Junkballers

Posted April 26, 2021 by Burly
Categories: Baltimore Orioles, San Francisco Giants

Two of my favorite MLB players this year are Tyler Rogers and Cesar Valdes. Both are junkball pitchers who are succeeding because of their own unique weirdness.

Rogers, of course, is the SF Giants’ submarining knuckle-scraper, who gets movement on pitches that move in unusual directions, because there are currently very few submariners in today’s game. Darren O’Day was the only other one I could find on a cursory search. However, O’Day’s submarine is quite a different angle from Rogers’ how-low-can-go.

Both Rogers and Valdez throw strikes and keep the ball down. Those are two qualities the pure junkballer needs.

I recent read an excellent blogpost on Cesar Valdez and the Dead Fish. Valdez in 2020 threw his change-up 80%+ of the time. His changeup has the steapest downward break in MLB. It is 78 MPH, which he mixes with an 86 mph sinker. The blogpost includes excellent footage of Valdez’s dropping changeup.

Pitchers like Rogers and Valdez are born to be relievers at the major league level. The less other teams’ hitters see them pitch, the better — relievers can get by on one really great pitch and/or mixing it up.

Rogers has, pending today’s game stats, a 2.58 career ERA in 59 career games and a pitching line of 59.1 IP, 50 hits, 3 HR, 12 BB and 51K. He has a 5-3 record and, although he gave up an earned run today, he picked up his 5th career save. He’s essentially the Giants 8th-inning-lead man, setting up Jake McGee.

These guys don’t get much respect. Rogers came up as a 28-year old rookie in 2019, about a year later than his performance at AAA merited.

In fairness, Cesar Valdez didn’t really put it together until years spent pitching in the Mexican League and the Dominican Winter League, where he showed year over year that he’d figured something out. It’s a long way from the Mexican League to MLB, and Valdez was 35 when the Orioles took a shot on him in 2020.

Since the start of the much-shortened 2020 season, Valdez has pitched 23.2 IP across 17 appearances in which he’s picked up seven saves and, at this moment, is the O’s closer for as long as he can continue to be effective.

So far, so good. He’s got an ERA over this period of 1.14 and a run average of 1.90. He has allowed 14 hits, 0 HR (!), 4 BB and 22K. That’s why he’s now the O’s closer.

Because Valdez is now 36, I don’t see him being the next Trevor Hoffman, who also made his living off his changeup. Still, it’s going to fun to watch Valdez for as long as he can continue to flummox hitters geared up to hit the 95 mph heater.

Rogers still has a chance to be the next Brad Ziegler. Like Rogers, Ziegler came up in his age 28 season. Ziegler pitched 11 seasons, recorded 105 saves, and finished with a 2.75 career ERA.

Needless to say, Brad Ziegler is Rogers’ best career arc, at least based on the data now before us. Here’s video of Ziegler pitching. He looks more like Darren O’Day than Tyler Rogers. Rogers looks even lower than Dan Quisenberry.

New Salary Structure in Japan’s NPB

Posted January 31, 2021 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad, New York Yankees, NPB, Uncategorized

Until this off-season, there was an unwritten rule in Japan’s NPB that no player could earn more than 650 million yen ($6.2M, but varies with exchange rate) per season. When the Yomiuri Giants made their last best offer to keep their superstar Hideki “Godzilla” Matsui before the 2003 season, they offered him a reported 10-year $61M contract, which was probably 650 million yen per season, times ten. That offer blew out of the water the unwritten four year free agent deal maximum, although no NPB player has gotten more than a four-year guarantee since then.

And no player had received more than 650M yen for a season. Both Tomoyuki Sugano and Masahiro Tanaka have completely blown throw the 650M yen barrier this off-season.

Long-time Yomiuri Giants ace Sugano has been reported in the American press to have received a four-year $40M offer to stay in Tokyo. Two things to remember are that in Japan players and teams do no report actual contract amounts — all contracts are based on leaks and rumors, although I tend to think that relatively accurate information tends to get out in a capitalist society with a free press; and also, the figures published in the U.S. about Asian major league salaries pretty much always include incentive money.

