Wednesday, February 29, 2012

AL East match-ups: Toronto v. Boston

The first in my series of comparisons between the Jays and their AL East playoff rivals focuses on the Boston Red Sox. the format here is a direct comparison position for position (including line-up v. lineup) between my projected reasonable possible outcomes from my last post and a similar understanding of the Boston team. such projections are of course fraught with the potential for home-team bias but I will do my best to control for that.


Salty has almost three times as many major league at-bats as JP, and coming into 2011 he hadn't been as good with the bat as JP was as a rookie. At 27 this year he's presumably in his peak seasons. his batting average constituted the biggest advantage last year over JP in what were reasonably similar seasons, and his batting average has been dropping since his rookie year. To me, there's not any reason to presume any upward movement in his production. I think there's a likelihood that this is at minimum a push with a small but recognizable potential for a slight edge for the Jays.
(Shoppach was almost as much an offensive non-factor as Mathis - enough so to not affect this calculation)

First Base: Lind v. Gonzalez

The Major question mark vs. an MVP candidate. Sigh. Even though I expect somewhat of a recovery from Lind and even though through 1/3 of 2011 he was right with A-Gone . . . let's just move on. Big edge - Boston.

Second Base: Johnson v. Pedroia

Even a fairly optimistic view of Johnson is 80-100 points of OPS away from Pedroia in a typical year. Big edge - Boston.

Shortstop: Escobar v. Aviles

Escobar has had one truly bad season, Aviles has had one truly good one. Aviles' best season was his rookie year at age 27, despite a reasonable 100 at bats in Boston, baseball history and his history does not indicate an upward trend. His OPS over the last three seasons falls short of .700 and he's not reportedly all that good a defender. In short, Escobar's offensive edge here is almost as great as Pedroia's is at 2B, and the defensive edge is probably greater. Big edge - Toronto.

Third Base: Lawrie v. Youklis

An interesting comparison, this. Youklis had a three year peak age 29-31. Last year he dropped back to a level highly consistent with his two years before the peak. Which provokes the question: is this (an .833 OPS in 2011) the "new normal"? Let's look closer. The top line is Youk in '06-'07 (162 game average), the second line is '08-'10 and the third line is 2011:
BA - OBP - SLG - OPS - 2B - 3B - HR - RBI - BB - K
.284 - .385 - .440 - .826 - 43 - 3 - 17 - 87 - 94 - 125
.308 - .404 - .560 - .964 - 45 - 5 - 32 - 115 - 84 - 127
.258 - .373 - .459 - .833 - 32 - 2 - 17 - 80 - 68 - 100

There's a lot of similarities between the top line and the bottom one but the comparison is not perfect. Note the drop in HR power, RBI, and slugging. There are no guarantees of course, but based on this I'm leaning towards this being something similar to what the Red Sox can expect going forward. Lawrie is a reasonable bet to top that level of production, he's not likely to chase that peak level. Splitting the difference, I'll call this one a push.

Right Field: Bautista v. Ross

At least to start the season. Eventually Ryan Kalish might push Ross aside. But there's certainly no guarantee that he will be a major upgrade. Basically, to make a long story short, the Jays get back every bit of imbalance her they lost at 1B. Big edge - Toronto.
Through six spots we have essentially a tie.

Center Field: Rasmus v. Ellsbury

Last year was unlike anything he's done over a full season before. In many ways it looks a lot like Lind's 2009. Will he continue at this level? Or fall back 100 points? or something in between. I think that, other than speed, his actual talent level and Rasmus' are very similar - but I can't in good conscious call a push when one's coming off an MVP type season and the other one is recovering from his worst season. This will be possibly the key position which will determine if the Jays are right with the Red Sox on offense or whether they lag behind. For now, Edge - Boston.

Left Field: Snider v. Crawford

I'm going to lay aside Crawford's lost year, and the fact that he's recovering from a minor writs surgery. During the three years previous to 2011, his OPS was .803 and his game revolved around his speed. Snider, while much better on the bases than most notice, can't run with him. But he does have more power. I believe Snider - if my previous projection is in the right neighborhood, can generate a similar amount of offense (again, apart from the running game). I'm giving the Red Sox the edge here, because Snider simply hasn't done it yet. But I don't think it will be huge.


Ortiz will be 36 this season, and his three years previous to 2011 were much more, I think, a reflection of what can reasonably be expected in 2012. but even at that level he's clearly EE's superior. It's POSSIBLE that age will catch up with him enough to even this out but you can't call it until you see it - edge Boston.


Overall, offensively, the Red Sox project to be a better team, but not a team without question marks. If Ellsbury and Rasmus even out, and if Snider hits as well as I believe he can, both quite possible, then only DH remains to give them the edge. Boston is better but not by as much as might be supposed.

Comparing lineups:

Escobar v. Ellsbury - Boston (large)
Johnson v. Pedroia - Boston (large)
Bautista v. Gonzalez - Toronto (slightly)
Lind v. Youklis - Boston
Encarnacion v. Ortiz - Boston
Rasmus v. Crawford - Toronto (IMO)
Lawrie v. Ross - Toronto (large)
Snider v. Saltalamacchia - Toronto (potentially large)
Arencibia v. Aviles - Toronto

Seen that way, it looks a bit better. I don't have the time or the space to pull out all the statistics from last year but that is no more reliable than this because of various factors.

Turning to the pitching . . .

(note: I have matched the first two pairs up for similarity sake)
Career wise, Lester is better as he got to this level of production earlier by age, but Romero is on that level now, he had a better year in 2011 and while xFIP will tell us he over-achieved a bit, this is still essentially a push.


