Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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United States, Pennsylvania, Wexford, Christopher Wren, English, Michael, Male, 26-30, baseball , politics.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Minor Leaguers Week, Part IV: Adrian Cardenas 

Lots of stuff to talk about today … First a couple of thoughts on the MLB Draft coverage. I thought that ESPN did a nice job covering the draft. They definitely tried to make the process accessible to the viewers and attempt to convey the most information they could, in contrast to ESPN’s NFL Draft coverage, which focuses in on the players stories. With baseball being an information-laded sport, I like that and I thought that ESPN did a nice job. They are really trying to move the Draft from being an event for hardcore baseball junkies to making it accessible to the public. I’ll watch next year.

I guess that it figures that the Phillies were going to select a pitcher with their first-round draft pick. I like what I see about this Joe Savery kid. He seems to have good stuff and would fit in with the Phillies. It might be a little to hope that he’s the next Cole Hamels, but he certainly looks and sounds the part. His hopes of reaching the majors in the fall of 2008 is wildly optimistic, however. But I like that confidence.

The rest of the Phillies picks were all good – with their supplemental first-round pick the team took Travis D’Arnaud of Lakewood High School in California. D’Arnaud comes highly recommended by Baseball America for his skills as a defensive catcher. That’s good in a division where he might be seeing Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez for ¼ of the season.

Travis Mattair of Southridge High School in Washington was the Phillies second-round pick. He’ll be a good third baseman with some power at the plate. Right there, the Phillies addressed what I felt were their two major issues of focus – third base and catching.

In the third round the Phillies took Brandon Workman, a high school pitcher from Texas who has a good fastball and apparently stands six foot four. They also took Matthew Spencer, a slugging outfielder from Arizona State. In the fourth round, the Phillies selected Tyler Mach of Oklahoma State University, a slugging second baseman. Finally, in the fifth round the Phillies took Michael Taylor, an outfielder from Stanford who will likely develop himself into a power hitter.

Seems to be a definite flavor to the Phillies picks – Mattair, Spencer, Mach and Taylor all rate as power hitters. I noticed a trend towards speed and small-ball in the Phillies approach this season and worried a little about a philosophical shift in the team’s outlook, but I think we can safely say that the Phillies are committed to the long ball Thank goodness. Notice also that the Phillies three picks after they took Savery were high schoolers. Interesting.

Finally, I’d like to discuss the Phillies stunning three game sweep of the Mets last night, which moves them to within a game of the Braves and within five of the Mets. I think the series couldn’t have been more psychologically shattering to the Mets. Game two they were leading with two outs when Jimmy Rollins clocks the three-run home run to put the Phillies ahead to stay. Last night, with the Mets ahead 3-2, Pat Burrell quiets the naysayers with a huge solo shot off closer – and Phillies hater – Billy Wagner. If the Phillies can build on this success going into interleague play, which starts tonight against the Royals, that would be terrific, because you have to figure that the rest of the N.L. won’t fare well against their A.L. counterparts, so even if the Phillies struggle, they won’t lose too much ground.

Alright, let’s talk about Adrian Cardenas. Did you know that Adrian Cardenas will be a Phillie one day? One day … Opening Day 2010, Opening Day 2011 … You will see Adrian Cardenas standing at Citizens Bank Ballpark wearing the Red Pinstripes. This is as close to a fact, a scientific, discernable truth, as I can see. A player this good cannot be denied in his dream to become a big league ballplayer.

The Philadelphia Phillies took Adrian Cardenas in the first round of the 2006 MLB Draft with the thirty-seventh overall pick. The Monsignor High School graduate from Miami Lakes, Florida, was electrifying in his senior season of high school, becoming the Baseball America 2006 High School Player of the Year. He hit .647 (yes, that is a BATTING AVERAGE), with eighteen doubles and eighteen home runs to go with 65 RBIs. Cardenas was picked by the Phillies with their second first-round pick and sent to the team’s Rookie League affiliate in the Gulf Coast League (GCL).

Cardenas hit .318 (.384 OBP) in the GCL, stealing thirteen bases in sixteen tries and hitting four triples and two home runs. In the spacious parks of the GCL, Cardenas had a rare blend of speed with power at the plate. He was promoted in 2007 to Lakewood to play with the Blue Claws. Since Jason Donald is considered to be a superior shortstop prospect, Cardenas was moved to second base to make room for Donald.

