Saturday, December 28, 2013

Tanaka Blast: NPB and MLB

Oh, how the worm turns.  After all the twists and turns with the potential posting of Masahiro Tanaka, the agreement had finally been settled - $20M max, if multiple max bids, then all can negotiate but only winner pays, else high bid gets to solely negotiate - and his Japanese team, after intimating that they might not post him and instead give him an $8M contract, instead posted him.  I think teams have about a month to get their bid in.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Your 2014 Giants: Opening Two 40-man Roster Spots

In order to open a spot for Mike Morse, the Giants end up possibly losing two players.  As reported by the usual suspects, the Giants worked on a deal to sell Brett Pill to a Korean team, but when the papers went through league official channels and Morse needed to be added, the Giants DFAed Eric Surkamp to put Morse on.  Pill's sale - pending his negotiating a salary with the new club, apparently the expectation is that he'll get $1M or so, so the talk is that if this falls through, there are other Korean and Japanese clubs interested - will then open up a spot on the 40-man,  and that appears to have happened.

ogc thoughts

It is a bit of a risk to expose Surkamp this way, but, as reported by one writer, odds are that other teams are at their 40-man max like the Giants and won't claim him.  I would say that this is due to the Rule 5 Draft pushing teams to roster players they don't want to lose.  Still, if some team likes Surkamp more than one of their 40, they will claim him.

If unclaimed, it is reported that since this is his first one, the Giants can re-assign him to Fresno and hold him there.   Should he be placed on the 40 again and DFAed again, then should he be unclaimed again, he could decline assignment and declare himself a free agent.

I like what Surkamp did previously and what he has done in his recovery from his TJS, but if we lose him, se la vie.  I have reached the point that I trust the Giants brain trust to make the call on a player and what they think is right.

Sabean and gang has been extraordinarily good at not missing much when trading away players or just plain letting them go, and especially at keeping around the interesting ones who might be good ones, like Cain, Lincecum, Sandoval, Posey, Bumgarner, Belt and Crawford.  Who have gotten away?  Foulke, Howry, Liriano but he caused the Twins to waste Mauer's and Morneau's peak seasons, maybe Villanueva and Correia, and Wheeler is a ticking time bomb.  That's minor compared to what we have gotten in trade:  Schmidt, Snow, Burke, Livan, Nen, Winn, Pence, Scutaro, among others.

If Surkamp moves on and prove the Giants wrong, that's what happens with calculated risks, sometimes they backfire.  Fans get mad at mistakes, but I feel that any GM who does not skate on the edge isn't doing everything he can to get us to the promised land ... again, for the third time, one must also remember.

Fans should want their GM to take some risks, to push the envelope some, and pick up some big gains in the process.  Like, though they had a full rotation already, had Tanaka been available, maybe they go ahead and bid for him and maybe win him, then figure out what to do with six starters (apparently Tanaka's team isn't happy that the new posting system limits them to $20M posting fee, and thus are keeping him for one more season - they control him for two more - for $8M and probably will post him next off-season; which is perfect for us, as we'll have a better idea of where Lincecum, Hudson, and Vogelsong are with their major league careers by next off-season, and perhaps be very interested in entering the contest for his services).

But I think I can say pretty confidently that should we lose him, he won't go on and be a Johan Santana who moves on to become an ace.  That rarely happens period, and hasn't happened to the Giants so far, though Liriano came close and Wheeler is still out there.  And his stats, while nice in the minors, wasn't overwhelming either, like Lincecum's or Bumgarner's were.   But you never know, hence the term "calculated risk".  It is unlikely he comes back to hurt us, but that risk is there.

Meanwhile, it looks like Pill is signing with a Korean team and that will open up one 40-man roster spot for the Giants.  Now, if another team comes into the situation where they need to DFA someone they otherwise might have kept, that is, take their calculated risk, the Giants are in position now to grab a flier, like they did with Rosario last season.  He did OK but not that great, and while he'll be competing for a spot, I don't see him winning a spot, not with Hembree and Machi around.  But that's baseball too, that's why you play the games, because you never know.

