Archive for the ‘Baltimore Orioles’ category

Time for the San Francisco Giants to Become Sellers

July 31, 2018

We are only 23 hours and 50 minutes from the trade deadline as I write this, but there is still time for the Giants to try to re-load for 2019.  At this point it seems clear that the Giants are going to be hard pressed indeed to make the playoffs, as they are six games back of the 2nd wild card spot with four other teams between them and the Diamondbacks.  It could be done, the odds sure aren’t good. It isn’t helped by the news that its a “strong possibility that Johnny Cueto needs Tommy John surgery.

Assuming the Giants aren’t willing to sell any of their core players, they could still potentially package Will Smith and Sam Dyson, who are both pitching well, to any contending team still looking for bullpen help.  Smith in particular has value because he’s been both very good and still has a year of control at what should be a reasonable 2019 salary because of his lost 2017 campaign.

I wonder if there would be any interest in Gorkys Hernandez?  He has played pretty well this year, plays a key defensive position, and his salary is currently near the MLB minimum and won’t be much higher in 2019 even though he’ll be arbitration eligible for the first time.  Always good to trade a player when their value is probably at its peak.

Maybe the Giants could trade Andrew McCutchen to the Phillies, who were interested in Adam Jones until Jones said he planned to enforce his no-trade clause.  The Giants would likely have to pay a portion of McCutchen’s remaining salary, but so be it — the team would still save money and get a prospect or international bonus money.

If the Giants trade either or both Smith and Dyson, that would free up a shot for a personal favorite of mine, Tyler Rogers, who currently has a 1.61 ERA at AAA Sacramento.  If the Giants trade Hernandez, the team could recall Mac Williamson, who is hitting great at AAA and start Steven Duggar every day in center field.

Again assuming that the Giants aren’t willing to trade away any core players, it seems like a half re-build would be appropriate for the remainder of 2018.  Then McCutchen’s and Hunter Pence‘s salaries would come off the books, and the Giants would have some money to throw at what they see as their most pressing need going into 2019.  Losing a few more games in 2018 might also get the team a better 2019 draft pick.

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The 10 Best Major League Players Who Started Their Pro Careers in the Independent-A Leagues

July 31, 2018

I’ve been following the Independent-A Leagues closely the last few years, and I recently wondered who the best major league players were who started their pro careers in an Indy-A League.  I couldn’t find a decent list, so I decided I’d make one.

One of the things I learned in compiling this list is just how incredibly difficult it is to have a major league career amounting to more than a couple of brief cups of coffee for players who don’t start their professional careers in the MLB-system.  MLB hoovers up just about every player with any shot of ever having a major league career that anyone besides the players themselves would typically remember.  Only a tiny number of players gets overlooked.

That said, it is within the realm of possibility that a player can start his pro career in an Indy-A league and still amount to a successful major league player.  That’s what keeps the dream alive.

Without further ado, here’s the list of the 11 best major league players who started their pro careers in an independent-A league.  Be sure to let me know if I’ve missed anyone who should be included.

1.  J.D. Drew.  J.D. Drew is really an Independent-A league ringer.  He was drafted with the second overall pick of the 1997 Draft by the Phillies.  Before the Draft, Drew and his agent Scott Boras let if be known that Drew was demanding a $10 million signing bonus.  The Phillies called Drew’s bluff, drafted him and offered him $2.6M.

Drew wasn’t bluffing.  When the Phillies refused to come up significantly from their initial offer, Drew refused to sign.  Instead, he spent parts of two seasons thumping the ball for the St. Paul Saints of the Northern League (now the American Association).

I haven’t always been a fan of Boras inspired holdouts, but it sure worked for Drew.  The Cardinals drafted Drew with the 5th overall pick in 1998 and signed him for $7 million.  Refusing to sign in 1997 did not significantly delay Drew’s career, as the Cardinals gave him a cup of coffee at the end of the 1998 season, and he was in the majors for good (except for injury rehab assignments) by 1999.

