Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Rookie ball predictions

OK, we have a sense of the rosters for the NY-Penn and AZL teams.  Here are the predictions:

MV Scrappers:  

Record:  45-31

Summary:  This will be the best season in Scrappers' history.   The combination of young guys who played on the AZL team last year and the influx of college players from the 2017 draft will gel.  I see at least 5-6 of the guys on this team making the top 30 Indians' prospects this winter.

AZL Indians

Record: 21-36

Summary: This team will be the worst in Indians' history at this level.   There will be a few college players sprinkled in, more than normal, but it won't be enough to save the inexperience of some likely organizational players from last year's DSL team.  It will be hard to tell how much talent is there as the lack of experience will make it hard to take any positives from this season.  So, it will be a lost season for the team and us prospect geeks won't have much to look at. Only Freeman and or Holmes will make the top 30 prospect list this winter.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

We have a glut

When you switch from having a HS heavy draft one year to a college heavy draft the next year you have this problem.

The MV roster is super crowded right now and it will only get worse once the college world series is over. 

Prospects like Will Benson, Nolan Jones, Ulysses Cantu, Oscar Gonzalez, Elvis Perez are getting playing time.  However, we have signed/will sign guys like Austen Wade, Ernie Clement, Taylor Friis, Jesse Berardi, Clark Scolamiero, etc.   These are college guys who would normally start and play most every day at Mahoning Valley.  So we are at 10 guys and that doesn't even count the catcher.  

We are already stashing college guys in Arizona as the AZL Indians have 2017 college draft picks Tre Gantt, Mitch Reeves, Pedro Alfonseca and a number of 2017 college pitcher draft picks.

Right now the MV roster has 15 pitchers and I think 11 infielders on their roster.  That seems really high to me, especially for the infielders. 

Plus, it would be worse except that Connor Capel is playing almost every day at Lake County.

So this is a wealth of riches which should make both the Scrappers and the AZL Indians strong performers this year.  I just hope there is enough playing time for our best prospects at MV and that no more guys are sent to the AZL Indians just because there is no room on the MV roster.

Friday, June 23, 2017

2017 Draft Signing Update

So far here is what we know from reports of signings for the Indians 2017 draft.  I'll update this as I learn more.  Note that two late round HS kids have signed which is always interesting (although they weren't highly ranked):

Quentin Holmes - Not signed yet
Tyler Freeman - Not signed yet
Jonathan Rodriguez - Signed - ($450,000 ($77,600 under slot) per LGT)
Ernie Clement - signed (per Mahoning Valley MiLB roster) ($350,000 ($43,000 under slot) per LGT)
Austen Wade - Not signed yet, eliminated from college world series 6/24/17.
Michael Rivera - still playing in college world series
Kirk McCarthy - signed per Twitter via Southern Miss. baseball coach ($250,000, $70,500 over slot) per LGT)
Eli Morgan - signed (per MV MiLB roster) - ($135,000 ($15,000 under slot) per LGT)
James Karinchak - signed (per MV MiLB roster) - ($138,300 (at slot) per LGT)
Jesse Berardi - signed (per MV MiLB roster) - ($133,300 ($2,000 over slot) per Twitter)
Matthew Turner - (HS kid) signed per AZL Indians roster
Dante Mendoza - unsigned
Angel Lopez Alvarez - signed (per Baseball America)
Oscar Serratos - unsigned
Kyle Nelson - Uncertain if he has signed
Nick Gallagher - signed per Baseball America
Pedro Alfonseca - signed per Baseball America
Dillon Persinger - unsigned
Josh Nashed - unsigned
Jonathon Teaney - signed (per MV MiLB roster)
Tyler Friis - signed (per MV MiLB roster)
Clark Scolamiero - signed (per MV MiLB roster)
Jordan Scheftz - signed (per Baseball America)
Riley Echols - signed (per MV MiLB roster)
Chandler Ferguson - signed (HS kid) (per Baseball America)
Tommy Dejuneau - signed (per Baseball America)
Casey Optiz - unsigned
Michael Hendrickson  unsigned
Tre Gantt -signed (per Baseball America)
Zack Draper - signed (per Baseball America)
Asa Lacey - unsigned
Mitch Reeves - signed (per Baseball America)
Michael Cooper - signed (HS kid) (per Baseball America)
Cole Turney -unsigned
Spencer Strider - unsigned
Jorge Arellano - unsigned
Austin Martin - unsigned
Scott Kobos - unsigned
Josua Rolette - unsigned
Cole Kleszcz - unsigned

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

WARNING; small sample size post

OK, I love the Indians.   Also, I grew up following the Indians' minor leaguers.   I mean, I was an Indians' fan!  What else was there to do but think to the future?!?

