Archive for Uncategorized

Analyzing the FanGraphs Early Mock Draft from an Outsider’s Point of View – RPs 1-30

The following is a look at the first 30 relief pitchers taken in the FanGraphs Early Mock Draft, with a comparison to their rankings based on 2015 Steamer projections.

Relief Pitchers: 1-10

Relief pitchers started being drafted slowly, with Craig Kimbrel being the first taken towards the end of the 4th round, followed three picks later by Aroldis Chapman. There was a bit of a gap until Greg Holland was taken in the 6th round, then another bit of a gap until reliever started going quickly. Six relievers were taken over thirteen picks in rounds 7 and 8.

The table below shows the first 10 relief pitchers drafted in this mock, along with their Steamer rank and the difference between their Steamer rank and the spot they were drafted. Pitchers with a positive difference were taken higher than their Steamer projection would suggest. Those with a negative difference were taken later than Steamer would have expected.

FanGraphs Mock Draft RPs 1-10 vs Steamer Rankings
PCK RND $$ RP-Rnk NAME Steamer Rank Difference
46 4 $23 1 Craig Kimbrel 2 1
49 5 $28 2 Aroldis Chapman 1 -1
71 6 $19 3 Greg Holland 4 1
82 7 $20 4 Kenley Jansen 3 -1
83 7 $13 5 David Robertson 10 5
85 8 $13 6 Trevor Rosenthal 11 5
92 8 $11 7 Dellin Betances 16 9
93 8 $17 8 Sean Doolittle 5 -3
94 8 $14 9 Mark Melancon 9 0
126 11 $5 10 Zach Britton 26 16

 

Based on Steamer projections, Chapman and Kimbrel are ahead of the pack, then there is a large group of reliever that could easily move up or down the rankings based on a few saves here, a slightly higher or lower ERA/WHIP there, and small adjustments to their strikeout numbers.

In this grouping, Dellin Betances is ranked 16th by Steamer, mainly because he is projected for only 23 saves as we don’t yet know what the Yankees will do with both Betances and Andrew Miller at the back-end of their bullpen. With more saves, he moves up.

The big overshoot here appears to be Zach Britton, ranked 26th by Steamer among relievers thanks to a pedestrian 3.21 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and sub-par 7.7 K/9. Britton is projected for 34 saves. Last year, he had 37 saves even though he didn’t get his first one until May 15th. As a team, the Orioles had 53 saves, tied for third in all of baseball. They were tops in MLB in saves in 2013 and second in 2012. If they continue to get saves at that pace, Britton should easily beat that projection.

Relief Pitchers: 11-20

The next 10 relief pitchers were taken over rounds 12 through 15. Here’s the chart:

FanGraphs Mock Draft RPs 11-20 vs Steamer Rankings
PCK RND $$ RP-Rnk NAME Steamer Rank Difference
140 12 $11 11 Cody Allen 13 2
152 13 $5 12 Huston Street 25 13
154 13 $17 13 Koji Uehara 6 -7
156 13 $1 14 Steve Cishek 14 0
157 14 -$3 15 Francisco Rodriguez 65 50
158 14 $6 16 Drew Storen 24 8
161 14 $8 17 Fernando Rodney 19 2
165 14 $12 18 Glen Perkins 12 -6
175 15 $6 19 Jonathan Papelbon 23 4
178 15 $15 20 Joaquin Benoit 7 -13

 

Based on Steamer projections, Joaquin Benoit looks like a bargain, as he was taken 20th but is ranked 7th. The risk with Benoit is a potential trade during the season. He’s in the final year of a 2-year contract (with a club option for 2016) and Padres’ GM A.J. Preller is not shy about making trades. If the Padres aren’t in contention come June or July, Benoit could be shipped out.

Koji Uehara and Glen Perkins were also taken a bit later than Steamer would suggest. Uehara will be 40 years old and has a career-high of 26 saves (last season). Perkins may not get many save opportunities with the Twins this year because of their last-place projection for the AL Central. With these two relievers, it’s perhaps not surprising to see them both drop a bit.

Francisco Rodriguez had 44 saves last year but has not found a team to play on in 2015. Despite that, he was the 15th reliever drafted, taken ahead of guys with set jobs like Storen, Rodney, Perkins, and Papelbon.

Relief Pitchers: 21-30

FanGraphs Mock Draft RPs 21-30 vs Steamer Rankings
PCK RND $$ RP-Rnk NAME Steamer Rank Difference
192 16 $9 21 Brett Cecil 17 -4
196 17 $8 22 Addison Reed 21 -1
198 17 $3 23 Santiago Casilla 30 7
201 17 $8 24 Hector Rondon 20 -4
222 19 $15 25 Jake McGee 8 -17
230 20 $1 26 Jonathan Broxton 37 11
232 20 $1 27 Neftali Feliz 35 8
234 20 $1 28 Joe Nathan 34 6
238 20 $9 29 Brad Boxberger 18 -11
239 20 $2 30 Jenrry Mejia 31 1

 

Jonathan Broxton looks like an overdraft here, but he is expected to be the Brewer’s closer at this point, so he could easily finish higher in the relief pitcher rankings than Steamer’s current projection of 37th.

Jake McGee (taken 25th, ranked 8th by Steamer) and Brad Boxberger (taken 29th, ranked 18th) are teammates in Tampa Bay. McGee finished last season as the Ray’s closer but had surgery in December to remove loose bodies from his shoulder. He is expected to miss at least the first month, which may allow Brad Boxberger (14.5 K/9 in 2014) to get some early-season saves, although veteran Grant Balfour is still in the mix. If one of them gets off to a good start, McGee may go back to a setup role.

Relievers in the Steamer’s Top 30 who were not drafted among the top thirty relievers drafted in this mock:

Andrew Miller (15th)

Wade Davis (22nd)

Hunter Strickland (27th)

Jason Grilli (28th)

Ken Giles (29th)

The chart below shows each owner’s reliever picks.

Owner Reliever Pick # Round RP-rnk Stmr-Rnk Difference
Blue Sox David Robertson 83 7 5 10 5
Blue Sox Drew Storen 158 14 16 24 8
Blue Sox Jonathan Broxton 230 20 26 37 11
ColinZarzycki Hector Rondon 201 17 24 20 -4
ColinZarzycki Neftali Feliz 232 20 27 35 8
cwik Huston Street 152 13 12 25 13
cwik Fernando Rodney 161 14 17 19 2
DanSchwartz Aroldis Chapman 49 5 2 1 -1
DanSchwartz Brett Cecil 192 16 21 17 -4
enosarris Sean Doolittle 93 8 8 5 -3
enosarris Glen Perkins 165 14 18 12 -6
enosarris Addison Reed 196 17 22 21 -1
jhicks Zach Britton 126 11 10 26 16
jhicks Santiago Casilla 198 17 23 30 7
jhicks Jake McGee 222 19 25 8 -17
Paul Sporer Dellin Betances 92 8 7 16 9
Paul Sporer Cody Allen 140 12 11 13 2
Pod Greg Holland 71 6 3 4 1
Pod Jenrry Mejia 239 20 30 31 1
Scott Spratt Jonathan Papelbon 175 15 19 23 4
Scott Spratt Joe Nathan 234 20 28 34 6
wiers Trevor Rosenthal 85 8 6 11 5
wiers Steve Cishek 156 13 14 14 0
wiers Francisco Rodriguez 157 14 15 65 50
wydiyd Kenley Jansen 82 7 4 3 -1
wydiyd Koji Uehara 154 13 13 6 -7
wydiyd Joaquin Benoit 178 15 20 7 -13
Zach Sanders Craig Kimbrel 46 4 1 2 1
Zach Sanders Mark Melancon 94 8 9 9 0
Zach Sanders Brad Boxberger 238 20 29 18 -11

 

  • Colin Zarzycki waited longest to take a closer, not drafting Hector Rondon until the 17th round, then adding Neftali Feliz in the 20th.
  • Zach Sanders, on the other hand, took a couple of top relievers in round 4 (Kimbrel) and 8 (Melancon), then added a guy with potential in the 20th (Boxberger).
  • Steamer most likes the reliever picks of wydiyd. Kenley Jansen was the 4th reliever taken (ranked 3rd by Steamer), Koji Uehara was 13th (ranked 6th by Steamer), and Joaquin Benoit was taken 20th (ranked 7th by Steamer).

What Can We Learn from the 1959 Chicago White Sox?

The terms “scouting” and “player development” are so frequently seen together that they should probably just get a room. It is axiomatic in today’s game that S&PD is the best, and perhaps only sustainable, route to baseball success.  This seems particularly true for the so-called small-market teams who are far too cash-poor to fish in Lake Boras. Which makes the recent antics of A.J. Preller (and the slightly less recent antics of Alex Anthopolous – see #12 and 13) so surprising. These are teams that play in the shadow of giants – figuratively in the Blue Jays’ case and both figuratively and literally for the Pads. If any teams should be S&PD-ing, its these, yet sweeping trades indicate that the two franchises have been less than fully successful at filling their major league roster holes with home-grown talent.