In other news, the Giants appeared to have added a number of players, as reported by Pavlovic:
  • First, the Giants (I read this somewhere else previously) signed former A's relief pitcher, Andrew Carignan, whose stats looked nice.  Could be a nice reclamation project, not sure why the A's let him go, maybe he could be another Casilla for us.
  • Also, BA announced the Giants signed Adam Refer and Casey Weathers.   The Giants rep for being Pitcher Whisperers appears to be still going strong, the former did well with flaws (walks) and the latter was a high draft pick who has struggled (like Blanco and Arias, who were top prospects once), and the Giants picked up both.
  • And a Giants minor leaguer playing in winter league tweeted that a teammate, Mario Lisson, signed with the team.  He played a number of positions, but apparently 3B is his regular position.
Carignan appears to be another Hunter Strickland find.  He was out for all of 2013, for TJS, and just like Hunter, picked him up the season he missed the full season recovering from that surgery.  The twist here is that he also had shoulder surgery as well, that is why he was out for all of 2013, even though he was TJS operated in mid-2012, like Surkamp was.  But you look at his stats, and if he is anywhere near what he was doing before in AAA, he could be a good reliever at the major league level. And the Giants reviewed all of his medical files and still signed him.  So good luck to him.  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Your 2014 Giants: Mike Morse Signed to Play LF

As reported by the usual suspects, Mike Morse has been signed by the Giants.  I've seen one report for $5M plus incentives, another for $6M.  He has been named the starting LF, apparently that had to be promised to him in order to get him to ignore a larger money deal with Astros.

He had a down season in 2013 after a strong three years 2010-2012, and thus the worries, plus he has missed a lot of games due to health issues, only putting in one season where he played most of the games, in 2011.

ogc thoughts

Some are complaining that he's not much of an improvement over Blanco, that their WAR production is similar.  Signing a free agent is not always about improving on what you got already. In this case, the Giants have almost zero depth in the OF, with Perez, Kieschnick, and Brown as the most likely call-ups, and none of them looking particularly good as a starter. By getting a player like Morse, now they have better coverage should Pagan (or Morse) be felled by injury, with Blanco taking over in that case. Last season, instead, Torres came in and sucked.  I think that is a major reason for the signing, providing additional depth.

In any case, since there is no agreement on which defensive metric is the best one or even the correct one, while I would agree that comparing players as to who is better is fine, to try to measure exactly who is better and calculating a WAR to compare is equivalent to the old-timers who still love to use BA to compare hitters.  That degree of lack of alignment to true value makes it hard to say anything definitive in either case.

And there is an improvement over Blanco in that Morse has amazingly even splits versus LHP and RHP, whereas Blanco is clearly a platoon player, unable to figure out LHP yet.  People forget how much platoon players cost your lineup when they are in there and sucking badly. Morse is someone who can hit either pitcher similarly well.  On top of that, he has actually hit better on the road than at home, suggesting that his numbers have been suppressed by his home park (though with AT&T, he'll probably be suppressed again)

In addition, the Giants seem to have some success working with guys who have historically been poor defenders in the OF and getting some improvement. Burrell and Huff playing much better than expected in the OF and in fact turned in positive WAR, a total 180 degree turn. I assume they hope to do the same with Morse, which would improve on his WAR/600 greatly if, say, they can turn a strongly negative player to positive, as they did with those two, until health affected both. I think Pence too had a turnaround as well, at least in UZR.  

Furthermore, he also can get some help out in LF.  Pagan is pretty speedy and could shade towards LF to help Morse out. And Blanco can and probably will come in the late innings and help reduce that negative fielding issue, Bochy has done that before in the past.

Also, Morse was once athletic enough that his team put him at SS, roughly 50 games. He is much older now and is a huge guy, but he's also never really had that much experience with playing LF, and as they say, practice makes perfect. Maybe the Giants puts him through a lot of extra drills in spring training to prepare him better to play LF than the Nats did. Again, they have had success turning water buffaloes into good fielders in the OF.

Depth is also important should the Giants make it into the World Series again.  NL teams normally are at a disadvantage with the DH in AL home parks.  But as long as Morse is healthy and productive in the fall, recovering from whatever injuries he may have during the season, Blanco can start in LF and he could be the DH, neutralizing the AL advantage for a good part.

Lastly, for $5M, they might pick up 20-30 homers to their lineup.  Plus, at $5M, you expect some warts to come with the player, it is a high risk, high reward type of situation.  Yes, his defense and chronic healthy issues are things to worry about, but there are positives as well in his power and resultant high OPS.

