Friday, November 25, 2016

Prospect Profile: Franklin Barreto

Hi everybody! Pleased to announce that I have received a job writing at The Runner Sports, and will be covering the Oakland Athletics as the team writer there. Baseball MTJAG will continue, but probably at a lesser frequency. Several posts from TRS will also be reposted here. This is my first piece for TRS, enjoy!


Many Oakland A’s fans have watched the Blue Jays perform in the postseason in agony. Led by former A’s fan favorite Josh Donaldson, the Jays have taken off and made the ALCS in the last two years, while Oakland has sat on the outside looking in. No reminder needed, but Donaldson was also the MVP in 2015, while Brett Lawrie and Sean Nolin flopped for the green and gold. No doubt has the trade been a failure so far, as fans have lamented, but it is time to move on. Especially since the top prospect received in that deal is on the rise, climbing the organizational ladder on the road to the show. This trade can still pan out in the long run, and the lofty expectations are resting on the shoulders of young shortstop Franklin Barreto. In his profile here at TRS, we will break down his 5 tools.

Name: Franklin Barreto
Position: SS, 2B, CF
Height: 5'10''
Weight: 190
B/T: Right/Right
ETA: 2017

Hit: Present: 40 | Future: 55 | Max: 65
Barreto has tremendous feel to hit and can spray the ball to all fields. He hasn't struck out a ton in the minors, with a K-rate below 20% in each of the last 3 seasons. According to MLBfarm, he has a propensity of driving the ball to the opposite gap, demonstrating his ability to go with the pitch and not be a dead pull hitter. Barreto has all the tools to become a plus hitter, but the only thing holding back his hit tool is the over-agressive approach. Going forward, pitchers may start exploiting this approach, which could lead to an uptick in strikeouts. 
Heat map courtesy of MLBfarm. Note the evenly balanced outfield spray.

To read the rest of this article, please continue here!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Five Guys to Watch For The Rule 5 Draft

With 40-man rosters being set today, any player Rule 5 eligible can be drafted away from their original teams for a minuscule fee on December 8 during the annual Rule 5 Draft, provided that they stay on their new teams 25-man roster the entire year. If not, they will be returned to their original teams. This does not get much attention from those outside from the most diehard fans, as most eligible players are organizational fillers who will never play a major role in the big leagues. However, there are some success as well, including Dan Uggla, Josh Hamilton, Johan Santana, and in more recent years, Odubel Herrera and Marwin Gonzalez. In this article, we will list the 5 players with performances or tools that will be very enticing for other clubs to take a chance on.

Last year's draft recap and scouting reports can be found here.

OF Barrett Barnes, Pittsburgh Pirates
The 25-year-old Barnes may have the best combination of tools, stats, and pedigree out of anybody eligible this year. The former supplemental first round pick has both speed and power, as well as raw athleticism uncommon for a college draftee like him. Since being drafted in 2012, he has put up a career slash line in the minors of .279/.367/.436, good for an .803 OPS while showing off his tools and even some plate discipline. His only fault? He consistently gets injured. So far in his professional career, he has never had a fully healthy season until 2016, when he produced a solid .306/.377/477 line in Double-A. A team looking for an outfielder for the short side of a platoon with some future potential should look to take a flier on Barnes's athleticism and bet on him staying healthy.

3B Nicky Delmonico, Chicago White Sox
Delmonico has had a long ride, to say the least. A former high-upside prospect in the Orioles system, the offensive-minded third baseman broke out in 2013 with a .243/.350/.469 slash line in A-ball before being dealt to Milwaukee for Francisco Rodriguez. There he scuffled for 1 and half seasons, on top of a PED suspension in 2014 and being released by the Brewers after that year. Last year, however, he signed on with the White Sox system and after struggling in 2015, promptly started raking again in 2016, hitting .279/.347/.490 in AA and AAA combined. He is still just 24 years old, and has a clean swing with above average pop. Look for a team who needs a platoon infielder/bench bat to take a shot on Delmonico during the Rule 5 Draft.

LHP Wei-Chung Wang, Milawukee Brewers
Wang is a veteran of the Rule 5 process, having been taken by the Brewers before the 2014 season. The lefty was still making the jump from Rookie ball at the time, and understandably struggled in his brief time in the bigs. After being outrighted off the 40-man roster, Wang has put up a solid season in 2016, with a 3.78 ERA, 7.7 K/9, and 2.4 BB/9 between AA and AAA combined. He clearly has talent, which the Brewers were willing to take a flier on, with a fastball that touches 96 and above average curve and change. Teams in need of a LOOGY or a bottom-of-the-rotation innings eater could look to stash Wang this coming season.

