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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 666

post #19951 of 73427
1. Rickey Henderson - LF
2. Jackie Robinson - 2B
3. Lou Gehrig - 1B
4. Ken Griffey Jr - CF
5. Miguel Cabrera - 3B
6. Babe Ruth - DH
7.Vladimir Guerrero - RF
8. Ivan Rodriguez - C
9. Omar Vizquel - SS


1. Sandy Koufax
2. Pedro Martinez
3. Randy Johnson
4. Greg Maddux
5. Bob Gibson

I went with the lineup route to make sure I mixed in some speed and defense to come up with an overall ballclub. That rotation would be fun. Surrounding Pedro with those lefties and the putting the fireballer Gibson after the technician Maddux. Wooeee. laugh.gif

Bench would be random specialists like Molitor, McGwire, Pete Rose for energy and Biggio for a utility man.

This was kind of fun.
post #19952 of 73427
Originally Posted by 651akathePaul View Post

1. Rickey Henderson - LF
2. Jackie Robinson - 2B
3. Lou Gehrig - 1B
4. Ken Griffey Jr - CF
5. Miguel Cabrera - 3B
6. Babe Ruth - DH
7.Vladimir Guerrero - RF
8. Ivan Rodriguez - C
9. Omar Vizquel - SS


1. Sandy Koufax
2. Pedro Martinez
3. Randy Johnson
4. Greg Maddux
5. Bob Gibson

I went with the lineup route to make sure I mixed in some speed and defense to come up with an overall ballclub. That rotation would be fun. Surrounding Pedro with those lefties and the putting the fireballer Gibson after the technician Maddux. Wooeee. laugh.gif

Bench would be random specialists like Molitor, McGwire, Pete Rose for energy and Biggio for a utility man.

This was kind of fun.

Now try doin it in draft format.

I had taken Gehrig early, so the guy I was drafting with held off on his 1B for a while, thinkin he didn't have to rush, then, (knowing that) I waited just long enough, and took Pujols, literally right before he was about to take him, and I used him as my DH. He was PISSED. laugh.giflaugh.giflaugh.gif

Just naming 15 guys is easy, but in a draft style, it was.......unique. And he literally just emailed and said here, go, and an hour later we were done, all while working. laugh.gif
post #19953 of 73427
It's be interesting, for sure. Hard to place value relative to pick position for an all-time team like that.
post #19954 of 73427
Jesus H. Christ, 651's pitching rotation sick.gif

Can my dude Nolan get some love, though? laugh.gif Favorite MLBer of all time. smokin.gif
4L 8O 15S16 T23 !42
L. A. A N G E L S, L. A. L A K E R S, U K W I L D C A T S, L. A. R A M S, L. A. S P A R K S.
"This game is in the refrigerator! The door is closed, the lights are out, the eggs...
4L 8O 15S16 T23 !42
L. A. A N G E L S, L. A. L A K E R S, U K W I L D C A T S, L. A. R A M S, L. A. S P A R K S.
"This game is in the refrigerator! The door is closed, the lights are out, the eggs...
post #19955 of 73427
I just named dudes though, so it wasn't a draft format. That's the team I'd strive for I think though.
post #19956 of 73427
Originally Posted by 651akathePaul View Post

It's be interesting, for sure. Hard to place value relative to pick position for an all-time team like that.

We did it based on offense AND defense, for that, I went premiums.

A-Rod at short. (can't beat his offense, solid enough at D)
Willie Mays at CF.

I would have had Bench, but the other guy is a Reds fan, hence Bench and Morgan on his team.

But I got Ryno at 2nd (best of both worlds, and up the middle.

Corner power at 1B and 3B.

And Clemente + Ted as corner OFs? laugh.gifpimp.gif

He had the first pick of Pitching, and took Maddux. I had the first pick of lineup, and went A-Rod at short.
post #19957 of 73427

Since I can't ask him how he continuously passed on Nolan, I'll ask you.



4L 8O 15S16 T23 !42
L. A. A N G E L S, L. A. L A K E R S, U K W I L D C A T S, L. A. R A M S, L. A. S P A R K S.
"This game is in the refrigerator! The door is closed, the lights are out, the eggs...
4L 8O 15S16 T23 !42
L. A. A N G E L S, L. A. L A K E R S, U K W I L D C A T S, L. A. R A M S, L. A. S P A R K S.
"This game is in the refrigerator! The door is closed, the lights are out, the eggs...
post #19958 of 73427
Originally Posted by DarthSka View Post

Since I can't ask him how he continuously passed on Nolan, I'll ask you.


I had him in mind, and went with Seaver instead.

He must like Feller for some reason, I'm guessing he was the one that changed from Ryan to him.

To me, Ryan was gas, but he was also a borderline .500 pitcher for 20+ years.

If we went 5-6 deep, i would have looked him up, but there are a TON of pitchers over the years, and if we goin on primes, 4-5 year stretches, hell, someone like Dave Stewart could make a claim before Ryan, ya know?

Hell, I didn't even think of Griffey until AFTER we were done. mean.gif

There are lots of guys I wish I would have thought of, but we took most of the "Rushmores"
post #19959 of 73427
Originally Posted by 651akathePaul View Post

1. Rickey Henderson - LF
2. Jackie Robinson - 2B
3. Lou Gehrig - 1B
4. Ken Griffey Jr - CF
5. Miguel Cabrera - 3B
6. Babe Ruth - DH
7.Vladimir Guerrero - RF
8. Ivan Rodriguez - C
9. Omar Vizquel - SS


1. Sandy Koufax
2. Pedro Martinez
3. Randy Johnson
4. Greg Maddux
5. Bob Gibson

I went with the lineup route to make sure I mixed in some speed and defense to come up with an overall ballclub. That rotation would be fun. Surrounding Pedro with those lefties and the putting the fireballer Gibson after the technician Maddux. Wooeee. laugh.gif

Bench would be random specialists like Molitor, McGwire, Pete Rose for energy and Biggio for a utility man.

This was kind of fun.

Why Jackie at 2nd base? He was a great player but there's no way you could rank him above Roger Hornsby. Love the lineup regardless, although I'm a big Ruth guy and would put him in the 3 hole and Gehrig at clean up.
post #19960 of 73427
My all time team

C- Yogi
1B- Albert
2b- Hornsby
3b- Schmidt
SS- A-Rod
OF- Bonds
OF- Mays
OF- Mantle
DH- Ruth

P- Young
P- Walter Johnson
P- Clemens
P- Koufax
P- Randy Johnson
post #19961 of 73427
Nats acquire Lobaton. Rays signing Bedard.

Josh Hamilton up 20+ pounds, Albert takes off 7.

Tavares cleared. Puig dealing with right shoulder inflammation.
post #19962 of 73427
Originally Posted by Jewbacca View Post

My all time team

C- Yogi
1B- Albert
2b- Hornsby
3b- Schmidt
SS- A-Rod
OF- Bonds
OF- Mays
OF- Mantle
DH- Ruth

P- Young
P- Walter Johnson
P- Clemens
P- Koufax
P- Randy Johnson

I mostly agree, however I would replace Randy Johnson with Tom Seaver and Albert with Gehrig, but that's just personal opinion. I could see Bench over Berra but that's a straight pick em
post #19963 of 73427
Starting the year before Randy Johnson won 4 consecutive cy youngs, he reeled off 5 straight seasons of 329 or more Ks.

Just looking at numbers, it's crazy/shocking that Nolan Ryan never won a cy young.
post #19964 of 73427
Originally Posted by Jewbacca View Post

Starting the year before Randy Johnson won 4 consecutive cy youngs, he reeled off 5 straight seasons of 329 or more Ks.

Just looking at numbers, it's crazy/shocking that Nolan Ryan never won a cy young.

It seems that way, but everyone just looks at the strikeouts which are impressive but don't tell the whole story. If you look at the individual seasons he never really deserved it. Easily top 10 most overrated players ever.
post #19965 of 73427
Heaney ready to join Jo Fer in '14. Conley, Urena, Nicolino down the line.
post #19966 of 73427
Thread Starter 
Jeter's secret? His confidence.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I covered the Yankees for the New York Times at the time Derek Jeter was invited to host "Saturday Night Live," and I can remember thinking that he would be pretty awful in that role.

Jeter's instinct when speaking into cameras or microphones had always been to keep it short, to give an answer without really saying anything. Like the way he pulled in his hands and punched the ball to right field, his ability to veer his way through interviews was almost an art -- downplaying, dodging, parrying, staying out of the corner.

Last summer, we were about to tape an interview on ESPN and I told him that young players often asked me about the way Jeter answers questions.

"What do you tell them?" he asked.

"I tell them you are as boring as possible," I replied.

He laughed, in mild protest -- "I wouldn't say boring," he said -- and I acknowledged that over the years, he has loosened up with his answers somewhat.

And I added that I always thought Jeter's strategy was to make sure that nothing he said to reporters would distract from what he did out there -- and I pointed to the shortstop position. He agreed with that part.

But Jeter on "Saturday Night Live"? I thought his habit for verbally downshifting would dull him down.

But through his reticence with the media, I had missed the forest: The man has always loved center stage, in a way that few do. He has belonged there -- only eight players in major league history have accumulated more hits, after all -- but he also wanted to be there, and assumed he would thrive there.

I've always thought Jeter's reputation as a clubhouse leader has been overstated, because unlike players such as Adrian Beltre, Dustin Pedroia or Chris Carpenter -- main bodies within their team's interaction -- Jeter seemed more like a tributary personality. His primary contributions to teammates have always been his performance and his reliability, playing through injuries that would've sidelined a lot of his peers, and the leadership he provided has always been much less about well-chosen words than about his confidence. There's not really a way to weigh this personality trait, but let's put it this way: If you could assess confidence like OPS, his lifetime number would be about 1.500. His confidence WAR would be at about 12.0 every season.

Jeter's play in the postseason is often dismissed by observers who say he really wasn't that much better than anybody else, but rather, he just had a lot more chances. That kind of criticism greatly amused a lot of rival evaluators and players, who saw in Jeter's October play an uncommon calm. Anxiety is inherent in postseason games, when the pressure is at its greatest, and even stars can struggle with the adrenaline, from Roger Clemens seemingly losing his mind in a start in the 1990 ALCS to Miguel Cabrera uncharacteristically hacking at everything by the end of the 2012 World Series.

But Jeter just seemed to play the same way -- aggressive at the plate, sure-handed in the field, completely at ease. I never thought he raised his play in October; rather, he never seemed diminished by the postseason pressure in any way, and this is what distinguished him. His at-bats were the same, the steadiness of his defense was intact, so he seemed to emotionally handle an at-bat in the first World Series moments played in November as he did playing an exhibition game in March. Jeter has a .828 OPS in the regular season in his career. In the postseason, with its bright lights and higher caliber of play: .838.

The Red Sox front office under Theo Epstein was generally in awe of this aspect of Jeter's play, and revered him. One Boston official said to me that when he heard folks say that Jeter was overrated as a postseason performer, he'd laugh and think: I'm sorry that you missed a great show.

[+] Enlarge
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Derek Jeter enters the 2014 season with 3,316 career hits.
Jeter would return to the dugout after his first at-bat and regardless of whether the pitcher was throwing 88 mph or 98 mph, he would say out loud to teammates, in so many words: "This guy doesn't have anything." You could construe that as someone trying to prop himself up, longtime teammate David Cone once said, but in Cone's estimation, this was never empty talk for Jeter. No, the shortstop was utterly convinced he would find a way to prevail.

A baseball lifer named Hal Newhouser saw that when Derek was in high school. Newhouser had been the AL MVP in 1944 and 1945, as a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, and in retirement, he worked as an area scout in Michigan for the Houston Astros. He was a dignified, understated man who wrote in clear block lettering, and was always well-dressed; his nickname as a player was Prince Hal.

The Astros had the No. 1 overall pick in the 1992 draft, and Newhouser spent that spring following Jeter, who was said to be strongly considering attending the University of Michigan. As Houston prepared to make its selection, Newhouser told the Astros that he believed that Jeter would be the centerpiece of championship teams, and implored them to take the shortstop.

Houston drafted Phil Nevin instead, and years later, Beryl Newhouser, the scout's wife, told me how upset her husband was at the decision. He decided that if he could not convince the Astros to take someone as special as Jeter, he would never be able to convince anybody of anything. And so he quit, after more than a half-century in the game.

In Jeter's 11th grade British literature class, he had been asked to create a personal coat of arms, and Jeter -- 16 years old -- drew himself as the shortstop of the New York Yankees. Sure enough, they drafted him at No. 6 overall. It was as if Jeter knew.

So too last spring, when Jeter seemed to acknowledge for the first time the relentlessness of time and his own physical vulnerabilities. As he tried to come back from his terrible ankle injury, he got a hit in his first exhibition at-bat, pulling a single through the left side -- and limped to first base.

Jeter had led the majors in hits in 2012, with 216, but was limited to 73 plate appearances in 2013, and struggled in those. Perhaps that confidence had finally been breached. This is part of Jeter's statement:
Last year was a tough one for me. As I suffered through a bunch of injuries, I realized that some of the things that always came easily to me and were always fun had started to become a struggle. The one thing I always said to myself was that when baseball started to feel more like a job, it would be time to move forward.

So really it was months ago when I realized that this season would likely be my last. As I came to this conclusion and shared it with my friends and family, they all told me to hold off saying anything until I was absolutely 100 percent sure.

He never let any of the outside stuff -- the media, the talk about his personal life, the inevitable crossfire that occurs for a two-decade star in New York -- affect what he did out there.

So how did he do on "Saturday Night Live"? He was really, really good, in his Taco Hole, as an Iglesias brother, in teaching little kids, in his monologue. He killed it, in fact, like he probably has always believed.

Jeter is going out the way he deserves, writes Tyler Kepner. He drew on a natural confidence, writes John Harper. Joel Sherman explains how Jeter survived 20 years of New York. Jeter has set up the perfect ending to a stellar career, writes Bob Klapisch.

Chris Matcovich of TiqIQ sent this along about the incredible movement in the secondary ticket market in the aftermath of Jeter's announcement:

• The current average ticket price for Jeter's last game is $1,112.93, which is up 265.05 percent since the time of the announcement ($304.87).
• The current get-in price is $306 which is up 1,076.92 percent since the time of the announcement ($26).
• In the same time period above the Yankees' home average ticket price increased from $206.97 to $236.48
• Single game presale begins Feb. 18.
• By about 2:55 p.m. Wednesday most tickets had been bought or pulled down by brokers and have since been relisted at higher prices.

Below is the price movement for the last game of the Yankees' regular season in Boston, which might be the final game of his career:
• The current average ticket price is $650.80, which is up 160.69 percent since the time of announcement ($249.65).
• The current get-in price is $298, which is up 192.16 percent since announcement ($102).

Around the league

• The Mariners have already lost a significant player for a lot of spring training. This is an early body blow to Seattle, which doesn't seem to be working with a lot of margin for error, anyway.

• Meanwhile: The Barnicle Brothers finished their 30 for 30 on the Alex Rodriguez trade that almost happened for the Red Sox.

• The Dodgers, who have had growing infield concerns this winter, signed a shortstop from Cuba. Big picture, long term -- beyond 2014 -- the Dodgers would love for Erisbel Arruebarruena to establish himself at shortstop, enabling them to move Hanley Ramirez to third base.

