Thursday, July 20, 2017

Trade deadline rant

OK, besides today being an Indians' off day (some would speculate they have taken EVERY day off starting the Sunday before the all-star game) and me being pissed about the recent road trip, I am getting tired of reading about what the Indians should do by the trade deadline.   Since I am so tired of reading about it I decided to write about it...again.  So here goes...

I did a quick check on the Indians' losses this year and here is what I found:
  • they are in good shape as far as pitching goes, all things considered.  
  • their hitting is middle of the pack in most categories, including runs per game
  • their fielding is probably average or above
  • Here is how their losses break down":
    • Blowout losses (4+ run differential) in games we score 4 or more runs: 2 losses
    • Blowout losses in games we score 3 or less runs: 13
    • Close losses (3 or less runs) in games we score 3 or less runs: 15
    • Close losses in games we score 4 or more runs: 9
What does all this mean to me?

We are losing a lot of games (28) where we score 3 runs or less and not very many games (11) where we score 4 or more runs.   In 24 of our losses if we would have had a little more offense we would have won.   In 15 of those games our pitchers pitched OK, we just didn't score enough runs.  In 9 of those games those pitchers didn't pitch well but the offense kept the score close.

Looking at the stats and the game results, the answer is clear to me: 

Despite the struggles of Bauer, Tomlin and Salazar, what this team needs above anything else is more hitting.   They don't need any more pitching, they just need our pitchers to pitch.  With a little more offense even our struggling pitchers will win more often.  That, to me, is the bottom line here. 

YOU CAN'T BE REQUIRED TO HAVE PITCHERS WHO GIVE UP 0 TO 3 RUNS A GAME IN THE AL.

We need offense.  We have lost this season so many times when we face a struggling pitcher that I can't even remember how many times that is.   Pitchers we should crush, we can't even score 4 runs off of them.

So where do we need offense?  Well catcher is obvious.   DH (Santana) is the next choice but even RF could use an upgrade.

Teams always pay dearly at the trade deadline as we found out last year.   So, if we are going to part with prospects let's get something of value...and long term value...in return.

I have said it before and I will say it again.   The best value in hitters in this market is Giancarlo Stanton.   Basically, all he will cost us is one prime prospect and we have to eat his salary. 

So we get Stanton.  It is a STUPID move financially for the Indians but, prospect-wise, it is anything but stupid if we do this right.    Greg Allen, Naquin and McKenzie should get it done.  That's one of your top 10 prospects (top 30 in all of baseball) and one guy in the 10-25 range and Naquin who has significant upside somewhere other than here.

That is it.  

If we want to get creative, as I have said before, we put up a big package to get Realmuto and Straily, too.  I have posted that package below and I stick by it as an all-in trade that will help the Indians for years.   Maybe not as I structured it but something like that.

We need hitting.   Stanton, believe it or not, is the most cost (of prospects) effective way to get this done at a position (RF) that we can use help at. 

You get Stanton at a reasonable cost of prospects and you turn your season around.

If you just get Stanton and not the other two guys you then roll the dice and bring up Mejia.  Plus you can start musical chairs with Morimando, Merrit and even Pannone to see if you catch lightning in a bottle in that 5th starter spot, similar to what Clevinger is providing.

Giancarlo Stanton.   Get him at a reasonable price and I am pretty sure everything else will fall in place.   Get him, Realmuto and Straily and I think we are going back to the WS and, with the Cubs struggling, we stand a reasonable chance to win it all. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Mid-Season Report

Here is how the Indians' top 50 prospects look (2017 draftees, DSL players and 2017 international signees not included) in addition to opinion on the Indians' prospects who have graduated to the majors:

Graduated to the majors:

Bradley Zimmer - His tools look really loud at this point.   I am just a little worried as his numbers look too good for what you would imagine based on his minor league results.

Mike Clevinger - Really, really good so far.  I think he has a greater chance of his current performance lasting than Zimmer does. 

Giovanny Urshela - An incomplete so far as he only has a few ABs but he looks like the same old Gio.  Good defense, good contact rate, little power or OBP.

Erik Gonzalez - Of all the Indians' prospects who have graduated to the majors, his skills and performance appear to be the most in line with his minor league performance.

Nick Goody - Excellent this year.  Exceeding all expectations but will it last?  Time will tell.

