which range from the upper-70s to the low-80s and mid-70s to the low-70s, respectively. His slider has average, late bite and his changeup can be an average offering when kept down in the zone. When he fails to stay on top of his slider, it tends to spin and drag up in the zone.

Zagone's stuff is fringy for a Major League starter, though his solid command and above-average pitchability should allow him to progress quickly through the low-minors. His high leg kick helps his stuff to play-up, and he likely profiles best as a situational lefty arm or a low-leverage longarm in the pen. LoA Delmarva should give a little more insight into Zagone's projection, though his most likely stumbling block will come once he makes the jump to more advanced hitting at Bowie.
29. Justin Turner | Stats | Depot Grade: C5-11 / 180 | Age - 24 | 2B/SS | B/T - R/R
Drafted - 2006 (R7) | Cal St. Fullerton
Floor: AAAA | Ceiling: AVG 2B | Projection: UTL

Notes: One of two prospects to come over from Cincinnati in the Ramon Hernandez trade, Turner provides some much needed middle-infield depth in the upper-minors. Turner shows a solid understanding of the strikezone, which allows him to focus on hittable pitches. He squares-up consistently, but has little pop in his bat. Offensively, he profiles in the bottom third of a Major League order.

Defensively, Turner has the tools to hold down either shortstop or second-base, but his range plays better on the right side. His footwork around the bag is more than adequate and his soft hands are smooth transfer are his best assets. His arm and range are fringy at short, but he can handle it in a pinch. He's probably not solid enough at the six to profile as a true utility player, but that's likely where he'll find his future role should he establish himself at the Major League level. To his benefit, there is currently little competition up the middle should short or second open-up with the Big Club.
30. Matt Angle | Stats | Depot Grade: C5-10 / 175 | Age - 23 | OF | B/T - L/R
Drafted - 2007 (R7) | Ohio State University
Floor: AAAA | Ceiling: AVG CF | Projection: 5th OF

Notes: If all goes well, Angle has the makings of a Major League center-fielder and lead-off hitter. Offensively, Angle has plus-strikezone command and an advanced approach. He squares-up well with above-average bat control and utilizes the whole field. With a slight build, his power is severely limited, though he'll flash occasional gap-to-gap power. He profiles best as a slap hitter that can work the count and is comfortable hitting with two strikes. In addition, he's a solid baserunner with good instincts and a career stolen base success rate of 83%. He'll have to work to keep up with more advanced pitching and it's possible he lacks the strength to drive the ball consistently at the higher-levels.

Defensively, Angle has the potential to provide some value even if he falls short with the bat. He has above-average speed and easily covers both center-field gaps. His arm is adequate for center and he sets himself up well as he approaches the ball. His tracking and his routes are advanced, as well. With good instincts, solid speed and above-average defense, Angle should carve out some sort of Major League career as at least a 5th outfielder. His offensive development will determine whether or not he can reach his ceiling as an everyday center-fielder.

11 November 2008

Scouting Report: Koji Uehara, RHP, Japan

By Nick James

Before unveiling our Fall 2008 Top 40 pitchers in the 2009 Draft Class, we take a quick look at another Japanese right-hander: Koji Uehara. The 6-1 /187 lbs. 33-year old (34 this upcoming May) is looking to sign with a Major League organization this Winter, with the Orioles apparently the only team currently looking at him as a starter.

Grading Out
Motion – 50
Tempo – 60
Fastball – 55
Slider – 50
Changeup/Forkball – 55


Overall Motion – Uehara’s motion is clean with some deception and an interesting thrust upwards at the end of his high-effort delivery. As he enters his leg kick, he gets great bend in his back leg allowing him to get maximum thrust in his stride. His plant is clean and he does an excellent job of keeping his momentum directed towards home. As he releases, he drives upwards with his plant foot, giving him the appearance of rising upwards as the pitch comes. On occasion, he'll enter this thrust before the ball has completely left his hand, leaving the pitch up (though this is much more the exception than the rule). While his follow-through -- both leg and arm -- can be violent at times, it's generally under control and leaves him facing forward. Overall, there is a lot of effort, but the mechanics are clean enough to have helped him avoid serious injury over a good-sized career.

Arm Action – As Uehara splits his hands and enters his stride, he cocks his wrist pulling the ball in and towards his elbow. This action places additional stress on the elbow and is generally a red flag indicating a higher probability of elbow troubles down the line. Given that Uehara has not run into serious elbow injury in his career, it's quite possible this is a non-issue. Still, if Baltimore is looking to use him as a starter, it will be something to keep in mind with regards to pitch counts and inning counts on the season. Otherwise, Uehara's arm action is clean though he throws with some effort. There is a good amount of torque on the shoulder, but his upper-half generally works well with his lower-half, helping to ease some of that tension. His follow-through is generally smooth, though as mentioned above he can get a bit violent at times leading to recoil.

Pace – Uehara keeps a terrific pace, moving cleanly through his motion and keeping all of his parts working together. His upper-half and his lower-half are on the same page, reducing stress in his shoulder (which is key considering his generally high-effort delivery).

Mechanics Grade – B

Fastball – Uehara comes with a low-90s 4-seam fastball that is generally flat and a 2-seamer a couple of miles-per-hour slower with good arm-side run. He commands both pitches well to all four quadrants and mixes them well so as to give the batter a different look. His 4-seamer is a below-average pitch, though it plays-up a bit due to his command. His 2-seamer is an average pitch that plays-up due to the late action and has plus-potential when he is living on the black.

Slider – Uehara's slider is a tight little offering with late bite and not great depth. Like his fastballs, his slider plays-up due to his command, and he's able to keep the pitch inside against lefties and on the low corners against righties. It's an average pitch that should play well against ML hitters provided he keeps it out of the middle-of-the-plate.

Changeup/Forkball – Uehara's other secondary offering is a changeup/forkball with good depth and fade. It's most effective as a chase pitch with two strikes, though he's comfortable throwing it inside to lefties and breaking it over their knees to the low-inside corner. This fringe-plus-offering may be the key to his success or failure as a starter, as it will help keep his pitch count down and produce ground balls if he commands it well.

“Stuff” Grade – B- – Uehara is not likely to overpower anyone at the ML-level, but he has the potential to keep hitters off-balance with three solid to above-average offerings. If he can maintain his plus-command, his three pitch mix should play towards the back-end of a ML rotation. His slider and fastball are not good enough to miss with, so leaving either over the plate will get him into trouble in a hurry. He'll need to work ahead in the count and utilize his change/forkball to get some swings-and-misses or groundouts.

Nick’s Notes
Uehara could be groomed as a reliever or a starter, though it looks like he would prefer to start and Baltimore is currently the only team looking to use him in that role. Plus-command and an adequate if unspectacular arsenal could make him a solid option at the back of a rotation, though given his arm cock (pulling the ball to his elbow) it may make sense to use him in the #5 spot where he can have a couple of starts skipped as a precaution. Were Uehara to struggle as a starter, he could be used as a situational reliever, primarily as a groundball pitcher in the Bradford mold.

