Game 65, Mariners at Twins

June 12, 2017 · Filed Under Mariners · 6 Comments 

Yovani Gallardo vs. Adalberto Mejia, 5:10pm

We saw this match-up 5 days ago in Seattle, with the M’s overcoming an early deficit to win it on Mike Zunino’s walk-off 2R shot. That one pretty much went according to script: the M’s struggled to string together some base hits, but made up for it by hitting *four* HRs to essentially out-slug the Twins. Minnesota pitching has the highest HR/9 rate in the American League, with the M’s leapfrogging the Rangers to rank merely 3rd-highest.

These two teams are susceptible to the gopher ball, and they both need their offense to essentially compensate for that. Neither the M’s nor the Twins are going to challenge the Yankees or Astros for pure slugging ability, so they need to add value in other ways. As mentioned before they hit Safeco, one key way the Twins do this is by fielding the ball exceptionally well. They’re one of the few teams who probably wouldn’t swap out Jarrod Dyson’s CF defense for their own guy’s, as Byron Buxton developed into one of the better defenders around, even as his bat’s failed to develop at all. Miguel Sano moving from a bad RF to a credible 3B is one of those moves that’s hard to tease out of the stats, but is part of the reason their defensive efficiency is much, much higher this year. The other way they help themselves is their selectivity – tonight’s Twins line-up has six players with a 10% walk rate or better, including the first four in the line-up (5th hitter Max Kepler’s all the way down at 9.4%). That’s propelled them to the best walk rate in the game, and made up for their solid-but-unspectacular performance when they actually do hit the ball.

I hinted at this when the Twinkies were in town, but the primary driver of their pitching staff’s sky-high HR-allowed numbers has been their performance at Target Field. They’ve given up 36 road HRs and 52 at home. That works out to a HR/9 mark of 1.28 on the road, but a staggering 1.68 in their home park. If you look at their statcast-based park factors, Minnesota still grades out as a pitcher’s park, meaning a fly ball at 95 MPH is less likely to do damage there than, say, in Arizona. That’s fine, and answers a very specific question very well, but there’s the rather important issue that if you want to see a ball crushed at optimal angles and speeds, you should go to Minnesota and Detroit. It’s quite possible that Detroit and Minnesota damped the production batters might expect on perfect contact, but it seems odd to call a park a “pitchers park” if batters are smashing the ball all over the yard.

This was the dilemma I raised last year, when Safeco graded as a pitcher’s park despite allowing the most HRs in all of baseball. Safeco’s HR rate has regressed a lot, it’s true, but we’re seeing the same sort of thing play out this year in other traditional pitcher’s park. A big objection to this is that these numbers are highly dependent on the home team’s approach – both Detroit and Minnesota like batters to hit the ball in the air, presumably to gain the advantage of the park effects that statcast finds. But at what point do those seemingly intuitive strategic decisions become self-defeating? Tony Blengino asks, “How much better would Miguel Cabrera‘s career numbers be if he played in a more neutral park?” It’s a reasonable question! And yet, Cabrera’s had a better HR rate at home in 4 of the last 6 years, and Detroit’s seen the most “barrels” per pitch of any park in baseball – and Minnesota isn’t *that* far behind. Maybe a 95-mph fly ball would fare better somewhere else, but do these parks generate more 95-mph fly balls, making up for a lack of production on each hard fly ball in sheer quantity? I’d argue that they do. A fastball (four-seam/sinker/two-seamer) crossing the plate at or above the middle of the zone is much more likely to be hit in the air in Minnesota and more like to be a “barrel.” Minnesota’s in the top 10 in the percentage of fly balls/line drives that go for HRs, too. Maybe those HRs would’ve gone 5 feet further in Arizona, but that’s not rescuing the Twins’ collective FIP. Again, it’s possible that a ton of this has to do with the specific pitchers that Minnesota employes, but is that enough to push Target Field’s HRs per game mark to 2nd highest in the league, behind only the Yankees’ bandbox? The expected wOBA of every ball put in play this year is highest in Detroit, and second highest in Minnesota. In terms of actual production, Detroit still leads, while Minnesota’s 4th – but still higher than that expected wOBA figure. Your 2017 pitchers parks, everybody!

For more details on what to expect from Adalberto Mejia (and Yovani Gallardo), check out the game preview from 5 days ago. As fascinating as this rematch is – and let’s hope it’s as exciting as the game last Wednesday – the real story of the day is the MLB draft. As I write this, the draft hasn’t started, and we’ll probably find out who the M’s selected at #17 either just before or during the contest. For now, if you’d like to check out some last minute mock drafts, here are some links. David Peterson of Oregon, Jake Burger of Missouri State and TX prep arm Shane Baz are some of the names associated with the M’s.

1: Gamel, LF
2: Haniger, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Valencia, 1B
7: Zunino, C
8: Heredia, CF
9: Smith, SS
SP: Gallardo

Your daily M’s transaction update: Emilio Pagan’s been optioned to Tacoma, with Casey Lawrence coming back up.

The big story in the minors yesterday was King Felix’s encouraging performance at Cheney Stadium. Felix was perfect through 4, and ended up getting the win, giving up a run on a hit and a walk in 5 IP (he K’d 5). THAT’S more like it, El Cartelua. DJ Peterson homered, and now has 13 hits in his last 6 games, going 13-24 in the span with 3 HRs and only 2 strikeouts. Tacoma’s off tonight.

The NW Arkansas Naturals continued their mastery of the regular Arkansas Travelers, scoring 3 runs in the 8th to come back and win 10-9. The Travs had 3 players get 3 hits each, but the pitching obviously wasn’t sharp. Justin DeFratus starts today.

The *second* biggest story in the M’s minors yesterday was the 2017 debut of last year’s first round pick, Kyle Lewis, with Modesto. Lewis walked, got caught trying to steal second, and was then swapped out for another OF in the 4th. Hmmm; he was supposed to play 5 IP, but obviously came out earlier than that. He didn’t come out after the CS, but instead after making a catch in CF. The Nuts lost a close one, 3-2, against Stockton, by the way. Tonight they face San Jose, with Nathan Bannister on the bump for the Nuts.

Clinton easily handled the Peoria Chiefs last night 9-5, getting 3 HRs and 4 IP of solid relief from Kyle Hunter and Jack Anderson. They played an early one today, and Clinton again emerged victorious – this time by a score of 7-6. Luis Rengifo homered, Joe Rizzo was on base 4 times, and Anthony Jimenez had 3 hits for the Lumberkings, but the big hits came in the 9th with Clinton down a run. After back-to-back doubles tied the game, Luis Rengifo stole 3rd, and then came home on a Rizzo sac fly.

