1995 Headline: Mike Schmidt Voted Into National Baseball Hall Of Fame Mike Schmidt’s credentials are as impressive as any player to play the game in the last 50 years. If you were to look up the definition of a ‘power … Continue reading →
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This is the third in my series on possible extensions for the Braves' young core players. The first post covered Martin Prado, while the second looked at Jason Heyward. The TC readers' consensus for a Heyward deal was around $81M over 6 years, by the way--exactly in line with my projected contract.
There is fairly broad consensus that extending Prado and Heyward would be beneficial for the Braves, provided the price is right. However, while the Braves have a bevy of other potential extension candidates, none of the other cases are nearly so clear-cut.
This post will focus on the Braves' solid young 1st baseman, Freddie Freeman. The case against offering him an extension is fairly simple: there's no rush. Freeman isn't even eligible for arbitration until after the 2013 season. What's more, while a good player, Freeman doesn't project to become a superstar (as Heyward does), so locking up his FA years seems less helpful.
There is a solid case to be made for extending Freeman, however (though not until after Heyward, at least, is locked up). The idea is that Freeman is likely going to play better in the future, and thus it would be best to lock him up now while his perceived value is relatively low. This case is most persuasive if you believe something like this:
I'd bet this guy is headed for a breakout season. baseball-reference.com/players/f/free… Fixed some eye issues midway through '12 and had a good 2nd half.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 2, 2013
I know a lot of Braves fans believe this will happen, too* (I'm not so sure, though I am fairly optimistic). If Freeman really is headed for a breakout 2013, then the time to sign him to an extension is now, before his value skyrockets. Because of this possibility, it's worthwhile to take a look at what it might take to extend Freeman.
* See also Jeff Sullivan's excellent FanGraphs piece on Freeman and "teases."
In this post, I'll use the same three criteria from the earlier posts to project a "fair" value for a six-year contract, which would buy out two of Freeman's free-agency years. I'll also add in a team option for 2019 (Freeman's age-29 season), as is typical for deals signed this early in a player's career.
I'll use the same three criteria from the previous posts to determine a fair value for the contract:
Let's start with the simplest of these questions:
Because Freeman hasn't entered the arbitration process, that can't help us. We'll have to focus simply on his statistics to this point. Here's what Freeman's averaged in his two full years:
Those are very good numbers, just a bit shy of Heyward's. Unlike with Heyward, however, the fuller context of those offensive stats does not do Freeman any favors. Whereas Heyward offers a huge amount of defensive and baserunning value, Freeman offers very little (if any).
Plus, Freeman plays 1st base, where the offensive standards are particularly high. Since 2011, Freeman ranks 13th out of 34 1st basemen in wRC+, making him just slightly above average offensively for his position. And he's much closer to guys like Mark Trumbo and Mark Reynolds than he is to the cream of the crop like Joey Votto and Prince Fielder. In other words, Freeman's position offsets much of his hitting value.
Further deflating Freeman's value are his defensive ratings, which range from average (+1 in Defensive Runs Saved over the two years) to subpar (-7 in Total Zone) to abysmal (-17 in Ultimate Zone Rating). Of course, Freeman's only played two years, and those stats need at least three years to get a good read on a player. Rather than get into the nitty gritty of regression and comparing the systems, I'll just ballpark it and say he's most likely a few runs below average per year.
This all goes to explain why Freeman's Wins Above Replacement numbers aren't that impressive despite his hitting skills. Both systems agree that he's totaled only about 3 WAR so far in his career, total (3.3 WAR by Baseball-Reference, 2.7 WAR by FanGraphs). That's a bit below average for a regular player.
Given the uncertainties in the defensive numbers, though, we should probably give Freeman a bit of a break in that department. With a different random fluctuation, he could easily have been worth more than 2.0 WAR/year. A 2-WAR player is worth a salary of roughly $9M per year.
Using $9M as a baseline, and using the 40/60/80 rule of thumb for arbitration salaries, we get a value of around $17M for the first 4 years of the deal. Pricing the last two at $9M each brings the total value of the 6-year contract to $35M.
That's affordable enough that I don't even think I need to apply an "extension discount" like I did in the previous posts. Of course, there's really no point in extending Freeman if you think he's only a 2-WAR player. The risk/reward ratio on a long deal just isn't worth it unless the player is going to be above average. But the whole point of this exercise is that we're guessing Freeman will improve--perhaps significantly. Let's look at those chances.
