Archive for the ‘prospects’ Category

Adventures in Miscellany

June 10, 2009

I don’t think this year was the best time for MLB to try to go all NFL on us with the draft. I mean, you’ve got the new best pitching prospect ever (don’t dare tell Keith Law that he might not be the next Clemens, by the by) , but nobody seems all that excited about anyone else in the draft. I’ll watch pretty much anything having anything to do with professional baseball, and maybe if the amateur draft was held in January, they’d rope me in. But I’m not watching the MLB draft in prime time when there’s real baseball to be watched. And if I’m not in their audience for this thing, odds are pretty good that their actual audience will be wildly terribly small compared to the amount of time and money they’ve spent promoting it.

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Nobody has told baseball that it’s a dated and boring game. It keeps coming up with things I’ve never seen before. Like this:


I wish I could figure out where that came from or who those teams were. But anyway, I thought it was cool.

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Speaking of Strasburg, add Buster Olney to the growing list of crotchety writers who are jealous of his opportunity and “advising” him to take less money than he’s worth in what may be the one shot to make real money he gets in his life. Olney quotes “one baseball official” as saying he would just offer Strasburg $11 million (half a million more than Prior’s record-breaking deal eight years ago) “and make that my best and first and only offer.”
I’ll just say this: I hope that “baseball official” is the Padres’ director of marketing or the Mets’ senior counsel or something. If that official is making baseball decisions, you should hope that he’s not doing so for your team. A Boras client very well may (I’d go so far as to say probably will) ignore an offer so obviously below his value as that (and negotiation techniques as bullying and amateurish as that), and go play for the Saints or something.
And if that happens, with fan morale where it is now (that one fan is getting awfully down on himself), the Nationals might as well move back to Canada. Or Senegal.
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Mr. Pinto points out that the Padres get a strange off-day in the City of Angels, maybe indulging in a Rodeo Drive (or maybe just Rodeo Road–man, I wish that video was online) shopping spree between their series with the Dodgers ending on Wednesday and the one with the Angels starting on Friday. There have been a lot of head-scratchers with the schedule this year, mostly (a) all the two-game series and (b) pairs of teams in different divisions seeming to meet each other very frequently over the first two months, and then not again for the rest of the year. But problem #1, now and always, is that ridiculous unbalanced schedule. Yankees and Red Sox fans (and Rays fans) should put away their differences and organize a collective uprising against that ludicrosity.
Then again, you can get from LA to San Diego in two hours or less. I guess I’d probably just buzz back home for the day. Now, if they did that to the Marlins or Orioles, there might be issues.
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Finally, a video that has nothing to do with anything. Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d say: I’m currently obsessed with two folk-comedy duos. You’ve probably heard of the first:

The other is Garfunkel and Oates, who don’t have the benefit of an HBO sitcom (yet) but are just as funny. But I’ve realized that they don’t have a video I could embed here that wouldn’t be likely to be at least a little offensive to someone.

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(up)Comings and Goings

June 4, 2009

I really wanted to do a big long thing on the Sports Illustrated cover story that Jason@IIATMS pointed out today about 16 year old phenom Bryce Harper, but I don’t have nearly the time I would need to devote to it.

Definitely go read the article, though. With the weirdly reverent, awestruck and just off-the-wall weird way Verducci writes the piece, it’s almost eerily reminiscent of the famous 1985 SI piece on “Sidd Finch”, only it turns out that Harper is real.

The Verducci piece and everything else I read about him lauds his personality, too — he volunteers for charity, has a good GPA, all that stuff. Only if you read the quotes from him in the piece, he actually comes off as astonishingly overconfident (if understandably so) and kind of petty (in other words, like a 16 year old). Of course, as has been pointed out numerous times, Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry got the he’s-such-an-upstanding-and-together-young-man from the media as unknown phenoms, too. You suppose they’ll ever learn their lesson about that?

Anyway, I really hope Harper stays healthy and comes along as expected between now and 2011. With the circus that has been Stephen Strasburg this spring, the internets might just explode with a catcher who can hit 500-foot home runs and steal bases out there for the taking (by, I’d have to assume, the Nationals again).

Also, check out Larry Stone’s take on the Harper piece…and the uninspiring tale of the only other high school ballplayer to make the SI cover.

