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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 823

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Prospect Watch: Toolsy Outfielders.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Ryan Cordell, OF, Texas Rangers (Profile)
Level: Low-A Age: 22 Top-15: N/A Top-100: N/A
Line: 252 PA, .336/.402/.543, 8 HR, 23 BB, 41 K
A strapping outfielder with a full set of tools, Cordell has ripped South Atlantic League pitching apart in his first full season.

From a statistical/outsider vantage point, Ryan Cordell came out of nowhere and is slowly sneaking up on people. He hit an unremarkable .261/.310/.391 as a junior at Liberty, managed to get picked by the Rangers in the eleventh round despite those poor numbers, and then went out and hit .241/.322/.358 in short-season ball as a 21-year-old. If you wanted, you could note that he stole 47 bases in 55 attempts in 129 games between college and pro ball that year, but otherwise, there was nothing remarkable about him, to the point that the now-22-year-old didn’t break camp with a full-season team in 2014.

Then, suddenly, he showed up in Hickory on May 3 and has gone on to post a .425 wOBA in the past two-and-a-half months. He’s old for the level, but that sort of performance is starting to get his name brought up more frequently in Rangers prospect discussions.

The interesting thing about the slow rise of Cordell’s name recognition in the prospect world is that he’s the sort of guy who immediately stands out on a baseball field, even without doing anything. He’s got the sort of body–6’4″ and not too far from his listed 205 pounds–that just looks good in a baseball uniform, the sort of build that suggests both power and speed. Lo and behold, Cordell has both a .207 ISO and fifteen steals in eighteen attempts this year, so the athleticism his frame suggests is not a mirage.

Further, Cordell is a defensive asset. He’s played all three outfield positions and first base in pro ball, and he looks comfortable in all four spots. He’s athletic enough to handle center field, though he’s probably a 45-grade defender there in the long term. He does, however, project to be a plus defender in a corner with a tick above average arm; he could also be an asset at first base if a roster configuration happened to put him there.

So Cordell clearly is at least average in four tools–power, speed, defense, and arm strength–but there are actually quite a few players out there who have that combination and never do much of anything, because the other tool–the hit tool–is the most important. Thankfully, Cordell isn’t lost in this regard either, as his batting average and 16.5% strikeout rate suggest.

One might be tempted to assign some credit for Cordell’s breakout to the hitting environs of Hickory’s L.P. Frans Stadium, a park that is very friendly to righthanded hitters. However, his .339/.400/.527 road line essentially matches his .333/.405/.559 mark at home, and he’s hit half of his eight bombs away from Hickory. Here’s one I saw in May that was in Hickory but would’ve left just about any park but maybe Fenway:

That’s a heck of a laser. You can see that Cordell’s swing does have some length to it–he employs a slight bat wrap–but he actually takes his cuts on a fairly level plane rather than trying to add a ton of loft to the ball. StatCorner lists him as having just a 28.6% flyball rate on the season, reinforcing that Cordell’s approach revolves more around stinging the ball than launching it. As time passes, he may begin to leverage his natural strength more, but at present, he focuses more on hard contact, which allows his hit tool to play solidly.

In sum, Cordell is an intriguingly athletic player with few weaknesses and production that mirrors his broad skillset, which is sort of a starter-kit Jayson Werth. He has the potential to be an solid everyday outfielder in the bigs if he can maintain a stroke that takes advantage of his natural strength without creating holes. While players that come out of nowhere have their fair share of skeptics, Cordell is quickly making believers out of scouts who cover the Hickory team, and his name could start to be a frequently mentioned one this offseason in list discussions.


Dylan Cozens, OF, Philadelphia Phillies (Profile)
Level: Low-A Age: 20 Top-15: 12 Top-100: N/A
Line: 409 PA, .249/.308/.421, 13 HR, 32 BB, 104 K

This behemoth is holding his own in full-season competition.

A second-round pick in 2012 out of an Arizona high school, Dylan Cozens hasn’t particularly wowed statistically in his young career. He’s a .255/.326/.440 career hitter, including .249/.308/.421 this year as a 20-year-old in his first year of full-season ball. The .180ish Isolated Power marks show some promise and befit a player listed at 6’6″ and 235 pounds, and the overall numbers are decent enough that Cozens isn’t in the bust heap like fellow Lakewood outfielder Larry Greene, but he hasn’t done enough to really raise his profile to anything beyond “big toolsy guy who was drafted in the second round in 2012.”

That might be changing lately, though. Cozens recorded a notorious Golden Sombrero on June 29, after which his season line stood at .224/.283/.390 with nine homers and an 87/24 K/BB in 322 PA (27% K/7.4% BB). In twenty games since, he’s hit .346/.402/.538 with four big flies and a 17/8 K/BB in 87 PA (19.5% K/9.2% BB).

Small sample and selective endpoint caveats are in full effect with that, but Cozens also recently impressed me from a scouting standpoint. I sat in on a July 15th game in which he recorded four hits, including these two big flies:

That’s a nice survey of his power output–he takes a first-pitch fastball away to the opposite field and then hits a breaking pitch to right-center. The second one is especially interesting because the breaking pitch fools Cozens somewhat, getting him out on his front foot, and he basically pokes a ball that still ends up as a no-doubter. That’s impressive raw strength, and Cozens could be an impact power threat down the line. Lakewood isn’t a great place to hit, and in fact, Cozens has stroked the ball at a .314/.365/.514 clip away from home, including putting up 26 of his 35 extra-base hits, further backing up how impressive he is in this area.

The power is Cozens’ best tool right now. Second-most impressive is his arm, which rates as a 55 and allows him to project as a playable right fielder. He also has managed to go 17-for-21 on the bases, though Cozens doesn’t have a ton of raw speed and won’t be an impact basestealer when he fully fills out. He’s error-prone in right field but will flash average range when he takes good routes; some think he ends up at first base, but I give Cozens a solid chance to be at least a fringe-average player in a corner outfield spot.

The hit tool is also a question. Cozens has above-average bat speed and shows the ability to barrel pitches at times, but his swing has considerable length, as his hands have a long way to travel to the baseball. His hitting mechanics are different now than those he showed in my viewings in April:

You can see that Cozens has moved his hands up and tilted the bat toward first base in the more recent clips. That doesn’t subtract any length from his swing, but it may be improving his timing, as he doesn’t have to tip the bat back before he swings with his current mechanics like he did in the April ones. As a large player with a long swing and a big strike zone, Cozens will battle strikeouts all the way up, so his ability to become an impact hitter largely depends on his developing good pitch recognition skills that allow him to compensate for the strikeouts with walks while also keeping him swinging at only pitches he can damage.

Given that he’s 20 and that he’s shown some ability to adjust and improve, Cozens deserves some patience as he tries to get the rest of his game to a level where it can complement his power output. He’s a fairly high-risk player, but he has a carrying tool and flashes enough ability in other areas to lend considerable hope to his prognosis.


Adam Engel, OF, Chicago White Sox (Profile)
Level: Low-A Age: 22 Top-15: 15 Top-100: N/A
Line: 262 PA, .252/.332/.419, 5 HR, 24 BB, 69 K

One of the most freakishly athletic players in baseball, Engel is held back only by the hit tool.

Remember when I said that there are a lot of four-tool guys out there whose one below-average tool was hitting? Engel is the poster boy for such a player.

Adam Engel is a near-Mike Trout-level athlete. I know that sounds ridiculously hyperbolic, but I say it with unblinking sincerity. There are more 80-grade runners out there than one might think (largely because a lot of them can’t hit at all and thus never get any press), but very few of them have Trout’s dimensions of 6’2″ and 230 pounds. Engel is 6’1″ and 215, which is about as close as you’re going to get, and he was considered the fastest player in the collegian draft class last year. And boy, is he ever:

My rough timing has Engel home-to-third at about 10.9 seconds on the first video and 11.1 in the second, which are truly elite times–he may be the fastest player in an organization that includes Micah Johnson and Keenyn Walker. The speed translates to plus-plus range in center field, as Engel gets incredible closing speed on balls, and he also (unlike Trout) has an arm that rates as at least a 60 on the 20-80 scale. If Engel hits .240 with a few walks, he’ll be a valuable player thanks to his defense and baserunning as well as his possession of the strength to muscle some balls out of the park:

But can Engel hit .240 in the big leagues someday? He’s currently just hitting .252 in Low-A at age 22 and has displayed a disturbing tendency to strike out, amassing K’s at a 26.3% clip. Like Cozens, he’s caught fire of late–he was out from May 19 through the end of June, and since coming back on July 1, he’s hit .288/.374/.550 with four of his five home runs and three of his six triples (including the two above). He’s currently riding a nine-game hit streak in which he’s gone 15-for-40 with six extra-base hits, five walks, and seven strikeouts, so maybe something’s clicking. Also like Cozens, he’s made clear alterations to his hitting mechanics–note how much more open he is in the two triples videos (from July) than in the homer video (from April). He’s more crouched now and his hands start way in front of his body before being pulled back during his swing.

Neither set of hitting mechanics is ideal, though, as Engel’s stroke is stiff and gets choppy at times. His approach also needs considerable work. He seems to get overwhelmed when behind in the count and resorts to being a guess hitter, often appearing overmatched by mediocre pitches when he guesses wrong. Since he opened up his stance, he’s become mostly a dead-pull hitter, and while he seems to be making more hard contact with the new setup, his tendency to pull off outside pitches and try to rip everything to left field is going to get exploited when he moves up the chain. Engel’s inability to make consistent hard contact is what pushed him to the nineteenth round in the first place (why else would this grade of athlete slip that far?)–he hit .236 as a junior at Louisville. Engel is a hard worker who seems willing to adjust in the face of issues, but it’s an open question how much he’ll be able to put the ball in play, a key factor for a speed-reliant player. His below-average pitch recognition skills don’t help him when it comes to projecting plate discipline, though he’s managed a 9.2% walk rate and a .332 OBP.

Engel’s the sort of player who will get chances forever because of all the things he does well and his ability to occasionally flash some hitting talent. A popular comparison for him is Trout’s former teammate Peter Bourjos, and that seems pretty reasonable–a guy who would be a star if he could just control the strike zone, but still does everything else so well that he’s valuable even when accounting for the flailing. Engel could be anything from a poor man’s Carlos Gomez, to a frustrating but still valuable player like Bourjos or Cameron Maybin, to an outright tools bust like Greg Golson (or the aforementioned Keenyn Walker, for that matter). It bears watching how well his recent hot streak continues for the season’s final six weeks, as that may be indicative of whether Engel’s ready to start moving toward the big leagues or whether he’s more likely to languish like Walker has.

Chris Young and Dropping the Fastball.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
We’re constantly on the lookout for the adjustments pitchers make. We love being able to spot where the game of baseball is changing, and you never know when a pitcher’s next tweak might vault him into another performance level. Felix Hernandez became Felix Hernandez when he picked up a reliable change. Dallas Keuchel became someone worth knowing when he developed a dependable slider. Mariano Rivera didn’t even have a cutter when he was coming up in the minors, and so on and so forth. It’s easier to spot changing pitchers than changing hitters, and when one thing about a pitcher changes, sometimes you can end up with a whole different profile.

Now, often, when we’re looking for changes, we’re comparing against previous years. And that makes some sense — depending on the adjustment, they’re frequently rolled out and tested in spring training. But it’s also possible to spot some midseason adjustments, with perhaps the simplest adjustment being a change to the pitch mix. Let’s take a look at that for 2014, inspired by something I’ve noticed about Chris Young. I’ve had a note to write about this for a week or two. I guess now I’ve waited long enough.

The idea: We’re going to find starting pitchers who have moved away from their fastballs. First, I went to the pitching leaderboards and split for April stats, looking at starters with 20-plus innings. Then, I split for stats from the last 30 days, looking again at starters with 20-plus innings. I cross-checked the data with Brooks Baseball to confirm, and from the sample pool, here are the 10 pitchers who have most reduced their fastball usage, by percentage points:

Chris Young, -21%
Garrett Richards, -17%
Kyle Kendrick, -15%
Jeff Samardzija, -14%
Hiroki Kuroda, -12%
Edwin Jackson, -12%
Alfredo Simon, -12%
Masahiro Tanaka, -10%
Jason Hammel, -10%
Tim Lincecum, -10%
To take Lincecum as an example, in the season’s first month he threw about 51% fastballs. Over the season’s most recent month, he’s thrown about 41% fastballs. So, that’s a drop of about 10 percentage points, or less than half of Chris Young’s fastball drop. We’ll get into more detail on Young in a minute, but here’s a list of the pitches that have most picked up the slack for each guy:

Chris Young, slider
Garrett Richards, slider
Kyle Kendrick, cutter
Jeff Samardzija, splitter
Hiroki Kuroda, slider
Edwin Jackson, changeup
Alfredo Simon, curveball and splitter (fewer cutters)
Masahiro Tanaka, slider
Jason Hammel, slider
Tim Lincecum, changeup
There’s no general trend of greater success. Comparing the last month to the first month, just four of 10 guys have posted lower ERAs. Just four have posted lower FIPs, and five have posted lower xFIPs. So the group, as a whole, hasn’t taken a step forward — but then there are the individual points of interest. Tanaka, more recently, pitched far worse. But he might’ve also been pitching hurt. Samardzija has gotten back to a more familiar splitter rate, and he’s achieved some more familiar peripherals.

Richards is an interesting player to note here. In April, three-quarters of his pitches were fastballs. Each successive month, he’s decreased his fastball rate and increased his slider rate; each successive month, he’s improved his K% – BB%. A little bit of that works in the other direction. In strikeout counts, Richards is likely to throw more sliders. But having a better slider is a big part of Richards’ emergence, and he’s finally pitching like the ace observers pictured when they saw his velocity.

And then there’s Young. When Young resurfaced with the Mariners, he was extremely fastball-heavy. This didn’t surprise, because Young has always been extremely fastball-heavy. In April, he threw 77% fastballs, right around his career mark of 73%. But then, over the past month, Young has thrown just 56% fastballs. He started against the Angels on Sunday and threw 51 sliders. As far as PITCHf/x knows, that was a career high by 15. In terms of slider rate, Sunday’s 52% clobbered Young’s previous known high of 41%. Chris Young is the most interesting player on this list, because he’s an established veteran doing something he’s never really done before.

Young is still an extreme fly-ball pitcher. But, in the season’s first month, he had more walks than strikeouts. Over his past seven turns, he has six walks and 35 strikeouts. When Young began the season with an acceptable ERA and dreadful peripherals, the suspicion was the ERA would regress. Instead it’s like he’s gone the other direction, having massively lowered his xFIP.

It’s probably useful to break this down by handedness. Via Brooks, here’s Young against right-handed hitters, with a monthly x-axis:

And here’s Young against left-handed hitters, with a monthly x-axis:

Against righties, Young’s fastball has dropped to levels never before seen from him, with the slider making up all the difference. He’s actually thrown more sliders than fastballs to righties since the beginning of June. Against lefties, there’s been a slight increase in slider rate, but there’s been a sharper increase in changeup rate, to help offset the fastball reduction. The changeup hasn’t often been a weapon for Young before. In effect, Young is pitching like a righty specialist against righties. Against lefties, he’s looking like a bona fide three-pitch pitcher.

Making it all the more interesting is Young defended his fastball-heavy approach in conversing with Eno just this May. Young was right in identifying weak spots up in and around the zone, and he was right that a fastball can function as multiple different pitches — depending on where it’s put. Yet after defending his unique blend of stuff and approach, Young has changed the way he pitches. He’s thrown fewer elevated fastballs and has thrown more secondary stuff over the outer half. We’ll only see from here for how long this sustains, but I suppose a player sharp enough to talk to Eno like Young did is a player sharp enough to figure out when a change might be helpful. A good goal is to stay one step ahead of the scouting report, and no scouting report in the world cautions hitters against Chris Young’s secondary stuff.

There’s a thought out there that throwing sliders is bad for the arm. Few pitchers have injury histories comparable to Young’s. So maybe, on the surface, this seems like a bad idea. But it’s not like staying with fastballs has kept Young healthy in the past. And when Young underwent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, doctors told him they figured they’d address the root cause of his arm problems, so maybe Young’s just testing that to the extreme. One way or another, it’s 2014 and Chris Young is helping a contending team’s rotation. You have to give Young that much credit.

