Thursday, November 06, 2008

Good Report on Frandsen Plus Rumors and Speculations

John Sickels, a minor league expert, wrote in his Minor League Ball blog the following about Kevin Frandsen:

Kevin Frandsen, SS, San Francisco Giants: Looks healthy which is the important thing after missing the season due to a torn achilles. Line drive bat, hits to the opposite field, hustles, won't have much home run power. Played shortstop down here and looked fine, can handle second base no problem defensively.
Still, Sickels thinks Kevin is a 2B in full-time play.

Baggarly's Back

Andy Baggarly had a juicy post on Giants rumors and he's not even at the GM meetings.
  • The biggest news, as Andy notes:  Giants have interest in Rafael Furcal.  This makes sense, much like how the acquisiton of Rowand made sense:  add another strong vet to the mix.  In Rowand's case, it allowed Schierholtz to gain another year of experience at AAA, and Lewis backed up Roberts really well, with Schierholtz as the second alternative had the need arise.  In this case, this sets up SS, with Frandsen and Burriss fighting for 2B, and if both do well enough, Frandsen slides to 3B, with Sandoval sticking to 1B.  Also, as Baggarly also notes, he would lead off, allowing us to bat Lewis in the middle (though I was envisioning Burriss in the leadoff spot).  Plus we steal him from the D-gers, though they do have Ivan DeJesus and Chin-Lung Hu in the wings (however, DeJesus looks terrible in AFL according to Sickels and Hu didn't do well in majors last year).

    And this works even if injury prone Furcal - he's 31 next year and has had two straight injury reduced years, particularly in 2008 - continues to be injury prone, as that would allow Burriss and/or Frandsen time at SS. However, this only really works if it is a two year deal with an option, because we cannot be saddled with a gimpy shortstop for big bucks for a long time.  Particularly not into our prime period of 2010-2015 when we should have our best prospects productive and under our control.   Perhaps the option can be tied to playing time in 2009-10, like Vizquel's was.   He took a shorter deal with LA for more money so perhaps he might be willing to do that again.

    If the Giants are already looking this SS route, if Furcal falls through, perhaps they might go after Adam Everett who plays great defense but might give that back offensively. However, that would be an upgrade on last year because the SS position only hit .228/.295/.281/.576 overall. Everett over the past three seasons had OPS of .642, .599, and .601 (career .653, but much done at Houston's hitter's park. Still, he'll be 32 next year and with declines offensively, could continue to decline. Plus, it appears he was injured twice during the season (and missed a lot of time in 2007 as well), so perhaps he's an injury risk today.
  • Other names include Pat Burrell and Jimmy Rollins, but most probably not happening.
  • Scott Eyre was mentioned, but apparently Eyre loves pitching for the Phillies and his home is close to their spring training complex.  It'll probably come to who offers the bigger bucks again, which is how we lost him to Chicago last time.
  • Bengie Molina rumors appear to be just that, nothing substantial.   I would note here that I saw a headline that Pudge and Veritek will be hot commodities because of a short supply in the catcher's market, so the teams that lose out on them might decide to be more substantial with their offer for Molina in the future.
  • Lastly, Andy speculates that Aaron Rowand could be in the mix in trade talks.  The market for CF is strong as evidenced by the Brewers picking up Mike Cameron's $10M option, and the Yankees and ChiSox are shopping for CF (Rowand being a former ChiSox, and they pursued him strongly before the Giants got him).  According to scouts that Baggarly spoke with, Rowand's defense has fallen so much that Randy Winn was actually better (and most reports I've heard is that he's poor in CF).    Still, any trade would have to have a substantial return and the Giants would need to get another righty hitter to balance things out, particularly if Schierholtz is the new RF.  Plus, he has limited trade protection.
  • Oh, and Baggarly guesses that it's 75-25 that Cain remains a Giant.  I would think it would have to be greater than that, because I don't think any team is going to be willing to shell out that much, I would expect to get much more than what the D-backs got for Haren, and only the Rays, I think, would be in a good enough position to trade off that many young good players for a Cain - yet they don't really need a Cain, they have Kazmir, Shields, Garza, and soon Price.  
Shea Had Something to Say Too

John Shea had a column on the Giants too:
  • Asked if Cain is untouchable, Sabean said, "Yes.  Clubs know that.  That hasn't necessarily discouraged clubs from inquiring or making suggestions of offers.  But we don't see anything out there that gives us a net gain by losing him."
  • So to get offensive help, he will try other ways, including free agency and trades for pitchers not named Cain, Lincecum, or Wilson.  "We have a list of very definitive untouchables for various reasons.  After that, if someone wants to get creative and we could find a way to do something, even if it takes more than one prospect, we're willing to do it."
  • Sabean will be attending the Giants' ownership group meeting in SF tonight.
  • Sabean has been told to conduct business as usual, despite the tumbling economy, with the priority of adding a couple of hitters - a corner infielder and middle infielder to complement Sandoval and Burriss in the infield and of rebuilding the bullpen around Wilson.
  • Sabean noted, "You never know if someone might be interested.  Having said that, we know what the competition's going to be.  Make no mistake.  It's a short list of quote, premium difference-makers.  Very short."
  • Also reports that Furcal's group "indicated the Giants are interested in the shortstop as a leadoff hitter." 
  • Basically Burriss will play either 2B or SS and Sandoval wil play either 1B or 3B.  
  • Sabean has not met many agents but is expected to.  He was seen speaking to Craig Landis (former Giants prospect, FYI) who represents Bobby Howry (also a former Giants prospect).   Sabean appears confident he can redo his bullpen through free agency.
  • He also met with the agent company representing Dunn, Burrell, Hudseon, and CC Sabathia (and here it is affirmed that the Giants are not in the market for front-line starting pitchers).  
  • Sabean also noted that Frandsen has a shot at winning 2B starting job.  He's currently playing SS because Burriss's knee is banged up.
  • Also, they are still hopeful that Lowry will be in the Opening Day rotation (imagine how good we would have been in 2008 with a healthy Lowry manning a rotation spot instead of Correia/Misch/etc.  That could have been at least a 10 game swing as those pitchers went a combined 3-13 in 29 starts;  Lowry going 8-8 instead would but the Giants at 77-85, only 8 games under .500 vs. 18 games under .500).  
  • In addition, Kevin Pucetas could be in competition for the final rotation spot as well, which is surprising but a good surprise.  But still surprising given the word after the season that the team would not rush players as they had in 2008, as Pucetas was only in Advanced A San Jose and, frankly, Tim Alderson outpitched him there.   However, Kevin will be 24 next year and Alderson only 20, so with Bumgarner and Alderson probably only a season or two away from being in the majors, perhaps the Giants felt like they should take a good look at Pucetas now.
Giants Thoughts

I mainly looked here at what the Giants might do commented on that and tried not to put as much of my opinion into what I would do as I am posting tomorrowing a discussion of various free agents and my thoughts on whether we should pursue them or not.  Here, I am mainly an observer who gives opinion on what may or may not be happening.

I guess the main news is that Burriss and Sandoval pretty much owns two spots in the infield but which two depends on who the Giants acquired during the off-season.  And the threshold is high, the Giants are only looking at "premium difference makers".    Plus, as noted before, the Giants are looking to boost the bullpen.  And it appears that the Giants are not pursuing any outfielders, leaving a number of premium difference makers like Manny not part of the mix in the Giants plans. 

Looks like they will pursue Furcal, though how seriously, I don't know, as they shied away from Vlad Guerrero reportedly because of his bad back (though according to a well-respected Bay Area media member, Ted Robinson, a significant factor was because Vlad didn't like Felipe Alou).  He'll be OK with a short contract but not a long one.

And apparently they are eyeing Juan Uribe as a possible replacement for Rich Aurilia, depending on how cheaply they can get him from the ChiSox (which I would put in the category of dumpster-diving; not that there's anything wrong with that).   I am OK with that if he's cheap enough.  It'll be fun for the crowd to yell "Ooo-Ree-Bay" again.  

Pat Burrell, on the other hand, is pretty much dismissed in the above articles, but he used to play 1B like Dunn as well.  However, I doubt that his hometime discount will amount to enough for the Giants to sign him and his defense stinks, and Sabean loves good defensive players.   

Still, you never know what a player might do, because if the Giants are interested in Furcal, they are obviously entertaining thoughts of shelling out another $12-13+ M contract and maybe Burrell doesn't need the biggest contract and accepts one that is good enough, like Carlos Lee did with Houston.  Burrell is a South Bay native and I believe was a Giants fan growing up.  In addition, because his defense leaves a lot to be desired, the Giants might not want to have two subpar defensive player in Burrell and Sandoval at the corner infield spots.  We will see.

I don't think that the Giants will want to pursue Dunn.  I think there is enough interest on the part of other teams to put his price out of range of the Giants.  And he's not going to give any hometown discount to the Giants.

Same thinking on Mark Teixiera.  As much as he fits the Giants ideal 1B - hitter plus great defensively - he is with Boras and he will want one of the largest contracts in history.  I don't think the Giants want to go in that direction.

I am hoping the Giants are limiting contracts to the 2 years plus 3rd year option or at most a 3 years plus 4th year option variety so that the contracts are ending right around when we need to sign Cain and Lincecum to long term deals.  That would make it easier to trade them too.

I'm a bit afraid that the media is mentioning Bumgarner and Alderson in the trade talks and hope that is because Sabean did not explicitly name them and thus the writers are just taking an analytical leap there.  Sabean, as I noted, like to maintain a list put together by our coaches and scouts on, basically, who our keepers are and who we are willing to give up.  I assume both are on the keeper list.

Looks like the #5 spot will be competed for by Lowry, Pucetas, and probably Misch as well, and possibly Correia should he be re-signed (I'm betting that he's going to another team like the Padres instead, though).  

The outfield appear to be set with Lewis, Rowand, and Winn, with the outside possibility that the Giants will float Rowand's name to see what offers he gets.  As I noted before, I hope they keep him, I think he'll be better in 2009 and the team will be sorry to get rid of him if they do.

Given the hot market for catchers in free agency, I think some teams might decide that it would be better to have Bengie Molina than overpay for the two stars on the market, Ivan Rodriguez and Jason Veritek, or, alternatively, he will look better when the two sign with other teams and the remaining bidders are left with no catcher.   However, I think it would take a pretty good offer to get the Giants to trade Molina, so I think he'll be with the team to start the season but could be gone by mid-season when the inevitable injury hits a contending team's catching and they need a catcher and thus might overbid for him.  Plus the Giants by that point should be back far enough that they could give up without shame and start building for the future again at mid-season.  

Lastly, Cain's not going anywhere because it is going to take a huge overbid to get him away from the Giants and that's been true for at least 3 years now, and if a team hasn't been willing to do that before, they are probably not willing to do it today, as he's pitching much as he has, at least at the surface. 

However, as I noted in another post, Cain greatly improved in 2008 because he actually pitched well on the road, whereas previously he only pitched well in SF and poorly on the road.  He should be ready to take off in terms of production as a starting pitcher in 2009, I would bet.

8 comments:

  1. If the Giants sign Furcal or another shortstop I don't think that Burriss will be on the opening day squad. I'll bet that the Giants will send him back down to AAA for more seasoning. Frandsen will probably be the 2B and even if he is the 3B, Velez will beat out Burriss. Velez beat out Burriss? Just a prediction and I think that Velez could perhaps beat out Frannie if he shows he has made progress on his fundamentals. Burriss is still very young and raw. I was shocked when Sabaen declared him the starting SS next season in the post-season interview. I don't think his bat is ready, nor is his arm in terms of accuracy at SS. He does profile better at 2B but he will need to make a leap in offensive production to stick there long term. However I hope he makes it because he appears to have a great personality. Thoughts?

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  2. Burriss had a nice .289/.377/.333/.710 batting line once the Giants started playing him regularly at the start of August. Lansford is suppose to work with him on hitting for more power, but that's still an excellent OBP if he's batting leadoff and the low SLG is minimized at leadoff. Plus, with his speed, he can take advantage of it since he's on so much.

    Velez, even when he is hitting, don't get on base much, minimizing his speed. He has more power than Burriss, but we don't need him for middling power, we need him to get on base, steal bases, and score runs.

    But, like you, just a guess on my part, but that is how I see the difference between the two.

    I was not shocked, Burriss was hitting great when he was injured, .371/.463/.443/.906 in 22 games, and playing OK defense, versus Velez's poor defense. Velez will have to hit a lot better to make up for his poor glove.

    Youth means nothing, production does. Hence why young, raw Matt Cain is still here and veteran Matt Morris isn't.

    But your concerns about Burriss is something I've seen in the press, though he doesn't have to take much of a leap offensively to stick at 2B. A .710 OPS is OK at 2B, he only need to raise that to .750-.775 to stick offensively, which would easily happen if Lansford's plans to boost his power (reportedly he has strong arms but not leveraging them when he hits). In addition, part of his hitting woes are due to hitting at home, most hitters hit better at home than on the road.

    Most reports I've seen on him is that 2B is his future. And he does have a good personality plus he actually grew up a Giants fan. But so did Frandsen.

    Still, production counts, not childhood fanaticism. Burriss was hitting better than Velez at the end and was fielding adequately at SS. Velez wasn't even fielding adequately at 2B.

    Like you said, just my thoughts, that and $4 gets you a Mocha Frappaccino at Starbucks. :^)

    Still, I would not say that Burriss is guaranteed a starting job. The Giants rewarded Burriss for fine play at the end of the season by saying that he's their incumbent SS, but he will still need to keep that spot, much like Wilson in 2007, who did not even compete for closer but ended up in the minors.

    All I'm saying is that I think Burriss has showed more than Velez thus far and based on that would win a position over Velez.

    I like Frandsen and if he's back to where he was before, the Giants would probably start him at 2B over Burriss because you either use him now or waste him, he's getting old, while Burriss still have options (that's another thing, not sure if Frandsen has any more options; Velez and Burriss should). Unless Lansford really teaches Burriss to hit for a lot more power.

    But I don't anticipate the Giants signing any premium hitter at the corner infield positions, leaving 3B open for Frandsen if need be. If not Frandsen at 3B, then the Giants would slide Sandoval over there and play Ishikawa at 1B, then others if he fails or falters.

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  3. Thanks for your thoughts. Here's a bit more to chew on.

    Aren't you worried about the tiny sample size over which Burriss showed offensive success? Yeah, he had a good August until injured, but that was after a very poor showing the month prior, even though he was given lots of starts/ABs. He managed to find a way to get on base once in a while via walk, bunt, or more often than not beating out an infield dribbler, but he could barely get the ball out of the infield. He hit more line drives in August, which is a good sign, but it certainly wasn't an overwhelming offensive display. The minor leagues are full of guys who had a month of success in the big leagues but could never make a sustained performance (September heroes).

    On the other hand Velez can flat out hit, and he has excellent gap power which he can take advantage of with his speed. Velez looked decent offensively in his first stint given his inconsistent role and really quite good in his second stint once elevated to a starter. His base running and defense were a huge problem, but that is easy to solve with a little instruction, and he made massive strides in this regard after his second call up. I wouldn't be surprised if Velez hit .280-.300 with a good slugging percentage if given a full time gig next year at 2B. Fundamentals can be taught. The ability to hit big league pitching with authority is a combination of natural ability and developed skill. Velez clearly has more natural ability in this regard than most. Despite his age (27) he is still inexperienced because he was a late comer to baseball. I think his fundamentals will continue to improve.

    It will be interesting to see how the competition shakes out in the spring, especially if the Giants pick up a corner infielder and a SS, although I am not holding my breath. I will be surprised if one starting corner infielder is not acquired, but even more surprised if BOTH a SS and a corner infielder are obtained. Anyway, if both Velez and Burriss get a starting role next year, which is highly unlikely (but you never know), I would be willing to make a friendly wager with you that Velez substantially outperforms Burriss in terms of OPS and that Burriss has as about the same number of errors as Velez per opportunity. And slugging does matter no matter where you are in the line-up, even if leading off. If one or the other doesn't start, any comparison would not be fair of course. Just my thoughts. Wishing you the best.

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  4. And thank you for the civilized and interesting discussion.

    What I'm impressed with Burriss, which covers his whole time in the majors and which I had in my head but didn't cover in this discussion yet (though in earlier posts I have; I often have more thoughts going than is expressed and it takes a while to spit them all out) is that even when he was considered to be struggling, he still hit well, the balls just weren't falling for him.

    Let's look at his time before August 16th, when things heated up for him. From the start of the season to August 15th, he had 170 AB, hitting only .247/.310/.282/.592. Pretty sad (though he was a decent .278/.338/.325/.663 until July 31st; he had a rough first half of August, and yes, that is the dangers of small sampling and such).

    However, for any player, what he is hitting is not always indicative of how he's hitting. I think most people are aware now that hits randomly fall in depending on the defense for the most part. Thus a player could have a low batting average due to a low BABIP.

    A better way to gauge whether a hitter is good or not, particularly if small samples are involved in terms of AB, is to look at his walk rate, strikeout rate and walk to strikeout ratio. While still not definitive (you really need probably a good season and a half of total stats to get a good feel; as you noted, players have had good first seasons only to flop going forward when they are adjusted to), I think that they are good indicators still.

    Even in the poor play - in total - from start to August 15, he still only had 17 strikeouts in those 170 AB, a 10% K-rate or 90% contact rate. The best hitters in the league make contact 90% or more. In addition, his BB/K ratio was 11/17 or 0.65. From 2003 to 2007, hitters with that ratio averaged around .275-.279; so he was definitely suffering from some bad luck there and thus his "success" later was more a bounce back to his true talent than "success".

    From 2003 to 2007, batters with a contact rate of 86-90% had a batting average of around .280-284, so he could also do a bit better and it would not be unusual.

    Lastly he had a walk rate of 6%. Hitters with a walk rate of 6% and a contact rate of 90% averaged .279. Again, that's the rate he should be doing on average, given the hitting skills, albeit small sampling, in the first part of the season.

    Thus his .247 should probably have been about 30 points higher, pushing his OBP about 30 points higher and his SLG too, putting .660 about where he should have been hitting.

    And from August 16 to the end? 70 AB, 7 strikeouts, 90% contact rate, 10% K-rate. The offensive improvement in this period was due to his high walk rate, 12 walks or 15%. If he were able to sustain that, hitters who can do that averages above .300 over time.

    I think you hit on the key word there regarding Velez: he needs instruction, instruction he should really be getting in AAA not in the majors. His stats look OK offensively in terms of power, but again, we don't need him for OK power, his plus is his speed and if he can't get his OBP up to at least the .350 level so that he can leadoff (and I think batting second is more his calling, power is good in that position, I think having Vizquel there helped deaden our offense) and use his speed on the basepaths, then I don't see how he makes up for his poor defense, which he's been working on for years now, he's been at 2B since he was with the Blue Jays. Like you noted about natural ability, he doesn't have much there.

    I would be happy if Velez hit the way you think, I have nothing against him. Based on how each has hit in the minors and majors, I think Burriss has shown more than Velez plus he can play defense: game and match. Then again, Linden showed a lot in the minors and see what that got us (he recently was made a free agent by the Indians). So, as you say, we will see what happens.

    And I'm not saying power don't fit in anywhere in the lineup, I'm saying more his power does us no good when he's getting on base at a .299 OBP because he's expected to hit in a run scoring lineup position and not a run driving in position.

    OBP is actually more important than OPS makes it out to be. While OPS is a nice and easy method for determining a hitter's value, a better metric is the one OPS is derived from, OBP times SLG. That is more correlated to run production, research has found.

    As you can see from the algebra, each point of SLG is only worth OBP while each point of OBP is worth SLG. For most hitters, SLG is much larger than OBP and in almost every case, SLG is larger than OBP, it is rare for it to be lower. Thus each point of OBP is more important to run production than each point of SLG.

    Now, if you hit for enough power, that makes up for that. Velez has not done that in the majors, ISO of around 130 for his career. While his minor stats are good on the surface, when MLE is applied, his numbers translate to .232/.282/.338/.620 or 106 ISO. Even in 2007, his MLE was .248/.296/.312/.608 with 74 ISO. His great year in A+ in 2006: .219/.276/.363/.639 with 144 ISO, but that BA is too low to consider.

