Table of Contents

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Series Preview: Seattle Mariners

The Reds welcome the Seattle Mariners to town.  This isn't a team that I've gotten a chance to see very much, so I'm looking forward to watching the series.  From an organization standpoint, the Mariners' big news of the past year was the firing of Jack Z and the hiring of former Angels GM Jerry Dipoto.  Dipoto is known as a sabermetrically-oriented GM, and apparently clashed significantly with Angels manager Mike Scioscia, as well as owner Arte Moreno.  The Angels made a number of questionable moves during his tenure, but many of the biggest free agent signings that have proven problematic (e.g. Josh Hamilton) were apparently driven by Moreno, not by Dipoto.  

In his time with the Mariners, Dipoto has made a series of small moves to shore up a team that has long been on a seemingly stars-and-scrubs model under the former GM.  He has acquired Aoki, Lind, Iannetta, Martin, Wade Miley, Nathan Karns, Steve Cishek, Joaquin Benoit, Joel Peralta, and more.  So far, it's working; the Mariners sit atop the AL West, with excellent performances pretty much across major team categories, with the possible exception of their fielding.  They were projected to be a competant team, but seeing them atop the West is a bit of a surprise.  With the wins they have in the bank, however, FanGraphs gives the team a 60%+ chance of making the playoffs.

Unfortunately, due to time constraints (and fatigue!), I won't be able to offer much more commentary on this team tonight.  Nevertheless, here are stats for your edification:

Probable Starters



I'm pretty happy that we get to see King Felix, even if that's unlikely to go well for the Reds.  I really wish John Lamb's velo was up where it was last year.  

Mariners Hitting


Reds Hitting


Bullpens


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Series Preview: Cleveland Indians Cross-Ohio Series - Lindor, Santana, and Salazar

Francisco Lindor.  Photo by Keith Allison
Having bid adieu to the Phillies for 2016, the Reds begin a strange cross-Ohio four-game series on Monday.  They will play the first two games in Cleveland, and then drive down I-71 to conclude the series with a pair of games in Cincinnati.  It's an interesting format that makes the series seem like its own little event.  I'm a fan.

The Indians have underperformed for the last several years.  Their last playoff appearance was 2013, despite perennially receiving rave reviews in the preseasons.  This year is no different, with many projection systems picking the Indians to win, or at least be within spitting distance of the AL Central crown.  In large part, these ratings are driven by their outstanding pitching staff, which is anchored by Corey Kluber, who is backed by Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, along with a solid cast of supporting actors.  While Carrasco is currently on the shelf with a hamstring injury, their rotation, as a whole, has performed as expected so far.  The thing you'll also hear about them is how much better their fielding got in the second half last year.  Their UZR, at least, confirms this: they've been outstanding across the diamond.  In contrast, their offense has struggled a bit without Michael Brantley, and their bullpen hasn't been catching the world afire.  Nevertheless, despite the .500 record, they are still given a 62% chance at making the playoffs this year.  They're currently 5 games behind the White Sox, which, to me, look like an inferior team.

Position Players

This squad isn't quite up to full strength.  The superb Michael Brantley returned sooner than expected from injury, but compiled only 39 AB's before going back on the DL with shoulder inflammation.  They are also minus Lonnie Chisenhall, at least for the moment, who is on bereavement leave.  For the time being, however, they are running out former Red Marlon Byrd and Rajai Davis, a guy that I'm honestly surprised has not yet been a Redleg given the front office's attraction to speedy outfielders.  Jose Ramirez was previously a shortstop, but has been hitting remarkably well while roaming about the outfield.  His power is entirely doubles-based, but he makes excellent contact and, for now at least, is getting plenty of hits to fall in.

