Friday, February 29, 2008

"Alright #6!"

Via Baseball Digest Daily - Brock for Broglio names Baseball Digest Daily as the #6 baseball website.

Fantasy Friday's vol. 1 - Catchers

I am going to start a new feature here at The Outsiders Look titled "Fantasy Friday's". I know original and catchy, riiiiight? Truth be told, I probably stole this idea from somewhere else. That said, this column will look at various players, draft strategies, useful links and maybe a mail bag.

Fantasy Opening Day has gone by and I would assume that many people have already done a draft, if not a real draft a mock draft-presumably at Mock Draft Central. If not, you are in the same boat as me. Although, this season, I am not certain if my lack of current drafts (or soon-to-be drafts) are due to me wanting to wait, or if I have lost some interest in fantasy sports altogether. Only time will tell I suppose.

In any event, this first article will focus on a catcher whom I think should not only break out and be of incredible value, but should also be a player whom a team cannot live without. That player, Dioner Navarro. I know what you are thinking. And I can picture it going something along the lines of, "Alright, why am I wasting my time at this blog?" Well if you made it to this point, then hear me out...

By all accounts, Dioner had a fairly miserable season in 2007. His career line is only marginally better...

To read more, head over to my article at Baseball Digest Daily where I will be doing weekly Fantasy articles.

If you would like to contact me to ask a question or simply challenge anything I have to say, feel free to email me at

Thursday, February 28, 2008

I Couldn't Have Said it Better...

"Tell your friends" - Jose Canseco (via The Onion)

John Brattain writes an article at The Hardball Times that is exactly what I had planned on writing this week. He takes a look at why teams are hesitant to add Barry Bonds, asserting that any team who refuses to sign him, is essentially following an act of collusion, similar to that of 1986. Here is how Brattain relates the two scenarios,
Yet writers are saying that a club should forgo employing Bonds even if it means not putting their best effort into assembling the roster in order to protect the game. If we’ve learned anything from baseball’s sordid past is that the biggest breach of trust is not doing everything within the rules to win, or failing that, being the very best that a player or team’s efforts allow.
Who are these writers? Well again, Brattain beat me to the punch. Ken Rosenthal wrote a piece on Tuesday where he tried to act as if Barry is the steroid era and the steroid era is Barry. Without one, the other would not have occurred. Now I've already had my one-sided East v. West Coast Rap battle with Mr. Rosenthal, and like Brattain, I respect Rosenthal, but obviously I disagree with what he is trying to suggest.

Cork Gaines at MLB Trade Rumors writes a piece discussing what team blogs around the majors feel about their teams chances and rationale of signing Barry Bonds. The author of this piece does not seem to mention a particularly good fit within any organization despite recognizing the threat that comes with Barry's bat. Further commentary at MLB Trade Rumors discusses whispers the media has leaked about possible suitors for Bonds.

However, it appears as though it is simply a matter of those who are inside the baseball community that disagree to teams signing Bonds. Those who feel as if the negative Bonds brings to a clubhouse will be worse then the positives he brings to the field. Obviously, they are those that cannot accept nor understand his value as a hitter.

And what is that value as a hitter? In 2007, while having a historic age-42 season, Barry posted the 5th (tied) highest Win Share Percentage (WSP) among major league outfielders with at least 10 Win Shares Above Bench (WSAB). What that is saying, is among 'full time/full season' hitters, Bonds was the 5th best outfielder behind only Ordonez, Guerrero, Ichiro and Cust. I dare someone to suggest they wouldn't want any one of those hitters on their roster at almost any cost.

Here is some current ESPN material regarding Barry:
  • ESPN's Page 2 has an excellent commentary on team-by-team suggestions for Bonds.
  • Peter Gammons discusses life in San Francisco AB (After Bonds).
  • Jerry Crasnick explains how the Giants are being handed from the best player of all time, to Wreckless Rowand.
  • And Buster Olney channels Tony Kornheiser in attacking (not really) Ken Rosenthal suggesting that the Rays should sign Bonds.
Sadly, without a team, Pedro Gomez has lost his job following Bonds. I imagine he simply has nothing to write about any longer. That said, for the sake of Pedro Gomez, could somebody please give Bonds a job? Aside from that, possibly ESPN can hire him to write about others writing about Bonds.

As to what I think? Obviously there is no reason for any team to not sign Bonds. He, at worst, would be the best pinch hitter in possibly major league history. At best, he would provide outstanding production from left field or designated hitter. That said, even with a team deep in outfield/designated hitter talent, given Bonds' ability to immediately be superior then all but 14 major leaguers hitters (as per WSP among those with at least 10 WSAB) it seems unreasonable that a team would not sign him.

Joe Sheehan writes, "that [the notion] Barry Bonds is not a player who can help 30 teams win is deluded. He is still a great player..." and "MLB managers all think he’s good enough to not bother trying to get out nearly 10 percent of the time." So what is the problem?

I understand the 'headaches' that come with Bonds being aboard. However, even given the troubled relationship that was Bonds and Jeff Kent, Kent had the best five seasons of his career while hitting in front of Bonds. Additionally, despite having one of the worst rosters in the majors throughout Bonds' career, the Giants remained a contender in 8 of Bonds' 14 full seasons with the Giants (89 or more team victories). Last I checked, there are very few bad clubhouses among winning teams, thus, winning is the cure for almost anything-with the exception to low ticket pricing!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Wheel Was a Good Invention

In the first of a three part series, I defined what makes a prospect. In part two I took a look at the top prospects by organization. In the final installment I will discuss the top ten prospects in all of baseball.

The Outsiders Top 10 Prospects

  1. Clayton Kershaw (LAD – LHP)

As the #1 prospect you better be bringing something special. You better have put up some spectacular minor league numbers. You better be fairly young and haven’t had any major injuries.

Thus, the Los Angeles Dodgers soon to be 20 year old lefty with a 12.28 k/9 career minor league strikeout rate. While his control has been mediocre, his stuff has been so much better then his competition to this point, it hasn’t really mattered.

