FanGraphs Audio: My 95-Year-Old Grandfather

Episode 630
The host’s 95-year-old grandfather, a guest on FanGraphs Audio when he was merely a 91-year-old and 92-year-old and 93-year-old and also 94-year-old grandfather, is the guest on this edition of FanGraphs Audio, as well — recorded live on tape from his (i.e. that same grandfather’s) condominium in Jupiter, Florida.

This edition of the program is sponsored by Draft, the first truly mobile fantasy sports app. Compete directly against idiot host Carson Cistulli by clicking here.

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 55 min play time.)

Read the rest of this entry »


Finding a Team for Yulieski Gurriel

The news: Yulieski Gurriel, said to be Cuba’s best baseball player, has left Cuba, with every intention of pursuing a career in the majors. The necessary and additional information: Gurriel will turn 32 in June, and he’s mostly a third baseman, though he’s also played second. He’s free of any international spending restrictions, but teams can’t try to spend their money on him yet, and there’s some chance we won’t see Gurriel until 2017. So this is an exciting turn of events that’ll require some patience — Gurriel is virtually certain to become available, but these things have a way of taking their time.

Gurriel has been on the radar for well over a decade. He’s part of what’s been a powerful baseball family in Cuba, and he’s starred on the national team. He also played half a year in Japan, and while he was excellent there, he’s been at his best at home, and in the past Ben Badler compared him offensively to Hanley Ramirez and David Wright. When you talk about performance abroad, I know people don’t always quite trust the statistics, at least in terms of how well they’ll translate, but here’s the latest info I can find: 38 walks and three strikeouts. That’s Gurriel this season. Also, a league-leading .500 batting average, slugging .873. You don’t need to know anything about Cuban baseball to know that Gurriel has been dominant, and the belief is he could help a major-league lineup tomorrow.

There’s not an MLB front office that won’t have some Gurriel conversations. I’m sure hundreds have already taken place. Players like this don’t become available very often, but then it’s not like this is pure upside. Gurriel is probably going to sign after he turns 32, and his best baseball is almost definitely behind him. So he’s more of a short-term player than a long-term player, and then he’s also going to cost a fortune, as a free agent. Hector Olivera signed at a younger age than Gurriel, but he was 30, and Olivera is thought to be worse than Gurriel, and Olivera cleared $60 million. Gurriel might end up getting nine figures, for all I know. That would be steep, but this is a big opportunity.

So let’s try to figure out a market. Yulieski Gurriel isn’t available today. But he should be available before too long, so based on what we know at the moment, what seem like the most likely destinations?

Read the rest of this entry »

Baltimore’s Dexter Fowler Opportunity

While nothing is officially done yet, it seems reasonable to assume the Orioles are going to sign Yovani Gallardo, with reports that a deal just needs some tweaks before it is finalized. The Orioles are reportedly giving Gallardo a three year deal, but more significantly, they’re sacrificing their first round pick (#14 overall) since he rejected the Rangers qualifying offer at the beginning of the off-season. After losing Wei-Yin Chen, the Orioles certainly had a hole in their rotation, and so after months of talking about replacing him internally, they’ve apparently decided that Gallardo’s price has come down enough to justify surrendering the draft choice in order to sign him.

Given the Orioles position as a bottom-tier AL club, in a league where all 15 teams are trying to win in 2016, giving up the 14th pick to sign an average pitcher in decline is a questionable move. Currently, our forecasts have the Orioles as a 78 win team, and while adding Gallardo will help, he realistically can’t be expected to push them much past 79 or 80 wins. This is still a team with some significant flaws, and while they’re good enough to contend if things break their way, Gallardo isn’t really a put-them-over-the-top kind of acquisition.

But signing Gallardo does present a potential opportunity. By surrendering the 14th pick to upgrade their rotation, they’ve also lowered their acquisition cost of making a second move, and Gallardo isn’t the only free agent on the market still tied to draft pick compensation. In fact, there’s one more free agent out there who makes a ton of sense for the Orioles. Read the rest of this entry »

Lorenzo Cain and A.J. Pollock Sign Atypical Contracts

In yet another sign that baseball season is coming ever closer, the arbitration process this year is coming to a close. Many players signed one-year deals before the teams and players exchanged numbers last month, while others exchanged numbers and struck one-year deals. A few players have actually gone to arbitration. Four players — Lorenzo Cain, Josh Donaldson, J.D. Martinez, and A.J. Pollock — agreed to two-year deals with their teams, buying out no free-agent seasons, but ensuring both parties that arbitration would not be necessary next year. These two-year deals are common and typically come with a discount for the team. For the four players who signed this season, however, there was no discount.

