Saturday, June 28, 2008
Pick #7 Yonder Alonso
Yonder has yet to sign, as his team's time in Omaha at the College World Series has delayed the signing process. However, thanks to my Stanford Cardinal, Yonder and the Miami Hurricanes were bounced fairly early from the tournament, so contract negotiations should be well under way. Still, sometimes high first round draft picks don't sign until the other high picks starting signing to set the market. It creates a kind of domino effect, but the Rays signing #1 overall pick Tim Beckham for a reported signing bonus of $6.5M should help speed the process along.
Professional Debut Grade: Incomplete
Pick #84 Zach Stewart
The Reds signed Stewart to his first professional contract and assigned him to low-A Dayton. Despite vaulting over the rookie leagues entirely, Stewart has posted very good numbers in the early going. In 6.0 innings for Dayton, Stewart has allowed 1 hit and 0 runs. In addition, he boasts a 3/0 K/BB ratio and a 2.75 GB/FB ratio, which is what Reds fans want to see.
Stewart was a closer out of Texas Tech, so his polish was part of what got him drafted. Still, if he can have early success at Dayton, then he could possibly move very quickly up the ranks. He throws a heavy ball and hopefully he can continue to rack up the groundball outs.
So far, so good.
Professional Debut Grade: A
Pick #119 Tyler Cline
The Reds have signed Tyler Cline to a professional deal and assigned him to the rookie league Golf Coast League Reds, where he will play under manager Pat Kelly.
He's a big kid at 6'2" and 215 lbs. He works with a low 90s fastball, a slurvy curveball, and a decent changeup.
Given his build and age, I would say that this is a pure projection pick by the Reds. Cline has the build of a power pitcher and reads are probably dreaming on what he could become. Cline wasn't well known heading into this draft, so it'll be interesting to see what he brings to the table.
Professional Debut Grade: Incomplete
Pick #149 Clayton Shunick
Shunick is under contract and was sent to rookie league Billings, where he is pitching for the Mustangs. Shunick seems the opposite of Cline, as he is a pitcher who is fairly polished, but seemingly lacking much projection. His mechanics are rather unorthodox and could become problematic as he advances up the ranks.
At Billings, Shunick has had a bit of a rough start. In 8.0 innings, Shunick has given up 12 hits, posted a 7/2 K/BB ratio, a 6.75 ERA, and a 1.75 WHIP. Given that he's only given up 2 walks and 1 homer, it seems likely that his numbers will improve in a hurry. Nothing to worry about at this point, but given his polish and the level of competition, it's far from an ideal debut.
Professional Debut Grade: C-
Pick #179 Alexander Buchholz
Now, here is a guy to watch. I've got a fairly good feeling about Alex and think he could be an interesting prospect. He strikes me as a Chris Valaika type. A good hitter who may lack the glove to handle shortstop. Still, a middle infielder who can rake is worth his weigh in gold. And, that's pretty much all Buchholz has done so far in his professional career.
The Reds got him under contract and sent him to Billings right along with Shunick. At Billings, Buchholz has demonstrated the good offensive potential that made him the #179th overall pick. In 25 ABs, Buchholz has posted a line of .400/.483/.560/1.043. He has 2 doubles, 1 triple, and a 4/3 K/BB ratio.
It's difficult to imagine a better way to start your professional career.
Professional Debut Grade: A+
Anyway, this clip posted by jamessutherland23 on youtube provides several good slow motion looks at Edinson.
Neyer hints that the criticism of Dunn may be driven more by his on-the-field attributes than any actual character/personality flaws.
Adam Dunn is leading the major leagues with 63 walks. At this pace he'll finish the season with 133. Dunn's always drawn plenty of walks, but he hasn't drawn more than 114 since 2002 (when he finished with 128). Because of all the walks this season, though, his on-base percentage is .385, an outstanding figure that's right in line with the rest of his career. So why does J.P. Ricciardi -- and he's probably not alone in his opinion -- think Dunn doesn't want to play baseball?
There was an outfielder 60 years ago named Roy Cullenbine. During his decade in the majors, Cullenbine switched teams six times. In 1947, Cullenbine hit an unimpressive .224. He wasn't impressive in the outfield, either. On the other hand, Cullenbine hit 24 home runs, and his 137 walks ranked second in the majors, behind only Ted Williams. Cullenbine, whose manager once said he was "lazy," never played again.
Adam Dunn is in no danger of something like that. But there will always be baseball people who can't appreciate a player like him."
Could the criticism of Dunn as uncaring and lazy be driven by nothing more than his deliberate and patient approach at the plate? Are people subconsciously attempting to draw inferences about a player's personality from his physical skills?
It's one thing to try to draw inferences from the way in which a player comports himself on the field, but it's a slightly different animal to try to infer personality traits based on physical attributes. Dunn isn't ever going to be a quick, hustle guy. He's too big for that to ever be the case, but just because he is bigger and slower afoot than some doesn't mean that he's lazy and uncaring.
If Dunn was faster and more agile on his feet, would people consider him to be less lazy and uncaring? Would that be enough to make him a more popular figure throughout baseball? It's certainly another interesting discussion created by the lightening rod for discussion, Adam Dunn.
"You know the guy doesnt have a passion to play the game that much?"
"We've done our homework on guys like Adam Dunn, and there's a reason why we dont want a guy like Adam Dunn"
"We know a little bit more about him than the average fan does."
Those choice comments brought to you by the brain of Toronto Blue Jay GM J.P. Ricciardi. Ultimately, these comments reveal more about the Reds team than they do about Ricciardi or Dunn.
Ricciardi is rapidly proving himself to be a hothead lacking in sound judgment, as evidenced by the lies he told to the media about the true nature of B.J. Ryan's injury, the shoddy treatment of future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, and now his harsh comments about a player in another organization. Most GMs refrain from commenting on players in other organizations, likely out of fear of a tampering allegation, but while Ricciardi's comment are rather unlikely to have been designed to woo Dunn to the Great White North, it is still very bad form to criticize a player in another organization.
