Monday, June 8, 2015

Twins 2014 Draft - A Year Out

Hey folks, the Twins are drafting again tonight, believe it or not.

That means that one year ago, they also drafted some guys. In 2014, Minnesota popped a high school shortstop with their first pick and then pick a ton of college pitchers. Let's see how those picks look after a year in the minors. Disclaimer: I'm wrong about everything and this will all probably be wrong just a year from now, maybe sooner.

Round 1 -- Nick Gordon -- Cedar Rapids (A)
Gordon did well in the second half of 2014 hitting .294/.333/.366 in 57 games at Elizabethton with defense that earned high marks. So far in full season ball, he hasn't found same the success. In 50 games so far, he's hit .242/.318/.293. Despite that unfortunate batting line, he's stolen 14 bases and walked 19 times, both acceptable.

What we've learned so far is that he's going to take some time, but he has continued to show that he's a legit shortstop, with solid approach at the plate and speed. If he can develop as a hitter there's no reason he can't be a major league shortstop. Look at Trevor Plouffe, he hit .223/.300/.345 in his first year of pro ball. If Gordon can make adjustments, this still looks like a solid pick.

Round 2 -- Nick Burdi -- Chattanooga (AA)
Just by the fact that he's spent all year in AA, this pick has been fine. That said, he's been plagued by poor control, walking 16 batters in 24 innings.  But you can see the potential in his 25 strikeouts. All reports I've seen say he's still hitting 100mph with his fastball. All in all, he's not quite the instant impact player we hoped for last year, but he's still the Twins' top relief prospect (not counting Alex Meyer). As soon as he can start to locate his fastball he'll be setting up Glen Perkins.

Round 3 -- Michael Cederoth -- Cedar Rapids (A)
The first of the relievers-converted-to-starter projects, Cederoth has been similarly inconsistent to Burdi. However, he's been that at a lower level. As a college pitcher, I think it's fair to say he should have had more success at Low-A ball. Over the past three weeks or so, it looks like he has been transitioned back to a reliever. I wonder if the Twins are hoping to fast track him to the upper minors. This one isn't looking so hot yet.

Round 4 -- Sam Clay -- Cedar Rapids (A)
This lefty was also supposed to transition to the rotation, but never got a start. His main asset seems to be his handedness, as he's walked 18 batters in 18 innings in Low-A. Similarly to those above, he needs to get his command in order before we even think about him making any sort of impact in the upper levels. Also a college guy, it's hard to be optimistic.

Round 5 -- Jake Reed -- Chattanooga (AA)
Finally someone who has been relatively successful. Reed killed it last year in Low-A ball as a reliever - with 31/3 K/BB ratio. He then went into the Arizona Fall League where he allowed just one run in 12.2 IP. This year however, he's gotten off to a slow start in AA, allowing 14 ER in 22.1 IP. Although, most reports say that he has the stuff to perform in the big leagues and is striking batters out. So, I think he has a pretty good chance of making an impact, possibly as soon as this September.


Others of note:
John Curtiss (round 6) is a starter for Cedar Rapids and has a legit fastball, but is a long way away, Max Murphy (rd 9 and Andy's college teammate) has hit well for Cedar Rapids, looking like a solid org outfielder. Randy LeBlanc (rd 10), Zach Tillery (13), Matt Batts (17) and Trevor Hildenberger (rd 22) have all pitched very well in the lower minors, but don't have the pedigree or scouting reports that lead you to believe they will be major leaguers.

Overall Draft Grade -- D
Still too early to say for sure, but it's not looking good so far. The best case scenario is if Burdi and Reed can become solid bullpen pieces and Nick Gordon can develop into an everyday shortstop. If that happens, the draft was actually very successful. But that might be a long shot.



Friday, March 27, 2015

2015 Minnesota Twins Top 10 Prospects

Last week I made a composite list of the Arizona Diamondbacks top 10 prospects using the five most popular prospects rankings.  Just as a refresher, here is a list of the sources used:

1. Baseball Prospectus (BP)
2. FanGraphs (FG)
3. MLB Pipeline (Pipeline)
4. Baseball America (BA)
5. Keith Law of EPSN (Law)

With the Twins there are some notable names left off the composite top 10 which speaks to how deep the Twins' system is and how the future of the organization is looking up.

A quick reminder on the point system.  A number one ranking will give a player 10 points, a number two ranking is worth nine points and so on.  There aren't any scouting reports included as I think it is worth finding these rankings on the respective websites to explore and learn more about the future of the Twins organization.