The arbitration process is set up to provide a discount to teams in the years just before free agency. The players get their first taste of actual millions while the team retains control of the player at a price much less than what the market would yield — all without having to mark a multi-year commitment. Some players sign extensions which takie them through free agency while others are non-tendered and set free by clubs who think that even the small, arbitration-produced salaries are too much compared to the expected production.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dave Cameron FanGraphs Chat – 2/10/16

Dave Cameron: Alright, it’s Wednesday, and spring training is around the corner. Let’s talk lukewarm stove and the upcoming season.
Joe: Who do you like better for the White Sox: Latos or Gallardo?
Dave Cameron: At the price Latos got, he’s a pretty clear pick, but I think it’s worth noting that in a market starved for pitching, no one else wanted the guy. I’m not a big believer in paying for chemistry, but when 29 teams decide they just don’t want this dude on their team, there’s a decent chance he’s a more destructive force than the typical “bad makeup” guy.
Michael Brantley: The difference between me playing on opening day and being out until 5-1 is how many wins for the Indians?
Dave Cameron: If you only miss a month, less than a win. But I’d bet you’re out longer than that.
klof: At this point would the Cubs prefer to sign Fowler on a cheap one year deal as a 4th OF or get the compensation pick when another team signs him? How low would Fowler’s asking price have to come down for this to make sense for the Cubs?

Read the rest of this entry »

White Sox Buy Low on Mat Latos and His Baggage

Well, that didn’t take long. Yesterday, I addressed the White Sox desperate need to bolster their rotation to be taken seriously as a contender, and suggested Yovani Gallardo as a sensible addition. The White Sox apparently agreed with me on the first count and rendered the second moot by agreeing to terms with Mat Latos just hours after the post went up.

The deal went down for one year and $3 million, a figure that jumps out as being essentially nothing in today’s free agency landscape. Especially so, when you consider what Latos was expected to receive:

Cheapeast Contracts Relative to Crowdsourced Predictions
Player CS_Yrs CS_$ CS_AAV Tru_Yrs Tru_$ Tru_AAV Yrs_DIF $_DIF AAV_DIF
Yoenis Cespedes 6 132 22 3 75 25 3 -57 3
Howie Kendrick 4 52 13 2 20 10 -2 -32 -3
Hisashi Iwakuma 3 42 14 1 12 12 -2 -30 -2
Mat Latos 2 22 11 1 3 3 -1 -19 -8
Alex Gordon 5 90 18 4 72 18 -1 -18 0

Looking just at guaranteed dollars, it’s the fourth-cheapest contract of the offseason, relative to the crowd’s guess. The crowd expected Latos would earn $22 million this offseason, and what he actually got was $3 million.

Look beyond that, and Latos’ deal stands out even more. We all know about the funky Cespedes contract, and even though he got $57 million fewer guaranteed than expected, that’s largely offset by him actually getting a higher AAV. Iwakuma’s price tag dropped after failing a physical. Gordon got an equal AAV, just one fewer year. In terms of just AAV, Latos is the bargain of the offseason, so far, according to this one-track methodology. His AAV is $8 million less than the crowd predicted; no other free agent has had a gap larger than $4 million.

How did this gap come to be? Did the crowd wildly overestimate Latos’ value? Did the White Sox get a total steal?

Read the rest of this entry »

KATOH Projects: Colorado Rockies Prospects

Previous editions: Baltimore / Boston / Chicago AL / Chicago NL / Cincinnati  / Cleveland.

Earlier this week, lead prospect analyst Dan Farnsworth published his excellently in-depth prospect list for the Colorado Rockies. In this companion piece, I look at that same Colorado farm system through the lens of my recently refined KATOH projection system. There’s way more to prospect evaluation than just the stats, so if you haven’t already, I highly recommend you read Dan’s piece in addition to this one. KATOH has no idea how hard a pitcher throws, how good a hitter’s bat speed is, or what a player’s makeup is like. So it’s liable to miss big on players whose tools don’t line up with their performances. However, when paired with more scouting-based analyses, KATOH’s objectivity can be useful in identifying talented players who might be overlooked by the industry consensus or highly-touted prospects who might be over-hyped.

