Friday, September 24, 2010

Prospects in Review - Part 2 of 3 (Pitchers)

Continuing the Prospects in Review, below is a list of the pitchers that were considered the top pitchers in the Dbacks farm system before the season started by Baseball America and Keith Law. The first number in parenthesis is the Baseball America ranking, the second number is the Keith Law ranking.

Jarrod Parker (#1, #1) - age 21, AA, DNP (rehab from Tommy John surgery)
- Parker spent all year recovering from Tommy John surgery that he had done back in October of last year. All indications are that he is fully recovered and is headed towards the Florida Instructional League that begins this week with a possibility of playing in the Arizona Fall League sometime next week. If Parker struggles, I expect him to start 2011 in AA, but if he pitches well, he would like start in AAA.

Daniel Schlereth (#5, NR) - age 24, traded to Tigers
- Schlereth was traded to the Tigers in the three team trade between the Dbacks, Yankees and Tigers last offseason. Schlereth has always dominated in the minor leagues, but struggled with his short time in the majors with the Dbacks and has posted average numbers with the Tigers out of the bullpen in 2010.

Mike Belfiore (#7, #5) - age 21, low A; 126 1/3 innings pitched, 3.99 ERA, 3.18 FIP, 7.48 K/9, 2.99 BB/9, 0.43 HR/9
- Belfiore was a compensatory round pick by the Dbacks in 2009. He was used out of the bullpen in college, but there was a belief amongst scouts that he could develop into a starting pitcher, and that is the direction the Dbacks have decided to go with him. He had a successful 2010 in low A, even though his ERA seems to indicate otherwise. Belfiore's high ERA compared to his solid FIP is due to a high .348 BABIP, which should drop next year. Mike Belfiore should begin 2011 at high A, but it will be interesting how quickly he moves up based on the depth of starting pitchers the Dbacks have at the low A and high A level.

Enrique Burgos (NR, #10) - age 19, short season A; 68 innings pitched, 4.50 ERA, 4.63 FIP, 7.1 K/9, 7.1BB/9, 0.1 HR/9
- Burgos is the son of a former major leaguer with the same name that got a handful of opportunities out of the bullpen over two years with the Giants. Like his father, Burgos has been able to strike out hitters, but also walks a lot of them. He is still young, and Law ranked him amongst the top 10 in the Dbacks system not so much based on his performance to date, but based on his delivery, his stuff, his size (6'4", 200 lbs), and the weakness of the Dbacks system. Burgos should spend all of 2011 at low A, but unless he is able to improve his control, I don't see him back in amongst the top 10 prospects in the system.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Prospects in Review - Part 1 of 3 (Hitters)

Now that the minor league season is over, this the first of a three part series looking at the Dbacks minor league prospects. Below is a list of the hitters that were considered the top hitters in the Dbacks farm system before the season started by Baseball America and Keith Law. The first number in parenthesis is the Baseball America ranking, the second number is the Keith Law ranking.

Bobby Borchering (#2, #4) - age 19, 3B, low A; .270/.341/.423; .347 wOBA; 588 plate appearances
- Borchering, the Dbacks first round pick from 2009, spent all of 2010 at low A with mixed results. His .347 wOBA is solid, yet unspectacular, especially considering the comparisons to Chipper Jones when he was drafted. Borchering does draw a fair amount of walks, but his strike out totals are staggering (128 K's, translating into strike out almost 25% of his plate appearances). I am hopeful that Borchering develops more power and cuts down on his strike outs next year in high A. Nothing in his numbers so far has suggested that Borchering is more than a one level per year player and I expect he will spend all of 2011 in high A.
- Future projection - starting 3B, possible all-star

