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Thursday, July 31, 2003

Just a quick post, as I'm quite tired after seeing the Grateful Dead. My esteemed colleagues in the Mets blog community have been talking lately about what to do with Tom Glavine. So i figured I'd give my two cents. First off, Glavine is a smart guy, and he knows when he's gotta say certain things. So I don't believe a word of his "I'm happy in New York" speeches. You me and everyone else knows he'd be happier in Atlanta right now, looking forward to the post season. I don't doubt that he really was insulted by how things got handled in Atlanta, but Glavine's a strong union guy, and he was going to take top dollar to help keep the market up, no matter where it came from. I don't think he dislikes New York, but he's gotta hate the losing. As to what we should do with him..

Wecan forget about trading him. Never happen. Any speculation on who might want him, what we could get, or how much of his contract we'd have to pay is pointless. Tom Glavine will not be traded. This was Fred Wilpon's deal, and everyone knew it. He was the one who wanted Glavine, he was the one who "courted" him, he was the one that upped the Phillies offer. Wilpon is greatly concerned about the Mets image, and there standing in the community ( besides being the joke of baseball, and new york of course). He loves respected veterans. Just look at the influence that Senator Leiter and John Franco have had the last couple of years. Glavine is the poster child for the good image Wilpon desires. He is extremely intelligent, and deals very well with the media, always eloquent and always thinking before he speaks. He is a clubhouse leader, and among the most respected men in baseball. This is reflected in his standing in the union, where he is among the most influential players. If memory serves me correctly, i believe Glavine is actually the National Leauge's player representative. He's very involved in the communites and charities, has never had an off the field incident, and is a strong family man. He's the kind of baseball player you want your children to look up to, the kind of baseball player Fred Wilpon loves, and he very well may wind up in Cooperstown. Wilpon personally went after Glavine like he never has any player. He signed him to be Ambassador Glavine just as much as for his pitching ability, and probably envisions him staying in the organization as a coach or in the front office. There's just no way Fred Wilpon will ever allow the trade of a player he so personally and publicly courted and signed. Especially not when he sees alot of value in that player beyond pitching.

Another option that's been discussed is using Glavine in relief. I don't like this idea. There's nothing to suggest that there would be any value to it, or that Glavine will pitch any better as a reliever. Given his success as a starter, he certainly does'nt have problems the second or third time through a line up. He does'nt throw hard to begin with, so there's no concern about a drop off in velocity. It also means he's probably ill suited to be a late inning guy. Most top set up men and closers are power pitchers that strike out alot of guys. Not only does it give an opponent less chances to get baserunners and start a rally, but it helps them get out of tight situations they may be brought into, where any ball hit could score a run. Similar to Greg Maddux, when he's at his best hitters make alot of contact against Glavine, but they wind up as soft flies or weak grounders. He makes his living as a pitcher by not allowing those baserunners in the first place, not by reaching back to blow a guy away when a groundball to second will score a run. This makes him best sutied to be a starter. In a relief role, he'd have to be used at the start of innings to be at his most effective. I'm not saying that Glavine could'nt handle a relief role, I'm sure he could, but i just dont see any reason why it would help his pitching. He's simply not the type for it, not in his pitching, and not in his track record. As best i can remember, all the pitchers that have improved signifigantly after going to the pen have been younger players that did'nt live up to expectations as a starter. Glavine has always thrived as a starter, so it's doubtful that his current role as one is hurting his pitching. Even if a move to relief would mean a minor improvement, it would'nt make sense, because of how much more valuable a starter is. He'd have to dramatically improve to make it worthwhile. There's a reason Smoltz is the only succesful starter to convert to a closing role since Eckersley, and he's only in the pen in an attempt to keep him healthy. So unless Glavine winds up getting major surgery, and needs his innings limited, i think he's best off remaining a starter.

Speaking of surgery, the real question about Glavine right now is what's going on with his elbow. I think this is the real cause of his problems, and that once he's healthy, he'll be alot closer to the Tom Glavine that beat us for years. That of course, would solve this problem on its own. First though, he needs to actually get healthy. If he's hurting then he needs to admit it. The desire and will to play through pain is admirable in any player, but only when your playing for something meaningful. Otherwise it's just stupid. The Mets season is lost. Glavine knows it, all of us know it. If he's hurting then he needs to get the elbow looked at, and if necessary shut it down for the season. We need him healthy next year in the quest for respectability, and in 2005, when if all goes well we could start to contend again.
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Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Sorry for the lack of posts the last two days. Yours truly was off seeing the grateful dead in ft lauderdale. I'll be seeing them in my home town of tampa tonight, but im back in town already, so i'll try and write an article in the afternoon before i head to the show.
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Sunday, July 27, 2003

Today was my favorite Hall of Fame induction ceremony in years. It would have been alot better if he were going in as a Met, but either way i was really happy to see Gary Carter get in. He was never really among my favorite Mets, but it was great to see someone get in from those Mets teams that so much of my childhood was devoted to watching(I'll be 22 on October 3rd, you do the math). I was quite literally obsessed with baseball in those days, much more so then i am now. Most of my memories from my early childhood surround sitting in my living room watching the Mets teams of Gooden, Strawberry, Mookie Wilson, Carter et al. So seeing him go in today had some sentimental value for me. More importantly, Carter deserves it. He is without a doubt among the greatest catchers of all time. 2092 hits, 324 home runs, 1225 RBI, 11 All Star games, 3 Gold Gloves, and 1 World Series ring. His career line of .262 .335 .439 does'nt look very impressive, but it's similar to other hall of fame catchers, and he played in an era which heavily favored pitchers. The only thing that keeps those numbers from looking much much better is the low batting average. Carter had very good power and plate discipline, and was an excellent hitter for his time. He was also a very good catcher, winning three straight Gold Gloves from 1980-1982. Of course, the real test for a Hall of Famer is how he stacks up against the best at his position. The most similar players in history to Gary Carter, according to the invaluable Baseball Reference are, in order, Johnny Bench, Lance Parrish, Carlton Fisk, and Yogi Berra. That's the three greatest catchers of all time ( not counting Piazza or Pudge, since they're not really relevant to this) and an 8 time All Star. I think that speaks for itself. So congratulations to Gary Carter as he takes his rightful place in Cooperstown. Also to Eddie Murray, who actually played rather well for us those two years, despite how awful the teams were. I don't think anyone's ever doubted his credentials, so i won't review them here.

On to today's main topic, another piece in my continuing series on the Mets young players and where the organization is going ( For my new readers, you can find the first several parts of this article in my archives, beginning on Sunday July 6th).

1B Craig Brazell Bats: L Throws: R

Craig Brazell does'nt know how to take a walk, but he can flat out hit. Drafted out of high school in the fifth round of the 1998 draft, he has excellent natural power and handles the bat well. In 532 at bats last year between St Lucie and Binghamton he hit 22 home runs and and had 101 RBI, which led the entire Mets organization. In 402 at bats in St Lucie he hit .266 .292 .463 with 16 HR, 25 2B, 3 3B, 82 RBI, 78 K, and 13 BB. It should be noted that the Florida State Leauge greatly depresses offense. He was promoted to AA Binghamton of the Eastern Leauge, and in 130 at bats saw all his numbers rise. He hit .308 .343 .508 with 6 HR, 8 2B, 19 RBI 28 K and 1 BB. The K:BB rate is just awful, but the XBH% of 39 over the two levels is superb. He returned to AA this year, and has continued to improve. In 345 at bats he is hitting .313 .350 .510 with 15 HR, 19 2B, 2 3B, 66 RBI, 71 K, and 18 BB. His plate discipline is still bad, but at least it's improving. His XBH% has dropped a bit to 33, but that's to be expected given the raise in batting average from the Florida State Leauge. He simply has more hits to account for, but his IsoP (Isolated Power, Slugging - Batting Average) is the same 197 it was in his time in the FSL last year. Brazell is eigth in the Eastern Leauge in batting average, tied for fourth in home runs, and is fourth in slugging%. Barring a Sammy Sosa like transformation, he's never going to walk much, but the kid can definately hit, and has real power. If he keeps his average up he should be able to maintain a decent enough OBP.

As you would expect from a lefty slugger, Brazell destroys right handed pitching. In 233 at bats against right handers he is hitting .330 with 9 HR, 15 2B, 2 3B, 42 K and 13 BB. That of course, is superb. An average of .330 speaks for itself, and he has an IsoP against righties of .198. Even his K:BB rate, while still bad, is a good deal better at 3.2/1. He does'nt hit lefties nearly as well, but his very good bat control helps him hold his own. In 112 at bats against lefties this year he is hitting .277 with 6 HR, 4 2B, 29K, and 5 BB. That's not very good, but it's not terrible, and it's better then alot of left handed power hitters. The 5.8/1 K:BB ratio is beyond bad, but the .277 average is decent, and he's hitting them for power, with an IsoP of .196( anyone else noticing a trend in his isolated power?) If he can keep that up, it's good enough to keep him from being a platoon guy.