Since 2005, the now 32 year old Beckett has alternated good years and mediocre (at best) years. If the cycle held, this would be a down year but that's not the most reliable predictor. As a Red Sox, his ERA over six seasons is 4.04 and his ERA+ is 113, if you cut it to the last three years, it's still virtually the same. That's the bar for Morrow to reach. As you know, my projection for Morrow well exceeds that bar, and his career ERA as a starter to this point is about half a run worse than that. Morrow is 27 and has tremendous potential to get better, Beckett is five years older and is likely as good as he's ever going to be. I'll get a lot of disagreement for this but I think they are equals (at least) in talent and all that remains is for Morrow to consolidate the results which I believe he will do this year. I call it a push.


Cecil is a lot better than he showed last year, he's probably roughly as good as Buchholz was last year. but if he's healthy, Buchholz is a lot better than he was last year. Edge - Boston.


Bard will be 27 this year and he hasn't been a full time starter in five years and he wasn't good at it then. The idea of putting him in the rotation reeks of failure and he might not even make it to Opening Day in that role, but if they are even considering it, what does that tell you about the quality of their other options? Alverez may well regress some but he will be at least average and likely better and that's far more than enough to win this one going away. Edge - Toronto.


This might be Andrew Miller instead, or even Vicente Padilla or Carlos Silva - does it really matter? they are all extremely marginal guys and, if healthy, mcGowan will humiliate them by comparison. if he's not healthy, any exec in baseball would still take Drabek over any of this lot. Edge - Toronto

Other starting options: Drabek, Laffey, McGuire, Hutchison, Jenkins, Villianueva - all pretty much superior to the list of scrubs coming to camp for the Sox.


For the early part of the winter a lot of Jays fans were lusting over Bailey as a solution for the Toronto closer problem. Alex had a better idea. Santos has thrown less than 150 professional inning IN ALL, and he's already a bona-fide major league closer with an insane 13.1 SO/9 ratio and needing only to further refine his control to be eye-poppingly good. Bailey has a good K rate and quite good control - but he got there via almost 300 minor league innings and was pretty much a finished product his rookie year. And while he's still pretty good, he's gotten worse every year in the majors. Going forward, you have to prefer Santos I think. Edge - Toronto.


Usually the age factor cuts in favor of the jays but not this time. Cordero is 10 years older than Melancon and is the one here that must be presumed to be on the downward slope of his career. That said, in 4 of his last 5 years his ERA+ was better than Melancon has accumulated in his much shorter career, and he was better last year. Going forward, the younger guy is the better bet, but Cordero can still lose some and be his equal this year. Both are new to the AL East (other than 16 IP in Melancon's rookie year) so that washes out. For 2012, I make it a push.


Again, age cuts against the Jays, at least in theory, but Oliver seems to have a map to the fountain of youth. Oliver will be 41 but he's actually gotten better, year over year, every year for the last four in a row, statistically speaking. Morales was actually a huge underachiver until he came to Boston in the first half of last year. It's hard to say yet if that was an illusion but with their dearth of good LH relievers, he'll get a shot to prove it. In any case, Oliver owns him. Edge - Toronto.


Frasor has been quietly excellent for the Blue Jays for three straight years. Aceves has been excellent when he's been on the field, better than Frasor by a bit, but there's a worry for Sox fans. He missed almost all of 2010 with injury and the Sox came right back and worked him for 114 innings, most of it out of the pen, in 2011. I'd be real worried about injury this year. In the mean time, slight edge to the Red Sox.


Janssen in a walk over. Not even any reason to discuss it. BIG edge - Toronto.


In three tries, Bowden hasn't proven he should stick in the majors. V was excellent in relief in a smallish sample and a life-saver as a starter. Bowden might have more ability but he hasn't done it yet. Edge - Toronto.


Perez has more results, Doubront is younger and might have more upside. I'll call it a push.

In summation, the Jays have a deeper and arguably better rotation and a much better bullpen. I think the pitching even's out Bostons offensive advantage, and that these two teams are very similar in talent level - it will be external circumstances which determine who ends up higher in the standings.

IMO.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Quick Hit: The Summer of Dusty

Bigger works in progress, but I can't resist this observation: I for one am beginning to get an irrational but irresistible vibe that the feel-good story of 2012 in major league baseball is going to be our own beloved Dustin McGowan.

Even before the spring games have begun, the trickle of praise has turned into a stream and may become a river even before opening day. Dusty through BP today and the results were impressive enough to send the journalists to their keyboards.

From John Lott:

In the early days of spring training, John Farrell has been careful not to praise his pitchers after a short mound session against batters who behave like statues.

But on Tuesday, the Toronto Blue Jays manager could not hold his reserve. It was a hot day and maybe the sunshine was getting to him. But Farrell had also just watched Dustin McGowan throw 25 pitches to five teammates, some of whom muttered about the filth the big right-hander was serving up.


And from Shi Davidi:

The right-hander, catching people’s eye with his command and stuff, dazzled teammates Adam Lind, Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar with his slider and changeup, each of them taking turns walking out of the cage shaking his head.

Farrell, too, came away impressed, pushing aside the usual caution he’s used in assessing his pitchers thus far.

"The fact that he was down in the strike zone, with the kind of power he had, with the heaviness to his fastball, the action to his secondary stuff – he was impressive today, there’s no doubt," Farrell said.


Call me crazy but I'm already wondering how they shut him down at 150 innings in he's among the league leaders . . .

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Shiny Shiny Crystal Ball



Basking in the warm glow of the optimism of the approaching spring - not just your typical spring optimism but the really positive vibe that seems to be emanating from Dunedin, Florida (yes, I'm going to claim that it's better than your typical optimism, deal with it) is a wonderful feeling, and it's so much better than the cynical skepticism that seems to be the whole reason for posting on the internet for some folks. I freely admit i'm a well not "glass-half-full" gal and make no apologies for it. When I look ahead to the future I tend to frame the question of what will happen around certain basic ideas:

1. What a player is reasonably capable of. NOT what he might do if he had a career year but what is reasonably consistent with his normal recent work. When I say "normal" I mean unimpaired by injuries or other obvious factors (which examples of I'll mention along the way in this post). when I say "recent" I mean the last 3-5 years usually, depending on the length of the career. And noting that the first year or two of a career is not normally as instructive as those which come after.