As a 20 year old, Clayton should begin the season in Double A and will undoubtedly be apart of the Dodgers rotation at some point in the 2008 season.

  1. Evan Longoria (TB – 3B)

Longoria is a youngster who displayed solid pop in his bat for 2007. Most have him as their #1 prospect, which is difficult to debate. Now Longoria is displaying the total package of power and plate discipline, coupled with what is described as “one of the league’s best defenders”.

While it does not appear as though he will make the majors out of Spring Training, I find it difficult to believe he won’t at some point be a factor in my sleeper pick for the American League. Give this kid time, and he will be fighting for MVP and Silver Slugger Awards. Watch out for those Rays!

  1. Jay Bruce (Cin – OF)

I spoke about how I am sold on toolsy players with strong plate discipline. Jay Bruce is the definition of this. Add into the fact that he is turning just 21 years of age on Opening Day and has already displayed above average power, Bruce is a guy to watch out for in the coming years.

While he may not get a crack at the majors out of Spring Training (good ol’ Dusty), I think that is for the best. Bruce looks like one of those players that may need time before he comes out and dominates. Although, hitting at Great American Ballpark is not going to stunt his development at all.

  1. Clay Buchholz (Bos - RHP)

What an incredible minor league resume! Oh, and he’s left handed? Entering Buchholz’s age 23 season, most consider him to be the best pitching prospect in the game. There is not a whole lot to argue against that except I am favoring Kershaw’s age here.

After having an excellent showing in the majors in 2007, there is a chance Buchholz does not make the Red Sox as a starter entering 2008. I will not hold this against him; in fact, I would suggest this will improve the kid in the long run. Consider that he will not be asked to go deep into games nor be the staff ace for the foreseeable future. Because of this, he will be on strict pitch and inning limits, keeping him fresh and healthy.

  1. Colby Rasmus (StL – OF)

Displaying plus power at a young age in a high level of the minors is outstanding; doing so with an incredible walk rate. Did I mention he is an above average fielder and will be St. Louis’ starting center fielder sooner rather then later?

Let us also keep in mind that Rasmus will have the best protection in the majors, which can only help. This 21 year old is going to take the National League by storm, putting up strong numbers from day 1.

  1. David Price (TB - LHP)

I am going against my own rule in not allowing a player without any experience to make the list. But I can’t get over how dominant Price was at the collegiate level, combined with him being a lefty.

John Sickels writes that there isn’t anything to not like about Price. I’m going to go out on a limb and state that all the prospect reports rave about the kid. I can see him making a Matt Garza type run through the minors and being a starter in the Rays rotation beginning April 2009. Did I mention to watch out for those Rays?

  1. Travis Snider (Tor – OF)

If someone were to pose a debate placing Snider over Rasmus, I would have a difficult time arguing against that. The thing that I feel Rasmus has over Snider is the fact that he is going to make the majors in 2008, whereas Snider will at best be a September call-up. In addition, having Albert Pujols in the lineup is invaluable.

That being said, Snider is going to be great! In Snider’s first professional season he dominated in a way that is very uncommon for a kid coming out of high school. He followed that up by another extraordinary season in 2007. Keep an eye on his strikeouts, as his batting average may not be legit in the higher levels of the minors, but he also has plenty of time to develop.

  1. Daric Barton (Oak – 1B)

I’m a fan of Daric Barton, probably more so then anyone outside of Oakland. His power is questionable despite his high doubles totals-although keep in mind, his speed is terrible and he earns each and every one of his doubles. Also, we are speaking of a 21 year old; there is plenty of opportunity for him to develop a little more power and to see some of those doubles fall for home runs.

All that being said, Barton is incredible at the plate. He has a relatively low strikeout rate and can read a ball the second it leaves a pitchers hand. That is a natural skill, not a learned one. Barton should have a top notch rookie season and will benefit from not being pressed into a defensive role.

  1. Jose Tabata (NYY – OF)
Most would put the Mets Fernando Martinez if not in this slot, but definitely ahead of Tabata. Tabata is definitely a long ways away but the Yankees will treat him properly and allow him to develop as he should.

That being said, I simply prefer what the kid has done to this point in his career over Martinez. I also like how he is being handled. I believe there is a lot of potential here to become a Bobby Abreu or a healthy Milton Bradley type, whereas I see Martinez sitting in around Mike Cameron. This will be an interesting New York story nonetheless.

  1. Jeff Clement (Sea – C)

Clement is getting up there in age and this is the type of, maybe, maybe not pick that keeps me as an amateur. As a 23 year old in his second go around in Tacoma, Seattle’s Triple A affiliate, Clement turned from a nice catching prospect to a top hitting prospect who can also catch. Some question Clement’s abilities behind the plate, but they are good enough. He should start the year in Triple A again, but will be called up at some point in 2008 on his way to a full time job in 2009.

2007, as mentioned, was a breakout season for Clement where he put together the combination of power and plate discipline that he regularly showed at the collegiate level. While he does not project as a high average hitter, if he can pound 20+ home runs with a .350+ on base percentage, Clement will be among the elite backstops for years to come.

Prospects - I'm Not Reinventing the Wheel Here

"Some days, we're ripped and town away. From the shore, and tossed to a watery grave. Set adrift, and the depths in the hands of the gods we curse."
- Chuck Ragan 'The Boat'

In the first of a three part series, I defined what makes a prospect. Part Two will take a look at the top prospect by organization. Part Three will discuss the top ten prospects in all of baseball.

I am not reinventing the wheel here, nor am I claiming to know something that a person who studies baseball day and night does. However, I do know how irritating it is going from website to website trying to figure out who the best player in each organization is. I take the majority of the fun out of that in listing off my top prospect by organization.

The ‘Lets Give Hope to Everyone’ List

Arizona Diamondbacks – M. Scherzer (RHP) Love the strikeouts hate the control, watch him dominate out of the pen for years to come.

Atlanta Braves – J. Schafer (OF) Young and no road blocks ahead. How about 74 extra base hits in 2007?

Baltimore Orioles – M. Wieters (C) Should be the O’s Opening Day catcher in 2010. And immediately a solid one.