Drew would not be the last early round draft pick to elect to start his career in the Indy-A’s when he couldn’t reach an agreement with his drafting team, as you will see below.  A couple of Cuban defectors, Ariel Prieto and Eddy Oropesa, used the Indy-A Leagues as a means to boost their draft stock — one can argue whether Cuba’s Serie Nacional is an amateur or pro league, but it is effectively amateur in name only, since the players are essentially professionals who are compensated for their performance, although perhaps not in cash.

2.  Kevin Millar.  Millar is in my opinion the best undrafted, unsigned player independent-A league product in major league history.  Every year, many undrafted players are nevertheless signed by major league organizations.  As I understand it, each major league team makes a list shortly before Draft Day of the 500 or 600 players who the team believes are the best amatuer players available.  Each team’s scouts and front offices grade the nation of prospects differently, and every team has at least a few players who aren’t on any other team’s list.  If any of those players go undrafted, then the team that had the player listed will typically sign them up.

Playing for small college Lamar in Texas, Millar went undrafted and unsigned, and thus started his pro career at age 21 with the St. Paul Saints in 1993, the Northern League’s maiden season.  Millar never made an All-Star team or received an MVP vote, but he was a star on the 2004 Boston Red Sox team that won the franchise’s first World Series in 86 years.  Millar was also never allowed to join the MLB Players’ Association, because he crossed the picket line during the 1994-1995 strike.

3-5.  George Sherrill, Joe Thatcher and Kerry Ligtenberg.  A trio of relief pitchers who all pitched in between 386 and 442 major league games.  George Sherrill was the Orioles’ closer in 2008 and the first four months of 2009 before being traded to the Dodgers.  He finished his career with a 3.77 ERA, 56 saves and 320 Ks in 324.1 IP.  He started his pro career with Evansville of the Frontier League in 1999.

Joe Thatcher had a nine year career as a left-handed relief specialist.  He was effective in the role, finishing his major league career with a 3.38 ERA and striking out 270 batters in 260.2 innings pitched.  Thatcher began his pro career with River City in the Frontier League in 2004.

Kerry Ligtenberg was the Braves’ closer in 1998 before hurting his arm.  He came back from it, but never pitched as well as he did in 1998.  He finished his major league career with a 3.82 ERA and 357 Ks in 390.2 IP.  He started his pro career in the short-lived North Central and Prairie Leagues in 1994 and 1995.

6.  David Peralta.∗  David Peralta gets an asterisk because he started his professional career as an 18 year old pitcher in the Cardinals’ organization.  He pitched ineffectively for two seasons in the Rookie Appalachian League and was unceremoniously dumped.  He came back four years later as a 23 year old outfielder for the Rio Grand Valley WhiteWings of the short-lived North American Baseball League, and gradually worked his way up the majors three years later in 2014.  He’s still active and having a solid season at age 30, so he could well move up this list in the future.

7.  Aaron Crow.  Another high first round draft pick who refused to sign a contract with the Nationals, Crow made four appearances (three starts) with the Ft. Worth Cats of the American Association in 2008 and 2009 in order to prove he was still worth a high 1st round draft pick by the Royals in 2009.

Crow had four strong seasons as a set-up man in the Royals bullpen from 2011-2014 before his arm gave out.  He compiled a 3.43 career major league ERA and struct out 208 batters in 233.2 IP while recording six saves.

Crow is attempting a comeback in the Mexican League this summer at age 31.  While he is pitching effectively (2.33 ERA in 19 relief appearances so far), his peripheral numbers don’t suggest he’ll make it back to the majors in the near future.

8.  Daniel Nava.  Nava started his professional career at the advanced age of 24 with the Chico Outlaws of the long since defunct Golden Baseball League.  He hit a grand slam in his first major league game in 2010 (as I recall, the outfielder may have actually tipped the ball over the wall with the end of his glove), and he was a star for the 2013 World Champion Red Sox when he slashed .303/.385/.445 as an every day outfielder who split his time between right field and left field.

