Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Trade Deadline Interview With Ron Villone

video
This is an interview done by Nathan Baliva, broadcaster for the low A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, with former MLB pitcher and current Peoria Chiefs pitching coach Ron Villone.  Villone had the nickname "suitcase Ron" for he was traded plenty of times.  He discusses what it was like at the deadline as a player and what he is telling his players to expect this time of year.

Courtesy of peoriachiefs.com/listenlive

The Many Wonderful (Mis)Spellings of Dempster

This afternoon was a crazy time on Twitter. With real and fake trade rumors being unloaded from the dumpsters that are reporters and being perpetuated and picked apart by bloggers, there was no time for backup spell-check. As a result, I have the pleasure of presenting you with a few wonderful spellings of Ryan Dempster's surname:

First back-to-back eff ups from CBS's Jon Heyman and Yahoo's Dave Brown. Just 17 seconds apart:

 

*Demopster is my vote for best misspelling of the deadline.

Then, the man of many bowties, Ken Rosenthal of Fox, also got in the action:



Dempter was clearly a popular choice among the BWAA today. And looking back, I'm disappointed nobody worked in a DERPster. Maybe next year...

In addition, I'd like to share a "Dempster" story of my own. From 8th grade until my senior year of high school, I played fantasy baseball with the same group of guys. Over those five years, we developed nicknames for a solid 60-65% of MLB, most of them very dumb. Dempster's nickname was no exception, as we've all referred to him as simply "Dumpster", for as long as I can remember.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Liriano Trade Reaction

By now everyone knows that Frankie Liriano was traded to the ChiSox. And there is no doubt you've heard the general displeasure with the return of Pedro Hernandez and Eduardo Escobar. I too, am generally displeased with the transaction, but I do have some thoughts to hopefully put the trade in a better perspective.

First off, I think we Twins fans overrated Liriano's value. We weighed heavily his last two months but discounted his 5.31 ERA overall and five years of incredible volatility. While it's easy to compare Liriano to a pitcher like Zack Greinke and wonder why Frankie couldn't even net one 'top prospect' while Greinke returned three. And it isn't difficult to foresee Liriano out-pitching Greinke in August/September - however, it's also easy to see Liriano walking eight batters in his first 3 innings for his new team. So while there's certainly upside in that left arm, enough clubs were turned off by inconsistency to not consider him a viable starter.

Secondly, Liriano needed to go. Not because he was ruining the clubhouse (his teammates loved him) or because he was hurting the team (I don't think I could hurt this team any worse), but because he had some value. The players of 'some value' on this team can be counted on one hand: Liriano, Perkins, Burton, Morneau and Span. And of those players, only Liriano and Burton have contracts that end after this season. There was no reason to risk keeping him for an extra 10 starts and then let him hit free agency. The upside to keeping Frankie was next to nil. The upside of trading him was much higher.

Lastly, the return of the prospects could still be reasonably valuable. Sure neither Hernandez nor Escobar are very shiny new toys, but they do have their virtues. Pedro Hernandez is a little lefty in the mold of Brian Duensing. According to scouting reports from Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, Pedro has good command and a good change-up to go along with a low-90's fastball. From what I can tell, he should take on a Duensing-like role as a swingman between the bullpen and rotation once he reaches the majors. It should be noted that Pedro has more potential than Duensing, and could become a consistent back of the rotation starter or 7th/8th inning reliever. Another key to the deal, he has made it to the majors but still has at least six entire years of team control remaining. On a pure value analysis, 2 months of Liriano in a lost season is certainly worth gambling on a kid like Hernandez over the next six or seven.

The other prospect, Eduardo Escobar, also has some value. Escobar is in the same situation as Hernandez, in that he will be a cheap option for the Twins for many years and has an obvious position as a utility infielder. My issue with this is the redundancy of the move. There aren't any starting jobs open in the infield with Dozier, Carroll and Casilla all fighting for starts and thrid base is manned by Plouffe and Valencia. The major league infield is loaded with quantity (emphatically NOT quality). However, his abilities are redundant in AAA as well. With Pedro Florimon as a near replica of Escobar in Rochester, his future is murky. I believe he will eventually top Florimon and become the utility infielder for the big league club, but the marginal improvement over the current options is small at best.

A team can never have enough pitching, so I understand and support trading for Hernandez; however, I do not understand trading for a player like Escobar. That said, Terry Ryan has surprised me umpteen times and I'll have to trust that Escobar can turn into something of value. All in all, on a pure value analysis, the return will almost assuredly be greater than the value of the departing player. And at the end of the day, it really couldn't be worse than the Johan Santana trade.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mailbag

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Now that THAT'S out of the way, we can get back to business. Thanks for the questions y'all!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Seriously, What Is It With Twins Prospects?