OF Jon Kemmer, Houston Astros
Coming off the heels of a breakout 2015 that saw him hit .327/.414/.574 with 18 home runs in AA, Kemmer initially struggled in his first exposure in AAA, batting just .258 with 5 homers in the first half. However, as he started to adjust to the pitching, he returned to his old mashing ways, hitting .274 with 13 home runs in the second half of the season. He is not just an offensive threat either; he can play both corner outfield spots proficiently as well as center field in a pinch, with a strong arm to boot. Any team looking for a lefty swinging outfielder as a platoon bat should see Kemmer as a cheap and possibly productive solution.

LHP Jordan Guerrero, Chicago White Sox
Unlike the other players on this list Guerrero did not put up great numbers in 2016, scuffling to a 4.83 ERA and 1.51 WHIP in AA ball. However, he is a lefty with plus arm speed and a 90-94 mph fastball that could play up in a relief role in the majors. His changeup is a plus offering, and a shift to the bullpen could allow him to lessen the usage of his fringy curveball. He has put up much better numbers at lower levels, such as in a breakout 2015 that saw him throw 149 innings with a 8.9 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9. Despite middling command of his pitches and an elevated walk rate this season, the fastball/changeup combo should make him a serviceable LOOGY in a big league pen.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Will Dansby Swanson Be A Star?

Dansby Swanson,
After being called up by the Atlanta Braves, the highly-hyped Dansby Swanson will now carry the helm as one of the next franchise cornerstones, their shortstop for both the near and long-term future. Talented both offensively and defensively, the 2015 1st overall pick has definitely deserved the attention, but will he be able to meet the lofty expectations of the fans and front office?

Inevitably sharing the spotlight with the second overall pick, another college shortstop, Alex Bregman, Swanson is more athletic and well-rounded than his Astros counterpart. While Bregman put up outstanding numbers in the minors and beat Swanson to the big leagues, Swanson definitely has the potential to both match and exceed his production over the course of their careers. His offensive numbers haven't been on par with Bregman yet, but with the quick hands and bat speed, as well as power projection, the upside is just as high. Check out this video of his swing:
His swing has a nice bat plane and a toe drag, his hands fly through the zone. Swanson will hit, no doubt, and there should be some power as well because of the plus bat speed. The pop may be limited a bit from reaching full potential because of lack of loft in his swing, but doubles will come for sure.

Defensively, Swanson has good hands, arm, range, and overall instincts. While his pure speed and athleticism can't match some other guys like Alcides Escobar or Andrelton Simmons, he can still make plays of their caliber because of his strong fundamentals and quick first step. The little things are very cleanly executed, and he doesn't have any excessive motions on defense. Expect him to be a defensive cornerstone for Atlanta in the years to come. On August 25, against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Swanson made three outstanding plays that many other shortstops might not have made, all in the same game.

On top of being a great ballplayer, Swanson is also an incredibly down-to-earth guy. This interview from his time in short-season A-ball is a must-read.
Combining the bat, glove, and makeup, it's not hard to see why Swanson was ranked as one of the top-20 prospects in the game, and retaining his rookie eligibility, will probably rank higher this year. So where do the doubters come from? Some say that Swanson's lack of top-notch pure athleticism and physical tools will limit his potential. He has a strong arm, but it won't ever be an absolute cannon. He has a nice swing and his bat will play in the bigs, but he also doesn't have the raw power to hit 40 homers annually. And while his defense is plenty solid, he might never be able to catch up to the flashier shortstops in the league. You could say he is a 5-tool player, but none of the 5-tools are elite, making him a sort of better-than-a-jack-of-all-trades, but nonetheless master of none.
Still, Swanson is going to be the face of the Atlanta Braves franchise. His charisma, his play, and his name will draw fans to watch them play in their brand new stadium. While he may never lead the league in homers or win a Gold Glove, he could hit .290 with 20 homers and play very good defense, good enough to be an All-Star and be a top-5 shortstop in this league. No, not all white shortstops with good leadership skills will become Derek Jeter, and it may be a lazy comp, but it could also be the most accurate. Jeter, while never winning any MVPs, was a very good shortstop for a long time. He will definitely be a first ballot Hall-of-Famer despite not having the greatest numbers, because his leadership and being the franchise cornerstone of the dynastic Yankees helped his numbers play up. Swanson could very well be the same for the young Braves team on the rise. When the Braves return to contention in the next few years, watch for Swanson to continue his ascension to becoming one of the MLB's brightest young stars.

