Saturday, November 5, 2011

Poll #3 - Camacho Top Pitching Prospect

In a hotly-contested poll, Seattle righty Eswalin Camacho got the nod as Major Leagues' top pitching prospect.

Camacho took 6 of 21 votes. Pittsburgh's top prospect, Keith Caldwell, was second with 5, Minnesota reliever Kevin Chong got 4, "Other" nabbed 3 votes, and San Diego's Joel Iorg garnered 2. Baltimore's Albert Velazquez rounded out the voting with a single tally.

Camacho set scouts' hearts aflutter last season when he hit the IFA list as a highly-advanced finesse pitcher from the Virgin Islands. Seattle won the lottery with a $20MM bonus, and after 97 Low A innings Camacho is in the Bigs. He's an immediate ROY and Cy Young candidate.

Friday, November 4, 2011

NL South Preview

Houston pulled away to win the division (3rd title in 5 years) by 11 games last year eventually falling to the Phillies in the NLCS. They lost one of this year's top FA's in 2B Miguel Javier; can the Cardinals and Braves close in? Can Florida get it together?

Houston (94-68, 4th in runs, 7th in ERA) countered the Javier loss with FA's Fernando Rivera and Edgard Garrido - decent players but not HOF caliber like Javier. The Astros don't have any real stars on offense, preferring to get contributions from a large cast of role players. The staff has an effective rotation lead by R.J. Garrido, but the plan seems to be to bring in Bailey Mercedes (15 wins in relief last year) early and let Chip Bowles and Albie Padilla close things out. They also have some reinforcements ready in AAA with 3B Fernando Posada (Sea 15 IFA) and RP Pedro Rondon (Sea 12 IFA).

St. Louis (83-79, 11th in runs, 5th in ERA) had a couple of pretty big FA losses (SP Lew Cannon and 1B P.T. Oliva); Elijah Perkins (Sea 12 #44) moves in at first, and I don't think the very deep rotation will miss Cannon - the Cards had 6 pitchers start last year and only 1 (Calvin Langston's respectable 4.19) posted an ERA above 3.74. The bullpen has plenty of good arms, too: Andre Monahan (44 saves) closes, with Dante Little (1.33 ERA) and Hugh Taylor (2.53 ERA) setting up. Swingman Richie Lloyd (Sea 13's # 18 overall) starts in AAA but looks like he could step in if anyone falters.

Atlanta (82-80, 10th in runs, 4th in ERA) Jae Nakano's still the Braves' best hitter - he needs some help. RF Dioner Pettit has some potential but wasn't terribly impressive in his 9-game cup of coffee last season. AAA 2B B.J Colbert might bring a little pop, but their best hitting prospect, SS Jumbo Bravo, is at least a season away. Pitching they're hip-deep in. Hades McDermott (14-8, 3.45 last year) heads the rotation, while Alex Silva and Andrew Burnett lead the closer committee.

Florida (56-106, 16th in runs, 12th in ERA) Long mediocre (1 winning season), the Marlins got worse last year to try to get better. They're starting to bring up some decent young ML players (Michael Brown, Theodore Haney, Sammy Quevedo), and have some better ones in AAA (C Jim Fasano, SP Grover Thames, RP Esdra Moreno - all with 4 minor league seasons). I don't think anyone's raising eyebrows yet, but with a ML payroll of $13.5MM this year the Florida fans may start to question management's commitment to winning.

Forecast: Tough race to call - I don't think the Astros will run away with it, but it's hard to see the Cardinals or Braves scoring enough runs to make a big move. I'll go with the bold prediction and say the Cardinals' pitching is even better than last year, and they win it by a game over the 'Stros. I'd love to see the Marlins make a move up to competitive status (maybe 70-75 wins), which I think they can do if they promote their 3 big AAA prospects early.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

AL East Preview

Let's take a look at the AL East, where it's been 4 seasons since anyone finished within single digits of the Yankees. The Bronx Bombers won the division by 14 last year (but fell to Seattle in the second playoff round)...can anyone make a run at these guys?

New York (97-65, 4th in runs, 3rd in ERA): Should score plenty of runs - 2B Alejandro Cruz (and his career .399 OBP) is a top leadoff man, and there's plenty of lumber following him to drive him in (8 players had 18 or more homers last year - Miguel DeJesus paced with 42). No classic ace among the starters, but the top 5 (lead by Bartolo Escobar) could probably all be #2's in most rotations. The bullpen took a few free agency hits, but management responded with Roger Peterson (FA) and Pepper Webster (trade). No reason to suspect any drop-off.