Boston Red Sox – C. Buchholz (RHP)

Chicago Cubs – J. Ceda (RHP) If he can harness his stuff, watch out!

Chicago White Sox – J. Shelby (OF) Displayed some solid power at a low level while being old.

Cincinnati Reds – J. Bruce (OF)

Cleveland Indians – C. Lofgren (LHP) I will go at length about Lofgren in my Indians top 5. Short answer, lefty with stuff.

Colorado Rockies – F. Morales (LHP) Unfortunately he plays for the Rockies and has gotten worse. I think 2007 was an anomaly.

Detroit Tigers – R. Porcello (RHP) Rated as having plus stuff all over the place and should have been the second pitcher taken. People who argue for a salary cap should start at the draft.

Florida Marlins – C. Maybin (OF) Toolsy with a nice walk rate. The Tigers will be wishing they did not trade for Cabrera in 2 or 3 years.

Houston Astros – J. Towles (C) The Astros actually have no one worth mentioning. This is a pathetic system and Towles would be a marginal prospect in any other system.

Kansas City Royals – L. Hochevar (RHP)/M. Moustakas (3B) This is Hochevar’s make or break year. Most have already written him off but I feel as though he is worth a shot. Moustakas is all hype right now.

Los Angeles Angels of AnaheimN. Adenhart (RHP) I have given up on Anaheim prospects and so should you. Somehow he rates as a five star by Goldstein.

Los Angeles Dodges – C. Kershaw (LHP)

Milwaukee Brewers – Z. Braddock (LHP) Hold me to this one. Braddock is not listed on anyone’s prospect list. If he can manage to be healthy, he will be one of the best in the minors in 2008. LaPorta, sorry colleague, you don’t have a position on this team.

Minnesota Twins – D. Guerra (RHP) I had Swarzak here pre-trade. I still like Swarzak, but something about Guerra smells like Liriano. The good parts. 2008 should be the season the 19 year old takes serious strides.

New York Mets – F. Martinez (OF) The Mets are starting to be the Mariners of the National League. Why are they rushing these prospects before they master the appropriate level? I see Martinez developing into a Mike Cameron-this is not a bad thing.

New York Yankees – J. Tabata (OF)

Oakland Athletics – D. Barton (1B)

Philadelphia Phillies – C. Carrasco (RHP) Yet another pathetically shallow organization. Carrasco might not even make the Phillies top 10 list entering 2009. Mediocre stuff, nice control, another maybe pick.

Pittsburgh Pirates – A. McCutchen (OF) Far and away the most exciting prospect the Pirates have seen in a long time. I thought about using Pearce but went with McCutchen as a poor mans Tabata/Martinez.

San Diego Padres – C. Headley (3B) His future is in a pitchers park however his high on base skills creates interest and intrigue. Being more athletic then Kouzmanoff the Padres should just move him to the outfield right now.

San Francisco Giants – A. Villalona (3B) Everybody loves him. Although he is yet to be a legal adult, has power promise and should be the face of the Giants before he is legal to drink.

Seattle Mariners – J. Clement (C)

St. Louis Cardinals – C. Rasmus (OF)

Tampa Bay Rays – E. Longoria (3B)

Texas Rangers – E. Andrus (SS) One of the most promising prospects entering the 2007 season, Andrus is a guy who really turned it on after he was traded to the Rangers. This kid will be something special sometime soon.

Toronto Blue Jays – T. Snider (OF)

Washington Nationals - C. Marrero (1B) Despite having a weak minor league resume, I believe his power is legit and he will be a league leader in home runs for Washington before his 25th birthday.

Stay tuned for Part Three which will look at the top 10 prospects in all of baseball.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What Makes a Prospect a Prospect

In the first of a three part series, I take a look at what makes a prospect. Part Two will look at the top prospect by organization as well as the top 10 prospects in all of baseball. Part Three will discuss the top five Cleveland Indian prospects.

Spring Training brings together all the minds in baseball that had spent the last three and a half months toiling away at what could be. Everyone and anyone comes out with their own predictions or what their team should do. There is rampant speculation about who is going where for what and of course, prospect lists.

I always find it difficult to understand exactly how one person can put together a prospect list of every player in the game. This is the same in all sports, but especially true in baseball. In fact, something you may not know about me, Major League Baseball's Rule IV Draft is one of my favorite days of the baseball season (it's at least in the top 10). On this day, I follow the draft, and see what kids from the hotbed area of Niagara end up being drafted as well as Canadians in general. This year saw Niagara Falls' own Colin Buckborough taken in the 16th round by the Seattle Mariners.

With the draft comes a debate over the quality of draft a team had. In my opinion, this is a difficult grade to hand out as we are talking about kids whom for the most part are not going to make the show, and even if they do, it most like will not occur for another 3-5 years.

Over at Minor League Balle I had a brief conversation asking the members of a website wide vote what they determined to be the starting line for a prospect. This was sparked because of a vote rating Mike Moustakas, a supposedly very skilled high school player whom the Royals took with the #2 overall pick in this years first year player draft.

At the time of the poll, Moustakas had 47 professional plate appearances (I am uncertain if he played in a Winter League and am currently asking Royals Review to help me out there). Let it be known, that I am not doubting Moustakas as a prospect. In fact, it appears as though fans of the Royals are as excited about him as they were Alex Gordon.

With that in mind, I find it difficult to place a player with such little professional experience so highly on a prospect list. Three separate prospect lists have Moustakas ranking between 19th and 47th. Fact is, many (Sickels, Goldstein, Foster and Law) have already placed Moustakas at the top of the Royals farm system. Obviously these men have more information and knowledge then I do, however. I question the accuracy of such grades with so little professional information.

What is it that makes a prospect? In this article I will write what makes a prospect to me and how I evaluate a player whom I have never seen. One must admit, that the enhancements in baseball statistics has improved this evaluation, however, that is not the be all-end all. I will, however, state for the record that I do not have the time nor the will to check through the prospect reports of every individual player. So in part's 2 and 3 when I give my prospect lists, I rely on the numbers first and foremost and then the rankings given by experts.