Brazell does'nt run well, and is adequate at best at first base, but either of those skills is really just a bonus from a first basemen. All they need to be able to do is hit, and Brazell can certainly do that. He's got good bat skills, and has hit for a high average so far. He's got very good power, consistently posting a slugging % about 200 points higher then his batting average. The only thing keeping Brazell from being a top level hitting prospect is his lack of plate discipline. His strike outs are high, but not to bad for a power hitter. He simply does'nt draw enough walks, so even with the good batting average, his on base percantage is medicore at best. If he can continue to hit .300 plus with what would be 25-30 home runs over a full season, then noone's ever going to care, but very few guys continue to do that at higher levels with such poor plate discipline. Alfonso Soriano and Garret Anderson are rare cases, and both of them are far better all around athletes then Brazell is. Anderson also strikes out considerably less. Noone doubts that this kid can hit, and he could be a very effective run producer in the no 5 slot without ever taking a walk. The problem is that the smarter, better pitchers of AAA, and certainly the majors, are eventually going to learn that they don't have to throw this guy strikes. Then it's not just a matter of walks and on base percentage. If he's swinging at bad pitches and constantly falling behind in the count, then he's never going to see any good pitches, and probably not going to hit period. Once that happens, it's up to Brazell to make the adjustments in his game, and exercise better patience, and judgement at the plate. To his credit, his K:BB rate is improving, but he still has a long way to go. The Mets can see it as easily as we can, and i would guess this is the very reason why his excellent hitting has'nt gotten him promoted yet. They probably have legitimate concerns that he won't continue to hit at higher levels without improving his control of the strike zone. Of course, this is the time of year for promotions, to get prospects experience at the next level for next season, so maybe one is coming soon. He'll be 24 next year, at which point a true prospect should at least be starting AAA. I have mixed opinions on how he'll do there. Double A is often a dividing line of sorts for prospects, it's where statistics really start to become meaningful, and good indicators of future production. So the fact that he's been one of the best hitters in the Eastern Leauge this year is a very strong mark in his favor. As i said earlier, the only doubt about his future success is whether or not he'll ever see a pitch to hit once the more advanced competition figures out they don't need to throw him strikes. My gut feeling on this is that he's to good with the bat, and has been to good in the Eastern Leauge not to hit at AAA. It's after that that i really have concerns. The odds of true success in the majors are slim with a K:BB ratio that bad. He might still hit decently, and at the least should be effective playing against righties in a platoon, but i just can't see him continuing to be a .300 30 100 guy unless his pitch recognition continues to improve. If it ever gets to an adequate level, i have no doubt that Brazell will be a feared middle of the order hitter. If it does'nt then the most we can hope for is a no 5 or 6 run producer who can collect 100 RBI on a good team. Of course, that's still pretty good, but it's also unlikely if he does'nt learn at least some discpline at the plate. It's more likely he'd wind up as a platoon player and pinch hitter.

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Saturday, July 26, 2003

In this space soon: A review of 1B prospect Craig Brazell.
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Friday, July 25, 2003

Another quick hit:

Aaron Gleeman, who runs the excellent Aaron's Baseball Blog wrote an article a few weeks ago pointing out Joe Morgan's propensity to stay stupid things at times. This came to mind just now as i started to read his article on the trade deadline for ESPN.com. The first part is on the Expos, in which Morgan makes the following statement. "Owned by Major League Baseball -- basically, MLB saved the franchise last year -- the Expos already have baseball's lowest payroll. But they can't add more salary." Joe Morgan was a great baseball player, and i have no doubt that he is a smart man, but this is without a doubt one of the dumbest things i have ever heard. Major Leauge Baseball saved the Expos? Please! The Expos had an owner, albeit an unhappy one, but how is that any worse then where they are now? I'm sure most of us rememebr this, but here's what happened. The Boston Red Sox had to be sold. There were several partnerships bidding for the team, one of which, the eventual winner, was led by Florida Marlins owner John Henry. Henry was already a member of the baseball fraternity, and Bud Selig favored him getting the team. I don't want to say Selig was completely behind it, because although another set of bidders reportedly offered more money, Henry's finances and ability to support a major leauge team were already well established. That probably made him the front runner anyway, but Selig definately pressured the representative of the Yawkee Trust, whose name escapes me right now, to sell to Henry. In order to make this work though, baseball needed a buyer for the Florida Marlins on short notice. In comes Jeffery Loria, owner of the Montreal Expos. Loria had wanted out of Montreal for awhile, but could'nt ever find a buyer. So Loria gave Henry $158 million for the Marlins, and then sold the Expos to the other 29 owners for $120 million, leaving them as wards of the commisioner's office. They're still there because the only people that want to buy the Expos want to move them to another city, and as yet none of those cities will commit to building a new stadium. Major Leauge Baseball did'nt save the Expos. Quite the opposite, baseball is rather obviously responsible, for the current Expos mess. Henry did'nt have to buy the Expos, there were several other sets of very rich people offering ungodly amounts of money for that right. In fact, in any decently run business Henry never would have been allowed to buy the Red Sox unless either he or Loria found a buyer from outside baseball. This happened for one reason, because Henry was an insider and Selig wanted him to get the Red Sox. Quite simply, baseball created this mess, and i don't know what Morgan could have been thinking when he wrote that article

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A quick update to my last post.

My thanks to one of my readers, Avkash, for providing this list.

South Atlantic Leauge Park Factors, as calculated by Clay Davenport of Baseball Prospectus:

Aberdeen......1000 (neutral)
Asheville.....1105
Augusta.......993
Columbas(GA)..1009
Columbia......983
Charleston(SC)997
Charleston(WV)1002
Delmarva......928
Greensboro....1026
Hagerstown....1024
Hickory.......1048
Kannapolis....986
Lakewood......925
Macon.........1001
Savannah......946
South Georgia.937

Columbia is Capital City. A 983 rating means it does favor pitchers slightly, but it's such a small amount that it's close to meaningless. So it's essentially a neutral park. That's good news for Kazmir. The fact still remains that his numbers are signifigantly better at home, but it's not because he's playing in a great pitchers park. More then likely, the small sample size is to blame. We're talking about less then 40 innings here. 1 or 2 bad road starts in such a small period could make the difference in ERA, WHIP, and K/9 look bigger then it really is. It does'nt really matter what the cause is though. The only thing that would give us reason to doubt his overall statistics was if those amazing home numbers were a result of heavy park effects. But they're not, his home park is neutral. Kazmir really has been every bit as dominant as his numbers say.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2003

You know the season is'nt going well when a prospect being promoted to high A is the best reason you've had to be happy this baseball season. But then, Scott Kazmir is'nt your every day prospect. The most important thing about this promotion is it may speed up the timetable for Kazmir to get to Shea. There is still enough baseball left this season that if Kazmir continues to excel, he'll likely be moved straight to AA to begin next year. He could then get service time in AAA during the second half, and quite possibly be ready for the show by sometime in 2005. If he really impresses Mets brass, he could even begin the 2005 season in the Mets starting rotation. I still see that as unlikely, but Kazmir's talent is so immense that anything is possible. I know i already wrote on him, but i just can't help it, here's a recap. He's 19, a lefty, and came out with high school with a fastball that sits at 95-96 with movement, a nasty late breaking curve, and a polished slider. The fastball has been clocked as high as 99. To their credit the mets have emphasized the developement of a changeup, instead of allowing him to simply blow hitters away with the other three pitches. He worked with Bobby Ojeda in Brooklyn and the change developed almost immediately. It's not a plus pitch just yet( or would'nt be in the majors i should say, he's been using it as an out pitch in low A) , but it's getting there. To go along with the nasty stuff, he's already got good control. It's not superb, but it's very very good for a 19 year old who throws in the mid to high nineties. Anyway, on to his promotion.

There was no doubt he earned it, but lets take a look at his low A numbers anyway.

76.1 IP, 50 H, 20 ER, 105 K, 28 BB, 2.36 ERA 1.02 WHIP, 12.42 K/9, 3.31 BB/9. 3.75 K/BB

That's nothing short of dominant. However, Kazmir may not have been quite as good at low A as those numbers suggest. Here are his home/away splits for this season.

Home: 37.1 IP, 17 H, 6 ER, 58 K, 14 BB 1.45 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 14.07 K/9, 3.39 BB/9, 4.14 K/BB

Away: 39 IP, 33 H, 14 ER, 47 K, 14 BB 3.23 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 10.84 K/9, 3.23 BB/9, 3.35 K/BB

So at home, Kazmir has been lights out. All of the numbers are ridiculous, especially that 0.83 WHIP. On the road however, Kazmir has merely been good. His strikeouts are less extraordinary, but still high, and he's walking people at about the same rate. Both of those are good signs, but he's giving up almost twice as many hits on the road, and more then twice the runs. We saw in my last article that Aaron Baldiris's batting stats are signifignatly lower at home, so it seems likely that Capital City is a pitcher's park, relative to the Sally Leauge. So the question then becomes, which is more representative of there true performance. Is Capital City playing in a great pitcher's park, or is the Sally Leauge a great hitter's leauge, and Capital City's field is neutral or only a slight pitcher's park. Unfortuantely, i dont have the answer for this right now, and in 20 minutes of research trying to answer that question the one thing i've learned is that it's going to take me a lot longer then 20 minutes to find it. Unless someone knows of a source that's already rated minor leauge parks, i'm going to have to look up and run a LOT of numbers. It will take some time, but i promise i will come up with an answer, and i promise as soon as i know, you will too.

I would like to say, that even if i find that the Sally leauge is not a great hitter's leauge, and Kazmir has not been quite as dominant as his over all numbers suggest, it does'nt make him any less of a prospect. For one, it's not as if his road numbers are bad. They're very good, just far more ordinary then his home and overall numbers. More importantly, the most meaningful statistic for pitchers in the low minors are there strike out and walk rates. They are much better indicator's of future success then anything else. The other numbers can be useful for evaluating performance, but are not of true importance till he reaches AA. Kazmir's K rate is outstanding, and his walk rate is very, very good, so his chances of continued success at the next level are extremely high. I expect him to continue to pitch well at St Lucie. We might see some drop off in his stats, but i doubt his K rate will drop enough to not still be extraordinary, and given that the Florida State Leauge is known to favor pitchers, it's even possible his stats won't drop off at all.

I'll be doing research on the Sally Leauge's effect on stats in my spare time, and when i have the answer i will post my findings.



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Reports say Scott Kazmir has been promoted to high a St Lucie! More coming soon
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Monday, July 21, 2003

One note before this article. Anyone looking for minor leauge statistics, start using CNNSI.com instead of ESPN. They offer left/right and home/road splits, as well as situational stats ( .avg w/ runners in scoring position, etc.) all the way down to low A ball. I can't even begin to describe how useful this is for me in writing these reports, and for anyone in evaluating these prospects. I'm half considering re writing the articles on which i relied heavily on minor leauge statistics but did not have the splits available to me.

The second, lesser known of our two third base prospects is Aaron Baldiris. He was signed as an international free agent in 2002 after impressing scouts in the Venezualen Summer Leauge by hitting .353 .497 .570 with 7 HR, 35 RBI, 37 BB and 23 K in 157 at bats. He missed all of 2001 recovering from elbow surgery, and some time last year due to a shoulder celebration, but came back to hit .327 .390 .419 in 217 at bats in rookie ball. He earned a late season promotion to low A Capital City of the Sally Leauge, hitting .303 in 33 at bats. Baldiris has continued the strong play this year in the Sally Leauge. in 338 at bats this year he is hitting .308 with 5 HR, 16 2B, 4 3B, 60 RBI, 12 SB, 47 BB, and 44 SO. OBP and SLG% are not available for low A, but from doing the math myself i can tell you he is slugging .423. I can't calculate his exact OBP because i don't have his HBP and SF numbers, but his OBP not counting them is .392 and chances are they don't make a signifigant difference.