Shawn Armstrong - He is about to cross the Austin Adams line.   That is, the point where AAA performance is no reflection of how much he would struggle in the majors.  He needs to do a Nick Goody pretty fast here or he becomes a throw-in to some trade like he would have been last year in the Lucroy deal.

Here is my Indians' top 50+ prospects list:

1. Francisco Mejia
2. Triston McKenzie
3. Bobby Bradley
4. Yandy Diaz
5. Thomas Pannone
6. Yu-Cheng Chang
7. Shawn Morimando
8. Ryan Merritt
9. Ulysses Cantu
10. Oscar Gonzalez
11. Nolan Jones
11. Conner Capel
12. Will Benson
13. Erik Stamets
14. Emmanual Tapia
15. Matt Esparza
16. Greg Allen
17. Aaron Civale
18. Shane Bieber
19. Juan Hillman
20. Brady Aiken
21. Willi Castro
22. Julian Merryweather
23. Adam Plutko
24. Samad Taylor
25. Shao-Ching Chang
26. Sicnarf Loopstock
27. Francisco Perez
28. Luigi Rodriguez
29. Ryder Ryan
30. Cole Sulser
31. Erik Haase
32. Mike Papi
33. Nellie Rodriguez
34. Justin Garza
35. Brock Hartson
36. Li-Chen Chu
37. Logan Ice
38. Gavin Collins
39. Jonas Wyatt
40. Jose Fermin
41. Cameron Hill
42. Sam Haggerty
44. Louis Head
45. Mark Mathias
46. Tyler Krieger
47. Tim Cooney
48. Rob Kaminsky
49. Luke Wakamatsu
50. Luis Lugo
51. Cameron Hill
52. Ben Krauth
53. Tanner Tulley
54. Andrew Lantrip
55. Robbie Aviles
56. David Speer
57. Matt Whitehouse
58. Josh Martin
59. Jeff Johnson

Monday, July 10, 2017

Dreamin' Large

Unlike living large, dreaming large doesn't require any money or the accumulation of any debt.  Just a vivid imagination.

The Marlins are looking to lighten payroll and I have already posted about the case for trading for Giancarlo Stanton.  

Let's revisit that scenario and talk about more.  Basically, talking about trading baseball cards without any worries about payroll or long-term ramifications.

So, with that in mind, here is the trade I am proposing:

Giancarlo Stanton, JT Realmuto and Dan Straily to the Indians for the following players:

Bradley Zimmer, Francisco Mejia, Triston McKenzie, Mike Clevinger, Yu-Cheng Chang, Roberto Perez, Josh Tomlin and Yandy Diaz.

Now why, you ask, would the Marlins trade Stanton, let alone include Realmuto and Straily (their most effective starter)?  They want to reduce payroll and people willing to eat all of Stanton's salary are attractive suitors to the Marlins.

But why would they trade either, let alone both, of Realmuto and Straily?  Both are very controllable assets and would be part of the rebuild for the Marlins.  Still, though, how this trade breaks down is this:

Stanton for Zimmer and Chang  - We give them a guy in Zimmer who looks like a potential superstar centerfielder in the making and Chang and eat all his salary.  This, alone, might be a trade they would make. 

Realmuto for Mejia and McKenzie with Perez thrown in to be there until Mejia arrives, which could be as early as next spring.  Realmuto is the key as he is thrown in to get us to eat all of Stanton's salary.

Straily for Clevinger and Diaz  with Tomlin thrown in to eat innings.  Straily, while controllable, doesn't seem to be any more than an innings eater on a contender.   He strikes me as very similar to Dave Burba when we traded for him (Sean Casey, as I remember).   Controllable for a while but nothing more than a quality 3rd starter on a playoff team. 

What the Marlins get is a player-for-player swap which will start to bear REAL fruit next year and whet fans' appetites this year (Clevinger and Zimmer).

Again, baseball card trading and nothing more.   Still, a guy can dream, right?

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Draft bonus/signing update

As mentioned below, Joshua Rolette (C, Kansas State) has signed.

According to Baseball America, Michael Rivera signed for $200,000. While that is not a surprise to me, it was all that we had available in our budget to sign him.

So the intrigue surrounding Dante Mendoza's bonus increased until Baseball America reported that he signed for $125,000.

If this is true and there are no more bonuses from rounds 11-40 (besides Matt Turner) which exceeded $125,000, we still have money to spend.

We have about $191,000 to spend to reach our 5% threshold over our budget.   If you remember this is the amount we can exceed our draft budget without losing a draft pick from next year.

