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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 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 »

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 »

Trader Byrnes (alternate title: Josh Byrnes as Ray playing MVP Baseball 2005)

January 10th, 2012 by

Josh Byrnes is one bold dealer at the helm of the San Diego Padres. A cynic might make a reference gunslinging, but I’m not the type to say that.

Here’s my take on the Mat Latos / Anthony Rizzo trades.

“…we felt that Alonso might fare a little better at Petco Park. The acquisition of Alonso provided us the flexibility to make this trade and acquire a quality, young power arm in Cashner.”

The Anthony Rizzo trade intersects the Mat Latos trade in many ways, and they deserve to be viewed together. When Yonder Alonso was first acquired in that deal with the Cincinnati Reds, analysts were split on whether he, or incumbent Anthony Rizzo was the better long term investment at first base. Keith Law, for instance, prefers Rizzo’s upside, while prospect expert John Sickels questions Rizzo’s performance risk.

What is clear is that Josh Byrnes favors Alonso to Rizzo. So lets include that in a new breakdown of the two trades. When looked at on the whole, here are the benefits our Padres get in exchange for trading Mat Latos:

Yasmani Grandal, Brad Boxberger,  Andrew Cashner, Edinson Volquez, and the difference between Anthony Rizzo and Yonder Alonso.

Allow me to summarize:

  • A catcher with an above average bat and an average glove — a rare player and excellent prospect no doubt, but not elite level
  • Two solid relievers with good upside but question marks
  • A once promising pitcher who may turn things around, but may have attitude issues
  • However you judge the difference between Anthony Rizzo and Yonder Alonso

That’s the price Josh Byrnes and the Padres paid for Mat Latos, an elite pitching talent who is a likely rotation anchor for years to come.

Looking at the two trades combined is like a black light in a living room. Mind expanding.

The key to the trade becomes the difference in value between the two first basemen, and consequently, our faith in the Padres front office in making that evaluation. If the value of Alonso over Rizzo isn’t much, it sure puts a damper those deals.

The difference

I’m relatively agnostic on the question of who is the preferred first baseman. Remember, the value doesn’t come from the player himself, but the difference between the two. I’m skeptical of the Padres clear choice of Alonso, no doubt, as public opinions from people I respect seemed pretty mixed on the issue of who is the better player. But none of those people work as the general manager of a baseball team, or have access to the resources available to those who do.

Rizzo

What grinds my gears is the “Rizzo has slow bat speed” amateur scouting crowd. Those opinions were of course shared only after Rizzo’s slow start. And it’s a common explanation to bad performance from the scouting peanut gallery. Poor results at the plate? Must be the bat speed. I’ll believe the bat speed analysis when you point it out it before a hitter’s average tanks.

So who is Anthony Rizzo? He probably has more upside than Alonso, but with less of a guarantee.

Cashner

As for Andrew Cashner, he could become a very good reliever, potentially a top closer. And for reasons I don’t understand, the baseball world still values such players highly, as evidenced by Jonathan Papelbon’s 4 year / $50 million deal with the Phillies. Still, teams, especially rebuilding teams, shouldn’t be trading top prospects or elite starters for relievers. I just don’t get it.

And yes, he throws 100mph. We know. That little factoid has become part of his name in every writeup, like Chris Young’s name became Chris Young (he’s 6’10”!). Besides, Fernando Rodney’s fastball averages the same speed as Cashner’s, and it would take more than a couple $5 beers to forget our sorrows if Rodney is what Cashner becomes. A little more in the way of analysis would be great, thanks.

Conclusion

The Latos trade made sense, but it still hurt (I think I’m missing an analogy to Padres fandom here). Lets hope Josh Byrnes’s analysis includes something his homeboy Jed Hoyer missed out on, because that difference will be the key to these trades.

Posted in hot stove, players | 1 Comment »

The Tao of Boo

April 29th, 2011 by

Booing is an act of frustration from fans who have a great deal of interest and emotion invested in a situation yet are powerless to do anything else.

Lets talk about the given reasons given for the boo?

“The player is paid handsomely and isn’t performing.”