However, in some cases I am going to disagree. I, for one, am not going to list an 18 year old with 47 professional plate appearances as the #19 prospect. I will accept that he may be the most promising and therefore best prospect in a given system, but a player needs to do some time before they are given a nod from this guy.

What I am looking for includes in no specific order the following:
  • Age - Not only must the player be young but their performance to this point must not be as a result of playing against younger competition.
  • Numbers - This is important as the player must have displayed some sort of extraordinary talent at some point. Again, relative to age. If a 29 year old corner infielder mashes in Triple A during his 3rd go around, I don't care.
  • Position - I will take a look at scouting reports to an extent. If a short stop has an iron glove but can hit, he won't be compared to short stops with slick gloves and lesser bats.
  • Scouting Report/Expert Analysis - I am not in the big leagues because I can't hit a beach ball. Similarly, I do not have the resources or time to scout all of the 4500+ players that are playing professional baseball in North America. Maybe one day I will, but today I'm more 'fan' then expert.
  • Special Skill Set - One example, if you are a lefty with 'stuff', you are in. If you are a toolsy outfielder with an excellent walk rate, you too are in.
  • Injury History - You are young and in the best shape of your life. If the player can't stay healthy as a minor leaguer in your early 20s, this does not bode well for his future.
  • Contribution to Big League Club - This is two fold. First, that a player has a path to the bigs. It does not have to be direct, however if the player has to go the Ryan Howard route I unfortunately have to punish you. Second, if the player meets a bunch of my other specifications and is on the cusp of the big league club, they are rewarded.
  • Big League Club - There are organizations who continually pump out top prospects which never pan out (I'm looking at you Anaheim). Unfortunately, players in those organizations are punished because I cannot trust what is going on in that system. We have all heard the old adage, "That's a professional program right there" could the opposite not be true?
These eight qualifications are what I use when grading a prospect. I will not deny that I am not re-inventing the wheel here. I promise though, that my prospect lists are honest and true. I took a great deal of time in selecting each player that I did as well as giving concrete evidence behind my selections.

Some additional food for thought; BaseballAmerica writes a piece on the implications of the Mitchell Report on prospects. Take a moment to read this article, despite the amount of headaches that this Report has already created. However, when doing so, consider that prospects such as David Wright, whom have had testing throughout their minor league careers are even more legit because of this.

Monday, February 18, 2008

What is Acceptable?

In my first blog entry at Baseball Digest Daily, I briefly examine what the main issue people have with the 'Juiced' era. The question involves whether it is the technology or the morality of taking performance enhancing drugs.

Thus, the moral controversy is an interesting one. As per an earlier article, "Todd McFarlane agrees with this comment when he discusses that when he was in college, if he was offered a pill that would have gotten him into professional baseball, he would have said, “I’ll take two”." This sentiment is shared by Dan LaBatard who states in a March of 2006 article in the Miami Herald,
Let's say you are an accountant, mailman or secretary. And there are two people in your business who aren't as good as you are (let's call them Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa) getting a lot more rewards because of some secret potion, powder, or pill that isn't against the rules of your workplace. You aren't going to go looking for that secret elixir that might make you better and add five years of money to your career? You are going to fall behind your competition by applying ethics? If so, good for you. You are a noble person. And, rather literally, a loser. You are going to be devoured for being less competitive and cruel than your cutthroat surroundings.
Truly, who can disagree? People continually argue how they are willing to do anything for their families. Then why is a man made a goat for doing the same thing any other person would have done? In my opinion, it is because people did not want Barry Bonds to break the all-time home run record.

Read my entry at BDD.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Under the Radar - Morgan Ensberg and the Yankees Firstbase Conundrum

I take a look at last weeks most underrated move over at Baseball Digest Daily.

Here is a snippet from that article:

"Under the Radar – Morgan Ensberg (and the Yankees First Base situation).

In early January I wrote about the top five remaining free agents, basing my rankings on skill, availability as well as cost. At that time I ranked Morgan Ensberg as my #5 remaining free agent, having a tough call between him and Pedro Feliz. However I settled on Ensberg as the reports out of camp Feliz were that he was looking for a multi year deal..."

"Two other options, of players on the 40 man roster include Matsui or Damon. The reason these two become options, is that the Yankees already have center and right field locked up (Cabrera and Abreu respectively), leaving Matsui and Damon to fight for the starting left field job..."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Pitchers and Catchers Report

Oh, what a day (or series of days).

To me, the beginning of Spring Training is the baseball equivalent of Thanksgiving. The weather is really undergoing some major changes. It is a day to look back (or forward) and be thankful. In addition to this, it signals the start of something. Thanksgiving also signals the true start to the holiday shopping season, where as pitchers and catchers reporting signals that Opening Day is only weeks away. The months spent dreaming about summer and the perfect season is quickly approaching. Outside of actually having the opportunity to attend Spring Training, things cannot get much better for a baseball fan.

If you are only recently starting to check out my blog, then check out my awards from the 2007 season.

Here is a team by team "What to Look Out For" during Spring Training 2008:

American League
Anaheim Angels - Everyone has named them the class of the West, but I worry about the age of their stars.
Baltimore Orioles - Keep an eye out for Brian Roberts. Its very likely that he is on his way out of town, which should keep Tim at MLB Trade Rumors busy.
Boston Red Sox - The Champs are looking to repeat. With that, there are questions surrounding the health of Curt Schilling. Does this open the door for Lester or Buchholz to prove they are ready for the big stage?
Chicago White Sox - Personally, I would love to have a camera settle in on the ChiSox outfield during a fly ball drill.
Cleveland Indians - Shapiro brought back the same team and has his focus set on re-upping the Big Man.
Detroit Tigers - Some new faces in Cabrera, Renteria and Jones, it will be interesting to see how they lineup this potent offense. And how does Inge transition back to catcher?
Kansas City Royals - This is Gordon and Butler's team, lets see how they play in their first experienced Spring Training.
Minnesota Twins - Watch as Liriano makes his way back from Tommy John surgery. I'm interested to see how reliant he is on his devastating slider and how much pressure he puts on himself to be the man in Minnesota.
New York Yankees - The Bomber return with essentially the same squad that lost in the ALDS to Cleveland. The Rodriguez ticker has expired, all that is left is to see what happens at first base.
Oakland Athletics - Blanton, Chavez, Street, Ellis. Who is the next one to be shopped in Oakland? Don't sleep on that injury prone Canadian!
Seattle Mariners - Everyone wants to know about Bedard, I want to know about Sexson!
Tampa Bay Rays - The baby Rays have a new look, a young and impressive top three in their rotation and a deep bullpen. My pick to surprise baseball and make the playoffs.
Texas Rangers - I know its know fair, but I've already ruled out this club. But lets see if they made the right choice on Hamilton.
Toronto Blue Jays - One last shot before the division rivals farm systems are major league ready. Keep an eye on Vernon Wells in an attempt to justify his contract.

