Archive for Padres

White Sox Add James Shields, #4 Starter

Two offseasons ago, James Shields was seeking a five-year deal worth $125 million. He went unsigned until February, and ended up settling for a four-year deal worth $75 million in San Diego. One year and four months later, the Padres are paying more than half of Shields’ remaining salary for him to play on another team.

The deal goes like this:

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Christian Bethancourt Positional Comfort Index

Tuesday afternoon, the Mariners clobbered the Padres, and this happened:


The Bethancourt in question is Christian Bethancourt, the only major-league Bethancourt, and as you can see, he finished the game hitless. Bethancourt, though, has finished a lot of games hitless. He’d never finished a game at second base, and he’d definitely never finished a game at second base after having caught, pitched, and played left field. Sometimes the whole structure of baseball collapses when a blowout gets blowout-y enough, and on Tuesday, Bethancourt became the fifth player we know of in big-league history to play all those positions in a game. He’d still be the fifth ever even if you took away the pitching appearance. The four previous times this happened, the player played literally every position, the manager clearly just having fun. Bethancourt stumbled upon a brand new box-score line. Baseball still has its firsts.

The question of the day, which means nothing: all right, so, Bethancourt appeared at four different positions. How comfortable was he at each? Time to analyze some body language. Sure, bodies can lie, but they don’t know how to speak in cliches.

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Best Final Seasons, Part One

A few years back, I wrote a fourpart series about the worst final seasons for good players. It was inspired by Willie Mays, who very prominently had a bad final season, but was far from the worst season. Now, David Ortiz has inspired the flip side of the coin – the best final season. The Large Father is off to quite a hot start, and so some people have asked, how good does he have to be to produce the best final season of all-time? As you’ll see, the answer is he’ll have to do quite a lot.

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It’s Starting to Click for Drew Pomeranz

Let’s take a little stroll through the big-league leaders in strikeout rate. Jose Fernandez. All right. Clayton Kershaw! Of course. Drew Pomeranz. Naturally. Danny Salazar. Predictable. Max Scherzer. Duh. Stephe-wait, rewind. Well I’ll be damned, there he is. Pomeranz, indeed.

Most recently, Pomeranz went into Chicago and struck out 10 Cubs, and eight of them weren’t even John Lackey. And if you think this might just be a case of strikeout fetishizing, Pomeranz owns a 1.80 ERA, and he’s given up just two unearned runs. The peripherals are good, even if the walks are a little bit up. Seven starts in, and Pomeranz looks fantastic. Not bad for a guy who came to camp as a probable reliever. While relatively little has gone right for the Padres, Pomeranz looks like he could be gathering and assembling all of his pieces. It’s either taken a while, or it’s taken no time at all. That’s up to your own perspective.

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Let’s Watch Vincent Velasquez Mess With Cory Spangenberg

Against an admittedly terrible Padres lineup, Vincent Velasquez just pitched the game of his life. No matter how high you are on Velasquez’s potential, you should agree he’ll probably never again finish with such a sparkling line: nine innings, no runs, three singles, no walks, 16 strikeouts. Velasquez was constantly around the zone, but the Padres couldn’t do a thing, and the Phillies allowed Velasquez to get the final out because he hadn’t yet thrown a single pitch under stress. Velasquez didn’t just pitch to that final line; he cruised to it.

It was an incredible, overpowering effort, and I’m going to write more about Velasquez tomorrow. I’ll write more about the game, and more about Velasquez in general. But my favorite part wasn’t how Velasquez worked, or finished. Rather, my favorite part was how he treated Cory Spangenberg. Now, I don’t know if it was by design. But Velasquez wound up facing Spangenberg four times, and he was awfully cruel.

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The Universal Meaninglessness of the Padres’ Opening Series

Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what to say. Trying to encapsulate the true feelings of a fan base can leave us searching for words, grasping at the disparate ends of an often tattered, communal cloth. Those words might not be too hard to find for the Padres fan base right now, however. After being swept by the Dodgers this week while scoring zero runs in their opening series, it probably consists of a long string of expletives. Maybe a few sudden sobs. The meat of this article might not make you feel better about the past three games, Padres fans. But something brought me back to this series — not just its historic futility on the part of one of the teams, but the nature of that futility.

