Brian Sabean on baseball…

Sabean:

“In this information age, the average fan has so much information at his/her disposal, they have all the players, stats, projections right there,” said Sabean. “But this game is so much more than those stats and analysis and metrics. It’s ultimately about human beings.”

This quote conjures up memories of the Giants’ two-year offer to Willie Bloomquist. Which bothers me.

Josh’s Top 30 Prospects: Just Missed and Sleepers

As I jump into to my prospect list, I thought I’d tell you guys who I considered but did not make my list and who I like as a sleeper heading into the 2012 season.

Catchers

Alex Burg

Johnny Monell

Eric Sim

Drew Stiner

I considered Burg and Monell for their offensive chops and Sim and Stiner for their defensive reputations. Unfortunately they all had too many questions for them to make my top 30. Monell, Sim, and Burg were all a bit old for their levels last year and Stiner was an older draft pick. Monell has good patience and power and is a rare lefthanded batting catcher, but there are questions about his defense behind the plate and with Fred Stanley saying they plan to have Monell repeat AA, I couldn’t fit him in. Sim and Stiner both have stellar defensive reputations with Stiner having caught Orioles first round pick Dylan Bundy in high school. But Sim was a college pick in 2010 playing in the AZL and Stiner was a 43rd round draft pick who already has a PED violation to his name. Burg came the closest to making this list as he split time at catcher, 1st base, 2nd base, 3rd base, and DH last year, posting a .298/.369/.550 line. His year kind of came out nowhere as in 2010 he split time between three levels and got just 121 plate appearances. I imagine he’ll go to AA next year splitting time around the infield again.

1B

Brett Pill

Angel Villalona

 I probably should have found a way to put Pill on the list, given that his 53 PA’s and 16 games are more than most that did make my list are going to get. But when I look at Pill I can’t get over the fact that he’s a RH 1B with more gap power than HR power, who only hit 7% better than league average in his second attempt at AAA. It’s just not an exciting package. As for Villalona, he was raw when he played, and missing the last two years away from the game isn’t going to help him. It sounds like he still has the tools but he’s missed a lot of at bats.

2B

Ryan Cavan

Jean Delgado

Nick Noonan

Carlos Willoughby

Cavan is an interesting guy-he doesn’t have loud tools but does a solid job of maximizing them. It isn’t a good sign that his power decreased from the SAL to the CAL. He could work his way into a utility role. Delgado has an interesting bat from Puerto Rico. He posted a strong K/BB in his AZL debut this year and is fairly young as he’ll be 19 in 2012. Noonan just hasn’t developed as hoped and looks like org fodder at this point, unfortunately. Willoughby is fast and a good defensive 2B. He does a solid job of getting on base, but needs more pop.

SS

Carter Jurica

Travious Relaford

Kelby Tomlinson

Jurica was a guy who kind of got lost in the shuffle, getting injured last year and with Panik entering the org, it’ll be interesting where he plays next year. Relaford is the cousin of ex-big leaguer Desi, and is athletic but raw. Tomlinson has solid defensive skills and a decent approach, but lacks power. I imagine he’ll be the everyday starter at Augusta next year.

3B

Garrett Buechele

Jose Cuevas

Cristian Paulino

Buechele was the Giants 14th round draft pick this year, and the son of ex-big leaguer Steve. I liked the value when the Giants picked him. He struggled at Salem-Keizer last year, but that was likely related to fatigue. Cuevas was the AZL MVP, but he spent the year as a 23 year old. Paulino is the guy I like as a potential sleeper. He had a solid year in the AZL, splitting time between 2B and 3B and posting a 16/17 BB/K and 10/1 SB/CS. He looks like a guy who has solid polish and could make a full season debut next year.

RF/LF

Carlos Cartagena

Leo Fuentes

Roger Kieschnick

Brett Krill

Eric Valdez

Cartagena, Fuentes, and Valdez are recent high profile international signings, though not on the level of Villalona and Rafeal Rodriguez. But they’re still very raw and weren’t considered elite international prospects, so I couldn’t add them just yet. Krill was considered a potential late bloomer and had a decent year at Salem-Keizer, but given his age I couldn’t put him in the top 30. Kieschnick still has power, but I’m not totally confident that his approach and propensity to strikeout will allow him to excel.

CF

Tyler Graham

Kentrell Hill

Chris Lofton

Shawn Payne

Juan Perez

 Graham and Lofton are both guys with very good speed and defense, but lack power. Graham has spent the majority of the last two years at AAA and stole 60 bases last year so he could be a potential 5th OF. Lofton is still young and transitioning from splitting time between football and baseball, so he could potentially have some more upside. Perez spent last year at AA and he has an intriguing combination of power/speed/and defense but he lacks a solid approach and is a bit old. Payne came the closest to making the top 30, making a good debut at Salem-Keizer. He makes contact and can work a walk, and is another very good defender. He also flashed good speed, but his age and power output held him back. Hill was the Giants 10th round pick this year. He has athleticism but is a bit raw.