Boston (83-79, 5th in runs, 9th in ERA): Plenty of power, with 4 players belting 30+ HR's last year (SS Max Gutierrez, 2B Roosevelt Thomas, 3B Enrique Rodriguez, and DH Todd Hines) - they might be in the market for a table-setter (top OPS was Gutierrez' .365). Ace Sam Griffin (20-9, 3.14 in a workhorse 240 IP last year) and ironman setup guy Reagan Knoblauch achor the staff; closer Eduardo Rosario keeps things exciting but usually gets the job done. Free agent SP Lew Cannon could be a key addition.

Cleveland (67-95, 13th in runs, 12th in ERA): has some nice centerpieces (SP's Armando Mendoza and Jumbo Mateo, RF Omar Villa) but seems to lack the supporting cast to advance. Budget FA additions Kent Simontachi (1B) and Gus Turner (SS) will help but won't be enough. This franchise has been slowly degrading for a number of seasons...time for a major shakeup?

Baltimore (67-95, 14th in runs, 6th in ERA): has also been in decline of late but the seeds of revival are in place: namely, young guns Benji Picasso (Sea 12 IFA who is 21-18 with a 3.51 ERA in his first 300 ML innings) and Albert Velazquez (Sea 14 IFA, who may debut this year). Throw in a 3rd great arm, Sea 11 IFA Rico Tejera and last year's first-rounder, Terry Helton, and you've got a decent chunk of a Grade A staff in 2-3 seasons. This year? If they promote Velazquez early on he could well be a ROY contender, and they'll take a big step up.

Forecast: The Yankees remain the class of the East and win again. Boston improves a little and contends for a wild card. Baltimore makes a nice jump up and passes the Indians for third.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Interview with a GM - Chase39

With the off-season and spring training coming to a close, we were able to sit down and talk with one of the biggest movers and shakers this off-season, Washington Nationals GM Chase39. Here is the interview with him.

"What are your expectations for this team this season?”

Chase39: Make the playoffs. Once in anything can happen. Last season I missed the last wild card by one game. I don't see that being a problem, this season.

Interviewer: "Well with that being said how long of a competitive run do you see this team having? Or do you have a plan/idea in place to keep this team competitive for many years to come?"

Chase39: 3 maybe 4 seasons I should be competitive. Depends if can keep adding to pieces to the group through the draft or free agency if necessary.

Interviewer: "Any areas of the team that you are still worried about?"

Chase39: My starting pitching is average at best. Definitely my team’s biggest weakness.

Interviewer: "Any last minute trades or free agent signings in the works to address the pitching staff or any other area of the team before the start of the season?"

Chase39: No I’ll give the team 30 games or so, that should give me an idea of what my team needs.

Interviewer: "Lastly, what was your strategy going into this off-season? Did you know you wanted to make a couple big splashes in the free agent market or was this all something that just sort of happened as the free agent time period progressed?"

Chase39: Yes this was planned ahead of time beginning last season. I had a lot of money coming off the books. I targeted Lindblom, Olivares, and originally Sanchez. After I made the trade with the Marlins, I no longer needed Sanchez. I went after Javier. I had to pay through the nose for all 3, but I got the players I targeted. I've improved my team at C, 3B, 2B, LF, RF, and in the bullpen. My starting pitching is weak, but I’ll take my chances against the rest of the league.

We thank Chase39 for taking the time out of his schedule for this interview. It will be interesting to see how his off-season strategy pays off during this season.

NL West Preview

We now hop over to the NL West, which was the closest 1-to-4 race among all divisions - San Diego finished 10 back of division winner San Fran. The teams finished in the same order as Season 15's, but big win gains by both the Dodgers and the Padres tightened things up last year.

San Francisco (87-75, 8th in runs, 9th in ERA): returns mostly the same roster that won 87 last year. Perennial Cy Young contender (and 2-time winner) Luis Contreras headlines the staff; B.C. Arroyo, Kent Rolison and Matt Kieschnick form one of the best late-inning relief trios around. On offense, C Edgar Torres and RF Erik Jackson are the main run producers. They'll get a big boost when they bring up SP Ichiro Hara (Sea 14 IFA) and RP Lariel Blanco (Sea 14's #13 overall pick).

Colorado (83-79, 2nd in runs, 13th in ERA): had wholesale free agent losses, most notably SP Roberto Jacquez and RP Branch Cepicky. They countered with their own free agent signings (RP Bum Mercedes, RP Alex Smith, SP Octavio Boliver, SP Tommy McIntyre) and rookie promotions (SP Juan Javier, Sea 11's #46 pick), but I don't think those guys are the caliber of the lost pitchers. They have bats galore, led by RF Mark Payton (.298/68/152 last year)...lotta 13-12 games from the Rockies this year.

