Thursday, January 31, 2013

Non Roster Invitees: Pitcher Velocity

To finish the Non Roster Invitee series, I looked at all of the official pitcher non roster invitees (as of January 30th) and sorted them by velocity. There were a handful of ones that I couldn't find velocity data for, so I took them off. I also put handedness on the sheet, but sorted them by velocity. I gathered the velocity data from FanGraphs for pitchers that have been in the Majors, Brooks Baseball for pitchers that have not been in the Majors but have pitched in the Arizona Fall League or a Pitch F/X Spring Training park, and my collection of minor league velocity for other pitchers. For the rest of them, I found scouting reports on (obviously I didn't for a few of them). Instead of using ranges, I used averages, as that is what Pitch F/X systems use obviously. So for scouting reports and my minor league velocity collection, I just used the median. Here is the spreadsheet:
The lack of left-handed velocity is interesting. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Darwin Perez Scouting Report

Darwin Perez is a middle infielder that signed with the Athletics as a minor league free agent after 6 seasons in the Angels system. While Nathaniel Stolz loved the signing, I didn't find him that exciting statistically, since he repeated the most offensively friendly AA in 2012 and got worse by about .100 OPS points. He is just 23, and did have a positive FRAA at SS, but he didn't have a great FRAA and played a lot of 2nd base as well. He also was pretty good statistically in the Venezuelan Winter League, but there isn't a great reason to trust those numbers. 

With all this said, his name came up again when I noticed that he ranked 38th out of the 475 players in the odds system I created once you add defense and baserunning. That was right behind Leury Garcia, another middle infielder, but one that is considered a real prospect and is someone I really liked when I watched him. So this caught my eye, and I decided I needed to see a little more of Perez and take a better look at him.

A switch hitter, Perez is still small, listed at 5-10 160, and he looks even smaller when you watch him play. His bat seems pretty quick, and he seems to have at least decent bat control. He will show an uppercut swing on low pitches as a left-hander but looks almost like a completely different hitter from the right side. As a lefty, his stance is more open, but on the right side, it is more closed. Statistically, he has been slightly better with a lefty, with almost exact same power numbers on both sides, but better average and walks as a lefty. His swing as a lefty is a little better, as he seems a little stiff as a right-hander and doesn't have the body and bat control he showcases as a left-hander. Obviously with both his body type and career slugging numbers, there isn't much reason to think he will suddenly develop into a power hitter.

In the field, he shows plenty of athleticism and range and his arm seems to be solid as well. John Sickels suggested that he is better suited for 2nd base, which would make him a lot less interesting. His throwing motion is a little odd (he drops down sidearm), but I think that the arm is not bad.

I got him at about 4.16 to 4.24 to 1st base from the left side, which is roughly average (he was predictably a little quicker bunting). For the type of player he is, that is not overly impressive. Speed Score has him as a better than average runner, but not really elite or anything special. With the questions that come with his bat (and perhaps even positionally), it would be really nice if he was a better

Overall, it is pretty hard to see Perez being an impact player in the big leagues. He isn't good with the bat anyway, and I think there is a chance he will only be even workable on just the left side of the plate. He can play some defense in the middle infield, which should eventually get him in the big leagues (and considering all the shortstops they have lost, the Angels could have used him), but he isn't an elite enough defender or a good enough runner to start in the big leagues. While his career minor league 11.9 BB % is impressive, he hasn't hit for much average and I would expect it to drop in the upper levels as pitchers just throw more strikes to him. We have already seen this somewhat, as his peripherals really dropped in 2012. Assuming that he doesn't suddenly start hitting for an extreme average, Perez is basically going to be a utility player that may hang around for a few years thanks to decent defense up the middle.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Non Roster Invitees: Outfielders

Continuing our look at the non-roster invitees to spring training in the Majors, here I will look at the Outfield Non Roster Invitees. First, a quick note on some of the numbers I am using.

Rv600 is what Stat Corner estimates would be the run value of a player over 600 plate appearances using their wOBA numbers. This value, like FRAA, Range Factor, and Speed Score, will only be the 2012 numbers, while the RBAT is career wise in the Majors and by it's nature, the odds system is career wise.
This gives us two defensive rankings, two offensive rankings, and one baserunning rankings, which seems to make sense with how we (or at least I) evaluate players.

I realize that Range Factor creates a bias towards centerfielders since their range factors are usually higher. I am fine with that bias, as it creates a positional adjustment. To be clear, I am only looking at 2012, and each player's OF number as a whole (so if a player played 10 games in left, 10 games in right, and 80 in center, then I am taking the combined number). For minor league players, we will obviously use RF/G since that is all that is available, but for MLB players, we will use the more reliable RF/9. Billy Hamilton's RF/G was left out since he played shortstop in 2012. This makes his ranking artificially low, especially since he showed very good range in the Arizona Fall League and should have elite range in center long term. He ranks 3rd, but he probably deserves to be first (like he does in the odds rankings). You should be able to view the spreadsheet below:

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Non Roster Invitees: Infielders

Continuing our look at non-roster invitees to Spring Training, here I look at the infielders using FRAA, Speed Score, and Baseball Reference's batting runs above average for players that have a significant amount of plate appearances in the Majors (I didn't use a hard cutoff) and my odds system for players with no or an insignificant amount of plate appearances in the Majors. To download the spreadsheet, click here or copy the address below into your browser:

Saturday, January 26, 2013

What Kind of Pitching Prospects Work out the Best?

There isn't much need for a real introduction here, but I wanted to continue my look at the correlation between velocity and success. Here, we will look at prospects using Baseball America. I think this gets rid of some of the selection bias that might have happened in my previous post on ZIPs and velocity when it came to prospects, as we do get to look at pitchers that failed to make the Majors.

I looked at pitchers from 2005-2009 (I think there are a few missing from 2007 because of website setup, but it is still 130 pitchers each) Baseball America's organization rankings. Before 2005, Baseball America did their organizational rankings a little differently, so I couldn't really go back further than that (and stopping at 2009 gives the prospects at least some time to make the Majors). I didn't care about the actual rankings for this, I just looked at the pitchers that were identified as having either the best fastball, curveball, slider, changeup, or control. There were obvious repeats, whether yearly or being the best at more than 1, but I decided to keep those in and rate them as the same. If you want to look at my actual spreadsheet, you can here, but the most important part is below where the results of the pitchers MLB FIP - and WAA are grouped:

Best Fastballs: 110 out of 130 made the Majors. They had an average FIP - of 111.39 and average WAA of .99.

Best Curves: 93 out of 130 made the Majors. They had an average FIP - of
105.77 and average WAA of 1.91.

Best Sliders: 101 out of 130 made the Majors. They had an average FIP - of 109.06 and average WAA of .31.

Best Changes: 87 out of 130 made the Majors. They had an average FIP - of 118.61 and average WAA of -.11

Best Control Pitchers: 90 out of 130 made the Majors. They had an average FIP - of 117.96 and average WAA of .42

So out of the players that Baseball America recognized as having the best fastballs or the best control in the organization, the fastball pitchers not only made the Majors more, they were more successful in the Majors. The fastball pitchers made the majors more than any of the other pitchers, with the changeups having the least. The changeup pitchers that did make the Majors were also the worst. However, you notice that the fastball pitchers were not the most successful in the Majors. The curveball pitchers were. One reason for this could be that pitchers with elite fastballs were given chances in the Majors, even though perhaps they didn't deserve it (numbers wise or breaking pitches wise), just because of their fastballs. That is, there could be a selection bias because teams value fastball velocity so much (which is one of the reasons I added two different measures of effectiveness along with just the number of pitchers that made the Majors). We have also seen that pitchers without real curveballs tend to be less successful than pitchers that do have curveballs. It is an old baseball saying that curveballs often separate the sheep from the goats for both pitchers and hitters, and perhaps this data shows that their is certainly something to that. I have looked at curveballs in the past, but perhaps we should be looking at them more when looking at pitching prospects, along with fastball velocity.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Choi Jung Scouting Report

I was putting together a scouting report on Choi Jung for a podcast I was going to be on, but we ended up only talking about Yoon Suk Min, so I decided to turn my notes into an article.

