Thursday, March 13, 2008

Mild Shocker: Jose Capellan, Gone!

As reported in the Chronicle (at bottom of article in a little blurb), the Giants waived reliever and Rule 5 draftee, Jose Capellan, and surprisingly, the Reds picked him up. The Red Sox will have to wait a little longer to get their guy back, I guess, but it won't be from the Giants now. This is a mild shocker after the big buildup the Giants gave leading up to spring training, particularly with all the Felipe Alou crowing about what a steal he is, but ultimately this is a good sign that they are willing to admit mistakes and move on from them, not cling to them. That happens to the best of us.

Feliz to Crede to Inge

In other news, ugh, the Giants are looking into obtaining Brandon Inge, who is owed $19.1M over the next three seasons by the Detroit Tigers. He is basically another Feliz-like 3B like Crede, hits for HR power, but don't get on base much, and has a good glove, I think he was high in the rankings for 3B in the Fielding Bible's top 10 list for 3B. I guess Frandsen isn't giving the Giants any reason to hand him 3B, but I disagree, he hit well last season at the end when he was given regular play. Just start him at 3B and see what happens. What happens, happens.

Better than giving Detroit any prospect for Inge. The only reason I would be OK with getting Inge is if he suddenly agreed to play C for the Giants periodically, say, late in the game when Bochy wants to pinch-run for Molina, Inge would take C and give the Giants flexibility, PLUS it is Steve Kline who is traded to the Tigers (saves us $1.5M this season plus open a spot for a young pitcher), and the Tigers give us about $2M each year in 2009-10. That clears a spot in the bullpen for someone young, which is now one less with Capellan gone, and makes Inge affordable and tradeable with a low salary, assuming the Tigers give us some money.

Latest 12 Man Staff

Let's see, we know for the most part who the 5 starters are, and if Kline is traded that opens up a spot, and with a 12 man staff, that's 7 relievers: Wilson, Walker, Hennessey, Chulk, Valdez, Threets, Taschner. Plus, though I would prefer they just start, either up here or down at Fresno, the loser for the #5 starting spot between Sanchez and Misch might relieve too.

Boy, it was looking like a log jam just a little while ago, with Capellan looking like he's sticking no matter what and Kline probably sticking around, plus Messenger was a contender for a position until he blew up, both on the field and off. Now, if the Giants are smart about it and move Kline out, and make both Sanchez and Misch starters no matter what, the bullpen look like it is set and set nicely with the addition of the young blood looking to take key roles in the bullpen.

Lincecum Coming Around

The linked article talked about Tim Lincecum's new slider he is trying out. That's one thing I like about Lincecum, as he was going through college, he would need a new pitch to get to the next level, and he would work on it and get to the next level. Learning and progressing are good things in a pitcher, improving themselves for whatever goal they are trying to reach.

A new stat in Fangraphs is being provided now, a pitcher's type of pitches thrown in a season for the past three seasons. The Kid obviously has just the one, but, wow, his fastballs averaged 94.2 mph. AVERAGED! Most pitchers would be happy to reach 94 regularly while pitching in the low 90's, but he averaged that. Of course, he threw mainly fastballs. Why not when you can throw at that high a velocity.

His second most thrown pitch was his curveball. It is nearly 14 miles slower than his fastball, at 80.6 mph. That is more separation than he gets with his changeup, which runs around 84.4 mph. That is still about 10 mph separation, which is what most pitchers need to be effective pitchers. Now he is adding a slider to the mix, to become a 4 pitch starter, and he's feeling good about it right now. Makes me feel good too, I think that if he, Cain, and Zito can put in very good years, we have a chance to be decently competitive, even with the bad hitting we will get.