As for Dunn, he handled the situation well, which isn't all that surprising. For all the criticism he takes, Dunn typically comports himself well with the media and seems to have a good head on his shoulders. No, what was truly revealing about this scenario is the lack of team unity in the Reds organization.
One would think that when someone outside the organization attacks a teammate, employee, and friend that someone would step up to protect him. Well, I suppose that did happen, but it didn't come from the right place.
Of all people, Reds team physician Tim Kremchek was the only one to stand up.
"I laughed," Kremchek said. "I thought, 'If you only knew.'"
Kremchek, unlike Ricciardi, knows Dunn quite well. The two met in 1998, shortly after the Reds drafted Dunn, in the private box of the team's late owner, Marge Schott.
In addressing the notion that Dunn lacks passion and dislikes baseball, as Ricciardi alleged last week during a radio interview, Kremchek said that just the opposite was true.
"There is no player in this game that I've ever treated who had the things that he had and continued to play," Kremchek said.
Dunn, a former quarterback who received a football scholarship to the University of Texas before turning to baseball full-time, maintains his football mentality with injuries.
In 2005, he played with a broken right hand for a substantial portion of the season. The injury was not revealed until the following January when Jerry Narron, then the Reds' manager, said that Dunn, "broke his hand twice last year and wouldn't let us X-ray it because he wanted to play."
"I could feel the bone moving in his hand," Kremchek said. "It wasn't something that was going to cause permanent damage, but it hurt like hell. When I pushed on it, you could tell."
Kremchek also recalled a night when Dunn, 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds, ran into a wall, required 12 to 15 stitches to repair a gash in his leg and played the next day.
Then there was the time, Kremchek said, when Dunn bowled over a catcher in San Diego, wound up with a swollen, bruised leg and again remained in the lineup, refusing to acknowledge the injury.
Finally, Kremchek talked about Dunn playing with an injured right knee for nearly two seasons before finally undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus last Sept. 26.
"Last year, early in the season, he couldn't stop in the outfield," Kremcheck said. "But he didn't come out of games. He never complained. He never told the manager he couldn't play."
Dunn missed the final six games, but only after appearing in 152. He also played in 160 or more games in each of the previous three seasons, as well as 158 in 2002, his first full season. His only career trip to the disabled list was in '03, when he did not play after Aug. 15 due to a sprained ligament in his left thumb.
Kremchek acknowledged that Dunn does not always show passion on the field, at times looking lackluster, like he doesn't care. But he strongly disputes Ricciardi's suggestion that Dunn is some kind of baseball slacker,
"It's not true," Kremchek said. "It isn't. I will tell you that for a fact."
The question this raises is: Where is the guy in the clubhouse who says that if you attack one of my teammates, you are attacking the entire team?
It's rather appalling that the entire team seemed to take it lying down. Someone should have stood up for Dunn and called out J.P. Ricciardi. There just doesn't seem to be any pride about being a member of this organization. Typically, I'm not one for brash ballplayers, but this team needs a little swagger. It needs an identity. It needs a bit of the "We're the Cincinnati Reds and we're here to kick ass and chew gum....and we're all out of gum" type attitude.
It's too much to ask of him and not realistic, but I would have LOVED to see Jay Bruce step up for Dunn and rip J.P. in the press. He's the heir to the throne and it would be nice to have a homegrown leader in the clubhouse. It would take a very mature rookie to be able to do that, but how much respect would he have earned by doing that? Rookies are supposed to know their place, but he could have grabbed the leadership role for this team and perhaps galvanized the team a bit in doing so.
The biggest problem that I have with the Reds is that year in and year out, the team ALWAYS seem to be less than the sum of the individual parts. Seriously, we are a team of underachievers and maybe this is a small glimpse of why that's the case. Where's the unity? The cohesion? The outrage?
At this point, I'm really not sure that there even IS a team mentality with these players. Frankly, that's why this clubhouse needs a nice house cleaning. Get some players and a manager in here who are proud to be wearing the Reds uniform every day. Players who treat an attack on one as an attack on all. If we can't foster that type of attitude in the players, then we need to bring in a manager who embodies it. Dusty Baker's tooth-pick chewing, back-slapping style just isn't what this team needs. We need a blue-collar, fiery manager who knows how to get the most out his players. A manager who has the respect of his players, but isn't afraid to get right in their faces. A manager who can instill a sense of pride and respect about simply being part of the organization.
Until that time, I don't think this team goes anywhere. Until that time, this is just a bunch of individuals going about their business and collecting huge pay checks. This is storied franchise, but it's time to bring the pride back the Redlegs. Until that time, the Reds will remain an also-ran and second division ball club.
Friday, June 27, 2008
I've actually been chewing on this for quite a while, so I thought I'd get my thoughts down on paper, so to speak. Basically, what I'm trying to do is to figure out just how difficult it would be to replace the production of Adam Dunn. Now, to do so, I'm actually going to try to replace the aggregate production of Dunn and Griffey for 2008. Not surprisingly, I've picked two of my favorites. I'll replace Dunn in left with Matt Murton and Griffey in right with Jayson Werth.
Now, for simplicity sake, I'm going to keep this very theoretical. I'm not saying Werth and Murton are easily obtainable, but rather just trying to determine the feasibility of replacing two offensive minded outfielders who play poor defense with two sterling defensive outfielders who are solid at the plate. You could plug in any number of outfielders (i.e. Ryan Spilborghs and Austin Kearns, etc) in the analysis who fit the profile.
To get an accurate gauge on the total value of a player's contribution to his team, I'd say you have to measure his performance in the currency of the game: Runs. So, I tried to take a look at the runs created on offense and runs saved on defense of all 4 of the aforementioned players.
It's tough to do, because there are no generally accepted defensive metrics, so there is likely to be disagreement on which one to use. That said, I chose Baseball Prospectus's Rate2, because it is a rate stat that normalizes for playing time, which is necessary given that Murton and Werth haven't played 162 games in a season.
BP defines it as: "A way to look at the fielder's rate of production, equal to 100 plus the number of runs above or below average this fielder is per 100 games. A player with a rate of 110 is 10 runs above average per 100 games, a player with an 87 is 13 runs below average per 100 games, etc."