• Michael Cuddyer will likely hit second for the Rockies. Within this Troy Renck story, Walt Weiss says he has ruled out Carlos Gonzalez in the leadoff spot.

The No. 1 factor for lineup-building should be: Get the most number of at-bats for the best hitters. In light of that, this is the top six of the Rockies' order that'd be fun to see:

CF Gonzalez
RF Cuddyer
SS Troy Tulowitzki
1B Justin Morneau
C Wilin Rosario
3B Nolan Arenado

I love the idea of coming out firing punches from the top of the lineup, and the Rockies have players other than Gonzalez -- such as Tulowitzki -- to hit in the middle of the order.

Either way, the work of the Rockies has flown under the radar this winter, especially in a season after they won just 74 games. But the Rockies should have more depth than last year, more tools for Weiss. "We should have a lot of competition" in camp, said Dan O'Dowd.

Weiss has been more involved, more direct with his input, and it could be that the Rockies will follow the same path taken by Oakland last year, with a lot of time-sharing and a lot of maximizing of matchups.

Second baseman DJ LeMahieu hit .280 in 109 games last season, but will have to beat out Josh Rutledge for playing time. The Rockies added Drew Stubbs -- who had a .718 OPS against left-handers last season -- and Brandon Barnes to a cast of outfielders that already includes Gonzalez, Cuddyer and Charlie Blackmon (who had an .824 OPS vs. right-handers last season). Morneau was signed to play first base, but on some days -- against some left-handers -- Cuddyer could start there. (Morneau had an .819 OPS against right-handers, .525 versus left-handers).

The Rockies have better pitching depth, as well. Stay tuned.

• The wells of money have all but dried up, and the prices on free-agent pitchers such as Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Bronson Arroyo and others have been dropping for weeks. Which is why it's astonishing that the Phillies agreed to pay A.J. Burnett $16 million on a one-year deal -- a salary that ranks as the highest (along with Hiroki Kuroda) for any free-agent pitcher not named Masahiro Tanaka doled out this winter.

To review: Burnett is 37 years old, and struggled enough down the stretch last season that the Pirates chose to start rookie Gerrit Cole in place of Burnett in Game 5 of the NLDS against St. Louis.

His salary is high enough that even if the Phillies floundered and decided to weigh offers for Burnett in midseason, they would either have to eat a lot of the money owed to him in order to get even a third-tier prospect, or they would have to all but give him away.

The Phillies have a lot of TV money, so this deal won't dent their bottom line. But spending those kind of dollars at this stage of the winter, when there are so many questions about whether the Phillies can contend, is confusing. The Phillies' baseline strategy seems to be: overpay.

The Phillies obviously felt the need was there, given the concerns about Cole Hamels.

The Pirates weren't comfortable giving Burnett a qualifying offer.

• Kolten Wong has a big ol' chip on his shoulder. I haven't heard one evaluator say this winter that he thinks Wong won't succeed, but hey, the me-against-the-world thing is a proven path of success.

• The Indians continue to evaluate the possible shift of Carlos Santana to third base.

Dings and dents

1. Jurickson Profar has some tendinitis in his right shoulder.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Catcher Ronny Paulino was busted again.

2. Greg Holland settled his arbitration case.

3. The Reds made a roster move.

4. The Twins added to their 40-man roster.

5. Brandon Belt and the Giants have time to negotiate.

6. The Rays are continuing trade talk with the Nationals, writes Marc Topkin.

7. The Orioles may have signed a pitcher from Korea, as Dan Connelly writes. Some teams say they view him as a back end of the rotation, 4-A type starter.

The best shape of his life!

1. Bruce Rondon dropped a lot of weight over the winter, writes John Lowe.

NL East

• Jacob Turner will have to prove himself.

• Carlos Marmol will be the setup man.

NL Central

• Matt Carpenter is going back to third base.

• The young kids are taking over for the Cardinals.

NL West

• Bronson Arroyo joined the Diamondbacks.

• Hanley Ramirez wants to be a Dodger for life.

• There is reason for optimism this spring for the Padres, writes Nick Canepa.

AL East

• The Jays have a lot of familiar names, writes Richard Griffin.

• There are questions of depth about the Rays, writes Roger Mooney.

• Jackie Bradley Jr. knows he must be himself.

AL Central

• David Dombrowski doesn't seem to be sweating the Max Scherzer contract situation, writes Drew Sharp.

• Phil Coke is under a lot of pressure.

AL West

• The Astros are unfazed by the perception of their spending.

The plight of 'The Draft Pick Five'.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
TAMPA, Fla. -- An AL executive drew an analogy the other day between the situation facing "The Draft Pick Five" free agents -- Nelson Cruz, Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales -- and the sale of a house.

“If the price on the house is set and it just sits there and nobody's buying at that price,” the executive said, “isn’t there a time when the reality of the market sets in and the price comes down?”

Players are reporting to spring training all over the baseball landscape, and those five players -- five veterans tied to draft-pick compensation -- remain unsigned, fueling the most-asked question in the industry these days: Where will those players land?

It’s hard to know, because representatives for the players want to get their clients paid appropriately, and their interpretation of what that means is very different from what a lot of teams believe. Some teams and agents seem to be searching for comparable situations, and some teams have simply moved on and are indicating privately that they are not interested in spending any more money this winter. Mets GM Sandy Alderson is doing it more overtly, tamping down expectations that the Mets would sign Stephen Drew. Again.

Kyle Lohse, in a similar situation last spring, waited and waited, before agreeing to a three-year, $33 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers. His deal might be looked at as a possible road map for Santana and Jimenez, in particular, but some club officials note that this contract wasn't actually executed by the team's general manager. Brewers owner Mark Attanasio was the driving force behind that deal, which a lot of rival GMs panned privately because Milwaukee, an organization largely dependent on the draft for its access to talent, had to give up its first-round pick, at a time when it didn't appear that Lohse could turn the team into a contender.

This situation might have been a little easier for Lohse to cope with than for others, because Lohse is generally very relaxed, the type of personality who chats genially with others before his starts. A lot of other players who are in the box that the Draft Pick Five find themselves might be a lot more anxious.

It could be that the waiting will go on for many more weeks, because at this stage, with the qualifying offers of $14.1 million rejected long ago, waiting might be the best play for some. Like Drew.

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Scott Boras has been in no hurry with Stephen Drew.

Scott Boras represents Drew and according to officials throughout baseball, Boras is doing what he always does in this situation, relentlessly pushing for what he believes to be appropriate opportunities, texting and emailing and calling. The fact is, there doesn't appear to be a lot of need for Drew in the current landscape. Even though the Yankees know Derek Jeter plans to walk away after this season, they appear disinclined to consider Drew, given all the money they've spent in the winter, and the Cardinals long ago invested in Jhonny Peralta instead of Drew. Some teams are concerned about the medical evaluations of Drew, who suffered a devastating ankle injury when he was with the Diamondbacks.

But all it takes is one injury to change need. This is how Alex Rodriguez wound up with the Yankees, after Aaron Boone famously hurt his knee playing pickup basketball, and how Prince Fielder signed with the Tigers after Victor Martinez was injured on a treadmill.

The Dodgers intend to retain their draft pick for 2014, but if the oft-injured Hanley Ramirez were to suffer an injury in spring training, maybe Drew would become more attractive. The Red Sox have held a firm line in their interest on Drew, but if anything happened with Xander Bogaerts, that could always shift perspective. What Drew needs -- what each of the Draft Pick Five needs, in fact -- is for injuries to manifest, so opportunities arise.

Dan Szymborski wrote a really interesting piece the other day on the true value of draft picks. But for a small handful of teams -- the Mets, Yankees, Blue Jays (whose picks are protected) and Mariners -- the draft implications won’t matter as much. The Mariners have a lot invested in the upcoming season, and they’ve already surrendered their first-round pick to sign Robinson Cano. Could the recent injury to Hisashi Iwakuma make them more inclined to go after Santana, whose tendency to surrender fly balls would make him a good fit for Safeco Field? Would the Mariners consider Jimenez, who is regarded as less of a health risk than Santana but bears a history of inconsistency?

There will probably have to be some type of give, however. When the offseason began, Santana's asking price for teams was over $100 million. The Rangers considered signing Cruz to a two-year deal, but didn’t want to go to three, and instead locked up Shin-Soo Choo. The Mariners were unable to sign Morales last summer. Jimenez's asking price is said by some executives to continue to be for a four-year deal.

Something has to change. Maybe it'll be through injury, or, inevitably, compromise on the price tags. Because baseball players need to play baseball to get paid.

Jim Fregosi

You'd walk into a press room in spring training in Florida before the start of an exhibition, and if you saw a group of scouts bunched together at a table, it figured that Jim Fregosi would be in the middle of that scrum -- cajoling, opining, teasing, in the loudest voice.

AP Photo/Reinhold Matay
Jim Fregosi in 2013.

If he caught your eye, Fregosi would pepper you with rhetorical questions, like a teacher leading a class with the Socratic method. What do you think about the Yankees’ rotation? How is A-Rod looking? What do you hear about that managerial situation across the state? You knew he wouldn’t ask the question if he didn’t have strong feelings, or strong information.

For fans of the Angels and Mets, Fregosi, who passed early Friday morning, will be remembered for his days as a player, but he is mostly considered property of the Philadelphia fans, because he was the leader of one of the most fun teams in history, the ’93 Phillies, National League champions.

My own thoughts of Fregosi go back to those press-room exchanges, the knowing glances. Last spring, when there were so many questions about Roy Halladay, Fregosi attended a start in Clearwater, Fla. Halladay looked like he was laboring badly in the first inning, and after he finished, I ran down to the scouts' section to ask about what they had seen.

Fregosi saw me coming down the aisle, and slyly placed his right hand on his left shoulder, with four fingers extended. As in: 84 mph. And Fregosi raised his eyebrows, with emphasis. As in: This is a big problem.

I haven't known him as well as others, but those who did have revered him, cared for him, and the press rooms and scout sections in Florida will not be the same without him.

Billy Owens, a scout for the Oakland Athletics, sent these thoughts about Fregosi:

"His career was unparalleled in Major League Baseball. He performed at a high level on the field for 18 years. He skippered for 15 years including the 1993 World Series. After his illustrious field career culminated he dove tailed into a high level scouting position for one of the most successful franchises in MLB. Besides that, his gregarious personality was enviable while also being generous with his time to every facet in and out of the game. Truly a unique individual. His success on the diamond in all aspects has been regal in numerous ways. John Wayne of baseball."


• The Rays are opening spring training and David Price is still part of the team.

• The Angels are negotiating a massive extension with Mike Trout, writes Mike DiGiovanna.

I wrote a couple of pieces in the fall about what the scope of this deal could be, given his unprecedented production in the first two years of his career. One estimate: 12 years, $400 million, especially in light of his one-year value.

• Prince Fielder revealed his workout regimen to Richard Durrett, and he looks great.

• A consensus among a lot of rival officials and evaluators is that the Pirates made a mistake in not tendering a qualifying offer to A.J. Burnett last November. "He's the perfect candidate for a qualifying offer," one executive said. "If you get him on a one-year deal, at that age, you feel good about it, and his production merited an offer."

Said another: "If you are willing to pay him $10 million to $12 million on a one-year deal, it's not a stretch -- even for a small-market team -- to pay him $14 million, especially early in the offseason. They would've left [Burnett] with two choices: pitch for the Pirates at that rate, or retire, because no team would give up a draft pick to sign someone at that age."

Burnett's decision surprised some of his teammates. There's that house analogy.

Dings and dents

1. Miguel Cabrera is feeling a lot better now.

2. Franklin Gutierrez has been lost for the season.

3. Taijuan Walker is dealing with some shoulder soreness.

4. Gavin Floyd and Jonny Venters are looking to be back in May.

5. The Astros’ Alex White is focused on his health.

6. Jake Arrieta is dealing with a shoulder issue.

7. Ruben Amaro downplayed the Cole Hamels issue.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Rays swapped Jose Lobaton for pitcher Nate Karns. Advanced metrics indicate Lobaton is a really good defensive catcher.

2. The Yankees and Marlins are going to play two exhibition games in Panama.

3. The Brewers are looking to sign a prospect.

4. The Orioles signed a pitcher.

The fight for jobs

1. Rick Renteria says Jose Veras will be his closer.

2. Brad Ziegler is trying to hold onto the D-backs' closer job.

Best shape of his life

Trevor Plouffe has bulked up, and Vance Worley slimmed down.

AL West

• The talented Athletics are facing skeptics, writes Susan Slusser.

AL Central

• The Royals are preparing to open camp, writes Andy McCullough.

• Drew Smyly is preparing for his shift to the Detroit rotation, as Tom Gage writes.

• The Indians believe in Michael Brantley, writes Paul Hoynes.

AL East

• Here are concerns about the Blue Jays, from Ken Fidlin.

• The Red Sox can learn from the Dodgers' experience with extra starting pitching.

• Felix Doubront arrived in better condition.

NL West

• Brett Anderson is ready for a role in the Rockies' rotation.

• Here are Henry Schulman's five questions facing the Giants.

• The Dodgers' bullpen is loaded, as Dylan Hernandez writes.

• A Padres prospect is eager to ditch an innings cap, writes Jeff Sanders.

NL Central

• The Cubs can't seem to escape the doom and gloom, writes Gordon Wittenmyer.

• Yadier Molina thinks he can do better.

• Bryan Price offers a fresh perspective, writes John Fay.

NL East

• Matt Williams has spring training all planned out.

• David O’Brien writes about the comparison between Chipper and Freddie Freeman.

• The Phillies' chemistry faces an early test.

Phillies flounder with A.J. Burnett deal.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Without context, the signing of A.J. Burnett looks like a coup for the Phillies. They signed one of the top dozen starters in the National League from 2013 to a one-year deal that, at $16 million, doesn't overpay based on his recent standard of production. Burnett is 37 years old and has had injury problems earlier in his career as well as a reputation for an unwillingness to play through pain or discomfort that he has disproved in the past few seasons. He was worth 4 Wins Above Replacement in 2013 (using Fangraphs' version, which normalizes BABIP), 3 the year before, and even at that level would represent good value at $16 million.

Context is everything, of course, and the Phillies aren't the right team to hand a 37-year-old pitcher a one-year deal unless it is with the idea of flipping him for long-term assets at some point during the season. The Phillies aren't contenders as constructed; even before Cole Hamels revealed his shoulder bothered him this offseason and he won't be ready for Opening Day, they looked like a sub-.500 team. Adding Burnett might have pushed them to 81 wins but not more. Now he looks more like Hamels' replacement for at least part of the season, and if Hamels' injury is serious and not just temporary soreness, the Phillies would be more likely to end up around 75 wins even with Burnett taking the ball 33 times.

Burnett is also an exceptionally poor fit for the Phillies' roster. Since arriving in Pittsburgh and working with Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage, Burnett has become a ground ball machine (remarkably without losing his ability to miss bats) and relied on the Pirates' ability to position defenders well to get more outs. The Phillies have a poor defensive left side of their infield -- Jimmy Rollins has declined to below average, and Cody Asche hasn't shown anything to make me think he'll be an average defender this year -- and they don't use the kind of analytics that Pittsburgh used to become one of the majors' most efficient defenses last year. A healthy Chase Utley is an asset with the glove, but Ryan Howard is a huge liability at first. Burnett is going to find the ground balls he generates have better vision than they did in 2013.
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Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Howard's won't be a boon for Burnett.

