Table of Contents

Sunday, August 30, 2015

2015 Playoff Preview: The Kansas City Royals

Lorenzo Cain is on his way to a six-win season.  He'll still catch anything, but this year he's
showing improved power and patience.
Photo credit: Keith Allison

As we get ready to turn the page into September, it's time to look toward the 2015 playoffs. The Kansas City Royals, last years' playoff sweethearts, look like a lock to make their return to October baseball, and currently lead all of baseball with a 100% chance of winning their division (at FanGraphs, projection method, and I'm sure that's rounded).  I did profile the Royals in May when they faced the Reds, and the team the Reds faced then bears a lot of similarities to their August version, though with two main differences.  First, the Royals offense had been ridiculous through the first month and a half, but has settled down to post solid-average numbers.  That's still better than last year, but they're not doubling people to death anymore.  Second, their rotation has improved, in no small part thanks to the Royals' acquisition of one former Reds ace, Johnny Cueto.

Still, the hallmarks of this team are constant.  They field better than any other team in baseball, they have a killer bullpen, and they do the rest of it good enough to be a very good all-around team.  And I like them better in the short playoff series format than over the long season because they can leverage their bullpen more, and they can lean on Cueto, and they have some good bench pieces that they will be able to use to mix and match their way through series.  They look really strong, and will certainly be a team that I will cheer for this postseason.

Position Players

I'm making some guesses here.  Alex Gordon has been out with a bad groin injury, but is currently on a rehab assignment and should return to the lineup soon.  He'll take his job back in left field.  That leaves new acquisition Ben Zobrist, Omar Infante, and Alex Rios to divvy up time between second base and outfield.  I've always like Infante and two offseasons ago advocated for the Reds to go after him to help them justify unloading Brandon Phillips.  Nevertheless, had a completely miserable season.  Alex Rios hasn't exactly caught the world on fire this season, but I just don't see how Infante could keep his job once Gordon returns.

I'm burying the lede.  The biggest story on this team is probably the revitalized careers of Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.  Last year, Moustakas was sent to AAA due to ineffectiveness.  Last year, Hosmer was a replacement-level hitter.  And then, in October, they both seemed to find their stroke, and it's carried forward into this year.  Both of them have cooled off from their hot starts to the season, but they are both now solidly above-average ballplayers that anchor the team.

And if they're not the biggest, then we have to be talking about the amazing year of Lorenzo Cain.  Cain has hit every bit as well as those others, while playing his typical brand of sparking defense in center field and brilliance on the basepaths.  Last year, you might have argued that his 5-WAR season was due to inflated fielding numbers.  But his bat has taken a step forward this year, and he's in line to reach 6 WAR by season's end.  He might not be the best CF not named Mike Trout just yet, but he has to be in that conversation.

The Royals continue to let Salvador Perez play roughly 5 out of 6 games.  His offense has slipped as the season has gone on, and one has to wonder if the workload has something to do with that.  If I were Kansas City, I'd at least try to get him rest in September now that the division is more or less wrapped up.  He is a good hitting catcher, but he may be too fatigued to show it.

I also want to give a nod to Alcides Escobar as a quality fielding-first shortstop.  I don't think he gets a lot of respect, but he has been solid and dependable the last few seasons.  And this year, he has hit better than two of the other regulars in the Royals' lineup.

Starting Pitchers

Johnny Cueto sure gives this staff a different look, doesn't he?  Cueto hasn't been quite as good for the Royals as he was for the Reds this year (strikeouts and ground ball rates are both down), but I see no reason to expect that he'll be anything but brilliant for them this postseason.  Following him will probably be their other former-Red, Edinson Volquez, who has also had himself a nice season.  Volquez still walks too many, but he gets a good ground ball rate and strikes out his share of hitters.

I still really like Yordano Ventura.  Listed at 6'0", 180 lbs, he looks like a little dude out there.  But he throws hard, has a nice breaking ball, and has looked good whenever I've had the chance to see him pitch.

