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Eric Longenhagen Chat 1/10/20


Eric A Longenhagen: Good morning, chat. Busy day on the site for a Friday. Go peep the Mets list. Cardinals and Braves run next week (non-zero chance we rope Detroit in with Atlanta) before we move on to the Northwest Valley cluster (TEX, SEA, KCR, SDP)


Eric A Longenhagen: And now, i shall take your questions with gusto


Adam : Do major league teams ever sign veteran players to minor league deals thinking “if we ever have to call this guy up, we’re screwed?”


Eric A Longenhagen: I’m sure if you’re Anaheim and sign an minor league free agent CF youh’re probably thinking that, but generally teams are enthused about the players they’re signing, even when those signigns are just for emergency depth or a shot their player dev can make a relevant change to create viable depth


Trumbo No. 5: Where is in-person scouting most valuable still? At the amateur/HS level? More rural/cold-weather areas without easy showcase access? Where would you aim as a young scout looking to cover under-tread territory?


Eric A Longenhagen: Wherever the data and video are least present (you nailed the general settings) as well as where context is important. The lower you go, the less technological infrastructure there is, the more important scouts are. Unless you have some visual machine learning concept that can identify mechanical inefficiencies, you need an eyeball scout to unearth that stuff, too.

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Eric Longenhagen Chat- 1/3/2020

Eric A Longenhagen: Good morning from brisk Tempe and Happy New Year, everyone. Hope you had a nice holiday. The 2020 scouting schedule begins in a few weeks here in AZ, so I’m very excited. Let’s talk about some stuff…

I don’t know: Help a debate. Is Yoshi Tsutsugo a prospect?

Eric A Longenhagen: He’s a *rookie* and you could argue we should slot him on the Rays list somewhere because of that. He’s going to be tough to FV since FV is mapped to one’s WAR during the years of team control, which for most everyone we evaluate means six-ish years. If we do that for Yoshi, that certainly encompasses his decline phase, unless perhaps we just do the length of his contract. We haven’t totally settled on it yet but there are problems with dropping him on a list.

Dusty: New year, new opportunity to hear your thoughts on Wander Javier and his upside?

Eric A Longenhagen: Upside is still the same (there’s power, body projection, INF athletic profile, etc.) but the likelihood he gets there feels lower since now we’ve seen a bunch of at-bats and there’s a clear swing and miss problem right now.

Lava: Who is more likely to become a true ace: Daniel Lynch or Tarik Skubal? What are the odds we see them matching up in the big leagues this season?

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Eric Longenhagen Holiday Chat- 12/20/19

Eric A Longenhagen: Good morning from Tempe, folks. I’ll spare you links to this week’s work, you know how to find them.

Seth : I know it’s still early, but any 2020 draft prospects who have rapsodo friendly (ie a lot of rise) FBs?

Eric A Longenhagen: We have very little 2020 data at the moment, it’s been harder to source than pro stuff and our current focus is on the pro stuff

The West is Wild: Eggnog: bad or sick?

Eric A Longenhagen: I can really only do a small glass of eggnog/bourbon, too rich. But churn it into ice cream? Now we’re talking.

The West is Wild: Daulton Varsho’s best non-catching position is _________?

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Notes on Yoshi Tsutsugo, Kwang-Hyun Kim, and the Week’s Other NPB/KBO Signees

Over the last week or so, several players who had been playing pro ball in Korea or Japan (some originally from those countries, others former big leaguers kicking back to the States) have signed contracts with major league clubs. I had notes on several of them in our Top 50 Free Agents post, but wanted to talk about them at greater length now that we know their employers and the details of their contracts.

LF Yoshi Tsutsugo, Tampa Bay Rays
(Two years, $12 million, $2.4 million posting fee)

Tsutsugo’s deal came in a bit beneath what Kiley predicted on the Top 50 Free Agents post (Kiley had two years at $8 million per), where we ranked him No. 42 in the class, but multiple public reports have confirmed that Tsutsugo had more lucrative offers from other teams and chose to sign with Tampa Bay because of comfort with the org.

In addition to regular DH duty, Tsutsugo seems like an obvious platoon partner for Hunter Renfroe in one of the two corner outfield spots. The Rays have indicated he’ll see some time at third and first base, positions he hasn’t played regularly since 2014, and the notes I have from pro/international scouts and executives indicate he’s not athletically capable of playing there, though there’s no harm in seeing whether or not that’s true during spring training. Yandy Díaz isn’t good at the hot corner (he used to be, but he’s just too big and stiff now), but still played third situationally, so perhaps Tsutsugo can be hidden there, even if it’s for a few innings at a time. Read the rest of this entry »

The 2019 Rule 5 Draft Scouting Reports

The major-league phase of Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft began with its annual roll call of clubs confirming the number of players currently on their 40-man rosters while dozens of hungover industry folks loitered near the doorway with their luggage. Below are brief scouting reports on the players selected, with some notes provided by Kiley McDaniel.

