Rebuilding and the Draft, The Grand Overview

February 15, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 14 Comments 

This quarter in grad school, I’ve been attending a series of lectures by writers. Outside of “the first book takes ten years on average,” the most common refrain I’ve heard is “I throw out far more work than I save.” I don’t think I’ve actually heard anyone claim that their ratio of published work to discarded work is actually pretty good. If you’re lucky, some of the stuff will get cannibalized and turn into something relevant later. Heck, I did that just last week with something I wrote two and a half years ago and didn’t know what to do with.

The baseball journalism shtick operates under similar parameters. Except in some cases it can be worse. Sure, you may not be as concerned with the aesthetic value of what you’re doing, but you’re bound to a news cycle where, true enough there are opportunities for digression into history (2003 Tigers!), but you’re mostly trying to get things out on a schedule. If someone else has had the same idea and managed to beat you to it, that’s a lot of work that you can’t really do anything with. There are about 150 drafts on the server that will never see the light of day, and as I revealed some time ago, I had three pre-written draft articles for last year that I had to throw out when Hultzen got picked.

At some point yesterday, a question was posed in the comments section as to whether or not anyone else had done studies of this ilk on other systems. I don’t know why anyone would bring that upon themselves, but okay. The way I see it, if you’re bad, it’s depressing. If you’re good, you might not have anyone who cares. You probably have other things to enjoy. Like baseball!

But FanGraphs author Jim Breen cared, and thought enough of it to post, first, a Building Through the Draft: Best of the Best article the covers the top 5 success stories (this was Monday), and a piece on the other half of the story, Building Through the Draft: Worst of the Worst, which includes a table of all thirty teams and their production going back to 2002. We are the worst. We were so bad. I, meanwhile, was working on my own variation of the thing and only went with the time span I allotted for my own Monday article. And I spent three hours on that last night. Hours I should have been devoting to other things.

Still, for my own peace of mind, I don’t feel like throwing it out, even if Breen was presumably using FanGraphs WAR data and I went with B-R out of convenience or laziness/time-saving. The parameters, I expect are similar: I’m only considering players that were signed as it doesn’t take too much to spend a 50th round pick on a talented kid you know you will never sign. If I had the capacity to set up a table to re-order things either by team name or WAR, I would, but instead I opted to go by team name. I’ll trust that all of you know how to use a find function on your web browser.

Since Breen already did his thing, I won’t be going too in-depth with the analysis here, like considering what players actually accumulated WAR for their drafted team as I did with the M’s. If someone else wants to pick up that, they’re free to do so. This should provide us enough material for our purposes. I’ve mentioned names that caught my eye in parentheses, but I won’t promise that I found all of them. And because I’m talking about the WAR generated by each class and presenting an average of the classes, that’s somewhat different. Right?

As a final point of clarification before the numbers: this is overall WAR generated, not WAR generated with the drafting team. This is more of a look at the method of drafting and signing than the utilization of the talent, which isn’t really something that the draft people can do anything about.

Angels: 1.0 WAR (Brandon Wood sucks)
Astros: -2.3 WAR
Athletics: 11.4 WAR
Braves: 3.7 WAR (Jo-Jo Reyes sucks)
Brewers: 12.4 WAR (Rickie Weeks)
Cardinals: 18.2 WAR (Brendan Ryan!)
Cubs: 9.3 WAR
D’Backs: 12.7 WAR (Quentin)
Dodgers: 33.0 WAR (Kemp, Billingsley)
Giants: 11.7 WAR (Aardsma, that guy with the beard)
Indians: 8.4 WAR
Mariners: 12.2 WAR (Jones)
Marlins: -1.8 WAR
Mets: 1.1 WAR
Natinals: 5.4 WAR (Chad Cordero)
Orioles: 20.1 WAR (Markakis)
Padres: 2.3 WAR
Phillies: 19.4 (Bourn, Brad Ziegler)
Pirates: 13.9 WAR (Maholm)
Rangers: 47.1 WAR (Kinsler, Danks)
Rays: 0.7 WAR
Red Sox: 26 WAR (Papelbon)
Reds: 1.8 WAR
Rockies: 1.7 WAR
Royals: 4.9 WAR
Tigers: -2.6 WAR
Twins: 12.4 WAR (Scott Baker)
Blue Jays: 33.5 WAR (Aaron Hill, Shaun Marcum)
White Sox: 6.5 WAR (Ryan Sweeney)
Yankees: 8.1 WAR
Average: 11.07 WAR

Angels: 29.3 WAR (Jered Weaver)
Astros: 26.9 WAR (Zobrist, Pence)
Athletics: 26 WAR (Street, Suzuki, Braden)
Blue Jays: 12.7 WAR (Lind)
Braves: -0.8 WAR
Brewers: 14.6 WAR (Gallardo)
Cardinals: -2.5 WAR
Cubs: -0.5 WAR
D’Backs: 16.9 WAR (Drew, Mark Reynolds)
Dodgers: 6.7 WAR
Giants: 1.3 WAR (Jonathan Sanchez and some negatives)
Indians: 2.8 WAR
Mariners: -2.3 WAR
Marlins: 5.2 WAR
Mets: 5.2 WAR
Natinals: 3.5 WAR
Orioles: 2.9 WAR
Padres: -0.2 WAR
Phillies: 5.8 WAR
Pirates: 2.9 WAR
Rangers: -0.8 WAR
Rays: 6.3 WAR
Red Sox: 25.8 WAR (Pedroia)
Reds: 0.1 WAR
Rockies: 10.1 WAR (Ianetta)
Royals: 7.9 WAR (Butler)
Tigers: 26.1 WAR (Verlander)
Twins: 3.1 WAR
White Sox: 5.0 WAR (Gio Gonzalez)
Yankees: 5.7 WAR
Average: 8.19 WAR

Angels: 3.4 WAR
Astros: -0.6 WAR
Athletics: 7.2 WAR
Blue Jays: 11.4 WAR (Ricky Romero)
Braves: 24.7 WAR (Yunel Escobar, Tommy Hanson)
Brewers: 22.8 WAR (Braun)
Cardinals: 7.9 WAR (Rasmus, Jaime Garcia)
Cubs: -0.3 WAR
D’Backs: 16.5 WAR (Upton)
Dodgers: -4.1 WAR
Giants: 3.6 WAR (Romo)
Indians: 1.9 WAR
Mariners: -1.2 WAR
Marlins: 5.3 WAR
Mets: 6.3 WAR
Natinals: 26.4 WAR (Zimmerman)
Orioles: 2.5 WAR
Padres: 14.4 WAR (Headley, Venable, Hundley)
Phillies: 5.1 WAR
Pirates: 11 WAR (McCutchen)
Rangers: 2.8 WAR
Rays: 4.8 WAR
Red Sox: 24.1 WAR (Ellsbury, Buchholz)
Reds: 12.9 WAR (Bruce, Axford)
Rockies: 23.7 WAR (Tulo)
Royals: 9.7 WAR (Gordon)
Tigers: 15.1 WAR (Matt Joyce, Maybin)
Twins: 19.8 WAR (Garza)
White Sox: 2.7 WAR
Yankees: 16.6 WAR (Gardner, Jackson)
Average: 9.88 WAR