Jung is a KBO 3rd baseman for the SK Wyrens who should be granted free agency after the season and rumors have it that he is interested in coming to the United States to play in the Majors. I've written before than I don't believe their are any positional player from the KBO are MLB prospects, (and I still haven't found a real exception) but let's rate Jung anyway.

Offensively, I do have Kang Jung-Ho and Park Byung-Ho that played for Nexen as better offensive players (both baserunning and hitting combined) as better than Jung in 2012, but Jung does seem to be a pretty balanced player, with above average baserunning and defensive skills to go with his offense. Without the defense, he was slightly over a 6 win (over replacement player) player in 2012, so he really is one of the elite players in the KBO. Last year, I wrote about that there aren't any MLB offensive or position player prospects in the KBO. Jung's K/BB wasn't that impressive in 2012, about 2 to 1, but he does walk a reasonable amount and hit a lot of fly-balls.

He seems to use the whole field pretty well, at least that is what his spray charts suggest. He is considered to have good bat speed, and I have to agree, you can't really get in on him because his wrists are so quick. He uses an uppercut swing to get under the ball, which is one of the reasons he hits for power and hits so many fly-balls.

I'm not going to compare his assist data to MLB players because there is a bias in just pure batted balls between the two leagues, but he seems to be the 2nd best defensive 3rd baseman in the KBO according to the 2012 data. His throwing motion isn't exactly ideal, as he comes down a little more arm slot wise than you would normally want, but the arm strength seems to be there. His footwork also seems to be a little messy and his body doesn't go with his arm, which may lead to a lot of inaccurate throws. As far as size, athleticism, and range goes, I don't really see any reason why he couldn't be at least a decent defensive 3rd baseman in the big leagues, and it doesn't look like he will have to move off the position anytime soon.

 I don't see a MLB starter in Choi, and backup infielders don't have great value if they can't play shortstop. This is why he wouldn't have as much value as say Kensuke Tanaka, the former Fighter shortstop that is now with the Giants. I think Choi likely has more power, but Tanaka has the positional value, and he had to take a minor league contract. Obviously we will see how he plays in 2013, but it is hard to see him getting a guaranteed contract in the Majors. He may actually fit on a NPB roster better.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Non Roster Invitees: Catchers

Here, I broke down all the announced (that is, official and on each team's website) non-roster invitees to Spring Training catchers and put them all in one spreadsheet. I used their passed balls per game, caught stealing percentage, along with their offensive odds or rWAR if they have played a significant amount of time in the Majors. I combined their rankings like I have in previous posts to make a ranking of the catchers. No reason for a longer introduction, so here is the spreadsheet:

Thoughts on NPB Blockbuster

The Nippon Ham Fighters traded Yoshito Itoi and Tomoya Yagi to the Orix Buffaloes for Hiroshi Kisanuki, Keiji Obiki, and Shogo Akada.

Itoi is the big name in this trade, as I wrote about him last year and called him an OBP machine. A converted pitcher, as a corner outfielder, he doesn't hit for much power, unprototypical for that position. It has long been rumored that he Itoi wanted to come to the states, and in fact, an article earlier Tuesday stated that he wanted to be posted after the 2013 season. So the Fighters, clearly the best run organization in the NPB, may be hedging their bets a little here, trying to get some value before he leaves. As far as future MLB talent, Itoi is the only guy in the trade that has any real future value in my opinion. There are some questions about where he will fit defensively, and whether or not the approach will translate, but he is clearly the best player in this trade.

Tomoya Yagi is a 29 year old left-handed starter, who made 13 starts for the Fighters in 2012. Always seemingly a part time pitcher (though he has only made starts in his career, never pitching out of the bullpen in Ichi-gun), Yagi had a 4.52 kwERA in 2012, or a 105 kwERA. A soft tossing left, he averages between 83 to 84 MPH on his fastball, throwing a lot of soft sinkers and sliders.

I actually wrote a little about Hiroshi Kisanuki last year. There was no reason to be a fan of him statistically before the 2012 season, but the 32 year old right-hander made 21 starts (24 appearances) and had a very good ERA. However, his DIPs were less impressive, with a 103 kwERA - and 101 FIP - (as the Buffaloes park has played basically neutral over the past two seasons). He has a mediocre fastball, that has averaged just over 86 MPH over the last 3 seasons. He mixes in a somewhat slow curve (a 72 MPH curve is not that slow in the NPB), a 80 MPH slider, a forkball, and occasional moving fastball. According to heat maps (by NPB Tracker), he does a good job of keeping the ball low.

Keiji Obiki is a 28 year old right-handed hitting shortstop with some good but not great defensive data. He had been Orix' starting shortstop, and easily out hit Nippon's starting shortstop, 37 year old Makoto Kaneko. Over the past two seasons, Obiki's OPS has been about .070 points better. While the Fighters park is pitcher friendly (95 Park Factor over the last two seasons), it doesn't account for that big of a difference and the defensive data seemed to favor Obiki as well.

Shogo Akada, at age 32, is actually a year older than Itoi. Another outfielder, Akada has really struggled in recent years, especially in 2012 where he played in just 26 games and had an OPS of .434. Assuming he isn't an elite defender, and there isn't anything in the data to suggest this, he is really a non factor and just a reserve outfielder that may play in the Ni-Gun and provide some organizational depth.

For the Fighters, this really just feels like a trade in which they felt they had to get rid of Itoi. They upgraded at shortstop, which was a desperate need, especially with Kensuke Tanaka leaving for the San Francisco Giants, but they clearly downgrade their outfield and I don't think there is much reason to believe that Kisanuki will be near as good in 2013 as he was in 2012 (at least by ERA standards). I was really surprised they didn't add to their farm system, as that would be more productive than getting older players in Akada and Kisanuri that won't help them all that much. This especially seems apparent when there top two hitting prospects are catchers, and their top rated outfield prospect is Yuya Taniguchi, a 20 year old outfielder who has good defensive skills but was an average hitter in the Ni-Gun in 2012. Since Shoga isn't going to be able to replace Itoi, Taniguchi might have to be that man as early as 2013, and it doesn't appear the bat is ready.

Nippon slightly upgrades their rotation for 2013, but since Yagi is younger, Orix probably takes the advantage long term. Obviously they acquire perhaps the best hitter in the NPB to help bolster the offense of a team that lost 20 more games than it won in 2012. The main question is what their rotation will look like. With Alfredo Figaro in limbo, and Kei Igawa struggling in 2012, the rotation has a lot of questions outside of Yuki Nishi and perhaps Hayato Terahara. Yagi will most likely slot in the number 3 spot, and perhaps Shohei Tsukahara is ready to help round out the rotation. The good news is that even if they lose Itoi after this year, they didn't give up future talent to acquire him.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Yem Prades Scouting Report

Yem Prades is a 24 year old Cuban defector who rated as the 13th best AA or AAA player analytic rankings. With that said, it is hard to get excited about a non shortstop who had a sub .700 OPS in a hitter friendly (park and league) Texas League. He also isn't a guy that was not highly touted out of Cuba nor a celebrated prospect of any kind. From what I can see, he had just 66 at-bats in Cuba's professional league.

