Tuesday 28 February 2012

2012 Previews: Houston Astros

Ah yes, the good ole days.

I can't pronounce the names of half of the players on this team.

They're just filling their MLB club with a bunch of strangers, meanwhile moving their workhorse/2nd best starting pitcher to the fucking closer position.  If they're going to do that, in the worst division in baseball, then they had fucking well better be stacking up their minor league system with super prospects.  What's that?  They didn't stack up prospects in the farm system?  Oh.

Remember last year when they traded away Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence for disappointing hauls?  Yeah, it's a good job they did, because that's about all they have in that system.  Fortunately, they've got the first overall pick this year, and are so fucking bad that they'll probably get it again next year.  They've also got new ownership (who will hopefully opt to get rid of that stupid fucking hill in CF), a new GM, and a whole bunch of new scouts and statisticians and stuff in their front office.  Hopefully for them, this will translate in to better drafting, better development, and maybe some cash in to the system to help out.

The Verdict
This team might be the worst team we've seen since the Tigers of like 2003 or whichever year they lost 119 games.  They're going to try as hard as they can to trade away both Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers, but they shouldn't get much of a return on either.  Beyond that, this is just a big laundry list of AAAA scrubs who have literally 0 chance of being anywhere near respectable.  They''re also moving to the AL West next year.  Enjoy.

Projection: 60-102, dead fucking last in the AL West NL Central.

MLB '12 The Show Roster Preview

This can't really be worthy of a whole post, can it?  Operation Sports has a few preview videos of MLB '12 The Show, and among them is a quick preview of the top 9 players from each roster.  Here's his youtube page.

That little screenshot alone shows us that the Jays' best players are, in order, Jose Bautista, Francisco Cordero [note: What the fuck?], Ricky Romero, Sergio Santos, Darren Oliver, Brandon Morrow, Yunel Escobar, Jason Frasor, and ringin' up the rear (of the front), Brett Lawrie.  It would appear that Bautista is signed on for just the 1 year, as opposed to the 4 more (plus an option) that he's actually signed on for.  Santos is also signed through 2014 with 3 club options, but appears to be signed on in the game for his regular service time.  Some of the contracts in the game are pretty funny though.  Like Ryan Howard's deal only being for $4.2MM/yr, instead of the actual $25MM value.

Speaking of contracts and stuff, I just checked the Jays' Cots page, and uhhh... something kind of struck my eye: the word combo "club option" is listed on that page 46 times.  46!  The Jays have 3 club options on Lind and Santos, 2 on Escobar, and 1 on Morrow, Oliver, Janssen, Davis, Bautista and Romero, plus the exercised options on Encarnacion and Frasor.  A little ephemera for you.

It looks like the Astros are still the Astros.  Brett Myers, the innings-eating starter, has been named the team's closer, on this, the third day of Spring Training.  Sounds dumb, but probably worth a look in your fantasy pools if you're short on those.  Look for the Astros to fill Myers' rotation hole with another replacement level scrub who can only throw about 120 innings in a season.

Joey Votto was asked about playing in Toronto, and apparently didn't seem to enthusiastic.  Must be the turf.

Saturday 25 February 2012

2012 Previews: Texas Rangers

There's a reason why this team has gotten to the World Series two years in a row.

The Majors
This lineup.  Seriously, what Jon Daniels has done with this organization.

They were on the verge of bankruptcy when they traded ARod to New York, and now they're so fucking good it makes me want a cigarette. There just isn't an easy out in that lineup, 1-through-9.  Kinsler, Beltre, Napoli, Hamilton and Cruz all have 30+HR power (especially in this ballpark), and it seems like everybody gets on base at a good clip.  My main worry would be the health of Cruz and Hamilton.

The rotation is full of #2-3 guys, which isn't all that bad, considering the offense and bullpen.  Darvish is almost certainly an upgrade over CJ Wilson (though I think I'm a bit higher on Wilson than most), and guys like Matt Harrison and Derek Holland had breakout-ish years last year.  I'm not entirely sure what they plan to do with all of their starters/the closer situation if they really go through with the plan of moving Neftali Feliz to the rotation, but it's a nice problem to have.  I hope they keep Koji Uehara, but it looks like they're trying to trade him.  He should be their closer (if Feliz starts).


If the lineup gets Rockclapping.gif, the minor league system should get something along these lines:

Much like Tampa, this system is really chock full of high-ceiling guys.  They've graduated a few guys, and have had a few busts in the last couple of years, but it's still a great system, especially considering how good the MLB-roster is.  Texas doesn't seem to draft/develop pitchers as well as Tampa does, but neither does anybody, really.  I think Anthopoulos is following the Texas model more so than the Tampa model, since Toronto and Texas both have decent payroll capabilities, where Tampa does not.

The Verdict: This is my pick for the World Series.  I realize that it's not at all risky to pick a team that's been to back-to-back World Series', but hey, what can you do, right?  This is the best team in baseball, so they should be my pick.

Projection: 98-64, 1st in the AL West

Friday 24 February 2012

2012 Previews: Tampa Bay Rays

I think this is the perfect combination of pitching, hitting, defense, and coaching. Andrew Friedman is a god among men.

The Majors
Simply, I love this team.  The organization just keeps churning out amazing pitcher after amazing pitcher.  Price, Shields, Moore and Hellickson is right up there with PHI and LAA as the best rotations in baseball, whoever they opt to stick in as their fifth starter.

The thing is, as good as the rotation is, the offense is probably going to be the best it's been in franchise history.  Evan Longoria is probably the best player in baseball (certainly in the argument), and there just doesn't seem to be any weak spots around him, thanks to the way this club is managed by Joe Maddon.  I'm amazed that other teams aren't doing the same thing as the Rays are, in terms of building their team with a bunch of guys who can play multiple positions, giving the team as many lineup options as possible, so as to maximize the amount of times batters come up with the right lefty/righty splits.  I don't necessarily think that this the most talented team in baseball, but they squeeze out more value with what they have than any other club.  Despite not really having any big time power hitters beyond Evan Longoria (Pena, I guess), this team is full of guys with 20HR power, and they all get on base.

The Minors
This is a consensus top-3 system, and is easily top-5 even if you don't consider Matt Moore a prospect anymore.  I kind of wonder if Andrew Friedman would even bother using an extra $30MM if he had it sitting around.  Most players hit their peak at ages 27-29, which also happens to be when they're becoming expensive.  If Friedman continually moves players as they get worse and more expensive (as opposed to retaining them for more money), he can rebuild his farm system over and over and over again, while the players he moves are still valuable.  The fact that there is a giant pile of prospects in this system at all times is a security net that allows him to keep costs down, run an efficient team, and keep his club constantly moving towards the peaks of their careers.

Now that Type-B free agent compensation has been removed, teams are going to have to get a little more clever, and maybe trade players earlier in to their service clocks in order to get large returns.  Friedman was kind of doing that before the new CBA anyway, once people realized that he was just hogging relievers who were close to Type-B status for draft picks.  He's very much ahead of the game, zigging when other zag, so to speak.

What else do I have to say?  I think this is the best team in the AL East, and the second best team in baseball.  A lot of people are pointing to the Red Sox, saying that their record last year was well below what it should have been, thanks to the 0-7 start, and the September blowup.  Let's not forget that the 2011 Rays started 1-8, ultimately winning 91 games.  I think they're better than they were last year, and the competition (NYY and BOS) are either the same, or slightly worse.

Projection: 1st in the AL East, 96-66

A Week of Stuff in One Day

I've been working all week, and typically only write stuff on days that I don't work.  In terms of hours, this was a good week, and thus, I have hardly updated this thing.  I've been working as a substitute teacher until I can find something permanent, and I think things can only go down from here.  Yesterday, I wrote outlines for two 2012 previews, which will probably go up tomorrow (TBR and TEX), plus wrote an outline for a post at Nowhere Plans, which went up this morning and can check out, if you're at all interested in Survivor.  Then I dunked a basketball in front of 14 5 year-olds while sitting in for someone else's gym class, and instantly became the coolest person on the planet in their eyes.

The weird thing is that despite essentially missing a week of updates, I've only started missing writable content over the last day or so.  There were a few things that I could have included in a stuff post, but nothing really important enough to warrant it's own post (other than stuff that literally everybody everywhere has already written about).  With that little preamble-ramble, here goes:

Sportsnet.ca, thestar.com, and theglobeandmail.com all have backlogs of meaningless fluff pieces about not very much from over the last week.  I planned on glossing over all of them, but even the worst laid plans something something.  One of them is about how Colby Rasmus didn't like STL, and now has longer hair.  I wish I was lying.

Ryan Braun won his appeal yesterday, probably due to a chain of custody technicality.  Follow Victor Conte on twitter for some real gems.  Google "Victor Conte" if you don't know who that is [hint: he was Barry Bonds' trainer/roid supplier].  This is one of those things that everybody everywhere has written a lot about, despite not really knowing a whole lot about the drug testing/appeal process, so I won't bother.  I'm sure you can find something about this on literally every baseball blog in the history of the internet, so if you really need more, go nuts.  What I liked was this one, courtesy of Tango.  Basically, go bet on the Brewers before the odds change, if they haven't already.

2012 ZiPS projections are out, and Dave Cameron of Fangraphs had a look at the top 5 non-pitchers at each position (I assume pitchers will be done soon if it wasn't done already... I haven't checked yet, since I'm a few days behind on posting links).

1BlueJaysWay is doing his/their annual 25-man-roster-athon.  Go do that.  You could win a Randy Knorr something!  I went with the obvious choices, plus Perez in the pen, Thames in LF, and Mccoy/Francisco/Mathis/Davis on the bench.

Gregg Zaun was on Prime Time Sports on Wednesday, I think, and he called out Colby Rasmus as being a not-hustly guy.  You can watch that below, or check out what Stoeten wrote at DJF, complete with retorts from John Farrell.  Remember, Zaunny didn't like the Jays' offseason, and has a pretty negative outlook on the whole scenario.

Carlos Beltran paid Jon Niese to go get a nosejob.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

2012 Previews: New York Yankees

They're getting older...

The Majors
I feel like I could probably copy and paste my Red Sox preview in to this one, for the most part, because these are two really similar teams.  Vicious offenses, amazing bullpens, and up until about 3 weeks ago, questionable rotations.  Consider this: Brian Cashman moved a somewhat extraneous DH for a starting pitcher with 5 years of control, signed another pitcher to a low-risk contract, and traded away a massive disappointment, whereas Ben Cherington traded his starting shortstop for nothing -- Advantage: Yankees.  The result is an improved Yankees rotation, complimented by an excellent bullpen and a rapidly aging lineup that probably wouldn't have had room for Jesus Montero anyway.

This is still a great team that won the toughest division in baseball by several games last season, but at some point, you have to worry about guys like ARod (age 36), Jeter (Age 37) and Mark Teixeira (age 32) all still being under contract for five, three (2+ a player option), and four more years, with all of them well in to the decline phases of their careers.

Based on the above contracts (plus CC Sabathia, Rafael Soriano, and commitments to AJ Burnett) and the new CBA payroll restrictions, it's tough to envision the Yankees hanging on to Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher,  and Curtis Granderson over the coming years.  The Yanks can no longer just spend their way in to remaining in contention.

Fortunately, Brian Cashman is a wise man, and appears to be trying to cut costs.  The Yankees have always scouted and drafted well, and consistently have up-and-comers within their system, allowing them to compete year-in and year-out.  I still see a decline in the future with all of the long-term contracts entering their back halves, but it shouldn't be too steep, and can certainly be managed with their payroll capabilities.

The Minors
First off, I'm a firm believer in the conspiracy theory that Yankee prospects get overrated simply by virtue of being in the Yankees' system.  Having said that, most of the talent in this system is a few years away from doing much at the major league level, with the exception of Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, considering ARod and Jeter are going to continue getting playing time until the end of their contracts anyway.  I'd rather have my prospects be far from the majors than have a couple of geezers blocking them.  They got a potential ace in the Michael Pineda deal in Jose Campos.  Of course, the Yankees don't really keep their prospects, preferring to use them as trade bait, so that might not matter (and could actually hurt in terms of trade value).

The Verdict
They'll win the wild card (or the division), barring any hilarious Red Sox-style setbacks.  I think we're actually going to see a slight improvement out of ARod if he can stay healthy, but he's 36 years old, so I could be very wrong.  Expect Granderson to regress.  They'll still be a really good team, but I think they're going to be worse than last year as a whole.

Projection: 94-68, 2nd in the AL East.

Jays Pass the Dutchy, Sign Rick Vandenhurk

The Blue Jays have signed recent Orioles ex-pat Henricus "Rick" VandenHurk to a split contract, and have placed Alan Farina on the 60-day DL to make room on the 40-man roster.  Purely a depth move, similar to, say, Wilfredo Ledezma last year.  This is hardly news, much like absolutely everything else that's happened over the last two weeks.

A piece of stuff for you: Check out Nowhere Plans for a three-piece guide, written by myself and some guy I've never met in real life, to players who may be your surprise young guns of the year.  Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

2012 Previews: Boston Red Sox, Aka The Regression All-Stars

You could really take the Red Sox, Rays, Yankees and Rangers, and stick them in any order that you feel like here, and I could get behind it.  But it's my blog, and I hate the fucking Red Sox, so they can suck it.

The Majors
It's a great team on paper.  The lineup is going to score infinity runs, especially in the bandbox that is Fenway, and they should perform well defensively, but the real weak spot on this team is the starting rotation.  They could still go out and sign Roy Oswalt, or find an improvement via trade, otherwise, there's just not enough of a sure thing to consider this team a favorite over both the Yankees and the Rays.  Lester is fine, but Beckett is due for a pretty big regression (80% LOB, .245 babip last year), Daniel Bard has already failed as a starter, and Clay Buccholz and Dice-K are injury concerns, both having missed significant time last season.

I pretty much expect the Red Sox to be slightly worse than they were last year, save for the hilarious start to the season and hilarious end of the season, which means that they're a 91-94 win team, from a true-talent level.  Ellsbury and Crawford should regress back towards their respective means, the loss of Marco Scutaro (for nothing) should hurt by about a win, and fielding metrics showed the both Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez were about 10 runs above their career defensive values, so expect that to drop down a bit.  I'd also like to point out that they're not getting any younger, and that position player peak is in the 26-28 ages.  Older players!  Long contracts!

The Minors
It's thin, since the Adrian Gonzalez trade.  They draft and develop well, though, so they could have some good prospects coming up in the next few years.  It's not like they need prospects really bad anyway, since they have a bunch of money and a lot of guys that they'll just keep extending, if they haven't already.  There will be the odd hole over the next few years that they may need to have a prospect fill if he's a hotshot, but they like to play in the free agent market as well, so who knows?

The Verdict
I prefer the Rays and Yankees, but not by a wide enough margin to say that either is decidedly better.  I'm curious as to whether or not they're just going to keep basically the same team for another 2 years, or if they go and find another pitcher.  They were supposed to be the best fucking team in history last year, and they came third in their division.  Now they're worse and older, while the Jays and Rays improved, and the Yankees stayed about the same. For what it's worth, this will probably be the projection that I feel the least confident in.

Projection: 92-70, 3rd in the AL East

Thursday 16 February 2012

Trevor Bauer Bought a Camera

That's D-Backs' prospect and 3rd overall selection in the 2011 draft, Trevor Bauer, giving us a couple of super-slomo vantage points at his delivery.  He also spoke with MiLB.com about his pitch arsenal.  Basically, what I'm getting from this is that he is going to be the internet's favorite baseball player really soon.  He throws nine pitches!  Hat tip to KyleB of drivelinebaseball for the Bauer gif.

Bonus long toss video featuring Bauer, showing us how to throw 97MPH:

It would appear that some Blue Jays have reported to spring training early for some workouts and hitting practice and whatnot, unless these pictures are old.  Bautista, Lawrie, Lind, Snider, and Chris Woodward are all there, apparently.

It looks like the AJ Burnett deal is going to happen either today or tomorrow, according to MLBTR, via Buster Olney, Jon Heyman and Jim Bowden.  It shouldn't be a biiiig deal, but it looks to me as if the Pirates are going to overpay for him, based on my analysis of Burnett's value that I wrote last weekend.  Related, it would appear that Burnett vetoed a trade that would have sent him to the Angels in exchange for Bobby Abreu, since Burnett doesn't want to play on the West Coast.

Jorge Soler worked out for the Jays this weekend.

The Jays rank 6th on the ESPN "Future Power Rankings" (insider only), which looks at MLB talent, minor league talent, finances, management, and what they call mobility (I'd probably call it flexibility, since they describe it as "are they old and expensive, or young and cheap?)  Anyway, the main problem is that the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox rank 2,3, and 5 respectively.

The new season of Survivor started last night, and it's divided in to teams by gender.  So far, women are fucking terrible at everything.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

2012 Previews: Anaheim Angels

He is here, the time is now.

The Majors

This will be nothing that I haven't gone over already.   I wrote here the day off/day after the Pujols and Wilson signings, and wrote two pieces on Nowhere Plans, here and here.  Basically, the Angels made the most news this offseason by a fucking country mile.

This team is going to be good.  The problem is that there are 5 teams (not including the Tigers) fighting for two playoff spots and two wildcards.  The Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and Rangers are all better than the Angels, in my estimation, but it's close.  I honestly think the Rangers are a touch better than the Angels, but not far enough to say definitively that either team is going to make the playoffs/win the division.  It's not that there's any incredibly weak spot to this club, I just prefer the Rangers, as you'll find when I write that preview.

The questions I ask myself about this team, which, when answered, will show us the success level of this team:

  • Who plays third, and who DH's?
    • Trumbo needs to get his OBP up.  He's pretty much a righty Adam Lind, though he's young enough that he can improve.  Obviously his defense is a massive question mark, especially if he's taking [Maicer Izturis/Alberto Callaspo/Erick Aybar] out of the order.  I'd trade Trumbo while there's still a lot of value there.  Kendrys Morales probably DH's, leaving Bobby Abreu out of a job for now as well, but if Trumbo doesn't play 3B, he might DH, moving both Morales and Abreu to the bench.  I'll explain what to do about that in a second, though I'm not entirely confident that my suggestion will happen.
  • Who plays LF?
    • If Vernon Wells is playing LF everyday, we're all going to get a good laugh.  If Mike Trout gets every chance to play and perform, he'll provide enough value with his glove in CF, no matter what he does with the bat, shifting Bourjos to LF and creating a really good defensive OF.  Of course, that would make Vernon Wells a $21MM bench player.
The Minors
Move Mike Trout to the majors, and this system is nothing special.  Solution!  Trade Mark Trumbo for prospects, trade Bobby Abreu for prospects, and most importantly, trade one of Callaspo/Izturis/Aybar for prospects.  You'll get varying returns, so kick in some cash if needed, but part of contending is remaining in contention.

Much like the Tigers, the Angels are going to have a crap load of money devoted to some players who are on the bad half of their careers: they have over $70MM committed to 4 players for 2015, the youngest of whom is Jered Weaver, who will be 32.

The Verdict
They're going to be good.  The rotation should be among the best in baseball, and once the Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu contracts expire after this season, they'll be able to not have a $50MM bench, and get two good years of production from the main core before Albert, Weaver, Santana, Haren and Wilson decline or leave.

Projection: 90-72, 2nd in AL West.

2012 Previews: Detroit Tigers

The Majors

Meh.  I mean, they're going to win the division going away, and they're obviously in win-now mode, but they're probably the 6th best team in the AL.  I'm curious to see what they'll do at the trade deadline, because I'm sure they're going to need another piece in the rotation behind Justin Verlander if they're going to do anything beyond win the division.

Speaking of whom, I'd expect to see Verlander take a nice step backwards this year (and wouldn't go off the board to draft him in fantasy, fyi), and the same with Doug Fister, if for no other reason that the fact that Miguel Cabrera is going to be playing third base, making up one half of the oldest, most rangeless left sides of the infield in MLB history.

Naturally, the flipside of that is the fact that they're going to mash a brazillion runs with that lineup in that division, so it should be okay.  As an aside, they're probably going to get Delmon Young and Brandon Inge a whole bunch of at-bats, and have Austin Jackson striking out at the top of the order infinity times, so who knows?

I uhhh... suppose that at least one of Cabrera and Verlander will be shown the door at the end of their contracts, because I don't really see how the Fielder deal doesn't handcuff the Tigers.  Having said that, both players will be past their career peaks at that time, and Mike Illitch kind of surprised us with the 9y/$212MM gift that he gave to the Tigers organization, so we'll see.

The Minors
Beyond 2 prospects, this club doesn't really have anything going in the farm, which, as we've seen with Alex Anthopoulos and his great big genius plan, you should build the farm system before going out and paying for the great big free agents.  The Tigers won't have the spending flexibility 5 years from now, which means that they'll need to get some cheap production.  With no prospect depth built up, and the new CBA limiting loopholes of building massive stocks of prospects, I'm seeing 3 years of competing and then 6 years of shit for the Tigers.

The Verdict
I'm not even sure the Tigers are as good as they were last year.  They won 6 games more than their Pythagorean record would indicate, so the same team should win 89 games in 2012.  I'm not sure that they're any more than a win better right now, to be perfectly honest.  Regressions from Alex Avila, Justin Verlander, Jose Valverde and Doug Fister, plus Miguel Cabrera at 3B should takeaway a lot of the additional value that Fielder brings in.  I meh at this team.

Projection: 91-71, 1st in the AL Central.

Monday 13 February 2012

New Commercial!

Tell me this isn't fucking badass.

The Jays and Casey Janssen have officially agreed to a 2-year, $5.9MM contract, with a $4MM club option on a third year with no buyout.  The kind folks at twitter have finally given me the newest version, and thus, I can now do this:

The Jays once again avoid an arbitration hearing, and have done so for 15 years or so.

Yoenis Cespedes is officially signed with the A's, and here is ESPN's take.

MLBTR is telling us that AJ Burnett to the Pirates is looking more and more likely, and that the Pirates are likely to absorb $13-15MM, while giving a prospect or two.  Too much!  Someone at Beyond the Boxscore did something like I did last week, trying to assign a nominal value to AJ Burnett.

Blue Jays News!

Man, it's been a while since anything noteworthy happened in Blue Jays land, but alas, here we are.

We'll start with Casey Janssen.  He appeared to be moving towards an arbitration hearing -- the first for the Jays in 15 years -- but according to his twitter account, he'll be "sticking around a little while longer!"  That doesn't necessarily mean that he's signed an extension or anything, because even if this about coming to an agreement with the Jays, he was still under team control for this season anyway.  Of course, AA has a policy of agreeing only to multiple years once it gets past the arbitration deadline, but this might not even be about his contract, as we're only speculating here.  David Ortiz has also avoided arbitration, settling on a 1-year, $14.5MM deal with the Red Sox.

Ken Rosenthal, via MLBTR, tells us that the Jays are out of the running for Manny Ramirez, leaving only the Oakland A's.

Finally, Kevin Goldstein of Baseballprospectus.com gives us his list of the top 101 prospects in baseball, ranking Rays SP Matt Moore as number 1.  Blue Jays on the list include Travis d'Arnaud (16), Jake Marisnick (28), Daniel Norris (54), Anthony Gose (68), and Noah Syndergaard (93).  Check out his twitter account for a big Q&A session.

And holy fuck: Tim Brown from Yahoo!Sports is telling us that the Athletics are about to sign Yoenis Cespedes, and Susan Slusser is telling us that it's 4y/$36MM.  Mystery team strikes again!

Sunday 12 February 2012

2012 Previews: Kansas City Royals

The Royals and the Jays are kind of interchangeable in this lineup, since both aren't good enough to win their division, both are real young, both have excellent farm systems (though the Royals have graduated a lot of talent in the last two years), and both are going to get good soon, and for a while.

The Majors
This club is kind of tough to project, mostly because they're so young.  Even if the young talent produces, the pitching staff is a giant question mark.  Basically, they aren't going to be good enough to beat the Tigers this year, but they have enough prospect depth that once they are ready, the pitchers should be developed.  There is a ton of talent in this system, and they should be good soon.

Hosmer, Giavotella, Moustakas and Escobar join guys like Billy Butler and Frenchy in what should be a pretty exciting team to watch.  Everything depends on the pitching.  Danny Duffy should be a stud by the time he matures, and Dayton Moore has enough prospect depth and salary flexibility that he should be able to go find some useful pitchers by that time.

The Minors
Bubba Starling is probably going to be a beast whenever he makes it to the show, as will Mike Montgomery, and Wil Myers and Salvador Perez are sure to provide plenty of value as well.  Again, I worry about their pitching going forward, but there is so much talent in this minor league system that there ought to be enough surplus to go find something moving forward if they can't develop it on their own.

This was considered to be one of the best farm systems in the history of baseball at the beginning of last year, before the promotions, so there's obviously still a crap-ton of depth there, which is why I compared them to the Jays.  The easier division puts them in a better spot to win sooner than the Jays, but I don't see a wide gap, since the Jays are so much better in terms of MLB talent.

The Verdict

Again, I find it tough to project this team.  They're so young, and they're going to give all their kids playing time over established replacement-level-ish guys, so they could be as good as they were last year, they could be better, or they could be way worse if nobody adjusts properly to the majors.  I don't think they're going to surprise anybody with a playoff run or anything, but I doubt that's really the goal this year.

I really think that they're going to call this more of a transitional year, with plan of ensuring that everybody transitions well to the majors, and anyone who doesn't can be sent back to the minors, allowing Yuniesky Betancourt or Chris Getz or Mitch Maier to hold their places.  2013 should be the start of the real process, much like the Bluejays, though that really hinges on acquiring or developing starting pitching.

Ultimately, I think this is the team that has the most volatility; all of these young guys could rake, or they could all stink.  Alex Gordon is due to regress, as is Bruce Chen.  We don't really know how much time Yuniesky Betancourt is going to play, and thus, cost the team.  I don't think it really matters a whole lot, as long as they get their guys some reps and let them develop.

Projection: 75-87, 3rd in the AL Central

Saturday 11 February 2012

Math and Baseball: Could the Yankees trade AJ Burnett to the Pirates?

As MLBTR is reporting, there is a shot that AJ Burnett gets moved to the Pittsburgh Pirates before the offseason ends.  Burnett, of course, signed a 5 year, $82.5MM contract with the Yankees before the 2009 season, paying him $16.5MM annually through the 2013 season.  He's also sucked in New York, putting up 3.5, 1.5 and 1.4 fWAR in those three seasons (even less by rWAR), with ERA's over 5 in each of the last two seasons, and giving up a shit load of homeruns.  It's understandable that the Yankees would like to move Burnett, especially if that's the kind of production he's going to offer at that price.  As is, he's probably the 6th or 7th best pitcher in the starting rotation depth chart for the Yankees, and trading him would make room for Freddy Garcia (presumably) in the #5 spot, as well as clear a roster spot.

If you can remember back to last summer's trade deadline, I examined what it would take to move Carlos Zambrano and his bulky contract to the Blue Jays, as was speculated, so I figured we can do the same here with AJ and the Pirates.

The obvious sticking point in this deal is going to be money.  Earlier this winter, the Yankees were willing to eat up to $8MM of the $33MM owed to Burnett in a trade.  Obviously nobody budged on that one, since anyone could just go out and sign a free agent for less money and more value.  Rumor has it that this number has been bumped up to the point where the Yankees would be footing upwards of $20MM in order to get a player in return, with Garrett Jones being their target in Pittsburgh, presumably to fill the DH spot.  I'd personally prefer to have Burnett over Jones if not for the contracts, and if I were Neil Huntington, I'd definitely be open to trading Jones since he's 30, has no upside, and is Mark Reynolds-lite, but hey, that's just me.

Anyway, according to that above MLBTR link, The Yankees think that the Pirates should pay more than $10MM of the $33MM owed to Burnett over the next two seasons, which would kind of be like the Pirates signing Burnett to a 2 year, $10-ishMM free agent contract (obviously it's not really like a free agent contract, since the Bucco's don't really have any negotiating competition, nor can Burnett block this trade; as such, the Pirates have all the leverage).  I feel like he could probably be worth more than that, especially playing in the NL and away from the AL East/pressures of Yankee Stadium, so that's right around fair value in a vacuum.  There's a catch, though: this isn't in a vacuum.

Pittsburgh has a ton of leverage in this situation, being the team willing to take Burnett from the Yankees' hands.  Pittsburgh doesn't really need to go out and get Burnett, or anyone, for that matter, because the Pirates' alternative to Burnett is some AAAA scrub who is going to be the difference between 73 wins and 74 wins -- obviously, the Pirates would rather win 74 than 73, but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter a whole lot.  They're still going to suck, whether they get Burnett or not, so the Pirates don't really have a huge incentive to make this move, especially if Garrett Jones is involved.  Moving Jones would create a new hole in their lineup that wouldn't be overly easy to fill this late in the offseason, so if this deal doesn't come at the right price for the Pirates, they can just say 'no' to Brian Cashman and it's over, which is a probably a worst-case scenario for the Yankees.

It's basically just a favor to the Yankees, since it helps them get closer to the Luxury Tax mark, it opens up a roster spot, upgrades their rotation (addition by subtraction), and gives them an extra couple million to spend on a one-year deal for a DH.  Removing Burnett from the equation is worth a lot more to the Yankees than adding Burnett to the equation is worth to the Pirates.

The fact of the matter is that Burnett is coming off two straight disappointing years, and is 35 years old.  He has a history of injury problems (though not recently), and has battled inconsistency throughout the portions of his career in which he was actually good.  There's a chance that he's just finished providing solid production.  As such, I doubt anybody would offer him multiple years guaranteed on the free agent market, which should reduce what the Pirates would want to pay him in terms of how much of the contract they should absorb (i.e. Prince Fielder could have signed a 1 year deal for about $35MM this offseason if he wanted to, but not an 8-year deal at the same average value).

Burnett's projections on his fangraphs page shows something in the realm of 1.2 WAR, varying slightly depending on which projection you look at 1.  He hasn't exactly declined at a steady rate over his last few years, but I think expecting something like 1.2WAR in 2012 and 1 WAR in 2013 is fair.  At worst, he can provide something in the area of 200 innings per year with the use of 1 roster spot, which is certainly of some marginal value to Pittsburgh, who lost innings eater Paul Maholm to free agency (non-tendered), and will be without Charlie Morton for at least the start of the season.

2.2WAR these days nets you about $11MM in value (adjusting slightly for inflation for the 2013 season), so Burnett and $22MM for absolutely nothing (i.e. some 27-year old A-ball pitcher) is something close to the equilibrium.  The Pirates would then have to DFA someone to make room, plus they have to guarantee Burnett a roster spot for two years.  As result, I'd be comfortable dropping Burnett's true value, with all things considered, to somewhere around $9MM.  Given his $33MM contract, his adjusted value is [$9MM-$33MM, or $-24MM].

If Jones is involved, the Pirates would need to go find another 1B option in a depleted free agent market or fill the void internally, again, increasing the overhead costs of getting Burnett.   If the Yankees would like to overpay for a mediocre 1B/DH option in Jones, by all means, I'd let them, but at this point, that doesn't look like it's going to happen.  Still, Jones' value is in the range of a cost-controlled 1-1.5WAR, plus 3 more years of club-control, so about $8MM?

Basically speaking, if the Pirates agree to take Burnett, they're going to get him at a surplus.  If the Yankees wanted Jones for Burnett, I'd charge them pretty much the whole $33MM:  Burnett's value of $-24MM ($33MM-$9MM, including the DFA and a replacement 1B/OF), Jones' value of  $8MM, and an extra million or so to sweeten the deal, since the Pirates have enough leverage to not really need to do this deal.
If Jones actually can't be involved (i.e. if it's not just posturing by Huntington to boost the return), and this just turns in to a pure salary dump, I think quantifying Burnett's value at -$24MM is fair.  Again, the Pirates don't need to do this, so they could feasibly ask for a little more, but AJ Burnett and $24.5MM to the Pirates for some A-ball prospect would be the worst offer I'd accept if I were Neil Huntington.

1- It doesn't really matter what would happen to those numbers pitching in Pittsburgh, since that's not what the Yankees are selling, but I think we can expect an improvement in homerun rate, and thus pretty well everything else, if only by reducing the ability of the hitters in the NL Central.  Replacement level is adjusted, and, as Drew Fairservice at Getting Blanked points out, with help from Jeff Sullivan, Burnett threw a lot of meatballs last year.  Park Factors might not help a ton, but worse competition would.

Thursday 9 February 2012

2012 Previews: Toronto Blue Jays

I'll try to remain objective.

The Majors

It's coming.  It's not there yet, but it's coming.  At the absolute worst, this team will not be bad for several years, but there are a lot of question marks.  I think next season is the real goal for contention, and whatever happens this year is gravy.  There are certainly some star players on this club, and a lot of other established, above-average guys, to the point where this team would probably win or contend in all 5 of the divisions that they aren't in.  I certainly think that they'd win the NL Central and West, and could contend for Wild Card or better in the other three divisions as is.  The obvious problem is that they are in the AL East, and are the 4th best team in the division.

Among those aforementioned question marks are:

  • CF Colby Rasmus, who is coming off a terrible year, in which he went from an up-and-coming potential all-star to being traded for 2 months of a league-average starter and 2 relievers.
  • LF Travis Snider/Eric Thames, one of whom hasn't found a way to harness all the potential, the other of whom is probably right around his ceiling at the age of 25.
  • A starting rotation that consists of a guy who severely outperformed his peripheral stats (Romero), another who has never performed to match his peripheral stats (Morrow), a 22 year old (Alvarez), a guy coming off a terrible season, in which he was demoted after diminished velocity and control (Cecil), and a blank space for the #5.
  • A 1B/DH platoon made up of a guy who was DFA'ed last offseason (EE) and a guy who has put up OBP's less than .300 in two straight seasons.
Obviously, we can look at guys like Bautista, Escobar and Lawrie, and just say that everything is fine, but in reality, this team isn't good enough to win in this division.  The good news is that there is a creative GM running the show, who just seems to pull rabbit after rabbit out of his hat when you least expect it.  There is still room in the offseason to go find an impact starting pitcher (or at the trade deadline), and there are encouraging signs in each of the question marks listed above.

The Minors
What haven't I said about this minor league system?  It's awesome.  But here's something I was thinking about the other day: When is the last time the Jays drafted and developed a prospect of their own in to a superstar?  Roy Halladay is pretty much the only one I can think of.  This organization has had way more busts than bursts in the last 15 years: Thigpen, Phelps, Adams, Roberts, Cooper, Ahrens, Jackson... most of the really, really good prospects that this organization gets come through trade (and even then, look at Drabek since he came to the Jays' system).

I begin to wonder if there is something wrong with the development staff in this organization (I should note that I have no idea what kind of turnover there has been in the last few years), because even guys that we have now haven't turned in to superstars; Lind had one good season, Hill had two, Wells fell off a cliff, Rios fell off a cliff, Jayson Werth and Chris Carpenter only had good careers after leaving Toronto.

I realize that prospects fizzle all the time, and that some players decline faster than others, or just need a change of scenery, or whatever.  And I'm sure that I'm forgetting someone somewhere, but the point remains. Obviously there's more to it than just not developing properly (scouting, drafting, etc.), which may have been addressed in the Ricciardi->Anthopoulos regime change in the form of increased international spending/draft budget/scouting hires, so maybe I'm complaining about nothing here.

Anyway, yeah, really good farm system.  It should be easy enough to find regulars out of a pool of 30 grade B-or-better prospects.

The Verdict
Not this year.  This is more of a growth year, in my opinion.  Figure out what Rasmus really is, figure out if Drabek can come back, get a year of experience to all the young guys, and so on.  That wealth of prospects that AA has built up can be turned in to more elite talent through trades if need be.  The party is sure to be over for the Yankees and Red Sox sooner or later, with all of those big contracts moving in to their later years (Age 38-42 ARod, for example), and this time they can only kind of spend their way out of the hole, thanks to the new CBA.  Full seasons of Rasmus, Johnson, Alvarez and Lawrie are massive upgrades over what was there before (Patterson, Hill, Jojo Reyes, and whatever you want to call the hybrid of April-to-June Edwin/Jayson Nix/John Mcdonald/Mike Mccoy).

Projection*- 83-79, 4th in the AL East.


That's Travis d'Arnaud, the Jays' top prospect, per Keith Law's list of 100 top prospects in baseball.  d'Arnaud ranks #6 on such a list, placing him ahead of some pretty big names, such as catchers Jesus Montero and Devin Mesoraco, and other more famous prospects such as Gerrit Cole, Dylan Bundy, Anthony Rendon, Bubba Starling, Arodys Viscaino, and I could go on for a while.

Other Jays on that list include Drew Hutchison at #42, Jake Marisnick at #47, Anthony Gose at #59, and Aaron Sanchez at #96.  Tampa and Atlanta seem to have a fucking thousand people on this list, by the way.

Law also happens to believe that the Jays have the third best farm system in baseball, which is a slight deviation from his peers, who give the Jays' system a pretty consensus'ed #1.  Says Law:
One of the many reasons criticism of Rogers Communications, the owner of the Blue Jays, for being stingy with free agents is so ignorant is that the club has spent aggressively in the amateur markets during the past three years, grabbing high-ceiling high school players and Latin American prospects by stockpiling picks and paying whatever it took to sign those players. They are the organization most likely to be No. 1 on this list next winter.
So basically, what every Jays' blogger has been saying all offseason when questions about signing Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols or Yu Darvish came up.

For what it's worth, Law gives the nod to the Padres system as the best farm system, despite having no prospects in the top-25.  The Rays are second-best, to Law, but if you look at his write-ups of the top 3, he basically uses the word "high-ceiling" a bunch of times, and talks about the depth of systems without saying the word "depth".  Kansas City takes a dive from #1 to #5, mainly due to graduations of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy, and Johnny Giavotella, but they still have enough depth and high-ceiling guys to rank in the top 5.

There's a paywall, but here's your link to Law's top 100 and farm system rankings.  He should have his top-10 for each team up at some point today or tomorrow. [Update-- Here it is.  Behind the paywall again, obviously.  Here's the Jays' top 10 though:

1. Travis d'Arnaud, C (6)
2. Drew Hutchison, RHP (42)
3. Jake Marisnick, CF (47)
4. Anthony Gose, CF (59)
5. Aaron Sanchez, RHP (96)
6. Justin Nicolino, RHP
7. Noah Syndergaard, RHP
8. A.J. Jimenez, C
9. Adonis Cardona, RHP
10. Deck McGuire, RHP

Pitchers and premium positions... boratverynice.jpg]

MGL was on the MLB network's Clubhouse Confidential yesterday.  Here's the Tango thread for that, complete with a video.  Personally, I'd just rather we stayed here in our little corner of the internet until someone (Andrew Friedman, probably) goes and wins like 9 World Series using all the SABR stuff, and then we, as a collective of baseball nerds, can come out and say "We told you so!", because they're just going to make fun of us otherwise.  Too fragile, man.

ZiPS projections for the Texas Rangers came up yesterday or the day before.  And holy fuck, this team is good.  For the record, they give Yu Darvish comps of Ben Sheets, Javier Vazquez, and Roy Oswalt.

Finally, Yahoo!Sports is supposed to open their 2012 Fantasy Baseball season today, but as of yet, haven't done so.  I typically go with about 8 fantasy baseball teams each year, across a few different sites, but last year I missed about a week during a vacation and came back to see exactly 0 of my teams doing anywhere near as well as they were before I left.  Still, mock-drafting!

Wednesday 8 February 2012

2012 Previews: Cleveland Indians

I know that ole Jimjam isn't on the Indians anymore, but that's OK.  A personal favorite of mine... I couldn't resist.

The Majors
They're a really young group, and would probably be even younger if it weren't for the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, which sent 2 first rounders, a 2nd rounder and a 3rd rounder to Colorado; all four of whom could be a factor in Denver in the next few years if things go correctly.  Based on the small sample of 64IP that Ubaldo had post-trade, that trade is going to be a disaster.  Obviously, we should expect Ubaldo to return to form, based on an elevated babip, 65% strand rate, and an ERA a full run higher than his FIP.

Obviously, the Indians think that they're pretty well ready to contend, based on their decision to make that trade and mortgage a big chunk of their future.  Drew Pomeranz, the centerpiece of the deal, should be a mid-to-front of the rotation guy relatively soon, and has 6 years of control in front of him.  Throwing in 3 more prospects is a pretty high price to pay, especially since the 2014 club option on Ubaldo's contract becomes a player option with the trade.

From what I gather, the Indians plan on getting a shit-load of groundballs, and having their infield defense solve the problems.  They traded for Derek Lowe, and have Ubaldo and Justin Masterson, so that at least partially address their problem in the run scoring department.  They're really banking on improvements from Shin-Soo Choo, Grady Sizemore and Carlos Santana, plus the emergence of new regulars Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall.

This team started the season hot, and that helped them finish 5 wins above expectation (though that's probably skewed a bit thanks to the fact that they got blown out of the water about 10 times over the last month of the season).  They have definitely improved, but probably only to the point where they will win as many games as they did last year, since they shouldn't have won that many in the first place.

The Minors
It's not pretty, especially now that they've shipped four prospects away to Colorado, and have graduated the aforementioned Kipnis and Chisenhall.  They've still got some guys built up in the system, but their top guys look like #10-20 guys in most good systems.  The good news is that they're still a very young club at the major league level, so there isn't a huge need to find minor league talent.  According to John Sickels of minorleagueball.com, he can see this system returning to top-10 within a few years if the current batch of low-level talent develops well.

The Verdict
They could surprise again, but I doubt it.  They're probably pretty close to peaking in terms of the talent that they've currently got in their organization, so by the time the Tigers regress, they should be on their way.  I'd worry about a lack of organizational depth, and likely wouldn't have made the Ubaldo trade for that reason, based on their win curve, though perhaps there was a worry about getting everybody places to play or something.  Still, they're a young group who might surprise and contend for a Wild Card spot if they can find an extra little push.

Projection: 81-81, 2nd in the AL Central
I'd like to point out that I had a full-on spreadsheet of projections drawn up, and made a last minute change to it last night, when writing my Mariners preview.  I also think I'm too ambitious by a win or two for Oakland, and whichever team adds Roy Oswalt will need another win or two added in there somewhere.  As result, there's a really good chance that (1) I don't go back and fix everything due to laziness and lack of caring, and (2) All the wins and losses don't add up to equal the correct number of games played.  If it looks like I'm making this up as I go, well, I wasn't, but I am now.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

2012 Previews: Seattle Mariners

GM Jack Zduriencik has basically done what Alex Anthopoulos has done, except it's taken him one more year, and he's done it worse in every way.  Which makes him a pretty good GM, overall.

The Majors
Well, they've got Felix.

The Minors
This farm system is really good.  Like, battles-the-Blue-Jays-for-the-best good.  The Jays have a much deeper system, but what the Mariners lack in depth, they make up for in awesomeness.  A few of them should find themselves in the majors this year, where they will meet guys like Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero.  The pitching prospects are crazy good, and they should all be coming in to their sweet-spots right around the time the Angels begin their collapse a few years from now.  It will be interesting to see who gets there sooner; the A's or the M's.  Both systems are good and will probably improve.

The Verdict
I think I overestimated the M's when I was previewing the A's.  The Mariners won 65 games last year, and have improved their roster, but with the leaps that the Angels and Rangers have made, I don't really know if they can win the 72 that I had them pegged for originally.  Jesus Montero isn't some fucking savior that's going to mash 80 bombs and win 15 games on his own, and you have to remember that his addition is also a subtraction of Michael Pineda.    For consistency's sake:

Prediction: 71-91, 3rd in the AL West

Mailing one in

I don't expect much news until the season starts, which explains the lack of updates.  Casey Janssen's arbitration case should happen in the next few days if he doesn't agree to a contract with the team before then, and then you can expect a few minor league signings that don't turn in to anything.

Beyond that, I can give you one more list of top prospects, this time from MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo.  Unsurprisingly, Travis d'Arnaud, Anthony Gose, and Jake Marisnick round off the top three, though Mayo has projected ETA's for d'Arnaud and Gose set as 2013 and 2012, respectively.  I kind of think he's got those backwards, to be quite honest.

DJF's Stoeten compares Mayo's list with Kevin Goldstein's, Marc Hulet's, John Sickels', and Baseball America's.  He also states, quite correctly, I might add, that none of this really means a whole lot going forward, and that it's just fun to have a look at each system.

The Super Bowl happened the other day, which means that we're something like 10 days away from the day pitchers and catchers report for spring training.  Unrelated, but also really awesome, Mad Men returns for season 5 in something like 45 days.  Urge to kill... fading.

What's that?  You don't think playoff baseball is a crapshoot?  Think again!
P.S., for a team with 0 playoff appearances during this time-frame, to go along with a lot of 3rd and 4th place finishes, the Blue Jays are on that list an infuriating number of times.  Also, fuck you St. Louis.

Sunday 5 February 2012

Watch this.

Pretty hungover right now, so I'm not gonna bother with the chit-chat.  Just watch this, and do it now.  It's probably going to get taken down for copyright infringement.

Friday 3 February 2012

2012 Previews: Oakland A's

I'm not sure why I opted to put the Twins before the A's, but whatever.  This team is going to be historically bad this season, after trading away their two top pitchers from last year, and having injury concerns for their new #'s 1 and 2.  Boy, that Billy Beane really knows how to tear apart a ball club.  And rightly so, since he has to do it every three years.

The Majors
I'm guessing Brandon Mccarthy gets dealt at some point this season, once he can confirm the fact that he's a pretty good pitcher, as opposed to a flash in the pan.  Beyond that, they're more or less filling that club with a bunch of scrub-level major leaguers until they can find a new stadium, meanwhile loading up on high-ceiling minor league talent.  They've replaced Josh Willingham with the platoon of Jonny Gomes and Seth Smith, and redesigned their rotation after trading Gio Gonzalez, Guillermo Moscoso and Trevor Cahill with Bartolo Colon and the returning Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson.  All in all, this team should be about as bad as they were last year (maybe a bit worse) in terms of talent, but not in terms of wins, with the obvious caveat being the improvements of Texas and Anaheim.  This club is going to lose an awful lot of games in front of hardly any fans.

The Minors
Shining light.  An already above-average farm system just got a whole lot better, thanks to the trades of Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill, whom Billy Beane turned in to a bunch of high-upside prospects.  They already had Michael Choice, who should develop in to a very good MLB outfielder, but the pitching depth that they've accumulated through these trades should turn out another solid batch of front-of-the-rotation type starters.  The Gio Gonzalez trade netted them 3 4* prospects, according to Kevin Goldstein, and the Cahill trade got them Jarrod Parker, who Fangraphs lists as their new top prospect.

This system is good, and will probably continue to improve, with Billy Beane at the helm.  That dude just doesn't fuck around when he's rebuilding a team.  He'll probably continue to trade for pitching prospects, develop them well, and use his pitcher-friendly ballpark to his advantage when he turns them in to more prospects.

The Verdict
All three of the A's division rivals have improved this offseason, while the A's have moved backwards slightly.  They know that they're not competing, and are blowing it up, while the Angels and Rangers are going for it now and for the next few years.  The Mariners are probably approaching go-for-it mode in the next few years, so Billy Beane is perfectly content to just sit back and let that happen.  As result, we just might have the worst team in the American League in the Oakland A's.

Billy is going to turn this club around in the next few seasons with a farm system that he's building, but in the meantime, things could get pretty nasty.  The success (and I use that as a relative term) of this team has a lot to do with their pitching, and how quickly Billy decides to finish blowing up the team.  If Anderson returns to form, and Brandon Mccarthy remains good, and Bartolo Colon can repeat his 2011 season, this team could, I suppose, win as many games as last year.  I doubt all of those things happen, and even if they do, Billy Beane probably uses that as leverage to move them at or before the trade deadline.

Projection: 70-92, 4th in the AL West

Thursday 2 February 2012

2012 Previews: Minnesota Twins

Oh Old Joe Mauer, how I miss you.

Well, friends... I'm about to tell you something that you may not like.  Joe Mauer just isn't that good anymore. Seven more years!

The Majors
Alright, he's not bad at all, he's just... not... Joe Mauer anymore.  And if he can't stay at catcher, his value is cut very drastically.  And that's actually pretty much it.  If Mauer can't get over his "general leg fatigue" or whatever the fuck, not only will he be worse with the bat, but the difference between the value he provides at catcher and DH or 1B, in terms of replacement value, is fucking massive.  Fortunately, he should be able to get plenty of physically no-demanding time at 1B, but that's only because Justin Morneau can't seem to stay healthy either.  The combination of those two guys not being at the top of their game is a real killer for this club, because Mauer and Morneau are the obvious lynchpins in this offense.  If those two aren't in the lineup for 150 games each, this team has absolutely no shot.  And even with those two, there's not really anything else there.  They lost Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Jim Thome, and replaced that with Josh Willingham, Ryan Doumit, and Jamey Carroll.  In other words, behind Mauer and Morneau, they got worse.  Doumit's signing probably spells the end of Mauer as an everyday catcher, so that's probably a good indication that Mauer's days as a full-time catcher are over.

Speaking of "no shot", that rotation.  I mean, Carl Pavano is the ace of that staff.

Beyond that, look at their division.  The Tigers pretty much have this thing on lockdown for at least this year, and the Royals and Indians are on their way up.

The Minors
This system is nothing special.  Miguel Angel Sano looks like he should be pretty good, especially if he can stay at shortstop.  The big problem that I see is the lack of high-upside pitching prospects to add to their already terrible pitching staff.  Going forward, that might not be a huge problem, given the impossibility of hitting homeruns at Target Field (suppressing HR's doesn't necessarily make it a pitcher-friendly, though a big enough sample will show us that it probably is pitcher-friendly), but hey, pitching doesn't hurt.

The Verdict
I don't really think that this organization is in terrible shape, and this would actually be a half decent club to take over as a GM if you really wanted some kind of challenging project.  They have an owner who is willing to spend at a higher-than-average rate -- they're right around $110MM -- and their organizational talent isn't bad, per se.  They might not have a ton to move in a trade, but there are certainly some assets and payroll depth to help build from.  This team isn't as bad as they showed last year, but they definitely got worse, if that makes sense.  Mauer and Morneau playing 140+ games each will go a long way towards getting this team away from the 100-loss mark, but it's definitely not going to be enough to get them anywhere near 90 wins.

Unlike most teams, the Twins are tough to project going forward.  Their major league roster is young, and the farm system is just a piece or two away from being in the top tier, so it's not like there is no chance for the next few years.  I think their ballpark should help turn one or more of their mediocre pitchers in to something that they can move at the trade deadline.  If this team is going to compete at any point in the next three years, it's going to have to be through either the prospect route or the trade route, because they certainly don't have the talent in-house right now.

As is, Mauer and Morneau can't be relied on to play full seasons, and if that's the case, Josh Willingham is their best player.  I trust the organization to figure it out over the next 2 or 3 years, but this team is doomed to, at best, a 4th place finish in their division without some massive improvements.

Projection: 72-90, 5th in the AL Central

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Mastro DFA'ed, Francisco Official

The Jays have DFA'ed Darin "Don't call me Joey Jeremiah" Mastroianni to make room on the 40-man roster for Francisco Cordero, whose 1 year, $4.5MM deal became official today when he didn't fail a physical, sadly.  Seriously, Cordero is just going to be Jon Rauch all over again.  Gladly, Farrell said that he's "learned from his mistakes" when it comes to managing the bullpen, so maybe it won't be so bad.

In other news, we have a Q&A session with Travis d'Arnaud on milb.com.

We also have a mailbag with Jays beat writer Gregor Chisolm.  Questions range from "retarded" (Duh, who's the closer?) to "who gives a shit?" (Where's Shawn Camp signing?)

There was a Fangraphs "After Dark" chat last night, with a couple of Jays tidbits, and since this is a slow news day (again), I may as well:

Comment From Blue Bomb
What do you think of Henderson Alvarez and Josh Collmenter?
Paul Swydan: I like Henderson Alvarez a lot. Collmenter, not so much. The first slump he goes through could be his last as a starter, as Skaggs and Bauer and others (Miley?) may be knocking down the door soon enough.
Chris Cwik: I like them about the same. Collmenter seems to get by a bit more on deception. I'd like to see Alvarez strike out more guys in the majors, though.
Jeff Zimmerman: Alvarez K's just too much [note: ?] and not sure he will get it together
Collmenter is OK
Comment From Ken
If the Reds are out of it at the break next year (unlikely) don't they have to trade Votto? I don't see any way they can afford to extend him in light of the last few FA deals for 1st basemen.
Paul Swydan: I don't see them being out at the break, though.
Jeff Zimmerman: It depends on what they can get. I may be best for them to get the pick(s)
Chris Cwik: They would probably have to entertain it, because it doesn't look like they can sign him. You know, if they are out of it somehow. I'm not going to copout like Paul. 
Comment From Mike 
I read both Dan's and Howard's articles today, your thoughts on Snider vs. Thames?
Paul Swydan: I would prefer to see Snider get all the PT.
Chris Cwik: You didn't read mine, but you expect me to answer?
Jeff Zimmerman: Thames is the better all around player
Chris Cwik: I'll do it anyway, because I'm nice. I like Snider.
 Comment From McNulty 
Broken prospect trade...Brian Matusz for Travis Snider. Who hangs up?
Paul Swydan: I would think the Blue Jays.
Chris Cwik: Toronto...I'm concerned Matusz could be hurt. Last season was a disaster.
Jeff Zimmerman: Neither, they both need a new setting.
Comment From plasmaj 12 team keeper league ( keep any 4 players, no limits ). For 4th keeper (first 3 are Halladay, C Lee, and CarGo), , Andrus, Lawrie or B Phillips?
Paul Swydan: Lawrie. Andrus second. Phillips third.
Chris Cwik: I would keep Lawrie.
Paul Swydan: If your league counts defense, I might be tempted to keep Andrus.
Jeff Zimmerman: Take a chance on Lawrie
Jeff Zimmerman: lawrie is more of an unknown, but higher upside
Comment From McEwen Ricky Romero improved performance or regression?
Paul Swydan: I will take regression. But I still like Romero.
Jeff Zimmerman: some regression, but there is some good things to like about him.
 So there you have it.  That's how we turn one piece of news and 3 little blurbs of nothingness in to a whole post!