Wednesday, November 26, 2014

2015 Giants Depth Chart: Starting Pitching Part III

We'll cover some pitching prospects in the deep minors, a few of whom may be the highest ceiling prospects in the Giants system:

Short Season:

Keury Mella, RHP- 1-1, 1.83, 19.2 IP, 9.15 K/9, 2.75 BB/9.  Low A- 3-3, 3.93, 66.1 IP, 8.55 K/9, 1.76 BB/9.  High ceiling pitching prospect who performed well.  Had a midseason shoulder scare but came back strong in limited action late in the season.  Could move up fast if healthy.

Tyler Beede, RHP- 0-0, 2.70, 6.2 IP, 9.45 K/9, 4.05 BB/9.  Rookie AZL- 0-1, 3.12, 8.2 IP, 11.42 K/9, 4.15 BB/9.  Very SSS due to pitching to the final game of the college WS.  Did not shake concerns about his control/command.  Should move fast as soon as he solves that.

Jason Forjet, RHP- 7-1, 3.10, 87 IP, 9.00 K/9, 1.66 BB/9.  Impressive numbers but at a lower level than 2013(high A).

Jose Reyes, RHP- 6-4, 3.89, 83.1 IP, 6.91 K/9, 1.73 BB/9.  Contact pitcher at a low level.  Odds are against guys with that profile.

Nick Gonzalez, LHP- 2-5, 4.06, 71 IP, 5.96 K/9, 3.55 BB/9.  Big LHP, but very disappointing numbers after a promising debut in rookie ball last year.

Ethan Miller, RHP- 5-3, 4.60, 78.1 IP, 6.55 K/9, 1.72 BB/9.  Ran hot and cold.  Had some very good games.  Enough here that I want to see more at higher levels.

Andrew Leenhouts, LHP- 3-4, 4.73, 72.1 IP, 8.83 K/9, 1.37 BB/9.  Improved on his 2013 numbers but at the same level.

Mella and Beede are the names to really watch here.

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Rookie AZL:

Matthew Gage, LHP- 2-0, 1.89, 33.1 IP, 8.64 K/9, 2.16 BB/9.  College pitching draftee will have to prove it at higher levels.

Michael Santos, RHP- 4-3, 2.56, 59.2 IP, 7.54 K/9, 1.96 BB/9.  Young RHP with tools.  Walk rate very encouraging, but would like to see a higher K rate.

There were several other interesting pitchers who may or may not be future starters including draftees Logan Webb and Stetson Woods plus holdovers Dylan Brooks and Rayan Hernandez.

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DSL:

Deyerbert Bolivar, LHP, 18 yo- 7-1, 1.77, 64 IP, 9.42 K/9, 2.81 BB/9.  Smallish LHP with nice numbers.  6 figure bonus baby.  We should see him in Arizona in 2015.

Alejandro Flores, RHP, 20 yo- 4-1, 2.86, 63 IP, 8.00 K/9, 1.71 BB/9.  Old for level but nice numbers.

Prebito Reyes, LHP, 18 yo- 3-3, 3.11, 66.2 IP, 6.48 K/9, 2.16 BB/9.  Bigger than Bolivar but not as heralded and numbers not quite as good.

Victor Concepcion, RHP, 17 yo- 6-1, 3.18, 65 IP, 10.38 K/9, 2.08 BB/9.  On the small side, but given age and numbers, worth following closely.


Hot Stove Update: Yasmany Tomas To Sign With D'Backs

The Yasmany Tomas watch is over.  The D'Backs agreed to a deal of 6 years/$68 M with an opt out clause at 4 years.  As you recall, Tomas is a Cuban OF with impressive power potential, but questionable just about everything else.  I wrote about him in an earlier post after seeing some video of him hitting a couple of 'taters.  I liked his swing.  I also said we don't know much more about him and we would have to trust the Giants scouts on him.

This is my current take:  6 years/$68 M is a lot lower than some of the earlier predictions about his price which in some cases was over $100 M.  Several big money teams who seemed to be interested backed off late, reportedly due to concerns about conditioning and weight.  He also struggled against good college pitching in an international tournament.  The Giants reportedly had 4 separate workouts with him and had personal connections to his agent, Jay Alou.  Given that Pablo signed with Boston, the Giants certainly had the resources to top the D'Backs price if they really wanted him.  I have to believe that the Giants talent evaluators just were not that impressed and they basically passed on him.