As mentioned above, there is good reason to believe that Freeman will break out in 2013. For one, you've got his age, which implies that he's yet to hit his peak. Many also have pointed out that Freeman had a stellar second half (.269 / .372 / .476 from June 26th on, despite being pretty bad in the last month), though that involves playing the arbitrary-endpoint game.
Also, while Freeman's overall offensive numbers remained almost eerily static from '11 to '12, he actually made some real strides in his peripherals. Namely, in 2012 Freeman increased his walk rate by 2%, lowered his K rate by 2%, increased his isolated power by 30 points, and hit 3% more line drives and 2% more fly balls. It's just that all of that progress was negated by a 44-point drop in batting average on balls in play.
If Freeman's "true" BABIP is closer to his .339 mark from 2011, then we should expect bigger numbers from him in 2013 even if he doesn't improve on his 2012 peripherals. That is a moot point, though, if his true BABIP is more like 2012's .295 mark (which is, after all, roughly the league average).
Like I did in the other analyses, I looked for comparable players to find a baseline for our future expectations. I took a bit of a different tack with Freeman, however: because there's such uncertainty with his defense, I looked only at offensive production.
Another complication is Freeman's combination of youth and position. In 2011-12, Freeman became the first 1B since Ed Kranepool 1965-67 to post consecutive seasons of 500+ PA by the age of 22. (Oddly enough, the Royals' Eric Hosmer also did it the past two seasons.) There just aren't many young first basemen to compare Freeman to.
Players that young most often start out at other positions, even if they are destined to end up at 1st base (Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera are two excellent recent examples). Accordingly, I expanded my search to include anyone who had played at least 30% of the time in a corner spot (LF/RF/3B/1B).
The batting runs component of Baseball-Reference's WAR served as my guidepost. I looked for all corner players since integration (1947) who, through their age-22 seasons, had at least 1000 PAs and a batting runs total between +5 and +40 (Freeman's at +20).
The result is a list of 23* players ranging from Barry Bonds to Clint Hurdle (full list here). The 23 players include 2 Hall of Famers (George Brett and Carl Yastrzemski) and two players on the current ballot (Bonds and Tim Raines) who have good cases, but the bulk of the list is solid-to-good players rather than great ones.
* Actually, the list has 24 players on it, but I removed one player (Dick Kokos) because his career was stalled by service in the Korean War.
There is only one first baseman in the sample: Jason Thompson. He is, however, an excellent comparable for Freeman, having pretty much the same skillset and production. Both are also tall, hit lefty, and hail from Southern California. If you want my forecast for Freeman over the next 6-7 years, you should probably just look at Thompson's B-Ref page.
Here are the average totals that the 23 players compiled through their age-22 seasons. I've added Freeman's numbers for comparison. The right column pro-rates the batting run totals to 600 PAs (roughly a season's worth).
As you can see, the group is a pretty dead-on match for Freeman's production with the bat. So how did the comparison group fare in their age-23 through age-28 seasons, the six years that would be covered in the hypothetical extension? Here are the same stats for those six-year periods (full stats here):
That's an improvement of around 10 runs with the bat per 600 PAs, which equates to about 1 WAR of added value per year. It should be noted, though, that the group only averaged 538 PAs per season (this factors in a few who became part-timers or worse in the 6-year period, notably Hurdle and Greg Gross).
An average is just part of the story, of course. Below, I've divided the players into 5 groups based on their batting runs in each period. The "Broke out" group is for players who improved by at least 15 batting runs per 600 PAs, while the "Cratered" group is for a decline of at least that amount. The "Maintained" group is for players who stayed within 5 runs of their previous levels.
This is quite encouraging if you're a Braves fan. More than half of the players improved by a substantial amount, while only 5 declined. Those are good odds.
If we take these numbers at face value, they tell us there's about a 30% chance that Freeman will break out with the bat--enough to potentially be 4- or even 5-win player overall (that's All Star level). There's also about a 30% chance he'll improve by a lesser amount, becoming around a 3-win player. Then there's a roughly 20% chance that he'll stay at his current, ~2-win level and a 20% chance that he'll decline (at which point, he probably won't even be a regular... though James Loney got 465 PAs last year, so who knows?).