Angels: 2.0 WAR
Astros: 1.4 WAR
Athletics: 16.5 WAR (Cahill, Bailey)
Blue Jays: 0.2 WAR
Braves: 0.9 WAR
Brewers: 0.4 WAR
Cardinals: 8.3 WAR
Cubs: -0.2 WAR
D’Backs: 13.3 WAR (Scherzer, Brett Anderson)
Dodgers: 16.7 WAR (Kershaw)
Giants: 20.6 WAR (Lincecum)
Indians: 1.2 WAR (David Huff and his -2.9 WAR)
Mariners: 11.8 WAR (Fister, Morrow)
Marlins: 2.3 WAR
Mets: 6.1 WAR
Natinals: 0.7 WAR
Orioles: 0.7 WAR
Padres: 9.2 WAR (Latos)
Phillies: 0.2 WAR
Pirates: -0.3 WAR
Rangers: 0.6 WAR (Holland)
Rays: 27.0 WAR (Longoria)
Red Sox: 14.2 WAR (Masterson, Bard)
Reds: 11.4 WAR (Stubbs)
Rockies: -1.7 WAR (Greg Reynolds is disappointing)
Royals: 3.4 WAR (Hochevar)
Tigers: -1.3 WAR (Andrew Miller sucks)
Twins: 1.1 WAR
White Sox: 0.1 WAR
Yankees: 19.1 WAR (Kennedy, Joba, Robertson)
Average: 6.20 WAR

Angels: -0.3 WAR
Astros: 0.0 WAR
Athletics: -0.7 WAR
Blue Jays: 4.3 WAR
Braves: 10.5 WAR (Heyward, Kimbrel)
Brewers: 0.4 WAR
Cardinals: -0.2 WAR
Cubs: 0.9 WAR
D’Backs: 2.4 WAR
Dodgers: 0.0 WAR
Giants: 5.7 WAR (Bumgarner)
Indians: -0.2 WAR
Mariners: 0.4 WAR
Marlins: 9.2 WAR (Stanton)
Mets: 2.9 WAR
Natinals: 4.3 WAR
Orioles: 9.9 WAR (Wieters)
Padres: 3.8 WAR
Phillies: -0.5 WAR
Pirates: 0.6 WAR
Rangers: 4.7 WAR
Rays: 10.6 WAR (Price)
Red Sox: -0.7 WAR
Reds: 1.1 WAR
Rockies: 0.4 WAR
Royals: 3.3 WAR (Holland, Moustakas)
Tigers: 3.3 WAR (Porcello)
Twins: 0.2 WAR
White Sox: -0.8 WAR
Yankees: 0.8 WAR
Average: 2.54 WAR

Things I learned from all this:
* The Angels drafted Brandon Morrow, Anthony Vasquez, Brian Matusz, and Buster Posey, but as a pitcher. WACKY
* The Astros, for as much as their farm system has sucked, hit it big on two guys in 2004.
* The Athletics have had eleven graduates from the 2004 draft. Most of them good.
* The Blue Jays 2006 draft has gotten 0.2 WAR out of Graham Godfrey, who went to the Athletics within a year, and 0.0 WAR out of Travis Snider. Buh?
* For a team that had a track record for building internally and player development, the Braves drafts were mostly awful and I don’t know how much one should credit them for Escobar, who was not a prep player. Fortunately for them, the ’07 draft had Heyward, Kimbrel, and Freeman. They could have had Brandon Belt too.
* The Brewers drafted Andrew Bailey before the A’s did. Now you know where those rumors this offseason were coming from. Expect Jake Arrieta or Jemile Weeks rumors eventually.
* The Cardinals missed on Ian Kennedy and Max Scherzer in 2003, but to date, Brendan Ryan has accumulated more WAR than either of them. Let’s see how long that lasts!
* Everyone remembers when the Cubs drafted Tim Lincecum in the 48th round in 2003, right? Boy, we sure did miss an opportunity there. The Cubs 2005 draft was worse than ours by a good margin as their only graduate has a negative contribution.
* I included Clay Zavada from the D’Backs 2006 draft on technicality, since he left and came back. Otherwise, they’ve been more productive than I knew.
* The Dodgers missed out David Price and Hochevar. I can’t imagine it’s common to miss out on two guys who later became 1/1s. Their 2005 class is the worst overall as far as negative contributors.
* The Giants were one of a couple of teams that drafted Doug Fister, but beyond that they struck me as among the most efficient teams as far as signing the guys that got to the majors.
* In the Indians 2004 draft class, B-R has 45th rounder Tony Sipp accumulating 0.2 more WAR over his career than first-round pick and 6th overall Jeremy Sowers.
* The Marlins, despite being around only since 1993, have drafted and signed two of the seven major leaguers to have gone by the first name “Logan.”
* Lastings Milledge has been worth -2.0 WAR, but he was big deal for the Mets back in the day. Most of their first-rounders/first overall picks have been awful or not nearly as good as anticipated. Eddie Kunz, Nathan Vineyard, Kevin Mulvey, Mike Pelfrey (the best!), Philip Humber (the second-best!), Milledge…
* Brad Peacock, a key piece in the Nationals trade for Gio Gonzalez, was a 41st round pick. He was drafted as a catcher. He’s a pitcher now. He is one of only two Peacocks to reach the major leagues.
* The 2005 Orioles draft has Nolan Reimold and Garret Olson canceling each other out. In ’04, they had Will Venable and Jaime Garcia and could sign neither.
* The Padres’ 2005 draft produced two major leaguers named Cesar. There have been twelve major leaguers that have gone by Cesar ever, thirteen if you go with Tavo Alvarez whose first name was really Cesar. The Padres’ 2005 draft has produced 16.7% of our major leaguers who have gone by Cesar.
* The Phillies’ 2006 class is Jason Donald and four negatives right now. They also drafted Rob Johnson before he had any ties to the Mariners. Weird.
* The Pirates’ rebuilding efforts would have been aided by the addition of Lonnie Chisenhall, their 11th rounder in 2006. Like us, they’ve only really started drafting well recently.
* The Rangers could have signed Drew Pomeranz and Cory Luebke too (along with Brad Lincoln, who was a big deal at one time). Of the contributors the Rangers have had from the 2006 draft, three of the five were from after round 20.
* Twelve picks from the Rays’ 2003 draft have graduated. Of those, only four ever were signed by the Rays, Jaso, Delmon Young, James Houser, and Chad Orvella. Their 2005 draft had six graduates, the only one of which they signed was Hellickson. They missed out on Ike Davis and Tommy Hunter. In 2006, it was Mike Minor.
* All of the positive contributors from the Red Sox’ 2005 draft were signed by them, in addition to Craig Hansen, who was the 26th overall pick that year, and has had the worst WAR. Otherwise, none of the other negative WARs signed (This includes Pedro Alvarez and Jason Castro, for the moment).
* John Axford went from a 7th round pick by us in 2001 to a 42nd round pick by the Reds in 2005. He’s been good too.
* The Rockies surely would have liked to have signed Chris Sale, who may not have liked to have been signed by the Rockies. 2005’s WAR is all Tulo.
* Likewise, Alex Gordon is the only player from the Royals’ 2005 draft to reach the majors.
* In a draft where they picked Andrew Miller first, Brennan Boesh has been the Tigers most productive pick. Miller has been so bad as to negate any gains in that draft all on his own.
* The Twins were the first team to draft Yonder Alonso, 16th round 2005.
* Outside of the Mariners, the White Sox have had some pretty dismal drafts. Breen indicated that over a larger timespan, they did better than us, but for the purposes of this sample, they were worse.
* The Yankees drafted Doug Fister. WE SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN MONTERO FOR HIM.