After the Hellickson trade, I have to say I am less than impressed with Dave Stewart's talent evaluation skills so I do not necessarily think this is a good deal for the D'Backs.  As for the Giants, we know they also have looked at Yoan Moncada and may have decided to use the Tomas resources on him.  Or, they may be more serious about a Jon Lester signing than we think.  In the end, if they let Tomas go for this price, I have to believe they were less than impressed by what they saw and I am willing to trust their judgement.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hot Stove Update: Tim Flannery Announces His Retirement From Coaching Baseball

Today, Giants 3B coach Tim Flannery posted a message on his Facebook page announcing his retirement from the position.  While he is retiring from coaching the Giants, he is not retiring from life as he plans to continue recording and touring with his music band, the Lunatic Fringe, as well as continue his charity work.  Prior to coming to San Francisco to coach 3B under Manager Bruce Bochy, Flannery had spent his entire baseball career with the San Diego Padres as a player, minor league manager and coach.  His playing career spanned 11 seasons, mostly as a scrappy reserve infielder.  He then went into managing and coaching and was the Padres 3B coach until 2002.  He remained out of baseball until 2007 when Bruce Bochy called and asked him to do "one more  ride" with him and the Giants.  The first season, was rocky as the Barry Bonds era ended in a metaphorical pile of rubble.  2008 wasn't much better and both Boch and Flan wondered how long the ride was going to last.  Well, it lasted 9 years and brought 3 World Series Championships, the only ones of the Giants San Francisco era.

Flannery was not just the Giants 3B coach.  He became part of the community, performing with his band which he even named after a local inside joke spawned by Brian Sabean's infamous "lunatic fringe" comment.  Ha!  Maybe Flan will name his next band the Cockroaches?  It was Tim Flannery who took the lead in raising money to help Brian Stow and his family after Stow suffered permanent brain damage in a beating in the Dodger Stadium parking lot.  Yeah, Tim Flannery may have spent his playing career in San Diego and started his coaching career there, but he was born to be the Giants 3B coach.

In retiring, Flannery wrote an eloquent farewell on his Facebook page.  You can read the full text on several Giants related websites.  I recommend sfgate.com, the article about Flannery explaining his decision.  Here are some key quotes:

"I've buried friends.  I've put friends in rehab.  I've watched marriages dissolve.  There is a lot of collateral damage in this lifestyle I've had for 35 years.  I'm going to send myself home safely."

"I had no desire to manage…..so then you ask yourself, what else are you going to do?  Keep coaching third till you drop over?"

"I need to stay home a little while and enjoy what we have just accomplished, or else it doesn't mean anything."

"I just feel like I did it in the baseball world.  I was as fulfilled helping the Stow family as much as anything I've done."

Then to me, this is his money quote.  I've read it at least 5 times today and I'm still getting tears in my eyes:

"With a heavy heart, I want to say something.  I left everything 9 years ago to chase a dream.  I left my home, my family to follow my leader and friend, Bruce Bochy, to fight another battle and bring a World Championship to San Francisco.  When I came here, I wasn't going to let anyone in on who I was.  I wasn't going to let anyone break my heart by getting too close to who I am.  I was just going to do my job and hide.  Well, of course that didn't happen…."

"Honored to be a Giant."

No Flan!  WE are honored that you are a Giant!

**************

I don't know if Tim Flannery plays this song in his shows, but it would be a good one for a guy who has been happy to play a supporting role his entire 35 years in Major League Baseball:

BEAUTIFUL LOSER

He wants to dream like a young man
with the wisdom of an old man.
He wants his home and security.
He wants to live like a sailor at sea.

Beautiful loser.
where you gonna to fall
when you realize
you just don't need it all?

He's your oldest and your best friend.
When you need him, he'll be there again.
He's always willing to be second best,
a perfect lodger, a perfect guest.

Beautiful loser…….

Bob Seger

The only difference between Flan and the character in this song is Flan is going out a beautiful winner!