Sure. Does the player need to be informed of his poor performance? Probably not. Will booing encourage better performance? The boo will most likely create resentment between a player and his supposed supporters. All of a sudden, playing on the road becomes more friendly than playing at home. This won’t help the situation.

“It’s the effort being booed. Play harder to earn my respect.”

I see. Poor on field performance means there’s poor effort. What if the player were to throw his helmet around? Punch a locker? Can I assume the boos will stop?

Suppose we give the booer a bat and helmet and put him on the field. Surely his performance will be poor. Easily mitigated by returning the boo favor. Problem solved!

“We must send a message! We fans will not tolerate poor play!”

By booing the player? But why is the player on the field in the first place? What player would you prefer given the relative price of players and money available to retain their services? Who decides how much money is available for those services? If you feel the money available to retain players’ services is unsatisfactory, does buying a ticket and booing a player send the right message?

The discussion about the Tao of Boo, unfortunately, doesn’t go anywhere. People boo so they feel better. They boo to demonstrate to others that their team’s poor play doesn’t reflect on their own self worth. They boo to create a sense of control. They boo out of frustration. It’s understandable, but doesn’t accomplish much.

Or, by all means, wear brown to the ballpark. That will totally motivate Brad Hawpe.

Posted in controversy, players | 5 Comments »

Ughwick

November 16th, 2010 by

When Dan Hayes’ reported that Headley’s Super Two status might force the Padres to trade Ryan Ludwick, my first thought was “Oh hell no. Trade Headley.”

Don’t get me wrong, I like Headley fine. I’ll be the first to ring the “pitching and defense” bell, and Headley was as good as it got at third base this year. But Ludwick? He’s no slouch himself (career UZR/150 of 5.1 round the outfield) and he’s the team’s only legit middle of the order hitter other than Adrian. If we move Ludwick, who’s going to hit cleanup?

The better question is why we think Ludwick should hit cleanup hitter himself.

In 2008, Ludwick made a name for himself by hitting 37 home runs but he’s hit 39 total over the past two seasons. Despite his 154 in 08, Ludwick has a career wRC+ of 117 and Bill James projects a 115 for him in 2011. And he’ll likely make in excess of $7 million next year.

Ludwick’s been a starter for four years and throwing out his yet to be duplicated 2008, he’s been a 2-win player. Last year, Headley was somewhere between a 3.7 and a 4.6-win player, depending on if you prefer Baseball-Reference or Fangraphs’ numbers. In 1,675 plate appearances, Headley’s only hit 32 home runs and while he plans on hitting the gym this winter, even if he doesn’t, his glove should still provide enough value to this team to make him a keeper.

It’s easy to look at these Padres and think that something needs to be done about the offense, but they weren’t that bad offensively last year. Though it ranked 20th in the league, the team’s wRC+ was a respectable 97. They fell apart in September (82 wRC+), and Headley was especially awful (58 wRC+), but that likely speaks more to conditioning and depth that it does talent and ability. With the exception of Tejada and Torrealba, the team will be bringing back all of the same hitters worth bringing back and hopefully that means more of the same.

In fairness to Ludwick, he was never who we expected him to be. He’s not the -0.3-win Ughwick we saw in August and September, but he’s not someone who will scare pitchers into giving Adrian some fastballs. The potential is there (he hit 18 home runs away from Busch Stadium last year) but while Maybin is a low-risk roll of the dice, Ludwick has $7 million riding on his. With only $10 million available to fill holes at second, short, in the rotation and on the bench, is the smarter risk to go into the crevasse, opening a hole in left to better fill all the others?

Probably. But I’ll defer to Jed on this one.

UPDATE: According to Jeff Fletcher, the Padres will offer Ludwick arbitration. Here we go.

Posted in hot stove, players, statistics | 5 Comments »

There’s your answer, fishbulb

November 14th, 2010 by

Good thing I got that article off on Friday, right?

Completely blowing past my recommendations, Jed Hoyer went out and acquired Cameron Maybin from the Florida Marlins in return of Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica.

A former megaprospect who was thrice ranked in Baseball America’s top 10, Maybin’s had trouble transferring his success to the majors. In 610 plate appearances, all over the course of four different seasons, Maybin has a career OPS of .692, a step down from the .878 he posted in Triple-A. It’s easy to be cynical about this acquisition but this is yet another move that reinforces my faith in Hoyer.