Reports from Japan indicate that Sugano is guaranteed 800M yen ($7.7 million) per season. If he can also earn roughly 250M yen ($2.4M) in annual performance incentives, that’s roughly $10M per season. My guestimate is that an 800M yen guarantee with 250M yen in incentives per annum is roughly the contract Sugano received. Yomiuri can afford it, and they shelled out because they knew Sugano was serious about testing his skills in MLB.

Jim Allen says that Masahiro Tanaka is reportedly getting a two-year deal at 900M yen per season ($8.6M). He points out that the numbers aren’t verifiable. However, it is hard to imagine that Tanaka could not have beat by a lot a two-year $17.2M guarantee staying in the U.S. even with all the MLB belt-tightening that has been going on.

My guess is that Tanaka is really getting a two-year 1.8 billion yen guarantee without incentives. The Rakuten Golden Eagles are not one of NPB’s rich three teams (they are in the larger middle class), but they could well be willing to take the risk that Tanaka would mean enough to the box office and play-off hopes that he is worth the kind of guarantee it would take to sign him.

It’s worth noting here that endorsement money is better for baseball players in Japan than it is in the U.S. Tanaka is leaving contract money on the table by returning to Japan, but he’ll more than make up for it by returning to NPB while still in his prime.

Sugano and Tanaka are exceptionally great pitchers and of exceptional value to their teams. But once the salary scale is moved up this significantly, there will be pitchers and position players who follow. For example, if Kodai Senga stays healthy, the wealthy SoftBank Hawks will have no option but to match the contract the Giants gave Sugano if they want to have any chance of keeping him when he finally becomes a true free agent. Otherwise, it is off to MLB for Senga.

After Senga, NPB won’t stop producing world-class baseball talent. There may be only as many 800M+ yen contracts going forward in NPB as there were 600M+yen contracts the previous 25 years, but a new benchmark has definitely been set, and there’s no going back

Minor League Strikeout Kings

Posted January 18, 2021 by Burly
Categories: Anaheim Angels, Baseball History, Minnesota Twins, Minor Leagues, Washington Nationals, Washington Senators

I recently saw a couple of twitter posts claiming that Nelson Figueroa is the “All-Time” Minor League Strikeout King with 1,505 minor league strikeouts. Figueroa was a fine Minor League star of the modern era, but he isn’t even in the top ten all-time in terms of Minor League strikeouts.

The misconception that Figueroa is the minor league strikeout GOAT is mainly due to the fact that Baseball Reference’s minor league stats prior to 1946 are woefully inadequate. The actual all-time Minor League Strikeout King is either Oyster Joe Martina or George Brunet, depending on whether you consider the summer Mexican League a “minor league.”

According to my mid-1980’s copies of Minor League Stars Volumes I and II published by SABR, Oyster Joe struck out 2,770 minor leaguers in a pro career that ran from 1910 to 1931, mostly for the Beaumont Oilers in the Texas League and the New Orleans Pelicans in the Southern Association. By today’s standards, both leagues would probably classify as AA with the Southern Association being the better circuit during the years Martina played in them.

Oyster Joe spent only one season in the major leagues, as a 34 year old rookie for the 1924 World Champion Washington Senators. He went 6-8 with a 4.67 ERA. His main utility was eating up 125.1 IP, fifth best on the team, and he pitched one shutout inning in the World Series against the New York Giants.

George Brunet went 69-93 across parts of 15 major league seasons, most notably for the California Angels in the late 1960’s. When his major league career ended at age 36, he pitched in AAA until age 38 and then pitched in the Mexican League until age 49. He last pitched professionally in 1984.

Brunet struck out 3,175 minor league batters, well more than 1,000 in those in his last 11 or 12 seasons in Mexico.

Another minor leaguer worth mentioning here is Kewpie Dick Barrett (he was only 5’9 and 175 lbs and even then that was small for a right-hander). Barrett struck out 1,866 Pacific Coast League batters in the 1930’s and 1940’s, when the PCL was the best of the what we would now call the AAA leagues. Most of Barrett’s major league career took place between 1943 and 1945 between the ages of 36 and 38, when most of the best major league players were serving in the military.

Barrett’s 1,866 Ks in the PCL are the most by a pitcher in a single top minor league, what we would now call AA and AAA.