Nava has managed to play parts of seven major league seasons, and at age 35 he’s still listed as part of the Pirates’ AAA team, although he has yet to play a game this season because of injury.

9.  Jeff Zimmerman.  Zimmerman finished his three year major league career as the closer for the Rangers before injuries, including two Tommy John surgeries, ruined his career.  He started with the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the Northern League in 1997.

10T.  Matt Miller and Chris Coste.  Miller was a relief pitcher who pitched in an even 100 major league games with a career 2.72 ERA with 95 Ks in 106 IP.  He was a 31 year old rookie for the Rockies in 2003, but enjoyed most of his major league success starting with the Indians in 2004.  His professional career began with Greenville of the short-lived Big South League in 1996.

Chris Coste was the Phillies’ primary back-up catcher for four seasons starting with his age 33 season in 2006.  He began his pro career in the North Central and Prairie Leagues in 1995 and then spent four seasons with his home town Fargo-Moorehead Red Hawks of the Northern League before being signed by the Indians’ organization.  The North Central and Prairie Leagues may not have lasted long, but in Coste and Kerry Ligtenberg, these leagues gave first shots to two young Minnesota ballplayers who eventually made the big time and proved they belonged there.

Other players who had more than brief major league cups of coffee who began their pro careers in the independent A leagues are Chris Colabello, Brian Tollberg, James Hoyt, Chris Jakubauskas, Scott Richmond, Brian Sweeney, Chris Martin, Trevor Richards and Bobby Hill.  Hoyt, Martin and Richards are all still active and have at least a reasonable shot at adding to their career major league numbers.

Bobby Hill was drafted in the second round in consecutive seasons and presumably started his career in the Atlantic League in 2000 because he refused to sign after the White Sox drafted him the year before.  Scott Richmond started his professional career in the Northern League in 2005 at the age of 25, which makes him the oldest rookie professional baseball player I found to eventually make the majors after starting in the Indy-A leagues (MLB organizations never or almost never sign any amateur over the age of 23).

The Zach Britton Trade

July 25, 2018

Another minor success for the Baltimore Orioles in turning 2+ months of Zach Britton into three more prospects to add to the five they collected for 2.5 months of Manny Machado.

The center piece of the trade is former No. 4 overall draft pick Dillon Tate.  The New York Yankees were willing to part with Tate because his professional performance has not lived up to the draft pedigree.

Tate is currently 24 years old and pitching as a starter in AA ball with a 3.38 ERA and 75Ks in 82.2 innings pitched.  Nothing particularly impressive about that.  In fact, at this moment former 11th round draft pick Josh Rogers, who is three months younger, left-handed and has roughly similar numbers pitching in AAA, looks to be as good a prospect as Tate.

The third pitching prospect in the deal, 25 year old right-handed reliever Cody Carroll, looks ready for his major league debut.

While none of the three looks overly impressive, all three will almost certainly pitch in the major leagues.  That’s better for the O’s than the alternative, particularly since it was no sure thing that the Orioles would have made a qualifying offer to Britton this coming off-season.  The injury bug has hit Britton the last two seasons, he’s over 30 and $18M+ is a lot to pay for a closer probably past his prime even if it’s only for one season.

Having hoovered up eight players under the age of 27 for their two most obviously tradable players, do the Orioles keep going and trade away any of their other regulars?  Only if the offers are too good to pass up.

There is reportedly interest in Jonathan Schoop, but his trade value is down because of a down season.  They can always trade him next July assuming the 2019 O’s aren’t much better than the 2018 club.

Similarly, I wouldn’t trade either Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman at this time, unless the offer is just too good to pass up.  The O’s are going to get some very good draft picks in 2019, and they have a couple of young position players in Ryan Mountcastle and Cedric Mullins, who could contribute in 2019.  Get rid of some dead wood, specifically Chris Davis, and the Orioles could bounce back to at least respectability in 2019.

