It’s June and the Padres are 31–45; that means it’s the time of the year when mid-season prospect list start popping up. Last week Padres Prospectus, East Village Times, and Phillip unveiled lengthy and well-done Padres prospect lists, and somewhere in his east coast palatial estate David Marver is (apparently) working on a top 110 or something. I figured, what the heck, here’s mine.
(all stats through some point this weekend)
11. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, Single-A Fort Wayne
You might glance at Fernando Tatis Jr.’s numbers and wonder what all the fuss is about. Tatis is hitting “just” .260/.338/.430 in 296 plate appearances. He’s striking out 26.3 percent of the time and walking 9.5 percent of the time. He has 12 steals in 20 tries. There are two things here:
1. Once you adjust for age, those numbers are quite good. In the Midwest league there are only 11 18-year-old position players. Of them, only offensive wunderkind Vladimir Gurerro Jr. has a higher wRC+ than Tatis (146 to 116). Keibert Ruiz is tied with Tatis, but five of the others—including teammates Jack Suwinski, Hudson Potts, and Reinaldo Ilarraza—have figures of 80 or lower. Flip over to the South Atlantic League, the Midwest League’s east coast cousin, and it’s more of the same. There are only two 18-year-old position players there, and neither has a wRC+ better than 110.
Let’s face it, the bunt gets a bad rap these days, especially the sacrifice bunt. We’re in an era where some form of analytics plays a roll in every front office, and air-ball revolutionaries roam the dugouts; nobody on the periphery of either movement is espousing the virtues of the bunt. Shoot, there are multiple varieties of shirts available for anyone who wants to flaunt their anti-bunt lifestyle.
I’ll concede that the pure sacrifice bunt is often a bad play, the kind where you’re telegraphing the bunt early, where the defense is anticipating it, and where there’s little chance of anything good happening beyond moving a runner up a base in exchange for an out. When getting one run is super important, and maybe the batter isn’t so hot, this can be a good play. Often, though, both the run and win expectancy will drop if you pull off a “successful” sacrifice bunt in this scenario.
Take a look at Franchy Cordero‘s bunt from last night, though. To set the scene: the Padres are up one in the seventh, with Cory Spangenberg on first and one out. Forgetting the tank here, a run is important but not necessarily critical in the context of trying to win the game.
By now, you’ve seen the video. You’ve read all of the accounts. You’ve dissected the viral diagrams:
I’m not sure there’s a whole lot more to say on the issue of Anthony Rizzo‘s “slide” into Austin Hedges from Monday night, but the internet isn’t going to stop me from trying. So here are some disjointed thoughts.
That was a dirty slide. It’s obviously hard to determine whether Rizzo attempted to injure Hedges, but he clearly went out of his way to collide with him to presumably jar the ball loose. There’s a good chance that kind of collision, initiated by a 6-foot-3, 240-pound man, will injure the person on the receiving end, the one who’s standing still and not expecting the impact. So when Rizzo decided to leave the base path and not make a play toward home plate (i.e., to break the rules), he opted to do something with a good chance of injuring Hedges. Parse things all you want, Rizzo’s actions led directly to Hedges leaving the game. To make matters worse, both Rizzo and his manager, Joe Maddon, acted like jackasses after the game.
(By the way, I’m not saying Rizzo is a dirty player. No idea. He probably isn’t one, and it was a split-second decision in effort to help his team win a ball game. It was still a dirty play in the context of the rules and general sportsmanship.)
One of the hardest things about writing about a baseball team every day is trying to avoid looking like a fool. The easiest way to make yourself look like a fool is to get too excited—or too down—on a player with limited playing time. It’s easy to do, though. You see a hyped (or maybe under-hyped) prospect roll on to the big-league team and dominate in a couple of appearances, and you’re looking for something to write about. Before you know it you’re comparing him to Lance McCullers or something.
After Dinelson Lamet‘s first two starts, where he combined for 16 strikeouts and three walks in 10 innings, maybe I got a little too excited. The only thing worse than making yourself look like a fool once, however, is making yourself look like a fool twice. The easiest way to do this is to get too excited—or too down—on a player with limited playing time and then, after a few bad (or good) outings, to reverse course entirely. All of the sudden, you’re backpedaling away from this player as fast as you can. It’s a bad look, especially if the player turns out to be good, as you had originally envisioned, or even just okay, as you had maybe never considered.
The Padres started this week’s amateur draft with six straight high schoolers, highlighted by 6-foot-3 left hander MacKenzie Gore. Then, just when you thought you had them figured out, they reeled off nine straight college players, taking 25 of them in total from round six onward. Just for good measure, they added in some exciting high schoolers in between, like LSU commit Daniel Cabrera.
Are they going to be able to sign all of their picks inside the first 10 rounds? Is there going to be money left for someone like Cabrera or another late-round high schooler? These are questions you might have. We don’t have the answers, but let’s take a crack at it.
The last two columns are the slot value for that pick and my projected signing bonus, based on a super-secret formula (it’s just a guess, really).
Gore has Scott Boras in his corner, but the commitment to East Carolina probably never scared anyone. A lot of early picks sign for something under slot, just because the slots are so high. A player might not mind going under slot when he’s still getting a check for $5 or $6 million. Not saying Gore shouldn’t get full slot for being a kick-ass pitcher and bypassing three years of college, but my guess is that he settles for something closer to $6 million.
Hey, what’s going on here?
Counting his double last night, and the 26 extra-base hits he had in 48 games at Triple-A El Paso, Jose Pirela already has 32 extra-base hits this year in just 231 plate appearances. Back in 2014, between Triple-A and the majors, he accumulated only 45 extra-base hits in 606 plate appearances. Pirela slashed .331/.387/.635 this year while at El Paso, and he’s currently running a 280 wRC+ in limited big-league PAs.