Minnesota Twins Top 10 Prospects

1. Byron Buxton, OF - 50 points
BP=1; FG=1; Pipeline=1; BA=1; Law=1

2. Miguel Sano, 3B - 45 points
BP=2; FG=2; Pipeline=2; BA=2; Law=2

3. Alex Meyer, RHP - 35 points
BP=3; FG=6; Pipeline= 3; BA= 5; Law=3

4. Jose Berrios, RHP - 34 points
BP=5; FG=3; Pipeline=4; BA=3; Law=6

5. Kohl Stewart, RHP - 31 points
BP=4; FG=5; Pipeline=6; BA=4; Law=5

6. Nick Gordon, SS - 30 points
BP=6; FG=4; Pipeline=5; BA=6; Law=4

7. Jorge Polanco, SS - 14 points
BP=9; FG=7; Pipeline=7; BA=8; Law=9

8. Lewis Thorpe, LHP - 12 points
BP=7; FG=8; Pipeline=10; BA=NA; Law=7

9. Nick Burdi, RHP - 11 points
BP=8; FG=10; Pipeline=8; BA=7; Law=NA

10. Eddie Rosario, 2B/OF - 6 points
BP=NA; FG=NA; Pipeline=9; BA=10; Law=8

Also receiving votes: Stephen Gonsalves, Trevor May and Amaurys Minier

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

2015 Arizona Diamondbacks Top 10 Prospects

Every year there are multiple outlets who come out with top ten prospect rankings for MLB teams and it is interesting to see how they differ.  Some put an emphasis on the ceilings of the players while others favor players who seem to be safer bets and closer to the big leagues.

There are five major prospect rankings so I thought it would be fun to make a composite list for my favorite teams.  The first team I will rank is the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The five major prospect rankings are the following:

1. Baseball Prospectus (BP)
2. FanGraphs (FG)
3. MLB Pipeline (Pipeline)
4. Baseball America (BA)
5. Keith Law of EPSN (Law)

If a player receives the number one ranking, it is worth 10 points.  A number two ranking receives nine points and so on and so forth.  I think you can understand the point if you've made it this far into the blog.

I won't include any scouting reports as I haven't seen all of these players live yet and don't want to give away the hard work these others have done to scout the players and if you wish to find out more about them I encourage you to go to all of these sites and look around.  They're all well done and they're the result of hundreds of hours of work.

Due to the signing of some players and acquisitions after the publication of certain lists, the player may have been completely left off even though he is an obvious top 10 talent.

So enough chit chat and let's get onto the rankings.

Arizona Diamondbacks Top 10 Prospects 2015

1. Archie Bradley, RHP - 49 points
BP=1; FG=1; Pipeline=1; BA=1; Law=2

2. Braden Shipley, RHP - 46 points
BP=2; FG=2; Pipeline=2; BA=2; Law=1

3. Aaron Blair, RHP - 39 points
BP=3; FG=3; Pipeline=4; BA=3; Law=3

4. Touki Toussaint, RHP - 32 points
BP=4; FG=5; Pipeline=5; BA=5; Law=4

5. Jake Lamb, 3B - 28 points
BP=6; FG=6; Pipeline=3; BA=6; Law=6

6. Brandon Drury, 2B - 27 points
BP=5; FG=4; Pipeline=7; BA=7; Law=5

7. Yoan Lopez, RHP - 9 points
BP=NA; FG=NA; Pipeline=6; BA=NA; Law=7

8. Yasmany Tomas, 3B/OF - 7 points
BP=NA; FG=NA; Pipeline=NA; BA=4; Law=NA

9. Peter O'Brien, C/1B - 6 points
BP=NA; FG=NA; Pipeline=8; BA=8; Law=NA

10. Nick Ahmed, SS /Robbie Ray, LHP - 5 points each
Ahmed: BP=NA; FG; 7; Pipeline=NA; BA=10; Law=NA
Ray: BP=NA; FG=NA; Pipeline=9; BA=NA; Law=8

Also receiving votes: Jimmie Sherfy, Sergio Alcantara, Marcus Wilson, Kaleb Fleck, Andrew Velazquez (Now with the Tampa Bay Rays), Justin Williams and Domingo Leyba

The next list will be the Minnesota Twins after MLB Pipeline releases their top 30 players later this week.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Greek God of Walks or Nah?

Kevin Youkilis was introduced to us as "The Greek God of Walks" in the 2003 book Moneyball. Fans of the book and stats nerds eagerly awaited his MLB debut with the Boston Red Sox in mid-2004, hoping that Youkilis could prove the value of sabermetric thought - he didn't play flashy defense, hit for high average or light-tower power, but he also didn't make outs. He was considered an On-Base Machine, a Greek God of Walks.

Fast forward to today, Youk hasn't played since 2013 and his career can be considered with some distance. By any measure he was a great success, The GGoW made three all-star games, produced 32 WAR and starred on a World Series team. His reputation will always reflect that success and will also be linked to the popularization of sabermetric ideas. But was he really what we thought he was? Was his career misrepresented by a narrative?

