July 2011

Down on Brown?

Domonic Brown is 23-years-old, stands 6’5″, 205 pounds, and is a potential superstar.  He is so important to the Phillies that he wasn’t a part of the Hunter Pence trade, and, quite possibly, never would be a part of a deal.  He is hitting .246/.335/.393 in 183 at bats in Philadelphia, playing semi-regulary, as he has been sharing time with Ben Francisco in right for the Phillies.  Now, Hunter Pence is in right, Francisco is the 4th outfielder, and John Mayberry, Jr. hangs around as the 5th outfielder.  There just isn’t room with Raul Ibanez and his 39-year-old-type-of-production taking up a roster spot.

Don’t get me wrong, Ibanez is a good player, though his .247/.293/.419 is a far cry from his .281/.343/.473, but he shouldn’t be blocking someone who could be more productive.  Ibanez’s 74/24 K/BB doesn’t match Brown’s 34/25 K/BB, and his WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is -1.2…NEGATIVE ONE POINT TWO.  He has cost the Phillies 1.2 wins compared to an average replacement.  Brown’s WAR is just 0.2, but he wasn’t costing the Phillies anything by having him there.  With Howard, Ibanez, Rollins and Utley getting older each year, the Phillies need to get Brown some experience and really see what they have.

Brown will be 24 in September.  He has nothing left to prove in the Minors, especially after hitting .327/.391/.589 with 22 doubles, 20 homers and 17 steals in just 93 games in Triple-A last season.  The Phillies have had success, winning a World Series, losing another, and getting several key pieces in trades, acquiring not only Pence, but Roy Oswalt and Roy Halladay, in the last couple of seasons.  They signed Cliff Lee, they extended Ryan Howard, and they are developing mediocre talent to sell high, like J.A. Happ (who hasn’t done anything close for the Astros) and now Vance Worley.  They let Jayson Werth walk instead of overpaying him like Washington did.  They let Werth walk because they had Brown.  Now they are blocking him again.  If they want to do the right thing, they need to start Brown and make Ibanez a part-time player.

Domonic Brown has offensive superstar potential.  He can get on base, hit for power, and run.  He is a left-handed hitter, as are Utley, Ibanez, and Howard.  The only thing that has held Brown back is that.  He needs to be in left.  The Phillies won’t win a World Series with Raul Ibanez in left this season.  For all of the right moves Ruben Amaro, Jr. has made as GM, continuing the up and down with Brown isn’t one of them.  Get the kid up, put him in the lineup, let him shine.

About these ads

How Do You Play Porcello?

Rick Porcello is 22-years-old.  He has already made 77 starts in the Majors, going 34-27, after spending just one season in the Minors, 2008, where he pitched for High-A, Florida State League Lakeland.  He was sent to the Minors last season after having some rough patches, and this season has been solid but not spectacular despite his 11-6 record over 20 starts.

Porcello was drafted 27th overall in 2007 and had “ace potential.”  He was rushed to the Majors due to his abilities and what the Tigers thought he could be, but when he was drafted, he had an amazing curveball.  Suddenly, he doesn’t use it.  The Tigers forced him to drop it to work on his other pitches, but now, what was his out pitch, he just doesn’t use.  His career K/9 is just 4.85 which is higher than Chien-Ming Wang’s 4.13, but you have to wonder if he can keep having success if he stops enducing grounders.  So, what does he throw now?  He threw a curve 7.6% in 2009, 3.2% in 2010, and now just 1.8% this season.  He average fastball has been dropping since his arrival, as well, going from 91.4 in 2009 to 90.2 this season.  With that being said, his slider has become more valuable, as he is throwing it 19.4% of the time after throwing it 4.8% in 2009 and 14.1% of the time in 2010.

Whatever he is throwing, he has had some runs of dominance and runs of inconsistencies this season.  He has 12 Quality Starts in 20 tries, going 9-1 with a 2.43 ERA over those 12 starts.  However, when he is bad, it is bad, as he is 2-5 with a 9.34 ERA in his other 8 starts.  So when do you play him?  He has an ugly 5.57 ERA at home (5-4) this season, with a 3.59 road ERA (6-2), even in the friendly dimensions of Comerica Park.  However, his career home ERA is 4.44 and his road ERA is 4.45, so he has been pretty consistent up to this point in his career.

