Scouting the Prospects in the Aroldis Chapman Deal

I first laid eyes on Gleyber Torres in 2014 at the Rookie-level Arizona League. He was just about a year removed from signing a $1.7 million bonus the year before and, along with Eloy Jimenez, was that summer’s headliner in Mesa. Torres was polished for his age but he was slight of build and his tools were relatively muted compared to some of the other players from the 2013 J2 class. I put a 45 on him at the time, lacking confidence in his ability to find that happy medium where he could become physical enough to do some damage with the bat while also remaining at shortstop. Since then, things have gone about as well as anyone could have hoped. Torres’ body matured rapidly and he began to make more authoritative contact while retaining a contact-oriented approach and enough range to remain at shortstop. For now.

Torres has above-average bat speed and makes good use of his hips and lower half throughout his swing, allowing him to make hard ground-ball and line-drive contact to his pull side and back up the middle. He can also drive fly balls the other way, though doing so sucks some of the torque out of Torres’ swing and he doesn’t have the raw strength in his wrists and forearms to poke balls into the right-field bleachers regularly. He has solid feel for the barrel and, despite some effort, finds a way to make hard contact with pitches in various parts of the zone. He’s hitting .275/.359/.433 in High-A ball at age 19 (he turns 20 in December) and all signs here point to a future plus hit tool.

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Is Odubel Herrera a Good Defensive Center Fielder?

A year ago today, baseball fans outside of the Delaware Valley were first introduced to a rookie outfielder on the worst team in baseball. His name: Odubel Herrera. You may recall that Herrera was a Rule 5 pick who had been a second baseman in the Rangers organization only to find himself named the Opening Day center fielder for the Phillies due to the, how shall we say, less than ideal nature of their 2015 roster. He didn’t find immediate success and received inconsistent playing time during the first half, so it wasn’t until July 25th that he appeared on the national stage. In what ended up being Cole Hamels’ final start in Phillies red, Herrera made one of the more iconic final outs in a no-hitter.

When the ball was hit, I remember knowing it would be a home run. When I realized the wind was going to keep it in the park, I remember knowing Herrera wasn’t going to be able to backtrack and make the catch. When I saw him make the catch, I remember knowing that baseball is unknowable and I should really stop pretending otherwise.

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Eric Longenhagen Prospect Chat 7/25


Eric A Longenhagen: Good day, sirs and madams. I’m just finishing writing up the prospects in the Chapman deal so give me a few minutes…


Eric A Longenhagen: I also require liquid refreshment.


Eric A Longenhagen: Also, holy crap there are a lot of you here.


Eric A Longenhagen: OKay, let me start by plugging some stuff and letting you know that, after hitting Chicago for the Under Armour game and getting back home to AZ last night, I was forced to eat salad for breakfast. It was really terrible.


Eric A Longenhagen: So here’s the link to my Bregman callup piece:


Eric A Longenhagen: Dahl callup piece has been filed and is just waiting for editing. Same goes for the reports on the Cubs prospects sent to NYY in the Chapman deal.

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Chris Sale and Leverage

Over the weekend, Chris Sale decided that he really didn’t want to wear the White Sox’ throwback uniforms, believing they were too heavy to pitch in and might impact the team’s performance. Unhappy with the thought of having to wear them anyway, Sale went all Edward Scissorhands on the jerseys, forcing the organization to wear a uniform with which he was more comfortable; as a result, Sale was sent home from the clubhouse and suspended five days for insubordination.

The timing was particularly poor for the White Sox, who had just started listening to offers for their ace, realizing that they probably aren’t going to make a second-half run that would justify the team’s win-now moves over the last 18 months. Instead of showing scouts why he is still one of the best left-handed starters in baseball, Sale reminded everyone that he has a bit of a temper, lashing out at the organization for the second time this year; he was one of the most vocal critics in the Drake LaRoche matter during spring training.

In the aftermath of the kerfuffle, I’ve seen a few comments about Sale’s outburst reducing the White Sox’ leverage, opening the door for other teams to swoop in and pick him up at a discount. But thankfully for Rick Hahn, I don’t expect that the weekend drama will have any real effect on the kinds of offers the Sox will be fielding for Sale this week, because in baseball (as in most markets), leverage is much more about a player’s value to a potential buyer than to the seller. Even if Sale came out and demanded a trade this week, the price the White Sox could extract from opposing teams probably wouldn’t change.