If the Phillies signed Burnett to make 20 starts and then become trade bait in July, that's a much better plan, as they could use another high-level prospect or two to bridge the gap until the wave of teenage prospects in their system gets another two years closer to the majors. Burnett, however, was willing to sign with only a limited number of teams this winter -- Pittsburgh, Philly and Baltimore among them -- and I expect we'll hear the Phillies had to give Burnett at least limited no-trade protection to get him to sign a one-year deal. The more restrictive the no-trade clause, the worse it is for the Phillies.

Meanwhile, the losers in this are the Pirates, who get the shaft from a collective bargaining agreement that, in theory, was supposed to help lower-revenue teams remain competitive. The Pirates didn't make Burnett a qualifying offer for fear he would accept it and saddle them with a $14 million starter who takes up 15 to 20 percent of their payroll, a rational move with the inevitable outcome we have, where they get squat for losing Burnett to free agency.

Tying draft pick compensation to free agency was always stupid -- the original reason was to try to put a drag on free-agent salaries back when deals of seven figures got owners and media all hot and bothered -- but it has completely failed low-revenue teams. If the Pirates can't get a pick for losing Burnett, then the system needs to be scrapped because that's one more bit of evidence that it's not working.

Rookies I can't wait to scout this spring.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Every year at spring training there is a lot of focus on the star players who switched teams, with Robinson Cano being a prime example this year. However, what I am most excited about for this spring is the chance to scout some of the game's top rookies.

It’s fun to watch young players develop in real time, and to see if they can do enough to convince their managers and GMs to take them up north. It’s a time when the game’s best evaluators get a taste of just how good some young players can be.

So here are 10 rookies I am looking forward to scouting during spring training. And trust me, just getting the list down to 10 was not easy. Note: This is not a ranking, as some of the game’s best prospects -- such as the Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Carlos Correa -- are not on the list simply because I've seen them so much over the past year.

1. Javier Baez | SS | Chicago Cubs | R/R | 6-0, 190 | Age: 21

In my opinion, Baez has the best bat speed of any prospect in baseball. It's so impressive most evaluators compare it to Gary Sheffield. His bat is so quick that in his preliminary movement, he actually wraps his bat as a timing mechanism.

He will have to cut down on that as well as his strikeouts as he nears the big leagues. Baez must also reduce his physical errors on defense; I wonder if he should stay at shortstop or move to second base.

2. Oscar Taveras | RF | St. Louis Cardinals | L/L | 6-2, 210 | Age: 21

Taveras is the best left-handed hitting prospect in baseball. The Cardinals’ plan is to start him in Triple A with Allen Craig starting in right and Matt Adams starting at first base.

But the fact is the Cardinals will have a better team when Taveras is the everyday right fielder. He battled ankle injuries last season, but after surgery in August he is expected to be 100 percent by Opening Day.

3. Nick Castellanos | 3B | Detroit Tigers | R/R | 6-4, 215 | Age: 21

The Tigers traded Prince Fielder this offseason due in part to the team's desire to move Miguel Cabrera to first base and open up third base for Castellanos. I was wowed by Castellanos at the 2012 Futures Game when he took home the MVP award.

His swing path, bat speed and ability to hit caught my attention. He showed 20-homer power but is a below-average runner and just a solid defender.

4. Billy Hamilton | CF | Cincinnati Reds | B/R | 6-0, 160 | Age: 23

Hamilton made a huge big league debut in September, challenging the best arms the majors had to offer and went 13-of-14 in stolen base attempts. But can he get on base? The key for him will be to attempt to bunt at least once a game and just slap the ball for infield hits. But most impressive is how well he adjusted to playing center field after beginning his minor league career at shortstop. His arm is much stronger than it used to be thanks to a steady diet of long toss.

5. Taijuan Walker | RHP | Seattle Mariners | R/R | 6-4, 215 | Age: 21

On the 20-80 scouting scale, with 80 being the highest grade possible, Walker grades out as an 80 in makeup and character, and his fastball, curve and changeup all rate above average. He also throws a slider/cutter that should improve in time. But his command and control will determine how dominant he becomes.

He showed flashes during a cup of coffee in September, striking out 12 and walking just four in 15 innings. Walker was a two-sport athlete in high school (he also played basketball) with all the raw talents to develop into a star.

6. Archie Bradley | RHP | Arizona Diamondbacks | R/R | 6-4, 225 | Age: 21

Arizona's signing of Bronson Arroyo virtually assured Bradley will remain in the minors until at least late June. It’s a business decision designed to preserve service time, but I don't blame them, because Bradley is the best pitching prospect in baseball.

He profiles as a No. 1 starter with a fastball is in the mid- to high-90s, and I would argue that his 12-to-6 curveball is as good as any prospect's in baseball. He has great downward plane that results in high ground-ball rates. But the pitch to watch is his developing changeup. Bradley's statistical numbers were as staggering, including a 1.84 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and a .215 batting average against in a combined 26 starts between Class A and Double-A last season.

7. Addison Russell | SS | Oakland Athletics | R/R | 6-0, 195 | Age: 20

The next class of shortstop prospects is probably the best in a long time based on Keith Law's top 100 prospects rankings, in which five shortstops made the top 10. No. 3 is Russell.

He is a good, athletic defensive shortstop with soft hands, above-average range and solid arm strength. If he has a solid season in Double-A, don't be surprised if he makes it to the big leagues by September or at the latest in 2015.

8. George Springer | OF | Houston Astros | R/R | 6-3, 205 | Age: 24

As a prospect, Springer has never been given the respect he deserves. Why? Some think he has a long swing and the Astros have been slow to promote him. However, his time has come and I expect him to finally start in the outfield for the Astros either in left or right field come Opening Day.

Last year, he became just the third minor league player in 40 years to hit 30 home runs and steal 40 bases. He also drove in 108 runs, hitting .303/.411/.600 across Double- and Triple-A. He struck out 161 times in 590 plate appearances, which is a red flag, but I think he can make the necessary adjustments to be an impact player.

9. Matt Wisler | RHP | San Diego Padres | R/R | 6-3, 190 | Age: 21

Wisler is one of those under-the-radar prospects who could be a difference-maker for the Padres as early as this season. Last season, he started in high Class A and was promoted after dominating in six starts. At Double-A, Wisler posted a 3.00 ERA with 103 strikeouts in 105 innings.

His fastball is in the mid-90s with late life, his slider is hard and nasty, and he mixes in a curve and changeup, as well. He pitches ahead by pounding the strike zone on both sides of the plate, walking just two batters per nine innings.

10. Michael Choice | OF/DH | Texas Rangers | R/R | 6-0, 215 | Age: 24

With all the heists Oakland GM Billy Beane made this offseason, trading Choice is the one deal I think he’ll regret in the long term. I expect Choice to develop into an outfielder capable of hitting 15-20 home runs. The only question is when he will get his chance. With a full outfield of Alex Rios, Leonys Martin and Shin-Soo Choo in Texas, Choice will either platoon with Mitch Moreland at DH or more likely be sent to Triple-A.

Choice’s .390 OBP in Triple-A last season is an indicator of his offensive potential and I expect him to be a solid contributor for years to come.

Top 20 impact prospects for 2014.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
My top 100 prospects ranking from late January focused on long-term career value, which meant the list included many teenaged prospects who easily could be five years from producing any positive value for a major league team. If we're looking just at this upcoming season, however, the rankings are very different, and I've produced my ranking of the top 20 impact prospects for 2014.

Law's prospect rankings
Farm system rankings
HOU No. 1 | MIN close | Luhnow
Top 100 prospects
No. 1-50 | 51-100 | Law chat
AL top 10s by team
East | Central | West
NL top 10s by team
East | Central | West
Breakout prospects: AL | NL
After those 20, I've listed a number of other players who could come up this season and be above replacement-level if they get the chance.

I do not rank players with experience in a foreign major league as prospects, though those players are still officially considered rookies in MLB when they debut here.

If I included them on my rankings, Masahiro Tanaka and Jose Abreu would be 1-2 on this list; both are older, more experienced players than the kids ranked in this top 20, and I think both will have an immediate impact in the majors, making the AL Rookie of the Year competition this year extremely fierce.

With that said, here are my top 20 prospects based on the impact they will have in 2014.

1. Nick Castellanos, 3B | Detroit Tigers

Castellanos tops the list because he has a full-time gig waiting for him, little internal competition, and plenty of ability to make an impact in the near term. His defense might not be ready for prime time, but his glove already is a real improvement over the one he's replacing, and I think he's got rookie of the year potential if neither Tanaka nor Abreu runs away with it.

2. Xander Bogaerts, SS | Boston Red Sox

Bogaerts was my No. 2 overall prospect this winter and appears to have the shortstop job to himself unless the team brings back Stephen Drew. Bogaerts' game is more balanced than Castellanos', with more value on defense and better ability to get on base, but he's a little less physically mature than Castellanos and may have a longer growth period until he's an impact hitter.

3. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF | Boston Red Sox

Like Bogaerts, Bradley appears to have a job nailed down, and unlike Bogaerts there isn't a veteran free agent lurking out there to steal playing time for a year. Bradley's glove is ready now -- it was ready last spring -- but he was overmatched in April once pitchers started trying to get him out rather than just tuning up in early March (small sample size caveats apply). He's more prepared now, and should post a solid mid-.300s OBP with 8-10 homers and plus-plus defense.

4. Erik Johnson, RHP | Chicago White Sox

Maybe more a workhorse than a future ace, Johnson has made a ton of progress since the White Sox drafted him two years ago out of Cal, and he has a couple of potential out pitches in his arsenal, along with the build for 200-plus innings a year. He could easily be Chicago's third-most valuable starting pitcher in 2014.

5. Travis d'Arnaud, C | New York Mets

The archetypal GWH player -- Good When Healthy. D'Arnaud can catch, throw, and hit for power, but has to stay on the field. The Mets don't have a heavy-use backup on the 40-man, so they're counting on d'Arnaud to catch 120 games this year, which should mean 15-20 homers and excellent defense if he can stay out of the trainers' room.

6. Jake Marisnick, CF | Miami Marlins

In an ideal organization, Marisnick would have finished last year in the minors and would start 2014 in Triple-A, working on his approach and recognition of off-speed stuff before reaching the majors in the middle of this year. Instead, he's in the majors now, ready on defense, likely to hit 20-plus homers if he gets 500 at-bats, but also a fair bet to post a sub-.300 OBP if he can't make some quick adjustments.

7. Billy Hamilton, CF | Cincinnati Reds

The Reds are giving professional baseball's fastest man the center field job -- there's no proper backup on the roster, as Skip Schumaker can't handle center on more than an emergency basis -- and we're about to find out whether Hamilton can hit.

His total lack of power has become a problem, especially from the left side, as pitchers crowd him in to prevent him from slapping the ball the other way and beating out every ground ball. If he holds the job all year, he could still swipe 50-60 bases even with a low (think .300ish) OBP, and I think he'll save 10 runs a year on defense.

8. George Springer, OF, Houston Astros

Springer is the first player on my list who doesn't appear to have a full-time job already, but he could come up at any point in the first half of the season, and I think his impact will be immediate -- power, speed, along with good defense anywhere he plays. He'd be higher if he had the job from day one, but I don't think the Astros have any rational reason to do that when they can save his service time in a season in which they won't contend.

9. Kolten Wong, 2b | St. Louis Cardinals

What you saw last fall doesn't reflect Wong's skill set, between the small sample and the irregular playing time. He's the regular second basemen for the NL champs, and capable of posting a .280/.340/.380 line with neutral defense this year.

10. Matt Davidson, 3B | Chicago White Sox

Davidson has some competition for the regular third-base job, both in March or if he should scuffle in April/May, but he's the best option on their 40-man roster and a good bet to hit .250/.330/.425 or so if he gets regular playing time, with average or just below-average defense.

11. Taijuan Walker, RHP | Seattle Mariners

Walker and lefty James Paxton both have shots at breaking camp with the Mariners this April, with slight competition for the last two rotation spots. Walker has better stuff, with a possible swing-and-miss cutter, but a tendency to leave the fastball up because of his upright finish. I think he'll miss a lot of bats right out of the chute, but keeping the ball down and in the park will be key for him to be even league-average this year.

12. Oscar Taveras, RF | St. Louis Cardinals

Taveras likely would have been the Cardinals' starting right fielder on Opening Day had he not missed nearly all of 2013 with an ankle injury. He's expected to be 100 percent when he reports to spring training and I don't think Matt Adams and Allen Craig are long-term obstacles to Taveras' playing time. When Taveras, who reminds me a lot of Vlad Guerrero but from the left side, shows he's healthy and can rake against Triple-A pitching, he'll be in St. Louis, forcing Adams to part-time duty.

13. Marcus Semien, IF | Chicago White Sox

Semien could play any of three spots for Chicago -- short, second, or third -- or he could just play a lot of each of them as a true "super-utility" player, getting 400-450 at bats while spelling all three starters. Second baseman Gordon Beckham hasn't sniffed a .330 OBP or a .400 SLG since his rookie year, and he's a fringe defender at best. Semien could end up taking over that job by midseason and forcing a trade or non-tender of Beckham before 2015.

14. Chris Owings, SS | Arizona Diamondbacks

One of Arizona's best moves this offseason was a non-move, keeping both Owings and shortstop Didi Gregorius and allowing the surplus to play itself out before rushing to trade one of the two players. Gregorius is the incumbent but was a non-factor at the plate after his first 10 games in the majors. Owings is almost as good a defender, but has far better bat speed and gap power. He should be the starter coming out of spring training, with Gregorius heading to Triple-A to try to shorten up his swing and improve his approach against southpaws.

15. Kevin Gausman, RHP | Baltimore Orioles

Gausman was filthy in relief at the end of 2013, but he's still a starter in my eyes and in Baltimore's as well, a horse with a chance for three plus pitches if the slider we saw in September can come with him to a starting role this year. If you're looking for a guy in the 11-20 range on this list who, by year-end, will clearly have belonged in the top five, this is the best bet. He's a volatile asset but with huge upside if that slider clicks.

16. Jake Odorizzi, RHP | Tampa Bay Rays

Jeremy Hellickson's injury pushes Odorizzi, a very similar pitcher, into the team's Opening Day rotation, where he'll get lots of help from his team's stellar defense and should be above replacement-level, thanks to his ability to throw four pitches for strikes. I don't think he'll miss enough bats to be average, but could end up getting 30 or so starts for Tampa Bay, which doesn't have a lot of rotation depth heading into this season.

17. Marcus Stroman, RHP | Toronto Blue Jays

Stroman could help the Jays in two ways this year, even if he doesn't make the team out of spring training. He might be one of the five best starting options in the organization today -- the Jays' main choices after their front three are guys coming off injuries (such as J.A. Happ and Drew Hutchison) and pitchers who have proven they're not major league starters (such as Esmil Rogers).

But Stroman also would be lights-out in a relief role, and not limited to 10-15 pitch outings, which might matter because no one the Jays have in the bullpen behind Casey Janssen is any kind of lock. One way or another, Stroman should spend most of the year with the big league club.