The 2017 Draft: A Day One Thread

June 12, 2017 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 12 Comments 

Today, we have divided attentions, bearing down on the prospect of a Mariners game against the Twins simultaneous with the start of the start of the Major League Baseball Draft. It’s peculiar that the only of the three major sports that drafts during its own season would have nine games, eighteen of thirty teams active, for its big debutante ball, but then again, Yovani Gallardo is pitching for the Mariners. Maybe you don’t want to watch a Mariners game. Maybe you want to instead get irrationally invested in the drafting or not drafting of long-term prospects, like falling in love with strangers on the street and momentarily imagining an entire life only to feel the crush of recognition as they meet with their intended rendezvous. Yessir, the draft sure is dumb. But then the lottery can be more about purchasing the respite of a daydream than the expectation of making bank. Unless you’re tasked with developing those players in which case, godspeed.

The draft comes at an opportune time for the organization as they’re presently trying to take inventory of their investments and where they need to be moving forward. If I’m continuing the lotto metaphor for a bit, the early trend of the DiPoto regime has been to trade off numbers for more distant Powerball drawings in exchange for fistfuls of scratch tickets. We’ve exchanged potential, higher long-term value in return for immediate dividends of lesser value. It’s helped the team remain somewhat competitive during an absurd rash of injuries but, to give you a brief peek behind the other side of the keyboard, attempting to write top prospect lists for the system this year was a chore because the system is top-heavy and beyond that are potential fill-ins and little to daydream on. Baseball America, a fairly reliable inventory of prospects, ranked us 23rd in baseball, a step up from the 25th and 28th we were at in previous years, but with many of those prospects burning through prospect eligibility as we speak, the ratings could easily drop heading into next season.

Thus, the team is in an interesting position to be drafting, despite its later position in the first round. How do you feel about the core of the team moving forward, if we’re guessing that some of the O’Neill, Lewis, Vogelbach, Peterson group could be contributing soon, mitigating the fears of an aging roster? Or do you look at the pitching staff with hope for Moore filling in and the solidification of the bullpen ranks, or are you more concerned with our lack of contingency planning? The Mariners have spent a few years now uncomfortably trying to serve the needs of competing masters, those wanting immediate playoff contention and those recognizing that an internal rebuild has been overdue for generations of GMs now.

What we see this afternoon and on through Wednesday will be something of a glimpse into how the organization sees itself, albeit with the variables that accompany other teams deciding on their own needs ahead of us. Pitching or hitting? Do we aim for nearer contributors by taking advantage of the top-heavy nature of the college ranks or do we take advantage of the rather substantial group of live arms and toolsy outfielders in the prep ranks? Whatever options we go with, I’d imagine that our selections in rounds one and two today will find themselves among the system’s top names nearly by default.

Selections begin at 4 pm Pacific and we’ll have picks #17 and #55 to look forward to. Once we hit day two, I’ll open another post and toss some names out there and maybe chime in as day three gets going. I may very well edit in some scalding hot takes on the selections as they come in for us. Do not handle these takes with your bare hands.

Round 1: 1B/OF Evan White, R/L, 6’3”, 180 lbs, 4/26/96
2015: 52 G, 217 AB, 27 R, 69 H, 12 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 28 RBI, 3 SB, CS, 33/15 K/BB, .318/.369/.410
2016: 54 G, 226 AB, 44 R, 85 H, 15 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 40 RBI, 10 SB, 3 CS, 42/14 K/BB, .376/.419/.535
2017: 53 G, 212 AB, 48 R, 79 H, 24 2B, 3B, 10 HR, 41 RBI, 5 SB, 2 CS, 31/25 K/BB, .373/.453/.637

As we were about five picks in, nearly every mock I was looking at became useless and providing conflicting information. The last-second BA mock gave us Jo Adell, which I would have been satisfied with, as a fan of outfielders with ridiculous tools. Pratto to the Royals threw me a little, as I’d be into any 1B with a Votto comp and liked the idea of positional versatility. I saw that J.B. Bukauskas was on the board and then immediately concluded that the Astros would draft him (I was right). Names came off, I found myself caught up in thinking about whatever best player dropping to us, since it was becoming clear that we’d end up with a quality player regardless due to various slippages.

I hadn’t been giving all that much thought to Evan White specifically. The idea of him crossed my mind a few days ago as this: “What intrigues me about Pratto as an atypical 1B prospect seems like it’s more polished in White, maybe with a different sense of ceiling.” Most of the mocks had him going earlier or not in our immediate neighborhood and there were other players that seemed more like our type, so the idea fleeted onward. Yet, here we are, having selected a first baseman who grew up in Ohio watching Votto above all other players on the Reds and I’m thinking, maybe this is right, even if unexpected.

White doesn’t really have a whole lot of easy comparison points because he’s a five-tool first baseman. He’s a bat-right, throw-left type, like Guillermo Heredia and also myself (Note: I should not be allowed to play first). He’s won a gold glove at Kentucky, can run at an above-average clip, could probably pitch with above-average velocity for a southpaw if it came to it. It’s feasible to imagine him playing an outfield corner, accounting for present speed and body type development. The knock against him right now is that he’s had some time to establish a profile as a good hitter, but power has not been immediate or easy to come by until this past season when he knocked out ten home runs. Game power is generally regarded as his worst tool, anomalous for a first baseman.

On the other hand, is this really something that we have to worry about now? For the years of the Jack Zduriencik administration, we emphasized dominant power, thinking that we could teach hitting later. That didn’t necessarily work out for us. However, we did have a good hitter in Kyle Seager who, upon shifting over to a power position, taught himself how to hit for power. We got some dingers out of Leonys Martin, which wasn’t expected previously. The aforementioned Heredia has hit home runs more frequently than I would have anticipated. I think that the current organization would prefer to start with a solid hitting foundation and see what can come of the power numbers later, a philosophy that would lead them to picks like Joe Rizzo in the second-round last year, and have them steering away from Guillermo Pimentel/Phillips Castillo types on the international market.

The uniqueness of White’s physical profile makes easy comparisons impossible. It’s sort of exciting in that sense, since you’re buying into a combination of foundational skills and physical ability and waiting to see what happens. One name I saw thrown out there was Darin Erstad, and if he plays more like the early career Erstad, who regularly took home positional awards, I think we could live with that. But more than Lewis did, this particular first-round pick provides interesting player development questions, one that I think I have more faith in us solving than in years past. I’d probably slot him as the #2 prospect in the system right now, between Lewis and O’Neill, and I hope to get a better sense of him in Everett later this summer.