Hot Stove Update: Pablo Sandoval To Sign With BoSox, Part II

In Part I, we looked at how the loss of Pablo Sandoval may impact the Giants.  In Part II, we will look at what the Boston Red Sox may gain from signing him as well as Hanley Ramirez.  A few years ago, the Red Sox went on a spending spree through free agency and trades that netted them Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, John Lackey and Josh Beckett among others.  It looked good on paper, but the pieces just did not fit together, in the clubhouse or the field.  The result was a last place finish with the architect, Theo Epstein fleeing the scene leaving someone else to sift through the debris.  Ben Cherington somehow managed to unload the malcontents.  He signed several role players to more modest contracts and the Red Sox bounced all the way back to championship.  Those role players were lightning in a bottle from stopgaps, though.  The plan was to gradually work in the prospects from one of the strongest farm systems in baseball as the stopgaps moved on.  The problem is the rookies were not quite ready and the stopgaps all regressed to about what you would expect from them and another last place finish ensued.

The Red Sox are now on another spending spree and already find themselves with pieces that may not fit.  First, let's look at the hard numbers.  Pablo Sandoval has averaged 2.7 fWAR over the past 3 seasons, 2.8/600 PA.  The Red Sox already had 4 in-house options who can play the position.  OK, we'll stipulate that Will Middlebrooks is a bust.  That leaves super-utility man Brock Holt who could take over the position and prospect Garin Cecchini who spent most of last year at AAA and played well in a small sample size with the Red Sox.  They also have Xander Bogaerts who may play SS, but has played 3B and played it well.  All told, I am not sure how much of an upgrade Boston just paid $100 M for.

Then there is the culture of the place.  Yes, Red Sox Nation has their lovable overweight dude in Big Papi, but Panda ain't no Papi.  While Giants fans in some corners would get restless when Pablo would eat himself out of the lineup, you could always find Panda hats scattered around AT&T Park.  There will be no reservoir of good will in Boston.  Let Pablo come in weighing 280 lbs and the first slump will turn those Boston fans into an angry mob!  Heck, he might not even have to come in at 280 lbs.  At his most svelte, Pablo has never been thin!  The comment that the option of moving to DH is part of what attracted Pablo to Boston as well as his brother's bristling at any weight incentives is not encouraging in terms of his intention to stay in shape.

Then there is the curious fact of the concomitant Hanley Ramirez signing.  Ramirez is a SS who pretty much everyone agrees cannot field the position anymore.  Is Ramirez going to displace Bogaerts and SS?  Maybe, but 3B is probably his best position now, except that is where Pablo is playing.  Most analysts think Hanley will play LF which means that Yoenis Cespedes is almost surely going to be traded, except how much of an upgrade in LF is Ramirez over Cespedes?  Even if Ramirez can play LF, will he?  I can just see him jogging after balls out there right now!

Even if you take the position that Boston has unlimited money to spend and doesn't care how much it takes for a 0.5 fWAR upgrade, these are still two head-scratchy moves that are not locks for even that much of an upgrade.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Hot Stove Update: Pablo Sandoval To Sign With BoSox, Part I

After a ridiculous Kabuki dance of leaks, denials, more leaks, silence and more denials, Pablo Sandoval's agent finally confirmed late today that Pablo would be signing a contract with the Boston Red Sox.  The contract is believed to be for 5 years/$100 M.  The Giants kept insisting that they had not made their final offer.  It either came up short or they were not given the opportunity.  In the end, I am not sure how much the Giants really wanted to re-sign Pablo.  If I had to guess, Pablo may have wondered that himself which may be a big part of the reason he chose Boston.  In any event, while Pablo will be difficult to replace, I am also quite sure that a 5 year/$100 M contract is way too much for him and Boston will come to regret their irrational exuberance here.

If the Giants did not really want to sign Pablo or even if they were ambivalent about it, you have to wonder why they spend the better part of November apparently doing nothing but going through the motions.  Was it just a facade to placate the fan base?  They now face the daunting task of replacing Pablo as well as addressing other free agents from last year's team and holes to fill on the roster.  Make no mistake, the task is daunting.  We've had the discussion several times.  The FA market is uninspiring to say the least.  Sabes has already said there are no internal options.  The trade market is limited.  I expect the Giants will next make a final push to sign Yasmany Tomas.  In fact, we may get to test my theory that the Giants already have a deal in place for Tomas pending Pablo's decision!  If they are successful, they will try him at 3B as his agent, Jay Alou, and Jay's uncle Felipe have suggested.  They may also make a play for Chase Headley.  I don't know if  there is any connection between Headley and Bruce Bochy from their Padres days.  I think Headley broke in after Bochy left.  If the Giants want Headley, they will have to outbid the Yankees for him.  Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine.

