Archive for the ‘Minor Leagues’ category

Heliot Ramos and Jacob Gonzalez Update

August 9, 2017

In what has been a bleak season for the San Francisco Giants at all levels, one bright spot has been the strong starts of 1st and 2nd Round 2017 Draft picks Heliot Ramos and Jacob Gonzalez in the Rookie Arizona League.

CF Ramos, age 17, currently has the fifth best OPS (.975) in his league, and the third best OPS among hitters under the age of 20.  3B Gonzalez, age 19, has the league’s 9th best OPS (.911), and the 4th best among hitters under 20.  Their batting averages are also high, which you like to see in your prospects.

We are only 35 games into the Arizona League season, and Ramos and Gonzalez have played in only 26 and 28 games, respectively.  Even so, it’s better to get your professional career off to a strong start than a slow one.

The AZL Giants are currently 23-12, with the league’s best overall record (the league plays a split season in spite of being a short season league), which is a pleasant change from the sorry records of the Giants’ full season minor league squads this year.

The best of the rest of the AZL Giants’ position players so far in 2017 is 18 year old Nicaraguan Ismael Munguia.  He’s hitting for average and has an .881 OPS after 24 games, mostly in left field.  He’ll have to hit to move up at that position, although there are suggestions he may have enough arm to play right field.

Weilly Yan (21), Camilio Duval (20), Franklin Van Gurp (21), and Keenan Bartlett (21) have all pitched well in terms of ERA and strikeout rates.  2017 3rd Round Draft Pick Seth Correy (18) has a 1.88 ERA and has struck out 14 in 14.1 innings pitched, but has been wild, allowing 13 walks.  Correy is obviously the best prospect here, with Duval, who is in his age 19 season and only just turned 20, the second best as of this moment.

What Do Players in the Mexican League Make?

July 30, 2017

I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what the respective salary scales are throughout the world’s professional baseball leagues.  The Mexican (summer) League numbers were hard to find on line in English.  Thanks to Google Translate, I think I’ve been able to figure out what the current salary caps in this league now are.

The best information I’ve been able to find is that domestic veteran players (Mexican Nationals) max out at 150,000 pesos per month, or $8,450 per month at current exchange rates.  Foreign players cannot be paid more than either $6,000 or $6,500 per month for their first season of Mexican League baseball, but can eventually earn as much as $8,000 per month.  However, some of the Spanish language posts I read in translation asserted a belief that the best foreign players on the wealthiest Mexican League teams may be making more through rule-breaking, performance bonuses, free housing and other stipends.  Also, there are reportedly no state or federal taxes on salaries in Mexico.

The fact that Mexican League salaries are approximately 50% higher than I had previously thought they were explains a few things I had been wondering about.  Many foreign players, particularly Latin American players, play in the Mexican League for years after their careers in the MLB system end, something you don’t typically see in the Independent-A Atlantic League where salaries cap at $3,000 per month.  The talent flow is almost exclusively from the Atlantic League to the Mexican League, which makes sense if the salaries are significantly higher.

It also explains something that I had noticed this year.  Taiwanese CPBL teams seem to have a strong preference for signing Atlantic League players over Mexican League players, even though the best foreign pitchers in the latter league are succeeding against a higher level of competition.  This is particularly the case once the CPBL season has started.

Atlantic League players can presumably be signed for much lower initial contracts than better paid Mexican League foreign stars, particularly in light of the fact that success in the CPBL would eventually lead to annual or monthly contracts considerably larger than either the Atlantic League or the Mexican League, plus a chance to move up to even bigger salaries in South Korea’s KBO or Japan’s NPB.

Also, Mexican League teams typically charge much larger transfer fees for their players’ rights than do Atlantic League teams.  Part of the reason Atlantic League and other Independent-A teams are able to pay such modest salaries is that they allow their successful players to move up to better baseball pay-days for only nominal transfer fees the moment a better opportunity comes along.

I would guestimate that the current transfer fee for an Atlantic League player is around $5,000, and a small percentage of that (20-25%) may go the player.  Mexican League teams are far more reluctant to sell their players in season if they believe those players will help them make the post-season.