Porcello is interesting at this point because he is so young and has had some success.  Is he a future ace?  Can he become a strikeout pitcher after pitching to contact and becoming a ground ball pitcher (51.1% over career) to this point?  It is very strange for a team to cut off a pitch so early in a career and to have it never come back.  You have to wonder if the Tigers did too much with Porcello and cost him his long-term potential.  If you have him in a fantasy league, the only way to use him is to start him and hope that it is one of his good nights.  Young pitchers have inconsistency, it’s just part of their maturation.  But you have to wonder if Porcello is going to mature into what he was supposed to be or into something else, because what he is right now isn’t what the Tigers drafted.

GM for the Day: Los Angeles Dodgers

Poor, poor Ned Colletti.  What a mess the Dodgers have turned into, as the McCourt family has turned a once highly respected organization into a complete joke.  The Dodgers have three major parts right now: Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.  At the trade deadline, the rumors are flying about Hiroki Kuroda going to the East Coast with the Yankees and Red Sox as the favorites for his services.  He has a full no-trade clause, though, so it will have to be negotiated.  Outside of Kuroda, who would I trade?

The starting rotation has Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Rubby De La Rosa who would be untouchable.  Billingsley is 27 and is signed through 2014 with a club option for 2015, so he isn’t going anywhere.  He has 68 wins in his career, and, while he can be inconsistent, he can be viewed as a solid #2 or #3 for the Dodgers long-term.  Kershaw is an elite starting pitcher and he is just 23, has already won 38 games, and is under team control through 2014, with arbitration coming up in 2012 for the 1st time.  De La Rosa is still new at this at just 22.  He has made just nine career starts, but he looks like a keeper.  I would deal Kuroda, if he’ll waive his no-trade clause, to the Red Sox for Ryan Lavarnway and Felix Doubront, getting an offensive-minded catcher and a solid left-handed pitcher who is overlooked as a prospect, despite being 23 with a 46-35 record and 3.55 ERA over parts of seven seasons in the Minors.  I would then deal Ted Lilly to Detroit for Daniel Fields, a toolsy center field prospect who is struggling in High-A.  Fields would be a project who could take Kemp’s spot in a few years, though.

Matt Kemp is my superstar, he is three years younger than Ethier at 26, and he is a Free Agent in 2013.  I am keeping him at all costs and I shed some payroll by trading Kuroda and Lilly, though I would have had to take on about half of the $24-26 million that Lilly was owed through 2013.  Andre Ethier is eligible for arbitration in 2012, so I am going to trade him and start over.  I will work with the Braves on this one.  While Pence isn’t worth those aces, Ethier is.  He would be a great addition due to his ability to get on base (.364 career OBP), and I think he is worth the $10-12 million he could get in arbitration.  However, I’m not taking the top prospect from the Braves, I need more depth.  Martin Prado will have to play center for Atlanta with the acquisition of Ethier, as Ethier has never played center in the Majors.  As the Dodgers GM, I would want Jordan Schafer to take over center.  I want Kemp out of center to protect him long-term, so he’ll go to right.  Jerry Sands will be my left fielder, giving him a longer look after his struggles earlier this year, as he deserves another shot after hitting .275/.349/.564 with 16 homers in Triple-A.

This roster will need to be turned over and go young over the next few years, so if I get offered prospects for a veteran bullpen arm, like Mike MacDougal,  I will jump at it.  I will trade Rafael Furcal and give the shortstop job to Dee Gordon, and trade Jamey Carroll to a team in need of a utility player.  Furcal should be useful for a team like the Pirates, who are running Brandon Wood and Ronny Cedeno out there, and I should be able to get more depth, maybe even Gorkys Hernandez, a speedy outfielder in Triple-A.

It is all about depth at this point.  Going young, going cheap.  Until the McCourt’s lose control, that is all we can do in Los Angeles.  Get rid of veterans, play a bunch of kids, see what you have.  Get as many prospects as I can and get rid of payroll.  Keep Kemp and Kershaw until they retire, if possible, and build around them.

One Pence, None the Richer

Hunter Pence is a good baseball player.  Good, not great.  You could even say that he is so good that he isn’t great enough to be worth the type of talent that it is rumored that he will cost a team trading for him.  Pence is batting .309, good for 18th in MLB.  His .356 OBP ranks 50th, his .472 slugging percentage ranks 54th, and his .828 OPS ranks him 49th in MLB.  Value has changed to where OPS is a pretty good indicator of run production, as a high OPS shows that a player gets on base and can drive the ball.  Pence ranks behind names like Casey Kotchman, Seth Smith, and Yunel Escobar, players that no team are throwing the names of their top prospects around for in a trade.

