April 2013

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Phillies Designate Ezequiel Carrera For Assignment

The Phillies announced that they have designated Ezequiel Carrera for assignment.  The move will allow the Phillies to activate outfielder Delmon Young from the 15-day disabled list.

Carrera, 25, was claimed off of waivers from the Indians earlier this month.  The left-handed hitting outfielder has 129 big league games to his credit with a slash line of .249/.304/.337 across the last three seasons.  Carrera has also spent parts of the last three seasons at the Triple-A level where he has hit .286/.351/.372.



Hardest-Throwing 2014 Free Agents

Last offseason, the hardest-throwing free agent based on 2012 velocity data from FanGraphs was reliever Brandon League.  With an average fastball velocity of 95.2 miles per hour, League signed what most considered an above-market three-year, $22.5MM deal with the Dodgers that also has a vesting option for 2016 based on games finished.  League was followed by free agent relievers Matt Lindstrom (94.8), Jonathan Broxton (94.7), and Mark Lowe (93.9).  As you might expect, flame-throwing free agent starters were harder to come by.  Edwin Jackson (93.5), Francisco Liriano (93.0), and Jeremy Guthrie (92.8) led that group.  Which 2014 free agents can boast of the best velocity so far this season?

Relievers

  1. Joel Hanrahan - 96.9
  2. Fernando Rodney - 95.6
  3. Matt Lindstrom - 94.5 (club option)
  4. Jesse Crain - 94.3
  5. Joba Chamberlain - 94.0
  6. Matt Thornton - 93.8 (club option)
  7. Boone Logan - 93.3
  8. Matt Albers - 93.1
  9. Grant Balfour - 93.0
  10. Jose Valverde - 92.9

Starters

    1.  Josh Johnson - 92.6
    2.  A.J. Burnett - 92.4
    3.  Jason Hammel and Edinson Volquez - 92.3
    5.  Phil Hughes - 92.0
    6.  Ervin Santana - 91.7
    7.  Gavin Floyd - 91.5
    8.  Mike Pelfrey - 91.3
    9.  Scott Kazmir - 91.2
  10.  Ubaldo Jimenez - 91.2

Average velocity for all qualified starting pitchers this year is 90.4 miles per hour, exactly what you'll find from 2014 free agent Hiroki Kuroda.


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Quick Hits: Phillies, Angels, Napoli

Yesterday morning, Tim Dierkes asked MLBTR readers to choose the best GM in baseball, and over 26,000 people voted. With the Athletics' Billy Beane in the lead with over 3,600 votes, several executives have failed to pass the century mark in total votes: the Marlins' Larry Beinfest (70 votes); the Padres' Josh Byrnes (84); and the Rockies' Bill Geivett (41).  A few random links for the morning: 

  • Yesterday, Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan broke down the latest on baseball's ongoing TV deal saga. He writes that the Phillies are looking good to become the latest team to benefit from a bidding war. Passan predicts that the Phils will ultimately get a $4-5 billion deal, allowing the team to keep its top-level payroll. 
  • The Angels are prepared to try to restore their major presence in Latin America with the opening of their new facility in the Dominican Republic, according to MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez. Gonzalez explains that the team will likely ramp up its international spending as it looks to get back to its prior track record in Latin America, which includes players like Erick Aybar, Kendrys Morales, Francisco Rodriguez, and Ervin Santana.
  • Speaking to WEEI's Alex Speier, Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli recounted his trade to the Blue Jays in January 2011.  Napoli cut short a cruise in Mexico due to the Jays' urgency for him to take a physical, and then found it odd when no one from the team's front office welcomed him.  He was traded to the Rangers a few days later.  
  • Padres pitchers Edinson Volquez and Clayton Richard "could become prime trade candidates" when Cory Luebke and Joe Wieland return from Tommy John surgery, opines Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, assuming the veterans start pitching better.  It's been a strange April for Volquez, whose strikeouts and walks are both down significantly.  Richard, always a pitch-to-contact type, has seen his control abandon him and almost a quarter of his flyballs leave the yard.



Free Agent Stock Watch: Rising Starting Pitchers

Josh Johnson, Matt Garza, Tim Lincecum, and Roy Halladay were part of our most recent Free Agent Power Rankings, but here's a look at starting pitchers who had good Aprils but didn't make the cut for that list.

