Friday, July 29, 2016

Prospect perspective - July 27th

OK, with everyone talking about trading prospects away to compete this year, we should probably take a look at the prospects we still have and see how they are progressing.  I have used my pre-season ranking and, with that, determined if the prospect is performing at or above or below their expected level.   Prospects performing above expected levels are good trade chips.   Most likely their "breakthrough season" won't be sustainable.  Prospects performing under expectations should not be be traded as they won't be valued as much as they should be.   Prospects performing at expected levels would have to be overvalued by our trade partner for me to want to trade them.   For example, I would trade Clint Frazier instead of Bradley Zimmer.   I think Zimmer will have a better career and is underperforming.  

1. Bradley Zimmer - Underperforming - Not worth trading at his current value
2. Clint Frazier - Overperforming - Would be a good trade chip right now
3. Mike Papi - Way underperforming.   Don't trade, especially not as a throw-in to a large deal
4. Mike Clevinger - Performing at expectations.  Only trade if he is key prospect traded for a big name.
5. Tyler Naquin - Overperforming.  Would be a GREAT trade chip now if we got a couple of outfielders back.
6. Brady Aiken - Underperforming.  Don't trade.
7. Justus Sheffield - Performing at expectations -low enough in the minors to be traded as the key piece in a big trade for a high value major leaguer
8. Tristen McKenzie - Performing at expectations - low enough in the minors to be traded as key piece
9. Bobby Bradley - At expected level - key piece or one of two below this slot for a key ML starting player
10. Adam Plutko - At expectations - could be a secondary piece
11. Juan Hillman - At expectations - keep him, too low in the minors to have true value returned for him.
12. Rob Kaminsky - Below expectations - I would actually trade him as a throw-in with one of the above for a big piece.
13. Shawn Armstrong - At expectations - see Kaminsky
14. Mitch Brown - Below expectations, has no trade value right now
15, Nellie Rodriguez - At expectations - only trade if he is overvalued by our trade partner
16. Erik Gonzalez - Above expectations - our most tradeable piece.
17. Francisco Mejia - Above expectations - interestingly they are milking his hit streak.   I know he has an injury but it is like they are trying to keep the hitstreak going to increase his value.  I would trade him now if he is as overvalued by our competitors as I think he would be.   A Lucroy for Gonzalez/Mejia trade would work for me. 
18. Shawn Morimando - Overperforming.   I would keep him unless we get better value for him than I think we can
19. Dylan Baker - Injured, no trade value
20. Mark Mathias - At expected levels - keep, too low in minors to have realized trade value
21. Eric Stamets - underperforming - use as throw-in if necessary
22. Ryan Merritt - at expected levels - little trade value at this point
23. Yandy Diaz - Way overperforming - trade if he is the centerpiece or along with Gonzalez OR Mejia for a quality ML starting player
24. Yu-Cheng Chang - Above expected level - trade as centerpiece or one of two guys like Diaz
25. Giovanni Soto - Released
26. Gabriel Mejia - Below expectations - No trade value
27. Luke Wakamatsu - Injured, no trade value
28. Tyler Krieger - At expected levels, no trade value because is too low in the minors
29. Dace Kime - Way below expectations - Trade him for a situational lefty if you can get one for him
30. Luigi Rodriguez - At expected levels - no trade value
31. Luis Lugo - At expected level
32, Sean Brady - At expected level
33. Justin Garza - Injured
34. Willi Castro - At expected level
35. Greg Allen - At expected level - little trade value yet
36. Dorsyss Paulino - Injured
37. Ka'i Tom - Injured
38. Anthony Santander - Above expectations - trade him as 3rd prospect in a big trade
39. James Ramsey - Gone
40. Jesus Aguilar - Below expectations; use as a throw-in for a trade with a second division team who wants to give him a shot and hope he performs.