2. I assume health. Injuries WILL happen and some projections WILL be to high because of it. but there's no way to assume an injury unless you are dealing with JD Drew or some such who has a reputation for being made of glass. In the group of players which project to the Jays 25 man roster, only Dustin McGowan is that sort of player.

3. Within the context of the above, I assume good things. I'll say more about this when I get to Snider but basically, it's easy to get down on a player and expect him to fall apart, and it's true that "hot prospects" do tend to fail with regularity. But again, it's often hard to know WHICH to apply this regression to and, frankly, it's no fun. When I'm projecting how my team might possibly do, I'm trying to say "THIS outcome is REASONABLY POSSIBLE" much more than I am "take it to the bank, THIS WILL HAPPEN."

So process what you are about to read in that light.

Over the next couple of weeks I want to do a series of posts which directly compares the Blue Jays to the Big Three rivals in the AL East. Before I do this, it's best to establish a baseline of what I believe this team is capable of so when I make comparisons I don't have to repeat my explanation for why I make the claims I do about the Jays. The subsequent posts will refer back to the projections made here. The team I discuss will be the 25 players I project to be on the roster, with some comparisons where relevant to last year's squad, and in one or two places, a note about the alternative player at that position. As much as possible the team is described as per what team officials have said about their own expectations for the team (batting order, offensive priorities, etc) more so than my own opinion of what I would do. to that end, the offense is listed according to the expected batting order as discussed by John Farrell, and I make no effort to defend or attack any specific placement.

(stats for hitters are as follows: slash line averages - counting stats for doubles, triples, homers, RBI, SB, walks and strikeouts)

Here we go...

Yunel Escobar / SS / age 29
Projected stat line: .290 - .369 - .418 - .787 - 3o - 3 - 12 - 53 - 3 - 67 - 77
Explanation: Essentially, I replicated his 2011 season except that I added a few more doubles. He's basically at the top of the curve as far as age relative to performance and other than being another year older, there's nothing that would negatively impact his outcome. Admittedly bumping the double total is arbitrary but there's always some seasonal fluctuation.

Kelly Johnson / 2B / 30
Projected stat line: .260 - .343 - .441 - .784 - 31 - 6 - 18 - 64 - 16 - 65 - 127
Explanation: This line is his career rates averaged out to 150 games, with a tiny bump in the SB number to reflect that Jays seeming interest in the running game. Like Escobar, all I'm asking him to do is what he has a demonstrated history of doing.

Jose Bautista / RF / 31
Projected stat line: .302 - .447 - .608 - 1.056 - 24 - 2 - 43 - 103 - 9 - 132 - 111
Explanation: Yes, this is exactly what he did last year, yes it was his best career year and it is perfectly reasonable to assume regression. but he's had such an unusual career path that it's impossible to reliably project how MUCH regression. The most logical place to expect a regression would be to expect a 50-70 point drop in OBP. But when we are discussing the "possible" - it's certainly possible Jose stays in the same general neighborhood this year.

Adam Lind / 1B / 28
Projected stat line: .268 - .319 - .505 - .824 - 34 - 0 - 33 - 93 - 2 - 41 - 120
Explanation: This projection reflects an average of the last the seasons - two bad and one great as you know - with an additional 4 homers. The discussion here will be longer because no hitter on this team provokes as much passionate opinion as Lind. There seems to be an incredible amount of pessimism regarding Lind among the most popular Jays bloggers out there juxtaposed against what would seem, from the outside, to be an irrational amount of optimism from the Jays personnel.
The team is apparently convinced, or wants us to be, that Lind collapse last year after his back pain put him on the DL was a direct result of reversible circumstances regarding conditioning and the position switch. Those close to the team insist that the physical stresses of playing 1B are wildly different from those connected with playing the outfield and one has to beconditioned specifically for the rigors of 1B or you'll run into the issues Lind dealt with last year. The unstated but strong implication being that he was playing through pain for over half of last season. As much as I respect my fellow bloggers, they are on the outside and AA & company are much closer to the situation. I don't believe anyone as smart as Alex would deliberately carry a bat into this season as weak as Lind's would appear to be if he didn't think things would get much better. It's not THAT hard to add a powerful 1B if you don't believe in the guy you have. so I'm going with the team and expecting what is, really, a fairly modest turnaround. He MIGHT do quite a bit better than this.

Edwin Encarnacion / DH / 29
Projected stat line: .260 - .336 - .502 - .838 - 34 - 0 - 30 - 69 - 10 - 59 - 84
Explanation: I essentially pro-rated his stats from last year over the last 4 months of the season to 145 games and turned 3-4 doubles into homers and bumped the RBI up enough to reflect the place in the lineup. Nothing crazy here


Colby Rasmus / CF / 25
Projected stat line: .276 - .361 - .498 - .859 - 28 - 3 - 23 - 66 - 12 - 63 - 148
Explanation: This is exactly what he did in 2010. given his age it would not be insane to see him take a big leap even above this level. Think that's crazy? Consider this: Jacoby Elsbury had been a good little middling hitter for two full seasons before 2010. A guy who was obviously going to get somewhat better to be sure but nothing said "future MVP candidate. Due to injuries he went off the rails in 2010 and had an atrocious line when he played. All the more reason to mitigate expectations. That didn't keep him from exploding in 2011. Talent is talent, and all other things being equal one ought to assume talent wins out. It remains to be seen whether things will "be equal" for Rasmus this year, but I think that getting back to a level he reached at 23 is a conservative projection. If I was being bold I'd add something like 8 doubles and 4 or 5 homers and a half dozen steals to that line and not be nervous about it.

