Like most occupations, professional athletes begin work either just after high school or following college, but unlike almost all other lines of work, athletes usually retire in their thirties or early forties. While most have entry level jobs in their early twenties, baseball players often have incredible success at this time. While numerous age curves have been produced that can help us predict when players will hit their primes, each player is different and unique, making it unpredictable when and if they will break out and produce at the Major League level.
As fans, young stars dazzle us by succeeding so intensely at such an early part of their career. As they mature, these figures still amaze us, but it becomes more commonplace, standing out less in our minds. Currently Major League Baseball is flush with an abundance of young talent that continues to amaze us. Some names that come to mind immediately include Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Manny Machado, Matt Harvey, and Stephen Strasburg.
In a recent piece on www.baseballanalytics.org, Bill Chuck took a look at a matchup of two great young pitchers. This past Wednesday the Mets took on the Reds, pitting Matt Harvey against Mat Latos. Havey has been awesome this season, striking out 28% of batters he has faced, compiling a 1.93 earned run average and a 2.44 FIP. Mat Latos may have one fewer "T" in his first name, but he has also excelled in 2013. He sports a 3.17 ERA, 3.38 FIP, and 3.44 K/BB ratio.
Chuck didn't delve into any major issues, choosing to look at Latos, Harvey, and Matt Moore's seasons to date. Still, his piece brings up the idea of the great success of young players. Using Fangraphs version of wins above replacement, we can see how pitchers 25 years and younger have compared to pitchers between the age of 26 and 27 so far in 2013.
First, remember that there are more pitchers at the MLB level in the 26-27 age range than 25 and under, so we shoulder expect better numbers due to the larger sample size. While you might expect the younger cadre to have worse numbers because some have yet to reach their primes, note that in order to be called up and pitching every 5th day at such a young age, these pitchers must be quite good.
This is a list of the top ten starters in the majors in 2013 between in the 25 years old and under group (a more detailed and longer list can be found here):
Other than Jose Quintana, Patrick Corbin, and Jhoulys Chacin, most of these names shouldn't surprise anyone. Harvery leads this class of pitchers with stellar numbers, but Clayton Kershaw who is arguably the best young pitcher in baseball follows him coming in 2nd. Much has been written about Corbin's success, but similar to Chacin and Quintana, the key will be to see if these three pitchers will continue such incredible productivity through September.
Now let's take a look at the top 10 pitchers in 2012 between the ages of 26 and 27(a more detailed and longer list can be found here):
This list has some star power with King Felix and Yu Darvish occupying 2 of the top 3 spots. Interestingly, the average fWar of the top 10 pitchers in each age group has a difference of only 0.04. Maybe this isn't a big enough difference in age to find any significant gap in value, especially when looking at only the best of the best in each category.
Age matters, and it's important to comprehend how incredible pitchers like Matt Harvey, Jose Fernandez, and Madison Bumgarner truly are for their age. These pitchers will become the next Felix Hernandez's and Yu Darvish's and Darvish and Hernandez will mature into the next Andy Pettitte's and Roy Halladay's. Interestingly, when Latos and Harvey faced off, neither pitcher performed exceptionally well, but the two had starkly similar lines. Latos went 6.2 innings, giving up four, striking out 4 batters, and walking one. Harvey threw 6.1 innings, striking out 6, walking 3, and surrendering 4 runs. In the end, the Reds prevailed, and neither Harvey no Latos factored into the decision, but it left fans wanting to see more matchups of young aces like Latos and Harvey.
Jordan Sheffield is an undersized high school pitcher who shot his way up draft boards this fall, with a dazzling performance during the Perfect Game's World Wood Bat Championship. It's hard to believe a singular inning opened as many scouts' eyes as it did, but that's exactly what happened a few months ago in Jupiter.
The oldest Sheffield brother (his younger brother, Justus, is a top prospect next year) pitched a 1-2-3 inning in relief, "without throwing a fastball under 95," topping out at 98. He also mixed in what has been described as a "hellacious" curveball.
