Archive for Tigers

Sunday Notes: Ross Stripling is a Nerd and Jesse Chavez Couldn’t Get High in LA

When I approached Ross Stripling at the All-Star Game media session, I knew that he was in the midst of a breakthrough season. The 28-year-old Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander went into the midsummer classic with a record of 8-2, a 2.08 ERA, and a 10.2 K-rate in 95-and-a-third innings.

I didn’t know that he was a nerd.

“Are you taking about things like spin rate and spin efficiency? I’m a believer in that for sure,” was Stripling’s response when I asked if he ever talks pitching analytics with anyone in the organization. “When I got called up in 2016, I thought that what made me good was my high arm angle leading to good downward angle on my fastball, so I should pitch down in the zone. But I tried that, and I was getting walloped.”

Then came a conversation that jumpstarted his career. Optioned to the minors in midseason to help limit his workload — “I was basically down there sitting on innings” — Stripling picked up a ringing cell phone and was soon standing at rapt attention. The voice on the other end belonged to Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. Read the rest of this entry »


Five Players Who Ought to Be Traded (But Probably Won’t Be)

A Michael Fulmer deal could help the Tigers rebuild their system.
(Photo: Keith Allison)

While the result isn’t always a poor one, the decision to wait for an exact perfect trade is a dangerous game for a rebuilding/retooling team. Greed can sometimes be good, yes, but a player’s trade value can also dissipate with a simple twinge in the forearm.

For every Rich Hill who lands at a new home in exchange for an impressive haul, there’s a Zach Britton or Zack Cozart or Todd Frazier or Tyson Ross whose value declines dramatically — sometimes so dramatically that they become effectively untradable. Even when waiting doesn’t lead to disaster, such as with Sonny Gray and Jose Quintana, teams frequently don’t do that much better by waiting for the most beautiful opportunity for baseball-related extortion. Regression to the mean is real. For a player at the top of his game, there’s a lot more room for bad news than good; chaos may be a ladder, but it’s not a bell curve.

With that in mind, I’ve identified five players who might be most valuable to their clubs right now as a trade piece. None of them are likely to be dealt before the deadline. Nevertheless, their respective clubs might also never have a better opportunity to secure a return on these particular assets.

Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles (Profile)

There seems to be a sense almost that, if the Orioles are able to trade Manny Machado for a great package, get an interesting deal for Zach Britton, and procure some token return for Adam Jones, then it’ll be time to fly the ol’ Mission Accomplished banner. In reality, though, that would simply mark the beginning of the Orioles’ chance to build a consistent winner. After D-Day, the allies didn’t call it wrap, shake some hands, and head home to work on the hot rod. (Confession: I don’t actually know what 18-year-olds did for fun in 1944.)

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Would Chris Bosio Win a Wrongful Termination Suit?

Last week, Detroit Tigers pitching coach Chris Bosio was fired by GM Al Avila for what was then described as “making an insensitive comment directed at a team employee.” Though he didn’t disclose the nature of the insensitive comment at the time, Avila said that the team has a “zero tolerance” policy for the conduct in question, adding that he holds team employees “to the highest standards of personal conduct on and off the field.”

Later, however, ESPN reported that Bosio was fired for calling someone a “spider monkey.”  The Tigers and Bosio differ, however, on the person to whom Bosio was referring. Bosio insists that “Spider Monkey” is a nickname for Tigers LOOGY Daniel Stumpf, currently on the disabled list. Per USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale:

Bosio insists he was not using the word in a racial and disparaging context, and that it was not directed toward the clubhouse attendant. He says he referring to injured pitcher Daniel Stumpf, a white pitcher from Humble, Texas.

“Someone in our coaches’ room asked me (Monday afternoon) about Stumpf,” Bosio said. “And I said, “Oh, you mean, ‘Spider Monkey.’ That’s his nickname. He’s a skinny little white kid who makes all of these funny faces when he works out.