18. Josmil Pinto, C | Minnesota Twins

Pinto is probably the heir apparent to Joe Mauer in Minnesota. His bat is ready to play, but his glove isn't, and he'll likely always be an offense-first catcher. The Twins will face a tough decision this year on how to work Pinto into the major league lineup; he needs to catch every day to improve his receiving -- and he'd probably be better off doing that in Triple-A -- but he's also their best candidate to give them some offense behind the plate.

19. Archie Bradley, RHP | Arizona Diamondbacks

The Snakes just handed their fifth starter's job -- and an enormous pile of money -- to Bronson Arroyo, which fills their rotation on paper for now and leaves Bradley waiting for an injury or other opportunity to make his major league debut. That'll come at some point this year, likely in June or so.

His stuff is ready, but his command isn't, although the latter has been improving the past two years. Even if he only gets 15-18 starts in the majors in 2014, he'll be among the NL's best rookie starters.

20. Jameson Taillon, RHP | Pittsburgh Pirates

Like Bradley, Taillon is more poised to be an impact call-up than a full-season big leaguer in 2014. And like Bradley, Taillon has better present stuff than he does command. Bradley has the better overall package of pitches and feel, but Taillon has just as much velocity and he will get a lot of chases on his slider, at least from right-handed hitters.

His system-mate, Nick Kingham, is more polished and could also get an early call-up, but Taillon brings bigger upside for the long term and I'd bet he gets the first shot when there's an opportunity.

Other position players to watch: Michael Choice, OF, Texas Rangers; Max Stassi, C, Houston Astros; Kevin Pillar, OF, Toronto Blue Jays; Alex Guerrero, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers

Other starting pitchers to watch: Allen Webster, RHP, Boston Red Sox; Rafael Montero, RHP, New York Mets; Trevor Bauer, RHP, Cleveland Indians; Tim Cooney, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals; Matt Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres; Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals; Brian Flynn, LHP, Miami Marlins; Mike Wright, RHP, Baltimore

Potential impact call-ups for the second half: Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians; Addison Russell, SS, Oakland Athletics; Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros; Cesar Puello, RF, New York Mets; Eddie Butler, RHP, Colorado Rockies; Jonathan Gray, RHP, Colorado Rockies; Mark Appel, RHP, Houston Astros; Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

Real cost of the qualifying offer.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
If you're like me, thoughts of spring seem far away as you shovel a foot of snow from your driveway, wondering if your back or heart will be the first to quit. But for major leaguers, spring is an imminent thing, with all teams having their full complement of players reporting in the next week or so.
That doesn't go for all major leaguers, however, as a large number of players remain unsigned. The most notable among them are the six players on Keith Law's top-rated free agents list who haven't signed yet, with five of them -- Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, Stephen Drew, Nelson Cruz and Kendrys Morales -- finding the markets less receptive to their desired salaries than they had hoped, at least partially due to draft picks they will cost the team that signs them as a result of the qualifying offer they received from their former teams.

The market has been so slow for these players that it's fair to ask if teams are being too protective of their draft picks. But upon further inspection, it appears GMs are acting rationally. Allow me to explain.

Whether a team loses a first-, second- or later-round pick, those picks have real value. When looking at the value of draft picks before last year's draft, I developed a model of expected WAR value from each pick. (Remember: We can't just use the average value of each pick, or Albert Pujols would make one think the 402nd pick is valuable, which it is not.)

The No. 20 pick came out with an expected value of 5.6 WAR, the No. 45 pick at 2.9 WAR and the No. 75 pick at around 1.6 WAR. (I'm using these as proxies for the types of picks that would be given up for teams that sign these players.) Even when you take into consideration that the players aren't free, especially toward the end of arbitration, for those three picks I get an estimated surplus value of 4.2 WAR, 2.2 WAR and 1.2 WAR, respectively.

Those WAR figures for a typical draft pick may not be exciting, but in a world where Phil Hughes makes $8 million per season, those numbers are significant. With teams paying roughly $5.45 million in the free-agent market for a win (my current estimate based on existing contracts), the loss of the 20th pick in the draft comes out to $23 million. You might eat that when you're signing a superstar, but it's a painful price to add in for a second- or third-tier free agent. The numbers are less for our theoretical 45th and 75th picks, but $12 million and $7 million, respectively, are still significant chunks of cash.

For each of the "qualifying offer five," I've run down the ZiPS contract projection for each one (in a neutral park/league) along with how they should be priced when you factor in first- or second-round compensation. I gave them a year on the contract for each season they project to exceed 2 WAR, with a minimum of a two-year deal.

Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP
ZiPS projected contract: Four years, $75 million
First-round compensation: Four years, $52 million
Second-round compensation: Four years, $63 million

Jimenez is probably in the best position of the "qualifying offer five," providing enough value that he's worth signing to a contract of a significant length, which makes the loss of draft-pick value manageable. The Blue Jays in particular have two protected first-round picks, and given Jimenez's upside -- he was unstoppable in the second half -- he has a good shot at finding a home (if not in Toronto, then with another second-tier contender).

The Indians remain a good home for Jimenez, but they would want to factor in the price of not getting a compensation sandwich pick, a pick in the mid-30s having around $15 million in surplus value.

Ervin Santana, RHP
ZiPS projected contract: Four years, $50 million
First-round compensation: Four years, $27 million
Second-round compensation: Four years, $38 million

Here we really see the impact of the lost pick. There's absolutely no way Santana would sign for $27 million over four years, but that's essentially what it would take to make the loss of a typical first-round pick a fair trade. Even the 30th pick in the draft has a $17 million expected value, so that essentially cuts off two-thirds of teams except for the ones that are feeling a bit of desperation.

Complicating matters is that some of the teams still looking for pitching (Baltimore, Toronto) play in homer-friendly parks that aren't great fits for the gopher-ball-friendly Santana.

Stephen Drew, SS
ZiPS projected contract: Two years, $20 million
First-round compensation: Two years, $-3 million
Second-round compensation: Two years, $8 million

Considering Drew is already in his 30s and has a significant injury history, it's hard to justify a long-term deal, and the draft-pick compensation doesn't change if you sign a one-year contract rather than a five-year deal. It's quite logical that the Mets -- who have a protected first-rounder and gave up their second-rounder for Curtis Granderson -- would be one of the teams most interested in Drew, as the third-round compensation drops his value to two years, $13 million.

While the Mets may be willing to exceed that number, Drew's reported desire for an opt-out clause after one year makes it a bad idea. Limiting the upside the Mets can get from a Drew contract just makes Ruben Tejada more appealing.

Kendrys Morales, 1B
ZiPS projected contract: Two years, $24 million
First-round compensation: Two years, $1 million
Second-round compensation: Two years, $12 million

Nelson Cruz, OF
ZiPS projected contract: Two years, $18 million
First-round compensation: Two years, $-5 million
Second-round compensation: Two years, $6 million

Morales and Cruz are in the same boat since they both have a similar problem, in that there's almost no scenario in which losing a first-round pick becomes a good idea. Morales stayed healthy in 2013 and was quite solid for the Mariners, but he's also on the wrong side of 30 and provides little defensive value. A team that desperately needs offense and owns a protected first-rounder may sign Morales, but his market is limited.

Cruz is even older than Morales, more one-dimensional and is coming off a PED suspension, none of which will help him on the open market. If there ever truly was a five-year, $75 million offer on the table from a team, Cruz turning it down was a mistake of epic proportions, similar to that of Jody Reed (who once turned down three years, $7.8 million and ended up getting one year, $350,000) or Juan Gonzalez (who turned down eight years, $140 million before 2000; made $39 million in remaining five years of his career). Like Drew, Cruz is actually worth negative dollars when you factor in a first-round pick.

The Mariners remain the best fit for Cruz (and he has been linked to Seattle all winter) as a team that really wants to spend money and always thinks it's just a mediocre DH away from a 90-win season.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Bauer hopes change is good
February, 14, 2014
FEB 14
By AJ Mass |
On Thursday, Jordan Bastian of reported that Cleveland Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer was "testing out his new delivery" in a bullpen session. The hope is that a new approach on the mound could lead to Bauer becoming part of the Indians rotation in 2014.

ESPN Insider Alex Speier explains the adjustment, and offers up the reason Bauer needed to change in the first place. "He reduced his stride in 2013, but in doing so, he gave up some of the Lincecum-like tilt in his hips and shoulders that had been a defining element of his delivery at his most effective. Not only did his control suffer, but his stuff flattened out," Speier writes.

"This offseason, Bauer found what Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway characterized as a happy medium -- a reduced stride length to reduce the likelihood of injury while restoring the body angle that allowed him to have outrageous stuff in college. When Callaway saw Bauer throw a side session recently, the results were eye-opening."
Tags:Trevor Bauer
Who replaces Jeter in 2015?
February, 14, 2014
FEB 14
By AJ Mass |
As the accolades continue to rain down on New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter in the wake of his announcement that the 2014 season will be his last, one can't help but ask who might end up with the unenviable task of following in Jeter's very big footsteps come 2015.

By way of trying to answer that big question, let's take an admittedly early look into the crystal ball, and see if we can't come up with a few potential candidates who might be up to the challenge:
Stephen Drew: With the New York Mets and Boston Red Sox both unwilling to give Drew the contract terms he's looking for, perhaps the Yankees will now jump at the chance to steal the shortstop away. As George A. King III of the New York Post writes, "Drew could play third and second base and provide a strong fill-in for Jeter this season" before ultimately taking over for good in 2015.
Hanley Ramirez: Yes, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reported that Ramirez said Wednesday he wanted to be a "Dodger for life." Of course, just after being traded to Los Angeles in 2012, Ramirez was stunned to have left the team he called "my family, the only one I had in baseball." If he makes it to free agency before working out an extension, odds are his attitude towards the Dodgers could easily change.
J.J. Hardy: Similar to Ramirez, Hardy might not be going anywhere after this season. As Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports reported last week, the Baltimore Orioles are hoping to work out extension with the shortstop before Opening Day comes around. However, that's easier said than done, and once October rolls around, Hardy may figure out that the Yankees might be willing to give him a lot of money in 2015.

Other potential free agents after the 2014 season that may end up finding their way to pinstripes include Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie and also Ben Zobrist -- if Tampa Bay decides not to exercise a team option. The Yankees could also end up making a big offer to Cuban defector Aledmys Diaz who could spend the season at Triple-A to prepare for the huge task of following Jeter at shortstop in the Bronx.
Tags:Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie, J.J. Hardy, Ben Zobrist, Aledmys Diaz, Hanley Ramirez, Stephen Drew
Cards hoping Taveras will be ready
February, 13, 2014
FEB 13
By AJ Mass |
The St. Louis Cardinals are hoping that outfield prospect Oscar Taveras will be a part of their organization for many years to come. However, even as the youngster arrived in camp from the Dominican Republic a full week earlier than required, the team was optimistic, but by no means certain, that he will be ready to play from the get-go.

Last season, Taveras was only able to play 46 games at Triple-A, as his season came to a premature end due to an ankle injury that ultimately required surgery. As Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, Taveras has not yet been cleared to run at full speed.

"He's here early to continue his recovery and ramp up toward full-speed running so that he's on track for when full-squad workouts begin next week. The Cardinals said he may ease into the workouts because there's no need to push him. They believe he'll be ready for games," Goold writes.

"The Cardinals are open to the possibility that he could hit this spring and hit his way into the majors, though (general manager) John Mozeliak has said recently that Taveras' development and need for everyday playing time would be the tiebreaker if he was just going to be on the bench in the majors."

Jim Bowden of lists Taveras among his rookies he can't wait to scout this spring. "Taveras is the best left-handed hitting prospect in baseball," Bowden writes. "The Cardinals’ plan is to start him in Triple-A with Allen Craig starting in right and Matt Adams starting at first base. But the fact is the Cardinals will have a better team when Taveras is the everyday right fielder."
Tags:Oscar Taveras
Will Iwakuma's injury alter Seattle's plans?
February, 13, 2014
FEB 13
By Joe Kaiser |
The Seattle Mariners announced Wednesday that they will likely be without their No. 2 starting pitcher, Hisashi Iwakuma, during the early part of the season due to a strained tendon in the middle finger of his right throwing hand. Does that raise the likelihood of Seattle going after, and perhaps landing, one of the few big-name starters that's available, like Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana?

It's certainly possible, especially when you consider how this is a make-or-break season for Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik, but at least one media member in Seattle believes it shouldn't change the team's plans.

Jason Churchill of CBS' 1090 The Fan addressed this today.

"... The club’s need for another proven, healthy starting pitcher has been there all along, and missing Iwakuma for what appears to be 2-5 starts doesn’t change that, or make the need any more pressing," he writes. "Changing their stance on dollars and years for a free agent such as Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez, or in terms of what they are willing to sacrifice to land a trade target such as Jeff Samardzija greatly decreases the chance GM Jack Zduriencik gets good value in any transaction."

Anyway you look at it, the prospect of the Mariners being without Iwakuma for any length of time is a crushing blow. However, reacting to the news by overpaying for a free agent would only compound the problem.

And that's exactly what a player agent told Churchill.

“That’s negotiating 101, really," the agent said. "Show weakness or any sense of desperation and my bottom line is going to change. It’s a supply and demand business, but when one potential buyer has a tell, so to speak, nine times out of 10 it gets exploited."

Until Iwakuma returns, look for Seattle to make due behind Felix Hernandez with a group that could includes Taijuan Walker and James Paxton as well as Erasmo Ramirez. Training camp invites Scott Baker, Randy Wolf and/or Zach Miner could also leave camp with the big club and carve out a role in the M's rotation.
Tags:Seattle Mariners, Hisashi Iwakuma
Stanton could stay in Miami
February, 13, 2014
FEB 13
By AJ Mass |
Perhaps there won't be a steady stream of rumors this season about a potential trade of Giancarlo Stanton away from the Miami Marlins after the outfielder recently agreed to a $6.5 million deal to avoid arbitration.

Although Stanton is not able to declare free agency until after the 2016 season due to his service time, and also not expecting to discuss any contract extensions until after the 2014 season, at the earliest, the concept of remaining with the Marlins is not something to which the slugger is opposed -- if the team starts winning.

According to Joe Frisaro of, "Miami officials have repeatedly said publicly they would like to sign Stanton to a multi-year deal. But the two sides agreed early in the offseason to hammer out a contract for 2014 and then wait and see."

"In order for the team to have security, that doesn't happen in two seconds," Stanton said. "That happens over a season or over two seasons. You show me that, and we can get something going."
Tags:Giancarlo Stanton
Position battle: Rockies' closer
February, 13, 2014
FEB 13
By AJ Mass |
When the Colorado Rockies signed free agent LaTroy Hawkins to a one-year $2.5 million deal with an option for 2015, the assumption was that he would, at that price, be taking over ninth-inning duties for the team's bullpen. However, his ultimate role with the Rockies is far from set in stone.

The candidates:

LaTroy Hawkins, age 41, throws right
Rex Brothers, age 26, throws left

Hawkins: Debuted just two years after the Rockies became a franchise. His 13 saves as an emergency closer for the New York Mets last season were his most since 2004.

Brothers: Recorded 19 saves in 2013 after an injury to Rafael Betancourt forced the team to move him from his more-familiar set-up role with the club.