Bonus video: 
This is from JustBombsProductions, one of my favorite and most well-made YouTube highlight videos of all time, from Swanson's junior year at Vandy. JBP also makes other college baseball/football videos, so subscribe to them if you're into that kind of stuff!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The All-Hype Team: In Memory of Jose Fernandez

There has been a lot of talk recently about creating an award in memory of the late Jose Fernandez, something to reward the player who plays with the most heart, passion, and fun. While that will certainly be discussed among MLB executives, here at Baseball MTJAG we are announcing our All-Hype team, consisting of the players that I consider the 25 most exciting to watch, who play with the most heart and passion.

Leading off: 3B Eduardo Nunez
While Nunez might not be the first person who comes to mind when you think "star third baseman", he is one of the most exciting players to watch with his hustle and recklessness. Nunez is the definition of all-out effort, taking extra bases on routine base hits, as you can see in this 4-hit game with a double and two triples.

Batting second: 1B Adrian Beltre
Don't worry, I didn't forget about Beltre. The now 37 year old is still a solid defender, but Nunez's youth, athleticism, and arm push him across the infield, which is probably better for his knees anyway. Despite his age and experience, Beltre still plays the game like he's 25, both ability-wise and fun-wise, especially with his antics with shortstop Elvis Andrus.

Batting third: RF Bryce Harper
The king of bat flips, Harper's antics were initially received as cocky and arrogant. But as he lived up to his phenom status, the attitude also toned down a bit, but he still plays with so much flair and excitement that it's impossible not to love watching him play.


Batting cleanup: DH Jose Bautista
If Harper is the king of bat flips, then Bautista is the supreme overlord. A veteran like Beltre, Bautista still wears his emotions on his sleeve. He cleared benches and divided baseball fans over his controversial bat flip in the ALDS against the Rangers in 2015.


Batting fifth: LF Hunter Pence
He's just weird.


Batting sixth: SS Javier Baez
Making himself a household name in the playoffs, Baez, as many on Twitter have stated, has taken Fernandez's torch and carried it on. He plays with so much heart and energy, every single at-bat and fielding chance is a must-watch.


Batting seventh: C Francisco Cervelli
Catchers: usually calm, cool, and collected, the ones who hold back the fights and try to prevent hitters from charging the mound. Cervelli is special though. When he first made it to the big leagues, his fist pumps, clapping, and screaming stirred up quite the riot. Now, it's simply part of who he is, and the Yankees and Pirates fans love him for it.


Batting eighth: 2B Brandon Phillips
The flamboyant Reds second baseman, Phillips is nearing the end of his career, but he still plays with the excitement and flair of a rookie. His antics, like his behind the back tosses, glove flips, and intentionally having baserunners slide into his rear end, may be a bit unnecessary and more reminiscent of Domingo Ayala, but it's made fans love Phillips for who he is.


Batting ninth: CF Carlos Gomez
Bat flips. Showboating. Slow trots around the bases. The dabbing. Gomez has his fair share of haters for his "sexy" style of play, especially when he struggles, but he consistently gives the game 100% of his effort and by all accounts, is a tremendous teammate who is a great clubhouse presence.


Backup catcher: C Stephen Vogt
Much more like a traditional calm catcher than Cervelli, Vogt has still drawn a cult-like following with his classic barehand-pine tar batting style, journeyman minor leaguer story, and his clutch hitting. He is one of the biggest personalities in the game with his imitations on MLB Network, as well as the fan favorite subject of the "I Believe in Stephen Vogt" chant in Oakland.


Fourth outfielder: OF Ichiro
No, Ichiro does not scream and dab and fist pump like the other guys on this list. In fact, you can make a case for him being the exact opposite, the way he plays with traditional respect for the game. But off the field he also has another side, with the profanity-laced pre-All Star Game speeches, learning Spanish solely for the purpose of talking trash, and this wonderful interview with Bob Costas. He may be a Japanese icon of discipline, but he is also one of the most fun players to watch of all time.


