September 2009

One more on Player of the Year

Last one, I promise. But I couldn’t resist based on the comments left here from yesterday’s post. In case you didn’t see it, someone (Christian G., I’m guessing by the username) wrote this:

My reading comprehension skills may have failed me. I was unaware
that your “POY” excluded a players actual prospect status (re:
Clemens). I was also unaware that your “POY” award excluded defensive
contributions (re: Carter vs Jennings, one guy is is destined for 1b/DH
while the other is a plus CF’er.) So if you’re looking for offensive
stats, and prospect status is eliminated, these guys belong in the
conversation:

Mitch Jones
Randy Ruiz
Kyle Russell
Drew Locke

I love it when someone goes to an extreme to make a point. But I’m calling this out for a few reasons, partially because of the absurdity and partially because there’s a valid point in there. Let’s start with the absurd.

Now, I’ll admit I purposefully put Koby Clemens on the “candidate” list in the hopes of getting a response. As I’ve said, I can be fairly confident in telling you he won’t be the Player of the Year. Yes, he played in Lancaster. Yes, he played in the California League. Yes his K/BB rate is a little concerning. But to compare a 22-year-old to Mitch Jones (31 in AAA, hit .297/.400/.651) or Randy Ruiz (hit .320/.351/.531 at age 31 in AAA) in terms of non-prospectness is just silly. I’m not saying Clemens is a big prospect now; all I’m claiming is that it’s now worth watching to see what he does next year. It’s also worth mentioning that it was Clemens’ first try at that level, as opposed to the 30-somethings above who have spent multiple years in Triple-A.

Kyle Russell’s numbers don’t even come close to Clemens’s, I don’t think. And since he’s actually older than Clemens and played a level lower, he shouldn’t even been mentioned. Hurts your argument. Locke’s numbers are indeed pretty good (.323/.389/.531). At 25 in Double-A, he’s not a prospect, but he’s a better example for you to use in your debating the issue. Still, he’s 3 years older than Clemens.

OK, enough on Clemens. He’s just an interesting side discussion when you really think about it. I think the better point made by the commenter is about how defense should figure into any discussion about Player of the Year talk, whether you’re thinking prospect or not.

I’ll be the first to admit that discussions we have about this do lean heavily toward offensive performance. Much of that is out of necessity. It’s a lot easier to look at a player’s numbers at the plate on paper than evaluate defense. We don’t get to see most of these guys with any consistency, so any look at defense would have to rely on what others see. Thanks to another commenter to including a link to ProjectProspect’s scouting report on Chris Carter. They do good work over there.

Keep in mind, though, that that report is just one scout’s perspective. And if I’ve learned anything, it’s that two scouts can see the same player and see different things. Yes, he still strikes out a bit. But his K rate went down and his BB rate went up this year, all while he moved up a level and faced presumably better pitching overall. I’ve had people tell me that he’s made many more adjustments than people thought he could and he has the chance to be more than just a three true outcome kind of guy.

The report also only touches briefly on his defense, saying he’ll be limited to 1B/DH, as the first commenter believed as well. That very well may be true. But I have to throw out there that there are those who felt he looked fairly comfortable in a corner outfield spot. He’s never going to be a gold glover, but I wouldn’t peg him as a liability just yet.

Defensive stats in the Minors aren’t all that available, so I can only throw out what I can find. Range Factor for a first baseman isn’t all that telling, but I’ll use it as one example. There were 24 first basemen (thanks to our stats guru Cory Schwartz for the info) who played 100 games or more at the position at one level. Carter’s 9.65 RF in Double-A put him 13th. Not great, but not terrible. Firmly middle of the road (In 7 Triple-A games at first, he had a 10.16 RF — meaningless stat for you). His RF for the season was 9.68, keeping him in that same overall place.

Some claim that assists are a better indicator for a first baseman’s range. Carter doesn’t fare as well there. His assists per game ratio in Double-A was 21st among those 24 first basemen. Obviously, this isn’t weighting anything toward league or level or if a player’s pitching staff was more groundball or flyball oriented, so take it for what it’s worth.