Slugging It Out in South Korea: The Best Foreign Hitters in KBO History – Post-2020 Update

Posted November 2, 2020 by Burly
Categories: Uncategorized

This is the latest version of a piece I originally posted back in 2015.  South Korea’s KBO only began allowing foreign players in 1998, and it’s is a young league, starting play only in 1982.  This means the records for foreign players are very much in play.

Initially, KBO teams brought in mostly hitters; and the foreigners, at least at first, hit a lot of home runs.  As the league improved, KBO teams began to realize after about 2005 that foreign pitchers were worth more to them than the hitters — so much so that by 2012 and 2013, there were no foreign hitters in the league at all.

KBO teams expanded the roster space for foreigners from two to three beginning with the 2014 season, as the league was undergoing expansion, with the requirement that one of the three be a position player/hitter.  Foreign hitters have been back in the league the last seven seasons and have fully taken advantage of what was until the 2019 season an extreme hitters’ league.  However, relatively few have lasted long enough in the KBO to challenge the foreign player records set before 2010.

Batting Average  (2,000 at-bats)

1.     Jay Davis      .313

2.     Tyrone Woods   .294

3.     Tilson Brito    .292

Mel Rojas, Jr. has a KBO career batting average of .321 in 1,971 at-bats through the end of the 2020 season. He was incredible in 2020, batting .349 (3rd place, but only five basis points behind the leader), and leading the ten-team circuit with 47 HRs and 135 RBIs. Rojas deserves the first multi-year guaranteed contract for a foreign player, and if he doesn’t get it, my bet he jumps to NPB for a two-year deal with a $4M guarantee.

Hits

1.      Jay Davis   979

2.     Tilson Brito  683

3.     Tyrone Woods  655

4. Mel Rojas, Jr. 633

Jay Davis had far and away the best career of any foreign hitter in the KBO, with Tyrone Woods as the only other player in the conversation.  Davis, Woods and Brito are the only three foreign players to reach 2,000 career KBO at-bats so far.

The problem is that very few foreigners have had long careers in the KBO.  Until the last ten years, when increased revenues made bigger salaries possible, the foreigners who played in KBO were clearly a cut below the foreign players who signed with Japanese NPB teams.  They tended not to maintain their initial KBO performance levels for long — three full seasons was and still is a long KBO career for a foreigner — or they moved on to greener NPB pastures or back to MLB.

Home Runs

1.     Tyrone Woods   174

2.     Jay Davis             167

3.     Jamie Romak     135

4. Mel Rojas, Jr. 132

5.     Eric Thames       124

6.     Cliff Brumbaugh  116

7.     Tilson Brito         112

8.     Karim Garcia      103

9.     Felix Jose            95

In the early days (late 1990’s and early 2000’s), KBO teams paid foreigners to hit home runs.  The most prolific was Tyrone Woods, who blasted 174 dingers over five KBO seaons and then moved on to the NPB, where he blasted 240 HRs in six seasons.  Woods never played even one game in the major leagues, and there are some reasons to believe that PEDs may have had something to do with his tremendous Asian performance, at least by the time he reached NPB.

Eric Thames was the best of the hitters to join the KBO since the foreign player roster expansion in 2014 (at least until Mel Rojas), and he was the caliber of player who would have signed with an NPB team during the earlier era when KBO teams were signing foreign sluggers.  As I predicted in October 2016, Thames did return to MLB (I actually predicted he’d sign with either an MLB or NPB team that off-season), and his contract was a steal for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Cliff Brumbaugh played briefly for the Rangers and Rockies in 2001 before starting a successful seven year career in South Korea and Japan.  You probably remember Karim Garcia and Felix Jose, who both had significant major leagues careers, and you may even remember Tilson Brito, who played in 92 MLB games in 1996-1997 for the Blue Jays and the A’s.

Jamie Romak has already signed a $1.15M deal with the SK Wyverns to return to the KBO in 2021, so he is likely to move up on the HR list and add his name to one or more of the other lists. 

Runs Scored

1.     Jay Davis    538

2.     Tyrone Woods   412

RBIs

1.     Jay Davis   591

2.     Tyrone Woods   510

As you can see from the above numbers, the KBO records for foreign hitters are ready to be broken in all categories, because so relatively little has been accomplished by foreign hitters to date.  It’s mainly a matter of whether any of the post-2014 crop of foreign hitters hangs around long enough to add their names to my lists as the seasons pass.

