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March 12, 2010
Noted the retirement of INF-R Nomar Garciaparra. [3/11]
We've covered the "No More Nomah" angle with a virtual series of sendoffs, whether Jay Jaffe talking about it both as an analyst and as a fan, or Steven Goldman's recalling Mind Game and my subsequent comments about Nomar in Unfiltered. There's not a lot to add to Jay's summary that he was an exceptional talent, if one shy of Hall of Fame-level greatness, but there's another thing coming to anyone who thinks that players today aren't every bit as unique and interesting as those from the so-called "golden age," when Bob Costas and the like were in short pants (or when many of us might have been, as Laurie Anderson said upon a time, just so many hershey bars in our daddies' back pockets). Whatever else went into it, Nomar was wonderful to watch, and at the very core of enjoying baseball, isn't that what matters most?
Released LHP Jay Marshall. [3/10]
It was apparently news to the Mets that Marshall had shoulder trouble after he'd suffered shoulder tendinitis last season, but the A's had placed him on waivers rather than release him, and snapped him up, only to find that he was hurt. After complaining to the Commissioner, the matter's resolved with Marshall's return and release, with the waiver-claim cash flipped back to the Mets for the apparent transgression.
Optioned LHP Ryan Feierabend to Tacoma (Triple-A). [3/10]
Feierabend's the one member of the 40-man roster who got shipped out, along with a number of non-roster invites: fading prospect Joshua Fields, journeyman Steven Shell, lefties Nick Hill, Mauricio Robles, and Chris Seddon, and catchers Luis Oliveros and Steven Baron. Basically, not a surprising crew of demotions, especially with Feierabend working his way back from TJS. Depending on how quickly he comes back and shows that he's sharp since surgery, he could enter into the crowded field for the fifth starter's slot during Erik Bedard's early-season absence from the rotation.
The Rays get credited with being one of the best player development outfits in the game, while simultaneously being recognized as one of the sharpest sabermetrically informed organizations in the industry. In short, nobody does better at acknowledging that there are lots of ways to skin a cat when it comes to acquiring and assessing talent-and you should do all of them.
Their latest gambit has been to sign up Cuba's Leslie Anderson, who defected last fall after starring in his home country for the Camaguey Ceramists and playing for both the national team and in the WBC. Although he's hit for some power in his home country and played center field as well as first base, Kevin Goldstein's scouting report is short and to the point in summing Anderson up: "He's stocky, muscular, but more of a pure hitter than a pure slugger; average power at best, but he knows how to get a bat on a ball, and unlike most Cubans has a definitely sense of the strike zone. Good athlete, profiles best in a corner."
Which is interesting and important info, but what does it mean in terms of projecting and evaluating Anderson? He's about to turn 28, so it isn't like he's expected to be knocking around in the minors, adapting to stateside play. This kind of move is more like the White Sox' decision to sign Alexei Ramirez, and less like the Angels signing Cuban youngsters Kendry Morales or the White Sox getting Dayan Viciedo.
Happily, we can do something like what the Rays have done, assessing Anderson on both a scouting level and evaluating his performance. Baseball Prospectus' head statistician, Clay Davenport, has been translating Cuban performances for years, with projections that ended up having some pretty positive things about the Angels' decision to sign Cubans Kendry Morales in 2005 and Alexei Ramirez in 2008. We have Anderson's performance in Cuba to use as a he schedule for the Cuban league (named the Cuban National Series) starts in November and runs for 90 games to February, so because of the timing of Anderson's defection, his regular-season data ends with the 2008-09 season. Let's look at both his actual record and Clay's translations of his performance:
Leslie Anderson Born: March 30, 1982 Age: 28 Bats: L Throws: L Height: 6-1 Weight: 185 Actual Performance Year Team League AB H 2B 3B HR BB SO R RBI SB CS Out AVG OBP SLG TAv 2005 Camaguey CBA 323 101 17 2 3 34 28 29 52 3 6 232 .313 .391 .406 .275 2006 Camaguey CBA 336 122 22 2 15 37 36 67 62 4 4 221 .363 .435 .574 .315 2007 Camaguey CBA 346 104 13 2 7 48 35 50 47 4 3 250 .301 .391 .410 .282 2008 Camaguey CBA 330 111 14 2 19 66 33 69 63 0 3 226 .336 .451 .564 .316 ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Per 650 PA 571 187 28 3 19 79 56 92 96 5 7 929 .328 .417 .488 .297 Translated Performance Year Team League AB H 2B 3B HR BB SO R RBI SB CS Out AVG OBP SLG TAv 2005 Camaguey CBA 340 84 18 1 2 24 54 22 41 3 3 263 .247 .299 .324 .221 2006 Camaguey CBA 355 94 21 1 11 24 79 46 43 3 2 266 .265 .314 .423 .254 2007 Camaguey CBA 367 87 15 1 7 31 78 40 39 2 1 285 .237 .297 .341 .226 2008 Camaguey CBA 359 89 15 1 13 41 72 46 43 0 1 275 .248 .325 .404 .254 ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Per 650 PA 599 149 29 2 14 51 119 65 70 3 3 1089 .249 .309 .373 .239