But, first, our annual refresher on the Rule 5 Draft’s complex rules. Players who signed their first pro contract at age 18 or younger are eligible for selection after five years of minor-league service if their parent club has not yet added them to the team’s 40-man roster. For players who signed at age 19 or older, the timeline is four years. Teams with the worst win/loss record from the previous season pick first, and those that select a player must not only (a) pay said player’s former club $100,000, but also (b) keep the player on their 25-man active roster throughout the entirety of the following season (with a couple of exceptions, mostly involving the injured list). If a selected player doesn’t make his new team’s active roster, he is offered back to his former team for half of the initial fee. After the player’s first year on the roster, he can be optioned back to the minor leagues.

Conversations with sources at Wednesday evening’s Scout of the Year ceremony indicated the draft might be wild, with anticipated roster changes — the 26th active roster spot and three batter minimum for relievers — driving uncertainty. Would non-competitive teams use the extra roster spot to stash the sort of player who typically wouldn’t be able to stick without such flexibility? There was more uncertainty surrounding team approaches than discussion about players who might go. Read the rest of this entry »

White Sox Acquire Good Fit in Mazara, Rangers Farm System Gets Deeper

It’s not the sort of splashy, high-profile move that would muffle some of the White Sox fan base’s simmering impatience, but acquiring two years of 24-year-old right fielder Nomar Mazara was a sensible, bird-in-the-hand trade for Rick Hahn and company. Up until this point, Mazara hasn’t had the kind of career many in baseball or baseball media (myself included) anticipated when he was an 18-year-old clubbing on Double-A pitching late in 2014. He’s produced just 1.7 WAR combined during his first four years in the big leagues, reaching base just a shade below league average (his biggest issue) without hitting for quite enough power to counterbalance it.

But he’s still a good fit for Chicago. The White Sox needed a corner outfield bat, and they needed it to be left-handed. Daniel Palka, a Mazara caricature, was jettisoned off the 40-man last month, Luis Alexander Basabe, a switch-hitter, is coming off a bad year, Blake Rutherford has a low-ball swing at a time when pitchers are attacking the top of the zone, Leury García, who also bats switch, is more of a versatile utility type than a true starting outfielder, and everyone else swings right-handed. Mazara has a .271/.337/.462 career line against righties, good for a 103 career wRC+, a number that has climbed in three consecutive seasons, as has Mazara’s Hard Hit % and Barrel % (the last one according to BaseballSavant). This is a 24-year-old (Mazara will turn 25 in April) who’s still getting better at the thing he’ll most often be called upon to do for the White Sox next year.

Nomar Mazara’s Progression
Year/Stat wRC+ vs RHP Hard Hit% Barrel% (Savant)
2017 97 32.6% 6.5%
2018 104 37.5% 8.5%
2019 110 45.3% 10.7%

We’ve seen single-frame glimpses of elite physical ability from Mazara, like his 500 foot homer off of Reynaldo López, and perhaps at his age there’s some hope that he can continue to improve, though it’s more likely this is a perfectly fine corner platoon bat. Read the rest of this entry »

Baltimore Gets Quantity for Bundy

In early June of 2012, my friend Ryan and I drove south on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Wilmington, Delaware for the first half of a Carolina League doubleheader, because Dylan Bundy was matched up against Yordano Ventura. The two were so dominant that the seven-inning game was over in an hour and a half, and we had time to hightail it back to the Lehigh Valley for the second game of a doubleheader there (Mark Prior pitched in relief for Pawtucket). Afterward, a scout who now works for a team in a national capacity told me he thought Bundy, who was 19 at the time, could have pitched in the big leagues right then.

Bundy would reach the majors later that year, however briefly, before a rash of injuries would prevent him from pitching in Baltimore again until 2016. It was an ironic twist in what is perhaps this decade’s greatest baseball “what if?” career, because when the Orioles drafted Bundy in 2011, they asked him to scrap his dominant cutter in order to keep him healthy. This was the equivalent of baseball pseudoscience, an old wives’ tale. We were still in the dark ages of player development, and perhaps no dungeon was more medieval than Baltimore’s.

