Archive for January, 2010

Bloomberg Sports: Professional Tool

For those of you wondering what the twitter topic #BBGSports is all about, Bloomberg is hosting an event at their headquarters in NYC where they’re demoing their latest fantasy and professional baseball data products. Their professional product more or less slices Pitch f/x data in every which way possible. Here are some pictures of the demo:

Data sliced and diced in the strike zone and on the field:

Strike zone data and spray charts for specific players:

Their pitch predictor tool:

Regular stats section, including a section where you can create your own stats:

Minor Transaction Wrap-Up

Let’s do some quick hits on transactions that didn’t get their own post this week, but are still interesting enough to talk about.

1. Randy Winn signs with the Yankees. This is a somewhat odd move, not because Winn isn’t useful (he is), but because of Winn’s unbelievably terrible line against LHPs a year ago. We’re talking about a switch-hitter with no platoon split over his career (.765 OPS vs RH, .758 OPS vs LH) who just posted one of the single worst lines against LHP of any player in the history of the game.

.158/.184/.200. That’s unfathomably bad. Most pitchers hit better than that. But for 125 at-bats, Winn was utterly useless at the plate, going 19 for 120 against southpaws.

And despite that, the Yankees signed him to be their fourth outfielder and presumably split time with Brett Gardner, who is a left-handed batter that has been fairly heavily platooned as a major league player. It’s just strange that in a winter where lefty mashing outfielders are plentiful, the Yankees chose a reserve outfielder who performed so poorly against LHPs to backup their starting LF who they may not trust to start against LHPs.

Its not a bad move. Winn’s a useful player, the price is right, and his 2009 performance against lefties looks like a fluke. But it’s just a weird one.

2. Jim Thome signs with the Twins. This makes a lot of sense for Minnesota, as they got insurance for both Jason Kubel and Delmon Young on a bargain contract. You could make a case that Thome is even Kubel’s equal, though I fear the wrath of the great white north if I ever say another disparaging word about Kubel again, so I won’t make that case.

Thome gives them depth at two positions and offers a patient bat-off-the-bench that makes starting Nick Punto more palatable, knowing you can pinch-hit for him late in the game. For less than $2 million, this is a no-brainer. It’s a good player at a low cost, giving them options in case of injury or poor performance. However, it also adds another LH hitter to a line-up that is already overly left-handed. Somewhere along the line, the Twins will have to add a right-handed stick who can break up the L-L-L-L top of the order. But, assuming that this move doesn’t preclude them from doing that, this is still a good addition.

3. The Mets re-signed Fernando Tatis, and are apparently going to go into 2010 with a first base platoon of Tatis and Daniel Murphy. I don’t even know what to say. Really, Omar? This is your plan? You couldn’t have used that million dollars you gave Gary Matthews Jr, combined it with the Tatis money, and gotten a younger, better first baseman instead (someone named Garko, perhaps)? You spent approximately 40 bazillion dollars on the core of your roster, and then seem intent on surrounding them with guys who just don’t deserve jobs.

I’d say I don’t get it, but maybe The Contest just has a better grand prize than a World Series trophy.

Kurt Suzuki: Anatomy of an Underrated Player

“Overrated” and “underrated” are overused terms in the blogosphere, particularly the sports blogosphere. Thank goodness I never fall into the trap of using them. But hey, it’s Friday, I can loosen the tie a bit.

What makes a baseball player underrated? It can be a number of things: not playing for a contender, not playing in a big market, not being verbose with the media, and, of course, not having skills that are commonly remarked upon. While I don’t know about Kurt Suzuki’s clubhouse witticisms one way or the other (one interview can be found here), I do know that he seems to meet the rest of the requirements.

Oakland has neither contended nor had excess national media coverage since Suzuki became their full-time catcher following Jason Kendall’s trade to the Cubs during the 2007 season. Given the As’ recent performances, Suzuki might seem to be just another cog in the machine of the seemingly endless (to casual observers, anyway) rebuilding process in Oakland. But the whole point of an “underrated” post is to show that he isn’t just another player. Suzuki isn’t just another player. But to see this, one has to look a bit more closely than usual.