Perception: The idea is that Youkilis, the GGoW, was a blue collar ballplayer who battled in every plate appearance to beat the pitcher. He would any victory he could get, be that a home run or a walk. He had to. Youkilis didn't have the physical tools to be noticed out of high school and was an 8th round pick out of college. But he made a great career by playing smarter than his opponents.

Reality: Kevin Youkilis was an awesome ballplayer in his prime. He did everything. He played a good third base, hit for average (career .281 BA) and for power (.478 slugging). He also walked. A lot. But not nearly enough to earn the title GGoW.

The reality is that only once in his career did Kevin Youkilis crack the top ten in the American League in walks. I brought this statistic up to a couple friends who know Youk's reputation and they both asked if this was maybe a misrepresentation. Maybe he didn't have enough plate appearances and his BB% (as a percentage of plate appearances) would prove his excellence. I went and looked up the supposed GGoW's MLB rank in BB% each year he had at least 400 plate appearances.

2006 23rd
2007 32nd
2008 62nd
2009 23rd
2010 20th
2011 15th
2012 51st

Even in BB% Youkilis was not an elite cultivator of walks. No doubt he was very good, but he was never in the league of Adam Dunn, Nick Swisher or Oakland's own Jack Cust. Maybe Youkilis was just a very good, well-rounded ballplayer. Not the cyborg with excellent strike zone judgement that many make him out to be. 

P.S. Ideally, if I had access, I would have liked to look at Pitches/PA. Andy recommended checking that out to see if it told a different story. However, I'll leave that for somebody with better access to stats and more time.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Twins 5th Starter Battle by ZiPS

La Velle E. Neal wrote in today's Star Tribune about the Twins 5th starter battle. Phil Hughes and Ervin Santana are going to lead the rotation and La Velle calls Kyle Gibson and Ricky Nolasco locks behind those two. There's an argument that Gibson and Nolasco don't deserve spots, but we can tackle that another day. As it's laid out in La Velle's scenario, this leaves one spot open to competition between Trevor May, Alex Meyer, Tommy Milone, Mike Pelfrey and Tim Stauffer.

Here's a look at how the five candidates stack up by FanGraphs ZiPS projections -









Note that Stauffer's projection is mostly based on bullpen work and looks slightly better as a result.

I think this tells us more about who will end the season in the rotation than who will be there in April. It's likely that Stauffer, Milone and Pelfrey are allowed to wear out their welcome before May and certainly Meyer are asked to take the hill at Target Field.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hunter, Ervin and JR Graham

Crazy couple of months, huh? In any other year, $65MM of commitments would be huge news for the Twins. This year it's been pretty swamped by other teams (OK, mostly the Dodgers) wheeling and dealing like never before. I'm going to ignore all that noise and focus in on what the Twins have done and where that leaves them.

There should be no expectations of playoffs this year. But, unlike the past few years, next year might actually be good. Maybe. That's the position the Twins are in. They've spent the last four seasons tearing down the roster and rebuilding from within. The crop of young players developed has either reached the majors or is knocking on the door. Yet, with a young club comes many losses, probably about 90 of them.

Despite Kennys Vargas, Danny Santana, Oswaldo Arcia and Kyle Gibson earning their spot on ML team in 2014, there were still many holes to fill in the off-season. One corner outfielder was needed play opposite of Oswaldo Arcia. At least one starter was needed to prevent from Mike Pelfrey from depressing an entire fanbase. A reliever or two would be great to hold on to the few leads that happen.

Filling 'hole #1' will be Torii Hunter on a 1-year deal. He will likely take over in right field and let Arcia make his inevitable shift to left field. However, this is not the Torii that we remember from 2007 when he last played for the Twins. He's no longer the highlight reel generating centerfielder, he's now an old, quickly deteriorating corner outfielder who realistically, should have his 'glove' taken away from him the same way you might take away Grandma's driver's license. Seriously, it's best for everyone.

The damage in the field is minimized by the fact that he'll only be around for one season and is legitimately a very good hitter. He'll slot in nicely to the back end of the middle of the lineup and provide some nice pop. Especially with Target Field's short left porch, he has a real chance of topping 20 home runs for the first time since 2011. Only five Twins have reached the 20 HR mark in the last 4 years, but with Hunter, Vargas, Arcia and Brian Dozier, there are four guys who have a real chance of reaching that mark this season.

With the outfield corners set and players slotted in at every other position (except centerfield, but I believe that's by design), Terry Ryan and his comrades moved to the pitching staff signing Ervin Santana to the free agency deal the Twins have ever given a pitcher. Now 32, Ervin has been a slightly above average, work horse starter in his career. However, for providing 200 innings year in and year out, he's had very inconsistent results.

