Archive for Teams

How Dellin Betances Lost $10 Million

Dellin Betances made medium-level news a week ago when he lost his arbitration case. He’d been asking for $5 million — less, for example, than Trevor Rosenthal had made in his first crack at arbitration the season before. The Yankees, meanwhile, submitted a $3 million figure. The case went to arbitration, and the Yankees won. Randy Levine then took the medium-sized news and turned into big news by acting like a fool. While the $2 million difference might not seem like a big deal for Betances when he’s still guaranteed to receive $3 million, the affect on Betances’ finances in the coming years will be significantly greater.

Arbitration isn’t exactly the simplest of systems. Teams submit blind amounts, and if the parties can’t agree on a deal beforehand, they go to hearing. The FanGraphs glossary explains the process in slightly more detail, but if the player and team go to hearing, the arbitration panel decides on either the team’s figure or the player’s figure, with no option to choose a number in between. This makes the arbitration a winner-take-all scenario. If arbitrators could choose a number in the middle, settlements would be even more likely, simplifying the process and lead to far less debate. They can’t, though, and that means that arbitration decisions have a significant impact.

Also relevant is how service time fits into the process. Players’ salaries gradually increase based on service time, rendering the previous season’s salary quite relevant, as it represents the starting point for a raise. A few different researchers have gone through and figured out exactly how much salaries increase during arbitration. (Here’s a good one, for example.) As a general rule, though, it comes to something like a 50% increase in salary every year. Small differences, especially early in the arbitration process, compound to make bigger differences over time.

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An Exploration of the Longest Home Run of 2016

Eno took some time on Wednesday to talk about last season’s unluckiest changeup. Today, we’re going to talk about a changeup that wasn’t unlucky so much as it was woefully misplaced. It was a first-pitch changeup that was as middle-middle as one can be.

That’s where the title comes in. Let’s roll the film.

You may remember this dinger from a recent article here about Giancarlo Stanton. Statcast says it was the longest blast of the year, at a staggering 504.35 feet. It’s pretty easy to understand how this happened.

Three variables are at work:

  1. Giancarlo Stanton is more machine than man, a T-800 who warped back in time and stole a baseball bat from an innocent bystander instead of boots and a leather jacket.
  2. Coors Field is the Cape Canaveral of baseball.
  3. Chad Bettis missed his spot with a changeup pretty badly.

I don’t need explain the first point very much. You know all about Giancarlo Stanton and what he’s capable of doing. You’ve seen him lay waste to baseballs. His muscles are made of steel rebar. He’s been doing this for years, and if we’re lucky, he’ll do it for a while longer.

I also don’t need to explain point No. 2 very much. Coors is in Denver, and the 20th row of seats in the upper deck at Coors is exactly a mile above sea level. That means the air is thin, which means the ball flies further. This is good for guys like Stanton and bad for anybody who stands on the pitcher’s mound. Unfortunately, that includes Bettis.

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Tony Cingrani Needs a New Pitch, Is Working on It

We know early spring-training coverage, February coverage, is littered with Best Shape of His Life stories. While there’s no database to track the impact and predictive power of these stories, the general sense is they generally do not correlate with dramatically better performance in the following season.

In a FanGraphs chat a couple weeks ago, one questioner asked me to what types of stories I pay attention early in the spring. What really matters this time of year? It’s a good question. One story line that does interest me in February — something that can perhaps provide real value and change — is the addition of a new pitch.

Jason Collette was kind enough this week to track every reported pitch addition to date in 2017. Perhaps the new pitch about which we should be most excited isn’t really a pitcher adding a new pitch at all, but bringing back an old one. Eno Sarris is excited about the return of Dylan Bundy’s cutter, a pitch once described as “a supreme piece of aerodynamic filth” by former-BP-writer-turned-Cubs-scout Jason Parks. Imagine Andrew Miller with another weapon or Joe Ross with a much-needed changeup.