Given that the "modest improvement" group seems most likely, let's say that he does improve by about 10 runs with the bat, to around +20 runs per year. If his fielding numbers stabilize at something a bit below average, that equates to a ~3-WAR 1st baseman.
Using the same $/WAR figure and arbitration discounts as before, that gives us a total 6-year-contract value of around $52 million. Adding in a modest 20% extension discount to account for the risk of injury/underperformance being shifted from player to team, we get $42M total. How does that compare to some recent contract extensions?
I looked for players who got extensions at similar points in their careers. This was rough, as few players get extended after only 2 seasons, and most of those who do are superstars. The best comparable contracts that I could find went to Justin Upton, Chris Young, Starlin Castro, and Jay Bruce. Two of those guys were on Heyward's list as well. However, whereas Heyward had outperformed them, Freeman compares less favorably:
^ This is the player's age during the last season before the deal.
* Plus a team option for the next season.
Freeman's value to this point is a bit below all of the others' except for Young's. (And this is using DRS, the defensive rating that is most favorable to Freeman). Based on these numbers, I'd say any Freeman extension would have to come in well above Young's but somewhat below the others'.
Putting it all together, I'd project a contract that looks something like this:
That works out to a total of $42M guaranteed over 6 years. Based on everything above, that seems like a fair deal. The question is: at that price, should the Braves even do the extension?
You could certainly make the case that it'd be preferable to play it year-by-year. Sure, you are then running the risk of Freeman breaking out and his salary going much higher... but at least if that happens, you're getting more production than expected out of him. If you sign him to an extension and then he underperforms, however, there's not much of a silver lining for the team.
There's also the matter of the order of these extensions. Freeman's case seems clearly less urgent than Prado's or Heyward's... but the team may also think it's less urgent than Kris Medlen's or Craig Kimbrel's. Even if the team wants to lock up Freeman, in other words, they may end up holding off a year or two until other things are settled. And honestly, that doesn't seem like a bad idea at all.
What do you guys think?
When examining the roster heading into this postseason, the Braves had a specific focus – CF with the departure of Michael Bourn, LF or 3B depending on where they planned to put Martin Prado, and basically the entire bench with the exceptions of Paul Janish and Juan Francisco. Though the Braves lost one of the [...]
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For the past two decades, the New York Yankees have been condemned by baseball purists for spending too much money each season on payroll. With payrolls reaching as high as $200 million a season, there is some validity to that argument. However, it looks like the Los Angeles Dodgers are going to make the Yankees look like penny pinchers.
Greinke Gets $147 Million
The Dodgers recently signed free agent pitcher Zack Greinke to a 6 year, $147 million contract. That was enough to push the Dodgers payroll to $214 million for the next season. This is extraordinary because the Dodgers only have 21 players under contract for next season. With four more players to sign just to get to the minimum 25 man roster, the Dodgers are expected to add even more to that number.
The Yankees Streak Could Be Over
For the past 14 seasons, the New York Yankees have been the highest spending team in baseball. However, new ownership wants to make sure that the Yankees get under the luxury tax threshold for next season. That means that the Yankees are going to be spending less than $180 million if they meet their goal. To put the Dodgers spending in perspective, the Yankees never spent more than $209 million in a single season. If the Dodgers keep up their torrid spending pace, they will set the major league record for most money spent on opening day payroll.
Is This Good For Baseball?
Many baseball fans pointed to the Yankees as an example of why baseball needs a salary cap. The argument should be no different when it comes to the Dodgers. While having an owner who likes to spend money is good for the fans of the team, it creates a situation where only a few teams are reasonably competitive each year. That can create apathy among fans in cities such as Kansas City and Pittsburgh where owners either won't or can't spend that much money.
Does This Guarantee Success?
The argument can be made that the Dodgers won't necessarily win a lot of games simply because they have spent a lot of money. The Baltimore Orioles had huge payrolls in the early part of the century and never even sniffed the playoffs. You also have to consider that teams such as the Miami Heat, Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Eagles have struggled even after their owners increased payrolls to bring in extra talent.
