Archive for the ‘Cincinnati Reds’ category

KBO’s KT Wiz Sign Pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne

November 12, 2019

The KT Wiz of South Korea’s KBO signed RHP Odrisamer Despaigne for 2020 at a $750,000 salary and another $150,000 in performance incentives.  The only thing unusual about the signing is that Despaigne will be 33 in 2020, which is about two years older than the typical cut-off age for players going to South Korea or Japan to start the season.

In Despaigne’s favor are the facts that he has the kind of MLB experience Asian teams look for, and he had a good year at AAA in 2019.  His 3.47 ERA was third best out of 23 International League starters who threw at least 100 innings in the suddenly hitter-friendly circuit.  His 124 Ks was also third best in the IL, and struck out almost exacty one batter per inning pitched.  Finally, Despaigne is Cuban, and Cubans are a hot commodity in the Asian majors right now.

Despaigne is a great pitcher who doesn’t have major league stuff.  Sometimes, guys like him can be very successful in Asia, at least so long as they find the league in which their stuff is good enough to take advantage of their ability to pitch.  Asian teams generally prefer foreigners with major league stuff, who haven’t been able to put it together in the MLB majors, usually because their command isn’t quite good enough.  Pitchers with big fastballs, a sharp breaking pitch and a little brains can be very successful in Asia if they figure out that they can afford to miss out over the plate more often than they could in MLB.

The nice thing for the Wiz is that Despaigne is a relative bargain.  His level of past MLB major league experience would usually require a total commitment at the $1M KBO cap for first year foreign players.  Despaigne would likely have gotten the full $1M if he were two years younger.

In a related note, I saw that Tim Adleman recently re-signed to a minor league deal with the Detroit Tigers for 2020.  Too bad — he had as good a season in the International League as Despaigne did.  He pitched in the KBO in 2018 on a $1.05M contract the Samsung Lions had given him (the KBO’s $1M cap was imposed the next off-season), after he led the Cincinnati Reds in innings pitched in 2017 (the Reds’ pitching that year was bad and hurt).

Adleman wasn’t terrible, with an 8-12 record and a 5.05 ERA when the KBO was still an extreme hitters league, but it wasn’t good enough for the money he was making, and he found himself starting the 2019 season in the Atlantic League, almost certainly because he was already 31 entering the 2019 season.  The Tigers signed him after only three Atlantic League appearances, and he put in a fine season for them at the AA and AAA levels.

All of which means, Adleman wouldn’t be a bad bet for a KBO team on a contract paying a $600,000 salary and another $200,000 in performance incentives.  Now that Adleman knows the league, he might be better in a second go ’round.  Of course, that could occur only if Adleman was willing to spend another year in South Korea.  Some American players don’t enjoy the experience of playing and living in a foreign country for six months out of the year.

Is It Worth Tanking to Improve Your MLB Draft Position?

September 25, 2019

My team, the SF Giants, are currently in line to get either the 13th or 14th pick in the 2020 June Draft.  Gints fans will remember that the team made deals at the trade deadline, but they were kind of push.  The team sold on a couple of relievers, but also made trades designed to help the team going forward in 2019.  The Gints still had an outside shot at making the play-offs at the trade deadline, and they play in a market large enough to make total rebuilds relatively expensive.

Is it worth tanking, at least once the team has realized it has no reasonable chance of making the post-season, in order to get a higher selection in the next MLB draft?

I looked at the first twelve draft picks from the June drafts starting with 1987 (the first year the June draft was the only MLB amateur draft conducted for the year) through 2009 (which is long enough ago that we should now know whether the players drafted were major league success stories).  Suffice it say, with the first 12 draft picks of each June draft, the team imagines it has drafted a future major league star in compensation for sucking ass the previous season.

In order to keep things simple, I used baseball reference’s career WAR totals to determine whether each drafted player was a major league success.  Not precise, I’ll admit, since what drafting teams really care about is the first six-plus major league seasons of control.  However, I don’t know how to create a computer program to figure out the years-of-control WAR for each drafted player, and I’m not sure I’d be willing to spend the time to do so even if I knew how.  Career WAR seems a close enough approximation.

