As the reader will undoubtedly imagine, Carson Cistulli receives quite a bit of fan mail here at FanGraphs Headquarters. Some of it (i.e. the fan mail) is just your usual, garden variety-type stuff. “Big up yourself,” people write, or “Sweet jokes”: that sort of thing. Some of it, I’m a little embarrassed to admit, is — how do I say this exactly? — is of an intimate nature. This sort of parcel — because that’s how it arrives — frequently contains some variety of lady’s undergarment accompanied by a note that proposes, in no uncertain terms, how the author and I might pass a weekend, and in what ways, exactly, we might contort our respective bodies. I won’t say I dislike these missives, but they do challenge my modesty.
Regardless of these matters, almost all the correspondence I’ve been receiving lately has led to the same question: “When, oh when, can we expect the thrilling conclusion to the All-Joy Team?”
Right now, is my triumphant response. Just below these words.
A note before we begin: owing to the nature the five sacred criteria, the All-Joy Team is by definition, a work in progress. Just as one can neither take the blue from the sky nor put the wind in one’s own pocket, so, too, is it impossible to truly conclude the formation of the All-Joy Team.
UTIF: Zack MacPhee, Arizona State
On a recent edition of the pod, Messrs Allen, Cameron, and Smith each summarily rejected the notion that scrappy wunderkind Zack MacPhee would make even a single All-Star appearance during what I can only imagine will be a long and important Major League career.
In related news, the triumvirate also confessed to “kinda liking the Redcoats” in the American Revolution and also “not really minding the shadowy spectre of Communism.” Probably vegetarian, all of them.
Anyway, through 23 games so far this college season, the sophomore MacPhee is slashing .459/.564/.865 to go along with 9 triples, 4 homers, a BB:K of 18:8, and a stolen base record of 10/10. I believe the word you’re looking for is “Booyakasha!”
UTOF: Peter Bourrrrrrjos, Los Angeles (AL)
On account of my status around here as Semi-Reliable Copyeditor*, I have access to most of the writing you see on the site before it goes live. So one thing I know that most everyone else in the world does not is that, in an early version of Erik Manning’s celebration of Angel farmhand Bourjos, the former appended to the body of that post, “Peter! I heart you real bad! Call me: 555-1234!”
*Which reminds me: in the event that the reader happens upon any usage errors in these electronic pages, he should feel free to — instead of harrassing the author — just email me at email@example.com.
A couple notes on that. First, having had to call him for pod-related reasons, I can verify that Mr. Manning’s phone number does, indeed, include a 555 exchange. This is mostly to do with the fact that Erik Manning is an imaginary person, merely one of the seven or eight pseudonyms under which Dark Overlord David Appelman conducts his business*. Second, and more relevant to this discussion, is the fact that Bourjos really is a fascinating player. Not only did he improve his plate discipline dramatically from 2008 to 2009, but — more interestingly — he appears to be one of the better glove men in all the minors.
*Nor should you discount the fact that David Appelman is, indeed, the man writing these very words.
According to his Minor League Splits page, Bourjos has been good for somewhere around 20-30 runs per 150 games each of these past three years. This year, CHONE has him projected for 11.1 runs above average in center despite only 421 plate appearances. He appears headed to Triple-A Salt Lake to begin the season.
C: Brayan Pena, Kansas City
If you’re the sort of person who both (a) ponied up $7.95 for the Second Opinion and (b) made it to the piece entitled Fringe Benefits, then you’ll know that there’s some overlap between the All-Joy Team and the players listed in that article. The reason for this is clear: the criteria for that fake team are not so different than the ones for this other, equally fake team.
As for Pena, specifically, there’s reason to believe — given both scouting reports and Matt Klaassen’s heroic efforts — that his defense is suspect, which is why I’d feel uncomfortable making him the starter for the present Team. That said, his plate discipline, rate of contact, and power would likely place him among the league’s better offensive backstops were he given a starting position. On account of he’s playing for the Royals, and on account of how that team has decided to give Jason Kendall the majority of PAs at catcher, this will very likely not be Pena’s year.
SP: Colby Lewis, Texas
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that, in certain extreme cases, the only honorable way for two virile men to resolve their differences is by means of a dance battle. That being the case, the reader might very well be seeing Marc “Prospect Maven” Hulet and Carson “America’s Sweetheart” Cistulli involved in an elaborate brand of fisticuffs before too long.