So now fast forward to the 21st century.  You can watch all of your team's minor league teams, at least to some level, on the internet except for the AZL and GCL games (and what is up with that?). 

If you are not careful you can start reading too much into some things based on small sample size.   I remember when the Indians drafted Brad Snyder and he was whiffing a lot his first year and I pointed out that this might be a real red flag when your #1 pick can't even handle rookie ball pitching.   Of course my concern was unfounded, right, because look how his career turned out.  Well, yeah, look how it turned out!  Thirteen minor league seasons and a total of 66 ML ABs....with 28 Ks. 

So, with that backdrop in mind, I have spent the last couple of nights watching the Scrappers play and, may I say, the video feed from the West Virginia Black Bears is one of the best in the minors, in my opinion.   But I digress. 

What occurs to me after watching Will Benson hit is that there may be an issue.   Now, in Snyder's case he had trouble hitting anything that would break.   In watching Benson for two days he is having trouble hitting straight pitches right down the middle of the plate.   Yeah, he had two good ABs on Monday, one in which he got a hit against a 95 mph fastball and one where he was eating up a guy's softer stuff (but foul) until he K'd.   However, in every other AB, including EVERY AB on Tuesday, he looked overmatched.   I mean REALLY overmatched.   They didn't even try to throw him breaking balls.   The pitchers were just raring back and throwing fastballs down the middle of the plate and it looked like the way Benson was flailing and missing that he was trying to hit the ball with a straightened close hanger or, maybe, was just tardy catching up with the fastball.

Now, at this level every first rounder should be able to hit a good fastball and may struggle with breaking balls.   Benson looked like he was having trouble catching up with average fastballs. 

It's early and it could all be fatigue or seeing real pitching after being in extended spring training but what I saw the last two days, especially yesterday, is concerning to me.  At least concerning enough to mention it here. 

BTW, Nolan Jones was not much better with an 0-4 and THREE errors.    Ulysses Cantu looks like he can really hit and I am intrigued about how Oscar Gonzalez and the Laureano kid will do.  BTW, Elvis Perez made a ML play on a ball up the middle and is hitting the heck out of the ball so he is one to keep an eye on.   Grant Hockin was not perfect but to see him on the mound, finally, and for him to have some success (4 IP, 1 R) really brought a smile to my face.

Again, small sample sizes all but it is great to have a GOOD poor sample size than the red flags that Benson and Jones are throwing up!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Looking back over the 2016 draft

OK, I am watched some of the Mahoning Valley game last night and it reminded me that we are one year removed from the 2016 draft.   Let's take a look back and see how that draft is going:

1. Will Benson - So far he is as advertised.   In watching him last night he appears to have it all.  Quick bat (turning around a mid-90s fastball from top 25 prospect in all of baseball Mitch Keller who was rehabbing at West Virginia last nigh), good power, good plate discipline and it good in the field.  Plus, he is always smiling.  

2. Nolan Jones - He has an accurate rifle for an arm at third base, making two major league throws to nail runners at first, the second on a bases-loaded high chopper to save a run and squash a rally in a 0-0 game.   That being said, he botched a ground ball in the first, lost a ground ball in the sun in the first (how is that even possible) and looked overmatched at the plate until his single on a ball at his ankles right before the rain delay.   Plus he was quoted as not being excited about playing a REAL game as he had already had more ABs this spring than he ever had in a season before. Compare that to Benson's comments about how he was ready to play meaningful games and win and you will see what I mean.   Maybe I am reading too much into this but it seems to me like Jones has his eye too much on the grand prize (making the majors) and too little on the game of baseball and living in the moment. So, the jury is out on this kid for me.  

2a. Logan Ice - This kid was always a good defensive catcher.   He was always going to be drafted.  However, he shot up draft boards last spring because he started to hit.   Well, guess what?  The kid hasn't shown he can hit as a pro yet, even given that the Indians gave him a cake assignment (for a college guy) and put his first full-season assignment at low A Lake County.   He should be raking as he plays against 19 and 20 year olds and he isn't.   I mean, Connor Capel, who was in HS last year, is hitting much better!   Guys learn their limitations in pro ball.  The ones who learn that lesson and maximize their strengths make the majors.   The others never do.  Which brings me to a scary comp for Ice.   When the Indians drafted Javi Herrera from U. of Tennessee in 2003 I did the same head scratching I did when the Indians drafted Ice and Michael Tinsley in 2016.  Herrera never learned to hit and never made the majors.   Let's hope Ice learns what he needs to to find some way to utilize his skills to become a productive hitter, at least productive enough to be a major league backup which, to me, is his ceiling at this point.

