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The Sacrifice Power Rankings: April

April 3rd, 2012 by

Here’s another idea I’ll probably drop real quick: Every month, I’m going to go over which players are giving the owner-less Padres the most bang for their buck. As the season hasn’t started yet, this is based on projections but as the season goes on, I’ll update it with real numbers.

1. Cameron Maybin

The centerfield stud with the new contract is still making less than a million dollars and is one of the best bargains in baseball.

2. Cory Luebke

The starting pitching stud with the new contract is still making less than a million dollars and is one of the best bargains in baseball.

3. Chase Headley

The third base stud who probably won’t get a new contract until he’s with another team is still one of the most underrated players in baseball.

4. Tim Stauffer

This ranking is a bit generous and Stauffer needs to show that he can put it all together and doesn’t need to lean on Petco to get results, but let’s hope he rewards our faith in him.

5. Yonder Alonso

The Reds just announced that they think Joey Votto is $225 million better than Alonso. Let’s hope that fires him up a bit.

6. Nick Hundley

Don’t be surprised if Hundley jumps up this list as the season progresses. Even now, you wouldn’t be out of line arguing that he needs to change spots with Stauffer.

7. Andrew Cashner

This ranking assumes Cashner stays in the pen but he wouldn’t be the first Padres pitcher to make the transition from reliever to starter. He’s the only one who throws triple digit heat with nerve-racking shoulder, though.

8. Clayton Richard

Who? Just kidding. Not really. Who? With Volquez starting Opening Day, it sounds like Richard needs to be looking over his shoulder at Kelly and Co.

9. Will Venable

This is the year! His swing’s looking good! He’s got it all working! Words that have never been said about Will Venable before!

10. Edinson Volquez

Like I said, Volquez is starting Opening Day. For a former pitcher, Bud Black sure doesn’t think that starting Opening Day is a very big honor.

11. Luke Gregerson

Remember him? He’s the Clayton Richard of relievers.

12. Orlando Hudson

Hopefully he’ll have said something ridiculous on Twitter by the time I run the May ranking.

13. Carlos Quentin

Starting the season the DL won’t help Quentin jump up the list very quickly.

14. Jason Bartlett

There’s really nothing to say here. He’s bad and we’ve got no one else.

15. Huston Street

The Padres’ highest paid player will play maybe 60 innings this year, if he’s not traded, and that’s how small market teams maximize their resources.

Posted in misc, players | 1 Comment »

Why I’m okay with extending Hundley and trading Grandal

March 18th, 2012 by

(Earlier today, Jim Bowden semi-coherently tweeted that the Padres are talking to Hundley about an extension and “fielding interest on impressive catching depth but said they are not motivated to trade from it.”)

Before I start, I just want to say that I understand that I’m jumping to conclusions here in assuming that it’s one or the other. The Padres could very well be looking at Hundley and Grandal as a two-headed catching monster moving forward. However, since I don’t believe that creating this monster is the best use of the team’s resources, I want to start by saying I told you so.

After the 2010 season, when the team announced that Hundley would become the starting catcher, I argued that Nick Hundley is not our enemy and this season, he rewarded my faith by busting out with +3.5 WAR, tying him for seventh in the league among catchers. Hundley was able to reach this mark by being an absolute beast at Petco. At Petco! He had a 160 home wRC+ (!) this season and his 123 career home wRC+ is tied for second (with Mark Loretta) for players with at least 300 PA in Petco. Considering that Byrnes and co. seem to be letting the park dictate how they build their lineup, hanging onto a guy who’s Petco-proof is a good way to start.

Now putting on my old man hat, I like Nick Hundley because he clearly likes being a Padre. Over the past two winters, it feels like Nick Hundley has been everywhere. Every time the Padres unveil a new uniform, he’s there. Every time they’re out there kissing babies or whatever, he’s there. The man is omnipresent. Maybin’s new contract may signal that he’s the new Mr. Padre but as far as I’m concerned, he has to wrestle that title away from Hundley first.