Also, for purposes of my study, no player is considered to have lower than a 0 career WAR — you cannot convince me that a drafted player who never reaches the majors is worth more than a drafted player who played in the majors but had a negative career WAR.  A player reaches and plays in the majors 9 times out of 10 because he is the best player available at that moment to take the available roster spot.  The tenth time, he is worth trying to develop as a major league player because of his potential upside.

As a result, I did not bother with averages.  Instead, I looked at median performances (i.e., for the 23 players picked at each of the first 12 draft slots during the relevant period, 11 players had a higher career WAR and 11 players had a lower career WAR than the median player.

Also, if a player was drafted more than once in the top 12, because he didn’t sign the first time drafted, I still counted him as his career WAR for each time he was drafted.

Here we go:

1st Overall Pick.  Median player:  Ben McDonald (1989, 20.8 Career WAR).  Best Players drafted with the No. 1 pick: Alex Rodriguez (1993, 117.8 career WAR); Chipper Jones (1990, 85.3 WAR); Ken Griffey, Jr. (1987, 83.8 WAR).  Odds of drafting a 15+ WAR player = 61%.  [Examples of 15+ WAR players are Mike Lieberthal (15.3 WAR); Gavin Floyd (15.6 WAR); Eric Hosmer (15.7+ WAR); and Phil Nevin (15.9 WAR).]  Odds of drafting a 10+ WAR player = 65%.  [Examples of 10+ WAR players are Rocco Baldelli (10.2 WAR); Shawn Estes (10.4 WAR); Todd Walker (10.5 WAR)  ; and Doug Glanville (10.9 WAR).]  Odds of drafting a 5+ WAR player = 70%.  [Examples of 5+ WAR players are John Patterson (5.0 WAR); Mike Pelfrey (5.3 WAR); Billy Koch (5.4 WAR); and Sean Burroughs (5.5 WAR).]

2nd Overall Pick.  Median player: Dustin Ackley (2009, 8.1 WAR).  Best Players drafted with the No. 2 pick: Justin Verlander (2004, 70.8+ WAR); J.D. Drew (1997, 44.9 WAR).  Odds of drafting a 15+ WAR player = 35%.  Odds of drafting a 10+ WAR player = 43%.  Odds of drafting a 5+ WAR player = 70%.

3rd Overall Pick.  Median player:  Philip Humber (2004, 0.9 WAR).  Best Players drafted at No. 3: Evan Longoria (2006, 54.2+ WAR); Troy Glaus (1997, 38.0 WAR).  15+ WAR player = 22%10+ WAR player = 35%5+ WAR player = 43%.

4th Overall Pick.  Median player: Tim Stauffer (2003, 3.8 WAR).  Best Players drafted at No. 4: Ryan Zimmerman (2005, 37.7+ WAR); Alex Fernandez (1990, 28.4 WAR).  15+ WAR player = 17%10+ WAR player = 26%5+ WAR player = 39%.

5th Overall Pick.  Median player: zero value.  Best players drafted at No. 5: Mark Teixeira (2001, 51.8 WAR); Ryan Braun (2005, 47.7+ WAR).  15+ WAR player = 30%10+ WAR player = 35%5+ WAR player = 39%.

6th Overall Pick.  Median player: zero value.  Best players drafted at No. 6: Derek Jeter (1992, 72.6 WAR); Zack Greinke (2002, 71.3+ WAR).  15+ WAR player = 9%10+ WAR player = 13%5+ WAR player = 26%.

7th Overall Pick.  Median player: Calvin Murray (1992, 2.1 WAR).  Best players drafted at No. 7: Frank Thomas (1989, 73.9 WAR); Clayton Kershaw (2006, 67.6+ WAR).  15+ WAR player = 30%10+ WAR player = 39%5+ WAR player = 48%.

8th Overall Pick.  Median player: zero value.  Best players drafted at No. 8: Todd Helton (1995, 61.2 WAR); Jim Abbott (1988, 19.6 WAR).  15+ WAR player = 13%10+ WAR player = 26%5+ WAR player = 39%.