Round 2: RHP Sam Carlson, 6’3”, 195 lbs, 12/3/1998
2016: 4-2, 7 G (4 GS), 2 CG, 1.32 ERA in 41.0 IP, 22 H, 12 R (6 ER), 48/17 K/BB
2017: 5-0, 8 G (7 GS), 2 CG (SHO), 0.69 ERA in 39.0 IP, 22 H, 3 R, 51/7 K/BB

Earlier, I made the remark of observing the difficulty in serving two masters, playing both for now and later. To pick both White and Carlson may throw that basic notion out of the window, although we’ll see what comes of day two. Selecting both good preps and good college players would be, satisfactory to my sensibilities.

To throw a statement out there that’s weird mostly for its obscurity, the pick of Carlson, the top prospect out of the Minnesota ranks, reminds me of the days when Ken Madeja was our Midwest crosschecker. Since he’s still within the organization, having survived multiple GM tenures now, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was one of his guys, and it would actually make me feel all right given that the man does have a decent track record.

Carlson was something of a late bloomer, one of many guys who rises in the ranks because he suddenly is throwing a lot harder and with an improved breaking ball. Last summer, he was average fastball velocity, now he’s been clocked 93-97 mph. The breaker looks more like a slider than it used to. He’s always had good command and good pitching acumen, and so you can regard this as playing with the apparent trend that’s developed in the last year or so: You want guys with good foundations and you see where you can move from there.

MLB had him as their #15 prospect, BA as their #21, and Perfect Game had him mocked to go to the Jays in the first round at #28. Hell, the team itself thought he’d be gone by their first selection. On stuff, if it holds up (this is where I disclaim that one of the misses Madeja had that initially looked amazing was southpaw Tony Butler), he could be the best pitcher in system with frontline rotation potential. If anyone ranked him there already, I could defend it, cold weather reputation and all.

I know a lot of luck has played into ending up where we did in this draft, as much luck arguably as landing Kyle Lewis last year, but this is an easy Day One A-grade for any evaluator.

2017 Draft Preview with Chris Crawford

June 12, 2017 · Filed Under Mariners · Comment 

:Jim Nance voice: A tradition unlike any other – the sixth annual USSMariner Draft preview is here. For those with experience, the signs are everywhere. Twitter stirs with draft talk. Lookout Landing goes all out with draft coverage. JY comes out of hibernation and posts about the state of the M’s and what the M’s might be looking for. The only thing left to do is to post our annual draft preview. Every year since 2012, I ask a bunch of questions of Chris Crawford, draft expert and writer for Hero Sports. He’s written for Baseball Prospectus, ESPN, and Sports Illustrated, too. Beyond all of that, I’ll go with a timely reference and note that if you go back through the history of these posts, you’ll find Chris talking up a gigantic OF named Aaron Judge. News you – and GMs – can use. The first round of the draft kicks off today at 4 pm. The first two rounds and the competitiveness balance picks are on MLB TV tonight, with rounds 3-10 following tomorrow. If you simply cannot get enough draft coverage, or Chris Crawford content, check out this post at CBS Sports from Dayn Perry.

Let’s get to it. My questions are in bold, and Chris’ answers follow.

1: Like last year, the M’s have three selections in the top 100. What kind of draft class are they looking at? Above-average, average-to-mediocre, or a repeat of 2015 (which I believe you didn’t much care for)?

I am not a huge fan of this class. I like the players at the top (Hunter Greene, Brendan McKay, McKenzie Gore, Kyle Wright), but after that, it becomes kind of a mess. There’s always things to like just because an MLB Draft class is always so vast, but on paper this isn’t my favorite.

How does it stack up with recent classes? Like 2016, 2015, etc?

It’s worse than both, and I didn’t love both classes. Maybe that’s just a case of being too close to the group or whatever, but it’s just not a very good class.

2: Who should the M’s take at #17? Who WILL they take?

I’ve heard nothing but college players associated with this pick. I think the dream is that Pavin Smith is available, and if he is, they should jump on it, he’s one of the best bats in the class — college or prep. The name I think is most realistic is Jake Burger, a third baseman out of Missouri State with big power that probably has to move to first.

3: We’ve talked for years about the impact that HS showcases, travel ball, Area Code and Perfect, games can have on the draft. The HS ranks are perhaps more visible now, and you don’t have to beat the bushes to find some young hitting prodigy – in all likelihood, they’ll be coming to the same big-city tournament you were going to scout anyway. That would seem to tilt things towards HS hitters, but we haven’t seen a huge shift in that regard. College bats still dot the first round, and will again this year. I’ve got two questions related to this phenomenon. First: do you think, over time (like 10-20 years), most or nearly all of the impact bats taken in the draft will come from the HS ranks?

I think most is probable. It’ll never be all because of the financial implications of the draft, but yeah, I think at some point people are going to realize this is the smartest way to go.

How good do you think colleges are at developing players? What round would you counsel a HS kid to sign, and what round would you counsel a kid to honor a commitment to a big-time college program?

I think there’s programs that do it well (Vanderbilt, Florida) and programs that don’t do it very well (Stanford, almost everyone else).

I’ll break it down as if it was my kid. If my kid gets offered six figures or more to go play professional baseball, there’s no way in hell I’m letting him go to college. The amount of kids that see their stock improve is just not very high. I do this every year, and I look at where a kid was ranked as a HS senior compared to college junior, and far too often the stock doesn’t come close to improving. Go get your paper. College is a nice backup plan if you can’t, but if it’s there? Go get it.

4:…. and second, when I go through the list of draft prospects, I’m actually struck by how few of the college guys were drafted before. Kyle Wright, Seth Romero, Alex Lange slipped through as preps. Does this mean that despite all the exposure, really talented kids will still suit up for colleges, or do you think it means that colleges still do a very good job of developing players and tapping into a lot of potential that hadn’t been uncovered at age 18?

There’s some of the latter, without question. But some of those kids went undrafted because they asked to not be drafted or put out bonus demands that are unrealistic. This is an imperfect science, though, and there’s no doubt that guys slip through the cracks to become major draft “stars.”

5: The M’s also pick at #55. Who might be available in that neighborhood? Would you say this class is deeper than previous classes? Does that matter past the first round? I think you saw last year’s class as rich in “good, not great” guys which meant that picking at 50 was probably pretty good – there wasn’t a ton of fall-off between #25 and, say, #70. How about this class?

