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What Kind of A-Rod Will We See?

News Today

     The Yankees welcomed Third Baseman Alex Rodriguez in Chicago today to make his season debut tonight against the White Sox.  A-Rod is expected to be in the lineup, returning to his original position for the club.  The other major event on Monday is Commissioner Bud Selig announcing the suspensions of 12 players for 50 games, and Rodriguez’s 211 game suspension, which takes effect  on Thursday, August 8th.  This has been appealed by A-Rod already as reported by the MLB Twitter account.   A-Rod will be on the active roster through the appeal process, and  should be able to play a few weeks before his status is ultimately decided on, so what can we expect to see from him on the field?

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Looking at his Performance

     Rodriguez played in 15 minor league rehab games to ease his return to the big leagues from off-season hip surgery. In those games, he hit .214 with a double, and 3 HR, while driving in 10 runs.  In this extremely small sample size of varying levels, it’s difficult to make any reasonable assessment.  However, we can look at a few peripheral statistics to try and gauge they type of A-Rod we’re going to see.  In his 51 minor league plate appearances, A-Rod struck out 13 times and walked 6.  This leads to a 25.5% K-Rate and an 11.8% BB-Rate.  The small sample size accounts for a large amount of error, but these numbers don’t appear to be too drastically apart from his usual self.  A-Rod’s career K-Rate is 18.2%, and it is 19% over the last five seasons.  As he’s aged, Rodriguez’s strikeout numbers have marginally increased, and seems to be following that trend.  He walked 10.9% of the time over his career, and 11.3% over the last five seasons.  A-Rod has become a more disciplined hitter with time, as pitchers have also been more cautious and pitch around him at the plate.

     Due to A-Rod’s K% and BB% in the minors seeming to be fairly stable compared to his past performance, I believe that we’ll see A-Rod maintain his current career trajectory.  His durability is not what it has been in the past, but he should return to the player he would’ve been in 2013, injury or not.  I don’t see a sudden huge drop-off, or surprising upturn in performance happening.

Career Trajectory

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     The following three plots show A-Rod’s Career trajectory in OPS (On-Base Percentage Plus Slugging Percentage), wOBA (Weighted On-Base Percentage),wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created, adjusted to the league where 100 is average), and WAR/162 (Wins Above Replacement prorated for 162 Games).  In all of the categories, higher numbers indicate a better performance.  I used 4th power exponential trend lines to approximate in all of these cases except for WAR, where I used a 6th power polynomial to account for the increased variance.

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     The reason for choosing a 4th degree polynomial is that I believe it truly reflects the path of A-Rod’s career.  He burst on to the scene during his first full year in 1996 with the Mariners, as he was named an All-Star, won the Silver Slugger Award, and finished 2nd in MVP voting.  His line that year was .358 / .414 / .631 and an OPS of 1.045.  Rodriguez experienced a “Sophomore Slump” if you can call it that where he hit a measly .300 / .350 / .496 and an OPS of .846, garnering his second All-Star Game appearance.  it would take A-Rod two more years to return to his 1996 performance, causing this first curve.  This curve started slowly climbing upward in 2001, his first year with the Rangers where Rodriguez admitted steroid use due to the pressure he felt to perform.  He reached his peak in 2007, an MVP season where he hit .314 /.422 /.645 with an OPS of 1.067 and 54 Home Runs, the most of his career.

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     This is where his current downward trend begins, as A-Rod began creeping into his mid-late 30s which bring us to where we are today.  I’ve indicated A-Rod’s drop-off since 2007 by the vertical black lines.  Notably, A-Rod’s agent Scott Boras announced during the Game 4 of the 2007 World Series, as the Red Sox were about to clinch a championship, that Rodriguez would be opting out of his contract.  The Yankees initially didn’t want to negotiate with A-Rod, but later signed him to a new deal, worth $275MM over 10 years.  Seeing A-Rod’s current decline, this was not a good move for the Yankees.  However, this was perfect for A-Rod, as he secured the deal coming off of an MVP caliber season when his value was the highest.  It’s just Boras working his magic again.