So, while the Indians don't HAVE to spend this excess and will be taxed if they do, it is nice to know that we have the money to sign more players.

This means we could possibly sign two more players for $210,000 each or one player for $316,000 or, of course, not spend any of our bonus excess at all. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

How did the Indians do in the 2017 baseball draft?

NOTE: What you are about to read is what I was going to post on July 16th, the day after the signing period for 2017 draftees ended.   But, what the heck.  I am pretty sure with the signings of Michael Rivera and Dante Mendoza on Thursday (see post below this one), the Indians are done signing players from the 2017 draft.  So,  I decided to post this now with the knowledge that I might have to update it in the unlikely (yet happy) scenario where the Indians would sign any more than the 30 draft picks they have signed already [Joshua Rolette, our 39th round pick from Kansas State, apparently has also signed as he is playing for the AZL Indians].

The saying goes something like this:  "Opinions are like noses, everyone has one".  Given that I don't have access to all the ins and outs, all the scouting reports and scout projections and, most importantly, to the Indians' draft board where all of the above comes together, if you keep reading it will just be based on my opinion.  Now, after 30 years of following the baseball draft and with current metrics tools I hope it is an educated opinion.   But it is just my opinion.

GENERAL INFORMATION

The Indians lost their first round pick for signing Edward Encarnacion.   Their excellent regular season record in 2016 led to them having a low draft slot and losing the lottery to get a top low market compensation pick meant that their first pick was 64th overall followed by a comp B pick at 71.  Bottom line: they were screwed in terms of ever saving a bunch of money to throw at lower round flyer picks.  This meant that there was no way to get an obvious first round talent out of this draft. 

Knowing this, the Indians took a more sweeping approach.   Mostly, they took guys who were rated appropriately for where they were drafted and, in so doing, hoped that they picked the RIGHT guys who were appropriate talent-wise for their position.  This meant very few, if any, flyers on guys who were off everyone's radar.  It also meant that any discrepancies in terms of where these players were drafted and their consensus talent level could be chalked up to 'teams like who they like'. 

OVERALL ANALYSIS

This was a solid draft for the Indians based on all the hurdles they had coming into the draft.  As with most baseball drafts, it did have its question marks in terms of 'why did we draft so-and-so this early in the draft' picks.   Nevertheless, with where the Indians were this year, I like this draft.   The question is did they draft the RIGHT players. 

PICK-BY-PICK ANALYSIS

Quentin Holmes - Holmes is the typical toolsy prospect.   Pre-draft he was rated higher than where he was drafted, indicating that we probably got a bargain with this pick, a bargain we paid for with a slightly larger bonus than what was slotted.   All-in-all, a good pick.   My only caveat is that I see the similarities in his polish to those of Will Benson, and Benson is still struggling to get his game geared for the pros.  Holmes apparently has plus speed and, as Greg Allen has shown us so far, plus speed plays at any level.  If Holmes can develop some power, the speed plus power combination would be very exciting  Summary:  Good pick based on value obtained for this slot (good slot value).

Tyler Freeman - Freeman was rated lower than where he was selected, and that is after he moved UP draft boards this spring.  The temptation is to say that he was an overdraft but the Indians liked him and he is a middle-of-the-diamond player (catcher, SS, CF) so, just like Holmes, there is enough intrigue with his skill set that it is an interesting pick.  Summary: Not a bad pick based on the slot and a good pick based on available HS players at that moment who would be willing to sign for slot or below.

Jonathon Rodriguez -  This is where the Indians' approach came derailed a little bit.   Rodriguez was drafted at 102 and was rated in the 200s.  Clearly the Indians liked him more than most teams.  The only issue I have with this is when you were in the Indians situation this year, you have to avoid drafting guys early who have a reasonable chance to not advance past A ball.   Rodriguez is one of those guys.  It will be feast or famine with him.  In 5 years the Indians will either look like geniuses for identifying developable talent where others did not...or they will look like idiots for wasting a high pick in a year where they had few of those to spare.  That being said, Rodriguez has the advantage that he can be developed more from the ground up than can a college player as he was a HS draftee.  Keeping in line with drafting HS players early, Rodriguez definitely fits the apparent Indians' draft strategy.    Summary: The jury is out on Rodriguez but, for me, this was not a good pick this early in the draft.   I would have gone for this year's version of Civale/Bieber here.

