White Sox Hope to Hit It Big with Tim Anderson Contract

Tim Anderson and the Chicago White Sox have agreed to an extension that will pay the young shortstop $25 million over six years and which includes two team options that could double the amount of the contract.

The deal is both big and small. It’s the largest contract ever given to an MLB player with less than a year of service time. So that’s significant. On the other hand, the contract also figures to pay Anderson an average annual value that equates to an amount less than deals signed this winter by Boone Logan and Mitch Moreland. If Anderson doesn’t progress as a major-league player and is out of the league in a couple years, he’ll have at least made $25 million — a substantial figure, in other words. If Anderson is good, then the White Sox will have themselves a huge bargain.

Contracts like Anderson’s aren’t very common. While extensions are signed with some frequency by players who’ve recorded a year-plus of service time — and occur with similar frequency for players at each year of service time until free agency — that’s not the case for players like Anderson, who have little experience in the majors.

Consider: since 2010, there have been 143 extensions of three or more years given to players who’ve recorded less than six years of service time, per MLB Trade Rumors. Of those deals, Tim Anderson’s is just the fifth signed by a player with less than a year of service time. That’s a rarity, as the graph below reveals.

As to why these contract extensions are so rare, one likely explanation is the lack of incentive for a team to pursue a deal any earlier. While extensions such as these can certainly represent bargains for team — and while teams certainly like bargains — clubs can frequently secure players for similar terms after a year or two of play. That allows them to gather more information about the player in question.

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2017 Positional Power Rankings: Right Field

This continues FanGraphs’ positional power rankings. Dave Cameron’s introduction is here. Other installments are available by clicking the links above. Projected numbers are a product of our depth-chart projections, produced by a combination of the Steamer and ZiPS forecasts and our own playing-time estimates.

We’re here to discuss every club’s right-field situation. We begin with a graph:

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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 3/23/16

1:53
Eno Sarris: wish I could have been in Charlotte for the Run the Jewels show drinking Stay Gold NEIPA…

12:00
Bork: Will this be the year Dalton Pompey sticks in the MLB? Please?

12:00
Eno Sarris: There’s a whole wide left field waiting for him

12:01
C3P0hhhh: What do you think of jSullivan’s comparison of Bird to a young Lucas Duda? Would you tend to agree, or do you think his past injury history might be suppressing his ceiling a bit?

12:01
Eno Sarris: It’s not a bad comp, but you also have to think of Lucas Duda as he was in 2015 not 2016.

12:01
Jewel: Which injured pitcher would you rather have, Alex Reyes or Matt Harvey? Real life baseball, contracts don’t matter.

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If the Braves Fail, It Will Be for the Right Reasons

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Atlanta Braves president John Hart sports a tan this spring, which in itself isn’t particularly strange for someone in the baseball industry. In Hart’s case, the cause is the time he’s spent on the back fields, perhaps his favorite spot in the organization’s Disney-based complex. He rose to front-office prominence via an unorthodox path, having started on a managerial track in Baltimore until Hank Peters identified him as an executive candidate and brought him to Cleveland. He’s spent countless hours evaluating, coaching and encouraging on chain-link fields. It’s where the future is this time of year. But he also loves the back fields of the Braves’ complex this spring because of what he sees. It’s there where a small army of tall, lanky, projectable pitchers resides.

The Braves are the third franchise Hart is attempting to transform into a winner, and this rebuilding approach has been more pitching focused than his previous efforts in Cleveland and Texas. The Braves have four pitching prospects ranked in Baseball America’s top-100 rankings, five among Eric Longenhagen’s top 100, where two more just missed the cut in Sean Newcomb and Joey Wentz.

While the Braves have top-end positional prospects like Dansby Swanson (acquired via trade) and Ozzie Albies (signed by the previous regime), prospect talent acquired under Hart and general manager John Coppolella — particularly through the draft — has been pitching heavy.

I was curious to ask Hart about the subject after having interviewed him previously on the topic of the risk/reward dilemma presented by pitching prospects — particularly those drafted out of high school — back when Hart was an MLB Network analyst and I was a beat reporter covering the Pirates. At that time, I’d asked him about Pittsburgh’s Pitch-22 philosophy — i.e. the notion that most pitching prospects fail, but small- and mid-market teams must develop their own pitching.

The Pirates had made a historic commitment to pitching at the time. In three drafts from 2009 to -11, Pittsburgh expended 22 of their first 30 picks on pitchers. Seventeen were prep pitchers. The Pirates signed 18 of them to bonuses totaling $25.6 million.