But perhaps no one needs a new pitch more than one lefty experimenting with one this spring: Reds reliever Tony Cingrani. (And no group in baseball needs more help than what was a historically poor bullpen in Cincinnati last season.)

Cingrani told MLB.com the cutter he began developing this offseason is “just another way to get guys out… [The cutter] feels comfortable.”

But Cingrani really has had only one way, to date, to get major-league hitters out. Among all pitchers who tossed at least 40 innings last season, Cingrani led baseball in fastball usage, throwing his four-seam fastball 89.5% of the time.

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2016 Hitter Contact-Quality Report: A Few AL Non-Qualifiers

Throughout much of the offseason in this space, we’ve been taking a look at hitter contact quality, using 2016 granular exit-speed and launch-angle data as our guide. We’re down to the last two installments, in which some non-qualifying hitters from both leagues will be reviewed.

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How Would You Comp Yasiel Puig?

Perspective matters a great deal when you’re trying to look at a question and find the unfiltered truth. It’s true of all statistical analysis, but it becomes even more obvious when you’re trying to find comparable historical players.

Where do you set the cutoffs? How far back do you go in the player pool? How far back do you go in the player’s own career? If you manipulate the variables, you can get all sorts of different results. That’s why it’s so hard to analyze a player simply by finding other, similar players. The very idea of similar is difficult to pin down.

Take Yasiel Puig, for example. Pull the strings a little differently each time, and his comps vary wildly.

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All Arrows Pointing Up for Diamondbacks Rotation

On December 2, new Diamondbacks general manger Mike Hazen announced the hire of Mike Fitzgerald to lead the Diamondbacks’ analytics department. Perhaps Fitzgerald’s most notable contribution in Pittsburgh, where he was the No. 2-ranking analyst, was pounding the table for then free agent Russell Martin — and, at the same time, the power of pitch-framing — at the close of the 2012 season.

On December 2, the Diamondbacks elected to non-tender incumbent starting catcher Welington Castillo, which surprised some in and around the industry. Castillo led an Arizona catching group that finished 26th in framing runs last season, according to Baseball Prospectus.

On December 2, the Diamondbacks reached an agreement with catcher Jeff Mathis on a two-year deal. On a per-pitch basis, among catchers who received at least 1,000 pitches last season, Mathis was was the ninth-best framer, according to StatCorner, and the best free-agent catcher available by that measure. While in a reserve role last season, Mathis graded out as the 13th-best defensive catcher in baseball, according to Baseball Prospectus. Castillo ranked 95th. New Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said at the winter meetings that there is no clear-cut No. 1 catcher and that Mathis will split the work load with Chris Herrmann.

Said Lovullo to reporters in Washington, D.C, in December:

“We believe in the metrics. We believe in the data. We believe in trying to do as much research as possible. We have a great team of people that are working hard behind the scenes.”

It was on December 2, 2016, that the Diamondbacks joined the 21st century. And no group of players stands to benefit more than the Diamondback starting pitchers. As noted by Mike Petriello on Tuesday in an excellent piece for MLB.com, Zack Greinke is a good bounce-back candidate for 2017 due to the club’s improved framing and defense. Indeed, everyone in the Diamondbacks staff is a good bet to improve.

Greinke will be Exhibit A, though.

As Petriello notes, according to Baseball Prospectus’ values, no pitcher benefited more from framing than Greinke in 2015. It’s part of the reason I led my 2015 NL Cy Young ballot with Jake Arrieta in a tight race, as Greinke benefited from Yasmani Grandal.

Greinke fell from first to 725th last year in framing support, a 15-run drop.

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Syndergaard, Gray Top Extension Candidates Among Pitchers

Last spring, for the first time in a decade, maybe more, no pre-arbitration pitchers signed a contract extension taking away multiple free-agent seasons. There were a few decent candidates in Jacob deGrom, Sonny Gray, and Carlos Martinez, the last of whom just signed a contract extension of his own earlier this winter. None of those players signed last spring, however, and it’s a possible indicator of a chilling effect on these types of extensions. The lack of deals isn’t due to a lack of candidates, though. In fact, a few of the best pitchers in baseball might be prime for long-term extensions.