  1. I agree with your comments and with the Giants strategy regarding Capellan. First, it cost next to nothing to take a look at him. And he is not ready, nothing ventured, nothing gained, but, more importantly, too many other guys look like they are more ready and more deserving of a spot on the 25 man.
    Inge, I just don't get it. He seems a ridc=iculous pickup. He has little to offer, other than, as you point out, he could be a 'third' catcher. Assuming Durham has 'won' the 2b competition, we still have enough Inge-like players for 3b: Aurilia, Frandsen, Velez. And for the money, it is just better to cut Kline and eat his (I think) 1.75 mil salary. Regarding INge, this seems very expensive, no matter how much of his salary the Tigers will pay, for virtually no improvement in performance (over Aurilia, Frandsen, Velez).
    As I have intimated over the Winter, Martin, I am beginning to wonder if Sabean has a plan

  2. "As I have intimated over the Winter, Martin, I am beginning to wonder if Sabean has a plan"

    It took awhile, but it looks like it's finally beginnning to sink in. This is what I've been saying for quite awhile.

  3. Well, allfrank, if I believed that every rumor heard is something that Sabean is doing, then I can understand feeling like that.

    And perhaps that is my fault, too, for not making my feelings clearer about these rumors. So I'll take some of the blame there.

    So here's how I see it: not every rumor necessarily reflects what Sabean is doing or thinking. We don't know what he is thinking about any of the players he is rumored to be getting.

    I think you get by now that most Sabean moves are not really known until the Giants are announcing their latest deal. Yet many fans persist in wailing about each and every rumor as if Sabean was really doing that when his behavior and conduct in the past is to keep any deal that he is working on all hushed up. Even for the rumored Lincucum-Rios deal trumpeted in the local newspapers, Sabean never actually acknowledged the deal, he did what he always do, talk circles around the subject without actually talking directly about it. He never talks about rumors, NEVER.

    However, as a commentator on the Giants, I feel like I must address each and every rumor mainly because I don't know that it is not something that Sabean is thinking of doing - they sometimes are right - and, for once, got leaked out.

    So here's what I think. I think there are baseball writers who are desperate for something to write and they invent "sources" that say the Giants are doing something that makes sense for their situation. It would not be the first time a newspaper writer has invented something to write about.

    Thus anytime there is a thirdbaseman available this off-season, HEY, the Giants need a thirdbaseman, so they must be watching that guy, they must be bidding for him, they must be trying to get him.

    We don't know what Sabean is thinking. For example, here's a bonehead question if there ever was one, and Sabean asked it: Gary Sheffield was a free agent, about the year that Barry Bonds stole his personal chef, so he cried about it in an interview with SI, and Sabean - and he was quoted as saying this - actually checked in with Sheffield and asked if he was willing to take under $10M. That he eventually signed with the Yankees for $13M per tells you how far off Sabean is.

    The way I see Sabean is that he's always been a bottom fisher. He has picked up a boatload of flotsam from other teams and found useful players, like F-Rod, Scott Eyre, Alan Embree, among others. He is looking for a good deal for his team.

    So the way I view the Inge rumor is that IF Sabean is really interested in Inge, under what circumstances would it make sense? Well, we do need another power hitter. He's not the greatest but he'll be one of the better one on the team. He would fit OK in the 6th spot, would be ideal for the 7th spot.

    And we do need a 3B, not only for this year but for years to come, Villalona is now apparently slotted for 1B and the best of the bunch right now probably David Maroul (yeah, most don't know his name). He was with San Jose last season and batted .221/.265/.445/.710 with 20 HR in 420 AB. His K-rate was sick, 26.7% of the time, though as the Jon Mayo article in MiLB showed, San Jose's home park does that to the hitters there, the background there is horrible to hit with.

    Unless you want to count Matt Downs, who played some 3B the past two seasons, but he's already 23 and hasn't even made it out of short season ball, he has a lot of ground to make up to make the majors. He wasn't even particularly that good in short-A Salem-Keizer, so I wouldn't get my hopes up.

    Actually, looking over the guys in our system, it is probably Ryan Rohlinger, who was with Augusta last season (but already 23 years old), who did not hit particuarly well there, but got a lot of walks and didn't strike out that much. But there must be something really wrong with his batting stance or swing, normally with that good of a batting discipline, to take walks and not strike out that much, the guy usually is a better hitter, but his BABIP is horrible and his batting line just as bad.