Offensively, Suzuki has been just slightly below average over his major league career with a 97 wRC+. CHONE has him slightly better than that at 99 wRC+, and the other projection systems see him as about the same. That may not be too inspiring, but one has to keep in mind that Suzuki is a catcher, and not many catchers can produce near-league average offense. Combined with his ability to play almost 150 games a season, in each of the last two seasons, Suzuki has been around three Wins Above Replacement. Not bad for a pre-arbitration player.

But wait, there’s more! While catchers like Mike Napoli and Jorge Posada have superior bats to Suzuki, not only do they play fewer games at catcher than Suzuki, they also have poor gloves. While FanGraphs doesn’t have catcher defense (yet), there are some sources for it. Rally’s Wins Above Replacement has Suzuki at +11 defensively in 2008, and +1 in 2009 (which matches my 2009 figure). That bumps his 2009 figure just slightly, but makes him about a 4 win player in 2008. CHONE projects Suzuki at +3 defensively for 2010.

Adding it all together, one gets a 3+ win player, which is about how the Fans have him projected. This again illustrates how valuable a player’s pre-arbitration seasons are to a team, and again, as I wrote earlier this week, it is particularly clear this off-season in light of the contracts recently given to below-average veteran catchers. While the As’ crazy-range outfield may get the bulk of the publicity, Suzuki is just as important to a team that might sneak up on their competitors in AL West in 2010.

Then again, if 42 fans understand how good Kurt Suzuki is, how underrated can he be?

Toronto Blue Jays: Top 10 Prospects

General Manager: Alex Anthopoulos
Farm Director: Tony LaCava
Scouting Director: Andrew Tinnish

FanGraphs’ Top 10 Prospects:
(2009 Draft Picks/International Signees Not Included)

This is a tough system to rank beyond the Top 3 because the organization had such a down year in ’09 with a lot of prospects (hopefully temporarily) wiping out. On the plus side, there are quite a few talented players who are one good season away from shooting up the depth chart. The loss of Roy Halladay was a huge blow to the organization, as well as baseball in Canada, but the trade did infuse some much-needed talent.

1. Brett Wallace, 3B/1B, Triple-A
DOB: August 1986 Bats: L Throws: R
Signed: 2008 1st round – Arizona State University (St. Louis)
MLB ETA: Mid-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Wallace is the guy that was always destined to be a Blue Jay. The club drafted him out of high school in ’05 even though he was an almost impossible signing due to his commitment to Arizona State. The club then had hoped to grab him in the ’08 draft, but St. Louis got to him first. Finally, the club nabbed him in a deal with Oakland (for Michael Taylor, who was obtained in the Roy Halladay deal). Wallace had a busy year in ’09 and played with three different minor league teams in double-A and triple-A. Overall on the year, he hit .293/.365/.458, which is not bad at all considering it was his first full season and he had a lot of change to deal with. The left-handed hitter fared very well against southpaws with an .897 OPS. Wallace projects to be a 20+ home run hitter with the ability to hit .280-.300. However, he needs to get a little more loft on the ball if he’s going to be a consistent power hitter. His walk rate took a bit of a hit with the promotion to triple-A (6.5%) compared to his double-A rate (11.7%), so he could stand to make some improvements in that area.

2. Kyle Drabek, RHP, Double-A
DOB: December 1987 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2006 1st round – Texas HS (Philadelphia)
MLB ETA: Mid-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 89-96 mph fastball, plus curveball, change-up

Drabek had an excellent ’09 season while returning from Tommy John surgery. He began the year in high-A ball and allowed 49 hits in 61.2 innings of work. His walk rate was solid at 2.77 BB/9 and he did not allow a home run, despite an average ground-ball rate. His strikeout rate was a nifty 10.80. Moved up to double-A, Drabek’s FIP rose from 1.82 to 3.83 but his walk rate was still good at 2.90 BB/9. His strikeout rate dropped to 7.10 K/9. He gave up nine homers in double-A, as his HR/9 rate increased to 0.84 and his ground-ball rate dropped a little below average. Overall, he allowed 141 hits in 158.0 innings of work. The right-hander will probably begin the year back in double-A where he can hopefully improve his worm-burning numbers before moving up to the hitter’s haven that is Las Vegas. Drabek has the potential to be a No. 1 or 2 starter.