Thus far in the South Atlantic League (SAL), Cardenas is hitting .268 (.317 OBP) with seven home runs, eight doubles and thirty-eight RBIs. Despite playing in a ballpark that is considered to be the worst for offense in the SAL, Cardenas has managed to put up good numbers for the Blue Claws.

The player that Cardenas reminds me of is Chase Utley. It is a little hard to compare Utley and Cardenas’ minor league stats because they haven’t played at similar junctions in their careers – Cardenas has played in Rookie League and Single-A ball, while Utley got started at Short-Season Single-A ball in Batavia in 2000, then advanced past Single-A to Advanced Single-A in Clearwater. Still, their slugging percentages and On-Base Percentages are nearly identical at both phases:

Cardenas (2006, GCL): .384
Utley (2000, Batavia): .383

You get the idea. Don’t be worried that the Phillies are going to deal Cardenas because they have a long-term deal set with Utley to play second base until the year 2013 or whatever it is. Cardenas is such a terrific athlete he could easily replace Jimmy Rollins at shortstop, or he could move into the outfield and play any position out there.

I hope, when the Phillies work out with Cardenas in Spring Training they get to know their young colleague quite well because he’ll be a big part of the team before they know it. Utley, Rollins, Howard … and Cardenas. This guy is a superstar in the making.

Have a nice weekend and I will talk to everyone on Monday.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Drafty Notes 

According to Jeff Passan at Yahoo! Sports, the Phillies are going to take Josh Smoker, a left-handed high school pitcher from Georgia. This team has enough pitchers ... Jim Salisbury from the Inquirer has a nice piece here about the Phillies and the draft. Looks like Phillies are leaning heavily towards a position player, but Salisbury notes that Smoker is on their radar.

Nice job by Jimmy Rollins stunning the Mets last night. Right when it looked like the Phillies were going to fritter away a chance to do some damage .... Now Cole Hamels can close up the sweep for the Phillies today.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Minor Leaguers Week, Part III: Draft Notes 

Back in April I was reading a piece in Sports Illustrated about the phenomenon the NFL Draft is. It is an odd spectacle, the author notes, a few hours of the Commissioner standing in front of a microphone reading off names while Mel Kiper Jr. explains to millions of fans why such-and-such a player they’ve never heard of will be a superstar (or not) in the NFL. It should be dull and boring and yet it is riveting television. Who will forget poor Brady Quinn sitting, all alone, in the Green Room as teams passed on him and he fell all of the way from being the first pick to being the 22nd in the 2007 draft? Hundreds of fans make the trip to New York City to yell and cheer their team on. The NFL Draft has become Must-See TV.

This year the MLB will televise the Draft on ESPN2. I’m not sure that it will be the success that the MLB thinks it might be. I think the NFL Draft is popular in part because the players that are drafted have an immediate impact. Vince Young stepped into the breach the Tennessee Titans had when they shipped Steve McNair to the Ravens and was the Offensive Rookie of the Year last season just one year removed from playing at the University of Texas. The players that the Phillies and the rest of the MLB select today aren’t going to have an impact until 2010 or 2011. Most of the High School players are going to be sent to affiliate teams in the Pioneer League, the Appalachian League, the Arizona Summer League and the Gulf Coast League. The Pioneer and Appalachian Leagues are Advanced Rookie Leagues that have some second year players. Meanwhile the college players are off to Short-Season Single-A leagues like New York – Penn League and the Northwest League.

In the case of the Phillies, the High Schoolers are off to beautiful Clearwater, Florida, to play with the Gulf Coast League (GCL) Phillies. The college players are on their way to Williamsport to play in the New York – Penn League (NYPL).

I think there are two other reasons why the MLB Draft won’t be as big a success as the NFL Draft: For one thing, people actually know who college players are. I saw Vince Young’s spectacular performances in the 2006 and 2007 Rose Bowls and knew who he was. Reggie Bush too … I can honestly say that I haven’t a clue who 99.99% of the players up to be drafted today are. I doubt I am alone.