So, I took the career defensive performance of Dunn (91) and Murton (112) in leftfield and extrapolated it out over 162 games. Based on his career performance, Dunn is 14.6 runs BELOW average in leftfield, while Murton is 19.4 Runs ABOVE average. I did the same for Griffey (94) and Werth (111) in right, where Griffey is 9.7 runs BELOW average, while Werth is 17.8 runs ABOVE average.
Maybe Dunn's improved defensive performance in 2008 is legit, but for now I'll work under the assumption that a larger sample size will bring about a regression to the mean.
In summary, by going from Dunn in left and Griffey in right to Murton in left and Werth in right the Reds improve defensively by roughly 61 runs.
Again, I'm not sure which would be the most appropriate stat to boil down a player's offensive contribution to Runs. However, it's a bit tricky to compare part time players like Murton/Werth to full-time guys like Griffey/Dunn. Accordingly, I went with Batting Runs Above Average (BRAA), as it is measured on the same basis as Rate2 (i.e. a player's performance above average).
However, I had to extrapolate it out over equivalent levels of playing time for comparison's sake. So, I chose 650 plate appearances.
For Dunn, I went with his 2007 level of performance (.264/.386/.554), as it seems typical of his performance. In 2007, Dunn posted a BRAA of 39. When extrapolated out over 650 PAs, Dunn posts a BRAA of 40.1.
For Murton, I went with his 2006 level of performance (.297/.365/.444), because I think that's a pretty fair approximation of what he would do in 2008. His power numbers may even be better in GABP, but I think that's a fair estimate. Anyway, in 2006 Murton posted a BRAA of 9, which gives a BRAA of 11.5 when extrapolated out over 650 PAs.
For Griffey, I went with his 2007 level of performance, though I suspect that is being a bit generous. In 2007, Griffey had a BRAA of 25 and when extrapolated out over 650 PAs it gives him a BRAA of 26.1.
For Jayson Werth, I blended his 2007 and 2008 levels of performance together. I'm not quite sure what his performance level will be, but I suspect it falls somewhere between 2007 (.298/.404/.459) and 2008 (.262/.337/.497). So, Werth's combined BRAA in 2007 (16) and 2008 (6) is 22. When that is extrapolated out over 650 PAs, Werth posts a BRAA of 30.6.
In summary, over 650 PAs Dunn and Griffey would create 66 BRAA, while Murton and Werth would create 42 BRAA. So, Dunn/Griffey would have a 24.1 run advantage over Murton/Werth on offense.
Also, we can look at a cumulative stat like WARP3.
Here is a BP definition of WARP: "Wins Above Replacement Player, level 1. The number of wins this player contributed, above what a replacement level hitter, fielder, and pitcher would have done, with adjustments only for within the season. It should be noted that a team which is at replacement level in all three of batting, pitching, and fielding will be an extraordinarily bad team, on the order of 20-25 wins in a 162-game season."
WARP3 is an updated version of WARP, which includes a few additional factors to increase the accuracy of the stat.
In essence, WARP3 is a rate stat that encompasses offense and defense. So, it should suit our purposes. I went with the WARP3 that's Adjusted for All-Time.
In 2007, Dunn had a WARP3 of 5.8, while Griffey had a 6.4 WARP3. Taken together you get 12.2.
In 2006, Murton had a WARP3 of 6.0. And, Werth had a WARP3 of 4.8 in 2007 and so far has a WARP3 of 3.9 in 2008, so let's say he's at 4.4. Taken together, you'd get 10.4.
So, Dunn/Griffey would provide an advantage of 1.8 Wins Above Replacement Players over Murton/Werth.
Admittedly, I don't know the ins-and-outs of WARP3, so I fail to see why Murton posted the following:
2005: .321/.386/.521 with a WARP3 of 1.7.
2006: .297/.365/.444 with a WARP3 of 6.0.
2007: .281/.352/.438 with a WARP3 of 2.7.
If I had to guess, I'd infer that it largely came down to defense.
In 2005, Murton played a poor leftfield, posting a Rate2 of only 97. So, despite stellar offensive numbers, he was below average defensively.
In 2006, Murton played a stellar leftfield, posting a Rate2 of 114. So, even though he had less impressive offensive numbers, he was stellar defensively.
In 2007, Murton had solid offensive numbers and played an exceptional leftfield (Rate2 of 129), but spent the majority of the time in rightfield (Rate2 of 102), so the defensive impact was lower.
So, I suppose his 2006 season combined solid offense with tremendous defense to give him a very high WARP3.
From my admittedly rather rough estimates, Dunn/Griffey would provide 24 more offensive runs, but Murton/Werth would save 61 more runs on defense. From these rough estimates, it looks like a 37 run advantage by going with the Murton/Werth tandem.
On a WARP3 basis, it looks like Dunn/Griffey provide an advantage of 1.8 Wins Above Replacement Players over Murton/Werth. Perhaps Murton's WARP3 wouldn't be so high, but I doubt Griffey's would be either.
Going into the analysis, I really didn't know how I was going to tackle it or how it was going to turn out, but I didn't attempt to jigger it in my favor. I know that there is a significant subjective element to it and that it is a rough take (at best), but I did attempt to base the approximated inputs on realistic estimates. And, while I'm sure there is a significant +/- error built into the calculations, I'm not so sure that going from Dunn/Griffey to Murton/Werth wouldn't be a lateral move or at least a fairly minimal downgrade. I suspect that Werth/Murton could do a very solid job of replacing the aggregate production of Dunn/Griffey for a fraction of the cost. Even if Dunn and Griffey would be better in 2009, would they be so much better to justify the additional money and the opportunity costs?
To make a long story short, I can't really conceive of a way to replace Dunn's production with just one player. However, I think you can certainly do it with 2 players. While you could, of course, make the argument to keep Dunn and just replace Griffey, I think we might be better off letting both of them go, which would maximize both our cash savings and compensatory draft picks. From where I sit, it's always better to be both "leaner and meaner" and very strong on the defensive side of the game.