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The Cubs, Chapman, and the New Price for an Elite Reliever

When a baseball trade happens, it’s common practice for folks to want a winner or a loser anointed right away. It’s only natural to desire an instant verdict, to immediately express an opinion. Truth is, it’s impossible to declare a winner or loser on the day of a trade. It might be impossible to do so until the careers of every player involved are finished. It might even take longer than that. It sure looks like the Blue Jays are going to win the Josh Donaldson trade, but what if Franklin Barreto turns into a Hall of Famer?

The expected deal between the New York Yankees and the Chicago Cubs is different. There’s external factors we don’t typically have to figure into a trade evaluation. Aroldis Chapman is likely heading to the Cubs. Some prospects will be going back to the Yankees, including a really good one. It’s interesting, strictly from a baseball perspective. Strictly from a baseball perspective, we won’t know who will have won or lost this trade for more than a decade. But this is one of those rare times when you can rightfully declare a winner or loser on the day of the trade, if inclined.

Aroldis Chapman’s been accused of choking a woman and firing eight shots in the garage of his home, for which he was suspended 30 games. I’ve since heard folks refer to him as a monster. You’d be hard-pressed to argue with that description if the police report is accurate. We enjoy sports because they provide us a necessary diversion from the terrors of the world and the tedium of daily life. It becomes harder to glean pleasure from the diversion when the diversion and the terrors begin to intertwine. The Chicago Cubs had a young man in their organization who, as far as we can tell, is an upstanding citizen with a bright future ahead of him, personally and professionally. They seem, in this case, to prefer the troubled man with the dark history. You could say the Cubs already lost this trade.

I know this is FanGraphs. I know you came here for baseball analysis. This is supposed to be the diversion from your favorite diversion. We’re getting to that. The real-life stuff is just so much more important, and it needs to be discussed. Front and center.

It’s difficult to transition back into the trivial stuff. Feels dirty. But that’s what you came here for. This is the best I can do.

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Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat – 7/25/16

Projecting Astros Call-Up Alex Bregman

A mere 13 months ago, the Houston Astros selected Alex Bregman with the second pick in the amateur draft. Tonight, he’ll suit up for the Astros, after he gave Houston no choice but to call him up to the show. The 22-year-old hit .311/.412/.589 in the minors this year, including a .356/.387/.685 showing during his 17-game pit stop at Triple-A. Last season, his junior one at LSU, Bergman slashed .323/.412/.535 and, unsurprisingly, had little issue adapting to life in the pros. He closed out his draft year by hitting a strong .290/.358/.408 across two levels of A-ball.

Bregman pairs exceptional contact ability with ample power and a good walk rate, making him an all-around offensive threat. Bregman owns a minuscule 10% strikeout rate as a professional, yet has still managed a .200 ISO. Very few hitters possess Bregman’s combination of contact and power.

As if that weren’t enough, Bregman also provides value through means other than his hitting. The Astros have given him time at several positions this year in anticipation of his promotion, but he’s a shortstop by trade. That suggests he could be a fine defender at just about any place further down the defensive spectrum. He’s also swiped 20 bases in his year as a professional player, indicating good (or, at least, usable) speed.

As you probably imagined, my newly re-vamped KATOH system is head-over-heels for Bregman. He’s easily the top prospect in the land according to my math. Both KATOH (which considers stats only) and KATOH+ (which also incorporates prospect ranks) peg him for more than 17 WAR over his first six years in the big leagues.

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Scouting Astros Call-Up Alex Bregman

At birth, Alex Bregman was touched by the Baseball Gods. He is not very big, not very fast, not especially graceful, and yet he somehow finds a way to do everything you can ask of a baseball player. He turned an unassisted triple play at age four. He was already very clearly the best high-school baseball player in the history of New Mexico before his senior year when a bad hop broke a finger on his right hand, ended his season, and irreparably harmed his 2012 draft stock.