First, the history. The 2016 Padres are the first team in baseball history to score zero runs in their first three games of the season. That’s been well publicized. There’s more, though. There always is, but in this case, the more is really just more of less. Take a look at where the 2016 Padres stand among the worst-starting teams in baseball history in terms of a few chosen statistics, found through Baseball Reference’s Play Index (all ranks are through the first three games of respective seasons):

2016 Padres Ranks Through First 3 Games, All-Time (1913-)
Total Rank
AVG .120 5th-lowest
OBP .138 2nd-lowest
SLG .130 2nd-lowest
Strikeouts 28 18th-most
PAs 94 5th-fewest
SOURCE: Baseball Reference

The wrong kind of historic across the board, these are the sort of numbers we see when the team that was projected to score the fewest runs in the majors goes up against a Dodgers rotation featuring Clayton Kershaw, Scott Kazmir, and Kenta Maeda. And, looking at these numbers, a lot of readers are probably going to think the Padres deserved this sort of start from the way their team is constructed and the way they played. But what actually goes into a historically bad start like this? Was it truly the Padres’ futility, or did the baseball gods have a part to play in this series? The answer almost certainly lies somewhere in between, but the finding out is the fun part. So here we go!

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The Prescription That Fixed Dan Straily

Dan Straily needed to see a doctor. He wasn’t running a fever or suffering from strep throat; he had a bum shoulder. The symptoms of his malady were decreased velocity and general ineffectiveness. He initiated some independent research, and upon the recommendation of Houston Astros pitching coach Brent Strom and bullpen coach Craig Bjornson, Straily, 27, picked his practitioner.

After sitting in the waiting room that is Triple-A for much of the 2015 season, Straily paid a visit to Driveline Baseball in Seattle, where he met with Kyle Boddy. Boddy — the subject of a recent post here by Eno Sarris — isn’t an M.D., but you can think of him like a pitching doctor. Straily showed up, rattled off his ailments, and named his desired health benchmarks.

Straily told Boddy he needed to get his fastball back to sitting at 92 mph, with the ability to touch 94. That’s where he was when he first came up as an exciting, 23-year-old pitching prospect with Oakland back in 2012. Lately, his fastball had been sitting 89, and he struggled to touch 92 at all, and his effectiveness plummeted. The reason was the shoulder; he needed to get that healthy. And his breaking ball, he told Boddy, needed sharpening up.

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 6.10.50 PM
Straily’s average fastball velocity by year

Boddy listened to his patient, and ran the preliminary examinations. That meant a trip to the biomechanics lab to analyze Straily’s delivery, and some tests to measure the movement and spin rate on his pitches. The doc came back with good news.

“I brought everything back and I said, ‘You know, your breaking ball is actually fine. I think that problem will go away if you throw 94 and sit 92,’” Boddy said. “And [Straily] said, ‘Alright, perfect.’ So we were on the same page from the get-go.”

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KATOH Projects: San Diego Padres Prospects

Previous editions: ArizonaBaltimore / Boston / Chicago AL / Chicago NL / Cincinnati  / Cleveland / Colorado / Detroit / Houston / Kansas City / Los Angeles (AL) / Los Angeles (NL)Miami / Minnesota / Milwaukee / New York (NL) / New York (AL) / OaklandPhiladelphia/ Pittsburgh.

Yesterday, lead prospect analyst Dan Farnsworth published his excellently in-depth prospect list for the San Diego Padres. In this companion piece, I look at that same San Diego farm system through the lens of my recently refined KATOH projection system. The Padres have the 11th-best farm system in baseball according to KATOH.

