Archive for March, 2017

Effectively Wild Episode 1038: The Player With a Permanent Head Start


Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan banter about a Carter Capps mimic, several recently released Effectively Wild favorites, a baseball use for trampolines, and Derek Jeter’s prolific publishing career, then answer listener emails about a different kind of fantasy league, a player who can see slightly into the future, speed vs. velocity, a home-run/strikeout pitcher, spring training intentional walks, breaking Old Hoss Radbourn’s record, magically missing bats, part-time Trout and Kershaw, and more.

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FanGraphs After Dark Chat – 3/29/17

Paul Swydan:

What is your favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger movie?

The Terminator (13.1% | 27 votes)
The Terminator 2 (23.7% | 49 votes)
Predator (16.5% | 34 votes)
Total Recall (8.7% | 18 votes)
The Running Man (4.8% | 10 votes)
True Lies (8.7% | 18 votes)
Kindergarten Cop (12.1% | 25 votes)
Twins (3.3% | 7 votes)
Commando (2.4% | 5 votes)
Other (6.3% | 13 votes)

Total Votes: 206
Paul Swydan:

What is your favorite Julia Roberts movie?

My Best Friend’s Wedding (4.9% | 8 votes)
Steel Magnolias (1.8% | 3 votes)
Pretty Woman (26.3% | 43 votes)
The Pelican Brief (9.2% | 15 votes)
Conspiracy Theory (7.3% | 12 votes)
Notting Hill (11.0% | 18 votes)
Erin Brockovich (11.0% | 18 votes)
Eat Pray Love (2.4% | 4 votes)
August: Osage County (1.8% | 3 votes)
Other (23.9% | 39 votes)

Total Votes: 163
Paul Swydan:

What’s your favorite continent?

North America (46.7% | 95 votes)
South America (4.4% | 9 votes)
Africa (1.4% | 3 votes)
Europe (21.6% | 44 votes)
Asia (2.4% | 5 votes)
Australia (3.9% | 8 votes)
Antarctica (8.8% | 18 votes)
Other? (10.3% | 21 votes)

Total Votes: 203
Paul Swydan:

How many teams will make the postseason this year that didn’t last year?

Zero (1.9% | 4 votes)
1-3 (84.2% | 171 votes)
4-6 (8.3% | 17 votes)
7-9 (0% | 0 votes)
All 10! (5.4% | 11 votes)

Total Votes: 203
Jeff Zimmerman: Hi

Paul Swydan: Hi everybody!

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The D-Backs Could Have a New Pitching Approach

The Diamondbacks are one of two potential NL West sleepers. One thing they have going for them is that, this year, they should get something like a full season from A.J. Pollock. But then, beyond him, there’s the potentially electric starting rotation. Although there are more questions every day about the well-being of Zack Greinke, he’s followed by names like Shelby Miller, Taijuan Walker, Patrick Corbin, and Robbie Ray. Inconsistent, the lot of them. But they’ve all been well-regarded before, and you never know when a young pitcher could have everything click.

One mission for the team, then, is to try to squeeze everything it can from the pitchers it has. You can try to get the pitchers in better shape, and you can try to work out kinks in their mechanics. Every pitcher on the planet wants greater release-point consistency. But how about just changing how pitchers pitch? It’s early, but there’s a sign something could be changing down in the desert.

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Introducing Chris Owings, Again

The first time we met Chris Owings, he was a top prospect. Going into the 2014 season, he had just been named the 66th-best prospect by Baseball America and the team’s third best. He was slated for the lion’s share of the playing time at shortstop. Through the beginning of June, he was above-average at the plate thanks to good power, and better than average in the field thanks to a good arm. Both of those things took a hit, literally, on June 20th.

In the first year of the new catcher rules designed to eliminate collisions at the plate, Owings found himself colliding with the knee of Giants catcher Hector Sanchez that day. Even in slow motion, the hit doesn’t look vicious. Some called it awkward.

It was enough to keep him out until September, diminish his performance upon his return, and require Owings to undergo labrum surgery in October. Manager Kirk Gibson kept him out for a while longer because he was afraid “Owings might change his swing as a result and hurt something else” as Zach Buchanan then characterized it. Despite those best efforts, Owings retooled his swing after surgery. When I talked to him that summer of 2015, he agreed: “I had to change my swing, couldn’t quite let it eat with the one-handed follow through.”

That’s a shame, because it meant that, the second time we met Chris Owings, he was faltering. His power had disappeared, he wasn’t making contact like he had in his debut, and pitchers had begun challenging him more often in the zone. His defense had faltered, too. He lost the shortstop job to Nick Ahmed in the meantime, and ended up playing more second base to compensate for his weaker arm and worsening production against right-handers.

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Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat – 3/29/17

Dan Szymborski: Hey guys!

