Author Archive

Rule 5 Dark Horse: J.D. Martinez

The winter meetings kick off next week in Orlando, and with it comes the tons-of-fun Rule 5 Draft.  Though the increase in its popularity has been coupled with the steady decrease of useful picks, many teams use it to take chances on bounce-back players to fill out a big league bench or bullpen.  There have not been any true impact position players taken for at least 7 years, especially since the change in rules for eligibility a few years ago.  Outfielder J.D. Martinez was removed from the 40-man roster November 20th while putting together an impressive winter league season in Venezuela.  Since then he has done nothing but continue to show an improved look at the plate, and teams that have noticed could take advantage of one of the best value Rule 5 picks in years.

Injuries have taken a toll on Martinez’s big league numbers, with 2011 representing the last season he contributed better than replacement value.  However, he is not far removed from the guy that blasted through the minor leagues to the tune of a .928 OPS, and was considered a lineup building block for the rebuilding Astros just two seasons ago.  Through 81 at-bats in the Venezuelan Winter League, J.D. has torn the cover off the ball to the tune of a .333/.402/.630 line with 6 home runs.  He has undergone some pretty impressive swing improvements since he finished his injury-riddled Major League season, which I will explore further in this article.  Quick synopsis?  J.D. is showing a tremendously better ability to drive the ball to center and right-center fields due to a change in swing path and lower half stability.

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On Jacoby Ellsbury’s Power

Jacoby Ellsbury has shown the ability to be one of the league’s most dynamic offensive players in the cost-controlled portion of his career.  No one would dispute his ability to hit for average or his base running prowess.  Add on top of this his ability to play center field, and you have a marquee player that would make any MLB team better.  As Jeff Sullivan pointed out a couple weeks ago, the perceived disparity between Ellsbury and other speedsters like Michael Bourn lies in the history of his power tool and its potential going forward.  

To me, the questions that must be answered for prospective employers are: 1. Can Ellsbury stay healthy? 2. Is the power still there? and 3. Is the power predicated on getting consistent at bats, or did something change in his body or swing to cause the sudden loss (and appearance) of power?.  I will not try to predict the future of Ellsbury’s health; that’s the job of the trainers and doctors who can see him in person.  Here I would like to analyze the chances of Ellsbury putting up another 30+ home run season by observing the subtle differences in Ellsbury’s swing this year compared to his last fully healthy season in 2011.

First, let’s look for some clues in the batted ball data available for a comparison.  Below are the graphical representations of all the homeruns hit by Ellsbury in 2011 and 2013, courtesy of ESPN’s Hit Tracker:
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Jose Abreu’s Swing

There has been no shortage of opinions regarding the Chicago White Sox’ signing of Jose Dariel Abreu.  We have seen how his statistics match up to other recent Cuban defectors before the jump, as well as heard differing scouts’ opinions regarding how those stats will translate stateside. I will not try to add to either of these discussions.  I think the stat comparisons to Puig and Cespedes are interesting enough without my additional input, and I have not actually seen Abreu in person to judge his athleticism or bat speed.  I do not know anything about his makeup besides what has already been repeated by scouts and former teammates.

What I have not heard anything about is how people view his swing.  I made a comment in Dave’s article the other day disputing the importance of bat speed in favor of efficiency, and so I felt motivated to continue that conversation here.  Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes happen to be two of the most explosive athletes in the game, so their exploits may not be very predictive.  On top of his fellow Cuban natives, Abreu has been compared to Miguel Cabrera due to his size and “lack” of athleticism (side note: too many people mistake foot speed for athleticism; rotational athletes are a completely different breed from track stars).  Pretty tall order, since even 1/4 of Cabrera’s production would result in a pretty solid value for the ChiSox.  Even with a very good swing, I think it would be ridiculous to expect the same generational types of seasons from the Cuban slugger.  The first hitter I thought of when I saw Abreu’s swing was Buster Posey.

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Breaking Down the Swing: Best Hitters of 2012 Part III

This is the final article detailing my mechanical study of the best 50 Major League hitters from last season.  After this I will begin to apply this information to the vast library of amateur hitter video that I have acquired in the last few years.  Feels good to close the book on this monster.  For this portion I will focus on the moves of the lower half, again analyzing these athletes to create a baseline for examining less experienced hitters.  To get a full explanation of my methods and previous analyses, feel free to check out Part I and Part II of this study.

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Breaking Down the Swing: Best Hitters of 2012 Part II

Yes, this is Part II to a study that you probably haven’t read Part I to yet.  Like a James Bond movie, you do not have to see the first one to be able to enjoy the next.  Exactly like James Bond.  To get the full background of my project, you can find Part I HERE in the Community Research Blog archives from earlier this season.

For those of you that choose not to look back, I am looking at the top 50 hitters in Major League Baseball from 2012 according to FanGraphs Batting Runs stats, with an eye on quantitatively measuring how they swing the bat.  I hope to use this data to apply specifically to amateur players eligible to be drafted, and by extension any player that is an unknown in regards to how they will perform in American professional baseball.  This project was designed to assist anyone who is unable to watch a player in person but wants to get an idea as to what kind of hitter he is through video.

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