The odds have him at 37.2 percent because of the lack of plate appearances (because he has only been in the minors for 2 seasons). If we assumed he had 2000 plate appearances like most 24 year olds might (at least out of high school), his odds drop to 32.8 %, which is a very generic minor league outfielder/hitter. The K/BB is especially concerning, as not only is he striking out, he isn't walking. His approach is obviously one that involves swinging at just about everything, and he obviously doesn't have the contact tool (and doesn't seem to have a lot of power) to go with that approach. He doesn't really have platoon splits, and as his numbers would suggest, he hits a reasonably high amount of grounders (44.8%). He keeps his hands very high with a pretty open stance. When he swings, he doesn't have a fluid motion (there just seem to be a lot of moving parts) and it seems that his bat isn't very quick or, at the very least, he just has a long swing. It looks like he has a lot of problems on inside pitches because of the combination of long swing and moving parts. This could be why he both swings at almost anything and swings and misses so much. He has to get started early, so he has to make his decision quicker than most hitters, and the moving parts don't allow him to make as much contact as he should. He gets somewhat uppercut happy, which causes a lot of infield pop ups for him. I really think his swing needs to be totally destroyed and rebuild, which is a difficult thing considering he is already 24. You just don't see that happening, but I can't see him having any success in the Majors offensively like this.

He definitely seems like the really athletic centerfielders that may or may not hit (Jarrod Dyson and Derrick Robinson are great examples) that the Royals always seem to have. He lead off for the Royals' AA club all year in 2012, but he doesn’t have the plate discipline to continue in that role. If he makes the Majors and starts, it will most likely be in an athletic centerfield number 9 hitter role that will provide basically no offensive value.

Obviously FRAA and Speed Score are big fans of Prades, but he has stolen just 25 bases over the last two years with 14 caught stealings. Range factor also suggests that he was slightly below average defensively in center. In watching him, I have some questions about both his arm and his jumps/reads. However, you do see the athleticism, and it is clear he can cover some serious ground.

At this point, it is hard to see Prades being much of an impact in the big leagues, if he makes it at all. He has good run and defense, but I don't know if he is elite, and the lack of offensive skills really make it hard for me to see him being more than a 5th outfielder at best. Considering how hard it has been for a guy like Darren Ford to make it to and stay in the Majors, it is hard to see Prades have a real MLB career (I like Ford better for what is worth, but obviously Prades is younger).

Friday, January 18, 2013

Blake Treinen and Age Adjustments

The Washington Nationals acquired Blake Treinen from the Oakland Athletics as part of the deal that sent Michael Morse to the Mariners and John Jaso to the A's. Treinen was a 7th round pick out of South Dakota State in 2011 (a year after being a 23rd round pick by the Florida Marlins) by the A's

In 2012, he spent the entire year in the California League as a 24 year old in which league average age was 23.2 for pitchers and 22.5 for hitters. He threw 103 innings, mostly as a starter with a 3.43 SIERA, 3.55 kwERA, and 95 FIP - (using both league and one year park factor). Of course, common prospect wisdom tells us (if not to just ignore minor league, especially pitchers, numbers altogether) that numbers put up by pitchers too old for a league mean nothing really.

To test this, I looked at pitchers that were too old (at least 1 full year above league average) for their league in the Cal League from 2005-2009 (giving them time to reach the Majors or fail). For ones that made the Majors, I put the average Cal League FIP - from that year in the parenthesis. I also added their average velocity as another informative variable.

2009 Cal League:
2 out of 38 (77 FIP -), 90.4 MPH
2008:  2 out of 23 (98 FIP -) 91.2 MPH
2007: 4 out of 38 (77 FIP -), 90.4 MPH
2006: 2 out of 27 (88 FIP -), 89.55 MPH
2005: 7 out of 41 (76 FIP -), 88.62 MPH

So it seems that the older pitchers that made the Majors were better than Treinen was in A+ statistically, but they didn't throw very hard. They could have been old for the level because the teams didn't believe in the pitchers because they threw so soft but overwhelming numbers somewhat forced them to give them a look. Just from a cursory look, they didn't appear to be very good in the Majors (which is expected because of the velocity), but I didn't factor that in.

Now what about 25 year olds in AA, since that is what Treinen will be next year (I am assuming)? Since he will be pitching in the Eastern League for the Nationals organization, I looked there from 2006-2009 (giving the players plenty of time to sort out their careers). Since there were a large number of them older than 24, I only included 25-26 year olds and this time, I looked at how they did it in the Majors.

2009: 6 out of 26 made the Majors with a total of -1.5 WAA. Average FB of 91.15
2008: 11 out of 27 made the MLB and had a -5.5 WAA with Average FB of 90.04
2007: 12 out of 32 made the MLB and had a -6 WAA with Average FB of 89.32
2006: 4 out of 24 made the MLB and had a -2.3 WAA with Average FB of 88.15

Almost without exception, these pitchers were unsuccessful in the big leagues and had weak to slightly below average fastballs (it is interesting that it went up every year). So what about Treinen? He doesn't seem to fit fully in this group, as he has hit 95 MPH on his fastball. So one the one hand, he wasn't as dominant for his league despite his advanced age as we have seen other older pitchers that ended up making the big leagues. However, he throws harder, and we know fastball velocity is more important than minor league statistics. So I went back and watched Treinen on MiLB.TV. His delivery reminds me of Scott Patterson somewhat as a really tall pitcher with a noisy delivery that seems really jerky (this seems to be a reason why most view Treinen as a reliever long term). The comparisons stop there though as Treinen's fastball is better (he was around 93 MPH on June 26th) and he has a high leg kick, unlike Patterson. He seems to get some decent sink as well

He is said to have a cutter, but it looked like his moving fastball as it moved more arm side than glove side (which is what you would expect a cutter to do).
He also reportedly throws a curve, but it must not be a big part of his repertoire, as I didn't see it, which is a big difference between him and Patterson obviously. 
His change fades arm side and he seemed to have problems getting it down. He seemed to throw it a lot, but I would expect him to ditch it if he ever goes to the bullpen. If he goes there, I expect him to be a guy who throws hard, hard, and harder. In the rotation, I don't really expect him to miss many bats, and instead having to rely on command and ground-balls.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Jo-Jo Reyes and Vicente Padilla in Context

There were two moves in the KBO and the NPB that were interesting today. Vicente Padilla signed with the Softbank Hawks, and Jo-Jo Reyes was released by the Angels to sign with the SK Wyverns. Considering all the work I had put into velocity and the comparison between leagues (specifically the NPB and KBO), I figured it was a good time to use the data we have seen to make projections on the two players.

Jo-Jo Reyes had a 90.3 MPH average on his fastball in his MLB career. This would put him on the fringes of either the Elite or Above Average category in the KBO (I think it has him 14th out of the 40 KBO pitchers profiled here). It appears that Reyes is replacing Mario Santiago on SK's roster. Santiago was actually the team's hardest thrower on a team that I rated as the 3rd hardest throwing team in the KBO. The team didn't have another "foreign" pitcher in their top 5 in innings last year, but the club also signed Chris Seddon earlier this off-season. Seddon throws 89 MPH according to Fangraphs, which puts him in the above average category and third best out of the SK rotation. So if we take out Santiago from the top 5 SK Wyrens pitchers, along with Kim Kwang-Hyun (who was the worst pitcher of the group, so you expect him to throw less innings in 2013), the SK rotation average velocity should be roughly 88.87 MPH (assuming no drop or gain in velocity by the pitchers or an unforeseen change in SK's pitching plans), almost exactly what it was last year (technically .024 MPH better), which should be slightly above league average and 3rd place out of 8 teams in velocity. This should keep them as an average to above average rotation in the KBO.