There was talk today that the Giants might go in a completely different direction and make a play for Jon Lester.  They do need to upgrade their starting pitching.  If they only have enough money under their self imposed salary cap to sign one big name, pitching is probably the most effective way to go.  At least one of the Giants beat writers basically wrote off the Lester idea.  I personally think Lester is looking more toward Atlanta or the East Coast.  The BoSox are trying hard to get him back and seem to have unlimited money to spend and are not afraid to bust through the luxury tax threshold.

This is an opportunity for Sabes to get creative.  It's been a long time since Sabes did much in the offseason besides methodically fill holes.  Let's see him do something big and crazy here like figure out how to make a play for someone else's prized prospect or maybe an under-the-radar prospect he can get with the trade chips he has.  I don't know what it might be, but that's why he's getting paid the big bucks.  Personally I really like Garin Cecchini, the Red Sox 3B prospect who now has no place to play, or maybe Will Middlebrooks can still be salvaged?

In Part II, we will look at this from Boston's viewpoint.

2015 Giants Depth Chart: Starting Pitching Part II

In this post, we'll cover the starting pitchers who finished the season at AA, High A and Low A.

AA:

Ty Blach, LHP- 8-8, 3.13, 141 IP, 5.81 K/9, 2.49 BB/9, 1.07 GO/AO.  Blach pitched effectively, but the K's fell off.  That is an ugly ratio.

Clayton Blackburn, RHP- 5-6, 3.29, 93 IP, 8.23 K/9, 1.94 BB/9, 1.95 GO/AO.  Blackburn missed some time with injury, but put up strong numbers. The groundball ratio is particularly impressive for this high a level of play.  Got in some additional innings in the AFL and said he was working on a cutter or slider. Candidate for a mid-season callup in 2015, but the innings jump may be a limiting factor.

Chris Stratton, RHP- 1-1, 3.52, 23 IP, 7.04 K/9, 4.70 BB/9, 1.29 GO/AO.  High A- 7-8, 5.07, 99.1 IP, 9.24 K/9, 3.26 BB/9, 1.52 GO/AO.  Stratton's ERA was better in AA, but his peripheral numbers were way worse, albeit in a small sample size.  He's an enigma at this point.  Will 2015 be his breakout season?

Steven Snodgrass, LHP- 11-6, 3.56, 5.89 K/9, 2.81 BB/9, 1.51 GO/AO.  GB pitcher who pounds the K zone.  Could be a Jeremy Affeldt type lefty reliever in the making.

Kyle Crick, RHP- 6-7, 3.79, 90.1 IP, 11.06 K/9, 6.08, BB/9, 1.16 GO/AO.  As you can see from the K and BB numbers he's still got premium stuff with a huge wild hair up his nose.  BB/9 has been remarkably stable since day 1.  He's gotta find a way to bring that down.

Adalberto Mejia, LHP- 7-9, 4.67, 108 IP, 6.83 K/9, 2.58 BB/9, 0.64 GO/AO.  A bit of a disappointing season for Mejia, but he was one of the youngest players in the league.  Starts the 2015 season with a 50 game suspension.

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High A:

Joe Kurrasch, LHP- 8-4, 3.05, 91.1 IP, 4.83 K/9, 3.25 BB/9, 0.81 GO/AO.  Strong flyball tendency with a low K rate is not a recipe for future success.

Matt Lujan, LHP- 6-2, 3.42, 71 IP, 8.75 K/9, 2.92 BB/9, 1.39 GO/AO.  High A- 6-2, 2.19, 70.0 IP, 8.49 K/9, 2.70 BB/9, 1.47 GO/AO.  Very interesting numbers for the kid from San Francisco.  Got a late start due to TJ surgery, but is putting up consistently solid numbers.  Move him up and see what happens!

Joe Biagini, RHP.  10-9, 4.01, 128 IP, 7.24 K/9, 3.23 BB/9, 1.36 GO/AO.  Big RHP who the Giants are going out of their way to nurse along.  Those are workhorse/innings eating numbers.  Again, move him up and see what happens!

Kendry Flores, RHP.  4-6, 4.09, 105.2 IP, 9.54 K/9, 2.73 BB/9, 0.94 GO/AO.  Peripherals still look good.  Let's see what he does on AA.

