July 03, 2014

PCL All-Stars?

My quick and dirty Pacific Coast League All-Star squad. Rules: 1) Maximum age of 26, but not otherwise geared toward prospects, 2) in league as of yesterday (e.g., no Jon Singletons, Justin Bours or Christian Bergmans allowed), 3) in top 100 in plate apperances for hitters, 4) at least 10 starts or 20 appearances for pitchers. I also adjust for general park setting, which the league itself never ever does for All-Stars or MVPs.

UPDATE: Players in bold were actually selected for the 30-man roster. (I only picked 25.)

C -- Andrew Susac - FRE / SFO
1B -- Mark Canha - NOR / MIA
2B - Arismendy Alcantara - IOW / CHC
3B - Adam Duvall - FRE / SFO
SS -- Chris Taylor - TAC / SEA
OF - Joc Pedersen - ABQ / LOS
OF -- Randal Grichuk - MEM / STL
OF -- Alfredo Marte - REN / ARI

C -- Francisco Pena - OMA / KAN
CIF -- Ben Paulsen - CSP / COL
MIF -- Nick Franklin - TAC / SEA
MIF -- Enrique Hernandez - OKC / HOU
OF -- Stephen Piscotty - MEM / STL
OF -- Jared Hoying - ROU / TEX
OF -- Kyle Jensen - NOR / MIA

SP-- Jimmy Nelson - NAS / MIL
SP -- Nick Tropeano - OKC / HOU
SP -- Jordan Pries - TAC / SEA
SP -- Kyle Hendricks - IOW / CHC
SP -- Mike Kickham - FRE / SFG
SP - Chris Heston - FRE / SFO

RP -- Derek Eitel - REN / ARI
RP -- Buddy Baumann - OMA / KNA
RP -- Jeremy Jeffress - NAS / MIL
RP -- Kevin Munson - REN / ARI

Fresno -- 4
Reno -- 3
Tacoma -- 3
Iowa -- 2
Memphis -- 2
Nashville -- 2
New Orleans -- 2
Oklahoma City -- 2
Omaha -- 2
Albuquerque -- 1
Colorado Springs -- 1
Round Rock -- 1
El Paso -- 0
Las Vegas -- 0
Sacramento -- 0
Salt Lake -- 0

Posted by Lucas at 11:44 AM

March 07, 2014

Martin Perez, 20 May 2012

22-year-old Martin Perez is not only a fixture in the Texas rotation, he's arguably the lynchpin. With Derek Holland out for an extended stretch and Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis unlikely to contribute in early April, Texas needs Perez to provide quality innings immediately.

Just 22 months ago, Perez sank to his lowest ebb as a prospect. During a five-game stretch, he allowed a .363/.450/.495 line and walked or hit one of every seven batters. Here's what I wrote about the second start of that stretch for the Newberg Report:

Martin Perez looked like a man defeated yesterday. I've never seen him throw worse. In three exhaustingly prolonged innings, Perez allowed seven runs on eight hits, four walks and four strikeouts. He threw 85 pitches to record nine outs, including 41 in his final inning.

For most of his outing, Perez had no functional fastball. The velocity was present -- he ranged anywhere from 89 to 95 in the 1st -- but it mostly existed in a binary state of missing badly or running over the heart of the plate. In later innings, he appeared to pull back slightly in order to throw more strikes, to little avail. He was also throwing across his body. By far, his best pitch was his changeup, and by my rough count he threw 25 of them including at least eight of 14 pitches in the second. Three of his four third strikes were on changes.

As is often the case, he suffered more than his fair share of misfortune. Several hits wafted lazily over the infield, and the defense didn't provide all the support it could. He also committed his own error on an pickoff throw, but I'd pin that one firmly on 2B Yangervis Solarte, whose hesitation in covering the bag let Perez's throw reach the outfield. But, once again, he responded poorly. After a soft single by Fresno's Nick Noonan that plated two, Perez walked the next two batters. After his error, he immediately offered a pancake-flat changeup that Justin Christian ripped for a two-run single. Then, another walk.

I always preach patience for the younger guys. Perez is the youngest pitcher in AAA. In fact, he's younger than every active starter in Texas's system except for Myrtle Beach's Cody Buckel and Hickory's Luke Jackson and Victor Payano. Development can be slow and fitful. For examples, you need look no farther than Matt Harrison and Derek Holland, two established MLB starters who still leave us scratching our heads sometimes.

On the other hand, by the end of 2012, Perez will have logged three full seasons and close to 400 innings in the upper minors. I'm not worried now (well, not overly worried), but if he's pitching in early September like he is now, I certainly will be. The Rangers advanced Perez extremely rapidly because they felt he could make the adjustments and handle adversity. Lately, he's not, at all. This summer may be the most critical phase of his career.

Fortunately, Perez recovered quickly, one-hitting Oklahoma City for seven innings (albeit with five walks) and tossing a 90-pitch complete game in consecutive June starts. Barely two months after the dismal May outing, he made his MLB debut.

Posted by Lucas at 02:37 PM

March 27, 2013

Twitter Dump

My twittered observations during the week in Surprise (March 18-23), from newest to oldest:

(Kevin Pucetas) Knocked around a little. Change decent, 74-81 slurve came and went. FB only 85-86.

Deglan has already spent 2 full years at Hickory. Alfaro just one, and was hurt for almost two months. He will be in Myrtle soon.

Don't fret if Jorge Alfaro starts the season in Hickory. He could, if only for a little while.

Excitement! Offseason signing 3B Marquez Smith blasts a 3-run homer in the 9th for a 5-4 AAA victory over the Pale Hose.

Errors on consecutive pitches by SS Hanser Alberto, 3 in 2 innings. All glove.

2 swinging Ks on 81 MPH corkscrewy sliders from lefty Jimmy Reyes.

Fontster 89-97 on a player's gun pointed at catcher's feet half the time. Anyway, consistently eye-high early then settled. 2 bb, 1 K.

Frasor gave up a homer to White Sock Michael Blake in his inning with AA group. Just left of center, 410 or so.

Texas AA/AAA rosters for today. Lo/Hi-A missing many big names -- Gallo, Brinson, Mazara, Williams, Beras.

Alfaro went yard, I missed it because I fail at life. N Williams tripled off base of center (400), Brinson lashed single to left.

Kirkman 4 R 4 IP. Didn't see much, did see 3 pure curves in span of 4 pitches(!). Being stretched out because... yeah, I dunno.

Sensory overload time: 4 simultaneous minor league games on the KC side.

Remember Carlos Melo? Sure you do. 92-95 with movement and low in zone vs some Canadian all stars. Damn tease.

Slidery 4th for Tepesch: 12 of 21 pitches (83-86) including 8 of last 10. And more bad D. At least 1, up to 3 of 8 hits should've been outs.

Some iffy D behind him, but 2 walks and 4 medium-to-very hard hit balls off Tepesch in 11 batters faced. Also 3 Ks.

Texas farm hurler Zach Brill in uniform in office lobby chair reading Nietzsche. #showoff In English #slack

Playing with AA squad, UTA alum OF Preston Beck waits on a (fat) curve with 1 on, 2 out, 2 strikes in 9th and line-singles home tying run.

Teammates calling Odor "Odie" and "Odie Bear (?)" because he needs more nicknames.
Homer pulled down line for Rougned or whatever his spell-corrected name becomes. #roughed #roofie #rhubarb

Neil Ramirez has (most of) of velo back and pitching with confidence. Control a bit wiggly but still encouraging.

Texas 1B Ronald Guzman out here on crutches. Surgery for torn meniscus last Friday. Out 6-8 weeks more or less.

Seattle dugout talking Cory Burns: He hides his change really well. #eavesdropping

Jake Skole reached on bloop RBI single , then picked off 1st by catcher after Sardinas swung thru bunt. Solid double by R Bolinger.

CF Zach Cone looking fastball on a 2-2 count and got one but swung through it.

Roughed Odor with a wind-aided sun-aided sleeping cutoff man-aided triple to left in AA game.

Okay, all players in my hotel go to bed so I can stream Hulu cleanly. I have a headache and I'm older than you.

Gallo with another E. Ran in to field grounder but short hopped first.

CJ Edwards just froze a batter solid with a third strike curve. FB 91-93 sez @LoneStarDugout

Santo Perez is very tall and completely negates it with his low delivery. You could level your picture frames with his fastball.

OF Nick Williams tripled to center [actually an error] scoring Lewis Brinson who'd walked. Gallo with an E5 (glove). Williams has looked great.

Lisalverto Bonilla's 81-86 CH a killer (6 swinging strikes) but every FB (91-93) has different release point. Also 79 mph CB okay at times.

4-pitch walk for Engel Beltre. And now there's a delay because it's raining frogs.

Manny Pina's watching Jose Felix and thinking "dude you gotta take a pitch once in a while."

@lonestarball I understand -- just saying I wasn't seeing Ortiz as someone who'd help Texas in September. Didn't look as good as stats to me

Engel Beltre is a major league CF through and through. But ohhhh the plate approach #everybeltretweetever

Bulldog Ortiz throwing MLB-quality stuff tonight. And Kins made a stellar play at second. He's got about 0.6 preseason WAR tonight.

My first A game in three years and its Lowe instead of Yu. Have to make the best of it. *cries salty tears*

Jose Valdespina a messy rolled 7th. Up to 96, some good CH + CB later, zero control early. 15 of 28 for balls, and a WP.

Aussie OF Todd McDonald: very tall, very thin, very upright swing

Keone Kela mostly 93-96 with a sinking change. Very erratic in all respects but improving in 2nd inning.

Brinson went deep again. Gallo added one. I was watching the other field.

A hard slashed full oppo homer from @LewisBrinson. Curled around RF pole

OF Nomar Mazara has dispensed with the softball leg kick.

Luke Jackson 93-97 FB tending to run up. 83-86 "curve." Looks slidery but I'm told he's overgripping/throwing his curve.

First action; N Williams hard lined 2b to LCF, Mazara softer 2b to LF, Gallo grounded 1b to right. Hooray baseball.

Posted by Lucas at 02:15 PM

December 08, 2010

A Prospect List

MILB Prospects releases an insane 2,000-player prospect list every season. I've culled the Rangers from it (overall ranking in parentheses):

1. (23) Martin Perez (P) 26. (622) Kasey Kiker (P) 51. (1177) Esdras Abreu (SS)
2. (51) Robbie Erlin (P) 27. (678) Carlos Pimentel (P) 52. (1192) Randol Rojas (P)
3. (65) Jurickson Profar (SS) 28. (693) Richard Bleier (P) 53. (1244) Odubel Herrera (2B)
4. (150) Tanner Scheppers (P) 29. (774) Nicholas Tepesch (P) 54. (1251) Hanser Alberto (H)
5. (201) Engel Beltre (OF) 30. (823) Ryan Tucker (P) 55. (1300) Guillermo Moscoso (P)
6. (217) Mike Olt (3B) 31. (824) Tomas Telis (C) 56. (1301) Manny Solis (3B)
7. (283) Wilfredo Boscan (P) 32. (855) Chris McGuiness (1B) 57. (1330) Carlos Melo (P)
8. (308) Kellin Deglan (C) 33. (857) Miguel De Los Santos (P) 58. (1340) Tommy Mendonca (3B)
9. (322) Wilmer Font (P) 34. (885) Santiago Chirino (2B) 59. (1391) Craig Gentry (OF)
10. (328) Jake Skole (OF) 35. (915) Max Ramirez (C) 60. (1451) Victor Payano (P)
11. (351) Barret Loux (P) 36. (917) Zach Phillips (P) 61. (1453) Trevor Hurley (P)
12. (377) Luis Sardinas (SS) 37. (926) Clark Murphy (1B) 62. (1487) Roberto Perez (P)
13. (417) Luke Jackson (P) 38. (972) Tim Murphy (P) 63. (1506) Leonel Gil (P)
14. (430) Robbie Ross (P) 39. (1007) Jordan Akins (OF) 64. (1541) Andrew Doyle (P)
15. (452) Neil Ramirez (P) 40. (1023) Jake Brigham (P) 65. (1668) Christian Villanueva (3B)
16. (475) Cody Buckel (P) 41. (1034) Matt Thompson (P) 66. (1751) Braxton Lane (OF)
17. (493) Justin Grimm (P) 42. (1052) Miguel Velazquez (OF) 67. (1789) Andrew Clark (1B)
18. (516) Michael Kirkman (P) 43. (1094) Beau Jones (P) 68. (1868) Christopher Garia (H)
19. (526) Joe Wieland (P) 44. (1108) James Reyes (P) 69. (1935) Kennil Gomez (P)
20. (532) Teodoro Martinez (OF) 45. (1111) Kendall Radcliffe (OF) 70. (1954) Drew Robinson (SS)
21. (548) Braden Tullis (P) 46. (1142) Joshua Richmond (OF) 71. (1980) Edwin Garcia (SS)
22. (563) Joseph Ortiz (P) 47. (1149) Daniel Gutierrez (P) 72. (1993) Luis Mendez (H)
23. (567) Leury Garcia (SS) 48. (1160) David Paisano (H) 73. (1997) Jorge Alfaro (C)
24. (584) Richard Alvarez (P) 49. (1166) Pedro Strop (P) -
25. (598) Marcus Lemon (SS) 50. (1167) Ben Snyder (P) -

And among the departed:
314. Michael Main
360. Blake Beavan
1383. Tanner Roark
1468. Evan Reed
Unranked: Matt Lawson, Josh Lueke, Omar Poveda, Ryan Tatusko

Posted by Lucas at 12:44 PM

April 05, 2010

Organization Depth Chart

Revised.

Posted by Lucas at 02:29 AM

December 31, 2009

What Engel Beltre's 2009 Says About His Future

Photobucket

If a prospect is highly regarded enough to play in a High-A league at the tender age of 19, how much does his actual performance there matter? Are the better hitters in High-A more likely to reach the Majors and stay there, or is simply being a High-A youngster indicative of future success?

I ask because of Engel Beltre, the toolsy center fielder Texas acquired as part of the Eric Gagne trade in July 2007. He was a consensus top-10 prospect in Texas’s newly-loaded system that offseason. (I ranked him lower than anyone at 12th, which looks prescient now but was just dumb luck on my part.) After a 2008 in Low-A Clinton filled with highs (.283 average, 43 extra-base hits, 31 steals) and lows (2% walk rate, several early removals for not obeying coach instructions), he still maintained status at the lower end of the top 10. Texas’s modus operandi for many of its prospects is to place them at the highest level possible, and each prospect’s goal is to prove that he’s not overwhelmed. Thus, Beltre jumped to High-A Bakersfield in 2009 despite a season that encouraged more Low-A seasoning.

The 19-year-old Beltre backslid, hitting only .227/.281/.317. He maintained his prowess on the basepaths and drew a few more walks, but the rest of his game declined. On May 28th, a walk and hit-by-pitch improved Beltre’s line to .249/.308/.359. That was his apex. Afterwards, he batted a meager .205/.255/.273 through mid-July, when a broken bone in his hand more-or-less ended his season (aside from a handful of September at-bats in AA Frisco).

So, to what extent does Beltre’s dreadful 2009 matter? In an attempt to answer this question, I’ve compared Beltre to his peers: batters achieving substantial playing time in High-A at the age of 19. There aren’t many of them. Between 1992 and 2006, only 96 19-year-old batters collected enough plate appearances to rank in the top 100 in a High-A league. That’s just over six per year and only about 2% of all qualifying batters.

I created a table for these players with a gaggle of statistics: the basic “slash” stats, average on contact, rates for homers, all extra-base hits, walks and strikeouts, and a modified version of Bill James’s Speed Score. I then rated each stat for each player in comparison to the league average for his particular year, and then ranked all the players from top to bottom. (FWIW, as a backup, I also ranked the players using linear weights and ended up with essentially the same rankings.) Finally, I tabulated each player’s Major League plate appearances. For my purposes, how well the player performed in the Majors isn’t critical; the length of the career alone is largely indicative of performance.

For ease of comparison, I split the 96 players into a top half and bottom half based on performance. In my system, Beltre ranks 31st among 42 Cal League batters with at least 250 PAs since 1992. Which is to say, well within the bottom half. I classified the players’ MLB careers (or lack thereof) as follows:

  • Free Agent (3,000+ Plate Appearances) – The player lasted long enough to reach free agency. Not everyone in this category is quite there (e.g., Grady Sizemore), but close enough.
  • Regular (500-2,999 PA) – The player was a regular for at least one season or a heavily used backup for several.
  • Long Look (150-499 PA) – The player almost certainly received some playing time outside of September roster expansions, but not enough to play regularly for more than a few months.
  • Cup of Coffee (1-150 PA) – The player received a handful of at-bats, likely during September.
  • None (0 PA) – The player never reached the Majors.

The results:

Type of MLB Career
19-Year-Olds in California League
19-Year-Olds in Carolina League
19-Year-Olds in Florida State League
Combined
In Top Half
In Bottom Half
In Top Half
In Bottom Half
In Top Half
In Bottom Half
In Top Half
In Bottom Half
FREE AGENT
(3,000+ PA)
4
0
3
1
7
6
14
7
REGULAR
(500-2,999 PA)
4
1
2
1
6
2
12
4
LONG LOOK
(150-499 PA)
1
1
3
1
0
1
4
3
CUP OF COFFEE
(1-149 PA)
5
4
0
1
1
2
6
7
NONE
(0 PA)
6
14
1
5
5
8
12
27

Type of MLB Career
19-Year-Olds in High-A
"Top Half" Performers "Bottom Half" Performers
FREE AGENT
29%
15%
REGULAR or better
54%
23%
LONG LOOK or better
63%
29%
CUP OF COFFEE or better
75%
44%
Did not play in MLB
25%
56%

Over one-half of the best performers became MLB regulars, and 75% donned the uniform for at least one day. Conversely, along the worst performers, less than one-quarter became regulars, and less than one-half ever earned a Major League paycheck. For some season, the Florida State league was far more forgiving to the bottom halfers. I’d guess that’s just a vagary of a small data set.

In rough terms, 19-year-old batters in the top half were twice as likely to reach the Majors, and also twice as likely to have lengthy MLB careers.

