As the draft rolls on, more and more of the selections will be someone that scouts just had a gut feeling on.
While scouts can’t always explain the reasoning behind their “gut-feel” guys, something stood out about them. Athleticism, size, power, makeup, rawness. Some will admit that they don’t even get long looks at some of these players. The signing scout behindTrevor Rosenthal only saw him throw one inning.
“The Cardinals gave each scout three “gut feel” stickers to use, and those would help guide late-round decisions. Aaron Looper pressed one of his onto Rosenthal’s magnet and spoke passionately about what he saw in that one inning. Rosenthal featured a fastball that sizzled in the 90s, and he also displayed indicators the Cardinals valued: athletic ability, agility from his past as a shortstop, obvious arm strength and a low-mileage arm.”
With that said, here are my gut-feel guys for the 2017 draft.
Evan Marquardt, RHP, R-So., Ball State University (Muncie, IN)
Marquardt, who I profiled here in March, has a lot going for him, but he has a lot going against him as well. Let’s start with the positives. His fastball could be a plus offering, he shows quality feel for a breaking ball with hard action and depth, and he has good size (6-foot-6, 260 pounds) with good athleticism for his size. There are a fair amount of negatives though. He doesn’t have a collegiate track record (threw 59 IP this year, 13 IP the year prior), doesn’t throw a lot of strikes, and, while he started strong in my viewing, he wore down as the season progressed and finished with 40 walks. But hitters didn’t hit him that hard, allowing only 11 XBH in an offensive league (and home park). There are warts, but there are good building blocks to work with.
Trent Autry, RHP, R-Fr. Florence-Darlington Tech (Florence, SC) (JUCO)
I first saw Autry, not surprisingly, while going to see someone else. I drove to Palatka, FL to see Pearson McMahan (profiled here) and noticed they were playing Florence-Darlington Tech. I knew one of their coaches from a prior event and called him, as well as their head coach to discuss their squad. The first player he mentioned to me was Autry, a player who transferred over from another JUCO, who would take the bump in their first game. Suffice to say, Autry has been put on notice. He finished the year with 115 strikeouts in 75 innings (10th in the nation) and led Florence to the JUCO World Series. While not an ideal size (6-foot-1, 220 pounds) his fastball could be an above-average offering which features cut life, and a hard SL in the 84-85 range. It was a trip well worth taking, and while he could go back for another season at JUCO, he could be a flier on Day 3.
Raudy Martinez, OF, So., Polk State College (Lakeland, FL) (JUCO)
While somewhat of a reach, the main thing I am banking on is size, athleticism, and raw power. The concern with Martinez is that there is a lot of swing and miss, in what is a poor pitching league. But I am reminded of a player the Reds have in their organization, Narciso Crook. A 21st rounder in 2013 out of JUCO, he had the tools, but lacked feel for the game and had a lot of swing and miss. While it hasn’t panned out for Crook yet (he is still only 21, and shows all those tools), Raudy is a similar play. He has plus raw power, athleticism, size (6-foot-4, 225 pounds), and is an above-average runner. While he might not be able to play CF on a daily basis in pro ball, he can handle either OF corner. I have him as a pure lottery ticket, one that, if he hits, he looks like an everyday regular.
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
Some potential senior signs that could go on Day 2 of the draft.
Every draft is full of them, last year, the significance of quality seniors was higher than ever as draft bonuses soared, giving teams more money to work with for higher upside players. While this left the seniors with little leverage, their importance has dominated the later stages of Day 2 in the draft.
“(They) said they’d be able to give me a $100,000 bonus,” Ratledge said, “but I’d have to tell teams not to draft me the rest of the day.” So Ratledge called to ask the club offering $20,000—let’s call it Team B—not to select him.
Team B wasn’t happy; it had to find a new senior to save money, but the area scout had a plan in place and found one. Ratledge, though, had to wait a nervous night until the next day. The 11th round came and went, and the third team didn’t draft him. The same thing happened in the 12th; still no pick, and no $100,000 bonus. Ratledge says his nerves were shot. He was ready to just get it over with.