Pat Young, RHP- 9-6, 6.13, 111.2, 7.50 K/9, 3.79 BB/9, 1.14 GO/AO.  Cal League hitters apparently did not think his stuff was as nasty as it looked to me on the video.  Needs just a little bit of everything here, a few more K's, a bit better command and needs to put the ball on the ground a bit more.

Nick Vander Tuig, RHP- 3-2, 5.06, 32 IP, 5.34 K/9, 1.41 BB/9, 1.81 GO/AO.  NVT did not appear until the short season started and was then brought along slowly with mixed results in a small sample size.  2015 will be a key season for him.

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Low A:

Luis Ysla, LHP- 6-7, 2.45, 121.1 IP, 8.53 K/9, 3.34 BB/9, 1.11 GO/AO.  Pretty good numbers.  Needs to bring the BB/9 down a bit to succeed at higher levels.

Christian Jones, LHP- 5-9, 3.33, 110.2 IP, 8.13 K/9, 2.11 BB/9, 2.05 GO/AO.  I consider a GO/AO of 2.00 or more to be an elite GB pitcher.  Combined with a low BB/9 and he should do well at higher levels.

Joan Gregorio, RHP- 2-7, 3.57, 68 IP, 8.60 K/9,  3.57 BB/9, 0.88 GO/AO.  High A- 2-2, 6.75, 22.2 IP, 10.72 K/9, 5.16 BB/9, 0.39 GO/AO.  High ceiling RHP.  Was wild in San Jose to start the season.  Settled down after being sent down to Augusta.  Will probably give SJ another try in 2015.

Carlos Diaz, LHP- 6-6, 4.16, 101.2 IP, 6.73 K/9, 3.28 BB/9, 1.55 GO/AO.  Solid groundball ratio but needs to cut down the BB's.

Steven Messner, LHP- 7-5, 4.17, 110 IP, 6.71 K/9, 3.19 BB/9, 2.70 GO/AO.  A bit old for the level, but the extreme GB ratio is interesting.

Chase Johnson, RHP- 4-7, 4.57, 110.1 IP, 7.67 K/9, 3.26 BB/9, 2.07 GO/AO.  Johnson tends to run hot and cold.  The GB ratio is encouraging.  Needs to cut down on the BB's.

Robert Ramer, RHP- 3-5, 4.73, 45.2 IP, 7.88 K/9, 2.56 BB/9, 2.03 GO/AO.  ERA not exciting, but the peripherals look good.  Old for level.

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Overall, the system produced an unsettling pattern of the higher ceiling guys not performing up to expectations and the lower ceiling guys doing better.  Patience?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thoughts on "Stuff"

When evaluating pitchers, we often use a term called "stuff."  What is "stuff" you say?  I don't know if anyone has ever defined the term.  It definitely has to do with quality of pitches.  It is also more than simply velocity as pitch movement is also an important component of "stuff".  One logical way of measuring "stuff" is by the ability of the pitcher to get batters out all by himself, without the aid of fielders.  The obvious measure for this ability is strikeouts.  Not all strikeouts are created equal though.  Some pitchers are better at getting batters to not swing at pitches that the umpire calls strikes.  Other pitchers are better at getting hitters to swing at pitches outside the strike zone.  A few pitchers are good at getting hitters to swing and miss at pitches within strike zone.  Intuitively, a pitcher who can get batters to swing and miss at pitches within the strike zone might be working with better "stuff" than pitchers with lower rates of the same measure.

With the advent of PitchFx and electronic systems for calling balls and strikes, we can measure how many times a pitchers induces a swing and miss at pitches inside the strike zone.  Thanks to David Laurilia who posted these numbers in his Sunday Fangraphs column.  He credits Mark Simon of ESPN.  Here are the Top 10 pitchers in MLB in order of their percentage swinging strikes within the strike zone last year:

1.  Chris Sale- 23.2
2.  Max Scherzer- 21.8
3.  Marco Estrada- 21.7
4.  RA Dickey- 21.1
5.  YUSMEIRO PETIT- 20.5
6.  Jacob DeGrom- 20.3
7.  Collin McHugh- 20.0
8.  Michael Wacha- 19.8
9.  Cole Hamels- 19.7
10. Clayton Kershaw- 19.7.

Just saying…...