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.
Over his first two starts with the Padres, Dinelson Lamet did a lot of things well. One of them was getting ahead of hitters early, which put him in good situations and eventually allowed him to finish off at-bats with overpowering stuff.
No matter a pitcher’s velocity or stuff, it’s important to get ahead in the count. Hitters simply aren’t nearly as dangerous when the count isn’t in their favor, yet they can square up any velocity ahead 2-0. After a 1-0 count, for instance, major-league hitters are OPS-ing .838 this year. When it starts 0-1, on the other hand, they’ve got a paltry OPS of .620. That’s 200-plus OPS points just in getting strike one over. There’s an even bigger gap—some 332 OPS points—between 2-1 and 1-2, in part because hitters can only strike out when there are two strikes.
Anyway, it’s really important for a pitcher to get ahead, which isn’t exactly breaking news.
Here’s a comparison of the percentage of times Lamet was ahead in the count after the third pitch of an at-bat in each of his first three starts (I counted at-bats that ended on the third pitch if the count was a 0-2 or 2-0):
5/25 vs. Mets: 71 percent
5/30 vs. Cubs: 55 percent
6/6 vs. D’backs: 24 percent
The Wil Myers three-team trade still gets debated on twitter near daily, so raise your hand if you’ve been involved in, or sucked into, a debate involving the relative merits of Myers, Trea Turner, and Joe Ross. (*shyly raises hand*) There were like 52 other players involved in that deal (okay, seven, to be exact) who don’t get as much pub, and two of the most interesting ones went to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Steven Souza, who went from Washington to Tampa Bay, was a projection system darling at the time of the trade, with PECOTA being most bullish on him. Souza initially failed to live up to that hype, providing exactly league average offense from a corner outfield spot over his first two years in Florida. This year, however, Souza’s unearthed what the projections system liked, hitting .266/.374/.484 with 10 homers in 228 plate appearances. A third of a season doesn’t make a career, but it looks like Souza might still become a valuable everyday piece for the Rays.
The other interesting guy—and the subject of this article—is Jake Bauers, who went from the Padres to the Rays. Here are 24 reasons to like Bauers.
Reason No. 1: The scouts like him. This is super obvious and everything, but it’s not like Bauers is ignored in scouting circles. All of the prospects sites—be it Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs, etc.—like Bauers, which is a good proxy for how scouts evaluate him. All of them talk about Bauers as a good, polished left-handed hitter with plus defense at first and good speed for a first baseman. The 2017 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, specifically, notes that Bauers has “loose wrists, a knack for making hard contact, and he consistently takes competitive at-bats.” It’s not like Bauers is a Souza-like stathead favorite; the scouting community generally digs him, and both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline had him squarely inside the top 100 coming into the season.
Brad Hand, Padres lefty reliever: he’s pretty good.
Somehow the Padres got him off waivers in April of 2016, from Miami. Then he started throwing a bunch of breaking balls and turned a lost career around. So far this year both his strikeout percentage (31.8 percent) and K%-BB% (22.8 percent) are at career highs, just a few ticks up over last year’s numbers.
Before we start this silly project, let’s answer a not-so-simple question: what’s he worth?
It’s tough, of course, because who knows. The answer to that question is always whatever anyone’s willing to pay, basically. Hand’s not quite into Aroldis Chapman territory, or even particularly close, so he’s not going to bring back a package that includes a legit top 10 prospect or anything. But he’s good. He’s a shutdown lefty with good peripherals, good surface stats, durability, and a newfound ability to get right handers out. Plus he’s affordable, with two years left on his contract after this season. Everyone wants a reliable lefty in the bullpen, and Hand’s good enough to be closer material in the right situation.
(Patrick Brewer did a good comparison of Miguel Diaz and Luis Perdomo the other day over at EVT, but what the heck. I’ve got a streak to protect here.)
It’s really easy to compare Luis Perdomo and Miguel Diaz. Both are right handers of similar size, both are Rule 5 picks plucked out of A-ball, and both struggled big time upon entering the major leagues. Take a look at how similar Perdomo and Diaz performed through May of their rookie seasons:
Perdomo was actually worse, somehow, but if you just focus on the peripherals, they’re really similar. Let’s back up a bit further and compare these guys in the minors:
The numbers are close again. Both guys suppressed homers while posting solid strikeout and walk numbers. Important to note that Perdomo was almost exclusively a starter in the minors, whereas only about half of Diaz’s appearances came as a starter. Also, Perdomo was pushed a bit more rapidly through the minors, so more of his performance came against slightly tougher competition. Still, similar profile.
The other day the ever-informative Keith Law was on the Darren Smith Show, and regarding Dinelson Lamet, he said this:
I think he’s going to be a very good reliever, in time. He has no third pitch to speak of to be able to get lefties out. He didn’t get lefties out in the minors, this year or last year. It’s fastball, breaking ball. They’re both pretty good.