3. Zach Stewart, RHP, Double-A
DOB: September 1986 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2008 3rd round – Texas Tech University (Cincinnati)
MLB ETA: Mid-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 88-93 mph fastball, slider, change-up

The club’s No. 1 prospect before the Halladay trade, Stewart is more suited to this position on a team’s Top 10 list. The right-hander has good stuff but the jury is still out on if he’s a starter or reliever. Toronto seems committed to him as a starter, which makes sense considering the bullpen depth that the club has at this point. Stewart pitched for four teams and at three levels in ’09. He began the year in high-A ball and posted a 2.63 FIP in seven starts. Moved up to double-A, he posted a 2.77 FIP in another seven starts. Jumped to triple-A with the Reds, he moved to the bullpen and had a 3.42 FIP in nine appearances before moving to Toronto where he had a 3.42 FIP in 11 games. His control dipped with each promotion, going from 1.70 to 2.43 to 4.90, so he clearly has some more work to do. On the plus side, his strikeout rate rose from 6.80 to 7.54 to 10.52. Along with his excellent K-rate, Stewart produces a lot of ground-balls (53% in ’09). If he can sharpen his change-up, he could be a solid No. 3 starter.

4. J.P. Arencibia, C, Triple-A
DOB: January 1986 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2007 1st round – University of Tennessee
MLB ETA: Mid-2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

It was an ugly year for Arencibia, who balked at making adjustments to his approach at the plate, which led to a dismal walk rate of just 5.2% (although it was an improvement over ’08). Arencibia had a breakout year in ’08 by hitting 27 homers and driving in 105 runs between high-A and double-A. However, his wOBA dropped from .402 in high-A to .348 in double-A… and it continued to slide in ’09, down to .316. His strikeout rate has gone from 18.5 to 21.0 to 24.5% during that same span. His BABIP also bottomed out in ’09 at .269, as his triple-slash line was just .236/.284/.444 in 466 triple-A at-bats. It was bad timing for Arencibia, who likely would have been in line for the starting gig in Toronto in 2010, if he had had even an average year at triple-A. On the positive side, Arencibia has made huge strides on defense and now projects to be an average-to-above-average MLB catcher. Unless his hitting improves, though, he could be relegated to platoon work or a back-up gig on a championship-caliber team.

5. Moises Sierra, OF, Double-A
DOB: September 1988 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2005 non-drafted international free agent (Dominican Republic)
MLB ETA: Late-2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

With one of the strongest outfield arms in all of minor league baseball, Sierra made huge strides at the plate in ’09. Just 21, he hit .286/.360/.393 in 405 at-bats at high-A ball. His walk rate has improved each of the past three seasons and it was 7.4% in ’09. His strikeout rate has dropped each year and it was just 16.3% in high-A, as Sierra is obviously becoming more confident at the plate. He also improved his base running in ’09 and stole 10 bases in 12 tries after being successful just 12 times in 23 tries in ’08. On the negative side, his power has yet to develop, although he has the potential to hit for power. His ISO rate has dropped each of the past three seasons from .154 to .118 to .106. The club was obviously happy with Sierra’s performance in ’09, which included a wOBA of .353, and he received a late-season promotion to double-A. After appearing in just nine games at that level last season, Sierra should return there for 2010. He is a breakout candidate for the new season.

6. Brad Mills, LHP, Triple-A
DOB: March 1985 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2007 4th round – University of Arizona
MLB ETA: Mid-2010 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2
Repertoire: 86-90 mph fastball, plus change-up, curveball

Mills almost made the club out of spring training in ’09 – after an excellent ’08 season – and his value skyrocketed early in the year. Unfortunately, he had some ups-and-downs at triple-A and also battled injuries, which has caused him to fall out of favor with a lot of prospect watchers. Despite his “off year,” Mills still posted a 3.80 FIP at triple-A and showed acceptable control with a walk rate of 3.74 BB/9 and a good, but not great, strikeout rate at 7.68 K/9. Given two starts in the Majors, Mills tried to nibble and lacked confidence in his fastball and curveball, both of which had negative values in a small sample size (7.2 innings). If healthy in 2010, Mills should open the year back in triple-A but he could be one of the first pitchers called up.

