Saturday, January 22, 2011

Inside The Gangstaz' Draft Top 10

Thought this might be a little entertaining, at least for the more analytical draft geeks among us. Interested in your comments on "our" thinking and analysis. Yes, I plan to do a first-round draft review again this year.


Drafting At 17 this year, we knew we'd have a good shot at getting a very solid player IF we put enough into scouting. Given we're in a rebuilding phase, the college and high school scouting departments had to compete for funds with the int'l department, but still came away with a respectable $17MM and $15MM with which to scour the land.

Without any supplementals or a 2nd-rounder, we really concentrated our draft time on building our top 10. We're as intent as anyone on grabbing the occasional 3rd, 4th and later-rounders who become ML players, but in our experience those instances are more the result of deep drafts than us spending time re-ranking prospect #'s 50 and up. The time payoff for us seems to be NOT MAKING A MISTAKE with the #1 pick.

Task one when the prospect list was released was pegging those players we thought were no-brainer top-fivers - those players who weren't likely to fall to us at 17 but were the stars guaranteed to make it big.

As is our habit, we started with pitchers. We considered Ted Parris and Reid Regan, who both have very high projections but seem to be starting too low to realistically approach them (really, has anyone ever seen a prospect develop 30+ points in a rating?). We dropped these 2 into the next group.

Then we moved on to the high-OVR IF/CF group, where Brent Hartzell, Damian Schmidt and Alexander Powell caught our attention. Hartzell immediately looked like the real deal. High projections, but within reach of current ratings (with a couple of exceptions). His glove doesn't have a shot at reaching the ideal CF fact, it probably won't hit 80. But his range probably WILL reach 90, and oh baby, that bat. We see something like 92/72/68/81/78 - plug him into CF and #3 in the batting order for a dozen years and watch the awards roll in. We immediately installed Hartzell as #1 on our board.

Then we looked over Schmidt. Our scouts were split. They liked the very high contact, power and eye projections - even if he falls well short of them (certainly likely for contact) he'll be pretty good - but were suspect of his very low glove and split ratings. We figured there was no way he would slip to 17, and if he did it would be a worthwhile risk, so after vigorous debate we made Schmidt our #2.

Powell looked like a nice player, but not a consensus top-5 guy. His defense was clearly not going to reach true SS status, his batting eye ceiling was low, makeup suspect, and health was a small concern. Exactly the kind of guy who could fall to 17. We moved him into the "consider more carefully" bin.

Then we spooled through the top OF/1B/C/DH and RP candidates. RP Darwin, RF Jung, 2B Foxx, Powell, 2B Alarcon, RF Guillen. We added these to the "next level" group with SP's Parris and Regan. Finally, we ran everyone through our own little spreadsheet ranking to get the "dark-horse" candidates (those with lower OVR's but who might prove more valuable nonetheless). We liked C Fernando Belliard, RP Roy Waters, RF Woody Webb, and C/DH Kory Delcarmen.

(We didn't scout eventual top-10 picks Graeme Burnett and Jerrod Gordon).

So, our "no-brainer top 5" group only included Hartzell and Schmidt. A little light on the top end of the draft

Our first cut on the next group had the relievers Darwin and Waters out front, but do you really want to "settle" for a reliever at #17? That bugged us, but both of these guys looked really good...Darwin being preferable due to better control and higher pitch count capability. The thing that nagged us about Darwin was his low patience - given the very long useful careers of pitchers, we like to draft guys who will re-sign when free agency is available. Darwin looks like he'll bolt - it's a long way down the road and honestly a minor concern, but still there.

Similar minor concerns with all this group: Jung's short on power (the low patience is a little less concern for hitters - by the time he hits free agency he could be well into decline anyway); Foxx seems to have lower upside than most of this group; Powell has the health and makeup concerns; Alarcon isn't a 2B defensively; Guillen's splits are starting too low; Parris and Regan we mentioned already; Belliard's a potential injury; Webb's a strikeout machine and a potential injury; Delcarmen...well, hmmm.

