Archive for December, 2012

Reports From Instructs: Miguel Sano

Last week I said that Byron Buxton was the headliner at Twins instructs due to being the consensus top talent in the recent draft. Unfortunately, Buxton was overmatched at times against advanced competition so the most entertaining Twins prospect to watch was Miguel Sano. Sano has had plenty of fanfare himself after he signed for $3.15 million as a 16-year-old in 2009 after highly contentious negotiations with the Pirates. This drama and the Dominican amateur baseball system as a whole were covered in the documentary Pelotero

Sano had an up and down full season this year in Low-A Beloit, hitting .258/.373/.521 with a 14.5% walk rate and 26.0% strikeout rate. Strikeouts and contact were issues all season, but Sano was also 18 years old at the start of the season. What I saw in instructs jives pretty well with the stat line and what I’ve seen of Sano in the past. I was also reminded of his upside from one swing: a two-strike fastball up and in that he hit halfway up the batter’s eye.

His power is an easy 80, stemming from obscene raw strength, very good bat speed and the torque, loft and high finish you expect from big boppers. The thing he does that sets him apart from other sluggers is he keeps his hands pretty low throughout his setup and Sano also doesn’t have a pronounced load. Most hitters have to do both things to create power and give away some contact ability, but Sano doesn’t need to and that’s why he has a chance to be the rare high-average cleanup hitter.

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Daily Notes: Javy Vazquez Would Consider Joining Contender

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Daily Notes.

1. White-Hot News: Vazquez Would Consider Joining Contender
2. Apropos of Little: Biggio and Vaughn at Seton Hall
3. SCOUT Leaderboards: Venezuelan Winter League

White-Hot News: Vazquez Would Consider Joining Contender
As noted recently in these pages, right-hander Javier Vazquez has proven to be among the most effective pitchers in the Puerto Rican League this winter since joining said league at the beginning of December. Noted even more recently — by Ralph Pagán Archeval in the pages of ESPN Deportes — is how Vazquez would consider returning to the majors.

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FanGraphs Q&A: The Best Quotes of 2012

In 2012, I once again had the pleasure of interviewing a variety of people from baseball. This year’s list includes 46 MLB players, 19 top prospects, 12 coaches, 11 scouting directors, seven former players, six managers, five general managers and 15 who fall into other categories.

Here’s a selection of best quotes from the 2012 FanGraphs Q&A series.

——

“What we do with the data, internally, may be different than what other teams do. We’re always looking to find ways to improve the way we process data, and use data, and build our own internal metrics to, again, help with the process of assigning value to players. But really, fundamentally, all data starts externally.” — Ben Cherington, January 2012

“If you’re an extreme fly ball pitcher, that helps you at Petco. When the ball gets hit into the air, it hangs up and maybe doesn’t travel as well because of the coastal situation we have — the heaviness of the air.” — Bud Black January 2012

“Choo probably has the most raw power on our team, but Carlos is right up there. And he had a very good season. If you take away that batting average that so many people pay attention to… if you walk the way he walks, then the batting average isn’t such a concern to me.” — Manny Acta, January 2012

“Keeping your hands inside the ball is part of it. You can’t really hit the top inside part of the ball without the hands being in. That’s my way of dumbing it down for myself.” — Lonnie Chisenhall, January, 2012

“I’ve heard a lot of people call me a finesse pitcher, and I like that… At the same time, when you say finesse pitcher, you make it sound like you don’t throw hard, or whatnot. If I want to, I can get it up there. And I do, every game.” — Drew Smyly, January 2012

“The overall approach to mechanics and injury prevention would have to change — people would have to broaden their horizons a little bit — and I’m not sure that’s ready to happen. There would have to be more of a willingness to think outside the box.” — Josh Outman, February 2012

“A lot of people think Lincecum’s mechanics are bad, but according to the way we do it — the studies I’ve done — they aren’t as advertised. They’re not bad. He’s just a big-time tilter who rears back.” — Logan White, February 2012

“Mechanically, his delivery is an up-tempo, high-paced, high-energy delivery, somewhat in the Lincecum mold. Trevor [Bauer] is 6-foot-1 and he gets every bit of his 185 pounds into his delivery. Whereas some may call it a max-effort delivery, I call it a maximum-optimum delivery.” — Ray Montgomery, February 2012 Read the rest of this entry »


Job Posting: Baseball Info Solutions Is Hiring

Our friends at Baseball Info Solutions are hiring an Entry Level.Net Programmer and a 2013 Intern:

Entry Level .Net Programmer

Baseball Info Solutions is looking for a entry level .NET programmer to start ASAP.

