Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Breaking Down the Draft: Alderson and Fairley

Carlos Gomez continued his coverage of the draft picks while I was away. This article covered picks 21-30, and was published at The Hardball Times, which I RSS for easy checking.

#22, RHP Tim Alderson

He doesn't think his mechanics are ideal, but he does several things very well that he does like.

  • He "does an excellent job of leading with the hips, while his back shoulder stays over the rubber."

  • He "has an explosive stepover that kickstarts his hips and body into that aggressive, yet slightly abrupt finish."

  • "I've always believed that pitchers who exhibit very aggressive movements with their lower bodies tend to be more effective with their offspeed pitches. I believe that this is because the hitter starts "gearing up" in response to what the body suggests the pitcher is going to throw (in Alderson's case, it looks like he's about to throw a 120-mph fastball). So anyway, I'd encourage Alderson to pick up a good changeup ASAP."

  • "I tend to give a pass to quirky pitchers even if their mechanics are a little questionable. It's no secret that I like sidearmers, submariners, knuckleballers and pitchers with unconventional release points like Eddie Degerman. Consider this clip...[clip of Alderson from behind home plate] Doesn't that just look tough to pick up?"

From that video, yeah, it does look tough to pick up, he has a three-quarter arm slot. But I'm not that hip on evaluating pitchers, so I wouldn't on what I say. :^)

Carlos ends with this: "Risky pick? Absolutely. I'm not sure that Alderson makes it as a starter, but I like this pick here." Well, Tidrow said that Alderson might make it up in two years, so by then we should still have Zito, Cain, Lincecum, Lowry, and Sanchez in the rotation, and perhaps Bumgarner in the mix too, since that's his timetable too, so if Alderson is slated for the bullpen, he has a better chance of making that right now than of starting.

#29, OF Wendell Fairley

Carlos likes this pick over who the Twin picked #28, Ben Revere, saying they should have picked him instead. Looking over the two videos, even I, a non-expert, can see that Fairley has a much better swing. Some notes:

  • "This was the Giants' third pick in the first round and I'm pretty sure that by this time they were thinking of the budget." My comment: yes, one would think that, but the Giants spent more on prospects last year, with Lincecum at $2M and Villalona at $2.1M, for $4.1M; Bumgarner probably will get around $2M, Alderson around $1.5M, and Fairley around $1.0M, for $4.6M. Also, there's the players in the supplemental, but two have already signed and the third is a college senior, so they were probably cheap signs, and we had a 3rd and 4th round picks in 2006, but none until 5th round this year, so that cancels out some bonus there as well.

  • "...Fairley is a good athlete with a simple, repeatable swing. He may have to tweak it a little bit depending on what the Giants want out of him, but it seems like he has a decent approach at the plate." From what I gather from the USA Today mini-profile of Fairley, he digs the long ball, so I would have to assume he wants power.

  • "He tends to get a little out in front and reach for pitches, with his hands out ahead of his body a little too much. He won't hit with huge power with this swing, but the potential is there." Which is good because Fairley likes "watching the ball get up there."

  • "The best thing about Fairley is that he is a five-tooler that doesn't need a major swing overhaul in order to hit at the next level. " Sounds great to me!
Carlos concludes with "Considering the Giants' situation, I really like this pick here. Good upside."

I also asked Carlos for more comment on what Fairley needs to do to improve his power. His comment was:
  • "If he is going to hit for big power, he has to develop more lift in his swing and also learn to "Stay behind the ball" better. Watch Russell, the Cards pick in round 4 [This is in his 4th part of his series, he is the first player examined, #31 in the article, 142nd pick overall]. True, his swing has too much of an uppercut plane to it, but watch how his upper body tilts back while he's hitting against his front side. Fairley needs to develop that swing plane (although not as steep as Russell) and stay "behind the ball". A great example of "Staying behind the ball"? Your own BarryBonds..."
Lastly, he also mentioned that he will evaluate Nick Noonan and Charlie Culberson, two of the Giants picks from the supplemental first round, in his final 5th part of his series examining players picked in the amateur draft last month. I'm looking forward to reading about his comments.

Happy 4th of July!


  1. Hey Martin,

    I really hope Alderson get's signed and sticks as a starter. I love the command he shows. The funky motion is pretty cool too. :)

    I like Fairley too as the 'toolsy OF' and hope he can develop them as he progresses. He's got a lot of athleticism thats for sure.