“The kid thought we were talking about him. He got all upset. He assumed we were talking about him. I said, “No, no, no. We’re talking about Stumpf.’

“And that was it. I swear on my mom and dad’s graves, there was nothing else to it.”

But other witnesses relayed to Ken Rosenthal and Katie Strang of the Athletic a very different story:

Bosio called the attendant, who is African-American, a “monkey,” according to four team sources. The remark was directed toward the young man, who was collecting towels from the coaches’ room at the time, during a post-game gripe session in which Bosio was lamenting about a pitcher.

During this exchange, Bosio made a derogatory comment about one of the Tigers pitchers and then gestured toward the attendant before adding, “like this monkey here,” the sources said. The attendant pushed back at Bosio for the comment, and an additional team employee witnessed the exchange. Bosio was provided an opportunity to apologize to the attendant after his outburst but declined to do so, according to multiple sources.

And Stumpf himself didn’t back up Bosio, either.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 6/26

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Taylor Hearn, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (Profile)
Level: Double-A   Age: 23   Org Rank:FV: 45
Line: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 7 K, 0 R

Notes
Hearn’s peripherals (27.5% K, 9.3% BB) are exactly the same as they were last year when he was in High-A. He’s a little old for Double-A, but that matters less for pitchers and Hearn’s early-career injuries set back his development pretty significantly. He’ll flash a 55 slider and average changeup, and he throws enough strikes to start, though he’s not overly efficient. He was up to 97 last night and projects as a fourth starter or late-inning reliever. Here are his swinging strikes from yesterday…

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Players’ View: Learning and Developing a Pitch, Part 13

Pitchers learn and develop different pitches, and they do so at varying stages of their lives. It might be a curveball in high school, a cutter in college, or a changeup in A-ball. Sometimes the addition or refinement is a natural progression — graduating from Pitching 101 to advanced course work — and often it’s a matter of necessity. In order to get hitters out as the quality of competition improves, a pitcher needs to optimize his repertoire.

In the thirteenth installment of this series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Dennis Eckersley, Michael Fulmer, Miguel Gonzalez — on how they learned and/or developed a specific pitch.

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Dennis Eckersley (Hall of Famer) on His Slider

“I couldn’t throw a curveball because of my angle. I couldn’t get on top of it. That’s all they’d ever tell me. Every time somebody would whistle at me, it would be, ‘Get your arm up! Get your elbow up!’ But a slider came pretty easy. It was just, ‘Turn your wrist a little bit.’

“I went straight from high school to pro ball [in 1972], and all of a sudden my fastball didn’t play. I was in the California League when I was 17, and they could hit. The next thing you know, I’m throwing a lot more breaking balls than I ever did in my life. I didn’t have any choice.

Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Notes: Jeimer Candelario is Palm Up, Gap-to-Gap, a Talented Tiger

Jeimer Candelario is establishing himself as one of the best young players on a young Detroit Tigers team. Playing in his first full big-league season, the 24-year-old third baseman is slashing a solid .251/.346/.476 with 10 home runs. His 2.0 WAR leads all Tigers.

Acquired along with Isaac Paredes in the deal that sent Alex Avila and Justin Wilson to the Cubs at last summer’s trade deadline, “Candy” is a switch-hitter with pop. His M.O. is gap-to-gap, and the orientation of his top hand is a focal point of his swing.

“I want to hit the ball with palm up,” explained Candelario. “If you’re palm up and you hit the ball, you finish up. I try to be connected. My back side, my hands, my hips, and my legs come in the same moment. That way, when I hit the ball I hit the ball with power, with palm up.”

Candelario credits Cubs assistant hitting coach Andy Haines — at the time the club’s hitting coordinator — for helping him develop his stroke. Now that he’s in Motown, he’s heeding the advice of Lloyd McClendon, who is emphasizing “How to load and then follow through, which helps me have some doubles and homers. If I just concentrate on hitting line drives, the ball will carry.”