7. Travis D’Arnaud, C, Low-A
DOB: February 1989 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2007 supplemental 1st round pick (Philadelphia)
MLB ETA: Late-2012 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

D’Arnaud could be ranked higher on this list but I’m taking the conservative approach as he played at low-A in ’09. Like Wallace, the club had tried to acquire this catcher via the draft but he was nabbed with the 37th overall pick by the Phillies. Toronto, picking 38th, ended up with Brett Cecil (a nice compensation). D’Arnaud, who turns 21 shortly, hit .255/.319/.419 in 482 at-bats in low-A ball last year (His numbers were depressed by a .279 BABIP). He showed good power potential with 38 doubles and 13 homers (.164 ISO). The catcher also had a pretty good approach at the plate with a walk rate of 7.6% and a strikeout rate of 15.6%. He has a good defensive reputation but he threw out just 23% of base stealers. The system suddenly has good depth at the catching position with the likes or Arencibia, D’Arnaud, and Carlos Perez.

8. Henderson Alvarez, RHP, Low-A
DOB: April 1990 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2006 non-drafted international free agent (Venezuela)
MLB ETA: Mid-2013 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 88-93 mph fastball, plus change-up, slider

Alvarez is an exciting prospect because his fastball has been gaining velocity over the past two seasons and now sits comfortably in the low 90s, and it has excellent sink. That good downward movement resulted in a ground-ball rate of 51.4% at low-A in ’09. The right-hander gave up just one homer in 124.1 innings of work, while also posting a 2.43 FIP as a teenager. He also showed excellent control for his age with a walk rate of 1.38 BB/9. Still learning how to set up hitters, Alvarez’ strikeout rate was just 6.66 K/9 but his breaking ball has strikeout potential. He’ll move up to High-A ball in 2010 at the age just 20.

9. Carlos Perez, C, Rookie
DOB: October 1990 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2008 non-drafted international free agent (Venezuela)
MLB ETA: Late-2013 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

The organization has not had much luck handing out large contracts to big-named international free agents, but Perez joins Alvarez and Sierra as one of the Jays’ best under-the-radar Latin signings. The catcher is solid defensive (albeit it with the usual youthful development needs), and he’s also becoming quite a force at the plate thanks to his solid batting eye. Perez, 19, made his North American debut in ’09 at rookie ball and hit .291/.364/.433 in 141 at-bats. After walking more than he struck out in the Dominican Summer League in ’08, he posted a respectable walk rate of 9.8% in the Gulf Coast League. He also showed some line-drive pop (.142 ISO) and he is more athletic than most catchers.

10. Danny Farquhar, RHP, Double-A
DOB: February 1987 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2008 10th round – University of Louisiana-Lafayette
MLB ETA: Late-2010 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 88-94 mph fastball, cutter, slider, curveball, change-up

There are a number of other prospects that could have slid in here such as Gustavo Pierre, Tyler Pastornicky, Justin Jackson – interestingly enough all shortstops – because the system has so many sleepers in it right now (but few “can’t miss” names). Tim Collins was also an option here, but he projects to be a left-handed reliever, so his ceiling is a little lower than Farquhar who could develop into an eighth-inning guy, if not a closer. The right-hander comes at hitters from a variety of arm angles and can reach the low-90s from a sidearm slot. Perhaps because he throws so many different pitches – and with so many angles – Farquhar’s control has suffered and he posted a walk rate of 5.91 BB/9 in double-A. That obviously has to improve before he’ll have much success in the Majors. Despite that fact, he posted a 10.05 K/9 rate and allowed just one homer and 31 hits in 45.2 innings at the double-A level.

Up Next: The Washington Nationals

Willingham and Bay

Perception is a funny thing. After Buster Olney reported that the Nationals were willing to trade Josh Willingham again, I had a conversation with a couple of people about how well he would fit in with the Mariners. They’re not particularly new-school types, but I respect their opinions and wanted to know what they thought of him. Both thought he was okay, a decent role player who could inject some power but shouldn’t be thought of as an everyday player.

One comment in particular stuck out to me, though – “If you think he’s a substitute for Jason Bay, think again. He’s not at that level.” Curiosity piqued, I decided to look and see just how large the gap is between Willingham and Bay. And, to my surprise, I learned that the answer is “not much.”