Below, I’ve grouped prospects into three groups: those who are forecast for two or more wins through their first six major-league seasons, those who receive a projection between 1.0 and 2.0 WAR though their first six seasons, and then any residual players who received Future Value (FV) grades of 45 or higher from Dan. Note that I generated forecasts only for players who accrued at least 200 plate appearances or batters faced last season. Also note that the projections for players over a relatively small sample are less reliable, especially when those samples came in the low minors.

1. Trevor Story, SS (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 7.2 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 50 FV

Story’s prospect trajectory resembles a bathtub curve — which is to say it’s gone from high to low and back to high again. Drafted 45th overall back in 2011, he got off to a strong start in the low minors, but hit a wall as soon as he reached High-A. Story got back on track in 2015 when he hit .279/.350/.514 between Double-A and Triple-A with 20 homers and 22 steals. Story was one of the top offensive performers in the high minors last year, which is mighty impressive for a shortstop. His 25% strikeout rate is cause for concern, but is largely outweighed by everything else he does well.

Trevor Story’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Ray Durham 5.4 9.4
2 Ronnie Belliard 6.0 10.7
3 Todd Walker 6.7 4.6
4 Brandon Wood 7.6 0.0
5 Tim Unroe 3.3 0.5
6 Dave Silvestri 5.2 0.8
7 Chase Headley 6.3 19.2
8 Aubrey Huff 4.4 10.9
9 Bobby Crosby 8.0 8.1
10 Kevin Nicholson 2.7 0.2

Read the rest of this entry »

2016 ZiPS Projections – Tampa Bay Rays

After having typically appeared in the very hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past couple years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Tampa Bay Rays. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Arizona / Atlanta / Baltimore / Boston / Chicago AL / Chicago NL / Cincinnati / Cleveland / Colorado / Detroit / Houston / Kansas City / Los Angeles AL / Los Angeles NL / Miami / Milwaukee / Minnesota / New York AL / New York NL / Oakland / Philadelphia / Pittsburgh / St. Louis / San Diego / San Francisco / Seattle / Texas / Toronto / Washington.

Tampa Bay center fielder Kevin Kiermaier hasn’t merely recorded more wins than every other 31st-round selection from the 2010 draft, but he appears also to have recorded more wins than all but six players — including (and, it would seem, limited to) Adam Eaton, Bryce Harper, Matt Harvey, Manny Machado, Chris Sale, and Andrelton Simmons — from that same draft class. What else he’s done is to distinguish himself as the prohibitive star of your 2016 Rays. Taken out of Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois, Kiermaier has now produced a 9.5 WAR in fewer than two full seasons’ worth of plate appearances. His projection for the 2016 campaign (521 PA, 4.2 zWAR) calls for roughly a repeat of the same.

After Kiermaier, the 2016 iteration of the club appears to be an exercise in uninspiring competence. Desmond Jennings is roughly average. Logan Forsythe and Brad Miller are roughly average. Whoever’s platooning in right field is likely to provide a roughly average platoon. The club’s weaknesses are at designated hitter and first base. Neither Logan Morrison (445 PA, 0.0 zWAR) nor James Loney (498 PA, 0.0 zWAR) appear well-equipped to benefit the team at either position.

Read the rest of this entry »

FanGraphs After Dark Chat – 2/9/16

Paul Swydan: Hi everybody! I’m here, and Jeff will be along in a minute.
GG: Who does better in Japan? Jason Pridie or Jonny Gomes?
Paul Swydan: Jonny Gomes? He just seems to have a way about him.
Jeff Zimmerman: Ghomes
Dude99: If you had a 40 man roster of 0.0 WAR players and you played a simulated season, what would their avg record be? this would really help define WAR for us non math dudes.
Paul Swydan: I believe it is in the 40s? Jeff? We get this question all the time and I can never remember the exact number because I’m a moron.

Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s Craft an Extension for Jose Bautista

Last night, the Jays avoided arbitration with Josh Donaldson, agreeing to a two year deal that gives him nearly $29 million in guaranteed income, and helps the team avoid a second huge raise next year if Donaldson has another great year. The team had publicly stated their desire to get Donaldson locked up long-term, but as a Super Two coming off an MVP season, Donaldson had plenty of leverage to get paid while still retaining his ability to hit free agency after the 2018 season. The team can still revisit a longer deal with Donaldson if they wish, but most likely, this two year deal signifies that he’s not looking to sell any of his free agent years at prices the Blue Jays are currently willing to pay.