The reason for our dispute? Colby “Big in Japan” Lewis. Hulet contends that Lewis is merely a Quad-A sort whose silly K:BB numbers in the NPB (369:46 in 354.1 IP) is merely the product of inferior competition. I contend that Hulet is full of it. What “it” is, I can’t say for sure, but I wouldn’t sprinkle it on my morning cereal.
In any case, CHONE calls for Lewis to post a 3.99 ERA across 167 IP this season.
In case you missed it the first time, I sent a whole bunch of nerdy love letters to both of these guys’ peripheral numbers back in December. Furthermore, I intimated to every liberal American (via their online meeting den) that, were Brian Moehler to win a starting role over Felipe Paulino, I’d commit a very public suicide in protest.
Before you have time even to ask the question, “That thing about suicide he just wrote, is that decidedly sans taste?” allow me to answer immediately: yes and no. Yes, because people have actually committed very public suicides in support of actually meaningful causes. But also, no, because for Houston — a club with little hope for playoff baseball this season — for a club like that not to give a young player an extended look.
Of course, it will give us more reason to make fun of the Houston Astros. But I’m quoting myself when I say that snark isn’t an end in itself; it’s just the mode to which we resort when we are powerless to protest in any other way.
As for Garcia, he generated the highest percentage of whiffs on balls offered at outside the zone. It’d be nice to see him put a season together.
RP: R.J. Swindle, Tampa Bay
Swindle pitched at the Triple-A All-Star game last year, and struck out Colorado farmhand Jorge Padilla on a 55-mph curvepiece. That’s enough for me to hire him for LOOGY work.
Nor am I the only one who thinks so. Steve Slowinsk of D-Rays Bay is on this particular boat, as well:
At the end of the “Cult Classics” piece, I decided that Kelly Shoppach would most likely become my cult hero this season since we’ve been missing a larger-than-life swing ever since Jonny Gomes left. Somehow, though, I had completely forgotten about another player that easily climbs to the top of my “Cult Hero” meter: R.J. Swindle. We’ve discussed Swindle here on DRB before but for those unfamiliar with him, Swindle is a side-armed lefty reliever that hits 84 MPH with his fastball and 55 MPH with his curveball. While the obvious comparison to Casey Fossum (!!) can be made, Swindle is actually good.
Yeah, so it turns out that, anytime he’s pitched at least 17 innings at a particular level, Swindle has posted a FIP below 3.00. All that’s earned him is 11.1 Major League innings. Come on, people! Give both peace and R.J. Swindle a chance.
Just as in real baseball, relievers are a fungible group for All-Joy consideration, too. Translation: these picks could change at the drop of a 59/50-brand baseball cap. So, instead of getting super-attached to my last two relievers, I’m just using these picks as an excuse to celebrate some sweet Pitch f/x work that Jeremy Greenhouse has been doing lately over at Baseball Analysts.
In the event that you haven’t spied with your little eye Greenhouse stuff, you should abso-frigging-lutely get yourself over there, stat. In the meantime, here’s what you need to know about it: Greenhouse, piggy-backing on some cool work by Chris Moore at the selfsame site, has been looking recently at the best pitches in baseball per Pitch f/x data. If you’re suspicious, that’s fine. I maybe was, too. But on account of the numbers confirm that All-Joyer Kevin Jepsen is awesome, I became a convert pretty quickly.
The guys I have listed — Lowe, Cormier, and Badenhop — have the most improved pitch, best cutter, and best changepiece, respectively. I’m not sure I’m burning on fire to see them this year, but this definitely raises my curiosity level.
All this brings us to a complete 25-man roster. Behold the joy:
C Kurt Suzuki 1B Brian Myrow 2B Kelly Johnson 3B Alex Gordon SS Ben Zobrist LF Chris Heisey CF Ryan Sweeney RF Daniel Nava DH Juan Francisco B Adam Rosales B Zack MacPhee B Peter Bourjjjjjjos B Brayan Pena SP Colby Lewis SP Gio Gonzalez SP Felipe Paulino SP Freddy Garcia SP Billy Buckner Swing Jason Godin RP Brandon League RP Kevin Jepsen RP R.J. Swindle RP Mark Lowe RP Lance Cormier RP Burke Badenhop
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