Are Junior College Players Undervalued at Draft Time?

Posted February 4, 2016 by Burly
Categories: Uncategorized

One thing I have noticed recently is that when a current or recent major league star was drafted after about the 7th round, roughly the first 200 picks of any draft, they seem disproportionately to be players who were drafted out of junior college, rather than high school or four-year colleges.  Albert Pujols, Howie Kendrick, Jorge Posada, Mike Piazza, Roy Oswalt and Andy Petitte are some prominent recent examples, and there are others.

I haven’t done the research, and I haven’t been able to find anything on the internet about it, so my hunch may be no more than that.  However, the anecdotal evidence is highly suggestive.

The reasons why junior college might be undervalued is the fact that they may be considered either too poor academically or athletically, either to have been drafted out of high school or to have received a scholarship to play at a four-year school.  Obviously, teams want young players viewed as having major league tools and perceived as being smart enough to learn once they make the professional ranks.

It could also come down simply to the fact that elite high school and four-year college players are more heavily scouted than junior college players.  Also, there may be an expectation that if a junior college player develops substantially in junior college, he will opt to move on to a four-year school in order to improve his draft chances substantially after his junior season.  Thus, teams may not want to “waste” their higher selections on junior college players, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophesy for junior college players to elect to transfer to a four-year school before making themselves available for the draft.  It may also be assumed that JC ball is inferior because most of the elite college prospects receive scholarships attend four-year schools.

The obvious potential advantages to junior college players compared to high school or four year players are that with respect to high school players, a year or two of JC ball means another year or two to develop physically, especially important to late bloomers, recover from high school senior year injuries, and the fact that JC ball is a higher caliber of baseball than high school ball.  The advantage compared to four-year college players is that JC players can be drafted after their age 19 or 20, while players at four year schools can only be drafted after their junior years, which is typically their age 21 season.  Most MLB teams believe that youngsters are more likely to develop in their own professional systems rather than college, if given the choice.

An awful lot of four year college players drafted in the first five rounds of the draft were previously drafted out of high school in the late rounds, because teams anticipate that promising high schoolers not promising enough to be drafted in the first five to seven rounds of the draft will elect to go college unless they receive signing bonuses well above what would now be the slot amounts.  In fact, it seems that most of these players do go to four-year colleges, while most later drafted JC players were not drafted out of high school.

If I ever have the time, I will have to do the research on this issue.  I imagine someone else must have done so already, but I haven’t been able to find it.

Seattle Mariners Sign the Big Boy to a Minor League Deal

Posted February 3, 2016 by Burly
Categories: Baseball Abroad, Seattle Mariners

The Mariners today announced the signing of South Korean slugger Dae-ho “Big Boy” Lee to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training.  The deal can top out at about $4 million if Lee earns all the incentives.

While I’ve long been a fan of Lee, as one of the world’s better position players not in MLB, I’ve written before that I don’t think his chances of MLB success are good going into what will be his age 34 season.  Lee can hit, but his NPB stats aren’t impressive enough for me to think he’ll be anything more than a right-handed hitting platoon 1B/DH and pinch hitter in the majors.  I’m also convinced that he is exceptionally slow, as his low four-year NBP runs scored total (he averaged 60.5 runs scored per season) in spite of his power, high on-base percentages and playing every day, just can’t reasonably be explained over that long a period any other way.

Still, by giving Lee a minor league deal, which I assume pays him at most $500,000 pro rated for minor league service time, the M’s are risking so little that he’s certainly worth giving a shot.

In Lee’s case, and in the case of many players who aren’t quite good enough to be MLB semi-regulars, it’s probably better to be a big fish in a small pond than a much smaller fish in the ocean.  Lee probably walked away from a $12M to $15M guarantee for three seasons from his old team the SoftBank Hawks, and in terms of professional career earnings, Lee’s decision was probably a mistake.

Still, you have to give Lee credit for wanting to give MLB a shot.  Lee probably could have had a respectable major league career if he’d come over five years ago, but the MLB opportunities just weren’t there for KBO players at that time.

Now, Lee’s is a contract for which an opt-out clause would make a whole lot sense: if Lee could opt out of his deal with the Mariners on July 1, 2016 if he is not then on the major league roster, he could return to Japan, finish out the 2016 NPB season, and be well positioned for a two year NPB deal after the 2016 season.

