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Offseason Notes for February 16th

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Offseason Notes.

1. Two Headlines: Branyan, Kazmir
2. Projecting: ZiPS for San Diego
3. Video: Vince Belnome, James Darnell, Speed Metal

Two Headlines
Yankees Sign Branyan
The New York Yankees have signed 36-year-old Russell Branyan to a minor-league contract, according to the internet a week ago. Branyan posted his first ISO under .200 last year since a 42-plate appearance run in 1999, with Cleveland. Still, this is a strong signing: the Yankees lost their primary DH when they traded away Jesus Montero to Seattle. While they might still very well sign Johnny Damon or Raul Ibanez or Hideki Matsui, Branyan is low-cost alternative as the left-handed bat in the DH spot.

Kazmir Throws for Scouts, Probably
Left-hander and former top prospect Scott Kazmir was scheduled to throw for scouts yesterday in Houston, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. When last in the majors, Kazmir’s fastball had declined down to about 86 mph. He was also really good between 2005 and ’07, compiling a 14.0 WAR.

Projecting: ZiPS for San Diego
Dan Szymborski has published his ZiPS projections for the San Diego Padres. Below are some of the notable ones, accompanied by very rough WAR projections (for hitters per 600 plate appearances and pitchers per 200 innings). All numbers assume major-league competition. OPS+ and ERA+ are park-adjusted.

Vince Belnome, 2B, 24: .234/.332/.378, 99 OPS+, 3.0 WAR600
James Darnell, 3B, 25: .243/.324/.390, 99 OPS+, 2.7 WAR600
Jedd Gyorko, 3B, 23: .251/.310/.391, 95 OPS+, 2.3 WAR600

If those WARs look high relative to the OPS+s, there are probably, like, six reasons for why that’s the case. Most likely is that I’m using a lower projected run environment here than Szymborski is for the OPS+s he’s calculating, which’ll make every projection look a little more optimistic after being translated into WAR. Also, Petco is weird. Also, I have no idea what I’m doing. Those disclaimers having been disclaimed, it’s still very much the case that all three of these guys can hit. Belnome slashed .333/.432/.603 (.373 BABIP) in 318 plate appearances as a 23-year-old last season at Double-A San Antonio (which, by the way, has a wOBA park factor of just 91 for both left- and right-handed batters). Darnell hit about as well in San Antonio — albeit, as a 24-year-old — slashing .333/.434/.604 (.348 BABIP) in 346 plate appearances. Gyorko slashed .365/.429/.638 (.408 BABIP) in 382 plate appearances at High-A Lake Elsinore before earning a mid-season promotion. The question for Belnome and Darnell is a defensive one. Darnell made a number of outfield appearances last year; Belnome hasn’t yet, but he’s listed at 5-11, 205 (or 210), which isn’t a frame you typically see in the middle infield. Gyorko actually has gotten pretty decent reviews as a third baseman.

Jaff Decker, LF, 22: .203/.315/.367, 91 OPS+, 1.2 WAR600
Decker isn’t much of a fielder, either. The more amusing thing is his projected Three True Outcome upside. ZiPS has him for 18 HR, 78 BB, and 176 K.

Robbie Erlin, LHP, 21: 132.0, 110 K, 30 BB, 16 HR, 95 ERA+
Joe Wieland, RHP, 22: 146.1 IP, 103 K, 34 BB, 14 HR, 89 ERA+

These are the pitchers San Diego got from Texas at the trade deadline last season for Mike Adams. Marc Hulet ranks them seventh (Erlin) and 10th in the org. John Sickels is a little more optimistic, ranking them fifth and sixth, respectively. I’d look them up in BA’s Prospect Handbook, except I lent it out to someone.

Video: Vince Belnome, James Darnell, Speed Metal
Here are those highlights of a San Antonio Missions game set to speed metal that you were asking about. Vince Belnome (#14) hits a grand slam at the 0:18 mark. You can see: he’s pretty thick, physically. James Darnell (#25) hits a home run at about the 1:15 mark. The Missions pitcher is actually Simon Castro, the right-hander who was traded to the Chicago Americans for Carlos Quentin. Castro was recently featured in a piece looking at pitchers with a combination of velocity and command.