The KBO has imposed a $1M salary cap on new foreign players (or foreign players moving to a new team). We will have to wait and see if that impacts the KBO being able to sign the caliber of players who can stick around long enough to make my lists.

More Good News for the Scrubs

Posted August 28, 2020 by Burly
Categories: Uncategorized

I haven’t been writing as much this season, because I have been working more and because Covid-19 threw the whole 2020 MLB season out of whack.  One of my most recent posts commented on the small group of marginal major league players who actually stand to benefit from the short and weird 2020 season.  Another advantage to these players that I failed to mention is the way service time is calculated this season.

Because teams are playing 60 games crammed into a 66 day schedule instead of the normal 162 games across a 186 day schedule, players this season earn just over 2.8 days of major league service time for each day on a major league roster this season.  This may not seem like a big deal to the casual baseball fan, but it’s absolutely huge to marginal players in terms of earning pension benefits years from now.

The number of players who spend 10 or 12 years playing professional baseball but end up spending less than one full season (172 days for pension purposes) is much larger than most people realize.  The very best and/or luckiest of these players can make their fortunes playing in the Asian major leagues, but that’s a small subset of this group of players — careers for foreign players in the Asian majors are typically very short.

These guys make peanuts playing in the minor leagues, and even a season of major league service at the major league minimum only amounts to about $45,000 a year over a 12 year professional career.  That’s not a lot of money given that pro baseball is essentially a full time job, particularly for marginal major leaguers who have to train hard year ’round to maximize their chances of breaking through.

Luckily, baseball players are young men, who even after 12 seasons of baseball will start their second careers at the still not too old age of 30 to 35.  However, the most import benefit a lot of these kinds of players get is a major league pension.  Any player who earns 43 days of major league service gets a pension at age 62 that amounts to $32,000 a year a year or two ago.  That’s not chicken feed, and with Social Security and second career savings/retirement benefits added can mean a very comfortable retirement for all those years devoted to the cause of professional baseball.

That’s why the service time calculations for the 2020 season are so significant, particularly when expanded rosters (26 to 30 players per team this season), Covid sit outs and illnesses, and perhaps extra injuries due to a shortened pre-season training schedule are factored in.  A scrub who spends 16 days on a major league roster this season earns 43 days of major league service time, or a lifetime (from as early as age 45 or 50) pension.  31 days on a major league roster equals two quarters of major league service time (86 days) and bigger pension benefits.

It still takes luck — a timely injury by a more accomplished major leaguer, not being one of the unlucky ones who gets hurt or catches Covid.  However, 2020 is a golden opportunity for marginal major leaguers to earn something a whole lot more tangible than great memories and stories.

Livan Moinelo Update

Posted August 28, 2020 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad, Boston Red Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Mets, NPB, San Francisco Giants

If you are not familiar with Livan Moinelo, he’s a Cuban pitcher who is basically NPB’s version of Josh Hader.  30 appearances into the 2020 NPB season, Livan has a 1.55 ERA and 57 K in 29 IP.  That’s a 17.7 K/9IP strikeout rate, for those of you keeping score at home.

Moinelo is 24 years old this season and in his fourth season in NPB.  He has 236 K in 169.2 career NPB IP with the strikeout rate improving each season.

The only knock on Moinelo is he is small, listed at 5’10” and 152 lbs (baseball reference lists him at 6’0″ and 139 lbs, but I suspect NPB’s numbers are more accurate).  In spite of the small size, his fastball hits 95 or 96 mph.  He has a sharp breaking curve, which he can throw as a slurve, breaking across, or more tightly as a 12-6 break that burrows down into the plate.  He also has a screwball type pitch that moves like a dropping change up.  In fact, he already has a lot of different breaking pitches that move at different angles and with different drops.

Like a lot of pitchers who rely heavily on sharp breaking pitches, he allows a fair number of walks. However, his breaking pitch heavy approach makes his fastball very hard to catch up with.