    Anyway, back to the subject at hand, with no viable 3B in the system, and most probably no viable 3B to pick at our #5 draft pick slot (unless Pedro Alvarez by some miracle falls to us PLUS he sticks at 3B), we need a 3B for the next 2-3 seasons most probably.

    Now, why Inge? He of Feliz-like hitting and defense? Like I said, if he would be willing to catch for us, that would be a huge plus, Bochy clearly wants to carry 3 catchers on the roster, Inge can catch in a pinch, with Frandsen taking 3B in a pinch (or Velez).

    He's also younger than Feliz, Feliz will be 33 in 2008, Inge will be 31. Feliz is at the age most average players start declining seriously and precipitously. Inge is around the cusp of when players start to decay in production (and who knows, perhaps 2007 was the first season).

    We also don't know what Sabean might be asking. He could be asking if the Tigers would pay his whole salary for a prospect they like (but that we don't like), much like how the Giant paid Livan's full salary and got two middling players for him (though Brower turned out OK) or when the D-backs released Ortiz even though they owed him so much money (over $20M). Wouldn't you at least kick the tires if you could get Inge for very little money? It could be the $10M question all over again except this time they might just want to get rid of Inge at any cost.

    So none of us, NONE of us, knows what is going on within the Giants, they could be laughing at all these rumors causing all these fans to run around crying about the "sky is falling, the sky is falling!", they could be mad that the other team leaked this info to the press (given the number of times they have stealthily done deals, they are rarely the source of leaks), they could be just kicking to tires to see if they can get a great deal at the expense of the Tigers, who has a real chance of a cancer growing within the clubhouse if they keep Inge around, ruining all that the Tigers have done over the off-season, particularly getting Miguel Cabrera, to win it all this season. Who knows? Not even the Shadow knows, only Sabean and his lieutenants known.

    And please, cut the Velez starting talk. People talk about him like he's Chone Figgins. He's no Figgins. Velez hasn't even figured out the minors yet, let alone the majors, so I don't see him figuring out the majors any time soon without further huge leaps in skills. Frandsen at least has hit well in AAA, and Ortmeier has hit well in the majors (though very short time). Plus Ortmeier as he was climbing up the ladder was IDed by prospect hounds to be a potential 20/20 hitter, until he hit the glitch that is Dodd Stadium in AA.

    People just don't understand how hitting in a difficult environment like that can affect a hitter, these are insecure young men, hoping to impress their superiors, so you start messing with your stance, your swing, everything, just to get back on track. But hey, you were on track, only you didn't know because of the damn park, so you changed it just to get a different look and hopefully start hitting again, ruining what was a good swing before. Their confidence gets shot to hell along with their hitting.

    So at least with Frandsen I feel I have some footing, he hit well in the upper minors and done OK in the majors at times. Ortmeier has a history of being a good prospect, he just stumbled at Connecticut and started hitting well in the majors. Velez has had to earn it at each new level he is at, and besides the huge number of steals, has not really done much as a hitter to distinguish himself IN THE MINORS.

    I'm willing to let him be in the majors as our utility guy, but I'm not willing to make him the permanent starter at any position, not yet. First he has to show me some good hittig.

  4. I wouldn't say they were admitting a mistake with Capellan. The vast, vast majority of Rule V picks do not make the major league roster of the team that selects them. Most are offered back or a trade is worked out -- which is what I thought would be the end result here. Just guestimating, but I'd say fewer than 10% and probably closer to 5% of Rule V guys spend the year required in the majors.

    On a side note, today's Chicago Trib, in a story about how disenchanting Kenny Williams is finding offers for Joe Crede, they mentioned that one of the guys the Giants were offering was Dave Roberts (others included Scott Williamson and Randy Messenger, though NOT in offers with Roberts which I have to say, I'd be laughing at if I were Williams, too). The Roberts mention is notable to me mostly for the fact that he was considered a poor offer. The White Sox like Roberts type players, and are in fact, hoping to turn Jerry Owens into a Roberts-esque starter this year. So if they sneer at him, it's hard to imagine we're not stuck with him.