When attempting to characterize the recent history of such deals, it’s difficult to say what’s a trend and what’s a random event because only two to five players sign extensions of this sort every year. The recent drought might be a product of players and agents beginning to recognize how much clubs were benefiting from signing extensions with younger players. It’s possible, on the other hand, that teams were less likely to dole out guarantees when the outcome of the CBA was in doubt. When Madison Bumgarner signed his extension right as the 2012 season was starting, he was one of five young pitchers to do so. When Chris Sale signed his ahead of the 2013 season, he was the only one. Sale and Bumgarner’s contracts have proved to be two of the bigger bargains in the majors.

When the White Sox traded Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe, and Victor Diaz, they weren’t just trading Chris Sale. The White Sox were also trading Chris Sale’s contract, which included a $12 million salary for 2017 and options for 2018 and 2019 totaling $26 million. If Sale hadn’t signed that contract, he would have been a free agent this winter and received $200 million. San Francisco has no interest in trading Madison Bumgarner — who would have also been a free agent this winter — while they’re contending, so his value to the Giants is greater as a player on the field than in a trade. His contract is similar to Sale’s and so favorable that it had some discussing whether the team should negotiate a contract extension out of fairness, which does have some precedent.

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Kevin Kiermaier, Breakout Candidate

Kevin Kiermaier has long been underrated in the mainstream baseball world. He provides value in ways that tend to get overlooked or, at least, receive less attention. You probably know, for example, that Kiermaier is an elite defensive player. You’re probably aware that Kiermaier is an above-average baserunner. You might also know that Kiermaier has recorded a league-average batting line despite having faced the most difficult pitchers and that he owns a pair of piercing green eyes.

The total package is quite valuable. Kiermaier has already produced 13.1 WAR for his career over parts of three major-league seasons. He produced more than five wins in 2015, and per 162 games, he’s a 5.8 WAR/season player for his career.

I’m guessing most in the FanGraphs community consider Kiermaier to be a star. If things go well, everyone else might believe that this year, too.

Yesterday, Baseball Prospectus editor Aaron Gleeman posted some of PECOTA’s top breakout picks for hitters in 2017. Some of them aren’t all that surprising: I think a lot of people suspect there is more in the bats of Byron Buxton and Gregory Polanco and Addison Russell. But one name on the hitters list did jump out at me, and that was Kiermaier’s.

Wrote Gleeman:

WARP has long viewed Kiermaier as one of the most underrated players in baseball and now PECOTA thinks he has a chance to add above-average offense to otherworldly defense. Last season Kiermaier upped his power and plate discipline, but it went largely unnoticed because he hit just .246 and missed two months with a broken hand. If he continues to be plus-20 runs in center field Kiermaier is a star no matter what, but PECOTA sees untapped offensive upside in the 27-year-old. At the 60th percentile he’d reach 6.0 WARP and at the 70th percentile or higher he’d be among the MLB leaders in WARP, combining amazing defense with an .800 OPS.

Kiermaier’s top age-27 PECOTA comp? Vernon Wells. While the older version of Wells wasn’t productive, the 27-year-old version recorded a 128 wRC+ as a center fielder in a six-win campaign.

If Kiermaier goes from being a plus-plus glove and league-average bat, to a player with a plus-plus glove and better-than-average bat, he will be (or should be) near the top of the AL MVP voting. He finished third in bWAR (7.3) in 2015, but 17th in AL MVP voting.

So is this breakout possible? Maybe it’s already happening.

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Eric Hosmer Is an Historical Anomaly

Over the weekend, Ken Rosenthal wrote that the Royals were not going to simply accept Eric Hosmer‘s departure through free agency as inevitable, and were going to attempt to sign him to a long-term extension before he hit the open market. Because Hosmer is represented by Scott Boras, we were treated to the hyperbole of the first baseman as a “franchise player” and the speculation that he might ask for a 10 year deal, a contract which would make the Ryan Howard extension look like the bargain of the century.