Their #4 pitcher will probably be one of Danny Duffy or Kris Medlen.  Duffy hasn't been able to repeat the success he had last year.  But Medlen has only just entered their rotation, but is an intriguing option for them.  He's had fantastic success as a starter in the past, of course, and if they can keep him healthy and effective through the end of the year he could be a really nice boost to this staff.  I could even see a scenario where he gets the second start of a playoff series, behind Cueto and before Volquez, on the strength of a strong September and significant veteran cred.  He could be a really good choice, too.


These guys are the best bullpen in baseball.  Again.  Greg Holland has actually had an off year, but it can't be overstated how brilliant Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera have been.  They don't even worry about left-right match-ups, really.  Franklin Morales has been quality for them as the lone left-hander in this bullpen, and he barely is ever used in a high leverage situation.  Ryan Madson has been used as their #4 reliever, and his season seems to indicate that he is still capable of closing.

This kind of depth gives the Royals a really nice advantage in the offseason.  Sure, they can ride Cueto to a 7- or 8-inning shutout, great.  But in the other games, if Volquez or Ventura start getting hit, they can bring in their bullpen in the 4th inning and still have a relievers pitch one inning apiece for the rest of the game, knowing all of them have posted sub-100 xFIP-'s and ERA-'s this year.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Better Know a Red: Keyvius Sampson

RHP Keyvius Sampson made his MLB starting debut on Sunday afternoon with a well-pitched ballgame against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Sampson was not a guy on my radar, but he impressed me with good velocity and a nice-looking curveball that he seemed able to throw for strikes.  Here's a profile on the latest Reds rookie to debut in their starting rotation.

Player Profile: History and Statistics

Sampson was drafted in the 4th round of the 2009 draft by the San Diego Padres out of Forest High School of Ocala, Florida.  Sampson is the 3rd major leaguer to hail from his school, joining Reid Nichols ('80-'87) and Jonathan Johnson ('98-'03).  Sampson was promoted all the way to low-A during his first season, albeit only for two games (on start).  The next year, he also threw for the Padres' low-A team, though again in limited action (10 starts, 43 innings).  By 2011, as a 20-year old, he was pitching for their A-ball affiliate, and he progressively was promoted a level per year, reaching AAA by 2013 as a 22-year old.  His minor league career started off brilliantly, with outstanding strikeout rates and acceptable walk rates to go with generally dominant performances.  Marc Hulet ranked him as the Padres' #6 prospect prior to the 2014 season, praising his velocity and noting he had a "potentially plus slider" and a quality change-up, but inconsistent control.

However, once he reached AAA, the more advanced hitters at that level seemed to have the distinct upper-hand. From 2013-2014, he posted an ERA in the high 6's, with a very comparable FIP.  The most obvious problem was that while he continued to post good strikeout rates, his walk rates ballooned to almost 7 bb/9.  In his offseason look at the Padres, Kiley McDaniel again praised Sampson's velocity and change-up, but expressed major concerns about his command and his slider.

The Padres put him on waivers this offseason, and the Reds grabbed him in January.  This year, in limited action the Bats, he hasn't been much better.  His walk rate has "improved" to 5 bb/9, but his strikeout rate has also slipped a bit.  He was doing well at avoiding the long ball, but that could easily have just been luck--in his first game with the Reds, he posted high fly ball rates (36% ground ball rate), although he had a dandy 6:1 k/bb ratio in his six solid innings of work.  The question with Sampson clearly seems to be whether he can avoid walks well enough to let his stuff play up.  Stats:


Given the scouting reports, I expected to see fastballs, change-ups, and sliders.  But this is what we saw:
I don't know if the curve is a new pitch for him or not.  The FanGraphs minor league guys always focused on his other pitches, but this tidbit from mlbtraderumors on the day he was DFA'd by the Padres this offseason mentions him scrapping the pitch.  Nevertheless, Sunday he was throwing it 23% of the time, and to great effect: Brooks Baseball describes it as generating an "extremely high number of swings and misses" compared to other curveballs.  It is the pitch that stood out to me watching him.  I saw him drop it in for a strikeout looking, and then saw it drop into the dirt to induce a chance.  The pitch looked great; hopefully he can repeat that next time.