So, now, with that piece of business out of the way, the Blue Jays focus can turn towards a more pressing contract issue: what to do with star outfielder Jose Bautista. The face of the franchise, Bautista is in the final year of his contract, and will likely be the best hitter on the market next winter if the Blue Jays can’t sign him to an extension this spring. Both sides have publicly stated an interest in getting a deal done, though with the Jays bringing in Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins from Cleveland to run their baseball operations department, there’s some expectation that the club will operate a bit more conservatively, and that could limit their willingness to pay Bautista the kind of money that would convince him to forego free agency.

On the other hand, there’s clearly a lot of sentiment towards just giving Joey Bats whatever he wants, and the team will face significant negative backlash if they let Bautista leave, at least in the short-term. So even with some expected belt-tightening, let’s see if we can construct an extension that both sides would be happy with.

Read the rest of this entry »

August Fagerstrom FanGraphs Chat — 2/9/16

august fagerstrom: hi all! we’ll get this thing started shortly after noon EST

august fagerstrom: soundtrack: The White Stripes – White Blood Cells

august fagerstrom: let’s begin!@

The Dude of NY: After reading your Gallardo article, would you say, as of now, the White Sox are the most star-and-scrub team in baseball?

august fagerstrom: them or the Angels

Bork: Is this where we talk about the big Leafs/Sens deal???

Read the rest of this entry »

The Marcus Semien/Ron Washington Lesson

The Oakland A’s had a nightmarish season in 2015. They had the biggest difference in Base Runs vs. actual record out of any team since 2002. Their bullpen had historically-bad timing. And, finally, their defensive issues were on display most of the year, especially in the early stages of the season when they were on pace for a record-breaking number of errors. The infield was mostly to blame for the last problem, with Brett Lawrie and Marcus Semien routinely exhibiting the sort of lapses that have mostly been excised from players by the time they make it to the majors. It was ugly, and it was a part of why the A’s buried themselves in a hole in the AL West standings before the season was even a third of the way through.

Through May 21st of 2015, the A’s were on pace 169 errors, which would have been the most since the year 2000 by a fairly wide margin. Here’s a graphic from the previously-linked post from May 22nd of last season that shows the error gulf we were witnessing:

The A’s finished with only 126 errors, missing out on a particularly ignominious title. However, much of the defensive blame fell squarely on Semien during the early parts of the season, and for good reason: at the time of the May post, he had accounted for 16 of Oakland’s fielding and throwing errors. By the end of May, some were claiming that the A’s might not be able to afford to keep his glove at shortstop, despite his strong production at the plate. But the team did something about it: they hired Ron Washington to tutor the young shortstop on defense, and he started doing so on May 22nd. They got right to work, with Semien doing throwing mechanics drills, and often fielding ground balls with a plank-like glove to soften his hands:

His pregame fielding routine begins by taking grounders with a “flat glove.” Rather than a soft pocket, it has a flat surface, which forces a player to field the ball with soft hands. Semien fields balls to his left, then his right with the flat glove. Only after that does he slip on his regular glove.

Read the rest of this entry »

Yovani Gallardo’s Obvious Fit, and Even More Obvious Fit

Let’s check in on the latest in Yovani Gallardo rumors:

It took a while for any Gallardo talks to surface, but when they did, it was the Orioles, Rockies, and Astros at the forefront. Everyone agreed: those three were the lead suitors.

But the thought of a non-contending Rockies team forfeiting a draft pick for a pitcher entering his age-30 season seemed a bit peculiar, and then GM Jeff Bridich came out and said the talks were “overblown,” so people scratched the Rockies off the list. The Astros went and signed Doug Fister, and people scratched the Astros off the list. So on January 28, just the Orioles were left. On February 4, just the Orioles were left. And on February 7… just the Orioles were left.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Uncertain Timetable for Cord-Cutting in Baseball’s Future

Major League Baseball has taken a number of small steps designed to make it easier for consumers to watch baseball, even for consumers in local markets. MLB.TV has been around for years, but for fans wanting to watch local games on mobile devices or through non-cable set-top boxes and devices like Apple TV, Roku, or Chromecast, there had been few advancements. This offseason, however, MLB announced that the Fox-owned Regional Sports Networks (RSNs) would finally provide local games on something other than cable to cable subscribers.