Backup infielder: 2B/3B Brett Lawrie
The true "bro", the heavily-tatted, "pepp mocha-crushing" Lawrie is one of the most energetic players in the game. Sure, he gets hurt a lot, and the aggressiveness makes him injury-prone and a free-swinger, but the energy and ferocity that he plays with is what makes him a fan favorite


Backup infielder: INF Munenori Kawasaki
While he isn't much of a hitter, Kawasaki is the epitome of spunk. He's a veteran of over a decade of pro baseball, yet he still plays with the same kind of fun as a Little Leaguer, while conducting some of the funniest interviews in the league.


Ace: RHP Bartolo Colon
Ok, so he isn't the best pitcher on this rotation. But as we all know, this list isn't about how talented someone is, it's about playing the game with energy and making baseball fun. Bartolo proves that anyone can succeed, including obese 43-year olds who would look more comfortable on the couch. Baseball Reference says his nickname is the "Big Sexy". I concur.


#2: RHP Chris Archer
Articulate and intelligent, as he demonstrated filling in the ESPN broadcast booth. His pitching knowledge is unreal, and so is the energy and excitement he pitches with. He's fun to watch now and will only get better in years to come.


#3: RHP Marcus Stroman
Opening Day starter? Check. Duke degree? Check. Amateur rapper? Check. Part-time fashion designer? Check. Marcus Stroman is not just a ballplayer, he is a personality. He even has a trademark catchphrase! As he says, height doesn't measure heart, and all 5'8'' of him shows that on the mound every time he pitches. 


#4: RHP Lance McCullers
Big fastball. Big curveball. Big emotions. McCullers pitches amped up every time he takes the mound. It's not uncommon to see him rock the Batman cleats on the hill, fist pumping and screaming as he strikes out the side.

#5: RHP Joe Musgrove
A teammate of McCullers', the rookie Musgrove is a command/control artist. Most of these guys are calm and collected, but Musgrove breaks these stereotypes, pitching with the same kind of energy as the guys above.

Closer: RHP Ken Giles
I promise, no more Astros pitchers after this. But Giles pitches with the most adrenaline out of anybody I've ever seen, with the triple digit heat and the post-lockdown yell.


Set-up man: RHP Derek Law
Even if the Giants took an early exit in the NLDS, none of us will ever forget Law's towel waving. Outside of being a great cheerleader, he's pretty good at pitching too.


Set-up man: LHP Sean Doolittle
Cut from a different cloth than many of the others, Doolittle is on here because of what he brings to the baseball community. He invited Syrian refugees over for Thanksgiving, runs a great Twitter account, and even played imaginary baseball with a little kid. Truly a great ballplayer but an even better human being.


Middle reliever: RHP Chad Qualls


Middle reliever: RHP Fernando Rodney
Rodney has always played with too much swagger, with the sideways ballcap and the shooting arrows. But it's worked for over a decade, and its why fans love him so much.


Middle reliever: RHP Jason Grilli
Old man Grilli has endured a lot over the course of his career, with two major comebacks, once with the Pirates and again with the Braves. But despite the adversity, one thing has never changed and it is his enthusiasm for the game.


Long man: LHP Jamie Moyer
Okay, I just nearly made a complete 25-man roster, with a full bench, rotation, bullpen, everything. I'm out of ideas. What the hell, why not, Moyer is the symbol of grit and determination, and he could probably still get hitters out today. Here he is beating out an infield single at age 49. Give this man some credit.

That concludes the 25-man roster of, in my opinion, the most fun-to-watch players in the game. Agree? Disagree? Leave suggestions in the comments for anyone I might have missed!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs!

Cubs Twitter page
Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs for winning the World Series for the first time in 108 years and finally breaking the dreaded Billy Goat Curse. Talented from top to bottom, every player contributed to the Cubs playoff run, a testament to how deep the team really is. From the core of Bryant, Rizzo, and Zobrist, to the three-headed monster at the top of the rotation in Hendricks, Lester, and Arrieta, to emerging stars like Baez, Russell, and Contreras, to the role players who did the little things right like Almora, Montero and Ross, the championship was truly a team effort. And who can forget the heroics of Kyle Schwarber, coming off an ACL injury and missing the entire season to come up big in this seven-game series? Once again, congrats to the Cubbies, and here's to an even more exciting 2017!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Pakistani Baseball Coming to Brooklyn
Tomorrow morning at 12 pm Eastern, the Pakistani national baseball team will take the field against Team Brazil in the Brooklyn Qualifier for the World Baseball Classic. For those of you who don't follow international baseball, Brazil has been a solid team for the last couple years and have some major leaguers, like Yan Gomes and Andre Rienzo. Pakistan on the other hand, is almost non-existent on the baseball stage. 