We don't know (or at least I don't) too much about what the NC Dinos plan to do with their rotation, but we do know that they were allowed to sign 3 foreign players (instead of just 2) and signed Adam Wilk, Eric Hacker, and Charles Shriek. These 3 pitchers average about 89.3 MPH, which is slightly above average in the KBO and better than the SK rotation on the whole. Of course, since we don't know how the rest of the rotation sets up, it is hard to project how their rotation will operate on the whole. If we assume, that since they are an expansion team, that the two other pitchers are both below average in velocity (or that one is average and one is poor), we can project about 88.73 MPH rotation, which would still put them in the fringes of the above average rotation in the KBO and very competitive with SK's rotation. The Dinos should at least have the pitching to be competitive in their first year, and they have done a good job of getting a hitters as well, so they could be surprisingly competitive.

Vicente Padilla averaged 92.9 MPH on his fastball in 2012, and 92.5 MPH in 2010, his last year as a starter (both of these come from Fangraphs. Brooks Baseball separates his sinker and fastball differently and have him throwing harder). According to NPB Tracker, this would make him one of the hardest throwers in the NPB. Of pitchers that have gone from the MLB to the NPB, Padilla is above average velocity wise. Hawks' prospects Kodai Senga and Hiroyuki Kawahara throw 92 and 93 MPH on their fastballs respectively, but Padilla throws harder than the rest of their Ni-Gun prospects. When you look at the Hawks 2012 "rotation", that is, their 5 most used pitchers in 2012, by kwERA and velocity, this is what they look like (league average kwERA in the Pacific League was 4.29 in 2012):

Tadashi Settsu: 3.86 kwERA, 86.40 MPH

Kenji Otanari: 3.90 kwERA, 85.89 MPH

Hiroki Yamada: 4.9 kwERA, 85.10 MPH

Sho Iwasaki: 4.2 kwERA, 89.53 MPH

Nagisa Arakaki: 4.76 kwERA, 89.46 MPH

As you can see, the Hawks have a couple quality pitchers, but they don't have much velocity at the front of the rotation. Padilla, as long as he can stay healthy, should slot in as their number 1 starter.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Jakub Izold Scouting Report

According to Baseball America, the Reds signed a left-handed pitcher named Jakub Izold. Evidently, Izold is a 19 year old pitcher from Slovakia that has been pitching in the under 21 European Championship for his home country. According to profiles I have seen of him, he stands at 6 foot 3 inches and weighs 205 pounds, so he is not a small pitcher.

It is pretty easy to find some game logs and box scores of him, but considering we (or at least I) have no idea as to the actual level of competition or the predictiveness of such statistics, it doesn't seem to do much good to look at them very closely. From what I can see, Izold has been striking quite a bit of hitters out, but also throwing quite a bit of wild pitches.

If Google is an indication, there are no scouting reports on Izold easily available. Luckily, there are several videos of Izold on YouTube, so I watched those to build this one. The video showed what the profiles said, he is a very large man. This may hurt him from a projectable standpoint, as it is hard to see him growing anymore, especially in weight, so it is hard to envision a velocity jump. With that said, he has the size to be a big league starter. He has quite a large leg kick in his delivery and, especially when in the windup, he has a dramatic turn in his delivery. It is all very fast and sudden, which much provide some deception, but also seems hard to repeat. It seems like the pitchers that do have these kind of complicated deliveries that provide deception do not have long and successful careers, but when they are good, they have have really high ceilings. Again, strikeouts and wild pitches.

I thought his stride and landing was a little odd, especially when he was in the stretch he didn't seem very consistent. It seems like you would expect him to stride a little more, but he cuts it off a little. As far as his actual arm action, he comes basically straight over the top (perhaps it is more of a 3/4 action with a body that comes down like a pitcher that throws over the top).

Obviously, we don't have velocity or pitch data on Izold, so it definitely limits our look at him. I don't think he has the delivery that allows him to take advantage of his good size. He will provide deception, but repeating his delivery throughout the minors will be an interesting task. He is also 19, older than most international imports (Alexander Roy from France that the Mariners signed was 16, as are most Dominican and Venezuelan imports) and high school players, so if he starts in the Reds Arizona affiliate after spending the first half in extended spring training, he will be a little old for the level (playing with the lower drafted college players). This means he should probably start in the Pioneer League when their season starts. This will give everyone (other than the Reds, as I assume they have an idea already) an idea of how advanced Izold is currently.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Mitch Haniger Scouting Report

In my collection of college range factors, Mitchell Haniger was the 2nd highest rated outfielder (behind Mariners' speedster Michael Faulkner) out of 36 (Auburn's Ryan Tella had a higher rating in centerfield). The Brewers drafted him 38th overall out of Cal Poly (he was drafted by the Mets in the 31st round out of high school in 2009). He would only play 14 games with the Brewers after signing, but it was in Class A and 12 of the games were in centerfield. Fangraphs rated him as the 13th best prospect in the Brewers system, citing not only his good range in center, but his strong arm and as a possible 5 tool player. However, many have shown some doubts about his speed, questioning how long it will stick with him and whether or not it is elite. Despite the great range he showed in college, there is some talk that he might move to right-field if his speed diminishes, where his strong arm would still play (and where he played earlier in his college career). It does seem that he gets good jumps and reads, at least he did when I saw him.

In watching him, you notice he has good size, but isn't bulky. It is an ideal size for a centerfielder with some power. He seems to have a powerful swing, and I don't think the bat speed is slow, but it seems to get a little long at times, and according to other scouting reports, there seems to be some worry that he will swing and miss a lot. That said, he walked more than he struck out in his junior year of college, suggesting he has a good approach. You can find a good breakdown of his swing here. He starts out with an open stance, but like most hitters (especially right-handers) he closes it when the ball gets there.

It seemed that he was having a little bit of problems with up and in balls when I watched him on Milb.TV, which you would expect from someone with a long swing. Overall, his mechanics are really noisy and he has a lot of moving parts to his swing. I am much more skeptical of him hitting for average than the scouting report above, at least soon. The patience he showed though makes him seem like he could be a low average/good on-base guy though, but I didn't see the power that was reported.

Haniger is a high draft pick out of college that should traditionally move fast. However, there are plenty of questions regarding nearly every aspect of his game. If he is unable to stick in center, he loses a lot of value, but the data and the eye test say that unless he just loses a lot of speed (and he is not a "bad body" player, he shouldn't regress speed wise more than you would expect a normal player to),he should stick in center. I question whether or not his bat will play against advanced pitching, unless he makes some mechanical tweaks. He has good patience and discipline, so perhaps that will come around. If it does, expect Haniger to have a very successful professional career.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Dominican Summer League Position Player Data

The Dominican Summer League is somewhat shrouded in mystery. While we get better numbers now from the league than we once did, there isn't a way to follow the games live and none of the games are streamed online. So I gathered some of the data we do have from the positional players there from the 2012 season and put it in a nifty little spreadsheet.
While there are players there that are 22 and sometimes even 23, I wanted to look at just prospects (and I didn't account for players recently released), so I only looked at the ones that are currently under 20 and haven't played in an American level (some were promoted in season to GCL or AZL).

I wanted to include signing bonuses along with the numbers as a control group (i.e. how teams viewed the players), but I didn't realize how many players don't have reported (or easily ones to find) signing bonuses.