Prospect Grade – C+

30 October 2008

Scouting Report: Junichi Tazawa, RHP, Japan

We take a quick break from the US Amateurs to provide a scouting report on Junichi Tazawa. Japanese teams in the Central League and the Pacific League adhered to the amateur’s requests not to draft him in the amateur draft. Instead, Tazawa hopes to sign with one of the thirty Major League Baseball organizations. Peter Abraham’s September 14, 2008 article is an informative look at the situation.

So, what’s the deal with Tazawa? The 22-year old righty is a bit undersized at 5’11” / 180 lbs, potentially making him a better fit for a Major League bullpen than as a rotation. He has the makings of a starter’s arsenal, however, so we could see him go either way.

Grading Out

Motion – 55
Tempo – 55
Fastball – 50
Curveball – 50
Slider – 55
Changeup – 50


Overall Motion – Tazawa’s motion is a bit herky-jerky at its apex, but none of his mechanical ticks seem to interfere with his ability to command his pitches. He loses some energy as he exits his leg kick and enters his stride. Rather than extending into his stride, he kicks his stride foot out towards third base. The resulting recoil returns a bend to his leg as he strides forward and shortens his step. The result is a slight loss in momentum towards home, in addition to a limiting of the drive he’s getting out of his back leg. Smoothing this out could add some velocity.

Arm Action – Tazawa generates his velocity, as well as his spin on his breaking balls, through a quick and short arm that gives the ball the appearance of flying out of his right shoulder. Though he breaks his hands a little early, he does a good job of keeping the ball hidden from the hitter. The result is a playing-up of his fastball velocity and a breakingball/changeup that are difficult for the batter to ID. He’s able to throw his curveball, changeup and fastball out of the same slot, though he drops down ever-so-slightly on his slider.

Pace – Tazawa keeps a solid pace, with a delay at the apex of his leg kick that varies slightly in duration. This does not seem to throw-off his command, and can serve as a disruption to the batters’ timing mechanism. His arm plays catch-up with his lower-half, as his legs and hips rotate through before his shoulder. As discussed above, his quick arm is where he generates his velocity, so it works. The downside is added stress to the shoulder and arm, though his ability to throw with easy effort may assuage some fears.

Mechanics Grade – B-


Fastball – Tazawa comes with a low-90s fastball that has occasional arm-side run. He commands it well to both sides of the plate. His quick arm action allows the average velocity to play up and the ball really sneaks-up on the hitter. Though not overpowering, his fastball is above-average due to his arm action, command and velocity differential from his secondary stuff.

Curveball – The first of his breakingballs is a big, loopy curveball he throws off of his right shoulder (like his fastball). His curve sits in the mid- to upper-70s and serves as an offspeed pitch, as well. While he gets a nice bend and solid downward action, it’s still a bit too loopy and there isn’t enough late bite to make it a true above-average pitch. It remains effective as an offspeed offering and as a get-me-over pitch for hitter’s counts (to avoid having to throw his fastball).

Slider – He mixes in a slider with good bite and upper-70s to low-80s velocity. He doesn’t command the slider quite as well, but it is a much better swing-and-miss pitch at this point. While his curveball is a bit more refined, his slider has much more potential. If MiL coaching can’t get some of the loop out of his curve, it would make sense to focus on developing the slider as his primary secondary offering.

Changeup – Since his curve has a better velocity differential than his change, Tazawa doesn’t rely on his changeup as much as he should. It already has solid depth and can be a second true swing-and-miss pitch if he learns to command it. Generally a low-80s offering, the change is effective when down in the zone, but he can get in trouble when he leaves it up (where it also tends to flatten-out).

“Stuff” Grade – B – Tazawa is an interesting case. He gets the most out of an average fastball and a loopy curveball, despite his best potential offerings being his slider/changeup. Some mechanical tweaks may add velocity to his fastball, though it’d be nice to see more consistent run on the pitch. If he stays with a loopy curveball, he’ll need to do a better job of keeping it down, as professional hitters won’t be as thrown by the velocity dip. His slider and changeup are his best bets for plus-pitches, though both need improvement in consistency and command.

Nick’s Notes

Tazawa could be groomed as a reliever or a starter. Any team hoping for him to become a successful starter would be well advised to try and correct his kick-and-recoil coming out of his leg kick, and lengthening his stride. This may be too much, though, in which case his stuff could certainly play in short stints out of the pen (which is my projection). If he’s able to add some velocity to his fastball and/or develop his slider/change into plus-pitches, he could eventually turn into a mid-rotation guy. However, his size and the stress he places on his shoulder with his quick arm action raise durability questions. The best bet would be to switch him to the pen and focus on the fastball/slider combo. He has enough feel for the curve to use it as a “show me” pitch, and the change is serviceable as is. Depending on how the pitches develop, he could be anything from a seventh inning guy to a potential closer.

Prospect Grade – B-

25 August 2008

Scouting the Aflac All-American Game

Monday, Aug 11, 2008

The 2008 Aflac All-American Game was held at Dodger Stadium this past Saturday, showcasing some of the top high school talent eligible for the 2009 Draft. As expected, two lefties gave dominating performances on the mound. Among positional players, a 3b continued to set himself apart from the rest of the bats. Here are our top 5 performers and ten more to watch this spring:


1. Tyler Matzek – LHP, Capistrano Valley HS (California). Matzek (pictured right) sat in the low- to mid-90s with his fastball and complimented it with mid- to upper 70s sweeping curveball that showed good depth. He flashed plus-command with both pitches and showed an ability to pitch off of either one. His motion was clean and compact, an impressive feet for the big-bodied lefty. There is still a bit of room in his 6’3” frame to add mass, and velocity. He is a potential top 10 pick in next year’s draft and, along with Matt Purke, will be vying for the title of top left-handed high school arm.

2. Matthew Purke – LHP, Klein HS (Texas). Though Purke was throwing a bit harder than Matzek on Saturday (his fastball sat in the mid-90s with good boring action), his slinging arm motion and Matzek’s larger frame slot Tyler ahead of Matt on our list. Purke is a natural pitcher, utilizing a free and easy delivery to deal two potential plus-pitchers (his fastball and slider), flashing plus command along the way. His slider is a hard sweeping pitch that he located well and threw in the low-80s. It was most effective as a back-door pitch to right-handed hitters. At 6’3” – 170, he has some room to add bulk. He is another potential top 10 pick that many have ahead of Matzek as the top high school lefty.

3. Matt Davidson, 3B/1B, Yucaipa HS (California). Matt Davidson was hands down the most impressive position player at Saturday’s game. He has a balanced approach at the plate and has for potential plus-tools (all but speed). His compact swing generates plus raw power, and he squares up consistently. He has a slight uppercut that should generate good natural loft. Defensively, he has soft hands and good footwork at 3b. His arm will certainly play at the hot corner, as will his ability to charge the ball and make a clean exchange from glove to throw. Davidson has set himself up as one of the better high school bats in the draft, and his solid defensive play should put him in top 15 drat discussions at the end of the summer.