Ernie Clement - Clement was rated a little higher than where he was drafted so, on paper, this looks like a good pick and a more sure pick than drafting another HS player.  Again, Clement is a middle-of-the-diamond player.  The thing about Clement is that he has to hit as he likely will move to 2B.  When you examine his college stats he showed no power and a mediocre walk rate.   Looking at his numbers he had almost as many sacrifice bunts as he did walks in his career...in college, folks, where we know the level of pitching, on average, is lower than he will see in the pros!  His low strikeout rate looks good on paper but, in conjunction with his lack of power, mediocre walk rate and high sacrifice bunt level, implies that he could be ineffective by hard-throwing pitchers as moves up the minor league system.  Not something you want to see in a player who is likely to play an offensive position (second base).  Summary:  A good value pick at this level but does his skill set translate into him advancing to the majors?  I think, as funny as it sounds, this is a projectability pick, something that is unusual, to say the least, this early in the draft, drafting a polished college player.   Can he re-tool his offensive game and become much more than he is now?  Time will tell.

Austen Wade - At first I thought he was a college senior, but he is a college junior.   Rated much lower than his draft slot implies that this is another projectability pick, similar to Andrew Calica last year.  It should be noted that Calica was drafted in the 11th round, where such a pick makes sense.  Wade was drafted in the 5th round, which seems a little high for a guy who was rated only 355th in the draft in the BA top 500.  Summary: Wade is likely not a middle-of-the-diamond player.  That being said I think he is a bit of an overdraft at this point.   If you are going to draft a guy like Wade this high, you would expect him to take a significantly below slot bonus like Clement did.  When that didn't happen you have to question if there was a more talented or similarly-talented, cheaper player than Wade.  I like the pick, especially in light of Andrew Calica last year, but it still is a head-scratcher to me this high in the draft.

Michael Rivera - Keeping in line with Clement and Wade, Rivera's offensive numbers or lack thereof, Rivera is a strange pick this early.  The issue with that statement is that he was rated about where he was selected.   Still, a guy who hit .236 this season and .200 in the post-season is hard to project to hit at all in the pros.  Given Logan Ice's struggles this year, drafting light-hitting college catchers this early in the draft might not end up netting you anything at all.  Still, if the defense is there for an up-the-middle player like Rivera, and it apparently is, you gotta hold out some hope that the Indians can coach him up to be a passable ML hitter.  Sumamry:  Really unexciting pick at this point but with enough upside that I like the pick...but with Rodriguez, Wade and Clement immediately before him, a big gamble that a lot of the Indians draft this year won't even get to AA if things continue for these guys as they have in the past.

Picks 7-10 - McCarthy, Morgan, Karinchak, Berardi - I am rating these guys as a group because they all fall in one group: college players drafted above or at their draft slot who signed for close to, if not exactly, slot.   Summary: These guys all are solid picks at this point in the draft.  Very Plutko/Calica/Civale/Bieber-like.  I think the Indians have a decent change to get 1-2 or more ML contributors out of these four 2017 picks, which is all or more than you expect for these slots. 

Picks 1-40 - By definition, this is where sleepers come from.   I think the Indians drafted, and signed, a lot of college pitchers here (more than normal) with the intent to make them pro relievers and see how they develop.  Louis Head, Cole Sulser, Cameron Hill among current Indians reliever prospects and Trevor Frank, Ben Heller and J.P. Feiereisen among former Indians' reliever prospects come to mind as some guys who have come up the system that way.  I think the Indians added MORE of these types of guys in this draft compared to previous drafts, increasing the odds that we will get some ML innings pitched out of this group than we will out of past groups.    The one sleeper I see in this group is Dante Mendoza who is a tall RHP who is likely to fill out.  He has hit the mid-90s already although it looks like he generally pitches in the mid-to-high 80s so filling out his frame will be crucial.  We should also note that the Indians signed three other HS players, Matt Turner, Chandler Ferguson and Michael Cooper who they picked in the last 30 rounds.   Although none of these 4 HS players even made Baseball America's top 500 draft prospects this year, I like HS players who are drafted after the 10th round and sign.  They have a longer development path before you have to make a decision on them and are likely to be on the steeper part of their development curve than most college juniors or seniors.  Likely, like with guys like Silento Sayles, we will get nothing out of them and they won't make it past A ball.   However, guys like Mendoza, Turner, Ferguson and Cooper intrigue me as there is a finite chance we could get a ML player or two out of this group, with the appropriately excellent development staff.  Summary:  I think the Indians have, in recent history, done a good job in rounds 11-40, both in drafting college pitchers, a few college hitters and the occasional HS player.   I think rounds 11-40 in this draft have a chance to end up being a little or a lot better than previous drafts in rounds 11-40 and that is saying a lot!  Again, to use a phrase I have used before, that is all you can ask of the Indians at this point in any draft. 