Baltimore Orioles Trade Manny Machado for a Boatload of Dodger Prospects

July 19, 2018

There was a lot of talk about how this year was going to be a buyers’ market at the trade deadline and that clubs were not going to pay a fortune for short-term rentals and instead hold a firm line like they did last off-season with free agents.  Well, somebody was sure wrong — the Orioles got five prospects from the Dodgers for only 2.5 months of Manny Machado, and the Dodgers took on all of Manny’s remaining 2018 salary!

This move can only be seen as a huge win for the Orioles.  Manny wasn’t going to make them competitive this year, and the O’s got a whole, whole lot more than the sandwich pick they would have received by tendering Machado a qualifying offer this coming off-season.  For the Dodgers, well, they’re trying to win the World Series, and Machado certainly gives them a better chance of doing that.

The main prospect, 21 year old Cuban Yusniel Diaz, has been rumored for the last couple of days as the key piece in this deal for the O’s.  There was some talk that the Dodgers would send Logan Forsythe and the dying embers of his dog of a contract to the Orioles to balance out the money, but that this would mean that the Dodgers would have to include at least one more good prospect.  The Orioles didn’t take on Forsythe’s contract, but they still got a bunch of good prospects.

22 year old right-hander Dean Kramer has 125 Ks in 86 IP in 16 Class A+ starts and one AA start.  21 year old righty Zach Pop (great name) has a 1.04 ERA with 47 Ks in 43.1 IP while allowing only 25 hits in a season so far split between full season A ball and Class A+.  22 year old 2B/3B Rylan Bannon has a .961 OPS at Class A+ Rancho Cucamonga, although he may not be able to stick defensively at either of these positions.

The least of the prospects the O’s received is also the only one with major league experience.  26 year old Breyvic Valera‘s future major league role, if any, will almost certainly be as a jack-of-all-trades back-up guy.  There are certainly major league roster spots for Valera’s kind of player so long as they hit just enough.

One thing to be said for the Dodgers — none of Kramer, Pop or Bannon was drafted higher than the 7th round, which suggests that the Dodgers have a very deep farm system with a lot of over-achieving prospects to deal away in July.  In that sense, the trade reminds me of one of those old-school trades when MLB was dominated by the Yankees, Dodgers and Cardinals, and these “haves” would trade away a boatload of minor leaguers who were probably never going to be good enough to start for these teams to “have-nots” like the Orioles for the “have-not” team’s best player.

Maybe only Diaz ever amounts to much and Valera ends up as a useful major league back-up, while all of Kramer, Pop and Bannon get hurt or reach their ceiling when they hit the high minors.  Even so, the Orioles got a whole lot of talent compared to what they would have gotten holding on to Machado.  Now we have to wait and see if this trade is a one-off, or if other buyers now feel they have pay dearly to help their post-season chances.

Bennett Parry and Tyler J. Alexander

July 11, 2018

One problem with being a life-long baseball observer outside of the professional game is that, at the end of the day, I can only guestimate how major league organizations make decisions.  Even though a lot of input is sought by the media from major league organizations, major league organizations will provide some information, but they won’t provide everything.  Pro baseball knowledge is proprietary, and why would you put out information to the public from which another pro baseball organization might learn something with which to compete against you?

Sabrmetrics can tell us something by which we can get some idea of what MLB organizations analytics departments are looking at.  (If I had to guess, I’d say that computer simulations using powerful computers and algorithms produced by professional mathematicians are things MLB orgs are using that hasn’t yet reached the likes of fangraphs.com.)

Sometimes, I just don’t know whether the MLB orgs are missing something that seems obvious to me or they have information I don’t have, or some combination of both.  I often feel like I’m working with 1950’s inside baseball, and that the modern baseball world might well be passing me by.

Why haven’t MLB orgs re-signed either Bennett Parry or Tyler J. Alexander, as I write this.  Both started their professional careers in MLB organizations, but were late round draft picks who apparently got burned by MLB’s minor league numbers game (35+ new prospects are added by each organization every year, which is about or more than 1.5 low minor league club rosters).