He's not hitting for much power, but all the other numbers are outstanding, and the deeper you look the better his numbers get. Baldiris, who hits from the right side, hits lefties exceptionally well, but still holds his own against right handers. In 85 at bats this year vs LHP, he is hitting .388 with 2 HR, 5 2B, 17 RBI, 8 BB and 6 SO. In 262 at bats vs RHP he is hitting .282 with 4 HR, 11 2B, 4 3B, 45 RBI, 39 BB and 40 SO. The numbers vs righties are'nt great, but they're good enough for his age and level to be a mark in his favor towards future developement. His home/away splits are an even bigger point in his favor. As we all know, playing half your games in one park can effect a player's stats, often signifigantly. In this case, it appears as if his home park is hurting his stats a good deal. In 168 at bats at home, Baldiris is hitting .274 with 2 HR, 9 2B, 3 3B, 31 RBI 22 BB, and 29 SO. In 179 at bats away from home he is hitting .341 with 4 HR, 7 2B, 1 3B, 31 RBI, 25 BB, and 17 SO. Jason Phillips is evidence that splits can sometimes be very odd things( see my article on Friday), but much more often then not road statistics are a much better indicator of a player's ability because of the effects that at bats all in one park can have on stats. Everything we see here suggests that Baldiris is actually performing at a level above his overall statistics.

I'm a big believer that if there really are such a thing as "clutch hitters" that they are extremely rare, because in most cases situational stats vary greatly for players from year to year. Someone who hits .375 with RISP this year may hit .280 next year. That said, Baldiris has defiantely been clutch in 2003. In 13 AB with the bases loaded he's hitting .385 with 13 RBI, in 123 AB with RISP he's hitting .309 with 55 RBI, and in 49 AB with RISP/2 outs he is hitting .327 with 20 RBI. None of this really means anything towards his future developement, but it's definately nice to see.

As evidenced by his low number of strike outs, Baldiris handles the bat extremely well and can be expected to continue to hit for a high average. He has excellent plate discipline and the superb K:BB ratio bodes very well for his future. The only knock on his hitting so far is that he has'nt displayed much power. The shoulder injury in 2002 may have robbed him of some of his pop. He's hit a decent amount of doubles this year, but his 24 XBH% is a bit low, suggesting that his power is limited. It does still have time to develope tho, as Baldiris is just 20. He already plays third well, and has a strong arm. He has good range, and should be a solid defensive third basemen. He has good speed and is a decent baserunner, but has not yet developed into a good base stealer. With some work on that base stealing form, he could steal a fair number of bases over the course of a season.

So, aside from his power, everything we've seen from Baldiris is superb. The question that we have to ask ourselves then is, " Is Aaron Baldiris better then David Wright?" There defense and baserunning are basically a wash, so it all depends on who is the better hitter. Baldiris is only a month younger then Wright, so he is essentialy a year older at low A then Wright was. That gives him a bit of an advantage. His stats however, are a good bit better then Wrights. Wright has displayed more power, and in all likelihood will continue to do so. On the other hand, Baldiris has hit for a signifigantly higher batting average, and will likely continue to do so. In line with that, Wright has better bat speed and natural power to all fields, but Baldiris handles the bat much better, and is the more reliable hitter. Both walk a great deal, but Baldiris strikes out alot less, resulting in a far better K:BB ratio. He also is more developed in hitting right handed pitching then Wright, who as we saw earlier is still struggling vs fellow righties. Despite the lack of power, i think you have to give the current edge to Baldiris. This is just my personal opinion of course, but i think that his advantage in batting average and K:BB ratio outweigh Wright's advantage in power. Home runs and extra base hits are a wonderful thing, but i'll take a guy with a high average and limited power over a guy with a low average and good power any day. I think the clincher is that Baldiris keeps his strike outs down to go along with the large number of walks, while Wright still swings and misses too often. Basically it seems to me that Wright is still struggling to find his stroke, surviving on his natural power and good batting eye. Meanwhile Baldiris is excelling, and the only thing that could improve, his power, can only improve naturally as his body fills out. The lack of it is not due to poor performance by him, as opposed to Wright's batting average. Given the choice, i would take the player who is already makign full use of his skills, then the player who might have more natural ability, but has'nt yet made full use of it. Until Wright starts hitting for a better average, and hitting righties better, i believe Aaron Baldiris is the better prospect.
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Now for our two third base prospects. Let's begin with David Wright

The more heralded of the two, Wright was considered one of the best high school bats in the 2001 draft when we took him in the supplemental first round, the so called "sandwich" picks. He has made a fairly succesful conversion to pro ball, posting solid but not spectacular numbers. He played his first full season ball last year with 135 games in the low A Sally Leauge, hitting .266 .367 .401 in 496 at bats with 11 HR, 30 2B, 1 3B and 93 RBI. He took an outstanding 76 walks, but struck out 114 times to go with it. He moved up to high A St Lucie this year, and in 348 at bats he's hitting 2.56 with 10 HR 28 2B 1 3B and 55 RBI. Once again he has taken a superb 50 walks, but has struck out to often, racking up 68 whiffs. It should be noted that the Florida State leauge suppreses offense, so his average is'nt quite as bad as it seems, but when combined with excessive strike outs it likely means that he is indeed struggling to make contact at times. When he does hit the ball though, he hits it hard. 39 of 89 of his hits are for extra bases, good for an outstanding .438 XBH%, an excellent measure of power potential for young players.

Wright is a pure line drive hitter with excellent bat speed and the ability to drive the ball well to all fields. He has an advanced understanding of hitting and the strike zone, rarely swinging at bad pitches and always ready to take a walk when the pitcher offers it. Scouts believe he'll develope 20-30 home run power, something we might be seeing the first signs of this year, as his home runs doubles and XBH% have all gone up from last year. However, I am a bit worried that he may be trying to hard to hit for power, resulting in the low averages. His scouting reports suggest that he handles the bat well and should hit for at least a decent average, but it has'nt shown so far in his professional career. He is also striking out far to often for a player who does'nt swing at bad pitches, raising the possibility that he is trying to swing for the fences to often, raising his power numbers but hurting his average and causing the strike outs. This is just a theory of course, there are a number of possible causes, including that this is just the type of player he is. Jeromy Burnitz is a good example of a player who does'nt hit for a high average and strikes out alot, but hits for enough power and takes enough walks to compensate for it. I think its more likely tho that Wright simply needs more time to refine his skills, he is just 20 after all. He'll never win a batting title, but scouting reports say he should hit for a pretty good average, and his .266 average last year is'nt as bad as it looks. Wright batted just .235 in April but came back strong to lead his team in doubles, total bases, and RBI despite slumping again late in the season. He hit very well through the middle part of the season, and the late season slump can probably be attributed to a lack of stamina. He is still just a kid, and is adjusting to full season ball, so that is not a long term concern. The biggest thing in Wright's favor is his patience and pitch recognition. This is often the primary factor in a hitters developement, and in most cases a strong K:BB ratio is the best indicator of future success for a hitting prospect. His mature approach to hitting will serve him well as he moves up the system, helping him adjust against increasingly more difficult competition. The strike outs are a bit troubling, but to his credit Wright is making progress, striking out at a slightly lower rate this year then last. He'll probably never take a small amount of strikeouts, but his great walk rate means if he continues this trend, he could wind up among the very few power hitters with K:BB ratio of 1:1 or better. The part of his offensive game that needs the most improvement is his hitting of right handed pitching. In 102 at bats vs lefties this year Wright is hitting a very solid .294 with 5 HR, 9 2B, and he has struck out 17 times. Against right handers is where Wright has problems. In 246 at bats he's hitting just .240 with 5 HR, 19 2B, and 1 3B with 51 strike outs. So against righties he's hitting 54 points lower, has the same 5 home runs in 144 more at bats, is doubling less often, and striking out at a higher rate. He'll need to improve those numbers against right handed pitching to be an everyday player in the big leauges.

He's not very fast, but Wright makes the most of his speed with smart baserunning. He won't repeat his 21 steals last year against higher competition, but should be good for enough to make it worth mentioning as a skill, perhaps 10-15 over the course of a major leauge season. His defense still needs some work, but he made just 19 errors last year, a decent figure for low A ball and has shown good range and a strong arm. Defensive ability is hard to judge in the low minors anyway, and it's best to trust the scouting reports at this point, which say he has all the skills to play a very good third. Similar to his offensive skills, Wright will probably never be a gold glover, but should be an above average defender at the hot corner.

Comparisons to Scott Rolen are a stretch, but Wright has the potnetial to be a very good major leauger, and one of the better third basemen in the game. As with all players, we'll know much more when he gets to AA. The FSL always reduces offensive numbers, but his batting average is still to low because of his struggles against righties. For now all the surrounding skills say he is a good hitter, and that's all that is important in the low minors, but if he does'nt improve his contact he could find himself hitting .230 in AA next year, and then people will stop pointing out the power and patience and wonder why he is'nt hitting. He's not quite ready for AA yet, and if his average against right handers does'nt climb a good bit during the rest of the season, I'd recomend letting Wright start next year back in the Florida State Leauge.