I really just don't get it. Why do so many high draft picks struggle so mightily in the minors only to blossom into regular big leaguers? After Torii and Span came up with similar paths, I dismissed it as coincidence. But now it looks like Plouffe has also blossomed over the past 16 months.

I know three does not make this hypothesis a law, but there are even more examples in the next wave of Twins. Aaron Hicks may be in the midst of his breakout after disappointing results in the low-minors a la Chris Parmelee and recent first rounder Levi Michael is being toyed with in Fort Myers. Here's a list of Twins' first round position player picks since Joe Mauer:

  • Denard Span (2002)
  • Matt Moses (2003)
  • Trevor Plouffe (2004)
  • Henry Sanchez (2005)
  • Chris Parmelee (2006)
  • Ben Revere (2007)
  • Aaron Hicks (2008)
  • Levi Michael (2011)
  • Travis Harrison (2011)
  • Byron Buxton (2012)
Moses and Sanchez are no longer with the organization and never amounted to much. However, of the remainder, only Revere hit all the way up the organizational ladder - with the exception of Harrison and Buxton who have barely seen any action. Joe Benson is another example I'd like to throw in even though he was a 2nd round pick (2006); Joe didn't really breakout until 2011.

I may be making too much of a handful of developmental paths, but I have to wonder what's behind this. Do the minor league coaches stress making adjustments that sap production (perhaps)? Are the leagues and ballparks in Beloit, Fort Myers and New Britain prohibitive to hitting (They aren't)? Or is it that the scouts prefer very raw hitters in the draft (possible)?

I can't argue with the results from the past decade; all but two of these picks were from outside the top 20 choices and they have done pretty well. And it gives me optimism for the current crop of prospects struggling in the lower minors like Levi.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

All 'Murica Team

This is the American League counterpart to Andy's "NL Super-Team". Abiding by the same rules as him, this is what I came up with.


Batting Order
1. Joe Mauer, 2, MIN
     -Nobody in the AL is getting on-base at a higher rate, but his affinity for groundballs makes me wary of putting him at #2 in the order.
2. Mike Trout, 8, LAA
     -He's the complete package: plays a great center field, and will be disruptive on the base paths. Not to mention, his speed should keep him out of rally-killing double plays (ahem, Mauer).
3. Josh Hamilton, 7, TEX
     -Probably the best pure hitter in the world.
4. Miguel Cabrera, 3, DET
     -Probably the best right handed hitter in the world.
5. Robinson Cano, 4, NYY
     -Maintains the RH-LH alternating line-up. And he's another complete hitter.
6. Jose Bautista, 9, TOR
     -I could hear an argument for him batting as high as #2, because he's an on-base machine. I'll slot him down here because he's just not as good a pure hitter as that murderer's row of a top 5.
7. David Ortiz, DH, BOS
     -It's an embarrassment of riches in the AL lineup. An absolute crime that Papi is hitting 7th.
8. Evan Longoria, 5, TB
    -It was tough to pick him over Adrian Beltre, but Evan is right side of 30 and, in my opinion, a better hitter.
9. Elvis Andrus, 6, TEX
    -You could do worse than having a very good defensive shortstop and .370 OBP at the #9 slot in the lineup.

Bench
Matt Wieters, 2, BAL
   -Mauer won't be able to catch 162 games a year, Wieters can easily fill in for him or be a late game defensive replacement if Mauer is lifted for a pinch runner.
Asdrubal Cabrera, 4/6, CLE
   -A solid backup option for both Andrus and Cano. Having his bat in the line-up won't be a significant drop off either.
Alex Gordon, 5,7,9, KC
   -I like Alex for his versatility in the corners as well as his potential as a pinch runner. And he crushes right-handed pitching.
Prince Fielder, 3, DET
  -Pinch. Hitter. Especially for Andrus if he's facing a righty in a big spot. Tough choice between him and Pujols, but Prince is so much fun to watch.
Ben Zobrist, Super-utility, TB
  -He can play just about anywhere.

Rotation
1. Justin Verlander, DET
   -No brainer, by far the best pitcher in the AL.
2. Felix Hernandez, SEA
   -The next 3 guys could be in any order, but I'll go with the King here. He'll log a lot of quality innings for me.
3. Jered Weaver, LAA
    -I don't know why, but I don't like Jered. Maybe it's bad memories of his brother Jeff. Or his face. Regardless, he's got the #3 slot in my rotation.
4. CC Sabathia, NYY
    -Inning monger. Very few pitchers I'd rather depend on going into a season. He's averaged 214 IP and a 3.13 ERA since 2006.
5. Chris Sale, CWS
    -I'd like to use Sale as a sort of swing-man. Mostly starting, but if his start can skipped because of off days, I'd be happy to see him as a shut down, multi-inning reliever when possible.