4. Donovan Tate, OF, Cartersville HS (Georgia). Tate (pictured right) is a true five-tool athlete with a Tate_04_Aflacgood baseball skill set. At the plate, Tate can generate plus-raw power and shows a solid command of the strike zone. He projects to hit both for average and for power, and his advanced approach could make him one of the more sought after high school bats in the draft. He has plus-speed and a plus-arm in the outfield. On the bases, he has good instincts and is quick out of the box. In the 9th inning of Saturday’s game, Tate started the East’s rally capping a ten-pitch at bat with an infield single to 3b. Already one of the more physically impressive bodies in the high school draft class (6’3” – 200), Tate still has room to add some bulk and could end up one of the better power bats in the draft when all is said and done.

5. Kayvius Sampson, RHP, Forest HS (Florida). Sampson was the first pitcher of the day to truly “wow” the scouts. While his fastball was not overpowering (sitting in the low-90s and touching 93), he consistently blew it by the West’s hitters – primarily due to a quick arm motion that allows him to get the ball from behind his back to his release point with surprising quickness. His curveball is a solid 2-plane pitch that not only changes the hitter’s eye level, but also serves as a quality offspeed pitch (sitting almost 20mph slower than his fastball). Sampson showed above-average command across the board with his fastball, curve and change. He made an impression on Saturday and could be among the first right-handed high school arms to go next June.

Ten More to Watch for the Spring


1. Mychal Givens, SS/RHP, Plant HS (Florida). Givens is a five-tool shortstop that is a little more tool-set than he is polished. Defensively, he tends to swipe at the ball which limits his ability to make a clean and quick transfer. He has a plus-plus arm that touched 96 on Saturday – he only needed two mid-90s fastballs to retire his two batters faced. It may be tough for teams to turn down an arm like that on the mound, but his tools could make him a top 15, whether or not he progresses some more offensively.

2. Brian Goodwin, OF, Rocky Mount HS (North Carolina). Goodwin was Saturday’s MVP, primarily due to his game-winning 2 RBI base hit in the 9th. He showed a great ability to go with the pitch and hit the ball with authority. He has plus-speed that plays on the bases and in centerfield, and a fringe-plus arm.

3. Ethan Carter, RHP, Menchville HS (Virginia). Carter (pictured) flashed plus-command and has the makingsCarter_01_Aflac of three above-average to plus-pitches with a low-90s fastball, a tight upper-70s slider and a low- to mid-80s changeup with good depth. He flies open occasionally but is otherwise fairly consistent in his mechanics.

4. Ian Krol, LHP, Neuqua Valley HS (Illinois). Krol sat in the upper-80s with his fastball, though it played up due to his ability to pitch inside. His changeup was solid and has the makings of an above-average pitch. He was consistent with his sweeping curveball, which sat in the mid-70s and had respectable depth. He won’t blow anyone away, but as a lefty with above-average pitchability he should be one to watch this Spring.

5. Chad Thompson, RHP, Westminister Christian Academy (Missouri). Thompson is a big body that does a good job of getting low and driving towards home. His fastball sat in the low-90s and he flashed a solid low-80s changeup. He also showed an ability to cut his fastball, with decent break and a 3-5 mph dip in velocity. At 6’8” – 215, he has a durable build and could potentially add some velocity down the line.

6. Matt Graham, RHP, Oak Ridge HS (Texas). Graham is a hard thrower, sitting in the low-90s with his fastball, but playing it up by snapping it with an over-the-top delivery and creating a good downward plane. He showed good command over his low-80s changeup, and also flashed a 1-7 CB with good depth. Though he has a solid, durable pitcher’s build, his delivery is a little violent, which could lead to shoulder issues in the future.

7. Zack Wheeler, RHP, East Paulding HS (Georgia). Wheeler works at a very good pace, and has the makings of three above-average- to plus-pitches. He loses energy in his motion during his leg kick wherein he lifts his arms almost entirely over his head – this should be ironed out in short order. His arsenal includes an upper-70s slurvy curveball, low- to mid-90s fastball and a solid low-80s slider. He has room in his frame to add some thickness, and potentially velocity.

8. Slade Heathcott, OF/LHP, Texas HS (Texas). Heathcott (pictured) has a Heathcott_02_Aflacsolid approach at the plate and can spray the ball to all fields. He should hit both for average and for power, and has above-average speed on the bases. Defensively he profiles as a rightfielder with solid defense and a plus-arm. On the mound, Heathcott was a victim of some bad luck on Saturday, but his stuff is there. He pairs a low-90s fastball with a big 11-5 curveball that he throws in the mid- to upper-70s. He is a little too emotional on the mound which can lead to control issues.

9. Richie Shaffer, IF/RHP, Providence HS (North Carolina). Shaffer shows a solid approach at the plate and should hit for average. There is solid gap-to-gap power potential that could improve as he squares-up more consistently. He played a solid shortstop on Saturday making a brilliant over-the-shoulder catch on a ball hit into shallow left-center. He has an above-average arm.

10. Max Stassi, C, Yuba City HS (California). Stassi is a plus-defender with a plus-arm behind the plate. Offensively, he has the makings of a plus-hitter with above-average power. He’ll need to improve his approach and work on his weight-distribution, as he tends to hit off of his front foot. He was unimpressive a the plate on Saturday, but his receiving skills and impressive defensive package make him one of the better high school catchers in this year’s draft class.

Our 2009 Draft Page will open sometime this October. For the time being, we’ll cover this year’s class here in our blog.

17 August 2008

Compensation Article

During the past two months there has been a considerable amount of trade talk. Often, the conversation turns toward a pending free agent (i.e. Adam Dunn) who will definitely qualify as a type A free agent. This turn of the conversation brings up an issue of value. In this situation, the Reds' strict value of Dunn was that he would reward them with a sandwich round pick in addition to a low 1st round or high 2nd round selection. To receive fair compensation, this is the bare minimum value the Reds should receive in return. For the purpose of this article, we will assume that his remaining six to seven weeks of performance cancels out his remaining salary for team who traded for him (Diamondbacks). In the end, it has been reported that the Reds accepted the Diamondbacks offer of Micah Owings, Wilkin Castillo, and Dallas Buck. Owings had an above average season last year pitching with the bonus of a little pop coming off his bat. This year he has been dreadful. Wilkin Castillo has little to no upside and was most likely sought as a potential backup catcher. He is not regarded as a prospect (think Eli Whiteside). Dallas Buck was once considered a prospect, but an arm injury has removed that label form him. Basically, the Reds received a down on his luck young pitcher who is not really as good as he was last season and not as bad as he is this year. Right now, he is a number 4 level pitcher. He probably has the stuff to inch up to three status. He offensive numbers probably help shade him a little upward as you can expect about 50% more production out of him at the plate than you would for a typical NL pitcher.