San Francisco Giants Trade Eduardo Nunez to Red Sox for Prospects

July 26, 2017

Thankfully, the Giants traded Eduardo Nunez to the Boston Red Sox last night for two right-handed pitching prospects, Shaun Anderson and Gregory Santos.  Both Anderson and Santos look like Grade B prospects to me, but Nunez is only a two month rental before he becomes a free agent this coming off-season, so I’m glad the Giants pulled the trigger and got something.  Right now, the Giants need organizational depth, even if they can’t get anything more.

Anderson is 22 this year and a former 3rd round draft pick.  He’s roughly split the 2017 season so far between full-season A and A+ ball, not surprisingly pitching a lot better in the former than in the latter.  Anderson’s strikeout rates at these levels aren’t particularly impressive, but it’s hard to know, because he pitched only 2.2 professional innings before this season.  I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if his strikeout rate drops dramatically when he reaches AA.

I like Santos better as a prospect, mainly because he hasn’t even turned 18 yet.  He’s pitching very well in his second season in the Dominican Summer League, where he has an 0.90 ERA after seven starts.  His strikeout rates are not impressive, but he may still be learning how to pitch, and his strikeout rates may improve once he learns how better to set hitters up for his strikeout pitches, or he improves his strikeout pitches.  He’s listed as 6’2″ and 190 lbs, which sounds like he’s got a projectable body for this age.

The odds that either Anderson or Santos will eventually have a significant major league career probably aren’t great.  With Santos in particular, he’s got a lot of years in which to potentially blow out his arm before he ever reaches the majors.

Giants’ management has talked about “reloading” for 2018, rather than “rebuilding” this trade deadline, but this is much more a “rebuilding” move, as the odds are slim and none that either Anderson or Santos will contribute anything to the major league club in 2018.

Assuming the Giants intend to keep Brandon Belt, I was kind of hoping that a Nunez deal with the Red Sox might include Chris Shaw, a Massachusetts native and Boston College star, whose minor league defensive numbers suggest he’s an American League 1B/DH type, in exchange for at least one Grade-A prospect.  However, Shaw has gone cold again at AAA this past week, and it’s possible the Giants still value him more highly than anyone else does, since they drafted him only two years ago.

I hopeful that Nunez won’t be the only veteran the Giants move for prospects of almost any caliber before the trade deadline passes.  The Giants need all the additional young talent they can get and then some.

Lastings Milledge Sighting

July 19, 2017

When is the last time you heard this great baseball name?  Lastings Milledge hasn’t played in the majors since 2011, but if you thought his pro baseball career was over, you would be wrong.

Milledge is attempting a comeback this year at age 32 in the Independent-A Atlantic League.  He’s hitting .294, which is currently the league’s ninth best batting average, but he’s hit with no power and drawn few walks, so his OPS is below .700.  The odds are slim indeed that an MLB organization will give him another chance.

I wrote about Milledge a couple of years ago as one of the more disappointing baseball careers in recent memory.  There isn’t much reason to revise that opinion as of this writing.  At least he’s still trying, even if finances may be a key motivator.

San Francisco Giants’ Minor League Update Part II

July 15, 2017

San Jose Giants

The Class A+ Giants finished in last place in the California League North at 30-40 in the first start, and are tied for last place at 8-13 in the second half.

24 year old catcher and former 2nd round draft pick Aramis Garcia is slashing .276/,320/.517, and his 14 home runs are tied for third best in the league.  Garcia appears to have a catcher’s arm, having thrown out 102 base stealers in 282 attempts in his professional career.

22 year old 2nd round draft pick Bryan Reynolds is slashing a respectable, but not inspiring, .296/.345/.444 so far.  Hopefully, he picks it up in the second half.  Reynolds doesn’t appear to have a center fielder’s range, but may have a good enough arm to play in right.

Heath Quinn, last year’s third round pick behind Reynolds is hitting O.K., but appears to have missed 35 games to an injury, although he’s healthy enough to play now.  Also 22 year old SS Ryan Howard leads the team with a .351 on-base percentage, which you like to see from a middle infielder.

Not many productive starters at San Jose either.  22 year old Connor Menez has the been the most effective with a 3.74 ERA and 66 Ks in 84.1 IP.  Matt Krook has 73 Ks in 64 IP, showing why he was once a 1st round draft pick, but his 6.19 ERA is ugly.  He has a hard time throwing strikes.