We spent a lot of time evaluating Delcarmen. We like those very high potential power guys. Reminded us of our old Austin farmhand (now Columbus OF) Andrew Davis, minus the OF capability. We looked up Davis, and found that after a very nice .290/32/86 debut (in only 379 AB's) last year, he's followed up with a stinking .195/16/39 so far this year. I guess that's 50's splits for you. Still, Delcarmen intrigued us. It looked like his contact, splits and eye could all surpass Davis. It didn't look like his PC would be enough for a legit C, but we still liked him.

Delcarmen was our "nemisis choice" - clearly not the pick to make but the one that seduced us. We knew we should move him down, if for no other reason than he's a lousy fit for our ballpark, but we couldn't do it. We imagined 70 HR's a year flying out of Comerica...we were infected with Jerry Jonesitis.

We thought we had a good shot at getting our #3 selection at 17, so we ran lots of scenarios. Most had Darwin at #3. We considered Jung a few times...he's the kind of hitter that seems to be right for Comerica. We admit we had Delcarmen in there at 3 for a few iterations. We looked at Parris there and just couldn't do it. The C Belliard kept growing on us - nice switch-hitter (the versatility of that trait has grown on us with the success of our youngsters Bonk Liniak and Miguel Rivera) and decent defensive potential - despite the health concerns.

Ultimately we settled on Darwin at 3 and Belliard at 4, and thought we'd get one of them (we did). What our top 10 finally looked like:

1. Hartzell - picked 3rd
2. Schmidt - picked 1st
3. Darwin - picked 2nd
4. Belliard - We got him at 17
5. Delcarmen - picked 57th
6. Waters - picked 23rd
7. Jung - picked 7th
8. Foxx - picked 6th
9. Powell - picked 20th
10. Webb - picked 49th

I think we dodged a bullet on Delcarmen, although he's a fantastic choice at 57. Darwin would've been nice, and I'm only mildly surprised he went at #2 - Toledo may not have even seen Hartzell (or they may have seen 150 innings of 2.00 ERA a year from Darwin and decided that was better). With the clarity of hindsight I think I would've moved Delcarmen out of the top 10, moved Jung up to 5th, bumped up everybody else 1 spot and put Sammy Alarcon (picked 9th) at 10.

Thundercats Take Schmidt #1

The Louisville Thundercats staked their future on an uber-talented Norfolk, VA high-school senior this morning, making Damian Schmidt the #1 selection in the Belle Season 18 draft.

The pick is considered mildly controversial in some circles. Schmidt is described as "toolsy," "high-ceiling," and "having great potential" - usually euphemisms for "ain't that great now and not sure he's gonna be." There's no doubt the potential is there - he projects to a superior defensive 2B with plus power, a great batting eye, and very difficult to strike out - but like a lot of high school players, the big question is how much of that potential he can realize.

One scout opined, "they're gonna really have to coach the hell out of this kid...good coaching at every level, big training budgets...and then maybe in 5 years he'll turn into the perennial All-Star his projections say he can be." Another: "Look, he's always going to be vulnerable the tough righty pitchers. But that's OK. If he can get those contact and eye ratings up to his potential, it won't matter."

In any event, the Thundercats were sold on his potential over the other player the considered, CF Brent Hartzell: "We decided to choose Schmidt over Hartzell the center fielder," offered GM riverpirate, "because our projections show a better ability for contact and power. He is a player we can begin to rebuild around."

Saturday, January 15, 2011

NL Review At Game 45

A recent 9-game winning streak has vaulted the Ice into the lead over the upstart Chicago Free Swingers. Pitching keyed the streak for Ottawa: in the 9-gamer they didn't allow more than 3 runs in a game. Clay Merritt (5-2, 2.87), Johnny Hernandez (.339/11/34) and Alex Martin (.351/8/29) have been standout for the Ice, while Chicago has enjoyed hot starts by Diego Coronado (.340/9/22), Jimmie Stokes (.327/11/34) and Bailey Johnson (.331/11/30). The big question here is whether New York can get back in the race. They won 82 last year and expected to contend, signing Victor Morales to a big FA contract. Morales (.311/10/26), Ellie Roenicke (.281/19/45) and Richie Elder (.328/6/19) have done their parts, but the pitching staff has slipped to a 4.48 ERA and blown 5 of 16 save opportunities.

