Baseball Prospectus Rumors

NL Central Notes: Cards, Taillon, Stephenson

The Cardinals‘ recent firing of scouting director Chris Correa in the wake of the organization’s hacking scandal is part of a broader problem of “brain-drain,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bernie Miklasz writes. A number of top front-office minds left the Cardinals joined Jeff Luhnow in heading to Houston several years ago, and Correa himself replaced Dan Kantrovitz, who left the Cardinals following the 2014 to rejoin the Athletics organization. The investigation into the hacking scandal continues, so the Cardinals might have to withstand other front office departures. Team chairman Bill DeWitt is in a tough position — he’ll surely want to keep what’s left of his front office mostly intact, but if he doesn’t continue punishing any other hacking offenders, he’ll be seen as “soft on baseball crime,” as Miklasz puts it. Here’s more from the NL Central.

  • Pirates starting pitching prospect Jameson Taillon will have surgery next week to fix an inguinal hernia, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Travis Sawchik tweets. Taillon will miss two months, so the injury is likely to end his season. He had already missed the entire 2014 season after having Tommy John surgery and had not pitched in 2015, so he will effectively miss two years of development. Taillon was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft, and his talent remains significant, but his injury problems appear to be denting his prospect status.
  • The Reds promoted top prospect Robert Stephenson to Triple-A Louisville, where he debuted Friday night, as MiLB.com’s Daren Smith notes. Stephenson pitched well for Double-A Pensacola, with a 3.68 ERA and 10.2 K/9 in 78 2/3 innings, although he walked 4.9 batters per nine. MLB.com currently rates Stephenson the Reds’ best prospect and the 18th-best prospect in baseball, praising his fastball (which can reach into the upper 90s) and excellent curveball. (Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America largely agreed on Stephenson’s place in baseball’s prospect hierarchy, ranking him 16th and 23rd, respectively, heading into the season.) At Louisville, he’ll likely need to continue working on his control. “There have been a couple things we’ve been working on, but the big problem was that I was nitpicking too much and being too fine with my pitches,” says Stephenson. “The other thing was that I was rushing it a little bit, and when I sped up my tempo, I wasn’t able to repeat my motion and throw strikes. When I slow it down, I’m able to repeat my arm slot every time.”

Amateur Notes: Gourriel Brothers, Martinez, Draft

We’ve had a lot of news of players leaving Cuba of late, but two of the country’s most prominent names — brothers Yulieski and Lourdes Gourriel, rated first and fourth among the island’s players as big league prospects — have thus far not made any public moves towards the big leagues. As Ben Badler of Baseball America explains, however, both players are now set to miss the Cuban national team’s upcoming appearance in the Pan American Games. The younger of the two, Lourdes, was surprisingly left off the original roster, while Yulieski (the country’s biggest star) is said to have taken himself out of the tournament — after both recently seemed to have passed on chances to earn significant money playing in Japan. For now, it’s entirely unclear whether there is any movement afoot for the brothers to come stateside, but Badler notes that MLB clubs are watching with keen interest.

Here are some more amateur notes as we enter the final weekend before the draft:

  • As he prepares to join the professional ranks after being declared a free agent, Cuban outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez has moved into the top spot on MLB.com’s international prospect list, as MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez writes. It’s unclear as yet whether Martinez will sign in this period or the new one beginning July 2, but he’ll have to put pen to paper in short order if he’s to head to the Yankees or Angels. Those two clubs will be unable to spend more than $300K after this July 2 class closes, and they are among the teams who Sanchez lists with interest. The CubsBlue JaysNationalsRockiesTigersDodgers, and Giants have also reached out to Martinez’s camp, per the report. “I’m working hard to get to my goal to play in the Major Leagues, ” says the 20-year-old. “That’s what I have always wanted to do.”
  • The makeup of the amateur draft has changed over time, as Ben Lindbergh of Grantland explains. Mocking the draft is a more-or-less hopeless endeavor, says Lindbergh, but some trends have emerged. For one thing, the number of pitchers has continued to rise rather significantly. While this year’s class lacks premium talent, Christopher Crawford of Baseball Prospectus tells Lindbergh, some teams — the Rangers (who have the fourth overall pick) chief among them, based on their recent history — could well continue to stockpile arms. The Diamondbacks, who of course sit at first overall, have leaned toward position players recently, although they have an entirely new front office installed this time around. Meanwhile, the percentage of high school players taken has plummeted in the long run, but has jumped more recently. In particular, says Lindbergh, the Red Sox and Blue Jays have moved toward heavy drafting of prep players, who of course represent generally riskier but (in some cases) higher-upside investments. The Nationals have skewed most heavily toward college players — the spread is rather amazingly wide — though that could be due in part to draft circumstances. There are plenty more details in the piece, and I highly recommend a read to prepare for the coming draft.
  • Bonus allocations (which come with the penalty of stark limitations in future drafts) have had a marked impact on clubs’ total outlay on draft-eligible talent, argues Ronald Blum of the Associated Press (via the Denver Post). Draft spending has remained flat over the last three years, with Blum calculating that an analogous increase of total cash commitments to that observed in free agency — which was often the case prior to the new rules — might have delivered an additional $100MM to amateur players over that span. This area is obviously full of complicated questions, including considerations of an international draft, and it’s extremely difficult to identify clear-cut solutions. The piece is full of interesting quotes from notable figures around the game, and is well worth a full read.

Odds and Ends: Pokey, Lowe, Boss

Before you fire up the grill, check out these links.



Baseball Prospectus Projects The Standings

Always interesting when Baseball Prospectus uses their PECOTA system to project the standings.  Click here to take a look, and consider subscribing if you haven’t.

PECOTA sees the Yankees winning the AL East and the Angels taking the AL West.  They have the Indians and Tigers playing a tiebreaker for the AL Central and the Red Sox as the league’s wild card entry.

As for the NL, the Mets take the East.  The Cubs win the Central, while the D’Backs and Dodgers tie for the West.  The wild card would be the Brewers.  BP’s Nate Silver discusses the standings a bit more here.


Tim On Baseball Prospectus Radio

Will Carroll and I recently chatted it up on Baseball Prospectus radio.  As you might imagine, we talked hot stove and things of that nature.  You can get the mp3 here.

Click here to download previous editions of BP Radio.