Here’s the players with their MLB plate appearances:

"Top Half"
19-Year-Olds
"Bottom Half"
19-Year-Olds
Player
MLB PA
  Player
MLB PA
Bobby Abreu
8417
  Shawn Green
7962
Andruw Jones
7845
  Jimmy Rollins
6512
Paul Konerko
6893
  Torii Hunter
6008
Derrek Lee
6860
  David Bell
5380
Edgardo Alfonzo
6108
  Cesar Izturis
3818
Aramis Ramirez
5825
  Miguel Cairo
3734
Jose Vidro
5708
  Grady Sizemore
3612
Eric Chavez
5282
  Wilton Guerrero
1797
Dmitri Young
5252
  Ben Davis
1698
Miguel Cabrera
4441
  Ryan Sweeney
1051
Jose Reyes
3651
  Anderson Hernandez
584
Todd Hollandsworth
3492
  Andres Blanco
387
Jhonny Peralta
3456
  Edwards Guzman
292
Nick Johnson
3116
  Willis Otanez
231
D'Angelo Jimenez
2480
  Alcides Escobar
138
J.J. Hardy
2298
  Anderson Machado
81
Melky Cabrera
2148
  Elvis Pena
58
James Loney
1788
  Josh Kroeger
55
Billy Butler
1510
  Tony Torcato
53
Wilson Betemit
1275
  Angel Chavez
20
Adam Jones
1180
  Juan Melo
13
Willy Aybar
1081
  Arturo McDowell
0
Ruben Mateo
951
  Caonabo Cosme
0
Daric Barton
799
  Carlos Fermin
0
Andy Marte
736
  Cesar Bolivar
0
Felix Pie
568
  Chad Roper
0
Gregor Blanco
473
  Chris Paxton
0
Raul Gonzalez
385
  Dennis Colon
0
Chris Snelling
273
  Edgar Tovar
0
Edgard Clemente
270
  Eric Knowles
0
Joaquin Arias
141
  Feliciano Mercedes
0
Duane Singleton
93
  Francis Gomez
0
Arquimedez Pozo
80
  Ismael Castro
0
Joel Guzman
62
  Jackson Melian
0
Dave Krynzel
54
  Jhensy Sandoval
0
Luke Allen
11
  Julio Bruno
0
Brian Richardson
0
  Julio Cordido
0
Brian Specht
0
  Luis Lorenzana
0
Cesar King
0
  Nelson Samboy
0
Darren Burton
0
  Nick Kimpton
0
Dwight Maness
0
  Ozzie Chavez
0
Freddie Freeman
0
  Rafael Soto
0
Gary Thomas
0
  Ricky Bell
0
Jhonny Perez
0
  Ricky Magdaleno
0
Manny Amador
0
  Tony Mota
0
Scott Hunter
0
  Victor Rodriguez
0
Sergio Santos
0
  Will McCrotty
0
Tim Jones
0
  Andre Lewis
0

Perusing the list reveals several active players who are likely to move up to a higher category. Not coincidentally, they’re mostly in the “top half” group. Hardy, Cabrera, Loney, Butler, Jones, Barton and Pie have varying probabilities of reaching 3,000 PAs. Texas’s own Joaquin Arias can escape prospect limbo by winning the backup infielder job next spring. Among the bottom-halfers, only Alcides Escobar and Ryan Sweeney have a chance at a lengthy career.

Again, Engel Beltre’s 2009 rests comfortably in the bottom half. It’s not a death knell for his MLB dreams. Keep in mind that nearly 50% of the worst 19-year-olds made the Majors. That’s awfully impressive. Nevertheless, being in the bottom half definitely puts a damper on expectations. In late March, after hearing the words every Texas minor leaguer dreads – “you’re repeating Bakersfield” – Beltre will work on becoming the next Torii Hunter instead of the next Tony Mota.

Posted by Lucas at 06:30 PM

July 12, 2009

Feliz!

Posted by Lucas at 06:05 PM

April 18, 2009

Minor League Player Ages

Age comparisons of Texas minor leaguers to their respective leagues are now online.

Posted by Lucas at 12:51 PM

April 14, 2009

Minor League Baseball Is Run By Robots

Customer (Scott Lucas) - 04/12/2009 01:15 AM

Is there an explanation as to why MILB is carrying audio feeds from
fewer teams this year and not archiving games?

Thanks,
Scott Lucas

-----------------------------------------------

Response (Zovisa) - 04/14/2009 12:20 PM
Dear Scott Lucas:

In an effort to provide you with the best viewing experience MLB.com has been making upgrades to our 2009 Media Player.

We apologize for any inconvenience that this has caused you in accessing the games.

We continue to be committed to our customers and thank you for your patience as we make enhancements to our Media Player.

You can send in a letter to our office in regards of this issue at:

MLB Advanced Media, L.P.
75 Ninth Avenue, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10011 USA

Posted by Lucas at 12:17 PM

April 05, 2009

Texas Rangers Prospects #1-#9

In parentheses: position, age as of 4/1/09, highest level played, Jamey Newberg's ranking).

9. MARTIN PEREZ (LHP-starter, 18.0, short-A, Jamey’s #7) – In 2008, Perez was a full year younger than any player in the Northwest League. In early 2009, Baseball America published a report on Perez containing references to Ron Guidry and Johan Santana. BA also rated his curveball the best in the system. Today, Perez celebrates his 18th birthday. Some say he’ll arrive in Hickory on a winged horse. Some say he’ll arrive on foot after parting the Catawba River. There’s hype surrounding this youngster, that’s for sure. But seeing him pitch explains the hype. He’s no grunting, scowling, max-effort type. The ball just glides out of hand. His demeanor is competitive yet reserved. Though he didn’t post the gaudy peripherals of Wilfredo Boscan, he deserves the higher ranking. Bound for: Hickory.

8. ENGEL BELTRE (CF, 19.4, low-A, Jamey’s #9) – The bad news: Beltre reduced his SO rate, but his pitch-taking ability cratered in his first year in a full-season league. His 2.6% walk rate was the second worst among all pro hitters with at least 400 at-bats. Minor leaguers with that kind of batting eye rarely reach the Majors, much less make an impact. By my count, he was removed from three games after his first at-bat for not following instructions. He didn’t hit lefties at all (.215/.252/.257). The good news: Beltre’s walk rate improved from epically egregious in the first half (1.7%) to just exceptionally bad in the second (3.5%). His base-stealing also improved substantially – 9 steals versus 7 caught before the break, 22 versus 4 after. He pounded righties (.306/.327/.453, excellent for an 18-year-old in the Midwest League). He’s a five-tool fireball with ridiculous upside. Bound for: Bakersfield. He’s got a lot to work on, but I don’t see him repeating low-A.

7. MAX RAMIREZ (C/1B/DH, 24.5, MLB, Jamey’s #8) – Ramirez’s slim odds of making the active roster dwindled on a daily basis in March. While Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden left no doubt of their MLB worthiness in camp, Ramirez mostly bided his time on Venezuela’s bench. Roster crunches tend to work themselves out, but Ramirez is genuinely trapped at the moment: behind the aforementioned catchers at his nominal position, Chris Davis at first, and Hank Blalock at DH. That said, Ramirez has only 96 plate appearances above AA, so Texas isn’t doing him a disservice by planting him in Oklahoma City. He’s a .314/.414/.551 minor-league hitter and belted 21 homers in 96 games last year. But, can he provide enough defense to stick at catcher? If so, might he persuade Texas to trade Salty or Teagarden? If not, can he hit enough to play regularly at first or DH? In 2009, these questions get answered. I think. Bound for: Oklahoma City.

6. MICHAEL MAIN
(RHP-starter, 20.3, low-A, Jamey’s #4) – Main suffered a rib injury that delayed his first appearance until late June. Meanwhile, Derek Holland was exploding into our collective consciousness, Neftali Feliz was meeting his lofty expectations, and Blake Beavan was enjoying an effective if oddly strikeout-free professional debut. Thus, Texas’s #3 pitching prospect didn’t receive as much attention as he probably deserved. Once he arrived in Clinton, he held Midwest League opponents to a line of .228/.299/.383 with a 30% SO rate (comparatively, Holland fanned “only? 24% in Clinton, Felix 33%). His athleticism and makeup are top-notch. You’ll hear of him early and often in 2009. Bound for: Bakersfield.

5. TAYLOR TEAGARDEN (C, 25.3, MLB, Jamey’s #6) – Teagarden has been all over the place offensively. He hit .310 in the minors in 2007, .211 this year, and .319 with the Rangers. Ultimately, he doesn’t profile for a high average, but with his strong secondary skills, he has the potential to bat .230 and still be average or plus offensively for his position. Per 100 games played professionally, Teagarden has 21 homers and 62 walks. Defensively, he’s the full package. If he can stay healthy, Teagarden is looking at no worse than a long career as a distinguished backup and occasional front-liner. If he can quell the lingering concern about his bat (he also strikes out 105 times per 100 games), he’ll be a fine starter, somewhere, perhaps Texas. Bound for: Texas, backing up Saltalamacchia, and potentially auditioning for a big trade.

4. ELVIS ANDRUS (SS, 20.6, AA, Jamey’s #5) – Being limited to about 38 players, I didn’t give Andrus a separate entry in my Rangers preview for the Hardball Times. He earned only a sentence or two in the opening essay. Michael Young was going to have to move someday, probably 2010, but Andrus wouldn’t get more than some token September at-bats this season. Right? Not so much. Unable or unwilling to consummate his annual breathtaking winter trade, Jon Daniels found a worthy substitute in moving his Gold Glove-winning shortstop to third and installing a 20-year-old in his place.

I don’t think Andrus is in above his head. He’s played alongside older men for his entire career. The bigger crowds and bigger expectations won’t faze him. That said, there will be growing pains, as Andrus is still a work in progress. Defensively, you’re going to see plenty of amazing plays… and plenty of errors that will undoubtedly have fans yelling for Young’s reestablishment at short. Offensively, my normally trusty computer predicts a line of .263/.329/.339. I hope so. Frankly, I’d take the under. If he can produce an OBP of about .320, just enough not to be a sinkhole, I really won’t care about his batting average or slugging. He’ll probably be attempting plenty of sac bunts in front of Ian Kinsler, and for once I heartily approve this strategy.

As I wrote in a separate Hardball Times piece, Young and Andrus ought to rank among the worst-hitting left sides of the infield in the American League. On the other hand, Young was really no better than average at short last year, and Texas’s 3B defense was uniformly awful. Slightly above-average defensive contributions from Young and Andrus will largely mitigate the offense. Bound for: Texas!

3. JUSTIN SMOAK
(1B, 22.3, low-A, Jamey’s #3) – From all accounts, catcher Jason Castro is a fine prospect and may eventually justify his #10 overall selection in the 2008 draft. Bully for Houston. As for Smoak, his astonishing descent last June 6th made Texas’s draft a success from the get-go. Though the Teixeira comparison is a little too easy, Smoak is in a fact a switch hitter offering contact, patience, power, and a fine glove at first. As expected, he handled a brief trial in low-A with ease. He then dominated the Arizona Fall League, batting .353/.468/.588. That and a terrific spring have apparently earned Smoak a “Get Out Of Bakersfield Free? card. Before long, Texas will have a stickier roster situation than Blalock/Teixeira in 2003. Smoak is a first baseman, period, as is Chris Davis, in my opinion. Davis can DH, of course, but that feels like an underutilization of someone so young. We’ll see. Bound for: AA.

2. DEREK HOLLAND (LHP-starter, 22.5, AA, Jamey’s #1) – Holland’s a lefty with a bit more refined breaking stuff, so why not rank him above Feliz? Good question, and I wouldn’t argue my case for Neftali Feliz too hard. It’s partly based on appearance: Feliz held elite prospect potential way back in 2007 when still a Brave, while Holland still retains a faint air of “where did this guy come from.? Jamey and I both ranked Holland 40th entering 2008. Scout.com’s Jason Cole pegged him 41st. Nobody else mentioned him, to my knowledge. He was a college pitcher with nice stats in short-season A. Swell, but there’s plenty of guys like that, hence the middling ranking. Then, he began 2009 by pitching just as well in Clinton, Then, he began hitting the mid-90s with his fastball. Then, the upper 90s. I don’t have the transcript of our AIM chat, but when I asked him how he gained so much on his fastball, his answer was approximately “lol, who knows.? Lol, indeed, unless you’re facing him in the batter’s box. Bound for: AAA.

1. NEFTALI FELIZ (RHP-starter, 20.9, AA, Jamey’s #2) – Accord all praise to Baseball Prospectus’s Kevin Goldstein, who ranked Feliz Texas’s #1 prospect entering 2008. As for me, I ranked him lower than just about everyone, swayed far too much by a single internet broadcast of an August appearance in Boise where he offered a hot but erratic fastball and some comically off-kilter slidery-looking thing. Feliz pretty effectively harnessed his control last year, walking over three batters only twice all season and lowering his overall walk rate to 10.0%. He also struck out 30% of opponents and allowed only three homers in 127 innings. As you’ve heard, Feliz is still working on command of his fastball, his offspeed repertoire is lacking, and baserunners can run at will against him. He still posted a 2.98 ERA and held opponents to a line of .217/.321/.287 in AA as a 20-year-old. Now, imagine him with a developed curve and change and better awareness of the basepaths. I saw his worst start in Frisco last year (3 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 BB), but this time I’m not holding it against him. #1. Bound for: AAA.

Posted by Lucas at 08:24 PM

March 17, 2009

Texas Rangers Prospects #10-#18

In parentheses: position, age on 4/1/09, highest level achieved, Jamey’s ranking)

18. JOSE VALLEJO (2B/SS, 22.6, AA, Jamey’s #18) – We’ve all seen enough “toolsy? players fail to develop as hoped that the description sometimes feels perversely derisive. Vallejo was justifiably lauded for his tools and deserved prospect consideration despite lines of .234/.289/.284 and .269/.326/.327 in two seasons at Clinton. Vallejo batted .353/.413/.515 in his first 17 games in Bakersfield, better than any comparable period in his career. The Cal league deserves partial credit, but Vallejo had clearly taken a major step forward. He would finish with 11 homers after tallying only four in the previous three seasons combined. Over the past two seasons he’s posted 89 steals versus only seven caught. He’s also working out as a shortstop. Whether he’ll hit enough to warrant a full-time job is still in doubt, but he might become an awfully good utility player. Vallejo Bound for: AAA.

17. TOMMY HUNTER (RHP-starter, 22.7, MLB, Jamey’s #19))– Hunter threw 188.2 innings last year (including playoffs), more than anyone in the organization (minors or Majors) by a healthy margin. Having pitched over 130 innings between Alabama and Spokane in 2007, the increase in workload was large but not Feldman-esque. Though 6-3 with a trunk like a sequoia, Hunter nevertheless succeeds mostly with excellent control and plenty of grounders. That’s not to say he’s a finesse pitcher; Hunter’s fastball consistently exceeds 90 and misses a fair number of bats. Hunter didn’t belong in the Majors so soon and was blasted in his three appearances, but on the bright side, I think the episode revealed Texas’s belief in his maturity and toughness. The Rangers wouldn’t have brought him to Arlington if they thought being roughed up would wreck his confidence. Hunter confirmed that view by pitching well after returning to Oklahoma. Bound for: AAA rotation.

16. KASEY KIKER (LHP-starter, 21.4, high-A, Jamey’s #15)– For several reasons, Texas’s #1 pick from 2006 didn’t receive much notice last year. Assign partial blame to his location. Kiker spent the entirety of 2008 in Bakersfield. The Blaze play in one of pro baseball’s worst facilities, attendance is understandably poor, and the local paper stopped covering them after the first week of the season. (Indeed, via a link to the Newberg Report, the team itself used me as its de facto beat writer for most of 2008. That’s fine, but it underscores the lack of coverage.) Thus, players who spend the entire season there toil in relative obscurity. Also, Kiker missed portions of the season with fatigue and shoulder soreness, he didn’t repeat the gaudy numbers of his first full season, and folks like Feliz and Holland deservedly commanded more attention. In truth, Kiker actually lost little ground statistically. His homer rate barely budged despite the move to a hitter-friendly league. He struck out over 21% of opposing batters, 7th best among the 41 Cal League hurlers to log at least 90 innings. Given his occasional wildness in the past, his most notable achievement might have been his 7% walk rate, well under the league average. Still, 2008 was a mild disappointment. In response, Kiker has bought wholeheartedly into Nolan Ryan’s conditioning directive. Bound for: The AA rotation, soon if not immediately.

15. OMAR POVEDA (RHP-starter, 21.5, high-A, Jamey’s #17)– Much of what I said about Kiker applies to Poveda: He spent the entire year in Bakersfield, missed nearly two months, and didn’t have the season hoped of him. Poveda’s 25% SO rate led Cal League qualifiers, but he also struggled with his control for the first time. He did show enough, and promised enough, to merit placement on the 40-man roster this winter. Poveda is a prominent exception to the “needs a changeup? descriptor applied to many young pitchers. His is already refined, whereas his fastball and slider aren’t quite there yet. Bound for: Just like Kiker, the AA rotation, soon if not immediately.

14. NEIL RAMIREZ (RHP-starter, 19.o9, short-A, Jamey’s #12) – Short-season Boise carries its games live on the net, so I was able to watch Ramirez at his best last August. In three innings, Ramirez fanned four (three on devastating curves) and featured a low-to-mid 90s fastball that consistently stuck in the bottom of the strike zone. Ramirez struck out 28% of opponents on the season. Alas, he also occasionally exhibited some of the worst control in the system, walking nearly one of every six batters. He was a rookie, so that’s not a problem yet. Huge upside, long journey. Bound for: Hickory rotation.

13. WILFREDO BOSCAN (RHP-starter, 19.4, short-A, Jamey’s #13)– Boscan and Ramirez aren’t polar opposites, but they’re sure not twins. How in the world does an 18-year-old in the Northwest League post 6.3 strikeouts for every walk? Relative to league average, Boscan’s 3.9% walk rate was the best in the organization (including relievers). His command of his fastball, change and curve is the envy of players ten years his senior. Many pitchers of that ilk are soft-tossers with ceilings below AA, but Boscan has surpassed 90 on the gun and might gain a little more as he reaches full maturity. Bound for: Hickory rotation.

12. JULIO BORBON (CF, 23.1, AA, Jamey’s #11)– I was something less than enraptured by Texas’s selection of Borbon in the 2007 draft. His skill set made (and makes) him almost certain to make the Majors, but in what role? Borbon displayed tremendous contact skill and speed in his three seasons at Tennessee. His modest power was acceptable for a center fielder, but his inability to take pitches was a serious problem. I feared he’d end up a guy who offered a .280 batting average and little else. In his first full season, he’s lessened those concerns, if not eliminated them. First, he maintained his contact and even thumped seven homers while reaching AA. Then, though he’d walked as little as ever during the regular season, his Arizona Fall League performance was a revelation: 17 walks in 104 plate appearances resulting in a .404 OBP. That’s just a data point, just a fraction of his regular-season appearances, but he’s now shown the potential to develop into a genuinely effective and well-rounded leadoff hitter. Bound for: Oklahoma City. No less than a cup of coffee in September. Maybe a whole pot.

11. BLAKE BEAVAN (RHP-starter, 20.2, low-A, Jamey’s #10) -- What would you reasonably expect from a brash American flamethrower dealing with velocity loss? I’d fear (if not outright expect) overthrowing and a dismal walk rate. To his immense credit, Beavan took the opposite route and focused hard on his control. Making his professional debut in full-season ball, he walked only one of every 24 batters faced and posted a 2.37 ERA (and 3.11 RA). Better still, word on the street is that his speed inched back up in fall instructionals. If he fully regains his velocity while maintaining his control, well… Texas did draft Beavan before Michael Main. Expect his placement outside the top ten to be a one-year anomaly. Bound for: Bakersfield.

10. ERIC HURLEY
(RHP-starter, 23.5, MLB, Jamey’s #14) – Ugh. Bound for: Rehab.

Posted by Lucas at 11:48 PM

March 07, 2009

Texas Rangers Prospects #19-#27

27. THOMAS DIAMOND (RHP-starter, 26.0, AA, Jamey’s #30) – Diamond lost 2007 and much of 2008 to Tommy John surgery. Before then, he featured a monster strikeout rate (27%) and some monster control issues (12% BB rate). Development of an offspeed pitch to accent his powerful fastball remains a critical problem. Diamond has switched between a curve and slider on several occasions. As reported by Mike Hindman, he’s back on the slider this spring. Bound for: You heard Mr. Daniels suggest that Diamond might make the active roster a while back. I doubt it. Actually, I wouldn’t terribly mind another visit to AA to prove a semblance of control with his revamped repertoire. He’s likely headed for AAA.

26. CARLOS PIMENTEL (RHP-starter, 19.3, short-A, Jamey’s #28) – Four of Texas’s top 26 prospects should anchor the low-A Hickory rotation come April. Though 17-year-old Martin Perez deserved attention for being the only non-adult in the Northwest League, he overshadowed Pimentel, the league’s third youngest player. Pimentel’s walk rate increased and his strikeout rate declined in his second year in the US, but he more than held his own against a bunch of former college juniors. Opponents mustered only a .235 batting average against him… when they made contact. 20% of the time, they struck out. Bound for: Hickory.