They were born five months apart, Bay at the end of ’78, Willingham at the beginning of ’79. Bay made the majors as a 24-year-old, Willingham as a 25-year-old. They both share the same skillset: power hitting outfielders who draw walks and produce enough runs at the plate to compensate for below average defense.

But even beyond the generalizations, they’re similar. Look at their respective wOBAs plotted on the graph below.

In 2004 and 2005, Willingham racked up less than 30 plate appearances, so even though he’s got a dot on the chart, the performances aren’t meaningful. He wasn’t really a major league player until 2006, so focus on the years since. Since 2006, they have been very similar hitters. A weighted average of Bay’s wOBA since then is .377, while Willingham’s is .367. 10 points of wOBA over a full season is approximately 5 runs of offense.

This is not a small sample. We’re talking about a couple thousand plate appearances, and the difference in offensive production between the two can only be categorized as minor. Yet, there is the perception of a huge gap between the two. Bay is a middle of the order slugger, while Willingham is a nifty role player who can mash lefties. That’s the narrative, and four years of facts hasn’t been able to change it.

In reality, the difference between them is measured in fractions of a win. Bay is the better player – he’s outhit Willingham in three of the last four years, and his most recent performance came in the AL East, while Willingham has collected all of his performances in the NL. There are enough gaps to distinguish between them and say Bay > Willingham. But it’s a very small gap.

And here’s the funny thing – you guys don’t even really disagree with this very much. The Fan Projections here on the site have Bay as a +3.1 win player for 2010, while Willingham is projected as a +2.9 win player. Even if we won’t admit it, we think that they’re basically the same player going forward, just giving a slight edge to Bay.

So, with all due respect to my old school friend, I have to disagree. Josh Willingham is a substitute for Jason Bay. They’re practically the same player.

Changing the Natural Order

Like so many elements of today’s national pastime, the structure of minor league baseball has a direct lineage to Branch Rickey. The first sabermetrician, as it were, created the modern farm system around the time of the Great Depression in the 1930s. Almost nothing about baseball back then is the same today, and yet, the minor league ladder is never questioned. Each Major League team has six affiliates, to which they assign a contrived order of importance: Rookie League, A-ball, Triple-A, you know the drill. Players are given promotions when they’ve shown a “mastery” of a level, which is almost always either on the back of a hot streak, or because there’s someone below that is ready to take their spot. And for going on 80 years, we’ve simply assumed this is the way it should be.

With the goal that player development should be about building confidence and refining skills, I today offer an idea for change. My series on sinkers last week found how often good pitchers are let down by bad defenses at the lower levels of the minor leagues. With this suggested change, an onus would be put on young position players to value defense more, which can’t be a bad thing. Here’s my (fun?) six-step program to creating an entirely different Minor League structure:

1) Determine the best position for each regular season, full-time player.

2) During Spring Training, rank the players at each position defensively, in four quadrants: great, good, bad, terrible.

3) Do an extensive evaluation of the proportions and park effects at each affiliated minor league stadium.

4) Determine the groundball aptitude of all minor league pitchers, and like you did, separate the players in four quadrants: the most to least worm-burning pitchers.

5) Use this to build your minor league teams:
– Team 1: Groundballiest pitchers with great infielders, terrible outfielders, smallest stadium.
– Team 2: Second groundballiest pitchers with good infielders, bad outfielders, second smallest stadium.
– Team 3: Second flyballiest pitchers with bad infielders, good outfielders, second largest stadium.
– Team 4: Flyballiest pitchers with terrible infielders, great outfielders, most cavernous stadium.

6) Develop a series of challenges for each player that involves assignments to different teams to challenge their learned skills.

Yes, I think this is unrealistic, and no, I don’t think it is necessarily better than the current system. It’s Friday, though, and there’s no harm in having some fun. It also accomplishes some neat things:

1) It creates the best environment for pitchers to succeed. You’re playing to the pitchers’ strengths, and as a result, giving your best fielders the most chances to continue to improve their skills.

2) It creates a clear path for coaching assignments. For example, team 4 is most likely to be filled with power pitchers, who typically struggle with change-ups. The organization’s pitching coach that best teaches the change-up is thus assigned to this team. And so on.

