Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Scouting the 2015 Draft: Kyler Murray

Kyler Murray is a two sport star from Texas playing SS in baseball and QB in football.  He is committed to play both at Texas A&M where his father, Kevin Murray, played QB.  Oh, and he is also the nephew of former Giants OF Calvin Murray.  Murray stands just 5'11", 180 lbs.  He is very fast.  According to the PG scouting report, his bat can "catch up to fastballs."  In spite of being one of the premiere QB recruits in the country, some have wondered if Murray might be wise to choose baseball as a career due to his size limitations for football.  The new draft slot rules make it more difficult for two-sport stars like Murray to leverage their options into bigger bonuses.  For that reason alone, he might be a tough sign unless he is a top 5 pick or so.  BA has him ranked #29 in the 2015 draft while Kiley McDaniel has him at #39 with a comment that he may move up into the top half of the first round after scouts get an chance to see him in in HS season.  Up to now, Murray has shown little interest in baseball and played in just one showcase event.  The Giants in recent years have stayed far away from two sport athletes, probably because they don't want to have to deal with the leverage the player has in bonus negotiations.

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #34 Jesus Galindo

Jesus Galindo, OF.  DOB:  8/23/1990.  B-S, T-R.  5'11", 175 lbs.

2014 High A:  .268/.334/.379, 2 HR, 31 SB, 7.0 BB%, 19.6 K%, 445 PA.

Jesus Galindo is a classic speed/slap/CF type international prospect.  His hit tool has always been his weak link.  His walk rate, which was really good at lower levels has slipped with each promotion.  My guess is the Giants have encouraged him to be more aggressive at the plate to try to get better pitches to hit.  His one big plus tool is his speed.  For that, I believe he will continue to get his opportunities despite getting a bit long in the tooth for his level of play.  He should move up to AA in 2015 although the Richmond OF might be crowded with Williamson, Carbonell and Horan also competing for playing time and I don't see Galindo bumping any of those 3 to the bench.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Fantasy Focus: Third Base Rankings

Here are the 3B rankings by Steamer PROJECTED SLG% for 2015:

1.  Miguel Cabrera- .484 648 PA
2.  Kris Bryant- .496, 473 PA
3.  Adrian Beltre- .484, 634 PA
4.  Josh Donaldson- .470, 632 PA
5.  Pablo Sandoval- .464, 597 PA
6.  Nolan Arenado- .461, 616 PA
7.  Anthony Rendon- .454, 644 PA
8.  Ryan Zimmerman- .449, 508 PA
9.  Pedro Alvarez- .448, 562 PA
10. Evan Longoria- .446, 641 PA
11. Manny Machado- .436, 609 PA
12. Kyle Seager- .433, 630 PA
13. Todd Frazier- .432, 575 PA
14. David Wright- .432, 576 PA
15. Aramis Ramirez- .431, 527 PA
16. Brett Lawrie- .427, 548 PA
17. Lonnie Chisenhall- .426, 357 PA
18. Josh Harrison- .421, 612 PA
19. Mike Moustakas- .415, 527 PA
20. Chase Headley- .412, 596 PA
21. Alex Castellanos- .408, 531 PA.


Cabrera played 10 games at 3B last year so maintains 3B eligibility in a lot of leagues.

Ryan Zimmerman and Pedro Alvarez move to 1B, but retain 3B eligibility for 2015 in most leagues.

Rendon maintains 2B eligibility which is where most fantasy teams will roster him.

Most analysts expect the Cubs to keep Kris Bryant on the farm until May or June to get an extra year of  contract control.  I would not pay a premium for him, but if you can nab him late in the draft or for under $10 in an auction, he would be a nice bench stash to start the season.  He is, of course, long gone in keeper leagues.

Wow!  Steamer must really think Fenway Park is going to goose Sandoval's stat line!  He has not come close to a .464 SLG% in 3 seasons.

I really like Nolan Arenado to have a breakout season.

So many people think Kyle Seager is undervalued, he is now overvalued.  He will likely be much higher than the 12'th 3B drafted.

Josh Harrison gave elite BA last year but with an insane .353 BABIP.  Expect a regression and he does not give you elite power.  Double digit SB's from 3B are nice, though.

Todd Frazier put up a 20/20 season last year. Steamer thinks he'll hit 20 again, but regress in SB's.

Can Manny Machado finally stay in one piece and have the breakout season everyone thinks he can?  Steamer does not think so, but .436 SLG% is solid.

Kind of jarring to see David Wright down at #14.  They are moving the fences in at Citi Field once again.  Will that be enough to revive his career?

Overall, 3B looks deeper this year.  Other than Cabrera, I would not pay a premium price for the position.  If you believe Steamer, Sandoval could be a steal moving to Fenway.

I really like Arenado!

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #33 Erick Cordier

Erik Cordier, RHP.  DOB:  2/25/1986.  6'4", 230 lbs.

2014 AAA:  4-3, 3.59, 52.2 IP, 5.30 BB/9, 11.62 K/9, 3 Saves.
2014 MLB:  0-0, 1.50, 6 IP, 3.00 BB/9, 13.50 K/9.

Erik Cordier was originally drafted by the KC Royals in 2004.  He kicked around the minor leagues with the Royals, Braves and Pirates while at various times battling knee and elbow injuries and wildness.  Like Hunter Strickland, he actually started his pro career as a soft-tossing command/control pitcher.  His velocity picked up into the mid-90's while still with KC and then jumped to high-90's/triple digits when he was finally moved to the bullpen by the Pirates.  The Giants signed him as a minor league FA before the 2014 season and he pitched well for AAA Fresno, albeit with some continued wildness.  That earned him a September callup and he immediately raised eyebrows by repeatedly hitting triple digits in his MLB debut.  It kind of came down to Cordier vs Strickland for the last bullpen spot on the postseason roster.  Bochy chose Strickland, probably because of better command.

Prior to the Vogelsong signing, Cordier seemed to be in the mix for the final bullpen slot out of spring training in 2015.  Barring injury, he will likely go back to AAA and wait for an opportunity.  Pitching with triple digit velocity will get you noticed, though.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Scouting the 2015 Draft: Alonzo Jones

If you are looking for a poor man's version of Yoan Moncada, Alonzo Jones is your guy.  Jones comes out of HS in Columbus, GA.  He has a similar build to Moncada listed variously as 5'10", 182 lbs or 5'9", 197 lbs.  I would say from his appearance in videos he is closer to the latter numbers.  He is probably the fastest man in the draft, timed electronically at 6.17 sec in the 60.  Several scouts who timed him by hand had higher numbers but he has another time of 6.37 recorded which still makes him the fastest guy in the draft.  He also has a pair of the biggest, strongest arms I've seen.  I mean, those dudes look like branches on a sequoia tree!  PG's comment is that he has "good hitting tools with power from both sides of the plate."  In one video I saw batting left-handed, he laid into one pitch and the sound off the bat was literally like a gunshot!  Right now, he is a middle infielder that most scouts think will end up at 2B, but they are also thinking his tremendous speed would be best utilized in CF.

I guess the downsides are 1.  He is already fairly heavy for his height.  2.  He is committed to Vanderbilt which always makes signing a bit dicey.  3.  As with all HS hitters, you don't know for sure if the hit-tool will develop.

All in all, though, he is the most exciting prospect I have encountered in this series since I profiled Justin Hooper early on.  BA has Jones ranked as the #28 prospect in the 2015 draft while Kiley McDaniel has him at #18.  Personally, I would be thrilled if the Giants took him in round 1.

DrB's 2015 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #32 Gary Brown

Gary Brown, OF.  DOB:  9/28/1988.  B-R, T-R.  6'1", 190 lbs.

2014 AAA:  .271/.329/.394, 24 2B, 6 3B, 10 HR, 36 SB, 20 CS, 6.0 BB%, 20.0 K%, 596 PA.
2014 MLB:   3 for 7, 0 BB, 0 K 7 Games.

What is that saying about an enigma wrapped in a riddle and packaged in a conundrum?  That would not be a bad description of Gary Brown's situation.  There are so many unanswered questions surrounding Gary Brown I hardly know where to start!  Here's just one.  I saw Gary Brown beat out a tapper late last season, and man, he got down to first base in a hurry!  I don't know when I've seen a guy go from home to first quicker than that.  Here's the question:  How does a guy with that kind of speed continue to get throw out stealing well over 30% of the time?  Then there are the persistent stories and rumors about disagreements with the Giants coaches, possibly all the way up to senior management.  Stories of trying different approaches at the plate only to discard them.

The most definitive article I could find on the subject was by Alex Pavlovic in the SJ Mercury News from spring training 2014.  What Alex said was that like his college coaches at CS Fullerton, the Giants coaches have tried to get Brown to be more of a slap hitter to take better advantage of his speed.  Brown responds by saying, "I'm not that guy!"  He sees himself as a gap-power hitter.  No less of a coach than Hensley Meulens responded by saying that Brown might not be a leadoff hitter with that approach.  Brown comes back insisting he has always been a leadoff hitter and thinks his approach will work there.  Meanwhile, Brian Sabean weighs in by saying he still considers Brown to be very much a prospect.

If it was clear that Brown's star dimmed judging from the location of his locker in Scottsdale last spring, it was even more obvious from the parade of players who were tried ahead of him in LF last year.  I mean, at one point Juan Perez was getting starts while hitting under .100.  Chris Dominguez got a start in LF and Gary Brown didn't.  Travis Ishikawa eventually won the starting LF job for crying out loud!  If that doesn't scream out a message to Gary Brown from the organization, then I don't know what would.

I have to admit I have mixed thoughts on all this.  Here are some of them in no particular order:

1.  I don't know that you have to be a slap hitter or have a particularly high OBP to be a leadoff hitter.  Angel Pagan is not a slap hitter nor does he have a particularly high OBP, yet the Giants are clearly a better team when he is leading off(although that remains to be seen with Nori Aoki on the team).  On the other hand, at this point, Gary Brown would be smart to say he is happy to bat anywhere the Giants want him to bat!

2.  I think it is quite possible that the Giants have changed more than Gary Brown since he was drafted.  The Giants have not always appeared to value OBP and contact even at the top of the lineup.  They certainly seem to now, but I believe they probably knew exactly what they were getting when they drafted him in the first round in 2010 and didn't care.

3.  Whatever message the Giants are sending Gary Brown, it seems quite clear he is not listening.  He also does not seem to be a guy who responds well to negative feedback.  My suggestion at this point is let Gary Brown be Gary Brown.  At age 26, it is unlikely that a major change in his approach is going to succeed anyway.  Encourage him to be the best he can be at whoever and whatever Gary Brown is.  The next time a need arises in the OF in SF, go ahead and give him a try.  It can't be any more of a longshot than Chris Dominguez or Travis Ishikawa!  If  the organization is not willing to take that approach, they should try to find another organization who will trade for him, even if it is for a low level prospect.  The number of MLB organizations who still value someone with Gary Brown's skill set  is shrinking, so there might not be many takers, but Baltimore and the Chicago White Sox have shown interest in these types of players in the recent past(I am thinking in particular of Baltimore giving Francisco Peguero a look-see).  KC is another organization that might be a fit.

For now, it looks like Brown will be back in AAA doing what Gary Brown does and there is not a clear path out of that box.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

RIP Ernie Banks

Ernie Banks was part of the vanguard of young African-American baseball players who revolutionized Major League Baseball in the 1950's after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 followed by several Negro League veterans.  The "new wave" started with Willie Mays in 1951 and was quickly followed by Hank Aaron and Banks followed later by players like Frank Robinson, Bob Gibson, Willie Stargell, Joe Morgan, Maury Wills and Lou Brock.  Players who dominated baseball headlines of the 1950's and 1960's and into the 1970's.  The National League embraced African American players first and the AL was amazingly slow to follow which led to two nearly two decades of dominance for the NL as the league that played the superior, more exciting brand of baseball.

Ernie Banks was unique in that he was really the first power hitting shortstop in baseball.  He broke in with the Cubs as their first African-American player in 1953 and quickly established himself as one of the most valuable players in baseball routinely hitting 40+ HR's per season while playing a premium defensive position.  Advanced defensive metrics were not recorded back then, but according to Fangraphs, he regularly put up WAR's ranging from 7-10 during his peak seasons in the mid-1950's.  Banks moved over to first base in 1963.  I did not become aware of baseball until I was 10 years old in 1966.  I always thought of Banks as a first baseman.  By that time, the first base position was dominated by Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda, so I was not as impressed by Banks as I probably should have been.  As I got older and started reading more about the history of baseball, I was surprised to learn that Banks had been a shortstop and thinking to myself how special that must have been to see.

In addition to his on-field performance, Ernie Banks had an irrepressible, optimistic personality that influenced those around him in a positive way.  There were no dog days for Ernie Banks.  He would come to the ballpark, look around and say "let's play two!"  It became his signature slogan, as recognizable as Yogi Berra's "it ain't over, 'til it's over!"  One thing I did not know about Ernie Banks before I started reading his obituaries was that he ran for city council in Chicago in 1963 while still very much a star player for the Cubs.  His campaign slogan was "City Hall needs a slugger!"  He lost the election, but that did not stop him from loving the Cubs and the City of Chicago.  He would remain an ambassador for the Cubs, Chicago and Major League Baseball to the day he died.  Banks was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in 1977, 6 years after he retired.  In 2013, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

Somewhere in the Universe, if only in our mind's eye, it is a clear, sunny day, 70 degrees, and Ernie Banks is looking out on a Field of Dreams with green grass stretching as far as the eye can see saying "let's play two!"  RIP Ernie Banks.