Having said all that, I feel confident that Grandal will end up being the better catcher. He’s the third best catching prospect in baseball (depending on whether or not you still consider Jesus Montero a catcher) because he can flat out hit. He has the kind of bat that could play elsewhere (which sounds like a whole nother article) but it’s for this reason that I want to see what Grandal can bring back in a trade.

Over the winter, the Rockies traded Chris Iannetta to the Angels for Tyler Chatwood and I bring this up because it is the kind of trade that we can look forward to if we put Hundley out on the market. And in case you’re wondering, Tyler Chatwood is something of an Andrew Cashner-type, and while we just traded a top prospect for the epitomic Andrew  Cashner-type, I think that we could do better with Grandal. Maybe the Rays don’t make a deal with Hak-Ju Lee (and with Jose Molina behind the dish, can you blame them?) but he’s the type of player that the Padres could target if they put Grandal out there.

And then there’s Austin Hedges. Maybe it’s a little premature to take him into consideration when making future plans but if there’s anyone worth getting illogical about, it’s Hedges. If you listen to the scouting reports, Hedges’ defense could play in the majors right now at age nineteen and if you listen to Keith Law, he has a “chance to hit for average with 15-20 homer power (at least).” Assuming that he doesn’t get hurt (which is admittedly a big assumption), it’s a matter of when and not if Hedges will reach the bigs. He could very well make it up by 2015, which would be the last year of a three-year extension for Hundley and it would give Hedges a year to apprentice before making the first of many All-Star appearances.

None of this is to say that the Padres have to follow this path. That two-headed catching monster does sound like some kinda nice. But if the Padres do choose to move forward with Sloth, I won’t be too upset and neither should you. He’s still not your enemy.

Posted in misc, players | 2 Comments »

The Padres top 10 prospects (according to the fans)

March 9th, 2012 by

Yesterday, I posted a list of the consensus top 10 prospects in our system according to the experts but what do they know? Well, actually, a lot. Nevermind that point. But just because they know a lot doesn’t mean there’s nothing else to know. For instance, for all their knowledge, I’m not sure how personally invested the experts are in the Padres so with that in mind, I looked at the people who are and found out what they thought.

The following list is compiled from the opinons of Geoff Young, Mickey Koke, Peter Friberg, the teams at Padres Prospects and Mad Friars, and the miscreants at the UTSD forums.

But first a disclaimer, though not the one you were probably expecting. While all lists were either made or updated after the Rizzo and Latos trades, one list left Casey Kelly off of their top 30. Assuming that this list simply forgot him and doesn’t think he’s only the second best Kelly in our system, I had to use more frog DNA to figure things out.

01. Yonder Alonso, 1B

DOB: April 8, 1987
Projects to start 2012 at San Diego (MLB)

02. Yasmani Grandal, C
DOB: November 8, 1988
Projects to start 2012 at Tucson (Triple-A)

03. Robbie Erlin, SP
DOB: October 8, 1990
Projects to start 2012 at Tucson (Triple-A)

04. Rymer Liriano, OF
DOB: June 20, 1991
Projects to start 2012 at Lake Elsinore (High-A)

05. Jedd Gyorko, 3B
DOB: September 23, 1988
Projects to start 2012 at San Antonio (Double-A)

06. Keyvius Sampson, SP
DOB: January 6, 1991
Projects to start 2012 at Lake Elsinore (High-A)

07. Joe Wieland, SP

DOB: January 21, 1990
Projects to start 2012 at Tucson (Triple-A)

08. Jaff Decker, OF
DOB: February 23, 1990
Projects to start 2012 at San Antonio (Double-A)

09. Casey Kelly, SP
DOB: October 4, 1989
Projects to start 2012 at Tucson (Triple-A)

10. Cory Spangenberg, 2B
DOB: March 16, 1991
Projects to start 2012 at Fort Wayne (Single-A)

A couple of things jump out. The fans expect more out of Robbie Erlin, as he ranked third on this list compared to tenth on the experts’. It make sense when you consider that Erlin has amazing numbers (career 1.15 BB/9) but lacks the tools of higher-end prospects and I’m not sure how often we fans got out to San Antonio.