9th Overall Pick.  Median player: Aaron Crow (2008, 2.6 WAR).  Best players drafted at No. 9:  Kevin Appier (1987, 54.5 WAR); Barry Zito (1999, 31.9 WAR).  15+ WAR player = 26%10+ WAR player = 26%5+ WAR player = 48%.

10th Overall Pick.  Median player: Michael Tucker (1992, 8.1 WAR).  Best players drafted at No. 10: Robin Ventura (1988, 56.1 WAR); Eric Chavez (1996, 37.5 WAR).  15+ WAR player = 39%10+ WAR player = 48%5+ WAR player = 52%.

11th Overall Pick.  Median player: Lee Tinsley (1987, 1.7 WAR).  Best players drafted at No. 11: Max Scherzer (2006, 60.5+ WAR); Andrew McCutchen (2005, 43.6+ WAR).  15+ WAR player = 13%10+ WAR player = 17%5+ WAR player = 22%.

12th Overall Pick.  Median player: Bobby Seay (1996, 3.0 WAR).  Best players drafted at No. 12: Nomar Garciaparra (1994, 44.2 WAR); Jared Weaver (2004, 34.4 WAR).  15+ WAR player = 26%10+ WAR player = 39%5+ WAR player = 48%.

What do I conclude from all of the above number-crunching and name-dropping (and my cursory review of the Nos. 13-15 draft picks during the relevant period)?  It’s worth tanking to get the first or second pick in the June Draft or to get one of the top ten picks.  Since teams bad enough at the trade deadline to have a reasonable shot to get the No. 1 or 2 picks will be tanking no matter what, the only real lesson is that teams that have the 11th to 15th worst record in MLB approaching the trade deadline and realize they have no reasonable shot to make the post-season should SELL, SELL, SELL in order to get one of the top ten draft picks the next June.

The second lesson I take from my study is that teams should ALWAYS draft the player they think to be the best available/remaining if they have a top 12 or 15 draft pick and PAY what it takes to sign the player, unless the potential draftee has made it clear he will not sign with the team under any circumstances.  After the two best players in any given draft, there is too much uncertainty for teams not to draft the player they think is the best available.  Drafting a player the team thinks is a lesser player in order to save $2 million to throw at a high school player drafted in the 11th round is going to be a bad decision in most cases, particularly in the current regime where teams get a finite budget to sign their first ten draft picks, and the draftees know the cap amounts.

I see no obvious difference in the results for the third through tenth rounds, because, I assume, after the first two consensus best players in any given draft, teams have different opinions about the merits of the next, larger group of potential draftees, to the point where it more or less becomes a crap shoot.  After the first two rounds, and with the notable exception of the 10th round, the median player drafted with the third through 12th pick isn’t really worth a damn, and the odds of selecting a 15+ WAR player, a true star, are considerably less than one in three.

As a final note, I don’t like the fact that post-trade-deadline waiver deals can no longer be made.  I don’t see the downside in allowing losing teams to dump their over-paid veterans after the trade deadline (but before the Sept. 1st play-off eligibility deadline) in exchange for some, usually limited, salary relief and prospects, while play-off bound teams get to add veterans so they can put the best possible team on the field come play-off time.  I hope MLB can find a way for these deals to resume in the future.

How Good Is Aristides Aquino?

August 30, 2019

Aristides Aquino just hit his 14th home run of the month of August, setting a new rookie record.  It’s an impressive feat, but how good is Aquino really?  There’s good reason to think that MLB pitchers and scouts will eventually find his holes.

Aquino’s minor league stats look a lot like a a player who ends up playing well in Asia, like Neftali Soto.  Through his age 24 season, peaking at the AA level, Aquino looked like a guy with power but who didn’t walk enough and struck out too much to be a successful major league player.

This year, in a combined 425 major league and (mostly) AAA plate appearances, but not including today’s record-setting game, Aquino has struck out 103 times and only walked 31 times.  That sure doesn’t look like a hitter that’s going to be able to continue batting .315, or even AAA’s .299, at the major league level.