It's not like I'm in love with the move, but I see the positives of the move for the Giants, and there are areas where they can help tilt the balance towards the Giants favor. Unlike many others, I was OK with Blanco/Perez in LF, but improving our OF depth helps mitigate the risks of either an injury or poor performance by one of the outfielders, plus Morse could man 1B should anything happens to Belt for some reason (hey, weirder things can happen, see Kendry Morales).  Yes, he might get injured, but if they can keep him on the field, imagine him repeating 2011 with better fielding due to the Giants defensive magic.  Overall, I think it improves the Giants and helps move the bar towards the Giants making the playoffs again.
That solidifies the bench further.  Now it's Hanchez, Arias, Abreu/Adrianza, and Blanco, leaving one spot open for Juan Perez, Brett Pill, and Kieschnick to battle for, plus any minor league invites that goes out.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Your 2013 Giants: The Best Minor League Rotation: San Jose

I was inspired by Shankbone's post on the rotation.  Plus, there were great quotes on some of them in a recent Sabean interview (Pavlovic).

Mostly, BA, in their round up on each of the minor leagues for 2013, had all five members of the San Jose rotation in their Top 20 ranking of prospects in the California League (here, scroll down to Cal League).   Here were their ranking:

  • #3:  Crick
  • #6:  Escobar
  • #10:  Mejia
  • #15:  Blach
  • #20:  Blackburn

No other team had their entire rotation in their league's Top 20 ranking, though the Blue Jays came close in the rookie Appalachian League with four pitchers, but their top guy was 6th and I'm not sure if any were relievers.  Diamondbacks had three pitchers in the Northwest League.  Padres had three in the Midwest League.  Marlins had three in Florida State League.  Padres had three in Texas League.

Other Giants making a league's Top 20 list include:

  • #2:  Arroyo (Arizona Rookie League)
  • #14:  Mella (Arizona Rookie League)
  • #18:  Jones (Arizona Rookie League)
  • #8:  Chase Johnson (Northwest League)

On top of that, these guys dominated the BA Giants Top 10 ranking as well:

  • #1:  Crick
  • #2:  Escobar
  • #4:  Mejia
  • #8:  Blach
  • #10:  Blackburn

Crick was rated with both the best fastball and best curveball, showing how advanced he is.  Clayton Blackburn had the best Changeup.  Ty Blach had the best control.  (and I would note that Derek Law had the best slider; plus FYI, Brown was considered the best athlete, Adrianza the best defensive infielder).

Here is the Giants entire Top 10 prospect list for 2014:

  • #1:  Kyle Crick (best fastball and curve)
  • #2:  Edwin Escobar
  • #3:  Chris Stratton
  • #4:  Adalberto Mejia
  • #5:  Mac Williamson
  • #6:  Christian Arroyo (best hitter for average)
  • #7:  Heath Hembree
  • #8:  Ty Blach (best control)
  • #9:  Joe Panik (best strike-zone discipline)
  • #10:  Clayton Blackburn (best changeup)
Stratton was surprisingly high on the list at #3.  Apparently his scouted talents are still highly ranked and his struggles there were written down due to his recovery from his concussion in 2012 and his learning curve related to the work the Giants were doing with him with his mechanics.  Given Panik's struggles, I was surprised to see him still above Blackburn, who I highly rate, but perhaps that is because the scout's view of Blackburn is not very positive, many think of him as a back of rotation starter, whereas I think he's at least a middle rotation guy, if not higher.

Here are the Sabean quotes from Pavlovic:
Edwin Escobar (Sabean said he’s likely headed for Triple-A): “Escobar has been asked about quite a bit, which is good. He’s right on schedule to take the next step and have a baseline of innings for being called up, or if he’s not called up he’ll have 185-plus innings at the end of next year. He’s a strike-thrower. He’s very aggressive in the zone.”
Kyle Crick: “Crick kind of had a chopped up season. Whether it’s him or any prospect or almost any pitcher in that (fall) league, sometimes the stat line doesn’t tell you the best story. He had real good, inconsistent stuff. The power to his stuff was impressive.”
Adalberto Mejia: “It’s just about overall maturation. He’s a big-bodied guy who is still learning his delivery, balance in his delivery.”
Plus a couple more on other prospects, since Sabes noted it:  
Derek Law: “Obviously was dominant and didn’t give up a run (in the AFL) and it really turned our heads because it by and large is a hitters’ league … I’m really interested to see what he does against Major League hitters in spring training. He’s got a breaking ball, being that hard overhand curveball that you don’t see. The action is almost like a splitter.”
Andrew Susac: “I think we all agree that he’s got a chance to be a frontline catcher. He had a real good fall league. He’s got to clean up some things, concentration behind the plate from pitch to pitch. He needs to work on his shifting and his blocking but that’s true for any catcher as they go through the minor leagues.”

ogc thoughts

So my title lied, not just about the best minor league rotation, but other minor league info as well.

