Archive for the ‘Houston Astros’ category

CC Sabathia Wins 250th Major League Game

June 20, 2019

CC Sabathia won his 250th major league game, which, if he wasn’t already assured a place in the Hall of Fame, has assured him a place in the Hall of Fame.  250 career wins is almost certainly the contemporary 300 career win standard that guaranteed any pitcher (major scandals excepted) a spot in the Hall of Fame.

Future pitchers will win 250 games.  Justin Verlander will likely do it in 2021 or 2022, but it is certainly debatable whether any pitcher will again win 300 games.

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Houston Astros Sign Felipe Paulino

June 18, 2019

Remember Felipe Paulino?  He had a six year major league career with his last appearances for the White Sox back in 2014, and it wasn’t particularly memorable.  Paulino was mostly an ineffective major league starter with a career record of 13-34 with a 5.22 ERA.

He’s 35 now and has been effective closer in the Indy-A Atlantic League for much of the past three summers.  The Astros just signed him to a minor league contract which is notable solely because major league teams almost never sign players this old with such spotty past major league records out of the Independent-A leagues.  A pitcher who once an effective major league closer or legitimate No. 2 or 3 starter, maybe, not someone like Paulino who was never very good even at this best.

Paulino really has been good in what amounts to two full seasons played over the last three summers in the Atlantic League.  His ERA has been consistently under 2.00, he’s recorded 63 saves and 154Ks in 116.1 IP.  On its face, that would suggest he deserves another look at AAA from a team with a major league bullpen need.

However, Paulino was brutally bad in half a season in the Mexican League in 2017 and pitched poorly in the Venezuelan Winter League last off-season.  Neither league is significantly better than the Atlantic League or as good as other AAA leagues (the Mexican League is labeled a AAA league by MLB, but is really closer to a AA level of play).

It’s a rare thing indeed for a player like Paulino to get another MLB-system shot at age 35, so it’s worth taking notice of it, and I’ll certainly be rooting for him, even if I’m doubtful he can cut the mustard in the heavy-hitting Pacific Coast League.

Hot Pitchers

May 4, 2019

23 year old Zac Gallen is ready for his major league promotion.  He’s leading the AAA Pacific Coast League with an 0.81 ERA, his 38Ks is tied for 1st, and the Marlins suck.  Gallen could pitch in relief to start with or one of the Marlins’ currently not very effective young starters could be moved to the bullpen to make way for Gallen.

It’s worth noting, though, that New Orleans with its below sea level air appears to be one of the PCL’s best pitchers’ parks — three of the circuit’s top five ERA leaders play for the Baby Cakes.

Rico Garcia (1.82 ERA, 35 Ks in 24.2 IP) deserves a promotion to AAA.  Devin Smeltzer has already received a promotion to AAA Rochester after recording an 0.60 ERA and 33 Ks in 30 IP at AA Pensacola.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that top two-way prospect Brendan McKay is going to be mainly a pitcher at the major league level.  In 14 AA games, he has a .481 OPS as a hitter, but on the mound he currently has a 2.41 ERA with 33 Ks in 18.2 IP.  If he ever catches up with the bat, he’ll already be a major league starter that no one’s going to want to f@#$ around with.

Great namers MacKenzie Gore and Ljay Newsom are dominating the Class A+ California League.  Their respective 1.32 and 1.47 ERAs are the only ones under 2.00.  Gore has stuck out 38 batters in 26.1 IP, and Newsom has struck out 54 batters in 36.2 IP.  Each has allowed exactly four walks so far.  Gore is the better prospect, because at age 20, he’s two years younger.

22 year old Dominican Cristian Javier is impressing in the Class A+ Carolina League with an 0.73 ERA and 32 Ks in 24.2 IP.

Former No. 1 overall draft pick and recent no-hit throwing Case Mize is not the best pitcher in the pitcher-friendly Class A+ Florida State League.  While Mize has recorded an 0.35 ERA with 25 Ks in 26 IP, Bailey Ober has a perfect 0 ERA (and run average) with 26 Ks in 24 IP.  Meanwhile Damon Jones has an 0.77 ERA with 36 Ks in 23.1 IP.

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.

Atlanta Braves Extend Ozzie Albies

April 13, 2019

In a year of contract extensions, the recent seven-year $35 million guarantee the Braves just gave young 2Bman Ozzie Albies is one of the most surprising at least in terms of the current market.  Scott Boras complained about the recent $100M guarantee that Ronald Acuna received as too far below market — he must be absolutely livid about Albies’ deal.

I waited a day to write about Albies’ extension because I was waiting to see more reporting on why he left so much money on the table, realistically at least $30M to $60M given the new market set by Acuna only days ago.  The contract is beyond team-friendly, with it containing two option years which bring the contract up to a still relatively modest $45M over nine years.

The only thing I’ve seen so far is that Albies wanted the security even a $35M guarantee would bring him and his family.  He also loves playing for the Braves and apparently feels too much loyalty to the team that signed him to a relatively modest $350,000 bonus as an amateur.

MLB star salaries are so high today that part of the answer may be that it all seems like monopoly money anyway.  As my father likes to say, baseball superstars want to get the biggest possible contract as much because it’s like a report card (you’re the best — an A+ player!) as much as it’s about the money.  If a player doesn’t care about getting paid as much as the market will bear, then perhaps $35M is enough, current market be damned.