The second thing that jumps out to me is that that the fans are not ready to believe in Hedges and Ross yet, which again makes sense when you consider access to in-person evaluation. Ross only has one professional inning under his belt while Hedges only has 34 plate appearances. I know I’m very excited for Hedges but I agree with the listmakers who’d like to see him do something before really getting on-board.

In place of Hedges and Ross, the fans put Decker and Sampson on the list, which I absolutely agree with. A bad rap seems to have stuck itself to Decker and he’s had a hard time proving that he’s no longer the stocky high schooler the Padres drafted in 2008. He won’t sell many jeans but as we all should know now, that’s not the point.

Finally, I just want to note that the top three on this list were one vote apart each, with Liriano not that far behind at four. If you’re looking for sweeping generalizations, it’s this: Alonso, Grandal, and Liriano are the stars of this system. For anyone looking for a bandwagon to get on, you’ve got three right there.

Posted in the seminary | 1 Comment »

The Padres top 10 prospects (according to the experts)

March 8th, 2012 by

As you (also) already knew, Keith Law over at ESPN named our farm system the best in baseball this winter. But who’s the best prospect in the best system? As I’ve never attended a minor league game before in my life, I have no idea but the internet is full of people who do. Specifically, Matt Eddy, Kevin Goldstein, Law, Jonathan Mayo, and John Sickels and these five give us the consensus you’re about to read.

But first, a disclaimer. Not all of these lists were published after the Latos trade that brought over Alonso and Grandal, or the trade that sent Rizzo to Chicago, so a little bit of frog DNA had to be used. It may not be the most accurate list (of different people’s opinions) but I think it’s close enough.

01. Rymer Liriano, OF
DOB: June 20, 1991
Projects to start 2012 at Lake Elsinore (High-A)

02. Yonder Alonso, 1B
DOB: April 8, 1987
Projects to start 2012 at San Diego (MLB)

03. Yasmani Grandal, C
DOB: November 8, 1988
Projects to start 2012 at Tucson (Triple-A)

04. Casey Kelly, SP
DOB: October 4, 1989
Projects to start 2012 at Tucson (Triple-A)

05. Jedd Gyorko, 3B
DOB: September 23, 1988
Projects to start 2012 at San Antonio (Double-A)

06. Cory Spangenberg, 2B
DOB: March 16, 1991
Projects to start 2012 at Fort Wayne (Single-A)

07. Joe Wieland, SP
DOB: January 21, 1990
Projects to start 2012 at Tucson (Triple-A)

08. Joe Ross, SP
DOB: May 21, 1993
Projects to start 2012 at Eugene (Low-A)

09. Austin Hedges, C
DOB: August 18, 1992
Projects to start 2012 at Fort Wayne (Single-A)

10. Robbie Erlin, SP
DOB: October 8, 1990
Projects to start 2012 at Tucson (Triple-A)

Notes:

  • Surprised to see Liriano at the top spot? He only came in first on Goldstein’s list, which was written before the Latos trade, so it looks like he benefited the most from the frog DNA.
  • Sickels and Mayo both ranked Alonso first but Law ranked him fifth.
  • Kelly was a divisive pick. He finished in three top threes but Goldstein and Sickels put him at seven and eight (respectively).
  • Keyvius Sampson actually received four top ten picks but none above seven and Law left him completely off his list.
  • James Darnell (Sickels) and Jaff Decker (Law) each received one tenth place vote.

Posted in the seminary | 3 Comments »

The Twenty-Five Million Dollar Man

March 4th, 2012 by

In case you haven’t heard, and you are doing it wrong if you’re using us for breaking news, the Padres and Cameron Maybin agreed on a five-year extension worth $25 million and an option for a sixth year. For the first time since 2007, the Padres have locked up a young player and made jersey-purchasing decisions easy for the rest of us.