“I 100 percent believed they were going to take me, but they kept passing and passing,” he said. “I was expecting it wouldn’t be easy, and I know it’s a business, but I wasn’t expecting it to be so cutthroat.”
Five years later and this draft class still looks about the same. Big-time talent at the top. Big-time drop off at the bottom.
With just hours before the 2017 draft class starts getting their names called on the MLB Network, we wanted to take a look back to see how things have changed with the draft class with which it’s been most compared. A lot can happen in five years. In fact, a lot can happen in three years as well (the first time we redrafted the 2012 crop was back in 2014). So we assigned 35 picks to BP authors and re-drafted from scratch, selecting only from the pool of players who were both selected and signed in 2012. Here's how the new draft shook out:
1:1 Houston Astros Actual Selection:Carlos Correa, SS Re-Draft Selection:Carlos Correa, SS (2012 no. 1 pick) Draft Position Change: 0 Explanation: Well, then. As it was in June of 2012, compelling arguments can be made for other players. The differences between Carlos Correa and Corey Seager are nearly impossible to express quantitatively. But Correa, already a star, nonetheless stands out as a singular player who most frequently causes involuntary raising of the eyebrows. The suspicion, the conviction, that there is another explosive level of stardom here keeps Correa in the No. 1 slot. —Zach Crizer
1:2 Minnesota Twins Actual Selection: Byron Buxton, CF Re-Draft Selection: Corey Seager, SS (2012 no. 18 pick) Draft Position Change: +16 Explanation: Like Correa, Seager is a large physically imposing shortstop that faced a lot of questions about whether he could stick at the position. Well, Seager has proven he can handle short, and the bat might be even better than we thought. He was supposed to be his brother, Kyle, with more power, but has become his brother, with a better average. Either way, his offensive profile plays in heart of the Dodgers lineup for years to come. —J.H. Schroeder
DRA, examined through the lens of MLB's surprising ERA leader.
As you know, different pitching estimators tend to agree on which pitchers are good and which ones are not. The interesting cases are when they disagree—strongly. In those situations, the proper response is not to decide which one is “correct” (to the extent there is such a thing), but rather to look at why they disagree.
On a related note, people have recently asked for us to do more explaining of how Deserved Run Average (DRA) works. Often, it’s easiest to do that with an example.
Today, our example is Twins right-hander Ervin Santana. Santana has a 1.80 ERA, a 1.80 RA9, a 4.00 FIP, and a cFIP of 102, but a DRA of 2.74. He is striking out 6.4 batters per nine innings, walking 3.5 batters per nine innings, and giving up just under one single home run per nine innings.
ERA and RA9 suggest an extraordinary pitcher; FIP and cFIP see an average pitcher, and DRA sees him somewhere in between, as a very good, but not-as-good-as-his-RA9 pitcher. Why the difference in opinion?
FIP and cFIP, as you know, look only at home runs, strikeouts, hit batsmen, and walks. Santana gives up a below-average number of home runs, generates fewer strikeouts than average, and gives up a tad more walks than average. Home runs count for more than the other aspects, so he comes out as an average-ish pitcher overall.
DRA sees a more interesting profile. Santana has a left-on-base percentage of 91 percent and a batting average on balls in play of .136. If you look at Santana’s player card, you’ll see that he has played in hitter-friendly stadiums (pitcher park factor, or PPF, of 107), faced roughly average opponents (oppTAv of .258), and most importantly of all, has held batters to a True Average of .173. Since the league TAv is .260, this is an incredible amount of damage control on contact.
Hicks struggled over four seasons with the Twins and Yankees, but he's one of the best hitters in the majors so far in 2017.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Aaron Hicks leaned forward at his locker and asked teammate Didi Gregorius about his tweeting. He wanted to know about the 140-characters-or-less game summaries Gregorius has been posting on Twitter after Yankees victories. Instead of using Hicks’ name, Gregorius has been using a certain emoji.
