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Check out my article over at Razzball.
Hope you enjoy.

Objective Trading

This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to go watch my hometown Twins play the Houston Astros. With a match up of Brian Moehler and Scott Baker, I expected an easy win for the Twinkies. However, that was not the case as they lost 6-5.

What surprised me is that Brendan Harris led off the bottom of the 1st with a homer, and Delmon Young, yes that Delmon Young who can’t hit the broadside of the Metrodome, hit a homer in the second.

Whatever happened to Young’s potential? Scouts raved about him before the ’08 season, but since then everyone is claiming he’s a bust? Seriously, the Twins seem to have gotten fleeced this time in the trade for Young and Harris for Garza and Bartlett. About time that the Twins tasted their own medicine. However, I don’t think one can make an accurate claim quite yet that the Twins got the short end of the trade. Give it another year or so. For example, most thought the Twins got the shaft when they traded AJ Pierzynski to the Giants for Boof Bonser, Joe Nathan, and Francisco Liriano. Well, after a few years, we all know who got the better end of that deal.

Needless to say, trade evaluation is difficult to objectively accomplish until several years after the trade (think the Michael Vick conundrum in 2001 where the Chargers traded down to number 5 and got LaDainian Tomlinson and the Falcons chose Vick number 1). I would venture to say that the Chargers got the better end of that trade, especially since they drafted Drew Brees with their second round pick that they got for trading down.

See, it isn’t until emotions are removed that one can see what side of the trade is better after the seasons have been played. However, this Young+Harris+Pridie for Garza+Bartlett seems to be quite onesided, but let us have history make the correct call in several years.

Prospect Hype-bole

It feels like it has been, well, forever. After securing a weekly Scouting the Unknown for Razzball, I am hoping to ease myself back into some sort of fantasy blog again this summer. This may become increasingly difficult as the summer progresses as my grandfather is nearing the end of his mortal time line, along with a stressful summer job that pays expensive private college tuition. Needless to say, at least a weekly post should be doable. Enough with season introduction formalities.

This year, more than last, seems to be surrounded by extraordinary amounts of prospect hype ranging from Strasburg, to Hanson, to Maybin, to Andrus, to Wieters, etc. Seriously, when did baseball become like football? The NFL draft and rookies have so much expectations placed upon them. Deemed as the next best thing, or the savior of the franchise, or worst, the next _____!

In recent years, baseball has been surprisingly blessed with Ryan Braun and Evan Longoria. They rose to the occasion and have become amazing ball players. But for every Braun or Longoria we have players like Marty Cordova (who one the Rookie of the Year in 1995) who hasn’t done anything since. Tommy Hanson and Matt Wieters are being hyped beyond sane believes. Its great that they have amazing talent, but very few times does their talent pan out in their rookie seasons. Wieters is struggling mightily so far this year, and Hanson has a so-so first start.

Why so much pessimism? It’s not because I am bitter or even vengeful. Instead, its because I see ESPN at the root of the problem trying to create buzz and “insight” while they ignore the complexities of a players rookie year. For example, look at Stephen Strasburg. He is the “next best” pitcher to every hold a baseball. USA Today recently that talked about Ben McDonald, who in ’89 was considered everrything that Strasburg is. How did his career turn out? Well he had mild success posting 78 W, 70 L, 3.91 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP in a 7 year career marred by injuries.

The thing as will all rookies is you never know. You never know who they will react to the intensity of professional sports, the demand the media places upon the rookies, or if the scouts were right. There are so many variables that are often unaccounted for when talking about rookies/prospects that I want to vomit.

Enough for this rant. The following articles will provide more insight and quality. For now this is what it is.

imagesWith spring training a little over a month away, and pitchers reporting in two weeks, the regular season is just around the corner.  Those rusty shoulders, arms, wrists, fingers, hammies, groins and legs will soon enough turn into a trip to the big leagues or another season down on the farm.  Each spring promising youngsters get a shot at making the big league in exhibition games, veterans earn their respect, and players on their last legs attempt to prove that they still have the right “stuff.”

What is often over looked by the gigantic free agent signings are prospects that have been developing and maturing in the minors.  The draft, team development of players, and the Rule 5 draft are ignored because of this “WIN right now at all cost” mentality (Think of the Yankees).  Interestingly, if you look at the Philadelphia Phillies roster five (C. Ruiz, R. Howard, C. Utley, J. Rollins, P. Burrell) of their eight position starters were drafted by Philadelphia, and four (C. Hamels, K. Kendricks, B. Myers, A. Eaton), of their six (they traded for Joe Blanton) starters were also drafted by the Phillies.

Howard, Utley, Rollins, Burrell, and Hamels were the core of that 2008 World Championship team.  That is building from within.  The [Devil] Rays, contrary to popular belief, were not as built from within (though trading their prospect helped them receive key parts [i.e. Delmon Young for Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett]).  Only four of their starting eight was drafted by the Rays (E. Longoria, BJ Upton, C. Crawford, J. Gomes), and two of their five main starters (J. Shields and A. Sonnanstine) were drafted by the Rays.  Now this isn’t awful, but just not as many as the Phillies.
*Just for comparison sakes, the Yankees did have 8 players on their everyday roster that they drafted.

Though, the draft is not an exact science (only 16 of the 43 top pick in the draft have been all stars, two have never play a game in the big leagues, and only two have been Rookie of the Year), building a team through the draft is essential to having a winning team.  Trading picks away for the present only creates problems for the future.  Building from within has always proven to lead to great results.

The most interesting thing to notice about the two World Series teams is their mlb_vwt3_swpayroll ($43,820,598 [Rays] to $98,269,881 [Phillies]).  That is more than double.  Granted, the Phillies spent heavy in the off-season and trades, while the Rays decided that they would be a bit more frugal.  The huge signings by the Yankees may look like brilliant ideas today, but does not guarantee a playoff birth, let alone a winning record (the top three payrolls did not even make the playoffs).