However difficult it is to be a GM in today’s AL East or NL West, few GMs have labored in a more unforgiving environment than those damned souls condemned to compete in the AL in the late 50s and early 60s, during the last of the pre-division-era Yankees dynasties. From 1947 through 1964 the Evil Empire missed the World Series just three times: in 1948 (Indians), 1954 (Indians), and 1959 (White Sox). Of these three, the 1959 “Go-Go” Sox have always stood out as the least probable Yankee-killers.

In an era when offense and power were essentially considered synonyms, the 1959 White Sox hit just 97 homers, not just last in the AL, but last in the majors. It took just four Indians to reach that total in 1948 (Gordon, Keltner, Boudreau, and Eddie Robinson). Yes, the 1959 Sox had three Hall-of-Famers (Nellie Fox, Luis Aparicio, and Early Wynn), but only one (Fox) was arguably in his prime.

All this said, the 1959 White Sox did a lot of things well. They got on base at a .327 clip, 3rd best in the AL. They stole 113 bases, leading the league, and totaling almost as many as the next two teams combined. They led the league in ERA (3.29), though the advanced metrics were less impressed with this staff. And they defended. Oh, did they defend.  They led the majors in Total Zone, and only the Spiders were even close. The White Sox had four of the top ten players in the majors, as rated by FanGraphs’ Def stat. And they were the four guys in the middle of the diamond (catcher Sherm Lollar, Fox at second, Aparicio at short, and Jim Landis in center).

So far, so small market. But of the 15 players with a WAR of least 1.0, just three were home-grown (Aparicio, Landis, and backup catcher Johnny Romano). Aparicio would end up in the Hall, and both Landis and Romano would have respectable careers (just over 20 WAR each), though Romano would spend most of his career with the Indians. The rest of the 1+ WAR players on the 1959 team were acquired by trade, with the exception of three aging but effective relievers, two of whom were signed off of waivers and one of whom was purchased.

And these were no ordinary trades. Let’s look at a couple of the more significant ones (many of these were multi-player deals – I’m focusing on the most significant players going each way):

Sox acquire Nellie Fox from the Philadelphia A’s for C  Joe Tipton in 1949.

Fox was just 21 in 1949, and his 300 or so plate appearances to that point had produced nothing of note, except one interesting harbinger of things to come: 34 career walks against just nine strikeouts. Fox would finish with 719 walks  and just 216 Ks in a career spanning over 10,000 plate appearances. No player with that many PAs has struck out less often.

As for Joe Tipton, you can admit you’ve never heard of him – you’re among friends here. Tipton spent one miserable year with the White Sox as a punchless 27 year old backup catcher before being sent to the city where it’s always sunny. He would develop into a useful backup bat, and amass a career war of 5.4. Fox had a WAR of 6.0 in 1959 alone.

Sox acquire Sherm Lollar from the St. Louis Browns for OF Jungle Jim Rivera and assorted Cracker Jack prizes in 1951.

Lollar was a bit of a late bloomer, with both the Yankees and Browns giving up on him before he found a home on the South Side at age 27, where he would be named to the all-star team six times.  This was probably a little generous, but he was a durable contributor at a position not normally associated with “durable” or “offense.” Rivera, for his part, would go on to a modest career WAR of 6.9. Even better, the Browns traded him back to the South Side the following year, where he would remain for the rest of his career.

Sox acquire Early Wynn from the Cleveland Indians for LF Minnie Minoso in 1957.

An exchange of one Hall-of-Famer for anoth- oops! Sorry about that. At age 37, Wynn looked like he might be done, with his ERA jumping from 2.72 in 1956 to 4.31 in 1957.  He was still durable, though (263 IP), so the Sox decided to get him in exchange for their star left fielder whose power had seemingly collapsed (sliding from 24 homers to 12 in the same two years). This one didn’t work out quite as well for the Sox, who got 6.5 WAR from Wynn in 1958-59, while a resurgent Minoso clobbered the ball to the tune of a 10.5 WAR for the Spiders. Wynn was nevertheless the Sox clear ace in 1959, going 22-10 with a 3.17 ERA (3.66 FIP) and leading the league with 255 IP. Minoso would return to the Sox in 1960, and he still had a couple of good years left, but he would never get that World Series ring.

Sox acquire P Bob Shaw from the Detroit Tigers for OF Tito Francona in 1958.

Shaw was the Sox’s second-best pitcher in 1959, behind only Early Wynn. He was 18-6 with a 2.69 ERA (though his FIP, at 3.36, was less kind). His career looks a little like Ervin Santana’s – basically a slightly above average pitcher with wild year-to-year ERA swings. The Sox would deal him just three years later, and he would pitch for seven different teams in his 11-year career, but he came through for the Sox when it counted most. Tito (whose real name is John Patsy Francona) had a forgettable year in a part-time role in Detroit, but showed the on-base skill that would propel him to three superb years in Cleveland before lapsing back into a bench role, albeit a long and fairly productive one, for the remainder of his career.

There were several other trades that went into building the 1959 Sox, but you get the idea. And it wasn’t just this year – the wheeling and dealing continued from 1957 through 1965, during which time the Sox would finish worse than second just three times. It was the White Sox’s misfortune that their dominance of the AL West ended four years before the division was created.

While the White Sox weren’t especially adept at developing players, they were extremely adept at finding them, and this is where scouting comes in. The Sox appear to have been very good at scouting both other teams’ rosters and their own. The only whiff in the transactions above involved Minoso, a player who was not quite done tormenting baseballs, and even in that trade the Sox received a very effective starter. This is what scouting without player development looks like. And it’s not bad if, you know, you like that sort of thing.

There are obviously only so many lessons today’s front offices can learn from those of yesteryear. While the Sox’ strategy may bear some superficial similarity to A.J. Preller’s, the Sox were able to ruthlessly exploit the reserve clause to pay quality veterans vastly less than any reasonable conception of their market value. Trading for veterans was a lot less costly back then. And while Preller was perhaps unimpressed with prospects he traded away, it is safe to say that he benefited to some extent from the Padres’ previous player development machine, in the sense that other teams were impressed enough with the young Padres (what do you call Padres prospects? los hijos?) to take them off A.J.’s hands.

But the broader point, as suggested by a commenter on my previous post, is that not every successful team has achieved that success by following whatever the then-current orthodoxy prescribes. Small market teams may be better off thinking outside the box than getting spent to death in it.


Vegas vs. Steamer

Apparently, there’s a big game in another popular American sport coming up in a couple weeks and many fans of this other sport head to Vegas this time of year to lay down a proposition or two on this big game. Actually, big game doesn’t really do it justice. It’s more like a great game or a fantastic game or maybe even a . . . super game (so as to not be sued for violating any trademarks or licensing agreements, I will leave it at that).

If you’re a baseball fan and you happen to be in Vegas laying down some moolah on this . . . super game . . . you might want to consider throwing a few Benjamins on your favorite baseball team. The most-recent Las Vegas odds to win the World Series are out and there could be some money to be made here. Caveat: I’ve never bet on baseball, nor have I ever been to Vegas, but I would like to go someday because I’m a big fan of The Blue Man Group. I did win $175 on a $5 bet on number 11 the first time I ever played roulette, so I’m not a total novice when it comes to gambling.

Anyway, using the Vegas odds of winning the World Series and the Steamer projected Standings, there are some strong plays on the board. Let’s look at each division, in chart form, starting with the NL West:

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

Odds Team W L W% RDif RS/G RA/G
13 to 2 Dodgers 91 71 .561 84 4.01 3.50
20 to 1 Giants 83 79 .513 17 3.79 3.69
25 to 1 Padres 79 83 .487 -18 3.76 3.87
120 to 1 Rockies 77 85 .474 -42 4.50 4.76
120 to 1 Diamondbacks 74 88 .454 -66 3.80 4.21

 

It’s interesting that Vegas is really excited about the Padres, at least compared to the Rockies and Diamondbacks, who don’t project to be that much worse but who face significantly longer odds. With the Giants’ recent success, they are probably the best play here. Even if you don’t think they can beat out the Dodgers for the division, they’ve proven that they can make a run if they get into the playoffs as a wild card team. Of course, this is an odd-numbered year, so you might want to save your money and look elsewhere.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

Odds Team W L W% RDif RS/G RA/G
14 to 1 Cardinals 86 76 .533 46 4.02 3.74
30 to 1 Pirates 85 77 .527 38 4.06 3.82
14 to 1 Cubs 84 78 .517 24 4.10 3.95
60 to 1 Brewers 76 86 .468 -47 3.99 4.28
70 to 1 Reds 76 86 .468 -46 3.76 4.04

 

The play here is the Pittsburgh Pirates. They are projected to be just a game off the division lead, but with odds at 30 to 1. In a world full of parity, every team in baseball would have a .500 record and 30 to 1 odds and there would be no supermodels. That would be a sad, sad, world. In this world, the Pirates are projected to be better than .500 and should have better odds than 30 to 1. Meanwhile, Vegas is excited about the Cubs, giving them 14 to 1 odds (they opened at 45 to 1). Some of you may remember that in Back to the Future, the Cubs won the 2015 World Series (in a 5-game sweep over Miami) after starting the year with 100 to 1 odds. This could be the Cubs’ year, McFly!