Los Angeles (82-80, 14th in runs, 6th in ERA): had a quiet off-season after posting a nice 14-win improvement last year. These guys need to find 3 or 4 hitters somewhere. 2B Carlos Melendez is a good bat, but the rest of the lineup is mostly under .310 OBP. The pitching starts but certainly doesn't end with SP Todd Leon (#2 in Major Leagues' career ERA) - Enos Campbell and Jorge Marichal are solid starters and closer Minnie Greenwood is money. To top it off, Season 13's #1 overall, SP Del Redondo, is chomping at the bit in AAA. How'd you like to be the team facing Leon and Redondo twice each in a 5-game series? But they have to GET to short-series's a crazy idea: trade Redondo for TWO top hitting prospects. I think that's probably doable.

San Diego (77-85, 13th in runs, 8th in ERA): Coming off a 16-win improvement, the young Padres had no significant free agent losses (although they did waive last year's best SP, Alex Rosado, apparently for salary cap purposes) They clearly need more offense, and they could very well get it from the 2nd-year quartet of 1B Dwight Loney, LF Nate Hood, CF Rico Guillen, and RF Babe Brett. The starting staff is unspectacular, but adequate for their big ballpark. The stars of the staff are relievers - Wascar Hernandez, Tori Broome, and FA Branch Cepicky.

Forecast: I just don't see anyone improving enough to challenge the Giants, who will pick up their 3rd straight division title. I like the Dodgers for 2nd - watch out if they can score a wild card (but I don't think they will - see NL East). The surging Padres may well challenge for awhile and will finish a close third. The Rockies will struggle with pitching and fall to 4th.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

AL North Preview

The AL North was the 2nd-tightest division, top to bottom (next to the NL West) last year, with only 14 games separating all 4 teams. With Toronto looking like it's made the most off-season improvement, things could tighten even more.

Chicago (85-77, 2nd in runs, 11th in ERA) needed to improve their pitching and did, signing FA relievers Sarma Nagy and Doug Bay. I think they'll miss Aaron Taylor at 2B, although new DH Don Stafford will bolster the offense. They were actually a little under their expected winning % last year...barring any big injuries they should push 90 wins.

Minnesota (81-81, 15th in runs, 1st in ERA) did it all with pitching last year, and added pitching in free agency (starters Dennis Forest and Jerry York, RP Cristobal Vizcaino). 1B Harry Rivera and RF Fred Leary both had off years; a return to normal for those 2 could add much-needed 20 HR's to last year's 178 total. I'd sure like to see them add a bat or 2 at some point, but as-is they could still gain few games on the Sox.

Detroit (71-91, 8th in runs, 13th in ERA) was pretty quiet in free agency, although they didn't have any big losses. Darwin Koch at 3B and SP Luis Perez should be at least marginal improvements over the departed Phil Hunter and Kane Delaney. The Tigers were pretty far under their expected winning % last year, so one would expect a few more wins. But I'm not convinced they've done enough to make a big run or even hold off the revamped Jays.

Toronto (69-93, 12th in runs, 15th in ERA) on the other hand, made wholesale changes. Perhaps the biggest was the trade that brought in C Pedro Caballero, although the cost was a pretty good starting pitcher (Tony Roque). I like the trade for the Jays - Caballero is 3 years younger and I love the consistent .400+ OBP. They turn to veteran Bo Benard to replace Roque, and may have piked up a key piece in LR Bailey Borders (obtained from Pittsburgh for C Miguel Julio). There were a host of smaller departures and additions...all in all, I think they've done enough to overhaul the Tigers for 3rd.

Forecast: I love the Twinkies' pitching, and I think they'll somehow scratch out enough runs to edge the Sox in a very close race. Toronto improves to finish 3rd.

Top Prospects Series - Pitchers

Get ready for a trend down in scoring the next few seasons - there are a LOT of really good pitchers starting their ML careers soon. Lots of close calls here - the poll on this one should be interesting.

1. Eswalin Camacho, SP (SEA, Sea 16 IFA - $20MM): I'm just guessing here since my ADV is useless and there's no development pattern to go by, but with just a little improvement in ratings from where he is now he'll be our top pitching prospect. Pinpoint control, almost un-hittable for righties, and a broad assortment of good (not great pitches). If he has weaknesses (and I'm not sure he does), it's that he's a mere mortal against lefties and he's somewhat a flyball tosser. ** Started writing this before he was promoted, so technically I guess he's not a prospect. But it's my post so I can break the rules if I want.