So what conclusions can we draw from this? A few perhaps, but I’m leaving it more as a data playground for people to run around in since Breen did his thing already. The 2004 draft was probably one of the most boom or bust affairs I think we’re likely to see for a while, though its overall quality was substandard. The Mariners’ 2003 draft, while productive, is only a little bit above the average at this point while, as I suspected, their 2006 effort was well above average. I’ve also concluded that I’m right not to go further than 2007 at this point, what with the diminishing returns.

I probably won’t do this again next year because I would have to re-calculate everything and it would take me something like six hours to do it all, but I hope that this has provided some amusing diversion to you on this Wednesday.

Rebuilding and the Draft, 2012 Edition

February 13, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 38 Comments 

You may remember that last year, as the season was opening up, I wrote a post that analyzed the Mariners efforts at rebuilding. In brief, it was depressing. We determined that only two of the four drafts yielded much of anything and what few productive players we had went elsewhere pretty quickly. This year, I’ve decided to bump up the timetable on that a little bit and get it out of the way at the beginning of spring training in light of the fact that there weren’t a whole lot of external acquisitions. Oh sure, you thought that because spring training was starting and we were all starting to think about baseball coming back, you’d be able to get through mostly uplifting and optimistic articles. Not so, suckers.

We’re getting closer in relative terms, but as the old saying goes, old sins cast long shadows. I forget what WAR I was using before, but I’m using FanGraphs now, which I type out partially as an attempt to get myself to remember it next year. Let’s go and become despondent now, shall we?

2003 Draft:
CF Adam Jones (1), LHP Ryan Feierabend (3), LHP Eric O’Flaherty (6)
Yield: 11.8 WAR (-0.1 with Mariners)
Biggest Contributor: Jones, 9.2 WAR (0.1 with Mariners)

The bulk of it, I think I said last year. There were a lot of picks that could have been something but were derailed. This may include Feierabend, who still hasn’t seen major league time since 2008. It depends on how much you think of him. Maybe you don’t think of him. The notion of prospects panning out to nothing is no new revelation in the overall reckoning, even if it seems like more of an array of factors here, but looking over the list again, it’s interesting to me that there aren’t even guys we could have signed that would have done something. Scott Maine, whom we picked up in the 15th round that year and couldn’t come to terms with, has seen twenty total innings with the Cubs and been worth -0.1 WAR. He could yet turn into something, as he’s always run impressive strikeout rates, but his walk rate hovers around four per nine innings and that’s no good. The other guy who made it was Doug Mathis, now with the division-rival Rangers. He’s been worth -0.1 as well, though his skillset doesn’t involve strikeouts. Not having strikeouts as a pitcher is kind of a bummer.

To add a little bit to last year’s commentary, the first “hey, wait a second…” move to me of Zduriencik’s tenure was designating O’Flaherty for assignment, considering that we continue to look for a left-handed reliever in his absence. O’Flaherty probably won’t be as good as last year’s 1.6 WAR going forward (his strand rate was 92.3%! That was third-best among major league relievers!), but he seemed like a neat piece to have around, and a local guy to boot. Perhaps I’m being irrational again. But it does seem that relievers can be a bit of a blind spot for Zduriencik. That Lucas Luetge Rule 5 pick this winter has not made any more sense with time.

2004 Draft:
UT Matt Tuiasosopo (3), C Rob Johnson (4), RHP Mark Lowe (5), CF Michael Saunders (11)
Yield: 1 WAR (0.9 with Mariners)
Biggest Contributor: Lowe, 1.8 WAR (1.5 with Mariners)

Ahahahahahaha…. pfft haha… oh…. mercy. We lost value this year and Tui didn’t even have to play. He’s even gone to the Mets now! Rob Johnson started 67 games for the Padres and was even worse in the NL, which is perplexing. Lowe was actually a positive contributor for the Rangers in limited time, but then Saunders accumulated -0.5 WAR for us as his hitting managed to find a new low (defense was fine though). Saunders is still around, but even considering that, we’re close to that horizon where the players we drafted are no longer generating returns for us. Unless Lowe comes back, or something.

I overlooked it last year, but James Russell, who was pretty well liked as a draft prospect and didn’t come to terms with us because, you know, 37th round and all (we even picked him twenty rounds higher the next season!), went over to the Cubs three years later in the 14th round. He’s had a bit of a dinger problem in the major leagues and could have struck out more guys last year, but he was a close-to-neutral contributor then in spite of all the hits he gave up. Think about this for a moment. I am talking about a player that generated -0.2 WAR last year because in context, it does seem like something worth talking about.

2005 Draft:
C Jeff Clement (1), LHP Justin Thomas (4), RHP Anthony Varvaro (12)
Yield: -0.7 WAR (-0.4 with Mariners)
Biggest Contributor: Thomas, -0.2 WAR (0.0 with Mariners) or Clement, -0.2 WAR (-0.1 with Mariners)

I may have reached that magical point at which I can regard this and merely feel numb. Clement had his injuries and all, but it’s still strange to consider because I don’t know that any of us thought that he pick was going to turn out as bad as it did. He came out of a college program! He had the national home run record for a prep player! Be baffled with me! Hindsight can allow us to moan about “oh, we could have gotten Tulo and we were looking at him but we needed a catcher blah blah blah”, yeah, and Clement batted .275/.370/.497 in Tacoma in 2007. He was hitting .335/.455/.676 there in 2008 in limited time. Moving through the other names, Varvaro helped the Braves last year, but Thomas did not see time with the Pirates after giving up twenty-one hits in 13.0 innings while running a 5/5 K/BB in 2010. His minor league numbers were actually pretty decent that year. Not so much this year.