Said Hart at the time:

“A truism is if you have 10, you can really count on two of them making it,” Hart said. “I came up in the (1980s) and never believed it. I said, ‘Come on, there can’t be that much attrition.’ Then bang: This guy gets hurt. This guy doesn’t develop a third pitch. … You can never have enough pitching.”

Hart’s estimate is pretty much in line with the success rate for pitchers rated as 100 prospects.

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Let’s See What Greg Bird Could Be

The masses are encouraged by Bryce Harper‘s spring. Everyone’s looking for a big bounceback season, so it seems like a good thing that Harper is second in spring-training home runs, with six. Well, Greg Bird is looking for a bounceback season of his own — not because he was bad in 2016, but because he wasn’t anything in 2016. Surgery’ll do that to a player. After Wednesday, Bird is right there with Harper, at six home runs. Let’s just continue to try to ignore that Peter O’Brien is ahead of both of them, with seven.

Out of sight usually means out of mind, as fandom goes, and Bird, for a while, was sort of a forgotten young Yankee, what with the group emergence of Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Tyler Austin, and so on. It’s nothing Bird could help, but labrum surgery kept him from playing, and it was all he could ask for to have a successful spring. Suffice to say Bird is back in the picture. Suffice to say he’s generating at least as much enthusiasm as anybody else. Through 47 exhibition trips to the plate, Bird’s hitting .439, with a four-digit slugging percentage. He’s been the very best spring-training hitter, and while that’s not something anyone actually cares about, there is significance here. It would sure seem that Bird’s shoulder is fine.

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2017 Positional Power Rankings: Left Field

If you’re a fan of the movie Remember The Titans, you probably remember the emotional turning point of T.C. Williams’ High training camp. It feels especially prescient when it comes to left efield this season:

The left side, or left field, is definitely a long ways away from being the strong side it used to be. And now that you’re properly fired up, let’s take a look at this year’s graph.

If you read Corinne Landrey’s piece in The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2017, this might not surprise you. In it, Corinne notes that, as a position, left fielders recorded their lowest collective OPS+ since the designated hitter was introduced in 1973. Here’s one of the telling graphs from her piece.

Not pretty. And, as you can see, Barry Bonds propped up left field all by himself for quite some time. Left-field production has been trending downward for a while, and as you can see from our first graph, the projections don’t think this year will be any different. On the high end, it’s the only defensive position that doesn’t include a four-win team. (DH also doesn’t have one, but that’s pretty normal for DH). On the low end, no position has more teams pegged for fewer than 1.0 WAR — and no position has more teams pegged for negative WAR, either. Let’s turn to Cosmo Kramer to succinctly wrap up the 2017 left field outlook:

1. Mets
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Yoenis Cespedes 525 .265 .320 .490 .340 9.6 0.4 5.1 2.7
Michael Conforto 105 .255 .327 .458 .335 1.5 0.0 0.5 0.4
Brandon Nimmo   35 .254 .328 .383 .311 -0.2 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Juan Lagares 35 .254 .296 .367 .286 -0.9 0.0 0.5 0.0
Total 700 .262 .320 .474 .335 9.9 0.4 6.0 3.2

Last year at this time, Conforto was the one atop the Mets’ left-field depth chart. The young outfielder had a challenging season, though. Now, as far as left field is concerned, he’s in a reserve role, and will be one of the best backup outfielders in the game (if he doesn’t eventually claim the starting right-field job, that is). This isn’t the end of the world from a team perspective, as it puts Cespedes back in the place where he belongs. Cespedes simply doesn’t have the range for center field, and his arm doesn’t play up there like it does in left. The Mets might not have a true center fielder, but they do have a true left fielder. Cespedes is a weapon there.

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Effectively Wild Episode 1035: The Catcher’s Crooked Finger

EWFI

Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan share responses submitted to a smattering of recent topics and banter about whether old scouting reports have value to teams, then answer listener emails about MVP-vote streaks, Brady Anderson and ex-player executives, predicting pitches perfectly, middle-infield offense, Aroldis Chapman copying Carter Capps, non-traditional starting rotations, and more.

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Noah Syndergaard Pitching to Pitchers

In the year 2016, pitchers continued to hit, even though they are very bad at it. This is not good for the pitchers’ own teams, but this is good for science. It stands to reason the most terrifying pitcher for another pitcher to try to hit against would be Aroldis Chapman. That doesn’t happen. Among the matchups that do actually happen, it stands to reason the most terrifying pitcher for another pitcher to try to hit against would be Noah Syndergaard. Let’s look at how that just went.