25. TIM MURPHY (LHP-starter and reliever, 21.9, low-A, Jamey’s #22) – The rookie Murphy missed plenty of bats with a money curveball and excelled at inducing weak contact. As in his UCLA days, Murphy occasionally took the mound without much control, but he finished with three consecutive sharp outings in Clinton. The following stock statement applies to 80% of the pitchers on this list: “Murphy’s future role depends on his ability to develop a changeup.? Bound for: Bakersfield’s rotation. He and the previous year’s 3rd rounder, Evan Reed, might be teammates.

24. JOE WIELAND (RHP-starter, 19.2, rookie, Jamey’s #20) – In rookie ball, where plenty of talented but raw pitchers have no idea where the ball is going, overmatched batters can at least keep the bat on their shoulders and hope for a walk or HBP. Opponents attempting that “strategy? against Joe Wieland found themselves slinking back to the dugout in short order. Wieland walked fewer than 5% of opposing batters, never more than one in any of his 13 appearances. He also fanned 27%. Baseball America, which has a serious crush on him, indicated his fastball could eventually separate him from his Texas draft mates. Bound for: Spokane’s rotation. BA suggests Hickory, but it’s a tight fit. Assuming the quartet of Perez/Boscan/Ramirez/Pimentel collectively jump from Spokane to Hickory, only one spot remains. I count six candidates for the final spot, and I might be missing someone. Still, a visit to Hickory, if not a full season, is within reach.

23. ROBBIE ROSS (LHP-starter, 19.8, has not pitched, Jamey’s #24) – Ross took full advantage of his leverage and signed at the last second for the largest second-round bonus in last year’s draft. Like Matt Harrison, Ross reportedly has a better feel for his secondary pitches (slider, change) than most high schoolers. Bound for: Blake Beavan signed late and skipped short-season ball; might Ross do the same? I doubt it, and as noted, Hickory’s not lacking for starters. Thus, his first taste of pro ball should come more than a year after being drafted.

22. MITCH MORELAND (1B/OF, 23.6, low-A, Jamey’s #21) – After a lackluster Spokane debut, Moreland’s 2008 OPS+ of 166 trailed only Max Ramirez in Texas’s full-season leagues. Moreland hit for average and power, drew plenty of walks, and didn’t even strike out that much. Moreland didn’t see a minute in the outfield between Ian Gac’s departure and Justin Smoak’s arrival, which should give you some idea of his long-term position. The lefty also threw a couple of innings last season and worked from the mound at Fall Instructionals. Bound for: Bakersfield’s outfield if Smoak or Gac is there, 1B if not.

21. WILMER FONT (RHP-starter, 18.9, rookie, Jamey’s #16) – Had I written prospect previews last year, I could have recycled Font’s. Font missed almost all of 2008 with shoulder and knee problems and remains exactly what he was a year ago: a huge, flamethrowing, very high-upside pitcher with a very long way to go. Like another pitcher of whom you might be aware, Font has reached triple digits on the gun. He actually displayed reasonably good control of his fastball as a 17-year-old in rookie ball in 2007. Bound for: Font may be the best reason to pay attention to Spokane this year. I’m dying to see how he fares against stiffer competition.

20. GUILLERMO MOSCOSO (RHP-starter, 25.4, AA, not around for Jamey) – Moscoso didn’t pitch professionally until the age of 19. For various reasons including injuries, he’s never pitched more than 90 innings in a season and has only 389 total at the advanced age of 25. Still, Texas wants to keep him in a starting role for now. He thrives on a respectably speedy and exceptionally lively fastball. Reviews of his offspeed stuff are less enthused, but he controls his repertoire well: Moscoso has a career 5% walk rate and 27% strikeout rate. Bound for: AA rotation. If Texas does convert him to relief, he could visit Arlington this season.

19. WARNER MADRIGAL (RHP-reliever, 25.0, MLB, not ranked by Jamey) – No, the Angels didn’t forget to tender the next K-Rod a contract back in 2007. They did lose what looks like serviceable reliever. Madrigal plowed through AAA for three months and received “the call? in early July. Ignore his grievous debut (6 runs in 1/3 inning) and you have a 1.23 WHIP and an opposing line of .237/.301/.382 in 35.2 innings. Not bad for someone who took up pitching in 2006. Bound for: Having options may land Madrigal in AAA in April unless he forces Texas’s hand.

Posted by Lucas at 12:16 PM

Texas Rangers Prospects #28-#36

36. CLARK MURPHY (1B, 19.3, rookie, Jamey’s #29) – Baseball America suggested that Murphy regressed as a high-school senior. Nevertheless, Texas made a slight reach (based on scouting rankings) to select him, gave him a bonus slightly above slot, and even agreed to pay his college tuition. Murphy rewarded Texas by leading the rookie Rangers in average (.358) and slugging (.526) among players with at least 20 games. Texas might experiment with him in the outfield, but he’s a first baseman in the long run. Bound for: A good spring could land him in Hickory. Certainly no lower than Spokane.

35. JOHN WHITTLEMAN (3B, 22.1, AA, Jamey’s #38) – Whittleman can take a pitch like nobody else. In the entire minor leagues, only Kansas City’s Kila Kaaihue has bested Whittleman’s 175 walks and 16% walk rate during the past two years. Frustratingly, the other aspects of his game are in a holding pattern. Since tearing up Clinton in the first three months of 2007, Whittleman is batting .240 and slugging .372. He also continues to commit an unsettling number of errors. 2009 will be Whittleman’s 5th season, and his most critical. Bound for: Frisco. Later on, Texas will have to figure out what to do with Whittleman and Travis Metcalf on the same team.

34. CRISTIAN SANTANA (COF/C[?], 19.8, low-A, Jamey’s #27) – Did any uninjured Texas prospect have a more disappointing season? Last February, Santana was a hard-hitting catcher yet to turn 19. By September, he was a left fielder trying to fill the foot-wide hole in his swing. The Rangers shifted Santana to the outfield last spring, a move I believed temporary at the time. He did catch sporadically around midseason, but in July he was pulled from a game in the second inning and never caught again. Worse still, he struck out at an alarming 32% rate and rarely walked. On the upside, he’s still 19 and crushed low-A pitching when he made contact. Bound for: Probably Bakersfield, despite the shaky full-season debut. Maybe some remedial work in Hickory first. A little better pitch recognition will land him on the Cal League All-Star team.

33. PEDRO STROP (RHP-reliever, 23.8, AA, not around for Jamey) – “Three swing-and-miss pitches,? claimed Colorado roving pitching coordinator Jim Wright in Baseball America. The former shortstop entered pro ball a year after Warner Madrigal but converted to pitching a few months earlier. In 2007, while Madrigal was dominating the Midwest League, the year-younger Strop fanned 32% of opposing batters in the higher California League. He’s already suffered a strained ligament and stress fracture in his pitching elbow. Bound for: Extended Spring Training, then Frisco.

32. FABIO CASTILLO (RHP-everything, 20.1, low-A Jamey’s #26) – Entering 2008, Castillo was a raw, exciting pitcher with some pretty lousy statistics. That assessment hasn’t changed. At times, Castillo was as dominant as any Lumberking hurler – witness his seven strikeouts in three scoreless innings last April. At other times, he was, shall we say, combustible: four walks, six hits and six runs in a 2.2-inning start last May. Though the final results weren’t pretty, he had plenty of strong outings that point to a promising future. Keep in mind that Castillo was the youngest of 11 Lumberkings to start at least two games last year. Bound for: Feels like a repeat is in order. Hickory to start.

31. GREG GOLSON (CF, 23.6, AA, not around for Jamey) – Among the position players in my top 72, Golson is the 7th-oldest overall and the oldest to sign out of high school. Nevertheless, “toolsy? and “raw? are still apt descriptors. Like John Mayberry, Golson has steadily advanced through the minors without easing concerns about whether he can play at the highest level. On the upside, he posted career best in walks and OBP in Double A last year. On the downside, having 34 walks and a .333 OBP as career bests is pretty sad. Bound for: AA if Texas wants to keep him in center, or AAA flanking Julio Borbon.

30. DOUG MATHIS (RHP-starter, 25.8, MLB, Jamey’s #25) – Despite outrighting him this winter, Texas thinks highly of Mathis: assignment to AAA in 2007 after only 10 innings in AA, a big-league camp invite in 2008, a Major League call-up in April, and two late-inning appearances in tight contests to kick off his MLB career. The original AAA assignment threw him for an emotional loop (by his own admission); he’s handled everything else with aplomb. Mathis later matched C.C. Sabathia for six innings in Cleveland before succumbing to shoulder inflammation in June. He’s much more about command than power and is likelier to fashion a career in relief. Bound for: AAA rotation.

29. KENNIL GOMEZ (RHP-starter, 21.0, low-A, Jamey’s #23) – In October 2007, I asked Don Welke which relatively unknown player should be on my radar. He said Kennil Gomez. (Actually, he said “Kendry? Gomez while pointing him out to me. Close enough.) Gomez quickly confirmed Welke’s opinion by receiving a mildly surprising assignment to low-A after only 53 professional innings, then walking just three of his first 130 batters faced. Gomez features a sinking fastball, curve and change, all of which are relatively advanced for his tender age. Persistent shoulder soreness ended his season in July. Bound for: Bakersfield. A few more innings in Hickory wouldn’t shock me, giving his injury, but 88 very strong low-A innings in 2007 should be sufficient to advance.

28. MARCUS LEMON (SS/2B, 20.8, high-A, Jamey’s #32) – Mostly for the better, Lemon became a different hitter in 2008. In his first 59 games, he had 13 extra-base hits and 35 walks. In his last 59 games, he had 29 extra-base hits and 11 walks. The power spike was impressive, especially for a 19-year-old and the 3rd-youngest hitter in the Cal League. The July stretch of 88 consecutive plate appearances without a walk was baffling in light of the impressive patience he’d shown throughout his career. Notably, he didn’t strike out more often in the second half, so his swing-happiness didn’t affect his contact rate. Lemon is facing a switch from shortstop to second base. Bound for: Frisco.

Posted by Lucas at 12:14 PM

February 10, 2009

Texas Rangers Prospects 37-45

In parentheses: position, age on 4/1/09, highest level achieved, Jamey’s ranking)

45. CHAD TRACY (1B/COF, 23.1, AA, Jamey’s #46) – After May 26, 2008, Chad Tracy sported a career line of .250/.316/.406 in 245 professional games. Texas undoubtedly hoped for more from its third-round pick in 2006. Tracy then cured whatever ailed him by hitting .328/.389/.556 over three months that included a promotion to AA. Having downshifted from catcher to outfield corner to first base (and frequent DH) over the past two seasons, he’ll go as far as his bat allows. Bound for: OKC lacks a 1B prospect, but Tracy might first have to augment his grand total of 24 games in AA.

44. BRENNAN GARR (RHP-reliever, 25.1, AA, Jamey’s #54) – Garr mows down hitters with a hard four-seamer; his 27% strikeout rate trailed only Warner Madrigal among Texas’s full-season relievers. He also walked more batters than the other players mentioned, including a startling 27% of lefties during his two terms in Frisco. Though he’s become much more fly-prone in AA, he remains extremely difficult to take deep. Garr missed several weeks with shoulder soreness and logged only 44 innings in 2008. Bound for: Texas signs a new pitcher every day, so Garr might have to bide his time in Frisco for a while longer. A good spring could land him in AAA.

43. ANDREW LAUGHTER (RHP-reliever, 24.1, AA, Jamey’s #47) – Laughter has climbed the ladder quickly after being drafted in the 10th round as a college senior in 2007. Possessing a slider and low 90s fastball that can reach a little higher on occasion, Laughter doesn’t fan batters like Garr or Beau Jones but has exhibited much better control to date and is uncommonly stingy with the long ball. Some rough late-season outings led to ugly ERAs of 4.80 in AA and 6.14 ERA in the Arizona Fall League. He’s better than that, and ERA doesn’t mean much for relievers anyway. Bound for: See Garr, Brennan.

42. JOAQUIN ARIAS (2B/SS, 24.5, MLB, Jamey’s #45) – Coming off 2007’s shoulder surgery, Arias actually spent more time at short than second in 2008. Further, over the course of 32 MLB games, Arias narrowly bested Michael Young in average, OBP and slugging. Texas isn’t moving Young to accommodate Arias, however. His throws lacked their former snap, and his offensive evolution remains frustratingly modest. Teams with Ian Kinsler and 12 pitchers don’t need a backup second baseman. Bound for: Texas’s bench or back to Oklahoma as the starting SS or 2B.

41. MANUEL PINA (C, 21.8, AA, Jamey’s #39) – I was flabbergasted when Texas assigned Pina to Bakersfield last April. He’d batted .228/.278/.285 as a 19-year-old in Clinton; surely he needed to repeat low-A. The Rangers thought otherwise, and Pina rewarded them with a line of .268/.318/.360 that included some time in AA. He reminds me a bit of Einar Diaz at the plate: his best skill is avoiding strikeouts, he doesn’t walk much, and his slugging is largely fueled by doubles. He’s got the tools defensively. More game-calling experience at the higher levels will help. Bound for: Frisco. I promise never to mention Diaz again.

40. BEAU JONES (LHP-reliever, 22.6, AA, Jamey’s #34) – Jones was hammered in his first taste of high-A while still a Brave. On his second try, he improved modestly as a starter in Bakersfield, but Texas decided his future was in relief. Baseball America rated his curve the best in Atlanta’s system in November 2005. Amusingly, in a March 2007 interview with Scout.com, Jones himself ranked his curveball behind his fastball and change. He’s never exhibited much control outside of low-A Rome in 2007. Like Garr and Laughter, he’s adept at preventing homers. Bound for: See Garr, Brennan.

39. KYLE OCAMPO (RHP-starter, 20.3, rookie, Jamey’s #51) – Texas signed 2007 13th-rounder Ocampo (not “O’Campo?) with third-round money at the very last second before he scampered off to Cal State Fullerton. Texas eased him into pro ball with an assignment to rookie league, where he fanned 26% of his opponents and didn’t permit too many walks or homers. Bound for: Spokane. I can’t find room for him in Hickory.

38. TOMAS TELIS (C, 17.8, DSL, Jamey’s #40) – Meet Texas’s top prospect lacking US experience. Telis displayed astounding bat control for a 17-year-old, drawing walks at a league-average rate and striking out only once per 16 appearances. He also handled defensive duties reasonably well for someone who converted from shortstop just a year ago. Bound for: Texas loves to push its catchers. Still, I can’t envision him at Hickory next April. Give low-A to the older Leonel de los Santos (or grizzled Doug Hogan) and place Telis in Spokane, where he’ll still rank among the league’s youngest.

37. JOHN BANNISTER (RHP-reliever, 25.2, AA, Jamey’s #35) – Undrafted. Signed over six years ago. Only 26 innings above A ball. Career ERA of 4.58. And now, a proud member of Texas’s 40-man roster. Upon return from Tommy John surgery, Bannister flailed as a starter and posted only ordinary statistics in relief. However, he gained velocity as the season progressed, routinely dealing in the mid 90s during a reasonably successful showing in the hitter-crazy Arizona Fall League. Bound for: AAA if Texas can find room for him. AA to begin the season, if not.

Posted by Lucas at 06:07 PM

February 06, 2009

Texas Rangers Prospects 46-54

In parentheses: position, age on 4/1/09, highest level achieved, Jamey Newberg's ranking.

54. MATT THOMPSON (RHP-starter, 19.1, rookie, unranked by Jamey) – Texas’s 7th rounder from 2008 didn’t sign until late July and received a bonus worthy of a 2nd rounder. He then allowed 23 runs in 8.1 innings in rookie ball. No problem. Baseball America extolled his fastball, and folks who watched him at fall instructionals were duly impressed with his 6’ 3? frame and potential. He goes by “Matt,? but MLB Advanced Media calls him “William.? Bound for: Spokane.

53. GEURIS GRULLON (LHP-starter, 19.3, rookie, Jamey’s #44) – Grullon signed as a 16-year-old from the Dominican Republic but never pitched in the Dominican Summer League. Grullon achieved an insane 70% ground-ball rate last year and hasn’t allowed a homer to any of the 222 batters he’s faced professionally. His control is problematic, even relative to other teenagers, though he did cut his sum of hit batters and wild pitches from 22 to 7. Bound for: Probably Spokane.

52. LEONEL DE LOS SANTOS (C, 19.5, rookie, Jamey’s #58) – The Venezuelan already had a nickname after 2007 (“macumba?) but didn’t get a bio in last year’s media guide. Not this time. De los Santos batted .286/.338/.397 in August after scuffling in his first six weeks in rookie ball. He gunned down a solid 37% of opposing runners (league average was 29%) but also committed a league-high 11 errors among catchers. Bound for: There’s room for him at Hickory if Texas feels he can handle full-season ball at 19.

51. MIKE BALLARD (LHP-starter, 25.1, AAA, Jamey’s #49) – Not a hard thrower, Ballard defeats hitters with a looping curve and changeup. He relies on pinpoint control (career 6% walk rate) and plenty of grounders to succeed. His .366 BABIP in 2008 really isn’t a fluke. Ballard has always been hittable, especially against righties, and a eventual conversion to relief is highly probable. Bound for: The AAA rotation, initially.

50. JOSH LUEKE (RHP-reliever, 24.3, high-A, Jamey’s #63) – A right-handed high-A reliever with a 5.03 ERA, ranked 50th? Yep. The 6’5? Lueke fanned 27% of opposing hitters, trailing only Warner Madrigal and Brennan Garr among Texas’s full-season relievers (relative to their respective league averages). He also walked just 6% of opponents and surrendered a tolerable number of homers for the Cal League. The high ERA comes from a .360 average on balls in play against him, including an absurd .330 on grounders. Bound for: Frisco, preferably.

49. MIGUEL DE LOS SANTOS (LHP-starter, 20.7, rookie, Jamey’s #60) – Coming off elbow surgery in July 2007, de los Santos returned to lead the organization with a 36% strikeout rate in 35 rookie-league innings. He’s not a flamethrower, and (like many teens) his control is shaky. Texas has to make a decision on his 40-man roster status after 2010. Bound for: Texas could well decide he belongs in Hickory with the famed hurlers from Spokane’s ’07 club. He might pitch some long relief to limit his workload.

48. MATT WEST (3B, 20.4, short-A, Jamey’s #55) – Coming back from a suspension, West batted .258/.367/.358 in Spokane. That line doesn’t deserve an exclamation point, but consider that West was the 16th-youngest player in the league (as of mid-August) and faced a steady diet of former college juniors and seniors. Texas has never drafted a successful position player in the 2nd round (unless you want to count ’79 pick Donnie Scott’s four months as a regular catcher in 1984. And you don’t.) Bound for: Hickory.

47. JAKE BRIGHAM (RHP-starter, 21.1, short-A, Jamey’s #43) – The promising, unpolished Brigham lost 2008 to Tommy John surgery. In two seasons prior, he’d pitched effectively for the rookies and Spokane, albeit with bouts of wildness. Bound for: Brigham probably will spend some time in extended Spring Training. He could eventually see a combination of Spokane and Hickory.

46. TIM SMITH (COF, 22.8, low-A, Jamey’s #52) – After hitting a game-winning homer in the Midwest League All-Star game, Smith joked that “"they're going to expect me to start hitting home runs when I get back to Clinton.? The joke was on Smith, in a good way. After hitting two dingers in the season’s first half, he clubbed 11 in the second including seven in August. Smith already had a knack for running (21 steals) and contact (.300 average), so the power burst makes him a corner outfielder worth watching. Bound for: The Cal League, where we’ll see how his bat plays in a much more hitter-friendly environment.