I can’t really go over this and pick out many names that blossomed as they were drafted again, which is turning out to be a recurring thing. The only one is Lance Lynn who accumulated 0.6 WAR last year in 34.2 innings for those guys that won the World Series. I’d give him good odds at being the most valuable pick we made going forward from that draft. I’ll bet that someone clever is going to swing by and say “If he signed with the Mariners, he never would have made it to the big leagues LOL.” I’ve certainly never heard that one before. You must have many wonderful insights.

2006 Draft:
RHP Brandon Morrow (1), RHP Chris Tillman (2), RHP Nate Adcock (5), C Adam Moore (6), RHP Doug Fister (7), RHP Kam Mickolio (18)
Yield: 18.6 WAR (7.6 with Mariners)
Biggest Contributor: Fister, 8.8 overall (6.4 with Mariners)

Last year, this was the best looking of the Fontaine drafts and this year, hey, it looks even better. And the Mariners will have even less of the overall value from it going forward. Great.

For about three days, that was where my evaluation ended. I don’t rightly know how to extend it because at this stage, the Fister trade looks pretty bad. But there’s a lot that would be hard to evaluate about it in so short a time span and every time I’ve tried to be angry about it, I’ve subsequently felt somewhat dumb. The negative aspects are pretty plain: Wells had vertigo, making evaluation of him tricky; Furbush gave up a lot of pulled contact as Marc and Matthew have discussed; Ruffin, while he has been ranked in the top 10 for a lot of prospectors, is still a reliever and maybe not even the best one in our system; and the line between projecting Francisco Martinez to be a contributor based on his tools and projecting Carlos Triunfel to be a contributor based on his tools is a finer one than I’m really comfortable with. Fister also blossomed into an unusually dominant pitcher and only got better after the trade.

But if I have to turn around and be objective about it, I should probably consider the other side. Wells isn’t always going to have vertigo (I hope?). Furbush has the fastball going for him and it’s not as though the rest of the toolbox is empty. Ruffin has his place in the system and will likely be a big part of a dominant team-controlled bullpen in the near future. And Martinez, well, I’m still less than enthusiastic about that type of player, but last year represented a step forward for him and he hit as many dingers in 33 games in Jackson as he did in 89 games in Lakeland the previous year. I don’t really know if Fister is going to continue to be that awesome, but we may yet get some value out of this thing. I swear I’m not just trying to convince myself of this.

Anyway, going back to the draft itself, much value here, and you can go back to last year’s post to get the bulk of it. It’s just depressing that Moore is the only one left now. I eventually came around to the idea of liking Moore before he got injured, but “extensive tear” in the meniscus is not something I ever want to hear about with a catcher. I don’t blame the M’s for pursuing Jaso and Montero to add depth.

2007 Draft:
3B Matt Mangini (1s), RHP Shawn Kelley (11)
Yield: -0.2 WAR (-0.2 WAR with Mariners)
Biggest Contributor: Kelley, 0.0 WAR

The new season means another opportunity to mess around with a year’s worth of selections. Did you know that our 2009 class, which includes Anthony Vasquez, has already been more productive than most of these groups? The book is hardly closed on 2007, after all, Carroll had a .378 wOBA for the Mavericks last season and managed to stay mostly healthy whereas previously it seemed as though he might be confined to a bubble at some point in his career, but there remains a good chance that the only contributors from this class end up being marginal ones. Except for Shawn Kelley, who will always be a major contributor in my fandom.

To go over the broad strokes… Aumont went away in a trade, became a starter and then not a starter again, and still suffers from command issues. Mangini has had injuries, worse plate discipline than expected, and only slugged particularly well in one season (he may be recently out of baseball). Almonte was a boom or bust tools guy that has not been so much on the boom end of the spectrum, except for some dingers and hilarious strikeouts. Carroll has been mostly injured. Gallagher was almost entirely injured. Dunigan has also been boom or bust and, like Johermyn Chavez, provides an interesting test of prospect evaluation. McOwen was looking like a 4th or 5th OF before his shoulder injury. Hill and Hume have both been injured recently. There were a couple of guys that were picked later who seemed like sleepers at the time, such as Colin Buckborough and Brooks Mohr, but both washed out with injuries after a couple of seasons. Various other reliever types who initially looked promising ended up in the Limbo of High Desert and were seldom heard from again. There was also Brodie Downs, who was our Tom Wilhelmsen/Steve Delabar before either of those guys were in the system. I’m not seeing any major missed signings looking over this, since we got Forrest Snow a few years later anyway. Early returns seem unimpressive, and may become “disaster” in time, but there’s a non-zero chance that this isn’t abysmal.


If you’re still with me by now, you might have something of an intellectual pain tolerance which means that you’re okay in my book. To put things quantifiably again, we’re looking at 30.5 total WAR from five years of draft classes and the bulk of that is squarely in two of them. Of that, we could call 7.8 WAR our own, a little over a quarter, which is nowhere near as efficient as some might like. I know I for one would like to see the Mariners play better baseball and make smarter moves. But next year I’ll have the 2008 draft to evaluate too and boy won’t that be fun. Maybe by that time we’ll have had one player from that class to make the majors. It better not be Josh Fields.

Anyway, the basic thrust of this article has been the same as it was the last time I did it. Rebuilding efforts require good young players. Zduriencik had little to work with, and still seems to be trying to build up that foundation. It’s kind of a slog to get through at times, but what we’ve seen so far from him on the draft front has proved more inspired than his predecessors, in a way that talking in relative terms doesn’t seem to do justice without hyperbole. There will eventually come a day when I don’t have to get up and do this because the Mariners won’t suck anymore.

Monday Morning Links

February 13, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 7 Comments 

We’ve almost made it through winter, and now the baseball fan must contend with the February doldums between the big free agent signings/winter ball box score-watching and actual spring training games. This is baseball purgatory, when we get moderately excited about Mariners, future Mariners and future played-with-future-Mariners doing laps.
I don’t mean to dampen the enthusiasm over pitchers and catchers reporting, as I’ll take mid-February over early January any day, but since Roy Oswalt has no intention of using the M’s as a decoy, much less signing with them, we’re going to have to make do with stories like this one. So here are, uh, several stories like that one.

1) Hisashi Iwakuma will throw his first bullpen today, but signed lots of autographs under the watchful eye of “a few dozen” members of the Japanese media on Sunday.