National League
Atlanta Braves - 84 wins and a dissapointment of a season from a 're-tooling' club. The clock might run out with Chipper getting older and Teixeria on his way out for greener pastures.
Arizona Diamondbacks - Statistically they had no right to be in the playoffs. With their youth, they should make a reasonable argument to prove the 'stats guys' wrong.
Chicago Cubs - Still spending money and still looking to be sold. Why not Mark Cuban?
Cincinatti Reds - They are preparing themselves for a Dusty Baker led season by bringing in mediocre veterans to block the paths of top prospects.
Colorado Rockies - Was 2007 luck? Or is this a beginning of a dynasty? Rob McQuown chimes in.
Florida Marlins - Another rebuild? How long before the next championship?
Houston Astros - It looks like they should be able to hit, but who will step up in the rotation other then Oswalt?
Los Angeles Dodgers - When are they going to let the young talent take over? Why does this team keep signing veterans? Or is this the beginning of a plan to move some of the young talent for top notch veterans?
Milwaukee Brewers - Watch for Ryan Braun's transition to the outfield. He is young and athletic, but reading balls will be a little bit different.
New York Mets - They got Santana to be their ace. Will Pedro be healthy enough to be the leagues best #2?
Philadelphia Phillies - The returning champs in the East do not need any distractions, so what happens with the Ryan Howard contract situation?
Pittsburgh Pirates - Another terrible year on the horizon, how many players are axed in Neal Huntington's building process?
San Diego Padres - After losing in the wild card game playoff, can this team bounce back?
San Francisco Giants - Without Barry, is this team doomed? The team had a 43% winning percentage when Barry played and a 47% when he sat out.
St. Louis Cardinals - Does highly touted prospect Colby Rasmus show enough in Spring to make the club for Opening Day?
Washington Nationals - What will this team do with all of their 'depth'? Who stays and who goes?

With that, enjoy Spring Training, and check back as I am going full throttle this season.

And for fun, it would be neat if everyone who reads this could fill out a player card. Batter's Box Interactive has an interesting way they keep track of those who contribute to the website. I figured, what better way to kick off the real new year then to make our very own player card. So here is mine:

RP - Long Reliever - #4 Brandon Heikoop
Bats - L
Throws - R
Resides - Niagara Falls, Canada
Major-League Comp to Little League Career - Steve Dalkowski
Favorite Team - Cleveland Indians
Favorite Player - Ryan Garko (current), Matt Williams (all-time)
Best Game Attended - 10/05/2007 - Indians v. Yankees at Jacob's Field - Fausto Carmona, 9 inning pitched, finished off the game with a K to Rodriguez
Baseball Book - "Winners" by Dayn Perry
Favorite Play in Baseball - Strike 'em out, throw 'em out
Favorite Ballpark - Dunn Tire Park, Fenway
Striding-To-The-Plate Music - "Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangsta" - Geto Boys
When He's In Da Box - Reader/Researcher
When He's Out of Da Box - Student
Three Unshakable Baseball Beliefs - Chew beats Spits, "Voluntary" reporting to Spring Training, Science creates competition.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How Did This Happen?

On January 28th, 2008, I received an email from Dave Rouleau at Baseball Digest Daily asking if I would consider writing for the website. BDD had been a site I had been visiting for some time, so obviously it was a position I would be thrilled about taking. After asking some brief questions, which admittedly, did not have much of a factor in me taking the gig given the opportunity I was being provided, I gratefully accepted the position.

Obviously this is an incredible position for me and one that I can't believe I have been offered after writing for under two months-here's my first post, and yes, I was supposed to be doing final assignments.

That aside, for anyone who is reading this that is looking into getting into blogging, check out my article at The Bleacher Report, where I highlight the path I took in order to get to the modest level I am currently at, as well as Alexander Freund's write-up of what BR can offer anyone who is looking to get their foot in the door.

Thank you to everyone who has visited and read my blog, I intend to keep rolling out articles for the blog as well as linking the stuff I write at BDD. Especially to those who have sourced my blog at some point (specifically through a reader and some high praise). If you haven't already, check out my first article at BDD.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Who Is The "Chatter From the Bleachers"

Baseball Digest Daily is running a new series titled "Chatter From the Bleachers". The idea, is the writers for BDD are asked to answer two questions on a bi-weekly basis. In the first installment, we were asked the following questions:

1. Who is the best GM in the game right now? Why?
2. Which team will surprise everyone in 2008? Why?

I will leave it to you to check out the answers of my colleagues and I, however I will give you the rationale I used leading up to my answers and explanation.

Question #1:

To me, this question has me wondering, what is it that makes the best GM in baseball? Is it longevity? Not that holding a job for a long period of time means that the manager is succeeding, but has to say something. What about success? And what would one measure success to? That is, could one conclude that Mark Shapiro was more successful building his 2007 Indians then Epstein was in building his 2007 Red Sox?

With all of that in mind, I have several factors that go into making the leagues best GM.