Yesterday, in response to that article, Jeff Sullivan gave a good old college try in attempting to justify the idea that Eric Hosmer could be in line for a “mega contract”. Jeff did a good job of showing the ways in which Hosmer could potentially be underrated, and with a big 2017, could be viewed more favorably than he is by the typical FanGraphs reader at this point. I don’t know if he convinced anyone that a 10 year deal for Hosmer wouldn’t be a total disaster, but it was a nice effort.

But in thinking about what a fair contract for Hosmer might be, I began to look for historical comparisons, to see what guys like Hosmer had done in their late-20s and early-30s. In looking for those comparisons, I realized there basically aren’t any, because Eric Hosmer is a historically unique player.

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Betts, Lindor Top Contract-Extension Candidates

Three years ago, seven major-league position players who had yet to reach salary arbitration agreed to contracts with their teams, conceding multiple free-agent seasons in the process. Most of those deals have turned into bargains: Matt Carpenter, Jason Kipnis, Starling Marte, and Mike Trout have all played at a high level since then. This came one year after Paul Goldschmidt and Anthony Rizzo signed contracts that have proved to be incredibly valuable, as well.

In the last two years, however, just four players have signed similar extensions. There are quite a few potential reasons, the most likely being that players are more reluctant to sign deals that give away free agency so easily. It’s also possible that teams haven’t found as many potential candidates who are worthy of a long-term investment.

When I looked at potential extension candidates last year, I noted that there weren’t a great many players who were ideally suited for extensions. Only Gregory Polanco and Kolten Wong ultimately signed extensions, so my hypothesis seems to have been accurate. Teams have made up somewhat for lost time this winter, though, as players like Ender Inciarte, Carlos Martinez, and Wil Myers — all of whom were mentioned as candidates last year — reached extensions this offseason. The guarantees doled out by the teams — in particular, the $83 million to Wil Myers and the $51 million to Carlos Martinez — illustrate why signing players to extensions before they reach free agency is much more advantageous for the teams. While the deals for Myers and Martinez could still prove to be bargains, compare the figures they received to the deals signed by position players in the three previous offseasons.

Pre-Arbitration Contract Extensions Since 2014
Name PA OBP SLG wRC+ WAR Service Time Contract Terms*
Mike Trout 1490 .404 .544 164 21.5 2.070 6/144.5
Matt Carpenter 1076 .381 .470 137 8.3 2.012 6/52.0, 1
Christian Yelich 933 .365 .400 118 5.8 1.069 7/49.6, 1
Andrelton Simmons 840 .304 .400 94 6.6 1.125 7/58.0
Starling Marte 748 .332 .440 117 5.8 1.070 5/35.0, 2
Jason Kipnis 1480 .349 .424 115 8.7 2.075 6/52.5, 1
Yan Gomes 433 .324 .453 112 3.1 1.083 6/23.0, 2
Adam Eaton 918 .350 .390 108 3.2 2.030 5/23.5, 2
Jedd Gyorko 525 .301 .444 109 2.4 1.016 6/35.0, 1
Kolten Wong 1108 .303 .374 88 3.8 2.045 5/25.5, 1
Gregory Polanco 964 .316 .369 92 2.6 1.103 5/35, 2
Odubel Herrera 1193 .353 .419 111 7.8 2.000 5/30.5, 2
*Year/$M, Options
Note: Herrera’s was signed this winter.

All of these players signed away two — or, in some cases, three — years of free agency in exchange for a decent guaranteed contract. While a couple years might seem like just a small delay to free agency, teams generally received a 60% surplus on every dollar invested in contracts like these, and the recent extensions seem unlikely to break that pattern.

Most of these guarantees are around $30 million or so, which is significantly less than the deals for Myers and Martinez that were signed one year along in service time. Players take a significant risk by turning down money between their second year and third year in the league, as they have to play that season on a near-minimum salary. Once they hit arbitration and benefit from the security that comes along with a million-dollar contract, there’s less incentive to take a guarantee, especially with free agency just a few years away.