Brett Lawrie / 3B / 22
Projected stat line: .281 - .359 - .539 - .898 - 42 - 6 - 27 - 77 - 24 - 56 - 108
Explanation: The second most difficult task here (behind figuring how much Bautista might regress, which I simply punted). The sample size is so small and the pro-rated projections so impressive for a 22 year old that I felt I HAD to assume SOME regression, but how to balance that caution with the widespread impression he is THE "next big thing"? My solution was to look at the guy who was, in my opinion, the most comparable guy I could find. Evan Longoria. As Matt Germain wrote for Jays Journal the comparison is entirely defensible. So I took Longoria's age 22 season as a baseline for my projection.
Lawrie is considerably faster and better on the base-paths so he has quite a few more steals here, on the other hand I turned several homers into singles and doubles to get a higher BA and OBP and, ironically, a slightly higher slugging. one has to admit the possibility of a sophomore slump, but at the same time one has to recognize that Lawrie is one of the safest bets in a long time to NOT regress like that.

Travis Snider / LF / 24
Projected stat line: .281 - .334 - .494 - .828 - 33 - 0 - 30 - 61 - 27 - 42 - 145
Explanation: My theory here is that if Snider is going to ever be what we all thought he would be, he'll step up THIS year, and by step up I mean do better than he has before in almost every respect. In fact, there really ought to be about 3 triples in there but I'm too lazy to refigure the rates. If you wish to assume he will fail and Thames will have this job, you will probably still not be shocked by any of these totals except the steals, albeit if I was projecting Thames the stats wouldn't be this good.
I arrived at these figures by this method: I took his best season so far (2010), projected to a full season (150 games) and added 10% more hits and walks, and turned 4 doubles into homers. That's really not a radical supposition is it?

JP Arencibia / C / 26
Projected stat line: .237 - .292 - .493 - .785 - 25 - 1 - 27 - 94 - 2 - 34 - 122
Explanation: In this case I'm assuming he will get marginally better. But not in a massive way. last year he had an injury that he insisted on playing through whose timing coincided with a significant drop in performance (for about six weeks beginning just before the first of June he was really not good at all) and this likely paralleled with opposition pitching adjusting to him (on May 30 he'd had an OPS of .824). He came out of that about a week after the All-Star break and hit fairly well (for a catcher) on the balance of the season, 62 games for the team and 55 for him. what you see above is a pro-rating of that part of the season figured for 132 games played. I had to slightly tweak a few numbers to get the averages to come out close but it's a real close approximation.

Bench: You can't really do too much with this because you can't reasonably project the amount of playing time. the two most important bench players are Mathis and Vizquel and neither is an offensive factor. Raji Davis might well hit somewhat better than he did last year but i'm not projecting it. That leaves Ben Francisco. Francisco is to this team essentially what Juan Rivera was to last year's team. The last two previous years (age 28 and 29 seasons) Francisco's OPS was .731 and his OPS+ was 97. In his last two previous seasons Rivera (age 31-32) posted an OPS of .710 and an OPS+ of 95. Being three years younger Francisco stands to be a better player in 2012 than Rivera - better in fact than Rivera was last year during his time with the Jays, and should get a similar amount of playing time on the whole season as Rivera got during his time with the Jays. but I'll take a pessimistic view for ease of calculation and assume he's just as bad as Rivera was.

For ease of reference, here are the projected stat lines stacked up (this is opening day - I figure a good possibility that Lawrie and EE flip in the second half):

.290 - .369 - .418 - .787 - 3o - 3 - 12 - 53 - 3 - 67 - 77
.260 - .343 - .441 - .784 - 31 - 6 - 18 - 64 - 16 - 65 - 127
.302 - .447 - .608 - 1.056 - 24 - 2 - 43 - 103 - 9 - 132 - 111
.268 - .319 - .505 - .824 - 34 - 0 - 33 - 93 - 2 - 41 - 120
.260 - .336 - .502 - .838 - 34 - 0 - 30 - 69 - 10 - 59 - 84
.276 - .361 - .498 - .859 - 28 - 3 - 23 - 66 - 12 - 63 - 148
.281 - .359 - .539 - .898 - 42 - 6 - 27 - 77 - 24 - 56 - 108
.281 - .334 - .494 - .828 - 33 - 0 - 30 - 61 - 27 - 42 - 145
.237 - .292 - .493 - .785 - 25 - 1 - 27 - 94 - 2 - 34 - 122

Now direct comparisons are difficult in some cases and not in others. We're assuming basically steady production year over year at C, SS, and from Bautista (albeit part of his work last year was at 3B) along with the only really decent hitter on the bench.
On the other hand, compare the following OPS by position to what I'm projecting here - noting particularly 3B, CF, 2B, and LF as well as DH and 1B:

SS: .744 - Esco relieved by Vizquel should be about same.
2B: .634 - Johnson, even though spelled, should easily do better
RF: .912 - Less time at 3B means this should be this good even with regression.
1B: .757 - I project both Lind and EE to do better
DH: .770 - EE at 1B means Francisco hitting...this is about right.
CF: .596 - Wildly better in '12
3B: .773 - Wildly better in 12
LF: .667 - Even if both Snider and Thames fail, they can do this, should do considerably better
C: .747 - A better JPA mitigated by a worse (than Molina) Mathis, should work out about the same.
And the bench contribution is mostly a wash when you consider how much more the starters get the AB in this projection - except for the loss off offense from the reserve catcher.

How can this team - NOT be remarkably better offensively (and it wasn't bad last year)? and remember, there are not big "career year" projections here. Remember that in 2011, six players, five of whom are gone and the other is Mike McCoy, combined for almost 1,500 at bats in 2011 and accumulated a combined OPS of .632. some of those will go to Vizquel of course, but a lot of them will go to much better hitters.