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Odds Team W L W% RDif RS/G RA/G
5 to 1 Nationals 91 71 .561 86 4.19 3.65
30 to 1 Marlins 81 81 .500 0 3.93 3.93
25 to 1 Mets 78 84 .482 -24 3.77 3.92
60 to 1 Braves 71 91 .439 -85 3.58 4.11
300 to 1 Phillies 68 94 .421 -112 3.53 4.22

 

There aren’t any real good plays here. As good as the Nationals look now, especially after acquiring Max Scherzer, it would be foolish to put any money on a major league team at 5 to 1 odds to win the World Series. There’s just too much unpredictability come playoff time. None of the teams in this division have appealing odds, unless your name is Lloyd Christmas, in which case you have to jump all over the Phillies at 300 to 1 (“So you’re telling me there’s a chance?”).

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Odds Team W L W% RDif RS/G RA/G
14 to 1 Red Sox 88 74 .546 70 4.67 4.24
30 to 1 Blue Jays 84 78 .516 24 4.49 4.34
75 to 1 Rays 83 79 .511 16 4.00 3.90
25 to 1 Yankees 82 80 .508 11 4.14 4.07
20 to 1 Orioles 79 83 .485 -23 4.23 4.37

 

There’s no love for the Tampa Bay Rays in Vegas, with odds of 75 to 1 in what still looks like a tight division. The Rays opened at 35 to 1. Apparently, Las Vegas does not like their recent moves. Based on Steamer projections, the Rays look like your best longshot option of any team in baseball.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

Odds Team W L W% RDif RS/G RA/G
20 to 1 Tigers 85 77 .526 39 4.42 4.17
25 to 1 Indians 84 78 .521 30 4.15 3.97
25 to 1 Royals 81 81 .498 -2 4.06 4.08
20 to 1 White Sox 77 85 .478 -32 4.11 4.31
100 to 1 Twins 76 86 .467 -50 4.13 4.44

 

No team jumps out here, but if I had to pick one, I’d take the Indians at 25 to 1. They look to be right there with the Tigers to win the division, but with slightly worse odds, so you’d get a bigger payout if they went all the way.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

Odds Team W L W% RDif RS/G RA/G
14 to 1 Mariners 89 73 .547 68 4.20 3.79
60 to 1 Athletics 84 78 .519 28 4.20 4.02
10 to 1 Angels 84 78 .517 25 4.28 4.13
50 to 1 Rangers 78 84 .483 -26 4.29 4.45
60 to 1 Astros 77 85 .477 -34 4.18 4.39

 

I guess when you lose Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, Jon Lester, and Derek Norris, your odds to win the World Series should get worse, but 60 to 1, really? Steamer still has Oakland in the mix for the AL Wild Card and just 5 games back of the Mariners for the division.

Here is a look at the teams in each league who are projected to be in contention, along with their Vegas odds:

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Odds Team W L W%
5 to 1 Nationals 91 71 .561
13 to 2 Dodgers 91 71 .561
14 to 1 Cardinals 86 76 .533
30 to 1 Pirates 85 77 .527
14 to 1 Cubs 84 78 .517
20 to 1 Giants 83 79 .513
30 to 1 Marlins 81 81 .500

 

The Pirates have worse odds than the Padres and Mets, neither of whom are projected to contend for the Wild Card or even finish .500. Aye, this be the National League team you should wager your doubloons on and win some booty!

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Odds Team W L W%
14 to 1 Mariners 89 73 .547
14 to 1 Red Sox 88 74 .546
20 to 1 Tigers 85 77 .526
25 to 1 Indians 84 78 .521
60 to 1 Athletics 84 78 .519
10 to 1 Angels 84 78 .517
30 to 1 Blue Jays 84 78 .516
75 to 1 Rays 83 79 .511
25 to 1 Yankees 82 80 .508
25 to 1 Royals 81 81 .498

 

In the American League, your best options are the Athletics and Rays, and possibly the Blue Jays. The A’s are right in the mix for the wild card, yet have the same odds as the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves. The Rays are projected to be nearly as good as the A’s and have even worse odds, better than only four teams in all of baseball—the Phillies, Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Twins. The Blue Jays don’t look to be as good a play as the A’s and Rays but, like the Pirates, they have longer odds than other similarly competitive teams.

So, if you’re down in Vegas wagering on that super game coming up on the 1st of February, think about putting some money down on the A’s and don’t forget to see The Blue Man Group.


Making Sense of a Strasburg-for-Betts Trade

Now that the Washington Nationals signed Max Scherzer to a seven-year deal, they have an open opportunity to make a blockbuster trade involving one of their aces. The Nationals for all intents and purposes have two aces, Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann. The idea is that since they’ve acquired a third ace one of these two pitchers will become available in a trade. Zimmermann is on the final year of his contract so he was always available. Strasburg however has only recently became available, as several reports have suggested, due to the signing of Scherzer.

There are very few teams who could potentially create a package attractive enough to the Nationals, for them to trade Strasburg. One of them is the Boston Red Sox and there seems to be an ideal fit. The Red Sox have a glut of outfielders but one of them can also play second base. He’s also young, cheap, and was a highly-touted prospect. By this time you’ve probably guessed that the player is Mookie Betts. The Nationals need a second baseman and while they have Yunel Escobar and Danny Espinosa, Betts is probably a better player already than both of them and he’s younger and cost efficient.

The Red Sox are in need of a front-of-the-line starting pitcher. They’ve added several pitchers this off-season (Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, and Justin Masterson) but none of them would be described as an ace. Clay Buchholz certainly has the potential of being an ace but he’s never pitched 200 innings and has always dealt with a bunch of injuries. Combine that with the fact that he had the worst season of his career last season, posting a 5.34 ERA, the Red Sox simply cannot bank on him being a reliable front-of-the-rotation starter. Then there’s Joe Kelly who is questionably a viable starting pitcher. Many people have argued that he belongs in the bullpen. He’s also never thrown more than 200 innings; as a matter of fact the most innings he’s pitched in a season is 124 in 2013.

Strasburg last year threw 210 innings all the while keeping his K/9 above ten (10.13). He also had the lowest walk rate of his career, at 1.8 BB/9. It was essentially the best year of his career and at the age of 26 he is entering his prime. The Red Sox are currently in a win-now mode. They’ve also acquired Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, this offseason, to beef up the offense, essentially making it one of the best in baseball. The Red Sox have a glut of quality position players with Shane Victorino, Allen Craig, Daniel Nava, and Brock Holt who can all potentially claim that they deserve significant playing time and at this point there simply is not enough room for them on the Red Sox roster. The Nationals have a glut of quality starting pitchers with Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister, and Tanner Roark.

If the Red Sox trade Mookie Betts they could have a bunch of creative options for RF. They could try Victorino again in RF and hope he is healthy. In 2013, when Victorino was healthy, he was one of the best players on the Red Sox, with a 119 wRC+ and a 5.6 fWAR. If that doesn’t work out and Victorino can’t stay healthy, then the Red Sox could always have a platoon of Allen Craig and Daniel Nava. Nava had a career year in 2013, with a 128 wRC+, but he came back down to Earth in 2014 with a 100 wRC+. Nava though was still excellent against righties, even in a down year, posting a .372 OBP and 118 wRC+. If the Red Sox don’t let him hit against lefties Nava should provide considerable value offensively. As for Craig, he had the worst year of his career last season but he had a low BABIP and traditionally has been great against lefties in his career, notching a 130 wRC+. Combining this platoon the Red Sox would probably have above-average offensive production out of RF. Even if they don’t the rest of the lineup is plenty good enough to carry the load.

If the Nationals lose Strasburg, well, they have Scherzer, who has been one of the best pitchers in the game over the past 3 years plus he will be going to the National League, which is an easier environment to pitch in than the American League, as there is no DH. They also have Zimmermann, Gonzalez, Fister and Roark who all, apart from Gonzalez, had an ERA under 3, and it’s not like Gonzalez had a bad ERA as his was 3.57.

There probably would be a lot more moving parts in a deal of this magnitude and I’m still not 100% sure this deal would be beneficial for the Red Sox. Betts is only 22 and while almost every rookie last year struggled, Betts had a 130 wRC+ in 213 AB. He also rated somewhat favorably when playing the outfield, with 3 DRS. The sample size is small for the outfield but Betts seemed to be able to handle his own out there and if he hits the way he did, he could prove to be a franchise player for many years to come. Betts also does not have a history of injury, while Strasburg had Tommy John in his rookie year; another one could prove to be fatal to his career. Betts is also under team control for a much longer time, while Strasburg has already hit his arbitration years; he is therefore more expensive than Betts, and is set to hit free agency in 2017.

The deal may and probably will never happen but it is fun to fantasize about a deal of this magnitude and all the moving parts in it. If both teams were to execute it, the Nationals would inevitably retain their status as favorites to win the NL and the Red Sox would become the favorites to win the AL. It would be a perfect blockbuster to end an offseason full of blockbuster trades.


Analyzing the FanGraphs Early Mock Draft from an Outsider’s Point of View – SPs 41-60

The following is a look at the 41st through 60th starting pitcher taken in the FanGraphs Early Mock Draft, with a comparison to their rankings based on 2015 Steamer projections.