  2. Thanks for the comment Chris.

    I think it would be great if Alderson does well as a starter. That's the beauty of the Sabean/Tidrow's strategy of focusing on pitching: once you reach a critical mass of the pitching staff, each new prospect either improves the staff, freeing another player for trade, or is good enough for trade himself.

    And I love the command he shows too, it seems like that's one of the critical measures for pitchers today, allowing you to compare the hard throwers with the soft tossers. Hopefully he and Bumgarner can continue their success when they enter our minor league system.

    Not that I was down on him to start with - I was pretty jazzed - but it seems with time, I hear more and more about him and there's more and more to like. I'm particularly jazzed once I realized that he's been dividing his time between football and baseball (he was good enough to get recognized in football) and between pitching and starting in the OF, he was doing the Babe Ruth thing, excelling at both in High School. Now that he's focused solely on hitting and the OF, his development should advance that much faster. I haven't seen a timetable for him yet from anyone yet, but since Sabean made the point of saying that Bumgarner and Alderson could make it to the majors in 2 years, I assume Fairley will take more like the normal 3-5 years.

  3. Oh, and to finish the thought, I think the Giants pitching staff is at that critical mass point where they can trade off pitching and not suffer much of a drop in overall performance. After all, there are really no team out there with 5 good starters ready to pitch a good game at any time, most teams have sucky 5th starters, and many have sucky 4th starters too, we have an abundance of starting pitching.

    I am assuming Sabean will take his time in fielding trade offers, hopefully just stick with what he got pitching-wise until some team makes an offer you cannot refuse.

  4. Hello Martin. Any comments about the catcher, Anderson, in the supplemental round? I'm pretty excited about him and think he has a LOT of potential.
    Ya know, Sabean gets raked for not picking a 'hitting' prospect. But, after Alderson was gtaken, all pitchers were taken until Minn made a bad choice taking the position player immediately before we took Fairley. So, the only position we could have reasonably taken a 'position' prospect was at #12, where we took Bumgarner. Mostly, it seemed to come down to Bumgarner or Mills. To my mind, that is just not close, as Mills is really a hitter without a position.
    Additionally, I think Sabean has taken stock of the NL west, and of the several years playing at ATT and has concluded that, for this division and this park, the Phillies, Brewers, Reds offense-first strategies are a poor fit. Instead, I think Sabean is following the Padres strategy, pitching, defense, speed. We have talked about this before, and it can be seen with the type of players Sabean is drafting, largely middle of the diamond, fast, toolsey, defensively proficient players (see our collection of 2b, SS, CF in the lowe minors. Fairley is one of this type, but with more upside (hence,a first round pick), and, with any luck a RF prospect.
    Looking at this year, SD is leading the division with nearly as poor an offense as ours. They are winning with much better pitching, good defense and a little better situational play/hitting. Even so, had Roberts (injured), Aurilia (injured), Durham, Omar, Bonds (at least in May) hit as reasonably expected, we would be right in this thing. I have posted with you recently the June BAs of the team, showing that, for June, the entire team escept for bonds, and to an extent, Feliz, were grossly underperforming. If these guys were averaging about 270/275 instead of 230/235, we would be right in this thing.
    That is waht leads me to think that power is not the premium commodity for the Giants. With good pitching and good defense, they could live very well with a lineup of 275 doubles hitters.

  5. Thanks for your comment allfrank; sorry I haven't gotten to your other ones.

    Where Sabean got raked for not picking a position player was at #10, when Mills, Dominguez, and Heyward were available when the Giants picked Bumgarner. That's legit criticism. Your point about Mills being DH-only material is also legit, a DH is almost useless to us and his trade value is diminished because everyone knows you have to trade him.

    The only way I see how he was thinking is he said he thinks Bumgarner can be in the majors in 2 years - I doubt either Dominguez or Heyward will make the majors in two years. When drafting, particularly if you are trying to get the quickest return on your draft pick, someone like Bumgarner, who isn't that bad a pick himself and particularly if you think you can get him to the majors in two years, becomes more valuable to you as the GM.

    After all, the draft is a bit of a crapshoot even as high as the 10th pick, anyone who claims to "know" one prospect or another is a major leaguer that high in the draft is deluding themselves; if GM's are having a hard time identifying major league prospects after the 5th pick, anyone who knows major league talent after that should be able to get a job pronto. The best you can do after that is educated guesses, I believe. And when things are like that, you have to go with what you know, and they know pitching.