The Complicated Matter of Jon Lester’s Status.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Red Sox, like the Rays, aren’t quite sure whether it’s time to sell. Both of them are tied for fourth, or last, in the AL East, at 7.5 games back. But then they’ve won a combined nine games in a row, and our projections have them as the best teams in the division. Still, their playoff odds are low enough that this might be too little, too late. If the Red Sox elect to sell, they have a handful of veteran role players that could find temporary homes with contenders. But no matter what the Sox choose, it appears they’ll be keeping Jon Lester. The free-agent-to-be doesn’t seem to be available on the market.

The idea is that the Sox would like to extend him. Lester has said before that he’d be willing to take something of a hometown discount, even if that urge is diminished with every passing day. Obviously, the two sides have yet to reach an agreement, despite a midseason re-opening of talks, and obviously, the Red Sox’s reported offer around spring training was too low, but there’s still a pretty good chance of a long-term marriage, here. Both Lester and the Sox ultimately want the same thing. They just need to agree on what Jon Lester is.

The coming free-agent class features three starting-pitcher names bigger than the rest. James Shields has struggled a little bit, but as is he’s still in line for a significant payday. Max Scherzer has been the same as he was last year, with just a little bit less success with the things a pitcher can’t really control too much. And Jon Lester has stepped things up, achieving the statistical level of ace-hood that he previously achieved between 2009 – 2010. His strikeouts have gone north, his walks have gone south, and his ERA is nearly half what it was in 2012.

Lester, without question, has raised his stock since the start of the season. And he finished 2013 strong, as well, such that, over the past calendar year, Lester’s been one of the very best arms in the game. He’s been at least as good as Scherzer, and most probably better.

Over that past year, 139 different starters have thrown at least 100 innings. Lester’s ranks in three stats:

ERA-: 4th (tied)
FIP-: 4th (tied)
xFIP-: 23rd (tied)
Scherzer’s ranks in the same stats:

ERA-: 23rd (tied)
FIP-: 12th (tied)
xFIP-: 26th (tied)
Over a year, by FIP, Lester’s been worse only than Clayton Kershaw, Jose Fernandez, and Felix Hernandez, which is to say he’s been spectacular. There’s a reason people are talking about Cole Hamels money, and not just because Hamels was the last guy to sign a long-term extension in these kinds of circumstances. Hamels signed a six-year extension in July 2012, and over the previous three seasons, he started 101 games, posting an 87 FIP-. Over the past three seasons, Lester has started 100 games, posting an 85 FIP-. And right now his numbers are better than ever.

Hamels signed for six years and $144 million. Over the two years since, there’s been some more inflation within the industry. On the other hand, Lester has already mentioned the hometown-discount thing, and also, Hamels was signed for ages 29 – 34. Lester, next year, will be 31, so that’s another factor. Lester might not be looking for Hamels money, but one could see a similar rate over four or five years.

There’s just this thing, about Jon Lester’s numbers. It’s also a thing about Jon Lester’s catchers, and it’s something I wrote about a month and a half ago.

There’s no mistaking that Lester has significantly improved his peripherals. There’s no clear significant change in his repertoire. His velocities have stayed consistent. His zone rate is in the same range as ever. His contact rate has barely gone down. His rate of swings at balls has barely moved. His rate of swings at strikes has barely moved. Look elsewhere on the Jon Lester player page, and you don’t think you’re looking at a guy who’s dropped his FIP- and xFIP- by about 20 points. And something we’ve come to understand about fielding-independent pitching statistics is they’re not totally fielding-independent.

Baseball Prospectus tracks pitch-framing data broken down by battery. They show runs added or subtracted by call, and they show runs added or subtracted by count, the latter leaning upon the idea that extra strikes are differently valuable in different situations. For example, according to the former calculation, a first-pitch strike counts the same as, say, a 2-and-2 strike. According to the latter calculation, the 2-and-2 strike is more valuable, because it’s a strikeout. Anyhow, what you see is Jon Lester second on the list, with David Ross, in framing runs by count. By their calculations, Ross’ framing for Lester this year has been worth more than ten runs already.

Only two batteries are in the double digits; only three are north of +5.8 runs. Lester and Ross have worked very well together, and now let’s look at a table of Lester data stretching back to 2008. These are his combined framing runs, by count, by year.

Year Framing Runs Starts
2008 -1.8 33
2009 -4.2 32
2010 6.1 32
2011 5.2 31
2012 4.6 33
2013 2.1 33
2014 10.4 20
Already, Lester’s achieved a career-best, and he’s on pace for about +16 or so. The previous four years, Lester finished above average, but never north of +6 runs. Depending on how much stock you put in the numbers, for Lester this year, framing could come out as having been worth more than a full win or two.

And that doesn’t show up outside of one’s FIP. That’s a part of the FIP, as framing influences strikeouts and walks. A big part of good framing is good command, because it’s hard to frame a pitch thrown somewhere other than where it’s expected, but the bigger message is this: presuming the Red Sox know what’s what with regard to contemporary player analysis, the team might have a better understanding of Ross’ value than Lester. Lester’s side might talk about the wins and the strikeouts and the ERA, but the Red Sox probably get that that isn’t all about Jon Lester himself.

Ditch the specific numbers for a moment. Just go with the concept. Lester wants to get paid, and he knows about his own numbers. The Red Sox would like to pay him, but they could also figure a part of his great numbers is a function of the guy who’s been catching most of the pitches. So then you could have a gap in the player evaluation, and it’s hard enough to reach an agreement when a team and a player agree on what the player is. Everyone agrees that Jon Lester is one of the better starters in baseball, but the Sox might be unwilling to pay Lester for something in part accomplished by somebody else.

By no means is my point that Jon Lester isn’t good. By no means is my point that Jon Lester owes a lot of his statistical success to David Ross. This is a smaller factor, but it’s a bigger factor than it usually is, and it could be a big part of the reason why the sides remain separated. By the numbers, it seems like Ross has been a significant help for Lester on the year, but David Ross isn’t a part of the Jon Lester free-agent package. The Red Sox need to evaluate Lester for Lester, and that isn’t as easy to do as it might seem.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
With a guy like Billy Hamilton on first base, you're likely to get a fastball. That's a good thing for Todd Frazier, who has traditionally feasted on fastballs. But does Billy Hamilton also make for a distraction at first base? Someone taking off for second base in your peripheral vision doesn't make for great concentration at least.

That distractive property of a speedster at first base was the possible explanation that Ben Lindbergh had for the decreased production batters saw when they were at the plate and an aggressive runner was on first.

But ask Frazier about it and he says he's "locked in" at the plate. "When they throw over three or four times, it's not a distraction, it makes me feel a little better knowing they're worried about him and not me," the Reds third baseman said. "He understands what he's doing and I understand what I'm doing."

There's a difference between the runner just being at first base and taking off, though. Both Joey Votto and Todd Frazier agreed that they always take when Hamilton takes off from first. Of the 34 times that Hamilton has taken off for a new base with one of those two at the plate, the batter has swung six times. Considering that Votto's swung at nearly 40% of the pitches he's seen over that time frame, and Frazier's swung at nearly 50%, a 17.6% swing rate probably qualifies as 'never swinging.'

So these two batters generally take when Hamilton is running, and only 12 of the 28 times they took did that pitch turn into a strike. Only six times was that pitch strike two, and only once did the pitch strike the batter out. So it's not as if Hamilton's actual stolen bases have put Votto and Frazier in bad positions when seen as a whole.

And Hamilton has given them the opportunity to see more fastballs. "There's a predictable fastball that I'm going to get," said Votto. The Reds' first baseman was seeing more fastballs than he'd ever seen this year before he hit the disabled list (60.5% this year, 56.6% career).

Frazier has only seen a slight uptick (56.2% this year, 56.0% last year), but he likes fastballs -- "That's what I hit and that's why I like to hit" he said of the pitch. It at least seems possible some of his breakout this year has been fueled by fastballs with Hamilton on base.

The two can, indeed, owe some of their added fastballs to Hamilton. When Hamilton is on base in front of them, they've seen a fastball 57% of the time. For those two hitters, that's above their career fastball percentages. But it's not actually a ton more fastballs than the rest of the league would see. The average National League starter throws a fastball... 57.6% of the time.

Still, for our two Reds hitters, they're seeing more fastballs, which is good, right? Even if you take out the instances where Hamilton is running and they're not swinging, they're getting 55% fastballs this year.

But what if they're taking a little more often in case Hamilton wants to go. Maybe they see a flinch and think he is going? Listen to Frazier and you hear that, yes, perhaps they're taking a bit more even when Hamilton is not stealing: "If I need to take a couple pitches, get to two strikes, I'm not afraid to hit with two strikes."

With Billy Hamilton on first or second (and not engaged in stealing a base), Frazier has swung at 50.6% of the balls in he's seen. He's swung at 52.6% of the balls he's seen this year in general. If he'd swung three more times with Hamilton in a position to steal, these numbers would be exactly the same.

What happens when Frazier does swing at a pitch with Hamilton on base? Could some of the added bonus of having a speedster on base in front of him actually come from balls in play? Infield defenders have to stay close to bags to try to keep Hamilton from stealing, is that opening holes for Frazier?

Frazier has swung 87 times with Billy Hamilton in stealing position since the young man was called up last year. He's made contact 73.8% of the time, which is worse than his yearly rate (75.2%). Of the balls he's put into play, 37.5% have found grass. 32.7% of his balls in play this year have been hits in general. Still, the difference between these two numbers is two hits.

Todd Frazier is having a great year. He probably owes a few hits and a few fastballs to Billy Hamilton. But maybe it's really more about other factors. He credits hitting coach Don Long with "helping me understand my swing," making a few tweaks and finding a good routine.

He's been working on his pitch selection, that's "always big" for the Reds' third baseman. You can see that he's swinging less at low pitches off the plate. Look at his swing heat map for 2013 on the top and 2014 on the bottom:

It's nice to have Billy Hamilton on base in front of you, but it's not the main driver of Todd Frazier's good year. That would be Todd Frazier himself.

The Completely Rebuilt, Win-Now Angels Bullpen.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Over the weekend, the Angels picked up Huston Street from San Diego, and we’ll get to that in a second. This isn’t just about the trade, though. It’s about the relief group that Street is joining. On March 30, the Angels announced their Opening Day roster, with a seven-man bullpen that looked like this:

R — Ernesto Frieri
R — Kevin Jepsen
R — Michael Kohn
L — Nick Maronde
R — Fernando Salas
R — Matt Shoemaker
R — Joe Smith
Today, at least for the moment, they have an eight-man bullpen, and it looks like this:

R — Jason Grilli
R — Kevin Jepsen
R — Mike Morin
R — Cory Rasmus
R — Fernando Salas
R — Joe Smith
R — Huston Street
L – Joe Thatcher
Frieri was awful, and now he’s in Pittsburgh. Kohn couldn’t find the plate, and now he’s in Triple-A. Maronde couldn’t do much of anything, and now he’s with Cleveland. Shoemaker is in the rotation, and while he may return when C.J. Wilson comes off the disabled list, it may be Hector Santiago instead. Since Salas missed almost a month with a sore shoulder, that makes Jepsen and Smith the only two Angels relievers to be active and on the team all season long. In between, the Angels have had 25 different relievers, from Jarrett Grube and Cam Bedrosian to Drew Rucinski and Josh Wall, easily the most different relievers any team has had this year, and within shouting distance of the American League record of 29, set by the 2012 Blue Jays. (They probably aren’t touching the all-time record of 33, set by the 2002 Padres of Eric Cyr, Doug Nickle and Brian Tollberg, unless things go terribly wrong.)

All of which means that full-season stats for the Angels bullpen aren’t particularly useful, because they’re including numbers from guys who are long gone or buried in the minors. That’s good for the Angels, of course, because those full-season numbers are ugly. By WAR, 25th. ERA, 21st. FIP, 23rd. xFIP, 23rd. Obviously, that’s not the kind of group you want when you think you have a real shot at the playoffs.

So GM Jerry Dipoto went about changing that, starting in late June when failed closer Frieri went to Pittsburgh for failed closer Grilli, continuing in early July when Thatcher (and backup outfielder Tony Campana) arrived from Arizona for minor leaguers Zach Borenstein and Joey Krehbiel, and continuing on Saturday when Street and minor leaguer Trevor Gott came to town for prospects R.J. Alvarez, Taylor Lindsey, Elliot Morris and Jose Rondon.

Whether or not Grilli rediscovers his Pittsburgh magic — he’s off to a good start in his first 10 games as an Angel, and more importantly, he isn’t Frieri — it’s clear that this is a much improved group from the one that started the season. Street is having the best season of his life, getting more strikeouts and grounders; rookie Morin and his outstanding change has been a surprise performer; Thatcher has a 17/1 K/BB against fellow lefties this year. Added to mainstays Smith and Jepsen, and suddenly the Angels have a reasonably effective quintet in their bullpen. Though Street has only appeared once so far, the new Angels bullpen has been miles better over the last month, even with obvious small sample size caveats. It’s not the only reason they’ve won 27 of their last 37; it’s not unrelated, either. What was a clear weakness is now, if not a strength, at least not a glaring issue, as the newcomers have pushed incumbents either to lower-leverage roles or off the roster entirely.

Street can’t be guaranteed to continue like he has been, of course — dig that 1.06 ERA against a 2.93 xFIP, .200 BABIP and 100% LOB — and so there’s the question of whether the Angels “overpaid” for him. The answer is yeah, probably, they did. There’s only so much impact a single one-inning reliever who isn’t quite on the Aroldis Chapman / Craig Kimbrel level can have on a few months of a season. It’s likely that the quartet the Padres received will give San Diego more value over their years of team control than Street will over his 1.5 years in Anaheim (assuming the Angels pick up Street’s $7m 2015 option, which seems like a total no-brainer).

Entering the season, Lindsey and Alvarez were two of the Angels’ top four prospects from Baseball America; Rondon, one of the youngest players in Single-A, wasn’t, but certainly would have been this year, and this trio very possibly would have been the team’s top three. This wasn’t a great organization before, and now it’s desolate. If Street even adds one win above replacement to the Angels this season, it will be a lot — again, not because he’s not useful, but because there’s a limit to what a one-inning pitcher can provide. To give up some real talent for that is not an insignificant price.

Of course, it’s there where we need to remember that an individual team’s “top prospect list” is all but useless when evaluating a deal, because even though Lindsey was the “No. 1 prospect in the Angels system,” he was also a borderline top-100 player. In a system like that of the Cubs, Lindsey may have cracked the top 10; that he was the best player in a bad system doesn’t make him a better player than he was. Did the Angels hurt an already mediocre system for Street? Without question. Did they give up anyone they’ll ever really miss? That part is far less certain.

For most teams, this doesn’t make a lot of sense. But the Angels aren’t most teams, and they’re in a position where every win is just so, so valuable. Mike Trout still isn’t 23 for another month, but Jered Weaver, Albert Pujols, Wilson and Josh Hamilton aren’t getting younger. Every year with that quartet that isn’t a successful one is an expensive misfire; Erick Aybar, Chris Iannetta, David Freese and Howie Kendrick are all also at least 30. Despite all the press the Athletics have received for their outstanding season, the Angels are only a game out in the loss column and still have 10 more head-to-head games against Oakland. They’re both basically locks to make the playoffs — these two teams have the most wins in baseball — but in the world of two wild cards, winning the division carries with it an incredible amount of value. No one wants to be the team in the one-game playoff, welcoming the Mariners or Orioles or Indians into town, knowing that a one-game playoff is essentially a coin flip, and that even if they advance, they may have had to burn one of their better starting pitchers to do it. If you’re looking for a win-now situation, especially if you think the Rangers disaster is a one-year thing and that the Astros are coming, this is it.

So yeah, maybe cashing in these prospects for what is a relatively small gain doesn’t seem worth it. Maybe Rondon and Lindsey become the San Diego middle infield of the future, providing years of value, while Alvarez is closing games off. We won’t know the answer to that for many years. What we do know is that none of these players are looked upon like they’re Addison Russell or Byron Buxton or Kris Bryant, and if Street and the rest of the new Angels bullpen helps get them past the A’s and into a home game to start ALDS without needing to win the wild card playoff, it’s certain that nobody in Anaheim will be regretting it.

It’s Time for the Royals to Trade James Shields.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
On June 17, the Royals took sole possession of first place in the American League Central, as they stood a half game up on Detroit in the division race. Since that date, the Royals have gone 10-17, while the Tigers have gone 18-10, and Kansas City now finds themselves in third place, seven games behind the Tigers and a game and a half behind the Indians. They’ve even fallen to sixth in the AL Wild Race, which isn’t exactly overflowing with dominant teams at the moment.