I would not trade anyone below this level, even as a throw-in, as they have little trade value.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Deadline musings

The Cubs paid a lot for Chapman but it was the kind of trade that you make if you are the Cubs.  The three prospects they gave up (not counting Adam Warren, the 4th player in the deal)  are relatively far away from the majors, even though Torres is a top prospect.    This for a rental in Chapman who likely could and I would bet WOULD end up back with the Yankees this winter as a free agent.   The Cubs would not get a draft pick for him as they acquired him in the middle of his free agent walk year.    So, it is all or nothing this year for the Cubs but in doing this trade they really didn't hurt the next 2-3 years of the ML team as none of these guys would likely have impacted the Cubbies in that time period.   In fact, as we know about prospects, these guys are as likely to underwhelm as overwhelm as they move up the latter.

On the other hand, I think the Blue Jays got a steal in the Melvin Upton trade.   The Padres essentially gave him away paying a lot of salary and getting back only an OK prospect for a guy under contract through next year.   Maybe the Padres figured they sold high on Upton.   I think they got robbed on this one and I am a little upset the Tribe couldn't have easily bested the Blue Jays offer and still not put any size dent in their farm system.

But this is the way of the August 1st deadline trades.   Some teams overpay, some teams underpay.  As fans we just scratch our heads at the underpayment and hope our team doesn't overpay the way the Cubs did for just a rental. 

For those of you who would consider doing this kind of deal, if we had done one last year we night not have Lindor, or Ramirez or Naquin right now.   I can't imagine anyone else we could have gotten who would make me think that we had gotten a good deal had we traded one of these three.    So maybe PLAY the young guys and forget the deadline deals.  Remember that all teams have warts.  I can't believe some of the guys I see being starting players for contenders.  So maybe we just run with our warts and hope for the best.   Hey, if we could get Braun, Lucroy and a reliever and not completely gut the farm system I would be all for it.   But how to do that and who we would have to give up is the question.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Deadline musings - No Rincon-for-Giles trades...or worse

OK, we are in first place with the best record in the AL.  

We still have issues, but so does every team, even those in contention.   No one is so solid that we are thinking about them the way the NBA was thinking about the Cavaliers and the Warriors.

So, what do we do by the first (Aug. 1st) and second (Aug. 31st) trade deadlines?

The non-waiver trade deadline on Aug. 1st is a time where people jumpstart their teams.  It is a time where pretenders try to become contenders by outdistancing their competition to create more wins in the season's final two months.

Well, as it looks currently (and I know things can change in a hurry) we don't have any competition that we need to outdistance ourselves from. 

The only reason for us to do anything at all by Aug. 1st, in my opinion, is if we can make our team incrementally better with a minimal cost to us.    Think of the Ricardo Rincon for Marshall McDougall trade, but in reverse.    Of course, if we could get Ryan Braun and Jonathon Lucroy from the Brewers for Clevinger, Gonzalez and Frazier I would take that.  Basically, we give up some future talent that we already have duplicates for and get back a lot of expensive, current, older talent from a team that should be looking for a total rebuild.  Don't get me wrong.   I don't think there is any way this would happen but, if it could, I would have to jump on it. 

Other than that blockbuster, I just wouldn't overpay for someone at the deadline.   It's just not worth it.  We remain the Cleveland Indians and we need prospects.   Now, if Brady Aiken looked good right now, if Mike Papi was a solid prospect, if Zimmer was having a breakout year instead of hanging on by his bootstraps, and it looked like in the mid-minors we had other guys who were becoming prime trade chips, I would be more OK with dealing minor league talent.   However, right now we have a strong system but one without a lot of depth in the middle minors.  Any trade of prime talent weakens the minor league system substantially and as a Cleveland fan who knows the financial realities of baseball, I just wouldn't do that.

So, we would be Ricardo Rincon-like shopping at the deadline...and I mean his trade to Oakland, NOT his trade from Pittsburgh to Cleveland for Brian Giles.   As a matter of fact, any trade I could make right now that was not the above trade with Milwaukee would likely be available in August.

So, unless we get a favorable exchange of talent due to us takin on more salary I see no need to trade by August 1st.   I think we can do as well in August for MUCH less talent (see the Rincon to Oakland trade). 

Just my opinion.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

International signing period post

The Indians continue to give the impression of being bottom feeders in the Latin American market.  Here is a list of the guys, according to Baseball America, that they have signed since July 2nd.

