Archive for May, 2012

MLB DNA Testing — Is Baseball Breaking the Law?

As you may know, Major League Baseball has been conducting DNA tests on prospects for several years now. What’s more, they often make the families pay for a test that costs $400. The reasons are understandable: teams want to avoid being defrauded out of millions of dollars by players who falsify their name and age.

The Nationals gave a $1.4 million signing bonus 16-year old Esmailyn Gonzalez before they found out he was 20-year old Carlos Alvarez Lugo. The Indians spent $15 million on a multi-year deal for Fausto Carmona before they found out he was three years older and his name was Roberto Hernandez. The amount of money at stake is so large that corruption is hard to avoid. Numerous officials were fired in the wake of a money-skimming scandal uncovered in 2008, including scouts from the White Sox, Yankees and Red Sox, and Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden. As Nationals president Stan Kasten said after the Gonzalez/Alvarez fraud was uncovered:

No teenager executed this fraud. There were a number of people involved in it… Falsified hospital documents. Falsified school documents. Other family members changing their identities. Bribes were paid. Really elaborate stuff.

That fraud is not just confined to a few high-profile cases. It’s widespread. According to a Cleveland Plain Dealer story from February:

Last year, MLB investigators did background checks on more than 800 players who signed professional contracts in the Dominican Republic. In about 15 percent, fraud was found. MLB statistics say fraud was discovered in over 60 percent of the players investigated in 2002.

So it’s understandable why teams would want to turn to science to find a way to fight back. But they may be breaking the law. Read the rest of this entry »

Dodgers Attempt to Replace Kemp with Castellanos

Matt Kemp’s frustration was apparent as he rounded second base in the first inning of last night’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers. Fears of the worst were confirmed as Kemp destroyed a bat in frustration: the Dodgers’ star expects to return to the disabled list, and he could miss more than two weeks this time around.

The Dodgers are without question a star driven team, with players like Kemp, Clayton Kershaw and Andre Ethier holding up an otherwise unimpressive roster. Yesterday’s lineup following Kemp’s departure read like something one would expect at an Albuquerque Isotopes contest. With Kemp out for multiple weeks, the Dodgers will turn to the ‘Topes best, Alex Castellanos. The 25-year-old will replace Kemp on the roster according to Baseball Prospectus’s Kevin Goldstein.

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FanGraphs Audio: Tom Brookens and Phil Coke

Episode 190
David Laurila, curator of FanGraphs’ Q&A Series, talks with Tigers personalities of past and present and present: former Detroit third baseman (and current first-base coach) Tom Brookens and left-handed reliever Phil Coke.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 27 min. play time.)

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Cubs’ Players Available in Trades

At this point, it looks like the Cubs are more likely to compete for better positioning in next year’s draft than any postseason play. The team is 27th in the league in runs scored and 23rd in runs allowed, and only the Padres have a worse record. Inevitably, talk has turned to trade rumors. Bob Nightengale reports for USAToday:

The Cubs are letting teams know that nearly everyone but starter Jeff Samardzija is available, two high-ranking team officials told USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because of competitive reasons.

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FanGraphs Prospect Stock Watch – 05/31/12

Jesse Biddle, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies
Current Level: A+
2012 Top 15 Prospects Ranking: 2nd
Current Value: On the Rise

Biddle continues to make big strides in his development. The 20-year-old southpaw is close to overtaking Trevor May as the best pitcher in the system – if he hasn’t already. Biddle has made 10 high-A starts but he hasn’t allowed more than two runs in his last seven appearances. He’s struck out 27 in his last four games. The lefty’s control remains inconsistent but it’s much improved over last year at low-A (4.47 to 3.22 BB/9). With 35 A-ball appearances under his belt since the beginning of 2011, Biddle is probably ready for a promotion to double-A and he has the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter.

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Explaining My Franchise Player Draft Selection

This afternoon, ESPN is hosting their Franchise Player Draft, tapping 30 of their writers and television personalities to select the player that they would want to build a franchise from scratch around for the next 10 years. As with last year’s version, I was invited to participate, and I was given the eighth overall selection through the random draft order.

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Braves Call Up Andrelton Simmons

Only three NL teams have a higher BABIP against than the Braves, a number which would be even worse if not for a top notch defensive outfield. Martin Prado, Michael Bourn, and Jason Heyward are all plus defenders in the outfield, but the Braves have struggled tremendously on the defensive front in the infield. Dan Uggla is annually one of the worst defensive second baseman in the league, Chipper Jones and Juan Francisco are both below average in the field, Freddie Freeman maintains a solid glove but very limited range, and Tyler Pastornicky has been the worst defensive shortstop based on pretty much every metric.
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FanGraphs 2012 Amateur Draft Selections

Major League Baseball’s 2012 amateur draft is less than a week away. The first round is scheduled for June 4, beginning at 7 p.m. EST, and the next 39 rounds will be on June 5 (rounds two through 15) and June 6 (rounds 16 through 40), beginning at noon EST on both days.

The draft will be interesting for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the overall talent is considered one of the weakest in recent memory; second, new rules have been implemented by MLB in an effort to control draft spending. Among many other changes, each team will be given a pool of money to spend (based on the number and position of their picks) and penalties can be assessed for exceeding the “recommended” funds.

Because teams are limited by the amount of money they can spend, you’re likely to see a lot of good prep players, who are not consensus first-round talents, head to college because they won’t be able to sign above-slot deals after being selected later in the draft, like in the past. As well, junior college enrollement could skyrocket because that route allows players to re-enter the draft after just one year, rather than wait three seasons with the four-year college route.

Below is my take on the first round selections. It is not a guess of what teams will do; it’s a ranking of what I would do if I were running the draft war room for each team. I drafted without considering each club’s willingness to spend money on the draft, and I looked to take who I considered the best player available — based on scouting reports, word of mouth and first-hand observation.

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Wendy Thurm FanGraphs Chat – 5/31/12

Norichika Aoki Deserves a Starting Job

When the Milwaukee Brewers added outfielder Norichika Aoki to their roster this past offseason, I thought it was a curious move — the 30-year-old outfielder was one of Japan’s better hitters and by my anticipation deserved at least a large platoon role. Yet the Brewers intended on using him in a bench role.

In his final and worst season in the NPB, Aoki was still one of the league’s best hitters. And looking at his final five seasons in Japan’s Central League, we see he was consistently a dominant hitter in a league typically starved for offense:

Aoki’s wOBA

2007 .395 127 .310
2008 .400 131 .306
2009 .371 123 .301
2010 .408 129 .316
2011 .320 115 .277

All wOBA+ numbers relative to the Japanese CL.

Aoki has been getting more playing time lately, but now it’s time for him to get all of it.
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