Posted by Lucas at 05:39 PM

January 25, 2009

Texas Rangers Prospects 55-63

In parentheses are position, age as of 4/1/09, highest level attained, and ranking by Jamey Newberg:

63. JUAN POLANCO (OF, 18.7, Dominican Summer, Jamey’s #69) – As a 17-year-old, Polanco slugged .455 and hit eight homers in a league where precious few show much power. Polanco spent most of his time in right with a smattering of games in center. Another intriguing youngster with a long way to go. Bound for: Rookie league.

62. MICHAEL SCHLACT (RHP-starter, 23.3, AA, Jamey’s #67) –Schlact pitched a little better than his 5.23 ERA, but not enough to earn a spot on the 40-man roster. Many of his starts ended badly (4.96 Run Average in Innings 1-4, 7.38 afterwards), but in 2007 the reverse was true. It’s money time for the 81st pick of the 2004 draft. Bound for: I’d say Frisco again, with the opportunity to advance to Oklahoma City.

61. EVAN REED (RHP-starter, 22.0, AA, Jamey’s #57) – Reed earned some buzz with two fine starts in Clinton and five scoreless innings in Frisco to begin 2008. Then, Bakersfield happened. Reed struggled with his control all season and never enjoyed an extended stretch of success. That said, he was a 3rd-rounder from 2007 and will be given time to grow. Bound for: To start the season, probably his least favorite locale. Later, Frisco.

60. COREY YOUNG (LHP-reliever, 22.3, short-A, Jamey’s #36) – Texas used the former Seton Hall starter out of the bullpen. He walked or plunked over 20% of opposing batters through July, nearly as many as he struck out. Thereafter, he issues only two free passes and fanned 16. Lefties hit .105/.244/.132 against him. Bound for: Maybe Bakersfield. Certainly no lower than Hickory.

59. ZACH PHILLIPS (LHP-starter, 22.5, high-A, Jamey’s #37) – Even at his best, Phillips has been hittable. His .339 opposing average on balls in play during 2007 is his career low to date. Phillips is always stingy with the long ball, so when he limits his walks (as he did in ’07 but not last year) he’s still tough to beat. Phillips finished 2008 with some dubiously effective numbers: just one earned run in 17.2 innings but also 12 walks. Bound for: He already repeated Clinton. Will he repeat Bakersfield? Not the full season, but some of it, probably.

58. JARED HYATT (RHP-starter, 24.9, AAA, Jamey’s #41) – In two seasons, Hyatt has made 22 starts and 16 relief appearances and pitched at every affiliate but Spokane. I watched his lone AAA start, which was a microcosm of his season: a barrage of soft flies and pop-ups. He’s oddly effective and has shown dramatically better control out of college. Bound for: Can hang in Oklahoma City, but the volume of upper-level pitchers could put him in Frisco for a while longer.

57. JOEY BUTLER (COF, 23.1, short-A, Jamey’s #56) – Noted by Baseball America as one of Texas’s best late-round selections and athletes from 2008, Butler enjoyed a solid debut at the plate (.301/.417/.434) while roaming the outfield corners. He’s got some Johnny Whittleman in him: 36% of his plate appearances ended with a walk or strikeout. Bound for: Likely Hickory, outside shot at Bakersfield.

56. JOSEPH ORTIZ (LHP-reliever, 18.6, low-A, Jamey’s #42) – Only four 5’7? pitchers have appeared in the Majors during the past 20 years. Two were Rangers for a while: Fabio Castro and Danny Ray Herrera (who reached the summit with Cincinnati). Ortiz more closely resembles the harder-throwing Castro. Bound for: A repeat of low-A. Certainly there’s no need to rush him.

55. RENNY OSUNA (MIF, 23.9, high-A, Jamey’s #33) – After a lackluster 2007, Osuna hit .360 with 21 doubles in just under three months in Clinton. He relinquished some of his newfound power and patience in Bakersfield but remained impressive. Osuna has played first and third on occasion. Bound for: Well… depending on what happens to Elvis Andrus (and to a lesser extent, Joaquin Arias), he could begin 2009 where he finished ‘08. He’ll see plenty of Frisco, though.

Posted by Lucas at 11:31 AM

Texas Rangers Prospects 64-72

In parentheses are position, age as of 4/1/09, highest level attained, and ranking by Jamey Newberg:

72. BRIAN GORDON (RHP-reliever, 30.6, Majors, not ranked by Jamey)) – Yeah, I listed a 30-year-old converted outfielder as a prospect. Gordon can hit 90-91 with his fastball, reach down to 68 with his curve, and throw a slider and change for good measure. Texas converted him to starter in Oklahoma City, but his likely future in Texas (if there is one) is as a long reliever. I can see him filling in capably for Josh Rupe if the need arises. Bound for: AAA.

71. TAE KYUNG AHN (RHP-starter, 19, no pro experience, not ranked by Jamey) – Ahn is as much an unknown as anybody on this list. The Rangers inked him last August for $275,000, their first big signing in a nascent focus on Asia. Ahn doesn’t throw terribly hard (yet) and had a tepid finale to his high-school career. He’s already a big boy (6’3?, 220). Ideally, he tells everyone back in Korea how awesome the Rangers are. Bound for: Depends on what he shows between now and June. Probably rookie league.

70. JONATHAN GREENE (3B, 23.5, low-A, not ranked by Jamey) – Greene has played catcher, left field and third during the past two years with Texas and in college. Defense isn’t his forte. He trailed only Mike Moustakas in the Midwest league with 21 homers and set a league record with 36 HBPs, the highest total in all of professional baseball in at least four years (and perhaps longer). Bound for: Bakersfield.

69. LEURY GARCIA (SS, 18.0, rookie, not ranked by Jamey) – 5’ 7?, 155 pounds, batted .209/.250/.279 in rookie ball. None of that sounds very prospect-o-licious, but Garcia earned an invite to last fall’s Instructionals and won the overall points competition. Bound for: Spokane, or another round of rookie ball, or a little or both. Who Texas drafts at short in June might affect his placement.

68. CARLOS MELO (RHP-starter, 18.1, Dominican Summer, not around when Jamey mde his list) – Melo reached 96 MPH and fanned 28% of DSL batters as a 17-year-old, which is to say he has the potential to make Guillermo Moscoso the “other guy? in the Gerald Laird trade. We won’t know for several years. Bound for: Rookie league.

67. JARED BOLDEN (1B/COF, 22.0, short-season A, Jamey’s #70) – Baseball America’s Jim Callis described Bolden as one of Texas’s best “pure hitters? of the ’08 draft. Mostly a pitcher and 1B in college, Bolden never hit lower than .355 in three years at Virginia Commonwealth and slugged .674 as a junior. That performance didn’t translate to Spokane (.263/.361/.387), but don’t worry yet. Mitch Moreland didn’t hit in Spokane, either. Bound for: Hickory.

66. JOSE FELIX (C, 20.8, low-A, Jamey’s #53) – Texas signed Felix out of the Mexican League last January, and the then-unknown 19-year-old ended up catching the majority of Clinton’s games. Like Manny Pina until 2008, his offensive game consists primarily of avoiding strikeouts, which only goes so far. He’s needs time to grow at the plate and behind it. Bound for: Hickory at the start (though I wrongly expected the same of Pina last year).

65. RICHARD BLEIER (LHP-starter, 22.0, short-season A, Jamey’s #62) – “Tall and left-handed? is a sure-fire way to make a prospect list. Texas drafted the 6’3? Bleier in last year’s 6th round from Florida Gulf Coast University. He proceeded to post decent, if not awe-inspiring, numbers in short-season Spokane. His extreme grounder tendencies will come in handy at the upper end of the minors. Bound for: Hickory.

64. MIKE BIANUCCI (COF, 22.8, short-season A, Jamey's #50) – Baseball America ranked Bianucci the #19 prospect in last summer’s Cape Cod League not long after he signed with Texas. Bianucci delivered contact, power and walks in college, and his debut in Spokane went well (.316/.386/.535) until ended by a broken wrist. He’s not going to win a Gold Glove. Bound for: Hickory.

Posted by Lucas at 11:28 AM

January 10, 2009

Ranking Texas’s Top 72 Prospects, a/k/a Confirming Your Insanity In Writing

(Cross-posted from The Newberg Report)

Following the 2005 season, Jamey Newberg increased his list of Texas’s top prospects from 60 to 72. When he hired me to replace Mike Hindman in 2007, I decided to create my own list. It’s a bit of a fool’s errand, albeit an entertaining and hopefully informative one.

When ranking prospects, one can consider age, age relative to league/level, height, weight, handedness, current position, likely future position, tools, progress in developing those tools, statistical performance, intelligence, maturity, desire/tenacity, injuries, and other factors. Some of those attributes are concretely measurable, some inferable, and some complete unknowns. Then comes the issue of upside. Some prospects have a pretty good chance of drawing a consistent Major League paycheck but little chance of being an All-Star. Others have a better chance of being an All-Star but a much higher probability of flaming out in A-ball. Whom do you prefer?

Maintaining internal consistency is darn near impossible. Jamey generally ranks his players in terms of who he’d least prefer to be traded. That’s a good system, but even it breaks down for me eventually. I have a few players with limited upsides ranked ahead of some intriguing teenagers, because I think those in the former group are more likely to contribute marginally at the Major League level. But, I’d much rather trade one of them than the intriguing youngster with a 1-in-200 chance of catching fire.

So, why bother making a list? Because I like to see how my list compares to Jamey, to Baseball America, to Kevin Goldstein, to Jason Cole, to the folks at Baseball Time In Arlington, to Mike Hindman. Because it’s a way to test my knowledge and analysis, and to learn from mistakes. Because it’s fun.

Keep in mind that prospect values tend to decrease quickly and then flatten out as you move down the list. Here’s a hypothetical example of the relative talent/upside levels of a team’s prospects:

There’s a much bigger difference in trade value between #1 and #10 than between #40 and #70.

With all that said, I’m leading out with 28 players who didn’t make the Top 72. They aren’t ranked, and they aren’t necessarily prospects #73 through #100. They’re just more players who deserve a little of your attention in 2009.

I’ve included a guess of where they’ll begin 2009. Constructing potential rosters for the full-season teams isn’t especially difficult. For the pitchers, it’s tough bordering on impossible, the “downside? of having so much depth. Texas has about 60 slots available for the Rangers and its full-season teams, and at the moment I count 72 pitchers in-house with full-season experience. That doesn’t include hurlers from Spokane (or lower) who deserve promotions. Injuries and extended stays in Spring Training will ease the logjam to an extent, but the folks in charge still have some very tough decisions ahead.

Player ages are as of April 1, 2009. If Jamey had the player in his Top 72, it’s noted.

STARTING PITCHERS

JUAN GRULLON (LHP, 19.1 years old, DSL) – Grullon’s last seven appearances: 19 innings, three earned runs, .155 batting average, 6 walks, 32 strikeouts. Bound for: Rookie ball in the US.

BEN HENRY (RHP, 20.0, low-A) – Henry is the guy who threw three scoreless innings with a 50% strikeouts rate. He’s also the guy who threw two wild pitches in five different outings. Still learning how to pitch. Bound for: Spokane.

MICHAEL KIRKMAN (LHP, 22.5, low-A) – Injuries in 2006-2007 limited Kirkman to 74 total innings. 74 extremely frustrating innings (22% walk rate, 22 wild pitches). Healthy at last, Kirkman got the ball over the plate and resumed showing the promise that made him Texas’s 5th-round pick in 2005. Bound for: Bakersfield.

ANYENIL MENDOZA (RHP, 20.3, DSL) – Dominican Summer League manager Jayce Tingler lauded Mendoza in an interview with Scout.com’s Jason Cole. Mendoza displayed pinpoint control and precision against righties (10-to-1 SO:BB ratio) while losing his aim against lefties (1.33-to-1). Bound for: Rookie ball.

TANNER ROARK (RHP, 22.5, high-A, Jamey’s #71) – Texas’s 25th-round selection handled a July promotion from rookie ball to high-A with aplomb. He struck out 27% of his Cal League opponents and maintained a 2.48 ERA until allowing four runs in his final appearance. On the downside, he allowed five homers in 30 innings. Bound for: Probably some more innings in Bakersfield.

GLENN SWANSON (LHP, 25.9, high-A, Jamey’s #59) – Drafted as a fifth-year senior, Swanson was already 23 when he made his pro debut. Then, Tommy John surgery in mid-2007 limited him to 53 innings last year. His command was as good as ever, but he allowed seven homers in 33 innings in Bakersfield. 2009 is a critical year for him. Bound for: Possibly a brief stint in Bakersfield again, followed by Frisco.

RYAN TATUSKO (RHP, 24.0, low-A) – Pitching much better now than in college, and better than his 4.46 ERA indicates. Peripherals improved significantly when converted from reliever to starter. Bound for: Likely Bakersfield, though a roster crunch could force him to Hickory for a while.

RELIEF PITCHERS

KENDY BATISTA (RHP, 27.7, AAA) – Despite his advanced age, Batista has a grand total of just 227 professional innings (excluding winter ball) because of a five-year gap in his career. A June arm injury ended his season. Batista began exhibiting control problems upon promotion to AA, and he’s fared no better in that respect this winter. Bound for: AA or AAA.

REINIER BERMUDEZ (RHP, 23.8, DSL, Jamey’s #72) – A little old for the Dominican League and a little short for a stormtrooper, Bermudez nonetheless made a name for himself by throwing mid-90s cheese and posting a 36% SO rate. Righties hit .092/.200/.147 against him. Bound for: Spokane or even Hickory.

CHRIS DENNIS (RHP, 25.2, high-A) – Dennis took an absolute beating in Bakersfield (17 baserunners allowed in 4.2 innings), then went scoreless in 30 of 39 appearances in Clinton. He also stranded 12 of 16 inherited runners. Bound for: Swimming or sinking in Bakersfield.

RYAN FALCON (LHP, 24.6, high-A) – Falcon doesn’t throw hard but has managed to strike out over a quarter of his opponents during the past two years while displaying impeccable control (5% BB rate). Bound for: Bakersfield or Frisco.

JUSTIN GUTSIE (RHP, 22.2, short-season A) – Gutsie’s fastball can touch 95, but results were mixed in Spokane. Lefties had his number (.341/.431/.455), righties cried in despair (.196/.283/.239). Bound for: Hickory.

MARK HAMBURGER (RHP, 22.2, low-A, Jamey’s #48) – The return for Eddie Guardado was quietly effective in Clinton after striking out 26% of Appy League opponents. Literally signed out of a tryout camp with the Twins. He features a nice fastball/slider combo. Bound for: Hickory or Bakersfield.

KEA KOMETANI (RHP, 26.3, AAA) – Fearsomely effective after converting to relief in ’07, Kometani became one of 2008’s big disappointments. His rate of homers allowed tripled, his strikeouts declined, his walks increased, and his ERA suffered the consequences. A nice rebound candidate. Bound for: Oklahoma City.

A.J. MURRAY (LHP, 27.0, MLB) – Amazingly, still a rookie as defined by Baseball America (under 50 MLB innings). Quite effective in AAA, hot and cold in the Majors. Perpetually injured, but don’t write him off just yet. Bound for: Oklahoma City if healthy.

RYAN SCHLECHT (RHP, 23.7, short-season A) – Schlecht offered arguably the best statistical performance in Spokane, striking out 26% of his opponents and holding them to a line of .181/.253/.215. In his last 43 batters faced, he walked none and struck out 13. Bound for: Hickory, though I wouldn’t be shocked if he debuted in Bakersfield.

RYAN TURNER (LHP, 24.1, low-A) – The soft-tossing lefty had the lowest Fielding-Independent Pitching score of any stateside Ranger. Turner didn’t surrender a homer in 68 innings and walked just one of every 23 batters. Righties hit him pretty hard (.298/.323/.420). Bound for: Bakersfield.

CATCHERS

DOUG HOGAN (C, 24.5, short-season A) – A homer-hitting catcher who provided more raw power than John Mayberry, Ben Harrison and Chad Tracy (relative to their respective leagues). Alas, he also batted .225. Known for capable defensive skills, Hogan gunned down 36% of would-be stealers but allowed 16 passed balls. Bound for: Hickory, though it’s conceivable he could be a backup or job-sharer in Bakersfield.

EMERSON FROSTAD (C/1B/3B, 26.2, AAA, Jamey’s #68) – Frostad moved from catcher to first after 2006, then third to start 2008. By late June, when both Taylor Teagarden and Max Ramirez had moved on, Frostad resumed regular catching duties. He shot down a respectable one-third of potential base stealers after a layoff of over a year. Frostad started white-hot (.308/.378/.542 on May 10th) and finished cold (.230/.310/.349 thereafter). Bound for: Frisco or Oklahoma City in a multi-purpose role.

INFIELDERS

IAN GAC (1B, 23.6, high-A, Jamey’s #64) – Gac’s power has increased prodigiously over the years. He terrorized Hawaii in the winter of 2007 and was the Midwest League’s most feared hitter for two months, hitting 15 homers and reaching base at a .448 pace. Improvement in his batting eye continues to elude him. Upon promotion to Bakersfield, Gac hit another 13 homers but drew only 17 walks versus 96 strikeouts. Despite his still-young age, he’ll be a six-year free agent after 2009 unless protected on the 40-man roster. Bound for: Bakersfield (primarily as a DH if Justin Smoak is there) or Frisco.

EDWIN GARCIA (SS, 18.1, DSL) – Signed in 2007, the youngster showed impressive contact and patience in his pro debut. Bound for: Rookie ball in the US.

OUTFIELDERS

MIGUEL ALFONZO (COF, 20.9, low-A) – Alfonzo skipped Spokane after a solid US debut in rookie ball. Alfonzo struggles mightily with strikeouts (98 in 89 games) but did show a little more pop in the second half. Bound for: Probably Hickory, perhaps Bakersfield.

ERIC FRY (COF, 21.6, short-season A) – In terms of performance to date, Fry has been analogous to German Duran: not great at anything, but not bad at anything. He has some power upside. Bound for: Hickory.

BEN HARRISON (COF, 27.5, AAA, Jamey’s #61) – Harrison endured a miserable 2007 after suffering a shoulder injury the previous winter. In 2008 he resumed hitting as if the previous year hadn’t occurred. Harrison stood almost no chance of being taken in the Rule 5 draft, as too many free agents of similar age, position and caliber were available. Known more for power, he’s surprisingly Kinsler-esque on the bases (18 stolen and only two caught in ‘08). Bound for: A potentially crowded AAA outfield.

DUSTIN MAJEWSKI (OF/1B , 27.6, AA) – Okay, he’s 27 and has yet to reach AAA. He’s also able to play first or any outfield position while providing 10-15 homers and a .380 OBP. A sergeant among organizational soldiers. I’d praise him even if he’d gone to Texas A&M. Bound for: AA or AAA.

STEVEN MURPHY (COF, 24.9, AA, Jamey’s #65) – Murphy followed 2007’s power outage with a career-high 20 homers. The roadblock continues to be his batting eye. Bound for: Three-peating AA isn’t out of the question.

DAVID PAISANO (OF, 21.3, low-A, Jamey’s #66) – Paisano didn’t hit a lick in 2007 and was dropped last June from Clinton to Spokane, where he showed moderate improvement. In light of his formidable defensive skills, Texas likely will continue to be patient. Bound for: Hickory.

GUILLERMO PIMENTEL (OF, 19.4, DSL) – Gifted, raw youngster who hit .300/.440/.411 in the Dominican Republic. Bound for: Arizona.