Here’s what the word on Maybin was before the big leagues beat his reputation down:

Maybin is a prototypical five-tool player still learning how to turn his potential into performance. He has tremendous bat speed with plenty of power potential in his frame. Though willing to take walks, he needs to improve his strike-zone judgment. His plus speed can change games on the bases and particularly in the outfield. He covers a ton of ground and his above-average arm plays very well in center.

Top 50 Prospects (MLB.com)

The good news is that Maybin hasn’t lost any limbs or gotten addicted to any drugs since that was written, so he’s still the same player he was. The bad news is that he hasn’t really improved his strike-zone judgement and he hasn’t developed as an outfielder. In his 548 at-bats, Maybin has struck out 172 times, or 31.4% of the time, and he’s not getting better, having a strike out rate of 31.6% in 2010. And despite his career UZR of 5.1 in center, Maybin’s left some question mark out there as well. In his analysis of the trade, Tom Krasovic noted that Maybin frustrated the Marlins with his “dull defensive instincts.” If I may be a little pretentious, Maybin sounds like a lump of coal who’s a good squeeze away from turning into a diamond.

Moving on to the other part of the trade, Webb and Mujica were no small price to be paid. Both pitchers played their parts in the team’s league-leading bullpen, and Webb especially showed signs of being something special, but five-tool center fielders don’t come cheap. With young guys like Gregerson and Frieri already in the back of the bullpen, and younger guys like Scribner waiting in the wings, Hoyer took a chance and made a move from depth to fill a need.

What the Maybin acquisition means for the rest of the team is yet to be seen. The risk of Maybin not coming through seems too big to ignore and the team will have to prepare accordingly. In his write-up on the Maybin acquisition, Bill Center mentioned that two of Chris Denorfia, Scott Hairston, and Tony Gwynn, Jr. are likely to be non-tendered. Hairston’s cut seems assured, as he will begin making much more money than he’s worth, leaving Norf and AJ. Center singles out AJ, saying, “Gwynn was praised for his defensive play in center last season. But the left-handed hitter batted only .204 in 289 at-bats with three homers, 20 RBI and a .304 on-base percentage.” Ignore for a second that I’m the biggest AJ stan on the internet (do people still say “stan?”) and think about this for a second: if Maybin’s struggles continue, do you really want Bud Black running Chris Denorfia back out into center? Me neither.

The team could still slide Venable over from right field, although they’ve been incredibly hesitant to do so, or they could look elsewhere. In the free agent class, there are some former Padres (Jody Gerut, Jim Edmonds), some aging sluggers (Jim Edmonds [again!], Andruw Jones), and some Atlanta Braves rejects (Rick Ankiel, Melky Cabrera). It should be interesting to see what direction Hoyer goes with the bench.

Overall, this was a good weekend for the Padres. For an affordable price, the Padres were able to acquire an All-Star talent at one of the hardest positions in baseball to fill. Nothing is for certain, but then that’s the Padres for you.

Posted in hot stove, players | 1 Comment »

The Sacrifice Cheat Sheet: We need to go deeper

November 12th, 2010 by

If you’re like me, you’re spending your days playing fantasy Jed and thinking about what the Padres can do to improve the team going into 2011. With holes at second, short, and in centerfield, there’s a lot of dreaming to go around and I’m here to help. I’ve picked out some available players (however loosely that term might apply) at these positions and checked what Bill James thinks they’ll do next year.

2B
AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+
David Eckstein .267/.330/.334 80
Jerry Hairston, Jr. .250/.311/.370 85
Orlando Hudson .276/.351/.396 108
Felipe Lopez .270/.344/.391 104
Juan Uribe .253/.307/.434 100

It doesn’t look good for the incumbents. Eckstein had something of a career year this season, as his WAR of 2.0 was his highest since he 2005. Offensively, he’s a hole but he’s made himself into a decent defensive second baseman, a position that can handle his poor arm strength. Hairston has a similar offensive ineptitude but while Eckstein’s made himself decent defensively, Hairston’s made himself good. His career UZR/150 of 6.1 ranks number one in this group.