It’s sort of similar again. If the M’s do go college route, they could do what they did last year and look for a prep talent with that selection. If they take an arm, a bat like Ryan Vilade makes sense as a third baseman with plus power from the right side. if they take Burger, Smith or some other college bat, maybe you see them go with a prep arm like James Mariman or Jake Eder. Even in a bad draft class, there’s certainly things to like.

If you had to pick in a class you’re not super high on, would you go bat or arm with this pick? And let’s say they go with a college bat at #17 – HS arm? HS bat? Does it change the calculus, or nah?

For me, I’m always looking to go BPA (best player available). Whether that’s a college bat or a prep arm, doesn’t matter. What I will say is that if I take something volatile like a prep bat in the first round, I might look college arm in the second, but only if — and it’s a big if — the talent is close. I do get taking out risk, but talent is talent.

6: Related to that, a number of mock drafts or prospect lists feature a big name – and an even bigger stat line – kind of close to #55. Brett Rooker, the 1B out of Mississippi State, just put up what seem to be the best slash line in the SEC in at least a decade, and that’s going back to the pre-BBCOR bats. Rooker is one of a select few players who might be known to people who don’t follow college ball, thanks to an insane hot streak that got him on ESPN and the like early on. He plays in a huge conference, and is slashing .404/.505/.821 right now. I get the position isn’t ideal, but how does he NOT go in the first round?

A few reasons. The first being age. He’s going to be 23-years-old in November. As good as those numbers are, when you’re the age of a High-A player, you should be crushing SEC pitching. I think he goes in the first two rounds, and the power is legit. Having said that, if he’s anything but a platoon player at the next level, I’m surprised.

7: Time for our annual check-in on Alex Jackson. Last year, you called him one of the worst “misses” of your career. This year, he’s slashing .301/.359/.575 for the Braves org. Is he fixed? What did the M’s do or not do? Scary high K:BB ratio, but all of baseball has a scary high K:BB ratio to guys like me who grew up in the 80s. Fundamentally, is this something Atlanta did right, or do you think the M’s did something wrong with the kid?

Fixed may be too strong a word, but he’s looked good. He’s hurt right now, but it doesn’t appear to be anything serious, and the people I’ve talked to with the Braves have just raved about him.

As for whether or not this is a failure of the Mariners or something the Braves figured out, I’m not sure. Baseball is really, really hard. Jackson wasn’t just not seeing enough pitches, he was making weak contact. Maybe Jackson figured something out, maybe he matured. Swing doesn’t look too different to me. Right now, I’d say the credit goes to Atlanta but there’s a good chance he never becomes that prospect with Seattle.

8: As usual, the the local draft-eligible list isn’t a long one. There’s UW catcher Joey Morgan, the Oregon/Oregon State pitchers (Heimlich, Rasmussen, Peterson, etc.), and a few preps like Jesse Franklin and Mason Martin. Do any of them stand out? What kind of pro player do you think Morgan will be?

I love Franklin’s swing. There are questions about where he’s going to play, but if you have a chance to watch him swing the bat, it’s pretty. He’s probably headed to college.

I think Morgan can be a starting catcher, if you don’t mind your catchers being…I can’t think of a nice way to say bad hitters. He’s similar to Austin Rei, although I thought Rei had more offensive potential than he’s shown with Boston. Still, above-average defense and plus arm can play at the next level.

9: A kind of under the radar local prospect – thanks to a smaller college conference and injury woes – is Seattle University lefty Tarik Skubal. He showed great promise as a freshman and then in half a season as a sophomore, with his velo creeping up over 91, but then his elbow gave out. Depending on how teams evaluate his rehabilitated elbow, he could conceivably go in the first 4-5 rounds. What sort of prospect is he, or at least, WAS he before the TJ surgery? We’ve talked a lot about guys who’ve had TJ surgery in their draft year, though typically near the top. Jeff Hoffman, Mike Matuella, Cal Quantrill- these guys were still drafted pretty high. What would you counsel a guy like Skubal to do? Come back, demonstrate health, but take a risk in doing so? Or sign now, if the discount isn’t too steep?

It’s interesting, because Skubal was a top prospect for this class a couple years ago. Things haven’t gone so well since then, which is why I’m always skeptical of these kind of lists. I think he has the stuff of a backend starter, but maybe the stuff plays up in relief?

If I’m Skubal and I get close to slot for being a 4th-5th round pick, I’m taking the money. I just don’t think his stock can rise enough to not sign. The reward doesn’t come close to outweighing the risk, for me.

10: Jake Adams of Iowa’s made a splash in the CWS this year, and put up big numbers throughout the year. He’s essentially a poor man’s Rooker, with a .750 SLG% in a major conference. He’d conceivably be there for the M’s 3rd pick, but even there, might be considered a stretch. Is he a pro prospect? Going back over these posts over the years, I’m reminded of one guy you loved despite defensive question marks: Aaron Judge of Fresno State (and now the Yankees). How good does a bat have to be to essentially ignore defensive issues or position? Do you think people were TOO caught up in positional value and not enough on “can the guy mash?”

Adams is a non-prospect for me. Putting up monster numbers in a bad conference with a bad body. These type of players just never do it for me.

To answer your question, they have to be really, really good with the bat for me to ignore the defensive/body issues. I think Judge was underrated as an athlete. It was just the fact that there aren’t outfielders as tall as him that gave everyone pause, and I totally get that. If you aren’t plus hit, plus power — or somewhere close to that — and you can’t play defense, you just aren’t a prospect to me. Prove me wrong, Vogey and Rowdy.

11: Related to that, were first basemen kind of underrated, and are we seeing a correction? The 2016 top 101 prospects had 2 1Bs on it, both in the back half. This year, there were a lot more, headlined by Cody Bellinger, who’s been phenomenal with the Dodgers. There’s been a renaissance at the position in the big leagues (Freeman/Goldschmidt/Rizzo/Votto/Zimmermann/Thames), too.

Yep, the position is starting to see a renaissance, so to speak. It’s the best way to get a great bat in the lineup in a lot of cases, and why wait? If they can hit and you don’t wanna wait to see if they can stick in the corner outfield or third, get them going now. Long-term concerns be damned.

12: Who are some guys you’re particularly high on – guys you like better than what you think the industry consensus is? Do you have particular TYPES of player that you tend to like more than many teams?

I am always a sucker for projectable left-handers. I overrate them every year and I won’t stop anytime soon. MLB teams love them too, but I probably go overboard. Can’t help it. That’s why I’m a little higher than the industry I think on guys like Trevor Rogers and Seth Lonsway, because, well, projection. And left-handed. Great combination.