This is a great moment for Padre fans but there is a question that I can’t quite shake: Who exactly did the Padres just lock up? Literally, they locked up Cameron Keith Maybin from Asheville, North Carolina but that’s not what I meant and you know it.

Comparisons are a big part of extensions and word is that extension talk got off to a slow start with Hoyer because he wasn’t happy with the comps Maybin’s agent was making. With a new GM, and a new agent for Maybin, those problems seem to have been cleared up but it still cuts to the heart of the mystique of Maybin.

Two months ago, MLB Trade Rumors looked into Maybin themselves and threw out the names Franklin Gutierrez, Jose Tabata, and Denard Span as comparisons. All three are defensive-minded outfielders with varying degrees of power even if none of the three will ever take part in a Home Run Derby. The three of them averaged five years and $17.25 million, so why did the Padres give Maybin eight million more?

At 6’3″ and 220 pounds, Maybin wears a mean pair of jeans. It’s easy to look at him and see Mike Cameron, a premiere defensive center fielder and perennial 25/25 guy. And it’s easy to think that Maybin sees himself the same way. When he’s at the plate, he takes hacks, which is a big reason why he struck 125 times last year. His career 25.5% K/9 is just a bit above Cameron’s 24.1%. However, whenever Cameron did make contact, he hit the ball in the air. When Maybin does, he keeps it on the ground. Over the course of his career, Maybin’s hit the ball on the ground 406 times, or 54.5%. Since 2009, the only player to hit the ball on the ground half the time (and this is out of 31 players) to average more than 20 home runs is Hunter Pence. Among the other 30 names, we see a lot of players like Elvis Andrus and the aforementioned Span. And Maybin actually comes in at eight, right behind Juan Pierre.

Fortunately, Maybin is incredibly fast so hitting on the ball isn’t that bad of an idea. Last year, he was second only to Ichiro in infield hits with 30. Maybe Bud Black should take a fictional page out of Lou Brown’s book and assign Maybin twenty pushups for every ball he hits in the air. You know, if that’s what he wants.

This could all be a moot point. Maybin could come in this year and smash shot after shot off of the Western Metal building. Or he could continue to do what he do and chase fifty steals in the process. Either way sounds good to me, I just hope nobody minds if it’s the latter, particularly the ones signing the checks.

Posted in hot stove, players | 1 Comment »

Mr. Petco

February 23rd, 2012 by

I’ve found the ultimate Petco player. That’s right, the Holy Grail.

Since Petco opened in 2004, we’ve all dreamed about finding players who are resistant to the brutal effects Petco has on hitters. You’ll remember that Barry Bonds, aka the best hitter of the past fifty years, called the park “baseball proof” and mortals have spent the past eight seasons proving him right. Josh Byrnes thinks Yonder Alonso and Carlos Quentin might have what it takes but I’m not so certain.

To find the perfect Petco player, I started by looking at what offense Petco does allow. According to this study done by Beyond the Box Score, Petco only favors walks (1.05) and triples (1.02) when it comes to offense. It also is fairly neutral on singles (0.98) and stolen bases (0.97), which leaves us with our criteria. You’ll notice that Quentin’s homers and Alonso’s doubles didn’t make the cut.

Making our search a little easier is the fact that triples, singles, and stolen bases all tend to be products of the same skill. Looking over the three-year numbers for speedsters from across the league, names like Dexter Fowler and Jose Reyes pop up, though they’re not quite as perfect as our guy.

Over the past three years, our guy has 39 triples, which leads the league, has hit 302 singles with only a .294 BABIP, drawn 168 walks and has stolen 78 bags with an 82% success rate. All of this with a career 4.1 UZR/150 in center. Sounds great, right? Wish he were a Padre?