As things stand today, our Playoff Odds model gives the Royals a 2.6% chance of winning the division and a 7.9% chance of winning a spot in the Wild Card game. A Wild Card game that would almost certainly be on the road, against either the A’s or the Angels, inarguably the two best teams in baseball to this point of the season.

In other words, even if they manage to sneak past Cleveland, New York, Toronto, and Seattle — and hold off the charging Red Sox and Rays — their reward would be a road game against a significantly better team. Anything can happen in one game, of course, but when deciding whether to buy, sell, or hold at the deadline, the realistic upside has to be evaluated, and the Royals best case case scenario is still a probable loss in Game 163.

However, there’s a lot of upside in being the team selling a fall-back plan to the teams who lose out in the David Price sweepstakes. According to most reports, the Mariners, Dodgers, and Cardinals are the most interested teams in Price, and at least two of them are going to be disappointed that they didn’t get him. And when they look around for alternatives, they’re going to find… A.J. Burnett? Bartolo Colon? John Danks?

The market is ripe for the Royals to step in and fill the void with an available starter who is a legitimate upgrade for most contenders. The final two months of Shields’ contract will be far more valuable to another team than they will be to Kansas City.

Shields projects for about +1.4 WAR over the rest of the season, which is not quite Price-like but is far ahead of guys like Colon or Burnett. Because Jeff ran the numbers on a Price trade last week, we can crib off his data and estimate that acquiring Shields would lead to something like a 10% boost in playoff odds for nearly 10 teams. Even if we cross out the Indians, Yankees, and either the Mariners or Cardinals — assuming one of the two pays the David Price tax — then there’s still a half dozen teams who could significantly benefit from having Shields in their rotation for the final two months, plus a much more likely playoff series.

Maybe 10% doesn’t sound like a lot, but for many of these teams, the addition could easily end up being the difference between playing in the Wild Card game and getting a pass through to the division series. For a team like the Orioles or Blue Jays, they have a real chance to host a couple of postseason games, and reap the the revenues that come along with a playoff berth. Some estimates have the revenue gains associated with a postseason run at between $20 and $70 million, depending on how deep a team goes and how much the playoff push can invigorate a fan base.

For instance, the Pirates are up an average of 3,000 fans per game this year compared to last year. Even as TV money takes a larger role in a team’s financial picture, an extra 250,000 tickets sold at an average price of $40 apiece is $10 million in extra revenues. Sure, a good chunk of those fans would have still bought tickets this year even if the Pirates hadn’t made the division series last year, but there’s no question that their 2013 playoff run led directly to a revenue boost in 2014.

There’s a reason the A’s traded one of the game’s very best prospects for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. For mid-market teams who can’t count on getting to the postseason every year, it is imperative to take advantage of opportunities when they come. Those are the very same teams, however, that probably can’t afford to trade the farm for David Price, and are not going to see a big enough improvement to justify giving up real prospects for the back-end starters other teams are selling.

Even with Shields having a mediocre first half, he would fill a significant void in the market and give the Royals a legitimate chance to recoup a lot of the talent they gave up in acquiring Shields in the first place. They’re not going to get Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi back, but they might land a couple of good prospects that could turn into good players sooner than later.

The odds of the Royals re-signing Shields this winter are slim. Realistically, given their payroll, they shouldn’t even really be that interested in keeping him for his decline years. And other teams will pay more in value than the draft pick they’d get next summer by making him a qualifying offer and letting him leave via free agency.

It might be a tough pill for the Royals to swallow, given where they were just a month ago, but the right move for the Royals franchise is to put Shields on the market and play for 2015.

Prospect Watch: Cubs, Marlins Go Fishing for Pitching.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Pierce Johnson, RHP, Chicago Cubs (Profile)
Level: Class-A/Double-A Age: 23 Top-15: 6th Top-100: 77th
Line: 54.1 IP, 35-46 BB-K, 32 H, 3.48 ERA

The Chicago Cubs organization has one of the stronger minor league systems in baseball — but that’s on the strength of its hitting prospects.

Prior to the season, the Cubs Top 10 Prospects list featured just three pitchers — and Pierce Johnson was the highest-ranked arm at No. 6, one slot ahead of fellow hurler C.J. Edwards who has dealt with an injury for much of the year. A former first round draft pick, Johnson was selected 43rd overall in 2012 out of Missouri State University.

The 23-year-old hurler has had a modest pro career to date. His 2013 season was split between two A-ball affiliates where he produced solid — but hardly eye-popping — numbers, especially given his pedigree. Johnson opened the 2014 season on the disabled list before receiving his assignment to the Double-A level. He’s been hampered by lower leg injuries all season long.

He’s certainly missed bats — just 28 hits in 43.1 innings — but Johnson has struggled with his control and has walked an alarming 32 batters (a walk rate of 6.65 BB/9). The injuries — including one in late May to his left leg — could be part of the reason for his uncharacteristically high walk rate. His control has improved only marginally since his return from the most recent trip to the DL: Johnson has walked six batters in his last two starts (9.1 innings).

Johnson has also struggled to command his offerings — including his fastball. He’s been constantly falling behind in the count, which has prevented him from setting up his breaking balls; because hitters know he’s not throwing his pitches for strikes, they have been sitting back and waiting for his fastball, an offering which is solid but hardly overpowering.

* * *
Justin Nicolino, LHP, Miami Marlins (Profile)
Level: Double-A Age: 22 Top-15: 3rd Top-100: 63rd
Line: 118.1 IP, 15-55 BB-K, 112 H, 2.97 ERA

When the Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins paired up for their blockbuster trade towards the end of 2012, Nicolino was the headlining prospect that headed south to Florida. Since that time, though, his prospect valuation has hit a speed bump or two.

The former second round draft pick has watched lesser-known trade mate Anthony DeSclafani pass him on the depth chart (and reach The Show) while he pitched at Double-A for much of the past two seasons. Nicolino, 22, has displayed outstanding control throughout his career as a baby fish (including a 1.14 BB/9 rate in 2014) but he’s struggled to miss bats. Since coming over to Miami, his strikeout rate has yet to surpass 6.15 K/9 and it currently sits at just 4.18 in ’14. The southpaw with a killer changeup has been hurt by a modest breaking ball and the lack of a true put-away pitch.

Once mentioned in the same breath as fellow Jays pitching prospects Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard (now with the Mets), Nicolino is now likely on the outside looking in at the Top 100 prospects list. Although he will almost certainly pitch in the big leagues, his future role looks to be that of a No. 4 starter.

The outcome of the 2012 trade now leaks somewhat bleak for Miami. Big league starter Henderson Alvarez has been solid despite an inability to miss bats, which limits his ceiling. Among the prospects, DeSclafani is exceeding expectations (and might now possess the ceiling of a back-end starter) but the others — like Nicolino — have stumbled. Outfielder Jake Marisnick has yet to prove he can hit. The same can be said for shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria. Known for his glove, his defense has not been strong enough to overshadow his .277 on-base percentage or 71 wRC+ in the big leagues.

The Opposite Trends of Starlin Castro and Allen Craig.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Not too long ago, I observed that Allen Craig was getting pitched differently. He was getting pitched differently because he was hitting differently, in that he hasn’t been hitting for pull power. So pitchers have fed him more fastballs, and more fastballs inside, daring him to turn on something. Before that, I observed that Robinson Cano was also missing his pull power, although he compensated better than Craig has. And somewhere along the line, I wrote something similar about Evan Longoria, so I guess I realize I’m interested in certain batted-ball tendencies. And that realization made me want to look at the bigger picture.

Some hitters are lethal when they’re able to pull the ball. Other guys are quite good at going the other way. Brian Dozier is a total pull hitter, who can’t do crap the other way. Ryan Howard, meanwhile, can’t do crap to his pull side, preferring the opposite field. Individual tendencies are individual tendencies, but things get interesting when you see those tendencies change. Changes can be indicative of changes to swing or ability.

I’m interested in batted balls to the pull side and batted balls to the opposite field. But for these purposes I’m not interested in groundballs, because I’m thinking about balls in play that could go for power. Using the FanGraphs leaderboards, I recovered fly balls and line drives that were pulled, hit to center, and hit the other way. I combined the two stats into one — air balls — and then I calculated the rates to each field. For example, this year, Yoenis Cespedes has pulled 34% of his air balls. Kyle Seager has hit 28% of his air balls the other way.

Then, for each hitter, I simply calculated Pull Air% – Opposite Air%, which you can accept if you can accept K% – BB%. Then I went through all the same process for 2013, then I compared the data for batters with at least 100 air balls in each of the last two seasons. There are 164 such batters, and the stat appears to be reasonably sustainable:

There’s a good relationship there, which isn’t surprising, because batted-ball distributions are a part of a hitter’s identity. If you have a guy who pulls a good amount of his air balls, he’s probably going to keep on pulling a good amount of his air balls, unless something changes. And it’s those changes in which I’m most interested.

In case you’re curious, that isolated dot toward the bottom left: Joe Mauer. A year ago, he pulled 11% of his air balls, and he hit 52% of his air balls the other way, for a difference of -41%. This year, he’s pulled 8% of his air balls, and he’s hit 65% of his air balls the other way, for a difference of -57%. He had the league’s lowest difference in 2013, and he has the league’s lowest difference in 2014, and look no further for an explanation of why Joe Mauer isn’t hitting for power. He’s hitting the ball in the air the other way even more often, and he’s not doing so with the authority he did in 2009. Something with Joe Mauer is clearly awry.

Now, the ultimate point of this is the comparison between 2013 and 2014. For each year, I already had the difference between pulled air balls and air balls the other way. Then, between years, I calculated the difference between those differences. A positive result would belong to a hitter who’s pulled the ball in the air more often in 2014. A negative result would belong to a hitter who’s pulled the ball in the air less often.

Here now are the ten biggest positive differences:

Starlin Castro, +27%
Michael Brantley, +25%
Brandon Moss, +22%
Anthony Rizzo, +22%
Jay Bruce, +20%
Jose Altuve, +19%
Troy Tulowitzki, +17%
Alexei Ramirez, +17%
Devin Mesoraco, +17%
Salvador Perez, +17%
Castro, a year ago, pulled 15% of his air balls, and hit 51% the other way, for a (rounded) difference of -35%. Castro, this year, has pulled 26% of his air balls, and hit 35% the other way, for a difference of -9%. So the (rounded) difference between those differences is +27%, yielding the number above. Castro has drastically reduced his air balls to the opposite field, and he’s turned many of those into pulled flies and liners.

It reads like a list of high achievers. There’s an MVP candidate in there, and some guys having breakthrough campaigns. In all, a year ago, these guys hit .269/.323/.420, with a .151 ISO and a 102 wRC+. This year, they’ve hit .292/.357/.481, with a .189 ISO and a 131 wRC+. The only player who hasn’t gotten better is Bruce, and he’s had some injury issues. All these guys have been able to pull the ball in the air more often, and that’s closely related to performing better at the plate.

Now the other side. Here are the ten biggest negative differences:

Allen Craig, -35%
Domonic Brown, -32%
Mark Reynolds, -27%
Dioner Navarro, -26%
Angel Pagan, -25%
Andrelton Simmons, -25%
Marcell Ozuna, -24%
Justin Smoak, -23%
Andre Ethier, -20%
Robinson Cano, -19%
Right away, you can see it’s not a killer. And I should mention that right behind Cano is Andrew McCutchen, at -18%. But the list is topped by a couple crushing disappointments, and, a year ago, these guys hit .272/.339/.441, with a .169 ISO and a 116 wRC+. This year, they’ve hit .260/.316/.388, with a .128 ISO and a 96 wRC+. By and large, it’s a worse unit, because it’s a hell of a lot more difficult to sting the ball with authority the other way.

Pagan has been fine, even though his ISO has dropped. Cano has thus far traded extra-base hits for extra singles. Ozuna’s annihilated the pulled balls he has hit. McCutchen’s running a career-best opposite-field wRC+. It’s possible to survive this trade-off, especially if you have MVP-level natural ability, but most things in baseball should be considered on a case-by-case basis, and in most cases, a trade-off like this is a bad thing. With Craig, this seems indicative of something wrong with his swing. Same goes for Brown. A guy like Smoak doesn’t have the power to succeed by pulling the ball less often. You can never be sure what’s a slowing bat and what’s just poor timing or a mechanical hitch, but if a player is hitting the ball in the air the other way more often, at the expense of pulled balls, it seems like it should be worrisome unless it’s part of an intentional plan.

The Cubs have been pleased with Starlin Castro’s offensive development, and as it happens, this year he’s pulling the ball in the air a lot more often. The Cardinals have been badly hurt by Allen Craig’s offensive decline, and this year he’s pulling the ball in the air a lot less often. Andrew McCutchen is also pulling the ball in the air a lot less often, but he’s still thriving because he’s one of the best players in baseball and, like Robinson Cano, he seems able to make the best of what the pitchers will provide. There aren’t many statistical rules in baseball that apply to everybody the same across the board, but exceptions tend to be few, and limited to the truly exceptional.

2014 Trade Value: The Top 10.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Welcome to the final section of this year’s Trade Value series, the top 10. If you haven’t already, read the intro and get yourself acquainted with what question this is trying to answer, as well as an incomplete list of guys who missed the cut for one reason or another. You can see all the posts in the series here.

A few quick notes on the columns listed for each player. After the normal biographical information, I’ve listed Projected WAR, which is essentially a combination of ZIPS and Steamer’s current rest-of-season forecasts extrapolated out to a full-season’s worth of playing time. For non-catcher position players, this is 600 plate appearances; catchers are extrapolated to 450 PAs. For pitchers, this is extrapolated to 200 innings. It is not their 2014 WAR, or their last calendar year WAR; it is a rough estimate of what we might expect them to do over a full-season, based on the information we have now.

For contract status, we have two pieces of information. “Controlled Through” includes all years before a player accumulates enough time to be eligible for free agency, all guaranteed years of a contract already signed, and any years covered by team options that could be exercised in the future. Player options and mutual options are not included, as the assumption is that players of this caliber will generally opt-out of their current contracts if given the chance.

The “Contract Dollars” column includes the base salaries of each player in the controlled years going forward, starting from 2015 — the 40% of 2014 salary remaining is not included in the calculation — including the value of team options, since we’re assuming that they will be picked up. In many cases, players have incentives for various accomplishments that affect the base salaries, but those are not accounted for here, simply because of the tedious work of calculating all those incentive prices and the fact that $100,000 for an All-Star appearance or $500,000 for an MVP-finish there aren’t going to change the overall calculations. This column is not an exact representation of their future earnings, but should be close enough for our purposes.

For players who are under team control but not under guaranteed contract, I’ve listed out which arbitration years they still have remaining. There are a few players who have both guaranteed contracts and arbitration eligibility remaining, but we’ll deal with those cases in the article when a simple line in the chart doesn’t explain their situation perfectly.

Finally, “Last Year” notes where a player was ranked on this list last year, or if he wasn’t on the 2013 Trade Value series, then he is denoted as unranked. As you can imagine, there’s a lot more turnover at the end of the list than the beginning.

Now, for the cream of the crop; the most valuable players in the game.

Rank Name Age Team Position Projected WAR Controlled Through Contract Dollars Last Year
10 Jose Abreu 27 CHW 1B 3.9 2019 $51,000,000 Unranked
Yes, this is an aggressive ranking for what amounts to half a season of performance. Yes, this might very well look bad in a year if Abreu is this year’s Chris Davis. But, unlike with Davis, we’ve never seen Abreu not hit like this. The models that attempt to translate Cuban statistics to MLB equivalents projected Abreu as a monster even before the season began. Dan Farnsworth wrote up a glowing report on his swing last October. There are reasons beyond just 400 good plate appearances to think this is what Abreu is.

And that makes him, essentially, an older version of Giancarlo Stanton. This is top-of-the-scale power, and 29 teams are likely looking back and kicking themselves that they didn’t bid more for Abreu last winter. If Abreu were made a free agent after this season, I would guess that the bidding would climb over $200 million; after all, he projects to be a similar caliber of player as Prince Fielder did when he hit the market, and Fielder got $216 million two years ago.

Instead, Abreu will not free agency for another five years, and he’ll make an average of $10 million per year for the remainder of the contract. The White Sox are going to essentially be enjoying the prime years of one of the game’s best hitters for about 40 percent of his market salary. The deal doesn’t come with any long-term risk, really; even if Abreu regresses heavily, he’ll still be worth the contract unless he gets injured. Kudos to Rick Hahn for aggressively pursuing Abreu last winter, as Abreu’s signing breathed life into an organization that badly needed it.