Of course, this is just being descriptive and not saying much of use. Questions still remain:
1. What is the value of these draft picks?
2. What is the value of prospects?

What is the value of the draft picks?

For those who may be unclear on free agency compensation, when Dunn reaches free agency the Diamondbacks now may offer arbitration. He may choose to accept this or he can refuse it and seek a contract elsewhere as a multiyear deal most likely would result in being paid more over the course of his career. If he does sign elsewhere, his status results in compensatory draft picks for the Diamondbacks. Dunn is a type A free agent (top 20% at his position based on an archaic and somewhat pointless secret formula), the Diamondbacks receives two draft picks: a sandwich pick placed between the first and second rounds and a second pick which is taken from the team that signed the free agent. This second pick has restrictions placed on it. If the signing team is picking in the top half of the first round (1-15; i.e. Washington Nationals), their first round pick is protected and the parent club receives the new club's second round pick instead of their first. If the signing team is in the lower portion of the first round (i.e. Tampa Bay Rays), the pick is not protected and is transferred to the parent club. If the free agent is a type B free agent, then the parent club only receives the sandwich pick.

I decided to determine worth by calculating the probability of a drafted player spending an entire season in the majors. This is a low bar of success, but I think it suits our purposes as it will overvalue the draft pick slightly. I researched players selected in 1997 through 2003 drafts and grouped them as late first round (16-30), sandwich (31-45), or early first round (46-60) picks. It should be noted that the sandwich designation is artificial as the size of this group changes each year as it is dependent on the activity in the free agent market.

What we find is that a late first round pick has a 46% chance of making it to the major leagues. A sandwich pick has a 29% chance of playing MLB baseball. An early second round pick has, surprisingly, a 32% chance. Using these numbers, you can determine what the probability is to receive a MLB level player via compensatory picks. I decided to keep the baseline low and include scenarios where one pick or both picks wound up reaching that threshold. For a type A free agent, you have a 63% chance of getting a MLB player if you are able to receive a late first round pick. That drops to 51% chance if the late first round pick is replaced with an early second round pick. In addition, a type B free agent is associated with a drafted player who has a 29% chance of reaching the bigs.

What is the value of prospects?

Several established prospect guides are available. For this study, I used John Sickell's 2005 prospect handbook. He assigns letter grades with pluses and minuses to each prospect. I took these values and determined likelihood of reaching the majors. Below the grades are listed along with their probability of reaching the Bigs:
A type B free agent fits nicely with a B- prospect. A B- guy would be similar to Garrett Olson or Nolan Reimold, according to John Sickels' preseason grades for 2008. Type A free agents require multiple players to find equal value.

Using this, we can suggest the following prospects grades as fair value for a type A free agent with a first round pick (63%):
B+ (Ian Kennedy) and C+ (Brett Gardner) (62%)
B+ (Lars Anderson), C (Bubba Bell), and C (Ryan Dent) (61%)
B (Jeff Niemann) and B- (Nick Barnese) (59%)

If the transferred pick is a second round pick (51%), then these trades would be applicable:
B+ (Chris Tillman) (55%)
B- (Chorye Spoone) and B- (Pedro Beato) (50%)
B (Billy Rowell) and C+ (Brandon Snyder) (51%)

Did the Reds exceed the base minimum return for Adam Dunn?

The answer is quite easily a yes. Of the two scenarios: Owings and junk vs. two draft picks; Owings and junk has a 100% chance of having a MLB player in the mix as opposed to the draft picks which have a 63% chance at best. Of course, limitations are involved with the trade route. The Reds may place a higher value on their own picks because they would be able to address needs that may not be able to be addressed given the Diamondbacks tradeable players. For instance, the Reds may have wanted more middle infield and catching prospects. The Diamondbacks do not have these pieces. Regardless, the Reds also have a need for pitching, so it worked out for them. They got more in return than you could expect from compensatory picks.

13 August 2008

Snap Back to Reality

All of those with playoff dream have to wake up now. Although not much has changed in terms of the final tally of wins Baltimore is expected to earn, playoff odds have come crashing down. This is to be expected. As a season wears on, variability will decrease as far as projections go. So, the Odds as of today? PECOTA has us pegged as 1 in 16,863 chance to make it into the playoffs as a division champ or wildcard. ELO is kinder with a 1 in 1,941. Yeah . . . it is over for all intents and purposes. It should be kept in mind, though, that this year was quite successful. Markakis developed more. Huff found his groove. Scott showed he could play full time. Jones looks like he might squirrel himself into an All Star game or two. Roberts is still playing quite well. Millar, Mora, and Hernandez did not have their performances drive off a cliff. We found some good relief help in Johnson and Sherrill. Guthrie showed he is not a fluke. Wieters has positioned himself as the best prospect in baseball. Reimold and Snyder have somewhat reestablished themselves. Our minor league pitching looks to have progressed nicely. We managed to sell off Tejada and Bedard before the bottom dropped out on them. It has been a good year.

The truth is you never play to simply win. You play to win a championship. With that in mind, you either are running a championship level team or building one. Wins are not always the best way to measure future team success.

Without any more delay . . . he is the mid-August odds graph:

03 July 2008

Upgrading Camden Depot

UPDATE (7/15): We've moved! Please update your bookmarks:


Hope to see you there soon!

01 July 2008

Updated Postseason Odds

Well, every projection system was a little bearish with the exception of the Pythagorean method. PECOTA odds for reaching the playoffs have decreased from 1:79 to 1:182 over the past week. ELO has decreased from 1:18 to 1:29. I also reckon that the wisdom of the crowds has also taken a downturn as Sherrill is providing another round of evidence that when you elicit a 25% groundball rate . . . you get hit. Sometimes, you get hit hard. He is a lot like Chris Ray in many ways, but that is something to rabbit on about at a later date. The link will take you to the updated season projection graph.

30 June 2008

Bowie Baysox: Pink in the Park

I would just like to congratulate and thank all those who took part in yesterday's annual Pink in the Park event at the Bowie Baysox stadium. All told, over $9,000 was raised to benefit the Holy Cross Hospital Cancer Institute Fund. In case you are unaware, each of the past three seasons the Baysox wear pink uniforms and then auction them off at the game. Chris Tillman's and Matt Wieter's jerseys apparently set new records. Not sure what they were. Anyway, it was a good cause and a pleasant evening.

28 June 2008

Viagra and Baseball Player Performance

Over the past few weeks a few articles have mentioned that many athletes have begun using Viagara to help with their endurance. Although Viagra has become as well known as the Pill, it is probably about as well understood in the mainstream. Players claim that this drug helps transport oxygen, nutrients, and other performance enhancing drugs to muscle. There is some biological basis for this to work, but much of it is part of the pseudoscience that permeates many a gym. Gym science has a tendency to be 1 part science, 1 part wishful thinking, and quite often a dash to scam to give it some flavor.