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A Year Without the Yankees

The Yankees were trying last year, as silly as that may have been. They lacked the rotation muscle or offensive firepower to truly compete, but damn if they didn’t have a bullpen. That bullpen, combined with a largely mediocre roster, kept them just within spitting distance of relevancy until the very end. Even after trading Carlos Beltran, Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Ivan Nova, the Yankees still managed to hang around and win 84 games.

They didn’t make the playoffs, of course. They did make Gary Sanchez into a national sensation, and they did bring Tyler Clippard and Adam Warren back into the fold for this year’s bullpen. Chapman came back, and then they signed two sluggers (Chris Carter and Matt Holliday) to extremely tradable one-year deals. The Yankees are the Yankees, so they brought back their well-known closer and his 100 mph fastball. They need to have star power at all times and must, at least, give the appearance of trying to compete. Those are the expectations that come with being the Yankees and having an owner named Steinbrenner. According to reports, they came very close to buying instead of selling last year.

An inspection of the team’s roster tells a different story. Last year’s team was brimming with veterans. It was a poor man’s win-now team built around the bullpen, Masahiro Tanaka, and hope. This year, it’s built around a weaker bullpen, Masahiro Tanaka, whatever’s left in Holliday’s bat, and hope that Sanchez can continue to terrorize opposing pitchers while Greg Bird immediately rebounds to 2015 form. That’s all while having an even weaker rotation than last year.

It’s probably not going to happen. Our projections have the Yankees finishing at .500 and tied for last place, and PECOTA foresees an ever-so-slightly better 82-80 finish. Basically, the Yankees appear to be the very definition of mediocre right now. They can try to sell fans on the idea that they’re going to be competitive, and in a way that’s sort of true. The team probably won’t be a total pushover, and if a few things here and there fall the right way, maybe they’re once again on the precipice of being interesting at midsummer’s time. New York would need their many young and relatively untested players all to hit the ground running if they really want to make the playoffs, and they’ll likely need a firecracker of a debut from Clint Frazier, too.

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Last Year’s Unluckiest Changeup

In baseball, luck is a tricky concept. In some cases, it’s used to describe an event that’s within the normal distribution of outcomes but far from the mean. In other cases, what we call luck might actually be the first signs of an outlying skill for which we simply lack a sufficiently large sample to identify.

We’ve developed a new understanding on one kind of luck in recent years — namely, the sort that occurs with a batted ball. With Statcast data, we can look at the shape and size of a ball in play and try to decide what the batter “deserved” from that sort of ball in play. Then we compare it to actual outcomes. The difference between the observed and expected outcome is luck.

What if you want to look at a luck on a specific pitch type, though? How would you do it? You could look at the results on the pitch and basically use the Statcast-type process from the other side of the ball. What sorts of balls in play did that pitch produce, and what sort of results should those balls in play have produced? The problem with that approach is that you’re slicing a pitcher’s repertoire into small samples when you start talking about balls in play off a specific pitch. Even David Price, for example — who led the majors in innings last year — allowed fewer than 300 balls in play on his most frequently thrown pitch, the fastball. Secondary pitches are, almost by definition, thrown much less often. Variance isn’t the exception in such cases, but the rule.

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How to Rationalize an Eric Hosmer Mega-Contract

In the middle of last July, rumors started to spread that, come free agency, Eric Hosmer could seek a 10-year deal. Then, in the second half of the season, Hosmer batted .225, with a 76 wRC+. Now, in a new article from Ken Rosenthal, it’s expressed the Royals believe Eric Hosmer could seek a 10-year deal.

Hosmer is represented by Scott Boras, and you can see here how Boras effortlessly presupposes Hosmer’s significance:

“We all know that Hos is a franchise player, a world champion. He’s done all this at a very young age,” Boras said.

World champion? Sure, that happened. Very young age? Hosmer is still only 27 years old. But, there’s that first thing. We don’t all know that Hosmer is a franchise player. The majority of people would actually disagree with that notion. This is a phenomenally easy idea to argue against.