Pakistan is a small Muslim nation to the west of India, with zero baseball history or any players currently playing professionally anywhere in the world, and they are certainly the underdog in the four-team pool consisting of them, Brazil, Israel and the Great Britain. All three other teams have players in affiliated ball, with Israel boasting multiple players with big league experience. WBC rules do not state that one needs to hold a passport or have citizenship in a country to play, only to be eligible for citizenship in that country, making most Jewish players allowed to play for Team Israel. Pakistan, unlike the other teams, have not had any experience on big stages. The highest level of play have been against college players from Japan, Korea, and Taiwan several years ago in the Asian Games, although they have not fared very well against them, usually losing by 10-run margins. However, their most recent games have come against other baseball nations with little presence, such as India, Indonesia, Iraq, and Iran, and Pakistan has absolutely destroyed them. Scores like 20-nothing have not been uncommon.

Despite having little experience and no affiliated players, the Pakistanis are not completely punchless. Outfielder Fazal Ur Rehman hit a homer against Iran, and Ubaid Ullah has been one of their best hitters against weaker teams, although he admittedly has struggled against better competition. One hitter who has kept up solid hitting against the better Asian teams is catcher Umair Imdad Bhatti, as well as Mohammed Sumair Zawar, whom the New York Times described as a "sparkplug", and infielder Jawar Ali won Defensive MVP of the 2015 Asian Games. On the pitching side, rumor has it that Ihsan Ullah can hit 90 mph, and he has held his own against Korea, Japan, and even threw a decent outing against China.

Of course, none of these players compare to the stateside experienced players of the other three teams, all from much well-off nations with more money and resources. Pakistan doesn't even have a true baseball stadium in the country! But if there is anything the Pakistanis have, it's drive, desire, and the will to win. Even though they have not fared well against some of the better Asian teams, they have continued to battle their way into the #23 ranked spot in the world by the International Baseball Federation. They might not have the most talent, they have always battled and never given up. They play with so much heart and wear their emotions on their sleeves, and who knows, they might even surprise some people this coming week.

Go Team Pakistan!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Five One-Tool Players

Everyone knows the five-tool players: Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Bryce Harper. These guys are the big name superstars, the household names. Most other players are productive despite lacking a tool or two. David Ortiz can't field, Jose Altuve doesn't have a big arm, but they can still impact the game in many ways. Most one-dimensional players will wash out in the minor leagues. Cody Johnson was known for his prodigious power, but he couldn't do much else. Willians Astudillo may be the best contact hitter on the planet, but he's still toiling in Double-A. However, in very rare occasions, some players can make it to the major leagues riding on one skill alone. These 5 players below each have the ability to do one thing extraordinarily well, and somehow, its carried them into a major-league career.

Contact: INF T.J. Rivera, New York Mets
The long shot of all long shots, T.J. Rivera signed as an undrafted free agent out of little Troy University. Without any physical projection, Rivera was never considered much of a prospect. Not rated a tremendous defensive player, he has nonetheless held his own just enough to let his ultimate carrying tool, his bat, to carry him to the majors. Rivera has hit everywhere he's gone: a career .324 in the minors, .307 in 3 seasons of Puerto Rican winter ball, and now .344 in his first 61 at bats in the majors. He doesn't provide much pop, but he can spray line drives around the field and produce. And production is all that matters at the major league level.

Power: "1B'" Chris Carter, Milwaukee Brewers
Probably one of the worst defensive players in the National League and league leader in strikeouts, Carter has overcome overwhelming odds and is currently in his seventh major league season. It does help that he has prodigious right-handed power, and can hit the ball a long, long, way. With a simple cut through the zone, Carter can send flyballs 450+ feet for monstrous home runs. Certainly makes up for the 11 errors at first, 188 strikeouts, and -2.0 baserunning score on FanGraphs.