Funny thing: Pirela never hit for consistent power in the minors. His highest ISO at a single stop was .155, and that came in half a season at Double-A way back in 2012. His career minor-league slash line, counting this year’s outburst, stands at a pedestrian .278/.342/.405. Not counting this year, he had never hit more than 10 home runs in a season.
So, really, what is going on here? Let’s run through some potential scenarios.
Last week, Nathan did a great job covering the potential candidates for the Padres third overall pick, including commentary on all five of the top consensus prospects, Hunter Greene, Kyle Wright, Brendan McKay, MacKenzie Gore, and Royce Lewis.
All of them sound pretty good to me, but given who’s likely to be there, I think I’m leaning toward Gore or Lewis. Anyway, if you’ve read Nathan’s post or anything from sites like Baseball America, then you have a pretty good handle on all of the obvious candidates. What’s going to happen in the rest of the Padres draft, though? Well, shoot, who knows, but here are some things to look for.
The First Pick Shocker
Actually, before we hit the rest of the draft, let’s consider the improbable: what if the Padres go outside that conventional top five with their first pick at no. 3? There’s nothing to indicate that it will happen, and usually teams at the top of the draft want top-of-the-draft talent. But the Padres have zagged before a time or two, so there’s always a non-zero chance. It’d likely be a maneuver to save some money early to go over slot at pick no. 39 or later on, but there’s also the possibility the Padres just like somebody better than the conventional names, depending on who’s on the board. Some potential candidates here are outfielder Heliot Ramos (more on him later), high school righty Shane Baz, or fast-rising junior college righty Nate Pearson.
Alright, here are some overall trends (and some specific players) to look for beyond the first pick.
Sometimes the Hangover hits you in the first inning.
Ryan Schimpf isn’t playing in tonight’s Padres game, not because he had a night off, or an injury, or because he got abducted by baseball-obsessed aliens. Schimpf isn’t playing tonight because the Padres willingly opted to send him to Triple-A El Paso.
Schimpf was hardly a known quantity after he left the Toronto Blue Jays organization after 2015, a career minor leaguer with good numbers but worse scouting reports, just holding onto big-league dreams. The Padres took a chance on him and, by the standards of these things, struck gold. A year and a half later, Schimpf’s shtick is well-documented.
The man hits the ball in the air with frightening frequency, he walks a lot, he strikes out a lot more, and he runs into his share of dingers. Schimpf’s slashing just .158/.284/.424 on the year, good for a 90 wRC+. Here’s the thing, though: that’s fourth on the Padres among qualified hitters, better than Manuel Margot, Austin Hedges, Yangervis Solarte, Erick Aybar, and Cory Spangenberg.
Throw in last year’s awesome production (a 129 wRC+ in 330 plate appearances) and Schimpf has an overall 115 wRC+. That’s five points better than Wil Myers‘ career mark. Say what you want about the nuances of advanced statistics, Schimpf’s been a good offensive player over his time in the majors. Schimpf rates even better by Baseball Prospectus’ measure of offense, True Average. At .276, he’s 14th out of 33 in the league among third baseman with at least 100 PAs this year, just two points behind fellow air-ball artist Joey Gallo. Schimpf’s career .301 TAv is 20 whole points better than Myers’.
It’s a little odd at this point, but every day or two I see someone in the Padres corner of the internet wondering if the Padres will, at some point this year, send Manuel Margot down to the minor leagues to manipulate his service-time clock. If Margot, who’s currently injured but inching closer to a return, spends a few weeks in the minors (rehab time not included), the Padres will gain an extra year of pre-free agency control over him. They’d have him through 2023 rather than 2022.
From purely a cold, hard business perspective, it makes sense. From every other perspective, it doesn’t.
First of all, it’s unclear that even the Padres would want to do this. They had the absolute perfect opportunity to do it, right out of spring training. Margot had a rough spring offensively, he was dealing with a couple of nagging injuries, and he was still just 21 and coming off a good but unspectacular year in Triple-A El Paso. Nobody would have questioned it, at least not too hard, if the Padres decided to send Margot back to El Paso for a few weeks, to get fully healthy and be in the best position to succeed against major-league pitching. In fact, it arguably would have been the smartest thing to do, and that’s before you even consider service time.
But they didn’t. They started Margot in the majors, signalling right then that a year of extra control more than a half decade away wasn’t a priority. In all likelihood, the Padres figured one of two things would happen: 1) that Margot would perform well, leading to a future contract extension that would make that extra year of control moot. (Sure, it’d be a little bit more expensive of an extension, without 2023 as an arbitration-eligible bargaining chip, but what’s a few million bucks to a big-league team?) Or 2) that Margot wouldn’t perform well, and that an extra year of control in his late-20s wouldn’t end up being something that anybody was all that concerned about losing.
MLB Farm, one of Daren Willman’s sites, has some pretty cool features. One of its coolest ones is the cumulative org stats page, which allows one to easily compare statistics from players across an entire farm system. Here are some eye-catching early stats—both good and bad—from the first couple months of 2017.
(stats through Tuesday’s games)
Michael Gettys: 34.4 percent strikeout percentage
Gettys has been on a role of late, popping home runs with good regularity and padding his slash line. Then again, he’s still striking out in bunches. On Monday and Tuesday of this week alone, he went 0-for-8 with six strikeouts and a walk. Even in his last 10 games, over which he’s crushed four home runs and hit .351, Gettys has struck out 16 times, no better than his seasonal rate. He’s just 21, but he’s also getting his second look at the hitter-friendly Cal League, and he’s actually striking out more frequently (by six percentage points) this year than he did last year at Lake Elsinore. Gettys is full of exciting tools, but the main sticking point with him will continue to be whether or not he can make enough contact to let those tools play at the big-league level.