It's tempting to go further with this, but with only one start to chew on I think it'd be grasping for signal amongst too much noise.  The challenge for the Reds, and for Keyvius Sampson, will be to keep him throwing the ball over the plate over the remainder of the year.  If he can do that, I'd wager he has the stuff to have some success.  If not, things won't be pretty.

Monday, August 03, 2015

The Mike Leake Trade

The Reds have said goodbye to #44
Photo Credit: David
The Mike Leake era ended last week as the trading deadline approached.  No doubt having read my call to trade him (for the good of the Reds and for Mike Leake, himself), the Reds shipped him early Friday morning to the Giants in exchange for RHP Keury Mella and 1B Adam Duvall.

What the Reds Gave Up

Mike Leake, RHP, 27 years old
Mike Leake has been a favorite of mine since he was drafted out of Arizona State.  While he's always been in the background behind guys like Cueto, Latos, Arroyo, and Bailey, Mike Leake was involved in all three of the Reds' playoff teams in their recent run (2010-2013).  He literally contributed from day 1, making the Reds out of spring training in 2010 before he'd thrown a pitch in the minor leagues.  He's been remarkably consistent over that time, with a predictable recipe: he doesn't strike out a ton of batters, but he doesn't walk guys either, and he gets a lot of ground balls.  He's been particularly good over the past two seasons as he has gotten his ground ball rate up over 50%, and even spiked his strikeouts to almost 7 k/9 last season.

Despite his smaller frame, Leake has never really had injury problems.  He has been dependable, reliable, and as consistent as a mid-rotation starter will get.  He has always seemed like a good guy, too, despite his stupid shoplifting incident early on (which now is hilarious, in hindsight).  I'll miss him.  San Francisco should be a great fit for him (he will never give up home runs!  ever!), and I'll be cheering for him to get a nice payday this offseason with some deserving team.  He might end up being one of the better free agent deals; a still-young pitcher with reasonable inning totals, no injury history, and a guy who uses his defense.  The Pirates would love him, though I don't know if they'll be able to afford him.

What the Reds Got Back

RHP Keury Mella, RHP, 21 years old
Mella began the season as the Giants #4 prospect according to Baseball America, and by midseason they ranked him #2 in that organization thanks to improved secondary pitches.  Other prospectors have him #1.  Unfortunately, this is the problem with team prospect rankings: not all organizations are created equal.  Despite being one of the best prospects the Giants could offer, Mella most likely ranks behind two of the prospects the Reds received from the Royals for Johnny Cueto.  Kiley McDaniel rated him as a 45 future value prospect, noting that he had a violent dilivery and limited room to continue to develop.

Nevertheless, the results have been consistently good for Keury as he has moved through the Giants' system.  He is set to crack 100 innings for the first time this year, and is still just 21 years old.  The Reds hope he can stick as a starter, and noted that he can probably be a guy who moves quickly.

RHB 1B Adam Duvall, 26 years old
Since being drafted out of the University of Louisville (he's a native of Shively, KY, which is along the inner interstate loop around Louisville), Duvall's calling card has been his power.  He hit 30 home runs in 2012 for the Giants in high-A, and has sported .200+ ISO in all but his first minor league season.  The primary problem is that he doesn't have a lot of other skills.  He doesn't field well, though the Reds will see if might be able to play corner outfield.  His strikeout rates don't really look too terrible for a power hitter, but he hasn't been walking very much since reaching high-A.  This year, his walk rates are down even further, dropping from 8% in 2012-2014 down to 6%.  His upside looks like a potential bench guy who can provide power; that's something the Reds haven't really had since Chris Heisey was shipped to the Dodgers.

Compared to Other Rental Pitcher Deals

In my piece at Redleg Nation on the Cueto trade, I pulled up a set of comparable mid-season rental pitcher deals.  Leake would rank well behind guys like Cueto and Greinke, but fits pretty nicely with names like Matt Garza, Scott Kazmir, and Ricky Nolasco; guys who can provide roughly 1 WAR over two months' time.  ZiPS has Leake as providing 0.9 WAR of value over the rest of this season, which seems right to me.

How does this deal compare to those ones?  The Scott Kazmir return seems to be much better than what the Reds got.  Kazmir is having a nice season, but to net a 50 FV catcher (even one who might not be able to catch) along with a 40 FV pitcher is really good for him.  Garza's return also looks better, at least given what they knew at the time.  Grimm was a MLB-ready pitcher, albeit one who hasn't worked out so far in their rotation.  Mike Olt was a top prospect having vision problems, and again seems to not be working out.  But he still had a lot of pedigree at the time.

The return for Leake seems fairly comparable to what the Indians got for Justin Masterson (a 45 FV prospect, although in that case an outfielder), or the return for Jake Peavy last summer (Edwin Escobar as a falling prospect, Heath Hembree as a marginal one).  It seems clearly better than the nothingness the Marlins received for Ricky Nolasco in 2013.

So, based on all of those comparables, I see this is as a fairly even return given Leake's value.  We'll just have to hope that the Reds are right and Mella is able to stick as a starting pitcher.  If so, it'll look like a great deal a few years from now.  If not...well, a good bullpen arm still might be the best return the Reds could hope to get for Leake, given that he might well accept a $17 million qualifying offer if they had given it to him this fall.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Why Mike Leake Should Threaten to Accept a Qualifying Offer

Mike Leake has millions on the line.
Photo Credit: Keith Allison
As of right now, we are just over 24 hours until the non-waivers trade deadline, and Mike Leake is still a Cincinnati Red.  The Blue Jays' acquisition of David Price is a blow, as the Jays had been connected in the rumor mill to Leake over the past few days.  Now, that's at least less likely to happen.  I'm sure that there still are suitors out there for Leake, and odds are that he will be moved.  But if I were Mike Leake, I'd be nervous.

The reason?

Mike Leake is a very solid pitcher.  He has been routinely worth between 2 and 3 wins over the past three seasons, and can absolutely be a valuable part of a contending team's rotation.  But he's not an ace, and will always have to answer skeptics due to his smaller size profile and low velocity.  He doesn't rack up strikeouts.  He gets ground balls, avoids walks, and fields his position well.  A free agent this offseason, Leake has earned a pretty nice payday.  I think he can reasonably look for a 3+ year contract at $10-13 million per season.  2016 will only be his age-28 season, and he has no history of injury, so I think clubs will be happy to pay him to lock down 180+ innings per season.

Aside from a late-season injury, there is really only one major pitfall that could derail his payday: compensation.  If the Reds fail to trade him, they will have the option to make him a qualifying offer, which will be somewhere close to $17 million for one year.  If he declines, then whatever team signs him will have to give the Reds their first-round draft pick in the 2016 draft as compensation for signing him.  If the Reds trade him, however, the team that acquires him cannot receive free agent compensation.

I like the principle of compensating teams who lose free agents.  The problem is that bonus to the team losing the free agent is paid by the team that acquires him.  Therefore, the acquiring team has to include the loss of a first-round pick as part of their calculations of how much they're willing to spend.  As a result, many mid-tier free agents in recent years have had a hard time finding a job, and ultimately had to accept a below-market deal, as a result of this compensation pick.  It directly cuts into their potential earnings, and ultimately has kept players from playing baseball.

So, if I'm Mike Leake, I would tell the Reds front office that I intend to accept a qualifying offer.  No player has ever actually accepted this offer (which boggles my mind), but even the threat of it might spur the Reds to action.  Bronson Arroyo commented that he'd strongly consider signing a qualifying offer as he approached free agency two years ago.  The Reds opted not to make an offer, and Arroyo went on to sign a 2-year, $23.5 million contract with the Diamondbacks.  If I were Mike, I'd make the same threat.  The Reds would most likely respond by either trading him now, or simply not making the offer this fall; I'm guessing that they are still too cash-strapped to risk it.  And letting Leake walk without getting anything for him would be completely unacceptable.  That leaves trading him as the most viable solution.

Whether he'd actually accept a qualifying offer, in that scenario, is another question.  The threat might be all that matters.

Postscript to Cueto Deal: David Price traded to Toronto

Postscript: David Price just got traded. I would probably rank Price slightly behind Cueto and Greinke (at the time of his deal), but I’m guessing you’d find those in industry who would prefer Price too. Price doesn’t have Cueto’s injury risk. 
The haul, according to:
Daniel Norris, LHP, Blue Jays #1 prospect, #18 in minor leagues, 60 FV at fangraphs
Jairo Labourt, LHP, Blue Jays #12 prospect w/ 45 FV during preseason
Matt Boyd, LHP, Blue Jays #29 prospect w/ 40 FV during preseason 
Another all-lefty prospect return! Crazy. 
Assuming the grades are “correct,” would you take a 60-45-40 FV return or a 55-50-40 FV return? I lean toward the return with the better marquee player, so I probably like the David Price return better. But if you believe There’s No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect (which no one does literally, but there’s something to it), then you might take the Reds’ return. Thoughts?

Pirates Series Preview

Francisco Cervelli has been outstanding behind the dish for the Pirates
Photo Credit: Mark Kortum
Having deftly delivered a (minor) setback to the St. Louis Cardinals, the Reds head home to welcome the second-best team in the division, the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The Pirates are having an excellent season and are hanging tough with the Cardinals near the top of the NL Central.  Their record is probably a tad better than they've played, but to my eye they have some upside among their hitters that has gone untapped thus far.

A lot has been made of the influence that the Pirates' front office has had in improving the team.  On my reading list is Big Data Baseball, which reportedly tells the tale of, among other things, how the Pirates have used infield shifts and an emphasis on ground ball rates to improve their run prevention.  It shows: the Pirates lead the majors in ground ball rate thanks to a rotation in which every single one of their starters has a 50%-plus ground ball rate.  That's amazing.  By contrast, the Reds currently have one starter with better than a 50% ground ball rate, Mike Leake, who is unlikely to be a Red in less than 48 hours.  At the same time, while I can't find a link right now, the Pirates are typically among the team leaders in the number of infield shifts, as well as runs saved by the shift.  It's a straightforward strategy, but one that seems to have a lot of merit.

I live in Central PA, and have for 8 years now.  Their AA affiliate is pretty close to my house, so we go to a good number of those games per year.  I've watched the Pirates transition from laughing stock to one of the better-run organizations in baseball, and got a chance to meet Neil Huntington and stat-guy Dan Fox.  Fox is a guy I've followed on this blog for years before he was hired by the Pirates.  As such, I have a pretty strong fondness for the Pirates.  I'll always be a Reds fan, but it's exciting for me to see this team doing well.

Position Players

The success of Francisco Cervelli really should be one of the biggest stories about the team this year.  Russell Martin was a revelation for this team over the past two years, but when he left via free agency the Pirates had a huge hole to fill.  They contacted the Yankees and acquired long-time backup catcher (who is still just 29!) Francisco Cervelli.  He has been outstanding.  He's a terrific pitch framer, which I think the Pirates knew before they got him.  They have to be surprised, however, with his offense.  His batting line looks a bit BABIP-y (0.372 BABIP), so he might decline a bit moving forward.  That said, he has at least one feature that speaks well to his ability to maintain an above-average BABIP: like Joey Votto, he's an opposite-field hitter:
As a right-handed hitter, his ground balls tend to go to left field.  But when he gets it in the air, most of the time, he's hitting to center field and right.  He probably doesn't have a lot of home run power (certainly nothing like Votto has), but if he can continue to use that right-center field alley he may be in for good doubles production for the foreseeable future.

The Pirates have a lot of other interesting players.  Andrew McCutcheon, of course, and he might be better in the second half.  The Jung-ho Kang signing was met with a lot of raised eyebrows this offseason, but he's been fantastic as a super-utility guy.  With Jordy Mercer out thanks to a take-out slide, Kang is their starting shortstop for the foreseeable future.  Against lefties, which the Reds now feature, former Ray and lefty-pounder Sean Rodriguez often gets the start over Pedro Alvarez.  Aramis Ramirez seems like a nice, low-cost pickup to supplement the loss of Josh Harrison.  Gregory Polanco still has a lot of promise, and the Pirates are hoping he comes into his own in the second half.

Reds note: Jay Bruce is still hitting, and now has his WAR over 2.0 for the season.  His miserable start and last season's struggles seem almost a distant memory.  They happened, but he's looking really strong.  And that's really fun, because I love Jay Bruce.

Probable Starters

David Holmberg's start today is the start of the post-Cueto era, because this is Cueto's turn in the rotation.  It's sad.  But it was a good trade for the Reds, and hopefully will improve them as early as next season.

Holmberg profiles as a soft-tossing lefty, with velocity sitting in the upper 80's.  He hasn't historically gotten a lot of strikeouts, and has been an extreme fly ball pitcher in the majors (career 35% FB%, albeit in just 33 innings).  Control seems to be a big factor in his relative success success: early last year, he was walking batters left and right, and suffered as a result.  Late in the year, when he was getting good results, he was doing a much better job of throwing strikes.  This year in AAA, his peripherals aren't very inspiring: 5 k/9 vs. 3 bb/9.  Meh.

Referring back to my intro above, check out the Pirates' ground ball rates!  Ground balls have long been Charlie Morton's main skill.  That's looking like about all he can do.  But it's something.  Really good at everything: Gerrit Cole.


The Pirates have consistently had a good bullpen over the past several years.  That's not an accident: while they never break the bank to do so, they consistently are bringing in new arms to replenish their stores.  Tony Watson and Jared Hughes are draftees, and Mark Melancon has been in Pittsburgh since 2012.  The other five, however, have all joined the team in the past two seasons.  The Reds haven't exactly been sitting on their pen either (Mattheus and Badenhop are new this year, Adcock and Axelrod were replacement-type pickups over the past year), but the Pirates have been more active...and better at it...than the Reds.

As a fan, my ideal World Series this year (and MLB's worst nightmare) would be a Pirates-Royals match-up.  This Pirates team is most likely going to have to fight through a wild card playoff game to get into the proper playoffs, but if they can align their rotation properly they have as good a shot as any other team.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Southpaw Surprise: Reds Exchange Cueto for Three Pitching Prospects

Steve Mancuso at Redleg Nation kindly asked me to write a post about the Johnny Cueto trade, which just went live this afternoon.  In it, I compare the return the Reds received for Johnny Cueto to other deadline deals for quality starting pitchers, 2012-2015.  Here's the money bit:
It seems clear that the return for Johnny Cueto was pretty fair, given what the market has been paying for rental starters over the past several years.  If I had the choice, I would have preferred the return that the Brewers got for Greinke, based on what we knew at the time of the deal.  But given that Brandon Finnegan and Jean Segura were ranked at exactly the same spot in BA’s prospect rankings, someone who was really sold on Finnegan’s stuff could probably argue otherwise.  Furthermore, Cueto brought with him some degree of injury risk that was less of a concern with Greinke.  And, frankly, there has been discussion among journalists (whether or not they’re correct) that the market for rental players is getting weaker every year.  Therefore, for the Reds to fall within a few breaths of the Greinke return seems reasonable.  I’d expect that the Reds went with this deal because it was the best offer they received, based on their evaluations of the players. 
The Cueto return does look better than every other trade deadline return for a rental starting pitcher from the past four years.  While it’s not the most likely scenario, there’s a legitimate chance that each of the three starters the Reds acquired could be a valuable member of the Reds’ rotation by 2017.  None of them is likely to ever be the kind of pitcher Cueto was, but this is a substantial infusion of talent at a position where the Reds have been looking pretty weak.

While writing the article, I also whipped up quick profiles on each of the players involved.  I felt they made the article too long, however, and were kind of redundant with work already published by Redleg Nation authors this week.  So, here is what got cut:

Johnny Cueto, RHP, 29 years old

We all know he’s amazing.  How amazing he is depends on how you evaluate him.  By pure FIP-WAR (FanGraphs’ default, which is based strictly on his FIP), Cueto ranks 21st in baseball over the past calendar year at 4.2 WAR.  However, Cueto has consistently posted numbers better than his ERA estimators thanks to a consistent skill to induce low average on balls in play (career BABIP against = 0.271, and it’s been in the .230’s the past three seasons) and an exceptional pickoff move that shuts down the running game.  As a result, by RA9-WAR, he ranks 5th in baseball over the past calendar year with 6.1 WAR, behind only Greinke, Keuchel, Scherzer, and Kershaw.  His true talent probably lies somewhere in between, but I’d peg Cueto as among the top 10 or 15 pitchers in baseball.

Brandon Finnegan, LHP, 22 years old

The 2014 draftee has outstanding stuff: he throws hard, especially for a left-hander, has a plus slider, and his change-up is usable.  The main questions surrounding him are his height and build; at 5’11, 185 lbs, he’s not a big guy, so there are concerns about his ability to hold up to a starter’s workload.  He also has suffered from lapses in control.  That all said, the 22-year old has been in professional baseball for one year, has major league experience, has been constantly jerked across the minor and major leagues since signing.  He has yet to throw more than 25 innings with any one club, and was frustrated with how he was being handled.  He ranked as the #55 prospect in baseball according to Baseball America entering the season, and Kiley McDaniel recently reaffirmed his preseason 55 Future Value scouting rating on Finnegan.

Cody Reed, LHP, 22 years old

Reed has been a rising star in the Kansas city Royals system this year.  Like Finnegan, he also throws hard, hitting the upper 90’s regularly, and has a plus slider to go with a developing change-up.  Unlike Finnegan, he has a more traditional power-pitcher body that scouts like to see at 6’5”, 220 lbs.  The knock on Reed has been his control, which has ranged from bad to horrific.  This year, however, he seems to have taken a major step forward, showing much better control and command across A+ and AA levels.  McDaniel rated him as a 50 FV prospect this week, and he made Baseball America’s midseason Royals list as their #9 prospect.  His strikeouts have taken a hit with his promotion to AA, but it's early and he's young.  I'm pretty bullish on him.

John Lamb, LHP, 25 years old

Lamb is a former top prospect with the Royals, reaching #18 in all of baseball on Baseball America’s 2011 prospect list.  That was the same list that featured five Royals in the top-20; he was one of those guys.  It was that year, however, that his ulnar collateral ligament gave out, and he submitted to Tommy John surgery.  Lamb’s recovery did not go very well.  He missed most of 2012 in recovery, lost a lot of velocity, and had lackluster results in 2013 and 2014 between high-A and AAA.  This year, however, reports have it that his velocity is back up in the low 90’s, almost where it was at his best.  His results have improved as well: his strikeouts are up over the past few years, and his walks are WAY down.  Having already spent a year and a half in AAA, he is thought to be almost ready for his big league debut.  I expect we'll see him this year, and probably before the other two pitchers.