The first is cost per victory (CPV). This is not a be-all, end-all factor; however it is one to consider. That is, the GM who puts together a 100-win roster at $64M is more successful then the GM who put together a 100-win roster at $100M. However each instance must be looked at individually, as there is no way that I could, for example, punish Cardinals GM Mozeliak for giving Albert Pujols a huge contract thus inflating the teams overall payroll. With that in mind, CPV takes into account money wasted (i.e. signing Trot Nixon).

The second is the club’s future. This takes into account a team’s farm system-both in terms of depth and talent-and average age of players.

The third is the GMs trading and signing ‘abilities’. I write a column called Under the Radar where I evaluate bargain deals that were made. GMs who show up here gain bonus points.

I began this by writing about Dan O’Dowd. However, I couldn’t go on. While the man has made an impressive run recently, finally understanding what to do with his players in Colorado, his previous errors are too many and too great to be forgiven.

Question #2:

I am uncertain how much of a limb I am going out on here, after switching back and forth on which team I believe will be the BIGGER surprise. I will begin with my ‘surprise’ team. The Minnesota Twins. Keep in mind, I am not suggesting the Twins will win the Central outright, rather, I am suggesting that the Twins are capable of shocking everyone after losing their #1 Win Share producing hitter and pitcher. With that in mind, I anticipate many experts to predict the Twins to finish in 4th or possibly even 5th in their division. However, I have a feeling that with Liriano, a healthy season from Mauer, the addition of Young and a rebound season from Morneau this is a team whom I have as a dark horse to win 85 games.

However, I don't believe the Twins will win the division nor do they have much of a shot at winning the wild card, so no matter how big of a surprise they are; they will fall short of missing the October headlines.

Thus, I can "base my logic on proof".

Also, if you enjoy checking out this feature, why not Hype it Up at Ball Hype?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

How to Make a Met Look Foolish

Best Trade EVER

“You know how I know you’re…” making an incredible deal???

When you trade a below league average catcher who is owed just under $10M for the next two seasons and a player who had been “on the trade block for many months”. Even if the Nationals would have received some low level, low ceiling, old prospects, this trade was still essentially a victory for them. However, given the Nats moved Brian Schneider and Ryan Church for Lastings Milledge, the talented and toolsy soon to be 23 year old outfielder and then were then able to turn around and pick up Johnny Estrada makes an incredible move that much more incredible.

Let’s break this deal down from the start…

The Mets moved a reliever whom had about a 50-50 chance to be a contributor to the teams bullpen to the Milwaukee Brewers for Mr. Estrada. This move was made, as per the words of Omar Minaya, because Estrada is a switch-hitting, former All-Star who has been a consistent .300 hitter. Quite high praise from a GM who decided 10 days later they wanted a black hole hitting catcher on the roster as well.

If you are keeping track, when the Mets traded for Schneider they had 3 catchers on the 40 man roster, not one of whom you would consider playing at another position. Given the team had just signed Roman Castro (not to mention overpaying at $2.3M a year)there was no way he was leaving town, so the choice was either recently acquired Schneider or recently acquired Estrada. Both have a rather hilarious ring to it.

To summarize, the Mets moved Milledge, Estrada and Mota for Church and Schneider. Really?

But how much water does that truly hold? Who are these players and why does it matter that Minaya made this move? Furthermore, you may be asking yourself, “Brandon, you still haven’t explained how the Nationals made an incredible transaction?”

Fair enough. As mentioned, the Nationals were looking to move Church, so essentially anything they received for him would have been gravy. Church, who isn’t a terrible outfielder, also is not an imposing OFer and will presumably start the season as the Mets starting right fielder. He has a career 113 OPS+, which according to a study performed by The Hardball Times would make him about 8 points better then the middle of the road right fielder. However, if you decide to look into Church’s split stats, you can see that he has been protected from left handed pitching (891 plate appearances vs. 241). In other words, he hasn’t ever been an everyday player. His OPS+ also sits comfortably at about 25 points less against lefties then against righties. So even if he was given an everyday job, he would be a black hole against south paws. Essentially, the Mets are looking at a player slightly below league average to man RF-nice grab!

Who is this Brian Schneider character? He is a catcher who has been a burden offensively for the last two seasons, which is saying a lot considering how low the bar is for catchers (83 OPS+ vs. 105 for right fielder). However, maybe Minaya signed him to be a defensive presence, figuring that Estrada was not going to hit that much better so the defensive improvements would be worth his while. Schneider, according to The Hardball Times’ defensive Win Share measure (admittedly, this is not the best stat, however there really is not a ‘best’ stat for defensive abilities), has ranked 11th, 25th and 6th over the last 3 seasons. This statistic is a cumulative total, so the rankings are not perfect. Given Schneider has finished 15th, 18th and 22nd in at bats among catchers over this same period of time, it is safe to say Schneider is well above average defensively.

Summary, the Mets acquired a below league average right fielder and an above average defensive catcher. Who put money on the Mets to win the World Series after acquiring those two studs?

I imagine fewer people did that than those who jumped ship after finally losing it with Minaya.

How about what they gave up?

Mota, as I mentioned, was really never much of a factor for the Mets bullpen. He was going to be behind Wagner, Sosa, Heilman, Wise, Sanchez, Smith, Feliciano, Schoeneweis and my personal favorite Burgos-a hard throwing, fearless reliever. Thus, moving him was inevitable, and like the Nationals moving Church, getting anything was about all they could ask. However, Mota is still semi-reliable and netting an Estrada or some low level minor leaguer is better then nothing. That said the Mets essentially got nothing except for a bill in the mail for Estrada and ‘cash’.

Estrada is not an elite catcher. However, he has put together two solid seasons. At $1.25M for 2008, he will do an excellent job of keeping the seat warm while 23 year old Flores takes another season to develop. No one is going to mistake Estrada for the 90s version of Pudge, but for my money-or prospects, I would take him over Schneider. Why? Outside of being an absolute dud with a glove, a catcher can make up for his defensive short-comings with his bat.