     Alex Rodriguez is on a downward decline, but as stated earlier, we should see a version of A-Rod resembling what he would be if he never missed time for injury.  This is a much needed boost for the Yankees, as their 3B for the year have accumulated a -0.9 WAR, which is 26th in the league.  With A-
Rod, who I projected to have a 2.1 WAR, the Yankees greatly improve at his position.  Assuming A-Rod plays 15 games before we know the results of his appeal, he’ll accumulate a 0.19 WAR, while the Yankees other 3B options would produce a -.08 WAR based on their performance this season.  This is a 0.27 WAR swing for the Yankees.  If you prorate this over a 162 game season, this would be a 2.92 WAR improvement which is on the Solid Starter/Good Player borderline.  For however long the Yankees have Alex Rodriguez in the lineup, he will be a huge improvement in their lineup.  It’s just a question of how well A-Rod can focus on playing during one of the most controversial and stressful times in his long career.


The Curious Case of Cody Dent

From my personal blog: msilbbaseball.wordpress.com

Path to the Draft

     What’s the usual story with first-year draftees?  They put up stellar numbers in college and/or high school, but can’t replicate those numbers after they’re drafted due to better competition in the minors.  A college All-American who hit .400 can struggle to stay above .200 as they adjust to minor-league ball.  It’s nothing to worry about, just the way things go.  So what would you expect to see from a college senior infielder, converted outfielder, converted back to infielder who hit .176 in 330 career at-bats, who didn’t hit a home run until the end of his last season, and who only had six extra-base hits in his entire college career?  I’d have my doubts that this player would even record one minor-league hit.  However, I present to you Cody Dent, the man who’s mirroring the trend.

Speaking of home runs, his father did this.

     Cody played for four years at the University of Florida, and reached the College World Series three times.  Throughout his career, he was a light-hitting utility infielder who saw a majority of his time as a defensive replacement.  During his senior year, Dent started 48 games for the Gators, but his struggles at the plate still remained.  Cody hit .233 his freshman year, then .207, .134, and .169 in each subsequent season.  But, he’s 6th on UF’s all-time sacrifice bunt leaderboard with 26 in his college career.  So, that’s something; It seems like he’d make a good-hitting pitcher.

Cody Dent Bunting for the University of Florida

     Dent’s bright spot was the 2011 NCAA Tournament, where he played in and started 11 games, and hit .273 with a double, triple, and 4 RBIs as the Gators made it the championship series in Omaha.  He was named to the All-Tournament team.  Following his senior season, the previously undrafted Dent was selected by the Washington Nationals in the 22nd round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, likely/hopefully for his defense.

Faux-Struggles?

     As a student a the University of Florida, I attended a large amount of baseball games, and I always rooted for Cody to do well.  He never showed negative body language, and went about his business professionally.  Also, he was the king of the “at ‘em ball”.  I can’t count how many times he’s hit a rope right at an outfielder.  I always imagined what kind of horrible BABIP Dent would have, so I calculated it.  During his senior season, Cody Dent had a .193 BABIP.  With an average BABIP ranging from about .290 – .310, this created a huge dent in his average (pun intended).  Some players have established BABIPs in a different range (ex. Miguel Cabrera and Ichiro Suzuki around .345), however .193 can not be the true average for an SEC starter with MLB bloodlines.  By personally watching Dent play, I can also attest that he’s better than the numbers show.  I consider BABIP to be a measure of luck, and use it to determine whether a player is playing at their true ability.  A BABIP far under the average means that a player is under performing, and a BABIP far above the average means that a player is over performing.  To re-iterate, Dent’s senior BABIP was .193.  This, coupled with only an 11.7% Strikeout Percentage (K%) creates a sense of hope that Cody could grow into a serviceable/not as dreadful bat.

Dent’s Adjusted AVG

Professional Performance

     So what does he do during his first 27 games in Short-Season A ball?  Hit .278/ .365 /.300 with a .326 wOBA and a 108 wRC+.  With 100 being the standard average for wRC+, this means that Cody Dent is an above-average producer in Short-Season A ball.  ABOVE AVERAGE!!!  Considering the offensive woes he went through as a Gator, this is absolutely huge.  Maintaining his improved offense will be a challenge for Cody, as he’s in danger of regressing.  Dent’s minor-league BABIP is .387, way above average, and astronomically above his college numbers.  Is this a sign of the real Cody Dent?  Is he having a lucky month?  Or has Cody Dent gone through enough punishment and suffering from the baseball gods that they’re rewarding him for his perseverance?  It’s time to sit back and watch The Curious Case of Cody Dent.