The entry level .NET developer is responsible for designing and implementing solutions based on business and client requirements. The .NET developer will work independently on smaller projects and as part of a team on larger projects. The ideal candidate will demonstrate professionalism and high level communication skills as he/she may work directly with management and clients. The .NET developer will be expected to demonstrate strong problem solving and decision making skills in a fast paced environment. An understanding of relational database design and knowledge of reporting services is helpful.

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Pitch Receiving and Pitch Types

I think I’m the guy at FanGraphs who’s most interested in the field of pitch-framing research, so, hey there, here comes another post about pitch-framing. The idea of the importance of receiving a pitch correctly has been around forever, but only more recently have people begun to feel like they can measure who’s good and who’s bad at it. You know the good ones are represented by Jose Molina, and you know the bad ones are represented by Ryan Doumit. There are calculations that use PITCHf/x data to figure out strikes above or below average, for catchers.

What isn’t quite so clear, yet, is how we should interpret those numbers. Catchers aren’t all catching the same pitchers in the same ballparks in the same counts with the same umpires and the same opposing batters. It’s complicated, because of course it’s complicated, and I’m interested in the idea of some guys being harder to catch than others. Some guys will be more and less easy to frame. At its core, this is because some pitches should be more and less easy to frame. Catching a 95 mile-per-hour fastball is going to be different from catching a 70 mile-per-hour lollipop curve.

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Dodgers Find Pair of Power Lefties

In 2012, four left-handed pitchers touched 93-plus on my radar gun. In Onelki Garcia and Chris Reed, Dodgers prospects accounted for half the list. This is nothing new. Two minor league baseball seasons living in the Atlanta area has yielded many hard-throwing Dodgers prospects. What’s new is every top prospect I’ve seen from the Dodgers has been right-handed before this.

Big arms, along with deep pockets have allowed the Dodgers to acquire three All-Stars in the past six months. Trading Nathan Eovaldi, Rubby De La Rosa, Ethan Martin, Josh Lindblom and Allen Webster would decimate most minor league systems. For the Dodgers, it’s simply a sign to reload.

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Reports From Instructs: Byron Buxton

The headliner at Twins instructs was their recent first rounder, the second overall pick from a rural south Georgia high school, center fielder Byron Buxton. He was considered the top prospect in the draft by most scouts on the strength of his prodigious toolset, compared most often to Matt Kemp and the Upton brothers. Buxton signed for $6 million, just below slot recommendation for the pick and will be 19 all of the next year in his full-season debut, very likely with Beloit in the Low-A Midwest League.

The thing that sets Buxton apart from other top prospects is his athleticism and the easiness of his actions. The first time I saw him take batting practice, it was hard to believe how much more fluid his actions were and how quickly he made them, even compared to the other top draft prospects I had seen the weeks before, including top 10 picks like Albert Almora and Mike Zunino. That said, Buxton doesn’t have huge current raw power (45 on the 20-80 scale) and while his athleticism allows you to round up with somewhat limited physical projection left, I can’t go higher than 55 on the projected raw power. His approach at the plate and his mechanics are not geared for power, so I’ve got Buxton pegged as an average game power guy at maturity, but he’s young and raw enough to beat that projection.

One tool that Buxton’s quick-twitchiness shows up in now is his speed. Scouts tend to use the term “off the charts” too liberally considering the chart was designed to cover everyone, but Buxton, like Reds prospect Billy Hamilton, can regularly put up times that aren’t on the scale most teams use. 4.3 seconds from the right-handed batter’s box to first is considered average (50 on the 20-80 scale), 4.2 seconds is 60, 4.1 is 70 and 4.0 is 80, the top of the scale. I’ve clocked Buxton in the 3.9s from the righty box on multiple occasions on digs and got two 4.03s in on instructs game on routine ground balls where Buxton didn’t look like he was even exerting himself. Buxton also has an excellent first step and acceleration, normally the downfall of speedsters with some size, a sign that they will slowly lose it as they age. It’s rare to find an 80 runner with any kind of other skills, so you can see why scouts get so excited about Buxton, a 90 runner with a chance for above average power.

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Detroit Tigers Top 15 Prospects (2012-13)

The Tigers organization isn’t known for developing a ton of in-house talent but uses prospects well to build its big league club via the trade route. With that said, the organization features some interesting prospects with improved depth in the upper levels of the system, and even has some that are almost ready to contribute at the big league level. The Tigers also picked up some interesting players in the 2012 amateur draft.