    Regarding team strategies, I think those teams (and our teams) strategy is being driven by their parks - the Phillies, Brewers, and Reds have parks that are conducive to hitting more homers, whereas AT&T is more conducive to hitting less homers. So is it really a strategy or just that the park enables those traits?

    The 'Dres have an extreme pitcher's park so going with pitching is a given. I don't see where they are going with speed, who would you name as a speedster for them? Their two main base stealers last year are gone, Roberts and Barfield, though Cameron is still around.

    I never thought of that before, that the Giants are focusing on middle of the diamond talents. That would make sense as a drafting strategy because they can move to other positions more easily, whereas corner fielders rarely can make the move inward. But one could also argue that recent focus on middle fielders is because he has already stocked up on corner fielders previously: EME, Schierholtz, Linden, Ortmeier, Niekro, Ishikawa, Cervenak, Maroul, Horwitz, Bowker, Buscher. Plus middle fielders tend to hit worse than corner fielders, so a strategy of that could lead to a weak offensive team.

    Yeah, the 'Dres have a dreadful offense, Marcus Giles hasn't replaced Barfield's offense, and Kouzmanoff continues their history of failures at 3B. But they have been winning with superlative starting, both Peavy and Young have ERA near 2.00. Peavy has shown to be capable of that before, but Young hasn't and that would be another quantum leap he takes developmentally, the third in a roll, because his history didn't show how good he could be in the minors, then he had his leap in 2005, then 2006, and now 2007? That's not likely, but it doesn't mean it won't happen either.

    Similarly, the Giants hitters have been producing below expected, but that doesn't mean that they won't continue to do so, particularly this deep into the season. At least with Roberts, you can say that his elbow has been affecting him all season, and with Aurilia too, his neck. But Durham? Maybe his adominal problem but they haven't DLed him yet. Omar? Just age...

    And Bonds in May is just a balance for how well he hit in April, he was way above expected and May just balanced out April.

    And "if if if" doesn't change where we are now. We are severely back of the pack. All we can do is look forward.

    Looking forward, I still think that if the players produced like they are expected, the team can win and win a lot. As I noted in another recent post, the schedule seems to be aligned for a nice run in July and particularly August.

    But it's looking more and more like it's a down year for a number of players we were counting on and we will not get out of the mud, we are going to spin our wheels.

    But that's the beauty of baseball, of sports in general, things change on the dime sometimes (examples in baseball history I gave before, the 49ers playing badly before winning last 5-6 games of season to squeak into the playoffs with a 9-7 record, sometime in the 90's) and "that's why you play the games."

    And that's partly why I don't understand some of the naysayers. Some foresaw that old players will not play well. That's it, old is bad.

    However, I don't see how things are really any different from the early successful years of Sabean's reign as GM.

    For example, who saw 1997 happening after the horrible year we had in 1996. Adding journeymen Kent and Vizcaino, struggling JT Snow, and a 32 year old OF of Bonds, Hamilton, and Hill, plus 33 year old Stan Javier, plus a failed prospect in Estes, and old pitcher in Mark Gardner, and inconsistent reliever who thinks he's a starter in Julian Tavarez, those would fit the complaints today. Only back then it worked and this year it didn't. Why would they be right this year if they were wrong with the same strategy in 1997?

    Let's take 2000 as another example. Bonds and Burks head up the oldies in the OF, both being 35. JT and Kent were now 32 years old, which most consider is when the peak years are over and the decline begins. Estalella did well but he never did anything like that before (or since). Same with Armando Rios. Livan was very average for two years at a pitchers park, there was no reason to expect success that year, sure he was young, but so was Van Landingham. Ortiz was coming off his first full season, the sophomore jinx could hit, the league could learn how to hit him (and apparently they did). Rueter had a horrible 1999 and so-so 1998, so no one could predict his 2000. Estes had even worse 1998 and 1999, so to expect good performance from him would be folly as well. And Gardner was old, 38 years old. All factors why 2000 should not happen, all reasons the naysayers this season have been complaining about but yet 2000 worked well during the season, with the same factors going on as this season.

    Also, in 2002 and 2003, the age issue was even bigger, so why weren't these people un-foresighted back then?

    And if they were un-foresighted back then using the same strategy as today, then why are they foresighted today?

  6. Fairley just signed



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