The last piece, which I actually have a difficult time believing he was moved for so little, is Milledge. The 22-year-old has been rated as a grade A- prospect in 2006 and a grade B prospect in 2005 (although admittedly low) according to John Sickels. If the grades don’t mean enough, Sickels tosses Milledge up against Delmon Young. The results: Young over Milledge by a hair. Mind you, this was in 2005 as both players were entering their age 20 seasons, but this does not change the fact that Milledge rated as not much worse than the bat-thrower, which I take as pretty high praise.

Entering the 2007 season, Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus ranked Milledge as the Mets #3 player under age 25. He was rated below the two obvious players (Wright and Reyes), but ahead of Martinez, Humber and Pelfrey, all of whom rated as “Excellent Prospects”.

This is a trade we will look back at in three to five years and wonder exactly what the Mets were thinking. It will be comparable to when the Indians traded Einar Diaz and Ryan Drese for Travis Hafner. The fact that the Nationals were also able to land Estrada for less than 25% of what they were paying Schneider makes this an incredible steal.

I enjoyed how Minaya tried to make up for it with this blunder.

Friday, February 8, 2008

UPDATE - Official Bedard Trade

When news first broke of the Bedard to the Mariners trade I posted my reaction to the trade involving Bedard for Jones, Sherrill and Tillman. The trade has been finally finalized with two more prospects being added, which, in my opinion, greatly shifts the trade in favor of the Orioles. Given the philosophy that with more prospects, there is a greater chance at having one pan out to be a quality major leaguer. That said, it appears as if the Mariners still paid less for two years of Bedard's services then the Mets paid for a year and the negotiating rights of Johan Santana.

Without repeating what I said about Jones, Sherrill and Tillman, I will simply look at the new players the Orioles managed to pull out from the Mariners in the second step of the teams total rebuild.

First of all, the Orioles just received two giant pitchers. One being 6'9" the other being 6'7". While it is doubtful either will make it into the rotation by the time Daniel Cabrera's (6'7") tenure as an O expires, it is quite possible this would be the tallest starting 4 in history-although I don't have anything to back this claim, its simply an assumption.

Kam Mickolio has been converted to reliever since being drafted his second time around in 2006 by the Mariners. Since this time, he has handled his accelerated promotion with ease averaging just under a strikeout per inning even increasing this total along with his promotions.

The move to the bullpen was obviously the smartest move, as Mickolio went from being a terrible starting pitcher in college (3.05, 7.49, 7.98 and 5.30 ERA in 4 seasons). That said, Baseball America writes that Mickolio is an "intriguing arm from the 2006 draft."

First Inning rates Mickolio as a major league ready reliever giving him a 3 out of 5 in strikeouts, control and ground ball percentage.

The second monster the Orioles received is Anthony Butler, the 20-year old 3rd round draft pick. The huge lefty has had moderate success to this point in his professional baseball career, although has been extremely wild, posting a walk per nine innings of 5.10. The MLB average sits under 3.5 so Anthony (also known as Tony) will have to greatly cut back his walks in order to become a quality major leaguer.

Entering the 2007 season, Butler ranked as Baseball Prospectus' #9 left handed minor league starter and as a good prospect. Another report in 2007 calls Butler a "high ceiling" pitcher. Given his size and strikeout rate, it is no wonder experts are excited over the potential that looms.

Over at Seattle PI, Jason Churchill had the following to say after Butler was drafted in the third round,
Butler may be the steal of the entire draft, provided the 6-foot-7 left-hander can harness his stuff on his way up the ladder. He has a fastball that already reaches 93 mph, an above average curveball and a serviceable change-up. If two of his offerings are working, he's a tough customer, but his control is inconsistent. Most scouts see Butler as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter, or a power setup man in the mold of Arthur Rhodes.

Overall, I believe the Orioles made out well in this deal. The club is obviously in a full rebuild mold, understanding that with the current Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays clubs, the team will have little ability to compete in the short term. However, with a strong showing in the 2007 draft and the stock piling of high upside low level minor leaguers, the Orioles appear on a path to creating a solid core for 2010-11.

The Mariners did well to hold on to most of their top prospects, not having to surrender 4 of their top 6 in the way the Mets did. The rotation is now set with two legitimate aces in Bedard and Hernandez, along with Silva, Batista and Washburn. With that rotation and the uncompetitive Rangers and Athletics, the Mariners have put themselves in position to push the Angels for the AL West crown. Look for the Mariners to make a serious push to the playoffs and be very active come the non-waiver trade deadline.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Calling Out Mr. Rosenthal

"Ummm, Hello!"

Let me preface this by stating that I actually hope this turns into a series, as it would be interesting and fun to call out an expert and his analyzing skills-or lack thereof. This is not to suggest that I will be calling out the same expert, rather, anyone whom I feel made an erroneous claim.

Also, keep in mind; I am going into this with a great deal of respect for Mr. Rosenthal. A few years back when I was doing research on Barry Bonds, Ken was one of two experts to get back to me when I had questions regarding the subject. He even responded more then once, which I found very impressive given his stature and popularity.

So Mr. Ronsethal, no offense...

BUT, what are you talking about?? On February 2nd, 2008 you posted a blog defending the move the Mets made. Suggesting that this was the best possible move, despite the amount of years, money and prospects invested. Many actually agree with you, not even acknowledging as much as you did in the factor of years. In that, you write, "...then seven years for Johan Santana is stupid. Seven years for any pitcher is stupid...”

However, what are you talking about with this?

“Maybe the Mets could have bid $200 million for Sabathia next winter, but the Indians' oversized lefty is much more of a physical risk than Santana...”

Let us define 'physical risk'. One can assume you are discussing the risk that is attached to the physical nature of a player, i.e. their body. Yes, Carsten Charles is a big boy, no one, not even the big man himself, would disagree with that. Yes, the guy has had a couple 'weight' related injuries. However, few, if anybody say anything about his mechanics and he is yet to have a serious arm injury. So what’s the big deal?

Presumably, Ken, you have made this comment based on speculation. That is, you see his size and figure, 'how can he succeed as a professional athlete?'

However, did you look into this? Did you have anything to base this on?