The East has new respectability, with 2-time defending champ Jacksonville at 26-18 and resurgent Pawtuckett 2 back at 24-20. The Jinxed are doing it with pitching - they're 2nd in the NL in ERA at 3.68 and ace Gary Ramsay is 5-3, 1.99. Big question - can their bullpen keep getting away with it? They have a Belle-high 11 1-run wins and their expected winning % is .474 (vs. an actual of .578). The Slater Paws have been more balanced, getting good offensive contributions from CF Ricardo Delgado (.308/11/32) and Derek Foster (.305/11/38), and a monster start from closer Jesus Diaz (11-for-12 saves, 1.23 ERA).

New Orleans
is pulling off a rare statistical feat: all 5 SP's (Fred West - 1.69, Jesus Javier - 2.33, Tomas Cruz - 2.72, Magglio Nunez - 3.13, and Omar Chavez - 3.18) are in the top 25 (top 16, in fact) in ERA. No wonder they're leading, although Mexico City and San Juan are hanging in, 6 back at 23-22. On the stat side, other division notables include the Senators' Phillip Cooke (.371/13/36) and the Red Hot's Damaso Castillo (.355/7/36).

has opened a cushion of 5 over Las Vegas and 6 over Oakland. The Victory are solid on all fronts - 4th in runs, 3rd in ERA, tied for 1st in Fielding %. Albert Ortiz (6-1, 1.42) leads the NL in ERA; Carlos Cairo (.318/14/34) and Troy Harris (.302/11/37) are providing the offense. The 69'ers have reversed their usual pattern - they're 3rd in runs scored but only 10th in ERA. RF Hughie Bruskie (.335/18/39) could be making an MVP bid. Oakland is starting to look a little old, but RF Wilfredo Feliz (.337/10/22, 14 steals) and closer P.T. Lincoln (12-for-12 saves, 2.00 ERA) are keeping them in contention.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Around Belle At the 20% Mark

We're about a fifth of the way into the season and some trends - both surprising and not - are starting to take shape.

AL North
Can the Gangstaz possibly be for real? With more or less the same squad as last season (who arguably OVER-achieved by winning 78 games), Detroit is sailing along at a .645 clip. Tony Carrara (1.000+ OPS), Pedro Sierra (1.000+ OPS) and Teddy Nelson (5-0, 1.25 ERA) are undoubtedly under some kind of performance-enhancing substance investigation. Can Columbus possibly be this bad? After 90 wins last season the Criminals have stumbled out to an 12-19 start. The culprit? Cold bats. After scoring 5.76 runs per game last year, they're dead last at 3.73 rpg this year.

AL East
For the first time since the Clinton administration, somebody other than Cleveland leads the east. Defending WS Champ Pittsburgh has Belle's best record at 23-9 -
1B Gene Cuddyer and RF Joaquin Alvarez lead the AL in homers (12); Kaz Lim is thriving in his new closer role (6-for-6 saves and 0.00 ERA). D.C. and Cleveland aren't rolling over - we could see 3 playoff teams from the East this year.

AL South
Looks like a dogfight shaping up, with El Paso, Richmond and Little Rock a game apart and traditional (11 of the last 13 division titles) champ Jackson just 5 back. On the stat front, El Paso's Trenidad Guerrero is hitting .411 and Richmond's Daniel Gallagher checks in with a 1.034 OPS. Could we see a 3 or 4-way race go down to the last week?

AL West
3-time defending champ Salem leads but the big story is the emergence of San Diego and its league-leading pitching staff (3,47 ERA) as a contender. Free agent Jimmie Feliz (3-0, 1.41) and second-year man Javier Benitez (3-0, 1.52) are thriving in Petco's voluminous dimensions, and they're getting plenty of help from the relief corps. Salem's Elroy Gant is among the league leaders in just about every offensive category, but the key to their playoff hopes in continued good pitching: the Goonies were 2nd in team ERA last year and are slightly improved (3.85) so far this season.