Team Joy Squad 2011: #10 – #6


#10 – Yunesky Maya, RHP, Washington
#9 – Ivan Nova, RHP, New York (AL)

I’ll say this about Maya and Nova: there’s a good chance that neither becomes a particularly excellent major leaguer. They’re not totally devoid of promise, of course: Nova appears likely to induce ground balls at an above-average rate, if nothing else, while Maya won the Cuban version of the Cy Young award even while Aroldis Chapman was pitching in the league. As opposed to other players on this list, however, whose inclusion is largely a function of being underrated (not that I would dare say it so plainly), Maya and Nova are here primarily for aesthetic purposes. Specifically, each throws a pitch (or, in the case of Maya, pitches) that’s captured the imagination of this author.

For Nova, the pitch in question is his changeup. I’m quoting myself when I say about said pitch:

Though his curve is getting all the love from our pitch-type linear weights (+1.43 per 100 thrown), it’s his change that makes for the most compelling viewing. He throws it around 87 mph, and it just disappears. I mean it: this guy’s like frigging Gob Bluth over here.

And again:

Nova made his first career start on Monday. He was was efficient… if not overpowering, but he’s noteworthy for another reason, which is that he features a change-up with rather startling movement. While his fastball sits around 94-95 mph, he throws his changepiece pretty close to that in terms of velocity — around 87 mph. But while (per Texas Leaguers) the average major league change-up features about 6.5 inches of armside run (i.e. toward a righthanded batter), Nova’s change moves over 10 inches. And it’s pretty obvious even while watching the game on a netbook.

With regard to Maya, there are, as I say, two pitches. I noted these, as well, last summer:

His fastball’s nothing to write home about… [I]t’s Maya’s secondary offerings for which the enthusiast should watch. Maya throws a curveball that both (a) leaves his hand at about 20 fewer mph than his fastball and (b) is well-disguised.

The slider is notable, too. It’s not a Daniel Bard-type thing where he (i.e. Maya) simply overpowers the batter with it. Rather, it appears to be the definition of late-breaking, appearing to be pushed slant-ways to the catcher’s right. If I’m remembering correctly, he threw a couple nice ones up under the hands of lefty batters.

As of publication, Nova appears likely to break camp as a part of the Yankee rotation. Maya’s most likely headed to Triple-A.

#8 – Bud Norris, RHP, Houston

Like Felipe Paulino, Norris is a talented young pitcher who’s stuff and peripherals haven’t led to results. Unlike Paulino, Norris hasn’t yet been liberated from the tyranny of Ed Wade and Co. In 209.1 major league innings — 153.2 of them last season — Norris has a 9.11 K.9 (which is obviously excellent), a 4.39 BB/9 (which is obviously less excellent), and a 41.4 GB% (which isn’t ideal, but fine — especially considering the strikeout rate). All that gives Norris a 4.19 xFIP and 4.33 FIP, but just a 4.82 ERA. Despite slight bad luck in the three mains areas where that’s possible (.314 BABIP, 69.9 LOB%, 11.4% HR/FB), Norris’s excellent slider still rates, uh, excellently — good for +1.30 runs for every hundred thrown.

#7 – Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta

For as much attention as Heyward received during spring training last season, I’m surprised by the lack of same in recent months. Per Baseball Reference, only 14 players have ever produced a better age-20 season than Heyward’s 2010. Eleven of those players either are in, or are about to be in, the Hall of Fame. Per FanGraphs WAR, Heyward was worth five wins exactly, slashing .277/.393/.456 despite a thumb injury that led to a DL stint and likely curtailed his power numbers. Essentially, Heyward is the rare player who possess both young- and old-player skills simultaneously, with excellent speed and athleticism plus power and plate discipline. Provided he’s healthy, last season has to be the basest baseline for what he could accomplish. Pittsburgh-era Barry Bonds is a totally possible possibility.