Starting Pitchers: 41-50

The table below shows starting pitchers taken 41st through 50th in this mock, along with their Steamer rank and the difference between their Steamer rank and the spot they were drafted. Pitchers with a positive difference were taken higher than their Steamer projection would suggest. Those with a negative difference were taken later than Steamer would have expected.

FanGraphs Mock Draft SPs 41-50 vs Steamer Rankings
PCK RND $$ SP-Rnk NAME Steamer Rank Difference
149 13 $1 41 Justin Verlander 63 22
153 13 $7 42 Gio Gonzalez 45 3
160 14 $0 43 Chris Archer 66 23
167 14 $10 44 Danny Salazar 30 -14
169 15 $20 45 Jose Fernandez 17 -28
174 15 $7 46 Lance Lynn 44 -2
180 15 $1 47 Andrew Cashner 65 18
181 16 $8 48 Ian Kennedy 37 -11
182 16 -$5 49 Mat Latos 97 48
185 16 $10 50 Scott Kazmir 31 -19

 

Justin Verlander was drafted as the 41st starting pitcher in this mock, but Steamer doesn’t see Verlander being worth that pick, pegging him for 63rd among starting pitchers. Verlander is coming off his worst season since 2008, when he had a 4.84 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. Verlander bounced back from that ugly 2008 season with a much-improved 2009 season (3.45 ERA, 1.18 WHIP), but he was 26 at the time. Now he’s 32 and less likely to bounce back like he did in his youth.

Chris Archer was another guy who went earlier than Steamer projections would expect. Archer was the 43rd pitcher drafted but is ranked 66th by Steamer. In his three years in the major leagues, Archer has a career 3.39 ERA. His FIP (3.64), xFIP (3.75), and SIERA (3.78) are not as favorable. Steamer is projecting an ERA of 3.96 and 1.31 WHIP, which knocks him out of the top 60 starting pitchers.

Another pitcher not well regarded by Steamer is Andrew Cashner, taken 47th among starting pitchers but ranked 65th. Cashner has a career ERA of 3.25 but Steamer is projecting a 3.96 ERA in 2015. Cashner’s ZiPS projection is a much more favorable 3.27 ERA.

Finally, Mat Latos has the biggest discrepancy of any pitcher in the top 50 between where he was drafted (49th starting pitcher off the board) and where Steamer would rank him (97th). Latos has not had an ERA over 3.50 since a 10-games stint as a rookie in 2009, but Steamer is projecting a 4.12 ERA for 2015. To be fair, that’s not far off Latos’ 2014 FIP (3.99) or SIERA (4.08).

The Steamer “bargains” in this group of ten pitchers were Danny Salazar, Jose Fernandez, Ian Kennedy, and Scott Kazmir.

Danny Salazar was a popular pick heading into last season after a very good 10-game major league debut in 2013 (3.12 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 11.3 K/9). On the face of it, Salazar struggled last year, finishing with a 4.25 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. The biggest culprit was a .343 BABIP, though, and his FIP (3.52), xFIP (3.45), and SIERA (3.33) were much better than his ERA. Also, he struck out 9.8 batters per nine innings. I don’t have a projection from ZiPS for Salazar, but his Steamer projection (3.62 ERA, 1.23 WHIP) is better than Cairo (3.69, 1.51) or Davenport (3.95, 1.30). Taken as the 44th starting pitcher, Steamer sees great value here.

Jose Fernandez was taken two picks after Salazar (45th starting pitcher), but is even more well-liked by Steamer (ranked 17th). In 36 major league starts over two seasons, Fernandez has a career ERA of 2.25 and WHIP of 0.97. Fernandez is coming off Tommy John surgery and is likely to miss the first couple months of the season. Steamer is projecting 20 starts with a 2.93 ERA. The current Fans projections have Fernandez with 18 starts and a 3.00 ERA. ZiPS projects 19 starts and a 2.87 ERA. You know he’ll be good, it’s just a matter of how many innings he’ll provide and where you want to draft him to get those quality innings.

Scott Kazmir was the 50th starting pitcher drafted and is ranked 31st by Steamer. Kazmir has had a long strange journey in his major league career that led him to miss the entire 2012 season. He came back with the Indians in 2013 and had a 4.04 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. Last year he pitched for Oakland and had his best season since 2007, finishing with a 3.55 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. Steamer is projecting a 3.71 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, good for 31st among starting pitchers.

Starting Pitchers: 51-60

FanGraphs Mock Draft SPs 51-60 vs Steamer Rankings
PCK RND $$ SP-Rnk NAME Steamer Rank Difference
186 16 $10 51 Homer Bailey 28 -23
187 16 -$3 52 Henderson Alvarez 84 32
188 16 $8 53 Anibal Sanchez 38 -15
190 16 $9 54 Phil Hughes 34 -20
191 16 $4 55 Drew Hutchison 52 -3
194 17 -$8 56 James Paxton 118 62
199 17 $2 57 Jake Odorizzi 60 3
203 17 -$1 58 Jered Weaver 74 16
207 18 $1 59 Collin McHugh 62 3
208 18 $9 60 Francisco Liriano 33 -27

 

The final group of pitchers who rounded out the top sixty starting pitchers taken in this mock draft are a mixed bunch. There were four guys taken at least 15 picks later than Steamer would suggest (Homer Bailey, Anibal Sanchez, Phil Hughes, and Francisco Liriano). These are the “bargains” of the 16th, 17th, and 18th rounds.

Homer Bailey had his 2014 season cut short in August with a flexor mass tendon injury. He’s been a solid major league pitcher for the last three years (3.61 ERA, 1.19 WHIP) and Steamer is projecting more of the same (3.67 ERA, 1.20 WHIP).

Anibal Sanchez is also coming off a year with some injuries. He missed time in early May and again in August and September, finishing the year with 21 starts and 126 innings pitched (3.43 ERA, 1.10 WHIP). Steamer projects Sanchez to be relatively healthy, with 28 starts (3.80 ERA, 1.21 WHIP). He is ranked 38th among starting pitchers according to Steamer projections but wasn’t taken until the 53rd pick in this mock.

Phil Hughes is an interesting character. From 2011 to 2013, Hughes had an ERA of 4.83 with a 1.37 WHIP. He struck out 7.3 batters per nine innings and walked 2.5 per nine. Last year, he suddenly decided to never walk anyone, dropping his BB/9 to a microscopic 0.7. He also upped his strikeout rate to 8.0 K/9 and finished with a 3.52 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. Steamer has some belief in the 2014 version of Philip Hughes, projecting a 3.91 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 1.6 BB/9, good enough to be the 34th-best starting pitcher based on Steamer projections. Hughes was the 54th starting pitcher taken, so if you agree with Steamer that Phil Hughes can keep that walk rate down, then hop on board the Phil Hughes Express.

The fourth “bargain” taken among this group of pitchers was Francisco Liriano, on the board until the 208th pick, the 60th starting pitcher drafted. In his two seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Liriano has a 3.20 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. For the rest of his career, he has a 4.40 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. He re-signed with the Pirates and Steamer likes him for 2015—3.59 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 9.1 K/9 (ranked 33rd among starting pitchers).

In this last group of pitchers, there were two guys who stood out as overdrafts, based on Steamer—Henderson Alvarez and James Paxton. Alvarez had a shiny 2.65 ERA in 2014, but his FIP (3.58), xFIP (3.57), and SIERA (3.70) say “buyer beware.” The biggest issue with Alvarez is a low strikeout rate, just 4.8 K/9 for his career. He was the 52nd pitcher drafted but is ranked 84th by Steamer.

Finally, James Paxton was the 56th starting pitcher drafted but Steamer has him way down at 118th. In 17 starts over two seasons with the Mariners, Paxton has a career 2.66 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, but Steamer is projecting a 4.14 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. That seems way off to me, but I’m not a computer program designed to project baseball statistics. The Fans Projections (10 so far) expect Paxton to be much better than that—3.25 ERA, 1.23 WHIP.

After 60 starting pitchers were drafted, there were 11 starting pitchers who had not yet been drafted, including three in the top 30:

SteamerRank Pitcher
22 Brandon McCarthy
25 John Lackey
26 Mike Fiers
39 Jake Peavy
43 Michael Pineda
48 Matt Cain
50 Tony Cingrani
53 Jason Hammel
54 CC Sabathia
55 Wei-Yin Chen
56 Dan Haren

 


Analyzing the FanGraphs Early Mock Draft from an Outsider’s Point of View – SPs 21-40

The following is a look at the 21st through 40th starting pitcher taken in the FanGraphs Early Mock Draft, with a comparison to their rankings based on 2015 Steamer projections.

Starting Pitchers: 21-30

The table below shows starting pitchers taken 21st through 30th in this mock, along with their Steamer rank and the difference between their Steamer rank and the spot they were drafted. Pitchers with a positive difference were taken higher than their Steamer projection would suggest. Those with a negative difference were taken later than Steamer would have expected.