“Hey, Didi,” Hicks said. “Who am I supposed to be?”
Gregorius, sitting nearby at a card table, laughed and put a look of pretend surprise on his face.
“Who are you supposed to be?” Gregorius asked, still pretending. “I mean, you’re Aaron Hicks!”
Hicks wasn’t letting him off the hook: “What’s my emoji?”
The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport's annual report card shows that MLB continues to struggle with racial and gender diversity.
This week, The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) released their 2017 report card for Major League Baseball’s hiring and employment practices regarding racial and gender diversity. When grading MLB, TIDES looks at a variety of positions at the league level, the team level, and the organization itself, including the makeup of on-field or field-related staff as well as executives.
Their findings were not surprising to anyone who has been following the recent news cycles around hiring within Major League Baseball. While the league itself (specifically, the commissioner’s office, MLB Advanced Mecia, and MLB Network) scored the highest in both racial and gender diversity, the gender diversity number specifically dropped from 2016. On a team level, the gender diversity situation was even worse, with senior team administration receiving a D+ and professional administration a C-.
If we break these numbers down further, and look at how many of the women filling 27 percent of the “team senior administration” and 28.1 percent of the “team professional administration” roles are in positions that are—while incredibly important to the health of the team as a business—not related to the product on the field, the world is even bleaker. TIDES provides a breakdown of every woman and person of color in these senior roles, and the list of women only has six out of 82 women in roles that could be considered to have an impact on-field (athletic trainers, coaches, or scouts), and two of these are general “vice president” positions, with two others being “general partner” roles.
When we look at the 28 percent of women employed in “professional administration roles,” we have to take into account that TIDES includes specialists, technicians, analysts, engineers, and programmers alongside “assistant managers, coordinators, supervisors, and administrators in business operations such as marketing, promotions, publications, and various other departments.” When restricted to, again, roles that directly impact the product on the field, that 28 percent is almost certainly much lower.
While MLB overall scored a B for racially diverse hiring practices in 2017, this again represented a falling off from their score in 2016—somehow, in a single year, the league lost 8.5 points off their TIDES-given score. People of color fill 44.3 percent of coaching roles, but as we know, only three current MLB managers are men of color. The league office employs the next-highest level of people of color in all positions, at 28.1 percent, with the teams falling off steeply from that—only 11.7 percent of vice president or equivalent positions.
Kendall from Alex City had better baseball connections when he was a kid than he realized, and lessons learned half a lifetime ago are fueling his success for the A's.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kendall Graveman struggled at first to remember the name of the man who taught him the grip for his best pitch, a sinking fastball. It’s kind of a funny story, learning to grip what has become one of the most effective pitches in the majors, from a man who today coaches the hitters for a junior-college softball team, who also in part learned about the importance of finger strength from conversations with a national-champion arm wrestler. It all sounds so over the top, but it's true: You just never know how wisdom will get passed along between generations.
About the coach’s name. After being given a moment to think, does Graveman remember?
“I do ...” Graveman said, his face grimacing as the mental wheels turned. “I don’t. It was at Central Alabama Community College. Heck, he may still be there. It’s a junior college in my hometown.
“We didn’t have a lot of connections in Alexander City.”
Taking notice of a 27-year-old rookie who's suddenly crushing the ball.
A 17th-round pick by the Rays in 2011, Taylor Motter made some 2,000 plate appearances in the minors before the majors came calling last year. By the time his summer stint in The Show was over, the 27-year-old had two small-time claims to fame. He was the only major-league alumnus of Coastal Carolina University when the Chanticleers made their College World Series run:
Baseball is entwined with American history, but it can also be the source of propaganda.