Rank Name Age Team Position Projected WAR Controlled Through Contract Dollars Last Year
9 Evan Longoria 28 TB 3B 5.1 2023 $152,600,000 5
The former king of this exercise, Longoria’s slide continues, as he falls out of the top five for the first time since signing his original contract back in 2008. In order to keep him in Tampa, the Rays had to guarantee him real money this time around, and Longoria is having the worst offensive season of his career, so the two factors that drive trade value are both trending the wrong way.

However, let’s not overstate the decline here; a down year from Longoria is still going to result in a +3 WAR season, and there’s no reason to think this is his new level of production going forward. And that more expensive contract? He still won’t make more than $15 million in a year until 2021. Longoria remains one of the game’s best players and most underpaid players, and while he might not be as good or as underpaid as he used to be, he’s still a massive bargain compared to everyone else in baseball.

Rank Name Age Team Position Projected WAR Controlled Through Contract Dollars Last Year
8 Manny Machado 21 BAL 3B 4.2 2019 Pre-Arb – Arb3 3
Since Machado ranked third on this list a year ago, he blew out his knee, had surgery, has failed to take a step forward offensively from where he was last year, and threw a bat at an opposing player. I know it’s tempting to have a negative view on Machado right now, but let’s keep some perspective here; Machado just turned 22 years old. He’s six months younger than Kris Bryant and 10 months younger than Gregory Polanco. Machado would be age-appropriate in Double-A, and young for the league in Triple-A. Instead, he’s a big leaguer who is pushing +10 WAR for his career.

Yes, that’s because defensive metrics love his performance in the field, but it’s not like that’s an outlandish claim; everyone who watches him loves the defense as well, and if the Orioles did make him available for trade, nearly every suitor would likely plan on moving him back to shortstop. And there just aren’t that many shortstops who can be league average big league hitters before they can legally drink.

Guys who can hit like in the big leagues at this age often turn into monster offensive performers as they get older, and Machado projects to be something not too different from what Evan Longoria was in his prime if he stays at third base. If he moves back to shortstop and shows above average range there? The sky is the limit. Don’t let the last few months distract from what Machado has done to date, and what that performance says about his future.

Rank Name Age Team Position Projected WAR Controlled Through Contract Dollars Last Year
7 Salvador Perez 24 KC C 4.0 2019 $18,500,000 36
If there’s one piece of feedback I got more clearly than any other last year, it was that I was too low on Salvador Perez. I had one friend in the game tell me should have been in the top five, and I had him at 36. My bad, Kansas City. Consider this a mea culpa.

Perez might not yet be the best catcher in baseball, but there are a lot of people convinced that he’s going to be in the near future. He’s basically a power spike away from being Jonathan Lucroy, only he’s four years younger than Milwaukee’s backstop, and at a point where many catchers are still honing their craft in the minors. And while framing metrics don’t love him the same way they do Lucroy, his defensive reputation is still stellar, as he shuts down the running game as well as anyone.

And then there’s the contract. Because the Royals locked up Perez after just 39 big league games, he’s set to make $2 million each of the next two years, and then they have team options for three additional years at $4 million, $5 million, and $6 million respectively. It’s $19 million over five seasons, or an average of $4 million per year. The best catcher in the American league is signed to the kind of deal you give a decent middle reliever.

Perez doesn’t even have to get any better to be one of the biggest steals in baseball. If he does improve, though, he might eventually challenge for the top spot on this list.

Rank Name Age Team Position Projected WAR Controlled Through Contract Dollars Last Year
6 Troy Tulowitzki 29 COL SS 6.4 2021 $129,000,000 13
For the most part, the top half of this list is full of guys whose trade value is basically unknowable, because they’re just too valuable to get traded. Guys this good, on contracts this reasonable, don’t get moved. Depending on what the Rockies decide to do this winter, though, we might just find out what the trade value of the game’s second best player really is.

It’s going to take a ridiculous haul to get him out of Colorado, though, and rightfully so. Even with $130 million left on his deal, Tulowitzki is making about a little more than half of his market value. As a six win player, Tulo is worth something in the range of $35 to $40 million to per year, so while he might not be cheap, he’s still an amazing value, even while making $20 million per season.

It’s legitimately difficult to imagine what a package for Tulowitzki might cost an acquiring team. There’s basically no such thing as an off-limits player in that kind of deal. If Colorado decides to move him, we might end up seeing baseball’s version of the Herschel Walker trade.

Rank Name Age Team Position Projected WAR Controlled Through Contract Dollars Last Year
5 Yasiel Puig 23 LAD OF 4.4 2018 Arb2 – Arb3 24
This is another instance where the table doesn’t adequately explain the contract. Puig has four years left on the seven year, $42 million contract he originally signed with the Dodgers, and will $5 million next year and $6 million the year after that. However, the contract gives him the right to opt into arbitration after three years of Major League service, and he’ll almost certainly void the final two years of his deal and receive arbitration salaries rather than $14 million combined he’s slated to make in the last two years of his contract.

Assuming Puig keeps playing well, he could easily land $30 million in arbitration in those two years, so his total cost over the next four seasons is probably closer to $40 million than the $24 million he’s scheduled to make under his contract. But $24 million, $40 million, it’s all just peanuts compared to what Puig does on the field.

Even with a recent slump, Puig’s wRC+ is down to just 160, matching the same number he put up last year. And he’s doing it without fully developed power yet; he still hits the ball on the ground too frequently, and only 13% of his fly balls have gone over the wall this season. Puig’s obviously filled out physically, but as he learns to adapt his swing to take more advantage of the value of getting the ball in the air, there’s room for even more power than he’s showing right now.

He might not be the all around force that some players are, but offensively, there are few better young hitters in baseball than the Dodgers right fielder. And even with the potential for two arbitration salaries down the line, he’s still going to remain a ridiculous bargain.

Rank Name Age Team Position Projected WAR Controlled Through Contract Dollars Last Year
4 Bryce Harper 21 WAS OF 4.0 2018 Arb1 – Arb3 2
Like with Machado, it’s important to take a bigger picture view than focusing solely on the last couple of months. Harper is actually even younger than Machado, in fact, and even with his 2014 slump, he owns a career 124 wRC+ despite playing in the big leagues at ages when most players are fighting their way through A-ball. Yes, there are injury and maturity questions with Harper, but he remains a generational talent, and one who has established a track record that tells us more than a bad couple of months.

Going forward, there are few hitters in baseball you’d rather have than Harper. He might not be a premium defender or a great baserunner, but the bat is still a potential Hall-of-Fame tool. As a reminder, Miguel Cabrera‘s career wrC+ through age 21 was 121. Hank Aaron was at 127. We’ve been spoiled by the greatest performance of a young player in the history of the game, and Harper has been overshadowed by the player he came up with, but let’s not forget that what Harper has done to this point is an historical rarity as well.

He’s had a rough couple of months, but he’s still a franchise player, and the struggles will also serve to reduce his arbitration costs. Harper is still a fantastically valuable asset with remarkable upside, and that’s what teams would focus on if the Nationals ever made him available.

Rank Name Age Team Position Projected WAR Controlled Through Contract Dollars Last Year
3 Paul Goldschmidt 26 ARI 1B 4.1 2019 $43,000,000 9
Goldschmidt’s place here is a reminder of just how hard it is to scout hitting talent. He was an 8th round selection in the 2009 draft. Baseball America never even ranked him as one of the Diamondbacks 10 best prospects, much less considering him for their Top 100. In their final scouting report on him from before the 2011 season, they wrote that “some scouts see (the strikeouts) as an indication that he may struggle against better pitching as he moves higher in the system.”

This isn’t a knock on BA. They were reporting what they were being told by the professionals. The same ones who didn’t see him as a serious prospect out of college. And now, he might be the best hitter in the National League.

And yet, he’ll make a grand total of $43 million over the next five years. $8 million per year. It’s enough money to live on, certainly, but it’s probably about 25%-30% of his market value. There are a lot of things wrong in Arizona, but drafting, developing, and extending Paul Goldschmidt covers a multitude of sins. They might need to make some serious changes, but at least they have a franchise first baseman to build around.

Rank Name Age Team Position Projected WAR Controlled Through Contract Dollars Last Year
2 Andrew McCutchen 27 PIT OF 5.7 2018 $51,500,000 4
There’s an argument to be made for McCutchen to take the top spot on this list. He’s not the best player in baseball, but at just $52 million for the next four years, he’s a remarkable value. From the beginning of next season through the end of his deal, McCutchen’s remaining contract will pay him what the Cubs gave Edwin Jackson as a free agent a couple of years ago. Yeah.

That said, when comparing McCutchen to the guy who we all know is coming next, we have to factor in the fact that he “only” has four years left of team control, and the next contract for McCutchen isn’t going to come so cheaply. He gave the Pirates a huge discount on his first deal, and they probably can’t count on getting another steal next time.

Enjoy him, Pittsburgh. He might not stick around forever, but appreciate him while he’s there. McCutchen is truly one of the game’s very best players.

Rank Name Age Team Position Projected WAR Controlled Through Contract Dollars Last Year
1 Mike Trout 22 LAA OF 7.6 2020 $139,500,000 1
I guess this was probably obvious, given the title of the post I wrote when he signed his long-term deal with the Angels. To be honest, I tried to talk myself into ranking McCutchen or Goldschmidt #1, because the list is less interesting when it’s the same guy at the top every single year. I tried to see if there was a way to argue that the reduced cost made either one more valuable, given the savings that could then be reinvested back into the roster.

The math just doesn’t work, though. Over the next six years, Trout projects to be worth something like +50 WAR, and he’ll earn $140 million for that production. Even if you don’t start aging McCutchen for a few more years, he projects at around +30 WAR over those same six years, two of which he isn’t under contract for. Even if we conservatively estimate that he’ll earn $30 million per year in those two years — ignoring the rest of the contract that would be required to get those two seasons in the first place — then he’d make about $110 million for that +30 WAR. In other words, having McCutchen instead of Trout might save you $30 million but cost you +20 WAR in the process. Good luck buying a +3 WAR player at $1.5 million per win in order to make up the gap.

Whether it’s boring or not, Trout is just on another level. He’s our generation’s Mickey Mantle. He’s the best young player we’ve ever seen. And when it came time to get paid, he gave the Angels a significant discount anyway.

Eventually, baseball will give us an alternative at the top of this list. He’ll get more expensive, and maybe he’ll get worse — though, again, he’s only six months older than Kris Bryant — and some other great young player will come around and offer more years of team control at lower prices. Trout won’t be a despot, ruling over the Trade Value list until he dies.

But it’s going to be a while before he gets dethroned. Andrew McCutchen is amazing and insanely cheap. Paul Goldschmidt is incredible, and signed a ridiculously team friendly contract. And neither one can even make a validargument for the top spot. It’s Trout, and then 49 guys fighting for #2. All hail the King of Trade Value.

And now, for the list in its entirety.

Rank Name Age Team Position Projected WAR Controlled Through Contract Dollars Last Year
50 Yan Gomes 26 CLE C 3.4 2021 $40,950,000 Unranked
49 Starling Marte 25 PIT OF 3.0 2021 $52,500,000 31
48 Kyle Seager 26 SEA 3B 3.4 2017 Arb1 – Arb3 Unranked
47 Alex Cobb 26 TB SP 3.1 2017 Arb1 – Arb3 Unranked
46 Edwin Encarnacion 31 TOR DH 3.7 2016 $20,000,000 45
45 Julio Teheran 23 ATL SP 2.3 2020 $41,600,000 Unranked
44 Chris Archer 25 TB SP 2.4 2021 $42,250,000 Unranked
43 Devin Mesoraco 26 CIN C 3.0 2017 Arb1 – Arb3 Unranked
42 Corey Kluber 28 CLE SP 3.8 2018 Pre-Arb – Arb3 Unranked
41 Michael Brantley 27 CLE OF 2.6 2018 $30,000,000 Unranked
40 David Wright 31 NYM 3B 4.1 2020 $107,000,000 21
39 Dustin Pedroia 30 BOS 2B 4.2 2021 $107,500,000 25
38 Byron Buxton 20 MIN OF 1.2 TBD Pre-Arb – Arb3 Unranked
37 Jose Quintana 25 CHW SP 3.3 2020 $40,650,000 Unranked
36 Billy Hamilton 23 CIN OF 2.7 2019 Pre-Arb – Arb3 Unranked
35 Matt Carpenter 28 STL 3B 3.9 2020 $66,000,000 Unranked
34 Jose Fernandez 21 MIA SP 4.8 2018 Pre-Arb – Arb3 17
33 Carlos Gomez 28 MIL OF 4.8 2016 $17,000,000 33
32 Yordano Ventura 23 KC SP 2.8 2019 Pre-Arb – Arb3 Unranked
31 Sonny Gray 24 OAK SP 3.0 2019 Pre-Arb – Arb3 Unranked
30 Gregory Polanco 22 PIT OF 1.5 2020 Pre-Arb – Arb3 Unranked
29 Kris Bryant 22 CHC 3B 2.8 TBD Pre-Arb – Arb3 Unranked
28 Andrelton Simmons 24 ATL SS 3.8 2020 $56,000,000 Unranked
27 Jose Bautista 33 TOR OF 4.8 2016 $28,000,000 35
26 Stephen Strasburg 25 WAS SP 4.4 2016 Arb2 – Arb3 14
25 Matt Harvey 25 NYM SP 3.8 2018 Pre-Arb – Arb3 7
24 Freddie Freeman 24 ATL 1B 3.7 2021 $123,500,000 Unranked
23 Xander Bogaerts 21 BOS SS 2.0 2019 Pre-Arb – Arb3 29
22 Yadier Molina 31 STL C 4.5 2017 $43,000,000 11
21 Buster Posey 27 SF C 4.9 2022 $165,500,000 6
20 Adam Wainwright 32 STL SP 3.9 2018 $78,000,000 23
19 Felix Hernandez 28 SEA SP 5.7 2019 $129,000,000 22
18 Madison Bumgarner 24 SF SP 3.3 2019 $52,000,000 19
17 Josh Donaldson 28 OAK 3B 4.5 2018 Arb1 – Arb4 Unranked
16 Yu Darvish 27 TEX SP 5.1 2016 $20,000,000 20
15 Giancarlo Stanton 24 MIA OF 5.0 2016 Arb2 – Arb3 8
14 Jonathan Lucroy 28 MIL C 3.9 2017 $12,250,000 Unranked
13 Anthony Rendon 24 WAS 2B 3.5 2019 Pre-Arb – Arb3 44
12 Anthony Rizzo 24 CHC 1B 3.3 2021 $64,000,000 37
11 Chris Sale 25 CHW SP 5.0 2019 $53,150,000 16
10 Jose Abreu 27 CHW 1B 3.9 2019 $51,000,000 Unranked
9 Evan Longoria 28 TB 3B 5.1 2023 $152,600,000 5
8 Manny Machado 21 BAL 3B 4.2 2019 Pre-Arb – Arb3 3
7 Salvador Perez 24 KC C 4.0 2019 $18,500,000 36
6 Troy Tulowitzki 29 COL SS 6.4 2021 $129,000,000 13
5 Yasiel Puig 23 LAD OF 4.4 2018 Arb2 – Arb3 24
4 Bryce Harper 21 WAS OF 4.0 2018 Arb1 – Arb3 2
3 Paul Goldschmidt 26 ARI 1B 4.1 2019 $43,000,000 9
2 Andrew McCutchen 27 PIT OF 5.7 2018 $51,500,000 4
1 Mike Trout 22 LAA OF 7.6 2020 $139,500,000 1
Thanks for tolerating my experiment early in the week, and for enjoying this series every summer. We’ll do it again next year. Trout will probably be #1 then too.
post #24662 of 73000
Thread Starter 
Midseason top five farm systems.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Ranking all 30 organizations based on their minor league talent is a major undertaking each winter, which is why I always decline to do a re-ranking during the season. There's simply no way I could do it justice given the amount of work it requires.

We've had a couple of major news events that affected two of the teams near the top of last offseason's rankings, however, and a slew of questions from readers about whose system is now at the top of the heap. So here's a revised look at the top five, considering only what's in the systems right now and excluding anyone on major league rosters.