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Evaluating the 2016 Prospects: San Diego Padres

Blue Jays
Red Sox
White Sox

The Padres took something that was a tremendous weakness after last offseason’s trade and spending spree, and turned it into a system that can start feeding the next competitive team in San Diego. There isn’t a ton of depth or more than a few high-probability prospects, but there is some upside to which Padres fans can look forward. The Craig Kimbrel trade was a big win, almost enough to wipe away the flop that was the 2015 season (of course, not really).

Two of the prospects that came over in that trade jump right into the 50+ FV group. Everyone agrees Manuel Margot is a legitimate prospect, but I’m a little lower on Javier Guerra, and Carlos Asuaje for that matter. Logan Allen is actually the prospect I’m picking to be the second-best prospect coming out of that deal. Guerra’s power potential isn’t a sure thing in my view, while Allen has the potential to move very quickly despite having been a prep pick just last June.

After last year’s dramatic improvements, I’m buying high on Colin Rea, believing the pitch mix and excellent command keeps him in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Also on this list, I make the case for why Travis Jankowski shouldn’t be dismissed as a fourth outfielder yet, while also acknowledging how much risk there is in Ruddy Giron‘s future.

The depth of this system is really in the Quick Hits group. There were probably another 10-15 names I could justify putting there, but I wanted to stay focused on some of the more interesting ones. Their exclusion was less about not believing in their ceilings and more about an attempt to be concise about the prospects I wanted to highlight. It’s not as exciting of an area in which to possess depth, but there are quite a few players that could step up and appear on this list by midseason.

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The Troubling Derek Norris Trend

The San Diego Padres were the most active team in baseball last winter, as newly-minted general manager A.J. Preller put his mark on the franchise with a mind-numbing mass of moves that aimed to quickly turn the Padres into a contender, mostly by injecting a bevy of ever-coveted right-handed power bats into a previously punchless lineup.

The plan didn’t work, for a host of reasons neither here nor there, and now a new plan has emerged. Justin Upton walked to free agency, Craig Kimbrel was shipped off to Boston, Wil Myers got out of center field, and Preller might not be done jettisoning the very players he acquired last year, the ones who were supposed to form The Next Good Padres Team.

Last week, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reported that the Texas Rangers continue to covet an upgrade at catcher, though their top target may not be Milwaukee’s Jonathan Lucroy, as previously expected, but rather Padres’ backstop Derek Norris. The Rangers like Norris because he’s cheaper than Lucroy, he’s got an extra year on his contract, and the Padres have more pieces that could be packaged together with Norris to make for a potential blockbuster deal.

While Norris may not be the same caliber player as a healthy Lucroy, he would presumably offer an upgrade over Texas incumbent Robinson Chirinos, both behind the plate and with the bat, while also providing much-needed depth. But the glove has only been a plus for one year — Norris graded as a well below-average pitch-framer before last season — and the deeper you look into the bat, the less promising it becomes. And evidently, pitchers around the league agree.

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The Logical Rangers/Padres Blockbuster

We’re about two weeks away from Opening Day, and with teams starting to get a sense for what they have — and more importantly, what they don’t have — we’re likely to see some trade talk pick up soon. Mostly, spring trades revolve around out-of-options guys or bench players who played their way out of an organization, but occasionally, teams find common ground on a major trade that reshapes their roster right before the season starts. Last year, the Padres were involved in just such a deal, acquiring Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton from the Braves right before the season started. And I think they should make another big trade before the season starts this year.

Over the last few days, talk has picked up that the Rangers have interest in acquiring Derek Norris, the Padres starting catcher. The Rangers don’t really have much catching depth, while the Padres have three catchers after their off-season of Christian Bethancourt, so a deal between the two teams makes a decent amount of sense. But rather than making a small deal in which the Rangers pick up Norris for some mid-level prospect or two, there’s a case to be made that the two sides should expand the talk and make a legitimate blockbuster.

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Can Wil Myers Lead the Padres Offense?

Wil Myers has filled a few roles in his short time in the public eye. He has been a top prospect. Then the top prospect. Then one of the biggest trade chips in the game. Then Rookie of the Year. And then he was traded again, and filled the role of afterthought. But now, as we look to 2016, can he fill another one — that of team leader?