Wow, I never looked before for this, only a team's fan would notice, but that has to be a pretty rare thing to happen, to have 5 of your top prospect pitchers to not only be in the same league, but also rank among the best in the league that same season.  Blackburn just made it in at 20th, and I think that he's really talented and was hurt by his poor showing in Stockton (3 horrific starts there; his numbers otherwise were in line with his 2012 stats in Augusta adjusted for a hitter's league).

Crick was in BA's Top 100 last season, if I recall right, so I expect him to stay in it for 2014.  I wonder if Escobar will get into the ranking as well.  I don't think any other prospect will make it on for 2014.

Nice comments from Sabean on a number of prospects.  He expounds a little more about why the Giants like Escobar, though not a lot.  Same for Crick and Mejia.  Funny that Law was rated with the best slider by BA, and yet Sabean points out his "hard overhand curveball that you don't see.  The action is almost like a splitter."  Biggest bit of info was his thoughts on Susac:  "I think we all agree that he's got a chance to be a frontline catcher."  

Plus the Pavlovic blog also noted this on Hanchez:  "People look at him as a potential frontline catcher."  

As much as the Giants made a point that Posey is their catcher, I have to hope that once Susac or Hanchez show enough to be a frontline catcher, the Giants move Posey to another position (hopefully 3B, pushing Sandoval to 1B and Belt to LF), with the duo being co-starters.  It makes no sense to keep Posey there long term once there proves to be a viable starting catcher, the wear and tear on his body is tremendous, and the nicks and pains of the catching position can only hurt his ability to stay consistent offensively, where his value is most prominent, particularly since he's been mostly just average defensively as a catcher since coming back from his ankle injury.

I understand needing to make that message known today, in support of arguably their biggest star player, but in the best interests of the long-term success of the team, he needs to move off the position within the next 3 seasons, before his 30 YO season (he's 27, 28, 29 next three).   That fits time wise with Susac and Hanchez, they probably won't be ready until 2015 at the earliest, but if continue to develop, should be ready by 2016.   With the hints that Sandoval might be extended, that move would cause a three player shuffle, but Posey can't hit like he can and earn the money on the back end of the deal if he's crippled playing catcher.

Good Timing:  Need to Replace Pitching

Something I discussed, I think, on Shankbone's, is the Giants need to replace pitchers in the pitching staff over the next 2-3 years.   Here are the guys 30 and over right now:

  • Lincecum (30 YO season in 2014)
  • Cain (30 YO in 2015)
  • Vogelsong (36 YO)
  • Hudson (38 YO)
  • Romo (31 YO)
  • Affeldt (35 YO)
  • Kontos (30 YO in 2015)
  • Casilla (33 YO)
  • Lopez (36 YO)
  • Machi (32 YO)
  • Petit (30 YO in 2015)

That's 11 pitchers who could be in the pitching staff in 2014 season, out of 12 on the 25-man roster, with Bumgarner the only youngster among the bunch.

Luckily, they should not all break down and leave the team at the same time, some can and will last into their late 30's.  But even if just half of them need replacement, that is 5-6 pitchers needed at the major league level.  So while we should count our lucky stars that we have so many young pitching prospects rising up quickly, I must remind all of us of the Big 3 we were counting at about 10 years ago, in Foppert, Ainsworth, Williams.  Then there was Lowry as well.  So we might need each and every one of them to refill our pitching staff over the next few years, leaving no surplus to trade off.  Just keep that in mind when dreaming of trades.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Your 2014 Giants: Vogelsong Signs for one year, $5M plus incentives

According to reports (for example, Schulman), Vogelsong will be signing for $5M plus incentives that could bring him above $6.5M.  That's on top of the $300K he got in the buyout of the team option (which was for $6.5M) in his prior contract.  It's been noted that the Giants saves $1.2M from the prior team option that they could have exercised instead of the buyout.


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