2) Harrison Crow has a post at SodoMojo comparing the various Mariners prospect lists. This table helps show just how much consistency there is in the prospecting world concerning Seattle’s (excellent) top 5, and how much volatility there is when it comes to ranking everyone else. This isn’t a bad thing, really; each list is the product of different person, and, often, a completely different idea about what these lists are *for*. Some focus on upside and downplay risk, figuring that, given the overall attrition/failure rate, it’s better to identify the guys who could be impact talents than have a slightly better rate at predicting future bench bats. Others think there’s so little independent information to go on – and what little statistical data we have is of questionable value – with international free agent signings and rookie leaguers, or that guys who are close to the majors are intrinsically more valuable when assessing a team’s minor league depth. Obviously, each person mixes and matches, and so you’ll see Erasmo Ramirez anywhere from 7th to 19th (I lean closer to 7th than 19th, by the way), and you’ll see the M’s system ranked #1 to #11.
A couple of quick comments about the lists – I think a lot of people may be underestimating Erasmo. Didn’t put up great numbers, but he was very young, and his stuff’s developing. This isn’t a guy with a change-up and a high-80s fastball who’d get killed in the majors, he’s got more velocity than is often expected (prospect lists overrate guys with 94 velo when they sign at 16/18, and underrate guys who grow into 94 velo later on. We’ll call this the Pineda Postulate.). I also think the various ranking-gurus have ID’d a pretty good sleeper in RHP Carter Capps. The division 2 starter looked very good in the wood-bat Cape Cod league, and could move very quickly as a bullpen arm (though I hope he has the chance to start at some point; I wouldn’t mind seeing him get some experience in both roles this year).

3) OK, OK – so teams aren’t officially done with free agents. Sure, Johnny Damon’s still looking for a job (and he can still hit a bit, too), the big positional players names are a pair of Cubans: Yoenis Cespedes and Jorge Soler. The former’s seen as an athletic CF/RF who’s relatively close to the majors (he’s 26). After dominating the Cuban league last year (.333/.424/.667, 33 HRs in 90 games), he defected to the Dominican Republic, where he’s worked out with former Seahawks running back Ahman Green (?). Some believe Cespedes is a 4 or 5 tool talent who’d be a bargain at $40-50 million plus, but others, including our vacationing overlord, think he’s a risk and may not be worth whatever he eventually signs for. We haven’t talked about him a lot here as he very quickly narrowed down his list of suitors, and the M’s weren’t on it. Miami remains the favorite, but the Cubs/White Sox/Indians are still in the running.

UPDATE: Hours after I posted this, the Oakland A’s snuck in and signed Cespedes to a 4-year, $36m contract that will allow Cespedes to be a free agent after the contract expires. This has been, to put it mildly, a strange off-season for Oakland. I understand why they thought they needed to move Gonzalez and Cahill, and it’s nice that they now have something like 8 of the top 100 or so prospects, albeit 7 or 8 questionable prospects, but their player development group absolutely needs to step up and develop MLB-ready players. The move to get Cespedes seems like a way to stabilize their outfield and get a potential impact bat who’s close to the majors. While it’s still a huge risk, I understand the A’s offseason a bit more now.

Jorge Soler is a 19 year old CF with what everyone seems to agree is plus batspeed and decent power. There’s no consensus on his ultimate position, with many arguing he’ll outgrow CF and end up in a corner. Many articles discuss his signing bonus vis a vis the $!5+ million the Rangers gave another Cuban CF, Leonys Martin, last year, but it seems that the two aren’t really good comps for one another. Martin’s a great defensive CF who won’t hit for much power but may have very good contact/average skills. Soler may grow into a big corner OF with plenty of HR pop. Again, it looks like the M’s aren’t in the running, and Kevin Goldstein tweeted that the Cubs may be in the driver’s seat for now, but several teams – including the A’s – have been linked with Soler in the past. (After getting Cespedes, you’d think the A’s won’t be in on Soler. That said, no one had them linked with Cespedes, so who the hell knows?)

4) As you’ve probably heard from Greg Johns of the M’s (or Matthew’s post on Lookout Landing), Mike Carp and former Rainier/feel-good story Brodie Downs made t-shirts to honor their former teammate, Greg Halman. Here’s a look at them; Geoff Baker mentions that the may be available in M’s team stores with proceeds going to benefit Halman’s family.

5) It’s not exactly a “best shape of his career” story, but Justin Smoak has apparently decided to make a major sacrifice and give up burritos and pizza to try and improve his fitness/strength. There are always stories like this, but Mike Carp’s dietary changes last year may have helped him go from organizational player to potential starting LF/DH. Smoak needs to have a big year if the M’s are going to hang around .500, so, uh, good luck with the diet. The thought of giving up burritos is making my right arm twitch; typing is increasingly difficult.

6) The other side of the “best shape of his life” stories are the long-shot come-back attempts. Today’s installment: former DRays/Angels pitcher Scott Kazmir.

7) Another top 100 (er, 101) prospect list today: Kevin Goldstein’s at Baseball Prospectus. Don’t need a subscription to see it here. Jesus Montero comes in at #7 and Taijuan Walker’s at #14. Overall, 4 Mariners made the cut with Nick Franklin an honorable mention.


February 10, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 5 Comments 

Just as way of a quick update, since putting out the call for donations for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society on Wednesday, our team has raised an additional $8,000. We’re just under $5,000 away from our total goal, and the race isn’t even until May. You guys rock.

Also, I’m headed out on vacation in the morning, and am going to spend some much needed time hanging out with Amy and just enjoying being alive together. I probably won’t be writing here for the next 10 days or so – Marc and Jay will carry the load in the meantime. If anything big happens, I’m sure Jeff Sullivan will just say whatever I would have said anyway. But he’ll probably include gifs, volcano references, and self-referential comments about his day. Hope you guys can put up with that until I get back.

Can The M’s Fix Charlie Furbush?

February 9, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 12 Comments 

As Jeff Sullivan’s explained, Charlie Furbush is an intriguing talent – a better strikeout rate than new-Nat Edwin Jackson, a better than average contact rate, and a solidly above-average fastball velocity from the left side. Coupled with a deceptive delivery and three off-speed pitches (curve, slider, change) and you’d have a guy you’d feel comfortable entrusting the 4th or 5th rotation spot to. Or, you would, if it wasn’t for the home run problem.

Matthew Carruth speculated that Furbush allows more pulled contact than most pitchers; when hitters pull the ball, it tends to go a lot further. Is there anything in Furbush’s pitch mix or location that might explain why hitters square the ball up so well?

Well, no, not really. I don’t want to deceive you, reader: I don’t have any answers here. A closer look at the pitch FX data show a number of moderately interesting things, but I’m not going to sell them as explanations for Charlie’s elevated HR rate. What I take away from the following is pretty much what I believed going in, which is basically the dictionary definition of confirmation bias – so you tell me: what should the M’s do with Furbush?