Going way, way back, the M’s were huge on projectable lefthanders. It didn’t go well. In your mind, how much of a draft pick’s success in pro ball is due to innate talent, and how much is player development? Same question applies to ANY draft pick of course.

I’m going to give two cop out answers. The first cop out is that if I knew I would be making lots and lots of money. Or more money than I make now, anyway. The second cop pout is that the answer is probably somewhere in between. If I had to do a split, I’d say it’s 2/3 talent, 1/3 development. The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t matter how much you know about mechanics of the swing, mechanics on the mound, defensive awareness drills, etc.., if the kid can’t play, he can’t play. You have to be good at this sport to be good. Obvious point is obvious, but yeah, talent is more important than coaching. Sorry coaches.

Game 63, Blue Jays at Mariners

June 10, 2017 · Filed Under Mariners · 27 Comments 

Ariel Miranda vs. Marcus Stroman, 7:10pm

The other day, erstwhile co-blogger Jeff Sullivan was writing about the Brewers’ Jimmy Nelson, and how the under-the-radar hurler was approaching ace status for the surprising Milwaukee club. As usual, the specific meaning of the word “ace” is important, but it’s a perennial question: how many aces ARE there in the league – is every team’s #1 starter an ace by definition (a de jure ace), or are there only ~10-12 de facto aces in the league, irrespective of team? I bring that up because despite the fact that the Jays have been a playoff team recently and a perennial contender, the steady but unspectacular development of Marcus Stroman means that the Jays really don’t have one.

I know, I know: Stroman didn’t need to be the ace – that was supposed to be Aaron Sanchez’s gig. But due to injury and a weird, contact-management approach, I’m not sure he qualifies. Stroman was utterly dominant in college and the minors and, if hadn’t missed significant time due to injury, *could have* filled the bill. But like Sanchez, Stroman’s settled in as a very good, ground-balling starter who doesn’t miss too many bats. To be clear: that’s really good, and extremely valuable to the Jays org, but feels somewhat…underwhelming given Stroman’s stuff and poise. You see him in the WBC or in scattered starts and see an ace – you look at the season and career numbers and see a rich man’s Hisashi Iwakuma. Maybe all of this is splitting hairs, but I’m still shocked he hasn’t ascended to the heights that, say, Chris Archer has. And yes, I recognize that he’s 20th in fWAR this year, but with a very good sinker at 94, a tough slider and a really hard curve at 82… I don’t know, maybe it’s enough to be really good and not great. It still feels like Stroman’s got untapped potential.

Here’s hoping he doesn’t tap into it tonight. As a guy with a sinker/slider repertoire, and with a lower release point (not all of which is due to his small stature), he seems like the kind of guy who’d run huge platoon splits. That’s not what he’s done, though. His wOBA against righties and lefties is exactly even over his career, and he’s been much tougher on lefties this year. The key to this mystery is in his sinker – he’s given up 4 HRs to righties off of it, but NONE against lefties. Throughout his career, he’s given up fewer hits, but HARDER hits on the pitch to same-handed batters. It’s similar with his breaking stuff; for whatever reason, lefties seem to have trouble picking it up, while righties see it comparatively well.

Ariel Miranda has the platoon splits you’d expect, but he’s been far better than I (and, I’m assuming, the Mariners) would’ve expected. He throws up in the zone more than most pitchers – while Stroman ranks 59th out of 425 pitchers this year by the percentage of low pitches thrown, Miranda’s way up at #358. He’s got a great change, but that can’t explain his dominance against lefties, nor his solid performance against righties. He’s been a great contact manager this year, driven largely by his dominance of lefties – lefties put the ball on the ground against him while righties hit a bunch of not-terribly-hard fly balls. If he could figure out his control/command, the M’s would really have something.

1: Gamel, RF
2: Heredia, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Motter, 1B
7: Dyson, CF
8: Ruiz, CF
9: Smith, SS
SP: Miranda

Game 62, Blue Jays at Mariners

June 9, 2017 · Filed Under Mariners · 17 Comments 

Sam Gaviglio vs. Joe Biagini, 7:10pm

The Blue Jays arrive in Seattle today still mired in last place, but looking very different to the team that began the year as MLB’s worst club. Josh Donaldson is back, and that certainly helps, as their offense woke up from an April slumber (.654 OPS) and slugged their way through May (.809 OPS). The pitching staff’s been more consistent, although that means more like “consistently ok” more than consistently good, but this team was always built around the batting order, so that’s not too bad. What’s crazy about it all is *who’s* leading the offensive charge. Donaldson’s been great, but he’s missed most of the year. Instead, the lineup’s led by none other than Justin Smoak, who spent 6+ years as a replacement-level player, getting work based on his prospect reputation and, more recently, oddly good statcast numbers. In 2 months and change, Smoak’s been worth 1.5 fWAR, accounting for nearly all of his 1.8 *career* fWAR, which he’s now accumulated in over 3,100 PAs over 880 games. Another solid performer for the club is former M’s prospect Ezequiel Carrera, who left a memorable impression on me when he played in Tacoma; I don’t think I saw a more overmatched player in all my years there, with the possible exception of Addison Russell (who was a teenager, to be fair). Maybe the idea to have a decent career is to suck in Tacoma for a bit.

The M’s face Joe Biagini, whom they faced back in mid-May in what was his 2nd big league start. Transitioning from the bullpen has been fairly smooth for Biagini, whose fastball (at 94) and change (at 87) seem like plus or nearly plus pitches. His fastball’s held up remarkably well for a guy who spent a year and a bit coming out of the pen, and his change has helped him post great results against lefties. He also throws a curve and cutter, with the former grading out as the superior pitch. It gets a lot of vertical drop, and is what Biagini uses as a putaway pitch.

Sam Gaviglio’s had 3 excellent starts in 4 tries, which is remarkable given how well batters are hitting against him. A big part of that is his impressive numbers with men on/RISP – that’s a great way to “beat” your fielding independent stats, but it’s not a great sign for long-term success. With Drew Smyly throwing, that might be OK. Gaviglio faced the Jays in his MLB debut back on May 11th, and K’d 4 in 2 IP, so hopefully he’s not over-awed by their lineup…the team that’s got a wRC+ of 94, and have been far less productive overall than the M’s.

1: Gamel, RF
2: Heredia, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Valencia, 1B
7: Zunino, C
8: Dyson, CF
9: Motter, SS
SP: Gaviglio

Kyle Lewis will start playing on Sunday, says Bob Dutton. That’s a great sign for a farm system that could use some more impact talent. Speaking of which, the MLB draft is coming up soon – we’ll have a post on that coming up.