No one is suggesting of course that Myers fill an actual leadership role on the Padres. They have veteran players like James Shields, Matt Kemp and Melvin Upton to give motivational speeches. (And you don’t come here to read those kinds of stories anyway.) But when looking over the Padres depth chart, one notices that Myers has the best wOBA projection of the bunch.

ALL Batters Padres

Derek Norris 438 .244 .315 .395 .311 -0.1 0.1 -0.5 2.0
Cory Spangenberg 504 .260 .310 .384 .301 -4.0 0.7 0.1 1.5
Yangervis Solarte 511 .261 .315 .385 .306 -1.9 -0.8 -3.1 1.3
Wil Myers 609 .258 .330 .433 .330 9.0 0.7 -6.2 1.3
Matt Kemp 590 .265 .321 .436 .327 7.4 -0.3 -9.9 1.0
Jon Jay 455 .259 .333 .347 .299 -4.3 -0.2 1.6 0.9
Alexei Ramirez 623 .255 .287 .358 .281 -15.2 0.1 -3.1 0.8
Jose Pirela 308 .257 .305 .377 .298 -3.2 0.1 -1.7 0.6
Melvin Upton 455 .214 .287 .355 .281 -11.0 0.9 0.4 0.5
Brett Wallace 237 .246 .305 .403 .308 -0.7 -0.5 -0.8 0.5
Jabari Blash 280 .223 .298 .416 .311 0.0 -0.1 -1.2 0.5
Christian Bethancourt 128 .248 .276 .368 .278 -3.4 0.0 0.5 0.4
Austin Hedges 160 .220 .262 .328 .258 -6.8 -0.1 1.7 0.3
Alex Dickerson 194 .248 .298 .391 .299 -1.8 0.0 -0.3 0.3
Travis Jankowski 91 .250 .303 .329 .280 -2.3 0.3 0.6 0.2
Manuel Margot 14 .246 .290 .367 .286 -0.3 0.0 0.1 0.0
Alexi Amarista 236 .234 .283 .338 .270 -7.8 0.6 -0.7 0.0
Jose Rondon 14 .241 .282 .315 .263 -0.5 0.0 0.1 0.0
Total 5847 .249 .307 .385 .301 -47.2 1.5 -22.5 12.1

The edge over Kemp is ever so slight, but it’s still there, and for the 99% of us who aren’t die-hard Padres fans, that may come as a bit of a surprise. After all, the die has seemingly been cast on Myers. Where once we were very quick to proclaim the decision by Kansas City to send Myers to Tampa Bay a disaster, now we are often quick to declare it a win for the Royals. After all, they went to back-to-back World Series, and are now defending the crown. The fact that Myers was quickly shipped out of town by Tampa Bay — in a trade where they didn’t receive a ton in return for him — only increases the sense that KC won after all.

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FanGraphs Arizona Meetup — Friday, 3/11/16

Baseball has started, sort of, and it’s time to have a meetup. Don’t worry about the team projections, all of our teams are still in it, at least until April. Please come drink, rosterbate, and theorize with the following writers at OHSO Brewery in Scottsdale, Arizona on Friday, March 11th, at 6pm. Free appetizers for attendees!

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Ruddy Giron: Possible Sleeper in the Padres System

A month ago, I put out the most recent version of KATOH’s top-100 prospect list. The top of the list looked like this:

  1. JP Crawford
  2. Jose Peraza
  3. Orlando Arcia
  4. Corey Seager
  5. Ozhaino Albies
  6. Julio Urias
  7. Max Kepler
  8. Ruddy Giron

Seven of those eight players are consensus top prospects. Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America ranked each of the first seven in their top 100s this winter, while six of those seven — excluding Peraza — cracked Keith Law’s list. Crawford, Arcia, Seager, Albies and Urias didn’t just make those lists, but ranked very close to the top. And then, ranked eighth overall, is a prospect excluded from all the industry’s most notable top-100 lists: Ruddy Giron.