McClendon is bullish on the young infielder’s future. Ditto his here and now. Read the rest of this entry »


The Latest Miguel Cabrera Bummer

The rebuilding Tigers weren’t headed anywhere in particular, quickly or slowly, in 2018, but whatever their eventual destination, Miguel Cabrera won’t be going with them. In the third inning of Tuesday night’s game game against the Twins, the 35-year-old slugger ruptured his left biceps tendon while swinging a bat. He had to be replaced mid-plate appearance, underwent an MRI while the game was still in progress, and was discovered to need season-ending surgery. It’s just the latest frustrating turn in a Hall-of-Fame career that, alas, hasn’t lacked for bum notes in recent years.

Cabrera suffered the injury while whiffing at strike two against Jake Odorizzi. He immediately doubled over in pain, grabbed his left arm and headed towards the Tigers’ dugout:

“He took a swing, missed the ball, and the thing popped. It’s pretty sad,” said manager Ron Gardenhire.

This is Cabrera’s second issue involving his left biceps this year and his second trip to the disabled list. He missed three games in late April and early May due to a biceps muscle spasm, then played in just six innings of the Tigers’ May 3 game before leaving with a right hamstring strain that sidelined him for four weeks. Despite the injuries, he had been productive if not his dominant in his 38 games, hitting .299/.395/.448 with a 123 wRC+, 0.8 WAR, and a modest three homers.

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The Manager’s Perspective: Ron Gardenhire on Players from His Past

Ron Gardenhire’s experience in the game extends far beyond his 14 seasons as a big-league manager. The 60-year-old “Gardy” has also spent time as a coach and a minor-league manager — and, before that, he played nine seasons as an infielder in the New York Mets system. Primarily a shortstop, Gardenhire appeared in 285 games with the NL East club between 1981 and -85.

He’s also a lifelong fan of the game. The bulk of Gardenhire’s formative years were spent in small-town Okmulgee, Oklahoma, where he collected bubble-gum cards, religiously tuned in to The Game of the Week, and cheered for his heroes. Then he got to live his dream. Gardenhire played with and against the likes of Dave Kingman, Rusty Staub, and Pete Rose. As he told me recently at Fenway Park, “I’ve been fortunate.”

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Ron Gardenhire: “I was an Okie, so I followed the guys who were from Oklahoma more than anything else. Mickey Mantle, Johnny Bench, Bobby Murcer. I also watched the Dodgers, Don Drysdale and those guys, because my dad was in the military and we were out in Arvin, California when he was overseas in Korea. That’s when I really got into baseball. I collected bubble-gum cards, and all that stuff, with my cousins out there.

“Every Saturday we would hunker down in front of the TV and watch the Game of the Week. In our area — this is when we were back in Oklahoma — a lot of the time it was the Cardinals. They were prominent there. We’d also get to see the Yankees quite a bit, and the Dodgers.

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Players’ View: Learning and Developing a Pitch, Part 12

Pitchers learn and develop different pitches, and they do so at varying stages of their lives. It might be a curveball in high school, a cutter in college, or a changeup in A-ball. Sometimes the addition or refinement is a natural progression — graduating from Pitching 101 to advanced course work — and often it’s a matter of necessity. In order to get hitters out as the quality of competition improves, a pitcher needs to optimize his repertoire.

In the twelfth installment of this series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Matt Boyd, Sam Gaviglio, and Hector Santiago —— on how they learned and/or developed a specific pitch.

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Matt Boyd (Tigers) on His Slider

“My slider has kind of evolved over the years. My junior year [at Oregon State], we had a rain delay at the University of Portland and I was playing catch out in front of the dugout. I asked Nate Yesky, our pitching coach, how to throw one. He taught me how he threw his.

“It turned into this big slurve. I kind of rode that my senior year — it was a big pitch for me — and once I got into pro ball it slowly tightened up. As the years went on, every coach on the Blue Jays worked with me on it, trying to make it more like a cutter. They wanted to make it more high 80s, closer to my fastball, but I could never really get to that pitch.