Aaron Baldiris coming soon...
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Sunday, July 20, 2003

Before i write the promised article on Wright and Baldiris, there is something else i feel obligated to talk about. If baseball managers could be charged with criminal negligence, then Dusty Baker would need one hell of a lawyer. In a continued misuse of the Cubs young arms, Kerry Wood was allowed to throw 130 pitches last night. After nine innings in the Florida heat, here is how Wood himself described his condition towards the end of the game, "Tired. Beat. Drained. Dizzy," he said. "I was running on fumes at the end." That's not what you want to hear from your 26 year old ace after a start. There are some people in Oakland's organization that would go into seizures if they heard that from one of their big 3, and it was'nt after a World Series game. What was Kerry Wood allowed to do this for? To close out a complete game two hitter. This is the most common abuse of young pitchers. Risking injury and fatigue by allowing them to throw far to many pitches in pursuit of a nice, but completely meaningless accomplishment. If Kerry Wood had been working on a no hitter then you let him pitch, but he was'nt. He was trying to finish a two hitter, certainly a very nice game, but far from special. Perhaps your thinking that Dusty does'nt have confidence in his bullpen, and he was trying to hold onto that 1-0 lead. It might not have had anything to do with a complete game two hitter. Perhaps, and at least if that's the case then Baker was concerned with winning and a pennant race, not a meaningless accomplishment, but it would'nt be any less hurtful to his pitcher. While noone has ever been able to produce hard statistical proof of what effects a young pitchers risk of injury, for many years the best minds in baseball have agreed that the worst thing you can do to a young pitcher is let him throw an excessive number of pitches. Letting any 26 year old throw 130 pitches in a start borders on abuse, but this situation is much worse then that. In Wood's last start(granted, it was ten days before), also against the Phish, he was allowed to throw 129 pitches in a complete game 3 hitter. Two starts and ten days before that, he threw 126 pitches in eight innings against the White Sox. In 20 starts so far this year, Wood has been allowed to go above 120 pitches 8 times( 40%), topping out at a ridiculous 141 on May 10th.

This is CLEARLY abusing a young arm, but once again, the situation is even worse then that. This workload would be harmful to a 26 year old pitcher who'd never had a history of arm problems. Wood, as im sure you know, missed the entire 1999 season after undergoing what is commonly called Tommy John surgery. Basically, it is major reconstructive elbow surgery. He then missed starts due to injury in both the 2000 and 2001 seasons. Last year was the first full season of his career in which he did not miss time because of arm trouble. Now along comes Dusty Baker, who admits to not liking pitch counts, and instead of Kerry Wood getting the careful monitoring and limitation of his innings and pitches that he needs, he is allowed to conitinually throw an excessive number of pitches. He is on pace to pitch 226 innings and make 12 + starts with 120 or more pitches thrown. He's a young ace with a history of arm problems, being treated like a veteran workhorse that's been doing this for years. Simply put, Dusty Baker is putting Wood at an extreme risk of injury. I hope for Wood's sake that it never happens, but my gut tells me that Baker is going to be the worst thing that ever happened to the Cubs.

The article on Wright and Baldiris will be up in a bit..
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Saturday, July 19, 2003

I had a very nice surprise today. After a busy couple of days, i sat down to do some work for the site. I was doing more research on our minor leauge system, planning to post an article on David Wright, when i discovered that the Mets have not one, but two third base prospects with superb plate discipline. I assume most of you are familiar with Wright, currently playing in high A St Lucie. I know i was, but until today I had never taken much notice of Aaron Baldiris. Wright is the more heralded of the two, and was the first round draft pick, but Baldiris's recent performance is starting to draw him some attentention. After digging up some info, i am sufficiently impressed with Baldiris that i believe he must be included in this article. Unfortunately, the time i spent looking at Baldiris, was the time i had intended to use for the article on Wright. I'm short on sleep, and if i tried to write this article now, it would be far from my best. So i'll be back tonight ( Sunday) with a lok at David Wright and Aaron Baldiris
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Friday, July 18, 2003

Well its 4 am and i'm still awake, so i figured i'd write a column...

I have two main passions in life, the Grateful Dead, and baseball, particularly the Mets. It's fitting then that my current favorite Dead song ( it changes every month or so) perfectly describes how i see this Mets season.

" I may be going to hell in a bucket,
But at least im enjoyin' the ride."

The Mets season has gone straight to hell, worse then even last year's pathetic campaign, but i find I'm enjoying it a great deal more then either of the previous two seasons. At least this year there's hope. There's a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of Jose Reyes, Aaron Heilman, Jae Seo, Scott Kazmir, Royce Ring, Victor Diaz, Tyler Yates, Ty Wigginton, Jason Phillips, David Wright and Justin Huber, among others. Just a couple of years ago the Mets system was one of the worst in all of baseball, almost devoid of young talent. Well, that's changed in a hurry, with Wigginton, Phillips, Reyes, Heilman, and Seo already in the majors, even if all of them don't belong there (*cough* Reyes *cough*). We also have a surprisngly good farm system, led by Scott Kazmir, quite possibly the best pitching prospect in baseball. Speaking of Kazmir, go check out Shea Daily for his latest numbers. Damien has started the Kaz Watch on his sidebar, and will be updating Kazmir's numbers after each of his outings. I believe at least half the teams in baseball would happily trade farm systems with us right now. If you include Reyes Heilman and Seo i think its at least 75%. That's truly amazing, because the system was'nt just bad a couple of years ago, it was awful. We may be losing even more games this year then the last two, but at least there's some hope now. More then that, i'm really enjoying watching these kids play. They actually care, and it shows. I'm one of those baseball fans that's fascinated by prospects and young players, and trying to predict there future, so maybe i'm a bit biased. I can see how someone who has only a passing interest in prospects might not enjoy watching Jose Reyes and a bunch of people they've never heard of play everyday. Though no matter how little prospects interest you, can watching players who you know nothing about try their hardest for the major leauge minimum really be worse then watching big name players coast through a losing season for several million dollars ? I don't know about anyone else, but i'm having a whole lot more fun trying to evaluate the future upside of the kids then wanting to strangle various thirty somethings for forgetting how to hit when they put on a Mets uniform.

" At least im enjoyin' the ride
Yeah, at least im enjoyin' the ride"

Anyway, on to our topic for this column. We'll stick with the young players theme...

Jason Phillips is really starting to impress me. In a growing trend within our organization, he is another guy the scouts don't like much, but who just keeps on hitting. In 186 at bats this year he's hitting a very impressive .312 .389 .457 with 5 HR and 12 2B. All very good numbers, but here's the most impressive part. Phillips has taken 21 walks and struck out only 23 times. That's superb, especially for a 26 year old getting his first real taste of the majors. Even at first base those are very solid numbers, though a little light on the power. But Phillips is'nt really a first basemen, he's a catcher, and for a catcher those are All Star caliber numbers. So what don't the scouts like? He's hitting for a high average, decent enough power, and his plate discipline is extraordinary. Fellow stat junkies will say it's only 190 at bats, not a particularly big sample size, so he could be on a hot streak. Well, maybe, but if he is it's one that's lasted the entire year. In 79 at bats at AAA he hit .346 .435 .564 with 4 HR, 4 2B, 11 BB, and 9 SO. Given those numbers, he's performing basically how we would expect in the majors. Quite simply, it looks like Phillips can hit, and he certainly can take a walk. Phillips hits both lefties and righties well, hitting for more average against left handers, but more power agaisnt right handers, resulting very similar OPS's. In 67 at bats vs lefties he's hitting .343 .438 .418, and in 119 at bats against righties he's hitting .294 .359 .479. There is one very strange thing in Phillips' splits...

Here are the Mets team statistics this season, at Shea and on the road.

Home: .253 .320 .380
Away: .244 .312 .402

Shea has always been thought of as a pitcher's park , and the numbers usually support that. This year it looks like it's been essentially neutral, as the Mets are hitting for a bit more power on the road, but have a slightly higher average at home. Nothing out of the ordinary there. Now, here are Phillips splits.

Home 101 AB .386 .452 .574
Away 85 AB .224 .313 .318

That's beyond strange. Phillips is absolutely destroying the ball at home, and not hitting a thing on the road. Generally, road numbers are considered a better judge of a players ability, because home numbers can be effected one way or another by the park. Everyone whose ever played in Colorado is a good example of this. But Shea is'nt a hitter's park. It's played close to neutral this year, and generally is a slight pitcher's park. These are the kind of splits you'd expect from someone who plays half his games in Coors Field. Even at the Ballpark in Arlington, or whatever they're calling Enron Field these days( Minute Maid Park?), these splits would'nt be completely out of whack, just a bit extreme. For a guy whose home games are played in Shea they're straight out of the Twighlight Zone. When Phillips steps to the plate lately I half expect the camera to pan over and show Rod Serling come walking out of the dug out. His average is 162 points higher at home, and his isolated power is 94 points higher. Quite frankly, I'm at a loss. I have no reasonable explanation for why he hits so much better at home. I don't even have any theories. There's just no reason i can come up with that begins to explain this. If anyone has an idea, please do share your thoughts, either on the linked comments page, or if you want, email me at Raeyn_daoc@hotmail.com. Maybe there is an explanation, and I'm just not seeing it.

Putting aside the drastic difference in his home and road numbers this year, Phillips has been very, very good. I said recently that i expect Vance Wilson to be our starting catcher next year, and at this point i still think that's the most likely scenario. However, if Phillips continues to hit at his current pace, there's a very real chance that he'll be given a shot at the regular catching job. His defense is'nt as good as Wilsons, but if you've a 26 year old who hits 300 plus, with an OBP near 400 and decent power that can play behind the plate every day, you damn sure give him the chance to be a catcher. Catchers that can hit are becoming a bit more common of late, but they're still one of the rarest commodites in baseball.
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It took me a week, but today i will finally write about Daniel Garcia.

Garcia was drafted out of Pepperdine in the fifth round of the 2001 draft. Scouts say he has a limited offensive skill set, and that combined with the fact that he can play second, third, center and probably shortstop may mean he is a future utility player. He is still young enough however that his solid minor leauge numbers warrant some interest as a real prospect. He started in high-A in 2002 bating .273 .369 .403 with 34 2B, 5 3B, 5 HR, 53 BB and 77 K(432 AB). He started the year in AA, but quickly proved he was ready for a higher level. In 117 at bats he hit .333 .391 .530 with 12 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 10 BB and 20 K. The Mets moved him up to AAA, and he's been there since. In 210 at bats so far he is hitting .290 .348 .381 with 12 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 15 BB, and 26 K. For obvious reasons, college players skills have less room for developement then players drafted out of high school, but at 23, Garcia is just the right age for his leauge. He is very good with the bat, and i expect to see his average climb back over .300 as he continues to adjust to the more advanced pitching. Garcia still strikes out a bit to often, but not enough for it to really be a problem, and he takes an acceptable number of walks. Overall his plate discipline decent, but could be a plus skill with only minor improvements. He hits a fair amount of doubles, and probably will develope a bit more power then his AAA numbers have shown, but will in all likelihood never duplicate his .530 slug% from AA at any higher level. Overall, he can be expected to hit for a good average with a solid OBP, but limited power. He won't steal a ton of bases, but has good speed and can be expected to swipe a fair amount, perhaps 15-20 over the course of a season. Garcia's biggest asset is his defense. He is originally a center fielder, and that is still probably his strongest position, but he is currently playing second, and can play regularly there or at third. He probably can not be an everyday shortstop, but certainly could fill in there on a limited basis.