To understand Viagra, you need to understand erectile dysfunction. To start simply, erectile dysfunction is when a male is unable to develop or sustain an erection. This failure to launch is very much a bio-engineer process. At first thought, you might think that the penis is like any of your other appendages. By that, I mean, when you move your arm, you do so by employing muscle contractions. Erections do not work this way. An erection is the result of a hydraulic process that controls blood flow in the penis and, specifically, the corpora cavernosa.

How Does an Erection Work
When the penis is flaccid, arterial blood flow is constricted preventing the corpora cavernosa from becoming engorged with blood. An erection occurs when the a neurological signal activates a non-androgenic, non-chlorinergic nerve cell ending. This particular nerve cell is able to release nitric oxide into the blood. This chemical stimulates guanylate cyclase, which in turns upregulates cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP). Now, cGMP targets smooth muscle, which is what arteries are made of. This chemical causes the arteries to vasodilate, causing an increase in blood flow. Having a permanent erection is not ideal, so the body is designed to eventually degrade cGMP and cause vasoconstriction. This is accomplished by the enzyme phosphodiesterase (PDE).

How does Viagra Work
Erectile dysfunction is often caused by too low a concentration of cGMP. This biological process has three easily identifiable parts for us to manipulate:
1) Increase nitric oxide;
2) Accelerate cGMP production in response to nitric oxide presense; or
3) Inhibit PDE activity in order to allow cGMP to reach a high enough concentration to sustain an erection.
Viagra's function utilizes the third part of this process. It targets PDE.

PDE is an enzyme. An enzyme is essentially a protein that assumes a specific shape. The shape is able to latch onto cGMP and then metabolize it to a form that no longer dilates smooth muscle. The key to prevent cGMP metabolism is to inhibit or inactivate PDE. Viagra is the trade name for sildenafil citrate. Sildenafil is able to latch onto PDE, but it does not get metabolized and PDE does not readily release the compound. This limits the amount of free PDE to act upon cGMP. Eventually, the free compound is processed by other metabolic processes in the liver and is depurated from the body.

PDE Isozyme (Different Shapes for Different Function)
Now what makes this mechanism work to fix erectile dysfunction is that the corpora cavernosa contains PDE isozyme 5. PDEs have several shapes and each are rather specific to a certain function. This is quite important physiologically and pharmacologically. For instance, biologically it is important that erectile function (PDE 5) is not regulated concurrently with heart contractility (PDE 3). Otherwise, reproduction would have a high rate of lethality. Likewise, for pharmacological use, it allows us to focus on inactivating or inhibiting a specific PDE isozyme. Viagra has a 10,000 times greater affinity to binding with PDE 5 than PDE 3. This is actually why Viagra was originally a failed drug. It was developed to help with hypertension, but the compound had little effect on PDE 3. By accident, they found it worked on erectile dysfunction.

Problem With PDE 5 as a Baseball Performance Enhancer
The specificity of Viagra makes it initially out to be an unlikely PED. Studies have shown that this compound can help with pulmonary vasodilation in newborns and patients with severe heart conditions. Furthermore, in 2006 Hsu et al. found that Viagra could improve athletic performance by 40% at 10,000 ft. No dose dependant relationship was observed. Nor was this effect observable at lower altitudes. Experiments at lower elevations were followed up using Cialis (another PDE 5 inhibitor, but certainly different) by Di Luigi et al (2008) and found that under these conditions there were no observable effects. It appears that Viagra's vasodilatory effect works, but only in cases of severe hypoxia. Arguably, baseball players may experience this at Coor's field (5200 ft). I doubt it. If anyone has hiked at 10k, you can tell it is far different from hiking at 5k. With baseball being a game of short-lived moments of exertion, I doubt that the body will ever come under hypoxic conditions. Although I doubt it would work, maybe it would be more useful for cyclists, track and field, basketball players, or football players. Guys who you actually see physically drained after games. Of course, this comes with the caveat of high altitude hypoxia where oxygen diffusion rates are significantly depressed.

At sea level, I just wonder what the effect will be. Upping the concentration may have some serious pulmonary and vision effects would actually decrease performance while offering nothing beneficial to the user. I think the reason why high altitude performance, infants, and patients with poor arteries may benefit from Viagra is because this population actually suffers from reduced blood access from vasoconstriction. A healthy person at sea level just will not have a situation where his blood flow is limiting oxygen transfer to the skeletal muscle. The diffusion rate is not the issue. It is the consumption rate of the muscle.

As I have mentioned before, athletes are a desperate and superstitious bunch. In fact, we all are. We tend to look for any and every advantage in difficult and trying circumstances. I think trying to stay in the majors and earn millions of dollars is a pretty stressful life. You all may laugh at the concept of a ball player having a tough life, but it is true. He has a short career length and each year is basically equivalent to 10% of his lifetime earnings. In response to that, ball players do weird things. Cap Anson never spoke to his starting pitcher on the day of the start. In the 1890s, the Baltimore Orioles were known to do shots of Turkey gravy an hour before game time in the midst of one of their memorable runs. Wade Boggs ate fried chicken and always had a can of beer in his hand. Guys don't step on the foul line between innings. Players wear the same unwashed clothes during a streak. Giambi and the Yanks share a gold thong when one of them gets into a slump.

Unlike those, the use of Viagra is based in some scientific fact. It is a vasodilator . . . though an incredibly specific vasodilator. It reminds me of Ivan Rodriguez and countless other ball players. They piss on their hands to prevent blistering. This actually makes scientific sense, but it is misapplied. Check your hand moisterizer and you'll find uryl sulfonate or some version of that. That is basically urea. Piss. The lack of understanding exhibited by ball players, but not by chemists, is that urea has to be on your hands for several minutes for it to keep your hands soft. So, if you want to be cheap about it . . . soak your hands in a bucket of urine for 20 minutes and you'll beat the system. hGH is another PED that is similarly rooted in science, but is misapplied. Players took hGH thinking it would help them develop muscle when all it did for them was cause acromegaly. The list goes on and on and on. The key is to remain skeptical when any drug emerges from the gym. Most often, it does not do much of anything but be a drain on your wallet and your liver.

25 June 2008

Draft Recap: Kyle Hudson, CF, University of Illinois

Introducing Kyle Hudson

5’11” – 165 lbs. – Bats/Throws (L/L)

In Round 4, Baltimore went with their second two-way D-I player (granted, Avery had not yet started his career at Georgia). Hudson spent three seasons as a wide receiver for the University of Illinois, as well as center-fielder for the baseball team. He leaves Illinois second in career batting (.376) and tied for first in stolen bases in a single-season (40). With this pick, Baltimore hopes to shape this elite athlete into a future lead-off hitter and plus-defender. Let's see what they have to work with...