Pre-draft, Bregman’s camp promised he would not sign should teams fail to select him in the first round. The Red Sox called his name in round 29 and were rebuffed. Bregman matriculated to LSU, where his list of accolades grew. First Team SEC, First Team All American, Collegiate National Team. And all of that as a freshman. When 2015 rolled around and he was draft-eligible again, Bregman was a divisive prospect despite his success largely because there was no consensus about his long-term ability to play shortstop. He didn’t have no-doubt shortstop speed and, while his arm was fine for the left side of the infield, it wasn’t the kind of elite arm strength that allows some players to hide their lack of range. Additionally, Bregman had virtually no positive physical projection remaining and wasn’t hitting for the sort of game power at LSU that would allay concerns about his offensive profile should he have to move off of short.

That’s not to say scouts didn’t like Bregman — he’s always been adored — but it’s hard to justify drafting a second or third baseman with fringe to average power projection in the top three picks. None of it has mattered. Houston bought in, drafted him #2 overall in 2015, gave him nearly $6 million to sign and, 13 months of raking later, they have a big leaguer.

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FanGraphs Audio: Eau de Dayn Perry

Episode 670
Dayn Perry is a contributor to CBS Sports’ Eye on Baseball and the author of three books — one of them not very miserable. He’s also the deeply unimportant guest on this edition of FanGraphs Audio.

This episode of the program either is or isn’t sponsored by SeatGeek, which site removes both the work and also the hassle from the process of shopping for tickets.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 1 hr 7 min play time.)

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An Improved KATOH Top-100 List

Back in January, I made some tweaks to my KATOH projection system, and have been using that updated model for the past several months. That model was unquestionably better than the previous versions, but it left me unsatisfied. While it addressed many of the flaws from previous iterations, there was still a lot of information it wasn’t taking into account.

I’ve been plugging away behind the scenes, and finally have a new version KATOH to share with the world. In what follows, you’ll find some detail on the new model, including its notable updates. I’ll be using this model in all of my prospect analysis from this point forward. Below, you’ll find a quick run-through of the notable tweaks, followed by an updated top-100 list.


Added Features

Choosing projection window based on level, rather than age

In my previous model, I projected out based on a player’s age. If a player were 22, I projected him through age 28; If he were 24, I projected through age 30. This resulted in KATOH undervaluing players who were old for their level. The goal of KATOH is to predict the value a player will generate during his six-plus years of team control. By projecting a 22-year-old through age 28, KATOH failed to capture some of that value in cases where the 22-year-old was still in A-ball.

This time around, I chose my windows based on level, rather than age. I projected the next six seasons for players in Triple-A. I did the next seven for players in Double-A, eight for A-ballers, and nine for Rookie ballers.

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NERD Game Scores for Monday, July 25, 2016

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by sabermetric nobleman Rob Neyer, and expanded at the request of nobody, NERD scores represent an attempt to summarize in one number (and on a scale of 0-10) the likely aesthetic appeal or watchability, for the learned fan, of a player or team or game. Read more about the components of and formulae for NERD scores here.


Most Highly Rated Game
St. Louis at New York NL | 19:10 ET
Martinez (114.1 IP, 92 xFIP-) vs. Syndergaard (111.1 IP, 59 xFIP-)
Among the league’s 93 qualified starters, Carlos Martinez and Noah Syndergaard have recorded the third-highest and actual highest average fastball velocities. Who’s produced the second-highest fastball velocity? Click here to learn his identity. Alternatively, click here to learn your own identity by way of Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: New York NL Television.

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Should Exit Velocity Factor Into Official Scoring?

In the second inning of today’s game at Fenway Park, Minnesota’s Max Kepler hit a one-hop rocket that Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts couldn’t handle. After deliberation — he looked at multiple replays —- official scorer Chaz Scoggins ruled the play an E-6.

A few minutes later, Twins beat writer Rhett Bollinger noted that StatCast had Kepler’s smash at 109 mph. That begs a question: Should exit velocity factor into official scoring decisions?

According to Scoggins, the subject has been discussed informally by scorers throughout the two leagues. Based on those conversations, the majority feel “the numbers” shouldn’t matter — an experienced official scorer is able to make an informed decision on a hard-hit ball.