I’m not here to assign blame to anyone, nor would I call Bundy’s career to this point — 7.2 WAR over four full seasons, basically a No. 4/5 starter — a failure, but in high school, Bundy was throwing 100 mph and had a 70- or 80-grade cutter and curveball which, if you classify his pitches a certain way, is basically what Gerrit Cole works with right now. Through some combination of incompetent player development and sheer bad luck, Bundy went from a dominant, polished high schooler with three elite pitches to an oft-injured, low-90s righty who, for a while, used his changeup most often among secondaries. Read the rest of this entry »

Analyzing the Brewers and Padres Swap of Young Big Leaguers

Wednesday’s four-player Brewers/Padres swap was largely about two teams recognizing that they could trade puzzle pieces with each other to better complete themselves, and probably also revealed San Diego’s long-term pessimism regarding Luis Urías. Here’s the deal:

Padres get:

OF Trent Grisham
RHP Zach Davies

Brewers get:

INF Luis Urías
LHP Eric Lauer

With Lauer, the Brewers get an inning-eating lefty whose 2019 innings total is a big reason he generated 2.3 WAR despite his pedestrian 4.77 xFIP. He gives the Brewers yet another unique mechanical look, and chucks in a lot of varied breaking stuff, working heavily off of a cutter, curveball, and a slider that Lauer doesn’t use very much overall, but that he throws at a higher rate when opposing hitters have two strikes. That slider and cutter usage flipped last year (20% sliders and 6% cutters in 2018, with the inverse last year) and Lauer’s glove-side command of the cutter seemed to enable him to jam righties, as right-handed batter wOBA against him dropped from .341 in 2018 to .300 last year.

Lauer was still a little fly ball/homer prone last year, but PETCO has a fairly short porch to straightaway left field (334 feet down the line, 357 feed to left), and six of the 14 dingers he surrendered to righties last season were wall-scrapers, so Miller Park’s dimensions (344 feet, 371 feet) might prove helpful in that regard. Read the rest of this entry »

On 40-Man Decision Day and the Prospects Who Moved

Every year on 40-Man Decision Day, there are a few typically minor trades as teams with crowded situations seek to move viable big league depth for which they lack roster space. Teams have foresight when it comes to this because they don’t want to end up losing players via DFA or the Rule 5 Draft that they might otherwise be able to trade for something, like an international bonus slot or a prospect. Teams have increasingly addressed this proactively during the trade deadline portion of the summer, consolidating 40-man space by packaging prospects in bigger deals for contributors. Others seek to flip their fringe 40-man candidates for younger players who won’t have to be put on the 40-man for a while, a transaction we call a “40-man churn.” Does your contending team with an aging pitching staff need a spot-starter for next season, just in case you suffer a rash of injuries? Trade me that interesting rookie-level player who’s going to take a few years to develop. This day is about roster equilibrium.

This is one of those unsexy areas where a team’s scouts and analysts get to shine, looking for a developmental project who has some ceiling or someone who has a sneaky ability to play a minor big-league role next year. If you’d like to see analysis of more deals as a way of better understand various club motivations, check out last year’s piece. Here are yesterday’s trades:
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Wainwright and Soroka Duel Upstaged by Braves’ Rally in 9th

After narrowly escaping his ineffectiveness in Game 1, the Carlos Martinez Octobercoaster caused St. Louis to yack up a pivotal Game 3 at home, and cede a 2-to-1 NLDS series lead to the Atlanta Braves. A three-run Braves’ ninth on the back of three hits and two walks spoiled a timeless, if sometimes harrowing, 7.2 shutout innings from 38-year-old Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright, and sent 47,000 fans home in stunned silence.

Up until the twist, Planet of the Apes-y ending, St. Louis had maintained a loose grip on a 1-0 lead first captured on a second-inning Matt Carpenter sac fly, enabled by an earlier Marcell Ozuna double. Throughout the six innings that followed, the Cardinals survived several well-struck fly balls that momentarily stopped the collective heart of Busch Stadium, before they died at the warning track and fell harmlessly into the waiting glove of Dexter Fowler. A Ronald Acuña Jr. laser in the third (107 mph off the bat), a Nick Markakis golf shot (100 mph) in the fourth, and a hanging curveball to Matt Joyce (102.5 mph) in the seventh all amounted to nothing more than a few seconds of concern.

Then came the ninth inning. A leadoff double by Josh Donaldson (who was replaced at second base by human blur Billy Hamilton) immediately put the tying run in scoring position. Consecutive Martinez strikeouts forced Cardinals manager Mike Shildt to make a two-out decision. Either a) have Martinez face lefty-hitting catcher Brian McCann, or b) walk McCann so Martinez could face the right-handed Dansby Swanson, who had doubled off of Wainwright earlier in the game. Shildt chose to face Swanson, who obliterated a first-pitch hanging slider and tied the game on his second double. Adam Duvall followed with a less emphatic, but more significant, single that plated Rafael Ortega (who ran for McCann) and Swanson. Read the rest of this entry »