This small step was accompanied by a somewhat forced step in the Garber settlement to offer out-of-town fans the opportunity to purchase single-team packages at a reduced rate. A lesser publicized part of the settlement prevents MLB.TV from raising prices (capped at 3% per year) unless the non-Fox RSNs also offer streaming for local games by the 2017 season, which Commissioner Rob Manfred expects to happen.

These steps, along with burgeoning MLBAM technology and reports that ESPN is losing billions to cord-cutting viewers, have begun to raise more questions about when the sports right bubble might finally burst — when the current cable model might finally be unsustainable — and MLB fans will finally be able to purchase directly the rights to see the games of their local team (or in Iowa and Las Vegas, their six local teams) free from cable and the onerous blackout rules that accompany it. Unfortunately, nobody has an answer.

Read the rest of this entry »

David Ortiz and the Greatest Age-40 Season Ever

We’ll start with a man made of straw. You might think that David Ortiz’s stated intention to retire at the end of the upcoming season would mean he’d be limping to the end, a shell of his former self, a one trick pony without a trick, but that, Dr. Strawman, is decidedly not the case. A few months ago the venerable yet vulnerable (stab him and does he not bleed?) Jeff Sullivan wrote a piece titled David Ortiz Has Refused to Decline. At the time Ortiz was flat out refusing to decline, and since the piece was written in November and no games have been played between then and now, the thesis statement still holds true.

The 39-year-old version of Ortiz from the 2015 campaign was almost a carbon copy of his age-38 season. WAR hates him because he’s a DH (that’s a topic for another time) but by wRC+, Ortiz was roughly as good (or better) at the plate last season as Buster Posey, Manny Machado, Kris Bryant, and Yoenis Cespedes. Depending on the stat you use, Ortiz was somewhere within the top-20 hitters in baseball. Did I mention he was 39?

Now that Ortiz has announced his retirement, we are set once again for a year-long farewell party, not unlike the one Derek Jeter received. And in fact, that will be an interesting comparison to make considering Jeter’s accomplishments will make him a guaranteed first ballot Hall of Famer while there is some debate about whether Ortiz ever gets in at all. But I digress. Considering the success of Ortiz’s age-38 and age-39 seasons, I wonder if we might be in line to witness one of the best age-40 seasons of all time.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Gurriels: Another Problem for MLB’s International System

This morning, news came out that Yuliesky Gurriel, along with his younger brother Lourdes Gurriel Jr, have left Cuba and are in the process of setting up international residency that will allow them to become free agents eligible to sign with Major League teams. The older Gurriel is considered the best player in Cuba, and Baseball America’s Ben Badler has rated him as the top international player not currently in the Major Leagues.

While there have been a steady stream of Cuban defectors over the last year, the Gurriel brothers are perhaps the most interesting, not only because of their talent, but also because of the potential issues that their disparate ages might place on the negotiations.

A quick recap of the international rules, and why they could potentially present some interesting options for teams looking to really exploit the loopholes in the league’s international signing system. Cuban players over the age of 23, with at least five years of professional experience in Cuba, are exempt from the league’s international bonus pool rules, and can sign with any team for any amount with no penalties. Yuliesky Gurriel, as a 31 year old veteran, fits this criteria, and will be an unrestricted free agent, in the same way Hector Olivera was a year ago; Olivera got $63 million from the Dodgers last year.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is currently just 22, however, and if he signs before his 23rd birthday — October 19th, for the record — he’ll be considered part of a team’s international spending, with essentially a guarantee that a signing team would have to pay a dollar-for-dollar tax on his bonus, given the expected price tag for a quality young prospect. His signing is complicated even further by the fact that the teams eligible to sign him will change on July 2nd, as the Diamondbacks, Angels, Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees are currently restricted from signing young international players for more than $300,000, and after July 2nd, the list of restricted teams shifts, with the Cubs, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Giants, and Royals entering the penalty box.

Given the significant bonus differences between pool-eligible and pool-exempt players, it would seem to be a fairly easy call for the younger Gurriel to wait until the winter to sign, when every team could bid on him, rather than forcing himself to deal with a diminished market of bidders. Additionally, by removing the tax from his cost of signing, Lourdes Gurriel could almost certainly capture the full amount a team would want to spend to bring him into the organization, rather than going halfsies on his value with the league. Logically, it seems like the younger Gurriel should simply tell teams that he won’t sign until October 20th, and let them negotiate with him under the presumption that he’ll be exempt from the bonus pool structure.