Latest update: Rockies owner **** Monfort was asked recently if he truly trusted Hawkins to close out games this year. His response, according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post, was that while Hawkins still throws 94 mph, has excellent control, and was a leader on and off the field, he's not an everyday closer.

Current leader: Hawkins, by a slim margin. At the very least, barring a spring collapse by either pitcher, this situation looks to be one that starts the season with a situational approach. As long as Hawkins holds up his end of the tag-team tandem, he should expect to get save opportunities, but if Brothers "looks the part" better, he may end up wresting the job away on a full-time basis.

'Fixing' Trevor Bauer.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
There are players about whom industry consensus quickly forms, whose abilities inspire clear scouting comparables that point to a decisive projection moving forward. Trevor Bauer is not among them.
Just two and a half years removed from being taken as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 draft, Bauer is now viewed almost as a bust. After ranking as high as 21st in Keith Law's top prospect rankings in 2012, he fell completely outside of the top 100 this year, a tumble likely accelerated by his defiance of convention.
Law's prospect rankings
Farm system rankings
HOU No. 1 | MIN close | Luhnow
Top 100 prospects
No. 1-50 | 51-100 | Law chat
AL top 10s by team
East | Central | West
NL top 10s by team
East | Central | West
Breakout prospects: AL | NL
Bauer's success as an amateur -- he led Division I in strikeouts as a sophomore and junior at UCLA, with a 1.25 ERA as a 20-year-old in the latter campaign -- featured anything but the prototypical pitcher's build (6-foot-1 and 190 pounds), delivery (the tilt of his head and hips offered echoes of Tim Lincecum) and routine (long-tossing from 350 feet before starts while incorporating numerous atypical exercises). Still, his arsenal of a mid-90s fastball and a diverse array of secondary pitches was enough to dominate in college, but not enough to suppress questions about the sustainability of his performance.

"Every year there are a half dozen players in the draft who are freakish. They break stereotypes -- stuff so good from bodies so small, they produce great power without a big frame, they're 80 runners or have ridiculous hand-eye coordination. They're guys who break the mold and there aren't really good comps for them," explained one NL executive. "Those players usually cement themselves as either stud prospects with bright futures early or it goes the other direction and they lose value more quickly than traditional prospects.

"[Bauer]," continued the executive, "certainly has tremendously decreased value [since the draft]."

Most of the industry would agree.The Arizona Diamondbacks, who drafted Bauer and signed him to a four-year major league deal, dealt him away to the Indians after his first full pro season, with team managing partner Ken Kendrick publicly challenging the pitcher's willingness to "make adjustments to satisfy the needs of his employer."

Disastrous season
Around baseball, the conversation around Bauer shifted from the top-of-the-rotation potential that made him an elite prospect to questions about whether he is uncoachable, too willful and intelligent for his own good, too infatuated with the notion of getting hitters to chase his many secondary offerings (curveball, slider, change, screwball-like reverse slider) rather than simply forcing hitters into a defensive posture by throwing fastballs for strikes.
Not so fast
Although Bauer's velocity held steady in 2013, he got hitters to swing and miss on only 3 of the 168 fastballs the threw in MLB last year.

Fastball 2013 2012
Usage (%) 45 51.7
Velocity 92.7 92.4
Strike % 57.7 63.4
Swing/miss % 1.8 5.9
The criticisms gained volume during a 2013 season in which Bauer's performance both in the majors (1-2, 5.29 ERA, 11 strikeouts, 16 walks in 17 innings) and minors (6-7, 4.15 ERA, 7.9 K/9, 5.4 BB/9) disappointed. He struggled to command his fastball, his walk rate soared and he became heavily reliant on his secondary arsenal.

Some evaluators saw a pitcher whose probability of reaching his ceiling in the big leagues had dropped; others suggested that his ceiling itself had been lowered from a potential ace to a mid-rotation pitcher. In some ways, his struggles harbor similarities to those of Daisuke Matsuzaka -- a pitcher criticized at times for being on his own program with an overly broad arsenal but a lack of faith in his fastball.

"He's a power guy pitching like a finesse guy would and trying to fool and trick everyone," said one American League evaluator. "Just blow it by them. You have the stuff to do it."

The Indians, however, had a different view of 2013.

"We could not be more encouraged about what makes Trevor tick and what motivates him, what drives him," said Indians VP of player development Ross Atkins. "He is internally driven, extremely focused, extremely thoughtful about his craft and about being great. So the transition to our organization went extremely well."

Staying positive
Atkins described Bauer as being receptive and eager for feedback and information, with Atkins saying that after an introductory season of "[building] a vision and goal together," the relationship between the pitcher and team is now a collaborative one.

The struggles on the mound, the Indians felt, related not to coachability but to mechanical alterations Bauer tried to implement to avoid putting too much stress on his back leg, particularly after a groin injury affected him for much of 2012 in Arizona's system.

If the right-hander proves that 2013 was merely an aberration driven by mechanical struggles, then his tumble in prospect circles will represent a blip. If that happens, his intelligence and conditioning program will be interpreted again as assets instead of detriments.
He reduced his stride in 2013, but in doing so, he gave up some of the Lincecum-like tilt in his hips and shoulders that had been a defining element of his delivery at his most effective. Not only did his control suffer, but his stuff flattened out.

This offseason, Bauer found what Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway characterized as a happy medium -- a reduced stride length to reduce the likelihood of injury while restoring the body angle that allowed him to have outrageous stuff in college. When Callaway saw Bauer throw a side session recently, the results were eye-opening.

"He never felt comfortable with his mechanics [in 2013]. He never felt they were repeatable. It led to command issues. He just couldn't throw the ball where he wanted to," Callaway said of 2013. "He got that tilt back. He's using his body the right way. His stuff was better than I saw it throughout the season last year. Even this early, before spring training starts, his stuff is back, and that's really what we wanted to see, and his command was really good.

"His fastball was tracking the mitt well. He was throwing the ball over the plate. With his kind of stuff, all you've got to do is throw the ball over the plate and you're going to get outs."

What Callaway saw was a reminder of the ceiling that proved so tantalizing when the Indians acquired Bauer in a three-way deal with the Diamondbacks and Reds that cost them Shin-Soo Choo. If the right-hander proves that 2013 was merely an aberration driven by mechanical struggles, then his tumble in prospect circles will represent a blip. If that happens, his intelligence and conditioning program will be interpreted again as assets instead of detriments.

But until he proves he can command his pitches in games, and until he demonstrates an ability to throw strikes on a consistent basis, it's hard to say that Bauer has left his struggles behind or that he can emerge as a cornerstone of the Indians' rotation in 2014.

"It would be probably a reach for me to say, look, here's what Trevor's going to do in the major leagues next year," Atkins acknowledged.

Accordingly, the right-hander is competing for a rotation spot rather than being penned into such a responsibility. But if he can resemble the pitcher at 23 that he was as a 20-year-old amateur, the effect on the Indians could be enormous.

Cleveland thus seems intent on proceeding patiently in order to see if he can use his early-career struggles as a platform for success.

"His stuff is very special. His ability to be able to spin the ball, manipulate the ball to make it move, and then his ability to throw the fastball with the velocity and tight spin it has on it, it's really special," Callaway said. "When you have both of them, you have guys like [Justin] Verlander and guys like that who are pretty special. He's kind of in that rank as far as his stuff goes.

"This is not dissimilar to what Cliff Lee went through, to what Roy Halladay went through," Callaway added, alluding to the struggles of two eventual Cy Young winners. "Stuff changes, you struggle, you figure out how to fix it, and I think Trevor is now on the way back to where he wants to be."

Will that faith be rewarded? In Bauer's case, there is no consensus, making him a wild card with equal measures of potential upside and disappointment.
post #19967 of 73427
Thread Starter 
BTW, if there were 12 committed regulars, I would not mind running and doing that draft.
post #19968 of 73427
Thread Starter 
Going Forward: Where Fans and Numbers Disagree.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The other day, I got the idea to compare UZR data against data taken from the results of the Fan Scouting Report. Though there are certain things I’d change about the methodology were I to repeat the study, I’m still content with what I found, and I think it’s interesting to look at where the fans and where the numbers don’t see eye-to-eye. For example: Juan Uribe, when he’s playing in the field. The numbers have loved him. The fans have tolerated him. That’s interesting, even if I don’t know exactly why — yet. It might just have to do with the way Uribe looks, but there could be more to it than that.

Anyhow, once I compared and contrasted fans and numbers in the past, I felt the urge to do a similar sort of thing looking forward. FanGraphs hosts a few different projection systems; among them are the Fan projections and the Steamer projections. Soon, we’ll also have full ZiPS data, but we don’t have that uploaded yet. But we can make do with those two. Many fan opinions are in, and all the Steamer evaluations are in. Which players and pitchers do the fans like more? Which players and pitchers do the fans like less? Is there anything we can learn from what we find?

A few things, first. Instead of WAR, I’m going to compare only wOBA for position players and FIP for pitchers. For these purposes I’m not real interested in things like base-running or defense. I included position players the fans project for at least 300 plate appearances, and pitchers the fans project for at least 60 innings. This gives me 286 total position players and 190 total pitchers. Unsurprisingly, so far the fans are slightly optimistic: For the same players, the average wOBA is four points higher, and the average FIP is 17 points lower. Maybe that’s just Steamer being pessimistic. It’s probably the fans being optimistic.

I know we’re dealing with some small sample sizes with fan projections. I know posting this could very well change those very fan projections, because the projections are still live and you’re still free to enter your own. And I encourage you to enter your own! That’s how we get bigger sample sizes! But let’s check where things stand as of this this writing. You’re going to see four tables, three of them include 10 players and one of them includes a dozen because of a three-way tie. On to the data!

Position players fans like more than Steamer

Name Fans Steamer Difference
Avisail Garcia 0.359 0.320 0.039
Darin Ruf 0.364 0.328 0.036
Xander Bogaerts 0.359 0.325 0.034
Grady Sizemore 0.333 0.303 0.030
Nick Franklin 0.335 0.307 0.028
Carlos Quentin 0.371 0.344 0.027
Anthony Rendon 0.349 0.322 0.027
Bryce Harper 0.389 0.363 0.026
Chase Headley 0.354 0.328 0.026
Jordy Mercer 0.334 0.309 0.025
For the most part, it’s a pretty young table, with Quentin and Sizemore being the old guys and with Quentin and Sizemore being a surprisingly identical 31. It’s no surprise fans can be a little more bullish with youth, and from the looks of things, White Sox fans are pretty excited about Avisail Garcia, who had an encouraging debut in Chicago after arriving in a trade. Steamer sees him repeating last year’s 97 wRC+, but the fans are more fond of his power ability and figure he can sustain an elevated BABIP. I’ll side more with Steamer here but this post isn’t supposed to contain much in the way of my own editorial content.

Ruf is coming off an interesting 2013 in which he hit better in the majors than he did in Triple-A. Fans believe more in what he did in the bigs. Bogaerts has almost everyone flipping their lids. Sizemore is interesting here, and someone you don’t see is Franklin Gutierrez, who missed because the fans (rightly) didn’t project enough playing time. But the fans have been a lot higher on both Sizemore and Guti, suggesting that people are optimistic about the frequently injured. It’s a warm and easy feeling.

You can wade through the rest. I’ll note the fans like Bryce Harper more than Steamer, but Steamer likes Mike Trout a little more than the fans. It seems the fans insist on continuing the debate we’ve all been having for two years. I’ll still pick Trout. That’s me.

Position players fans like less than Steamer

Name Fans Steamer Difference
Henry Urrutia 0.305 0.329 -0.024
Daniel Descalso 0.272 0.296 -0.024
Brian Roberts 0.283 0.306 -0.023
Lonnie Chisenhall 0.299 0.322 -0.023
J.P. Arencibia 0.278 0.300 -0.022
Joaquin Arias 0.271 0.291 -0.020
Jonny Gomes 0.321 0.338 -0.017
Mitch Moreland 0.315 0.332 -0.017
Carlos Ruiz 0.315 0.331 -0.016
Omar Infante 0.311 0.326 -0.015
Gerardo Parra 0.311 0.326 -0.015
Wilin Rosario 0.342 0.357 -0.015
This is a table of less-interesting players, and it’s of interest to see Henry Urrutia tied for first — or last — since you probably know next to nothing about him. He’s currently in line to bat a lot for the Baltimore Orioles! The fans would prefer that not happen. He’s tied with Daniel Descalso, and what you don’t see is the fans are also more down on Pete Kozma than Steamer. The impression I get is Cardinals fans really, really don’t care for those guys and must be more than ecstatic to have Jhonny Peralta on the payroll, despite the issues.

Chisenhall comes as a bit of a surprise, since it would be easy to figure the fans would like him more, as a talented 25-year-old. But maybe Cleveland Indians fans welcome the Carlos Santana/third-base experiment. I couldn’t be less interested in talking about Joaquin Arias, although just Thursday I was reminded he was part of the Alex Rodriguez trade. The Rangers selected him instead of Robinson Cano. In 2004, Arias was part of a trade for Alex Rodriguez. In 2010, Arias was traded for Jeff Francoeur. He hasn’t had the career he could’ve.

With Arencibia, people can’t un-see the 2013 disaster. Fans think Moreland will get worse. Infante’s projected to go back to his 2012 self. Just missing the bottom of the table: Justin Morneau.

Pitchers the fans like more than Steamer

Name Fans Steamer Difference
Sean Doolittle 2.42 3.54 -1.12
Greg Holland 1.73 2.64 -0.91
Darren O’Day 3.11 3.99 -0.88
Sean Marshall 2.35 3.16 -0.81
Archie Bradley 3.76 4.53 -0.77
Sergio Romo 2.49 3.26 -0.77
Joe Nathan 2.72 3.48 -0.76
Danny Farquhar 2.66 3.35 -0.69
Carlos Martinez 2.99 3.66 -0.67
Jered Weaver 3.64 4.30 -0.66
I apologize for the blend of starters and relievers, but it is what it is. Doolittle blows away the competition. And the fans think he’ll blow away the competition… again. Fans have him projected for basically his career FIP. Steamer thinks he’ll walk more guys and cough up more dingers. That’ll send the FIP skyrocketing in a hurry, all the way up to the mid-3.00s, which still is not bad.

After Doolittle you find a few more relievers. I’ve just been reminded that Marshall has a 2.11 FIP since 2010. Then you get to you first starter in Archie Bradley, who the fans think is just about big-league ready. Steamer’s more cautious, and therefore more supportive of Arizona signing Bronson Arroyo.

The fans see Romo getting some strikeouts back. They’re not as concerned as Steamer with Nathan’s age. Farquhar makes sense here because Steamer doesn’t know as well as the fans do that Farquhar somewhat recently picked up a new pitch that changed him as a reliever. The difference with Martinez basically comes down to projected walk rate. With Weaver, it’s all about home-run rate. Fans and Steamer see the same strikeouts and walks. Steamer sees the worst home-run rate of Weaver’s career. Seems unlikely and overaggressive.