“I was still trying to figure it out when I got to the big leagues. It wasn’t very consistent. Rich Dubee really helped me out, trying to tighten it up. But again, it would come and go. It wasn’t until later in the year, last year, that it started getting tighter.

“This offseason, I threw with James Paxton a little bit and he showed me how he throws his. We obviously have a much different slider-cutter, but I threw it like his and from there it took on a shape of its own with my own delivery. It’s become a real weapon for me.

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Sunday Notes: Sean Newcomb Has Sneaky Hop

Sean Newcomb has turned a corner. On the heels of an erratic rookie campaign that saw him go 4-9, 4.32 in 100 innings for the Atlanta Braves last year, the 24-year-old former Angels prospect is rapidly establishing himself as one of the best pitchers in the National League. A dozen starts into his second big-league season, Newcomb is 7-1 with a 2.49 ERA and he’s held hitters to a paltry .198 average and just three home runs.

Improved command and confidence have buoyed the young southpaw’s ability to flummox the opposition. His 4.3 walk rate (down from 5.1 last year) remains less than ideal, but he’s no longer the raw, strike-zone-challenged kid that Atlanta acquired from Anaheim in the November 2015 Andrelton Simmons deal. He’s making the transition from thrower to pitcher, and the results speak for themselves.

“I feel more comfortable now,” Newcomb told me prior to a late-May start at Fenway Park. “I had last year’s experience to take into the season, so I’ve felt more settled in. My fastball has also been working well, and I’ve been able to go from there.”

The fastball in question is by no means run-of-the-mill. It’s very good, and not for reasons that jump out at you — at least not in terms of numbers. Newcomb’s velocity (93.3) is right around league-average. His four-seam spin rate is actually lower than average (2,173 versus 2,263), as is his extension (5.6) versus 6.1). Read the rest of this entry »


Top 24 Prospects: Detroit Tigers

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Detroit Tigers. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.

All the numbered prospects here also appear on THE BOARD, a new feature at the site that offers sortable scouting information for every organization. Click here to visit THE BOARD.

Tigers Top Prospects
Rk Name Age High Level Position ETA FV
1 Franklin Perez 20 AA RHP 2021 50
2 Beau Burrows 21 AA RHP 2019 50
3 Christin Stewart 24 AAA DH 2019 50
4 Matt Manning 20 A RHP 2022 50
5 Jake Rogers 22 AA C 2020 45
6 Derek Hill 22 A+ CF 2021 45
7 Daz Cameron 21 A+ CF 2021 45
8 Mike Gerber 25 MLB RF 2018 45
9 Isaac Paredes 19 A+ SS 2021 45
10 Dawel Lugo 23 AAA 2B 2019 45
11 Gregory Soto 23 A+ LHP 2021 45
12 Kyle Funkhouser 24 AA RHP 2019 45
13 Alex Faedo 22 A+ RHP 2020 45
14 Bryan Garcia 22 AAA RHP 2020 45
15 Sergio Alcantara 21 AA SS 2019 40
16 Anthony Castro 22 A+ RHP 2020 40
17 Elvin Rodriguez 20 A RHP 2022 40
18 Jason Foley 22 A+ RHP 2021 40
19 Gerson Moreno 22 AA RHP 2019 40
20 Victor Reyes 23 MLB OF 2018 40
21 Reynaldo Rivera 20 A 1B 2022 40
22 Sam McMillan 19 R C 2023 40
23 Spencer Turnbull 25 AA RHP 2018 40
24 Matt Hall 24 AA LHP 2019 40

50 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Venezuela
Age 20 Height 6’3 Weight 197 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
55/60 45/50 50/55 50/60 45/50

Acquired from Houston as part of the return for Justin Verlander, Perez has advanced command of a four-pitch mix that enabled him to reach Double-A at age 19. He’ll likely have a plus fastball and changeup at peak, while his breaking balls are still works in progress but promising.