Offensively, Hudson is the winner here, though Lopez might be close enough to be a better bargain (Hudson made $5M last year; Lopez made $1M). Hudson separates himself defensively, though. While James didn’t do defensive predictions, Hudson has a career UZR/150 of 2.2 and is generally well regarded. Lopez, on the other hand, has a career -1.0. The Padres did show an interest in Lopez after St. Louis cut him loose so if you’re Christopher Nolan and like a lot of realism in your dreams, he might be a guy to keep an eye on.

Here’s where I admit that I crammed Juan Uribe into this group because the number of 2B options out there is weaker than at SS. Whereas Eckstein’s arm can hide at second base, Uribe’s would go to waste playing so close to the first baseman. And, truth be told, he’s a good shortstop, so if we were to acquire Uribe, we’d have to get someone else pretty good to bump him to second. Someone like…

SS
AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+
Everth Cabrera .245/.329/.329 83
Miguel Tejada .279/.324/.415 100
Jason Bartlett .279/.345/.380 100
Orlando Cabrera .268/.316/.364 88
J.J. Hardy .263/.328/.425 107

Listing Everth is really nothing more than lip service. I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t start (and end) the year in the minors. I want to believe in him, but he has made it hard.

Tejada is the other incumbent, though I suppose Hairston deserves a shout out (career 2.1 UZR/150 in a little over 1,000 innings). With Tejada, it’s easy to be caught up in the player we saw in August and September (111 wRC+, -0.3 UZR) but it’s doubtful we saw the real Miguel Tejada. James, for instance, sees his offensive production regressing and defensively, he’s always been a below average guy (-3.4 UZR/150). For $6 million or so, is it worth it?

Like Tejada, Orlando Cabrera is another guy who seems to get a long way on his name and reputation. He’s never been a real offensive player, getting by mostly with his glove which, while still above-average, seems to be slowing down. Cincinnati recently declined his $4 million option, so he’ll likely be cheaper than Tejada while providing similar-yet-different production.

Neither Bartlett nor Hardy are free agents, but they’re both non-tender candidates who might be available in a trade. Bartlett, who we once traded for Brian Buchanan never forget, built his reputation as a glove man but his production has been slipping over the past couple of years. Whether these were flukes or age catching up to him quick is yet to be seen and while James thinks he’ll be average with the bat, is he worth the $5 million (or so) risk?

Looking at the projections, it’s easy to think Hardy is worth the risk and it gets even better when you look at his defensive numbers. Over the course of his career, Hardy has a +11 UZR/150, which is pretty great. He might be expensive, but he’ll earn his paycheck. That is, if he can stay on the field. Hardy only made it into 101 games this season, but he was still worth 2.4 wins. With a good enough backup, Hardy might be the kind of risk a team with one year left of a megastar should take. Especially if his offensive production opens up a spot for a certain poor hitting, phenomenal fielding center fielder.

CF
AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+
Tony Gwynn, Jr. .252/.333/.318 86
Rajai Davis .287/.336/.381 102
Jacoby Ellsbury .300/.355/.409 119
Colby Rasmus .261/.343/.468 123
B.J. Upton .255/.345/.419 116

Oh, AJ. If I really was Jed, this conversation would be over. Tony the younger would be installed in centerfield, free to make all the amazing catches he’d like. But I’m not and he surely won’t, so let’s look at the other four.

Ellsbury’s is a popular name when the conversation turns toward trading Adrian and he is an elite base stealing threat, but I’m not sure he’s a center fielder. He has a UZR/150 of 0.2 in a little over two thousand innings, but the Red Sox brought in Mike Cameron to push Ellsbury to left last year and as much as I love Mikey C., that’s a little telling, isn’t it? Especially because Ellsbury’s not as young as he seems. He’ll be arbitration eligible next winter and with his 136 career stolen bases, I’d bet the arbitrator will like him and that’s no good for us small market folk.

A younger option would be Colby Rasmus, whose very public spat with Tony LaRussa may or may not have put him on the block. If he’s available, I’m not sure the Padres have enough to go get him. Surely the conversation would start with Simon Castro, but where would it end? A player with Rasmus’ potential seems worth whatever price St. Louis asks, but the question becomes whether or not we’ll be able to hang once some deeper-pocketed teams get involved.