2. Keith Caldwell, SP (PIT, Sea 15 #1 pick): only 2 pro years and he'd be a quality ML pitcher now. Might end up with both splits 90+...4-seamer and cut fastball are grade A. Will rack up some pretty good strikeout numbers. Although his control will be OK, it's what will keep him from being the best of this crop.

3. Albert Velazquez, SP (BAL, Sea 14 IFA - $20MM): Features a splitter and slider that murder righties...very good control and velocity, and keeps the ball down well. Lefties will at least have a chance, but that's the only flaw.

4. Del Redondo, SP (LA Dodgers, Sea 13 #1 pick): tough lefty has everything. He has great control, is really tough on lefties and battles righties effectively. Sets up his out pitch - an unhittable old-school palm ball - with a good 4-seam fastball. Everything sinks - put a good infield defense behind him and he's going to put up great numbers.

5. Steve Davenport, SP/RP (KC, Sea 14 #2 pick): might have better stuff than some of the P's ahead of him here, but his STA/DUR is going to limit his innings some. But good pitching is good pitching - he brings outstanding velocity, great control, a killer vR and 2 exceptional pitches. Lefty batters will get their licks in occasionally, but it's a minor complaint.

Honorable mention: Midre Johnson, CHI; Sherman Lidge, TB; Chris McBride, HOU; Joel Iorg, SD; Kevin Chong, MIN

Poll 2 - Voters Confirm Santayana as Best Prospect

Major Leagues' owners confirmed Seattle's Alberto Santayana as the best overall position player prospect in Poll #2, but not unanimously by any stretch.

Santayana got 4 votes, with "Someone Else" tying for the lead. Philly phenom Hector Bennett pulled 2 votes and Dodger IF Jim Garcia took one.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Top Prospects Series - Overall Position Player

We scoured the workout data. We've interviewed the crusty old minor league managers. We've driven the dusty back roads from the Dominican Republic to Walla Walla, Washington to talk with high-school coaches. All this to bring you THE TOP POSITION PLAYER PROSPECTS IN THE MAJOR LEAGUES.

1. Albert Santayana, IF (SEA): This Season 15 int'l free agent could play at the major-league level now, but Seattle has chosen the conservative route and starts the future superstar at AA. Santayana has incredible power and a great eye; he looks like he'll eventually have pretty low strikeout totals for a power hitter. If there's a flaw with his hitting, it's a weakness against LHP, but I think he'll be OK there. Defensively, Albert will have terrific range and a strong arm. At this point it looks like his glove may end up being a little shaky for 2B or 3B, but that depends largely on his development this season. If he ends up in the OF, he'll add a boatload of Gold Gloves to his Silver Sluggers and MVP's.

2. Hector Bennett, IF (PHI): You know Season 15 was a big IFA year when this guy was only the 2nd-best of the bunch. He'll have excellent contact skills plus very good power - probably 25-35 HR's, even in Seattle. His eye didn't develop as well as his other skills last year, but it's already decent, so he should able to put up respectable walk totals. He already has B+ speed, and as his baserunning skills develop further he'll become a pretty good weapon on the basepaths. Defensively, he's growing into a quality 3B...maybe even GG-quality. 2B will be an option, although I think that arm strength could be wasted there.

3. Melvin Charleston, 2B (SD): The unpolished "tools guy" among the top prospects...we know he's a great athlete, but can only guess at what kind of ballplayer he'll be. We know he's already a pretty advanced hitter, except that good righties can shut him down. Based on his current contact and eye, though, I think he'll be pretty good against righties (with the occasional really "off" year). Given his sprinter's speed, he could see some .330+ seasons. His power might reach 30-HR levels. I don't think his speed is going to translate into steals, though, as his baserunning instincts are atrocious. His defensive talent is range; depending on his development his glove will take him to so-so to pretty good at 2B.

4. Len Sullivan, CF (PIT): We move from the unknown to the pretty-well-baked. Sullivan was Season 14's #1 pick and he's not likely to disappoint the Pirates fans. He looks to be a .300 hitter with 70-75 walks thrown in and maybe 20-HR power. He's another speedburner, but his baserunning skills are just OK - think 30-35 SB. Defensively he won't be a great CF but it's clearly his position for now. Look for his major-league debut this season.

5. Luke Gleason, OF (CHI): Season 15's third pick is a big righty masher who will love hitting HR's (often) in Wrigley Field. All hitters have up and down years, but I think this guy's down years will be 45 HR's. He could top 60 a few times. He'll be a better-than-adequate baserunner for a slugger. Defensively, he'll be a pretty good corner OF or a really good 1B.

