Archive for the ‘Baltimore Orioles’ category

Comments on the Rule 5 Draft

December 13, 2018

Early today, mlbtraderumors.com published a list of this year’s Rule 5 Draft Picks.  Here are my comments.

Not surprisingly, the young, high up-side, almost certainly not major league ready guys were selected first.  No. 1 selection Richie Martin is at least coming off a strong season (.807 OPS) at AA Midland and several of the other top five have played well in partial seasons at the AA level.

The most egregious pick in this regard is the Blue Jays’ selection of 18 year old Elvis Luciano, who has yet to pitch above the Rookie League level.  It remains to be seen if the Jays are willing to keep him on the major league roster for a wasted season, or if the team is instead angling to make a trade with the Royals for his rights.

6th selection Connor Joe is the first pick who really looks like the kind of player the Rule 5 draft was originally designed to benefit — a major league ready player who is stuck behind other players in his organization.  Joe slashed .299/.408/.527 in a 2018 season roughly split between AA Tulsa and AAA Oklahoma City.  Alas, he will be 26 in 2019, which means he isn’t much of a prospect any more, although he may be able to help the Reds over the next three or four seasons.

The SF Giants selected 25 year old lefty reliever Travis Bergen from the Blue Jays.  Bergen was electric (0.50 ERA) in 27 relief appearances at AA New Hampshire in 2018, but hadn’t pitched above the short-season A level before 2018 due to injuries.

The Giants also held onto the rights of Tyler Rogers for one more year before he becomes a minor league free agent.  I’ve written several times, most recently here, that Rogers really should be an ideal Rule 5 candidate, but no one in MLB agrees with me.

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The Seattle Mariners’ Flurry of Moves

December 4, 2018

The Mariners look determined to be as bad in 2019 as the Baltimore Orioles were in 2018.  Not only are the M’s dumping their best veterans, they are also taking on a number of over-30 players who have contracts that won’t be easy to move after coming off of down years.

The Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz (and $20 million) for Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, former first round draft picks Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn and RHP prospect Gerson Bautista trade is certainly a bold, exciting move by the Mets.  Robinson Cano hit well after coming back from his 80-game PEDs suspension, but he’ll be 36 next year and still has five years and $120M left on his contract.

Clearly, the Mets intend to compete in 2019 and 2020; and if they don’t make the NLCS in either of these seasons, the move is almost certain to be a bust.  Diaz is an exciting closer, but a closer can’t make a team that much better by himself.  The Mets are obviously hoping Cano can rise to the occasion of being on the big New York stage again.

The trade is surely a risk for the Mets, but playing in NY, they need to try to win most years.  The revenue streams available require the Mets to take bold moves to get better fast, even if that means spending some money.

The Mariners get three prospects and escape $100M of the remaining salary commitment to Cano, but took on a total of $36.5M to Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak over the next two seasons, in order to balance out the deal.  Both Bruce and Swarzak were pretty awful in 2018, but their remaining salary commitments are such that it’s hard to see the Mariners eating all or most of their remaining obligations. In short, both players will get every opportunity in early 2019 to show what they’ve got left.

The Jean Segura, James Pazos and Juan Nicasio for Carlos Santana and J.P. Crawford trade presumably means the M’s like Crawford a lot, and are, on balance, looking to dump as much salary as possible as they rebuild.  Santana is coming off a down year going into his age 33 season, and he’s still owed $41.7M for 2018-2019.  However, the M’s dump the $60M+ Jean Segura is still owed through 2022 and the $9M+ that Nicasio is owed for 2019.

It sure looks like the Mariners are going to be bad in 2019 in the hopes of securing top draft picks in 2020.  I feel sorry for the guys and gals in the M’s marketing department — it’s going to be a tough sell, although Carlos Santana gives them a name to pitch, and the M’s picked up a good and cheap youngish catcher to replace Mike Zunino in Omar Narvaez from the White Sox in exchange for the much more expensive Alex Colome.

What will be most interesting for M’s fans is what the team decides to do with its newly acquired, nearly major league ready prospects.  Bring them up at or near the start of the 2019 season, so they can learn their lessons at the major league level, or hold them down on the farm to build up their confidence, prove they are ready, and keep the service-time clock from running?  Nowadays, the biggest single consideration for the expecting-to-be-bad 2019 Mariners is probably to keep the service-time clocks from running.

Let outstanding AAA performance dictate when the prospects come up, unless the major league squad is so bad (and the gate is so poor) that you really do have to call the youngsters up to at least give the fans and the organization some hope for the future.

Bits And Pieces

December 2, 2018

I’m glad the San Francisco Giants re-signed Joe Panik.  He was worth one more year going into his age 28 season, and the Gints signed him for $3.8M, which was less than the $4.2M mlbtraderumors.com predicted.  I have to assume that Panik wanted to stay with the Giants.  He’s a fine player if he can just stay healthy.

With the Brewers having non-tendered Jonathan Schoop (projected to get $10.1M by mlbtraderumors), the future Schoop signing could be the best bargain signing of the 2018-2019 off-season.  Schoop could be a bust in 2019, but his up-side is extremely high.  I hope the Baltimore Orioles try to re-sign him at what I believe will be (potentially) a bargain price — to me, that seems like the ideal place for Schoop to bounce back — and the O’s need any talent at the right price they can get (and then some).