A.J. Pollock (#3, #2) - age 22, CF, high A; DNP (injury)
- Even though Pollock was considered a late first round/sandwich round prospect, the Dbacks drafted him one pick after Borchering (#17 overall) due to most scouts viewing him as a high probability, quick to the majors player. He missed all of the 2010 season with a fractured growth plate in his right elbow. The initial thought was that Pollock would only miss two months, but his rehab was a slow process and he is just now back to 100%. Pollock will be playing in the Arizona Fall League for the Scottsdale Scorpions, which begins play October 12th. I would expect Pollock to begin 2011 in high A, where he was originally supposed to begin 2010. It is difficult to project at the moment if Pollock will spend all of next season in high A or if he will be able to play his way into AA in 2011.
- Future projection - starting CF

Brandon Allen (#4, #6) - age 24, 1B/LF majors; .261/.346/.478; .360 wOBA; 26 plate appearances
                                                               AAA; .261/.405/.528; .407 wOBA; 469 plate appearances
- Allen struggled last year in his short time in the majors and spent most of this year at AAA. He was called up when major league rosters expanded September 1st and has played reasonably well. Allen is expected to either be the starting 1st basemen or left fielder for the major league club in 2011.
- Future projection - starting 1B

Chris Owings (#6, #7) - age 18, SS, low A; .294/.320/.443; .338 wOBA; 271 plate appearances
- Owings was a compensatory round pick in 2009 and has met expectations so far in his young career. he does strike out quite a bit for a player that is considered a contact hitter, but there is hope that he can improve as he is still very young. Owings had his season cut short back in early June with plantar fasciitis, but I can still see him begin 2011 in high A.
- Future projection - starting SS

Marc Krauss (#8, #8) - age 22, LF, high A; .302/.371/.509; .384 wOBA; 596 plate appearances
- Krauss is a player that strikes out a lot, but when he connects, the ball rockets off his bat (remind anybody of another Dback?). After being drafted in the 2nd round of the 2009 draft, Krauss has hit for a lot of power in both low and high A, but with a high strike out rate (26.6% K rate this year). Krauss will be playing in the AFL this year, and is expected to begin 2011 in AA. If Krauss continues to hit well while improving his strike out rate in the AFL and in AA, I can see Krauss being called up to AAA or even the majors in the 2nd half of 2011.
- Future projection - starting LF, possible all-star

Ryan Wheeler (#9, #9) - age 21, 3B, AA; .254/.315/.433; .341 wOBA; 73 plate appearances
                                                    high A; .284/.340/.404; .335 wOBA; 506 plate appearances
- Wheeler was a 5th round pick in the 2009 draft that surprised many Dbacks fans with an impressive beginning to his professional career in short season and low A in 2009. However, his performance has come back to earth, yet is still impressive for a 5th round pick. I expect Wheeler to spend all of 2011 in AA, hopefully improving his walk and strike out rates. Due to his limited upside and projection as a major leaguer, I do not expect Wheeler to appear in any Dbacks top 10 prospects lists for 2011.
- Future projection - bench player/pinch hitter

Collin Cowgill (#10, NR) - age 24, OF, AA; .285/.360/.464; .375 wOBA; 577 plate appearances
- Cowgill had a success 2010 campaign with solid all around numbers. He also improved on his strike out rate by quite a bit from 2009 (down to 14.5% from 22.3%) and looks to begin 2011 in AAA. Like Wheeler, due to his limited upside, he will not appear in any Dbacks top 10 prospects lists for 2011.
- Future projection - 4th OF

Matt Davidson (NR, #3) - age 19, 3B, High A; .169/.298/.268; .269 wOBA; 84 plate appearances
                                                            Low A; .289/.371/.504; .390 wOBA; 475 plate appearances
- I find it odd that Baseball America did not rank Matt Davidson in the Dbacks top ten while Keith Law ranked him #3. Looking at the players in the Dbacks system, I would have thought Davidson would have been at the least ahead of Wheeler considering his age his draft position (#35 overall), and his initial play in short season A last year. Davidson has met expectations so far of a compensatory round pick, even with his initial struggles in limited playing time in high A. Davidson should spend all of 2011 in high A, possibly playing 1st base while Borchering mans 3rd.
- Future projection - starting 1B, possible all-star

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Should the Dbacks keep Saunders?