Turning to the pitching...

This part is much more difficult. Pitchers fluctuate in weird ways that defy projection, particularly relievers. We do the best we can. With all these guys, I factor age and experience and where they are on the bell curve of their career, including noting unusual development patterns as with Santos. I note their actual ERA, their FIP and the xFIP not just for the last season, but also their best rate within the last 4 years and their career rate (in context).

I'm only projecting ERA here as far as hard numbers because the rest is just too much of a wild guess. But there will be comments on the other stuff.

Starters
1. Ricky Romero (age 27) - 3.64 ERA: This is actually his xFIP from 2010. He out-preformed his xFIP last year by almost a full run, and even those his defense will be better this year it's prudent to assume a bit of reconciling of those two figures. I arbitrarily picked the 2010 figure as a reasonable compromise. if this is different, it will be lower.

2. Brandon Morrow - (27) - 2.92: This is the bold prediction, possibly the boldest of the whole team (yes I'm aware I spoke in similarly bold terms last year). his xFIP over the last two seasons, while he was admittedly a work in progress and beset by some inconsistency, was about 3.50, which is a bit better than Romero's was over the same period. Essentially, I just gave him Romero's ERA from last year. The difference being that Morrow will actually be pitching this well or better. Are you going to tell me it's crazy to project a pitcher's ERA to fall from 4.72 to 2.92? Then I'm going to direct your attention to James Shields. I'm convinced that if Shields can play in the neighborhood a year after having an ERA over 5, then Morrow certainly can, because he has more talent.

3. Brett Cecil - (25) - 4.22: I'm just giving him the 2010 ERA. I think he will pitch better than he did in 2010 but i'm not certain it will be enough better to drive the ERA down by any projectable degree. it's enough for him to be as good as he was before, more than that is a bonus.

4. Henderson Alvarez - (22) - 3.72: literally impossible to guess. A kid this age is an obvious candidate to regress, but nothing in his skill set or performance demands it. I'm just chalking this up to natural fluctuation and resisting the temptation to have EVERY guy here get better (though that is certainly possible)

5. Dustin McGowan - (30) - 3.69: all depends on health, there's no credible way to be sure he will reach the 150-ish innings the Jays plan to pitch him this year, but I have a hunch that if he does he will be the talk of the league. what I WANT to do here is shave one full run off that ERA but i can't back that up with anything at all. but the pre-injury McGowan was a guy who was credibly talked about as projecting to the kind of pitcher Verlander turned out to be. and everyone who comments on him now says he has virtually all his stuff back. I'm gullible enough to believe that. so I gave him an ERA that reflects a season something like the one Michael Pineda had last year and if healthy I'll be mildly shocked if I haven't been too conservative.

6. Kyle Drabek - (24) - 4.15: I'm just filing this as a season to get his feet back under him. I'm crediting him as the guy who finishes the season's last 4-6 weeks after they shut down McGowan, and assuming there's probably another tour or two when he fills in for an injured starter. The ERA is slightly optimistic but as the 6th starter, no one should spend a lot of time figuring this one out - if he sucks Hutchison or McGuire will be here and probably won't suck.

If you get past six guys there's the aforementioned McGuiire and Hutchison, as well as Villianueva and Listch in a pinch - contrast that to the memory that in 2011 the Jays gave 31 starts, basically one full rotation turn over a season, to Reyes, Mills, Perez, and Stewart.
The combined ERA for those 31 starts was 5.82 - and that's without including Drabek's adventures.

Bullpen
Sergio Santos - (28) - 2.64: His 2011 xFIP, and since I expect his walk rate to continue to drop, i consider this a conservative projection, although admittedly ERA is not a great measure for relievers anyway given how one or two bad appearances can skew the figure.

Francisco Cordero - (37) - 3.84: this was his highest ERA in the last 10 seasons and was in 2010. This could get considerably worse given the difference in the level of competition, but I have no reliable rule for how much worse so i'll be optimistic without being silly.

Darren Oliver - (41) - 2.75: if the recent trend continued (ERA lower each year for five straight years) then this would be much too high. I gave him the xFIP from 2010 as a compromise.

Jason Frasor - (34) - 3.64: overall ERA for the last two years - but here's the interesting thing: In his first 6 appearances after the trade, which had to be very unsettling, he gave up five runs in four IP. Take that out and his ERA last year was 3.05, furthermore, his ERA over the last three seasons without those 4 IP is 3.10, so my projection is quite conservative.

Casey Janssen - (30) - 3.04: this is his xFIP from last year, which was the best year of his career. There's no real reason to assume a major regression, but relievers do fluctuate.

Carlos Villianueva - (28) - 4.04: a most interesting and confusing case. In the first three weeks of the season, his walk rate was far too high (7 in 11.1 IP) but he managed to have a solid ERA anyway (2.38), at the end of his run as a starter when he was running out of gas and ended up on the DL, that control went south again somewhat, though not remotely as bad, and the ERA was very ugly. when he came off the DL he was getting September slop innings so i'm not inclined to regard those too highly. In between he threw 67 innings and posted a 3.09 ERA that's pretty consistent with his other stats. I wouldn't be scared to use THAT for my projection but I'm trying to not show irrational exuberance.

Luis Perez - (27) - 4.27: that was his ERA as a reliever last year, and his xFIP in that role was 3.39 so there's room for improvement there but again, I'll show caution.

Should replacements be needed, there's Jesse Litsch (4.08 as a reliever last year with an xFIP of 2.99 in that role) and Joel Carreno who opened a lot of eyes last year before you get to the more remote options.

The unanimous consensus is that the bullpen is considerably deeper and more solid than what the team had last year, even before the big trade.