Hunter Pence will be 29 in April.  He makes $6.9 million this year and is eligible for arbitration, which will make him capable of making $10 million or more next season based on his current salary and production.  But…is he worth it, let alone the amount of talent a team will be giving up to get him?  www.baseball-reference.com has a ranking system based on age-level production.  Hunter Pence is nearly equal to…Bobby Higginson…at this point in his career.  Bobby Higginson’s best season came at the age of 29, in 2000, when he hit .300/.377/.538 with 30 homers and 102 RBI.  Higginson did one thing that made him better than Pence…he walked.  Pence’s .339 career OBP makes him a liability for his long swing as he ages.  His strange approach to hitting has long been questioned.  John Sickels of www.minorleagueball.com wrote: “The question now is, when he gets into his late 20s, does Pence stay where he is now (which is really good) or does he take a further step forward into genuine superstardom?  Most scouts would doubt the latter possibility. Many have never been comfortable with his unorthodox stance at the plate. But it works, and if he can make even a marginal improvement in his plate discipline, such a breakthrough is possible.”  This was posted on February 4, 2008 (http://www.minorleagueball.com/2008/2/4/18526/90212).

Pence is good, not great.  He was an All-Star this season, but so was damn-near everyone in baseball, as well as in 2009.  He hit 25 homers in 2008, 2009, and 2010.  His on-base skills have bounced up and down like Aubrey Huff’s last few seasons.  Pence is a very good player.  He isn’t Carlos Beltran, who was traded for a legitimate top prospect in Zack Wheeler.  It is rumored that Philadelphia and Atlanta are in on Pence.  Philadelphia may offer Domonic Brown, Jonathan Singleton, and/or Jarrod Cosart, all top prospects for the Phillies.  The Astros are asking for Julio Teheran, Mike Minor, Arodys Vizcaino, and/or Randall Delgado from the Braves, all top prospects.  It doesn’t make sense for these teams.  To get over the hump and then have to pay the type of money it will require in arbitration to Pence…it isn’t worth it.  He is a good player.  Not a great one.  If Philadelphia or Atlanta deal a group of top prospects for Pence, they will get a solid hitter, a great fielder, and a 3rd-tier star.

Get to Know…Zack Wheeler

Zack Wheeler was the 6th overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft by the Giants.  He seems to be the primary piece going to New York for Carlos Beltran.  While Beltran has had a rebound this season, the Giants are getting a player who struggled last season, playing in just 145 games in 2009 and 2010 due to microfracture surgery (the same surgery that may again doom Grady Sizemore – http://thebaseballhaven.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/the-next-mickey-mantle-or-not/).  Beltran has a nice .904 OPS, his highest since posting a .982 mark in 2006, but what about the cost of the rental?

Zack Wheeler is an excellent prospect.  Typically, posting a 3.99 ERA leaves you into the land of mediocrity.  However, the California League isn’t your normal pitching environment.  Wheeler’s 3.99 ERA ties him for 11th in the league in ERA.  At 21, Wheeler has struck out 98 in 88 innings, good for a 10.02 K/9IP mark, while his 4.80 BB/9IP shows that he still needs to work on his location.  His stuff is electric, though, as he has a fastball that touches 96 and a devastating curveball, which will be his out pitch.

Wheeler’s long-term value could get a boost moving to Citi Field, a known pitchers park, but that isn’t to say that San Francisco’s AT&T Park wouldn’t have been nice to pitch in.  The Mets will be an interesting team to monitor.  They could move David Wright due to Jefry Marte’s presence in the Minors, Reyes may leave in Free Agency this winter, and they will have a group of arms to build around in Wheeler, Matt Harvey, and Jenrry Mejia.  Maybe they’ll be on a sweet baseball card like Bill Pulsipher, Paul Wilson, and Jason Isringhausen some day.

Right in the Ras…mus

He likes animals more than good baseball players

Toronto STOLE Colby Rasmus today and they didn’t even need to use any petroleum jelly.  Toronto traded Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart to the White Sox for Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahan, taking on about $7 million in salaries.  They then turned around and traded Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Corey Patterson, and Marc Rzepczynski to the Cardinals for Colby Rasmus, Trever Miller, Brian Tallet, and P.J Walters.