1. Chicago Cubs

I know Cubs fans have heard this before, but just wait 'til next year, because this club is going to get good in a hurry, at least on the run-scoring side of the ledger. The system already had the minors' best collection of high-end bats, and it added several more over the past seven weeks, including the fourth-best prospect in the minors in shortstop Addison Russell, who came over with promising left fielder Billy McKinney in the Jeff Samardzija trade.

The Cubs also added catcher/left fielder Kyle Schwarber with the fourth overall pick in this year's draft. It's a pick I think was an overdraft in part due to doubts he will stick at either position, but he has raked so far in limited at-bats, mostly against younger competition. They used the savings on Schwarber's bonus to grab several high-upside high school arms later in the draft, including right-hander Dylan Cease, whose elbow ligament injury might require Tommy John surgery but who was seen as a top-15 pick talent before his injury. Cease has a fastball that can touch 100 mph and at times a plus breaking ball. The Cubs also have some promising hitters on their AZL club (rookie league) from their Latin American spending spree in 2013, including bonus babies Gleyber Torres (from Venezuela) and Eloy Jimenez (from the Dominican Republic), both just 17 years old.

These infusions have helped balance out a few disappointments in the system of players I ranked highly coming out of last year. Albert Almora has been a disappointment (.306 OBP in high Class A), continuing his record of awful walk rates in pro ball to date. C.J. Edwards and Pierce Johnson, their top two arms coming into the year, both have missed substantial time with injuries; Edwards is still on the shelf, and Johnson hasn't been effective at Double-A when healthy. Jeimer Candelario, whose only tool was his bat, hasn't hit at two levels and is about to be buried by the wave of infield prospects ahead of him. Scott Frazier, their sixth-round pick last year, appears to have the yips, with 12 walks and four hit batsmen in 22 batters faced.

Most of the successful arms in the system this year have been pitchers at low-Class A Kane County, particularly undersized Taiwanese right-hander Tseng Jen-Ho and 2012 draftee Paul Blackburn, which means the Cubs probably won't get the starting pitching help they need from their system in the next year or two. Fortunately for them and their fans, they have the bats to trade to acquire pitching from outside the organization.

This has to be the most loaded the Cubs' farm has been in at least 30 years.

2. Minnesota Twins

Byron Buxton, the No. 1 prospect in baseball coming into the year and No. 2 in my latest ranking, is finally warming up with Class A Fort Myers after missing nearly three months with wrist injuries, although he did sit out last weekend after getting hit by a pitch on his right wrist. (X-rays were negative for a fracture, so he should be able to come back soon.) Kohl Stewart, their first pick in last year's draft (fourth overall), is having an outstanding pro debut, throwing strikes and missing bats as a 19-year-old in low Class A, mollifying some concerns about his lack of polish and need to clean up his delivery. Jose Berrios, No. 6 in the system coming into the year, has made huge progress with his changeup, and he has torn apart the Florida State League.

This year, the Twins landed the draft's top position-player prospect, shortstop Nick Gordon, with their first pick then went against type with a run of power relievers, including a pair of right-handers who have hit 100 mph in college, Nick Burdi and Michael Cederoth, although I would have liked to have seen a starter mixed in there somewhere. Even with Miguel Sano missing the year due to Tommy John surgery and Max Kepler taking a step backward even though he's now healthy, it's the majors' second-best system.

3. Houston Astros

You might have heard this, but it's been a rough summer for the Astros. Carlos Correa, their top prospect, broke his fibula, although his long-term outlook isn't changed by that. Their top arm, Mark Appel, has a 10.80 ERA in high Class A. Delino DeShields Jr. took a ball to the face and has understandably had a down year since then.

And the team was unable to reach an agreement with its first- or fifth-round picks -- it's a long story -- turning one of the year's best draft classes into one of its weakest. On top of that, the Astros promoted two of their top prospects, George Springer and Jon Singleton, to the majors, which is good for them but bad for their rankings. It's still a deep system and I believe Correa and Appel have better things ahead of them in 2015, but it's not the unassailable machine it appeared to be five months ago.

4. New York Mets

The Mets have graduated a few prospects to the majors -- Travis d'Arnaud (No. 2 in the system coming into the year) and Jacob deGrom (No. 13) in particular -- but the guys still in the system have nearly all taken steps forward. Noah Syndergaard (No. 1) has had an excellent year in the pitchers' hell of Las Vegas. Brandon Nimmo (No. 5) is hitting for power now that he's out of Savannah, a terrible park for left-handed power hitters. Catcher Kevin Plawecki (No. 6) continues to receive well, as expected, but he also has hit well enough to push himself up to Triple-A in his second full season.

Eighteen-year-old shortstop Amed Rosario doesn't look out of place among older players in the New York-Penn League, and he has the instincts and reactions to stay at short if he can find some consistency in the field. And they added the most polished hitter in this year's draft class, Michael Conforto, who led Division I in OBP. They still have a ton of arms but are heavier on bats at the corners than in the middle infield or center, although Rosario might eventually make up for Gavin Cecchini's .194/.269/.247 line in high Class A.

5. Pittsburgh Pirates

There's a gap between the top four systems and the rest of the pack, with the Pirates leading the remainder despite losing budding superstar Gregory Polanco to the major league side. It has been a mixed year for the Bucs, with Jameson Taillon missing the season due to Tommy John surgery, first-rounder Reese McGuire scuffling at the plate (although he's young for his level) and first-rounder Austin Meadows missing nearly three months with a severe hamstring injury.

That said, there's still a lot of upside across the system, including Meadows, Taillon, right-hander Tyler Glasnow (now rolling after an early-season back injury), outfielder Harold Ramirez and MLB-ready starter Nick Kingham, as well as one of my favorite draft classes of 2014. The Pirates might not hold this ranking, however, if they use some of this prospect depth to add something to the big league squad before the end of July.
post #24663 of 73000
post #24664 of 73000
Originally Posted by 011781 View Post

and lol @ Pedro Alvarez tagging NT in his IG posts.. he be lurking

Thought it was well known.

What the Padres got for Headley... eek.gif Talk about letting your asset hit rock bottom before selling. Byrnes out there somewhere holding on to beanie babies.
Instagram: backyardlobo
Instagram: backyardlobo
post #24665 of 73000
Tom Verducci:

Support of an “illegal defense” rule – or at least the consideration of it – is gaining some traction in baseball. Such a rule might stipulate, for instance, that you cannot have three infielders on one side of second base. A shortstop would be able to shift as far as directly behind second base on a lefthanded hitter, but no farther.
post #24666 of 73000
Originally Posted by RyGuy45 View Post

Tom Verducci:

Support of an “illegal defense” rule – or at least the consideration of it – is gaining some traction in baseball. Such a rule might stipulate, for instance, that you cannot have three infielders on one side of second base. A shortstop would be able to shift as far as directly behind second base on a lefthanded hitter, but no farther.

good rule laugh.gif
Boston Bruins | New England Patriots | Boston Red Sox | Georgetown Hoyas | Michigan Wolverines |
Arsenal FC | Huevos Rancheros Hockey | USMNT
Boston Bruins | New England Patriots | Boston Red Sox | Georgetown Hoyas | Michigan Wolverines |
Arsenal FC | Huevos Rancheros Hockey | USMNT
post #24667 of 73000
Thread Starter 
In other words:

"Our left handed hitters are way too stupid to figure out how to hit the ball to the other 50% of the field and when they try to trick team with bunts, some sand magically appears in the opposing pitcher's vagina. So we're going to try our best to kill the shift."
post #24668 of 73000
That's a retarded rule
PSN: Aiinatural
Go Hawks, Mariners, Ducks
PSN: Aiinatural
Go Hawks, Mariners, Ducks
post #24669 of 73000
Here is how the popularity of defensive shifts have affected left handed batters when they make contact to right field:

2006 - .436 BA
2007 - .401 BA
2008 - .410 BA
2009 - .401 BA
2010 - .399 BA
2011 - .378 BA
2012 - .364 BA
2013 - .373 BA
2014 - .349 BA
post #24670 of 73000
Thread Starter 
Padres missed chance with Headley.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The biggest criticism of the Josh Byrnes era in San Diego has to be the move he never made. Byrnes held on to Chase Headley even after Headley had a career year in 2012, and we're now into a second successively worse season after a bad 2013. An awful 2014 has seen Headley's offense drop well below average around an early-season DL stint. That poor decision came home to roost on Monday, as the Padres traded Headley for two players who didn't make the Yankees' top 10 prospects list in January.
[+] EnlargeChase Headley
Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports
Chase Headley's numbers have gone south since 2012.

At this point Headley might not have much to offer beyond defense, although the Yankees could use that at third base even if it doesn't come with much offense. He's an above-average defender at third, but has only shown power in one year of his career, that 2012 breakout season that looks more than ever like a fluke, but this year is also walking less often than he ever has, in part because pitchers can attack him due to his reduced potency. He's always been a better hitter from the left side, which is a good place to be in Yankee Stadium, but given how little pop he's shown the last two years I'm not sure it'll make much difference. He's replacing a bunch of minor-league types at third base, so perhaps this deal is worth an extra win to the Yankees this year.

In exchange for Headley, the Padres get a future reliever -- although he could turn out to be a pretty good one -- and a 4A player. I say Rafael De Paula is a future reliever even though he's a starter now, and even though Petco has turned many likely relievers into temporary starters over the years, but in a neutral park that's all De Paula is, a kid with a live fastball and poor command but no consistent second pitch yet.

I never bought into Yangervis Solarte's hot start, although that great month might keep him employed another five years; he's a career .288/.337/.413 hitter in AAA and would have become a free agent after the season when the Yankees inevitably outrighted him off their 40-man roster. I can't say the Padres should have gotten more, though, given how bad Headley has been this year and how not-that-much-better he was last year; a defensive specialist third baseman who used to have some pop and OBP skills isn't a highly valued commodity in today's trade market, especially not with most contenders set at third base.
post #24671 of 73000
Rules for the shift are so damn dumb. Learn how to hit to the other side or bunt.

I like Sterling calling the Yankees game. That broad Suzy is the worst. No idea how she still has a job.
post #24672 of 73000
I wish big baseball would stop trying to insult my intelligence.
post #24673 of 73000
Ortiz why you so slow??? laugh.gif
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post #24674 of 73000

jack white not pleased laugh.gif
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Arsenal FC | Huevos Rancheros Hockey | USMNT
post #24675 of 73000
pre-break sox are back mean.gif
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post #24676 of 73000
Originally Posted by DeadsetAce View Post

pre-break sox are back mean.gif

Scored all there runs lastnight aha

Trying to enjoy this phillies game somewhat it's been awhile since I actually sat down in front TV and watched a game just been looking up scores by SportCenter app/espn


Remind yourself. Nobody built like you, you design yourself !





Team T.A.N   







Remind yourself. Nobody built like you, you design yourself !





Team T.A.N   





post #24677 of 73000
Anthony Rizzo pimp.gif
post #24678 of 73000
Learn how to hit the other way, don't blame the shift
post #24679 of 73000
Brad Pit said it best "Adapt or Die"

post #24680 of 73000
O's, man. pimp.gif

Adam Jones won't win the MVP, but he should get plenty of consideration.

Not sure how Buck is doing it, but he's doing as good of a managerial job as I've seen during his stint in B-More.
post #24681 of 73000
Thread Starter 
Maybe he'll win a Gold Glove he actually might deserve this year laugh.gif

BTW, I don't want to hear about the Royals ever again as sleepers or anything of that sort. Or any of their prospects as can't miss. Aoki was supposed to be some great pickup, another overrated player. Infante was supposed to be some great deal, another overrated player. Hosmer supposed to be some can't miss hitting prospect, has no line drive power. Moustakas supposed to be some powerful prototypical 3rd baseman, the guy can barely recognize fastballs off of righties. It speaks volumes that he's leading them in HR's laugh.gif

They have HORRIFIC management and coaches from A ball all the way to the majors but every year, everyone ignores it and says they'll challenge Detroit. The only two guys worth a damn are Gordon and Perez and you never hear anyone talking about them.

post #24682 of 73000
We also see how the Royals' power situation is going sick.gif

Butler, Gordon, and Hosmer currently have 18 combined Home Runs in 1,222 plate appearances.

AL Team Home Runs

12. 78 - Red Sox
13. 73 - Twins
14. 71 - Rangers
15. 57 - Royals

13. 148 - White Sox
13. 148 - Astros
14. 144 - Yankees
15. 112 - Royals

11. 149 - Mariners
12. 136 - Indians
14. 131 - Twins
14. 131 - Royals
post #24683 of 73000
Originally Posted by DeadsetAce View Post

pre-break sox are back mean.gif
Did I accidentally jinx?
Originally Posted by RyGuy45 View Post

We also see how the Royals' power situation is going sick.gif

Butler, Gordon, and Hosmer currently have 18 combined Home Runs in 1,222 plate appearances.

AL Team Home Runs

12. 78 - Red Sox
13. 73 - Twins
14. 71 - Rangers
15. 57 - Royals

13. 148 - White Sox
13. 148 - Astros
14. 144 - Yankees
15. 112 - Royals

11. 149 - Mariners
12. 136 - Indians
14. 131 - Twins
14. 131 - Royals
Hosmer always turns up second-half.
post #24684 of 73000
Thread Starter 
IDK why it annoys me so much but maybe it goes back to like 07/08 when they got crowned with the best minors and everyone was fawning over them laugh.gif

They're not going anywhere with Dayton Moore there but they refuse to change anything at all. Ned Yost should have been gone a while ago.

Gordon won't give you power but he's a really good line drive hitter and gives you a lot of value with his glove/arm in left.
post #24685 of 73000
illegal defense would be dumb. i like the shift. forces the hitter to adapt. learn how to go the other way or bunt.
post #24686 of 73000
Originally Posted by JohnnyRedStorm View Post

illegal defense would be dumb. i like the shift. forces the hitter to adapt. learn how to go the other way or bunt.

Then you'll have dummies like Colby Lewis complain
post #24687 of 73000
i'd tell colby to stop being a ***** and out pitch them. he's a clown for those comments. some unwritten rules i get but that's not one of them laugh.gif
post #24688 of 73000
Thread Starter 
For Lee's trade value, it's all about now.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
There are two windows in every baseball calendar year in which small sample size really matters. In October, of course; as Bucky Dent, Aaron Boone and Dave Roberts can attest, bits and pieces of success can live forever.

The other time frame in which one game or one week can make a difference -- really good or really bad -- is just before the trade deadline. Multiple scouts were dispatched to watch Cliff Lee in his return to the rotation Monday, the 322nd regular-season start of his career. Rival executives are well aware of all that Lee had accomplished before Monday’s game, with the Cy Young Award and the four All-Star appearances and the postseason dominance, but all they wanted to know was how is Lee throwing the ball right now, in this moment of his career, as they assess whether to pursue a deal with the Phillies.

Everything he had done before that game is really irrelevant; the only thing that really matters is what he’s capable of, relative to the $48 million or so still guaranteed to him for the next 1 1/3 seasons, and the prevailing opinion after the game among rival officials is that Lee was really bad against the Giants.

Here’s the beauty of this time of year, however. When Lee makes his next start Saturday against the Diamondbacks, he could change that perception dramatically with one dominant start. Look, the Phillies will be lucky to get out from underneath the contract between now and July 31 unless they make it a priority to move on and demonstrate a willingness to eat a lot of money and take a lesser prospect. But Lee could help their effort to trade him by pitching well in four days.

For other teams and players, small sample size will mean something:

The Tampa Bay Rays: At a time when they’re evaluating what to do with David Price, Ben Zobrist, et al, they just keep winning, day after day; after beating Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals on Tuesday night, they are 24-11 since June 10, and now just 5.5 games out of the wild card race, playing better than any AL team.

Along the way Tuesday, Joe Maddon yelled at Wainwright, who had yelled at him, and Maddon got ejected because of a misunderstanding.

Jake Peavy: He is 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA, but what will matter to interested teams -- and he’d be a great fit for the Giants and his former manager Bruce Bochy, who need to find somebody to step into Matt Cain’s spot in the rotation -- is how he’s throwing the ball lately. He pitched through some physical trouble earlier this season, but has been better over the last month, generally. Peavy allowed five runs in 6 1/3 innings Tuesday night, and in his previous three starts, he had surrendered six earned runs in 19 innings, with five walks and 19 strikeouts. It makes all the sense in the world for the Red Sox to move Peavy and clear a spot for a younger starter, and for the Giants or the Cardinals to add him, if the price is right.

• Peavy ranks 89 among 94 qualified starters in run support. (Incidentally: three of the bottom four pitchers in run support wear the same uniform.)