This will be my first time watching Francisco Lindor.  While he might not have the power of Carlos Correa, Lindor is already in the conversation for best shortstop in the American League.  That's driven by a good, contact-based approached, and excellent fielding.  I'm a big fan of several of the Indians' other players.  Carlos Santana isn't catching much these days, but he is one of those rare players who walks as often as he strikes out--and yet still has good power that makes him a fit in the heart of the order.  The Indians often hit him leadoff, which I love.  Yan Gomes is also a favorite; he's had a miserable season at the plate so far, but in the past has shown that he can hit, and usually is rated as excellent via the framing metrics.  Mike Napoli is looking like a good pick-up.  He offers a nice dose of right-handed power in the middle of the order, and didn't cost a ton to sign.

I'm kind of surprised to see Tucker Barnhart's fielding rated as negative at this point in the season.  Baseball Prospectus's framing metric, which is the best I know of, rates him as 6th-worst in the major leagues right now at -3 runs.  He's with some good catchers on that list, though; Salvador Perez is just one spot ahead of him.  Things can change.  Nevertheless, I have noticed that Tucker's arm hasn't seemed to have a lot of zip on it at times, and he's not always as mobile as I'd hoped when blocking pitches.  Of course, his pitchers might have something to do with the number of wild pitches he's allowed.  I'm probably just expecting too much of him, but I'd really like him to be a brilliant defensive catcher.  He's in line for a lot of playing time, but hopefully he won't get over-used.  I'd like to see him get a rest in day games, for example, and that hasn't always been happening.

Joey Votto didn't have a great series against Philadelphia, but he has himself almost back up to a league-average wRC+.  His BABIP is still low, and he still looks awkward at times, but he's hitting with a lot more power now than he did earlier in the season.  I don't know what to say about Jay Bruce's ever-declining UZR, but I reject it.  He might have missed a ball or two early on, and whiffed on that double today, but he still looks at least very solid to me in right field.

Probable Starters


The Reds will face an interesting set of pitchers in this series.  Danny Salazar has been pretty awesome.  He walks a lot of batters, but he's been inducing a ton of ground balls while striking just about everyone else out.  Cody Anderson and Josh Tomlin have yielded the exact same peripherals thus far, but with wildly different outcomes.  Anderson throws 94 mph, while Tomlin is a classic soft-tosser...who relies on his fastball more than any other starter in this series.  And finally, to cap off the series, we have the excellent Corey Kluber, who does everything right.

Bullpens

Cody Allen was superb last year.  This year, he's declined in velocity, and with that decline has come a drop in strikeouts and a huge increase in his walk rate.  He's been pretty shaky thus far, but is still being placed in high-leverage situations.  Bryan Shaw has also struggled.  Fortunately, the Indians have gotten decent outcomes out of the rest of their pen.  Probably the most dominant has been Joba Chamberlain, who has been superb in his first year with Cleveland.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Pittsburgh Pirates Series Preview: Polanco, Kang, and Nicasio

Gregory Polanco has a new extension, and looks like a new hitter.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Satriale, WEBN-TV

After a pair of frustrating losses to split the series with the Brewers, the Pirates come to town on Monday for a three-game series.  The Pirates had an amazing run last season, despite the quick exit from the playoffs, and did only minor remodeling in the offseason.  The biggest loss was unquestionably A.J. Burnett out of their rotation, but they shored up that spot with Jon Niese, and replaced Pedro Alvarez at first base with one of my favorite low-key signings of the offseason in John Jaso.

Despite only a tepid early-season performance from Andrew McCutchen, the Pirate offense has been spectacular thus far, and their fielding (by UZR, anyway) has been top-drawer.  But their pitching has struggled, particularly in their bullpen, and it's kept them well shy of the ridiculous pace the Cubs have established in the NL Central.  They'll have a long road to climb over the rest of the season if they're going to avoid another wild card game.  Even as-is, they have a one in three chance of making the playoffs at all.  It's early, but this is a team that will have to improve on the run-prevention side of things if they want to repeat last year's success.

With the Reds thoroughly out of it, and given my fandom of their front office, I'll be cheering for the Pirates to win this year...anytime they don't play the Reds, of course.