Because Moinelo is two years younger than Hader, my guess is that if Moinelo joined MLB in 2021, his arm is healthy and we have a vaccine for Covid-19, he’d look a lot like Hader in 2018. It’s anyone’s guess, though, how long he can throw as hard as and produce the spin rates he does given how small he did.  Tim Lincecum and Pedro Martinez seem like cautionary tales on how long small hard throwers can last.  Even so, Moinelo has seven more full seasons before he reaches his age 32 season.

The rubs is that Moinelo is pitching in Japan with the permission of the Cuban government.  He hasn’t defected, and he may not be willing to do so for personal or family reasons.

2020 NPB Mid-Season Update

Posted August 4, 2020 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad, KBO, NPB

Even with the coronavirus, all is well so far in NPB in 2020.  The Yomiuri Giants have Japan’s best record, and the SoftBank Hawks lead the Pacific League.  If you know Japanese baseball, you know what I’m talking about.

Unlike every other professional league outside of the U.S., NPB is able to hold on to some of its best players, thanks to a long eight or nine year requirement to reach free agency and the fact that NPB superstars make more endorsement money than domestic MLB superstars.  I’d bet that Japanese MLB superstars like Masahiro Tanaka and Shohei Ohtani make more endorsement money in Japan than any domestic MLB star makes in the U.S.

Two NPB superstars that, alas, MLB fans will probably never get to see, Tomoyuki Sugano and Yuki Yanagita, are healthy and in fine form.  Sugano leads the Central League with a 1.69 ERA, is undefeated at 5-0, and has more Ks than IP (46K, 42.2 IP).  Sugano was looking like heavy workloads were on the verge of burning him out at the end of the 2019, but he’s bounced back so far in 2020.  I’m really starting to think that NPB’s method of pitching starters once a week is superior to every fifth start in MLB, but sixth starters in MLB just doesn’t make sense when most MLB fifth starters suck.

Yuki Yanagita is slashing .378/.506/.732 through 38 games played, and he’s really that good when he’s healthy.  He’s 31 this season, and an injury last season that limited to him to 38 games last season has likely eliminated any chance that he might cross the lake to play in MLB.

Rumor has it that soon-to-be 26 year old Seiya Suzuki will be playing in MLB in 2021.  He’s currently the Central League’s most productive hitter, slashing .343/.438/.664.  He has a rightfielder’s arm, but his range factors aren’t impressive.  He’s definitely an MLB talent in terms of his hit tool.

Likely future MLBer Takahiro Norimoto hasn’t been as impressive in 2020 as one would like to see.  He has a 3.55 ERA and 40 K in 45.2 IP after seven starts.  Lefty Shota Imanaga has a 2.84 ERA and an impressive 54 K in 44 IP through seven starts.

Hideto Asamura is playing well, but I don’t think he’s ever going to play in MLB.  A few years ago Tetsuto Yamada looked like a can’t miss MLBer, but his career has stalled, and reports have it he wants to stay in Japan.  Oh well.

At age 38, Nori Aoki is proving why he was once an MLBer.  Stefen Romero is off to a great start, but at age 31, he’d be best served staying NPB where his skills can be fully realized, much like Dayan Viciedo, also now age 31.

Youngster Munetaka Murakami (age 20) is working on his hit tool (.328 batting average) after hitting 36 HRs as a teenager a year ago.  Soon to be 22 year old right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto is another NPB youngster to watch.

Cuban lefty Livan Moinelo (age 24) has to be convinced to defect.  He has an 0.95 ERA and 37 K in 19 IP so far this season.  The worries with him are that he is slightly built and still being used as a set-up man.  Top set-up relievers have traditionally been worked a lot harder in NPB and the KBO than closers.  It isn’t fair, but it makes a certain amount of sense if the set-up man is your best reliever.

A Good Year for Marginal Major Leaguers

Posted July 25, 2020 by Burly
Categories: Baseball History, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants

Just about the only group of MLB-system players who will benefit from the 2020 season are the marginal major leaguers.  Not just the 4-A players who elected to sign with Asian major league teams in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan and will get paid for a full season of play, but also the 4-A types who elected to stay in the U.S. this season.