#6 – Zelous Wheeler, SS, Milwaukee

Like Eric Farris — who appears at 16th-overall on this list — Wheeler has the distinction of being a player who (a) could possibly handle shortstop duties for the Brewers and (b) isn’t Yuniesky Betancourt. Unlike Farris, his (i.e. Wheeler’s) first name is Zelous. Common sense dictates that such a thing is worth about 10 places by a standard joy-rating system. As for how well Wheeler might play short, there seems to be some disagreement. Pre-2010 Total Zone defensive ratings like him there, as does the OLIVER projection system. That said, he has played just two innings of shortstop this spring (compared to 66.0 at third and 14.1 at second). And, also, it must be said that 5-foot-10, 220 pounds isn’t the prototypical shortstop body. With regard to the bat, it’s interesting. Even as he has ascended levels each of the past four years, Wheeler’s strikeout rate has actually dropped each step along the way, from 21.6% to 20.9% to 19.0% to 16.0%. The walk rates, meanwhile, have been in the double-digits the entire time.

Team Joy Squad 2011 (w/ Picks #6 – #25):

C	Chris Iannetta, C, COL
1B	Gaby Sanchez, 1B, FLA
SS	Zelous Wheeler, SS, MIL
LF	Brian Cavazos-Galvez, OF, LAD
RF	Jason Heyward, OF, ATL
DH 	Juan Francisco, "3B", CIN
B	Eric Farris, UTIF, MIL
B	Brent Morel, UTIF, CHA
B	Mitch Moreland, 1B, TEX
B 	Cameron Maybin, OF, SD
B 	Robinson Chirinos, C, TB

SP	Bud Norris, RHP, HOU
SP	Ivan Nova, RHP, NYA
SP	Yunesky Maya, RHP, WAS
P	Aroldis Chapman, LHP, CIN
P	Craig Kimbrel, RHP, ATL
P	Tim Collins, LHP, KC
P	Manny Parra, LHP, MIL
P	Felipe Paulino, RHP, COL
P	Jordan Zimmermann, WAS

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Carson Cistulli occasionally publishes spirited ejaculations at The New Enthusiast.

12 Responses to “Team Joy Squad 2011: #10 – #6”

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  1. Brian says:

    My man-love for Jason Heyward is becoming disturbing.

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  2. Therm Here says:

    I post here because I don’t know where else to.

    Should there be a NotGraphs chat on Thursday to fill in the gap of not having a chat every day of the week?

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  3. SamW says:

    While Zelous alone boosts the Joy score, the combination of Zelous and Wheeler (as in, one who wheels with zeal) for me at least, has some kind of multiplier effect.

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  4. adohaj says:

    “this guy’s like frigging Gob Bluth over here.”

    You just became my favorite author on this site

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  5. Htpp says:

    I’d never really noticed Bonds’ Pittsburgh stats, but those are some ridiculous fielding numbers.

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    • matt w says:

      I especially like 1989, where he puts up 7.3 WAR while batting .248. Of course it’s a .248 average that becomes a 123 wRC+, but still, UZR of 37, damn.

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  6. fredsbank says:

    heyward is pittsburgh barry? holy crap. pittsburgh barry was a baller

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  7. Paul says:

    Allow me to share why I love Team Joy Squad so much. Carson quotes himself on observations about an incredible pitch thrown by a very under-rated prospect according to scouts. Yes, the numbers obviously matter. And we’d be idiots not to at least consider what scouts have to say. Team Joy Squad for me enters the third realm of prospecty goodness, where us mere mortals can be minding our own business watching a random baseball game, and see Nova come out of nowhere with an “80” pitch that established major league hitters are helpless against. And he tops out at 97? And the sinker is a true weapon also? At that moment we realize that the universe has shielded the eyes of the experts (or they just relied on previous reports from 4 years ago and left in the 2nd inning for Hooters) so that the magic that is Nova can be revealed only to us. That my friends is Team Joy Squad!

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  8. AustinRHL says:

    I feel quite certain that your center fielder is going to be Bourjos (and it’s the correct choice), and I’m guessing that one of your starters is Morrow, despite the injury. I have no idea about the other three roster slots remaining, though.

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    • Dear Sir or Madam! It’s with great pain that I inform you that neither Bourjos nor Morrow appear on this year’s iteration of Team Joy Squad (TJS).

      Both players certainly have their merits. Morrow throws a nightmarish slidepiece, and Bourjos is one of the few humans capable of flight.

      However, as I see it, there are flaws, too — at least so far as their TJS credentials go. Morrow’s 17-K game last season increased expectations about what he’d do going forward. As for Bourjos, there might actually be some legitimate concerns about his bat.


      On second thought, I’m looking at Bourjos’ defensive rating now: +16 runs in only 450 innings! I’d forgotten/didn’t originally see that. Oof.

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