3) The biggest weakness, without question, is that it would have disproportionate effects on offensive performance. Since it’s unlikely any other team would do this — the rest sticking to the traditional structure — you’re risking putting a “Triple-A” caliber hitter into a “Low-A” league/environment. And vice versa.

4) This all makes the farm director more important than ever before. With an understanding of his farm system, the director would be responsible for moving players around when they aren’t being challenged, and finding the best (and most ready) players to be called up to the Major Leagues. This shouldn’t be a difficult task, but it’s certainly asking more from the position.

At the end of the day, the minor league ladder still exists for the same reasons that closers, five-man rotations and sacrifice bunts do: because no one is willing to overtly challenge convention. Any editorial to do so is, admittedly, hot air, but this is still one structure that seems to skate by without questioning. I hope to hear about your opinions about the current structure, my suggested one, or any other ideas you guys have for change in the comments.

Fan Projection Targets: 1/29/2010

Here’s another three players who’ve moved around in the last few days. Today, we’d like you to project Jim Edmonds, Rich Hill, and Randy Winn

Edmonds was signed by the Brewers to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. He is coming out of retirement after a 0.9 WAR season split between the Padres and the Cubs. Will his age affect him? Can he still hit? And perhaps more importantly, can he still play defense?

We went over Rich Hill’s issues in a post yesterday. The question is simple: Can he find the strike zone?

Randy Winn’s move to New York basically means Johnny Damon’s Yankee career is over. How will Winn fare in his place?

Durham or Kansas City?

I like tormenting Matt Klaasen, and as such, I’m going to expand on a question I asked him earlier: is the Durham Bulls’ lineup better than the Kansas City Royals’ lineup?

If the season started tomorrow, Kansas City would have something that resembles this:

C Jason Kendall
1B Billy Butler
2B Chris Getz
3B Alex Gordon
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
LF David DeJesus
CF Scott Podsednik
RF Rick Ankiel
DH Josh Fields

Meanwhile, depending on what the Rays do over the next two months, the Durham lineup could look like this:

C John Jaso
1B Dan Johnson
2B Elliot Johnson
3B Chris Nowak
SS Reid Brignac
LF Fernando Perez
CF Desmond Jennings
RF Justin Ruggiano
DH Ryan Shealy

There’s an outside chance that Matt Joyce and/or Sean Rodriguez also wind up here, or some other minor league free agent types. Let’s go position by position.

C: Kendall has the edge defensively and in grit, but Jaso is the better offensive player no matter the level.

1B: Butler.

2B: CHONE thinks Getz is about 20 wOBA points better in 2010. Both are probably best suited for a bench spot in the Majors.

3B: Gordon.

SS: A simple “Brignac” would suffice, I’ll expand anyways. Brignac is left-handed, hits righties well, and fields the ball. He may not be the slayer of foreign worlds like many hoped a few years ago, but he’s better than Betancourt.

LF: DeJesus.

CF: Ignoring contractual status, I think you have to go with Jennings. He may be the best prospect in the American League East and he’d debut on Opening Day in some other organizations. Here he’s stuck behind Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton.

RF: Ankiel, although Ruggiano did work with the same swing mechanic who made Ben Zobrist into BZA.

DH: Amusingly, Shealy was a member of the Royals organization until just recently, yet he appears to be a better player than their DH; unless their DH is Butler, then he’s obviously not.

It appears the Royals get the nod, for now, but if Joyce and/or Rodriguez show up, you would have a hard time convincing me the Royals lineup was better on a spot-by-spot basis.

All-Joy Team: Leaderboards and You

What you’re reading when you’re reading these words is Carson Cistulli’s most recent submission to the All-Joy Team. If you’re unfamiliar with the project, then you’ll want to read the introductory posts (yes, plural!) some time before you shuffle off this mortal coil.

In the meantime, you’ll be fine knowing that this is an attempt to compile a 25-man roster of current players most capable of providing joy to the sabermetrically inclined.

After reaching some pretty frenzied heights in our most recent episode of All-Joy Team — i.e. the hit show that everyone’s talking about — today we take a more conservative, but no less legitimate tact.

For each of the five players below (1B, CF/LF, SP, RPx2), I’ve used leaderboards to some end. Of course, as a new season unfolds, this sort of search will produce different results, will identify new players as All-Joy worthy. Is that a problem? maybe you’re asking. To which I reply: absolutely not. Like with the seasons — that, or NBC’s late-night programming — change is the rule and not the exception for the All-Joy Team.