Then there’s Jennings, a “plus CFer,” according to our commenter. Jennings played 113 total games across two levels in center field. There were a total of 31 players who played 100 games or more at that position in 2009. Again using the less than perfect range factor, Jennings’s 2.83 combined puts him 7th. Now, obviously, a center fielder ranking that highly gives more value to a team than a 1B, especially one who’s middle of the road. So score one for Mr. commenter. (By the way, it might make a good case for Jason Heyward, who — without doing the math — seemed to do well at all three outfield positions in 2009).

But here’s the thing, and the question I throw to you. What does all of this mean? Is Range Factor a worthwhile enough index to measure a Minor Leaguer? I like the idea of including defense in this discussion, I’m just not sure how to do it since we don’t have the same kind of data we’ve grown to trust more on the hitting side.

Of course, as I’m looking at our Awards page from last year, I’m remembering (or being reminded) that we call the award Best Overall Hitter. So for the purposes of deciding that, this long, drawn out blog post is moot. But for us and this debate, we can consider it.

So comment away if you’d like. Tomorrow I’ll get to pitchers, I promise and we can come back to this conversation if necessary.

Player of the Year Reaction

Before I get to the best choices for Minor League Pitcher of the Year tomorrow, I want to take a second to respond to the comments for my Player of the Year post. First, what’s with both commenters starting with “Uhh?” Is it so hard to gather your thoughts that you have to use a filler while writing. Come on people!

Now, on to the content. First of all, I want to remind everyone that when we hand out our awards, it’s for “Player of the Year” and not necessarily “Prospect of the Year.” Yes, age at a level and upside sometimes does figure into the discussion, but unlike other places (and this is not meant as a condemnation of them at all, just point out that we do things a bit differently here), prospect status isn’t the be-all end all.

So, you won’t get an argument from me that Jason Heyward is the best prospect in the game right now. In fact, he was atop the list we posted in July. And don’t get me wrong, he had an outstanding season, even getting up to Triple-A and playing most of the year at age 19. But, if looking at best player, does his .323, 17 HR, 63 RBIs to go along with a .408 OBP and .555 SLG. Yes, he missed some time, but I have to say just from a numbers perspective (and remember, this is my opinion and not the site’s — that discussion has yet to take place), he’s not the PLAYER of the year.

You can ridicule Clemens being on the list of candidates all you want. Yes, he was in Lancaster and the California League. I’m pretty sure that will mean he won’t get the award. That being said, I don’t care what level you’re in, when you finish fourth in average, 1st in RBIs and in the top three of a few other offensive categories, you need at least to be mentioned. And he’s still only 22, so it’s not like he’s old for the level. Sure, he needs to prove he can do it at higher levels, but for this topic, he belongs in the conversation.

Let’s compare 2 players, looking at stats and levels and not where they are on that overall leaderboard or among their respective league leaders

Player A:  22 years old, played in Double-A Texas League and Triple-A PCL
Double-A: .337, 24 HR, 101 RBI, 13 SB, .435 OBP, .576 SLG, 1.011 OPS in 490 AB
Triple-A: .259, 4 HR, 14 RBI, .293 OBP, .519 SLG, .812 OPS in 54 AB
Totals: .329, 28 HR, 115 RBI, 13 SB, .422 OBP, .570 SLG, .992 OPS

Player B: 22 years old, layed in Double-A Southern League and Triple-A IL
Double-A: .316, 8 HR, 45 RBI, 37 SB, .395 OBP, .486 SLG, .881 OPS in 383 AB
Triple-A: .325, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 15 SB, .419 OBP, .491 SLG, .910 OPS in 114 AB
Totals: .318, 11 HR, 62 RBI, 52 SB, .401 OBP, .487 SLG, .888 OPS in 497 AB

OK, what’s your take here? Here’s what I see. While it’s obvious we’re looking at two different kinds of players here, Player A beats Player B in every category other than stolen bases. Player B did have more success upon his promotion to Triple-A, though I’d maintain Player A’s sample size at that level is too small and it could be noted that Player A homered four times in seven playoff games in the PCL.

Player A is Chris Carter. Player B is Desmond Jennings, the pick by one of the commenters. Again, I love Jennings and think he’s a tremendous prospect. But to me, Carter wins that argument hands down.

Keep the comments coming. It makes for a fun debate.

Player of the Year talk, anyone?