-------------------

Every year I make a win prediction, with the caveat that what I mean is +/-3 games, and having spent several hours putting this together, it's only fitting that I go ahead and stake my claim in conclusion. My prediction for the upcoming season is 89 wins. I have to acknowledge that the track record the competition has exceeds the track record most of these guys have, but of the three other contenders in this division, i think only the Yankees are clearly a considerably better team.
I'll save detailed comparisons for the future but I think the Jays are right their with the Red Sox and Rays on talent, and they could finish in any order as a result of injuries, luck, and unpredictably good or bad seasons by individual players. I think it will be the most exciting season since the glory days and a sign of even bigger things to come. The second coming if 1985 is near. It might not be this year, but it is very close.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Draft Pool Bonuses

Quick hit for yall money nerds out there. BA has released a calculation of the draft pool bonuses for the upcoming 2012 Rule 4 draft. This post is for you if you are studying math or accounting at an online accredited college.

Here's the line of the list, for our purposes:

(team - # of picks - pool bonus total - 2011's spending on the first 10 rds - 2011's total spending)
Blue Jays 14 $8,830,800 $8,990,000 $10,996,500 
 
Note that the first column is the pool for the first 10 rounds only, not 10 picks, 10 rounds. After that, according to the article, the teams are capped at $125,000 per pick, but Jim Callis (the author of the piece) tweets that it's $100k. I'm not sure which is correct but for the purpose of this discussion I will assume the lower and that the former figure is simply an awkward phrasing.

Teams typically draft through 50 rounds, so there are 40 picks after the pool, and anything a team spends over $100k per pick down there counts towards the bonus pool figure. So then, that amounts to $4 mil and that added to the pool figure gives the Blue Jays a theoretical total of $12,830,800 to spend in 2012, as compared to $10,996,500 spent in 2011, and if you assume Beede's money - reportedly $2.4 mil) was on top of that then that's still not much more than they will have this year. For reference, the Jays had 15 picks in the first 10 rounds last year and signed 11 of them.

On the other hand, it's not as good as it sounds, consider this- Here are the Jays 11 signed picks and the announced bonuses:

overall pick - Name - bonus:
#35 - Jacob Anderson - $990,000
#46 - Joe Musgrove - $500,000
#53 - Dwight Smith, Jr - $800,000
#57 - Kevin Comer - $1,650,000
#74 - Daniel Norris - $2,000,000
#78 - Jeremy Garbryszwski - $575,000
#108 - John Stilson - $500,000
#139 - Tom Robson - $325,000
#199 - Anthony DeSclafani - $235,000
#229 - Christian Lopes - $800,000
#259 - Mark Biggs - $600,000

(Figures per ProspectWatch)

That totals $8,975,000 -which is $145,000 more than that which is allocated for the top 10 rounds in 2012 by MLB - or a bit over $13,000 per signee on average. Impose this budget on last year's draft and at worst, you lose DeSclafani.
It's also worth noting, at least Matt Dean (13th round) was signed for far more than 100k last year, reportedly $737,500, most other bonuses are not readily available (in my quick search at least) but there's not one which was rumored to be that far over slot
So we lose Dean too, which would be a huge hit.
Anyway if one compares that total to last year then the Jays spent just over $2 mil last year on 25 players taken and signed after the 10th round and obviously the biggest chunk of that went to Dean.

The point in that factoid is that teams obviously don't actually spend $100k a pick, typically, in the latter part of the draft. Besides Dean, and Justin Atkinson who's known to have gotten $100k, probably no one else did. But it's important to note that you can't "bank" money out of that $4 million to spend on the bonuses in the pool - the pool is a fixed number. However, if you did happen to have money left from the pool, you can use it to go over $100k on a lower round pick. (If I understand correctly what Callis said). So while there's a theoretical limit of almost $13 million, they won't get really all that close to it.

Now you know.



Sunday, February 19, 2012

First Look: Minor League Rosters, Part 3

The third and final installment of my preview of minor league rosters will be a bit more complex. As I noted in the last post, the further down the chain you go the more uncertainty you encounter for various reasons. First, the body of information a writer has to evaluate what the team is doing with a particular players gets much smaller, second there are simply more moving parts (while it's true the team is usually overstocked with veteran relievers at the upper levels, otherwise there's just 2 or 3 extra guys in play, on lower levels there's uncertainty in many places), and finally it's difficult to project where the organization will place the marginal guys let alone the filler. Sometimes the best you can do is accurately place the prospects.

Fortunately, that's all that really matters in the final analysis.

In regards to the short-season teams, you have two further considerations - what kind of progress the remaining players make in extended spring training, and what the team will do with 2012 draftees.

With all that in mind, this post will necessarily be somewhat different from the others. in this case i will discuss the players in the organizations that i did not "assign" to a full season team. when I put them on a roster, it is obviously without the benefit of the XST information so it reflects last year's work, any buzz I might have heard, and the players age and experience level. Also, I'll consider the team's demonstrated tendencies (for instance, the tendency to start a 16 year old Latin signing in the DSL, or the tendency to start a college draftee at a more advanced level.
This leads to a lot of speculation regarding players acquired last year but who have not yet played a professional game. one constant for me, the undrafted free-agent filler, no matter how well he did, takes a back seat to high round draftees

Finally, I'll note that I will not attempt a DSL roster, I'll just mention who will be there that needs to be watched.

Bottom line, don't get too committed to these rosters, there's simply too many moving parts, bt do be impressed with this - one could make up a pretty solid Top 25 prospect list JUST from players listed in this post.

[important guys in italics]

Vancouver Canadians

Rotation:

Daniel Norris - The highest short-season team is a bit aggressive for a high schooler, normally, and it would not be an insult to him to start him lower. But he has gotten a ton of praise, and the Jays started Nicolino here last year so there is precedent.