The Statistics
AVG – .398
SLG – .482
AB – 191
H – 76
2B – 11
3B – 1
HR – 1
RBI – 26
R – 61
SB – 40

Two numbers jump out. First, the 40 stolen bases. As mentioned above, this ties the Illinois single-season record (he broke the conference record for stolen bases in conference play -- 25 SB -- as well). Hudson is a true burner with game-changing speed on Avery's level (I believe he's actually a slight step above). Second, the slugging percentage is a mere 84-points higher than his average. While the .398 AVG looks impressive, one has to take into account the fact that he was facing uninspired Big 10 pitching. To that point, the SLG is a bit troubling, as you'd expect the doubles and triples to pile up given his speed and the competition of a weaker conference. I think you'll see some power develop as he cleans-up his swing mechanics (see below), but it will likely be in the form of gap-to-gap rather than home run. He also lead the Big Ten in walks, with 39 -- another "plus" for an Orioles organization looking for its future lead-off hitter.

Grading Out
Hitting - 35
Power - 30
Fielding - 50
Arm - 30
Speed - 80

If Jordan and the Orioles were looking to get athletic this year, picks 2:5 through 4:5 is an incredible start. While Hudson is still a ways away from being a good hitter from the standpoint of mechanics and approach, keep in mind he has never devoted all of his attention to baseball. He posted a solid AVG and OBP in spite of his mechanics, and could be an exponential improver once he submerses himself in the baseball world. The development of his offensive game should dictate his ultimate ceiling -- either slap-hitting speedster with moderate success or solid candidate for a lead-off hitter. His speed easily plays in CF, though his arm strength summons visions of Juan Pierre.

Swing Mechanics
Scouting video available on the Orioles's Draft Tracker page at MLB.com

Load - Hudson begins with an open stance and closes with a leg raise (similar to Hoes's) as he loads. His hands start off in fine position, but he adds some extra movement and pulls them back towards the catcher as he lifts his leg, adding some length to his swing. As noted in our Hoes breakdown, the leg lift can be a good timing mechanism, but it requires attention to be paid to weight transfer.

Stride - His stride comes right from the leg lift, which is cleaner than Hoes's approach of tap and step/pivot. His timing is adequate and his hips do a decent job of staying closed (though he'll occasionally get a little lazy, especially on pitches he has given up on). His hands are too far back due to the extra motion at the end of his load, which greatly extends the length of the path from bat head to ball.

Swing - Hudson profiles as a bit of a slap hitter. He tends to come in too strongly with his top hand, which elevates his front shoulder and dirties his swing plane (at minimum flattening it), along with sapping some power. When he leads with his bottom hand, his swing is much more fluid and he is better positioned to make more consistent hard contact. There should be more emphasis on torque in his lower half, as his upper body has a tendency to throw him off balance. This results in less bat control and will affect his ability to stay on advanced pitching in the future.

Contact - He is inconsistent in his contact, sometimes coming in with too much weight up front and hitting off his lead foot. Other times, his upper body comes through too quickly (maybe over-swinging?) and his weight gets way back in his body. Rather than a perpendicular line from helmet to knee, Hudson is closer to 60-degrees. When coupled with a leading top hand, this could again be an obstacle to consistent hard contact against advanced pitching. Still other times, Hudson reverts more of a "slap" approach, throwing the bat head at the ball rather than attacking with a forceful plane. The Orioles will work to normalize his approach and get him into a more consistent routine from load to contact. This may be as simple as getting Hudson to do the reps in BP -- something that was likely cut into by the demands of his football commitment. Though he's a bit all over the place right now, there are enough "adequate" swings to give hope that a consistent professional hitter is buried in there.

Follow-Through - Again, Hudson is inconsistent. He finishes way up when he leads with his top hand. His flat swing lifts almost right at contact, taking force off of the swing and preventing him from maximizing his potential to drive the ball. The follow-through on his "slap" swings is short and tight in the upper body. Occasionally, he finishes with a nice clean stroke -- both one-handed and two-handed. As the rest of his mechanics are ironed out, his follow-through should fall into place.

Swing Grade - C-

As you might expect from a wide receiver, Hudson tracks the ball very well. He takes solid routes and his plus-plus speed is an incredible asset in the field. He is capable of covering ground from gap-to-gap, and his ability to close quickly on base hits helps to prevent base runners from taking advantage of his below-average arm strength. Though his arm leaves something to be desired, his speed and reads would likely be wasted in LF. He should be a solid option in CF with the potential to save a fair number of extra-base hits in the gap.

Fielding Grade - B

Stotle's Notes
Hudson does not have the raw talent of Xavier Avery, and he is closer to fully-baked, limiting his ceiling a bit. Still, it will be interesting to see what happens now that he is devoting himself exclusively to baseball. His first 18 months in the organization will be telling. If everything starts to fall into place, Baltimore could have the makings of a future lead-off hitter with solid defense in the 8-spot. Even if his batting does not fully develop, he has the potential to carve out a 4th or 5th outfield spot on the merits of his defense and base running, alone. This is a decent high-upside pick, again heavily dependant on the ability of the Orioles low-minors system to lay the groundwork and begin the development of a player currently more athlete than baseball player.

Prospect Grade - C+
ETA - 2012

Next Up:
FRI 6/27 - Rick Zagone

New Site Design Feature

In order to help with site navigation, we are going to start doing these jump cuts. Too often someone is interested in a story and then has a hard time finding it.

Hope this makes it easier on you all.

1B Aging Curve

Last week, I posted about how age affects fielding performance for second basemen and shortstops. These are positions where teams often place some of their more athletic players. Today, we focus on first basemen, which is a position where teams do not regard athleticism much. First base is an offensive position and being adequate is often enough for the manager to keep slotting a mashing, poor fielder in at first base. A particular interesting sidelight is that Mark Teixeira is coming into free agency this year. A significant portion of Teixeira's value comes from his defensive abilities. He is a streaky hitter, but his defense is supposedly constant. Just looking at RZR for Teixeira we see this (for what it is worth .750 is about average for a first baseman):

24 .799
25 .815
26 .840
27 .752
28 .798

Teixeira is a very good defensive 1B, but the question is how do defensive abilities of 1B age?

The main fielding considerations for generating outs are the ability to field efficiently and range. Fielding cleanly or fielding efficiency is a skill that should maximize when the player accrues experience that assists in coordination, but then tapers off when age affects reaction time. This includes being able to field balls straight from the bat and the ability to catch balls thrown to first. Range typically has a shorter learning curve (i.e., first step), but more rapidly deteriorates due to age. Range typically is not well considered for 1B. Regardless, both of these general assumptions should apply to the defensive capability of firstbasemen.