Still, I hope that Albies’ agent strongly advised him against accepting the Braves’ low-ball offer and told him to wait another year before signing away so much potential income.  The Braves were probably cheap with Albies because the team feels it has already taken on a big risk with Acuna and didn’t want to commit that kind of money to Albies (or any other youngster), whom perhaps the team doesn’t see as having as much upside.

Albies’ deal is reminiscent of the deal Jose Altuve signed back in 2014, long before the current market was set.  That deal ultimately worked out pretty well for Altuve, who signed an extension before the 2018 season that guaranteed him another $150M through 2024.  However, Altuve had to first prove that he was everything the Astros possibly could have hoped for before he got the market rate extension.

The intangibles here are that some players play better when they stay hungry, while other players play better when they have security.  Some players stop working as hard when they get the big contract; others work harder to prove they were worth it.

The other intangibles are health and the ability to keep making adjustments.  Albies reached the majors so young that you have to think he has the ability to make the adjustments.  When a player establishes himself as a major league regular in his age 20 season, about the least you can expect from his career is that of Cesar Cedeno, who was pretty f@#$ing good (taking into account park and league factors) until injuries and off-field issues swallowed up his career.  Cedeno still collected more than 2,000 hits, 550 stolen bases at a higher than 75% success rate, and more than 1,000 runs scored in a low-offense era.

I’m hoping that Albies one day forces the Braves to give him the kind of follow-up contract that Altuve got from the Astros.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Chicago White Sox and Eloy Jimenez Reportedly Agree to Record-Setting Contract

March 21, 2019

It is being reported today that the ChiSox and their 22 year old prospect Eloy Jimenez have agreed to a record-setting, long-term deal for a player yet to have played even one game in the major leagues.  The deal with reportedly guarantee Jimenez $43 million over six seasons with two team option years for an additional total of $32M.

This deal blows away the $10M guarantee that the Astros gave Jon Singleton and the $24M guarantee the Phillies gave Scott Kingery, the only other two long-term contracts for players never to have played in the majors (excluding Bryce Harper’s first pro contract).  There was a lot of rending of clothing and nashing of teeth by players and the players’ union when the Astros signed Singleton to what appeared could have been a tremendous bargain for the team with a whiff of black-mail that the ‘Stros would have been less likely to call Singleton up if he didn’t sign the seemingly team friendly extension.

But Singleton didn’t make it.  His major league career was a complete flop for reasons likely as much mental as anything else. Singleton was out of pro baseball in 2018 at age 26, which suggests his heart isn’t in it.  In the meantime, the Astros still owe him a cool million for 2019 through 2021, if they didn’t cash out for a lump sum when they released him last May.

In the case of Scott Kingery, even though he was the Phillies starting shortstop last year, the verdict is still out whether he’ll be worth the $24M guarantee.  His .605 OPS meant he wasn’t yet a major league replacement level player in 2018.

I don’t imagine we will hear a lot of complaints from players about Jimenez’s contract.  I mean, how do you tell a poor black kid from the Dominican Republic not to accept a $43M guarantee before he has even played one game in the majors.  Yes, Jimenez did get a $2.8 million signing bonus in 2013, but one would think that money is long gone between taxes, automobiles, living in the U.S., buscones, buying a home for his parents and friends and relatives with their hands out.

The deal here is obvious.  It’s a great deal for the White Sox if Jimenez develops as they hope, the kind of deal that can enable a small market team to build a winner on less money.  Meanwhile, JImenez and his family get a sure thing.  Jimenez could get hit in the face with a fastball, tear his elbow or both knee tendons, or get killed in an off-season road accident back in the Dominican Republic one winter.  He and his family will still get a pay out that will enable them to live like royalty in their homeland for at least a generation or two.  Like Mike Trout‘s extension with the Angels, it’s another win-win.

Some Order Has Been Restored to the (Baseball) Universe

February 20, 2019

It’s being reported that Manny Machado and the San Diego Padres have reached agreement on a deal that will last ten years and guarantee Machado $300 million, with an opt-out after the fifth season, the money fairly evenly spread over the ten year term and a limited no trade clause.  It was a long time in coming, but it sure seems in line with the other free agent contracts already signed this off-season.

I was figuring that unless the teams were in fact colluding, Machado would get at a minimum eight years and a $250 million guarantee, because that would a bargain for the age 26 through 33 seasons for a player of Machado’s caliber.  This is, in fact, what the White Sox offered Machado, although the ChiSox offer also included a whopping $100M in performance incentives and additional years.

That Machado got an extra two years and $50M guaranteed over an eight year, $250M deal seems in line with what the best offer would be in light of the tough negotiating teams have been performing this off-season.  Still, until the deal was finally reported with Spring Training already underway, one certainly couldn’t be sure what Machado would finally get.

I agree with Justin Verlander that signing Machado or Bryce Harper to a long-term deal is actually a good move for a rebuilding team like the Padres.  Even if the Friars need another three years to put together a contender, they’ll still have Machado for another five years (barring injury) of peak or close-to-peak performance.

Paying generational players like Machado or Harper even record-setting contracts tends to be a better risk than signing most other free agents, because they reach free agency younger and their peak performance lasts longer.  Of course, there is risk, since ten years is a lot of time for a debilitating injury to occur.

Machado’s offensive numbers are going to drop playing half his games at Petco Park, but the fact that Machado is not a “Johnny Hustle” type who gets too high or too low may actually be a good thing.  I don’t see Machado losing confidence in his abilities just because his offensive numbers drop off a little.

Now we’ll see what Harper gets, most likely from the Phillies.  I’d guess at least $330M guaranteed and possibly as much as $360M guaranteed over 10 to 12 seasons.