About 11 players are sitting out the 2020 season and 84 have tested positive for Covid-19 so far, opening up a lot of major league roster time for healthy marginal major leaguers to accumulate some service time toward future pension benefits and also maybe show MLB teams they deserve more time in the Show in 2021.  Other players who got hurt in the abbreviated Spring (Summer) Training won’t get to play at all in 2020, which should give the marginal players who do a leg up in 2021.

In fact, the Opening Day line-up for the San Francisco Giants looked to be almost entirely 4-A players, but that may have more to do with the Gints just not being very good this year.

Also, with teams limited to 60 players per organization and just about every team carrying about 8 to 12 top prospects who aren’t yet major league ready but need to get the reps to develop, the 4-A guys are going to get the call when somebody on the major league roster gets hurt.  The groups that really got killed this season are the AAA and AA players good enough to be roster fillers and Class A players not seen as top prospects.  A few of the AAA roster fillers got jobs this year in Taiwan’s CPBL, but with no baseball in Mexico and only very limited play in the Indy-A’s, these guys are SOL.  I’ll be amazed if any Winter Ball is played anywhere this year, which is how a lot of players make enough money to keep playing the next summer.

A full season of no play is just a killer for any player over the age of 27.  Pitchers can come back from Tommy John surgery, but position players, even major league stars, don’t lose a full season and come back the same.

One thing is for sure — now more than ever getting off to hot start when the opportunity comes is everything.  A marginal player who gets hot for 40 games this season is going to look pretty good when the executives are sitting around this winter charting out their teams’ futures.

We’ve all seen players who look great for 40 games in April and May and then the league catches up with them and proves why they haven’t gotten a major league shot before.  Brian LaHair of the 2012 Cubbies springs to mind.  On May 22nd after 40 games he was batting .313 with a 1.028 OPS.  He finished the season at .259 and .784, because the NL figured out he couldn’t hit lefties.  He had to go play in Japan in 2013 and had exactly the same kind of season once NPB teams had figured out he couldn’t hit their lefties either.  This year the league won’t get the same chance to catch up or figure the hot-streaker out.

Covid-19 Will Finish a Lot of Baseball Careers Too

Posted July 5, 2020 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad, Baseball History, CPBL, KBO, NPB

This is a baseball blog, so I’m going to ignore the 130,000+ Americans to date who’ve died of the disease and talk about the impact of the pandemic on the professional lives of professional baseball players.

MLB teams will not only be playing a highly abbreviated 60 game season (pending a negotiated 64 or 66 game season with expanded play-offs, which the owners very much want), but franchise rosters will apparently be limited to 60 players for 2020.  Major league roster limits will be 30-26 during the shortened season, plus a 3-player “taxi squad” in case someone on the major league roster gets hurt or tests positive.

That means only 30 players on the minor league squad.  That isn’t enough to play more than 3-inning practice games.  I haven’t heard whether the minor league squads will be playing against each other.  However, I don’t see how the minor league guys can be ready step into the majors if they aren’t playing games against each other.

The 60-man franchise limit means a lot of minor leaguers won’t be playing baseball in 2020.  Solid, roster-filler AAA players over age 28 will not be included as teams put together their 60-man, as teams will want more promising younger AA players instead, along with all the organization’s top prospects, to whom teams will want to give playing team even if they are initially in over their heads.

I imagine that every single player Class A+ and below who isn’t seen as a top prospect by his team will not being playing any baseball this summer.

For minor league players over the age of 28, a full year off is going to be nearly impossible to come back from, at least for position players.  A full year off at this age is not good for the batting eye or foot speed.

Players in the lower minors under the age of 25 can possibly come back from a full year off, but it’s going to stunt a lot of careers for players who might have been better than their draft pedigree.  And that’s even to say that MLB plays half-way-full minor league seasons in 2021.

The Owners have been fighting to reduce the size of the minor leagues dramatically, and the Coronavirus may mean significant reduction in leagues and levels when things get back to normal compared to immediately before the pandemic struck.

However, it’s been a good year for players from the Americas in Asia in 2020.  KBO and CPBL teams are well into their seasons, and NPB is now almost 14 games in, which probably means that every foreign player in these leagues has received a paycheck, which is more than a lot of pro ball players in the States can say.

And better foreign players are available to Asian teams because the American options have narrowed considerably.  I don’t think there is any way the Kiwoom Heroes sign Addison Russell for $530,000 for the rest of the season in any kind of normal year.