To create a ranking, I did a similar thing that I did with the NPB hitting prospects. However, I did a better job with the positional adjustments, using Tom Tango's rankings used in this Fangraphs/Statcorner article. Instead of using the run values, I just used the overall rankings, so catcher at 1, DH at 9, etc (I switched left-field and right-field, as I think right-field is harder than left-field and they had the same run values and the chart had left-field ranked higher). To fix the problem I had in the NPB article linked to above when it came to OPS +, I broke everything into 9 sections. So, to use wRC + in this article as an example, each section had 16 players. The highest 16 get a 1 and the bottom 16 get a 9 for example. Since only 29 players had listed bonuses, I broke the first 28 into groups of 4, put the lowest bonus by itself, and put the non-listed bonus guys in their own group. We basically have to assume that the no bonus guys have smaller bonuses than the listed bonus guys, which isn't ideal. Obviously, I could only compare defense (RF/G) by position, but I tried to break the positions into groups of 9 if I could (thus not additionally penalizing the most frequent positions). For catchers I put SB% instead of Range Factor. For age, there were only 3 different ages (17-19), so those rankings only went 1-3 (I debated going 1,4,7, but decided not to). Obviously, the lower the overall ranking, the better. To download the spreadsheet, click on this link or copy and past the below address:

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Brandon Mann Scouting Report

Brandon Mann signed a MiLB contract with the Nationals. Mann has pitched the last two years in the NPB for the Yokohama Bay Stars. He was used mainly as a reliever in 2011 and mainly as a starter in 2012. Overall, he threw 92.2 innings in the NPB with a kwERA - of 113. For obvious reasons (kwERA just involves strikeouts and walks), I didn't include park factors when looking at kwERA -, but when looking at FIP -, I did include park factors.

The Yokohama Bay Stars park regressed park factor over the last two seasons has been 115. I only wanted to look at the last two seasons because that is when the ball changed and I think the variables of the pre-2011 NPB makes it really hard to compare the two, as they are basically different leagues. However, from 2006-2010, it wasn't that different, with a 113 park factor, meaning that offense was suppressed at basically the same scale for Yokohama's park as the rest of the NPB. Just from a cursory look at the park factors, it seems this was basically true across the NPB.

Mann had a 3.69 FIP in his two years in the NPB, while league average (in the Central League) FIP was 3.46. However, when you adjust it for the park, you would expect the average Bay Stars (assuming half of their games are at home and the other half are at parks that roughly average out to be average) pitcher to have a FIP of 3.72. Using this crude method, Mann had about a 99 FIP - in the NPB.

The big problem is relief/starter splits, which it seems we don't have unless we want to manually go back and input them for the NPB ourselves. I don't want to do that for this post, so we will just go with the statistical fact that Mann was average to below average in the NPB, depending on whether you want to include home runs or not. Considering that he split his time between reliever and starter, you would expect him to be better than starters and probably a little better than the mean. He really wasn't, so there wasn't a lot to like about him from a statistical standpoint.

Mann is a 28 year old left-hander that was drafted in the 27th round by the Tampa Bay Rays back in 2002 (when they were still the Devil Rays obviously). He would spend multiple years in A-ball, and miss all of 2007, but reached AA in 2009 where he posted a 4.87 kwERA mostly as a starter. He would split 2010 with the Dodgers A+ as a reliever and the Atlantic League (Independent ball) as a starter before going to Japan.

According to NPB Tracker, he never reached 90 MPH on his fastball and averaged 88.2 MPH with a slow curve (~71 MPH), along with sliders and changeups that averaged about 80 MPH. It also seems that he added a 2-seam fastball ("shutto") in his 2nd year in the NPB (his worse year, in which he was a starter). As far as MLB starters go, there isn't a great comparison when it comes to pitches and velocity other than Bruce Chen, though Mann's fastball is slightly better. When looking at non qualified  pitchers, Eric Stults is very similar (though his curve is a little slower) and maybe Chris Young with a few more MPH on the fastball is another comparison.

When watching video of Mann, you notice that he has a fairly standard delivery that seems easy to repeat and comes over the top in a 3/4 delivery. Even though it seems that the Nationals do need a left-handed reliever, it would be really surprising if Mann makes it out of spring training with the big league club. I see him starting the year in AAA.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Top NPB Hitting Prospects

We have looked at the NPB Pitching Prospects here, so now it is time to look at the NPB  hitting prospects. I used 50 games in the Ni-Gun as a minimum, but other than that, I used similar criteria as the pitchers. They have to be 25 years or younger, and played less than 100 games in the Ichi-gun (or not appeared in 3 different seasons).

For defense and position, I used the position the player played the most in 2012 and obviously only compared positions when using range factor (the official NPB site splits the positions nicely). I couldn't find a positional scarcity model that I liked (and was easy to use for these purposes), so I used an extremely lazy one. I used Baseball Reference's 2012 MLB batting splits and sorted the positions by OPS. It is the MLB obviously, but I think the general rule applies across baseball. 1st Base is the least valuable position (6 in rankings), while shortstop is the most valuable (1st in rankings). I used these rankings to go into the total rankings (and of course averaged out in the average ranking). I didn't know what to do with catchers' defense, especially since the NPB didn't keep track of CS% data for the Ni-Gun, so I just used Range Factor. I couldn't differentiate between CF and corner outfield, so I didn't when it came to positional value (outfield ranks right behind 1B in our crude positional scarcity formula), but it should separate correctly when looking at range factor.

So overall, this is really crude, especially since it weights OPS + more than anything else and there are major defensive component problems, especially with outfielders (who get penalized in the rankings because there are so many of them). I don't trust it as much as the pitcher rankings, but here it is nonetheless:

The Top 5 Position Player Prospects:

1. Tetsuro Nishida

It seems that what the Golden Eagles lack in pitching prospects, they make up for in hitting prospects. Nishida is the older of the two shortstops, but he also played much better defensively and hit slightly better in 2012. He shows good bat control and an approach that seems to use the whole field. I like his size and his swing is good as well.

1. Daisuke Nakai

For a 2nd baseman, Nakai has a really big looking frame. This didn't stop him from getting to a lot of balls defensively. At the plate, he also doesn't look like a 2nd baseman either, with a large uppercut swing. It looks there is power there, but one wonders about the approach.

3. Takumi Miyoshi

If defensive data is any indication, Miyoshi should probably not be a shortstop. However, with Nishida most likely ready to make NPB impact before Nishida, this isn't a big deal. He looks smaller than Nishida, so you wonder where the power is going to come from in the future, and he seems like a ground-ball hitter, but having Miyoshi is good insurance for the Eagles.

4. Itaru Hashimoto

Despite his good hitting statistics, Hashimoto appears to be a slash and dash type player. As the only outfielder on the top 5, he probably needs to be a centerfielder to have premium value, but he had a good range factor, suggesting he is good defensively and may stick there.

4. Tu-Hsuan Lee

A corner player, he is a rare right-hander with an open stance. The body screams 1st basemen, and the defensive data suggests that he doesn't have great range at 3rd base. This just means he will really have to hit, and there may be a few causes for concern. He walked just under 10% of the time, and struck out 18.2 %, not bad, but not really excellent. He definitely comes with some risks, especially considering his swing mechanics, but power can be hard to find in Japan at times, and Lee seems to have some of that.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Matt Stites Scouting Report

The Padres announced their non roster players invited to spring training. Right-handed pitcher Matt Stites was one of those pitchers, and was also one of the pitchers that pitched in the Arizona Fall League in 2012.

In a relief outing in Arizona, Stites showed off a 4-seam fastball that averaged nearly 96 MPH along with a hard changeup and hard slider (both averaging over 87 MPH). Stites has only pitched in relief in the minors, but despite his velocity, he was drafted in the 17th round by the Padres out of the University of Missouri in 2011. Since signing, he has been dominant, with a 2.08 FIP and 1.78 SIERA in 82.2 innings in the minors. He may have been drafted so low thanks to his small stature (listed at 5-11 170) as a right-handed reliever.