Posted by Lucas at 02:06 PM

August 01, 2008

Age Distributions In Ranger-Affiliated Minor Leagues

All League players, not just the Rangers, and including those on the DL. As of July 28, 2008:

Age
Rookie
Short-A
Low-A
High-A
AA
AAA
17
4.6% 0.4% 0.3% - - -
18
17.2% 2.0% 1.0% 0.4% - -
19
20.9% 6.7% 9.1% 0.7% 0.9% -
20
15.7% 12.2% 9.6% 7.4% 2.3% -
21
13.2% 23.9% 18.0% 8.5% 6.0% 1.1%
22
16.0% 31.8% 26.6% 20.2% 10.2% 2.7%
23
8.3% 16.9% 26.6% 28.3% 24.2% 6.9%
24
0.9% 4.3% 6.1% 21.3% 18.1% 9.3%
25
1.5% 1.2% 1.8% 9.9% 17.7% 16.0%
26
0.3% 0.4% 1.0% 1.8% 7.0% 14.9%
27
0.6% 0.4% - 0.7% 5.6% 11.8%
28
0.3% - - 0.4% 1.9% 10.4%
29
- - - 0.4% 3.3% 8.4%
30
- - - - 0.5% 5.3%
31
- - - - 1.4% 4.0%
32
- - - - 0.5% 2.4%
33
- - - - 0.5% 1.6%
34
- - - - - 2.0%
35
- - - - - 1.1%
36
- - - - - 0.7%
37
- - - - - 0.7%
38
- - - - - 0.7%
Avg.
20.8 22.1 22.3 23.4 24.7 27.5
Med.
20.4 22.1 22.4 23.5 24.5 26.9

Posted by Lucas at 05:20 PM

February 15, 2008

Show Your Work

This is the longer version of what I’ll be writing about in the 2/15 Newberg Report email. Nothing earth-shattering. I just thought it was interesting. All data from 2007:

League
Team Errors per Game
Team HBP + PB + WP per Game
Total Team Mistakes per Game
% Runs Unearned
% Runs
w/o RBI
American
(MLB)
0.60
0.76
1.37
7.6%
4.7%
Pacific Coast
(AAA)
0.83
0.93
1.77
10.7%
6.7%
Texas
(AA)
0.79
1.05
1.84
10.6%
6.8%
California
(A-high)
1.14
1.38
2.52
14.5%
8.4%
Midwest
(A-low)
1.24
1.27
2.51
16.5%
10.8%
Northwest
(A-short)
1.35
1.91
3.26
18.1%
12.2%
Arizona
(Rookie)
1.88
2.34
4.22
21.8%
17.0%

Posted by Lucas at 09:59 AM

September 04, 2007

New and Improved Org Chart

Now with Spokane and AZL rosters.

Here

Posted by Lucas at 05:40 PM

June 01, 2007

New Rundown Feature

The yellow "Rundown" box at upper right links to stats for the entire Rangers minor-league organization. They include all the fun "+" stats (OPS+, ERA+, walk rates, K rates, etc.) that are indexed for each player's league and home park.

I'll probably update them once per month.

Posted by Lucas at 07:14 PM

May 15, 2007

Newberg Report Special: Checking In On Omar Poveda

I wrote the following about Clinton pitcher Omar Poveda on April 5th:

“I expect wonderful things from him in 2007. Now 19, he already has a full-length season under his belt when most players his age are still in extended Spring Training. He also pitched much better last season than his 4-13 record and 4.88 ERA would suggest, as his peripheral stats were very solid. Perhaps his defense let him down: 31% of grounders against him ended up hits, compared to only 25% for the Midwest League as a whole.?

Omar Poveda has lowered his ERA from 4.88 in 2006 to a sparkling 2.51 this season. Interestingly, his three basic peripherals (homers, walks and strikeouts) indicate little to no improvement. His strikeout rate has increased very slightly (21% in ’07 versus 20% in ‘06), but he’s walking more batters (8% vs. 6%) and is on pace to allow nine more homers than last year. What explains his huge decrease in ERA? I have some ideas:

1. Better Defense

In 2006, Clinton allowed opposing batters to hit .331 on balls in play (homers and strikeouts excluded) compared to .310 for the Midwest League. This year, Clinton’s hit rate has plummeted to .304. The difference equates to about 25 hits in 34 games this season. That’s huge.

Likewise, the LumberKings have improved greatly at leaving runners on base. 44 pitchers qualified for the Midwest League’s ERA title in 2006. The three worst at stranding runners were Jake Rasner, Zachary Phillips, and Poveda, all L-Kings. In 2007, Poveda ranks 7th best among 55 qualifiers, and every starter but Michael Ballard is among the top 25%.

Strand rates and hit rates on balls in play don’t hinge entirely on defense. The quality of the pitchers, their ground/fly tendencies, and plain old luck also play roles. But I believe it’s safe to conclude that Clinton’s defense is turning more batted balls into outs this season.

2. Luck

Poveda currently holds a hit rate on balls in play of .188, lowest in the Midwest League. No MWL qualifier finished last season under .257, and Poveda’s was .355. Numerous studies have shown that pitchers have far less influence over this rate than strikeouts, walks and homers. Thus, Poveda’s huge decline in hit rate on balls in play may be partially due to improved performance but is largely a function of luck. He almost certainly can’t maintain such a low hit rate in the long run.

With a hit rate on balls in play of .304 (the team rate) instead of his .188, I estimate Poveda would have an ERA of 3.40, still good, but well above his actual ERA of 2.51.

3. Bizarre Batted-Ball Patterns (i.e., More Luck)

Poveda has exhibited a pronounced fly ball tendency this season. Fly-prone pitchers can and do succeed in the Majors, but, other factors being equal, pitchers who induce more grounders are preferable (especially considering Texas prospects’ final destination of Rangers Ballpark, where fly balls reach the seats with alarming frequency).

In Poveda’s case, the simple ground/fly ratio hides some strange and significant information. As you know, popups are an ideal result for a pitcher since they almost never land safely. In the Midwest League, approximately 20% of fly balls are popups caught by an infielder. The Major League rate is about 22%. As noted by Lone Star Ball’s Adam Morris, fly-prone Barry Zito has a special talent for inducing popups. In 2006, 32% of his fly balls failed to reach the outfield.

Poveda’s popup rate as a percentage of all fly balls is an astounding 47%.

Poveda also has an extraordinarily low line drive rate of 6%, compared to 14% in 2006. Typical for the MWL is between 12%-13%. About 75% of line drives are base hits, often as doubles and triples, so minimizing them is key.

The vital question is: Do Poveda’s high popup rate and low line-drive rate indicate skill or luck?

To provide an answer, or at least some context, I reviewed last year’s top five in ERA plus two others in the top five in Run Average (which includes unearned runs). The average pop/fly ratio was 22%, and none was higher than 27%. Poveda’s is 47%. No pitcher had a line drive rate below 11%, while Poveda’s is a miniscule 6%.

That doesn’t absolutely prove that Poveda can’t maintain his current rates, but he is definitely bucking some very long odds.

I’m not foretelling Poveda’s imminent meltdown. I’m not even suggesting that Poveda isn’t pitching well, for he most certainly is. He’s just not pitching quite as well as his 2.51 ERA suggests. I’m hopeful that he can maintain his strong performance even as the flukiness of some of his peripherals dissipates.

Poveda takes the mound at noon today.

Posted by Lucas at 10:42 AM

April 01, 2007

2007 Ranger Minor League Schedules

Added to the "Rundown" links at upper-right.

Posted by Lucas at 11:56 AM

March 30, 2007

Newberg Report Special: The Pacific Coast League

Many of the Ranger affiliates discussed so far have long and interesting histories, but those histories are not intertwined with Texas. To be sure, affiliations are often short-lived, especially at lower levels. As you’ve read, Texas’s recent history is especially turbulent. When the franchise pulled up stakes and moved its Spring Training home to Arizona in 2003, it ended three decades of mostly eastern-based minor-league relationships.

The AAA Oklahoma Redhawks are the proud exception. Since both New York teams terminated lengthy affiliations over the winter, Texas and Oklahoma now have the fifth-longest association in AAA:

Atlanta – Richmond, since 1966 (when Braves moved out of Milwaukee)
Kansas City – Omaha, 1969 (affiliate since beginning of franchise)
Boston – Pawtucket, 1973
Chicago Cubs – Iowa, 1981
Texas – Oklahoma, 1983

Indeed, Oklahoma has changed its name, nickname, league and stadium since affiliating with Texas.

Oklahoma City’s connection with professional baseball began in 1904 as the Mets of the Southwestern League. The team began a fifteen-year membership in the Western League in 1918, followed by 22 years in the Texas League. While in the TL, Oklahoma City was known as the Indians and usually (but not exclusively) affiliated with Cleveland.

After four baseball-free years, Oklahoma City rejoined pro ball in 1962 as the 89ers of the American Association, a Triple-A league situated in the Midwest. (“89ers? refers to the Oklahoma Land Run of 1889.) One year later, the league folded and its teams were divided into the Pacific Coast League and International League, with Oklahoma City joining the PCL. In 1969 the Association reformed and OKC rejoined. During its first 21 years, the AAA 89ers united with Houston, Cleveland and Philadelphia. In 1983, the 89ers affiliated with the Texas Rangers, which had plowed through five AAA affiliates in the eight years since leaving Spokane.

1998 would be a momentous year for Oklahoma City baseball. First, the American Association disappeared for good, and the 89ers returned to the PCL. Second, the team dropped the “City? and changed the nickname, becoming the Oklahoma Redhawks. Third, the team moved into a new stadium.

From 1961 through 1997, the 89ers played in All-Sports Stadium, located on the state fairgrounds in western OKC. For the following season, the team moved to the new, state-of-the-art Bricktown Ballpark constructed at the edge of downtown. Originally sponsored by Southwestern Bell and then the abbreviated SBC, the park now has “AT&T? in its moniker. Actually, since Southwestern Bell renamed itself SBC, and SBC later purchased AT&T and assumed its name, sponsorship hasn’t changed at all.

The Redhawks bring plenty of fans to the Brick. Oklahoma ranked fifteenth in per-game attendance among all minor-league teams in 2006. They also ranked sixth in the 16-team PCL and 12th among the 30 AAA teams. (Three lower-level teams outdrew them: the AA Frisco Roughriders, the low-A Dayton Dragons, and the short-A Brooklyn Cyclones.) The park also hosts the Big 12 college baseball championship tournament, and in 2006 it hosted the first Bricktown Showdown, a one-game playoff between the winners of the PCL and International League.

Oklahoma has claimed four titles as an AAA club, twice in the PCL (1963 and 1965) and twice in the Association (1992 and 1996). While affiliated with Texas, the 89ers/Redhawks have had three league MVPs: Steve Buechele in 1985, Juan Gonzalez in 1991, and Lee Stevens in 1996.

As for the Pacific Coast League, it began in 1903 as an independent league and joined Organized Baseball the following year. The Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Oaks, Portland Browns, Sacramento Senators, San Francisco Seals, and Seattle Siwashes comprised the original members. For fifty years, the PCL was the dominant league on the west coast. During the 1950s it was classified as “open,? ostensibly a level above AAA. The league aspired to become a third major league, but the arrival of the Dodgers and Giants dashed those hopes. Additional cities once hosting a PCL team and now part of MLB are Dallas/Fort Worth (well, close enough), Denver, Phoenix, and San Diego.

The 1960 Tacoma Giants featured future Hall-of-Famers Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, and (briefly) Gaylord Perry. In 1964, the league included Tony Perez, Phil Niekro and Fergie Jenkins. Warren Spahn, who won 363 MLB games over 21 years, finished his career in 1967 as a 46-year-old member of the Tulsa Oilers.

The PCL splits its teams into four divisions. Oklahoma fights Round Rock (Astros affiliate), New Orleans (Mets), and Albuquerque (Marlins) for the American South division crown. After a 144-game schedule, the champions of the two American divisions play a best-of-five, as do the two Pacific champs. The winners play another best-of-five for the league title. Incidentally, only four of the Pacific Coast League’s sixteen teams are within 200 miles of the Pacific Coast. Nashville is 1,750 miles to the east.

Among Oklahoma’s fifteen batters with the most at-bats and fifteen pitchers with the most innings in 2006, their origins are as follows:

0 – 2006 draftees
0 – 2005 draftees
0 – 2004 draftees
1 – 2003 draftee
3 – 2002 draftees
0 – 2001 draftees
2 – 2000 draftees
1 – 1999 draftee
1 – 1996 draftee (guess who?)
2 – undrafted free agents
5 – undrafted free agents signed from another team
4 – minor-league free agents (with MLB experience)
9 – trade acquisitions
2 – MLB waiver claims

The Oklahoma roster has the broadest range of origins and ages among Texas’s minor-league teams and the smallest percentage (33%) of players originally signing with the Rangers. In 2006, ages ranged from 21 (Joaquin Arias, John Danks) to 34 (Jamie Burke, Adam Hyzdu); hitters averaged 26 years of age, pitchers 26.5.

While the typical AAA team will have many more players of Major League caliber than a Double-A team, it often has fewer prospects. One reason is that many of baseball’s elite prospects may spend only a brief period in AAA or skip it entirely. Mark Teixeira and Ivan Rodriguez never played a game for Oklahoma. Michael Young lasted seven weeks before his promotion to Texas. Hank Blalock started his first MLB game after bypassing AAA, though his slow start in 2002 soon led to four months in a Redhawk uniform. Another reason is that MLB teams need reinforcements in case of injury. AAA teams abound with players like John Wasdin, Adam Hyzdu, and Jamie Burke, veterans who never achieved (or failed to retain) assured roster spots in Major League baseball but have the ability to fill in for short periods if needed.

Despite its reputation as a hitter’s paradise, PCL offenses scored 3% fewer runs per game than the American League in 2006 (but 2% more than the NL). The Brick put Detroit’s pitcher-friendly Comerica Park to shame last year. The Redhawks and their opponents scored only 7.2 runs per game in Oklahoma versus 9.6 on the road. Bricktown Ballpark also depressed home runs by nearly 20% relative to other parks. The park-adjusted, league-average ERA in Oklahoma last year was only 3.89, and the adjusted batting line was a mere .259/.331/.387. To make a long story short, Jason Botts was even better than you thought.

Bobby Jones returns to manage the Redhawks after a one-year stint as Ranger first base coach. Jones has sixteen years of managerial experience in the Texas system including six in Oklahoma. Andy Hawkins will again coach Oklahoma’s pitchers.

If you’d like to see each PCL team’s facilities, download this file, and open it within Google Earth.

This concludes my rundown of the Texas minor-league system. Up next: baseball!

Posted by Lucas at 05:17 PM

March 23, 2007

Newberg Report Special: The Texas League

Frisco’s minor-league history is brief but rooted in one of baseball’s most storied leagues.

The Texas League was founded in 1888 but lasted only three years. Resurrected twelve years later as a Class D circuit, it slowly moved up the food chain until achieving AA status in 1946. Except for the years of World War II, the league has operated continuously since 1902. It has two divisions of four teams each, and teams play a 140-game schedule. The first and second-half winners in each division meet in a best-of-five series, and the victors play another best-of-five for the championship.

To date, 26 Hall-of-Famers have played in the Texas League. In 1931, it featured Dizzy Dean, Joe Medwick and Hank Greenberg. Both Brooks Robinson and Willie McCovey played in 1957, and Joe Morgan faced off against Steve Carlton in 1964.

27 cities in Texas and 12 in other states have hosted Texas League teams over the years. Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston were longtime members before Major League Baseball came to Texas. San Antonio has the longest continuous presence in the league, having joined in 1907. Arlington debuted in 1965 as the Dallas/Fort Worth Spurs, and the team affiliated with the Cubs, Astros and Orioles during its seven-year tenure. The Spurs played in Turnpike Stadium, which was expanded and renamed Arlington Stadium when the Rangers arrived in 1972.

In 2001, Tom Hicks’s Southwest Sports Group became part-owner of Mandalay Entertainment’s Shreveport Captains. After two very lame-duck seasons as the Swamp Dragons, the team relocated to Frisco and debuted in the newly constructed Dr Pepper / Seven Up Ballpark on April 3, 2003. Frisco’s entry terminated Shreveport’s 35-year association with the league and a 26-year relationship between Texas and the Tulsa Drillers.

Fans in Frisco and the surrounding area showed up in astonishing numbers. In their inaugural season, the Roughriders ranked fifth in attendance among all minor-league teams with 9,264 per game. Round Rock’s advancement to AAA in 2005 bequeathed to Frisco the honor of highest attendance among AA teams during the past two years.

Ownership and Cadbury Schweppes, makers of Dr Pepper and Seven Up, agreed to shorten the park’s name to Dr Pepper Ballpark in 2006. Per Jim Trebilock, senior veep of marketing and brand management: “Renaming the stadium reinforces the Dr Pepper brand’s iconic status in the Dallas/Fort Worth market and aligns more closely with a strategy that has long tied Dr Pepper to sporting venues and events.? He could have just said “The old name was too long,? but it’s all good.

Nothing against its residents, but when I heard that Frisco would host a AA team I was dumbstruck. When I moved out of the D/FW area in 1986, Frisco seemed no more likely to claim a professional baseball team than Alvarado or Decatur. As I learned, it’s grown a bit since then:

1980 – 3,500 residents
1990 – 6,100
2000 – 33,700
2005 – 71,000

Frisco’s population has increased at an annualized rate of 17.7% during the past 25 years. The city planning department suggests a population of over 90,000 as of September 2006 and 275,000 by 2020. Frisco also hosts a Major League Soccer franchise, the training facility of the NHL Stars, and north Texas’s largest mall.

The Roughriders lost in the league finals to San Antonio in their inaugural year, then won the following season. The ’04 champs included Jason Botts, Ian Kinsler, Drew Meyer, Kameron Loe, Chris Young, and several other future Major Leaguers. Texas often sends Major Leaguers to Frisco rather than more-distant Oklahoma City for rehab assignments. Botts, Loe, and five other Rangers spent a few days in Frisco last season.

Among Frisco’s fifteen batters with the most at-bats and fifteen pitchers with the most innings in 2006, their origins are as follows:

0 – 2006 draftees
1 – 2005 draftee
6 – 2004 draftees
1 – 2003 draftee
3 – 2002 draftees
0 – 2001 draftees
1 – 2000 draftee
6 – undrafted free agents
5 – undrafted free agents signed from another team
6 – trade acquisitions
1 – MLB waiver claim

The hitters averaged 23.8 years of age, the pitchers 24.2. The youngest among the top thirty was pitcher John Danks, who turned 21 last April. Most were between 22 and 25-years-old. 20-year-old Eric Hurley just missed placing among the top fifteen in innings pitched. 35-year-old Lou Pote was 17th.

AA roster composition shifts markedly from the lower levels, where almost everyone has played only for the Texas organization. In contrast, only 60% of Frisco’s top thirty players in 2006 were originally signed by the Rangers.

The Texas League plays very close to the American League in terms of runs scored. Teams tend to reach base at a slightly higher rate but hit for less power. Walk and strikeout rates are 10% higher than in the AL. Dr. Pepper Ballpark slightly favored hitters last year. A league-average batting line for a Frisco hitter in 2006 was .269/.345/.407, and 4.50 was the average ERA. Unearned runs still exceed the AL but are well below the per-game averages in low-A and high-A.

Dave Anderson will replace Darryl Kennedy as manager for 2007. Anderson played for the World Series champion Dodgers in 1988 and has seven years of minor-league managerial experience. He also coached the University of Memphis team for four years.