While a good argument can be made for exit velocity mattering, Scoggins brought up a valid point in defending its non-use. A ball may have been hit X mph, but was the infielder playing back, or was he in on the grass with less reaction time? More goes into a scoring decision than a number can measure.

Does this mean exit velocity will never become a tool for official scorers? In my opinion, the answer is no. Eyeball judgement will remain the primary determiner, but data will influence decisions.

NERD Game Scores for Sunday, July 24, 2016

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by sabermetric nobleman Rob Neyer, and expanded at the request of nobody, NERD scores represent an attempt to summarize in one number (and on a scale of 0-10) the likely aesthetic appeal or watchability, for the learned fan, of a player or team or game. Read more about the components of and formulae for NERD scores here.


Most Highly Rated Game
Cleveland at Baltimore | 13:35 ET
Kluber (129.0 IP, 78 xFIP-) vs. Worley (51.1 IP, 104 xFIP-)
Vance Worley isn’t the precise name one expects to find headlining what is allegedly the day’s most compelling game. The score produced by the author’s haphazardly calculated algorithm for this particular contest, however, has less to do with the identity of Baltimore’s starter and more with its current place in the standings. No team is perched more precariously on the knife edge of postseason qualification than the Baltimore Orioles, which club features both divisional and wild-card odds in the vicinity of 50%. For more on that, read the author’s tortuous explanation of NERD’s ongoing playoff adjustment below. For less on that, do anything else that you want.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Cleveland Radio.

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Sunday Notes: Giants’ Law, Twins’ May, Miller’s Pop, January, more

Earlier this week, I interviewed Giants rookie right-hander Derek Law in the visiting dugout at Fenway Park. Approximately 10 feet to our right, another conversation was taking place. Johnny Cueto was shooting the breeze with Luis Tiant.

Tiant was a favorite of mine during his glory years. Law was born in 1990, eight years after the Cuban legend threw his last pitch, but he was every bit as captivated with the nearby confab.

“I’m a huge Luis Tiant fan,” Law told me. “I’d love to go over and get his autograph after this. My dad pitched for a bit and I’m big into baseball history. Tiant is one of the guys I’ve really taken a liking to.”

The windup is a big reason. Cueto essentially copied the one El Tiante artistically employed on his way to 229 wins. Not surprisingly, the youngster has asked his Giants teammate about the wiggle and turn. Read the rest of this entry »

NERD Game Scores for Saturday, July 23, 2016

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by sabermetric nobleman Rob Neyer, and expanded at the request of nobody, NERD scores represent an attempt to summarize in one number (and on a scale of 0-10) the likely aesthetic appeal or watchability, for the learned fan, of a player or team or game. Read more about the components of and formulae for NERD scores here.


Most Highly Rated Game
New York NL at Miami | 19:10 ET
deGrom (102.0 IP, 81 xFIP-) vs. Fernandez (113.2 IP, 53 xFIP-)
Given where each club currently resides within this site’s playoff-odds projections, it’s probable that either the Mets or Marlins will qualify for some manner of postseason appearance. It’s improbable, on the other hand, that both will qualify. In this way, tonight’s game resembles that scene from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome where two men enter and then only one man leaves. How it differs from that 1985 film is that, instead of taking place in a lawless, post-apocalyptic Australian hellscape, it’ll actually just be in Miami.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: New York NL Television.

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The Best of FanGraphs: July 18-22, 2016

Each week, we publish north of 100 posts on our various blogs. With this post, we hope to highlight 10 to 15 of them. You can read more on it here. The links below are color coded — green for FanGraphs, brown for RotoGraphs, dark red for The Hardball Times and blue for Community Research.
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NERD Game Scores for Friday, July 22, 2016

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by sabermetric nobleman Rob Neyer, and expanded at the request of nobody, NERD scores represent an attempt to summarize in one number (and on a scale of 0-10) the likely aesthetic appeal or watchability, for the learned fan, of a player or team or game. Read more about the components of and formulae for NERD scores here.