On Friday night, Dave Cameron put up this tweet:

"The D'Backs will never do it, but Joe Saunders deserves to be non-tendered this winter."

This was posted shortly after Saunders got shelled for 7 runs (4 earned) over 2 1/3 innings, giving up 5 hits, walking 4, and striking out 1.

When reading Cameron's tweet, my immediate reaction was agreement as Joe Saunders has been overrated his whole career as an "innings eater" and fans that viewed him as being a good pitcher generally looked at his win/loss record from 2008 and 2009 to justify their viewpoint. However, should the Dbacks tender Joe Saunders for 2011? I want to look at this from the "statheads", the Dbacks front office, and the fans perspective.

Considering that his salary for this year is $3.75mil and how he's pitched this year, he could be due about $5mil in his 2nd year of arbitration eligibility.

According to FanGraphs, Saunders' WAR (Wins Above Replacement) each year and his value has been since he joined the rotation full-time:

2008 - 2.8, $12.6mil
2009 - 1.2, $5.4mil
2010 - 1.1, $4.2mil

Looking at Saunders' career, it seems like he was a good pitcher in 2008 and average in 2009 and 2010. However, a large part of his performance in 2008 was luck based as his BABIP was a low .267. In 2009 and 2010, Saunders' BABIP were more in line with his career average of .295 (.290 in 2009 and .306 in 2010). So looking at his home run, walk, and strike out rates from 2008 (his first full year in the rotation) to 2010, he has performed like a below average major league starter. However, even below average major league starter's have value as a pitcher that performs above a 1.0 WAR has a value of between $3.8 to $4.50mil in any given year. It would be reasonable to assume that given Joe Saunders track record, that he will perform at the level of a $5mil pitcher from a value sense.

However, if the Dbacks do not retain Saunders, could they use that $5mil towards signing another free agent starting pitcher? Looking at the crop of free agent pitchers, there are a few interesting names such as Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly, Carl Pavano, Brad Penny, and Jake Westbrook (I've left out Cliff Lee for obvious reasons). However, those pitchers will probably command more money and years than the Dbacks would be willing to commit.

Something else to consider is if the Dbacks front office were to decide to non-tender Saunders, they would look badly in the eyes of the fan base and the media for in essence releasing a player that was a major component in the Dan Haren deal. For people that follow prospects and minor league baseball such as myself, Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs are definitely the more exciting and interesting names in the deal. However, the media and fans view Joe Saunders as the main player in this deal and I believe there would be a major backlash if Saunders were not retained for next year. This would indicate to the fan base that the Dbacks are indeed rebuilding instead of trying to contend next year, which would lead to even further diminished interest in the team.

In my view, even though I am not much of a fan of Joe Saunders, but considering that the Haren trade is still fresh in the minds of the fan base, it would be a big blow to public perception if the Dbacks decided not to retain Saunders. Factoring that in, as well as the likelihood that Saunders will perform at the level of $5mil pitcher based on past performance, the Dbacks should retain Saunders for 2011.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hudson Continues to Shine

Last night saw the 8th quality start in a row by Daniel Hudson since joining the Dbacks in the Edwin Jackson trade. To say he's exceeded expectations would be an understatement as he hasn't allowed more than two runs in any of his starts while pitching 7 innings or more in 7 starts, and 6 innings in the other. Should Dbacks fans continue to expect great things from Hudson?

Daniel Hudson was a 5th round pick in the 2008 draft out of Old Dominion, and may have gone that low due to a so-so final year at Old Dominion. Hudson had a high 4.70 ERA along with 15 home runs given up in only 92 innings. However, he also did have a reasonable walk rate (2.8BB/9IP) along with a good strike out rate (10.5K/9IP).

After being drafted by the White Sox, he had a very interesting 2009 season that saw him start off in Low A and move through every level of the minors, culminating in a September call-up with the big club. Hudson had some success pitching out of the bullpen as well as starting two games, but with the depth of the White Sox rotation, he started 2010 back in Triple A. Hudson continued to have success in 2010 in Triple A, with a 3.47 ERA and an excellent strike out rate (10.4K/9IP), along with a moderate walk rate (3.0BB/9IP).