While I certainly don't offer this as indisputable proof that Murton/Werth would be the better tandem, it might speak to the feasibility of replacing Dunn without bringing about the end of the organization as we know it. Their may be problems with the methodology or inputs in this analysis and we could argue all day about the appropriate metrics to be used, but I suspect that the underlying theory is a sound one.
The path to the promised land is paved with great defense and it's time for the Reds to take the first step on that journey.
Monday, June 23, 2008
16. Kyle Lotzkar - Lotzkar arrived on the professional scene with a bang in 2007. He pitched very well with the Gulf Coast League Reds and at Billings, posting a combined 3.10 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP, and a 36/10 K/BB ratio in 29.0 innings at the two levels. That performance was enough to send him rocketing up most prospect lists and certainly was a strong first step on his professional baseball journey. Lotzkar started out in extended spring training, but was recently sent to low-A Dayton, where he hasn't found the going quite as easy as he did last year. In 2 starts and 7.o innings, Lotzkar has posted a 9.00 ERA, 2.14 WHIP, and an 11/7 K/BB ratio. Like Ravin, control is the problem. Both have good stuff, but they need to harness it in order to be effective in the professional ranks. Still, as with Ravin, time is on Lotzkar's side, so he has plenty of time to harness his stuff.
17. Josh Roenicke - Roenicke has lived up to his reputation early in 2008. Roenicke exploded into the collective conscious last year by showing stellar command to go with overpowering stuff. He has proven that last year was no fluke by again showing flashes of brilliance. He started out the 2008 campaign at double-A Chattanooga and was quickly promoted to triple-A Louisville. Between the two levels, Roenicke has posted stellar numbers: 2.31 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and a 56/21 K/BB ratio. Roenicke is poised to make his MLB splash in the near future, which will make the Francisco Cordero signing look even more dubious. Regardless, the troika of Jared Burton, Josh Roenicke, and Francisco Cordero should give the Reds the nastiest bullpen since the Nasty Boys walked the earth.
18. Pedro Viola - Unfortunately, Pedro Viola's 2008 season hasn't exactly been "sweet music." Viola started at double-A Chattanooga and has had his fair share of struggles. In 31.0 innings, Pedro has an ERA of 6.10, a 1.90 WHIP, and a 36/22 K/BB ratio. Pedro will be 25 tomorrow, so it would be nice to see him get back on track, but he's still a promising arm and has a bright future. Perhaps not as bright as it seemed last year, but time will tell.
19. Brandon Waring - Waring is another player who made a noisy debut in the professional ranks, ripping the cover off the ball with the Billings Mustangs in 2007. The Reds sent Waring to Dayton where he has posted a solid line of .280/.357/.500/.857. He has hit 14 homers, demonstrating that his power is more than legitimate. However, as with Juan Francisco, it's difficult not to be worried about his strikeout rate. In 254 ABs, Waring has struck out a stunning 92 times, which works out to a strikeout every 2.8 ABs. What's even more alarming is that he is having so much difficulty making contact at low-A ball. Waring is a college ballplayer, so he shouldn't be having so much trouble at low-A Ball. The competition is only going to get tougher and it's difficult to imagine the more advanced pitchers really exploiting all the holes in Waring's swing. The power is nice, but I'm just not sure I see Waring having much success as he advances up the ladder.
20. Sean Watson - When I looked at him last year, I had concerns about Watson and his sloppy mechanics. Unfortunately, those concerns still ring true. He started out the 2008 season at high-A Sarasota, where he posted a 4.50 ERA and a 30/10 K/BB ratio in 20 innings. He was bumped up to Chattanooga, where he's gotta off to a rough start, posting a 14.85 ERA in his first 6.2 innings pitched. Last year, the Reds had Watson work as a starter, but they have switched him back to the bullpen for 2008, but the results just aren't there yet. Originally, I thought Watson might become a middle reliever, but even that may be optimistic. Still, like the others, he has time to get back on track.
21. Carlos Fisher - Unlike many on this list, who started the 2008 season off with a bang, Carlos has had a quietly effective 2008 season. Like Watson, Fisher worked as a starter in 2007, but the Reds are using him exclusively as a reliever in 2008. Fisher struck me as a future reliever, so I'm not too surprised by the move, but it's good to see him take to the change like a duck to water. At Chattanooga this year, Fisher has posted a 3.76 ERA, a 1.38 WHIP, and a stellar 33/15 K/BB ratio in 40.2 innings. In addition, Fisher has continued to demonstrate impressive groundball tendencies, posting a 1.75 GB/FB ratio. Fisher's combination of solid stuff, good control, and heavy groundball tendencies could make him a valuable middle reliever in Cincinnati. First, he'll have to continue to climb the ladder, but he's off to a quiet, productive 2008 season.
22. Sam Lecure - Lecure is the type of pitcher that I like, so I'm rooting for him to take it to the next level. He has actually been fairly solid in 2008, posting a 3.75, 1.33 WHIP, and a rather impressive 76/37 K/BB ratio for Chattanooga. However, I still question whether he has enough stuff to be successful at the MLB level. I'd love to say yes, but I just don't think he does. In addition, his flyball tendencies (0.67 GB/FB in 2008) don't bode well for any future he may have in Great American Ballpark. Still, I'll continue to root Lecure on, but unfortunately I'm not all that optimistic about his chances.
23. Justin Turner - Turner is the type of player who constantly exceeds expectations and wrings every last drop of production out of his rather limited skills. Sabermetricians don't like him, but scouts swear that he'll carve out an MLB career. It's hard not to like someone who gets the absolute best out of his gifts, but Turner is looking like a poor bet to have much of an MLB career. Perhaps he can latch on as a utility infielder, but his 2008 line at Chattanooga of .232/.320/.317/.637 hardly inspires confidence.