Of course, Aquino doesn’t have to bat .299 or even .260 if he blasts enough home runs.  He has the raw power potential, but you have to think at age 25 already, his .248 career minor league average means that pitchers are going to catch up with his flaws soon enough.  Players rarely get that much better suddenly between their age 24 and 25 seasons.

 

Tyler Rogers Finally Gets His Shot

August 28, 2019

The Giants announced today that they have released Scooter Gennett — they’d have been better off just holding onto Joe Panik — and will call up submarining right hander Tyler Rogers to take his place.  I advocated in 2017 and 2018 for Rogers to get his major league shot, but the irony is that he doesn’t really deserve it this year.

After posting ERAs of 2.37 and 2.13 and allowing only six HRs in 143.2 IP in the hit- and homer-happy Pacific Coast League, Rogers hasn’t pitched well at AAA Sacramento this season.  His 4.21 ERA is unimpressive, he had command issues early in the season, and he’s allowed six home runs in 62 IP this year.  He’s pitched well of late, or at least I think so, since MiLB.com no longer publishes his last 10 PCL games since he’s just been promoted to the Show.

Low side-arm/under arm pitchers are rare, and as a result they can be effective major league pitchers in part because hitters aren’t familiar with them.  They can be very good at preventing the home run ball, but they need good infield defense behind them to stop hard hit ground balls and turn double plays.

Rogers has allowed a total of only 19 HRs in 478.2 minor league innings pitched, which is terrific.  We’ll see if he can prevent home runs by major league hitters.  Rogers needs to command his pitches if he’s going to be successful at the major league level.  Again, we’ll soon see how well he can do it.

Rogers is 28 this season, so an awful lot is riding on his ability to make a good impression right away now that he finally has the opportunity.  I’m rooting for him, but it remains to be seen if he what it takes to be a successful major leaguer.  At least, he’s finally getting an opportunity to show what he can do.

Busy Trade Deadline Day for San Francisco Giants

August 1, 2019

After being up in the air about how they were going to go into the trade deadline, the Giants made a flury of moves that kind of split the difference.  The Giants sent away relievers Sam Dyson, Mark Melancon, Drew Pomeranz and Ray Black, held onto Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith, and added 2Bmen Scooter Gennett and Mauricio Dubon and a bunch of B and C-grade prospects.

Dyson was the only really important piece for the Giants in 2019, and the Giants got three prospects for his last 1.33 seasons of control.  The three prospects are Prelander Berroa, a 19 year old right-hander who has never pitched above the rookie league level; Jaylin Davis, a just turned 25 year old outfielder who is a former 24th round draft pick but is having a big year this year in the high minors; and Kei-Wei Teng, a big (6’4″, 260 lbs) Taiwanese right-hander pitching well at full season A ball this year at age 20.

After a promotion from AA, Jaylin Davis was slashing .331/.405/.708 after 41 games for AAA Rochester, and he runs well. However, his career minor league .812 OPS is probably a better reflection of his true talents.  MLB.com doesn’t rank any of the three prospects the Giants received as being in the Twins’ top 30.

The Giants got a big return from the Brewers for Drew Pomeranz and Ray Black.  Just turned 25 2Bman Mauricio Dubon was slashing .297/.333/.475 after 427 plate appearances at AAA San Antonio.  Dubon was born in Honduras and went to high school in Sacramento.  He is just the second Honduran born player in major league history — the first was Gerald Young.

The trades involving Mark Melancon and Scooter Gennett were mostly about moving salary for the selling teams.  The Braves will reportedly pay all of Melancon’s remaining contract, which is close to $19M through the end of the 2020 season.  The prospects the Giants got in return reflect it.  Righties Tristan Beck and Dan Winkler don’t impress much.

Beck is a former 4th round draft pick out of Stanford, but missed all of the 2017 season to a stress fracture in his back.  Now age 23, he has an ugly 5.65 ERA in the normally pitcher-friendly Class A+ Florida State League after eight starts this season.  After a fine major league campaign last year at age 28, Dan Winkler pitched his way out of the Braves’ bullpen this year and has had trouble throwing strikes for AAA Gwinnett.