With the conclusion of Tuesday night’s Triple-A National Championship Game (previously the Bricktown Showdown), the 2009 Minor League season is now complete.

To me, that means it’s open season on discussing Player and Pitcher of the Year awards. We will be announcing our overall choices later on this fall, as well as make picks for each organization in our annual reviews, but I figured why not see what Minor League fans are thinking. In this post, we’ll talk about Player of the Year (hitters only). A subsequent post will deal with pitchers.

Here’s what I’ll do. I’m going to list some candidates. You can vote for one, or suggest someone I’ve forgotten, in the comments. Sound good? OK, here goes:

Chris Carter, 1B, A’s: .328, 28 HR, 115 RBIs, .422 OBP, .570 SLG
Led Minors in hits (179)
Tied for first in total bases (310)
2nd in RBIs (115)
Tied for 2nd in extra-base hits (73)
3rd in runs scored (115)

Koby Clemens, C, Astros: .341, 22 HR, 123 RBIs, .415 OBP, .620 SLG
4th in batting average (.341)
1st in RBIs (123)
Tied for 3rd in doubles (45)
Tied for 2nd in extra-base hits (73)
2nd in SLG (.620)

Grant Desme, OF, A’s: .288, 31 HR, 89 RBIs, 40 SB, .365 OBP, .568 SLG
Only player in Minor Leagues to have 30-30 season
Tied for 5th in HR (31)
Tied for 8th in extra-base hits (68)
Sixth in total bases (276)

Jonathan Gaston, OF, Astros: .278, 35 HR, 35 HR, 100 RBIs, 14 SB, .367 OBP, .598 SLG
Tied for 1st in HR (35)
14th in RBIs (100)
2nd in triples (15)
1st in extra-base hits (81)
1st in runs scored (119)
Tied for 1st in total bases (310)
4th in SLG (.598)

Keep in mind things like league (lots of California League guys — it’s nice to hit in Lancaster, Mr. Gaston!) and things of that nature. And if there’s someone you think belongs but isn’t here, go ahead and write him in. Let the voting begin!

Alex Liddi, 3B, Mariners: .345, 23 HR, 104 RBIs, .411 OBP, .594 SLG
Led Minors in average (.345)
Tied for 8th in RBIs (104)
Tied for 6th in doubles (44)
Tied for 4th in extra-base hits (72)
4th in total bases (293)
6th in SLG (.594)

Buster Posey, C, Giants: .325, 18 HR, 80 RBIs, .416 OBP, .531 SLG
14th in OBP
Threw out over 46% of would-be base-stealers

More World Cup mayhem

The excitement is reaching a fever pitch, isn’t it? Everywhere you go, people are talking about the IBAF World Cup.

What’s that, you say, they’re not? Well, clearly you’re talking to the wrong people.

OK, OK, so maybe it’s not creating that much of a buzz, but there’s some fun baseball going on over on “the contenent” — namely, the Netherlands and Italy. We’re in Round 2 currently, with eight teams in each group. Four teams from each group go on to the third, and final, round in Italy. Here’s where things stand, with most teams having played 2 of the 6 games in the round:

In Pool F, Cuba (the team the U.S. beat for the gold medal in this event in 2007) and the Netherlands are off to 2-0 starts. The much-improved Dutch have beaten South Korea and Puerto Rico so far, a couple of teams who know the game pretty well.

In Pool G, the U.S. and Australia have gone 2-0 to start. Chinese Taipei and Japan are both 1-0 (they had a rain out). It’s U.S. vs. Japan today, while Australia’s got Chinese Taipei.

Here’s a look at which affiliated players have fared the best thus far:

Hitters

Justin Smoak, 1B, U.S. (Rangers): All he’s done is gone 8-for-18, with 5 HR and 12 RBIs. He’s tied for the lead in those latter two categories and his 1.389 SLG is second as are his 25 total bases.

Jon Weber, OF, U.S. (Rays): One of my favorite minor league vets (one who deserves a big-league shot, in my opinion), Weber has done what he does best — hit. He’s hitting .529 in four games (9-for-17) with a homer, two doubles and a triple to go along with five RBIs.

schoop.jpgSharlon Schoop, INF, Netherlands (Giants): It’s been just two games for the Dutch, hosts of the second round, but Schoop has gotten off to a very good start, going 5-for-8 with three extra-base hits and two RBIs. On another note, can someone tell me why he’s on this team and not the roster for the Netherlands Antilles? Isn’t Curacao considered to be a part of that? Color me confused. (Or, if the online translator is write, verward).