You might want to sit down.

I’m not saying that the Padres should’ve hung onto Shane Victorino back in 2003 because things are never that simple. Who knows if a 22-year-old Victorino puts it together in San Diego the way the 25-year-old version did in Philadelphia. I’m just I wish they would’ve.

(Of course, Victorino has a career 65 OPS+ at Petco in 81 PA. Maybe the park really is simply baseball proof.)

Posted in statistics | 1 Comment »

The Sacrifice Preview 2012 – First Base

February 14th, 2012 by

Two years ago, the big news of the offseason was the trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox. Coming off a 90-win season in which the Padres missed the playoffs by one game, everyone wondered if the team would regroup and go for it again–or play the averages and move their high-leverage superstar before it was too late. Then general manager Jed Hoyer chose the latter, sending Adrian off to the AL East in return for Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, and Reymond Fuentes (and Eric Patterson but let’s forget about him). Rizzo was the heir to the first base throne, but he was only 21-years-old and still had some seasoning to buy him time. Hoyer went out and assembled a hybrid first baseman out of Brad Hawpe and Jorge Cantu. I don’t think I need to tell you that this plan went terribly. By late June, Hawpe was on the DL and Cantu was cut loose. This opened the way for Rizzo, who got off to a hot start hitting a triple in his first game and a home run in his third. That’s pretty much where the excitement ended, as Rizzo fell into a huge slump, eventually losing the starting job to Jesus Guzman, a 27-year-old minor league journeyman who jumped at the opportunity he was given. By the end of the year, Guzman was the team’s most productive hitter, despite having only the ninth most plate appearances on the team.

Heading into 2012 it looked like a battle was brewing between Rizzo and Guzman. Guzman had won the job on the field but Rizzo was the future and there wasn’t much for him to take away from another season in Tucson. As it turned out, new general manager Josh Byrnes had another idea. He brought in Yonder Alonso from the Reds. Just as Rizzo’s pedigree had been written by the size of the name he had been acquired for, Alonso’s status at the top of the food chain was strengthened by Mat Latos‘ corresponding move to Cincinnati. With a “QB controversy” brewing, Rizzo was shipped to the north side of Chicago and Alonso’s face was plastered all over Petco Park and other promotional materials. He’s the starter, with Guzman as his trusty number two.

Back when the two were coexisting Padres, a lot was made of the differing styles of Rizzo and Alonso. Rizzo was something of an all-or-nothing player, the kind who hits 30 home runs in a season while striking out 200 times, while Alonso is a doubles hitter who prefers to use the whole field. Given Petco Park’s ridiculous and worst in the majors left-handed home run split, the ballpark made the decision on whom to keep pretty easy. Even before the trade, the projections all pegged Alonso’s home run total in the teens. Names like Mark Grace and Wally Joyner were bandied about as comps for Alonso. You’ll remember Joyner as the bald-headed first baseman who contributed +10 WAR to the team during the heyday of the late-90s. And before his time in San Diego, Joyner was a heralded rookie for the California Angels, starting in the 1986 All-Star Game and coming in second to Jose Canseco in that year’s Rookie of the year voting. All-in-all, not a horrible path for Alonso to follow.

For his part, Alonso has promised an approach that will fit inside of the stadium, saying:

“I am not thinking 40 or 50 home runs when I’m thinking about hitting,” Alonso said earlier this week at Petco Park.

“A lot of left-handed hitters and first basemen are thinking home runs,” Alonso continued. “That’s not the type of left-handed hitter I am.

“When I look at Petco Park, I don’t see how far away the fences are. I see a lot of grass. I feel like this ballpark likes the kind of hitter I am.”