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In completely unrelated and astonishing news, the Braves released Tom Glavine today, on the eve of his return from a pretty rough rehab assignment, and he’s predictably less than thrilled about it (though, in example #593 of how Tom Glavine is smarter than other baseball players, he expressed it entirely through his agent).

On one hand, I have to say that, as a baseball move, it’s hard to argue with this. The Braves have three starting pitchers who would be #1s for most other teams (Vazquez, Lowe and Jurrjens) and another who’s been better than he looks (Kawakami), plus two #5 starters and one of the top prospects in baseball in Tommy Hanson knocking on the door. Activating Glavine would mean a $1 million bonus in addition to the $2.5 million he’s already owed; not much money to a baseball team, but $1 million that, in a bad economy, they had no reason to part with. Baseball-wise.

On the other hand, you can sort of understand why Glavine is upset. He’s won 305 games, 244 of ’em as a Brave (and 12 more in the postseason). He’s 43 years old and a guaranteed Hall of Famer, and he’s put himself through a two-month minor-league rehab gig to get back to play for this club (and he did pretty well; didn’t walk a lot of guys or give up homers, though he didn’t strike anybody out either).

On yet a third hand (growing out of the middle of your back, but don’t look now), this can’t be a good PR move for the Braves, whose fans have mostly very good memories of Glavine. Is it bad enough that they’ll lose $1 million in revenue from it? I kind of doubt it. But it doesn’t look great.

So did they make the right move? Shyster sure doesn’t think so — calls it “shameful,” actually — but he’s probably as impartial about this as I am to the question of whether Kirby really deserved all those Gold Gloves. Anyway, I’m undecided, but leaning toward saying yes, it was a good move for the Braves. Maybe Glavine doesn’t show up to any Old Timers’ Games for a few years or something, but you’ve got to get Hanson in the big leagues and you’ve got to be sure you’re using guys who can still pitch. And a million dollars isn’t nothing these days.

Glavine says (in the ESPN article linked above) that he still intends to play, but will he have the option? He’s 43, coming off an injury, and before that coming off a 5.54 2008 ERA. He was about an average pitcher, ERA-wise, in 2007…but with a 4.86 FIP. And two years is a long time ago to a 43 year old baseball player. I assume he can be had for virtually nothing, but so (presumably) can Jim Edmonds, and Frank Thomas, and Ray Durham, and Mark Grudzielanek. If these guys can’t get jobs, should we really expect Glavine to find one at this point?

Which, with sincerest apologies to Tom, would be the bright spot in this for me. I think it would be pretty flipping sweet to see Glavine and Greg Maddux head into the Hall of Fame together. Now if only that other rehab project could go off the rails (in a career-ending but otherwise non-debilitating way) before it hits Boston…

Just Another Reminder that Strasburg and Wieters Aren’t Hall of Famers Yet

May 19, 2009

So here I was flipping through Baseball Prospectus 2005 in preparation for a quick piece on the quickly-devolving tragedy that is the career of Rickie Weeks, and I noticed something:

  1. Andy Marte.
  2. Delmon Young.
  3. Felix Hernandez.
  4. Dallas McPherson.
  5. Casey Kotchman.

That’s right. Those are the first five names that appeared on BP’s “Top 50 Prospects” list, about 51 months ago.

Now, let me say up front that I have nothing but respect for the fine people at BP (as you know if you’ve read, well, anything I’ve written here) and for this article’s author, Rany Jazayerli (as you know if you’ve checked out the blogroll to the right).

And the point of this isn’t that they got it wrong. Baseball America’s list had Mauer as the top prospect (who was no longer eligible by BP’s standards–he was the “Top Prospect Emeritus,” and I’d say that was a pretty decent call), but otherwise had a very similar look to it; minors uber-expert John Sickels was still doing the ESPN thing back then, and frankly, his top 5 hitter list is looking even worse than BP’s. In short, I don’t think BP did any better or worse than they should have in 2005 (incidentally, I can’t find my Baseball Prospecti 2004 or 2006 right now; anybody want to share the Top 5 from those years? Edit: found it! Check the comments.). But the fact remains that even by top-prospect-list standards, this one is looking really, really bad. Let’s review:

  1. Andy Marte (BA #9, Sickels #1): Rany’s writeup on Marte seems almost defensive — yeah, we really picked this guy, hear us out! — and now that’s looking a little silly. He’s currently back to knocking the cover off the ball in the minors (.343/.380/.614 through 22 games in Triple-A), but he’ll have to keep it up for quite a while before the big club in Cleveland forgets his .211/.265/.337, 56 OPS+ showing in a full season’s worth of big league PA. He might play again, might even start, but if he’s a star, it’ll be the biggest turnaround this side of Josh Hamilton.
  2. Delmon Young (BA #3, Sickels #4): Rany says “Marte and Young were the only two players seriously considered for our top spot.” They were right in line with everybody else on Delmon; BA went on to rank him #1 in 2006 and #3 in ’07. I have no further comment at this time.
  3. Felix Hernandez (BA #2, Sickels #1 among pitchers): Damn good, and it’s almost impossible to believe/remember he’s still only 23. They got one right, though it remains to be seen whether he’s really the top pitcher in the list (see more candidates below).
  4. Dallas McPherson (BA #12, Sickels #9): already nearly 25 when Rany was writing, the “most polished power bat of any player in the minor leagues” has a .298 career OBP and somehow lost the Marlins’ starting 3B job to Emilio Benifacio, so now I guess he’s in the Giants’ system. He did have a lot of power — 18 HR in 399 MLB PA — but the “polish” seemed to be lacking.
  5. Casey Kotchman (BA #6, Sickels #7): Here was your professional-hitter-and-gold-glove-first-baseman du jour, your Mark Grace or John Olerud for the 21st century. He did have a pretty solid and Grace-like first full season at age 24 in 2007 — .296/.372/.467, only 11 HR but 37 doubles — but then slipped in 2008 and was dealt to the Braves halfway through in the Mark Teixeira deal. Still only 26 and currently hitting .296/.362/.448, he might be a solid regular for several years now…but if so, he’ll likely be Overbay or Casey, not Grace or Olerud. Defense looks as good as advertised, however.

Other unnotables include Joel Guzman, #7 (62 big-league PA) and Eric Duncan, #13 (0 big-league PA). But should we get to the good players now? Wait ’til you see who’s bringing up the rear…

14. Scott Kazmir: posted a 116 ERA+ right there in 2005, at age 21, and didn’t look back. Well, not until ’09.

20. Chad Billingsley:
took off in 2006 at age 21. This kid might be the most underrated superstar in the game right now.

21. Ian Kinsler:
then a shortstop, Rany noted that he “projects as a slugging second baseman” without a ton of defense, so +2 for Rany. There was some thought then that his big 2004 in the minors was a fluke, just as there was some thought that his big 2008 in the majors was a fluke. Signs point to “no.”

24. Hanley Ramirez:
And in retrospect, there’s your true #1. Rany’s full of praise for him; his low ranking seems to stem from a very off 2003 and being blocked at shortstop by Edgar Renteria in Boston. BA ranked him #10.

26. Curtis Granderson:
“was not blessed with outstanding tools.”

38. Ryan Howard:
“almost guaranteed to find himself in another uniform before he gets an opportunity–maybe even before you read this.” Thome was blocking him in Philly at the time. They kept the right big guy.

39. Cole Hamels:
downgraded for injury risk.

44. Brian McCann:
just a good catch by them, really. McCann never once had a single-season minor league OPS as high as his big-league career OPS of .859. Oddly, BA also ranked him at exactly #44.

and, last and apparently least…

49(tie). Dustin Pedroia:
heh. Tied with someone named Mitch Einertson (who has yet to make it past Double-A) for the very last spot, in what was labeled a fierce “competition for our coveted slot of Mr. Irrelevant.” Little dudes in baseball: wildly underrated right up until the exact moment that they become wildly overrated.

Rany’s writeup seems resigned to the fact that Pedroia will never make the bigs, but notes that “PECOTA (admittedly thrown off by the small sample size) projects Pedroia to have more value over the next five years than any other prospect in baseball.”

BA’s list was a top 100 (as is BP’s, nowadays), and yet Lil’ Pedey goes unranked. Score one for PECOTA!