Most consecutive decisions lost
*Single season by a former Cy Young winner

Pitcher Losses Season
Jake Peavy 9 2014
Barry Zito 9 2010
Denny McLain 9 1971
Warren Spahn 9 1965
From the Elias Sports Bureau: Peavy is 0-9 over his last 15 starts. That ties the most consecutive losses (in decisions) in a single season by a pitcher who previously won the Cy Young award.

Peavy represents changes this year, as he did last year, writes Rob Bradford. Boston’s five-game winning streak is over.

Chase Headley: His small sample size with the Yankees so far is pretty good. Brian Cashman explained that the Yankees liked what they saw in the velocity readings of balls that Headley had hit following the epidural he received for a back issue.

Headley finished fifth in the MVP voting in 2012 after not putting up numbers anything close to that beforehand, and because of that, the Padres waited and waited to see if he could repeat that performance -- and dangled moderate offers. Headley rejected the proposals, preferring to also wait to post similar numbers to 2012. It didn’t happen, and now Headley has about two months in a hitters’ park to rebuild his value in free agency for the fall.

The Minnesota Twins: They went into the All-Star break on the buy/sell fence, but probably leaning toward selling -- and since then, they just keep losing.

Kurt Suzuki might be a one-of-a-kind item in the trade market -- a good everyday catcher having a good year. He will have value, particularly for a contender that sees a frontline catcher go down over the next week.

The New York Mets: They really don’t have much going in the way of trade stuff right now, according to MLB officials, although they would like to shed Bartolo Colon’s contract. Daniel Murphy just made the All-Star team and is an interesting player because he’s a sound hitter, but any team that wanted to acquire him would not only have to pay the Mets for Murphy’s value as a player, but what he represents to the Mets’ franchise -- which has some evaluators very skeptical that the team will trade him in the next eight days.

• Murphy might be someone who interests the Reds, writes John Fay.

Aaron Hill: At a time when the Yankees, Oakland and Giants are considering upgrades at second base, he is playing better, as Zach Buchanan writes.

But remember: Hill is owed about $4 million for the rest of this year, as well as $12 million for 2015 and $12 million for 2016. Presumably, other teams would want the Diamondbacks to eat some of that salary.

Trade stuff

1. Analytics contributed to the acquisition of Headley, writes John Harper.

2. Derrick Goold fields with trade-related questions, re: the Cardinals.

3. There’s no rush for the Phillies to make trades, writes David Murphy.

4. Antonio Bastardo's trade value is at its highest, writes Ryan Lawrence.

5. The Pirates and A.J. Burnett could join forces again.

6. The Cubs designated Darwin Barney for assignment. They’ve tried to trade him in the past.

7. The Tigers’ need in the bullpen continues to be an issue. It’s hard to imagine Detroit -- a team constructed to win the World Series -- will get past the deadline without adding Joaquin Benoit, Joakim Soria or a comparable reliever. Tuesday’s loss highlighted the need for relief help, writes Lynn Henning. Personally, I think Soria fits the best.

8. The Royals won’t be deadline sellers, says GM Dayton Moore.

9. You have to wonder if the Cardinals might be open to moving Randy Choate, given that Kevin Siegrist is coming back today and Choate is pitching rarely. Choate is under contract for $3 million for this year, and for $3 million for next year.

10. The Marlins remain interested in Jim Johnson.

11. Tommy Milone’s trade request has probably gotten more play than he expected, says Bob Melvin. Yep, undoubtedly. Would’ve been a much better career move to lay low and wait for the next opportunity. A lot of organizations in the position that Oakland is in now would entrench -- not respond, in other words, so that this sort of request is not rewarded and leads to similar requests from other players. Milone isn’t even eligible for arbitration yet. It’s too bad that someone didn’t get to him to have him to back off before this became public.

Ryan Zimmerman
Greg Fiume/Getty Images
Ryan Zimmerman left Tuesday's game against the Rockies with a strained right hamstring.
12. The Padres got a couple of journeymen in return for Chase Headley, but nobody should be surprised; that’s a fair deal for a struggling veteran only two-plus months away from becoming a free agent.

• Ryan Zimmerman appears to have suffered a significant injury.

• The Orioles are responding to the challenge coming out of the All-Star break.

• Gregory Polanco had a great at-bat right in the middle of the Pirates’ win over the Dodgers.

Dings and dents

1. Manny Machado was scratched with back spasms.

2. Drew VerHagen went on the disabled list.

3. Joel Peralta landed on the disabled list.

4. George Springer is dealing with some injury issues.

5. Geovany Soto landed on the disabled list.

6. Troy Tulowitzki landed on the disabled list again. You assume that at least some of his many injuries have been related to the effects of playing all of his home games in thin air.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Aaron Sanchez was promoted and will pitch out of the Toronto bullpen.

Tuesday’s games

1. Jacob deGrom was dealing.

2. Adam Eaton extended his hitting streak.

3. The Brewers are having a good week.

4. For the Reds, the losing continues.

5. The Indians had another good night.

6. The Royals continue to be the strangest team in baseball, losing when they are under the most pressure and winning whenever we’re about to dismiss them.

7. Control problems hurt Adam Wainwright.

8. A Braves rally fell short.

9. The Jays bounced back.

10. The Giants had a great win, with help from Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Tim Lincecum.

11. Josh Hamilton has been losing his clout in the cleanup spot.

12. The Mariners got a good start but lost.

AL West

• The Athletics lost to the Astros, but Scott Kazmir lowered his season ERA to 2.32.

From the Elias Sports Bureau: Kazmir is the first Athletics pitcher with an ERA that low through 20 starts since Mike Moore (2.12) in 1989 (the Athletics won the World Series that season). Kazmir has allowed 1 earned run or fewer in four straight starts, posting an ERA of just 1.03 in that span (the Athletics have lost two of those four starts).

• The Rangers are improving, writes Jeff Wilson.

AL Central

• Justin Masterson was kicking around a soccer ball.

NL West

• Yasiel Puig as a center fielder might not be the best thing, writes Steve Dilbeck.


• For MLB pitchers, a question about protective headgear is vanity or sanity.

• Tony La Russa needs to overhaul the Diamondbacks, writes Dan Bickley.

• Derek Jeter reached a milestone.

• Bud Selig was lauded.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Prospect Watch: Angels System Is Not Empty… Yet.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Victor Alcantara, RHP, Los Angeles Angels (Profile)
Level: Low-A Age: 21 Top-15: N/A Top-100: N/A
Line: 87.0 IP, 48-79 BB-K, 64 H, 4.03 ERA

With the recent trade for the Padres’ Huston Street, the Angels all but emptied their minor league system.
The deal can be categorized as “quantity over quality” due to the lack of ceiling for many players in the system but the club still surrendered four prospects that likely would have landed on the post-season Top 15 prospects list (shortstop Jose Rondon, second baseman Taylor Lindsey as well as pitchers Elliot Morris and R.J. Alvarez).

In the wake of the trade, the Angels’ best prospects are low-level lottery tickets, recent draftees and a couple players with modest ceilings. Victor Alcantara — the organization’s most intriguing arm behind 17-year-old Ricardo Sanchez — falls into the first category.

The Dominican-born right-hander recently appeared in the MiLB Futures Game and is now in his third pro season — his first in full-season ball. At this point in his career he’s more of a “thrower than a “pitcher” but he tantalizes prospect evaluators with a mid-90s fastball that can tickle the upper levels. He’s pitched 87.0 innings in 2014 while allowing just 64 hits and whiffing 79, but his walk total of 48 shows how volatile his control is. Alcantara routinely struggles to command his fastball.

He’s interesting because he occasionally flashes a better-than-average breaking ball that causes hitters to look foolish. Other times, though, he drops his elbow and the pitch takes off on him and flatten out. The break is inconsistent at the best of times, going from loopy to tight with the drop of a hat.

Rarely does Alcantara throw a changeup. For that reason, combined with his stiff delivery, the young pitcher looks headed for a future role in the bullpen. He even throws exclusively from the stretch when he starts. Don’t get me wrong, Alcantara has a time to iron out the wrinkles in his game and settle into a permanent starter’s role but I truly think the cards are stacked against him.

And with his powerful heater (generated in part by his strong lower half), impressive ground-ball rates and durable frame he could develop into a key back-of-the-bullpen arm — especially if he can improve his command and control a full grade over the next few years. If not, he could still be a strong seventh inning reliever, or back-of-the-rotation innings-eater.

* * *
Ryan Rua, IF/OF, Texas Rangers (Profile)
Level: Double-A/Triple-A Age: 24 Top-15: N/A Top-100: N/A
Line: 377 PA, .299/.369/.488, 15 HR, 5 SB, 37-73 BB-K

Hitting 32 home runs in 2013 was both a blessing and a curse for Ryan Rua. On one hand, the versatile fielder landed on prospect evaluators’ “must watch” list. On the other, though, the unexpected offensive barrage set unrealistic expectations for future production (just ask Mitch Einertson).

The 24-year-old Rangers prospect produced those power numbers split between (mostly) Low-A ball and Double-A ball — after he skipped High-A ball entirely. While producing those numbers both his batting average (.247) and, more importantly, his on-base percentage (.347) struggled and gave him the appearance of a one-dimensional player.

Fast-forward a year, though, and Rua is showing signs of becoming a more complete player while splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A. He’s still hit 15 home runs in 92 games but he’s hitting just below .300 and his on-base percentage is up to .369 — numbers more in line with his first two pro seasons.

The big issue for Rua is where he’s going to play on a baseball field. The majority of his experience has come at the hot corner but his results have been just so-so… a sentiment that can be shared during his time at second base. He’s dabbled at first base, as well as in the corner outfield slots. He’s likely headed for a future as an offensive-minded utility player capable of playing four to five times a week if needed.

Now in his fourth pro season, the former 17th round pick is due to be added to the 40-man roster by November (at the latest) or he’ll be exposed to the Rule 5 draft. The Rangers will most likely protect him so don’t be surprised to see him added to the roster in September for a brief taste of The Show.

Midseason Pick-Ups and Fighting Regression.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I remember… some of the details about the clearest time regression to the mean was ever explained to me. It wasn’t explained to me personally; it was a blog post somewhere, or maybe a print-published article, and it simply showed league-leading batting averages, and then the batting averages for the same players the next season. If you’re familiar with the concept of regression, of course you know that, the next season, the batting averages were pretty much all down. It couldn’t have been more simple, and it couldn’t have been more helpful, and regression is so common a term now within baseball analysis that we all get to feel like part-time mathematicians. Especially around here, most people are smart enough to factor regression into almost everything.

It applies between seasons, and it applies within seasons. It’s a little like gravity — it’s always a factor, whether you like it or not, and it’s built into good player projections. It’s built into good standings projections. If a player has been really good for a time, odds are, going forward, he’s going to be less good. If a team has been really good for a time, odds are, the same thing. Regression is among the more powerful forces, but there is some evidence of teams being able to fight it off. Let’s talk about midseason trades.

Trade talk is all the rage right now, with the soft deadline coming up in just over a week. It’s possible there could be some true blockbusters, if the Rays decide to move David Price, or if the Royals decide to move James Shields, or if the Red Sox decide to move Jon Lester. It’s also possible it could be a real boring pile of crap, if teams on the fringes decide they’re still in the hunt. For all I know, we’ve already seen all the big moves we’re going to see. But in theory, anything’s possible, and I found myself wondering about the history of teams who’ve made significant midseason acquisitions. How much did those acquisitions actually help? I wasn’t necessarily going for anything with the research; I just wanted to have an answer.

So I examined the wild-card era, between 1995 – 2013. Using the FanGraphs leaderboards, I found qualified position players and starting pitchers who changed teams in those seasons. I set a minimum season threshold of 2 WAR, having determined that a player worth more than that can be called a significant pick-up. Checking with Baseball-Reference for every single player, I confirmed trades and trade dates, and I narrowed the list to players added by contending teams. I made sure that the teams had at least 40 games played prior to the acquisition, and at least 40 games played following the acquisition. I was left with a sample numbering 128. Not too big, not too small; enough to conclude, I don’t know, something.

So we’ve got 128 significant midseason pick-ups by contending teams. This ignores relievers and guys who got hurt, but, oh well. Now, at the time of the pick-ups, the teams all had an average winning percentage of .541. They had a median winning percentage of .535. That translates to either about 88 wins over a full season, or about 87. That makes perfect sense — they’re good, contending teams doing the adding, because they want to improve their standing in the race.

Forget about the additions for a moment. Now remember what you know about regression to the mean. We’re looking at a sample of teams, much of the way through the season, on pace to win 87 – 88 games. The rest of the way, then, you’d expect them to regress, perhaps to an 85-win pace, or 84. That is, without any extraordinary moves being made. Success generally equals success plus luck, and so on and so forth, you know these principles by now.

Back to the additions. All the 128 players, by the way, averaged 3.4 WAR. Before the additions, the teams had an average winning percentage of .541, and a median winning percentage of .535. After the additions, the teams had an average winning percentage of .553, and an identical median. Over a full season, that would be a 90-win pace. So not only did the teams not regress; they actually improved, which of course was sort of the point. But when I was gathering these numbers, I expected for the teams after the additions to play maybe just as well as they already had. I didn’t think they’d step up. I thought the additions might just somewhat counter the coming regression, evening things out.

I don’t know how much to make of this, and of course every situation is different for every team and every transaction, but remember also that those added players probably aren’t replacing replacement-level players, exactly. They likely would’ve been replacing below-average players, and that’s different. By overall average, the teams improved from an 88-win pace to a 90-win pace. Using the medians, they improved from an 87-win pace to a 90-win pace. There’s plenty of noise in either direction, but the sample isn’t small.

The numbers aren’t statistically significantly different, so I suppose it’s possible this means nothing. Also, sometimes contending teams make multiple upgrades in the middle of the year, so as to have the best stretch run they can. They try to fill all the holes somehow, and those little additions can add up. But, the idea behind a significant midseason addition is to improve, and that’s by and large what’s happened, with teams fighting off regression to the mean. They haven’t just improved their levels of true talent. They’ve improved their levels of performance, and that’s not an easy thing for teams already performing quite well.

The Top 10 Prospects Currently by Projected WAR.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Recently, in these pages, Marc Hulet released his midseason top-25 prospect list — designed, that particular post, to sort out the best prospects in baseball according to overall future potential. What follows is a different thing than that — designed to identify not baseball’s top prospects, but rather the rookie-eligible players* who are most ready to produce wins at the major-league level (regardless of whether they’re likely to receive the opportunity to do so). What it is not is an attempt to account for any kind of future value — for which reason it’s unlikely to resemble very closely those prospect lists such as that recently released by Hulet.

*In this case, defined as any player who’s recorded fewer than 130 at-bats or 50 innings — which is to say, there’s been no attempt to identify each player’s time spent on the active roster, on account of that’s a super tedious endeavor.

To assemble the following collection of 10 prospects, what I’ve done first is to calculate prorated rest-of-season WAR figures for all players for whom either the Steamer or ZiPS projection systems have produced such a forecast. Hitters’ numbers are normalized to 550 plate appearances; starting pitchers’, to 150 innings — i.e. the playing-time thresholds at which a league-average player would produce approximately a 2.0 WAR. Catcher projections are prorated to 415 plate appearances to account for their reduced playing time.

Owing to how the two systems are structured, the majority of the numbers which follow represent only the relevant prospect’s Steamer projection. Players eligible for the list either (a) enter their age-26 season or lower in 2014 or, alternatively, (b) were signed as international free agents this offseason.

Finally, note that, in many cases, defensive value has been calculated entirely by positional adjustment based on the relevant player’s minor-league defensive starts — which is to say, there has been no attempt to account for the runs a player is likely to save in the field. As a result, players with an impressive offensive profile relative to their position are sometimes perhaps overvalued — that is, in such cases where their actual defensive skills are sub-par.

10. Jose Pirela, 2B/SS, New York AL (Profile)
550 5.8% 12.7% 10 .305 1.7
Based on his defensive history, Pirela is regarded as a second baseman-cum-shortstop — this, despite having played much of the former, almost none of the latter, and a considerable amount of left field in 2014. All things being equal, a defensively average shortstop is about 1.5 wins more valuable over the course of a season than a defensively average left fielder, so it’s likely that Pirela’s current and future utility depends on his capacity to occupy that space towards the more demanding end of the defensive spectrum.