Brandon Miller, Brett Ash and Pablo Lopez start today in the minors, but the headliner is Andrew Moore, who takes on Las Vegas in Tacoma tonight.

Game 60, Twins at Mariners

June 7, 2017 · Filed Under Mariners · 22 Comments 

Yovani Gallardo vs. Adalberto Mejia, 7:10pm

Tonight’s game seems like it’ll double as a celebration of Jean Segura, who just signed his 5-year extension at Safeco Field. Bob Dutton of the News Tribune notes that most of the starting line-up was at the ceremony in the “Griffey Room” at Safeco, including Ben Gamel, Mike Zunino, Robinson Cano, Guillermo Heredia and more. I have no idea how much a good clubhouse culture can make on a team’s W/L record, and don’t know if it’s of much use when trying to lure free agents to sign with a club. But it sure as hell can’t hurt, and it’s refreshing to see the M’s come together over the past year or so. I’d rather they were where the Astros are in the standings, but if the clubhouse gets them any closer at all to that ultimate goal, then Cano/Cruz were even better free agency buys than we thought.

The M’s face young lefty Adalberto Mejia today. Mejia came over from the Giants in a trade for Eduardo Nunez, and has been sharp in the high minors before getting a brief call-up last year. He’s tossed 27+ innings this year, and like his teammates, has had something of a HR problem. More concerning, his brilliant minor league command numbers (especially his K-BB%) haven’t translated in his admittedly tiny MLB tenure. He throws a fastball at around 93; it has a bit of armside run, but looks fairly standard in most respects. His out pitch is a slider/slurve at around 80, and he complements it with a developing change. In general, change-ups get more swings than breaking pitches, but Mejia induces lots of swings on his breaking ball. Unfortunately, those swings have done some damage. Overall, he’s given up plenty of well-struck contact, with “barrels” accounting for more than 10% of all balls in play against him. He’s young, and could develop into a very solid #3-#4, but he isn’t there yet, and the M’s need to take advantage.

Given his pitch mix, he’s faced an overwhelmingly right-handed set of opponents. Today, he’ll see more of a mix, and while it’s way too soon to know much about his platoon splits, he hasn’t been able to blow lefties away with his FB/SL combo. The handful of lefties that’ve faced him in the majors have done well, and he wasn’t dominant against them in the minors. I’m not too worried about Cano and the M’s other lefties tonight.

Yovani Gallardo could use a quality start. After a string of impressive – or at least pleasingly adequate – outings, Gallardo’s face-planted in his last three, with 11 Ks and 11 BBs given up and an astounding 18 runs yielded in 12 IP. The M’s offense is doing what it can, but the pitching staff absolutely needs to give them a chance to win. His fastball command has come and gone this year, but he’s got to do a better job against right-handed bats. They’ve hit 7 of the 9 HRs against him, and have an OBP over .400. His fastball is getting destroyed by same-handed bats, and his slider isn’t a whole lot better. The M’s need to figure this out. One thing to look at: he had an astonishingly consistent release point for many years, but he’s dropping it noticeably this year:

Gallardo's vertical release point

Gallardo’s vertical release point

Is that by design? I’m not saying it’s a sign of injury; his velocity keeps going up, after all. Still, the changes may be contributing to a general lack of command or inconsistency.

1: Heredia, CF
2: Smith, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Valencia, 1B
5: Seager, 3B
6: Motter, LF
7: Gamel, RF
8: Zunino, C
9: Ruiz, DH
SP: Gallardo

Hmmm. Odd line-up, at least partially the result of Cruz’s gimpy leg.

Felix night in Tacoma was… damn it, I’m having a really hard time with the idea that Good Felix is not coming back. El Rey gave up 5 runs in 2 IP (all coming in the 2nd inning), including a grand slam. He walked 2 and K’d 3. Ketel Marte hit a 3R shot off of a reliever, and the ball must’ve been flying, as Tyler O’Neill hit a grand slam of his own. But just…what a depressing game. Reno was back at it today, beating the R’s 8-3 in an early game. More HRs, more sloppy relief pitching. Dan Vogelbach homered, which is something, and Mitch Haniger’s playing again – he started today’s game in RF.

Arkansas got shut out by Tulsa, and Modesto dropped an extra-inning contest in Rancho Cucamonga. Cedar Rapids’ Tyler Wells beat Clinton’s Nick Wells to complete the org sweep.

The Segura Extension: M’s Add to Their Core

June 7, 2017 · Filed Under Mariners · 3 Comments 

The Mariners have signed SS Jean Segura to a 5-year, $70 million contract extension, per…everyone. This was even mentioned on the broadcast last night, so we’ve had a night to process this. A few days ago, the M’s were presumably having some hard discussions about whether to sell off pieces and go into a full-on rebuild. A winning streak and a deal like this one unequivocally signal that the M’s are not going to be doing that. Instead, they’re going to identify and build around players they think can be franchise cornerstones for a while. I don’t want to get too carried away here, but Segura was absolutely critical to the M’s future direction. As a player they got relatively cheaply and with a final arb year remaining for 2018, Segura may be the most valuable trading chip Jerry Dipoto held. Any rebuild would’ve needed to involve Segura, as Felix and Cano simply aren’t going to command high-impact prospects in return due to age and contract. On the other hand, if they wanted to keep him, signing an extension now makes the most sense.

Let’s not bury the lede here: the M’s got a fabulous deal. I understand Segura’s track record is an odd one, and that he’d have to take something of a discount given the fact that he was an abysmal hitter for two years, but *this* level of discount is stunning. The Mariners are essentially paying for four years of free agency, as Segura was already under contract for 2018. Dave’s post at Fangraphs estimates that he’d get somewhere around $10 million for 2018, making the extension into a 4-year, ~$60 million deal. As Dave notes, that sort of a deal is roughly equivalent to what flawed or limited vets like Josh Reddick and Mark Melancon signed this off-season. What about extensions for players under contract? Players with similar service time and a similar contract length include Brandon Belt, Danny Duffy, Dee Gordon, Sal Perez, Brandon Crawford, Andre Ethier and Felix Herandez’s first extension – the one he signed in 2010. Felix is perhaps in a different class, as a young ace, so we’ll set that one aside. Perez signed a 5-year, $50 million deal with the Royals, while Duffy signed a 5-year, $65 million deal. Those two are similar in age to Segura, and Duffy has the kind of spotty track record (largely due to injury) that’s somewhat similar to Segura’s. Crawford signed his deal with the Giants prior to 2016, when he was a bit older than Segura is, and coming off a similar jump in performance. Segura’s deal is larger than Crawford’s, but then Crawford’s included 2 years of arbitration, not just 1. The point here is that Segura’s extension is right in line with those given to similar players. None of these players was expected to be THE face of the franchise, and none of them were consistent all-stars at the time of their extensions – they’d put up all-star quality seasons, but also some less-than-stellar ones, too.