First off, I’m using the new pitch FX cards from BrooksBaseball, which include manual categorization of every pitch in 2011 thanks to the tireless work of Harry Pavlidis and Lucas Apostoleris. We’ve known for a long time that the MLB Advanced Media/Pitch Fx pitch categorization algorithm is good, but has its flaws. We discussed this last April, but Furbush has a change-up that he throws fairly often that’s mislabeled a slider or a two-seam fastball. Not only does this give an improper view of Furbush’s arsenal, it also drags down his average fastball velocity. Thanks to the new data, we now see that Furbush used five pitches pretty often – each of them more accounted for more than 10% of his total pitches.

Looking at Furbush’s 2011, three things stand out following his arrival in Seattle. First, his HR rate went up significantly. It was fairly high in the Detroit system, but it was remarkably high with the M’s. The sample size is quite small, but hey, it stands out. His HR rate was 3.6% with Detroit and 3.3% with Toledo, but jumped to 4.7% with the M’s. Second, the M’s apparently altered his release point, moving it more towards the first-base bag. Take a look at this graph of his horizontal release point over the course of the 2011 season (up=more towards first base):
Furbush Release Point
Theoretically, this might help him against lefties, but leave him vulnerable to righties; moving his release point further from straight-over-the-top and more towards LOOGY-Sidearmer should increase his platoon splits. Indeed, he gave up 10 HRs to righties with the M’s and only 1 to a lefty (to Robinson Cano). Third, his pitch mix changed markedly. With the Tigers, he mainly threw a four-seamer, with a curve and a slider as his breaking balls. He mixed in change-ups and two-seamers, but was, by and large, a three-pitch pitcher. He threw 34 two-seamers, in total, in a Tigers uniform. With the M’s, he almost immediately began throwing more sinkers/two-seamers – in the month of September, he threw 138 of them. With Detroit, he used the pitch 5-7% of the time, but with the M’s it was around 27%. This isn’t a bad idea in theory – a sinker/two-seamer generally gets ground-balls, and grounders don’t generally go for home runs. The downside is that it’s got the highest platoon splits of any pitch.

With samples this small, we can’t say *anything* definitively. 100% of Furbush’s HR problem could be terrible luck. However, the M’s made two moves that seem perfectly reasonable, but which might make Furbush more vulnerable to righties, and his FIP against righties was nearly 6. On the other hand, his xFIP improved over the course of the season as he trimmed his walk rate while maintaining a respectable K rate in a starting role. The two-seamer did get more grounders than his four-seamer, and his change-up (which he used more with the M’s as well) had a GB% just a step behind his sinker.

So, to sum up (this is probably more than you wanted to read about Charlie Furbush):
– He moved his release and changed his pitch mix upon joining the M’s. The release point and the use of a sinker hurt him against righties*, but using more – change-ups instead of sliders helped him a bit against righties.
– Right-handed hitters hit 10 HRs off of him in a vanishingly short sample.
– Furbush’s K:BB ratio with the Mariners was 41:15.
– Furbush’s fastball velocity dipped a bit at the end of the year, but still stood at 91-92 MPH – below the Sabathia/Price/Lester level, but similar to that of John Danks/Cole Hamels/Madison Bumgarner/Cliff Lee/CJ Wilson.
– The sample’s small, but Furbush was mighty tough against lefties – holding them to a 3.3 FIP/3.2 xFIP amidst a flurry of ground balls.

I said at the beginning that I don’t have an answer here. It’s not as simple as ditching the two-seamer or moving his release point. He gave up HRs like it was 1999 in Colorado, but his other peripherals improved. So: what would YOU do? If you’re the M’s pitching coach or a player development staffer, what would your recommendation be?
1: Change nothing and wait for his HR rate to regress to the mean?
2: Move the release point back to where it was in Detroit and limit two-seamers to righties; keep it against lefties, and go four-seamer/change against righties?
3: Move Furbush to the bullpen, ready to assume the situational lefty role if Hong-Chih Kuo falters/gets hurt?
4: Attempt to cut bait and trade Furbush to San Diego or another team that might be able to manage the kind of contact he yields?

As for me, I’m somewhere between 1 and 2. His numbers against righties will regress, but it’s doubtful that they should regress towards the overall population mean. A part of his struggles can be chalked up to his delivery/arsenal, too. I’m not certain that it’s the two-seamers that “caused” this problem, and it’s not clear that his change is good enough (at least right now) to be a primary weapon against righties. But I think it’s worth exploring, and I think Furbush is talented enough to warrant a second, third and fourth chance. What this means is that I wouldn’t have him as the long man/7th arm in the M’s bullpen – I’d have him start in Tacoma. That way he can work on a number of changes to release or pitch-mix in the only minor league that yields HRs at equivalent (or more than equivalent) rates to MLB. The M’s shouldn’t need a lefty long reliever, especially if they carry Rule 5 guy Lucas Luetge, and Furbush may hit upon a formula that allows him to maintain his more-than-solid K:BB ratio while limiting mistakes.

But what do you think? Was this all luck? Or is the only way he can avoid gopherballs nibbling at the corners, resulting in a slightly different form of bad pitching?

* – This is the most Furbush plate-appearance ever. In his last start, 9/25/11 in Arlington, Furbush started Ian Kinsler with a two-seamer away. Here’s a graph of the pitch’s location. Kinsler’s a righty. Take a wild guess as to where this pitch ended up. OK, got it? Here’s where it actually went. Yes, it was “only” 89.5 MPH, but it was reasonably close to the outside edge. And Kinsler pulled it 408 feet.

Projections, Prospects and Assorted Links

February 8, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 8 Comments 

1: Today saw the release of Baseball Prospectus’ 2012 PECOTA forecasts, which followed close on the heels of an update to the CAIRO forecast I mentioned earlier (hat tip: Matthew Carruth). As you’d suspect, both are pretty much as bleak as the ZiPS forecast that preceded them. If you use any projection system based on past performance, the M’s are going to look fairly bad. With a stiff upper lip and a dogged optimism, any fan can probably fill in the reasons to expect the team to best these forecasts – Gutierrez is healthy again! Smoak’s hand has healed! Dustin Ackley is better than these systems think! But the cold gruel of stats and regression (it’s basically only M’s fans that actively root for regression to the mean) make for some depressing reading – CAIRO’s playoff odds have the M’s at 2.4% assuming 2 wild cards (1.4% with 1), or about half what it was before the M’s pulled the trigger on the Montero/Pineda trade.

It’s interesting to look at the guys the systems disagree on, as one vote of confidence is better than none (sorry, Carlos Peguero). PECOTA thinks a tiny bit more of Mike Carp, Wily Mo Pena, Caspar Wells, Jesus Montero and the recently DFAd Mike Wilson, whereas CAIRO’s slightly better for Dustin Ackley, Brendan Ryan and Ichiro. Justin Smoak and Chone Figgins – two of the more difficult M’s to project – look just about identical under both systems, which is a bit surprising given the methodology changes in PECOTA. There really aren’t any cases where the forecasts are wildly different; no one foresees a breakout season from anyone, because, fundamentally, that’s not what these systems do. If the M’s are going to be average-y, let alone compete, they’re going to have to blow their projections out of the water. That’s not news to anyone reading this. While it’s ridiculous to expect that 10-15 guys blow past their projections, the line-up does look quite a bit different if 2 – say, Smoak and Ackley – put up wOBAs in the .350-.380 range. It’s not enough to catch the Rangers/Angels, but it would be a welcome sign that the M’s have something to build on.