CamdenWarehouse: Do you see Stephenson in the Reds rotation at some point this season?

Dan Szymborski: If his command is OK, I think he’ll get some time considering where the Reds are. Maybe even in if it isn’t.

mtsw: Does the fact that the arbitration system rewards counting stats for hitters but wins/saves for pitchers create a systemic bias towards teams with pitcher-friendly parks? Hitter counting stats are park dependent but wins/saves aren’t really.

Dan Szymborski: Never really thought of it, but I don’t think enough players go to arb for that to be a big deal.

Dan Szymborski: And I believe that they’re free to make an argument wiht a player to this effect.

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The Unchanging Prices of Breakout Stars

Over the weekend, Cleveland made a point of locking up another one of their young core players, signing Jose Ramirez to a five-year, $26 million contract that gives him significant guaranteed income in exchange for control over his first three free-agent years. Ramirez joins Corey Kluber, Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, Carlos Carrasco, and Carlos Santana as members of the team’s core who have signed long-term deals with the club before reaching free agency, and Cleveland’s ability to get these guys signed before they get expensive is one of the reasons they were able to sign Edwin Encarnacion to be a $20 million DH this winter.

Cleveland isn’t a traditional big spender in free agency, but with so many players signed to early-career contracts, they had the flexibility to be a buyer this winter, and they took advantage of it. While they’ve done a lot of things right, this is one of the primary reasons Cleveland has built a contender out of a modest payroll and a farm system that hasn’t generally been ranked among the game’s best. The thing they’ve done very well is develop good players from guys who weren’t considered great prospects, and then get them signed long-term as soon as possible.

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Dave Cameron FanGraphs Chat – 3/29/17

Dave Cameron: Happy last Wednesday before baseball, everyone.

Dave Cameron: Let’s do our final preseason chat of the year.

Dave Cameron: And look forward to some real baseball on Sunday.

senorsilver: Anything to Thames struggles in the spring? Maybe one guy where spring is relevant?

Dave Cameron: I doubt it. He’s always had power, even before he went to the KBO, and there’s zero reason to think that faded over the winter.

Erik: In a division with two bad teams, like the NL East, how much do you think the players care about at least finishing higher than one team in the division? Obviously, players are hyper-competitive and want to win every game, but at the end of the season, will the Phillies or Braves be happy that they at least finished higher than the other team, even if it’s objectively worse for the team’s future since it means a worse draft pick?

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Tim Tebow, Michael Jordan and What We Can Learn from Them

Maybe not all of us will admit to it, but I think many of us have been curious to watch Tim Tebow’s foray into professional baseball.

When I was in the Pittsburgh clubhouse in Bradenton, Florida, earlier this spring, MLB Network chose to broadcast a Mets’ game in which Tebow was participating. MLB clubhouses have become more and more like your area Buffalo Wild Wings location, with multiple, large flat-screens usually adorning their interior to help pass the significant amount of stagnant time players spend there.

On this day, I entered the clubhouse shortly after the Pirates made a call to the bullpen. (It’s standard practice in spring for a team to permit media following the removal of the starting pitcher.) Several Pirates lingered in the mostly vacant room, including reliever Tony Watson, who turned his attention toward a television.

“Is that Tebow?” Watson asked aloud.

Even major-league players are curious how Tebow performs. A large part of that interest is probably tied to celebrity. Tebow was an ESPN favorite. It was difficult not to be aware of him. And not many Heisman winners quit football to give baseball a shot. If this were Brandon Weeden, or another failed pro quarterback, making an attempt at a baseball career, few would be paying attention. But part of this curiosity, I suspect, is also tied to this question: just how far away is an elite athlete with no professional baseball experience — and far removed from his amateur playing days — from being a passable major-league hitter? Essentially, how does (a very athletic) man off the street perform when thrown into a professional lineup?

I think we can all agree that Tebow isn’t a prospect, that he’s not likely to have a major-league career unless the Mets are desperate for an attendance bump. Eric Longenhagen saw Tebow last fall and quickly dismissed him as a prospect. From Longenhagen:

The crowds he draws, which, aside from the parking conditions they create, have been generally harmless. Last night’s game in Scottsdale was an unusually crowded mid-week affair with most of the fans raucously cheering for Tebow in a setting that is usually quite bookish. It created a unique environment in which to watch baseball, that’s for sure. Tools-wise, Tebow takes big, fun, aggressive hacks and he has some bat speed and power but his hand-eye is lacking and his swing is very long in the back. Several times he swung through hittable 89-91 mph fastballs because he couldn’t get there in time to punish them. His routes in left are raw, he has a 40 arm and is an average runner underway but below average from home to first. He isn’t a prospect, but he’s been gracious with the media and patient with the fans and autograph lines. It was weird watching a baseball game in which fan excitement was most palpable during a semi-routine fly ball to left field and not when a Yankees shortstop prospect hit one 380 feet the opposite way.