Honorable mention: Jim Garcia, 3B (LAA); Julio Osoria, OF (CHI), Jumbo Bravo, IF (ATL)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Top Prospects Series - Defense

OK, now for the defensive wizards. Note that these are the best defenders among the top prospects, not the best defensive guys who are career minor leaguers or even average major leaguers.

1. Jumbo Bravo, IF (ATL): cannon arm and great range...his glove will probably fall short of GG-SS caliber, but he'll get the job done.

2. Hector Bennett, IF (PHI): range and arm strength as good as you'll find anywhere...glove and accuracy probably mean he's a 3B.

3. Luis Fernandez, IF (FLA): best glove among the top prospects; range and arm strength will be lacking for a SS.

4. Jim Garcia, 3B (LAA): best arm strength among top prospects

5. Albert Santayana, IF (SEA): As if this guy isn't a good enough prospect on offense alone. Only question is what position his glove will let him play...he might get to 3B or 2B territory. If not, he'll be a Gold-Glove OF who leads the league in assists.

Honorable mention: CF Len Sullivan (PIT), CF Eugenio Cubillan (NYM), 2B Melvin Charleston (SD)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Top Prospects Series - Offense

Which teams will get the best offensive help from their minors in the next few seasons? Looks like the Mariners claim the next mega-star, and the Phillies have two of the top five offense-skills prospects.

1. Albert Santayana, 3B/2B (SEA): best power prospect in the league adds very good contact skills plus an excellent batting eye. Capable of .340, 60+ HR's and multiple MVP's.

2. Melvin Charleston, 2B (SD): great contact, 30-HR power, superb eye and blazing speed will translate into excellent all-round numbers. Only question mark is how well he'll fare against RHP.

3. Tsuyoshi Tabaka, 1B (PHI): gotta love the lefty power hitter who makes good contact and kills lefties. Won't lead the league in walks, but will get his share.

4. Len Sullivan, CF (PIT): another burner...may end up with the best walk totals among the league's prospects. Will handle lefties adequately and toss in 20-25 HR's.

5. Hector Bennett, IF (PHI): not superb in any one area, but no weaknesses. Should consistently hit .285-.325 with 25-35 HR's.

Honorable mention: Dave Diaz (ARI), Luke Gleason (CHI), Mikey York (BAL)

Season 17, Poll 1:Owners Say Nakano is Majors Leagues' Best Hitter Ever

Major Leagues' owners overwhelmingly voted Jae Nakano the best hitter in the world's history in Season 17's first poll.

Nakano got 9 votes to Luis Escobar's 4, with Tim Rogers, Tomas Pascual and Dickie Scharein getting 1 vote each.

Next up we'll tackle the top position player prospects.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Free Agency Part 2

The Nationals made the big headlines but there were plenty of other interesting deals made during the second half of Free Agency. Here's a summary of the rest of the Type A and B signings:

Doug Bay, RP: Chicago (AL) - 1 year, $4.6MM. Excellent "old-guy 1-year contract. Bay has seen only a negligible ratings drop (couple of points in DUR) and is looking like he'll be effective until he's 40. Blanch's Grade: A

Ajb's Second Opinion:
The screwball specialist will be at it again for one more season. Great control plus nasty nasty screwball equals many outs. Wouldn't be surprised to see him step in and close a few games but for right now he will be a key pitcher out of the pen to bridge the gap between the starters and the closer. Ajb's Grade: A

Neifi Martin, 3B: Philadelphia - 3 years, $11.4MM. Neifi's still good, but the ratings are collapsing. Fortunately the Phillies retained a mutual option for the 3rd year. He'll still hit this year, but the end is in sight. Blanch's Grade: B

Ajb's Second Opinion: He's not the player he once was as his ratings are starting to decline. Even so he still should put up solid numbers for the majority of his contract. His bat may still hold up but his defense is falling fast. May see time in the OF. For 3 million a year he is not being overpaid at all. Ajb's Grade: B+

Aaron Taylor, 2B: Pittsburgh - 3 years, $20.8MM. Great defense, a little pop, and he plays 162 games a year. Maybe a little steep on the price tag, but a solid player. Blanch's Grade: A-

Ajb's Second Opinion: Terrific signing, great health and his ratings have not yet started slipping. His offensive production should totally justify the annual salary that he will be making. Ajb's Grade: A