Pitchers whom fans like less than Steamer

Name Fans Steamer Difference
Ryan Dempster 4.46 3.78 0.68
Josh Beckett 4.23 3.72 0.51
Bronson Arroyo 4.62 4.18 0.44
Brett Anderson 3.97 3.56 0.41
Jake Arrieta 4.34 4.02 0.32
Ervin Santana 4.02 3.71 0.31
Jeff Locke 4.23 3.93 0.30
Mike Leake 4.19 3.89 0.30
John Lackey 3.98 3.69 0.29
Jason Hammel 4.21 3.94 0.27
And now we close with a handful of guys who are Boston Red Sox players or who have been Red Sox players. It’s a table including both the younger and older, with some fairly interesting names in it. Sox fans haven’t been able to forget Dempster’s dinger problems, so they see those continuing. The same goes for Beckett, who also has some health questions. The fans think Arroyo will repeat last season, whereas Steamer figures he’ll experience some positive dinger regression. Yet, oddly, Steamer projects Arroyo for a higher ERA than the fans, so go ahead and make sense of that one.

Anderson’s shifting to what might still be an easier league, but a far more difficult ballpark environment. The fans like Arrieta’s chances of improving, but not enough to actually be good. It’s interesting to see the fans basically project Santana to be a league-average pitcher. If front offices agree with that, it’s no wonder he’s still available and difficult to justify signing what with the draft-pick sacrifice.

Locke and Leake make for a fun pair to say out loud. Throw in Lackey and it’s an enjoyable trio, and Steamer likes Lackey’s chances of dinger suppression more than the fans. In the end, we get Hammel. So far the fans aren’t loving his odds of getting back to what he was in his breakthrough 2012 season with the Orioles. That’s understandable, since 2013 happened, and since front offices around the league are uncertain about Hammel’s elbow health.

Overall, I wouldn’t say there’s a ton we can learn from this exercise. At the least, we could use some bigger samples of fan projections for each player so we can talk about the fan projections with a greater degree of confidence. As the sample sizes grow, the differences between the fans and Steamer take on greater significance. But it’s still interesting to see where people disagree the most, and it will be interesting to revisit in a month or so to see how things might have changed over time. I encourage you to submit some fan projections for players on your favorite teams. If you agree with what Steamer or ZiPS, that’s fine. That matters. If you disagree, that’s interesting. That can be something to investigate.

You Have to Get Them to Swing *and* Miss.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
It’s a simple thing to say, but there’s an important interplay between the swing and the miss when it comes to pitching. In order to get a swinging strike, you need to get the batter to swing and you need to get them to miss. These are, in effect, two different skills, even if the best pitchers are awesome at both. And so it’s not surprising that we have two different metrics for that moment — whiffs per swing (whiff% in some places) and whiffs per pitch or swinging strike rate (swsTR% here). We probably need both. Is one better?

Let’s first have some fun and look at the outliers who are good at one of the interwoven skills and not at the other. In order to find these pitchers, I set high benchmarks for the use of each pitch and then ranked the qualifying starters by whiffs per swing and swinging strike rate respectively. Then I looked for those that were ranked highly in whiffs per swing but poorly by swinging strike rate. These starters threw the pitch in question regularly last season, and got whiffs once the batter swung, but didn’t get batters to swing as often as other pitchers. Weird.

Matt Cain, Change-up
39.9% whiffs/swing, sixth of 73. 16.4% whiffs/pitch, 33rd of 73.

Maybe this is just a one-year blip. The average change-up gets just under 30% whiffs per swing and features a swinging strike rate around 15%, and for his career, Cain’s change-up is right there on both counts. But last year, batters only offered at his change-up 40% of the time (baseball swung about 50% of the time at a change last year). So his whiff/swing number looked big while his whiff/pitch number was just a tiny bit larger than usual. Guess what also happened this year. Cain’s change-up was a ball ten percent more often than it was in the past. If you throw a good pitch for whiffs, but can’t put it in the zone, this is what can happen to you. This might been part of Cain’s trouble in 2013, actually.

Jordan Zimmermann, Curveball
35.2% whiffs/swing, 12th of 69. 10.1% whiffs/pitch, 37th of 69.

The curveball is an interesting pitch because it gets offered at less than any other pitch in baseball. Perhaps the big bend at the top is easy to spot, and the pitch goes for balls more than most other pitches, but either way it’s a pitch batters love to take. Zimmermann gets about seven percent more whiffs than your average curveball once he gets batters to swing, but batters only swung 28% of the time at the pitch last year, a full 10% worse than league average. The result is a swinging strike rate that’s right about where curves sit (11% is average), but he got there in strange fashion. Like with Cain’s change-up, though, this effect goes away if you zoom out and look at his whole career. Unlike Cain’s change-up, however, the ball percentage on his curve only differed by a couple percentage points over his career number. Maybe the league is adjusting to him a bit.

Chris Sale, Slider
37.9% whiffs/swing, 17th of 59. 14.1% whiffs/pitch, 40th of 59.

Where Zimmermann and Cain might only be one-year blips, Sale’s been showing this effect his whole career. Once batters swing at his pitch, it’s plus-plus, elite, as good as it looks when you’re watching it live. But while batters usually swing at sliders close to 50% of the time, they swung at Sale’s slider only 36% of the time last year (40% career according to BrooksBaseball). And his ball rate has remained mostly unchanged for his career. It worked for him, but still. This is a one-man argument for keeping both stats around.

If you’re looking for one number to hang on a pitch, it might be up to your preference between whiff percentage and swinging strike rate. My preference is to use the number that encapsulates both parts of the process — swinging strike rate asks how often you get both a swing and a miss when you throw the pitch, and that seems most important to me. If you want a year-to-year correlation for the two, swinging strike comes in at .804 and whiffs/swing at .789, which is another argument for swinging strike (albeit a mellow one). And, last, the denominator — the biggest difference between the two metrics — favors whiffs/pitch. Per-pitch numbers see their samples grow quicker than per-swing metrics, so they might be ‘believable’ (stabilize) quicker.

In any case, it’s good to have both numbers around. After all, you have to get them to swing and to miss if you want a whiff.

Orioles Do Something, Land Suk-min Yoon.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
For the Orioles it’s been an offseason of mostly quiet contemplation, interrupted only by brief attempted dalliances with Grant Balfour and Tyler Colvin. At last, though, they are stirring again, reaching a three-year agreement with Korean righty Suk-min Yoon worth a reported $5.75 million. The contract, like the others were, is pending a physical, so perhaps it would’ve been wiser to hold off on writing this for another few days, but let’s just assume this is going to be official. Let’s assume the Orioles know what they’re getting into.

Yoon’s a risky sort with limited upside, and there are real questions here that’ll be discussed later on. There’s a reasonable chance Yoon never throws quality innings in the bigs, and there are reasons why he’s signed for less than the market rate of one single win. But let’s just get something clear: this is hardly any money, especially given the three-year guarantee. More money this offseason was thrown at Garrett Jones. A similar amount of money was guaranteed to Willie Bloomquist. Michael Morse got more money. Chad Qualls got more money. Edward Mujica got a lot more money, despite ending up last year with shoulder fatigue. It should be recognized that this is a small commitment, with upside more in terms of potential value than potential ability on the pitcher’s part.

The good: Yoon’s 27, and he’s been able to get his fastball into the 90s, and a few years ago he was Korean Baseball’s most valuable player. He has a full arsenal, and while people like his slider and changeup the most, he’s also been said to throw a curveball and a forkball.

The bad: Yoon’s come down from his MVP season. He split last year between the rotation and the bullpen, due in large part to a recurring shoulder issue that some have characterized as serious. Yoon isn’t thought to be on the same level as Hyun-jin Ryu, and there’s not even a consensus on whether he’s a future starter or reliever. It should be noted again that Yoon signed for considerably less money than Garrett Jones did.

Here’s one video of Yoon pitching:

Here’s another video of Yoon pitching. Below, some .gifs, selective for better pitches since nobody wants pitcher .gifs of mediocre pitches:

Something Yoon doesn’t have is pinpoint command. He also seems to have a tendency to leave pitches up, so he’s probably not going to match Ryu’s 51% groundball rate. For the Orioles, right away, he’s going to compete for a rotation slot, but it might be that he needs some time to adjust to living here and playing here, and the organization has at least three years to get value out of his arm. Yoon doesn’t necessarily need to pay off right away.

In Ryu’s last season in Korea, he struck out more than ten batters per nine innings. In Yoon’s best season in Korea, he struck out nine batters per nine innings, and then his strikeout rate fell for two consecutive years. The dropping strikeouts are a concern, and the shoulder problem is a concern, and Yoon’s never going to get by by overpowering his opposition. He doesn’t have Ryu’s skillset, but then in his debut big-league season, Ryu was a 3- or 4-win starting pitcher. Yoon can be his own kind of good, and there’s value in being even just all right.

Hisashi Iwakuma was posted, and when he couldn’t reach an agreement with the A’s, he returned to Japan. That season he injured his shoulder and he later wound up signing with the Mariners at a bargain contract. Now Iwakuma looks like one of the better starters in baseball, despite a pedestrian fastball and an assortment of health questions. This would be the best possible way for Yoon to work out.

But then, the Orioles don’t have to look that far for reasons to be optimistic. They’ve squeezed 300 adequate innings out of minor-league acquisition Miguel Gonzalez. More pertinently, they’ve had a positive experience so far with Wei-Yin Chen. Chen signed out of Japan for three years and a little over $11 million. He had and has a repertoire much like Yoon’s, and in Chen’s last two years in Japan, his strikeout rate collapsed from 20% to 14%. He didn’t have a shoulder problem that I know of, but there were reasons to stay away from Chen, and yet what the Orioles have gotten is 4.3 WAR over 330 innings. Or 4.7 WAR, depending on your preference. Chen’s been an average starting pitcher, and while there’s nothing particularly exciting about that, there’s something more exciting about having an average starting pitcher at a fraction of what you’d expect to pay for that. That’s how a team like the Orioles can boost its effective payroll.

Yoon isn’t Chen; Yoon isn’t anyone but himself. He’ll have his own professional experience, and it will either work out or it won’t. He throws fine pitches, yes. He has some issues, yes. But over a three-year period, the Orioles are paying him the free-agent rate of almost one whole win. People disagree on how to calculate that rate, but pretty much all the current estimates are north of Yoon’s $5.75-million guarantee. So that sets for Yoon a very low bar. Even if you figure the Orioles need to be a little more efficient than the market average, Yoon just doesn’t have to do much for the Orioles to come away with this having been worth their while. And if he can be an average starter for, say, the equivalent of two seasons, that’s several millions of dollars of surplus value. Even Yoon as a reliever could be more than worth the salary.

If he’s busted, he’s busted, and shoulder problems are some of the worst problems to have. But as recently as a year or two ago, Yoon would’ve been a pretty high-profile potential acquisition, and he’s still well shy of 30 years old. So this is a relatively inexpensive roll of the dice, with a distinctly unsexy sort of upside. Yoon might turn himself into a perfectly fine big-league pitcher. And for the cost, the Orioles would be ecstatic. Value’s value, however you get it.

So What Does a Mike Trout Extension Look Like Now?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Speculating about how much money it would take to sign Mike Trout to a long term deal has become something of a sport unto itself. Ever since he broke into the big leagues and almost immediately established himself as the best player in baseball, people have wondered aloud about what kind of deal he could command. The fires were stoked even further when the Angels decided to renew his contract for just $510,000 last year, allowing him to rack up another +10 WAR season and get even closer to free agency. Now, with just four years of team control remaining, the Angels are reportedly hoping to get Trout signed to a long term deal that will keep in Anaheim for the foreseeable future.

So, let’s play the Mike Trout Extension Game again. With Freddie Freeman resetting the extension market for players with three years of service time, we have a new data point to work with anyway, and so we probably need to update our prior estimates to reflect the new reality of extension pricing. So let’s work through the numbers and see what we can come up with.

The next four years are the easy part. While arbitration prices aren’t set in stone, they are not that difficult to model, as the system depends heavily on historical precedents. While Trout would likely be the best player to ever go to arbitration if he got there, the thing that makes him particularly extraordinary — that he’s this good at such a young age — is not eligible for consideration in an arbitration hearing. Trout’s extension will absolutely take into account his youth, but his arbitration prices will not, as they would simply be based on what he’s done relative to other players with similar levels of service time, regardless of the fact that he’s five or six years younger than some of his comparisons.

However, Trout would still likely be in line for record arbitration payouts, especially if his 2014 season results in another +9 to +10 WAR performance as the forecasts project. He might not have the MVP trophy that Ryan Howard possessed when he set the record with a $10 million arbitration award in 2008, but his back to back second place finishes still count in his favor and will carry a lot of weight, and of course, there’s some chance he’d win the MVP if allowed to play out 2014, so the Angels will have to factor that possibility into the price. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Trout would break every arbitration record if he was allowed to go year to year, and the Angels will likely have to pay prices that reflect that expectation in his extension.

For comparison, Howard’s four arbitration years went $10M/$15M/$19M/$20M, though the last three were bought out by an extension prior to the 2009 season. In total, though, Howard made $64 million before reaching free agency, and this was before the television rights explosion. Of course, he also had the benefit of going to arbitration four times, which Trout will not have, so he’ll have to make do with three record payouts instead of four. If we give him $15M/$20M/$25M, Trout would get $60 million over his final three arbitration years. The Angels might want to negotiate those down a bit in a long term deal, but that’s probably the expectation of what he’s likely to get if they go year to year, so we can speculate that an extension for Trout would have to be backed onto the $60 million he’s likely to get over the next four years.

So now the question becomes how many free agent years Trout is willing to sell, and at what price. Because Trout is so young, there’s an opportunity for both sides to reach a long term deal that doesn’t carry Trout beyond his 30th birthday, allowing him to get a chance at a second huge contract if he maintains his historic pace. As we’ve seen with recent extensions for Freeman, Clayton Kershaw, and Elvis Andrus, young players signing long term deals have put a real value on the chance to hit free agency again while still young enough to land a second monster contract. While there will likely be some speculation about longer term deals, I think a nine year deal that ends after Trout’s age-30 season is the right mix of security for Trout while also setting himself up to be a premium free agent for a second time.

A nine year deal means that Trout would be selling five of his free agent years. What should those years cost? This is where it gets a little trickier. The recent trend in early career extensions has been to essentially pay something close to current market price for future free agent years. Essentially, teams are buying out future inflation and paying for the right to not have to sign a long term deal that takes a player into his mid-30s, and in exchange for those benefits, the player gets something close to the $6 million per win market rate for their FA years.

Well, that presents a little bit of a dilemma with Trout, because $6 million per win for a +9 WAR player leads to a $54 million per year salary. As good as Trout is, he’s not getting $50+ million per year four years from free agency. Kershaw’s just-signed $215 million extension guaranteed him an average of roughly $32.5 million per year the six free agent years he sold, and while I believe that Trout will beat that AAV, we’re not going to see a leap from $33M to $50M, especially considering their relative proximity to free agency.

But as good and as young as Kershaw is, the reality remains that Trout is significantly better, projecting for roughly +4 WAR per season more than Kershaw going forward. In fact, Trout’s forecasts suggest he is, by himself, as valuable as Kershaw and Freeman put together, and they combined to sell their FA years for pretty close to that $54 million per year mark. While we could put together a reasonable argument that Trout is worth $50M per year for his free agent years, he’s not going to get that; it’s just too far removed from the norms of the day.