What are they getting?  A cornerstone center fielder who they can plug in right now between Eric Thames and Travis Snider, forming one of the youngest, most potent group of young outfielders in the league.  In Rasmus, as written earlier (http://thebaseballhaven.wordpress.com/2011/07/14/tony-larussa-constant-jerk-costing-team/), they get a player who Tony LaRussa basically forced  out of town.  He could use some help with his contact rate, but look what Blue Jays hitting coach Dwayne Murphy has done for Jose Bautista!  Rasmus just wanted some help outside of the organization to get back on track.  Now he has some extraordinary help.  Miller, Tallet, and Walters are all middle to long relief types.  Mark Teahen can play each of the corners and is just two years removed from ripping 34 doubles and 12 homers for the Royals.  The main piece throughout this deal is Rasmus and the Jays parted with bullpen help and veteran pieces, just what rebuilding teams need to do.  Bullpens can be pieced together, but cornerstones aren’t found on the street.  They gave up Edwin Jackson, who was flipped right away, but he is now in his sixth organization (seventh if you count the hour he spent as a “member” of Toronto) and he is just 27-years-old.

What did the Blue Jays lose?

* Jason Frasor, who will turn 34 in August, who has a 2.98 ERA over 44 appearances, a Free Agent after this season is gone.  He has a career 3.69 ERA over 455 appearances.

* Zach Stewart will be 25 in September.  He has made three starts in Toronto, going 0-1 with a 4.86 ERA.  He didn’t start a game in the Minors until 2009 and has made just 56 starts over the last 2 1/2 years.  He is probably bullpen bound long-term.

*Octavio Dotel will be 38 this winter and has pitched well over his entire career, including a 3.68 ERA this season.

*Corey Patterson will be 32 in August.  He has a career .253/.292/.402 slash line, never really learned how to take a walk, and strikes out in over 20% of his at bats for his career.  He is a fine defensive outfielder still, but not much should be expected.

*Marc Rzepczynski is about to turn 26 and is probably the most difficult piece that the Jays had to part with.  “Scrabble” finally developed a role, making 43 appearances and establishing himself as a dominant left-handed specialist, holding lefties to a .159 average.

Great deal by Alex Anthopoulos, GM of the Jays, who stole Yunel Escobar and Jo-Jo Reyes from the Braves last season for Alex Gonzalez and a couple of Minor Leaguers.  He really seems to be making some smart decisions and is developing a nice farm system along with his great trades.

The Next “Big” Thing

Trevor Bauer has officially signed, though we don’t know the details of the contract, and he will be starting for High-A Visalia, of the California League, on Saturday night.  He was drafted number three overall by the Diamondbacks in June’s MLB Draft.

Bauer was compared to Tim Lincecum (5’11” 165 when drafted) due to his frame, at 6’1″, 175 pounder with amazing stuff.  His overall numbers were better than his teammate, number one overall pick Gerrit Cole, at UCLA.  He may move as quickly as Lincecum, who made just 13 Minor League starts, something the Pirates should have taken into consideration when they drafted Cole, who has a projectable arm.

Bauer could be up by the middle of the 2012 season, settling in behind Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy, while fighting to get to the Majors before Tyler Skaggs and Jarrod Parker.  The Diamondbacks will be starting to build a new group of “Babybacks,” a nickname the team was given when Carlos Quentin, Conor Jackson, Stephen Drew, and Chris Young were carrying the team several years ago.  Bauer has top of the rotation potential.  Keep an eye on him and the Diamondbacks in the coming years.

GM for the Day: Cincinnati Reds

The Reds need another top of the rotation starter, but they don’t need to give up their top four prospects to make that happen.  This would take out James Shields (who is already off the market) and Ubaldo Jimenez (who probably wasn’t ever really on the market to begin with).  You don’t need an outfielder when you can’t find time to give to Chris Heisey, a guy who would be a regular for half of the league.  However, the Reds are apparently still shopping for a left-fielder despite their logjam with Jonny Gomes, Fred Lewis and Heisey.  So lets stick with a starting pitcher.  Who should that be?  The top starter available if Shields and Jimenez are gone would be Hiroki Kuroda of the Dodgers.  Kuroda has been solid this season, despite his win-loss record of 6-12.  The 36-year-old, who is a free agent after this season, has posted a 3.19 ERA over 20 starts, averaging 6 1/3 innings per start.  Kuroda won’t be nearly as expensive as Shields or Jimenez would have been, but he should still cost a top-tier prospect.  Who would I trade if I was the Reds GM?

