Teams know their own prospects best, so should it be a red flag if they're willing to trade a top one? History suggests it is so.
Winning baseball teams—at least the ones without exorbitant payrolls—are usually powered by young, cost-controlled talent. And in the land of cost-controlled talent, the top prospect is king. Not only do elite prospects stand a good chance to be stars, but they promise to provide that production—which would cost a fortune to obtain from a free agent—for the league-minimum salary or something close to it.
Since top prospects are such valuable commodities, teams are reluctant to trade them without receiving huge hauls in return, so we rarely see them change organizations before they’ve had a chance to sink or swim in the majors. That’s why it was so strange to see two top prospects—Wil Myers and Trevor Bauer, each of whom either is now or has recently been a top-10 prospect in baseball—on the movethis week.
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If you think about it, the Royals and Rays, the two teams that completed a massive prospects-for-pitchers trade on Sunday, are a lot alike. Both teams are among the have-nots of the American League, competing with payrolls in the mid-60-millions (last season). Neither one draws well—in the Royals’ case, because of all the losing and because Kansas City is small, and in the Rays’ case, because of all the past losing, the newness of the franchise, and the ugliness and location of the ballpark, where it’s almost impossible to catch a foul ball without some painfuland/orembarrassing consequence. To compensate for the lack of revenue, both teams try to draft, develop, and extend homegrown players as an alternative to paying for wins from free agents, and both have had among the finest farm systems in baseball for the past few seasons.
Oakland's success this year is all the more surprising considering they have departed from the small-market blueprint perfected by Tampa Bay.
The Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays, two AL Wild Card contenders who looked like long shots at the All-Star break, are one game into a strangely scheduled Thursday-Saturday series. The two teams have a few things in common, in addition to both being AL Wild Card contenders who’ll be playing tonight in Tampa Bay. In fact, they might have more in common than any other two teams in baseball. This article isn’t actually about the ways in which they’re the same. It’s about one way in which they’re different. But I’m going to start with the similar stuff just to make the different thing more meaningful, which is pretty manipulative of me.
The first thing the A’s and Rays have in common is success in the second half. The A’s were the hot team in July, when they went 19-5. They’ve cooled off lately, but they’re 24-14 in the second half, and their playoff odds have risen by roughly 25 percentage points over that period. The Rays are the hot team in August. They’re 16-5 this month and 25-14 in the second half, which has raised their playoff odds by roughly 50 percentage points.
A look at how the changing defense behind James Shields may be affecting the way he's approaching hitters and the success he's achieving.
James Shields picked up in 2012 where he left off in 2011, winning five of his first six decisions while posting an ERA of 3.05. The first month of the season even saw Shields do something better than he had ever done in the past: generate groundballs.
Ivan Nova's new approach may not work for every pitcher, but Nova's not the type to just hang around.
Jay-Z once said, “Loiterers should be arrested.” Does Ivan Nova feel the same way? The transitive property—Nova and Jay-Z both attend plenty of Yankees games—suggests that he might; so too does Nova’s unwavering commitment to self-improvement. ESPN’s Jorge Arangure Jr. detailed Nova’s upbringing earlier this season and concluded that the pitcher’s success is miraculous. Not often does a gangly strike-thrower’s evolution merit talk about divine intervention, but then, not often does a story play out as the one Nova is writing. Consider Nova’s unlikely ascent: from a failed Rule 5 pick to major-league starter that went 20 regular season starts between losses within three years.
How do you explain Nova’s rise without backfitting a narrative to results? The handy explanation is that Nova worked harder than the other players did. Convenient, but difficult to buy into because countless players work hard and never find success. One attribute that does help explain Nova’s success is an uncanny ability to adapt. Arangure included a story about Nova’s first time with the cutter. Here is the notable anecdote:
The 2000 draft serves as an example of why knee-jerk reactions to the draft are often premature.
Rankings are always of interest to sports fans, but many analysts are uncomfortable with the notion of slapping grades on players whose real value won’t be known for a number of years. This is particularly true in baseball, where players selected in the annual amateur (Rule 4) draft are further away from the major leagues than those of any other major sport. The majority of players taken in the football and basketball drafts have spent time performing under the bright lights, and against the premier competition, of NCAA Division I athletics, and the transition from amateur to professional is a relative breeze. In baseball, only a small percentage of the 1,500 or so players chosen each year hail from Division I baseball programs.
More than a decade ago, some were critical of the Marlins for allegedly putting signability before talent when they tabbed Adrian Gonzalez with the number-one overall pick of the 2000 draft. Gonzalez was regarded as the most polished high school hitter of that year’s crop, but few considered him the best talent available. As it turns out, Gonzalez has contributed the third-most wins above replacement (28.43) among players who signed that year, trailing only Chase Utley (36.26) and Jason Bay (30.53). Given the health woes of Utley and Bay in recent years, Gonzalez appears likely to usurp them atop the list. Joe Borchard, who received that year’s largest signing bonus ($5.3 million) from the White Sox, has the third-lowest WARP total (-1.55) among players who have reached the major leagues.
Players Receiving Signing Bonuses of
$2 Million or Greater, 2000 Draft
Johan Santana returned to the mound last night, and a preview of today's events.
The Thursday Takeaway
The Mets have $35 million committed to Jason Bay and $55 million owed to Johan Santana over the next two seasons. If the team is to salvage any value from those ill-fated contracts—either internally or via trade—Bay and Santana must regain their prowess soon. And while Bay’s quiet, 0-for-3 start was nothing to write home about, Santana’s 2012 debut opened some eyes.
Now 33 and coming off a lost season, Santana no longer throws in the mid-90s. His first pitch on Thursday was an 87 mph fastball, and he sat in the upper-80s throughout the afternoon, occasionally reaching back for 90-91. But Santana also proved that he could be effective without premium velocity, tossing five scoreless innings, fanning five and walking two to pave the way for the Mets’ 1-0 win.
There are times when calling a pitcher "unlucky" because of a high HR/FB or BABIP is not accurate.
I was reading Yahoo!’s RotoArcade blog this weekend and noticed a riff about James Shields, HR/FB, and DIPS theory. I thought that this would provide a terrific jumping point for a discussion on these topics and how randomness plays into how we evaluate players
What can James Shields, Ricky Nolasco and Scott Baker teach us about extreme strike throwers and their fantasy value?
My friends have called me “Moonlight J” since my days in college because I always had a night job. I was not exactly a model student in my prep days, so I had to pay my way through school because I resisted taking out loans as long as possible. Even after I began my teaching career, I would hold night jobs to help make ends meet, and one of those jobs was DJ’ing weddings. That made it only natural that I would take requests from my friends for my debut article for this site.