24. Justin Reed - I am higher on Reed than most, as I think he's got the skills necessary to be a top of the order hitter and a solid defensive player. Reed didn't focus solely on baseball until he was drafted by the Reds, rather he split his time between football and baseball. Accordingly, he's still a bit behind the development curve, but he has the gifts to catch up in a hurry if all breaks right. The Reds sent Reed to Dayton, where he has posted a respectable line of .259/.337/.415/.752. He has also swiped 15 out of 19 bases he has attempted to steal. Reed still needs to polish his game and learn the nuances of baseball. While he does seem to be making progress, his contact rate needs improvement. On the season, he is striking out every 2.8 ABs. Clearly, that's not acceptable for someone with his limited power, so he'll need to improve that aspect of his game. Reed has shown improvement, but needs to continue to work, work, work on his skills. His athletic ability could allow him to take a big step forward at some point in his development, but unfortunately he is just as likely to never have the light come on.
25. Tyler Pelland - Pelland has really struggled in 2008, doing little to earn the confidence of the front office. Pelland is just a stone's throw away from the big leagues, but with his performance he may as well be playing for the Long Islands Ducks of the Independent League. In 28.2 innings, Pelland has posted a 33/20 K/BB ratio and an uninspiring 5.65 ERA. Pelland is continuing to show the inconsistency that has plagued him. He's got swing-and-missing stuff, but just can't get command of it with any regularity. So, once again, the Reds will have to wait on Pelland, whose career is stalling at triple-A Louisville.
Other Notables - Obviously, the big story here is Daryl Thompson, whose performance got him on the fast track to the big leagues, where he held his own against the Yankees. Thompson's stuff came all the way back after surgery for a torn labrum and he has established himself as one of the better pitching prospects in baseball. He has demonstrated a very strong combination of power and control. Time will tell just how high his ceiling will be, but for now he appears to be at least a future middle of the rotation pitcher. Paul Janish got the call by default, after every shortstop in the entire city of Cincinnati got injured (and believe me, Dusty tried them all before finally turning to Janish). Unfortunately, Paul is still struggling with the bat, but he does intrigue me. If he can hit a meager .265, then his on base skills and stellar defense will make him a viable shortstop at the MLB level. While Chris Dickerson impressed Dusty during spring training, his offense continues to fall short. At AAA, he is producing only at a .255/.357/.388 clip. Time is rapidly running out for Chris. Zach Cozart is down at Dayton, where he is showing surprising power, tallying 8 homeruns and a stellar .459 SLG%. His glove is still solid, so he'll go as far as his bat will take him. Finally, Craig Tatum has really struggled in 2008, posting a disturbing line of .229/.300/.351. He is a borderline prospect, but the Reds are still shallow at catcher, so he'll continue to get a look.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
1. Jay Bruce - Well, I'm not sure much needs to be said on this one, as Jay lit up triple-A pitching to the tune of .364/.393/.630/1.023, which brought him a well earned promotion to the majors. Bruce wasn't phased much by the big leagues, as he got off to a white hot start and sits now at a more than respectable .300/.386/.470/.856. Pitchers have slowed him down lately, but Bruce will simply need to adjust to their plan of attack. He has too much offensive skill to be held down for long. Get ready for a fun next decade or two, Reds fans.
2. Homer Bailey - Well, while Jay Bruce's path to the majors has been as straight as a string, Homer Bailey's has had more twists and turns than Lombard Street in San Francisco. Homer's triple-A performance really didn't earn him a call-up to the majors, but he got one anyway. At triple-A Louisville, Homer currently sports a 4.07 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, and a 62/31 K/BB ratio. During his most recent stint in the majors, Homer made 3 starts posting an 8.76 ERA, a 2.11 WHIP, and a putrid 3/10 K/BB ratio. He's still young, so he has time to right the ship, but at the MLB level his fastball velocity is down and he seems to lack both command of his pitches and also an out-pitch. Also, his attitude has repeatable been called into question, which is never a good sign for a young ballplayer. The Reds tinkered with Homer's mechanics (including having him bring his hands only to the chest, rather than over the head), but have yet to see positive results. The best thing the organization can do is leave him in triple-A for the rest of the year and force him to actually EARN his next promotion.
3. Johnny Cueto - Johnny's rookie season has been overshadowed by the dominance of fellow rotation member Edinson Volquez. However, unlike the prospect directly above him on the list, Cueto has demonstrated the skills necessary to be a very effective MLB starting pitcher. Three of the main elements of a successful pitcher are walk rate, strikeout rate, and groundball rate. Well, interestingly enough, Cueto is very strong in walk rate and strikeout rate, while Edinson is very strong in strikeout rate and groundball rate. However, Great American Ballpark is more ideally suited to a strong strikeout/groundball pitcher like Edinson, than it is to a low walk/strong strikeout pitcher like Cueto. Over time, Cueto should learn to limit his susceptibility to the long ball, but for now Edinson's game is better tailored to Great American Ballpark. Even so, Cueto should have a long, successful career in Cincinnati.
4. Joey Votto - The Canadian kid has performed about as well as expected, however his production is a bit different than I expected. So far in his big league career, Votto has displayed good power, but only average on base skills. Given his career minor league line of .289/.385/.476/.861, I expected the opposite. Regardless, his career is in its infancy and he should continue to provide professional At Bats in Cincinnati for years to come.
5. Drew Stubbs - Stubbs is still plying his trade at high-A Sarasota, where he started off as hot as a supernova. While he has cooled off as of late, his line is still solid at .267/.381/.405/.786 with 22 steals in 29 attempts. Stubbs came out of the University of Texas with a reputation for tremendous defense, good speed, and light-tower power. He is one of the few Longhorns to ever hit the ball over the scoreboard at Texas. However, his current skill set would seem to have him on track to be a leadoff hitter, as his on-base skills and speed are both above average. Stubbs is what we need to see from more of the Reds prospects: great defensively, strong on-base skills, and a high baseball IQ. If he continues to stay on track, he could be the Reds starting centerfielder and leadoff hitter for good starting opening day of 2010.
6. Todd Frazier - Previously, I wrote: "Todd Frazier is a baseball player. That sentence may not seem like it says much, but in reality it says it all." That statement continues to be true, as Frazier's polished skill-set is enabling him to climb the ranks of the Reds system. He started out back at low-A Dayton, where he pounded pitchers to a tune of .321/.402/.598/1.000 before getting promoted to high-A Sarasota. At Sarasota, Frazier is currently at .288/.347/.485/.832, which doesn't strike the eye as very impressive, but Sarasota is notoriously tough on hitters. Overall, Frazier is one of the brightest lights in the Reds system and his innate understanding of the game allows all of his solid tools to play up a notch. If he continues to perform as he has, Frazier will continue to climb the levels of the farm system and up even higher on this prospect list.