Joel Naughton, C, Australia (Phillies): A 4-for-4 day against the Schoop-less Netherlands Antilles squad has helped Naughton to a .571 average over five games (8-for-14). He’s got two doubles and a homer.

Tim Smith, OF, Canada (Rangers): Canada is 0-2 in the second round, and Smith hasn’t done much thus far in this round, but overall he’s hitting .538 (7-for-13) in five games total. He’s got a pair of homers and 8 RBIs. He leads fellow Canadians Adam Loewen (.462, 1, 6) and Rene Tosoni (.429, 2, 8) on a team hitting .309 over five games.

Matthew Kennelly, C, Australia (Braves): He’s caught, he’s DHed, and he’s hit .500 over four games (7-for-14). Of those seven hits, four have been doubles, one has been a homer).

Tim Kennelly, C/OF, Australia (Phillies): A catcher in the Phillies system, he’s been playing the outfield for Team Australia and he’s hit .364 in five games with three homers and nine RBIs.

Pitchers

Trevor Reckling, LHP, U.S. (Angels): Sure, it came against China, not exactly aReckling Action.JPG powerhouse in baseball — yet — but Reckling’s seven-inning performance in Round 1 was noteworthy. The Futures Gamer gave up no runs on three hits and three walks while striking out 11.

Cory Luebke, LHP, U.S. (Padres): Luebke’s shutout ball came against Team Canada in the second round. He went 7 1/3 IP, allowed just one hit and one walk while he struck out 10.

Todd Redmond, RHP, U.S. (Braves):  Redmond was perfect for much of his Round 1 start against Germany. He ended up going eight innings, allowing two hits and no walks while striking out seven. No wonder Team USA’s ERA is 2.00.

Eric Gonzalez, RHP, Spain (Padres): Born in the Canary Islands, he came to the Padres by way of South Alabama and he’s been a reliever as a pro. In this event, however, he’s been Spain’s best starter. He’s won both of his starters, having allowed just one earned run in 10 1/3 IP, yielding seven hits and two walks while striking out 10. He beat Venezuela in Round 2.

Liam Hendriks, RHP, Australia (Twins): Australia’s success has come largely because of its offense (.356 AVG, .686 SLG as a team) and not its pitching (5.11 ERA). Still. the team has gone 4-1 overall. Hendriks has done his part as the 20-year-old has gone six innings over two starts and has yet to allow a hit.

Dennis Neuman, RHP, Netherlands (Red Sox): It’s only been 1 1/3 IP in total, but he’s made the most of it, picking up saves in both Dutch victories in Round 2. He’s another native of Curacao on this roster and he won’t turn 20 until mid-October.
 

World Cup update

And no, I don’ t mean soccer or futbol or whatever you call it. So
don’t leave any smart-alec CONCACAF comments or something on how you’re
concerned about Ronaldo’s health. I’m talking IBAF World Cup Baseball.
Team USA is in Regensberg, Germany, where evidently the ball was flying
out in their first game, a somewhat surprising, 13-9 loss in 11 innings
to Venezuela (but a Venezuela team without any top prospects on it).
They play again today against Germany at 1 p.m. ET, a game that will
air live on MLB Network, so check it out.

So what’s gone on so far in early action, Team USA or otherwise? Here’s
a look at players in affiliated baseball who have gotten off to good
starts:


Team USA

Smoak.JPGHitter of the day: Justin Smoak, 1B, Rangers: Smoak had 2 doubles and 2 homers, driving in five runs. He tied USA Baseball World Cup records for home runs, hits and at-bats in a losing effort.

Pitcher of the day: Brad Lincoln, RHP, Pirates: Lincoln, a last-minute replacement for Daniel McCutchen, who got called up to Pittsburgh, was solid against Venezuela. He went five innings, allowing just one run on five hits and two walks. The US had a 7-1 lead when he left the game.

Josh Kroeger (White Sox), Buck Coats (Blue Jays) and Jon Weber (Rays) each had two hits. Tug Hulett (Royals) homered.