Spending $36 million on South Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin could be money wasted if he doesn't translate well as a number three starter for the Dodgers. Matt Kemp could have a down year or Clayton Kershaw could ultimately falter as well. However, it is likely that Los Angeles would simply buy more talent if need be.
When it is all said and done, the LA Dodgers have bought themselves nothing but a few intriguing players. Spending money does not always equate to success right away. The San Francisco Giants are proof that a smaller payroll can land a championship just as easily as a larger one does. The Dodgers should be ready for the pressure that goes along with huge expectations and fans who demand a championship as the return on the huge investment made in the players.
About the Author: Don Phan is an avid baseball fan and recommends FansEdge for the latest in official MLB apparel for all 30 teams.
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In last week's installment of "The Blue Jay Way", we discussed Alex Anthopoulos' success drafting as well as his draft tendencies so far. This week we will be going over Anthopoulos' international free agent (IFA) signings. Anthopoulos has committed a lot of resources and has signed quite a few international free agents during his tenure. Over the three international free agent periods Anthopoulos has been GM for, he's signed 22 players for a total of $23.6 million, which is probably one of the highest figures in baseball.
I have created a similar table to the one I created in last weeks article on the draft, in order to evaluate the players Anthopoulos has signed during his tenure.
Data from JaysJournal.com, BaseballAmerica.com and MinorLeaguBall.com
As we previously mentioned, Anthopoulos has spent a total of $23.6 million via the international free agent market over the course of the three seasons he's been in charge. Though $10 million of it was committed to Adeiny Hechevarria who, as a Cuban born player, is in a slightly different category than other IFAs. Most international free agents sign at 16 or 17 while Hechevarria signed when he was already 20 years old. He also started his career in AA, unlike non-Cuban born IFAs who start in rookie ball. Hechevarria is considered a plus defender at shortstop and will most probably have a long major league career on the strength of that tool alone. This is what John Sickels had to say about Hechevarria in his annual Top 20 Prospect articles, "Glove will keep him employed for a long time. Don't expect much hitting in the short run, but he's not helpless and he could hit better than we currently expect as he gets into his late 20s." Hechevarria was traded to the Marlins earlier in the offseason as part of the package that brought back Jose Reyes and others.
The Blue Jays signed another high profile player in 2010, the right-handed Adonys Cardona out of Venezuela. He was signed to a very large $2.8 million bonus. Pitching in rookie ball for the second straight season, Cardona has compiled a 55/22 K/BB rate over 47.33 innings so far in his career. Here's what Sickels had to say about him, "High ceiling arm with great physical potential, but still struggling with secondary pitches, command and consistency, Turns 19 next month [January], he's got time."
In 2011, Anthopoulos went with the potpourri method and signed thirteen international free agents. Only three of them were given signing bonuses over $1 million, Roberto Osuna, Dawel Lugo and Wuilmer Becerra. While Becerra and Lugo are extremely toolsy prospects with high ceilings, Osuna is clearly the prize of the 2011 IFA class. After signing for $1.5 million out of Mexico, Osuna reached low-A last year as a 16 year old and had a K/BB rate of 25/9 in just 19.66 innings pitched. Sickels gave Osuna a B+ grade and ranked him 4th overall in the Blue Jays minor league system, unheard of for a 17 year old. And this is what he had to say about him, "I like his delivery, I like his stuff, his control isn't bad, and he performed well out of the gate. Not classically projectable due to a mature body at age 17, but already has enough stuff to succeed if the command is there." Becerra was traded to the Mets in the R.A. Dickey deal.
This past season the MLB imposed a cap on international free agent spending which hindered the Blue Jays significantly in their attempt to add as much talent to their system as possible. The Blue Jays signed four players, two of them highly touted shortstops. Franklin Barreto was considered to be the best international free agent of 2012 and he signed for $1.45 million. Sickels wrote, "Big bonus shortstop from Venezuela with speed, hitting skills. Might move to outfield but many experts consider him the top non-Cuban talent in the international market. A LONG way off at age 16, but he has a good track record in international competition which (in theory) should mean scouts have a good read on him."
Similar to when drafting, Anthopoulos puts a stronger emphasis on tools over polish. Anthopoulos has managed to sign at least one very highly touted IFA prospect in every season up to this point. The Blue Jays clearly find it important to sign up-the-middle players via international free agency. All but one of the position players they've signed are considered either shortstops or outfielders. They also look for players that have at least one strong tool. For example, Hechevarria's very strong glovework made him an almost sure bet to make the major leagues.