Before Sheffield's multi-million-dollar inning, his fastball sat in the low 90s (with good life) most of the summer, occasionally touching 95. His curveball probably has the most upside of all his pitches – it's a hard, tight curve, sitting in the 80-81 range – but his slider and change could become above-average pitches as well.
The high-school wide receiver has an interesting delivery, which you will see below. He possesses an extremely high leg kick, which reminds me of an exaggerated Roy Oswalt.
The biggest knock on Sheffield is his lack of size. The Vanderbilt recruit stands around 6-foot, 180 pounds. Will his body allow him to be a middle-rotation starter, or will he be forced to the bullpen? The answer to that question is going to determine most of his draft value.
UPDATE (5/25): Sheffield was progressing as expected early this season, but the injury bug bit early, subsequently ending his season. He's still a first-round talent, and college will do him some good. TJ + him diminutive frame may raise a red flag, however – it's certainly something to keep an eye on.
Major League Floor
If Sheffield is unable to stick as a starter -- either due to his lack of size, or development of multiple secondary pitches -- he could be an asset in the back end of a Major League bullpen. As his body matures, his fastball (mid-90s with great life) should become a legitimate plus pitch, as long as he can control it. Pair that with a potentially plus curveball and you're looking at an 8th/9th inning guy.
UPDATE (5/25): Not much has changed. If anything, his injury may move the needle toward high-leverage reliever.
If he develops three quality pitches and adds 20-30 pounds to his frame, I envision his ceiling as Johnny Cueto. If everything goes right for Sheffield he has three plus pitches: a low-90s fastball, with good life, a hard-breaking curve, and a deceptive change.
Projected Draft Round
UPDATE (5/25): Not much has changed. If anything, his injury may move the needle toward high-leverage reliever.
The following is where the major outlets have him ranked as a player among other draftees: Keith Law (UR), Baseball America (23), MLB.com (UR), Minor League Ball (19). There's a lot of question as to where Sheffield will hear his name called on draft night. I think he'll be drafted in-between rounds 2-4, which makes him an interesting over-slot candidate for the Astros, depending on how far he falls. Signability and projection are going to scare some teams away.
UPDATE (5/25): He's not projected to get drafted. There's a small chance someone takes him late and tries to throw a ton of money at him.
College Commitment: Vanderbilt, Will He Sign?
The key factor in all of this is whether or not his little brother also commits to Vandy, which he's currently considering. As of right now, I predict Sheffield would sign for the right price.
UPDATE (5/25): No chance.
*This profile was originally published on February 28*
Jordan Sheffield is a 2013 RHP/SS with a 6-0 180 lb. frame from Tullahoma, TN who attends Tullahoma HS. Slender athletic build, looks like a middle infielder. On line leg raise delivery, compact high arm circle, high 3/4's to over the top release, some effort on release, throws downhill. Steady low 90's fastball, topped out at 93 mph, mostly straight. Hard slider/cutter in mid 80's is a quality pitch, flashes depth and late bite, hard downer curveball has tight spin and good shape, can spin the ball well. Change up still developing. Could become a 4-pitch power starter down the road. Good student, verbal commitment to Vanderbilt.
The Miami Marlins continued their interleague play against the AL Central in Chicago. The Miami Marlins sent Tom Koehler to the mound to face John Danks and the White Sox. Not that the game was on Fox Sports Florida, if you had TWTW (The Will To Watch) you had to resort to MLB.TV and the Hawk Harrelson-led Chicago broadcast.
The game started off with a brisk pace and through three innings both pitchers had only faced 10 batters. Then in the fourth inning the Marlins scored both of the games first runs on a homer by Derek Dietrich that scored Placido Polanco and put the Miami Marlins up 2-0.
The White Sox would strike back in the bottom of the fifth, putting up two runs of their own. A Jeff Keppinger RBI groundout and a Hector Gimenez RBI single to center would do the damage. Then in the sixth (and Koehler's last) inning a single by the immortal Paul Konerko would score Alex Rios putting the the city of Chicago up one run over the visitors from Miami.
