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!