Another problem I have with the draft is that there are too many rounds. The NFL Draft used to be twelve rounds, then it was reduced to seven. The players that are drafted in the NFL Draft are going to find their way onto the rosters of their teams no matter what. The players that are drafted in the MLB Draft are almost certainly not going to make it. Of the fifty or so picks that the Phillies have, maybe three or four or so will make the majors. How can you get excited about guys drafted in the low rounds who will almost certainly be bagging groceries in 2010 instead of playing outfield with the Phillies.

I hope that I am wrong, however, and that the Draft is a huge success. I’ll watch it later (god bless the man who invented the DVR) and see if I liked what I saw. The process teams embark on is, in and of itself, interesting. You are trying to build your team's future with a lot of guesswork. In terms of what teams do with their draft picks it is impossible to discuss draft strategy without referencing Moneyball. The 2003 book includes an extensive discussion of the Oakland A’s 2002 Draft where the team dramatically rejected the advice of their scouts and embraced stats-based analysis of prospects. The A’s also moved aggressively to draft college players as opposed to high schoolers on the theory that high school players were nearly impossible to analyze by their stats and were too risky as prospects compared with college players, which were seen as surer bets. E.g., of the eighteen high schoolers taken in the first round of the 2000 Draft, just six are in the majors today. There is a lot of difference between someone eighteen years old who has never lived away from home and a college player who is twenty-one and has lived on his own. Add in the fact that college players have been playing a higher level of talent for two, three or four years, and that makes the college player a better bet, say the Moneyballers.

Some teams have apparently followed the A’s philosophy, but since it appears that the pendulum has shifted since the publication of Moneyball. The Phillies two first-round picks in 2006 were both High Schoolers – Kyle Drabek and Adrian Cardenas – and both appear to be on their way to stardom in Philadelphia. High Schoolers are no longer verboten in the eyes of major league teams. Keith Law, a former member of the Toronto Blue Jays front office, believes that the 2007 MLB Draft will see between 17-19 High Schoolers go in round one. The bulk of the talent out there in 2007 lays in the realm of High School pitchers.

The Toronto Blue Jays hit the college players-only theory hard and selected a college player 93% of the time between 2004 and 2006. (See, Law's article on high school players vs. college players.) No other team was no obsessed with college talent. The Anaheim Angels, in contrast, took college players with just 8% of their picks. Most teams lay between these two extremes. The Phillies, with a 60%-40% split favoring college players, are pretty much in the middle. Even the Oakland A’s, a team legendarily allergic to high school players in the Moneyball era, spent a little over 1/3 of their picks – 35% – on high schoolers.

We’ll get to see the Phillies start selecting players when they take someone with the nineteenth overall pick. The Phillies also hold a supplemental first-round pick (37th overall) for losing David Dellucci to the Indians, along with a second-round pick (83rd overall), two third-rounders (107th and 113th, the former pick also being compensation for Dellucci's departure), a fourth-rounder (143rd) and a fifth (173rd) all on the first day of the draft. So what should we expect the Phillies to do tomorow and friday with their picks? I’ve talked about this a little in the past – the Phillies farm system right now is stocked with pitchers. Josh Outman. Carlos Carrasco. Matthew Maloney. J.A. Happ. Kyle Drabek. Andrew Carpenter. All top-flight prospects who will get a chance to pitch with the Phillies one day. The Phillies need pitchers like they need a hole in their head. This team needs position players.

After Adrian Cardenas and Jason Donald, this team has little talent in the farm system. Jeremy Slayden in Clearwater is a talent, but the team seems skeptical and Slayden has no hope to play the position the Phillies need the most help with – third base. Mike Costanzo in Reading is a third baseman, but I think his pro prospects are marginal. It seems pretty obvious that the Phillies two biggest needs in their farm system are for catcher and third base. Look for the Phillies to select a few with their picks tomorrow.

Ideally, I’d love to see the Phillies snare one of these three players:

Josh Vitters, Cypress High School (Calf.)
Matt Dominguez, Chatsworth High School (Calif.)
Mike Moustakes, Chatsworth High School (Calif.)

Vitters and Dominguez are third basemen, while Moustakes is a talented shortstop who could move over to third and play the hot corner. The Phillies have an outside shot at Dominguez falling to them at number nineteen, but it would be a surprise to see Vitters and/or Moustakes drop out of the top twelve or so.