1B, Brian Myrow, Pittsburgh (1,3)

One Method:

1. Go to the CHONE projections here at FanGraphs.
2. Sort all hitters by wOBA.
3. Find the first player to’ve recorded exactly zero MLB plate appearances last year.
4. Ta-da!


1. Go to BP’s Minor League Equivalent Average page.
2. Painstakingly, copy and paste the Peak Translation hitting leaders for each league into your off-brand spreadsheet program.
3. Sort by EqA.
4. Find the first hitter over 27.
5. Hint: It’s also the only hitter over 27.
6. Ta-da!

The player upon whom you’ll settle in either case is Brian Myrow.

True Fact: If you confront Sean Smith about Myrow’s optimistic CHONE projection, he will stab you in the eye.


LF/CF*, Chris Heisey, Cincinnati (1,4)

The Method:

1. Go to the CHONE projections here at FanGraphs.
2. Sort all hitters by WAR.
3. Find the first player to’ve recorded exactly zero MLB plate appearances last year.
4. If he’s also a former 18th round draft pick, that’s even better.
5. Ta-da!

True Fact: Heisey is currently towards the bottom of a pretty crowded outfield depth chart in Cincinnati. His fate is also largely, tragically in the hands of Dusty Baker. Translation: Pray for him.

Note: Exact position TBD.


SP, Billy Buckner, Arizona (2,4)

The Method:

1. Go to the Pitcher Leaderboards for 2009 here at FanGraphs.
2. Set the Min IP to 50 and sort by name.
3. Export both the Advanced and Basic pages to CSV.
4. Attempt to open both documents by means of your off-brand spreadsheet program.
5. Wait like eleventy minutes for said documents to open.
6. Copy the data from the Basic stats over into the Advanced one.
7. Subtract xFIP from ERA for all players.
8. Sort by difference.
9. Find the first pitcher with an xFIP under 4.00.
10. Also, he can’t have won a Cy Young before.
11. Ta-da!

Quick Quiz: Can you guess the former Cy Young-er just above Buckner in ERA-xFIP?

True Fact: Billy Buckner once played for the Royals but escaped by means of an elaborate, Shawshank Redemption-type plan.


RP, Brandon League, Toronto (2,4,5)
RP, Kevin Jepsen, LA Angels (2,4)

The Method:

1. Actually, it’s identical to the Buckner method until Step 9. You just find the first relief pitcher instead.
2. Actually, Jepsen and League have basically the same difference (around 1.40).
3. Ta-da?

True Facts: League’s splitter was the toughest pitch to hit in 2009. Also, he was hand-picked by Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik, who is never wrong. Kevin Jepsen, for his part, throws what I’m prepared to call a “dazzling” cut fastball. Also, he made Jeter look silly in last year’s ALCS.

Toronto Blue Jays: Draft Review

General Manager: Alex Anthopoulos
Farm Director: Tony LaCava
Scouting Director: Andrew Tinnish

2006-2009 Draft Results:
First three rounds included
x- over-slot signees ($200,000 or more)

2009 1st Round: Chad Jenkins, RHP, Kennesaw State
1S. James Paxton, LHP, Kentucky (Did not sign)
2. Jake Eliopoulos, LHP, Ontario HS (Did not sign)
3. Jake Barrett, RHP, Arizona HS (Did not sign)
3. Jake Marisnick, OF, California HS
6x- K.C. Hobson, OF, California HS
15x – Andrew Hutchinson, RHP, Florida HS
18x – Daniel Webb, RHP, Florida JC

Ah, the amateur draft. What was once the strength of the organization became a weakness during the Ricciardi regime, and that was on full display when the organization failed to sign three of its top four draft picks in ’09. The club managed to get Jenkins signed, but he has yet to throw a pitch for the club. As well, Marisnick, Webb, Hobson, and Hutchinson all failed to sign in time to receive valuable development instruction during the ’09 season.

The organization received compensatory picks for the three players that did not sign in ’09, but the club loses some leverage; if the players they choose in those positions in ’10 do not sign, then the club does not receive compensation in 2011… and you can bet the players’ advisers will be all over that.

