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?