As such, these deals aren’t paying the players like superstars. They give the player a great deal of economic certainty while helping the club lock in a quality player long term. At an annual average value of $14 million, Segura needs to average something under 2 WAR per year for this to come out evenly. The M’s are getting a player who’s shown 5-WAR ability at shortstop for his age 28-32 years and paying roughly what the Royals gave Danny Duffy, who’s never thrown 180 IP, or what the Astros gave 30-year old Josh Reddick coming off a 1.2 WAR campaign. Let’s make some assumptions here: if Segura puts up 3 WAR in 2018, and then drops to 2.5 for 2019-20, then 2.0 and 1.5, he’ll accumulate 11.5 WAR over the length of this contract (2018-2022). That would mean the M’s would pay about $6 million per win from Segura, substantially below market rates. Focusing solely on his free agent years (2019-2022), a league-average Segura (which, given his position, would allow him to be a much lower than league average hitter) would generate millions in surplus value for the M’s. Depending on what you estimate the going rate for wins on the FA market is, and how it might grow between now and 2022, the discount Segura took here is either “steep” or “ridiculous.

There’s certainly risk on the M’s side as well, and Dave’s post at Fangraphs gives those a thorough examination. Segura’s currently sporting a BABIP of .395, which is driving his average up and making his offensive production look amazing despite a big drop in his slugging compared to 2016. By statcast, the kind of contact he’s produced this year would be expected to lead to a .310 wOBA, quite a bit different from the .370 mark he’s currently pushing. Then there’s the fact that for two full years, Segura was one of the worst hitters in the game. That’s why what we’ve seen thus far this year is so important: forget the results on contact, if Segura reverted to being a ground ball hitter with very little batted-ball authority, that’d be a huge warning sign. But he hasn’t – his GB rate is now lower than it was in 2016, and he’s putting up a great offensive season despite much *less* production on fly balls than last year. Yes, he’s been somewhat lucky on contact, but he looks much more like the 2016 Segura than the 2014-15 one. That’s important as we project what he can be over the life of this deal. Given that type of profile, he can put up a .310 wOBA or less and still make this deal look great.

There’s risk here, but at least to me, it’s dwarfed by the upside possibilities. Yes, Cano may block the M’s ability to move him off SS in the future (though Cano could presumably move to 1B at some point), the fact remains that the M’s needed to find a shortstop for the next several years, and their farm system sure as hell wasn’t going to provide one. Nearly all impact SS are already locked into long-term deals, and the ones that aren’t will be soon enough – the M’s weren’t going to get Carlos Correa/Francisco Lindor. The M’s have solved a very difficult problem here, and done so in a way that doesn’t hurt their ability to make further moves. When the M’s signed Cano, I noted that the M’s had tried player development and failed, and needed to do something else to fix their long-standing middle infield problems (years and years of Brendan Ryan and Jack Wilson and Ketel Marte). With this move, they lock in one of the best middle infield combinations in the game – they are now right there with Altuve/Correa in Houston. The M’s looked kind of rough in the medium term, but thanks to this signing, the work they need to do to create a contending team is a lot more manageable.

P.S. – Speaking of Cano, there’s another, less obvious, upshot to this extension. We are less than 2 years removed from Robinson Cano being named as the worst contract in MLB. Yes, yes, that was at a low point, and I assume Dave wouldn’t rank him there right now, but this was a deal he – and many others, I’m not picking on one of our founders here – was suspicious of from the start. I’d argue that not only is the Cano contract not a soul-sucking black hole anymore, but it’s been worth it. Already. Cano’s leadership and work with players like Segura is presumably one of the major reasons Segura was interested in an extension here. The sheer size of Cano’s deal made payroll flexibility a big issue – with Cano and Felix (and then Seager) tied up, would it prevent the M’s from signing other good players? With Segura signed, the answer is “obviously not.” In an era in which the partial sale of MLBAM gave all teams a windfall of cash, this is perhaps not a shock and due more to baseball economics than Cano’s own level of play, but it’s important all the same: one of the primary risks in the Cano signing seems pretty moot. If Cano never played for the M’s past this year, the $/WAR on his deal would be somewhat ugly, but he’d have given the M’s three very good seasons, an improved clubhouse culture, and assisted on getting the M’s an impact shortstop (I’m giving him credit for the work he did with Segura in the Dominican Republic before the 2016 season).

Game 59, Twins at Mariners – Paxton *and* Felix Day

June 6, 2017 · Filed Under Mariners · 7 Comments 

James Paxton vs. Hector Santiago, 7:10pm

Happy Felix Day. And also, Happy Paxton Day.

The M’s welcome the strangely successful Twins to town, and the M’s have their ace on the mound in what certainly looks like a lopsided pitching match-up. Equally importantly, Felix Hernandez makes his first rehab start 30 miles south in Tacoma. To really work, to be a team that’s capable of making up a bunch of ground in a thick field of wild card contenders, the M’s need both of these pitchers healthy and effective. Tonight’s an important night, then.

To start with the big league club, the M’s face the surprising leaders of the AL Central – a team that finds itself in first despite a pitching staff that ranks last in the AL in HR/9, last in K% and K-BB%, and – perhaps unsurprisingly – last in FIP. As a staff, the Twins get far fewer grounders and lots more fly balls than average. As mentioned, they don’t strike people out, so combining a whole lot of balls in play with lots of balls in play in the air, and you’re going to see a bunch of home runs.

Today’s starter, Hector Santiago, has been one of the primary offenders, with a 1.88 HR/9 mark thus far. That’d make the fourth consecutive increase in that stat for Santiago, or every year since he became a big league starter. Santiago throws about 90, and while he came up as a guy with a screwball, he hasn’t really used it in the majors. Instead, he’s tried to use his command to stay away from the center of the zone, and use his rising fastball to get either whiffs or called strikes. For a few years, it worked – pretty much, anyway. As a guy with poor stuff, he was always walking a very fine line – miss his spot by a little bit, and it was likely to go a long way. This may account for both his high HRs-allowed and mediocre walk rate. Those stats tanked his FIP, and thus his fWAR, but he kept his ERA below 4 for 4 straight years. Last year and this year, though, something’s changed, and he’s gone from FIP-beating oddity to oft-beaten replacement-level guy. He’s still not as bad as his FIP would suggest thanks to a persistently low BABIP, but for that to matter, he’s got to stop yielding so many home runs.