Jesus Olivares, RP: Washington D.C. - 5 years, $110MM. The one everyone's talking about. On one hand, can you give a max contract to a relief pitcher? On the other hand, Olivares can give you SP innings with a little work. You have to take the Olivares, Javier and Lindblom contracts (total: $274MM) as a package deal: World Series or two, they all get an A. No WS, they get an F. For now, Olivares is a very good pitcher who got overpaid. Blanch's Grade: C

Ajb's Second Opinion: Hmm, where have I seen this before. Washington making a huge free agent signing, again. Well there is no doubt who has one of the better bullpens in this world. Like I said before, this is a A+ signing if they win a World Series or two, if they don't, well then that's a lot of money being spent. Ajb's Grade: B

Miguel Javier, 2B: Washington D.C. - 5 years, $90MM. Everything's pretty much all been said about D.C.'s contracts at this point.

Ajb's Second Opinion: See every other Washington signing....

Alex Renteria, C: Tampa Bay - 3 years, $15.3MM. Looks like a great price for an All-Star to me. Blanch's Grade: A

Ajb's Second Opinion: Last year was a great year for him and while he has never had trouble hitting 15-20 home runs a year, his batting average has never been great (until last year). 5 million a year for the next 3 years is not over paying for his services. Ajb's Grade: B+

Len Brower, RP: Tampa Bay - 1 year, $3.9MM. Another good 1 year, old-reliever deal. Blanch's Grade: A

Ajb's Second Opinion: He should be a solid addition to the Rays bullpen, and if he's not? Well he's only signed for one year. Good signing. Ajb's Grade: A

Nigel Simon
, 3B: Tampa Bay - 3 years, $15MM. Not a bad price for a guy who could put up numbers close to Vin Sanchez'. Blanch's Grade: B+

Ajb's Second Opinion: A poor man's Vin Sanchez is a good way of describing him. And for 5 million a year he is a lot cheaper then Sanchez. Ajb's Grade: B+

Sarma Nagy
, RP: Chicago (AL) - 1 year, $3.7MM. Sox hit the nursing home for another (good) reliever. Blanch's Grade: A

Ajb's Second Opinion: He is coming off of major shoulder surgery. Doesn't have the health he once did, but for 1 year he should be able to be a good asset the the White Sox's bullpen. Just don't pitch him to much. Ajb's Grade: B+

Vin Sanchez
, 3B: Milwaukee - 5 years, $101MM. Sanchez is a really good player, no doubt. $101 million worth? No. Blanch's Grade: C

Ajb's Second Opinion: Best player in this free agent class? Yes. Will he make Milwaukee a better team? Yes. Can he carry the team by himself? Probably not. Not a terrible signing, it fills a need but Milwaukee has other things to worry about, like who is going to play CF. Ajb's Grade: B

Tony Cornejo
, SS: Seattle - 2 years, $5.4MM. Slick fielder is worth every penny, although he probably continues as a backup. Blanch's Grade: A

Ajb's Second Opinion: Great defensively, average with the bat. He could see some time as the starter at short, but his real value will probably be coming off the bench as the number 1 defensive replacement. Ajb's Grade: A

Joe Davis, RP: Seattle - 2 years, $9.6MM. 5.38 ERA last year. 2.79 ERA the year before while walking 27 in 38 innings. OK. Ryne Duren**, Ricky Vaughn, Nuke Laloosh...Joe Davis? Blanch's Grade: B

Ajb's Second Opinion: He throws very very hard. National League hitters are breathing a sigh of relief now that they do not have to face him.... and fear of getting blasted by him. Needless to say he doesn't have great control. Getting out of Colorado and going to a big time pitchers park should help his numbers. Ajb's Grade: B

** from the Ryne Duren Wikipedia entry:

Rinold George "Ryne" Duren (February 22, 1929 - January 6, 2011) was an American relief pitcher in Major League Baseball.[1]

He was known for the combination of his blazing fastball and his very poor vision. With his thick coke bottle glasses, few batters dared to dig in against Duren. Casey Stengel said, "I would not admire hitting against Ryne Duren, because if he ever hit you in the head you might be in the past tense."

