Thursday, January 28, 2010

Prospects Update

I've updated the Braves Prospect Rankings Review entry to include a link to Keith Law's Top 100.  In addition, I'm going to add a link to the sidebar of the Screaming Indian to provide you with a resource you can easily revisit any time you like.

We'll aslo add updates on prospects invited to spring training once that gets under way.

Happy PECOTA Day & other Braves notes

Today was that magical day that only comes once a year - the day Baseball Prospectus unveils their PECOTA player projections. The staff at BP compile these projections into depth charts and attempt to predict Win-Loss totals based on those projections and estimated playing time.

From this process, I give you Baseball Prospectus' projected 2010 NL East Standings:

Phillies (88-74)
Braves (85-77)
Nationals (82-80)
Mets (77-85)
Marlins (76-86)

The Braves would be tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks for the NL Wild Card. That sure put the Braves' reluctance to get involved with Johnny Damon into perspective, doesn't it?

Elsewhere in the vast basebally analysis universe, Keith Law unveiled his Top 100 prospects, which included five Atlanta Braves:

#1 Jason Heyward (RF)
#45 Arodys Vizcaino (RHP)
#63 Julio Teheran (RHP)
#67 Freddie Freeman (1B)
#85 Randall Delgado (RHP)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wednesday's Braves Buzz

The Yankees signed Randy Winn to a one-yer deal, virtually eliminating the possibility that Johnny Damon might be wearing pinstripes next year. While this would seemingly open a window for the Braves to make a move on Damon (who has fewer and fewer options), the Rays are being aggressive early on.

David O'Brien reports that the Braves are not pursuing Jim Edmonds. Although I don't know that anybody really thought there was much risk of that.

The Mets are rumored to be interested in ex-Brave John Smoltz. For my money, this would be the Mets' best signing of the off season (unless you count successfully not signing Bengie Molina).

Keith Law ranks the Braves' farm system as fifth-best in MLB.

Breakout Candidate: Yusmeiro Petit (RHP, SEA)

While the Screaming Indian is first and foremost an Atlanta Braves blog, I do reserve the right to publish my musings on players on other teams – particularly as it relates to their (f)utility in fantasy baseball – whenever it may strike my fancy.  With that out of the way, I invite you to consider my opinion on the possibility that Yusmeiro Petit will be much better in 2010 than in 2009...

Yusmeiro Petit has landed with the Seattle Mariners after a rather unpleasant two-year layover in Arizona en route from Miami.  Petit’s last dominant season was in 2005 when he posted at 3.65 ERA on the strength of 9.1 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9 in the Marlins’ minor league system.  Petit did manage to post a 3.0 K/BB in 56 1/3 IP with the Diamondbacks in 2008 before having a god-awful season in 2009.  I’d been eyeing Petit as a potential breakout candidate in last year, but a doubling of his ’08 walk rate and an extreme fly ball tendency in one of the best MLB hitters’ parks ultimately did him in. 
With that said, I’ve previously given up on prospects following disappointing campaigns only to be made to look like a fool when the capitalized on their considerable promise in the following season (e.g., Carlos Quentin).  If Petit can regain the command of the strike zone that he displayed in 2008 he may be primed for a breakout in 2010.  Already in his favor, Petit will be moving from an extreme hitters’ park to an extreme pitchers’ park, and he will be backed by the best outfield defense in the major leagues.
The main caveat to my endorsement is that a degree of role uncertainty does exist, as Petit spent some time coming out of the bullpen in Arizona.  It’s not immediately clear how Seattle will employ him – the addition of Cliff Lee certainly didn’t help his chances of landing in the rotation.
I would avoid (but keep an eye on) Petit in shallow fantasy leagues, but he might be worth a late-round flier in AL Only leagues.  2010 may be the year where skills and fortune are at last working in unison for Yusmeiro. Only 25 years old, Petit still has a few years before we should start doubting that he’ll ever put it all together.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Atlanta Braves Prospect Rankings Review

When it comes to the Braves' farm system, everyone agrees that Jason Heyward is far and away the best prospect in the system (and maybe anyone else's system, for that matter), that there is a scarcity up-the-middle talent, and that there is a wealth of high-upside power arms.

Potential 2010 MLBers:
Jason Heyward (RF)
Craig Kimbrel (RP)

High-upside power arms:
Julio Teheran (RHP)
Arodys Vizcaino (RHP)
Randall Delgado (RHP)

Check out what some of my favorite publications have to say about the Braves' minor league talent:

Baseball Prospectus
Fan Graphs
Baseball America
Keith Law

And for an in-depth look at prospects from around the league, check out the Minor League Baseball Analyst.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Player Profile: Peter Moylan

The Braves avoided salary arbitration with Peter Moylan on Tuesday by re-signing him to a one-year, $1.5 million contract.

The 31-year-old right-handed reliever had a career-best season in 2009, his first since he missed all of 2008 recovering from Tommy John surgery. Moylan is a side-armer who feeds batters a steady diet of fastballs with a slider thrown in about once every four pitches.