Expect the Phillies to snare some pitchers along the way too. With so many good high school arms out there, there isn't a chance that the Phillies won't turn and select at least one or two pitchers on day one of the draft.

Tune into ESPN2 tomorrow at 2PM to see the 2007 MLB Draft. I’m insanely curious to see how it goes and what transpires. More on Friday.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Minor Leaguers Week, Part II: Jason Donald 

Terrible day yesterday for the Phillies. Just a 2-2 split in the series with the Giants, which is a little disheartening. They are still four back of the Braves and eight back of the Mets. If you are a pessimist, then I'd note that the Phillies are five and a half games out of the wildcard (currently held by the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres). Time to start setting our sights on that? Not so fast. There are over 100 games left to this season - specifically, 105 for the Phillies - so there is a ton of time. So calm down and take a deep breath naysayers. This season ain't over.

A little change in plans … I had intended to talk about the 2007 MLB Draft today, but instead I think that I’ll forego that until tomorrow or Thursday and talk a little about another somewhat unheralded prospect in the Phillies system, Jason Donald. Tomorrow or Thursday I’ll talk about my favorite Phillies prospect, Adrian Cardenas.

Donald, like fellow Lakewood Blue Claw Cardenas, was selected in the 2006 draft by the Phillies. Donald, a shortstop at the University of Arizona, was drafted in the third round (fourth overall pick) by the Phillies and was the ninety-seventh player picked in the 2006 Draft. Donald was just a Junior, so had actually could have returned to the Wildcats for a Senior season and possibly improved his draft position, but elected not to. He had previously been selected in the twentieth round of the draft in 2003 by the Anaheim Angels but elected not to sign for the offered $1.8 million dollars.

Signed by the Phillies promptly, Donald reported to the team’s Short-Season Single-A affiliate in Batavia, New York, to play with the Muckdogs, the Phillies old affiliate in the New York – Penn League (NYPL). In the NYPL, Donald played solid baseball, hitting .263 with a solid .347 OBP. Not much of a power threat – he hit one home run – Donald displayed a little speed in Batavia with twelve steals on thirteen tries and two triples. Donald’s performance rated him a promotion to Lakewood to play in the Single-A South Atlantic League (SAL).

In Lakewood Donald was joined by Adrian Cardenas, the highly touted prospect the Phillies took with their second first-round pick in the 2006 Draft (thirty-seventh overall). Cardenas was the 2006 Baseball America Player of the Year as a High Schooler in Florida. He also played shortstop, like Jason Donald. The team thought so highly of Donald’s skills that they made the move to make Adrian Cardenas into a second baseman.

Donald is currently hitting .317 in Lakewood, with a stellar OBP of .417. Despite playing in a defensively oriented ballpark, Donald has managed to hit four home runs this season.

The book on Donald is that he is an outstanding defensive player who needs to work more on his ability to hit. He seems likely to be a solid defensive shortstop and career number seven or eight hitter. I could very easily see Donald backing Jimmy Rollins up or even replacing him later in his career.

Tomorrow: the Draft or Adrian Cardenas.


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Monday, June 04, 2007

Minor Leaguers Week, Part I: Jeremy Slayden 

In honor of the MLB draft being held this Thursday on ESPN2, I thought that I might direct a little specific attention to the Phillies minor leaguers, players who will be making an impact on the team in the future. In the case of the players I’ll be talking about – Jeremy Slayden, Jason Donald and Adrian Cardenas – whatever impact they have on the Phillies won’t be felt until 2009 or 2010. The players the Phillies select Thursday, meanwhile, won’t have an impact on the team until 2010 or 2011 at least. But the seeds for future success are laid at the draft. We’ll talk a little more about that tomorrow, but today we start with Jeremy Slayden.

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
Gross Productive Average (GPA): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA. Invented by The Hardball Times Aaron Gleeman, GPA measures a players production by weighing his ability to get on base and hit with power. This is my preferred all-around stat.
Isolated Power (ISO): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
On-Base Percentage (OBP): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
Walks per plate appearance (BB/PA): BB / PA = .BB/PA Avg
Slugging Percentage (SLG): Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage. Power at the plate.