Cristobal Vizcaino, RP: Minnesota - 2 years, $6MM. Had a couple of good seasons in Minnesota, so maybe the homecoming does him good. Can't fault the Twins for the price. Blanch's Grade: B

Ajb's Second Opinion: Had a rough go, during his two years in Arizona. Still a solid left handed pitcher. Good health and has not started his decline ratings wise. Good signing. Ajb's Grade: B+

Jerry York, SP: Minnesota - 2 years, $13MM. Is a 200-game winner in HBD like a 300-game winner in rl? Jerry's still got it. Blanch's Grade: B

Ajb's Second Opinion: Does the old man still have 2 years left in the tank? Probably. Great health and surprisingly has not had a major drop off in ratings yet. Should continue his ascent towards the top 5 record in wins, as he only needs 4 to be in 5th place. Ajb's Grade: B+

Carl Ashley, RP: Arizona - 1 year, $1.9MM. The Diamondbacks wrap up FA with another nursing home reliever. Not the best of the old RP's, but the best price. Blanch's Grade: B+

Ajb's Second Opinion: Good reliever already, but the price the Diamondbacks got him at he looks like a great reliever. Should have one solid year left. Ajb's Grade: B+

Pitchers Go Early, Lindblom Hits Jackpot in FA

Many of the league's top available starters took early offers today, with 8 hurlers signing. Catcher Cory Lindblom was the day's big winner, taking home a $74 million deal with the Nationals. Today's A/B signings (through PM2 Cycle Part 1):

Branch Cepicky, RP: San Diego - 3 years, $21MM. Mega-innings reliever will enjoy the move from Colorado to San Diego. Nice value for a guy that could throw 200+ innings. Blanch's Grade: A

Ajb’s Second Opinion: Good Health and he has not seen a major decline in his abilities. However last season was his first as a starter. High ERA can be attributed to playing in Colorado, while his low stamina would make him a better fit back in the bullpen. Overall a 3 year run at 7 million isn’t a bad risk, for a back end starter or top of the line reliever/closer. Ajb’s Grade: B+

Sherman Moore, SP: Kansas City - 3 years, $18.6MM. Long-time Twin becomes a back-of-the rotation guy for the pitching-rich Royals. Won a career-best 11 last year - could easily top that this season. Blanch's Grade: B

Ajb’s Second Opinion: Solid innings eater, nothing great about him, but nothing bad. Working as a 4th or 5th starter will greatly help his numbers and give the Royals solid production at the back end of their rotation. Decent contract for the next 3 years. Ajb’s Grade: B

Taylor Mullin, 1B/OF: Toronto - 1 year, $4.25MM. 13-year vet has had a couple of off years, but the ratings suggest he can still hit. Bet worth taking. Blanch's Grade: B+

Ajb’s Second Opinion: Classic low risk/high reward contract. Of course that is all banking on if he hits. Mullin is near the end of his career but still has the ability to put together a .280+/20+/85+ season. His low range and arm strength will basically make him a 1B/DH. Ajb’s Grade: A-

Bo Benard, SP: Toronto - 2 years, $15MM. Has the control and vR of an ace, but the P2-P4 apparently lead to inconsistency - 5 seasons with ERA's above 4.00. But no ratings declines at 35, and if he matches his career ERA (4.18) over his contract, the Jays will probably be pretty happy. Blanch's Grade: B

Ajb’s Second Opinion: Possibly steal for Toronto getting him at 7.5 million. That is of course he puts together another season like last year. Still for a solid innings eater with great health 7.5 million a year isn’t out of range for him. Ajb’s Grade: B+

Lew Cannon, SP: Boston - 2 years, $11.4MM. Career 3.39 ERA man (and 143 wins) has had some injury-related ratings dings, but remains a top SP (only 1 4+ ERA season out of 13). Blanch's Grade: A+ Bargain

Ajb’s Second Opinion: Health is a risk for this player, but when he is healthy he puts up great numbers. Is starting to see a decline in his ratings, but should hold together alright for two years. Ajb’s Grade: A-

Al Jose, RP: Montreal - 2 years, $9.2MM. Career started a little slowly, but has now run off 5 straight good seasons. Ungodly curveball...nice addition for the Expos. Blanch's Grade: A-

Ajb’s Second Opinion: Nasty, nasty curveball, just average against LHB and is pretty good against RHB. Has solid control and isn’t prone to giving up walks. Good signing. Ajb’s Grade: B+

Kane Delaney, SP: Cincinnati - 2 years, $10.8MM. Extreme groundballer has a 5-pitch assortment - he'll get his K's but will also dish out some free passes. The big question may be how he'll adjust to a smaller ballpark. Blanch's Grade: B

Ajb’s Second Opinion: The good – groundball pitchers historically have success in Great American Small Park. The bad – 5 million for a long reliever is a little much. The ugly – is starting to decline in his ratings, also health is a BIG concern as his right elbow is being held together by gum and a paperclip (MacGyver style). Ajb’s Grade: B-

Damaso Baez, CF: New York Mets - 3 years, $22.5MM. Not great range for a CF, but a plus glove and a bazooka arm (for a CF). Add in 20+ HR power and you have a top-rung CF. Not a bargain, but not a bad price for an offense/defense package of this caliber. Blanch's Grade: B+