Joe Musgrove - Big RH was a supplemental first round pick in 2011, got 7 starts in the GCL and a tiny taste of Bluefield. Listed here because of draft pedigree but certainly could be at Blefield again to start the year.

Anthony DeSclafini - College pedigree says he'll be advanced, but the need to shift him from relief back to the rotation says he will probably be held back in XST. This is the logical squad.

Mitchell Taylor - This assumes he doesn't get the break he needs to make the cut with Lansing. Proved himself in Bluefield.

Griffin Murphy - Mixed results in the GCL last year, but it doesn't take a lot of intuition to know the team would like him to come to spring training motivated to do much better. since he's 21, this would keep him on a tighter promotion schedule, but he will need to prove he deserves it.

Dave Rollins - Short season teams tend to use more than the regular five starters, and Rollins would get plenty of work even if the five above him are on the team. He was a 24th round choice in 2011 so he doesn't have the pedigree, but he pitched very well in 7 starts split between Bluefield and Vancouver.

Taylor Cole - A college pitcher like Rollins, he was a 29th round pick last year. Cole went immediately to Vancouver but was just so-so in 11 appearances (8 starts). Given the flood of higher profile young pitchers, if he doesn't make the cut here he's probably going to find himself in the bullpen.

Kramer Champlin - A 33rd round pick last year, also out of college, almost all his work last year was at Vancouver, but it wasn't so impressive that he climbs this depth chart. Like Cole, he may well find himself in the bullpen.

Ajay Meyer - an undrafted free agent, Meyer was surprisingly good in Bluefield last year while leading that squad in games started. Still, given that background he's got an uphill climb to break into that rotation. Meyer has a chance to jump to Lansing at any given time including from opening day because this is his age 24 season and the Jays tend to be less deliberate with promotions on the "non-prospect" guys.

Other starters for last year's Canadian squad four unsigned free agents - McFarland, White Hernandez and Breault - three of whom pitched poorly and can't possibly compete with the guys above, and the fourth, Jesse Hernandez did well enough he can probably hang around as a reliever and hope for a break.

Bullpen:
I'm not going to waste time discussing the bullpen on these teams because if any of them are some kind of gee-whiz closer candidate they are either (a) still starting; or (b) haven't shown it yet.

This group will be made up of some combination of guys who don't make the rotation, last year's squad (Brown, Permisson, Longre, Brua, Garrett, Kaye, Davis, Escelante, Pepe, Purdy) and the quality performers in Bluefield and the GCL (Kadish, Lucas, Sikula, Elliot, Brussard). some 2-4 of these might break with Lansing, the next 7 or 8 most advanced will be at Vancouver - no way to know who will be where but at this point it's too early to consider any of them "prospects."

Line-up:

C - Santiago Nessy - Was decent in the GCL and has promise, might be considered too raw for this level but he's a legit prospect so we'll pencil him in (lightly) on this squad.

1B - Art Charles - solid season at Bluefield, no reason at all not to move up.

2B - Dan Arcilla - Arcilla had a good year at Bluefield playing mostly SS, this guess is driven by the logistics of the available middle infielders but . . .

SS - Andrew Burns - these two guys could be reversed depending on how the team views Burns' defense. Burns was a college SS drafted in the 11th round last year who began his pro-career in Vancouver and hit fairly poorly but the sample is completely irrelevant.

3B - Gustavo Pierre - completely guess that the begin to look for a defensive home for him, but he was incredibly bad as a SS last year and you can't let that affect his hitting forever. this is the most logical move but if his problem is grounders you might well see him in CF instead.

LF - Dwight Smith, Jr. - highly regarded 2011 supplemental pick seems likely to land here.

CF - Steve McQuail - placehoder, nothing to worry about

RF - Jake Anderson - in my last post I aggressively put him in Lansing but I've reconsidered (a testament to how fluid these decisions can be) - there's probably value in starting the two highly touted OF draftees start their journey together.

DH - Eric Arce - He was dominant in the GCL, setting a league record for homers (which is as much a reflection of his pedestrian pedigree as his power tool) and while not physically imposing, seems well situated for this role. He can play in the outfield and can handle 1B (albeit no one really wants a 5'9" 1B) so he's not regulated to just DH.

Bench: Pierce Rankin, Tim Mahler - catchers; Balbino Fuenmayor - 1B/3B; Andy Fermin - 2B/SS; Bryson Namba - 3B; some filler OF.

---------------------------------------------
Bluefield Blue Jays

Rotation:

Adonys Cardona - Very young and pretty raw, but very good and highly regarded. Preformed very well as a starter in the GCL.

Kevin Comer - another bonus baby draftee from the 2011 draft, on a more "normal" schedule than Norris.

Jeremy Gabryzwski - less well known 2011 draftee, but he was a 3rd rounder and i put him here out of deference to the reality that 2012 draftees will take up a lot of the room on the GCL squad.

Tom Robson - Similar situation to Gaby, save the "well known" thing - Canadian guy will be a lot of peoples "pet project"

Mark Biggs - drafted in the 8th round, paid 2nd round money to sign - that should tell you all you need to know.

Brady Dragmire - The last of the relatively high (17th round) 2011 draftees I haven't mentioned yet. My understanding is he's more raw than some of those ahead of him and he might end up in the GCL.

Misual Diaz - Made the Lansing roster last spring and struggled there before fighting injuries all year. last good work was at this level and given the crowding, they may drop him back here to get his feet under him. If he does he would be in line to skip up to Lansing in the right situation.

Deivy Estrada - his history is good numbers is belied by reports that his stuff is quite short (particularly low velocity) and it may be that he was getting exposed already in Bluefield. This will be an important spring for him as the illusion may have dissipated.