Bullpen
Mariano Rivera
    -I don't care that he's hurt, he has a spot in my bullpen.
Brayan Villarreal
   -He's been unhittable against righties this year. Brayan has this spot as a situational righty.
David Robertson
   -One of the best relievers in League of Americans.
Ryan Cook
   -Cook's been unhittable this year. Also, I needed an Oakland A.
Francisco Liriano
   -Multi-inning reliever. I liked what I saw out of him in his short stint in the 'pen and his slider is filthy. So he gets a spot.
David Price
   -Finding good lefties was more difficult than I thought. So I poached Price. He was great out of the ol' bullpen his rookie year.

26th Man
Andy says I get to pick a 26th man. With the way this roster is created, I'm not sure I really need one. But because I can, I'll pick...
AJ Pierzynski
  -Because he's a badass. And also, for a double header, I might need a 3rd catcher but will probably not need another pitcher.

So please, tell me in the comments section, how many games my team would win out 162 against Andy's (weak) team. What do you think? 115? 130? ALL 162?
What if I were to put together a team to play a 162 game season with the top players in the NL?  I was inspired by the All-Star Game.  I have a rep from every NL team and have set the team up for a traditional 25 man roster and one extra now that MLB allows teams to have a 26 man for double headers.

Batting Order
1. Andrew McCutchen, 8, PIT
    Plays a good center and has been hitting like a madman with no real protection.
2. Matt Kemp, 9, LAD
    Really a great centerfielder but I think his athleticism allows him to play a corner.
3. Ryan Braun, 7, MIL
    I think he’s as talented a hitter as there is in the NL with his average and power.
4. Joey Votto, 3, CIN
    My 2012 first half MVP who can do it all at the plate.
5. Troy Tulowitzki, 6, COL
    Has a cannon from short and easily the top hitting shortstop when he’s healthy.
6. David Wright, 5, NYM
    He’s the David Wright we knew he could be this year and he makes plays.
7. Aaron Hill, 4, ARI
    The best second baseman in the NL who somehow got left of the ASG roster.
8. Buster Posey, 2, SF
    He handles a pitching staff as good as any catcher who can swing it also.
9. Pitcher
    Sorry Tony LaRussa, batting a pitcher in the 8 spot is s-t-u-p-i-d.

Rotation
1. Stephen Strasburg, WAS
    Best stuff in the NL as far as starters are concerned.
2. Matt Cain, SF
    Year in and year out he puts up a solid season and he is a competitor.
3. Clayton Kershaw, LAD
    Best left handed starter in MLB with a hammer of a breaking ball.
4. Gio Gonzalez, WAS
    Going to the senior circuit makes him more dangerous and has explosive stuff.
5. Cole Hamels, PHI
    Free agent to be and he is making his case to be a very rich man
6. R.A. Dickey, NYM
    He’s my 26th man if I have a double header.  Knucklers are too inconsistent for     my liking but no arguing his success the past couple seasons.

Bench
C- Miguel Montero, ARI
    Hits lefty with pop and has drawn great reviews behind the plate.
1B- Paul Goldschmidt, ARI
    Puts balls over the fence like its no big deal and Tim Lincecums knees shake when he sees him at the plate, like he does to every batter these days.
SS- Starlin Castro, CHI
    Chicago’s courtesy pick.
OF- Giancarlo Stanton, MIA
    He should be in the starting line up but the NL has some awesome outfielders.
UTL- Jose Altuve, HOU
    Houston’s representative on my team who can play second and third base.

Bullpen
1. Craig Kimbrel, ATL
    One word: gas.
2. Luke Gregorson, SD
    Gets to pitch in Petco so how good is he? I don’t know but he has done his job     this season.
3. Jason Motte, STL
    Can lock down a game and can strike guys out which is key for any bullpen guy.
4. Aroldis Chapman, CIN
    For a guy who could be a lefty specialist or go an inning plus, he has probably     the best stuff on the squad.
5. David Hernandez, ARI
    95 MPH heater and a good breaking ball and can strike dudes out.
6. Kenley Jansen, LAD
    14.33 K/9, another guy who can strike guys out and I love strikeouts.
7. Tyler Clippard, WAS
    Can close or set-up and he has plus stuff.

Obviously there are great players I have left off but this is my team.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mr. Brightside: Aaron Hicks

When the young Aaron Hicks fell to the Minnesota Twins with the 14th overall pick in the 2008 MLB draft, analysts praised the choice. Regarded as a high-upside outfielder with all the tools, he was projected go in the mid-teens in the deep 2008 draft. Immediately he was ranked as the 39th best prospect in all of baseball according to Baseball America. Over the next two seasons, his status as a top prospect was consistent, even though he didn't make it out of Low-A. After his third year of mediocre production in A-ball (this time in Hi-A), his stock stalled out. Coming into 2012, Hicks was not honored as a top 100 prospect for the first time in his career and dropped to #4 in most Twins' organizational lists.
(Make the jump)