Position Players

Brandon Phillips had himself a monstrous series against the Brewers, and launched himself from a 75 wRC+ mid-last week to the second-best tally on the team.  I question how many more times he can go down on his back knee to successfully jerk a ball over the fence, but it was fun to see him smashing the ball around.  Adam Duvall also got himself north of the average mark thanks to a series of home runs.  He doesn't walk much, strikes out a lot, and is the most pull-oriented Reds hitter right now, but he has nevertheless been a pleasant surprise.

The Reds demoted Scott Schebler today and replaced him with another lefty-hitting outfielder in Kyle Waldrop.  I'd guess a big part of the reason was to get Schebler some PA's.  The plan coming into the season was to platoon him with Duvall in left field, but that plan quickly faded as Duvall carried his hot spring over into a full-time role.  Waldrop, prior to a miserable showing at AAA Louisville last year, had been on the prospect radar.  His performance had usually exceeded scouts' assessments of his future, and so perhaps his struggles were foretold.  This year, while his hitting line isn't particularly inspiring (0.228/0.294/0.380), it's good for a 98 wRC+.  Offense must be hard to come by in the International League thus far. Waldrop offers power potential, but not much else.  I'd expect him to be used primarily as a pinch hitter against righties.  I certainly hope he won't play anywhere but a corner.

The Pirates' offense is off to one heck of a start to the season.  Remember all the hoopla about the Royals and their contact-oriented offense last year?  The Pirates don't strike out either.  Well, Andrew McCutchen does, but he's awesome so who cares?  They have some free swingers on the squad as well in Josh Harrison and Starling Marte, but both guys have power and defensive virtues (Harrison is versatile, Marte is a center fielder playing in the Pirates' deep corner).

Jung-Ho Kang just returned from the DL after his slide-induced injury last season, but even while he was away the Pirates got a nice performance from veteran David Freese.  Now, they've got Freese's bat playing off the bench, and platooning with John Jaso at first base against lefties.  Word is that Kang will be worked back slowly, so we may still see Freese start a game at third base this week.

The decision to sign Gregory Polanco to an extension is looking pretty good in the early-goings.  While his defense and baserunning allowed him to turn in a good first season in 2015, he's been smoking hot this year as their #3 hitter.  I haven't looked at his ground-ball splits, but he also looks like a prime candidate to shift against given his pull rates.  McCutchen has been moved up to the #2-slot in the Pirates' ongoing efforts to optimize their team at the margins using a data-driven approach.  Sigh.

Probable Starters


Jon Niese seemed like a revelation pitching out of the Mets bullpen last season, but thus far he hasn't looked particularly sharp back in a starting role.  He does get ground balls, per the Pirates' philosophy, but he hasn't been able to do a lot else so far.

Juan Nicasio really looks to have turned his career around (based on the early small sample).  Coming up in the Rockies system, Nicasio wasn't a top-tier prospect, but he boasted excellent strikeout numbers and good velocity.  I've always liked him, and was happy to hear he'd won a spot in the Pirates rotation out of spring training.  He's been pitching out of his mind thus far.

Two starts in, Tim Adleman certainly is showing some warning signs.  The .185 BABIP.  The 98% LOB%.  But despite all that, his xFIP is the second-best of any Reds starter this year.  Keep doing that weird delivery, Tim.  I'll be cheering for it to keep working.

Bullpen

J.C. Ramirez is now the only Reds releiver to have a better-than-average xFIP.  xFIP doesn't know he gave up that homer, of course, but it's been good to see him striking guys out and pumping in the heat.  Looks to me like a keeper, as far as middle relievers go anyway.

The Pirates usually have an outstanding pen, but they've struggled in the early season.  Tony Watson and Arquimedes Caminero just haven't been anything like their typical selves, and Jared Hughes has barely pitched.  Neftali Feliz is another one of their reclamation projects, and looks like a smart signing thus far.  He's been dealing, and I was shocked to see that he's still just 28 years old.