The CPBL should be able to find better foreign pitchers for their money.  Their bread and butter is the kind of 28+ AAA pitcher who isn’t likely to make any team’s 60-man franchise roster.

San Francisco Giants 2020 Draft Picks

Posted June 12, 2020 by Burly
Categories: Minor Leagues, San Francisco Giants

The Giants selected seven players (Overall Nos. 13, 49, 67, 68, 85, 114 and 144) in this Covid-19 Striken 5-round draft.

13.  C Patrick Bailey (NC State, age 21.)  Bailey looks like a legitimate 1st round pick, at least in terms of his bat.  In roughly 2.25 college seasons, he has a career slash line of .302/.411/.568, certainly fine numbers for a backstop.

There has been some comment regarding Bailey’s selection, given that the Giants used the No. 2 overall pick two years ago on catcher Joey Bart.  Giants President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi responded that you draft for ability, not need, and you can’t have too many good catchers.  Zaidi is certainly right that a team is foolish not to draft the best available player at their first round draft spot, because the odds of drafting even a 5+ WAR MLB player after the first two selections of the first round is less than 50%.

Bailey is a switch-hitter, whom the scouting reports like best for his power and plate discipline and less for his hit tool.  The scouting reports also seem to think he’s a true catcher and not a bat-first player who might get moved out from behind the plate as a professional.

49.  3B/RHP Casey Schmitt (San Diego State, 21.)  Casey Schmitt was a surprise to be taken this high.  He has a career college slash line of .295/.366/.408, with an .865 OPS as a sophomore and an .837 OPS in only 16 games as a sophomore.  That doesn’t look a future major league hitter to me, but his pitching numbers are better: a 2.48 career college ERA with 17 saves and pitching line of 87 IP, 70 hits, three HRs, 29 BB and 78 Ks. Schmitt’s batting and pitching numbers in the Cape Cod League in summer 2019 reflect his college numbers.

Zaidi apparently like Schmitt as an all-around good baseball player, and I certainly hope he will be developed as both a pitcher and third-sacker as a professional.

67. LHP Nick Swiney (NC State, 21.)  Swiney went 15-1 in college, and, while his 3.51 career college ERA wasn’t overly impressive, his 174 Ks in 115.1 IP sure is.  He was wild as a sophomore, but looked really good in four starts this year before the shut-down.  Some scouts project him as a major league relief pitcher, but the Giants are apparently hoping his fastball will gain velocity if he adds weight to his 6’3″ 187 lbs frame.

68.  SS Jimmy Glowenke (Dallas Baptist, 21.)  The Giants sure like Glowenke more than anybody else did.  MLB’s Draft Tracker ranks him only 171st.  He slashed .340/.433/.506 mostly against second-tier Missouri Valley Conference competition.  He did bat .296 (but with only a .727 OPS) in the Cape Cod League last summer.  MLB.com doesn’t think Glowenke has the range to stay at SS and sees him eventually being moved to 2B, because his arm doesn’t suggest 3B except in a utility role.

85.  LHP Kyle Harrison (De La Salle HS (Concord CA), 18.)  MLB.com liked Harrison more than MLB teams did, but he could be a good pick at 85 overall.  He’s also a local boy.  He’s listed at 6’2″ and 200 lbs.  MLB.com says he’s especially tough on left-handed hitters, although his stuff may limit his ceiling.  He’s a UCLA commit, but I expect the Giants will offer him enough money to get him signed.

114.  RHP R. J. Dabovich (Arizona State, 21.)  Dabovich had a 4.04 ERA and 64K in 64.2 IP in parts of two seasons with the Sun Devils.  MLB.com describes him as a two-pitch pitcher with a 97 mph fastball, so he’s likely to be a reliever at the major league level.

144.  RHP Ryan Murphy (Lemoyne College, 20.)  Pitched effectively at a small four-year school — career college 3.40 ERA with 215 K in 203.2 IP.  He pitched well in the New England Collegiate Summer League in 2019, but he’s small for a right-hander at 6’1″ and 185 lbs.  The Giants may be hoping to save some money on his slot signing bonus to offer to high schooler Harrison.