3/4 - Aaron Civale/Shane Bieber - These guys are as advertised.  Strikethrowing machines who compete well at the lower levels of the minors due to demeanor and command.  The key thing for me is that they don't always dominate, meaning their stuff will not save them if they don't have command.   Just like Adam Plutko in 2013, their stuff and command leads me to believe they will both pitch in the majors.  Like Plutko, the question will be what kind of career will each of them have.

5. Connor Capel - Having a HS guy start his first full-season as a pro in the Midwest League can really be deceiving.   On one hand it is a tough assignment for a young guy but, on the other, the Midwest League (and low A in general) tends to inflate the apparent value of hitters for reasons I don't fully understand.   All that being said, Capel, who was rushed into this role due to injuries and lack of organizational depth in the low minors in the outfield, is holding his own and showing good power (10 HRs already after none last year).   For me, the kid has easily moved into the Indians' top 30 prospects at this point with the caveat that I don't know how much we will be able to tell about his long-term future no matter how he does the rest of the season.  Nevertheless, using the 1000 minor league AB mantra, if he stays healthy the whole season, we may know sooner about him than about other 2016 draftees what we have in him.

6. Ulysses Cantu - You just had to know that this guy was better than his stats last year and all reports say he will show it this year at the Valley.  Considering he was hitting 5th last night it also bodes well for his season (Will Benson hit 6th!).    He looked good at the plate and in the field last night and looks relaxed this year.   It looks like this was a good pick and I am pretty sure he will have a breakout year this year.

7. Michael Tinsley - Another college catcher drafted last year, he isn't on the MV roster, making me think he must be hurt, especially given that there are only two catchers on the MV roster right now.  Although we won't know for sure until the end of this season, this looks like it might have been a wasted pick for the Indians.   Let's hope not.

8. Andrew Lantrip - He was injured last year so the jury is still out on him.   We'll see if he pitches this year as he is on the AZL roster.  He intrigues me as the Indians have always had good luck finding relievers in the middle rounds and drafting a guy like him in the top 10 rounds makes me think he may be a little better than those other guys.

9. Hosea Nelson - This appears to have been a good use of their 9th round pick.  Nelson has enough tools that he is still a very intriguing prospect and hasn't done anything so far that raises question marks about his selection.

10. Samad Taylor - Considering he was leading off at MV last night it tells me they are impressed with his speed and on-base skills, something he showcased last year after he was drafted.   A great pick in my opinion, instead of taking some low level college senior talent.

11. Andrew Calica - He hit last year and, after a rough patch this year, is hitting again.   As hitting is his only above-average tool, it looks like a good 11th round pick, very similar, in my opinion, to Plutko in 2013.

12th round and beyond - It is always hard to gauge what you will get from guys drafted this low but, so far, all of their signees have upside and some, like Zach Plesac(whose path to get here reminds me of Vinnie Pestano) and Ryder Ryan have significant upside.   Basically, looking at them so far, I can't find but one or two guys from this group that I can classify as organizational players so far and that is a GREAT thing to be saying at this point as it means that all of them have some upside as prospects.   One interesting side note, due to organizational need Jonathon Laureano has been playing 3rd base at Akron, making him the first player from the Indians' 2016 draft to make it to AA.  He is back at MV now so we'll see how his season goes but that is a feather in his cap that he held his own in his brief stay with the Rubber Ducks after hitting a pathetic .104 last year at MV. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

First post-draft thoughts

Here are some impressions from the Indians' draft:

1. My initial impression remains.  The Indians drafted for quality but with an eye on quantity in this draft.  The intent, I guess, is to maximize the NUMBER of major leaguers they get out of the draft and hope 1-2 exceed expectations significantly and perform as if they were #1 picks.   I think that is what Baseball America means when they refer to the Indians' draft as 'a portfolio approach'.  The other approach, which they DID NOT employ is to draft 1-2 superstuds followed by plenty of low-priced, organizational fillers.  Given their draft resources this year, I like the strategy.