Cleveland Indians
Marcos Gonzalez, ss, Dominican Republic (No. 27 prospect), $250,000.
Carlos Vargas, rhp, Dominican Republic, $275,000.
Nehemias Celestin, 3b, Dominican Republic, $185,000.
Gaspar Palacios, ss, Colombia, $150,000.
Jeikol Contreras, 3b, Dominican Republic, $100,000.
Jesus Maestre, 2b, Venezuela
Makesiondon Kelkboom-Profar, ss, Curacao, $125,000.
Luis Garcia, rhp, Venezuela

There are always a lot of signings as 8 guys do not a DSL team make.   But these appear to be the most significant signings so far this summer.

Only one guy in the BA top 50 international free agents list and he is #27.  However, before we all panic remember the Indians have gotten Danny Salazar and others from their style which is to outwork the competition because we can't outspend them.  There also seems to be a trepidation to blow their whole bonus pool on one guy, given these guys sign at 16 years old.  

Of course, they have flopped a lot, especially with their most expensive signings, even though those bonus amounts pale in comparison to what other teams are giving their top Latin signees.   For example, Grofi Cruz was just released and he was a guy who got a good bonus $400,000, even though many in the industry scratched their heads when the Indians signed him for that amount.   

Still, with all that being said some of their Latin guys are putting up good numbers in the minors.  Heck, the AZL team's best players right now are not our 2016 draftees but, rather, our Latin guys.

So keep your heads up, hope for a quick recovery from Yan Gomes and that our scouts know what they are doing and our player development people are successful.

What is up with Gomes?

NOTE: I am going to leave this post here but it is a shame we couldn't find out and fix what is wrong with Yan Gomes.   The separated shoulder is a bad break for a guy who has fought through other injuries which have really, so far, put a damper on what began as a promising career.   Plus, although he says his knee feels fine it may require some rehab, too.   We all wish him a fast recovery and, hopefully, when he comes back he will be like the Yan Gomes we loved a couple of years ago.   So, here is my original post.

Look, I am all about keeping our own guys playing but we are in trouble here.

Frankly, I don't know if Yan Gomes is bringing ANYTHING to the table with him at this point.   He hits like an AL pitcher.   I'll give you the ASSUMPTION that he is helping the pitching staff but I don't know that for a fact.   His control of the running game looks good but it is based on a pretty small sample size.   And, finally, he lost us the game yesterday on defense.   Did you see that play?  It was crazy.  It was like a 10 year old catcher trying to make a play with the runner coming in and just missing the ball.   And it was a force play.  He didn't even have to touch the runner.   Gomes cost us that game yesterday by failing to make a play that any catcher in the Indians' minor league system would have made with ease.   I have heard of taking your defense to the plate with you and vice versa but this was a pathetic play from a guy who, at this point, might not be giving you much else.  

I don't know what the answer is but there HAS to be something mentally and/or physically wrong with this guy.  No one this side of Carlos Baerga tanks it the way this guy has.   Imagine where we would be if he played just to his ML averages!  I really don't know what to say at this point but this is beyond frustrating.

I'll tell you what.  In NY this guy would already have been out of town on a bus.   That media and their fans would have fileted him by now to such an extent the ownership would have had to get rid of him to prevent a fan-based uprising 

Let's hope he figures it out because right now his WAR has to be about -162.  Obviously that is meant as a joke but, right now, I FEEL any ML catcher could offer more to us than Gomes.  

It's time to come clean.   What is wrong with this guy.   He looks like a real-life version of Heaven Can Wait with me ending up in his body and trying to play ML baseball.

...and now he is injured!   I don't know whether to be happy or upset!   Maybe some time on the DL will help but is Roberto Perez back all the way yet?

Friday, July 15, 2016

Final 2016 draft STRATEGY AND EXECUTION analysis

We have passed the signing deadline and know who the Indians were able to sign and who they didn't sign from the 2016 first year player draft.  With this information, it is time to make an initial judgement of this draft.   However, since you can only really judge a draft 5 years or so down the road when you see how players develop, this post will be more about the draft strategy that was at the heart of the Indians' draft and execution of that draft strategy.  