However, because he’s defecting at the same time as his older brother, there is potentially another path here that could allow the younger Gurriel to sign before he turns 23; the Gurriels could package themselves together. As Badler has written previously, “package deals” for prospects have been going on for years.

Package deals have always been a part of the signing process in Latin America, where trainers and Mexican League teams often hold the decision-making power rather than the players and their families. Since a trainer might have a larger commission in one of his lesser prospects than he has in the main prospect a team is trying to sign, the trainer might ask the team to divert some of the money it earmarked for his top prospect to his lesser player, ensuring a greater profit for himself.

With the bonus pools, package deals play a greater role, which is what we said would happen from the beginning. If a team wants to sign a player on July 2 but needs to save money against its 2015-16 pool, it can sign a player from the same trainer during the current 2014-15 signing period with any money left in its current pool, essentially as an upfront payment. Or it can make it up on the back end by promising a signing during the following period.

Then there are the teams facing the signing restriction penalties for exceeding their pools that have the greatest incentive to do package deals. Since these teams can’t sign a player for more than $300,000, they can sweeten the pot by signing several players from the same trainer. A self-interested trainer could make more money by signing his main prospect and three other low-level players with one team for $300,000 each to get $1.2 million in bonuses rather than sign his main prospect for $800,000 with another team. It’s not always easy to detect when it’s happening, since there are often multiple trainers with a commission in a player, and the deals don’t necessarily have to be signed on the same day. A package deal can also be done by signing multiple members of a player’s family.

Essentially, it’s money laundering, except it’s not breaking any laws and it’s not violating any MLB rules. Teams have done these types of maneuvers before to massage their bonus pools before, with MLB already setting a precedent by allowing them.

It’s not too hard to imagine what a package deal for the Gurriels might look like. The older Gurriel can sign for whatever he wants, and because of the vast differences in evaluating older players from Cuba, pretty much any size signing bonus can be rationally defended. Just making numbers up — I have no idea what these guys are going to get — let’s say the market settled on $70 million for the older Gurriel and $20 million as a fair price for his younger brother, which would impute a $40 million total cost to the signing team if he signed before he turned 23. A team signing both would be on the hook for $110 million, but only $90 million of that would go to the Gurriels; that creates an incentive for some creative accounting.

If a team wanted to try to convince Lourdes Gurriel to sign before he turns 23, they could potentially structure the contracts so that Yuliesky Gurriel got an $85 million contract, with Lourdes Gurriel signing for a $10 million bonus with the same club; given what lesser Cuban prospects have gotten recently, $10 million would seemingly be Lourdes’ floor, so as not to make it too resoundingly obvious as to what was happening. In that scenario, the Gurriels gets $95 million between them, while the signing team only pays $105 million in total, as they’d pay a $10 million tax on the younger brother’s signing. The team would save $5 million on the two players, but the brothers would receive $5 million more than if they signed separately while Lourdes was restricted by the bonus pool system.

Of course, there are all kinds of reasons why something like this probably won’t happen. For one, it seems likely that Lourdes’ contract multiplier is much higher by waiting until he reaches free agency, and can compare himself to guys like Yasmany Tomas and Rusney Castillo, arguing for something north of $50 million himself. It’s also not clear that there’s a team out there with a need for both players, since they both profile as near MLB ready infielders; the Dodgers are the obvious candidate to outspend everyone, but it’s not obvious what they’d do with two more guys who reportedly profile best at third base. It’s probably more likely that a win-now team is more interested in the older Gurriel, while a rebuilding team would be motivated to spend more to land the younger brother, so that their best choice is to sign with separate franchises.

But it’s at least an interesting thought experiment that I’d imagine some front offices will work through over the next few months. Because the overage tax on the signing bonuses for pool-restricted players have to be paid up front, only a few deep-pocketed teams could realistically make it happen, but for a team like the Phillies, it might be just the kind of opportunity they were looking for. Sure, Yuliesky Gurriel might not still be a productive player by the time their rebuild is complete, but they could potentially sign him, let him show what he can do at the big league level, then trade him for more prospects once he was an established big leaguer, using his signing as a way to buy more young talent while also reducing the size of the tax they’d have to pay to sign his younger brother.

And given that the next CBA is almost certainly going to tear up the current international signing system, this may be something like the last chance teams have to make a move like this. If the league is going to push heavily for an international draft in CBA negotiations, perhaps teams with money to spend and a desire to add talent will exploit the flaws of the current system one last time before the league overhauls a broken system once and for all.

Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat – 2/8/16

Dan Szymborski: Boom.
Zonk: Is Peyton Manning the greatest football player of all time?
Dan Szymborski: Sorry, I gotta go with Montana.
curious: What types of player generally gets big differences between Steamer and Zips, and why? In which cases should we lean toward one projection or the other?
Dan Szymborski: Honestly, I haven’t found a clear pattern one way or the other. There will be some differences at times, but it doesn’t appear to come down to a matter of player *type*
Dan Szymborski: I would keep in mind both systems and simply be aware when there is disagreement.

Read the rest of this entry »

Projecting Byung-ho Park, Hyun-soo Kim, and Kenta Maeda

The not-so-breaking news is this: at various points in this year’s offseason, the Twins came to terms with Korean first baseman Byung-ho Park, the Orioles did the same with Korean outfielder Hyun-soo Kim, and the Dodgers signed Japanese starting pitcher Kenta Maeda.

The actual breaking news, depending on your definition of the word breaking: those guys now have FanGraphs player pages! Technically, their player pages appeared on the site late last week, but now they’re equipped with their own unique 2016 Steamer projections and have been factored into our depth charts.

Projections for any player should be discussed, questioned, and mentally tweaked when seen fit, because they’re not meant to be taken as gospel, they’re meant to be used as a guide. For all players, especially those with unique circumstances, the projections come with error bars. “Never having played in America” certainly counts as a unique circumstance, and so of course the projections for Park, Kim, and Maeda fit the bill.

Steamer does what it can. It starts with international league stats, and adjusts them based on estimated quality of league, just like it does with minor leaguers transitioning to the bigs. There’s also an adjustment for the frequency of events between leagues — for instance, there are slightly more strikeouts in the MLB than the NPB, and way more strikeouts than in Cuba. Jared Cross, creator of Steamer, wrote about some of these adjustments for ESPN when Jose Abreu came to America.

Below, I’ll reveal the projections for each of the three players, spend a bit of time discussing what we know about each guy and their expected role in the major leagues for 2016, and I’ll leave a poll to crowdsource the opinions of the projections. I don’t see the need for a follow-up post on the results, it’ll just be nice to know the public opinion for these guys, seeing as they come with more uncertainty that most any other player, and it might be something that gives us a chuckle when we look back at it.

Let’s begin!

Read the rest of this entry »

2016 ZiPS Projections – Miami Marlins

After having typically appeared in the very hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past couple years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Miami Marlins. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Arizona / Atlanta / Baltimore / Boston / Chicago AL / Chicago NL / Cincinnati / Cleveland / Colorado / Detroit / Houston / Kansas City / Los Angeles AL / Los Angeles NL / Milwaukee / Minnesota / New York AL / New York NL / Oakland / Philadelphia / Pittsburgh / St. Louis / San Diego / San Francisco / Seattle / Texas / Toronto / Washington.

Only three batters last year recorded both 300-plus plate appearances and also a .300 isolated-power figure: Chris Davis (670 PA, .300 ISO), Bryce Harper (654 PA, .319 ISO), and Giancarlo Stanton (318 PA, .341 ISO). That’s merely one of the many possible ways to state an obvious thing — namely, that the Marlins’ right fielder is among the most impressive power hitters in the league. What else that set of criteria reveals, however, is that Stanton was limited by injury. Because if the plate-appearance threshold were raised to 319, his name would disappear.

In his five years as a regular, Stanton has averaged 512 plate appearances per season. Not the worst case scenario, certainly, but not ideal — and the results have been fantastic, regardless. If his projection (499 PA, 4.9 zWAR) seems a bit light relative to his prodigious talents, however, it’s the result of a somewhat modest plate-appearance forecast.

Examining Miami’s field players as a whole, one finds a group well equipped to produce wins at an average rate in 2016, with Dee Gordon (606 PA, 2.6 zWAR), Martin Prado (578 PA, 2.6 zWAR), and Christian Yelich (596 PA, 3.2 zWAR) all complementing Stanton. First base, meanwhile, appears to be the most immediate area of concern: even in a platoon, Justin Bour (501 PA, 1.1 zWAR) and Chris Johnson (443 PA, 0.2 zWAR) might exhibit some difficulty in separating themselves from replacement level.

Read the rest of this entry »