Upton’s a more realistic change-of-scenery guy, though also arbitration eligible next year. While he’s never fully lived up to his potential, he’s become an excellent center fielder (career UZR/150 5.7) and he’s still only 26. Think of him as a better case Venable, with the potential to be a 30-40 guy. He could also remain a 10-40 guy but then if it was easy, everyone would do it.

Then there’s Davis, the bubble burster. Not as dreamy as the rest, he’s a decent fielder (2.6 UZR/150) who’s stolen 91 bases over the past two years. He’s the wild card, and a good one at that because put him on a field in Peoria with Dave Roberts and who knows what will come out of it.

And that’s it. I hope you found this helpful. I sort of feel like a jerk for taking you past the bike aisle when you’re likely to get some cans of soup for Christmas, but such is dreaming. Enjoy it while it lasts, before the season begins and we’re stuck with reality.

Posted in hot stove, players | 1 Comment »

Nick Hundley is not your enemy

November 10th, 2010 by

Dan Hayes reported today that the Padres brass is ready to take the training wheels off of Nick Hundley and anoint him the starting catcher for 2011. This comes a week after Yorvit Torrealba declined his half of his mutual option, breaking up the dynamic duo who gave the Padres their most productive year from the catcher’s spot since Mike Piazza and Josh Bard went off in 2006. This’ll be Hundley’s first year in the starring role and the tone around Padresland could best be described as nonplussed but worry not, Hundley’s good. Well, he’s not bad. Let me explain.

First, let’s get this out of the way: catcher is the hardest position on the field to play. In his defensive spectrum, Bill James ranked it ninth, only ahead of the pitcher’s spot, in difficulty. The catcher is not only asked to stay in a crouched position for nine innings while enduring 90 mph foul tips and the potential steamroll, but he has to take a more cerebral role. Why don’t I just let Bud Black break it down, or at least break down what it is he thinks Hundley does right:

“I saw strides this year in his overall handling of the pitchers, handling of the game, and keeping the focus throughout the game,” manager Bud Black said.

“Just his overall in-game awareness, I saw progress. He really made strides on defensive end. I thought he threw better, much more under control and with accuracy.”

Oh yeah, the catcher also has to deal with the base running aspect of the game. Hundley’s .293 CS% would rank him fifth among qualified catchers (out of 13) and is a personal best. But then, who cares? If your beef with Hundley is because you don’t think he makes a good backstop, I’m not sure I can sway your opinion. But if you’re upset over questions concerning the Padres offense and see Hundley as another problem, keep reading.

This season, Hundley finished the year with a wRC+ of 99, which is down one point from his 100 in 2009. For those who don’t know, that makes Hundley incredibly average but consistently so. Of all catchers with 300 plate appearances, Hundley’s 99 was good for 15th out of 29, again pretty average. He was well below the Mauers and Poseys of the league but well ahead of the Kendalls and Bengie Molinas. He was below Torrealba (107 wRC+, 12th in the league) but keep in mind that Torrealba had a career year this season, at age 32. His career wRC+ of 85 is below Hundley’s 93. Again, something to keep in mind if you find yourself getting upset that the team let Torrealba slip away (assuming that they do).

More to my point, of the 17 players who received 100 at-bats from the Padres, Hundley’s 99 was good for ninth. Is this guy good at hitting the middle or what? His WAR of 1.5 also ranked the same. Hundley’s no Adrian, he’s not even Chase Headley, but he has more in common with Chase than he does with Everth Cabrera or Scott Hairston or some of the real holes this 2010 squad had. Jed Hoyer has his work cut out for him if he’s going to repeat this year’s 90-win success story. He’s got holes up the middle and Ryan Ludwick is going to have to do much better than he did after coming over from St. Louis, but Hundley will make Jed’s job easier. Leave him alone and he’ll do well to not mess things up.

It might not be the greatest of praise but for a team with the Sisyphean nature that this club has, it’ll do. Or, at least, it should.

Posted in players, statistics | 2 Comments »

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