In the seventh inning a lead-off double from the youthful Marcel Ozuna would chase John Danks from the game and bring in former Marlin Matt Lindstrom. The Marlins would then proceed to load the bases with no outs, unfortunately the Marlins were only able to cash-in one run on a Miguel Olivo Sac Fly. Then a Nick Green single loaded the bases just in time for Jeff Mathis to GIDP, because apparently when the Marlins have the DH they take the opportunity to play both Olivo and Mathis.
From then until the 8th the game sat in a 3-3 standstill. During the 8th the score would not change, but fans were treated to one of the most intriguing match-ups a White Sox/Marlins game could provide. With two outs in the bottom of the inning, Adam Dunn walked to the box and Marlin Manager Mike Redmond took action bringing in Dunn to face Dunn. Mike Redmond had hoped to capitalize on a classic name-name matchup and it worked out in his favor as Dunn struck out Dunn on four pitches to end the inning. Just as Ryan Zimmerman is hitless against Jordan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn remained hitless against his surname counterpart.
After nine innings, the game remained tied at 3-3. The White Sox loaded the bases in the tenth and failed to capitalize, but the Marlins would not remain so lucky in the eleventh. A groundball through the six-hole with the bases loaded would end the as the game as the White Sox walked-off and the Marlins would (presumably) head back to their hotel after losing 4-3 in the eleventh.
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Triple-A: New Orleans Zephyrs
W 6-5 vs. Omaha Storm Chasers
New Orleans won this game by scoring two runs in the bottom of the eighth, entering the inning trailing by one. Gorkys Hernandez and Jake Smolinski both had huge days at the plate, while Kevin Kouzmanoff and Koyie Hill both had two hits apiece.
Jacob Turner still got a quality start, needing only 86 pitches to go six innings, but he struggled to locate his pitches in the strike zone all night.
Double-A: Jacksonville Suns
L 3-5 vs. Birmingham Barons
Sam Dyson gave up four runs for just his second time of the season, and Arquimedes Caminero struggled in just one inning of relief. Christian Yelich had an off day at the plate, as did Jake Marisnick, Kyle Jensen, and Mark Canha.
Chris Gutierrez, a 29-year-old second baseman who has spent the last two years with Jacksonville, provided pretty much all of the offense for Jacksonville.
High Class-A: Jupiter Hammerheads
W 5-2 @ Palm Beach Cardinals
Justin Nicolino, SP: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, ER, 6 K
Greg Nappo, RP: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, SV (1)
In just his second game rehabbing with Jupiter, Casey Kotchman reached base four times.
Justin Nicolino had his fourth straight outstanding start after a rough start to the season. Nicolino has not walked a batter in his last three starts. With a 3.05 FIP coming into Friday's start, Nicolino is back on top of his game - reason enough for Marlins fans to be ecstatic.
Low Class-A: Greensboro Grasshoppers
L 3-4 vs. Delmarva Shorebirds
Matt Juengel, 3B: 2-for-4, RBI
Cameron Flynn, LF: 0-for-1, 2 BB, RBI
Daniel Oliver, SP: 5.0 IP, 3 H, ER, BB, 4 K
Greensboro gave up three runs in the top of the ninth, and despite a valiant effort to come back in the bottom of the ninth, the Hoppers fell a run short. Trailing by a run, Greensboro had the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, but Michael Main couldn't get the run across. Greensboro falls to 18-28 with the loss.
No player in the 20th century has won more games in his final season in the majors than Sandy Koufax. Koufax wrapped up his big league career in 1966 while winning 27 times for the Dodgers.
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My Friday card was a short one, and the overall result was a harmless split. The Saturday agenda would appear to offer more substantial possibilities, as I’m already set on three baseball plays with a good chance of adding a couple more if the numbers cooperate. To purchase the entire card, just click the tab to the right and get either the daily or weekly package. For info on lengthier terms along with guarantees, drop me a line directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There has been quite a buzz on the West Coast regarding the respective futures of the two SoCal skippers, Mike Scioscia and Don Mattingly. This isn’t knee jerk media and fan overreaction, either. The Angels have been falling short of lofty expectations the last few years, and the Dodgers are on their way to being what could be the monster flop of the 2013 campaign.