Like Father, Like Son

     Also, now he’s breaking up perfect games. This came against the Lowell Spinners, the Boston Red Sox’s New York-Penn League team.  The pure perfection of this can’t be explained. Cody “Bleeping” Dent!


Be a GM: Miami Marlins – Part 3 – Trade Deadline

From my personal blog msilbbaseball.wordpress.com

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The Miami Marlins are always in the news at the Trade Deadline, and the story is no different in 2013.

Bullpen

Steve Cishek Fist Pump

     The Marlins possess sought after relievers Steve CishekMike DunnRyan Webb, and Chad Qualls.  Cishek, Dunn, and Webb still have multiple years under team control, while Qualls’ is signed on a one-year deal.  Of the four, I would be most inclined to keep Cishek, who is currently closing games for the Marlins, and doing so extremely well.  Qualls is the most likely to be dealt, as the Marlins don’t want to part with valuable bullpen arms who could contribute to next year’s team.  Also, they don’t want to leave the young starting rotation with an inexperienced bullpen to back them up for the remainder of this season.  Qualls would be a rental reliever for any team, as a 34 year-old journeyman doesn’t scream “Long-term plans”.  Nevertheless, Qualls has caught fire in 2013, putting up the best season of his career.  Through 42 IP in 42 Appearances, Qualls has put up a 2.57 ERA, 1.024 WHIP with a 7.29 K/9 and a 1.93 BB/9 leading to a 3.44 FIP.

UPDATE (9:57 PM) – Chad Qualls fell while celebrating a strikeout tonight.  Stay hot kid.

Zack Cox at Arkansas

     The Marlins dealt relief to a contender at last year’s deadline as well, sending Edward Mujica to the Cardinals for 3B prospect Zack Cox.  Mujica had a 4.38 ERA at the time he was sent to St. Louis, so Qualls’ numbers are significantly superior.  However, Mujica was just 28 at the time, and still had a year of Arbitration remaining, which increased his value.  All things considered, Qualls should be able to produce the same return as Mujica did, possibly more.  What Mujica brought in was fairly significant.  Zack Cox was the Cardinals #4 prospect heading into 2012 by Baseball America.  He was drafted in the first round out of the University of Arkansas  in hopes that he would develop into a premier hitter.  He showed that ability during his first full minor league season in 2011, but fell off dramatically in 2012, hitting .254/ .294/ .421 in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.  Cardinals management decided it was time to move on from Cox, and shipped him to the Marlins, who sent him back down to AA.  Cox has been solid in AA this season, hitting .292/ .393 / .391.  his power numbers decreased, but he’s hitting more consistently as the Marlins are allowing him to take a slow track through the system.  He has the Marlins’ future 3B job in his sights, but will be competing in the system with recent 1st round pick, Colin Moran out of UNC.

     In my opinion, the Marlins sold Mujica enormously high  The Cardinals’ frustration with Cox allowed him to be moved at a fairly cheap price, and it’s difficult to say that this trade is comparable to what the Marlins can get for Qualls.  Nevertheless, this shows that the Marlins can target mid-level prospects (or seemingly declining former top level prospects) in exchange for Qualls.

Decision: Avoid trading Qualls for the sake of trading him.  Aggressively shop him around, but if the return isn’t right (comparable to Mujica’s return), try to negotiate a 2014 contract in the off-season.  Cishek, Dunn, and Webb are main contributors to the Marlins bullpen, and with the team appearing to be a contender in 2014, I would want to keep that consistency.

OF Justin Ruggiano

Veteran Position Players

     The Marlins could potentially move Placido PolancoJuan PierreGreg Dobbs, and Justin Ruggiano.  Polanco and Pierre are signed to one-year deals, and will be Free Agents after the season.  Dobbs is in the last year of a two-year contract.  All four are most likely fits on the bench for a contender, and none of them would be able to bring in a significant return.  Ruggiano had a breakout year in 2012, his first full season, hitting .313/ .374/ .535 in 91 games.  However, he’s slumped this year, removed from his everyday role, floating around a .200 batting average.  He holds the most value, as he still has another season before he’s arbitration eligible, and teams may hope that he returns to his 2012 form.  However, his remaining pre-Arb year is valuable to the Marlins as well, who didn’t want to move him a few weeks ago.  The Marlins called up their top two outfield prospects last week, which makes Ruggiano slightly more available.