7. Juan Francisco - Juan is another bright light in the farm system and another example of the importance of international scouting in the modern game. Juan is also working at high-A Sarasota, where he has posted a respectable line of .283/.301/.476/.777 in a pitcher friendly park. Francisco has substantial power and is a very good athlete, but he is less polished than Todd Frazier and still has an alarming K/BB ratio of 69/8. It's difficult to envision a hitter have much MLB success without improving on his approach at the plate, so it's a very large red flag. Still, he's a young player and has significant upside, so he's definitely one to keep an eye on.
8. Devin Mesoraco - Mesoraco was held back in extended spring training to start the year, which led to talk that he was destined to head back to the rookie level Pioner League. But, the Reds eventually sent him to low-A Dayton, where Mesoraco begin to make good on his promise and justify his high draft slot. He is currently hitting .276/.331/.397/.727 after following up a slow start with a nice hot streak. As a catcher, Mesoraco has a long way to go in his development, as he has much to learn on both sides of the dish. Still, after an injury plagued season last year and a bit of a poor start in 2008, it's comforting to see Mesoraco play so capably. Mesoraco has a long way to go, but he's demonstrating a great deal of promise.
9. Travis Wood - Wood slid down many prospects list due to an injury plagued 2007, but he has had a strong bounce back year thus far. He posted a very impressive 2.70 ERA and 41/21 K/BB ratio in 46.2 innings at high-A Sarasota. That earned him a promotion to double-A Chattanooga, where he has strong 24/12 K/BB ratio in 23.0 innings pitched. He also has a poor ERA of 6.65, due in large part to back to back games in which he allowed 6 and then 7 earned runs. Still, Wood seems healthy, which should go a long way towards reestablishing him as a quality pitching prospect in the eyes of the national baseball media.
10. Chris Valaika - Valaika is another who slipped down most prospect lists, but he is having a very strong 2008 season. Chris posting a stellar line of .363/.393/.585/.978 at Sarasota and now has a line of .281/.345/.425/.770 at double-A Chattanooga. After some questions emerged about his bat in 2007, Valaika has done his best to answer them in 2008. The jump from A-ball to double-A ball is considered the toughest in the minors, so it'll be interesting to see if Valaika can build on his solid start. In addition, he has improved his defensive play at shortstop to the point that some are wondering whether he might be a legitimate option at shortstop at the big league level, which would only increase his value. Overall, it's been a nice year for Valaika, but he needs to continue to prove that he profiles as more than just a utility infielder at the big league level.
11. Neftali Soto - No one has gotten off to a better start in 2008 than Soto. The Reds assigned him to the rookie league Billings Mustangs, who just got their season underway. In the team's first 5 games, Soto has cranked 4 homeruns and posted a line of .435/.480/1.087/1.567. Soto is a right handed hitter with a beautiful swing. It has a similar fluid grace to Joe DiMaggio's swing. If Soto can be half the MLB player that the Yankee Clipper was, then the Reds will be quite pleased. Personally, I still don't think Soto will be able to stick at shortstop, as he already lacks good first step quickness and will likely only lose range when he inevitably adds weight to his 6'2 frame. Still, Soto is an intriguing prospect and could shoot way up this list if he continues his stellar play.
12. Danny Dorn - Dorn is one of my favorite prospects, but he's had a bit of a strange year. He suffered a knee injury early in the season, which has made it difficult for him to get into a rhythm. Still, Dorn has posted a solid line of .272/.368/.474/.842, which is well down from his amazing performance at double-A last year (1.089 OPS). Even so, the on-base skills are strong and given his lack of top flight power, that is what will drive his career. Another strange aspect to Dorn's season is that the Lookouts are using him at several different positions. So far this season, he's played leftfield, rightfield, quite a bit of firstbase, and spent a lot of time at designated hitter. I'm not sure if the Reds are moving him around because they don't view him as a potential starter, so they are attempting to increase his versatility or if they are taking it easy on his injured knee. Regardless, he'd be better off starting every game in leftfield and I hope to see that happen in the near future.
13. Matt Maloney - It's been a tale of two seasons for Maloney, as he started out 2008 with very poor results. However, he's been much better as of late, which has earned him an ERA of 4.93, a whip of 1.37, and a stellar K/BB ratio of 78/28 in 84.0 innings pitched. His peripherals have been solid all year, so a large part of his struggles seem to be poor luck. His BABIP for the season is .331 and his Fielding Independent Pitching has been 3.98, which is much more impressive than his 4.93 ERA. Overall, Maloney has had a deceptively solid season and as the sample size increases his ERA and WHIP should regress to the mean. He should make his debut in Cincinnati later this summer.
14. Josh Ravin - Turning to one of my other favorite prospects, the Reds kept Ravin in extended spring training, but eventually sent him to low-A Dayton. At Dayton, Ravin has shown flashes of brilliance, but also struggled with his command. Ravin fell off of most prospect lists because of his terrible control in 2007. However, I've always loved his mechanics, which should help his command come around, and his pure stuff, so I still rate him highly. At Dayton, Ravin has posted the following: 5.00 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, and a K/BB ratio of 24/16 in 27.0 innings. Clearly, the stuff is there, as he's striking out almost a batter an inning, but it's hard not to be disappointed in the control. However, he's young and I still wouldn't change his ranking on this list, as I'm a true believer. For me, he's definitely someone to watch. Now, if he could only find a consistent arm slot, the sky would be the limit.
15. Adam Rosales - Rosales had a very impressive spring training and he turned all of the right heads in the Reds organization. In addition, he has no longer been relegated to 1b, which is where he spent most of last season due to an elbow injury. So, with the elbow injury no longer of concern, Rosales has been able to climb back up the defensive spectrum, which has really helped him regain some of the value he lost at first base. Still, despite all these positives, Rosales has really struggled at the plate with triple-A Louisville, where he is hitting a paltry .215/.279/.318/.597. Unfortunately, he seems to have given back some of the gains he made in Spring Training. At this point, he seems to be a real long shot to be anything more than a utility infielder at the MLB level.