  • Ervin Santana.  Santana, 30, is showing the best control of his career with the Royals so far.  He probably won't continue to strand 90% of his baserunners, but perhaps this will be his best season since his All-Star '08 campaign.
  • Hiroki Kuroda.  The 38-year-old elected to take a one-year, $15MM deal with the Yankees in lieu of multiyear offers.  After five starts, he's replicated last year's success but with a lower batting average on balls in play and home run per flyball rate.  We don't know what Kuroda's next move will be, but he's shown a willingness to leave some money on the table for the right situation.
  • A.J. Burnett.  Burnett's Pirates success has continued, as he leads the NL in strikeout rate.  However, walks are up and groundballs down a bit.  The 36-year-old could retire after the season, but otherwise prefers staying in Pittsburgh.  
  • Jorge De La Rosa.  After having Tommy John surgery in June 2011 and making only three big league starts last year, De La Rosa exercised his $11MM player option.  His pre-surgery strikeout rate has yet to return, but he has managed a 2.86 ERA.
  • Paul Maholm.  With one ugly outing against the Tigers last time out, Maholm's ERA jumped from 1.03 to 3.30.  If strikeouts remain up he could still have his best season, as he's shown the ability to get groundballs and limit walks at various points.
  • Bartolo Colon.  Colon has walked one batter in 32 innings this year, the best rate in the American League.  The 39-year-old earned a 50-game suspension for testosterone last summer.
  • Jason Hammel.  Hammel's sub-4.00 ERA is nice, but last year's big strikeout and groundball rates have vanished.  If he maintains his current peripherals, Hammel projects as a 5.00 ERA guy, so something needs to change.
  • Ricky Nolasco.  It's a similar story for Nolasco, who at least for once has an ERA better than his peripherals would suggest.
  • Andy Pettitte.  The 40-year-old stumbled yesterday against the Astros, but he's doing a lot of things right and it should be another strong season if he stays healthy.  There's an assumption that Pettitte will either return to the Yankees or retire again.
  • Roberto Hernandez.  His 5.28 ERA isn't much to look at, but Hernandez's 3.41 SIERA is a better measure of his skills so far.  I don't think 24% of his flyballs will continue to leave the yard, and he's flashing a nice strikeout rate, so Hernandez is one to watch.
  • Phil Hughes.  Hughes' ERA still sits at 4.67, but he's made three consecutive quality starts and has the seventh-best K/BB ratio in the American League.  Home runs will remain a problem.  At just 27 in June, Hughes will be one of the younger free agents out there.  



Twins Notes: Liriano, Scouting, Pelfrey, Wood

Twins general manager Terry Ryan spoke with Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN recently and told Mackey that he's not yet ready to pat himself on the back for last season's Francisco Liriano trade. Mackey opines that the Twins look like clear winners already, noting that the White Sox paid $2MM for lackluster results from Liriano, who didn't even re-sign with the team. In exchange, Minnesota has a serviceable utility infielder in Eduardo Escobar and a 23-year-old lefty in Pedro Hernandez who already has four solid MLB outings under his belt for the Twins. Mackey notes what a breath of fresh air a good trade is after recent missteps including the Johan Santana trade, the Wilson Ramos trade and the J.J. Hardy-for-Jim Hoey swap. Here are more highlights from Mackey's excellent piece...

  • Ryan told Mackey that he's embracing statistical analysis far more in his second run as the team's GM than his first. Ryan consults with Twins' stat guru Jack Goin on every personnel decision, but Mackey notes that "...Ryan's background is still firmly entrenched in traditional scouting."
  • When asked by Mackey if he could form opinions on 18 college players he'd never seen after attending just one college game, Ryan replied: "That's what you're supposed to do, and if you go into that college game and you can't do that then you need to get out of the business, because you're paid to evaluate and make a decision."
  • Ryan feels that lack of command, not lack of stuff, has been the reason for Mike Pelfrey's early struggles in his first season with the Twins. Pelfrey is still less than one year removed from Tommy John surgery. Ryan isn't surprised by the early problems and feels that Pelfrey "will be fine" in the long run, which implies to yours truly that Pelfrey will have a fairly long leash.
  • The Twins have two weeks to make a decision on right-hander Tim Wood, whom they signed to a Major League contract this offseason following his dominant season for the Pirates' Triple-A affiliate in 2012. Mackey reports that Wood's stuff has looked good but notes that the Twins will have to expose him to waivers if he's not on the 25-man roster at the end of his 30-day rehab window because he is out of options.
  • Minnesota "flirted pretty heavily" with Joe Blanton this winter, but it looks like they dodged a bullet when Blanton picked the Angels instead. Mackey notes that Blanton has allowed as many homers (nine) as the entire Twins rotation combined.
  • The Twins will be cautious with how quickly they promote top prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, as the organization wants to see how they fare when facing pitchers in their respective leagues for a second time. Mackey adds that Sano -- Baseball America's No. 9 overall prospect -- doesn't have to be added to the 40-man roster until after the 2014 season.



White Sox Acquire Casper Wells

The White Sox have acquired Casper Wells from the Athletics in exchange for cash considerations, both teams have announced via press release. In order to clear room on the 40-man roster, the White Sox placed left-hander Leyson Septimo back on the 60-day disabled list.