 

#1 Nick Castellanos (3B/OF)


Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA
20 694 196 38 11 46 149 10 .308 .356 .432 .358

Castellanos has been the Tigers’ best hitting prospect since being selected in the supplemental first round of the 2010 draft. Originally a third baseman, he was moved to right field in 2012 in an effort to find a spot for him on the big league club with veteran Miguel Cabrera currently manning the hot corner.

He still has a chance to play regularly at either position, depending on what the future holds for him. A talent evaluator said Castellanos has embraced the move. “Nick’s taken to it quite well… He’s working very hard at it. He’s a good athlete… it’s just going to take some time.”

Castellanos has consistently hit for average but he has yet to tap into his power, which projects to be at least average. The contact said the prospect is a good hitter who knows the strike zone. “He barrels the ball as well as anybody… He has a good body to add power.”

After hitting .264 in 79 double-A games (after a promotion from high-A), he then hit .242 in 24 Arizona Fall League games which increases the likelihood that Castellanos could return to the level to begin 2013. Despite potentially returning to double-A, he could reach the majors this coming season. I’m told he’ll open the year playing right field while taking grounders at third base. Read the rest of this entry »


Effectively Wild Episode 109: Eight Questions (and Answers) for the End of the Year

Ben and Sam ask and answer eight mostly unrelated questions about baseball and themselves.


Daily Notes: Ft. Foreign Leaderboards, Exclusively

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Daily Notes.

1. On Foreign Leaderboards, One of Their Virtues
2. SCOUT Leaderboards: Mexican Pacific League
3. SCOUT Leaderboards: Australian Baseball League

On Foreign Leaderboards, One of Their Virtues
When the author was younger than he is now — but not so young as he was before that — he made a practice of watching Italian soccer games on his home television. The primary objective was to watch the Beautiful Game played in the anxious and too-deliberate Italian style. A secondary one, however, was to participate in a sort of sporting-type of tourism — which, I’ll explain.

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The Buccos Bullpen Shuffle

The Pirates completed a trade on Wednesday that sent Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt to the Red Sox for Mark Melancon, Jerry Sands, Stolmy Pimentel and Ivan De Jesus. The deal increases organizational depth for the Pirates and gives them a solid reliever in Melancon. The deal also effectively makes Jason Grilli the new Pirates closer. Grilli, who was recently re-signed to a very affordable two-year, $6.75 million contract was probably the better bet to close in Pittsburgh even with Hanrahan present.

The subsequent trade of Hanrahan only enhances the value of the contract he signed. Grilli certainly would have been paid more money had he entered free agency as a closer or a reliever seeking closing opportunities. Given his numbers over the last two seasons, it wouldn’t have been crazy to suggest him as a legitimate closer candidate somewhere. Instead, even with strong interest from about half of the league, Grilli stayed in Pittsburgh on a team-friendly contract fit for a 7th or 8th inning reliever.

While Holt, Sands, De Jesus and Pimentel all play a role in this deal, the trade really benefits the Pirates by increasing the cost-effectiveness of their bullpen and allowing them to reallocate their savings to other areas of need. The Pirates essentially replaced their closer with a better and cheaper alternative, brought back another cheap reliever whose peripherals closely match that traded closer and signed a starter with the savings.

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2013 ZiPS Projections – Texas Rangers

Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections, which have typically appeared in the pages of Baseball Think Factory, are being released at FanGraphs this year. Below are projections for the Texas Rangers. Szymborski can be found on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other 2013 Projections: Athletics / Giants / Nationals.

Batters
Despite various trials and assorted tribulations, Josh Hamilton still posted the second-best WAR (4.4) among Rangers batters in 2012 — and averaged about 4.5 wins per season during his five years in Texas. Replacing Hamilton in 2013, barring any substantial acquisitions, will be a combination of David Murphy (in left field) and a platoon of Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry (in center) — although, because Murphy and Gentry received considerable playing time in 2012 (521 and 269 plate appearances, respectively), Martin is the only real new variable in the Rangers outfield equation.

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The New Homepage

This afternoon we rolled out a new homepage.

The idea of the homepage changes was to better organize and highlight content.

The larger two stories at the top and then the four others further down the page are articles that we’re featuring. They may be brand new articles or articles that we don’t want to get lost in the shuffle when we’ve had a busy day.

Other than that, everything that was in the old layout is available in the new layout, except in a more condensed three columns instead of two.

The other main change is the site is now centered and a little bit wider than before.

With the changes, we’ve also implemented a new article search feature that lets you use the player search box to search for any article on the site across all our blogs.

If you’re wondering if there are more layout changes on the way, there will be a minor update to the article pages to center them and change the font size over the weekend.