As crazy as it sounds, $40 million per year for those five years would actually represent something of a discount, given Trout’s expected production going forward. Even though it’s quite a bit more than Kershaw got, Trout is quite a bit better than Kershaw, and comes with less risk since he isn’t a pitcher. And the separation would be large enough that Trout would likely remain the game’s highest paid player even with future inflation, as that AAV in those years is unlikely to be surpassed any time soon.

Pricing those free agent years at $40 million apiece, in addition to the $60 million he’d be getting for his remaining years of team control, would bring the total deal to $260 million over nine years. The deal would fall short of being the largest contract in baseball history, but would easily be the largest deal for any player still under team control. If Trout was particularly interested in breaking A-Rod’s record, adding a 10th year to push the deal to $300 million in total wouldn’t be that difficult, and should still be something the Angels are interested in doing.

These numbers might seem insane for a non-free agent, but the longer the Angels wait, the more expensive this is going to get. If they want to avoid a bidding war that might eventually push Trout’s total contract up near $400 million, they should get him signed sooner than later. 9/$260M or 10/$300M might sound insane, but really, it would represent Trout taking a bit less than what he’s actually worth. That’s how good he is. And that’s why this deal is going to have to be enormous.

Justin Masterson – Elite Starting Pitcher?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
When one is asked to name the game’s very best starting pitchers, a tight circle of names usually dominate the discussion. Clayton Kershaw likely gains the most mentions, with Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee among the names closely behind. Justin Verlander and Cole Hamels had off years in 2013, arguably dropping back in the pack a bit. Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez entered the fray loudly last season, and Stephen Strasburg‘s pedigree is as good as anyone’s. Justin Masterson? Doubt his name comes up very often. Should it? Let’s take a look at some batted ball profiles and make the call.
14 pitchers were somewhat arbitrarily selected for this analysis, but are not purported to be the sum total of baseball’s elite group. The aforementioned Verlander and Hamels, to name two, were left off due to their 2013 “struggles”. First, let’s take a look at this group’s 2013 K, BB and batted ball type frequencies:

Bumgarner % REL PCT
K 26.1% 131 92
BB 8.1% 106 65
POP 7.0% 92 47
FLY 28.3% 101 51
LD 20.2% 94 25
GB 44.5% 104 62
— — — —
Darvish % REL PCT
K 34.2% 172 99
BB 9.9% 128 87
POP 10.4% 137 85
FLY 31.2% 111 79
LD 20.1% 94 24
GB 38.3% 89 22
— — — —
J.Fernandez % REL PCT
K 28.3% 142 96
BB 8.8% 114 72
POP 7.9% 105 60
FLY 28.4% 101 52
LD 21.6% 101 54
GB 42.1% 98 41
— — — —
Harvey % REL PCT
K 28.4% 143 98
BB 4.6% 60 5
POP 8.7% 114 73
FLY 24.9% 89 23
LD 21.1% 98 43
GB 45.3% 106 70
— — — —
F.Hernandez % REL PCT
K 27.8% 140 95
BB 5.9% 77 18
POP 5.6% 75 24
FLY 25.1% 89 26
LD 21.6% 101 52
GB 47.7% 111 82
— — — —
Iwakuma % REL PCT
K 22.3% 112 74
BB 5.1% 66 10
POP 6.0% 79 28
FLY 31.1% 111 77
LD 19.9% 93 23
GB 43.0% 100 50
— — — —
Kershaw % REL PCT
K 26.2% 132 93
BB 5.9% 76 16
POP 8.5% 112 69
FLY 24.0% 86 16
LD 23.2% 108 84
GB 44.3% 103 60
— — — —
K 26.0% 131 91
BB 3.8% 49 2
POP 6.0% 79 29
FLY 28.9% 103 57
LD 23.0% 107 82
GB 42.1% 98 42
— — — —
Masterson % REL PCT
K 25.6% 129 91
BB 10.0% 130 89
POP 5.5% 73 21
FLY 21.6% 77 7
LD 18.2% 85 5
GB 54.7% 127 95
— — — —
D.Price % REL PCT
K 21.0% 106 63
BB 3.8% 49 1
POP 8.5% 112 70
FLY 26.2% 93 37
LD 21.4% 100 46
GB 43.9% 102 57
— — — —
Sale % REL PCT
K 28.2% 142 96
BB 5.7% 75 14
POP 7.0% 92 47
FLY 27.6% 98 44
LD 21.6% 100 51
GB 43.9% 102 56
— — — —
Scherzer % REL PCT
K 29.4% 148 98
BB 6.9% 89 35
POP 11.2% 147 88
FLY 37.1% 132 97
LD 18.8% 88 11
GB 32.9% 77 6
— — — —
Strasburg % REL PCT
K 27.7% 140 95
BB 8.0% 104 62
POP 7.2% 95 50
FLY 27.1% 97 42
LD 18.3% 85 7
GB 47.4% 110 81
— — — —
Wainwright % REL PCT
K 24.0% 121 83
BB 3.8% 50 3
POP 6.4% 84 35
FLY 23.9% 85 14
LD 22.5% 105 72
GB 47.2% 110 79
In addition to the rate data presented, each percentage is also expressed relative to the MLB average, scaled to 100, and as a percentile rank.

First, it’s pretty obvious that we’re talking about the starting pitching elite here – the LOWEST K rate belongs to David Price, with a percentile rank of 63 – and his BB percentile rank is 1. 12 of the 14 pitchers listed have relative K rates of 120 or higher, and fully half weigh in with relative K rates of 140 and percentile ranks of 95 or higher. Clearly, missing bats is a huge part of being an elite starting pitcher.

A low BB rate doesn’t appear to be quite as necessary as a high K rate – 5 of the 14 have BB percentile ranks of 60 or higher. 6 of the 14 have popup percentile ranks higher than 60 – those are free outs, my friends, and they correlate well from year to year. Only 3 of the 14 are fly ball-oriented, with percentile ranks of 77 or higher. Line drive rates, as you might expect, are all over the board. 9 of the 14 have above average ground ball rates, including 4 with percentile ranks of 79 or higher. The bottom line – elite starters come in many varieties, but it sure does help to get a lot of K’s and amass a bunch of free outs, be they popups or weak ground balls.

How do Justin Masterson’s frequencies stack up? His relative K rate was a career high 129 in 2013, for a percentile rank of 91. That clearly makes him a fit within this group. Every pitcher listed who reaches a percentile rank of 90 or high once repeated or improved that level in at least one additional subsequent year. His BB rate is the highest of the group, with a percentile rank of 89. This is the most concerning aspect of Masterson’s portfolio. Control has never been his strong suit, with his arm action and delivery representing scouts’ long-term concerns, which many thought would limit him to a career as a bullpen specialist.

Within this group of pitchers, there are some success stories involving control improvement – Kershaw had a BB percentile ranking of 99 in 2009, but he was just 21. David Price had a 74 percentile rank in 2010 at age 24, and Matt Scherzer a 71 in 2010 at age 25. Can we expect Masterson’s BB rate to improve in the future? As recently as 2011, it was better than league average, but his K rate was much lower then. He has traded some walks for some more missed bats, and the short-term results have been positive on balance.

Now we get to the core of Masterson’s game. The pitchers on this list do at least one thing as well as or better than just about any other pitcher in baseball. Yu Darvish gets strikeouts. Felix Hernandez excels across the board while carrying an exceedingly heavy workload year in and year out. Cliff Lee – and now David Price – walk no one. Max Scherzer has a lethal strikeout/popup combination. Clayton Kershaw basically does all of the above.

Justin Masterson induces ground balls – and lots of them. In five years as a starting pitcher, he has posted ground ball percentile ranks of 95, 98, 89, 95 and 95, respectively. Obviously, very high grounder rates mean very low fly ball rates, but in Masterson’s case, they have also meant very low line drive rates. He has never posted a higher than MLB average line drive rate, and his LD percentile ranks have been below 10 in three of the last five seasons.

So Masterson’s batted ball frequency profile is this – high K, high BB, with lots of grounders, and few liners. What kind of production, however, did Masterson and the others actually allow on each type of batted ball in 2013, and how do they compare once that production is adjusted for context – ballpark, defense, luck, etc.. Lastly, once their K’s and BB’s are added back to the batted balls, how did these pitchers’ “true talent” performances measure up?

FLY 0.268 0.641 80 94
LD 0.624 0.812 89 88
GB 0.193 0.206 66 106
ALL BIP 0.274 0.415 70 83
ALL PA 0.200 0.262 0.302 64 74 2.77 2.46 2.85
— — — —
FLY 0.279 0.857 118 116
LD 0.648 0.898 102 109
GB 0.243 0.249 101 120
ALL BIP 0.309 0.536 101 107
ALL PA 0.193 0.272 0.335 72 76 2.83 2.81 2.93
— — — —
FLY 0.195 0.483 44 83
LD 0.567 0.722 73 104
GB 0.177 0.177 52 94
ALL BIP 0.256 0.374 59 96
ALL PA 0.178 0.249 0.261 53 79 2.19 2.07 3.06
— — — —
FLY 0.193 0.447 40 74
LD 0.688 0.833 102 94
GB 0.229 0.254 95 96
ALL BIP 0.291 0.393 71 80
ALL PA 0.206 0.242 0.279 54 61 2.27 2.10 2.36
— — — —
FLY 0.264 0.682 85 101
LD 0.739 0.991 129 105
GB 0.227 0.251 93 101
ALL BIP 0.330 0.488 99 97
ALL PA 0.238 0.281 0.352 78 77 3.04 3.04 2.98
— — — —
FLY 0.241 0.706 83 129
LD 0.592 0.808 84 96
GB 0.200 0.219 72 102
ALL BIP 0.280 0.474 81 108
ALL PA 0.216 0.255 0.367 73 95 2.66 2.83 3.67
— — — —
FLY 0.190 0.469 42 57
LD 0.571 0.671 69 87
GB 0.203 0.244 80 97
ALL BIP 0.265 0.376 61 79
ALL PA 0.192 0.239 0.273 53 65 1.83 2.04 2.52
— — — —
FLY 0.237 0.653 74 100
LD 0.679 0.936 111 105
GB 0.217 0.232 83 84
ALL BIP 0.312 0.494 94 101
ALL PA 0.230 0.258 0.364 73 78 2.87 2.84 3.02
— — — —
FLY 0.292 0.755 104 91
LD 0.674 0.798 96 97
GB 0.209 0.216 75 78
ALL BIP 0.298 0.422 78 75
ALL PA 0.216 0.292 0.305 73 72 3.45 2.83 2.77
— — — —
FLY 0.282 0.718 95 94
LD 0.612 0.776 84 98
GB 0.269 0.303 133 118
ALL BIP 0.318 0.479 94 96
ALL PA 0.251 0.278 0.377 82 84 3.33 3.18 3.27
— — — —
FLY 0.262 0.765 98 110
LD 0.658 0.816 95 108
GB 0.241 0.257 102 87
ALL BIP 0.313 0.487 93 98
ALL PA 0.226 0.268 0.353 75 78 3.07 2.88 3.01
— — — —
FLY 0.223 0.585 62 90
LD 0.602 0.827 87 95
GB 0.262 0.302 128 118
ALL BIP 0.283 0.468 81 95
ALL PA 0.195 0.249 0.324 64 73 2.90 2.46 2.84
— — — —
FLY 0.225 0.600 64 120
LD 0.617 0.778 85 96
GB 0.248 0.262 107 119
ALL BIP 0.286 0.425 75 98
ALL PA 0.203 0.266 0.302 65 81 3.00 2.51 3.15
— — — —
FLY 0.333 0.744 114 85
LD 0.632 0.792 89 98
GB 0.228 0.245 92 91
ALL BIP 0.324 0.464 93 89
ALL PA 0.244 0.273 0.349 75 73 2.94 2.92 2.81
For each pitcher, the actual AVG-SLG for each batted ball type is listed. The resulting run value of that performance is measured relative to the MLB average for that batted ball type in the “REL PRD” column, and adjusted for context in the “ADJ PRD” column. Lastly, for each pitcher, their actual ERA, their calculated component ERA based on actual AVG-SLG allowed (which weeds out sequencing), and their “Tru” ERA, adjusted for ballpark, defense, luck, etc., is listed. For purposes of this exercise, SH and SF are included as outs, and HBP are not included in OBP.

From the bottom up, let’s separate these 2013 performances into tiers. Hisashi Iwakuma is the clear laggard in this group. He was saved by Safeco Field – his adjusted relative fly ball production mark of 129 is easily the highest of this group. On all BIP combined, he had an actual relative production mark of 73 – adjusted for context, it jumps to 95.

Iwakuma was a somewhat better than average quality starting pitcher in 2013, and had plenty of innings bulk. He is a great value relative to his contract, though he is expected to miss the very early stages of the 2014 campaign with a right middle finger injury. Of the pitchers listed here, however, he allowed the most authoritative contact, and really doesn’t belong in this discussion.

Next comes the group of Price, Strasburg, Fernandez, Lee and Chris Sale. Price’s K and BB rates both dropped sharply in 2013, as he became more of a pitch-to-contact guy. Though the contact he allowed was a bit weaker than league average, he needs to get the K’s back to have a chance to get to the top of the list. Strasburg’s raw materials may be unparalleled in this group, but he remains a work in progress.

His actual performance on balls in play was helped a great deal by his outfield defense and ballpark. He also needs to add more bulk to his case by pitching more innings. Fernandez’ actual BIP performance was way ahead of all of the pitchers on this list, but was not supported by his hard and soft fly ball and grounder rates. His spacious home park helped him greatly. Lee too allowed much more authoritative contact than his actual numbers suggest, particularly in the air. Sale allowed fairly authoritative fly ball and line drive contact, and virtually league average contact authority overall.

The next tier moving upward includes Hernandez, Darvish, Madison Bumgarner, Scherzer and Wainwright. Hernandez’ greatest assets are his innings bulk and consistent excellence across the board. His control continues to improve, and he remains a strong ground ball generator. His line drive rate, however, has been higher than average the last two seasons, and his overall quality of contact allowed is now roughly average. Darvish overwhelms with his massive K rate, but allowed harder than average contact in all batted ball types – his solid infield defense helped him significantly. Improvement in his quality of contact allowed and his BB rate – his percentile ranks were 94 and 87 in his first two seasons – would propel him to the very top of this list.

Bumgarner is a stealth candidate. He is a weak contact machine – of all of the pitchers on this list, Bumgarner and three others that we’ve yet to discuss managed contact considerably better than the rest in 2013. Strong team defense also helps his cause. Scherzer is an odd mix. He doesn’t allow many grounders, but they are hit quite hard. He allows a ton of fly balls, and they are not – yet, at least. His current peak is quite high, but his decline could be swift, triggered by an eventual increase in his hard fly rate due to even a slight deterioration of his stuff. Wainwright is a slightly less reliable (health-wise) version of Felix – strong across the board, with an ever-improving BB rate, a strong ground ball tendency, and a sneaky-high line drive rate. Wainwright was hurt a bit by subpar outfield defense in 2013, and was likely a bit better than his actual numbers.

That leaves three guys – Clayton Kershaw, Matt Harvey, and the subject of today’s discussion, Justin Masterson. These three stifled contact better than the rest in 2013. Kershaw totally muzzles hard fly ball contact – it is virtually impossible at present to do serious damage against him in the air. He also paces this group in line drive production allowed, before and after adjusting for context. Add in stellar K and BB skills and a clean health record, and you have the best starting pitcher in the game today.