Decision: Without much to gain in return, I’d hold on to the veterans, and try to retain Polanco, Pierre, and Dobbs for another year to serve as valuable bench players for the 2014 season.

Giancarlo Stanton

     The feature of this article, and many national news stories is Right Fielder Giancarlo Stanton.  I’ve admittedly flip-flopped back and forth about what the Marlins should do with the face of the franchise.  He’s 23 years old, and will be arbitration-eligible for the first time after this season, which will increase his salary by a couple million dollars.  He led the league in slugging in 2012, and had already amassed over 100 career Home Runs.  He is a budding superstar, and teams are willing to pay a very high price for him.

Keep Him

Giancarlo Stanton

     The Marlins are historically known to being a penny-pinching team, but are in a position to spend big money, which they have available to give to Stanton.  If the Marlins stick with Stanton, I see them avoiding arbitration this year with a one year deal in the neighborhood of $7-8MM.  I then project him to earn $10-12MM after 2014, and $13-15MM after 2015.  To avoid paying Stanton $13-15MM for 2016, and then have a future long-term deal based on that salary structure, I would begin working on a back-loaded multi-year deal immediately after the season.  My first offer of a  proposed contract would follow a similar structure to my predicted arbitration salary hike, but then level off around $17-18MM for 2016 and beyond.  Miguel Cabrera, former Marlins emerging offensive superstar, signed a long-term deal with the Tigers in 2008, which levels off at about $20MM per year.  In my opinion, Stanton has shown the potential to deserve a similar contract, but there is no way that I would begin the negotiations at Miguel Cabrera’s deal.

Trade Him

Dontrelle’s Delivery

     Stanton’s value is as high as it’s ever been.  As mentioned before, he’s an emerging superstar who is just reaching arbitration for the first time.  Comparing him again to Cabrera, the Marlins traded him after the 2007 season to the Detroit Tigers along with pitcher Dontrelle Willis for the Tigers #1, 2, 6, 8 rated prospects according to Baseball America, along with other mid-low level players.  The Marlins would be able to reel in at least three of a team’s top ten prospects, ideally two of the top five.  In my opinion they should throw in one of the relievers teams have been calling for (preferably Qualls) to bump up the level of the prospects they would receive.

     The most important thing to consider in this situation, is that the Marlins already have multiple potential replacements for Stanton.  According to Baseball America, three of the Marlins’ top five prospects are outfielders, all of whom have been in the majors this season (Christian Yelich #2, Jake Marisnick #4, Marcell Ozuna #5).  Beyond those three, they also feature Jesus SolorzanoAustin DeanBrent Keys, and Isaac Galloway in a rich system of minor-league outfielders.  Stanton is simply not at a premium position of need for the Marlins, which in my opinion makes him expendable.  Also, the millions of dollars that would be used to lock up Stanton could be better used to lock up the Marlins phenomenal young pitching staff.

Don’t Trade Him

     The rebutting argument against trading Stanton is how unpredictable trading for prospects can be.  Once again, the Marlins traded Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers for four of their top ten prospects, including #1 and #2.  A total of zero of them are still with the Marlins, and Cameron Maybin (#1) and Andrew Miller (#2) never lived up to their potential.  All those two names do is make Marlins fans cringe.  Bad trades happen, Major Leaguers are known commodities, while prospects are prospects, something that might be good in the future.  The unpredictability and risk of trading Giancarlo is something that cannot be over-analyzed.

Decision: Make Stanton Available, and listen to offers, but don’t undersell him

Yelich at the 2013 Futures Game

     If a team wants to give you their entire future, then by all means go for the trade.  But if I’m Michael Hill, and I’m not receiving everything that I want from a team, then there’s no deal.  If I’m trading Giancarlo Stanton to your team, I want to be able to go through your organization, and hand-pick the players I want like I’m at a buffet.  If any compromise has to be made, then it’s no deal.  Stanton won’t break the bank in the off-season, and it’s worth keeping him around to see if the Marlins can be truly competitive in 2014, which I believe is very possible, barring unforeseen injuries.