San Francisco Giants Sign Veteran Catcher Miguel Olivo

Posted February 3, 2016 by Burly
Categories: San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers

The Giants signed veteran catcher Miguel Olivo to a minor league contract.  Olivo will be 37 next year, but hit fairly well in the Mexican League last year.

In case you have forgotten, Olivo got himself run out of the MLB system in 2014, when while playing for the AAA Albuquerque Isotopes in the Dodgers’ system, he bit off part of the ear of Dodgers’ prospect Alexander Guererro, a Cuban defector the Dodgers had signed to a four-year $28 million free agent deal, in a dugout fight.

Needless to say, it wasn’t a good career move on Olivo’s part, who at age 35 was trying to hang on to a professional career.  I remember at the time thinking it was hard to believe that a player that age with that much professional experience would do something that crazy no matter how angry he might have been in the moment.

I’m a little surprised any MLB team would give Olivo another shot at his age and given this history.  However, if there is one team in baseball that’s willing to let bygones be bygones to a guy who bit off part of a Dodgers’ prospect’s ear, that team is would have to be the Giants.

Weird Stats

Posted January 30, 2016 by Burly
Categories: Baseball History

In the doldrums of late January as we all wait for Spring Training, it feels like a good time for some fun stats foo.  Here goes, focusing on pitching stats.

Wild pitches.  This is a stat that, at least on a single season basis strictly follows the development of catching equipment.  The most wild pitches by a pitcher in a season since 1900 is Red Ames‘ 30 in 1905.  That’s good for only a tie for 105th all-time.

The record since the end of WWII is Tony Cloninger‘s 27 wild ones in 1966, the same year he became the only pitcher in baseball history to hit two grand slams in one game, which by the way was his second two home run game of the season.  Go figure.

K/BB rate.  I was somewhat surprised to learn that most of the single-season and career leaders in strikeouts to walks ratio are modern pitchers, with exception of those who pitched well back in the 19th century when it took more than four balls to issue a walk.  I had remembered that Christy Mathewson and Pete Alexander had some very impressive walk rates, but pitchers in that era didn’t strike out all that many compared to the modern game.

Walks Rate.  In fact, the lowest walks rate by any pitcher since 1884 by a wide margin is Carlos Silva‘s 2005 when he walked only nine in 188.1 IP, the 7th best all-time, and the only season in the top 25 after 1884.

HBP. Hitting batters with the pitched ball was also much more common in the 19th Century game than it is today.  Since 1910, the most plunkings in a season were the 23 exacted by Howard Emke in 1923, good only for a tie for 53rd all-time.  Since the end of WWII, the record is Tom Murphy‘s 21 in 1969, matched by Kerry Wood in 2003.

Pitchers who hit a lot of batters tend to fall into two categories: (1) pitchers with not enough command; and (2) pitchers who hit batters in order to keep them from getting comfortable at the dish.  However, the two categories are not mutually exclusive.  Wood and Murphy in their record-setting seasons seem to fall into the first category; Emke is more of an open question.

HRs Allowed.  In terms of HRs allowed in a season, the records are almost entirely limited to the modern game, i.e., after WWII.  The only season in the top 100 before 1946 was Larry Corcoran‘s 1884 when he allowed 35 home runs pitching for the Chicago White Stockings.  This season was entirely the product of the ground rules used at the Chicago ballpark for that season only, when drives hit over a 190 foot outfield fence were treated as home runs.

The real  pre-WWII record is probably the 32 dingers allowed by the Arkansas Hummingbird Lon Warneke in 1937.

 

Someday Major League Expansion

Posted January 26, 2016 by Burly
Categories: Baseball History

As I have opined several times since starting this blog back in 2009, I think it is well nigh time for another round of major league expansion.  Since major league expansion began in 1961-1962, the longest period without expansion has been the present 18 seasons since the last round of expansion in 1998.

Commissioner Rob Manfred was recently asked about future expansion.  He said that he strongly supports eventual expansion because MLB is a growth industry and growth industries need to grow (or words to that effect).  However, his statements made clear that expansion is not a front-burner issue, which I understood to mean that there will not be further expansion for at least the next three to six years, in other words during the period of the next negotiated collective bargaining agreement.

