Friday, May 23, 2008

Johan Prospects Revisited

Kind of, I mean. There were a whole bunch of names thrown out as possible prospects to be coming to the Twins for Johan this offseason. I figured, since I'm bored, why not take a look at how they are performing this season.

But first, I want to do a quick book review of one I just finished, Fantasyland by Sam Walker. It's written by a sportswriter for the Wall Street Journal, who - at the time - had never played fantasy baseball, and finally decided to give it a try. Rather than playing in a local league with friends or colleagues, he wrangles himself an invite to Tout Wars, the premiere Rotissiere Baseball league in the country. It's pretty solid. His methods of preparation for the draft are a fun read, and involve a good amount of the good ole stats vs. perception debate, and when he writes about players it's a lot of fun. He does get bogged down at times talking about some of the history of fantasy baseball and describing his fellow competitors, but I suppose that's what you get in a fantasy baseball book compared to a baseball book. I mean, that stuff was interesting, but it got to be a little much. It does have some nice local flavor, as the poor bastard ended up with Jacque Jones, Doug Mientkewicz, Brad Radke, and Corey Koskie all on his team at some point in the season. I give Fantasyland a mild recommendation. Check it out.

Anyway, here's a little rundown of the prospects bandied about in Johan talks, and we'll start with the Yankees' guys:

Phil Hughes:
The name that kept coming up but was allegedly not going to be included in any deal, Hughes season has been a trainwreck so far, with a WHIP north of 2.1 in 22 innings and an ERA of 9.00. Somewhat surprising, given his success in 13 starts last season and a couple of good postseason relief appearances, but it appears he may not have been ready just yet and is now on the shelf until July or so. He also gives us an excellent excuse,

"Phil Hughes will be wearing glasses when he returns to the mound to help dull the glare of the lights during night games. Hughes said he had trouble seeing the catcher's signs and is "slightly nearsighted." "When I looked through the prescription, it made a pretty big difference."

Awesome. Rather than worrying about the catcher's signs, I'd worry about throwing good pitches if I'm Hughes. His strikeout rate is way down, his walk rate is way up, and opponents are hitting .354 against him. His BABIP (batting average balls in play) is a silly .395, which will regress to the mean a bit, but when 29% of the balls opponents hit off you are line drives, your BABIP is going to be high.

Ian Kennedy: Hughes is pretty much the only guy who could make Kennedy's season look good so far. At one point he seemed very likely to be headed the Twins way, he's looked like garbage, posting a 1.79 WHIP and a 7.27 ERA after cutting it by more than a run following his outing Thursday night. He finally put up a decent outing, going six innings and only giving up one run. His control has been god awful, throwing out 25 walks in 35 innings, which is not a problem he had in the minors.

Melky Cabrera:
The CF to go along with Ian Kennedy in a package which I hated. I believed Cabrera's upside was a merely average center fielder, and now that he's become the Yanks' regular CF, he's shown me nothing. He's actually been slightly below average this season, putting up .242/.322/.422 for an OPS+ of 96. He does have six homeruns, and shows good plate discipline with 15 walks so far. I'm pretty much sticking with an upside of "average."

Other assorted Yankee Crap: A few other names thrown about from the Yankee system include P Jeff Marquez - promoted to AAA this season and getting shelled, P Alan Horne - hurt all year and pitched in only two games so far in triple A, and OF Austin Jackson - OPSing .780 in AA with just two homeruns in 171 ABs.

Basically, right now all the pieces from the Yankee offers are looking like crap. Any of these guys could still develop into a very good player, except Cabrera, but this season they look terrible. How about the Sox?

Clay Buchholz: I don't remember for sure, but I don't think he was ever actually on the table. I kind of wrote about Buchholz while writing about Reusse, but it boils down to the fact that Buchholz hasn't had anywhere near the success he had last season. He's struggled with injuries and a 1.63 WHIP, but his BABIP is a big .376, which should come down along with the rest of his metrics. I still think Buchholz is the best prospect out of this whole mess.

Jon Lester:
He tossed a no-hitter already, so obviously he's doing something right and it's more than just beating cancer. Although his K/9 is down a bit, but has increased is groundball percentage from 34% to 50%, and correspondingly his home run rate is way down as well. He's pitching very well this year, and is looking like a top level prospect.

Jed Lowrie: The shortstop I was very excited about getting, mainly because the Twins haven't had a good one in years and Adam Everett hasn't exactly stopped that trend. Got the call to the bigs this year, and in 42 ABs has put up .310/.340/.476. Small sample size, yes, but he certainly hasn't look overmatched at the big league level.

Jacoby Ellsbury: Kid has followed up last postseason with a excellent beginning of the season so far. In fact, I'm going to go ahead and call him the next Ricky Henderson. A line of .291/.396/.426 for an OPS+ of 122 to go along with 4 homeruns, 19 steals, and 23 walks. An OBP 100 points higher than his BA gives me a serious boner. He's in the top 30 in walk rate this season and top 40 in not swinging at balls outside the strike zone, and he's only 24 years old. Add in his rugged good looks, and I think I have a serious crush.

Justin Masterson: Kind of a throw-in to the Boston trades, he's been called up to make a couple of starts for the Red Sox when they needed him to fill in. He's gone at least six innings in each, giving up just one run each time on the way to a 0.97 WHIP and 1.46 ERA.

Ryan Kalish: Another throw-in prospect type, this one isn't having quite the same success. Kalish is in A ball for the third straight year, and is putting up just .255/.342/.363. On the bright side, in his minor league career he's 25-28 stealing bases.

Coco Crisp: Blah blah blah he's an excellent defensive player and an above averge hitter. boring.

So there you have it. If they could have pulled the trigger on the Ellsbury, Masterson, Lowrie deal, that would have been the one to get, and I prefer that very much over what the ended up with. Hopefully I'm wrong, and Gomez will be the next Ricky Henderson and the three pitchers all end up good.

By the way, if you're looking for someone to have a monster rest of the season, look out for Marlins' pitcher Andrew Miller. You heard it here first.

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