Matt Harvey’s first full season in the majors was arguably the best posted by a starting pitcher in 2013, but unfortunately, we may not see him until 2015 thanks to Tommy John surgery. His ability to limit fly ball authority was second only to Kershaw, and those two plus Masterson and Wainwright were the only allow lower than average adjusted production on all batted ball types in 2013.

As for Masterson – he does a lot more than allow a bunch of ground balls. He allows a bunch of very weak ground balls. He easily outdistances this group for lowest production allowed on grounders. Surprisingly, after adjustment for ballpark and defense – most of the hard flies he did allow went to RCF/RF, the friendliest part of Jacobs Field – he also rates in the better half with regard to adjusted fly ball production allowed. When all BIP are taken into account, Masterson managed contact better than all of these great hurlers last season. That high BB rate takes its toll once it’s added back into the equation, but Masterson’s 2013 “tru” ERA of 2.77 ranks behind only Harvey and Kershaw once all outcomes are taken into account.

Justin Masterson is not the best, or the third best starting pitcher in baseball. He’s performed at this level for exactly one full season. He has a career OPS+ of 100. He possesses a fairly dramatic normal platoon split for his career, though he has begun to handle lefties at a very acceptable rate of late, as his slider has evolved into a legitimate out pitch against both lefties and righties. He may not have the delivery or arm action of an elite starter, or the diverse repertoire of an elite starter, but Justin Masterson possesses a singular elite skill, that along with solid complementary abilities could very well propel him into near-term discussions of the game’s upper tiers of starting pitchers.

MLB Under Attack On All Sides For Failing To Pay Mimimum Wage.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Major League Baseball may still enjoy immunity from federal antitrust laws, but that immunity doesn’t mean the league or its teams can ignore federal and state laws that require employees be paid a minimum wage.

So say several lawsuits and other legal actions filed against MLB and several teams in the last year. The latest lawsuit, filed last week in federal court in San Francisco, could significantly change the economics of the league were it to succeed. In that case, three former minor league players filed a complaint against MLB, the Giants, Marlins and Royals on behalf of 6,000 current and former minor leaguers claiming that minor league salaries violate federal and state wage and hour laws.

Last summer, a volunteer at All-Star Week festivities in New York sued MLB in federal court in Manhattan for violations of federal and state wage and hour laws. He claimed that he provided services for which he should have been paid at least the minimum wage. The case is pending.

And the federal Department of Labor is investigating the Giants and the Marlins for failing to pay team interns a minimum wage. It’s the second DOL investigation of the Giants. Last year, San Francisco settled a claim by DOL that the team had underpaid clubhouse attendants who often worked long hours for less than minimum wage and didn’t receive overtime pay. The Giants paid more than $500,000 to resolve claims involving 74 clubhouse workers.

DOL’s investigation of the team’s internship programs comes during a time of heightened scrutiny of unpaid internships. The department issued new guidelines in April 2010 limiting the definition of an intern to people: participating in a program primarily for educational purposes, for the benefit of the intern; who didn’t displace paid workers; who didn’t perform duties that benefited the company; and who didn’t expect a job offer at the end of the internship. A court decision in 2012 holding that two unpaid interns on the movie Black Swan should have been paid at least the federal minimum wage has unleashed a wave of litigation against media companies by current and former interns.

According to a report on FairWarning, the investigations involving the Giants have MLB officials worried and prompted league COO Rob Manfred to send a memo to all teams in September with a reminder of the importance of complying with federal and state wage and hour laws (FairWarning obtained a copy of the memo, which you can read here). MLB then invited representatives from DOL to meet with team executives during the Winter Meetings in Orlando in December. Those meetings did take place, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The claims by interns and volunteers pale in comparison, however, to those asserted last week by the three former minor league players. The 50-page complaint (link here) details the long hours of training, practicing and playing demanded of minor leaguers in return for a below-poverty level salary — somewhere between $3,000 to $7,500 for a five-month season. By contrast, the minimum salary for a major league player is $500,000. A few high profile draft picks are rewarded with million-dollar signing bonuses, but those are the exceptions, not the rule, the complaint asserts.

The collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the MLBPA governs a good portion of a minor leaguer’s working conditions, even though he’s not a member of the MLBPA and has no way of influencing the negotiations. Several efforts over the years to form a minor league players union have failed.

The legal claims are based on the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the federal statute that creates a national floor of wage protection for workers. Employers must pay employees the minimum wage for a 40-hour work work and time-and-a-half for overtime. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. State laws can and often are more generous to employees, both in setting the minimum wage and in defining the groups of employees covered by the wage protection provisions. The complaint asserts claims under California, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and New York law. All of those states but North Carolina have minimum wages higher than $7.25 per hour.

The key battle in the lawsuit will come down whether minor league ballplayers are covered by the FLSA and similar state statutes or are they considered exempt employees. You can read the full list of statutory exemptions to the FLSA here. The exemption most likely to come into play is for employees of certain seasonal amusement or recreational “establishments.” Indeed, in the volunteer/All-Star Week lawsuit, MLB filed a motion to dismiss the complaint and argued that “professional sports events are amusement or recreational establishments under the FLSA. My quick review of the case law suggests this a fact-intensive inquiry — i.e., not one easily resolved by a court on an early motion to dismiss.

MLB will also fight hard to keep the court from certifying the case either as a class action or as one for “collective action” under the FLSA. Once certified, the plaintiffs who file the lawsuit prosecute the case on behalf of themselves and other similarly-situated employees. Obviously, the stakes are much higher — and the potential damages much greater — if the claims relate to 6,000 minor league players and not just the three who originally filed the lawsuit.

One particularly interesting aspect of the case involves the plaintiffs’ attorneys. Garrett Broshius, who played in the Giants’ minor league system for several years, is now a lawyer and player agent based in St. Louis. While in the minor leagues, he wrote a regular column for Sporting News on life in the minors and maintained a personal blog where he critiqued the working conditions faced by minor league players. His firm is one of two representing the plaintiffs. The other firm is a small, well-regarded litigation boutique based in San Francisco with experience in prosecuting class actions and antitrust claims.

Wage and hour law was not my area of expertise when I practiced law. But after reviewing the complaint, the statute and recent case law, it appears to me that the minor league players have an interesting and substantive case and one that won’t be easily or quickly dismissed by the court.

The Other Half of the Story About Derek Jeter’s Defense.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Run a Google search for “Derek Jeter” and “defense” and you get almost 700,000 results. Run a Google search for “Chipper Jones” and you get fewer than 450,000 results. I suppose now you can bump each of those up by one. The matter of Jeter’s defense is a tired, tired topic, and it was a tired, tired topic years ago. Personally, I try to avoid tired topics. But in this instance, I think there’s something; something not enough attention has been paid to on account of the raging argument elsewhere. People have argued about only part of the story.

You all should be familiar with the position of the advanced defensive metrics like DRS and UZR. It’s because of those metrics that an argument exists in the first place. Jeter loyalists have continued to insist he was at least a solid defensive shortstop in the past. UZR has disagreed, and DRS has more extremely disagreed, as they’ve both evaluated Jeter as subpar for the position. On the occasion of Jeter’s retirement announcement, there were people who couldn’t help but make fun of his defensive ability, and he’s been the butt of such jokes for much of his career. Jeter’s often been described as an awful defensive shortstop, or as something along those lines. While there’s been some basis for this, though, one of the key words in that description is “shortstop.”

Let’s say you’re a professional pie-eater. Congratulations! You’re one of the lucky ones! You’re able to reliably consume three pies in a timed sitting. Among the pie-eating circuit, this makes you more or less average. In one competition, against weaker foes, you eat your three pies, and no one else eats more than two. You’ve won! Then you move on to another, more challenging competition. Against stronger foes, you eat your three pies, but most everyone else eats four. You’ve lost. Your ability level was exactly the same, but the peers you were matched up against were better than the peers before, so relatively speaking, you looked worse.

This has, in essence, been Jeter’s dilemma. Statistically, he’s been a below-average defensive shortstop, and everybody knows that. He’s also been a shortstop for his entire career, and shortstops are above-average defenders, relative to the Major League Baseball player pool. So on the one hand, Jeter’s been one of the worst. But on the other, he’s been one of the worst out of the best, so it’s important remember defensive numbers come within a certain positional context. Maybe Jeter’s like the worst beer from an excellent brewery.

In case you haven’t been able to look ahead, this whole post is basically just going to call attention to Jeter’s Defense rating. Every player on FanGraphs gets a Fielding rating, and a Positional rating. Combine them and you get the Defense rating, which allows for a direct comparison of players across different positions. Most of the talk about Jeter has had to do with the Fielding rating. That paints an incomplete picture.

In the past 50 years, 507 different players have batted at least 5,000 times. Sort by Fielding-per-150-games, and you find Jeter in 487th place, around names like Jay Buhner, Michael Young and Bobby Bonilla. However, sort by Positional-per-150-games, and you find Jeter in 57th place, around names like Cal Ripken, Rafael Furcal and Omar Vizquel. This is the positional adjustment, and Jeter gets major points for being a shortstop — a position of considerable difficulty.

Sort by Defense-per-150-games, and you find Jeter in 252nd place. In other words, he’s right in the middle of the pack, near guys like Jeff Blauser, Andre Dawson and Willie McGee. He comes out at -1.5 runs on that scale. He’s ahead of John Olerud. He’s ahead of Mark Grace and Rickey Henderson and Moises Alou. Jeter has drawn the criticism that he’s cost his team runs by playing a lousy shortstop, but overall he’s still been a reasonably valuable defensive player. That’s just because of his reliability at a difficult position.

The numbers they have at Baseball-Reference like Jeter less, and if you use their numbers for those same 507 guys in the past 50 years, you find Jeter in 341st place. It’s a worse place, to be sure, but it’s certainly not a dreadful place. And Jeter’s right by names like Nick Markakis and Shannon Stewart. He’s ahead of Jeff Bagwell. And of course, we’re loyal to the numbers we have right here, so I look at these as a backup.

Let’s say you only want to know about the era during which we’ve had UZR. This stretches from 2002 to 2013, and during that span, 322 players have batted at least 2,500 times. Keep in mind this window ignores Jeter’s youngest years. Sort by Fielding-per-150-games, and you find Jeter in 280th place. Sort by Positional-per-150-games, and you find Jeter in 50th place. Sort by Defense-per-150-games, and you find Jeter in 161st place. Again, right in the middle. His spreadsheet neighbors include Andrew McCutchen, Eric Byrnes and Ronnie Belliard. I feel like I’d just be repeating myself if I noted the significance of this. There’s a difference between criticizing Jeter as a defensive shortstop, and criticizing Jeter as a defensive player.

To the eyes, Jeter can be pretty convincingly OK. At least, that has to be the takeaway from so many Yankees fans insisting he’s been fine. Part of that is because Yankees fans haven’t been able to watch any other Yankees shortstops. Part of it is because his missed plays aren’t egregious. Part of it is because the bar for defensive shortstops is really high, and so even a weaker shortstop can look playable. And part of it is because Jeter has long been so athletic, because his position has demanded it, because his position has been among the most demanding. He’s looked like he belongs on the field. That’s mostly because he has.

I get that Derek Jeter is polarizing, and I get that it’s fun to criticize a player the media’s never stopped putting on a pedestal. It’s certainly worthwhile to note Jeter hasn’t been a great defensive shortstop. While he’ll have absolutely zero trouble getting into the Hall of Fame, defense still is important when it comes to our understanding of what he’s been as a player. Jeter has had his on-field shortcomings. But it’s also important to not get carried away. For his position, Jeter’s been one of the game’s worse defensive players. His position has included some of the very best defensive players in baseball. In terms of overall value, those about negate one another. In the end, the most correct opinion of Jeter’s defensive ability is, `Hey, he’s been all right.’
post #19969 of 73427
C'mon Pro, not one articile of Jeter being the most overrated player of our era? I haz dissapointment.
post #19970 of 73427
Thread Starter 
I'm not gonna let you bait me here laugh.gif

Besides, no one is really writing the in depth analysis of his career yet. They'll probably be saving that for when the season starts to wind down.
post #19971 of 73427
I'll settle for that Defense article tongue.gif

I keep seeing a lot of articles posted hyping Travis D'arnaud but he couldn't have been less impressive in his callup last year. I know it wasn't an easy situation especially coming off injury but I saw nothing that made me think. "this guy can be a solid everyday catcher." Hopefully he proves me wrong and has a nice year cause lord knows we need as much hitting as possible.

Hope we at least play some respectable baseball through May/June.
post #19972 of 73427
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

BTW, if there were 12 committed regulars, I would not mind running and doing that draft.

That's an invite type only type of deal. You'd need the best of the best guys, and ways to get hold of them asap.

My hour at work never went by so fast, it was awesome and it was just two of us. laugh.gif
post #19973 of 73427
Originally Posted by CP1708 View Post
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

BTW, if there were 12 committed regulars, I would not mind running and doing that draft.

That's an invite type only type of deal. You'd need the best of the best guys, and ways to get hold of them asap.

My hour at work never went by so fast, it was awesome and it was just two of us. laugh.gif

I'm in there!!! You could do it as a google doc and only allow the 12 people the capability of updating the doc. We used to do our Warriors thread's fantasy draft that way. Was pretty easy. I believe @NothingToL0se set it up for us.

post #19974 of 73427

1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Mickey Mantle, RF
3. Willie Mays, CF
4. Barry Bonds, LF
5. Babe Ruth, DH
6. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
7. Willie McCovey, 1B
8. Johnny Bench, C
9. Rogers Hornsby, 2B


SP Walter Johnson
SP Sandy Koufax

SP Bob Gibson
SP Randy Johnson
SP Bob Feller
CL Mariano Rivera
sick.gif Starting Lineup with nothing but power arms. pimp.gif


1. Derek Jeter, SS

2. Ken Griffey Jr., 2B

3. Alex Rodriguez, 3B

4. Barry Bonds, LF

5. Albert Pujols, 1B

6. Manny Ramirez, DH

7. Robinson Cano, 2B

8. Vlad Guerrero, RF

9. Ivan Rodriguez, C


SP Roger Clemens

SP Randy Johnson

SP Pedro Martinez

SP Greg Maddux

SP Roy Halladay

CL Mariano Rivera

post #19975 of 73427
Thread Starter 
Walker having shoulder soreness now mean.gif
post #19976 of 73427
Teheran gets 6/$32.4M.
Originally Posted by worldbeefreeg View Post

C'mon Pro, not one articile of Jeter being the most overrated player of our era? I haz dissapointment.
Dare I say Iron Man Cal.
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

BTW, if there were 12 committed regulars, I would not mind running and doing that draft.

Your other point on Tai. Z will move swiftly for Santana or Ubaldo.
post #19977 of 73427
Thread Starter 
Dare I say Iron Man Cal.

Come on man, I'm not trying to get into this whole short stop discussion until at least August laugh.gif
post #19978 of 73427
Jake Westbrook retires to go with Oswalt.
post #19979 of 73427
The Cubs sign Bonifacio...

Bonifacio has some of the worst baseball instincts I've ever seen. He's a perfect fit for the Cubs haha
post #19980 of 73427
Love the Teheran deal didn't see that coming.
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