The aquisition of Victor Diaz, and Marco Scutaro's performance in AAA means Garcia will have to find another position if he is to be a regular for the Mets. He can play third, but it would make no sense to teach him a new position that's less important then the two he already knows, and where we already have a rookie that's earned continued regular at bats. If his AAA performance earns him a shot at playing every day, the best solution is to move him to center field. It's still a premium defensive position, he plays it very well, and it's has been a black whole for the Mets system as of late. He'll never be an all star, but .300 .360 .400 with 15 steals would be pretty solid for a good defensive center fielder, and would make him the best one we've had in years excluding Jay Payton's rookie campaign. I was actually surprised the Mets reached for Jeff Duncan when the need arose for a centr fielder, instead of calling up Garcia. That may mean they want to keep him in the infield, but if Timo Perez is traded to the Expos or not brought back for next year, i expect him to compete with Duncan in spring training for the starting center field job. A platoon is also possible, as Garcia bats from the right side and Duncan the left.


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Thursday, July 17, 2003

Well it's official. Benitez is a Yankee. In return we reciever Jason Anderson, Anderson Garcia and Ryan Bicondoa. Three right handed relievers. Need i say more?

That really says it all, but for those of you who'd like to know just a bit more...

Jason Anderson has pitched mostly with the Yankees this year. He's made 22 appearances for them, all in relief.

IP.....H...ER..HR..BB..K..WHIP..ERA
20.2..23.11...3....14..9..1.79...4.79

Yikes. He's given up more then a hit per inning, has walked batters at a rate of 6.23/9, and is'nt striking out enough people. The hits are'nt terrible, but the walks and the strikeouts are. A 4.79 ERA is actually pretty good considering the other numbers. To Anderson's credit, he was superb in 6 appearancea in AAA this year. He pitched 7.2 innings, allowing 0 runs and 3 hits, striking out 13 and walking only 2. That's impressive, especially the strike outs, and even though we are only talking about 7 innings, the strong numbers are supported by his minor leauge career. He's never going to be anything spectacular, but he flew through the Yankees system in 2002, starting the year in high A ball and ending it in AAA.

Level...IP...H...BB..SO...ERA
...A.....24...27...3...22...4.07
..AA....19...14...5...21...0.93
.AAA...34...26..11..28...3.15

Those are pretty impressive numbers, and he actually performed better against more advanced competition then he did in A ball. Anderson's stuff is similar to a Grant Roberts or Scott Strickland, except he has'nt quite mastered his slider yet. It has the makings of a plus pitch that could be very tough on righties, but he needs to learn to control it better.

My first assesment of Jason Anderson(two posts ago) was too harsh, he is actually a solid relief prospect that could wind up having a future with the Mets. The problem here is that it's no different from the future of a couple guys we've already got that are better then him, or a thousand others we could get for a song. He seems to lose some velocity after an inning or two, so he's not a long man, despite the fact that he is a converted starter. He does'nt have the stuff to handle lefties well either, so his value is probably as a 2-3 batter guy to come in and get a couple of tough righties. So how exactly is he different from Strickland or Roberts, both of whom are still young, and are better then him, even if they are hurt right now(Strickland is out for the year, Roberts will be back soon). Strickland has closer potential, and Roberts can be a long/man spot starter when need be. Even if we're concerned about their health, a guy who can come in and get a couple righties out is the easiest thing to find in baseball.

I don't know much about Anderson Garcia. He has pitched well in 76 innings this year in Battle Creek(low A), giving up 57 hits, striking out 62 and walking 36 with a 3.32 ERA. The walks are'nt so great, but other then that the numbers are good. They're not good enough however, for a 22 year old pitching in low A. Quite simply, at his age he should be excelling at this level, not simply good, and he is'nt much of a prospect.

Ryan Bicondoa is the only one who makes any of the Yankees top prospects reports, with a couple of honorable mentions, and even squeaking into the top ten on one. He had a good college career at Western Kentucky, succeeding with limited stuff. He has a fastball that sits around 89-90, with a decent breaking ball and change up to go with it. He obviously is'nt overpowering anyone with that fastball, and both the other pitches are solid but nothing special. His supposed strength was exceptional control with all three pitches, and in his first pro season last year he posted an astonishing K/BB of 94/7 in 85 innings, with a 1.90 ERA. This is where the good news ends. Bicondoa never should have been started in the NY Penn Leauge(short season A ball). He was 23(24 now), already showed excellent command, and was coming off an excellent senior year. He moved to high A Tampa this year, where he's still far to old for his leauge. In 48.1 IP he's given up 48 hits, striking out 30 and walking 20 with a 3.54 ERA. Everyone knew the strike outs would come down, but what happened to the excellent command ? If he still was'nt walking anyone he could move up to AA soon, and start to become a real prospect. But he is walking people, at a rate of 3.74/9. Thats not bad for most pitchers. For a 24 year old in high A ball whose only saving grace is his superb command, that's terrible. Bicondoa must stop walking people, and start moving up the system fast or he's going to drop off prospect boards real fast.

This trade is'nt quite as terrible as i first thought. Jason Anderson should be an effective reliever, and if Bicondoa's exceptional control returns he's got a shot to be a decent pitcher despite the mediocre stuff. That said, it's still awful, just not quite as awful as i expected. It's nowhere near the package the Marlins offered us, and eventually gave to Texas. I have no doubt we still could have gotten more for Benitez in a thin reliever market. The only reason we took this deal was because the Yankees agreed to pay all of his contract. Wilpon saves 2.7 million, and instead of three plus prospects we get three right handed relievers. Meaning we've now aquired five right handed relievers in three days. FIVE!. I liked the Alomar and Burnitz deals, but this negates alot of the value from those two. For our three main trading chips, we got a good relief/closer prospect, a good second base prospect, six right handed relif pitchers, and an organizational roster filler.

We should have taken the Marlins offer...

Maybe if i go stare at Scott Kazmir's minor leauge numbers for awhile, it'll cheer me up. Damien over at Shea daily wants to know if it's too soon to declare a 19 year old single A prospect his new favorite pitcher, and I'm not to far behind him( I still love Senator Leiter). I think our combined drooling over Kazmir is starting to form a puddle on the floor of the internet.

One more note, Jeremy, over at Jeremy Heit's Blog reports that he's heard rumors of Rey Sanchez to a team needing a utility infielder, and Timo Perez to the Expos. I mentioned a few days ago that we should trade Sanchez to soemone who needs a defensive specialist, and give Marco Scutaro a shot at second. That one does'nt surprise me at all, but i had'nt heard about Timo to the Expos. Minaya was the one who signed him, and has always liked him, so it's definately a possiblity

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Wednesday, July 16, 2003

The Mets will anounce Wednesday the trade of Armando Benitez to the Yankees. In return we are expected to recieve Jason Anderson ( see below) and Anderson Garcia. Garcia is a right hander pitching fairly well this year in low A Battle Creek, but at 22 he is far to old for the level. In 76 innings he's given up 57 hits, stuck out 62 and walked 36 to go with a 3.32 ERA. Fine numbers except for the walks, but again, he is far to old for low A ball. Like Jason Anderson, he does'nt make any top lists, or even the honorable mentions for the Yankees farm system, possibly the weakest in baseball. This has salary dump written all over it. For one day, i thought the Mets finally got it.

SIGH

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Benitez to the Yankees rumors are heating up. The two rumors floating around are that we'll send Benitez across town for Weaver, then ship Weaver to Boston for prospects. The other is a direct swap with the Yanks, where they pay the 3 million Benitez is still owed, and we get a couple of B prospects. The one name mentioned was 24 year old right handed reliever Jason Anderson. This has salary dump written all over it. In 20.2 innings with the Yankees this year, Anderson has a 4.79 ERA and 1.79 WHIP. He's struck out just nine batters and walked 14. Opponents are batting .280 against him. For the love of god Fred, you got under the luxury tax with the Burnitz deal, eat the 3 million and get some decent prospects. I was starting to think the Mets finally got it. That they were finally commited to restocking the farm system and not just dumping salary. A Yankees trade scared me when i thought we'd get some combination of Weaver/ Rivera/ decent prospect. This rumor of a straight up trade with the Yankees would get us nothing. In all likelihood Jason Anderson would'nt even be on the team next year. He does'nt make any top 10 lists for the Yankees, quite possibly the weakest farm system in baseball. In fact, he does'nt even make the honorable mentions. He'll pitch some innings this year so noone that has a future with the Mets needs to be called up and lose valuable learning time in the minors, then he'll be gone. Here's an idea I like better. Benitez to the Yankees for Weaver. Then the Red Sox choice of Weaver or Traschel, and David Wright for Kevin Youkilis. I'm assuming they'd want Weaver, but there is a story in the Bergen Record today saying that the Red Sox have shown interest in Traschel. Wright is like a less developed version of Youkilis. He has'nt hit for nearly the average that Youkilis has, but he takes a ton of walks and has shown better power. So basically we'd trade Mondo for an upgrade to our third base prospect. We could've had a solid package from the Marlins for Benitez, and there are not many good relievers on the market. Dumping Benitez for next to nothing just to get his salary off the books would be a huge mistake. Of all the deals this summer, this is the one with the potential to improve our farm system the most. It's not as if we don't have other options if Boston won't budge on Youkilis or Freddy Sanchez. The Mariners have been interested in Benitez, and have some good prospects of there own, most notably Rafael Soriano, whose been superb in AAA. The Royals have been looking everywhere for bullpen help, the question with them is whether or not they'd part with any of there promising young pitchers. You can never have to many prospects. Even if you'll never have a space for them all in the majors, you can always use excess talent in trades. If the meltdowns have scared teams so much that you can't get any good prospects for Benitez, then you keep him and take the draft picks when someone else signs him. Have no doubt, someone will sign him, his numbers are still strong except for the blown saves. Dumping a player simply to get out of paying him is something teams with 40 million dollar payroll's do. Let me rephrase that, it's something that bad teams with 40 million dollar payrolls do. The good ones take the draft picks when the player signs elsewhere. This is not the time for Freddy Skill Sets to get cheap. He had plenty of money to pay Glavine this offseason, he needs to accept this 3 million as spent money and aquire the talent. Was'nt it just last year when Wilpon was preaching about how he was always the partner willing to spend money ?
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Tuesday, July 15, 2003

A quick note on a non Mets related topic while i watch the All Star Game

I was browsing through Arizona's stats, wondering how they could ever have thought Shea Hillenbrand was worth BK Kim, when something caught my eye. I knew that Hillenbrand hits lefties well, so i went to take a look at the splits. Hillenbrand does in fact hit lefties well, but that was'nt what caught my attention. It was this line.