Ajb’s Second Opinion: Just on defense alone, he’s worth a couple million a year. Add in 20+ homers and 20+ steals and his contract is justified. Now if he could only hit better than .240….. Ajb’s Grade: B

Frank Ruffin, 1B: Toronto - 1 year, $4.4MM. Ordinarily I love the old-guy 1-year contract, but Ruffin has become a bit innocuous to be a 1B or DH. Third Type A/B FA of the day for the Jays. Blanch's Grade: C

Ajb’s Second Opinion: Another low risk/high reward signing (I love these kind of signings). 20+ homers and .250+ average for 4 million, I can’t find a reason to complain about that. Of course he should never see any other position besides DH. Ajb’s Grade: B-

Denny Sullivan, SP: Nashville - 3 years, $18.3MM. Blazing fastball, keeps it down, quality pitches...and wild. That about sums up Sullivan, who has posted a 4.15 career ERA. Blanch's Grade: B

Ajb’s Second Opinion: Could be casted as the real life Ricky Vaughn (besides the glasses and criminal record). Solid health and hasn’t started the infamous old player decline yet. Will he be able to produce solid numbers of the life of his contract, remains to be seen. Ajb’s Grade: B

Roberto Jacquez, SP: Pittsburgh - 5 years, $46.1MM. Given the other contracts for starters signed today, the Pirates appear to have overestimated the market for Jacquez. The front-loading will take some of the sting out in future years, though, and Jacquez is still top-notch despite last year's ratings hit (injury). Blanch's Grade: C

Ajb’s Second Opinion: Was able to put on good numbers in a horrid ballpark (Colorado). However he is coming off elbow surgery from last season, his health is a big question mark and he appears to be declining. The only way he can justify this contract is by staying healthy and putting up decent numbers. Ajb’s Grade: C+

Cory Lindblom, C: Washington D.C. - 5 years, $74MM. The question is not whether he'll be worth this amount in the out years - he won't. The question is whether D.C. wins a championship with Lindblom behind the plate in the next 2-3 years. If so, it's a Grade A signing. Until then, Blanch's Grade: C-

Ajb’s Second Opinion: Wow what a contract! It’s obvious Washington is in a World Series or bust mode, so getting as much offensive production as possible is the main key. Is he worth the contract? No. But if Washington wins 1 or more World Series titles in the next 3-5 years then the contract doesn’t matter as much. Ajb’s Grade: C- (No World Series titles) A (World Series titles)

John Lee, SS: San Diego - 4 years, $21.3MM. Lee has been an ace defensive SS with a little pop - 103 career HR's. The problem is, his power rating will start dropping and the park will suppress HR's. Still a top SS, but the price on the last 3 years may be a little high. Blanch's Grade: C

Ajb’s Second Opinion: Defensive stud, average on offense. His power numbers will probably drop moving to San Diego, but he should solidify the Padres infield. Health is a slight concern as well possibly ratings decline in the 3rd and 4th years of the contract. Ajb’s Grade: C+


Already headline-makers on day 1 of FA (committing $74MM to catcher Cory Lindblom), the Washington Nationals blew the doors off free agency today with a max-$ ($130MM) contract for RP Jesus Olivares and a $90MM deal for 2B Miguel Javier.

Along with the trade for LF Paul Henderson and 3B Joaquin Guzman, the moves totally transform D.C.'s already-good offense. Look for 1115-120 HR's and 75 SB's as the Nats try to supplant Colorado atop the runs-scored list.

Although it's unclear how the team plans to use Olivares, it's doubtful they would offer a max contract to someone they pictured in a 60-inning closer role. More likely, they're expecting him to throw 2-3 innings in the middle of games...with no lead safe against this team, could he win 20 as a setup man?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Who's The Best Hitter In Major Leagues' History?

Well, it depends on your stat.

Here are the top 5 by the most traditional measure, OPS:

Luis Escobar .993
Dickie Scharein .991
Tim Rogers .979
Harold Wilkins .975
Jae Nakano .975

Here they are by rc/27:

Nakano 9.41
Escobar 8.78
Tomas Pascual 8.62
Scharein 8.45
Rogers 8.42

4 of 5 the same, although Nakano moves from 5th to first.

Finally, by "approximate woba (weighted on-base average)". ((2 x OBP) + SLG %)/3 ends up being a pretty good proxy for woba.

Escobar .474
Nakano .471
Rogers .466
Pascual .465
Scharein .456

Who's your pick?