RHSP

Jorge Bucardo

Justin Fitzgerald

Chris Heston

Joan Gregorio

Lorenzo Mendoza

Shawn Sanford

Gregorio was the one of my last two cuts on this list, and I wanted to find a way for him to make this list. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the tall righthander on the list, but he is still a very interesting player to watch. Mendoza was right on that bubble too as he had a very solid year for a 19 year old in the Northwest League. Jorge Bucardo had some velocity questions at the end of last year, and then didn’t pitch this year. It’s too bad because he was a very intriguing guy at the end of last year. Sanford won the SAL ERA title, but isn’t a guy with overpowering stuff. Heston is in a similar vein, as he does a good job of limiting walks and getting groundballs. Fitzgerald has solid stuff that could possibly play up in the bullpen, where he began his career.

RHRP

DeMondre Arnold

Ray Black

Brett Bochy

Jose Casilla

Steve Edlefsen

Derek Law

Dan Otero

Otero was my very last cut, and I think he could play a solid role in the big league bullpen this year. Edlefsen is in a similar vein, though I prefer Otero. Casilla was a bit like Bucardo in that they were interesting but their injuries put me in a wait and see mode. Black is a guy with good stuff, but needs reps. Bochy had a solid debut and could move quickly, but I do have some concerns with his age. Arnold and Law are intriguing draft picks who both made solid debuts in the AZL.

LHP

Bryce Bandilla

Edwin Escobar

Emmanuel DeJesus

Bandilla was the Giants 4th round draft pick, but I couldn’t put him on my list because of reports of a shoulder injury that the Giants found after he took his physical. Escobar was the return for Ben Snyder, he had a rough year last year, but he is still young and has the potential to miss bats. DeJesus put up interesting numbers, but DSL stats should always be viewed cautiously, and there are reports that his fastball is more in the 80′s range.

So to end I’ll give a sleeper hitter and pitcher. Last year I had Edwin Escobar as a sleeper, so hopefully these picks will work out better.

Sleeper hitter: Cristian Paulino

Sleeper pitcher: Ray Black

Catching Up: Non-Roster Invitees, Sergio Romo, Wes Hodges

I’ve been rather busy of late, so I’ll catch up…

Rockies Season Preview Q&A: 2012

Last year, it looked like the Colorado Rockies would be strong contenders for the division title. Instead, they finished in fourth (73-89), 21 games out of first place. Fun fact: the team used thirteen different starters last season, and seven guys made 10+ starts for the them. (For comparison’s sake, the Giants used eight starters, only five of whom made 10+ starts). Anyway, as Spring Training nears, I thought it would be interesting to check in on the other NL West teams, beginning with the Rockies. Andrew Fisher (@PoseidonsFist) of Purple Row was kind of enough to answer several questions about their offseason, outlook, Nolan Arenado, and Michael Cuddyer, among other things. Enjoy!

 

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Prospect Question: Does Profile Matter?

So I have started working on my Giants top prospect list, and while doing so I have had a hard time ranking two third base prospects, Conor Gillaspie and Chris Dominguez. On my rough list I have Gillaspie at 13 and Dominguez at 15, but I am wondering if I have one or both too high, and which one should be ranked as the better prospect.

Some background on these prospects: Conor Gillaspie was a supplemental 1st round draft pick out of Wichita State and he was seen as a guy with a polished hit tool, a good plate approach and more gap power than HR power. He earned comps to ex-Giant Bill Mueller, but with likely worse defense.

Dominguez, on the other hand was a 3rd round pick in 2009 out of Louisville. He has massive raw power and a cannon for an arm at 3B, but was so raw that he spent the 2010 year at Low A Augusta despite being 23 years old and coming out of college as a redshirt junior.

Gillaspie has methodically played a full year at A+, AA, and AAA, save for a few cups of coffee in the majors, while Dominguez spent all of 2010 at Augusta and split last year between A+ and AA.

Their batting lines to date in the minors are:

Gillaspie: .288/.361/.414

Dominguez: .268/.314/.446

Now honestly, I don’t see either as a full time regular in the major leagues, which is why I am asking the question in the title. Because, while I do think that Gillaspie would be the better player if they were both given a 600 PA’s, Dominguez’s tools profile better in a potential bench role. Gillaspie has a solid well rounded game-and he has improved every year, so perhaps I am underselling him.

But I could see Dominguez being a guy who comes off the bench and sells out for the power. Kind of like a Juan Uribe without the positional adjustment or jazz hands. With Gillaspie I don’t see teams looking for a bench guy who is more of a singles hitter with gap power and lacking great speed/defense.

But maybe I am over-thinking it and since I think Gillaspie would be the better player that should be enough. I don’t know-as of right now I’ll probably leave them where they are but I could be swayed to change my opinion on one or both of them.