Revised Zone Rating (RZR) will be used as a surrogate for fielding efficiency. This metric assumes there is a given territory that a defender should be expected to cover. Of all the balls that pass through this zone, outs are recorded and compared to the number of chances. This is not ideal as RZR will be effected eventually by decreased range, but it should be rather representative because players are typically moved off positions if they are so unable to defend this standardized area. This is also hampered by the fact that it does not consider the ability to catch errant throws. I imagine that this skill may increase at a later date and that this graph may actually shift a year back, but I could be wrong with that thought.

Out of Zone (OOZ) Plays represent range. These plays are those that are made outside of the zone designated to the position. Again, there are potential issues. If a defender is playing next to a player who has great range then the number of OOZ plays he can accrue will probably be reduced. The resulting effect may not be great because several players seasons will be used to determine the aging curve line.

The data was collected from the Hardball Times fielding statistics. Fielding performance was recorded from 2004-2007. Out of Zone plays for each player was divided by the number of innings played and normalized over 162 9 inning games. Ages were then determined and applied to the seasons. Ages with less than three data points were removed from consideration. Only full time players with more than one season at 1B during this time period were considered. Due to the lack of players at the outer age classes, this graph covers years 24 to 32 only.

Firstbase Fielding Age Curves
The curves depicted to the right show the effect of age on fielding efficiency (orange) and range (black). Each horizontal mark represents five plays for both axises. The RZR line has been normalized for the average number of chances encountered at 1B for a full 162 game 9 inning season. For instance, if a player moves from one horizontal line to the next over the course of two seasons then the player has improved or declined by five plays. A single play is worth about 0.6 runs, so each line represents 3 runs saved or lost. Three lines roughly represent a win gained or given.

Based on the age classes we have on hand (at least three data points had to be available for each age included), we see absolutely no acclimation for range from 24 onward. Range basically plateaus between age 30 and 31 seasons. This differs from 2B and SS curves that actually seemed to require an increase in experience to maximize range. Fielding efficiency follows a similar pattern to that of second basemen and shortstops. Players peak between 26 and 27 age years. This actually goes along with Teixeira's performance so far.

For first basemen, fielding range is maximized in the early 20s and immediately declines until about age 30. First base is not considered a defensive position, so when a 1B ages it is typically met with a shrug. Fielding efficiency maxes out at 26 or 27 years of age and then goes into decline. It could be argued that the decline is fueled largely by the decline in range. It should be noted that efficiency, for a short period, does increase as range decreases. The reduced ability to field effectively is most likely due to age and range. A simple regression found correlation between range and RZR to be an order of magnitude greater than age and RZR.

With regard to Teixeira, his better defensive days are behind him. Although, it should be noted that only once in the past five years has he been anything close to average. He is an excellent defender. I imagine, based on the curve, that he won't being average in the field until he is about 34. Whoever signs him should do quite well with him manning 1B. 20MM per year well? That is another story.

24 June 2008

Draft Recap: L.J. Hoes, 2B, St. Johns HS (Washington D.C.)

Introducing L.J. Hoes

6’0” – 190 lbs. – Bats/Throws (R/R)

With Baltimore’s pick at 3:5, we get some insight into this year’s draft approach. By selecting their second “toolsy” high schooler in three picks, the Orioles signal they are confident in their ability to develop their own talent and would like to grab the best tool sets with which to work. Hoes is an athletic ballplayer with the skill set to play almost any position in the field. Baltimore announced him as a second baseman, and it looks like that’s where the O’s will try to shape him (though he’ll likely bounce around the infield a bit in the rookie leagues to ensure he gets his at bats while others are working out at the four-spot). While the Matusz pick was probably the most heavily debated by Baltimore fans, the Hoes pick is the most significant – Jordan and the Orioles are stating in no uncertain terms that the organization will be looking to develop this year’s infusion of talent at the low-minor levels, and they are confident that the likes of Hoes and Avery will ultimately outshine the likes of more developed college players such as Kieschnick, Darnell and Danks. Let's take a look at what Jordan and Co. will be working with over the next 4+ seasons.

The Statistics
AVG – .524
SLG – .964
AB – 84
H – 44
2B – 9
3B – 2
HR – 8
RBI – 29
R – 44
SB – 32

As was the case with Avery, it looks like Baltimore was targeting athleticism with this pick -- primarily speed, with some semblance of raw power. Hoes enjoyed a successful career at St. John's and was an impact player right from the jump-off, batting third as a freshman for a team ranked in the top 25 nationally by four separate publications. Had he not signed with Baltimore, he would have continued his baseball career with national powerhouse University of North Carolina. St. John's is a member of the Washington Catholic League, which is competitive enough to add some legitimacy to his stats (though one has to keep in mind that even the most competitive of high school leagues is plagued with inconsistency in competition).

Grading Out
Hitting - 60
Power - 55
Fielding - 55
Arm - 60
Speed - 55

Hoes is a solid all-around ballplayer that doesn't dominate any one facet of the game. He's solidly above-average across the board and has earned a reputation as a clutch player capable of helping a team in all areas -- defense, throwing out runners, stealing bases and timely hitting with occasional pop. He doesn't have a huge frame, but he is already well on his way to filling it out. His power could grade as high as a 60 on the 80 point scale, but there probably isn't a ton of room for growth. His speed plays well in the outfield, but he probably isn't fast enough to profile as a Major League center-fielder. Likewise, his speed is fringe-plus on the offensive side -- he is quicker on the base paths once underway than he is out of the box. His arm should play across the diamond.

Swing Mechanics
Scouting video available on the Orioles's Draft Tracker page at MLB.com

Video Posted from LJ's Gallery on Takkle.com

Load - Hoes has an effective load. His hands are optimally placed slightly above and behind his back shoulder. His elbow is angled slightly below 90 degrees, with his bat head pointed towards third base and moving towards perpendicular as he completes the first stage of his swing. His weight distribution is close to 60/40 and he lifts his front leg through the load. There are schools of thought that regard this as a good timing mechanism, though it carries with it the requirement that the hitter keep his weight-shift in mind during his stride so as to avoid getting his lower half out in front of the ball as he brings his leg down.

Stride - Starting with a closed stance, Hoes's stride takes him slightly open, towards third base. This leads to his hips occasionally opening early, and accordingly, pull-side tendencies. This also opens up a hole on the outside of the plate that might be exploited at the professional level. Because he utilizes a raised front leg during his load, his weight transfer is occasionally uneven. He tends to shift his weight forward a little prematurely, which may lead to difficulties with offspeed stuff down the road. His hands and upper body are excellent. His hands stay tied to their position relative to his shoulders, keeping a short path to the ball. He has a still head and keeps his front shoulder closed and driving towards the pitch.

Swing - Hoes's calling card is his quick bat speed. Strong wrists, forearms and upper body, together with good upper body mechanics lead to a firm, compact swing that produces solid contact on a regular basis. While Hoes stride limits his ability to spray line drives from pole-to-pole as effectively as one would like, he has shown an adequate power to the opposite field -- this is likely due to his ability to let the ball deep into stance before beginning his swing (a huge benefit of above-average bat speed). It will also benefit his pitch identification as he works through the minors.