Read the rest of this entry »


Job Posting: Tigers Baseball Operations Software Engineer

Position: Software Engineer

Location: Detroit, MI

Job Description:
The Detroit Tigers are currently seeking a Software Engineer. This role will be responsible for development and maintenance of software projects within Baseball Operations. This position will report to the Sr. Software Engineer, Baseball Operations.

Key Responsibilities:

  • Perform general development and maintenance tasks for the upkeep of internally developed software products.
  • Use modern software techniques and best practices in all parts of the software life cycle.
  • Provide feedback, and guide project work conducted by external consultants.
  • Support the integration of baseball analysis into our proprietary tools and applications.
  • Provide coverage for the maintenance of software tools for other developers as situations arise.
  • Assist with the design and development of new software products.
  • Monitor, identify and recommend new or emerging techniques, technologies, and algorithms.
  • Other projects as directed the Baseball Operations leadership team.

Minimum Knowledge, Skills & Abilities:

  • BS degree in Computer Science, Computer Information Systems, similar technical field of study or equivalent real-time experience.
  • Demonstrated knowledge in developing in a Web-based object-oriented product environment.
  • Demonstrated knowledge in working with medium-to-large scale relational databases.
  • Ability to work in all phases of the product lifecycle, from requirements gathering to design, testing, and implementation.
  • Demonstrated experience with UI/UX design.
  • Ability to learn new technologies and techniques as necessary.
  • Familiarity with the sport of baseball, baseball-specific data, modern statistical techniques, and sabermetric analysis.
  • Demonstrated leadership and self-direction.
  • Demonstrated project management, problem-solving, and teaching abilities.
  • Demonstrated ability to communicate difficult and complex concepts to colleagues possessing a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives.

Preferred Knowledge, Skills & Abilities:

  • Demonstrated knowledge of Java and JavaScript.
  • Experience or knowledge in any of the following technologies are a plus:
  • Spring applications
  • Angular JS – Version 1.x
  • Angular 2+
  • React
  • Demonstrated knowledge of .NET technologies.

Working Conditions:

  • Office environment
  • Occasional evening, weekend, and holiday hours may be required

To Apply:
Please apply here.


You Can’t Blame Tanking for the Lack of Competitive Teams

Tanking is a problem. Professional sports like baseball are built on the assumption that both sides are trying to win. Organizations putting forth less than their best efforts hurts the integrity of the sport and provides fans with little reason to engage. That said, the perception of tanking might have overtaken the reality of late. Competitive imbalance is not the same as tanking. Sometimes teams are just bad, even if they are trying not to be.

Tanking concerns are not new. Two years ago, just after the Astros and Cubs had turned their teams around, the Phillies were attempting to dismantle their roster by trading Cole Hamels. The Braves had traded multiple players away from a team that had been competitive. The Brewers, who traded away Carlos Gomez, would soon do the same with Jonathan Lucroy after he rebuilt his trade value.

The Braves, Brewers, and Phillies all sold off whatever assets they could. Two years later, though, those clubs aren’t mired in last place. Rather, they’re a combined 54-37 and projected to win around 80 games each this season in what figures to be a competitive year for each. While the Braves and Phillies could and/or should have done more this offseason to improve their rosters, neither resorted to an extreme level of failure, and the teams are better today than they would have been had they not rebuilt. While accusations of tanking dogged each, none of those clubs descended as far as either the Astros or Cubs. None came close to the NBA-style tank jobs many feared.

One might suspect that I’ve cherry-picked the three clubs mentioned above, purposely selecting teams with surprising early-season success to prop up a point about the relatively innocuous effects of tanking. That’s not what I’ve done, though. Rather, I’ve highlighted the three teams Buster Olney cited by name two years ago — and which Dave Cameron also addressed — in a piece on tanking.

Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Notes: Brendan Rodgers Was Born to Hit

Brendan Rodgers is living up to his billing. Drafted third overall by the Colorado Rockies in 2015 out of a Florida high school, the smooth-swinging shortstop slashed .336/.373/.567 between high-A Lancaster and Double-A Hartford last year. His calling-card bat speed on full display, he crashed 18 home runs in 400 plate appearances.

Rodgers was seemingly born to hit. He’s worked hard to hone his craft, but at the same time, letting his natural talent shine through is his M.O..

“I keep hitting as simple as possible,” explained the talented 21-year-old. “Body movement, stride, how my hands work… everything. I keep all it to a minimum. I try to not make the game harder than it is.”

Mechanically, Rodgers sticks with what he was taught “when he was younger.” He told me that the Rockies haven’t suggested any notable tweaks, and that for him “it’s all about being on time and in rhythm.”

He doesn’t have a leg kick — “just a little stride” — although he did have one back in his formative years. Wanting to feel more balanced, he “shut that down and spread out a little bit,” which he feels helps him stay in his legs better. Approach-wise, he attacks the baseball. Read the rest of this entry »


Effectively Wild Episode 1178: Season Preview Series: Nationals and Tigers

EWFI

Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan banter about another volcanic comment by Scott Boras, the Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez signings and the Rays’ sudden sell-off, MLB’s latest pace-of-play initiatives, why spring training intentions often go awry, and sabermetric trailblazer Sherri Nichols, then preview the 2018 Nationals (23:46) with the Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes, and the 2018 Tigers (50:44) with MLB.com’s Jason Beck.

Read the rest of this entry »


2018 ZiPS Projections – Detroit Tigers

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Detroit Tigers. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
Detroit’s collection of hitters doesn’t fair particularly well by the projections, nor is this particularly surprising: having finally embraced the notion of a rebuild, the club has spent the last six months divesting itself of all mildly attractive assets. Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez, and Justin Upton represented three-quarters of the team’s offensive core least year. They’ve all been traded since mid-July.

What remains is rather modest. Miguel Cabrera (526 PA, 2.0 zWAR) and Nick Castellanos (634, 2.3) receive the only projections of two or more wins. Designated hitter Victor Martinez (446, 0.3) is a replacement-level player. All other starters occupy a spot somewhere with that range. This is a below-average group.

That’s not to say there aren’t items of interest. Overall, the team is younger. Third baseman Jeimer Candelario (596, 1.7), acquired from the Cubs in the Justin Wilson trade, earns a nearly league-average forecast. Also, the club appears likely to field one of its best defenses for some time. Leonys Martin (507, 1.7) is projected for +9 runs in center field. Dixon Machado (496, 0.8) is a +4 shortstop playing second base. Miscast as a center fielder, Mikie Mahtook (428, 0.7) is probably an asset in left.

Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Notes: Brady Aiken’s Career Is Nearing a Crossroads

When I talked to Brady Aiken in August, he claimed that he wasn’t concerned with his radar gun readings, nor was he worried about ”trying to please people with velocity.” He was just trying to get outs any way he could, “regardless of whether (he was) throwing 100 or throwing 80.”

Two years after the Indians drafted him in the first round — and two years post Tommy John surgery — Aiken spent his summer pumping low-octane gas. A heater that touched 96 in high school was now hovering in the high 80s, and only occasionally inching north of 90. Other numbers were a concern as well. The 21-year-old southpaw had a 4.77 ERA and walked 101 batters in 132 innings for low-A Lake County.

Aiken was amiable yet defensive when addressing his performance and his velocity. With the caveat that “everyone wants to throw hard,” he allowed that he’s not where he once was. And while he’s not sure what to expect going forward, he sees positives in what is hopefully a temporary backslide.