9. Robert Kral, C, San Diego (Profile)
415 10.9% 20.4% 11 .300 1.8
Kral’s July has been a microcosm of his entire season, really. Over 26 plate appearances this month, he’s recorded a walk-to-strikeout ratio of 5:4. Which, that’s good. What else he’s done is produce a .118 BABIP and overall line of .095/.269/.095. Not as good, that. Steamer appears to weigh the above-average plate-discipline figures much more heavily than dismal batted-ball numbers, however — which fact, in conjunction with Kral’s catcher positional adjustment and historical batting record, conspires to create a more optimistic projection than one might otherwise suppose.

8. Shawn Zarraga, C, Milwaukee (Profile)
415 7.6% 12.4% 5 .309 1.8
Zarraga’s profile is nearly identical to Kral’s insofar as he (a) has been slightly old for his levels, (b) has recorded excellent plate-discipline figures, and (c) benefits from the catcher’s positional adjustment in terms of projected value. One difference is this: while Kral’s slash stats are unsightly, Zarraga has actually helped the case for some kind of future in the majors. To wit: in 235 plate appearances between Double- and Triple-A, the 25-year-old possesses a line of .358/.453/.458. The Pacific Coast League has posed a greater challenge for Zarraga; his season as a while, however, has been a success.

7. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota (Profile)
550 8.2% 28.0% 22 .313 1.8
Despite a Tommy John procedure which will prevent him from recording a single plate appearance this season, Sano still appeared 12th and 9th on Marc Hulet’s and Baseball America’s midseason prospect lists. The projections suggest that, in addition his considerable future value, that Sano also possesses quite a bit in terms of present value, as well. For example: his projected wOBA according to Steamer (.313) is almost precisely the figure which that same projection has produced for current Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe (.314).

6. Andrew Susac, C, San Francisco (Profile)
415 9.6% 22.2% 10 .297 1.8
Given a choice, there are likely other organizations for which a catching prospect would choose to play than San Francisco — which parent club features in Buster Posey the best catcher in the majors according both to Steamer and ZiPS. After a promising 2013 campaign at Double-A Richmond, however, Susac has almost exactly replicated that performance this season with Triple-A Fresno, recording walk and strikeout rates of 13.6% and 20.7%, respectively, and a slash line of .265/.376/.456 in 242 plate appearances.

5. Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago NL (Profile)
550 7.8% 29.3% 25 .320 1.9
It’s difficult for a player to produce much value at the major-league level while striking out 30% of the time without also hitting about a billion homers per year. Fortunately, both scouting reports and also the projections suggest that Bryant is capable of hitting about a billion home runs per year.

4. Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/OF, Chicago NL (Profile)
550 6.4% 24.3% 12 .310 2.0
The newly promoted Alcantara differs from a number of other players on this list insofar as he’s ever exhibited what might be considered elite, or even above-average, plate-discipline numbers. Over nearly 2,000 plate appearances as a minor leaguer, the 22-year-old has produced walk and strikeout rates of just 6.8% and 20.9%, respectively. What he does well, though, is almost every other baseball thing, including (but not limited to): hit for reasonable power, play above-average defense, and steal bases with considerable efficiency.

3. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Kansas City (Profile)
150 8.0 3.4 0.99 4.08 2.0
Zimmer appeared on both the May and June editions of this same thing — and now appears here in July — despite having recorded zero appearances all season. According to Pete Grathhoffte of the Kansas City Star, however, the right-handed Zimmer was scheduled to begin throwing on whatever the first Monday was after July 12th. Presumably, he’s done that now. Steamer doesn’t know about all that, really. What it knows is that Zimmer throws hard and has produced excellent professional numbers.

2. Chris Taylor, SS, Seattle (Profile)
550 7.7% 20.5% 6 .306 2.1
The lack of enthusiasm for Taylor is a bit mysterious. He’s only 23 years old, appears to possess shortstop-type defensive skills, and is slashing .329/.400/.500 at Triple-A. Neverthless, he’s absent from Baseball America’s top-50 midseason prospect list (among others). In any case, the computer math which informs Jared Cross’s Steamer projection system regards the Virginia product much more favorably.

1. Ty Kelly, 2B/3B, Seattle (Profile)
550 11.2% 15.5% 8 .321 2.1
Kelly bears some resemblance to the player who appears 10th on this list, Yankees prospect Jose Pirela — insofar, that is, as he’s historically played only within the infield but has been deployed much more frequently as an outfielder in the high minors. He’s recorded walk and strikeout rates of 16.9% and 16.7%, respectively, with Triple-A Tacoma this year, though — and that sort of plate discipline combined with reasonable power and the capacity to play second or third conspires to produce a league-average ballplayer.

Three Brief Comments:

The assembly of this list was performed, in part, by hand. While the author has attempted to remain vigilant, he is also notoriously incompetent. The reader is invited to raise any relevant concerns in the comments section.
The players who’ve become ineligible for this list since the June edition are as follows: Tommy La Stella and Marcus Stroman and Gregory Polanco.
Still eligible for this list is Mookie Betts, although his combined projection (1.708 WAR per 550 PA) leaves him just behind Pirela (1.7416 WAR per 550 PA).

Padres Finally Trade Chase Headley Two Years Too Late.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
In 2012, 28-year-old Chase Headley put up one of the five best seasons in the history of the Padres franchise, a 7.2 WAR year that made him one of the six most valuable hitters in baseball that year. He had two years of team control remaining, he was on the right side of 30 and he was playing a position that is always difficult to fill ably. His value was through the roof; the Padres could have had almost anything they wanted for him. Preferring to try to win, they made a few extension offers that didn’t pan out, and kept him around to go 119-141 since the end of 2012.

Less than two years later, he’s been traded to the Yankees for a 27-year-old infielder who was a minor league free agent last winter (Yangervis Solarte), an inconsistent (though talented) 23-year-old A-ball pitcher who wasn’t on anyone’s top-100 list (Rafael De Paula), the loss of the option to give Headley a qualifying offer if they wanted, and they even had to kick in a million dollars to the Yankees to make it happen. When you talk about holding on to an asset too long, well, this is the prime example right here. Headley is no longer part of the Padres’ future, and he didn’t turn into anything that is very likely to be a big part of that future.

While the return is pretty disappointing, it’s less about thinking the Padres got taken — it’s pretty safe to assume they didn’t currently have offers better than Solarte/De Paula on the table, or else they would have accepted them — and more about showing just how far Headley’s value had dropped. Since the end of that magical 2012, in which he went deep 31 times and had a line of .286/.376/.498, Headley had hit a mere .243/.330/.384 with 20 homers.

He missed the first two weeks of 2013 with a thumb fracture, had left knee surgery that winter — after admitting he’d played through pain all year, just another example of trying to “tough it out” not benefiting anyone — spent two weeks on the DL with a calf strain earlier this year, and missed a few days last month with a sore back.

If seeing his wRC+ drop from 145 to 113 last year was a disappointment, this year has been a disaster. Headley has a .296 OBP and an 88 wRC+, each among the worst marks for regular third basemen in the game, though that’s been somewhat anchored down by an absolutely brutal April (.186/.250/.314). He was never realistically going to repeat that 2012, and you could perhaps assign some blame for the down 2013 to the knee and thumb injuries, but he’s been basically healthy this year.

Season Z-Swing% O-Contact%
2012 67.2% 52.0%
2013 67.2% 54.2%
2014 61.9% 57.7%
Like the rest of the Padres other than Seth Smith, the offense has just completely disappeared, and there’s some pretty disturbing peripherals behind it. He’s striking out about the same as he always has, but his walk rate has dropped from 12.3% to 11.2% to 7.2%, and as you can see at the right, that’s partially because he’s swinging at fewer balls in the zone and connecting with more balls outside the zone. If you want to help a pitcher, offering at more “bad” pitches and fewer “good” ones is a fantastic way to do it.

So why, despite how far Headley has fallen, does this make so much sense for the Yankees? It does, of course, even if they have minimal playoff odds, a ton of holes, and probably have no chance whatsoever if Masahiro Tanaka isn’t able to return healthy and quickly. It’s mostly because the risk here is just so minimal. They owe Headley the remainder of his $10.525 million this year, which is just over $4m at this point — nothing for a team like the Yankees, and partially offset by the $1m San Diego sent over — and they give up very little to see if Headley can regain his lost magic.

Solarte is just a guy, someone who needed seven years just to get to Triple-A, then turned a lucky April (143 wRC+, .349 BABIP) into a good May (120 wRC+, .279) and a disaster June/July (38 wRC+, .188 BABIP) as pitchers got a second look at him, even finding himself back in Triple-A earlier this month. De Paula is described by Jim Callis as a “one pitch reliever,” and wasn’t even ranked in the Yankees’ Top 15 last winter at Minor League Ball. In May, former FG contributor Mike Axisa had him as No. 20 in the Yankees system. From a talent and financial perspective, it’s a no-brainer.

It’s also a good fit because the Yankees’ infield has been a well-known issue, outside of the nice rebound from first baseman Mark Teixeira. Their third basemen haven’t been awful, with a No.15 ranking in both WAR and wRC+, but most of that was from Solarte’s unsustainable first six weeks.

That’s obviously not production they were going to get going forward, and Kelly Johnson and Zelous Wheeler aren’t really ideal solutions for a team that still thinks it can win, thanks to being only four games out of the division lead — nor are either close to Headley’s equal on defense. Neither Steamer nor ZiPS have overreacted to Headley’s poor season, both expecting he can contribute around a 110 wRC+ going forward — which is, it should be noted, just about exactly what he’s had since coming back from the back pain last month.

wRC+ is park-adjusted, of course, so a simple move from Petco to Yankee Stadium isn’t going to explode that number by itself, but it also can’t be ignored how big that is for Headley. In the notoriously unfriendly park in San Diego, his career line is .243/.331/.372; on the road, it’s .286/.360/.444, which is a 118 wRC+. As a lefty hitter pulling the ball to right, it’s .368/.367/.599, and he could hardly be moving to a friendlier park for lefty power. No, we can’t simply double a road line and expect that. No, we have no idea how Headley will respond moving from San Diego to the Bronx.

But based on what we do know, it’s absolutely worth it for the Yankees to find out: As with the Vidal Nuno for Brandon McCarthy deal, Brian Cashman managed to get incremental improvements without giving up much of anything at all. It’s probably not enough to get into the playoffs, and again that’s all dependent on Tanaka. It’s clearly still worth doing, particularly when it prevents a rival like Toronto from doing the same thing.

For the Padres, tomorrow is a full month since GM Josh Byrnes was fired. They’ve now traded Headley and Huston Street, and extended Seth Smith, and those are big moves to be made by placeholders Omar Minaya and A.J. Hinch.

They might not have been able to do better than this right now for Headley; they might have dodged a bullet by not giving him a rich extension a year ago; they might not have wanted to see whether Headley would have become the first player to accept a qualifying offer and have him take up $15 million of their 2015 payroll. Taken together, this all adds up for them. It’s just an incredibly disappointing outcome in a relatively short time, for a franchise that has seen more than its share of disappointment.

What Jhonny Peralta Tells Us About Defensive Metrics.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Five years ago, the Cleveland Indians decided that Jhonny Peralta just wasn’t capable of playing shortstop at the Major League level anymore, shifting him to third base to allow Asdrubal Cabrera to move back from second base to shortstop, the position he had primarily played in the minors. Peralta had never put up particularly good defensive numbers at shortstop, and with a thick lower half, he certainly looked more like a third baseman than a middle infielder.

After roughly a year at third base, while still hitting like a shortstop, Peralta was traded to Detroit. The Indians weren’t going to pick up his $7 million option for 2011, and the Tigers were looking for an infielder to give them some depth on the left side of the infield. Peralta played third base for a week with the Tigers, but then incumbent Brandon Inge returned from the disabled list, and the Tigers moved Peralta back to shortstop.

Since that move, Peralta has played the position exclusively, spending four years at shortstop between Detroit and St. Louis. And along the way, a funny thing happened; UZR fell in love with Jhonny Peralta’s defense.

Over the first 6,000 innings of Peralta’s career at the position, UZR had rated him as a -28 defender, or -6 runs per 150 games. He was decidedly below average, even though he was very good at error avoidance (+8 runs) and turning double plays (+5 runs). Peralta’s lack of range (-41 runs) was a legitimate problem, though, and what got him moved off shortstop to begin with.

In 2010, in his first full year back at shortstop, UZR rated Peralta as an average defensive shortstop. In 2011, that jumped to +10, putting him in the same range as defensive specialists Brendan Ryan and Alexei Ramirez. It was, at this point, that Peralta became something of a poster boy for the flaws of defensive metrics. After all, everyone knew that Peralta was actually not a good defender. The Indians had already moved him off the position. He had no range. Ranking Peralta as an elite defensive shortstop was evidence that UZR was not to be trusted.

Instead of regressing back to his prior mean in 2012, however, his UZR actually got even better, going up to +11.5, and again ranking third best among Major League shortstops. Among others, he rated ahead of Clint Barmes, Brandon Crawford, and Elvis Andrus, each of whom were essentially in the big leagues because of their defensive abilities. Again, the rating was seen as evidence that UZR wasn’t reliable, and Peralta was held up as an example of the system’s limitations. Perhaps playing next to Miguel Cabrera was throwing the system off, giving him credit for making plays that a better third baseman would have gotten to instead.

In 2013, Peralta’s UZR finally did regress some, though the system still thought he was an above average defender, putting him at +5 runs per 150 games. However, a 50 game suspension for his ties to Biogenesis led to the Tigers trading for Jose Iglesias, essentially ending his career as the Tigers shortstop; when he returned for the postseason, they experimented with using him in left field, because no one in their right mind would choose Peralta over Iglesias at shortstop, even though UZR was on year three of ranking Peralta as one of the better defenders in the game at the position.

With Iglesias in the fold, the Tigers bid adieu to Peralta this winter, not even making him a qualifying offer that could have returned a draft pick as compensation for letting him leave. With a poor defensive reputation and the Biogenesis connection hanging over his head, there were low expectations for what the market would offer him; MLBTradeRumors guessed 3/$30M, Jim Bowden guessed 2/$20M, and Jon Heyman guessed 2/$16M, with an agent and GM polled in that same piece only coming in slightly higher. Everyone basically agreed that he’d get something like $10 million a year for two or maybe three years.

Instead, the Cardinals gave him $53 million over four years. The Cardinals, one of baseball’s most respected organizations, bet big on Peralta’s ability to play shortstop. If he was actually a below average defender, or was going to need to move to another position in a couple of years, the deal would have been a ridiculous overpay. The only way to justify that price for Peralta is to argue that the defensive metrics were correct and that the public perception of Peralta’s defensive value was wrong.

So, fast forward to 2014. Peralta is no longer playing next to Cabrera, but is instead lined up besides one of the better defensive third baseman in baseball. He’s no longer playing behind the Tigers dominant pitching staff and weak-contact generators like in-his-prime Justin Verlander. He’s changed leagues, parks, and teammates, and yet again, he’s rated as the third best shortstop in baseball by UZR, second best if you use UZR/150.

Yes, Jhonny Peralta is rated higher by UZR this season than defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons. And that little factoid is an endless source of entertainment for people who want to again remind you to not put too much trust in defensive metrics. After all, no one actually believes that Peralta is a better defender than Simmons, so a result like this makes it easy to question the entire system.

Only the arguments for Peralta actually being a bad defensive shortstop are getting harder and harder to find.

Small sample size? Well, not anymore. We’re now on year four of Peralta being rated as an excellent defensive shortstop by UZR. Since the start of the 2010 season, he’s played over 4,600 innings at the position, and he has a UZR/150 of +10 runs per season over that stretch. Over the entirety of his career, spanning nearly 11,000 innings at shortstop, he’s rated as slightly above average. While defensive metrics absolutely do need larger sample sizes than offensive metrics, Peralta is well out of range of the small sample arguments.

The Cabrera factor? Well, UZR first rated him well while Cabrera was still playing first base, and his rating actually didn’t change much in the first year where he played next to a third baseman who could barely move. And now that he’s playing next to a much better defender, his defensive numbers have actually improved. There’s no real evidence for the idea that playing next to Cabrera artificially inflated Peralta’s defensive numbers.

The Tigers’ pitching staff? Well, nine players have played shortstop for the Tigers since the start of the 2010 season, and of those nine, only two of them have posted better defensive numbers than Peralta. That includes a few months of time from Jose Iglesias, who passes every eye test for elite defensive ability, and yet graded out slightly worse during his few months behind the Tigers pitchers than Peralta did during his tenure at the position. And playing behind a Cardinals pitching staff that has been decimated by injuries, resulting in a carousel of ever-changing arms who do not specialize in weak-contact, has not caused Peralta’s ratings to fall.