Bennett Parry was a 40th round (whew!) draft pick who never pitched higher than the full season A level but still produced a 2.71 ERA with 211 Ks in 216 IP across four MLiB seasons, before suffering injuries of some kind that caused him to miss  majorities of both the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

He has worked his way back through the Indy-A leagues to the point where he is a starting pitcher in the Atlantic League with a 2.60 ERA with 104 Ks in 72.2 IP.  He’s a big 26 year old left-hander at 6’6″ and 240 lbs.

Tyler Alexander is another, smaller 26 year old left-hander (6’1″ and 200 lbs) without the injuries.  He was plagued by high ERAs but with high strikeout rates in two MLiB seasons after being drafted by the Brewers in the 27th round.  He put together three fine seasons for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks of the Indy-A American Association and two fine winters in the Mexican Pacific League, before signing with a Can-Am League team this year, presumably to get more exposure). He has joined the Mexican Summer League for the second half season.

Left-handers with strikeout stuff are always in demand if only for the simple fact that while only one person in ten is a natural left-hander, about one-third of major league pitchers are left-handed.

For the life of me, I don’t understand why neither Parry nor Alexander has been signed by an MLB organization as of this writing.  I haven’t found anything on line suggesting a scandal involving either player, and neither is too small to suggest MLB would ignore them for this reason.

What am I missing?  The question torments me in my spare time.

Delmon Young Sighting

July 8, 2018

Doesn’t it seem like a long time since Delmon Young last played in the majors?  It was only 2015 with the Orioles, but it feels like longer.

Young is still around, attempting a come-back in the Mexican League at the age of 32.  I was certainly surprised when I saw his name today in milb.com’s list of Mexican League hitters, because one has to think long and hard to remember that Young was young when he entered the major leagues and still young when he left them.

Young had enormous talent, enough to be the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2003 out of high school.  He was a great pure hitter (.283 career batting average across ten major league seasons), and he had some pop, but he almost never drew a walk and didn’t hit with enough power consistently enough to make it as a corner outfielder.

He had a great year for the Twins in 2010, when he drove in 112 runs and had 12 outfield assists playing exclusively left field, but that was pretty much it.  Another thing that appears to have contributed to his rapid demise is that he had lost his speed by the time he was in his late 20’s.

After leaving the majors, Young played in the Dominican Winter League in the winter of 2015-2016, and he played in the Australian Baseball League the next winter, without particularly impressive results given the respective levels of competition in either league.

He has only played in 26 Mexican League games so far this summer, and he looks like the same old Delmon Young.  He can hit for a decent average with a little pop, but he still doesn’t walk much.  We’ll see how long he’s willing to play for $5,000 to $8,000 a month playing in Mexico.

Lew Ford Is Still Slugging It Out in the Atlantic League

June 28, 2018

I was surprised to notice today that Lew Ford is still playing in the Atlantic League this season.  He turns 42 on August 12.  He’s only batting .249 with an OPS below .700, but he’s currently tied for 6th in the 8-team circuit with 33 RBIs.

This is Ford’s ninth season playing for the Long Island Ducks, and since the Atlantic League salary cap is $3,000 per month, Ford, with his major league background, has probably made exactly that for all of the many, many months he has played for the Ducks.

Ford did play his way back to the Orioles for a two-month spell in 2012, where he even earned a little post-season money, and he’s played five seasons in the Caribbean Winter Leagues along with a couple of brief interludes in the Mexican Summer League, so I guess he’s somehow been able to cobble out a meager living while still playing professionally as long as he possibly can.  It’s hard to imagine having a family and supporting them in the Greater New York area on what he has likely made playing baseball since the start of the 2009 season.

Ford can start collecting his MLB pension as young as age 45, so we’ll see if he can keep playing until then.  More likely, when they finally take the bat out of his hands, he’ll become a professional coach at some level somewhere.