Contact - Mechanics at contact are sound. Hoes squares up on the ball regularly, and his body is in good power position at contact. His weight is centered and a straight line runs close to perpendicular to the ground from head to back knee (though he is generally a little too far out in front with his upper body). On those occasions where his weight transfers forward too quickly and he hits off of his front foot, he does a respectable job of rotating through his core and not lunging.

Follow-Through - Hoes has a clean, one-handed follow-through. As he works on hitting to the opposite field with authority, he may consider a two-handed follow-through to try and maintain a little more bat control towards the end of his swing, but this will largely depend on the hitting philosophy of his minor league instructors.

Swing Grade - B

Hoes is impressive in the field. He has enough arm to play anywhere on the diamond and is direct to the ball in the outfield. He tracks the ball well and shows good instincts while in pursuit. Baltimore will look to mold him as an infielder, which is certainly possible giving his above-average athleticism and body control. Though he was an above average outfielder in high school, he isn't likely to have the speed to man center field at the Major League level or the bat to hold down a corner outfield spot. His above average arm and fringe-plus speed play well, defensively.

Fielding Grade - B

Stotle's Notes
The gamble here is that Hoes will hit enough to be an everyday infielder. The Orioles seem to be confident that he will be able to pick-up second base, and it would appear the target production will be somewhere around a Brian Roberts-lite. There is plus-power potential in his swing, but it is unlikely he'll add enough bulk for it to translate to much above low-double-digit home run output. With Hoes, Jordan grabs his second solid tool set and hopes to mold him into a late first round talent over the course of the next three seasons. He has the advantage of being quite versatile in the field already and fairly sound mechanically with his swing. His development will likely center around fine-tuning his game and working to get the most out of his body.

Prospect Grade - B-
ETA - 2013

Next Up:
WED 6/25 - Kyle Hudson (Pick 4:5)
THU 6/26 - Rick Zagone (Pick 6:5)
FRI 6/27 - Caleb Joseph (Pick 7:5)

2008 Trade Deadline News

This will be a recurring item to focus conversation whenever news comes up regarding the O's and the trade market.

Brian Roberts

Indications are that Roberts is not going anywhere. The team is playing well and not many teams are in need of a second baseman. That being said, I think he will be dealt at the 2009 deadline or we will receive a couple draft picks in 2010. It seems unlikely that we will extend him for the number of years he will most likely desire.

Chad Bradford and Jamie Walker
Ken Rosenthal reports that the Orioles are listening to any and all offers for these two relievers.
The Orioles would love to move two of their veteran relievers, lefty Jamie Walker and righty Chad Bradford. Walker and Bradford are specialists whose inability to work multiple innings forces manager Dave Trembley to overuse younger pitchers such as Jim Johnson and Matt Albers.

The main deterrent is that they are on the books for 2009, but I imagine there will be a market for both of these players. Bradford will probably be a little bit easer to part with as he is having a great pedestrian season. Peripherals suggest differently, but he is doing well. Walker is not doing so hot, but is not awful. Being a southpaw, we may be able to get a high C level prospect. Bradford is probably worth a low B and a C.

Unknown Shortstop
Recent reports have pegged Andy MacPhail as being quite driven to find a new shortstop.
"We're on an APB right now, trying to find a shortstop as a front office," MacPhail said. "We've sent the word out to our scouts. We're going to continue to evaluate our internal options and we're going to continue to look outside the organization as well to see if we can find something. We're not really satisfied with the productivity we've gotten out of that position to this point. We've got to keep working to try to make it better."

Brandon Fahey, Luis Hernandez, and Freddie Bynum have all failed in the role. Alex Cintron's hitting streak is bound to subside and his popgun arm impresses no one. Potential SS candidates may include:

Braves - Brent Lillibridge, Diory Hernandez
Lillibridge is suffering mightily in AAA Richmond at the moment. His stock has plummeted, but the Braves are known for somehow figuring out to sell high. He seems like someone who will be kept on unless the Braves think they are getting his true value. With Tex sure to leave this offseason and the Braves within striking distance of first place, they may decide to go all in again this year. The Braves' infield is set for years up the middle, so Lillibridge could be considered excess. Diory Hernandez is in the same boat as Lillibridge, but is putting together a better season. He is a high contact guy with speed, but horrible base running skills. Diory may be more available.

Marlins - Robert Andino
Andino is enjoying his last option year. I believe at the moment he is a little used bench player for the Marlins, who may be interested in beefing up their relief. He displays good speed and base running decisions. He also has some secondary power. His main drawback is that he is a pure contact hitter who walks little and strikes out a lot. He is most likely available though he may be considered Ugula's replacement if they decide not to offer him arbitration.

Mets - Jose Coronado
Coronado's defense is ready, but not his bat. He is currently swinging and missing at AA Binghamton. In hiA, his bat was so futile, the coach instructed him to basically sacrifice bunt whenever anyone was on base with less than 2 outs. He was able to muster 30 sacrific hits that year. He probably has no place in the Mets' future, but I am not sure why we would want to collect everyone's Luis Hernandez.

Cubs - Andres Blanco
Blanco is another Coronado/Hernandez. He was signed by the Royals and actually let go as a minor league free agent last fall. The Cubs picked him up and he is fielding well in Iowa, but not really hitting in a hitters' ballpark.

Brewers - Ozzie Chavez
Ozzie Chavez is in his 8th year in the Brewers system. He has shown the ability to take a pitch somewhat well, but has no power. His defense is sound, but he has really struggled in AAA for two years. As a 24 year old, he still has a chance to turn it, but it doesn't look much better than what we currently have.

Twins - Sergio Santos
Over the past four years, Santos has shown he can hold his own offensive at AA, but not AAA. He has power and is a contact oriented hitter. Those skills have yet to advance to be competent at the AAA level. He certainly has much more upside than any of our immediate alternatives within the Orioles system. The Twins may be interested in one of our excess relievers, but we may have to foot some of the bill to get them to take Bradford or Walker.

A's - Donnie Murphey, Gregorio Petit
Donnie Murphy is another marginal middle infielder. He is playing backup second base for the Athletics, but could switch over to his natural position, SS. He has shown some secondary power, but is basically a poor contact hitter. His value is such that the A's acquired him from the Royals for cash. His worth is a bit more these days. Petit is similar to Murphy, but he is a bit more of an accomplished defensive SS and seems to have higher potential power. He is most likely worth more to them than Murphy and may be a difficult take.

Of these guys who would I want?
I think Brent Lillibridge is the best. I'd follow that by Diory Hernandez and then maybe Robert Andino. I don't think Murphy and Petit are much different from Andino. I neglected to mention other guys like Jack Wilson, Uribe, Ronny Cedeno, and others as I question what use they have to the Orioles at this moment. If these more established guys are essential for this team to be competitive in the short term, they could be acquired in the offseason.