Westwood Blues

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

So Much to Hype, So Little Bandwidth

Respected prospect guru Bryan Smith has released his Top 100 Prospect List. Of note for SF fans is the Giants only big time prospect, Matt Cain, who comes in at...number 11. Here are Bryan's comments:
"All things considered, Matt Cain is as polished a 20-year-old as there is in baseball. But there is a reason that he stands behind Chad Billingsley and Adam Miller: upside. Don’t get me wrong, Matt has considerable upside. Actually, the fourth-most of any pitcher in the Majors. But, after seeing the K/9 decline when moving to the Eastern League, I don’t have quite as much confidence as I do Chad and Adam. Also concerning was his rise in W/9, since a 4.00 number will not sustain future success. But we see this kind of performance out of a lot of people when moving up to AA, and I expect him to return to old levels next year. The Giants have gotten nearly as much out of Jerome Williams and Jesse Foppert as they would have thought, and this speaks quite poorly for Cain’s future, but he still has the potential to dominate at any moment. I love Matt, and given SBC Park, he could be putting up big numbers for a big number of years."
Well, whether Cain is the fourth best pitching prospect in baseball or the second best is really a matter of splitting hairs, at least as far as what we're concerned about here. The larger point is what's important -- Matt Cain is not only the Giants best pitching prospect, he is one of the elite pitching prospects in all of baseball.

Rather than simply posting his outstanding numbers in the minors from 2004, let's focus on what is quite possibly the most important number of all: 19. 19 year-olds who pitch well in AA aren't exactly a dime a dozen. Matt Cain is a keeper.

I expect the Giants to continue to be agressive with Cain, although Matt still needs a little more polish and could use some work on his changeup. One last thing -- Ned Colletti hinted that Cain could be called up to The Show in 2005 if everything goes well this season for the Giants blue chip prospect.

On a semi-related note, I read with great interest that a couple of bloggers were paid by the Howard Dean campaign to hype the Governor's candidacy on their respective blogs. Wow, that was an unbelievably awkward segue. What was I talking about? Oh yeah: me. So, Mr. Magowan -- can I have a job? I'll turn this site into a one-stop Giants prospect hyping machine. I've got the lingo down -- upside! plus fastball! raw power! You've heard of a five tool player? After a prospect goes through the Westwood Blues hype machine, he'll be a six tool player! Next thing you know, the Giants will be trading Chris Begg for Hank Blalock.

Hell, I got no fewer than one e-mail after I hyped Phillies catching prospect Kevin Oudeis, and he doesn't even exist!

Ok, all kidding aside, Matt Cain really is an elite prospect. Pray that he stays healthy.

Around the Blogosphere

Congrats to Grant, formerly of Waiting for Boof, on his new digs at Sons of Terry Kennedy McCovey Chronicles. Snark, served daily. I love it!

Also, I've added Orange and Black Baseball, Giants Cove, and Biased Giants Fanatic to the sidebar links. I think I've got all the bases covered as far as Giants blogs go, but if I'm missing something let me know.


Monday, January 17, 2005

Pedro Feliz Has a Posse

Which one of these stories is more believable?:

1) Armed with a samurai sword and a metal pipe, Pedro Feliz' agents broke into Brian Sabean's office, held Sabes at sword point, bound his hands with duct tape, and forced Sabes to agree to sign Pedro Feliz to a two year contract worth $6.1MM.

2) Armed with a samurai sword and a metal pipe, two perpetrators climbed through a drive through window at a McDonalds, held employees at sword point, bound their hands with duct tape and stole an undisclosed amount of cash.

One of these stories actually happened. Given the ridiculousness of Pedro Feliz' new contract, I was at least tempted to guess #1.

Silliness aside, the first year of Pedro Feliz' contract really isn't that out of line. Prior to the signing, I had Feliz penciled in for a salary of about $2.5MM. Including signing bonus, Feliz will make a base salary of $2.445MM in 2005, although he can earn an additional $450k based on plate appearances. Not too bad, all things considered.

As for the following year, I'll just paraphrase Brian Sabean by saying that "2006 will take care of itself." Feliz will have a base salary of at least $3.625MM, and could potentially earn another $450k if he reaches certain plate appearance thresholds. But rather than complaining further about another overpriced contract, I thought I'd take some time to complain about something else. From AP:
"Giants general manager Brian Sabean and manager Felipe Alou are committed to trying to find a starting spot for Feliz this year. They believe he's ready to be an everyday player."
What is with the Giants obsession with giving Pedro Feliz as many PAs as possible? Seemingly every press mention of Feliz over the last couple of years has been accompanied by a quote from a member of the Giants braintrust saying that Feliz needs more ABs.