Ryan Halstead pitches so well out of San Jose’s bullpen that he was promoted to AA Richmond, where he’s struggled so far against the better competition. 23 year old Carlos Diaz, who has a 2.74 ERA and 59 Ks in 49.1 IP, looks like the most promising relief prospect still in San Jose.

Class A Augusta GreenJackets

The GreenJackets finished in last place at a league-worst 23-42.  In the second half, they are a middle of the pack 10-11 so far.

20 year old former bonus baby Kelvin Beltre is slashing a respectable .258/.339/.375 in a tough home park to hit in.  Beltre is still listed as a 3Bman, but he’s played exclusively 2B this season.

Jason Heyward‘s younger brother Jacob Heyward (21) isn’t hitting for average, but has a .705 OPS.  Jacob does not appear to share his brother’s skills as an outfield defender, so he better hit.  19 year old Sandro Fabian is not embarrassing himself with a .251 batting average and .631 OPS in Augusta.

Steven Woods (22) has been Augusta’s best starter with a 2.95 ERA with 79 Ks in 76.1 IP, although Garrett Williams (22) also has an argument for that honor.  Domenic Mazza (22) and Melvin Adon (23) have pitched reasonably well as starters.

Patrick Ruotolo (22) has 10 saves, a 1.48 ERA and 42 Ks in 30.1 IP.   He was a 27th round draft pick despite very strong college stats at Connecticut, suggesting that major league organizations see some deep flaw in him as a prospect.  It may have something to do with the fact that he is 5’10” and 218 pounds.  Definitely a prejudice against short right-handers.

22 year old Sandro Cabrera has 49 Ks in 42.1 IP.  He’s often mentioned as a prospect because of his live arm.

San Francisco Giants Minor League Update, Part I

July 15, 2017

A regular feature of my blog in recent years has been a June update on what is going on in the San Francisco Giants’ minor league system.  I’ve had a hard time getting up for it this year, perhaps because the Gints’ farm system has been nearly as bleak at the major league squad.

AAA Sacramento River Cats

The River Cats are currently 35-55, last in the PCL’s Pacific Northern Division, 11 games back of the third place Tacoma Rainiers.  One bright spot has been 1B/LF Chris Shaw, who is now slashing .304/.329/.547, after a slow start following his promotion from AA Richmond roughly six weeks ago.   If Shaw gets his OPS over .900 before the end of this month, it’s that much more likely that the Giants trade Brandon Belt if the right offer is made.

Pretty much every other hitter that’s hit well at Sacramento this year is currently hurt.

Former first round draft pick Tyler Beede hasn’t been terrible.  He has a 5.01 ERA and a pitching line of 97 IP, 108 hits, 14 HRs, 37 BBs and 74 Ks. We can’t give up on him yet, but he’s only a major league pitcher right now if someone gets hurt.  Next year, he’ll be 25 with prospect status rapidly ticking away.

Chris Stratton is another matter.  He turns 27 in August, and I’m really becoming convinced that he was a wasted 1st round draft pick.  With 58 Ks in 65.2 IP at AAA, he’s got the stuff that could eventually make him a serviceable major league pitcher.  It just seems increasingly clear that it will be as a reliever, and not as a starter.  It’s time to move him to the bullpen for good.

Ground ball throwing relievers Tyler Rogers and D.J. Snelton continue to pitch very effectively, and deserve to be promoted to the Show.  If hitters are increasingly trying to hit the ball out of the park, bring on the ground ball pitchers.  It’s fairly clear that the Giants don’t really appreciate either of these two: they’ve got three saves in 54 games pitched between them.  Steven Okert has also pitched well and has better stuff, so he’s back in the majors.

Kris Sitton and Dustin Knight have also pitched well out of Sacto’s bullpen.

AA Richmond Flying Squirrels

The Flying Squirrels are currently 37-52 and in fifth place in the Eastern League’s Western Division, but thankfully a game and a half up on the last place Harrisburg Senators.