Obviously, drafting doesn’t equate a title run, or a title.  Nevertheless, the Rays and Phillies made to WS without a $100 million cap, and the Brewers made the playoffs within that same category.  The free spending owners, and the high rolling sports agents may be rich, but as they say “A ring is more important than all the records in the world!”

Omar Vizquel, the human vacuum has been signed by Texas displacing any possibility of Elvis Andrus having any fantasy value this year.  That is unless the “Hands of Silk” has a physical breakdown in his dinosaur years, which is likely.  However, the Rangers need a SS that will not punt the ball to the outfield grass 32 times like Mr. Andrus accomplished to do in 109 games; that is an error every 3 1/2 games.

This move obviously fills the time gap until Elvis matures into an everyday SS.  Moving Michael Young over to Third may have been a bit preemptive, though in the long run secures an opening for Andrus to fill in when need be.  I expect the Rangers to make the smart me (though that is not always the case) and start Elvis in the minors for at least the first two months of the season.  Elvis’ peripherals are not that amazing even considering his age.

To put his minor league totals in perspective with a major leaguer of equivalent age  in the minors we have to use Delmon Young (yes the Delmon Young who was suspended for 50 games).  Delmon Young’s slugging percentage was .880 (career minors, A,AA, and AAA) while Elvis Andrus’ slugging percentage is .707 (career minors, RK, A, and AA).  Delmon Young accomplished his numbers in 185 AB less, hit 44 more homers and stuckout less.  What Elvis strives at is stealing bases.  The only thing right now you can assume with Andrus is his stealing ability.  I would take Carlos Gomez before I would take Andrus, for sole fact that Gomez has an additional season of experience.  Buyers beware

Yahoo Sports writer Jeff Passan has covered this maple bat controversy from the very beginning. Last May he wrote an article about the introduction, cause, and increase in the maple bat crazy. Barry Bonds initiated the maple frenzy when he juiced 73 homers over the outfield walls in his memorable, yet highly controversial 2001 season. Since that remarkable season for Mr. Bonds, over 50% of players are now using this soft wood (truly).334-spt_p0513_13c2bondsbatembeddedprod_affiliate113

For all you carpenters out there, this sounds elementary. However, for all of us that are lost around a hardware shop this should clear up a bit of the confusion. Each wood has a specific level of hardness (called Janka Hardness Scale), typically the harder the wood the more expensive the cost. Thus, no major league batter is going to use a wood that has potential to break and pay for an uncontrollable amount (there has been no specific wood denied until now). Generally, the players have used an ash bat. They break less causing their wallets to remain bulky from game checks. Ash has a 1320 Janka ranking, while maple has a 950 Janka ranking. There is a legit reason why there are more bats shattering with Mariano Rivera’s hard cutter and leaving batters with only a few fingers on the handle.

2443989902_c1e1db808b So why switch from ash to maple? Well, superstitions of course! Every player has their superstitions, whether that is wearing the same undershirt, sniff their bat (Carlos Gomez), adjust their batting gloves after every pitch (cough *Nomar *cough). Then again, Bonds did hit 73 home runs with maple. Mmmmm, maple syrup and pancakes. Sorry, my inner mind went irrational on me. Speaking of irrational, did I mention that superstitions are all irrational and non-scientifically proven?

The safety hazard that a shattering bat, which some players can swing up to 65 MPH, put bluntly is jeopardizing all players, fans, and coaches safety. A splintered bat barrel, or even the smaller shards, could potentially cause physical harm. It is surprising that a player has not been extremely injured by a bat. We have had coaches (Pittsburg), and fans (stray flying bats), but nothing like when the Columbus Blue Jackets (hockey) had a fan die.

This new rule enacted by Bud Selig should be praised, not scorned. Players should prevent injuries that can derail entire team’s seasons. As it is, unexpected fluke injuries devastate teams year in and year out. A ball that can be thrown 100 mph is dangerous and a bat being swung at such said pitch is just as dangerous. The MLB is saving itself of many lawsuits, and preventing the health of their players (something that cannot always be said; cough * NFL * cough).

Each, and ever off-season a number of moves leave even Bill Bavasi scratching his head. large_yanks26Today is one of those days. Surprisingly, it was the Yankees, who have splashed and danced this winter into a hot fiesta. However, every party must include a foolish act by even the best behaved.

The Yankees continue their off-season frenzy by signing Melky Cabrera and Xavier Nady each to one year deal today (1/21/2009). These signing make little sense unless they are planning to trade either Nick Swisher or Nady. Their outfield is loaded with Hideki Matsui (though a DH), Cabrera, Nady, Swisher (who will not play first because of the Teixeira signing), Johnny Damon, and Brett Gardner.

Matsui will clearly be a DH this year, leaving the other five outfields battling for playing time. Sure Spring Training tends of produce a few unwanted injuries, but there are still too many players for to few playing spot. The Yankee’s would benefit from a trade of Swisher or Nady because they would yield the most return. Instead of trading the future for the present, the Bronx Bombers would be wise to trade a part of the past for the future.

The wisest move to be made, though trades never look wise to begin with, (a la AJ Pierzynski (MN) to SF for Boof Bonser, Francisco Liriano, and Joe Nathan) may be to trade Swisher, unless of course you enjoy paying a part-time player full-time wage. Though trading Nady might have more return because of his value right now.  It is amazing what a career year has for players. Maybe I am wrong!?! Maybe I underestimate the powers of Brian Cashman’s level of genius. Yet, questioning the Yankees moves more often than not looks better than their post-season record this past decade.

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