Scioscia has enjoyed a long reign in Anaheim. I don’t think there’s any doubt that he’s a very capable manager. In fact, the strongest argument I’ve made against Scioscia has been a tendency to micromanage just a little too much during games. I look at the Halos and see what should be one of the best grip it and rip it teams anywhere. Scioscia seems to prefer grinding things out small ball style. That worked like a charm with some past Angels rosters , but this club is better off playing bombs away in my opinion. As for the pitching, I’m not sure what Scioscia can do to fix the problems that exist. You’ve either got the arms or you don’t, and the fact is that this is simply not a great staff.
The dumping on Scioscia has subsided with the recent surge by the Halos. This team has lots of ground to make up, but they’re hot now and could stay that way with just average contributions from the pitching staff. However, that is anything but the case with the Angels neighbors from Los Angeles.
The Dodgers are simply a bad baseball team right now, despite a roster loaded with big stars. Maybe that’s part of the problem. Having stars is awesome, but not if the remainder of the roster is loaded with what amounts to journeymen rather than solid complimentary players. Add in the fact that the stars are also falling well short of expectations, and you’ve got a bad situation. That’s the Dodgers in a nutshell.
That said, the Dodgers are also one of the most consistently flat teams I’ve seen in awhile. Watch a Cardinals game, check out the Reds, take a gander at the Pirates or even the Padres. You’re likely to see teams that look like they’re having fun at the ballpark, and are really into what’s happening. Then take a look at the Dodgers and notice the difference. This is a team that isn’t playing baseball. They’re working baseball.
Mattingly is not responsible for the clunky roster he’s saddled with, that’s on management. But he’s not getting the most from what he does have, in my opinion, and I’m also very down on many of his strategic maneuvers, most notably an apparent obsession with going “by the book” on way too many occasions. That “book” has been exposed as just plain wrong by the sabremetric world, yet Mattingly continues to plod along, giving his team less chance of winning games in the process.
Mattingly received the dreaded vote of confidence earlier this week. I’m not sure why anyone would take this seriously. Barring an unlikely turnaround in the very near future, the Dodgers are going to have to make a change. From a business standpoint, not to mention in terms of wins and losses, I have to think the sooner the better for the Dodgers.
05/25 07:10 PM MLB (913) SAN DIEGO PADRES VS (914) ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Take: (913) SAN DIEGO PADRES
The San Diego Padres have gotten cooled off the last few nights following a major surge that brought them within a whisker of reaching the .500 plateau. But I like the Friars chances of snapping their 0-3 run with a win tonight at Arizona.
Andrew Cashner will be doing the pitching for the Padres, and the big righty is really starting to put things together. This is a guy with good enough stuff to be a legit #2 starter, and could even approach ace level as time goes on. Command is the key for Cashner. When he’s working ahead in the count, Cashner can be downright nasty. Lately, that has been the case more often than not and not surprisingly, he’s generating some very positive results.
Things have not been going as well for Wade Miley. The lefty enjoyed a breakout 2012 campaign, racking up 16 wins in the process. Miley gave up an inordinate number of hits per inning, but hitters had to beat him, as he simply would not beat himself with walks and consistently unfavorable counts. But 2013 has been a different story for the southpaw. Control has been a nagging issue for Miley, and while he’s been a little sharper lately, I don’t see him as a go with guy right now. Miley, it should be noted, has also had some real problems with some of the Padres he’ll be facing tonight.
Things are going pretty well for the Diamondbacks right now. Despite a bullpen that’s not exactly lights out, this team is winning games and will enter Saturday’s action now tied for first place in the NL West with the surprising Rockies. On run differential, Arizona is 45 to the good against San Diego, and they’re hosting a Padres team that is not exactly the nuts on the road. But I prefer Cashner to Miley enough to look at the Padres as a live dog tonight, and I’ll therefore side with San Diego to pick up the victory this time.
The Royals, who have gone 4-14 since starting the season 17-10, will send Jeremy Guthrie to the mound against the Halos to try and stop the bleeding. The Stormin' Mormon has a 3.49 ERA after his first 9 starts of the season, but he's likely to allow more runs per start as the season progresses.