If you’d like to see each team’s facilities, download this file, and open it within Google Earth. Surprisingly, Dr Pepper Ballpark has yet to appear in the satellite imagery.

Posted by Lucas at 01:43 PM

March 20, 2007

Newberg Report Special: The California League

The next step up in the Ranger farm system is the Bakersfield Blaze of the California League (CAL). The league began in 1941 as level C but was reclassified as A in 1963. It ranks higher than the Midwest League despite the same classification and is usually described as “A-advanced? or “high-A.? Current affiliations include the entire western divisions of the American and National Leagues plus the Boston Red Sox. Bakersfield is a charter member. In an arrangement that resembles Texas within the AL West, Bakersfield plays in the Northern Division despite being geographically closer to the southern, Los Angeles-area teams.

The CAL has a bizarre postseason format. Six of the league’s ten teams qualify. Each division’s first-half champion receives a first-round bye, while each second-half champ plays a best-of-three against the team within its division with the next best overall record. Then, the first-half champs play the winners of the first series in a best-of-five, and those winners play each other in a final best-of-five. (There will be a quiz next Monday.) Bakersfield last won the title in 1989 as a Dodgers affiliate.

Prior to joining the CAL, Bakersfield hosted only two years of professional baseball: as the Drillers of the San Joaquin Valley League in 1910 and the Bees of the California State League in 1929. Since then, Bakersfield has associated with many teams, the lengthiest union being with the Dodgers from 1968-1975 and 1984-1994. Afterwards, the team adopted the nickname “Blaze? and operated as a co-op for two years. The Blaze then spent four years with the Giants and the Devil Rays before affiliating with the Rangers. Texas’s relationship with Bakersfield is the shortest among its minor-league clubs. Texas originally affiliated with Stockton when it vacated the southeast US in 2003, but after two years the franchise contracted with the Blaze.

Historic Sam Lynn Ballpark (the “Historic? appears to be an official part of the name) was constructed in 1941 and is among the quirkiest in baseball. The in-play area resembles an overgrown softball field: dimensions are an ordinary 328 feet down the lines but only 356 to dead center, plus a uniform 15-foot wall. Despite the coziness, the park did not favors hitters in 2006 (or, more likely, the league’s other parks were equally hitter-friendly). Also, the park faces nearly due west, meaning a batter can look directly into the setting sun if so inclined. Umpires in the past would call an in-game delay until the sun crept below the outfield wall. More recently, a taller fence behind centerfield provides extra protection, and the team simply begins mid-summer games later than everyone else.

In 2006, low-A Clinton drew 108,000 fans in a city with 27,000 inhabitants. High-A Bakersfield drew only 77,000 despite its location in a rapidly growing city with 311,000 residents. Worse still, attendance is down from 101,000 in 2002, and only Visalia drew fewer fans in 2006. Since Visalia will complete a major renovation of its ballpark during the offseason, Bakersfield probably will rank last in CAL attendance in 2007. Rumors of the team’s departure have circulated since 1995 after it lost its long-time affiliation with the Dodgers. Since 1994, Bakersfield has never held an affiliation for more than four years. In 2004, a consortium of CAL owners purchased the team and ran it essentially as a ward of the league.

D.G. Elmore purchased the team in 2005 and appears committed to baseball in Bakersfield. The Rangers are also committed, having recently signed a four-year extension through 2010. Unfortunately, the new owner and the city have made no apparent progress on solving the facility problem. A new park is imperative to baseball’s future in Bakersfield, but the basic questions remain unanswered. Should it be located downtown? Should it be shared with Cal State Bakersfield? Most importantly, who will pay for it? Presumably, a new stadium won’t face the setting sun; the late and variable starting times make a colorful story but certainly aren’t helping attendance.

Among Bakersfield’s fifteen batters with the most at-bats and fifteen pitchers with the most innings in 2006, their origins are as follows:

1 – 2006 draftees
7 – 2005 draftees
8 – 2004 draftees
6 – 2003 draftees
1 – 2002 draftees
4 – undrafted free agents
3 – undrafted free agents signed from another team

The ’06 draftee is 21-year-old reliever Danny Ray Herrera, also known as “Danny Ra Herrera? at The Baseball Cube. He and infielders German Duran and Mauro Gomez were the youngest members of last year’s team. The fifteen most active hitters averaged 22.8 years of age, and the pitchers averaged 22.5. Both groups average a little over one year in age more than their Clinton counterparts.

While the lower-level Midwest League depresses runs, the California League encourages them, glorifies them, even demands them. In 2006, the league hit .275/.350/.413 and teams scored 5.3 runs per game, 8% higher than the American League. It allowed a 9% greater walk rate but also 17% more strikeouts. Top prospect Eric Hurley surrendered 5.36 runs (earned and unearned) per nine innings last year, which sounds ugly but is in fact perfectly average for the league and park. As with the Midwest League, unearned runs are inflated relative to MLB. Bakersfield allowed 156 unearned runs last year, over one per game. Sam Lynn Park played neutrally last year.

Carlos Subero will return for his second season of managing the Blaze. He had previously managed the LumberKings from 2003-2005 and the rookie-level squad in 2001-2002.

If you’d like to see each team’s facilities, download this file, and open it within Google Earth.

Posted by Lucas at 05:03 PM

March 17, 2007

Newberg Report Special: The Midwest League

Clinton’s professional baseball history began in 1906 as the Miners of the Class D Iowa State League. The city hosted clubs sporadically during the next 48 years before becoming a charter member of the Midwest League (MWL), a renamed and expanded version of the Mississippi-Ohio Valley League. The MWL upgraded to Class A in 1962. It has fourteen teams split into two divisions and a 140-game, split-season schedule. With an excessive spirit of inclusiveness, the league allows eight teams into the postseason: each division’s winner and runner-up in each half-season. Teams play two best-of-threes culminating in a best-of-five final.

Clinton has affiliated with numerous teams over the years, the most lengthy being a fifteen-year association with the Giants that ended in 1994. For most of its history, the team used the same nickname as its MLB parent. In 1994, its owners adopted the name LumberKings to honor the city’s heritage. Clinton is located on the western bank of the Mississippi River and was one of the largest wood processors in the nation during the second half of the nineteenth century.

Clinton plays at Alliant Energy Field. The former Riverview Stadium is a Works Progress Administration project constructed in 1937. Clinton residents voted down a city-financed renovation in 2002, but the complex underwent a $3.7 million renovation before 2006 with funding from Vision Iowa, the county Community Development Association, and other public and private sources. Improvements included new clubhouses, a completely reconstructed playing field, new fences, new seating sections, and replacement of the old wood bleachers with metal.

Despite the improvements, Clinton is a remnant of a bygone era in minor-league baseball, when practically any moderate-sized city could host a C or D-level team. It’s no coincidence that the five largest metropolitan areas in the MWL – Dayton, Grand Rapids, Fort Wayne, Lansing, and Kane County -- gained their franchises after 1990. Each has over 400,000 residents, while Clinton has just over 27,000 and the county less than 50,000. Worse, the city population has declined 20% since 1970.

Nevertheless, Clinton is committed to keeping baseball, and the park improvements are part of a larger effort to revitalize the city’s economic livelihood. The team is actually owned by Clinton’s citizens, who have rebuffed several offers to sell the team (and relocate it, no doubt). There is hope. After bottoming out at 44,400 fans in 1998, attendance has climbed in eight consecutive seasons. After the offseason renovations, 2006 attendance jumped 13% last year, from 95,775 to 108,301, despite the worst performance in Clinton baseball history. A postseason editorial in the Clinton Herald offered cautious optimism.

Texas affiliated with Clinton in 2003 after four years with Savannah of the South Atlantic League. This season, Mike Micucci will manage the LumberKings after a season in Spokane. Among Clinton’s fifteen batters with the most at-bats and fifteen pitchers with the most innings in 2006, their origins are as follows:

1 – 2006 draftees
8 – 2005 draftees
5 – 2004 draftees
2 – 2003 draftees
10 – undrafted free agents
1 – undrafted free agent signed from another team
3 – acquired in trade

You’ve probably read that Ranger management has handled its prospects aggressively. That strategy was featured most prominently in Clinton, where the typical LumberKing was no older than those in short-season Spokane. The hitters averaged 21.7 years of age versus 21.5 in Spokane, and the pitchers were actually younger: 21.0 compared to 21.4. Spokane’s only teenaged pitcher among the top fifteen was Kasey Kiker, while Clinton had four: Omar Poveda, Jake Rasner (now a White Sock), Zach Phillips, and Michael Kirkman. The team’s relative youth probably contributed to its woeful 45-94 record, including a 26-44 performance before the home faithful.

Full-season baseball is an unprecedented challenge to the players. 2006 Texas state high-school champs The Woodlands played 39 games. The 2005 NCAA champion Texas Longhorns played 72. The short-season Spokane Indians play 76. In contrast, the LumberKings will play 140 games in 152 days, plus playoffs if necessary.

Fans should keep in mind a few things when following the L-Kings:

  • The MWL favors pitchers. Run scoring is about 10% lower than in the American League. The league batted only .253/.325/.365 last year, compared to .275/.339/.437 for the AL. John Mayberry’s line of .268/.358/.479 may look vanilla for a true prospect, but that’s an OPS+ of 135.
  • Strikeout rates are 16% higher than in the American League. An MWL pitcher who strikes out 7.5 batters per nine innings is merely average.
  • On the other hand, the league permits far more unearned runs than the Major Leagues. In 2006, 16% of runs allowed in the MWL were unearned compared to 8% in the AL. Texas gave up 53 unearned runs last year. Clinton allowed 111 in 23 fewer games.
  • Alliant Energy Field used to favor pitchers, but in 2006 it became a hitter’s park. The park renovations cut the distance near the left-field corner, and they may have also slightly shortened the distance to right and right-center.

Once again, if you’d like to see each MWL team’s facilities, download this file, and open it within Google Earth. Unfortunately, Alliant Energy Field and several of the other parks don’t resolve very well. Those Silicon Valley snobs apparently can’t be bothered with “flyover? country.

Posted by Lucas at 12:26 PM

March 15, 2007

Newberg Report Special: The Northwest League

Texas sends its college-aged draftees and highest caliber high-schoolers to the Spokane Indians of the Northwest League of Professional Baseball (NWL). The NWL is classified as “short season? A ball; eight teams play a 76-game schedule beginning in mid-June after the draft. The league has two divisions, and the winners of each play a best-of-five series for the championship. Currently, the Athletics, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Giants, Mariners, Padres, Rangers, and Rockies affiliate with the league. The NWL began in 1937 as the Class B Western International League (WIL). The league adopted its current moniker in 1952 and except during 1956 has operated in Class A ever since.

Spokane’s association with pro baseball dates back to1890, only six months after Washington became a state. The Spokane Bunchgrassers (no, really) founded the Pacific Northwest League with Tacoma, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon, and won its inaugural championship. The league folded during its third year in the midst of an economic depression. Spokane joined a new league in 1901 and operated during the next two years as the Blue Stockings and the Smoke Eaters (no, really). Then the team adopted the name “Indians,? which, per Baseball-Reference.com, was a corruption of “Inlanders.? Regardless of league or affiliation, Spokane has called its team the Indians for all but three of the last 70 years.

After another baseball-free stretch, in 1937 Spokane joined the WIL and remained for its upgrade to the Class A NWL. Except during World War II, Spokane has hosted professional baseball continuously since 1937. In fact, Spokane leapfrogged to AAA when it joined the Pacific Coast League in 1958. The city returned to the NWL after 1982.

I hope the Rangers take pride in having Spokane as an affiliate, because its citizens love their baseball. The Indians have led the NWL in attendance every year since 2000, and its 2006 per-game average of 4,800 fans exceeded seven AAA teams and nineteen AA teams. Daily attendance compares favorably to the AAA Las Vegas 51s, Charlotte Knights, Richmond Braves and Omaha Royals. Spokane is a gigantic step up from the largely fan-free Arizona League.

Texas’s relationship with Spokane actually dates back to 1973, when the Indians were the Ranger AAA affiliate. Spokane won the PCL championship that season with a roster that included Lenny Randle, Bill Madlock, John Wockenfuss, Rick Waits and Don Stanhouse. Spokane won again in 1974 with several of the same players plus Roy Howell and Larry Gura. After another season Texas switched to Sacramento.

The Rangers reacquainted themselves with Spokane in 2003 when they moved all of their low-level minor-league affiliations out of the southeast US. The relationship paid immediate dividends as the ’03 squad went 50-26 and won the Northwest League title. The champs included rookies Ian Kinsler, Wes Littleton, John Danks and Matt Farnum. Spokane won the title again in 2005 despite a 37-39 record. Notables from that team were John Mayberry, Steven Murphy, Freddy Thon, Doug Mathis and Broc Coffman.

Spokane harbors a slightly more mature collection of players than rookie-league Arizona. Most college and junior-college players begin their careers there. Among the 30 players spending the most time in Spokane (fifteen hitters and pitchers) in 2006, their origins were as follows:

15 – 2006 draftees
5 – 2005 draftees
4 – 2004 draftees
1 – 2003 draftees
3 – undrafted free agents
1 – undrafted free agent signed from another team
1 – acquired in trade

The average Spokane hitter was 21.5 years of age, the average pitcher, 21.4. Among the top thirty players, only one was a teenager, fresh-out-of-high-school first rounder Kasey Kiker (more on him in a week or so).

George Brett owns the Indians along with brothers Bobby and J.B. Former MLB pitcher Ken Brett, who died in 2003, was also an owner. Nine-year MLB veteran Andy Fox, who drew a walk for the Rangers in his final plate appearance, will manage the Indians. Hector Ortiz, who also played briefly for Texas, will serve as hitting coach.

If you’re familiar with Google Earth and would like to see each NWL team’s facilities, visit http://rangers.scottlucas.com/newberg/NWL.kmz, download the file, and open it within Google Earth.

Posted by Lucas at 07:12 PM

March 12, 2007

Newberg Report Special: The Arizona League

Some minor leagues have histories rich enough to be microcosms of American history. The Arizona League is not among them.

The Arizona League (AZL) represents the lowest level of MLB-affiliated baseball within the United States. It began in 1988 as a counterpart to Florida’s Gulf Coast League. Only 22 of the 30 Major League clubs field teams at this level. Unlike most minor-league teams, AZL teams are directly owned and operated by Major League franchises, and teams play in their Spring Training facilities. Texas shares its Arizona complex with the Kansas City Royals.

The league presently consists of nine teams including Texas, the rest of the AL West, Kansas City, the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee, San Diego, and San Francisco. Teams play a 56-game schedule from mid-June through the end of August, followed by a single championship game between the winners of the season’s first and second halves. The ferocious heat and lack of a fan base keep crowds to minimal levels. As described by former Arizona Cubs manager Jerry Hairston in Bill Mitchell’s Minor League Ramblings, “We start our flips in the batting cage at a quarter 'til seven [in the morning]. Then we do our fundamentals so all that's done. We start our games at 10 o'clock before most of the heat of the day.? The league doesn’t bother charging entry or maintaining attendance records.

Technically, players over the age of twenty and with more than two years of minor-league experience are ineligible, but the league frequently hosts older prospects on rehab assignments and even Major Leaguers. Star-crossed reliever Jeff Zimmerman threw his final pitches in Surprise in 2003. During 2006, Jason Botts, Robinson Tejeda, and Randall “Sausage Killer? Simon each spent a few summer days with players who were lining up prom dates only months earlier.

Texas joined the league in 2003 when it moved its Spring Training home from Port Charlotte, Florida, to the Phoenix suburb of Surprise. Located twenty miles northwest of Phoenix on a gridlocked Highway 60, Surprise has grown from 7,000 residents in 1990 to over 80,000 today thanks mostly to Del Webb’s Sun City Grand housing development.

Not every team with a Spring Training home in Arizona participates in the AZL. The White Sox, Rockies and, oddly enough, the Arizona Diamondbacks don’t field teams, though each did in the past. Both the Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Dodgers are negotiating moves to Arizona and could join the league within a couple of years. That said, the future of the AZL is not assured. After 2005 MLB considered disbanding the league, but it continues to operate.

Most of the Rangers’ high-school-aged draftees and young Latin American players play their first stateside pro ball in Surprise. Among the squad’s fifteen hitters and fifteen pitchers with the most playing time in 2006, eight were selected in the 2006 draft and six in 2005. One (Armando Galarraga on a lengthy rehab) was acquired in trade, and the other fifteen were undrafted free agents mostly from outside the US. The hitters averaged 19.3 years in age, the pitchers 20.6.

Texas hasn’t maintained a presence in Arizona long enough to build much of a history. So far, the only Rangers to play there during their normal course of development are Edinson Volquez and Scott Feldman. The former “Edison? made his US debut in Surprise in 2003. Feldman pitched a combined thirteen AZL innings during 2003-2004 before rocketing up the ladder and into the Majors in 2005. The ’03 team went 38-18 before losing the championship game to park-mate Kansas City. Eric Hurley could join Volquez and Feldman before long, and the departed John Danks (another ’03 alumnus) might reach the Majors within three weeks.

Pedro Lopez will return to lead the AZL Rangers after spending a year in Bakersfield as hitting instructor. He managed the team from 2003-2005.

If you’re familiar with Google Earth and would like to see each team’s facilities, download this file, and open it within Google Earth.

Posted by Lucas at 11:47 PM

October 15, 2006

Minor League Review, Part 8: Oklahoma Redhawks Pitchers

About the league and park: Click here. Short version: The PCL isn’t much different than Major League Baseball. The Redhawks play in an extreme pitcher’s park.

About the pitchers: Redhawk pitchers might not have performed quite as well as you thought, given the park-adjusted RA of 4.36 and ERA of 3.83. Edinson Volquez rode a fantastic strikeout rate and an atrocious walk rate to a nice overall season. Last year, he walked only two per nine innings; this year, 5.4. I take comfort that he actually pitched a little better on the road than at home. On the other hand, his brief MLB tenure has been disastrous. I assume he’s already penciled into Oklahoma’s starting rotation for next April.

In terms of overall statistics, John Danks didn’t offer much beyond a terrific K rate in half a season in AAA, but for a 21-year-old it’s a nice start. Danks has always needed a half-season to learn the league, and he’ll need at least another half-season in AAA to master it. Put another way, I fail to sense any urgency to bring him to Arlington next April, regardless of the shape of the Ranger rotation. Better to see him make fools of AAA hitters for a while.

Interesting that both Volquez and Danks improve their control dramatically after the first inning:

Player Category
Innings
Walks
Walks/Inning
Volquez 1st inning
21.0
23
1.10
Other
99.7
49
0.49
Danks 1st inning
13.0
11
0.85
Other
57.7
23
0.40

Robinson Tejeda was Danks with fewer homers allowed. He actually pitched better in the waning weeks in Texas than in Oklahoma. As with Volquez, shaky control has held him back. He’ll be a Ranger next April barring injury or meltdown. I’m hopeful that John Rheinecker can do what R.A. Dickey never quite could: maintain an MLB career as a swingman. Somehow, he pitched 60 innings at home but only 32 on the road, so his index stats (RA+, etc.) may be a bit overstated. But he also had a road ERA of 1.67, so perhaps not.