Before we get into a discussion about the strategy of this draft, let me give this draft an overall grade of B+ based on my assessment of the talent we obtained (although, statistically, if you look at what these guys have done so far, most of the scouts should be fired :-)).   Had we gotten any of our late round flyers to sign it might have pushed this draft up to an A- or an A.  Still, this is a very good draft for the Indians, considering that 13 teams got to draft in each round before the Indians did.  Not only does that mean that the Indians had fewer prospects to pick from, it also means that the bonus money they had to spend was in the bottom half of all of baseball.  So, with those limitations, the Indians had to come up with a good strategy if they wanted to make this a good draft.   Let's talk about what they did.

The Indians drafted aggressively and, as I indicated at draft time , it was questionable whether the Indians had enough money to sign all their picks in the first 10 rounds.  As it turned out, they barely did, leaving only about $48,000 from their bonus pool of $7.7 million...while still signing all the guys they drafted in rounds 1-10.  The strategy I think the Indians used is very different than I have seen them use in the past and I really like it.  What was so different about their strategy?

This draft was about balancing acquiring top talent (Benson and Jones) with not giving in to wasting picks on college seniors and other guys who would sign for peanuts (to save money for Jones).  When you do that you tend to get less talent with those college seniors than you would if you picked the best available, signable prospect left at that slot.   Instead of drafting college seniors to save money, the Indians chose carefully the players they drafted after their first two picks to make sure they got SOME current talent and some real intriguing young, projectable prospects while drafting players who, for the most part, would sign for at or under their slot values.   The college players they drafted in the first 10 rounds were picked with the idea that while they had limited upside, they all project as future major leaguers with most likely to change the role they had on their college team.   Besides Jones and Benson and those college juniors, the other players drafted in the first 10 rounds were HS players and one JUCO player, all of whom had significant upside and who would sign for slot or slot bonuses.   By doing this the Indians were able to save $50,000 to $150,000 per player which, when multiplied over 10 rounds, added up to over $1 million in savings from their bonus pool.  They then used this excess to sign Jones.  At the same time they got intriguing talent that I believe might produce the most major leaguers the Indians have gotten out of a draft in the last 15 years or more.

Now, let's talk about their draft strategy pick-by-pick for the first 10 rounds.   

1. Benson - I think they valued Benson a little more than other teams did.   As I said before, the mantra of any draft for any team is "teams like who they like".  All you have to do is watch Benson and you can see he has issues with his swing but the athleticism and raw talent is there.  These drafts are so fluid, however, that someone would have likely snapped him up before the 55th selection in the draft.  So the Indians, knowing how much they liked him and that he wouldn't be there when they picked in the 2nd round, popped him at #14 overall.  In doing this they almost assuredly had to know Benson would sign for less than slot and that they could apply their savings below slot to a later pick.

2. Jones - Frankly, I don't know that Jones was their target here but clearly somewhere in this draft they wanted to use the money they saved from Benson (and any other picks they could save money on) to draft a high profile prospect (Jones was the 19th best player in the draft) who had dropped in the draft due to bonus demands.   I think the Indians knew what Jones was looking for and decided to go for him as they thought they could get to his bonus demands by saving money throughout the rest of the first 10 rounds.

Now, here is where it gets interesting and they started to apply their strategy.  The scouting staff knew what players to draft to get talent AND meet what they needed to get Jones signed.

Great scouting by the Indians allowed them to sign high schoolers Capel and Cantu for slot value when most everyone thought it would take above slot bonuses to get them signed.  This, to me, was the key to this draft strategy working.   Had Capel and Cantu required overslot bonuses that would have made it impossible for us to meet Jones' bonus demands, which would likely have significantly weakened our draft from a total talent obtained perspective. 

The Indians then finished out the top 10 rounds with solid, low-ceiling, low-floor college players and a couple of young, unpolished intriguing talents in Nelson and Taylor who they must have liked more than other teams.   Because they had a good estimation of what the industry thought of the talents of these guys I think they knew each would sign for less than slot.  They are banking on the player development staff polishing these guys into major leaguers.  While this is a main part of the player development staff's job, of course, at no time in my memory did we have enough of these types of kids from one draft.   No more Cody Bunkelmans and other picks that were wastes from the moment they were announced.   These first 10 round guys all have, in my mind, a clear development path to get to the majors.   No more "...and then a miracle happened" drafting by the Indians.   At least not in this draft.

