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: