Monday, October 25, 2010

Brandon Belt Discussion by Keith Law and Jason Gray

There was a nice video discussion about Brandon Belt by ESPN's Keith Law and Jason Gray (I follow @KeithLaw's twitter account and learned of this by this re-tweet) on ESPN today.  It is really good so check it out (also discusses Bryce Harper and Eric Hosmer too, if you are prospect hound and looking for fantasy advice for 2011), but I am providing a rough transcript as I want to make some points regarding Belt and the Giants:
... Other great offensive prospects are in the AFL besides Harper.  One of the most impressive is Brandon Belt.

(Gray) Some say he came out of nowhere, and he sort of did, as he's relatively new to hitting, being drafted twice as a pitcher.  Kudos to SF staff for his development.

They changed his stance, hand position, in order to get the most out of his raw talent.

There are openings in SF in 1B and LF, he could make impact in 2011.

I (Law) love the way they changed his stance, he's more upright now, picked his hands up, more leverage in swing, can get bat to any spot in zone, good plate discipline, pretty good defensive 1B
Giants Thoughts

I wanted to point this out for a few reasons.  First, obviously, always good to hear good things about our prospects.  Belt is arguably the Giants #1 prospect now, depending on how you view Wheeler's potential.  He's definitely the closest to making the team as a starter.  Nice to have him recognized by experts such as Keith Law.  And they called him a great offensive prospect.

Second, I like the detail they gave in what he is doing right as a hitter.  Don't always get to hear such information when prospects are described, period, and they gave a lot of detail that we normally don't get to hear about our prospects.

Third, wanted to point out that while technically it is true that the Giants have openings at 1B and LF for 2011, I seriously doubt that will happen.  Huff loves the team too much to leave it over money and the Giants do not skimp in signing players they are interested in keeping, which Sabean alluded to previously, when a reporter asked or suggested that Huff might be traded to get prospects since he'll be a free agent.  He got $8M each for 2 seasons when younger, he'll probably get something like DeRosa's 2 year, $12M ($6M per season) deal, maybe with team option year added. 

Burrell already said that he'll accept a bench role in 2011, and that suggests that he'll sign for minimum money ($1-3M);  he grew up Giants fan and clearly wants to stay on the team at all costs.  Burrell staying would be another reason why Huff will re-sign.  Together, 1B and LF are covered, plus Cody Ross, according to Sabean-speak, probably will be retained as well, giving us Torres, Ross, Burrell, Rowand, and Schierholtz in the OF already for 2011.  No space for Belt in 2011, unless injury, sudden (and complete) change in heart, poor performance, or Belt just Babe Ruth's his way to MLB lineup (Huff can play 3B, LF, and RF too).

Misconception that Giants Don't Develop Position Players

Lastly, the Giants have been painted as a poor organization for developing position prospects because, well, they haven't really developed a position prospect for a long time (or at least a good one) until Pablo Sandoval came along, and I think that this discussion highlights that perhaps it is more a matter of not devoting their high draft picks to hitters, than of lack of ability to develop hitters.

Look at all the things Law and Gray describes that that Giants did with Belt.  That does not happen randomly, it is a recognition of how to hit and adjusting the hitter to improve what he could do, within the constraints of his talents.  There are so many adjustments noted that the Giants did to Belt, you can't do all that and hope to randomly succeed, you do all that because you have a methodology of how a major league hitter succeeds and mold the player to it.

And that is where most people complaining about the Giants ability to draft position players are missing something, something I've been trying to explain for the past 6-7 years about the draft:  there is not a lot of obvious talent in the draft, except when you draft in the top 5 or so.  And odds are not great there either, around 40-45% chance of finding a good player there, based on my study, not even flipping a coin odds.

And the Giants for the most part have used their first round pick on pitchers - with odds of around 10% for Cain's pick, around 20-25% for Bumgarner and Lincecum's pick range.  And the odds get exponentially worse for the second round and on down the draft.  They simply have not devoted many higher draft picks to position players until recent drafts, and still drafted pitchers early in Bumgarner and Wheeler. 

So the real reason most position prospects don't work in the Giants farm system is because they are lacking a lot of qualities that make up a good hitter due to the fact that they are drafted many rounds later, and not because they are incapable of developing hitters.  If you are fishing in an empty barrel, the reason you don't catch fish isn't necessarily because you are a bad fisherman.

And though one could say that the Giants lucked into Belt since he was a 5th rounder, but again to the points that Law and Gray made, an organization that is incompetant in developing a hitter would not have been able to make all those adjustments with Belt and get him hitting the way he is, one of the best offensive prospects in baseball.  I would credit the Giants for identifying that Belt, in his unformed state as a hitter, since he was just recently converted from pitcher (funny since the Giants are semi-famous for converting position players into pitchers), had the raw talent to become a better hitter given additional instruction.

Given the Giants move to drafting more position players earlier in the draft - Fairley, Noonan, Culberson, Gillaspie, Kieschnick, Crawford, Joseph, Dominguez, Belt, Brown, Parker, Jurica - the Giants will probably be seeing more "success" in developing position players going forward, when, really, it is more an emphasis of their rare resources (early draft picks) on position players in recent seasons rather than the historic emphasis on pitching that they have basically hewed to since Tidrow took control of player personnel and development.  And this new emphasis was marked by when John Barr took over scouting for the Giants.

World Series News

Bochy earlier announced the rotation (Home/Road) will be Lincecum H, Cain H, Sanchez R, Bumgarner R, Lincecum R, Cain H, Sanchez H. Probably best this way, get Lincecum and Cain pitch critical games 5 & 6.  Also puts Lincecum mano-a-mano with Lee, giving us best chance to win game 1.  Interesting stat I saw tweeted by Ranger's fan is that in Wild Card era, almost every team that won game 1 ended up winning the World Series. 

In addition, Andres Torres sound like he's healthy and ready to play game 1.  If he can hit like he was at the end of the NLCS, that would be a huge boost to our chances of scoring first and winning the World Series. 

5 comments:

  1. OGC - as regards your last column, no, I agree completely with your assessment of Posey. No catching-by-the-numbers.

    And by "weird offense" I meant that what I've been seeing is not a lot of 1-2-3 innings from the Giants' hitters. No, they don't hit or walk a lot, but I think it makes a psychological impact on the other team to have runners on base. It's the stress points on the opponents that I'm thinking makes a difference - akin to the line of good starters.

    And, indeed they have quite a ways to go, but one of the bigger contributions that Burrell and Huff have made this season is that they can take a walk. Posey too. Somebody has to able to, and I think it helps the above a lot. I see Panda showing a semblance of working a count and I about fall out of my chair. This is a good thing.

    Re: today's actual column (cough), I wouldn't be surprised to see Sanchez throw a gem in the Series. One thing Posey should have had him doing was going after the hitters - they were letting him dig himself a hole, and Posey should've capitalized on that.

    And prospects.... hah. I think the Giants are doing alright with development overall, don't you think? So now with a great starting staff, they switch to hitters, as you say. Could have a great crop three years from now.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, good observation Marc, about having runners on. I agree, that puts the defense under pressure as well as the pitcher, who then needs to pitch in the stretch, which not all pitchers are comfortable doing.

    And yes, Huff, Burrell, and Posey are the big changes in taking walks in this offense. I agree that Pablo is a work in progress, but I think he'll eventually get the hang of it, plus as his hitting returns, the other team will just naturally walk him more. He was around .400 OBP last season, having him, Huff, Posey in a row would put a lot of pressure on pitchers.

    Yes, the Giants are doing OK with prospects, I think, I was trying to address the misconception by the general baseball fan and many Giants fans that the Giants are not good at developing position players. But it is one thing to say that they are, another to point out experts that say that they did a great job with Belt, plus then I could discuss why this impression might have been developed and why it, while factually seemingly accurate, is actually not.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow, Belt does well in the minors and you are using that as ammunition to bolster your claim that the Giants have turned the corner and are developing position players who can hit?
    Linden and Bowker put up great #'s in the minors too remember.
    Until Sandoval puts together another good offensive year, I'd say the Giants have FAILED in developing a position hitter, since who, Bill Mueller?. lol

    ReplyDelete
  4. Actually, first, brave Anon, a simple reading would yield that my point is that two recognized experts in prospecting says that Belt is one of the "great offensive prospects" in baseball. Upon their official okey-dokey and description of what the Giants did to Belt to make him a great offensive prospect, then I'm saying that the Giants are better than the regular joe fan might think.

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but, LOL, I count you among the average joe fans, Anon, else you would not have mentioned Linden and Bowker, whose accomplishments pale against Belt. Or you can tell me why I say this, I've said it many times on my blog already.

    I find it interesting that you say Sandoval needs another good offensive year in order to match up with Bill Mueller, yet Sandoval's career OPS+ is 120, where Muller is 109, and Sandoval's 95 OPS+ for this season, would fit right in with Mueller's career numbers fine and not look out of place, except for the homers.

    Also, Mueller did that during the Silly Ball era, so his numbers are inflated versus Sandoval's 2010. Pablo hit .268/.323/.409/.732 while average 3B hit .265/.331/.421/.752, so on his down season, he was basically average. Mueller was right around the 3B average in his early seasons, just slight below like Pablo, so if we are comparing the two, then I would say that Pablo in 2010 did as well as Mueller did in his early seasons.

    And that is not even accounting for the fact that Pablo is only 23 this season and Mueller was already 27 in his equivalent season, Mueller was already near his physical peak, Pablo is still approaching his prime physical years.

    If one just look at his numbers and tie it to severe personal events that he suffered this season - divorce, custody battle, signing of papers, mother's near death - one can see that his periods of poor hitting were tied to his inability to concentrate on baseball while suffering emotionally. I think most people can empathize with that, being unable to perform 100% at work while your personal life is crap.

    I have no doubt that Sandoval will be back to Panda-ness next season, assuming he doesn't suffer further personal travails.

    Anyway, again, I explained why the Giants might APPEAR to not know how to develop position players, perhaps after a second reading you can see what I'm saying. Or not, I've been saying this for 6-7 years now, I have accepted that there are those who don't get it or don't care to get it. I'll put you in the latter category given your comment.

    You can crawl back under your rock until you feel brave enough to put your name on your comments.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I would like to appreciate your work and would like to tell to my friends.

    ReplyDelete

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