Speed: OF Terrance Gore, Kansas City Royals
Used solely as a pinch runner in the playoffs, Gore provides no value to the Royals outside of his baserunning. Despite his speed, the Royals do not deploy him in the outfield during close games, nor let him hit considering his .563 OPS in AA. He does however, possess a single elite tool, and so far in his regular-season major league career has never been caught stealing. This one tool alone provides extreme value to Ned Yost and the Royals coaching staff late in important games, and it is the one skill that absolutely cannot be taught. He was once clocked at 22 mph when stealing second base:

Glove: 2B Christian Colon, Kansas City Royals
A progressive small ball team, the Royals are the employers of another specialist, this time nifty defender Christian Colon. Originally drafted as a shortstop out of college, Colon lacked the arm or foot speed to stick at that position, and his bat never developed. Nonetheless, his plus glovework has taken him to the big stage. In just 247 innings at second base, Colon has compiled a 3.5 UZR, good for a 14.5 UZR/150 over the course of a full season. Its a shame however, that he likely won't get a shot to reach that potential due to his woeful .229/.288/.285 slash line.

Arm: C Christian Bethancourt, San Diego Padres
Bethancourt has long been considered one of the top catching prospects in the game despite a light bat and below-average receiving and blocking skills. Scouts have doubted his inability to block pitches and frame. But if a catcher can't hit or field, how can he be a top prospect? Because those skills are teachable, and Bethancourt's one natural tool, his arm, is definitely elite. An absolute rifle, Bethancourt has been clocked at 96 mph on the mound and has a career 35% caught stealing rate. Rumor has it the Padres will trade him this offseason with hot prospect Austin Hedges coming up soon, but whichever organization ends up with him will have a potential-laden raw talent to develop. Here he is showcasing both his horrendous blocking but using his cannon arm to recover:

Thursday, September 15, 2016

From Our Partner Site MLB Sweet Spot: The Best Player in the Game

Mike Trout
by Alex Vacca of MLB Sweet Spot

For the fourth time in five years, Mike Trout may not win the AL MVP award, despite yet another outstanding season by the Los Angeles Angel. Entering play Monday, Trout had put up a triple-slash of .312/.431/.546, accumulating 24 home runs, 21 stolen bases, 82 RBI’s and 98 runs. Defensively Trout has ranked about league average, but advanced metrics have been bullish on him in the past, and to the naked eye he can still impress with his glove. His base-running has been great, per usual, and looks to once again be in the running for AL MVP. Other candidates, like Mookie Betts and Jose Altuve, come and go from year-to-year, but Trout can always be counted on to be right in the thick of the race.
A friend of mine recently asked me, “How good is Mike Trout really?” Most people probably wouldn’t give much thought to this question, for Trout is the best, but it sure is a good one. In the context of baseball history, where is Mike Trout? I myself would like to know. Therefore, I decided to study up on this question so that I could provide a way-too-long-and-probably-unnecessary answer. For the purposes of this exercise, I will be looking at players primarily through their age-24 seasons, as Trout just turned 25 on August 7th, 2016 is considered to be in his age-24 season as well.
The first thing I would like to look at is how Trout compares to some of the best players of the last 30 years or so. The following graph compares the beginning of Trout’s career to 15 of the best players of the recent past, sorted by total WAR, through each player’s age-24 season:
Trout v. Current
As you can see, Trout is ahead of everyone; and frankly, it isn’t even close. The names on this list are nothing to joke about either. Despite what you may think about Alex Rodriguez, he is one of the 10-15 best position of all time. Ken Griffey Jr. was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and Barry Bonds has more home runs than anybody in history. Even the names towards the bottom of this list, such as Carlos Beltran and Manny Ramirez, are potential Hall of Fame candidates. Essentially, based on WAR, Trout has shown better early-career production than any of the top position players of the past three decades.
For people who prefer not to rely strictly on metrics like WAR, I have gone through and highlighted the top three players in each stat category as well. I chose to exclude runs and RBI’s, as those numbers are partially related to a team’s batting order as a whole (although Trout did rank 2nd and 5th respectively in those categories). What should jump out at you is that no player on the list made it into the top three in any more than two stat categories, that is, other than Mike Trout. Trout, in fact, leads in double that number with four. Despite being tied for 6th on the list in batting average, he jumps up into 3rd place in overall OPS on the strength of a .402 OBP and a .558 SLG%. Furthermore, by placing top-3 in triples and stolen bases as well as in home runs, Trout demonstrates the speed/power combo that has made him such a standout player early in his career.
Now, let’s up the standards a bit and compare Trout to some of the best players of all time, again taking the accumulation of numbers through each players’ age-24 season (note that I have excluded Babe Ruth, who did not do much hitting prior to the age of 25)…
To continue reading this piece, and other highly-informative articles by Alex, please click here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tim Tebow: Baseball Player, Dream Crusher

Tim Tebow is a professional baseball player. Please take a look at this chart.