But why do the Giants have this goal of maximizing Pedro's plate appearances?

For 2005, ZiPS projects Feliz to post an OBP of .303 with a .476 SLG. Corner infielders who have a decent amount of pop in their bat but never walk are a dime a dozen. The Giants should be content that they have a platoon 1B/bench player with Pedro's skillset and leave it at that. There's no reason to force Feliz into the starting lineup if he is not a clear upgrade over Snow or Fonzie.

The bottom line on this deal is that the Giants have officially gone from merely hyping Pedro Feliz as a starter to actually paying him as if he were a starter. So, can a starting job itself be far behind?


Sunday, January 09, 2005

Hot Stove, Cold Bats

Let's check in with the Giants farmhands to see how they're doing in winterball. Disclaimer: for all intents and purposes, winterball/fall league stats are meaningless.

* Tony Torcato -- .315/.396/.506

One of the important lessons of Moneyball is that one should focus on what a baseball player can do rather than what he can't do. So, for just a brief moment, let's look past the fact that Torcato never walks, has zero power (his winterball numbers not withstanding), and can't play defense. Torcato can rake. He can rake singles that is. And he's left-handed too.

I see Torcato as a poor man's Lenny Harris, if such a frightening creature could possibly exist. Torcato is probably good for something like .280/.300/.350 at the major league level. He can get a pinch hit single when needed but he really can't do anything else.

Ned Colletti was quoted on his KNBR show as saying that Torcato has a "great chance to make the club." Torcato is out of options, so if he doesn't make the team out of spring training, he'll have to clear waivers to stay with the Giants organization.

* Todd Linden -- .229/.297/.398, 29 Ks, 83 ABs

Yikes! Take a deep breath. Now count to ten. Take another deep breath. Repeat after me "winterball numbers are meaningless."

I'm one of the biggest Todd Linden fans that you'll find, but even I can't characterize Linden's 2004 as anything other than a disapointment. Doing me best to stay positive, I'll note that Linden's power numbers improved late in the season.

I should be just about ready to give up on Linden, but I can't let rational thinking get in the way of fanboydom. I'll give him another month before I start printing up some snazzy Nate Schierholtz fan club membership cards.

* Jason Ellison -- .157/don't ask/run away!

Rinse, lather, repeat. I've never been really high on Ellison. At age 27, he's a bit too old to be considered a prospect. More importantly, his stats just aren't very good. With Fresno he posted a MlEqA of just .226. Ellison's numbers in the winter league were apparently so bad that he was actually sent home.

On the brightside, scouts rave about Ellison's defense. I wouldn't be completely opposed to Ellison making the team as a late inning defensive replacement/pinch runner, although I'd prefer a late inning defensive replacement who also has a .394 OBP (I'm never going to let this go).

Ellison can play all three outfield positions, but, unfortunately for the Giants and their elderly starting outfield, Ellison can't play all three outfield positions at the same time.

* Edgardo Alfonzo -- .348/.384/.522

The big news for the baby of the starting lineup is that Fonzie has allegedly dropped about 20 pounds this winter. Now, if he can just get that concrete armoire surgically removed from his back, he'll be fine.

* Jesse Foppert -- 6.08 ERA in 23.6 IP

The Giants are still waiting for Foppert's velocity to return to 2002 levels. When he pitched at Dodger Stadium on the final day of the season, I paid particularly close attention to his velocity. He topped out at 91 on the stadium gun, but was mostly 88-90 with his fastball.

I suspect that he'll start the year at Fresno and will be one of the first lines of defense when a starter gets injured.

* Yorvit Torrealba -- .217/.278/.326

I know we should take winterball numbers with a grain of salt, but you may have to take these numbers with a tab of acid to make them look attractive. The scary part -- Yorvit is easily the best hitting catcher in the Giants organization.

* El Magico -- 3.91 ERA, 21 Ks, 25.3 IP

Valdez figures to start the year in AA. The Giants would be wise to keep him in the minors and not rush him to the majors until he's ready. Oops.

News and Notes

...The Lunatic Fringe store is hawking some new threads. Make sure to buy your jerseys before MLB sues our friends at Cafepress for copyright infringement...
...Baseball America has a great roundtable discussion on the war of ideas between traditional subjective scouting and statistical-based player evaluation. The featured guests are Cubs assistant GM Gary Hughes, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim scouting director Eddie Bane, Red Sox consultant Aaron Sele Voros McCracken, and internet stathead sage Gary Huckabay.