When Santiago was “good,” he froze hitters with inside pitches, getting well more than league average looking strikes. When he hit the edges of the zone, he could be tough. If the ball strayed out over the middle, the results were much worse. Now, that’s true of everyone, of course, but Santiago’s margin for error is lower than most thanks to his pedestrian stuff. When he was decent, in 2015, he got called strikes on 19% of his pitches, well more than the league average of 16.9% (Santiago ranked 28th out of 260 pitchers who threw at least 1000 pitches). This year, he’s under 16%, ranking 285 out of 421 pitchers who’ve thrown at least 200 pitches. That slight loss of command is debilitating for him. He’s *still* great when he hits the edge. But batters aren’t looking at strikes, and he can’t make them swing at balls.

Over the past three years, no one’s given up more “barrels” – essentially, balls hit really, really well – than his teammate Phil Hughes, but Santiago’s in the top (bottom?) ten. This is amongst the saddest leaderboards you’ll see, with late-period Jered Weaver and AJ Griffin featuring prominently. This is the consequence of Santiago’s loss of command. He used to get away with an occasional grooved pitch. As his grooved pitches creep upwards, there are fewer K’s and more balls flying over the fence. The fact that Phil Hughes and Tyler Duffey are also on it makes you wonder what’s going on with the Twins – is this some weird developmental strategy gone wrong?

One explanation may be their home park. The Twinkies have given up 52 of their 81 HRs-allowed at home, and their park ranks 2nd in the AL in average HRs per game. That’s odd, given its sheer size and the fact that Tony Blengino’s statcast park factors still peg it as a pitcher’s park. This reminded me of Safeco’s 2016, where (some) numbers called it a pitchers park, even as balls were flying out of it like it was 1999 at Coors Field. This year, Target Field and Comerica Park are similar, and it reminds me of my very first post on the topic midway through last year. The clubs have pitching staffs that are actively trying to court elevated/non-GB contact, thinking perhaps that a big park will bail them out or lower their BABIP. To a degree, it is, as fewer balls hit at a given speed will go for HRs there. But that’s cold comfort to the pitchers if they’re giving up really hard contact at economy-size rates. More on this to come, I think, as I can’t stop writing on this topic.

1: Heredia, LF
2: Valencia, 1B
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Motter, SS
7: Gamel, RF
8: Zunino, C
9: Dyson, CF

King Felix returns to Tacoma tonight, leading the Rainiers against Aaron Laffey and the Reno Aces. Gametime’s 6:05, and you should go, if you’re not going to Safeco. Felix is a big reason I can’t get behind calls for the M’s to do a full-on rebuild (not that it’d do much), and Felix is still a prime source of baseballing joy for me. The idea that he might be back soon, and – dare to dream – effective again… it’s exciting. This team and this sport is just better when Felix is healthy and dealing, and while we’re now well into the decline phase of his career, I keep hoping that rehab and working with Tacoma’s coaches (the guys who figured out Paxton) can get him close to what he used to be. The odds are long, but after a month or two away, I’m just ready for Felix days again.

So You Still Want Me To Write About the 2017 Draft

June 5, 2017 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 6 Comments 

Hello. Once again, later than usual, we are looking down the three-day period where 1200 or so names are called out and added as grist for the peculiar mill that is minor league player development, sort of a Rube Golberg machine that specializes in severed ligaments and PB&J sandwiches. Obviously, not all players will be signed and those that are inked will probably stand a better chance of reaching the major leagues. Probably. For the most part, saner baseball fans are only really looking to pay attention to the top ten rounds or so and the hope of funny names or intriguing storylines thereafter. Seeing as how summers are more ideal for my sit-down writing time, I’ve decided to throw down a brief look at what we have out there and where we’ve been, with the caveat that drafting later in the draft provides more unpredictability. Not that drafting earlier guarantees any amount certainty. Remember when I wrote five or six draft previews and then we picked Danny Hultzen? I certainly remember that happening. I used colorful language.

So, this thing, when does it happen?
Day One will be Monday, June 12th, with the preview show starting at 3 pm Pacific and the real draft starting around 4 pm. This will cover rounds one and two along with the Competitive Balance Rounds A and B after each round. Day Two will follow with the previews beginning at 9:30 am and the real stuff, carrying us through the tenth round, starting at 10 am. Day Three, our beloved conference call day, will begin at 9 am on the 14th.

When does our team select?
Our first pick on Day One will come at #17. Since we were not awarded any picks in the Competitive Balance Lottery, our next pick will be at #55, then our third round pick at #93, then in intervals of thirty thereafter barring someone dropping out early, although that’s been far less frequent since the draft was set to forty rounds. The last time we had a Competitive Balance selection was 2015.
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Game 58, Rays at Mariners

June 4, 2017 · Filed Under Mariners · 10 Comments 

Ariel Miranda vs. Erasmo Ramirez, 1:10pm

The M’s completely mishandled Erasmo Ramirez, but saved a modicum of value when they flipped him for Mike Montgomery. Erasmo was out of options, and it looked like the M’s might lose him for nothing, so it was a rare well-executed trade. The problem was that they’d made it necessary in the first place. I thought of that watching Chris Taylor’s grand slam last night. The issue isn’t the trade or a reasonable evaluation of other players at a given position. The problem is squandering a player’s potential.

Erasmo is still a swing man for Tampa, relieving often and then popping into the rotation when needed. And if Alex Cobb’s pitch mix and approach remind me of Hisashi Iwakuma, Erasmo does at least as much. His change is his best pitch, and while it’s not a real splitter-style cambio, they’re clearly in the same family. Erasmo will give up HRs, but the great control he showed in the low minors is finally showing up in the majors. He generates plenty of grounders, and has moderate splits thanks to that good change.

1: Gamel, RF
2: Powell, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Valencia, 1B
7: Motter, SS
8: Dyson, CF
9: Zunino
SP: Miranda

Boog Powell gets a start today against the org he played for in the minors for several years. Zunino’s 7 RBIs last night get him the rare start in a day game after a night game. Man, this offense just looks different when there’s not an automatic out at the bottom of the order. It’s looked different facing the Rays, in any event.

Andrew Moore leads the minor league pitching probables today. He leads Tacoma in Fresno; the R’s are trying to avoid a sweep. Tyler Herb and Anthony Misiewicz also take the hill. Joe Rizzo had 2 hits last night, and Braden Bishop had a hit and two walks.

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