People Currently In Professional Baseball

We all know the story. Signing a $100K minor league deal with the New York Mets, Tebow will now report to the instructional leagues this fall in an attempt to transition to baseball after a storied NFL career. It's been eleven years since he's played competitively, but he organized a showcase anyway. Miraculously, 28 teams and 40+ scouts showed up. The Mets supposedly liked his raw power, and inked him. 


I have no doubt that Tim Tebow is a great guy. His reputation as a tremendous clubhouse leader, a devout Christian, and a generous philanthropist follows him everywhere. When asked why he was taking a shot at baseball, he said that it wasn't a publicity stunt, he was simply chasing a dream, just like the thousands of other amateur ballplayers just looking to crack into the world of professional baseball player. But why has Tim Tebow, above everyone else, gotten a shot, while others are watching their childhood dreams get crushed and having to move on in life? The Mets (and Tebow's most supportive fans) say it is because of his athleticism, and the signing was purely a baseball decision. But let's be real here. Tebow was signed for publicity, to put fans in seats of minor league ballparks.

High quality Photoshop/DraftKings Playbook
I don't fault the Mets for signing him. $100K is nothing in baseball money, and that money will come back quickly if the fans are hooked by the novelty. And to be honest, he is a great athlete, and he can hit the ball a long way. Signing Tebow carries no risk and carries plenty of reward in revenue and media attention, and in the 0.000000001% chance he makes it... However, there is no need to sugarcoat this signing, and there is absolutely no need for fans to defend it. For all the pro baseball players who are upset and taking to social media to complain about it, they have every right to as well. Baseball is incredibly hard- the effort, the grind, the hours spent perfecting that swing off a tee, the hundreds of bullpens thrown to refine that control- is no joke. For one unlucky player, who has spent all their life chasing a near-impossible dream and is so close to making it, all their hard work over the years will be leapfrogged by a publicity stunt. And that is not fair.

"It's crazy how guys play all through high school, all through college, play independent ball and don't get that type of private showcase, and then he does. But that's the world we live in. Hopefully the Mets get out of it what they want, and hopefully he gets out of it what he wants." -Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays ace pitcher, whose signing bonus was similar to Tebow's

Tebow is a media event. A carnival attraction. A ploy to get fans to attend minor league games. And nothing more. Any attempt to convince fans that he is a real prospect will be shut down quickly, as evidenced by film from his showcase. Despite the build and what looks to be a cannon of an arm, Tebow's throwing is a 35, as are his footwork and routes when fielding. He runs well for a big man, but not well enough to influence games based on his legs alone. All his value will be tied to the bat, where his one plus tool, raw power, hopes to carry him. He can hit balls 440+ feet in BP, but his swing is grooved and unadjustable to pitches that aren't down the middle. Here is some footage of him taking fly balls. This was a showcase. Try to imagine that in a pro game.

Funny thing is, Tebow wasn't even the first athlete from a different sport to try and convert to baseball. Ever heard of Kieran Powell? The lefty-swinging world-class cricket player had private workouts with the Mets and the Brewers early in the spring. Powell, an opening batsman (sort of like a leadoff man), displayed good speed, a smoother swing than Tebow, and much better footwork in the outfield. While he too, was a non-prospect (awkward throwing motion, shoddy hands, only gap pop), his performance on the field could not be any worse than Tebow. Being younger (26 to Tebow's 29) and having played a hand-eye coordination, hitting related sport in the past decade, with a much smoother swing that can make decent contact, Powell would have had maybe even more potential. Powell, like Tebow, like the countless high school, college, and indy ball players out there, was just looking to chase a professional baseball dream. But why wasn't he signed? Because the name Kieran Powell has no meaning for American sports fans. Tim Tebow is an American hero. Name value alone has carried Tebow into the world of professional sports, leapfrogging Powell and all the other pro ball hopefuls along the way.