I’ve seen that generally the reaction to the changes have not been positive. We’re always open to suggestions and if there are things you like or don’t like about the new layout, please use this thread as an opportunity to weigh in.

Update: For those of you experiencing the boxes around the comment icons and headers, those should be gone now. There was a formatting issue with IE browsers only.


Grilli’s Fastball Keys Resurgence

Jason Grilli was just a guy Neal Huntington plucked out of the Phillies’ minor league system back in 2011, yet another nebulous asset added in the Pirates’ attempts to rebuild on the cheap. Two years later, a 34-year-old once with little but gas and a prayer could be Pittsburgh’s opening day closer. He turned 2011’s resurgence into a full breakout relief season in 2012 — although his ERA fell from 2.48 to a still sharp 2.91, Grilli’s strikeout and walk rates improved greatly; his FIP fell from 3.30 to 2.80 bolstered by an incredible 13.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

Joel Hanrahan has been shipped out to Boston. Grilli, rewarded with a two year, $6.75 million contract, is the heir to Pirates’ closer position. Can the new Jason Grilli hold up in the ninth inning?

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Job Posting: Red Sox Baseball Operations / Analytics Intern

The Boston Red Sox are seeking a full-time Baseball Operations intern with a focus on analytics for the 2013 calendar year.

The internship will provide exposure to all departments within baseball operations. Responsibilities include overseeing daily updates to our baseball information system, monitoring the quality of external data feeds, maintaining databases and spreadsheets, providing technical support for info system users, maintaining our simulation database, operating ball tracking system(s), carrying out ad hoc data analysis projects for various baseball operations staff members, designing and conducting advanced analytical projects, reviewing new research from various external analytical sources, and supporting the department in other ways as needed.

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FanGraphs Audio: Dan Szymborski, Progenitor of ZiPS

Episode 290
Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski on Twitter) is the progenitor of the ZiPS projection system, currently being released team by team in the electronic pages of FanGraphs. He’s also the guest on this edition of FanGraphs Audio.

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

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

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 55 min play time.)

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Daily Notes: Ft. A Javy Vazquez Status Update Update

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Daily Notes.

1. Status Update: Javier Vazquez’s Status, Updated
2. Video: Javier Vazquez’s Most Recent Major League Start
3. SCOUT Leaderboards: Puerto Rican League

Status Update: Javier Vazquez’s Status, Updated
Right-hander Javier Vazquez, 36, has made four starts since joining Ponce of the Puerto Rican League at the beginning of the month — most recently on Dec. 19 at Mayaguez, when he posted this impressive line (box): 6.0 IP, 27 TBF, 11 K, 2 BB, 6:2 GO:AO.

Vazquez has now posted this other, more different line during those same four starts: 17.0 IP, 23 K, 3 BB, 1 HR. His performance has given him the league’s best regressed kwERA despite a relatively small sample — which, because of the way SCOUT- (discussed below) is calculated, it’s actually more difficult to produce excellent numbers in a small sample like that.

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Effectively Wild Episode 108: What Position Should Ian Kinsler Play?/How Do You Know When You Need a New GM?

Ben and Sam answer listener emails about Ian Kinsler, how to decide when it’s time to change GMs, R.A. Dickey and the dome, and more.


Walk and Strikeout Factors, 2010-2012

One of the very most important principles in the field of baseball analysis is the concept of park factors — having an understanding that the game can play differently depending on the environment. I don’t think this is unique to baseball, but it’s most evident in baseball, where a game in old Coors Field would be very different from a game in recent Petco Park. All decent analysis has to take park factors into account. Otherwise, you’re just leaving way too much off the table.

But most people, when they think of park factors, consider what happens to the baseball once it’s put in play. This park increases doubles; this other park reduces home runs. These are the easiest park factors to understand, absolutely, and they’re generally the easiest to explain. Fenway Park has the Green Monster, which does things. Coors Field is at elevation, which does other things. I don’t need to explain this stuff to you.

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Daily Notes: Ft. Kal Daniels’ Alternate Career Path

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Daily Notes.

1. Kal Daniels’ Hastily Calculated and Alternate Career Path
2. Unnecessary Video: Kal Daniels Making a Catch Once
3. SCOUT Leaderboards: Dominican Winter League

Kal Daniels’ Hastily Calculated and Alternate Career Path
As noted in today’s release of the ZiPS projections for the Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper’s closest comparable at the moment, according to ZiPS, is former Reds outfielder Kal Daniels. As also noted in that post, Kal Daniels was a pretty excellent ballplayer between his age-22 and -26 seasons, during which span he posted a 16.9 WAR over 1,970 plate appearances — i.e. over five wins for every 600 plate appearances.

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