Over the course of last season, including the playoffs, Syndergaard had more than 50 matchups against opposing pitchers. As this particular split is concerned, that’s a fairly large sample size. How do you think the pitchers all did? You might be tempted to believe they all struck out. No, that’s not realistic. They didn’t even go hitless! So maybe the data won’t raise your eyebrows in the least, but don’t be mistaken — Syndergaard was dominant. (Obviously.)

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Job Posting: Boras Corp. Baseball Research Analyst

Position: Boras Corp. Baseball Research Analyst

Location: Southern California
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Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat – 3/22/17

2:00
Dan Szymborski: It’s party time!

2:01
Dan Szymborski: And heads up – yes, platoon splits and DMB stuff will be posted. My work baseball preview stuff comes before that.

2:01
Dan Szymborski: And no, I won’t give you an exact date and time, guy who asked variations on this question about 15 times last week.

2:02
Druidiful: Dan, are you going to actually have your regularly scheduled Wednesday chat on a Wednesday?

2:02
Dan Szymborski: It’s weird, isn’t it?

2:02
Jim: Delino Deshields could do what with 600 at bats leading off for the Rangers?

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Drafting Pitchers Who Have Undergone Tommy John Surgery

As I mentioned recently on Twitter, a friend of mine asked how common it is for a pitcher to be drafted by a major-league team after he’s already undergone Tommy John surgery.

I honestly didn’t know the answer, but assumed the rate was rather low.

I grabbed data on Tommy John surgeries from Jon Roegele’s indispensable database and draft information from Baseball-Reference. I focused on drafts that have occurred since 1986 and just the first 10 rounds. I then isolated individuals drafted as pitchers and merged the two data sets based on player name.

The overall rate of teams selecting pitchers who have already undergone Tommy John surgery appears to be 1.8%. Now, that rate changes a bit over time. There are many reasons for this, I’m sure: increased prevalence of the surgery, teams becoming more comfortable selecting a player who has undergone the surgery, and simply better data in the Tommy John database for later years.

In any case, here’s the rate trend by year:

Starting in 2006, the rate begins to increase, with the highest rates coming the past three seasons. On average, teams are now selecting pitchers with a prior Tommy John surgery between 7-9% of the time.

Who’s getting selected and by whom also differs to some extent.

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2017 Positional Power Rankings: Shortstop

The Positional Power Rankings series continues, because it would be weird if it didn’t. In here, we’re going to deal with shortstops on a team-by-team basis, wherein all the teams are ranked by projected WAR. The projected WARs, of course, will often end up different from the actual WARs, but these are basically our best estimates of positional true talent given what we know today, and the rankings are an excuse to write some commentary on everyone. I know it’s already linked up there, but here’s the series introduction, again, if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking at. It’s not that complicated! Except the projected-WAR part. That part is incredibly complicated. Here is a graph of everything:

There exists a belief that we’ve entered something of a golden age of shortstops. Relative to the league overall, shortstops just had their best offensive season on record. They also had their best collective WAR season in modern history. The belief begs for an explanation. One potential explanation would be that, no, there’s nothing here, and it’s all just random noise. That’s always one potential explanation for anything, and it’s never the fun one. Another potential explanation would be that, like so many things in baseball, it’s cyclical, and now we see shortstops on a temporary upswing.

My current preferred explanation is that teams now are more reluctant to move good players off shortstop. So many great players throughout baseball history used to be shortstops at some point. Players have been moved off because they got too big, or didn’t have enough mobility. Perhaps now teams don’t care so much about shortstop size. And it makes you wonder about the role of modern defensive shifting. It’s possible teams feel like new defensive alignments have reduced the need for extreme shortstop range. This is speculation on my part, but it’s where my mind is at the moment. Big players can stick, now more than ever. Let’s now talk about some big shortstops, and some littler shortstops. (There are still some little shortstops.) Off we go!

Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Carlos Correa 644 .279 .358 .479 .357 20.9 1.7 -1.2 5.1
Marwin Gonzalez 42 .257 .297 .400 .301 -0.6 -0.1 0.1 0.1
Alex Bregman 14 .267 .329 .447 .333 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.1
Total 700 .277 .354 .474 .353 20.5 1.6 -1.0 5.4

The place people care about most is first place, and here we have the Astros, which I’m sure will provoke something of a debate. I’ll note, though, that the only thing separating the Astros from the second-place team is the depth; the starters are projected to be virtually identical. I’ll say again, lots of teams have good shortstops. Lots of teams wouldn’t want to lose their own shortstops. The Astros are among those teams.

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Dave Cameron FanGraphs Chat – 3/22/17

12:02
Dave Cameron: Happy Wednesday, everyone.