FanGraphs Mock Draft SPs 21-30 vs Steamer Rankings
PCK RND $$ SP-Rnk NAME Steamer Rank Difference
101 9 $14 21 Alex Cobb 24 3
104 9 $7 22 Jeff Samardzija 42 20
111 10 $24 23 Masahiro Tanaka 12 -11
116 10 $9 24 Jake Arrieta 35 11
118 10 $3 25 Jacob DeGrom 57 32
119 10 $17 26 Hisashi Iwakuma 20 -6
121 11 $5 27 Tyson Ross 51 24
124 11 $9 28 Alex Wood 36 8
127 11 $15 29 James Shields 23 -6
128 11 $3 30 Jose Quintana 58 28

 

In this mock draft, pitchers started flying off the shelves in the 10th and 11th rounds. It took 104 picks for the first 22 starting pitchers to be drafted. Nineteen more were taken over the next 45 picks. It looks like the second half of the 10th round is when things really started heating up.

In this group of 10 pitchers, there were a few who were picked well before or much later than their Steamer projection would expect. Jeff Samardzija was the 22nd pitcher taken; Steamer has him ranked 42nd. Samardzija had a 2.99 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 2014 and his FIP (3.20), xFIP (3.07), and SIERA (3.06) weren’t far off from his ERA. Steamer isn’t buying on Samardzija, projecting a 3.94 ERA and 1.24 WHIP.

The next pitcher taken was Masahiro Tanaka. Steamer has Tanaka just outside the top 10 and he was taken here as the 23rd starting pitcher drafted. Tanaka’s health is the big issue. He missed more than two months of the 2014 season, so it’s hard to know what to expect from him in 2015. Steamer is still projecting 31 starts and 192 innings. The Fans projections have him at 28 starts and 178 innings.

The 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, Jacob deGrom, was the 25th starting pitcher drafted, but is ranked 57th by Steamer. deGrom put up a 2.69 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 9.2 K/9 last year in 22 starts. The strikeout rate was surprising. In 323 1/3 minor league innings, deGrom’s K/9 was 7.4. Steamer projects deGrom for a 3.93 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 8.0 K/9.

Like Jacob deGrom, Tyson Ross was drafted much earlier than Steamer would suggest. Ross very much enjoyed pitching at home in Petco Park last year, where he posted a 1.88 ERA and 1.01 WHIP, with a K%-BB% of 18.9% and a .267 BABIP. He was much more human on the road, with a 3.79 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 11.6% K%-BB%, and .315 BABIP. Ross was the 27th starting pitcher drafted. Steamer has him ranked 51st among starting pitchers.

The 30th starting pitcher taken was Jose Quintana. Quintana has started 87 games over the last three years with a 3.50 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 7.1 K/9. Steamer is projecting a 3.95 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 7.7 K/9, which puts him 58th among starting pitchers based on Steamer projections. In this case, ZiPS is just as pessimistic, forecasting a 3.88 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 7.2 K/9.

The Steamer “bargains” among starting pitchers taken in this grouping were the aforementioned Masahiro Tanaka and a pair of older pitchers—Hisashi Iwakuma and James Shields. Iwakuma was the 26th starting pitcher drafted and is ranked 20th by Steamer. Shields was the 29th starting pitcher taken and is ranked 23rd by Steamer.

Starting Pitchers: 31-40

The next 10 starting pitchers were taken over rounds 11 through 13. Here’s the chart:

FanGraphs Mock Draft SPs 31-40 vs Steamer Rankings
PCK RND $$ SP-Rnk NAME Steamer Rank Difference
130 11 $20 31 Hyun-Jin Ryu 16 -15
131 11 $16 32 Cliff Lee 21 -11
132 11 $1 33 Yordano Ventura 64 31
134 12 $0 34 Zack Wheeler 69 35
138 12 $6 35 Doug Fister 49 14
141 12 $6 36 Drew Smyly 47 11
144 12 $8 37 Garrett Richards 41 4
145 13 $10 38 Marcus Stroman 29 -9
147 13 $2 39 Matt Shoemaker 59 20
148 13 $10 40 Michael Wacha 32 -8

 

Based on Steamer projections, there were four “bargain” picks in this grouping of starting pitchers, starting with Hyun-Jin Ryu with the 130th pick of the draft. Ryu was the 31st starting pitcher drafted but is ranked 16th by Steamer. Of the first 40 starting pitchers drafted, Ryu had the biggest discrepancy between his Steamer ranking and the spot he was drafted and it’s not like Steamer has a particularly favorable projection compared to what Ryu has done in the past. Last year, Ryu had a 3.38 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. Steamer projects a 3.33 ERA and 1.16 WHIP.

The next Steamer bargain was Cliff Lee who was taken 32nd among starting pitchers and ranked 21st by Steamer. It’s understandable that Lee would drop a bit in this mock draft because of his age (36) and his injury-shortened 2014 season (just 13 starts). Steamer has him starting 28 games with a 3.53 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 2015.

On the tail end of this group of pitchers were two more Steamer projected bargains: Marcus Stroman (38th pitcher drafted, ranked 29th) and Michael Wacha (40th pitcher drafted, ranked 32nd). Stroman was a 1st round pick in 2012 and has a history of good minor league performances. He started 20 games with the Blue Jays last year and is getting some buzz heading into this year. Wacha has pitched well over two major league seasons but in limited time with just 28 starts over those two seasons. Steamer is projecting 27 starts in 2015 but the Fans are less optimistic, projecting just 23 starts (based on the projections of nine fans so far).

There were three pitchers in this group who were drafted much sooner than their projection would suggest—Yordano Ventura, Zack Wheeler, and Matt Shoemaker.

Steamer is projecting Ventura to have an ERA closer to his 2014 SIERA (3.87) than his actual 2014 ERA (3.20). Ventura was the 33rd starting pitcher drafted and is ranked 64th by Steamer.

Zack Wheeler was taken 34th among starting pitchers and is ranked 69th by Steamer. Wheeler has been in the bigs for two seasons and has a career ERA of 3.50 and WHIP of 1.34. Steamer is projecting a 3.90 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. Wheeler was a 1st round pick (6th overall) in 2009 and has been a top prospect ever since, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him outpitch his projection.

Matt Shoemaker (39th starting pitcher drafted, ranked 59th by Steamer) has some similarities to Jacob deGrom. Both made their major league debuts at the age of 26, which is later than most successful big leaguers. deGrom had a 7.4 K/9 in 323 1/3 minor league innings, then struck out 9.2 per nine innings at the major league level. Matt Shoemaker had a 7.4 K/9 in 786 2/3 minor league innings and has struck out 8.2 per nine at the major league level. Both were liked much more by the people in this mock draft than their Steamer projections would suggest. Shoemaker has a career 2.94 ERA and 1.06 WHIP (3.26 FIP, 3.28 xFIP, 3.19 SIERA), but Steamer is projecting a 4.06 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.

After 40 starting pitchers were taken, there were 12 pitchers remaining who rank in the Steamer top 40. The pitchers undrafted at this point were Jose Fernandez (Steamer ranked 17th), Brandon McCarthy (22nd), John Lackey (25th), Mike Fiers (26th), Homer Bailey (28th), Danny Salazar (30th), Scott Kazmir (31st), Francisco Liriano (33rd), Phil Hughes (34th), Ian Kennedy (37th), Anibal Sanchez (38th), and Jake Peavy (39th).

Up next: Starting Pitchers 41-60


Analyzing the FanGraphs Early Mock Draft from an Outsider’s Point of View – SPs 1-20

The following is a look at the first 20 starting pitchers taken in the FanGraphs Early Mock Draft, with a comparison to their rankings based on 2015 Steamer projections.

Starting Pitchers: 1-10

Every owner has his own theory on when to draft starting pitchers. Some like to get a couple of big guns early. Some won’t take a starting pitcher in the first few rounds because of the inherent uncertainty around pitchers. Some prefer to wait on pitching and go for high-risk, high-upside arms late in the draft or feel confident trolling the waiver wire during the season.

In this twelve-team mock draft, there were 12 starting pitchers taken in the first five rounds. These twelve pitchers were divided up among nine teams, with Zach Sanders being the first owner to draft two starting pitchers when he chose Felix Hernandez and Corey Kluber back-to-back at the end of the 2nd and beginning of the 3rd round. After Sanders, five other teams grabbed their second starter in the 5th and 6th rounds. The three owners who held off on pitchers were Pod, the Blue Sox, and Dan Schwartz, who all waited until the 7th round or later to take their first starting pitcher.

The table below shows the first 10 pitchers drafted in this mock, along with their Steamer rank and the difference between their Steamer rank and the spot they were drafted. Pitchers with a positive difference were taken higher than their Steamer projection would suggest. Those with a negative difference were taken later than Steamer would have expected.