Well, that's how the first 15 stack up, so the next installment will feature #16-25 and the Other Notables. I'm sure you won't want to miss that!!!
Monday, June 9, 2008
In his amateur career and in the minors, Homer established a reputation as a power pitcher. He possesses a good fastball, which has helped him post a career 9.3 K/9 in the minors. Despite his impressive minor league stats, Homer just hasn't been impressive at the MLB level. In fact, he has looked like a shadow of the pitcher who is supposed to be the #1 starter in Cincinnati for the next decade. When you look at the debuts of the best young pitching prospects, you almost always see them struggle. However, they typically looked much more electric than Homer has during his MLB time.
When a Tim Lincecum or Francisco Liriano arrives on the scene, you can just tell by watching them that the potential for dominance is there. The ball explodes out of their hand and even though they may struggle, you can just tell that they have the potential TO dominate. At this point, I just don't see it out of Homer.
I'm not sure why he is having so much trouble at the major league level. However, I suspect that while his control is acceptable, his command is lacking. He can consistently throw strikes, but he has trouble locating pitches inside the strikezone. Personally, I would have preferred to see Homer stay down in the minors until he proved that he had the ability to command his offspeed pitches. By yo-yo-ing him back and forth between the majors before he is ready may be detrimental to his development. If he proves again that he is not ready, then he'll have to yet again be returned to the minors. It seems like it would have been better to make Homer really earn his way back up to the majors.
At this point, I'm just not sure he has an out pitch. He needs to be able to effectively utilize his secondary pitches and MLB hitters aren't going to struggle when facing primarily a one pitch pitcher. Regardless of how fast a fastball may be, MLB hitters will eventually get the timing down and put the bat on the ball.
I have yet to see the potential for dominance out of Homer, but hopefully better command of his off-speed pitches will lead to more impressive performances. If he can learn how to mix in all of his pitches and rely on them more heavily, then he may yet get to the top of the mountain. Unfortunately, at this point, he seems to be quite a long way from the peak.
It is truly a remarkable accomplishment and he achieved it in a Reds' uniform. Griffey has had an up-and-down tenure in Cincinnati, but tonight everyone should just sit back and enjoy. Here, for your viewing pleasure, is Ken Griffey Jr.'s 600th homerun.
Oddly enough, the closer Griffey got to #600, the farther he may have gotten away from Cincinnati. At this point, Griffey's days are likely numbered in Cincinnati. His production doesn't really justify his cost and the Reds likely need to get younger. It's possible that the Reds will choose to exercise the team option on Griffey for 2009, but it is equally possible that the Reds were just waiting for him to hit his 600th homerun before trading him back to Seattle.
Whatever happens in the near future, tonight was certainly a special night to be a Reds fan.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Pick #7 Yonder Alonso
The Reds threw a curveball and selected Miami first baseman Yonder Alonso. They had been rumored to select University of Georgia shortstop Gordon Beckham.
Alonso is an interesting choice for Reds for a couple of reasons. The Reds in recent years have really focused on drafting players at the premier defensive positions, so selecting a defensively challenged first baseman certainly breaks this trend. In addition, selecting a first baseman is an interesting choice given the presence of Joey Votto on the roster. Of course, selecting the best player available is usually a good idea, but one wonders what will happen in a couple of seasons when Alonso is ready for the big leagues. Given Alonso's stunning lack of foot speed, it would appear that Votto will have to shift to leftfield or a trade will be necessary.
One good thing to like about Yonder is his plate discipline. He has a very advanced approach at the plate and should draw a lot of walks. Of course, that's almost a necessity in his case, because he can't run. Still, Alonso should be an impact offensive player and hopefully an adequate defensive player. He wouldn't have been my first choice, but the Reds deserve the benefit of the doubt after a couple of stellar drafts.
Pick #84 Zach Stewart
The Reds took Zach Stewart in the 3rd round. Stewart was the closer at Texas Tech where he featured a heavy fastball that sat in 95-97 mph range. He also had an average slider that has plus potential. In addition, he has very good control.
Stewart has clean mechanics and good body control. He works from a three quarter arm slot, which gives him good movement on his pitches.
College closers have become very trendy, but this is an interesting choice for the Reds. Given that they forfeited their second round pick, one would think that they would opt for a prospect with a higher upside. The best case scenario for Stewart and the Reds would seem to be pitching ~65 innings a year at the MLB level.
Maybe it'll work out well, but given that Tim Melville, Tim Murphy, Petey Paramore, and Brandon Crawford were still available, Stewart is a curious choice.
Pick #119 Tyler Cline
Tyler Cline stands 6'2" and weighs 220 lbs. The Reds picked him out of Cass High School in Georgia. The Reds scouts must have worked overtime on this one, as there isn't much information out there on Cline.
Pick #149 Clayton Shunick
Clayton Shunick was drafted out of North Carolina State. He is a junior, stands 6'01", and weighs 175 lbs.
Shunick has an unorthodox arm action. After he breaks his arms, he drops his pitching arm down and then brings it up in a circular type motion. However, he seems to have an unusual action with his pitching hand on his arm swing. His pitching arm stays in too close to his body in large part because of how he is holding the ball at this point.
You can actually see a bit of this in this photo: His pitching arm is too low and close to his body, because his pitching hand is somewhat cocked, which means that he is actually holding the ball higher than his forearm. If he would relax his hand and let the ball hang below his forearm, then his upper arm would automatically shift away from the body and bring his pitching arm into more of a straight line with his glove arm. This would also give him a more natural and fluid delivery. At this point in the delivery, most pitchers hold the ball and pitching hand below the rest of the arm, which, if he did this, would put Shunick in better position to bring his arm up into his pitching slot.
To be honest, I'm not even sure how Shunick can get into position to throw the ball from this position. If you hold your arm out like he is and cock your wrist back like he does, I'm not sure how you can get your arm up and into position to throw. The muscles just don't seem to work that way. It's pretty unnatural, especially if in comparison you again hold your arm out like he is, but this time let the hand dip below the rest of the arm. The arm muscles shift and everything just feels more natural.