12:02
Dave Cameron: We just published the SS positional power rankings, which wraps up the infield, and we’ll move to the outfield tomorrow.

12:02
Dave Cameron: I’ll take any PPR questions you have, or there’s a WBC championship game tonight, or we can just talk about the 2017 season.

12:03
Bork: If Devon Travis can stay healthy.

12:03
Dave Cameron: That would help the Jays an awful lot. But at this point, probably not something they should bet on.

12:03
Not Didi: What is the best solution to replace me for the next month? I think, I am about to show how valuable I am in April.

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Addison Russell and the Perils of Improvement

Getting better at something can open you up to new risks. Or maybe it’s more correct to say that getting better at something can make you realize that you have to get even better at it. Addison Russell has worked hard to become a decent breaking-ball hitter. He’s made strides. Pitchers have responded, though — and used his confidence against him. So he’ll have to take another step forward to keep pace.

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The Present Imperfect

This is Kate Preusser’s third piece as part of her month-long residency. Read her previous posts here. Listen to her appearance on FanGraphs Audio here.

When Benji Gonzalez, a 27-year-old non-roster invitee for the Twins, poked a single into right field to break up a perfect game being thrown by the Rays’ pitching staff one week into spring training, I admit to sighing in relief. No need for asterisks, then. No need for the arguments about whether a perfect game thrown by multiple pitchers counts as much as one thrown by a single pitcher. No reminders that spring training doesn’t count and that this technically wouldn’t go down in the record books as a perfect game.

Of course, spring training doesn’t count, but the white whale of a perfect game, even in spring training, even thrown by multiple pitchers, is such a compelling figure in baseball that discussion of it would have been inevitable — and made more inevitable, perhaps, by the fact that baseball fans haven’t seen a perfect game, spring training or otherwise, in five years.

There has already been one recorded spring-training perfect game — a Red Sox win over the Blue Jays in the year 2000, featuring starting pitcher Pedro Martinez. Pedro would go on to have a complicated relationship with the perfect game and the no-hitter, coming close but never quite getting there. The role he played in the perfect spring-training game is rarely noted. Once more for the folks in the back: spring training doesn’t count. Even Rays pitcher Danny Farquhar thought they were playing shuffleboard:

“It was probably two outs into my first inning when I realized we had a perfect game,” Farquhar said. “I’m like, ‘Wow, we have a lot of points, and they have zero points. I’m going to try and not mess this up.'”

The eloquent Lord Farquhar receives partial credit for this response. The Rays — whose 17-run offensive onslaught managed to so confound all involved parties that even Farquhar himself didn’t realize it was a perfect game until he was two-thirds deep in his own inning — did indeed have a lot of points. The Twins, however, didn’t just have zero points, they had perfectly zero points, and the Rays staff was hurtling toward rarefied air in the baseball sphere, even if this achievement would have to ride in a little sidecar or sit at a table in the back near the kitchen.

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2017 Positional Power Rankings: Second Base

Welcome to Day Three of the 2017 Positional Power Rankings from FanGraphs. For some background on how these posts work, read the introductory post by Dave Cameron. Click on the links above to examine other positions.

The rankings below come from the FanGraphs Depth Chart projections. While the projections spit out specific numbers, these projections are estimates and teams that are within a few tenths of a win of each other have similar forecasts for the season. While I didn’t create the projections, the commentary is my own.

Last season was marked by a surge of offense throughout baseball, and this was very much the case for second basemen, who posted one of the greatest seasons of all time for the position. While it might be tempting to point to some sort of emerging group of players set to change the way we think about the position, the evidence doesn’t support that hypothesis. Of the top-eight players, only Jose Altuve will play this season under the age of 30, with many of the best already in their mid-30s. Jose Altuve is the exception, not the rule, as the young star has a sizable lead over his competitors at second.

This is the first time in half a decade that the team with Robinson Cano isn’t atop this list. Cano didn’t stumble far and other aging vets fall in line behind him. As far as the order in which clubs appear here, there could be a shakeup before the year is out. A couple teams near the top might be shopping their second basemen if they fall out of contention. If you’re looking for a team to rise, look to the south side of Chicago, where the best prospect in baseball could get his first real shot at a starting job later this season.

Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA Bat BsR Fld WAR
Jose Altuve 644 .316 .366 .469 .355 19.7 0.6 -2.9 4.3
Marwin Gonzalez 35 .257 .297 .400 .301 -0.5 -0.1 0.1 0.1
Tony Kemp 21 .256 .325 .344 .297 -0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 700 .311 .361 .462 .350 18.9 0.5 -2.8 4.4

For the last four years, the team that employed Robinson Cano occupied the top spot in these rankings. The reign that moved from New York to Seattle is no more. Jose Altuve, who is not tall, has the best projection for a second baseman by a quite a bit this year. In 2014 and 2015, Altuve had a 130 wRC+ based almost entirely on contact that stayed in the yard. His walk rate was under 5% and his .129 ISO — based on a large collection of doubles rather than homers. Last season, he kept roughly the same rate of doubles (42) and triples (5), but hit 24 homers and increased his walk rate by 70% without striking out more. The result was a 150 wRC+, good for eighth in all of baseball last season.

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FanGraphs Audio: The Strangely Fertile Matter of Steve Pearce

Episode 726
Managing editor Dave Cameron is the guest on this edition of the pod, during which he discusses Toronto’s Steve Pearce, matters relating to Steve Pearce, and also matters that possess no relevance to Steve Pearce at all.

A reminder: FanGraphs’ Ad Free Membership exists. Click here to learn more about it and share some of your disposable income with FanGraphs.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 38 min play time.)

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FanGraphs After Dark Chat – 3/21/17

3:03
Paul Swydan:

Who will win tonight’s WBC game?

Japan (19.3% | 36 votes)
 
USA (80.6% | 150 votes)
 

Total Votes: 186
3:09
Paul Swydan:

What is your favorite block of Star Trek movies?

Classic (Star Trek I – VI) (23.9% | 44 votes)
 
Next Gen (Generations – Nemesis) (11.9% | 22 votes)
 
New (Star Trek – ST Beyond) (17.3% | 32 votes)
 
I have never seen any of the 13 Star Trek movies somehow. (23.3% | 43 votes)
 
None of these, I hate Star Trek (18.4% | 34 votes)
 
Don’t make me choose! (4.8% | 9 votes)
 

Total Votes: 184
4:07
Paul Swydan:

What has been the best visual of the WBC?

Adam Jones’ catch (45.5% | 91 votes)
 
Giancarlo Stanton’s homer (10.0% | 20 votes)
 
Javier Baez’s no-look tag (26.0% | 52 votes)
 
Jurickson Profar thrown out (9.0% | 18 votes)
 
Fernando Rodney pulls gold plantain out of his pants (8.0% | 16 votes)
 
Other (say in comments) (1.5% | 3 votes)
 

Total Votes: 200
9:01
Paul Swydan: Hi everybody!

9:01
Jeff Zimmerman: Hey

9:01
Matt M: this WBC has been great

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Spring-Training Divisional Outlook: National League Central

Previous editions: AL East / AL Central / NL East.

The World Baseball Classic is in its final stages, meaning that both the end of spring training and the start of the regular season are in sight. We’d better get through the remaining installments in this series quickly.

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Are Early Adopters of the Uppercut Influencing Their Clubhouse Peers?

As a faithful reader, you’re probably aware that a number of authors have written about the fly-ball revolution at FanGraphs this winter, examining the potential for a sea change in batted-ball profiles. If you’ve missed some or all of our posts you can read them, or revisit them here, here, here and here.

As I toured the central region and Gulf coast of Florida for FanGraphs this spring, a couple comments were particularly memorable. One was from this piece on Tampa Bay’s sharing of changeup knowledge, a success that Jim Hickey attributed less to organizational philosophy and more to pitchers with excellent changeups, like James Shields and Alex Cobb, sharing their craft and skills.

“It’s not so much a philosophy as it is a lineage,” Hickey said.

That struck me as quite interesting: the power of peers and word of mouth to have such a profound influence on the fortunes of a club. I also thought it was interesting when J.D. Martinez noted that more players have approached him this spring, curious about his loft-generating swing plane. Martinez is one of the notable early adopters of the uppercut, joining the likes of Justin Turner, Daniel Murphy and Josh Donaldson. They are not only excelling but espousing the philosophy.

So just as the Rays have handed down quality changeup grips from one generation to the next, and have led baseball in the value produced by changeups since 2006 — when Shields debuted with modest overall stuff but an excellent changeup — shouldn’t teams benefit by having early adopters of fly-ball philosophy? While most coaches in the game still seem to be subscribing to conventional hitting techniques, even if more coaches in the game spoke like private instructors like Doug Latta outside of the game, it stands to reason that players’ peers — trusted teammates, that is — might hold more influence when electing to made a radical adjustment.

The Rays have a changeup lineage. Are some teams creating the foundation of an uppercut lineage?

Maybe.

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