Reopening Will Clark’s Hall of Fame Case

It’s Hall of Fame debate season, so now seems like as good a time as any to reopen Will Clark’s Hall of Fame case for discussion. Clark was on the ballot back in 2006 when he received 23 votes (4.4% total), falling just short of the threshold necessary to remain on the ballot for the following year. His case isn’t rock-solid, but from a pure numbers standpoint, he’s worthy.

Right off the bat, Clark’s case is hurt because he doesn’t hit the typical arbitrary “Hall of Fame milestones.” At 2176 career hits, he’s far from 3000, and the 284 home run total doesn’t come close to what’s generally considered to be Hall of Fame worthy. Clark only played 15 seasons, so he didn’t stick around long enough to compile great counting stats. Additionally, he’s hurt without attention to context. His peak years occurred from 1987 to 1992, during which time he hit .303/.378/.515 with 151 homers. That’s quite good, but it’s even better when you consider how weak offense was during that period. In four of those six years, the National League OPS was below .690, and in two of them, it was below .680. In particular, 1988 and 1989 were historically bad years for offense. It’s thus no surprise that Clark rates very well by the park/league-adjusted numbers. In that six-year period, his 147 wRC+ was the fifth-best mark in baseball, behind the likes of Barry Bonds, Fred McGriff, Rickey Henderson, and Frank Thomas.

In terms of peak value, Clark isn’t particularly special. If we say 5 WAR is elite, Clark only had three “elite” seasons — and it’s two if you go by Baseball-Reference’s implementation of WAR. Clark wasn’t consistently elite, but he did post above-average numbers with great consistency. He exceeded 3 WAR in ten different seasons, and by wRC+, not once was he below average with the bat.

Fangraphs has Clark at 54.4 career WAR; Baseball Prospectus has him at 50.09; and Baseball-Reference has him at 57.6. Those aren’t eye-popping totals, but that’s right in line with current Hall of Famers. As Sean Forman wrote back in 2010, 55 WAR is the midpoint level for all Hall of Famers:

A high career WAR marks a Hall of Fame career better than any other statistic. Among the top 100 players in career WAR not under current or future Hall of Fame consideration, only five have not made the Hall of Fame: Bill Dahlen, Tony Mullane, Bob Caruthers, Lou Whitaker and Bobby Grich. In general, 55 WAR has been the midpoint level for all Hall of Famers as three-fourths of the eligible players with 55 or more WAR are in the Hall of Fame. Whitey Ford, Andre Dawson and Jim Bunning are good examples of median Hall of Famers.

For comparison’s sake, let’s look at another Giants 1B, one that was inducted into the Hall of Fame: Orlando Cepeda. Clark and Cepeda, interestingly enough, finished with rather similar PA totals — Clark at 8283, and Cepeda at 8695. Cepeda has the advantage in terms of career hit totals (2351), and he blows Clark out of the water in terms of home runs (379). Throughout his career, however, Clark proved better than Cepeda in two areas: drawing walks, and avoiding double plays. Despite otherwise fantastic numbers, Cepeda’s career OBP sits right at .350. It’s a solid mark, but for a first baseman in the Hall of Fame, it’s relatively low. Over his career, Cepeda walked in just 6.8% of his plate appearances, and never once posted a walk rate above 10%. In fact, he was consistently below average in that regard. Clark, on the other hand, was very skilled at drawing walks (11.3% clip), and nearly totaled 1000 for his career. Clark wasn’t speedy, and he actually finished with half as many (67) career stolen bases as Cepeda (142), but he grounded into far fewer double plays, which — over the course of an entire career — makes a rather significant difference. Clark grounded into 100 double plays, whereas Cepeda grounded into 218. In the end, the two have pretty similar qualifications. They played the same position (mostly), and were both similarly great hitters (Clark – 135 wRC+, Cepeda – 131 wRC+) over similar career lengths. It’s hard to say that Clark is any less deserving than Cepeda; in fact, by Adam Darowski’s wWAR, Clark is in and Cepeda is out.

I guess I’m more of a big-hall kind of guy, but I’d say both are worthy. In any event, none is much more so than the other.

Extending Madison Bumgarner, Part II

Three months ago, Zack explored the possibility of a Madison Bumgarner extension. It’s something that’s been discussed a lot lately though; with Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum set to earn monster deals, why not lock up Bumgarner as soon as possible for the purposes of cost certainty? As Zack noted, a pitcher of Bumgarner’s caliber — assuming he continues to pitch as well as he has — will inevitably cost a lot of money going year to year in arbitration. Even a deal that just buys out his arbitration years could save the Giants a good chunk of money in the long run. And a deal that buys out his arb years and – say — his first couple years of free agency? Well, that’s obviously more risky, but accordingly, leaves more potential for reward.

Anyway, over at MLB Trade Rumors, Tim Dierkes looks at Madison Bumgarner as an extension candidate. Given a) how talented Bumgarner is, b) how little the Giants would be risking in the grand scheme of things, and c) the modest potential for reward, I say go for it:

A Madison Bumgarner extension is risky, as is the case w/ any SP. But the potential rewards/savings make it worth pursuing.