Rain is in the forecast each of the next three days in Cincinnati, but the weather looks to be warm.  Take some steamy nights (for May!), two struggling pitching staffs, and an explosive Pirates offense, and you have a recipe for some high-scoring games at Great American Ballpark.  Go Reds!

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Brewers Series Preview

My classes are over and the Brewers are coming to town!  It's the battle for last in the NL Central!

In the race for badness, the Reds are definitely looking like the team that is best at being the worst.  The Reds' offense has been abysmal to the Brewers only just kinda ok performance.  The Reds starters have posted a better ERA thus far, but they've matched the Brewers in badness according to peripherals.  And their bullpen has the clear lead in suckitude by both runs allowed and DIPS-based estimators.

The two teams' rest-of-season projections are both very close, with FanGraphs projecting only slightly fewer wins over the rest of the year.  That, plus the slightly better Brewers record, has the Reds at a very solidly bad 0.0% playoff odds, while the Brewers have a still-almost hopeful 0.2%.

So, yes, Reds all the way at being bad!


Position Players


Zack Cozart is making himself into quite a nice trade chip.  Yes, his BABIP is inflating his numbers, and he never will enjoy taking a walk, but he's showing good power and no apparent ill-effects from his surgically-reconstructed knee.  His fielding has looked solid on TV, and his too-early-to-be-worth-much UZR is in the positives, as is his base running metric.  He's been a legitimate catalyst at the top of the Reds lineup thus far, and over the past two years he has hit .283/.321/.480 in almost 300 PA's (not including yesterday's home run!).  If he's still a plus defender, and it looks like he is, that's quite a nice player.  A lot of contenders would be thrilled to have something approximating him at shortstop, and I hope they'll pay accordingly.

This is still a pretty nice offense.  Scooter Gennett is out with an oblique injury, and Aaron Hill has been a black hole thus far at third.  Nevertheless, everyone else has looked pretty good at the plate.  Chris Carter was getting a lot of attention from the statcast guys at the start of April, and he's been thumping the ball thus far just like so many thought he would.  I don't know if he'll keep this up, but the Brewers have to be thrilled at the prospect that he might have figured out how to hit at the major league level.  Ryan Braun is hitting like old times, and Jonathan Lucroy has been doing his thing.

Probable Starters

Chase Anderson was one of the key acquisitions of the Jean Segura trade this past offseason, and he was expected to step into the rotation as a steady #3-#4 starter.  He's not quite been that thus far, though he's been a heck of a lot better than the giant, steaming pile of suck that has been Alfredo Simon.

Tim Adleman had a magical day in his last start.  Let's just assume that he'll continue to strike out 27% of the opposition while avoiding walks.

I've been pretty happy with Brandon Finnegan thus far.  But I'm surprised, having just been watching his starts and not focusing on numbers so much, that his strikeouts are so low...and his walks so high.  His change-up has looked good to me.

John Lamb was my offseason mancrush.  But his velocity was not where it was last season during his debut start, and I thought his curveball looked like it had far less bite.  Maybe he'll be better next time.

Bullpens


Not much to say here!

So far, anyway, this has been a solid pen for the Brew Crew.  Tyler Thornburg has been striking everybody out, and Jeremy Jeffress gets nothing but ground balls, so that's a good start.  The rest haven't been quite so impressive, but it's all small sample size land.  Chris Capuano is the only lefty in the pen, so the Reds lefties don't have a lot to fear in late innings.

So, we have two teams in a transition period.  One is run by David Stern, an up-and-coming analytics-oriented GM who heralds from last year's great triumph of sabermetrics.  And the Reds are run by Walt and Dick.  It'll be interesting to see how all of that goes for the two teams in the coming years.


By way of acknowledgements, this post is brought to you by Rogue Sriracha Hot Stout Beer.  It is better with food than by itself, and I mostly drank it alone.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Prospecting Reds Pitchers with Steamer

Continuing our look at the Reds' prospects for the 2016 season season, tonight we'll turn our attention to the pitchers.  As with hitters, I'm using Steamer projections, grouping by age, and am including players who were on the active roster last year in these age groups but who no longer have rookie eligibility.