FanGraphs Mock Draft Top-10 Starting Pitchers vs Steamer Rankings
PCK RND $$ SP-Rnk NAME Steamer Rank Difference
5 1 $53 1 Clayton Kershaw 1 0
19 2 $37 2 Chris Sale 2 0
22 2 $37 3 Felix Hernandez 4 1
27 3 $28 4 Corey Kluber 9 5
31 3 $37 5 Max Scherzer 3 -2
33 3 $34 6 Madison Bumgarner 5 -1
37 4 $33 7 Stephen Strasburg 6 -1
39 4 $28 8 Yu Darvish 10 2
41 4 $29 9 David Price 8 -1
52 5 $21 10 Johnny Cueto 14 4

 

There was mostly agreement between the drafters and Steamer among the first 10 pitchers drafted. Corey Kluber went 5 picks earlier than his projection would suggest and Johnny Cueto went 4 picks early, but most pitchers were within a spot or two of their Steamer projected ranking.

Kluber has seen his K% jump from 19.2 to 22.4 to 28.3% over the last three years. Steamer expects some regression there, down to a 25.0% strikeout rate, but that’s still terrific. Kluber was solid in 2013 but last year was his first elite season. Is that enough to take him ahead of Max Scherzer, Madison Bumgarner, Stephen Strasburg, Yu Darvish, and David Price?

Johnny Cueto was taken 9th and is the #14 pitcher by Steamer projection. Cueto had a big jump in innings from 60 innings in 2013 to 243 2/3 innings in 2014. That’s an unusual jump in the number of innings pitched from one year to the next and we just don’t know how it might affect him in 2015.

Starting Pitchers: 11-20

The next 10 starting pitchers were taken over rounds 5 through 9. Here’s the chart:

FanGraphs Mock Draft Next-10 Starting Pitchers vs Steamer Rankings
PCK RND $$ SP-Rnk NAME Steamer Rank Difference
54 5 $23 11 Jon Lester 13 2
60 5 $20 12 Jordan Zimmermann 18 6
63 6 $30 13 Zack Greinke 7 -6
64 6 $19 14 Cole Hamels 19 5
65 6 $20 15 Adam Wainwright 15 0
74 7 $6 16 Julio Teheran 46 30
84 7 $2 17 Sonny Gray 61 44
86 8 $8 18 Gerrit Cole 40 22
96 8 $25 19 Matt Harvey 11 -8
97 9 $12 20 Carlos Carrasco 27 7

 

Here we start to see some big differences between the Steamer projection rankings and where some of these guys were taken in this mock. Jordan Zimmermann was taken about six picks early, according to Steamer, while Zack Greinke was taken six picks late. The big differences came with the 16th, 17th, and 18th starting pitchers drafted—Julio Teheran, Sonny Gray, and Gerrit Cole.

Over the last two years, Julio Teheran has won 28 games with a 3.03 ERA and 1.12 WHIP, but with a 3.58 FIP. Steamer projects 10 wins, a 3.81 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, making him the 46th-most-valuable starting pitcher. It should be noted that ZiPS has Teheran with a 3.22 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, which would move him into the top 20.

Sonny Gray was the 17th starting pitcher drafted in this mock and is ranked 61st by Steamer. In his two-year big league career, Gray has a 2.99 ERA and 1.17 WHIP (with a 3.29 FIP, 3.34 xFIP, and 3.44 SIERA). Steamer is projecting a 3.81 ERA and 1.31 WHIP (3.62 FIP). A couple of reasons for this increase in ERA would be a higher projected BABIP (.297 compared to a career .277 mark) and lower LOB% (70.2% compared to a 74.6% career mark). ZiPS has Gray projected for a 3.36 ERA and 1.26 WHIP.

Like Gray, Gerrit Cole has just two years in the bigs. In 41 career starts, he has a career 3.45 ERA and 1.19 WHIP (3.09 FIP, 3.20 xFIP, 3.28 SIERA). His Steamer projection calls for a 3.63 ERA and 1.24 WHIP (3.43 FIP), which ranks him 40th.

Julio Teheran, Sonny Gray, and Gerrit Cole were all taken well before their Steamer projections would suggest, but their actual career ERAs and WHIPs are much more favorable. It’s never a good idea to be a slave to projections, so if you like their upside, feel free to take them this early. Some pitchers taken shortly after Teheran, Gray, and Cole who are projected by Steamer to be more valuable were Matt Harvey, Carlos Carrasco, Alex Cobb, Masahiro Tanaka, and Hisashi Iwakuma.

Rounding out the top 20 pitchers taken in this mock were back-to-back selections by Dan Schwartz of Matt Harvey and Carlos Carrasco. These were the first two starting pitchers taken by Schwartz. He was able to hold off on starting pitching until the last pick of the 8th round and still got two guys with great upside. Neither Harvey nor Carrasco are likely to be workhorses, but they could both be top starting pitchers in 2015.

There were four pitchers who rank in the Steamer top 20 who were not drafted in the top 20 in this mock draft—Hyun-Jin Ryu, Jose Fernandez, Cole Hamels, and Hisashi Iwakuma.

Up next: Starting Pitchers 21-40


Analyzing the FanGraphs’ Mock Draft from an Outsider’s Point of View – OF (part 3)

As an avid reader of FanGraphs, I’ve been following the ongoing mock draft and thought it would be interesting to compare the results to the dollar value rankings I created using Steamer’s 2015 projections.

UPDATE: I downloaded the chat spreadsheet and the following commentary is up through the middle of the 21st round, pick #249 (Rick Porcello). Here is a breakdown, position-by-position. I’ve included the overall pick and the dollar value for that player based on 2015 Steamer projections in parentheses.

Outfield—part 3

In part 1, I wrote about the first 20 outfielders taken in the FanGraphs Mock draft.

Part 2 had the next 20 outfielders. This is part 3.

In rounds 13 and 14, four outfielders went off the board. Brandon Moss (146th–$13) was taken early in the 13th round. Moss had a brutal second half of 2014, but Steamer projects him to hit 28 homers with 76 RBI in 2015. Five picks later went Gregory Polanco (151st–$5). Polanco hit quite well in AAA last year but struggled in the big leagues. His Steamer projection calls for a .250/.310/.382 line but, at 23 years old, he could easily beat that. He’s also projected for 14 homers and 23 steals. Seven picks after Polanco was Avisail Garcia (164th–$6), who is projected to be of similar value but in a different way, with more homers, RBI, and a better batting average but fewer steals. The final pick of the 14th round was Arizona’s A.J. Pollock (168th—[-$1]). Pollock hit .302 with 14 steals in 75 games in 2014, but is projected to be worth -$1 in 2015, with a .262 average and 16 steals in 127 games.

The next five outfielders were taken within nine picks of each other in the 15th round. Here are the Steamer projections for this group:

578 AB, 79 R, 5 HR 47 RBI, 23 SB, .282 AVG—Denard Span (171st–$11)

487 AB, 65 R, 24 HR, 74 RBI, 4 SB, .258 AVG—Oswaldo Arcia (172nd–$12)

526 AB, 66 R, 10 HR, 56 RBI, 27 SB, .264 AVG—Leonys Martin (173rd–$9)

564 AB, 77 R, 6 HR, 49 RBI, 19 SB, .270 AVG—Adam Eaton (177th–$7)

537 AB, 60 R, 8 HR, 55 RBI, 21 SB, .267 AVG—Lorenzo Cain (179th–$4)

Here in the 15th round, drafters had four guys who provide some steals with varying levels of power and batting average ability and one guy who should hit 20 or more homers. Later in the draft, it becomes more about team need than value. If you get to the 15th round and still need home run power, Oswaldo is your guy.

No outfielders were taken in the 16th or 17th rounds, but four came off the board in the 18th. Danny Santana (211th–$0) is more valuable at shortstop than outfield but his Steamer projection pegs him at replacement level even at the shortstop position. In seven minor league seasons, Santana hit .273/.317/.391. Then he came up last year and hit .319/.353/.472 for the Twins, with 7 homers and 20 steals in 101 games. He also had a .405 BABIP. If you take his stats with the Twins last season and adjust his BABIP from .405 to the .314 BABIP projected by Steamer for 2015, with all of the lost hits being singles, his batting line last year would have been .252/.288/.405. Steamer projects a .261/.299/.371 line. He should steal some bases (projected for 18), but don’t go overboard because of last year’s 100-game stint.

Two picks later, Michael Cuddyer (213th–$8) was added by Eno. Cuddyer hit .307/.362/.525 in his three years with the Rockies but no one expects that kind of production this year with the Mets. This late in the draft, he looks like a good value, based on Steamer projections. He was the 51st outfielder taken and is ranked 44th by Steamer among outfielders.

Michael Saunders (214th—[-$2]) was taken with the next pick. He’s only projected for 477 plate appearances, so he’s not expected to be as valuable as some other outfielders who are projected for more playing time. Saunders is a guy who could get to double-digits in homers and steals, so he’s not a bad flyer to take in the later rounds, particularly if you think he’ll play more than his projection.

The last of the four outfielders taken in the 18th round was Arismendy Alcantara (216th–$1). Alcantara has 2B eligibility and is more valuable at that spot. He will steal you some bags and has good power for a middle infielder, but the batting average will hurt you.