Matt Williams vs LHP
.302 .396 .581 3 HR, 3 2B, 5 BB, 7 SO (43 AB)

Matt Williams has always hit left handed pitching well, but i was surprised he was still hitting it this well. So i went back a bit further:

2002 .289 .337 .651 8 HR, 4 2B, 1 3B (83 AB)
2001 .313 .344 .591 8 HR, 8 2B (115 AB)
2000 .311 .362 .472 5 HR, 2 2B (106 AB)

How does this guy not have a major leauge job? He still plays a decent third base, and if you limit his innings in a platoon he could probably stay healthy. Even if you think the injury risk is to high for him to play third semi regularly, your telling me there's not an American leauge team that could use a DH who crushes left handed pitching and can play a good third in an emergency ? He'd be a perfect fit in Boston. Boston's regular DH is David Ortiz. Here are his splits:

Vs. RHP .315 .413 .570 8 HR, 18 2B, 28 BB, 25 SO ( 165 AB)
Vs. LHP .250 .276 .482 2 HR, 7 2B, 2 BB, 14 SO (56 AB)

Boston has subpar production VS LHP out of there DH spot. They could sign Williams cheap, platoon him with Ortiz, and instantly have one of the most productive DH combos in the leauge. Williams is also the kind of clubhouse presence that Boston has lacked for years. I'm an admitted stat junkie, but even i realize that every championship team needs some veteran leadership.

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It figures does'nt it. After two days of not getting to Daniel Garcia, i say that he will be priority no 1 today, barring an unexpected trade. Of course, i figured that unexpected trade would be a Benitez deal being worked out quickly. I did not think that the trade would be Jeremy Burnitz, so i'm left scrambling to learn about these three minor leaugers we got. I think this one made sense for both sides. The Dodgers are in a pennant race and need every bit of offensive help they can get, but want to get it without sacrificng any of the major leauge pitching that is keeping them in contention or trading any of there best prospects. Burnitz was'nt going to re sign anyway, preferring to play closer to his California home. He also wanted no part of the rebuilding process the Mets are looking at, he saw enough losing in Milwaukee. He's been on a tear lately, raising his trade value to the point where he was worth some decent prospects. The 2003 season is lost, so to the Mets whatever we can get for him is better then keeping him around, provided it's more then we'd get with the draft picks we'd recieve when he signs somewhere else. In this case it was, so the deal made sense.

21 year old second basemen Victor Diaz was the key to the deal. A 37th round pick of the Dodgers in the 2000 draft, he is a converted third basemen, and could eventually be moved back there if his defense at second does'nt improve. In 316 at bats this year in AA, he's hitting .291 .353 .472 with 11 HR, 20 2B, 2 3B, 42 R, 54 RB,I 27 BB, and 60 SO. He has shown excellen gap power and past performance suggests his average should climb as he improves in AA. Diaz has won his leauge's batting title in both his professional seasons with averages of .354 in the 2001 Gulf Coast Leauge ( low A) and .350 last year in the South Atlantic Leauge ( high A). The one problem with his offensive skills is lack of plate discipline. 27 walks is mediocre at best, and 60 strike outs is terrible. A guy who just won two batting titles and is'nt a big slugger should'nt be striking out that many times. He obviously makes good contact, so it must mean he's swinging at bad pitches. In my opinion its this lack of pitch recognition that keeps him from being an elite prospect. Diaz's defense has been shaky at 2nd base, and he might be best served by moving back to his original position at 3rd. The Mets now have a number of options at both positions. Ty Wigginton has hit well for a rookie, and will get regular at bats next year. He's played excellent defense at third this year, and is a natural second basemen. Marco Scutaro continues to impress at AAA ( see yesterday's column), and can also play both positions. Daniel Garcia, who i will get to eventually, destroyed AA this year. His numbers have slipped in AAA, but he is still hitting for a decent average and has maintained good plate discipline. He's playing second base right now, but may wind up as a utility man. If his numbers do come back up, and he earns a shot at regular playing time, he can be eliminated from this log jam by moving back to center field which is still his strongest defensive position. It's also wide open for the 2004 Mets. David Wright is a very good third base prospect. He has'nt hit for a highaverage, but has been hurt by slow starts in both his professional seasons, and has the ability to do so. He's shown good power and superb plate discipline. Now we have Diaz, a very good hitting prospect. If Garcia earns a shot to play every day, he'll almost certainly wind up in center field, and Wright is still a few years away. Ty Wigginton would be better off at second base, and Victor Diaz at third, but Wigginton's stellar adjustment to third probably means he'll stay there. So that leaves Marco Scutaro ahead of Diaz at second base. Scutaro seems to have been labeled as a utility man, and even if he finally sheds that label and gets a shot to be our everyday second basemen next year, that clears the way for Diaz to move up to AAA. Provided that his stats warrant it of course. Wow, all these options. It seems amazing to say this, but counting Jose Reyes, who should be in the minors (see my first post) and Aaron Heilman, the Mets actually have one of the best systems in baseball right now. It's a real credit to Duquette, who was in charge of the minor leauges before being promoted to interim GM. He's had a few nice drafts, and has pulled off two good trades, getting good minor leauge talent for 30 something free agents to be. He even got the Dodgers to pay 2 million of Burnitz's contract. Maybe Freddy Skill Sets ( credit to the Eddie Kranepool society on that name for Wilpon) knew what he was doing when he did'nt allow Duquette to talk to the Dodgers, among others, then promoted him to interm GM. Now if we could just convince Valentine to come back.

I know this is off topic, and no offense to Artie from Flushing ( again, credit to the Eddie Kranepool Society for the great nickname) who i actually think will be a very good manager for our young players, just like he was in Oakland, but i loved Bobby V. He was the perfect man for this job. He is charismatic and very intelligent, which helped him deal well with the media circus that is New York City. He's still very popular with Mets fans, and is still involved in a number of local charities. Bobby V. was a pretty good manager to. Every manager cares about how his team does, but with Valentine it was obvious that he REALLY, REALLY cared. This is the guy who got thrown out of a game, then snuck back onto the bench wearing a fake nose and glasses. I know it's hard to forget watching Kenny Rogers walk Andruw Jones to lose the NLCS with Octavio Dotel sitting in the bullpen, but Valentine is actually a very good strategical manager. He uses his bench and bullpen well, is knowledgable on batter/pitcher match ups and did an excellent job managing the starting rotation. He's also one of the only managers in baseball history that consistently won more games then his teams runs scored and runs allowed suggest. Termed their Pythagorean Record, a baseball teams Won/Loss record can be projected by the ratio of the square of their runs scored and the square of their runs allowed. It's surprisingly accurate, usually within a game or two of the teams actual record. As i said, Bobby V. is one of the only managers ever whose teams consistently won more games then they should have. Check this out:

(full seasons only)
Year Team....W-L.....Pythagorean W-L..Difference
1986..Tex.....87-75............84-78............+3
1987..Tex.....75-87............79-83............-4
1988..Tex.....70-91............70-91.............0
1989..Tex.....83-79............79-83............+4
1990..Tex.....83-79............79-83............+4 ( identical stats are not a typo)
1991..Tex.....85-77............82-80............+3
1997..NYM....88-74............88-74.............0
1998..NYM....88-74............88-74.............0 (again, not a typo)
1999..NYM....97-66............95-68............+2( 163 games is the result of a one game tie-breaker)
2000..NYM....94-68............88-74............+6
2001..NYM....82-80............73-89............+9
2002..NYM....75-86............79-82............-4
( the dots are the only way i can get straight columns to post)

In 12 full seasons Valentines teams won more games then expected seven times, had the exact expected record three times, and lost more games then expected just twice. Overall his teams won 23 more games then they should have based on there runs scored and runs against. That's a hair under 2 games a year. I know i said that Pythagorean records usually come within a game or two of a team's expected record, and obviously some luck is involved, but you'd expect it to be like flipping a coin. Half the time you win a couple more games then your run totals project, half the time you lose a couple more. Over time it should even out, and in fact usually does, this differential is not representative of a lack of accuracy in Pythagorean records. Valentine is the exception, not the rule. Even accounting for a bit of luck either way you'd expect a manager's won/loss record over 12 seasons to be within a handful of games to his expected record. But 23 games over? That's extremely impressive, and more then can be attributed to luck. Quite simply, Valentine is a good manager. Best of all, opponents hated him. I really do think Art Howe will be a good manager for these young kids, but firing Bobby V. was one of the worst decisions Freddy Skill Sets has made



Getting back to the Burnitz deal, the other two prospects we recieved are both live armed right handed relievers. I can't find Joselo Diaz's class A stats this year for some reason, but i know he struck out 69 batters in 61 -1/3 batters with a 3.12 ERA. He was just promoted to AA and pitched well in one game. Kole Strayhorn has impressed in A ball, allowing 42 hits and 15 earned runs in 46 innings, with 44 strike out and 13 walks and a 2.93 ERA. Both have good fastbal and could turn out to be good relievers, but right handed relievers are the most easily replaceable part in baseball, so there's nothing to get to excited about here unless one shows the potential to be an elite closer.