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Ten Bold Predictions for the Coming Season

Over at the fantasy blog, they’ll be publishing their annual bold predictions soon. Those posts, as usual, will cater to the roto side of things. They’re fun to write. And, even though I’m no longer editing RotoGraphs anymore, I’d like to continue the tradition. So I’ve decided to do a version that’s aimed more at the real game.

Let’s stretch our imagination and make some predictions that are a little bit sane (they should be rooted in reality to some extent), but also a little bit insane (since the insane happens in baseball every year anyway). Back when I did this for fantasy, I hit 3-for-10 most years. Doubt I do it again, for some reason.

What follows are my 10 bold predictions for 2017.

1. Dylan Bundy will be the ace he was always supposed to be.
Once picked fourth overall and pegged as the future ace of the Orioles, Bundy had a terrible time in the minor leagues. Over five years, he managed only 111 innings between injuries. There was Tommy John, of course, but lat strains, shoulder-calcification issues and between-start bouts of elbow soreness have dogged him throughout, as well. At least he was good while he was in, with an ERA in the low twos and great rates to support those results.

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Nationals Sign Matt Wieters For Some Reason

For most of the offseason, industry speculation suggested that the Nationals were the most likely landing spot for Matt Wieters. They were losing Wilson Ramos to free agency, which created a hole at the catcher spot, and Wieters was already comfortable with the geographic area, having spent his entire career in Baltimore to that point.

But all winter, the team didn’t seem to show much interest. At the beginning of December, Washington traded for Derek Norris, who had a terrible 2016 but has plenty of signs pointing to a 2017 bounce-back. With Norris and Jose Lobaton in the fold, they had a perfectly capable pair of receivers, both of whom rated as well above average in Statcorner’s catcher framing metrics. Catching wasn’t the strength of the team, but neither was it some glaring weakness like their bench, and if ownership was going to allow for more spending, there seemed to be plenty of other places for the Nationals to upgrade.

But today, the winter of industry speculation proved prescient, as the Nationals have reportedly signed Wieters, giving him $21 million in guaranteed money over two years along with an opt-out after the first year. The lesson, as always; if you’re not sure where a Scott Boras client is going to sign, Washington is always a safe guess.

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Mark Appel Is in a Better Place. Will It Matter?

Mark Appel is one of the great unknowns this spring. He remains something of an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, and now shrouded in post-surgery mystery.

I will begin with a brief history of a player who has seen his prospect luster diminished as dramatically as few pitchers in recent memory.

Recall that the former Stanford University ace was drafted twice in the first round. In 2012, under the new restrictions on amateur signing bonuses, the Pirates weren’t willing to forfeit a future draft pick for exceeding their pool limit. Appel’s signing demands were not met, and he returned to Stanford.

He returned for his senior year, which seemed like a risky decision given that injury or poor performance could diminish his stock. But Appel won the bet on himself as he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2013, by Houston, one spot ahead of Kris Bryant. While Appel over Bryant looks like Bowie-over-Jordan-like decision at the moment, Appel had an impressive resume coming out of school, including a mid-90s fastball and wipeout slider that helped him set the program’s strikeout record with this very pitch against UCLA nearly four years ago:

But few have fallen further than Appel in the last four years.

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Top 32 Prospects: Atlanta Braves

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the Atlanta Braves farm system. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from my own observations. The KATOH statistical projections, probable-outcome graphs, and (further down) Mahalanobis comps have been provided by Chris Mitchell. For more information on thes 20-80 scouting scale by which all of my prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. -Eric Longenhagen

The KATOH projection system uses minor-league data and Baseball America prospect rankings to forecast future performance in the major leagues. For each player, KATOH produces a WAR forecast for his first six years in the major leagues. There are drawbacks to scouting the stat line, so take these projections with a grain of salt. Due to their purely objective nature, the projections here can be useful in identifying prospects who might be overlooked or overrated. Due to sample-size concerns, only players with at least 200 minor-league plate appearances or batters faced last season have received projections. -Chris Mitchell