Jeremy Slayden was the Phillies eighth round pick in the 2005 Draft and the 247 th player, overall, to go. The Kentucky-born Georgia Tech Outfielder had previously been drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2001 (in the 20th round) and by the Oakland A’s in 2004 (in the 18th round). Slayden signed with the Phillies and reported to Batavia to play with the Muckdogs, the Phillies short-season Single-A affiliate at the time. The interest the A’s had in Slayden is not at all surprising in that he seemed on paper to be someone whom the A’s would find fit their governing philosophy – reliance on On-Base Percentage and the ability to slug the ball as opposed to speed and pure athletic ability. (See, pages 14-42 of Moneyball: "... we're not selling jeans here.") In his 2005 season at Georgia Tech, Slayden’s OBP was one hundred point higher than his batting average, and thirteen of his seventy hits were home runs.

Slayden went to Batavia in the late summer of 2005 and hit strongly, clubbing nine home runs in just 229 plate appearances. Slayden’s Isolated Power (ISO) was an impressive .196. Slayden’s slugging percentage was seventeenth in the New York-Penn League (NYPL), just two spots down from Mike Costanzo, the much ballyhooed second-round (but first overall) selection the Phillies had made in the draft. Costanzo had a terrific story – local boy drafted by the local team – but Slayden quietly put up better stats to Costanzo in Batavia:

Costanzo: .278
Slayden: .283

Costanzo got to skip Single-A ball and jump into Advance Single-A in Clearwater with the Threshers. Not Slayden. Slayden climbed the next rung in the ladder, joining the Single-A Lakewood Blue Claws in 2006.

On a team that lacked much offense and playing in one of the most pitching-friendly parks in the South Atlantic League (SAL), Slayden finished second in the SAL in slugging percentage at .517. He clubbed ten home runs and forty-four doubles at Lakewood, helping to spark the Blue Claws to the 2006 SAL title. Instead of a quick promotion as a reward for such a stunning season to Reading to join Costanzo, Slayden was jumped to Clearwater this season.

Playing on a team that plays in a pitching-dominated league, the Florida State League (FSL), Slayden continues to hit well. Despite playing in another park friendly to pitchers (Clearwater’s Bright House Networks Field ranks seventh of twelve FSL parks in terms of ease in hitting home runs), he is fourteenth in slugging percentage, at .461. Impressively, he has cultivated an ability to draw walks this season, raising his walks from .122 walks per plate appearance (BB/PA) in 2005 to .091 at Lakewood to .171 in Clearwater. His .414 OBP ranks him fifth in the FSL. Slayden’s .302 GPA this season is much better than the .267 that Costanzo hit in 2006. Slayden’s abilities got him named to the 2007 FSL All-Star Game (like Costanzo in 2006).

Slayden does have some speed – being a combined ten for ten in stolen bases in Lakewood and Clearwater is either a display of luck or some skill – but he is clearly a masher. He’s a walks-and-home runs (and sub-par defense) kind of player in the mold of the pre-2004 Oakland A’s. (Recently the A’s have emphasized fielding and speed a little more in their personnel decisions.) This is the kind of player than Billy Beane builds teams around.

Not surprisingly, scouts have been slow to appreciate Slayden’s skills, if they do at all. Top Prospect Alert doesn’t rank Slayden in their pre-season Top Ten or even their mid-season Top Ten. Baseball America pretty much dismisses Slayden’s pro prospects all together. Gregory Golson, an inconsistent hitting speedster who plays in the outfield with Slayden, is rated at a Top Ten prospect by both publications. Golson is an athlete scouts see as having tools and potential. Slayden is all-wrong as a ballplayer, although the stats back him up. The Phillies, seemingly one of the more sabremetric-friendly franchises in baseball, don’t particularly seem to be interested in Slayden’s development either. While Costanzo seems poised to make a run on the Phillies roster in 2008, Slayden seems fated to spending 2008 in Reading and then 2009 in Allentown. If he even gets a chance at playing outfield for the Phillies, Jeremy Slayden will have to wait until 2010 at the earliest.

Tomorrow we’ll talk a little about the 2007 MLB Draft, but I want people to keep players like Jeremy Slayden in mind. Guys like Slayden are unheralded and ignored by scouts, but they perform time-and-again on the field and deserve attention as great ball players. My prediction is that Jeremy Slayden will have a better baseball career than Mike Costanzo. Let’s see if it happens …


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