2: Fangraphs’ Marc Hulet released his list of the top 15 M’s prospects today, featuring the same top 5 (in a slightly different order) as Conor’s list for Baseball America and John Sickels list at MinorLeagueBall. Kevin Goldstein undoubtedly would’ve had the same top 5 if he knew that Jesus Montero would one day play for Seattle. The only contrarion in Prospect Land is Jason Parks, who slots Guillermo Pimentel ahead of Nick Franklin at #5.

Each list shows a bit more variation in the 5th-10th spots, as the differing weight each analyst puts on tools versus polish, ceiling versus risk come into play. My initial reactions – these lists are probably a bit bearish on:
i) Erasmo Ramirez, who’s young, has good command, and has more velo/stuff than I’d been lead to believe. I’d suspect that lists like these undervalue guys who are both close to the majors and have a mid- to back-of-the-rotation ceiling, but I could be wrong. No, he doesn’t throw as hard as Chance Ruffin, but he doesn’t need to in order to add more overall value. This may be a case where fantasy value spills over into prospect lists, which would explain Ruffin’s placement on virtually every list.
ii) Alex Liddi, who’s only 23 and put up an above average wOBA for his league/park while playing better than advertised defense at the hot corner (though that’s probably not a very high bar). He’s got huge contact issues, he’s not a gold glover, and it’s not clear he’ll start at 3B for Tacoma in 2012, so I’d listen to an argument that has Francisco Martinez higher. But he wasn’t included in Hulet’s top 15, and didn’t crack the top 10 for BA or BP. Sickels has him 8th which seems fair.

3: Keith Law’s ranking of each MLB’s teams farm system came out today on ESPN insider. The M’s came in at #11, while the Padres finished 1st (which isn’t a bad consolation prize after losing Jed Hoyer to the Cubs and Chris Gwynn to the M’s – two guys who helped make the Pads system what it is). The M’s grade a bit lower than the Rangers and the newly-restocked Athletics, but higher than the Angels.
John Sickels’ rankings have the M’s at #4 overall, still below the Rangers, but ahead of the A’s. Any way you look at it, the Rangers are still probably the class of the AL West thanks to SS Jurickson Profar, RHP Miguel De Los Santos, LHP Martin Perez and, depending on how you want to treat him, Yu Darvish. That the M’s are just a step behind (and could eliminate the gap entirely this year) says a lot about how strong the M’s system is. The team’s that’s probably the hardest to get a handle on is the A’s. What does Jarrod Parker’s injury do to your estimation of his ceiling? Can Tom Milone get MLB hitters out, or is this another Yusmeiro Petit situation, where a guy can put up video-game numbers without plus stuff in the minors only to struggle at the major league level? Is Robbie Cowgill a starting CF or a fourth outfielder pressed into duty on a bad club?

4: I’ve technically already linked it in this sprawling post, but Mike Curto’s got a great post up on the corner IF possibilities in Seattle and Tacoma here.

5: Our fearless leader breaks down the 10 worst moves of the offseason at Fangraphs. Sure, I’ve got my share of issues with the current front office, but it says something that I no longer fear articles like this. I’m looking for schadenfreude, and this piece delivers.

Running For Cancer Research

February 8, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 10 Comments 

As many of you know, last July I got diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. I spent a good chunk of summer in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy, and most of the end of 2011 was spent either getting treatment or recovering from said treatment. It wasn’t much fun, but after four rounds of chemo and an overwhelming amount of support from friends and the amazing online baseball community, I was given a clean bill of health in January and am now happily living in remission. We’re only a month out from my last biopsy, but the leukemia has yet to return, and my odds of beating this thing get better every day.

So, now that I’m back to living something that resembles a normal life, my wife and I have decided to fight back against the scourge of blood cancers. She’s a physician assistant in oncology and sees the effects of these diseases are on a daily basis, and so we’ve teamed up with four of her co-workers (and one husband of a co-worker) and are running in The Flying Pig half-marathon in Cincinnati on May 6th.

Our group is part of a larger organization under the umbrella of Team In Training, a fundraising arm of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. LLS is the leading organization in the fight against blood cancers, and provide support (financial, informational, and emotional) to patients and families of these diseases, as well as funding critical research that is on the cutting edge of the fight against leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s Disease, and myeloma. The advances made in these fields are one of the reasons I’m not dead, and the LLS is a vital organization for those who have been touched by these types of cancer.

The seven of us have an official team fundraising goal of just over $16,000. I fully expect to blow that mark out of the water. This is where you guys come in.

If you’d like to donate to the LLS through our team page, you can simply follow this link and use the donate button on the right hand side to give directly to the group. All donations are tax deductible, and you will get a receipt from LLS for your contribution. Plus, you’ll know that you did something awesome, and those who fight these diseases in the future may very well beat death because of your support.

Additionally, I’ve decided to un-retire from fantasy baseball to help raise money for the cause. As an incentive to donate, we’re going to be giving away 11 spots in an Ottoneu League to the highest donors who want to take their shot at embarrassing me on a national stage. I haven’t played any kind of roto baseball in quite some time, but I still have my pride, and I’ll be doing my best to retain some dignity against the 11 heros who gave generously to help stamp out the curse of blood cancers.

If you want to be part of this “Cancer Sucks” Ottoneu League, simply go to our group page and make a (large) donation using your real name. Then, send an email to stating that you’re interested in being part of the Ottoneu League. At the end of February, we’ll go through the donation logs and find the 10 people who gave the most money and expressed interest, and they’ll be offered a team in the league. As an incentive to not wait until the last minute, we’ll be giving away the first spot in the league to the person who donates the most money by this Friday. If you give more than anyone else in the next three days, you’re in.

The LLS is rated as a three star charity and is a fantastic organization that is more than worthy of your support. Only eight percent of the money raised goes to administrative costs, and they’ve given more than $600 million to cancer research since being founded. Help us raise money for this great organization and simultaneously tell cancer that it can go pound sand.

Thanks to each of you for your support over the last six months. You guys are great, and I’m honored to be part of such a fantastic community.

Historical Relationship Between Money And Wins

February 7, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 38 Comments 

I’m not going to say too much about this article by Dave Studeman, mostly because the information in it stands on its own. Just go read the thing, especially if you’ve become convinced that the answer to all the Mariners problems is “raise payroll”.