Age-25 Pitchers
The wrap on John Lamb when the Reds acquired him last summer was that he was a former elite prospect who never saw his velocity return following Tommy John surgery.  The thing was, when the Reds got him, his velocity was back up to the 92-93 mph range where it had been pre-surgery.  That ultimately did fade a bit, but he still finished with an average mlb fastball velocity of 91 mph (the bad velocity wrap started when he was maxing out in the high-80's the year before).  On top of that, he struck out well over a batter per inning, while keeping his walk rates acceptable.  The main criticism one can have of his peripherals, at least, is that he has thus far been a fairly severe fly ball pitcher with just a 37% ground ball rate.  Yeah, I know, 5.80 ERA.  But .376 BABIP.

Steamer believes.  And other analysts are taking note as well.  Most interesting was this note by Eno Sarris:
But when it comes to movement, he's set up for success. A nice riding four-seam, a decent cutter, and then that change. That change. With a 15 mph difference between it and the four-seam, Lamb owns the biggest velocity differential in baseball. Plus movement and velocity difference led to whiffs almost a quarter of the time he threw it, so it has real potential to be an elite pitch. In fact, his curve, cutter, and change all had plus whiff rates. Not above-average. Plus.
Biggest velocity differential in baseball.  Assuming that's a good thing (Chris Dial doesn't think so), it provides some extra support for those fantastic strikeout numbers.  I'm probably irrationally, wildly, sky high on John Lamb.  He's exactly the sort of guy I will flock to: a peripherals darling, overlooked by the casual fan, with pitchf/x things to point to indicating it is real.  I know I'll have to wait a little bit while he ramps up following back surgery (just hopin' that's ok), but I'm really excited to see what he does this year.


Age-24 Pitchers
Big group, and a lot of these guys look to play a role on the club in the near future.

Zack Weiss is a rising relief prospect.  Relief prospects are the worst kind of prospect, but Weiss's projection indicates that he's ready to contribute to the bullpen right now.  The Reds surely need some help in that regard.

Amir Garrett was a big riser in the Reds' prospect rankings this season, climbing all the way to #4 after giving up basketball and focusing exclusively on pitching.  Everything about him sounds good...except that he's entering his age-24 season and hasn't played above high-A.  Granted, he's fairly new to pitching, so it's not surprising that he's behind.  I'm sure he'll start in AA this year (he was just optioned there!).  If he can advance to AAA by the season's end, he'll be poised to crack the Cincinnati rotation by 2017, if all goes as well.

Michael Lorenzen rode a friendly luck dragon for the first month or so of his big league debut last season, but the fates predictably turned on him as time went on.  He didn't show the ability to avoid walks or miss bats throughout much of his stint with the Reds.  Nevertheless, at the same time, perhaps he was rushed a bit last season.  He advanced through the minors so quickly that 2015 was the first time he really failed.  It's far too soon to give up on the guy.  Here's hoping his elbow issue isn't serious.

Jonathon Crawford is a fascinating case of how quickly one's stock can fall.  He was a first-round selection in 2013, and turned in solidish performances in '13 and '14 (albeit with weak strikeout rates).  Last year, he was injured and missed most of the season.  He's getting older, but don't count out former top draft picks.  He's put up decent numbers before.  If his first half in AA (which is where I'd put him) doesn't go well this season, maybe you consider putting him in the pen and hoping he can rise quickly?

Finally, Jon Moscot is hoping for a shot to be a #5 starter.  Maybe he can be a #4 if things break right for him?  Maybe?  He won't strike guys out, but if he can avoid walks and get some ground balls then maybe can be a passable rotation cog.  My guess, unfortunately, is that he's destined for middle relief.

Age-23 Pitchers
And now here is an even bigger group!

Steamer approves heartily of the Reds' pickup of Rookie Davis, although it is worth noting that this is (for whatever reason) a projection for him as a reliever.  Brandon Finnegan also looks ready to roll as a reliever, though I'm keen to see him get a full season of starting before the Reds toss him back into relief.