Wells, 28, has garnered quite a bit of media attention due to the constant fluctuation of his roster status this month. After being designated for assignment by the Mariners at the end of Spring Training, he was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays ten days later. Following a short stint with Toronto during which he did not appear in a game, he was designated once again, this time being traded to the A's.

Wells' Oakland tenure wasn't much more noteworthy, as he received five plate appearances before being designated for assignment yet again. Casey Pratt of CSN Bay Area tweets that the A's promised Wells they'd try to work something out quickly following his most recent DFA, and they look to have honored that pledge.

Wells is capable of playing all three outfield positions and has posted a strong .264/.349/.489 batting line versus left-handed pitching in his career.  Last season with the Mariners, he hit .228/.302/.396 in 316 plate appearances.



Garcia To Remain In Orioles Organization

Right-hander Freddy Garcia has informed the Orioles that he will remain with the organization through May 14, according to Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun (on Twitter). The 36-year-old right-hander had a clause in his minor league contract that would have allowed him to opt out following his most recent start.

Garcia has been sharp through five starts for Triple-A Norfolk this season, pitching to a 2.67 ERA with 21 strikeouts against two walks through 33 2/3 innings. He has 344 Major League starts to his credit, totaling a 4.15 ERA, 6.5 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. Garcia was a candidate to make a spot start for the Orioles last week, but that opportunity was given to Josh Stinson, who struggled mightily against the Blue Jays.

Prior to the season, Buck Showalter said the team planned to give Garcia five or six minor league starts before deciding how to use him. Presumably, if Garcia were to opt out of his deal on the new date, he'd draw interest from other teams given his experience and strong 2013 results.



Quick Hits: Blue Jays, Rangers, Yankees, Brewers, Upton

Here are a few notes from around baseball:

  • The Blue Jays are already looking at an uphill battle to achieve a postseason berth, so much so that Dave Cameron of Fangraphs says it is not too early to wonder whether they will be trade deadline sellers. In particular, Cameron notes that the team may be forced to consider dealing soon-to-be free agent starter Josh Johnson. He adds in an audio chat, however, that there is little likelihood that a hypothetical Johnson trade would happen before mid-June. Cameron expanded upon the article in the chat, including discussion of the way that baseball's current rule system will continue to impact teams' trade incentives (beginning at around the 8:57 mark). 
  • The Rangers have used thirteen pitchers this season, ten of whom have never appeared in another MLB uniform, notes T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. Team CEO Nolan Ryan explains: "What you're seeing is a philosophy of pitching in our system and we've stayed the course and we are committed to developing pitching within our system." The current and future flow of pitching talent has enabled the team to pursue top line free agents like Zack Greinke without feeling compelled to overpay.
  • With their solid start coming in spite of bad health, the Yankees could continue to tinker with their roster, writes Mike Axisa of River Avenue Blues. In particular, Axisa says players like Casper Wells, Chris Nelson, and Humberto Quintero could all be easy ways to make small, but still-important upgrades. 
  • The Brewers are hoping to acquire a corner infielder/outfielder in the mold of Mark Kotsay, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. In 2011, Kotsay played in 104 games for the Brewers at all three outfield spots as well as first base.
  • Neither the Braves nor Diamondbacks will end up as the loser of the deal that sent Justin Upton to Atlanta, Tracy Ringolsby of MLB.com opined last week. Ringolsby says that Upton needed a change of scenery to an environment where he did not have to be "The Guy." With the Braves able to fully realize Upton's value, says Ringolsby, the Diamondbacks in turn were able to open playing time for other outfielders (specifically, Adam Eaton and Gerardo Parra) while impacting the team's clubhouse and building farm depth.



Aaron Laffey Elects Free Agency

Southpaw Aaron Laffey has elected free agency in lieu of an outright assignment from the Blue Jays, according to a team press release.  The 28-year-old has been designated for assignment by the Mets and Jays this month, appearing in five big league games.

Laffey, whose 487 career innings rank 37th among those born in Maryland, tossed 100 2/3 Major League innings for Toronto last year while making 16 starts.  He joins a free agent market for starting pitchers that also includes Dallas Braden, Dustin Moseley, Jamie Moyer, Roy Oswalt, Carl Pavano, Randy Wolf, and Carlos Zambrano.



Miguel Sano Joins Beverly Hills Sports Council

Twins prospect Miguel Sano has new representation, MLBTR has learned.  The 19-year-old third baseman, currently playing at High-A, is now represented by Beverly Hills Sports Council.  For all of MLBTR's agency information, please check out our database.

Sano is one of the best prospects in baseball, ranking 11th on Keith Law's top 100 list for ESPN, ninth on Baseball America's list, and 12th on MLB.com's list.  One of the subjects of the documentary "Pelotero," Sano "has some of the easiest power in the minors," according to Law.

Beverly Hills Sports Council can be followed on Twitter here, and Sano can be followed here.









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