Other Lists
NL West (ARI, COL, LAD, SD, SF)
AL Central (CHW, CLE, DETKC, MIN)
NL Central (CHC, CIN, PIT, MIL, StL)
NL East (MIAPHI)

Braves Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Dansby Swanson 23 MLB SS 2017 65
2 Ozzie Albies 20 AAA 2B 2018 60
3 Ronald Acuna 19 A CF 2020 55
4 Kolby Allard 19 A LHP 2019 55
5 Kevin Maitan 17 R 3B 2021 55
6 Ian Anderson 18 R RHP 2021 55
7 Max Fried 23 A LHP 2018 55
8 Luiz Gohara 20 A LHP 2019 55
9 Mike Soroka 19 A RHP 2020 50
10 Cristian Pache 18 R CF 2020 50
11 Sean Newcomb 23 AA LHP 2018 50
12 Joey Wentz 19 R LHP 2021 50
13 Touki Touisaint 20 A RHP 2019 45
14 Patrick Weigel 22 AA RHP 2018 45
15 Travis Demeritte 22 A+ 2B 2019 45
16 Kyle Muller 19 R LHP 2020 45
17 Ray-Patrick Didder 22 A OF 2019 45
18 Dustin Peterson 22 AA LF 2018 45
19 Brett Cumberland 21 R C 2019 40
20 A.J. Minter 23 AA LHP 2017 40
21 Drew Harrington 21 R LHP 2019 40
22 Derian Cruz 18 R SS 2021 40
23 Yunior Severino 17 R SS 2022 40
24 Alex Jackson 21 A C 2021 40
25 Rio Ruiz 22 MLB 3B 2017 40
26 Dylan Moore 24 A+ UTIL 2018 40
27 Mauricio Cabrera 23 MLB RHP 2017 40
28 Austin Riley 19 A 3B 2021 40
29 Bryse Wilson 19 R RHP 2020 40
30 Ricardo Sanchez 19 A LHP 2020 40
31 Jonathan Morales 22 A C 2019 40
32 Randy Ventura 19 R RF 2020 40

65 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Vanderbilt
Age 23 Height 6’1 Weight 190 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/55 50/50 40/45 60/60 55/60 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .302/.361/.442 in 145 MLB plate appearances.

Scouting Report
The first-overall pick by Arizona in 2015, Swanson barely played affiliated ball for the Diamondbacks after he was hit in the face by a Yoan Lopez pitch on the backfields in Scottsdale shortly after signing. Swanson, who still wears a face guard on his batting helmet, was traded to Atlanta that December in the Shelby Miller deal.

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Last Season’s Most Underrated Rookie

I got to participate in the voting for last season’s American League Rookie of the Year award. Like almost everyone else, I agonized over whether to go with Gary Sanchez or Michael Fulmer, before ultimately settling on the latter. Tyler Naquin rounded out my ballot. It was the most common ballot — there were a dozen, out of 30, that read like mine.

If I had a fourth-place slot, I would’ve found room for Christopher Devenski. As is, Devenski showed up on five ballots, finishing third on four and second on one. There were many rookies last year who were pretty good. Devenski, somehow, has seemingly flown under the radar. He was so good!

If I wanted, I could leave it at this — there were 142 different pitchers in all of baseball who threw at least 100 innings. Here are the best of them, by ERA-:

  1. Clayton Kershaw, 43
  2. Kyle Hendricks, 51
  3. Chris Devenski, 52

But you could look at the fact that Devenski allowed just four homers and conclude he got lucky. He probably did. Doesn’t mean he didn’t get better and better. It’s Devenski’s second half that really stands out. After the All-Star break, he threw 49.2 innings. Here are some percentile rankings out of everyone who cleared 25 post-ASB frames.

Down the stretch, Devenski threw strikes like Max Scherzer, and he missed bats like…well, also Max Scherzer. He compelled hitters to constantly chase out of the zone, in part a testament to his outstanding changeup. But you shouldn’t come away believing Devenski was some kind of soft-tosser; by September he was throwing his average fastball around 94 miles per hour.