When Jake Peavy went down, Hudson was called up to the big club again, but struggled his second time up. In the three games he started for the White Sox, Hudson's ERA was 6.32, which was partly due to a high BABIP and partly due to a very high walk rate (6.32BB/9IP).

Now, there seem to be differing views on Hudson as a pitcher and where his true talent level is. Keith Law wrote after the Edwin Jackson trade that he could see Daniel Hudson developing into a solid #4 pitcher while John Sickels gives Hudson a B+ rating. With his recent success, I'm sure Dbacks fans have hopes that Hudson meets Sickel's expectations more than Law's

I'm not too familiar with the scouting aspect of pitchers, but when I look at the numbers, there are more positives I see that lead me to believe that he can and will be a solid #3 starter with the upside of a decent #2. When he was drafted, scouts had Daniel Hudson's pitching repertoire as having a low 90's fastball, above average change-up, and a fringe/developing slider. According to pitch f/x, Hudson's average fastball this year is 92.6mph, topping out at 94.7mph. That may not seem all that impressive, but what I find encouraging is improvement in the strength and stamina of his fastball. According to this scouting report from last year:
Hudson's fastball sat between 90-93 in the first 3 innings, but fell to 89-90 for the final 4 frames. According to Pitch f/x, Hudson's fastball now sits mostly between 92-94. His stamina has improved as well as in last nights game, it averaged 93 in the 7th inning while topping out at 93.6. He also threw his slider more often than usual in last nights game, resulting in a few swinging strikes, which he lacked in previous games.

Hudson has shown with his ability to strike out major leaguers (8.1K/9IP), while limiting walks (1.7BB/9IP), using a solid fastball and above average changeup. Hopefully we'll see his slider improve, as most major league starters are not able to get by with just two pitches unless they are of plus quality (ie. Randy Johnson and his fastball/slider combo). I look forward to watching Hudson develop into an effective #2 starter based on his improved strength and stamina, the further development of his slider, and his relatively young age.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Real Enright

Last night was the first time in Barry Enright's short, but solid, major league career where the pitcher allowed more than 3 runs in a single game. To the surprise and thrill of Dbacks fans everywhere, Enright had started off his major league career with a 2.45 ERA in his first 12 starts, going 6-2 and averaging over 6 innings per start. However, that came tumbling down with last nights start as he allowed 6 runs on 9 hits over 6 innings. Enright also allowed 3 home runs and struck out only 1 batter. Now one might consider this a fluky start and Enright will go back to pitching brilliantly as he's done since his call up June 30th. However, what do the numbers tell us?

First, a little history on Mr. Enright. Barry Enright was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2007 MLB draft, number 73 overall. However, he was not highly regarded amongst scouts as his fastball sits in the high 80's with just average secondary pitches. Even though he had an impressive 1.99 ERA his last year at Pepperdine, his strike out rate was an unimpressive 6.2K/9IP. I believe one of the reasons he was drafted by the Diamondbacks this high was due to Josh Byrnes' bias towards projectable college players. Scouts viewed Enright with a ceiling as a #5 starter, but most likely a bullpen arm.

Enright started his first full year as a pro in 2007 in High A, Visalia in the hitter friendly Cal league and had success with 7.8K/9IP, 1.9BB/9IP, and 0.9HR/9IP rates. However, he also had a high 4.44 ERA, but was still understandable promoted since his high ERA was a result of a high .344 BABIP (batting average on balls in play).

Enright's second year brought with positives as well as challenges in Double A, Mobile. He was still stingy with the walks and home runs (2.1BB/9IP and 0.9HR/9IP), but his strike out rate dropped to 5.9K/9IP. However, his ERA also dropped to a more respectable 3.98, partly due to his BABIP going down to a more reasonable level at .315.

Enright was assigned back to Double A once again where he improved his strike out rate to 8.0K/9IP while reducing his already stingy walk rate to 1.4BB/9IP and maintaining his home run rate at 0.9HR/9IP. He also had a solid 2.88 ERA that looked legitimate as his BABIP was .284.