Interesting strategy but it all hinged on using almost all their excess money on Jones AND IT WORKED!

Let me be clear about this:  To know about what Jones would want almost to the dollar and to get that extra money, almost to the dollar, without just punting and drafting college seniors was brilliant.   To get the additional talent we got while getting Jones his money is, indeed, also stunningly well-orchestrated and genius.

The quality of their thought process didn't end there,  however.   As all teams do, they had contingency plans if Jones didn't sign with Baird and others who could have split the $1 million plus we saved on the other first round bonuses.    If Jones hadn't signed we would have gotten our second round pick back next year and still had over $1 million to sign some of these late round flyers.    Again, while not out of the ordinary, still good planning by the Indians to get quality players who would end up playing the same positions that the players drafted in the first 10 rounds played.  For example, Ben Baird is a highly ranked HS shortstop.  If Jones didn't sign Baird would have been his replacement.   We drafted two college catchers in the first 10 rounds.   If they didn't sign we drafted two highly rated high school catchers in later rounds (three HS catchers overall).   We also drafted relatively highly rated HS outfielders and third basemen, mirroring guys we drafted in the first 10 rounds.   While I know this has happened before, it seemed this time to be more systematic and planned than in past Indians' drafts.

So, excellent draft strategy by the Indians, maybe the best I have ever seen from them.   The only thing that could have made it better would have been if they had been able to shave another $100K from Benson and $400K from Jones to give them $500,000 to throw at late round flyers.   Unfortunately, that did not happen but it doesn't change the quality of this draft.   It just makes it top-end heavy and, at least on paper, it appears that our chances of getting even a fringe major leaguer out of the rounds from 11-40, while not zero is probably more unlikely than it has been in the past 5 years.  Also, based on the way this draft played out, it appears on the surface that if Benson and Jones don't become impact players, this draft might well end up producing only spare parts and role players.  As I said previously, however, if everything clicks this draft could produce an unusually high number of major leaguers of various contribution types.

So, while there is SOME truth to the baseball draft being a crapshoot due to injuries and failed projections, this is a good draft that I think was built on analytics.   I hope we will be remembering this draft fondly five years from now.  I think there is a better than average change of that.

7-15 Draft pool and signing update and a thought about signing more guys and incurring MLB penalites

Draft pool update:

Right now we appear to be at our maximum if we gave Calica extra money.   Assuming we burned all of $47,000+ excess on Calica, we also owe MLB $275,000+.   People haven't really been mentioning this but it is part of what we have to deal with for going 4.99% over our bonus cap.  These are real dollars that I am sure sting to just give away but, again, props to the Indians for not flinching at spending extra money to get the guys signed who have already signed!

Draft signing update:

Haven't heard anything new about signings going down to the wire.   I doubt that we have many.  Maybe DeVries, maybe Alvarez, maybe Steer.  Or maybe no one.   The deadline is today so we will see.

A thought:

Here are the penalties for going above your draft pool, as they pertain to the Indians this year:

0-$367,100 above maximum pool amount - 75% penalty on overage (the $275,000 mentioned above)
$367,100 - $734,200 - 75% penalty plus loss of first round pick next year
$734,200 - $1,104,400 - 100% penalty plus loss of 1st and 2nd round picks next year
>15% -  100% penalty plus loss of first round picks for the next two years.

No team has decided it is worth it to go over 4.99% over their bonus pool cap.

But what if you could get Baird, Crowe, Amditis and Baker for $1.1 million?  Would it be worth it to lose our first and second round picks next year?   Things can clearly change but if the draft was held right now the Indians would pick 26th in the first round and roughly 66th in the second round.   These are not great draft picks as they are way down the first round AND their bonus slot values are low meaning we would have little wiggle room to combine money as we did this year.      

Is there any combination of guys we haven't signed yet who would make you want to sacrifice your top two picks next year plus pay up to $1 million in penalties?   Probably not but I wanted to ask the question as I don't recall seeing it asked anywhere before?