Despite these numbers, his ground-ball rate is horrible and he had a really messy release point in the AFL. Over the last two seasons, his GB % is just 32.4. It seems to be a small miracle that he has a .55 HR/9IP, as he has a 10.1 IFFB%, leading to a 6.8 HR/OFB %. One would expect this to regress (as in get higher) as he gets in more advanced levels of the minors and faces more power hitters. In 2012, his home park actually played hitter friendly, though in 2011, the main park he played in played pitcher friendly. Of course SIERA (and his 1.91 kwERA in the minors) zero out the home run/ground-ball rates, and his FIP was actually a little worse at home over the last 2 years.

His delivery is somewhat like we saw with Whelan, though it is not quite as violent or dramatic as his, Stites has a gigantic leg kick and a motion that isn't fluid at all, more jerky than anything. I can see why his release point data was so messy, but we have seen before, this doesn't matter with elite relievers, while it does with starters.

His changeup doesn't have dramatic movement, but it does look like his fastball before it drops off a little. He actually seemed to work his fastball both high and low, which is a little surprising for his ground-ball percentage. He was very fastball heavy, willing to just overpower hitters. The slider was obviously the superior breaking pitch, as it looked like a strikeout pitch to go with the fastball, dropping off of a table almost like a splitter.

Even as dominant as he has been, he hasn't pitched in a level past A-ball, so it is difficult to see him making the big league team out of Spring Training. He has been dominant against both lefties and righties and has a plus fastball, so I don't think Stites will be waiting for the big leagues for long, especially if he continues to succeed in AA and AAA.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Kevin Whelan Scouting Report

The Cincinnati Reds signed Kevin Whelan to a minor league contract. Whelan had been in the Yankees' organization since 2007 and even got a cup of coffee with the big league team in 2011. Whelan was originally drafted by the Tigers in the 4th round of the 2005 draft out of Texas A&M (and eventually traded to the Yankees for Gary Sheffield).  A career minor league reliever, the 29 year old (at least that is what he will turn on the 8th of December) caught my eye thanks to some really good looking minor league statistics.

Of course, as we have seen, velocity matters more than minor league statistics when trying to determine future MLB success, and thanks to Pitch F/X data, we know how hard Whelan throws and what he pitches he uses. In his two MLB outings (both against Cleveland with the Yankees in 2011), he threw mainly 4-seam fastballs at the mediocre velocity of 91 to 91.6 MPH. According to the patterns we saw in the post linked to above, this velocity lends to a projected 110.17 FIP, which would have been between Santiago Casilla and Fernando Rodriguez in 2012, both below replacement pitchers in 2012 according to FanGraphs. Of course, both of those pitchers actually throw harder than Whelan, and Casilla actually strangely got an extension after the season. You would expect, since their velocities are better than Whelan, that they had worse minor league numbers than Whelan. This was only somewhat true.

Whelan: 3.44 kwERA (I used kwERA because it only uses strikeouts and walks, and we don't have to deal with the home run factors of the different minor league parks and leagues)

Rodriguez: 4.36 kwERA

Casilla: 2.97 kwERA (to be fair, Casilla has had some success in his career, but an ERA - of 87 with a FIP - of 101 for a career reliever is a little surprising considering his above average velocity and his minor league numbers)

So Whelan's numbers according to kwERA aren't overwhelming, especially for a reliever, but he has had success in the upper levels, with a 129 FRA + in AA in 2009 as a 25 year old and 108 FRA + in AAA in 2011. Over the last two years in AAA, he has a 3.25 FIP and 3.05 SIERA in the International League. When you just look at the International League leaderboard (I used a minimum of 50 games) from 2012 according to FIP, this puts him in some weird company. He is below Josh Lueke, who has really been struggling in the Majors and has a fastball that may be a tick better than Whelan's, and around Terry Doyle and Adam Wilk. Wilk will pitch in Korea in 2013 and Doyle spent some time in Japan in 2012 (and got a minor league contract with the Red Sox for 2013). Whelan's fastball is better than either of these pitchers. Miguel Socolovich, also going to pitch in Japan, shows up around where Whelan would be, but so does Pirates' prospect Jeff Locke and Rays' flamethrower Chris Archer. Veterans Rich Vanderhurk (going to pitch in Korea) and Jeff Francis (who got another deal with the Rockies) also show up around that 3.25 watermark. It truly is a mixed bag statistically, and I don't think numbers are going to help a lot if we are looking at what Whelan's MLB value might be.

Whelan was once projected to be a closer, but he never really got a shot, and injuries may have played a role in this. He had several small injuries earlier in his career, and in 2012 he didn't pitch after June 3rd and has a combined 79.1 innings.

He was known as a guy who threw a 4-seamer, 2-seamer, splitter, and cutter when he was a prospect. However, Pitch F/X only showed him throwing an occasional slider and change to go with his 4-seam fastball. It certainly paints a picture less exciting than scouting reports were a couple of years ago. So I went back and watched his outing on April 6th (because it was in Lehigh Valley, which has an on screen radar gun) to see what I could gather.

He was throwing just 86-89 MPH and his command was not there. The right-hander has a really complicated delivery that looks really ugly and is hard to watch. It looks like it gives him deception, but it has to be hard to repeat and looks hard on his body. It is not a fluid motion, and he uses an extremely high leg kick. He did show off a 84 MPH splitter, that looked like a MLB pitch to me. Pitch F/X may have called it a change, but it is a splitter and it has nasty movement, much like the best splitters (such as the one thrown by Koji Uehara) we see in the Majors. The question will be, especially if he is now throwing below 90 MPH, is can he get enough speed differential for it to matter? He also showed off the slider that hit 83 MPH, but the break wasn't hard or sharp, though he does have some horizontal movement as well. He was really struggling with command though, and if he really did lose fastball velocity, I just can't see him pitching in the Majors for the Reds.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

NPB Pitching Prospect Ranking

I don't really do prospect rankings for (mainly) two reasons, first of all, there are tons of MiLB prospect rankings out there, and secondly, there is no reason to think that mine would be better than any of them. However, especially because of my recent post on the Rakuten Golden Eagles prospects, I have become interested in Ni-Gun prospects and wanted to create a formula that would rank them. Here, I am doing pitcher rankings (hitter rankings should come soonish). Since I discovered that both Ni-Gun numbers and fastball velocity had correlations to NPB success, this formula contains both.

The following is the criteria that each pitcher must pass to be eligible for the ranking (there were 48 eligible) : Must currently be 25 years old or younger.
Cannot have thrown more than 50 innings in the NPB (or Ichi-Gun)
Must have thrown at least 30 innings in the Ni-Gun this year (so we can get a serious look at him statistically).
Cannot have pitched in 3 different seasons in the NPB (or Ichi-Gun). So if a pitcher is 24, and only thrown 40 NPB innings spread over 3 different years, he is left out.

So obviously we won't be including 2012 draftees. Shohei Otani is probably the guy I would rate as the best pitching prospect in the NPB, but he doesn't qualify according to this formula (just because I have no way of rating the recent draftees without finding video and information for them all).

I didn't distinguish between the Eastern League or Western League, so I used:
4.29 league average kwERA
3.22 league average FIP

To adjust this into kwERA - and FIP -, we should be able to use the same formula as we did with OPS +. For example, if a pitcher has a 4.00 kwERA, we subtract it by 4.29 (giving us -.29) then divide it by 4.29 (giving us -.0676) then add 1 (.9324) and then multiply it by 100 and round, giving us a 93 kwERA -. This is what I did for each pitcher in the spreadsheet.