 

Billy Hamilton.  Billy Hamilton is the type of player that Cincinnati fans love until they make it to the Majors.  Not yet 21, Hamilton has had an average season at Low-A Dayton, hitting .253/.317/.338 over 379 at bats.  He has struck out 91 times but he has stolen 74 bases.  His game is build on speed.  The issue that I see with him is that people love his speed but don’t see through his inability to hit at this point.  People sometimes say that college players are “old” when they are 24 in Triple-A.  Hamilton will be 21 in September, just as Dayton’s season has closed out.  He will spend a season in High-A, Double-A, and maybe a full season in Triple-A.  He’ll have to stay healthy to do that, too, something that speed players sometimes struggle with due to leg injuries.  He has game-changing speed, but he has a LOT of work to do before he is a legitimate prospect, despite being ranked by Baseball America as the Reds #2 prospect (behind Aroldis Chapman and in front of Devin Mesoraco).  Let someone else gamble on the tools and get a pitcher, while a rental, who would make a difference down the stretch, while also showing the fans that you’re making an effort.

Deadline Duds or Deals

Every year around this time, veterans and soon-to-be-free-agents get their names tossed around in potential deals.  Below, you’ll find the names of the most talked about or coveted names, as well as good spare parts, as we are one week away from the non-waiver trade deadline in Major League Baseball.

Top Players Available (maybe)

Carlos Beltran, Mets, OF

B.J. Upton, Rays, OF

Hunter Pence, Astros, OF

Heath Bell, Padres, RHP

These guys are going to be difference makers wherever they land.  The Giants, Rangers, Braves, and Phillies seem to be in on all of the outfielders, with the Rangers in highly on Bell.  The lack of draft pick compensation on Beltran will make him a little less expensive, as will his contract, while the teams getting Upton or Pence will have them under team control for another season or two.  Pence may not be moved, as the Astros don’t have any young players to build around with a new ownership group taking control, but if they get a good offer, they may pounce.

Great Pieces

Jeremy Guthrie, Orioles, RHP

Leo Nunez, Marlins, RHP

Josh Willingham, Athletics, OF

Melky Cabrera, Royals, OF

Jeff Francoeur, Royals, OF

Ryan Dempster, Cubs, RHP

Hiroki Kuroda, Dodgers, RHP

Coco Crisp, Athletics, OF

David DeJesus, Athletics, OF

Ryan Ludwick, Padres, OF

Tyler Clippard, Nationals, RHP

Wandy Rodriguez, Astros, LHP

Brett Myers, Astros, RHP

There are several solid arms on this list, many who have amazing stuff and have done well on teams that just can’t score for them.  Clippard could easily move up to the top target list, as he has been a very solid arm for the Nats this season and they have enough depth to move him with Peacock, Detwiler and others who could get a look late this season.  Ludwick’s value has plummeted since he went to Petco, but he was very, very productive for the Cardinals just a couple of years ago.  The A’s entire outfield looks to be available – Willingham looks like the only one who would play every day at this point if he is dealt.  Crisp and DeJesus would be excellent 4th outfielders on a contender.  The Cubs could get creative with Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Pena, as well as Dempster, totally starting over; however, they will end up eating so much of those contracts that they may as well keep them.

Get to Know…Ryan Lavarnway

Ryan Lavarnway wasn’t rated in the Red Sox top 10 prospect list by Baseball America this spring, but he will be there next year.  As a catcher, Lavarnway could add to the Red Sox offensive superpower, helping the team in an area of weakness this season.  As Jason Varitek ages and Jarrod Saltalamacchia continues being below-average, the bat alone will carry Lavarnway to the Majors.  The only long-term issue is whether he can stay behind the plate.  It should be worth the defensive short-comings.

Lavarnway has a .318/.392/.595 slash, ripping 17 doubles, 25 homers, and 69 RBI over 88 games between Double-A and Triple-A.  He blasted 63 doubles, 42 homers and 189 RBI combined in 2009 and 2010, his first full seasons after being drafted out of Yale.  He is a prospect that has experts confused.  Should he move to a 1B/DH role, become a Mike Napoli-type of catcher who hits for impressive power but shouldn’t be behind the plate every night?

Regardless of where Lavarnway ends up, he needs to be in the lineup.  The only place to put him is catcher.  He isn’t taking at bats away from Adrian Gonzalez at first, and the Red Sox will probably re-sign David Ortiz after his amazing 2011 season.  Saltalamacchia is eligible for arbitration and could be a cheap signing, but his up and down season may leave him out in the dark.  Boston could actually save some money, something they should do after investing so much in Crawford, Gonzalez, Matsuzaka, and Lackey, and give the kid a shot.  Maybe Lavarnway is trade bait if the Sox really want to upgrade over Josh Reddick in right during their chase for another title, who knows?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 413 other followers