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Previewing the Best and Worst Team Defenses for 2016

Early this morning, the full 2016 ZiPS projections went live on the site. This is probably news to many of you. Surprise! Happy ZiPS day. You can now export the full ZiPS spreadsheet from that link, find individual projections on the player pages, and view our live-updating playoff odds, which are powered by a 50/50 blend of ZiPS and Steamer. This is good news for everyone, including us, the authors, because now we have more information with which to work.

And so here’s a post that I did last year, and one which I was waiting for the full ZiPS rollout to do again: previewing the year’s team defenses. It’s been a few years running now that we’ve marveled over speedy outfielders in blue jerseys zooming about the spacious Kauffman Stadium outfield, and now those speedy outfielders in blue jerseys are all World Series champions. People are thinking and talking about defense more than ever, and you don’t think and talk about defense without thinking and talking about the Kansas City Royals. Defense: it’s so hot right now. Defense.

The methodology here is simple. ZiPS considers past defensive performance and mixes in some scouting report information to give an overall “defensive runs above or below average” projection. Steamer does the same, except rather than searching for keywords from real scouting reports, it regresses towards the data from the Fans Scouting Report project compiled by Tangotiger every year. The final number is an average of these two figures, and can be found in the “Fld” section of the depth charts and player pages. It isn’t exactly Ultimate Zone Rating or Defensive Runs Saved, but it’s the same idea, and the same scale.

Let’s look ahead toward the year in defense.

* * *

The Best

1. Kansas City Royals

This is one of my new favorite fun facts: the Royals outfield defense, just the outfield, is projected for 31 runs saved, which is higher than any other entire team in baseball. And with Alex Rios out of the mix in right field and Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando stepping in full-time, Kansas City’s outfield defense should somehow be even better than it’s been in the past.

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Building a Frankenstein Backup Catcher

One of the things people enjoy about sports is the role they role they play in starting conversations and debates. People enjoy arguing, especially about trivial matters like “who was the best hitter of all time?” and “who’s the best shortstop in the game right now?” These exchanges satisfy one’s desire to engage in battles of wits without challenging someone’s moral character, which is what often happens when debates turn to more sensitive topics such as politics or religion.

Sports allows for fierce debate with extraordinary low stakes. Think about how much time we’ve spent arguing about the difference between Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera! While you might think those conversations were tremendously unproductive, I would submit that they provided many people with a confrontational, emotional, and intellectual outlet. We’re a species blessed with language and reason, but cursed with imperfections in both. Arguing about the performance of athletes allows us to exercise those muscles without inadvertently causing real damage to society.

In that realm, I would like to present a baseball question to which you have probably devoted almost no attention. If you could take the best attributes of baseball’s backup catchers and fuse them into a single, lovable backstop, what components would you choose and how valuable would the resulting Frankenstein Catcher be?

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MLB Farm Systems Ranked by Surplus WAR

You smell that? It’s baseball’s prospect-list season. The fresh top-100 lists — populated by new names as well as old ones — seem to be popping up each day. With the individual rankings coming out, some organization rankings are becoming available, as well. I have always regarded the organizational rankings as subjective — and, as a result, not 100% useful. Utilizing the methodology I introduced in my article on prospect evaluation from this year’s Hardball Times Annual, however, it’s possible to calculate a total value for every team’s farm system and remove the biases of subjectivity. In what follows, I’ve used that same process to rank all 30 of baseball’s farm systems by the surplus WAR they should generate.

I provide a detailed explanation of my methodology in the Annual article. To summarize it briefly, however, what I’ve done is to identify WAR equivalencies for the scouting grades produced by Baseball America in their annual Prospect Handbook. The grade-to-WAR conversion appears as follows.