The Giants gave the Reds “cash considerations” for Scooter Gennett, which I assume means that the Giants will be paying all of the remaining $3.25 million owed to Gennett, plus maybe another $25,000 or $50,000.  Gennett has been awful this year since coming back from an injury.  It doesn’t seem likely he’ll hit better in pitcher-friendly San Francisco than he did in hitter-friendly Cincinnati, but you never know.  One thing is for certain — the additions of Dubon and Gennett mean that Joe Panik‘s playing time will be limited going forward unless he gets hot immediately.  It also seems almost certain the Giants will non-tender Panik this off-season.

In another very minor move, the Giants swapped lefty Jacob Lopez for LF/1B Joe McCarthy.  I’m doubtful either player ever reaches the majors, but again, you never know.

The Giants promoted Derek Rodriguez, Andrew Suarez and Jandel Gustave today to replace the traded away bullpen pieces.  None of the three deserved the promotion more than Sam Selman.  However, the odds that all three of Rodriguez, Suarez and Gustave can hold their major league roster spots seem slim, so Selman may get his shot soon enough.

Luis Robert, Robel Garcia and Other 2019 Hot Starts

May 4, 2019

I thought it would be fun to write a couple of pieces on minor leaguers off to particularly hot starts in 2019.  Here goes:

21 year old $26 million Cuban bonus baby Luis Robert got off to the hottest start anywhere in organized baseball.  In 19 games in the Class A+ Carolina League his 1.432 OPS was a whopping 437 basis points better than the league’s next best hitter.  Not surprisingly, he has already been promoted to the AA Southern League, where he is off to an 0-for-6 start after two games.

Robel Garcia‘s 1.050 OPS leads the AA Southern League by 100 basis points.  He’s already 26 years old and has only played 17 games this season, so it’s probably a fluke.

However, Garcia’s back-story is extremely interesting.  Before this season, baseball reference lists no professional statistics for him since 2013.  He washed out of the Indians’ organization all those years ago, but he apparently kept his baseball career going by playing on Italy’s National team, even though he’s a Dominican.

Garcia makes me wonder how many other players who can play never get the chance because they take too long to develop or don’t get the right breaks.  Some NPB teams have academies in the Dominican Republic that occasionally turn Dominican MLB system wash-outs into servicable NPB major league players.  Xavier Batista is a current example.

Yordan Alvarez is ready for the majors.  The soon-to-be 22 year old Cuban’s 1.421 OPS leads the admittedly hit-happy Pacific Coast League.  Alvarez is an LF/1B and the 35 year old also Cuban Yuli Gurriel isn’t hitting in Houston, so Alvarez may get his first major league shot right quick.

Brian O’Grady‘s 1.189 OPS leads the AAA International League by 58 basis points.  Alas, he turns 27 in two weeks and has yet to play in the majors.  Hopefully, he can get some major league action this season in order to put himself in a position for an Asian payday next year.

21 year old catcher Sam Huff is ready for a promotion.  His 1.189 OPS leads the Class A Sally League by 127 basis points, and he’s thrown out 10 baseball stealers in 16 attempts.

25 year old 1Bman Chris Gittens has a 1.264 OPS, which leads the AA Eastern League by 110 basis points.  He’s also ready for a promotion.

Trey Cabbage leads the Class A Midwest League with a 1.029 OPS.  I wonder if his teammates call him “Cole Slaw” or “Trey Cole”.

What is former NL home run champ Chris Carter doing in the Mexican League?  He’s leading this hot weather hitters’ league with a 1.397 OPS.

Best Hitting Pitchers in MLB Baseball 2019

April 3, 2019

Shohei Ohtani has ended any debate about the best hitting pitcher in major league baseball.  He’s created a whole new paradigm for two-way players that hasn’t existed since the 1920’s and the only question is whether he is the start of a new trend or a one-off.  He won’t be pitching in 2019 after Tommy John surgery but is expected to return as a designated hitter in May.