Barry Enright was called up to "The Show" to start against the St Louis Cardinals on June 30th in place of the failed Willis experiment. I was shocked, as I'm sure were many Dbacks fans, to see Enright deliver a strong performance against a lineup with the likes of Pujols, Holliday, and Rasmus! Enright's line included 5 innings, 4 hits, 1 earned run, 4 walks, and 5 strike outs. Enright continued to thrill Dbacks fans everywhere over the next 2 months, but is this something that we can continue to count on from Big Red? The numbers say, "not likely".

Even with last nights poor performance, Enright's season ERA sits at 2.95. This is mostly a result, however, of an unsustainable .259 BABIP. Even though Enright continues to be stingy with the walks (his 2.5BB/9IP would rank in the top 20 amongst NL starters), his strike out rate would be among the 5 worst in the NL if he pitched enough innings to qualify. In fact, his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is currently 4.68, which would be what one would expect from a #5 starter.

Enright is still reasonably young, this being his age 24 year, and hopefully he can develop an out pitch that can take his strike out rate above 6. For now, though, he looks to be a #5 starter with an upside of a #4.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


This is my first attempt at blogging, and what better topic than my beloved Dbacks!

A little biographical fan history. My love of the game did not begin with the usual introduction of the sport from my dad. You see, my family came to America from South Korea back in 1984, along with many other Korean families. However, unlike many other Koreans, we didn't end up in Los Angeles, San Francisco, or New York. We ended up in Denver, not exactly what you would call the mecca of baseball in the 80's.

I was six, then, and had no interest in professional sports. The only things that interested me were G.I. Joe's and Transformers, and it was a treat whenever one of my friends would give me their used toys as my parents weren't able to buy me any. Our family moved around for a few years between the various suburban towns surrounding Denver, but eventually ended up in El Centro, CA (town motto, "Where the Sun Spends the Winter") in 1989. Located about 2 hours drive east of San Diego, again, not what you would call the mecca of baseball, either.

During this time, around age 11, is when I discovered baseball. As mentioned earlier, I was not introduced to baseball in the conventional way that other boys discovered the sport, which I would assume is usually through their father's. My parents at the time made money by selling socks at an outdoor swap meet in Calexico, a town next to the US/Mexico border. My parents were gone when I woke up each morning at 6:30AM and my mom would come home around 7PM to make dinner for my sister and I and my dad would come home around 9:30PM or so after closing up shop. Not too much father/son bonding time, but I was introduced to baseball shortly after moving to California.

My introduction to baseball came the way of a book series called "Childhood of Famous Americans". The first book I read from that series was of Lou Gehrig, and his immigrant upbringing, eventual baseball success, and the tragic nature of his death fascinated me. Around the same time, my father became frustrated that the TV antenna wasn't able to pick up any reception, so we finally got cable, and my love of baseball began.

I couldn't get enough of Baseball Tonight and Peter Gammons. Like a lot of kids in California at the time, I was enamored with baseball cards, the Bash Brothers, and Little League. I moved away to another small town border town in 1991, but in Arizona. However, my love of baseball did not waiver, but instead only grew while watching moments like Joe Carter hitting the World Series winning home run off of Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams.

As a freshmen in college in 1996, I discovered something that changed my life and view of baseball... I grew up like any other kid, reading the back of baseball cards and looking at the box scores for batting average, home runs, and RBI's. I watched eagerly of the Triple Crown that Gary Sheffield pursued in his hey day with the Padres. However, that all changed when I began reading Rob Neyer.

What frustrated me throughout the years, however, was why others could not, or would not, be open to the new discoveries taking place in this great game. I realized even further, when I had a chance to travel around the country and watch a game in every ballpark in 2006, how clueless the average fan was. My hope with this blog is that I will be able to instill some knowledge, yet also discuss the current state of the Dbacks along with where I see the team headed. Any and all thoughts and suggestions are welcome. Thanks!