Devenski was underrated because he wasn’t really a starting pitcher. He did start a few times, but he predominantly relieved, without closing. As you know, statistically speaking, relievers have it easier. Yet Devenski wasn’t a reliever of the conventional sort. The last bar in the plot above reads PA/GR. That’s out of a different sample pool — all relievers with at least 10 appearances in the second half. The category itself refers to average plate appearances per relief appearance. Devenski was close to the top. He wasn’t a matchup guy, or a one-inning guy. He was more of a multi-inning swingman, which makes his numbers all the more remarkable. He was that good, for dozens of pitches at a time.

Borrowing from Texas Leaguers, Devenski made a midseason change that could’ve driven his greater success.

As the season wore on, Devenski all but abandoned his curveball, replacing it with a sharper slider. He showed excellent command of the pitch, and opponents missed it nearly half of the time they swung. Here’s Devenski using the slider to get back in the count:

The slider gave Devenski a consistent third pitch. In the second half, he threw it 22% of the time. He threw his fastball 40% of the time. And he threw his changeup — this changeup — 32% of the time.

Lefties would see all three pitches. Righties would see all three pitches. And Devenski’s over-the-top delivery presumably added some measure of deception. His fastball comes with a good amount of rise, and the changeup plays off of it perfectly. The slider is why the Astros are still thinking about Devenski as potentially becoming a starter. He might work well for five or six innings at a time. It’s already clear he can work well for two or three.

Devenski is going to be a key part of the Astros’ enviable pitching depth, no matter his role. Whether he’s rotation insurance or a steady presence in the bullpen, he’ll provide something every manager wants. As he showed over last season’s final three months, he can pitch as well as almost anyone else, and this from someone who was a completely unheralded prospect. A 25th-round draft pick who was included as a PTBNL for Brett Myers. You can give the White Sox some credit for identifying and developing Jose Quintana. In a similar but opposite way, I guess Devenski was an oversight.


The Marlins Have (Almost) Never Been Able to Frame

Over the course of their admittedly limited franchise history, the Marlins have had a catcher win a Gold Glove Award three times. The first winner was Charles Johnson in 1995, a season in which, according to Baseball Prospectus, he was one of the less-valuable defensive catchers in the game. Johnson then won again in 1996, and BP ranks his defensive value 96th out of 100 that year. And then Johnson won again in 1997, with BP ranking his defensive value 95th out of 96. That would be worst, were it not for the flabbergastingly-bad Kirt Manwaring.

This isn’t to say anything about the voters themselves. This was back when the Gold Gloves were among the least scientific awards in existence, and Johnson, to his credit, was pretty damn good at blocking and throwing. Those are a catcher’s most conspicuous skills, and Johnson was fantastic at preventing those extra bases. His statistical downfall is that he rates as having been a lousy receiver. If it’s any comfort to him, that’s kind of been an organizational problem.

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Four Reasons to Be Optimistic About Oakland’s Sean Manaea

Oakland A’s fans didn’t have many reasons to be optimistic in 2016. The team’s playoff odds peaked at 20%… on April 3rd. As the season wore on, Sonny Gray‘s ERA rose almost as high as the home runs against him flew. The team’s 69-93 final record was the icing on the cake.

Sean Manaea provided one bright spot. Acquired from Kansas City in 2015 in exchange for Ben Zobrist, Manaea is a 6-foot-5, 245-pound lefty. He debuted in April and, after tweaking his changeup grip, remained in the rotation the entire season. He gave up more than his fair share of home runs, but the 14.7-point difference between his strikeout and walk rates (K-BB%) proved he could fool batters. His 93 xFIP- ranked alongside that of Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer.

The 2017 season doesn’t look much rosier for the A’s organization. Our Depth Charts projections have them bringing up the rear in the AL West again. But at least the team’s fans can be optimistic Manaea will perform well in 2017, for four very good reasons.

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