Friday, July 7, 2017

Mendoza and Rivera sign plus international free agent news

DRAFT

MLB.com is reporting (on their Indians 2017 draft list) that 6th round pick Michael Rivera and 12th round pick Dante Mendoza signed with the Indians on Thursday (7/6/2017).  No word on the bonuses and no other sources that I could find have indicated they have signed.

If this is true then one thing we can be sure of, the total bonuses for Rivera and Mendoza must be equal to or less than $516,000 as, if they total more than that, the Indians will forfeit their first round pick next year..  Given that Rivera's slot was $268,000 it will be interesting to see what both signed for.

Also, if the above signings are true, barring a way underslot signing by Rivera, I hold my prediction that the Indians are done signing guys from this draft. 

INTERNATIONAL FREE AGENT SIGNING PERIOD

Cleveland Indians PROSPECTive has the Indians signing the following international free agents in addition to the 7 that I posted on below.  Here are the new names that I haven't seen before:

Alexfri Planez OF
Joseph Paulino SS
Victor Soteldo RHP
Richad Paz INF
Victor Planchart C
Marin Steven Perez OF
Michael Ramirez C

If this is all true then the Indians have signed 14 Latin amateur free agents.  Once word starts trickling in on the bonuses, we can see where we are in moving toward our international bonus cap and whether we can then expect any more high-priced international signings..

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Latest draft info

A couple of updates about our unsigned draft picks.

If you are not aware, Michael Rivera, our 6th round pick from CWS champion Florida, has a lot on his mind.   His mother has been battling cancer for two years.  This may help explain his .236 average in college this year, a number that was worse in Florida's playoff run this year.  Although he is a good defensive catcher and leader, these results could negatively impact the bonus offer the Indians make to him.   This, plus his family situation plus U. of Florida's long run in the CWS plus the holiday weekend may be pushing his decision back.  I still think he signs but I think it may go down to the last day or two.

This is important because of our 12th round pick, Dante Mendoza.  I found an article today that is very interesting.

http://www.baseballteamnews.com/mendoza-developing-with-experience-britton/

In the article it looks like Mendoza doesn't have a D-I scholarship offer and colleges are waiting to see if he signs with the Indians.   It appears the ball is in the Indians court to get him a bonus that will make him sign as it appears he really wants to sign.

What I think it will come down to is how much money does Cleveland have to offer Mendoza above the $125,000 they are allowed to offer him without anything being counted against their 2017 draft budget and that will come down to how much Rivera signs for and whether the Indians are targeting their excess pool + 5% money for just Rivera, Rivera and Mendoza or Rivera, Mendoza and Serratos.

If you look at the numbers the Indians have about $200,000 ($68,000 below Rivera's slot value) of their allotted draft budget to sign Rivera and keep to their budget. 

The Indians have an additional $191,000 (5% of their total draft bonus pool) they can spend OVER their budget and not lose their first round pick next year but have already eaten into it by giving their 11th round pick, Matt Turner, $200,000 ($75,000 over slot).

With all that in mind, here are the possible scenarios I see:

1. Rivera signs for slot.  If this happens, the Indians will only have about $250,000 to offer Mendoza ($125,000 bonus plus a little less than $125,000, what is left of their $191,000 overage allowance as $68,000 of that overage has already been spent on other draftees).

2. Rivera signs for about $200,000.   If this happens the Indians will have closer to $310,000 to sign Mendoza and I think that should get it done.

3. Rivera does not sign at all.  The Indians would STILL have about $300,000 to offer Mendoza ($125,000 plus about $175,000 overage allotment (less than $191,000) as, if they don't sign Rivera they lose his $268,000 from their draft pool and, of course, the 5% overage calculation gets smaller (by 5% of $268,000)).

Let's hope we can find a way to sign Rivera and Mendoza and maybe squeeze in Oscar Serratos, as well if Serratos really wants to start his pro career instead of going to Georgia Tech.  The Indians have until July 15th to sign players from the 2017 draft or lose the rights to those players so there are less than two weeks left to sign players.