Nine out of the 22 players signed so far during Anthopoulos' tenure have been pitchers. Twelve players have been signed out of the Dominican Republic with seven more coming from Venezuela. The remaining three are Hechevarria, who was signed out of Cuba, Osuna, who hails from Mexico and Osman Gutierrez, who is from Nicaragua.
To have seven out of the 22 IFAs you've signed graded by John Sickels already is quite a feat. What makes the international market such a profitable market is if just one player out of the 22 becomes a league average player, he will have covered the cost of all other IFA signings Anthopoulos has made until now. Obviously, to truly be able to quantify Anthopoulos' ability to find the right players in international free agency we'll have to wait several more years, but given the tools at hand he's been extremely successful.
We will go through AA's free agent signings and contract extensions
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Dave Gershman was responsible for the BTB Podcast back in its 2011 inception. He makes his return to the podcast as a guest, discussing what he's been up to (with some fun news), what he misses about covering prospects and what he's looking forward to in 2013. Ari Berkowitz also joins to discuss life as an international baseball fan (he lives in Israel).
Follow the podcast, which can now tweet because it has become self-aware.
Last season, two small market A.L. teams, the Rays and Athletics, reach 90 wins. Both of these teams didn't use the lack of finances like an excuse. They knew their limitations and built 90 win teams on small budgets. The Royals have the same limitations, but didn't even sniff the 90 wins. Not even .500. Here is how each team built their 2012 team and where the Royals went wrong.
To start with, here is the breakdown of Tampa's salary and production by pre-arbitration, arbitration eligible, and free agents.
For players who have a contract that covers their pre-arbitration and arbitration years, I counted their salary towards the category they would have fallen in considering their playing time. For example with Sal Perez, his $.75M contract is counted towards the pre-arbitation players, not free agents.
Also, the total amount of pre-arbitration players may be high as I just gave each player $0.5M in salary if they didn't have a contract and didn't look at their playing time.
The Rays had most of their value in arbitration players like David Price, Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton and James Shields. They are the ideal small market franchise since they fill most of their needs in house and then going outside for free agent help. In 2012, they needed help with at DH, signed Luke Scott and Hideki Matsui, and with the bullpen, signed Fernando Rodney, Joel Peralta and Kyle Farnsworth.
The A's got their production on 2 fronts, pre-arbitration and free agents. With pre-arbitration players, the A's got most of the value from pitching.
Jarrod Parker: 3.7 WAR
Tommy Milone: 2.7 WAR
Sean Doolittle: 1.6 WAR
A.J. Griffen: 1.3 WAR
Travis Blackley: 1.2 WAR
Additionally the free agents were all hits with Bartolo Colon, Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp and Jonny Grimes all producing more than 2 WAR each. Billy Beane has found trading arbitration eligible players seems to bring him back the most value. He use the money saved for under-priced free agents.
With pre-arbitration and arbitration players, the Royals fall between the production of the other two clubs in each category. Here are the totals:
Rays: 41.6 WAR
Royals: 33.0 WAR
A's: 26.9 WAR
To get near the 42 to 45 WAR range of the other two teams, the Royals needed 11 to 13 WAR from the free agents and they got NADA. Yep, F-ing nothing. When a team is spending over $15M on Jeff Francoeur, Bruce Chen, Jonathan Broxton and Batter Nine, You Sucky, what else should be expected. Using the league wide cost for free agent talent, the Royals should have gotten on average 3 to 4 WAR from the quartet. The Rays spent almost the same amount and got 4 WAR. The A's did double the amount, but ended up with 15.5 WAR. The Royals don't have to throw the money down the toilet.
With the current Royals ownership, they will always have a limited free agent budget. They need that budget to produce. Last season, they didn't get any positive production from the free agents. Maybe that will change in 2013. Maybe. Well, I kinda doubt it.
With about five to six weeks before pitchers and catchers report to the various camps of the 30 MLB franchises in both Florida and Arizona, most teams are into the home stretch of the winter.
As we as fans know, the Orioles at glance have not done much with retooling their roster. Now, we are still in early January and there's more to be done by Dan Duquette along with the front office; however, the consensus among most fans is that the franchise doesn't want to spend money.