Beyond just Law, I’ve heard a couple of other references to Lamet either not having a changeup at all or not having a good one.
First off, Law’s mostly right about Lamet’s struggles against lefties in the minors. This year, in Triple-A El Paso, Lamet surrendered an .808 OPS to lefties, with 27 strikeouts to 14 walks. Last year, spread between three levels, he allowed a much better .688 OPS against lefties, but recorded just 43 strikeouts and 31 walks in 233 plate appearances against the species (compared to 115 strikeouts and 30 walks in 396 PAs vs. righties).
There’s an argument there, considering pitching environments and small samples, that Lamet actually improved against lefties this year in El Paso. Despite the jump in OPS, his strikeout rate vs. lefties skyrocketed from 18.5 percent in 2016 to 26.7 percent in 2017; his walk rate stayed the same, bumping up from 13.3 percent in ’16 to 13.9 percent in ’17.
Anyway, the other (more important) thing: Lamet definitely has a changeup. According to Brooks Baseball, he’s thrown it 14.1 percent of the time over his first two starts in the majors. FanGraphs has it at either 15.1 or 16.9 percent, based on their two pitch classification methods. Let’s call it 15 percent, but it’s there.
But is it any good?
Look, I’m supposed to hate comps. Seemingly everyone who writes about baseball—particularly prospect writers, anyway—hates comps, or at least pretends to. Maybe I do, I don’t know. I don’t think so, though; I’m tolerant of them, at least. Shoot, I sort of like ’em. Dammit I love me a good comp.
So here’s one for your consideration:
Franchy Cordero=Cameron Maybin
I can’t help but think about Maybin when watching Cordero in center field over the last couple of days. They have a similar build (Maybin’s currently listed at 6-foot-3, 215, and Cordero 6-foot-3, 175) and running style. Cordero profiles as a slick-fielding center fielder with a strikeout problem and some pop. Maybin was (still is, kind of) a slick-fielding center fielder with a strikeout problem and some pop. Let’s check out some numbers.
Jose Israel Garcia is, apparently, a 19-year-old Cuban shortstop, according to Jon Heyman and Jon Heyman only. There is scant other info available on Garcia from anyone, not even Ben Badler, lord of international prospects. So I took my (fake) scouting self down to Mexico to deliver you the real (er, fake) inside dope on Garcia, who’s probably on the Padres radar (if he exists).
Overview: Plenty of raw tools; athletic frame, but not chiseled like Luis Robert or Yoan Moncada; quick twitch athlete with solid feel for game; defensive asset with foot speed that will play; bat is wild card; loves playing the game.
Bat: Generates plenty of bat speed, but there’s some effort present in the swing; a lot of moving parts; susceptible to spin off the plate and stateside velocity could pose challenge; bat path can lose plane at times; when struggling, tends to get pull happy; pitch recognition a work in progress; plenty of swing-and-miss; possesses gap power when at best, using all-fields approach; shot at double-digit home run power at physical maturity; plus hand-eye makes up for some deficiencies; biggest question mark is overall hit tool.
Run: Lacks elite straight-line speed, but he’s a heady base runner; consistently 4.2-4.3 down the line; willing to take extra base in limited game action; opportunistic base stealer; times pitchers well; if he doesn’t gain too much bulk, he’s a plus base runner with fringe-average speed.
There are like 750 major-league players at any given time, and probably another 300 or 400 right on the fringes of The Show, perhaps injured and waiting to return or in Triple-A and ready for a call-up. It’s really hard to know them all, so we tend to put the ones we’re less familiar with into boxes. Al Alburquerque is a hard-throwing reliever with a control problem and a funny name. Craig Gentry is a fast outfielder who may or may not be on a big-league roster, depending on the day. And Chase d’Arnaud, well, he’s a scrappy middle infielder with a weak bat and a so-so glove.
From afar, the d’Arnaud box is often overflowing. For every Francisco Lindor, there are like 37 Eric Sogards. These guys tend to look reasonably adequate at shortstop, play a solid second or third base, and do enough with the bat to make you forget the constant barrage of outs, at least occasionally. It’s what d’Arnaud is—or what he’s supposed to be, anyway. That’s what the sticker on the box says.
When the Padres acquired d’Arnaud, this is what I wrote:
d’Arnaud, claimed off waivers from the Red Sox, is squarely a utility/org guy. If the Padres turn him into something useful, they’ll start checking the Petco hallways for signs of witchcraft.
With time, I’m not sure that I’ll be proven wrong, really. d’Arnaud’s hot start doesn’t negate a career’s worth of relative mediocrity, and it doesn’t portend a future as a legit contributor. But it’s still fun to view a previously boxed-up guy up close and realize that sometimes there’s more than just a generic, forgettable ballplayer there.