Most Highly Rated Game
Los Angeles NL at St. Louis | 20:15 ET
McCarthy (16.0 IP, 59 xFIP-) vs. Wacha (109.1 IP, 96 xFIP-)
Left-hander Clayton Kershaw last pitched on June 26th. Brandon McCarthy first pitched on July 3rd. Kershaw has produced the lowest adjusted xFIP (52 xFIP-) among all qualified starters this year. McCarthy, over his three starts, has produced a nearly identical figure (59 xFIP-). Coincidence? Yes. Of course. Kershaw and McCarthy are two distinct people, often photographed in each other’s company — or near proximity, if nothing else. The have difference faces and bodies. And dreams. They likely have different dreams, too.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: St. Louis Radio.

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FanGraphs Boston Meetup – Saber Seminar Eve (8/12/16)

Dear reader, please allow this internet article to serve as the official announcement of the fourth annual FanGraphs Boston Meetup on Saber Seminar Eve. As the title makes clear, this year that day is Friday, August 12th. We’ll kick off around 7 pm, and the televisions will display the baseball match between the Boston Red Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks. We’ll talk about it, and baseball, and beer, and maybe how ridiculous it is that the other TVs in the bar are showing preseason football because who watches those?
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Seattle Mariners Might Be Stuck, Even in Seller’s Market

The Seattle Mariners are in a tough spot. They’re not a bad team, sitting a game over .500. By both Pythagorean wins and BaseRuns, they profile a few games better than that. Over the course of the rest of the season, they’re expected to continue to be a bit above average and our projections have them finishing at 83-79 for the year. That’s not a bad season — and if the team made a few big moves and caught a few breaks, they might even sneak their way into the playoffs where anything can happen. Unfortunately for the Mariners, that scenario isn’t very likely.

The division-leading Texas Rangers hardly seem invincible, but they’ve accrued a decent lead on the Mariners, while other divisional-rival Houston possesses the advantage both of more wins than the Mariners and more talent. This makes the M’s current chances of winning the division rather low. (For an interactive version of the chart, click here.)

chart (7)

They’re not out of it, as you can see, but they do face difficult odds. And keep in mind: these odds are reflective of the talent each club currently possesses on hand. Both the Rangers and Astros are expected to be buyers, and further moves by those teams figure to push their odds higher and the Mariners’ lower unless they counter with a move of their own.

As for the wild card, the task is equally as daunting. The chart below shows the wild-card probabilities only and do not include a team’s chances at the division. (Interactive version here.)

chart (8)

If you’re willing to hand the American League Central to Cleveland, that leaves four additional available playoff spots. Seattle is seventh on that list, with less than a 10% shot. That the top three teams all play in the AL East — and also expected to be buyers before the deadlines — makes Seattle’s predicament all the more obvious. The team isn’t likely to win, so the team should sell. How they should sell, though, is a bit more difficult to decipher.

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The Royals Should Be Buyers, Sort Of

Winning a championship is great — for about 48 hours or however long it takes for the parade to end. Then the page turns to the next season and it’s time to figure out how to win all over again. The Kansas City Royals just won their first championship in 30 seasons less than a year ago, but right now, it’s not enough. If the 2015 championship is the only one they win with this current core of players, they’ll eventually be able to look back with fondness on the achievement. Now isn’t the time for reflection, however: it’s the time to make every effort to add even more glory to this era of Royals baseball.

Unfortunately, the Royals haven’t put themselves in a strong position to contend in 2016. They’re at an even .500 record despite a negative-33 run differential and currently sit nine games behind first-place Cleveland. Our playoff odds currently give them just a 1-in-50 chance of making it to the divisional series. If they “buy” over the next week and a half, it stands to reason they can increase their odds slightly, but they face an unavoidably great uphill climb. In order to claim a wild-card spot, they’ll have to leapfrog five other teams.

It’s certainly possible that they can pull off a surprise run in the second half – the Royals have made an impressive habit of foiling projections in recent years, after all — but if I were the one calling the shots in Kansas City, I’d find it irresponsible to make moves focused solely on 2016 success.

Note how I phrased that, though: I didn’t say that I wouldn’t be a “buyer” this month, only that I wouldn’t focus on 2016.

There’s a maddening and inaccurate oversimplification which inevitably occurs each July that there are two groups of teams: those trying to win now and those who should sell off all players without long-term value. The Royals shouldn’t be buying for 2016, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be “buyers” in the current trade market.

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