Now, the Orioles will dole out a bunch of money to players due to raises, arbitration and contract stipulations as the Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck noted in article; therefore, the team may stand pat with their starting pitching (res. Chris Tillman and the growth of Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman) and the impressive core of everyday guys.
However, it seems that the Orioles have to do more. One would think after an impressive and unexpected playoff run, they would do a lot more.
I've been a blogger for a long time covering this team, but I have had season tickets of some form since 2003. For the first time in a very, very long time I'm truly anticipating the start of 2013 season; however, as a paying customer I'd like to see more happen.
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The Rockies have made virtually no moves this off-season, but the actual moves made have been in bringing former players from the 1995 playoff team at Coors Field back into the fold. Shortstop Walt Weiss is the manager. Slugger Dante Bichette is on scene, hoping to revive the Blake Street Bombers.
Also on that 1995 team was Quinton McCracken, a center fielder who made his MLB debut that year. His only at-bat was a strike out, pinch-hitting for Weiss, but the game itself was memorable. That day, Colorado lost 17-0 to the Marlins at Coors Field and Pat Rapp threw a complete game one-hitter. How is that for a memory jog?
For those that don't remember, McCracken was essentially Eric Young Jr. offensively (at best) with decent center field defense. He played a part time role in 1996 and 1997 before the Tampa Bay Devil Rays tapped him as the fourth player selected in the expansion draft. McCracken is also memorable for rolling a ground ball walk-off double over the first base bag in a 16-15 victory over the Dodgers in 1996, a game that sticks out in cementing Coors Field's pinball reputation. I clearly have outsized memories of McCracken.
At any rate, the Rockies did not bring McCracken into their coaching ranks, despite my rambling lede. He was the assistant Director of Player Development with the Diamondbacks in 2012 but has been hired as the head Director of Player Development for the Houston Astros. It is the guy McCracken pushed out in Houston that is joining the Rockies' organization.
Fred Nelson, who had been with the Astros 27 years, most recently as dir. Of player development, confirms he's joined Rockies organization.— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) January 7, 2013
Here is Nelson's bio at Astros.com. Given the Astros' hapless state on the roster and in the minor leagues over the past half decade, this acquisition was met with guffaws, though it shouldn't be. According to the Baseball America database, Nelson was the Astros Director of Minor League Development and Farm Director from 1986-94 and Director of Player Development in 1995 and 2011. In between, he was Special Assistant to the GM and a scout. The Astros had a very good group of players come up through the farm in that first stint as farm director, and with the help of trades and the recent drafts, the Astros' farm is back to respectability over the past two years.
Perhaps more importantly though, Nelson will not be joining the Rockies in a high ranking capacity.
Nelson said he had opportunity to stay in the organization, and thanked the team. He'll be director of COL's Class A Modesto club. #Astros— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) January 8, 2013
If that position is unfamiliar to you, it is because, as McTaggart tweeted later, it is a new position the Rockies have created. It is not necessarily high ranking, but it is new, which is the story here. Modesto Nuts General Manager Mike Gorrasi tells me he believes he will retain control of the business operation of the Nuts and Nelson will handle the baseball operation of that one minor league club.
That club is likely to have many players from the 2012 Asheville Tourists, who had the best record in all of minor league baseball last season. Likely 2013 Nuts are Trevor Story, Tyler Anderson, Will Swanner, Harold Riggins and Seth Willoughby.
There may be advantages to this approach, as prospects will have more consistent face time with a front office representative than they otherwise would with current Director of Player Development Jeff Bridich. It could also result in a "too many cooks in the kitchen phenomenon." We shall see. In the end, the important takeaway is that the Rockies are still trying to come up with a winning formula for developing talent.
Baseball Prospectus | Prospects Will Break Your Heart: Arizona Diamondbacks Top 10 Prospects - Here is the top prospect list from Jason Parks and company on the farm system McCracken left behind. Note that Didi Gregorious not only is not Arizona's top position player prospect, he's also not the top shortstop prospect. RIP Bauer.
Change the Baseball Hall of Fame Voting Process - As of time of writing, this petition is two names short of its goal. It was started by Dave Studeman of The Hardball Times.