I really like this trade. Martinez is a very good prospect. He's already won two batting titles, been named MVP of the South Atlantic Leauge all star game, and was a member of the 2002 world futures team at the major leauge all star game. The other two are both decent relief prospects. It's probably alot more then we could get with the draft picks we'd get for Burnitz, and worlds better then having him in the line up for 70 more games of a lost season. Two trades for Duquette, and so far so good. I liked the Alomar trade also. It's alot less then we payed for him, but given how far and how fast he'd fallen, Royce Ring and two throw-ins was more then he was worth.
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Sunday, July 13, 2003

The NY Times is reporting that the Giants have backed out of the Benitez deal, preferring to deal for a starter instead. They also confirmed the assumption i made yesterday morning, that the Mets were indeed offered a similar package that Texas got for Urbina, but turned it down because of concerns about Adrian Gonzalez's wrist. The disturbing part of this article is that the Mets are reportedly trying to interest the Yankees in a straight up trade for Benitez. This rumor is downright scary. The Yankees have exactly two players i'd want that there's even the slimmest chance of them trading. Nick Johnson and Brandon Claussen, and the chances of either of them being dealt are extremely small. Jeff Weaver still has some value because of past performance, but not enough to get Mondo without another good piece to the trade, and if he can't handle New York in the Bronx, what makes us think he can handle it any better a few miles away in Flushing? Juan Rivera has been an awful hitter in his tenure in the majors. The minor leauges don't offer much help either. About the only player of interest i can find is Danny Borell, who i mentioned yesterday. He is a lefty who throws three good pitches and whose stats at AAA look nice, until you get to his K/BB numbers. 22 walks in 55.1 innings (3.59 BB/9) isn't terrible, but it's also not very good. Only 30 strikeouts is more troubling, giving him a very poor 4.9 K/9. The 2.93 ERA suggests that it hasnt hurt him yet, but that's probably a bit of luck and if his K/BB ratio does'nt improve then it will begin to show in his other statistics. Until he starts striking out more hitters, only the fact that he's a lefty makes him interesting. Unless there's some great Yankees prospect out there that's escaping the attention of both myself, and the authors of all the other articles i've read stating that the Yankees system is barren, then i just don't see what we're getting out of this deal. I highly doubt that the Yankees have budged on trading Claussen or Johnson, so the Mets trying to interest their crosstown rival in Benitez means they probably have interest in what little else the Yankees could offer. Like i said, scary. Maybe theyre just trying to force Boston's hand a bit, and get them interested in Benitez again. We can only hope.

I just can't see the Yankees trade working, because i believe in the end Duquette will realize he can get better prospects from someone else once the Yanks say no to Johnson or Claussen. San Francisco is apparently out, the Marlins got Urbina, and Jason Isringhausen seems ok in St Louis. This does'nt leave to many contending teams that are looking for bullpen help. Montrel, Kansas City and Boston seem the most likely trading partners. As i said yesterday i still think that Boston has to many smart people not to realize that BK Kim is far more valuable as a starter, and will aquire bullpen help if it can. Even if they want to use him as a starter, there's no rush for Boston to aquire relief help now, but for some reason my gut still tells me they'll be players in this. Maybe it's just me hoping against hope that we can get Kevin Youkilis from them. Jeremy of Jeremy Heit's Blog (can't get in post links working. link on the sidebar to the left) thinks that Boston won't part with the Greek God of Walks, and my beter sense agrees with him, but hey, a guy can dream can't he ? It's at least possible, as the only Red Sox prospect that seems to be completely untouchable is Freddy Sanchez, but i agree with Jeremy that it's unlikely. Kansas City is desperate for bullpen help and has a lot of players that would interest us, to many for me to try and make a list without having a couple of hours to devote towards it, which i don't tonight. We can probably count out Beltran as they don't seem inclined to deal him at this point, and even if they were, the Mets did'nt inquire seriously about him when he was believed to be available because they are afraid that he would not adjust well to the pressures of New York. Of course, we would'nt be opposed to taking Beltran, but knowing that he is the type of player that that sometimes does not adjust well to this sports crazed city, we would be more open to accepting someone else. Not to mention that Beltran is worth more then Benitez. Omar Minaya has expressed itnerest in Benitez, and Montreal still has a few good prospects left in it's system after last year's trades, enough to make a deal for Benitez. Josh Karp and Seung Song are the most likely to be included. Both are right handers that throw in the low nineties with a good curveball and both change speeds well. Song's got the better stuff, with a deceptive delievery, better curve and superb control, but he has been inconsistent at times. Both are solid pitching prospects. Less likely to be traded, but much more intriguing is Clint Everts. He was Scott Kazmir's high school teammate, and was actually drafted before Kazmir, going 5th overall to Montreal. Like Kazmir, he's very young ( 19 in August) and still a few years away, but is a superb pitching prospect. Everts mechanics are excellent for any pitcher, especially for an 18 year old. His fastball is in the low nineties right now, though his velocity may increase as he gets older and stronger. He throws a hard curve, and has a very well developed change up for someone so young. These two thrived off of each other in high school, and i'd love to see them together again if Montreal comes calling for Benitez.

Moving on to the topic i wanted to cover yesterday; Danny Garcia.

Ok.. i've been planning on doing just Garcia, but i can't bring myself to look at a Mets 2nd base prospect without mentioning Marco Scutaro, even if at 27 Scutaro's not really a prospect anymore, Even if i believe that Garcia should be moved back to center field, which i do.

I present to you the following two players:

Player A: 164 AB .207 .238 .238, 0 HR, 3 2B, 1 3B, 11 RBI, 11 R, 7 BB, 17 SO (The identical OBP and SLG is not a typo, hard as that is to believe)
Player B: 214 AB .299 .388 .509, 8 HR 15 2B,3 3B, 29 RBI, 34 R, 27 BB, 31 SO

Player A is Rey Sanchez, Player B is Marco Scutaro in AAA. Yes its Triple-A, but AAA stats can be projected to major leauge stats with surprising accuracy and even if Scutaro fell a good deal short of the lesser numbers numbers we'd expect from him in the majors, he'd still be a major improvement over Rey Sanchez. Sanchez is on the 15 day DL right now anyway, but will probably go back to being our regular second basemenwhen he returns, and continue to be one of the worst hitters in the leauge playing every day. Scutaro's AAA stats are excellent, and his good plate discipline will help him make an easier transition to the Majors. If nothing else at least Scutaro will get on base at a decent clip, which would be far better then the whole lot of nothing we get out of Sanchez. It's not like we're paying Sanchez alot of money, i dont understand how he continues to get regular at-bats while Scutaro sits in Norfolk with a .897 OPS. Use Sanchez as a defensive specialist, or trade him to someone that needs one at short/ second for a borderline prospect. Send him down to AAA. Hell, cut him if you have to, but let's see what Marco Scutaro can do. He's 27, and not getting any younger.

Once again i spent to long writing before i got to Daniel Garcia, and i'm out of time to devote to this article tonight. Tommorow we will most definately get to Daniel Garcia, barring an unforseen trade in the next 24 hours.
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Saturday, July 12, 2003

My thanks to Shea Daily, and the Eddie Kranepool Society for there in post mentions. Thanks to them and Jeremy Heit, i've actually had some readers other then my brother, with 25 visitors over the course of the day : ). Both are excellent Mets Blogs, go check them out if they're not already on your daily list.

The Marlins aquired Urbina from Texas today for three prospects. The main piece in the deal was Adrian Gonzalez, who was one of the best hitting prospects in baseball. I say was because his power has'nt returned after wrist surgery, even after moving back down to AA. He is still hitting for a good average with a decent OBP, but the total lack of power is troubling. My guess is that the Mets were offered a similar Gonzalez and pick two deal, but turned it down because of concerns about his wrist, and the complete drop off in power. Rumors now have the Mets sending Benitez to San Francisco for Felix Rodriguez and prospects, then sending Rodriguez to the Yankees for prospects. The Giants have some good players to offer in a trade, but the yankees don't have much left in there system except for Brandon Claussen, who probably won't be traded, and certainly not for Felix Rodriguez. My hope for the Benitez trade is still that Boston will finally break down, realize it needs bullpen help, and part with third base prospect Kevin the human On Base Machine Youkilis. He of the Bonds like .485 OBP in AA. Before you ask why i'm not saying Freddy Sanchez, the reason is because it will never happen, so there's no sense in wasting time wishing for it. Given the new age regime in Boston, and the route theyve been taking towards the emperical analysis of performance, i'm not even sure they'll part with Youkilis and his impressive stats. It's possible tho, given how productive there offense is already, and how dreadful there bullpen. I doubt that Youkilis entered into Boston's thinking in the Hillenbrand trade as they already had Bill Mueller to step right in for the time being, and Hillenbrand for Kim was such a no brainer, they'd have done it even if it meant throwing my mom out there at third base for awhile. I also think that despite what they say Boston is still in the market for a closer, because there are to many smart people in that organization for them not to realize that Kim is a great deal more valuable as a starter then a closer. Of course, i could be wrong about Boston, and either way Benitez could well be traded to the Giants or anyone else who offers the right package of prospects before Boston becomes a player again. I hope not though, i'd really love to see the human on base machine in Shea in 2005. I highly doubt that any of the Giants big three pitching prospects ( Foppert, Williams, Ainsworth) are on the table, because if they were, Duquette would've pulled the trigger a long time ago, and because Brian Sabean is to smart for that. If any of the tree are on the table, it's likely Ainsworth. This is how i see the deal going down if it happens as reported. We send Mondo and cash for at least part of his salary to San Fran for Rodriguez, outfielder Todd Linden, and one other prospect from the Giants. Linden is a 23 year old switch hitter currently hitting .294 .371 .425 in 360 at bats in AAA, with 7 home runs 22 doubles and 2 triples. He's taken a decent 32 walks, but has struck out 73 times. He's also stolen 13 bases in 16 tries. Linden and another decent prospect is a pretty good deal for Benitez given that we're also getting Rodriguez, who has pitched pretty well this year, and not long ago was considered an elite set up man. The Giants have been looking for someone to take his contract for a while now, and we'll do that, plus probably pay some of Mondo's contract, so they wind up saving money, which Sabean can use to go get a starter as well. Possibilities for the other prospect include Boof Bonser, Ryan Hannaman, Manny Mateo, and Freddie Lewis. We won't wind up paying Rodriguez anything, because we'll immediately send him to the Yankees for another couple of prospects, tho there system is so baren it's hard to imagine who. Juan Rivera is a possibility, and the Yankees are so down on Jeff Weaver that he could be part of the deal as well. It's hard to believe that the value of either of those guys has dropped so far, but the chance of at least one of them being included in the deal is very real. Rivera has not hit well at all in the majors, and Weaver has been a total bust in the Bronx. I'd prefer Weaver, because at least he has performed well in the majors in the past. I still think he's got some value, so if Weaver is in the trade, i'd expect it to be just him, with maybe a borderline prospect as a throw in. If a minor leauge player of any interest is involved, my best guess is left hander Danny Borell ( 55.1 IP, 55 H, 18 ER, 30 SO, 22 BB 2.93 ERA in AAA), mainly because i can't find anything else in there system besides Claussen. All in all, i'd be fairly pleased with this deal if it works out somewhere close to this, tho not as pleased as i'd be if they manage to swing a trade that gets us another true star prospect for the system
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I was going to look at 2nd base/ center field prospect Daniel Garcia today, but then what was to be a short mention on the Marlins aquisition of Urbina turned into the above rambling, so we'll look at Garcia tonight.
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Friday, July 11, 2003