Bullpen:
Starters who don't make the rotation, along with the leftovers from the guys listed for Vancouver above, as well as potentially Leslie Williams and Shane Farrell from last year's draft, any left-over starters who missed any of these rotations, Adaric Kelly and Zach Adams from the 2010 draft, and undrafted free agents Tucker Jensen and Randall Thompson who did good work as a part-time starter for the GCL squad last year. Again, impossible to predict the exact crew.

Line-up:

Catcher - Alexsys Rodriguez - might turn into an interesting guy but was quite ordinary in the GCL in 2011, still be best guy for the job.

First Base - Seth Conner - more a third baseman but there's an actual prospect over there and there's really no 1B of any sort for this job unless the jays draft one in 2012 and sign him right away. I'm just guessing here but if it was me, I'd reward Connor's good offensive year last year with the job here unless his better comes along.

Second Base - Chino Vega - Player of the year in the GCL, splitting time at SS but hissmall stature and the presence of actual top-prospects at SS would seem to be enough pressure to push him here. He might turn into something, but he's a 5'8' guy drafted in the 33rd round so lets take our time.

Shortstop - DJ Thon - Jays have the luxury of taking it slow with him and letting him build some momentum so he will probably start here,, but with no major prospect for three levels above him and another well regarded guy behind him, he will advance if he's ready.

Third Base - Matt Dean - My "pet prospect" from the 2011 crop, I can't be unbiased about this guy. Vancouver has a project, essentially, and Sweeney is the only other well regarded guy between Dean and the majors. but because those two are just in front of him in progression, this is where he fits. but I would not be at all shocked to see him advance. Particularly if Pierre struggles with the position defensively.

Left Field - Derrick Loveless - tiny sample size for the 2011 draftee (32nd round) - might flip with Taylor.

Center Field - Dalton Pompey - for a guy with modest accomplishments, this Canadian kid has a lot of buzz. of course maybe I just answered my own question. He did steal 23 in 24 attempts last year.

Right Field - Nico Taylor - surprisingly excellent offense (for a 42nd round pick) in the GCL, I'm not sure which outfield position was his regular home normally but he played left in deference to Anderson. But before Anderson signed Taylor player RF so I'm going with that.

DH - no one that matters unless its a 2012 draftee.

Bench: Aaron Munoz - Catcher; Cody Bartlett SS; Justin Atkinson - IF; Javan Williams, Ron Melendez - OF;

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Gulf Coast Blue Jays

Rotation:

Jario Labourt - Often overlooked Dominican signing, because he wasn't signed in the mid-summer rush, Labourt is a 6'4" lefty who's name might be on everyone's lips a year from now.

Yeyfry Del Rosario - another bonus baby, 7 weeks younger than labourt but pitched just as well in the DSL last year. He's not quite as big but neither are through growing yet.

Cesar Sanchez - not really a prospect, but pitched fairly well in the DSL and can at least serve as filler until the 2012 guys start signing. also, since starters only go about 3 innings at this level the organization tends to use "tandem" starts so more than five starters are needed.

the rest of the rotation will be undrafted free agent filler (possibly including holdovers from last year like Jensen and Thompson) and 2012 draftees.

Bullpen:
A bunch of guys you never heard of, low round draft picks from 2012, and free agents, but there is one name to watch:

Ericdavis Marquez - no, that's not a typo. Marquez will be 21 next month and he will advance a couple of levels pretty quickly if he preforms so as to figure out if it's just a case of being too old for the level. That said, he was dominant in the DSL last year with a 1.22 ERA and the supporting stats to back it up. He pitched for the Pittsburgh farm team in Venezuela the previous two years and was ordinary to bad. Apparently the light went on in 2011 and now the Jays need to see if it's for real.

Line-up:

Really nothing to report on here except Christian Lopes. He was a 12th rounder last year but was another of those picks who was taken low but paid high because he only fell because of contract issues. He's been a shortstop but some feel his pro future is at 2B. IF the jays want to make that move immediately, he'll be playing 2B in Bluefield. IF the Blue jays want to push either him or Thon along to Vancouver, then that would be the best outcome. but they are resolved not to rush the real prospects and so there's a significant chance Lopes starts the year in the GCL.
To be clear, he's much better than some of his peers from his draft class who are plugged in at higher levels, but he's a high school player which makes a difference, more importantly he needs a clean opportunity to play every day and not have to split time with, for instance, Thon.

Beyond him, there's little grounds to make a prediction. No hitter in the DSL demands a promotion, none of the potential holdovers are worth even knowing their names, and of course, we don't know who will be drafted yet.

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Dominican Blue Jays

Normally I would not even mention this roster because it's always 95% filler.but not this year. The Blue Jays blew the doors off on the International free agent market and all those guys seem likely to start the year in the DSL. Here's the guys who matter:

Pitchers:

Roberto Osuna - might conceivably make it in the GCL since he played decently in the Mexican League (considered a rough equivalent to AA) at the age of 15. but the conservative approach works for one of such a young age (he turns 17 on July 2) so he will get surely six weeks or so at least in the DSL. When Baseball American projected the highest bonuses which would be paid to international free agents, which serves as a rough estimation of how the scouts viewed the players, Osuna was #4.

Manuel Cordova - another 16 year old who'll turn 17 this year who was a highly rated signing last summer. He was #33 on the BA list.

Alberto Tirado - same song, next verse.

Jesus Tinoco - Ditto. I've listed these guys in descending order relative to their buzz and bonus.

Greylor Conde - I know very little about this guy but he's 17

Shortstops:

Dewal Lugo - very well regarded, he was #6 on the BA list.

Ronnie Demorizi - just signed last month, more of an unknown.

Outfielders:

Wilmer Beccara - Has been a SS, most see him moving immediately to CF and eventually to RF. He was #5 on the BA list.

Jesus Gonzalez - big strong RF with a lot of offensive potential. #21 on the BA list.

Francisco Tejada - less is known about this guy.

The idea that there's seven or more players to watch on the DSL team is simply mind-boggling.