Somewhat disappointing, perhaps, is the projection on Robert Stephenson, the Reds #1 prospect on most lists.  The key for Stephenson will be his ability to avoid the walk while staying effective.  His walk rates have been in excess of 4 bb/9 at both AA and AAA, so I'm very inclined to let him start the year in AAA despite the clamors we're hearing to promote him as soon as possible on the basis of his hype and spring training performance.  The prospect guys love his stuff, and we've certainly seen talented pitchers figure things out in the major leagues.  I remember trading Matt Harvey in my fantasy league back in 2012 when he was sporting a 4+ bb/9 rate, only to see him take a huge step forward and become Matt Effin' Harvey the next season.  But we've also seen guys who never figure it out and become nothing.  I'd wager there are more in the latter category than the former, but I'm rooting for him.

Cody Reed is a guy I'm pleasantly surprised to see rate so well.  Reed was another big riser year in prospect rankings as he took a significant step forward.  He was already rising when the Reds got him mid-season, and then he went on a crazy tear in the second half.  Steamer is giving him a reliever projection here, but what I'm taking from it is that not all of his rising expectation is just recency bias.

Nick Howard.  Sigh.  When I see Howard, I can't help but think that he's a case where the Reds just got too cute.  They had been having some success with the closer-to-starter thing with Cingrani and Lorenzen, so they followed suit by taking Howard.  He's been a catastrophe.  As I said with Crawford above, never count out a top pick entirely, but I think in his case, at least, the experiment with starting is over.  Now it's time to see if they can salvage a relief arm with him.

Age-22 Pitchers
I'm surprised to see that Sal Romano still is just 22 years old.  He was drafted back in 2012, and has been steadily showing improvement as he works his way through the system.  He got shelled at AA late last season, but seems likely to begin there as a 22-year old this season.  He hasn't shown particularly exciting peripherals, but he's always been young for his level.  Another good year, and he's suddenly banging on the door in Cinci.

Keury Mella was the main return for Mike Leake last summer.  He slots in with Nick Travieso as the top talents in this younger tier of prospects.  I'm been pretty tickled to see Travieso rising over the past few years, because for a while he looked like he'd been a lost selection.  He was so darn young when drafted, though, and the Reds patience and instruction is seemingly now paying off.  AA could be a big test for him.


Age-21 Pitchers and Below
Somewhat surprisingly, there aren't a lot of Reds pitching prospects entering their age-21 or below season. Tyler Mahle had a great season for Dayton last year and seems ready for his next step.  The other two didn't even get a projection in Steamer's database.  Both Antonio Santillan and Ian Kahaloa have appeared at the bottom of some of the various top-10 Reds lists, even if sometimes just listed below the top-10 as a guy to keep an eye on.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Prospecting Reds Hitters with Steamer

This is my annual look at projections for Reds top prospects.  As with last year, I'm using Steamer projections, which estimate a player's production if they were to play in the major leagues this year.  Most of the players below will not play in the big leagues this season, but it still provides some indication of current expected performance level.  I find it a useful exercise.

New this year, I've added Reds players who are no longer "prospects" because they do not have rookie eligibility, but are within the same age range as the players listed below.  Often times, we get really excited about 24-year old "prospects" who are just arriving in The Show, even though there are established big league players already on the roster of the same age as the new guys.  

As I've done before, we'll group them year by year.  Today we'll look at hitters, and the next time we'll look at pitchers.

Age-25 Players
Scott Schebler was acquired in the Todd Frazier trade.  He just arrived in the big leagues last season, but it's worth remembering that he is the same ages as both Billy Hamilton and Tucker Barnart.  Schebler does grade out as having a better bat than either of those two, primarily due to his substantial power.  But while Schebler players corner outfield, as has some questions about his defense, Hamilton and Barnhart are considered plus (if not elite) defenders at a premier defensive position.  As a result, Hamilton and Barnhart are both projected as providing value, while Schebler projects as a replacement player.  Seems about right.

That said, I don't really have a problem with Schebler getting a decent chunk of at-bats in left field.  I don't really see a better option, and a Duvall/Schebler platoon has at least some potential to provide decent pop.  If the dice roll the right way, there's a scenario in which they could even provide something close to league-average production.

Age-24 Players
I think this one's really interested.  With Zack Cozart apparently healthy, Eugenio Suarez is moving over to third base to replace Todd Frazier.  Suarez wasn't embarrassing at shortstop, but his -13 run UZR rating indicates that a move down the defensive spectrum is a good idea.  The Fan Scouting Report on Suarez rates him as having good arm strength, reactions, and first steps, but below-average hands, and well-below average throwing accuracy.  Hopefully, moving to third base will help, provide he can get those throws on the mark from across the diamond.  In any case, Suarez rates as a solid player, right around league average.

Rating above Suarez in 2015 value, however, is Eric Jagielo.  Steamer, at least, thinks that Jagielo's power will play just fine in the majors, and soon.  As I said in my piece on the Chapman trade, Jagielo has hit everywhere he has played thus far, despite the critics of his swing.  Maybe pushing him to start in AAA isn't such a bad idea after all?  It's worth noting that ZiPS isn't nearly as high on Jagielo as Steamer is.  There's something about him that makes me think of Will Middlebrooks (I suppose that's not the most ringing endorsement).

Kyle Waldrop was getting a lot of attention this time last year, but ended up having a miserable season that was plagued by injuries.  His projection certainly would indicate that more time in AAA is needed before he's ready; like scouts have been saying all along, Waldrop may be most likely to provide value as a bench bat with power, rather than in a future starting lineup.

Age-23 Players
Alex Blandino seems to polarize prospect writers.  Many early on didn't like him because of concerns about how the slap-oriented Stanford hitting approach.  He probably isn't going to stick at shortstop.  Nevertheless, he's performed well so far in his career.  He did see his production drop a bit in the second half while in AA, but a closer look indicates that some of that might have been due to bad BABIP luck.  He did, after all, maintain his strikeout rate and actually improve his walk rate in AA.  I've always liked him.  He's not particularly young, though, and he may not be a top-tier prospect, but there's a universe out there in which he turns into a Neil Walker-type (although Walker had played a full season at AAA by Blandino's age).

Yorman Rodriguez has been on the Reds' prospect list forever and ever.  But now there is a problem: he's out of options, but he's probably not ready for the majors yet.  His been transitioning away from CF over the past year, he still tends to be aggressive and prone to a strikeout, and doesn't have a ton of power to make up for it.  There's a decent chance that the Reds could lose him at the end of spring traning if they try to sneak him through waivers.  The question is whether that's really all that big of a deal.

Finally...sigh...Phillip Ervin.  Ervin keeps flashing occasional excellence, and scouts like his tools.  But he just can't seem to put it together.  He should begin the season in AA.  Of concern, in my view, was a trend toward moving him out of center field last season.  If he can't play center, then the requirements on his bat become that much greater.  Never say never with former top prospects, but I'll just say that this would be a good year for Ervin to turn his career around.  

Finally, Jake Cave was a rule-5 selection this year.  He doesn't project any better than Ervin, although he's probably a better defender.  Still, he doesn't seem like the best use of a roster spot, as much as it might be fun to keep him.

Age-22 Players
Jesse Winker is the Reds' best position prospect.  He already projects to have above-average walk rates, an acceptable strikeout rate, and to hold his own if promoted this season.  Odds are that he'll have to wait until later this summer to arrive in the majors, or even until next year.  But he recovered nicely from an early-season swoon last year, and all indications are that he'll be a solid big-league hitter when he arrives.  If his defense can rate out as at least average in the corner, and if he can add some power, he could be cornerstone piece of the next good Reds team.  If not, he should at least be a useful second-division starter.  And second-division fits the Reds nicely right now...

Jose Peraza is the prize of the Todd Frazier deal.  I wish I could be more impressed.  No power, doesn't walk, and a non-elite glove.  His supporters point to Dee Gordon.  I hope they're right.

Age-21 Players
Gavin LaValley hit #10 on some lasts in last year's offseason.  2015 didn't go as well as the previous years did, and he has yet to show much home run power in his first few seasons.  But his K-BB% rates are pretty good (career ~10% walk rate, ~20% K rate), and he's young.  He should be headed to high-A this year

Age-19 Players
2015 1st-round pick Tyler Stephenson had a nice debut season last year.  While he only hit a single home run, he showed good K-BB% rates and slugged out 15 doubles.  Catching prospects take a while to develop, sometimes, and if Devin Mesoraco is indeed healthy, the Reds can afford to be patient with him.

I will say this: I have a blanket worry about catching prospects anymore.  I used to be so excited about the notion of developing a good-hitting catcher, and the Reds certainly have had some success with that approach (Mesoraco, Grandal, Hanigan, LaRue for a few years, etc).  But catching is a brutal job, and it can wear away hitting talent (see Mauer, Joe).  If someone's bat is ahead of his glove, I'd be sorely tempted to find them another position while they're young, and try to fill in catching holes with guys like Welington Castillo.  It always seems like there are decent catchers available for close to the league minimum.  

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The site is 10 years old!

On March 1st, this little blog of mine turned 10 years old!  I started it on a lark, with zero ambition, and to my surprise it became a modestly influential little site for a time.  It also helped springboard me into several outstanding writing gigs, most notably at Beyond the Box Score (thanks to Sky Kalkman) and Red Reporter (thanks to slyde).  I also had a summer "job" writing at Rotographs (thanks to Eno Sarris and David Appleman), and have done some spot pieces for Hardball Times (thanks to studes) as well.  Heck, I even had a piece in the wall street journal once. :)

This site has always been my home base, and in recent years I've preferred to mostly just hang around here.  The higher-profile places I've written were great fun, and allowed me to make a handful of small contributions to both Reds fandom and sabermetrics over the past decade.  But I've found that I enjoy writing about baseball most when it is done simply as my way of following and learning about the game.  And for that, this site works great.  I have complete editorial control, my stuff doesn't get buried by other (usually better) authors, and I feel zero pressure to put out content.  I don't get much traffic anymore.  But fortunately, thanks to twitter, most of the folks who I'd like to see my work do find it.

If you've been a long-time reader, thanks.  I appreciate your interest and support over the years.

For fun, here's the content of my first post:
Hi folks. 
Thanks for stopping by my little blog. My goals for this site are pretty modest:
  • Provide a place for my Baseball Statistics Quicksheet, a brief compilation of some of the various "new," interesting, and valuable statistics for evaluating batters, pitchers, and fielders. You will find out what the different acronyms mean, how to calculate and interpret them, as well as (most importantly) where to find them on the web. The most frustrating thing I've found about the new statistics is that it can be really difficult to find the actual numbers on players. The quicksheet will be an ongoing project to help with these problems.
  • Provide a permanent place for my occasional article on baseball statistics. This will range from analysis of individual player performance to perhaps even larger evaluations of player performance.
  • Links to new baseball stat articles I see/read. I'm not good about staying current with all the various research, but maybe this site will help me to this end. :)
  • Occasional posts and commentary surrounding big news in the Reds franchise or its players. Please note that I do not intend for this site to be a news blog site; there are many Reds' blogs that already do a fantastic job of that. But I may occasionally want to bitch or cheer here as well.
  • Maybe occasional posts about my exploits in computer baseball games, especially Out of the Park Baseball.
That's it for now. -JinAZ

Happily, I think I've largely achieved those goals with this blog...well, aside from the quicksheet.  I did write it, but it was almost immediately obsolete.  Fortunately, FanGraphs' glossary is better than anything I could have ever hoped to produce along these lines.

Here's to many more years to come!