Prospect Grade to WAR Conversion
Prospect Grade Total WAR Surplus WAR
80 25.0 18.5
75 18.0 13.0
70 11.0 9.0
65 8.5 6.0
60 4.7 3.0
55 2.5 1.5
50 1.1 0.5
45 0.4 0.0

To create the overall totals for this post, I used each team’s top-30 rankings per the most recent edition of Baseball America’ Prospect Handbook. Also accounting for those trades which have occurred since the BA rankings were locked down, I counted the number of 50 or higher-graded prospects (i.e. the sort which provide surplus value) in each system. The results follows.
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MLB Owners’ Next Big Potential Moneymaker

Major League Baseball is a profitable enterprise, and (not surprisingly) MLB owners tend to benefit from that profitability, generally through revenues directly related to operating those franchises. However, MLB owners have also profited from ventures only partially related to MLB ownership, as well. They’ve made money owning television stations that also happen to air the games of teams they own. Owners are also in the process of spinning off the non-baseball related arm of MLBAM for billions. Notably, MLB owners have begun capitalizing on another revenue stream: developing the land near their teams’ ballparks.

When the Atlanta Braves announced they were leaving a 20-year-old Atlanta-based stadium for a new one out in the suburbs of Cobb County, it took many by surprise. Cobb County made an appealling offer to the Braves, and one of the Braves’ promises was a $400 million mixed-used land development surrounding the stadium. While this has some likely benefits for Cobb County, it has the potential to be very beneficial for the Braves, as well — and it was one of their reasons for leaving Atlanta.

Bucking the trend of pro teams seeking stadiums and arenas closer to the city center, the Braves’ new facility will be part of a 60-acre development near Cobb Galleria mall. Plant compared it to new ballparks in Cincinnati, San Diego and Houston, as well as L.A. Live, which hosts the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers and the NHL’s Kings at Staples Center.

“With our current location, we couldn’t control that process,” Plant said. “This site allows us to do that.”

In Cincinnati, the Reds have their Hall of Fame across the street. In Houston, the Astros took over Union Station. However, the first major attempt to control an entire area of land around the stadium had mixed results. In San Diego, real estate developer JMI, owned by John Moores, the previous owner of the Padres before a messy divorce forced the sale of the team, built up the area around the park, mainly with housing after original plans for more office buildings had to be scrapped due to economic conditions. The area is still in flux, as it was also a potential site for a new stadium for the San Diego Chargers.

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The End of the Terrible Number-Two Hitter

If you’ve recently spent time with other humans, it’s likely that you noticed that they tend to be overconfident about how well they understand the world around them. Think of all of the people you know who have tried to weasel their way out of admitting they were wrong even when presented with strong evidence that they had misinterpreted a situation. Humans are bold and unapologetic in their declarations and do not like it when you point out that they’ve made a serious error.

It’s hard to criticize people for that when it seems to be a pretty fundamental aspect of the species. It’s not good or bad, it simply is. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy little moments when someone makes a compelling argument and then the world totally destroys their hard work by changing around them.

For example, two political scientists once wrote a book called Congress’ Permanent Minority? Republicans in the U.S. House which was the first major scholarly account of how a minority party operates when it expects to be in the minority for the foreseeable future. It’s a well-researched book and was well reviewed when it came out. Unfortunately for the authors, it came out in January of 1994, just 11 months before the Republicans would win control of the House for the first time in 40 years. It was a perfectly fine analysis, it was just totally detached from the reality of American politics almost immediately.

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Projecting the DFA’d Rymer Liriano

The Padres last week designated outfield prospect Rymer Liriano for assignment to clear a roster spot for the newly signed Alexei Ramirez. The move became yet another curious move in a string of questionable decisions by A.J. Preller and his front-office staff. Not only does Liriano have a prospect pedigree, but San Diego had multiple outfielders on its 40-man roster who could be described as “fringy,” namely Jabari Blash, Alex Dickerson and Travis Jankowski. Yes, Liriano is out of options, but I have a hard time thinking he’s a worse prospect than Blash, who — as a Rule 5 pick — also is out of options.

In some ways, Liriano looks the part of an exciting prospect. The 24-year-old’s power, speed and throwing arm grade out as better than average. Relatively few prospects have such a strong and diverse collection of skills. Furthermore, he’s parlayed those tools into some nice numbers in the high minors. He hit .291/.375/.466 with nearly 40 steals between Double-A and Triple-A in the past last two seasons.

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