Highly touted prospect Brendan McKay is still on pace to be to a great hitting major league pitcher, but his prospects as a two-way player aren’t as good as they were a year ago.  The main problem for McKay is that his talents as a pitcher are developing much faster in pro ball than his talents as a hitter.

1.  Shohei Ohtani.  Ohtani finished the 2018 season with .925 OPS in 367 plate appearances as a hitter and went 4-2 in 10 starts before hurting his elbow.  The entire baseball world is waiting for his right arm to be healthy enough to pitch again. ’nuff said.

2.  Michael Lorenzen (.247 career batting average and .767 career OPS).  Lorenzen is still short of the 100 career at-bat cut-off I’ve used in previous iterations of this post, but he had a tremendous season with the bat in 2018 and was used in a role that was specifically tailored to his ability to hit.  He managed 34 plate appearances last season, in which he batted .290 with a 1.043 OPS thanks to four home runs, despite making only three starts all season.  He was used at least nine times as a pinch hitter, and was frequently left in games to hit for himself when he pitched in relief.

I expect Lorenzen’s career averages to drop as he gets more major league plate appearances, but it’s clear at this point that he’s one of MLB’s very best hitting pitchers.

3.  Zack Greinke (.219 BA, .569 OPS).   One thing I’ve noticed about good hitting pitchers, writing about them as I have for some years now, is that there doesn’t seem to be a particularly strong correlation between a pitcher’s ability to hit and his having spent his minor league time or the vast majority of his MLB career with a National League team, even though this would presumably mean that the pitcher got a lot more opportunities to hit.  After spending his minor league career and his first seven major league seasons with the Royals, Greinke established himself as a fine hitter by his second National League season, and he has been remarkably consistent as a sweet-swinging pitcher since then.

If I had to guess, I would say that the ability to hit the fastball (and lay off breaking pitches) is probably the most important factor in a pitcher’s ability to hit.  Pitchers hate to walk the opposing pitcher, so any time the pitcher-as-hitter is ahead in the count, fastballs for strikes are likely to follow.

The fact that the Diamondbacks are apparently not willing to give Greinke even half a dozen opportunities to pinch hit each season is a missed opportunity.

4.  Madison Bumgarner (.184, .542).  I dropped MadBum a couple of spots this year, because he hit poorly in 2018 and his career batting line isn’t particularly impressive, although park factors are probably in play in comparing MadBum to Greinke.  We’ll see if Bumgarner bounces back to being the best hitting full-time pitcher in 2019.

5.  Yovani Gallardo (.201, .563).  Gallardo’s career as a major league pitcher is probably over, as he remains unsigned as of this writing, but he sure could hit.

6. Adam Wainwright (.202 BA, .537 OPS).  Another player whose major league pitching career is winding down, but with well over 500 career at-bats, Wainwright has well proven his abilities as a hitting pitcher.

7.  German Marquez (.230, .504).  Marquez benefits from a small sample size and playing his home games in Coors Field, but any pitcher who hits better than .220 with an OPS over .500 is great hitting pitcher in today’s game.

8.  Noah Syndergaard (.176 BA, .526 OPS).  “Hulk say Thor smash ball with hammer bat!” At least once in a while.

9.  Daniel Hudson (.222, .557).  Since coming back from an arm injury as a major league relief pitcher, Hudson hasn’t had many opportunities to hit in recent years, but his career numbers get him on the list.

10.   Mike Leake (.198, .507).  Mike Leake hasn’t had a plate appearance yet this year, as he is now an American League pitcher.  He hit a ton his first three seasons with the Reds, but hasn’t done much with the bat since.

11.  Tyler Chatwood (.210, .475) and Tyson Ross (.200, .481).  As I point out every year, the best hitting major league pitchers get pretty bad pretty fast.

Honorable Mentions.  fangraphs.com says that aces Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer were with Zack Greinke the best hitting pitchers in 2018.

Young Hitting Pitchers to WatchBrent Suter (.174, .530).  Unfortunately, Suter is already 29 years old and likely to miss all of 2019 after having Tommy John surgery.