 Yonder not as important as hits to Alonso (what a headline)

Sounds good, right? Alonso’s not coming here as some dragon slayer but rather as just a man, a man with limitations like anyone else. (Melvin’s note: Dovahkiin!) The fences are too far out? Then F em, I’ll do my work inside the lines. Except, that’s a lot easier said than done. As a minor leaguer, Alonso had a .325 BABIP, which is a bit higher than the .281 mark that the Padres have averaged at Petco since its inception in 2004. The problem with Petco isn’t that it kills home runs, it’s that it kills everything that comes off the bat. Here’s how Petco’s splits breakdown for left-handed batters in some key categories:

  • HR – 59
  • 2B - 86
  • H - 90*

*That’s including triples, which I don’t think the 240 lb. Alonso will be hitting many of. Take out the three-baggers and the park factor drops to 81.

**The lower the number, the more difficult it is for hitters, with 100 as Major League average

It’s good that Alonso seems to be coming in with the right mindset because Petco is a mental monster that has left other top-rated prospects in its wake. The big question will be whether or not Alonso has the mental fortitude to power through if the hits aren’t dropping like he’s used to come Memorial Day.

Earlier, I mentioned that Grace and Joyner have been two names thrown out as comps for Alonso but those two are on one end of the spectrum. On the other, we have the likes of James Loney and Lyle Overbay, two other modest hitters who proved to be a little too modest. There are a handful of +2 WAR seasons between the two of them but it can’t be said that either truly delivered on the potential that they showed as top prospects.

With his likeness now welcoming fans to the park, it seems safe to say that the team will give Alonso every opportunity to prove himself as a major leaguer. Especially since he’ll also be proving that Josh Byrnes made the right call when he shipped away both Mat Latos and Anthony Rizzo to make room for him.

Posted in players, spring training | 1 Comment »

The Padres go crazy and call Kotsay “Superman”

November 21st, 2011 by

Let me just get this out of the way:

In case the song didn’t give it away, the Padres signed Mark Kotsay to a one-year deal worth $1.25 million. While it’s still not clear what role he will fill for the 2012 team, Kotsay will likely serve as the fourth or fifth outfielder as well as the first left-handed bat off the bench. What’s more clear is that Kotsay is a terrible baseball player.

Which is not to say that Kotsay has always been terrible, because of course that’s not the case. In fact, according to fWAR (WAR from Fangraphs) Kotsay is the best center fielder in Padres history with +13.4 WAR. That evidence probably says more about this franchise than it does about Kotsay, but his numbers paint a nice portrait of the player he used to be: one with a little bit of pop who could take a walk and run them down with the best in center. But that was a while ago. Since 2006, Kotsay has been worth -1.6 WAR, which makes him the 10th worst player among qualified hitters in baseball in that time. That’s out of 1,988 players. That means that Mark Kotsay, since 2006, has been the 1,978th best player in baseball. And the Padres just gave him a big league contract.

A player doesn’t become that awful by accident, and Kotsay has done so by being bad at everything. Since 2006, in 2041 plate appearances, Mark Kotsay has an 82 wRC+, which translates to -38.0 RAR. He’s accomplished this through a combination of diminishing luck and power. Over those six years, Kotsay has had a .279 BABIP and .115 IsoP, which are down from the .304 BABIP and .139 IsoP marks he posted in his first eight seasons. Those numbers might not seem like great plunges but when you’re a guy with a little bit of pop who can draw a walk (and not tons of walks), every little bit helps, or hurts as the case would be. And with 81 games ahead of him in PETCO Park, not to mention twenty more in San Francisco and Los Angeles, don’t expect Kotsay’s number to turn around in 2012.

Kotsay has also lost a step defensively. After accumulating 92.1 defensive RAR through 2004 (UZR wasn’t born until 2002), Kotsay has had a -36.3 UZR since. And he has not been a full-time center fielder since 2006, logging only 85 innings at the position in the past two years. That’s about a quarter of the number of innings he’s played at first base in that time, 331, and while Kotsay’s versatility boosts his appeal (he has a career 0.5 UZR in 784 innings at first), the Padres are currently overrun with first baseman. Anthony Rizzo and Jesus Guzman battling it out and Kyle Blanks and James Darnell also capable of handling the position. Any defensive value Kotsay provides will be in the outfield, and I mean that in the loosest definition of the word. Those same humongous outfields that will hurt him offensively won’t do him any favors on defense either.