The Giants non-tendered Hunter Strickland, who was only projected to get $2.5M in arbitration.  He didn’t pitch nearly as well when he came back from his dumb-ass, punching a wall with his pitching hand injury (this is a more common injury than you might think throughout MLB history — so much so that pitchers have been advised since long ago to punch out immovable objects with their catching hands).

The Giants realize that they can get right-handed short-men who will pitch well in the City by the Bay for bargain prices every off-season.  There are always plenty of such pitchers whom other teams have non-tendered come this time of the year, and it’s one of the reasons I think the Giants should make a run at Billy Hamilton.  Plug up the gap in Death Valley, and AT&T Park is a double-plus good park for right-handed pitchers.

Pitchers’ League: almost 40 games into the 2018 Dominican Winter League season, Jordany Valdespin is leading the league with an .838 OPS, and only eight batters have an OPS over .700.  For what it’s worth, in the three major winter leagues which have played roughly 40 games, only Mexico’s Ramon Urias and Colombian in Venezuela Harold Ramirez have OPS’s (slightly) over 1.000.  I have no idea why there hasn’t been more offense in the Caribbean this winter in light of the fact that balmy weather tends to favor hitters.

One of the things I enjoy about following the major Winter Leagues, the Atlantic League and the summer Mexican League is that there are a lot of terrific professional ballplayers out there, in an objective sense, who aren’t good enough to play in the major leagues, or at least have memorable major league careers.  How good does that make major league stars?

As a baseball junkie, I also have to admit that I enjoy the fact that some pretty good ballplayers get non-tendered every year because their respective teams feel they’ll get more than they’re worth through the arbitration process.  Some of these teams are right, and some of these teams are wrong — that means more major league players out there for all the other MLB teams to sign.  More chances for your team to strike it rich — Wahoo!

Billy Hamilton Is Now Available

December 1, 2018

The Cincinnati Reds elected not to offer Billy Hamilton a 2019 contract since he was projected to get $5.9 million through the arbitration process this off-season.  I hope the SF Giants make a run at him, because his defense is still outstanding.

MLB Trade Rumors has predicted the Giants will sign for Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollack for four years and $60M.  While Pollack played center in Arizona, it doesn’t look like he has the range to cover AT&T Park’s Death Valley.  Even signing Pollack for free agent money, it seems like the Giants could find a place for Hamilton with Pollack moving to one of the corner outfield positions.  The Giants’ pitchers would certainly benefit from an outfield featuring both Hamilton and Pollack.

Rumors suggest that the Giants will not be in on Bryce Harper sweepstakes.  The other free agent outfielders available are Michael Brantley, Andrew McCutchen, Nick Markakis and Adam Jones.  All of them are basically corner outfield types who won’t help you make the post-season unless you already have a very good team that needs an upgrade at one of the outfield corners.

Free Agent Foo and Other Notes

November 3, 2018

mlbtraderumors.com posted its list of the top 50 free agents this off-season.  I was interested to see what they had to say after last year’s paradigm shifting free agent period.

Mlbtraderumors projects Bryce Harper to get 14 years at $420M and Manny Machado to get 13 years at $390M.  My guess would be that Harper gets between $350M and $400M and Machado gets $330M.  I think Machado hurt himself with a poor post-season, and I’m doubtful any team is going to be willing to completely blow out of the water the record-setting 13 year $325M deal that Giancarlo Stanton got a few years ago, at least to the extent that mlbtraderumors is predicting.

However, it will come down to how many teams are in the hunt for both players.  If either player gets three or four teams determined to sign him, then the numbers could be bigger than I’m saying.  For whatever reason, I think the Phillies will sign Harper and Yankees Machado, although the Yankees could pursue Josh Donaldson as a shorter-term, lower commitment alternative.

Patrick Corbin is the only player MLBTR projects to get a $100M contract, in keeping with last year’s off-season”s disappointing returns for all but the very best free agents.

I think somebody will pony up more than $50M for Japan’s Yusei Kikuchi, including the posting fee.  I will be surprised if a team does not allocate at least $60M total for the six years MLBTR is projecting.

If CC Sabathia does not re-sign with the Yankees, I would love to see him sign with either the Giants or the A’s on a short-term deal.  CC is from Vallejo, so you would certainly think he’d be receptive to an offer from one of the two Bay Area teams.

The Dodgers extended Hyun-Jin Ryu a $17.9M qualifying offer, but MLBTR anticipates the Dodgers will bring him back for three years and $33M.  If I had to guess, I would say that Ryu decides to do will have a lot to do with whether or not the Yankees or Mets have any interest in him.

As a Korean, I would imagine the NYC or LA, two cities with large Korean American populations, would be his preferred destinations.  Ryu is also the only player out of seven who might reasonably accept the qualifying offer if he wants to stay in LA but the Dodgers won’t offer him a multi-year deal between now and the decision date and/or he decides to bet that he’ll be healthier in 2019 and be able to set himself for another big contract next off-season.

Clayton Kershaw signed a new deal with the Dodgers that essentially adds a third season at $28M (plus incentives), on the two-year $65M contract he could have opted out of, although the new deal pushes back $3M to the final season so he will now earn $31M per.  For whatever reason, I had imagined a new five-year $125M deal for Kershaw with or without money pushed back to the new seasons.  The actual contract signed may reflect both the Dodgers’ concerns about Kershaw’s back problems and Kershaw’s realization that he may not want to pitch more than three more seasons given his back problems.  Dodger fans can at least rest assured that Kershaw isn’t leaving this off-season.

 

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.

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).