But Tebow gives us a different context, a different lens with which to understand how difficult it is to hit at the professional level, let alone advance to the major leagues.

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The Chicago Cubs: A Dynasty in the Making

We’ve written a lot about the Cubs over the past year-plus. Nor is there any secret as to why that’s the case. After undergoing a deep rebuild, the organization resurfaced with a roster full of young homegrown stars and talented free-agent additions. The club played at high level throughout 2016, ultimately leading to one of the most exciting games in baseball history. The Cubs’ World Series victory was 2016’s best sports story of the year, and maybe even the best sports story of the past 50 years.

The Cubs haven’t been at the forefront of the winter newscycle. There have been plenty of other notable stories, of course. Chris Sale changed teams! Jerry Dipoto made a few trades! The Rockies signed Ian Desmond! And so on.

But the 2017 campaign is almost here, which means it’s time for projections, discussions about team depth, and then some more projections. So many projections. Most of which tab the Cubs to be the best or second-best team in baseball in 2017. I can’t envision a reasonable objection to either placement.

But what about 2018? How might the team fare in 2019? Using a combination of projection systems and other data sources, I peered into a crystal ball to see how well the Cubs are set up for a five-year run.

WAR Under Control

To project WAR, I used a method proposed by Tom Tango that weights the past three years’ WAR and applies an aging curve. The method isn’t perfect, particularly when it comes to pitchers, but I trust Tango’s methodology enough to go forward. For missing years, I gave the player 1 WAR.

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Top 31 Prospects: Tampa Bay Rays

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the Tampa Bay Rays farm system. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from my own observations. The KATOH statistical projections, probable-outcome graphs, and (further down) Mahalanobis comps have been provided by Chris Mitchell. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of my prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. -Eric Longenhagen

The KATOH projection system uses minor-league data and Baseball America prospect rankings to forecast future performance in the major leagues. For each player, KATOH produces a WAR forecast for his first six years in the major leagues. There are drawbacks to scouting the stat line, so take these projections with a grain of salt. Due to their purely objective nature, the projections here can be useful in identifying prospects who might be overlooked or overrated. Due to sample-size concerns, only players with at least 200 minor-league plate appearances or batters faced last season have received projections. -Chris Mitchell

Other Lists
AL Central (CHW, CLE, DET, KC, MIN)
NL Central (CHC, CIN, PIT, MIL, StL)

Rays Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Willy Adames 21 AA SS 2018 60
2 Brent Honeywell 21 AA RHP 2018 55
3 Jose DeLeon 24 MLB RHP 2016 55
4 Jesus Sanchez 19 R OF 2020 50
5 Jake Bauers 21 AA 1B 2018 45
6 Josh Lowe 19 R CF 2021 45
7 Chih-Wei Hu 23 AAA RHP 2018 45
8 Lucius Fox 19 A SS 2021 45
9 Casey Gillaspie 24 AAA 1B 2017 45
10 Adrian Rondon 18 R 3B 2021 45
11 Garrett Whitley 20 A- OF 2021 45
12 Daniel Robertson 23 AAA UTIL 2017 40
13 Austin Franklin 19 R RHP 2021 40
14 Justin Williams 21 AA OF 2019 40
15 Jacob Faria 23 AAA RHP 2017 40
16 Ryne Stanek 25 AAA RHP 2017 40
17 Jake Fraley 21 A- OF 2019 40
18 Diego Castillo 23 R RHP 2017 40
19 Chris Betts 20 A- C 2020 40
20 Resly Linares 19 R LHP 2020 40
21 Michael Santos 21 A RHP 2019 40
22 Kevin Padlo 20 A 3B 2020 40
23 Taylor Guerrieri 24 AA RHP 2017 40
24 Hunter Wood 23 AA RHP 2017 40
25 Jaime Schultz 25 AAA RHP 2017 40
26 Greg Harris 22 AAA RHP 2018 40
27 David Rodriguez 21 R C 2019 40
28 Jose Alvarado 21 A+ LHP 2017 40
29 Brandon Koch 23 R RHP 2018 40
30 Ryan Boldt 22 A- CF 2019 40
31 Jhonleider Salinas 21 R RHP 2020 40

60 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Dominican Republic
Age 21 Height 6’1 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/55 55/60 40/55 45/40 40/45 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .270/.370/.430 as a 20-year-old at Double-A.

Scouting Report
The barrel-chested Adames might ordinarily project to move off shortstop given his build, but it seems to me that Tampa has a rather liberal organizational philosophy about what constitutes a viable defensive shortstop and Adames isn’t going to be any more offensive there than aging Asdrubal Cabrera and Yunel Escobar have been in recent years.

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