That’s why the Padres shouldn’t have signed Kotsay, but surely there’s a reason why they did*, right? Much has been made about the leadership the team lost when it replaced David Eckstein, Yorvit Torrealba, Matt Stairs, and Jerry Hairston, Jr. with Orlando Hudson. And to hear the team tell it, Kotsay will help fill that void. And you know what – sure, why not? Kotsay has a good reputation and I’m not going to pretend that leadership and chemistry aren’t important to ball clubs, but the team seems to be overlooking one kind of crucial fact: Eckstein and company combined for +7.0 WAR. Those four may have been crucial contributors in the clubhouse but they contributed on the field as well. Kotsay is a below-average hitter with a below-average back, so expectations should be low.

*This is where I’ll point out that Jeff Moorad used to be Mark Kotsay’s agent, which upgrades this signing from strange to suspicious. Moorad has shown an affinity for old clients in the past (Pat Burrell, Orlando Hudson) and now the Padres have signed one to a contract that’s far too expensive for his actual production. The team could’ve found a player who can do what Kotsay does (or does not) in February for less than a million dollars–but they had to give him $1.25 million before Thanksgiving?

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Are you saying “boo” or “Boo-rnes?”

November 7th, 2011 by

As you surely have heard by now, Jed “Hopey Changey” Hoyer has departed for the warm embrace of Theo Epstein’s bosom in the north side of Chicago, leaving the Padres with Josh Byrnes calling the shots. I want to get one thing out of the way first: I’m a Jed fan. It might just be that he was the first Padres GM in fifteen years willing to take the hit and commit to a youth movement, but that’s enough for me. Nothing frustrated me more with Kevin Towers than his refusal to think ahead. Go through KT’s history and tell me if you find an eight-month period that saw an injection of prospects like the one we saw thanks to the Adrian Gonzalez and Mike Adams trades. Or, instead of doing that, you could just go straight to 1999 and look at what Towers brought back from the World Series fire sale. SPOILER ALERT: Woody Williams, Ryan Klesko, Bret Boone, or: a median age of about 30. Even as he dismantled the 1998 NL Champion team, Towers still couldn’t bring himself to get younger talent in return. I don’t think I need to tell you what happened the following five years.

Now Jed’s gone and while I’ve already looked into other teams to follow (adios Reagins), I’m still a Padres fan and I have to turn the page. Josh Byrnes is not a terrible replacement by any means. He’s experienced and he was promoted from within, which means he knows the system. To hear a large segment of the population speak on the subject, Byrnes is essentially the same GM as Hoyer. They’re both well-regarded and they’re both former acolytes of Epstein (though I suppose Jed’s not “former” anymore). The name might be different but ultimately, the Padres still have the same GM who will run the system the same.

I don’t buy that.

One of the reasons I fell in love with Jed in the first place is that he came in as a blank slate. Having never had the big job before, we could project whatever we wanted to see onto him. Byrnes, on the other hand, comes with the bulky baggage of reality. In four and a half years in Arizona, Byrnes built up a resume that we can pour over to make more educated judgements than we did around this time two years ago. I did just that, and here’s what I came away with:

Josh Byrnes has more in common as a GM with Kevin Towers than he does with Jed Hoyer.

While things weren’t exactly the same in Arizona, they weren’t all that different either. Byrnes has now taken over two teams hovering near the bottom with promising minor league systems. To give you an idea of what Arizona’s system looked like heading into the 2006 season, here’s their top 10 prospects list from that year, according to Baseball America:

1. Stephen Drew, ss
2. Conor Jackson, 1b
3. Carlos Quentin, of
4. Carlos Gonzales, of
5. Dustin Nippert, rhp
6. Miguel Montero, c
7. Garrett Mock, rhp
8. Matt Torra, rhp
9. Micah Owings, rhp
10. Sergio Santos, ss

And this list does not include the drafted-but-not-yet-signed Justin Upton. Including Baby Bossman, that list has combined for 69.3 wins above replacement. Byrnes would go on to add Chris Young, acquiring the center fielder from the White Sox in just his second month on the job. It was the last time that Byrnes would acquire proper young talent in a trade for four years.