    His only truly decent MLE is 2008 but he only had 175 AB in AAA when doing that, not enough to say whether he wasn't having a fluke or not. But one evidence that says it is, is his home versus road in AAA: .316/.369/.474/.843 at home, .213/.292/.300/.592 on the road. In addition, he only hit .250/.313/.375/.688 against starters and .304/.371/.429/.800 against relievers. The starters should arguably be better than the relievers in the minors.

    In addition, he's a 27 year old hitting against similar experienced pitchers but Burriss was only 23 and facing much more experienced pitchers, and yet doing OK against them. Velez may do better in 2009 than Burriss, but Burriss should - given what he has shown in the minors and majors - do better than Velez over the long run and for a longer period, since Velez has 4 years on him and yet both have about the same MLB experience.

    But we will see. I take your frienedly wager (for bragging rights or whatever) and both have to be starters and put up at least around half a season's worth of stats, say 300 AB (or roughly 350 PA which is about half a season's PA). FYI, SS on average has a lower fielding percentage, .976 in 2008 vs. .982 for 2B in 2008 in NL, so you have to give me 6 points for Burriss at SS vs. Velez at 2B.

    And what do you consider to be substantially outperforming? 5% more? 10% more? 50 OPS points? 100 OPS points? I'm not picky here (yet :^), just more want to see what you think is substantial. I would think 100 OPS points or 10% (probably around 70-80 points) is substantial, but I would like to hear what you think. Game on!

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  5. I feel that a lot of eggs are being put in Pablo Sandoval and EB's baskets.

    The NL West is a division that is really up for grabs right now. I feel both these kids were "rushed" last season ( as were some others )and though valuable experience was gained during 2008, both these guys are prime candidates for "sophmore slumps".

    Opposing pitching coaches will have the entire winter to look for holes in Pablo's swing and I still can't decide if he is a catcher, 1B, or 3B. Any way you look at it, he is still trying to learn a "new" position.

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  6. I can understand the impression, particularly with EB.

    However, I would argue that both were not rushed. Sandoval raked at over 1.000 OPS at every level, he deserved to be promoted and his hitting peripherals were good at ever level. As I noted about Burriss in a post, his hitting peripherals were good both when he was going bad and going good.

    Regarding defense, both were rated as average by the prospect book I use (McKamey). For Sandoval that rating was given when he thought Pablo would turn out to be a platoon 1B/3B, so I think he'll be fine wherever he ends up, or fine enough given his offense. Burriss is considered average for 2B with arm strength being the caveat if he starts at SS, else he has good range and soft hands.

    Both are candidates mainly from the view that they are sophomores and did more than some think they could have.

    However, as I noted, their batting (strike zone) discipline is very good, so in my view, I think that they are more likely to continue hitting well than not. Both had extensive starts against teams multiple times, particularly Sandoval near the end against NL West teams, and none figured him out.

    But your concerns are valid. I understand your position.

    But for me, the point of 2009 is learning whether these guys are real for 2010, so I'm not worrying about all your worries and just looking forward to 2009 season starting to see how they do.

    But I think things will be better than most Giants fans think, much like 2008 when the sky was falling for them.

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  7. While browsing through various websites this morning I was left with a couple of questions that you might be able to help me with.

    I saw that Steve Decker will be managing in Connecticut this Spring. Any word on who might take his place in San Jose, where the manager from Connecticut went, or reasons behind the changes?

    Also, I noticed that Ben Copeland is no longer on the Arizona Fall League roster and was replaced by Darren Ford. Any known "hidden meanings" behind this move, or do I just have too much time on my hands.

    Thank you as always. Love reading your columns.

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  8. Have not heard on who takes over in San Jose. I assume Decker was promoted for doing so well in San Jose, but I also suspect that the Giants were going to be aggressive and place Posey in AA, meaning it would be better to have Decker there to help him with his catching.

    I would have to assume the "hidden" meaning is that Copeland got injured and couldn't play anymore. It could also be that Ford is being given the chance to show what he can do at a higher level, as a fish or cut bait move.

    De nada, glad you enjoy it. Keeps me motivated to continue this blog.

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