    BTW, I often read comments about how close to the vest Sabean and the front office are, and I always wonder where that comes from. I can think of literally dozens of moves in the time Sabean has been here that were telegraphed literally weeks (if not months) ahead of time. The Dave Roberts deal would be a good example of months (as was one of Sabe's very first, the Daryl Hamilton signing). Trades I'll admit tend to be more surprising, but that's the nature of trades. Signings are almost always well publicized ahead of time, though. Including Barry Zito -- the Giants frontrunner rumors started picking up major steam more than a week before the eventual signing. So I wouldn't say Sabes is as close mouthed as some like to portray.

  5. Roger, thanks for the comments. I can see your point about free agents, so I am off there, but the issue at hand here is trading for Crede or Inge, and trades aren't normally telegraphed in the media.

    Well, that's good, I want to be stuck with Roberts.

    Oh, I'm aware of how few of the Rule 5 actually turn out good, the main point I was trying to make was that the Giants made a big stinking deal about what a big steal they got from the Red Sox and Felipe was crowing about how his brother brought Capellan to the Red Sox and how mad they were to lose him to us. Giving up on him is, frankly, egg on their face, at least publicly, because of the big fuss they made over getting him.

  6. Roger, thanks for the comments. I can see your point about free agents, so I am off there, but the issue at hand here is trading for Crede or Inge, and trades aren't normally telegraphed in the media.

    Well, that's good, I want to be stuck with Roberts.

    Oh, I'm aware of how few of the Rule 5 actually turn out good, the main point I was trying to make was that the Giants made a big stinking deal about what a big steal they got from the Red Sox and Felipe was crowing about how his brother brought Capellan to the Red Sox and how mad they were to lose him to us. Giving up on him is, frankly, egg on their face, at least publicly, because of the big fuss they made over getting him.

  7. By the way, Martin, I think it's refreshing to see such a streak of negativity coming out in your comments above (not directly above, up there aways). Keep it up! :)

    However, reasonable minds can as ever disagree, and I find myself on the opposite side of the fence from you on a few players. Ortmeier I have to put more weight on his 2000 some minor league ABs then his major league performance and I just don't see a big league regular there, much less a 1B. His bat has been on scout's radar since high school, but aside from the one year in CT, he's really never shown alot of power (much like Niekro's minor league career). I think the fact that he's a switch hitter who's weak from the left side (obviously the one he needs most) will always be a killer flaw for him.

    Velez on the other hand, I've been high on for awhile now. While his minor league numbers do indicate some possible serious flaws in the K department, in his case I'm going to put my hopes in his tools. Normally someone who was a 24 year old in low A ball I'd immediately dismiss, but Velez was a bit of a special case, as his home organization (Toronto) had simply never played him (his max with them was 239 ABs in a season). Looked at from that perspective he's come a long way very fast. I was particularly impressed by the success he did have jumping straight into AA (and CT no less). His .344 OBP was certainly acceptable. Of course, the key to projecting him is power, and while I've from time to time got on you about making injury excuses, having seen a few of his games in Augusta, I'm willing to say that the power he displayed there was real (balls do get a very good jump off his bat, even if there's little lift, his speed turns any line drive not hit directly to an OF into XBH), and that his lack of power last year related to the broken wrist he suffered in ST.

    For me Velez and Lewis (who I'm less high on, but still there've always been tools in that package) are the two guys I really want to see extended time given to this year. I'd be willing to start Velez at 3B and see if he can handle the defense for the '08 season, myself.

    The other guy that I've frankly been amazed for years that so many people think so highly of is Pat Misch. Pat I saw a lot of in AA (when he was pitching very well) and I just never imagined there to be a major league starter in there anywhere. His breaking ball is slurvy, his fastball isn't, his changeup is ok, but as I think we're seeing with Zito if major league hitters aren't worried about your fastball they can adjust to anything else. I know Woody was able to thrive with a package like that, but I think changes in the strikezone since then have really diminshed the ability of a nothing on it pitcher to succeed in the majors. I know Pat's added a cut fastball since his AA days and that gives him a very useful pitch that could turn him into a middle reliever possibly, but counting on him as an acceptable backup to the rotation is not IMO a good idea. And definitely, trading away an arm like Sanchez because Misch is behind him would, IMHO be a terrible terrible idea.

    Keep up the good work

  8. Yes, Roger, we will have to agree to disagree. In Ortmeier's case, I would have to also note that switch-hitters take longer to develop.

    Still, I would agree that the odds of Ortmeier being a big league regular-caliber type of hitter at 1B is slim. I'm not looking for that. I am just hoping he can be an OK major league hitter, even a mid-700 hitter is worth something.

    Besides, he won't be there long-term anyhow if Villalona continues to develop and progress (though not if he stays as huge as he looked in that recent photo of him in the Merc).

    The odd thing about Ortmeier is that he is a natural lefty, which I didn't realize until the other day. It is supposition on my part, but maybe he concentrated too much on getting his hitting from the right side working that his hitting as a lefty suffered.

    Yes, Velez did nicely in AA ball with his OBP, but really, his .344 OBP is barely over the league average of .335, which is OK but not really that good when you realize that he is hitting against pitchers who are leagues away from becoming major league pitchers.

    I assume you are aware of MLEs? Velez's could be that good given how poorly he hit there relative to the rest of the league.

    That said, I would be willing to split time between Frandsen and Velez at 3B. I like Frandsen but I'm not sold on him. And Velez, as poorly as he has done in the minors so far, with his great speed, he could be a good leadoff hitter. That's worth a try.

    I am not that high about Lewis anymore. I bought into his tools and everything as he was coming up, but once I learned that he has played baseball all his life and still look that lost in the OF, I don't see how he won't be any better than a backup OF.

    I've never seen Misch, so I will take your word on all that. I see your point about Misch coming up the farm system, but how can you not like his strong command of the baseball, his K/BB was strongly over 3.0 when 2.0 is the minimum you want to see out of a pitcher? True, that's AA and AAA batters, but he was still striking out over 9.0 K/9 in his stint as a reliever in AAA in 2007.

    I would not trade Sanchez, as much as I like Misch. I want Sanchez to do well for us, he just needs a chance. But he has struggled constantly with his control, making him a wild man who would strike out most batters but then walk too many too.

  9. My understanding of Ortmeier is that he was actually one of those incredibly rare Rickey Henderson types who threw left handed but batted right handed most of his life. There was an article I think on the SF Giants site recently where he talked about the coach who talked him into becoming a switch hitter and i think it may have been as late as freshman year in college. Why someone who's naturally left handed would choose to ignore the advantages of batting left handed growing up is beyond me (and Ortmeier was on the pro baseball track from early on, he was drafted I believe by the White Sox out of HS).

    Everything you say about Velez may well be true, but you have to remember when he went to the EL he had never had an AB above the Sally. That's a huge jump for anybody. I think he committed himself well for it. I just think he's turning into a late bloomer who's finally getting a chance to use his tools.

    I've been a huge critic of Lewis for years (I watched him play regularly during his year in Hagerstown and his reactions and baseball IQ horrified me). That said I'm giving him the chance. And hoping that he's a lesser case version of Hanley Ramirez -- a toolsy guy who just never quite got motivated to use those tools properly in the minors and blossoms into them in the majors.

    Misch's jump in Ks at AAA was surprising and made him look like he could have a major league career. I attribute it to two things: the switch to relieving and the development of a good cutter. As long as he's used in that role and can spot the cutter i think he can be valuable middle relief. I'd never feel good wiht him in my rotation.

    As for Angel, I'd say a best case scenario would be 2011 arrival, 2012 starting position for him. Please don't tell me the black hole at 1B has to wait that long. I'll have to curl up into a fetal position and cry.

  10. Yeah, I've never understood why anyone would teach a lefty to hit righthanded. Imagine how good Rickey would have been as a lefty? Thanks for making that point, that would explain a great deal about his struggles hitting against LHP. Yes, there was an article lately, thanks for reminding me, it was pretty good history of his development.

    About Velez facing a new level, what you say would make more sense if he progressed each month. He didn't. He had one great month in June with a .330/.373/.504/.877 line, but May, July, and August were pretty bad:

    May .342/.359/.368/.727
    Jul .241/.299/.315/.614
    Aug .304/.352/.383/.735

    Basically July balanced out June and resulted in his overall batting line to be very similar to May and August.

    Even if you allow that he was rusty in May because of the injury, that still doesn't explain his hitting worse as the year went on. He should have gotten better, if he was as good as you think he is. But I will grant your irrational belief in Velez if you will grant mine in Ortmeier. Hopefully we both will be right, as then the Giants would really be looking good at 1B and 3B/UT. :^)

    I'm willing to give Lewis a chance, but I'm going to bend over to give him in. I'd rather give Schierholtz a chance at starting first before Lewis. Yes, Hanley is a good comparison, maybe he can be motivated to get his act together playing up here, his initial play encourages that thinking. I would lump Ortmeier in that too, maybe he will be one of those, like Holliday, who comes up and do better than they ever did in minors.

    Good point about Misch's relieving allowing him to do better. I'm not suggesting that he's ever going to be a top rotation guy. But with Cain, Lincecum, and Zito (I still believe), we don't need a top rotation guy, I think Misch would do fine in a back of the rotation role. I was just hoping to trade Lowry for something good and replace him with Misch, but it's looking like he will be untradeable because he will be undervalued, at least for the value I think he can provide on the baseball diamond, because of the spector of injury. But I would be fine with Misch in middle relief as well, only I don't think that's something we need right now, with the crush of bullpen types available and young to boot. I would rather start Misch in the minors as backup in case any of the starters are out for an extended period in 2008.

    I think that's too long to wait for Angel. If we have to wait that long, I think that his weight problem got the best of him and derailed his career and his potential.

    There's good reasons why a lot of the top prospect people are already selecting him as a Top 20 prospect in all of baseball already even though he was only 16 last season, in baseball terms.

    Let's use Miguel Cabrera's minor league progression as a comparison as he was very young too and a comparable player, in terms of power and ability to put the ball into play (i.e. ability to avoid strikeouts).

    Cabrera when he was 17 was where Villalona was when he was 16. Both played Rookie league, and Villalona did much better than Cabrera, who was older:

    Villalona .285/.335/.450/.785, ISO .165, BABIP .340, K% 21.0%, BB% 7.0%
    Cabrera .260/.331/.352/.683, ISO .092, BABIP .329, K% 21.0%, BB% 9.5%

    Assuming a similar growth rate, Villalona would reach the majors in the middle of his age 19 season, which would be 2010.

    Given that Villalona was that much better than Cabrera at a younger age, I think that it would be unsurprising - though unlikely still, I admit - if he made the majors by 2009, perhaps as a late season call up.

    For another example of a prodigy's rapid climb, Justin Upton was 18 his first pro season, playing in A-ball, and made the majors by the next season. Villalona will be playing A-ball in 2008, and if he is moved quickly like Upton, would make the majors late in 2009.

    Whether he moves fast will depend on how quickly he takes to A-ball. If he clobbers the ball early like Schierholtz did when he was in A-ball, the Giants should not be afraid of moving him to San Jose by the May/June timeframe. Again, it all depends if he hits well.

    I know, he has a very long way to go to make it to the majors, and much needed appointments with a dietician and a personal trainer, but I think that professional prospect analysts would not include him on their Top prospect lists so highly if he wasn't that good already and just need the experience.

    And I am doing this to get fans' hopes up, just to fan the flames, but I am trying to be realistic in what the implications and reality is. The reality is that he is THAT good in the eyes of experts and prospects who were similarly that good in the eyes of experts moved up fast. It is the lesser prospects who take until 2011-2012 to move up, the elite ones move much faster.



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