“I’ve had to learn to become more of a pitcher, because I can’t just blow balls by guys anymore,” said Aiken. “At this level, you’re also not facing high school or college guys — this is their job, and you have to be better at your job than they are at theirs. If you can command the ball well at 90-92 you should be able to find holes in bats, and be able to get outs.” Read the rest of this entry »


Scouting the Return for Ian Kinsler

Late last night, the Angels turned an 18-year-old whom they’d originally signed for $125,000 and their eighth-rounder from 2016 into second baseman Ian Kinsler. Below are brief scouting reports on new Tigers prospects Wilkel Hernandez and Troy Montgomery.

Hernandez is an 18-year-old Venezuelan righty who spent most of the year at the team’s Tempe complex, first in extended spring training and then in the Arizona Rookie League. He was one of several young, projectable pitching prospects who helped compose the burgeoning underbelly of Anaheim’s farm system. One of the others, RHP Elvin Rodriguez, was also acquired by Detroit as the player to be named later in the Justin Upton trade.

Read the rest of this entry »


Ian Kinsler Is a Big Upgrade for a Minor Price

Now armed with Shohei Ohtani, things have changed for the Angels. It was clear coming into the offseason that the team could use some help at second base. But with Ohtani in the fold, there’s been some extra urgency, as it’s become much easier to see the Angels making a charge for the playoffs. Earlier on Wednesday, according to our projections and depth charts, the Angels’ second-base situation was tied for the worst in the game. To address that, they’ve traded with the team that was ranked in eighth. The move:

Angels get:

Tigers get:

Hernandez is 18; he’s a lottery ticket. Montgomery is 23; he’s also a lottery ticket. Neither is a premium prospect, by any stretch of the word. The Tigers were never going to extract a high price for a guy in his mid-30s entering his walk year. Kinsler did just see his WAR drop by more than three wins. That, though, probably overstates the reality of what happened. And Kinsler seems like a solid upgrade for a team attempting to get a firm grip on one of the wild cards.

Over the past three seasons, Kinsler has seen his wOBA go from .335 to .356 to .313. When you see something like that for a 35-year-old, you get worried that maybe the wheels are coming off. And yet, by expected wOBA, Kinsler has gone from .314 to .328 to .326. There’s no difference at all between 2016 and 2017, and he looks the same by his contact rate. Kinsler didn’t lose his bat-to-ball skills. He didn’t lose any exit velocity. Kinsler, surely, isn’t at his peak, but it doesn’t seem like he’s coming off a major decline. He’s something like a league-average hitter. He does a little bit of everything across the board.

And then, in the field, over the past three seasons, Kinsler has rated as the best defensive second baseman by DRS. He ranks as the fourth-best defensive second baseman by UZR. He was strong again in 2017, and while I’ll concede that the defensive metrics can miss something with defensive alignments no longer so traditional, Kinsler would appear to be a plus in the field. He’ll even still steal the occasional base. Kinsler hasn’t been a sub-2 WAR player since debuting in 2006.

Kinsler isn’t going to last forever, and he’ll never be mistaken for a Jose Altuve, but for a modest cost, the Angels probably just got better by a couple of wins. And they should have the flexibility to do something at third base or in the bullpen, if they can’t address both. Only a month or two ago, the Angels seemed like they were trapped in between. Now they look like the fourth- or fifth-best team in the American League, with an expanding gap between the haves and the have-nots. Sure, it might not have worked without Ohtani. But Ohtani has landed. He’s on the Angels, and he’s made the picture all the more rosy. Thanks in part to Ohtani, a move like adding Kinsler could push the club into a playoff spot. Billy Eppler is rather enjoying this holiday season.


Let’s Dream Up a Michael Fulmer Trade

The Yankees are currently in the process of shoving all their chips towards the middle of the table, going all-in on their young core of premium position-player talent. Trading for Giancarlo Stanton was part of that effort. Even trading away Bryan Mitchell in order not to pay Chase Headley was part of it, too. It allowed the club to situate themselves at something like $30 million under the tax threshold. Now there’s a link forming between the Tigers and the Yankees, with Michael Fulmer as the prize. Let’s dream this one up.

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