For those who prefer summaries, though, here’s the conclusion:

So here’s the point: Wins and salaries are closely tied, but the relationship between the two has changed over time. There is no doubt that some of the change has been random, or the simple result of individual team successes and failures, but some of it also seems to be related to structural changes in the game. The current state of the game? Despite the outrageous spending ways of the Yankees, it’s settled into a pattern that is more competitive than any previous time period, other than the years of collusion.

Once you factor in the extra playoff spots that have been added, it becomes clear that lower profile teams now have a better chance of walking away with a World Series title than at any point in recent history. When people complain about the lack of parity in baseball, or talk about how the game is rigged to reward those teams who simply outspend their opponents, they’re just speaking from a position of ignorance.

Are Lefty Relievers the New Market Inefficiency?

February 6, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 17 Comments 

With the signing of Hong-Chih Kuo and the DFA of Mike Wilson, you can credibly claim that left-handed relievers make up a full 15% of the M’s 40-man roster. The M’s bullpen will see plenty of competition for innings amongst its lefty specialists, with George Sherrill and Kuo battling it out for the high-leverage innings, with Lucas Luetge around to face lefties in low-leverage situations (that a manager might actually bring in a situational reliever in low-leverage situations is exactly the problem Dave was talking about here), and Charlie Furbush to face lefty-heavy line-ups as the long man/swing starter. Cesar Jimenez may be there too, lamenting the fact that he learned a change-up and not a slider.

The addition of Shawn Camp is perhaps more baffling – a 36 year-old righty who’s seen his Ks drop in each of the past three seasons. There’s no question that he can get grounders, but without some luck in his HR prevention, he would’ve been replacement level last year. Now, Camp may be the latest journeyman to sinkerball his way to success in the M’s bullpen, following Roy Corcoran, Jamey Wright and David Pauley, but middle-relief wasn’t a problem last year. Not only did the M’s post a respectable bullpen ERA/FIP in 2011, they had one of the best ground-ball rates in the league.

Ultimately, I’m not concerned with these specific moves – Kuo was unbelievably, historically awesome in 2010, and Camp’s been a reliable, durable guy in the Blue Jays bullpen for years. I’m also sure it’s not a matter of consciously focusing on acquiring relievers, and that the team would say that Kuo/Camp just sort of fell into their laps. But ultimately, I’ve got two problems with that. First, it’s a horrible metaphor. Aside from the improbability of it all, what on earth would compel you to offer an employment contract to the interloper if it DID happen? Second, all of this welcome competition in the ‘pen means less competition amongst the position players. You know, where the M’s could seriously use some competence competition.

Mike Wilson is probably a AAAA player, but there’s a chance he could be useful as a bench bat versus lefties. You’re absolutely right that “questionable left fielders” was the one spot more oversubscribed than “LOOGY” on the M’s roster, but frankly I’d rather see more debate and argument at that position. Sure, Wilson is something like a poor man’s Caspar Wells, but given the latter’s balance issues, maybe it’s handy to have one or two of those around. Ultimately, this is really an argument about two things. First, the automatic assumption that a team that’s not scored 600 runs since 2009 needs a seven-man bullpen. Second, that the M’s aren’t focused on wringing every run they can out of the current roster. The team correctly identified 3B as a position of weakness, and instead of picking up a Russ Canzler (who suddenly became one of the most talked about players of the off-season), they signed Carlos Guillen – someone not medically cleared to push paper, let alone Kyle Seager. Canzler may not offer much of an upgrade over Vinnie Catricala, the M’s corner-something (LF? 3B? 1B?) prospect, and if that’s the reasoning, so be it. I’m all for the M’s using guys like Catricala this year. He’s on the 40-man and Guillen isn’t. So why do I feel like the M’s might go with Guillen over Catricala and/or Luis Rodriguez?

If any team is in a position to buck the trend and go with a bigger bench, it’s the M’s. They’ve got depth in the back of the rotation, with guys like Erasmo Ramirez and Forrest Snow on hand if Hisashi Iwakuma re-injures his shoulder or if Hector Noesi/Blake Beavan falters. They have 5 very solid relievers in Sherrill, League, Kelley, Wilhelmsen and Ruffin, which doesn’t even count the electric but troubled Kuo. They also have relief prospects in the high minors with Stephen Pryor and Snow, and they’ve got some talent in SP roles who could help out if need be – Carter Capps, Charlie Furbush, Brandon Maurer, etc. The M’s don’t need to carry so much of that depth on the active roster, though. Instead, they could focus on match-ups at the plate – they could put some of the youngsters in a position to succeed by getting them PAs against opposite-handed pitchers, and they could deploy John Jaso, Caspar Wells, or Vinnie Catricala for a late-game pinch hitting role. Mike Wilson doesn’t seem like much, but right now the M’s have Chih-Hsien Chang, Johermyn Chavez, Carlos Peguero, Trayvon Robinson and Michael Saunders on the 40-man. I’m all for quality over quantity, but in the absence of bankable quality, can we at least have a decent quantity of hitters and not relievers?

M’s Sign Shawn Camp Too

February 6, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 17 Comments 

The M’s just officially announced the signing of both Hong Chih-Kuo and Shawn Camp to Major League contracts, and DFA’d Mike Wilson and Chris Gimenez to make room for them on the 40-man roster. Kuo, we talked about this morning, so here’s a brief summary of Camp – he’s the new Jamey Wright, or Sean Green if you prefer to go back a few more years.

Sinker/slider/change right-hander who is pretty good against RHBs and should probably never face an LHB in a meaningful situation. His career K/BB vs RHBs is 3.15, but is just 1.48 against LHBs. His numbers last year kind of suck because the Blue Jays kept asking him to get LHBs out – 47% of the batters he faced last year were left-handed.

Used more as a specialist, he could be pretty decent. He was a pretty solid rubber-arm type for the Jays in both 2009 and 2010, and he’ll probably be the veteran RH setup guy if the team decides they don’t want to thrust Tom Wilhelmsen right into that role. Not a ton of upside here, but he provides some depth in the bullpen that wasn’t there previously.

As of right now, the bullpen looks to shake out something like this:

Closer – Brandon League
RH – Shawn Camp
LH – George Sherrill
RH – Tom Wilhelmsen
LH – Hong-Chih Kuo
RH – Shawn Kelley
Long – Charlie Furbush

Four spots are basically guaranteed, barring injury or spring training implosion – League/Camp/Sherrill/Kuo. Wilhelmsen would probably have to be pretty terrible in spring training to not make the club. Kelley and Ruffin both have options left and both could start the season in the minors if the team decided they wanted to keep an out-of-options guy like Cesar Jimenez or Rule 5 pick Lucas Luetge. Aaron Heilman could be in the mix for one of those spots too. Blake Beavan will probably battle Furbush for the long reliever role, with the loser headed for Tacoma.

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