Needs

Jose Fernandez

     The most difficult part about making trades for prospect is to decide where you need help.  The Marlins are set in the outfield, no question about that.  3B seems locked down with Cox and Moran, and I’m a big fan of future Gold Glove winner Adeiny Hechavarria at SS.  Derek Dietrich hasn’t been amazing at 2B, though I really like Ed Lucas.  If only he wasn’t 31.  Donovan Solano could still be a fit, but this is a position that could use improvement.  At 1B, there isn’t much behind Logan Morrison, who is finally fully healthy.  Rob Brantly has been a disappointment behind the plate after impressing at the end of 2012 after he came over from the Tigers for Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez.  Brantly is still just 24, but is hitting .232/ .283/ .294 while splitting time with Jeff Mathis.  Former first round pick Kyle Skipworth hasn’t been able to hit at any level, and relying on J.T. Realmuto to be the future isn’t a safe bet.  The Marlins pitching is phenomenal, led by Jose Fernandez, and followed by Nate EovaldiJacob Turner and Henderson Alvarez.  The Marlins also have Andrew Heaney and Justin Nicolino in the minors among others with a young pitching staff whose future is just as bright, if not brighter than the Marlins’ outfield crop.

Trade Possibilities

Chad Qualls

2B Kolten Wong

     If we assume that Chad Qualls can bring in a similar return to Edward Mujica, then we’re talking a downward-trending lower high-level prospect (if such a thing exists) or a mid-level prospect.  I love what the marlins did in the Mujica trade, by taking a risk on a possible high-level guy, who is having a bad season.  If the Marlins deal with the Cardinals again, Kolten Wong‘s name has been thrown around, as he’s blocked at the Major League level by Matt Carpenter.  However, the Marlins aren’t likely to be able to put together the package for him without having to part with an integral piece.  His name has been linked to a potential Alexei Ramirez trade, who holds more value than Qualls.  The Marlins would have to throw in another reliever or two (Dunn, Cishek, or Webb), or maybe even Derek Dietrich who replace Wong’s spot in the Cardinals system, obviously to a lesser extent.  As an outsider, it’s unclear what the asking price is for Wong, but maybe the Cardinals could sell low again.  Wong is more highly regarded than Cox was at this time last year, but then again Qualls has been better than Mujica was, and the Marlins have arms to give.

Giancarlo Stanton

SS/IF Xander Bogaerts

     I’m trying very hard not to be one of those internet users who has no sense of trade balance, but it would take a completely unreasonable package for me to trade Stanton right now.  The Red Sox reportedly are willing to give up everything to get Giancarlo.  Any deal with them would need to include Xander Bogaerts, and Henry Owens, plus much more.  Bogaerts plays the same position as Hechavarria, but could move over to 2B to create a stellar middle infield that already has me excited.  Bogaerts, the Red Sox #1 prospect by BA, is a 20 year old from Aruba, who has absolutely torn it up in the minors.  Owens, their #5 prospect, recently turned 21, and has pitched very well at High-A Salem.  The Red Sox also have C Blake Swihart at #6 who is showing an upward batting trend.  Their #2 prospect, former South Carolina Gamecock standout, Jackie Bradley Jr. has already spent time in the majors, but being an Outfielder isn’t necessarily attractive to the Marlins. Again, I’d just pick out the Red Sox star prospects, and if I can’t have everyone I want, then sorry Beantown, Giancarlo will still be a Marlin.

     The Pirates and Rangers have also expressed interest in Stanton.  For me, the Pirates would have to part with Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon at least.  It would create a very crowded pitching rotation for the Marlins, but is that ever a bad thing?  Unfortunately for the Pirates, many of their top prospects are Outfielders which doesn’t help.  The Rangers have Jurickson Profar, who has been playing 2B.  However, they just traded for Matt Garza which took a hit out of their system, and don’t have many other guys close enough to being Major league ready for me to feel comfortable about.

If Stanton does get traded, I’m thinking that it’s going to be the Red Sox.