Thanks to Jeremy Heit for the mention in his post, brought me my first readers. He runs another Mets blog(link to left) and has some interesting articles. Particularly the one on Glavine vs Questec, which he wrote before the recent media attention on it. If there's anyone reading this yet that didnt just come from there, go have a look, i think you'll enjoy what he has to say.

On to today's topic..

Aaron Heilman

Heilman was drafted 31st overall by the Twins in the 2000 draft, but his father turned down a signing bonus upwards of one million and he returned to Notre Dame for his senior season. A season in which he posted these extremely impressive numbers: 15-0 114 IP, 70 hits, 22 ER, 111 K, 31 BB, 1.74 ERA. Opposing teams batted just .173 against him and he gave up just 3 home runs. He graduated, and was selected 18th overall by the Mets in 2001. I rejoiced over this pick then, and i still love it now. Heilman is the type of player that the Oakland A's make a living on. In AAA this year, he's pitched very well; 94.1 IP, 99 H, 34 ER, 71 SO, 32 BB, 5 HR with a 3.24 ERA. The hits and walks could both stand to come down a little bit, but other then that, the numbers are excellent. The 6.8 SO/9 is very good for a pitcher whose stuff is'nt overpowering, and only 5 home runs against suggests that opposing batters were'nt hitting for much power. Scouts dont love him, seeing a solid No.3 innings eater because his stuff is'nt extraordinary. Everything else about him is. He turned down more money then most people make in twenty years to return to school, or rather, he allowed his father to turn it down. His performance is outstanding, his control already developed, and when drafted he was as close to major leauge ready as any college pitcher in recent years not named Mark Prior. Heilman has an excellent worth ethic, is mature, humble and extremely intelligent, often reading books on physics and chemistry, among other things on road trips. This shows in his already advanced understanding of baseball and of pitching. He throws four quality pitches; a sinking fastball, a changeup, a slider and a splitter. The fastball is consistently in the low nineties (91-93 or so) and the downward action draws alot of groundballs. The other three are all quality pitches, and he has confidence in them all, but none are overpowering. His change up is improving, and with some work the splitter could get better as well. Heilman's maturity and intelligence are the biggest things in his favor. Many of the best starters in baseball have never thrown above the low nineties. They rely on there ability to pitch smart, efficient games, hit there spots, and keep hitters off balance. This will be Aaron Heilman's strength. His intelligence should also help his pitches, as eveything about him suggests he'll be eager to listen to anyone that wants to help him, and will learn quickly. One of the two off speed pitches developing into a true plus pitch could be the difference between Heilman being a solid No 3 inning eater, or a top of the rotation pitcher. He's never going to be able to dominate the way Pedro , Kevin Brown, Randy Johnson, or any of the guys with simply overpowering stuff, but then few can. Throwing in the low nineties with four quality pitches, alot of groundballs, good control, an understanding of how to pitch, and the willingness and ability to learn and improve, Aaron Heilman has all the ingredients to post an ERA in the low to mid 3s for a very long time. Very, very few pitchers post ERAs below 3, and they are the elite pitchers in baseball. I think that we are sometimes to quick to think of these elite hurlers when we label other pitchers as " not a true top of the rotation guy", and i'm convinced that alot of scouts are. Simply put, if you go out there and consistently have an ERA between 3-3.5 year after year, your a qualified ace, period. Heilman's minor league performance suggests the ability to do this, and everything we know about him suggests he's smart enough and determined enough to make the adjustmenet to the major league level. Barring injury, we can expect Heilman to have a long, succesful career as nothing worse then a solid middle of the rotation starter. If he can walk a few less batters, and refine his off speed stuff then he stands a good chance of being an all star.
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Thursday, July 10, 2003

Vance Wilson
( The beginning of this article can be found on Sunday July 6th)

Let's make one thing clear, Vance Wilson is 30, he's no longer young for a baseball player and he is pretty clearly no longer a prospect. He's also been our back-up catch for a year and a half now, but this is the first time he's had a chance to play regularly. This is supposed to be a piece on our young players, but Wilson will very likely be our regular catcher next year, and since we don't know much about him yet, i figured i would include him. He appears to be your typical quality major league catcher, playing very good defense, with decent enough hitting to justify regular playing time, given his position. Mets pitchers have had nothing but good things to say about Wilson, his recieving skills, and how he calls a game from behind the plate. He has yet to make an error yet in 420 innings and has shown a strong, accurate arm, throwing out 41% of steal attempts( 14 of 34), good for sixth best in the majors. That 41.2% is even more impressive, given that it comes in more attempts then three of the five people ranked ahead of him. It's also probably low compared to his ability. Last year, Wilson threw out 49% of runners(25 of 51), the year before, in very limited action, he nailed 6 of 11 runners. In other words, 41% is probably a bit of a bad year for Wilson. Unfortunately i dont have his minor league numbers to try and confirm this. Piazza, having his best year by far in quite some time, was throwing out 30% of runners(15 of 49) bad, but not that bad. For compariosn, he threw out 17.8%(27 of 152) of runners last year and 22.4%(33 of 147) the year before The problem with Piazza's arm however, had gone beyond just his throwing problems. His reputation for not being able to throw out runners had gotten so bad that teams were running almost at will on the Mets. In Piazza's 29 starts this year, there were 49 steal attempts on him, if he'd caught 135 games this year that works out to a ludicrous 228 attempts. Maybe he really was throwing better, but theres a good chance that the only reason his CS% was up this year was because teams were sending runners who normally don't steal alot of bases, and he had some easier targets. In 17 more starts, Wilson has had 15 LESS people try to steal on him then Piazza, and if teams continue to try at the same rate, he'll see 100 attempts over 135 games caught. Many of the sabermetrics influenced baseball writers that i admire seem to think that the stolen base is over rated. I wont get into all of it now, but basically, somewhere along the way people poured over massive amounts of data, and figured out how often a run scores in a particular situation(runners on base/outs). Using this, you can then look at stolen bases and determine how much your chances of scoring go up with the extra base, and how much they go down with an out. The numbers suggest that in most situations, the chance of scoring does'nt go up enough to justify the risk of an out, unless you steal at a very high rate. That said, anyone whose watched Piazza catch a Mets-Marlins game the last couple of year can tell you that the Marlins were taking those games over on the basepaths, and other teams with base stealers were clearly starting to take notice, given the amazing number of times they were trying to steal. There are also situations when a stolen base can dramatically increase your chance of scoring a run. Most major leauge teams will score runs at a high rate when they have a man on third with less then two outs. While i dont have any splits to reference, i think it's safe to say with the huge number of attempts Piazza was seeing, more people were trying to steal third on him. In contrast, teams don't seem to need any convincing of Wilson's ability to throw runners out. Their scouts have likely seen enough to warn them, and theyre not trying to steal on him often. Essentially, we've gone from one of the teams with the most steal attempts against, and among the worst CS%, to one of the teams with the least attempts against, and among the best CS%. I believe that as long as he continues to hit decently enough this, along with his lack of errors and good game calling skills will get him the job as our regular catcher next year. As to his hitting..

Wilson's career line is an unimpressive .268 .317 .398, but in 175 at bats this year he's hitting a respectable .286 .332 .440, with seven home runs, six doubles and thirty RBI. Far from impressive, and the fact that he's 30 means there is probably very little room for improvement. Of course, Wilson's a catcher, and a very good one, and any offense you get from a catcher is a bonus. His numbers this year, if he can sustain them, are more then good enough to play everyday. In fact, they'd make him an above average catcher offensively. As to the question of whether or not he can sustain them, I unfortunately don't have an answer. Discounting the 57 at bats in 2001 ( he hit .298, if your curious), all i really have to go on here is 163 at bats last year, and 175 at bats this year. In other words, not much. Despite many efforts, i've been unable to find a source for career minor leauge statistics for anyone other then the handful of top prospects that profiles are done on. in 163 at abts last year, mostly filling in for Piazza when he was hurt or needed a day off, Wilson hit .245 .301 .380 with five home runs, seven doubles, and 26 RBI. He is hitting for a bit more power this year, but not as much as the difference in slugging% suggests, because some of that difference is accounted for in his higher batting average. A player's avg is also his minimum slug%. If you hit .286, all singles and no walks, your slug% would be .286, so basically Wilson starts with a 40 point advantage over his slug% last year. This is the primary reason that Isolated Power(slug% - batting .avg) is a better measure of a players power, but that's an article for another day. The real difference this year is his batting average, and to a lesser degree, that he's taking more walks, tho still very few.(He was was hit by an unusually high eight pitches last year, accounting for the higher gap in avg-OBP). Only time will tell which is the real Vance Wilson. If he can continue to hit at his current pace, he'll be a very good major leauge catcher. If he cant, and he falls back towards last year's numbers, then he is a nice defensive back up.
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