My guess is that you did not. However, if I left this column simply debating your comment without any backing information, I would be doing what I despise. That is, making unfounded claims and statements. I will, however admit to making mistakes. I have overlooked issues and ideas; I have also erred in calculations. That said; I do my best to ensure that my opinions have at least some ground to stand on.

With that said how is it that the big boy is a 'physical risk'? In 2006 David Gassko at The Hardball Times did a six part study researching the effects size has on ballplayers. He wrote,

“More surprisingly, fat pitchers have much more staying power than any other group. Pitching isn’t really very stressful for most body parts, except for the arm. I think that for big guys there just isn’t as much of a risk of breaking down pitching as there is hitting, running, and playing the field. Think about it: Who would you expect to fall apart first, Curt Schilling or Pedro Martinez? But that being overweight isn’t a detriment is one thing; why is it helpful?”

“One theory would be that some of the pitchers I bunch in as overweight aren’t really fat so much as they muscular. Maybe, but we’re looking at the fattest 15% or so; I doubt that there are enough in-shape pitchers among those to make such a large difference. Furthermore, even if we limit ourselves to the 100 most overweight players, 31 of them make it to 32. Out of the 50 fattest, 15 do. Seven out of the 20 fattest pitchers make it to 32 as well. So again, fat pitchers just have higher survival rates. Why? I don’t immediately know.”

Essentially, there has been a study performed-and over a year prior to your 'physical risk' conclusion-stating that over weight pitchers have little to no greater of a risk then do smaller pitchers. In fact, Gassko suggests that pitchers with smaller builds are more likely to be removed from their role as a starting pitcher. Thus, Gassko concludes, "Because their bodies are more poorly equipped to handle the stress of starting in the major leagues for a long time. It’s no wonder their survival rate is low."

Another interesting quote by Gassko occurs in his conclusion of the series (Part 6).
Here he writes, "Given that overweight pitchers also survive for much longer time periods in the major leagues, all else being equal, invest in fat guys."

In April of 2006, the Washington Post ran an article, with the same concluding thoughts. The author quotes then Nationals pitching coach with saying, "If a guy stays aerobically in shape and does all the little things that are necessary, like fielding the position -- which Livan does very well -- I don't see where it really does any harm."

While this is about Livan Hernandez, the basis of this point is to suggest that a pitcher's determination has as much to do with further health issues as does his size.

But maybe, just maybe we can not solely place the blame of the ‘size stigma’ on Ken Rosenthal. If you have read Michael Lewis’ Moneyball you may recall the following, “Brown…has been so perfectly conditioned by the conventional scouting wisdom that he refused to belief that any major league baseball team could think highly of him” (102, 2003). That ‘conventional wisdom’ being Mr. Brown is ‘too fat’. While things certainly have not worked in Brown’s favor, Beane has helped spark the mainstream media’s attention in the stats vs. scouts debate.

It is, however, his fault for not researching.

However, while we are on the topic of injury risks, how about this fact, which I source in my debut article at Baseball Digest Daily. That is, according to Will Carrol at Baseball Prospectus in 2004, "Johan Santana got a thumbs up at his last checkup before spring training. After minor surgery on his pitching elbow to remove a bone chip, Santana has full range of motion and full strength. Bone chips often recur, but over a period of years, not months."

Good news, right? Let’s consider that Rosenthal agrees that signing a long term contract for any pitcher is a foolish decision. Let us also consider that Rosenthal would be more against signing Sabathia then Santana due to the supposed 'risk' of injury. However, does that actually make sense? Given that Santana is at a greater risk of injury due to being smaller, added to the fact that he has a pre-existing condition that tends to recur.

So Mr. Rosenthal. Do you still believe that the Mets made the best and correct decision? I have been certain all along that they did not, and one of your most recent arguments certainly does not suggest any inaccuracies in my claim.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Why I Believe....

The Mets didn't make out so well on the Santana trade...

I understand the Mets will always have money. But when they are locking up $70-75M in three players (Wright, Reyes, Santana) how high can the team go and still turn a profit? The Yankees are said to have lost money in recent seasons despite being far and away the best earners in baseball. The Red Sox, who have one of baseballs biggest markets with DiceK aboard even have a limit. So yes, the Mets can probably get up to $150-170M but that limits the profitability of the club, which, is the REAL name of the game for these owners.

That said, and returning to the $70-75M between 3 players, the team will still need to fill another 22 players on their roster. Given they have NO ONE in the minors, they will essentially be paying market cost. Which is about $3M a true win (a 95 win team made up of free agent players would cost $285M). Lets say the team only brings in 7 such players at about 3 wins apiece, thats $63M. Without even filling half their roster the team has spent $130M.

Again, the smart financial operation to go 'young'. The Sox are paying Manny a premium while Papi is making a pittance. Beckett is still relatively cheap. Crisp, Drew, Lowell, etc are not making premiums at their position-albeit they are for their abilities. Even DiceK, whose international revenues are said to take the place of most, if not all of his signing bonus is relatively inexpensive with that considered. Thus, while the team is spending, they also have a great deal of young 'cheap' talent.

The Yankees are proof of what trying to BUY a World Series does (last WS in 2000). Cashman has learned this and has stood pat in recent years that Cano, Hughes and Chamberlain are untouchable. He knows that if the club is going to have any success, the homegrown talent that carried the team in the mid 90s (Jeter, Pettitte and Rivera) would have to be duplicated two decades later.

In any event. I believe, this deal was good for the Mets. Although I believe that in 3-5 years we are going to be looking at this and seeing 2 league average pitchers whom the Mets will be spending $12-15M a year on (inflation considered), a stud pitcher posting Santana like numbers at a 20th of the cost and a top of the order near all star OFer. However, for the next 2 years or so, the Mets will be looking like they stole from the junior circuit and Santana's salary over that time (about $15M a year) will be an incredible bargain.

Oh and Mr Rosenthals, I know your job is to report rumors and speculation, but please do not claim that alleged offers were factual unless you are willing to put your reputation on the line for it. Also, who is to say that the Twins are better off without one bonafied 'sure thing'? Too much is unknown in baseball, having 4 players who are pretty solid bets outweighs 1 sure thing and 3 chumps.
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