Australia

The Kennelly brothers, Tim and Matthew, had big debuts for the Aussies.Tim, a catcher with the Phillies, had a pair of homers. Matt, the younger Kennelly, is a catcher with the Braves. He hit two doubles.Tim was playing the outfield and Matt entered Game 1 against the Czech Republic as a pinch-hitter who then stayed in the game. They drove in 6 runs between them in their 17-4 win. Other affiliated players included Stefan Welch (Mets), who had four hits (including a homer) and three RBIs, and Daniel Berg (Twins), who went 2-for-2. One-time prospect Chris Snelling, most recently with the Pirates  is on this team as well.  So is the Phillies’ Brad Harman. RHP Liam Hendriks (Twins) tossed three hitless innings as the starter, while thekennelly.jpg Phillies’ Drew Naylor got credited with the win in relief.

They beat Chinese Taipei in their second game, in which Tim Kennelly hit another homer and drove in three more runs. David Welch tossed five scoreless innings in the start.

Canada

Team Canada opened with a 9-1 win over South Korea. Pitcher-turned-hitter Adam Loewen (Blue Jays) had a double, triple and 3 RBIs. Tim Smith (Rangers) homered and drove in three as well.  Shawn Bowman (Mets) had a pair of hits and RBIs. Adam Stern (Brewers)  had two hits. Brewers first-rounder Brett Lawrie and Rene Tosoni (Twins), the Futures Game MVP, are also on this team. Nick Bucci (Brewers) pitched five shutout innings for the win.

Other action, quickly: South Africa has gone 0-2 with losses to Spain and Cuba, but the Pirates’ Gift Ngoepe has gone 3-for-7.

Backwards thinking

By now, you know me and how I think. It’s a little different in B3-land, as I tend to skew towards prospects, the Minor Leagues and the Draft. Case in point: the MLB Standings. While most would marvel at the Yankees playing .640 ball or the Cardinals closing in on clinching the NL Central, I look at it backwards — or is it upside-down? In any case, when someone asks me, “Who’s No. 1?”, I’m not looking at the best record. Quite the opposite. I’m looking at the worst record, or who’s going to get the No. 1 pick in the 2010 Draft.

So I’ve got a little spreadsheet going with the “reverse standings” on it. I’ve decided to share it with you. Keep in mind that I haven’t bothered to figure out tiebreakers yet for teams with the same record (didn’t seem worth it with a few weeks in the season left). I am also aware that free agent signings will wreak some havoc with the second half of the first round. It also doesn’t include the compensation picks for the Texas Rangers (14a) and Tampa Bay Rays (30a) for not signing their respective 2009 first-round picks. This is what it looks like heading into today’s games. Unless there’s a surge in the nation’s capital and/or a collapse in KC, it’s looking like the Nats will get the top pick for the second year in a row:

Team W L PCT GA
1  Washington  47 90 0.343
2  Kansas
City 
52 85 0.380 5
3  Pittsburgh  54 82 0.397 7.5
4  Baltimore  54 79 0.409 9
5  San Diego  61 78 0.439 13
6  Arizona  61 78 0.439 13
7  Cleveland  60 76 0.441 13.5
8  Oakland  61 76 0.445 14
9  Toronto  61 76 0.445 14
10  NY Mets 62 75 0.453 15
11  Cincinnati  63 74 0.460 16
12  Milwaukee  66 71 0.482 19
13  Houston  67 70 0.489 20
    14  Chi Sox 69 70 0.496 21
15  Minnesota  69 68 0.504 22
16  Chi Cubs 69 67 0.507 22.5
17  Atlanta  70 67 0.511 23
18  Seattle  72 66 0.522 24.5
19  Tampa Bay  72 66 0.522 24.5
20  Florida  72 65 0.526 25
21  Detroit  75 61 0.551 28.5
22  San
Francisco 
76 62 0.551 28.5
23  Texas  76 60 0.559 29.5
24  Colorado  78 60 0.565 30.5
25  Philadelphia  77 58 0.570 31
26  Boston  79 58 0.577 32
27  St. Louis  82 57 0.590 34
28  LA Dodgers 82 57 0.590 34
29  LA Angels 81 55 0.596 34.5
30  NY Yankees 89 50 0.640 41

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