Peralta may or not be as much of a defensive asset as UZR claims; the model is still an educated guess, essentially, and it can certainly get things wrong. But the evidence is really starting to stack up against the Peralta-is-a-bad-defender idea. Even if you don’t buy into UZR at all, and you think that more granular measures that incorporate things like batted ball speed and launch angle would prove that UZR was overrating him, then you still have to explain how the Cardinals — one of the most aggressive teams in collecting and analyzing that kind of data — were willing to dramatically outbid the expected price for him as a free agent.

To believe that Jhonny Peralta is a poor defensive shortstop, you have to think that UZR is not just limited in value in smaller samples but completely useless regardless of the amount of data it has, while simultaneously believing that the Cardinals either don’t know how to evaluate defense or don’t know how to properly value free agents. Good luck defending those ideas against the mountains of evidence to the contrary.

So often, defensive data is assailed for not matching what the eye test leads us to believe. Peralta has been the poster boy for this disconnect, but at this point, there’s more evidence that the data was right and the eye test was wrong than vice versa. That doesn’t mean that the data will always be right whenever there’s a disconnect, or that we should just put full faith into single season defensive numbers, but perhaps Peralta can be a reminder that the eye test might be just as flawed as the metrics. There’s nothing wrong with being skeptical of defensive statistics; you should also be skeptical of things that are obviously true even when the data asserts otherwise, however.

UZR is imperfect. It will get things wrong. It might even still be getting Jhonny Peralta wrong, though that’s getting less likely by the day. But Jhonny Peralta should no longer be considered the poster boy for why UZR is unreliable. If anything, he should perhaps be the poster child for why we shouldn’t put unfailing trust in our own abilities to evaluate a player’s defensive value by watching him play.

Huston Street Deal: A Good Omen for the Sellers.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
With the trading deadline still 10 days away, there have been, as might be expected, a whole lot more rumors than deals to date. A fairly significant one did take place over the weekend, however, as the Angels acquired RHP Huston Street and minor league RHP Trevor Gott from the Padres in exchange for four prospects – 2B Taylor Lindsey, RHP R.J. Alvarez, SS Jose Rondon and RHP Elliot Morris. The big picture trade market has been slow to develop in part due to the imbalance between a large group of potential buyers and a relatively small – but growing – number of sellers and should-be sellers. This trade should be a reassuring development for those confirmed sellers, and a prod to get the undecideds off of the fence and down to some serious selling.
Ah, relief pitching, and in particular, closers……an enduring battlefield of discussion between traditional talent evaluators and analysts who are more focused on advanced metrics. The traditionalists focus on the extreme importance of the “proven” closer, and assert that the ability to record the last out of a ballgame is an extremely specialized skill possessed by few. The analyst focuses on the overrated nature of the save statistic, and is reluctant to overpay for 60 or fewer innings of relief over a 1450 inning season.

Both sides have valid points. I am all for retaining a truly dominant closer, with traditional closer characteristics – huge K rate, big velocity, a second out pitch if possible. That said, I would prefer that such a closer be used in a non-traditional way, more often late in a tie game, or for more than three outs. I’d also prefer that the closer be used less often with a two or three-run lead, solely to begin the 9th inning. I’d prefer that my closer, being my best relief pitcher, also be my most frequently used relief pitcher, in terms of total innings load. The 60-inning, low-leverage closer concept currently in vogue simply makes no sense.

In the last couple of offseasons, the marketplace has begun to show greater restraint when valuing closers. The WAR statistic is imperfect, but the extremely low totals posted by closers in that category has clearly made an impact on front offices. The day of the $10M per season closer may not be over, though such paydays are now going to be reserved for only the best of the best.

This brings us back to Huston Street. The Angels’ primary needs are on the run prevention side of things, and they have made bullpen improvement a major focus throughout the season, getting a boost from the callup of RHP Mike Morin and the swapping out of previous closer Ernesto Frieri for Jason Grilli. Street, clearly, is likely their big trading deadline bullet, as this deal has thinned their stockpile of tradeable assets considerably – we’ll talk more about the package given up for Street later. How good is Huston Street? Is he an impact closer? Is he the type of player a buyer builds a successful trading deadline around?

First, let’s focus on the word “proven” as it relates to closers. Going back to 2012 – just two seasons ago – and going through this weekend, a grand total of only 14 closers have saved 10 or games in each of those three seasons. This means that fully half of the closer population has turned over since then. That gives one pause at defining the “proven” closer. Closers turn over faster than starting pitchers and position players. Their sample sizes are smaller, and they are more prone to wild swings in performance. A bad week, or month, can cost a closer his job, and make an investment go bad in a hurry.

Let’s take a closer look at those 14, including Street, to get a better feel for them, and to identify the group that can be clearly designated as impact closers.

Kimbrel 26 168.34 43.4% 7.6% 35 37 7.2 2017 $7,000,000 Sign thru 17, tm opt 18
Chapman 26 165.01 45.7% 9.5% 52 44 6.7 2014 $5,000,000 Player opt 15
Holland 28 168.67 36.6% 9.0% 50 46 6.5 2014 $4,680,000 FA in 2017
Jansen 26 180.34 38.4% 7.3% 66 58 5.3 2014 $4,300,000 FA in 2017
Rodney 37 178.67 27.8% 8.6% 50 64 4.7 2015 $7,000,000 Sign thru 15
Perkins 31 172.33 29.9% 5.6% 63 65 4.3 2017 $4,025,000 Sign thru 17, tm opt 18
Nathan 39 163.67 28.4% 7.6% 71 69 4.3 2015 $10,000,000 Sign thru 15, tm opt 16
Papelbon 33 170.00 26.5% 5.5% 61 74 3.3 2015 $13,000,000 Sign thru 15, vst opt 16
R.Soriano 34 171.34 22.7% 7.5% 59 82 2.7 2014 $11,000,000 Tm opt 15
Balfour 36 173.67 25.3% 11.4% 82 89 2.1 2015 $4,000,000 Sign thru 15
A.Reed 25 165.00 24.3% 7.3% 103 91 2.0 2014 $539,000 FA in 2018
Romo 31 153.33 25.3% 5.0% 84 95 1.2 2014 $5,500,000 FA in 2015
Frieri 28 170.67 33.2% 10.0% 104 104 0.7 2014 $3,800,000 FA in 2017
Street 30 129.67 26.2% 6.5% 56 99 0.5 2014 $7,000,000 Tm opt 15
Above you will find the cumulative 2012-14 statistics for the 14 “proven” closers. From left to right, their age, cumulative innings load, K and BB rates, ERA- and FIP-, cumulative WAR and contract status are listed. The players are listed in order by cumulative WAR.

Before going any further, one notices that Street ranks dead last in WAR, but let’s not read too much into that at this point. One very key point with regard to Street is his light innings load. He has had his share of nagging injuries over the years, and has not logged as many as 60 innings in a season since 2009. The other 13 hurlers’ cumulative 2012-14 innings totals are in a fairly narrow band between 153 1/3 and 180 1/3 IP, and Street lags well behind all of them. This is a legitimate major strike against Street and any argument he might have for impact closer status.

Street’s 2012-14 walk rate is the 4th lowest among this group, but his K rate is 5th lowest, and the spread between the two is the 4th lowest. His ERA- is the 5th best, but his FIP- is the 2nd worst. This is largely due to his exceedingly odd 2013 season, when he somehow allowed 12 HR – but only 17 earned runs – in 56 2/3 IP. By comparison, Craig Kimbrel has allowed 11 HR – in his career.

Just by looking at this summary info, it is easy to conclude that Street is not an elite, impact closer. The stratospheric K rates of Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman, Greg Holland and Kenley Jansen give them extreme margin for error with regard to contact management. How long they will be able to maintain such dominance is another question, but they reside on their own plane for now. Can Street match up with the next group of closers behind them?

It is interesting to note the respective differences between each closer’s ERA- and FIP-. With the exception of Street and Rafael Soriano, the differences are fairly nominal. Street’s is by far the largest. Which is more indicative of Street’s true talent level – his 56 ERA-, or his 99 FIP-? His ability to manage contact should be at the core of the answer. True talent should be the driver of his WAR, so answering this question is a big deal. To this end, let’s take a closer look at his 2013 and 2014 plate appearance outcome frequency and production by BIP type data. First, the frequency information:

FREQ – 2013
Street % REL PCT
K 20.7% 107 48
BB 6.3% 84 46
POP 13.4% 177 99
FLY 38.2% 136 99
LD 19.1% 89 6
GB 29.3% 68 1

FREQ – 2014
Street % REL PCT
K 28.0% 138 93
BB 5.6% 72 20
POP 9.2% 120 86
FLY 34.2% 123 98
LD 21.1% 101 38
GB 35.5% 81 7
Street’s K and BB rate percentile ranks of 48 and 46 in 2013 were quite ordinary, especially for a closer. They have moved in the right direction this season, to 93 and 20, respectively, but still don’t stand out in this population of closers. Street is clearly a popup/fly ball pitcher. His 13.4% popup rate (99 percentile rank) in 2013 was exceptional, and though it has declined a bit in 2014, his percentile rank remains high at 86. His grounder percentile ranks in both seasons have been extremely low, at 1 and 7, respectively. Having such an extreme popup/fly ball tendency can be a positive, but it does come with raised home run risk, which Street bore the brunt of in 2013.

Now let’s take a look at the production by BIP type allowed by Street in 2013-14, both before and after adjustment for context:

PROD – 2013
FLY 0.250 0.783 97 64
LD 0.733 1.133 144 109
GB 0.130 0.130 28 96
ALL BIP 0.273 0.553 93 80
ALL PA 0.213 0.262 0.430 87 76 2.70 3.38 2.94

PROD – 2014
FLY 0.308 0.731 108 97
LD 0.500 0.563 50 88
GB 0.037 0.037 2 59
ALL BIP 0.228 0.380 53 82
ALL PA 0.158 0.207 0.263 44 64 1.06 1.67 2.42
The actual production allowed by Street on each BIP type is indicated in the AVG and SLG columns, and is converted to run values and compared to MLB average in the REL PRD column. That figure is then adjusted for context, such as home park, team defense, luck, etc., in the ADJ PRD column. In the three right-most columns, his actual ERA, his calculated component ERA based on actual production allowed, and his “tru” ERA, which is adjusted for context, are all presented. For the purposes of this exercise, SH and SF are included as outs and HBP are excluded from the OBP calculation.

First, let’s get back to those 12 homers allowed by Street in 2013. Despite that fact, Street allowed lower than MLB average actual fly ball production (97 REL PRD) WITHOUT adjustment for context. Included among that group of homers were a bunch of cheap ones, particularly at home. Recall that Petco’s fences were brought in for the 2013 season, quite significantly. The park inflated homers last season, but for some reason, isn’t doing the same this season. I’ll put that fact into the “requires further study” pile. Anyway, after adjusting for Street’s hard and soft fly rates, his 2013 ADJ PRD on fly balls drops substantially to 64. Interestingly, Street has allowed just three HR so far in 2014, but has allowed harder overall fly ball contact (97 ADJ PRD).

The average authority of the liners allowed by Street was above average in 2013 (109 ADJ PRD) and below average in 2014 (88 ADJ PRD). Let’s call that average, on balance. He has allowed extremely low levels of actual production on grounders in both 2013 (28 REL PRD) and 2014 (2 REL PRD), but those figures move closer to the average range after adjustment for context, to 96 and 59 in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Overall, Street posted relatively uniform ADJ PRD figures on all BIP – or Adjusted Contact Scores – of 80 and 82 in 2013 and 2014. Add back the K’s and BB’s, and Street’s “tru” ERAs for those two seasons are 2.94 and 2.42, or 76 and 64, relative to the league.

First of all, for those of you who consistently defer to FIP rather than ERA when perusing a basic stat line, consider that Street’s 2013 ERA was 2.70, his 2013 FIP was 4.92…..and his “tru” ERA was 2.94. ERA “wins” in this case, as FIP fails to take into consideration that not all home runs are created equal. Going back to the 14-closer table above, this revision of Street’s 2013 ERA/FIP would give him about 1.0 WAR for that season instead of (1.0), and would nudge him ahead of Grant Balfour, Addison Reed, Sergio Romo and Frieri on the list.

Street’s “tru” ERA- for 2013-14 would be about 71, which quality-wise, places him above Soriano and Jonathan Papelbon as well, though quantity-wise, Street suffers and should probably valued overall around their level talent-wise. Street’s contract terms are more favorable than those two, however, so he should return more than Soriano/Papelbon in a trade package.

Let’s get back to what the Angels actually did give up for Street. For argument’s sake, let’s assume Gott and Morris cancel out. That brings us to Street for Lindsey-Alvarez-Rondon. Each year, at mid- and post-season, I compile ordered lists of minor league position player and starting pitcher prospects, based both upon production and age relative to the league. It’s basically a follow list, that isn’t adjusted for position, but the beauty of it is that I now have lists going back to 1993, and can see where every MLB regular ranked during their minor league career.

Lindsey, 22, barely made the list at midseason, ranking #262, but ranked #75 in 2013 and #253 in 2012. His offensive performance has been up and down, but he is a middle infielder, and has always been young for his level. His rankings are roughly comparable to those of Scooter Gennett, D.J. Lemehieu and Derek Dietrich, three incumbent starting MLB second basemen. The latter two also qualified for my minor league list three times, with one Top 100 ranking. Gennett, who has been the best the major leaguer of the three, actually qualified only twice, peaking at #118. Lindsey doesn’t look like an impact talent, but he has a chance to be an average MLB regular 2B.

Rondon, 20, is ranked #107 on my midseason list, pretty impressive for a shortstop in his first year in a full-season league. Most regular MLB shortstops cracked my Top 100 at some point in their minor league careers, and Rondon still has time to do that. Even if he doesn’t, however, his current ranking rivals the peak minor league rankings of Alcides Escobar and Andrelton Simmons. Rondon lacks their fielding chops, but should remain at his current position, and like Lindsey, has a shot to be a solid, non-impact MLB regular. His range of outcomes is wider than Lindsey’s – Rondon has a greater chance to be above average, but a greater chance of washing out as well.

Then there’s Alvarez. He could turn into San Diego’s closer before too long. He just turned 23, throws in the upper 90′s, and has struck out 155 batters in 100 professional innings to date. I don’t rank minor league closers, as the vast majority of them don’t have MLB futures. There are a handful of exceptions at any given time, and Alvarez is one of them. He has had some injury issues, and is far from a sure thing, but the ability is there.

So that’s a pretty sizeable package for any club to give up for a reliable, but non-impact closer with a year-plus of control. For the Angels, however, this represents an extremely large percentage of the Angels’ overall organizational prospect value. Full season minor league position players who project to be MLB regulars? I’m not seeing them, with the possible exception of non-impact 2B Alex Yarbrough, who was a level behind Lindsey, at the same age. Full-season minor league pitchers with the ability to be above average MLB performers? I’m not seeing them, either.

The Angels just cleared out their already weak minor league system to acquire a solid, non-impact closer who might pitch 25 innings for them this season. This does make them better, but at a very substantial cost to this particular organization, at this particular moment in time. The same night this trade was consummated, Erick Aybar pulled up lame running out a grounder. It remains to be seen how much time he will miss, but the asset base from which the Angels can now address this and any other additional needs they might have between now and the finish line has been significantly depleted.

This trade may not have a direct impact on any single other trade made in the coming days, but it does change the trading environment a bit. The sellers woke up on Saturday morning afterward with some additional trade discussion ammunition – the going rate for stretch run help just got a bit more expensive.
post #24689 of 73000
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by ChampCruThik View Post

Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

They already moved Baez to 2nd?


I still think they're gonna end up swapping Russell or Baez out for a pitcher. I think a top prospect for top prospect trade might be coming. Sounds like they wanna keep Starlin.
Speaking of elite pitching prospects, you have any early thoughts on Max Fried?

Hasn't he been injured for a lot of the year so far? Dude had pretty good command in college but he's really struggled with that the last couple years. If he finds that and gets aggressive again, solid #2.
post #24690 of 73000
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

Hasn't he been injured for a lot of the year so far? Dude had pretty good command in college but he's really struggled with that the last couple years. If he finds that and gets aggressive again, solid #2.
Yep, forearm soreness. Mixes three pitches well. Made his Fort Wayne debut last week.
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