Miguel Gomez is the big recent news out of AA Richmond.  He probably isn’t ready for the Show, but I’m glad to see the Giants give a youngster a look in what is now a lost season.  Gomez is 24 this season, so it’s as good a time as any to get him his first major league experience.

C.J. Hinojosa has caught my attention in the last week or so.  A former 11th round draft pick out of major program UT, he turns 23 tomorrow and currently has a .788 OPS, which is fine for a middle infielder his age playing his home games in Richmond.  He’s played at SS, 3B and 2nd this year, after exclusively shortstop his first two pro seasons.  That suggests he might be more of a jack-off-all-trades, utility player when/if he reaches the majors.

Andrew Suarez and Matt Gage both pitched well enough to get promoted to AAA Sacramento three or four starts ago.  Both are 24 this season.  Andrew Suarez has pitched better so far at AAA and is the better prospect in terms of draft pedigree.

Also 24 year old Sam Coonrod hasn’t had a great year, but he has the best strikeout rate among Richmond’s starters.  Jose Flores and Carlos Alvarado have pitched great out of the bullpen, but both are old for this level.  Flores pitched so well, the organization moved him into the Flying Squirrels’ rotation and then promoted him to AAA Sacramento, where he’s also pitched well in two starts.

Tyler Cyr at 24 is younger and has also pitched well out of the Richmond bullpen, although he’s been a little wild.  Cyr has been nothing but great for a 10th round draft pick in 2015, and he’s become the closer since the injury to previously more highly regarded closer prospect Reyes Moronta.  A cursory internet search didn’t turn up his injury, but Moronta hasn’t pitched since June 2nd.

No Living to Be Made Playing Minor League Baseball

July 6, 2017

I recently wrote a post on the MLB player pension plan which has gotten quite a few hits, so I thought I’d try to find out what the minor league pension plan pays players.  My search turned up an interesting website, yougoprobaseball.com, written by former minor leaguer John Madden, which mainly focuses on advise to youngsters hoping to go pro one day.

According to Madden, as of 2008, minor leaguers participate in a pension plan that pays them at retirement age $22 a month for each year of AAA service, $18 a month for each year of AA service and $14 a month for each year of A+ or lower service.  Before 2008, players participated in another pension plan that Madden says provided about the same level of benefits.

At that rate a ten year minor league career would typically provide pensions benefits at age 65 just under $200 a month.  Better than a sharp stick in the eye, but it’s not even close to 40 quarters of Social Security benefits.  At least minor league players playing in a full season league make just enough money to earn two quarters of Social Security benefits each playing season.

Also, according to Madden, minor leaguers on their initial seven-year minor league contract who do not reach the majors during that seven seasons, were in 2010 paid on a scale of starting at $1150 per month starting in a short-season league and reaching only $2700 per month for a player’s third year at the AAA level, with very minor bonuses for 60 days’ service at the AA ($500) and AAA ($1000) levels.  That’s just brutally low.

For some reason, I had thought that players with no major league service but with a couple of years at AAA were making somewhere between $4,000 and $8,000 a month, probably based on the fact that minor league players with even one day of major league service cannot be paid less  about $83,000 in 2017 under the MLB collective bargaining agreement.  Making a 40-man roster bumps the minimum minor league salary to about half of the minimum payable after one day of major league service.

The Rule 5 Draft allows some promising minor leaguers who are left unprotected by their current teams (i.e., not on the 40-man roster) to make some major league money, and minor league players become free agents after seven seasons.  Even if they haven’t reached the majors yet, the fact that multiple teams can bid on a player for the first time probably means a substantial raise even if the player elects to re-sign with his old team.

The minor league salary scale helps to explain why minor league players have such short professional life spans after reaching age 30 or 31.  The moment an over 30 AAA player is no longer a better than average AAA player and thus a possible major league replacement, he faces that fact that AA ball is full of younger players who will make a whole lot less playing AAA ball than he does.

It’s worth noting that the Atlantic League minimum of $3,000 a month is probably earned exclusively by former major league players who have the most name recognition to fans and thus draw the best gate.  A player with a long minor league career, but no MLB experience isn’t going to make any real money playing baseball unless he’s lucky and good enough to get a job playing in one of the Asian major leagues.  Those jobs are few and far between for players with no MLB experience.