Different teams, different needs - Yardbarker - Ken Rosenthal touches on the Rockies as a team who needs to make more inspired moves:
*Rockies. Bottom feeding for pitching - right-handers Jeff Karstens, Derek Lowe, Aaron Cook and Jair Jurrjens are among the possibilities, though some of those pitchers interest the club only on minor-league deals.
Leo Durocher, Nellie Fox, Eddie Mathews, Joe Morgan, Robin Roberts, Nolan Ryan and Don Sutton; these are names of the current Hall of Famers to pass through Houston on their way to Cooperstown. All of them chose – largely because of a longer history with another club – not to be enshrined with the Astros' moniker. This year’s ballot is filled with HoF hopefuls who, at one time in their career, represented the good guys. Oddly enough, each former Astro on this year’s HoF ballot, with the exception of Woody Williams (who will not be mentioned again in the post), can drop a milestone of their career on the 1991 season.
Here is the list of players in question: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Steve Finley, Kenny Lofton, Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens.
It all starts with former Astros 1st Baseman, Glenn Davis. Trading Davis opened the door for Bagwell to see regular playing time. He would respond by earning Rookie of the Year Honors and hold down 1st base for the next 14 seasons. In return for Davis, Houston received Steve Finely, Curt Schilling and Pete Harnisch from Baltimore. Schilling would go on to pitch 79 2/3 innings in relief before being shipped to the Phillies at season’s end. Finley, however, would finish the ’91 campaign with a team high WAR of 4.8. Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio trailed behind in 3rd (4.1) and 4th (3.6) respectively.
Kenny Lofton, the player on this list with the shortest amount of service time with Houston, made his Major League debut on September 14th in Cincinnati. The game was a success for all the HoF candidates discussed thus far. Lofton lead off the game going 3-4 with a double and 3 runs scored. He was followed in the lineup by Finley, Biggio and Bagwell. Schilling came in to pitch the last of last of it, recording a 4-out save. Astros win 7-3. With Finley firmly entrenched in center, Lofton was dealt in December to Cleveland for Eddie Taubensee and Willie Blair. It is interesting to note that a player acquired in one of Houston’s best trades (Bagwell) and shipped out in one of its worst trades (Lofton) made their debuts in ’91.
As a side note, I cannot think of Kenny Lofton without Michael Bourn popping into my head. When Bourn arrived in Houston, I always thought in the back of my mind that having Bourn in center was like looking into the past to see what might have been if Lofton had stayed. For all intents and purposes, Lofton was what Bourn is plus 10 homeruns a season. The way the off season is going, it seems as if Bourn is destined to bounce around like Lofton did. Only time will tell.
In 1991, Clemens wasn’t on the team, but still managed to take home the Cy Young award for the 3rd time in his career. Astros fans would have to wait 12 seasons to see him accomplish the feat in burnt orange pinstripes (and frosted tips).
I would say that I have saved the best for last with Biggio, but I think that saying I sandwiched the two best between everyone else is more accurate. So what did Biggio do in 1991? On September 30th, Biggio played his first full Major League game at 2nd base. Biggio would go 0-4 as back-up catcher Scott Servias drove in two with a single. Astros defeat the Giants 2-0. Biggio would be the full-time 2nd baseman for Houston from 1992 to the arrival of Jeff Kent in 2003. Eddie Taubensee (acquired in the Lofton trade) would fill-in at catcher for the 1992 season, making 104 starts.
I would also be remised not to point that Darryl Kyle made his Major League debut on Opening Day of the 1991 season recording no earned runs on 2 hits and 1 strikeout in 1 inning. Had his career not been cut short, I have no doubt he would be concidered on this ballot as well.
As you can see, the 1991 season was a tangled web of career moments for former Astros on this year’s HoF ballot. So now that the best of the Killer “B”s are on the ballot, we can all get ready to break open the Champaign and party as Biggio and Bagwell get the call to Cooperstown and every son born within a fifty mile radius of Houston after the January 9th, 2013 is named either “Jeff Craig” or “Craig Jeff” from this point forward. Why not? More often than not, baseball tends to operate in parameters outside of the real world. Back in reality though, it is likely that fans will have to continue to wait before they see a member of the Astros join baseball’s elite. I wish all on this year’s ballot the best of luck.