Player
G
GS
IP
RA
RA+
ERA
ERA+
WHIP
WHIP+
HRrate
HRrate+
BBrate
BBrate+
SOrate
SOrate+
Scott
Feldman
23
0
27.3
2.96
147
1.98
194
1.06
129
1.8%
105
8.2%
111
21.8%
122
John
Rheinecker
15
15
93.0
3.19
137
2.52
152
1.26
108
1.3%
147
6.2%
145
17.7%
99
John
Wasdin
13
9
63.0
3.29
133
2.00
192
1.10
124
0.8%
240
6.8%
134
24.7%
139
Robinson
Tejeda
15
15
80.0
3.38
129
3.15
122
1.29
106
2.1%
92
12.6%
72
23.7%
132
Jose
Diaz
28
1
35.7
3.53
123
3.28
117
1.40
98
1.3%
148
14.2%
64
29.7%
167
Erasmo
Ramirez
54
0
67.7
3.59
121
3.59
107
1.12
122
1.8%
105
2.6%
354
17.2%
96
Edinson
Volquez
21
21
120.7
3.80
115
3.21
120
1.31
104
1.8%
108
14.2%
64
25.7%
144
Derek
Lee
29
23
143.7
4.57
95
4.26
90
1.45
94
2.4%
80
8.5%
107
14.7%
82
Kevin
Walker
46
5
68.0
4.90
89
4.63
83
1.60
85
1.6%
117
10.5%
87
19.4%
108
Kelvin
Jimenez
26
0
38.0
5.21
84
5.21
74
1.68
81
2.3%
83
13.8%
66
23.1%
129
R.A.
Dickey
22
19
131.7
5.47
80
4.92
78
1.37
100
3.0%
64
8.1%
112
10.8%
60
John
Danks
14
13
70.7
5.48
80
4.33
89
1.43
96
3.6%
53
11.2%
81
23.7%
133
Nick
Masset
24
7
67.3
6.42
68
4.81
80
1.59
86
1.3%
145
9.3%
98
21.5%
121
Ryan
Bukvich
31
0
35.3
6.88
63
6.11
63
1.87
73
4.8%
40
13.2%
69
22.2%
124
Kameron
Loe
13
3
22.7
9.53
46
9.13
42
1.99
69
2.7%
71
11.8%
77
19.0%
106
TEAM
140
140
1,250.7
4.56
96
3.89
99
1.39
98
2.1%
93
9.5%
96
19.7%
111
Park-Adjusted League Average
-
-
-
4.36
-
3.83
-
1.37
-
1.9%
-
9.1%
-
17.9%
-

Posted by Lucas at 02:22 PM

October 13, 2006

Minor League Review, Part 7: Oklahoma Redhawks Hitters

About the League: Though it reputedly favors hitters, the Pacific Coast League sat squarely between the American and National Leagues in terms of runs scored per game. (Actually, the league’s slugger-happiness is limited to five of its sixteen cities: Colorado Springs, Tucson, Las Vegas, Salt Lake and Albuquerque.) This season, the league most closely resembled the AL in 1997. The league averaged 4.8 runs per game with a batting line of .271/.342/.416.

Pacific Coast League vs American League
Runs Scored 3% lower
Runs Allowed 1% lower
ERA 5% lower
Batting Average .004 lower
On-Base Percentage .003 higher
Slugging Percentage .019 lower
Walk Rate 8% higher
Strikeout Rate 7% higher

About the Park: Bricktown Ballpark remorselessly punishes hitters. Think Comerica before the fences moved in, or the early years of Pac Bell Park, or Yankee Stadium during the ‘30s. The official website claims that “sluggers will enjoy a 325-foot left field porch,” but they’re not enjoying it very often. Redhawks and their opponents hit only 76 homers at the Brick compared to 129 in road parks. For Redhawk players, playing in Oklahoma depresses homers by almost 20%. That and the other factors are vital to understanding the performances of the Rangers’ AAA squad. For hitters, the park-adjusted average line was only .259/.331/.387, and for pitchers, the league average ERA was a tiny 3.89.

Park Factors -- Bricktown Ballpark
Runs 0.88
Average 0.96
On-Base Percentage 0.97
Slugging Percentage 0.93
Home Runs 0.82
Walks 1.02
Strikeouts 0.99

About the players: Revisit the preceding paragraph, then contemplate Jason Botts’s line of .309/.398/.582, good for a Herculean OPS+ of 170. I’m not saying he’ll definitely hit Major-League pitching, but clearly he needs a legitimate opportunity, not the illusory one he got over the summer.

Alas, even Corpus Christi with 400% humidity wouldn’t create park factors sufficient to prettify Joaquin Arias’s line of .268/.296/.361. With the huge caveat that he didn’t turn 22 until last month, I must note that Arias has never exceeded five homers or walked in more than 6% of his plate appearances in any of his five minor-league seasons. Let’s just say he’s not ready yet, despite his startling six-for-eleven MLB debut.

Among other prospects… well, who are they? Laynce Nix, Will Smith, Rashad Eldridge are gone, Texas chopped Aarom Baldiris off the 40-man roster, and Drew Meyer... oy. 23-year-old Anthony Webster didn’t set the PCL aflame. Freddy Guzman reached base at a sterling .375 pace and probably would have make a fine fourth outfielder in the Majors in 2006, but I think Texas would only grudgingly deposit him in Arlington’s center field next year if Gary Matthews departs.

Player
POS
G
OPS
OPS+
AVG
AVG+
OBP
OBP+
SLG
SLG+
ISO
ISO+
BB%
BB%+
SO%
SO%+
Net Steals
Jason
Botts
OF
63
.980
170
.309
119
.398
120
.582
150
.273
213
12.4%
133
21.7%
77
6
Adam
Hyzdu
OF
128
.846
135
.271
105
.370
112
.476
123
.205
160
14.4%
156
18.9%
88
-1
Jason
Hart
1B
88
.775
114
.254
98
.315
95
.459
119
.205
160
7.0%
75
16.6%
101
-1
Will
Smith
OF
43
.753
110
.280
108
.351
106
.402
104
.122
95
10.2%
110
16.5%
101
0
Adrian
Brown
OF
36
.747
110
.295
114
.379
114
.369
95
.074
58
12.2%
132
12.9%
130
9
Laynce
Nix
OF
77
.753
109
.269
104
.323
98
.430
111
.161
126
5.9%
64
21.2%
79
2
Jamie
Burke
C
102
.745
107
.278
107
.323
98
.422
109
.144
112
5.6%
61
10.0%
167
0
Freddy
Guzman
OF
69
.720
102
.282
109
.375
113
.345
89
.063
49
12.5%
135
12.5%
133
13
Anthony
Webster
OF
69
.701
95
.269
104
.317
96
.384
99
.115
90
5.1%
55
12.9%
129
8
Joaquin
Arias
SS
124
.657
83
.268
103
.296
89
.361
93
.093
73
3.7%
40
11.5%
145
6
Nick
Trzesniak
C
50
.646
80
.255
98
.316
95
.329
85
.074
58
8.5%
92
15.3%
109
0
Adam
Morrissey
2B
42
.622
74
.236
91
.296
89
.326
84
.090
70
7.1%
77
20.9%
80
-4
Jace
Brewer
SS
65
.619
72
.242
93
.284
86
.335
87
.093
73
4.9%
53
15.7%
107
-7
Rashad
Eldridge
OF
36
.583
63
.220
85
.290
88
.293
76
.073
57
8.9%
96
21.2%
79
-3
Drew
Meyer
SS
95
.583
63
.228
88
.278
84
.305
79
.077
60
6.9%
74
20.0%
83
-13
Tom
Gregorio
C
37
.570
59
.218
84
.279
84
.291
75
.073
57
8.3%
90
17.3%
96
0
Aarom
Baldiris
2B
78
.533
49
.216
83
.253
76
.280
72
.064
50
4.0%
43
14.8%
112
-3
TEAM
-
140
.707
97
.261
101
.323
98
.384
99
.123
96
8.1%
87
16.0%
104
15
Park-Adjusted League Average
-
-
.718
-
.259
-
.331
-
.387
-
.128
-
9.3%
-
16.7%
-
8

About the stats: See the post on Clinton’s hitters for explanations and caveats.

Posted by Lucas at 06:00 PM

October 09, 2006

Minor League Review, Part 6: Frisco Roughriders Pitchers

About the league and park: Click here. Very short version:Texas League plays similarly to the American League circa 1991-1993, which is to say, friendly to offenses but not quite so friendly as the late 1990s. The park moderately favors hitters.

About the pitchers: As with the California League, young Eric Hurley (2004 supplemental first-rounder) handled the Texas League with aplomb. The walk and strikeout rates are delicious; a slightly lower homer rate in 2007 would be the cherry on top. 2004 top pick Thomas Diamond struck out over one of every four batters he faced… and walked one of every seven. He allowed only a .285 average on balls in play, preferably a result of his dominance rather than luck. If he can pull his walk rate below 4.5 per nine innings, he’ll make the short list for reinforcements for Arlington in 2007.

2003 first-rounder John Danks was more uncomfortably homer-prone (22 in 140 innings between AA and AAA) and allowed a slugging percentage of .480 in AA. Nevertheless, he posted a decent RA of 104. The lefty struck out batters at a higher rate than even Diamond and had none of the control issues. Daniel Haigwood (the return for Fabio Castro) kept the ball in play, permitting only four homers in 62 innings. Unfortunately, the ball was too much in play – he allowed a ghastly .394 OBP. A round of applause for Kea Kometani, a 15th-rounder from 2005 who jumped to AA during the season and offered solid peripherals that belied his ordinary RA.

Players ordered by Run Average.

Player
G
GS
IP
RA
RA+
ERA
ERA+
WHIP
WHIP+
HRrate
HRrate+
BBrate
BBrate+
SOrate
SOrate+
Michael
Bumstead
33
0
54.7
2.14
240
1.81
248
1.08
138
0.0%
inf
9.3%
101
25.9%
145
Eric
Hurley
6
6
37.0
2.19
235
1.95
231
0.86
173
2.8%
81
7.8%
120
22.1%
124
Nick
Masset
8
8
48.0
3.00
171
2.06
218
1.21
123
0.0%
inf
10.2%
92
20.3%
114
Daniel
Haigwood
12
12
62.0
4.21
122
3.63
124
1.77
84
1.4%
166
15.3%
61
19.8%
111
Thomas
Diamond
27
27
129.3
4.52
114
4.24
106
1.41
106
2.5%
92
14.1%
67
26.1%
147
Jeremy
Ward
30
0
49.7
4.71
109
4.35
103
1.35
110
2.4%
97
7.6%
123
21.8%
122
John
Danks
13
13
69.3
4.93
104
4.15
108
1.38
108
3.7%
62
7.4%
126
27.7%
156
Jesse
Chavez
38
0
59.0
5.03
102
4.42
102
1.39
107
2.0%
117
11.1%
84
27.8%
156
Kea
Kometani
17
16
88.3
5.09
101
4.69
96
1.45
103
1.0%
222
8.6%
109
20.1%
113
Danny
Touchet
34
0
65.7
5.21
99
5.07
89
1.46
102
2.1%
111
6.2%
150
15.6%
88
Jesse
Carlson
43
0
58.0
6.05
85
4.66
96
1.43
104
2.8%
84
7.1%
132
17.8%
100
Steven
Rowe
45
3
83.0
6.40
80
5.53
81
1.54
97
3.8%
61
8.9%
106
18.0%
101
Andy
Walker
20
15
93.0
6.48
79
5.81
77
1.51
99
5.1%
45
5.1%
183
12.7%
71
Ryan
Jensen
11
8
50.0
6.66
77
5.94
76
1.50
99
2.7%
85
5.9%
160
16.7%
94
Armando
Galarraga
9
9
41.0
7.46
69
5.49
82
1.68
89
2.6%
89
6.8%
138
19.8%
111
TEAM
TOTALS
140
140
1,238.0
4.91
105
4.30
105
1.42
105
2.3%
102
9.2%
102
20.5%
115
Park-Adjusted League Average
-
-
-
5.14
-
4.50
-
1.49
-
2.40%
-
9.4%
-
17.8%
-

About the stats: See the top of this post for explanations and caveats.

Posted by Lucas at 11:58 PM

October 05, 2006

Emerson Frostad Has Arrived

Mentioned in Rotoworld.

Also, someone should pay me to spend several months in Hawaii.

Posted by Lucas at 12:35 AM

October 02, 2006

Minor League Review, Part 5: Frisco Roughriders Hitters

The League: Known as a hitter-friendly league, the Texas League bears a strong resemblance to the AL during 1991-1993 and 1995. Compared to 2006, walks and strikeouts are 10% more frequent and (as with any minor league) unearned runs more common. (0.63 per nine innings compared to 0.38 in the AL).

Texas League vs American League
Runs Scored 1% lower
Runs Allowed 1% higher
ERA 4% lower
Batting Average .005 lower
On-Base Percentage .005 higher
Slugging Percentage .019 lower
Walk Rate 10% higher
Strikeout Rate 10% higher

The Park: Standard down the lines (335’), a bit shallow to the alleys (364’) and deep to center (409’), Dr. Pepper Ballpark favors hitters. I understand that tickets are the most expensive in AA, up to $18. In AAA Round Rock, tickets top out at $12, plus you get to see Joe McEwing.

Park Factors -- Dr. Pepper Ballpark
Runs 1.03
Average 1.02
On-Base Percentage 1.02
Slugging Percentage 1.01
Walks 1.02
Strikeouts 0.99

Update your satellite imagery, Google!

The Team: Nate Gold (10th round, 2002) had a 145 OPS+ and led the league in homers. Unfortunately, he turned 26 in June, borderline-ancient for a prospect in AA. Texas exposed him to the Rule 5 draft last winter and may do so again despite his upsurge. Perhaps Texas will add him to the 40-man roster this fall and try to sneak him through waivers at the end of Spring Training if they need his spot.

Ben Harrison (2002, 7th) performed admirably after a midseason promotion from Bakerfield, though his walk rate plummeted. Kevin Mahar (undrafted) maintained his power (sixth in the league in triples, eighth in homers) but lost fifty points of average and eighty of OBP in his transition to AA. Travis Metcalf (2004, 11th) lost everything but his cap; his OPS plummeted from .870 in Bakersfield in 2005 to .622 in Frisco. The Rangers needn’t make a roster. Like Gold, they could face exposure to thus winter’s Rule 5 draft.

Overall, Frisco had a weak offense, scoring about one-quarter run per game under the park-adjusted league average.

Player
POS
G
OPS
OPS+
AVG
AVG+
OBP
OBP+
SLG
SLG+
ISO
ISO+
BB%
BB%+
SO%
SO%+
Net Steals
Nate
Gold
1B
120
.958
145
.292
107
.376
107
.582
138
.290
195
10.8%
115
15.8%
106
-5
Kevin
Richardson
C
93
.857
120
.271
99
.358
102
.498
118
.227
152
9.8%
1002
23.9%
70
2
Adam
Morrissey
2B
54
.844
118
.313
114
.387
110
.457
108
.144
97
10.7%
112
18.4%
91
-2
Ben
Harrison
OF
42
.832
113
.282
103
.341
97
.491
116
.209
140
5.8%
60
16.4%
102
4
Anthony
Webster
OF
59
.827
113
.310
113
.364
104
.463
109
.153
103
7.7%
80
10.4%
161
-7
Kevin
Mahar
OF
127
.789
102
.267
98
.319
91
.469
111
.202
136
6.1%
64
17.9%
94
-1
Casey
Benjamin
SS
92
.771
99
.283
103
.349
99
.422
100
.139
93
9.4%
98
14.5%
115
-2
Mike
Nickeas
C
39
.745
95
.248
91
.382
109
.363
86
.115
77
15.7%
1603
16.3%
103
-1
Jake
Blalock
OF
110
.711
85
.266
97
.339
97
.372
88
.106
71
9.6%
100
18.4%
91
2
Enrique
Cruz
SS
76
.694
79
.270
99
.323
92
.370
87
.100
67
6.3%
656
22.6%
74
-4
Jim
Fasano
1B
96
.692
79
.244
89
.308
88
.384
91
.140
94
7.8%
82
20.3%
82
2
Luke
Grayson
OF
55
.668
73
.233
85
.305
87
.364
86
.131
88
7.4%
757
19.6%
875
-1
Ruddy
Yan
CF
49
.622
63
.257
94
.320
91
.302
71
.045
30
8.2%
85
10.6%
160
1
Travis
Metcalf
3B
121
.622
62
.221
81
.298
85
.325
77
.104
70
9.6%
100
20.9%
158
-5
TEAM
TOTALS
-
140
.753
95
.267
98
.339
97
.415
98
.148
99
8.8%
92
18.1%
92
-12
Park-Adjusted League Average
-
-
.751
-
.274
-
.351
-
.423
-
.149
-
9.6%
-
16.7%
-
-12

About the stats: See the post on Clinton’s hitters for explanations and caveats.

Posted by Lucas at 07:59 PM

September 26, 2006

Grady Fuson Recycles!

During 2002-2004, Grady Fuson served as Texas’s Assistant General Manager and held primary responsibility for the draft. He is now the veep of scouting and player development for San Diego. Via Fuson, Texas drafted and signed 21 players during the first eight rounds of the 2002-2004 drafts. Where are they now?

Ten are still with Texas (Diamond, Hurley, Herren, Schlact, Boggs, Harrison, Danks, Littleton, Farnum, Meyer)
Two have retired (Barnett, Tisdale)
One is with the Mets (Nickeas)
One is with the Pirates (Lorenzo)

And the other seven are Padres:

Chris O’Riordan (drafted in 2002 / round 8)
Vince Sinisi (2003 / 2)
John Hudgins (2003 / 3)
Adam Bourassa (2003 / 6)
Jeremy Cleveland (2003 / 8)
Bill Susdorf (2004 / 6)
Mark Roberts (2004 / 8)

Any chance Texas could re-acquire Adrian Gonzalez for, say, Drew Meyer and Matt Farnum? How could Fuson resist?

Posted by Lucas at 03:55 PM

September 25, 2006

Minor League Review, Part 4: Bakersfield Blaze Pitchers

About the league and park: Click here. Very short version: The California League favors hitters, but the park slightly favors pitchers.

About the pitchers: 20% of the team's runs (1.14 per game!) were unearned. In Eric Hurley's case, 25%. In Daniel Herrera's, 50%. ERA is of limited usefulness but does a reasonable job of describing a pitcher's performance at higher levels. In the lower minors, not so much.

Between Bakersfield and Frisco, Hurley excelled at everything but keeping the ball in the park. He allowed sixteen homers in 138 innings between the Cali and Texas Leagues, about 25% more than the league-average rate. Should Hurley spend much time in Oklahoma City next year, keep in mind that Bricktown Ballpark ferociously supresses home runs. Any improvement by Hurley in that regard must be taken in context.

Yes, Jesse Ingram really did strike out over 40% of the batters he faced. Ingram, Hurley, and Kometani graduated to Frisco during the season. Herrera converted to starter in August and increased his strikeout rate. 2004 third-rounder Michael Schlact can't legally order a beer until December, but that's not his only problem: he struck out only five batters per nine innings during 2005-2006.