For velocities, the two main sources were NPB Tracker Data and the Japanese Wikipedia (which was extremely helpful). I also used other sources, including YouTube videos, when needed.

I found it interesting that almost all the Hanshin Tigers pitchers seemed to struggle with homers (despite having solid kwERA and velocities). I wonder if their park is smaller, and I wish I had enough info to create a separate park factor for them.

For the rankings, I sorted by each category (I decided against using left-handedness as a better ranking than right-handedness, so the things we are ranking are age, kwERA, FIP, and velocity) and used the average ranking for each pitcher to sort them. The lower the number of the ranking the better. To download the spreadsheet to see the whole list, click on this hyperlink, or copy and paste the address below:

The top 5 NPB Ni-Gun pitching prospects according to the above formula, along with some video I found online and a short scouting report:

1. Yodai Enoshita  


Yet another Fighters right-handed arm with a legitimate fastball, Enoshita didn't pitch in the NPB in 2012, but got a cup of coffee in 2011. He threw a slider that almost reached 82 MPH, but that was the only breaking pitch he showed according to NPB Tracker data. If you watch the video, you also see him throw some kind of splitter at around 77 MPH and he also has a slow curve. His delivery is a little complicated, and one always wonders about repeat-ability (and whether or not that makes him a reliever more long term), but it does give him some deception, as he pauses and hides the ball. Since he is 23, one would like to see him make an impact in 2013, but the Nippon Ham roster is not always easy to crack.

2. Robert Zarate

Zarate's story is unique enough that I almost didn't include him on the rankings, and it turned out that the left-hander was actually tied with Enoshita for number 1 according to the formula. At age 25, he won't be eligible next year, and he has dealt with shoulder injuries in the past. Zarate was originally signed by the Blue Jays out of Venezuela and pitched for their Dominican Summer League affiliate in 2006 and 2007, showcasing shiny ERAs, low walk rates, and solid strikeout rates. In 2008, he pitched in two Gulf Coast League games, but his minor league career ended there. However, he resurfaced with Hanshin and even pitched in 2 games for the Ichi-Gun team in 2012. He also has a high leg kick, and somewhat of a hip swivel like Felix Hernandez has in his delivery. He then comes with a 3/4 arm slot, and despite his mediocre frame, he is able to generate plus velocity.

3. Ryuji Ichioka

The Giants right-hander has a more exaggerated version of Enoshita's delivery with an extreme pause. His breaking pitch has some good movement at 80-81 MPH, but his control of it seems to be mediocre. If hitter's reactions are any indication, his combination of okay velocity and movement of his two pitches seem to be at least adequate in getting hitters out. To have the amount of success the other pitchers on the top 5 can have, he will have to show superior command as his stuff and velocity is not quite as sharp as theirs.

4. Ryoma Matsuda

Another Tigers' pitcher, Matsuda held his own as a teenager in the Ni-gun thanks to a good fastball and the ability to hide the ball despite the small frame. The arm action scares me a little, but there is a chance he could get a little bigger and add some more velocity. If not, he could still be a very nice relief pitcher, as the ability to hide the ball would play better in short spurts.

5.  Shohei Tsukahara

Even without a plus fastball (but it is not like he has a bad fastball), Tsukahara was pretty dominant in the Ni-Gun in a short sample size. He still has some projectability as a 20 year old thanks to his somewhat long slender frame. His delivery is relatively standard by Japanese standards, and he takes a nice long stride.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Rakuten Golden Eagles Ni-Gun Prospects

I wanted to play with Ni-Gun (NPB minor leagues) numbers some more and include hitters this time instead of doing just individual pitching scouting reports. So here, I looked at the Rakuten Golden Eagles' Ni-Gun team and tried to created a sortable spreadsheet of the "prospects" statistically. Because, just like AAA in the MLB, the Ni-Gun is full of both veterans and prospects, I included the current age of each player (but included the veterans). 

For hitters, league average OPS (I didn't adjust for parks, because who knows) in the Western League was about .646 (.309 OBP and .337 SLG, so much like the NPB, offense is way down). To create an OPS +, I just subtracted the OPS minus the league average (.642) and then divided that answer by .642. Then I added 1 to that number and multiplied that number by 100. For example: 

.881-.642= .239. .239 divided by .642= .372274 + 1= 1.372274 x 100= ~137

It is excruciatingly simple, but it works for what we are doing. For defense, the NPB (only on the Japanese version of the site for some reason) does supply assists and putouts for the Ni-Gun teams, so at least we are able to calculate RF/G, and since the site provides it per position, we are able to do it more accurately than for college players. If the player played the minimum amount of games (I think I used 30 games as the minimum for including players) at 2 different positions, I included them twice on the spreadsheet. 

I didn't include catchers because range factor is misleading and extremely unhelpful for catchers. On the spreadsheet, I sorted them by age and then used OPS + for a tiebreaker. 

For Pitchers, I used 30 innings as the minimum. Western League Averages for strikeouts and walks were: 7.1 BB % and 16.4 K % in 2012. In the spreadsheet, I used kwERA (which is K-BB/PA (or BF) x 12 - 5.4). For reference, league average was 4.29. I also used FIP, which, because of the lack of homers, was much lower on average, as the Western League FIP was about 3.22.

Since all the pitchers that had at least 30 innings for Rakuten's Ni-Gun team have pitched in the NPB (or Ichi-Gun), I used NPB Tracker data and averaged the velocity for all the seasons and rounded. In the pitchers part of the spreadsheet, I sorted by age, then used velocity as the first tiebreaker and then kwERA as the 2nd tiebreaker. Because there wasn't a lot of data, I could fit hitters on one screenshot and pitchers on another. If you just want to look at the screenshots, they are below. If you want to download the spreadsheet, click on this hyperlink or copy and paste the address below:

The tab at the bottom of the spreadsheet (if you download it) will allow you to look at either pitchers or hitters. 

Pitchers Screenshot:

Hitters Screenshot:

It would seem that Rakuten's farm system is pretty awful, especially on the pitcher side. Wataru Karashima seems to be the best pitching prospect, with solid numbers, but he is 22 and not a very hard thrower. The hitters seem to be a little better, with Takumi Miyoshi and Aoi Enomoto showing some promise offensively (but if RF/G is any indication, Miyoshi is an awful shortstop and will have to move to another position). T. Nishida is not a great looking defender according to the data, but he does seem to have a solid stick and is 21, younger than any of the pitchers Rakuten allowed to throw 30 innings or more in the Ni-Gun. In the near future, I plan on taking a bigger look at Ni-Gun statistics and prospects and perhaps create some kind of ranking system. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Kodai Senga Scouting Report

Kodai Senga, a right-handed pitcher with the Fukouka SoftBank Hawks organization in the NPB, will turn 20 at the end of January. Senga is listed at about 6 feet tall and 178 pounds and was one of the elite statistically Ni-Gun Pitchers in 2012 with a 1.33 ERA, which was the best in the Western League.
However, the numbers do come with some caveats, as he struck out just 18.9 % of batters and walked 10.9 % of batters for a 3.24 FIP (since home runs seem to be really rare in the Ni-Gun, using K%-BB%  is probably a more relevant statistic. Senga's 8 K%-BB% is the second best out of the top 7 ERA Western League starters, behind Takumi Akiyama's eye popping 16.1).