As I wrote almost seven years ago now, I think that greater Portland, OR; San Antonio/Austin, TX; and Charlotte, NC/SC are the most promising domestic sites for the next two expansion teams.  As of today, I think any of these locations could support a major league franchise.

Needless to say, MLB’s current owners are in no real rush to expand.  They have a nice little monopoly, and why split the current national TV contracts a couple more ways?  MLB as an institution may also wish to wait until there are a few more prime metro areas, as a result of future population growth, for possible expansion.  More contenders for the expansion teams means MLB will have a greater ability to extort better facilities from the contenders.

My best estimate is that expansion teams could probably command a $600 million franchise fee if expansion were to happen now.  If two expansion teams are added, that’s $40 million for each of the existing 30 teams.  That’s a lot of money in theory, but given current player contracts, it’s not all that much.  Meanwhile, in the short term existing teams would be getting less national TV money.

In the long run, of course, expansion means a bigger national market and more national TV money.  However, I don’t think most owners are all that far-sighted when it comes to running their operations.  Most likely, teams will want to wait until team values for even the least valuable teams are so great, that expansion fees would really have a major impact on the existing teams’ bottom lines.

Yoenis Cespedes Also Betting on Himself

Posted January 23, 2016 by Burly
Categories: New York Mets

It seems really obvious that Yoenis Cespedes really wanted to stay in New York, since he reportedly left at least $25 million on the table in guaranteed money to re-up with the Mets for three years and $75 million.  He also gets a no trade clause and an opt-out after only one year for which he will be paid $27.5 million.

From everything I know about Cespedes, I’m not that surprised that he wanted to stay in New York.  For a player from Cuba, I would think that New York City and Miami would be the top two places to play if you could choose.  In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Cespedes plans to spend his summers in NYC and his winters in Florida, which is what about 80% of New Yorkers would do if they could afford it.

Cespedes also seems like a guy who won’t shy away from the bright lights of the big city.  What remains to be seen is whether or not he can play a full season like he did the last two months for the Mets in 2015.  The new Shea Stadium isn’t a significantly better place for hitters than the old Shea Stadium, and Old Shea was a strong pitchers’ park.

Still, there is something to be said for playing where you feel at home, and Cespedes surely seems to feel at home in New York.  We will see what happens soon enough.

Whither Tim Lincecum?

Posted January 23, 2016 by Burly
Categories: San Francisco Giants

Finally some news about Tim Lincecum.  mlbtraderumors.com reported months ago that following Timmy’s hip surgery, he was going to have a show case in January for teams to evaluate what he had left.  Since then, silence.

Today the SF Chronicle said the showcase is going to happen sometime in February.  We shall see.

The Chronicle’s story left me with as many questions as answers.  There were a bunch of quotes from Tim’s agent, but you have to consider the source.  What agent is going to do anything but spin the available information in the best possible light?  “There was never anything wrong with his arm,” except that for a four year period, he lost his command and his fastball mph dropped precipitously.  Maybe it was all his hip, maybe, probably not.

The thing that concerned me most about the article was that on January 22nd it said, he “is expected to begin throwing off a mound within a week.”  That does not inspire a whole lot of confidence here.

Tim wants a major league deal, but it looks like he won’t be ready to prove if he has anything left until almost every team has its 40-man roster packed to the gills.  You can always make room for one more player who can help the team at the right price, but the roster math suggests that Tim probably won’t be able to find a slot until another pitcher hurts himself in Spring Training.  A late start for a guy who hasn’t pitched since last June doesn’t sound like the major league contract Tim is looking for.

That said, if Tim’s showcase is positive, someone should take a chance on him because, if his arm is reasonably right, I can’t believe he wouldn’t be at least a bargain middle relief piece at a $1 million guarantee.

Will the Giants look to re-sign Tim at the right price?  Who knows?  The Chron article at least shows that the Giants recognize how loved Timmy is to the fan base.  After 42 San Francisco seasons of post-season futility, no one who’s been a Giants fan since at least 2000 — and that’s just about everybody who can afford to buy tickets regularly to see the Giants play — will forgot his role in making the team a World Series winner again and again and again.


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