This is where I note that only 43.9 of those wins worked out in the Diamondbacks’ favor. Carlos Quentin was notoriously moved to the White Sox before the 2008 season (“How you like them apples?” -Kenny Williams) to make room for Eric Byrnes (no relation), who then owner Jeff Moorad personally signed to a three-year deal. Less than two weeks later, Byrnes then sent the other Carlos, Carlos Gonzalez, to Oakland in a deal for Dan Haren, who was and is a great pitcher. Many people would argue that this trade was a win for Byrnes–but as a fan of the small market team that he just took over, I’m not one of them. Since the trade, Gonzalez (who wasn’t traded straight up) has amassed 13.8 WAR to Haren’s 23.4, but he’s also made roughly $30 million less. The Rockies (and the A’s, but mostly the Rockies) have paid about $160 thousand per win while the Diamondbacks and Angels have spent $1.4 million. Which leads me to my point.

The Padres are in a better place now than they were when Hoyer took over. He brought in smart guys and together they built a top 10 minor league system for the Padres. I have no doubt that Byrnes will keep things in order, but keep this in mind: in 2006, Byrnes’ first year in charge, Baseball America ranked Arizona’s minor league system as the best in baseball. In 2010, Byrnes’ last year in charge, it ranked 28th. The Padres’ system doesn’t have as far to fall but if this thing is going to work, Byrnes is going to have to learn how to keep his pistol in its holster. If you catch my obvious allusion.

The Rays were criticized earlier this year for being too passive in their dealings. But guess what – they made the playoffs and are a safe bet to do it again in 2012. They may never be World Series favorites but they’ve put themselves in a situation in which they have a realistic chance every year, even if it’s never a great chance one particular year. Playing in St. Peterburg, that is simply the reality of their situation. And unfortunately, it’s not that different from the reality Josh Byrnes faces now.

Uncle Jeff has made it clear that the bottom line is king here in San Diego. In a couple of years, we’ll reach our cruising altitude of a $70 million payroll, which would put the team in the bottom third of the league in payroll right now. By the time the team reaches that mark, I wonder if the Padres will be able to keep out of the bottom fifth in payroll. Things are going to get frustrating, and then they’re going to stay frustrating, and the Padres are going to need a steady hand at the wheel. It sure seemed like Jed Hoyer had one, but he’s gone and now it’s up to Josh Byrnes, who never showed one in Arizona.

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The Willie Mays Award 2012

October 11th, 2011 by

1. Brett Lawrie, Toronto
2. Jesus Guzman, San Diego
3. Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta

Sasquatch, Godzilla, King Kong, Loch Ness, goblin, ghoul, zombie with no conscious, Brett Lawrie. Question: what do these things all have in common?

That intro worked so much better in my head. Despite only playing a quarter of the season in the bigs, Lawrie hit 9 home runs and amassed a +2.7 WAR. Extrapolate that out and you’ll see why Lawrie was the easy choice here.

Special mention goes to Jesus Guzman, who would’ve taken the award had Lawrie not happened. This might be the first time Jesus has been mentioned on this blog (like I said, yuck this team) but he hit .300 at PETCO. Park. That’s amazing and even if (even when?) he never does it again, we’ll still have 2011. Unless we’ve forgotten about the entire season, which I pray we all do.

Up next will be the Goose Gossage Award for best reliever, which will include no Padres. And yes, by that, I mean Heath Bell will not be on the list. Why? Because he doesn’t deserve to be on the list. Deal with it.

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