Seven outfielders were taken from rounds 19 through 22 and this group is all over the place. Here are the Steamer projections for this group of seven:

492 AB, 55 R, 10 HR, 58 RBI, 17 SB, .265 AVG—Alex Rios (221st–$2)

377 AB, 48 R, 6 HR, 38 RBI, 28 SB, .265 AVG—Rajai Davis (229th—[-$5])

552 AB, 75 R, 14 HR, 55 RBI, 19 SB, .241 AVG—Desmond Jennings (237th–$6)

415 AB, 55 R, 16 HR, 55 RBI, 19 SB, .246 AVG—Steven Souza (240th–$2)

510 AB, 64 R, 19 HR, 70 RBI, 4 SB, .247 AVG—Josh Hamilton (250th–$5)

526 AB, 74 R, 11 HR, 55 RBI, 13 SB, .246 AVG—Dexter Fowler (251st–$3)

567 AB, 73 R, 15 HR, 69 RBI, 4 SB, .284 AVG—Torii Hunter (253rd–$14)

We’re getting to the late rounds and here you can get an idea of what might be available. There are guys who will steal some bases and reach double-digits in home runs, but they won’t help you much in RBI and will hurt you in batting average.

Alex Rios has been all over the place in his career, from a high wRC+ of 126 in 2012 to a low of 60 in 2011. Over the last three years, his wRC+ has dropped from 126 to 104 to 92. Steamer projects him to bump it up slightly to 95 next year.

Rajai Davis is a guy who won’t play every day, but will steal some bases when he’s in the lineup and has been particularly good against left-handed pitching, with a career wOBA against lefties of .353. He can be quite productive if used correctly.

Desmond Jennings had his best stretch of hitting in a 63-game stint in 2011 at the age of 24 (128 wRC+), but hasn’t been as good since. He’s one of the better options this late in the draft, but doesn’t seem likely to ever live up to his early promise.

Steven Souza’s projection is very similar to Jennings, minus some runs scored and in less playing time. If you think Souza will get more regular playing time than the 415 at-bats he’s projected for, he’s a guy to target.

Josh Hamilton’s two years with the Angels have been very disappointing and Steamer doesn’t see any improvement coming.

Dexter Fowler is similar to Jennings and Souza but with fewer projected steals.

Finally, Torii Hunter projects to be the best of this bunch, despite his advanced age (he’ll be 39 in 2015). Hunter was the 60th outfielder taken but is ranked 31st based on Steamer projections.


Analyzing the FanGraphs’ Mock Draft from an Outsider’s Point of View – OF (part 2)

As an avid reader of FanGraphs, I’ve been following the ongoing mock draft and thought it would be interesting to compare the results to the dollar value rankings I created using Steamer’s 2015 projections.

UPDATE: I downloaded the chat spreadsheet and the following commentary is up through the middle of the 21st round, pick #249 (Rick Porcello). Here is a breakdown, position-by-position. I’ve included the overall pick and the dollar value for that player based on 2015 Steamer projections in parentheses.

Outfield—part 2

In part 1, I looked at the twenty outfielders who were taken among the first 56 picks in the FanGraphs Mock Draft. This section covers the next 20 outfielders drafted, starting with round 6.

Four outfielders were taken in the 6th round of the FanGraphs Mock, with Jason Heyward (62nd–$20) going off the board early in the round. Steamer is projecting a significant increase in home runs for Heyward, from 11 last year to 20 in 2015. In his five-year career, Heyward has hit 20 or more homers just once, back in 2012. While Steamer likes Heyward to almost double his homer total from a year ago, the same is not true for the next outfielder drafted—Nelson Cruz (66th–$15). Steamer projects a drop from 40 homers last year to 26 this year as Cruz moves from Baltimore to Seattle. This also comes with more than 100 fewer plate appearances, which contributes to a drop in his projection for runs (from 87 to 70) and RBI (from 108 to 80). He’s also projected for a drop in batting average (from .271 to .249). Christian Yelich (67th–$18) was taken with the next pick. He’s projected to increase his homer total from 9 to 14 and maintain his base-stealing ability, but with a drop in batting average. Finally, on the very next pick the choice was Yoenis Cespedes (68th–$23), who was the 24th outfielder taken in this mock draft but is ranked 12th among outfielders based on Steamer projections.

With these four outfielders, I could see very different opinions among fantasy owners. Do you believe in Nelson Cruz more than Steamer does? Do you think Heyward can hit 20 homers or Yelich can hit 14? How will Cespedes hit in Detroit? Steamer would rank them Cespedes, Heyward, Yelich, and Cruz. Your mileage may vary.

The 7th round saw two outfielders on different career trajectories. Young Mookie Betts (will be 22 this year) had a good 52-game stretch last year but plays for the Red Sox who have a packed outfield at the moment. Steamer currently has Betts (73rd—[-$1]) projected for 389 plate appearances, which gives him negative value despite a good batting line. Later in the 7th round, 35-year-old Matt Holliday (80th—$19) was taken. Steamer projects Holliday to have a similar season in 2015 as he had in 2014, but with 40 fewer at-bats, along with fewer runs scored and RBI. When it comes to drafting Betts before Holliday, you have to believe Betts will get regular playing time. Holliday has had 600 or more plate appearances in eight of the last nine years, so he’s much more of a sure thing.

Seven more outfielders were taken over a span of 16 picks in rounds 8 and 9. Here are their projections for 2015:

593 AB, 82 R, 16 HR, 64 RBI, 22 SB, .274 AVG—Charlie Blackmon (87th–$22)

573 AB, 80 R, 18 HR, 72 RBI, 9 SB, .270 AVG—Alex Gordon (89th–$18)

574 AB, 82 R, 20 HR, 68 RBI, 9 SB, .263 AVG—Kole Calhoun (90th–$17)

524 AB, 78 R, 18 HR, 73 RBI, 7 SB, .285 AVG—Jayson Werth (95th–$20)

496 AB, 64 R, 24 HR, 72 RBI, 8 SB, .239 AVG—Jay Bruce (98th–$8)

565 AB, 66 R, 22 HR, 76 RBI, 4 SB, .255 AVG—Marcell Ozuna (100th–$11)

555 AB, 76 R, 14 HR, 66 RBI, 6 SB, .288 AVG—Melky Cabrera (102nd–$15)

These projections (and this mock draft) are from before it was announced that Jayson Werth had surgery on the AC joint in his shoulder. He may not reach 524 at-bats in 2015, but the injury is not expected to keep him out for too long.

Of this group of seven outfielders, Blackmon’s projected steals and otherwise solid numbers make him more valuable than the rest. Alex Gordon, Kole Calhoun, and Jayson Werth are similarly valued. You could go for the upside play with the younger Calhoun or the steadiness of veteran Alex Gordon.

The next three outfielders don’t project to be as valuable as the top group, but there’s enough variation possible that they could get to that level. Jay Bruce had the worst year of his career in 2014, hitting just .217/.281/.373. Taking him in the 9th round is hoping for a bounce back season. Marcell Ozuna is six years younger and will likely hit for more power with a lower batting average than Melky Cabrera, so I could see an argument for taking him before the Melk-Man.

In the 10th round, three more outfielders went off the board. Before last season, Shin-Soo Choo (110th–$16) was a hot commodity coming off a 20-20 season with a .285/.423/.462 batting line and moving to a great hitter’s park in Texas. Unfortunately, he was a big disappointment. He played just 123 games and hit .242/.340/.374. He’ll be 32 in 2015 and Steamer likes him to rebound, but not to anything close to that 2013 season. Wil Myers (113th–$2) isn’t a favorite of Steamer but he has youth on his side and a good pedigree and could easily beat his projection. Jorge Soler (117th–$13) played at four levels last season. He had just 8 games in the Rookie league, then destroyed AA (.415/.494/.862 in 22 games), continued to hit well in AAA (.282/.378/.618 in 32 games) and kept it up with the Cubs in the big leagues (.292/.330/.573 in 24 games). He’s only 23 years old and has a nice projection for 2015. I’d be inclined to take him over Myers and Choo, just for the upside.

The next four outfielders taken, from pick 122 to pick 143, includes two players who do not have Steamer projections. Rusney Castillo is one of those, taken with pick #122. His playing time is in question because of the Red Sox outfield logjam, but the Sox signed him for six years and $72 million last August, so he should get a chance to play. I do have projections from Cairo and Davenport for Castillo. Averaging Castillo’s projections from Cairo and Davenport, we get 241 at-bats, with a .279/.325/.429 batting line, 6 homers, and 8 steals. If you double that line to approximate a full season, he would be worth $10 and be the #40 outfielder. He was taken 37th among outfielders in this mock draft.

Brett Gardner (136th–$11) was taken 14 picks after Castillo. Early in his career, Gardner had back-to-back seasons with 47 and 49 steals. He’s more of a 20-steals guy these days, but did just have a big homer year, hitting a career-high 17 in 2014. Steamer expects a drop to 12 homers in 2015, with the rest of his numbers being very similar to last year.

Taken shortly after Gardner was Ben Revere (142nd–$8). Revere will steal you plenty of bases (49 last year), but his RBI output is reminiscent of Rob Picciolo. Revere went the first three-plus years of his career without hitting a home run, then muscled up for two long balls last year. This is his age-27 season and Steamer is expecting a career-high of three dingers in 2015. I would take the under on that projection.