Senga did appear in two NPB games in 2012, throwing 4.2 innings. The walk problem bit him there as well, as he walked 8 of the 29 batters he faced. According to NPB tracker data, his fastball reached nearly 92 MPH and averaged just short of 90 MPH. He has been clocked at 95 MPH on his fastball before according to reports. He also threw a slow curve (71.66 MPH average), a soft slider (~78 MPH average) and a few forkballs (82.75 MPH average) According to the heat map, the right-handed pitcher threw the majority of his pitches glove side and worked both high and low relatively equally.
Watching video from 2011 and 2012, it does appear that the Hawks have cleaned up his delivery. While he brought his hands over his head in 2011, at least according to what I have seen of him in 2012, he has gotten rid of this. Bizarrely, this looks like his delivery back in 2010, in high school. The rest of his delivery is the same, but it is at least one less moving part in what is still a complicated delivery. According to that 2011 video, he was hitting 93 MPH on his fastball.

You can see that he has made some progress in delivery repetition and overall command over the past couple of years, but Senga is going to have to figure out how to throw more strikes to be effective in the NPB and have a possibility of a career in the Majors. His feel for his breaking pitches doesn't appear to be very good, and the pitch he seems to control the least, his forkball, looks like the best pitch he has other than his fastball. He seems to have a little arm-side on his fastball, at least occasionally (though NPB Tracker doesn't list a "shutto" as one of his pitches). I am not really impressed with the slider (especially considering the velocity), but he threw a couple I saw that had some vertical and horizontal tilt away from right-handers. The curveball doesn't have exceptional loop and doesn't look too much different than the slider (the difference is that the curve has the extra appearance of upwards movement like you see in many curves, and doesn't have really any horizontal movement).

In the end, you are talking about a 20 year old with a solid to plus fastball and at least one, maybe two, solid breaking pitches to go with it. He is short, and I am obviously not entirely sure how his command and his breaking pitches (and the command of his breaking pitches) will develop with his delivery, so Senga's idea role may be in the bullpen, but I certainly like the stuff, I just wish he would be more dominating and strikeout more Ni-Gun pitchers. Common sense tells you that he will pitch more than 4.2 innings in the NPB in 2013, the question is just how much (and this may rely on what kind of command/control he shows in the spring) innings he will be given in 2013.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Range Factor for 100 College Players

This is something else I haven't seen anyone try to do, try to somewhat seriously measure defense in college baseball statistically. So here, I picked 100 2012 college players and tried to see if I can sort them by a somewhat reliable defensive metric. Assists and Putouts are usually kept as official statistics. However, because the official NCAA baseball site's (perhaps ironically, the Junior College website is better when it comes to this, and that is why I included some Junior College shortstops) statistics page is set up so strange (and sites like College Splits simply don't even try to measure defense), I had to go to each team's site to calculate the range factor. Although range factor is crude and has it's own issues, this gives us a better statistic than fielding percentage when looking at college position players' defense. While RF/9 is better than RF/G, we just don't have innings data for really any college players. Of course, things like playing multiple positions (common in the college game, except, it seems, for shortstops. It appears that most coaches prefer to keep the same guy at shortstop all season) and DHing occasionally (which I accounted for when I could) affects RF/G if not accounted for. If a player had any real significant time at 2 different positions, I didn't include them. 

So this is a mixture of players still in college and players that are now in the minors. This is why I put the current team that the player is with in the 4th column. Since range factor is not really a measure of catcher defense, the only catcher I put in there was by accident (and I just decided to leave him and I put 101 players instead of 100 players). I sorted it by position so they are grouped correctly and then by range factor. Below is the link to download the spreadsheet (or use this hyperlink):

To see if there was anything to the predictability (as that is what you are trying to measure when you are using statistics in baseball/most other fields) of the college RF/G, for the players that also played in the minors that year (after the draft obviously), I compared their college RF/G to their minor RF/G and FRAA. Because there wasn't a ton of data, instead of using a spreadsheet (plus I didn't want to make readers download two spreadsheets), I just put them below (sorted like the spreadsheet, by position, then by college RF/G or CRF/G):

Jorge Flores SS 4.75 CRF/G, 3.83 MiLB RF/G, -1.9 FRAA

Anthony Melchionda SS 4.74 CRF/G, 4.32 MiLB RF/G, 0.0 FRAA

Kenny Diekroeger: SS  4.61 CF/G,  4.30 MiLB RF/G, .5 FRAA

Jason Stolz: SS 4.16 CF/G, 4.74 MiLB RF/G, 5.4 FRAA

 Nolan Fontana: SS 4.03 CF/G, 4.73 MiLB RF/G,  -1.8 FRAA

Chris Taylor: SS 3.81 CF/G, 4.28 MiLB RF/G, 0.0 FRAA

Austin Nola SS 3.77 CF/G, 4.59 RF/G, -.6 FRAA

Michael Faulkner OF 2.94 CF/G, 1.8 MiLB RF/G, .7  FRAA

Mitch Haniger OF 2.82 CF/G, 1.83 MiLB RF/G, -.7 FRAA

Travis Jankowski OF 2.73 CF/G, 2.34 MiLB RF/G, 1.1 FRAA

Kyle Johnson OF 2.52 CF/G, 1.39 MiLB RF/G, .2 FRAA

James Ramsey OF 2.37 CF/G, 2.00 MiLB RF/G, .3 FRAA

Derek Jones OF  2.15 CF/G, 1.95 MiLB RF/G, 2.7 FRAA 

Jake Stewart OF 2.00 CF/G, 2.03 MiLB RF/G, -1.8 FRAA

Tyler Naquin OF 1.9 CF/G, 2.53 MiLB RF/G, 3.6 FRAA

Richard Palase OF 1.77 CF/G, 1.77 RF/G, .4 FRAA

Barrett Barnes OF 1.75 CF/G,  1.76 MiLB RF/G, 0.0 FRAA

Tyler Booth OF 1.49 CF/G, 1.91 MiLB RF/G, .2 FRAA

Jabari Henry OF  1.29 CF/G, 2.02 MiLB RF/G, -1.1 FRAA

Fernando Perez 3B 3.93 CF/G, 2.82 MiLB RF/G, 0.0 FRAA

Patrick Kivlehan 3B 2.8 CF/G, 2.36 MiLB RF/G, .2 FRAA

Richie Shaffer 3B 2.63 CF/G, 2.13 MiLB RF/G, -.9 FRAA

Patrick Claussen 3B 2.44 CF/G, 2.55 MiLB RF/G, .2 FRAA

William Carmona 3B 2.41 CF/G, 2.00 MiLB RF/G, .5 FRAA

Stephen Bruno 3B 2.28 CF/G, 2.42 MiLB RF/G, 1.5 FRAA

Tyler Hanover 3B 2.16 CF/G, 2.79 MiLB RF/G, 1.5 FRAA

Stephen Piscotty 3B 1.95 CF/G, 2.69 RF/G, .3 FRAA

Tommy Richards 2B 5.2 CF/G, 3.93 RF/G, -.3 FRAA

Jamodrick Mcgrunder 2B 4.06 CF/G, 5.42 RF/G, .3 FRAA

Taylor Ard 1B 10.33 CF/G, 8.91 RF/G, -5.2 FRAA
Jake Davies  1B 6.05 CF/G, 7.67 RF/G, .9 FRAA
BP's site has a lot of problems on the minor league statistics side and the 0.0 FRAAs for Melchionda, Barnes, and Taylor are not because they were neutral defensively (I believe Perez' is right though), but because the site didn't log it correctly. 

There doesn't seem to be much correlation there, whether simply because the statistic is easily corrupted, sampling issues, or some other variable, it wasn't very predictive with the players we looked at. Of course, to really determine the predictability, we would need to look at a lot more players and use a much bigger sample size. With that said, as of now, we don't really have any reason to believe that college range factor has any predictability. A more advanced metric and better data would be very helpful in this arena. With the current data publicly available, we should be able to calculate "defensive efficiency", but this is done a team wide scale, which is not very helpful when trying to determine individual player's value for the draft.