For example, 2012 was a complete disaster with the Angels. But he bounced back with an excellent season with Kansas City and then one of his best years ever based on peripherals in 2014. Over those two seasons, he contributed nearly 6 WAR (FanGraphs style). That easily makes him the Twins second best starter, but would probably be a #3 on most playoff teams. Going forward, that's the Santana the Twins are hoping for. Is that the guy they'll get? Who knows, Phil Hughes and Ricky  Nolasco showed us that we don't know anything about predicting success. I'll venture a guess that he has one very good season, one good season, one bad season and one injured season over the life of his contract. In what order? You're guess is as good as mine.

The Santana signing actually helped the bullpen, if you can believe it. It knocks one of the starters, probably Mike Pelfrey, into the bullpen. Starters are a crapshoot when they go into the bullpen. Some failed starters can't hack in the bullpen, but some have their career re-birthed. Andy passed along this tweet from Mike Berardino, with special guest Brandon Warne:



















I will say, I don't expect him to be arguably the best reliever in baseball. I don't even suspect him to be very successful at all. But he might be a good replacement for Jared Burton or at least replace Anthony Swarzak in garbage time.

I would love to get into all the implications of rotation moves, but it's still so much up in the air. The only guys, in my mind, who are guaranteed a spot are Nolasco, Hughes and Santana. That leaves two spots for about six qualified candidates. It'll be an interesting topic for spring training but is hard to discuss at this time.

The third move the Twins made happened just today. They selected JR Graham in the Rule V draft. Twins fans may remember another Santana, Johan, who was once selected in the Rule V draft. They may not remember Terry Doyle, Alejandro Machado and Jesse Floyd. Hits are much less common than misses in the draft and it's impossible to expect anything, really, out of one of the picks. THAT SAID, I really like JR Graham! As recently as last off-season, he was considered a future middle rotation starter (think Ervin Santana). He is small, but he has power stuff and throws strikes. Baseball America had his fastball in the mid-90's consistently, with a heavy and very effective two-seamer in the lower 90's, a solid slider and serviceable change-up. The rub is that he injured his shoulder in 2014 and showed diminished stuff throughout the season. The Twins are gambling on some of that velocity to return and if it does, they'll look smart as heck. He's the type that could be an absolute beast out of the bullpen. If he is fully healthy, he may even become a good starting pitcher. There's also the chance that he never does much. He's never pitched above AA and wasn't very good at that level, so there is plenty of reasons for the move to fail. However, it's a good move that has the potential to make the Twins look a lot smarter than Ryan Pressly did in 2013.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

AFL Notes October 22-25, 2014

AFL Notes October 22-25, 2014
It’s been six years since my last trip to the desert to watch the Arizona Fall League so when I had the chance to finally make it down I couldn’t resist.  I was able to watch parts or all of four games and see many talented players who will be Major League contributors.  I didn’t prepare ahead of time to take great notes on players nor was I able to really evaluate many players because I was mainly focused on a select few I found intriguing.  Here are the those notes.

October 22

When I got to the park with my uncle and saw that neither Byron Buxton nor Eddie Rosario were in the lineup I rather zoned out and just enjoyed watching high caliber baseball because there were no players I was dying to see.  One player who stood out on the Salt River Rafters was the first guy out of the bullpen, Brian Ellington.  

Brian Ellington (Marlins): His frame stands out as a lanky right hander standing 6’ 4” and 200 pounds.  Then you see his first pitch and the radar gun says 97.  He had a bit of an issue throwing strikes as the inning got started by walking the leadoff hitter and throwing balls on six of his first seven pitches but after that he settled down.  He had a long, loose arm that acted as a powerful whip to unleash upper 90’s heaters.  He also threw a slider that was in the upper 80’s and some downward tilt and when he stayed on top of the pitch, it looked like something that would generate many swing and misses.

October 23

This was the game I was most excited about.  First, I was able to see the beautiful Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.  The players are very spoiled being able to call that park home.  For a spring training base, it really doesn’t get any better.  

Second, the Rafters’ lineup was filled with players I was excited to see.

Byron Buxton (Twins): Coming off two major injuries I expected to see a Buxton who didn’t look like he was in midseason shape and that’s what I got.  His timing looked a little off but what I saw was a balanced swing that showed his quick hands.  He did lunge for pitches on the outer half of the plate instead of letting them travel a little more but that is just a sign of rust.  One ball he lunged for with two strikes was a slow grounder to short and he showed the speed that leaves scouts drooling as he put pressure on the shortstop who bobbled the ball and even if he had fielded it cleanly would not have had a chance to throw him out.  He did get a fastball in on his hands that he was able to fist into short center for another base hit.  He would come around to score and it was apparent how quick he is on the bases.  Later in the game there was a line drive into left center that looked like a base hit off the bat and he glided over to the baseball and caught it on the run to make it look like a routine play.