To be worth the $1.5 million he is owed in 2010, Moylan would need to provide value equal to 0.43 Wins Above Replacemnt (assuming a marginal win value of $3.5 million). Peter's a good bet to be at least that good in 2010, even if some regression from a career-best season (1.5 WAR in 2009) is to be expected.

In keeping with what we've seen from post-TJers in th past, Moylan had some control issues in the first half of the season, walking batters at a rate of 5.4 batters every nine innings. But a ground ball rate of 65% over that same period was his salvation, while his control improved (3.6 BB/9) in the second half while still inducing a high rate of grounders on balls in play (61%).

Here's what the leading projection systems have to say about Moylan's 2010:

Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster: 73 IP, 7.3 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 64% GB Rate, 3.60 ERA, 1.31 WHIP
Bill James Handbook: 78 IP, 7.3 K/9, 4.3 BB/9, 3.58 ERA, 1.38 WHIP

Braves re-sign Peter Moylan; Pirates claim Brandon Jones off waivers

In what has been a slow week of Braves news, Atlanta resigned righty groundball specialist Peter Moylan to a one-year, $1.5 million contract - avoiding salary arbitration.

With the signing, the Braves have no more remaining arbitration-eligible players.

The Pirates claimed former Braves OF Brandon Jones off waivers on Tuesday. Jones was designated for assignment to make room for Eric Hinske on the 40-man roster.

The Braves also seem to be hanging out in the periphery of Johnny Damon rumors, seemingly waiting to see just how far his asking price will drop before potentially making an offer.

Monday, January 18, 2010

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wednesday's Braves Buzz

Mark Bowman spent some time rationalizing the Braves' bean counting.

Fan Graphs looked at Atlanta's recent draft performance.

J.C. Bradbury weighed in on the Eric Hinske and Troy Glaus signings.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tuesday's Braves Buzz

The Troy Glaus signing was formally announced on Tuesday.

Aside from adding a pinch-hitter/fourth outfielder (Don't we have plenty of those already?), the Braves don't expect to make any more moves this off season. This would seem to kill speculation that the Braves might make a run at Johnny Damon if his asking price dropped.

Adrian Beltre, a player I thought might be a good fit for the Braves, signed with the Boston Red Sox.

Matt Swartz of Baseball Prospectus looked at how MLB teams assemble their rosters (subscription required). The Braves seemed to be among the best at balancing young, cheap talent with free agents.

Player Profile: Nate McLouth

It is no secret that the SABR community stood athwart the selection of Nate McLouth as the 2008 NL Rawlings Gold Glove recipient in center field. Several defensive metrics bore witness to McLouth’s futility that year, but no amount of data or reason prevented Gold Glove voters from deferring to their bias for players possessing that oh-so-valuable quality of ‘grittiness’. (Think Aaron Rowand and David Eckstein, or basically any white guy who appears to overachieve. A gritty player may also be identified by possessing large quantities of 'stick-to-it-iveness'.)

But then a curious thing happened. After struggling to hold his own in center as a Pittsburgh Pirate during 2007 and 2008, McLouth was a defensive asset in 2009. In fact, even though he experienced some regression from his career year at the plate in 2008 (.853 '08 OPS; .788 '09 OPS) McLouth was just as valuable in 2009 (3.5 '08 WAR, 3.6 '09 WAR) because he was a dramatically improved defender (-14.5 '08 UZR, 3.6 '09 UZR). And that’s including some DL time courtesy of a nagging hamstring injury.

Your initial reaction, like mine, may have been that McLouth probably benefitted from his mid-season change of venue from PNC Park to Turner Field. Maybe Turner Field was just easier to defend than PNC. But the numbers tell a different story. McLouth was markedly better while patrolling center at PNC Park than at Turner Field. According to RAA2, McLouth's defense was worth +8 runs above average with Pittsburgh but fell to -7 with Atlanta.

Now, a limitation of this information is that it is not segregated by park (i.e., home and away). But that shortcoming doesn’t make Nate McLouth’s defensive 2009 any less enigmatic, nor does it give us any better of an idea of what to expect from McLouth in 2009. If the 2007/08 version shows up, Melky Cabrera might prove a rather useful player for the Braves. Putting Melky in center and McLouth and right would save the Braves at least 10 runs in the field.

But if Nate McLouth did have some sort of breakthrough in center field last season, Melky Cabrera becomes even more useless than he initially appeared when he came to Atlanta as part of the Javier Vazquez payroll dump trade.

While we can’t ignore McLouth’s 2009 in the field, it’s more likely that we’ll see the old Nate McLouth than the +4.7 UZR/150 Nate McLouth. Playing CF isn’t something that gets easier to do as you get older, and lingering hamstring issues are never good for a player whose value is so heavily driven by his speed.

McLouth's bat is something more of a known quality - though the drop in power in 2009 makes you wonder if Nate has already passed his peak. A 5% uptick in his ground balls on balls in play drove the power dive while a slide in his contact rate (84% in '08, '80% in '09) drove a .020 BA decline.  Otherwise, McLouth's base skills remain stable.

This is what two major publications have projected for Mr. McLouth's 2010 season:

Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster: .260/.339/.429
Bill James Baseball Handbook: .263/.344/.449