2008 1st Round: David Cooper, 1B, California
2. Kenny Wilson, OF, Florida HS
3. Andrew Liebel, RHP, Long Beach State

Another somewhat uninspired draft. The club wanted Brett Wallace (and eventually got him) but settled for Cooper in the draft. After a solid debut, the first baseman looked a little lost at double-A and hit just .258/.340/.389 with a .131 ISO in 473 at-bats. His walk rate of 11.0% brings some hope with it, and the strikeout rate was reasonable at 19.5% if the left-handed hitter can find his power stroke. With below-average defense, Cooper is all offense.

Wilson was a bit of a surprise in the second round. After years of avoiding raw, athletic players the organization is still learning how to develop them properly and this speedster needs to harness his swing (30.8 K%, .093 ISO in low-A). He nabbed 37 bases in 49 attempts but missed time due to injury and appeared in just 95 games on the season.

Third-rounder Liebel is not flashy; he’s more of a durable, workhorse-type with an average fastball and good control (2.42 BB/9 in high-A). He posted a 3.66 FIP in the Florida State League and received two late-season starts in double-A. His ground-ball rate was just shy of 50%.

The club scored with reliever Danny Farquhar in the 10th round (mid-90s fastball, crazy movement and 51% GB rate), as he slips into the Top 10 list at the expense of a few less-developed prospects. Tyler Pastornicky (5th round) is an intriguing shortstop with good speed (57 steals in 75 tries) but limited power. Right-hander Bobby Bell (18th) also had a nice ’09 season (10.46 K/9, 50% GB rate in 96.1 innings) and seems fully recovered from injuries suffered while playing college ball for Rice University.

2007 1st Round: Kevin Ahrens, 3B, Texas HS
1. J.P. Arencibia, C, Tennessee
1S. Brett Cecil, LHP, Maryland
1S. Justin Jackson, SS, North Carolina HS
1S. Trystan Magnuson, RHP, Louisville
2. John Tolisano, 2B, Florida HS
2. Eric Eiland, OF, Texas HS
3. Alan Farina, RHP, Clemson

With seven picks before the third round, the club looked poised to really infuse some depth and talent into the minor league system. Unfortunately, the organization has not had much luck developing prep picks (outside of Travis Snider, a rare talent) after years of focusing on collegiate picks only. Ahrens (.215/.282/.302), Jackson (.213/.321/.269), Tolisano (.232/.305/.379), and Eiland (.194/.289/.258) have all underperformed – but the quartet is also still young.

Arencibia had a breakout ’08 season but slipped while playing in triple-A in ’09. Despite that fact, he made the Top 10 list based on his potential. Cecil contributed to the Majors in ’09 and made 17 starts for Toronto after spending much of his college career in the bullpen. Magnuson had a poor ’08 season in the rotation in low-A ball, but he moved back to the bullpen in ’09 and reached double-A. Farina has been slowed by injuries but he has a good fastball.

Left-hander Marc Rzepczynski (5th round) could end up being the steal of the draft for the Jays. The left-hander made 11 starts for Toronto in ’09 and gets a ton of ground balls (51.2% in the Majors). Randy Boone (7th) is another good ground-ball pitcher (53.6 GB%). Second baseman Brad Emaus (11th) should serve as an offensive-minded utility player in the Scott Spiezio mold. Outfielder Darin Mastroianni (16th) had a nice ’09 season by reaching double-A and he could also develop into a useful part-time player after nabbing 70 bases in 85 tries and hitting .301/.400/.370 with a 13.4% walk rate between high-A and double-A.

2006 1st Round: Travis Snider, OF, Washington HS
2. None
3. None
x- Graham Godfrey, RHP, College of Charleston

Snider makes this draft, which is a good thing since the club did not have second- or third-round picks. Snider struggled in 77 big-league games in ’09 by hitting .241/.328/.419 but his potential remains massive. He just needs to trim his strikeout rate (32.4%) and stop swinging at so many pitcher’s pitches.

Godfrey was used (along with Kristian Bell) to obtain Marco Scutaro from the A’s, which turned out to be one of Ricciardi’s best deals, as it netted the Jays two years of the infielder and then two draft picks (34th, 78th overall), as he recently signed with Boston as a free agent.

Up Next: The Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects