Sunday, November 6, 2016

Current Man Crush: Trevor Oaks

It's the off season.  Time to think about what the team will look like in 2017 (and beyond).  That means looking at prospects.

MLB Pipeline has their Team Top 30 lists up.  Including their Top 30 by team lists.  Of course, I was most interested in the Dodgers' Top 30.

The usual names are there: Jose DeLeon, Cody Bellinger, Alex Verdugo, Willie Calhoun, Yadier Alvarez, etc...  One of the most interesting names for me was the 30th one on the list - Trevor Oaks.

I started becoming aware of Oaks last season as he started at Rancho Cucamonga and ended the season in Oklahoma City.  All told, he was 14 - 3 with a 2.74 ERA, 3.37 FIP, 18% K rate and 3.5% walk rate.   Solid numbers that were pretty consistent between levels.

He's not a huge prospect because he doesn't have the two tools that make scouts drool; speed and strikeouts.  Per MLB Pipeline's scouting report -
Oaks lived off a sinker that sat around 90 mph in college and has ticked up to 92-93 mph in pro ball, now topping out at 96. His fastball plays better than its average velocity thanks to its heavy life. He has feel for a changeup that can become at least an average No. 2 pitch, and he also can mix in a slider and a cutter that sometimes blend together.Oaks pounds the bottom of the strike zone, and though he doesn't miss a lot of bats, he has what it takes to be an efficient workhorse starter." 
What the scouting report alludes to but doesn't mention is his ability to get ground balls.  Batted ball data in the minors isn't easy to come by, but he did have a 2.44 ground out to air out rate.  That's fantastic.  For reference, Marcus Stroman lead the majors (qualified starters) in 2016 with a 2.40 rate (Orioles reliever Zach Britton was an otherworldly 7.86).

I've always had a thing for ground ball pitchers, so started to get more intrigued and wondered how he might perform in 2017.

The first thing to do in that situation is look at projections

Steamer projections have Oaks projected for a 5.6% BB rate and a 15.8% K rate in the upcoming season.  I looked at starters over the last 3 seasons who
--had a K rate between 12 and 15 percent
--had a BB rate between 4 and 7 percent
--had a GB rate above 45%

There weren't many of them, just 12.  The list included names like: Tim Hudson, Doug Fister, Bronson Arroyo and a guy Dodger fans might have heard of - Zach Lee.  Not exactly world beaters, but guys who were useful members of major league rotations (and some other guys).

These guys combined for the following:
6% BB rate, 14.3% K rate, 51.9% GB rate, 4.11 ERA, 4.25 FIP, 4.09 xFIP, 4.21 SIERA
and 1.3 WAR and 1.4 RA-9 WAR per 180 innings.

That's something like what an average #4 or #5 starter would be expected to produce.  That's not bad.  It's also probably more Oaks' ceiling than an expectation.

There's a better chance he ends up in the bullpen.  He might be useful for the Dodgers there.  We expect Oaks to have a high GB rate, and the Dodgers don't have a guy like that in their pen.  The Dodgers' bullpen had a cumulative 41.1% GB rate last year - that was 28th out of the 30 teams. The leader (out of guys who pitched at least 10 innings) was JP Howell (59%).  He's gone.  Up next was, interestingly, Ross Stripling at 58.8%.  But Stripling had just a 49% GB rate as a starter so I'm skeptical about his 24 inning relief sample.  The highest GB rate of any reliever who's probably going to be a reliever next year was Pedro Baez at 43%.  So, the infield worms can feel pretty safe when a Dodger reliever enters the game.

Trevor Oaks might not crack the Dodgers' starting rotation in 2017 - the Oklahoma City Dodgers' rotation - due to the depth of the Dodger organization's pitching staff.  So it might be ridiculous for me to suggest he's a major league quality starting pitcher - but, he might be.  A more realistic route to the majors might be as a multi-inning ground ball machine.  Here's hoping. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

My 2014 Trade Deadline Top 20 Dodger Minor League Players

Well, the 2014 non-waiver MLB trade deadline has come and gone and the Dodgers didn't trade away any of their minor league players (NOTE: I try to avoid the word 'prospect' because prospects are baseball players - not the magic beans that some people seem to think they are.  A good minor league player IS a good baseball player).  So, it's a good time to do my first ever prospect ranking.

My list is based on: other people's rankings, scouting reports and statistics.  One thing my list does that might be different than some other lists is rely heavily on both ceiling and floor.  A high-ceiling 18-year-old 2014 draft pick who's tearing up rookie ball might not rank as highly on this list as a 24-year-old guy in AAA who's not a star but can contribute to the major league team.  Contributing to the major league team is what it's all about, right?

Without further ado.

TIER ONE - Future All-Stars
1) CF Joc Pederson AAA 22 years old
2) SS/3B Corey Seager AA/A+ 20 years old

These two guys have, if not 'it all', a heck of a lot of it.

Joc Pederson is probably the Dodgers' 3rd or 4th best OFer but he's stuck in the minors.  He's an adequate defensive OFer with power and speed.  The strikeout rate is a concern but he's got a lot of other skills.  He's almost certainly a major league caliber player.  Prior to the season ZiPS, Steamer and Oliver combined to project Pederson for 2.5 WAR/600 PAs.  He's done nothing in Albuquerque to think that would have decreased.

See Joc Catch
See Joc Hit

Corey Seager is similar.  He destroyed High-A pitching.  Hitting 66% (per wRC+) better than the league average hitter.  He's doing the same at AA.  There are some concerns - mostly that he's striking out 15 times as often as he's walking (15:1).  But when he's hitting the ball he's destroying it.  He started slowly in A+ as well and he figured that out.  His pre-season projections had him at 2.0 WAR per 600 PAs.  That's almost certainly higher now.  Whether Seager becomes a SS or a 3B at the major league level will effect his overall value to his team, but at either position he looks to be a major league quality player.

TIER TWO - Oh man, please let this guy reach his potential
3) LHP Julio Urias A+ 17 years old

Only one guy in this tier.

The 17-year-old Julio Urias.  He's not dominating - but he's definitely more than holding his own so fill in your own adjective phrase - guys who are, on average, 6 years older than him.  He has the 7th highest K% in the league and the 19th highest K%-BB%.  He's good.  And he's knocking on the door that leads to the door to the major leagues.  Not impossible that he'll see the majors next year.  More likely 2016.  He has a chance to be something special, but he's a step below Pederson and Seager (on this list) because he's a pitcher and pitchers are more volatile than non-pitchers and because he's a bit farther from the majors than they are.  He could be Clayton Kershaw, but he could still be Todd Van Popple.  I'm hoping for the former.

Urias with the K

TIER THREE - Ready to contribute to the big club  
4) IF Alexander Guerrero AAA 27 years old
5) IF Erisbel Arruebarrena AAA/AA 24 years old

Not your typical minor league players these two international free agents are ready to make an impact.

Alexander Guerrero was expected to compete for the starting 2B job in LA this season.  Lots of stuff (defensive questions, a gnawed off ear, Dee Gordon All-Star) kept that from happening but Guerrero looks like a major leaguer.  He's destroyed opposing AAA pitching (57% better than league average).  He's got the bat for the majors, the glove is a question, but the team is looking at him as a utility infielder and he's even played some outfield.  His minor league performance has been good enough that projections systems see him as a 2.0 WAR/600 player right now.

Erisbel Arruebarrena is a notch or two below Guerrero but there's little doubt that he's capable of playing at the major league level - at least defensively.  Arruebarrena is an amazingly smooth defender at SS.  But can he hit?  He's been terrible so far, striking out about 27% of the time between AA and AAA and 35% of the time in a brief major league stint.  Even so, his glove is so good that he can provide value to a major league team.  Heard of Brendan Ryan?  Ryan might be more Arruebarrena's ceiling than floor but that's ok.  Projections have him at replacement level for the rest of the season - but that's with league average defense.  He's better than that.

Erisbel's Defense

TIER FOUR - Pitchers that can probably contribute 

6) RHP Zach Lee AAA 22 years old
7) LHP Chris Reed AA 24 years old
8) RHP Yimi Garcia AAA 23 years old

Three pitchers who haven't yet gotten the chance, but can probably pitch in the majors.

Zach Lee was the Dodgers' #1 minor league player in 2012.  But he's been surpassed not because he's really gotten worse, but because he's stayed the same while others have gotten better.  The shine's off of him but I still believe.   Lee's come a long a little bit slowly but he was good in AA two years (3.83 FIP) ago and very good in AA (3.08 FIP) last year.  He's been bad in AAA this year (5.26 FIP).  Two good years at AA trumps one bad one in the PCL in Albuquerque where breaking balls don't break and fly balls don't come down.  He needs to be better next year, but no reason to give up on Lee yet.

Chris Reed is going the other way.  In 2012 he was a top Dodger minor leaguer.  Then he struggled in half a season of AA in 2012.  His 2013 and 2014 (also at AA) have shown improvements - notably in strikeout and walk rates (and the ambiguous 'command' if that's more your style).  There's some noise around Reed replacing the struggling Haren in the Dodgers' rotation.  I don't think that'll happen but that it's being talked about is a sign that Reed should see the majors some time in his career.

Yimi Garcia is a reliever who's having a good, not great, season in AAA.  He's in the top 25 in K% in the PCL.  Top 20 in K%-BB% and top 50 in FIP.  He's not a star, but he's better than Chris Perez and deserves a shot in a major league bullpen.

TIER FIVE - Non-pitchers with a shot 

9) IF Darnell Sweeney AA 23 years old
10) OF Scott Schebler AA 23 years old
11) IF Jesmuel Valentin A 20 years old

These three guys aren't as sure of bets as Pederson, Seager and Guerrero, but there are some good signs.

Darnell Sweeney has been working his way up Dodger minor league player lists for the last few seasons.  He's going to move up big time next year.  He's having a breakout offensive campaign (45% better than league average) due to a huge improvement in BB and K rates despite moving up a level.  A move off of SS has hidden his defensive issues.

Scott Schebler started moving up those same lists last season - getting a handle on one's K rate while improving one's power will do that.  Two consecutive seasons of doing so will get one noticed.  The Dodgers' OF is pretty crowded but there could be room for him on someone's 25 man roster soon.

Jesmuel Valentin has been a moderately revered Dodger minor leaguer for a while.  He struggled in A-ball in half a season last year (20% worse than average offense) but has handled it this season (18% above average).  He's young, and further away than Schebler and Sweeney but has the pedigree (1st round pick in 2012) and has done nothing to lose value.

This is the first tier where I'd want to start making trades from.  I mean, I'd trade Joc Pederson for Mike Trout in a second but not for a whole lot less than that - it'd have to be a long-term impact player.  The guys in this tear are questionable enough to reach the majors that they could be used for short term rotation or bullpen upgrades.  Schebler's way is blocked, Sweeney and Valentin have Gordon, Guerrero, Arrurebarrena in front of them as well.

TIER SIX - Young pitchers that are far, far away 

12) RHP Chris Anderson A+ 22 years old
13) RHP Grant Holmes R 18 years old
14) LHP Tom Windle A+ 22 years old

These are three good pitchers who are just to far away to be anything like sure things to contribute at the major league level.  Anderson and Windle were the Dodgers' first and second round picks last season.  Both pitched very well at single A (Anderson 2.79 FIP, Windle 3.15 FIP) but have struggled this year in High-A (Anderson 4.78, Windle 4.33).  Homes is this year's first round pick.  So far, so good in rookie ball...

TIER SEVEN - Pitchers who might be good enough

15) RHP Carlos Frias AAA/AA 24 years old
16) RHP Victor Arano A 19 years old

Neither Frias nor Arano looks like they'll be stars, but they could pitch in the bigs.  Frias took a while to work his way out of the low minors, but he's improved from the low minors to AA and again from AA to AAA.  He doesn't get a ton of K's (16% this season) but he doesn't walk anyone either (5%).  He doesn't have the groundball rate (below 50%) to succeed with that low K rate but if things break right he could get some innings in the majors.  And if his improvement continues...
Frias is only in A-ball but he's maintained a 22% K-rate and 5% BB-rate there and in rookie ball.  If he can keep that up...

TIER EIGHT - Hoping for a full recovery

17) RHP Ross Stripling AA/DL 24 years old
18) RHP Onelki Garcia AAA/DL 25 years old

Both Stripling and Garcia were making waves in 2013 before injuries.  Stripling blew through High-A with a 3.12 FIP and was even better in AA with a 2.31 FIP in 94 innings.  Tommy John surgery will keep him out until 2015 at least.  If he comes back anywhere near where he left off he'll be much higher on this list.  Garcia is similar.  He pitched in 4 levels in 2013 including the major leagues.  He struggled in the majors (walking 4 of the 9 hitters he faced) but if he can come back he'll get another shot

TIER NINE - Rookie Ballers

19) OF Alex Verdugo R 18 years old
20) C Julian Leon R 18 years old

Verdugo was the Dodgers' 2nd round pick in 2014.  Leon was an international free agent signed out of Mexico last year.  Both guys have hit well in their respective leagues.  Both guys are huge long shots to ever sniff the majors.

TIER TEN - No longer minor leaguers, really.

P Jose Dominguez AAA 23 years old 
P Matt Magill AAA 24 years old
P Chris Withrow AAA/DL 25 years old

Each of these guys appeared on some prospect list I looked at but I can't really consider them minor leaguers as each has spent some time with the big club.

Dominguez is a flame thrower who smoked the minors last year, striking out 40% of hitters.  He's closer to 25% this season.  In 14 major league innings he has a 4.86  FIP.

Magill was excellent in 2012 in AA (2.87 FIP).  He was ok in AAA (4.06 FIP) and struggled in 6 big league starts (7.13 FIP).  His struggles have continued in 2014 (5.16 FIP in AAA) and he has been moved to the bullpen.

Withrow was a big part of the 2013 Dodger bullpen pitching 34 innings with a 3.57 FIP.  He lost his spot when LA signed every former closer for 2013 but still got up for 20 innings.  Unfortunately, he walked 20% of the hitters he faced before succumbing to elbow issues.

So, that's my list.  I wonder how ridiculous it'll look in 6 years?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sam Demel: Starting pitcher

Sam Demel, who began the year as the Isotopes closer, has been starting recently.

This is somewhat interesting.
Stephen Fife is on the DL
Magill has been moved to the bullpen
These were the two guys most likely to be called up to the majors to make starts.

Red Patterson got an emergency start earlier in the year.
Lee has looked like a work in progress.
Is Demel next in line for major league starts should the need arise?

He's pitched 63 major league innings, as a reliever, with the Diamondbacks in 2010-2012.  He was a starter all through is minor league career.  His two starts with Albuquerque over the last week were his first two professional starts.

As a reliever this season, Demel faced 89 hitters.  He walked 7.9% of them while striking out 27.0%

In his two starts he's faced just 34 hitters.  He walked 11.8% of those hitters and struck out 14.7%.

No particularly impressive, but it'll be something to keep an eye on.

Monday, December 23, 2013

What is an Ace? 2013

After the 2011 season I asked, and attempted to answer, the question, "what is an ace"?

It's time to do that again.

Ok.  While Kershaw is the aciest of aces right now, that's not really the answer that we're looking for.

What I did was to take the average of every starter's fWAR and RA-9 WAR.  Then I used that number to group pitchers into groups of (roughly) 30 - 30 aces, 30 number 2's, etc.  Then, I looked at the average performance of the pitchers in each group.

Here's what I found:
*click to embiggen

There's a couple of interesting things to note.

One is that the best 30 pitchers in baseball are, far and away, the best group.  They strike out the most hitters, they walk the least hitters, they give up the least home runs, they have the lowest BABIP, they're the best.  That's not surprising when guys like the above-picture Kershaw, Cliff Lee, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Matt Harvey and Yu Darvish are in the ranks.

The second interesting thing is how similar the #3, #4 and #5 groups are in terms of performance.  Look,
#3 18.2% K, 7.2% BB, 3.85 ERA, 4.06 FIP, 4.04 xFIP, 4.13 SIERA
#4 18.7% K, 8.2% BB, 3.89 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 3.96 xFIP, 4.09 SIERA
#5 17.4% K, 6.9% BB, 4.26 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 4.02 xFIP, 4.12 SIERA

In many ways, every way other than walks really, #4 starters outperformed #3 starters.  Well, in every way except for number of starts and innings.  Number 3 starters made about 7 more starts and pitched almost 50 more innings than #4 starters.  Similarly, #5 starters were a little worse than both #3 and #4 starters but what really limited them from producing value was that they made 12 less starts and pitched half as many innings as #3 starters.

The third point is similar to the above.  Starters not in the top five accounted for more starts and more innings than the best pitchers in baseball.  That makes sense when you stop to think about it, there are more bad pitchers than elite ones, but we don't think about just how important it is for the other starters to make their starts so these guys don't have to.

As I mentioned when I first did this little exercise after the 2010 season,

Next time your team signs a pitcher with a 10 - 8 record and 3.99 ERA in 160 innings realize just what you are getting.  One of the top 100 pitchers in the league.  

The numbers are a little different now - now the average #3 is 10 - 9 with a 3.85 ERA in 158 innings - but the point remains the same; the average baseball fan vastly underrates pitcher performance.

Contract Analysis: Chris Perez (&Jamey Wright)

The Dodgers have agreed to a deal with Chris Perez.

Perez is the former Cleveland Indians closer who was also busted for ordering shipments of marijuana to come to his house under his dog's name.

When Perez was first released by the Indians I hoped the Dodgers would give him a look.  Obviously, they did.

Unfortunately, I took another look as well.

Over the last 3 seasons Perez:
K'd 20.7% of hitters, walked 8.6%, gave up line drives 21% of the time, 3.73 ERA, 4.21 FIP, 4.18 xFIP, 3.67 SIERA, 0 fWAR, 1.4 RA-9 WAR

Let's compare those numbers to the numbers of recently released Ronald Belisario:
K'd 20.1% of hitters, walked 9.7%, gave up line drives 21% of the time, 3.24 ERA, 3.36 FIP, 3.46 xFIP, 3.16 SIERA, .7 fWAR, .9 RA-9 WAR

*stats from FanGraphs

Belisario is, more than arguably, better than Perez, but the Dodgers decided to let Belisario walk away. I don't understand.

But, that's the past.  How about the future?
STEAMER and Oliver projections project:
Perez for 21.4% K's, 8.3%BB's, 4.12 FIP and -.1 WAR per 55 innings
Belisario for 19.4% K's, 10.1 BB's, 3.73 FIP and .2 WAR per 55 innings

Belisario still comes out better.

Terms of Perez' deal haven't been released, but hopefully it's nothing more than a couple of million with incentives.

Jamey Wright also signed.  I like this move better.
How do his numbers look?
Last 3 seasons:
K'd 19% of hitters, BB'd 9.4%, gave up line drives 19% of the time, 3.32 ERA, 3.60 FIP, 3.69 xFIP, 3.41 SIERA, .6 fWAR, 1.3 RA-9 WAR.

and STEAMER and Oliver projections?
18.8% K's, 9.0% BB's, 3.64 FIP, 0.9 WAR per 55 innings.

*stats from FanGraphs

He looks like the best of the bunch.

That leaves the Dodger bullpen looking something like:
Closer - Kenley Jansen 68.3 innings, 13.0 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 2.18 ERA, 2.35 FIP, 1.2 WAR
HL R - Brian Wilson 32.3 innings, 8.6 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 3.27 ERA, 3.39 FIP, 0.3 WAR
HL L - Paco Rodriguez 46.7 innings, 10.9 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 3.02 ERA, 3.10 FIP, 0.4 WAR
ML L - JP Howell 50.7 innings, 7.9 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 3.42 ERA, 3.64 FIP, 0.1 WAR
ML R - Chris Perez 55.7 innings, 8.3 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 3.88 ERA, 4.12 FIP, -0.1 WAR
LL R - Jamey Wright 42 innings, 7.3 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 3.61 ERA, 3.64 FIP, 0.1 WAR
LL R - Brandon League 61.7 innings, 6.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 3.76 ERA, 3.72 FIP, -0.1 WAR

With the following waiting in AAA
Chris Withrow - 64.3 innings, 9.5 K/9, 4.7 BB/9, 3.58 ERA, 3.81 FIP, 0.1 WAR
Jose Dominguez - 49.3 innings, 8.9 K/9, 5.3 BB/9, 4.15 ERA, 4.15 FIP -0.1 WAR
Onelki Garcia 47.7 innings, 8.0 K/9, 5.6 BB/9, 4.37 ERA, 4.53 FIP, -0.4 WAR
Scott Elbert - 24.3 innings, 8.5 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 3.52 ERA, 3.84 FIP, 0.0 WAR
Javy Guerra - 55.3 innings, 7.3 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 3.98 ERA, 3.95 FIP, -0.2 WAR

*Combined projections from STEAMER, Oliver, and ZiPS

These moves push Chris Withrow to AAA.
Elbert and Guerra are out of options and will need to be traded or released.
Rule V pick Seth Rosin doesn't look to have a spot and will have to be offered back to the Mets (along with $25000) or a trade will have to be worked out.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

2013 Pitcher Plus

I've taken the following stats: line drive %, ground ball %, fly ball %, infield fly ball %, home run per fly ball %, walk %, strike out %, SIERA for every player that pitched in the majors in 2013 and divided their rate by the rate for their league.  I further separated starters and relievers.

Two examples,
*click to embiggen

For Kershaw, his LD%+ of 108% means that he gave up line drives at 108% of the league rate - 8% more than the average NL starter.  His BB%+ means that he walked hitters at 66% of the rate of the average NL starter.

Kenley Jansen's SIERA indicates that his SIERA was 41% of the league average SIERA.

Here's the link to the complete spreadsheet.