The fourth player taken in this group was Yasmany Tomas. Steamer has nothing to work with here. Tomas was signed by the Diamondbacks in December to a six-year, $68.5 million deal. He could play third base or the outfield and is expected to hit for power after hitting 30 home runs in 205 regular-season games in Cuba, going back to 2008.

In part 3: the next 20 outfielders drafted.


Analyzing the FanGraphs’ Mock Draft from an Outsider’s Point of View – OF (part 1)

As an avid reader of FanGraphs, I’ve been following the ongoing mock draft and thought it would be interesting to compare the results to the dollar value rankings I created using Steamer’s 2015 projections.

UPDATE: I downloaded the chat spreadsheet and the following commentary is up through the middle of the 21st round, pick #249 (Rick Porcello). Here is a breakdown, position-by-position. I’ve included the overall pick and the dollar value for that player based on 2015 Steamer projections in parentheses.

Outfield

The top three picks in the FanGraphs Mock Draft were outfielders Mike Trout (1st–$55), Andrew McCutchen (2nd–$39), and Giancarlo Stanton (3rd–$48).

At the top of the outfield rankings is the amazing Mike Trout, who can basically do anything on the baseball field. He’s the clear-cut top pick. The next two outfielders drafted were Andrew McCutchen and Giancarlo Stanton. Steamer projects Stanton to be more valuable than McCutchen, with a career-high in runs scored and homers. McCutchen is Trout-like, but with fewer homers, runs, and RBIs projected. After Trout, you could go either way with pick #2. You want big time power, take Stanton. You want power and steals, take McCutchen. I prefer McCutchen myself.

Late in the first round, there was a run during which six outfielders were drafted between pick #9 and pick #23. Jose Bautista (9th–$42) was the fourth outfielder taken but Steamer actually likes him more than McCutchen. Bautista had 673 plate appearances last year and is projected for 653 this year. He will be 34, though, and in the two seasons before last year he was limited to 399 and 528 plate appearances. Just based on age, he’s a little bit of a risk compared to the other top 10 outfielders. Carlos Gomez (12th–$27) was next, then Yasiel Puig (13th–$31). Puig is more valuable because he’s projected for more runs, RBI, and a higher batting average, while Gomez has the edge in projected steals. Three picks after Puig came the back-to-back selections of Jacoby Ellsbury (16th–$24) and Adam Jones (17th—$29). The edge here for Jones comes in homers and RBI, while Ellsbury should steal many more bases. The final outfielder taken in the 2nd round was Bryce Harper. After two injury-shortened seasons, Steamer is projecting Harper to play just as much as he did in his debut season (projected for 594 plate appearances) and hit 25 homers with 10 stolen bases.

Four more outfielders were taken in the third round, all within seven picks of each other. The controversial Ryan Braun (28th–$27) was the first outfielder taken in the third round, directly followed by 2014 breakout player Michael Brantley (29th–$20). The next pick was Justin Upton (30th–$14) and Carlos Gonzalez (34th–$24) came four picks later. Let’s look at this group of outfielders, starting with their averages over the last three years:

451 AB, 69 R, 23 HR, 77 RBI, 15 SB, .295 AVG—Ryan Braun

573 AB, 74 R, 12 HR, 77 RBI, 17 SB, .301 AVG—Michael Brantley

559 AB, 93 R, 24 HR, 80 RBI, 11 SB, .271 AVG—Justin Upton

390 AB, 65 R, 20 HR, 64 RBI, 15 SB, .288 AVG—Carlos Gonzalez

Based on the last three years, Upton looks like the most valuable outfielder among this group, but his Steamer projection is the worst of the bunch. Braun missed two-thirds of the 2013 season because of a PED suspension and was not the hitter he’d been when he got back on the field in 2014. Carlos Gonzalez is risky because he seemingly gets injured every year. Michael Brantley had the best 2014 season among these players, but it was out of line with what he had done before. Here are the 2015 Steamer projections for these four players:

546 AB, 79 R, 24 HR, 80 RBI, 13 SB, .278 AVG—Ryan Braun ($27)

575 AB, 75 R, 13 HR, 72 RBI, 14 SB, .290 AVG—Michael Brantley ($20)

530 AB, 71 R, 23 HR, 74 RBI, 8 SB, .253 AVG—Justin Upton ($14)

475 AB, 74 R, 24 HR, 77 RBI, 11 SB, .282 AVG—Carlos Gonzalez ($24)

Upton’s projection is the most interesting one here because it’s much worse than his three-year averages. He’s moving to a tough ballpark in San Diego and will be on a team that scored the fewest runs in baseball last year by a good margin, but his former team, the Atlanta Braves, scored the second-fewest runs last year and the Padres should be much better offensively in 2015 than they were in 2014.

Here is a comparison of Upton’s projections from Steamer, ZiPS, Cairo, and Davenport.

530 AB, 71 R, 23 HR, 74 RBI, 8 SB, .253 AVG—Justin Upton—Steamer ($14)

567 AB, 94 R, 26 HR, 85 RBI, 12 SB, .261 AVG—Justin Upton—ZiPS ($31)

564 AB, 86 R, 25 HR, 86 RBI, 10 SB, .265 AVG—Justin Upton—Cairo ($28)

515 AB, 68 R, 18 HR 76 RBI, 9 SB, .259 AVG—Justin Upton—Davenport ($12)

That’s a pretty big spread. Steamer and Davenport have Upton as a $12 to $14 player, while ZiPS and Cairo have him in the $28 to $31 range. At the high range, Upton would be a top 10 outfielder. At the low range, he’s outside the top 30. In this mock, he was the 12th outfielder drafted.

Four outfielders were taken in the fourth round and all have similar value according to Steamer: Hunter Pence (38th–$18), Corey Dickerson (42nd–$18), Billy Hamilton (43rd–$20), and Starling Marte (44th–$18). Pence and Dickerson have similar overall projections and, thus, similar value. Hamilton’s projection for 68 steals makes him the top base-stealing outfielder out there, but he’ll hurt you in homers, RBI, and batting average. Marte isn’t likely to hit as many homers as Pence or Dickerson, but will steal more bases.

The fifth round saw three more outfielders taken, which meant 20 were now off the board.In this round, two younger players and a veteran were drafted, starting with J.D. Martinez (51st–$19). Martinez didn’t hit much in his first three partial seasons in the major leagues (.251/.300/.387), but had a very good 2014 season (.315/.358/.553 with 23 homers in 123 games). Steamer doesn’t expect Martinez to reach those heights this year, but he’s still projected for 22 homers and 80 RBI. George Springer (55th–$20) had a good half-season in 2014 and Steamer likes him to hit 28 homers and steal 15 bases in 2015, putting him in the top 20 among all outfielders. The veteran, Matt Kemp, doesn’t have such a rosy outlook. Moving to San Diego should bring his numbers down. He is ranked 38th among outfielders based on Steamer projections and his Cairo and Davenport projections aren’t much better (no ZiPS yet).

FanGraphs Mock Draft Top-20 Outfielders versus Steamer Rankings
PCK RND $$ OF-Rnk NAME Steamer Rank Difference
1 1 $55 1 Mike Trout 1 0
2 1 $48 2 Andrew McCutchen 4 +2
3 1 $42 3 Giancarlo Stanton 2 (-1)
9 1 $39 4 Jose Bautista 3 (-1)
12 1 $27 5 Carlos Gomez 8 +3
13 2 $31 6 Yasiel Puig 5 (-1)
16 2 $24 7 Jacoby Ellsbury 10 +3
17 2 $29 8 Adam Jones 6 (-2)
23 2 $25 9 Bryce Harper 9 0
28 3 $27 10 Ryan Braun 7 (-3)
29 3 $20 11 Michael Brantley 15 +4
30 3 $14 12 Justin Upton 32 +20
34 3 $24 13 Carlos Gonzalez 11 (-2)
38 4 $18 14 Hunter Pence 23 +9
42 4 $18 15 Corey Dickerson 21 +6
43 4 $20 16 Billy Hamilton 14 (-2)
44 4 $18 17 Starling Marte 22 +5
51 5 $19 18 J.D. Martinez 20 +2
55 5 $20 19 George Springer 18 (-1)
56 5 $11 20 Matt Kemp 38 +18

 

Final Notes for Part 1: Fifteen of the first twenty outfielders taken in the FanGraphs Mock Draft are ranked in the top 20 for outfielders based on Steamer projections. The outfielders drafted who are NOT ranked in the Steamer top 20 are Justin Upton (FanGraphs—12th, Steamer—32nd), Hunter Pence (FanGraphs—14th, Steamer 23rd), Corey Dickerson (FanGraphs—15th, Steamer—21st), Starling Marte (FanGraphs—17th, Steamer—22nd), and Matt Kemp (FanGraphs—20th, Steamer—38th). These are the guys that the FanGraphs mock drafters like more than Steamer.

The outfielders missing from the FanGraphs Top 20 but included in the Steamer Top 20 are Yoenis Cespedes (ranked 12th by Steamer, $23), Charlie Blackmon (Steamer—13th, $22), Jayson Werth (Steamer—16th, $20), Jason Heyward (Steamer—17th, $20), and Matt Holliday (Steamer—19th, $19).

Up next, more outfielders.