Baseball has a storied and deliberate history of being connected to American politics, from its roots in the Civil War to presidents throwing Opening Day first pitches to the widespread belief during World War II that baseball made America more peaceful than Europe. Though it is correct that these connections have in some ways produced an American baseball synonymous with American politics, these efforts have perpetuated the dangerous belief that the mere existence of American democracy safeguards people from suffering and persecution.
These issues were on full display in a 1951 Lew Fonseca short film titled The Democracy of Baseball. The film was packaged as a celebration of the game on behalf of the National League’s 75th anniversary and the American League’s 50th. The 17-minute film was shown to baseball writers, boy scouts, and young baseball players, among many others, as a means of educating them on the sport’s history. However, the heavy-handed American democratic and militaristic ties to the sport on display in the film present a superficial account of the game that, in service of specific political goals, omits the real, full nature of baseball’s American-ness.
Summarizing the history of the start_speed parameter, including a cautionary note to new pitch-tracking researchers, and describing a method for estimating release point (extension) by taking advantage of Gameday's parameter switch.
According to Dave Cameron and recently confirmed in a blog post by Tom Tango, MLB has changed the meaning of start_speed, a pitch-by-pitch parameter in the MLB Components Data ("Gameday") Files. This brief post summarizes the history of the start_speed parameter, includes a cautionary note to new pitch-tracking researchers, and describes a method for estimating release point (extension) by taking advantage of Gameday’s parameter switch.
The parameter start_speed has, for the better part of 10 years, coded for the velocity at a fixed distance 50 feet from home plate. Although 50 feet is much too close to home plate to actually be a realistic guess at a pitcher release point, this distance was initially chosen to reasonably match the velocities reported by scout’s radar guns. Several websites (including BP and BrooksBaseball.net) quickly realized that 55 feet was actually a better estimate for pitcher release point, and so have used that as convention for much of the PITCHf/x era. Due to technical limitations of the PITCHf/x system, it was not possible to record the actual release point of the pitch, which limited the ability of the system to determine the actual speed at release.
Trackman Doppler Radar, which serves as the pitch tracking hardware for the new MLB Statcast system, has the advantage of being able to measure the actual release point of the ball—and the speed at that point—with excellent fidelity.
BP's writing and editing staff look into their collective crystal ball to predict the 2017 season.
PECOTA is Baseball Prospectus' projection system and it's a damn good one, but we also have a staff full of real, live humans who like to predict things too.
Below you'll find predicted divisional standings, the major player awards for each league (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year), and World Series winners, neatly summarized as a collective and detailed by each individual's ballot. "Points" for awards are given on a 5-3-1 system for first, second, and third place.
I hold what I imagine to be a minority opinion: I suspect that Christian Bethancourt being a so-so two-way player will be less fun than him being a mediocre position player who occasionally pitches. Not that it won’t be cool that he’s trying; just less fun.
Position players pitching is perfect. It’s the rare baseball moment when every possible outcome is good. We’ve removed stakes, and absent the potential to alter how the game ends, it can only change how the game feels. It’s like staring at one of those Magic Eye 3D posters: amid what was chaos, an image of healing comes into focus, sketched out in pitcher form.
Imagine our guy fails; that’s easy, we assumed he would. We’re granted permission to enjoy his failure, to find notes of humor and self-awareness because what he’s really doing is performing a service. This is an act of care disguised as embarrassment. There is no winning in these moments, which also means there is no losing. The losing has already been done. Position players pitched 22.1 innings in 2016; they allowed 14 earned runs. Some of those were probably the result of indifferent defense, but I couldn’t be bothered to investigate which ones. Who cares?
Two different teams threw Erik Kratz out there. We’re working with different standards of success. We look on these performances and revel in the fact that they contain all the components of throwing a baseball. Our guy got the ball to the catcher’s mitt (when he doesn’t it’s funnier), and got his outs (exect when they don’t and smile knowingly), and if he gave up a few runs along the way (he often will), well, that’s part of pitching, too. Only his job isn’t to pitch, so we don’t have to be mad about it.