Guthrie's ERA estimators look far worse than his run-prevention numbers. The veteran has a 5.88 FIP, 4.75 xFIP and 4.88 SIERA. Guthrie does have a track record of out-pitching his peripherals in his career, but he's leaving himself even less margin for error. Guthrie is only striking out 12.9% of the hitters he has faced, which is 7% below the league-average and 1.3% below his career average. He is also walking a league-average number of hitters after posting below-average walk rates since 2006.
The right-handed starter is surviving by stranding 90.9% of runners who have reached base against him this season. Guthrie's career average is 73.2% of runners stranded, while the league average is 73.1%. More of the other team's baserunners will start crossing home plate.
We saw some of the regression in Guthrie's last start against the Houston Astros. Houston tagged Guthrie for six runs on eight hits in five innings. Astros hitters smacked two home runs and drew three walks against Guthrie, and only struck out twice.
The Angels hit Guthrie well on May 14 when the two teams met at Angel Stadium. Hopefully Guthrie has a new approach or better stuff today, or else he may get battered again.
Buckner started 16 games for Arizona in 2009 and 2010, but didn't pitch well enough to stick in the rotation. The right-handed pitched in the Colorado Rockies farm system in 2011 and the Boston Red Sox farm sytem in 2012 before signing up with the Angels this season.
Bucker has not looked particularly impressive this year, posting a 4.56 ERA and 3.98 FIP in Triple-A. The 29-year-old misses an acceptable amount of bats, but has walked 12% of the batter he has faced. Kansas City hitters have claimed they are working on their plate approach; today would be a good day to show it.
Even if I've been underwhelmed with Guthrie this season, he should be a better option than a journeyman spot-starter. God help us if the Royals offense can't score runs today.
Atlanta jumped out to an early lead on Freddie Freeman's two-run homer in the first inning off Jeremy Hefner, but New York would get one of the runs back that same inning on Lucas Duda's pop-fly RBI single with two on against Kris Medlen. John Buck's home run leading off the fourth inning tied the game, and Marlon Byrd gave the Mets the lead with an RBI single in the fifth.
After Freeman's homer, Hefner allowed just two hits, both to Brian McCann, in six innings. The first Mets reliever out of the bullpen, LaTroy Hawkins, promptly coughed up a game-tying home run to Dan Uggla in the seventh.
Medlen also lasted six innings, giving up seven hits and striking out nine.
Starting the eighth, Mets reliever Scott Rice walked Justin Upton and gave up a single to Freeman. New reliever Greg Burke walked Dan Uggla and, with the rain beginning to fall, Evan Gattis did what he has often done so far this year, coming through in the clutch this time with a two-run single to give Atlanta the lead.
The rain began to fall more heavily when the bottom of the eighth commenced, and Anthony Varvaro was tasked to drudge through the downpour. John Buck walked to start the inning, Ruben Tejada singled with one out, but Varvaro struck out Jordany Valdespin with a chance to escape the monsoon with the lead intact. Daniel Murphy, though, would spoil that chance with a run-scoring single; a misplay by B.J. Upton allowed Tejada to advance to third, and he would eventually score the tying run on a very wet wild pitch. Once Varvaro struck out Rick Ankiel to end the inning, the tarp was pulled over the field.
Play will resume at 6:10 p.m. ET Saturday.
Tyler Chatwood delivered yet another impressive performance, holding the Giants to just four hits in six scoreless innings of work. His ERA now sits at 1.90 and he is making a legitimate claim to stay in the Rockies rotation long term. Outman and Belisle both worked perfect innings and Lopez finished it off to preserve the shutout.
Cuddyer led the offensive charge as he delivered three RBIs, including a solo home run in the sixth, his eighth of the year. Carlos Gonzalez hit his 12th of the year and D.J. LeMahieu had an RBI single.
The Rockies played well defensively highlighted by several dazzling plays from Nolan Arenado. Arenado has played tremendous defense since being called up and tonight was arguably his best game in that category.
A great win for the Rockies tonight and one that they can hopefully build on tomorrow.