Given the point he is at in his windup and the ball position, I'm not sure he's able to get his arm up into a good arm slot in time to throw the pitch, which can't help but put significant additional stress on the shoulder.
All in all, Shunick seems to lack top notch stuff and throws with unorthodox mechanics. However, it's difficult to argue with the results.
In 2008, Shunick went 7-5 with a 2.16 ERA in 95.2 innings. He worked almost exclusively as a starter and posted a 108/23 K/BB ratio. Opponents only hit a paltry .215 against him.
Shunick doesn't look very impressive in action, but his stats indicate otherwise. It'll be interesting to see which is the real Shunick.
Pick #179 Alexander Buchholz
Alexander Buchholz is a shortstop out of University of Delaware. He stands 6'0" and weighs 185.
Buchholz hit .319 for the Fightin' Blue Hens. For his career, he has a .366 batting average, 34 homers, and 161 RBI.
Interestingly enough, the Reds have now selected 3 University of Delaware prospects in the last 2 drafts. Buchholz joins Brandon Menchaca and Mike McGuire.
Buchholz is an interesting prospect, as a middle infielder with good pop in his bat.
All in all, an interesting, if not overwhelmingly impressive first batch of prospects. Hopefully the Reds step it up and find a few quality prospects in tomorrow's portion of the draft.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Starting off with the mock draft from Baseball Prospectus, which projects us to take Canadian infielder Brett Lawrie. Lawrie has moved up the charts in a hurry over the past few weeks and he impressed the Reds so much that they brought him in for a private workout.
Here is what Baseball Prospectus had to say:
7. Cincinnati Reds - Brett Lawrie
"The Reds are lining up to throw the first real curveball of the first round. They have been heavily scouting the top group of college sluggers, as well as Gordon Beckham, while also dreaming of a scenario that would drop either Matusz or Crow to them. However, a surprising new name has entered the mix—the Reds were in hard on Canadian prepster Brett Lawrie after he went off with eight home runs in eight games against professionals in the Dominican, and they came back with reports encouraging enough to prompt a quickly-scheduled private workout on Tuesday afternoon. As one scouting director put it, “If there’s anyone who can improve his stock with a private workout, it’s Lawrie.” Assuming all went as expected, the surprises start at lucky number seven. If they decide to play it safe, Alonso is currently at the top of their board.
Selection: Brett Lawrie, INF, Brookswood SS (BC)"
As for Lawrie, his calling card is his plus-plus power. In addition, he has a plus arm. He is currently listed as a catcher/infielder, as he has yet to settle into a position full-time. He recently has been playing short and some catcher. He's a good athlete and may ultimately develop into a quality defensive catcher, much like Russ Martin of the Dodgers. However, given that the Reds selected Devin Mesoraco last year and Lawrie's lack of polish, he may not be the best choice at #7 for the Reds.
Lawrie played for the Canadian travel team the Langley, B.C. Blaze and the Canadian Junior National Team. He acquitted himself well against college teams and the K.C. Royals' extended spring training squad. Some scouts believe Lawrie to be the best Canadian hitting prospect since Larry Walker and Justin Morneau.
Lawrie has massive offensive upside, but the lack of a defensive position makes him an unusual prospect. He may ultimately have the skills to settle into a premier defensive position, but teams may not want to wait on his glove to catch up with his bat. So, he could end up at a less challenging corner spot to speed his development.
Lawrie looks to be a strong prospect, but the Reds have enough problems defensively already. In addition, the Reds renewed focus on prospects who play the premier defensive positions would make Lawrie an unlikely addition.
Despite earlier projecting the Reds to take University of Miami first baseman Yonder Alonso, Jonathon Mayo is now stating that he is "fairly certain" that the Reds will select Gordon Beckham from the University of Georgia.
If true, it's difficult to complain much about the pick. Beckham has been spectacular for UGA this year, but it's doubtful whether he'll be able to stick at shortstop. If the ever secretive Wayne Krivsky was still at the helm, then it would be easy to discount this rumor. However, this rumor does ring true with me, so I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out to be accurate.
Anyway, say hello to (future Red?) Gordon Beckham, courtesy of "hymben" on YouTube:
Still, as good as Beckham has been, he still wouldn't be my choice.
CASEY KELLY STILL THE PICK
And, as for me, I would still select Casey Kelly. Kelly has tremendous athletic ability and is set to attend the University of Tennessee where he would play quarterback on the football team and play for the baseball team. In addition, Kelly is viewed as a very strong prospect at shortstop and on the mound, so the Reds could draft him as a shortstop (which is where I like him), but if it doesn't work out then they could still switch him to the mound.
Here is a scouting report and video clip on Casey Kelly.
He's got good size, defensive ability, and a very high baseball IQ. He's still maturing and there are questions about his bat, but I'm a believer. He could be the next well rounded shortstop at the MLB level.
Here he is in action.
Overall, I'd like to see the Reds roll the dice with Kelly, but it seems unlikely at this point. Regardless of where he ends up, I'll be following his career.
OTHER PLAYERS WORTHY OF A PICK?
Two other prospects that might be worth a flier in 3rd or 4th rounds are Brandon Crawford and Cutter Dykstra.
Crawford is a junior shortstop for the UCLA Bruins and was considered a potential top 10 pick in this draft before struggling a bit at the plate in 2007. A poor stint in the Cape Cod league with wood bats before the season seemed to rob him of his confidence at the plate, but he continued to demonstrate strong defense at short. While Crawford had a down year, he could potentially be a nice value pick, as the talent is still there.
Cutter Dykstra is the son of all-time MLB great Lenny Dykstra. While he hasn't settled into a defensive position, he is very athletic. He has good power for his size and is a good overall hitter. However, perhaps most importantly, he has a similar playing style to his dad. The Reds have long been a team that is less than the sum of its parts, but Dykstra could be the type of player who could change all of that.
It'll be very interesting to see how it all pans out tomorrow, as the Reds could use another strong draft to help restock the farm system.