Player 
GS 
IP
RA
RA+
ERA
ERA+
WHIP
WHIP+
HRrate
HRrate+
BBrate
BBrate+
SOrate
SOrate+
Daniel
Herrera
14
5
53.3
2.70
198
1.35
336
0.96
153
0.0%
inf.
5.8%
157
29.3%
152
Jesse
Ingram
27
0
59.3
3.03
176
2.43
187
0.94
156
1.3%
155
9.7%
94
41.8%
217
Matt
Farnum
30
0
50.0
3.78
141
3.42
133
1.40
105
1.4%
146
8.9%
102
25.3%
131
Kea
Kometani
10
10
60.0
4.05
132
3.30
138
1.37
107
1.2%
174
5.1%
177
22.0%
114
Douglas
Mathis
26
25
150.7
4.54
118
4.18
109
1.37
107
2.2%
94
7.3%
124
16.9%
88
Eric
Hurley
18
18
100.7
5.36
100
4.11
110
1.23
119
2.9%
71
7.7%
118
25.5%
132
John
Bannister
18
18
96.7
6.42
83
5.87
77
1.68
87
2.0%
102
11.8%
77
24.3%
126
Edwin
Vera
35
11
93.3
6.46
83
5.21
87
1.85
79
1.4%
152
15.1%
60
20.9%
108
Jon
Wilson
31
0
53.7
6.54
82
4.53
100
1.77
83
1.6%
131
9.0%
101
14.5%
75
John
Lujan
38
0
69.0
6.65
80
5.74
79
1.71
86
2.5%
81
13.6%
67
18.3%
95
Michael
Schlact
26
26
138.3
7.29
73
5.99
76
1.73
85
2.4%
87
9.6%
95
12.7%
66
Broc
Coffman
19
18
83.3
9.18
58
7.24
63
1.80
82
2.8%
73
10.2%
89
17.2%
89
TEAM
TOTALS
140
140
1,241.7
5.97
90
4.83
94
1.53
96
2.2%
94
9.7%
93
20.6%
107
Park-Adjusted League Average
-
-
-
5.34
-
4.54
-
1.47
-
2.1%
-
9.1%
-
19.3%
-

About the stats: See the top of this post for explanations and caveats.

Posted by Lucas at 07:58 PM

September 23, 2006

Minor League Review, Part 3: Bakersfield Blaze Hitters

The League: Unlike the Midwest League, the California League favors hitters. The ten-team league had 23 players with an OPS of .800 or better; the thirteen-team Midwest had only eleven. Though not a slugger’s paradise, the league did permit batters to hit .275 and reach base at a .350 clip in 2006, both above American League levels to date. In terms of runs scored and batting line (average/on-base/slugging), the league most closely resembles the American League from 1937-1940.

California League vs American League
Runs Scored 8% higher
Runs Allowed 10% higher
ERA 2% higher
Batting Average .001 higher
On-Base Percentage .011 higher
Slugging Percentage .023 lower
Walk Rate 9% higher
Strikeout Rate 17% higher

The Park: Bakersfield’s Sam Lynn Ballpark is 328 down the lines and a mere 356 to center… and it’s (slightly) a pitcher’s park. The outfield fences are fifteen feet high, and the park faces the “wrong” way, with the sun setting in center field. Games often don't start until after 8:00pm, when the sun dips behind an auxiliary fence beyond center field.

Sam Lynn Ballpark,
1-Year Park Factors
Runs 0.99
Average 0.98
On-Base Percentage 0.99
Slugging Percentage 0.98
Walks 1.01
Strikeouts 1.06

The Team: All hail Emerson Frostad! The 376th pick of the 2003 draft switched from third to catcher and would have led the California League in OPS with an additional 48 quality plate appearances. Texas must now decide whether to add Frostad to the 40-man roster; if not, he’ll be exposed to the Rule 5 draft. Fellow ’03 draftees Wes Littleton, Ian Kinsler and Scott Feldman already occupy slots and John Danks will join them soon. Frostad turns 24 next January. ’04 seventh-rounder Ben Harrison also hit well, finishing fifth in the league in OPS and earning a July promotion to AA Frisco. He celebrated his 25th birthday this week, rather old for a prospect. Tim Hulett hit for average and showed ridiculous patience in both Bakersfield and Frisco. 22-year-old Steven Murphy doesn’t walk much but popped 38 doubles and 19 homers.

At the other end, Ian Gac hasn’t hit at any level, and Phillip Hawke and Justin Hatcher are out of the organization. Freddie Thon had a 101 OPS+ but stepped back from a nice 2005 in Spokane, losing his home-run stroke and walking one-third less often than Ozzie Guillen (no joke).

Player
POS
G
OPS
OPS+
AVG
AVG+
OBP
OBP+
SLG
SLG+
ISO
ISO+
BB%
BB%+
SO%
SO%+
Net Steals
Emerson
Frostad
C
79
.942
149
.320
119
.389
113
.553
136
.233
170
11.0%
117
18.9%
100
-11
Ben
Harrison
OF
87
.917
143
.293
109
.397
115
.520
128
.227
166
12.9%
137
20.4%
93
3
Tim
Hulett, Jr.
IF
77
.840
125
.291
108
.415
120
.426
105
.135
99
17.4%
186
17.4%
109
5
Steven
Murphy
OF
116
.842
121
.283
105
.335
97
.506
124
.223
163
6.2%
66
17.8%
106
-6
Jayce
Tingler
OF
56
.807
117
.330
123
.432
125
.375
92
.045
33
13.8%
147
6.7%
284
-9
Brandon
Boggs
OF
78
.795
111
.261
97
.352
102
.444
109
.183
134
12.3%
131
18.2%
104
5
German
Duran
SS
114
.778
106
.284
106
.331
96
.446
110
.162
118
7.1%
76
16.3%
116
-3
Freddie
Thon
1B
53
.757
101
.321
119
.335
97
.422
104
.101
74
2.2%
24
13.8%
137
-4
Adam
Fox
3B
77
.732
94
.256
95
.324
94
.408
100
.152
111
8.5%
91
15.0%
126
-1
Roberto
Valiente
OF
57
.712
90
.287
107
.340
99
.372
91
.085
62
6.0%
64
17.9%
106
-2
Micah
Furtado
2B
103
.710
89
.249
93
.333
97
.377
93
.128
93
10.3%
110
17.5%
108
-9
Luke
Grayson
OF
51
.699
85
.225
84
.289
84
.410
101
.185
135
5.3%
57
25.2%
75
-4
Mauro
Gomez
3B
59
.678
79
.258
96
.279
81
.399
98
.141
103
2.7%
29
25.0%
76
1
Juan
Gonzalez
SS
59
.633
69
.237
88
.311
90
.322
79
.085
62
9.4%
101
21.6%
88
5
Phillip
Hawke
1B
36
.621
67
.220
82
.318
92
.303
74
.083
61
12.6%
134
23.3%
81
1
Ian
Gac
1B
55
.588
55
.188
70
.242
70
.346
85
.158
115
5.9%
63
31.8%
59
3
Justin
Hatcher
C
32
.553
50
.228
85
.316
92
.238
58
.010
7
10.6%
113
20.5%
92
0
TEAM
TOTALS
140
.753
100
.268
100
.339
98
.413
101
.145
106
9.1%
97
19.1%
99
-30
Park-Adjusted League Average
.751
.269
.345
.407
.138
9.4%
18.9%
-11

About the stats: See the post on Clinton’s hitters for explanations and caveats.

Posted by Lucas at 02:20 AM

September 18, 2006

Minor League Review, Part 2: Clinton LumberKings Pitchers

Click here for a discussion of the league and park. Very short version: The Midwest League is a very low run-scoring environment, but Clinton’s Alliant Everygy Field slightly favored hitters.

On the pitchers: Players are ranked by park-indexed Run Average (similar to Earned Run Average except all runs are included). From what I understand, RA or ERA isn’t a reliable method of rating pitchers in the lower minors, but I didn’t want just to rank the players alphabetically. As with OBP+, WHIP+ tends to have lower variance among pitchers than most indexes. The homers allowed index has a huge variance because homers are infrequent relative to walks, strikeouts, hits, etc. For example, Jose Marte allowed one homer in 67 innings, giving him an HR+ of 465. That’s fantastic, obviously, but just one more homer allowed would have dropped his HR+ to 232.

I also don’t want to present others’ work as my own, so if you’re looking for averages on balls in play, ground/fly ratios, and other splits, visit the incomparable minorleaguesplits.com.

Pitchers ranked by indexed Run Average. Does not include those with fewer than 40 innings.

Player
G
IP
RA
RA+
ERA
ERA+
WHIP
WHIP+
HRrate
HRrate+
BBrate
BBrate+
SOrate
SOrate+
Julian
Cordero
27
68.0
4.10
117
2.91
137
1.34
101
1.0%
155
9%
92
17%
84
Josh
Giles
28
46.3
4.27
112
3.88
103
1.27
107
2.6%
63
8%
108
24%
118
Jose
Marte
39
66.7
4.45
108
3.51
114
1.40
97
0.3%
465
12%
70
25%
121
Joey
McLaughlin
15
32.0
5.06
95
4.50
89
1.38
99
3.7%
44
9%
94
21%
104
Kevin
Altman
34
85.3
5.17
93
4.85
82
1.37
99
1.6%
99
6%
132
21%
105
J.B.
Diaz
36
74.0
5.23
92
4.26
94
1.50
91
1.5%
106
9%
97
13%
61
Omar
Poveda
26
149.3
5.54
86
4.88
82
1.37
99
1.9%
86
6%
143
21%
102
Juan
Jimenez
22
116.7
5.63
85
5.25
76
1.42
96
2.6%
63
8%
98
14%
70
Kyle
Rogers
22
104.0
5.88
81
4.67
86
1.42
96
1.3%
123
13%
62
19%
93
Jacob
Rasner
27
144.7
6.35
75
5.41
74
1.42
96
2.2%
73
8%
100
19%
91
Zachary
Phillips
28
142.0
6.72
71
5.96
67
1.72
79
0.8%
212
10%
82
19%
94
Juan C.
Garcia
24
43.0
8.58
56
6.28
64
1.72
79
2.5%
66
11%
73
18%
89
Gerry
Oakes
30
42.3
9.35
51
8.08
50
2.01
68
2.3%
71
21%
39
14%
69
TEAM
TOTALS
139
1,205.0
5.68
84
4.81
83
1.46
93
1.7%
96
10%
85
19%
94
Park-Adjusted League Average
-
-
4.79
-
4.00
-
1.36
-
1.6%
-
8.3%
-
20.4%
-

Posted by Lucas at 06:09 PM

September 16, 2006

More On Mayberry

Yesterday I mentioned that John Mayberry had performed better than his line of .268/.358/.479 would suggest because of the low-offense context of the Midwest League. Mayberry ranked sixteenth in on-base percentage, sixth in slugging, and third in homers among MWL qualifiers.

Only 26 Midwest League batters (an average of two per team) finished with an OPS of .750 or higher. Eleven of those 26 were drafted out of college in 2005. John Mayberry is the only first rounder. The others were drafted in the 3rd, 7th, 9th, 10th, 12th (3 players), 16th, 17th, and 18th rounds.

Interestingly, three of the MWL’s 26 top hitters were drafted prior to Mayberry in 2005: Justin Upton (#1), Cameron Maybin (#10) and Jay Bruce (#12). All were drafted out of high school and are nineteen years old. Nothing Texas could do about them, certainly.

So where are Mayberry’s peers, the other 28 first-rounders from 2005 with college experience? One didn’t sign (Luke Hochevar) and one was hurt (Wade Townsend). Five others topped out at the same level as Mayberry in 2006. The other 21 played at a higher level.

For a better comparison, let’s drop everyone selected prior to Mayberry. Of the remaining seventeen peers, eleven played at a higher level in 2006. Five played at the same level, and one didn’t play.

The list (grey shading indicates player selected prior to Mayberry):

Pick
Player Pos 2006 Levels
4
Ryan Zimmerman 3b MLB
7
Troy Tulowitzki ss AA, MLB
9
Mike Pelfrey rhp high A, AA, AAA, MLB
25
Matt Garza rhp high A, AA, AAA, MLB
26
Craig Hansen rhp AA, AAA, MLB
27
Joey Devine rhp high A, AA, AAA, MLB

Pick
Player Pos 2006 Levels
3
Jeff Clement c AA, AAA
18
Cesar Carrillo rhp AA, AAA

Pick
Player Pos 2006 Levels
2
Alex Gordon 3b AA
5
Ryan Braun 3b high A, AA
6
Ricky Romero lhp high A, AA
14
Trevor Crowe of high A, AA
15
Lance Broadway rhp AA
23
Jacoby Ellsbury of high A, AA
36
Travis Buck of high A, AA
48
Garrett Olson lhp high A, AA

Pick
Player Pos 2006 Levels
21
Cliff Pennington ss high A
29
Jacob Marceaux rhp high A
30
Tyler Greene ss low A, high A
35
Cesar Ramos lhp high A
45
Jed Lowrie 2b high A

Pick
Player Pos 2006 Levels
19
John Mayberry of low A
24
Brian Bogusevic lhp short A, low A
31
Matt Torra rhp low A (hurt)
38
Eli Iorg of low A
42
Clay Buchholz rhp low A
43
Mark Mccormick rhp low A

Pick
Player Pos 2006 Levels
8
Wade Townsend rhp hurt
40
Luke Hochevar rhp unsigned

Of course, playing at a higher level does not in itself connote a better player. For example, Tyler Greene hopped from low A to high A and bombed out. Texas could have given Mayberry a few late-season weeks in Bakersfield or even Frisco just to see what would happen. In sum, there’s only so much to draw from this list.

Ideally, Mayberry will be primed and ready when Mark Teixeira signs his monstrous free-agent contract with Baltimore after the 2008 season. But because of his rather slow development, he’ll have to jump three minor-league levels in two years for that to happen.

Posted by Lucas at 12:02 PM

September 15, 2006

Minor League Review, Part 1: Clinton LumberKings Hitters

The League: The Midwest League favors pitchers by a considerable margin. Run scoring was 12% lower than the American League, and the league’s aggregate batting line was just .253/.325/.365. Cedar Rapids’ Jordan Renz led the MWL with only 24 homers. The depressed offense is probably also a function of the players themselves. Even in their early twenties, most men haven’t completely filled out or attained peak physical strength. They just don’t hit as many homers as the big-leaguers.

Midwest League vs American League
Runs Scored 12% lower
Runs Allowed 9% lower
ERA 18% lower
Batting Average .022 lower
On-Base Percentage .014 lower
Slugging Percentage .071 lower
Walk Rate 2% higher
Strikeout Rate 16% higher

Why is "runs scored" different than "runs allowed?" MLB's interleague play, in which the AL crushed the NL. Also, the Midwest League permits significantly more unearned runs than MLB (.36 runs per game).

The Park: According to data compiled by Dan Szymborski, Clinton’s Alliant Energy Field favored pitchers during 2003-2005. It favored hitters in 2006 per data I analyzed from minorleaguesplits.com. I’m using one-year park factors because I personally have only 2006 data. Also, the Field underwent substantial renovation in the offseason. The dimensions didn’t change, to my knowledge, but perhaps the upgrade affected game play.

Alliant Energy Field, 1-Year Park Factors
Runs 1.08
Average 1.03
On-Base Percentage 1.01
Slugging Percentage 1.04
Walks 0.97
Strikeouts 1.04

The Team: Mike Hindman (known as “mjh” on the newbergreport.com message board) recently had some interesting observations about minor-league performance and the Rangers’ farm system. Texas has revamped its selection and development process twice in recent years. The organization currently emphasizes younger, high-risk high-reward players (or at least doesn’t favor college players) and pushes them quickly up the ladder. Also, players may be working on new batting styles, deliveries and pitches that result in (temporarily, one hopes) poor performances as measured conventionally. Statistics don’t matter that much at low levels, and won-loss records mean even less. If a couple of 2006 LumberKing alumni blossom into quality Major Leaguers, no one will care how many games the team won.

Thanks goodness for that, because… good gravy, what a dreadful bunch. Clinton went 45-96 on the season, never won four consecutive games but had seven losing streaks of at least five. The team finished 16-48, during which time it scored 3.5 runs per games and allowed 5.5. Kansas City and Tampa Bay are presently trailing the AL with an OPS+ of 89. Clinton’s was 85.

On Mayberry: To mixed reviews, Texas drafted John Mayberry Jr. nineteenth overall in 2005. At age 22 and with three years of college ball to his credit, he ought to be tearing up low-A, but his line of .268/.358/.479 is a bit underwhelming. That’s where the league and park discussion provides context. Using a typical Major League hitter as a comparison doesn’t work. Using the Clinton’s park-adjusted league average of .260/.330/.380 reveals that Mayberry batted well above average, especially for power. An isolated power index of 177 and walk index of 135 give hope.

Players are ranked in order of OPS+. Those with fewer than 100 at-bats aren’t listed.

Player
POS
G
OPS
OPS+
AVG
AVG+
OBP
OBP+
SLG
SLG+
ISO
ISO+
BB%
BB%+
SO%
SO%+
Net Steals
John
Mayberry
OF
126
.838
135
.268
103
.358
108
.479
126
.211
177
11.4%
135
20.3%
92
3
Grant
Gerrard
OF
28
.775
119
.298
115
.371
112
.404
106
.106
89
9.6%
113
18.1%
103
0
Terrance
Blunt
OF
115
.709
101
.271
104
.355
108
.354
93
.083
70
11.0%
131
13.8%
136
-4
Joseph
Kemp
P
77
.709
99
.248
95
.316
96
.393
103
.145
122
7.1%
84
20.1%
93
-7
Freddie
Thon
1B
69
.710
99
.280
108
.308
93
.402
106
.122
103
3.7%
44
13.0%
144
-2
Matt
Smith
SS
124
.682
93
.267
103
.351
106
.330
87
.063
53
11.3%
133
16.3%
115
-6
Brian
Valichka
C
65
.666
87
.231
89
.299
91
.367
97
.136
114
7.1%
85
17.2%
108
0
John
Whittleman
3B
130
.657
85
.227
87
.313
95
.343
90
.116
97
11.4%
135
17.2%
108
-5
Truan
Mehl
OF
102
.619
74
.252
97
.280
85
.339
89
.087
73
4.0%
48
14.4%
130
5
K.C.
Herren
OF
87
.600
70
.221
85
.306
93
.294
77
.073
61
10.6%
126
21.1%
89
-9
Benjamin
Crabtree
C
62
.597
68
.245
94
.290
88
.306
81
.061
51
4.4%
52
21.3%
88
-1
Ian
Gac
1B
54
.583
62
.197
76
.227
69
.356
94
.159
134
3.7%
44
28.3%
66
-2
Jose
Vallejo
SS
127
.573
62
.234
90
.289
88
.284
75
.050
42
6.1%
72
17.3%
108
6
David
Peterson
2B
64
.548
55
.231
89
.269
82
.279
73
.048
40
4.6%
54
17.1%
109
-6
TEAM
TOTALS
-
139
.655
85
.243
93
.309
94
.346
91
.103
87
8.0%
95
18.2%
103
-26
Park-Adjusted League Average
-
-
.710
-
.260
-
.330
-
.380
-
.119
-
8.4%
-
18.7%
-
-

A few notes about the stats: You know OPS+. All the other “+” figures are similarly calculated. 100 equals the park-adjusted league average, and higher is always better. As you’ll see, indexes for stats like slugging and isolated tend to vary among players much more than OBP or batting average.

The walk and strikeout rates aren’t 100% accurate. Right now, nobody has team stats for hit batters or sac flies, both of which are part of total plate appearances. So, at the moment, they only way to compare players to the league would be for me to hit the web page of every single player in the Midwest league and compile the totals myself. Folks, that’s not going to happen. So in this case, the walk rate equals [ walks / ( at-bats + walks ) ], and the same applies to the strikeout rate. Unless a player has an outrageous number of HBPs or SFs, the walk and strikeout rates shouldn’t be overstated by more than about 0.3%.

Net steals are simply ( SB – 2*CS ). This assumes a break-even rate of 66.7%. The break-even rate in the AL hovers around 70% but would be lower in the Midwest because of depressed offense (stealing is more viable is a low-scoring environment). Whatever the actual rate, I’m just using a simple formula.

Where are the pitchers? Next post.

Posted by Lucas at 01:00 PM

August 10, 2006

Draft History Revised and Updated

I've created an updated draft history that includes peak levels and win shares through 2005. Over time I'll be adding years previous to 1999. The link is at upper right.

Posted by Lucas at 05:31 PM