2. Sometimes it is instructive to look at pre-season rankings to see what happened to guys during the year. This gives you an idea of whether guys might have some significant upside that got buried in a year that, for whatever reason, caused their draft stock to plummet or, at least, dip  When you do that, assuming that college and HS draft classes were roughly equal in size and quality top to bottom, here is what you have:

2. Quentin Holmes - 22 pre-season (BA), 50 BA pre-draft, 33 MLB pre-draft
2. Tyler Freeman - 174 pre-season (BA), 97 BA pre-draft, 141 MLB pre-draft
4. Ernie Clement - 118 pre-season (BA), 92 BA pre-draft, 114 MLB pre-draft
6. Michael Rivera - 56 pre-season (BA), 175 BA pre-draft, 172 MLB pre-draft
9. James Karinchak - 132 pre-season (BA), 122 BA pre-draft, 163 MLB pre-draft
34. Cole Turney - 74 pre-season (BA), 128 BA pre-draft, 182 MLB pre-draft

I think Rivera fell during the season due to low batting average.   Turney fell substantially. Clement and Karinchak held their positions.  Freeman raised his stock a little during the season.

Trying to figure out what all this means is difficult but I will give it a try.  Signing all of the above would help this draft immensely.  Signing the first 5 is necessary for this draft to turn out to be really productive.  I think Turney is almost unsignable as I think he probably expected to go way higher than he did and his drop in draft status will make him think that he can do better the next time around after 3 years at Arkansas.  I think it takes mid second round money to even have a chance to sign Turney and I can't see how we can come up with that.  If we have money left, we would probably turn our attention to Asa Lacey although the Texas A&M commitment would be hard to overcome.   Rivera is likely to sign but, of the first 10 round guys, might be the most likely to go back to school as he plays a premium position and 6th round money should be easy to reproduce next year if he has a monster offensive season (the defense should remain solid).  As silly as it may seem, having Francisco Mejia may also influence whether Rivera signs plus having Logan Ice in front of him on the development chart might also be persuasive in him going back to school.

So, in summary, I think Michael Rivera may be the most at-risk prospect not to sign in the first 10 Indians' picks.  I think we can sign the rest of our first round picks if we can spread a little leftover bonus money around.    I don't think we can sign Turney so I would focus my resources on signing those first 10 round picks.   If one of Karinchak or Berardi does not sign we could focus on Lacey but I don't think we really will sign of anyone of obvious note after the first 10 rounds as, even if we have money left over, I can't imagine it is worth spending on anyone but Turney or Lacey.  I mean, $50,000 or $100,000 over slot for a pick after round 10 might be doable, if we only do it once or twice and I can't see who we would even spend the money on.  Of course, I thought the same thing about Morimando when we signed him and I was wrong about that. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

It's time to let youth be served...for dinner

OK, long before Erik Gonzalez forgot where second base was on his way to botching a crucial double play, I was ticked off.

Earlier in the game with the offense struggling, Erik Gonzalez went 2-0 against Brandon McCarthy.   At that moment McCarthy had thrown almost as many balls as strikes but had only given up one hit. 

So you are a rookie trying to make an impression in a game where we are obviously short on baserunners.  And then, for some unknown reason, you swing at a 2-0 pitch...and you foul it off.

Not an epic fail (we will get to that later), but nonetheless a fail and we all know that when a rookie fails it is almost always elevated to the epic level. 

Then he redeemed himself.   Psyche.   He grounds out to second base on the next pitch.  Squared that one up, didn't he?    Now, if he takes that 2-0 pitch, maybe even takes the following 2-1 pitch to go 2-2 and then grounds to second base, that is probably acceptable from your #9 hitter whose OPS is made up of almost equal parts of his OBP and SLG and whose OBP is almost entirely made up of his batting average, if you get my drift. 

So, we call that 2-0 swing a rookie mistake.

But wait!  The next batter is Bradley Zimmer, another rookie.  Following in Gonzalez's footsteps he goes 2-0.   Then, on the next pitch he tries to hit a ball almost in the dirt and weakly grounds out the pitcher.   For a second it looks like his legs are going to redeem his brain fart by legging it out.   But the replay guru says 'no' and Zimmer is called out on appeal.   So now it looks like our second rookie learned nothing from the first one and failed even more epically that Gonzalez, topping a ball that didn't even make it to the pitcher.

As Shoeless Joe Jackson said in 'Field of Dreams', "Rookies?!#@!?"

Then we went from bad judgement to bad baseball with Gonzalez's epic fail in the 8th.  When it rains it pours.   Maybe in July we will forget about this but, right now, rookie stupidity hurts, and I am a rookie-lover.