As Clay notes, "That's quite the smackdown, and he's not young enough to expect he'll improve on those." Naturally, that also takes any projection of his performance down several pegs. Dropping Anderson's track record into PECOTA spits out an unexciting base projection for his big-league performance in 2010: .231/.302/.357, with a .223 True Average. That doesn't seem like Kendry Morales, it's more like Andy Morales, the Cuban third-base prospect who signed with the Yankees to some acclaim and great disappointment a decade ago. Like the wrong Morales, Anderson's already a mature ballplayer, so it isn't like there's a ton of growth potential.
However, the funny thing about Cuban baseball is that it's a league where the talent distribution isn't exactly even, a 90-game schedule makes for smaller samples. What if we give Anderson the benefit of the doubt, and, say, run with PECOTA's 90th-percentile projection for Anderson? Ratcheted up to that sort of best-case scenario, his projection comes all the way up to .263/.338/.463, with a True Average of .267-not great for a first baseman or corner outfielder or a DH, but in this best of all projected outcomes, it's certainly playable, especially if the alternatives are the uncertainties involving the health of Pat Burrell or Hank Blalock.
That said, that's the sunniest scenario, and the relatively meager amount of money the Rays laid out suggests that they're being realistic in terms of what their expectations for Anderson are. Cuban talent has been wildly inconsistent in terms of how well some players have done coming over, where others have flopped badly or had to adapt and adjust. As an exploratory investment goes, Anderson's interesting, but he's also not someone expected to go nuts at the plate now that he's stateside.
Optioned RHP Ryan Tucker to New Orleans (Triple-A). [3/11]
This isn't usually the sort of move worth singling out to discuss, but as Joe Frisaro covered over on MLB.com, Tucker's dealing with a rare circulatory problem, Raynaud's Disease, this on top of trying to come back from a 2009 season in which he was hampered with knee and oblique issues. Considering he's one of the team's top prospects and has always been seen as a live-armed flamethrower with upside, even the advantage of getting to pitch in a warm-weather venue like Miami doesn't change the fact that this is a matter of no small concern. Here's hoping he manages to carve out a career for himself just the same; even if the symptoms are considered a "nuisance" for most sufferers of Reynaud's, gripping the ball effectively is as fundamental as it gets for a pitcher.
Noted the retirement of OF-L Brian Giles. [3/11]
As should be obvious with Nomar's sendoff, some players will be missed. And, even accepting the presumption of innocence before guilt as an absolute necessity in our society governed by laws, there's apparently a very good reason that some will not be. I've written a lot about Giles over the years-upon his being dealt to Pittsburgh for Ricky Rincon, he's the guy I consider half of my most famous mistake in my long history of writing occasionally smart, occasionally silly, and sometimes immensely stupid things-but some things take out of you the desire to say more.
Optioned RHP Cody Scarpetta to Brevard County (High-A). [3/11]
Returned LHP Jay Marshall to the Athletics. [3/9]
Not everybody gets the full-on viking funeral, with boating and arrows and ritual sacrifices and barbecue, but thena gain, not everyone is so readily identified with a single team that makes it easy to chuck it and say enough's enough. Both aren't what they were, of course, but getting cut this early in spring certainly gives both opportunities to catch on somewhere else, that despite checkered recent histories that suggest the end is near. Meanwhile, that the Nats would cut both Estes and Guardado (and reassign non-roster lefty Victor Garate) almost certainly means good things for NRI Ron Villone as far as his making the team as the pen's second lefty should Jim Riggleman choose to keep one.
A version of a portioin of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .
Thanks to Kevin Goldstein and Clay Davenport for their input and insight.