Ian Strom. Raphael Ramirez. Arnaldo Berrios. Jay Jabs. Jacob Zanon. Will Barring. Tucker Tharp. Joe Tuschak. Patrick Biondi. Champ Stuart. These are the minor league outfielders in the low minors of the Mets organization, and they too, have no name value. Tebow's signing will cost one of them their job. Tim Tebow's signing is great for him, and for the Mets marketing department. Hell, they have a special schedule of Tim Tebow's appearance days in the instructional league specifically for the media. The whole signing is simply a marketing ploy, but for one of these outfielders, it means the end of their dreams. All their life, dedicated to baseball, will all be gone just like that. The fact that Tebow gets to keep his job as an SEC analyst while the others keep grinding away in the instructional league is just blatant disrespect; it's treating the dreams of others as a joke. Baseball is more than just a game for so many people. Baseball is a lifelong dream. And to have that stripped away for a marketing ploy, just so the media can go crazy to watch a former NFL hero take some hacks and get embarrassed by pro pitching, its simply unfair. None of this is Tebow's fault. Or the Mets fault. And it definitely isn't Strom's, Ramirez's, Berrios's, Jabs's, Zanon's, Barring's, Tharp's, Tuschak's, Biondi's or Stuart's. These guys gave their life to this sport. Baseball is a wonderful sport, but baseball is also cruel.

Bonus video: Domingo Ayala teaches us how to play beisbol like Tim Tebow. big tyne.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

5 Reasons Why We Will All Love Alex Bregman

Alex Bregman, QCTimes
Right before a 3-game series against the New York Yankees, Jeff Luhnow and Co. of the Astros front office finally decided to to pull the trigger and call up Alex Bregman, arguably the top prospect in the game. His debut has been much anticipated by baseball fans everywhere, especially after lighting up AA and AAA pitching with an outstanding Futures Game performance in between. Here are 5 reasons that Bregman will instantly become a fan favorite as soon as he hits the big leagues:

1- He's got game
This first one is obvious. Bregman can hit, no doubt about it. After slashing a combined .306/.406/.580 with 20 HRs and a 47/38 BB/K in just 80 games between AA and AAA combined, he has shot up prospect lists so much that Keith Law calls him the top prospect in baseball. That short quick swing will spray line drives all over the field, and in the friendly confines of Minute Maid Park the power surge will hopefully continue. His bat will carry him, but the glove is amazing too. Range, hands, and arm, he's got it all. A solid defensive shortstop, he should be able to handle 3B just fine and LF in MMP probably won't be too hard for him. Here's a video of an insane play he made as a shortstop back at LSU.

2- He's got swagger
On the field, Bregman plays hard and is all business, but off the field he's got some flair. How many minor leaguers do you know have part in their own line of clothing and are already have endorsements? Alex Bregman is with Marucci baseball and they do Rake City Apparel, which you will find Bregman wearing a lot on Twitter and Instagram. You can buy their shirts here.

3- He's humble
For a 21 year old, Alex Bregman has tremendous professionalism when conducting interviews. Never citing individual goals, he has consistently focused on team winning and doing whatever he can do to help. Check out some of his interviews here and here. And even though on the field he is just as good or even better than many of his teammates, he knows his place as a rookie, as shown by this quote: “I’m going to keep my mouth shut,” Bregman said in his 11-minute introductory news conference. “The only thing I want to do is win games. I’m not going to win games by talking about it — just by doing it.”

USA Baseball
4- He plays to prove something
Scouts often laud Bregman's grit and hustle, a lot of which comes from him playing with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. Coming out of high school, he declared that he wouldn't sign unless he was a first round pick. He wasn't taken until the 29th round, and sure enough, he headed to LSU instead. During his freshman year of college, he wore the number 30 for the thirty teams that passed on him.

5- He performs on the big stage
In each of his years in LSU, Bregman has played extremely well in the postseason, including a .533/.650/.667 performance in his sophomore year. In the Futures Game this year, he went 3-4 with a double and a triple. Usually calm and confident, his demeanor will bode well for his performance as the Houston Astros go down the stretch run and play some of the biggest games in Bregman's young career, and the Astros have brought him up to the majors with faith that his clutch performances will continue when they need it the most.